Right in the center of the cacophony that was South Hall at this year's E3, publisher THQ held court. Walking by, it was impossible to miss the huge signs for their upcoming offerings: Titan Quest, Saint's Row, Frontlines, Supreme Commander and Company of Heroes, along with a bevy of other, family titles, from the latest Spongebob offering to Pixar/Disney's Cars.. THQ was kind enough to take us around on a walking tour of five of their major new titles, and we bring you this E3 report.
This Windows PC RTS title comes from Gas Powered Games, the developer responsible for the popular Dungeon Siege franchise. We were only able to see a non-interactive movie at the show, but what we saw had us anxious to know more. Supreme Commander takes place in the 37th century, where three factions vie for total domination of the galaxy. The weapons of war are extremely varied- from naval units to giant robots, and everything in-between. In the movie, we saw battleships that grew treads or legs and walked up the beaches, air strikes, towering mechanical behemoths firing lasers and missiles and many other units. Combat looks like it will involve dozens if not hundreds of units, using a scalable UI capable of zooming fluidly from a ground-based camera all the way back to a lofty overview capable of seeing the entire battlefield. Since we could not actually take the controls, we cannot comment on the game's UI or playability, but given Gas Powered's head guru, Chris Taylor's, previous work on Total Annihilation and Dungeon Siege, this looks to be a title to watch. Supreme Commander is slated for an "early 2007" release.
Frontlines: Fuel of War
Frontlines: Fuel of War is a FPS/Open World title being developed by Kaos Studios (the developer of Desert Combat) for the PC, 360 and PS3. As with Supreme Commander, all we were able to see of this title was a non-playable movie. The story takes place in the near future, where the remaining superpowers have banded together to form the Western Coalition and the Red Star Alliance to duke it out for Earth's dwindling resources. The game's tech seems very informed by actual, current tools of war- we saw a plethora of realistic-looking tanks, guns, helicopters, infantry armor, remote-controlled smart bombs, gun cams and other weapons employed in frenetic combat. The developer promises "over 60 next-gen vehicles and weapons inspired by military designs for the near future", and from what we saw, they look pretty damn good. RPG-like depth is promised via a "role" progression that allows players to customize their gear and technical specializations as the game progresses, but, naturally, we could not see anything about that in the movie. Either way, we'll be sure to keep an eye out for more info as the game gets closer to its 2007 completion date.
We saw this title in its early stages at lat year's show, and pigeon-holed is squarely in the "GTA clone" category. Unfortunately, the game still looks like it will offer up the same predictable bag of tricks that Rock Star's earlier title(s) did, with a few new tweaks- perfect for rabid fans of the "Wannabe Gangsta" genre. The playable demo we saw had the player walking around, shooting rival gangsters, driving a convertible over hapless, screaming pedestrians and indulging in a bit of (not so) good-natured trash talk with his rivals. Unlike GTA, however, Saint's Row promises a greater degree of customization in your avatar's look and ethnicity- this time around you can strive to create a "gangsta" stereotype as either a Caucasian, Asian, Hispanic or African American- your gang, however, will always be the same scripted bunch of miscreants. The game's developer (Volition) promises that Saint's Row will allow rival gangs to compete against one-another online, but we did not see that feature in action. Other features, such as a working Freeway and Subway system were also promised, but again, were not in evidence at the show. We'd like to say that the game looked fantastic, taking advantage of the 360's advanced graphics capabilities, but we'd be lying- the game still looks a bit blocky, plagued with pixilated edges and murky, flickering textures. Seeing as how the game is due to be released in August (only three months away), we hoped to see something a bit more polished- color us worried. Look for a full review as soon as we get our hands on a release copy.
Company of Heroes
This Windows PC RTS title took our breath away at last year's Expo, even though all we could see was a brief movie. This year, developer Relic (known for their amazing work on the Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War and Homeworld franchises) returned to E3 with an actual playable demo of the game. Relic seems to have learned quite a bit from their time with Dawn of War, and Company of Heroes' UI looks hauntingly familiar, almost like a WWII-version of that futuristic title. No worries though- seeing as how we loved the interface for Dawn of War, this had us pumped. During the course of the demo, we saw the player send in recon squads, capture enemy artillery, use that captured ordinance against the foe, move up armored assets, engage in a bit of tank-vs-tank combat, cleanse an enemy fortification with a flame thrower and a satchel-charge attack, and even call down a tank-busting air strike, all in glorious real-time. According to the developer, all in-game assets are historically accurate and actually appeared in the Normandy theater of operations, and is lovingly crafted- everything from a Sherman tank's battle-worn paint job to the reloading animation for the 105mm Howitzer is spot-on accurate. Also, all of the game's environments are destroyable- building walls crumble when they are hit with demolitions charges, revealing the interior walls and floors within, obstacles such as stone fences or walls can be blasted with grenades or recoilless rifles, creating new fire and cover corridors for your infantry, etc. If it sounds like we're juiced about this title, it's only because we are. Relic has really set expectations sky-high for Company of Heroes, and we desperately hope that, when the game is released this Fall, that they can deliver on that promise. Given the quality of what we saw at the show, however, we have high hopes.
By the time you read this, the playable demo for this Windows PC Action RPG title should already be available. Titan Quest is the brain child of Age of Empires co-creator Brian Sullivan, and is being developed by Iron Lore Entertainment. Game play will be instantly familiar to players of Diablo or Dungeon Siege, utilizing a mouse-based interface. Players journey though the world of mythological Greece, Persia and Egypt on 80+ monster quests and against 28 different named boss creatures, fighting creatures out of legend. Players can create male or female characters, then further customize them via 1500+ pieces of unique equipment. In the demo, we saw all of the staple items one would expect from an Action RPG: click-to-move or -attack interface, swarming monsters, cool weapons, etc. Nothing we haven't seen before, but, frankly, we feel that the argument "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" can be firmly applied here. No, what piques our interest in Titan Quest is the game's setting- as someone that actually wore out my first copy of Bullfinch's Mythology in high school and college, the idea of going toe-to-toe with the Minotaur, Cyclops or Medusa is really compelling. Lucky for us all that we'll soon know if the game rocks or sucks- it's due to be released on June 25 of this year. Watch MyGamer for a full review.