Just like waiting for the number 91 bus to Kings Cross, SPOnG waits an age for a new Halo, only for two to come along at once. Peter Jackson (the beardy, dishevelled guy who directed Lord of the Rings, pictured here) just appeared on stage alongside Peter Moore at X06 to announce a new partnership with Microsoft, the first project of which is to be a "collaborative effort with Bungie Studios to co-create the next great chapter in the Halo universe."
The other new Halo news is the announcement of Halo Wars - an RTS based on the Halo universe and designed exclusively for Xbox 360 by Ensemble Studios (of Age of Empires fame).
For more details on both, plus a full rundown of all the main news highlights from this evening’s X06 media conference in Barcelona, read on.
Some other major announcements were made, including (…deep breath…) Sensible Soccer coming to Xbox Live Arcade in the new year; DOOM coming to XBLA today (yes, like now!); Rare unveiling a next gen Banjo-Kazooie; a bunch of 360 exclusives including Splinter Cell 5 and GTA IV episodes; the unveiling (finally) of Project Gotham Racing 4; Marvel Universe Online in development with cross-platform 360/Vista ‘Live Anywhere’ functionality… and… and… amongst other gaming delights, the final announcement of a price on the 360 HD DVD Player (out in November for $199.99/€199.99/£129.99).
Firstly, Peter Jackson spoke passionately (if somewhat obliquely) about telling stories through games, and the possible future for engaging gamers in more interesting, elaborate plotlines which is opening up through next-gen online gaming on Xbox Live. Whilst details were sparse, the mere fact that Jackson is working with Bungie to make the next chapter in the Halo universe is reason enough for rejoicing.
Additionally, Jackson and scriptwriting buddy Fran Walsh’s new development company Wingnut Interactive (a partnership with Microsoft Game Studios) is also working on a second to-be-announced project, which was announced as “an entirely original property targeted at bringing new audiences into the captivating world of interactive entertainment.”
Before the Jackson/Halo announcements were made, the first cheer of the day came when Microsoft’s Chris Lewis announced that Codemaster’s beloved Amiga classic Sensible Soccer will be heading to Xbox Live Arcade in 2007. A superb retro footy complement to the news from Leipzig that both FIFA and Pro Evo will be 360 exclusives for the next year. XBLA DOOM was also announced, to be released immediately! There'll be more on this shortly.
These heartwarming XBLA announcements followed the show’s grin-inducing opener - a trailer for Rare’s new Banjo-Kazooie game which promises to reunite all our old favourites from the N64 classic - Banjo, Kazooie, Gruntilda and others.
More news on 360 exclusives came thick and fast at what Peter Moore cheekily dubbed ‘Barcelona-Ton!’ – the aforementioned new Splinter Cell 5, Irrational’s BioShock (not on PS3 ‘at launch’) and - perhaps most interestingly in the long term - Rockstar announcing that 360 gamers will get exclusive access to two downloadable episodes of GTA IV via Xbox Live, mere months after the games release on October 16, 2007.
The (shockingly sexy) producer of Assassin’s Creed, Jade Raymond from Ubisoft took to the stage to give a full playable demo of the game, which just looks even better than it did at E3 (when we all had to pretend it was a PS3 exclusive). SPOnG will endeavour to get an interview with Ms Raymond shortly, if only because she immediately wins our ‘hottest dev babe of the year’ award.
Following a game trailer, Moore went on to outline the latest developments in the ‘Live Anywhere’ strategy, highlighting again the first major release to make use of the cross-platform technology, Shadowrun (launching sometime in 2007) and announcing a new major title, Marvel Universe Online (unsurprisingly, a superhero-themed MMO!) being developed by Cryptic Studios.
Lastly (for now) SPOnG is looking forward to getting our mitts on the Xbox 360’s HD DVD Player in November, which comes bundled with a 360 Universal Media Remote, plus Peter Jackson's King Kong on HD DVD, to enable us to really try out our new HD tellies this coming Christmas.
Moore couldn’t quite help but get the final dig in at the competition, mind, noting after the requisite new Gears of War demo from Cliffy B that, “Gears of War releases November 17 in Europe, that’s five days not five months after the US launch.”