Nothing mind-blowing from any of the big three, then. Some impressive stuff, to be sure, and some things better than others, but no clear advantages for this console war. My biggest thought so far has been “OMG!”:
This is probably going to be a long post…
First the conferences. I stayed up late to watch the Sony one live and, like most people seemed to, came away disappointed after all the hyperbole. Only three games really struck me – Final Fantasy XIII, Metal Gear Solid 4, and Virtua Fighter 5 – and the rest seemed spectacularly unspectacular. Tekken 6 didn’t even look as good as DOA4, and Resistance looked like a browner Call of Duty, for example. I was impressed with the very cool Eye of Judgement demo and the aforementioned three games, but then…$600. It’s not even a generation ahead of the 360 but is $200 more? No thanks.
There is a $500 unit, but who wants that? You lose the HDMI (so none of the advertised 1080p, ever), memory card slots, and wi-fi. At least if you buy a Core 360 you can buy the things to take it up to the premium one at a later date, but with the PS3 you’re stuck with the crippled one. I’m not going to get started on the “amazing innovation” (their words) of the motion sensitive controller but suffice to say that Nintendo must have been pissed.
What made me laugh was listening to Radio 1 the next day which is usually the home of PlayStation fanboy chavs and the opinions that were called in were universally negative. They even said that the consensus seemed to be that they’d “copied Microsoft and Nintendo and slapped a massive price tag on it.”
Nintendo came next. The Wii has some cool applications, Red Steel has some very clever touches, Metroid Prime 3 should be great even if it looks the same as the first two, and I love the idea of a speaker on the controller for stuff like shooting games. No doubt the Nintendo titles designed around it like Super Mario Galaxy will be cool as well, although I hope it’s more of a pure Mario rather than something more gimmicky like Mario Sunshine. What I wonder is how well some of the stuff can hold my attention on a home console – I definitely agree with the DS philosophy for portable games, but I like my lengthy and complex games as much as the quick arcade titles on the home consoles.
It was the DS that had the most impressive showing from Nintendo for me. The inimitable Ouendan gets a whole new English version for the West in the form of Elite Beat Agents which is fantastic news since it means I get an excuse to buy it all over again. On top of that there’s Diddy Kong Racing DS, Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, New Super Mario Bros (can’t believe they actually called it that), Starfox DS, and a new Yoshi’s Island. The DS rules, and will of course play FFV and FFVI Advance.
Microsoft were last, and without a new console to show the responsibility passed to a certain super soldier. He came up at the end but had managed to slow Xbox Live downloads to a crawl by popping up early on there. Wow. It looked stunning and showed just enough to get me really excited for the series again. It’s one of my favourites and I absolutely cannot wait for Halo 3.
Gears of War was the other big one and also looks excellent, much improved from its last showing. The GTAIV announcement seemed massive at the time (I was ready to declare Sony dead with that news) but returned to reality when it emerged that it’s coming to PS3 as well. Oh well, it’s nice that MS are getting equal or better treatment this time. The rest of it left me with several games that I’m interested in, not least the possibility that Fable 2 might do what Lionhead aimed for with the first. Another mention should go to how much I liked the trailer downloads on Xbox Live – having them all in HD and 5.1 sound was brilliant.
The main show didn’t really bring a lot of new stuff from what I saw, since the big three had blown their loads at the respective conferences. Probably the biggest post-conference revelation was Super Smash Bros Brawl (Wii), complete with Solid Snake. The announcement of the draenei as the second new race in World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade (PC/Mac) is cool, and the size of the expansion means that I might be reviving Nekofever before too long. Battlefield 2142 (PC) looks good, if slightly underwhelming in these Unreal Engine 3-powered days (is it me or does every UE3 game look identical?). Still with the FPS theme, Huxley (360/PC), Prey (360/PC), and BioShock (360/PC/PS3) both look great, with IGN actually declaring BioShock to be a possible game of the show.
Spore has been a big talking point ever since its first tech demo a year ago and it still seems like one of the more revolutionary ideas of the show, both from a gameplay perspective and the technical aspect of so much of the content being procedurally generated. I’ll be interested to get my hands on it because I tend to either love or hate them – I loved Black & White for all its flaws, but didn’t get on with The Sims at all. It also, of course, wouldn’t be an E3 without a non-gaming “celebrity” making an ass of themselves. Not that she has to try too hard.
Overall a good show, then. Nothing really incredible from anyone, but nonetheless plenty of great games for all systems (except the N-Gage) coming in the next couple of years. The end of 2006 should be interesting if nothing else.