Charlie's E3 Day One

Article

posted 5/23/2003 by Charlie Sinhaseni
other articles by Charlie Sinhaseni
Wow, E3 2003 has come and gone and boy were there some surprises and let-downs. Because I’m an individual I decided to branch off and view some of the other companies that Charles, John and Bart didn’t get the opportunity to see. While I regret that I didn’t get to see some cool things such as Half Life 2, I was able to see my fair share of eye-popping titles including: Viewtiful Joe, Dino Crisis 3, NBA Jam, WWE RAW 2 and a whole lot more.

While the show had its fair share of noteworthy titles I'm sure that I don't stand alone when I say that it was a bit underwhelming. It was just missing something, that certain something that makes E3 so appealing each year. The absence of major franchises such as Zelda, Metroid and Mario really made the show seem a lot more forgettable than last year's. That whole mystique just wasn't there and it seemed like many of the titles at this year's show were at last year's so in essence, everything felt kind of old and dated. Even Doom III, the darling of last year's show, was relegated to gameplay footage status.

There were a few notable titles at this year's show and I plan on highlighting as many as I possibly can. We had different appointments for each day so we’ll be offering different vantage points based on what we were each able to experience. Today I will be highlighting products from companies such as THQ, Simon and Schuster, Kemco, Acclaim, Capcom and Metro3D. Go on to the next page or click on the links below to jump directly to the companies.

Metro 3D
Simon & Schuster
THQ
Acclaim
Kemco
Capcom

Don’t feel left out if you haven’t heard of this up-and-coming company, they’re still relatively new and their only marquee title to date has been Sub Rebellion for the PS2. While I wasn’t exactly thrilled to be kicking off my show with such a low-profile company I must admit that the appointment was much more pleasant than I expected.

Maxxis ATV (working title)
Release: Q1 2004

Aren’t overexposed to all of the ATV titles currently on the market? Then you’ll be happy to know that Metro3D has teamed up with the world’s largest ATV tire-maker, Maxxis, to create its own Xbox exclusive ATV racing title. Being developed by Maxxis’ own internal development team, the racing game will feature ATVs and upgrades from 25 different manufacturers including Honda and Kawasaki.

While a playable build was not available for perusal a looping video showed off the game’s core idea. It’s a racing title of course but an over-the-top one at that. Aggressive racing is definitely the emphasis; much to the point where combat has been included SSX style. You’ll also be able to pull off “gnarly stunts and tricks” as you claw your way to the finish line. Xbox Live is currently planned for up to six players.

Pumpkin Man (working title)
Q3 2003

Like Maxxis ATV this one wasn’t available in playable form and was another looping video. As its namesake implies the game has a Halloween theme to it but there’s a twist. Instead of being a horror or gore fest the game is about a world where Halloween has been forbidden. Of course you can’t stand for that so you’ll have to fight to bring it back. A large emphasis has been placed on the four-player support although there will be an entirely unique experience on the single-player side of things. Currently there are plans to have 40 multi-player levels, 20 single-player levels, 25 different enemies and 13 different weapons.

The current build has a cursor-based interface but it remains to be seen if it will be present in the final build of the game or not. Think about four players moving cursors around the screen and it’s easy to see as to why this may be problematic. Currently the game looks to be shaping up well and is on target for an E for Everyone rating.

Shayde
Q3 2003
Xbox

Shayde is a first person shooter that pits humans against monsters with a large emphasis on multiplayer. Via Xbox Live or LAN six players can team up for some good ol’ co-op action. For some strange reason single-console multi-player has been omitted, forcing you to actually own an Xbox if you want to get in on the action. The official line for this omission is that it would be too confusing to play a first person shooter on split-screen, I guess Halo isn’t enough evidence that this is actually possible.

Voice chat will be enabled so that players can talk and communicate with each other when they’re in the game world. If you get tired of playing the co-op mode there’s always the usual death match and head-to-head multiplayer modes.

Smash Cars
July 2003
PS2

We were told that this was the company’s number one title and after playing it, it was easy to see why. The premise of the game is that you control an R/C car in a scale-sized world. This means that you’ll be driving along significantly larger environments, complete with gigantic objects and humans. Alright so it’s been done before but never quite as interesting.

There are actually humans in the environments that can affect the outcome of a race. For instance on a beach level a walking human caused the ground to shake and knock our vehicle off its course. Another time the human actually picked us up and proceeded to throw us into the side of a cliff.

It’s coming out next month so we won’t have to wait long to see how well it turns out.


Outlaw Volleyball
Xbox

While EVE Online took up the majority of the Simon and Schuster booth I must admit that I was much more interested in the company’s over-the-top volleyball game Outlaw Volleyball.

This is your garden-variety two-on-two volleyball game but there’s a twist, it’s been injected with a heavy dose of attitude. The composure meter makes a return here and it affects the way that your character hits the ball. Like Outlaw Golf you’ll gain composure by making great plays and lose composure by making bad plays. Lower composure equates to erratic play characterized by weaker hit power and lessened accuracy. Of course like in OG you’ll still have the opportunity to run across the net and beat the hell out of someone to gain it all back. Fighting has been improved in this game and is actually of the old-school 2D side-scrolling style.

The game itself played pretty well and featured a great cast of witty and sensual characters. When you begin you’ll have four to choose from and as you progress you’ll unlock newer and better characters who are not only more entertaining, but are overall better players. Favorites El Suave, Summer and Ice Trey make up part of the 12 character cast.

S&S said that the Xbox Live component is working rather well and runs with little to no lag. As an added bonus the company has pledged upgrades via the service including the possibility of new venues and characters.

In another related note the company hinted that Outlaw Golf 2 is currently in development.


WWE RAW 2
Xbox

Admit it, WWF Raw was nothing short of disappointing. It was the quintessential example of why you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Well the guys at Anchor and THQ realized this and have turned their graphical showpiece into a real grappling contender.

Listening to the public outroar from fans, this year’s game will feature a season mode playable by up to four human players. Throughout the course of the season you’ll be able to make up your own storylines, pledge your own allegiances and setup your own feuds. Did Hulk Hogan just piss you off? Don’t worry about it, just get the Rock to jump him on his way to the ring. There you go, instant feud, just like in real life.

Of course the gameplay has been revamped as well and while it’s still a bit slower paced than the Wrestlemania and Smackdown! line of games, it plays a whole lot better than the first game. The flow of the game is much smoother and much more enjoyable this time around.

Wrestlemania X-9
GameCube

This is another franchise that received less than favorable reviews in its first effort. Again THQ and Yukes! have gone back to the drawing board in order to figure out where the game’s deficiencies lay. This time around there will be a system that accommodates to different sized fighters. This means that Trish Stratus won’t be able to take down the Big Show as easily here as she could in X-8.

On the whole the game plays a lot better with more continuity and flow. If you’ll remember last year’s game was pretty slow as it took forever just to score a pinfall on an opponent. This time around the game is much easier to play in addition to being more entertaining and realistic.

Also exclusive to Wrestlemania X-9 is the return of the first blood match. In this match the goal is the make your opponent bleed, in order to do so you’ll have to repeatedly strike a foe with either a weapon or ground attacks. I wasn’t able to see how this mode will work in execution although I did notice that the blood on the characters looks pretty real and convincing.

Moto GP 2
Xbox

The next entry in the well-received Moto GP franchise will have all of the usual goodies that come with a seasonal update. This means more tracks, more riders, more bikes and of course, the online play. THQ also informed us that future content via Xbox Live isn’t out of the question.

I took it for a test drive and found that some of the physics have been reworked quite a bit, lending a more realistic feel to the game. There are a few new features such as crash animations that look painfully realistic. A nice touch is a special crash cam that comes on when you wipe out going in excess of 130mph. Moto GP 2 definitely gives the term “road rash” a whole new meaning.

Alter Echo
PS2

Alter Echo was one of the most overlooked titles of last year’s E3 and while I was intrigued by it, I must admit that it dropped off my radar for quite awhile. I remember last year that the developers told me that the game was nearly complete and that a few minor details were being worked out. After the game missed its Q1 2003 scheduled launch date I had feared that the game had gone the path of vaporware.

Thankfully the game was alive and kicking, and looking great at that. New features include a free-flowing camera that can be controlled by the users. Apparently the testers weren’t too comfortable with the stationary camera that concealed a portion of the game’s view.

While the main character can still morph into two other forms much more emphasis has been placed on the main form as opposed to the others. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because the main form is just a blast to use.

Full Spectrum Warrior
Xbox

All I can say is “holy crap!” This one literally came out of left field and knocked me out of my boots. Think of Full Spectrum Warrior as a perfect mesh of the highly popular Tom Clancy and SOCOM franchises. We were told that the game has been used as a simulator for tactical combat and it definitely shows.

Players will command two teams of four players in addition to the team leader. Instead of controlling them directly players will instead use a cursor-based system to gives commands and orders. This slows down the pace of the game quite a bit but adds a heavy strategic element to it. Essentially the game plays like an RTS except you’re on the ground level, in the thick of the combat.

It’s hard to explain just how impressed I was by this game, let’s just say that it’s in my list of the top ten titles at the show.


Alias
PS2, Xbox
Fall 03

Take a babe with a great body, give her some skimpy outfits and give her the skills to kick tons of ass; sounds like a great game and in essence, it very well has the potential to be one. I admit it I’m not a fan of the show but after seeing what this title will have to offer I just might become one.

It’s a 3rd person action/adventure game played from the perspective of the show’s main lead, Jennifer Garner. The scene I played took place inside a casino where our protagonist was undercover as a nurse. It seemed to incorporate a few adventure game elements that served as buffers between the bits of ass kicking that littered the game. There were also small bits of stealth sprinkled about within.

It played alright and I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what the guys at Buena Vista Interactive and Acclaim will be able to come up with for the final product.

NBA Jam
PS2, Xbox

Who here doesn’t remember NBA Jam? Sure all you Johnny-come-latelys have your NBA Street but us old-school ballers know that NBA Jam is and will always be the only king of the arcade basketball scene. After a long hiatus Acclaim has decided to bring the series back from the dead and it’s headed to your Xbox and PS2.

There are a few changes of which most notable is the 3-on-3 gameplay. This adds a whole new layer of depth to the game. It gives you a new option during gameplay, do you pass it up to Shaq who is going up for the alley oop, or do you kick it out to Derek Fisher whose setup for the open 3? On the negative the court seemed to be a bit overcrowded but I can see myself adjusting to the extra players.

One of the nice touches planned for the game is a mode where you’ll play through various decades of the NBA. What’s nice about this is that each decade will have decade specific commentary and music to engulf you in the atmosphere. To add more features the game will include the NBA’s 50 Greatest players and Acclaim says there is the possibility of a downloadable rosters feature.

Gladiator
Holiday
PS2

Acclaim takes us back to the day when Caesar was king and Rome ruled most of the civilized world with its action/adventure title Gladiator. The game plays out kind of like the major motion picture starring Russell Crowe in that you’re a gladiator trying to save Rome from a corrupt emperor but there’s more to it than that. Instead of being confined to Rome you’ll enter mythical lands and meet up with some familiar mythological creatures.

Combat is pretty intuitive and especially gruesome. Acclaim told us that it’s touting something called “spectacular kill” which emphasizes flow and style over button mashing and random inputs. As you do combat a blood meter fills, when it’s full you can unleash hell upon your foes.

Our time with this product was limited but we liked what we saw so far. Out of all of Acclaim’s 3rd person action titles this one definitely has the most potential.

Beach Volleyball
PS2

Because no console is truly complete until it has its own beach volleyball title Acclaim decided to make the first beach volleyball title for PS2. Aptly titled Beach Volleyball, the game features (what else) well-endowed women in skimpy outfits playing beach volleyball.


Rogue Ops
PS2, GameCube, Xbox

This one really took me by surprise. It’s definitely one of those games that has to be seen in action in order to be appreciated. Screenshots just definitely can’t do this one justice.

Sure it may look like a Tomb Raider clone but it’s actually much much more. It combines elements from a wide variety of genres and actually plays more like Splinter Cell than TR in that there’s a heavy emphasis placed on the stealth style of gameplay. One unique feature in the game is that you can visibly see where the traps are set. That way you can plan your course of attack so that you can avoid falling into ambushes and potentially harmful situations.

I didn’t spend too much time with the game as my day was rather hectic but I definitely liked what I saw. If Kemco can keep up the excellent action and unique level designs, they’ll have a real winner later this year.

Top Gear Rally
GBA

Just when you thought that THQ had pushed the limits of the GBA with its Advance GT series Kemco drops this bombshell on us. Forget about those cheesy Mode 7 graphics, this game is the real deal. Each vehicle and track is rendered in complete 3D and the end result is just stunning. Tracks, vehicles and perhaps most importantly, the terrain looks just amazing.

It's not all looks though, the game was a blast to play. The physics were about as spot on as you could expect from a GBA rally title. For all of you who are looking for a rally game on the go you'll definitely want to keep an eye out for this one.

Viewtiful Joe
GameCube

Sporting a highly stylized look and enough special effects to make Matrix fans happy, Capcom’s amazing 2D platformer has what it takes to make a believer out of even the most jaded GameCube owner. When you begin you start out as an average Joe who has an addiction to action movies. After beating up a washed up super hero, Joe is able to take his powers and become Viewtiful Joe, an action hero with the ability to manipulate time to his benefit.

While the game utilizes cel-shaded technology to power its visuals it manages to be stylized enough to be immediately recognizable upon first glace. There are plenty of special effects abound and the animation is the smoothest and most visually appealing that I’ve seen in a cel-shaded game to date. The action is great too and is both entertaining and addicting.

Resident Evil Outbreak
PS2
Next Year

Now this is an interesting concept, four players will get together and choose from a cast of eight characters. When you begin you’ll see a cutscene that shows the action from the perspective of your character and the events leading up to the chaos that is the zombie outbreak. Choosing various characters will give you certain abilities that will give you an advantage over the others. Together you’ll have to team up in order to escape the zombie outbreak.

Half of the fun is derived from deciding who you can and cannot trust. While I didn’t have time to actually play the game due to time constraints my Capcom contact confirmed that the NPCs will act differently depending on your interactions with them. This ensures that every experience in the game world is filled with new turns and surprises.

Dino Crisis 3
Xbox

It’s great to see that Capcom is finally taking a new direction with its dinosaur adventure series. In order to help shake the “Resident Evil with Dinosaurs” moniker that it has had in the past, the game has taken a decidedly different turn. While some may see the new space theme as a disaster, those people obviously haven’t had a chance to play the game yet.

In a word this game is fun. I had a blast getting my paws on it at E3. It looked great, played great and perhaps most importantly, controlled great as well. In order to complement the game’s decidedly more action-oriented style of gameplay, Capcom has decided to rid the franchise of that RE-style control scheme and instead opted for a much more intuitive and useful layout. You also have a brand new jetpack that essentially helps you jump higher and dodge enemy attacks.

Mega Man X7
PS2

Mega Man makes his PS2 debut later this year but he won’t be coming alone. He’s got his good buddy Zero and the A man, a newcomer to the franchise who has the ability to mimic his opponent’s abilities. The great thing about the mysterious newcomer is that you won’t know whether he’s on the side of good or evil until you’re well into the game. Instead you’re forced to wonder which side he’s playing and if you can trust him or not. Plot development in a Mega Man game, you gotta love it!

Like the older Mega Man X games this is a traditional side-scroller but like Konami’s update of Contra, it has received a significant graphical update. The game just looks great featuring excellently crafted environments and some of the most fluid animation seen in a platformer to date.

To add a new dimension to the game there are now levels where you’ll run up and down on three planes, like your traditional 3rd person adventure game. From what I saw it doesn’t look like these will be the highlight of this title but their inclusion mixes things up quite nicely. To round out the new touches there is a new swapping system in place where you can change between characters on the fly. Seems like it may come in handy when one character is more favorable in a situation than another.

P.N.03
GameCube

Have you ever wondered what a hot babe in leather with the psychic powers likes to do in her free time? Well all you’ll have to do is check out Capcom’s upcoming P.N.03 to find out about her chronicles to defeat an evil menace that is threatening her people’s way of life.

I had a little fun with this one although I will admit that the control scheme was a little too complex for my tastes. It definitely has potential and some of the moves are just amazing to watch. Let’s hope that the control scheme is fixed for the September release.

Maximo vs. Army of Zin

Maximo’s back and this time around you’ll learn more about him and Arthur than you could have ever imagined. Ever wonder why ghosts n goblins are running amok? Or have you ever wondered about the origins of those heart boxers that Maximo parades around in? Playing through Maximo vs. Army of Zin will answer all of these questions and much much more.

It’s more than just a graphical and storyline update though, Capcom has taken into consideration the comments that it received about the title. This time around there are more moves, more animations, more NPCs and a better combat system. For those who complained that the original Maximo was too short you’ll be happy to know that Capcom has assured us that this adventure will be much longer and much more engaging.

Gotcha Force

Imagine Virtual On with four players and you can begin to understand the concept of Gotcha Force. It’s a fun little party game that doesn’t require too much skill or attention to detail to succeed. To say that it’s a button masher would be an understatement but it’s a fun one at that.

Up to four people can hook up on one system and join in the mayhem. Featuring over 100 different characters, including humans, monsters and robots, players can be assured that they’ll get plenty of bang for their buck.


That's all for today, I'll have the second half of my show up in the next week or so. Make sure to check back to see what I saw at Atari, Square Enix, Codemasters, Sammy and a whole lot more.