Maybe that title’s a bit misleading because I’m not actually at the event on which I’m writing as I was last time I used that syntax, but this time it’s a far more clever Xbox Live pun.
The Internet has made E3 much more of a public event than it used to be when we had to rely on magazine coverage the next month which made audacious (though ineffectual in the following example) stunts like the Saturn launch possible, but from what I’ve seen so far Microsoft should be commended for opening it up more than I’ve seen before. We’ve always relied on third-parties for coverage but this is the first time that I can remember a console manufacturer providing fast access to new show content themselves. Certainly the first time it’s come direct to the console.
Microsoft’s conference isn’t until tomorrow but already Live subscribers (most of them, if my friends list is any indication) have a dozen or so HD trailers to download and a demo of Test Drive Unlimited. The demo is nothing special and Sonic The Hedgehog is the only trailer which struck me immediately, but with any luck we’ll be able to download trailers for the likes of Halo 3 and Gears of War tomorrow, and we already know that we’re getting demos of Lost Planet and Moto GP 06 over the next couple of days. Not to mention that Live Gold is free for the duration of the show and that some of the trailers aren’t even on IGN or GameSpot.
Admittedly some of the stuff is eliciting disinterested reactions, but being able to watch this stuff in HD with 5.1 sound on your own TV instead of a Quicktime window is a nice boon. How much it’s going to do depends a lot on what Sony shows in a bit under three hours, but I hope for Sony’s sake that it looks better than this.
OK, so SPOnG isn’t known for being the most reliable news source, but they’re reporting that the ESA won’t be allowing nudity, semi-nudity, or even provocative models and somehow related the whole thing to Jack Thompson. Is there anything he can’t be blamed for?
Thinking about this and assuming it’s true, I’m not sure that it’s a bad thing for the industry. Like they say it’s not so good for the image of the industry and its attempts to expand when its flagship show is reliant on two-bit models rubbing themselves over various two-bit games. The only other industry which really does anything similar is the car one, and there aren’t many women that I know who are interested in drooling over a Ferrari FXX no matter how handsome it is. It’ll go a long way towards raising the tone of E3, at least.
Right…the easiest way for me to do things is probably just to list the main stuff I played and saw and what I thought, so here goes. It’s in no particular order because I’m going through what I saw in the order that I saw it.
- Xbox 360 – The machine itself is bigger than I expected; very similar in size to the current Xbox. The controller felt very nice, though – softer edges and analogue sticks that felt more accurate than the current ones. It reminded me a lot of the nice wireless Logitech ones. Graphical quality obviously varied from game to game, but went from disappointing (Test Drive Unlimited) through to the impressive (Call of Duty 2) and the amazing (Ridge Racer 6).
- Test Drive Unlimited (Xbox 360) – I didn’t play it but graphically it was very limited. Very detailed and everything but the framerate was incredibly poor and I think I can see why it was delayed from the launch window.
- Call of Duty 2 (Xbox 360) – Now holds the title of the first Xbox 360 game I ever played. Gameplay-wise there’s very little to differentiate between it and the other COD games (not necessarily a bad thing at all), but graphically I was very impressed. There were a ton of effects and detailed characters and objects around but the framerate was nice and steady. The lighting was very accomplished with the blinding effect of walking from a dark room into direct sunlight actually affecting the way you play. I’ll probably be picking this one up on launch day.
- Ridge Racer 6 (Xbox 360) – I only watched someone play it and it looked like vintage Ridge Racer, but graphically it’s spectacular. High definition shows it off with the typical vividness and exuberance of a Ridge game, and the whole thing runs rock solid at 60fps. Absolutely gorgeous and another probable purchase.
- Boku no Watashi no Katamari Damacy (PSP) – Looking at least as good as the PS2 version and gaining an almost current affairs-based storyline (instead of creating stars you’re now rebuilding an island destroyed by a tsunami), this is going to be worth a look. The controls will definitely need some getting used to as the dual analogue PS2 controls are replaced by dual digital using the D-pad and face buttons, but still a great game that should be ideal for short portable blasts. I want a prince puppet like the guys at the demo pods had.
- Metal Gear Solid 4 (PS3) – Obviously only in trailer form, but it looked spectacular and the resolution looked ridiculously high even on the 50-foot screen they were showing it on, and it’s definitely running in real time. It’s hard to take anything concrete from it but it seems like this will be more action-orientated that the predecessors and I couldn’t help but feel echoes of the Seoul level from Splinter Cell Chaos Theory. I can’t wait to see more.
- Okami (PS2) – Graphically beautiful. The whole world looks like an animated painting and the gameplay, where you do things like paint a bridge over a chasm so that you can cross it, looks very unique and interesting. I’ll definitely be looking out for this one.
- Chromehounds (Xbox 360) – This wasn’t playable but Sega gave a demonstration on a massive screen and it looked very impressive indeed. There were loads of mechs on screen with some excellent effects bringing the carnage to life, and they showed what looked to be gameplay footage (no HUD, but seemed to be a playable camera angle) which was very reminiscent of MechAssault.
- Street Fighter Zero 3: Double Upper (PSP) – A decent conversion of one of my favourite fighting games of all time. The PSP D-pad isn’t exactly great for this so the analogue nub provides the best control, but even that’s not optimal. Even so, the GBA version was hardly true to the arcade experience so I’m probably going to overlook those relatively minor flaws.
- Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter (Xbox 360) – Wasn’t playable but they were running videos on a high definition monitor where it looked stunning. I was impressed by the trailer that came out online a little while back and this one has me considering yet another game for the 360 launch.
- Kameo: Elements of Power (Xbox 360) – Didn’t play it but watched it being played and came away impressed visually – very bright and colourful, but also very detailed. Rare need to make that $375 million investment by Microsoft worthwhile and Grabbed By The Ghoulies and Conker aren’t really doing that, so this and Perfect Dark Zero could go some way to paying it back.
Overall it was a pretty good show. Smaller than I expected and insanely busy with even 30,000 people there (the public days are supposed to have double that at least), but I got to see a lot of cool stuff and play the Xbox 360 so it was worth it. Nintendo, as usual, don’t have any presence at the show but I’ve still seen and been slightly worried by this. I’m really beginning to think that they’ve lost it completely when they can come up with a fantastic idea like having all their old stuff emulated and downloadable on the Revolution and then back it up with that.
I’m back from TGS which was fun. I’ll post some decent impressions of stuff I saw and played later, but in the meantime here’s a rundown of the day.
As for the rest of the day, I woke up at around 5am and couldn’t sleep so after grabbing this photo out the window I jumped on Skype and made some calls home. When everyone else was up we headed on over to the Makuhari Messe for TGS (about an hour by train) and on the way got talking to a Japanese guy who lives in New York but was back in Japan for business. He helped point us in the right direction when we couldn’t read the kanji on the signs. Before we headed into the show we got some traditional Japanese food for breakfast (thick noodles with various seafood and vegetable things – £5 in yen can get you a hell of a lot of decent food if you eat traditional). I failed miserably at chopsticks but got there eventually.
After a good few hours around TGS we headed back and dropped into Akihabara briefly on the way back. I picked up both Katamari Damacy games (£15 for the first one and around £25 for the second) and the Katamari Damacy soundtrack, as well as a couple more of those PSP screen protectors. Jan picked up a white PSP for himself and Eynon managed to find four more Famicom Game Boy Micros. After that we were so tired from so much walking that we just got a taxi back to the hotel (five minutes’ walk at most) and that’s where you find me now.
Tomorrow has nothing planned but we’re probably going to look at a nearby shrine and the Imperial Palace.
First Game Zone Live, now ECTS and GDCE. Even SCoRE, the retail arm of the industry’s annual excuse for a big piss-up, is no more. Are there any legs remaining in the UK trade show?
After last year ECTS may have been more of a mercy killing, but it seems almost inexplicable at a time when Europe is pushing up the list of the world’s biggest games markets we can’t hold a good show. Germany has the apparently excellent GC (stands for “games convention” – gotta love that German efficiency), but that barely registers on the radar of most who would prefer to wait for E3 and Tokyo Game Show where the big guns come out to play. Germany aren’t exactly the hotbed of development in, uh, development either. The US and Japan might be the spiritual homes of gaming but when so many influential developers are based around Europe – Rockstar North, Ubisoft, Rare, Lionhead, Core Design, and others have made billions for the industry – why can’t even a public show where they charge for entry be a success?
E3, apart from a handful who’ll cough up $300 for a pass, is trade-only and none of them pay for entry, but it still remains incredibly successful. TGS strikes the balance by having a day for the trade and then makes some more money by having two days for the public. Last year they charged £12 per person for access to Game Stars Live and it was packed for the Thursday and Friday (both school days) so I dread to think how many they pulled in for the Saturday…
I suppose I shouldn’t try the price of admission angle since I get into every show I can free and don’t pay them anything, but I still find it baffling that we can’t make it work. Then again I look at our trains, buses, postal service, health service, and I’m not actually that surprised anymore.