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Which Console Did You Buy/Receive Over The Holidays?

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Game Profile
Xbox 360
GENRE: First Person Shooter
PLAYERS:   1-16
September 25, 2007

Halo Wars 2

Halo 5 Guardians

Halo: New 343 Industries Game

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary

Halo: Reach

More in this Series
Gears of War
Halo 3
Mass Effect
Viva Pinata
 Written by Glenn Wigmore  on April 13, 2006

Specials: E3 is coming and the Xbox 360 is getting ready.

At E3 2005, it really seemed as if the gloves would come off for MS, Sony and Nintendo and that they would debut their new consoles. The only company to truly blow the lid off of their next-gen hardware was MS, with Nintendo and Sony opting to wait things out a bit longer and speak only in conceptual terms. The odd thing was that Sony managed to score a perceived ?win? at last year's show ? a feat they accomplished by showing pre-rendered game footage, a bizarre-looking mockup controller, and a very non-Sony console design. Then again, MS took the biggest risk by showing a system that was only in alpha/beta stage and not indicative of final specifications. In turn, people saw this as a sign of MS ?rushing? to the next generation without any quality games or jaw-dropping visuals and sound. However, with PS3 being recently delayed and the Revolution not slated until later this year as well, MS has time to really sink its teeth in as the only viable ?new? console. Many recent titles have shown the power of the 360 ? GRAW, Oblivion, Fight Night 3 ? but what should one expect from MS at this year's E3?

Halo 3: ?Move along, there's nothing to see here.?

Ah, yes? everyone's big perpetual question about anything Xbox: Where's Halo? Well, MS have continuously treated Halo like the elephant in the room, and Bungie has often taken the George Lucas approach to project information by allowing no leaks or indications of content or marketing strategy until they are good and ready. Honestly, much of the secrecy surrounding Halo 3 is probably more because of MS wanting to get a handle on what Sony is planning and then respond accordingly.

What will MS do at E3 for Halo? Well, they certainly won't have it playable, as the games they've announced for this year seem to be broad enough and will require a substantial marketing effort. Dropping a fully playable Halo bomb would steal all the thunder from games like Gears of War, Mass Effect, Huxley, Dead Rising and so on. This being said, the ?next Halo? has been recently rumored to be a prequel of sorts that shares some similarities to an MMOFPS, allowing for four-player cooperative elements. That idea actually sounds like it could be quite viable, as it would give fans more Halo content while keeping them paced for Halo 3's arrival at some point in the future. Either way, expect MS and Bungie to tip their hand ? in some regard ? to the game's existence and MAYBE show a trailer that is a teaser ? think of the initial Halo 2 trailer with Master Chief flying out of the ship's airlock and screaming towards the Covenant ship.

We'd all like something playable or tangible for the next Halo for E3 2006, but with so much other content coming for Xbox 360 this year, it's more likely that the people in charge are waiting for the movie's release to coincide with the next game. Might we see a Halo movie trailer, perhaps? Again, maybe a teaser.

Games, Games, Games ? Gears of War, Mass Effect, Ninety-Nine Nights, Dead Rising, Huxley?

MS will certainly be bringing a lot more games to the show than they did at E3 2005. About the only playable showings last year were Condemned, Full Auto, NHL 2K6, and Top Spin 2, but this year there is slated to be entries such as Gears of War, Mass Effect, Viva Pi?ata, Crackdown, and Huxley. Add to this the usual array of sports and generic action titles that should be showing up just before or after E3 and you've got a much more comprehensive representation of what the games of this year of Xbox 360 will be.

Gears of War is, arguably, the most anticipated title of the bunch, specifically because it has received lots of hype, shares many similarities to Halo, and has some extensive multiplayer support ?geared? around co-op. All media and impressions of this game have been extremely positive up until this point, but it will be good to see a version of the game that is much closer to completion. Expect this to be one of the featured two or three 360 titles at the show, and it will likely garner some special focus at the Microsoft press briefing.

Viva Pi?ata was recently announced as being Rare's next big project for MS, and the title should be displayed prominently at E3. All product tie-ins and obvious similarities to Animal Crossing and Pokemon aside, the game still looks vibrant and quirky ? two constant staples of Rare games. The online support remains a mystery for this one, and more hands-on time is needed to find better consensus on where this game is going.

Canadian-based Bioware's Mass Effect looks poised to be the other ?billed? title at the show for MS, especially considering the rabid support the KOTOR series enjoyed. The game is rooted in Sci-Fi lore, and much of the design seems inspired by the likes of KOTOR, Fable, and Jade Empire. It appears safe to expect a comprehensive video trailer for the game, substantial story information to be revealed, and some possible behind-closed-doors demonstrations.

Other games to watch out for include Crackdown, Elveon, and a possible announcement from newly acquired Lionhead Studios. Crackdown shares many similarities to the GTA franchise, but it adds some substantial co-op elements and a dash of Psi-Ops for good measure. Peter Moore has heavily promoted this game on many occasions as well, often without any provocation. Elveon debuted last year with a spectacular trailer that showed an intriguing fantasy world and some unconventional third-person combat. Look for it to be a sleeper title with its graphical power and intriguing fantasy backdrop. Lionhead Studios may not drop a huge bomb at E3, but MS will certainly want to acknowledge the acquisition and make Peter Molyneux feel wanted. Expect an announcement that signals the continuation of the Fable franchise or a new IP, altogether.

XBL Arcade: Killer App? Trojan Horse? Death Star?

What else can be said about the crazy success of XBL Arcade? Not only has it validated ? in some respects ? the validity of digital distribution and ?microtransactions,? but it has also provided some of the Xbox 360's best game experiences to date. Whether it's been the tense ascension of the leaderboard for games like Geometry Wars or the inspired puzzle challenges of Marble Blast Ultra, XBL Arcade has proved very successful for the Microsoft console.

What to expect in the future? Well, E3 certainly seems like a good time to expect more ?retro? releases to be announced; with the advent of Street Fighter 2, Paperboy, Mortal Kombat and Road Rash, this seems pretty much inevitable. There are plenty of games that people want to see on the service: Streets of Rage; arcade versions of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Simpsons, and X-Men; Golden Axe; Tetris (US version); Mutant League Hockey/Football; board games like Monopoly, checkers and chess; trivia releases similar to You Don't Know Jack and Trivial Pursuit; hell, people in the UK even voted recently and said Konami's ?Track and Field? series is one of their most wanted titles for the service ? could be quite fun online, actually.

Of course, MS can't go fully retro for the service, and they have even said as much in past interviews. In this regard, expect several ?new? pieces of content for the service akin to recent announcements like Cloning Clyde and RoboBlitz. How about a sequel to Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved? Expect to hear an announcement of its existence, but nothing more than that.

Xbox Live and Expansion: The camera, upgrades, and peripherals

With Sony's recent elaboration on their upcoming PS3, there's been lots of speculation on what MS will do on the services and peripheral side to counter some of these proposed features. Will it be the camera? Could there be a handheld in the works? What sort of upgrades will and Xbox Live receive?

The camera seems like a slam-dunk certainty to be revealed, especially since many press pamphlets and spec sheets have been leaked in recent weeks. The peripheral appears capable of producing some pretty decent resolution for video chatting and picture taking, plus it is heavily speculated to have some sort of motion or gesture recognition that creeps more into EyeToy or Revolution territory. MS is probably being a bit tentative on this peripheral, and this is a smart move. There are lots of inherent problems with giving people the freedom to fully show themselves online, and with a substantial amount of the Live community having trouble with cussing and racism during games, it is wise for MS to proceed with caution. In addition, Microsoft is probably still thinking up ways of making the peripheral truly useful for various game applications ? no easy task.

A handheld for MS doesn't make sense for this year's E3, especially since they will want to keep the focus strong on the console that is, potentially, the main moneymaker. J ?HD? Allard has been rumored to be working on said handheld with some fellow MS tech heads, but the product won't likely be shown off until next year's CES or E3. Peter Moore has spoken of the handheld space with some purpose in recent interviews, but he's always said that MS will only enter that market when they can ?make a difference.?

The Xbox 360 dashboard and community features have already been updated several times after the November 2005 launch, but expect some more announcements at this year's E3. There will be some obvious functionality associated with the camera and possibly some improved friend/stat/messaging support, but many are hoping for improved dashboard features such as multiple person Private Chats, downloading from the Marketplace in the background, and enhanced media support for Media Center and non-Media Center users. Expect some new content for the Marketplace as well, with some small alliances from the music and movie industry to be trumpeted.

There have been rumors that MS has considered adding a DirecTV blade onto the Xbox 360 hardware for true HDTV through the system, but that seems a bit premature at this point. It might be mused on during the press briefing, but only in long-term, conceptual ways.

Value: The Price is Right?

Don't expect MS to bring you Christmas in July by cutting the price of the Xbox 360 at E3. The system is just getting into full swing (production wise) and it would be foolish ? from a business perspective ? to offer a cheaper price point when the market has no alternative for gamers to choose. Much like Halo 3, MS is waiting for Sony (and Nintendo, to a lesser extent) to tip their hand about system pricing, online, and, honestly, just about everything else. A price drop is quite likely for the holidays, but it will all depend on the strength of competition placed against MS.


The Xbox 360 is gearing up for its first full calendar year and it will have one hell of a fight when it goes up against the mysterious Revolution and omnipresent PS3. The portfolio of games from Microsoft's perspective seems strong from a first/second and third-party standpoint, and the Xbox Live Arcade and Marketplace content can only get bigger. Whether the announcements of added services and peripherals really make much of a splash is certainly in question, and the absence of Halo ? justified or unjustified ? is always a perceived blow by Xbox fans and critics, alike. Should be an interesting E3. Stay tuned to Gaming Target for coverage of the event live from the show floor.

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