Microsoft's event began with a live-action trailer for the next entry in its evergreen Halo franchise, providing the first insight into Halo 4's plot.

It was followed by the first glimpse of campaign gameplay, from which several vague story and gameplay elements can be gleaned. It seems that Grunts and Elites make a reappearance alongside new, Forerunner enemy types, complete with new weapons for the Master Chief to pilfer.

Splinter Cell: Blacklist was the first of a series of so-called 'hardcore' titles in which Kinect integration will play a major role. In all cases, said 'Kinect integration' was limited only to its voice-recognition capabilities. In the case of Blacklist, players can now draw the attention of patrolling guards by speaking into the mic, setting up various gameplay opportunities. The demo also saw series stalwart Sam Fisher call a precision airstrike utilising this voice command.

As for EA's NFL13 and FIFA 13, more logical implementations such as calling plays and ordering substitutions using voice commands were demonstrated. FIFA 13 referees can now even yellow-card players for cussing mid-game. The implementation was mostly for content that, admittedly, can streamline commands that would otherwise require comparatively involved menu navigation.

A web browser is also finally headed to the Xbox 360, with a Kinect-enabled Internet Explorer providing, according to Xbox Live head Marc Whitten, "fast and intuitive" browsing.

But with each Kinect-integration demo, it seems that Microsoft has all but turned its back on gesture and motion commands for its core gaming titles and interface navigation. Perhaps the lofty goals hinted at in the Project Natal concept reveal have simply proved too lofty.

An underwhelming Gears of War: Judgement trailer revealed absolutely nothing new about the nature of this series prequel or the flavour that Bulletstorm developer People Can Fly will bring to it. It's a truly missed opportunity for Microsoft in a presser that was left wanting for known, exclusive properties.

In a similar vein, the appearance of Usher, drafted in to promote Dance Central 3, did little to inspire the huddled mass of journalists crowded into Los Angeles' Galen Centre. An additional celebrity appearance consisted of South Park's Matt Stone and Trey Parker, eager to talk briefly about their upcoming game.

The company did unveil and tease four brand-new exclusive IPs, though. It was hard to glean too much from the briefest of trailers for Matter and LocoCycle. However, a downloadable Kinect title by the name of Wreckateer appears to be a 3D, motion-controlled stab at the Angry Birds' catapult destruction formula. And Ascend: New Gods from Toy Soldiers dev Signal Studios drew inescapable God of War comparisons owing to its mythological hack-and-slash appearance supplemented with some giant-enemy scaling.

The usual slew of new content partners continued to add value to Xbox Live's entertainment platform. Most likely, Kiwis will not see the lion's share of these, although it was announced that Kinect's Bing voice-search feature will roll out into further regions in the year to come. The words 'New Zealand' were clearly visible among a handful of territories that scrolled across the main screen as the announcement was made.

But the key play for Microsoft this year must surely be Xbox SmartGlass, which head of Xbox Live Whitten describes as being "when devices work together to immerse you in entertainment". Amalgamating tablets and smartphones into the gaming and entertainment experience, it's Microsoft's obvious yet no-less intelligent answer to Nintendo's versatile Wii U Gamepad. The company was at pains to express that it works on devices that the consumer likely already owns – no further investment required.

Microsoft demonstrated a raft of ways in which SmartGlass could enrich the user's experience. These included, hypothetically, extra cast, crew and character information made available on the device while streaming HBO's Game of Thrones. The added touchscreen enables players to construct complex plays on the fly in Madden 13. And indeed, the whole Xbox 360 interface can be driven by tablet or smartphone if barking hit-and-miss voice commands at your Kinect isn't your bag.

As impressive and useful as these extra layers to the existing experience may be, it was hard not to feel somewhat let down by this conference's reveals. Presumably, this is best explained by a behind-the-scenes shift in focus towards whatever else is around the corner.