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E3 2009: Microsoft Announcements

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Microsoft definitely seems to be taking E3 seriously this year, with more announcements for the Xbox 360 than you could shake a very large stick at. So, without further ado, here's what's what:

1080p Films and Zune on Xbox Live

Tying in with its Zune services, the Xbox Live Video Marketplace will be seeing the addition of 1080p HD films - with 5.1-channel surround sound. These will be streamed using instant-on bandwidth scaling technology which starts streaming in a lower bit-rate so enabling films to be watched instantly, before ramping up to full detail. Hopefully there's an option to force 1080p from the start with some buffering for those who value quality over speed of delivery.

Social Networking on Xbox Live

Building on the addition of its Messenger service to the Xbox 360 Dashboard, Microsoft is now adding Facebook and Twitter to Xbox Live. I'm not convinced I'd be particularly interested in using either on a console, but I'm probably in the minority.

Last.fm is also being added to Xbox Live, enabling music to be streamed direct to the console.

Project Natal

Rumoured at before, Natal (nuh-tall, counter-intuitively to me) is a crazy-sounding sensor that enables control of the Xbox 360 without holding a controller. Through a combination of a camera, depth sensor, multi-array microphone and a custom, proprietary processor brining those components together, the Project Natal sensor can track full body movement in 3D and respond to voice commands.

The system will offer voice and face recognition so that multiple players can use the controller together in multiplayer games. There's no footage available of the system in use, but Joystiq has managed to snag a video of what Microsoft hopes the finished result will be. (Update, video below). Suffice to say if Microsoft can pull this off it's going to be pretty damn awesome.



Games

Some of these details are already known, but Microsoft has detailed some more specific release dates and information about a few games. Halo: ODST has a firm release date, 22 September, and will offer - in addition to the single-player campaign - a four-way co-op mode called Firefight which sounds pretty much like GoW 2's Horde mode, with increasingly difficult waves of enemies appearing to be fended off. Alan Wake has a slightly firmer "spring 2010" release schedule, Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Conviction is set to arrive in 'fall' and Left 4 Dead 2 will be an exclusive on the Xbox 360 (in respect to consoles anyway).

28 July will see the launch of Gears of War 2: Dark Corners, bringing a new single player campaign chapter and seven multiplayer maps, Forza 3 is on its way and Crackdown 2 will arrive in 2010, too - which I can't wait for! There are also titles such as Modern Warfare 2 and Tony Hawk: Ride to look forward to - although those aren't exclusive to the Xbox 360.

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