E3 in a Nutshell
Sunday 07 June 2009 - 03:26AM
Peter Rizkalla


It’s great to have the old E3 back again. Last years snooze fest featured an abundance of outstanding titles but it didn’t feel like E3. There was no celebration. That’s the whole point of these events; E3 exists to celebrate the accomplishment in art and gameplay. Great titles mark the game industry forever and E3 helps to solidify that mark. If you really feel like the game industry is a big deal then make a big deal about it. If you don’t, then you can’t expect anyone else to. As big as E3 was this year, it still wasn’t as big as it was in past years. Still, it was big enough to occupy the two large halls of the LA Convention Center. An abundance of swag was given out but, still, none of it seemed to be as good as before. If you were a media guy, however, then you were treated to a great amount of free crap.

It was like a new birth for the conference. It’s off to another great start and let’s hope next year is even bigger. Let’s not forget that the games are the real focal point here. I always say that video games are the most engaging and awe inspiring forms of art and animation in the entire modern world today and from what was shown at the show this year, I think you’ll agree. In no particular order, I’d now like to convey my top five game titles at this year’s event based on quality of art and animation; and they would have to be… Muramasa: The Demon Blade, Borderlands, God of War III, Metroid: Other M and APB. Great show all around, it’s going to be fantastic to see all these games in their final forms.


Related links:
ELECTRONIC ENTERTAINMENT EXPO


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Into the Pixel
Sunday 07 June 2009 - 02:26AM
Peter Rizkalla


The Into the Pixel art exhibit is now a mainstay at E3. You can now always expect to see a variety of clever and imaginative pieces of art based on a slew of popular game titles hung in the large showroom to the left as you enter West Hall of the Los Angeles Convention Center. This year it was actually quite surprising to see that so many of the pieces of art that were displayed were actually based on games that were being shown at E3 at the same time.

The first piece that caught my eye was a piece created by artist Bob Nelson which was based on The Conduit, an FPS being released for the Wii. It features basic elements which make it look almost vectorized until you see the great use of bloom lighting on the main character and on the enemies that are being formed from his shadow. Another piece which is featured in a very classy, modern style form of painting is the piece by Stephane Belin which shows a Chinese Bar that is featured in Army of Two: 40th Day. The bar has a calm feel to it; the bar tender is the only character you see in the piece and all of the tables look freshly prepared as if the bar is just about ready to open.

A piece by Mike McCarthy speaks volumes as it depicts a character from Fable 2 talking to a giant who can’t quite hear what the character is saying. The art style looks like it was pulled out of an old time story book which stays very on model with the art style that is featured in Fable 2. A piece centered around the new Rabbids game for the Wii, Rabbids Go Home, showed the Rabbids plans in action as they attempt to build a pile of trash to the moon. It’s cute and hilarious at the same time; you just can’t help but laugh at it.

It was a pretty good exhibit this year but it just didn’t have the sheer amount of work that the Into the Pixel exhibits are normally known for. Now on the other hand, the reason for that would probably be that most of the work would be totally overshadowed by the E3 show floor had Into the Pixel come out in full force. Regardless, the exhibits that were shown were creative, endearing and beautifully designed. My favorites would have to be the Conduit piece, the various pieces based on the upcoming Legends of Norrath: Against the Void and the piece based on Flower. Kudos goes to artists Matt Nava for the Flower piece, Chris Dien for his piece on Legends of Norrath: Against the Void and Nicole Cardiff for her outstanding looking piece on Legends of Norrath: Against the Void.


Related links:
Into the Pixel


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Tekken 6 - Hands on
Sunday 07 June 2009 - 02:02AM
Peter Rizkalla


It just wouldn’t be E3 without another Tekken title. This will be the first ever Tekken to hit the current generation of systems as Tekken 5 was only released in arcades, on the PS2 and as a downloadable PS3 game. The graphics of Tekken are always a marvel and Tekken 6 is no different; all of the returning characters look much more defined than in previous Tekken titles right down to the details of their costumes. New Tekken characters are also making appearances in Tekken 6 including the already famous Bob.

The gameplay of Tekken 6 felt just like any other Tekken. I got a hold of using Bob and I have to say that a lot of guys will probably be pretty upset when playing him. Bob looks like he weighs 400 pounds but he moves as fast as Martial Law. He just feels way too fast for a fat guy. New fighting environments will also be in Tekken 6 and can be expected to look as outstanding as ever. Tekken 6 has been out for almost two years in Japanese arcades already but will be released in North America on the PS3, the 360 and the PSP very soon.


Related links:
Tekken 6
Namco Bandai


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Dead to Rights: Retribution - Hands on
Sunday 07 June 2009 - 01:50AM
Peter Rizkalla


I’ve always been a fan of the Dead to Rights games so I was thrilled to see that Dead to Rights: Retribution was playable at the Namco Bandai booth. Namco Bandai has really taken the Dead to Rights franchise into a much darker direction with Retribution. I took control of Jack Slate in a thug infested, rainy ghetto where there was already a block war between cops and gang members. Right off the bat you are able to run up to a thug and beat the snot out of him with a flurry of punches, kicks, cinched knees, throws and finishing maneuvers that can be described as downright painful. The finishing maneuvers include breaking the guys arm or snapping his neck. You can then take the gun he was wielding and lay down a stream of bullets at any other oncoming enemies. Nailing an enemy with a headshot slows time down so you can easily admire the detail of the splattering blood and shards of broken skull. As bloody as it is, not just the intense violence looked great but everything was amazingly polished right down to the distortion created by the raid drops.

I also got to check out a level where you control Jack’s dog Shadow. The idea is to protect an injured Jack from enemies as he slowly travels down a dark alley. Shadow can use his heightened senses to locate hiding enemies who appear as red, see-through models and when taking down an enemy with Shadow he will tear them up with attacks that range from biting them in the face to biting them in the crotch. When playing as Jack, Shadow pretty much takes care of himself and will even help Jack out when he is in trouble. Guns tend to run out of bullets very quickly and it takes a good deal of punishment to take down bad guys. Already Dead to Rights: Retribution feels like a challenge.


Related links:
Namco Bandai
Dead to Rights: Retribution


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APB - preview
Sunday 07 June 2009 - 01:28AM
Peter Rizkalla


Customization. That has got to be the single definitive word that fully describes APB. APB will be an online multiplayer shooter title for the PC. From what we saw, not only does APB have the most robust character creator ever conceived but it is also the most gorgeous looking. APB will allow players to create everything about their character such as skin tone, eye shape, body muscle, body fat, lip thickness, tattoos even small things like freckles will be fully customizable. Clothes and vehicles will also be fully, and I mean fully, customizable. There will also feature a decal creator which will allow you to place your custom decals on cloths, cars and on skin as tattoos. An audio editor is also available which will give you the ability to create things like “death tones” which are 5 second midi clips that will play every time you kill someone. Obviously, this will really get on your opponents nerves if you keep killing him over and over.

I can’t stress enough how awesome the character creator makes characters look. There is not an ounce of pixilation or a hint of low-poly modeling; created characters look like something the character design devs created instead of a character that looks like someone slapped together which is typically found in some games with a character creator. The story will basically be a cops vs criminals kind of deal with the user choosing which side he wants to be on. APB will allow up to 100 players to play online together and there are rumors going around that it might also be released on the Xbox 360.


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Army of Two: The 40th Day preview
Sunday 07 June 2009 - 01:22AM
Peter Rizkalla


Another hands-off demonstration that was kept tightly sealed behind closed doors was Army of Two: The 40th Day. The story will have you make moral decisions that will affect the gameplay. For example, you will come to a point that has you choose to either be a dick and take what you want but results in the game being harder on you later on or you can choose to do the right thing and maybe get something even better later or maybe even get nothing at all. Other gameplay additions feature grabbing a guy from behind and using him as a meat shield. However, if you are lucky enough to sneak up on the leader of the pack then his grunts will automatically lay down their weapons to you which leads you into another moral decision in whether to gun down the whole gang or tie them up.

The Army of Two art style of has been tweaked a little for 40th Day making everything a little bit dirtier and a whole lot bloodier. The first Army of Two was a sleeper hit so EA is taking everything that made the first one great and expanding on it. New abilities have been added like putting your hands up in a fake surrender only to quickly pull out a pistol and go to work on the enemy. In 40th Day anything that you can do, the enemies can do; for instance, you can heal a fallen partner so, likewise, enemies can heal other fallen enemies. They’re even expanding on the original’s ability to either high-five your partner or slap them in the head. 40th day is slated to release on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and the PSP.


Related links:
Electronic Arts Inc.


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Borderlands - preview
Saturday 06 June 2009 - 01:53AM
Peter Rizkalla


Borderlands is a cell-shaded, third-person, RPG shooter being developed by Gearbox who are the same guys that put together a lot of the Brothers in Arms games. The first thing that was noticeable from the hands-off preview was that everything looks to be in a Mad Max type of setting with crazy looking giant bugs and monsters in a land called Pandora. Just think of it as if Fallout 3 was cell-shaded. It’s an open world title with computer generated, random weapon drops kind of like World of Warcraft but in first-person and with guns.

Like in World of Warcraft, weapons will drop in rarity classes and will be color coded based on rarity. For example, white weapons will be pretty common and purple weapons will be a one-in-a-million drop. Players will be able to choose from four character classes such as the big hulking brute who cane take and give plenty of damage at close range but is very slow and the ranger who is strong from long, hidden distances but is horrible at close range. Players will be able to name their specific characters and customize their looks. As characters progress through main quests and side quests they will level up specific attributes which are divided into skill trees that the player chooses. Each character class also has a set of unique abilities such as the brute being able to “rage out” and pummel nearby enemies while one of the faster classes will have the ability to turn invisible for a short period of time.

The whole feel of Borderlands is pretty over the top. For example, in games like World of Warcraft enemies that have their strengths and defenses super powered are called Elites. In Borderlands those same kind of enemies are called Bad Asses; I’m not even joking. The dev giving the demo let us know that Borderlands will have more guns available than any other game out on the PS3 or the 360; that’s because the game will constantly drop guns with a wide variety of attributes, kind of like how Diablo dropped weapons, so you never get the same gun twice. Incidentally, Borderlands will also be released on the PC as well.


Related links:
Gearbox Software


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Bioshock 2 - preview
Saturday 06 June 2009 - 01:50AM
Peter Rizkalla


Bioshock 2 takes place 10 years after the first game and introduces a new character named the Big Sister. Big Sister is like a slimmer Big Daddy who wants to restore Rapture to the way it was before by kidnapping young girls and turning them into Little Sisters. In Bioshock 2 you don’t play as the character Jack from the first Bioshock, instead you play as the first ever Big Daddy; the prototype. You have somehow woken up in the ruined Rapture and also have somehow regained your free will. You have the same classic drill that Big Daddies have but you are much faster and more agile. As you come across Little Sisters in Rapture you will have the ability to either adopt them or harvest them. From the gameplay footage that was shown we saw that the Big Sister is not only much more agile than the Big Daddies and the Rosies but also has the ability to levitate objects and throw them at you.

New to Bioshock is multiplayer. Multiplayer actually has a storyline to it as well which is set even before the first Bioshock. You play as a customized character and use various weapons and plasmids in multiplayer modes like death match, team death match and another, yet to be disclosed, multiplayer mode. Plasmids now also have the ability to be charged then released for a more powerful shot. Players can become a Big Daddy in multiplayer modes by finding the Big Daddy suit hidden somewhere in the map which makes them a little slower but much more powerful and much harder to take down. So far there are a total of 10 confirmed multiplayer maps.


Related links:
Bioshock 2
2K Marin


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Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 - preview
Saturday 06 June 2009 - 01:48AM
Peter Rizkalla


I stepped into a private room in the Activision booth to check out gameplay footage of Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2. The story will be about the Mutant Registration act in the Marvel universe that has been passed and that also has sparked a civil war between mutants that feel it is right to register and mutants that refuse to register. This justifies the fact that in MUA2 mutants who were once friends will now be fighting against each other. Despite the large number of characters that are on the screen at once MUA2 looks very well modeled and moves with a smooth frame rate. The art is rendered in a realistic style and many, if not all, of the returning Marvel characters in MUA2 have been re-imagined with subtle to very noticeable character design adjustments. Many new Marvel characters will also now make an appearance in MUA2 such as Deadpool who constantly makes game satire comments at the person playing the game.

The newest gameplay addition to MUA2 is the Power Fusion techniques which allow two mutants on your team to combine each other’s powers to dish out a huge attack. For example; Thor, whose powers are control of lighting and thunder, can create a giant whirlwind while The Human Torch from the Fantastic 4 can fill the whirlwind with fire creating a giant swirling pillar of flames. Every character in the game has a unique attack when paired with another mutant. From what I was told by the Activision rep giving the demo, there are a total of 24 playable characters in Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 which makes for a total of 276 different combined attack animations.


Related links:
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2


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Muramasa: The Demon Blade - Hands on
Saturday 06 June 2009 - 01:33AM
Peter Rizkalla


Although the Wii can handle surprisingly more than most developers think it can, you would think that there is no way that it can handle the kind of 3D modeling and texture mapping that the 360, PS3 and modern PCs can handle today… and you’re right, it can’t. But the limitations of the Wii actually creates opportunities that only the most dedicated art devs will take advantage of. Muramasa: The Demon Blade is a gorgeous 2D hack-and-slash adventure being developed by Vanilla Ware. Vanilla Ware is the same development house that put together the masterful PS2 title Odin Sphere. I got some hands on time with Muramasa at E3 and the visuals are gorgeous. Muramasa is totally rendered in 2D, hand drawn animation; it looks like a concept artist’s sketchbook come to life. The characters are in a distinct anime style and are as intricate as can be. The props environments and environments are in the same style and feature amazing use of lighting and particle effects for things like floating green flames and falling cherry blossom petals. Everything is in an ancient Japanese setting with various, stylized characters like ninjas, demon monks and giant shuriken wielding bosses.

The gameplay feels a little hard to get used to considering that I could only try it out using the Wii Remote and Nunchuck. Hopefully there will be support for the Wii Classic Controller or just the Wii Remote by itself. The music sounds like it was ripped out of a dramatic Japanese themed martial arts movie and all the dialog that I heard was in Japanese with English subtitles. Thankfully there was no “waggle” controls in Muramasa and with any luck it will stay that way.


Related links:
Vanilla Ware


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Wet - Hands On
Friday 05 June 2009 - 05:19AM
Peter Rizkalla


Artificial Mind and Movement is developing this very Quentin Tarantino-esque, third person, hack-n-slash shooter which looks amazing.

Wet stars a female mercenary named Rubi who is out for revenge. Sound cheesy? Well that’s the idea. The whole game is played through an old time theatre film grain; scratches and all. The acrobatics of Wet is what encompasses most of the gameplay; Rubi will take out enemies while jumping, diving, sliding, flipping and while running on walls. When performing an acrobatic attack the action goes into slow motion and the colors become black and while which is very similar to how acrobatic kills were handled in the game Stranglehold.

The whole design of Wet is very 1970s. Rubi is dressed in biker-chick style garb and enemies will sport styles like Shaolin monk hairstyles and purple bellbottoms with tiger striped blazers. The design is fantastic but a key feature in Wet that gives the design an even greater twist is the Rage Mode. I first caught a glimpse of Rage Mode when Rubi kills an enemy and his blood splatters across her face and into her eyes. Rubi then becomes enraged and the world turns completely red and black with spots of white.

The Red and black looks to be cell-shaded and the spots of white are actually what blood looks like in Rage Mode. When in Rage Mode, the splashes of blood on the walls will often times spell out words like “die” or “R.I.P.” Rubi stays in rage mode for a short time and then the texture mapping goes back to it’s original form. The animations in Wet look totally solid and the character models are extreme without being totally ridiculous.



Related links:
Bethesda Games


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Left4Dead 2 - Hands-on
Thursday 04 June 2009 - 05:45AM
Peter Rizkalla


Left 4 Dead 2 follows a new set of survivors named Coach, Rochelle, Nick and Ellis. The game takes place in Savannah, Georgia in a Mardi Gras, New Orleans type of setting. Even the recognizable music score from the first L4D has been remixed using Fat Tuesday-ish instruments like trumpets. New to the series is the fact that the levels that I got to play were set in daytime when in L4D 1 everything took place at night. All of the original weapons are included in L4D 2 but remodeled to look more makeshift and crude. All of the original special infected zombies such as tanks, boomers, smokers, hunters and witched have also made returns with the addition of a new special infected, the charger, which knocks you down, pins you to the floor and beats on you until a teammate gets him off of you. L4D 2 now gives players the option to pick up and use melee weapons found around levels like fire axes, baseball bats and frying pans. I encountered new kinds of objectives in L4D 2 which had a loud alarm go off which then alerted the hoard only this time the alarm had to be turned off by someone or the hoard would just keep on coming.

I got some sit down time with one of the writers of Left 4 Dead 2 Chet Faliszek. He tells us that we meet the new survivors in Savannah before the infection hits. The survivors will navigate through swamps, backwoods and other areas that are being kept a secret until they reach their eventual rescue in New Orleans. I got to play through both of the two maps that were available at E3. A player can expect different types of ammunition in Left 4 Dead 2 such as incendiary ammo that light zombies on fire.

Chet Faliszek also mentioned that all of the gameplay and multiplayer modes found in the first Left 4 Dead will be available in L4D 2 along with an unannounced multiplayer mode. Faliszek gives another teaser by telling me that there will be new guns featured in L4D 2 along with all the ones found in the first game as well as more new special infected zombies not including the charger. “Two, two times devoured!” An interesting note on the graphics is that although the frame rate runs great on the Xbox 360 it runs incredibly smooth on the PC version of Left 4 Dead 2 – provided, of course, it’s running on a PC that can fully handle it.


Related links:
Left4Dead 2
Valve


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Bayonetta - Hands-on
Thursday 04 June 2009 - 05:31AM
Peter Rizkalla


Bayonetta is named after the main character; a witch that is on the hunt for other witches from rival clans. The game is being developed by Platinum Studios who are the same guys that put together Madworld for the Wii. Hideki Kamiya is directing Bayonetta. You might remember him as the director of the flagship Devil May Cry, Viewtiful Joe and Okami games. The rival witch clan has aligned itself with beasts that take the form of angels and Bayonetta fights off these extremely intricate looking enemy models with just as intricate looking attacks. Bayonetta’s black costume is actually her hair and as she attacks enemies, parts of her costume will transform into huge fists and stiletto heals which cause serious damage to enemies. When delivering the final blow to larger enemies, end they get pretty large, Bayonetta’s entire costume will turn into a giant jagged toothed monster which completely chews up enemies and then transforms back to Bayonetta’s costume and hair.

The frame rate is some of the smoothest I’ve seen in any game and with models this complex that’s no easy task. The color scheme is extremely variant and the lighting and particle effects have been used outstandingly well to create effects like golden halos and trumpets, bullet streams and neon hearts when Bayonetta blows kisses. Bayonetta can wield the weapons that fallen enemies drop which include swords, spears, giant axes and trumpets. Yes, trumpets. Her basic weapons - aside from her punches, kicks and hair - are her four pistols.

Bayonetta has a pistol in each hand and a pistol on each ankle that allow her to finish off any punching and kicking combo with a flurry of bullets. The gameplay is chaotic and the visuals look more than ready. This doesn’t look like a beta version of a game that is going to come out in Q4 of 2009. It looks like a game that’s already gone gold.


Related links:
Platinum Games Inc.


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Splinter Cell: Conviction - Preview
Thursday 04 June 2009 - 05:06AM
Peter Rizkalla


Splinter Cell: Conviction now has classic character Sam Fisher on a quest to find the people would killed his daughter Sarah. Raphael Parent, the gameplay programmer on Conviction walked us through some of the more promising features that we can expect from Conviction. The environment is the most gorgeous of any Splinter Cell title. Sam does best when he lurks in the darkness so the game lets you know when you are in the dark or when light is revealing you by fading the color to a near grayscale pallet when Sam is hidden by the shadows and having the environment become brighter and more colorful when Sam is in the light. Like I said before, Sam’s memories, game objectives and particular circumstances that move the story along will be projected onto walls like an overhead projector. This is a presentation tool that has never been used in games and Conviction pulls it off swimmingly.

Sam is a lot faster in Conviction than in previous games. For example, instead of hanging from a ledge and slowly shimmying along the side it Sam now uses his legs to move himself along the wall and quickly scales hand over hand along the side of ledges that he hangs from. The automatic “mark and execute” feature I mentioned before is not a freely used feature; using it depletes a meter which can be replenished by performing stealth kills. Because the mark and execute feature is directly tied to the weapon that Sam is holding at the time, each weapon that Sam carries has it’s own separate mark and execute meter.

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Assassins Creed 2
Thursday 04 June 2009 - 02:53AM
Peter Rizkalla


Inside Ubisoft’s media room, I sat down to check out the new protagonist, Ezio, in Assassin’s Creed 2 with the producer of the game, Sebastien Puel. The demonstration consisted of examples of Ezio’s acrobatic abilities and other physical moves in his arsenal. The environment is modeled after 17th century Venice Italy and features many if Venice’s more famous landmarks like the Grand Canal and the Piazza San Marco. One of the most apparent new additions are the dual hidden blades that Ezio wields. In AC1 the main character, Altair, only had a single hidden blade. Sebastien demonstrated how Ezio could sneak up on two enemies at once and stealthily kill assassinate them simultaneously with the hidden blades. Stealth kills are also no longer limited to the ground anymore, they can be executed from almost anywhere such as when hanging from a ledge, from hiding in a haystack and even from the air when landing on an enemy. Ezio can also swim which was not something that could be done in AC1.

Ezio does not have a lot of weapons in Assassin’s Creed 2 but he can take any of the weapons that the guards carry and use them. Weapons such as axes, swords and spears all have their own move set when Ezio takes control of them. Another new weapon is the smoke bomb which allows Ezio to escape large crowds of enemies. Ezio also calls on the aide of groups of friends that help him in his assassination attempts by covering up evidence of his kills. Another friend that helps Ezio is Leonardo da Vinci, the actual Leonardo da Vinci. He creates inventions for Ezio to use such as a hand glider.


Related links:
Ubisoft


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Sony E3 press conference
Wednesday 03 June 2009 - 01:48AM
Peter Rizkalla


By far, Sony had the most impressive E3 stage I’ve ever seen.
They had it at the USC Los Angeles Theatre where they set up three huge screens that were each about forty feet tall! One could also say that after the press conference, Sony has the bragging rights to say that they showed off some of the most gorgeous looking game footage of any company at the whole show. The first big name was Uncharted 2: Among Thieves where they showed off live gameplay footage of how Uncharted will play. The setting looked to be in a Latin country where Nathan Drake and a female counterpart evade the onslaught of armed enemies and a machine gun wielding helicopter. Everything looked amazing from the character animations that had Nate jump, slide and climb from window to rooftop to the outstanding particle effects which had the chopper let loose a stream of bullets causing pieces of wood and debris to break off and shoot out in every direction. The building that Nate and his female opposite were fighting off enemies in collapsed with them in it as a result of the choppers attack which showed Nate and the girl perform some daring jumps to escape the building just before the whole thing goes down.

MAG was another title that Sony was pleased to show gameplay footage of. There’s not really anything too gorgeous about MAG; it’s kind of looks like a Call of Duty title but with more earth tones. What makes MAG exceptional though is the fact that it’s online multiplayer modes will support up to 256 players online at the same time in the same match. They then switched gears over to the PSP where they displayed screenshots for titles like Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines and video for Soul Calibur: Broken Destiny. They also made special emphasis on surprise titles Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker for PSP and Gran Turismo for PSP. Switching back to the PS3, Sony shows off actual in-game footage of Assassin’ Creed 2 and Final Fantasy XIII. Assassin’s Creed looks, by far, to be one of the best lit and best mapped games ever. There is not even a subtle difference between the quality of the live code and the quality of the cinematics; they both look equally fantastic. Animation wise, new acrobatic feats and attacks make this new character perform even more brutal kills than Altair in the first Assassin’s Creed. More Final Fantasy XIII footage was also shown but soon after Sony made the surprise announcement that even though FF XIII hasn’t even been released yet, Square Enix is now working on Final Fantasy XIV exclusively for the PS3. We’ve all heard the word “exclusive” many times before when dealing with Final Fantasy and the PS3; that remains to be seen.

A very impressive new title from Fumito Ueda, the creator of Shadow of the Colossus and Ico, called The Last Guardian shows a very creatively designed young boy whose guardian is a giant four legged bird creature which looks kind of like a griffin. From what the trailer showed, the boy and his guardian venture through enemy infested dungeons and overcome puzzles and traps with each others help. Fumito Ueda always has a distinct way of designing living creatures; the boy’s guardian is huge but is not too ominous as he and they boy constantly exchange affection. Think of Falcore from the never ending story with a giant bird’s head. Last but not least we saw some gameplay footage of God of War III; if there were such thing as being “over texture mapped” then Kratos would have to be it. Every wrinkle, every crease, every scar and every hair on his face are extremely significant. Even the grit and ridgedness of his teeth are remarkably apparent. As the gameplay footage commenced it is nice to see that Kratos’ basic combo has been changed up a bit considering that it has been exactly the same for the last three God of War titles. The executions are just as brutal as ever with Kratos completely gutting a Centaur spilling his insides all over the floor not to mention slicing the tail off a Chimera then stabbing it with it’s own horn which Kratos had already ripped off! The effects, such as blood splatters, released experience orbs and sparks from clanging blades, look even more believable in this God of War title than in any other, as should be expected. I’ll post more on God of War III after getting some hands on time with it.



Related links:
ELECTRONIC ENTERTAINMENT EXPO

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Nintendo E3 show
Wednesday 03 June 2009 - 01:31AM
Peter Rizkalla


Today Nintendo had the chance to redeem itself from the snoozer of a press conference that it put on last year. Cammie Dunaway was the first to come out and speak on Nintendo’s current endeavors. After rambling for a good long time about arbitrary ideas like “4D gaming” she then began to talk about the success of The New Super Mario Bros. for the DS which then lead to the announcement of The New Super Mario Bros. for the Wii. TNSMB for the Wii is not a dynamic work of modeling, lighting and texture mapping but what it lacks in graphical complexity it more than makes up for in it’s beautifully smooth animation. Hands on time with TNSMB Wii showed that the game runs at a constant 60 frames per second and displays a myriad of jumping, wall bouncing, flipping and cooperative animations that give the whole game a satisfying feel. The biggest selling point of THSMB for the Wii is the ability for four players to play through levels simultaneously, cooperative or competitive. New items, abilities, characters and levels can also be expected from the gameplay in The New Super Mario Bros. for Wii.

The next big announcement was a new Golden Sun title for the Nintendo DS. Of course, DS games are even more simplistic than Wii games but the outstanding character designs from the first two Golden Sun titles have been carried onto the DS with new summon creatures and new beautifully designed environments. Nintendo also announced Super Mario Galaxy 2 for the Wii which, like it’s predecessor, incorporates some of the most dynamic lighting and particle effects found in any Wii title.

After the announcement of more fitness games like Wii Fit Plus and a new adapter that does something like measure your stress and heart rate, Nintendo finally left us with one last blockbuster announcement. Team Ninja, the creators behind the Ninja Gaiden series, is working with Nintendo developers to create a brand new Metroid title called Metroid: Other M. The animations that were displayed in the trailer are phenomenal having Samus jump, flip kick, air dodge, headlock and throw enemies all over the place all while shooting them from every angle imaginable. Even all the mechanical parts of her suit move, shift and let off steam as she moves around. Ridley, Samus’ constant alien protagonist, makes an appearance in the trailer as well with a design that has him look even more spinney and menacing than before. The story of Metroid: Other M will also delve deeper into Samus’ past and deeper into the Metroid universe. New characters make appearances and reveal how they are involved in Samus’ life and adventures. A few hints were dropped in the trailer that link Metroid: Other M to Metroid: Fusion which came out on the GBA a while back but it remains to be seen how those connections will be made, if at all.


Related links:
ELECTRONIC ENTERTAINMENT EXPO
Nintendo

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Ubisoft E3 press conference
Tuesday 02 June 2009 - 05:32AM
Peter Rizkalla


Ubisoft had a pretty long press conference this year but most of it was pretty much just talk.
The first title that showed off any creative prowess was Red Steel 2 for the Wii. Considering the hardware limitations of the Wii this title looked surprisingly well designed. It’s a samurai western style title; the characters and environments are all cell-shadded with the characters having very intricate guns and swords while the environments have a hot, earth tone color scheme. Control for Red Steel 2 will also be a vast improvement due to the support that RS2 will have for the new Wii Motion Plus adapter.

An interesting note is that James Cameron made an appearance to announce that Ubisoft will be developing the game based on his upcoming motion picture Avatar however no footage, trailers or screenshots were shown. A new addition to an established franchise is Splinter Cell Conviction. This title will revolve around the ever famous Splinter Cell main protagonist Sam Fisher. Sam Fisher’s daughter Sarah has been killed and Fisher is on a quest to find her killers. Stealth and the shadows play an important part of Conviction. Fisher is strongest when he sticks to the shadows and makes quick kills. A new gameplay feature to this franchise is the “mark and execute” feature which allows Sam to mark enemies and environmental hazards before entering a room which allows him to take out enemies faster. The World is displayed in very dull, grayscale colors until Sam is discovered by the enemy; then the world gets brighter and filled with color until Sam finds a hiding spot again. The presentation of Conviction is also unique; objectives will not simply appear on the screen as with other games. Instead, Sam will see his objectives displayed on the walls around him as if displayed from a projector. Also, instead of cutting to a different scene for a flashback, Sam’s memories and flashbacks will also be displayed on the environment like a projector.

The only other thing that was even remotely excellent was also the largest visual tour de force shown the entire day; Assassin’s Creed 2. The first AC was set medieval times during the crusades. AC2, however, will be set in Venice Italy during the Renaissance which makes for some outstanding looking, Victorian architecture and very artistic looking elements right down to the designs on the swords and guns. The trailer that was shown was not actual gameplay but if what we saw was any indication of what we can expect from gameplay then it would be safe to say that players will be able to take advantage of weapons like dual daggers and hidden guns. Assassin’s Creed looks fantastic as well as Splinter Cell Conviction. It’s also nice to see that Ubisoft is releasing a new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game which is being developed by the same guys who created Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

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Electronic Arts E3 Presser
Tuesday 02 June 2009 - 02:22AM
Peter Rizkalla


The first intro video that Electronic Arts displayed at their press event is probably one of the best ones they showed throughout the whole show.
‘Dante’s Inferno’ looks to be a hack and slasher in the same vein as ‘God of War’ only we don’t know that for sure. The trailer they showed off was beautiful with impressive character designs but there wasn’t any actual gameplay footage shown. Next up was ‘Sims 3’ and as you can expect, because Sims gameplay always has so many character models on screen at once they’re all low polygon models. Facial animations of the ‘Sims 3’ is a vast improvement though.

After sitting through a slew of ‘Littlest Petshop’ and ‘Charm Girls Club’ trailers we come to ‘Need For Speed: Shift’ which is a new take on the Need For Speed franchise. Animation wise, NFS: Shift is a much faster racer than previous NFS titles giving the gameplay a much more intense sense of speed. Also, there are various ways to approach NFS: Shift where the player can choose to race accurately or aggressively. ‘Dragon Age: Origins’ was the next title and was introduced by Bioware devs Greg Zeschuk and Ray Muzyka. With a very mystical, medieval setting in this new Bioware title it was noted that this would be the darkest and most violent Bioware title to date.

Of course, ‘Mass Effect 2’ was welcomed to a rousing applause. The trailer that was shown exhibited some amazing looking lighting effects with a story that goes even deeper than just another battle against the Geth. Next up was Fight Night Round 4 which features character models of boxing legends Muhammad Ali and “Iron” Mike Tyson. The character deformations were the thing to marvel at suring the gameplay footage of FNR4. Shoulders and biceps would stretch and constrict without a single hint of pixilation in the texture maps. The Saboteur is another new IP from EA which features a protagonist who sabotages various Nazi strongholds on France. There is a black and white, stylized color scheme to the worlds which looks very much like the movie Sin City but then color is restored to the areas where Nazi strength has been weakened.

Brutal Legend is another new IP from EA which features the Voice of Jack Black and the likenesses of rock stars such as Lita Ford, Lemy Kilmister and Ozzy Osbourne. The art style features simple character models but very well designed characters and enemies. Lastly, EA announced a new PC MMO based on everyones favorite franchise Star Wars called Star Wars the Old Republic. This MMO will allow players to play through it with not just a Jedi or Sith class but other classes as well such as Bounty Hunter. The Story takes place thousands of years before the reign of Darth Vader and, from what was shown in the trailer, displays some outstanding animation and fight choreography.

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Microsoft E3 press conference
Tuesday 02 June 2009 - 01:05AM
Peter Rizkalla


It’s the first day of E3 and first on the list is the Microsoft Press Conference.
The event opened up with an intro video for The Beatles: Rock Band. Soon after, Giles Martin, the Music Supervisor for The Beatles: Rock Band had a crew of demonstrators play an actual song from the game. From what we can tell, the Rock Band devs really didn’t do anything new to the character models. They look like the Beatles did when they were young only in the same, typical Rock Band style of character models. The intro video however was an outstanding mesh of 2D character animation and 3D prop design having the 2D beatles characters riding on top of a giant 3D elephant with all the psychedelic elements that are characteristic of The Beatles. Also, it’s interesting to note that there were three singers with mics playing through the song instead of the usual one mic which tells us that The Beatles: Rock Band will support three singers at once. Special guests made appearances such as Yoko Ono, Paul McCartney and Ringo Star.

Gameplay footage from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 was shown next. As per usual in the more recent Cal of Duty games it featured exceptional character models while running at a constant 60 frames per second. The COD franchise has always been known to maintain an excellent frame rate. The footage showed battles in an arctic blizzard. Climbing the side of an iceberg and shooting enemies with a pistol while riding a snowmobile are some of the newer gameplay features that were shown in COD: Modern Warfare 2.

Guys from Square Enix including Motomu Toriyama came out to demonstrate Final Fantasy XIII for the Xbox 360. The character models look outstanding but, as per usual of any Square Enix title, they all retain the same anime style where all the guys look like girls. There is an African American protagonist in Final Fantasy XIII but I don’t know if it is Japan’s lack of knowledge of what African Americans look like if they are just trying to be satirical but for some reason this character looks so comical that it doesn’t really match the style of game. They showed off a summon attack and the summon creature named Odin was a work of art. It looked similar to the Guyver character but much larger and much more regal in design. Great lighting effects in this title.

Cliff Bleszinski and Donald Mustard from Epic Games now come out to announce Shadow Complex which looks to be a side scrolling Xbox LIVE title. The style is like Syphon Filter but with more sci-fi gadgets such as a foam gun which creates bridges. It looks to play like the older, side-scrolling Metroid games. Next is the announcement of Crackdown 2 which looks to maintain the look of the first Crackdown with cell-shadded texture mapping only with much more complex character designs than the first title. Just a little more than a month after the release of Left 4 Dead’s survival pack update comes the announcement of Left 4 Dead 2. The Zombies now look much more pale and rotting with buckets of blood spilling out of them when they get shot. No gameplay footage was shown but if the cinematic hints at what we can expect from gameplay then it looks like players will be able to take a chainsaw to the zombie hoard this time. Also, there are new characters which look like they were on holiday and it got cut short. The environments look like they are set in a Mardi Gras type setting and it’s actually daytime which looks to be a first for Left 4 Dead.

Forza Motorsports 3 was announced next and features some amazing looking anisotropic texture mapping. Like in Forza 2, players will be able to customize the paint job of their cars but now they will also be able to create user generated videos and upload them to Xbox LIVE. Halo 3 ODST was shown next; graphically, the last installment to the Halo franchise was a massive disappointment and a waste of the Xbox 360’s abilities but it actually looks like this Halo will do what the last Halo should have done. Outstanding looking fire effects were present in the trailer for Halo 2 ODST.

Lastly, Microsoft showed off a new accessory which now allows for the development of motion control games for the 360. Unlike the Nintendo Wii though, there is no controller. The “sensor bar” senses full body motion, recognizes faces and voices and allows the user to control the entire UI of the 360 just with speak and hand gestures. Peter Molyneux was there to announce that Lionhead Studios is already working on software that will take advantage of this new accessory codenamed Project Natal. They showed off an app that features a boy names Milo who talks to you and senses the emotions in your voice, makes intelligent comments about you and your actions and expects you to react to his actions. Steven Spielberg also made an appearance and announced his inclusion in the development of Project Natal.

A surprise announcement was made by surprise guest Hideo Kojima that Konami is now working on a new Metal Gear Solid game for the 360. However, Solid Snake will not be the main protagonist in this project. This title will be centered around the acrobatic ninja character Raiden.

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» Muramasa: The Demon Blade - Hands on
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» Splinter Cell: Conviction - Preview
» Assassins Creed 2
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