A morning of movie games

Nothing like starting off the week after E3 with not one, but TWO movie-based games. I miss it already.

I’m in the first stages of “X-Men: The Official Game,” and I’m not in love with what I’m seeing so far. Instead of animated cinema sequences, I’m getting still illustrations with voices accompanying the images. I guess it’s supposed to give me a comic book feel. I guess.

I’m also checking out the “Da Vinci Code” today as well. No Tom Hanks (or anyone else from the movie, I think). This could be the first time I get the play the movie/book treatment under my belt. Well, at least the movies won’t stink.

If you’re a Wall Streeter who plays, check out the GameSpot story about the injured stocks of a few game companies. The biggest black eye can be found at Electronic Arts, which hit a 52-week low.

Speaking of stocks, I just saw on CNNMoney.com that Timothy Roberts, ex-major domo of Infinium Labs has been accused by the SEC in a pump-and-dump scheme. Allegedly, the dude inflated the company’s stock and then sold personal shares at a higher price.

Much of the mess centers around the Phantom game console. If you don’t know what that is, trust me — you don’t care.

And just because, here’s a screenshot of Eidos’ upcoming “Rogue Trooper”:

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Sony making more friends

I’m catching up on some news, and it turns out that not only are some developers irritated about the gyroscopic PS3 controller that was suddenly unveiled E3 week, but the site Games Radar had to actually tell one developer that the controller doesn’t have a vibrate feature.

What … What is going on? Is there any developer who DOES know about the controller, aside from the people who made “Warhawk”?

A friend of mine phrased it this way: “Did the ex-FEMA director find a job there and we just didn’t know about it? How else do you explain the lack of communication?”

I like Sony. I really do. Which is why I find it a little disturbing that a company that excelled at making some pretty innovative titles appears to be doing such a poor job of talking to its supporting brethren. I know it’s early — but it’s not THAT early.

The morning after E3

Some lasting impressions and random thoughts about the week that was E3:

I would seriously consider getting the Nintendo Wii if I absolutely needed a new system. It was the biggest hit of the show, and it had people talking about Nintendo with the same reverance and wonder it had years ago. The Wii owned the West Hall floor.

The gyroscopic PS3 controller could have been a hit, but since developers just found out about it themselves, there weren’t many games that showed it off, save for “Warhawk.” I’ve heard that some companies weren’t very happy about the surprise unveiling.

N-Gage had a huge booth, comparable in size to EA’s booth. No one really knew why, and I’m not sure that was a good idea putting it RIGHT NEXT to the EA camp. What a choice: Hmm … “Spore” or the N-Gage? Not even President Logan would have to think hard about this one.

I’m not sure how anyone else feels, but hands-on time with “Gears of War” was the most enjoyable 25-30 minutes I had at the show. That game is no joke. Perhaps I’m still feeling the high from chainsaw usage. As podcaster Gamer Andy told me after he saw the footage first, “Blood. Everywhere!”

Bobby Blackwolf had an E3 roundtable last night, capping off the show with everyone airing any regrets they had about the show. Mine was not being able to see “Assassin’s Creed” from Ubisoft. I also didn’t get to play “Red Steel” on the Wii, so no swinging a sword for me.

This was one of the more enjoyable shows I’ve been to. Hopefully, I’m doing this again next year. The next post you see is going to deal with my take on general tech and games stuff. Until then, enjoy yourselves.

By the way, check out our photo galleries from the show. Look down the right side of the page.

Closing time

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The best third day ever.

Finally got my hands on “Gears of War” for the 360. This game is mine. I joined a small crowd of others in a few quick multiplayer games (with yours truly securing one win for his team, bringing honor to the LANG house), and I picked up the controls surprisingly quickly. The most important thing is taking cover — otherwise you’ll probably get your face shot off. The camera has a handheld “jiggle” that you see in war movies, and it adds a cool sense of tense drama. I used a little bit of my “GRAW” training in finding cover, so I didn’t look like a complete rookie out there.

Then there’s the chainsaw at the end of the assault rifle, which you can use to saw alien enemies in half. Perhaps the most single satisfying gaming act of my day. Believe it.

Also took in “Viva Pinata,” which finds a way to turn gardening into an act of gaming innovation. The best way I can explain it is that you are charged with creating a garden from scratch. The better the garden, the more chance you have of attract animated pinata animals to it. As your garden improves, you bring in different pinatas, each with candy names and varying behavior. It’s being launched in conjunction with a TV show, and it’s definitely one of those games that wants to invite non-gamers to try it out. For what it’s worth, it was the cutest game I saw at the show.

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To end the day, checked out the antithesis of cute, “Mercenaries 2: World in Flames,” in a closed-door meeting with Pandemic Studios. This edition of the game takes place in Venezuela, where there’s plenty of stuff to destroy. One of the new wrinkles is the concept of fire — essentially, if it explodes or can be lit on fire, you can burn it. The demo showed off how one can shoot an oil tanker and light the oil that spills out of it. You can also get creative and use fire to box in enemies. You’re also able to recruit other mercenaries and create your own company. But the game also aims to be very open-ended.

“We tell you what to do, but not how to do it. It’s totally up to the player,” said Andrew Goldman, co-founder of Pandemic.

That was evident aboard a oil rig, where the main character blew up the supports and had to dodge debris as it slowly sunk into the water. The way of escape? A friend in a helicopter. Pandemic has answered the prayers of many by adding co-op multiplayer in the game. Outstanding.

I’m about to evacuate the media room, but I’ll have one more post with final words on the day as well as the show. Until then, peace to all.

Thoughts from 2K

Good stuff coming out of 2K games. Checked out “Bioshock” and “The Darkness,” two first-person shooters that thankfully provide a lot more than just shooting the enemy.

“The Darkness” is made by Starbreeze, the wizards who put together “The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay” — perhaps the only truly great movie-based game in recent memory. “Darkness” features a mob hitman possessed by an evil force, which gives him wicked powers every time he steps into dark areas. The demo features our mob hero summoning creatures from the floor, using dark tentacle to throw things and conjuring up a mini black hole to suck in enemies.
Sweetness personified. It’s based on a comic of the same name.

“Bioshock” rocked as well, showing off an world trapped underwater that doesn’t follow the usual tenets of first-person shooting — it’s not going to be linear, you start out with nothing for weapons, and you rely more on guile than reflexes. The demo showed off how instead of wiping out the creature guarding a door, you can get it into a fight with another creatures as a distraction. One lasting memory is a little girl injecting a giant needle — twice — into a dead body to collect a form of currency. Not disturbing at all.

I also took a look at the “Civilization IV: Warlords” expansion which gives props to great minds like Alexander the Great and Winston Churchill (a new addition), and well as “Railroads,” which showed off a very easy system for laying down your own personal business empire.

That’s all I can muster right now — I’m headed off to see “Gears of War” and “Viva Pinata.” Then it’s “Mercenaries 2,” which I hear is a must-see.

Day Three: Seeing green

After the 2K meeting, it’s off to Microsoft. I played the Wii, saw much of what the PS3 had to offer — now it’s time to see the stuff from the company that has gotten to concentrate on just the games for more than a year. The plate of meetings includes “Gears of War,” “Viva Pinata,” “Too Human” and “Mass Effect.” This is especially nice because a chunk of the crowd has thinned out, and whoever’s left is still in recovery mode from festivities the night before.

Be back in a few hours … I’m off to 2K Games.

The epitaph of Day Two

Closed out the day by killing an army in “Ninety-Nine Nights.” I really don’t see what the big deal is. I know there’s some joy to be taken in killing a legion of onscreen enemies, but it gets old for me quickly. It’s “Dynasty Warriors” with better effects. I also got to check out “Saints Row,” but found it hard to play because it reminded me a lot of “GTA.” Too much, actually. Sure, you can intricately create your own gangbanger, but is that really enough?

Tomorrow is the last day, and I plan to stop by 2K Games to see “Family Guy,” “Bioshock,” and of course, “Prey.”

That’s it for today. Now I’m going to stop my ears from being blown out at the Arena Lounge, where there’s a post-E3 bash.

More Day Two

I thought getting in to see the Wii was going to take all day, so I had time to peruse more wares from the show floor.

I witnessed a demo for “John Woo’s Stranglehold,” starring Chow Yun-Fat, master of the double-fisted gun technique. It’s a giant Hong Kong action shootout that unleashes all of Woo’s directing trademarks: slow motion, lots of bullets and the hero doing things for the sake of cool. You can slide across tables, run up bannisters and swing on hanging lights. One sequence features Chow gliding down a bannister and diving onto a roll cart, shooting thugs as he trucks across a room. The game takes a page out of the “Black” playbook, as practically everything in the virtual background was destroyed at the
end of the shootout.

Also went to the Ubisoft booth to see “Splinter Cell: Double Agent,” in which Sam Fisher goes undercover to infiltrate a terror group. to earn their trust, he’s asked to make some chilling decisions, such as whether or not to kill a captured chopper pilot. The game also takes a step outside, taking Sam away from the confined spaces he’s used to. One mission puts him in Africa during a civil war. Also new to the franchise are underwater swimming sequences.

Invested some time into “Lost Planet.” It didn’t grab me at first glance, but it plays pretty well. You can find the demo on Xbox Live
and see for yourself. The game focuses on extreme temperature conditions — you start off the demo on a frozen landscape reminiscent of Hoth. I spent a lot of time blasting bug creatures large and small into pieces. Good times.

I’ll return in a few hours with some more stuff from today.

A Wii taste

Nintendo Wii is kind of tight. Yeah, I said it.

Spent a chunk of the day waiting in line, which looked like it was going to snake around and outside the building (I didn’t check to see the end of it). I managed to get my hands on “Super Mario Galaxy,” “Madden ’07″ and “The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.”

For me, the learning curve for the remote/nunchuk controller combo depended on the game I played. “Madden ’07″ was an enriching experience, seeing as how the person who played before and after me admittedly didn’t play Madden — or sports games — that much, and they had a BLAST. I laid an egg when trying to kick, since I apparently have a natural curve in my upward wrist-flicking motion.

Passing was another story. I really did start feeling like quarterback. You make a throwing motion with the remote after picking a receiver with the D-Pad. It ended up feeling very intuitive near the end of the session.

I also blew through a few minutes of “Mario,” which was the most natrual-feeling game as far as the Wii controllers were concerned. Wiggling the remote made Mario spin, and I also held down the right trigger and swept the remote “pointer” on the screen to collect star shards that were littering the landscape. I moved Mario around with the thumbstick on the Nunchuk — it was also the first time I noticed that both controllers don’t favor either right-handed or left-handed players. Inclusion indeed.

Then, after a VERY long wait, came “Zelda.” This was a little harder to dive into. The Remote controlled item selection, firing the bow and arrow and swinging the sword, while the Nunchuk handled movement and a spin attack. The camera felt a little nutty at times, and aiming the bow and arrow with the Remote felt too sensitive, even for some of the more trained players.

However, the demo still showed off a nifty wind puzzle (where you have to use the wind boomerang), a giant magnet that carried you when you wore iron boots, and a multifaceted boss battle that asks you to:
1) Shoot the giant creature in the eye.
2) Grab onto a chain that’s hanging around his feet.
3) Slapping on the iron boots (which make you heavy), and tripping the giant so it falls face first.
4) Introduce your sword to the giant’s head.

Overall, the Wii seemed like a hit. I heard people rave about the golf and tennis games as well, and more people are lining up to play it — sadly, some of them might not even see it today. I think it’s worth the wait.