Xbox Takes The Stage With Paul And Ringo

Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr come on-stage at the Microsoft Xbox E3 press briefing to announce Beatles Rock Band. Daniel Terdiman/CNET

It may be an off-year for the video game console, but you wouldn't know it by the lines outside the Galen Center, at the University of Southern California, where Microsoft was having its annual E3 press conference.

Expected announcements included some form of motion-control system, new features and offerings for its popular Xbox Live service, several hot new games, both from its own publishing outlets and third-parties. Among them is "Halo 3: ODST."

Microsoft opened the press briefing with a lovely video from the much-anticipated and forthcoming "Beatles: Rock Band."

The game will feature 45 Beatles songs, including: "I saw her standing there," "I Want to Hold Your Hand," "She Said So," "Day Tripper," "Taxman," "I am the Walrus," "Back in the U.S.S.R.," "Octopus' Garden," "Here comes the Sun," and "Get Back."

It will also feature never-before-heard live studio chatter from the members of the Beatles. And in addition to the in-game songs, players will also be able to download songs and albums. That feature will commence with the entire Abbey Road album. Further, the song "All You Need is Love" will be available solely on Xbox Live.

Then, in a big surprise, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr came out on stage. "The game is good," said Starr. "And we were great."

"Who ever thought we'd end up as androids?" joked McCartney.

Next up on-stage was world famous skateboarder Tony Hawk, who unveiled "Tony Hawk: Ride," a new skating game that features a skateboard-shaped controller. Players of the game will "ride" the board, allowing complex maneuvers and a (somewhat) realistic skating experience.

To be sure, the new controller is highly reminiscent of Nintendo's Wii Balance Board. Still, Xbox has needed something like this. But one wonders if the board controller will have the wide range of applications that Nintendo's Balance Board does.

The next big demonstration featured Square Enix's Yoshinori Kitase and Motomu Toriyama showing off the first preview of Final Fantasy XIII for the Xbox 360. They said the game is targeted for a spring 2010 release.

Microsoft Corporate Vice President John Schappert spent the next 20 minutes introducing the developers of a series of upcoming games for the Xbox platform--and the games themselves, of course.

Among the titles that were showcased were "Joy Ride," from newly-acquired Microsoft Games Studio addition Big Park; "Left for Dead 2"; "Splinter Cell: Conviction"; and "Forza Motorsport 3."

Perhaps the most-anticipated new Xbox game is up next: "Halo 3: ODST." The game, which takes place weeks before the start of Halo 3, puts players in the role of a rookie solider, separated from his team.

The goal of the game is to survive, covering a lot of ground, staying alert for unexpected help. But players will have new Halo weapons to work with, including a new low-light vision mode.

ODST is expected to be released September 22.

But Halo fans will have more to look forward to, as well. Bungie Studios--the franchise's developer--is also working on another Halo title, Halo: Reach, which is expected to be released sometime in 2010. Halo 3: ODST players will get an exclusive invite to the new title.

By Daniel Terdiman
©2009 CBS Interactive Inc. All rights reserved
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