Get up! Get moving! Get involved with your video games as if they were your children and have been performing below standard at school. Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo want you to understand that the future of gaming isn’t in the palm of your hand, it stretches from the bottom of your avatar’s shoe to the top of your Mii’s head. This year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) took place at the Los Angeles Convention Center from June 2 through June 4 and carried several themes, from true three-dimensional gaming experiences to revolutionary changes in team play. Alongside big titles showcased to drooling fans behind closed doors and out on display, this year’s show blew the lid off of the gaming world and promises a year’s worth of fantastic gaming for both casual and hard-core gamers.
Microsoft kicked off the week’s events with an impressive conference, featuring former Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, who welcomed The Beatles: Rock Band, a follow-up to the wildly popular MTV Games franchise. Replete with faux-renditions of the Fab Four’s iconic instruments (John Lennon’s Rickenbacker 325, for instance), the game contains 45 master tracks and Abbey Road, available for download on Sept. 9, the game’s release date.
Steven Spielberg then appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, to introduce what Microsoft is currently calling Project Natal, a “controller-free gaming and entertainment experience.” Nintendo’s Wiimote cannot compete with what Microsoft was able to demonstrate – full body mapping by a small peripheral allows the player to become the character. Throwing punches in real life equates to throwing a punch in game, and kicking air in your living room will result in shooting a goal in a virtual soccer match. Whatever Microsoft ends up calling its project, it is already being heralded as a step forward in video game technology.
At both Nintendo’s and Sony’s press conferences, it was a game of catch-up as Sagawa Itoru, President of Nintendo, introduced a strange device called the Vitality Sensor, a small peripheral that will “provide information to the users about the body’s inner world." This announcement was met with ridicule both online and inside of Club Nokia, where I sat beside an angry blogger who typed a furious rant to her live blog. Nintendo redeemed itself somewhat by announcing two new Mario games for the Wii: The New Super Mario Brothers and Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Metroid: Other M, developed by the creators of the recent Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive series, Team Ninja.
Sony focused its attention on bringing the PlayStation 3 up to speed with the Nintendo Wii by introducing the PlayStation Motion Controller and a new version of its popular PlayStation Portable called the PSP Go. This new hand-held device is lighter and more versatile than the original PSP and is able to play games, movies and TV directly from the internet using it’s built-in wi-fi.
The biggest news (besides Project Natal!) coming out of these conferences and the show floor itself was the amazing array of games on display, ranging from action/adventure third-person shooters to interactive sports and swordplay.
One of the most anticipated titles of the upcoming year is Batman: Arkham Asylum. I found myself in awe at Warner Bros. Interactive’s booth, made to resemble the infamous Arkham Asylum. The game features a unique FreeFlow combat system, allowing a user to fight multiple subjects at the same time while never breaking away from pummeling your enemies.
The original cast from Batman: The Animated Series has returned, including Mark Hamill, voice of The Joker, who was notably thrilled, according to Sefton Hill, the Director of Batman. “He had so much energy and enthusiasm for the role, [that] we actually went back and wrote more dialogue specifically for him,” said Hill.
Later, I found myself enthralled by Bayonetta, a hardcore action game from SEGA and Hideki Kamiya, Director of Devil May Cry. Described as “a graceful, gun-wielding witch with powers beyond the comprehension of mere mortals,” Bayonetta plays as though she is lighter than air, flipping and kicking, shooting from not only her hands but also her feet, turning into demonic monsters to finish off her opponents. This is the product of an energy-racked mind, made for those of us who can’t find the time to slow down. Bayonetta found a place in my heart, and it wasn’t just because of Penny Drake, actress and model, posing as the game’s namesake outside of the SEGA booth.
Day three of the convention found me wearing a bright red, plastic wrist band labeled “Rock Band,” waiting in line outside of a mock Abbey Road studio. A large, professional guard stood sentry near the door as if The Beatles themselves were inside. I and my wrist band-of-brothers entered the incredible studio and were treated to a demonstration by the developers, who looked more like a karaoke troupe than skilled programmers. This spectacle was the very definition of E3 – all sound and fury, signifying the future as it is meant to be seen.
After the show, during which the game’s Dreamscapes were demonstrated – these are worlds invented solely for the game based on The Beatles’ art and catalog from the ’60s (imagine walking through an octopus’s garden while trying not to fail “Octopus’s Garden”) – I was able to get my hands on Sir Paul McCartney’s bass and wail away with three strangers who became my Ringo, George and John as we performed our own unique rendition of “I Am The Walrus.”
Most of the games at E3 are set for release later this year or in early 2010. The time between this and next year’s convention will feature several prominent titles that aren’t to be missed, with something for everyone, from novice to professional.
Wave goodbye to society, lock the windows and turn up the gas; the video game industry has made a fierce return and it’s out for your time, money and blood!
See photos from Chris O’Neal’s adventures at E3 here.
Chris O’Neal is a recent college graduate with an itchy writing finger. In his spare time, he neglects his fiancée and rabbits to immerse himself in video games and comic books. In other words, he’s a nerd. Read more on Chris’ blog: bioschlock.blogspot.com.
The cream of the E3 crop
Batman: Arkham Asylum/ 08.25.09 360/PS3
The Beatles: Rock Band/ 09.09.09 360/PS3/Wii
The New Super Mario Bros./ 11.02.09 Wii
Mass Effect 2/2010 360
Heavy Rain/2010 PS3