E3Expo 2003 Friday’s Report

SimHQ heads to California to see what’s new in simulations at the year’s biggest show.

The 2003 E3 Expo.

Recap – Friday, May 16th

Darim Systems

We stopped by Darim Systems to see what their hydraulic motion base for sims was all about. Darim makes the base and different configurations can be added for either flight or racing sims. You can see all the technical specifications here. At approximately $13,000 it’s not for the everyday sim enthusiast, but Darim Systems plans for unit pricing to drop as production units become more common. Darim is working with Microsoft to use Combat Flight Simulator 3, and as we found out, it makes for a heck of a ride. Even though it will require some tuning per sim title and Hornit had some issues with rolls, popping Junkers has never been so much fun.

Hornit... ...and guod try out the Darim Systems motion base with CFS3.

EA Sports

When we stopped by the EA Sports booth, they were showing NASCAR Thunder 2004, the latest in their NASCAR Thunder series. It looks like they have new features with emphasis on better AI — and AI that “pays you back”. Hopefully this version doesn’t go more to the arcade side. Expect an even bigger emphasis on career development. How does it drive? We had limited hands-on time at E3 so a review is planned.

The other racing sim that’s been anxiously awaited from EA Sports is F1 Challenge (no web site announced yet) the successor to F1 2002. Unfortunately they were not presenting it at this year’s show, even though it‘s due soon. Due to some final buttoning down, information on F1 Challenge has been very quiet. Rest assured we will see much fanfare at the rollout in a couple of months. The console version (titled F1 Career Challenge) is due first with the PC version to follow thereafter. F1 Challenge will include the historic 1999 through 2001 F1 racing seasons. You’ll start out your career as a backmarker in a mediocre car and work your way to the top of the F1 driving profession through your success and determination. Take a look at this Gamespot page for screenshots of the console version.

Electronic Arts

We spent some time with EA at the new Battlefield 1942 desk. Their new add-on “Secret Weapons of WWII”looked excellent. There were many new weapons, troops, equipment and planes. Here is a snippet off the press CD.

Go to war like never before with your choice of up to 16 new experimental vehicles, including:

  • Horton HO 229 “Flying Wing”
  • Sherman tank with a T-34 Calliope rocket launcher
  • T95/T28 Super Heavy Tank
  • The Sturmtiger — featuring a naval gun mounted atop a Tiger tank
  • The American AW-52 advanced fighter
  • The Wasserfall guided anti-air missile
  • The Natter rocket plane
  • Top secret German prototype Rocket Pack — fly and fight at the same time.
  • Seven new weapons include throwable one-shot kill knives, the Bren light machine gun, the Remington Auto 5 shotgun, and the Mauser K98 grenade rifle.
  • Eight new World War II campaigns, including combat missions at a V2 research facility and Hitler’s hideaway, The Eagle’s Nest.
  • All-new locations offer unique Battlefield experiences, ranging from nightfall in Prague to a winter battle in Norway.
  • New objective-based mode — players must accomplish specific objectives, such as destroying a secret weapons facility, in order to win the battle.
  • Introducing British Commando and German Elite troops.

EA's Medal of Honor Rising Sun - for console first.A funny postscipt regarding the Rocket Pack. While Doug was being shown the new add-on by one of the EA Representatives, he noticed an infantryman going upwards through the air. He thought “oh well, it’s still in development and must be buggy”. When the Rep later pointed out the Rocket Pack, Doug cracked up laughing.

While we were there, Carl Norman walked up and we chatted for a good while. He is doing well and is currently consulting with Eagle Dynamics. We plan to keep in close contact with Carl as the days move on. I’m sure we will be working with Carl again down the road on something.

We then hooked up with Dan Turner from FiringSquad and had a closed door look at the new Medal of Honor: Rising Sun. The demo was only being shown on PlayStation 2 (PC version due in early 2004) but the potential of the PC version is undeniable. Our demo showed an American force of Navy personnel trying to fend off Japanese planes during the attack on Pearl Harbor. Dan joined us later for a private showing of Half Life 2.

Finally, at EA’s booth, we were able to take in the newest version of Need for Speed, which is titled “Underground”. This is a street-racing version of NFS series, which allows for hundreds of modifications to either a Toyota Supra or Mitsubishi Eclipse. Overall, we were a great more impressed with EA’s new BattleField 1942 and Medal of Honor add-ons for the FPS crowd.

A copter view from Flight Simulator 2004Microsoft

Later, we headed back over to Microsoft so we could get Bubba a look at Flight Simulator 2004. Bubba was very impressed with the new changes made to the title and for the first time, dynamic changes are being incorporated in the sim. The graphics, depth and ease of use have been stepped up to a whole new level putting Flight Simulator 2004 in a class by itself. Bubba mentioned on several occasion just how impressed he was with a “civilian” flight simulation.

After having some fun with Flight Simulator, we took a good look at Train Simulator 2. Many changes have been made to this new version. Many of the demands put forward as requests for incorporation into the original version are found in Train Simulator 2. The world is much more active now with other trains, cars and people just as you would expect to find in the real world. There are more routes to choose from including some very detailed mountainous routes through Europe. US users can now load both steam and electric trains on the track.

TS2 also allows users to create their own trains, routes and tracks. Look for it to be out in a couple of months. Some new screenshots are linked to the thumbnails below.

MS Train Simulator 2 MS Train Simulator 2 MS Train Simulator 2
MS Train Simulator 2 MS Train Simulator 2 MS Train Simulator 2

Ubi Soft

Then we headed over to Ubi Soft for a meeting with LOMACHarpoon 4Rainbow Six 3’s new mission pack,Athena Sword and their new FPS titled, Far Cry.

LOMAC has aged well since we last saw it at E3. There is still some work to do according to Matt Wagner but a July release is planned. I had the chance to down a MiG-29 in a F-15C, which was quite nice. I could go on about how nice it looked but it’s just about “ShowTime”. We are looking to get on with a preview quite soon so stay tuned along with a few more surprises.

Below are quite a few screenshots to whet your appetite. Our SimHQ staff members took most of them right in front of the monitor. It is our belief that most of these menu screenshots are being seen for the first time in a “done” state of construction. Click on a thumbnail below to see the enlarged image.

Far Cry is an island-based FPS that should appease those that want large outdoor areas for gun combat. The AI was outstanding as the enemies came in groups and worked together. I actually saw a soldier signal to others for help before seeking cover and engaging me in combat. There were many weapons to choose from as my demonstrator showed me that headshots go a long way to making the game’s enemies go down quickly. I was not as impressed with Far Cry at first but did come away with a healthy appreciation of the game. There is some stiff competition in the FPS shooter field right now so we will have to see how Far Cry looks closer to release.

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