E3: Microsoft didn’t give us a wave

And so the official name for Natal is now Wave. Actually, that’s a lie – it’s now Kinect, a word that Microsoft Word’s spellchecker really doesn’t like. So, the rumours of it being renamed as Wave turned out to be false. That said, it might have gone under the moniker of Wave behind the scenes at Microsoft over the past few weeks – Eurogamer claims that Microsoft only trademarked the word Kinect in the past month.

The motion sensing camera is due out worldwide this winter, starting in North America on November 4th. 15 games are promised at launch, all of which involve waving your arms around like a loony. Kokatu says that the 360-exclusive Star Wars game that was shown looked the most impressive. Eurogamer seemed to reckon that it’s an on-rails affair though. Rare are behind Kinect Sports, which includes soccer, bowling, javelin, long jump, table tennis, boxing and beach volleyball. They’re also responsible for Kinect Adventures, which includes the water rapids game that a few people let slip about. The camera takes photos of you as you play, so make sure you do your make up before playing.

On the dashboard you’ll be able to access the The Kinect Hub where you can use the camera to interact with Facebook, Netflix and Zune. MCV reckons that Kinect games will retail for £29.99 – the same price as most Wii titles. The elusive RRP for Kinect remains a mystery for now, although Game are letting gamers pre-order it already.

As for third party Kinect stuff, Ubisoft are reading Motion Sports and Your Shape: Fitness Evolved, THQ will release The Biggest Loser, Blackbean has Get Fit (featuring Spice Girl Mel B), Konami are offering Adrenalin Misfits and Dance Masters while MTV/Harmonix have Dance Central in the pipeline. Here, you have to copy dance moves as they appear on screen – they’ve worked with world class choreographers to bring 600 moves and 90 routines. Some Disney games were also promised but all that was shown as a CGI Tinkerbell. Joy. The Kinect line-up isn’t just kid’s stuff and games for fitness buffs – Forza Kinect and Joy Ride are two very different racing games for Micosoft’s new toy. Joy Ride was first announced a whole year ago as a free-to-play Xbox Live game. It’s not clear if this is still the case. Metal Gear Solid Rising will support Kinect too while Sega announced Sonic Free Riders.

Now back to the games that require those old fashioned joypads. Fable 3, now with added Jonathan Ross, has a release date of 26th October while Halo: Reach will be available from 14th September. There’s a new video here. Gears of War 3 is shaping up nicely – as well as a few new characters, including female Anya, there’s also a four-player cooperative campaign and the new Beast mode. It’s due in the US on 5th April 2011 and Europe on 8th April.

Crytek are doing a 360-exclusive too currently known as “Codename Kingdoms“. Only brief footage of a gladiator was shown. And in a move that will no doubt piss off many PlayStation 3 owners, all future Call of Duty add-ons and map packs will appear first on Xbox 360 for the next three years. That deal must have cost Microsoft many gold coins

The new name for Natal wasn’t the only surprise. Not by a long shot – Microsoft have “done an Apple” and announced that a new sleeker version of the Xbox 360 will be shipping to US retailers from today. It’s “whisper quiet”, has a 250GB HDD and “the fastest wireless network for any console”. The cost? Same as the plain old noisy Xbox 360 – $299. It’s out in PAL-land on 16th July. It reminds me of one of those Alienware PCs.

In the world of downloads, namely Xbox Live Arcade, two mention-worthy games were confirmed – the 2D Castlevania: Harmony of Despair and Hydro Thunder Hurricane, which will have an 8-player online mode.

Plenty of new games, then. But perhaps a few too many evolving getting fit. I’d also wager that most of the third-party games shown for Kinect will also be appearing in Sony’s E3 round-up tomorrow. And maybe even in Nintendo’s conference too.

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