I went to my first Electronic Entertainment Expo this year. Los Angeles was loud, slow and relatively cold, with only the rioting Lakers fans generating some excitement outside of the show. I don’t much care for the city. We stayed in Santa Monica, which is a lot nicer, but the over one-hour transits on the freeway to pretty much anywhere begin to grate in no time at all.
As for the show proper, there were definite highlights and definite disappointments.
Bad: Front Mission Evolved
I am a sucker for mecha and I’m sad to say that it looks like there’s no way I’ll be picking up Front Mission Evolved, not unless it comes with Front Mission 3. Everything from the handling to the setting to the mech designs and animation was seriously lacklustre. It’s a shame.
Bad: Twisted Metal
The new Twisted Metal looked like it was from the previous generation. Barebones arenas with little effects or satisfying destruction going on, it feels like it’s trying to ride on its bygone charms alone.
Bad: MotorStorm Apocalypse
MotorStorm Apocalypse in 3D should have been a wild ride, but turned out to be a poor framerate show of questionable worth. Some of the rollercoaster pacing was spot on, but overall I wasn’t impressed at all. The story mode does sound intriguing, though, and I’ve been expecting them to deliver on the initial promise of the franchise for three games now. Still one to watch.
Bad: 3D | Good: Nintendo 3DS
Speaking of 3D, I am not impressed. Some of the games are nice enough, but they really need to be 60 FPS to work. Super Stardust HD and Gran Turismo 5 are probably the best examples so far. But you won’t see me wearing a pair of glasses.
Which is one of the main reasons that the Nintendo 3DS was so impressive. No glasses required, great 3D effect, some great demos. Pilotwings was the best one. I am likely going to finally upgrade my DS Phat. Sony and Apple have some catch-up to do!
Both Microsoft Kinect and Sony Move failed to generate much buzz. Not very surprising as there were no proper games on show. Out of Kinect only Ubisoft’s yoga exercise program and Harmonix’s Dance Central seemed to interest people. Somebody did mention Kinectimals in a positive manner, but that’s about it. I didn’t see anything I would’ve been interested in on Move.
Bad: Epic Mickey
Epic Mickey was featured in a major way, with a huge booth, plenty of demo pods and live performances. Too bad the actual gameplay failed to interest at all. It doesn’t help that it’s on the Wii – the lack of HD is beginning to really hurt Wii. (Some of the Nintendo booths did have very high quality visuals, though, I can’t figure out how they did that.) When it looks and feels like a barebones platformer, it’s hard to get that much into it. But then it might be a game which just needs more time than what you get at an expo.
Good: Dance Central
Kinect was going to play host to a good dance game and I’m super glad that it’s Harmonix doing it. I am a Rock Band fanboy and in my eyes Harmonix can do no wrong. There was a very nice buzz to the title. It feels like a title I might have to get and it’s the only Kinect game which felt like a potential system seller to me. But that’s mainly due to Harmonix’s pedigree, too early to say how it’s going to properly work. But four friends dancing together and Harmonix’s taste in music – it probably can’t go wrong.
Good: Need For Speed Hot Pursuit 2
Need For Speed has been on the wane for years now, the golden days of Underground and the original Hot Pursuit a fading memory. EA has now put Criterion on lifeguard duty and what do you know – returning to Hot Pursuit, the game the fans have been crying out for for years now, seems to work. The game mechanics aren’t quite there yet, but it sure looks and feels nice. The handling isn’t as twitchy as Burnout, but a huge improvement over the previous NFS titles nevertheless (Shift excluded). The simple cops versus racers scenario just works.
Super good: Vanquish
Game of the show for me was Platinum Games’ Vanquish. Whereas Tecmo Koei’s Quantum Theory looks like a poorly deconstructed rip-off of Gears Of War, Shinji Mikami’s new title is Gears on amphetamine. It’s a sci-fi third person shooter, but this kind of speed and spectacle is not on offer anywhere else. Apparently the section on display was the first level of the game and I find it very hard to imagine the action becoming even more intense later on. Everything in the game is a sci-fi off-white, and yet it looks more spectacular than anything else on show. Certainly the days of Japanese developers not being able to wring power out of the current-gen consoles are over.