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June 21, 2012
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By Matthew Scott Hunter

E3 2012

Microsoft Press Conference

“How many times have you been watching an episode of “South Park” and thought, ‘I’d like to be able to watch this on my television while hooked into my mobile device, which is being controlled by my tablet device, which is hooked into my oven, all while sitting in the refrigerator?” asked “South Park” co-creator Trey Parker when he took the stage at Microsoft’s E3 media event. He was there to promote his new “South Park” RPG, “The Stick of Truth,” but his opening statement was a sly parody of Xbox’s whole approach this year. There were inevitable glimpses of “Halo” sequels, “Gears of War” prequels and plenty of Kinect-enabled titles that demonstrated notable lag onstage and will likely function only sporadically in the living room, but the games seemed like an afterthought. Rather than the Xbox 360 being a dedicated gaming device, Microsoft means to make its 7 year-old console the nexus of your entertainment world.

A new technology initiative called Xbox SmartGlass intends to integrate all of your electronic devices, such as your phone, tablet and Xbox. In a bold effort to compete with Apple’s iTunes, Microsoft will be launching Xbox Music with a library of 30 million songs — all sharable between Xbox 360 and Windows 8 powered devices. Additionally, Microsoft’s ubiquitous web browser, Internet Explorer, will be making its long-awaited debut on the console, complete with Kinect-powered voice commands. Tablet devices can be utilized in Xbox web browsing and also in gaming, which steals much of the thunder from Nintendo’s similarly functioning Wii U touchscreen controller. But little was shown in the way of gameplay innovation. The Xbox 360 has exceeded the lifespan of the average game console by two years, and its successor is nowhere in sight. But it seems America’s (and the world’s) current bestselling console has plenty of life left in it.

‘Halo 4’

Microsoft began its presentation with a gameplay trailer for its flagship franchise, now helmed by new developer 343 Studios, and it looked exceedingly familiar. Marooned on a strange but once again forested alien world, Master Chief is confronted with enemies both old and new, and he handles both exclusively with his trigger finger. Fans can expect a deeper relationship between Cortana and the Chief as well as a heap of new forerunner mythology.

‘Gears of War: Judgment’

The “Gears” trilogy may have reached its end, but prequels are a handy tool for keeping those bankable franchises going. This new chapter will follow the Locust-slaughtering exploits of Kilo Squad, under the command of series regular Baird, and the multiplayer will feature a new mode called OverRun — an action-packed combination of Horde Mode and Beast Mode.

‘Fable: The Journey’

Hopefully, this on-rails, motion-controlled spinoff from the “Fable” series will fare better than the similarly designed “Kinect Star Wars.” It certainly has retained the aesthetic of the beloved fantasy action-RPG. If there are no delays, fans will be able to explore Albion in first-person, annihilating Hobbes and Balverines with gesture-activated spells in October of this year.

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