Great balls of motion-control, Batman, it's Neon's annual E3 report card! Except this time it's being done in a 'ticularly unique way and the emphasis is not on the press conferences. Why? Gwha! Because everyone watched the press conferences, g'damn it! But I'll still grade those two just for the hell of it. So... AWAY WE GO!!!!!!!!!
Microsoft Press Conference- I hate to say this, but I'll say it again since I say it all the time, MS knows how to throw a press conference. We're talking The Beatles, Tony Hawk, Steven Spielberg (armed security guards anyone?) AND Cliff Bleszinski!!! But those celebs just add excitement for the mainstream folks reading Time magazine. You and I, we care about the games. And MS provided them. A healthy dose of killer EXCLUSIVES. Wait a second... Splinter Cell AND Halo are being released.... It's like the Xbox 1 glory days, baby! Add in some sweet third-party demonstrations and the first footage of FF13 finally running on Xbox 360 along with the announcement that a new MGS game is coming to the 360, a free kart racer for everyone, with Alan Wake making it's glorious debut and you have an exciting E3. BUT WAIT! MS covered the casual market too, with paint demonstrations and Facebook and Twitter and more videos and some silly little demonstrations of you jumping around in front of... HOLY GOOGLY MOOGLY PROJECT NATAL!!!! Yeah, I didn't want MS to reveal a motion controller, the thought pissed me off, but seeing something that can be used to complement the standard controls of a game, or to have more than gameplay use, was truly killer, and reports all around are that the thing works damn well. Though, Milo is the future voice of the apocalypse.
Conference Grade- A+
Nintendo's Press Conference- Were they just not there? Is that what it was? Because everything they revealed was kinda unenthusiastically revealed. And they didn't reveal much.... I thought a new Wii Fit would be killer, but seriously? Six new mini-games, that's what you add while EA is selling 600,000 units of their new and fun Active game? Really? The sole focus of just Mario at the conference was also dull. Don't get me wrong, I'll probably play if not purchase both Wii Mario games, but would it have been too much to ask for a little variety? And while Nintendo hyped up 3rd party exclusives, they only mentioned three of them for a total of about 3 minutes and two of them were on-rails shooters, all three involved shooting in the first-person. Again, would it be too much to ask for some variety? About the only excitement they garnered was when Metroid: Other M was revealed and it's being developed by the new guard at Team Ninja. But this is one to be cautious of. Itagaki took the core staff of Team Ninja veterans with him and some guys from AM2 (VF series) and has made the Tokyo Vikings (I don't know if that's the official name for them), so Nintendo hyping up Team Ninja's experience in mature titles is really by their name only, because almost the entirety of the core staff is gone. But it's an interesting one to watch because we can see if this new Team Ninja can stand proud like the old guard did. Also, MS stole all the thunder from the Motion Plus. It must have sucked to have to go on stage to hype that thing up hot on the heels of MS. I mean, damn.
Conference Grade- C-
Sony's Press Conference- 'Ey! Look at that! I got me three damn emblems! YO ASS KNOWS I WATCHED ALL THREE! And Sony had a damn good conference. It was as exciting as MS's, but it was just as high quality with some great announcements. MS has an exclusive kart racer? Well, Sony's got one in ModNations. Forza 3 is the definitive racing game? Sony says, "taste some Polyphony baby!" MS busts out a demonstration of FF13 for the first time on the 360? Well, Sony's got FF14 (though I could care less about a damn MMO). Sony and MS went neck and neck in the conference announcements for games and such. One had Splinter Cell Conviction, Forza 3, Halo 3 ODST, Crackdown 2, Left 4 Dead 2, and of course, Halo Reach! The other had Uncharted 2, MAG, The Last Guardian, God of War 3, Gran Turismo 5, ModNation and Final Fantasy 14. The two companies announced more too, but it was good to see such competition and exclusives being announced. Sony get's Rockstar's latest game as an exclusive? Go for it! It's competition and while people who hate fanboys will say everything should be multiplatform, I beg to differ. Exclusives are fantastic. They build incentive for developers to make competing games, for publishers to push for innovation and so much more. In the end, gamers as a whole benefit and the only side effect are fanboys on forums. But that's avoidable! MS had an edge though and it was Natal. Sony's new motion controller is a Wii remote with a giant ball on the tip and Motion-Plus built in. Also, why did both MS and Sony have paint demonstrations? They both sucked.
Conference Grade- A-
Now, onto the meat of it all, the three big consoles and their respective line-ups, baby!!! Conference grades are just for the presentations, but it's the games we give a damn about, man. PC and portables are excluded from this breakdown because I don't care about them enough to follow them and write-ups on them would lack enthusiasm on my part and be boring to read. So we'll stick with Xbox 360, Wii and PS3.
System Report Card:
Xbox 360- Let's face facts, you own an Xbox 360, you're set to go. I mean, the green light is given, the games are coming and the storm is going to continue. Yeah, there was a slow period leading up to this, but the hype is in full effect. Alan Wake has a release date and looks absolutely glorious. It wasn't what I expected it to be, and I'm glad it's better than I thought it would be. Splinter Cell: Conviction is back exclusively on the console that made Sam Fisher a household name and it is a big deal. Splinter Cell looks amazing, and while I'm not the biggest fan of stealth (In 2002 I bought Splinter Cell and MGS2 and didn't enjoy either that much), but Conviction might just make me a believer, with it's slightly more action-oriented, take no prisoners, revenge plot. I'm getting giddy. Add Left 4 Dead 2, Valve's surprise hit (and surprise substitute to Episode 3 at E3), and CrackDown 2 a veritable cult-game recieving a much more improved looking sequel.
And CliffyB might just be trying to take the Xbox world by storm. First he spawns Gears of War, produces a sequel that sells a ridiculous amount and earns praise from many core gamers and now he has his sights set on delivering an XBLA game in the same vein as Metroid and Symphony of the Night? EXCITING! BigPark is giving us a free kart racer for me to put my sexy XBL avatar in it and race my friends at no charge? AWESOME! The only surprising ommisions from the Xbox line-up were a new retail game announcement from Big Park, a new ANYTHING from Rare, and a new retail product from LionHead (though Molyneux did show up to give us Milo... that kid's gonna kill us all....). But let's not forget The Empire Strikes Back of gamedom... MASS EFFECT 2 BABY!!!!! Still on 360, still sexy, still THE. BEST. DAMN. GAME. TO. BE. EXCITED. FOR!!!
But then the lads came. Old faithful. Oh how happy was I to see the boys from Bungie bounce onto that stage and say, "Any fans of the old Halo 1 pistol?" I'MA RIGH HERE!!!!!! There are a few reasons to be excited for Halo 3 ODST. The first of which is it's new narrative and noir feel, going around, piecing together the mystery in an open world (city?) and each flash-back is apparently supposed to be a Halo-length mission. But there's another reason, and it goes back to the story. In Halo: Combat Evolved, you crash-landed onto Halo in a Band of Brothers meets Aliens, the two have sex and give birth to a child named Awesome and live happily ever-after! But the story was one that was like a mystery. You had no idea what was going on and when you thought you did, as the pieces all fit together, the game throws at you one of the greatest twists in gaming history. You explored, discovered and then came across a TON of glorious twists for a hell of a ride! Halo 2 and 3 didn't have that so much. They focused on the survival of humanity as a whole, rather than the survival of this ship's crew. They told a grander story but it wasn't as guerilla as Combat Evolved. I'm fine with that, but others weren't. But ODST looks like the kind of game that might just try to go back to the Combat Evolved roots. Add in some different gameplay choices with you being an ODST rather than a Spartan and the game looks like a killer way to kick off the Fall season of games.
But then Bungie has THREE internal dev teams. I knew one was Halo 3 ODST, I didn't think the next one for the second dev team would be Halo Reach. You see. I knew there'd be more Halo eventually. The franchise is a videogaming staple. There are new Halo games coming out at the same pace as new MGS games and the series rightfully deserve them along with GTA. But really, I thought another developer, maybe GearBox would take their chances at a squad-based Halo game or something. But Bungie isn't letting go. And Halo Reach is the Halo game I've been clamoring for for years. A prequel, the first encounter. Hell yeah. And with Halo Reach set for 2010, it'll be three years in development. More than enough time for a second team to concoct a new Halo experience. Hopefully we'll see something special here. I have faith in Bungie and with a free multiplayer beta to those who buy ODST, well, it's a great time to be a Halo fan!
But my obligatory praise for Halo aside, there's so much good stuff coming to the 360 in the form of killer exclusives and great third party games (this same saying goes for the PS3 as well) that if you want your gaming needs to be serviced, the Xbox 360 will do it more than well enough. This holiday starts big with ODST in September, and continues from there, leading up to the releases of Alan Wake and Final Fantasy 13 in early 2010. Giddy? Hell yeah.
Xbox 360 Games Grade- A-
PlayStation 3- Wow, I'm so happy that Sony finally decided to bring it all straight to MS. The PS3 line-up is as redhot as the Xbox 360 line-up! Uncharted 2 looks like the love-child of Gears of War and Prince of Persia. The smooth platforming, and the intense shoot-outs have me so excited for this game. Heavy Rain itself is off to show that Mass Effect isn't the only exclusive that can tell a cinematic story. The Origami Killer has a nice ring to it, and it gives the game an edge that I like. Gran Turismo 5 was shown off, and it looks like we'll finally get to see which beast is top dog, this or Forza 3. I'm not much for racing games of this type so I won't say much on the matter, but this should be a bit more exciting than the Halo 3 VS. Killzone 2 thing that started. I mean, I knew Halo would outsell Killzone 2 in the long-run, I just didn't think it would outsell as a 2 year old game over in the same month. But Forza 3 and GT5, that should be a more exciting showdown, with the two poised to be the best sim racers on their respective consoles.
While sim racers don't jive with me, I saw one of my most anticipated game from Sony's line-up: ModNation. OH. MY. DEAR. LORD. THIS. GAME. LOOKS. FANTASTIC! I love arcadey racers, they're so much funner (TAKE THAT ENGLISH PROFESSORS!) than sim racers. The little dudes you get to pick have a really great look to them. The graphics look fantastic. The gameplay looks like a ridiculous amount of fun. But it's that level-editor which took the team like 5 minutes to create a new level and race on it. With a level-editer/creator of that high a quality, it should take minutes to extend this game's lifetime over and over again and again. It looks damn FINE and I hope every PS3 owner supports this game (as if that'd ever happen... ).
Of course The Last Guardian is also on the horizon and yeah, it should be another fantastic game. I mean, I don't think I've ever seen so many unique games that honor the fantasy genre come from just one team, but The Last Guardian is the proof and it's in the damn pudding. God of War 3 looks like God of War: Fast, intense, beautiful and fun, so it should be a great finale to the trilogy. MAG while it seems like just another good shooter is the only game that I know that gives me 255 other opponents all split into squads. It sounds exciting by sheer scope alone and apparently, the boys at Zipper know how to make a decent FPS or two.
PS3 Games Grade- A-
Nintendo Wii- Nintendo had a sucky conference. You know it. I know it. Anyone who says otherwise has no idea what they're talking about. You know it. I know it. Etcetera, etcetera. That doesn't mean that there are sucky games coming down the pipe though.
First and foremost, The Conduit. Two weeks from now. Watch for it to make a splash. Done. With that game, Sega's trifecta will be complete (House of the Dead Overkill, MadWorld and The Conduit). Good to go from there. Nintendo's Motion Plus and Wii Sports Resort should also be released to mass appeal and millions of units sold. Wii Fit will probably fare a little worse though with EA Sports Active actually making you, y'know... DO STUFF.
The big game to watch out for this year is New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Now, the only reason I care about it is because I can play it alone as just Mario and actually enjoy a 2D platformer which will fit in snugly with my copies of Super Paper Mario and Klonoa. But if people come over, I guess it'd be OK to let them all play it together. The problem is, I keep thinking of LittleBigPlanet, and apparently that game brought the innovation and not just 4 players. I can't help but think of New Super Mario Bros. Wii as bringing the four players and not the innovation. Still, I'm excited to play it alone and with the return of the Koopa Kids (HELL YEAH!) it should be a good fun game to play alone or in groups. How good remains to be seen, though really, I doubt it'll be as impactful as Galaxy or it's upcoming sequel (YOSHI!!!) which, while looking similar to the first Galaxy still looks very exciting and much more impressive.
But those games can't hold the Wii up, so thankfully, there are some other games that plan to hold up the console. While the Xbox 360 and the PS3 try to compete with mainly first party exclusives and a handful of third party exclusives, the Wii is getting a ton of great third party games that are available only on the system. Fragile is easily my most anticipated Wii game. I'm so glad that xSEED is bringing it stateside because this is one game I expect the best things from. Muramasa is damn good looking too, putting up that crazy Japanese feel that so few games have this console generation. Dead Space Extraction is full of so much cool that's it's ridiculous. I love light gun games. Overkill is fantastic. Extraction looks ten times better. On-rails? No problem, Star Fox and Panzer Dragoon were on-rails too!
But the most killer title in the Nintendo line-up right now, and hopefully it'll see release this year, is Treasure's Sin and Punishment 2. I will purchase this game. I will revel in it's glory. And then I will proceed to tell you just how I revelled in it's hardcore shooting action. This game is going to be Nintendo's coup de tat for the hardcore, much like Punch-Out!! and ExciteBots were. There are games coming, but they aren't as exciting or as awesome looking as the 360 and PS3 line-ups. Did Nintendo have to go overboard with all the new Mario games? Would it have killed them to give me a damn F-Zero or Star Fox? Where was Pikmin? Kid Icarus (WE ALL WANT IT, DAMN IT!), please? Bah, at least there are always some good games on the Wii, it's a shame Nintendo doesn't give them the spotlight the same way the other two do.
Wii Games Grade- B-
BONUS ROUND! HOW DID I DO ON MY PREDICTIONS?
Let's see, the first one was for MS and said Rare would blow our minds at E3... but they were a no-show.
The second was for Sony and said Kojima would unveil MGS5 and A NEW GAME/IP and release it exclusively on PS3... but he announced MGS Rising, not 5, at the MICROSOFT press conference and it apparently helping on the new Castlevania game (that better be good)... so this was a dud too.
The third was for Nintendo and said that Luigi's Mansion 2 would be shown off... but apparently Nintendo only has the love for older bro Mario. At least Luigi is in New Super Mario Bros. Wii.
Oh well, at least making outlandish predictions for the event was WAY FUN.