E3 feeds hungry game enthusiasts
Posted May 19, 2006

The annual Electronic Entertainment Expo, widely known as E3, is considered the world’s most important trade show for the interactive entertainment industry.

The Entertainment Software Association produces the show each year to bring out the best in the industry. This year was a phenomenal year for E3 because the industry is currently transitioning into the next generation of video game technology.

The Xbox 360 was released November 2005, marking the first arrival of the next generation.

But with Nintendo and Sony’s next-gen consoles not coming out until fall 2006, this E3 was a huge opportunity for Nintendo and Sony to showcase their new systems, the Wii and Playstation 3, respectively. Here are a few highlights from the expo.

Nintendo Wii

Nintendo’s booth was, undoubtedly, the most popular site at this year’s E3. The biggest proof of this was the line to enter the Nintendo Wii area. Imagine waiting in a four-hour long line, then waiting up to an additional hour per game to try out the new system.

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (Matthew’s opinion)

The third game in the “Metroid Prime” series takes full advantage of the Wii controller by requiring the player to aim using the innovative new controller.  The game’s control takes a while to get used to, mainly because of its sensitivity, but after becoming accustomed to the control, the demo showed that the game has a lot of potential. It is definitely shaping up to be one of the Wii’s must-have launch titles.

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (Eric’s opinion)

Metroid Prime 3 was fun and challenging. It wasn’t challenging in the sense that it was a hard game, but because the control scheme took some major getting used to. “Corruption” uses the Wii remote to aim, turn and shoot and the nunchuck controller for movement and other controls. The controls are problematic because the crosshairs do not stay in a static position on the screen while the view changes. The crosshairs follow the movement of the Wii remote and in order to turn, you must move the crosshairs to one side of the screen to turn that way. This is distinctly foreign to any PC first-person shooter players. In the five minutes of the demo, I was not able to fully adjust to the controls, but the game was still fun. Hopefully Nintendo remedies the quirky controls before the game ships

Super Mario Galaxy

Mario goes where no plumber has gone before in his new space-themed platformer. “Galaxy” was easily one of the most polished Wii games shown at E3, mainly due to the fact that complete accuracy was not a necessity like it is in other Wii games. Control is much more basic, requiring the motion sensitive aspects of the controller for easier tasks, such as shaking it to make Mario do a spinning attack. The demo was full of branching paths and included three full boss fights - each one surprisingly brilliant in its own way.

Excite Truck

Nintendo’s first racing game for the Wii is a blast to play.  Players turn the Wii controller horizontally and control it much like turning a steering wheel.  The game plays rather intuitively; however, this demo left something to be desired in the track design.  Though it is very likely an early build of the game, the tracks seemed barren and somewhat incomplete.  Even if the tracks are not made more intriguing by the game’s launch, at least it proves that racing games can be intuitive on the Wii.

Red Steel

“Red Steel” by Ubisoft is a hybrid first-person shooter/slasher. The player uses a gun and a katana throughout the game. The shooting controls better than “Corruption,” but the sword slashing does not feel refined. With the sword equipped, the player makes a slashing motion with the Wii remote; this acts more like a button for the game to swing the sword as opposed to the in-game character swinging the sword in-sync with the player. The graphics are good and the action is relatively fast-paced as long as the player can handle the controls. Shooting in tight rooms with many enemies proves to be difficult because of the aiming system, but it handles better than other console first-person shooters.

SD Gundam G Breaker

“SD Gundam G Breaker” from Bandai was one of the best games at the Nintendo booth. The game controlled like a charm; the nunchuck controller was used to move the character and the Wii remote was used to attack. The controls were great and the graphics were clean and bright; it was immensely fun.

Nintendo DS

Though the bulk of attention at Nintendo’s booth was placed on the Wii, the DS handheld had a very strong showing.

The Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass

The most recently announced entry into the legendary series had a very impressive demo on display.

The game controls exclusively with the touch screen; used for everything from pointing main character Link in a certain direction, to drawing a path for him to throw his boomerang. The game looks to be every bit as fun as past “Zelda” titles, only with a unique new way to play.

Starfox DS

One of the biggest surprises for the DS, Starfox was sort of a mixed bag.  The controls are spot-on and flying the series’ traditional Arwing fighter plane was fun.  However, the graphics could use a bit of polish, and the flying sections are preceded by a seemingly pointless strategy type-minigame.

Castlevania: Portrait for Ruin

“Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin” is Konami’s latest entry in the Castlevania series. The game stays true to its 2D roots and uses a system somewhat similar to Castlevania III on the NES in that you can switch between the two main characters during play. You can choose to play with both on the screen at the same time or go solo with either one of them. Players can change modes by pressing the X button. The graphics are good and the action is smooth. This is another great game from Konami.

Sony Playstation

The Playstation area of the show floor was surprisingly much less crowded than Nintendo’s booth. It was still a very popular place to be at E3, as it was the first time Playstation 3 games were available to play. Sony let all of their information free during their press conference. They announced a price for the system - $600 or $500 for the scaled-back version - as well as the November 17 launch date. In other PS3 news, their controller now features motion sensitivity similar to that of the Game Boy Color game “Kirby Tilt and Tumble.”

Heavenly Sword

Very likely the best game shown for the PS3, “Heavenly Sword” is an action game similar to “God of War.” The graphics were beautiful, and attacking enemies was as fluid as it was fun. The demo was slightly disappointing in the fact that only one area was playable - a rather small coliseum. However, the developers said that the game will have wide open areas as well. This is definitely one title to keep an eye on.

The Eye of Judgment

“The Eye of Judgment” is a card battle game from Sony Computer Entertainment Japan. The game uses a camera (the EyeToy) attached to the Playstation 3, a deck of cards and a playing mat. The camera is situated over the playing mat and when a card is put into play, the camera interprets the card and creates a computer-generated image on-screen of the card’s character or effect. The game looks very promising and it is one PS3’s most innovative titles.

Warhawk (Eric’s opinion)

A flight-combat sim from Incog Inc. Entertainment, “Warhawk” takes advantage of the new motion-sensing PS3 controller. The controls felt like they were just added; they were rough and unnatural. The graphics were slightly better than this generation’s graphically best, but the game handled a lot of units on screen and there was no noticeable slow down. The game was fun enough and will be a hit with flight sim fans.

Warhawk (Matthew’s opinion)

As the only PS3 game to utilize the motion sensing capabilities of the controller, “Warhawk” had a lot to prove.  It succeeded in the sense that control was very instinctive.  Unfortunately, the game’s level design was not nearly as impressive.  Though flying through the playable environment and shooting down opposing forces was incredibly easy, it was not incredibly fun in this early build of the game.  The control shows the game has potential, but the actual gameplay still needs some work.

Genji 2

As the next-gen sequel to last year’s sleeper hit, “Genji 2” was an anticipated title.  It looks gorgeous, as do most Playstation 3 games, but this demo was not highly impressive.  The game felt very much like the original, including a very similar hack-and-slash play mechanic.  Nothing in particular was wrong with the demo, but it just did not feel next-gen.

Playstation Portable

Sony’s PSP had a surprisingly quiet showing this year, with very little new games announced. However, some of the system’s more highly anticipated games were shown in fine form.

Loco Roco

This simple, cute and addictive adventure puzzle game was one of the best games shown for the system. No new concepts or levels were revealed, but the game - which controls entirely by tilting the environments to move the blob-like main character - still feels fresh and fun.

Extreme Ghouls and Ghosts

This long anticipated sequel to the famously difficult Ghouls and Ghosts retains the series traditional platforming gameplay.  Not much needs to be said about the game, except that it looks to live up to its predecessors’ legacy.

Xbox 360

Now that Microsoft’s next-gen system is quickly approaching its second year on the market, many developers have some impressive games in development. Microsoft officially announced the much anticipated “Halo 3,” though it was only shown in a short teaser trailer. Also, “Grand Theft Auto 4” was announced for the system.

Lost Planet (Matthew’s opinion)

One of the most pleasant surprises of the show was Capcom’s “Lost Planet.” This action-adventure game, set on a frozen planet, featured many nice graphical effects and fun gameplay. If the developers keep the gameplay varied, “Lost Planet” could turn out to be one of the year’s sleeper hits.

Lost Planet (Eric’s opinion)

“Lost Planet” from Capcom is a third-person shooter that is looking very good. The controls are very tight and the graphics were very nice. The game takes place on some snow-barren planet that’s infested with aliens. The weapons are standard shooter fare. There’s a great feature that allows you to turn left or right very quickly; by pressing the right or left shoulder button, your character quickly turns in that direction. This alleviates the major console-shooter problem of not being able to turn fast enough. This is the first game that has made me even consider buying an Xbox 360.

Dead Rising

The “Dawn of the Dead” inspired - seriously, this zombie game takes place in a mall - action game features free roaming action.  The ability to pick up and use almost any item provides some brutal, and oftentimes hilarious, moments.  “Dead Rising” attempts to differentiate itself from its inspiration by making the main character a photojournalist who must take pictures to complete certain tasks.  Though the short demo was very fun, it does appear that, unless new situations are brought into the game frequently, the simplistic gameplay could become redundant.

PC

The PC gaming side of E3 has been somewhat lackluster in recent years due to the rise of interest in console games. While many less impressive games are shown, there are always a few big names to get the gaming world excited. However, this year may mark a comeback for PC gaming because of the excitement around the release of Spore.

Huxley

“Huxley” from Webzen is what’s called a MMOFPS, a massively multiplayer online first-person shooter. The game is based on the Unreal 3 engine and features great graphics and team based game play. According to Webzen, thousands of players will be able to be on one server at a time. The weapons are standard FPS fare, but the amount of players on a server may allow for new game play possibilities.

Tabula Rasa

“Tabula Rasa” from the god of all things Ultima himself, Richard Garriott, is a MMOFPS being published by NCsoft. The game is not as fast-paced as “Huxley,” but has more of a sci-fi MMORPG feel to it. The game feels more like an RPG because of the inventory and experience gained from monsters. The demo of “Huxley” did not have an inventory or experience gaining in it. In “Tabula Rasa,” players can switch between a third and first-person view, which is great for traditional MMORPG players and players new to the genre. Expect this game to be a big hit with both RPG and FPS fans.

Spore

The brainchild of Maxis founder Will Wright, “Spore” begins with the creation of a creature and you follow your creature and its society and civilization into development. The game is unlike any “Sims” game before.

Once your civilization becomes technological enough, you then take your species into space and to other planets and galaxies. There is no game as anticipated and there is no doubt that “Spore” will be one of the best selling games of 2007.

Matthew’s Picks

PC: “Spore”
Nintendo Wii: “Super Mario Galaxy”
Nintendo DS: “The Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass”
Playstation 3: “Heavenly Sword”
Playstation Portable: “Loco Roco”
Xbox 360: “Lost Planet”
Best of E3: “Super Mario Galaxy”

Eric’s Picks

PC: “Spore”
Nintendo Wii: “SD Gundam G Breaker”
Nintendo DS: “Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin”
Playstation 3: “The Eye of Judgment”
Playstation Portable: “Lumines 2”
Xbox 360: “Lost Planet”
Best of E3: “Spore”

Matthew Loriso can be reached at mloriso@ulv.edu.

Eric Iberri can be reached at eiberri@ulv.edu.

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