E3 09: Top 10 things you need to know about today - Thursday edition

2) Star Wars: The Old Republic is the anti-MMO

It’s a common conundrum for the MMO-phobic: playing online with thousands of other players is an appealing proposition, but most MMOs tend to be grind-heavy fetch-fests that require massive time investments and seem to revolve around collision boxes roaming stiffly around and clicking on other collection boxes so they can collect the things that fall out of dead collision boxes. Enter The Old Republic, which features such a strong single-player campaign that you don’t have to join up with other players unless you want to. The Old Republic promises gameplay that’s remarkably similar to the previous Knights of the Old Republic games, complete with full voiceovers for every line – even those spoken by other players – and multiple-choice conversations that affect the direction of your story and the ways in which other characters react to you. It also features a cover system during firefights, which is awesome, although we’re less impressed with the way enemies totally fail to react when shot.

3) Heavy Rain’s stories end when the heroes do
From what we’ve seen of Heavy Rain so far, the entire game is one long, multiple-choice quicktime event punctuated by exploration, and it still manages to look awesome. But perhaps more intriguing than the carefully timed junkyard brawls and awkward nightclub seductions is the revelation that, once a hero dies, that’s it – their role in the story is finished, and the next protagonist (there are four in all) takes over. That means huge chunks of the game could remain undiscovered until your next play-through, and that you absolutely will need to be careful about the choices you make, because you won’t get a chance to make things “right” if they get you killed.

If all four characters die, said writer/director David Cage, then Heavy Rain becomes a very sad story in which four people try to investigate a serial killer and instead all wind up dead. He also promised that it won’t end in a game over or a simple fade to credits – there’ll be closure, and it’ll feel like a logical – if depressing – end to the story. At least until you start over and see how long you can keep your heroes alive.

Oh, and one other important tidbit: Cage told us to rest assured that, while Heavy Rain’s predecessor Indigo Prophecy/Fahrenheit ended with a bizarre and disappointing mishmash of robots, magic and conspiracy theories, Heavy Rain will remain firmly grounded in a realistic, believable setting. Adventure game fans, rejoice!

4) The Secret of Monkey Island is a slavishly awesome remake

Speaking of reasons for adventure fans to rejoice, we’ve seen The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition for Xbox 360, and as fully voiced, hand-painted remakes go, it looks amazing. More amazing still is how heavily it’s geared toward fans of the classic first Monkey Island game, to the point that – with the press of a button – you can shift between the remastered version and its pop-up menus to the original, complete with 8-bit pixel graphics and always-on SCUMM text menu. It’s sort of like R-Type Dimensions, but with pirates.

5) Borderlands has at least half a million unique guns
Borderlands, the wasteland-set shooter/RPG from developer Gearbox, looks like what you’d get if you took Fallout 3, gave it the aesthetics of an MMO and limited the online aspect to four-player co-op throughout the entirety of its sprawling adventure. But more importantly, it has at least half a million guns.

Instead of just designing a rote arsenal of firearms for players to scavenge, Gearbox took the more interesting approach of letting the computer generate them on the fly. By programming in sets of materials, components and fictional manufacturers that favor certain materials and styles, Gearbox enables the game to come up with weird shit like sniper rifles with revolver-style bullet chambers that shoot shotgun shells. Add in ammo-specific fatalities that include a dude’s head being struck by lightning, exposing his skull and forcing his eyeballs to shoot out of his head, and you’ve got a recipe for gunplay that will never, ever get boring. It still might get boring, of course, but the recipe’s firmly in place.