Xbox at E3 2011: Halo, Live TV, Exclusive Games

Microsoft opened the E3 video game conference with a rollicking keynote address that was heavy on bombast but light on meaningful announcements. But that doesn't mean the software giant doesn't intend to build on the lead it has established in this fifth year of the Xbox 360's life cycle: It showed off a ton of interesting new games, including many that take advantage of the popular Kinect motion-sensor add-on.

Most notably, perhaps, Microsoft debuted a new version of the Xbox Dashboard, which looks exactly like the Windows 8 Start screen that the company first showed off last week, with flat, colorful tiles and a widescreen presentation. This Dashboard works with both the traditional Xbox 360 controller and the Kinect, the latter via voice command and hand gestures in the air.

Microsoft also announced a live TV service that would include "local programming" in the United States and around the world, but the company didn't provide any details about what the service would include. It will connect with web-based, YouTube, Netflix, and Hulu programming via an integrated version of the Bing search service, which will help users find content no matter where it resides.

But this is the Xbox 360, and of course the new games took center stage. Most noteworthy was a lengthy and cut-scene-heavy demonstration of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, which opened the keynote. The game will ship November 8, and though it's a cross-platform title, Microsoft has ensured that all downloadable content for the game will ship first for Xbox 360 users.

In the exclusive camp are two Halo games, one new and one a retread. This year, gamers will get a new HD version of the original title, Combat Evolved Anniversary, which will include favorite, old-time multiplayer maps as well as the first campaign. Next year, we'll finally receive the next chapter in this video game saga via Halo 4, a closing keynote video that drew thundering applause. Also exclusive is the third game in the Gears of War series, imaginatively titled Gears of War 3. This title will ship in the fall.

Much of the keynote was spent trying to prove that the Kinect isn't a flash-in-the-pan. Games such as Fable: The Journey, Kinect Sports Season 2, Dance Central 2, Kinect Star Wars, Forza Motorsports 4, and even Mass Effect 3 will all feature some form of Kinect interaction.
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