PEOWW on E3 2009
For those of you unlucky enough (or lucky enough to see depending on your outlook) to miss this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo or E3 to everyone else. we’ve watched each of the three keynote conferences live so you don’t have to. Just be warnedâ€¦
MAY CONTAIN HIGH LEVELS OF SARCASAM AND/OR SINICISM!
Last year M$ were all â€œwe are in your base Sony stealing your FFXIIIâ€ or something and this year was no different with another franchise poaching or at least franchise adultery and the usual â€œwe have biggest online communityâ€ crowing. There were some surprises, some goofs and some downright cringe worthy ‘blue sky thinking’ bollocks this year. Thankfully they also found time to mention some new games for us to watch and speculate about until the inevitable hype-release-disappointment cycle ends. Right that’s enough framing bollocks lets get down to itâ€¦
Rock Band: The Beatles
After a quarter of an hour of Beatles arse kissing and exclusive DLC song announcements (with profits going to charity, bravo) surviving band members Paul and Ringo found time to take a huge pay cheque to come on stage and voice their approval of the game and make it obvious they know less than nothing about it apart from the fact it’ll add another digit to their bank balances.
Tony Hawk: Ride
After having seen the premier skating award go to EA’s Skate two years running Hawk returns with a new bespoke skate controller (read: Wiimote tech stuffed into a plastic deck) there was the usual Nintendo style bollocks about removing barriers between players and the game and some no-name sports celebs brought it to make the idea of flipping ollies in your lounge cool.
Modern Warfare 2
More of the same pre-scripted firelights and raining grenades, although the Aliens style motion tracker and snowmobile chase looks cool. Also the Xbox 360 version will be getting two DLC map packs as timed exclusives.
Final Fantasy XIII
Microsoft’s token Japanese developer played the now infamous ‘robot sex machine’ scene albeit running on a 360 and with English audio.
Epic (Gears of War) then demonstrated their Xbox Live Arcade exclusive that looks like a side-on 2D Metal Gear Solid and plays like a classic Metroidvania game. It all looked mighty good despite the two demonstrators spending more time messing with their mics than playing the game.
Next up was a free to download live arcade game using your avatars and using cell-shaded graphics. Once installed you can then buy new tracks and cars now doubt costing far too many M$P. Frankly next to Sony’s Mod Nation Racers this looks completely shit and pointless.
Casually ignoring the plot and ending from the original for this sequel Crackdown is back with monsters (!) and vampires (!?!) but no actual gameplay footage. Given the glut of super style games of late with Prototype and inFamous both doing the rounds we can but hope for more that just a new city to bound around in with three friends in the online co-op mode.
Left 4 Dead 2
Chelsea 0… Sorry. Sadly just some FMV to watch with the sequel having a born on the bayou style vibe with daytime zombie hordes chasing chainsaw wielding good-ole boys.
Splinter Cell: Conviction
The elder statesman of the stealth genre returns after the disappointing Double Agent and it looks like the years he spent in development have been put to good use. Gone are the days of Sam lurking in the shadows for hours waiting for the aiming reticule to close in, as now he’s gone all Jason Bourne with CQC moves and execute commands when storming a room. Promises of sandbox missions with multiple routes and infiltration options sounds intriguing but they’d better put more work into the multiplayer modes this time round or it’ll just be another Ubisoft sequel.
Forza Motorsport 3
The worse kept secret in digital entertainment finally shows itself properly. The demo was equal parts of shinny HD cars flipping over and slagging off Gran Turismo with more cars and tracks than ever before and proper damage to boot.
Halo: ODST and Halo: Reach
More of the same FPS larks on offer here from Bungie. ODST is Halo in camo trousers and a flashback storyline set before Halo 3. While Reach isâ€¦ fuck knows, I’m gonna guess and sayâ€¦ Master Chief goes on holiday and is mistaken for a mafia boss. Oh and as an extra for all those Spartan obsessed fans the ODST game comes with an â€œinviteâ€ to the Reach MP beta.
The vapourware classic is finally seen in the flesh and looks a lot like Steven King meets Silent Hill. The bulletime-esq mechanic looks a little overdone and the near constant vocal narration from Wake smacks of Max Payne style cheese but over all it appears to be approximately 507.6% better than the last few Silent Hill games. All this and more Spring 2010… Yeah right.
New Xbox Experience Changes
Last year saw the debut of avatars while this year we can look forward to the following: Last FM, Netflix for Europe, Sky TV for the UK, Zune streaming movies at 1080p in real-time(!), party chat for films and music, Facebook and Twitter connectivity.
Metal Gear Solid: Rising
Despite all our hopes of MGS 4 coming to Xbox Hideo Kojima was on hand to announce MGS: Rising a new game featuring everyone’s (least) favourite cyborg ladyboy Raiden. No details about the gameplay or plot so expect a drip feed hype campaign for the next three years.
The secret international conspiracy to train the youth of today as mime artists continues with this offering from the Microsoft R&D department. Essentially a webcam+ it can track you is a full 3D space down to the position of your fingers and boasts facial and voice recognition (I’ll believe that when I see someone Scottish give it instructions) They had a few live tech demos to show potential uses with art programs that have you literally flinging yourself around to paint a virtual canvas to having a full body touretts fit while deflecting balls. All of this was presided over by Kudo a greasy Tim Burton looking twat who’s only memorable contribution was showing us what the bottom of an avatars shoe looks like (Yeah that was keeping me awake it night too) Oh yeah and Steven Spielberg was wheeled out to hype it up some more but sadly no sign of Bloom Blox 2.
Words can only go so far to describe this horror inflicted upon the conference by long time M$ stooge Peter Molyneux. By using the Natal system he’s been able to create a virtual boy who you can talk freely to , swap pictures with and even play the odd game. Watching it more that once will have you doubting just how flawless it all is with the woman talking to Milo sometimes talking like she’s scripted and how slick the supposedly live TV screen is. Prove me wrong Peter!
Sure Natal and Milo were death to watch but there was enough new game content to keep this Peowwster watching with both Splinter Cell: Conviction and Shadow Complex looking to be potential gems and Ride being this year’s golden lemon.
It’s well documented that Nintendo had an awful E3 conference in 2008. Lines like â€œThat’s why they call me the Regginatorâ€ and jokes about bad wrist action will go down in gaming lore along with untrue cakes and all the bases belong to people. Still, that was then, this is now. E3 2009 is back to its old self so surely Nintendo will bring out the big guns and dress to impress?
We’re introduced to the show by a montage of young and old people enjoying the Wii. Mostly old. There isn’t a stereotypical gamer in sight and although it’s not too interesting, this is what Nintendo is all about now. As long as they keep providing the games the Nintendo faithful will still be happy.
Cammie Dunaway walks out on stage, a vision in white and one person applauds (her husband?). â€œEveryone’s Gameâ€ apparently. Nintendo want to create ‘surprise’ and innovation, and the first game on show is Mario. I, for one, am surprised at the innovation. They show a montage of past Mario games followed by a comment about wanting to make Mario 4D. Seems they couldn’t come up with a way to do that so they just added four player co-op/competitive gameplay to old school Mario gameplay. Cammie explains that it’s taken them 15 years to think of this. It’s New Super Mario Bros. for the Wii. Cammie and three others play through a level, and boy is Cammie shit at games. There is muted applause, which is a bit strange for an announcement for a brand new Mario game, but let’s continue.
Wii Fit Plus is introduced. An add on for the current Wii Fit which adds some new exercises and games, plus a few other features that are already in EA’s Fitness Trainer ‘game’. Cammie makes a joke about it being â€œBrain Age for your backsideâ€ and not even her husband laughs. Poor Cammie, she’s probably a nice person.
Reggie Fils-Aime comes out and starts to pat Nintendo on the back a little more. Wii Motion Plus now. What this basically does is plug into the bottom of the Wii remote to allow more accurate 1:1 motion detection. I actually copied and pasted that last line from last years article Matthew wrote on Nintendo’s press conference, since Nintendo are introducing it as if we haven’t known about it for twelve months. Wii Sports Resort starts with a barely interactive skydiving minigame which is supposed to showoff the Wii Motion Plus perfectly, but the ‘rotating things’ genre isn’t as popular as it used to be so we’ll need a little more convincing.
Bill Trinen demonstrates an archery game (which I’m not sure couldn’t be done with just a regular Wiimote) and brings Reggie out for a 3 point shootout, with horribly scripted smack talk. Reggie wins on the final shot, but nobody in the audience seems to care. Then come the announcements that Tiger Woods will come bundled with the Wii Motion Plus, and Grand Slam Tennis, Virtua Tennis and Red Steel 2 will all use it.
Final Fantasy: Crystal Bearers leads into a strong RPG line up, though it’s the only one on the Wii. Golden Sun and Kingdom Hearts (looks impressive) are shown for the DS, as is a localised version of Mario & Luigi RPG 3.
Some DS dross now, with Women’s Murder Club, Style Savvy, and a GTA clone from Ubisoft called Cop: The Recruit which looks like a shit PS1 game. They then move onto the DSi, accompanied by a video of people who seem pretty clueless saying how great it is for them. User generated content is the next big thing, with an animation program already out, Mario Vs Donkey Kong allowing you to design your own levels and Wario Ware DIY letting you create every aspect of the microgames Wario Ware is known for. Plus, you can upload photos straight from the DSi camera to Facebook!
A video plays for the new Zelda: Spirit Tracks for the DS, and the crowd again doesn’t react in the slightest. I understand silence in response to shit jokes, or boring marketing blurbs, but these are proper games and Nintendo aren’t getting any feedback whatsoever.
Nintendo President Satoru Iwata starts to talk about potential customers, how to attract more people to gaming, whilst still keeping the experienced gamers happy. I don’t think it can be done, not within the same game, and if you try to please everyone you’ll end up pleasing no one. They’ll try to get as many new customers as possible, as mo customers means mo money.
Then the most confusing part of all three major conferences. The Wii Vitality Sensor. What it does? No clue, in game terms at least. Iwata talks about wanting to relax gamers, possibly to the point of falling asleep, which sounds mental to me. With a few examples of how it could actually work this could have been an interesting product, but as it is it just seems like another peripheral Nintendo can sell on gimmickry alone.
Mario Galaxy 2 is up next, a straight sequel to Mario Galaxy, but now with Yoshi. I still haven’t finished the first one, but from the video shown it does look good if more of the same. For what was touted as game of the year in 2007, the sequel again gets an unusually muted response from the crowd.
Reggie comes back out and understands that despite what he believes to be a very good line up, not everyone may be satisfied just yet and gets the only laugh of the day with â€œI read the blogs tooâ€. He responds by showing videos of three third party games, The Conduit, Resident Evil: Darkside Chronicles and Dead Space: Extraction, which were all well known before E3. Nintendo do have one surprise up their sleeves though, the final announcement is of a joint venture with Team Ninja of Ninja Gaiden/Dead or Alive fame to bring the next Metroid game to Wii; Metroid: Other M. It gets the biggest reaction from the crowd and rightly so. The promised mixture of platforming, first person shooting and Ninja Gaiden style combat is an interesting and unexpected one indeed. With that, Nintendo ends the conference.
Love them or hate them, pretty much everyone loves to laugh at Sony. However Since E3 2K8 I’ve had a fair bit more of respect for them â€“ perhaps more to do with the Nintendo balls-up of recent years. Sony are still in the business of making games and they know who their audience is, and no it’s not just excitable fanboys on the internet â€“ It’s gamers.
Jack Tretton (President and CEO) started the show and notably manages to get more of a reaction from the audience than was seen from the other conference leaders. As you’d expect there was a fair amount of shameless self promotion of their achievements of late to get everyone all hot and sweaty with their stats. Inevitably the first talk was of the PS2 â€“ 9 years after it was first released (lets see if the PS3 lasts this long). You could look at this in a negative way but the PS2 was an awesome console, and for many not ready to move on it still stands as a solid gaming platform. Sony wasn’t shy about sharing some of their most recent successes like inFAMOUS and wasn’t far off talking about the future big hitters â€“ namely Uncharted 2.
For the first time Sony were able to show a live demo of MAG (a game boasting 256 players), since its announcement at the end of last years E3 â€“ it certainly got the audience whooping again. The demo showed one platoon (3 squads of trying to assault another base with 3 other platoons. The action looked as pretty as you would expect and was running as smooth as you would like. From the brief demo we saw that the leader of one of the squads was able to issue orders (destroy this that and the other) to his squad mates. While not an uncommon concept for a game like Battlefield 2 it certainly isn’t common in console games and even less common to play with team mates who will actually listen to you. It seems the developers are encouraging people to work together more than anything, doing so will unlock airstrikes for commanders to use and as I understand it will earn players who follow orders and work together as a team greater XP bonuses, which is certainly a good idea to encourage console gamers to cooperate more like PC gamers. MAG was available to play on the show floor, so expect more new on this in the coming weeks.
Next up was Kaz Hiraiiiiiiiiidge Racer with the â€œsurpriseâ€ PSP announcement. The PSP Go is about as imaginative as the Nintendo DSi was. No UMD, Control pad/buttons slide out, it’s 50% smaller and 40% lighter than the original PSP and has inbuilt 16 Gb of flash memory and an extra slot for memory card upgrades. Unfortunately no news on the machines battery life or why there’s no second nub. The direction Sony seems to be moving is the ease of access to new software you can have with it. With the PSP’s lack of UMD, new games will be available through the PS Store on the PSP (with its wi-fi) or with the new PC program to allow you to sync PS Store content with your PSP and its content. No doubt this will appeal to some, but for others, games will still be traditionally released in store on UMD. Kaz seemed adamant that now more than ever more big franchise PSP games will be coming out in the next year. Sony have also apparently reduced PSP game tool kits for developers by 80%, further demonstrated how committed (or is that desperate) Sony is to encourage more and better games to be released in the PSP. The PSP GO has a US and EU Release of October 1 at frankly the still quite too high price tag of $249
The Sony Video delivery service was talked again about but until it arrives in Europe (and even then) not too many over here will care about it.
The inevitable Metal Gear Solid Sony announcement was made by that promotional whore Hideo Kojima – bearing in mind that this was still during the PSP part of the show. MGS Peace Walker will be se in the 70’s and is effectively a sequel to the Portable Ops PSP games, themselves a sequel to MGS 3. Once again Hideo says how deeply involved he will be in the game, despite him being done with the series (rolleyes.gif). However the trailer did look however showing how the game is set in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis in Costa Rica and will obviously once again have you playing as the eponymous Snake â€“ Big Boss. The game will have much of the features of the last game including online modes and will be ready in 2010.
PS home was given its 6 month anniversary showing, and was very much emphasised as not being a total waste of time, then came the most unexpected announcement of Final Fantasy 14, which almost seemed too good to be trueâ€¦ and it was. Unfortunately it’s an MMO and therefore a kick in the nuts and it may not even be an exclusive.
It’s been at least a year in the making and, as has been seen at all E3 conferences the idea of motion controls (not like the six axis) seems to be on everyone’s mind, and the upcoming Playstation motion controller is no exception. This will be used in conjunction with the Playstation Eye (the camera currently available for the Playstation). From the demo we saw one of the engineers use various in game objects (sword, bat etc) to try hit a virtual tennis ball. The camera projected his image onscreen, but rather than seeing the controller/wand in his hand we could see the actual object he was using in game â€“ and the ball he was trying to hit with it â€“ unsuccessfully I might add. The Demo certainly got a few laughs but I’m not too sure if they were laughing at him or with him.
It appeared the engineer was controlling what weapons he wanted to use and the screens he was on with the buttons on the wand. When using a gun in the demo he could go into FPS mode and the camera could track that he was moving forward back and strafing left and right, which I have to say did look very cool. The demo was changed to show how two wands can be used by a player at once and a virtual tower of building blocks was created. Pens and spray paint cans were then used to write on the walls within the demo and a domino rally was placed on the floor with realistic Physics.
The engineers seemed to believe the controller has real applications for the likes of RTS games, highlighting units and selecting enemies, which again is an interesting concept. Moving on to the obligatory sword and shield section looked very impressive when he was beating up a stuffed dummy and also throwing shrunken and using a bow and arrow. The demos looked interesting and I am sure everyone can understand why it has been created. There’s a large leap between tech demo and real viable in game applications. Hopefully this can be achieved for Spring 2010.
Mod Nation Racers. This was a game that looked on the surface kind of naff. Ostensibly a kart racer where you can customise karts and characters and share them online a-la LBP. Nothing really imaginative; power-ups, drifting, speed boosts, jumps and other obstacles. The interesting feature in the game is (again similar to LBP) how all the levels are created with the in game track editor. It looked remarkably easy to create the bare bones layout of the road, from which they can instantly jump in and race in the track. The track is further edited with different road types, mountains, water features and altering terrain height. The usual obstacles at the side of the road were placed in by using different brushes, trees, houses and sheep were easily painted in. On track items can be placed such as small obstacles and weapons and you can choose the level of sunlight. The tracks you make can be saved or uploaded to the network, and re-edited at any time. I’m not one for User Generated Content but I was thoroughly impressed. This was just a brief intro to the game and as the developers have said, more features will be added before the 2010 release.
The conference ended with a trailer from the latest game in the Ico/SotC series – The Last Guardian showing a similar (but no less beautiful) art style, and then ended with a live demo showing off God of War 3, as gore-tacular as ever.
To Sum up. The conference was pretty much all people expected and not in a bad way. Sony showed us stuff we wanted to see and even managed to be a bit innovative and for the most part it was interesting to watch (Gran Turismo aside). Sony have made some mistakes in the past but now, more than ever I actually want to see them do well and fulfil their potential, otherwise I’m writing a letter home to their parents.