Well, I wasn't able to go to E3. Thankfully, pretty much every event was covered online through multiple sources. So I got to watch all the booth babes, playable demos, and crowds all from my crappy laptop. It was just like being there. Yeah, just like being there… They even had the real freaking Batmobile. Maybe next year.
So while there were a few games released this week, including the much hyped Red Faction 2: Red Faction Boogaloo (aka Red Faction: Guerilla), this edition of GamerVania will focus on E3! And there were some extremely cool things announced, including one device that might change the world forever! I wish there was a way I could add dramatic music to this text. Wait, let me try again. Including one device that might change the world FOREVER (dun dun DAAAAA)! Better.
Of all the announcements at E3, there was one that seems to be the unanimous winner in terms of interest and buzz. Microsoft stole the show, and leading the way was the announcement of a new piece of hardware called the Natal that turns you into the controller. You put the Natal on top of your TV, and the system then recognizes your movements. It even has voice recognition software to allow you to speak to the video game and issue commands. Imagine screaming at your game that it cheats, and then having the game pause and think about what it has done! That might be pushing it, but it could happen.
More realistically, picture playing a fighting game where you actually dodge and punch back. But wait, there's more! With the Natal attached, you can also control your Xbox dashboard by hand. If you want to scan through video titles, you can do so with the wave of a hand. Once you find the title you want, you can literally grab it and pull it up by simply making a pulling motion. You will also be able to have streaming video chat, and the scanning feature is also very very cool. One demo showed a man walking back and forth while a digital avatar watched him. Then it got a little creepy. The avatar actually responded to simple questions. Now, I like my video games, but I am not sure I appreciate my console having the ability to criticize me. It would be difficult to explain to my friends and family why I was hiding from my Xbox. But the demo did not end there. The presenter wrote a note, told the avatar to scan, and then the avatar pulled out an identical piece of paper with the same writing. If you have a gun in your house, whatever you do, do not leave it in range of the Natal or you could find your avatar deciding to get drunk and shoot up your hard drive. The potential to abuse this technology is awesomely huge.
Assuming the Natal works as promised, there is a very real possibility that this same technology will soon be seen on computers. After all, it is being developed by Microsoft. They have a little experience with these things. 10 years from now the mouse could be a thing of memory, doomed to the fate of 8 track tapes. We could soon be watching a movie from 2009 where a character is using a mouse and we will point and laugh, then give each other a high five over how super cool and futuristic we have become. At that point hopefully our digital avatar will call us on it. They even had Steven Spielberg announce the thing. Because Spielberg is cool, I guess.
There is a catch though. In an effort to gain ground on Nintendo and slow the surge of the Playstation in the Asian markets, Microsoft pulled out all their big guns for this E3. The problem is that now that both gamers and the media are looking at Natal like a cute little puppy, they will have a long wait. The Natal is not due out until Christmas 2010.
The Natal may have been the biggest of Microsoft announcement, but it was not the only one. When the Xbox was first announced, we were all told of the fantastic possibilities of this engineering marvel. Soon, we were told, Xbox will replace all electronics in our house. It will be our friend and lover, and keep us warm on those dark cold nights! We were all giving the finger to our DVD players and warning them that there time had come! Epic fail. The interface was clunky, the games available to download were weak, and the video selection was slim and pricey. But Xbox Live (XBL) service has seen some remarkable steps recently, with a fancy new look to its OS, and the partnership with Netflix being the start. If all of Xbox's announcements come true, the console should soon become more than just a gaming system, and may even appeal to the mythic “non gamers” everyone keeps going on about.
The first announcement is that XBL's video service will relaunch as Zune Video in fall, offering a wide selection of 1080p movies and TV shows for sale and rental- and all will be streamed to avoid slow downloads. They are keeping the list of titles quiet for now, but they promise a huge selection. If video isn't doing it for you, then the partnership with Last.fm, an online music service is coming soon too, and it is free. Next is the recent announcement that current games will be available for sale online, including the already announced Bioshock and Assassins Creed to name a few. You will be able to purchase these games with a credit card, and store them on your hard drive. Strangely, there is no price break for the disc-less games though.
Next was the announcement of a partnership with both Twitter and Facebook on XBL. You will soon be able to take stalking to an exciting new level. Both apps will let you invite friends from Facebook or Twitter to be Xbox friends, and vice versa. You will even be able to set it up so you can be notified on screen of status updates. In case, ya know, you are desperate to know what monster your friend would be, or what they ate for lunch.
Microsoft seemed to be the big winner of E3, but Sonyhad a few solid announcements as well. Unfortunately one of those announcements was not that the PS3 would finally drop in price, which means I will not yet own one. But it is getting harder to justify that with the announcement of PS3 exclusives God of War 3 and a 256 person online game called MAG, a new motion sensitive control similar to the Natal, but not as advanced, and the introduction of the new PSP Go. Sony also announced more updates to their online service, including a slew of new games to download.
And Nintendo? Well Nintendo went in a different direction. They announced a new Zelda game in the pipeline, as well as a new Mario game. They also have an improved controller coming soon, but that's about it. Other than that, they must have been busy counting their money.
The PSP Go was also debuted at E3 to a thunderous round of “meh.” The new PSP will be smaller and lighter than the current version, but the real change is that there is no slot for discs—all games will be digital only. It is due out October 1st, so Christmas will be a make or break for the technology. If it works, it could be a sign of the trend of not just games, but all media.
Hideo Kojima is a busy guy. In fact, he is busy enough that the guy actually had his own press conference. After announcing that there will be a new Metal Gear Game for Xbox that he will be producing, as well as a new Metal Gear for the PSP that he will direct, Konami recently announced that he is taking over and rebooting the Castlevania franchise. The new game, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow will feature some big name voice talent, including Patrick Stewart, Robert Carlyle, and Jason Isaacs. Awe-freaking-some. For those not familiar with the gaming world, that would be like James Cameron deciding he wants to take a crack at directing the next Star Trek movie. Nerdgasms ahoy!
Hot Coffee and Non-E3 News
Actually, the news is taking the week off. Instead, enjoy the upcoming game section! E3 is THE place to debut the biggest new titles of the coming year, and this year was no exception. There are enough new games coming out that I may be forced to send my digital avatar off with a gun to go digitally steal some games. Most of the games do not have release dates yet, but here are a few coming out sometime soon. Check out the video below from IGN.com that shows some of the best trailers.
Among the major announcements was Rock Band: The Beatles, which was introduced to the E3 crowd by Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. Yeah, watching it online was just like being there. Yeah... I have always thought rhythm games would be cooler if there were a few ‘splostions mixed in, but I might make an exception thanks to my giant and unabashed man crush on The Beatles.
Master Chief may be off taking a nap, but Halo is far from done. Halo: ODST is coming soon, but the game developers, Bungie, didn't just stop with a new ODST trailer. Halo fans everywhere can drool over the new teaser of Halo: Reach, with the new game coming in 2010.
Fans were treated to a detailed trailer for the eagerly anticipated Final Fantasy XIII, but unfortunately the English language release is still several months away. Spouses and significant others of gamers have until Spring 2010 until they lose them to the massive, 50-100 hour game. Until then, make every moment count!
God of War III is coming soon, and it is a PS3 exclusive, damnit. On the Xbox side, Left 4 Dead 2 will be coming out soon as a 360 and PC only title.
Other big name titles include the long delayed Alan Wake, Assassin's Creed 2, Batman: Arkham Asylum, and a squeee-tastic looking Bioshock 2. Take THAT, spare time! Oh, and there's a new WWII game called The Saboteur. Great.
Those are just a few of the many highlights from E3. And I am not at all bitter that I missed it. No, really. I am at a good place now. My digital avatar on the other hand… well, lets just say you should give him a wide berth for awhile.