My Thoughts On E3 08

So this year’s E3 came and went and once again Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo made a lot of announcements that should make any fanboy happy. But really, who was the winner in all this? Who has the best games coming out between now and next E3? Well, let’s take a look at each company one by one shall we?

MICROSOFT

First off, Microsoft has some great titles coming out this holiday season. In fact, I bet you that Christmas will come early for many fans of the XBOX upon seeing the games posted here.

1) FABLE 2

Microsoft and Lionhead Studios have not been very secretive about Fable 2 and for good reason. The game looks like a blast and we’re personally really excited. With a huge open world and a ton of play choices ahead like fighting, death, marriage, and money, players will get to live the whole life of an adventurer they create. Oh yeah, and they can totally do it co-op style on Xbox Live. Design guru Peter Molyneux claims the game is already done and they’re just cleaning bugs at this point. Now we just have to wait.

Molyneux says that Fable 2 is 3x’s the size of Fable and will keep you busy well into next year but I suspect this won’t be the blockbuster game that Microsoft is touting it to be.

Mythical Beast or New Best Friend?

Mythical Beast or New Best Friend?

Fallout 3
+ It’s more Fallout!
+ Features a HUGE open world, something Bethesda is great at
+ Dark, gritty post-apocalyptic setting
+ Mini-nukes, zombies and dogs – oh my!
– Super, ultra, ridiculous hardcore fan might not like it
– Extremely violent for you squeamish

Fans of Elder Scrolls will pick this one up. I know I have it on my “must buy” list. Executive Producer Todd Howard has said that not only are there multiple endings but that there are over 200 and the game is bigger and longer then Elder Scrolls Oblivion. This is the game to watch when it’s released in the fall.

Rock Band 2
+ Huge, awesome set list.
+ Improved drum set allows for drum rolls and quiet hits
+ All downloads compatible, possibly all Rock Band 1 but most for sure
+ Optional professional grade instruments
– More to buy, more to spend

Do I really need to explain this? This is an instant bestseller.

Resident Evil 5
+ Same awesome formula as RE 4
+ Online co-op, an RE first
+ A lot of day time action. Fun under the sun!
– If you like classic RE, no luck here
– Still no strafing

No longer a PS3 exclusive, RE 5 has been long in the works and Capcom is being very secretive on this game and for good reason. All we know is that it is set in Africa and will deal with the origins of the virus.

Microsoft didn’t just announce upcoming games though. As far as announcements are concerned, Microsoft had the most and the reactions to them were mostly positive. Here now is the good the bad and the ugly:

The Good
Live In-Game Footage
Microsoft gets extra points for showing live footage of their most anticipated titles–not simply showcasing pre-rendered footage and trailers. Watching Todd Howard give Fallout 3 a go, seeing Resident Evil 5 playable for the first time, and checking in on Fable 2 was a treat–even if the geniuses behind the games need to work on their aim.

Co-op Resident Evil 5
How did Microsoft win the right to announce co-op for Resident Evil 5? We almost feel that they should have thrown Sony a bone and given them a shot at some stellar news. Still, the announcement was badass nonetheless.

Fable 2 Gone Gold, Introduces Orb System
When an anticipated game goes gold, it’s always good news. Peter Molyneux began his Fable 2 screen time with the announcement and then proceeded on to highlight a new feature integrated into co-op online play. Via floating purple orbs distributed in the Fable world, players can now instantly invite their friends to play at any point in time during the single-player campaign. Nifty.

Brumaks And The Horde
Sure, Cliffy didn’t spell it out for us, but at the end of our “live” Gears of War 2 demo, Dom and Phoenix implied that we’ll have a chance to mount a Brumak after taking out their pilots. Giggidy giggidy. We also learned of a new five-player co-op mode called Horde, which will pit players and their friends against unending waves of Locusts.

Multimedia Partnerships
After playing the numbers game during the Microsoft press conference, Don Mattrick–senior vice president of Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business unit–announced partnerships with NBC Universal and Netflix. The partnership with NBC Universal allows users to download shows like Heroes, The Office and Battlestar Galactica via Xbox Live. Microsoft also announced that they have entered an exclusive partnership with Netflix, which will allow you to instantly watch more than 10,000 movies and television shows. The best part? There’s no extra cost if you’re already a Netflix Member.

Interface Redesign
John Schappert–the corporate vice president of Interactive Entertainment Live–unveiled one of the highlights of the entire press conference. A new Xbox 360 interface will be hitting the console with the next system update. The redesigned and retooled interface does away with the current content blades, and instead opts for a simple/sparse tiered design. We wonder if the plan to delist Xbox Live titles will still go forward with this new announcement.

The New XBOX Live

The New XBOX Live

The Bad

No Halo Wars
With Halo Wars expected to come out before the end of the year, we figured it would make an appearance at the Microsoft press conference. Sadly, Halo Wars was missing in action. Combine that fact with the decision to halt Bungie’s big E3 announcement from surfacing, and there seems to be no love for the company that was once Microsoft’s bread and butter.

The WTF

Avatars
If information about these avatars hadn’t been leaked a few weeks back, this announcement would have been much further out of left field. While the general consensus is that the new Mii knock-offs are fine in theory, the execution of them is up in the air.

Lips
There’s no debate when it comes to Lips–the name is outright horrible. However, the game might not be so bad, if you’re into that kind of thing. Lips will allow players to plug in their Zunes or iPods and import DRM-free songs to the game. Lips will also use wireless mics equipped with LEDs and motion sensors to bring a whole new level of realism to the experience. During the press conference, the game was demoed for the first time live by the artist Duffy. Her performance wasn’t bad, but when she walked off stage after saying “This was the most fun I have ever had while performing this song” with the enthusiasm of a brick wall, our gusto fell flat.

You’re In The Movies
Evidently, you have to play You’re In the Movies to really enjoy it. We all agree that it looked pretty goofy on stage, but when tested out with our own GI staff it was decidedly more fun. The game uses the Xbox Live Vision Camera to turn minigames performed on camera into fake movie trailers. Simple, yet entertaining.

Xbox Live Love
Microsoft also announced that Geometry Wars 2 will be making its way exclusively to the Xbox 360 next month and will support four-player co-op. Galaga Legions–a new version of the old-school shooter–will debut around the same time. Lastly, Microsoft also announced Uno Rush, 1 vs. 100, Portal: Still Alive and a new South Park title for XBLA.

Rock Band 2 Tracklist
Not only are AC-DC and Bob Dylan confirmed to be on board the Rock Band 2 train, but this will be their first time ever appearing in a music video game. As one would expect, the two rock legends will be joined by dozens of other artists. During the press conference, the entire Rock Band 2 tracklist was revealed. Here at GI, the team is pretty excited about The Replacements and Modest Mouse, among others. Check out the full list here.

Microsoft Scores Final Fantasy XIII
After showing off Star Ocean: The Last Hope and Last Remnant, Square Enix president Yoichi Wada dropped a bomb on us. Final Fantasy XIII will be coming to the Xbox 360. No longer a PlayStation 3 exclusive, Final Fantasy XIII will be releasing for both systems simultaneously. This qualifies as big news.

SONY

Sony’s press conference wasn’t all that flashy, in spite of what those banks of…flashy…Sony TVs might have had you believe. They showed off a solid lineup of games and features, but didn’t fill the event with too many “holy crap” moments. And that’s fine. It’s better to take things conservatively and deliver than attempt to wow a crowd of jaded reporters, analysts and other assorted industry types and fail miserably—remember 2006?

The Good
Movie Downloads
Sony finally rolled out its movie-download service, and it did so in a big way. Not only did attendees learn about how it worked—with partners including MGM, Disney, Paramount and Sony Pictures—but they also discovered that the service was going live just hours after the official announcement. With all the talk about the PlayStation 3 being a media hub for the living room, it’s great to see more features that support that philosophy. Being able to look at pictures from your digital camera only gets you so far.

LittleBigPlanet Kept The Crowd Awake
During the obligatory “here are a bunch of numbers” section of the press conference, Sony Computer Entertainment of America President and CEO Jack Tretton invited Media Molecule’s Alex Evans onto the stage for a little illustrative help. As Tretton trotted out sales projections and other assorted figures, Evans guided LittleBigPlanet’s Sackboy through a custom-built level that was essentially a more entertaining version of the PowerPoint slides we’re all accustomed to. Not only did Tretton get to toot Sony’s horn, he did so in a way that virtually ensured that the audience was actually paying attention.

PSP Gets Lots Of Love
Yeah, those movie and TV downloads are cool, but let’s face it—Microsoft got there much earlier. Sony wisely added support for its PSP, though, so users can transfer downloaded programs to the device. For those who like to keep their games and multimedia separate, there are a ton of new PSP titles on the way, including sequels to LocoRoco and Patapon and portable versions of Super Stardust and Resistance. As Tretton pointed out, Sony is the only company with three successful hardware lines, and it’s clear that it’s going to make the most of it.

Say Goodbye To The 40 GB PS3
Sony’s phasing out the 40 GB core PlayStation 3 in favor of a new 80 GB version. While the additional space is already a good deal, better still is the fact that it’s going to sell for the same price: $399. It’ll come bundled with a DualShock 3, too.

The Bad
Underwhelming Reveals
There wasn’t anything capital-b Bad about Sony’s press conference, but there were plenty of missed opportunities. We all knew God of War III was coming, but getting a quick glimpse at it through a teaser trailer was probably the most underwhelming way to reveal it. Seeing Jim Lee do one-armed pushups was impressive, though his entrance actually upstaged the lackluster footage he showed from DC Universe. We all know what Superman looks like—showing him walking on a street isn’t really all that compelling. How about showing off some of the user-created heroes? And while MAG (Massive Action Game) is a great concept, what with 256-player battles, that’s all we got to see—a video showing off a battle. How about some game footage?

The WTF
Nice…Bundle?
We like to save money as much as the next person, but Sony’s family-friendly PSP bundle left more than a few of us confused. If you are on the market for a PSP and like A) Ratchet & Clank B) National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets and C) Echochrome, boy, has Sony got a $199 deal for you.

Confirmed............ Now the question is when?

Confirmed............ Now the question is when?

NINTENDO

Finally, the guys that started it all didn’t really announce anything exciting but nevertheless, there are some stuff that you really should look out for.

The Good
Nobody Died
Nintendo’s press conference wasn’t a total bust. There were definitely some nuggets of info to take away. While they didn’t focus on it at all, there was an announcement of a brand new GTA title for the DS called Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars. And that was it, nothing else was revealed. They also announced Animal Crossing: City Folk, which everyone will enjoy. It adds a new auction house for friends and a DS suitcase to bring your saved game in. It’s great that we get a new AC game, but it also leads us into….

The Bad
Same Game, Different Name
So while AC: City Folk is a new game, we could have never guessed. The game has no updated in graphics at all. Instead, we get a few new features tacked onto a game that’s becoming a Frankenstein. Sure the city is a new concept for the game, but besides adding the auction house all it really does is add new items, move/add a few shops and allow you to stick your Mii’s head on the main character through an in-game mask. If you’re a fan of the series, you deserve more if you’re going to be paying full price (again).

Wii Music Out Of Tune
While Nintendo seem to put their biggest focus on it, Wii Music fell flat in front of an entire auditorium of press. It started out pretty cool with a guy ripping it up on a drum set using the Wii remote, nunchuk and balance board. They way he demoed it made it seem like you could just play like you’re at a drum set and the system would track where you hit and correspond to the right cymbal/drum on the set. As it turns out, it’s a convoluted control scheme that’s far from Nintendo’s “friendly” moniker, yet because it’s the Wii, anyone can sound halfway good. The game’s music selection is public domain, Nintendo hits and licensed tracks, and from what we can tell, there’s really no gameplay beyond flailing around to a metronome. It’s not hard to figure out why they made the title (a huge explosion in music games), but we doubt it has the depth or quality to keep anyone busy for too long.

This One Time At Band Camp

This One Time At Band Camp

The WTF
Hope You’ve Been Saving Up
What’s up with the new peripherals? Wii MotionPlus works great, but it when we asked a Nintendo rep, he said consumers had to buy it with Wii Sports Resort or separately. New Wii owners will still have to shell out for something that should probably be packed in. Nintendo also left the entire third-party development community out of the loop.

A Sound Investment?
The other new piece of hardware announced was Wii Speak. What is essentially a speakerphone for your console; it will bring Nintendo an inch closer to having some sort of structured online service. While we haven’t tried it out, it’s going to be tough to see how it will pick up a players voice from the TV without causing a lot of noise from game sounds and other player’s voices, not to mention any ambient sounds.

Isn’t it a bit strange that you have to buy two seperate things together even though they do different things? What’s wrong with this picture?

Even though a lot of the publishers stayed away this year, there was still plenty going on and lots to talk about though I suspect that E3 is slowly dying and that in the future, the big 3 will hold their own press conferences when they are good and ready and at their own pace. But, only time will tell and if E3 does return next year (and no reason why it wouldn’t) maybe the publishers that did back out will return next year for either one last time or the organizers will have to do something to entice them before it’s to late.

Thoughts?

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