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LOS ANGELES –– Thousands of journalists, gaming industry professionals and retailers descended upon the Los Angeles Convention Center last week for the 2013 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3). The three-day event offers eager attendees a chance to look at the latest and greatest in gaming as well as hardware from some of the top companies in the world as it provides a showcase for new and upcoming companies to display their products.
This year’s show was rather unique and even more anticipated than usual thanks to the showdown between Microsoft and Sony over their new consoles. Microsoft showed off the Xbox One and attempted to convince their audience that they paid attention to their critics by focusing heavily on games this time out. The impressive selection of games included a new Halo title as well as Titan Fall and other titles that will be available on multiple systems. Very telling was a collective gasp when Microsoft announced a $499 price point for the system. The presentation also confirmed the much disparaged requirement that the console must be connected to the Internet constantly and would block/limit the ability of gamers to play used games. Faced with severe backlash over this, Microsoft announced after the show that they have decided not to include those controversial features but did not promise that they would not be restored to the system at some time in the future.
By making its presentation first, Microsoft put itself at a disadvantage when Sony brought the house down with an extremely impressive reveal that took several digs at Microsoft. Sony’s presentation included a video that showed one Sony employee handing a videogame to another employee to illustrate how PlayStation 4 owners can share their old games. The PS4 will in no way block used games nor will it require an Internet connection. An extremely impressive array of titles followed including Destiny, Infamous: Second Son, Killzone: Shadow Fall, and scores of other games, many of which will also be available for other systems. However, Sony not only drilled home a large number of exclusive titles that impressed the crowd, they also declared a $399 price for the system. This is a remarkable price considering they also confirmed that the PS4 would use the faster DDR 5 memory which, according to various reports, allows the system to be approximately 50 percent more powerful than the Xbox One and allows more features to be implemented.
Opening day in Expo Hall 1 started with an incredibly moving and epic presentation for the new Call of Duty: Ghosts, which shows the power of the new gaming engine and a much darker, more intense storyline which should keep fans of the series riveted. Activision/Blizzard really impressed me with their presentations of Destiny, which is from by the makers of Halo, as well as the very impressive looking Diablo 3, which is making its way for the first time onto consoles.
During a closed-door session, I was able to get an up-close look at the new Call of Duty and see how the new graphical engine would allow for greater details of texture, terrain, detail, as well as a richer and lusher world that will add new dimensions to multiplayer and single player games. One segment showed a very intense nighttime raid on a skyscraper that was a spectacle of glass, light, flying debris and action. I felt myself drawn in as if I was watching one of the elite summer blockbusters and hanging on every second of the presentation that came from actual game play from the pending game.
Electronic Arts also had an extremely impressive display that featured several other upcoming sports games, ranging from FIFA to Madden as well as new games in the Command & Conquer and Plants vs. Zombies series. Titan Fall had closed-door sessions which showcased the very striking mix of first-person shooter and giant mech combat, which is definitely geared toward the next generation of consoles but will be reportedly available for the PC as well.
The showstopper at this booth was the extremely impressive Battlefield 4, which combined intense action was sharp graphics as well as the ability to bring vehicular combat into play. I watched a demonstration done on a multi-screen system that followed the action of several players. Several players worked the ground and exchanged gunfire with enemies in an urban setting while others use technology ranging from airships to missiles to take out enemies they encountered along the way.
If EA can launch the game without the bugs that plagued the PC version of the previous Battlefield game, then they have an extremely impressive title that could give the call of duty franchise its first real competition. Their Monday afternoon presentation also teased a very impressive-looking Star Wars game, as the company has the development rights for the series after securing them from Disney. The video was very short but showed the ice planet Hoth, a crashing snow speeder, and the foot of an A.T.A.T. walker.
Sega had an impressive display with a new entry into the Rome: Total War series, as well as the pending Company of Heroes 2. I managed to get some hands-on time with the upcoming Sega game, which is a Wii U exclusive. The game was tons of fun and harkens back to the Sega Genesis days as Sonic and three of his friends raced through a 3-D world and ever-changing landscape at blazing speeds. The cleverness of the maps, as well as the ability to see the beloved characters in action and a next-generation setting, definitely made this one to keep my eyes on.
Ubisoft had an extremely impressive display ranging from the eagerly anticipated Watch Dogs to the upcoming titles for Assassins Creed, Splinter Cell and Tom Clancy titles. Attendees also got a chance to have a brief look at South Park: the Stick of Truth, and I eagerly look forward to seeing what the final product will look like.
Warner Bros. impressed with Batman: Arkham Origins and their recently announced Mad Max titles, as well as the very impressive looking Dying Light. The game is a survival zombie game where players have a mobility that allows Parkour-like movement as they attempt to salvage items, craft weapons, and survive. The clever twist to this is not only are there numerous side quests, but come nightfall the enemies become even more dangerous and players must contend with the day and night cycle of the game and understand that the clock is always ticking.
Visiting the Konami booth showed us very impressive Castlevania and Metal Gear Solid games, which will be coming soon. It also put me dangerously close to the Capcom booth, which featured a cadre of zombies who are there to help promote Dead Rising 3. Zombies were all too happy to reach through the chain-link fence and pose with people but made getting to their other displays such as the impressive Lost Planet 3 fun as you had to make sure to pose for the ample photo opportunities that were provided.
Disney Interactive had an extremely interesting new game to show off called Disney Infinity which, like the very popular Skylander series, allows gamers to create vehicles, enemies, levels, weapons, and more using classic Disney characters, all by placing a chip on a gaming pad. My demonstration showed a player using Sully from Monsters Inc. creating a Finding Nemo based map and riding in a Dumbo ride straight out of Disneyland. The catch here was that Dumbo was equipped with rockets and was more than able to take out anything he encountered. The game is extremely family-friendly and offers tons of versatility and characters. It was also very cool to see players be able to play solo and multiplayer while having an extremely large library of Disney characters and props from which to choose.
Nintendo quietly made its presence known by showing off Mario Kart 8, as well as new entries into the Donkey Kong and Zelda series. This underscores the fact that while the Wii U has not sold as expected and has been largely a disappointment to gamers at this point, the company is still dedicated to creating new titles for the system and is not content to simply slip into irrelevance while the competition launches new consoles.
Hardware also dominated the show with impressive gear from Mad Catz, Razer, Turtle Beach and Steelseries. Gamers have plenty of options to accessorize their consoles and PCs as they look forward to playing the impressive range of games that were shown during the expo.
The show did seem a bit smaller than usual this year, as it seemed there were not as many exhibitors and attendees as in the past. This is not to say it wasn’t crowded, but I found myself able to get around quicker than I normally did and noticed that some of the booths seemed smaller and less elaborate than in past years. I also noted a much bigger decrease in booth babes and swag that is often very common at the show. That being said, I had a fantastic time getting a look at all of these exciting new products and technologies and look forward to E3