E3 is go – just a day after I left the US – with Microsoft the first company to announce their plans for the future. If the press conference is anything to go by then the only Halo game planned at the moment is Halo Wars, so it would appear that the talk of a squad-based Halo spin-off that doesnâ€™t star Master Chief was a massive fib.
Some rumours have become truths though. As reported here, Rare are indeed behind the heavily rumoured Mii-alike Avatars system. The entire dashboard is being overhauled in the Autumn – complete with a movie download service provided by NetFlix – and the ability to have your Avatar on your Gamercard. It looks like the first actual game to feature them will be Scene It? Box Office Smash. Microsoft have also teamed up with Endemol to bring gameshow 100 Vs 1 to Xbox Live, where every contestant will be a “real person” and real prizes can be won.
To much surprise, nearly all of new games announced during the conference are planned for release on Xbox Live Arcade. The exclusive Portal: Still Alive is the big one, followed by Uno Rush, a South Park game, Geometry Wars 2, the absurdly trippy Galaga Legions andâ€¦ wait for itâ€¦ Banjo-Kazooie. Itâ€™s an enhanced conversion of the N64 original thatâ€™s being done by a third-party company. The textures and character models have been improved and, if CVG is to be believed, it will still feature the Nintendo logos. Fallout 3 – which looks amazing so far – will have downloadable extras, just like Oblivion before it. Hopefully something better than the infamous stupidly expensive horse armour.
As for games that you can still buy in a shop the old fashioned way, Final Fantasy XIII will be released on Xbox 360 as well as PlayStation 3. Thereâ€™s also Lips – another musical affair developed in Japan by the people behind Elite Beat Agents on the DS. Own an Xbox Live Vision Camera? Get ready to dust that off too – Codemasters are behind Youâ€™re in the Movies, a B-movie inspired collection of mini-games where you can edit clips and send them onto friends.
Five player co-op has been confirmed for Gears of War 2 (out worldwide 7th November) while Resident Evil 5 (now due 13th March 2009) will have a two-player co-op mode starring a female character. Fable II is also finished and down for release in October.
Not a bad showing, then, and it would certainly appear that Microsoft is trying to grab some of the casual market that the Wii has attracted. The fact that Banjo-Kazooie is making a showing on Xbox Live Arcade could be the start of something excellent – maybe we will finally get to play GoldenEye after all. And don’t be saddned by the lack of a new Halo. There’s no way that Microsoft is going to let that franchise fizzle out.