The 15th annual E3 Expo (e3expo.com) once again served as a window to the future of the multibillion-dollar interactive entertainment industry.
More than 40,000 industry-only attendees swarmed the Los Angeles Convention Center, which has about 350,000 square feet of showroom floor space, to play upcoming games and new hardware.
After two years of a quieter and more intimate approach, the E3 Expo has returned to its boisterous roots, featuring enormous video screens, live musical acts and plenty of photo ops with costumed characters and celebrities ranging from Steven Spielberg to Paul McCartney to Pele.
After three thumb-numbing days playing tomorrow's titles, here are some of the most promising games and peripherals worth saving for.
Project Natal (Microsoft; for Microsoft Xbox 360)
The biggest news — and buzz — at the show wasn't a video game, but rather, a fascinating peripheral that might change how we interact with games. Code-named "Project Natal" (pronounced "nuh-tall"), this device looks a bit like the eyes from the animated robot, Wall-E, and includes multiple sensors, cameras and microphones. It can sense your movement in a 3-D space — without you needing to hold anything in your hands. One demo, "Milo," lets you talk with a lifelike boy, who laughs at your jokes, follows you around the room and gives you items "through" the TV screen. Reach out your hands to "feel" the water in a pond and it ripples and splashes accordingly. Amazing. No price or launch date was announced.
Modern Warfare 2 (Activision; for Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation 3, PC)
The sequel to Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, the 2007 first-person military shooter that has sold more than 13 million units to date, looked and played amazing. The game once again drops you into a fictional near-future world in which a Russian ultranationalist threatens world security. The intense close-quartered fighting with modern weapons, multiple solo and multiplayer game modes and huge and fully interactive environments (ranging from the snow-capped mountains of Kazakhstan to the streets of Rio de Janeiro) all will ensure this gripping sequel, due Nov. 10, will please hard-core Call of Duty fans and newcomers alike.
New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Nintendo; for Nintendo Wii)
If you prefer a more family-friendly game, Nintendo took the wraps off its incredibly fun New Super Mario Bros. Wii, allowing you for the first time to navigate the trap-laden side-scrolling worlds with up to three friends at the same time. Players can drop in and out whenever they like to play along with the single-player campaign or partake in separate cooperative and competitive modes. Hold the Wii remote sideways to use the buttons and shake to launch your character into the air. Due out this coming holiday season, this party game will feature colorful graphics, accessible controls and a cast of familiar characters.
DJ Hero (Activision; for Xbox 360, PS2, PS3, Wii)