E3 07: Microsoft throws gauntlet at press conference

It wasn't a typical beginning for a press event.

Bathed in ever-present green light in a massive, cement amphitheater that was somehow part of a high school campus, on a stage rimmed by a reflecting pool and an array of variously sized chrome globes, the theme music for Halo began to play. Rather, it was being performed live, courtesy of "Corporeal", a rock band composed of five teenagers from Libertyville, Illinois - including a shredding female violinist who most likely just received about five thousand invitations to prom.

When the song finished, Xbox biggy-wig Peter Moore strode onstage and uttered a seemingly impossible sentence...

"This is the greatest holiday lineup in videogame history."

Could he be serious? While this statement seemed initially to be about as truthful as "I just shared a sardine sandwich with the Easter Bunny and a Tyrannosaur", the rest of the evening actually provided serious evidence that Moore might be right. Say what you want about the rumored hardware troubles: the Xbox 360 software library is bringing the big guns and unloading with both barrels for the rest of this year.

Microsoft VP sucks at Rock Band
The first title actually shown being played was Rock Band, Harmonix's hotly anticipated challenger to the Guitar Hero franchise. To this point, most of us had only seen the stock gameplay footage, which looked an awful lot like... well, Guitar Hero. Harmonix is the original developer of that series as well, after all.

But, clearly, you can't judge a music game until you've watched people actually playing it. For us, those people were Peter Moore and three of the folks working on the game. Although Moore managed to fail his section of the performance and accidentally pause the game twice, he seemed to enjoy himself and the group did manage to rock out a surprisingly entertaining performance of The Hives' "Main Offender."

You'll be able to form a quartet with strangers over Xbox Live, but based on what we just witnessed, Rock Band will thrive the most when all four virtual musicians are in the same room. With everyone jamming on their individual instruments - two guitars, one microphone and an especially sweet color-coded drum set - the experience looks like an absolute blast. If anyone can afford it.