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GamesFirst! Magazine

Sarah's E3 2001 Picks

 

Xbox        PlayStation 2      GameCube

My third E3 is now complete and the time has come to compile a best of show list. The difficult task of spotting gems among the hundreds of game titles showing at E3 is compounded by the fact that most of the games being shown are only 40% to 80% complete. Over the last three years I’ve managed to find some real winners like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and Dynasty Warriors 2, but I’ve also picked some real stinkers like Jackie Chan Stuntmasters and Evil Dead: Hail to the King. A number of the games on my list last year are still waiting to be released and a few of those have made my list again this year (Eternal Darkness, Star Fox: Dinosaur Planet, ICO, and Munch’s Oddysee). Mainly, I’m prefacing my list this year because the more times I try to find that diamond in the rough the more I understand that it is an art and not a science, a very difficult art. All of these games looked incredibly promising at E3 2001, and, if they keep progressing how they have been, gamers will have one of the most exciting years ever. I haven’t included any Dreamcast, PlayStation, or Nintendo 64 titles; the few games showing for them just couldn’t compete with the titles on the next-gen systems, and so few games are coming out for these systems that there isn’t a lot of choice.

I also haven't listed the games that we know will be huge hits. Of course you shouldn't miss THPS3, FFX, Metal Gear Solid 2, or any of the other blockbuster videogame releases due this year, but I also believe that if you're paying the least bit of attention to the industry you cannot miss these games. Hopefully, my picks will include games you don't know about yet, maybe even games that won't receive too much attention, but will be well worth playing.

That said, on with the games.

Xbox        PlayStation 2      GameCube

The Multi-Platform List:

Eternal Darkness (GC)
Star Wars Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron II (GC)
Pikmin (GC)
(working title)
State of Emergency (PS2)
James Bond 007 in...Agent Under Fire (PS2)
Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy (PS2)
Star Wars: Obi-Wan (Xbox)
Munch’s Oddysee (Xbox)
Jonny Drama (Xbox)

How to use these lists: You'll notice that each of the lists are preceded by an index of the titles covered. Click on those titles and you'll get to a blurb about each game. At the top of the blurb, the title is again linked, but this time the link leads to a preview page where you can get more screens and (usually) more in-depth coverage of the game, including the release date.

 

Eternal Darkness (GC)
screenshot12-01.jpg (4878 bytes)This was my favorite game of E3 this year, while Eternal Darkness appeared on my best of show list last year, back then it was an N64 title. This year Eternal Darkness was the GameCube’s killer app. I hate to say killer app, but Eternal Darkness makes me want to run out and reserve that GameCube right now. The bad news is that Eternal Darkness isn’t a launch title, but expect it in late December. Eternal Darkness is billed as a psychological thriller, which alludes to the cinematic quality of the game. Think zombies, but don’t think Resident Evil. The characters, the architecture, the weapons have all been researched and are authentic to the over ten characters and time periods spanning thousands of years. The graphics are simply amazing, rivaling anything on the PlayStation 2, X-Box, or PC. The lighting effects and the textures are breathtaking, but they’re nothing compared to the characters. They are by far the most lifelike avatars I’ve seen. Their eyes are always glued to the most important action, their faces give emotional reactions to what they see, and they have the coolest and most authentic costumes. The camera is always in the best place, focused on the bad guys or creating a stunning shot from high up in the architecture. The game play is just as spectacular as the graphics, movement is agile Mario-type control and there is a unique sanity meter. The more supernatural scaries the characters see, the less sanity they’ll have, and insanity leads to hallucinations. The hallucinations are seamlessly cut into the game, leading you to a believe nothing and question reality feeling to the game. Confronting and killing your undead tormentors will increase your sanity and improve your state of mind. The combat system is simple but allows for skill development. It creates a seamless system that takes you through swords, spell casting, and shotguns. Eternal Darkness will give all the grown-ups something to really look forward to on the Nintendo GameCube.

Star Wars Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron II (GC)
2-01.jpg (6981 bytes)Far and away the prettiest looking game on the GameCube, like Super Smash Bros: Melee, Star Wars Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron II doesn’t have many surprises in store for us, but it is one hell of a good looking game. The game takes place in between Star Wars: A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back. It includes familiar locales like Hoth, Tatooine, and the Death Star trench, as well as familiar ships like X-wings, A-wings, and B-wings. For the first time I really feel like the immense scale of the movies’ space scenes has been conveyed in the video games (which is helped by the presence of music from the original movies). The GameCube’s new controller handles like a dream, especially when giving orders to your wing men while shooting down hoards of TIE fighters. I was also impressed with the targeting system; it mimics the movie’s low tech style while also being highly effective. While I’m not the biggest fan of space shooters, I’m not going to miss Star Wars Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron II for the world.

Pikmin (GC) (working title)
pikmin1.jpg (11787 bytes)Word has it that master game designer, Shigeru Miyamoto, came up with the idea behind Pikmin while he was tending his garden. Pikmin takes place at teeny scale; giant cliffs are footprints, and ants are monstrous beasts. While the miniature scale is unique, the gameplay is totally new and innovative. You play a wee spaceman that has crash landed; your wrecked ship is scattered about and your job is to retrieve the pieces and get the ship up and running again. This is no easy task but you are able to enlist the help of the Pikmin, indigenous plant-like creatures. Pikmin can fight creatures, carry objects, and otherwise assist you. You are able to amass great Pikmin armies -- over 100 Pikmin can be on screen at once. The game also utilizes a game time day/night system, which is important because Pikmin are plants and need to be home overnight. Pikmin promises to be a strategy game like no other, with Shigeru Miyamoto at the helm, I have very high hopes for this innovative GameCube title.

State of Emergency (PS2)
SOEimage0.jpg (7913 bytes)State of Emergency emulates sheer pandemonium. It is the near future and the evil ATO (American Trade Organization) has declared a state of emergency in their plot for world wide domination. You are just a normal citizen braving the urban riot torn streets in search of justice, or a really nice and easily looted TV set. The ATO can only be brought down by one thing, utter chaos, and it’s up to you to create it. I like to think of State of Emergency as a super brawler; you can fight through swarms of cops, giant SWAT teams, and hoards of fellow rioters. State of Emergency promises street brawls with over 100 characters at a time. The environment is loaded with weapons, from flame throwers and rocket launchers, to dismembered legs and cash registers. The more mayhem you create, the better, and don’t worry -- the violence is not life-like. The characters and settings look a lot like the cartoony style of Dreamcast’s Crazy Taxi. If you’ve ever fantasized about running amok, this is your game: cut loose, run wild, get State of Emergency.

James Bond 007 in...Agent Under Fire (PS2)
scrn_11-01.jpg (7130 bytes)As I was walking through the immense EA booth at this year’s E3 I caught James Bond 007 in...Agent Under Fire out of the corner of my eye. I was hooked. I was drawn in not by the 007 franchise, but by the killer action happening on the screen. As I picked up the controller I was immediately thrown into the hottest car chase I’ve ever had the pleasure to play. I wasn’t driving, but it was up to me, my machine gun, and my rocket launcher to fend off the bad guys and secure my escape. I launched rockets into the pursuing cars causing massive carnage and giant explosions on the streets. The chase met it’s climax at a fireworks factory adding more fuel to the explosive frenzy. After that five minutes of game play I was truly hooked, but it is just the tip of the iceberg. Agent Under Fire includes more than 10 exotic locations and promises a well-balanced mix of furious action and cunning stealth. Add to that a multi-player mode, more diving levels, lots of 007 spy gadgets, tons of innovative missions, and you’ve got a hell of a game on your hands. If you want lots of action Agent Under Fire is your game, the fact that it’s a Bond game just makes it cooler.

Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy (PS2)
village-07-01.jpg (7579 bytes)The Naughty Dog team, famous for their excellent Crash Bandicoot series, has been working on Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy for over two years now and all that hard work shows. While it is essentially an action game, Naughty Dog has worked hard to incorporate parts of almost all of the other game genres. From platform puzzle to racing, Jak and Daxter seems to have it all. You play as Jax, who is looking for the solution to his best friend Daxter’s problem. Daxter was knocked into a vat of Dark Eco, some real nasty stuff, which has transformed him into a ferret type creature. Now the two must set off in search of the sage that might be able to transform Daxter back to his real self. The graphics are breath-taking, and to make them more spectacular the world is seamless, no loading. From one end of the world you might be able to see a mountain top, and after five hours of play you might be on that mountain top looking back to your original position. Never before has a world been so complete, so connected, and so full. Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy is sure to be a game that makes you glad to own a PS2 or makes you go get one, because this game finally makes the PS2 worth owning.

Munch’s Oddysee (Xbox)
munch_cesNEW0121-01.jpg (4470 bytes)If you haven’t heard about this game by now you are so out of the loop. Oddworld was made famous in the PlayStation/PC titles Abe’s Oddysee and Abe’s Exoddus. These 2-D side scrollers were some of the most imaginative and beautiful games to grace the PlayStation. Munch’s Oddysee was going to be released in glorious 3-D on the PlayStation 2, but the Oddworld Inhabitants development team was unhappy with the with the PS2’s hardware and made the controversial switch to Microsoft’s Xbox. They must have made the right choice because this game looks gorgeous. Our old Mudokon friend, Abe, is back this time with his aquatic Gabbit pal Munch. You must play as both characters to defeat the evil Glukkons and save the creatures of Oddworld. Abe plays a lot like he did in the previous games; he can possess the bad guys, use "GameSpeak," but now he can interact with the environments far more than ever before. There are exciting vehicles, new capitalist "weapons," and power-ups that charge special moves. Munch doesn’t have Abe’s powers of possession but he is equipped with a "Sonar Plug" that allows him to jack into the many machines of Oddworld. Oddworld is living breathing world with days and nights, seasons, and dozens of wacky species to interact with. The Xbox is lucky to have such an amazing title coming out at launch. Munch’s Oddysee might just be the most important game ever made. We’ve come a long way from the days of Pong, and Munch’s Oddysee really shows us know just how far.

Star Wars: Obi-Wan (Xbox)
5-01.jpg (6086 bytes)LucasArts has done this game right; battling with lightsabers has never been better. You play as pre- Star Wars: Phantom Menace Obi-Wan, you must unravel a devious plot that could dramatically shift the balance of power in the universe; an assassin droid project. The story, graphics, and style of Star Wars: Obi-Wan are all top notch, and matched with the power of the Xbox it is sure to be an incredible experience. From Coruscant and Tatooine, to the lush city of Theed, Obi-Wan must use the forces and his saber to bring justice to the universe. The control scheme is unique: the right analog stick works your lightsaber, so for the first time in gaming there’s a real relationship between how you’re moving your hand and how the character moves the weapon on screen. Not only does this give you a greater sense of interactivity, it actually makes fighting easier and personal skill building much more rewarding. Obi-Wan is also able to use the force in many ways: pulling guns out of the hands of enemies, deflecting laser shots, and pulling off the sweetest specials moves. Obi-Wan is one acrobatic guy; his flips and jumps rival his force power in coolness. The special moves are high flying sparkly super combos that are executed in Matrix style slow-mo. The fifteen plus giant levels might not be enough for me; I mean who wants a game that looks this cool to end. I think that this might be the game that makes me feel the coolest. Everyone has wanted to be a Jedi, and you start to really feel like a Jedi after skillfully deflecting a droid’s laser bolt, flipping over a bad guy, slicing into a droid on the right and then left, using the force to pull a gun out of a guard’s hand as you fling your lightsaber right into his chest, still managing to catch the lighsaber on it’s return, then as a grand finale you whip out a special move: in sparkly slow-mo you jump and flip, driving your lightsaber through the necks of four battle droids. Now that’s what I call cool.

Jonny Drama (Xbox)
Screenshot-01.jpg (7389 bytes)Cel shading is all the rage this year, Jet Grind Radio on the Dreamcast showed us just how cool it could be, now many game developers are rushing to utilize this new technology. Cel shading is so because finally games don’t have to look like they were created by a computer, now they can look like they’ve spilled from the hands of a thousand Korean animators. Jonny Drama uses the style to great effect; Jonny is a spy in a ‘60’s world. Think old James Bond meets Austin Powers, rendered in a old Warner Brothers style and you’ve come close to imagining Jonny Drama. It combines the cartoony style of action adventures with the stealthyness of games like Metal Gear Solid and Tenchu. Jonny will have the opportunity to don multiple disguises, use cool spy gadgets, and innovate weapons. Jonny will travel on foot and in vehicles including sports cars, tanks, and UFOs. Jonny Drama also promises to give us cat-suited vixens, troublesome pet monkeys, and evil robot butlers; my god I can’t wait. There will also be a multi-player option to fill out this already action packed game.

Sarah Wichlacz

 

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