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Master Chief Revealed

Dee Yun Dee Yun: (contact-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2007-07-16 09:12:53

E3 2007 News: Master Chief is Mario - CONFIRMED!

The new format of E3 has been the source of much debate. When I was freelancing, I hated the prospect of fighting crowds of GameStop register monkeys and unshowered fanboys with mocked up credentials. The sheer volume of competing booths simultaneously blaring their wares at a jillion decibels made meaningful conversations devolve into the equivalent of text messaging, only with hand signals and key words shouted directly into peoples' ears. E3 was always meant to be an industry trade show, for the purpose of making presentations and contacts, and in that capacity, the new E3 is much improved. Where it sucks, is that the events are geographically scattered around and unorganized, causing people to miss appointments and reducing the effectiveness of media coverage.

I thought Microsoft had the worst showing, despite having, by far, the strongest product line. Their presentation played it way too safe, utterly failing to showcase the awesome avalanche of soon-to-be landmark games. They also made a huge mistake in not announcing a price drop or declaring Xbox Live a free service - they were poised to make massive gains in install base and really take control of this console generation, but apparently weren't willing to swallow any more short-term losses. The new Halo 3 SKU of the Xbox 360 also confuses me. It's a Spartan flavored unit (green & orange) with HDMI output and a 20 gig hard drive. Cool, if you're a hardcore Halo nut, but it doesn't come with a copy of Halo 3...WTF?

There are tons of 360 titles that I'm looking forward to: Stranglehold, BioShock, Ace Combat 6, Army of Two, Virtua Fighter 5, Orange Box, Brothers in Arms, Devil May Cry 4, Fallout 3, Resident Evil 5, Burnout Paradise, and on and on. Due to publishers banking on the install base, it's rapidly turning into the singular platform with the broadest access to great games. The 360 is even receiving Japanese style RPGs by in the form of Blue Dragon and Eternal Sonata. Blue Dragon is the brainchild of Hironobu Sakaguchi, father of Final Fantasy, and Eternal Sonata is inspired by the works of Frederic Chopin (?!) which immediately interests me as a lapsed pianist. Live Arcade is delivering with stuff like Bomberman (this Wednesday!) and Super Puzzle Fighter in the pipeline. However, these are the games that actually raise my pulse, in increasing order of how erect they're getting me.

Medal of Honor: Airborne - is off the radar, because it's yet another World War II shooter, but I'm really excited about it. Instead of funneling you down an artificial corridor, you can land anywhere in the massive combat zones, and assault targets of opportunity as you see fit. This kind of freedom in game design is the sort of thing that means "next-gen" to me.

Halo 3 - will be as massively awesome as its predecessors. Ignore the crappy montage trailer Microsoft released; the game is a cinematic wonder. Tons of people have played the multiplayer beta, and responded with complaints that Halo 3 doesn't look good, especially compared to Gears of War. They're idiots. Whereas Gears poured on the technical goodness, slathering on uber-hi resolution textures onto every surface, Halo 3 is all about the wide open, gorgeous art direction. Remember, Gears with its squads of four, doesn't have to deal with pushing around nearly as much action as Halo 3. When this releases, people are going to gripe about how little Gears has running around the screen at any given time. And kids, that was the beta - for the purpose of testing the game balance of weapons and maps. The actual spit shine and polish for any game is applied in the weeks before going gold; the final product will look better than the beta test.

Rock Band - will destroy Guitar Hero III. I actually dreamt about playing this game. It'll be dangerous though; now that Harmonix is hooked up with MTV, they're talking about providing hundreds of downloadable tracks down the line.

Grand Theft Auto IV - needs no hype. I don't know anyone with doubts about how amazing this game will be. It's a system seller. I list it here, because it'll move more 360s than PS3s, simply based on the price of the consoles. For new "next-gen" consumers depending on which models they look at, for the cost of a PS3, you could almost get a 360, GTA, and a Wii tossed in.

Call of Duty 4 - marks the return of Infinity Ward. If you've seen the trailers, it's the most visually impressive game in the pipeline, and Infinity Ward has always brought the tightest gameplay. This will be a no-brainer must purchase.

Mass Effect - will destroy me. It's my carefully weighed opinion that Knights of the Old Republic is the best RPG of all time. Mass Effect will blow it straight out of the water. The sort of features Bioware is talking about, all lead to greater freedom and immersion: the most vital aspects of actual role playing. (In case I just lost RPG cred with my readers, I fucking adore Chrono Trigger - but the Japanese style simply hasn't evolved to encompass strides in computer/console genuine role playing.)

Nintendo continues to anger me. I'm looking at their release schedule, and my Wii will continue to be a brick for up to four months at a time, in between games I have any remote interest in. Metroid looks like...more Metroid (which is good, just not exciting). Super Mario Galaxy shows promise, but nothing like the revolution Super Mario 64 was. Their big announcement was that they're working on Mario Kart. They haven't even begun production on Animal Crossing yet. And the only third party title that caught my eye was Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles. It's a straight up light-gun shooter that's a perfect match for the Wii.

Sony had the best show. They demonstrated that they will eventually release high quality exclusive titles. Heavenly Sword, Killzone 2, LittleBigPlanet, and Lair all look solid or better. The rub is that this material isn't sufficient, in my mind, to overcome the PlayStation 3's massive cost of entry. They addressed this somewhat with a modest price cut, but it turns out that it's really more of a clearance sale. The current model, the 60GB version, is now "only" $499, but it is no longer in production. When the current stock runs out, it's being replaced with an 80GB iteration at the old $599 price point. On top of that, they're discontinuing inclusion of the PS2 Emotion chipset, drastically affecting the quality of backward compatibility. The 80GB PS3 will rely on software emulation, and we all know how well that worked out for the Xbox 360. I'm considering eBaying my World of Warcraft account to pay for the current PS3, so I can retire my PS2. I don't want to hang onto my PS2 like I'm having to drag out my original Xbox due to shoddy backward compatibility. I'm waffling, however, because I'm still not sure I ever want to own a PS3.

I admit to being stunned by the next Gran Turismo. I'll flat out say that it's visually the best looking game...ever. Every aspect of it is just about photo-realistic, and you can even look around the fully rendered interiors of the vehicles. I have strong doubts about whether it'll match up to Forza's intense physics and gameplay, but Gran Turismo's graphics makes Forza look downright repellent.

Metal Gear Solid 4 looks exactly how I imagined it to be. The series has always been consistent: beautiful visuals, tight and tense gameplay, and wretchedly overwrought cut scenes presenting incomprehensibly inscrutable plots with delusions of allegorical grandeur. Sorry MGS fanboys; for all of your analysis and pontification, the Metal Gear Solid storyline (and I use that term very loosely) is straight up bullshit. Regardless, I have enjoyed the gameplay of every MGS, especially MGS 3 once they implemented the new camera in Subsistence. Of all the exclusive titles Sony has lined up, this is the only one I think can serve as a system seller.

There were rampant rumors that it was going to be announced for the 360, as Hideo Kojima (among other world class game designers) complained loudly and publicly about the PlayStation 3's price point and lack of install base. Konami put those to rest for now, reaffirming Metal Gear's PS3 exclusivity, but they also announced a delay in the release date. My theory is that the game is on pace, but they're waiting until the install base is larger, so they have some chance to make a profit. I wouldn't be surprised to see this title on the 360 down the line at some point, especially if Sony continues to stubbornly adhere to their current marketing strategy.

It's a good time to be a gamer. I don't think we've had this kind of richness since the days of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.

Now Playing - Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter (360)

Xbox Live Gamertag - Vawce

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