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E3: Xbox 360

Article: Expect the unexpected?

With the sheer amount of internet leaks over the past few weeks (there have been enough to sink the Isle of Dogs) it's a wonder that Microsoft has any E3 surprises left at all. But despite what's already in public domain, we're sure there are still a number of Xbox fireworks set to go off at the firm's Monday night conference.

First, the obvious; it's no secret the Microsoft's aggressively pursuing that ever-so-lucrative casual and family audiences. Brilliantly exploited by Nintendo and Sony. But to compete at the tail-end of the generation Microsoft needs to tap into the casual audience, and that's exactly what it'll talk up in LA next week.

Lips, Microsoft's answer to SingStar, will be one of the first of the living room Trojans to appear on stage. According to the official blurb, "Lips is a music and singing game that includes 30 songs, 2 wireless interactive microphones, the ability to use and sing your own music or download songs from an online service." Your Nan will love it.

Another one for females is Microsoft's new Scene It? which will probably occupy far too much press conference time while you quietly scream for some new Gears 2 action footage.

2008 is the year that Rare will finally take a definitive role in the Xbox 360's future. Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts 'n Bolts and Viva Piņata: Trouble in Paradise are two of the only games in the first-party line-up that should attract both core and casual players, but the UK developer will have an even more important unveiling at next week's show; the 360's answer to Miis.

We've already seen what the new Xbox 360 "Avatars" look like thanks to a massive internet leak, but E3 will be our first opportunity to see the Gamerpic replacements in motion, along with their many custom animations.

Of course the developer is also said to be involved with the long-rumoured Xbox 360 motion controller, which many sources say will definitely be unveiled at E3. Rare's gone on the record saying that Banjo-Kazooie has nothing to do with motion controls, but we're not convinced Microsoft would launch the device without a support title from its premier developer in some fashion.

All of Rare's efforts will be playable at the show, and we expect 'Avatars' to be dated sometime before Christmas.

Leaving Mum and Dad in the corner for a moment, the Xbox's rocket-launching, head-shotting core game pool, as always, is going to be far from dry at this year's E3.

Arguably the biggest core title of the year, Epic's Gears of War 2 will be fully playable at the show, along with Lionhead's Fable II. We'd also be very surprised if Halo Wars wasn't hooked up to the demo pods as well.

If leaks are to be believed we'll also get our first look at Forza Motorsport 3, which is said to be so big it'll come on two DVDs and sport over 100 tracks. Could this be one of the "two big games"?

On the third-party front we're expecting to be dazzled by Mirror's Edge, Dead Space, Fallout 3, Free Radical's Star Wars: Battlefront III, Raven Software's Wolfenstein and who knows, a BioShock 2 trailer might even crop up at Microsoft's press conference.

But the biggest surprise of all will come from Xbox's ever-reliable show-stopper Bungie, which has hinted more than once that it's due to unleash something big at the Los Angeles event. Keep your eyes on Xbox Live - it could be massive (and hopefully not just another map pack).

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