Comics Represent at E3, plus a look at "X-Men: Legends"

Last week the Electronic Entertainment Exposition, lovingly referred to as E3, invaded Los Angeles. What's E3 you ask? It's a video gamers dream convention, if only they can get in. See, it's a trade show not open to the public where the major gaming companies make all their major announcements for the coming year. New games and products are revealed at the annual event, making it one of the most important conventions for the multi-billion dollar video game industry.

But what does this all have to do with comics? Well, that should be obvious as more and more comics and a driving influence in the video game industry. Comics were seen "representing" throughout the convention floor, from huge displays for games like the upcoming "The Punisher" from THQ and the upcoming "X-Men: Legends" and "Spider-Man 2" games from Activision. Then of course there was the online multi-player game like "City of Heroes" with a large display in the convention hall. Teaser trailers for "100 Bullets" from Acclaim could be seen outside the massive xBox booth and games like the upcoming "The Red Star" were also represented at E3.

Half the excitement of E3 comes from the announced technology and game previews, but the other half comes from the sheer size and style of the show. It's loud, very loud on the convention floor as each vendor tries to outdo their competition in size and noise. Imagine a large convention hall filled with video game machines, each with their sound turned on as loud as it can be. Giant LED displays pepper the hall with hundreds of high-definition flat screen monitors displaying the latest video games. We'll try to put it into perspective for those of you who've attended say Comic-Con International in San Diego or Wizard World Chicago. Take the four largest booths you can find at those conventions, add in an intricately designed booth featuring massive video displays and hundreds of video game machines, make it multiple levels and you have just one company booth out of the many who exhibit. For example, entering the xBox booth felt more like walking into a Hollywood club on a Saturday night than a video game display. Oh, and let's not forget the "booth babes," which were out in force this year.

CBR News stopped by the Activision booth to get a look at what they had to offer. As you can see by the pictures, the company was pushing both the upcoming "X-Men: Legends" and "Spider-Man 2" video games. Unfortunately, Sony Pictures is closely guarding the "Spider-Man 2" video game as it plays directly into the film and reveals a lot of story elements. So, no demonstration of that game was available, but Raven Software's Rob Gee, the company that developed the game for Activision, spent some 20 minutes demonstrating the upcoming "X-Men: Legends."

"X-Men: Legends" is an all new action RPG set to debut on the Playstation 2, xBox and Nintendo Gamecube consoles this Fall. The story in the game was written by comic creators Joe Casey, Joe Kelly and Steven Seagle and is based on the "Ultimate X-Men" comic. We have to admit that even this non-gamer was impressed by the game enough to consider buying one of those consoles later this year.

The play of the game is impressive. The level we began with found the X-Men on a sinking ship trying to discover what the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants was after, hoping to get to it before they do. On screen at all times are four X-Men of your choice. When the game comes out later this year you'll be able to choose from 15 different X-characters, but for the purposes of this demonstration we were shown the abilities of seven different X-Men - Cyclops, Jean Grey, Storm, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Iceman and Gambit. You control one player at a time and can effortlessly switch between characters to give yourself an advantage as you enter each new room. Rob Gee told us that at different points in the game you'll be able to visit the X-Man known as Forge to purchase more equipment for each character.

Game play is fast as Sentinels attempt to take you out or the legions of evil military dudes descend upon you. Wolverine gets in close to do his damage. Gambit charges up cards and throws them or charges up objects to explode them. Cyclops has a number of different optic blasts, some for pinpoint precision, others to take out an entire room full of baddies. Storm has the ability to fly, casts thunderbolts at her opponents and other weapons of nature. Remember the beginning of the "X-Men 2" movie when Nightcrawler descends on the West Wing of the White House, teleporting in and out, taking out Secret Service men effortless? That's one of the weapons you have available to you as Nightcrawler. He can also grab hold of one of your team mates and teleport them to safety. Iceman can freeze his opponents and create ice bridges just like you'd expect. The list goes on and each character has an "Xtreme Power," which can only be used sparingly, but is devastating to your opponents and well, looks pretty damn cool.

The game was demonstrated for us using an xBox on a high-definition flat screen television and it looked gorgeous. Incredibly detailed graphics with realistic shading. One element that made the comic fan in us jump was how each character had the familiar black ink outlines like you see in the comic. "We went for our own look for a comic based game," Gee told CBR News. It didn't distract at all from the design, in fact it helped "pop" the characters off the screen. And the level we watched began with an introduction from Professor X, voiced by actor Patrick Stewart, a nice bonus.

Say you're in the middle of a game and a friend comes over and wants to play? No problem, your friend can pick up a second controller and join the game on the fly. And when he's done playing, not a problem, the character your friend controlled simply goes back to computer control.

The level finished with the reveal of what the Brotherhood was after - the release of their leader, Magneto. Watching Mystique release Magnus from stasis brought back memories of the movies. When asked by CBR News whether fans will be able to play the part of the villains when the game finally ships, Gee simply responded with a "No Comment." We'll all have to wait and see.

It's clear from our short visit to E3 that comics are playing an increasingly important role in the even growing video game market.

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