Few games stand out at E3

While show visitors are jazzed about some games, namely "Spore," few cause a huge stir. Photos: Gauging the E3 games

LOS ANGELES--Though the halls of the Los Angeles Convention Center are filled with tens of thousands of E3 attendees, the level of excitement at this year's video game convention is notably low.

On the one hand, it feels like significantly less people are at the show than in previous years, reportedly because organizers clamped down on media and game retailer attendees.

Games at E3

On the other hand, few games are being showcased this year that everyone is talking about. Certainly there are games that are drawing long lines for demonstrations, but those are the exceptions--and to talk to several people at E3 here is to hear several different stories of what are the best games being shown.

The one game that seems to be on everyone's lips is "Spore," from Electronic Arts and "The Sims" creator Will Wright. Each day of the convention, the lines have been nearly two hours long to see demonstrations of the game. But while "Spore," which is slated for a 2007 release, is highly anticipated, it is not a newcomer to E3. Indeed, the game was a "best of show" at last year's event, though this year's demo was much more fleshed out.

Instead, some attendees are taking the position that this year's E3 is the province of many good, but not so many great, games.

"There isn't much that left a strong impression," said Austin Grossman, a game designer from Brooklyn, N.Y. "It's an evolutionary year."

Grossman said he had enjoyed Activision's "Enemy Territory: Quake Wars," and that he will buy Ubisoft's "Assassin's Creed" when it is available. But he came away from E3 underwhelmed.

"'Spore' is the giant alien standout, but all this other stuff, like (EA's) 'Crysis' and World War II stuff, it's just very good," Grossman said. "It's not like the new leap."

One game taking a new approach that some E3 attendees liked is Sony Computer Entertainment's "The Eye of Judgment," for PlayStation 3, which includes innovative play involving cards for the game's creatures.

"I liked that you can pet the creatures when you're in card mode," said Merci Hammon, a student at the University of Southern California. "It really brings the card game alive, which is quite a feat."

And while Grossman wasn't that impressed with "Crysis," others were.

"I think 'Crysis' looks scary, amazingly real," said Aaron Culbreth, a lead programming manager on Microsoft's Xbox Live service. "From what I can see, the people's faces, just like the way the grass moves as soldiers are walking, is ultra-realistic."

Wii controller steals spotlight
One way of looking at E3 might be that the real hit of the show isn't a game, but a game controller. The lines to see the new controller for Nintendo's Wii next-generation console, were about as long as any at the show, up to four hours at some points.

But in the end, E3 is about games, and to those attending the show this year, it's hard to find many that are memorable.

"I like Capcom's 'Dead Rising,' because it's kind of hilariously gruesome," said Simon Carless, editorial director of Game Developer magazine. "I also like (Nintendo's) 'Elite Beat Agents,' which is really goofy."

Carless explained that in "Elite Beat Agents," players are tasked with helping characters through sticky situations by tapping on the Nintendo DS screen in time with a musical beat.

"A dog accidentally jumps on a truck and gets lost several hundred miles away," Carless explained, "and through the magic of song, you need to return him home."

But in the end, Carless said, he found himself unimpressed by the game offerings at E3.

"There's no single one standout game," he said. "I think that as games iterate, people are going to be less surprised (by them). But it doesn't mean that they're not good games."

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