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E3 2009



UPDATE: This media briefing is starting later than expected.  Stand by for massive live-blogginess.

Square Enix recently added their press conference to the E3 2009 schedule, but what will they reveal? We're likely to see more on Final Fantasy XIII, but you can bet Square Enix isn't stopping there.

Follow along with our live blog coverage and you won't miss a single announcement.

Star Wars Battlefront: Elite Squadron

It seemed like an odd idea at the time (and probably still does to some people), but when LucasArts brought their massively multiplayer battle game Star Wars: Battlefront to the PSP with 2007’s Star Wars: Battlefront: Renegade Squadron, it actually worked rather well.

Now they’re hoping to repeat that odds-defying move by not only bringing the series back to the PSP, but also to the DS, with Star Wars Battlefront: Elite Squadron. We took a very, very brief look at the game at LucasArts' booth today, and while we can’t say for sure that the game will be more fun than a barrel of Wookies, we are cautiously optimistic.

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The Secret Of Monkey Island: Special Edition

Along with their usual gaggle of Star Wars games, LucasArts made a pleasant surprise announcement at E3 this year when they revealed that they were bringing back the comedic pirate-themed Monkey Island series — a classic franchise from when the company made adventure games in the ’90s — with not one but two games.

First up is The Secret Of Monkey Island: Special Edition, a remake of the first game in the series, which was made by Ron Gilbert (who recently collaborated on the Monkey Island-esque adventure game Penny Arcade Adventures: On The Rain-Slick Precipice Of Darkness), Tim Schafer (who’s currently finishing up graphic and adventurous Brütal Legend), and Dave Grossman (who did the episodic Sam & Max: Season One and Season Two games, another veteran series from LucasArts’ past that was recently revived). But rather than just copy the old code and slap it on a disc, LucasArts is giving the game a nice makeover.

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Final Fantasy XIII Sony E3 Press Conference »


I stopped by the Square Enix booth to get check out the hotly anticipated Final Fantasy XIII. Although the demo being shown was extremely short for preview purposes, I also got to chat with producer Yoshinori Kitase about some game details. Here are some impressions and details I gathered at E3 2009.

Seeing the game running will absolutely take your breath away. Along with Uncharted 2, this is the best-looking PlayStation 3 game I've ever seen. In terms of visuals, believe the hype.

The early level of the game I saw featured Snow (the dude with the condom on his head). Everything looked great, was animated superbly, and almost made me drool. Things got funky when he summoned Shiva for some ice-powered damage. Similar to Final Fantasy X, the command menu changes when a summon is in play. What was really weird was when Shiva transformed into a motorcycle. That's not a typo -- this ice goddess for rent became a frickin' motorcycle. This is all part of the game's "gestalt" feature and apparently all the summons can become different objects.

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Hands-on: PSP Go

pklepek
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Posted June 3, 2009 - By pklepek

Sony PlayStation Portable PSP go

Sprinting between E3 appointments, I found time to swing by Sony's booth and spend a little hands-on time with a copy of Gran Turismo loaded onto a PSP go. Just a few rows down, LittleBigPlanet was being shown on PSP go machines, too.

Gran Turismo, as one might expect, looked like Gran Turismo running on PSP. Without knowing too much about Gran Turismo (I'm more of a Ridge Racer guy), that's about the best observation I can provide for TheFeed readers: this looked like an excellent version of Gran Turismo running on PSP.

Oddly enough, my time with PSP go provoked similar feelings. PSP go didn't feel much different than the older PSP that was sitting in my bag. The analog nub is notably smaller and seemed less twitchy -- if that makes any sense. The differences were a little intangible. At first, PSP go felt much more natural, but after pulling my old launch PSP out of my bag, it didn't feel too much different. In general, it's more of the same -- depending on how you feel about PSP, that's either a good or bad thing.

Unfortunately, at least in the public E3 kiosks, Sony has PSP go hardware tied down. There was no way to drop the PSP go into my hands and see how it felt to play a game the way I would in real-world circumstances. Plus, there was no way to slide the screen down and see how small the PSP go feels.

If I'm able to get my hands on a less restricted PSP go, I'll report back.

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The Only Beyond Good & Evil Presence At E3

Ubisoft did not mention or show Beyond Good & Evil 2 at their pre-E3 press conference, nor did the publisher book any appointments to show the game. In fact, Beyond Good & Evil 2 wasn't anywhere at Ubisoft's booth. Walking around the show floor, this is the only proof we could find of Ubisoft acknowledging the series -- a poster of the original.

Maybe we'll hear more later this year?

There are still quite a few question marks surrounding Robomodo's upcoming skateboarding game Tony Hawk: Ride, mainly with regard to its use of a new skateboard peripheral designed to give players the tactile feeling of boarding without all the real-world consequences, like broken bones and cool scars. While it certainly makes sense as a device, it's just hard to imagine that the peripheral could offer the same depth and variety of maneuvers as the revolutionary thumbstick controls introduced by EA's Skate franchise.

Well, if you share my skepticism then perhaps you should check out our E3 2009 interview with Robomodo president Joshua Tsui, as he talks in-depth about the tech behind the new peripheral and what players can expect from it in terms of the overall game experience. And hopefully you find yourself fawning over the board, because the game doesn't support standard controls, so it's board or nothing. Again, the board is a fine idea, but putting all your heel flips in one basket by forcing players to use it is an even bigger gamble than the peripheral itself.

Anyone think I'm being too cynical about the board peripheral?

 

E3 09 Robomodo's Joshua Tsui Tony Hawk: Ride interview »


 

Wii Vitality Sensor

Perhaps the most perplexing new product unleashed at E3 2009 is Nintendo's Wii Vitality Sensor. The gimcrack plugs into to your Wiimote and reads your pulse and other signals your soul is transmitting in order to determine what you're feeling deep inside the most hidden recesses of your heart... at least that's what I think it will do. It's hard to actually tell what it's intended for, as Nintendo's Satoru Iwata has only said the device offers us a "glimpse into the future" and can be used to help people relax and fall asleep. Geez, Nintendo, gin seems to work fine for me already.

But, if you were curious as to what the device looks like plugged into your Wiimote, prepare for your eyes to get their asses kicked -- but don't get too excited, you'll set off the Vitality Sensor!

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Kingdom Hearts 358/2

We've already brought you the trailer for Disney/Square Enix game Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days, but now we have a few more details on the title. Here they are, in handy, bullet-pointed form:

  • Multiplayer: You'll be able to have light-hearted, whimsical adventures with your little pals through the DS's ad-hoc network.
  • Release Date: September 29, 2009.
  • Official Description: "Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days revolves around Roxas, the “other” hero from Kingdom Hearts II. Players follow Roxas through his days among Organization XIII’s ranks, unraveling the events that took place during the year that Sora was asleep, and ultimately revealing one of the Kingdom Hearts saga’s most shocking secrets. Players and their friends will join Roxas, his friend Axel and the mysterious fourteenth member of Organization XIII on a journey across charming, vibrant worlds full of Square Enix’s and Disney’s beloved characters."
  • My pithy observation: Using elementary school math, I have determined that the actual title of this game is Kingdom Hearts 179 Days.

So, any Kingdom Hearts fans out there dying to give this title a spin and learn shocking secrets?

Now that Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony have had their E3 2009 press conferences (and all of us have had time to digest the hours of information delivered), I thought it would be a good idea to take a look back at this year's pressers, analyze them, and assign letter grades. All three companies did some things well and some poorly. Here's one man's opinion on the pressers...or the E3 2009 press conference report card!

E3 2009 Press Conference Report Card: Rating The Microsoft, Nintendo, And Sony Pressers

Microsoft

Since Microsoft kicked things off on Monday (and the three consoles companies happened to go in alphabetical order), I'll start with it first. More than its competitors, Microsoft understands that E3 press conferences are no longer just large media briefings. Millions of its customers can watch, whether it's through networks like G4, sites like G4tv.com, or services like Xbox Live. Charts, pie graphs, and sales figures dominated E3 press conferences in the past, but they simply don't fly anymore. Pressers now require tons of sizzle (check), ample star power (Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, check), and buttery flow (check). The one area (in terms of showmanship) where the company faltered was with its executives; MS senior vice president Don Mattrick is a very smart man, but he's not as captivating as past Xbox execs like J Allard, Seamus Blackley, and Ed Fries. Despite Mattrick's shortcomings, Microsoft did the best job at making its presser fan-friendly while still getting its key messages across.

Although several readers of TheFeed don't give a damn about social-networking services like Facebook and Twitter, there are millions of people that do. Microsoft integrating these services into Xbox Live is frickin' huge! It's one thing to have a self-contained network like Xbox Live or PlayStation Network, but opening up a gaming console to two immensely popular services likeFacebook and Twitter is just enormous. This announcement was tremendous for Microsoft. It adds two very big reasons for its Xbox 360 customers to keep their consoles on.

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Day 2 of E3 week featured the Nintendo and Sony media briefings, as well as the opening day on the show floor. Your beloved and moderately well-dressed editorial team was again out in full force. Here's a quick report on some cool stuff we saw and played today, and if you missed it, here's yesterday's report. Again, it's not meant to be an all-inclusive list of the "best" things, just stuff that caught our eyes.

Patrick Klepek, News Editor

You know what, this one has nothing to do with video games. While waiting to check out Ubisoft's Avatar, someone shoved a giant metal statue in my hand. This statue was really damn heavy. Turns out, it was the -- I kid you not -- actual Oscar statue that Avatar producer Jon Landau received for working with James Cameron on Titanic. If there ever was a moment I thought about dashing off with something valuable...

Joe Rybicki, Freelance Writer

The Last Guardian: I wasn't at the Sony conference, didn't see this in person, and hence it doesn't qualify, you say? I say you shut the hell up. The trailer that leaked a couple weeks back showed me everything I needed to know that I will love this game. Sorry, those are facts.

OK, fine, coolest thing I actually saw in person? The Saboteur: It's not just Sin City style, folks. There's a real game here, and it's bigger than a lot of people realize.

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 Assassin's Creed 2 Screenshot

According to Project Manager Jean-Francois Boivin, whom I spoke with for this preview, it wasn't until after Assassin's Creed was complete that they settled on the location for the next installment, Assassin's Creed 2. Knowing that Desmond and the Animus was going to be a seriously expansive story, they had kicked a few ideas around the campfire, but after the proper deliberation, a clear winner emerged: Venice, Italy, in the time of the Renaissance.

The era and location was selected specifically due to the fact that so many of the world's important thinkers and decision-makers were alive and actively reshaping society. Reshaping often for the better, but also for the worse -- hence, the need for assassins.

Assassin's Creed 2 has Desmond re-entering the Animus to explore the life of another ancestor: Ezio Auditore di Firenze. The game begins with Ezio, a noble, experiencing a tragic loss and discovering that the "family business" wasn't what he thought. Following in Dad's footsteps, he undertakes the questionably-noble profession of assassin, and the killing begins.

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Over the years, long-time Resident Evil fans have seen a variety of retellings and reduxes. Although gamers got a pure numerical sequel earlier this year with Resident Evil 5, the revamps keep on coming, especially on Wii. Witness Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles, a sequel to 2007's Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles. Since that on-rails shooter covered the scope of both Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine's horrific misadventures all the way up to the events of Resident Evil 3, The Darkside Chronicles aims its scope on one of the franchise's other important characters, Claire Redfield.

During my hands-on demo today, I got to jump into a chapter from 2000's Resident Evil: Code Veronica, redone as a House of the Dead-style shooter. Earlier in the day, Nintendo's Reggie Fils-Amie cited The Darkside Chronicles as part of Nintendo's "harder-edged" lineup. It certainly isn't as family-friendly as, say, New Super Mario Bros. Wii, but it's certainly not a game that feels tailor-made to appeal to long-time Resident Evil fans.

In a sense, that's okay. Call it odd, but this could be the easiest way to get a non-gamer (significant others, parents) interested in Resident Evil's decade-old canon. Are you an ardent RE fan who's got a girlfriend who likes watching you play RE4 but doesn't dig aiming, moving and shooting? Are you a fangirl who's trying to convince your parents why destroying the T-Virus is important work? Sic 'em on this.

‘Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles’ Impressions


It doesn't hurt that The Darkside Chronicles offers up co-op play, which seems to be unlocked from the beginning, unlike The Umbrella Chronicles. In my case, I chose Claire, while my partner picked Steve Burnside. Playing with a friend is as simple as shooting your way through any of the classic House of the Dead games, and it's hard to shake the thought that the on-rails RE shooters are essentially smarter variations on Sega's classic horror series.

The European prison locale looked like the same familiar terrain I shot my way through on Dreamcast nearly a decade ago. Unlike that title, I never felt the same sense of palpable dread that I did in Capcom's original, a game that was stingy on the bullets. Instead, The Darkside Chronicles offers up ammo, ammo, and more ammo. That's great for players who would never make it through a half-hour of the lean, spartan Code Veronica. Again, it's a game that feels designed to reward you for blasting through waves and waves of virus-infected undead. Hence, it's a great game to pass along to someone who would never put up with classic Resident Evil's fussy handling.

How do I know that it works for non-RE fans? I played alongside someone who doesn't play shooters at all. She prefers role-playing games and titles that don't require lightning fast reflexes. Although I found The Darkside Chronicles' rollercoaster-like setup to be a tad simplistic, she immediately dove into the action and really enjoyed blasting away at zombies. It seems to be a game that's undoubtedly M-rated, but seems geared toward the same sort of demographic that Nintendo so feverishly covets.

If you've been playing the series since the PlayStation era, you'll undoubtedly like this shooter more than forgettable lightgun entries like RE Survivor or RE Dead Aim, but don't go in expecting much more than a refresher course on the plots of RE2 and Code Veronica. On the other hand, if you have a gaming dabbler in your life who needs a remedial course in blasting tentacled mutants, Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles might be a welcome addition to your library.

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pklepek
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Posted June 2, 2009 - By pklepek

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Director James Cameron has been hyping his sci-fi "magnum opus" Avatar for some time, but shown very little from his film in the process. That's why I was so surprised to learn Ubisoft would be helping Cameron debut some of the first details on Avatar at E3 and it wouldn't be coming from his movie, but Ubisoft's game. There might be good reason for that: Avatar is a lush, big, expensive-looking video game.

But is it a good one?

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It seems like only a few weeks ago that we were at EA’s offices in Los Angeles, playing a bit of Army Of Two: The 40th Day. And yet while our E3 demo of the game was largely the same level we had gotten to play before, the team added some new elements to the game that, well, didn’t make it seem all new, but did add some depth to the game.

The most obvious change is in the A.I. of your computer-controlled partner when you play the game on your own. Granted, the game is meant to be played with a friend, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to skimp on the stuff for those of us who don’t play well with others. Your partner A.I. is a lot smarter this time out, and, according to the developers, is far less likely to get himself shot up by doing something stupid. He also seemed a bit more proactive this time out, more willing to take the kill shot, where before he was just so polite, waiting for you to go first. 

Army of Two: The 40th Day In-Game Footage Trailer

 

Army of Two: The 40th Day In-Game Footage Trailer »



There is also some morality to this tale, one that can actually help or hinder you. Unlike some war games, where killing or saving civilians is pretty meaningless, here it can actually help you if you help others, since you’re rewarded for your compassion with money and, on occasion, some weapons or equipment. Which means you can be a jerk, and kill those who are unarmed or uninvolved in the conflict, but if you help them survive, it’ll make your life easier.

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