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E3; Pre event - Day One
Post by Gobo @ 12:16pm 15/05/03 | Comments

Coming at you live from the semi-sumptuous confines of the Hyatt West Hollywood, where the soothing tones of "livin La Vida Loca" wash the guest PC area, here are my impressions so far.

Pre Event
QANTAS suck ass. Big ups to our national carrier for putting me in a window seat and having to hurdle two fat guys every time I went on a DVT-avoidance walk. Their food is also crap compared to the (sadly out of business) United Airlines.

Without the luxury of any leeway time, I left on Tuesday (EST time) - and arrived on Tuesday (LA time). For some indefineable reason, LA seems somewhat nicer this time.

The Hyatt West Hollywood is situated on the Sunset strip in the camp part of LA. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Memo to trog: bandanas are out with the Beverley Hills crowd. The locals are friendly too. On a bracing stroll in the mid-late evening, I was gratified to be accosted on two seperate times; once by a gay guy, once by a car with a couple of senoritas. Who may or may not have been for hire.

I found out from a miserable carpark attendant that the Lakers had lost against the Spurs that night. He looked a lot like Hector Elizondo.

"Oh man, they killed my team tonight", he exclaimed

"Who? Al Quaeda?", I asked, before realising that those kind of jokes don't work with the American populace.

So it turns out that Thursday evening the Lakers have to win or they're out of the finals race. I'll be sure to be hanging around the Staples Centre, just in case they lose. I want to get some looting photos on my camera.

E3 Day One
Well, some things have changed from last year. The most noticeable thing approaching the LA Convention Centre is that instead of the rather tasty Age Of Mythology and Doom 3 mega-posters that dominated the two big halls, there is an Atari logo one one, and a massive Sony PlayStation logo on the other.

The people are remarkably similar to last year. Many look - and smell - like they never left. While the attendees seem to grab any freebies on offer - from stickers to t-shirts, I guess the marketers know that there's one thing they wouldn't never be able to get rid of, and that's deodorant. Which is a shame for those of us who don't carry around vicks to put in our nose, autopsy examination-style.

Aside from that, wandering around the two main halls reveals that other things haven't changed. Some major impressions:

Electronic Arts
Once again they have taken centre stage with a m-a-s-s-i-v-e display that plays audio at a volume just short of obnoxious (for truly annoying volume, Bilzzard and Konami win the crown). The 2004 series of games is on display, all looking quite nice, as you'd expect given that most of these games are on the 8969853th iteration. The big EA sports gimmick is televising live crosses to celebrities playing their games. So you had Tiger Woods facing off against Cedric the Entertainer on one measly hole of Tiger Woods 2004, some meathead NFL player (confusingly dressed in an Orlando Magic jersey) playing Nascar 2004 playing against some other 'celeb', all giving their thoughts mid-game. It worked a lot better than some of the stilted Microsoft-style demos, where everything seemingly has a script, even 'spontaneous' exclamations.

Konami
Adjacent to EA, and ear splittingly loud is Knami's stand. If your hearing wasn't deficient before, spending 5 minutes here will rectify that problem. The big drawcard? The preview video of Metal Gear Solid 3: The Snake Eater. Anyone expecting a ruckus like Metal Gear Solid 2 caused will be disappointed. It looks like the same engine, just set in the jungle. Not bad by any means, just not possessed of the same impact.

Activision
id fanboys might be disappointed. As Doom 3 nears release, it was predicted that Doom 3 would have a low profile, and this was borne out. A kickass video was on display, but apart from that the Doom 3 presence was minimal. I spotted Todd Hollenshead wandering around, but stalking revealed that he wasn't going off to a secret enclave with a playable demo of Doom 3, but rather getting a bite to eat. Of interest is that Nvidia are now using Doom 3 fps benchmarks in their presentations. Whether that's the alpha code or something more refined is anybody's guess.

Activision had a couple of kickass titles on display to mollify the FPS fans. Trinity was running in semi-mature form, and Day of Defeat looked like... Day of Defeat. Call of Duty was impressive in a "another WW2 game" way, and the new HL2 engine powered Vampire: The Masquerade title was looking the goods. Activision were also excited about their GTA inpired True Crime title, which is set to be done by September. It looks good, but is likely to be most popular in the States, where those 40 km of mapped LA terrain will resonate.

The new Tony Hawk game - Tony Hawk Underground, or THUG is pretty damn sweet. Gone is the "pro skater" model, you have to focus on building up a character from newbiedom. You'll be able to run with your board (as opposed to ebing stuck on it all the time), rip off cars (in one stage) and even map your face on the character. The charming Kristy (of Activision) thought that the odds of a PC conversion as slim, so if you want some action, get a console. It looks like being something special, and although its dumb to speculate, could be the last Tony Hawk game.

Sony
Gran Turismo 4. Yamauchi presented the game and reported on it, and then unleashed the press on it. It rocks, what a big surprise there. Street racing is the big vibe at present, and although GT4 misses the illicit vibe heaps of other titles have, it's still looking like the title to beat. 500+ cars, heaps more tracks, and still no car damage. They had a 4 player LAN stup which was sweet as, although I sucked. But I was able to blame the dog of a car I had.

Half Life 2
Queues were too long, definitely a hit with the crowds crouching queuing up to check it out. Maybe tomorrow. The video on display was unimpressive compared to the Doom 3 video, I will say that. That said, with legions of LF and CS fans dying for it to succeed, it will.

Nintendo
It could very well be that the GameCube has a killer app finally. The new mario kart, Mario Kart: Double Dash looks simply stunning. Unlike the N64 Mart Kart, this looks and plays "like" Mario Kart. It's easily the most impressive GameCube title on display IMO, if you can fight to get a play on it.

Atari
The company formerly known as Infogrames recently changed name, presumably to avoid US backlash (see: Freedom Fries) over their rather French company name. Despite spending a lot on advertising and presence, they're relying heavily on pushing their Enter the Matrix title. Fair enough, but the most enjoyment people will derive from this game will be watching media outlets try and tactfully say that the game is shit, without burning their bridges. It's not total shit, but let's just say there's nothing to keep you interested once you've seen the movie.

Xbox
Utterly massive stand, mainly with non exclusive titles running - and usually the best of all three console formats on a given title. Halo2 is knocking people's socks off, and the amount of people filling the Xbox's massive real estate is pretty amazing. Microsoft definitely isn't regarded as an outsider anymore in the game space.

Etc
I have more to cover later, and if the mood takes me I'll put it up here. I'm mainly stretching this out because a very uptight looking guy in a suit is agitating to use the terminal.

Interestingly, this year's E3 has seen G4 - the Gamer TV station, utterly own the show in terms of coverage and presence. These guys are everywhere! Bright orange outfits aside, it looks like a very pro outfit. Interestingly, Gamespy, who were all over the joint last year, are taking a different tack. Last year they had 10+ staff covering the event editorially. This year not nearly so many - the only gamespy staff I have encountered were two PR girls who on seperate occasions accosted me wanting me to interview the Gamespy team about their business model. After talking to one of them at length, it's obvious Gamespy are over pushing content, or at least spending big on creating it, and are looking to really sell their software. Interesting, but hardly surprising. Maybe G4 will succeed where they have failed, and that will depend on how quickly they can recoup the gazillions they must be spending on coverage. But the final G4 product is very slick and professional, even to the most cynical.

So in summary thus far:
What's Hot?
G4
Halo 2
Mario Kart: Double Dash
Call of Duty (or Call to Duty, sue me, I'm tired)
Half Life 2
Tony Hawk Underground

What's Not:
Enter the Matrix
Nintendo in general - feedback from the fans has been very muted
Acclaim (what happened to these guys?)
Metal Gear Solid 3 - not a big jump at all

Later, I've got a party to go to.