This is up a little late because I headed directly from E3 to Los Angeles International Airport on Thursday, then worked all day Friday. Anyhow, here are my quick thoughts on some of the stuff I saw on the last day of E3. More detailed previews will come later.
The most head-scratching thing I saw at E3: When I set out for my trip to Bethesda Softworks’ booth, I had but one goal in mind: Play “Fallout: New Vegas,” Obsidian Entertainment’s new game that shifts the postapocalyptic narrative from the Capital Wasteland to the relatively unnuked confines of Las Vegas. Unfortunately that dream went unfulfilled as Bethesda funneled all of us journalists into a theater to watch a lengthy demo of “Rage,” the upcoming shooter from the creators of “Doom” and “Quake.” When I got out, I made a beeline for the “Fallout: NV” stations but got stuck behind a kid who looked to be about 12. The funny part, for those not familiar with E3’s rules, is that there are signs everywhere saying no one under 17 is to be allowed in the show under any circumstances, and here’s this kid, who might have been older than 12 but certainly wasn’t 17, blasting away at mutants in an M-rated game while he talks to a Bethesda staffer. I can only assume this kid was some child star who’s already earned and spent more money than I will over my entire lifetime.
In any case, this kid had clearly never played “Fallout 3.” He walked up to the first settlement he could find and just went in guns blazing. I’m pretty sure the game was set up so demo players wouldn’t run out of health or action points, which meant that this kid could basically massacre an entire town at will. After about five minutes of running amok and killing people with almost every weapon he could find, he asked the rep what the point of “Fallout NV” was, like if there was a story or anything. The (very patient) Bethesda guy explained to the kid that you’re supposed to talk to people to open up new quests, then pointed out that no one would talk to him because they’d all just watched him massacre half the town. It was right around this time that I gave up my dream of playing “Fallout: NV” in favor of trying out “Hunted: The Demon’s Forge.” (Oh, and for what it’s worth, “Rage” looks like a ton of fun, and “Hunted” is coming along nicely. Keep an eye out for previews.)
“Star Wars: The Old Republic” passes the time-suck test: I was herded in to watch the “Hope” trailer for BioWare’s upcoming massively multiplayer online role-playing game for the PC set thousands of years before the “Star Wars” movies. Then, they let me take the game for a spin. Next thing I knew, it was five minutes before the start of my Bethesda appointment, and I hadn’t yet seen “The Secret of Monkey Island 2,” a game I was really eager to check out. Luckily, LucasArts is in the neighborhood. Maybe I can ply them with cake to get them to let me see the game early.
And so does “Puzzle Quest 2”: During a meeting with D3, I saw a couple of kid-oriented games that looked OK for what they were. But I easily spent the most time tooling around with “Puzzle Quest 2,” the sequel to the surprise hit that fused gem-matching puzzle games with role-playing games. It was my second look at “PQ2,” which boasts a number of improvements and tweaks over the original. It should be every bit as good when it launches this summer.
“Power Gig: Rise of the SixString” is no “Rock Revolution”: Any game trying to go up against two franchises as established as “Rock Band” and “Guitar Hero” has its work cut out for it. But where Konami’s failed “Rock Revolution” was a dreadful attempt to cash in on a craze, Seven45 Studios’ game looks to have a solid foundation. Its guitar controller has actual strings you can really strum, and once you get good enough, you’ll acquire knowledge you can use to play guitar for real, not just on some video game. There’s only one problem. Harmonix, the folks who make the “Rock Band” games, and Fender, the guitar company, want to do the same thing for “Rock Band 3.” In other words, “Power Gig” might have its niche to itself for only a few months. I gave “Power Gig” a shot at Seven45’s E3 booth and came away intrigued. On the one hand, not having buttons meant I had to keep looking at the controller’s fret to see where my fingers are. On the other hand, I grew increasingly comfortable with the setup as I played longer. The only real tough sell for me is “Power Gig’s” price. A bundle with the game and a guitar controller will cost you $180, which is a little steep if you have no intention of actually learning how to play guitar. That said, the ax is compatible with rival music games. The genre’s hardcore fans or aspiring musicians may want to give this one a look.
The “Dead Space” marketing team knows its stuff: Many of the titles being shown off at E3 have their own little theaters, cordoned off from the rest of the show, with access restricted to media types and probably some other folks. The best theaters are used exclusively for one game and are decorated in a motif that suits the game. The best examples I saw of this art form were for “XCOM,” decorated like a 1950s kitchen, and “Dead Space,” which Electronic Arts had set up as a Church of Unitology interior. We sat in pews as we watched gameplay unfolding in a very similar environment. At the end of the presentation, our eyes were directed toward the little hymnal slots in front of us, where Church of Unitology pamphlets in the style of Jack Chick’s gospel-themed comic books awaited as promotional items. Nice touch, EA.
If “Kinectimals” is the best-looking game for Microsoft’s new device, “EA Sports Active 2” and Ubisoft’s “Your Shape: Fitness Evolved” could vie to be the best software: I got hands on one Kinect title and laid my eyes on a bunch more when I was at E3. By far the most robust, polished things I saw were fitness-oriented software from EA (Thursday) and Ubisoft (Monday). Both of these let you create customized workout routines, monitor your biofeedback and let you share stats online. For gamers who’d like to get some extra exercise but don’t want to go to a gym, these titles look more compelling than any of the “games” coming out for the system
PlayStation Move may make a golfer out of me yet: I’ve always liked tooling around with “Wii Sports’” golf game, but I’ve yet to spring for a full-fledged title devoted exclusively to the sport, namely because I don’t use my Wii a lot and I also don’t golf. That might change once Move comes out for the PS3. I messed around with “Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11” in EA’s booth and had quite a bit of fun with it, although I had to keep looking around to make sure I wasn’t about to whack anyone in the face each time I teed off.