I think I've got this E3 thing figured out.
Before my flight to LA on Monday morning, I assumed that most gaming conventions were operating from the same position. I've seen it from a few different sides now - covering as "press", attending as a consumer and working at the demo booth. The idea is to impress your audience, so it's always a dog and pony show.
At E3, the dogs and ponies are on steroids.
Once you get accustomed to the fact that stakes are terribly high here, there's a lot of info to learn. With fifteen minutes left before the expo hall kicks everyone out, here's what I thought of what I saw.
Alex, Shawn and I collectively skipped the Sony presentation. I'd like to tell you it was a conscious decision, but we honestly weren't invited. Not that we missed much. While everyone was sitting in the audience or watching the stream, we were gearing up to put our hands on Sony's new flagship product.
It's not all that impressive. In fact, it's downright depressing.
Sony's taken the concept of Wii Remotes and expanded on it, and from a usability standpoint the concept still works. Imagine precise, accurate tracking while you play a game of ping pong. How does it feel? Well, I suck at ping pong, and the first demo I had proved it. But that's not all bad.
What sucks is the calibration process. Playstation Move is dependent on the Playstation Eye for much of its tracking, so I had to line up *just right* for the system to work. While ping pong tracked my movements well, the prison boxing demo I got next completely fell apart. We had to re-calibrate my movements three times before I eventually gave up. "You're not supposed to move your feet," the demo guy said. So much for freedom.
I'm reserving final judgement until I get to try the Dance Game demo - video evidence will of course be provided to "Business Time" fans - but I'm underwhelmed with Move. It's more accurate than Wii Motion Plus, but at the cost of a pain-in-the-butt setup with the camera.
Playstation 3D Tech
Wandering around whie Shawn and Alex waited for their Move demo, I caught a glimpse of The Sly Collection. Sly Cooper is one of the coolest 3D platformers made - Seriously, go play it if you haven't - but all the controllers were full.
But there was an extra pair of 3D glasses sitting on the table. So while someone else played, I slipped the glasses on and caught my first real look at 3D.
And it looks awesome. Sly and his enemies were given an extra level of depth on top of the crisp graphics the game already features. Talking with the player, it seems that some of the platformer mechanics made more intrinsic sense with the 3D technology enabled. Welcome to the future.
Unfortunately, the future's gonna be super expensive. This tech requires a brand-new television alongside Sony's fancy battery-powered headgear. TVs are launching next month, but that's a lot to pony up for what still feels like an unnecessary luxury. I understood the jump to HD. I'm still waiting on this before I hand over my credit card, even though the few examples I saw were extremely well done. Maybe next year I'll be ready, even though it's pretty rad now.
But man. Sly Collection? Day One purchase.
It's everywhere here, but that doesn't mean I've had a chance to shake my money maker in front of Microsoft's new camera tech. Press access is full, so we'll have to brave the lines. Maybe we'll hit it tomorrow.
Valve's not ready to put people in front of a playable build of Portal 2, but the videos they showed us were awe inspiring. It's clear they're building on the core mechanics of the first game while expanding the story. Along with standard portals, Valve has added fun features like bouncy goo, rapid sliding oils and lasers that can be redirected to solve puzzles and defeat turrets. The videos were simply awesome. I'm sure they'll get released, so we'll link them here.
What they didn't show us was the new co-op mode. Not a lot of new info there: we'll be playing as robots and the story is separate from the main game.
My big takeaway from Valve's presentation was simply this: How fun must it be to design a game like Portal 2?
Shawn skipped out on our appointment with Sony Online Entertainment. He said something cranky under his breath about MMOs and rushed off. His loss: SOE's offerings turned out to be pretty rad. I'll talk more about DC Universe Online tomorrow as all I got today was the theater demo, but let's talk about The Agency for a moment.
Remember when it was a thing to mix MMOs with shooters? Yeah, Planetside. Not so great. But since then, we've consistently seen the MMO leveling model invade first-person shooters like Modern Warefare and Bad Company 2. The Agency wants to be an extension of that, and if they pull it off it'll be epic.
Sony was only showing the PVP side of The Agency, probably because it's so comparable to the untrained eye to Team Deathmatch. But the fundamentals are there: Players will level different roles like Recon, Medic, Assault, etc. and can switch them depending on gear. There's a cover system and a nice assortment of weapons, though loot will be more along the lines of monetary rewards than a Purple Shotgun. It plays well with both WASD and a PS3 controller - Sony's goal is cross-platform play, but they're still working on it. The fights felt fast and furious.
What's gonna break this game is how the PVE content turns out, and that's something Sony's working on. They're developing missions that will play out in both shared world spaces and instanced content, and each of the two actions (a spy group and a merc group) will touch upon one another throughout the story-based content. I'm concerned that it'll feel too much like the generic missions in Borderlands, but I'm holding out hope.
Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light
Sometimes at events like E3, you play a game simply because you don't have to wait. I hit one of those magical moments while walking buy the Square/Enix/Eidos booth, as someone else left the station and no one was lined up. It could have been a Bejeweled clone for all I cared at that moment. I was happy to not have to wait.
Lara Croft in a 3rd person isometric perspective is hard to get used to, but the action and puzzle solving translate pretty well. Lara and run and jump, grab ledges, tumble and dodge enemy attacks. Combat feels like a Two-Stick shooter… move with the left stick, aim with the right. The demo had a nice mix between fighting small groups of mythical monster-types and hunting out switches to solve puzzles. It was… well, kinda fun. It's certainly not the same game as Tomb Raider one, but it could work as a $40 game if it's long enough, or a $20 digital distribution title.
A note on the graphics though: I don't know if it was the setup I was on or what, but the game looks super aliased. Definitely not what I was expecting on the PS3. It could have been the TV though, or maybe Man isn't meant to sit 2 feet away from a plasma screen.
When Satoru Iwata took the stage at this mornings Nintendo conference, he stressed just how amazing the 3D screen is on their new console. And in truth, he's not wrong. 3D technology without glasses is a huge step forward. Out of the five mini-demos I got, three of them were amazing. That's a pretty good batting average.
The breakout game for this will be Metal Gear Solid, and even as I type that I'm gagging a little bit. I'm no fan of Solid Snake, but Kojima's team *gets* 3D and what it takes to make the characters truly pop. Easily my favorite 3DS demo.
No way is this thing launching under $200. Maybe not even $250. Cost is gonna be an issue with this thing and I wouldn't expect it until at least next Christmas. But it was pretty freaking cool.
Getting in to see this thing was next-to-impossible, though. We had an appointment with Nintendo and even our tour guide, a guy who *works for Nintendo*, couldn't get us in. Eventually he sweet talked the right person, but man. Security was tight.
On My List
I haven't made it to Bioware's area yet, but I will see Star Wars: The Old Republic. I'm also stoked to check out Civilization 5 tomorrow morning, so I can gauge if I have any chance of sleeping this fall. Metroid: Other M and Epic Mickey are more must-plays… Warren Spector's section of the Nintendo conference almost completely sold me.
Also on my list: Child of Eden, the new Mortal Kombat and Marvel vs. Capcom 3. I actually played MvC3, but they're kicking us out of the media room, so we'll save that.
Anything else we should check out? Drop a note in the comments and we'll see what we can do tomorrow at E3: Day Two.