E3 2004 Coverage Article
Reviewed by: Admin
Reviewed on: May 19, 2004
Alright, so we've got another OCC first for you folks today, we're here in sunny Los Angeles, California for the biggest video game convention in the world - the Electronics Entertainment Exposition. More commonly known to the gaming world, the hardcores and pretty much anyone who's ever played so much as PacMan in the local pizza joint as E3. Those of us who know about it dream about going, and those of us who finally get to go after following this expo since they've had a computer (or console) in the house are...LinuXProX and myself in this case. Sorry folks, neener neener.
However, fear not! I'll be here merrily typing away in the hotel at ridiculous hours of the night with Leno distracting my chances of ever managing to get enough sleep to recover for tomorrow. There's still two days left and I'm already wasted - this Expo is overwhelming.
So, without any further ado (but I can't promise to not rub it in anymore), Day One of E3.
We started off the day fairly early, the Expo opened at 10AM. We got there shortly after 10, and the first thing that went through my mind was 'Thank the Lord we do NOT have to wait to get passes.' No joke, the lineup was probably about a kilometer long (that's about half a mile for you American folk). And that's just when we got there... After merrily skipping the line and casually strolling into the main hall, you're taken right away by the size of the whole thing, and to tell you the truth, the main hall is one of the smaller parts of the Expo. We started off the day in one of the side halls, just to get a feel for the place - Kentia Hall.
This small hall had some interesting sights to offer, as well as the majority of the CD-repairers (scratched CDs and DVDs) a lot of the game distributors, and some of the smaller companies. The first one that caught our eye was the Rogue gaming tablet. This was a tablet PC that was running some top-of-the-line hardware. It was running UT2k4 flawlessly. From what we heard from their representatives, the tablet itself basically a working PC. Running a 2GHz processor, the tablet boasted upgradeability in a fairly unique way - a swappable NB/SB combination - one block that can be upgraded. That's not all folks, the CPU, RAM, AND video card are all swappable. That's right, this is basically a PC in tablet form. The benefits of this over, say, a laptop? Well, for one, all your basic controller-style buttons are what you can use to play instead of a keyboard and mouse. Of course, if that isn't your style this isn't just a handheld tablet - as mentioned before, this is a PC as well. Its got a DVD/CD-Rom, 80Gig upgradable HDD, built in IrDA, Ethernet, USB, WiFi, sound and it was running Windows XP flawlessly - this thing can hook up to all your computer equipment and bam, you have a PC instead of a tablet. I personally can't wait to see where they're going with this. Only downside - its bulky - its definitely no GameBoy, but for crying out loud it's running XP and UT2k4 easily. Check em out at www.sl-interphase.com.
Moving on, we made it to the Saitek booth. This is a popular brand title in the controller and joystick market, and man do they have some slick ware. Taking a look at the joysticks you can tell that these are high quality controllers, and they look good too. However, it wasn't the controllers that caught my eye. In a big display case in the centre of the booth they had displayed their new USB keyboard. This was a gorgeous piece of work, tasteful, well laid out keyboard. And more - its backlit, 3 settings, off, low and high, allowing for complete adjustability, and easily able to switch it around at the touch of the button. Boasting an additional, programmable hotkey pad with 9 keys, programmable for 27 functions, as well as for program-specific settings. I've got my fingers crossed that I can take a closer look at this keyboard for you folks, and you can learn more about Saitek at Saitek.com.Day 1
The last of the truly interesting companies in Kentia Hall was the ButtKicker sound system. Well, I suppose it wasn't so much a sound system as it was an additional sound-accompanying device. This is a silent sound enhancer. The unit attaches to the bottom of your chair and provides the bass subwoofer-kick in an environment where you may not even have a subwoofer. They had a demonstration of a machine-gun firing with normal speakers, and sitting in the chair you could feel the bass kick, adding a whole new level to the game (considering you vibrate, fun stuff) The best one though, was simply music on headphones. With headphones, you lose that large-room big-subwoofer kick, the vibration in the air. With the Buttkicker attached to the chair you gain that reverb back. Now, you may be thinking the exact same thing I was - isn't the point of headphones for silence? Well, guess what? This system is completely silent, allowing for full-room big sound and feel with headphones and silence. Cool stuff. Check it out more at TheButtKicker.com.
After this, moving into the main South Hall wasn't just a step up, it was like the difference between apples and oranges. The relatively relaxed feel of Kentia was replaced by a nearly frantic feeling and the teeming masses of gamers, media and exhibitors in South. Its simply overwhelming. Knowing full well that we'd barely be able to absorb a tenth of what the hall had to offer we just mingled around the booths, checking out (and booking an appointment to see the demo for) Half-Life 2, and generally mingling around. We took a look at the Matrix: Online - which in my eyes looks fantastic but not once would the MxO people let any of the public touch the computers. I got a couple fingers waved at me for trying to take pictures of the screens...but if they're going to have them playing games there, you know OCC is going to have the down low (sorry Monolith, what, you expected us NOT to do this?). Next up was the newest iteration of the Nokia N-Gage. Though their first attempt failed (miserably) the newest version actually doesn't look that bad (and neither did their booth babes). Me and LP chilled out for a while playing the Sims on the small handheld. Considering its dual personality as a phone as well, it's a pretty slick piece of work. Time will only tell if it manages to succeed, or fail like its ill-fated predecessor.
Moving on, we saw the Phantom. More precisely, we took a look at the Phantom gaming console (whoops, they don't want it to be called a console anymore...meh, whatever) from Infinium. Considered by many to be vaporware, the console was actually setup and running. Though it was looking pretty slick, with only one USB port in front, it completely loses the fun of having friends over for a Halo tournament and being able to smack someone when they screw up. Though gamers may be reclusive, being forcibly reclusive isn't my style, thanks.
After that, we swung by the nVidia and ATi booths to check out what they had to offer. ATi's booth was actually dedicated to Half-Life as well (we'll hopefully check it out in more detail, but today the line was horrible). nVidia was demoing their new graphics 6 engine (the 6800 GPU) and man was it looking slick. hopefully sooner, rather then later, we'll be taking a much closer look at these hot new pieces of work. For now, we'll show you a couple of their new images - their mermaid personality they've been using to promote it, and a couple shots of the pirate ship - a water rendering demonstration that showed the way the detail in something like an ocean would work. The pictures don't so it too much justice, so you'll have to take our word that it was fairly impressive.
Continuing on (told you it was massive, and we're only on day one) we mingled around and came across the World of Warcraft. Showing an impressive preview on a massive screen, the audience was captivated by some intense graphics. I was able to get my hands on the game (huzzah!) and the gameplay was quite good. With the ability to completely customize your character, and the gorgeous graphics, though I was limited in my playtime from what I saw the WoW should be a solid hit with the MMORPG market. In my opinion that's even despite the doubts of some gamers of the possible success of a popular RTS to make the change to an MMORPG environment.
Though we managed to see a lot more in Day One, we didn't check out anything much more in detail. Of notable mention is the new all-female fighting game called Rumble Roses, in which I spent a good 10 minutes in a mud wrestling match. I plan on going back for more. Hey, it was actually well made, and fun to play, and that's good enough for me (the bikinis helped...).
This is Matt Mantle, in Los Angeles, signing out from Day One at E3.
So, after a much needed sleep...right after going to see a taping of Jimmy Kimmel Live (Lionel Richie and the sweet, sweet Shannon Elizabeth) it was back to the grind at E3. Holy smokes, what did I just say? The grind? I'm spending my days in Los Angeles, California instead of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada playing video games instead of real work. This is great!
So, today we've got two major things lined up for you. We're gonna take a look at the brand new Half-Life 2 Demo, and we've got a meeting with Razer, the guys who brought us the Boomslang and more recently the Viper mice, both top of the line in their classes.
So, we spent the morning going through the West Hall, the Concourse Hall and Petrie Hall. The West and Concourse Halls held a couple interesting games. Again we got a look at the Matrix Online in the Sega booth, and again the darn Exhibitors wouldn't let us touch it. I want some hands-on! Maybe they'll let me into the Beta (hook me up here Monolith). In the West Hall, it was all console stuff, unfortunately. Playstation had a nice big setup looking at some of their newer games, but nothing stuck out to be overly amazing, unfortunately. After making our way to the Midway Games booth in Petrie Hall, we got our hands on some new Mortal Kombat action. That's right, Mortal Kombat: Deception. Now, despite the failure of the last (couple) MK titles, this one is something else. Bringing back a bunch of familiar faces, the game is FUN to play! After a bunch of rounds against LP (I think I dominated) it wasn't old, and it was clean, bloody action. With a ton of interesting levels, each of them is not only well made, with high detailed battle arenas and backgrounds, but they're multi-tiered as well. You start up on the top level, and if you get too close to the edge (or you opponent knows how to do it long range) you can get thrown off the top level to the bottom. The bottom level in most cases is another level of arena, most with an interesting way to kill you...the ways I got my butt killed were by being smashed into smoldering nothing in a molten steel press and thrown off a high rise to explode on the road below. We actually got to speak with one of the developers of the game, who showed us the new Konquest mode, almost an RPG-like game where you build skills, and your character even ages. The traditional Kombat mode features the same ladder progression we've seen and loved in the previous MK titles. Playing with the developer, we got to play the level he designed, a fairly devious level in which the playing arena got smaller and smaller, and if you were unlucky enough to get thrown off, you were impaled on the spikes far below (with subsequent amounts of blood boiling from your body and mouth). The game has been returned to its original spendour, finally. This game will also differ from the previous titles in its ability to go online. I'm not to sure how that's going to work, but I'm hoping it will offer the versatility (and possibly the questing) of Konquest, with the PvP of the Kombat mode against the other players online.
And finally the event of the day, a chance to see the Half-Life 2 demonstration. Couple words to summarize it: incredible, amazing, awesome, cool, sweet, the list goes on. With crisp clear graphics we got a chance to look at that new physics engine, some enemy AI and...well, you know what? Why don't we just let you guys see it? We've got it all on tape. Personally, some of my favorite moments were [SPOILER - WATCH THE VIDEO FIRST] using the couch and the car as a weapon, as well as a look at the Aztec CS level using the HL2 engine - simply phenomenal. The demo was fantastic, and we got tshirts afterwards, so I'm more then happy (they're nice tshirts too - we'll bring em to the Overclockers Club LAN Party so you can all see, hehehe).
After that demo we got to meet up with the good folks at Razer, the makers of the Boomslang and the Razer line of mice. We got a look at a couple of their new products in a meeting that lasted about an hour long, and let me tell you, Razer has some nice looking stuff coming out. With their incredible attention to detail and their dedication to the gaming market, this is some top of the line ware at reasonable prices made BY gamers FOR gamers, and that means nothing but performance for the consumer. We got to take a look at the new eXactMat - Razer's newest mouse pad offering due out sometime in late summer 2004. As always you can expect OCC to have the scoop on that as soon as possible. Of course, seeing as I've done a lot of mouse pad reviews recently, and I've seen some good and some bad - the eXactMat is shaping up to be one of the finest crafted and best performing optical mouse pads I've yet to use. Made specifically for the Razer, the dedication to the gaming market is immediately seen - and even more emphasized by the following quote from our host, the GM for Razer, Robert Krakoff.
On the eXactMat: "It is important to us because it perfectly compliments our [Razer] mouse, and benefits the gamer in a way no other mouse pad could. The mouse pad has been specifically designed to address the wants and needs of the hardcore gamer and address the problems encountered with other mats." - Robert Krakoff
I've seen a lot of companies, and it all honesty, I've seen a lot of crap. Razer is the only company I've seen with that sincere dedication for one market, one vision, and one pure drive for total quality and satisfaction in every aspect of their products - and that's what makes them so good. Though useful for anyone, Razer's products are tailor-made for gamers using suggestions from gamers, much of that from the teams they sponsor. Colour me impressed Razer, well done. I can't wait to see (in more detail) what new announcements the future may hold for them. You can check out Razer (and I highly suggest you do) at Razerzone.com.
More notable notes in today's adventures include the new Tribes 3: Vengeance - a familiar return to the Tribes world, brought back into the mainstream by the free release of both earlier games recently. Another very slick looking game (okay, in all honesty, most of the computer games look awesome, they're virtually exclusively running A64s as well as (no doubt) the newest of the new graphics cards (no one would tell us...other then nVidia, obviously)). My Tribes experience being fairly limited, I'll let our trusty Editor in Chief to take over for a moment to talk about it.
Tribes: Vengeance, a game I like to call Tribes 3, is a first-person shooter series built on the Unreal technology, a game that will sure to bring a smile to your face. Tribes Vengeance offers new weapons, faster and more versatile vehicles, and better team communication. The single player mode allow you to take on roles of six different characters and play 15 levels of vengeance and war. This is the first Tribes title that has offered single player campaign mode, and I'm looking forward to seeing what they have in stored for it. The multiplayer mode is like previous Tribes titles, you are able to engage in battle with up to 32 players. I had hope that we could have games with 48 or 64 players, but I guess they found it to be too laggy? The graphics are superb, providing clear and crisp details and water effects that will make you say "WoW". Tribes Vengeance is expected to be released in Fall of this year.
At Ubisoft, I got some hand-on experience with the new iteration of Myst - called Revelation, this makes it Myst IV. I got a walkthrough from the lead programmer, and he took me through the similar looking world of Myst, just one that's incredibly detailed and vivid. With some amazingly realistic lighting effects, and a storyline that's bound to please the puzzle solvers. Furthermore, Ubisoft isn't making Revelation a GPU-based game; they've taken some unique turns with saving graphics for when its needed - meaning for some parts of the game - such as reading books - the game takes a turn to 2D graphics to save the graphics-intensity to when its actually needed - such as in the lush jungles or those lighting effects (I'll tell you right now, they're both breathtaking). This transition is made flawlessly, and the game looks like it should be a big success like the original titles.
Back into the melee, there was one game that I've heard a ton of hype about, and being a huge MMORPG fan (Ultima Online for 3 years, thank goodness I finally broke that addiction before University, as well as a number of others for less time) the Saga of Ryzom. Seeing as they were distributing a free Beta DVD, we went and picked one up, and from the Press Kit they gave us, it looks interesting to me, so I can tell you what the first thing that's being installed on my computer is (hey, it IS free).
So we're back at E3 for the final day. At this point we've seen a LOT, but there's still a lot to go.
We started off the day by getting some passes for the Doom 3 demonstration, then headed over to the ATi booth for the second half of the Half-Life 2 demonstration. Thankfully Patricia, the PR Rep for ATi got us to the front of the line to check it out. Once again we have the video for you, and once again it's amazing. ATi was running their new x800 card in a Dell Dimension XPS machine, but I guess I can forgive them for that, at least their machines outside were customed. This time around we got a look at some of the same, but some more of the gameplay, specifically the physics engine, where we got to see some flying bodies, and a better look at some of the ragdoll physics. There was some great moments where some of the zombies from the 'horror' portion of their presentation were massacred by some borrowed saw blades from the HL2 environment.
After that...well, we visited Mortal Kombat: Deception again...that's how good it is. After playing it for a while, we headed back to Kentia Hall to visit Razer once again - and get a shot of their retail box for the Viper mouse. Check it out OCC - we're going to be shown in Best Buys across the nation.
We dropped by the VIA booth, where they showed us their PC handheld - the Eve gaming console. Using their incredibly small new generation of motherboards (based on the VIA chipset of course) this tiny handheld would be able to run something like Half-Life quite well. I'm not too sure how well that would work, but there you have it. The Via rep gave us a look into the future of their chipsets, and its looking promising - finally having some real competition against the new nForce chipset, driving that to new heights hopefully.
We swung by Abit's booth to check out the top gamer in the world (in a couple of games) Fatal1ty playing UT2k4 and basically pwning everyone. We took a look at a couple of their new boards as well, and they've got some impressive looking new stuff hitting the market soon.
Back to South Hall we swung by a game made by some familiar faces - I mentioned I played UO before, looks like the mastermind behind it is going to suck me in again. Richard Garriot and his team at Destination Games are producing Tabula Rasa (latin for Blank Slate). This MMORPG being published by NCSoft not only looks incredible, but we got to walk through a working quest with Kgs, one of the GMs, as well as another GM in their offices (I believe in Austin, Texas). The demo looked fantastic, and it was incredibly fun to play. With a unique system for combat, the game has a basis in three character aspects - Mind, Body and Spirit - that augment your success in using various attacks and weaponry (both physical and mind-based). Very well-designed, and fun to play even for those completely unversed in MMORPGs (as LP found out) the game looks to be quite promising, and I'm going to be keeping my eye on this one in the future. With music made by one of the members of Nine Inch Nails, this is shaping up to be one interesting game - I truly cannot wait to see what content and the gameplay is going to be like. you can learn more about Tabula Rasa at PlayerTR.com
That folks, is the OCC E3 report...my version of it at least. Its incredible, and though I can hardly relate to you every single one of the games I managed to play or see demos for, I think I managed to cover some of the newer ones, the important ones, and the ones I think will shine in the coming year.
In another year from now, E3 returns to Los Angeles - and with a little bit of luck OCC will be back in LA to cover the 2005 Expo. Till then, well, I'll be waiting for Tabula Rasa, HL2 and a couple others, and keeping my ear to the gaming pulse. Not just games, we saw some promising hardware - keep your eyes locked to OCC for some coverage of the up and coming, as we bring the best of the best to you for all your computer needs. Thanks for reading everyone - there's no way we could fit all the pictures into just one article (as long as it may be) so be sure to check out the rest of the pictures in the following pages. Any questions? Maybe we can answer them (goodness knows I saw more then I talked about) so just head on over to our forums and post away. This is Matt Mantle from Los Angeles, signing out.