Special: In addition to Sonic, Spartan, and Virtua Tennis games, the Sega booth had some of the only Xbox 360 titles on hand. And, Glenn got a chance to check them all out.
The Sega booth had lots going on this year, with established franchises like Sonic showing up, but also with new elements like playable Xbox 360 games. Let's take a look at what was there:
Condemned: Criminal Origins (Xbox 360)
Condemned: Criminal Origins was one of two playable Xbox 360 games in the Sega booth, and it looks to be shaping up extremely well. I wouldn't go so far as to calling it a potential sleeper hit, but it does have the makings of a very strong game. Borrowing elements from both Doom 3 and Half Life 2, Condemned looks to blend suspenseful and eerie elements of survival horror with interactive first-person exploration sequences.
The demo I played was reasonably short, but it did allow me the chance to see how the player will interact with weapons, enemies, and the environment. The main character was traversing some sort of building complex with back alleys, and there were wacky street people fighting each other? until they saw you. To fend them off, you could use quite a few items around you including pipes, 2x4s (w/ a nail in them), a shotgun, a taser, and even the door off a storage locker. The melee weapons provided a great visceral impact, as the ?thud? of your blow would land appropriately on the attacking hobo and send them reeling back. Often, you would have them subdued on the ground and they would try and come at you, but a well-placed pipe shot would smoke them in the head and put them back on the ground ? the ragdoll physics created some extreme realism, here. The taser also seemed eerily real, as your adversaries would wince and convulse, and then slowly drop after being shocked with it.
The environments were extremely detailed and called to mind Half Life 2 for their inspiration. Light sources were few far and far between, but looked amazingly effective when you would see someone coming out of shadow into them.
The game also contains some interactive elements and many of these were context sensitive, as you'd be prompted to press a button in order to jump down, open things, use devices and the like. This will likely be used for some light puzzle solving elements in the game.
While there are few rough edges at this point, Condemned: Criminal Origins still looks like a very promising Xbox 360 title. Keep an eye out for updated impressions as it approaches release later this year.
Full Auto (Xbox 360)
Full Auto was another Xbox 360 game playable at the SEGA booth, and it almost looked as if it was ready to ship. The formula is pretty simple: Burnout plus copious amounts of missiles and machine guns ? sounds good to me.
The racing is totally white-knuckled and non-stop, and you'll find yourself racing through cityscapes and laying waste to just about everything in sight, including the opposition. Turning and accelerating with the cars is fairly standard, and the weapons can be squeezed off with relative ease. It's quite a visual feast, as you get the breakneck feeling of speed, extremely detailed buildings and roads, and crazy explosion effects. At one point, I was flying down a road chasing the second-place racer and I fired off some rounds from my machine guns, some of which hit an oncoming fire truck. The cool part was that when the fire truck got close enough to pass me, I saw the bullet holes in the bumper of it ? pretty sweet, indeed.
Two tracks were playable at the show, and each of them showed off the 360s apparent horsepower quite well. It seems fairly ridiculous for developers to spend time detailing buildings and such when you're just flying by them, but the good people at Pseudo Interactive have given some incredible life to everything you see in each 3-minute race. Frankly, I can't wait to play this game once it comes out, and, if this demo was any indication, the multiplayer features should be really slick.
Spartan: Total War (PS2, Xbox, GameCube)
Spartan: Total War was an interesting gladiator game where you assume the role of a Spartan warrior who must help the Greeks fend off the advancing Roman throng. Calling to mind the hack-and-slash ?Lord of the Rings? games, Spartan: Total War has you advancing your forces against dozens of enemies, some of whom can be faced head-on and others who need to be dispatched at long range.
The concept is simple enough, but the control scheme and mission objectives seem to allow for some growth in the gameplay arc so that you won't learn all of the fun tricks right off the bat. The combat in the demo I played was responsive and fairly straightforward, with various melee strikes and range attacks coming into play. Certain enemies required more patience, and it often paid off to think for a moment rather than rush into an angry mob of warriors.
The game features some mission objectives (such as planting explosives, escorting officers, etc.) and also utilizes varying environments and terrain, which should affect how the missions play out.
The game looks promising and should work for those who are fans of visceral action games or those who are into Roman/Greek epics. Look for Spartan: Total War to ship on all three consoles for September.
Shadow the Hedgehog (PS2, Xbox, GameCube)
Shadow the Hedgehog is a slight re-imagining of the Sonic franchise, with the brooding anti-hero, Shadow, as the main player. On an alien world, Shadow is battling an evil dictator (and amnesia) in order to find the precious emeralds strewn around the game world.
Many of the usual Sonic conventions are here such as ring collecting, dashing, spin-hitting enemies, and interacting with various ramps and bumpers. However, Shadow can also pick up certain objects to knock out the soldiers he'll encounter, and, in some cases, he can even wield a gun ? a bit weird, but hey, they're trying something different.
In the build I played, the speed and pace of the game seemed quite similar to recent Sonic adventures, and the few new elements should change up the flow a little bit. Look for Shadow the Hedgehog this fall.
Sonic Rush (DS)
Sonic Rush was also playable at the SEGA booth, and it utilizes both screens of the handheld for this Sonic adventure. The levels were almost split in half horizontally, and when Sonic would take a loop or ramp way down, you'd see him show up on the bottom screen. The effect is somewhat disorienting, but it does work reasonably well, and the game was sporting some classic sonic gameplay and visuals. Sonic fans might do well to check this one out.
Virtua Tennis: World Tour (PSP)
Virtua Tennis: World Tour was on display at E3, and it seemed to be running reasonably smooth on the PSP hardware. The visuals were solid at this stage, and the gameplay seemed fairly close to what was established on the Dreamcast. It's a bit weird not playing with thumbsticks, but the game still moved OK. Virtua Tennis: World Tour should be a classic game that should be fun to have for a handheld.