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E3: Blood, afros and barking lullabys

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Videogames_l

Videogames_lThis round-up of the final days of E3 is way, way overdue, and my apologies for that, PopWatchers, but in my defense I gotta say that this year’s E3 was pretty spectacular…ly underwhelming. The Los Angeles convention center was all atwitter about how dead the show-room floor felt, how meh the Big Three press presentations were, and how few games really double-jumped out from the fray and demanded attention from everyone. In fact, there was some talk that there may not even be an E3 next year. But, fear not, there was still plenty of gaming goodness (and not-so-goodness) to take in, so, forthwith, my rundown of the highlights, medium-lights, and lowlights of days two and three of E3…

SEGA

Of all the shoot-’em-up protagonists I came across this week, the heroine of Bayonetta (out in 2009, for Playstation 3 and XBox 360) was by far the most over-the-top, and in the best way, really. A witch in skin-tight black leather who walks with a serious hip-swinging strut (developer Platinum Games definitely knows their core audience), she sports stiletto heels in which the heel is an automatic pistol, and hair that can morph into a giant fist, foot and dragons’ head when the situation calls for it. (Which is, of course, always.) And I’m cautiously optimistic about the newest Sonic the Hedgehog game, Sonic Unleashed (out in November for the PS3, Wii and XBox 360), which looks gorgeous and far less suck-y to play than all the previous attempts at 3D Sonic games. I was far less enthralled, though, with MADWORLD, a very MA-rated game for the Wii out in March ’09 that’s black-and-white-and-red-all-over — the more sadistic and brutal your methods to dispatch your enemies, the higher your score. Lovely!

More E3 after the jump…

CAPCOM

I’ve never really enjoyed Resident Evil games — not becausethey’re bad, but just because I don’t like games that make me want tothrow down the controller in terror and run from my living room. Resident Evil 5(out March ’09 for PS3 and XBox 360) looks terrific, but it’s stillfrakking unnerving as hell, and besides that, kinda complicated toplay. The first 3D version of longtime gaming franchise Bionic Commando (Winter, PS3, XBox 360, and PC) seemed like it made great use of your hero’s ability to swing from practically anything, and Dark Void(2009, PS3 and XBox 360) jumped from horizontal shooting, to verticalshooting, to flying, to alien UFO hijacking with some smooth style andcinematic scope. But the real story was the 8-bit, ultra old-school Mega Man 9, an all-knew version of the 1990s classic that looks and plays exactlylike it did on the old Nintendo NES. This move seemed to divide peoplea bit at E3, but I frakkin’ loved the idea. It’ll be a paid downloadfor the online versions of Wii, XBox 360 and PS3 this fall.

NAMCO

You probably don’t remember the very-short-lived Spike TV animated series Afro Samurai,but I have a feeling you’ll remember the game (out the first quarter ofnext year for PS3 and XBox 360). The title hero is still voiced bySamuel L. Jackson, and Ron Perlman (i.e. Hellboy) and Kelly Hu (X-Men 2)also both appear, but the real standout is its anime-style visuals andsuper-precise gameplay. Well, that, and the new music from the RZAdoesn’t hurt either. 

WARNER BROS. INTERACTIVE

Even though I spent thousands of hours playing with Legos as a kid —which I believe is the reason I feel such deep satisfaction puttingtogether IKEA furniture — I’ve never really gotten the whole Lego Star Wars and Lego Indiana Jones games, and the same went for Lego Batman (out this September, for, like, every platform imaginable). The game’s graphics do look pretty fantastic, and if you dolike the Lego games, this one seems like it’ll be totally up youralley, as we were promised by the British dude showing off the gamethat pretty much any Batman character you can think of is going to bein this game. But I’m still waiting for the SimCity-like Legogame that lets me use virtual bricks to make anything I want. (Also, itbugged me that the Lego boats Batman and Robin drive in the gameactually float in water; I can tell you from personal experience, Legoboats do not float.)

Project Origin (out in October for PS3), the sequel to F.E.A.R.,is still very much a post-apocalyptic shoot-’em-up that features yourhero experiencing flashes of what can only be described as a verycreepy little girl a la The Ring. I liked how interactive the environment was — you can kick over a desk, for instance, and use it for cover — but, like Resident Evil,I try to stay as far away as I can from any game that will have mypalms sweating out of fright instead of five-hours of non-stop gaming.

NINTENDO

Finally, I was able to get my hands on Wii Music, and, yeah,I’m still really unconvinced about this game’s chances. We performed”Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star,” and my “percussion” dude was a karatekid who yelled after every punch; the melody came from a dude barkingin a dog suit. None of it sounded anything remotely like “TwinkleTwinkle, Little Star.” I only understood how the game could work afterthe famed Nintendo game designer Miyamoto-san demonstrated it for meand my colleagues Wook Kim and Gary Eng Walk — essentially, the gamebuilds improvised melodies around the song’s core melody, taking itsrhythm cues from the movement of your Wiimotes. But I still found itpretty dubious that the game’s supposed to somehow make playing aninstrument less intimidating for people who are afraid they’re going tosuck for the simple reason that it’s nearly impossible not to suck playing this game. I was far more encouraged by WiiSports Resort,which makes terrific use of the new WiiMotion Plus add-on to yourWiimote. For the first time in my life, I was able to throw a Frisbeewith any kind of accuracy, and although Gary whacked the crap out of mein the sword fight game, I definitely got a great work out trying toparry his attacks.