Vivendi Universal Games|
Vivendi Universal Games is the corporate umbrella for numerous publishers and developers and were showing off nearly two dozen new titles including the insanely popular Half-Life 2, World of Warcraft, StarCraft: Ghost, and plenty of other new titles including sequels for Crash and Spyro and new franchise introductions like Red Ninja and Fight Club.
Of course the real show-stealer had to be the new Leisure Suit Larry gam complete with sexy booth babes dressed as many of the signature female characters from the game. Of course the Bandicoot Babes were stealing their own share of the male attention at the booth.
Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay (Xbox)
With a great mix of action and stealth gameplay, Riddick features a prequel story that takes place prior to the events in Pitch Black. You get to play as Riddick as he gets sent to the slam. Fight for survival, get your eyes shined, and orchestrate your own amazing prison break.
Men of Valor: The Vietnam War (Xbox)
Men of Valor follows an American Marine through the early stages of the conflict in Vietnam to the Tet Offensive. Touching on the some of the most familiar scenes of the war as they exist in the popular imagination, the player guides his group of fellow soldiers through the hardship and confusion of the battlefield, bonding with them as they do their duty for their country with the heroism and valor typical of the American soldier but unsung during the turbulent times.
The intensity of the historical battlefield is recreated with cunning AI, detailed graphics, and interactive scripted sequences that put the player in the middle of scenes like those in the finest war films. The storyline follows the player through the major actions in the conflict, from search and destroy missions around Da Nang airbase to the Tet offensive and the counterattack on Hue.
A cast of AI controlled characters accompanies the player through the missions, and he learns their value and mourns their loss as the war progresses. The game supports a cooperative mode that allows the player to experience the entire tour of duty with his friends, and various multiplayer modes allow the player to experience the war from the perspective of North Vietnamese Army or Viet Cong guerillas as well as US Forces.
Red Ninja: End of Honor (PS2/Xbox)
In the game players are transported back to feudal Japan during the 1500’s where a fierce battle for supremacy wages across Japan. With the power of the Samurai decimated after years of clan conflict warlords turn to the Ninja to hold onto political power. As Kurenai, a female ninja, players will battle enemies in a quest to destroy the Black Lizard Clan and avenge her father’s death. Her weapon of choice is the Tetsugen, the revolutionary wire weapon.
The functionality of the weapon is determined by the end attachments, length and strength of the wire. As a ninja, Kurenai has a vast range of techniques to escape her enemies including the ability to dislocate her joints in order to get out of tight spots and prisons, the traditional ninja art of disguise and the womanly art of seduction to seduce and distract. Numerous additional weapons including blowguns, smoke bombs and rockets explosives can also be used to destroy enemies. As the player develops their powers as a kunoichi (female ninja) their ability to control and manipulate assailants with various Ninjutsu powers will increase.
Leisure Suit Larry (Xbox/PS2/PC)
Half-Life 2 (PC)
But the real star of this sequel is the physics model. Imagine a computer rendered human body with as many joints and segments as its real life counterpart. Imagine that each segment of that computer body, a hand, a leg, has its own weight. Now imagine algorithms that determine how that body will move through the air as it falls off a platform, or better yet, as it is lifted into the air and flung around courtesy of a force field weapon. The fluidity of motion of that body, each of its limbs moving separately according to its weight and momentum, and of the entire interactive, destructible world surrounding it, provides a new level of visual realism that is the next evolutionary step in the world of computer games.
Physics and environment also create new gameplay considerations. In one scene, Gordon is on a catwalk above a room full of enemies, hidden from them. In order to get past them, he can of course spray them with bullets. But in a manner that is both elegant and ammo conserving, he can also shoot at a pipe suspended above the bad guys’ heads, causing it to swing down and bowl them over. Damage caused by indirect objects has been seen previously in computer games, but not to the point where the momentum of the pipe as it swings back and forth, some of which is absorbed on each successive swing, or as bodies are hit, can be seen and “felt” by the player.
Interactivity is built into the behavioral model as well. Relationships are complex and dynamic; an alien creature is not always your enemy, and two of your enemies are not always friends with each other. While the physical environment provides cues, it also provides miscues, so the player who thinks and observes while the bullets are flying will not inadvertently piss off a potential ally, and will take advantage of opportunities to allow his enemies fight each other.
The game’s innovations are complemented by graphics and positional audio that take full advantage of "tomorrow's technology" to complete the interactive experience, but the developers assure me that Half-Life 2 will be scalable to play on older systems as well.
While Half-Life 2 was nominated for Best Action Game of the show, in a bit of irony, Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines - built using the Half-Life 2 game engine, actually won the award. Both games are stunning, but Bloodlines showed a bit more innovation in game design.