E3 2009: Thursday Roundup

Sadly, we’ve come to the end of the 2009 edition of the Electronic Entertainment Expo. That doesn’t mean that we were short of things to talk about. Even on the final day, announcements were being made and new details were coming out about recently unveiled games.

Forza Motorsport 3

In a move not seen in a racing game since Gran Turismo 2 on the PS1, FM3 will be released on two discs. Unlike GT2 which had a Simulation Mode disc and an Arcade Mode disc, FM3’s second disc is essentially a data disc. The first disc is characterized by one Turn 10 staffer as “the full experience.” The second disc will have cars and tracks that couldn’t fit onto the first disc. These will be downloaded on to the XBox 360’s hard drive. On the one hand, this shows the amount of content being piled into FM3. On the other, it shows how technologically inferior the 360 is to the PS3. The Ps3 uses Blu-Ray discs which have about 3.5 times the storage capacity of the dual-layer DVDs that the 360 uses. Just saying…

Anyway, FM3 will have over 400 cars and 100 tracks. The developers aren’t spending so much time talking about that than the gameplay. Turn 10 appears to be taking a jack of all trades approach with this game. They are trying to make a racing simulation game but have loaded it with all sorts of driver aids (including auto-braking and race rewind) to make it accessible to newer gamers. Of course, when saying that you want to make the best driving simulator, you still have to stack yourself up against Gran Turismo. Just waiting on word from those guys.

ModNation Racers

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum from Forza is ModNation Racers. While FM3 is a hardcore simulation (they think), MNR is an arcade-style, fun go-kart game. However, similar to FM3, there is a strong emphasis on the online community. This is especially true when it comes to tracks. MNR comes with a built-in track creation mode that is being used by the developers to create all the tracks that the game ships with. In keeping with the “Play. Create. Share.” series of games on the PS3, players will be able to create, in addition to tracks, racers and karts from the ground up. That series of games is also home to LittleBigPlanet so you know we’re in for a treat with MNR. Sadly, the game won’t see the market until 2010.

DJ Hero

Of all of Activision’s games, this one might just be generating the most hype. What Guitar Hero has done for the popularity of rock music, DJ Hero is poised to do for the popularity of electronic music. Unlike Guitar Hero, the majority of the mixes in this game aren’t widely available from famous DJs. Instead, FreeStyle Games made the majority of mixes in-house so there will be a certain unique exclusivity to DJ Hero. That’s not to say that there won’t be mixes from DJ Shadow and the like. There will be over 100 songs included in over 80 mixes.

Like Guitar Hero, this game comes with its own peripheral. It has one turntable with a record that can make full 360 rotations and has three buttons on it. Two buttons are to scratch records while the middle button is the “sample” button. To the left of the turntable is the mixer which has the cross-fader, effects dial, and Euphoria button. In DJ Hero, Euphoria acts as the substitute for Guitar Hero’s star power.

The game is expected to be released in the third quarter of 2009. While this is a new game for the folk at Activision, this isn’t the only chance that you will have to be a DJ this fall.

Scratch: The Ultimate DJ

The folks from Genius Products describe their game as being a performance DJ who drops his own beats and does his own freestyle scratches as opposed to creating mixes like a club DJ. And the claws are out. The first difference that you will notice with this game as opposed to DJ Hero is the peripheral that comes with it. It has a turntable with a record that has a classic vinyl record textured treatment and a mixer board with five drum pad buttons and a cross-fader.

Unlike DJ Hero, this doesn’t really follow the Guitar Hero mould for performance. You aren’t forced into following on-screen instructions verbatim. Your scratches are all freestyle not dictated by arrows on the screen. There is a Guitar Hero style “highway” with beats to hit on it but you don’t fail out for missing notes. In fact, you’re encouraged to make it up as you go along and make each performance your own. In addition to the licensed tracks that come with the game, there is a “Freestyle Mode” that starts you with a looping backbeat and a set of sound samples to add in using the drum pad buttons. There is also a “Career Mode” where you aspire to go from beginner to the world’s greatest DJ.

LEGO Rock Band

Yes, The Beatles won’t be the only ones that have a Rock Band game coming out. There will be a LEGO themed Rock Band game. All the band members will be LEGO people and the stages will be LEGO themed. If the title didn’t give it away, this will be a more family-oriented game, like Activision’s upcoming Band Hero. For the most part, the game plays like every other Rock Band game. To lower the learning curve, it will have a sort of super-easy or beginner difficulty level. Unlike other Rock Band games, LEGO’s band mode has some unique band challenges that don’t fall under the usual “Get ‘X’ number of stars to move on” objectives. Expect to see the game on store shelves in time for the Christmas shopping season.

Mass Effect 2

One of the great revelations in action-RPGs was the original Mass Effect. The combination of a deep narrative, great dialogue writing and acting, and good action combined to make one of the great games of all-time. And that’s not even mentioning that every decision you make over the course of the game will affect things for the duration of game. All that hasn’t changed for the sequel. In fact, if you’ve played the first Mass Effect, decisions that you made the first go around will affect how things play out in ME2.

As good as the first one was, there were still improvements to be made, particularly with the combat system. It has been streamlined so there is less pauses in the action, making it play a bit more like a shooter. The classic med pack system has been dropped for an automatic health regeneration system. Speaking of combat system updates, the targeting system now has location damage recognition so you can incapacitate an enemy limb-by-limb or blow their brains out. The visuals have been improved all around and the environments are deeper all around.

3 thoughts on “E3 2009: Thursday Roundup

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