E3: Defending the Earth, one zombie at a timeWed, 08 Jun 2011 00:00:00 -0700
If drooling space-alien mutants hell-bent on creating a pleasure planet of intergalactic zombie love muffins ever come to Earth to steal our women, know that an entire generation of 18-to-24-year-old male gamers stands ready to defend us.
So rest assured.
We know this because we just spent most of a day at the opening of the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3 as it's known to those who stand ready with the chainsaws, bazookas and various industrial-strength bug zappers that will be needed should the inevitable happen. E3 is an annual Woodstock for gamers, a gigantic coming-out party for computer and video games that will soon be playing on screens around the world.
Video games are a $10 billion-a-year industry, bigger than movies and bigger than music. When Call of Duty Black Ops came out, it made $650 million in its first five days, according to www.aggregame.com. In 2010, there were 500 million games sold worldwide. Xbox Live had 30 million subscribers. This is big stuff.
To a nongamer--that is, to those who just don't understand--most of what passes for electronic entertainment looks like the twisted products of tortured minds that would be a lot happier if they would just get a girlfriend. But to the gamers, their approach is just a more technologically advanced extrapolation of the Walter Mitty fantasies we all have. While most of us drift off into our own personal dreamland on a regular basis, gamers have simply quantified and codified theirs, making it much easier and more satisfying to step into, and thus a little closer to reality.
Since, for us, a lot of those fantasies involve driving, racing and crashing cars spectacularly, we figured we should go check it out. After playing a good number of car- and racing-related games, we could see the appeal. Here is a smattering of the ones we tried and the news surrounding each of them. There surely are some we missed, including Twisted Metal ("Traffic jams are no longer a problem with a machine gun strapped to your hood . . . ") but we got a lot of them.
Forza Motorsport 4: We wrote extensively about Forza Motorsport 3 when it debuted in 2009. Now FM4 is coming out with more cars, more tracks, an even better graphics engine, an entirely new set of tire data from Pirelli and the option of online clubs that can combine talents and take on rivals. The game debuts on Oct. 11 and will sell for $59.95.
You can also use Microsoft's body-position-sensing Kinect to drive the cars in Forza Motorsport 4. The system senses body position as you hold an imaginary steering wheel in front of you to control the action. Kinect also features in a new program we saw called Auto Vista, which allows you to virtually inspect, climb inside and even drive the cars in the program's stable. There's even commentary from Top Gear's Jeremy Clarkson.
Need For Speed The Run: The latest installment in the NFS franchise has a desperado named Jack who must get from San Francisco to New York and will steal, race or crash any number of cars to do it. For the first time in the franchise, you can get out of one car and into another to do what has to be done.
Jimmie Johnson's Anything With An Engine: Johnson is a big gamer and has been involved in this game's development from the beginning. You race everything from a recliner to a bathtub, all powered by rear-mounted V8s, through a booby-trap-laden stadium course and, if you're driving the Barcalounger, you can hurl pizzas at your rivals, in addition to planting land mines for them and firing missiles. It comes out in late summer for XBox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii. No price yet.
Sega Rally: A great arcade-style rally-racing game, Sega Rally launched the week before E3. One to six players can battle it out online with a choice of 13 different cars. You can buy the game online for $10.
Driver San Francisco: Undercover cop John Tanner is still trying to take down his archnemisis Jericho from earlier games, but this time he's doing it inside his head while in a coma. (That's what we were told.) This allows him (and you) to switch cars instantaneously. You get a bird's-eye view of the city, zoom in on a car and pow, you're driving it. The game plays better than it sounds. It's available on Aug. 28.
TrackMania2 Canyon: Imagine building your own Hot Wheels track, including the vertical loop, through Zion National Park and then racing on it. That is TrackMania2 Canyon. The 9 million registered drivers worldwide who played the first TrackMania built a half-million track configurations, most of which they shared online. So it has to be fun. The demo we tried out sure was. This PC game comes out in September, priced somewhere between $15 and $30.
Dirt3: We got a quick look at this at the AMD booth, where it set up an impressive viewing screen based on its software, combining three projectors into one. Looked like fun, but we didn't get the full scoop on the game. We'll try to track it down later.
Cars 2 The Video: Set just after the end of the movie Cars 2, this game features Mater, Lightning and the gang getting into various racing predicaments and powering their way out. You will be trained to be a spy, since Cars 2 is a spy movie. There are more than 4,000 lines of dialogue, too, much of it read by the actors who did the voice-overs for the movie. Yes, that includes Larry the Cable Guy. The game will play on Wii, PS3 and Xbox 360 when it comes out on June 21, three days before the movie debuts. Price may be $49.95.
Jeremy McGrath's Off Road: You race McGrath's trophy truck across Baja, or any of the 15 courses in any of the 12 truck configurations. There are lots of jumps and berms.
All of those were just the car-related games and only the ones we found. There might be more. For now, get ready to fire up the chainsaws because the zombies are coming!
By Mark Vaughn