Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Spider-Man: One More Day/Brand New Day

Marvel has always said that 2007 was going to be a huge year for Spider-Man and given what is coming up at the end of the year confirms this. I honestly don't know what to expect from One More Day (J. Michael Straczynski's final Spider-Man arc after 6 years with Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada doing the covers and pencils), but the San Diego Comic Con started showing some hints of light on it (thanks to Newsarama for the info).

1. Quesada noted that the "retro" covers on One More Day (the first two are below) evokes the feel of a certain era in the Spider-Man history. To me he's talking about the early days as being the 70s/80s era of Spider-Man where covers were busy with words and multiple panels. It was in the really early days as well, but I think it was much more prevalent in that era.

2. In Zeb Wells' interview at Newsarama (he is one of the 4 writers on the 3x a month ASM along with Dan Slott, Marc Guggenheim and Bob Gale) he let it slip that the web shooters were coming back. As it stands now Peter has organic webbing like in the movies.

3. All of the preview art for both One More Day and Brand New Day show Spidey in his original costume and not the black one he is wearing now. This probably means that Aunt May is not the body on the cover of ASM #543, the issue before One More Day starts, but who knows (we'll find out August 22nd).

There are other things that were divulged, but I am both anxious and excited about One More Day and Brand New Day. I have to believe they are about to reverse about 20 years of stories. This is the 20-year anniversary (real time, not comic time) of Peter and MJ getting married and Quesada has said on multiple times that he wants Peter single but is not willing to do it through divorce. I have a sinking feeling that Peter is going to ask Dr. Strange to wipe everyone's mind (and possibly his own) of him unmasking, marrying MJ, being given the Other powers, the whole spider totem, letting anyone know his secret identity, etc. He will be given "one more day" with MJ knowing everything she knows, but after that everything is at square one. Peter may or may not remember everything, but MJ will no longer be married to him and no longer in danger for being around him. Obviously she will still be in his life, just not at the level it was before.

Brand New Day will be him starting at square one again with everyone. If the mind wipe is actually happening I hope that he remembers everything and is able to reconnect with MJ. I hate that the marriage is probably over, but done correctly I could stay on with my favorite superhero. I am very excited, but also anxious, about One More Day and Brand New Day. Marvel has been doing pretty good with keeping things interesting, although wiping the knowledge that everyone knows Spider-Man is Peter Parker will certainly lessen one of the major plot points from Civil War.

It is an interesting time to be a Spider-Man fan, that is for sure.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Post-E3 Thoughts and Game Impressions

Well, E3 has come and gone. All indications are that this may have been the last E3 we will ever see. Some people liked the new show (minus the Hanger that was far away from the hotels), some people hated the new confined show. It seems a lot of the show happened in hotel rooms or small party areas in hotels. I'm not sure what the final cost was for each company, but outside of the poor (but mandatory) food service at the LA Convention Center what did they really gain from this?

I think all the companies could go back to the table and find a nice middle ground between the two extremes. Go back to the LA Convention Center, increase the invitations a bit (but don't allow the marginal people you allowed before) and increase the booth babe crackdowns from last year. I think that would be acceptable to the companies that were complaining (EA for sure, I think Nintendo and Sony may have also, I forget) and make E3 not seem as hectic as it did last year. It did get too big for its britches so to speak. I just don't see the expo continuing after this year, especially in this format.

The flow of information also seemed to be a little lacking this year from all the websites. Gamespot still had its live show, although I think they forced it a bit too much versus last year. Once again I point to the fact that Greg Kasavin is no longer with the site and I think he kept things pretty tight on the ship. A LOT of Sony stuff was shown on Gamespot, but none of them really stood out from what I watched over the weekend outside of Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction.

Some of the games I would have liked to have seen at the press events did get shown in private. There are some videos out there of the presentations and they made me pretty excited, but who knows how far off these games are. This E3 of course did nothing for the consumers except for those that read websites and even then the stories weren't as meaty as they have been in years past.

Outside of that stuff I'd like to say what games were impressive, what games are questionable and which ones disappointed me as I viewed E3 from home.


BioShock: No big surprise here, I'm high on this game and the gameplay shown on Gamespot was top notch as was the Ken Levine narrated video that came out last week. This game is going to rock, it's just too bad it won't sell that well (and I hope I'm wrong).

Mass Effect: November cannot come soon enough. This game looked hot, especially from the 21-minute demo shown at Gamespot (even with Rich Gallup sounding like an obsessed little girl).

Halo 3: No big surprise here, I was on this game as soon as it was announced. I like how much was shown at E3. It looks like Master Chief and the Arbiter join forces (and the possibility of co-op play is in play, although Bungie has not confirmed) and the graphics look phenomenal in the regular story.

Project Gotham Racing 4: Motorcycles and weather...what more do you need? This game looks excellent as well and should be the racing game to see until Sony actually gets around to bringing out the next Gran Turismo game.

Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction: I love this series and this would probably be just enough for me to get a PS3 if it wasn't so expensive.

Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass: I liked what was shown in both the press event and at a meeting with Miyamoto later on in E3. This game looks hot for the DS.

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption: Color me surprised by how good this game looks and how well it controls (supposedly). This game is a Wii seller, however it is a game that is not geared toward the mass Wii crowd.

Super Mario Galaxy: This is the game that should sell the Wii this winter to the mass crowd of Wii owners. For Reggie to say that it is the best Mario since 64 (way to piss on Sunshine Reggie) might just be marketing speak, but hopefully not.


Crysis: I was hot on Crysis until I saw the stage demo on Gamespot. Crytek could get away with stupid AI on Far Cry since that was their first game, but with this game that isn't going to cut it. The graphics are phenomenal, but I bet you'll have to have a really good rig for it to even chug along well. Yes, it will work on lower systems, but I bet there will be a lot of slowdown. I still say I doubt we will see this in September.

Hellgate: London: This game is probably a year too late in coming out. When I looked at the graphics in the live demo on Gamespot and compared them to something like BioShock I decided they just weren't as good. This game was supposed to push the envelope I thought, but I came away unimpressed.

Killzone 2: This sits here simply because it looks great, but who knows how the level design will be given Guerilla's history. I think Sony has a lot to hang its hat on with this game, but other than an ominous "2008" release (could be late next year for all we know) there isn't a whole lot to get excited about until it gets closer.

Rock Star: Questionable on Rock Star? Have I gone mad? Maybe. Everything about this game sounds great, but I question how well online multiplay will go and how many people will actually splurge on the whole package (buying the game, 2 guitars, drum set and microphone for over $200) and have their friends come over to play. I'm betting most people will be picking up the drum kit and the guitar(s), but the microphone is up in the air. Then most people will just go online to find their band. Add to this the fact that you will probably pay through the nose to get these "full albums" that people are talking about. Chances are also good that they will let you download the full albums, but the tunes themselves won't be set up by Harmonix for standard play with the game. Instead the game will decide where the notes are, much like people that hacked the original GH on PS2.


Assassin's Creed: I am a little shocked that many people think this was the game of the show. Did they not see the demo at the Microsoft press event? Did they not see the Gamespot demo with Jade Raymond sounding like she was locked in a cage and couldn't give out any information? This game has been YEARS in the making and the graphics are stuttering. This game has been DELAYED to November. All signs are pointing to a game that may not be what everyone wants it to be. Honestly, Ubisoft should just let the cat out of the bag and divulge what everyone already knows: the main character is from the future and there are Sci-Fi elements aplenty in the game. In fact, the Jerusalem section shown in the demo will probably be a small part of the game (much like Snake in Metal Gear Solid 2). Just be careful of this game, I don't think it is going to be everything we think it will be.

LittleBigPlanet: Okay, this game is nothing like I thought it was going to be when it was first shown off. Now it seems like a sandbox-type game where you create your own stuff and play on there. I figured it would be a cool Lemmings-like game with online multiplayer. The game still looks fantastic, but the overall gameplay dropped it greatly from my list.

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune/Heavenly Sword: I put both of these here because it seems like they borrow a lot from other games. The first game borrows from other platform games like Tomb Raider. The latter borrows from God of War quite a bit and will probably not have as great of a story. The first game's graphics do not look as great as I first thought they would be. The latter has great graphics. Sony needs standout games like the Ratchet & Clank one to really assert their spot and sell consoles. Neither of these two games is going to do that honestly.

Sony's Continuing Stupidity: What started off as a great E3 (good press showing, $100 price drop) turned to good old modern day Sony showing up at the end. Yes, we get the $100 price drop, but once all the 60GB systems are gone that are in the supply chain now they are gone for good. In its place goes an 80GB system with no Emotion Engine in it (meaning software compatibility for games from previous systems) for the usual $599.99 price. Why can't they bring out a 60GB version without the Emotion Engine and sell it for the $100 price cut? Basically they spit in the face of gamers everywhere, although now is the time to get a PS3 if you were to get one. The 60GB version has the Emotion Engine in it and it is $100 cheaper and will probably be around for at least a few months (unless people grab them all). In the end though Sony screws up again. How stupid can they be? They need a unified PR group instead of different main excutives saying different things (watch out for Sony Europe's head, he loves to leak stuff!). Oh well, Sony is still playing the arrogance card, but they are way behind in sales. They have to think of something or this generation is going to leave them behind quickly.

Upcoming Games - July

Yes, it seems like the gaming drought is about to end. Now that we move into the post-E3 time of the year, the gaming landscape starts to heat up. So, let's go down the line from with the big July releases:

NCAA Football 08
Developer: EA Tiburon
Publisher: EA Sports
Release Date: July 17th
System(s): PS3/360

I buy this game every year, but I may wait this year. I still consider this to be the premier football game, but the news of only one camera angle again this year doesn't make me too excited. I will probably bend to its will, especially if it gets reviewed well (IGN's review: "If you love football, you'll love this game!").

All-Pro Football 2K8
Developer: Visual Concepts
Publisher: 2K Sports
Release Date: July 17th
System(s): PS3/360

So, you lose the NCAA and NFL licenses and you decide to sign up legends from the NFL for your game. Gutsy move, although the more gutsy move would have been to price this game lower like you did with NFL 2K5. Then you could reassert yourself as the premier football game. There are pluses and minuses in this game. On the plus side you get to choose your team fantasy style and there are online leagues, but on the minus side you can only play one season because there is no franchise mode. I am going to try to rent this game to see if it is good, but the no franchise thing will certainly hold me from buying the game for $60 and I think that is the biggest problem 2K is going to face with this game - the price just needs to be lower.

Upcoming Games - August

August is a bit hotter than July with games, let's get to them:

John Woo's Stranglehold
Developer: Midway
Publisher: Midway
Genre: Action
Release Date: August 6th (360)/August 20th (PS3/PC)
System(s): PS3/360/PC

Ever since I first saw screens I was impressed. What I am not impressed by is that Midway is heading this game. Midway is great at making "middle-of-the-road" games, ones that aren't in the greatness category but they don't suck either. I hope maybe they can change their ways and actually make a great game, but I will wait on reviews first before even renting this. It is also sounding a lot like Max Payne which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but playing the same type of game can get old no matter who is attached to it.

Madden NFL 08
Developer: EA Tiburon
Publisher: EA Sports
Genre: Sports
Release Date: August 14th
System(s): PS3/360/Wii/Xbox/PS2/Cube/PC/PSP/DS

I would not be surprised if EA pushes the release of this game up a bit if they feel the heat of 2K's effort in July. I am pretty interested this year after renting last year and skipping the buying part. Gang tackling (also in NCAA this year) and more GM-centric options as well as a supposedly boosted Superstar mode make me pretty excited for this game. What doesn't make me excited is no online leagues, only one camera angle (why?) and the radio announcer is back...d'oh! It is also obvious the 360 version will probably win out in a head-to-head with the PS3 version. The 360 runs at 60fps (supposedly without slowdown) whereas the PS3 version runs at 30fps...whoops!

Developer: Factor 5
Publisher: Sony CEA
Genre: Action
Release Date: August 14th
System(s): PS3

For some reason Sony didn't show this game off at their press thing at E3 and I have no idea why. This has been touted as a pretty big game for the PS3, but I don't see it selling a whole lot of systems unless the reviews are beyond reproach.

Developer: Irrational Games
Publisher: 2K Games
Genre: RPG/Action/FPS
Release Date: August 21st
System(s): 360/PC

I'm all in on this one! I will have to get it for the 360 simply because I don't think this will run well on my PC. The spiritual successor to System Shock and System Shock 2 is simply something that cannot be missed. Only problem is that no matter how much press this game gets it isn't going to sell very well. It will sell to fans of the other two games and the hardcore demographic, but the mainstream gamer? No way, I just don't see it. This game will probably be a good candidate for game of the year even with the other stuff coming later this year.

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
Developer: Retro Studios
Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Action
Release Date: August 27th
System(s): Wii

I don't own a Wii, but outside of Twilight Princess this would be a great game to sell a Wii to me. It's still hard to find a system out in the wild, but I have seen it on one or two occassions. The stuff coming out from E3 on this just makes it that much more interesting to me. I think this game had one of the better showings at E3.

Blue Dragon
Developer: Mistwalker/Artoon
Publisher: Microsoft Games Studios
Genre: RPG
Release Date: August 28th
System(s): 360

Finally, one of the RPGs I've been waiting for comes out over here. This game did generate some 360 sales over in Japan, but much like BioShock above I don't see this game selling a lot of copies here in the States. The E3 demo got me interested and I'd love to see more of the game when it comes out.

Developer: Incognito Studio
Publisher: Sony CEA
Genre: Online Action
Release Date: August 28th (maybe)
System(s): PS3 (Online only)

Sony showed a lot of this game at E3. It doesn't sound like there are a lot of maps in the game, although there is land-based combat along with the air combat. Also, if this is anywhere near $60 Sony is going to have a tough time selling it to a lot of people.

Upcoming Games - September

September is also a strong month. Let's get to it...

Project Gotham Racing 4
Developer: Bizarre Creations
Publisher: Microsoft Games Studios
Genre: Racing
Release Date: September 3rd
System(s): 360

Day 1 purchase for me since I've purchased every other PGR game since #2 on release day. The addition of motorcycles and weather are just pluses to this already awesome racing series. The only minus is that this game will probably come out at $59.99 instead of $49.99 like PGR3 did.

Heavenly Sword
Developer: Ninja Theory
Publisher: Sony CEA
Genre: Action
Release Date: September 4th (maybe)
System(s): PS3

This game was also shown off at E3 at length. It looks interesting, but it also looks like a combination between God of War and Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath in the gameplay between the main character and her sister that you play about 20% of the game as. I think it would have to have a really good story to get people interested in it. If I had a PS3 I might be interested, but this might also be a rental before I make a decision.

Developer: Black Box
Publisher: EA Games
Genre: Sports
Release Date: September 5th (360)/September 18th (PS3)

This game should be interesting since it is a new IP for Electronic Arts. Obviously they are going after Tony Hawk nation and the controls sound pretty intuitive. Much like many other cross-platform games it is looking like the 360 version is out before the PS3 one.

Eternal Sonata
Developer: Tri-Crescendo
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
Genre: RPG
Release Date: September 17th
System(s): 360

This RPG certainly looks interesting. It is based around real-life composer Frederic Chopin's final hours before his death in 1848. He dreams of a fairy tale universe with children that have diseases that populate it. The graphics look fantastic and the musical composition that I have heard in movies is like heaven. This is a key 3rd party RPG for the 360.

Halo 3
Developer: Bungie Studios
Publisher: Microsoft Games Studio
Genre: FPS
Release Date: September 25th
System(s): 360

So, maybe you've heard of this game? It's going to sell like hotcakes and probably sell 360 systems as well, especially for those people who have been waiting for the next game in the series.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Conferences: Who Came Out on Top?

Out of the 3 Conferences it is pretty tough to declare a winner since each company did different plans of attack. Let's look at them:

Microsoft: They chose to show off the games coming out before the end of the year and show nothing of future games, which they've chosen to show in the private meetings with the press. They had developer representatives come out and show off their games in live demonstrations - some went right (Call of Duty 4, Gears of War PC) some went wrong (Assassin's Creed, Rock Band), but in the end there was a lot more live in-game play shown than in any other conference.

Nintendo: They chose to show off their dominance in portables and consoles with numbers and chose to show off their ability to get even non-gamers to play games. They showed off two upcoming games by having Nintendo-based website writers play them: Zelda: Phantom Hourglass and Metroid 3: Corruption. They also showed off future ideas like the Zapper, Wii Fit and the fact that Mario Kart Wii is coming.

Sony: Sony chose to show off the future. They showed bits and pieces of Home and how it will interact with the world at large as well as the PS3. They showed off some interesting Playstation Network games that are coming (like EchoChrome, WarHawk and Wipeout HD) and showed games we already knew about (Ratchet & Clank: Tools of Destruction, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune) as well as a surprise (Sucker Punch's inFamous). They didn't give any sort of dates for games outside of Unreal Tournament 3 in November.

If I was to rate them in order I'd probably say it went:

1. Sony
2. Microsoft
3. Nintendo

Sony saved face from the tons of PR disasters they've had since E3 of last year, Microsoft pretty much did the same thing they always do and Nintendo is now where Sony was in the last generation: they don't have to show all their cards and can beat us with the numbers train.

Sony Conference Impressions

I want to start off by saying that Sony probably had a better E3 Conference than they have the last 2 years. It was well put together outside of the fact that Jack Tretton and Phil Harrison both relied on the teleprompter way too much.

Sony did well with showing off games, but there really wasn't anything big shown outside of a longer version of the Killzone 2 preview with more in-game play and some of the interesting Playstation Network games shown (EchoChrome, Pain, WarHawk, etc.). I am excited by Killzone 2 and the Playstation Network games, but is it enough to get me to run out and purchase a PS3? Not at this point honestly simply because they didn't given any release dates. If all the Playstation Network games are coming before the end of the year that may make me more interested.

There was also bits and pieces of Home being shown off. The best part was when Jack ran into Kaz and made a joke about "Rrrrrridge Racer". It's nice to see that Sony is not as stuffy as they usually are, but maybe this is the new outlook with Jack running things. I'm still not sold on Home, but I know what Sony is trying to do. They are trying to tap into the crowd that Nintendo is currently grabbing: those people that don't play a lot of games, but are interested in social interactivity. Will they do well with Home? We'll just have to see.

The new slimmer PSP was shown off as well and was probably the biggest announcement from Sony. It doesn't make me want to run out and get a PSP, but Sony certainly made a push to show off some of the upcoming high-profile games coming to the PSP.

The biggest negative from Sony's Conference was the fact that they didn't give any dates for any of the games they showed off outside of their timed exclusive for Unreal Tournament 3 in November. Both Microsoft and Nintendo gave dates on games and many of the games Sony showed off are not even coming this year. Plus, why the heck wasn't Lair shown? It's coming out in a month. Is it not as good of a game as they were pushing it to be? It's just really poor not to show off one of your bigger releases before the end of the year.

Probably the biggest news was that Sony confirmed that Metal Gear Solid 4 was only coming to the PS3 and a new clip was shown. Many people know how much I like the MGS games, but even this game doesn't make me want to jump and get a PS3 at $499. The only sad part of the preview shown was that it was just cutscenes shown and not actual gameplay. I think it is important that gameplay be shown off to generate more buzz. Maybe they are showing it behind closed doors, but I was impressed that they already had English voices in the game. This gives an indication that the game must be close to being done (also confirmed by the Early 2008 at the end of the clip).

In the end I think Sony came out pretty well. They are getting ripped apart by some developers about only dropping the price by $100 for the PS3 (and chances are good the 60GB version will go the way of the 20GB version when the 80GB version comes out at the $599 price point), but I think they hit everything they needed to (Lair notwithstanding).

Nintendo Conference Impressions

Nintendo's Conference ended up being much like Sony's ones back when they were the leaders. They just kind of put information out there (like Sony loved to do) showing their overpowering numbers on DS and Wii worldwide. They also relied a lot on unneeded advertising pieces (another thing Sony loved to do). One or two would have been fine, but plenty of them through the whole Conference was a bit much honestly.

The biggest news items to come out of Nintendo's showing were the dates for Super Mario Galaxy (Nov. 12th), Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Dec. 3rd). They also announced that Mario Kart Wii is coming early next year with a wheel controller as well as a new controller for shooting games like Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles and Ghost Hunter. They also had two online Nintendo-based writers show off Zelda: Phantom Hourglass for DS and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption for the Wii.

Then they carted out the upcoming Wii Fit with a new balance pad controller. It looks interesting, although I wonder how many fit games there will be. Gamespot talked about 4 of them (hula hoop, ski jumping, marble game and the soccer game shown at the Conference) in their preview.

Nintendo covered all bases in their showing. It is obvious that the Nintendo DS is as much a phenomenon as the GameBoy Advance was and has allowed more innovation in the games they make. It is also obvious that the Wii is still hot and it will be interesting to see when supply may finally outstrip demand. Nintendo has indeed sold itself well to both the regular gaming public and people that have never picked up a controller in their life. They are basking in the glow of a game playing public that Microsoft and Sony just can't touch. The question is whether they can sell enough units of games for 3rd party companies to keep making games for it. I still forsee Nintendo getting stuck in the same rut they were last generation with them making the only "must get" games for the system and no 3rd party games really standing out. That is where Microsoft and Sony shine, they have strong 3rd party support and often those sell better than even 1st party offerings.

I am still interested in picking up a Wii and DS, but I don't know if they will take more of those precious minutes that Reggie talks about at the end over something like the Xbox 360 or if I ever pick up a PS3. Nintendo is certainly leading the "new age" of video gaming while Microsoft and Sony are still leading the "established" video game structure. The "new age" is where the non-gamers are, the "established" is where people who have played games for decades are.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

PGR4 Release Month

Maybe I missed this last night, but Microsoft is saying that Project Gotham Racing 4 is going to be out in September. I am guessing it will be out before or on the same day as Halo 3. I find it interesting that the PGR series will now have the same amount of games out for it as the Gran Turismo series in about half the time. I am really looking forward to this game. It would be nice if they released this at $49.99 (the same price PGR3 was at launch), but I'm willing to bet it will be at $59.99 which is sad.

Nintendo/Sony Conferences - 9am/11:30am PT

I won't see Nintendo's Conference live, but I hope to see Sony. I really have no thoughts about what each company will show off simply because I don't own a Wii or PS3 as of yet. Sony has the history of really going out into the "fall asleep zone" with their Conferences. I hope they've learned that pounding out numbers for 20 minutes straight just isn't the way to do things. Last night Microsoft had numbers here and there, but they mostly let the games talk for themselves (the smart thing to do). Sony should do the same thing.

Unfortunately with Crazy Ken Kutaragi no longer with Sony things won't be nearly as insane probably. Kaz (Mr. "Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrridge Racer") is still around though, maybe he'll have some good zingers. Sony doesn't have a whole lot of 3rd party stuff to show off that doesn't run faster on the 360 (EA Sports games) or doesn't come out before the 360 version (Medal of Honor: Airborne for example). Yes, there is Metal Gear Solid 4 and Final Fantasy XIII to show off, but neither game will see the light of day before 2008 in my estimation. They do have one 3rd party game to show off and that would be Burnout Paradise since it is supposedly being built on PS3 first and ported to the 360 - the only EA game I know of that is doing that currently, most are being done on the 360 and ported to the PS3 (EA Sports games for instance).

Instead Sony will have to rely on their 1st party offerings such as Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune and Killzone 2. They will also probably spend most of their time talking about Home and I think it will be a tough sell to people. It sounds cool, but what are we actually going to be able to do with it? I hope they answer those questions.

On the PSP side maybe they'll show off the Slim design and give a release date and price for it. I'm not too up on PSP releases, so I don't know if there are any big games upcoming for it or not.

On the Nintendo side they also don't have a lot of top notch 3rd party offerings coming, most of their sales will come from their own internal developers. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (coming in August), Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Kart will probably be shown. They will also probably show a lineup of mini-game filled titles that are the bread and butter of Wii releases. Those games are what brings gamers of all ages together, I just don't know how long Nintendo can hold onto that lightning in this case.

On the DS side everything is rosy of course. I want to see more of Phantom Hourglass and many of the other games upcoming. Nintendo will probably also throw around numbers and they'll sit somewhere between Microsoft and Sony in how much time they spend on them.

Both Conferences should be interesting though.

Killzone 2 Video Impressions

Sony had a late night showing of Killzone 2 at some local Santa Monica eatery. The video went up on various sites during the night and I was just able to watch it. I am impressed by the gameplay video and evidently the press was shown a 15 minute controlled demo in small groups. Most of the previews are sounding promising, although no hands-on action was given to the press in attendance.

I reviewed the original Killzone and found it to be a good, but not great game. The video of the new game makes it look like what Guerilla was trying to reach in the original may be reached here. It will be interesting to see if Sony gives any hands-on action to the press over the course of the next 3 days. I am guessing this will be a key component of the Sony conference this morning, but who knows.

New Guitar Hero II DLC

Well, Activision seems to have snuck in Song Pack 4 for Guitar Hero II on Xbox Live Marketplace. Everyone will want to know how much it costs. Drumroll please...it's still at 500 points. It looks like the user outrage of the price for the first 3 packs didn't make a dent to either Activision or Microsoft (depending on who you think is at fault). The songs included are:

I Wanna Be Sedated (as made famous by the Ramones)
Smoke on the Water (as made famous by Deep Purple)
You've Got Another Thing Coming (as made famous by Judas Priest)

Sounds like some good songs (remember, I haven't played GH1), but I don't know if I am going to buy into these 500 point packs anymore.

In other news I checked this morning and my Blue Dragon demo was at about 70% and I also added the Ace Combat 6 demo (think it runs about 390MB) that went up during the night. Hopefully I'll be able to play both tonight and maybe some new stuff will be up as well. I love that new addition the Xbox got with being able to shut off the system and it still continues to download and uses low power to do so.

Blue Dragon Demo is on Xbox Live

I forgot to mention in the post-Conference diatribe that Blue Dragon's demo is now available on Xbox Live. It is 1.1GB in size, so it may take a while to download given that a lot of people are probably hitting the Marketplace with all the new stuff on it.

Hopefully I can play some and report back. I am looking forward to this game no matter how geared toward young people it looks.

Post Microsoft Conference Thoughts

Well, some of my guesses didn't come true, but many of them did. I am quite shocked they didn't show even a small bit of Fable 2 (unless I missed it), maybe it is farther off than I was hoping. They also didn't show off Bioshock, which I thought they would show just because it is a showcase game coming out in just over a month. The price cut wasn't announced and there was no timed exclusive of any of the 3 games I put up.

Outside of that I think the Conference was pretty good. Microsoft took a decidedly straight path tonight. They showed off a lot of live gameplay (Rock Band, Madden 08, Assassin's Creed, Project Gotham Racing 4, Call of Duty 4 and Gears of War PC).

Some of the above didn't come off well. The opening with Corporeal playing the Halo Theme was extremely bad. It was quite sad because they gained fame (and the invitation) from their excellent YouTube video. Maybe it was jitters because at the end of the Conference they sounded much better. Then Peter Moore goes into Rock Star with a group from Harmonix and the singer ABSOLUTELY SUCKS. That was horrendous and makes the microphone part of things that much more iffy. To add to the embarassment, Moore screws up his solo when it comes up. That was bad.

Assassin's Creed also did not show that well, although I missed a good portion of it. I've been reading messageboards and things seem to be very negative on this game when related to fighting. Ubisoft has a lot of money riding on this game and quite a few years of development on it, I hope further play (maybe a demo will come on Xbox Live this week) will reverse things.

I'd have to say Call of Duty 4 and Project Gotham Racing 4 probably had the strongest showings live. I think Gears of War on PC is going to piss a lot of people off if the additional sections aren't included in an Xbox Live DLC in the future. At least it is going to run on Windows XP as well as Vista. Maybe Microsoft is easing up on trying to make things Vista only until all the kinks of DX10 can be worked out.

EA didn't come out to announce anything, but it was stated that all the EA Sports games will run at twice the speed of last years, meaning 60fps. Hopefully there will be no slowdowns, but this is going to be a HUGE difference to the mainstream sports fans that have waited to get next gen systems. The Xbox 360 looks that much more interesting running these games at 60fps versus the PS3 versions that run at 30fps.

Other stuff shown was a new Viva Pinata party game, a short montage for Mass Effect (coming in November), a short teaser of Resident Evil 5, showings of new Xbox Live Arcade Games (2 of which are live tonight) and a montage for Lost Odyssey (no release given). I really liked the last one, it looks really good and I hope it makes its supposed end of the year release.

And of course the night ended with a WETA produced Halo short movie and a montage of gameplay from Halo 3. I think it looked awesome and it sounded like Saruman (Christopher Lee) is going to be a voice in the game. There were a few scenes with Master Chief and the Arbiter together. I wonder if we will be playing as the Arbiter again. I am going to guess Bungie will not leave us hanging in this game and chances are it will be the longest game out of the 3.

In the end I think the biggest disappointment was no announcement of a price decrease. They did show off the new Halo 3 Xbox 360 coming in September (I bet it will have the 65nm chips in it). They could still announce one at some point here. I think Microsoft feels they have a strong lineup of games through the holiday season and don't think Sony has anything to counter them until at least 2008 (we all know MGS4 and Killzone 2 aren't going to make it this year). They may watch Sony's conference tomorrow and see if there is anything to worry about. If not they may hold off on the price drops.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Microsoft Press Conference - 8:30pm PT

I always enjoy the press conferences and especially Gamespot's coverage of them. Tonight Microsoft gets things rolling (as always). My guess at what will be in the presentation:

- First Halo 3 Single-player (duh!)

- Bioshock (it is 360/Games for Windows Only)

- Project Gotham Racing 4 (they just announced there will be motorcycles in the game) along with a release date

- Footage/gameplay of Fable 2 with a possible release window

- Footage/gameplay of Mass Effect

- Footage/gameplay of Assassin's Creed

- Footage/gameplay of Splinter Cell: Conviction (360 only)

- Footage of Microsoft's RPGs from Mistwalker

- A presentation by EA with their lineup of games, announcing that NCAA and Madden are at 60fps only on the 360.

Then I figure there will be some big announcements:

- Price Cut, which is supposedly: $299 Core pack will drop to $249; the $399 Premium pack will drop to $349; and the recently released $479 Elite model will drop to $399.

- Peter will probably have a tattoo, either announcing that Rock Star is time exclusive, that Metal Gear Solid 4 is coming day and date with the PS3 version or that Assassin's Creed will be time exclusive

- Possibly some game we haven't heard of yet

Monday, July 09, 2007

E3 This Week

It's a little later (by about 2 months) and a lot more toned down (only certain companies are participating), but it is E3 time once again. This is one of those times I miss being an integral part of a gaming site. Back in the heyday of Console Gold I was always hoping to make it to E3, but work or monetary situation always held me back. I would have loved to have made one of them, but oh well. I spent E3 2003-2004 doing backbone work on the site. Ah, those were the days we used to manually edit pages before Eldon created the database that they currently use (my memory fails me, the database may have been in use at E3 2004). I think E3 2005 was the first time we were able to add things E3 related (such as screenshots and previews) to the database, but to be honest I forget as they all seem to meld together. I remember writing all the previews for the major games before the guys went to E3 and also to help them have something to build upon when they wrote their hands-on previews.

I just checked out Gaming Trend's E3 2007 page and it seems they are going to use the same type of design as they used last year. The key problem of course is that any normal user of the site would be unable to find all the work the team did for the previous E3s. The pages are in the ether or at an address no normal person would know. I know the team is working on creating a redesign (that has been promised for at least 2 years now) and I hope they really think about some of the archived stuff and making the page more user friendly than it is. Before I left there were some good plans being worked out, but that was almost 2 years ago now. I know Eldon has the talent to do such a thing and I can only guess at what is happening behind the scenes, but I get the sense the same internal problems that were there when I left are still there. Enough about that, I was just remembering fond and not so fond memories.

Now we are at E3 2007, although it is now named E3 Media and Business Summit and is relocated to Santa Monica (in an airplane hanger and hotels) instead of at the Los Angeles Convention Center. This year will be an excellent test of whether E3, in any form, is going to live on or not. There are only 39 companies at the Summit and they represent the bigger players out there (Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, EA, Activision, id Software, Take Two, etc.). The smaller players and some of the other big players decided not to attend.

It sounds like at Barker Hangar there will only be 10'x10' and 20'x20' booths for the companies. Those are pretty small, which makes the other part of the Summit all the more interesting. All the private meetings are being done at hotels around Santa Monica where the companies can obviously set up even bigger areas to show off their stuff. Also Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo will be having their yearly press conferences where things are usually announced. Outside of that all of us not at E3 will be waiting on gaming magazines and mainstream press to give us all the info because chances are none of the major games will be shown at Barker Hanger given those small dimensions of space.

The other weird thing is I don't know how many hotels are holding the private stuff. I feel sorry for the journalists out there that will be darting back and forth to different hotels to get to their meetings. At places like Evil Avatar, they have a lone person going who has 20 meetings, 6 press conferences and 5 parties currently to attend. I hope bapenguin can keep his sanity and I hope he gets to see a lot of good stuff. Gamespot is once again going to have their live show, but this time it sounds like it will be outside on the Santa Monica Pier and it sounds like they will be interviewing companies that aren't attending the event as well as the ones who are. I've always liked Gamespot's live shows, although now with Kasavin gone as the guiding light I wonder if it will be as well done as before.

I'll try to give my thoughts on E3 as the news comes out and if you find me posting anywhere on a forum it would probably be at Evil Avatar since I don't know anywhere else to post. I always enjoyed giving minute-by-minute info on CG of the press conferences, but it might be hard to do so on EA.

I just found out via Major Nelson's blog that Microsoft will be having its press conference outside at Santa Monica High School's auditorium. You can see a pic of the location on his site. Microsoft is ballsy to have something outside and hopefully the weather will cooperate with them. Microsoft is again the first one out of the gate with their press conference and they will have it on Xbox Live later on in the night. I personally will be watching it at Gamespot at 10:30pm my time tomorrow and give my impressions later tomorrow night hopefully.

If I was to guess I would say that E3 may live on given the players behind it, but I can also see more developer and publisher trips being given to journalists to get the word out. I think this is just the first step to a vastly different way of the major news going out.

This also opens up things for conventions like PAX and CES to be the go-to spots for the public to see stuff, especially the former. PAX is only going to grow as the years go by and they may need to move it to an even bigger venue outside of Washington state. We'll see though.

Movie Review: Transformers (SPOILERS)

It was nice to go see the movie I was most looking forward to this summer on my birthday (July 4th). I had heard the early good buzz on the movie before I went out of town earlier in the week, so I was pretty excited but trying to not be over-hyped about it. We ended up going to see it at the local Monster Screen (80 ft. wide/35 ft. tall) and my wife commented after the movie that it probably wouldn't have been the same had we seen it on a regular screen.

I think it is safe to say that Michael Bay did not end up "raping our childhood" (a common phrase used these days for 80s properties going to the big screen) as many people initially thought when they saw the new designs of the Transformers. In fact, I'd dare say that this movie was the best one I've seen this year. Granted, I haven't seen Live Free or Die Hard yet, but something tells me that won't be better than this. Yes, the dialog is hokey here and there, but overall it is the epitome of a summer movie: one that keeps you at the edge of your seat and keeps you entertained. On some movies this year (Pirates 3, Spider-Man 3 and Shrek 3) I've found myself looking at my watch many times, with this movie I didn't look at it once. This movie is not short by any stretch of the imagination (2 hrs., 24 min.), but I didn't feel bored once.

I have to say the best parts of the movies revolved around the Transformers themselves, mostly around Bumblebee. One of the best references to the 80s series is when Sam (Shia LeBoeuf) is looking for his car and the cars door slams into the nearby Volkswagen Beetle. Bumblebee was a Beetle in the original series, but VW wouldn't give the license to use the car, so Bumblebee was made into an old-style Camaro (and changes later to the upcoming new Camaro). I'm sure VW is kicking themselves now simply because Bumblebee is going to be the most popular of the Transformers toys. He was back in the 80s and with the upcoming Ultimate Bumblebee action figure coming (that looks awesome by the way) he can only get more popular in my estimation.

If you had told me when this was first announced that Bay could succeed at taking a loved 80s property and make it a really good and update movie I would have figured you were nuts. This is the guy whose last three movies (Pearl Harbor, Bad Boys II and The Island) all stunk and he really hasn't had a valid "good" movie since The Rock (or arguably Armageddon, although I know many hate that movie). In the end Bay proved all the naysayers wrong and did something many other people couldn't do: take a beloved 80s property and make a great modern day film about it.

Even though most of the Decepticons bite it in the end, including Megatron, I still see the possibilities for a sequel. During the credits we see Starscream flying out of orbit and probably back to Cybertron to recruit more Decepticons probably. There is still plenty of enemies to choose from, but no real leader outside of maybe Shockwave. They could always bring Unicron back and have him resurrect Megatron as Galvatron. The possibilities are endless for the Autobots as well.

In the end this movie was simply great and I hope lots of people go to see it. I think people that grew up with watching and reading the Transformers show and comics are probably going to get the most out of this movie, but I think anyone could sit down and like it.

Grade: Must See