Gamers line up to check out new releases


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LOS ANGELES -- With the press conferences at the Electronic Entertainment Expo out of the way Wednesday, everyone packed into the Los Angeles Convention Center ready to play. The halls were busy and the lines were long to see the most anticipated games of the upcoming year.

The zoo that was the EA area was the last stop to see new games. A two-hour appointment was not nearly enough to see all that the giant had to offer.

The first room was devoted to all of the new games based on popular board games such as "Risk" and "Monopoly." "Family Game Night," a full retail release for the Wii, 360 and PS3, will come with "Yatzee," "The Game of Life," "Twister" and "Cluedo."

The major releases included "Dead Space 2," which was shown on the PS3. The sequel takes place in a huge abandoned city rather than the space station in the first title. This opens the door for plenty of places to travel and see. The graphics look stunning and the gameplay scarier than the first. It hits stores Jan. 25.

The "Medal of Honor" series is facing the most drastic overhaul of any of the remakes at this E3. The series was dominated by games from the WWII era, but the series catches up to present-day with the latest entry.

There was a full multiplayer demo on-site for gamers to go head-to-head. You can play as one of three classes: Rifleman, Spec-ops or Sniper. The game looked and played very smoothly, and everyone involved had a lot of fun playing.

This new title will be an excellent multiplayer experience and should give "Call of Duty" a new challenge.

"Crysis 2" is a sequel for the most graphically demanding first-person shooter that I know of. It's absolutely gorgeous when the computer can handle the graphics, but glitches included slowdowns and a full-game crash. "Crysis 2" will be available on the PS3 and 360. When it was working, it was one of the best games at E3 this year.

The most successful PC game of all time is about to get its third installment. "Sims 3" will be tailor-made for consoles and PC, not just ported from one to the other. The demo was shown on the 360.

New software may dominate the spotlight at E3, but this year may mark a new era of hardware. A new service called OnLive showed its new "cloud computing" service. "Cloud computing" means all of the graphically demanding computing, which is usually handled on a home computer or console, is now handled on a remote server. The server processes the data and sends it back to the OnLive receiver in your home, similarly to how a cable box works. This eliminates the need for powerful hardware.

The subscription-based service allows you to install the service on any PC or Mac with a 5-megabytes-per-second Internet connection, or you can order a receiver that connects directly to a television.

I had the opportunity to play OnLive, and it was an eye-opening experience. "Batman: Arkham Asylum" ran smoother through a standard Macbook than when I played it for the Xbox 360.

If OnLive can grab enough early adopters, we may be witnessing a new standard in how we play our video games.

There was much more for EA and others. Here are some of the highlights:

Warner Bros. Studios

"The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn's Quest": A huge booth and two theaters showcased titles such as the new "Mortal Kombat" and "Fear 3." First on this list of games to see was "The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn's Quest" for the Wii, the third-person adventure game with a cartoon-like style that takes place after the trilogy.

The game looks to be geared toward younger gamers and felt a bit like a "Zelda" title. Like "Zelda" you can upgrade your weaponry, health and skills throughout the game.

"Game Party Kinect": The success of Warner Bros. "Game Party" series, a format that allows you to choose from a list of mini-games, translates well to Microsoft's "Kinect." A football-throwing game worked flawlessly, but some games still had bugs to work out.

"Fear 3": The selling point of "Fear 3" is co-op play: You can play as the character Point Man from the first two titles while a friend plays as the new arrival, Fettel, a ghost-like spirit. This makes for excellent gameplay opportunities and lots of teamwork. Graphically, "Fear 3" is a step forward in the series, but there are still games out there that are visually superior.

"Mortal Kombat": It looked so polished that you'd think it was already out in the public's hands. The new "Mortal Kombat" brings the series back to its roots: 2-D gameplay is back, but with a fantastic 3-D look.

The gameplay emphasizes combos, combo breakers, special moves and the new X-ray move meter. X-ray moves are arguably the coolest feature: Your X-ray meter fills based on damage you've taken, and special moves and combos you have executed. When it's full, you can unleash a character-specific move that literally inflicts bone-breaking damage. You can see bones shatter in a beautifully rendered cinematic moment during the fight.

Characters and stages have intense detail, and, in case you were worried, gore and brutality are also back in classic "Mortal Kombat" fashion. There are plenty of gruesome fatalities, and the theater crowd went nuts for them.

Seven45 studios

"Power Gig: Rise of the Six String": The newest music title from Seven45 hopes to bring a sense of realism to the guitar and drums while playing music and rhythm games. The biggest difference between "Power Gig" and other rock games is that you use an actual electric guitar and rock out for real. There are two types of guitar modes, and the harder mode forces you to play the correct frets on the correct strings and might act as a learning tool for people trying to unlock their inner rocker.

Bethesda

"Rage": Like "Fallout," "Rage" takes place in a futuristic but ravaged and gnarled setting. It feels like a Western with Borderlands edge. When the game started up, there were gasps from the small audience; the graphics were that amazing. We were told that the game was running on a standard Xbox 360, but the system looked like anything but standard.

The games runs on a new engine called Id-Tech 5. There is an incredible amount of detail and a frame rate that is silky-smooth. "Rage" also has destroy-able environments and create-able weapons.

If "Rage" can run this smoothly on my 360, it will have the best graphics that the 360 has ever seen.

"Brink": The focus of the new title is multiplayer tactics and player customization. "Brink" has the controls of "Call of Duty" and a similar experience system. The differences lie in the five classes to choose from that can drastically change the course of battle. "Brink" is still in the alpha stages; it will be available for the 360, PS3 and PC.

Lucas Arts

"Star Wars: The Old Republic": Lucas Arts is hard at work with BioWare to create this massively multiplayer online game that has a solid chance of chipping away at the "World of Warcraft" fanbase. "The Old Republic" takes place thousands of years before the trilogy and hundreds of years after the "Knights of the Old Republic" games.

The graphics are a step forward for MMOs, but the standout feature is the voice work. Every player in the game is individually voiced. Your character will have a voice, as will the townspeople and every quest giver.

Lucas Arts would not say if there would be Mac support, which is probably not a good sign for Mac users.


Max Parker is The Game Guy for PG+. Read his live blog from the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles at http://plus.sites.post-gazette.com .


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