E3 2010

For this blog post I thought I’d share with you my personal thoughts and opinions on E3 2010, possibly the biggest and most important video game convention of the year.  Apologies in advance if I get each announcement in the wrong order, I’m writing this primarily from memory.

Last year I did exactly the same thing, and you can view my thoughts on 2009’s E3 showing in part here.  That focuses more on Nintendo’s frankly awful conference, but I do touch upon how good both Sony and Microsoft’s efforts were.  Both have a lot to live up to if they want to match last years’ event, and with Microsoft starting as is recent tradition they kicked off rather well.

Microsoft’s Conference

Highlights

  • Natal renamed ‘Kinect,’ various games showcased
  • Unveiling of new 360 ‘slim’ featuring built-in wifi and sleek new look
  • Call of Duty map packs will appear first on Xbox Live for the next 3 years
  • Metal Gear Solid: Rising gameplay shown for the first time
  • Gears of War 3 four-player co-op demo’d
  • Peter Molyneux talks about Fable III
  • Halo Reach campaign game footage shown for the first time

Firstly we were treated to gameplay footage from the new Call of Duty game, this one titled Black Ops.  I personally missed most of it because I attempted to watch the stream via Gamespot, who couldn’t sort it out until nearly half an hour after the conference started so I watched via IGN for that part.  The exact same thing happened last year, there’s no excuse for Gamespot failing their viewers two years running.  Anyway, the game itself looked pretty good despite the fact that the gentleman on stage didn’t play it particularly well, and for a large majority of the demo very little seemed to happen.

After the Black Ops demo Don Mattrick, the main man hosting the conference, announced that all associated downloadable content associated with the Call of Duty franchise would be ‘exclusive’ to the Xbox 360 for three years.  This doesn’t mean that PS3 owners miss out, it just means the 360 get all DLC first.  He didn’t specify how long 360 owners would be playing any new DLC before PS3 owners, but I can’t see it being any longer than a month or so.

Next up we were introduced to Hideo Kojima, the mastermind behind the Metal Gear Solid franchise.  Last year he made an appearance at E3 to much hype, everyone was expecting a 360 port of Metal Gear Solid 4 but instead we got the spin-off game Metal Gear Rising.  Of course that left everyone a little disappointed, but this year Kojima was back with more information on the game.  In fairness it looks quite good if somewhat gimmicky, the idea being that you can violently cut up basically anything from limbs to watermelons.

Afterwards we were greeted by Phil Spencer, one of the designers of Gears of War.  He talked about the third game in the series and introduced three other people on stage, and together they showcased a demo of the multiplayer co-op mode of the game.  The scenes were chaotic, with lots of yelling from the characters, gunfire and very large beasties coming out of the ground from all directions, fans of the series should absolutely love that as it looked truly frantic.

Molyneux briefly spoke about Fable III

Peter Molyneux was next up on stage, and he talked briefly about Fable 3 before we were treated to a video package of what the game will supposedly offer.  I may be letting my personal opinion of Molyneux be getting in the way here, but don’t expect to see a large percentage of whatever he promises for this upcoming title.  He used the word ‘revolutionary’ which I think was meant as the setting for the game itself and what role you play, but he’s used that word before with both previous Fable games along with Black and White and neither have quite delivered in that respect.

I had to leave my computer during the showcase of Halo Reach and unfortunately, but it’s a series I’m not personally interested in but all the same fans of the series appear to be pretty excited after a generally disappointing ODST.

I’ll tell you guys now, that was it in terms of new games.  From this point onwards the entire conference focused on the new Natal hardware peripheral, recently announced as officially becoming ‘Kinect.’  Despite the fact that Kinect had an entire conference dedicated to it the day before the 360’s nearly half of the show was again dedicated to something which essentially rips off the Wii but presents it in high definition.

Natal has been renamed 'Kinect'

First up, a gentlemen came on stage and talked about ‘entertainment without controllers.’  He used his hands to cycle through menus and for whatever reason played a Justin Bieber track (much to the audiences annoyance) before switching to a jazz track.  He also used speech commands to stop the song before a woman entered the other side of the stage to continue what else Kinect could do.  She rather embarrassingly introduced her  ‘twin sister’ which to all the world looked like a pre-recording of her backstage, and proceeded to watch Avatar: The Last Airbender at the same time all the while partaking in a cringe-worthy conversation about legit gamerscores and people who who boosted theirs by playing the video game of the same name.  She then left the conversation with herself… sorry, her ‘twin’ with a voice command and quickly shuffled off stage before being replaced by two guys from ESPN after a brief skit showcasing ESPN on Xbox Live.  As an Englisman this wasn’t particularly interesting to me, but apparently viewers can choose from 3,500 games across several sports via the Xbox, and view things like facts and stats all while the game continues in the background.  Good stuff for those into that sort of thing.

Following this another chap took the stage, his name escapes me but he mentioned the fact that six new games would be coming as part of the Kinect… family?  I don’t know, but the fact is I had very mixed feelings about this.  An overly-cute girl kicked us off by interacting with a tiger called Skittles, playing jump-role with him and at one point hiding which rather upset her new pet.  Obviously this is a game aimed solely at kids and graphically looks fantastic, but after seeing three or four games that I wasn’t really bothered with in the first place I was hoping for something more.  I didn’t get that with what followed, games demo’d included a glorified version of Wii Sports, some sort of downhill rollercoaster-type game with the idea being to contort your body to grab coins, a weird downhill waterslide effort with frequent camera posing opportunities, a crappy cart racer, a generic dance game and a Wii Fit rip off.  It all mercifully ended with a trailer for a Star Wars Kinect game which actually looks pretty decent, but something about it seemed off.  It looks to be a ‘rails’ game in the same vein as House of The Dead – you can only move on when all enemies have been taken care of.  Whatever the case that looked by far the most promising of the starting Kinect games, but on the whole it was all very, very unimpressive.

The Kinect stage of the conference ended with talk about Forza, and how you can use Kinect to look around your cars and… sit in them.  The man doing the demo then pressed the ignition button on the car and then it promptly ended, so that left me scratching my head over whether you could use Kinect to actually play the game or not.

A new 360 was announced

The conference ended with Don Mattrick coming back onto the stage and announcing the rather ugly looking (n my opinion) new Xbox 360.  It does come with built in Wi-Fi and is apparently ‘Kinect ready,’ which is quite worrying as an current 360 owner regarding exactly what hardware I’d need just to set the damn thing up if I ever bought one.  The new console was shipping to stores that day and will be in stores sometimes after June 16th, and Mattick ended by saying that everyone in the room already had one being sent to their homes.  Naturally this news got the biggest ovation of the night, ending an incredibly disappointing showing from the company who put on such a promising one last year.

My problem with Kinect is that it’s obviously been designed for two reasons.  The first is to tap in to the absolutely huge Wii market, and the second is to produce ‘shovelware’ – games made very quickly and cheaply but will sell in their millions.  The problem with trying to get the attention of existing Wii owners is that they have a console that does essentially what Kinect does – albeit with a controller which is probably preferred.  Anybody who has ever wanted a Wii probably already owns one, and buying a new console to do exactly what they can do already doesn’t seem like a likely course of action apart from those who have more money than sense.  The second problem is with shovelware, most of the Kinect games shown at E3 look to be exactly that which will hugely irritate the existing 360 fanbase.  They don’t want to be playing with tigers or jumping imaginary hurdles all the while games like Elder Scroll V or Gran Turismo 5 are still not even mentioned.  Eventually 360 fans will have had enough and switch to the PS3, despite developing similar technology themselves they look more likely to cater for their more hardcore fanbase first rather than casual gamers.  We’ll have to wait and see.

Nintendo’s Conference

Highlights

  • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword demo’d by Shigeru Miyamoto
  • Golden Sun: Dark Dawn trailer shown for the DS
  • Goldeneye 007 announced and shown
  • Disney Epic Mickey demo’d, featuring unique gameplay
  • Kirby Epic Yarn announced, Kirby’s first headlining game in several years
  • Metroid: Other M scheduled to be released on August 31st
  • Donkey Kong Country Returns announced as coming this holiday
  • 3DS formally announced with a ton of games coming

After an absolutely appalling showing by Nintendo at E3 2009 things really couldn’t get any worse for them this year no matter how hard they tried.  However, they absolutely flew out of the proverbial starting blocks by showcasing a live demo of the new Legend of Zelda game, entitled Skyward Sword.  It started off with Nintendo head honcho Shigeru Miyamoto himself briefly speaking about it, followed by him introducing a guy on stage to play it for the live audience.  He proceeded to play it badly and in a pre-recorded and planned conversation Miyamoto showed him how to play via the big screen above the stage before appearing live on stage, much to the surprise and applause of the people in attendance.  We were barely five minutes into Nintendo’s conference and it was already better than last year, and he proceeded to play the game how it should be played, explaining what he was doing in Japanese while the original gentleman on stage translated for the rest of us.  The game itself looks great, and aside from a slight technical error with the controls which Miyamoto San blamed on wireless devices in the building the demo went well.

Following this we were treated to news and previews of Metroid: Other M, Wii Party, a Mario Party clone with heavy emphasis on your Mii character, Just Dance 2 which needs little explanation and Mario Sports Mix.  In fairness to Nintendo there was always going to be shovelware showcased so it was a good move getting it out of the way, Mario Sports Mix obviously looked the best of the three but all the same it’s nothing particularly interesting, featuring volleyball, dodgeball, hockey and basketball among others sports mini games.

Once all that was mercifully done and dusted we moved on to the more interesting announcements of the conference, and first up was a game called Disney Epic Mickey.  This looks particularly interesting due to featuring a unique gameplay function that allows the player to paint and erase the game world pretty much at his or her leisure, altering the very core of the game itself along the way.  It features three worlds with classic side-scrolling action as you travel between them which is a nice touch, these levels reminded me of Mickey Mania on the SNES, particularly the Steamboat Willie level the developers demo’d at the event which looks very similar the the Mickey Mania level of the same name.  We were also treated to a video package starring Kirby, a character who hasn’t starred in a Nintendo game for quite some time.  This one’s called Kirby’s Epic Yarn, and focuses on… knitting, of all things.  The game honestly looks better than it sounds, one for the kids no doubt but any Kirby fan will likely enjoy it.

Donkey Kong Country Returns to the Wii

After these announcements Nintendo’s conference really got good in my opinion.  Golden Sun DS was shown which looks very good, I’ve unfortunately never played a game in the series so I can’t really comment on that.  Judging by the video it looks to be a fairly standard console RPG, but no doubt it features a certain level of charm which has earned a very loyal fan following.  We were also treated to footage of Donkey Kong Country making a welcome return, with the ability for two players to play at the same time.  This is great news for people with young children or maybe girlfriends who perhaps aren’t very good at video games (there’s no polite way of putting that) as Diddy Kong can ride on Donkey’s back allowing the more experienced players to navigate the more challenging areas of the game.

Goldeneye was one of the more surprise announcements of the day, with a game based on the 1997 classic coming to the Wii.  The game looks a little rough around the edges but no doubt it’ll be polished before release, but the gameplay and multiplayer mode are what made the original so special and that looks to be carried over to the Wii version.  The game also features sixteen different game modes including melee, paintball and You Only Live Twice, so this is definitely one to look out for when it’s released at the end of the year.

The new 3DS was definitely Nintendo’s main focus for their E3 conference, and for good reason.  Unfortunately they didn’t show the thing in action despite the fact that it looks close to completion, but it was the impressive library of games coming to the console that really made everyone in attendance take notice.  Satoru Iwata, the president of Nintendo was on stage to show it off, and mentioned what we’ll expect to see when the 3DS is released:

  • A 3.53-inch top screen and 3.02-inch bottom touch screen
  • Three cameras- one inner and two outer. The two outer lenses serve the purpose of taking 3D pictures which can then be viewed in 3D!
  • Motion sensor
  • Gyro sensor
  • A slide pad located above the directional pad which allows for 360-degree analog input
  • A slider to adjust the 3D effect- from full to no 3D effect at all.

The 3DS can also play 3D movies such as Avatar, but Iwata was reluctant to go into too much detail.  No release date was mentioned either, but an impressive lineup of games was listed.  Those featured at E3 developed by Nintendo included:

  • Kid Icarus: Uprising
  • Mario Kart
  • Nintendogs + Cats
  • PilotWings Resort
  • Animal Crossing
  • StarFox 64 3D
  • Steel Diver
  • Paper Mario

Third-part titles also shown at the event included:

  • DJ Hero 3D from Activision
  • Resident Evil: Revelations from Capcom
  • The Sims™ 3 from Electronic Arts
  • Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater “The Naked Sample” from Konami
  • Professor Layton and the Mask of Miracles (tentative title) from LEVEL-5
  • Ridge Racer (tentative title) from Namco Bandai Games
  • Kingdom Hearts franchise game from Square Enix
  • Dead or Alive 3D (tentative title) from Tecmo Koei Games
  • Samurai Warriors 3D from Tecmo Koei Games
  • Battle of Giants: Dinosaur Strike from Ubisoft
  • Hollywood 61 (tentative title) from Ubisoft

And finally, upcoming games due to be shown at a later date include:

  • Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition (tentative title) from Capcom
  • Madden NFL and FIFA Soccer from Electronic Arts
  • CODENAME: Chocobo Racing® 3D and a Final Fantasy franchise game  from Square Enix
  • Ninja Gaiden (tentative title) from Tecmo Koei Games
  • Saint’s Row: Drive By from THQ
  • Assassin’s Creed: Lost Legacy, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon and Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory from Ubisoft
  • A Batman game from Warner Bros.

The Nintendo 3DS

Additional (yet currently unrevealed) games are also in development by Atlus, AQ Interactive, Disney Interactive Studios, Harmonix, Hudson Soft, Majesco, Marvelous Entertainment, Rocket, SEGA, Takara Tommy and Take-Two Interactive, so there’s more than enough in development to keep everyone happy.

Overall Nintendo’s E3 conference was extremely impressive, with a ton of new games revealed a demo’d live on stage.  One of my many complaints with their effort last year is that I don’t recall any Wii games being shown live at all, everything was shown in video form much to the annoyance of everyone.  Add to that the revealed games for the most part looked utter crap and you had all the ingredients for an awful display.  Thankfully they got it absolutely right this year, better dust off those Wii’s for the future!

Sony’s Conference

Highlights

  • Killzone 3 shown in 3D
  • Several other 3D titles announced like Sly Cooper Collection
  • Playstation Move showcased in depth, released mid September in Europe and US
  • PSP camera peripheral trailer shown along with lots of games
  • Little Big Planet 2 shown
  • PSN Subscription service ‘PSN Plus’ announced
  • Portal 2 surprisingly coming to the PS3
  • Gran Turismo 5 given a November 2nd US release date
  • Twisted Metal returning to the Playstation

Sony have traditionally generally put on a very good showing at E3, last years effort in particular was again a solid if somewhat unspectacular but much hype surrounded the company going into this years E3.

Tretton kicked off the conference with a trailer for Killzone 3, with a release date scheduled for September 17th in the US and no doubt soon after in other parts of the world.  Perhaps the one thing I appreciate above all else in the era of modern day gaming is the fact that most video games are released worldwide at more or less the same time, I remember the dark days of 16 bit gaming where we in Europe always had to wait several months for any release in the US.  Keep in mind that those in the US also waited months to get a game people in Japan got months beforehand as well and it all got a little silly – to the point where Chrono Trigger was never released in Europe at the time of release.

Moving on, Killzone 3 is built with 3D in mind,with the audience in attendance asked to watch the trailer that followed with glasses on.  After this it was mentioned that games like Killzone will be the ‘Avatar (the film) of gaming,’ with big games like Motorstorm: Apocalypse, Grand Turismo 5 and Sly Cooper Collection all getting the 3D treatment in the future.

A video was then shown featuring upcoming games, which included Crysis 2, Mortal Kombat, Shaun White Skateboarding, Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, Tron: Evolution and NBA 2K11.

Playstation Move was the next topic of discussion, which will be sold separately for $50, with the Navigational Controller costing $30. A $100 Move Bundle with Sports Champions, the Move set and a PlayStation Eye Camera (required for Move) will also be available, as will a Move PS3 System Bundle for $400 that includes Sports Champions and the Move Set.  The main wand itself got a cheer of approval when it was announced as being considerably cheaper than expected, but Tretton went on to mention a further cost if you want the navigational controller which frankly seems essential along with the eye.  A live demo of Tiger Woods 11 was also shown with emphasis on the 1:1 movement Move offers, that looked very impressive.  Other games announced to be compatible with the hardware included:

  • SingStar Dance
  • SOCOM 4
  • Heavy Rain Move Edition
  • EyePet
  • Sports Champions
  • Resident Evil: Gold Edition
  • Time Crisis: Razing Storm
  • Heroes On The Move

Another game that was demo’d utilising Move was something called Sorcery, a game which looks very similar to the Fable series.  It’s a third-person action adventure game where you play as a sorcerers apprentice with a whole host of spells at your disposal.  You use the Move controller to cast these spells much like Harry Potter does, being able to combine certain spells to add to your repertoire of attacking ability.  The graphics of Sorcery didn’t look particularly mind-blowing but the gameplay certainly does, this could very well be the game that defines the entire Move… erm, movement.  Also a network update for the PS3 will be sent out once Move is released that enables current titles to be compatible as well, and it’s scheduled to be released in Europe on September 15th, in America on September 19th and in Japan on October 21.

Someone called Kevin Butler took center stage next.  I have absolutely no idea who he is but we’d been treated to various skits involving him throughout Sony’s conference where he basically subtlety insulted both Microsoft and Nintendo to hilarious effect, and he decided to give a rousing motivational speech about gaming much to the audiences delight.

The focus was then switched to the PSP, with some interesting games and peripherals mentioned starting with an ad campaign featuring a kid who looks about 11 singing the praises of the handheld console, starring in another humorous skit with Kevin Butler.  A brief trailer was shown regarding a camera accessory for the PSP along with a game called Invizimals, and other games mentioned included:

Other PSP games shown include:

  • God of War: Chains of Olympus
  • Tron Evolution
  • Ace Combat: Ghost Assault
  • Parisite Eve title “The 3rd Birthday”
  • UFC Unleashed 2010
  • Patapon 3
  • Tetris
  • Eyepet
  • Piyotama
  • Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep
  • a string of RPG titles like Persona Portable (and others)
  • God of War: Ghost of Sparda.

The next game showcased was Little Big Planet 2, which this time gives the player the ability to create any type of game from shooter to RPG to puzzle.  A live demo was shown with four people playing various created games, the idea itself seems like a good one but the games played all seemed very basic.  Whether the capabilities of Little Big Planet 2 are very limited or the developers had little time to put together deeper games is anyone’s guess, hopefully more about that will be revealed in the near future.

The next announcement was a rather strange one, Jack Tretton talked about how the PSN offers a lot of things for free compared to the $50 per year needed to subscribe to Xbox Live.  However he then immediately mentioned something called PSP Plus… at a cost of $50 per year.  It wasn’t particularly clear why this was considered to be important, other than being able to download demos earlier than everyone else, free themes, minis and content – for the duration of your subscription.  If I understood that correctly that means all of that will be taken away if your subscription runs out or if you (more likely) decided $50 a year isn’t worth it, but no specifics were given about that.

A whole load of upcoming big games were shown next, starting with a new Medal of Honor game.  The developers have predictably gone the same route as the guys behind Call of Duty and gone all modern having realised that World War II has been done to death over the past 10 years or so, and a trailer of the single player mode was shown that looks pretty cool. The PS3 version will include an HD version of Medal of Honor: Frontline for free for the PS3-exclusive limited edition version.  Dead Space 2 was next up which looked extremely action-packed, and in a surprising move it was also announced that the PS3 version of the game will come with a copy of the Wii’s Dead Space: Extraction – but it’s has been enhanced and will use the Move.

Portal 2 was the surprise announcement

Gabe Newell, apparently an outspoken hater of the PS3 then came on stage and in one of the bigger surprises announced that the much anticipated Portal 2 would be coming to the PS3.  There was no mention of a solid release date, only a “coming 2011” bit of text after the trailer that was shown.

More games were then shown via a trailer, including another one for Final Fantasy XIV and then Mafia II  which has a release date of August 24th.  Exclusive DLC was also announced as well as PS3-only missions for Assassins Creed: Brotherhood.  A multiplayer trailer for the game was also shown for the first time, it contained no in-game footage however despite having a November 16th release date.  The usual Gran Turismo 5 trailer was then shown, but at the end of it there was actually a solid release date it big white text – Novemeber 2nd, and in 3D to boot.  INfamous 2 wrapped it up, Ice powers will apparently be available and the gameplay footage looked very impressive.

Last but not least was a Twisted Metal announcement, with Sweet Tooth actually driving on stage and sitting in his ice cream truck while the developers talked about the game and what it would feature, included an awesome-looking “Nuke” Mode as well as another mode where you have to drag your opposing teams faction leader and strap him to a missile launcher, which is then launched into a giant metal statue.  You have to do this three times to completely destroy the statue, and the first team to successfully do that wins the game.  And with that, the show ended on a high note.

Final Thoughts

On the whole I thought E3 was a success.  Microsoft’s conference was by far the weakest of the three with too much time dedicated to Kinect and not enough to showcasing what else is in the pipeline, and Nintendo were the surprise “winners” as it were for me.  Sony also put on an excellent showing but Nintendo’s plethora of new games and hardware was absolutely fantastic, but there’s most likely something for everybody to look forward to regardless of what console you own.

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Posted on June 15, 2010, in Video Games and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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