Enjoy Alex’s unabashed Geeky Gushing!
By Alexander B. Huls
In honor of the recently finished E3, the long-awaited return of This Week in Pixels will deal solely with news gushing forth from one of the most sacred of all video gaming events. Now, for those of you who have been following E3, you may be wondering at this point: “News? What news?” Granted, you’re not far off. In the past the expo was the place for gaming developers and distributors to make shocking and major announcements. This year, the newly re-tinkered event was much more about telling us more about games we already knew about. In other words, E3 was really about making anticipated games even more anticipated. In that vein, what follows below is an amalgam of commenting on what was revealed at E3, and a representative list of what games I am excited for this year. I graciously ask for your indulgence.
As has become the case with the upcoming Guitar Hero III and Rock Band, what qualifies as exciting news is not information about the gameplay, but about the songs. That being said, it was nice to finally see what the drum set looks like, and consider me impressed. It looks simple, sure, but that’s a good thing in this case, and I can’t wait to get my drum-stick twirling hands on them. As for the songs, a few big announcements were made. We finally got to hear about some more of the songs being included in the game. Personally, I’m pretty excited about Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive”, Weezer’s “Say it Ain’t So” and Foo Fighters “Learn to Fly”. What’s really exciting though, are the announcements made regarding downloadable tracks. Not only is it being promised that 100 songs will become available online in the first year alone, the track selection is being supervised by a recently formed Music Advisory Board that is chaired by Steven Van Zandt, a.k.a. Little Steven. For those of you not familiar with this guy, he not only starred prominently on The Sopranos, he is also famous music historian/nut who runs a radio show every weekend (Little Steven’s Underground Garage), and most importantly, is a member of my favorite band, Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band. Throw in the news that for the first time full albums will become available for download (the first being The Who’s “Who’s Next”), and Rock Band is starting to look even more exciting. Sure, there is concern about how much downloadable tracks will cost (Guitar Hero II for the X360 really burned us there), but for now, I can’t wait to get my hands on this game.
Faithful readers of this column will know that I’ve been excited for this game ever since the vague rumors started emerging when Bethesda purchased the rights to the Fallout series. At E3, we finally got to see some of the work the developers have been putting into this game. To no one’s surprise, the game is being modeled on an Elder Scrolls type approach, i.e. first person, as opposed to the bird-eye view of the first two games. In this case it’s not bad a thing, because it really allows for some amazing graphics, and Bethesda has certainly proven itself and the first person perspective through its Elder Scrolls games, most notably Oblivion. Some people seem annoyed with the perspective change, but as a hard-core Fallout fan, what matters more to me is that they honor the spirit of the game. Frankly, one of the reasons I’m exited about Fallout 3 is to see the Fallout world transported to next-gen, and this is clearly the way to do it.
Furthermore, Bethesda clearly has the series’ best interests at heart. So far, it seems they’re sticking to the humorous 50’s Cold-War style, honoring the excellent detail rendering of characters, and beginning the game in a Vault. They are also accommodating those RPG fans who may miss the turned-based gameplay of the originals with a system similar to Knights of the Old Republic (i.e. being able to pause the game, and pick a string of attacks to be executed). Setting the game initially in Washington D.C. is also a cool touch, and the early development shots revealed at E3 of the decimated city are appropriately eerie and cool. Being able to hand-craft weapons, or improvise ammunition should also be a neat touch, so it definitely sounds like Bethesda is on the right track here, and given their past record, I don’t foresee that changing. The only thing I see changing is my patience to wait for this game. Supposedly the game should hit early 2008 but we’ll just have to wait and see. Till then, I should figure out if my job will allow me a leave of absence for video gaming. I am hopeful.
Resident Evil 5
Probably one of the most talked-about games at the E3, despite the fact that nothing was revealed or announced. The entire buzz stemmed from a brief, barely one-minute clip that really didn’t show anything at all, or at least not anything that provides us with any concrete answers. The thing is though, after the brilliance of Resident Evil 4 (which, in this author’s opinion, is one of the best games he has ever played), most of us are salivating so much for anything about the next installment that we’ll dive heard first into a dirty pavement like a zombie searching for scraps. Some things can be deduced from the brief trailer. It seems to be following RE4s lead, in that we are not dealing with traditional zombies here. We’ve also got another run-down lower class location, this time it appears to be somewhere in a desert-y plain, which could mean it takes place anywhere from Africa to the Middle East or South America. The graphics are nothing short of stunning. The idea, as the producer recently revealed that the game will take place in open daylight makes the game even scarier. Throw in the new element that emerging from the darkness into the direct light will temporarily blind you, thereby exposing you to whatever evil lurks nearby, is another cool addition. It may be a long wait till this game ever sees daylight (get it?!), but even though the trailer ultimately didn’t give us much, maybe we should just be grateful for what scraps we can get, and pretend their a thanksgiving feast. Based on the press’ reporting of the trailer, I think that’s happening already anyway.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
My growing distaste for George Lucas and his repeated whoring of his creative child over the years has admittedly, and unfortunately, begun to inhibit my ability to be excited about anything Star Wars related anymore. Probably the only reason I loved the Knights of the Old Republic series so much was because of the influence of its developers, not so much the license. Sure, I also dug the Jedi Knight series, but that was how many years ago now? Every Star Wars game since has failed to entice me in any way. Until now. I have to concede, Force Unleashed looks pretty damn wicked. Being Darth Vader’s apprentice is helpful. Seeing the main character force throw a lightsaber into a storm trooper dangling in the air and then force push him away with the saber still in him? Pretty cool. Seeing the main character hit the ground and send something like ten storm troopers flying in all directions, crashing into objects as glass explodes into little pieces everywhere? Even cooler. With the multitude of cool force powers being displayed in this game, and the character seemingly using different powers from second to second, if not simultaneously, the only thing I am curious about is how seamlessly the controls will be in order to accomplish it all. For now, I am content to just be amazed at how cool it all looks.
Though in many ways the trailer shown at E3 didn’t show us anything new game-wise except to reveal some minor hints regarding the plot, this trailer blew my mind for one and only one reason: the fight between Raiden and Vamp. There’s no point in my even describing it, because it wouldn’t do it justice. Just track it down on the net and have a gander. All I will say is that I think it may be the most wicked and best choreographed fight I have ever seen in anything, which includes the home-made martial arts movies I made on my six millimeter back in my youth. Few could face the physical might of Alex “The Honeydew” Blossom.