E3 Roundup: Microsoft's Xbox 360

E3 Roundup: Microsoft's Xbox 360

When Back to the Future’s Marty McFly travelled to the year 2015, he attempted to impress kids at a cafe with his arcade first-person shooter gaming skills. He grabbed the plastic gun from the cowboy game machine and took down his electronic opponents in a flash. The observant youngsters grimaced.

“You have to use your hands?”

Sony Playstation was the first to have a crack at gaming with no hands with its unstable Eye Toy while the Nintendo Wii got really close with its motion controllers. But Microsoft has taken true wireless gaming one step further.

Showcasing its Project Natal system at this year’s E3, the computer juggernaut gave the audience a taste of true immersive game interaction. External controller? Turns out, you don’t need one anymore. With Natal, you become the controller.

An array of motion sensors, depth-sensing cameras, microphones and a software for voice and facial recognition means that playing video games hands-free and wire-free is now possible. According to Microsoft, Natal will be compatible with existing Xbox 360 units.

But before you go and throw your Wii console out the window, the new system is nowhere near ready to be commercialised… but it is certainly a tantalising preview of what awaits.

The company dropped another bombshell on its E3 audience with a surprise performance by The Beatles’ Sir Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. This expensive exercise was to promote Harmonix’s Rock Band: The Beatles edition featuring songs by the legendary band.

In other Xbox news, the console's online component is getting several upgrades including what Microsoft dubbed “Instant-On 1080p HD” to provide streaming support for movies and TV shows. For that, it has teamed up with UK’s Sky TV, but for social networking enhancements for the Xbox Live dashboard, Microsoft made friends with Facebook and Twitter.

Microsoft is also offering a Games-on-demand function for its flagship console. The service is slated to launch in August and is expected to carry 30 titles that Xbox users can download directly from Xbox Live.

On the games front, Xbox has finally recruited the former Playstation exclusive Metal Gear Solid franchise. Another long time PS patron to make the move is the prolific Final Fantasy series.

With so many major announcements by the end of E3, it is safe to say that Microsoft has left a lot of the audience with dropped jaws in great anticipation.

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