360, PS3 Half-Life 2 top EA's Summer Showcase

Mammoth publisher shows off Valve's next-gen console debut, reveals the return of Team Fortress 2, displays its just-announced Wii lineup, and more.

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REDWOOD CITY, Calif.--Electronic Arts is upholding its annual tradition of hosting gala summer press events with--you guessed it--another gala summer press event. The newly redubbed EA Summer Showcase, currently under way at the company's sprawling main campus in Redwood City, will feature a look at many of the juggernaut third party's upcoming titles for both current and next-gen consoles and PC. The event will begin with a stage presentation led by eminent company representatives and will then move on to hands-on time with EA's full playable lineup.

The horde of attendees from the States and abroad have assembled in EA's holding pen, and the show will be starting in moments. We'll be bringing you live updates throughout the presentation portion of the event, so you may ingest any particularly succulent morsels of information in the timeliest fashion. And, of course, you can expect hands-on previews of any and all games shown as the afternoon continues.

2:09 p.m. The show is starting with a musical fanfare from the USC Trojan marching band and an introduction by EA's Jeff Brown. Think this will be a sports-centric program?

And the band played on...

He went from teasing us about EA's PS3 plans to telling us bluntly not to expect anything on Crysis, Spore, or a number of other big properties today. Harrumph. Products to look for in the next few hours include Godfather on the 360, Superman Returns, Warhammer Online from recently acquired Mythic, LOTR: The White Council, and, hey, Half-Life 2 Episodes 1 and 2.

2:16 Mythic pres and CEO Mark Jacobs takes the stage, starting by addressing his company's rapid acquisition by EA and going on to run down the company's history, focusing on its biggest success, Dark Age of Camelot.

Jacobs' talk naturally turns to Mythic's upcoming project, Warhammer Online, and we get to see the E3 trailer again. No real information though. Harrumph again.

2:26 Valve's Gabe Newell is now on the stage to show us an updated trailer for Half-Life 2: Episode 2. There are some new images of a strider and smaller walker-like enemies decimating a group of human fighters in the forest. Otherwise, this is pretty much the same trailer we saw at the end of Episode 1.

Newell talks about getting players out of City 17 in the next episode (duh), as well as giving them new weapons and new enemies to use them against. Looks like the Source engine will be getting a lot of upgrades in Ep 2. A "cinematic physics" system is coming from former Weta Digital employee Gray Horsfield, along with new particle systems, better foliage, and more.

2:34 Newell's gone on to discuss the episodic-gaming business model. Short version: Valve likes it. It will even let them explore new types of gameplay in a new upcoming game called Portal (which seems to be a working title). It looks like they took the portal concept from Prey and slapped it on a gun--you can shoot them into walls and floors to solve all kinds of crazy puzzles, teleporting objects around and stuff. Looks like a total mindbender.

TEAM FORTRESS 2. WHERE DID THIS COME FROM? Hey, they're still making it! It's got a totally exaggerated, crazy art style now. Looks a little like Spy vs. Spy or No One Lives Forever, kind of a '60s spy feel. It's going to be the included multiplayer mode in Episode 2! Class-based, etc. You know the drill. Great news for shooter fans. We all thought this game was dead years ago.

And hey, Half-Life 2: Ep 2 will ship for Xbox 360 and PS3 simultaneously with the PC. The console games will basically include all of the HL2 back content, so you'll get everything on there that you can get on the PC. Who expected all this Valve news?

Valve Software's Gabe Newell

2:43 Steve Gray is now on, showing off the first concept art and now the first trailer from LOTR: The White Council. Looks like it's set before Bilbo finds the One Ring (that is, before The Hobbit). Art style and even all the characters' likenesses are of course straight out of the movies, and there's new voice-over from Ian McKellen, Hugo Weaving, and Cate Blanchett. Now Christopher Lee, too. Hard to say if any of this stuff is real time, but they obviously want to immerse you in the lore of Middle-earth.

OK, Gray says the impressive visuals in the trailer are the target for the final graphics, so we'll see how they shape up.

2:48 Everybody's favorite Fight Night dude Kudo Tsunoda is here talking about stuff we can't tell you about right now. Sorry!

2:54 Yeah, I'm sure you'll hear about that soon enough. Now EA Tiburon's Dale Jackson appears to talk Madden. First up is 360 07, with a trailer showing off the new Superstar: Hall of Fame mode (more info on that coming soon). New gameplay camera perspectives in this mode and more. Our intrepid sports reporter will bring you all the dirt on this stuff later today.

Now Jason Armenise from EA Canada is up for Madden on the Wii. The Wii seems to have this uncanny ability to make you care about genres you don't even usually play, just to see how they've mapped existing concepts onto that wacky controller. There's a live demo with the controller and nunchaku, showing off the pointer-style "free-motion control." You can even use the nunchaku to juke and the remote to stiff-arm, or raise them both up to pump up the crowd. Lots of interesting ideas going into the control scheme here, looks like.

For whoever asked in the comments, from what I understood the console versions of HL2: Episode 2 will contain all things Half-Life 2, including CS: Source, Team Fortress 2, and Portal. Will amend that info if anything changes.

3:04 Tiger Woods, SSX, NFS Carbon, Godfather--all coming for the Wii. All featuring Wii-specific control features. EA seems committed.

Next up is EAC's Brent Nielsen, talking about NBA LIVE 07's new ESPN integration (EA has an exclusive deal with the sports network, you may have heard). Tons of ESPN content will be available in the game from the Internet. Again, more info coming from our sports guy real soon.

3:14 Finally, Larry LaPierre is onstage to show off Need for Speed: Carbon in a tense-looking nighttime canyon race. Don't forget to check out our recent coverage of Carbon for more info on this stuff.

The cusotmization features look wild in this. You can deform geometry in subtle ways all over the body of the car, the spoiler, hubcaps, everything. It's really impressive how distinctive they've managed to keep these NFS games, considering how fast they crank them out.

EA PR VP Jeff Brown wraps things up.

Now we're getting a fairly early look at a playable PS3 version of the game. Definitely looks good--right around the level of the 360 one they just showed.

3:19 Jeff Brown's back on stage to wrap up the presentation. I've got to say, way more exciting stuff came out of this thing than I expected (especially thanks to Valve--go figure). We're off to go play a bunch of games now and will bring you hands-on reports ASAP. And don't forget to watch On the Spot live at 4 p.m. PDT for a look at some of the games EA has on the way.

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