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Tycho / on Wed, May 21 2003 at 8:18 am

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Tycho’s E3 Rundown

Let me tell you of the wonders I beheld at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo.

Full Spectrum Warrior rocks the entire house.  It doesn’t just get in the foyer and rock a little bit, thinking hey, that’s probably fine.  It’s in there with some pressure

It was apparently situated in the back room of THQ’s own booth as well, but they also had this little alcove near one of the mail halls that drew me inexorably.  I should start by saying that putting Pandemic on practically anything will draw me inexorably, or any other way.  Now, I didn’t like Star Wars enough to tolerate the Clone Wars game, particularly the portions that took place outside of vehicles - but the Conquest mode, fast action coupled with light strategy, made my heart sing.  Shit, these guys were able to take the Army Men license and make a remarkable RTS out of it.  That is a herculean act.     

But like I said, they had an alcove with some camouflage drawn over it and a banner for the game that gripped my spirit.  There was the emblem of the Army on there - had the Army chosen to fund another game?  Certainly, it wouldn’t be another first-person shooter then.  Would they try to simulate squad level command?  As it turns out, yes.  That is exactly what they’re doing, with a combination of intensity and tactics that I have not seen before.  I would link to their video with more vigor, but aside from a fantastic voiceover by R. Lee Ermey it doesn’t do a great job of communicating this game. 

The level I saw was clearly meant to simulate street fighting in the Middle East, with a squad dropped in a small clearing by a Black Hawk.  Just to get the lingo out of the way, Full Spectrum Warrior is a real-time strategy game that takes place right down with the individual soldiers that follow your commands.  Indeed, when issuing a command, a soldier looking back at your disembodied form will receive it and then disseminate the order to the rest of the squad.  Your soldiers are not idiots.  If someone gets hurt, you don’t need to tell them, “Hey, see if Bob is okay.”  They handle that.  Checking around a corner for danger?  They’re on it.  What you handle yourself is the grand scheme - directing them towards quadrants you want to suppress, moving groups to provide superior cover for each other.  It is, quite simply, the strategic game I wait for each Christmas.     

And Painkiller, I mean, Jesus.  Feel free to check out the site, if you’d like.  I was under the impression that id had run gothic environments right into the ground, and that I would never be surprised by such scenes again - that was a hasty assessment.  Add to that huge - and I mean Serious Sam, huge - bosses that not only tower over the player but have lost no apparent detail or quality in trade for that scale.  Perhaps most shocking was their deft utilization of the Havok 2.0 physics engine, which made me yell words like “holy shit” directly into the ear of the man giving the presentation.  The huge beast I mentioned before brings his hammer down, and the shock causes the assorted rubble of our battle to fly into the air, where it rains down on the field of play.  Indeed, this level begins with the large creature I mentioned before walking through an arch that then crumbles in the most convincing way I have ever seen, because some level designer with obsessive-compulsive disorder chose to construct the entire thing with individual bricks because he is crazy.  Don’t even start me on the rock columns!  And hey, why not have a story about being God’s hitman in Purgatory?  Now you’re speaking my language.     

Halo 2, you know, what could I possibly say that could turn new ground on the topic.  Everything people loved already, plus dual weapons, melee combos, massive, destructible enemy ships, and urban environments.  This clipped version of what is a greater, more elaborate internal dialogue on the topic isn’t meant to be an insult to Bungie.  I just don’t like to duplicate the work of the entire edifice of gaming journalism when I don’t have to.  I’m sure there’s an article out there somewhere.  It’s amazing.

I thought for a very long time about what it was at the show that disappointed me, and the only thing I could think of was my own E3 buddy poking me in the fucking eye in an epic act of betrayal.  I just don’t have it in me to generate displeasure where there is none, I’m afraid.  This wasn’t one of the big announcement expos, everyone knew about Half Life 2 and Halo 2 going into it, and no-one doubted that they were en route.  This was just your run of the mill, average, every day display of the titles and talent that make gaming the finest hobby in the world. 

(CW)TB out.

i hear words in clips and phrases

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