Game On: E3 2009 Offers an Advance Look at Tomorrow's Hottest Thumb-Numbing Distractions
Call it the revenge of the nerds - we don't mind, and in all likeliness, you're probably one of us anyway. Like a horde of lethal driver ants, over 41,000 rabid joystick-twiddlers descended on Los Angeles one steamy week in June, determined to strip the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) bare of gaming goodness. Embedded amongst the unwashed masses, we too braved the fracas, which - awash in neon lights, scantily-clad "greeters" and blaring cock rock - didn't just offer an exclusive peek at 2009 and 2010's hottest interactive outings... It also signaled the previously iconic, but recently low-key tradeshow's return to blissfully decadent form, and hobby's official rise to mainstream prominence. See guest appearances by Jay-Z, Eminem, Steven Spielberg and surviving Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr - including cameos by James Cameron and Yoko freaking Ono.
Having survived the four-day exercise in Hunter S. Thompson-grade gonzo surrealism (classic E3 moment: Watching Christopher "McLovin" Mintz-Plasse jamming on virtual guitar with George Harrison's son Dhani) though, fret not. We're happy to report the most exciting part of the event was actually tomorrow's hottest games themselves. Never mind announcements like Microsoft's Project Natal (a motion-sensing camera that lets you play games sans controller), Sony's new (ho-hum) gesture-tracking wand or Nintendo's (yawn) upcoming Wii Vitality Sensor. With developing trends including new ways to play (enter countless goofy plastic peripherals), online connectivity (MMOs and Internet co-op options FTW) and games for non-gamers (Your Shape, here we come), the biggest takeaway is simply this: It promises to be one hell of a banner year for digital diversions.
Still, with cash tighter than ever, thousands of free alternatives available via Web browser and enough choices for both set-top and portable platforms to make even the most hyperactive teen's head short circuit, which can't you afford to miss? Here's a handy cheat sheet to all our top picks, every one guaranteed to knock your Skechers off. For an even deeper sneak peek at each, be sure to check out www.youtube.com/digitaltrends, or see www.thevideogameexpert.com, where you can catch yours truly's misadventures live on film. Remember: What happens at E3 stays at E3. Unless, of course, you're like a certain somebody who can't keep his hands off the merchandise, or those deliciously naughty nurses...
Guitar Hero 5
(Activision; PS2, PS3, 360, Wii) - Players can now tout any combination of instruments, instantly jump in/out and enjoy survival themed- or streak-fueled RockFest multiplayer options.
New Super Mario Bros.
(Nintendo; Wii) - Takes old-school 2D platform-hopping action and adds simultaneous four-man multiplayer support, plus penguin costumes and propeller suits, promising chaotic fun for all ages.
The Beatles: Rock Band
For: Playstation3, Xbox 360, Wii
From: MTV Games, www.mtvgames.com
Experience breezy tunes like "Octopus's Garden" or the psychedelic majesty of "I Am the Walrus" via plastic microphone, guitar, bass or drum peripherals. Featuring 40+ hits, previously-unreleased Abbey Road studio chatter, downloadable tracks ("All You Need is Love"), and multi-part vocal harmonies, we're confident it won't have John Lennon rolling over in his patchouli-scented grave.
(Sony; PS3) - Controlling four characters, stop a serial killer by searching for clues, interrogating suspects and enjoying the most cinematic presentation and dialogue a high-tech thriller's ever sported.omen are still sold separately.
(2K Games; PC, PS3, 360) - As a diving-suited, drill-armed killing machine capable of altering your DNA to hurl ice/fire, battle a legion of warped, subhuman genetic engineers miles beneath the waves.
For: Playstation 2 and 3, Xbox 360, Wii
From: Activision, www.activision.com
Who needs talent? Using a custom turntable controller, keep time with exclusive mash-ups pairing Rick James and Gwen Stefani or the Beastie Boys and Foo Fighters while adding your own custom samples. Hands-on tests reveal party-starting sessions truly rock, even if we're bummed that glowsticks aren't included in every box.
Left 4 Dead 2
(Valve; PC, 360) - Takes the co-operative zombie-blasting fun deep South and introduces brighter color tones, four new survivors and chainsaws for a r-r-rrrrriveting good time.
Forza Motorsport 3
(Microsoft; Xbox 360) - Sees the leading racer shift into high gear, boosting speeds considerably, expanding to 400+ vehicles, adding crash-correcting rewinds and offering automatic driving assists for inexperienced wheelmen.
Star Wars: The Old Republic
(LucasArts; PC) - Save or subjugate the galaxy with the help of countless other players thousands of years before James Earl Jones mastered heavy breathing in this epic massively-multiplayer online outing.
Splinter Cell: Conviction
(UbiSoft; PC, 360) - Help rogue operative Sam Fisher solve his daughter's murder using new tricks like options to tag multiple targets, fire while dangling from windowsills and smack adversaries up during interrogations.
Assassin's Creed 2
For: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
From: UbiSoft, www.ubisoft.com
Live and let die in Renaissance Italy, whose stunning majesty wows as old-school assassin Ezio skulks through the shadows, swims to safety and even hops a ride on Da Vinci's flying machine. With options to disarm opponents and off targets in even more inventive ways, should satisfy anyone's thirst for blood.
The Legend Of Zeida: Spirit Tracks
(Nintendo; DS) - Cruise the countryside in a swank locomotive as legendary swordsman Link, or enjoy candy-colored handheld dungeon crawls with help from phantom allies.
Modern Warfare 2
For: PC, Playstation 3, Xbox 360
From: UbiSoft, www.ubisoft.com
If it moves, shoot it - you'll be blown away by the dazzling hi-res carnage and pyrotechnics which ensue. From blistering snowmobile chases to shootouts on Rio de Janeiro's streets, delivers a jaw-droppingly choreographed approach to running and gunning that'll leave neighbors drooling with envy when demonstrated on a 46-inch plasma.
God Of War 3
For: Playstation 3
from: Sony, www.playstation.com
Angry as ever, dual-chain-blade- and oversized gauntlet-wielding warrior Kratos now rips the wings from harpies' and gouges' Cyclops' eyes out in high definition. Massive set pieces, battles against titanic adversaries and button-mashing mayhem define the newest chapter in the brilliantly well-scripted Greek odyssey, which doesn't skimp on surprises, or eye-popping butchery.
E3 After Hours
As if overloading on video games during the day wasn't enough, we decided it'd be good to hit a couple of E3's after parties, including the release party for Forza 3, where a collection of the world's supercars -including the ones found in the actual game, like the Audi R8, Lamborghini Gallardo or those of the more streetable variety, like the Subaru STI (a SPT equipped model to be specific) - were on hand, along with plenty of demos to test out, even a virtual driving console for those brave enough to show their driving chops in front of other attendees. We also hit NOS Energy Drink's chillout lounge where we played a rough edit of the upcoming Need For Speed: Shift - and trust us, you're gonna love the features of this game.
On The Down-Load
Despite a low-key presence at the show, Nintendo's WiiWare service, which lets you download all-star remakes or bite-sized first-run originals straight to console for a fraction of typical retail costs ($5-15), should also be on fans' radar. A wealth of upcoming budget-friendly gems includes Bust-A-Move Plus, Military Madness: Nectaris and Tales of Monkey Island, all yours to enjoy right from the couch. Pants optional, natch...