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E3’09: The Rest of Microsoft’s Conference

I’m not going to lie, I was pretty pleased with the rest of Microsoft’s pre-E3 press conference. In fact, I’m fairly excited. They showed off a bunch of games I’m looking forwards to, such as Crackdown 2 and Left 4 Dead 2, but I’m guessing most of you won’t care about that (except John, who will be happy to hear that a new 360-exclusive Metal Gear game is coming).

Oh, and then there’s that new Tony Hawk game. I’m not buying it. That giant skateboard peripheral just is not doing it for me. What do you do when you’re in the air? Or what if you do a trick and land switched? How does that work? I’m not in.

Outside of games, MS announced a lot of new 360 functionality. You’ll finally be able to add to your Netflix queue on the ‘Box, no PC involved. Plus, this fall you’ll be able to also use Last.FM, Facebook and Twitter, which is pretty sweet. I’m down for that.

Then there was the final part of the show: Project Natal. Natal is a camera/microphone peripheral that seems to take gaming finally into virtual reality. The device is able to register all your movements in 3D space, making you the controller, like people always dreamed. They showed off some basic games, and I guess I should be really skeptical, but I’m fairly stoked. MS said nothing about a release date, so I’m assuming late 2010.

Natal completely alters the way you can use the XBox 360. You speak to turn the console on, then walk in front of the device. It then recognizes you and loads up your avatar. Once logged in, you actually just wave in the air to move between the pages and choose what you want to do. They showed off people doing things like saying “play” to star watching The Dark Knight. Steven Spielberg came out at one point, he was about it.

Peter Molyneux seems to be the first developer tasked with developing for Natal, he showed off an AI called Milo. Milo interacted with some British lady, they had a conversation and did cool things. At one part, the lady drew a picture, then Milo was able to scan it in (instantly), hold it, and make comments about it. I have no idea how scripted that whole thing was, but it was fairly impressive. Props to that one guy taking a shot at the Wii.

I’m guessing a lot of gamers are going to be very anti-Natal. After all, Natal would bring gaming to more people, and we all know how much the hardcore hate that. Also, gaming with it would be physically demanding, something else that gamers are not about. But, at least for now, I’m liking what I see.