THQ E3 2006 booth tour: First impressions

The first booth I hit at E3 2006 was THQ. The visit was both a combination of making my own rounds and then experiencing most titles again via a behind-closed-doors booth tour. I was impressed with more than a few of the THQ demos and wound up spending large clips of time with a few of the developers. Before I knew it, I had spent close to two whole hours at the THQ booth alone. Time flies when you’re having fun… I guess.

The following is a quick recap of my experiences at the THQ booth on day 1 of E3 2006. Most of these high-profile titles will be receiving a more in-depth preview over the next few days:

WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2007
The Smackdown series will finally make it’s debut on a Microsoft system… more specifically Xbox 360. The demo was played on the 360, so the aspect of the game that left the biggest impression on me was the insane graphics and wrestlers’ facial reaction. The game was only about 20% complete and everything still looked pretty impressive, including the crowd, in which I could find no duplicated figures anywhere. The biggest gameplay upgrade WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2007 is receiving is a new grappling interface where both analog sticks are used to start and complete moves. The player cannot just stop after selecting a move, the move must be followed-through and completed using the thumbsticks. I wasn’t allowed to get my hands on the controller to test out the new method, but with so many games using the analog stick this year, it was only natural that Smackdown would do the same. Other additions to the series are a new sweat and blood engine, crowd interaction with the wrestlers and a new stamina interface that affects how you complete your moves based on your wrestlers fatigue factor. I was impressed with what I saw in this title and look forward to getting my own hands on it in the future. WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2007 is scheduled to be released in November 2006 on the Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and PSP.

Frontlines – Fuel of War
I knew close to nothing about this first person shooter before the demo, but I received a pretty thorough walk-thru and liked what I saw. The feature that left the biggest impression on me was the ability to use “drones,” remote-controlled mini vehicles, to do your bidding in the midst of the action. The developer running the demo flew an RC helicopter over the battlefield to give a bird’s eye view of the battle, which in turn would help you decide your next decisions. If the helicopter stumbles upon a group of enemies, the player can choose to detonate it and reduce the number of foes by a few more kills. Drones are available in land vehicles as well. Another cool feature was calling in an air strike on a selected target or area of the battlefield. I’ll get into the specific gameplay aspects of Frontlines in a full-length preview, but the main interface is not unlike some of the other titles currently available in the genre… which would be it’s biggest knock. There are some differences in the details though, such as the importance of abilities and roles when choosing a player. Those choices do have a great effect on some outcomes of battles. The multiplayer version of Frontlines is rumored to be able to handle 32 players on any platform it is released on. Look for Frontlines – Fuel of War to hit store shelves sometime in 2007 for the PC, Xbox 360 and PS3.

Saints Row
I was a little reluctant to believe that Saint’s Row would be anything more than a GTA knock-off. The first thing that smacked me (in the face) about Saint’s Row was the language. Within the first minute of the demo I heard approximately 20 F-bombs and a handful of racial slurs… the opening cinematic had already eclipsed GTA in terms of being offensive. The difference is that this title is a more humorous Grand Theft Auto with extreme language, a more free-form and not-so-linear world, and six multiplayer modes. I think GTA fans will like this one. Since there’s not another GTA release scheduled until late 2007, this title will take advantage of the gap and possibly draw some fans into a new franchise. The ability to customize the main character, via sliders, is an aspect of the game that many will like. You can basically make a visual clone of yourself in the game. There are plenty more juicy tidbits to talk about in Saint’s Row, all of which I will get to before the week is out.

Destroy All Humans 2
THQ put together a great display for DAH2 (see below), but didn’t trot out any staff that seemed too excited about this release. At least none that I talked to. The fact that there has been no buzz about releasing it on a next-gen system could be the problem. I didn’t spend much time playing DAH2… I couldn’t get excited about a game that the studio’s staff couldn’t even get excited about. The title just seems all-too-similar to last year’s release with a few minor tweaks and additions. The controls were identical to DAH1, which isn’t really a bad thing. The biggest new feature is a co-op mode where you and a friend can take on several cities across the globe. No, that’s not online play, just a two-players on the same console. I think I’ll pass unless it does get released on the 360 or PS3. Destroy All Humans 2 (Make War not Love) should be out for the Xbox and PS2 in the fall of 2006.

MotoGP 2006
I didn’t get much hands-on time with MotoGP, but there really isn’t much you couldn’t capture in just a few minutes. The next-gen graphics looked great with crisp bikes and the tracks, shadows and landscapes were nicely rendered. All of the modes from the previous release have returned with the addition of an “Extreme mode.” This mode is essentially an arcade mode which has much faster races than the career or season modes due to ability to power slide the corners with no worries about wiping out. Both regular and Extreme mode online play can pit up to 16 racers against each other. Both modes will also feature 17 different tracks to choose from, but the career mode tracks are actual tracks, where the arcade tracks are fictional but based on existing tracks. To give MotoGP 2006 a spin for yourself, simply wait until Friday when a free demo will be available via Xbox Live. MotoGP 2006 should be available in late June of this year.

Be sure to check back between now and the end of E3 for in-depth previews on these and other E3 2006 titles.

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