Walking into Microsoft’s seminar room was like walking into a candy store as a child. X02, a showcase for upcoming titles for the Xbox over the festive season, was finally here after being shown around other parts of the world over the past few months. We had a brief look around browsing at some of the Xbox stands with games on display and *cough* having a few drinks before we were all asked to move to the seating area. The lights dimmed and with all eyes fixed on the screen we were presented with the trailer to Halo 2 which some of you may have seen already. After the trailer finished Alan Bowman, the Regional Director for Xbox, approached the podium announcing that what we saw is in game footage, which looked breathtaking.

”Fantastic games are coming to New Zealand in big numbers, and it’s going to be an incredible Christmas if you own an Xbox" said Mr Bowman. "With a great variety of games in a range of genres slated for New Zealand release over the next few months, every gamer will be catered for. No other console has ever accomplished these types of numbers this early into its launch period.". He continued "Every Xbox owner should be excited, not just because all of the big franchises will be available on Xbox, but because the cross-platform titles look and play best on Xbox".

With over 80 titles available now, and another 80 guaranteed before the end of the year, this will be not only an important time for Microsoft, but also an exciting season to look forward to.

Here is a brief run down on some of the games that caught our attention.

Colin McRae 3 (due Nov 4th)

The highly anticipated rally game from Codemasters needs no introduction and is looking good with some nice track designs implemented. The damage models of the cars look great and with a few more tweaks this game will surely shine through. Scheduled for release before Christmas.

Unreal Championship (due Nov 15th)

We managed to squeeze in a few rounds of deathmatch in split screen mode and we can tell you that this game looks and sounds pretty close to UT2k3. All the weapons are included, taunts and skins. The game is looking impressive and is pencilled in for a November release.

House of the Dead III (due Feb 2003)

The sequel to Sega’s classic arcade shooter it looking very crisp with similar multi path gameplay as the prequels. We managed to have a shot with the Madcatz gun which worked very well with the game and will be released here in conjunction with HotD3. Rumour has it that as a bonus another House of the Dead game is hidden in the game. If you like the light gun style games you best keep an eye on this one.

Serious Sam (release TBA)

We were quite surprised to see this at X02. The gameplay seems to be intact from the PC incarnate and is looking like all the action has been included too. We managed to have a quick play and can safely say all the carnage has been included as well.

Tony Hawk Pro Skater 4 (Due Nov 22nd)

The skating franchise continues. This is looking to follow on from the success of its predecessors with lovely visuals, easy to grasp controls and challenging gameplay. The game has already received high marks for the PS2 version overseas, so expect this to be just as great when its released locally.

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell (due Nov 29th)

Not much needs to be said about Splinter Cell. It is probably the most anticipated game of the year for the Xbox and was the game we spent the most time on. Although the game was beta code (90% complete), it still looked breath taking. We were shown some gameplay on a projection unit before it was put on display for everyone to play. The time spent developing the game is looking to have paid off with fantastic lighting, interaction and espionage. The game is pencilled in for a November 29th release locally and is expected to be one of the key titles this festive season.

Other titles on show included Terminator, Superman Man of Steel, Deathrow, Ty the Tasmanian Devil, Sega GT 2003, Blinx, Morrowind, Turok 4, plus a few others. Looks like the GP staff will have to start saving and taking a few sick days in the up coming months.