SLIDESHOW

In Pictures: E3 2008 Picks and Pans

For once it doesn't matter whether you swear by the Wii, Xbox 360, PS3, or PC gaming. It's all here. Here's what caught our eye--and what we wish we'd never laid eyes on--at this year's E3 gaming expo in LA.

E3 2008 Picks and Pans

Well, the E3 Media & Business Summit has wrapped up for another year and as always, some of the games we wanted to see were unveiled, but many weren't. Our gut feeling: The smaller, media-only event still doesn't feel quite right despite this year's return to its Los Angeles Convention Center roots.

A fleeting CGI trailer of God of War 3 was a perfect example of Sony's press conference: full of promises and plenty of "be patient" posturing. It lacked the one or two zingers Microsoft landed its at press event (even with the last-minute decision to postpone a major Halo-related Bungie announcement). Meanwhile, Nintendo impressed with Wii Sports Resort and Wii Music, though may have put off hardcore gamers in the process. Of course, a variety of other hot games also caught out our eye...

Click next to see what Matt Peckham (Game On blogger), Darren Gladstone (Casual Friday gaming column author) and Danny Allen (editor of PC World's History of Game Consoles, as Seen in Old TV Ads) thought of the show. Agree, disagree? Leave a comment below.

Xbox 360 Gets Netflix

Out of all the "big three" press conferences at E3 2008, the one thing that stuck in most people's heads was Xbox Live supporting Netflix. I've got to be honest, I've been on the fence about Netflix for a while, but that announcement sealed the deal. I had no intention of ponying up cash for that Roku Netflix Player, anyhow. --Darren Gladstone

Nintendo Woos Casual Gamers, Forgets Hardcore Fans?

Nintendo previewed its forthcoming Wii Sports Resort and Wii Music games (click through for a detailed look at what could easily become two classics). Our early verdict based on activities like sword fighting, disc throwing, Jet Ski riding and rocking out on virtual drums: Both deliver the irreverent fun you'd expect, coupled with some crafty control methods that you perhaps wouldn't.

But is Nintendo spurning hardcore gamers? The controversy arose because it didn't launch a new Mario or Zelda game (they merely confirmed stuff's in the works). However, Nintendo did unveil a glorified social networking game (Animal Crossing: City Folk) and a version of Grand Theft Auto for the DS --Danny Allen and Matt Peckham

Spore is Gonna Be Huge

Whether upcoming designer celeb Will Wright's forthcoming soup-to-nuts PC-based "life simulator" turns out to be an actual game or just a clinically addictive toy, E3 2008 confirmed that everyone wants to play Spore. Whether it's fussing virtual putty into tripods with 20 eyestalks or teaching your tribe to ape your groovy Joey Fatone moves, Spore's going to turn heads and, who knows, maybe even raise a few anti-evolutionist eyebrows. --Matt Peckham

First Person Parkour?

My personal favorite from the show: Mirror's Edge, due on the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC late 2008 from EA DICE--the team behind the excellent Battlefield series. You'll play Faith, an information "runner" from a dizzying first person perspective as she traverses stunning cityscapes, using both Parkour (a gymnastic system of fluid movement around obstacles) and the martial art Wing Chung to evade and disarm enemies. You'll see motion trails as Faith builds up speed and the camera will spin when she somersaults. Vertigo and motion sickness could be an issue with this one, and I can't wait. --Danny Allen

Sayonara, Third-Party Exclusives

Someone hand Square Enix a cigar for wising up to a fractious console climate by promising former PS3-exclusive Final Fantasy 13 to U.S. Xbox 360 owners in this year's biggest didn't-see-that-coming shocker. Even more shocking: Sony America President and CEO Jack Tretton suggesting that third-party exclusives are on the way out. Bad news for fanboys and franchise monopolies, otherwise known as "a major coup" for the rest of us. --Matt Peckham

Box Office Boffo

Usually--but not always--movie (or movie-licensed) games are like garbage-lined discs. What's interesting is that we're finally seeing some amazing games that take elements from familiar places and present it as if the game is essentially a sequel to the flick. Case in Point: Check out the upcoming games based on Wanted, Ghostbusters, and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, all hitting the small screen this year. --Darren Gladstone

That's Super! (Kind of)

Not many MMOs cater to me wearing underwear outside my pants and pretending I'm mighty. 2K's Champions Online looks like a fantastic superhero-building adventure for the Xbox 360 and PC. Sony Online Entertainment has other plans with the DC Universe, where you can play alongside famous heroes and fight infamous villains. What's intriguing is that DCU takes a definitively more action-game approach. Still, both are a ways out and each have distinct enough styles that it looks like someone taped comic book pages on the TV. I should probably stop doing that. --Darren Gladstone

Sony: Filming (Still in Progress)

Sony's show-launched PlayStation Video Store got an appreciable jump on the new Microsoft-Netflix coalition (coming "late fall"). Letting you buy or rent from a selection of hundreds of movies and thousands of TV shows, the store mostly cooks right along, even if the interface could stand some tweaks and a few TV shows are missing episodes or even entire seasons. Sony's biggest challenge? Offering jumbo high-def content for keeps (you can only rent HD shows for starters) without snapping your hard drive's cylinders. --Matt Peckham

Oh, The Horror!

So long as you don't mind a smattering of blood on your screen, you've got plenty to scream about this fall. EA's Dead Space was a huge surprise for me. This trippy sci-fi thriller has shades of the films Event Horizon and Alien as you try to survive--and escape--a derelict spacecraft. No surprise, though, was Left 4 Dead. Every time I play Valve's Left 4 Dead, it's a completely different survival horror experience. Fighting floods of zombies with four friends online: Y'know, fun for the whole family. --Darren Gladstone

Changing The Game With Real World Stats

EA's NBA Live 09 boasts a feature that could change what we expect from any sports game from this point on: a system dubbed "Dynamic DNA" that checks online for the latest updates on player hot and cold streaks, team rosters, player tendencies, team dynamics and more. This information is based on near-real-time, real-world statistics of your favorite players and is then incorporated into the game play on your console. I can't wait to see this technology find its way into other EA Sports games like Madden and FIFA. Awesome. --Danny Allen

Battle Of The Bands

The battle lines being drawn between music games has gone far enough. Guns 'n' Roses's first new song in ages appears on Rock Band 2--well before the album it's from, Chinese Democracy, hits the streets. And they have AC/DC (a personal fave). Upcoming Guitar Hero games, on the other hand, get the full new Metallica Album (at least until Lars changes his mind) and exclusive REM preview tracks for their next disc. Add to that the fact that you need multiple drum sets and guitars just to play, and it's officially getting ridiculous. --Darren Gladstone

Resist This!

Was PS3 exclusive sci-fi shooter Resistance 2 pilfering Gears of War's bossy Brumak with its footage of a Godzilla-sized walking rock-pile whopping on skyscrapers? Maybe, but then everything about Insomniac's gorgeous-looking sequel screams Big and Bigger. I, for one, cannot wait to plug alien uglies on U.S. soil, even if it means firing blind and squandering bullets because I'm too engrossed ogling all the sexed-up, invasion-laced panoramas. --Matt Peckham

Genre Benders

Y'know that old Peanut Butter cup ad? "Hey, you got your chocolate in my peanut butter..?" Used to be that nobody would mix a first-person shooter with a strategy or role-playing game. Now, it's everywhere! Take Sega's stylish Valkyria Chronicles. It's a beautiful-looking strategy game that unfolds with action the second you spot the enemy. Fallout 3 is the opposite: a gritty post-apocalyptic gun-toting game which, at the tap of a button, can become a turn-based strategy shootout. And both will be played--often--this fall. --Darren Gladstone

BigLittleGames

If humble developers with little games are making a big dent in the gaming world, then the uber-cutesy LittleBigPlanet must be the poster child. Build your own levels and race your creations through 'em. Another game with a similar approach is Capcom's Flock. Herding sheep, cows and chickens is fun enough, but the level editor lets you create and share with buddies. And then there's D3's Puzzle Quest: Galactrix. Imagine an addictive puzzle game like Bejeweled gets turned into a role-playing game. It may sound harmless enough, but you've officially been warned. --Darren Gladstone

Shorter Games, Cheaper Future

With Sony's pitch for Ratchet & Clank Future: Quest for Booty--a $15 slice of action-platforming follow-up to the bestselling "Tools of Destruction" for the PS3--say hello to the increasingly episodic face of gaming. Sony's foray into a first-tier-franchises-meet-movie-ticket-prices market could signal the advent of major properties sliced like cake layers into budget-sized installments. Want to play games of 4 to 5-hour chapters instead of $60 whole enchiladas? It's looking like you'll at least have the option to shortly. --Matt Peckham

Rimshot

Sorry, Konami, but the Rock Revolution is in jeopardy. I know I stink as a drummer, but your game just drummed that into my head. The drum pads are a little tiny--I can live with that--but it's near-impossible to see the colored buttons onscreen. Think I'm out of touch and alone on this one? A band came on to "play" during Konami's press conference and they bombed out in less than a minute. At least I don't feel alone now. --Darren Gladstone

Dud and Dudder

PS3 and Xbox 360 hard drive upgrades for sale, 40GB apiece (here's to the old prices, same as the new prices). It's hard to argue with getting more for the same amount, but we're forking out big bucks for food and gas and looking for some price relief at the store, not token storage bumps. Microsoft and Sony fumbled the ball here, though they'd stand a chance at getting it back by offering a permanent holiday price cut. --Matt Peckham