Its time to put this baby to bed and there's no better way to do it than a Best/Worst of E3 piece. This acts as a summary and a chance to throw in anything I might have missed writing about during my time in Santa Monica. Keep in mind this is based only on my own personal experience. Being one guy trying to get around 12 different locations, I unfortunately missed a few things, but this is a pretty conclusive way to wrap things up.
Best Trailer - While the new "Halo 3" and the extended "MGS 4" trailer got more buzz, I was most impressed with LucasArts "The Force Unleashed". Too bad I have to wait until 2008 to be Darth Vader's apprentice.
Worst Trailer - Prior to the song and dance number at the end, the "High School Musical" trailer was literally putting me to sleep.
Best live demo - I've said it once, I'll say it again - "Fallout 3" looked awesome. Call me a Bethesda fanboy, I don't care. The game looked fantastic and the hour long walk through with the producer explaining every single detail was a great touch. "Bioshock" and "Kane and Lynch" earn honorable mention.
Worst live demo - "Iron Man" was disappointing. It could be the fact that Robert Downey, Jr. playing the movie role leaves a bad taste in my mouth or that video games based on movies and comics have traditionally stunk.
Best hands on - "Project Gotham Racing 4" (loved the new weather system and motorcycles) and the surprising "The Simpsons Game" (looked great, hilarious) are certainly worthy but I have to give the award to "Stranglehold". If the story is even remotely as interesting as the gameplay, it'll be a winner.
Worst hands on - I know "Assassins Creed" has been hyped to death but I just wasn't that impressed. The combination of not living up to high expectations and its unpolished look left me wanting.
Best - This sounds cheesy but I really was surprised by how easy going everyone was. As competitive as gaming journalism is (which might surprise some people by itself) there wasn't one person there I couldn't strike up a pleasant conversation with. In other areas of writing that I've covered, sports reporting comes to mind, its much more cutthroat.
Worst - The lack of communication that the ESA provided. If I didn't know about a press conference or suite ahead of time, I had to ask another writer. I felt that the ESA didn't give out enough information. A quick example is the Microsoft gaming room at the Loews Hotel, nobody knew about it! For shame.
Best - The second half of the Disney press conference was hilarious. Singing and dancing cheerleaders that make shy gaming writers uncomfortable should be a part of every press briefing.
Worst - The first half of the Disney press conference. I did mention that I fell asleep right?
Thing I Hoped to Hear
Best - For completely selfish reasons, I was giddy to see that the create-a-player rankings were completely adjustable in "Madden '08". At least I hope it still is in the final version. And because I'm a giant nerd, the announcement that you can order your own Madden ring from Jostens (which a PR rep accidentally let slip but forbade me from writing about for fear of death from the EA hit squad, see pic at top) made me laugh.
Worst - Nothing. Which is what I heard about "Halo Wars", "Dead Rising 2", the "Lost" video game, "Cyberball" on XBLA and the rumored Xbox 360 price drop.
Best - Okay, so I only went to four but whose counting? I had the most fun at the Microsoft party. Plenty of games to play, a cool setting and the chance to rub elbows with industry execs. Of course free food, drinks and t-shirts are always nice.
Worst - Bethesda. They need to stick to gaming because their party sucked on many levels. Level 1 - It was held miles away from where E3 was. Driving around in an unfamiliar town is great! Level 2 - There were no signs it had anything to do with gaming. No games set up, no visible Bethesda reps. What's the point? Level 3 - It was in a country bar. Level 4 - The party for EA's "Rock Band" (with Velvet Revolver playing onstage) was close, reducing attendance.
The new E3 format
Best - The chance to get hands-on time (on the games they let you play) without waiting was great. Talking to game designers one-on-one was incredibly informative.
Worst - Despite having shuttles set-up to go between venues, getting around was a giant pain. It was inconvenient and time consuming. I missed or had to just plain forget about certain appointments or press conferences because I ran out of time. It sucked. The lack of booth babes was a bit of a bummer as well.
Best - The Loews Santa Monica was beautiful. As you walk through the doors the lobby opens up to a high atrium, similar to an Embassy Suites but much more stylish and compact. The hotel pool overlooks the ocean and the rear wall of the building is essentially a big window with a view of the beach and Santa Monica pier. It was also a site for about 7-8 of the gaming suites. If you're ever in the area and can afford a $400/night room, I highly recommend it.
Worst - My hotel, the Pico Travelodge in Santa Monica. While clean, it was small, didn't have a fridge and microwave like the brochure said, has rude owners, no pool and crappy TV reception. Other than that it was great.
Best -The best thing about the Barker Hanger was getting a chance to play whatever games I wanted, from all the different publishers, without having to wait very long.
Worst - While it sounds great, the hanger was kind of boring. It lacked intimacy, it was like playing games at a Best Buy or Target. Its distance from the hotels was another minus.
Best - Free t-shirts were pretty ubiquitous. I'm not complaining but I got my best swag at the EA press conference. They gave away a pogo.com (EA's online gaming site, kind of like Gametap) messenger bag which contained an EA pen, notebook and water bottle.
Worst - The Microsoft ass cushion was pretty lame, as was the SOE mint tin (lame but useful) but Eidos takes the cake. At the start of the "Kane and Lynch" demo (which was very well decorated as the benches we sat on were see through and had stacks of fake cash and drugs in them, very funny) a guy handed out temporary tattoos. Temporary tattoos?!? At least they had a skull and crossbones on it.
Best 360 game - "Mass Effect": I'll be taking about a week off of work to play this.
Worst 360 game - "Viva Pinata: Party Animals" = Zzzzz
Best Nintendo game - "Ghost Squad": Using the Wii Zapper is a ton of fun.
Worst Nintendo game - "Wii Fit": If I'm going to exercise, I don't want to do it while I'm gaming.
Best PS3 game - "Warhawk": Absolutely blew me away, way more fun than I thought. Now I might finally have a use for my PS3 besides using it to watch "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby". "Kill Zone 2" also looked good but it doesn't come out until next spring.
Worst PS3 game - "Folklore": This fantasy RPG just didn't impress.
Best PC game - There's so many to choose from, and I'm not even a big PC gamer. Its a tie between "Tabula Rasa", "Gods and Heroes: Rome Rising" and "The Agency".
Worst PC game - Any online trading card game, and I saw a disturbingly high amount.