As is the case with every E3, this year's kicked off with the big three running their usual pre-show events; outlining all their plans for the future, beginning first and foremost with still new kid on the gaming block, Microsoft.
Packed into the West Hall of the Los Angeles Convention Centre (which ironically used to be home to Nintendo and Sony's show headquarters), Microsoft set the stage for the predicted tone of this year's event – broadening the gaming user and fan-base to boundaries beyond
This was particularly evident with the video reel we were presented with that basically had everyday people off the street talking Xbox 360. Most of them applauded the machine, but Microsoft seemingly kicked it up a notch by asking people what they thought “pwned” meant or what RPG stood for (there were people who assumed “pwned” was a European country while a bum declared RPG an acronym for “Really”, “Pee” and “Get out of here”). All of this was to obviously point out there are many people into the machine who don't necessarily live the life of an enlightened 1337
Don Mattrick, senior vice president for Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Business (basically Xbox 360, Games For Windows and Live), came out to deliver the usual hyperbole replete with impressive sales figures, install figures and projected figures for all things Microsoft gaming, but equally reiterated that games were no longer just for the hardcore and that while Microsoft had plenty for us, the casual consumer-base at large was also in for a treat.
So, onto the first batch of hardcore titles to make sure we, the hardcore gamers
, were sated. And boy, what stellar list. Fallout 3, Resident Evil 5, Fable 2 and Gears of War 2, all respectively demoed live by their rock star project leads to a very thankful audience.
Despite this title's recent blow
in Australia, there's something very enticing here. The demo kicked off with a live-action satirical information video set around the 50s. Here, a typical American family is sitting around the table as an announcer discusses fallout shelters with the threat of nuclear war ever imminent – he charms the pants off the family by making life in these fallout shelters sound perfect with all the kitchen appliances and amenities a mother could need and plenty of teenage boys for our typical young teenage girl to date. It's wonderfully funny and deliberately cheap and cheesy, showing off just how ardently talented Bethesda are.
Eventually the information video ends as a camera pans back from a fallen TV to reveal a desecrated landscape. It's obvious there was nuclear war and we have our hero surveying the apocalyptic landscape, weapon in hand.
Cue Bethesda Softworks executive producer, Todd Howard, who is about to take us on the first public tour of Fallout 3, which can be viewed locally from AusGamers thanks to Trog's handy camera work.
- AusGamers E3 2008 Fallout 3 Xbox Event Footage -
Suffice to say, by the end of the demo I was utterly annoyed the game would not see its intentional release in Australia.
Cool points Howard made include the concept of a dual combat system that applies both real-time action and turn-based strategy, depending what you prefer. The idea the game dynamically shapes itself based on how you play. You can be either good or bad, or just sit on the fence (so, be a badass?), and finally that Bethesda have created a game with somewhere in the vicinity of 100 hours of play-time. Howard also when on to remind everyone just how much they [Bethesda] supported Oblivion on Xbox 360 through downloadable content and that the same would happen with Fallout 3.
Again, after hearing all this and seeing the tasty gameplay demo, it's just more salt in the Australian games rating wound - be sure to pent your personal rage up so that someone in the Australian Government will sit up and take notice.
Resident Evil 5
I'll be brutally honest and tell you this is my most anticipated game of the show thus far (and was last year, also), and after it's detailed walkthrough from one Jun Takeuchi of Capcom, I want it even more.
It's plainly obvious this new Chris Redfield adventure set in Africa is modeled almost entirely off Resident Evil 4, yet this is in no way a bad thing. The demo, which can be viewed here, shows a very buff and incredibly detailed Chris Redfield running through a building. Apparently you'll spend a fair amount of time in either light or dark places as, err... light and dark
play key roles in the overall story and the lighting here looks stunning.
Key factors of note stemming from the Resi 5 demo include the revelation the game will feature an extensive online two-player coop mode, which you can see running on our supplied video as well as a solid worldwide release date of March 12, 2009. We'll be getting a closer look at the title over the next few days, so stay tuned.
- AusGamers Resident Evil 5 E3 2008 Xbox Event Footage -
Continuing the sequel trend, Peter Molyneux stepped up to tell us with much relief that “Fable 2 is finished”. It's about time. So, will it deliver the promised dynamic game-world, interactivity and innovative gameplay old Pete's been promising since the first game? Well this video certainly does a pretty good job of making us all warm and fuzzy, and even though we've learn from the past not to trust too much of what Pete says, he definitely put forth a pretty compelling argument for Fable 2.
The big news here is coop gameplay over Xbox Live (does anyone see a trend forming?) as well as the ability to invite
players into your game-world from their own. Once in your game-world (which Petey promises will be unique to your invited friends' world) they can pretty much do whatever they want – from trying to pick up your ladies to generally just messing your shit up. We're getting Fable 2 time in a few days, so we'll fill you in a bit more then but for now know that it's looking every bit as promising as promised and that you'll be able to take it for a ride yourself this October.
- AusGamers E3 2008 Fable 2 Xbox Event Footage -
Gears of War 2
So out comes videogaming rock star Cliffy B to much fan elation as he prepares to show us Gears of War 2. The build-up trailer to his gameplay demo shows a pretty mean looking Marcus Fenix rescuing Dom and moving to take the Locust on one more time. The demo, which can be found locally here, shows off just one level and Cliffy is following on from Resi and Fable by letting us know he's playing cooperatively with someone else from Epic.
I managed to pick my jaw up off the ground long enough to learn that a new cooperative mode called Horde for up to five players is joining the multiplayer ranks and has you and four other friends simply smashing wave after wave of locusts. We didn't see this in action, but it sounds pretty damn cool. Finally, Gears of War 2 will be launching worldwide on November 7 and it's highly likely you'll be able to ride Brumacks.
- AusGamers E3 2008 Gears of War 2 Xbox Event Footage -
Xbox 360 is number one!
As I mentioned earlier, after the awesome demos of the above it was down to business as usual. According to a projection from PriceCoopersWaterHhouse, videogames this year will generate more than 48 billion dollars in revenue, worldwide. The games industry, we were told, is bigger than music, DVDs and the Box Office and with the added foxus of the casual market, it will just continue to grow.
Obviously Microsoft like to think most of this is their doing and felt it necessary to tell us a new member signs up to Xbox Live every five seconds and Mattrick is so confident he was quoted as stating the 360 “will outsell the PS3, worldwide this generation”.
On to Xbox Live then. Looks like the much rumoured Dashboard overhaul will hit pretty soon which is sweet because it looks awesome and will likely invite even more people to sign up. Part of the new Dashboard is a blatantly Nintendo Mii ripped off idea of avatars. This system has been developed by Rare and will feature moderately cutesy animated versions of yourself (or whatever you decide to create) which you can shape and style in any way you see fit. There's no word on whether these will be priced (though I'm going to say they will be) , but it was revealed they would appear in specific party games currently in development for the more mainstream audience.
So you'll be able to create online parties with your avatars and can play games of Uno and various game-show XBLA titles with them. It was even revealed with a bunch of new movie partnering with the likes of Universal and Netflix, five people could actually watch a movie as a party, seemingly taking the “movie night at mine” concept out of the equation. I still can't make up my mind if I think this is cool or not.
Currently there's still no word of when and/or if we'll be seeing any of the Xbox Live VOD stuff in Australia the US and EU enjoy so much, but we'll keep hassling over the next few days to let you know.
On the Xbox Live Arcade front a new Geometry Wars game, Geometry Wars 2 Retro Evolved, will be hitting as well as an official sequel to Galaga (yawn). A new Southpark game is on its way (Matt and Trey love videogames) while the biggest XBLA news of all saw the announcement of an exclusive update to Portal called Portal Still Alive
So now out comes corporate vice president, Shane Kim, to show off new game offerings for the kids and casuals. Rare's forthcoming Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts, which looks polished, but not nearly as fun as the original, which incidentally it's revealed is making its way to XBLA when the new title is released, something I thought was kind of cool. Another new Viva Pinata title from Rare was also shown, and again looked pretty enough but didn't really overshadow the other cool stuff on offer.
Krome Studios are working on new version of the film-quiz game Scene It
that will have country-specific questions while an Xbox Live Vision piece of software from Codemasters called You're In The Movies
has you and a bunch of friends dancing around like idiots in front of your Xbox Live Vision Camera for a bunch of pseudo mini games. Your actions are then cut and pasted together in mildly humourous B-Grade movie trailers that you can edit and post online. Kind of cool, if that's your thing.
From movies to music then as it's revealed more than 3 million songs have been downloaded for music games from the Xbox Live Marketplace. Pretty profitable then. As you would expect Guitar Hero World Tour was up next and it's revealed you'll be able to partake in eight-player battle of the bands multiplayer sessions over Xbox Live as well as record and release your own music online. The game will initially ship with 85 original master tracks right off the disk as well as continuing support from Activision, labels and even bands in offering more downloadable content with Metallica (among others) releasing their entire album, exclusively for Guitar Hero World Tour.
Not one to put two rabid dogs next to each other, Microsoft held off on bringing out Rockband 2 for their own foray into the budding world of rhythm-based gaming announcing Lips
, a Singstar-esque
title exclusively for the Xbox 360 and developed by Elitebeat Agents and Guitaroo Man legend, Keiichi Yanus. Lips will come with a microphone that has a motion-sensor in it so you can use it in tune with songs for extra rhythm points (think clapping and tambourines). The impression we also got was you can simply plug in your own mp3 player to the game and somehow utilise your own songs with Lips (not sure about this yet, so stay tuned).
- AusGamers E3 2008 Xbox 360 Update Xbox Event Footage -
After a performance by Duffy through the actual Lips game it was Harmonix's turn to talk about Rock Band 2. The cool stuff from this was that all original Rock Band tracks would be forward compatible with the new game and that 84 new, original tracks would ship with the disk (one less than Guitar Hero, which was kind of weird). There will be legendary artists such as Bob Dylan, AC/DC MegaDeath and Interpol, to name just a few, while Guns n Roses front man, Axel Rose, has decided the first single off their anticipated new album, “Shackler's Revenge” will be exclusive to Rock Band 2. Speaking of exclusivity, RB2 will be a timed Xbox 360 exclusive for 60 days. Here's hoping we actually see this launch in Australia.
Finally the close of the show saw Square-Enix honcho, Yoichi Wada grace us with his presence as they've obviously been brought (or should that be bought
?) on board to help the Xbox 360 in Japan where it still continues to wane. The new Star Ocean
will be hitting the console next year while this year we'll see Infinite Undiscovery
in September. A new title that will be a timed exclusive for Xbox 360 called The Last Remnant
was revealed that looked a lot like Lost Odyssey to me and was oddly announced to be hitting the Games For Windows platform as well.
Naturally, as is the case with most events like this, a pretend sign off from Mattrick was interrupted by Wada-san as he exclaimed he had one more game to reveal, which was of course, Final Fantasy XIII. It looked amazing, but all we really saw was pre-rendered footage with only a handful of gameplay snippets. Still, what I saw was incredibly gorgeous and it's Final Fantasy, so people will buy it.
That was it though, not a great deal revealed and there was equally no sign of Halo Wars or anything from Bungie, which we thought was a bit odd. But what was shown looked very cool and there are still a pretty large number of third-party games we haven't had a chance to write about yet such as the very interesting Mirror's Edge and Dead Space that actually blew me away at the EA press conference, so be sure to check back soon for another big E3 update.