08
Jun
09

E3 Review

Now that we’re a week removed from the opening of E3, I think it’s time to reflect. By now, you’ve read the previews, reviews, and op-eds; you’ve watched the various press confrences, demos, trailers, and teasers. It’s time I add my two cents to the discussion.

Zasalamel’s E3 Wrap-up

Ok, I’m not professional journalist, nor was I at the conference, but like so many others out there in the interspace and on he bloggersphere, I was watching the live coverage, reading the impressions, and all that mess. Some of you probably saw my tweet/facebox updates on the games that really struck me. There weren’t many, but the few that there were are some pretty big reveals.  Not all of them are complete surprises, that’s cool.  Others came out of left field – pleasant little treats.

Well, let’s do this…

Nintendo

I’ll start with the weakest showing. Nintendo failed hard for me during its press conference. DS support aside (which was actually pretty good), I wanted good stuff out of the Wii. Unfortunately, I got VP of Sales and Marketing, Cammie Dunaway and a Wiimake of a remake (New Super Mario Bros. Wii). Fine, there’s 4-player simultaneous multiplayer and stuff, but, Nintendo, you did that already with Four Swords, and Square did it with Crystal Chronicles, good games, but who the hell played that mess? Ms. Dunaway obviously didn’t.  And what’s more? Wii Fit Plus! Hooray, I can do more yoga! Oh, and let’s throw in the Vitality Sensor; now, you can track how bored you really are while playing horrible minigame collections…

Alright, I know I’m being a little harsh here.  Wii Fit has been a gold mine for Nintendo and supplementing the peripheral with more solid physical activities and minigames will surely sell more to the traditional non-gamers as well as the unconventional hardcore gamer. I actually have more faith in the Wii Balance Board than I do in that Tony Hawk Ride controller (more on that later).  As for the Vitality Sensor, I feel its uses will be limited, mostly in conjunction with the health oriented software now so heavily associated with Wii, which is great because the Wii has been adopted by hundreds of hospitals, clinics, gyms,and care facilities as a way to promote and facilitate exercise and good health. As for more traditional gaming, if you remember Lifeline (PS2) or Illbleed (Dreamcast), you may be able to think of one or two uses.  Extending beyond obvious horror game applications, a series like Trauma Center could use this doohickey to monitor your stress level, allowing the game to adjust the difficulty on the fly and forcing you to control yourself so can, you know, cut straight.

Before I move on to the next big showing at E3, I must mention that Nintendo’s E3 offerings got better than the lackluster press conference. In fact, the end of said show brought two major announcements, Mario Galaxy 2 and Metroid: Other M. Galaxy 2 was almost expected this year, and even more so after all the emphasis placed on the Mario IP and its three biggest stars (Mario, Luigi, and Bowser). Metroid, on the other hand, was a complete surprise. Nintendo has teamed with Team Ninja (Ninja Gaiden) to take a closer look at series heroine Samus Aran’s history.  From what I could make out from the teaser – which appears to be a mix of rendered cut scenes and in-game action, all simply for the trailer – this game could bring portions of the Metroid manga to the table in a prequel of sorts. Maybe. Note: Actually, Other M’s story will take place between Super Metroid and Fusion. For reference, the Prime quadrilogy occurs between Metroid/Zero Mission and Metroid 2.

Finally, the next Zelda Wii installment has been announced, in that we now know for a fact that there will be one.  A promotional/concept still was presented to a select few at Shigeru Miyamoto’s private E3 round table. A new No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle trailer debuted; The Conduit, Resident Evil: Darkside Chronicles, and Dead Space Extraction all got more hype; and Wii Motion Plus/Wii Resort (see, I didn’t forget) actually looks like the must buy Wii package of the summer.

Microsoft

Not much here I can say. Unlike Sony and Nintendo, Microsoft didn’t focus on the exclusive content coming to Xbox 360. As a result, while I was not left feeling underwhelmed, I certainly didn’t come away wanting to buy a 360. The only exclusive content worth mentioning was Metal Gear Solid: Rising (honestly, the biggest “we saw that coming eventually because we were begging for it anyway” of the whole show – and not as exclusive as 360 owners wanted), Splinter Cell: Conviction (only because it’s NOT Modern Warfare 2 and actually makes Splinter Cell look interesting again), and Project Natal (I’m back to this).

The press conference kicked off with Rock Band: The Beatles, a multi-platform title that will have exclusive XBL content, for like 2-3 months, if that. Now, I don’t play Rock Band or Guitar Hero and I don’t have mush desire to. Don’t understand why all of these band specific variations can’t just be pure downloadable upgrades to the existing software. Why do I have to buy a whole new disk for new background animations and a new songs when I’m already downloading songs off XBL/PSN? Furthermore, why everyone is so excited over this makes no sense. It’s the SAME damn game! It’s not Rock Band 2, it’s figgin Rock Band + Beatles songs that could have been made available for download weeks ago. Moving on, there was that Tony Hawk Ride mess, introduced by the Birdman himself. The game looks cool, but the controller looks like a gimmick through and though. If I wanted to skate while I played my skating games, I’d just go skate. Notice, there was no mention of how you would play Ride without this controller nor of any new gameplay enhancements. Boring.

Which leads me to Project Natal, Microsoft’s attempt to compete with Nintendo in the motion control department. Natal is that video/audio/motion thing that Steven Spielberg endorsed and had the Milo demo. On the surface, 4-person (or more) face and voice recognition and multiple person body tracking is pretty nifty, no doubt. Except, I look stupid enough playing my Wii. I don’t see how “connected” to a game I can get using this contraption. The Milo demo, while impressive, left me wondering just how scripted is Milo? How many different ways can he, and the user, interact? As for the Burnout demo, as I stated in regards to Ride, if I wanted to drive, I’d figgin drive. When you sit in a car and drive, you hold a steering wheel, a REAL steering wheel. How does PRETENDING you’re holding a steering wheel make you feel more like your driving? That’s what Natal is supposed to do. I still don’t buy it. Yes, I must try it.

Sony

Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. Metal Gear Solid: Rising. Final Fantasy XIII. Final Fantasy XIV Online. God of War III. Assassin’s Creed II. MAG. Tekken 6. Batman: Arkham Asylum. The Last Guardian. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. Heavy Rain. Modern Warfare 2. Gran Turismo 5. ModNation Racers.

These 15 titles all got my attention, and they should have gotten yours as well. And the interesting thing here, of the 15 titles above, only 5 aren’t exclusive to Sony consoles (not counting PC and arcades of course). I got the impression that Sony knows who its biggest competitor is, and it’s not Nintendo. Sony’s after the hardcore market, and right now, Microsoft has a tight hold on it.

There is a reason I didn’t mention Halo ODST in the last section, it sucks in comparison to the potential MAG is showcasing – 256 man real-time, multiplayer battles. And so far, it works. I missed out on the original Uncharted, but the sequel is shaping up to be another PS3 must buy title. I have a friend who just bought a PS3, solely for MGS4, now he hast to decide ow he wants to play Rising. God of War III has been on my radar since God of War II dropped, and being asked to survey collector’s edition options a while back was nice. And, finally, I’ve been a Final Fantasy fan ever since I got my hands on FFVII about 5 years ago; I was late to the party, but I loved the game, found FFX to be even more fun, and have since played to some exent FFIII, FFVI, FFX-2, FF:TA, FF:CC, MLaaK, and my personal favorite, FFXII. XIII appears to be no less excellent, and XIV also looks pretty good.

To wrap up, I give Sony the win in overall showing this year. As you may have noticed, I didn’t mention Sony’s motion control setup. That’s how awesome Sony’s software lineup was. For the record, Sony’s system looks better than Natal to me; its like a combination of the Wii tech with Natal via the EyeToy, and it looks fun, considering Sony actually showed practical genre application. Microsoft was still strong, but not really what I expected from them; they relied heavily on Natal, celebrities, and third party support. Nintendo gets an honorable mention; they rallied from a boring press conference to dish out some cool tidbits and announcements.

On the third party front: Rock Band is still Rock Band. Modern Warfare 2 looks damn good. Madden 2010 is poised to be the best Madden game since Madden 07 (like that was a long time ago). And, sadly, as amazing as the news coming out of Konami’s camp was, Kojima Productions let me down with the lack of Rising footage (teasers are teasers); we got trailers for Peace Walker and Castlevania, but no such game footage for Raiden. How sad…

Alright, that’s it. Feel free to sumbit your views on this year’s E3. What did you find most intriguing? Who had the best press conference? Discuss this and more in the comments section. And to look over the E3 coverage and precipitaing news, just head over to IGN.com, or any of the other hundreds of gaming sites out there. I’m giving you IGN, so be happy.

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