Phew. When I looked at the schedule set for the days prior to E3, I thought we'd be taking it easy. With only two events scheduled for today, I assumed we'd be in and out like lightning, get some content and be back poolside before it felt like we had done any work.

Wrong.

From the early morning rise coupled with the timezone shift raking its claws across my brain, to the 27 degree heat and smelly streets - I feel a bit shattered. This morning was Microsoft's proper media briefing, followed by a similar show from EA. I'll give a rundown of what happened at both, but don't forget to have a look at the proper articles on GP, that's where all the blood and malt liquor is being used up.

Crack of dawn and we're lined up outside the Wiltern Theatre, Downtown. The line is long, but thankfully the sun hasn't broken through the smoggy cloud just yet. Our barcoded media tags have been scanned twice by the time we get to the door, which doesn't seem like too strange in this security conscious country.

Through the main doors into a slickly presented reception lobby. Cirque du Soleil dancers writhe near pillars, triggering a strangling motion in my hands (thanks to the minor-fiasco that was the Kinect event last night). There is a more 'hardcore' air to this round, though. It feels like the gaming media are about to be treated as gamers, which is something that was sorely lacking from last night. Through the doors into the opulence of the 1930s, this theatre is set for Microsoft to wow us.

End result: they did wow, but not all around. I'll hit some highlights of the Microsoft exclusives:

  • Gears of War 3 showed some co-op promise, great looking fast paced battles that you're used to, looked solid and well scripted. Will look forward to a hands on.
  • Kinect voice control/wavy-arm control UI for media centre, looked really great. If it's as responsive as the demo guy showed off, it could be the way forward for all home entertainment control. "Xbox, playlist! Xbox, SLAYER"
  • Kinectimals (kitty simulator) looks like the perfect gift for small kids right up to lonely adults. Amazing interaction was displayed, used voice and arm-wavy (need to come up with a better name for that).
  • Ubi's 'Your Shape' fitness for Kinect. Looked solid, entertaining and had what seemed to be an excellent interaction engine.
  • Xbox Slim and Light. Or whatever it's called. 250GB HDD, Wireless-N built-in, quieter and smaller. Looks great. And they gave everyone there a free one. (Ssssh!)

After Microsoft (and two botched train rides), James C and I arrived at The Orpheum Theatre for the EA press hoohah. I wasn't that thrilled to be stuck in a room watching this year's round of Madden and misc sports titles, so I walked in (well, snuck in - must remember to register next year) with a frown. A couple of key things turned that frown into a smirk. Then a grin.

  • NFS: Hot Pursuit. Slick presentation and a solid online component (tracking your profile, your most wanted etc). Pretty, but still just a racer.
  • DEAD SPACE 2. Capitals required. What a lot of people called their most enjoyable next-gen title has a sequel fit for the king. Set in a huge crumbling city called 'The Sprawl', this looks set to scare the bejesus out of you. Hands on in the next few days, couldn't be more keen.
  • Medal of Honor, set in Afghanistan. Didn't impress the crowd, seemed pretty vanilla modern warfare. We'll see how online stacks up, it's being developed by DICE of Battlefield fame.
  • Crysis 2 looked like the business, the good looking older brother of the pimply FPS you used to play. Crytek showed us a 3D glasses version, it was a bit of a gimmick but the game looked fast and fun.
  • Finally, my pick. Star Wars: The Old Republic. We were treated to a small whiff of extra detail on the classes and gameplay, then a full-power CGI cutscene featuring a battle on Alderaan. SO SWEET. Getting an interview with the Devs on Thursday will be a jewel in this year's E3 crown. I am dribbling all over myself in anticipation of the beta.

That's more than enough out of me at the moment.

Pop in again soon,

James (JC)