Microsoft is bringing live TV, YouTube videos and Bing online search features to the Xbox 360, along with Halo 4 and a variety of traditional hardcore games offering support for Kinect hands-free motion controls.
Doubling down on blockbuster retail releases, the manufacturer showed impressive demos of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Gears of War 3 and a re-imagining of the Tomb Raider series, due out in 2012, at its E3 2011 press conference. But more tellingly, the company also revealed a heightened focus on home entertainment, including plans to make its Xbox Dashboard a one-stop hub for music, movies and TV shows, controllable via voice or hand movement. Live TV from broadcast networks such as ABC and Sky TV including news, sports and local channels, as well as thousands of streaming online songs, will be among the multimedia content featured.
Via the new Xbox Experience, an enhanced user interface, console owners will be able to speak commands including “Xbox Bing Harry Potter” to instantly browse for and find related videos and games. Millions of YouTube online videos will also be coming to Xbox Live, where they’ll be searchable and ready for viewing alongside content from Netflix, Hulu Plus and other streaming video services. UFC also plans to broadcast live fights with augmented reality features on the console, letting users use pop-up buttons to call the results of fights, and be scored on accuracy following matches’ outcome.
Extending support for motion controls beyond casual, social and party game experiences, popular EA Sports franchises like Tiger Woods, FIFA and Madden NFL will feature Kinect compatibility in the coming year. More traditional titles such as Mass Effect 3 (voice-powered in-game conversations), Ryse (arm- or head-controlled sword and melee combat in ancient Rome) and Fable: The Journey (wave a hand to cast spells) will also be available. All future Tom Clancy’s games will feature Kinect support as well, including Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, which lets you intricately customize thousands of weapons just by saying “optimize for range” or “randomize.” Long-planned action-adventure Kinect Star Wars, which lets you simply swipe a limb to mow down droids with a buzzing lightsaber, will utilize the accessory as well.
Kinect Fun Labs, a permanent addition to the Xbox Live dashboard that’s available immediately, also aims to let owners download and enjoy a variety of tech demos and virtual toys created by professionals and everyday users. Various apps include Kinect Me, which can scan your face and clothes to create custom avatars, and Kinect Sparkler, which lets you draw sizzling lines of light in the air, then pan and view them in 3D, with a finger. Additional applications will further let you scan in and animate everyday objects including stuffed animals, which appear on-screen.
Long-rumored HD remake Halo Combat Evolved: Anniversary is coming November 15, 2011 too, featuring co-op play on Xbox Live, a remastered campaign and seven classic multiplayer maps. Halo 4, the start of a new trilogy, will also arrive holiday 2012.
But perhaps most impressive for music game fans is the announcement that dancing simulator Dance Central 2 will featuring simultaneous multiplayer grooving. Shimmying next to one another, two dancers can twist, stomp and wiggle in sync with over 100 songs, with the game featuring the option to import tunes from the original Dance Central. Additional features of note will include voice controls, a campaign mode and enhanced Break it Down option.