Ahead Of The Game: E3 2010 Offers a Sneak Peak at Motion Controls, 3D Gaming, 2010/2011’s Hottest Titles and more
The largest show of its kind in North America and ground zero for many of the videogame industry’s most major hardware and software announcements, the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) is always a three-ring circus. But this year, its carnival atmosphere got even more of a boost courtesy of surprise appearances by everyone from Cirque du Soleil to Jane’s Addiction, Eminem, Deadmau5, Maynard James Keenan of Tool, N.E.R.D. and Chris Cornell of Soundgarden.
Credit a perfect storm of socioeconomic factors for the event’s sudden return to lavish excess. Desperate to put 2009’s whopping 8.6 percent retail decline behind it, the industry has rallied to introduce new technological innovations including groundbreaking motion control-based interfaces and 3D graphics technology. Witness the November 4 debut of the Microsoft Kinect (previously known as Project Natal, price TBA), which lets you screen movies, videoconference or play with virtual pets with a spoken word or wave of the hand--and eliminates the gamepad entirely by making your body the controller. Or, for that matter, Sony’s competing PlayStation Move ($50, due September 19), a glowing-ball-tipped wand that lets players mimic the motions of swinging swords and notching arrows, with physical gestures translated directly into on-screen movement. Nintendo is also aiming high with the launch of new handheld system the 3DS, which plays 3D games and movies without the need for cumbersome active shutter glasses... and was easily the talk of the conference.
But at the same time, with players becoming increasingly more mobile, social and interested in on-demand and immediately gratifying gaming experiences that are better tailored to their individual lifestyles, competition is also fiercer than ever. Moreover, even with review scores continuing to climb across the board for blockbuster DSi, PC, PlayStation 3, PSP, Wii and Xbox 360 outings, the bets software publishers are placing on each new title continue to climb. Not only do traditional retail products cost more to make today and face increasing opposition from digitally distributed titles, iPhone/iPad apps, titles for social networks, massively multiplayer online games and free-to-play and web browser-based outings. They’re also increasingly having to be supported post-launch with additional downloadable content including extra maps, missions and characters, increasing the costs associated with operating these amusements. All of which, naturally, adds up to more white noise than ever and fewer chances to rise above the din. Hence the reason for bringing out the entertainment and recording industry’s heavy hitters to help spread the message.
But bad news for corporate America equals a huge win for everyday fans. Because as a whole, today’s designers can’t afford to come to the table with anything besides their A game, and millions of thumbs the world over will soon be doing a happy dance as a result. Wondering what promises to be constantly spinning in your DVD or Blu-ray drive for the next year or more? Following are 10 of the titles we’re most psyched to see in the coming months, each all but certain to ruin relationships, destroy lives and, better still, provide an endless array of thrills the next time you’re stuck in for the evening.
Killzone 3 (Sony, PS3)
In a year flush with first-person shooters from Call of Duty: Black Ops to Halo: Reach, this visceral sci-fi blaster aims to wow most by upping the visual bar to insane heights. Designed to serve as a 3D TV showpiece, even those stuck with 2D sets should be struck by its gritty, destructible environs and atmospheric sense of carnage.
Rock Band 3 (MTV Games, PS3/Wii/Xbox 360)
This game expands upon the popular music simulation (wherein you sing or shred along in time with virtual prompts) by adding support for keyboards and three-part vocal harmonies. A pro mode is also being introduced that reportedly can improve your real-world performance with featured instruments.
Kinectimals (Microsoft, Xbox 360)
It’s a virtual pet simulator with a twist--you can play with furry friends or rub your pet’s tummy just by mimicking performing the actual physical gestures. Featured critters aren’t just strikingly cute and endearing, they’re also (hallelujah) much easier to care for and clean up after than the real thing.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Nintendo, Wii)
Been waiting with bated breath for an even more expansive sequel since the release of the beloved fantasy dungeon crawling franchise’s first debut years ago on the Wii? Assuming your patience can last until 2011, you’ll be rewarded by sword swipes powered by waving the Wii MotionPlus peripheral, plus new gadgets like a flying beetle and whip to experiment with.
Rage (Bethesda Softworks, PC, PS3, Xbox 360)
Coming from the creators of Doom, Quake and Wolfenstein 3D, this hybrid trigger-masher and racing game set in a living, breathing, post-apocalyptic wasteland should satisfy anyone’s inner Mad Max. Speed along savoring the finely detailed graphics, or stop to blow away hordes of homicidal nomads dressed in makeshift combat armor.
Disney Epic Mickey (Disney, Wii)
This is a platform-hopping adventure that puts a darker, more mischievous spin on everyone’s favorite helium-voiced rodent and equips you with paint or thinner that can be used to draw in objects or battle enemies. While the title won’t wow for graphical fidelity, fans of the childhood legend will find it every bit as imaginative and whimsical as the hero himself.
Portal 2 (Valve Software, PC, PS3, Xbox 360)
Solve puzzles by creating portable wormholes that let you instantly teleport from one location to another. New features include paint that changes the physical properties of coated objects and physical effects that can pass between gates, e.g. air currents that blow in one side and out the other.
Gears Of War 3 (Microsoft, Xbox 360)
This sequel adds four-man co-op support, new weapons (incendiary grenade, mechanized suit, sniper rifles capable of one-shot kills, etc.) and even more testosterone-drenched set pieces to the ultra-visceral third-person blaster. Cameos by hip-hop staples Drake and Ice-T can’t hurt either, nor does a wicked new Beast mode that lets you mow down pesky humans as different types of evil aliens.
Civilization V (2K Games, PC)
Here’s a sequel that revamps the bestselling strategy series by tossing square map tiles in favor of hexagonal ones, streamlining combat encounters and reworking gameplay so that it’s even deeper and more engaging. To guide your ancient society to prominence through skillful diplomacy, trade or warfare, or end up a footnote in virtual history--the choice is yours.
Dead Space 2 (Electronic Arts, PC,PS3, Xbox 360)
Ups the intensity level on the popular futuristic survival horror franchise, requiring that you surmount pesky mindbenders or blow the appendages off hordes of slavering monsters with spear guns. Undeniably creepy and spine tingling, you’d best hope hero Isaac Clarke’s new armored suit also comes equipped with a spare change of underwear.