As promised, here's my wrap-up of the big 3's press conferences for
this year's E3. As usual, keep in mind that these are only my opinions.
You don't have to agree, and you probably won't. I'm a type-B (devoted
but level-headed and unbiased) Nintendo fanboy, and I have little love
for Sony, so keep that in mind. As usual, though, I'll do my best to keep
everything completely fair and unbiased. Please comment on the points I make, not the opinions I have; and please be civil.
first conference, taking place yesterday, was Microsoft. And let me
tell you, they really stole the show. The biggest announcement was
Project Natal, a motion-sensing camera. It can track your motion in
three dimensions, recognize your face and voice, and so on. It was
shown with a motion-based painting game, a table tennis - like game,
and most impressively, Milo. Milo is a boy you can talk to and interact
with; he'll recognize you, listen to you, react to your facial
expressions, and more. One journalist suggested the character commented
on the color of his shirt, and looked disgusted when his creator, Peter
Molyneux, was mentioned. I also read about someone trying a very
fully-functional Burnout-like game with it, using realistic controls;
steering, virtual pedals, etc.
The video for Project Natal
certainly looked impressive, but I'm not sure it can really live up to
the hype. After all, the Playstation Eye was supposed to do the same
thing, and it certainly did not. Still, Project Natal looks like some
powerful technology, and I hope they get it really working well.
also had non-Natal games to show, of course. The first big one was the
multiplatform Metal Gear Solid Reach, which will star Raiden. Left 4
Dead 2 will have new survivors and new melee combat, Assassin's Creed 2
looks awesome, and so on. New exclusives include Forza 3, which looks
pretty much what you'd expect, and Halo Reach, a new Halo game that
serves as a prequel to the trilogy. While most seem to assume it will
be another FPS, I kind of doubt that they'd do another one, especially
with Halo 3: ODST being almost a new game. They showed a lot of that
one as well, and it looks like a very different single-player
experience than playing as Master Chief. It seems more character-based,
with The Rookie being a more relatable character and having flashbacks
to other ODSTs. I'm looking forward to it. Crackdown 2 and Mass Effect
2 were also shown, and both look quite impressive.
Next up was
Nintendo. Since the Wii already has a motion controller, and with their
new hardware already known (the already-released DSi and the Wii Motion
Plus), they kept their promise to focus on the games. They certainly
started off with a bang: New Super Mario Bros. Wii, a Wii sequel to the
severely popular DS game. It's the first co-op Mario platformer; people
have described it as like a Mario version of Four Swords. On the
subject of Mario, another first for the series will be Super Mario
Galaxy 2, the first sequel to a major Mario platformer on the same
system since the series entered 3D.
They then moved up to a
sequel for another bestseller, Wii Fit Plus. It will feature a more
personalized workout, new exercises, and new minigames. One I'm
particularly excited about is basically a balance board - controlled
platformer; while you play as your Mii, it's basically putting you in
Mario's shoes. And there was even more Mario to show for the DS: Mario
gi: Bowser's Inside Story, another DS entry in the Mario and
Luigi RPG series, will feature adventures inside Bowser. Yeah. I'm not
sure how they'll do it, but I trust them.
Another major Nintendo
character getting a new game is Samus, with the upcoming Wii game
Metroid: Other M. It will feature both traditional 3rd-person Metroid
platforming and the first-person action from the Prime series. It looks
stunning, and I can't wait to give it a play. Sin and Punishment 2 was
also shown, and it looks pretty awesome. Same goes for Final Fantasy:
The Crystal Bearers, which doesn't look nearly as kiddie as I expected.
Dead Space Extraction also looked sweet.
The Wii Motion Plus was
also shown in action, with Ubisoft's Red Steel 2 and some EA Sports
games. Also shown were some pretty sweet games from Wii Sports Resort,
including a skydiving one. It looks like the Wii Motion Plus will be a
big improvement, so I'm looking forward to it.
There was plenty
more love for the DS and DSi as well. Already announced in Japan,
WarioWare: DIY will let you design your own WarioWare microgames. It'll
be a DSiWare download. Two big regular DS games shown were the
newly-announced Golden Sun DS and the long-awaited Kindgom Hearts 358/2
Days. There was also the GTA-like "Cop: The Recruit" and the DSi
flipbook-making game "Flipnote Studio".
Sony had the last word
this year, and they also announced a new motion controller. Unlike
Microsoft's project, the PS3 motion controller looked a lot like the
Wii Remote and Nunchuck, and didn't really seem to sport any better or
more complex motion sensing than the Wii Motion Plus. It also requires
the Playstation Eye, which didn't really get very far by itself. It
would probably have been more exciting if Project Natal wasn't
announced first, but we'll see which ends up being better. They showed
a pretty cool sword-based tech demo, and while it didn't look any more
impressive than Red Steel 2, it still looked pretty cool. Still, it's
not going to make me buy a PS3 when I already have a Wii, so it doesn't
do what I imagine they wanted.
Also on the hardware front, the
already-known PSP Go. It's not a new console, but a redesign of the
PSP. It has no UMD drive; instead, it has 16 gigabytes of on-board
storage for downloaded games. From now on, all PSP games will be
released on UMD and as downloads for the PSP Go. It will be priced at
Before I move on to games, I'd like to express how stupid
I find the PSP Go. It looks less comfortable, has a smaller screen,
won't let you play PSP games you already have (thus not really allowing
current PSP owners to upgrade), and doesn't add any substantial new
features. Media sharing's nice, but it doesn't compare to the DSi's new
features. It also costs $250, the same price as the Wii, $80 more than
the PSP-3000 and DSi, and $120 more than the DS Lite.
I'm done ranting, let's continue with the games. The PSP Go was
primarily shown with the upcoming PSP version of Little Big Planet.
There will also be a new Metal Gear game for the system, called Metal
Gear Solid Peace Walker, which will be a part of the main series and
not a spin-off. Resident Evil Portable is coming as well, an all-new
game in the series, although that's about all we know. But perhaps the
biggest PSP game announcement was the PSP Gran Turismo game, which was
meant to be a launch title and was long thought to be vaporware.
will be joined by Gran Turismo 5 on the PS3, which will be bigger than
Prologue. Another big Playstation name coming to the system is God of
War III, which looks pretty much like the other ones but with better
graphics. Uncharted 2 was also shown, and what's really impressive
about that game is the draw distance; you can see a LOT. Another
impressive game was MAG; although its gameplay and asthetics are pretty
generic, it's an FPS that supports over 100 people playing at a time.
also a new PS3-exclusive Rockstar game coming, called Agent. It's
spy-related, but not much was shown. Sony thinks the exclusivity will
sell as many consoles as GTA 3 did, but I'm not holding my breath. Next
is the PS3-exclusive Final Fantasy XIV. That's right, XIII isn't even
done yet and they're already working on XIV. It'll be an MMO, like XI,
so it'll be interesting to see how that works on a console. The Last
Guardian, by Team Ico, is another new PS3-exclusive from Team Ico, and
it looks pretty sweet. I don't know much about it yet, but it looks
So, what does this all mean? Now that the Xbox 360
and PS3 will have motion controllers, is the Wii dead? In short, no. In
long: First of all, the appeal of the Wii is more than motion sensing,
at least to the mass audience. It's the games, especially first-party
ones, and the ease of use. It's meant to be something anyone can pick
up and play; nice and simple. The other consoles don't have that;
Project Natal requires getting a camera, and the PS3 one requires a
camera AND a new controller. That's another thing: these new motion
control tools are not part of the essential system; they're add-ons.
Add-ons are great, but they never do as well as they would if they were
essential to the system because not everyone will get them. See the
Sega Genesis and its add-ons. Certainly the casual crowd will be weary
of it. Price is also an issue; the PS3 has always been too expensive.
And while the Xbox 360 Arcade is cheaper than the Wii, the camera tips
it back in the Wii's favor. Then there's the fact that this late in the
game, a lot of people have made their choices. Who knows, I could be
wrong. But in my history of video game blogging, I'm usually right
about these things. It'll be the Playstation Eye all over again.
seems to be a theme for journalists and bloggers to pick a "winner" for
E3. In that spirit, I'd have to say that if anyone "won" E3, it's
clearly Nintendo. If not for what they presented, then for what their
competitors presented. Sony and Microsoft, whose official stances have
always been that the Wii's motion control is no big deal, coming out
with their own motion controllers is the best affirmation possible of
the Wii's success.