E3 2011: Microsoft Showcases ‘Halo 4,’ Hardcore Kinect-ions

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The one message that Microsoft drove home during their E3 2011 press conference is that they’re going to give everyone–from hardcore gamers to avid TV watchers to casual players–reason to turn on their hyper-successful motion-sensing peripheral.

Xbox exec Marc Whitten claimed that the goal is to “get the technology out of your way.” One example is how Kinect’s going to be powering integration with the tech giant’s Bing search engine, with 360 owners being able to input search terms via voice command. Voice commands that navigate the dashboard will reach across the various different content panes on the next Xbox dashboard, too. Whitten went on to announce  partnerships with YouTube and the Xbox Live TV initiative. Global partnerships with channels like Canal +, ABC, Fox will make TV programming available for streaming through an Xbox 360. Whether there’s an extra charge is yet to be announced.

Peter Moore, president of EA Sports came on stage to announce that four of the division’s biggest sellers will put out Kinect versions in the coming year. EA Sports for Kinect will include Madden, FIFA and two other titles. From EA-owned developer BioWare comes more Kinect integration. Mass Effect 3 was shown by Ray Muzyka with Kinect support with voice recognition for dialogue choices and field commands in battle.

Ubisoft showed different uses of Kinect in a demo of their upcoming Ghost Recon Future Soldier. A developer demonstrated customization commands via gesture or voice command. Pulling hands apart revealed the innards of a weapon, which you could then swap out for other parts. Then, a shooting range tutorial let you try out the re-jiggered weapon. Ubi president Yves Guillemot announced that similar support would roll out along the whole Tom Clancy line of games from the publisher.

While Microsoft’s trying to position their consoles as more-than-just-games boxes, playable content was still out in force. The press conference opened with a live Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 gameplay demo by Infinity Ward’s Robert Bowling. On a level called Hunter-Killer, Bowling steered a soldier underwater through a flooded Holland Tunnel packed with cars bearing dead bodies. The objective was to lay a charge on a Russian sub.

Swimming past Russian mines, Bowling eventually surfaced to see Manhattan under attack. Bowing and his AI strike team breached the sub, fought their way to the missile control room, and launched the Russians’ own missiles against them. An extraction via speedboat led to a gun battle that weaved in and out of Russian aircraft carriers with PT boats giving chase. The frantic adrenalin rush gameplay fans expect from COD looks to be intact and bigger than ever.

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