PEOWW on E3 ’08
E3. Depending on what idiots you get quotes from it’s either the major event in the industries year where they try and wow us and inform us on what to expect in the coming months, or if you’re a Nintendo exec, it’s not any of that, regardless of this the E3 event is a shadow of its former self, drastically scaled down in the past few years.
Mostly unaffected by the recent changes are the individual press conferences. Individual publishers get their turn but the main focus is as ever on the console makers themselves. So what exactly did Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony do for us this year?
Unsurprisingly the show starts off very enthusiastically. Phrases like â€œfasten your seatbeltsâ€ were being thrown about which honestly have no other effect than to make people cringe. Of course the execs are working to make themselves and the company look good but one of these days I aim to watch a press conference and not feel quite so embarrassed. The first way they â€œpsych upâ€ the crowd is by talking about all the awesome games they have for the system currently â€“ greatly flawed in the sense that only one of the games listed was a true exclusive to the x360 but I’m just being picky, its not long before they get down to proper business, the first showing of Fallout 3. Of course visually impressive and its gameplay mechanics definitely appealed to me (from someone who knows next to nothing about the game and series) the idea of KOTOR style turn based battles and queuing up attacks will certainly help to quell the â€œnot another fps on the x360â€ whiney bitches. The 6 minute demo showed off the basics of the game and at the end of it all we were promised substantial DLC for the PC and x360 versions (nae luck Sony). The crowed seemed pleased, and rightly so, it looks like a corker.
Barely was there time to catch breath before the next big hitter was showing off its moves. While Resident Evil 5 is not an exclusive, it’s certainly a hotly anticipated game and I supposed x360 owners are lucky to be seeing it at all. The online co-op gameplay was demonstrated for the first time and again it unsurprisingly looks amazing. Not much has changed from RE4 and certainly the control interface looks exactly the same (no strafing and no moving and shooting). Demonstrated were situations where you and your partner have to work to together to i.e. jump large gaps. While this seems very well in online coop I am having concerns as to how clunky it may feel in single player mode.
To complete the triple whammy the first exclusive for the show, Fable 2 was shown and announced to be finished. As per usual when Peter Molyneux got down to talking about it he said a lot without saying anything, talking about getting married and having babies in game. The last feature they wanted to show before release is the ability to see floating orbs as you play thought the SP mode wandering around your map. These orbs represent friends currently playing the game and Pete showed exactly how seamless it is to invite someone into your game and play co-op, which I’m sure will appeal to some people.
Extra whammy was available in the form of a rather artsy Gears2 trailer (quite nice actually). More gameplay footage was revealed and still no sign of the 4 player co-op that demented forumers everywhere were positive would be included, instead we are going to have to settle for 10 player online MP modes. One of the new modes being 5 players team up and have to survive against waves of AI controlled locust which is a nice addition as not nearly enough games have co-op play online where you can only get angry at the computer, not each other. All in all another exclusive to look forward to.
With the third party lackeys out of the way it was time for Don Mattrick (M$ exec) to take centre stage again and that can only mean one this â€“ its STATS TIME! As expected it was rather dry but not as heavy as the other conferences. The video game industry being worth more than box office and DVDs, I should chuffing think so with the price we pay. Not much else was said except a few announcements like additions to the TV and Movie marketplace. Perhaps the biggest announcement of the show that was exclusive to Microsoft was a first look at the impending dashboard update. Funnily enough they started this segment talking about how important innovation in everything is so important, and what is the largest feature of this update? Mii’s! â€“ sorry, Avatars (designed by rare apparently). These will be customisable, and you just know they’ll be asking you to pay for new accessories. All in all they seem pretty lame and it reeks of desperation especially considering how lame and superfluous the Wii Mii’s are. Added to this the actual dashboard itself, which recalls in me an amalgamation of the different â€œchannelsâ€ on the Wii dashboard and the way everything is easier and efficiently grouped together on the PS3 dashboard. I’m not actually bitching, I just don’t like people trying to convince me a zebra is a horse. The update is looking a fair bit slicker but I don’t honestly believe that it will be easier to navigate, here’s hoping though. Fans do seem content with the new plans for games to be installable onto the systems HDD to allow for quicker loading and quieter gaming, which coincides nicely with the new 60Gb console, good timing eh?
More XBLA titles were announced such as new UNO, Geometry Wars, Galaga, South Park: Game and perhaps the biggest news a new Portal game on live (exclusive). XNA (homemade games) were also announced in preparation of their release. Their final announcement was to do with Netflix which is apparently an online site for steaming movies. Now if you are a Netflix subscriber then you will be able to watch movies via your x360, and even invite friends along also. Seems like a nice idea and obviously Microsoft feels they can make money from it but quite frankly this seems to be yet another US only endeavour which is starting to piss the rest of the world off.
Next up was the family friendly stuff, showing off the new Banjo Kazooie and also the original on XBLA (nice), Viva PiÃ±ata, Scene it and new game â€œIn the moviesâ€ a family friendly party play Sony Eye Toy â€“ sorry, Vision camera game. I cant possibly comment on the popularity of a game like this but its more than clear they’re trying to attract a more casual and family audience. Following on from this, more family friendly fun in the form of Singstar! â€“ sorry it’s a game called Lips, essentially Karaoke but with the half decent innovation of allowing you to sing along to your own songs. Added to this some very generic Rock Band 2 and Guitar Hero on Tour news.
Finally up was Yoichi Wada talking about the forthcoming Square-Enix games, Star Ocean, the Last Remnant and Infinite Undiscovery. Undoubtedly the purpose of these games is to entice more Japanese people towards the x360, and of course more RPG’s is no bad thing. But the biggest surprise of all was of course the announcement of Final Fantasy 13 (not Final Fantasy 7 as some deluded fools thought) coming to the x360. More a shock of it not being a Sony exclusive anymore but still enough of a surprise to get the crowd cheering.
From what I saw of E3 this year, Microsoft has certainly found the best balance. Not boring the tits off everyone with sales projections and stats and not alienating everyone else with crap game announcements. In saying that there were a fair few gimmicky ideas and a bit of plagiarism but at its core I can say the Microsoft conference was the more enjoyable to watch, still nothing special in the grand scheme but ok to watch. Clearly the best things were seeing the likes of Resi 5 and F3 in action, these of course are not first party Microsoft games nor even are they exclusives so I do get to wondering what the hell M$ would have had without them.
Where to begin? The beginning, obviously, and it was shit. All of it. It begins with some pube-haired ginger twunt playing a snowboarding game using the balance board. â€œExcellent! 1080 ° Snowboarding for Wii confirmedâ€ I think to myself. Nope.
Nintendo’s perma-grinning harpy Cammie Dunway introduces none other than Shaun White himself (who?) demonstrating Shaun White Snowboarding â€“ developed my Ubisoft. She proceeds to try the game herself. Atrocious start.
Satoru Iwata, CEO and president of Nintendo strolls on stage rather mincingly and begins to talk about paradigm shifts (lol wut?) and the new audiences being reached due to games such as Nintendogs and Wii Fit. He then introduces the first game that anyone (possibly) cares about â€“ Animal Crossing: City Folk. It looks identical to the previous Gamecube game except this time a new peripheral is introduced – the Wii Speak It resembles a teleconference microphone and allows you to communicate with your friends when they visit your town or vice versa. The obvious solution for online chat is a headset but this is Nintendo we are talking about here, remember? The online aspect seems to work pretty much the same awkward way as it does in Animal Crossing: Wild World on the DS â€“ and every other online-enabled Wii/DS game – where you exchange your eighty-five digit-long Friend Codes and only then can people play online with you and visit your town. Parents, why bother looking after your kids when Nintendo already does that for you?
Enter Reggie Fils-Aime to talk about the sales of the Wii & DS and how it is basically dominating the competition. Impressive sales figures, but boring. Eventually he introduces us to three new games; Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Rayman Raving Rabbids TV Party and Call of Duty: World at War. Big whoop. None of them look particularly interesting. Cue a delayed applause from the crowd.
The grinning harpy is back to talk about the universal appeal of the DS and introduces footage of two new games, Guitar Hero: On Tour Decades and Spore Creatures. Again, none of them look particularly interesting. She then goes on to announce Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars which at least gains some reaction although no footage is shown.
Reggie is back and introduces us to Wii MotionPlus which will come bundled in with Wii Sports Resort. What this basically does is plug into the bottom of the Wii remote to allow more accurate 1:1 motion detection. The harpy returns along with some other guy with glasses to give a live demonstration of the game and peripheral in action. They show us some appalling looking mini game which involves throwing a Frisbee and hoping your dog catches it. Cue bad jokes from Reggie and harpy about bad wrist action. Reggie then shows us the jet-ski mini game and in turn gives us more gems such as â€œyou really like that throttle, don’t ya Reggie?â€ Next up is a sword-duelling mini game which due to the Wii MotionPlus looks rather impressive. â€œThat’s why they call me the Regginatorâ€ boasts Reggie after demolishing the harpy in the demonstration of the game (not in real life, unfortunately). I’d just like to say at this point that this really is Nintendo’s E3 2008 conference, watched by hundreds of people in person and hundreds of thousands more via the internet, and not some ridiculous dream I had.
The next part of the conference really was a sight to behold. The lights go out, the stage goes dark and a curtain pulls up to reveal some guy (Ravi, apparently) playing an on-screen drum kit using the Wii remote & Nunchuck as drumsticks and the balance board as foot pedals. He then proceeds to have what appears to be an epileptic fit. Once this is over another curtain pulls back to reveal none other than Shigeru Miyamoto (and his borderline-racist-looking Mii) playing an imaginary saxophone on the Wii Remote. It’s Wii Music, obviously. Nintendo being Nintendo, the game basically plays the music for you; all you are doing is pressing buttons and adjusting the volume by moving the controller up or down. Miyamoto and the other guy are joined on stage by three other Nintendo employees for what can only be described as an aural holocaust. They proceed to play the Super Mario Bros. theme tune. Did I say play? I meant to say massacre.
Reggie and the harpy return. Reggie gives us the closing speech about Nintendo having the next advantage over the competition blah blah blah end of conference. End of conference?!
Yes it was all rather bleak (but nowhere near the Sony 2006 shambles). No mention of any new WiiWare or Virtual Console titles. As a fan of Nintendo and their main franchises, watching this conference was like being repeatedly kicked in the nuts for over an hour. Not one single first-party game or anything for the â€œhardcoreâ€ despite what Reggie will have you believe with his pathetic â€œbut there is Animal Crossing and GTA DSâ€ damage control comments afterwards.
Despite the lack of anything at all particularly interesting, some defence needs to be made. The sheer quality of first-party games Nintendo have released on the Wii in the first eighteen months or so of its lifetime are very impressive: Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, Super Mario Galaxy, Mario Kart Wii and Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Has any other console had such an impressive amount of games of that quality so early? Debatable but close to the truth. The Wii was a massive gamble by Nintendo and luckily it has paid off. It was somewhat presumptuous to think that â€“ barring Legend of Zelda – we would see another main game from one of their big franchises so soon. Why do I single out Zelda? Well the game has basically been finished for three years giving them plenty of time to work on a new one (and radically alter the aging gameplay, but that discussion is for a future article). A teaser would have been nice. But what of the Kid Icarus game that has been pretty much confirmed countless times by IGN? Or the heavily-rumoured Punch-Out update? Nowhere to be seen. Nintendo really need to think long and hard about this conference and the almost universally negative reaction following it.
I for one hope this is the last E3 of this style. Bring back old-school E3. Preferably with booth babes returning please. Om nom nom nom.
Before I begin this review of Sony’s E3 conference, I would like to point out I’m not a Sony fan boy. I’m like Switzerland when it comes to the console war, I like to stay in the centre being neutral and collecting the sweet sweet
Jew gold games.
I don’t own a PS3 yet, since nothing has come out that would make me buy one for anything other than a Blu-ray player. So by the end of it will Sony win me over?
The conference opened up with a video montage of forthcoming games for Sony’s consoles. I noticed a shocking lack of exclusives within there. Oh well at least they should announce some great exclusive games to come right? After the video Jack Trenton is announced and he walks out onto the stage. Unlike some of the whoops and cheers you expect from excitable yanks you get a polite clap and the sound of tumble weed.
Big Jack cracked a joke about Jack Palance at the age of seventy three doing one armed push-ups at the Oscars, which are impossible for him because he’s a salad dodger. This actually gets a chuckle out of the audience, even though that happened sixteen years ago and Palance died two years ago. A cruel critic of Sony would say that they died two years ago too after the release of the PS3.
Trenton goes on to talk about the life span of their two previous home consoles, and how the switch over from PSX to PS2 was a slow one. Of course back then, their only real competition was the failing Sega Dreamcast. Now you have the 360 which has a much larger games catalogue and the Wii, which simultaneously appeals to the under six’s, middle aged housewives as well as the old and infirm.
So of course they need the exclusives and after Microsoft revealed that Final Fantasy thirteen is no longer one, Sony are on the back foot. So next up is a video of Resistance two, which does look very pretty. It also shows that you can get thrown hundreds of metres through the air, crash through 30 sets of plate glass windows and get up like nothing has happened. The CEO of Insomniac games waffles on about how the game is going to be bigger than Jesus and they show another trailer for the game.
Next up is a talk about sales of consoles and games, using a specially made level of Little Big Planet. This is a nice touch, but the game was announced last year along with Home but no release date has been given for either. Apparently they’ve sold 1.6 million PSPs since January, though I think they’ve only sold 20 games. Because anyone can find out what a â€œPandora’s Batteryâ€ is and get free games for life. Also there is going to be a budget range of games coming for the PS3, this means you can buy new copies of games you can get for practically pennies second hand.
There are going to be a hundred and thirty games released for the PS2 this year. Though the video they showed makes it seem they’re nothing more than yearly updates of the big sports titles, games that have been in development so long they were going to be on the PS2 originally along with more Singstar and Buzz games.
A video is shown of PSN exclusive Ratchet and Clank: Quest for Booty. What’s next? Jak and Daxter search for pussy? (AKA Cunt Hunt) A video is shown of PSN games coming out along with Flower and Eden, both looking very much like the non game Flow. Also coming with Gran Turismo five you can watch TV programmes about cars, including Top Gear. That’s what Youtube or the BBC Iplayer are for, you don’t need a PS3 for this.
Another video about
Second Life Home and the way this interacts with achievements Trophies. An announcement of the ability to download films and TV shows as well as stream them, this of course isn’t going to happen over here for a long time. The ability to put these videos on your PSP is also kind of redundant, since you can watch films off your memory stick.
A video of PSP games to come is shown, scroll back for my description of the PS2 video and apply it here. Another new game is announced for the PS3 and that game is a MMO based on DC Comics. So its basically City of Heroes/Villains with an official license and most likely a monthly subscription fee. This was presented by comic book artist Jim Lee who does some one handed push ups, that big Jack can’t do.
Sony say that they’re making an eighty gig PS3 for the same price as the current 40 gig. I remember there were jibes from Sony about there being 2 types of 360, well there must be a dozen different iterations of the PS3 by now. With different size hard drives, numbers of USB ports and if you are really lucky some come with backwards compatibility.
I was honestly shocked they announced God of War three, I honestly never saw that coming. No game play footage though, just pre-rendered CGI. Another new game called InFamous, (their capitalisation not mine) which looks like Crackdown mixed with a superhero game.
The final game that is announced is called M.A.G. Or Massive Action Game, a squad based multi player FPS in a similar vein as the Battlefield games. Except this is supposed to have 256 players on the same map, with groups of 8 player squads. As you rank up in the game you get to command lower ranking squads and give them orders.
That was certainly the most exciting announcement Sony had, but the video was pre-rendered. So this could very well be Sony jumping the gun and announcing something far too early, delivering hollow promises. Or what is known in the industry as a Molyneux.
So did Sony shown me enough to encourage me to buy a PS3? Well no! The whole conference reeked of desperation and relying on past glories to entice people that they will do better in the future. It also disappointed Matthew and Colin along with legions of other fans of effeminate nancy boys, that there was no mention of a Final Fantasy Seven remake.