E3 2008: The Activision Conference

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Activision, although they were not technically taking part in E3 this year, just couldn’t resist staying away and missing all that juicy press coverage. So instead, they set up shop down the road from the LA Convention Centre and invited prestigious members of the press after E3’s day had finished, to take a look what they had in store for the year. To kick off proceedings, Nelson Diaz came to the stage to introduce them. I have no idea who this dude is but apparently he’s a comedian who has 45k gamerscore (that’s what he tells us). Yes, thanks for that.

CEO of Activision, Mike Griffith came to stage with a shameless product promotion for Guitar Hero on the DS before getting on with business. Griffiths gave a short introduction in the showcase stating visions for the future and how they performed last year, I mean, did you know that 18 million songs have been downloaded through Guitar Hero, well we didn’t.

It didn’t take long before Griffiths was running through the new and resurrected IP’s giving us a brief insight to the not so distant future. The first short trailer focused on a game called “Singularity” which is being developed by Raven Software and it is a first person action game that takes the “premise of controlling time, to a new dimension” as it “pits shooter and sci-fi fans against a devastating fracture in time”. The trailer was fairly short but showed a fair bit of action with a voiceover stating that “I told them it was unsafe and highly unstable... They wouldn’t listen”

Next up was a sequel to fan’s favourite, Marvel Ultimate Alliance, titled Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2: Fusion. It is said to include 24 superheroes including Spider-Man, Captain America, Hulk and plenty of supervillians from Venom  to the Green Goblin. The new fusion aspect of the game allows gamers to share powers of their superheroes/villains to create new and customised super hero combos. Following the small intro, Griffiths played the trailer and it gave a short, but not very helpful insight to the game apart from sharing a few of the worldwide locations we would visit; London, New York, Chicago, Japan.


Activision then announced the next X-Men game, namely X-Men Origins: Wolverine, another title by Raven software. The game is based on the upcoming Hugh Jackman, Wolverine film who features in the game. Apart from announcing it, that was all they did before jumping on to their next title, the new Transformers game, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and it is the sequel to the original Activision title. After the short intros to the new upcoming games mentioned previously, Activision invited on head of Treyarch, Mark Lamia to introduce one of their leading IP’s, Call of Duty.

Everyone who knows me will know of my hate for Treyarch, simply for taking the great Spider-Man 2 game and creating the hash that was Spider-Man 3 from it, but everyone deserves a good crack of the whip and I’m not one to hold a grudge. World at War, will of course be using the Call of Duty 4 engine and will introduce a few new weapons in to the series such as flamethrowers and flame tanks as it heads back to World War II but this time, to the Pacific. One of Lamia’s early announcements was that World at War multiplayer would now feature tanks in all new vehicle based gameplay. Without further ado, he drops another bombshell that World at War would feature 4 player online co-op and 2 player co-op split screen and then BAM! He announce that Kiefer Sutherland (you know Jack Bauer) will feature as one of the main voices in the game as they begin to show the live demo.

The first part of the co-op demo showed a patrol slowly moving down a river and for the first time we hear Bauer, I mean Kiefer. At this point the patrol are ambushed and they have to fight off attackers under a canopy of dark with Bauer, I mean Kiefer (damn, I’ll have to stop doing that) screaming orders nearby. Quickly it jumps in to the second part of the demo where both players are equipped with flamethrowers as they disintegrate the long grass and anyone hiding in it. The second co-op demo was actually fairly long with plenty of action thrown in with tanks, explosions and rockets coming from all angles.  The co-op on World at War actually looks very impressive and is a mode that has personally raised my anticipation for the game. However, if I try this game and Treyarch ruins another great series for me, I’ll cry like a big girl!

Spider-Man: Web of Shadows was next on the scene as they kicked off the showcase with a short trailer showing a battered Manhattan, a scene that seemed more at home in something like Cloverfield. Spider-Man: Web of Shadows will feature an original storyline and you will be thrust in to New York city to defeat the alien symbiotes that have taken over. The combat system has been totally revamped for the game and it does certainly look easier as the demo shows Spider-Man kicking ass on the side of a building. Spider-Man will have two suits, the red which allows Spider-Man to be more agile and such, and the other, black which signifies brute power.  The title is said to feature decision making throughout which will affect who fights by your side and how the story progresses.


The next game’s lead needs no introduction but we’ll give him one... His name is Bond, James Bond. Quantum of Solace will be the first Bond game ever that will be released alongside the movie and what better than to kick off the game demo than a look at the upcoming film which is released in November and looks to be a real treat. Activision were given unprecedented access to the film’s locations, script, writers and even Mr Craig himself. As previously mentioned before, the Call of Duty 4 engine will be used throughout  which the developer mentions gives them a good head start with the title. The demo starts with a third person view of Craig as he ducks from cover to cover trying to be stealthy and wait for his moment. As he gets close to his opponent who is unaware of his presence, Bond takes him down with a third person combo. As the move finishes, he returns to first person mode. The action scenes actually look fairly impressive with a smooth transition from first person to third person mode with Craig’s likenesses’ being very accurate. The explosions and level interactivity also seems to be a huge plus. Could this truly be a Bond title worthy of the license? You be the judge.

The long awaited Wolfenstein sequel was next on the agenda. Wolfenstein will be developed by id and Raven software and the title sees BJ make a return to his famous role. The premise of the game is essentially, a crazy Nazi cult are trying to open a portal in to another dimension and BJ has to stop them, but not alone. The multiplayer will be team based objective driven and will allow gamers to take the “ultra realistic” and “supernatural” weapons that BJ finds within the Shroud in to the multiplayer arena. Although there wasn’t much to show, more will become available at QuakeCon on July 31st to August 2nd.

The conference ended with the latest title in the Activision money driven  franchise, Guitar Hero World Tour. The usual facts were fed to us that were featured in the Microsoft press conference on Monday. Namely, there are 85 master songs, The Eagles, Van Halen and The Doors will feature in the title, Metallica’s Death Magnetic album, blah blah. Older Guitar Hero instruments are said to be compatible with the new title but the new guitar may actually be worth a look because it has a few new funky features like the touch sensitive slider bar. The drums will contain a layer of silicon on the top so that they will have realistic bounce back and the harder you hit it, the louder the sound. The drum kit was unveiled to have a midi jack which allows you to plug your professional drum kit in and use that. Very smooth!

Right then, let’s discuss the music store and new interactive music features. The music store in World Tour is a new feature that allows you to create and share music. The mode allows you and your friends to jump in and out at any time, switching instruments as you see fit. The guitar’s scale and notes can be user set and something as simple as lifting the guitar can change the pitch. There is also a keyboard in the game with close to 80 different synthesiser sounds and that looks like ridiculous fun. The tune can then be polished with GH mix and then with GH Tunes which is a community application, allows users to add a layer of final polish to their tune, make an album cover, and then share with the world. That isn’t it as far as customisability goes, World Tour also gives you the option to create your rockstar, your instrument and even your band logo which is featured on the instruments. Last, but not least, World Tour also allows you to go online with 3 of your friends and duke it out in a Battle of the Bands-esque competition, these friends can be by your side or on the other side of the globe. As a side note, lead singer of Paramore, Haley Williams turned up and stated that one of their songs would be in the title as well as her when it’s shipped.


While the Activision press conference was a long one, there were a few IP’s but no real shocks. We knew the sequel to Marvel Ultimate Aliiance was coming. We knew a Transformer and Wolverine film plug in would come because that’s the Activision way. Hell, we even knew Wolfenstein was coming but it’s great to see a classic IP get given the 21st century treatment. Technically, the only really new IP to us was Singularity and that certainly intrigued us. Quantum of Solace and World at War both actually looked like good uses of the Call of Duty 4 engine and Spider-Man: Web of Shadows looks better than the previous two Spider-Man titles put together. Yes we saw more Guitar Hero World Tour but we’re frankly getting sick of seeing it now. All in all it wasn’t a bad showcase. A bit of originality was shown but they mainly came to strengthen their superior franchises that little bit more.


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