E3 2008: Take-Two event heads for the Borderlands

Grand Theft Auto publisher wows conference attendees with Gearbox's postapocalyptic shooter---first trailer inside! Exclusive DLC also coming for BioShock PS3.

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At yesterday's Nintendo press event, one of the biggest surprises was the announcement of Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, the ultraviolent franchise's debut on the Nintendo DS. Though its unveiling drew audible gasps, little was revealed about the game other than its logo. Early speculation pegged it as being a city-centric title in the vein of Vice City Stories for the PlayStation Portable, either set in Liberty City or San Fierro, the two metropolises in the GTA universe to have Chinatown districts.

While gamers want more details about the first GTA DS, the game industry would like larger answers about the company making it, Take-Two Interactive. The publisher has had a roller coaster year, enjoying both record-breaking sales of Grand Theft Auto IV and being the subject of a hostile takeover by EA. Those attending its press event at the Los Angeles Convention Center in LA this morning came for answers to those questions, and to learn about the company's plan for the future.

[10:49] Take-Two Chairman Strauss Zelnick takes the stage right on time, immediately touting the fact that Grand Theft Auto IV was the "biggest entertainment launch in history."

[10:50] "We're investing in the future...with our creative team of 1,400 developers in 17 studios worldwide."

[10:52] "In an effort to produce the best in interactive entertainment, we encourage our developers to imagine," says Zelnick, who quickly hands over the podium to "the brains of the operation," Take-Two CEO and president Ben Feder.

[10:54] Feder cues a series of montages, beginning with 2K Sports. NBA 2K9, NHL 2K9, Top Spin 3, Don King's Prizefighter, Power Pros, and MLB 2K9 reel out. Then come two demos for the Xbox 360 NBA 2K9 and the Wii NHL 2K9, which aims "to bring the fun back to hockey."

[10:55] Now comes a demo of NHL 2K9, which is billed as a "complete reset" of the franchise. The Visual Concepts producer on hand says hockey games have become "too complicated."

[10:56] The game will have pick-up-and-play controls, "an all-new fighting engine," and will even let you drive the Zamboni between periods.

[10:57] It still is a hardcore hockey sim, he stresses, with a high level of detail. Apparently, if the crowd is very displeased with a team's performance, they will start throwing beer cups and other debris onto the ice.

[10:58] There's even an interactive Stanley Cup celebration mode which lets you party until dawn with your team.

[10:58] The hockey player demoing the game is showing how you push forward with the controllers to slam opponents against the boards.

[10:58] Now it's NBA 2K9 for the 360.

[10:59] NBA is the game "the pros are playing" and is the best-selling basketball game on the current generation of consoles.

[11:00] Once again, its a virtual rematch of the Lakers and the Celtics.

[11:01] The presenter says, "If you think you've seen online features, you ain't seen nothing yet." Do they have something to match NBA Live 09's Dynamic DNA?

[11:02] The Celtics start scoring, and some audience members groan. "I know we're in Los Angeles, but Kevin Garnett is our cover guy," jokes the VC producer.

[11:03] That's it for sports! Feder comes back to talk about the new casual game label 2K Play.

[11:04] Sarah Anderson, 2K's head of marketing, takes the stage.

[11:05] She talks about "building on our strategic partnership with Nickelodeon," and airs a TV ad for Carnival Games for Wii and DS.

[11:06] The games' developer is Cat Daddy, which is also working on a sequel, Carnival Games Mini-Golf for the Wii. Another TV ad talks about getting a "hole in fun!" Audible groans ensue.

[11:07] Anderson repeats the pun, getting some chuckles.

[11:08] Now she announces a new deal to bring Nickelodeon's Dora the Explorer to the Wii and DS with Dora Saves the Snow Princess this fall.

[11:09] Feder pops back on stage and quickly talks about 2K Games. Apparently the initial run of Civilization Revolution has already sold out at US retailers, with 2K rushing to manufacture more.

[11:09] Cue a trailer for BioShock, which is coming to the PlayStation 3 this fall.

[11:10] Nice--a Borderlands trailer.

Gearbox's Borderlands is due out early next year.
Gearbox's Borderlands is due out early next year.

[11:10] The postapocalyptic game shows a lot of indoor and outdoor action, with highly detailed graphics and action.

[11:11] Mafia II is also shown off, with extremely realistic depictions of 1950s-era mobsters.

[11:11] Anderson's back, talking about Champions Online, 2K's first MMORPG. It's due next spring.

[11:13] Cue a trailer for Champions. The graphics are semi-cel-shaded, making it look and feel very much like an interactive comic book.

[11:13] 2K Marin's Melissa Maya Miller takes the stage to show off BioShock for the PS3.

[11:15] Miller talks about the level of effort it took to make BioShock, which drew on resources from all of 2K Games. She says the same effort is being taken with BioShock PS3, which has four studios working on it: 2K Marin, 2K Boston, 2K Australia, and Digital Extremes.

[11:17] New announcement: PS3 BioShock will have exclusive DLC, including new "challenge rooms" in Rapture.

[11:18] Now, Feder is back to talk about Borderlands, the postapocalyptic road-actioner and shooter. Randy Pitchford takes the stage and gives BioShock expressive praise.

Explosives are just one way to take care of baddies in Borderlands.
Explosives are just one way to take care of baddies in Borderlands.

[11:22] Now onto Borderlands, which takes place on the planet Pandora. The demo begins, with a driver class and a soldier class jumping into a vehicle and driving around the landscape. In a scrub desert area called the "barrens," two vehicles looking like Halo warthogs engage in a road battle before the two players--engaged in co-op mode--jump out and go into a dungeon-like iridium mine. The perspective switches from first to third person. The game will have an experience system similar to Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, where the more you use a particular weapon, the easier it is to use.

Players'  skills with weapons such as the sniper rifle will improve with use, leading to bloodier and more spectacular deaths.
Players' skills with weapons such as the sniper rifle will improve with use, leading to bloodier and more spectacular deaths.

[11:24] After fighting off some hungry alien wildlife, the two players go deep into the mine, finding the bones of bandits eaten by monsters--and then excreted. They find guns in a locker, and emphasizes that no two guns in Borderlands are the same. They have an entire program which will randomly generate weapons with a variety of power-ups and extra features.

[11:26] A bloody battle with an underground bandit camp ensues, with the players' opponents meeting bloody ends. The visual style and gameplay looks like a cross of Halo 3 and Fallout 3, though the yellow-tinted guns look straight out of Haze.

[11:28] The guns are color-coded according to their abilities. Like Mass Effect, there will be wide array of ammo types, including guns that shoot acid. More bandits meet their ends, being either fried with electrical rounds or blown to pieces with shotguns. The game is looking just slightly less bloody that Gears of War.

In addition to vehicular combat on the planet Pandora's surface, players can go underground to uncover hidden bases.
In addition to vehicular combat on the planet Pandora's surface, players can go underground to uncover hidden bases.

[11:29] After an ambush cutscene, the demo ends. Huge applause. This game is gonna be massive.

[11:31] Now, it's on to Rockstar Games, and Feder name-checks Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, but only says "stay tuned for more information." Cue a montage of GTAIV, Bully, and L.A. Noire, which is apparently still in development.

[11:33] Now it's on to a Midnight Club: Los Angeles trailer. Shots of detailed street racing are accompanied by pumping techno from French DJ duo Justice.

[11:33] Zelnick's back and that's it, apparently.

[11:34] "We're dedicated to creating value for shareholders," says Zelnick. The words "Electronic Arts" were never mentioned.

[11:35] A final sizzle trailer flashes a title card for what looked like the new Red Dead Revolver and Sid Meier's Pirates! games. However, 2K Games has since clarified the footage was for prior games "in the 2K Games portfolio." A rep would neither confirm nor deny new games in both series are in the works.

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