Ah, the final day of E3. Day three is the day when you wrap up your last interviews and appointments and you make a mad scramble to get some hands-on time with the games you’ve had to pass over due to time constraints or that you just didn’t catch wind of the hype train until this point. This is the day when you have to shrug off the burnout you’re feeling and really get out and play some games, because it’s quite easy to wear out and miss out on some games. I usually like to be up and ready to go a little early on day 3 so that I can be there as soon as the doors open. I like to head straight to the demo I have just can’t miss that I haven’t tried yet. Unfortunately for me, my day would start a little too early.
Day 3 of E3 started for me at approximately 3:30am when the fire alarms went off in the hotel. After being scared right out of bed by an ear-piercing screeching noise, I poked my head out into the hall to see what was going on. The large fire doors were closed in the hall and a few other hotel guests were trying to make sense of what was going on as well. I could tell that the air was a little heavy, so I figured I’d head for the stairwell. Before doing so, I stuffed my laptop, my camera, and my wallet into my backpack. I also quickly got dressed and slipped out of my room hoping that I wouldn’t lose everything I left behind in a fire. The door to the stairwell was locked, and I looked down the hall and noticed a gathering near the emergency exit. I headed over and found that people had already started climbing down the fire escape, and in the distance we could hear fire engines coming toward us. Within about a minute four fire engines, an ambulance, a couple of police cars were out in front of the hotel. One fire engine extended its ladder to the roof, one to the middle of the hotel, and firemen poured out of all four and into the hotel either via ladder or through the lobby down below. As I climbed down the fire escape I could hear a handful of people starting panic that were further up the exit. Not good. When my feet hit solid ground I felt a bit of relief, and I began fishing into my backpack for my camcorder. People continued to climb down the building and pour out of the lobby. Around 4:15am the firemen said it was safe to head back in, and I took a little bit of video of them announcing the all clear. You’ll notice in the (extremely shaky) video below that as they’re telling us to head back in that there’s still someone climbing down the fire escape. 45 minutes to climb down?! After the all clear we all went back to our rooms, but the air inside still felt heavy. We all guessed that it was something along the lines of an electrical fire that had been dealt with, but we were never sure. I slept very light the rest of the night, obviously.
After that start to the day, I was somehow still feeling excited and energized for day three of the show. I took the shuttle to the expo, bought a horribly fattening cinnamon bun from the grumpiest cashier LA has ever seen, and sat down to eat while I planned my day. I had two appointments for the day, so most of the day would be free. I spent the remaining time before the show floor opened checking my luggage at the bag check and up in the media room writing some articles and watching a pinball restoration DVD on my laptop (yeah, so maybe my focus had waned a little by day three). At 10:00 I headed downstairs and into the West Hall for my final day.
Again, the line to Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks was well over an hour long, so I headed over to Sony instead and played Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in Time. Boy, what a great demo! I’ve always loved the R&C series, and A Crack in Time seems to be another great one in the making. As I played a Sony booth attendant came over and asked me what I thought of the game, a little bit about the site I write for, and what I thought of the show as a whole. He left me with a fist full of Uncharted 2 multiplayer beta codes to give out to readers. I still have a couple left, so let me know if you’d be interested.
After Ratchet, I puttered around the Sony booth and played the PSP Go, Uncharted 2, God of War III (thanks to a booth attendant allowing me to jump the line), and a handful of the 3rd party games. I really wish I disliked the PSP Go, because I think it’s terribly overpriced but I already want one. If they can deliver on the promise to make most of the games downloadable, I’ll be sold on the little machine. I just hope that some of the obscure stuff, like Gradius Collection, is good to go at launch. Uncharted, as expected, was pretty dang cool. That game should be a bit hit for Sony, and we all know that God of War III is primed to be a top contender for action game of the year.
After a quick lunch I dropped into the South Hall and got some hands-on with the game that probably impressed me most at the show. Yeah, I’m talking about Scribblenauts. If you don’t know what this game is, you’ll have to do some reading up, but I’ve embedded the trailer below. Really, it can’t be overstated just how cool this game was to play around with. I couldn’t stump the game, and I put in some really random items. If you get a chance, hunt down the video with the Nintendorks and Nick Suttner setting up a fight between The Kraken and God. Yes, it is possible in Scribblenauts.
Next up was my booth tour with EA Games. I picked up my media badge and was escorted into the Dragon Age: Origins showing shortly after. I’m not exactly sure how I feel about this game. It looked pretty good, it seems to be deep, and it had nice visuals, but I just got a strange vibe from it. Maybe it was that the demo felt kind of slow, but I was both impressed and disappointed at the same time by the game. After the demo, they allowed press to play, and since I was the only press member there at the time, I got to hang around alone and play through a dungeon. Even after playing, I felt the same way…impressed and disappointed at the same time. Who knows, maybe the game will come around for me a bit more with some more development time. BioWare is a great developer, so I’ll keep an eye on the project.
After Dragon Age I ran into Ron Yatco outside of the Army of Two: The 40th Day closed-doors booth. I met Ron when he invited me up to the EA Community Day event for Skate 2 up in Vancouver back in November. After catching up a bit, he urged me to check out the Army of Two game, despite my less than favorable opinions of the first title. I’m glad I listened to Ron, because Army of Two showed very well at E3. Things were still pretty rough as far as polish went, but the gameplay and setting of the game looked great. I think this title already looks light years ahead of the original and I’ll definitely be giving it a fair chance when it releases. Some of the co-op mechanics in the game were truly innovative.
The next game I checked out at EA was Battlefield: Bad Company 2. This game showed quite well and I got to play through a multiplayer match with some of the EA employees. My full hands-on are up over at Kombo, so I’ll keep my comments short here. I really liked the first Bad Company, but like many sequels at E3 this year, Bad Company 2 felt like a big step forward over its predecessor. The scope of the game felt much bigger, and combat felt like it had been refined significantly.
The last game I spent any real time with in the EA booth was FIFA 10. Yeah, I know most people aren’t going to care about a soccer game, but I happen to play FIFA games quite a bit with friends online. The advancements in FIFA 10 were very impressive. The game is receiving an overhaul in the AI, physics, and online integration departments. Rather than just a new coat of paint for another year, the FIFA 10 team is really getting aggressive with improvements based on both community feedback and internal testing.
EA’s booth had quite a few more games in there that were drawing a lot of attention. To get some hands-on time with Brutal Legend you’d have to dedicate at least 30 minutes to get through the line, and both Need for Speed games were seemingly popular. Madden 10 was looking pretty solid, but I have a lot of skepticism for that series based on the past few years. I keep hearing that this year is going to be the year it takes a big step forward, but I’ll need to see it first before I’ll believe it.
After my time at EA I had to hustle to the meeting rooms up above the West Hall for my last official meeting at E3. I had a time set up with Majesco to review their lineup. At first I was a bit disinterested in their showings, but once I got my hands on A Boy and His Blob I was excited in a big way. I’m a fan of the original game, even if it was brutal in its difficulty level. This re-boot of the series looked, played, and felt great! The graphics are charming, the puzzles were clever, and the game just oozed with personality. I am really pulling for this title to perform well upon release. I walked out of the Majesco booth happy, despite it being time for me to end my E3 experience. It was a great way to put the finishing touches on an absolutely amazing show.
After walking down from the meeting rooms I took one last glance through the doors of the West Hall. Part of me wanted to make one more lap around the booths or to quickly jump on one more demo unit, but I knew I needed to get my bag and get headed to the airport. I grabbed my bag from the bag check, walked out to the front of the expo, and headed over to the row of taxis with a pinch of sadness that it would be another year until the next show. On the other hand, I was buzzing with excitement to get back home to see my wife and newborn baby boy. Within a few minutes I was in the back of a taxi, Tweeting my farewells to E3 and praying for safety as my taxi driver weaved through traffic and sped down the LA city streets. The LA convention center disappeared behind the skyscrapers and smog behind me and with that my E3 experience for 2009 was done.