SimHQ heads to California to see what’s new in simulations at the year’s biggest show.
Recap – Wednesday, May 14th
There are some definite trends apparent at this years E3. The console market is even more dominant. Matter of fact, two of the best looking sims weren’t running on the PC platform, and one of those has the potential to revolutionize military FPS sims.
We started the day by viewing a stunning new sim by THQ and Pandemic for the U.S. Army. Yes, there’s another U.S. Army game out there. Pandemic was asked by the U.S. Army three years ago to develop a game that soldiers could play and learn squad based techniques and procedures. What they showed was a trailer (available here at the bottom of this page) followed by a live demo of a two squad assault on an enemy area in a urban environment. It was stunning how good the character images, fluid motion, environment detailing and squad management was presented. Exclusive on X-Box and no announced plans for the PC (although don’t be surprised if it shows up there too). This sim might be enough for simmers to justify getting an X-Box. “Hornit” says he’s getting an X-Box just because of this sim! Due in 2004.
Microsoft was showing Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004, A Century of Flight. As good as the FS2002 version is, this new version really takes a big jump forward. First, all the menus have been redesignedand significantly cleaned-up. Standard hyperlinks are more prominent on each of the pages. A unique feature which plays off the “A Century of Flight” theme is the historic background on each plane featured. Included are video’s and textual backgrounds that explain the significance of each plane in aeronautical history. Best of all, at the bottom of each plane’s information is it’s historic flights. When you click on the link you’re presented with the opportunity to fly the planes famous flights. Very nice.
The graphics have been significantly upgraded in this new version. Take a look at this Alaskan scenery. Note the roads are now clearly defined and cut into the mountainside.
Not surprisingly because of the success of the genre, there are a ton of new FPS games.
Activision also had their online only multiplayer Day of Defeat on display in the new retail version. If you’re familiar with this squad-based objectives game, you know it has built-in player communications. Day of Defeat has 15 maps available.
We met with StrategyFirst and talked to them about Steel Beasts II, and a new Naval game in development titled Air Raid. Steel Beasts II will be out “within a year”. A good multiplayer experience will be one of the major objectives of this popular tanking sim. They also have two new RTS games in the works which look interesting; the already announced WWII Frontline Command and War Times (working title). War Times will be unique in how the game mechanics are handled with a “build” functionality rather than the typical “the infantry already exists” found in many RTS. StrategyFirst also has a new racing game titled Xpand Rally in development.
Finally, we visited Tapwave, a new mobile entertainment company who are working on a new PDA / game system due within a year. They are targeting game and sim players who want portability and high quality gaming on the road. The samples we saw were stunning in quality and smooth gameplay. They already have partners like Activision, ATI, Atari, Motorola, PalmSource, Yamaha audio and Fathammer. You can count on premiere titles being available on this new gaming system. The less than 6 ounce handheld has a very high-tech design and is ergonomically comfortable to hold. Tapwave has the intent to provide MP3 music and MPEG4 playback along with the gaming. From what we saw, the high resolution 480×320, 16-bit color display delivers beautiful video playback. Image having the capability to play a full length movie then switch to some gaming afterwards on the same battery charge. This possible due to the dual Lithium batteries. Because of it’s Bluetooth support, 8 friends can have a wireless “LAN meet”. Because it uses the Palm OS, all the business functionality is built in. Each memory slot can be expanded up to 1GB with SD memory cards. Keep your eye on this one — it looks very interesting.
We have several meetings on Thursday and Friday with major sim developers so we’ll post more updates and photos during the next couple of days. Stay tuned!