E3 games expo this week in LA: What to expect

The 2008 E3 Media & Business Summit returns to the Los Angeles Convention Center this week.

The 2008 E3 Media & Business Summit returns to the Los Angeles Convention Center this week (July 14-17) after last year's gathering in nearby Santa Monica; but as was the case in 2007, it will remain a scaled-back, media-invitation only event. Most of the big names in gaming will be there, though notable absentees (at least from official events) will include Activision Blizzard, id Software and LucasArts.

But the big guns are expected to come out firing. For instance, Electronic Arts has announced what CEO John Ricciteiello calls EA's best-ever lineup, bulging with titles like Spore, Rock Band 2, Left 4 Dead, and Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. Of course, the big three console makers/first-party game developers will be there, too.

Microsoft says that it has a "fantastic surprise" in store. Could it be a Wii-like motion controller, a 3D dashboard update, or even a new Bungie-developed game? Regardless, we know that we'll get a good look at Gears of Wear 2, Fable 2, Halo Wars, and Too Human. The company has already announced that 16 new games for Windows titles, including Crysis Warhead and Call of Duty: World at War, will be coming reasonably soon to a PC near you.

Nintendo has adopted a coy approach to its latest doings, though rumors of a wide-screen DS and possible new Zelda game are floating about; meanwhile, Sony has hinted at downloadable PS2 games for the PlayStation 3. Big Sony titles will include Killzone 2, LittleBigPlanet, Resistance 2, and SOCOM: Confrontations. We're keeping our fingers crossed for a sneak peak at God of War III or Final Fantasy XIII, too.

Here's what PC World's Matt Peckham, Darren Gladstone and Danny Allen think we can expect.

Rumors That May Actually Come True

Danny: A bunch of new Nintendo games based on old favorites like Star Fox, Kid Icarus, and F-Zero? Is BioWare's mysterious MMOG Star Wars KotOR 3 or not? Blu-ray add-on for the Xbox 360? Downloadable PlayStation 2 games for the PS3? A famous games publisher launching retro games for the iPhone iPhone? A new multiplatform X-Com game!? I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Darren: My money is on Microsoft coming out with at least three different ideas "borrowed" from other places: Mii-like Avatars, a motion-tracking controller because -- hey -- everyone else has one, and possibly proof (at last) that Games for Windows Live is at least as useful as Valve's Steam. (I ain't holding my breath on that last one, though).

Matt: Halo 4 announced? A new 3D-based Xbox 360 dashboard? A pistol-shaped PS3 controller? A brand-new wide-screen Nintendo DS? One thing we can confirm already: Microsoft has just dropped the price of the 20GB Xbox 360 to US$300 (while supplies last) and superseded it with a $350, 60GB model.

Rumors That Almost Certainly Are False

Danny: Development of a proper Sony PlayStation phone...or a Microsoft-backed 5.25-inch disc drive that lets you play 360 games on a PC.

Darren: New company alert: EA 2K.

Matt: Half Life 2: Episode 3 putting in an appearance. UGO started the rumor, and Valve just as quickly squashed it. Look for much ado about Valve's co-op shooter Left 4 Dead instead.

Game You're Most Looking Forward To

Danny: Electronic Arts' Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 (Windows/360; slated for October release), and StarCraft II (Windows/Mac; rumored for a possible December launch). New info on the latter could come at an independent Activision Blizzard press briefing, or we might just have to wait until October's BlizzCon 2008 event. Either way, with updates to both iconic real-time strategy franchises on the way, I'm all set to RTS like it's 1999!

Darren: Maybe (okay, definitely) it's because I'm a comic book nerd of the highest order, but I'm anticipating checking out not one but two new MMO takes on bopping bad guys: Sony Online Entertainment's DC Universe and 2K Games' Champions Online. The important thing to me is that these games need to nail the vibe that I'm a superhero from the start, not some homeless guy in long johns spending an afternoon punching out a hapless pickpocket.

Matt: Easy, Chrono Trigger DS -- because (for shame) I missed the original Super Nintendo version in 1995, and I've been getting razzed about overlooking this "best console RPG in history" ever since.

Most Overhyped Game

Danny: Nintendo's upcoming Wii Music: Use the Wii Remote and Nunchuk to play instruments such as guitar, trumpet, bongos, and maracas. Sorry, I already have Rock Band and Guitar Hero. It's too early to tell, but this is shaping up as another Wii title that I'll be enthusiastic about for all of two weeks before going back to simply busting out Wii Tennis for Saturday evening warm-up drinks. At the risk of being flamed, am I alone here?

Darren: I can already hear the marketing machine grinding along for Gears of War 2. I'm not saying I won't play the game when it ships; I'm just wondering if it'll match expectations. That's my biggest fear with any sequel -- be it summer movie blockbusters (*ahem* whither my beloved Indiana Jones) or games with steroidal gun jockeys.

Matt: Spore, because even though it's going to sell more copies than a Zeppelin reunion album, I'm still waiting to see whether it's really a game or just a glorified supertoy.

Cool Gadget or Game That May Be DOA

Danny: Any game that incorporates support for the Wii Fit's Balance Board as a gimmicky afterthought.

Darren: Gotta tell you, I always brace myself for the wacky gadgets that appear at the show, and every year I see something with real potential. Me? I'm hoping that more companies are looking to support Emotiv's mind-controlling controller. Then again, I've secretly wished that I were a scanner and could make people's heads explode at will.

Matt: A third-party motion-sensing Wii-mote rival for 360, PC, or PS3, because -- while casual gamers are willing to live with the Wii-mote's implicitly fuzzy control heuristic -- hard-core gamers won't be.

Game Most Deserving More Attention

Danny: As a big soccer fan, I was a bit disappointed not to see FIFA 2009 on Electronic Arts' E3 lineup. I hope that it'll show up at this year's Games Convention in Leipzig, Germany. I'm more a Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 guy, anyway.

Darren: I'm a little surprised that I don't see more people writing about Left 4 Dead. You ask me, this needs to be on more Top Games lists. You and up to three other players fight off a zombie horde. Or play as superzombies out to brunch on brains. Every time I see this game at press events or trade shows, people wait in lines to play it -- it's like I'm in some time-warped 1980s arcade.

Matt: I'm a Square Enix sucker, so I'm going with The Last Remnant -- because one, it's brand new property; and two, you can never get enough absurdly sentimental role-playing in your diet.

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Danny Allen

PC World (US online)
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