E3 2004 Day 2 Report
Sean W. Gibson / Jun 13th, 2004 No Comments
Day 2 turned out to be much more productive and fun from my perspective as the appointments and walk-throughs at the booths provided some much needed surprises and enthusiasm on creativity.
Half Life 2
Vivendi was kind enough to set me up with a VIP presentation of Half Life 2 … which basically meant I got to cut in the substantially long line to view the demo in their theater. The story of the game thrusts players in a post-apocolyptic future where aliens have occupied Earth while humans fight rebelliously for their freedom. The graphics of HL2 are downright jaw-dropping and the physics of this new engine are like nothing you’ve seen on the market. Particularly interesting was the notice that all the old mods (specifically Counter Strike) will actually ship with HL2 but will work off the Half Life 2 engine! The screenshot above features an alient “Stryder” (spelling unconfirmed) which was one bad-ass mutha that shot up half the city while impaling people on its long legs … it was a fantastic demonstration of the horror aspect to some of the aliens which furthers the experience for game players. Half Life 2 definitely was one of the big attractions of the show and for good reason as gamers have all the reason in the world to buy into the hype.
Sony On-Line Entertainment
A few months ago I was lucky enough to meet up with a few people on the EverQuest II team and was shown some preliminary builds of the game. At the time I was totally stunned at the level of detail the worlds and the characters were given, and this time around was absolutely no different. This is easily the most visually stunning MMORPG on the market, and yes, we know what the others are up to. The rich environments are enhances by things like voices for “virtually all” NPCs and new races to play. This game is absolutely impressive and should no doubt continue the frachise as the leader in the genre they made famous.
Also on hand was an early build of the PS2 title “EverQuest Champions: Return to Arms” which serves as the sequel to Champions of Norrath. The game looks like a meaner, buffer, more deep edition of the previous, with PS2 owners in for a real treat with the missions and new amount of monsters in the game. Slated for Q1 of 2005, this title should be another winner for the PS2 platform.
If I were to award a winner to “most impressive” vendor of E3, the early favorite would go to Ubisoft. I really didn’t expect too much from them going into the booth tour. Obviously, Prince of Persia 2 is the bread and butter of their E3 lineup and was receiving plenty of attention from expo goers. However, perhaps the most impressive and surprising title on display at the show was Brothers In Arms which is an Xbox first person tactical shooter based on the real life story of a paratrooper company in World War 2.
For three years the team has been developing this game in secret … and it seems the long amount of dev time has not gone to waste. The AI of the game was so far advanced from anything I’ve ever seen in a shooter, and the tactical controls to issue commands to your troops seemed easy, efficient, and to reward successful and realistic military tactics. And like “Band of Brothers” (the popular HBO miniseries now airing on The History Channel), the game is actually based on a true story. The story of the game is set during the famous airdrop before the invasion at Normandy, where Sgt. Matt Baker and his squad of 101st Airborne paratroopers were scattered over the French countryside. As the story unfolds, the player (Baker) must choose between the success of his mission and the lives of his men – his brothers in arms. Brothers in Arms will immerse players in the historic eight-day invasion of Normandy and will easily be one of Q4 2004’s biggest titles.
There is no doubt Ubisoft is going to come away with plenty of show awards due to this title, and I have to stress that this is the game to watch coming out of this show.
Also on display at the Ubisoft booth of note was Silent Hunter III, the third installment of the popular naval submarine simulation. The team, based in Romania, has put together a fantastic set of graphics to go with this game, and the AI from the opponents seemed extremely impressive. The other title that force some “major” attention was the new Settlers game (it’s getting a new title called Heritage of Kings), which I could only classify as an RTS with a major scoup of SimCity, and The Sims. There are 20 medieval missions (supposed to lsat gamers 1 to 2 hours each) to challenge players to create their own realm by conquering seven kingdoms and retrieving the Orb of Power. Ubisoft has confirmed that multiplayer content will be included. This is one of the best graphically intensive RTS games the show has to offer, and if the visuals don’t take your breath away, nothing in the gaming industry ever will.
Logitech is a company we’ve admired from afar in recent years, but I was able to get a great demonstration of some of the new Xbox, PC, and PS2 controllers they are releasing this year … and finally we’re going to see some wireless controllers for Xbox! What gamers should be particularly excited about is that Logitech has put together some very ergonomically correct controllers that feel great in your hands … this should save you from aching after long hours of game play! The Precision Controller for Xbox in particular was extremely easy to handle, and helped me whoop up on a PR lady in NBA Ballerz at the demonstration booth. The company is also releasing a slew of new products for the PC and PS2 as well, including Gran Turismo 4 theamed racing wheels, and even announced that a wide variety of products were going to be released for the PSP (Portable PlayStation). We’re very excited to make contact with Logitech at long last and will be working with their PR personnel to develop stories on their exciting line of gaming products.
Sony isn’t the only company here releasing a new hand held gaming device. Gizmondo is a company offering up a device with a 320×240 TFT screen and Windows CE as its operating system. The device, once launched next year in the US (tentatively), will offer GPS, MP3 playback, SMS, MPEG 4 (video), USB 2.0, Windows Media Player 9, Bluetooth abilities, as well as an integrated digital camera. The demonstration we got showed off some simple titles that were quick to impress. We didn’t go in thinking or knowing too much about Gizmondo, but came out thinking this could definitely be a player in the European markets to start (the native market to this device) but could have a successful launch in the USA given the right circumstances and time frame. We look forward to getting more in depth with the Gizmondo team in the near future.
I had the pleasure of meeting Clay Dreslough, who was working the SlugFest booth for Midway. Clay is one of the owners of the popular Baseball Mogul game, one that the staff of Gaming Illustrated know well. It is of particular note then, that Midway should include the engine of Baseball Mogul (perhaps the best Baseball Fantasy GM games ever) into their new edition of MLB SlugFest Loaded for the Xbox and PS2. The graphics of the game are pretty impressive, and the “over the top” features based in a real life environment (similar to what we saw in our reviews for their NHL and NFL titles) drew laughs and admiration for their ingenuity. Midway had some other great titles on display, and we’re working on developing several future features and reviews with them.
E3 – THE DAY AFTER YESTERDAY … impressions from Greg Gibson, Associate Editor
E3 continued with a vengeance today with a full schedule of interviews and previews of the coming year’s new releases.
We had several interesting interviews and would like to share some of the nuggets with you:
• We had an opportunity to meet with AMD and focus on their new AMD64FX chipset. The 64-bit processor is truly awesome and holds the potential for a significant step change in system performance once the 64-bit operating system (Microsoft’s Longhorn) is released next year. In addition, the 64FX has internal capabilities, which Microsoft is about to utilize with their new Service Pack 2 to WindowsXP, to prevent the infamous “buffer flow under run” virus attacks… something Intel’s products can’t do yet. We acknowledge the current FX64 3.4 Gigahertz chipset only has about a 10% performance increase over a similar Athelon 3400, until the 64-bit operating system is released by Microsoft and game developers beginning taking advantage of the new power of the 64FX. In summary, AMD is now working hard to pre-position themselves for market dominance in 64-bit processing – and their 64FX chipset is one that the consumer will enjoy and be current while older 32-bit processors get changed out for 64 chips… check out AMDs latest for gamers at their new website (launched last week) at www.amd.com/gamer1
• We also met with Microsoft, and immediately grilled them for details on Longhorn. Bottom line is that they are sticking to the story that the 64-bit operating system is on track and will be released next year. However, we learned that DirectX 2 and a revision to Windows Media Player is on deck… the importance of these revisions are that Microsoft appears positioned to upgrade Media Center to handle HDTV! We will be getting more information from Microsoft later in the summer, but it is a positive development that Microsoft is totally committed and working hard to provide HDMI and HD support.
• SONY ON-LINE ENTERTAINMENT continues to look very solid with their upcoming titles and EVERQUEST II. We got a special view of EVERQUEST II and a demonstration of CHAMPIONS: RETURN TO ARMS on the PS2 (screenshot to the right). SOE is in for a real battle, as most developers are looking to knock off the highly successful MMORPG with comparable genres. SOE has spent their effort on providing more graphics and providing distinctive differences – if it all works out, SOE will retain their number 1 position. Best example of this is in EVERQUEST II – as you develop and wander the world, you interact with NPCs… but these NPCs actually TALK to you, and you have options for multiple dialogs with different outcomes. We had a great conversation with the SOE Audio Director, who informed us that there are over 160 hours of dialog already “in the can”. We really appreciated the technology, and creativity in taking the Industry in a positive direction.
• UBISOFT has several simulations that really carry the genre to the next level: SILENT HUNTER III (submarine warfare game), PACIFIC FIGHTERS (WWII Pacific Genre based on the IL-2 games), and SETTLERS: Heritage of Kings (think of a hybrid of THE SIMS and SETTLERS). The design team on SETTLERS has amazing graphics with extreme attention to detail – trees sway in the breeze; blacksmiths stoke their fires and bellows roll; when the lake freezes over, warriors can walk and you see their reflection in the ice!
• DISCover gave us an overview of their technology support to numerous companies. We have respected and admired their new small PC console designs, which offer consumers the ability to keep it simple and non-intrusive. However, DISCover is working with many other companies to help make their products better. We spoke with ONKYO, who is evaluating using DISCover to help them position their next generation of sound centers – where the consumer can have an integrated sound console with hard disc recording of TV shows, and the ability to play audio/video .
• We met with a company working to generate a buzz for their upcoming launch in November – PHANTOM. This new company intends to provide a console system which will be linked to the Internet so that games can be downloaded to their console off their network. Instead of buying games, a simple interactive display allows the consumer to download their choices. The console also has a very parental-friendly system to allow several profiles, which can be customized for children and parents can limit the games they can play. PHANTOM is hard at work completing their system in time for the Christmas 2004 shopping season, and is busy adding game titles to be available at the launch.
• We met with TIMEGATE studios, who have two excellent titles in alpha/beta testing: KINGS OF WAR and AXIS AND ALLIES. Both RTS appear very rich in story and detail. We didn’t get much time with them today, but they are on the list for tomorrow.
Be sure to visit each day next week for brand new features and stories straight from the floor in the Los Angeles Convention Center for E3 2004!!!
tags: e3 2004 , half life 2 , midway , vivendi