Ah, E3 how I’ve missed you. Your long lines, expensive food, sore feet and mountains of hype are easy to forgive for the chance to play new games months/years before they appear in store shelves. This year you presented pre-registered media with the opportunity to explore your halls before the rest of the mostly washed masses of “Exhibits Only” patrons flooded the show floor.
While most of the media folk headed over to West Hall to investigate Sony’s and Nintendo’s new wares I took the path less traveled and ventured into South Hall. Upon entering South Hall I walked past the Activision booth and noticed that Activision has managed to acquire the license for the Transformers the Movie game or somebody there decided to erect a giant Optimus Prime statue in the middle of the show floor for kicks. I made a quick lap of the hall before heading over to West Hall. Upon arrival I immediately noticed that the “gaming media” allowed early entry to the show floor was broken into three major groups. Those who were willing to spend three plus hours waiting in line to see the Wii, those who were willing to sweat it out in line to play PS3 games in the Sony booth and those who felt that their time could be better spent else where. Falling into the last group I made a slow tour of the West Hall before heading back to South the check out a few items. I played a bit of Battlefield 2142 which is basically Battlefield 2 with mechs…and that’s exactly as cool as it sounds. I also checked out Capcom’s Dead Rising which was actually a lot of fun to play. I had initially thought this was going to be something of a one trick pony with all of the gore and mayhem but the game actually has some RPG elements and a decent story behind it and is certainly something I’ll be tracking as the game works its way through the development cycle. I also played a bit of the PS3 version of Madden 07. While there weren’t any major OMG type of new features it does look like there are a lot of little graphical tweaks to the models and playing field. Further inspection is needed here as I really only played a few downs before getting distracted with something shiny in another booth.
Now would be a good time to mention the booth babe situation. Given the various rumblings earlier this year I had kind of expected to see a major cut back on the number of female window dressings at the show this year but that does not seem to be the case. There certainly doesn’t seem to be a giant increase in the number of them but it looks like IGN and other gaming sites will have plenty of content to pump up their page counts over the next couple of days.
Here’s a quick wrap up of what I got to see today. I’ll be following up on these in the coming weeks but I’m a bit burned out and I’m already having troubles keeping my eyes open:
Activisions’s presence this year was a little dialed down from last year’s game-a-palloza but as the saying goes it’s Quality and not quantity that matters. Here’s a run down of what Activision has in store for gamers this year.
Matt covers our Sony booth tour in a few pages but I didn’t get a chance to ask the Sony person about the Core edition of the PS3. The system will be able to play Blu-Ray movies even though it doesn’t have an HDMI output and console owners will not be able to purchase add on wireless devices or SD/CF/memory stick readers for the system in case they aren’t able to get their hands on the top end edition day one.
The final stop on today’s show was with Sega and we got to see two of their upcoming titles.
Man it's always a pleasure making the trip to LA for E3... I absolutely love how all of
First off I ran straight for the Nintendo booth in eager anticipation of the Wii, and after a long wait, and a number of replays of Crazy Frog vs Axel F. (curse you Nintendo) I got my hands on some Red Steel action. Gameplay was interesting to say the very least, though I felt like the difficulty was toned down, but I'm sure that was due to dealing with the initial shock of playing with the Wii controller. After a few seconds to get my bearings I was mowing down Yakuza after Yakuza, and it was reasonably fun. We've all heard that Nintendo isn't all about the next-gen graphics and with this game it definitely shows, as the game had muddy and ugly textures but overall was a definite step above the GameCube in terms of visuals. Nintendo also had a few other games on hand though it was difficult to fight through the crowds to play them. Ho-hum there are other days.
Next up was a trip to Blizzard to get a little look at Burning Crusade, the new expansion for World Of Warcraft. I'll admit, I've never really been on board with WoW and this isn't going to change my mind. But for all you fans out there be sure to check it out, it looks pretty sweet.
A short little jaunt over to the Konami booth revealed some big surprises to me, first off a Beatmania IIDX 13th Style (DistorteD) was on hand to play, now whether this is a hint of things to come or something I'm just reading too much in to I don't know, but I was with a doubt, stoked. There is of course the new Metal Gear Solid 4 which looks stunning (an understatement mind you) and a new Castlevania for DS which has my interest immediately piqued, swappable characters, where do I sign up? There are also the number anime licenses that are always present and Frogger, which is par for the course for Konami, sticking to their guns. Also on the Bemani front there is a the new Karaoke Revolution: American Idol, look for mainstream appeal to be present on this next mix. There are also three (count 'em 3) new Dance Dance Revolution titles coming this fall. Super Nova for the PS2, Ultramix 4 for the X-box, and Universe for the X-box 360, so get ready to bust a move... man that's cliche...
Square-Enix I love you guys, you've finally given me a reason to pick up a PSP. Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth is an excellent RPG that a lot of people missed the first time around on the PS1. If you are reading this then GET IT WHEN IT COMES OUT! I kid you not it is a superb game. There is a reason it fetches a high price on eBay, There is also a sequel for Valkyrie Profile, subtitled Silmeria which will be out for the PS2 later this year. Again, GET IT WHEN IT COMES OUT! It's an amazing game and looks beautiful to boot. There was also the ever present Final Fantasy 12, which I must say, if you've seen Final Fantasy 13 footage, please please PLEASE don't forget about Final Fantasy 12, it's an excellent title and deserves your attention, especially if you are an RPG fan.
SNK is keeping it light in the transition year and I say more power to them. The company only had a few titles on hand but they are definitely quality titles. King of Fighters 2006 (A.K.A. Maximum Impact 2) is keeping the story going from part one and has an expanded roster and looks quite good. There is going to be a whole lot of Metal Slug for PSP fans coming soon as Metal Slug Anthology will be itting store shelves this fall, it will contain Metal Slug 1, 2, X, 3, 4, and 5 and will definitely be a value for your gaming dollar. The Metal Slug Anthology will also hit the Nintendo Wii later this year as well. For those who are on a budget though, the original Metal Slug is making a trip to the GBA and it looks great, and runs smooth to boot.
Sony, the power-house of the show. After the announcement of their price points for the PS3 I wasn't expecting to get my money's worth with launch titles, but after a little hands on time I must say some of the games are looking and playing great. Warkawk is definitely the darling of the show with it's tilt functions that are similar to the Wii, and once you get used to it, it becomes seamless which is what I like to see and feel. There was also God of War 2 with looks to catch up right where the original left off with more more more as the emphasis on the game, though it's a wait-and-see issue on whether or not more is better. The PSP is finally getting into a groove of solid titles, with Loco Roco and Lumines 2 on the horizon it looks like those in need of fresh titles will have a lot to look forward to. Also on the RPG front be sure to check out Rogue Galaxy when it comes out. From the much applauded Level 5 development crew, it is a great looking title that has a unique battle system that is tons of fun... again with the cliches...
That's all for Day 1, be sure to check back tomorrow when I have new offerings from Atlus and Nippon Ichi.
There’s an old television commercial that goes “Membership has its privileges”, and the early access for media to the E3 show floor certainly demonstrated that to be true. While the growing horde of amped gaming devotes waited, media members who registered in time entered the show a full 2 hours before the rest of the show attendees.
This early access allowed for some first time hands on experience with Sony’s new Playstation 3 console. There’s no doubt that graphically the PS3 will be worth the wait. I was mesmerized watching some of the graphics that this next-gen console offers on 1080 HD displays. How the graphics will compare with the PS2 when displayed on a lesser monitor is still to be seen, but certainly the gamer with a high end home theatre will not be disappointed with what shows up in the games they’ll be playing.
I also took a quick run through the Nintendo booth, but found the lines for the Wii to be far too long to stand in at this point. One thing that did catch my attention in the House that Mario built was the DS Lite. The controller immediately evoked feelings of nostalgia from me, with a very strong visual nod to the control of the Super Nintendo. Nintendo may have finally found the way to drag a non-mobile gamer like myself into the world of NintenDogs and PictoChat.
Once my personal tour of the 3 halls was over, I got down to the business of the daily appointments. My first appointment was with 3001 AD, who displayed their new Trimersion VR system. The Trimersion is a head mounted display unit with tethered to a gun controller. The display unit uses two LCD video panels to display 320 x 240 resolution. What makes this unit unique is the gyroscopic tracking modules inside the head mounted unit that follow the “line of sight” of the person wearing it. When you turn your head to the left, the camera view in the game, does the same. The gun controller has the typical controller pad controls built in the barrel of the gun along with the standard trigger.
Trying out a demonstration unit, my early impression is that the weight is very good for both the gun and the headset. Neither piece of the equipment is too heavy or too unwieldy to be difficult to play with. The hardest part is resisting the urge to move the gun when I moved my head, but I believe that would be conquered easily after a couple of hours of gaming. The unit is expected to see an August release, with a SRP of $395.
Next up was Gamer Graffix. When I first met Gary Marcotte at last years E3, Licensing/Marketting director for Gamer Graffix, I had never seen their products in a retail outlet. Now, you can’t turn a corner at a retailer that carries gaming products without seeing one of GG’s skins. “The world is naked, and we’re going to skin it!” was how
On top of their growing product lines, Gamer Graffix has obtained some of the most popular licenses in the industry, including Marvel Comics, with an X-Men license that will launch into retail shortly. Building on their hip-hop license, sponsorship, and now partnership with 50 Cent, GG has signed a deal with Eminem. In addition, GG will have a line of Superman skins premiering in conjunction with the release of the movie. Finally, some of GG’s most interesting new skins will be based on the “Heavy Metal” cartoon license, and the images on those skins are definitely striking.
My next appointment was with GameTap, about their Broadband gaming on demand system. For $10 a month, PC users with a broadband connection can download their choice from over 500 games to play via GameTaps’ proprietary software. Essentially a legal MAME console with games from nearly every platform since the beginning of the console and home PC, the GameTap system offers not just games, but also GameTap TV, which provides original gaming related content. From the Commodore 64 to Y2k and more recent releases, there are plenty of choices for the discerning attention deficit gamer, who would rather rent than own and doesn’t want to wait for discs in the mail.
The original content is where GameTap shines. The writing is sharp and humorous, and ties directly back to the games. For example, Street Fighter week is done with a wink and a nod to television “stunts”, such as Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week”. The purpose of the original content is to lead the GameTap user to look at games either out of their favorite genre, or perhaps to games on consoles they would never normally look at.
While GameTap is not discussing their current subscriber numbers, they are proud of the fact that 70% of the people who use the demo sign up for the service.
My next appointment was with Saitek, and it offered something unexpected: A new keyboard. “We wanted to stay ahead of the curve”, said Mark the Saitek Sales Manager. “We worked with the same design firm from the original Eclipse, and they came up with 30 prototypes. We sort of picked and chose from features of the prototypes, and two weeks later they came back with 8 designs. From there it was whittled down to two.” Thus was born the Eclipse II.
Scheduled for a late summer/fall release with a $69.99 SRP, the new unit takes everything that was the original Eclipse and builds on it. The Eclipse II offers 3 different LED’s and differs from the Pro Gamer Command Pad with a purple LED (actually a combination of the red and blue LED’s) as opposed to the green LED. It also has a dimmer switch; a dial that allows the user to determine set the level of backlighting for the keyboard. Also new to the Eclipse II are multimedia keys to control the audio output of the PC. This was clearly a nod to the recent release of Saiteks’ audio line. The demo unit had all of the same strong touch and feel characteristics, with a twist: the keys that were black plastic on the original Eclipse will be replaced with the gunmetal silver of the PC Gaming Keyboard.
The Eclipse II will not be the only new component added to you desktop: A new mouse is not too far behind. Saitek has announced a follow up to the PC Gaming mouse that will offer four resolution modes, including 3200 DPI. The new unit is significantly more robust with a stronger mold. It is about 10% larger, and made of a much stronger plastic that fits the hand much better. It will be a far better competitor to anything Logitech will market. The SRP looks to be in the $49.99 range, and will also be a late summer/fall release.
Also fresh out of the over from Saitek is a new rudder pedal control that will act as a compliment for the X52 Flight Control System. Adjustable for three different sizes of feet, the rudder unit is made of the same strong materials that make the X52 unit so popular.
Lastly on the Saitek front, there are some rumblings that perhaps the wireless headphones in the Saitek audio line will not be around much longer. I don’t have anything official on this, merely some whisperings that perhaps the unit hasn’t lived up to expectations.
In my next appointment, I met with Akella, a distributor and publisher that deals wholly in the Russian and CIS states. They have several products in the hopper, including Heavy Duty and Empire Above All. Heavy Duty originally premiered at E3 2005, but has been completely retooled and redeveloped. Using a camera that can only be described as eerily similar to the “Google Earth” camera, the game allows full a 360 degree view of a monolithic planet.
One unique aspect of the game is that the entire planet is stored in RAM through the use of technologies created by Primal Software. This allows extremely quick changes in locales on the planets surface. The game has a permanent memory of the effects of gameplay; an explosion alters the surface of the planet for the remainder of the game. Heavy Duty also offers a large assortment of units to command from infantry to heavy combat mechs. As an RTS, the game allows the user to command multiple units at a time, or control a single unit as an FPS, without switching modes.
Akella’s other interesting title is Empire Above All, a game being developed by IceHill. Empire Above All is an RTS with physics from AGEIA’s PhysX engine; the game has a strong touch of realism while maintaining the feel of interstellar conquest. The environments are both interactive and destructible. When you blow up a building, nearby enemy units take damage from the flying debris.
The most interesting point of this game is the AI behind the enemies. Each enemy type is extremely unique, and to combat and conquer a specific enemy, you must first understand the basis of their existence, and discover their weak points. Both games are scheduled for release in Q1 2007, and offer some features not found in games produced and published in
As day 1 began to wind down, I spent time with the folks from MIST Land South, a Moscow based development house with a couple of very interesting titles.
Jagged Alliance 3D, is a turn-based strategy game where the player controls a band of mercenaries on a mission to save the world. The interesting part of this game is the way quests are implemented. As the game progresses, side adventures are presented graphically as choices in strategy to approach the primary quest the characters are currently undertaking. The player can choose to ignore the side quests, but successful completion of each side quest makes completion of the primary quest easier.
MIST Lands other major title of interest, Warfare, is based very much on current events. War has erupted in
Both titles are available currently.
When Magic: The Gathering Online debuted several years ago, Wizards of the Coast made several improvements to the tried-and-true classic. It was completely server based, and Wizards’ data stores were secure and tight as a tomb. This meant that no precious player data was lost, but also that unscrupulous players had no real data to copy, distribute or otherwise abuse.
Well, now they’re doing it again with Magic 3.0. Making an impressive appearance at E3 this year, Magic 3.0 retains the timeless appeal of the 14-year old card game, but refined for unprecedented ease of use. The interface has been slimmed down so that all necessary information is available within a few clicks, so there is more room for what really matters: playing the game. Not only that, but there are a number of cosmetic improvements, like a 3D playing lobby and rendered, animated avatars. Magic Online has gotten a serious facelift and the results can only make it easier for new people to get into this addictive game.
Sapphire has been hard at work cranking out the high-end computer hardware, and they’re expanding their business into new territory, namely motherboards. Here is a summary of an interview I had with them:
GN: So, you’re mainly ATI?
S: We’re exclusively ATI, we have a long history with them. It’s about partnerships with us, we have loyalty, integrity, and honesty. And ATI has given that back to us.
GN: So, in addition to PCI-E, you do a lot of AGP work as well?
S: Yes, AGP is still very big. Everybody has this bizarre notion that everybody went to PCI-E. Truth is, the installed base of people who will upgrade products, most of these people don’t want to change a motherboard that they’re comfortable with. AGP is reliable, so people want to change the part of their PC that will really affect their games. For instance,
GN: So you have started into the motherboard business?
S: Yes, this is one of our main boards here. Dual PCI-E system, running at full speed. We’re also introducing a new water-cooling system, totally sealed, totally integrating water cooling solution that will work straight out of the box. It’s totally silent, much more efficient than a fan, but because it’s self-contained you don’t have to worry about filling up reservoirs or leaks.
GN: You’d need that kind of cooling for some of the hardware these days.
S: Yes, what we have hear is literally the fastest video card in the world right now.
GN: So this can handle anything on the market today?
S: And then some!
So it seems that Sapphire really has their act together. They’re one of the top graphics card manufacturers out there, and they’re steadily moving into motherboard territory too. All the while, they aren’t forgetting their loyal user base by keeping strong AGP support, and also providing custom jobs when necessary. We’ll keep you posted on Sapphire, and any of their products we happen to review.
Up-and-comer Crave is blazing some new trails and keeping the kids happy with some of their E3 fare. First up is Hard Rock Casino for the PSP. The classy gambling simulator has a slick 3D interface and some impressive character customization on the surface, and some old-fashion casino games at its core. You get the usual roulette, blackjack and four kinds of poker, among others. A stylized solo campaign makes up most of the game, but there’s also four-player local multiplayer. The only downsides are no online support, and a surprising lack of licensed music.
Crave is giving the GBA plenty of love with a few Cartoon Network properties. One, based on the upcoming summer camp comedy, is a collection of camping styled minigames. The other is a side-scrolling platformer of Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends.
Crave was also lucky enough to score the Veggitales license. They have a traditional 2D scroller for the GBA and an exclusive 3D platformer for the PS2. The Christian elements are thankfully light, with emphasis on selflessness and interdependency being the only major themes.
Crave’s most interesting new project is a PS2-only shooting gallery game. A great deal of work went into making this a realistic, word-accurate target-shooting sim, with emphasis on gun detailing and real-world physics. The game will feature over 100 unique firearms, from pistols to bolt-action rifles, several distinct shooting ranges, and 8-player versus online. It’s refreshing to see a game centered around guns that, for a change, doesn’t focus on splattering your opponent’s gray matter across the wall.
I got my first look at CHROMEHounds, and I must say that Sega is really getting their groove on with the 360. The muti-centric mech combat juggernaut has more modes and options than you can shake a flak cannon at, and the solo campaign isn’t too shabby either. The name of the game is customizability, and lots of it. Players can expect over 100 parts and weapons to mix and match. It doesn’t end there—custom decals, paint schemes, stat-tracking and downloadable content will extend the replay value well into the 60-hour mark. You can look for Chrome Hounds this summer, another slap in the face of Sony fans who will still be playing the eternal waiting game.
Sega has shifted the Full Auto series to the PS3, for the first official sequel since the first one on the Xbox. What I’ve seen so far seems more like a hefty improvement than a sequel, with far prettier graphics than the original. There are a few nice additions, like a deeper solo mode, tactical environment destruction and special moves, but it’s still cars shooting at each other with ridiculously massive gats. I’ll have to see if a much bigger car selection and liberal amounts of glitz will significantly improve the experience.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.