The first day of the Electronic Entertainment Expo promised a lot this year, with major new hardware expected from both Sony and Nintendo, on top of the usual games galore. Attendees were not disappointed. Here's a roundup of the first day's highlights.
Perhaps the biggest news is Nintendo's new gaming system. Dubbed the Wii U, it sports a wireless controller that features a 6.2 inch touchscreen display. The controller also boasts the usual buttons: left and right analog stick, D-pad for up, down, left and right movement, and A, B, X and Y buttons. But it does much more. Its built-in gyroscope and accelerometers let players interact with games by moving the controller, even in a full 360 degree fashion. Built-in speakers and a microphone let you use the controller in a number of interesting ways – as a wireless videophone, for instance. It can also be used as a web browser.
Games that get interrupted on a TV can be continued on the controller's screen. Playing games with the controller, especially on a TV, gives the player two different windows into the virtual world. The touchscreen increases the system's capabilities far beyond conventional gaming. It's the kind of system that could lead to a full, seamless integration between computers used for work, communication, and various kinds of entertainment (not just video games). As if to help that along, the company says that the system is fully backwards compatible with all Wii games and accessories. Nintendo gave an April 1, 2012 release date for Wii U, but no price.
Sony unveiled its next generation portable gaming system, the PlayStation Vita. With a five-inch OLED panel, it's as light as a smartphone, and feels comfortable in use. It boasts a floating D-pad on the left, a flash card slot, and a rear touchpad. Its dual analog sticks “completely blow away the original PSP's analog nub,” according to Engadget's Sean Hollister. It also features front- and rear-facing cameras, and comes in two versions: Wi-Fi only, for $249, and 3G for $299. The Vita will be available only through AT&T. Expect to see it shipping worldwide toward the end of this year.
Microsoft offered up some news as well. One of the most eagerly anticipated is Kinect Star Wars, which lets the player move through the game universe as a Jedi wielding a light saber. With Kinect's motion-detecting sensors, you don't actually have to hold anything; your right hand always uses the light saber, and your left hand always uses the Force. One player of the demo noted a distinct but not unmanageable lag between a player's movements and the character's reactions in the game. Tina Sanchez, writing for 1Up, dubbed the game a “guilty pleasure” and “not as good as a Star Wars fan would hope.” Hopefully they'll get the problems worked out before the game is actually released.
This was far from the only gaming title demoed for the Kinect. Harmonix, maker of Rock Band and the original Guitar Hero, trotted out Dance Central 2. The sequel to Dance Central allows players to dance/battle simultaneously; just make sure you have plenty of space in your living room to do it! Harmonix has also revamped the campaign mode to give the game more of a story.
First person shooter fans haven't been left out of the mix either. Halo 4 is coming. It's set to hit the market during the 2012 holiday season, and it will be the start of a whole new trilogy. Not many details were available, however. For those who enjoy the mind-twisting universe of Bioshock, the latest installment, “Bioshock: Infinite” takes you out of the underwater city and into the sky, with a gloriously colorful palette that stands out from most gritty FPS games. Superhero games at E3 included “Batman: Arkham City” and the movie tie-in “Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters.” There were many other games, of course, but I don't have the room to cover them all. The E3 event continues through June 9 in Los Angeles.
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