BeyondUnreal @ E3 2004
Los Angeles, California
13th May 2004
Well, a faulty water pump delayed my arrival at the Los Angeles Convention Center by several hours, yielding 4 short hours to make the most of my last day to let loose and have fun at the show. I'll be taking a long weekend with the wife to Palm Springs tomorrow as RR after an overdose of gaming goodness. The outside of the South Hall is pretty impressive, America's Army valet parket their helicopter here to avoid the $30 parking across the street. Inside the main lobby decorated with a mosiac of the globe was parked the General Lee, complete with Hazard County plates and 3 Daisy Dukes, yeehaw! I can't say if it was a promo for a video game, I mean who would want to drive recklessly and hang with beautiful women?

Opposite the West Hall, in a lonely gallery, resided the Atari Booth. Very red. Of most interest was Driver 3 and a screening of "getting up". I don't know if it was intentional, but passer throughs were zombiefied by the red light and lack of sound track compared to the other major publishers at the show. I grasped the subliminal and left two unfortunates to their fate. Stuck on red light mode, I put on my best lil' junior to smack some funk back in my viens with some ladies from a gangsta thrill ride game. Games with attitude were abundant, from Spongebob to Backyard Wrestling, they exude that can do voodoo. A few movie based games also filled out ranks, noteworthy was EA's Lord of the Rings line up and Harry Potter. Since I was out for Unreal blood, these held no little interest in my quest.

Perhaps the biggest hit list was exhibited by UbiSoft. Blood Rayne 2, Far Cry, Ghost Recon 2 and Splinter Cell 3 all fell beneath the UbiSoft Banner. My media pass got me a quick 20 minute viewing of the interactive Splinter Cell 3 demo. Lighting was crisp and added depth to the sneak and peek gameplay. Enviromental visuals, including wet rain, increased the sense of realism and heightened the tension. The sound was also superb, I could almost feel my neck crack as Sam Fisher dispatched unwary guards. Splinter Cell 3 will also have a coop multiplayer mode with some extra special moves. And oh yea, you can do more with a knife than ever before, so don't check your blade at the counter. Fantasy games are perhaps the most over represtented group at E3. Seems like everyone has a title that mirrors some other developers efforts. I still did not get a chance to play Dungeon Siege 2 or Lineage 2 for that matter. The genre is over populated with lower graphic versions that play well for low end machines. This is a kin to the Counter Strike phenomenom, to quote Liukin from XMPTV, "will play on a toaster". Yes all the visual fluff is nice, but to reach a international massive multiplayer audience system specs have to be kept below expectations.

As QAPete pointed out, I'm dazzled by displays. I particularily liked this 10 foot diagonal LED widescreen. True you would need to sit back 20 feet to not pixellate your eyes, but to battle it out with foes your own size appeals to my senses. I think I need to get a bigger desk. Another fact I was pleased to find was a new found skill with a controller. Having failed my beginner's test yesterday on Unreal Championship 2 I had a go at Rainbow Six 3. Turns out I'm better at tactical games over pure Deathmatch. In defense of Unreal Championship 2, turns out players will be able to select their own 3 weapon load outs and can pick up dropped weapons in game in exchange for like items in inventory. Yes, leading to the age old question: "upgrade, or not to upgrade?" The best controller for a console I found at E3 was the Nyko Air Flo, it just felt right, keeping me cool and my hands dry. Underneath the South Hall lays Kentia hall. This smaller low ceiling converted parking area housed many off shore publishers and builders of fine import goods. One amazing device that is finding its way into many PC games is a video tracker. Players hands, feet or even held objects like swords can be scanned and then dynamically motion captured. From disco to kick boxing, it made its lack of mechanical interaction known. Even a flight sim where players flapped their arms to guide themselves as a dragon sheppard proved to be popular. My favorite was the kung-fu fighting, In fact it was a little bit fright'ning... The biggest surprise and last stop of the day was at the HIP booth, where they were showcasing the Unreal-powered game Pariah. After a long discussion with Scott McGregor from Digital Extremes, I could go on and on about the single player objective oriented gameplay as gamers play out the character of Dr. Jack Mason and his ward, the lovely Katrina, battling their way across the penal colony named Earth. Suffice to say you will be up against some sinister criminal masterminds that have access to all the secret weapons you don't have, yet. Six vehicles make there way into the mix (3 wheeeled and 3 hover type), and some interesting weapon upgrades via WEC's (Weapon Energy Cores) - think dispersion pistol attributes from Unreal 1 - for all your Pariah goodies. Like Unreal Championship 2, multiplayers will load out with 3 weapons of choice, able to exchange with items dropped in battle. No plans for actual player classes exsist at this time. But wait, there's more! In addition, a planned multiplayer utilizing all the player model assets from the single player version. SO all those bipedal buddies you blasted now can be you. Multiplayer gametypes are slated to include the standard DM, CTF and TDM, plus two new unique to Pariah: Siege, similar to UT's invasion coop game, and Front Line Assault, a two way progressive linear objective deal akin to Onslaught. 3 things set Pariah visually apart from other released Unreal titles. Pariah uses Havoc physics, which delivers cleaner and more accurate collisions than the current Karma engine. Effective for vehicles, Havoc will allow Pariah player models to dynamically react to damage then tween back into animation, unless death occured than ragdoll takes over. Most noticable in game will be the use of Refractive textures, these give spacial warp ripple effects, good for water surfaces, heat waves and energy fields (ooh, Titan's fist!). Third in the list is Normal Mapping. previewed in the Unreal 3 tech video, Pariah will utilize high poly resource meshes to skin low poly in game meshes, making the two nearly impossible to tell apart. Alas, times up and it was time to leave. I hope you enjoy the pics and hope to see you next year at E3! Still not checked out day one of BeyondUnreal's E3 2004 coverage? Head over here!