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E3 2011: Day 0 Impressions

 

Well E3 is well and truly here, and on the day before the show floor opens up to a hungry press, two of the console companies along with EA and Ubisoft held press conferences to demonstrate their latest and (hopefully) greatest, and of course, to brag about copies/consoles sold.

Read the full article I wrote for Zath.co.uk

June 7th, 2011
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News 30/7/10 – “Bobby Kotick is a prick” Edition

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Although the wake of E3 brought with it the dreaded Summer games drought, before the winter indulgent gaming and procrastination, there’s still a whole bunch of mildly interesting stuff that happened recently, including some very interesting games indeed. I’ll be reviewing the primally terrifying Limbo over the next few days, but for now here’s everything you don’t need to know.

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The Daily Scum

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Recently here in the UK, we received the horrifying news that Raoul Moat, a 37 year-old from the Newcastle area, had been released from prison only to shoot his ex-girlfriend, her new partner (who was killed) and a policeman within two days, and had then went on to threaten the wider public. The incident ended up in his suicide.

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For some inexplicable reason, someone, somewhere on the internet mocked up an image that quite distastefully parodied the classic Grand Theft Auto cover, dubbing it GTA: Rothbury (where the murders occurred). Here’s the point at which so-called journalist Jerry Lawton took the image, with ostensibly no hesitance, and published an article on the Daily Star’s website, informing readers that Rockstar was developing this game, and that a movie was in the works. He also informed the 69 year-old grandmother of the victims, who was naturally appalled.

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All of this was done with absolutely bugger-all research or checks. The article was taken down soon afterwards, but this didn’t stop the witless cretin, Lawton, from writing the following in response to criticisms from gamers, on his facebook: “Baffled by the fury of adult gamers. These are grown (?!?) men who sit around all day playing computer games with one another who’ve today chosen to enter the real world just long enough to complain about my story slamming a Raoul Moat version of Grand Theft Auto! You would think I’d denied the Holocaust!!! Think I’ll challenge them to a virtual reality duel….stab….I win!!!”

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This, on the other hand, is a grown man, who calls himself a journalist, yet writes completely and undeniably false stories at the writing level of a 10 year-old, to appeal to the Daily Star’s main demographic, and then proceeds to insult a massive group of people with frankly, pitiful attempts at humour. Amazingly, the Daily Star itself recently released a statement accepting its folly and apologising, promising to donate a sizeable amount to charity. The sorry excuse for a journalist Mr Lawton, however, has still not apologised.

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Motion Control Alternate Reality Flow Charts

Fancy taking a look at how consumer common sense works in the land of unicorns and rainbows? This is Microsoft’s questionable take on your motion control choices, followed by an equally suspect chart from our friends at Sony. There’s really not much to say about this; it’s almost as if they’re trying to convince themselves rather than us. Either way, with a price tag of £130 for the most interesting option Kinect and an uninspired offering in the form of Move, I think I’ll be substituting my own consumer logic and giving it a miss.

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Dragon Age II

Last week also saw the widely expected, but highly anticipated announcement of Dragon Age II, sequel to the massively popular RPG, which squeezed epic storytelling, customisation and general RPG goodness into a sickeningly brilliant bundle of addictive fantasy funsies. But the folks at Bioware, never ones to be complacent, have decided to take the series in a slightly different direction in comparison to some fans’ preconceived ideas. Much like Mass Effect, Dragon Age II will feature a main character now named for you “Hawke”. This decision was presumably made to amp up the narrative elements, allowing for a fully voiced protagonist, but neutralising the chance to pick your own race. And, in the interest of keeping things fresh it seems they’ve opted for a new visual design, making muscles noticeably chunkier, with starker colours. Here are the officially released screenshots thanks to GameInformer. Pencil in Dragon Age II for March next year!

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On The DL

As always there’s plenty of DLC to get you through the long summer, so here’s some of the best. Recently Alan Wake just received its first portion of DLC “The Signal”. The content plays out like another chapter in the story, directly progressing the narrative and although it’s criticised for its difficulty, fans will love the continuation and dropping in on Alan to see how the botoxed lad is doing.

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Mass Effect has yet another round of DLC for those of you disposed to a dash of space hopping called “Lair of the Shadow Broker”. Although it is currently not dated yet, the mission sees you teaming up with old spark Liara to discover the truth about…you guessed it, the Shadow Broker!

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Finally, everyone’s favourite, and most people’s only wild western game, Red Dead Redemption has had a string of DLC packs slated and dated, which focus on multiplayer.

  • Legends & Killers: Nine new multiplayer maps, eight new characters, a brand new tomahawk weapon and a partridge in a pear tree!
  • Liars & Cheaters: A new mode “attack and defend”, new horse races with combat, an explosive rifle , eight characters and MP versions of liar’s dice and poker.
  • Free Roam: New challenges, action areas, leaderboards and anti-griefing measures.
  • Undead Nightmare: New singleplayer adventures, challenges and quests, eight MP zombie skins and new animals (presumably undead).

Hmm. Zombies v. cowboys? Another conundrum to consider! No dates apart from the first one which is due out early august. Each pack will cost 800 MSP or $9.99 (PSN)!

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Hitman 5

Despite the denial from Square Enix that the Hitman concept art with the number 2011 on it, that surfaced the other day, was simply art to create a portfolio and no indication of a sequel for one of the most bad-ass and admirably creative assassins, Eurogamer reports otherwise. According to their source, IO Interactive are hard at work on Hitman for PC, PS3 and 360 and the game will be out earliest next Christmas! There’s hope at least then that any homicidal tendencies we may harbour might be satisfied soon.

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Notes

  • Space combat confirmed for Star Wars: The Old Republic
  • Tim Schafer called Activision boss “prick”, then says it was an accident (sure!)
  • Medal of Honour studio named Danger Close and given very nice logo.
  • LBP2 dated in US for November 16th and given adorable collectors edition. [plus new comic con footage!]

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  • Developer Just Add Water is developing new Oddworld titles!
  • Halo: Reach’s Forge World mode has a lot of potential for both frivolous and competitive purposes.

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Offbeat Stuff

Kratos Rocks A Tracksuit

As we speak, a God of War movie is on the way. Unfortunately it’s not a indie flick, but thanks to Gamervision’s superbly produced trailer you can pretend it will be!

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Modern War Gear Solid

Not content with two separate action games starring two different idiosyncratic bad-asses? These imaginative fellows have got you covered with on that one, along with great production values.

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Final Fantstarcraft

Blizzard’s recently released Starcraft II has a great map and game editing tool. Shown below is someone’s version of Final Fantasy made within the editor and here are a wealth of other modifications thanks to Kotaku.

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Far Away

Jose Gonzales dropped into Rockstar’s New York office to record a live version of his song “Far Away” written specially for Red Dead: Redemption. This is a beautifully haunting song which helps to create a simply incredible segment of the game as you ride to Mexico for the first time.

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July 29th, 2010
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E3 2010 In Review

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A few days ago the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2010 closed its doors, having provided many magical, momentous and maladroit surprises and previews for the games industry, the largest entertainment industry in the world. While I may not be able to discuss everything, as such a feat would require a small army of journalists, I hope to be able to impart to you the low-down on some of the biggest titles and newest technology of E3 so here’s a roundup of the events in general of this premier games show…

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More Game Impressions

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Lucha Libre AAA: Heroes del Ring

Wrestling is a well-established sport within the video games world, but Konami’s Lucha Libre AAA: Heroes del Ring is something slightly different. Think tight leather masks and plenty of fancy colours because Lucha Libre is bulging with notable luchadores, bringing the Mexican touch to wrestling for the first time in a game. First thing you’ll notice is it looks great, you can really see the ethnic sweat and shiny leather, if that’s you’re kind of thing, so no complaints in the graphical department.

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The central mechanic involves gaining the audience’s support in order to pull off more elaborate and devastating moves. It’s a simple but effective dynamic that creates a link between you and the audience. This communication makes the atmosphere that much more immersive along with the presently Spanish commentators. Where our luchadores come off as slightly disappointing is in their actual wrestling, which is twitchy and lacks the fluid motion between the moves that other games of the same genre possess. Nevertheless, with online play, fully customisable masks and a fresh outlook on the wrestling scene, Lucha Libre AAA: Heroes del Ring may just have its place in the market come August 8th.

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– Mafia II

On it’s way to throw you in the back of the Chevy and send you to sleep with the fishes, 2K Games’ Mafia II– is looking mobtastic, and is ready to release in Europe on the 27th of august, just as the summer game drought comes to close. To give you a hopefully microcosmic example, the mission I was allowed to play had me, Vito Scaletta, out to kill a greaser from an enemy family.

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Having left the lovingly detailed house and selected my ride from the garage, the mission really kicked off with raining fire down upon my foes’ henchmen thanks to a handy MG 42 machine gun. I then proceeded to throw myself into a shoot out in a distillery, which was made fairly easy work of, thanks to a smooth and intuitive cover system and some help from my buddies. Naturally, the whole debacle ended in an escape from the now burning building onto a good old-fashioned cop chase.

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It’s evident that Mafia II is spot on when it comes to its subject matter; the cars all handle true to their time (like combine harvesters), the entire environment is clearly meticulously researched and, basing my opinions on the mission I played, mafia shenanigans will be full of all the ‘accidents’ and escalating disagreements you could ask for. We’ve yet to really see how immersive the world is in actuality though, the big question being can I whip out a Tommy gun in a busy restaurant and let rip? Hopefully so.

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Golden Eye 007

The very utterance of Golden Eye will have anyone over the age of 18 immediately and indulgently reminiscing over the classic first person shooter, so a sequel or rather, re-imagining, bears massive potential for Activision, Eurocom, the developers and indeed Nintendo. Eurocom have admirably endeavoured to create a game that visibly harks back to the original, yet possesses all the features a modern shooter should have. So this remake means gadget grasping Pierce Brosnan is shoved aside for a more modern and trendy Daniel Craig, with Dame Judi Dench reprising her role as M.

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I was only able to test out the multiplayer but according those who got a more in-depth look, the story has been slightly altered to change things up a bit, though without any drastic changes. Throw in destructible environments and you’ve got the brand new GoldenEye; will it be able to compete it today’s market? We’ll simply have to wait and see. On the multiplayer side, an online mode as well as promises to add plenty of new and old game modes has got to be a sure fire success, considering this is the Wii, with very few decent shooters. You can expect much of the nostalgia in this updated multiplayer, with many of the old weapons and characters ranging from the nefarious Jaws to the always strategically picked Oddjob, but alas, different map layouts, which I suspect may alienate any anxious fans.

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– Epic Mickey

Epic Mickey has been known about for some time now and the concept is solid: Mickey must save the cartoon wasteland full of rejected creations, by stopping the ‘phantom blot’. Although it’s very much a platformer, Mickey’s actions affect his morality and thus the way people react to him, making it also an RPG. Essentially, to progress through levels Mickey must use his exhaustible paint to create bridges etc or paint thinner to remove obstacles. When Mickey travels to another location, he’s faced with a short 2D sidescrolling section, featuring classic Disney locations and if it was originally black and white, so it is here.

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From this perspective, Epic Mickey is a pretty deep and innovative game, considering its subject matter, which attempts to capture all the strengths of Disney’s creations and widen the happy mouse’ horizons. The fashion in which it plays is slightly disappointing however: character models and the environment are somewhat rough around the edges and the jumping is a little fidgety. Nevertheless, with a few tweaks between now and release this winter, Mickey could establish himself as a game-worthy character for both kids and adults alike.

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– Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light

When you think Lara Croft you think shockingly large breasts and 3rd person platformer/shooter. You’d be forgiven for not thinking isometric viewpoint and ancient monsters. But this is a new direction for the downloadable game, purposefully not endowed with the “Tomb Raider” title as to separate it from the regular franchise. The game plays smoothly and has a few nice mechanics: throwing spears allows you to defeat enemies as well create makeshift climbing ladders and a grappling hook that can be used to traverse chasms as well as giving access to high ledges.

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This is the first Co-op Lara Croft game and presents you with a whole lot of puzzling as well, as is fitting for Ms. Croft’s world.  It’s built for co-op through and through, meaning there’s some interesting little platforming conundrums. For example: faced with a pillar that could be scaled with a spear as a jumping point on its own, Totec, Lara’s buddy, must run and jump to place a spear at a higher level, to complete the path for Lara; simple, but features such as powerup artefacts mean there’s a lot of potential for some devious puzzles.

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It looks great bearing in mind it’s a downloadable title, my only criticism coming down to taste: I never liked it whenever the series turned to fantasy with maniacal monsters, but others will have less of a reservation. Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is a clear signal that Crystal Dynamics, the developers, want to reinvent the series after a slew of not-so-successful games, and it looks as though this little experience could be a fresh and fun experience, especially when faced with a friend.  It’s out later this summer.

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– Blacklight: Tango Down

Not interested in pesky single-player campaigns and the big price tags that come with triple A shooters like Modern Warfare 2? Try Blacklight: Tango Down. Zombie studio’s new downloadable title for Xbox Live Arcade, PSN and Windows offers 70 levels to work through, a futuristic setting and extensive customisation options. Blacklight plays just how you want a shooter to play: the guns feel hefty and powerful and the player’s movement is fluid yet realistic. I was only able to test out the multiplayer at E3 but reviews of the co-op are average to positive.

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The unique ‘digi’ grenade resets player’s HUD, your futuristic helmet technology giving you the dreaded blue screen of death, which is a cute little touch and the helmet itself allows you to temporarily see-through walls, and i struggle to see how that can’t be awesome, though you can’t fire your weapon. The philosophy behind the game is your weapon is your persona, and thus the tags you can pickup along the way boost certain stats whether it be accuracy or armour. It’s a nice little condensed experience with a lot of customisation for those that like to think tactically about their load-out (apparently over two trillion weapon and armour combinations!). It doesn’t look brilliant, but it’s perfectly sufficient for a shooter. Get 12 maps and 7 game types for just $15 in Blacklight: Tango Down on July 1st, which is sure to create a substantial online community.

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– Child of Eden

Child of Eden is Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s new game and visually compares to what I presume trigonometry on LSD would be like. Designed to work with Kinect, Move and regular controllers, Ubisoft’s new rhythmn based action game was demonstrated spectacularly by its creator on stage, no fanfare needed (Microsoft failed to show it’s brilliance in their presser unfortunately). Here’s what happens: you shoot the abstract shapes appearing in front of you which in turn provide musical flourishes. You have two separate weapons, one that fires as a constant stream and one that fires individual shots. Although it looks very much like Rez, outlandishly vibrant graphics and compatibility with Kinect see Child of Eden embracing the future. No release date yet, but it’s slated to be released on the 360 and PS3.

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– Crackdown 2

Anybody who’s played the original Crackdown will know that it’s just simply addictive. Securing locations, races, smashing into mutants and of course online play. It’s roughly the same formula this time round, but with an expanded skillset that allows for customisation. Although I was given a completely unlevelled character, progression is fast and rewarding, meaning you feel like you’re achieving things quickly as well as seeing the resulting upgrade. For instance, orbs allow you to jump higher and even simple driving manoeuvres upgrade your handling. With a simple cell-shaded aesthetic, a large Pacific City to bound about in and some promising online and co-op play Crackdown 2 is a sure-fire, beautifully addicting and badass open world shooter.

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– Dance Central

Widely believed to be arguably one of the breakthrough games of this E3, Dance Central is exclusively for use with Kinect and exudes an aura of exquisite simplicity, the kind that made Guitar Hero such a colossal hit. It’s simple: the game teaches you to dance with clear rectangles coming across the side and tells you where you’re going wrong. As you progress in the game you become a bigger star and you can even strut your own freestyle moves, which are directly performed by your character on screen. Throw in some standard graphics with some back-up dancers and you’ve got a potential smash hit.

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This is just what Kinect was designed for and what better way to use your body as the controller? The only shame is that it only supports just the one player, even though you can still have friends dance along should they wish to save you some of the embarrassment. Look out for Dance Central when it hits 4th November (along with Kinect) with its brilliant clarity and clean good fun. [Check out Dance Central as demonstrated by unrelated booth babes]

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Celebrity Gamers In Attendance

Turns out celebrities love to sit down and rock some video games as well, and so Nintendo was keen to show off some big names lost in the awesome power of the 3DS. [Steven Spielberg, Ryan Philippe, Zac Levi and Star Trek’s LeVar Burton]

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Best Publicity Stunts

Every company at E3 is grasping at your attention, some try scantily-clad women who’ve very little idea what’s going on, others build elaborate booths and others put on publicity stunts, and most do all of it. Here are some of the best and most creative stunts:

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– Toy Story Flash Mob

The video speaks for itself, but Disney organised a large flash dance mob right in the middle of one of the busiest areas to great effect.

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– Lucha Libre AAA: Heroes del Ring Match

The PR people for Lucha Libre decided to hold a live wrestling match with real stakes. The winner would get his face on the cover of the game. After an aggressive and sweaty match Dr. Wagner emerged as victor!

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– North Korean Army Invasion

To promote the new shooter Homefront, aside from adorning the parking lot with around 100 flags, sent a fake North Korean army into E3 presumably hastily recruited from the Asian (& people who look Asian) community.

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– Kevin Butler’s Sony Presser Appearance

For no reason other than for a laugh, despite a fairly uneventful presser, Sony had fictitious Sony VP give a hilarious speech on stage. I’m not sure if I’m proud to be a gamer or worried!

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– Methodman & Redman Concert

Popular rappers performed at the Konami booth to show off new Def Jam Rapstar. Not much else to say! (Yes, I did have to look up their names)

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Other E3 Gaming News

Kinect has gone up on Amazon for $149.00. This is only speculation though with the official announcement arriving in August at Gamescom. Although it’s an advanced technology it’s a steep price, nearing the pricepoint for the actual console.

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– It’s been rumoured that Nintendo’s next console may be 3D, in what manner, we know not, but it seems they’re waiting till around 30% of the specific market have 3D TVs before investing too much.

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– Gaikai, OnLive’s rival cloud gaming service recently announced that it has signed a deal with EA to bring some of the popular PC games including Battlefield: Bad Company, Mass Effect and Medal of Honor. Gaikai is due to launch next year.

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– The creepy, yet amazing experience that was Milo & Kate shown to demonstrate Kinect at 2009’s E3 was not present this year, but fear not: Peter Molyneux told VG247 that it is still under development and due to be re-revealed next month.

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– Microsoft is so confident in the new slimline Xbox 360 console that they haven’t even installed the red LEDs that signify an RROD error, otherwise know as the ring of death. Tempt fate much?

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The Coming 3D War

Sony unveiled their glasses-adorned 3D products feature this E3 with pride, championing it as the future of gaming. Extensive plans have been made to make everything 3D but I can’t help but think Sony is barking up the wrong tree at the wrong time, as most agree that playing games on a 3D TV, while it may look impressive, causes headaches after a period of time, and gamers tend to like to play for long periods given a crate of energy drink and a weekend off. Nintendo on the other hand, have been interested in 3D for about 20 years, and have been developing their latest handheld for 3 years. Clearly a great deal of time has been invested into the Nintendo 3DS and everyone, including myself, having tested it out on the floor at E3, is likely to agree that it was very much worthwhile. The glasses-less version of 3D that Nintendo have given us is subtle yet brilliant, and they appear to be contemplating 3D as part of gaming and not just a technology to get a one-up on over another company.

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Meanwhile, Microsoft sat back and watched the other’s battle it out. Microsoft UK boss Neil Thompson, speaking to Eurogamer, claimed 3D is “an interesting technology of the future”, saying it’s just not viable presently for consumers. Although this would probably look more dignified if the majority of their Kinect games weren’t such flagrant knock-offs from Nintendo. Again it’s simply another feud, much like motion control that seems detrimental to hardcore gamers more than anything, because of the time invested in developing the technology and time spent trying to convince us it’s the future. Only Nintendo have something truly interesting to offer to real gamers, the chief audience of E3.

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Motion Commotion

Now a running theme in the industry is the debacle over motion control. Nintendo got in the game early and now Sony and Microsoft would have you believe they’re offerings are much more advanced, in different ways. Microsoft gave us a more comprehensive look at the Kinect motion controller for Xbox 360, formerly known as Project Natal. Kinect uses no controller at all and tracks your body movements with very little latency, taking into account body size, even scaling difficulty for children; a fantastic and almost futuristic technology no doubt. But the best the folks at Microsoft could offer us in terms of games was Kinect Adventures, involving a simple river rafting game, with a cartoon aesthetic. Take a look at the other titles and they practically mirror the first party Wii titles identically, with not a single core game. It seems Microsoft are happy to shrug off its main userbase to potentially gobble up a slice of Nintendo’s pie.

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Sony have taken a different approach, copying the basic design of the Wii’s controls with more of an emphasis on the games that will utilise the sex-toy look-alike technology. Indeed, Sony is so determined to expand the compatibility of the Playstation Move motion controller that certain projects have been put on hold to accommodate it. The highly anticipated Heavy Rain DLC has been halted in its tracks so that you can lose your virtual son with the Move and as soon as Media Molecule finishes up on Little Big Planet 2, they’re straight back to the desks patching in Move support for level creation. Move will support some huge core games such as SOCOM 4, Killzone 3 and the eccentric and insane Kung Fu Rider.

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It really depends on your disposition, whether you’re more impressed with Sony, unoriginally, yet extensively adding a new control for lots of new titles or Microsoft innovating without the games to back it all up just yet. Both systems work 1:1 with decent accuracy, and both of their respective casual games are fun for around 10 minutes then begin to feel inane. There are of course, still a large proportion of gamers who have absolutely no need for motion control, and for them we must sympathise with as the big companies all endeavour to be the winners in a category many simply do not care for.

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Winners and Losers

Well the award for the strangest yet oddly endearing press conference has to go to Konami, thanks to the presentation of Never Dead from Shinta Nojiri, and the eagerly awaited Metal Gear: Rising and all its slicey goodness. EA delivered all the expected hits, but it didn’t take away from the spectacles that were Crysis 2, Dead Space 2 and the maelstrom of cheesy one –liners that is Bulletstorm. However Ubisoft probably pitched the best presser, with a long awaited sequel to the popular series Driver, solid work as always from the team behind Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood and a fantastical abstract experience from Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s new game Child of Eden. Child of Eden is a motion control game for both the Move and Kinect which involves neon abstract shapes interacting with each other – difficult to explain but it looked bananas in good way.

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There’s really no debate here for the hardware giants, whether you’re more disposed to Microsoft, Sony or Nintendo, and however much you may hate to admit it, if we have to put a 1st place rosette somewhere it has to be Nintendo. Nintendo didn’t just steal the show, they broke in all guns blazing, nabbed it and sold in on the black market thanks to an indescribable experience offered by the 3DS with gorgeous graphics worthy of a Nintendo 64 and a whole host of awesome titles. Nintendo’s presser saw the reveal and revival of a number of truly classic franchises, quintessential Nintendo such as Donkey Kong, Kirby, Zelda and all the other surprises in between.

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Meanwhile Sony deserve some props for some intriguing proclamations including the arrival of steamworks on the PSN, Killzone 3, a new Twisted Metal and exclusive content for Mafia II and the Medal of Honor reboot. There were some rumours of a Sony PSP 2 which could have done a little bit to stem the tide of hype over the 3DS but alas, a no show, and SCEA’s John Koller squashed this well and truly claiming the PSP definitely has a 10 year life cycle. And although the decidedly uncompelling PSN+ is likely to split its userbase despite positive expectations from Sony bosses, the feature is only ancillary and at least promises the addition of many classic PS One titles.

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Finally, commiserations to Microsoft, who stunned the world with the promise of Project Natal last year, but failed to conjure up anything quite as impressive now it’s actually arrived. Kinect may very well be revolutionary once the larger software developers get to show their hand in 2011, but in terms of E3 ’10, it was nothing more than mildly interesting, if not a little embarrassing. The Xbox 360 has failed to secure any really compelling exclusives, only the half-expected early DLC for Call of Duty: Black Ops, even big-hitters like Metal Gear: Rising and Portal 2 are multiplatform. The only real redeeming feature was the new Xbox 360 slim finally with built-in Wifi, avoiding the ridiculously overpriced add-on, along with a nice big hard drive.

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But the real winners of E3? In spite of a spout of undisguised me-tooism on the motion control front, the gamers have some truly formidable titles heading for release across all platforms no matter whether its exclusive or not. Expect, neigh, plan to get absolutely no work done this autumn/winter period.

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Summary

There were a number of themes at this year’s expo, but E3 is really all about the new gaming experiences we’re soon to get our hands on, oh and nervously looking at the booth girls. Looking forward to this winter and the following year we’ve got a lot of good things ahead as well as some surprises. Kinect’s second round of games will hopefully hit back with some core games to flail about in the air with, SOCOM 4 with a Move gun could prove very interesting and the 3DS will surely have non-Nintendo lovers, feeling ever so awkward as they queue up to buy one, if only for MGS: Snake Eater 3D. Yes; it’s looking good.

June 25th, 2010
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E3 2010 Day 3: Impressions

e3-logoThe final day of E3 2010 was christened with a stampede through the exhibition hall, right for the Nintendo booth, generated by those who realised that it was their last chance to check out the Nintendo 3DS. This very fact should only confirm the subtle brilliance of the new handheld. There were no press conferences today as there was on day 1 and day 2 of E3 2010, so I’ll dive straight into my impressions of some the games I was able to test out, with more to come in the following days!

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Red Faction: Armageddon

Volition is back on the scene with the latest instalment for the Red Faction series, this time, dramatically titled Armageddon. I’m not sure about the end of days, but in Red Faction signature style, it certainly lets off a shed load of destruction. During our fifteen-minute demo we were shown one of the first gameplay sections, in which you have to clear an infested cavern for the convoy behind you. It was merely a chance to show us the awesome power of some of Armageddon’s new weapons. Instead of simply going bigger, which would be a tall order considering the scope of Guerrilla’s terrain and destruction, Volition have astutely chosen to maximise the effectiveness of the tools of demolition.

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The first new feature we were introduced to was the Magnet gun: fire one projectile onto one object or structure and it will hurl whatever it sticks to, against wherever you place the second projection. This mechanic’s potential is huge, leaving the possibility of crushing unwitting soldiers in between whole guard towers. Secondly, we were told that nanoforge technology had significantly advanced since the previous game, and they now have the ability to completely rebuild any broken structure. Again, the possibilities begin to manifest as we are shown our protagonist destroying a crate, only to hop inside and repair it, giving him a much-deserved respite from battle. These two features, along with a formidable controllable mech already have me aching for some breaking under Mars’ surface. So Volition tease us that there are plenty of other new toys waiting in the wings as well. Evidently Armageddon came off pretty well on the show floor, but we’ll have to wait for March 2011 for the full experience.

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To keep you from destroying your own home in anticipation, here’s a few words from Jameson Durall, Senior Designer at Volition:

Could you tell us a little bit about the premise of Red Faction: Armageddon?

Story-wise, you play the grandson of Alec Mason and Samanya, so about two generations after red faction guerilla. There’s been a war of the surface, about ten years ago it was destroyed and they were forced to relocate underground. So it took about ten years to do that but then in the last three days it was all torn apart; something was unleashed that’s destroying everything and they’re trying to find out who’s still alive.

Going back underground is kind of going back to the old school for the Red Faction series, what was the reasoning behind that?

Well I mean, one of the things we found in red faction guerilla was that there was a lot of downtime in between the gameplay, you had to do a lot of driving. So what we felt is that if we bring it underground, that we can bring everything a little tighter and closer. Now we’ve got destruction on the ceilings and the walls and everything. It’s just more focused.

In Guerilla vehicles obviously played quite a large part, is there still going to be that element?

Absolutely, we’ve got some pretty substantial vehicles. Including the LEO mech [shown above], which is awesome.

In terms of the tech, does Armageddon use the same GeoMod 2.0 engine?

Well we took a look at it and built on it a little bit more. We talked about bringing everything in – more focused destruction, and a lot more destruction in each area. One of the main focuses, though, was creating weapons and abilities that use destruction better, like the magnet gun, which basically turns everything into destruction, flinging it around.

Is there a more focused progression through the game this time round?

Yeah, we really wanted to give a much stronger story and an experience that would lead you through a little bit more than before [in guerilla]. There’s certainly still a lot of choice, but we wanted to give it a good narrative and we feel like the story is actually pretty strong for the game.

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Homefront

THQ’s brand new IP, Homefront, centres around a world, almost entirely under the military control of the Korean’s People’s Army, lead by the fictitious son of Kim Jong II. But creating a fake son to bare the ultimate blame is as tame as the game gets, in terms of coming close to the bone. Indeed, it employs recognisable American brand names to make the player identifies more with his environment, and equally to make sure the contrast of an occupying Korean army is fully realised. Homefront, upon sight of gameplay footage, comes off as a typical first person shooter, but Kaos Studios are determined that their unique selling point lies in the contrast of location compared to traditional competitor’s games. Setting the fight in the heartland of America isn’t exactly untrodden territory, but taking the combat tactics to a guerrilla approach should afford Homefront a lot more attention, regardless of the hordes of Korean soldiers marching through E3 or the well-constructed timeline trailer, featuring real news clips.

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I have a certain admiration for this title, as it appears to pride itself on story and elementary combat, which is risky if all the elements fail to coalesce, but a relief nonetheless, from all the one trick pony shooters out there desperately grasping at anything that makes them different from Call of Duty. Though it was not mentioned at E3, reports are that the game uses a magnet system that brings the action closer to you. So, for example, that burning helicopter hurtling towards the ground: that’s coming for you, or if not you then the poor sod standing next to you.

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In the particular scene we were shown, the lead characters mounted a makeshift assault on a compound based in a parking lot. Most noticeably, the guns packed a lot of power, at least judging from the sound they were making and we witnessed some nice animations especially from the incoming napalm and the screaming soldiers it subsequently burnt. Homefront shows a promise that will remain intact at least until it releases thanks to a script written by John Milius co-writer of Apocalypse Now and Red Dawn, though we’ve yet to see whether the skill of writing good films translates into the video game format. Expect an invasion on U.S. soil in February next year.

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Super Scribblenauts

Scribblenauts for the Nintendo DS somewhat stole the show last year, offering a gameplay mechanic never attempted before, whereby your loveable avatar can summon almost anything he pleases, simply by writing it down. This year’s sequel aims to perfect and extend this award-winning experience through tweaks, meticulous game design and one brand new feature. This feature I speak of is the logical next step: adjectives, meaning you can russle up a spotted ostrich or an atomic pineapple at will. However the original mechanic still gets my mind whirling as to the countless ways different situations could be solved, so any extension is a bonus. With a large screen linked to the demo DS, projecting my every move, I was often at a loss for words, or at least suitably zaney ones, but that will undoubtedly be the beauty of sitting down with Super Scribblenauts upon its release, to fathom up the best or most elaborate solution.

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The sequel also benefits from some controls polish, ensuring a brush of the stylus won’t send Maxwell of on a jog. Other than this, the rest comes down more levels, which needed to be considered carefully so that Godzilla wasn’t the one word answer to all your problems, as the floor attendant explained to me. It was a shame to see the developers at 5th Cell couldn’t squeeze a bit more out of the graphics, but it’s understandable given the nature of the game and the rough art style, and anyway, being able to create a flaming shark is enough to keep me happy for a long while. Anyway, you’ll be able to scribble away as soon as October!

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Fallout: New Vegas

Fallout New Vegas, put simply, is making me shake just thinking about it. Fallout 3 was a fantastic game and New Vegas only serves to produce another retro-futuristic wasteland for you to wonder while addressing some of the few issues it’s predecessor had. From the outset the franchise gets new life breathed into it via the new visual elements. Because Vegas was not directly hit, buildings are more intact and the Hoover Dam is providing electricity to various places including the colourful and now barricaded Vegas strip. Breaking apart from the browns and greys of Fallout 3 does it a lot of favours, not least of which is to set it apart as a full spin-off while still maintaining the links with fallout universe, via the gameplay and quirky experience.

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Exploring the story or deeper RPG elements is difficult in such a short period of time, so I mainly focused on the combat and surrounding features. All wasteland dwellers will be pleased to know that combat feels as good, if not better than Fallout 3 and those with a penchant for getting up close and personal are now fully catered for through the excellent VATS system. The new weapon customisations, although I was unable to exploit them fully, look very interesting, adding a whole other layer to both combat and resource management and Obsidian have captured the spirit and freedom that the Fallout world deserves, perhaps owed to the remnants of the team within the company who worked on the original Fallout 1 and 2. I was barely able to do more than have a quick survey of my surroundings and then deal with some local critters, but even from such a short playtime, I’m confident that Obsidian will deliver the same great Fallout experience no matter what, with some nice additions and refinements to combat and the way statistics work, regardless of how the narrative compares to Bethesda’s stellar job on Fallout 3.

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Summary

E3 2010 is now well and truly over and has already been dated for 7-9th June in 2011, and I’m told bookings for the Holiday Inn, just down the road, are already filling up! It’s been an interesting ride, and there’s plenty of miscellaneous news worth a glance, which will be up sometime tomorrow along with a comprehensive summary of the trends at this years E3 and the decided winners and losers so make sure to check back for continuing coverage of the big news from E3 2010.

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June 18th, 2010
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