The PAX team said they listened to complaints about last year, and for the most part it shows. The entire show was encompassed in the massive, Hogwarts-like downtown convention center, ending last year's often painful street crossing to try to cram into a hallway for sessions... that you probably wouldn't get into anyway. Everything was in one building, some on a floor that I swear I didn't know existed after 15 years of going to the center for both business and pleasure.
Meanwhile, the predictably popular sessions (Halo, Harmonix, etc.) were given room to breathe, meaning you didn't have to camp for hours to get in - unless you wanted to be up close. There were actually chairs to be had after Harmonix began, a pleasant change from last year's canned ham approach of putting overflow in the aforementioned hallway. (You think I'm joking. I'm not!)
The Exhibition Hall has taken over pretty much the entire main floor, a predictable event that meant more room for walking and more space for vendors. Game lines were snaked nicely, also a welcome change from the past free-for-all approach. The booth babe invasion is also complete, officially making it E3 back when E3 was still fun. (And skanky.)
As for the reason we were there, well, here are a few things to augment Gamewatcher's round-up:
- Serious Sam HD. Yes, the splatterfest Serious Sam is coming soon to an Xbox 360 and/or PC near you. Being a hard-core console gamer, I initially resisted playing the PC version. I gave it a shot once I realized I wasn't blocking anyone who actually wanted it (and, let's face it, because the t-shirt guy was there), and much to my surprise, discovered that Yes, I would play it on a PC, Sam-I-Am. After trying it on both platforms, I kinda preferred it. The mouse action was much-more precise, and I didn't get into the death-spin that can occur with thumbsticks.
- Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars (PSP). The Rockstar booth changed out what you could do/see periodically - the only game I actually got my hands on was Chinatown Wars for PSP, which was already seriously in progress. The controls match every other GTA game you've ever played – the top button in the diamond jacks a car. The bottom button does everything else. Thumbstick moves you around. While the ant-sized protagonist is certainly a change from the lush GTA console games of past years, you can still see plenty of beat-down action, pick up taxi fares, and of course generally raise hell. Definitely worth checking out when it arrives at a rental store near you. I may even charge my PSP!
- Resident Evil Darkside Chronicles. An on-the-rails Res Evil game designed (according to the marketing guy who watched over us) in the vein of Cloverfield for your Wii. Apparently there's a lot of jerking around and you-can-shoot-now-just-kidding-you-can't action in Cloverfield. I mean, I get what he's saying - jerky cam! - but it was a bit disconcerting to try to rescue my partner in the game when it was felt like a built-in cinematic. On the other hand, props for making a game so visually seamless that you really can't tell what's in-game action and what's a cut scene. Oh, and at least for the brief time we played, there was none of this "press the button a thousand times really fast - oops, you died" BS that I truly, truly hate.
Many companies also stepped up their SWAG game this year, with a key standout being Nvidia. The chip company sent nerds into a froth by handing out buttons with a number. Find someone else with the same number, drag them to the booth and win a fabulous prize! By Day 3, people with Nvidia bandoleers and huge signs with numbers were roaming the floor. I stuck with the single Intel button (wear it to win!) and scored a total of four times, two times within about 1 minute of each other with the same guy. Oh, and I now have an entire wardrobe of extra large tees to keep me warm this winter (with extras to give away as prizes).
All-in-all, a fantastic show. Thank you very much to the show producers, and we'll see you next year. Oh, and to all who love Penny Arcade, please consider supporting Child's Play. You'll be hearing more about that in the coming months.