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E3 2010: EA press conference: The OPM verdict

The smell of gunsmoke hung heavy over EA's press conference at E3. Actually, it was more like the heady musk of thigh pressed against other male thigh, as every games wordsman in the world piled into the Orpheum Theater on Broadway.

But guns, from the futuristic alien-skewers of Dead Space 2 to the more traditional full-auto widow makers of Medal of Honor, were very much the overriding theme. And maybe a little too much. We all like shooters, right, but how many can one man eat before they all start to like chicken? Chicken seasoned with cordite.

With that in mind, here's the three bestest things I saw, in reverse order, with an extra bonus slightly moany one at the end in a bid to fit in with the Radar crowd.

3. The Sims 3
This presentation was actually pretty deathly. The man on stage mumbled on about sophisticated ecosystems, time and space, and even managed to drop what's fast becoming my E3 marketing bingo buzzword winner: 'MAGICAL!' And the only laugh he got was with a pretty cheap gay-themed screenshot. But! In a vast sea of shooters, at least The Sims 3 (which, yeah, is no stranger to sequels and expansions) is trying to do something new.

That something being to make the series more sophisticated, funnier, and crucially darker. Because the darker it gets the more interesting it becomes. EA seems to finally have realised that what a lot of us like doing is torturing our Sims, ruining their sex lives one cruel click at a time, and generally acting like an Old Testament kind of arse. And for that I like this. Plus maybe it'll actually work on console this time. Because that could happen.

2. Crysis 2
Maybe it was the enormo screen, or perhaps just my failing Christopher Lee-bloodshot eyes, but for a game whose reputation is built on graphical sexpow, visually my brains remained unblown during the gameplay segment. Or at least they did until the impressive Cloverfield skyscraper collapse finale. That said, I like the free roamy-ness of it, plus the obvious cool of the nanosuit, combined with the ravaged New York setting.

But what really sold me was the (sigh, CG) trailer they showed in 3D. Given that my last exposure to 3D was seeing Paul Scholes net a last second winner, this was far more cheery, with acres of depth against which the whizzing bullets and explosion bouquets were picked out. Nice. No doubt the personal computer users will be complaining that the console versions are ruining it for them, but realistically who listens to them? Mghghdhgkh gkkdjsgf lkjxnfgjlkn. Exactly, right? Oh and one of the baddies looked a bit like ED-209. Fact: the only thing game artists like drawing more than HR Giger's winky-headed aliens is ED-209.

1. Bulletstorm
Yeah, having moaned about shooters at the start, my number one pick is the shootiest of them all. But here's the thing: Bulletstorm is big, dumb and actually looks genuinely funny. In an idiots in space kind of way. My worry initially was that it'd be Unreal Tournament with knob jokes, but seeing dudes get hoofed into electric generators and wanged about with some sort of laser lasso looked far more refreshing than yet more realer than real actual now warfare in Iraqistan.

Also: at times the script made me do an actual lol. Specifically, the lines 'where did this giant dick come from?' and 'what are you doing fatty – eating the bullets?' It's the kind of stuff actual gamers say when playing the more po-faced shooters, so y'know, kudos to Epic. (One note of warning: the lad next to me reckoned he heard a gay slur in there too, but I didn't catch it. Not cool if so.) Of all the games, Bulletstorm was the one I most wanted to play so it wins. Oh, and that Cliffy B seems like a nice boy too. Is he famous?

Lowlight time!
The decision to show another CG mini movie for Star Wars Old Republic, rather than the actual stuff that's going to be playable on the show floor, doesn't inspire a lot of confidence. Yes, the trailer was better than Uncle George's entire output over the last two decades, but c'mon. Showthegamealready. Oh and Dead Space 2 looked undeniably strong, but I did wonder if the core experience isn't going to be very familiar from the first one. That bawse with the big arms looked awesome though.

But my real disappointment was with Need For Speed Hot Pursuit. Mainly because I was so pumped to see how Criterion was going to rewire the series. And it should be a no brainer: innovative online play, exotic cars, whipcrack visuals. But the demo, in which the cop car and racer swapped places a couple of times and did a bit of light shunting, didn't feel dramatic enough. At least not until the terrifying crash finale, but Criterion being able to do terrifying crashes isn't news. I've still got plenty of faith in the team and the concept, but it'll probably take a proper playtest to repump myself.

On which disconcerting image I'm signing off. I'll be back with more reports as E3 rolls on. Unless you all smash me up in the comments, in which case I probably won't. That's democracy alright.

June 15, 2010