E3 2010 Wrap-Upby Stephen Cameron
co-written by Brent Roberts
Well, E3 has come and gone with the speed of a run-a-way freight train and left us smiling in its wake. We'll try and take you through as best we can in this wrap up to E3.
To start things off, the booths were over the top. We all have come to expect that E3 brings out the best from the companies and this year was no exception.
Our first pit stop was a hands on look of 2K's new masterpiece: Mafia II. The play controls were typical to your other third person action adventure game (IE: GTA, Godfather, etc..) The good thing about this though was that the game was amazingly easy to just pick up and start playing. Within the first few minutes of the 10 min time limit we had racked up quite a bounty and body count and the play style made everything more "familiar" which is always a plus. The graphics of the game are a stunning improvement, and there has been very close attention to mouth detail w/ the voice acting (thank god). You'll be able to see some amazingly detailed graphics, but consider that the icing on the cake because 2K has made the bread & butter of this game focused around the storyline. Granted with only 10 mins of time you can only experience so much, however, it left me with a definate "Mob" feel. The cover system is very nice, especially since its more realistic and will eventually break down to where its not effective; so choose your path wisely. Also the hit detection makes this game stand out, not only with its accuracy, but with its realisim. Before in other titles if you rounded a corner and got hit with a shot gun you would just take damage; not in this game. We made a blind turn without looking and got my chest pinned against the wall with a slug to the torso. This game is going to make waves, and it will definetly be a great sequel. Keep this on your radars.
Now that we have our first taste of blood out of the way, lets step into the world of Rock Band 3. New instruments is just the tip of the iceberg with this title. Boasting over 2,000 total songs that are available to be played, this is a music giant that is not to be taken lightly. First off the interface is very smooth and streamlined thus giving gamers a "clean" feel to such a massive title. Searching for your favorite songs is a breeze with their new UI. For instance you can search not only by difficulty, but by decade, artist, and tons more. We have seen images about the new Rock Band 3 instruments, but there is more to be seen than just remade guitars, drums and mics. Now the new addition to the library of instruments comes in the form of a MIDI keyboard that you can use if you wish as a guitar as well. Thats not all though for the new instruments. There is going to be a new control box that will allow ANY MIDI controller to be hooked up for use in the game. If you already have a controller with a MIDI out, then hook it up and play away! Now we were already beyond happy with what we have seen with Rock Band 3, but they saved a mammoth instrument for last. We are talking about a REAL 6 string Stratocaster which can be played 2 ways: 1) Like the other Rock Band 3 gutiars, or 2) Like a REAL 6 string guitar. This is the first time ever that a video game has incorporated an acutal musical instrument to be utilized. No release or price has been set for that 6 string beauty, but make sure to grab yours when its released! This game is going to set standards, be ready.
Shortly after, we were escorted out to see our first Kinect title, Dance Central. Those of us with children will have tons of fun with this title. It's simple, you dance, it tells you if you're doing the right moves are not. With Harmonix's great taste in music, we can just see it now. FUN!
Ok, now its time to stay within the music realm for just a few more minutes because the people at Turtle Beach have an amazing product that is going to be in a majority of gamer's setups. Turtle Beach who is known for amazing audio quality headphones (if you don't own a pair of X41's then you're really missing out) has released a small converter box for your standard headphones called the Ear Force DSS. You may be thinking, oh great another audio converter, however, this is where humble pie comes into play. This small little box uses proprietary technology to convert any stereo headphone (ANY stereo headphone), into a 7.1 surround sound headphone. Now the way this amazing feat is achieved is due to the encoding of the acutal audio track that is fed into the output via the various audio channels supported. What this means in essence, is that your $30 pair of headphones, now will be a 7.1 powerhouse. Having tested this product first hand I can say with out a doubt that this is going to start an audio revolution.
Next, was Portal 2. Portal 1 caught everyone by suprise a few years back, well Valve assured us that it was bigger, better and just more of what the fan love. A great game! They said, they didn't really want to change the game, because it's what people liked. Why change a good thing right?
Now we have covered a wide range of titles but now we come to a company that definetly needs no introduction for great games; Bethesda. First off lets talk about a little game called Rage. The best way we can describe this is Doom meets Fallout. Rage is a wasteland shooter, however, there are a lot of innovations right off the bat that will bring a smile to a gamer's face. Vehicle combat is one of the many traits that make this game a must have. There are many different vehicles and many different classes and levels of them, so expect some intense fast paced wasteland vehicle combat. Gamers will enjoy the beautiful graphics and the suspense that you will find in Rage. One area that was shown was this water processing plant that we had to save from being posioned by the mutants. This led to a showcase of the different weapon types, and traps such as a portable turret gun that can be deployed for cover or just plain fun!Now during the exploration is where the suspense and the "Doom" feel comes back from id. The audio just slides out leaving the gamer a feel of "Holy crap what did we get ourselves into". Now we hear a bunch of scratching and ambient noize that does nothing but bring your blood pressure up and your nerves on the extreme edge. Then when you think all is safe, you'd be dead wrong. Instantly you hear primordal screams of mutants leaping at you from almost every direction and then the real fun begins. Limbs flying, heads rolling, all in a beautiful depection of intense action, gun play, and gore. This is one that is going to be absolutly amazing.
Time to move on to the next game from Bethesda, Hunted: The Demon's Froge. This title is nothing short of amazing even in its pre-alpha phase. Its based around co-op, so think of this game like Lord of the Rings with an "army of two" co-op feel. You have 2 characters male and female, and they each have their own special abilities and weapons. The male is your traditional sword/axe master who will cut through groups with ease. The female excells in archery, so think of her whupping up on Legolas from Lotr. Magic is something that is also thankfully a co-op feature. In the cases that we were shown the male character used his lightning ability to charge the archer's arrows which then proceeded to impale and shock the hell out of its target. Very nice Bethesda, you have chosen wisely. The story line is going to be somewhat linear, however, half the game is inclusive of optional side quests that if taken will grant gamers upgraded and legendary armor and weapons. These weapons though can not be used to just slam through the game, as their special "enchantments" will not last forever, however, their damage will never decrease. In the instance we got to look at, there was a mammoth axe that was on fire that when swung would explode into enemies thus wiping them out in one hit. This effect however, is temporary, which is good because gamers will have to figure out what works best in what situations.
Now who can talk about Bethesda games without talking about Fallout: New Vegas. The Pip boy is back in your travels through sin city and brings with it all its old glory. Ok a quick talk about what is tweaked and improved upon; the vats targeting system is still in there, however, there's a more realistic percentage as to what you are going to hit, so make sure that you choose your shots wisely. Some of the perks have also been combined to make your decisions a bit easier this time around. Instead of having small guns and big guns perks, you have just 1 that is for guns, and all guns at that. America's playground has been brought to amazing detail and life in this new Fallout game. You will see sin city unfold with landmarks and massive story chaging plots. No word yet as to if you will encounter anyone from Fallout 3, but there is always a "possiblity" as I was told. The character interaction along with the game control play is basically identical with some slight improvements here and there, but gamers will be happy that one of their favorite games retains the core of what makes Fallout such a great title. One new inclusion is the Hardcore mode. This is a great feature simply because it steps up the realisim for the gamer and brings an incredible gaming experience. Ever wonder why you found so much food and drink all over the place in Fallout 3 that, to be honest, served very little purpose? Well in Hardcore mode of Fallout New Vegas, your character WILL have to eat, sleep, and more just to survive. No more walking around for 30 hours and being able to shoot a fly off a wall. To put it simply, if you don't survive, you will die. This is the Fallout that we have been waiting for, and will easily be a top contender for game of the year. Time to cash out on this one because its gonna be big!
One company that was standing out at the show this year was Square-Enix. Showcasing titles like Kane & Lynch 2, Laura Croft, and a 3D Final Fantasy quickly made this booth a fan favorite.
To make our Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days summary brief, it still needs work, especially in the controls department. Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light on the other hand was a awesome treat! This small XBLA title looks like a co-op fan boy's dream, the game functions on a cross section view pane. Making it very "Gauntlet style". We were excited.
One game that caught our eyes this E3 was a pre-beta showcase of the new 3D Final Fantasy XIV. First off the character development is unlike anything we've seen in previous Final Fantasy games. Gamers will see an amazing attention to detail as they navigate the multiple menus and sub-menus. This is amazing because it allows for such an indepth character creation that it gives a good sense of individuality upon starting out your journey. The 3D for being a pre-beta is coming along nicely, some bugs, but the combat and movement of the game is what is going to make this an iconic staple in the Final Fantasy series. Imagine Bahamut or Odin flying out your tv in beautiful cg cutscene that will leave you breathless. This is still an unannounced project, but what they have showcased here at E3 is nothing short of groundbreaking.
When you talk videogames, its hard not to mention this next company, Activision. The lineup of titles from this company that we got to experience first hand is incredible. XBA was treated to Call of Duty Black Ops, DJ Hero 2, Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock, Spider Man Shattered Dimensions, and True Crime. Buckle up.
Call of Duty Black Ops by Treyarch is a title that has been given a lot of "love" from Activision. Treyarch showcases, in this title, that they can step up and produce a CoD game that will be a must own in millions of consoles around the world. One of the big improvements we see is not only the user controlled blackbird (THANK YOU FOR THIS), but the attention to detail that we see in every aspect of this game. Treyarch should feel proud because the research and effort that has been put into this game will not go unappreciated by millions of gamers. The story in this game sets us up in the middle of the "cold war" where intelligence and military brilliance are essential. The graphics of this game are brilliant and with a wide variety of areas that you will traverse, every mission will be a joy to play. The AI has also been tweaked so now gamers who felt that the previous games were nothing but "grenade fests" will find that feeling gone for good. Instead, the enemy AI focuses more on tactics and stratagey rather than brute force. The sounds for this game have been done to perfection by altering the ambient sounds of what you hear and what you don't hear depending on your position in the level itself. We will see a lot of new innovations in this game, from the user controlled vehicles, to the in depth story. This is going to make CoD fans VERY happy.
Next we have the crowd pleasing DJ Hero 2. The follow up sequel to the acclaimed DJ Hero game, this title brings a ton of more additions that will make DJ's rejoyce. The new game modes allow for a tweaked battle system that will make sure that all DJ's bring their "A" game, so expect some insane battles via Xbox Live. Not only has the music soundtrack improved with the additions of Deadmau5, David Guetta and Lady Ga Ga, but with new modes and new freestyle sections, gamers will enjoy virtually unlimited ways to play. One note as well with the Xbox 360 version, your own avatar can be used in any mode you wish. Also now there is a "party pack" for DJ Hero 2, which includes 2 turntables and a mic for the vocal tracks. This title is going for a straight over the top MTV premier experience and they hit that mark and then some. Not only has the amount of music been increased, but now there is also an amazing library of dj talent that you can perform as. Deadmau5 was one of the first iconic DJ's announced as part of the new lineup, so you too can wear the infamous mau5 head and jam out to your favorite tracks! More DJ's will be announced as we get closer to the release date, and that is hopefully very very soon.
Following up these amazing titles is the upcoming Spider Man Shattered Dimensions. Now only three of the four dimensions have been announced with a surprise apparently coming in the following weeks, however, from what we got to see this will make any spidey fan very very happy. First we went through some of the play controls which vary depending on what dimension you are playing in, and thankfully we can say that a very straight forward control scheme is in place. One of the biggest complaints from gamers about spider man games is that of the camera. WeI know from the past that we have all cursed at the camera control, or lack of, but now Activision has made our wishes for a better camera come true. In this spider man game gamers will have a lock-on feature that goes hand in hand with a defensive stance so not only can you manually look around and move the camera, but when you lock on an enemy you will see the camera shift and lock in place behind you giving you a clear field of view of your target(s). A lot more innovations have been included such as other marvel characters. We don't know who they will be but from what we observed there were various billboards that showcased some other marvel characters such as: Storm, The Hulk, and Wolveriene. Get ready to swing and glide in gaming glory with this title. Thank you Activision.
Now that we have swung into action with Activision (pardon the pun), we are going to dive into the world of True Crime: Hong Kong. This title showcased a lot of "OMG" moments which were things like throwing a guy down an airduct, to pinning an enemie's face against a spinning air conditioning fan. One of the beautiful things about this title is that not only is Hong Kong fully playable, but almost everything in this game is interactable in some way, shape, or form. We were surprised at how in depth this game actually was. The story seems to be a primary focus of the game and is poised to deliver some amazing gameplay. We were treated to some of the game's interactions by watching how the main character not only ran through busy crowds on his way to taking down the enemy, but also how it was seemless as far as vaulting through local shop stalls, and vehicles as well. We were informed that there are going to be tons of ways to interact violently with your opponent, and after a little bit of polish this is a game that will definetly turn some heads. Throw your bad guy in the trunk of a car and take off because True Crime will be a must buy.
Rounding off what we saw at Activision is the new Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock. Ok first off, yes there are new guitars that look like someone was very very angry when they designed them. A more agressive feel and look is something that not only is apparent in the gutiars, but in the game as well. Move over five star rankings, because in this new guitar hero you can earn a possible 40 stars per track! This done by a new gameplay system that allows your character to accumulate stars and unlock new items in every game mode. The work you do in multiplayer and other game modes will in fact carry over to the single player side as well. Since everything is combined, this means a more streamlined and bad-ass Guitar Hero than ever before. All your previous equipment we have been told will work with the new Guitar Hero so you don't have to worry about shelling out more cash just so you can play this game. The characters and story are just what you would expect from a Guitar Hero title. A fantasy setting where your characters have the ability to transform. Yes, transform. Each character is now given a certain perk which when you transform will upgrade as well. Perks can be anything from extra stars, more star power, etc. and will only improve once you have unlocked and transformed your character to his or her new form. Tons of new innovations for this title means only one thing for gamers, that there is going to be an absolute music war on our doorsteps and with the gamestop pre-order axe additions to the guitars, we'll have the weapons of choice.
Starting out the third and final day of the conference XBA was treated to some amazing titles from a company we all know and love, Ubisoft. To start things off we all have seen footage of Assassin's Creed Brotherhood, and we are happy to report that the footage does not do this game justice. The play control that we all know from AC2 returns to make this title an immediate hit with gamers. Ezio is back and back with a vengance. Without spoiling too much of the game we'll just say that something happenes that forces Ezio to recruit other assassins into a "brotherhood". One of the amazing things we were shown was that you can actually call up your map and send other members of your brotherhood out on other assassination missions. While that alone made us giddy with excitement, the fact that your assassin (the one you sent out on a job), can still earn you gold and XP. So this means that your whole brotherhood can be sent out to various targets and you still reap the benefits on your main character. A major plus. The combat system has been tweaked as well as the horse riding controls. Now you will have to be wise in your battles because the enemy will not wait now for you to finish a kill animation, so make your hits count and strike first and fast. The horse controls have been tweaked and will allow actual horse combat, including the ability to assassinate while riding a horse. We did learn that the multiplayer experience of this game will enable up to eight players and is set to provide an experience that we will be enjoying for years to come. The animus is back, however, very little details were given as to where it is, and so on. One thing we did notice was that the apple of Eden is now gone and in the hands of your nemesis, as well now some enemies will include guns. Weapons were nothing short in the previous AC and now they have added some new toys including a crossbow that will leave enemies in its wake. This game is already on my pre-order list, and I can not stress enough that this game can easily make contention for game of the year. This is a definate must have.
The second game we got to experience is the new Tom Clancy Ghost Recon Future Soldier. This game takes the best parts of the previous ghost recon games and injects innovations and improvements galore that will leave you on the edge of your seat with excitement. One of the cool features we got to witness was the new "camo suit". Think of this like Predator. Your guy bends the light around him making him cloaked and allows you to sneak and plan unlike any previous title. Also there were some amazing new features like facial recognition system for the enemies, 30 fully upgradable weapons, and fully destructive environments. Not only will your cover be destroyed until its useless, but details like shooting out tires and watching the vehicle sink on that flat tire are just some of the new experiences that Ubisoft introduces in this game. No word yet as to if your suit will be customizable, but from the looks of everything I think that would be a fair guess to make. There are also in the introduction of a more active squad that you control. They will cloak, take out enemies, and even prep for crucial timed shots that are essential to remove some of the headaches of old. Gamers will enjoy all of these innovations and more as they play through various levels using high tech equipment and weapons. Set your sights high for this game. We already are.
Following up on this XBA was treated to THQ's showcasing of a couple new games: Homefront, and Red Faction Armageddon. We'll take you through Homefront first. Homefront is a game where we witness the rise of the North Korean empire. The current leader Kim Jung Ill is dead and his son Kim Jung Yu takes over control of the North Korean country. At first flying a flag of peace, his plan is to unify the korean states, unfortunately it doesn't stop there. Other countries such as Japan fall to the North Koreans and that is when they make the big push to the USA. Homefront delivers a FPS experience that will make gamers take a pride back in their country as we find out that the game is about that, a group of Americans who are bent on reclaiming their country and wiping out the North Korean influence. Homefront brings gamers a great FPS experience by not only equipping massive guns and target seeking rocket launchers, but it brings a story that hits very close to home. Graphically this game is beautifull, and in the final production of this game, gamers will get treated to 60fps of beautiful war. One of the great things we saw in the game was also the inclusion of EMP's. This has been used in previous titles but nothing like this. Instead of a personal emp that you can arm and detonate, the enemies have emp generators that when they switch on, everything electronic switches off. This is crucial due to the fact that your group of soldiers (like the enemies) use electronics to not only communicate but attack and defend as well. If you're not careful you'll find yourself on the wrong end of a RPG in no time. This is going to be a solid FPS, and one that shouldn't be missed.
Next on the agenda is Red Faction Armageddon. This title offers innovations galore and a solid story to back it up. What we were shown was an underground level, due to apparently the surface is now uninhabitable, full of mutants, and giant monsters all set on one specific goal, the end of the human race. One innovation that we have to talk about is the magnetic weapon and the repair ability. The magnetic weapon turns everything in the environment into a weapon that you can use. We watched as a side of a building was ripped apart and thrown directly at an enemy killing them at our feet. Very very cool. The other innovation is the repair feature. This allows gamers the ability to not only re-establish cover, but allows for the complete reconstruction of objects and buildings. When the character got surrounded he darted off into a broken metal container, got inside, and repaired the container making it an instant cover for the character. Now all of this aside, the graphics of this game are breathtaking. The character models that we see in this game are amazingly detailed and every moment we saw of this game we were blown away. Make sure you keep this game on your radar because its set to deliver one of the most amazing experiences you'll find on the Xbox 360.
Nearing the end of our time at E3 we made sure to spend some time with a company that we all love, Lucasarts. XBA got to experience some amazing titles from this company, so lets not waste time and lets dive right into it. First off we should talk about the new upcoming Monkey Island 2 SE. One of the cool features we saw was the ability to transform inbetween the classic mode and the new reworked HD mode. This was great as we could see one of Lucasart's XBLA titles come to life like nothing we've ever seen before. This game takes your adventure to a whole new level, and this time adds some more features that will make this game stand out. There was, of course, the director commentary which provided a lot of laughs and insight into the game, and as well added a little mystery science theater action into this title. For an XBLA title this breaks tons of molds by giving gamers a more indepth HD experience as they pursue their treasure. Look for this game to be around 800 points when it releases as we were told.
Now onto a game that will bring hours upon hours of joy to millions: Star Wars The Force Unleashed 2. I will try my hardest not to spoil anything for gamers who have not finished the original, but if so, stop reading this and go play through it. Some amazing new developments that we were treated to were not only the combination of force powers, but the introduction of some new ones as well. In TFU2, Starkiller has the ability to use mind control force powers to turn your enemies into your dispensable army. Not only has the force powers been given a great overhaul, but the enemies we were seeing as well have been given a makeover. In the previous game, gamers were having hard times locking onto jet pack troopers, well not anymore. The gameplay allows for seemless action with just a couple of button presses. This is key when you're talking about facing off against a small army in front of you that attacks from both the land and air. Then there is the ability to truly let your force flow through you. This isn't something that you can do all the time, however, consider this like an instant kill where it combines every force power you can imagine to unleash devastating attacks and leave no one standing in your path. Also the lightsaber has been revamped to provide gamers a more realistic experience than ever before. No longer will you just slash and enemy and he drops to the ground, but now heads and limbs will be able to be severed, bringing a true lightsaber experience to everyone who plays it. Yes Vader is back, and his true motives are somewhat of a mystery, but one thing is for sure, Starkiller is back and the force is unbelievably strong with him. Make sure that this game is on your must have list.
Now for a little treat that takes us away from the 360 and that is Star Wars The Old Republic. If there was a game that could go toe to toe with WoW, its this title. The controls are mapped almost identically, however, now we have 8 classes to choose from, and each class has sub-classes that gamers can experience. The Old Repbulic is set to provide gamers with their own personal starship to travel in much like the Kotor games we all know and love. On top of that the equipment and upgradability of each character is staggeringly high. You will be able to upgrade through multiple tiers with your weapons, armor, and more. They told us that you can play through this in single player to give you more of a Kotor experience, but the multiplayer is where this game's heart beats the strongest. In the star wars universe there are few games that offer this kind of indepth innovations, thankfully we won't have to wait long for this title as its set to arrive spring 2011. Then you can finally find the droids you were looking for.
The last stop on our trip through E3 brings us to a very violent close. All you have to say is "Finish Him" and we all know what game we are talking about, the new Mortal Kombat. No more 3D, no more T rating, this is the Mortal Kombat that will ressurect the franchise. With an M rating backing this, get ready for fatalities that hold nothing back. The play control is very straight forward, and the best way I can describe this game is take MK2, and inject tons of steroids and mix in more blood than in a blood bank, and you got it. There is more though to this game than meets the eye. Not only are you going to have a massive roster, but there will also be DLC which includes characters, outfits, stages, and more. Also a tag system has been introduced which allows you to tag your other fighter in multiple ways. What this means for us is that the action is constant, bloody, and absolutly amazing. One of the new features we got to see was the x-ray mode, where when you charge your guage at the bottom of the screen you can unleash a combo that will make the camera zoom in to the point of impact and do an x-ray scan to show you what bones and joints you have broken on your opponent. Keeping with the guage feature, every character will be able to do a charged attack meaning that if you throw an ice shot, now its a mammoth ice shot. On top of all this is the inclusion of the breaker system. This system can only be done when you have charged a certain amount of your guage down below, but will enable you to break combos to spare your life. Now much more can be said, but I'm guessing you want to hear about the fatalities. Well get ready because the reel that we were shown showcased some of the goryiest and disturbing fatalities we have ever seen. You will see Kung Lao slice off heads and split a body in two in one fluid animation. You will see Millena phsically rip off heads and eat the insides. Nightwolf will split your forhead in two with his spirit axes, and more. Yes this was truly a game to go out on and come hell or high water, this is one that you have to play. Fight!
Now we can not close the show without talking about Microsoft's Kinect. Sure this device was showcased in a more family inclusive environment, however, for the hardcore gamers we are definetly in for a treat. For starters XBA got to try a game called Dance Central from harmonix. I was amazed at how accurately Kinect followed and processed the 3D space and my every movement in real time. Think of this like a dance game with the soundtracks from DJ Hero and Rockband 3 combined. Various moves are outlined for you and based on how accurately you represent them determines your score. This was nothing short of amazing, until we learned about an upcoming dance game from Ubisoft called Michael Jackson. Not much was shown of this game, but one can expect that this will be a dance game to rival any others. So now we will have more competition in not just music, shooter, and fighting games, but now dancing as well. This means that a lot of weight will be shed by users and provides a great way to get your exercise as well. One game that took us all by surprise was that there IS a Star Wars game in development for Kinect. We will see how this plays out, but the lightsaber control is very tight and the ability to use your hands like you would use the force is something that all star wars fans have been wanting for a very very long time, and thanks to Kinect, they shall have it. One thing interesting about this game is the appearance of Vader himself. Not a lot more detail has been given as to the game itself, but if you were on the fence about buying a Kinect system, rest your concerns because not only will you able to be active like in the dance games, but you will also be able to live out some of your greatest dreams on the Kinect.