|Lara Croft gets a complete do-over in the gritty Tomb Raider reboot for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. (Handout)
LOS ANGELES - In a display of flash, sizzle and deafening virtual explosions that would make Michael Bay proud, Xbox 360-maker Microsoft kicked off the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles Monday, unveiling a mostly safe and shock-free lineup of action-heavy new games and interesting new tech.
At their packed press conference at the University of Southern California's Galen Center, replete with giant screens and floor-shaking speakers, Microsoft executives and game development partners walked attendees through what's next for Xbox. "It's all about Xbox 360," said Microsoft interactive entertainment boss Don Mattrick, squelching rumours that the next generation of Xbox hardware might get a surprise reveal at E3.
Instead, Microsoft focused on fan-pleasing franchises for what is now the world's best-selling game console, showing off a roster of upcoming games that included Halo 4, Gears of War: Judgment, Call of Duty: Black Ops II and a gritty, intense reboot of Tomb Raider.
The motion-and-voice-sensing Xbox Kinect peripheral will factor in a wider array of upcoming games, giving players the ability to, for example, call plays in Madden NFL 13 using their voices, a feature that was demonstrated on the press conference stage by legendary quarterback Joe Montana.
Hip-hop star Usher also took to the stage, demonstrating the upcoming Kinect game Dance Central 3, and irreverent South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone were present to unveil their upcoming role-playing game, South Park: The Stick of Truth.
Perhaps taking a page from Nintendo's playbook, Microsoft also introduced an upcoming new technology called Xbox SmartGlass, which will allow for connectivity between portable devices, such as smartphones and tablets, and games or movies playing on the Xbox 360. The technology looks to be a response to Nintendo's tablet-style controller, which will be available with the upcoming Wii U console later this year, but Xbox SmartGlass will work with a variety of devices running Apple's iOS, Google's Android and Microsoft's own Windows Mobile.
Microsoft's Xbox press conference also marked the first public unveiling of Splinter Cell: Blacklist, the latest installment in the adventures of gruff super-spy Sam Fisher. The first title being developed by Ubisoft Toronto, Splinter Cell: Blacklist will also mark the first time veteran Canadian actor Michael Ironside has not provided the voice of Sam Fisher.
Ubisoft executives earlier told QMI Agency the new digital performance-capture technology driving the game required them to simultaneously record both the voice and motion of a single actor, which would have made it difficult for the 62-year-old Ironside to portray the lithe, lethal Fisher. Edmonton-born actor Eric Johnson, who has appeared on Smallville and Alcatraz, will provide the voice and physical performance of Fisher.