Microsoft Corporate Vice President John Schappert unveiled Halo 3 Recon, a new expansion to Halo 3 being developed by Bungie. Unlike earlier titles in the series, players will not take on the role of the Master Chief; instead, Halo 3 Recon will tell the story of an Orbital Drop Shock Trooper, among the most elite and fearsome of the UNSC soldiers. The game will feature new single and multiplayer content in an “intriguing side story that takes place during the terrifying events leading up to the Master Chief’s return to New Mombasa in Halo 3,” according to IGN, adding that “Halo 3 Recon will require players to employ more elements of stealth and cunning than ever before.” Halo 3 Recon is due for release in autumn 2009.
Also coming next autumn is Tekken 6, which will mark the debut of the classic Namco fighting title on Microsoft’s platform. The series had previously been a virtual PlayStation exclusive, and its transition to the Xbox 360 reflects a growing trend away from console exclusivity in game development.
Schappert also revealed that the New Xbox Experience will go live on November 19 in 26 different countries. The hefty Xbox Live update will feature an entirely redesigned interface, customizable avatars, support for higher resolutions, the ability to install games to the hard drive and new social tools, including an eight-player “party system,” chat and image sharing functionality and much more. Schappert said Xbox Live now had more than 14 million subscribers, and added that over 1000 games had already been submitted to the XNA Community channel, which allows independent developers and fans to create and share games over Xbox Live.
Following the keynote, Schappert responded to criticism that the addition of avatars and social networking functions to Xbox Live simply mimicked what had already been done by Nintendo and Sony by claiming that Microsoft has led the way in innovation on many fronts. “The innovation criticism is almost ironic to me,” he said. “You’ve got the Xbox, which is the console that pioneered hard drives, broadband gaming, online gaming, Achievements and gamercards. It’s the console that arguably pioneered first-person shooters in your living room, wireless controllers… I could go on.”
“With respect to Avatars – Miis are wonderful. Nintendo has done great things,” he continued. “But avatars are just a logical extension of what we’ve had already. We’ve had a gamercard and a gamer pic; I want to take that to the next level. Now we’ve got Live parties, we launched the first video store… So I get a little riled there. I think we’ve done some great things for the industry and for gamers.”