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E3 2011: 5 things that had us buzzing

We round up the biggest breakthroughs and gaming trends at L.A.’s annual Electronic Entertainment Expo

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Wii U! Woo-hoo?
Nintendo’s successor to the wildly popular Wii, the HD-enabled Wii U (due in 2012), will sport a motion-sensitive controller with a 6.2-inch touch screen aimed at attracting casual and serious gamers. Perhaps the most innovative feature on the home console system? You can switch between playing the game on TV and on the controller itself — allowing other people to watch their favorite shows. Nintendo should call that the ”Relationship Saver.”

Microsoft Kinect’s (Much Needed) Expansion
Microsoft has sold more than 10 million Kinects worldwide since last November, but the controller-free Xbox 360 gizmo has been lacking in killer content. So the tech giant spent most of its expo time showing off new Kinect games. Among the highlights: Kinect Fun Labs can scan any real object and turn it into a movable virtual character, and in Kinect Star Wars, you’ll wield a lightsaber simply by swinging your right arm — no Jedi training required.

Bring On the PlayStation Vita
Sony’s newest portable device has taken cues from Nintendo’s popular DS system, including a touch screen and a low price point ($250). But the PS Vita — which sounds a bit like a prescription shampoo — takes the technology to the next level with a larger screen, touch sensors on the device’s front and rear, and the ability to save the game on your Vita and pick it up on your PS3.

3-D Gaming Revs Up
Like the Kinect, Nintendo’s 3DS — its 3-D handheld system — desperately needs more games. How about five huge ones? Nintendo showcased Super Mario, Mario Kart, Star Fox 64 3D, Kid Icarus: Uprising, and Luigi’s Mansion 2, with all but Luigi hitting stores by year’s end. Also, Sony announced the PlayStation TV, a $499 3-D display that lets two people view separate full-screen images at the same time. Sayonara, split-screen multiplayer.

3’s Company
A bunch of high-profile games put the 3 in E3 this year: Mass Effect 3, Uncharted 3, Battlefield 3, Modern Warfare 3, and Gears of War 3. Plus, they all look pretty similar, with gritty desert settings, dirt-covered artillery, and scar-sporting, gun-toting muscle-head heroes. This was a year of bullets and brown tints at E3. Maybe Modern Warfare 4 will be more peace-loving and pastel?

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