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LittleBigPlanet and Killzone win Game Critics Awards

Was there any doubt that LittleBigPlanet is the most original game of E3? The Game Critics Awards have named Media Molecule's 2D wonder the "Best Original Game" of E3 this year (a week after we named it the best PS3 game; and Joystiq also named it the "Best Original Game").

In addition, Killzone earned special honors in graphics -- it didn't match the visual fidelity of the original trailer, but boy did it get close.

Finally, the Game of the Show was Rock Band ... a multiplatform release that'll find its way on PS3. Not a bad line-up of awards for the PS3, no?


E3 Round-up: Best of show

E3 is officially over, and PS3 Fanboy is now resuming regular coverage of the top PS3 news every day. Before we say adieu to the Media & Business Summit, we wanted to wrap up all our coverage of E3 in one handy place. Check it out:

Everyday Shooter
Heavenly Sword
High Stakes on the Vegas Strip
High Velocity Bowling
Killzone 2
Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction
The Eye of Judgment
Time Crisis 4
Unreal Tournament 3

Epic Games signs exclusivity deal with Sony
Games to be launched from within Home
Haze: timed exclusive or totally exclusive?
Killzone 2 developers talk development, E3 2005
Metal Gear Solid 4: PS3 exclusive, like it always was
NCsoft and Sony get all buddy-buddy on us
Seven secret E3 videos hidden around the PS Store
Silent Hill V confirmed for PS3

Gran Turismo 5 Prologue

Killzone 2

The PS3 also had an excellent showing. Starting strong with a $100 price drop and then announcing exclusive bombshells, Sony is showing that it's ready to play hardball. Sony had an incredible first-party showing, with many games that are going to be system sellers. But ... which game took the cake as the best PS3 game at E3? Read on to find out.

Continue reading E3 Round-up: Best of show

Hands-on: The Eye of Judgment

To put it briefly, The Eye of Judgment is Magic: The Gathering meets Tic-Tac-Toe. The upcoming Eye-enabled card game has players using real cards on a real board, trying to gain the most territory on a 3x3 grid. The fusion of real cards and a virtual environment might echo thoughts of Yu-Gi-Oh ... and for fans of card games, that's bound to be a good thing.

There's a surprising amount of depth to the card battles from the demonstration we tried. Ultimately, players will want to have the best monsters, but there are a number of variables that can drastically change a battle. For example, each square on the board is aligned with a different elemental. Aligning one's monster to these elements is crucial. Each monster has specific directions it can attack in, so positioning one's card is also significant, especially in a field as small as this one.

Players will want to purchase real-life expansion packs in order to get further in the game. Sure, it may sound expensive, but any CCG junkie can attest to how pricey of a hobby this can be. The Eye integration certainly is intriguing, and we're sure The Eye of Judgment will secure a dedicated hardcore fan base. For those that are interested, we recommend playing the game offline with a friend. In order to prevent online cheating, gamers will have to scan all their cards before an online match. Afterwards, the computer will deal a hand to each player. It seems like a somewhat cumbersome process, and it downplays the "real world" aspect of the game ... and isn't that what makes this game so unique?

Gallery: Eye of Judgment

Continue reading Hands-on: The Eye of Judgment

Hands-on: Time Crisis 4

As a huge light gun fan, I was enthralled to find out that Namco Bandai was bringing Time Crisis 4 to the PS3. Recreating an arcade experience at home has always met with a few stumbling blocks, but it appears that the new Guncon 3 might be the best home light gun yet.

We would love to try and set up the Guncon ourselves, but the kiosk at E3 certainly proved that, under the right conditions, the Guncon works. There are two sensors that must be placed at the top left and right of the television screen, essentially mimicking the technology found in the Wii sensor bar.

Shooting without an on-screen cursor was easy, and it wasn't too long before we were shooting enemies, switching weapons, and dodging enemy fire rather easily. The weapon select feature is fantastic: being able to switch between a pistol, to a shotgun, to a rifle for the various encounters adds an appreciable amount of strategy to the game.

Time Crisis 4 is looking to be a rather complete offering for PS3 owners, especially with the inventive FPS mode the game is promising. Although we're not fond of the generic art style, and the rather dull graphics, the Guncon 3 opens a world of possibilities for future light gun games on the PS3.

Gallery: Time Crisis 4

Hands-on: High Velocity Bowling

We can't say we're too excited for High Velocity Bowling, an upcoming downloadable title for the PlayStation Network. While holding the Sixaxis controller like a bowling ball is a novel idea, it doesn't translate the sport very well, unlike Wii Sports. The game's biggest flaw comes in the way it approaches spin: instead of analyzing the actual motion of a player's swing, the shoulder buttons must be pressed while launching the ball. In doing so, the game neither provides the full motion freedom of Wii Sports, nor does it provide arcade-styled precision of traditional button-based bowling games.

While we're glad Sony is trying a wide variety of games for its downloadable service, we can't help but feel that High Velocity Bowling hurts the platform more than anything else: it encourages active comparison to Wii Sports, and doesn't offer a compelling control mechanism. Instead of paying for High Velocity Bowling, might we recommend Home, which includes its own bowling game, instead?

Gallery: High Velocity Bowling

Warhawk making split-screen sexy again

Modern multiplayer games have nearly killed something we loved from the Nintendo 64 era: split-screen multiplayer. Now that our televisions have more pixels and are larger, shouldn't we herald the return of split-screen multiplayer? Warhawk is proud to boast four players on one screen, and if you're running on an HDTV, each section of the screen will still have more resolution than full-screen games from the PS1/N64 era. We hope that other games will follow Warhawk's path and make split-screen gaming sexy again. Do you agree?

Check out new screenshots in our gallery below:

Gallery: Warhawk

Hands-on: Uncharted

What happens when you mix one part Gears of War, one part Tomb Raider, and one part Prince of Persia? You get one potentially awesome game. We really want to like Naughty Dog's upcoming PS3 exclusive, Uncharted, but technical issues seriously hindered our enjoyment of the title.

If there's one thing everyone has been talking about with Uncharted, it's the complex animation system. Thousands of animations are blended together in real-time to create a visually complex world that feels alive. Drake responds to his surroundings: you'll see him look at points of interest, struggling to keep his footing, and more. In one heated gunfight, we had him take cover fire and could see the worried look on his face as he breathed heavily The animation system helps make Drake not only a more believable character, but one we can relate to.

Drake is supposed to be a normal guy in an extraordinary situation, and the platforming sequences deliver upon the feeling of overcoming overwhelming obstacles. Drake will have to climb along rocky ledges, or jump from a shaky pillar to the next. Seeing what Drake can interact with the environment is intuitive due to Drake's focus on where he must go next. By observing what Drake wants to do, players will be able to navigate tricky areas with relative ease. Swinging from a rope and jumping to a ledge feels intuitive and empowering. We love the feeling we get when exploring the environment.

Gallery: Uncharted

Continue reading Hands-on: Uncharted

Hands-on: Ratchet & Clank Future

First off, does Ratchet look this good? The answer is clear: yes. But, is that enough to make the upcoming PS3-exclusive Ratchet & Clank Future worthwhile? Not necessarily.

As innovative and new as the graphics may appear, the gameplay feels identical to previous iterations of the Ratchet series. Of course, that's not a bad thing -- the franchise has rightfully earned its legions of fans. However, we couldn't help but feel as though we've played Tools of Destruction before. It feels more cinematic than before, but we were running, gunning, and swinging our wrench as though nothing had changed. Some may point to the new Groove-a-tron weapon, a colorful new weapon in Ratchet's arsenal. But, there are no significant gameplay ramifications: enemies will simply dance, instead of attack Ratchet. There's also a free-fall sequence, where the player must tilt the Sixaxis controller to navigate Ratchet past flying cars. But, these tilt controls do little to add a feeling of innovation to the series.

The polish of the game's presentation is certainly commendable, but we were puzzled by the lack of an adequate targeting system. The on-rails platforming, a series trademark, had us bored. Jumping left or right to avoid oncoming trains was tedious, at best. The utter simplicity of the sequence had us feeling like we were simply going through the motions. We're also disappointed to know that Insomniac has opted to remove a crucial component of the franchise in this latest rendition: multiplayer is gone.

Tools of Destruction might not end up being a bad game, but it did very little to convince us otherwise. We're sure that hardcore Ratchet fans will love it for its story, which will focus on the mysterious origins of its star. Although playing it safe might work for Insomniac and its fans, it's pretty obvious to us that team spent a lot more time focused on its graphics technology than what really matters: gameplay. As it is now, Tools of Destruction is an uninspired experience, one that feels like a backwards step for the series.

Hands-on: LittleBigPlanet

Don't be surprised to see LittleBigPlanet score big time when we make our "Game of the Show" awards later this week. Best described as a social game creation experience, LittleBigPlanet left us pleasantly surprised with its charming personality and incredibly intuitive design mechanics.

At GDC, the team at Media Molecule wanted to showcase the "play" element of the game. The cooperative physics-based platforming had everyone talking at the show. For E3, the team has prepared a "creation" demo for us to partake in.

Up to four players (either online or off) can join in on a creation session. Making a level and its elements happens within the game's regular environment, allowing all participants to play whilst designing the level. For example, while one developer was creating a staircase, I decided to drag Chris Grant's stunned avatar, as it flailed around helplessly. Adorable? Yes. Afterwards, we saw a few blocks being created, and we were able to play with them from the moment they appeared in the game world. The instant gratification, we're reminded, allows level designers to fully understand what works and what doesn't from the moment it's made.

Gallery: LittleBigPlanet

Continue reading Hands-on: LittleBigPlanet

Lair absent from E3, should we worry?

Unless it was hidden away in some alcove, the upcoming PS3 exclusive, Lair, was absent from Sony's E3 gaming arcade. We had extensive time with Sony's upcoming games, but should we worry that this high-profile shooter from Factor 5 was unplayable on the show floor? Could control issues be plaguing the title? Let's hope not. [Update: A commenter noted that it was playable at Barker Hangar. Unfortunately, we only played games from Sony's arcade in Le Merigot.]

Check out some screenshots in our updated gallery:

Gallery: Lair

Hands-on: Heavenly Sword

No, it's not Goddess of War. Many (including myself) have been quick to pass this game as "God of War with a chick." Although being compared to one of the best action games of the last console generation is far from an insult, it does take away from the qualities of Heavenly Sword that make it so unique.

The most important thing to note about Heavenly Sword are its controls: don't start playing the game, expecting it to control like God of War. This is a vastly different beast to tame, and button-mashing isn't as encouraged in this battle system. Expect to be a lot more methodical, and observational, as analyzing enemy movement and stances becomes crucial to true success in the game.

Nariko has control over three forms of the Heavenly Sword, each feeling drastically different from the other. In its default state, it forms two separate swords, which give Nariko the best overall speed and range. However, holding either L1 or R1 will change the sword into one of its other two forms. First;y, there's a chain, which is best for keeping large groups of enemies at bay. Secondly, the sword can transform into a massive blade, one which would make Cloud Strife jealous. Obviously unwieldy, this one will attack for massive damage.

Gallery: Heavenly Sword

Continue reading Hands-on: Heavenly Sword

It's real: Gran Turismo 5 Prologue

At Sony's E3 press conference, Sony showcased the stunning Gran Turismo 5 Prologue trailer. At first, we thought that some parts of the game were pre-rendered. We overheard one Sony developer telling us, off the record, that if any developer can make a game look that good, it's certainly Polyphony Digital.

Check out the new screenshots in our gallery:

Hands-on: Folklore

The English language version of Folklore (known as FolksSoul elsewhere) is getting prepared for its upcoming US release. For those unfamiliar, the game is an intriguing adventure game where a girl named Ellen must travel to the netherworld to find out the truth behind her mother's mysterious disappearance. Ellen will be able to collect the spirits (known as Id) from the creatures in the game (Folks). When a Folk is weakened, its Id becomes exposed, allowing players to shake the Sixaxis controller and capture the Folk's soul. Once an Id is captured, it can be used in battle as a summon for Ellen to master.

Each Folk can be upgraded by capturing more Id from each monster, or by accomplishing certain tasks. Each creature has five levels to attain, and as the beast continues to grow stronger, Ellen's abilities with the Folk will increase as well. For example, with one creature, Ellen might be able to do a two-hit combo, but when fully leveled up, she'll be able to do a five-hit combo.

Ellen isn't the only one to traverse through the Faery World: a reporter by the name of Keats is also an integral part of the story. Unlike Ellen, Keats is like a brawler of sorts. His journey provides a unique look on the events of the story. Between each chapter, you'll be able to change characters, and the producer notes that you will not get the complete story if you only play as one character. Although Keats is usually one step behind Ellen, they're both working towards the same resolution.

Gallery: Folklore

Continue reading Hands-on: Folklore

Hands-on: High Stakes on the Vegas Strip

There's one thing we can confidently say about the upcoming PS3 Network title, High Stakes on the Vegas Strip: it's a good deal. While other poker games have retailed for full price, this download-only title will be available for only $10 in the new few weeks, and it comes loaded with features.

In addition to the now-requisite 1080p graphics, High Stakes has a few unique features. There's a fast-forward mode, which allows you to cut past any unnecessary action of AI opponents. The "Turbo Fold" function lets you fold without having to wait for computer AI to play their cards. Most excitingly, we saw the EyeToy in action, which allowed you to capture your image while playing the game. Video appears on the screen, showing your opponents' faces as they play their hand. It was surprisingly easy to set up, and will work with most USB video cameras, not just the EyeToy.

High Stakes isn't the most exciting game to come out on the PSN. However, it shows Sony's continued dedication to providing a variety of gameplay options for an affordable price.

Gallery: High Stakes Poker (PSN)

Hands-on Unreal Tournament III

We got to see Unreal Tournament III running side by side on PC and PS3. Both versions obviously looked fantsatic, and it was great to see how nearly identical they look. However, the incredible resolution of the PC version made it the clearly superior offering. A representative from Epic told us that the PS3 version is still being tweaked, and that details about the resolution and framerate it will run at won't be revealed yet as they're still trying to optimize the performance for the console.

UTIII will feature the return of many fan-favorite weapons, but we saw a couple of a new additions. Of particular note had to be a weapon that generated a time-warping field. A cube can be created, and within that cube, all time gets slowed down significantly. In order to demonstrate the effectiveness of the field, we saw the Flak Cannon shoot into the field. As the spray entered the field, it came to a crawl, and the player was able to run past the flak and see it exit the other side, at full momentum. We don't know if this will make a significant change to battles, but it certainly was a cool effect, nonetheless.

In addition, UTIII will feature a greater variety of vehicles. The coolest addition has to be the hoverboard, which is readily accessible at all times. This allows players to move much more quickly, and can be used while holding a CTF flag. A new single player mode was briefly demonstrated, and it shows a lot of potential. The offline single player from previous Unreal Tournament titles were slim on story and options. In the newly updated single player campaign, players will be able to watch a story unfold, and choose a non-linear path through various missions.

Gallery: Unreal Tournament III

Continue reading Hands-on Unreal Tournament III

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