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Sean Pettibone

E3 2005 Overview Part 2

While the big-three console unveilings dominated the headlines, there was much more to be seen at E3 this year. The convention was absolutely massive as usual, filling three massive halls and several smaller satellite areas completely. The convention seems to be getting more crowded with each passing year, and hopefully, something will be done soon to make it easier for those who attend to see everything without sitting through the multi-hour waits that plagued some of the more high-profile theatre presentations. Despite these problems, this was still one of the most exciting shows of recent memory. Among the trends we spotted this year, the biggest one had to be massive online games, which are exploding worldwide. There were MMORPG's around every corner, with the big players in the field, NCSoft and SOE battling it out with their Lineage and EverQuest franchises while smaller players such as WebZen and other Korean companies tried to gain some attention during the show. 

Amongst the big publishers, EA and Ubisoft stood out from the pack once again, with impressive, broad lineups. EA showed their usual sports titles, with the next-generation Madden and FIFA making impressive showings, but the company seems to branching out into other areas as well. Two of these happen to be film tie-ins, though not what you'd expect. The Godfather trailer looks fantastic, and while the game wasn't playable on the show floor, it definitely shows a lot of promise. The other big title from EA on this front this year was From Russia With Love, with features the legendary Sean Connery reprising his role for what is looking to be one of the more interesting games of the year. EA also showcased a pair of highly anticipated racing titles, Burnout Revenge which ups the intensity and fercocity of the series to an even more extreme level and Need For Speed: Most Wanted, which returns the series to its basic roots. Ubisoft had another strong showing this year with sequels to several of their strong Clancy titles making appearances, as well as another installment in the Prince of Persia series. The third modern installment looks far less dark and oppressive than the previous games, and features more intense boss battles plus driving sequences, which should make it top most players' must-haves this year once again. Ubisoft also showed a preview of their King Kong title behind closed doors, and it finally looks like the much-anticipated Far Cry Instincts is nearing completion and should see release this year.

Another key trend at this E3 were the sheer number of film tie-ins unveiled, which at points made you the show floor feel more like a film convention than a gaming conference. Some of the huge franchises this year include Buena Vista's Chronicles of Narnia, based on the upcoming fantasy film, Batman Begins, which showcases the caped crusader and War of the Worlds, from this summer's upcoming alien invasion flick. On a similar yet satirical note, THQ's Destroy All Humans looks quite enjoyable, putting players in the invaders' shoes as they try and take over the world. Harry Potter fans will also see the boy wizard grace their consoles once again. With the hype and momentum surrounding the release of Episode III the same week, it comes as little surprise that LucasArts' booth was incredibly busy, with lines snaking through the convention center to see the company's lineup this year. Star Wars Battlefront II and the PC strategy title Empire at War were shown along with a new expansion pack for the online title Star Wars Galaxies.There were also several TV properties, the most notable being the unexpected appearance of a game based on the Keifer Sutherland espionage series 24. In addition, there were a number of titles with rappers in the starring roles with 50 Cent's Bulletproof showing the most promise.

Other developers showcased impressive lineups as well. Capcom led the show with several exciting titles including a new edition of Final Fight called Streetwise that should please brawler fans, with an completely reworked, and much more violent and adult feel to it. Fans of Devil May Cry will also want to check out the similar, yet different Devil Kings, which features impressive third person play and hyper-intense battles. Capcom also showcased a few unique titles such as Legend of Kay, featuring a kung-fun cat and the strange yet fun looking Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. Finally, the long-awaited Killer 7 was shown on the floor in playable form, and looks absolutely revolutionary and innovative. The company is also unveiled new installments in a number of franchises including Mega Man, Onimusha, Viewtiful Joe and Resident Evil titles for various systems. Fans of the company's classic titles will also be happy to learn that the company is planning on releasing a PS2 compilation of their classic games later this year as well. Konami also showcased a broad lineup of titles this year. The biggest announcement was the confirmation of Metal Gear Solid 4 for the Playstation 3. A teaser trailer didn't reveal too much aside from the fact that legendarty creator Hideo Kojima will once again helm this new installment. Before MGS4, Konami also unveiled a new remix of MGS3, called Sustinence, that should expand the original game with new content. In other Konami franchise news, Castlevania is set to return on the PS2 and Xbox this year, which refines the 3D versions released 2 years ago. These look a little bit smoother, and the series will also return to its 2D roots as well as in a new installment on the Nintendo DS. Konami also showcased several new DDR and Beatmania music titles, as well as new installments in the TMNT line. Konami's other major announcement was a new mech title called SLAI which looked quite impressive as well.

After several years in the post-Dreamcast dumps, Sega seems to have regained their footing and put on an impressive E3 show this year. With a mixture of old a new franchises, the company seems to be back on track. One of the more interesting titles on display was Shadow the Hedgehog, a spin-off of the main series that has a darker, edgier feel while retaining the classic gameplay of the original games. Sega also unveiled an impressive Phantasy Star Universe, which looks quite cool as well. Beyond established franchises, a number of impressive titles were shown including Spartan Total Warrior, which offers massive battles, Condemned, a surprisingly dark adventure title, and Auto Destruct, a next-generation racing title that should give Burnout a run for its money. Even more exciting was the theatre presentation behind closed doors, which showcased next-generation iterations of Sonic the Hedgehog, Virtua Fighter and After Burner - it was enough to make any fanboy's heart beat with happiness and excitement. Sega's arch-rival Namco also had an impressive showing this year, with the newest installment the Soul Calibur series making a solid appearance. Namco is also bringing back Pac Man this year, with the famous yellow guy returning in a number of games including a number of compilation titles for the PS2, PSP and other systems. Namco also previewed something quite a bit different from what its fans are probably accustomed to in the form of Hellgate: London, a dark, violent RPG with a FPS that showcased incredibly deep and immersive gameplay environments.

With all the big franchises and sequels present on the show floor, there was still loads of impressive, innovative software to be had. Sony's Shadow of the Collossus, Konami's Capcom's visually striking and innovative Okami, not to mention Nintendo's innovative DS lineup were some of the titles that made the biggest impact. The PC front wasn't dull this year, with several big titles such as Activision's Quake Wars, Unreal Tournament 2007, World of Warcraft and The Matrix Online making huge impressions. We were also able to see a pair of impressive titles from Mythic Enertainment, one of which was an impressive expansion for Dark Age of Camelot, and an impressive new IP called Imperator. Set in a distant future where the Roman empire never fell, this intriguing MMOPRG should definitely be one of the more impressive titles when its released next year. Also on the PC front, Blizzard showcased new content for their hit World of Warcraft, and announced a new installment in the long running StarCraft Ghost series. Of course, the biggest news on the PC front this year was id's announcement of Quake IV, which was shown behind close doors, and takes the series to a new and more terrifying dimension with amazing graphics and sounds that rival the polish seen in Doom 3.

Of course, this just scratches the surface of all the software on display this year, but the overall feel of the games on display was surprisingly excellent, quite unusual for a 'transisition' year. Most developers seemed to have solid lineups, and the diversity of titles means there should be something for everyone this year. Overall, the feeling was one of a great deal of excitement ad anticipation. The next console wars look to be the most exciting yet, with huge advances in harware promising great things. E3 2005 will definitely be remembered as one of the defining events in video game history since it served as the real beginning of the next-generation wars. While its still much too early to predict the winners and losers, this definitely felt like the beginning of a new era for electronic gaming.

- Michael Palisano

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