GWJ's E3 2006 Game Wrap-Up



With unprecedented access to this year's E3, the Gamers With Jobs crew has managed to write over 22,000 words dedicated to bringing you the most honest coverage possible of over 70 games. Behind closed doors, surrounded by mobs of fans or guarded by jealous PR people, it didn't matter. We brought the coverage hard this year and we're proud to bring you our complete list which is now alphabetized and edited with screenshots galore throughout. Enjoy!

Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures [PC] – Certis

It was nice to see Conan in action after reading so much about it over the past year. If you've been following the game at all you know that the first 20 levels are spent in a single player campaign, which can be played without needing to pay a subscription fee. This allows you to learn about how to play and get involved with the story before you head online to play nice with others. The story goes that you're a slave on a galley that becomes shipwrecked, after you wash ashore, the single player game begins. Almost right away you encounter some slavers and go to work beating them with a big stick. Combat looks more involved than what you would expect to see in a traditional MMORPG. You can attack with essentially six different swings and combine them to pull off some brutal combos. For example, I could press 4, 6 and 3 on my keyboard and three simple attacks will form a combo that ultimately beheads my enemy.

If multiple enemies are standing in front of you, you'll typically damage them all to some extent. There is a lock-on system but I didn't get the sense that it was really necessary, I'd say the combat is closer to 3rd person action game than MMORPG. The horse combat was also solid, you could use a spear and charge or pull out your sword and fight from horseback. The horse actually moves a little more like an actual animal and less like a beast on wheels. You can't make sharp turns and there is momentum to consider as you line enemies up for a charging attack. It looks fun and adds even more flavor to an already interesting combat system.

The graphics are more than solid, although the screen shots I saw from various press sources before the show looked better than the game did in motion. Not vastly different, but like most games that have carefully framed shots, seeing it in person shows you it's not quite leaps and bounds above everything else.

We didn't get into the MMORPG aspect of the game too much, but the story will continue to progress, this time with your friends. The vaunted city building was shown and it sounds like a guild of around twenty could probably afford to create a nice guild town. Each area that contains player and A.I towns will accommodate about eight guilds before a new instanced area is made. Even if you're not into PVP, there will be enemy A.I towns to lay siege to and defend against. A lot of the details around this are still nebulous, but it holds a good deal of promise.

At this point they're looking to hit beta in the summer, not sure when the press will get on or the public, but I'll be watching for it with interest.


Army Of 2 [PS3, 360] – Certis

EA Montreal's first game seems to be a mix of Chaos Theory's online coop and the over the top, gritty attitude of a game like Mercenaries. As soldiers for a military cooperation, the game is focused on using team work to survive and be successful in the game. Two modes were shown, the first being single player with an A.I partner. Voice commands were shown in action but as usual, I find yelling at the TV to be a pain in the ass compared to just giving commands on the controller, which you can do. There were moment where the developer bantered with his A.I partner, but they were obviously scripted, there is no way a game is going recognize such complex voice work, let alone respond properly to it. Moves like standing back to back to cover a good firing radius and limping your teammate along on your shoulder while still firing do offer a unique kind of experience.

Other things shows were one guy holding a grappling line while the other scales down a building. The emphasis is on maintaining good communication with your partner as you make your way through a given map. The weapons and combat looked ok but it was still early, I look forward to seeing how the game develops through to 2007 when they say it will be done. This could be a great one to go steady with one person for a week or two.


Assassins Creed [PS3, 360] – Certis

After seeing the impressive pre-E3 trailers for Ubisoft Montreal's latest I was incredibly keen to see the Assassin in action. With a current team of over 120 people working on the game and growing, you would expect some very impressive visuals and animations, which is very much the case here. As you see in the trailers, the setting is in the 1100's during the Crusades and the dynamics of moving through and dealing with a crowd plays a big role. If the assassin runs through a jostling group of people, he moves like you would expect sidling by pedestrians when possible and shoving others down in his haste. Rather than a milling around like cattle, the villagers don't take a lot of crap if you shove them around and wait for retribution. More and more of them will stop to look as you cause a scene and some will attempt to fight if you push too hard and too often.

You'll find they've taken this sort of crowd programming a step further when you have your nimble assassin climb the side of a building using window ledges and statues. People on the ground will wonder what this guy is doing and start to look up at you, causing the kind fo disturbance that makes your job more difficult. Essentially, if you're doing things that aren't normal that you might expect people in real-life to notice, they will in the game too. When is the last time you saw someone scrambling up the side of city hall to get a better vantage point? Very organic and very fun to watch the NPC's respond to the player's actions. You can make them forget about you over time by milling in with some praying priests (who wear similar clothing) or just getting out of sight for a while.

As far as the assassinations themselves, the approaches available seem to be pretty simple, depending on how you like to do things. What's important is that you remain unobtrusive until you get close enough to strike and disappear into the crowd again. The A.I on the guards standing near the target seems to be very good, like the regular crowd they will notice and get very uptight if you're standing around too long or trying to sneak up on their master. The guy running the demo had quite the time trying to make his approach cleanly and without too much notice. The guards won't just attack, they'll approach you suspiciously, hands on their sword hilts if they think you look sketchy. Always nice to see the A.I trip up even the most experienced player.

After taking out the target with a quick strike to the neck, he turned and ran like hell through the crowd. The guards gave pursuit and he cut down a rickety looking shelter to block their path as he continued to run, vaulting onto a low building and jumping along the rooftops. Eventually he was cornered by a dozen or so guards and we saw some of the combat, which looked cool and counter-based but he was obviously outmatched and died fairly quickly.

Want to know what's with the slight visual jerks and zooms during the trailers? It's more than just a style thing, as you see it happen during combat too. Slight spoilers ahead, you've been warned!

When he died, a brief scene from the first person perspective of someone lying on a table in a white room was shown, with a scientist sort of woman asking if you're ok. There's more going on with Assassin's Creed than killing people during the crusade, but that's all I saw. Very intriguing.


Battlefield 2142 [PC] - Elysium

My time with Battlefield 2142 and its new Titan mode was brief but engaging. It is, as expected, Battlefield 2 with some beefed up graphical whistles, and plays almost identically to the game you've come to know and love in every appreciable way, but the movement into a futuristic environment seems surprisingly interesting.

In my first moments in-game I spawned at one of the missile sites (which act as Titan Mode's control points) controlled by my team, not realizing that the enemy had pinned the location down with significant and lethal firepower. I walked around the corner, and came toe to toe with a hulking Mech that was covering an enemy advance. I had time to recognize my impending doom at the mechanical and potent hands of a vehicle that towered above me the way that a toddler towers over an unsuspecting kitten, and even less time to enjoy the intimidating sense of scale, before, as you might expect, I was mown down in a hail of bullets.

Titan mode is a deep and complex beast, but employs some solid gameplay mechanics. For each missile point your team controls, a timer cycles down. Hold the position long enough and the missile at the location achieves a lock on your enemy's massive floating Titan. If enough missles hit then the shields on the Titan drop. Step 1: drop your enemy's shields before they drop yours. Then your team must proceed to launch onto the deck of the ship - certain ground vehicles actually fire you onto the ship - as enemies respawn within, and take out four points across the ship before you are finally given access to the main reactor which destroys the Titan and ends the round. Oh, and then you get extra points for escaping the crashing and exploding Titan alive. The need for coordinated attack and defense becomes even more critical as the mission itself changes throughout the phases of the round. Tactics are fluid, and required.

Flight controls for the aerial vehicles have been tweaked to be a bit more forgiving, which did nothing to stop me from plowing into the hangar of my own flight deck and actually lodging the vessel into the Titan geometry itself, so your mileage may vary. There have also been significant tweaks and upgrades to the online Ladder system, and all the classes have been redesigned to fit the new environment and setting.

2142 looks to be a gift for those who love Battlefield 2, but probably won't offer much to players looking for something entirely new.


Bioshock [PS3, 360, PC] - Pyroman[FO]

The first time I heard that the spiritual successor was lurking around here at E3 I said a few choice expletives and headed to the 2K Games booth. It didn't disappoint. The game takes place in a utopian underwater biosphere that was built after the war around 1945 by a billionare philanthropist. On New Years Eve 1959, something catastrophic and violent happened which caused the outside world to lose contact with the biosphere. You arrive in the game without knowing who you are or when it is, and a large part of the game is uncovering exactly what is going on.

This game is mainly about having an open, complex world that follows it's own internal rules, and giving you the tools and the skills to poke and prod at this complex machine. Irrational Games touted it as almost an "anti-shooter", with an atmosphere, story and gameplay that is the exact opposite of your average testosterone fueled FPS mayhem. Ammo is scarce, so you have to be careful to not only conserve the ammo but use the right kind. No running into a room and filling the walls full of bullets.

The atmosphere and art direction of the game is singularly creepy. The 1940s-50s retro look is used to full effect, along with weapons and enemies cobbled together with whatever was lying around. Since the biosphere was supposed to be utopian, there were no weapons brought on board, so most of the weapons and enemies are cobbled together from non-combat items, giving the game a unique feel. For instance, a turret in the game we met was a camera, motor and machine gun all tied to a rotating office chair. The detail on it is amazing, and every detail of these cobbled together items can be made out clearly.

The System Shock 2 pedigree is evident (since Irrational also worked on System Shock 2), and several of the gameplay ideas and basic concepts remain. Security systems, hacking, audio logs, med hypos and weapon modification all make returns, as well as a system for modifying your personal character in an RPG like way.

We didn't get many questions but we did see alot of the fully functional gameplay, and it was impressive. Reminiscent of System Shock 2, in all the good ways, with a great atmosphere and story. It genuinely creeped me out just watching someone else play a demo.


Bioshock [PS3, 360, PC] - Fly

Bioshock was one of the last things I saw at the expo, when I was tired, hungry, and completely burnt out. At that point I'd seen dozens of games in-depth and casually glanced at dozens more, and I really just wanted to curl up in a ball and sleep. Yet, despite the fact that I was crammed into a tiny, hot room so tight that I had to stand on some guy's feet just so they could close the door, I was completely enthralled by Irrational's presentation.

It was scary, it was amazing, and it was fascinating. I was prepared to see little more than a trailer or proof-of-concept video, but what they showed was around fifteen minutes of realtime gameplay running on what looked like a 360 devkit. And it looked really good--almost like a finished title.

Irrational says Bioshock is all about two things: giving the player choices, and being scary. As Pyro noted, this looks like a really deep, intelligent game. One of the things that I thought was particularly cool is that character-enhancing chemicals called plasmids can be reshuffled and reapplied at various points throughout the game, so the player can always reverse changes and redesign their character based on how they want to approach the game. The RPG elements all seem to be integrated in a very non-numerical, intuitive fashion.

The game's going to be very story-heavy, and will carry on the tradition of System Shock 2 in that the player will be constantly finding remnants of stories or recollections of previous events. This time, though, they'll be in the form of phonograph recordings, radio transmissions, or other media appropriate to the game's time period. Irrational says they intend to fill the game with side stories to compliment the deep, rich main plot.

At the risk of engaging in a little hyperbole, I'm just going to come right out and say it: Bioshock was the single most intriguing game I saw at the expo. There really wasn't anything about what I saw that I didn't like.

Call of Juarez - Pyroman[FO] - [PC]

I took a look at this Western themed First Person Shooter over at the NVIDIA booth and my interest is piqued, though the fact that it's a Western themed First Person Shooter is enough to do that. The E3 level starts you out in an old-west church, with a Bible equipped in your hands. "Firing" the Bible causes your character to belt out apocalyptic bible verses to an empty room. The demo level has several story elements littered about like this, the Sheriff confronting you about going vigilante, a shootout in the middle of the street and the Sheriff's wife getting roughed up by some miners, though almost all of it is in in-game cutscenes. The action is standard FPS fare, however you can holster your weapons and activate a form of "bullet time" by firing, which causes both your weapons to track slowly over the screen, allowing you to fire either weapon when an enemy comes into your path. The graphics were still pretty rough and I did get stuck in the demo level because I could not figure out what to do next. However, what was there was interesting. It could shape up before launch, or it could not. I'm still ambivalent about it, myself.

Chrome Hounds [360] – Certis

I was a bit down on Chrome Hounds on Wednesday evening so I wanted to spend some more time with it today before I actually put something into the pot. After playing for a good ten minutes I feel much better about how the game is progressing. In multiplayer there are communication towers that can be captured for your team, which allows you to communicate with teammates within radius of the towers you control. Teamwork is important, you will get eaten alive if you try and take on two human players alone so you have to be able to communicate.

Combat is incredibly long-range, depending on the kind of Hound you're playing with. Missiles will only go so far before gravity starts to pull them downwards so as often as not you'll be trying to lob them across large distances. This looks really cool if you watch a few people trying to pin each other down from opposite hills. We didn't get to see any of the Hound customizability or single player but the variety of weapons and shapes I did see suggests a really wide variety of approaches.

I do have a few issues with what I saw. I don't like that the only reticle is on the top right of the screen in normal view. This means you'll be staring at a screen using maybe 10% of the available viewing area so you can get a proper bead on an enemy. You can snap into a first person mode to get a slight reticle with zoom, but it's tough to maneuver and make straight shots in that mode. This is probably by design to curtail the action a bit and make you aim, but I'm still bothered by it. Why force me to stare at a tiny part of the screen?

The areas were also huge and some of the Hound builds were very slow. It could take some time to actually find out where the action is and get into the mix. This is even worse if someone makes a one-shot snip on your cockpit and blows you up without a chance to respond. Damage in general is said to be location specific, but it doesn't seem to impact how it affects the Hound's ability to function. Everything is either working or you're dead, there doesn't seem to be any limping with blown-out legs or missing weapons in the game.

All that said, I still enjoyed playing it and I think it will be worthwhile online. I wish I could see more of the single player mode but it's out next month so we won't have long to wait.


Crackdown [360] - Certis

I didn't like Crackdown for the first five minutes of our presentation. It looked like a directionless GTA clone with a cartoon veneer. As they talked, it all started to click into place and I came out a little more positive about the game than I expected. You play a mercenary cop kind of guy and your job is to take down over twenty well-protected kingpins throughout a large, sprawling city. That's it. No big story line, no linear mission structure. Just get to killing.

It's a sandbox game in the truest sense of the word. How you get to these king pins, whether or not you destroy their supply chains to make your job easier or if you want to avoid them and throw cars around is completely up to you. The cop you play has different skills that improve as you use them. Shoot a lot and better weapons become available, drive a lot and better cars can be had. The coolest to me is if you jump around buildings and stuff all the time you'll eventually be able to max your ability out and make some really big three story leaps. I don't like how they physically represent the skill acquisition in-game with little orbs flying off enemy bodies toward you, but it does give you a nice visual pay-off if you blow up twenty bad guys at once.

This is a graphic novel sort of world, if your car skill is high and you climb into an agency vehicle, it actually morphs into a more powerful model if your skill is impressive enough. It doesn't really make sense, but in the context of the game it works pretty well. Overall, the inclusion of Live capable coop makes this a near must-have for me. I might get bored after ten hours or so, but those of you who like free-form games to mess around should find plenty to enjoy.


Company of Heroes [PC] - Pyroman[FO]

This is Relic's other title at the show, their next strategy game. This game looks very promising with a stripped down build and tech tree and a focus on interesting tactical combat. Unfortunately it's set in WWII France, a setting which I feel has been beaten to death with a cliche stick. Still the game looks very interesting, there are two sides, Axis and Allies. Each side only has 4 types of buildings they can build. No turrets or defensive structures. There's also no resource gathering. The entire map is based on territories, and the objective is to control all the territories on the map. You can build infantry and armor of various types, and upgrade them each several different ways. A flamethrower added onto the tank makes for alot of fun, because everything in the game is burnable and destructable.

The game has Havok physics, which means when you blow up buildings they collapse on themselves it's fully modeled. All the buildings in the game are burnable and destructable, which is a very interesting gameplay point. You remember where I said there were no defensive structures you can build? That's because you can take cover behind or inside of almost anything on the map. You can even take over buildings and convert them into a motor pool or a barracks. The majority of the combat revolves around finding and destroying cover, which makes it more interesting than the standard "click and watch" of normal RTS battles. The tech tree consists of three different tracks, the Infantry, Armor and Airborne tracks. When you accomplish objectives or combat the enemy you get command points, which you can spend to upgrade these tracks to get new abilities.

It's PC only and supports up to 8 in multiplayer, which it could be a very interesting take on the RTS genre. I have mentioned before how I'm a sucker for RTS games with no build orders and no resource gathering, but the setting still puts this in a "wait and see" category with me.


Command & Conquer 3 [PC] - Elysium

If you ever wonder why the larger media always comes out of E3 glowing about everything, it's because they are in comfortable chairs behind closed doors and away from the unwashed masses upon whom they look down and serve; surrounded by panoramic digital sound, drinking a bottled water like a thirsty Bedouin as passionate producers whisper sweet nothings in their ear their comfort is attended to as a kind of physical bribe. Not quite trading sex for good coverage, but in the extreme conditions of E3, it's not as far as you might think. I'm pretty sure the difference between how enthusiastic you can be over a video game must have something to do with environment, and if you're jockying for position on a cramped showfloor, perhaps your cynical meter is tuned a bit higher. And, if you really want to see how the big boys comfort and coddle the press, get backstage at EA.

I'm telling you this because my impressions of C&C 3 want to gush, so I'm having to restrain myself a good bit, and perhaps regain something like neutrality by recognizing manipulation when I feel it, but damn I want to play that game.

Introducing a third, and presumably alien faction to the GDI v. Nod universe, it looks as though we are going to learn a great deal about what Tiberium is, where it comes from, and why it's here. The world is broken into Red Zones that are Tiberium infested, alien, and unihabitable, Yellow Zones that cover roughly 70% of the globe where Tiberium is spreading and causing havoc, and a very small GDI controlled areas of Green Zones.

Emir Jaffe, C&C producer, assured us that the intent here is to keep the classic C&C fast and furious pace, but bring in amazing visuals and new enemies. The graphics are truly gorgeous with detailed lighting casting reflections off all surfaces, outstanding water and dust effects, the whole big basket of pretty that will make you ooh and ah while your DX 9 card weeps silently for its sudden and prompt inferiority.

A lot of what we saw was extraordinarily early, and while we were assured the game itself was running realtime, we saw a fairly scripted sequence with few enemies on screen. They know that it's not C&C unless you have a few dozen tanks supported by Orcas sailing across the desert, and what we saw, while visually stunning with destructible environments, isn't that.

The single player campaign will be split into three linear sections revolving around the GDI, Nod, and unannounced (alien?) faction. Each campaign will have multiple theaters of war, and the order in which you complete these theaters will determine how you progress through the campaign, and what assets you take with you through that campaign, for example finish one theater that gives you access to airstrikes or an aircraft carrier, and that goes with you through the rest of the campaign. It's an interesting way of breaking up the forced linear direction.

C&C 3 was on my must-see list coming in to the show, and I'm not disappointed. The developers actually hired MIT professors to create internal documents on the academic properties of Tiberium, and created a C&C bible that they use as a complete repository for the entire history of the universe and its most notable factions and leaders. It's a nice attention to detail, and is supposed to indicate their fierce attention to creating the next great and true C&C game, but in the end all the technical documents in the world won't make up for gameplay. That's the thing we saw the least of, so it's just too soon to say. What they've done so far, however, looks amazing and got my adrenaline up, so here's hoping.


Contact [DS] - Fly

Contact is an RPG directed by SUDA-51, the creative force behind the completely whacked-out and bloody Killer 7 for the GameCube. The only thing Contact shares with Killer 7, though, is a unique approach to game design. The first thing I noticed about Contact, an adventure/RPG title, is that it employs two very different art styles for the top and bottom DS screens. The top screen is rendered in a flat, pixellated, cartoonish style, and depicts a busy professor as he putters around in his science lab aboard a wrecked space ship. The bottom screen shows the outside world, rendered in much more realistic detail, where the player controls the professor's friend, a young man named Terry. Both screens show a 2D isometric perspective.

Periodically the professor speaks to Terry, and sometimes directly to the player, providing instructions and guidance. Early on he says to the player, somewhat unnervingly, "they're after me," so there's a mysterious undercurrent of urgency and danger. Much of the time, though, the professor is busy muttering amusingly to himself or his dog aboard his little spaceship. Early on Terry is tasked with searching for "elements" lost when the professor's ship crashed, so he's kept busy exploring and fighting odd little creatures. Combat is very simple, and seems to involve little more than hitting a button to move Terry into a "combat stance" then moving him close to an enemy with a particular attack type selected. At the beginning of the game Terry is taught a single punching attack, but judging by the game's extensive menus, which are empty at the beginning of the game, it looks like dozens more eventually become available.

Thoughout Contact Terry will obtain suits and costumes that, when worn, will allow him to perform different tasks. An aqua-rain suit lets him spray water, for example, and a chef's outfit allows him to cook if he's in a kitchen-type setting. The professor also gives Terry a variety of different "seals," which are little stickers the player peels up from a menu and then applies to the game screen with the stylus. One seal I applied turned all the enemies onscreen into sheep. Another was required to wrap up one of the professor's elements I discovered in a cave.

Contact starts out simple, but given the extensive menus of items, abilities, outfits, and more contained in its interface, it looks like it has the potential to be a very deep game. It seemed very charming, unusual, and well-conceived, and I'm really looking forward to the finished product. It's due out this summer.


Crysis [PC] - Elysium


We were shown a detailed demo of this game by Crytek co-founder and president Cevat Yerli. Whether what we saw is part of the final game, which is presumably some distant and unknowable stretch of time away, or simply an impressive tech demo certainly remains to be seen, but Crytek is putting together an impressive engine and seems to be on track to attach a solid game.

Let's be honest, though, this is all about the flash and pretty poly pushing engine that looks sexier than Claudia Schiffer in skimpy lingerie ... hang on, I'm just going to think about that one for a moment. Nope, Crysis is sexier, but not by much.

Weapons that tear through the enemies, buildings, and the jungle itself leaving a fully realized and physical world tattered in your wake, the destructibility of the gorgeous environment is of particular note. Let rip with a chaingun and entire swaths of branches, trees, and foliage tumble in real-time physical destruction a la Predator.

Some cool features include customizable weapons, object based motion blur, self augmentation, and tactical bullets. Tactical bullets are like a useful tagging device which allows you to coordinate your solo attack. Hit your enemies with some tactical bullets from hiding without their noticing, and you can trigger them to fall asleep simultaneously. Stealth missions, here we come. Hit a vehicle with an explosive tactical bullet, wait until your enemies are on board and blow them up from a safe distance. You get the idea.

The highlight of the presentation was a multiarmed, presumably alien boss battle on board an aircraft carrier. I'm not sure what it is about aircraft carriers this year, but I'm seeing them in virtually every game, and most of them blow up. This is no exception. The massive boss, which I was assured was reacting in real time to the events going on and was not scripted, hurled waiting aircraft into the command deck, blasted allies with great swatches of freeze beams, trampled, crunched and generally destroyed in amazing and jaw-dropping details.

Crytek is being unapologetic about the system requirements on this game, and will be supporting only mid to high end video cards. The general sentiment was that the game will work on a minimum of 2-year old cards when it launches ... next year. That means the best thing you've got right now, will probably be only just above passable. My 9800 Pro is weeping at home at just the thought.

Whether a game is born of this visual achievement completely remains to be seen, but there's no question that Crytek has put together the tools to do something epic.


Crysis [PC] - Spunior

Out of the games I got to see and play at the E3, Crysis undoubtedly was the most amazing one. At first it may come across just like a prettier version of FarCry - but that thought only lasts for a few seconds. The amount of details and the physics are impressive, the indoor levels look great as well. It should be noted that the game uses effects like motion blur in a way that actually enhance the experience rather than hurting it. One really needs to see Crysis live in action because the screenshots don't do it justice.

Dark Messiah of Might and Magic [PC] – Certis

I was really happy to get some time with this Source Engine game before the show ended. Based in the Heroes of Might and Magic universe, the game is very action oriented despite RPG trappings such as skill points and melee/stealth/magic specialty trees. The demo level showcased some very dynamic battles against multiple enemies with your sword. Considering that you're locked into a first-person perspective I was surprised that everything controlled so well, usually I'd prefer a 3rd person view for this sort of melee combat to keep myself orientated. Even against four enemies at once everything was manageable and you didn't get lost in the action.

The vaunted Source engine physics were put to good use with plenty of traps that can be sprung on enemies and barrels being kicked back at you with a disturbing amount of precision. The graphics are better than the videos I've seen online and the different approaches available are all viable and play out very differently. Multiplayer modes were mentioned (objective based with different classes to play) that will support up to 32 players and ship with five maps. For the single player alone, I'll probably be buying it upon release.


Dead Rising [360] - Pyroman[FO]

I took a quick look at this zombie killing fest and walked away with a big stupid grin on my face. Just watching people pummel zombies in this game is fun, which is good because there's tons of them to kill. This is basically a big sandbox game, you start out in a mall that has suddenly filled with zombies. You can then use anything you can find that's not nailed down to beat, smash, fry, shoot and cut up zombies to your heart's content. The weapons range from baseball bats to shotguns to cardboard boxes, tons and tons of them. You can even pick up items and wear them, at one point the character picked up a goofy looking football helmet and started wearing it around. There are pretty funny missions and a general feeling of humor about the game, at one point the character picked up a giant shelf and started hitting people with it. The game is supposed to only last 72 hours, and you can play it over and over again. The appeal seems to be the various weapons, clothing and missions you can do. Whatever it is, it looks like alot of zombie smashing fun.


Deep Labyrinth [DS] - Fly

Here's the first five minutes of Deep Labyrinth: a young boy is taking a drive in the countryside with his family when they get a flat tire. They stop the car, and the boy's dog runs into what looks like a nearby haunted mansion. His parents follow but don't come back, and when the boy approaches the front door to investigate he's sucked into a vortex that drops him onto a small floating island, where a pink elephant-headed creature appears and informs him he's on Vimana, the "airship of the gods." The boy leaves the airship through a sort of rainbow fountain and is transported to a mazelike area of grassy fields connected by tunnels, where he begins to encounter a variety of bizarre creatures, some helpful, some hostile.

So it's kind of like the film Spirited Away, but it makes even less sense. Dark Labyrinth seems to be a basic RPG with an emphasis on exploration and real-time, action-oriented combat. The player explores the world and fights from a first-person view displayed on the bottom screen, with the top screen displaying an simple overhead map. At the beginning of the game the character is given a sword and shield, and he's taught a few magic spells that can be cast by drawing different characters over a grid. Character movement and combat felt pretty good, but fighting, blocking, and casting all took place on slightly different screen types, so switching back and forth felt a bit cumbersome.

The 3D exploration works very well, and it's easy to find your way around the world, but the game's introductory level seemed repetitive and bland, as did the handful of enemies I saw. Visually, it just wasn't very interesting. The helpful characters that the player met, like a platypus with a golden crown, were funny and bizarre, but there wasn't much going on as far as the story was concerned for the ten minutes or so that I had with the game. Deep Labyrinth was supposedly developed by Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy alumni, so there might be more than meets the eye to the storyline. It was very easy to pick up and play, so I'll probably give it another look when it releases later this year.

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars - Pyroman[FO] - [PC]

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars is not only at E3, it's playable! They've got a 16 person setup, 8 GDF vs 8 Strogg, and I got to play a match as the Strogg earlier. I was expecting Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory with some graphical upgrades, but what I got was a bit more than that. There are now classes that can place turrets, radar towers and other support structures throughout the map with a pretty slick and easy to use interface. There's an infiltrator class complete with a Teleporter (think Translocator from UT) and a sniper rifle. The standard Lieutenant, Medic and Soldier classes are still available as well, renamed for their appropriate side. Vehicles are drivable, and can be occupied by multiple people. In what seems like a nice feature to encourage cooperative play, when someone tries to enter your vehcile and start spraying the turret like a hyperactive 2 year old, they have to ask the driver permission first. The Strogg vehicles include a personal Jetpack that drops bombs, a hover Plasma Tank, and a "Hog" (guess what vehcile this is based off of?). I tried the Tank and the jetpack, both of which were fun as hell to drive. The weapons were pretty fun as well, with a pretty standard but great feeling selection. In fact, pretty much everything I tried to do in ET:QW was alot of fun. It's looking really good, and hopefully it comes out soon so I don't have to start foaming at the mouth.


Excite Truck [Wii] - Certis

Ever played Big Red Racing? It felt very similar to that. Tilting the controller horizontally, you turn it left and right like a steering wheel, which actually worked out really well. It was not overly sensitive and yet you didn't need to make big movements to turn left and right. It is very much an arcade racer with huge jumps, crashes in mid-air and plenty of water to fall into. When you fall way off course or crash, you tap the A button rapidly to get boosted out and placed back on the road. There are also floating question marks that will alter the land ahead (suddenly a hill appears, causing you to go flying) which is a neat dynamic. It's a simple game, but I had a good time with it.

Gears of War [360] - Elysium

Dystopian, alien war, gray and dusty future. Okay, it's well explored territory, and I can certainly understand being sick of the concept, but let's talk about fun for a moment, because along with Prey, Gears of War may be the other game that puts me back in a multiplayer frame of mind.

I chopped a guy in half with a chainsaw, for chrissake!

It is a meaty game, in every conceivable way, a game where cover is key and blood flows like a river. The weapons we got a chance to play with all had a thick and heavy feel to them, and the brutality of the game is unapologetic. It's one thing to shoot a guy hiding behind cover as he pops up, but it's another to have your buddy keep the guy pinned with fire as you sneak behind and chop him in half with a chainsaw. In half!

I predict an M rating. And fun.


Gears of War [360] - Pyroman[FO]

I went into this one skeptical. It's a game from Cliffy B of Epic fame, and it's a graphical powerhouse. Of course Microsoft is going to say it's the greatest thing ever, a system selling monster that's the most fun you've ever had. So all the hype had me turned off.

All I know is within the first minute of gameplay everyone was cheering and clapping when someone would die!

It's a brutal, bloody and excellent game. I only got to play for 20 minutes or so and I know I'm not only buying it on release day, but buying an X360 as well.

It's a 3rd person shooter where you constantly have to search for cover. When you run the camera zooms closer to the ground so it's harder to see where you're going, and it's harder to turn. Which means if you want to be combat ready, you have to be slowly jumping, rolling and dodging from cover to cover. You always want cover or you will be shot. There were only 3 weapons in our play session, an assault rifle/chainsaw, a grenade launcher and a sniper rifle. I only used the first two weapons, and I loved them both. Sneaking up behind someone for a chainsaw kill was one of the most satisfying multiplayer gameplay moments I've had in a while.

In fact, the 20 minutes I played Gears of War had so many of those excellent multiplayer moments that I can't help but love it. It has that magical elixir of tension and satisfaction that makes multiplayer games so worthwhile. It's really hard to describe, other than the fact that it's really really good.

Genji II [PS3] - Fly

Remember Genji for the PS2? This is that game, but in higher resolution and with just slightly more sophisticated animations and visual effects. I didn't see anything in the brief floor demo that looked even remotely different in terms of gameplay, and I didn't see anything that even came close to Genji's gorgeous backdrops, either. What I saw was entirely unimpressive as a next-generation title, or even a sequel. I liked the first Genji game, but you'd think that Game Republic could squeeze something a little more interesting out of the PS3. There wasn't even anyone playing the floor demo.

Gothic 3 [PC] – Certis

I was frantic to see Gothic 3 in action after last year's poor showing and I wasn't disappointed. As a fan of Gothic 2, my questions mainly centered around making sure all of the annoying things were out and the good aspects were enhanced. The inventory is now mouse driven with different sections for item types, even in placeholder form it's vastly improved. Combat is handled with the mouse while the keyboard handles movement and spell selection, I'm not sure if people who liked the pure keyboard approach will be accommodated. Currently the left mouse button is one type of swing and right mouse button is another, you can combine them to do different moves and combos. Timing is still a factor when in combat, which is good.

Everything you expect in a Gothic game is here, only with better graphics, an even bigger world and a completely different continent to explore. You play as the same guy as the last two games and you will start from scratch once again. No word on how they're going to explain how he lost all his skills this time. Maybe he gets hit in the head with a rock or something. Gothic fans should be pleased if performance is good and the final release isn't too buggy.


Guild Wars: Unannounced New Campaign Sneak Peek [PC] - Fly

Most of ArenaNet's presentation focused on new Guild Wars campaign content. They say they're committed to releasing two new campaigns per year, each of which will offer new skills, new professions, and an entirely new world to explore. They also say that, like Factions's alliances and shifting battlelines, each new campaign will introduce new gameplay mechanics. They'll continue to take advantage of ongoing tech advancements, like those offered by new DirectX versions, and each new campaign will apply those advancements recursively to earlier releases.

Although they didn't announce any specific details for the next campaign, they did show a short teaser video which depicted a world reminiscent of North Africa, the Middle East, and ancient Ottoman civilizations. The outdoor environments definitely had a safari-type feel, with some impressively animated elephant, rhino, and monkey-like creatures. They also showed a ruined seaport, a huge fortress of stone, and some Taj-Majal style palace buildings. One of the most impressive images was of a huge, ornate palace full of waterfalls and hanging gardens.

ArenaNet didn't announce the specific new skills or professions for the new campaign, but they did show a couple of brief concept shots of two characters. Both were female. One was decked out in elegant white armor, and the other was in a hooded robe and carrying some sort of staff.

Haze [PS3, 360, PC] - Pyroman[FO]

This Free Radical developed FPS shooter is currently showing as a part of a very slick video presentation. This is from the people who brought us Timesplitters, so the humor is readily evident even from looking at the booth. The game puts you as a soldier for the Mantel corporation, whose motto is "Exporting Democracy since 2012". The video outside the theater shows a very dynamic looking man in a suit, talking about the Mantel corporation's various divisions (basically everything), then summarizing by stating how Mantel is trusted by NATO and the Western World to bring democracy to brutal dictators, with the best weapons and equipment money can buy. "We're here to make a difference, the Mantel difference." It's all very hilarious. The game itself though, doesn't look like much more than a well executed squad based military themed FPS. In the game though, there are a few parts where the story unfolds and those parts are really well done. I think I'll play through this just to get through the story, and the FPS part doesn't look bad at all. It just doesn't look particularly good either.


Haze [PS3, 360, PC] - Fly

I'll echo Pyro's comments on this one, in that the FPS combat looks completely ordinary, but the premise and storyline seem really interesting. The last Timesplitters release, Future Perfect, was the first in the series to offer anything that looked like a plot, and I think it demonstrated that Free Radical had a previously untapped flair for storytelling and character development. It looks like they're going full-out with Haze, which seems to have a very sophisticated premise. And though it clearly incorporates the tongue-in-cheek humor you'd expect from Free Radical, it definitely looks like there's a very dark, disturbing aspect to the story. They say it's releasing for the PS3, 360, and PC in March 2007.

Heavenly Sword [PS3] - Fly

Ninja Theory was showing off a brief demo that had Heavenly Sword's red-haired heroine, Nariko, depicted in third person in a small, closed arena, fighting groups of about a half-dozen enemies at a time. The God of War similarities were obvious, as the melee fighting style, weapons, and combo types Nariko exhibited were very similar to those of Kratos. Nariko even had a pair of large blades attached to her arms by retractable chains, and the demo ended with some context-sensitive button pressing that triggered a series of dramatic finishing animations with a boss character. The arena was full of objects that exhibited realistic physics and were knocked about and smashed apart during combat.

Nariko's much more graceful and acrobatic than Kratos, and she doesn't convey the same sense of absolute rage that Kratos does. Instead, she comes across more like a disciplined, graceful martial artist, and she almost looked like she was dancing while fighting. Her fluid, complex animations and ballet-like moves were actually quite stunning. The combat system also seemed to be a little deeper than in God of War, leaning a bit more towards that of a traditional fighting game. I really liked the clean interface, and the fact that the there weren't many arcade-like elements like glowing red orbs that dropped from enemies or combo scores that appeared when hits were landed.

I was able to talk for quite a while with one of Ninja Theory's designers. He said that Heavenly Sword will be very story driven, but they're not revealing much about the plot. He did say that Nariko is cursed somehow and only has a few days to live. The game is going to be all melee fighting, and Nariko will have no magical abilities or ranged weapons. There won't be any platforming or puzzle-solving, either. It doesn't even have a jump button. It's going to be a straightforward, single-player only third-person fighter.

I was really impressed by Heavenly Sword's visuals and the feel of the combat, and Nariko seems to have a lot of potential as a character. I think there's going to have to be a well-developed and compelling story, though, not to mention plenty of combat variety, to keep the melee fighting from getting boring after a few hours. Ninja Theory says that these aspects are big priorities of theirs, but only time will tell if they're successful. They say they're on track to launch Heavenly Sword with the PS3 this fall.


Hellgate: London [PC] - Pyroman[FO]

This is the first game I checked out when I got to the show this morning, and it was well worth it. What was a rough, barely functioning gameplay demo from last year has now fleshed out into a playable game. The basic elements are still there, the armor and loot, the melee/ranged combat, the underground hubs and the randomized combat areas and enemies. This year there are quests available from NPCs and the Cabalist class as playable along with many interface improvements. Along with the familar hotkey slots across the bottom of the screen, there are loadouts you can switch between with the F1-F3 keys. On top of that, there's a "shift skill" feature that's a context sensitive auto-skill popup. Basically, when you're doing something where a skill would apply, that skill pops up on the screen and can be activated with the shift key. So if you're walking down a hallway, "Run" will pop up and you can click shift. If you're fighting with a melee weapon, your best melee special move will pop up when it's available to use which can then be activated with the shift key. It's a very handy way to manage loads of skills.

The multiplayer portion was supposed to be playable, however a server malfunction kept it from being available. I did learn some new info about the multiplayer info, namely that it will have built in voice chat that's channel and group based. Meaning you can chat with your guildmates in voice chat, or your party mates, or people you meet in one of the hubs. The underground hubs will be where you get quests, buy/sell items, and group up with people to go into the instanced "dungeons". When you group or party with someone, they will all exist in the same instanced world. So if you party with 2 other people, and each goes through another portal, you can enter either portal and meet up with your groupmates. All characters will be server side when playing over the internet, like the Diablo 2 realm, though the Direct IP and LAN options will still be available with local characters. All in all I'm definitely excited about this game, it's shaping up and is looking very nice.


Indiana Jones 2007 (Lucasarts Euphoria and Molecular Modeled Physics) [All Platforms] - Pyroman[FO]

We got an extended tech demo of the net Indiana Jones game using the Euphoria AI system. The basic premise is that instead of controlling animation the traditional way with static animation, you tell the AI how to control it's own body to accomplish it's goals. It's licensed from Natural Motion and used in movies all over the place, but Lucasarts claim to fame is that they have it running in real time on an X360. And it's a hefty claim to fame. The enemies will not only move and react to objects in real time, but they'll try to correct themselves and act like a real person. For instance, the demo had Indy punching gangsters up against a car. Each time, the gangster would slam into the car with his body reacting to the shape of the car differently every time. Then as he was falling, he would position his arms and legs in order to catch himself. Sometimes, he'd manage to right himself instead of falling over. It was very realistic in a way a video game usually isn't, what you do physically makes sense instead of running through a canned animation every time. In another demo, they had Indy standing on a rope bridge. The controller nudged the bridge one way or another, but they had no direct control over Indy at all. Each time they would nudge the bridge, or throw a rock, and Indy would try to right himself. It looked very realistic. The best part? The entire tech demo had 0 frames of traditional animation. None. It was entirely Euphoria, and it looked more realistic than any game I've ever played.

The other bit of tech they had to show was Digital Molecular Matter, which is another movie rendering tech they've managed to get running in real time. This allows materials to deform based on molecular properties in response to force. Which means, you throw a guy into a wooden door, it splinters and cracks like real wood. It'll work for all kinds of materials, wood, plastic, metal, whatever. And again it's realistic in that way games never are, in current games you stick an axe into a door and if you're lucky the door actually shatters. If you're unlucky it's indestructable. In MMP, it actually splinters like real wood, you can punch a hole in it and actually have a hole in the door where you punched. It'll crack around the hole like real wood would crack as well.

These two combined to have some amazingly interactive and fun looking environments. If they just gave me these two technologies, a pair of fists, someplace with alot of stuff to break and a bunch of bad guys to beat up, I'd buy it in a heartbeat. It really does fundamentally change how a game world can react to you. I can't wait till everybody is using it. Right now, Lucasarts is using it in all internally developed games, and thinking of letting 3rd parties use it.


Indiana Jones 2007 [360, PS3] - Fly

Pyro covered the technical aspects of the Euphoria "Biomechanical AI" system in detail, so I won't say much more except that the demonstrations we saw were very impressive. There's good reason to believe that Indiana Jones 2007 (which I assume is a working, rather than final title) might be an absolute breakthrough in AI technology.

What we saw was a rough real-time 360 demo that included a San Francisco cable car chase scene, with Indy atop one of the trolleys, and a Chinatown brawl that had Indy throwing enemies into exploding packages of fireworks and otherwise busting up the environment. Other than that, we didn't learn much about the title except that it won't be released until Summer 2007, and so far they've only announced PS3 and 360 versions. The demo was pretty rough around the edges, but LucasArts still has plenty of time to iron out the wrinkles.

It's worth mentioning that the IJ '07 team now shares a building with Industrial Light and Magic, and they've reportedly got access to all sort of ILM tech, including ultra high-end motion capture, particle effects, and animation systems, all of which will be put to use in the new title. Other than the Euphoria system, none of this new tech was visible in the demo scenes we watched, but it's something that bodes well for the finished product.

John Woo's Stranglehold [PS3, 360, PC] - Fly

Stranglehold is a third-person shooter starring Chinese action superstar Chow Yun-Fat, reprising his role as Inspector Tequila in a sequel to John Woo's film Hard Boiled. Much of the Stranglehold presentation consisted of clips of John Woo films and claims that Stranglehold is going to offer the same sort of action, but Midway did actually show a ten-minute realtime demo that depicted a gunfight inside a two-story restaurant.

At first glance, the game looks just like a Max Payne title, complete with bloody two-fisted shooting and bullet-time (they're calling it "Tequila Time" here) leaps and rolls. The shooting looks a bit more precise, though, as there's a zoomed-in over the shoulder view. And Inspector Tequila (try typing that name with a straight face) actually has a lot of platforming-type abilities. If you run him towards a table, he'll automatically slide across the top to the other side, knocking off whatever's on top. He'll also automatically bust through doors, run across stair railings, spring off walls, etc., and you can string together these actions in interesting ways.

There's a kill meter at the bottom of the screen that, when full, can be used to activate especially cinematic moves. The one they showed in the demo, the "Tequila Bomb," had Tequila dropping down and whirling around, firing with outstretched arms, Meanshile, the camera spun in the opposite direction and a flock of doves appeared out of nowhere, fluttering upwards as Tequila's surrounding enemies were quickly and efficiently dispatched in slow-motion. In other words, classic John Woo.

Midway made a big deal about the game's destructible environments, and the area they showed did feature plenty that could be shot up, knocked over, or otherwise strewn all over the place. The enemies seemed pretty dull, typically just running at the main character with a death wish, or standing in place and shooting. Visually, the game looked pretty good, and they've done an especially good job modeling and animating Chow-Yun Fat.

Although Stranglehold was pretty to look at, it struck me as the type of thing that, like so many John Woo-influenced action films, would probably get dull very quickly without a decent storyline. It'd be extremely easy for Midway to simply cash in on the license, so it remains to be seen how much creativity and effort they really put into the title, especially in terms of variety and plot. Midway says they'll have driveable vehicles and multiplayer options in the finished product. It's due out in Winter 2006 for the PC, PS3, and 360.

Lego Star Wars II - The Classic Trilogy [All Platforms] - Pyroman[FO]

I took a quick look at this back at the Lucasarts booth, the game seems to retain all the charm from the original. Each character has a special attack, Chewie can rip off Lego arms, Leia slaps, and Han does a dive then fires his blaster. One new thing in this one is the vehicles, which is no longer seperate from the main game. You can jump in a vehicle, run around a level, then jump out again and continue fighting. In the demo they showed a landspeeder and an AT-ST (which they build from the lego pieces lying around). Also the secret unlockable vehicles are now drivable around all the levels, which gives much more incentive to grab them. Coop is supported on all platforms, as well as a 4 player battle mode on the Nintendo DS. You can create custom characters out of lego parts, and the game names them accordingly. They gave of a quick demo of Boba Jedi and Slavegirl Chewie, and it's suitably hilarious. It looks like if you liked the first game this one will be right up your alley. I can't wait for it to be released in September.

Lord of the Rings Online [PC] - Elysium

I went to this showing not really knowing what to expect or whether to be excited. Lord of the Rings seems like the kind of franchise you could just slap a boring MMO on top of and wait to rake in the dollars (see: Star Wars). With a troubled and troubling history, this has become one of those games that I just never expected to see the sparkling shelves of retail.

And yet ... Turbine's putting their heart and soul into this game. Most striking was the absolute faithfulness to recreating the environments and locations described by Tolkein. Tom Bombadil's house, for example, looks pretty much exactly as it's described in the book, as is its surroundings, and it is in this faithfulness to the source material that LOTR Online may find success.

There is a lot of attention to creating complete and deep stories that run in parallel to the events of Lord of the Rings. The events of LOTR Online take place after Frodo and Sam have left The Shire but before the Fellowship is formed, which gives the player opportunities to meet some rather recognizable characters. But, the framework of the game and the individual quests develop around the secondary and tertiary characters, so that people who may have only a sentence's mention in Tolkein's work become fleshed.

There is also attention being paid to creating complex and engaging quests. Certainly every MMO developer makes this promise, but it's still always nice to have that particular smoke blown into my more feculent places. Here's hoping, guys. Though, what I was shown was quests with multiple and parallel goals, with numerous scripted events, and lots of NPC interaction and even assistance. There is attention being paid to telling the story through and at the same time as the action.

{Post E3 edit:} It occurs to me the further I get from this demo that I saw very little actual gameplay. There was an interface that would not give a veteran MMO player need for a second glance, and as usual a lot of the combat involved pressing a series of buttons and watching the effects on screen. Nothing particularly notable was pointed out to me regarding advancing the traditional combat methods of the genre. I will be following up with Turbine in the months to come, so if developments come to light, I will be among the first to tell you.{end edit}

Lord of the Rings seems like a tremendously difficult proposition to pull off, but there's reason here from what I've seen to let the glimmer of hope radiate. The Turbine engine was attractive. The source material is creating the core of the story and acts as the definition of the world. I'll be keeping an eye out as development progresses.


Madden 2007 [360, PS3, Wii] - Certis

It's always a game of spot the differences when it comes to seeing Madden at the show every year. This year the field surface looks nice and there are more animations in place which give tackles a bit more variety. They say all the features that were cut in the original 360 version will be back in place, including the training modes. The run game has those new moves and abilities as promised, but he underlying mechanics are still fundamentally the same Madden. It's like the first 3D Madden was a rubber ball and every new version is a fresh strip of duct tape over top of it. Surface changes, but the core remains the same.

I did like that they didn't force the up-close face shots for every snap and pulled the presentation back a bit. I also had a stunning last second come-back victory against Elysium and beat him 7 - 6 as the final second ticked by. The streak continues.

Madden 2007 [All] - Elysium

I also had a stunning last second come-back against Elysium and beat him 7 - 6 as the final second ticked by. The streak continues.

Why is it every year I fall for Certis' badgering me into poor clock management when I have a victory locked? There's no good reason to hike the ball on 4th down with 15 seconds left in the game when you have a six point lead, even if the guy calls you female genitalia personified. Just win the damn game. But no! Not me. I hike it, turn it over on downs, and give up a sixty-five yard touchdown pass.

He is the Lucy to my Charlie Brown.

On the game itself ... it's Madden. If you didn't like it before, you're not going to suddenly start now.

Mario Galaxies [Wii] - Certis

Another game I couldn't hope to go hands on with and still make my appointments. I did talk to someone as he played the game and the controls looked very natural. The analog control on the nunchuck handled your movement while the remote pointed a small star on the screen that moved independently of Mario. Controlling the plumber, you jump from small planet to planet, each representing a kind of puzzle you need to solve before you can jump to the next one. Not much more impressive graphically than Mario Sunshine but it had the right look, if nothing else. I can't help but feel this was a small aspect of a much larger game, my main concern seeing the videos was control but it looked very natural and easy to take to.

Mass Effect [360] - Pyroman[FO]

I have to say that while I enjoyed KOTOR, I am not a Bioware fan. They're generally good as far as RPGs go, but I could never stand the combat in their games. And since combat is about half of any given RPG, I have to throw my hands up in the air in frustration. Mass Effect though, looks like an entirely different ballgame. It's a Bioware RPG, with real-time FPS combat! And that combat looks wonderful. The smattering of standard FPS weapons was there, sniper rifle, assault rifle, pistol, ect. But in the Mass Effect case, all of the weapons, armor and items in the game are moddable, which increases the weapon variety to extrodinary proportions.

Which is one of the hallmarks of Mass Effect, huge proportions. You play as one of the first humans to arrive on the intergalactic scene, and our actions will largely determine how the rest of the galaxy looks at the human race as a whole. Also, the story has you traveling across the huge galaxy trying to save literally billions. There are hundreds of worlds in the game, and you can travel to any of them at any time and plop down your rover to explore, fight, whatever (you can customize the rover too). It's not just a pre-defined hallway or two that you can explore either, the entire planet is laid wide open for you to explore.

Once you find something interesting, there's plenty to do as well. Besides the already mentioned combat, the game features a very interesting conversation system. When talking to characters, their expressions, voice and body language will all change based on how they feel about your behavior in the conversation. You can converse to them using a wheel that lists your possible responses. Each response on the wheel represents a general emotion (i.e. hostile response, friendly response, ect.), and these eight locations on the wheel stay consistent. Meaning the hostile response will always be in the lower right, the friendly in the upper left. Furthermore, you can dynamically talk to people with no restriction on timing. You can choose a response and interrupt people, which may annoy them and possibly insult them. No more waiting for people to finish talking before responding. The demonstration of the dialogue system leaves the impression of a very fluid conversation.

Your choices aren't a moral black and white either, they have many more shades of grey. In fact, even when your choices are the "evil" choice, there's a justification or reason to do it that way. Bioware promises an end to the KOTOR style conversations where good always hugged puppies and evil always killed everyone. Bioware also promised lots of post-release support and content through XBox Live, though no word on whether or not it'll be for pay (here's a hint, it's going to be).

I am definitely all about this RPG, with it's dynamic conversations, moral grey areas and real time FPS combat, it takes all the stale boring hangups of the genre and throws them away. About time.


Mercenaries 2 [PS3] – Certis

Did you like Mercenaries? You're going to love this. The land mass is even larger than the first game and completely free of load times. Graphically it looks very sharp, even in this early form. One big feature they're pushing is fire, which means everything that looks like it should be flammable in the game can catch fire. They even gave us a Zippo lighter as we left the presentation, in case we didn't get the point.

One of the most exciting features is the ability for a second player to jump into the game at any time and play coop. At the moment it's only split-screen, with the usual "we haven't announced anything at this time" answer when online coop and a 360 version of the game was asked about. Some fun things to do now are firing a grappling hook up at an enemy chopper and zip-lining to the top to fight your way into the cockpit. In coop, one player can fly while the other just grapples onto the plane for fast and easy transport.

Excellent graphics, more explosions, more missions and more fun. This is shaping up to be an excellent next step in the series.


Mercenaries 2 [PS3] - Elysium

Good news Mercs fans (I'm looking at you, Fletcher), the sequel as shown to us behind closed doors with Pandemic looks to be coming together nicely. It should go without saying that what we saw was early, and while the visuals were sharp and the framerate solid, there were a number of graphical issues in this early look, but we were being demoed directly from a PS3 dev kit in realtime, and judging by the graphical hiccups I'm inclined to believe them when they say they're relatively new to the machine and its idiosyncrasies.

The story revolves around Oil and Venezuela and taking jobs for the highest bidder, but, honestly, the game is about blowing up as many things as possible, and with Havoc 3.0 and the poly-pushing power of the next-gen system, Mercs 2 is seeking to deliver. Let me give you the highlight, an oil rig the size of a city block is destroyed in real-time, unscripted, Havoc glory. Watching from the co-op perspective of one player hovering above in a copter and another on the lurching and crumbling deck as pipes and towers fell, crashed, collided, and rolled within the engine was the kind of destruction ratched up by an order of magnitude that you should expect.

Did you catch that? I just tossed co-op in that last paragraph like it was no big deal. Which, or course, it is. Not only co-op, but co-op on the fly. As you're sitting there playing your single player destructionfest, your buddy, or brother, or mom, or whatever, can just jump in at any point and assist. No word on multiplayer co-op, but there was definitely a wink and a nod.

As always, creative decisions about how to achieve your goals in the most inventive and destructive methods possible is key. Flammability of objects plays a key and intriguing part of the process. In one scene we were shown, your character shoots some holes in an oil tanker, and then lights the spilled oil on fire as it flows past, leading to explosions both grand and lethal. Burning ensues.

Water is no longer a barrier, and boats of varying speeds and destructive variety are included. There is also a grappling gun that allows you to hook on to aircraft that pass overhead, and hijack them in midair.

The formula is the same, but the level of destructive feedback is what Pandemic seems focussed on. The PS3 in realtime is graphically advanced, but as with several PS3 titles I've seen this year it is far from the level of detail and complexity that was hinted at not so long ago.

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption [Wii] - Fly

Corruption looks and plays a lot like the previous Prime titles. The standard Metroid formula was definitely in effect here, as Samus explored, scanned, rolled, leapt, and fought her way through an industrial area to activate some sort of power system.

The Wii controller felt awkward for about a minute, but I quickly got the hang of it. As expected, the left nunchuck controller's stick controls movement, and the remote controls aiming and looking. The targeting reticule doesn't stay planted in the middle of the screen, though. Instead, it floats around, but if you keep it in a particular location for a second or two, the screen will re-center on it. If you move it clear to the edge of the screen, the camera will track it accordingly. The remote look/aim was extremely sensitive and responsive, but it still didn't offer quite the same precision as a mouse. It was close, though. I only had difficulty when I moved it too quickly and didn't recenter my view quick enough. With practice, I learned it was best to keep my movements gentle and precise. Aiming was assisted by a simple lock-on feature similar to the one in the previous titles.

At one point, I had to grab onto a lever and use the nunchuck controller to pull it out, twist it, and push it back in to open a door. On another occasion I jerked the nunchuck forward in a tossing motion to activate Samus's grappling coil to grab onto another door--and then I pulled the control stick back and Samus ripped it from its hinges. Later, I used the same mechanic to grab onto a space pirate's shield and tear it from its grasp to I could take him out. Each of these instances, all accomplished with the nunchuck's motion sensors, was fun and intuitive, and they offered a pretty convincing demonstration of the potential the controller offers for new control mechanics.

The Corruption demo didn't give much by way of plot information, but it did hint that Samus will be enlisting the aid of other, friendly bounty hunters to accomplish her goals. It ended with an extended boss fight with one of the most difficult bosses from the first Prime games, Ridley, which played out as Samus and Ridley fell together through a very long tunnel toward what looked like the molten core of the planet.

It wasn't much of a step forward, graphically, but for the most part everything about Corruption looked and played great. Given the reputation of the Metroid franchise, with the added polish that the next few months will bring it'll probably be another solid addition to the series.

Motorstorm [PS3] - Spunior

I did line up at Sony's booth to take a look at some of the next-gen offerings they had. There was a little sign, stating that it probably would take about 30 minutes of waiting time before I could enter. I surely regret not having taken a photo of that one since "Wishful Thinking" would have been the perfect caption for this picture. It took actually 4-5 minutes to get in - that's how much demand there was. Among a bunch of screens showing trailers, there also were some Motorstorm demo stations.

As already mentioned in the GDC report, Motorstorm somehow resembles but doesn't quite look like last year's CGI fantasia. Two features were pointed out way back: cars will leave actual trails in the mud, which even will dry out after a while. Also, mud particles will actually stick to objects. And, well, you guessed it, dry out after a while. I'm tempted to presume that at least six of the processor cores are busy calculating just that. Does all that have a notable impact on how the game plays? Not as far as I played the demo. It feels like a nice gimmick. It seems like Motorstorm is going to be an enjoyable racing experience, but it's not overly daring to say that it's not going to be the killer application Sony needs to sell their expensive system.

Neverwinter Nights 2 [PC] - Pyroman[FO]

This is the Obsidian developed sequel to the D&D sandbox game Neverwinter Nights, and it looks to be following in the original's footsteps in almost every way. The toolset looks very powerful, the NWN scripting language is back, the level editor looks very easy to use and extensible, and it even has the ability to upgrade NWN scripts to NWN2. The level editor supports plugins, and there's already a host of them Obsidian has added to the editor. The graphics are passable, though the human faces and characters look a little odd. Obsidian is promising to focus on the single player story this time to beef it up compared to the original NWN, which given their track record as long as they don't get it rushed out the door it seems likely. The main strength of the game will be the after-release support in the form of community mods, which seems like it'll be a powerhouse in that area given the popularity of NWN1 modding and the excellent tools they already have for NWN2.

NHL 2K7 [360] – Certis

After the let-down of 2K6 hockey on the 360 being a rough port of the Xbox version, it was nice to see a real evolution of the series on the show floor. The control scheme is almost identical but how your players move on the ice has been overhauled in this new version. In 2K6 you can almost turn on a dime, not so any more. The players have a real sense of weight and momentum, it actually took me about five minutes to get used to planning my turns ahead of time and modifying how I approached hits and placing myself to take a shot. You can't stop on a dime and shoot all the time and things like skating sideways work closer to what you'd see in a real game of hockey.

Skating mechanics aside, some presentation cinematics have been added and little touches like the face offs being full screen without any additional interface is nice. It plays different than 2K6 and I like it quite a bit better. Can't wait for it to come out!

Nintendo Wii - Certis

The first thing I did when the doors were opened was jump into line to see the Wii in action. Even with just media people allowed to enter the show floor, the line stretched well past two hours long. It only took me 30 minutes before I got into the exhibit area. The console itself is small, the lack of "next gen" features makes for a very clean system with very few inputs in the back. I'll post a shot of that later.

The controller feels good, I have average sized hands so it seems to find that size vs. comfort balance for most people. The glossy finish is easy to grip and doesn't feel as light and cheap as you might expect. You'll notice shots of a "normal" controller and a light gun flotting around the net, the whole line-up has an almost retro look to it while remaining very functional. Purely as a system that will be sitting in my living room this fall, the Wii passes muster. Very slick and non-intrusive.

Graphically, you're not going to be incredibly impressed with the games that are meant to look realistic, rather than simple and cartoon-like. I would place it better than the original Xbox, but not by leaps and bounds. This might seem like a deal breaker, but watching someone play vs. actually playing the game is night and day.


Nintendo Wii - Fly

As Certis noted, the Nintendo booth was packed during media-only hours, and it was in a state of absolute pandemonium once it was opened to the general public. As such, it was far easier to watch others play Wii titles than it was to find actual hands-on time with the games myself. I was determined to see for myself how the controller functioned with a first-person title, so I spend nearly all of my time at the booth in line for a 15-minute demo with Metroid Prime 3: Corruption.

I can say, with few reservations, that the controller, even with the nunchuck attachment, is relatively easy and intuitive to use. I didn't see a bunch of people fishing around awkwardly, bewildered and helpless. Most players seemed to pick it up and within a few minutes adapt comfortably to the particular game they were playing.

The console itself, and the controller configurations, are very small and very slick. The entire Wii design concept has definitely got an ipod cool factor going for it--it's all clean lines and simple shapes. I did get a peek at its power supply, and it looks to be of acceptable size--it's probably 1/4 the size of the 360's behemoth brick. The controllers felt solid and well-crafted, but they were surprisingly light, possibly because they were externally powered for the show and didn't contain batteries. The Nintendo rep I spoke to couldn't tell me anything about battery options or power life except to say that they expect the Wii controllers to be comparable to other wireless controllers on the market in this area.

From my experience with Metroid Prime 3, and from watching other games at the show, I think I can say that the level of aiming precision the Wii offers is similar, and probably better, than what most players can manage from standard analog console controllers. I did see a slight jumpiness to the on-screen reticule in a few titles, but it wasn't clear whether it was the result of the player or the particular controller or game. I didn't experience the effect with Metroid, so I'm inclined to think it won't be a persistent problem.

I didn't see any Wii titles on the floor that were graphically impressive, from a technical standpoint. The Metroid and Zelda titles were beautiful, of course, but they didn't exhibit any special, next-gen graphical flair. The sports titles were all pretty mundane, even bland. Knowing what the Gamecube is capable of, I'm sure we'll see more impressive things from the Wii as time goes on, but at present, there doesn't seem to be much that rises above the graphical quality of what you'd get from a high-end original Xbox game.

Still, it's not about seeing, it's about playing, and so far the controller really seems to deliver the goods. Provided that it releases in its expected $200-$250 range, I think the Wii is going to be a very desirable piece of hardware.

Nintendo Wii Golf - Certis

Golf was interesting, I actually watched Gabe and Tycho from Penny Arcade try it first before I had my own turn. It really struck me that although the simple motion of swinging a golf club is required to take your shot, most people settled their feet, got in the stance and played as if they were on a course. That is to say, it felt natural to approach it like you would on a real golf course and it was more fun too. The quality and measure of your swing had an impact on your virtual success, which was apparent after watching Gabe totally botch half his shots. Again, this was tech demo as much as it was game but I like this approach way more than pressing an analog stick or moving a mouse up and down.

Nintendo Wii Ping Pong - Certis

All of the sport games I'm about to mention are more tech demos rather than fully functional games. I'm sure they will all see release in some form but some of them are very simple. First up was Ping Pong, which was just two floating paddles, a table and a couple hands. The girl ahead of me had some trouble with it not tracking her movements but it turns out standing two feet away from the TV is too close.

Standing about six feet away, I was able to move the paddle around and go back and forth with the A.I pretty easily. Forehand, backhand, straight shots all felt natural and what I saw on the screen relative to what I was trying to do was accurate. You couldn't really spin the ball or do any trick shots, but as a simple demo it worked. I really liked that the controller vibrated a bit when I hit the ball, it gave the whole process a more tactile feel, like there was some weight behind my shots.

Ninety-Nine Nights [Xbox 360] - Fly

I had about 20 minutes on the show floor with Ninety-Nine Nights. The first five had me convinced that it was an almost worthless hack-and slash, but once I got past the bland tutorial level and onto an actual battlefield, I saw some things I really liked. N3 is typical Japanese swordfighting fare, all combos and giant swords and dramatic haircuts and mobs of dumb enemies, but the 360's processing might actually allows some spectacular things to happen on screen. The level I played had human and troll armies clashing head-on in huge numbers, with probably close to a hundred NPCs on screen at once, all independently animated and fighting somewhat believably. And for every group of enemies that fell, more came streaming onscreen. Meanwhile, the main character could slice through dozens of enemies at a time while zipping all over the battlefield and vaulting off other NPC's heads. The combos were varied, simple to learn and execute, and impressive. Even more impressive were some special combat moves that were enabled when the player filled a meter by stringing together regular attacks. Some of the effects were really quite spectacular.

It looks like the player has the ability to choose what types of units (archers, swordsmen, etc.) flank the main character's position at the beginning of a battle, and even though they generally follow the main character's lead, it looks like you can also control whether they attack or hold ground to a limited degree. In the intro level I played, the battlefield had several objectives, like taking out certain groups of enemies and characters, that were represented on a small onscreen map. I'm not sure how well these elements will be integrated into the rest of the game, but if they're handled well, they could go a fair way towards keeping the combat interesting long-term. I can't speak at all to the game's story or premise, except to say the few cutscenes I saw were lovely but tainted by terrible dialogue. I think it's got some potential, and should go over well as an impressive button-mashing melee combat title, at very least.


Ninety-Nine Nights [Xbox 360] - Certis

I can't imagine anything more dull than mashing my buttons for 10+ hours, wake me up when a game comes along that can provide more than dumb enemies who stand around and wait to get whacked.

NVIDIA and Havok Physics [PC] - Pyroman[FO]

NVIDIA's plans to accelerate Havok physics on their GPU has been announced before E3, but I got to sit down with a demonstration of the tech and ask some questions. The tech demo itself consisted of a couple of things, brick walls made of actual bricks that deformed properly when struck, 30k boulders falling from the sky and rolling with fully modeled physics, a man who was surrouned by a swirling vortex of soda bottles, and a very nice looking dinosaur skeleton that could be deformed by throwing various things at it. It was all nice looking and fully modeled physically, and ran at a pretty nice framerate. The basic approach is to take the specialized processor on the video card and use it to calculate physics as well, since some of the basic calculations are similar. This also allows all the graphics and physics modeling to be done on the card, so no transferring positional data over the PCI-X bus. You can also use shader programs to move objects physically, think of spell effects in games and replace each sparkly bit with a physical object. Another good example is the objects in the Matrix bending and swirling around Neo. Game Devs can do things like that now easily and accelerated on NVIDIA GPUs.

Several things about the situation aren't ideal however, and NVIDIA's and Havok's reponses weren't exactly encouraging. I asked several questions about interoperability and APIs. For instance, can other physics middleware use this acceleration? Can game developers roll their own physics and use this acceleration? Will there be a standard API? Any chance of this API supporting the PhysX by Aegis? The answer was always the same "Why would anyone want to use anything but Havok and NVIDIA?" Which means this support may end up being less than universal, and therefore only in a handful of games. Since game developers have to patch their game to support this, it may not be as widespread as it could be otherwise. We could also end up in a physics API war. Hopefully someone will come in and bring some sense to the situation by standardizing everything.

Okami [PS2] - Fly

One of the most intriguing games this year is for the PS2, by Clover studios, the developers of the Viewtiful Joe franchise. It's Okami, the story of a sun god who takes the form of a wolf, tasked with restoring color to a world enshrouded in darkness. In order to do so, the wolf, Ameratsu, most learn the calligraphic techniques of the "celestial brush."

Okami's art style evokes classical Asian painting and calligraphy, and it's one of the most uniquely beautiful games I've seen. It's displayed as a painting in progress, and uses an unusual game mechanic to temporarily transform the screen into a canvas, where the player can take control of a brush and draw symbols to solve puzzles, alter the environment, and attack enemies. It's a wonderfully done, visually stunning effect that makes for some very interesting gameplay.

Okami seems to play much like a recent Zelda title, like Wind Waker or Ocarina of Time, and it has the player encountering all sorts of quirky characters and unusual enemies. This year's E3 demo was a revamped version of what they showed last year, complete with better localization and a lot more polish to the on-screen interface. It also added an impressive boss fight, and some new abilities for Ameratsu. Okami was released in Japan last April, and should release everywhere else early this fall. I can't wait.


Paraworld [PC] - Elysium

One of the quieter, yet more promising titles of E3. There's a lot going on here to refine the RTS experience, and improve many of my issues with the genre from micro-management to army control. Not to mention a setting which is immediately compelling. An attractive and detailed engine brings the dinosaurs and armies of Paraworld to life, and while I have a number of thoughts about the game, let me pop this image in your cranium: you send an armored and foul-tempered T-Rex into your enemy's camp, your troops riding and directing its murderous rage as it crushes, whips, and eats the fleeing masses. If you're not at least a little intrigued then you're dead and should probably make certain your will is up to date.

While the dinosaurs are suitably cool - an understatement - the best thing offered here is the Army Controller, a bar that runs along the side of the screen where you can monitor the status of and manipulate every unit under your control quickly and easily. You can promote units, give them commands, group them, see where they are in battle, check their stats, and even give them support commands on one another all from the Army Controller, and all without ever actually having to see them on the screen.

For RTS fans the ability to manage an army quickly and have constant information about their status available as you try to manage the base-building, resource management, or scouting part of the game is an outstanding and long overdue feature. Additionally, with the focus on better, more streamlined control, Paraworld gives you immediate access to all of your heroes' special abilities without having to track them down and click on them in the middle of a pitched battle.

There are 3 playable tribes in the game: Norsemen, Dustriders, and Dragonclan. Each has their own unique style both visually and strategically. In the model of a game like Starcraft, Paraworld seeks to make the strategies you employ with your race of choice unique instead of just introducing the same race over and over with different skins and name, for example while one race relies on the ability to be Nomadic, another relies on strong and permanent defense. How you establish, defend, and attack will alter very much between the tribes. And, of course, one of them relies heavily on dinosaurs. Lots and lots of dinosaurs.

There's a lot I could and want to say about Paraworld, like, for example, how the fog of war is actually a fog that lets you see the map outline if not what's lurking there instead of black wasteland that only reminds you your playing a videogame. A title you might not hear about, or miss otherwise in the noise, Paraworld is shaping up to be a unique and streamlined take on the RTS genre.


PlayNC Overview: Dungeon Runners, ExSteel, and Soccer Fury [PC] - Fly

Through their PlayNC website, NCSoft plans to offer a number of free to play, free to download online multiplayer titles. They haven't worked out the revenue model for the U.S. releases of their games yet, but it looks like some games will be ad-supported and others will charge small fees for additional or advanced content. They're claiming, at this point, that all of their PlayNC titles will all offer full-featured gameplay at some level without any cost commitment from the player. Probably the most impressive aspect of the PlayNC titles I saw was their level of polish. For free titles, they look very good.

Dungeon Runners aims to offer a World of Warcraft-style experience, geared toward the casual or occasional user. There's no death penalty, health and magic regenerate very quickly, and you can fast travel from location to location. You're not bound to a particular server, so you can hook up with friends at any time or location. There are common hub-level areas, but it looks like the game will be very instance-heavy. One of the most interesting aspects of the game is that each instance will be procedurally generated, in terms of terrain and and NPC placement, so it'll be different every time. In addition, the instances will always scale to player level and party size. Combat is very fluid and action-heavy, with a focus on larger numbers of enemies. Graphically, Dungeon Runners looked very good for a free title, and although it was a bit generic in style, the overall tone was very vibrant and colorful.

ExSteel is a multiplayer mech battle game that allows the player to customize every aspect of their mechs. These are gun and sword-wielding, humanoid, Gundam-type mechs, rather than the Mechwarrior or Chromehounds variety. From what I could tell, as your mech gains experience and wins battles, you'll be able to customize it more heavily and learn new combo moves. I didn't get a feel for how players will be ranked or combat will be balanced, and as far as I can tell it looks like a fairly basic jump-in-and-play twitch multiplayer title. Still, the fighting and shooting seems pretty solid and satisfying.

NCSoft showed a realtime video, but no actual gameplay, of Soccer Fury, a street-style soccer title that has its players in smaller courts, attempting to take the ball from one another using martial arts, street-fighting, and other combat moves. It plays more like a fighting game than a sports title, with players often facing off one-on-one and using various combos and special moves to gain control of the ball and score. NCSoft says they're integrating a full weather system that will actually affect gameplay, but they didn't have anything to show in that area. The characters have a slight anime-themed appearance, and avatars will be highly customizable in terms of clothing, hairstyle, accessories, etc. Graphically, it looked fairly impressive. It's due for a 2007 release, so there's a lot that's still in the conceptual stage, but it still looked pretty interesting.

Prey (Multiplayer) [360, PC] - Elysium

I might have been tempted to simply say that what I saw was just another FPS Deathmatch, but when I stood on the ceiling and killed a confused player who dashed from one end of the room below to the other trying to figure out what was shooting him, mine was an evil laugh.

No single player, but a good look at how the portal system and changing gravity work. I could see this being a multiplayer favorite.


Red Steel [Wii] - Certis

Ubisoft's premier Wii title was in full force and probably the most complete looking game in the Wii area. I never got hands-on with it but I did watch a few people play to get some idea of how intuitive it was. It's a light gun game by and large with the ability to move around free form, more interactivity and a sword mini-game. It was mainly the sword fights I was interested in and it looks like a good deal of fun. Parrying attacks and swinging the controller to do different slash attacks. People were getting the hang of it quickly and there was a fair bit of nuance to be found. Keep an eye out for this one as it evolves, just don't expect a graphical power-house.


Red Steel [Wii] - Fly

I saw about a half hour of Ubisoft's debut Wii title while standing in line. From what I could tell, if you took away the Wii controller, it would be a standard first-person shooter in most respects. It seemed totally linear and was your typical FPS shooting gallery. The level I saw had the player working his way through mostly interior areas, including a pachinko arcade and what looked like an office building, and taking on handfuls of gun-toting Yakuza bad guys. Occasionally, the player would be faced with a katana-wielding enemy, and some Wii-enabled swordplay would ensue.

One particular boss-type blade fight really stood out, as the enemy animations were really fluid, and the player's actions in slashing and blocking seemed to connect precisely and believably. It looked like a lot of fun. There were also a few cool controller functions: the player could open swinging doors by pushing the nunchuck controller forward, and open doors with knobs by rotating or wiggling the controller. At this point, it's too early to tell whether its swordplay and other unique attributes will tip the scales and elevate it beyond standard shooter fare, but I think it's got a decent shot.

Red Steel [Wii] - Spunior

The sword fighting part was interesting and maybe Ubisoft should have focussed on them since I found the rest of the game to be rather underwhelming. The control approach saves it from mediocrity, but based on the brief demo it's hard to judge whether this is enough to provide some entertainment beyond the first minutes you get to spend with the game. Metroid Prime 3 was a better example of how FPS can be done on the Wii. Also, despite the Wii having twice or thrice the horse powers of its predecessor, Red Steel doesn't really seem to take advantage of it at this point and didn't look better than Resident Evil 4.

Resistance: Fall of Man [PS3] - Fly

Resistance looks to be on track as the PS3's premier (read: only) launch shooter, and it looks like it'll be a decent, albeit extremely conventional FPS. They've nailed the basics. The enemy and friendly AI is good, the weapons seem well-balanced and look and feel powerful, the controls are intuitive, and overall the underlying mechanics all come together nicely. The post-apocalyptic/World War II-type setting offers nothing particularly unique, but it does provide a nice excuse for shooting down droves of creepy monsters in colorless, burnt-over cityscapes and underground corridors. Graphically, Resistance looks pretty good, but for a next-gen title, it's nothing spectacular.

In the two levels I played, I didn't see anything remotely terrifying, but one of the lead artists I spoke to said they're looking to make a game withy a heavy horror emphasis. He couldn't divulge anything on the final game's length, but he did tell me that it's linear, very story driven, will feature multiple vehicle sequences, and will have at very least standard FPS multiplayer options.


Saints Row [360] - Certis

I didn't exactly play Saints Row, I just watched someone else on the controller in case I got infected with gansta'itis. It looks like a serviceable GTA clone, not bad but I didn't see anything to really get me excited.

Splinter Cell: Double Agent [360 Shown] – Certis

There wasn't much to the playable demo on the floor, Sam Fisher is in the artic and needs to get by a couple guards. He can actually swim under the ice, knock on it to lure an enemy above him and them break through, pull him under and introduce him to Mr.Shanky. That's about all the demo had to offer, aside from a parachuting mini-game and the ability to swim. Very minimal presentation, hard to even say how the graphics compare to the earlier versions.

Spore [PC] - Elysium

I enjoyed a brief demo from the man himself, Will Wright. I won't go into much detail here, as the numerous videos of Wright demoing Spore are a pretty accurate representation of what I saw.

Wright showed two of the six phases of the game, the Creature level and Space level - other levels include Tribal, Civ, City. The game itself remains very much a sandbox of exploration and play, though the way you approach the toy changes as you and your species evolve. As a creature you are doing creature things, protecting territory, eating, procreating, and exploring how to survive in and exploit your world. How you approach those goals is defined by the choices you make in developing your creature, and I suspect the difference between playing, say, an herbivore and a carnivore would be dramatic.

The Character Creation and Development tools are rich and comprehensive. I could see spending hours within that tool testing out new ideas.

As your species evolves you begin taking deeper and deeper control over the species itself, and the game morphs into something more like an RTS, and then even a Civilization style game. Finally, as a space faring race you can declare and fight interstellar wars, become Gods to lesser races, terraform, repopulate barren worlds, trade technologies and resources, abduct other species to add their distinctiveness to your own, or simply explore. Each option as demonstrated seemed not just viable but fun.

The game is free-form to a degree that seems genuinely intimidating, and yet like many of Wright's games, he seems to have put in all the tools for gamers to find ways to be unique and inventive while having fun.


Star Trek: Legacy [360, PC] - Elysium

The concept is cool if you're a Star Trek fan, as it implements and blends all the Trek timelines into a single game. From the Archer era Enterprise up through the Defiant, Voyager, and whatever version of the NG Enterprise hasn't been blown up or crashed into a planet yet, there are 60 different ships for you to helm in real time battle.

The demo was shown to us on the Xbox 360, and the handling of the ships was extraordinarily simplified. There is only a minimal attention to actual bridge command, and the ships themselves are flown as you might expect with a console controller, so detailed simulator this is not. That may be good or bad depending on your gameplay preference.

We were shown a fairly intriguing recreation of the battle at the end of Wrath of Khan where the Enterprise is defenseless and the Reliant is pressing the attack. Aside from the basic cool factor of recreating a historical battle, the mechanics were significantly simplified, and there wasn't much of the Z-axis strategies or nebula play that were so iconic in the movie. There are some fun ideas at work here, but the action is skewed toward the action of the battle at the expense of complex ship management.

Again, whether that's a negative has more to do with what you expect from a Star Trek game than anything else. I wouldn't mind plowing the Defiant through some Romulan warbirds as long as the action remains fun, and you can adjust engine, shield, and weapon levels in a very simple manner adding a layer of detail to the action. The game looked fun, but how long you'll want to spend circling a Borg cube with the Enterprise as you cycle through firing arcs remain to be seen.

You can command up to 4 ships at once and develop a persistent and customizable fleet through the single player campaign. The AI seems to do a reasonable job of handling things while you're away on your own bridge, but the actual commands you can give to your fleet looked very simplistic. Warp here. Kill that. Shoot stuff. Don't die.

Bethesda and Mad Doc have a rare opportunity to blend across all the eras of Star Trek, and I hope they find an engaging game to melt it all together. Simplicity aside, I find I'd like to go back and play the Wrath of Khan level again if only so I can scream KHAAAAAN! at the TV.


Star Wars Empire at War: Forces of Corruption [PC] - Elysium

If the people at Petroglyph read my largely negative review of Empire at War, they were gracious enough not to punch me in the face when I asked them about the expansion. But, my diappointment in Empires at War was born not only from the fact that it was a purely mediocre game, but also at how awesome it could have been. Is the expansion the part that puts the fun in? Hell, I don't know. I wouldn't hold my breath, certainly, but they're putting a lot of work into a fully equipped and featured expansion. They've got some good ideas, and some nice tweaks to the gameplay, but to be perfectly honest I'm not certain they've addressed the fundamental issues many people had.

Let me tell you what they're doing, and you be the judge. They are adding a whole new faction (3 factions in your RTS seems to be the theme of this year's E3 ... that and aircraft carriers) called the Underworld. It is a criminal and nefarious organization led by Tyber Zann, a sort of crimeworld boss who acts as the new faction's Vader or Obi-Wan. The Underworld approach the galactic map in a variety of new ways making their fortunes by corrupting existing worlds and stealing credits from both the Empire and Alliance. They research new equipment similarly to the Alliance, by buying it, and seem to exemplify the smuggling styles of gameplay with options for sabotage, and being able to bribe their way past potential space battles on their way to a juicy target. They are suitably different from the Alliance and the Empire to introduce some interesting new tactics toward galactic control, mostly designed to sit in the shadows and avoid conflict until the odds are in their favor.

New vehicles have been included for the existing factions along with a complete fleet for the Underworld. The centerpiece space battle shown included Vader's flagship the Executor and the 2nd Death Star ("What the hell's an Aluminum Falcon?") firing its guns on Alliance capital ships. Factional specific orbital bombardment a la nukes, the ability to specialize you forces, emplacements, and buildings on the ground, and transport vehicles for ground based combat round out the highlight of features.

Will this do much to improve a largely dull and often lifeless ground combat? Nothing I saw really addressed that, but we'll see. Some great ideas, but the truth is this is a game that demos very well. It's when you've had four or five hours playing that you either see the new shine or not. We'll find out this fall.

Supreme Commander - Pyroman[FO] - [PC]

THQ had a video of this available that showed off this spirital successor to Total Annihilation. There wasn't much gameplay shown in the movie, but what was there was huge numbers of units fighting with some pretty great graphics. Huge evil mechanical spiders, flying robot transports, air fighters, ground tanks and of course the main unit of the game the Supreme Commander. The combat looked like quite a bit of fun and the environments didn't look too bad either. The graphics weren't really eye-popping but they were definitely competent. The room where they demoed the video had posters depicting three races, a human race, a robot race, and some sort of occult looking religious race. There wasn't much info about it at the show that I've seen but so far, it looks like a pretty kick ass new Total Annihilation. Which is fine with me.


Table Tennis [360] - Fly

Once the novelty that Rockstar is making such a title wears off, Table Tennis isn't going to command nearly the attention it's received since its announcement. It is fun, and the claim that it's an easy game to learn but a difficult game to master just might be true, but really--it's table tennis, and it's no more or less exciting or interesting on the Xbox 360 than it is in real life.

The controls are very basic--the left stick moves the player left or right, and the right stick controls the paddle swing. You basically just pull the paddle in any direction, and then release it to hit the ball. The longer you hold it, the stronger your swing. The direction you pull the left stick controls the type of spin you put on the ball. Different spin types cause the ball to glow different colors, so if you're returning a volley and want to take that into account, you can.

Table Tennis is as beautifully rendered as every other next-gen sports title, but it's blissfully free of Burger King characters and other obnoxious advertising, so I've got to give it credit for that. I didn't take time to look at all the multiplayer features it offered, but I'm sure it'll take full advantage of Live. The big question on this one is price. I can't see anyone paying full price for Table Tennis unless full price is $15 or something. It seems much more suited for Live Arcade than actual retail.

Tabula Rasa [PC] – Fly

After showing up last year as a completely different game than the idyllic fairy-tale title seen at previous E3 showings, Tabula Rasa seems to have settled into its sci-fi theme. Here's the setting, in a nutshell: Earth has been taken over by the hostile Bane, and humans are now interstellar refugees fighting for their survival. The game offers a lot of large, persistent spaces but it appears that its mission-based story structure's going to be pretty instance-heavy. It's got a very military theme that carries over from the on-screen sci-fi battles to the character development system. NCSoft says they're making the classes less specialized than in other MMORPGs, so although there will be various soldier classes, which can be gradually refined as the player levels up, all characters will be combat-effective and the game will remain very solo-friendly. They'll also allow the player to "clone" their character at various intervals and revert to the previous clone if they don't like the changes they've made along the way.

The combat I saw was pretty frenetic. NCsoft wants to discourage the time-honored technique of "pulling" enemies in favor of a more realistic, chaotic battlefield, so they're spawning enemies in groups, and coding their AI to keep the battlefield busy. They also give XP bonuses for groups of enemies killed in a row. The interface is uncluttered, and the screen looks much more like that of a typical shooter than your average RPG. The default view is 3rd person, but it's fully zoomable, all the way to 1st person. I didn't hear much about weapons or abilities, but it looks like the game will have a solid focus on shooting, but also give the player a decent set of magic-like skills. It definitely plays like a fast-paced action title.

The most striking thing about Tabula Rasa is probably its art design. It's looking very atmospheric and very intense, with all kinds of interesting and impressive enemies. In the instanced level I saw, the character and numerous NPCs were fighting along a linear path, and enemies were continually being shuttled to the area via some very intimidating dropships. There was also a dramatic encounter with a large, tripod-like creature.

NCSoft didn't talk much about Tabula Rasa's community aspects, but they did indicate it will offer a full-featured clan system and include PVP options between warring clans. They also say they're integrating voice chat technology into the game. There still seems to be quite a bit up in the air: they haven't worked out the details of their death penalties or announced whether the game's going to require a monthly fee, for example. Still, it looks pretty impressive at this point. They're sticking to a "It'll be done when it's done" approach, but they hinted that they're getting close.


The Darkness [PS3, 360] - Pyroman[FO]

Starbreeze, the makers of Chronicles of Riddick, have a new FPS based on "The Darkness" series of comic books. The basic premise is a mafia hitman who is possesed by an ancient evil called "The Darkness", which allows him to use all kinds of demonic superpowers. There's no part of that last sentence I didn't like. It's a HUDless FPS game, similar to Riddick, however the Darkness powers really give an entirely new dimension to the game. One of the Darkness powers is sprouting a giant tentacle that can grab dumpsters and even cop cars and swing them around the room, crushing your enemies. Another is to summon creatures called Darklings, which are tiny little demons that employ different weapons to kill. In the demo, one spawned with a rusty saw and another spawned with a jackhammer. You can also use the Darkness tentacles to crawl along the ground, through vents, and up walls to bite people and remotely manipulate objects. Another nice feature is what they call "Darkness TV", which means all the TVs in the game will constantly have real-time video content. Anything ranging from movies to TV shows to the developers talking about the game. The intent is to allow the player to take a break and watch some TV, which since you're already taking a break and watching a TV in real life probably enables some sort of irony feedback loop. Still, as a vehicle for the kinds of things found in "Riddick: Developers Cut" I think I'd enjoy it.


The Darkness [PS3, 360] - Fly

I'll echo Pyro's impressions of The Darkness. It looks like it's on track to offer some interesting and varied gameplay and a violent, unusual premise. The "darkling" creatures that the character can summon seem pretty interesting, as they have a mind of their own and they're pretty brutal. Starbreeze says they'll have more than ten different darkling types the player can collect and use, each with its own unique personality.

Starbreeze showed us the 360 version of the game, but they say it'll also be available on the PS3. They haven't yet announced it as a PC title, but they didn't exclude that possibility. It will feature several online multiplayer game types, though there aren't any plans for any co-op play.

According to Starbreeze, The Darkness will have a very tightly-focused story, and won't offer much in terms of emergent character development or moral choices that will affect the plot. It will have areas that can be revisited by the player, so it won't be completely linear, but the story will follow a very direct path. They wouldn't specify how long the game will be, but they did assure me it will be substantially longer than Chronicles of Riddick. They're currently saying only that they're looking at release sometime in 2007. So far it looks like one to watch.

The Witcher [PC] - Fly

Those poor people at CD Project. Their tiny Kentia hall booth was just across the aisle from Red Octane, and Guitar Hero II's promotional acts were completely drowning out their presentations, forcing them to yell over the din. That didn't seem to diminish their enthusiasm for their game, though.

The Witcher is a single-player story-driven RPG based upon the world created by Polish fantasy writer Andrzej Sapkowski, whose works have never been translated into English but are apparently very popular where they've been published. The game isn't all that witchy, in that it has no witches to speak of. The Witchers are instead a shadowy group of elite monster hunters. The setting is reminiscent of medieval Europe, but completely ravaged by years of war, poverty, and disease. It's a weakened, dysfunctional world, embroiled in racial and political conflict, that has begun to fall prey to darker forces and evil creatures. CD Project didn't reveal much about the plot except to say that the main character, a semi-human Witcher with long white hair and reptilian yellow eyes, finds himself a central figure in an effort to prevent some greater evil.

The overall tone of the game appears to be very harsh, gloomy, and mature. CD Project indicates that the world of the Witcher is morally ambiguous, with few clear cut good and evil characters, factions, or choices. They intend to offer the player numerous difficult decisions with far-reaching effects, and they showed some specific examples of choices that determined the course of major events many hours later in the game.

The Witcher appears to take place entirely from a third-person perspective, and combat is real-time, fast-paced, click-heavy and entirely mouse driven. It's also very bloody. The combat system is unusual in that it allows the player to gradually develop different strings of attacks that can be selected during a fight and performed by clicking in quick succession. They've done extensive motion capture work on the title, and the combat animations are unique, graceful, and very impressive. The limited magical attacks I saw allowed the main character to set enemies on fire, knock them backward, and stun or disarm them.

The game is powered by a heavily rewritten version of Bioware's Aurora engine, and it looks absolutely beautiful, both in terms of its art direction and technical features. I saw a real-time demonstration of the game's day/night, atmosphere, and weather systems that was very compelling, as a well as a number of cool visual effects that represented drunkenness and the effects of various potions. I didn't have the opportunity to learn much about how character development will occur, how long the game will be, or the game's overall design structure, but I was very impressed with what I saw. CD Project's aiming for a Spring 2007 release.


Too Human [360] - Certis

I've always wanted to enjoy 3rd person action games that mix guns and swords but titles like Devil May Cry and Ninja Gaiden always found me fighting the camera as much as the bad guys. Too Human takes the gameplay style, puts a Silicon Knights stamp on it and gives you a dynamic camera system that requires no input and actually seems to work for both gameplay and atmosphere. On the surface, the combat is actually pretty easy to learn and it doesn't take more than a minute before you're swinging and shooting without much trouble. Once you get that down, you'll find yourself doing jump attacks, special moves and generally feeling pretty god-like as you plow through dozens of enemies at a time.

I have some concerns that the combat will be a bit too automatic and heavy on blind button mashing but with such a small sample, it's hard to speak to the variety of the final product. What I saw looked about ten hours fun, but they say the final game will take around twenty so I hope the variety of weapons and moves we didn't see is more robust. All signs point to yes.

There will be hundreds of items and weapons in the game to collect as you progress, rather than find them in random crates you will actually get blueprints so that you can create new weapons, which makes a lot more sense and should allow for a more unique and customized experience for each person who plays. During the demo we were shown staff fighting, sword fighting and some gun play.

Typical for Silicon Knights, they're mum on plot details but they did say that the script for Too Human is longer than any game they have done before, including Eternal Darkness. They've shown themselves highly capable at delivering games with style, substance and cinematic flair in the past and Too Human is looking to take their design sensibilities to the next level. I'll be pre-ordering when I get home.


Too Human [360] - Fly

I didn't sit in on the meeting with Silicon Knights, but I did play through both of Too Human's demo levels on the show floor. The combat controls were amazingly easy to learn, particularly the melee fighting, which at its most basic level had me doing nothing more than twitching the right thumb stick in the direction I wanted to attack and then watching the main character hack down droves of not very smart enemies with panache.

The floor demo seemed pretty rough, with some issues with the fixed camera (offscreen enemies, obstructed views) and terrible framerate drops, but there's still time to resolve these prior to release, so I'm hopeful. One thing I really liked was that in several cutscene-like sequences the character was controllable as the scene was running. I also really liked the art direction's moody blend of unusual fantasy and sci-fi elements.

There wasn't much meat to the demo, and if I didn't know this was a Silicon Knights production and didn't hear what Certis had to say about the game's behind-closed-doors presentation, I wouldn't be particularly excited about. I've got a lot of faith in this developer, though, so I'm still optimistic it'll be a solid title.

Unreal Tournament 2007 [PS3, 360, PC] - Fly

Epic's presentation was practically worthless if you wanted to learn any specific details about UT2007, as they didn't actually say anything about the game or allow time for any questions. What they did do is show a 10-minute real-time PC demonstration of a scenario that seemed to show a new game mode that combined elements of the Onslaught and Bombing Run game types, where the player had to activate nodes by carrying a small sphere from one location to the next in order to gain access to and destroy a power core. It looks like the maps may allow for some limited environmental destruction, as the demo showed giant stone arches being destroyed to crush opponents below.

I saw a lot that was familiar, especially in terms of weaponry, but it looked like nearly every aspect of the game has been given a visual overhaul, and the vehicles have been redesigned. The demo showed a conflict between two opposing forces, the Necris and the Axon. The Necris appear to be a more alien, insectlike race. Probably the most impressive thing I saw in the demo were the Necris's giant tripod-like walking vehicles, which seemed extremely powerful and intimidating. As expected, there were several vehicle types, ranging from light, speedy ground and air vehicles to hulking, powerful Leviathan tanks. The even showed a small snowboard-like sled that hovered along the ground.

Not surprisingly, the action was very fast and everything was big, loud, and outrageous. Graphically, the game looks good, but other than some sophisticated weapons effects I didn't see anything especially jaw-dropping. I was disappointed that Epic didn't talk more about new game types or how much content they'll will offer. They're currently gunning for an early 2007 release, so I'm sure we'll learn more later this year. So far it looks like it's going to offer a little variety, some interesting refinements, and more of the same twitchy fragfest gameplay.


World in Conflict [PC] - Pyroman[FO]

The one thing most people notice about this game is the great graphics. It's an RTS title from Massive Ent., yet the units are so detailed you can zoom in on individual infantry units without it becoming an exercise in cubism. But if all it had was great graphics, I probably wouldn't be mentioning it here. The game is set as a Cold War scenario gone hot, you're the USSR or the USA fighting each other using tanks, infantry and nukes. There are no buildings, only control points that need to be captured to win the game. Each control point adjusts the "Balance of Power", whicever way the balance tips at the end of the match determines the winner. You can call in reinforcements, but there's no unit building or defensive structures. When you kill units, you get points you can use to call down airstrikes all the way up to nukes. In a multiplayer game, there are only two sides, USSR and USA, but the game can support up to 16 players. Since there are no buildings or resource collection, you control your units for the good of the team, along with anyone else on your team. It's similar to any Team based FPS, and a great solution to cooperation in strategy games. I'm a sucker for any RTS that manages to not have any buildings or resource collection, and the graphics on this are gorgeous. The limited play session I had was quite fun, especially the nuke which is probably the best nuke I've ever seen in an RTS.


World of Warcraft: Burning Crusade [PC] - Elysium

Not that Blizzard needs the press, because heaven knows that the multitude of WOW addicts out there would sell their clothes and offspring for this expansion, but we got some comfy behind-closed-doors access to the new Blizzard expansion today, and, yes, it looks awesome. Our very own Gameguru joined me for the tour (and, asked most of the questions, and probably had some idea of what the hell all that backstory was about), as we got the opportunity to see the new races, the new starting Draenei area, the Outland through the Dark Portal, a glimpse of Hellfire Citadel, flying mounts, jewelcrafting, tier 3 equipment, and a deep look at Karazhan (Medivh's Tower) in Deadwind Pass. That's just the expansion; I haven't even mentioned patch 1.11, the Naxxramas raid (the floating necropolis above the Plaguelands), and the dragon Sapphiron that literally constructs itself from its own bones in the Frostwyrm Room. When you go, be warned of the stacking cold attack from Sapphiron that freezes you in place at full stack.

For those of you who don't play World of Warcraft, the preceding paragraph was a list of gibberish. For those of you who do play, it's probably enough to send you into fits of rapturous joy. There's a lot to look forward to here and talk about, which is tragic because I'm only going to spend a few paragraphs.

The backstory on the expansion explored tens of thousands of years across several worlds, but ultimately comes to a deep conflict between the Blood Elves and the Draenei. I'd need two wikis, and a translator to explain to you the interconnection and progression that forged the conflict, but it explores and expands upon the story from Warcraft 3, and the War of the Ancients novels.

While there will be a ton of new content for both races, as well as new areas to explore, much of what we saw had to do with the high level content. The flying mount looked amazing, and offered full control in three dimensions as we toured the exterior of Hellfire Citadel which will offer at least 5, 10, and 20 man raids.

We were shown Karazhan in detail, a level 70 raid (20 or 40-man probably) which revolves around the story of how Medivh broke with the High Elves to explore the forbidden Necromantic arts. An exhausting and intimidating place populated by great hordes of level 70 elite undead. One highlight was a room with a massive chessboard on the floor and what appeared to be high-level elites in the places of the pieces, as well as 2 named bosses in the king square, King Llane on the alliance side and Warchief Blackhand on the Horde. Plan to fight them both. The specifics of what is happening were left ambiguous. The environment of Karazhan changes the further you proceed until it become more Outland with great floating rocks, and a massive wandering Demon Prince boss.

New races, new areas across the level spectrum, jewelcrafting and socketed items, flying mounts, and raids raids raids (2 announced, but I'm told there will be more). I don't know whether to tell you to be excited or afraid.


World Tour Poker [360] - Elysium

You know, there have been some really crappy poker games made and tossed on to the public, and let's be honest, nothing is ever going to come close to sitting down with your friends at two in the morning over crappy beer and cold pizza and praying for an inside straight draw. As much, or more so than role playing, you can't recreate poker in a video game.

World Tour Poker comes closer than most though. With a lot of attention and detail paid to the faces and actions of your artificial opponents, WTP tries to simulate reading expressions, ticks, tells, and bluffs, adding an interesting layer to what has otherwise been a series of games only marginally better than something you can download for free. The presentation is high quality with numerous well-known players.

But, in the end, it's still just poker on a 360. You are far better off playing some poker with your friends, and if you don't have friends then you should probably work on that.

Viva Pi̱ata [360] РFly

Viva Piñata starts you out on a crummy, weed-infested little island piled with junk. You're given a shovel, a watering can, and a packet of seeds to beautify the place, and as you do, you'll begin to attract various piñata species. As they enter the garden and become tame, they'll change from black-and-white to color. Although they're asexual and without gender, you can introduce them to each other and they'll shack up in little houses, conduct silly little courtship dances, and magically produce piñata offsprings.

There's a actually a piñata food chain, with lowly species like worms attracting birds, which then attract larger creatures, and so on. The goal is to continually attract, tame, and maintain new piñatas by making sure garden conditions are right. You can collect chocolate coins and use them to upgrade your tools and add ponds, fences, flowers, trees, etc. to your garden. You can also smack your piñatas around with ahsovel and even bust them open if you're into that sort of thing. Occasionally a surly "sour" piñata will show up and start screwing up your piñata ecosystem, and you'll have to tame or otherwise placate them by making certain conditions ideal. If you do, they'll join your little garden. The garden is also host to occasional quirky human characters, some of whom offer helpful advice.

One of the cooler aspects of Viva Piñata is an online component that allows players to send any garden asset--piñatas, flowers, trees, whatever, to approved individuals on their friends list. Piñatas all come with little tags that show their history--where they're from, who sent them, etc. The game has full voice for all text, making it playable for kids too young to read, and a very robust set of parental protections via Xbox Live.

Graphically, Viva Piñata looks good, and it's got fun animations, a richly detained environment, and a whimsical, appealing visual style. It's due to release late this year, in tandem with a children's television series that will purportedly have some direct tie-ins to the actual gameplay. It looks like a simple, fun title that will offer plenty of fun for kids, and could even have the same crossover mass appeal as games like Animal Crossing.


Warhawk [PS3] – Fly

Warhawk's the only PS3 title at the show that utilizes the new controller's tilt sensor, which is probably the only reason they're demoing it. There wasn't much to the level I played, which had the player piloting a relatively slow aircraft around an island and taking out other slow aircraft, turrets, etc, with machine guns and missiles. The overall feel was very arcadelike. The PS3 controller's tilt sensor is sensitive and precise, and controlling the aircraft was very easy. The plane had a boost function and a hover mode but otherwise couldn't do anything fancy (no loop-de-loops allowed). The Sony guy who sat me down at the game couldn't answer any of my questions about multiplayer options or game design, but he did say they're pushing it as a launch title.


Warhammer 40K :Dark Crusade [PC] - Pyroman[FO]

As a recent Warhammer: Dawn of War convert, I decided to stop by and check out this expansion. The expansion adds two new races, the Tau and the Necrons. Since I know nothing about Warhammer, I had to get some explanation. The Tau are a robotic race that believes in "the Good", which I'm still not sure what that means. But, they are a long range combatant that is weak in the melee area. The Tau Commander is armed to the teeth with weaponry, with several different kinds of attacks and special abilities. The Necron are a slow moving powerful race of reanimated souls, and really look very interesting. Their main base, the Necron Monolith, can become mobile when fully upgraded and can even teleport. The Necron Commander can resurrect fallen comrades, and the Necron even have a unit that demoralizes their enemy. This insane unit wants to be human again, and wears the flesh of their fallen enemies to try and accomplish this. It's very creepy and really great looking. The entire E3 demo I was getting was actual gameplay, which it didn't look like at first. It's a very cinematic style of combat that they've created with Dawn of War, though if you've already played the game you know what I'm talking about.

The single player campaign has been revamped, instead of a linear story based campaign there's a more "Conquer the World" single player with territories that give bonuses when controlled and a large map where you exterminate your enemies by controlling all their territories. It looks like it has alot of replay value, if it's any fun. I'm more of a multiplayer fan when it comes to DoW.



Nice and comprehensive.

I believe the only possible response is "Holy..." and fill in your own noun.

Great roundup.

You've practically doubled my anticipation for Gears of War though. You jerks.

Wow... I am speechless, this is awesome!

We brought the coverage hard this year

That's the part of the intro I liked best. I can just imagine the pelvic thrusts and fist pumping that accompanied all the review writing.

And now that I've imagined it, I need to scrub my brain clean again.

Excellent coverage as always guys!

Thanks GWJ for great (better-than-ever, in fact) coverage!

Great job guys!

Very nice coverage guys, I love all the screenshots.

Was Assassin's Creed ever officially announced for the 360? I know that the early buzz on the game sounded like it would be cross platform, but all of the press coming out of E3 seemed to indicate that Sony may have gotten Ubisoft to make it a PS3 exclusive, at least for some period of time.

I am sincerely interested in this game, but I hate to think that I will have to wait for whatever time the PS3 drops to an affordable price in order to play it...

zeroKFE wrote:

Was Assassin's Creed ever officially announced for the 360? I know that the early buzz on the game sounded like it would be cross platform, but all of the press coming out of E3 seemed to indicate that Sony may have gotten Ubisoft to make it a PS3 exclusive, at least for some period of time.

I am sincerely interested in this game, but I hate to think that I will have to wait for whatever time the PS3 drops to an affordable price in order to play it...

I got a wink and nod sort of answer when I asked about the 360, good enough for me

Fantastic, guys. Nice coverage.

Nice write up.

I'm hoping Chromehounds comes through all right. I always enjoyed the mech building process of the previous From Software games and online play sounds glorious.

Any word on Huxley?

Any word on Huxley?

I never saw it, but everyone who did seemed to think it was awful. All marketing, no game.

Certis wrote:

I got a wink and nod sort of answer when I asked about the 360, good enough for me ;)

Works for me too. Thanks!

Certis wrote:
Any word on Huxley?

I never saw it, but everyone who did seemed to think it was awful. All marketing, no game.

WebZin? Webzen? easily had the most useless booth.. huge.. all for essentially one game Huxley that look medicore at best

I believe I need to coin a new word to adequately describe GWJ's E3 coverage: "Sexualtastic!" Yes, that will do.

Awesome work, guys. Plus it's great to hear that the GWJ power is increasing - behind-closed-doors interviews for the win!

Piling guys are the best at E3 coverage. I wonder if it'll be even more hectic for you guys next year.

Information overload! *BZZZZT Kaboom*

TheGameguru wrote:
Certis wrote:
Any word on Huxley?

I never saw it, but everyone who did seemed to think it was awful. All marketing, no game.

WebZin? Webzen? easily had the most useless booth.. huge.. all for essentially one game Huxley that look medicore at best

I've been skeptical of Huxley from the beginning. I knew an audio guy who was contracted to work on their last FPS game, Nitro Family, and he was sorely disappointed in the way they implemented his content. I don't remember the specifics, but they screwed the music all up, just looping one track over and over for combat, they destroyed the sound effects with a terrible mix, etc. Not only was the game a piece of crap, it seems to have turned out that way through a bunch of mind-bogglingly stupid design choices. It sounds as though they got a major infusion of cash for Huxley, but I don't know of any reason to assume that they're not still idiots.

Oh god, enough with the games already!

Great coverage guys. There's some games to really get excited about, on all fronts, consoles and PC. It's going to be an expensive year.

Thanks for another excellent E3 round up.

Do you realize into how many separate pages most sites would have broken this content? Approximately thirteen billion. That's how many times more awesome we are.

All I care about from that list is Supreme Commander(maybe Gears of War and BF2142) and Excite Truck(must be all those memories of playing Excite Bike before school and the really cool ability to make your own courses-I hope that's in ET as well).

nice, but no mention of our tasty .. err.. lunch? on wednesday

cuebert wrote:

nice, but no mention of our tasty .. err.. lunch? on wednesday :)

That green sludge was way tastier than it had any right to be.

That's a lot of games... I wonder which were loved the most. Can I get a top ten please Certis:)

Braehole wrote:

That's a lot of games... I wonder which were loved the most. Can I get a top ten please Certis:)

I'm not much of a fan of top ten's sorry. I think there's a thread in Games & Platforms discussing the top games there.