Special: Glenn previews 2K Games lineup: 24: The Game, Elder Scrolls IV and Serious Sam II as well as the 2K Sports NHL 2K6, NBA 2K6, College Hoops 2K6 and two Top Spin titles.
The slew of titles displayed by 2K Games at this year's E3 was quite diverse, with it's established sports franchises commanding most of the attention. Here's a look at some of what they had to offer:
24: The Game (PS2)
24: The Game was playable at several kiosks in the ?2K Games? area of the 2K booth, and this title is obviously cashing in on the wildly popular TV show of the same name. The game is essentially trying to blend many elements of the show into a game, including driving sequences, gunfights, interrogations, phone taps, and stealth sequences. Many of the show's techniques like multi-panel storytelling, diverging plot strands, double bluffs, and recurring characters will be used to create the drama for the game. Actual ?24? show writers will pen the script, and the plot is said to take place somewhere between the second and third season.
Right now, the game doesn't play that well, and that's the truth. The gunplay sequences were far too sporadic, and many of the features like taking cover and auto-aiming didn't work that well. The action takes place from a third-person style ? ala Max Payne or Syphon Filter ? and has Jack Bauer running around buildings, gunning various baddies. Far too often, games like this get too frenetic, and the developers would do well to pace the game a bit more, especially for these action sequences. Of course, not all the game is run-and-gun, but some of the other stuff playable wasn't that great either. One such example was the interrogation sequence, which featured some fantastic voice over work (with minimal repeats and great use of camera for effect), but it had no real logic in how it played out. Jack could essentially pick a calm, coax, or aggressive style and this would affect the subject's heart rate, but there seemed to be no rhyme or reason as to how or why you were supposed to pick each action. The end result was odd scenarios where Jack would be putting his arm around the guy one minute and then pulling a gun on him the next, with minimal affect on the subject's heart rate.
The game does have some promise based on what the series has accomplished, but often games that try to do too much don't work out. We'll all find out if this is the case once the game ships in the fall.
Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (Xbox 360, PC)
Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion was shown in movie form, and it does look to be a visual treat. Many of the indoor environments had some spectacular lighting effects, and many of the monsters on display were extremely detailed. The combat, inventory, and quest systems are apparently getting quite a facelift for this fourth installment in the series, with a heavy emphasis now being placed on direct action rather than D&D style combat. One more thing: Patrick Stewart doing voiceover for the game is ridiculously cool so look out for that, too! Prepare to ?Engage!? this fall.
Serious Sam II (Xbox)
Serious Sam II is the sequel to a first-person shooter that was all about monsters and guns, and this game plans to give you more of the same. With new vehicular and animal-back combat, 40 new levels, 45 new monster types, and a slew of new weapons, Serious Sam 2 looks like some more run-and-gun mayhem.
The sequence I played was in a large arena where scores of spider-like creatures were emerging from rocky overhangs to come flying towards me. There got to be quite a few enemies on screen, but not so many that I fully agreed with the boast that the game will support many more on-screen enemies than before. I was able to dispatch of the oncoming hordes with a fairly sweet auto-shotgun, some handy grenades, and a few other plasma-based weapons.
Serious Sam 2 looks to deliver more of what those who loved the first game would want, and it will be online for both the PC and Xbox when it ships later this year.
Top Spin 2 (Xbox 360, DS)
Top Spin 2 was playable for the Xbox 360, and what was there looked to be utilizing a good deal of the graphical muscle of the system. While the court, background, and random objects looked good, it was the amazing character models that were the true eye candy on display. The playable game featured Andy Roddick and Maria Sharapova, and each one of them was modeled in striking detail. You had to look no further than the hair of each player or the detail in the face to see what type of power the next Microsoft machine will command. Animations were also very fluid, but many did seem recycled from the first Top Spin, which isn't all that bad (nor unforgivable, since this is an early build).
The gameplay was enjoyable, much like the first Top Spin, and you had command of various lobs, smashes, and slices from all areas of the court. The power meters from Top Spin should make a return, but they weren't viewable when serving, though. The ball physics and pace of the game seem accurate, but, once again, not much was really broken with the Top Spin system, as the momentum of the player was taken into account for many shots and situations for that title and it seems to have carried over, here.
Top Spin (PS2)
Top Spin was finally being shown for Sony's current-gen hardware and, for the most part, it does justice to the strong Xbox title of the same name. The gameplay is quite refined, borrowing elements of the Virtua Tennis series to solid effect. Obviously, the PS2 graphics aren't going to be where the Xbox's were/are for this game (nor anywhere near the Top Spin 2 stuff), but they do the job of presenting a good looking current-gen tennis game to those who might be looking for it on Sony's console.
NHL 2K6 (PS2, Xbox, Xbox 360)
NHL 2K6 was something I wanted to check out at the show, as the real-life product has been pretty hard to find lately. I'm glad that the developers haven't rested on this fact, as the 2K6 game I played was noticeably better than the already stellar game from last year. Animations were greatly improved, with goalies looking immeasurably sharper in their movements and reactions. Goals also seemed to be more realistic now, with less reliance on silly fakes and more emphasis on shot placement and velocity.
Obviously, the ESPN ?branding? of the product is gone for this year's version, but the 2K6 overlays and stat highlights still look good and add some realism. The graphics of the crowd, arenas, and player models are all bumped up some as well, with players' helmets, jerseys, and pads (goalies showcase all of this well) looking much improved.
Like NBA 2K6, many of the established modes (Franchise, Party Mode, etc.) will receive upgrades for this year's game, and many online features will be fleshed out for much better league and messaging support. Look for NHL 2K6 in late Fall 2005.
NBA 2K6 (PS2, Xbox, Xbox 360)
NBA 2K6 is being developed for both current-gen and next-gen platforms and it seems to be shaping up quite well. Obviously, video has been shown of what NBA 2K6 looks to offer on next-gen hardware, but alas, that was not playable on the show floor. What was playable was the Xbox version, of which I had a look at. The game plays quite similar to previous instalments, but with some obvious upgrades to transition and post-up animations. The same tried-and-true icon passing and on-the-fly play calling remains in tact, and the game seems to move along at a fast clip, as per the norm.
The 24/7 mode, the Crib feature, and the Association ?franchise? mode will all be upgraded for this year's rendition of the game, with much improved scouting and player/fan feedback being welcome additions to the Association mode. Most everything else will likely just receive a refresh (new collectibles for the Crib, etc.), but expect the online mode to also be stocked up with more comprehensive league support, improved V.I.P. stat-tracking, and better messenger integration. Look for NBA 2K6 for later this year.
College Hoops 2K6 (PS2, Xbox, Xbox 360)
College Hoops 2K6 was also on display, and it plays quite a bit like NBA 2K6, but with drastically downgraded graphics. The flow seemed equally fast to that of NBA 2K6 (maybe faster), and the energy and spirit of the crowd was great ? gotta love that band playing after big plays. You also get great close-ups of players after monster jams, and these add to the realism and presentation, nicely. College Hoops 2K6 will be shipping around the same time as NBA 2K6 later this year.