This week, the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) descended upon Los Angeles, and most of the major players in the video game industry were there showing off their plans for the upcoming year. New hardware, new software and new ways to play were all topics of discussion at press conferences held by publishers. A lot of what was shown this week was not surprising, however. For months, we've been seeing and hearing all about the year's upcoming Triple-A games like "Halo: Reach," "Crysis 2," "Medal of Honor," "Gears of War 3," "Killzone 3," "Bulletstorm," "Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood" and more. The games were shown, and they were impressive, if not unexpected. We've also been seeing Microsoft's Kinect (formerly Natal) and PlayStation's Move since last E3, and we heard a lot more about them this week.
But the beauty of E3 is that even though we have a very good idea of what to expect each year, there are still plenty of surprises big and small, as well as new things to get excited about. We decided to sift through this week's E3 offerings and highlight a few things that we didn't have all the details about before E3, and were eager to hear more about.
Nintendo 3DS / Kid Icarus (e3.nintendo.com/3ds)
Nintendo showed off their upcoming 3-D handheld at their press conference, even bringing a slew of them out for the audience to test. While it wasn't really possible to get the 3-D effect unless you were there, the redesign of the console was immediately apparent. A 3.5-inch 3-D screen on top, touch screen on the bottom, and a new analog nub (called the "slide pad"). Most surprising, however, was the game that was announced along with the 3DS - a brand new Kid Icarus called "Kid Icarus: Uprising." Fans have been asking for this for years, and the trailer was impressive, showing a combination of ground and air combat, flight sequences, and huge boss battles. Sadly, no release date was given for either the 3DS or "Kid Icarus: Uprising."
Xbox 360 Redesign (xbox.com)
A sleeker, slimmer model of the Xbox 360 was unveiled at E3, and the biggest shock was that it's shipping to retailers right now. The new Xbox 360 is designed to run much quieter than the previous model, and it also features built-in wi-fi and a 250GB hard drive. The device is also branded as "Kinect ready," though Kinect will be compatible with all Xbox 360s. The new model retails for $299. You can check out a video of the redesign over on the Xbox official site. Microsoft also announced a $50 price drop on both the Arcade and Elite versions of the Xbox 360 (now priced $149 and $249, respectively).
EA Gun Club (gunclub.ea.com)
EA's newest customer loyalty initiative looks to give purchasers of EA titles rewards to be used in other EA games. The program will offer early access to news, events, betas and demos, as well as weapon unlocks. For example, "Battlefield: Bad Company 2" VIPs (who either bought the game new or bought a VIP code online) can gain early access into the "Medal of Honor" beta when they preorder the game. VIPs will also unlock a sniper rifle in "Medal of Honor." The official Gun Club site also indicates that "Dead Space 2" will have some incentives for this program as well.
Star Wars: The Old Republic (swtor.com)
During EA's presentation, a few new details were revealed about the upcoming MMO from BioWare and LucasAarts. First off, every player in "Star Wars: The Old Republic" will get their own starship, which will function as their base of operations. Secondly, the game's player versus player action will take place in "warzones," where epic battles between the Jedi and Sith will play out. The first warzone being talked about is Alderaan, and a brand new trailer called "Hope" was shown that highlighted a battle in the forests of Alderaan. You can check out the trailer at the game's official website.
1997's "GoldenEye" for the N64 became an instant classic due to its 4-player splitscreen mutliplayer mode. This year GoldenEye will be returning on the Wii, with a new Bond in tow. "GoldenEye 007" is still based on the GoldenEye story, but reimagined with Daniel Craig's James Bond. Both Daniel Craig and Judi Dench will lend their voices to the game. The original game was known for its multiplayer, and "GoldenEye 007" will feature 4-player spiltscreen local and 16-player online multiplayer modes. "GoldenEye 007" will also feature appearances from classic Bond villains like Oddjob and Jaws in multiplayer. The game is scheduled for a November 2010 release.
Metal Gear Solid: Rising (konami.jp/mgsr/)
Microsoft opened their press conference with an amazing trailer that shed some light on this Metal Gear Solid game starring Raiden. Action as opposed to stealth was emphasized in the trailer, which centered on what looks to be the core gameplay mechanic---precision slicing and dicing with Raiden's sword. It appears that players will have a great degree of control over exactly where and at what angles they dismember enemies and objects in the environment, and they may be able to slow time down when making precision cuts. Storyline details are sparse so far, but the game does take place between "MGS2" and "MGS 4." Even though the trailer was shown at the Microsoft event, the game will also be arriving on the PlayStation 3.
PlayStation Plus Subscription (us.playstation.com/playstation-plus)
Rumors had been circulating about what Sony's premium PSN service was going to be, and now we at least have some more details. The most important thing SCEA's CEO Jack Tretton reiterated is that the online services PlayStation owners enjoy now are not going away, and they will continue to be free. The "Plus" service on PlayStation Network will cost $49.99 a year (or $17.99 for 3 months) and will include free episodes of Qore, early access to betas and demos, free games, automatic downloads of firmware updates, demos and more. Those who sign up for a year will get three months free, and when the service launches on June 29, "Wipeout HD" will be the first free game subscribers will be able to download.
Twisted Metal PS3
Despite a lot of misdirection around the existence of the game, developers David Jaffe and Scott Campbell (Eat Sleep Play) made an appearance at the end of Sony's presentation to reveal "Twisted Metal" for the PS3. Sweet Tooth himself drove his ice cream truck out onto the stage, and then Jaffe and Campbell showed off a multiplayer demo filled with the carnage "Twisted Metal" fans have come to expect, as well as a new twist - flight. The game will have 16 player online multiplayer as well as 2-4 player splitscreen local multiplayer.
Portal 2 for PS3
If you would have told us that Valve's Gabe Newell would be walking out onto the Sony stage at E3, we'd have called you crazy. After canceling their planned "Portal 2" event at this year's show, no one really expected to see much from Valve. Newell arrived with a couple of big announcements, however. First, "Portal 2" is, in fact, coming to the PlayStation 3. Second, and perhaps more intriguing, is the fact that it will have Steam support on the PS3, which according to Valve will include "auto updates, community features, downloadable content, and more."
ESPN on Xbox 360
SportsCenter anchors Josh Elliot and Trey Wingo strolled onstage during Microsoft's presentation to announce a new venture that will bring 3500+ sporting events to Xbox Live Gold subscribers for no additional cost. The service also has community features that allow fans to declare what side they're rooting for, participate in live polls while watching events, and access stats from ESPN.com. The potential downside is that you need to have an affiliated internet service provider that offers ESPN3.com content (you can see if your provider is affiliated here: http://espn.go.com/espn3/affList).
On a bit of a down note overall, outside of "Bulletstorm" (featuring a story written by Rick Remender), comic-related games were not a huge part of this year's major E3 press conferences. However, games like "DC Universe Online," "Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions," "Super Hero Squad Online" and "Marvel vs. Capcom 3" were present at the show, and we expect to hear more about them at upcoming events like Comic-Con International and New York Comic Con later this year. Stay tuned to CBR over the coming months for coverage of some of this year's biggest games.