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Arts and Entertainment

E3 2008 Roundup

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Photo courtesy of Julie Wolfson.

Another E3 has come and gone, another three-day whirlwind of games, lounges and lights passed onto a proceeding year of digital bliss. Sure E3 isn’t what it used to be,
what with all the booth babes and swag bags and throngs of gamers huddled outside the LA Convention Center chomping at the bit for a taste of the next Soul Calibur or Resident Evil or Final Fantasy. But that isn’t to say that the entire industry is at a loss for its bespectacled past. In fact, the reinvented, invite-only E3 (as of 2007) and the creation of E for All (which welcomes the public) is highly indicative of the scope of the gaming world. So its hard to argue that the industry is more popular now than it ever was. That being said, read on to find out the highlights of this year’s E3.

The Keynotes

Microsoft: Beginning the press conference with demos of Fallout 3 (which was awarded Game of the Show), Resident Evil 5 Gears of War 2, and Fable II, Microsoft started E3 off strong by whetting the appetites of everyone in the room with the some of the most anticipated games of the show. Long story short, the biggest news out of Microsoft’s keynote was the transformation of Xbox Live, including the use of customizable avatars (much like Nintendo’s Mii’s) and the newly formed alliance with Netflix. Digital distribution is the future, and Microsoft clearly wants to dominate the market. Oh, and for all you hardcore gamers out there, yes, Final Fantasy XIIIwill be featured on the Xbox 360 as well as the PS3.

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Wii Resort photo courtesy of IGN.com.

Nintendo: A general consensus of disappointment marred Nintendo’s E3 presence this year. In terms of demos and announcements, the balance board used for Wii Fit will be the primary hardware used for Shaun White’s snowboarding, which seems logical enough. Nintendo also introduced Wii Speak, a communal microphone used during online play. However the hardware highlight of the show was the introduction of the Wii motion plus, a tiny add on for the Wii-mote that amps up its range and motion sensitivity. To demonstrate the newly pimped out Wii-mote, a new version of Wii Sports entitled Wii Resort has been developed, which includes simple basic games like throwing a Frisbee with a dog, sword fighting, and jet-skiing.

Sony: Not wasting any time, Sony’s first game demo was Resistance 2, the most anticipated game out of the Playstation 3 proprietary camp. Touting the user-generated gaming platform, LittleBigPlanet (also a PS3 exclusive) was next up, demonstrating the collaborative environment and experiential building across online communities. Not wanting to leave the PS2 in the dark (considering it still sells nearly as well as the current generation of consoles), Sony announced that a staggering 130 titles will be coming to the last generation console, which is pretty impressive. Some new info regarding downloadable content and signs of future developments with Blu-ray technology concluded the conference, and on that note, a mass exodus to the convention center followed.

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Photo courtesy of Julie Wolfson.

Grabbing appointments with all the software manufacturers proved quite difficult this time around. We were just so used to past E3’s where we could just walk up to a booth and get our hands on a controller. Luckily for us we got to play with pretty much everything we wanted to, so no complaints here. First off, we gotta say that MTV and Harmonix really showed what they were made of with their piece d’ resistance Rock Band 2. Not only did the Who headline their E3 party, they also had one of the biggest crowds outside their demo room. Also thronged with journalists and business folk was the Capcom booth, which had a double dose of geek bait with both Street Fighter IV and Resident Evil 5 demos. Both games certainly lived up to their hype, so all you Capcom fans will have plenty to do during your Christmas vacations. Here’s hoping they’ll stick to their 2008 release dates.

Electronic Arts was also on the ballot, and with the highly anticipated experiential/discovery-based title Spore dominating the booth, we knew exactly where to go. The game is beautiful as expected, but we don’t want to count out EA’s other cool projects like DeadSpace and Mirror’s Edge. Namco/Bandai also had proud reason to make an E3 presence as the buzz for Soul Calibur IV reached its pinnacle. After kicking everyone’s ass, we grew weary of weak opponents, so we headed over to Konami (creators of Metal Gear Solid) to check out the new Castlevania titles. Normally a 2-D side-scrolling game for the Nintendo DS, Konami brought out the big guns to bring a Castlevania combat title mixed with elements of an RPG to the Wii. Super fun.

After hanging out with Sony Online to check out DC Universe and a demo of their latest PC RPG The Agency, we headed over to 2K/Rockstar to catch a glimpse of Civilization IV: Revolution, Bioshock PS3, and The Darkness. Although nothing groundbreaking came out of the 2K camp, we had to reiterate that Bioshock is one of the greatest games of all time. They were also smart enough to give us Red Bull , which definitely helped us get through the rest of the day. Finally, we have to hand it to LA-based third party hardware manufacturer Nyko for having the one booth babe of the entire show and serving us cocktails named after their products. Cheers to you Nyko, we’d be happy to have another Perfect Shot at 11am.

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Photo courtesy of Julie Wolfson.

While we can’t say that we had a favorite booth out of the Big 3 (Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo) we had the greatest workout of the day at Nintendo’s booth. Playing around with the Wii Motion Plus, we had some intense sword fights and hardcore Frisbee throwing sessions, which left us winded and giggling. As if carrying around a laptop and a huge camera rig wasn’t enough.

All in all we can’t say this year’s E3 was entirely a disappointment. There are some incredibly interesting projects coming to us in the near future, and everything we got to play with had its unique qualities, which are sure to offer these hardworking software companies some considerable success. We can say, however, that everyone planning on attending E for All this year better get amped up, because a sparse crowd at a video game convention is always a bit saddening. So get your cosplay outfits and plastic swords ready, because there’s not one gamer who wants to see the LA video game convention die out completely.