Malik  (5/13//04)

I decided the best way to tackle this initial influx of E3 info is to start one console maker at a time.  Afterall, if anyone is trying to make a loud statement of how cool things are going to be, it's the console makers (they have to most to gain...or lose).  So, I begin with today's Malik's Bitchings on Microsoft and their biggest E3 announcements.

Microsoft Kicks Things Off With a Whimper

Is it just me or does Microsoft seem to just fail in comparison to the rest. From the biggest news bits of Microsoft's E3 announcements, it seems that all of this birght and shiney news is just dimmed a little when taken in context to what everyone else has to offer...provided you ignore anything related to Jade Empire. What I mean is this; take the news that Microsoft is releasing with one of two factors in mind; How much has said game met it's previous release dates? Hasn't someone else, like Sony, done this shit before? 

Can't You Hear Me Already?

To start at the beginning, which is usually as good as any other place to start, the voice and video messaging abilities that are coming to XBox Live! These features are all well and geed, but to me one thing should be kept in mind; If you have broadband (required for Live), you probably have a computer (I personally can't think of any person who would get broadband to play XBox Live! and not have a PC to back up the price of broadband), so why not use one of the millions of voice chats/video chats that are available (most of them are free...hell, if someone has broadband, but the other person doesn't, there are even some good and free internet phone services that can be used)? Plus, if I'm playing an online game, and some friend of mine wanted to chat while he played a different game, I can tell you what would usually happen...either I would get out my phone (it's far more comfortable to speak into a phone than into the XBox Live! headset) or I would become sidetracked from my current game (unless I ignored my friend...which would usually lead to other, more social-related, problems...) and anyone else who was playing online on the same game as me would become pretty pissed when I become the half-assed crossbreed of a real player and some AFK ass. Anyways, my point is that while chat is all well and good, in the end it is nothing to get all that excited about...not in terms of the excitement of real E3 screen shots of a new Zelda... 

As for the video chat equivalent, it is all well and good, but Windows can handle that just as easily as an XBox. Plus, with the XBox, you will need a special camera (or at least an adapter for a PC web cam) which I can almost guarantee will cost more than the average PC web cam. On top of that, while the voice chat could in theory be used in conjunction with playing a game (making you usually into some ass who is only a little higher on the food chain than an AFK ass), but you cannot have video and a game at the same time...I mean the headset can handle the audio of voice chat, but the TV (which is playing the game) will be needed for the video of video chat. So, why would I buy extra equipment to do something that is almost free (take 10 minutes on the Internet and will find free video chat software and a web cam for less than $'s not that hard) on my PC? A PC which a good 95% (my guess on the stat) of XBox Live! users have to go along with their broadband. This is all equals out, in the end, into some nifty features, but nothing substantial enough to celebrate as a breakthrough. 

The Arcade 

The XBox Live! Arcade is a source for people to download small games, such as classic arcade titles (ala Dig Dug, etc) or popular Internet web based games (Bejeweled, etc). This is an obvious attempt by Microsoft to try to induce middle aged housewives into buying XBoxes...and, no. I'm not being sexist or ageist. It is a true fact that the majority of people who play web based puzzle games and older style downloadable arcade games are actually women in their mid 40's and older. It is a fact (this stat I'm not making up). That is all well and good...but it just seems short sighted and illogical to me. 

My problem is...well, my problem with this particular issue...that these games are readily available on the PC for free. Try going to Microsoft's very own "Game Zone"'ll find these games for free. The other thing is this; while the games are free on the PC, there is a lot of talk of Microsoft charging either per download or per disk (if you buy a hard copy of the games) at about $10 a pop for either a single game or for a collection of similar games. 

Tie this together with two other facts; Most middle aged women who do play Bejeweled, etc, have their own PCs to do that from. Plus, they don't have to worry about broadband (I've played...when I was really freakin' bored...forgive me...Bejewled on a dial up connection) which is required for Xbox Live! Plus, the PC versions are all free (if you find one that charges, there is, somewhere on a major Internet gaming site, a free equivalent...did you think Bejeweled is only found on one site? Hell no!), and the XBox, plus the Live! starter kit, plus the games themselves, are all not free. Why the hell should anyone pay so much for some games that they are already playing or have access to? There is no reason. Another stupid decision from the company that brought us the curse known as Windows ME (a good ad catch phrase for ME should have been: the ME means "Missing Everything"!). 

Again With the Tattoo, Malik... 

Well, I touched this on my Malik's Bitchings column yesterday, so I'll keep this far briefer this time around. Microsoft announced a set release date for Halo 2 for November 9th (they claim this year...they claim theory communism theory...) by showing a tattoo on a certain Peter Moore's bicep stating that fact. I'll just say it once more...I'll believe it when I have the game in my greedy hands...

On To The Rest...

Then there's Fable...sigh...this game once had me completely captivated.  I wanted to play with every fiber of my being.  Sadly, the game kept having to go through alterations in the development process due to Molyneaux trying to do far more than any game could (possibly ever) handle.  Then, as the development process became extended, features began to drop like flies.  Initially, in Fable, you were supposed to have the power to do anything and be anything...but then they dropped character development options (you are now exception...sorta limits a certain sector of potential audience memebers), kept pushing back the thing you know, the initial hype far outshines the current hype and most of the original fans of this project have started to vanish quicker than it takes for the release date to be pushed back again.  Like with Halo 2, I'll believe it when I have it.

Then there's Forza Motorsport, the first fully customizable racing game for the XBox.  Well, when you look at the facts, this is just no Gran Tourismo.  I don't mean this is poor in comparison to GT4...I mean it looks mediocre to the original in all respects short of graphics and sound.  If Microsoft wants to hype this game so badly, I say that's good for them.  However, if they want to hype it with GT4 on more racing fans' minds, then they need to get this game out in a hurry.  Once GT4 looks like it's on the radar, this game will be forgotten in an instant.  Keep 'em coming, Microsoft.

So, we come to Dead or Alive Ultimate.  Looks good.  Yes, I actually said this looks good.  I mean the online is only mediocre at best (online fighting seems as enthralling to me as an online arcade-style shooter.  It will be cool for a whole five minutes before you realize that you want to taunt your opponent face-to-face.  The rest of the game sounds quite good.  DoA, the original, wasn't exactly my thing.  It was a bit primitive, but to each their own.  However, DoA2 is a great game (especially the Dreamcast version).  Now the problem with this "ultimate" fighter; we have literally seen this all before...on the Saturn and Dreamcast.  Plus, with how crappy DoA3 (unless you like big boobs...which are a cool perk to a good game, but not a selling point on a bad one, for me) was in comparison to the fighters of it's day, this doesn't do much for me, expectation wise.  Plus, any real geek would, if they want DoA2 (the best of the DoA bunch), already have it on the Dreamcast.  This is not exactly a breath of fresh air on the geek forcast.

As for Unreal Championship 2: The Liandri Conflict and MechAssault® 2: The Lone Wolf, all I can say is Halo 2.  If Halo 2 actually does ship sometime this decade, then these FPS/FPS look-alike games are merely going to fall through the cracks.  Since Halo 2 will be offering the whole online thing, what need do we have for these second rate wanna be's?  None that I can think of.

As for Doom 3...not touching that shit with a 10 foot pole...Doom 3 had it's chance in the 1990's.  Which was about when the delays began.  At least we have cooler looking skeletons with rocket launchers on their shoulders now!

Let's Make Our Console and PC Into One Big Family

When the XBox first was announced, I had one fear.  Knowing Microsoft, they would try to make PC games on a console, rather than console games.  For anyone whose been into games for as long as me, they'd know that PC games and console games are about as different as they come.  Luckily this did not quite come true (although at times it was really close with games like Morrowind...too close for comfort).  However, Microsoft now is offering, for it's developers, a new tool set called XNA (I don't think even the Microsoft geeks know what XNA stands for) that will work to make games for both the XBox and Windows using such Windows classics as DirectX, blah, blah.  So, my fear with this is that we are now, quite literally, one step (or more like 10 steps) closer to PC games coming to the XBox.  All I'll say is that if I wanted PC games, that is what I have a PC for.  This is not a cause to celebrate. 

By the way, Microsoft is missing the mark by using their star-studded press conference dealio to bring this to light again.  E3 is the time to announce the exciting, the revolutionary, the amazing...not the technical schematics of things.  The developers already know about XNA (hell, I've known about it for the last couple of months and I'm no developer).  As my bitch of a boss would say (when I'm working my ass off), "use your time wisely"...Microsoft, E3 is not the time nor the place for this, especially since it's old news.  At least Microsoft didn't pull out the charts and graphs like Sony did.

EA Goes Live!

Lastly, EA is now joining the XBox Live world.  I'll leave this pretty short since I talked about it in depth already this week.  All I'll say is this; EA has been "live" in the online world of PS2 for a while now.  Microsoft is doing good by having EA join the Live family, but in the end, this is only exciting news for people who don't have a PS2.  PS2 owners (which far outnumber the XBox owners) have had this type of action for awhile...another case of Microsoft's biggest news just seeming a little wussy in comparison to the rest.  The only really cool news about this, to me, besides Battlefield coming to the XBox, is that Burnout 3, which is now being published by EA instead of how Aklaim published the first 2 Burnouts, can be compatible with XBox Live.  I know the Live component of Burnout 2 was pretty measly, but I loved seeing my scores in the top 100 or better.  It made me feel like a big man.

There is Good Within the Bad

At least XBox owners can look forward to a few I guess Microsoft didn't fail completely.  Although most of the good is old news anyways.  However, we do have upcoming hits like Jade Empire, KOTOR2 (assuming the development's not Bioware anymore...can keep up the tradition first set by Bioware),  and a few others that will probably never actually be released (like Halo 2, Halflife 2, Fable...the list goes on and on).

Concluding Thoughts

Anyways, there is still way too much E3 news to sort through without going into geek overload.  While I bitch about Microsoft and the XBox, I love the system.  For those who like to be rabid fanboys who must diss the competition, I just say this, it is not only possible to tolerate all systems is also possible to love all the consoles.  I am excited about some of the XBox news, but in the end, most of it is either old news, or it has been done before by Sony.  I guess that's why Sony is leading the console war right now.  Sony creates and Microsoft assimilates.