LOS ANGELES--Unlike past Electronic Entertainment Expos, Microsoft is leading the "Big Three" press events this year, kicking off the annual game convention bright and early on Monday morning. The Xbox 360 maker is once again holding its event at the University of Southern California's Galen Center, where it has previously showcased The Beatles: Rock Band with the surviving members of the band and exposed the public to the Kinect last year.
But even before the software giant's press proceedings have begun, they have been preempted by speculation and leaks. Last week, a magazine cover pointed to reveals of a high-definition Halo: Combat Evolved remake and Kinect-enabled Gears of War: Exile game at the event. This weekend, a series of URLs surfaced, which may have outed a number of new titles for the Xbox 360's motion-sensing system, including Fable: The Journey and Dance Central 2.
Whatever Microsoft has on display, it will face serious competition from the other "Big Three" members. At its press event later on Monday, Sony is expected to christen its next-generation portable the PlayStation Vita and show off all the latest in the PlayStation 3. The following morning, Nintendo will unveil its next-generation console and promote its newly hatched handheld, the 3DS.
Microsoft's E3 2011 press conference will begin at 9:30 a.m. PDT Monday, June 6. GameSpot will be live-streaming video of the event.
[UPDATE] One of today's surprises has been revealed a bit early, it would seem. Early this morning, Microsoft's official Xbox.com website leaked first word on Halo 4 and an HD update for the original Halo: Combat Evolved. The leak also appeared to confirm Harmonix's Dance Central 2 and yet-to-be-detailed game titled "Ryse."
[9:28] As a distinctive female voice gently urges attendees to take their seats, the interior of USC's Galen Center continues to fill up.
[9:30] Smoke machines behind the stage are kicking gas into the air, signaling things are getting underway.
[9:30] More urging from the Great Disembodied Voice in the Sky to sit down. Do her bidding, people!
[9:31] Numerous people in the audience joke about the Xbox.com leak as the lights go down--cheers all around.
[9:32] Kicking off the event: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.
[9:33] The level is set in New York Harbor--it's the underwater level teased in the trailer where scuba divers cut through a gate with welding torches.
[9:33] Whoops! "Please reconnect controller" the screen urges.
[9:33] The demo resumes with scuba divers emerging from a flooded tunnel to the base of New York Harbor.
[9:33] "Keep your eyes on your sonar" a diver urges as the team literally navigates a minefield.
[9:35] A HUGE submarine cruises by above the diver team--holy crap, they're putting a mine ON the submarine.
[9:36] The dive team escapes, detonating the explosive. They swim to the surface as the sub flies out of the water, seeing Manhattan in ruins before them. Then they climb atop the sub and start shooting the submariners who come streaming out of the escape hatches.
[9:36] They enter the submarine, shooting sailors as they go deeper into the vessel, which is starting to flood.
[9:38] The demo fast-forwards.
[9:41] After a shootout on the bridge, the sailors arm and lock missiles, turning missile keys. They then rapidly flee the sub, boarding a zodiac raft and then fleeing the submarine. Then all hell breaks loose, with the zodiacs flying through a war zone being pursued by boats and helicopters.
[9:41] After a very hairy couple of minutes, they fly into the back of an open Chinook helicopter, which whisks them away to safety as New York burns in the background.
[9:41] Sledgehammer Games' Glen Schofield and Infinity Ward's Robert Bowling take the stage.
[9:42] They thank the audience, then Microsoft's Don Mattrick takes the stage.
[9:42] He thanks Xbox 360 fans for making 2010 the biggest year in Xbox history.
[9:43] He introduces Daniel Neuberger and Darrell Gallagher from Crystal Dynamics to show off the new Tomb Raider.
[9:45] The game is an origin story which shows a 21-year-old Lara Croft after she's been shipwrecked on an island. The demo begins with her wriggling free of her bonds while hanging upside down over a pit. She does so by setting the ropes on fire.
[9:45] She lands hard, and the visuals turn blurry to simulate her disorientation.
[9:46] She wanders through underground passages full of skulls and other creepy items.
[9:46] Then a native appears out of nowhere and tries to grab Lara Croft. She breaks free and then a rock falls between them.
[9:46] This is not a game for the claustrophobic, as the tunnel is getting smaller and smaller--and filling up with water.
[9:48] She emerges into a large chamber with a wooden structure that leads to a ramp with some flaming boxes on it. She knocks the boxes off and they explode, clearing her path.
[9:48] She's apparently free and clear…until she falls down a shaft and lands in another chamber.
[9:49] Another native tries to grab her, prompting a minigame. She escapes his clutches, and he is messily crushed by a rock.
[9:49] She falls down another chute, prompting another minigame, but then she emerges outside at last.
[9:49] Game is due fall 2012.
[9:50] Former Xbox 360 chief and current EA Sports president Peter Moore takes the stage, joking "this feels familiar."
[9:51] Four EA Sports titles are getting Kinect support in the next 12 months: Madden NFL, Tiger Woods PGA Tour, FIFA, and one more "to be revealed later." Sims Pets and Hasbro Game Night 4 will also have Kinect.
[9:51] Enter Dr. Ray Muzyka from BioWare.
[9:51] It's Mass Effect 3 time.
[9:52] Kinect support confirmed--the game will have voice recognition.
[9:54] Now comes a demo of Mass Effect 3 with Kinect--it begins with Liara, Garrus, Mordin, and Shepard on an alien world. The dialogue tree is controlled seamlessly through the demonstrator's voice.
[9:55] In combat, Kinect can be used to order your companions to "move up." Shepard also orders Liara to cast a "singularity" and she responds with the appropriate biotic powers.
[9:56] Muzyka promises to have more information at the EA press conference later today, and leaves.
[9:56] Cue a demo of Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, which is also rumored to have Kinect support.
[9:58] It's more of a trailer actually, which a cinematic showing numerous foes being killed by a--what else?--future soldier in thermoptic camouflage.
[9:58] Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot takes the stage to show how Ubisoft "will use Kinect to enhance core gaming."
[10:00] Yes, Ghost Recon is supporting Kinect. A demonstrator shows off the game's gun smith mode, which lets players create their own weapons with Minority Report-style gestures. Voice commands also let players assemble their own weapons.
[10:01] Various preset weapons can be instantly assembled with phrases such as "optimize for close combat." The pieces of the gun then come together like a rapidly assembled puzzle.
[10:01] Guillemot says that all future Tom Clancy games will use Kinect in some form or another.
[10:02] Xbox Live's Marc Whitten takes the stage to talk about, well, Xbox Live.
[10:03] He and a demonstrator show off the new Xbox Experience, which has a slick new interface which can all be controlled by voice commands with Kinect.
[10:04] This year, they are "increasing the number of partnerships by a factor of 10."
[10:04] YouTube is coming to Xbox Live.
[10:05] So is Bing, Microsoft's search engine.
[10:06] Bing will let players search the content on the Xbox with a voice command, "Xbox Bing ____." This will let user find items quickly.
[10:08] Microsoft is entering into partnerships with television providers later this year. The New Xbox Experience will launch this fall.
[10:09] UFC president Dana White is next on stage.
[10:09] He's here to talk about UFC live fights on Xbox, coming "this holiday."
[10:10] Cue clips of the Jake Shields/George St. Pierre fight as it would have been seen on Xbox Live.
[10:11] "Microsoft Studios'" Phil Spencer takes the stage. I guess the name "Microsoft Game Studios" has been phased out.
[10:12] He's here to tout "experiences" exclusives to Xbox 360.
[10:12] First up is Gears of War 3, with a violent trailer set to the tune of Black Sabbath's "War Pigs."
[10:13] Enter the Blezinski!
[10:13] He's here to show off Gears of War 3, and his demo partner is none other than Ice-T, who also appears in the game.
[10:14] The level sees Marcus Fenix and his squad fighting a massive sea monster.
[10:14] The creature is HUGE, crushing decks of a ship like a beer can.
[10:15] The squad gets topside, where they commandeer two "silverback" mechs to help them fight the creature.
[10:16] The creature surfaces, exposing its vulnerable eye. The squad unloads on it and it explodes. Just one eye to go!
[10:17] The monster goes beneath a cargo container full explosives, which blow the monster to pieces.
[10:18] The lights come up, and Ice-T promises a new song from his old band Body Count will commemorate Gears 3.
[10:19] Cue a new trailer, which shows a Roman-era town in the midst of a war.
[10:19] Wait, it's actually Rome, and it's a brutal action game with Kinect.
[10:20] Yep, it's Ryse from Crytek.
[10:20] No release date on that.
[10:21] Now comes a trailer for…the Halo HD remake.
[10:21] Looks like the original Halo redone with the Halo: Reach engine.
[10:21] Fully remastered campaign, Xbox Live co-op, seven classic multiplayer maps.
[10:21] November 15, 2011.
[10:21] Dan Greenawalt takes the stage to show off Kinect-enabled Forza 4.
[10:22] The Turn 10 chief promises an all-new racing experience.
[10:24] Cue sizzle trailer of a slick series of Ferraris and Mercedes Benz.
[10:24] Kinect voice control and head-tracking will be a key part. 80+ manufacturers for cars, 16 players.
[10:24] Launches October 11, 2011.
[10:24] Lionhead's Peter Molyneux takes the stage, to talk Fable.
[10:24] "It's always been about you being a hero. How can we connect you more to the experience?"
[10:24] Cue Fable: The Journey trailer.
[10:26] Cut to trailer of Albion, where "the age of heroes is over."
[10:26] A black mist straight out of <i>Lost</i> chases a boy and a woman on a cart.
[10:26] First-person spell-casting in Fable: The Journey.
[10:27] Cut to a demo which shows the point of view of the boy driving the cart. The demonstrator moves his arms in the air as if he is holding the reins.
[10:27] He then gets off and battles some goblin-type creatures using spells. The spells are summoned by hand gestures in the air.
[10:28] The demonstrator pushes his arm towards the screen to cast spells. Movement appears to be pre-determined, though (read: on rails).
[10:29] Phil Spencer is back on stage now.
[10:29] He's touting…wait, what? Minecraft for Kinect?!
[10:29] Minecraft coming this winter to Xbox 360, yep.
[10:30] Now he is announcing Kinect Disneyland Adventures, which--as rumored--will offer up a replica of the entire amusement park.
[10:31] Some of the rides will be experienced in ways they cannot be in real life--for instance, Peter Pan's flight will have players actually flying.
[10:32] Microsoft trots out several adorable kids to demonstrate.
[10:33] Each "ride" is a different minigame. Game is due out "this holiday" exclusively for Kinect.
[10:33] Up comes the Star Wars logo and the crowd goes nuts.
[10:34] Cut to game shots, which span all six films.
[10:34] Cloud City, Tatooine, outer space battles, they're all there.
[10:36] Cut to a cut scene which sees a player--using Kinect--fight off a bunch of battle droids from the first prequel.
[10:36] He says "light saber on" and the saber turns on. He waves it and takes down some foes.
[10:36] When more formidable droids come out, he uses the saber to deflect their blaster bolts.
[10:38] He then battles some staff-wielding droids, jumping in real life to dodge attacks.
[10:38] Now it's Tim Schafer time to show off the new Sesame Street game, Once Upon a Monster.
[10:39] The game will let kids befriend monsters and help them solve problems.
[10:39] Elmo and Cookie Monster stand in for players as they befriend a forest monster by waving their hands in the air and dance around.
[10:41] The players interact with a virtual book to change levels of the games.
[10:42] This next game has the two players pluck fruit and fireflies out of the air.
[10:42] The game is due out this fall, exclusively for Kinect.
[10:43] Kinect creative director Kudo Tsunoda takes the stage now.
[10:43] He's here to announce Kinect Fun Labs.
[10:44] It's a permanent addition to the Xbox Live dashboard and will let all Xbox Live users download and experience independently created Kinect applications as well as other Microsoft-created applications.
[10:45] One such creation is called Kinect Me, which scans your face and clothes and creates an avatar instantly based on your real-life features and duds. Big, big applause.
[10:47] Next up is Kinect Finger Tracking. The demonstrator creates a background, then paints in 3D around images of himself with his fingers. It's pretty mind-bending.
[10:47] Next up: Object Capture, although the logo says "Kinect Googly Eyes."
[10:48] She scans a stuffed animal, which becomes a fully animated Kinect creature she can control. She says this will allow for fully customizable content.
[10:48] Kinect Fun Labs goes live TODAY.
[10:48] Cue Kinect Sports Season 2 trailer.
[10:49] Skiing, baseball, golf, darts, tennis, football will all be included.
[10:50] Big Park's Nicole Makila takes the stage to demonstrate the game.
[10:50] The game will have six sports and will have voice and new gesture control.
[10:50] She shows off how it works by playing a round of golf.
[10:51] She changes clubs by asking for a wedge and her character gets it.
[10:51] She adjusts her body position to line up the putt.
[10:52] Two men now take the stage to demonstrate how football will work.
[10:52] One is a quarterback, one a receiver.
[10:53] They select a play by voice. One throws the ball, the other catches.
[10:53] Kinect Sports: Season 2 is due out this holiday.
[10:53] Harmonix's Kasson Crooker takes the stage to introduce Dance Central 2.
[10:53] Dance Central 2 will allow all songs from Dance Central to be imported.
[10:54] The game will allow for simultaneous two-person multiplayer, and to prove it, they demonstrate it.
[10:55] Don Mattrick's back.
[10:56] He's wrapping up, hitting the big points of the presentation, again emphasizing the "live TV" experience on Xbox 360, and name-checking the big exclusives.
[10:57] Now he teases a new project he's very excited about, which is the "Dawn of a new trilogy."
[10:59] Cut to the interior of a pumping heart which zooms out to--the Master Chief, who must quickly escape an exploding spaceship.
[10:59] "Halo 4. Holiday 2012."
[10:59] And that's it!