The winners and losers of E3 2008, part two – the games and services

By Patrick Garratt, Friday, 18 July 2008 12:59 GMT

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It’s over bar the shouting. E3 2008 is done. Yesterday we took you through the highs and lows of the annual dick-waving contest that is the E3 press conference spectacle, but what about the games and services? Which products are going to be headlining over the Christmas period, and which are destined for the bargain bin? Hit the link for the biggest hitters, the sorest losers, the teeth-quaking megatons and the borked announces that made up E3 2008. See if you can pick the biggest winner and worst loser before you do.

The Biggest Winner

FFXIII – The most talked-about game of the entire week, and for good reason. Final Fantasy XIII has now entered the “super” global console release category, along the lines of GTA IV and MGS4. Some expert timing with the 360 announce and an obvious unwillingness to flesh out details in the aftermath has kept everyone thrilled and confused while holding the game’s mystery intact. The hottest property of E3 2008.

The Winners

inFamous – Shown briefly in the Sony press conference, the Sucker Punch free-roaming action title sang quality. While not planned for release until 2009, the game – feared as “just another one” – raised plenty of eyebrows with highly polished footage. One to watch.

Resistance 2 – Yep, it was pushed heavily in the Sony conference, but only the most churlish would turn a nose up. Giant bosses, giant environments, giant thrills for the shooter-hungry. It’s toe-to-toe with Gears 2 and the only winner is the punter. Brilliant stuff.

Gears of War 2 – It’s a 360 headliner because it looks amazing. End of. The Epic actioner has more of everything for its sequel: more plot, more detail and a massively bumped multiplayer aspect. The final admission that four-way co-op won’t make the cut is a negative, but the game’s conference showing was spectacular. Winner.

Wii Music – It may have had one of the most embarrassing reveals in gaming history, but Wii Music is likely to be just as successful as anything else Miyamoto and Iwata have dreamed up for the ludicrously popular console. It’s “Rock Band for your mum,” and nothing will stop it selling millions. The “core” don’t care, but when you’re drowning in money what do pimply games journalists matter? Win win win.

Wolfenstein – The game Return to Castle Wolfenstein fans had dared to hope for – a generic shooter. It’s Wolfenstein turned up to 11, with more Nazis, smoking graphics cards, green lighting effects and stupid guns than QuakeCon on overtime. A triumph for the hardcore, and one badly wanted by the FPS massive.

Fallout 3 – The Bethesda action-RPG surprised many that saw it for the first time with its level of violence (“It’s not exactly The Road, is it?”), but the post-apocalyptic quest for justice has to be high on the list of most “men” for the end of the year. Hard to believe this will go wrong, given both the heritage and a good showing in the MS conference.

Resident Evil 5 – Again, a no-brainer, and a game that looks to be actively living up to the hype. It shared centre billing in the MS conference with Fallout 3 and Gears 2, showing online co-op for the first time and wowing the faithful. It may be a 2009 release, but a PS3-360 split ensures sales success for the hi-fi Capcom zombie-masher. This did not lose.

Xbox Experience – It takes some balls to ditch your entire UI, but Microsoft’s first showing of Xbox Experience – the new Xbox 360 dashboard – was a near-flawless affair. Obviously borrowing from Vista functionality thinking, the new set-up includes Avatars, Netflix for the US and party features for Friends. And it’s hitting this year. Win.

PS3 Movie Store – This really did look good, and a solid presentation of the PS Movie Store’s features – one of which was highly welcome streaming viewing – was backed up with an announcement of an instant release. Sony said it was going to do it, it did it, and it did it well. Good work.

Rage – The star of the EA press conference, id shooter Rage managed to get through the show with not a bad word thrown in its direction. It’s a great relief to see the project end up with such a big publisher, especially given a nebulous unveiling at QuakeCon last year, and a new movie showed Carmack hasn’t lost his touch. Winzor.

God of War III – The next game in PlayStation’s favourite action franchise won simply by turning up. A teaser in Sony’s press conference showed little aside from Kratos shouting about “chaos,” but it didn’t need much else. A full reveal would have been welcome in an otherwise dry event, but it was better than nothing.

Prince of Persia – “Wow” summed up the reaction to a long gameplay demo of Ubisoft Montreal’s Prince of Persia at E3, and a widely-reported off-screen movie showed why. The third-person action-adventure looks stunning, and appears to pack in as many new design elements as it can without overload. We won’t know until we play it, obviously, and there’s no guarantee of commercial success here, but PoP could make a easy stab at being labeled “Game of the Show”. An top-drawer debut.

Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts – This has “quality” stamped all over it, and given the lack of “core” Nintendo games for the rest of this year, fans of the more cartoony side of gaming aren’t likely to be looking beyond Rare’s latest Banjo title this Christmas. Along with a good showing for Viva 2, it looks as though the British developers’ worm has well and truly turned. For the win.

Flower – Despite the fact that no one appears to have a blind clue what it actually is, the PSN title was precisely everywhere at E3. It probably just goes to show how homogenized the rest of the conference was that some CGI of swirling petals can create such interest. Winner.

The Losers

Motorstorm 2 – Evolution’s racer sequel looks fantastic and the original’s one of the biggest selling PS3 games to date: so where the hell was it? Everyone expected a major showing in the Sony conference, but nothing happened. We sincerely hope this doesn’t bode ill for release this year. Regrettably, it’s a loser.

Wii Sports Resort – We don’t care if it sells 50 billion copies. Throwing a Frisbee for a dog is not acceptable. It’s 2008. If you can’t come up with anything better than that, Nintendo, you may as well end it all, probably by drowning in money. Loser.

Fable II – Of all the “big” 360 conference games, Fable II looked the least convincing. Molyneux proclaimed the RPG as “finished,” but compared to the blockbusting of Gears 2 and Fallout 3 the demo was just too flat. With news that the main story is 12 hours long emerging later in the show, the question must surely be whether or not the title can hold its own among some very serious company at the end of the year. Thumbs down.

Home – It’s just getting dull now. There was no release date for Home from Sony at E3, merely a promise from Jack Tretton that it’s going to be worth the wait. The Home beta is scheduled for public launch at the end of the year, and while a new movie showed users launching games from the service, news of region-locking from later in the show and a lack of firm details was a low blow. There is, quite literally, no place like Home.

Halo – How do you fuck up a Halo reveal? You don’t, right? Wrong. Bungie’s new game was supposed to be shown at E3, but Microsoft stopped the entire thing at the eleventh hour. Bungie issued a letter to the fans saying it was “gutted” at the move, and a loose-lipped Don Mattrick revealed the title to be a Halo game in an MTV interview. Really, truthfully, badly done. Lose.

WipEout HD – It just wasn’t there. SCEE’s been sketchy on a release date all year, and the latest was that we were going to see the future-racer this summer, but David Reeves confirmed it’s been pushed back to the end of the year. Hopefully. Big disappointment.

MAG – Sony’s “big thing” in its conference, Zipper’s Massive Action Game really did fail to capture the imagination of the masses. Offline talk after the event was one giant “meh.” Technically it looked superb, but chatter swirled on the validity of 256-player shooter matches and the “greyness” of the entire spectacle. Far more questions than answers with this at the moment.

Borderlands – Gearbox’s third-person post-apocalypse effort has been well-hyped, especially in the financial media, due to its billing as a top-line Take-Two product, but a first proper showing failed to impress en bloc. The screens lacked sparkle, there were some outlandish statements made in the Take-Two conference, and we’re still no closer to a solid release date. Might have been better to stay away, frankly.

Tomb Raider: Underworld – It looks brilliant, so why didn’t anyone push it forward? It’s Lara, right? The first movie everyone saw was a terrible YouTube grab, and while a decent teaser did come later in the week, surely this could have been handled better? What could have been one of E3 2008’s biggest games, to be blunt, fell flat on its arse. Another missed opportunity by Sony – a demo would have perked its conference right up.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed – Again, a knock-out trailer just before the show, then nothing. This has to be one of the highest profile third-person action games on the imminent horizon, so where was it? Lucas pushed Fracture harder during the event itself, or so it seemed press-side. Just weird.

You’re in the Movies – Just no. We’re sure the game will be fun, but the presentation was the lowest point of the entire 360 conference. We’re not quite sure why this was pushed up so high in the showing, but surely there are more impressive “party” games on the way for 360? Evidently not.

The Worst Loser

E3 itself – Sort it out ESA, for Christ’s sake. Rick Perry? Who? The entire industry’s questioning the validity of E3 on a real level after the past week. We love the show. We always have. But some of the comments made in private about the event since Monday aren’t fit for publication. A selection that are:

“No one needs to go to E3 any more.”

“The show’s like a graveyard. I’m never going again.”

“I’m pretty sure I just spent £3,000 to do something I could have done on an internet connection anywhere in the world.”

“Really, what’s the point?”

“The only things that matter are the conferences, and two of those were shit.”

Honestly. It’s been like this all week. Find a proper meaning for it, ESA, because if one of the Big Three back out, it really is curtains.

Read the first part of our winner and losers of E3 feature – focusing on the platform holder press conferences – right here.

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