While E3 doesn't officially begin until Wednesday, May 14, I had the opportunity to attend the Pre-E3 Microsoft Press Conference today with Ryan and Keith. Leaving from our hotel rooms, we headed over to the Grand Olympic Auditorium. Once we arrived outside of the Auditorium and check in, we headed in for some food and had time to socialize before the Press Conference began.
There were several Xbox booth babes providing us with drinks, hot dogs, sushi, burgers, and other sandwiches. Ryan, Keith, and myself hung out with a few writers from other publications while we munched on our food… then we headed into the main Auditorium, where the event was being held. We chose a seat on the upper balcony so we could get a good look at everything. There were two large screens on each side of a stage. On the right side of the stage was a DJ who was playing music using a new device called Xbox Music Mixer. When released later this year, this device will allow players to take their copied music, mix it, take out voices from songs, and use the included microphone to Karaoke. While no price was released, this should be an interesting device that could prove to be very popular.
As the actual press conference began, Microsoft spoke about how they are committed to provide gamers with the ability to use Xbox Live to help them better experience all of their digital music and photos. Most of this will be used with the Xbox Music Mixer that I discussed above. However, soon MS will also allow Xbox Live users to share their digital photos. While no specifics were given either during the speeches or videos, it appears that this will be done by uploading the pictures directly on the Xbox or somehow e-mailing them onto the Xbox machine.
Microsoft next began showing a series of video demos. I will briefly discuss these here. However, for more details, you will need to read our specific previews of each game. That will be written during our hands on time with the games.
First up was Doom 3. Yes, you heard right, Doom 3 is coming to Xbox and will be Xbox Live compatible. This game looks incredible and should further prove why id Software is one of the best first person shooter developers in the world. The graphics are unbelievably detailed and the title appears to faithfully re-create the chilling environments with the new technology available today.
Project Gotham Racing 2 was shown next with very detailed cars and tracks. While Gran Turismo still holds the crown for ultimate driving simulation, PGR2 could give Sony's racing franchise a run for its money. We will have to wait until we have some time with both titles before we can tell though. However, regardless, PGR2 looks darn good.
Next up, LucasArts, for the first time, announced their newest Xbox title, Star Wars Republican Commando. While no gameplay footage was shown, this appears to be a first person shooter set around the time of Episode 2. You take the role of a Republican Storm Trooper and will battle against enemies of the republic.
True Fantasy Live Online was shown and it looked like it played a lot like a classic Japanese RPG. While this will be some sort of MMOG, it could prove to be the best classic RPG experience for the console. If the title proves to be popular, hopefully some competition will come and other RPG's will be released.
Namco showed an incredible looking First Person Shooter called Project Breakdown. While a lot of CG sequences were shown, from what I saw of the gameplay, it appears to be hand-to-hand combat… which I don't think will work well in the First Person viewpoint. However, until we get our hands on a playable version, it will be difficult to tell
The Rare games are coming… in fact, three of them will be shown on the floor this year at E3! Specifically, Conker, Kameo, and the newest announced title, Grabbed by the Ghoulies, will be shown. Ghoulies is a cel-shaded action title that is something like a hybrid of Zelda: Wind Waker and Luigi's Mansion. The game features a crazy looking kid and a haunted mansion. Using some incredible cel-shaded visuals, he uses objects and his fists and feet to fight off the Ghoulies. This should prove to be a very interesting First Party release from the newest MS developer.
Microsoft also showed off some new Xbox Live features and promised that by the end of the year, there will be over 100 Xbox Live Games. Features coming include tournaments, Live Now, Live Web, and Live Notice. Live Now will provide players with a chat room to talk to other players connected to the Live service. Live Web will allow players to keep up with their stats and upcoming events via a web site--so they can stay in touch better with the Xbox Live community even when they are away from their console. Live Notice will allow players to received messages about Xbox Live on their PDA's cell phones, e-mail, and any other device that has an Internet connection. All of these features will be available this fall.
XSN is Microsoft's answer to the online sports world. This stands for Xbox Sports Network. Here, players will be able to access their stats, reputation, and see what games and tournaments they have scheduled against other players via the XSN web site. Starting this fall with the release of NFL Fever 2004, all First Party sports titles will take advantage of the XSN features. This should be one of the biggest reasons players will update to the latest version of each Microsoft Sports title.
Last but certainly not least Halo 2 was shown for us running live on Xbox hardware. While only about 10 to 15 minutes of gameplay was shown, it was so incredible. However, I will leave our hands on preview to go into more details. For now, just know that this is going to live up to the hype--if not surpass it.