E3 Early Impressions

Leave it to a couple of expected announcements, some really nice gameplay footage and a couple surprises to get me excited about E3 again.

First off, Microsoft seems to be trying (a little too desparately) to integrate casual online functions and gaming with the Xbox 360. A bit of it was highlighted previously with the New Xbox Experience and things like 1 vs 100 Live. Now they’re adding social networking functionality via Facebook and Twitter. I think this is a novel idea and one that could potentially be a nice little feature.

The other is Natal, or the 360’s answer to Wii motion/IR. Sony already has SIXAXIS, which is ok, but nothing spectacular. Natal promises to be different by using a camera to track whole body motion, something that sounds similar to the PS2’s EyeToy or the Xbox Vision camera that came out a couple years ago.  My take on motion control is it can be a bother at times, especially when you are forced to use it. Some games make good use of motion sensitivity like Uncharted had a little bit of it and several Wii games are exceptional at it. But for the most part it’s Microsoft tapping into a gimmick that all its competition has. Although if Steven Spielberg is helping announce it, I suppose all is forgiven…

Now onto some game impressions…

The Beatles Rock Band – I had heard a lot about it before and  I’m already very excited about it. I love the new guitars and the idea to chronicle the Fab Four’s career. Watching it in motion is something else. Going from Liverpool to the United States, playing the various stages of their career from performing on TV, to stadiums to their LSD trip period. The Beatles looks like an incredible experience. Throw in not two part harmonization, but three and this looks like the step that the Rock Band / Guitar Hero formula needed to take.

Left 4 Dead 2 – You knew it was coming, just not this fast. Coming at the end of the year, Valve is bringing the sequel to the one of my favorite games of last year, Left 4 Dead. Four new survivors (which unfortunately means no Louis…aww) take on the zombie horde at the same time as the first game, just in new cities, including French Quarter New Orleans amongst others. There’s a new focus on melee combat with weapons like baseball bats, frying pans and (yay) Chainsaws. I’m hoping for custom characters, so we’ll see.

Halo ODST – The “expansion pack” has become a spin-off, and apparantly that spin-off deserves a $59.99 MSRP.  Impressions from the first gameplay trailer are good, it’s still very Halo-ish. But I wonder how is one normal ODST supposed to fight the Covenant in a Master Chief like fashion, without having any Spartan abilities. I see a silenced sub-machine gun and really that’s about it. The campaign looks very good with a lot of interweaving stories including Reach and what might be the first Covenant assault on Earth.

Halo Reach – Here’s the game that looks to hoist the flag as a true descendant of Halo. Reach is a story that has already been published and many know about but the teaser trailer looks to bring chaos and a massive Covenant army assaulting Earth. There also looks to be many Spartans. Excellent.

Forza Motorsport 3 – The trailer looks really wonky. Choreographed stunt driving at high speeds looks all fine and good, but Forza isn’t exactly known for it’s tricks. Drifing in Forza has always been something I’ve been curious about after watching videos on YouTube so maybe there will be a bit more of a focus on that. What I can say, is that the engine has been revamped, it will run at 60 frames/sec and there will be as many as 400 cars in the next installment. Drops October.

Crackdown 2 – The game that everybody bought to get into the Halo 3 Beta turned out to be not half bad. Crackdown 2 looks to have a more detailed cell-shaded engine and all the superpowers that made the first one fun. It also looks to have something more monstrous going on than taking down crime gangs.

Metal Gear Solid Rising – Leave it to Hideo Kojima to steal the stage at Microsoft’s press conference. MGS Rising will be a new Metal Gear, focusing on an older Raiden. Hopefully between MGS2 and MGS4, during the time he goes rogue. I like the idea, Raiden is a much better character now than he was after MGS2. It has been anounced for 360, but Kojima is likely to announce it for PS3 later.

Final Fantasy XIII – Nothing new on FFXIII yet, except a release window. Looks to come out on 360 March 2010. Ps3 Simultaneously? Is Square focusing on the 360 or the PS3 release in America? It’s hard to say. Why wouldn’t they announce a solid PS3 window?

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