Unsurprisingly, Microsoft had one of the bigger floor areas at E3 2003. Towards the rear centre of the LA Convention Center's south hall, there were some great-looking titles to be found.
The PC game that Microsoft seemed most keen on showing off was Mythica. Being developed in-house, Mythica is a MMORPG set inside a mythological Norse world. Microsoft seem committed to combining the depth of single-player RPG games and the social aspect of multi-player titles into this huge world. We watched a live demonstration of the game in action and were very, very impressed.
Other titles in the PC section that stood out included MS Train Simulator 2, Halo, Flight Simulator 2004, AoM expansion pack The Titans and of course, Rise of Nations, which is looking good (not just good! It's the best RTS game so far this year - Ed) and is due for release in NZ on June 5th.
Moving over to the Xbox section of Microsoft's showing, the first game we wanted to check out was Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Nearing the end of its development, KOTOR is looking fantastic and should be on every Xbox owner's "Must Buy" list. The worlds are enormous and, according to a MS representative, there is up to around 200 hours of gameplay for those who choose to take on all of the side-quests in the game. The only disappointment we could spot was frame-rate which can get slightly jerky in busy areas. KOTOR is currently due for release in New Zealand in mid-July, and is in our top 10 most wanted list from the show.
At the back of the Xbox area, MS were showing off their Xbox sports titles. Although in our opinion the last batch of titles were not quite up to the gameplay standards of the EA Sports and Sega Sports titles, the new "XSN" (Xbox Sports Network) titles were looking like a lot of fun, and should cause EA and Sega a few headaches this year.
Several Xbox consoles were linked up to demonstrate the highly anticipated Project Gotham Racing 2. While we were happy to win a t-shirt by winning a multi-player race, it was hard to judge the game too well because of the way it was being presented. Still, we thoroughly enjoyed the original and the sequel certainly looks promising at this early stage.
Sudeki was another title we were keen on taking a look at. Unfortunately we couldn't quite find the time to give it a decent playtest but it looked very impressive and the less pressed-for-time attendees seemed to be liking what they saw. Those of you who have been disappointed with the lack of good Xbox RPGs will be pleased when Sudeki hits our shores just in time for Christmas. It is not only shaping up as a great RPG, but a true 'killer app' and system selling title (like Halo) that the Xbox needs more of at the moment.
Hardly a surprise, but our pick of the show from the MS stand was Halo 2. Behind closed doors (and a rather lengthy queue), live gameplay was being shown off and we are pleased to say that it looks as fantastic as we expected. The demonstration consisted of a scene where a Convenant ship was attacking the city and Master Chief (the player) is required to work with the rest of the squad to fend them off. The demo ended with our protagonist dramatically jumping aboard a Convenant ghost fighter, kicking the enemy trooper off and jumping in the pilot seat and eventually fly to safety. Very impressive stuff and the game has quickly jumped to the top of our most wanted list.
It was quite evident at E3 that Microsoft are continuing to grow as a game developing powerhouse. Most of their E3 line-up for both PC and Xbox was first rate and right up their with the best of the show, with Halo 2 darn close to being overall game of the show. It really does look that great and the only other game to drop our jaw as much at E3 2003 was Half-Life 2. Brilliant.
More Microsoft E3 Coverage
* Mythica - Details & Screenshots (PC)
* Sudeki - Details & Screenshots (Xbox)
* Midtown Madness 3 - Details & Screenshots (Xbox)
* Otogi: Myth of Demons - Details & Screenshots (Xbox - Third Party)
* Sonic Heroes - Details & Screens (Xbox - Third Party)
* Sudeki Screenshots (Xbox)
* Kameo Screenshots (Xbox)
* Halo Screenshots (PC)
* Project Gotham Racing 2 Screenshots (Xbox)
* Conflict Desert Storm II Screenshots (Xbox - Third Party)
* Starcraft Ghost Screenshots (Xbox - Third Party)
* Xbox Innovations Expand Video Game Entertainment (Microsoft press release)