E3 '07: Activision rolls out COD4, Guitar Hero III, Tony Hawk

Comedian Jamie Kennedy helps show off the latest from Infinity Ward and NeverSoft; Tony Hawk and Slash turn up to chip in.

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SANTA MONICA, Calif.--The fifth game publisher to hold a press conference this week is Activision. After being on a roll this year with the success of Guitar Hero II and Spider-Man 3, the Santa Monica-based publisher has seen some of its heat stolen in its hometown by is archrival Electronic Arts, which is distributing MTV Games' Rock Band.

But, like any battle of the bands, Activision came to this year's E3 Media & Business Summit ready to rock itself with Guitar Hero III. The rhythm game was just part of the lineup of games the hometown publisher showed off at its press conference at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel on Wilshire Boulevard.

To help show off its slate, Activision hired comedian Jamie Kennedy to emcee its event, and longtime collaborator Tony Hawk also turned up to lend a hand--along with other surprise guests. GameSpot was on the scene live-blogging the event and has all the latest.

[3:42] Actor and comedian Jaime Kennedy takes the stage. He says E3 is the only place that makes the guys at Comic Con look like Ocean's 13. He then forgets his next joke, remembers it, and tells it to an unimpressed audience.

[3:42] Kennedy moves on from the one-liners and introduces Activision's executive vice president of publishing Robin Kaminsky. Kaminsky takes the stage and looks at the teleprompter, which apparently broke during Kennedy's monolog. She says it's an exciting time in the industry, and brings up the company's success on Live Marketplace with downloadable content for Call of Duty and Guitar Hero. She says Activision is pleased with the PlayStation 3 price cut and praises the success of the Wii and DS, saying they allow the company to make new types of games.

[3:42] Activision is committed to broadening its brands and delivering new gameplay experiences, she says. After recapping the company's lineup, Kaminsky yields the stage back to Kennedy, who introduces a Neversoft developer to talk about Tony Hawk's Proving Ground. After a quick recap of what the game entails, Kennedy asks an off-color question about the developer's name, following up on an earlier reference to Viagra.

[3:43] Tony Hawk's Proving Ground will attempt to immerse the player in the skateboarding lifestyle, so Kennedy asks if it means players will have to play it high. The dev mentions the game's "nail the trick" mode and Kennedy asks if he's talking about prostitution. They move on to the new "nail the grab" and "nail the manual" controls in the new game.

[3:43] Now they bring out Tony Hawk to talk about the game, and Kennedy asks what the best part of the game-making process is. Kennedy and Hawk verbally spar a little about grabbing tricks, and then they show off a gameplay video.

Jaime Kennedy providing the one liners at the Activision event.
Jaime Kennedy providing the one liners at the Activision event.

[3:45] They show off features like a timing-based kick mechanic that lets players get speed faster, a street check that knocks pedestrians out of the way, and some nail the manual and nail the grab moves. The game also has a video editor that will allow gamers to make their own skate videos and upload them to Xbox Live. They're showing a bit of the skate park creator, which apparently blows Kennedy's mind.

Tony Hawk (center) chilling with Kennedy and a Neversoft developer.
Tony Hawk (center) chilling with Kennedy and a Neversoft developer.

[3:47] The demo wraps up and Kennedy asks, "Is that not sick?" Kennedy has the stage again and brings up <i>The Bee Movie</i>. Out comes one of the game's developers, and Kennedy asks up in his best Sienfeld impression, "What's the deal with Bee Movie?"

Kennedy and a Bee Movie developer.
Kennedy and a Bee Movie developer.

[3:49] The developer says they've been working with Dreamworks very closely to make it more than just another movie tie-in. He says the visuals and sound on the Xbox 360 are top notch, while the Wii hardware was "custom-made" for flying a Bee around. Kennedy asks about backlash from the bee community.

[3:51] They start up a demo of the game, and Kennedy dusts off his Seinfeld impress again to remark that the bees have cars in their hive. The next segment shows the main character flying through downtown city streets, avoiding cars, bus fumes, and other obstacles.

[3:53] They finish up with a look at the Central Park section of the game, where the main character collects pollen from flowers, his lifelong dream. Kennedy thanks the developer for coming and cracks a joke about how the audience reaction is tepid.

[3:54] The crowd busts up for Westwood's joke, and Kennedy takes offense to a room full of Americans siding with a foreigner. One person in the crowd heckles that it's because Westwood is funnier.

[3:55] After the second biggest laugh of the show so far dies down, the two get down to talking about the game. Westwood describes the class-based system of Quake Wars, recapping the Strogg and Human Defense Force factions.

Kennedy on the couch with yet another developer, this time Paul Westwood.
Kennedy on the couch with yet another developer, this time Paul Westwood.

[3:57] Westwood shows off a video of the game working on an Xbox 360. The map is Reversion Island, the last surviving facility that holds data on the first Strogg slipgate to arrive. Kennedy just nods.

[3:58] Westwood talks about how the game is deep enough that it can seem overwhelming, so players are given missions when they come in. The missions will direct players to do things like powerup generators to help out their teammates. There's also a context-sensitive button to "use" objects necessary to achieve missions in the proper way.

[3:59] "It's a lot different from Frogger," jokes Kennedy.

[4:00] Westwood talks about how the mission system makes it so players don't need to understand the bigger picture to feel like they're contributing as a result of the mission system. A few more objectives covered including fixing a broken wheel on a vehicle and calling in reinforcements.

[4:02] Jamie Bathus from Activision is up now for Spider-Man: Friend or Foe. She and Kennedy talk about kissing, Kennedy does another Seinfeld impression. Onto the game…

Jamie Bathus talking Spidey with Kennedy.
Jamie Bathus talking Spidey with Kennedy.

[4:04] The game will have a family friendly look and feel, and Spider-Man will travel the world and battle villains in Tokyo, Nepal, Egypt, and elsewhere. Kennedy asks if Spider-Man was Jewish (Spidermann?), and then they get back to game details and how the cooperative mode works.

[4:05] They go to a clip of the game without sound. The sound comes up and we can hear the battles against Green Goblin, Dr. Octopus, and some of Spider-Man's witty banter. The game "is definitely targeted at younger fans," according to Bathus. Then they introduce Stan Lee, who stand up in the crowd and gets a lengthy, loud ovation. Then he sits down and it's onto the next game.

Excelsior!!! It's Stan the Man!
Excelsior!!! It's Stan the Man!

[4:07] Kennedy introduces Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, and stresses the authenticity of the game. He introduces Lt. Colonel Hank Kersey, who criticizes Kennedy's disheveled appearance and upper-body build. He then asks for 20 push-ups, which the crowd approves of.

[4:08] Kersey says Kennedy's push-up was excellent, then says he's going to introduce a real man, Mr. "Go Deep, Go Hard" Grant Collier.

[4:09] The two talk about the move to a modern day setting, and the background of the game's story. Collier says it's all about two equal forces battling so you never know who's going to come out on top. They toss to a trailer of the game.

From Spidey to war. Infinity Ward's Grant Collier talking Call of Duty 4.
From Spidey to war. Infinity Ward's Grant Collier talking Call of Duty 4.

[4:11] Kennedy cringes at some of the violence in the trailer, but calls it "sick footage" as a compliment regardless. The trailer ends, Kennedy claps, and the rest of the crowd claps with him. Collier says this isn't your daddy's Call of Duty.

[4:13] Collier apologizes to Kennedy for going off-script, and then introduces a clip of more game footage, this one titles "Crew Expendable." A number of troops are being helicopter dropped onto a boat in the middle of a storm.

[4:15] The team infiltrates the ship, gunning down anyone they find, including sleeping people in their bunk beds. The helicopter then drops down for an aerial assist. A second mission, "Charlie don't surf" is then shown. Players fore at various targets as the helicopter reaches its destination, then sweep through the streets as part of a coordinated attack.

[4:17] More clips are shown, and the gunfights blend into one another, punctuated by encounters with tanks, a flying rag-doll body, and plenty of military chatter. The clip ends and the crowd erupts with applause. Collier mentions the multiplayer beta of the game that was announced at the conference last night, and how the servers were crashed by all the visitors.

[4:18] That's it for Call of Duty, and now Allan Flores from Neversoft is brought up to talk about Guitar Hero III.

[4:19] Kennedy asks about the new wireless controllers, and Flores runs down the Les Paul and Kramer models. They move on to talk about Guitar Hero parties, and Flores said it made the developers want to bring the game online to foster that social aspect of the game.

Allan Flores from Neversoft takes the couch with Kennedy and chats Guitar Hero III.
Allan Flores from Neversoft takes the couch with Kennedy and chats Guitar Hero III.

[4:20] Flores talks about how much easier it's become getting artists for the game, saying "they've been coming to us." They show a video of Foghat's "Slow Ride."

[4:24] Kennedy and Flores are nodding their heads to the beat, then the video switches to show a bit of the multiplayer mode, where players can use special powers against one another that do things like make the opponent's incoming notes flash sporadically, or render one of their buttons useless for a short period of time (breaking a string).

[4:24] Kennedy declares it "the sickest game ever," then talks about the special guest of the game. He introduces Slash from Guns n' Roses.

[4:26] Slash says he got hooked on Guitar Hero on a tour bus and at some point his marketing manager brought up the game as a possibility.

Slash!
Slash!

[4:28] Slash wrote the game's theme song and said it matched the mood of the game. Kennedy asks if all he does in the tour bus is play the game. Slash says at the time it was, because the game was pretty addicting, and he has an addictive personality.

Slash on screen and on stage.
Slash on screen and on stage.

[4:28] They show a clip of Slash in the game. After the clip, Slash says being in the game is one of the more surreal moments of his career.

[4:29] Kennedy says that's it and tells everyone to have a good E3.

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