Monday, June 8, 2009

The E3 That Was

All day long I’ve been mulling over what to write about E3 2009. It’s my fifth E3 (I went from ‘97 to ‘99 and once in ‘05), but it’s the first time since ‘99 that I went there as press. And going as press is the way to go, if for no other reason than the fact that it got me easy access to the rooms where EA was demoing Mass Effect 2 and Dragon Age. (Anyone could see these demos, but if you had a media badge they let you go in first and get good seats.)

In terms of games of the show, Bill’s right, Beatles Rock Band is hard to beat. It was the first thing we saw on Day 1, the first thing we got hands-on time with, and as highlights go it was way up there.

The Mass Effect 2 demo was just amazing. I never did catch a release date for it, but I’m assuming we won’t see the PC version until 2010, which makes that my single most anticipated title for next year. This is kind of spoilery, but I’ll put it in here anyway: Shepherd can die. Not in a reload and retry sort of way. There is a failure scenario for the end of the game and you can get Shepherd killed. If done well, that could be sixteen different shades of awesome.

Dragon Age remains my most anticipated title for this year, but I have to say, I’m already growing weary of this new “edgy” marketing campaign they’ve got going for it. How exactly does putting some video of it with a Marilyn Manson track make the game better again? And some parts of the hands-off demo I watched, in which we got to see a tired and cliched love triangle between the player character and your prototypical good girl and bad girl play out, was not exactly the stuff that gaming dreams are made of. Nonetheless, my hope is that these presentations are simply bad marketing and not indicative of hacky gameplay. That said, we did get treated to an honest to goodness dragon fight and that was all sorts of cool. Make no mistake, if you’ve been looking for the scale of a legit D&D style dragon fight since the days of the goldbox games, this is something to see.

Bayonetta. Ah Bayonetta. Bill’s already said I should “let it go.” I can’t. I really can’t. Because the demo had me. I was in its thrall. Bad ass heroine, wearing clothes for a change, goes out and does a bunch of stuff that’s… well, bad ass. The controls took all of a few minutes to start getting used to and I was having some serious fun. But I noticed something odd in the video and just had to ask that fateful question to the gentleman giving the demo, “Uh. Why are Bayonetta’s clothes briefly disappearing every 30 seconds or so?” I’m not sure what I expected from an answer, but not among the possibilities was the notion that her clothes are made of her hair and that when she uses her special abilities (which involve her hair) they disappear for a moment. You know, cuz she’s a witch and stuff. Honest to god there is just no way you can make up a moment like that. When he answered I just looked at the guy for a couple seconds trying to think of how I could respond to him without A) laughing to his face or being otherwise insulting or B) responding in such a way as to imply such a thing is a remotely cool idea. Her clothes are her hair. Thanks, guys. You’ve got an amazingly cool looking game that I can no longer show to any non-gaming friend or relation and still be taken seriously. Hey, I like women without clothes on as much as the next totally-hetero guy, but seriously, that’s just incredibly lame. It makes the pin-up cards in The Witcher seem tasteful. That said, I’ll still be playing this one.

If you’ve not heard of Scribblenauts for the DS yet, look it up. For a game I’d never heard of before walking up to the demo, this just made my top 10 games to look forward to for the rest of the year. Maybe top 5.

As cool as it looked, the demo I saw of Alpha Protocol (which was not extensive) does not offer the slightest notion that this was a spy RPG (a concept that would otherwise be all sorts of sweet).

The Silent Hill remake for the Wii makes me wish I had not sold my Wii.

So does The Conduit.

So does Tiger Woods 10.

So does Spore Hero.

Okay, that’s not true about Spore Hero, which looked lame. I just wanted another item to put there.

I’m excited to have a blu-ray player that doubles as a PS3 so that I can play a God of War game for the first time. (Graphically, this third one looks amazing.)

If you ever refer to Hard Rain in front of me as a game driven by Quicktime events then I get to slap you in the face. Just once.

If you ever try to tell me that Left 4 Dead 2 looks like a shameless cash grab then I get to slap you in the face. Twice. Not saying you’re wrong, but just because it might be a shameless cash grab doesn’t mean it’s not worth every penny! You get to hit zombies with a frying pan, for crying out loud.

SPOILER: Ozzy has a role in Brutal Legend that makes him like Yoda to Jack Black’s Luke. The gameplay does look pretty basic, but man does it look like fun.

Speaking of fun, I learned last week that Tom Chick refuses to use the word “fun” when writing about games. This is probably one of the many things that makes him a better games writer than me. Also, when sitting in a demo for Supreme Commander 2 with he and Troy Goodfellow don’t even try to come up with a smarter question than what they’re asking. You won’t. (They are both incredibly nice and gracious guys, btw.)

Speaking of nice and gracious people, Felicia Day walked right past me on Day 2 and I was too chickenshit to stop her and say hi. Okay, it’s not all me being chickenshit. I really don’t want to be one of those people who sees a celeb and has to gush all over them (like Brandon). If I had it to do over again, though, I’d of at least said “hi” and that I thought we were soulmates or something. You know, try to be cool.

Speaking of being cool, you have to hand it to Bill. When he revamped the Gameshark writing staff he not only brought in some good writers, I can honestly say after spending the week around Brandon, Danielle, Mitch, and Brian that he also brought in great people. I cannot envision having had a better time than to cover the show with these folks.

Yes, I realize I started the last three paragraphs of this post with “speaking of.” And yes, I do realize it’s this kind of thing that separates me from someone who’s actually a good writer.

Oh, and don’t listen to Bill. I’m not an angry person goddammit! The nerve of that guy!