So here it is, the gaming judgement day of the year, E3 2010, where every company, big or small, casual or hardcore struts their stuff for buyers, and primarily, the insatiably hungry media.
I arrived in LA on Monday and thanks to an uncharacteristically cool summer day, I’ve managed to squeeze in plenty of previews, for which I will share my impressions with you now. I shall be writing each day up in the evening, and then putting together a reflective summary afterwards, along with a few interviews with developers. So here goes…
After an elaborate, and ultimately insane fanfare for Kinect (the artist formerly known as Project Natal) which utilised the unwitting media, clothing them in white and blue ponchos and shoulder pads, Microsoft showed their hand on Monday morning, and as expected Kinect featured very heavily.
However, they were also eager to parade some of their high-profile games and deals such as the first dibs on Call of Duty: Black Ops DLC, Metal Gear: Rising (multiplatform), the very pinnacle of incisional euphoria, allowing you slice and dice enemies at will and the star-studded Fable 3, boasting performances for Sir Ben Kingsley, John Cleese, Jonathan Ross and Stephen Fry, penned for an October 26th release.
Also very much noteworthy for many Halo fans was the reveal, via a new trailer, that Reach will have space combat and firefight mode. So after some more trivial Xbox Live announcements, Microsoft pulled out the big guns announcing the Kinect motion controller to release November 4th in America, along with 15 launch titles, and the new slim-line Xbox 360 console model, complete with built-in Wifi, 250gb HDD headed for Europe July 16th.
Microsoft’s press conference was solid, with the new slim Xbox 360 console stealing the show.
Miyamoto demonstrated The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword live on stage, which employs the Wii controller and Nunchuk to act as sword and shield, along with a number of new gadgets and in one word it looked superb.
In terms of Wii titles, they also had a wealth of classic franchises to grace your consoles including Epic Mickey, where you literally paint the town red, and every other colour forming the world around you, in classic Disney locations. Bursting out from rumour to reality, Nintendo revealed a GoldenEye remake, surely irresistible to any gamer with memories of the definitive original.
And as if these weren’t they went ahead and announced the continuation of two classic Nintendo series with Donkey Kong Country Returns and Kirby’s Epic Yarn. By this time heads were already spinning, but Miyamoto and his chums couldn’t stop themselves there and thus debuted the Nintendo 3DS along with a slew of high profile games in development for it.
Among this fountain of fantasies were a 3DS remake of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Kid Icarus, Resident Evil, Kingdom Hearts and Golden Sun. Mind blown yet? It will also play full Hollywood movies and can take 3D photographs. Enough said; here’s the full thing.
Finally, Sony did their thing, and much like Microsoft, their motion control took centre stage. But regarding the actual titles, Sony was all about their exclusives, citing exclusive content for Mafia II, Medal of Honor and Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood multiplayer.
And indeed they were also able to announce some strong titles such as a brand new Twisted Metal, Gran Turismo 5 and Killzone 3. Nevertheless, very few expected their biggest gift to Playstation hardcore gamers: Portal 2 on PS3 and Steamworks in 2011, though Valve isn’t a top performer on keeping to schedule.
Splitting the 50 million strong userbases, PSN Plus was announced by Jack Tretton costing £14.99 per 3 months, granting access to PS3 and PSN downloadable games, early access to betas etc, DLC avatars and other frills.
However, Kevin Butler, who was incidentally hilarious, and the rest were eager to give Playstation Move a look in. Sony’s answer to motion control, which I would be forgiven for saying has a certain air of familiarity (Wii Motion Plus?), will be hitting Europe September 15th, at $100 (around £70) for the big bundle of the Move controller, the extra navigation controller and PlayStation Eye.
Expect a number of launch titles along with support for 20 existing ones counting Heavy Rain and Resident Evil 5. Get the whole shebang here.
Game Publisher Announcements
Among other things, at its presser, Electronic Arts broke out its Crysis 2, looking thoroughly heart-racing, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, EA Sports MMA, Bulletstorm for February 2011 and the obligatory motion control game EA Sports Active 2. You can watch the whole Electronic Arts press conference at G4.
Without a doubt Nintendo takes the top podium, offering a brilliant and comprehensive line-up filled with classic franchises and a reportedly spectacular new platform (impressions of the Nintendo 3DS to come in the next couple of days) with yet more mind-imploding titles to back it up.
Most would agree that the philosophy behind Nintendo’s conference was admirable: Great gameplay experiences to utilise the technology and not just cold hardware.
In comparison titles like Microsoft’s Kinect Sports looked horribly counterfeit in comparison. Unfortunately, even though some exciting titles were announced along with a brand new console version, in my opinion, Microsoft takes the last place. The Kinect is an impressive technology, it goes without saying, but they just didn’t deliver anything remarkable enough to capitalize on it.
Sega’s new 3rd person shooter follows the exploits of Sam Gideon, one part of an elite military unit, tasked with recapturing an energy harnessing space station. If we’re to just list of some it’s most basic features: high tech spacey type suit, gears of war cover system, big guns and an AI controlled squad, you’d be staving off your yawns pretty quickly, but Shinji Mikami’s take on the western shooter is much more; a lot more.
Gears of War-style does a good job at describing this maelstrom of bullets explosions and robots if you add the description on steroids and a whole lot of Ritalin. Motion blur check, Slow motion check. Picture yourself sliding on your knees spraying bullets everywhere only to flip over a giant robot and dodge its rockets in mid-air and you’ve got a pretty good picture of Vanquish. Some fairly standard controls and a smooth, bright graphical style and we’ve got the makings of one hectic, but a stonking new shooter.
Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
Surprisingly, Assassin’s Creed’s multiplayer elements have been a work in progress ever since the release of the original, and it looks as though it may be worth the wait. I was shown the ropes in Assassination mode where you are given another player target to assassinate, having chosen my character abilities including disguise, speed boost and smoke bombs, I headed into the match, where my onscreen radar prompts me off the general direction my mark is in.
But here’s the awesome bit: you yourself are being hunted by another player too, meaning you must blend into the crowd much like your target is attempting. This dynamic creates a really tense experience, where watching both your movements and the subtleties of the crowds is paramount.
The only slightly disappointing aspect was an over-abundance of HUD somewhat breaking immersion, but this is a work in progress, so we may see some improvements upon final release. So coupled with a visually stunning trailer and a great gameplay demo in Ubisoft’s presser and I’m thoroughly psyched for this one.
The Shoot for PlayStation Move
Wondering around the Sony booth I thought I’d take a shot at Sony’s Move with The Shoot, a basic rail shooter and one of the launch titles. The Shoot is essentially Time Crisis in the wild west if it were a shooting range with fake wooden cowboys. Doesn’t sound great? It isn’t really; it’s fine for ten minutes or so and probably targeted at younger demographic, but the basics work well at least, swiping to dodge incoming knives and axes.
Given a reasonable price, way down from typical PS3 titles and it may be worth the purchase if the Move happens to be your cup of tea. That just leaves the Move itself. Put simply it works as you’d expect, accurate enough to hit your targets, but still feels a little fidgety, and not something I’d be inclined to sit down with for any prolonged period of time. But then again, it wasn’t designed to be used for long gaming nights. So as you may have realised, this peripheral is on my periphery, but I will persevere tomorrow with some more complex titles.
Little Big Planet 2
Having navigated E3’s corridors, tightly packed with, admittedly awesome, but manly shooters and high octane adventure games, I couldn’t help but whisk myself off to the nearest LBP2 exhibit in the afternoon to check out the sequel to one of Sony’s most loveable gems. You’ll read it everywhere but the comparison of the original to Little Big Planet 2 boils down to this: In LBP 1 you created levels, unique, crazy and adorable levels, but in LBP 2 you’re creating games. The limit really is your imagination (providing you can make it work in 2D or 3-plane 3D).
Media Molecule can be forgiven for saying there will be no need for a sequel because the few, seemingly insignificant new features open a veritable world of possibilities. The driver’s seat object allows you to take control of absolutely anything you choose making it possible to create an almost such as an RTS emulator or a racing game. I want this now; you don’t even need to mention the improved graphics, generally smoother gameplay, dramatically increased customisation and a whole host of new creative tools. I don’t even need to qualify my excitement with the given expectations – this title needs no caveats from me.
It’s been a good, if not a hectic day, and it’s great to get it all underway. The sights and sounds of E3 are quite unlike anything else I’ve experienced: the 100 strong fake Korean armies marching the hallways, the life-sized and living space marine and the untutored yet brilliantly easy-on-the-eye booth girls attest to that. Expect some interviews, daily write-ups and more updates via Zath’s Twitter feed over the next couple days. See you tomorrow!
This has been a guest post from Toby Edwards – The creator of My Two Senses gaming blog, be sure to take a look and check it out!