Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone

E3 2005 Overview

This year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) was probably one of the most epic and surprising conventions to be held in quite some time. With major announcements from all three major console manufacturers, this was where the next generation consoles had their coming-out parties. Judging by what was shown, this coming generation of machines is set to offer a much more substantial leap forward than the last time around. There was a lot to see and explain, so join us as we offer our own observations on this year’s big show.  

This was one of the most exciting E3 conventions in many years, with all three console manufacturers providing details on their next-generation systems. With Sony’s shocking PlayStation 3 announcement leading the way, the other two players were left gasping for air and the all-important buzz. Leading off the convention were the three major press conferences, starting with Sony. In the days prior to the launch, Sony had placed billboards throughout the convention center and Los Angeles with the phrase “Welcome Chang3” hinting at the fact that the PS3 would have a much bigger presence at the show than previously believed. However, very little information had leaked out beforehand, unlike with the Xbox 360, giving the Sony presentation a much greater element of surprise. The market-leader spent the majority of their conference outlining the tech-specs of the PS3 and followed this with a tour-de-force gameplay presentation that left many in attendance in shock. The specifications of the much-vaunted Cell processor lived up to expectations and works in conjunction with the NVIDIA supplied GPU, the , to support many advanced rendering features, such as multiple-HDTV monitor output up to 1080p, and support for advanced graphics techniques including advanced lighting, bump mapping and shaders. These demos left even jaded journalists with their mouths on the floor. As expected, the console will support Blu-Ray discs and wireless controllers, in addition to online features plus full High-Definition support with memory stick and other inputs.

Sony followed the extensive and detailed technical presentation with a series of demos that were almost shocking in how far along they were and the sheer amount of polish evident. Things began with a bang, with the team from Epic Games showing a real-time, not pre-rendered, Unreal demo particularly impressive as was a presentation of EA’s upcoming Fight Night, which showed incredibly detailed physics that allowed the boxers shown to look and react with an incredible amount of realism. The visuals on these two titles were simply amazing, showcasing a level of detail that hasn’t been achieved, even on the highest-end PC’s. A mixture of familiar titles and new games were shown with short clips of Tekken, Final Fantasy and Devil May Cry follow-ups giving a tantalizing glimpse into the future. These were mixed in with new or less-familiar franchises such as Heavenly Sword, MotorStorm and Fifth Phantom Saga. Two of the biggest surprises came from dormant or less-popular franchises. Sony showed a short video of the long-rumored sequel to Warhawk that featured literally hundreds of planes onscreen at once, and followed this up with a video of the Killzone follow-up that was probably the single most impressive thing shown this year. Finally, Sony put an exclamation point on their press conference by announcing a spring 2006 launch window for their new console, half a year earlier than the fall introduction most industry watchers had predicted beforehand. Overall, Sony’s presentation was quite intense, shocking, stunning and probably more than enough to give rival execs a few sleepless nights. Just about the only element of the unveiling that drew criticism was the shape and design of the new PS3 controller, which many journalists compared to a batarang. Fortunately, a sign behind closed doors stated that this was a concept design, and hopefully Sony will be able to fix this minor issue before the hardware is finalized.

Directly following Sony’s E3 earthquake was Microsoft, who spent a lot of time before the show hyping the launch of the Xbox 360 console. While some of their thunder was stolen by the PS3 unveiling, the company still managed an impressive showing for their new console. While it will be backward compatible, it will apparently only be partially so, with only the ‘best-selling’ titles emulated. This is slightly disappointing on one hand, but no one is forcing players to part with their old consoles, and this will become less important as time goes on. The hardware itself is impressive, with multiple processors, advanced hardware rendering and the by now standard wireless controllers making this a powerful piece of hardware. Xbox 360 will also support high-definition displays, ushering in what Microsoft is calling the “HD era.” It looked impressive, and this energetic debut was quite impressive despite feeling slightly deflated by Sony’s announcement. Microsoft also spent a significant amount of time outlining the future of Xbox Live, with the 360 service looking to be even more robust, with increased opportunities for online communities with trading, buying, selling, and content merchandising allowing the console to more closely resemble the elusive set-top box and media center. Looking forward, the Xbox 360 hit E3 with some very impressive launch titles such as Project Gotham, Perfect Dark Zero and Kameo making the strongest impressions. Microsoft also showed some strong third-party support, with EA’s Need for Speed and Madden along with Sega’s AutoDestruct and Ubi’s Ghost Recon 3 showcasing the power of the nascent system. Microsoft also announced several key alliances with prominent Japanese developers including Squaresoft, which hopefully means the new console won’t be dominated by PC ports. Speaking of which, owners of the original Xbox still have at least one blockbuster left, with the upcoming releases such as Far Cry Instincts and Half-Life 2 showing there’s still life in the original Xbox console yet. Overall, Microsoft’s confidence was striking, even in the face of unexpectedly early competition, the company seems to have learned from previous mistakes with a smaller console and broader approach to development. It looks like the 360 will be a much stronger competitor this time around.

With these two companies out of the way, it was left to Nintendo to close the pre-show festivities and they did so in their own style the next day. While the Revolution was only shown as a shiny, sleek box, minus the much-vaunted yet mysterious controllers, some new and intriguing details about the new system did emerge. It will play DVD’s and is backward-compatible with Gamecube discs. However, In a unique twist, players will also be able to play classic NES, SNES and N64 titles via a download system. Specific details such as tech specs and HD support were thin, but there were some interesting hints dropped with wireless play hinted at. It was a slightly disappointing presentation if you were looking for major new hardware announcements, aside from the underwhelming appearance of the Game Boy Micro, a shrunken-down version of the Game Boy Advance SP, which looks cute but adds little to Nintendo’s handheld line. However, the machine should continue to sell well due to its low price and large library. On the plus side, Nintendo’s software lineup looks quite strong once again this year, with some innovative DS titles such as ElectroPlankton and Nintendogs set to make waves later this year. Mario is also returning this year with a few sports themed titles and another party game. Owners of the Gamecube also have one final big title to look forward to in the form of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, which looks simply amazing in the amount of detail and gameplay innovations it will offer. The game should please fans of the series with its darker, more adult tone and visceral combat system. While Nintendo usually takes it on the chin from mainstream magazines and websites, the consistency and quality of their titles leaves little room to doubt their direction. Nintendo knows how to please their core audience, and if the more mainstream approach they seem to be headed for with the Revolution holds, the company will likely once again expand its market share in the next round.

> Continue to Page 2

< Back to News Index