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E3: Xbox 360 booth tour, Kinect creates long lines

June 15, 2010 |  7:20 pm

What will Xbox 360 fans be playing over the next year? An answer can be found in the west exhibit hall of the Los Angeles Convention Center.

The annual E3 expo is essentially the gamer's almanac. Publishers show off their wares, vying for the attention of reporters and industry insiders. They're all trying to prove that their games, accessories and systems are the ones to watch during the crucial holiday season and into the following year.

For Microsoft, the strategy for its Xbox 360, the No. 2-selling console, banks heavily on a gizmo that sits under the living room TV called Kinect that radically rethinks the controller. But the hard-core fan base will be pleased to find a few key games in top franchises, such as Halo and Gears of War.

This year's conference opened its doors Tuesday morning. As is the norm for the major players, Microsoft pulled out the big guns in advance of the show.

On Sunday night, the Redmond, Wash., company booked USC's Galen Center for an over-the-top introduction to its Kinect motion-sensor game platform. The Project Natal Experience, as it was called, featured life-size faux elephants and a performance by Cirque du Soleil -- the first but certainly not the only extravagant event tied to E3.

At the Xbox 360 booth on the show floor, gamers finally got their first chance to interact with Kinect after months of Microsoft drumming up buzz. A long line snaked around the exhibit, as attendees waited for their turn to enter into one of many see-through, encased rooms. They were each given a few minutes to wave their arms and pump their legs to control onscreen action.

In Dance Central, players move their bodies to the beat of the music and to the instruction of a digital coach. Kinect Joy Ride is a cartoony, go-cart racing game where players control vehicles by simulating a steering wheel with their hands. Kinect Sports is not dissimilar to Wii Sports. Kinect Adventures is a wild whitewater rafting game where two players can simultaneously collect coins and dodge obstacles.

Parked in the corner of Microsoft's booth, a red-hot Ferrari attracted snapshots and periodic chatter about a new Forza Motorsport game the company showed at its E3 press conference on Monday. The racing game, slated for a release sometime next year, will take advantage of Kinect, letting players drive with hand movements and inspect cars by physically moving their necks and torsos to look around the virtual vehicle.

Role-playing game Fable III had a large grouping of systems ready to play. Based on a demo, it appears just about ready for its Oct. 26 release date. Some other sure-to-be-big releases include a ninja-spy game called Metal Gear Solid Rising and Call of Duty: Black Ops -- although those were sectioned off to their publishers' respective booths.

Microsoft's top artillery was contained in a small theater built into the center of the exhibit. Behind a display with the new, sleeker Xbox 360 console, the company took turns demonstrating Halo Reach, the next entry in the super-popular futuristic-shooter franchise, and Gears of War 3, another popular, um, futuristic war series. Fans waited for those demos not far from the other long line for Kinect.

For a look around Microsoft's booth, check out the video at the top.

-- Mark Milian

Video credit: Myung Chun / Los Angeles Times