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E3 2010 Day 2: News & Impressions

e3-logoWe’re in full swing at E3 2010 after our day 1 coverage and full of excitement and sheer madness that fills the atmosphere. Activision’s extravaganza last night set some of their biggest games’ trailers to a whole host of massive artists from Usher to Jane’s Addiction, capping off the night with Eminem, showcasing Call of Duty: Black Ops. But enough of the publicity stunts, let’s get down to business.

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Konami Press Conference

Konami offered a mixed bag this afternoon, ranging from images of a woman being dissected by an elevator in Saw II, to campness defined in Glee Karaoke Revolution. The real highlights were as follows. An announcement of Silent Hill 8 (working title) with an overhauled combat system for 360 and PS3 got horror fans shuddering with excitement and Never Dead, the new title from Rebellion, by Shinta Nojiri, looks to be a 3rd person shooter in which the loss of limbs is just a minor inconvenience: neat.

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Perhaps most exciting for yours truly was a little bit more chat over Metal Gear: Rising. The energy in the spine that Raiden rips out in the trailer is a core gameplay mechanic that constitutes energy and even intel for our bleached-haired heroin.

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Evidently from the gameplay trailer on Tuesday, Rising’s combat revolves around a lot of slicing and dicing, but there will also be stealth elements, as is fitting for a Metal Gear game, though with an added verticality and a faster pace. In terms of timeline, the game documents the period between MGS2 and MGS4, showing how Raiden goes from snivelling lady boy to the unflappable cyborg ninja.

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It’s hard to even explain everything that happened on stage this afternoon – at one point a developer introducing Never Dead, appeared to decapitate himself live on stage. Needless to say this presser was odd, and the below video should give you a taster of what it was like. To get the full thing with all the announcements, click here.

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Announcements & Incoming Games News

Behind closed doors THQ’s VP Danny Bilson has said that Saints Row 3 isn’t being shown at E3 because they felt it wasn’t quite ready yet, but it will make its debut appearance at the VGAs in December. Apparently THQ are investing heavily into its launch and accompanying merchandise, with a Saints Row film ostensibly hitting at the same time. In Mr. Bilson’s own words “Saints Row is going to be a monster for us.”

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Also, Nintendo today announced the spine-tingling news that a complete remake of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, the classic N64 title, is on its way to the Nintendo 3DS. In conjunction with the brilliant looking Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword for the Wii, Miyamoto has got himself a whole bunch of immeasurably pleased fans.

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Nintendo 3DS

As soon as I arrived on the show floor today I had but one thing on my mind, the Nintendo 3DS. However it appeared so did a couple of hundred other journalists, creating a gargantuan line. But here’s the thing: It was absolutely, undeniably worth it!

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The 3DS is very difficult to convey via any medium, but I’ll give it a go. The 3D, as opposed to an in your face, gimmicky splashing out of the screen type of affair, is quite subtle. It drops out behind the screen, only reaching out towards you every now and then with certain images; it’s truly remarkable. Put together with the increased processing power of the 3DS and you’ve got a unique experience sitting in your hands with consistency and style, without the need for hideous glasses and proving it to be no gimmick. It doesn’t stop there though; the thing can also take 3D photographs on the spot and play special Hollywood movies in glorious 3D without glasses.

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Nintendo are backing their claims up almost flawlessly, with a whole host of huge developers signed up to make games for the 3DS, including the wordy titled Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater “The Naked Snake”. They have stolen the show, and crawled back with avengence from a fairly uneventful E3 2009 (for Nintendo).

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Portal 2

At lunchtime I was lucky enough to attend a closed screening of Portal 2 with Valve employee, Erik Johnson, and frankly it’s looking fantastic. As well as adding in a co-op mode and a brand new story, fitting for a full title size this time round, Valve have pushed the envelope in terms of the puzzling potential in Portal with a number of aptly named new features.

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The ‘Aerial Faith Platform’ adds a jumping dynamic for you to gain momentum with, ‘Repulsion gel’ does exactly what it says and can be painted on surfaces, in order to fling yourself forward and ‘Thermal Discouragement Beams’ prompt light-based riddles. All of these new features and many more are used in conjunction with the actual portals, meaning an amalgamation of all these elements could culminate in a mind-boggling and devilishly difficult test.

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Erik Johnson explained to me the initial approach to Portal 2, in regards to the original game:

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“Portal 1 was part of the Orange Box in 2007 and was this successful commercial product for us. What was surprising for us was this attachment that people had to the product after it shipped. And for us, because so much of the game seemed to center around surprising people, we really needed to take a look at exactly what kind of game we needed to build. So we broke it into three pieces and said story was one part of it that was really important to every one; GLaDOS and Chell and their relationship.

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Thing two was being smart, irreverent and funny, which was a huge part. On the gameplay side, people would tell us ‘we want more of Portal 1′, but we think what they’re saying is they want to be surprised all over again, which was the scary part for game designers to actually re-surprise them; but we think we’ve done a pretty good job.  And then the third thing was music, where ‘Still Alive’ became this incredible hit with Portal fans and kind of a calling card for fans to talk to each other and edit it on YouTube.”

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Portal 2 is set to go live sometime in early 2011 for 360, PC and PS3, and considering the almost universal praise Portal 1 received and the scope of what I saw today, you’ll not want to miss this one. Expect devious puzzling, shiny new graphics and oodles of dry humour.

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Fable 3

I was able to have a brief look at Lionhead Studios’ much-hyped Fable 3, which imitates a time period of around the 18th century this time, only with the usual spells, sorcery and overly cockney accents. It’s looking pretty nice too and runs smoothly; confirming the more action/adventure-ish experience Peter Molyneux was aiming for. But the show floor hardly does justice to most games, especially deeper RPGs, so it was difficult to soak up the full experience, but I can confidently say that having John Cleese as your butler is as good as it sounds and the combat is nice and fluid, meaning innocent civilians are all that easier to murder!

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Limbo

Limbo is an indie title headed for PSN and Xbox Live Arcade this summer, created by PlayDead Studios. It’s a 2D puzzle-platformer, with a striking visual aesthetic akin to a harrowing and dark dream, where the player controls the silhouette of a boy, often with only his bright white eyes distinguishing him from shadowy backdrop.

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Not only is the environment hauntingly beautiful, but all the animations are incredibly smooth and elegant, capturing the way forces work on ropes and vines and how the boy reacts to them expertly. It’s not just easy on the eye though – there’s plenty of clever little puzzles with a solid physics system to back it up.

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It’s really no wonder it’s been nominated for a number of “best of E3” awards, and it’s excellent to see an independent developer produce something of such a standard that’s on show to be considered alongside it’s corporate counter-parts’ products.

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Xbox 360 Kinect (Motion Controller)

Finally I headed over to the Microsoft booth to get a good feel for the Kinect motion controller. Now if you don’t mind making a prat of yourself in front of your family, or for that matter, loosing your dignity; Microsoft’s new technology is great and works pretty much as you’d hope.

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It succinctly mirrors the actions you parade in front of it with very little latency. It certainly is an intriguing new piece of tech – no one could refute the evidence and I’m not surprised it’s taken a lot of effort to develop. But sometimes just having the means doesn’t cut it, and it baffles as to why they’d release Kinect with so few noteworthy titles. Every single launch title is another very conspicuous finger in Nintendo’s pie.

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People were having fun with the new experience of being almost completely understood and recognised by their Xbox from head to toe, but most would agree that Microsoft are far from exploiting its full potential, especially given they are releasing a new Xbox 360 ‘Slim’ console model which could also have had more features as many people are already commenting about.

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Summary

Day two was another chaotic day, with all sorts happening in every game-filled corner; even rappers Methodman and Redman were present, performing a live concert to promote Def Jap Rapstar. I’ll be sure to report back tomorrow with my final impressions on as many games as I can get my hands on and the subsequent reflections on this year’s E3 as a whole.

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Check out Zath.co.uk for all your technology related news!

June 17th, 2010
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