Microsoft Announces 360 Games, Nabs Peter Jackson For ‘Halo’

'Lord of the Rings' director will executive produce sci-fi movie.

Microsoft held its annual Xbox party in Amsterdam on Tuesday, offering a few more hints regarding the launch lineup for November’s Xbox 360 and the upcoming blockbuster “Halo” movie.

The company announced that director Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh — the creative team behind the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and this fall’s “King Kong” remake — will serve as executive producers for the summer 2007 “Halo” movie (see “Tired Of Playing The Game? Look Out For ‘Halo: The Movie’ “ ). Jackson’s team at Weta Workshop will handle special effects, and the movie will be shot in Kong and Frodo’s stomping grounds of Wellington, New Zealand.

“As a gaming fan, I’m excited to bring ‘Halo’s’ premise, action and settings to the screen with all the specificity and reality today’s technology can provide,” Jackson said in a statement. “I’m a huge fan of the game and look forward to helping it come alive on the cinema screen.”

The game was adapted for film by “28 Days Later” screenwriter Alex Garland. No cast details have been made public, but a press release from the film’s co-distributors, Universal and 20th Century Fox, indicated that a director would be announced soon.

As for the 360 announcements, Microsoft reps in Amsterdam promised four key titles for launch this holiday season: the first-person shooter “Perfect Dark Zero,” the fantasy action epic “Kameo: Elements of Power,” the fighting game “Dead or Alive 4″ and “Project Gotham Racing 3.” The company did not indicate which of the four would be available on November 22, the day the system launches in North America.

Earlier this week publisher Electronic Arts committed to five titles for the system’s launch: “FIFA,” “Madden NFL,” “NBA Live,” “Need for Speed” and “Tiger Woods.”

EA’s main sports competitor, 2K Sports, confirmed Tuesday that “NBA 2K6,” “NHL 2K6″ and the snowboarding title “Amped 3″ are all slated for release the day the system hits shelves. Last week the fantasy role-playing game “Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion” was pegged for a holiday release by 2K Games. The announcement also revealed a price tag of $60, one of the first confirmations of long-running industry speculation that next-gen games will cost more than this generation’s $40-$50 first-run games.

Microsoft used the Amsterdam event to tout the 360′s breadth of development support, spotlighting 2006 games “Gears of War” (third-person super-marines at war) and “Full Auto” (cars with rocket launchers racing through cities). New games announced for 360 debuts included spring’s “Splinter Cell 4,” “Doom”-maker id’s “Castle Wolfenstein” and an EA-developed “Superman” title.

The company highlighted several 360 exclusives from big-name talent that are set for release in 2006 at the earliest. They included “Crackdown,” which the company described as “an action-driving hybrid” that takes place “in a massive and highly stylized urban center.” The online game may sound a bit like “Grand Theft Auto,” a comparison helped by the fact that its developer, Real Time Worlds, is run by David Jones, the developer who founded “GTA” developer DMA Designs (now known as Rockstar North).

Other 360-only games previewed included “Mass Effect” — a futuristic role-playing game that will launch a trilogy from BioWare, the developers of RPGs “Knights of the Old Republic” and “Jade Empire” — and “Too Human,” an action game from “Eternal Darkness” maker Silicon Knights.

For 2005, Microsoft’s “Perfect Dark Zero” shooter is generating a great deal of attention. The game is made by Rare, the development studio formerly exclusive to Nintendo and responsible for many of the Nintendo 64′s biggest hits, including the beloved first-person shooter “GoldenEye.” Microsoft hopes “Perfect Dark Zero,” a follow-up to the N64′s 2000 title “Perfect Dark,” can define the new console the way the first “Halo” did for the original Xbox. Both games share a mix of single-player adventuring and deep modes for multi-player gaming.

The two first-person shooters also share the dubious distinction of garnering scorn from critics underwhelmed by the games’ graphics at the E3s prior to their releases. “Halo” was famously improved between its weak May 2001 E3 showing and its November 2001 in-store debut, but only time will tell if “Perfect Dark Zero” can make a leap substantial enough that someday Peter Jackson might produce a movie about it.

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