E3 Day Two

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posted 5/14/2004 by The GN Staff
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John's Day Two Continued...

Not to be outdone, I went to Nyko to check out their line of Air Flo products and came away with dry hands. Air Flo Wireless lets you have the Air Flo feature in a wireless product. I played around with the PlayStation 2 and Xbox while Charlie tested the 30-50 foot range of the GameCube Air Flo Wireless with much success. He must’ve walked a good 40 feet and was still able to play Soul Calibur II. The Mobile Game Carrier lets you put console and games into a durable carrier to dock into any vehicle. If you’re an Xbox Live user and don’t want to use a headset, Nyko has the SpeakerCom, which looks like a green speaker box with a small microphone extending from the right side. The rep told me it does a great job canceling out other noises in the room since the unit’s mic isn’t positioned near your mouth.

One of my favorite games this year was Champions of Norrath and I was happy to be able to witness Champions: Return to Arms. Two new races, one that will be announced next week, optimized engines, and more items highlight this action RPG. You will be able to import your character from the first game and be able to keep all your items and abilities in the new game along with gaining some new ones if you are high enough. Gaming hours is expected to be 40+ for 50+ level characters imported or 100+ if you are starting from scratch. The level cap has been increased to 80 also. If you want to jump into a quick game of Return to Arms with some friends, you can fire up what are called Medal Rounds. Medal Rounds are side quests that can be finished in a few moments and will be a source of unlockable content. The fewer potions you use, the better the content that’s unlocked. There are even online only levels available which should range about 10+ in number. Our demonstrator also told us that many optimizations to allow for more characters to be on screen have been implemented and fixing the dropped framerates in the original has been addressed. Fans of the original will be very happy with this one.

ATI was my last appointment of the day and while I can’t talk about my first hour I can talk about the last two. Beginning of hour two, I was treated to the second of two Half-Life 2 demos available. Even after a year, I was still impressed by what I saw. The anti-grav fun just rocks and seeing Gordon use it to launch saw blades at zombies was pretty wicked. The physics showed off really well when Gordon shot an enemy with a rocket from pretty far away and witnessing the somersault of death through the air of the unlucky soldier as he lands a hundred feet away. Manhunt players will appreciate the scene in Half-Life 2 where you take control of a crane with a magnet and use large metal storage crates to kill soldiers by dropping it on their heads. All the while, the game displayed the goreous graphics capable with the Source engine including impressive lighting, particle effects, and a cool watery and wavy reflection of objects in the distance at the right angles. Both the Vivendi and ATI presentation used Counterstrike port to the Source engine as the multiplayer demo. Doug Wood of Valve Software spoke at the end of the presentation saying he has played the game from start to finish so the summer release looks to be a viable possibility.

I was also treated to a presentation of the X800 series of cards and rather than go through the technical information, I’ll touch on a little QA and I had with the reps. On PCI Express, expect some announcements in a month or two about the cards and their availability. On lack of Pixel Shader 3.0, ATI feels that they have a quality product that still has plenty of headroom from using PS 2.0 that there wasn’t any need to really support 3.0 yet. With games like Half-Life 2 only using 35 pixel shader instructions and the fact that the card supports over a thousand, it will be a while before the card will be taxed when using pixel shaders. I did like the hardware encoding and decoding capability of the X800 and will be interested to see this in action to see how much CPU power it uses and the quality of both playback and capture. I will be testing an X800 Pro sometime next week as one is on the way from Sapphire.

Well, that’s it for today. Tomorrow I have a pretty much open day so I’ll be bringing news about many of the show floor’s products.
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