Day 3 – Rounding Out the Software. Main Event: Nintendo DS vs PSP With Special Guest Referee: Gizmondo
One thing about E3 is that it's hell on the feet. I'm to the point where I'm walking like I had some sort of disagreement with an alien brandishing an ass probe. All pain aside, I remained focused on my goals for the last day of E3. I took note of things that wouldn't make the trip complete the night before and set out to cover the big stuff of the show. I coined day three my “wait in line day” since I can barely walk and most of the really good stuff have lines associated with them. Duh.
I was hell bent to catch the Square-Enix theater show. Square-Enix has been my favorite developer since the SNES era (not counting the week I played sick when I got Final Fantasy for NES) and my marathon drive out to LA would have lost all meaning based off of missing this one thing. The line to get into the hall seemed a bit longer, probably from everyone wanting to cover Half-life, Splinter Cell 3 and/or the Square-Enix show. Anyways, I took my place in line all the while silently cursing myself for not waking up early enough for a good spot. I managed to stay cool as the doors opened for the last time and everyone made their respective mad dashes towards making the show complete.
Once again, I arrived to the Square-Enix booth to find a line going around the corner. I got into line thinking over and over “I didn't make it”. Turns out I did and I had an hour and a half to kill before I got in. Easy. Maybe I'm overselling my cool, I almost had a panic attack. Literally. That phrase is soo LA, like I am. Yeah right.
With time to kill, I explored more of the never-ending-can't-ever-see-everything South Hall. I made a point to check out THQ's Destroy All Humans , which seems like a really original and fun idea for a game. The booth for it was even better, as it had the whole 50's drive-in movie look going for it. There was only a five minute wait to watch the demo. The game can be summed up as you playing the invading alien armed with telekinetics and tons of gadgets, all while stealing identities and using the mindless dribble you extract from these hillbillies' heads to get yourself out of identity compromising positions. The game also has a great sense of humor going for it. I'm really looking forward to trying it out.
With one goal off of my list, I headed over to Eidos to check out whatever wasn't Tomb Raider. I really dig the Punisher . It would totally be dismissed as a Max Payne rip off if it weren't for the fact that you can hold guys heads up to a wood chipper or hot grease to get more info out of them. The whole time, you can feel their heartbeat get faster through the controller. Pretty cool stuff. I didn't think of trying Backyard Wrestling 2 , as I stated last year that it was fun only to find out that if you spend more than ten minutes with it, its ruse wore off only to reveal crap. I really hope this next installment can improve. I suppose I'll find out around review time.
Next up was Activision's booth. One game that I'm totally looking forward to is X-Men Legends . It seems like the first X-Men game to get it right. You can control a group of three characters through an action RPG, each uses their powers to their advantage. Ice Man will make bridges across gaps, Rogue will throw heavy objects and make holes in walls, etc. The game also uses cel-shading to keep it looking like a comic book which is a relief. Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines is also looking really good. Raven seems to have a good handle on the Source engine. Good to seem them working outside of Quake engines. Speaking of which, aren't they making Quake IV? Tony Hawk was supposed to be hanging out, but I never saw him. He probably bailed early.
Another one of my favorite publishers that I had yet to visit was Blizzard. Unfortunately, they weren't offering much for me to get excited about this year. World of Warcraft looks great, but you try to wait for people to stop playing it. Starcraft: Ghost is kind of getting lost in the fold of all of the stealth action games coming out now. Granted, I'm still looking forward to it. It's just that E3 is not a great place to play stealth games and RPGs.
It was finally time for the Square-Enix show, so I set my borrowed camera to movie mode and attempted to get a movie of my walk from one end of the hall to the other to try to capture the chaos and noise of the convention. I got noise mixed with a bunch of silhouettes. Oh well. So anyways, the show was cool. I think I already mentioned that the trailer for Final Fantasy XII Advent Children showed Vincent and Tifa kicking ass. Really not much else to report on that aside from an updated Kingdom Hearts II trailer.
The time had come to face yet another line. This time it was for Splinter Cell 3 sporting a new graphics engine and some new tricks. The wait was only about thirty minutes and it was worth it. Ubisoft showed off the new Splinter Cell engine complete with rain puddles that develop drop-by-drop and characters getting wet. They also had a neat little voting system where they would take Sam through some scenarios where you can see one of two new features. We got to see this suave new move where Sam grabbed a pipe from the ceiling and waited for a guy to patrol under him, then he hung down and snapped the guy's neck from above. Pretty neat.
At this point, I felt that I had satisfied the south hall as much as I could. It was time to pay Nintendo a visit, with a couple of stops at Midway and Atari on the way.
First stop was Midway where they were showing off PsiOps (one of my favorite games of last year), Midway Arcade Treasures 2, and Area 51 among others. I was saddened that they were only letting us play the first Mortal Kombat and Total Carnage on Arcade Treasures 2 . I was really wanting to get some MKII action going. Regardless, Mortal Kombat and Total Carnage looked perfect. I'm really looking forward to get some blood spilling, head pulling, MK going at home. Only took ten years. PsiOps can still hold my interest. I'm liking the blend of telekinesis and stealth action. To top it off, PsiOps sounds better than ESPionage. Area 51 was also playable, but only in the multiplayer mode. Me and the guy next to me were a little confused whether we should be killing each other or aliens. I was a little unimpressed by the multiplayer, I really wanted to see the aliens. I loved the shoot-‘em-up game back in the day, I was really looking forward to how this one turned out. Oh well, I'll wait until release for that one.
Next stop was Atari. Driv3r was one of the big games I was looking forward to seeing. I'm happy to say that it's true to the Driver experience. The demo had Tanner giving chase to a bank robber. Unfortunately, I was having issues trying to jump a fence on a ramp and kept losing. In don't know what my issue was, but I just couldn't clear it. All I can say is that the game looks great, it looks like a Driver game, and I suck. I went to try to get a press kit, but the Atari rep said they were all out. I followed a dark hallway out of the back of the room and ended up in another mysterious line. When I asked what it was for, I only got the reply of “I don't know”. Turns out it was for Mark Ecko's game called Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure in an air conditioned trailer outside. The trailer was stylish to say the least, it looks like a more western version of Jet Set Radio. It looks like a guy gets killed, and this other guy takes out his aggression with graffiti. I'm only working off of memory here, but that's about all I gathered from it. No real gameplay footage was shown, just what looked to be cutscenes. It was about this time when I camped out at the G4 booth to get onto the first few minutes of the Pulse E3 special while handing out business cards to the people around me.
With that out of the way, it was time to close out E3 with the Nintendo booth and hopefully a peek at the DS and PSP. From conversations in line, there had been hour long waits for both portable systems. Time was of the essence, and it was time to start using my media pull more than ever!
Upon arriving to the Nintendo booth, the line was still going around the hall. Upon asking those in line, they heard the wait was a couple of hours. My time for action had arrived. I went to the Nintendo media check-in and asked how long the wait for the DS was. They said that they didn't know, but since I was media they could get me in now. Good ol' Nintendo. I got escorted into the DS display and I was surprised that they had about 20-25 DS systems running different software. I started by playing Mario 64x4 , which had four players scrambling to collect the most coins and stars in an allocated time. The second display's map was indeed very handy as it showed where each star was located. I was overjoyed to see that Warioware DS was also in development. The game made heavy use of the touch screen as you had to use the stylus to drag coins into a bag, move a net around to gather fish, etc. I had a grin on my face the entire time. Mobile gaming got my respect. Last but not least, I tried out Metroid Prime: Hunters . The game is just like a tiny Metroid Prime. I didn't get to play much as they started kicking everyone out to let the next group in. Overall, the DS was a great experience.
After my great luck with Nintendo, I decided to give Sony a try. After all, they felt that I wasn't worthy enough for their press conference, so they could at least let me have a peek at their latest mobile “wonder”. I approached the media check-in and asked the same question. They told me to come back later and the line would have thinned out. Gee, thanks Sony.
I went back to Nintendo to sample what they had to offer. I really like Paper Mario 2 both in execution and obviously, in presentation. The battle system was really easy to get a handle on. There are also “context sensitive' points where Mario can turn into a paper airplane and fly across gaps and stuff. Great game here, I never gave the first Paper Mario a try and perhaps I should have. Next up was Geist , which is a first-person shooter where you play a spirit who possesses objects and enemies to take down an evil corporation. Anyone who liked Haunting: Starring Polterguy (one of my all time favorite Genesis games) will see a similar experience here. You float around possessing items try try to scare enemies, or if you'd rather run-n-gun, you can posses an enemy guard and start spraying. It's an overall neat idea, but I think Penny Arcade hit the nail on the head with questioning spooking out a dog by possessing its bowl of food. I can honestly say I'm in love with Star Fox , at least the shooting portions of it. I had a lot of fun playing the Star Fox shooters on N64 and SNES, but the on foot levels left a bit to be desired, despite the fact that you can commandeer tanks and other vehicles. But the shooting levels in the Arwing? Yeah, they're great.
Three o' Clock had finally rolled around, and whaddya know? The line for the PSP had dwindled down to about ten people. Within ten minutes, I was staring the PSP in the face. The screen is a lot bigger than I expected and I discovered the analog joystick by accident. There wasn't as much in terms of software on display, a lot of movies were playing on the new UMD format which was pretty cool. I did manage to play some Metal Gear Acid , which looks to be a turn based strategy game that totally confused me. There was also an RPG from Namco that didn't allow you to do much aside from walk around a town, but it sure looked pretty. There were also teaser ads for Gran Turismo PSP, too bad I didn't catch a glimpse of it. One thing that I gathered is that the PSP feels more like a high end electronic device whereas the DS feels more like a durable mobile console. I was impressed by both.
With an hour to kill before the show ended, I cashed in my Pokemon token for a doll (got it for playing Mario 64x4) and wandered around the Sony booth. I played some Gran Turismo 4 in one of those sit-down racing getups. I chose a Volkswagen Jetta, which caused a silent groan to the people behind me. There was a line for the game still, and I wasted their time playing GT4 with a slow car. Sorry guys. Afterwards, I wandered some more taking random snapshots and closed out the show watching the Gamespot E3 wrap-up Live.
I went back to the hotel to check out and prepared for my long drive home. I was going to miss seeing palm trees lining the streets, as well as the exotic foods LA had to offer:
I was going to miss the Ultimate Cheeseburger from Jack-in-the-Box. I wish I could say the same for their fifty-cent tacos:
Yes, better eat those things fast, or else the shell will become flimsy from grease. Only in California .
Speaking of which, what other state could conceivably name a street Zzyzx Rd. ?
Or give you an Erotic Museum ?
As much as I hate LA when I get there, upon leaving I start to miss the big city atmosphere. The “I'm caked with humidity and pollution at the same time” feeling that I constantly have, or the fly infested Super 8 that I called home for almost a week (where the lobby smelled like Curry, the hallways smelled like kettle corn, and the elevator was a crazy combination of both).
Anyways, back onto subject. I thought this year was better in every way compared to last. The games were better, the atmosphere was better, and the shwag was great. There's even more to look forward to next year as we'll finally hit the next generation of consoles and get to see what they have to offer. I personally can't wait, and I'll be sure to make my reservations in December.
I wanted to close this series of articles out with pictures of booth babes, but their likenesses have been plastered all over the internet days ago and are far better than my blurry pictures. Hell, half of them didn't even pose for me. So instead, I'll leave you all with some E3 stats and some meaningless personal awards for the convention this year. Here's to getting back to a regular review schedule and being rid of fifteen page articles! Until next year at least…
business cards handed out: 50
Ultimate Cheeseburgers consumed: 4
In-N-Out Burgers inhaled: 6
Number of pounds gained: -4 (thanks walking, you canceled out the grandiose amounts of fat!)
Amount of cash given to stave off bums: $2.60
Cost of water at E3: $2.00
Cost of hot dogs outside of the convention: $3.00
Number of miles walked: Too many to count.
Most interesting person encountered: The guy screaming at the top of his lungs walking down Hollywood Blvd.
The SwankWorld Impromptu E3 Awards
Best Booth: Konami
Big screens blasting trailers, MGS 3 under a canope of trees, women wrestling, and mock kitchens. Kudos to you Konami!
Best Swag: Nintendo
Scored a DS t-shirt, light up Nintendo stylus, and a Squirtle plush toy.
Runner up: Eidos. Scored a 25 to Life trucker hat and a t-shirt.
Honorable Mention: Radica games and the 20Q game. Also to G4 who were giving out shirts, the chance to win an ipod, and enough Method Man and Redman fridge magnets to cover my entire fridge.
Best Looking Booth Babes: The girls representing the E3 Expo DVD
One was present last year as well as this year. She hasn't left my mind since.
Runner Up: Nintendo. Sure their outfits weren't as skimpy, but when you have a ton of chicks with some great girl-next-door looks and can be consistent with it, you've got something going.
Best Lineup (Console): Microsoft
You can't go wrong with Doom 3, Fable, Conker, Halo 2, and Sudeki.
Runner up: Nintendo . Paper Mario, Star Fox back into a space ship like he's supposed to be, Metroid Prime 2, and spirits possessing dog food. The only thing Nintendo was missing was the hype that Microsoft had going.
Best Lineup (Developer): Capcom
I was arguing with myself on this one for days, but then I had an epiphany. A Devil May Cry game that promises to go to the series' roots, Viewtiful Joe 2, a Resident Evil game that finally gets things right, and Street Fighter Collection? Capcom, I finally forgive you for canceling Red Dead Revolver.
Runner up: Konami. Metal Gear Solid 3, Gradius V, Silent Hill 4, Nanobreaker, and Neo Contra. Konami will be one of my one of my best friends this next year.
Most Interesting Concept (hardware): Nintendo DS
Thanks to the touch screen, wi-fi compatibility, and backwards compatibility. You guys have a solid system there.
Runner up: The Ergodex DX1 . Placing keys anywhere on the keyboard is cool, but can it play Warioware?
Best Treatment of Small Gaming Media: Nintendo
Nintendo won hands down. They gave out press kits in neato Nintendo laptop bags and relieved me of a two-three hour wait to see the DS.
Worst Booth: Tecmo
Two words. Gallop Racer.
Worst Lineup: Tecmo
When you have DOA: Ultimate, Ninja Gaiden, and Fatal Frame as your big franchises, is it a crime to make Gallop Racer the emphasis of your booth. The answer is yes.
Worst Game: Catwoman
An ugly game with a horrible fighting system.
Runner up: Death by Degrees . Watch the otherwise nimble Nina Williams lumber around on a boat! Fun, fun, fun!
Worst Babe: The Auto Assault booth babe.
I'm not going to make any personal knocks at a ladies appearance. I'll just leave it at that.
Biggest disappointment: Sony's treatment of media representing small gaming sites.
I used to have respect for mother Sony. I love your hardware and your games, but you need to do some strategic restructuring of your media relations department.
Runner Up : Sega telling me that I'm in on their big announcement, only to kick me out ten hours later saying I responded too late.
And the second annual George Foreman Award for Schilling Excellence goes to: The Gizmondo
After all, everyone has a right to get pulled away from more interesting things to see your thrown together portable prototype.
- Brad Hicks (aka Dr. Swank), SwankWorld Media