E3 Wrapup

Usually I write my E3 wrap up on the last day. However I decided it would be better for me to take some time off, collect all my thoughts (as well as all my press kits and movie downloads) and decide on what I felt were the strengths and weaknesses of this year's E3.

I should probably start with all the meetings I had at the start of Day 3. My key meeting that day was with Sony. I was only interested in half of the lineup they had (because I swore I would not touch Final Fantasy XI based on my hatred for the series, and yes I know I actually liked X), but I was interested in their new EyeToy camera, as well as the impending Jak II (considering I never played the original).

But the title I was looking forward to the most was Gran Turismo 4. At first I was surprised to see that it was one of the few key titles of the show that was not behind closed doors (that's a switch!). In fact, it was at the center of their entire show floor. I can see why. We're looking at 100 courses (including reverse tracks), over 500 cars (equivalent to that in GT2), and a much easier to control handling system that will attract new GT fans to the strong base. I even had to test out Sony's new wheel, the first one to offer 270 degrees of rotation similar to that of a real car. GT4 will also feature online play (most likely through broadband only), and I will definitely be the first on the block to get it.

Another key meeting I had was with Codemasters. After a strong relationship with Pro Race Driver, I had a chance to try out their other racing titles: Indycar series (which was very impressive in its alpha state, showing off 33 cars at 60 frames per second on Xbox) and Colin McRae 04 (also running smoothly on the PS2). Their other big title was American Idol which I didn't get the chance to see myself but was able to catch glimpses of judges Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul the day before. Too bad Simon Cowell wasn't there though (he always was my favorite). Even finalist Kimberly Caldwell was in attendance, but it would have been great to see eventual winner Ruben Studdard as well.

The last key meeting I had for the day was with 3DO, coming back to E3 after a three year hiatus. They featured a motorcycle racing game called Jacked which reminded me of Road Rash without the cops, their first M-rated title called Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (reminiscent of the Hunter series), and SRS: Street Racing Syndicate which shows strong potential, especially considering it was developed by Eutechnyx (the same team who made Test Drive: Le Mans).

Some real innovative titles and products were also on display downstairs in Kentia Hall, where a lot of the newer companies and start-ups show their wares.

On the hardware side, there was an illuminated keyboard called Eluminx from a company called Auravision that was fantastic. The keys look normal when the lights are on, but they glow bright blue and several other colors (different models were on display) when the lights are off. For people with battle lights set up in their game rooms, a matching keyboard would be very cool.

Also, talk about your great-looking Alphas. The Wish is a massively multiplayer RPG that is still at least a year away from production. But it looked fantastic at the show. The company is being very smart about having sound designers from Mutable Realms in on the ground floor of the development. They are going to marry particle effects and other sound effects with all the spells in the game, so it will look amazing and sound amazing as well. This game wins for best-looking alpha at the show.

Arkadium was an interesting company at the show. They have created a way to wager (it's not technically betting the way they do it) on your skills as a first person shooter player. The more people you kill, the more money you get. When you get killed, you lose a bit of money. If you lose too much, you have to recharge your player. It looked great. If I can earn a paycheck playing games, then that is a good thing.

Some innovative services companies were at the show too. Game Division is an art studio that actually lets their clients log into their Web site and watch as the artists work. It's a great way to be hands-on and make sure your project is being done the way you want.

This year's E3 could overall be rated as average compared to past shows. We didn't have a console debut (although Sony did come clean about the PSP portable system) or any major announcements (save the price drops of both the Xbox and PS2 to $179, with a PS2/Network Adapter combo for $199). At least the focus this year was on the games.

Maybe I should take back the comment about console debuts, as Nokia debuted their N-Gage. I hate to break out the bad news Nokia fans, but the N-Gage is a joke, perhaps the biggest disappointment of E3. I spent about a half hour testing it out, and the games played horribly. Nothing beats playing games that run at five frames per second on a micro-sized screen. Heck, even my Sprint PCS Vision phone can handle games better.

For $299 I could easily purchase myself the said Sprint phone ($150) as well as a Game Boy Advance SP ($99) with enough to buy one or even two GBA games.

The other disappointment was the Gamecube titles. I only saw two titles that I could consider beneficial: Star Wars Rebel Squadron 3: Rebel Strike and the amazing F-Zero GX. Even Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes was below my expectations (I hope this will change when the game is released. Remember how I thought even Halo was a joke at E3 back when it was in Alpha.)

Deciding on the best 5 titles of E3 cost me a lot of time and thought, but I was able to come up with the following:

(NOTE: Please bear in mind these are based on the titles I was able to see for myself. Certain closed door titles like Halo 2 were not included)

5. TIE between DOOM 3 (id-PC/Xbox) and HALF LIFE 2 (Valve-PC)

4. GRAN TURISMO 4 (Polyphony Digital)

3. MEDAL OF HONOR: RISING SUN (2015-PlayStation 2)

2: METAL GEAR SOLID 3: SNAKE EATER (Konami Japan-PlayStation 2)

1: F-ZERO X (Nintendo/Sega-GameCube)

The upcoming holiday season will determine if I am correct about my top 5 (except for the 2004 releases such as MGS 3, which I'm sure we'll see at E3 2K4). I hope I don't have another disappointment like I did with Dead to Rights.

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