PAX 2008 gaming coverage – part II

Just some general PAX related news:

XBox 360: Rumors continue to support a price drop coming September 5th.

Fallout 3: Bethesda promises to have some serious DLC to be released after the initial game.  Unlike Mass Effect which only saw ‘one episode’ of DLC which spanned about 90 minutes, Bethesda claims they will have multiple releases culminating in many more hours of content. Yay!

Resident Evil 5: Developer says they will be unveiling a controller scheme that will closely mimic the controsl fo Gears of War.

Halo 3: It appears there are rumors for an expansion pack possibly coming for Halo 3 as it’s been reported that at least 20 new achievements were recently spotted/leaked.

Little Big Planet: There will be a Best Buy exclusive skin that will let your ‘sack-girl’ emulate Nariko from Heavenly Sword fame.

THQ: Showed off quite a bit more of Red Faction: Guerilla multiplayer elements including ‘Team Anarchy’ and ‘Damage control’ modes.  Claims to have ‘very destructible’ environments.  Yay!

Destroy All Humans 3: Gameplay footage shown.  Takes place now in the 1970’s as opposed to the 50’s in the first two versions.

E3 2008 – Microsoft press conference – Day 1

E3 2008 - Los Angeles

E3 2008 - Los Angeles

I sorta geeked out with the anticipation of rushing home from work on Monday so I could watch the G4 TV 2.5 hour live press conference (I taped it) that Microsoft was presenting for Xbox 360 owners. 

The show was a break from the regular X-Play episode as both hosts Adam Sessler and Morgan Webb were onhand to give the at home audience a sneak peak at things that will be coming to the XBox 360 owners over the next year.

So without further ado, here were some of the highlights (in no particular order):

  • Live Interface upgrade: The 360 GUI interface will be getting a complete overhaul sometime this fall.  Microsoft explained that while the current interface works well, they wanted to make it even more user friendly and accessible to all and to showcase many new features including ‘avatars’ and live interactive content.  Personally, while some of the features look pretty cool, I’m not sure I’ve been sold on it.  The thing is, it doesn’t look as if Live users will have a choice but to have this automatically installed one day when they turn on their systems this fall.  It’d be nice if they gave us a choice, but I can understand why they don’t want two interfaces to supports and are going to move forward with this.  The most blatant change is the inclusion of personal ‘avatars’, or 3D customizable animated representations of an online gamer.  Think of it as a ‘souped’ up Wii Mii.  I imagine this is a direct response to Sony’s reported upcoming interface, ‘Home’ and Nintendo’s Mii’s.  The big question I have is what do we do with our gamer pics and themes we’ve become accustomed to the last few years.  Will MS credit back Live Users for their previous theme and gamer picture purchases?  For all intents and purposes it looks like gamer pictures and themes will disappear altogether which would suck if you invested a lot of MSP’s into the last few years.  Another interesting aspect in the new emphasis on ‘parties’ and interactive game-shows.  While I personally have no need or real desire to share my pictures and other live content in a ‘party’, I do look forward to being part of a interactive game show like the demoed “1 vs. 100” they showed.  That looks pretty cool.
  • Netflix:I am pretty stoked about this feature as I already have a Netflix subscription.  This feature also debuting later this year will allow Netflix subscribers to instantly download/buffer movies on demand from the ever expanding Netflix library.  This may just push my need to get a Blu-Ray player back even further as I have no need to rush out and buy one to watch movies in HD.  I believe I will indeed be taking advantage of this quite liberally when it is available.
  • Gears of War 2: They demoed a quite lengthy run within the game and it look just awesome.  As a relatively new GoW player myself (I just recently picked it up when the price dropped to $39.99) and only done with chapter 2, the sequel just looks incredible!  Besides the improved graphics, there appears to be many more moves and weapons available and very, very creative levels with adrenaline pounding action, atmosphere, and sound design.  Yay!
  • Fable II: I completed Fable I years ago on my original Xbox and loved it, so this was already an automatic buy for me when it was announced sometime back.  They showed some co-op play and it looked pretty darn good as well.  I’m excited they included a dog as a pet for the player, and the pet AI and mannerisms look pretty neat.  The one quirky thing I’m not sure what I think about yet is ‘player orbs’ for multi-player.  supposedly, you can see your friends online within the game when they are on as they are represented by orbs.  You walk up to an orb, press a button, and ‘whammo’, your friend is now in your game.  What if you don’t have many friends who own the game?  What if you invite a friend and they screw with your unique world?  I’ll still get, but I figure I’ll be playing a lot of solo.
  • Fallout 3: Another ‘must buy’ for me.  Atmosphere and sound that Bethesda put into this game looks phenomenal.  They claim the world is an open world, much like Oblivion was and it did look pretty vast from what they showed.  The combat VAT engine looks very easy and intuitive, and the weapons showcased were awe inspiring.  Bethesda claims that when the game ships it will have 100+ hours of content with even more available as the develop DLC for it.
  • Guitar Hero III & World Tour:  Said a Metalica album will be be available for both later this year, but they really focused on World Tour.  Drum kit is wireless and will ship with around 85 new songs.  They mentioned the ability to create your own songs, but did not show examples.  There will also be some exclusive tracks from Led Zepplin and Guns ‘N Roses.
  • Lips: I don’t know what to think of this either.  This looks like a total social party game geared for young adults or kids.  They had UK pop star Duffy sing her hit Mercy.  I could have done without that.  Anyway, Lips is a karaoke game with light-up microphones (WTF?), and supposedly you can play music from your Zune or iPod, but they didn’t say if these supplied words or not.  I can’t figure out if the ‘word’ versions of songs are DLC or not.  Wish they would have talked more about this.
  • Rock Band 2:The only significant thing they said here was that all RB 1 songs are forward compatible with RB 2 as well as the instruments.  They announced 84 master tracks on CD will ship with the game as well as at least 20 free DLC songs by launch, and by the end of the year RB 2 will support a library of about 500 songs.  That’s impressive.  You can find the track listings elsewhere so I won’t repeat it here, but I am happy to see some more alternative bands like Talking Heads and Blondie to be appearing.  Exclusive tracks will include Bob Dylan and AC/DC as well, but since I don’t care for either of those, I probably won’t get those.
  • Resident Evil 5: Long way to go on this one as I think they said it will be available in March of 2009.  Showed off some co-op which looked pretty cool with head-shots and obstacle puzzle solving, but the zombies looked so slow.  While they showed a decent length demo and it was interesting, I’ll wait and see what develops because in 8 months, a lot can change….and the zombies just looked slow.
  • Square Enixannounced progress on already three announced games and showed a trailer for the next Star Ocean series.  The trailer looked absolutely beautiful and sounded great, but that’s all it was… a trailer showing in-game cut-scenes.  No actual game footage, and no description on what it was or what the story is or the goal.  It was pretty commercial that told me nothing about the game at all so that was a disappointment.  The biggest news out of Square Enix is they announced Final Fantasy XIII for the 360, a big blow to Sony where it was an exclusive franchise for them up to now.
  • Banjo Kazooie & Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise.  More kid friendly games, however, Banjo looks pretty interesting as a casual platform/puzzle solver and is worth a closer look.  VP uses the camera and cards to place rare pinatas and other effects in game like weather and items.
  • Social games & Arcade: They showed a few various games like Geometry Wars 2 and Galaga 2 as upcoming live arcade titles.  Social games eere a mixed bag of cool looking thing like the previously aforementioned 1 vs 100 and Scene It, but a real crap-fest in “You’re in the Movies”…I honestly can’t see this one making it big and even the demo they showed was clearly out of synch and looked low-tiered.  It was funny watching the MS reps really trying to sell this one and of all the game presented up to this point, this looked the most amateurish.
  • Not shown: Halo Wars, Too Human, Force Unleashed, CoD 5.

Now that Microsoft opened with some pretty big guns and some big news with Final Fantasy XIII and a system interface overhaul along with Netflix, it should be very interesting to see what both Nintendo and Sony have to offer.