This year, Rog and I both went to the 2010 E3 Expo together to make sure we had the most in-depth coverage to date, and to save on parking. There was a lot more to see this year, but thankfully, there were just as many indifferent industry types who were content to stand by and watch while we had fun. We'll start off with a look at the games and products that I thought were of particular interest and then proceed onward to Rog's big gallery of photos from the expo.
I can't necessarily say that I was looking forward to the new 360/PS3 Castlevania game, but I was anticipating it. Last year's video made the title look very not-Castlevania-y, so I was a little skeptical as to how it would fit into the universe, given that it doesn't seem to have even a shred of the same style on display anywhere. But hey, Patrick Stewart did lend his throaty pipes to the project, so it deserved a look.
The demo itself played fairly well. Fans of the earlier 3D release, Lament of Innocence (there must be at least a couple out there), will recognize the two-button fighting system of quick, narrow attacks and wide sweeping attacks used for Gabriel Belmont's whip-like "Combat Cross". That's about the extent of the similarities between this game and Castlevania. The demo had you fighting werewolves and wargs, you could pick up throwing knives (and I'm told that other weapons from the series can be picked up later on), but frankly, if you didn't know this was a Castlevania game going into it, you would never have guessed it from playing it.
Nevertheless, it could wind up being a decent game, just as the third Halloween movie was a
decent awesome* horror film even though it really had nothing to do with the series itself. It was an interesting play, but the highlight for me has to be the sudden appearance of a mystical talking horse that comes to replace Gabriel's slain mount. The whole thing was a little odd, but the weirdest bit was that in order to make this talking horse seem wise (i.e., wising than any other horse that learned to talk), they gave it a little grey beard. I wish I had grabbed a picture of it, but both Rog and I were too busy laughing.
(*editor's note: it's not decent... it's awesome. Get it straight, Boogie.)
Along the periphery of the convention hall were exhibits advertising new gaming accessories. This new controller caught my eye right away. I had never really thought of arm braces as being all that comfortable, but some enterprising company decided to go ahead and make a controller out of one. This gentleman here was using one on each arm to play a first-person-shoot game. I don't know if it was the small crowd of people watching, or the fact that he had a couple of cumbersome controllers clamped onto his arms, but he was having the damndest time doing anything more than spinning in place and shooting at the wall.
Although, if the company wants to send me a free one, I'll be more than happy to lend my name to the product. Coming this fall: Dr. Boogie's Action Traction Controller!
This guy was channeling the spirit of the late Billie Mayes in an effort to sell his new product: Silly Putty game cleaner! That wasn't the actual name, but that's what I was looking at when I came to his exhibit. He had a wad of yellow-green putty that he was using to dab up bits of dirt and hair off a keyboard and a Gamecube controller made to look like a 360 controller. If he really wanted to show off the incredible cleaning power of his putty, he should've brought it over to the Capcom exhibit. Those controllers were positively encrusted with filth.
This demo caught my attention because I thought for sure that Blizzard had their own separate convention where they showed off their new stuff. Upon closer examination, I discovered that I was actually looking at Forsaken World, an MMO of some sort that looks even more like World of Warcraft than any non-Blizzard game has a right to. I suppose I can't blame them; Blizzard has made so much money from that game that they could fund our failing space program.
I loved Bionic Commando Rearmed, but I never thought that we would see more of the series after last year's lackluster 3D game. Lo and behold, Capcom has decided to keep a good thing going and made up a whole new 2.5D Bionic Commando. And guess what: in this one, you can jump! Has there ever been a sequel that could boast jumping as an exciting new feature? I think not.
The sad part is that I'm so accustomed to not being able to jump in these games that I was flying all over the place and was killed after only a few minutes. Time's a'wasting, so I had to put my pride aside and move on.
Gundemonium is a new game new game from Platine Dispotif, a Japanese game developer that specializes mainly in Bullet Hell-type games (games where, at any given time, the screen can be filled with almost nothing but enemy bullets). Not just side-scrolling shooters either; Castlevania-style games, Zelda-style games, and all of them with a certain amount of that Bullet Hell aesthetic, and all of them, unfortunately, available only in Japanese. Their presence at E3, however, was to announce that Gundemonium would be coming to the Playstation Network, and in English no less.
Rog and I played the 2-player demo, and even though nothing seemed to hurt you in the demo, Rog somehow managed to die. What a n00b.
The long-anticipated sequel to Dead Rising made an appearance at E3 as well. It's the same level of zombie slaughter from the original, only it takes place in Vegas instead of a mall, so there's no need to run that disclaimer about John Romero not being involved in the making of this game. Also, Frank West, the photographer/zombie killer extraordinaire from the original, was a fun guy, but he looked a little too much like Johnny Knoxville.
Anyway, the new feature on display in the demo was the ability to combine two dangerous items into one REALLY dangerous object. I, for example, combined a car battery with a rake and made an electric rake. Results were shocking, but the guy next to me made an even greater device by combining a vacuum cleaner with a circular saw blade: the exsanguinator!
There was meat everywhere.
As worried as I am about the new 3D Castlevania (and frankly ALL 3D Castlevanias past, present, and future), I was especially interested to see the next 2D installment, Castlevania: Harmony of Despair. To start with, they've finally decided to bring back Ayami Kojima, the artist who game Symphony of the Night, and a half dozen other Castlevania games since, their distinct gothic look. I'm not suggesting that the other artists who were brought in during the interim are bad people, or that they're bottom-feeding hacks who should have to live out the rest of their days as part of a Human Centipede (except for whoever did the character designs for Dawn of Sorrow. Fuck that guy/gal). It's just nice to get the good stuff back.
I'm a bit torn on the game itself, though. The demo let you pick from a handful of different characters from the Castlevania universe, each with their own unique special attacks/abilities, then set you loose on a map with ten minutes to find the boss and kill it. Right away, you notice that nearly every sprite and every piece of background art comes from a previous Castlevania title. It's been said at times that the Castlevania series is self-cannibalizing, but this is just ridiculous.
The other big selling point is that the camera can pull back far enough to show you the entire map even as you're playing through it. Your player tends to be a bit small, so you pull it in to the traditional camera view, or put it halfway between those two positions.
The demo was decently entertaining, but I have to wonder if they can really make a whole game out of this. If the entire game is just speed runs through relatively tiny maps to fight a boss and collect loot, I don't see that as being a particularly engaging, especially in single player. But who am I kidding? I'll probably get it on day 1.
On a side note, the guy running the demo claimed I was the first person to actually beat it. I was pretty pumped after hearing that, but I was less so when I considered the other players, which if the guy who went before me was any indication, were all stroke victims with arthritic thumbs.
Oh, Splatterhouse. How I've dreamed of the day when I would finally get to see more of you. When they announced a sequel oh so many years ago, I was over the moon. When I heard there would be a demo at E3, I was ecstatic. Why, then, did you have to fill me with such a sense of dread?
Above all else, I'm glad the developers have taken the title so literally. I don't know that I've ever seen a game as ridiculously bloody as this one. Even the title menu had Rick exploding the brains out of some hapless mutant to give you a little taste of things to come. Inside, you've got all the classic elements from the previous game in glorious 3D, even mutant Rick taking wanton violence and sadism to the next level. And mixed in with the 3D brutality were 2D platforming sections not unlike those seen in the first two games in the series.
The problem is that the violence is so great, the volume of blood so high, that the demo started slowing down significantly. The action was further slowed down during a few unnecessarily long fights that had me wondering if I should stick it out for the rest of the demo. I did, and it ended with the appearance of none other than Bagman, the Splatterhouse boss with chainsaws for hands and a sack over his head. I just hope the devs can work out all the performance issues before the game's fall 2010 release date.
One of the games I've been looking forward to for months is the Dynasty Warriors game based off the Japanese manga, Fist of the North Star. A fusion of two of my favorite things, this game is called Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage. For the uninitiated, Fist of the North Star is about a martial artist named Kenshiro, who roams the post-apocalyptic wasteland defending hapless villagers and fending off legions of thugs using the titular martial art style. The kicker is that by pushing various pressure points, Ken causes his foes to explode. How it's taken this long to turn it into a game this exciting, I just don't know.
The demo gave access to a handful of characters from the full game, but as this was a Dynasty Warriors game, your powers and abilities early on in the game kind of sucked. To really see if a particular Dynasty Warriors title is going to be good, you need to see how they determine character growth and obtaining special items/abilities long term.
It's due out in the fall, and supposedly, the designers intend to ramp up the blood and violence for the western release. It's hard to imagine them adding much more to a game where you can make a person explode by punching them, but I'm anxious to see them try.
Rog joined me for a little multiplayer Crackdown 2, and the results were pretty entertaining. I loved the original Crackdown, but I wasn't exactly clear on what was being added for the sequel. There didn't seem to be much different, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The demo had us moving to points throughout the game world to wrest control from the local Cell gang, and wouldn't you know it, you can get the same result throwing a grenade at some gang members that you can from chucking cars at them.
We sort of lost sight of the main object toward the end of the demo and just started screwing around. Rog started beating the crap out of a bunch of mutants, and I called in a special jumping monster truck-like SUV, which I then used to try and run Rog down as he was beating up freaks. Good times.
Of all the new titles that showed up at E3, I'd have to put Vanquish near the top of my list. I really have no idea what's going on in this game. All I know is that it's the future, and I think terrorists are involved. The important part is that you control a guy in a special suit of armor that lets him tear shit up. The basic premise seems to be a cover-based shooter a la Gears of War, but with more over-the-top action (it's coming from the same people who brought us Bayonetta). The demo has you blasting a bunch of robots to pieces, staying mobile to avoid grenades and flanking maneuvers, and even affords you the opportunity to swipe one of their giant walking gun platforms to blow up even more robots. In particular, your guy has the unique ability to do a rock and roll power slide to both escape from danger and enter bullet time for even more carnage.
The demo concluded with a giant robot boss battle. Whoever makes those things really should come up with a way to stop their weak points from glowing orange. Can you imagine how badly the war in Iraq would be going if our troops were traveling in humvees with fluorescent gaps in their armor?
In any case, I'll be all over this one when it comes out.
FotNS got most of my attention while I was at the Tecmo Koei exhibit, but I still managed to try a few of their less manly titles as well. Warriors: Legends of Troy is a Dynasty Warriors-esque game focusing on the Trojan War, and letting you play as various characters such as Achilles and Odysseus. The demo didn't really show off a lot of what's going to be in this game, but it did have a lot of Achilles stabbing people in the face with his sword. Very bloody, indeed, but I noticed that his impressive scripted kill sequences were missing sound effects, and at times, they seemed to occur even when Achilles fails to actually stab what he was trying to stab. They'll need to put a bit more polish on this one if they're hoping to draw in Dynasty Warriors fans, especially with it projected to come out around the same time as FotNS: Ken's Rage.
I couldn't draw any conclusions based on the name Trinity: Souls of Zill O'll. It was the third game on Tecmo Koei's docket with a colon in the name, but that's all I know about it. So I gave it a shot, and wouldn't you know it, I knew more about it than I realized. I was surprised to learn that not only was I familiar with it, but I had also played years ago, when it was called Forgotten Realms: Demon Stone. Alright, that's a little bit of an oversimplification, but all the same elements were there: three characters you alternated between fighting hordes of enemies, with each character having special abilities that let them fight in a different way, or overcome specific environment obstacles the other two cannot. I didn't care all the much for Demon Stone, and this one seems to be about the same, albeit with slightly worse AI.
There were a few more games that I was hoping to get a crack at, but three days just isn't enough to sample all the gaming goodness that was on display this year. Heck, Rog and I could've spent all three days on the new Twisted Metal, but I'll let him tell you all about that as he shares with you his extensive photo gallery of the 2010 Electronic Entertainment Expo...
There's still much more to see from
I-Mockery's coverage of E3 2010!
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