Day ONE E3
Edit: Post updated!
Day ONE of E3 was a day of epic proportions. Truly amazing, but mainly because of the stories and memories I will take away from this year’s E3.
Capcom was nothing less than amazing. The folks there were incredibly hospitable and so accommodating, despite us requiring two separate appointments through the day to get to see everything. They even were nice enough to let me wear the Bionic Commando arm prop for a picture (I hope Wiseguy gets em up quick!)
Street Fighter IV: This game handles like a dream. The graphics and animation are just astonishing, and all of my worries about operating in a 3D space are completely relieved. This is a flat game space that looks awesome. Each of the characters have different gameplaying origins, so to speak – they play like they do in different versions of Street Fighter. Basically, the Capcom team took the best of all the Street Fighter’s souped it up, and blended em for this game. Awesome. Fortunately, they had sit-down arcade units for us to play the game out – but unfortunately, I don’t really know how it feels with a measly Xbox controller. Here’s hoping there will be a compatible joystick concurrently released.
Bionic Commando: I saw a playthrough of a city level – with buildings partially demolished – a city in ruins. The graphics were colorful and astounding…as the Bionic Commando was swinging through the air with his bionic arm, anytime he flew through dust or smoke, the screen was dirtied for a few moments. The arm looked mechanical, yet organic – kinda like Akira’s monster arm in the anime classic. It was the gameplay elements though that really impressed me. Unlike Spider-Man, who swings from a webline connected to nothing in particular (clouds or an airplane, maybe?), the Bionic Commando has to connect to something to swing, whether it be a ceiling, a railway, a ledge, or anything that is in the world. Your arm is not just a mechanism for travel – it’s a weapon. Use it to pummel enemies, or draw them to you. The arm, with a 20 meter reach, is your ultimate tool. The arm itself is not an upgradeable component in the game, but you do gain abilities as you progress through the game. And though we didn’t get to see any, the promise of huge bosses you have to scale and pick apart to expose weak points makes me really excited for this title.
Bionic Commando: Re-armed: This remake of the classic Nintendo game was built from the ground up, using the new graphics engine used to power its big brother (see above). This translates into an incredible and rich-looking take on the game we all know and love. Not only are the graphics upgraded, but your abilities are also upgraded, with the ability to grab barrels to block enemy fire, and the like. The plot of this XBLA title takes place 10 years before the aforementioned retail title, and owning both the XBLA and the retail versions allows you to unlock classic costumes for the retail game. A huge addition to this game is 2-player co-op, where you can have a friend on the same console, or over Xbox Live jump in and out at any time. With co-op, killing bosses becomes strategically different, requiring both players to use your combined strengths and tactics to defeat them. I’d have to consider this title to absolutely one of the best XBLA arcade titles to be released since Pac-Man Championship Edition.
Dark Void: This is the jetpack game you’ve seen and read about, and it is far more than what you’d expect at first glance. Set in the Bermuda Triangle, the hero is equipped with a jetpack (which is upgradable through the game – you only start with the ability to hover) and can arm an assortment of human and alien weapons. The game uses destructible cover mechanics, but not just on the ground. As you scale huge cliffs, you’ll be using rock outcroppings and layers of the cliff as cover for the aliens above. This gameplay mechanic of vertical combat has never been done before – and when you get quick time events (like when the ledge you’re hanging from gets blown away or when you jetblast your way to pull an alien to his death) in the mix, it’s a pretty amazing experience. The story will take you through canyons, jungles, and alien worlds, along with huge boss battles that take place in the skies above. The flying animations and graphics are really dramatic, and if you were disappointed in Iron Man’s flying – you will find relief here (and yeah, you can jack alien ships). Unfortunately, there is no multiplayer planned for this title, but the single player looks robust enough to justify a purchase of this high-flying adventure game.
Resident Evil 5: The evil is more real than ever in this next-gen survival horror game. A lack of resources (ammo and health) is made up with the lethal and incredibly efficient help of your AI partner. Getting swarmed by zombies? Hit a button for help – and your partner will come guns-a-blazing. But the game definitely retains the difficulty of managing your movement versus killing vicious zombies. Be prepared to make the choice of flight or fight. During my time with the game, I was easily surrounded by zombies (who are all realistically rendered), and I ran out of bullets. When I finally died, my adrenaline was flowing and my blood was pumping. Definitely not for the feint of heart!
Codemasters: Operation Flashpoint 2: Dragon Rising
We saw an in-depth movie presentation about the next-gen installment of Operation Flashpoint. This time, Codemasters wanted to bring gamers into a realistic setting (so realistic that each and every building on the battlefield, an island off the coast of China, is there in real life), with ultra-realistic weapons, vehicles, and tactics. In this game, we’re not given a shiny, Hollywood-ized look at war. War in this game is gritty, and harsh. Playing this game, we’re told, can be looked at as by some as an anti-war message.
From the preliminary footage we saw, the huge open fields and spaces are grounds for realistically-portrayed devastation. Explosions aren’t huge fictional fireballs of death. They’re lethal clouds of dirt, smoke, and rubble. Battles are fought at night and day, and the entire island is 134 square miles, and apparently, it could take you 4.5 hours to traverse on foot.
The game’s realism is even implemented into how your soldier draws his weapon. It’s all done in real-time, and putting together a javelin missile takes just as long as it would take in real life.
We’re looking forward to seeing some actual gameplay from Codemasters, and hope that it lives up to the huge expectations we have after seeing their video presentation.
Warner Brothers was another awesome host. We were treated with Batman Lego figures, and were given intimate demos of two amazing games.
Project Origin: If you’ve played F.E.A.R., the paranormal FPS on the 360, then you will be delighted to hear that Project Origin takes everything you loved about it to the next level. You can now equip up to four weapons, there is a new regenerative health system, and you can cook grenades and sprint your way from cover to cover. The destructible environment was pretty damn awesome (seeing a wall being blown into cinder blocks and rubble and a theater sign get torn asunder left me well, in awe). You can also shoot grenades out of the air – and as luck would have it, in our demo presentation, we saw a grenade by chance, strike another grenade in mid-air, detonating both in the air.
My absolute favorite aspect of the game though was the “powered armor” vehicle. It’s basically a badass mech, armed with chain guns, and missiles. If you want a cure for the average FPS, this game is going to be it.
Lego Batman: Let’s face it – the Lego video game series has been wildly successful in bringing the best characters to life in the cute, Lego style and humor. Lego Batman is no exception. With the litany of characters (Batman, Robin, Catwoman, Joker, et. al), you will never be able to put down the controller, especially in light of the new Dark Knight film. I honestly cannot find any reason why anyone should pass up this one.
Day ONE stories:
So, we headed to Vibiana, an old church (now used as a venue for such events) in the heart of Los Angeles for Activision’s press briefing. When we got there, we were treated to a really swanky time. Not only was the church interior lit with moody spotlights, the garden area was our reception area, with lavish drinks and appetizers to help us all get into a good mood after a long day at E3. Activision seemed to have spared no expense with this event (reminded me of the Gears of War launch party at the Hollywood Cemetery).
After having some top notch drink, food, and chat with the movers and shakers in the gaming community, we all headed inside to grab our seats for the briefing.
As I walked in, I walked by a gentlemen I found oddly familiar-looking. I swore I had met this man before. Incidentally, he had the same puzzled look about him. So we did that thing where you politely approach the other person out of courtesy – and tried to recall where we could have possibly met. He asked me if I’d ever lived in the Bay Area, and I had not – and we determined that we both were at the Microsoft Press Briefing just the other day, but that was not the place we met…or was it? We decided we didn’t quite remember, and that we’d probably remember as soon as we parted ways. Before we did however, I asked the guy for his business card, to help jog my memory. I took it without looking at it, thanked him, and went on my merry way.
Lo and behold, as I was walking away, I looked down at the card in my hand, and it red, “Kai Huang,” President and Founder – Red Octane. Another kick-in-the-head moment for me. It turns out that he presented Guitar Hero: World Tour at the MS press briefing the other day, and he probably remembers me from the briefing since I sat in the front row, directly in front of him – and I was far too air-headed to remember him. So Kai, if you’re reading this – I’ve made a fool of myself, and I apologize for that!
At any rate, Activision’s presser was awesome, as you might have read – but the Guitar Hero: World Tour presentation was the coup de grâce. The feature list alone makes me wickedly amazed. I mean, while some companies tend to release features in a trickling fashion from one game to the next, Red Octane turned the amp to 11 by providing a system that has unlimited possibilities for gamers and musicians alike. Trust me when I say that this game will revolutionize music gaming as we perceive it today.
After the fantastic Activision presser, we headed to the famous Saddleback Ranch bar in Hollywood for Bethesda’s reception. Nothing was cooler than hanging with other Community members, Bethesda folks, and even Luke, from Bungie. Nothing – that is, except for seeing Wiseguy becoming good friends with the manager (enough so that the manager personally brought Wiseguy a carafe filled with beer). And of course, nothing beats hanging with the Frag Dolls, who were dressed to kill.
So that was E3 Day ONE. It was a long, but amazing day.