Thursday, June 4, 2009

E3 Impressions

So we got to watch live feeds of the E3 conferences at work.  I was quite impressed, all 3 consoles really brought their A-game.  It made me feel the days of having one console and “picking a camp” are over for me.  If I ever have the money for it, I’ll definitely get a PS3 and a Wii, because even if 360 is my first choice, it doesn’t mean Wii and PS3 don’t have a lot to offer.

Microsoft went first, and had some very impressive things to show off.  Saw footage of games that had been long forgotten like Splinter Cell Conviction, which looks seriously badass, and new gameplay footage of a game I’ve been looking forward to for some time, Alan Wake, from Remedy, creators of Max Payne.

They also showed off Halo ODST and announced Halo Reach, but I’m not much of a Halo fan so that didn’t mean much to me.  I did think the social elements being added to Xbox Live are awesome though.  Facebook, Twitter and even are being integrated in to Xbox Live Arcade, free for Gold members, such as myself.  For Facebook you’ll be able to publish gaming moments, screenshots, etc.  I think that’s cool, as I make no effort to hide the fact that I’m a gamer.  I’m also somewhat embarrassed to admit I’m excited for the Avatar marketplace…  And watching movies with friends online could be a cool way for me to keep in touch with friends in Winnipeg!

They also revealed Xbox’s answer to the Wii.  A “new way to play videogames”, it uses a camera and you can play games with no controllers whatsoever.  While the technology definitely looked impressive, I’m not sold on how it will translate in to fun gaming.  And I’m not a huge fan of the name they chose for it, Natal.

And then they showed off Milo.  Using their Natal technology, and the promise of the most complex AI ever created, they showed off a pre-recorded video of a woman standing in front of a tv.  On the screen was a 3d rendered little boy.  They proceeded to have a real conversation, “unscripted”.  Then she drew something on a piece of paper and “handed” it to Milo through the camera.  The whole thing struck me as an elaborate rouse.  Especially since it was presented by Peter Molyneux, a man known by the industry as a big fat liar!  I’m sorry, but AI is only now really beginning to get the hang of taking cover and flanking properly, and even then it only works correctly sometimes.  And he expects us to believe Milo can suddenly LOVE!?  The R&D on something like that would be in the billions.  And even IF they could pull something like that off, is that something we want?  If it is real, which I seriously doubt, but if it is then we’re getting dangerously close to the time when we can’t tell AI from human consciousness.  When I turn off my Xbox I don’t want to have to wonder if I just killed a sentient being.  And don’t get me started on the field day pedophiles would have with something like this…

Next up, Nintendo!  Nintendo stuck to what they know.  Weird peripherals, the Wii Vitality Sensor, which looks retarded to me.  But the flagship franchises are all getting updates.  Wii has a new classic Mario Bros sidescroller coming, which I’m psyched about because I LOVED the New Mario Bros on DS.  And they have 2 games coming out focusing on user created content, a WarioWare game where you make your own minigames, and a Mario vs Donkey Kong game where you can make your own puzzles for the mini-marios to navigate.  And the really exciting thing coming from Nintendo is a new 3rd person Metroid action game being co-developed with Team Ninja, creators on Ninja Gaiden!  And Mario Galaxy 2, the first time a system has had 2 Mario games!  Also, I’m buying Scribblenauts for DS the day it comes out!

Sony was last up, and focused a lot on PSP, which I don’t really care about.  A new Metal Gear Solid which is the true sequel in the franchise, exclusive to PSP.  Final Fantasy 14 was announced, looks to be a new MMO much like FF11.  Yawn.  God Of War 3, Uncharted 2, Heavy Rain, Last Guardian, which all look amazing.  They also had their answer to the Wii, which was a rod with a light on it that a camera captures, much like motion capture works.  I was actually more impressed with this than Natal, because it has millimeter precision.  They showed some real game applications of it, very Wii-like in style.  Bow and Arrows, baseball type stuff, etc.  But the 1:1 precision of it was amazing.  All in all I’m not a big fan of motion controls, but even though they’re blatantly ripping off the Wii, they seem to have done it the best.

One thing about PS3 that impressed me was their new “Play, Create, Share” approach, which is a continuation of Little Big Planet’s success.  The user created content of LBP is what made it such a huge success, and now they’re creating a kart racer, which looks like a lot of fun, that comes with a kart creator, character creator and track editor.  I’ve long been a huge advocate of user created content, and feel that giving players the ability to create is something that is missing from games too often.

So all in all, Xbox definitely took the cake on social networking, which they were already in the lead with Xbox Live.  Facebook, Twitter and are all great additions.  I was really impressed with Nintendo and Sony’s approach to allowing more user created content.  All in all a great E3.

There were also many non-exclusive titles shown that looked great, like Assassins Creed 2, Final Fantasy 13 (Yawn), Bioshock 2, Left 4 Dead 2, not to mention Dragon Age!

Bioware really brought EA’s conference up a notch with a new Mass Effect Trailer (or extended one anyway), Dragon Age trailer, and what was the talk of the show, the new Star Wars: The Old Republic trailer!

Everyone at the office has had a lot to talk about lately with all this gaming news, and I know I now have many many games on my list that I want to play.  If only I also had a Wii and PS3.

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