LOS ANGELES--At its press event at the 2008 Electronic Entertainment Expo, Microsoft dropped a series of major announcements. Following a pseudo-price drop for the 20GB Xbox 360 Core, the company showed off the New Xbox Live Experience, which introduced a new dashboard, Netflix streaming, and Xbox Live avatars last November. The company also touted Fallout 3 downloadable content "exclusives" for the PC and Xbox 360--which are now also coming to the PlayStation 3. Last but certainly not least, Microsoft shocked JRPG fans by revealing that not only was Square Enix bringing Final Fantasy XIII to the Xbox 360, but it was holding back the PS3 version so the two could launch simultaneously.
If rumors are to be believed, a similar shocker might be in store for Microsoft's press event at E3 2009, which is the first official conference of the show. The past several weeks have seen rumors swirl about an Xbox 360 version of the most popular PlayStation 3 exclusive to date, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. Also rumored to be on hand are the new Peter Molyneux game and a motion-sensing camera controller for the Xbox 360. Already revealed games such as Alan Wake, Halo 3: ODST, and Forza Motorsport 3 are also expected, and naturally the event will have a few surprises.
The full blog of today's event is below, and full video of the event from GameSpot Live is also available.
[10:14] Well, they did mean it started early--the first trailer comes up for the new Lips, with a bunch of fashionable, o-so-stylish kids lip-syncing Coldplay.
[10:15] Wait, no it's not starting. The Lips trailer vanishes, replaced by the booming AP system blaring carefully chosen songs at deafening volume.
[10:16] The stage of USC's Galen Center is alight with dozens of dancing green rings.
[10:17] Ok, trailer number two is for 1 vs. 100. The massive game will show avatars in a giant game-show setting.
[10:17] Beta starts TONIGHT at 7:30pm.
[10:18] Supposed to be a social experience, and apparently will dole out actual prizes.
[10:18] The stage looks like a series of the concentric rings used by cartoon hypnotists. ALL GLORY TO THE HYPNOTOAD.
[10:18] Trailer #3 spooling up…
[10:19] with an adult content warning!
[10:19] A small army of bodyguards just walked into the hall. Someone very important is here.
[10:20] Ok, no trailer just yet. Was a blanket warning to the audience that some trailers will include content that could possibly offend. OK kids, time to leave the room.
[10:20] "People take your seats, the presentation will begin in 5 minutes."
[10:21] The lights dim slightly, as the bodyguards take up positions in the shadows.
[10:22] Note: GameSpot is experiencing technical difficulties with the Microsoft live video stream. Please stand by.
[10:22] Still the rings come! Several resemble turntables, which could be purely coincidental.
[10:22] One bodyguard definitely looks armed.
[10:24] More songs that sound like they were focused-tested in Brooklyn. Hello Radio Broker.
[10:25] Final warning to turn off cell phones--unusual warning to media to remain behind press barriers at all times. Who is here?
[10:26] Lights go down.
[10:26] Series of orange spotlights join the green rings, the music swells.
[10:26] "Welcome to the 2009 E3 media briefing"
[10:27] Next trailer…
[10:27] CG versions of the Beatles are playing in a basement.
[10:27] Gorillaz-style version of the Beatles flee screaming fans as "A Hard Day's Night" plays.
[10:28] Beatles arrive in the US to screaming crowds.
[10:28] Very stylized, cell-shaded visuals.
[10:28] Segue to Sgt. Pepper era, with "Here Comes the Sun."
[10:28] Visuals go positively psychedelic.
[10:29] "I Am the Walrus" plays to extremely trippy visuals of a giant elephant creature marching with a ton of drums on legs.
[10:30] Trailer ends.
[10:30] Alex Rigopulous and Van Toffler take the stage.
[10:30] The video was the opening cinematic for the game.
[10:31] Toffler said that the introduction of the Beatles heralded a tech revolution, with mono to stereo, 45s to LPs.
[10:31] The Harmonix house band plays "Daytripper."
[10:32] CG versions of the Beatles from early career look version realistic. A little spooky seeing the late George Harrison and John Lennon staring out of the screen.
[10:32] Song track allows for multiple vocals, and has a light gray background.
[10:33] Three vocalists are singing simultaneously.
[10:33] The guitars and drum kit with the Beatles logo are all there.
[10:33] They're playing flawlessly, naturally.
[10:33] Motion capture is also spot-on, showing their on-stage mannerisms.
[10:34] That is, Apple Corps…the Beatles' label.
[10:34] 45 songs in the game, first official trailer up.
[10:36] "I Saw Her Standing There," "I Want to Hold Your Hand," "I Feel Fine," "Daytripper."
[10:36] Beatles are playing a stadium show.
[10:36] More songs: "Taxman," "I Am the Walrus"
[10:36] "Back in the USSR," "Octopus' Garden," "Here Comes the Sun."
[10:37] "Get Back"--Beatles all rocking scraggly beards.
[10:37] Game will also feature downloadable songs--and entire albums. First one will be Abbey Road, soon after release.
[10:38] First DLC song, "All You Need is Love" available exclusively on Xbox Live.
[10:38] All proceeds will go to Doctors Without Borders.
[10:38] Danny Harrison, George's son, takes the stage to applause.
[10:39] Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison take the stage as well, touted as having collaborated.
[10:39] Olivia is George's widow.
[10:40] Paul Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr get on stage to THUNDEROUS applause.
[10:40] They mug for the crowd.
[10:40] Ringo: "The game is good, the graphics are very good, and we were great."
[10:41] Paul: "We never thought we'd end up as androids, but… Anyway, thanks for having us on your game show."
[10:41] The last two surviving Beatles leave the stage.
[10:41] John Schappert, corporate vice president for Xbox takes the stage.
[10:42] Gives more props to Doctors Without Borders, pimps "All You Need is Love" Xbox Live exclusive one more time.
[10:42] "Now, in this uncertain economic climate, people want to enjoy themselves more than ever."
[10:43] "You're not going to see charts and graphs--it's about showing, not telling"
[10:43] "You'll see 10 world premiere games that have never before been seen."
[10:43] "Let's get on with the show!" Cue Tony Hawk!
[10:44] The insanely rich skater takes the stage holding the final board design of the skateboard controller.
[10:45] It's a little bit shorter than a real board. But it's full of technology. It can sense hand-grabs and where your feet are on the board. Hawk gives shout-out to Robomodo for figuring out the technology.
[10:45] Hawk likes the fact its social and physical.
[10:45] Ships later this year.
[10:46] Lind-Z Hawkins, Christian Hosoi, Paul Rodriguez all in game.
[10:46] Demo of the game in effect, Hosoi is playing it and is nearly knocking stuff over in Hawk's living room.
[10:46] Steve Nesser also in.
[10:47] You can turn the board by leaning, you can do shuvits, spins. The top of the board appears soft.
[10:48] The game will be playable on the show floor at E3 on Xbox 360.
[10:48] Next up, the full trailer for Modern Warfare 2 shown the other week.
[10:49] Helicopter assaults, gun battles in the slums of Rio, shoot-out on snow-draped runway.
[10:49] Oh, that Makarov!
[10:49] The snowmobile chase looks simply awesome.
[10:49] Crazy zipline escape is stunning on a huge screen.
[10:50] Jason West and Vince Zampella from Infinity Ward take the stage.
[10:51] First gameplay footage show Captain MacTavish scaling the side of an icy cliff with crampons. The floor is hundreds of feet below--don't play this if you have vertigo.
[10:51] First-person view of ice-climbing is nerve-rattling because the ice keeps crumbling.
[10:52] Typical Infinity Ward "Holy F***" moment as a jet thunders by, knocking off much of the ice. After steadying for a moment, the player slides down several dozen feet and nearly falls off.
[10:53] Now infiltrating base during a blizzard using an Aliens-style motion sensor hooked up to a silenced assault rifle.
[10:53] Player tags about a half-dozen Russians blinded by the snow.
[10:53] Motion sensor is going to play a big role, since you can't see anything.
[10:55] Player evades half-dozen Russians by a helicopter, only to encounter 20 more. He tries to evade them, but then an explosion alerts everyone…just as the blizzard clears.
[10:55] A full-fledged firefight ensues.
[10:55] Trucks and planes explode in the crossfire.
[10:55] As usual, fire is coming from all and every direction.
[10:56] Player and MacTavish make a break for it, running to a small snow-covered village.
[10:56] Russians are in hot pursuit on snowmobiles.
[10:56] MacTavish says grab the snowmobile, and they're off.
[10:57] Positively dizzying, high-speed chase through snowy woods and over frozen lakes. Explosions knock down trees which must be evaded--this is as intense as anything in the series.
[10:58] Lights come up, and Schappert reveals two Modern Warfare 2 map packs will come to Xbox Live first.
[10:58] Yoshinore Kitase and Motmomu Toriyama from Square Enix take the stage to talk about Final Fantasy XIII for the 360.
[10:59] 85 million Final Fantasy games have been sold since the franchise launched.
[10:59] Kitase says "last year we shocked the world by announcing FFXIII for the Xbox 360"
[10:59] Cue the first footage of FFXIII on the Xbox 360.
[11:00] The footage looks a lot like the FFXIII demo in Japan, with heroes Lightning and Suds fighting a metal boss.
[11:00] This is a live demo, not footage.
[11:01] They summon the heretofore unseen monster Odin to fight the mech--he can't be summoned this early in the game normally, but this is a special treat for the demo.
[11:02] "We are targeting a Spring 2010 release," says Kitase. The game will come out simultaneously for 360 and PS3.
[11:03] Schappert retakes stage, and declares the rest of the show will only feature Xbox 360 content.
[11:03] Epic Games Cliffy B takes the stage with Donald Mustard from Chair Entertainment.
[11:04] They're unveiling Shadow Complex, an Xbox Live exclusive platformer side-scrolling actioner "in the spirit of Metroid."
[11:05] Player dispatches enemies with an assault rifle and foam gun.
[11:05] It's got full 3D graphics, and is a futuristic shooting game with an emphasis on boss battles.
[11:06] Game will arrive this summer.
[11:07] Now it's time for a new Avatar-based game, Joyride, a cartoony kart racing game with giant loops in a Road Runner-like setting.
[11:07] Game will arrive this winter and will be totally free. Maps can be bought and then shared with friends who did not buy the game.
[11:08] Crackdown 2 out of nowhere.
[11:09] Cinematic shows one of the agents hunting down criminals and then is confronted by a monstrous creature.
[11:10] Zombies in New Orleans--this looks like--wait it is, Left 4 Dead 2.
[11:10] It's coming November 17--that was quick.
[11:11] Splinter Cell: Conviction up next, showing Sam Fisher playing a piano?
[11:11] "The Sam Fisher you know is dead. The one who played by the rules--is gone."
[11:12] "You can't hide from them, Fisher!"
[11:12] "Who said anything about hiding?!"
[11:12] Maxime Beland from Ubisoft takes the stage, and admits the game has changed drastically.
[11:13] Demo shows Fisher beating up thugs in a bathroom.
[11:14] Graphics are extremely polished and stylized.
[11:14] Game's story unfolds in real time, and is projected in the environment. Mission objectives appear on walls and billboards.
[11:15] New "mark and execute" move lets Sam pick targets from a distance.
[11:15] Stealth is back--each level is a small open world sandbox, letting players choose how to infiltrate a mission.
[11:16] Much darker and stylish--almost a Max Payne-like atmosphere and revenge story.
[11:17] Sam peeks into a room with a piece of mirror, then comes in shotgunning everyone in the room.
[11:17] Just as he reaches his objective, commandos storm the building and capture Sam, ending the level.
[11:18] Due out this fall, only on Xbox 360.
[11:18] Schappert is back to announce Forza Motorsport III, due in October.
[11:19] Shots of hyper realistic cars flood the screen, Dan Greenwalt, Turn 10 creative director takes the stage.
[11:20] He emerges though a cloud of smoke, which hides a bright red Audi RAV10 racing coupe.
[11:20] Demo of the game kicks off, with gleaming sports cars on a mountain racing track. Things go well, until the car flips and rolls.
[11:21] Graphics at 60 fps, 400 cars and manufacturers.
[11:22] Player-created content will be a centerpiece, and they show a series of artists who have uploaded their work.
[11:22] One racer got his car design from Forza.
[11:23] Another runs a design shop of 30 people who only design cars for Forza players.
[11:23] Game will allow players to create and upload high-definition video, and will have a dedicated video editor.
[11:25] Cue a clip of cars racing backwards, flipping around, nearly hitting each other, and crashing in spectacular fashion.
[11:25] Game will be at Microsoft's booth on the E3 show floor.
[11:25] Joe Staten, creative director of Bungie, is up next with Halo 3: ODST next.
[11:26] Cinematic begins with the ODST actually dropping into the besieged city of New Mombasa from orbit. Flaming spaceships are all over.
[11:27] Everything goes smoothly until the Covenant prophet's cruise jumps, causing the screen to go black.
[11:27] Players are "The Rookie," a ODST separated from his unit.
[11:28] Players will have several new silenced weapons, including an SMG and a version of the pistol from the original Halo.
[11:28] ODST will have a special low-light visor, which lets them know when an objective is ahead.
[11:29] Players will flash back to various ODSTs' experiences in a story-driven campaign which shows how the city was leveled.
[11:31] Now playing as another ODST, Dutch, several days earlier, the player must arm explosives on a bridge to bring it down and prevent a Covenant assault. He is scolded by the computer overseer of the city--"Please do not destroy public property!"
[11:31] Game will have an all-new co-op mode, and will arrive September 22.
[11:31] Wait, what's this? A new top-secret project from Bungie is now being revealed for the first time.
[11:32] Shot of a planet with smashed orbital defenses. The planet is being bombarded from space--it's Halo: Reach.
[11:32] The novel Fall of Reach; was a prequel to the original Halo games.
[11:33] An invite to the open beta of Halo: Reach will come with Halo 3: ODST.
[11:34] Halo: Reach is expected to arrive in 2010.
[11:34] Out comes the Remedy folks with an Alan Wake demo.
[11:35] The game is narrated by Wake, show goes looking for clues to his wife's disappearance in the woods.
[11:37] And then things get strange--he begins fighting a "dark presence" with a flashlight, which acts like a force beam and laser--very surreal. David Lynch would be proud.
[11:37] Ghostly lumberjacks emerge from the darkness, and he shoots them with a a pistol. They keep coming back though--and in greater numbers.
[11:38] He summons some sort of cable car that takes him over the forest canopy, where he is assaulted by dark bird-like shadows.
[11:39] He gets a flare, which shows where all the ghosts are--he was blazing a trail with his flashlight before with mixed results.
[11:39] A ghost possesses a bulldozer, which slams into a building where Alan Wake is.
[11:39] Lights come up--game is due in spring 2010.
[11:39] Exclusive to Xbox 360.
[11:40] Schappert is back to tout Xbox Live--and a new deal with GameSpot sister site Last.fm
[11:41] There will be a dedicated Last.fm menu box like that of Netflix, and will be free to XBL Gold members later this year.
[11:43] Netflix is also getting an overhaul on Xbox Live, with the ability to add movies and edit rental queues. An instant play button will be available.
[11:44] XBL video store is getting an overhaul--all movies will be offered in 1080p, and will be viewable instantly. It will also be rechristened ZuneTV, apparently.
[11:45] Live party is also coming back, allowing players to watch video and music even if they're not in the same room. They will do so with their avatars on screen, Mystery Science Theater 3000-style.
[11:46] Facebook is also coming to Xbox 360, and The Guild's Felecia Day takes the stage to explain how it works.
[11:46] Will have a custom menu which will let people link Xbox Live Gamer Tags and Facebook accounts.
[11:47] Facebook photos will be viewable in a full screen. Friend updates will also be viewable from the dashboard.
[11:48] A new feature, Facebook Connect, will let players send in-game screenshots to each other via Facebook on Xbox Live.
[11:49] But that's not all--Twitter is also coming to Xbox Live. Now you can post tweets about playing games while playing games.
[11:49] Well you can't tweet in-game, but it will be one button-click away, apparently.
[11:49] Schappert back now, wrapping up now, recapping the presentation--is this it?
[11:49] Nope--he intro's Don Mattrick
[11:50] "What's the one blockbuster franchise that Xbox 360 have always wanted to play?"
[11:50] Metal Gear Solid exclamation point appears on the screen, and Hideo Kojima takes the stage to announced MGS is coming to the 360.
[11:51] Metal Gear Solid Rising is in development for the console.
[11:51] It apparently won't star Solid Snake.
[11:51] Cue trailer--with the lightning clouds from the teaser site.
[11:52] "Lightning bolt action…Raiden is back!"
[11:53] Kojima: "I can't say more now, but I can promise you that it will be a completely new experience."
[11:53] So much for MGS4 on Xbox 360.
[11:53] Mattrick talking big-picture stuff now.
[11:53] "Can we add a motion controller? You bet we can."
[11:54] "For far too many people, the controller is a barrier preventing people from enjoying the game."
[11:54] "Can we make you the controller? Yes we can."
[11:55] Cue trailer of a kid coming into a living room and playing a kung-fu game by…doing kung-fu.
[11:55] Family playing racing game by steering imaginary wheel in the air.
[11:56] Then actually changing the tires with air motions.
[11:56] "Full motion body capture"
[11:56] Apparently you can scan your own items and then use them in the game. As an example, a kid scans his skateboard.
[11:57] The camera has facial and voice recognition. A young girl scrolls through some virtual outfits, Minority Report-style.
[11:57] Now to 1 vs. 100, using their fists as buzzers.
[11:58] You'll be able to navigate all menus using the device.
[11:58] Lights come up--does this thing have a name?
[11:59] Nope--is currently code-named "Project Natal."
[11:59] The sensor looks like the one leaked onto the internet. Will sense motion in 3D.
[11:59] Mattrick: "When it launches, it will work with every Xbox 360 sold, and every Xbox 360 we will sell in the future, including future Xbox models."
[12:00] Steven Spielberg hops on stage to talk about Project Natal.
[12:00] "Since Don and I met over a decade ago, we have asked how we could make interactive entertainment as accessible as books or music?"
[12:01] "We realize the only time we could do that is make the technology invisible."
[12:02] "It's not about reinventing the wheel, it's about no wheel at all."
[12:03] Matrrick's back to intro Kudo Tsunoda, who apparently is the creative director of Project Natal.
[12:03] "We wanted to make experiences which were accessible to all, but would also offer core gamers a level of control never imaginable before."
[12:04] Project Natal will have facial recognition, and will scan players' faces and sign them instantly.
[12:04] Avatar's movements will mimic that of the people. Tsunoda shows total navigation of all menus with a few waves of his hand.
[12:05] Now he plays "Ricochet," a 3D, full-body version of Breakout.
[12:06] Gazing through a transparent avatar, a young woman smacks balls into a wall of blocks which knocks them down.
[12:06] Tsunoda: "This is a full-body experience, not something you can just do on the couch by waggling your hand!"
[12:08] Now for another demo, Paint Party. A player on stage flings paint against a giant virtual canvas.
[12:08] He summons the paint colors by simply saying them. "Now for some dark brown," and a bucket of dark brown appears.
[12:08] Green, blue, brown, light brown, are all summoned.
[12:11] After saying Project Natal dev kits are already being sent to third-party developers and publishers, Tsunoda then turns it back over to Don.
[12:12] Mattrick then kicks it over to Lionhead Studios president Peter Molyneux, who himself plays around with Natal.
[12:12] Molyneux says that the controller has been the biggest barrier separating gamers from the world of designers.
[12:13] Molyneux says his studio has been playing around with Natal for a few months, and then rolls a reel describing the experiments Lionhead has been doing.
[12:13] He then shows a computer animation of a young boy, Milo, who responds to a human talking to him.
[12:13] He can apparently detect emotion in the player's face.
[12:14] The demoer then observes Milo's behavior, as he is clearly acting depressed. She communicates with him in a natural manner, and Milo explains his problem.
[12:15] Milo apparently has some problem with fish in a pond, and the demoer helps him out.
[12:15] She says things like "cheeky," just so everyone knows she's a Brit.
[12:15] The demoer then plays in the water, with her actions being reflected thanks to Natal.
[12:16] Demoer then draws on a piece of paper, extends it toward the TV, Milo takes the paper and reads it. Natal apparently scanned what was on the piece of paper.
[12:17] Molyneux says that he's finally been able to create a product that responds to players. Milo will apparently be shown behind closed doors during E3.
[12:17] Molyneux exits after declaring the event 'a landmark in entertainment.'
[12:18] Mattrick is wrapping up now, extolling the virtues of the 360 platform.
[12:19] Mattrick says that Natal Will break down barriers 'using the best controller ever--you'
[12:19] And that's it!
Tune in tomorrow for live blogs and video streams of Sony and Nintendo's press events as GameSpot's E3 coverage continues live from Los Angeles.