Originally published July 19, 2008 at 2:16 p.m., updated July 19, 2008 at 2:16 p.m.
The significantly-neutered E3 conference has returned to the Los Angeles Convention Center, but can it even compare to the extravaganza events of the years prior to 2006? I certainly got to play a handful of games that are highly anticipated, but it was noticeably inferior to the mayhem of E3 2006.
First of all, the press conferences didn't drop any big bombs. Microsoft announced Netflix for 360 (admittedly awesome), a new Mii-like "avatar" system, a much-different version of the Dashboard, and (most interesting to me) the announcement that the first Guns N' Roses track from Chinese Democracy will be featured on Rock Band 2.
Nintendo started things off with a cringe-inducing new spokeswoman blathering on about how bad she is at snowboarding and how much she hurt her wrist. Then we got professional jackass Shaun White gyrating around on the Wii Balance Board, a demonstration of the new MotionPlus attachment for the remote, and a surreal jam session featuring Shiguru Miyamoto and Wii Music. More on that later.
Sony didn't announce anything major in terms of hardware, but everything they showed was relatively solid. We saw an absolutely amazing demonstration of Resistance 2, a teaser for God of War III, and a new focus on developing deep PSN titles like the new Ratchet and Clank.
Once I settled in at the convention center, it was time to actually get some hands-on time with all the new titles. The first thing I wanted to try out was the new MotionPlus accessory for the Wii. It was announced that it would come with copies of Wii Sports Resort, and add an unprecedented level of control to the remote. The first minigame I tried in WSR was the Frisbee throw, and I immediately noticed a massive improvement in the motion control. Rather than only responding to broad strokes and motions, the game recognized every subtle twist, tilt, and movement of my wrist. This makes the swordfighting minigame incredibly fun, as you can truly block and attack with the sword just like we all hoped when the Wii was first announced. If a new Zelda game were to utilize the MotionPlus, it could be truly incredible.
Other than Wii Sports Resort and MotionPlus, I didn't see much from Nintendo that really impressed me. In 2006 I was blown away by new Zelda, Metroid, and Mario games, and all I really had here was three minigames on a new Wii Sports title. Wii Music in particular seemed completely pointless, which is a shame since it was supposed to be their marquee title this year. I was bored within seconds of loading up the first jam session. Unless a lot is added in terms of the fun factor, I can see Wii Music being very boring for anyone over the age of 8. Things might be a little slow for Nintendo until developers really start utilizing the MotionPlus.
Microsoft didn't have too many AAA titles either, but they did have a selection of games that could potentially be very good. Peter Molyneaux walked me through his Fable 2 demo, and it seemed like it features some interesting ideas. Halo Wars looked like a well-made console RTS from the time I spent watching it, and Left 4 Dead was an absolute blast with four players.
Sony had a really solid showing this year, with Resistance 2 and LittleBigPlanet ranking high on my list of games I played. Home also seems very fleshed-out and could be much more than a simple Mii/Second Life clone. It's also nice to see the focus on quality in PSN games, as Ratchet and Clank seemed just as well-made as its full-priced brethren.
The best game I played the whole show was probably Resident Evil 5. It had a whole lot in common with RE4, but with astounding graphics, more intense action, and far more happening onscreen at once. Capcom actually impressed me almost across the board, with Mega Man 9 and Street Fighter IV being a blast.
It felt like 1993 all over again, because I found myself having more fun with Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat (via MK vs DC) than I've had since fourth grade. I spoke with MK creator Ed Boon, and I could sense a genuine level of excitement for the game that I didn't quite get when I talked to him in 2006. The DC characters actually fit in very well with the gameplay, and you'll love running around the world with the Flash, throwing Batarangs with Batman, and shooting lasers out of your eyes with Superman.
Overall, I'd say the best games of the show were Resident Evil 4, LittleBigPlanet, and Street Fighter IV. Here's a breakdown of some of the games I played at the show.
Resident Evil 5
Street Fighter IV
Mega Man 9
Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3
Left 4 Dead
Mortal Kombat vs. DC Comics
Wii Sports Resort
Samba de Amigo Wii
Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway