Fear and loathing at E3: Awards and accolades
E3 2010 is now just fading into memory. Shigeru Miyamoto has sheathed his sword. Hideo Kojima has ridden off into the sunset, to return again when needed most. Cliffy B is off re-gelling his hair.
Journalists and developers have returned to their places of work, sobered up, and decided to give each other all pats on the back in congratulations. Let’s join in on the love-fest.
Best promotion: Method Man and Redman perform at Def Jam Rapstar’s stage
I had no plans to visit Def Jam Rapstar’s booth before, but when I heard that Method Man and Redman were performing at Def Jam Rapstar’s stage, I immediately made my way over.
Getting attention at E3 gets more difficult each year. People poor millions of dollars into their booths, hire over-priced models and PR companies, and ultimately resort to tangential means to get attention for their game. Scantily clad women, bizarre fake protests, more scantily clad women—game developers will do anything. But Def Jam Rapstar stuck to what was relevant to the game and its intended audience, wisely investing in some great talent who played to the audience and looked like they wanted to be there.
Most shameless promotion: Playboy Bunnies at the Mafia II booth
Look, we get it. There are not many women who attend E3. And our industry is stereotypically dominated by nerdy, unathletic men. This isn’t the national expo of attractive people.
But Playboy Bunnies appearing at Mafia II’s demo booth embodies those uncomfortable stereotypes we don’t want to confront. The developers of Mafia II sadly could not come up with a better way to sell its game than to appeal to the sexual fantasies of attendees. It’s bad enough when Nintendo hired two hundred beautiful women and then tethered them to 3DSs. It was regrettable to see so many women dressed in practically nothing handing out literature about a game they couldn't care less about. But unless the Playboy Bunnies secretly can discuss the merits of Mafia’s II’s sandbox gameplay and context-sensitive controls, the relevancy of their appearance must be questioned.
Still, Mafia’s II exploitation of sex was only slightly more shameless than Microsoft giving away Xbox 360s to everyone who attended its presentation.
Thing that made me a fan of a series when I wasn’t before: Rock Band 3’s Real Guitars
Mashing buttons on a fake plastic toy guitar isn’t cool. It doesn’t make you any better at actually playing music. Just because you’re flawless on “Through the Fire and Flames” doesn’t mean you even know what a riff is in real life. But Rock Band 3 changes all of that with its new guitar made by Fender. Made in the style of a Squier Stratocaster, the guitar has MIDI support, is playable outside the game, and best of all, your string strumming is detectable in the game. During the demonstration, while his bandmates mashed on their plastic instruments, one of the guitarists plugged his game guitar into an amp and played alongside the band while playing the game. What was coming out of the amp? Real music.
It’s a bit ironic, in the end: a game that was made to simplify guitar playing and mimic the experience of being a rockstar has now gotten so popular and generated such an expert fanbase that the developers are now offering you the ability to play real guitars and actually learn to be a rockstar. What was once a casual party game is now for the experts and the harcore. In a few years, we could be going to concerts to hear performances by people who learned to play guitar through a video game. I hope they play “Through the Fire and Flames.” Dragonforce rules.
Biggest crowd pleaser: Metal Gear Solid: Rising’s slicing and dicing
How stellar was Hideo Kojima and Shigenobu Matsuyama’s trailer for Metal Gear Solid: Rising? It made people excited to play as Raiden. Before Metal Gear Solid 4 redeemed him, Raiden was the maligned protagonist of Metal Gear Solid 2. Compared to series protagonist Solid Snake, Raiden was chopped liver. Now he gets to make his enemies chopped liver. That’s quite a change.
The game looks to focus less on the stealth aspects of the series and instead more closely resemble a Ninja Gaiden-esque sword-based action formula. But the ability to use bullet-time to pick the angles of your slices completely differentiates the game. You can hack off limbs of your enemies, carefully place your cuts, and even slice certain elements of the environment, including watermelons! Raiden is suddenly awesome.
Most interesting moment, cake edition: Gabe Newell announces Portal 2 for PS3
The only thing bigger than Gabe Newell’s talent might be his mouth. The co-founder of Valve, Gabe Newell is one of the most talented men in the business. His games are always innovative, beautiful, and popular. I can’t say enough good things about Valve, and that’s not only because its Steam service has come to the Mac.
But Gabe Newell has a reputation for sparking controversy, famously deriding the development process for consoles and calling out the Sony PlayStation 3 in particular. So it must have seen like hell had frozen over when he showed up at Sony’s presentation and announced that Portal 2 would be coming to the PS3. Showing he had a good sense of humor, he made light of his previous comments before showing the world premier trailer for Portal 2. Talk about a surprise.
Best dance game: Dance Central
What started with Dance Dance Revolution’s awkward stomping has now been nearly perfected with Kinect’s Dance Central. Thanks to Microsoft’s Kinect, you won’t need a controller to flail around the living room with your friends. The Kinect will be able to detect your entire body as it moves, meaning Dance Central will hopefully be not just about moving only your feet or hands but the entire body. Initial reports and an awkward demonstration suggest it won’t have 1:1 mapping, so it’s still a work in progress. But in a show lacking many impressive breakthroughs in gameplay, Dance Central stands out.
Most wanted holiday item: Nintendo 3DS
You can’t argue with Nintendo’s ability to move units and create demand. Remember you heard it here first: this holiday season, kids will be tackling you and clawing at your legs over their wanting the Nintendo 3DS. They won’t even be your kids, but instead random people on the street will be so enamored with the product that they’ll be tackling you and demanding you purchase them one.
Best looking reboot: Donkey Kong Country returns
I mocked Nintendo last week for offering no new properties and having disappointing demos of Goldeneye (even with a standard controller, the game handled awkwardly) and Zelda (Shigeru Miyamoto couldn’t get it working—bad sign). But even my jaded Mac heart will recognize that the new Donkey Kong Country has promise. The original three were fantastic 2D platformers for the Super Nintendo, but the series seemed to have lost its way when it went fully 3D on the N64. Like Mega Man 9, I’m hoping the latest Donkey Kong Country is just old school fun.
[Chris Holt is a Macworld associate editor.]