Surprises abound at Microsoft’s E3 Press Briefing

Microsoft started E3 on a high note yesterday, showcasing a myriad of new products, ranging from expansions of popular franchise titles (including Forza Motorsport 3, Halo 3: ODST, and Crackdown 2) to the reveal of Big Park’s latest title, a free-to-download avatar enabled cart racer by the name of Joyride. 

Many of the games featured included gameplay demonstrations and release dates, which are as follows:

September 2009
The Beatles: Rockband (9/9/09)
Halo 3: ODST (9/22/09)

October 2009
Forza Motorsport 3

Fall 2009
Splinter Cell: Conviction
Tony Hawk: Ride

November 2009
Modern Warfare 2

Winter 2009
JoyRide

Spring 2010
Alan Wake
Final Fantasy XIII

TBD
Crackdown 2
Halo: Reach
Left4Dead 2 (360 exclusive!)
Metal Gear Solid: Rising

In addition to announcing these titles, Microsoft had a few surprises to show off; particularly planned enhancements to the Xbox 360 dashboard, coming with the console’s fall update, a reveal trailer for Halo: Reach, and an announcement regarding Metal Gear Solid: Rising, a new MGS game starring Raiden.

Regarding the fall dashboard update, several enhancements were revealed – among them partnerships with Last.FM, Twitter, and Facebook, all subsequently resulting in sections for each in the interface, the re-branding of Video Marketplace to Zune Video, 1080p instant streaming, and for those of you in Europe and the United Kingdom, the first in kind, no additional hardware required ability to watch live tv via SkyTV.

While the games and NXE enhancements themselves already made for a strong showing this year, Microsoft had one final product to reveal; Project Natal, a full body motion sensing camera, both voice and facial recognition.  If Natal were to be fully implemented, it could well change the dynamic of in-game interaction.

Several tech demos were shown of Natal’s motion sensing and facial recognition abilities, such as an Arkanoid-style brick breaking game, and a paint gallery, both utilizing the unit’s motion sensing technology.  

The most impressive demonstration of Natal’s capabilities, however, came in the form of a video shown by Lionhead’s Peter Molyneux, featuring a CGI boy named Milo.  In the video, the player was enable to interact with Milo, by speaking to the simulation, and by motion.  Using Natal’s voice recognition technology, Milo was able to respond not only to questions asked, but also to react accordingly based on tone and infliction of the player’s voice. 

You can view a video of Milo in action here:

All told, Microsoft’s E3 Press Briefing showcased some fantastic new products, and set a high standard for Sony and Nintendo to follow up with in their respective press events.