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“Best of E3” Winners

Posted by g3tech on August 10, 2007

GENERAL AWARDS

Best of Show: Rock Band – MTV Games

Best Trailer: Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare – Activision

Most Innovative: LittleBigPlanet – SCEA

Best Graphics: Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare – Activision

One to Watch: Resident Evil 5 – Capcom

Best New Franchise: LittleBigPlanet- SCEA

Best Non-Game: Jam Sessions – Ubisoft

Best Music/Rhythm: Rock Band – MTV Games

Best Hardware: Xbox 360

GENRE AWARDS

Best Action/Adventure: Assassin’s Creed – Ubisoft

Best Puzzle/Parlor Game: Zak and Wik: The Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure – Capcom

Best Strategy: World in Conflict – Vivendi

Best Role-Playing: Eternal Sonata – Namco/Bandai

Best Sports: Madden NFL 08 – Electronic Arts

Best First-Person Shooter: Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare – Activision

Best-Third Person: Fracture – LucasArts

Best Online: LittleBigPlanet – SCEA

Best Racing: Burnout Paradise – Electronic Arts

Best Fighting: Virtua Fighter 5 – Sega

PLATFORM AWARDS

Best Xbox 360: Rock Band – MTV Games

Best PlayStation 3: LittleBigPlanet – SCEA

Best Nintendo Wii: Super Mario Galaxy – Nintendo

Best Nintendo DS: The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass – Nintendo

Best Sony PSP: God of War: Chains of Olympus – SCEA

Best PC: Half Life 2: The Orange Box – Electronic Arts

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Post-E3: The (New and Improved) Console Comparison

Posted by g3tech on July 21, 2007

Now that the annual video games trade show E3 is over and done with, the state of the console market is a lot easier to predict. In short, the PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii are all hitting their stride and demonstrating outstanding lineups. No matter which machine you favor, you’re going to be torn between decisions. But for once, it’s easy for us to be optimistic about the future of all three major platforms. It’s looking to be an epic year indeed — even for the PS3.

Trimming $100 off the $599 price of the PlayStation 3 was starting to look like Sony’s first smart move this generation, but we really should have known better. After a flurry of mixed messages and rumors towards the end of E3 2007, details emerged that the price cut was more of a discount on end-of-line stock, and will run out within a few months. One step forward, one step back.

Sense isn’t something that’s been in ample supply with the PlayStation 3’s marketing campaign thus far. That’s a shame, because E3 saw the machine’s upcoming game selection really start to impress. Sony dished up exactly what we were hoping to see — a catalog of impressive, original, and tantalizing titles that, for the first time, really make the machine look like a good deal. LittleBigPlanet, Killzone 2 (for real this time), and Infamous all showed well, and the PS3 is also set to receive cross-platform sure-fire hits, Madden 08 and Grand Theft Auto IV.

Meanwhile, Microsoft’s games division could be forgiven for looking a little smug. Unusually, the company chose to focus its E3 presentation almost entirely on games coming out in the next six months rather than showing off flashy pre-rendered demos of games that could be years away. Given the lineup the 360 has to look forward to over the next six months, their confidence looks to be justified.

Chief among the holiday big hitters for the Xbox is, you guessed it, Halo 3. Can there really be any doubt that this huge first-person shooter is all set to post record-breaking sales, both for the game itself and for Xbox 360 hardware? It’s lining up to be another good year for the machine, and for Microsoft’s bottom line.

Backing Halo 3 is a strong selection of exclusives like the fantastic-looking Mass Effect. Of course, it’s sharing a number of big releases with the PS3, like Grand Theft Auto IV and Assassin’s Creed — and the 360’s decidedly slimmer price tag will make the machine look like a better buy for those looking to enter the next-gen market. Lest we forget, when the 60 GB bargains are gone, it’ll once again be possible to pick up an Xbox 360 and a Wii for less than the price of a PS3.

Assuming you can actually find a Wii, that is. If you’ve tried looking for one lately, you’ll know Nintendo’s budget-priced and innovative machine is still flying off the shelves. Reaching out to those traditionally untouched by video game marketing is undoubtedly paying off for the company. How many Wiis would have sold if Nintendo had been able to manufacture them fast enough to keep up with demand, we wonder? As Wii Fit demonstrates, this initial success is just the start, and if Nintendo can really deliver on the vast mainstream appeal of that title, you’re still not going to find Wiis on shelves any time soon.

Somewhat ironically, hardcore Nintendo fans are starting to wonder about the direction of the system. Recent Wii releases have tended to favor minigames and family-friendly hijinks in preference to the deep and multi-layered experiences that characterize the company’s classic franchises. That’s all about to change this year, though, with the return of three key Nintendo series: Super Mario Galaxy, Super Smash Brothers Brawl, and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. All are looking superb, and all will be out before 2008 rolls around.

But which console should you buy? If you positively must be playing right now, the choice is really between the Wii and Xbox 360. Nintendo’s kit is perfect for parties and family-friendly fun; the Xbox has its share of these types of games, too, but its specialty is satisfying gamers craving the high-end and hardcore. But if you’re more of a forward-thinking type, now is undoubtedly a good time to snag a bargain PS3 and wait for those awesome exclusives to start rolling in. Whichever you choose, you won’t lose out.

————————

Sony PlayStation 3

Released: Nov 2006

Price: $499

Hardware:
* Blu-Ray optical drive
* 60 GB hard drive
* Memory card reader
* Wireless network support
* Tilt-sensitive wireless controllers

Get it?
* Best high-def support
* Tantalizing exclusives

Forget it?
* Most expensive
* Current software library still limited

Top 2007 PS3 Exclusives:
* Heavenly Sword
* Ratchet and Clank Future
* Haze
* Lair

In a sentence: We’re withholding judgment on the price cut until its long term status is clear, but the PS3 is looking more and more desirable by the day.

—————–

Microsoft Xbox 360

Released: Nov 2005

Price: $299 (Core), $399 (Pro), $479 (Elite)

Hardware:
* Varies with package.
* Optional 20 GB, 120 GB hard drives
* Optional HD-DVD drive for high-def movies
* Optional wireless controllers
* Optional wi-fi networking

Get it?
* Superb online functions
* Broadest software selection
* Strong hardware capabilities

Forget it?
* Lacks genuinely original software titles

Top 2007 X360 Exclusives:
* Halo 3
* Project Gotham 4
* Mass Effect
* Eternal Sonata

In a sentence: The Xbox 360 is really showing its maturity this year, bringing a nigh-unbeatable lineup of promising games to holiday shoppers.

———————

Nintendo Wii

Released: Nov 2006

Price: $249

Hardware:
* Motion sensitive controllers
* Wi-fi networking
* SD card reader for photos and saves
* Gamecube controller ports

Get it?
* Original software library
* Classic Nintendo franchises, past and present
* Unique control method irresistible to non-gamers
* Strong multiplayer and family library

Forget it?
* Inferior graphics and sound
* Misses out on most big cross-platform releases
* Full-featured online games still a pipedream

Top 2007 Wii Exclusives:
* Super Smash Bros. Brawl
* Metroid Prime 3
* Super Mario Galaxy
* Nights: Journey of Dreams

In a sentence: The only place to get that unique Nintendo experience, the Wii is poised to captivate even more households this year.

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E3 Trailers

Posted by g3tech on July 14, 2007

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune

Infamous

Soulcalibur IV

Heavenly Sword

Wii Fit

Call of Duty 4

Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction

Unreal Tournament 3

Metal Gear Solid 4

Killzone 2

Resident Evil 5

Simpsons

Project Gotham Racing 4

Bioshock

Halo 3

Halo Wars

Mass Effect

Viva Pinata: Party Animals

Lost Odyssey

Madden 08

NiGHTS: Journey of Dream

Haze

Soul Calibur Legends

Age of Conan

Call of Duty 4

Speedball 2

Stranglehold

Harry Potter and The Order of The Phoenix

Army of Two

Mario Strikers Charged

Orange Box

Rock Band

Super Mario Galaxy

Boogie

Crash of The Titans

Crysis

Donkey Kong Barrel Blast

Fire Emblem

Metroid 3: Corruption

Mysims

Skate

Timeshift

Guitar Hero III

Lair

Silent Hill Origins

Silent Hill 5

Medal of Honor Airborne

Pain

LittleBigPlanet

Enemy Territory Quake Wars

Brothers in Arms Hells Highway

Echochrome

Burnout Paradise

Fatal Inertia

NHL 08

Stuntman Ignition

Tony Hawks Proving Ground

Fracture

The Last Remnant

Dynasty Warriors Gundam

Spiderman: Friend or Foe

Mercenaries 2: World In Flames

Gears of War (PC)

Two Worlds

Too Human

The Bourne Conspiracy

NCAA 08

NBA 08

Frontlines Fuel of War

Eternal Sonata

Bee Movie Game

Beautiful Katamari

Assassins Creed

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The Top 10 Things Learnt At E3 2007

Posted by g3tech on July 14, 2007

1. It will be the best holiday ever.

…this is according to Microsoft honcho Peter Moore, but we’re not going to argue. The bulk of the games shown at E3 07 are due out within the next six months, including a dizzying array of triple-A blockbusters. No matter what console you own or plan on buying this holiday, there’s bound to be a game or five easily worth your Christmas bonus.

2. Sony fights back.

Sony made quite an impression with their quietly confident press conference. It was the favorite among those who also attended Microsoft and Nintendo’s briefings, and the positive reception has already helped turn back some of the backlash against Sony and the PS3.

While the other two hardware companies focused more on numbers and describing their influence, Sony unveiled several new games, like InFamous from Sly Cooper creators Sucker Punch and intriguing new PlayStation Network games like Echochrome and Everyday Shooter. Sony seems to realize that great games are the fasted way to legitimize the PS3, and steps have obviously been taken to deliver them.

In addition to obvious first-party exclusives (Gran Turismo, Heavenly Sword, Warhawk), Sony came out ahead of Microsoft and Nintendo with respect to third-party exclusivity. The company has made a deal with popular PC MMO company NCSoft (Guild Wars, City of Heroes) to create exclusive content for the PS3. Could we see Tabula Rasa or a brand new MMO property on the system soon? Unreal Tournament III will also make its console debut only on the PS3 (an Xbox 360 version will eventually follow) and for the time being Konami’s Metal Gear Solid 4 is also a Sony exclusive.

The only real letdown was the unveiling of the new PSP. Now, the new system is actually quite nice. It’s thinner, lighter and powered by a better battery than the original, though it lacks the one feature many hoped for: a second analog stick. But bundled with a game and 1GB memory stick for $199, the October release is a much better buy than the first generation handheld, and could provide crucial competition for Nintendo’s DS.

3. Nintendo keeps it casual.

Riding high on the runaway success of the Wii and the steady dominance of the DS, Nintendo came into the show with little left to prove. While Sony and Microsoft slugged it out over cutting-edge third-party exclusives, the company that Mario built is keeping its bright, cheery eyes on the prize: your mom’s wallet. Casual fare like Brain Age 2 and Flash Focus aim to make you a better person, not a better gamer, and the just-announced Check Mii Out Channel blends the social networking of Facebook with a somewhat unnerving Mii avatar version of “Hot or Not.”

But Nintendo biggest hopes rest on the scales of Wii Fit. Targeting the expanding waistlines of the expansive Wii audience could be the company’s shrewdest move yet, provided people are content working out when it isn’t dolled up in Dance Dance Revolution clothing. So long as obesity remains a hot-button issue, expect Wii Fit to remain a hot-button game.

Really the only disappointment from Nintendo’s camp was the limited showing of new software. While first-party behemoths like The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Super Mario Galaxy are destined for success, all were already announced and shown at last year’s show. Mario Kart Wii is a nice addition, but what about more new games for that huge mascot roster? Starfox, Kirby, Luigi and Donkey Kong must be getting a little lonely warming the bench.

Still, E3 07 was another good for Nintendo. So long as they start getting some Wiis on (and then immediately off) retail shelves, consider it a safe bet that the beloved industry workhorse will continue its staggering ascent to the top of the pop culture mountain.

4. Microsoft lays low.

E3 07 started off on a very quiet note, thanks in large part to Microsoft’s unwillingness to divulge much new information about much of anything. Xbox 360 price drop? Nope. A fourth version of the console? Sorta, if you count the Halo 3 special edition, which you probably shouldn’t. We’re happy to hear about a few new games like Viva Pinata: Party Animals and the PC port of Gears of War, but that’s not exactly earth-shattering stuff. Suffice to say, Xbox fans who watched the press event on Xbox Live were left scratching their virtual heads.

However, look a little closer and you’ll see a platform entering its prime. Games like Mass Effect demonstrate a combination of depth, detail and polish simply not found on the other systems. Microsoft is gaining ground left and right, enjoying a growing user base and a flourishing online marketplace. Why show your cards in the middle of the game?

Because everyone’s dying to see what you’re holding, that’s why. The real losers are the fans of the system hoping to get a peek at the first-party future of their newly-warranteed rig, though they’re about to forget about that pain entirely when a certain first-person shooter washes the canvas clean in a few months. Maybe we’ll see more fight from Microsoft once they finish that one.

5. Potent portables.

With the introduction of a new PSP and Nintendo’s continued commitment to games on the go, the portable space is really heating up for the 2007 holiday season. Here are three games to watch from each platform.

Nintendo DS

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass

Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings

Brain Age 2: More Training In Minutes A Day

Sony PSP

God of War: Chains of Olympus

Syphon Filter: Logan’s Shadow

Star Wars Battlefront: Renegade Squadron

6. Rock Band hits all the right notes.

We knew something big was coming when the stars aligned around EA, MTV and Guitar Hero developer Harmonix, but the result of their combined musical prowess, Rock Band, literally blew everything else off the stage. Sterile meeting rooms became sold out arenas as waves of journalists waited patiently to test their “metal” on the guitar, bass, vocals and – drum roll please – uh, drums. Without question, it was the talk of the show.

But the game itself is just the beginning of the jam. During the show EA announced heavy-metal powerhouse Metallica’s contribution of not only the seminal track “Enter Sandman,” but also access to a selection of other songs from the band’s lengthy catalog. Those will be distributed digitally alongside hundreds of other tracks.

And that’s not all. Fresh from his questionable death on The Sopranos, Little Stevie Van Zandt (otherwise known as Tony’s consigliore Sil) has signed on to chair the newly formed Rock Band Music Advisory Board, which will help guide the selection of weekly downloadable songs and, for the first time, full albums.

Will this groundbreaking partnership between industry giants pay off? If the incredibly fun, accessible gameplay is any indication, take our word for it and don’t stop believin’.

7. The PS3 comes home.

One of the main highlights of Sony’s showing this year was Home. Introduced in March at the Game Developer’s Conference, the online service is, in some ways, Sony’s way of combining The Sims and Xbox Live. Now in beta with many user suggestions and comments reflected weekly in updates, Home is becoming a very interesting take on the online social space.

The basics are simple: visualize your Home space through powerful graphics tools that build high-tech mountain retreats or serene Japanese structures for your digital avatar to occupy. It’s a 3D version of the basic online space Microsoft has dominated with Xbox live, and theoretically PS3 users will be able to interact not only with each other, but seamlessly with their digital worlds.

For instance, you can now gather friends together in your digital pad instead of an online game lobby to start a multiplayer session. Game titles can be launched directly from the Home interface. You can also access digital media like photos and video clips.

Another neat feature of Home is the ability to snap a photo with your cell phone and upload it directly to a virtual home environment. Unfortunately, you’ll have to have a compatible Sony Ericsson phone to do so, but in the future perhaps we’ll be able to download a client for other cell phones that will interact with Home.

It’s not such an outrageous idea. Phil Harrison (Sony’s head of worldwide game development) and Sony have obviously taken the popularity of MySpace and FaceBook to heart. With the option to create your own ‘social networking’ web page based on your Home content they’re very keen on creating not only a virtual space for your PS3 games and media, but through which you could keep in touch with anyone via the web. It’s a much more ambitious project than Xbox Live. Now we just have to see if Sony can follow through, and if the masses take to more complex digital living.

8. Quirky is the new cool.

When we first saw the original Katamari Damacy at E3 several years ago, we knew immediately that it would have an effect on the American game market. In fact, the runaway (or is that rollaway?) success of the Katamari series and games like Loco Roco has created a whole ‘quirky’ subgenre. This year’s E3 sees the small but influential corner of gaming populated by many offbeat new titles hitting a variety of platforms.

Surprisingly, Sony’s PlayStation Network is the home for several of the standouts. We’ve loved LittleBigPlanet from the moment we first encountered it at GDC. Now that we’ve had a chance to play the irrepressibly cute and bouncy game, it’s obviously more than a physics showcase, and with the ability to endlessly customize characters and create worlds, it’s one of the coolest game building tools to arrive in a long time.

The PlayStation network will also host Echochrome, which looks like the old-school classic Lode Runner crossed with M.C. Escher’s art. You rotate worlds drawn in simple but attractive black and white lines to help a little hero navigate physically impossible puzzles. Everyday Shooter, meanwhile, is a brilliant mix of Geometry Wars style shooting, vibrant line art and music.

Dewey’s Adventure for the Wii may be a pretty obvious take on Sony’s Loco Roco, but it’s still fun, and offers a kid-friendly game space with a focus on an intrepid drop of water, which can be frozen, liquefied or changed into gas to navigate levels. If you want a more legit follow-up to the blobby PSP game, there’s Patapon (another PSP title) which in a short introductory video looks like Loco Roco infected with Worms gameplay. THQ brings the fascination with goo home in De Blob, which mixes Katamari Damacy gameplay with a coloring book — roll up colored characters then literally paint the town to restore vibrancy to a black and white world. Quirk has finally come full circle.

9. The end of Metal Gear?

We’ve heard it before. Hideo Kojima, the revered creator of Metal Gear, wants to finish the series, retire anti-hero Solid Snake and move on to other projects. Years ago we thought Snake Eater might be the last chapter, but in 2006 we were blasted with the trailer for Metal Gear Solid 4, with Kojima in full form.

The question for people who don’t follow the series is probably, ‘OK, it’s over. So what?’ But for the gaming universe, the end of Metal Gear is akin to Marvel Comics announcing that the X-Men are done. Not only because both are fiercely loved by a devoted fanbase. No, Metal Gear and X-Men have a kinship that go beyond fandom. Both have a wide roster of singularly strange and frightening characters, and both series are constructed on a series of labyrinthine plot lines that take a reference manual to decode.

The density of Metal Gear’s plot is what makes the potential final chapter so interesting. Kojima promised that Solid Snake’s story would end and that all secrets would be revealed, answering all of the many lingering questions. That means a story that effectively began over twenty years ago might finally be wrapped up, leaving an empty space for a new bizarre mythology to preoccupy gamers.

With efforts leaning more towards storytelling than gameplay innovation, Hideo Kojima has arguably been lapped by Ubisoft and Tom Clancy in the stealth department, but the end of the series would be a great time for Kojima to unleash a last masterstroke of stealth and action. We can’t wait to see what he comes up with.

10. And that’s not all, folks…

The best part of E3 is the secret part, the behind-closed doors, hush-hush looks at games that won’t be due out for at least a solid year. Sure, it’s a lot of hype, but if your pulse doesn’t quicken when you hear about these upcoming heavyweights, you might want to see a doctor. Keep an eye on:

Fallout 3

Resident Evil 5

Killzone 2

Starcraft II

Mario Kart Wii

LittleBigPlanet

The Agency

Infamous

Silent Hill 5

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed

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PS3 Price Drop Only Temporary

Posted by g3tech on July 14, 2007

Could the welcomed $100 price cut for Sony’s PlayStation 3 be temporary? Reported comments from multiple Sony execs in online publications Gamesindustry.biz and Joystiq.com indicate so. The current PlayStation 3 model, which is equipped with a 60 GB hard drive, certainly has received a price cut to $499 and is available at that price right now – but Sony’s recent statements indicate that model is no longer in production.

If that’s accurate, once those sell out, which could take as little as 1-3 months, the only PlayStation 3 model that’s available will be the just-announced premium version. Going on sale in August and equipped with an 80 GB hard drive and racing game Motorstorm, it’ll set purchasers back $599. Barring further price cuts, holiday shoppers would potentially still be faced with a $600 PS3, although they’d be getting more for their money.

What about the PSP? Will it be phased out as well? Or receive its own price drop?

The newly designed PSP is going to replace the original PSP design starting in September with the $169.99 PSP Core Pack and the $199.99 Daxter PSP Entertainment Pack.

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Microsoft (Xbox) Price Cut Rumours?

Posted by g3tech on July 13, 2007

After Sony chopped $100 off the price of the PlayStation 3 over the weekend, numerous industry analysts are predicting Microsoft will make a similar move at its press conference later today. Expectations over just how much cheaper the Xbox 360 might become vary, but most commentators are predicting between a $50 and $100 drop across some or all of the Xbox retail packages.

Microsoft’s press conference kicks off at 8:30 PM PDT, so there isn’t too much longer to wait.

What you won’t see, though, are a few photos that were mysteriously removed from the page earlier today. Close-up pictures of the stage area during a rehearsal, they clearly showed four Xboxes arranged in a line: two white, one black (an Elite model) and one…grey? Could it be a new addition to the Xbox lineup: perhaps a new budget model, or the version with built-in internet TV functions that’s been discussed by Microsoft in the past? Maybe it’s just a trick of the light. We’ll find out all later on today — and we’ll have all the news here as soon as the conference wraps up.

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E3 – Day Two (cont.): Sony

Posted by g3tech on July 12, 2007

Could Sony have been in a weaker position going into E3? Lacking in excitement, floundering in the charts and on the back foot after a rushed price cut announcement, all was not well in the PlayStation 3 camp, and the less said about the underperforming PSP, the better. But following today’s surprisingly strong press conference, where Sony detailed its lineup of games for both platforms in detail, it’s become much easier to be optimistic about the PS3’s future. Read on for all the details.

First out of the gate was Sony’s widely predicted redesign of the PSP hardware. Now 19% slimmer, 33% lighter and with improved battery life and faster loading times, the redesign doesn’t change the ergonomics of the machine too much, but no doubt the reduced size will improve its portability. For when you’re at home, the new machine includes a video-out port, so you can play your PSP games (or movies) on your big screen. It’ll go on sale later this year.

Somewhat bizarrely, Sony’s next guest was Star Wars stalwart Chewbacca, who strode on stage clutching a slimline PSP which bore a natty white finish and a portrait of Darth Vader on the back. It’ll go on sale alongside the standard black model, packaged with a copy of the PSP exclusive Battlefront: Renegade Squadron. Sony also announced an Ice White PSP model, which will sell as part of a $199.99 Entertainment Pack together with a 1 GB memory stick, hit game Daxter, and a set of Family Guy episodes on UMD.

Next up was one of the conference’s new announcements: a minimalist puzzle game called Echochrome. Presented in a simple black-and-white wireframe, it depicts a small artists’ modeling figure walking across a complex wireframe object which the player can rotate through three dimensions to keep him heading in the right direction. Crisp and graceful, it’ll be available on PS3 through the PlayStation Network and on the PSP via a conventional, in-store release by next March.

More announcements followed, the first of which (in “eye-blistering” 1080p resolution and at 60 frames per second) is the next in the Wipeout series of futuristic racers, Wipeout HD. An all-new game follows: called Pain, it was just shown as a trailer, but seemed to consist of flipping a poor unfortunate man into a variety of realistically rendered, physically accurate painful collisions with assorted road-going vehicles. Sold.

Sony exec Phil Harrison followed up the videos with a look at the latest developments to Sony’s PlayStation 3 online social world, Home. Harrison snaps a picture of the crowd with his cellphone, then uploads it to his space in Home, where it appears, framed, on the wall. Next, he snaps another picture of his Home avatar standing next to the crowd shot, and sends that to a new social networking website Sony will launch with Home. It’s an impressively seamless system.

Always a crowd-pleaser, Sony’s next big unveiling is a new trailer for stealth action game Metal Gear Solid IV. Series creator Hideo Kojima introduced the trailer himself, and took the opportunity to let the crowd know that not only would this be the last outing for series star Snake, but also the last Metal Gear game that will boast his involvement. “All the story plot, the characters, the mysteries, will be revealed,” he said, and segued into a superb trailer that first depicted Snake – voiced, as always, by David Hayter – slinking through a bustling military depot. It was followed by a stunningly epic hand-to-hand battle between MGS icon Raiden and an unknown (but totally badass) foe.

That wasn’t the only impressive trailer Sony had to show. The rapt crowd was also treated to new footage of Heavenly Sword, Folklore, social platformer LittleBigPlanet (showing a brief glimpse of the game’s intuitive level creation facilities) and Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, NaughtyDog’s detailed third-person action title.

The great games kept coming. Next, a new announcement: Infamous, from Sly Cooper developer Suckerpunch, in which you “choose your path between superhero and antihero”. Looked like Crackdown to us, but with an ultrarealistic, contemporary look and hints of a far, far darker plot.

From Infamous, Sony moved onto another, more famous name: the next in the Gran Turismo series. Called Gran Turismo 5: Prologue, it’ll release as a download ahead of GT5’s full release, and it’s looking gorgeous.

Finally, Harrison showed off new Killzone 2 footage, introducing it with an assurance that everything shown was real-time gameplay footage. (Sony took considerable criticism after Killzone 2 footage shown at last year’s E3, purported to be in-game scenes, turned out to be pre-generated canned renders.) If this is how Killzone 2 is really going to look, sign us up.

Could Sony’s E3 kickoff have gone any better? It’s hard to see how: only the rumored new rumble-equipped controller failed to make a showing, and the portfolio of PS3 games on show were world-class. At least on the evidence of today’s performance, Sony’s back in the race.

Posted in Battlefront: Renegade Squadron, Computers, E3, Echochrome, Folklore, Gran Turismo 5: Prologue, Heavenly Sword, Infamous, Killzone 2, LittleBigPlanet, Metal Gear Solid 4, Pain, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, Wipeout HD | Leave a Comment »

E3 – Day Two: Nintendo

Posted by g3tech on July 12, 2007

This morning’s Nintendo press conference in Santa Monica, CA served to underline what we all knew about the Wii: it’s setting its sights firmly on expanding the appeal of video games to older people and women, and it’s lining up a portfolio of cool new toys to help it achieve just that. Chief among them, and unveiled today by Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime, is a novel Balance Board controller together with a purpose-designed fitness game that aim to help Wii owners lose weight.

Nintendo’s Balance Board, a slim, wireless white pad that looks more like a set of bathroom scales than a conventional videogame controller, does more than just measure your weight (although it does that, too). It can detect the exact position of your body’s center of gravity, and measure how it shifts as you move your limbs or lean.

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How’s that going to help you shed the pounds? Wii Fit, a new Nintendo title that’ll ship with the Balance Board, tracks your body mass index over time, and offers over 40 minigames that look guaranteed to get you sweating. Fils-Aime showed the Balance Board being used for yoga, step aerobics, balance training, and raw strength exercises like push-ups. No release date was mentioned, but it’s sure to sell like hotcakes — and you thought the Wii was hard to find right now.

Fils-Aime also showed off a brace of Wii remote attachments that’ll be bundled into games releasing later this year. One, the Wii Zapper, turns your Wii remote and nunchuk into a lightgun-like controller, and will release with zombie shooter Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles – while the other, a small plastic wheel, will launch along with Mario Kart Wii.

Hang on, what was that? Yes, in a move sure to put smiles on the faces of longtime Nintendo fans, the Mario Kart series is coming to the Wii. Only shown in video form, it’s scheduled to release in the first quarter of next year, but will include online play with an as-yet undisclosed (but presumably large) number of simultaneous players. “This is not your father’s Mario Kart,” Fils-Aime said.

In another move that’ll please Wii owners looking for a deeper online experience, Nintendo announced the Wii version of Medal of Honor will include an online mode supporting up to 32 players. It’ll support the newly-announced Wii Zapper, too.

On Nintendo’s portable DS – the most popular video game system on the planet, Fils-Aime says – the conference brought fresh insight into the touchscreen controls of Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. You’ll be able to draw on the screen to indicate a path for your weapons, or stretch out a line with the stylus to create tightropes and drag objects closer to you.

Fils-Aime also confirmed Nintendo big hitters Super Mario Galaxy and Super Smash Bros. Brawl will both launch this year, on November 12 and December 3 respectively, and demonstrated Metroid Prime 3‘s controls – which, incidentally, doesn’t look to be using the Wii Zapper.

Nintendo’s conference ended with Fils-Aime and star Nintendo game designer Shigeru Miyamoto facing off in Wii Fit, playing head-to-head in a soccer ball heading tournament. Thanks to the balance-sensitive pad, just leaning left or right is enough to line up and head the ball. (Fils-Aime won handily, by the way.) We’re lead to wonder how well the Balance Board would work in a skateboarding or snowboarding game. Whether or not Wii Fit can capture the imagination of the vast contingent of Nintendo fans remains to be seen, but it’s absolutely perfect for the rapidly burgeoning fitness game market.

Posted in Computers, E3, Games, Gaming, Internet, Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, Mario Cart Wii, Medal of Honor, Metroid Prime 3, Nintendo, Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles, Super Mario Galaxy, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Technology, Wii Fit | Leave a Comment »

E3 – Day One: Microsoft

Posted by g3tech on July 11, 2007

Boasting strong showings for Halo 3, Assassin’s Creed, Call of Duty 4 and Resident Evil 5, tonight’s Microsoft press conference in Santa Monica demonstrated a solid Xbox 360 line-up for the rest of the year, but failed to deliver the shocking hardware or software unveilings that often characterize E3 briefings.

Host and Microsoft VP Peter Moore began the evening’s presentation by promising that every game shown that night would be releasing before the end of the year, and proceeded to show the eager crowd exactly what we can expect to be playing before 2008 rolls around.

Confirming that Mass Effect will ship this November, Moore opened with a trailer showing gameplay footage from this eagerly anticipated Bioware-developed action RPG. Thanks to its history with the Knights of the Old Republic series, Bioware’s console RPG credentials are second to none, and the new trailer certainly put smiles on plenty of faces.

Moore followed the Mass Effect trailer with a run-down of the games we can expect on Xbox Live Arcade over the next few months. Most of the titles he announced were already expected, but there was one surprise: the original Sonic and Golden Axe games went up on Xbox Live Marketplace tonight and are already available for download. More sure-fire hits will follow over the months to come, with classic Hudson multiplayer action game Bomberman and old-school Bungie FPS Marathon (which shares roots with Halo) chief among them.

No doubt eyeing the smash success Nintendo has had playing to a casual crowd unfamiliar with videogame conventions, Microsoft’s Jeff Bell – in one of the evening’s only truly unexpected announcements – unveiled a new Xbox Live version of the successful “Scene It” board game. Scene It games, if you’re not familiar with the series, are trivia games with accompanying DVDs – and the Xbox 360 version will ship with four friendly-looking controllers bearing big red buttons and little else, all for the regular price of a 360 game.

On the PC front, a decent portion of the evening was given over to discussing the future of Microsoft’s Games for Windows initiative. Surprising no-one, Gears of War is coming to the PC this year, complete with content that looks suspiciously like it’s made up of all the stuff Epic wanted to ship in the original 360 version but couldn’t. Lead designer Cliff Bleszinsky demonstrated one of the new fights, against the colossus-like “Brumak” creature that made a brief appearance in the 360 game. Viva Pinata, Rare’s half-gardening, half-management game, is also on its way to PC.

Call of Duty 4 also made its debut at the press conference, and impressed many attendees with its graphical realism and sense of atmosphere. Project Gotham Racing 4 was also confirmed as releasing this year, and was demoed live on the amphitheater’s vast screen: it’ll feature bikes as well as cars, for the first time in the series’ history.

Assassin’s Creed also raised plenty of eyebrows, although the rough edges in the demo made some wonder quite how close it is to being ready, especially given its fast-approaching November release date. Producer Jade Raymond took us through a complete encounter in the ancient city of Jerusalem, beginning with a dramatic leap from the rooftops into a haycart in a crowded square (“Luckily, no-one saw that,” she quipped) and ending with an equally dramatic chase sequence across rooftops and through the game’s bustling streets.

Despite Moore’s earlier promise, one game on show tonight won’t be coming out this year. Resident Evil 5, demonstrated in the form of a brief trailer that’ll no doubt be available here very shortly, appears to take place in Africa and has a feel that recalls Black Hawk Down, continuing Resident Evil 4’s departure from the series’ established zombie norm. It was hard to glean much in the way of gameplay details from the few minutes of footage that were on display, but we liked what we saw.

And the two big rumors that accompanied the run-up to the conference? The score is, one wrong, one mostly wrong. No mention of the widely anticipated price cut was made, and there was absolutely no indication that Microsoft’s even considering it. The “grey” console some sharp-eyed fans spotted in a Microsoft-issued photo of a rehearsal session turned out to be nothing more than a dark green Halo 3-themed, HDMI-equipped 360 special edition launching this year with a range of matching accessories. Olive drab is not a sexy color for a console. Or anything else, for that matter.

vg_halo3xbox360console.jpg

Still, on balance tonight proved a solid showing for Microsoft, if rather short on surprises or big announcements for some tastes. Tomorrow holds the Nintendo and Sony press events, so check back soon for all the latest details.

Posted in Assassin's Creed, Call of Duty 4, Computers, E3, Games, Gaming, Gears of War, Mass Effect, Microsoft, PC, Project Gotham Racing 4, Resident Evil 5, Technology, Viva Pinata | Leave a Comment »

Why new music doesn’t sound as good as it used to

Posted by g3tech on July 10, 2007

Never mind that today’s factory-produced starlets and mini-clones just don’t have the practiced chops of the supergroups of yesteryear, pop in a new CD and you might notice that the quality of the music itself—maybe something as simple as a snare drum hit—just doesn’t sound as crisp and as clear as you’re used to. Why is that?It’s part of the music industry’s quest to make music louder and louder, and it’s been going on for decades, at least since the birth of the compact disc. Click the link for a nice little video, a mere 2 minutes long, which explains it in detail, with audio cues that you’ll be able to hear in crisp detail.

The key to the problem is that, in making the soft parts of a track louder (in the process making the entire track loud), you lose detail in the song: The difference between what’s supposed to be loud and what’s supposed to be soft becomes less and less. The result is that, sure, the soft parts of a song are nice and loud, but big noises like drum beats become muffled and fuzzy. But consumers often subconsciously equate loudness with quality, and thus, record producers pump up the volume. Anything to make a buck.

The bigger problem is that this is all unnecessary. Stereo equipment is more powerful today than ever, and last time I checked, every piece of music hardware had a volume knob.

Don’t take my word for it: Pop in the first CD you bought and play it at the same volume level as the most recent one you bought. You might be shocked by what you hear. 

Anyone still wondering why the music business is suffering? 

Posted in Computers, Internet, Music, Technology | Leave a Comment »