Phew! It's been a hectic morning / afternoon / evening for those who tuned into Microsoft's E3 media briefing presentation, which showcased Halo 4, Xbox SmartGlass, Nike+, Internet Explorer for Xbox, and more. Should you find yourself being in the dark and didn't manage to catch the broadcast that was streamed a few hours ago, fear not as we have you covered from the floor.
So what was announced? From top games to new sport media sources, there's a lot planned for Xbox this year and beyond. Head on past the break with a coffee and supply of biscuits.
Games, Games & Apps!
As one expected, Halo 4 took to the stage with an adrenaline pumping trailer (see above) showing off superb graphics and a sneak peek at what we can expect in the next instalment of the series. From what the trailer showed, Master Chief is back with Cortana (which looked to go rampant), and is battling what appears to be Forerunner constructs as well as the Covenant. It'll be interesting to see where the story goes from the ending cut scene of Halo 3.
Later on when Xbox SmartGlass was demonstrated, Halo 4 was used as an example how WayPoint on Windows Phone (or the tablet, etc.) is able to handle match invitations from friends, and should the user accepts, the app will then connect to the console, save the game and launch the lobby. Usual WayPoint features were present, as well as lore and other information that is presumably unlocked as the player progresses through the story. It's going to be one adventure to remember, that's for sure.
A second large title for the Xbox system was showcased behind Halo 4 - Forza Horizon. Not much was revealed in terms of gameplay, but we can expect a more open world for drivers to cruise around in. It's set to bring a whole new experience that will immerse the player into the massive world that's being offered.
Forza Horizon is looking to be released late October.
South Park: The Stick of Truth made an appearance, with creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone taking to the stage to introduce a trailer for the upcoming title. Check out the trailer for South Park below. Should you pre-order the title when it's available, you'll be able to grab exclusive DLC, with the 'Mysterion Superhero Pack' being entirely unique for the Xbox 360.
The first three episode packs (DLC) for South Park will be released on the Xbox before other platforms too. If that wasn't all, Kinect is supported for taunting, laugh attacks and the ability to call Cartman a "fat ass" to provoke a response. Check out the trailer below, and look forward to an early 2013 release.
If cartoons and fighting the Flood isn't your cup of tea, then how about Dance Central 3, Tomb Raider or Fifa 13? No? How about Splinter Cell: Blacklist? Controlling Sam Fisher and joining him on his adventure is always a challenging, but enjoyable experience. Using stealth and cunning tactics to overcome the enemy with minimal attention to reach objectives is the aim of the game.
Gameplay demonstrated at the E3 presentation saw new gameplay elements, including the ability to use voice commands via Kinect to distract the enemy, killing multiple targets in slow-yet-fluid motion, and intense realism.
As well as the above titles (and other games), Nike were at the event to unveil Nike+ Training for the Kinect and Xbox 360. The app (and service) will enable users to work out with body moves, physical strengths and athleticism assessed, areas for improvement identified, and a personalised workout plan to help achieve personal best created right on the screen. The app will help build motivation through challenges, social encouragement and connectivity via a mobile app (presumably for Windows Phone).
Xbox SmartGlass took up a few moments to demonstrate how the service, which is set to launch later this year, will enable those with mobile devices to control their Xbox 360 and further extend their gaming experience. Xbox SmartGlass is set to turn a standard television in the living room into a smart TV that can pull down rich media content and more. Check out the article dedicated to the SmartGlass announcement for more information.
As well as connecting your Windows devices to the Xbox 360, Microsoft also unveiled the Zune music service replacement - Xbox Music.
The highly anticipated service refresh will see Xbox Music being released on Xbox, Windows 8, and Windows Phones. Microsoft demonstrated the upcoming service in a short video (see below), but has failed to provide a date as to when we can expect to see Xbox Music go live. If you're used to Zune, the interface looks familiar with Metro elements found throughout the experience.
From the demonstration we took away stronger social integration as well as a presumably improved post-Zune Smart DJ. A library of reportedly over 30 million songs will be available through apps on its platforms, but we might see competitor devices seeing an Xbox Music solution in the future when the service launches, especially if the Xbox app available for iOS is anything to go by.
Internet Explorer is heading to the Xbox console. Yes, you read correctly, Internet Explorer. The web browser is set to be released this fall in all countries that support both the Xbox and LIVE service. Kinect and Xbox SmartGlass will both be supported for navigation to be more user friendly, bringing the web to the big screen.
Moving onto entertainment on the Xbox, since it's a media centre as well as gaming console, some improvements to the UI and services were announced at the Microsoft E3 event.
Previously, as well as the Metro UI redesign, Microsoft added voice search functionality via Kinect and Bing to make searching for entertainment much easier for users. This feature is being made available in 12 additional countries: Australia, Austria, Brazil, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain and Switzerland.
The catalogue of customised sports, TV, mobiles and music apps from leading brands will continue to improve / increase with more unique ways for content to be delivered through the console. With this new entertainment content comes new sport partnerships, which is exactly what was announced during the presentation.
Sport sources will include a new WatchESPN app that will stream live video from ESPN, ESPN 2, ESPN 3, and ESPN U. A new NHL Game Centre app will boast 40 live games on a weekly basis, and the NBA Game Time app with League Pass will supply over 2,400 live games
Overall, Microsoft has revealed some superb plans for the Xbox system, as well as potential for Windows devices. With Windows 8 coming this fall, joined by more Xbox content and Windows Phone "Apollo", it could be a killer year for the software giant.
As always, be sure to keep updating our website and / or feed for more announcements and news from the floor at E3 over the next few days.