Specials: Gears of War, Halo 3, Shadowrun - lions and tigers and bears, oh my?
Microsoft laid their cards on the table and put on a rousing press conference focused on community features across numerous platforms and some incredible looking 360 games, as well as the new Windows Vista gaming environment. All good stuff to be sure, but the games ? oh boy. We got to see the first teaser trailer for Halo 3, a seriously important moment for MS Game Studios, as well as get a hands on demonstration of the vaunted Gears of War from none other than Cliffy B himself. Read on for our impressions so far?
First things first ? Gears of War, which opened the festivites. Looking like a mischievous kid, Cliff Bleszinski played through the opening level of the game in real time, and despite a bit of occasional framerate slowdown it looks as if Epic is on track to deliver a singular next gen gaming experience come this holiday season. The demo opens with the main character ? Marcus Fenix - being rescued from military prison by his best friend and squadmate Dominic Santiago. Heavily muscled and covered in wicked looking body armor, the two soldiers move through the corridors of the facility with razor sharp precision, hitting cover points and shadowing each other as you'd expect two grizzled vets would. A King Raven gunship cruises by overhead and immediately takes fire, going down at the same moment as a huge tower ? all in real time, during fully controllable play. Suddenly, Locust warriors charge into the area. Ducking behind a pillar, Marcus proceeds to fire his weapon at them in a blistering display of power and destruction. Concrete shatters, rounds ricochet all over and blood sprays in a gaudy shower each time he scores a hit. After some incredible fighting throughout the building, Marcus and Dom reach an outdoor area where a huge battle is raging. More King Raven copters fly overhead as Marcus takes cover and opens up with blind-fire as well as precision shots. Switching to his shotgun, he leaps over a low wall and meets a Locust head on with predictably devastating results. He meets another face to face and proceeds to use the spinning saw blade on the underside of his rifle to eviscerate it - all in real time, fully controllable gameplay. The way the camera drops low and behind Marcus as he dashes for cover in a crouched position adds fantastic realism and kinetic excitement to what would otherwise be a simple, static view, and everything from the environments, to the particle effects and character models ? not to mention the gorgeous lighting and motion capture work ? clearly represents some of the top talent in the industry today. We can't wait until this fall?..
As predicted, the highlight of the event came right at the end, when Bill Gates himself introduced the teaser trailer for the much anticipated Halo 3. Opening with a gorgeous shot of a war torn desert environment (all done using the in-game engine) we see Cortana's image flickering across the screen ? she's fading in and out, making ominous statements as the Master Chief strides into view. Running entirely on the in-game engine, Halo 3 looks stunning, with highly detailed environments and incredible realism in the character model of the Chief, right down to the perfectly accurate reflection in his visor. A swarm of Covenant Banshees and capitol ships moves purposefully towards a huge structure in the distance as the Chief looks on from the edge of a canyon, and the familiar Halo theme crescendos majestically. A massive, white hot explosion ends the trailer and the words ?Finish the Fight in 2007?
linger momentarily. Of course, the crowd reacted quite positively to the announcement, and everyone wants more info on Halo 3. You'll have it as soon as we do.
In addition to GoW and H3, Microsoft showed off a slew of other games that were very impressive to say the least. Too Human looked fantastic with its stunning graphics and acrobatic style of play, while Mass Effect promises to be an amazing sci fi trilogy and another Bioware RPG of epic proportions. The 360 version of F.E.A.R looks phenomenal, with all the explosive physics and slow motion mayhem of the original PC game, optimized for the new Xbox. As well, John Woo's Stranglehold is absolutely gorgeous, with amazing, fully destructible environments the likes of which you've never
seen before. The much loved Shadowrun gets a next gen make-over as an FPS with some interesting magical qualities, and Volition's Saints Row is shaping up very nicely for its late summer release. Crackdown from original GTA developer David Jones is looking sweet, with a huge, clockwork city to roam around in, superhuman powers and incredible graphic novel style art assets for a unique look and feel, and LucasArts is stepping up with a next gen Indiana Jones game that employs unique new physics tools and AI routines that promise to put an end to canned animations in videogames for good.
There's so much more, but it's late, and there'll be more show tomorrow. I'm off to see if I can get so more hands on time with the Lost Planet demo. Check back here at Gaming Target tomorrow for more show news and editor impressions.