Early Videogame Buzz at E3

The first (official) day of E3 videogame convention started today, and already there are clear standouts:3D and motion-gaming, as I anticipated. Here’s my initial take: 

Kinect

Formerly known as Project Natal, Microsoft’s controller-free, voice-command, motion-sensing cam captured much of the buzz after the big press conference yesterday.Is it cool?Yeah – though not entirely for the reasons you expect. Hardcore gamers have been (loudly) grumbling about whether a wave-your-hands-to-move interface will have any relevance for them. Maybe it won’t. I’d still rather play shooters like Halo Reach with the precision of an old-fashioned controller. But hardcore gamers aren’t the sell here. Instead, look for casual gamers to flock to this device. And there are three games here that are reason alone to buy the Xbox 360 add-on. First, Kinectimals. This kid’s virtual pet game is in the vein of Nintendogs. The demo shows a girl playing with a cuddly tiger who jumps when she jumps, purrs when she tickles it, and whimpers when she hides off camera – a must-have for girls under 12. The next Kinect hit, Your Shape: Fitness Evolved.This is clearly Microsoft’s Wii Fit killer for cardio and yoga enthusiasts. The game measures you instantly down to your waist size and arm length, tailoring workouts accord to your progress. But the biggest smash – Dance Central, a dance game from Harmonix, creators of Guitar and Rock Band. Dance games like Dance Dance Revolution have a long history of success, particularly in Japan, and Dance Central has all the makings of a global phenomenon. Instead of dancing on pads, you move freely in the game, mimicking the moves of dancers on screen. Score! But my personal favorite Kinect innovation – making my TV viewing remote control increasingly obsolete. In addition to playing games, Kinect lets you choose, view, and manage your videos and films without looking for the clicker. That means all the streaming Netflix and Zune content to the Xbox 360 can be navigated just by flicking your hand or voicing commands. And with ESPN striking an (awesome) deal to bring 3500 on-demand live sport events to the Xbox 360, it means no more rifling for the remote under your couch cushions.

Nintendo 3DS

Yes, it looks like real 3D. I got an early look at the new Nintendo 3DS handheld game unit, the 3DS, and the glasses-free 3D actually works. It’s not quite as in-your-face as, say, watching Avatar, but it definitely pops out at you. Nintendo is touting the beefed-up graphics processor and the two screens of the unit, which enable them to pull off this spectacle-free spectacle. I’m impressed.

Sony Playstation 3D

Because Sony has end-to-end 3D technology, from the game systems to the 3D TVs, the company rightly put its muscle behind this innovation. The demo of this first person action game, Killzone 3, looked incredible – from the waves splashing up against the arctic bergs, to the blood dripping down the contours of your goggles. It almost made me upset that I didn’t buy my 3D TV yet after all. Of course, a lot of people will make noises about how few consumers have 3D yet, but all in due time. Killzone 3 proves that some games – particularly first person shooters – will look waaaaaay better in 3D, since this genre of games has always been aping 3D since its inception. Doom 4 in 3D please.

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