Thursday’s massive schedule, the final day of E3 was relatively easy. I skipped
my first appointment, with Games For Windows, because I figured it would be
little more than marketing pitch. Based on what a couple other people told me,
I was right to do so. So I went to play a little more Rock Band before my appointment with EA, which should have been
massive, but I got pulled away to Sega to see a couple promising games I’d
missed the day before…


got Rock Band covered in the last
block I filed, but my enthusiasm for the game only grows. There’s a lot to be
proven still — online in particular — and I’m still getting used to the
differences between this and Guitar Hero.
The smaller gems are harder to deal with, while the longer neck and flatter
buttons of the new guitar are much easier. I didn’t do much with the extra
controls on the Strat, and I figure I might end up doing what I often do with
the Les Paul copy I have as my real guitar — tape down the selectors and knobs
if they don’t need to be adjusted for a while.

gave a passing glance to The Simpsons
, which looks passably amusing and, a the very least, packed with a lot
more characters and jokes than even past efforts. (None of those post games
have ever been good, though, and I really don’t expect much out of this one.
I’ll be happy to be wrong.)

spent a lot more time with Skate.
I’ve enjoyed some Tony Hawk from time
to time (particularly the first PSP game, which I loved) but am not a massive
fan of the series. Too much of the same thing ad nauseum, too many button
combos. So Skate sounds like my
thing, and after playing it I’m willing to buy. The idea is basically to do for
skating what the last Fight Night did
for boxing, and it might just work. I pretty quickly got the hang of the very
simple controls: left stick to maneuver, right stick to prep for ollies and
tricks, A to jump. No grind button, no elaborate button combos. And yet I
managed to grind curbs and do a wallie combined with a few other tricks while
exploring the massive and relatively realistic city. Not having any part of the
city walled off initially is appreciated, too. The mystery is how well the
single player campaign will hold together, and if it’ll be fun enough to drive
progress through the game.

got a look at the panoply of Wii titles: the trivia game, MySims, Boogie,
Playground, etc. There was nothing purely groundbreaking, but EA is making a
big push with the Wii and all the games look very approachable from a non-gamer
perspective, but satisfying for experienced players who want something lighter
or off the hardcore track.

SEGA (again)

out there were two games I missed on Thursday, and both sounded like they
merited a trip back to Sega. First was Universe
At War: Earth Assault
, which is just about the most bad-ass looking RTS
I’ve seen. Earth has been invaded by one alien race, with a second following to
take in the spoils of the aftershock and a third that has been dormant on Earth
for centuries. Unlike so many other three-sided conflicts, each side here plays
in a totally different style. The Hierarchy are the primary invaders; they
build massive war machines with nodes that can be customized on the fly, and
they scavenge nearly any material, living or dead, to build structures. The Novus
are the followers, and they’re almost a totally digital race. They scavenge
metal (including downed enemies) and build an energy network from individual
nodes, through which they can travel. The Masari, meanwhile, build
classic-looking structures with mythical underpinnings (the game’s backstory
suggests the Masari influenced our classic myths and civilizations) and have a
light and dark side. The light energy side allows long-distance combat and
flight; the dark allows close ground fighting. The game looks absolutely
beautiful and each race is fascinating and totally distinct. I suck at almost
every RTS, but I’ll definitely be shouldering my way into the beta for this
one. Also: there will be a 360 version, so no need to upgrade your PC, as I did
for Company of Heroes.

other title was Space Siege, from
Chris Taylor of Dungeon Siege fame. A
whole new graphics engine has been built for this action RPG, which plops you
into the role of a commander who is one of the few survivors of Earth after an
alien attack. Racing to colonize a new planet with an alien infestation on
board, the game takes place in a massive ship and allows you to trade pieces of
your humanity for cybernetic combat upgrades, at the eventual cost of positive
interaction with the other humans safe on board. I like the reduction of
Dungeon’s classic party structure to a single main character, and the
cybernetic aspect is cool, too. But beyond that I wasn’t really intrigued by
the story or gameplay so this remains an unknown until more info leaks out.


not the biggest Halo fan (it mostly bores me, in fact) so this paragraph will
either be (a) refreshingly free of fanboy hype or (b) useless in its ignorance.
First impressions of the solo campaign, inasmuch as we were allowed to see it:

open than Halo 2 — less based on
corridors, which is great. Looks a lot like the first two Unreal games, but that ain’t bad. You’ve probably already seen the
graphics in action thanks to the beta, but this looked even better. Bungie has
done a nice job with the visuals and (from this one example) perhaps the level
design, as well.

more crosstalk, which in general is good. Adds a lot of atmosphere. But there’s
also a lot more humor, which doesn’t necessarily fit. The level I saw had a lot
of grunts, and they now sound more like Jawas, which is weird. Lots of high
pitched yelling and complaining. Seemed out of place to me. (Maybe they always
have and I just gave it a pass, but the handful of people I saw the demo with
also commented on it.)

ability to record film clips is nothing new in gaming, but the degree of
control here is great. Record a match, then move the camera anywhere in
playback; grab a still shot of any single frame; export edited clips. Neat
stuff. Having played some of the CHUD clan battles in the past, I know there
will be plenty of moments worth preserving, both for celebration and

that’s about all I’ve got. There are the obvious new weapon and vehicle
elements, but from a gameplay perspective it’s still Halo — fairly fast, relatively difficult on higher settings,
good-looking but not groundbreaking. I’ll have more when I get real hands on.


After Universe At War, this looks
like a very limited game. Obviously they’re getting at totally different
things, but all Halo Wars really
seems to be targeting is the extra cash in the pockets of a massive fanbase.
The units look good and what little combat I saw was in the Halo mold, but
since the Halo mythology and tech is only interesting in a fast multiplayer
context, I just don’t see the point of this game. I’d rather see a great full
mod of a more detailed, proven RTS system than an all-new game.


was the ‘big show floor’, and a lot of people were not even bothering to make
an appearance. It was too far from the main hotel cluster that made up the bulk
of the show, and many of the games on display had already been seen in detail
at various pre-E3 events.

bad, because I liked the atmosphere when I finally got to the hangar. Every
publisher had pretty much equal space, and it was great to see EA with a booth
the same size as D3 Publisher’s.

of D3, they had one game that won’t be massive, but should be seen by Krull
fans. The hero of Dark Sector has
most of the standard firearms you’d expect to see in a first person shooter,
but he also has a glaive. It’s only got three arms instead of five, but it
still looks and acts like a glaive, and is even called such in-game. Throw the
sucker to disembowel enemies, or charge it up with electricity or fire to
ignite them. Great stuff. Most of the action, glaive aside, looks pretty
typical, but there’s a vaguely painted look which I liked, and some enemies
will hit you with a grenade that massively clouds your perception, at which
point the visuals go almost to a smudged charcoal aesthetic. Again, it ain’t
amazing, but it might be worth a couple bucks.

was also where I finally got to play Guitar
Hero III
. Honestly, with Rock Band
on hand, it was hard to get over-excited about GHIII. Granted, once I was in-game I liked it as much as GH2. The song mapping wasn’t bad at all,
and in several instances actually seemed more tricky than in GH2. Of course, my first playthrough was
a Pro Face-Off against a guy. The song: ‘Knights of Cydonia’. The setting:
Expert. I got 90%, he edged me out with 91%. I’d never even heard the song
before, much less played it. I woulda taken the rematch, I swear. Also tried
the battle mode, which was kooky and might only be satisfying when the players
are really evenly matched. I played a couple where a guy and I were both on
Hard, which was above his skill and below mine. I wiped him out. Then we moved
to Medium/Expert and he took me down fast, as I was trying to learn the song
patterns. Knowing the songs, things might have gone differently. The pickups
are all based on hitting star note sequences, and as with star power, they’re
often too easy to deploy. As with Rock
, having a fairly full suite of original master tracks is delicious.
Oh, and Living Colour fans won’t be disappointed with the re-recorded ‘Cult of
Personality’. Hey guys, how about a good new record, eh?

didn’t spend a lot of other quality time with games at the Hangar. A few
minutes with the new Spider-Man game (eh) and a few with the Bleach Wii title from Sega. (Fun, if not
really playing to my sensibilities. Good party game, though, since there’s a
lot of frantic slashing.) There were a lot of people working various kiosks who
I’d only seen in passing at parties over the week, so I spent more time
catching up with contacts than actually playing games. I got there with only
two hours before the show closed – run into ten people and have a decent
conversation and that time just disappears.

end is always anticlimactic, but that’s it. I’ll follow this with a best of
show sorta wrap-up, just in case I didn’t enthuse enough about the games I
really enjoyed.