E3 2010: Microsoft Press Conference
They had Steven Spielberg and The Beatles last year, so it was hardly surprising that anticipation was running at fever pitch ahead of this year's Microsoft press conference at E3. The show began in typically bombastic style, too, Don Mattrick MCing the proceedings, which opened with Treyarch's Call of Duty: Black Ops.
Impressive in-game action was the dish of the day here, Black Ops taking us from blood-and-guts-strewn tunnels to jungle battles, culminating in an epic helicopter tussle through a lush valley, complete with huge environmental destruction and lethal-looking napalm.
Following this bloody and explosive start, Mattrick confirmed that from Black Ops onwards Call of Duty DLC will enjoy a period of Xbox 360 exclusivity, in a similar fashion to Modern Warfare 2.
This interesting if hardly gargantuan news was followed by the first in-game footage of Metal Gear Solid: Rising, veteran designer Hideo Kojima showing off a new 'slicing' sword-mechanic - which had the audience in fits of amusement, Raiden deftly cutting foes and melons into not-so-tasty morsels.
Once again M-rated was the theme as Cliff Bleszinski showed-off Gears of War 3 next, taking the assembled industry crowd through a few dramatic set pieces, including the game's new female characters.
Peter Molyneux was next onto the podium, demonstrating in-game extracts from Fable III and confirming the title's release on October 26th. Humour-filled fantasy remains very much the theme, while the plot sees Lionhead apparently upping the ante in terms of raw gravitas at least.
Mattrick leapt back on-stage next, announcing a brand new Xbox 360 exclusive being created by Crytek - developers of the Crysis series. The title in question is codenamed Kingdoms, and it looks exceptionally violent and gritty if the moody teaser trailer is anything to go by.
Halo: Reach made an inevitable appearance, of course, Bungie on hand to demonstrate the first space combat footage from the game, Master Chief galavanting around in a spacecraft during some action-packed and highly impressive sequences from the new title, before handing back to Matrick who was perhaps understandably keen to talk Kinect.
Not only will the full-body motion controller support voice control for media playback, we learn, it will also comprise a large part of a new ESPN deal - that will see Xbox Live getting American football, baseball, basketball and soccer content later this year. The service supports voice interactions via Kinect, and will be delivered in HD, for free, to Live Gold subscribers. For media playback in general, we were also shown some impressive interface work - the system responding to voice controls like 'Xbox play' and 'Xbox pause' in a manner that would make Knight Rider proud. Kinect will be out stateside on November 4th, but no price has been offered yet.
Kinect big wig Kudo Tsunoda was also in attendance at the LA bash, enthusiastically taking us through games like Kinectimals (an impressive virtual pet game), Kinect Sports (a Rare-developed sports compilation), Kinect Joy Ride (a colourful racer) and Kinect Adventures (a variety of whole body mini-games). Third-parties were also present in force, in the shape of Yourshape: Fitness Evolved and Dance Central, from Ubisoft and Harmonix respectively.
All in all, Kinect will launch with 15 debut titles, and even developer Turn 10 are getting in on the act with some support for the motion controller in their latest version of Forza.
If all this wasn't enough, Mattrick had one final surprise up his sleeve - hidden beneath the shell of an Xbox 360 console sitting anonymously on stage throughout the whole presentation. Lifting the console we were shown the previously rumoured Xbox 360 Slim. The real bombshell? That the new-look hardware is shipping to retailers this week in North America. The new console will retail for the same price as the old one - 299 USD - and will include a 250Gb hard-disk, and built-in WiFi support.
If the mood of the presentation hadn't been one of wonderment up to this point, this news certainly drew a few gasps - the shiny, black slimline console an obvious evolution of the current hardware. With that we duly traipse out into the sunshine, eager to learn if Microsoft really are mailing conference attendees the hardware as you read this...
More from E3 as we get it.