No one’s a winner in E3’s console wars

[22 July 2008]

By Victor Godinez

The Dallas Morning News (MCT)

Worst. E3. Ever.

I wasn’t expecting much, but what transpired in Los Angeles at the annual video-game conference last week was a pretty big waste of time.

MICROSOFT

Microsoft scored some points by confirming:

  • The rumor of Netflix video streaming coming to the Xbox 360 later this year.
  • The upcoming ability to copy an entire game to your console’s hard drive so it loads faster and plays quieter.
  • “Final Fantasy XIII” will be a simultaneous release in the U.S. with the PS3 version. This one was a coup, but the game probably isn’t coming out for a year or more.

But the price drop on the Xbox 360 Premium from $349 to $299 is misleading, since the drop is really a clearance sale. When the 20-gig Premium is sold out, a 60-gig version will take its place ... at the original $349 price.

NINTENDO

Nintendo is in peak form right now, and taking a victory lap at E3 would be understandable. Too bad for gamers that’s exactly what the company did. There was no announcement of a new “Mario,” “Zelda” or “Metroid” title for the Wii. Instead, we got “Animal Crossing.” Blah.

The MotionPlus add-on for the Wii remote looks intriguing. The device supposedly allows the console to more accurately track how you swing the controller.

A fencing game displayed proved that the one game every gamer has pined for since the Wii was unveiled may finally be feasible: a “Star Wars” lightsaber game. Unfortunately, such a game was not even officially discussed at the show.

SONY

Nearly a total catastrophe on every level.

First off, Sony seems to think that a $400 game console is a good thing. Yes, the 80-gigabyte PS3 system is $100 less than the original 80-gig model. But memo to Sony: The PS3 is still way overpriced.

A video download service? It would have been awesome a year ago. Now it’s just a day late and a dollar short.

“Home,” the “Second Life”-like virtual world for the PS3, remains in limbo and seems increasingly pointless. Has any gamer in history ever hankered to walk around a virtual mall looking at Nike billboards?

Sony’s “MAG” (Massive Action Game - placeholder name, presumably, hopefully) was the only product mentioned that left me with even a slight pulse. The game will supposedly allow 256 human players to duke it out on a single battlefield in eight-man teams.

A recipe for unbridled chaos? Sure. But a melee this size (assuming the PS3 can support such epic confrontations without keeling over) is guaranteed fun.

Part of the problem for all three of these companies might be that the show was simply held too late in the year. All the big games coming out before Christmas (“Gears of War 2”, “Resistance 2”, “Ghostbusters”, etc.) were announced weeks ago, in order to get the marketing campaigns ramped up.

Perhaps if E3 had been held in May, as it traditionally was until last year, those games could have debuted at the show and created some buzz.

In its current form, though, E3 was basically D.O.A.

+ + +

‘GRID’

Grade: A-

For Xbox 360 (also on PS3, PC and Nintendo DS). Rated for all ages. $59

TURN AND BURN: Grid has been out for several weeks, but the buzz about this racing game has been slowly building, and I wanted to finally see what all the fuss was about. Wow. The game is sort of the brilliant love child of the stately Gran Turismo franchise and the destructive adrenaline rush of the Burnout series. If you’re any kind of a fan of racing games, Grid is a must-buy.

SPEED KILLS (AND REWARDS): While the Burnout games reward pure mayhem by seeing how many other vehicles you can detonate in as short a time as possible, Grid takes a slightly more strategic approach. Ramming and disabling other cars can give you an edge, but your car also eventually disintegrates (or explodes in a fireball). But, unlike Gran Turismo, you don’t have to win most races to collect the biggest rewards.

EARLY UPGRADE: One of the biggest complaints with most racing games is that they force you to earn your stripes in boring econo-cars before you can scream in a Lamborghini. Not so with Grid. Your first ride is a Dodge Viper, and you’re piloting all sorts of exotic rides almost from the get-go.

BOTTOM LINE: Grid is one of the unexpected gems this year.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/article/no-ones-a-winner-in-e3s-console-wars/