Sunday, October 15, 2006

Gamespot: Afterhours event in SF

Thanks to my friend Rita who put me and my friend Shawn on "the list" to get in, I went to this last Saturday night. It was pretty cool, and free. It was a small-scale videogaming event somewhat like PAX or a consumer-oriented E3. Unfortunately neither one of us remembered to bring his camera, so you'll have to savor my descriptive prose as a tasty substitute.

There were lots of different booths with groups of consoles set up by various developers to show off new or upcoming games. Surprisingly, about half of what was available was for the PC, so that platform is certainly not dead yet even in the face of the enormous popularity of console gaming. I saw the new Guitar Hero II for PS2 in action, and for the 360, Splinter Cell: Double Agent, Dead or Alive Extreme 2 and Lost Planet, among others. The list of all the games available is here. I only mention DOA Extreme 2 because it was really funny how obvious it is that a) it was developed by guys, for guys and b) that game has the most advanced "boob physics" anywhere. Every single movement the girls made onscreen resulted in a generous sloshing of their chestal regions, and the several "minigames" (Butt Bumper, Beach Flag Grab and Tug of War come to mind) were obviously created to emphasize this type of action.

I was hoping they would have a hands-on demo available for the Nintendo Wii, but I don't recall seeing Nintendo or any developers of upcoming Wii games anywhere at the show. Apparently there was an onstage demo by a Sega producer and one of the GameSpot guys later in the night of Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz, but we had already left by that time. There is video of that demo on the After Hours web site under the heading "Hour by Hour" and the video "The Future is Now - 7pm." Super Monkey Ball starts at 41:20 and shows how movements of the Wii remote translate into gameplay. Wii will certainly redefine interactivity when it comes to videogame control.

What I was most interested in, and what I was unexpectedly drawn to, was taking a gander at the playable PS3s. It was an interesting setup: each console was connected to a huge black box behind the monitor that was about the size of two VCRs laid one in front of the other (you can see it in this video). Apparently these were test (dev?) kits, and indeed the consoles had "TEST" printed right on top of them just beneath the PLAYSTATION 3 moniker in the Spider Man (see #55) font.

The console is physically huge, easily bigger than the original Xbox. Visually it's not appealing -- it seems to be a model of a domed stadium with a cheap, glossy, curved roof. Predictably the beast felt pretty heavy and plenty of hot air was being pushed out of its exhaust vents. The controller was unexpectedly light, but felt sturdy enough. To my knowledge none of the games demoed there utilized the tilt feature of the "Sixaxis" controller. The games available for play on PS3 were Full Auto 2: Battlelines, Ridge Racer 7 and Gundam Crossfire.

I played Full Auto 2 and watched the other two and while the graphics were pretty, I could see no real difference from current 360 games. Gameplay of Full Auto 2 was also no different from any other racing game I've already played. All of these games were very "arcadey," making no attempt to feel realistic, and in my opinion did not really show off the capabilities of the PS3. I suppose it says something about the power and potential of PS3 that its first generation games look as good as second generation 360 games, but by the same token an equivalent graphical appearance is no reason to choose PS3 over the 360 this holiday season, particularly when the 360 will be available on the shelves at most stores and for hundreds of dollars less than PS3.

There were also a number of "viewing only" demoes in separate rooms that were pretty cool. We saw presentations of Sid Meier's Railroads! and Bioshock. The cool thing about these was that members of each game's respective development staff were there and could answer questions and explain features and what they are trying to achieve with their games. No juicy inside stuff here, but Railroads! did crash on Windows while we were watching. Bioshock looked nice and had some creative combat ideas involving genetic mutation, but it's a good thing it won't release until 2007 because still needed some polish on keeping its framerate up during busy battles.

Thanks again for the hookup, Rita.

1 comment:

McWilliams said...

Sweet!

I'm going to try to hit the Gears of War after-hours preview at my local GameStop this Sat (10.21). Maybe I'll be able to bring my camera. Also heard there may be some swag there too. I'm stoked!