Giant E3 Trailer Blowout

I like this new E3 very much. I get to stay at home and queu up a number of hi-definition game trailers for free download on my Xbox 360 while I busy myself with work or while watching the Tour de France coverage. Then, rather than wait in line with the smelly camcorder-thrusting masses that conned their way into the LA Convention Center every May, I can sit back and watch the trailers from the comfort of my leather sofa. At my leisure. Ah yes, this new E3 is indeed grand!

(Although I do miss going out drinking with my editors every night after the show... especially since I rarely ever had to open my wallet.)

This post represents what will be the extent of my E3 "coverage". I'm not going to discuss the Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft press conferences because, frankly, that stuff is boring to me. I care about games, not suits and talking points. So, instead of rambling on about price cuts that did and did not happen, I'm going to give you a first-impression of the dozens of game trailers I've downloaded yesterday and today. I've watched them each two or three times and will now share with you my initial reactions in rapid-fire format. You'll see my corresponding interest level in parentheses, shown as 1 to 5 star scale.

Blacksite: Area 51 - Although I'm reluctant to get excited about yet another first-person shooter, I do like what I see here. The trailer is mostly gameplay footage -- a rarity as you'll see -- and the weaponry and alien design seems pretty cool. It seems to have avoided being considered a Halo clone, which is good thing in my book. This could be one to watch. (***)

Beautiful Katamari - It seems to be the same game we've been playing for a couple of years now on the PS2, but I must admit that I am a sucker for stupid games like this. Is there anything better than rolling a giant sticky ball around and watching it gradually grow from being large enough to pick up cookies to huge enough to collect cars and buildings! The addition of online leaderboards, multiplayer, and Achievements makes this a must-buy for me (*****)

Crash of the Titans - Crash Bandicoot is back and for some reason it seems as if Mike Tyson (or an impersonator) is doing the voice-over work for one of the other characters in the game. I'm glad to see another platformer make a comeback, as I do like the Crash Bandicoot series, but despite being one of the longest and most polished trailers in the bunch, there wasn't an ounce of actual gameplay on display here. Everything was scripted and clipped from cutscenes. I don't understand this. Every poll ever taken shows that most gamers, by and large, couldn't give a rat's ass about the story of the games, yet this trailer (and most others) only reveal story and background scenes and no gameplay. (***)

Guitar Hero III - Color me psyched. Not only can you actually get into a guitar battle with Slash from Guns and Roses, but the partially revealed track list is positively smoking. Here's just a sample: "Welcome to the Jungle" - Guns and Roses, "Even Flow" - Pearl Jam, "Cherub Rock" - Smashing Pumpkins, "Sabotage" - Beastie Boys, "Rock and Roll All Night" - KISS, and last but most certainly not least (and a song I've been hoping for since the very first Guitar Hero released) "Cult of Personality" - Living Colour. I never send letters to game developers making song requests, but I did actually send Harmonix an email two years ago requesting "Cult of Personality" for an upcoming sequel. Another must-buy that can't get here soon enough. (*****)

Naruto: Rise of a Ninja - I downloaded this thinking it was a sequel to I-Ninja. My bad. It's actually some anime game involving a kid ninja. It's got a great cel-shading graphical style and I can see the allure if you're a kid into anime, but, umm, moving right along... (*)

Civilization: Revolution - No trailer pissed me off more than this one. The Civilization franchise is long considered the pinnacle of turn-based empire-building strategy games. Sid Meier, the game's creator, is gaming royalty. And he says this is the game he's always wanted to make. However, the trailer is nothing but cinematics showing various scenes from throughout time. There's not only no gameplay footage at all, but there's not even mention of whether or not the game will be turn-based or an action game or a real-time strategy. Nothing. Don't get me wrong, Sid Meier is the E.F. Hutton of gaming and when he says this is the game he's always wanted to make, people do listen. And I'm listening. But I'm also watching and so far I see nothing that tells me anything about this game. (***)

Project Gotham Racing 4 - Umm, let's see. It's the sequel to my favorite gaming franchise and now it includes motorcycles. And you can do stunts on those motorcycles. If they added lawnmowers, I'd still buy this game. Oh, and by the way, easily the best looking game of the bunch. It's no wonder the Sony people have repeatedly "accidentally" used screenshots of PGR3 for Gran Turismo marketing. (*****)

Lost Odyssey - I don't know about this game. It looks really pretty, but I can't tell if it's a hack-and-slash action game, a la Ninety-Nine Nights, or if it has more of a role-playing feel to it. I don't know. It seems like it might fit somewhere alongside the Onimusha series. Which isn't a bad thing, but I really hate trying to describe a game by mentioning other games. Nothing here really grabbed my attention. (**)

Viva Pinata Party Animals - This is genius. The Viva Pinata cartoon show and videogame feature some truly likeable and very funny characters and now they're taking them and basing a party game around them. Granted, this particular party game is certainly not going to be as wholesome as, say, the upcoming 80th iteration of the Mario Party series, but that's a good thing. Yeah, blowing sailboats across a pond by belching at them might be a bit crude and juvenile, but look at it this way: the game can't be worse than Fusion Frenzy 2. (****)

Mass Effect - There must be something that I'm not seeing. This is one of the most anticipated titles of the year and yet, to me, it just looks like a Halo rip-off. And since I really have no interest in the Halo series, I have no interest in Mass Effect. I don't know; it's got Bioware behind it so it can't suck, but there's clearly something to this one that I don't get. (**)

Devil May Cry 4 - Well, it looks like it's staying true to the series. It's a good-looking frenetic action game in which you use guns and swords to build up a huge combo chain as MTV-speak gets thrown on the screen to tell you how good you're doing. The game oozes style, no doubt, but I have no interest in this series. I tried the first two and didn't like them and moved on. Which is what I'll do now. (*)

Bourne Conspiracy - You got to give them credit for actually showing a lot of gameplay footage in this trailer. And, to be sure, what I've seen in the trailer actually looks decent. It might end up being your basic run-of-the-mill action hero game starring yet another badass white boy with a gun and karate skills, but this could be a case where the story is strong enough to make it worth playing regardless of how generic the gameplay may end up being. Color me interested. (***)

Assassin's Creed - This is the same trailer that we've seen online for a few months now and I still love it. Unfortunately the early words coming in from E3 is that the game is actually not living up to the hype. But we don't know that yet. All I have is this trailer and I'm going to continue to say that I highly look forward to taking on the role of this medieval thief and putting all of his crazy free-runing Prince of Persia skills to use. (*****)

Eternal Sonata - It's a Japanese-style RPG which means little kids taking turns thumbing through attack menus and saving the world from an evil the world has never seen. Again. The music-theme may enhance the story and the graphics are certainly beautiful, but you either love these games or hate them. Or maybe you just sort of tolerate them once every couple of years. Maybe this will be the one that holds me over to 2010. (***)

Frontlines: Fuel of War - Here we go, another trailer that showns nothing but pre-rendered footage of evrything but gameplay. It's a war game and it seems you control squads of elite soldiers pushing the frontlines forward one squad maneuver at a time. Might be multiplayer. Might be singleplayer. I have no idea because the trailer does nothing but show me how "cool" the game could be if it were in fact a movie. But it's not, and I'm not interested. (**)

Two Worlds - The trailer lays down the claim that this is the most epic RPG of all time. To me, it looks like a wannabe Elder Scrolls game. Of course, just about every RPG maker wants their game to be an Elder Scrolls game, but there's only one Bethesda and being that I've hardly played their latest game, I doubt I'll be playing Two Worlds either. (**)

Army of Two - This looks pretty badass. No, the trailer doesn't show any gameplay footage as far as I could tell, but I can clearly see why this game is getting so much hype, in spite of it being made by EA. You seem to take on the role of a near-future mercenary and, well, there's lots of guns and war and, well, it just looks pretty freaking awesome from where I sit. (****)

Note: I didn't download the trailers for Halo 3 or for any of the team-based sports games as I already know I have no interest in them.

Xbox Live Arcade Montage - The Xbox Live Arcade Montage consisted of quick snippets of video from a dozen or more games. And I am psyched. I play XBLA games more than retail games lately (finished Band of Bugs last night, as a matter of fact) and what I see here has me very excited about the Wednesdays to come this year. I'm not going to mention every game they showed in this video, but here's my favorites:

  1. Bomberman Live - The game everyone is waiting for and it looks great. Lots of fun multiplayer action to be had for sure. I can't wait. (*****)
  2. Undertow - Never heard of this before. An underwater multiplayer shooter with some pretty snazzy graphics. (***)
  3. Hexic 2 - Hexic, despite coming free with the X360, is one of my favorite puzzle games and the sequel shows a head-to-head multiplayer mode. Awesome. (*****)
  4. War World - Large mechanical robot multiplayer fighting. Seems a little clunky from the quick clip they showed, but fun nonetheless. (**)
  5. Sensible Soccer - Now this has me excited. It seems to be a very fast-paced accessible soccer game for the masses, perhaps like the old soccer games on the SNES. (***)
  6. Every Extend Extra - This is one of my favorite games on the PSP and I will most certainly buy it for XBLA as well. It's a shooter/puzzle game and it's great. (*****)
  7. Wing Commander Arena - This one took a beating when it was first revealed, but I actually think it looks pretty fun. Multiplayer spaceship battles can't be boring. (***)
  8. Spyglass Board Games - Not sure what is included besides chess and checkers (perhaps Othello too) but that's all you need. Casual gaming defined. (*****)
  9. Space Giraffe - I have no idea what you do in this game and, frankly, it looks a bit too much like Tempest for my liking, but I'm interested anyway. At least a little. (**)
  10. Word Puzzle - This game had Kristin excited, which makes me excited. It's a falling-block puzzle game, but you make words ala Boggle. Definitely. (*****)
  11. Poker Smash - Another take on the falling block puzzle game, but with the blocks resembling cards in a deck and you appear to piece together poker hands. Genius. (*****)
  12. Switchball - This could be a lot like Super Monkey Ball or maybe even the PSOne title, Roll Away, but I enjoy games like this and from what the video shows, the level design and graphics look superb. (****)
  13. Geon - This one is hard to describe. You have a cube of sorts that you're guiding on a track and collecting somethings but the track design is very trippy and, while I have no idea what you're really looking to do in this game, it definitely caught my eye. (****)
  14. Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords - I've been playing this game a few minutes of every day for most of 2007. And I still might get it for XBLA anyway. There aren't many RPGs out there that use a falling-blocks puzzle setup for their battle system. This is a must-get if you haven't played it yet. (*****)

Okay, that concludes my wrap-up of the trailers that are available on the Xbox Live Marketplace and what I think of them so far. There will certainly be more later today and/or tomorrow. Maybe I'll add a follow-up post for those too. In the meantime, don't feel bad that you're not at E3 because, seriously, it's better watching it from home.

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