E3 Day 1


posted 5/15/2003 by The GN Staff
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The first day of E3 2003 is over and while I had a light schedule, there were some great products shown to me. My first appointment, as with every E3, was with Saitek. It’s almost tradition that I head to Kentia Hall to see my Saitek contact on the first day. While they didn’t have many new products, they did show their new PC joystick line. Highlights of the visit include the ST90 Stick is a USB stick with three tripod legs for stability. You can turn a dial and flip the legs up for easy storage or transport. Usable by both left and right handed gamers, the ST90 Stick is a good value joystick for the PC crowd. Their high end sticks have a new design with the Cyborg evo. Using the Saitek Smart Technology, you can program the 20+ buttons on the stick. It’s also a true ambidextrous design, twist handle, 8-way POV, and glow lighting effects make this a very stylish and practical peripheral. While not overwhelming in products, Saitek has a few solid peripherals coming out.

Mad Catz had a nice booth in the South Hall area where I was shown their latest third party products in a nice closed room. As you know, Mad Catz purchased the Gameshark branding and offer a line of products for those who need an extra edge. Sharkbyte releases won’t be plentiful but will be released for top notch titles. The Sharkbyte line are official cheat codes that Mad Catz has worked in conjunction with the game developers on the specific title that its released for. As for the hardware side, Mad Catz is going to release a controller that should have NES fans very happy. The RetroCON is shaped exactly like the old NES pad for the Playstation 2. It features all the buttons, two analog sticks, vibration motors, rubberized grips, and illuminated buttons and D-pad. It’s definitely the smallest PS2 pad and should be available in the Summer for $24.99. If you have an HDTV and multiple console systems, Mad Catz is offering an HDTV Universal System Selector for a low price of $29.99. That’s pretty inexpensive for connecting up to four systems with component plugs. If you play in the dark and like the Mad Catz Xbox controller, then the LumiCON is for you. It’s pretty much exactly like the regular Mad Catz Xbox controller with LEDs so you can see the buttons and pad in the dark. It’ll retail for $24.99. The PS2 version will be $19.99. There was also a prototype of a new LCD screen that’s larger than the 5” one that they produce for the PS2 and it’s universal so it can work on the Xbox and Gamecube as well with a universal arm attachment. Mad Catz also has a strong line for the Gameboy SP and GameCube as well.

Activision showed us two great games in Call of Duty and Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines. Call of Duty is a WWII FPS with some great visuals. The demo made you feel like you were right in the middle of a war with plenty of action around and above you. What was impressive was that none of what we saw were scripted with soldiers taking cover, providing cover fire, taking out enemies, and advancing on the enemy. Anti-aircraft fire lit up the sky and took down a plane which crashed to the ground in impressive fashion. The AI work on Call of Duty showed great promise and the game has a tentative release date of Fall of 2003 so you won’t have that much longer to wait.

Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines uses the new Source engine from Valve Software with impressive visuals. Everything has physical interactions from the lights hanging from the ceiling to steel beams laying around. Depending on the race you play, the gameplay options will be different and getting by certain obstacles will call upon different abilities of the different vampire races. Character models were outstanding. The expressive eyes on the models give them a very lifelike appearance. Various lights reflected off the eyeballs and the movements were incredibly lifelike. When talking to NPCs, color on the dialog will mean certain actions. For example, one of the dialog’s color scheme signifying romance had the vampire seduce his prey before draining the person of their blood. Watching the demo with the monster tossing dead bodies at you showed how well the physics system worked as the body connected with other objects and sending them flying on contact. Your stats will also determine how you can interact with objects. For example, the demo showed the character trying to pick up a steel beam. Having weak strength, he was only able to drag it around slightly. After upping the character strength, he easily picked up the beam and hurled it around the room. Bloodlines looks to have a lot going for it with a great engine and abundant RPG aspects.

Doom 3 was not show in playable form but there was a looping video showing the game. It’s still an impressive sight but I was disappointed that there were no hands on demonstrations. Maybe next year.

ATi’s main focus today was the Radeon 9800 Pro 256MB card that was recently announced. They were nice enough to show us some demos displaying the pure power of the card. There wasn’t any news on their next card and believe me, we tried a few times to get some information out of our ATi representative. But seeing a vast majority of the show floor using the Radeon 9800 Pro to demonstrate their game, ATi seems to be doing quite well for themselves.

Some quick takes on various other products as I roam the show floor:

- NCAA Football 2004 now has a weekly Sports Illustrated issue that has news updates and Heisman hopefuls. Depending on the season, various teams will showcase some of their blue chip players with a headline. Online play did get choppy a bit but that could be the beta code and the fact that we had the microphone on. It was pretty smooth 80% of the time.
- Halo for the PC looks great on a monitor with higher resolutions and some texture updates. There’s a good amount of options you can adjust for multiplay and new weapons should make fans waiting for the PC version very happy.

Tomorrow will be my last day and with a light schedule, I’ll be able to roam the floor a lot more to give some quick news on various titles. But as for what I have scheduled, you’ll be seeing news on Logitech, LucasArts, AMD, Nvidia, Konami, and a little game called Half Life 2.

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