Thursday, July 12, 2007

E3: Cooking with gas


Wow! What a day! After an uneven day and a half, E3 finally hit its stride. Today was fantastic! I would have blogged earlier but I was so busy and having so much fun, I just didn't have the time. Great games, hands-on time with great games, two fun interviews and partying with a Liverpudlian was more than I expected but exactly what I was hoping for.
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Late last night I found out that Take Two wasn't going to be showing anything new on "GTA 4". Since I'd already been to 2K and saw a number of Take Two's games there, I decided to get an extra hour of sleep so I'd be ready for my first appointment.
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Midway - The Midway suite was located at the Loews Santa Monica Hotel and the place is gorgeous. Marble floors, a stunning pool with an ocean view. A number of other companies were there as well (Vivendi, Activision, Microsoft) and I can understand why. Now that's style.
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Black Site Area 51 - The first game I got my hands on was "Black Site Area 51" and it was impressive. Its a first person team based shooter that follows the story of Aaron Pierce, a government assassin. There's a lot of alien fighting and some bio-terror experimented on former soldiers who are your enemies. The game starts in Iraq but moves to a variety of different locales. The squads are controlled with one button, the right bumper (I tried it out on the 360). Besides blasting "Starship Trooper" type aliens, there are also some driving sequences and some occassions to man a turret on a chopper. It will support up to 16 online gamers and will also offer an online 2 man co-op. It comes out in mid-September for the PC, 360 and PS3.
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Aqua Teen Hunger Force - Got a quick look at this game which comes out for the fall only on the PS2. If you're a fan of the show, it might be worth a peek because of the humor and inside jokes. It still had a few bugs and the graphics weren't very sharp.
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John Woo's Stranglehold - Jackpot! Acclaimed action director John Woo wrote the story and provided the cinematics for Stranglehold and it shows. Tons of great action and an interesting storyline to go with it. The environments are fully destructible and can be used on your enemies. I shot an air conditioner from two stories up and it landed right on a guys head. The best part were the death animations. The goons you battle against react to where you hit them and there were a nice variety of dramatic falls. Aside from being able to occassionally use a bullet time feature called Tequila Time (after the main character) there are three special moves called Tequila Bombs. These are unique power up moves that offer a cinematic way of wiping a guy out (spinning and shooting, rapid fire shooting, following the path of a bullet as it goes through a guys body). It looked very cool. The standard movements are fun as well as you can slide down a rail, run up a rail, jump off of walls and slide on tables. Actor Chow Yun Fat provided his voice and likeness for the game. Its coming out in August for the PC, 360 and PS3.
Microsoft - After I left Midway I headed next store and went into the Microsoft suite (very first pic above) which was, well, sweet. First and third party games as well as titles from every console and for the PC were playable. Next to each monitor was a rep from each publisher to answer your questions. The one-on-one time with the game and the publishing rep was great. There were a ridiculous amount of games; "SceneIt" (new controller for it is pictured above) "Tiger Woods '08", "Guitar Hero III", "Gears of War" for the PC, "Enemy of Heroes", "Eternal Sonata", "Age of Conan", "Crysis", "Virtua Fighter 5" and "Medal of Honor: Airborne" just to name a few. I could have stayed there all day! Since my time was limited I only played four games, but what was there looked stunning.
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Ace Combat 6 - Flight sims have traditionally been a mixed bag. They're either too easy or too detailed and dull. This game was easy to pick up and play but also has the ability to be as complicated as you like. It will support 16 online gamers and comes bundled with its own flight stick. It comes out in October.
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Project Gotham Racing 4 - PGR3 was one of the best games on the 360 when it launched so the sequel has high expectations. The demo available let me try out the new motorcyle feature and the new weather simulations. Rain was the forecast of the day and it had the expected real-life effect (some skidding out and sliding) and best of all, the expected sound. The Bizarre rep from Liverpool (not the Liverpudlian I mentioned partying with earlier) reminded me the game comes out in September.
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The Simpsons Game - Previous Simpsons games have been positively sucktastic but this title blew me away! The first thing I noticed were the graphics, which looked just like the cartoon. Then there was the game play - hilarious! The game story is a parody of video games and the show itself. There was a level where Marge used a bullhorn to annoy (being annoying is one of her special powers) other locals to band together and fight against "Grand Theft Scratchy" from being released. On another level called "Medal of Homer" which is set in WWII France, German exchange student Uter throws a rock at a French village and all of the townspeople immediately come out with white flags to surrender. Besides the "Medal of Honor" game reference I saw "Frogger", "Space Invaders" and "Castle Wolfenstein" references. The game, which is NOT related in any way to the movie, has more than 7000 lines of dialogue and comes out for the PS3, 360, Wii, DS and PSP in October.
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Madden '08 - On my way out, I spent about 10 minutes with the latest Madden. My first question I had to ask was blissfully answered - yes, the create a player is fully adjustable. The new modes include a trophy case, the return of franchise mode for the next-gen consoles, an NFL Network streaming ticker. My favorite, yet goofy, new addition is creating a ring. Every athlete talks about earning a Super Bowl ring but in this Madden you can create and design your own championship ring that you can show off to your friends online. Its silly but for those of us gaming show offs, its a nice addition.

Barker Hanger - While I would have loved to have moved into Microsoft's suite, I had a date that I didn't want to be late for. A date with "X-Play" co-host Morgan Webb. After hooking up with my G4 producer contact, I met up with Morgan and we talked on the G4 stage where they've been filming their E3 coverage all week. She was sweet, somewhat shy (which suprised me) and really knew her stuff about games. I recorded the interview on my digital tape recorder and was hoping to put it on the coloradojoe podcast but because there was so much background noise it would sound like crap. I'll transcribe the interview and put it on the blog next week.
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So why is there a picture with me and the other "X-Play" co-host, Adam Sessler, instead of a pic with me and Morgan Webb? She wouldn't let me take her picture because she hadn't had her make-up done yet. After I finished talking to Morgan, I spent quite a while talking with Adam who was great. He was funny, self-deprecating, very animated and incredibly easy to talk to. He said he'd be up for some phone interviews sometime soon so expect to hear him on the podcast in the near future. I'll be transcribing his interview and putting it up sometime next week as well.


Best of the Hanger - One of the screwy things about this E3 is how redundant it is. Aside from seeing about a gazillion first person shooters, many of the games at the hanger were also at the gaming publishers hotel suites. Chances are if you've seen it at a hotel, you didn't need to go to the hanger. But since getting to all of the hotels is almost impossible, the hanger does give gamers a chance to see things they haven't seen yet. I missed the Nintendo press conference so checking out what they had to offer was my top priority. After looking around, it was easy to see that they had the most innovative games there. Wii games "Ghost Squad" and "Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles" used the new Wii Zapper, pictured above. Its a device that connects both parts of the Wii nun-chuk and puts them together to make a gun. It worked great and reminded me of those old shooters I used to play in the arcade. The other creative game was "Wii Fit", which comes with a foot pad called the Balance Board that players stand on. It senses the shift in weight your body creates when you move. I watched a guy do yoga, hula hoop and ski jump with it.

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Disney - The last press conference of E3 was Disney. Since it was last and Disney typically handles games for kids, the audience was very thin and the conference room barely half full. It was pretty low key as Disney announced the games "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian", "Turok" and DGamer, a world-wide online community for Disney gamers. Then things got interesting. There was a demo for a rythm game based on the movie "High School Musical" (yawn). Two volunteers were asked for from the audience to demonstrate the singing portion. Two people came out of the stands and sang a duet. It was made to look like these people were working E3 but they were plants. Right after they finished, a bunch of cheerleaders and guys in waaaay too tight basketball uniforms came out and a new, fast paced song started. There was dancing and singing and lights flashing. For a second I thought I was at a Disneyland show. The funniest part is when the entertainers came out into the audience looking for people to dance with. Expecting a bunch of video game writers to get up and dance to a tune from "High School Musical"? I don't think so. I haven't seen a room full of that many turned off guys since the Kathy Bates nude scene in "About Schmidt". It was unintentional comedy at its finest.

EA - After Disney I laughed all the way to another hotel to check out the EA suite. I had already seen a lot of their stuff at the press conference, the hanger and the Microsoft suite but I really wanted to see "Rock Band" up close. The EA set-up was quite nice with games on every possible device (consoles, handhelds, PC's and even cell phones). I took a peek at "The Simpsons Game" again and the very cool looking co-op shooter "Army of 2" before I saw a few demonstrations of "Rock Band". I didn't try it myself but the people from MTV who were playing it looked like they were having fun. With four different set pieces (mic, drums, bass, guitar) I was curious to see how it was going to be packaged and what the pricing was but that hasn't been determined yet.

The Topper - With things shutting down early tomorrow and everyone heading out of town, tonight was the last night to party. I had an invite to Microsoft's c3@e3 party from xbox.com's Trixie and I was planning to use it. It was held in the back pool/patio area outside at Microsoft's base hotel, the Viceroy. The setting was great and very xboxy. White padded chairs everywhere and the familiar glow of green lights near the small tented areas where people were playing "Call of Duty 4" and "Guitar Hero III". Even the pool and the small tables where people put their drinks (from the free bar) were backlit in green, very swanky. Microsoft and xbox.com were well represented. Besides Trixie and Major Nelson (who was running around doing interviews), Marketing VP Jeff Bell and Xbox 360's favorite tattoo object Peter Moore (pictured above as I close my eyes and wish he hands me a new 360 Elite) were hanging out. I talked with Mr. Moore for a little bit and he's a pretty cool guy. He's from Liverpool so we discussed family and, of course, Liverpool football. It was a perfect end to a great day.

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All that remains are tomorrow's four appointments. Three days is the perfect amount of time for E3 because just like everyone else, I'm getting pretty toasty.

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coloradojoemail@yahoo.com

1 comment:

Eli the Mad (Beer) Man said...

Awesome... sounds like E3 redeemed itself there. Still, it seems like there are some bugs to work out. So Adam is a good guy, huh? Cool. Did you get any playtime or see anything from Age of Conan? I look forward to the next blog!