Electronic Arts is hard at work at removing its label as the kings of licenses. Just last week, it jettisoned the James Bond franchise, and its PC lineup at this year's show highlighted many new and long-standing original franchises.
The most creative title of the bunch was Spore, the brainchild of The Sims creator Will Wright. Consider Spore as The Sims writ large. You create a creature at the cellular phase, then give the being physical attributes--you can finely detail your creature's spine, facial features, and skin tone, each affecting the character's statistics. From there, you must meet your creature's basic needs--hunting, mating, and surviving--in order to evolve your species. You eventually control a tribe of your species, then attempt to control a thriving city of them, before taking control of an entire planet. After that, you can travel the universe, abducting and transferring other species between planets. The coolest part? The other planets are inhabited by user-created species, which you can track using the Sporepedia, the game's log of animals. While it may not be the best-looking PC game available, the sheer size of Spore is awe-inspiring.
Command & Conquer 3 was arguably the most anticipated of EA's PC titles--it's been more than four years since the last iteration in the wildly successful series. Command & Conquer 3 looks to break through some of the maladies that affect the real-time strategy (RTS) genre. First and foremost, the game looks to make the story of Tiberium--an infectious alien substance that has recklessly spread across Earth--central and inherent to the game. The developers have tossed together tons of literature on the subject for internal use only! Besides the story, great strides have been made in the graphics department; the particle effects and extreme details were apparent despite the standard bird's-eye viewpoint commonplace in RTS games. The developers also promised better-engineered AI that adapts to the two major types of RTS personalities: rushing and turtling (staying close to home and building up resources, respectively).
Crysis is a first-person shooter (FPS) developed by the team behind Far Cry. The game, which is about an alien invasion that unites North Korea and the United States in a combined assault against the intergalactic onslaught, is on the Halo level of massive scale. The environments are highly interactive--you can freeze your enemies in arctic environments or bury them under falling trees in the forest or structures on ships. The enemies are massive, too. We were amazed to see a large spiderlike machine plow through the smoky haze, only to learn that it wasn't a boss creature--you actually fight four of them later on in the game! On an internal level, Crysis still amazes. You can customize your character on the fly. For example, whip out your pistol and add attachments, no menus needed. Amid PS3 and Xbox 360 titles, this may be one of the best-looking games at E3.
If these games seem ahead of their time, it's because they're not arriving any time in the near future. Both Spore and Command & Conquer 3 are scheduled for 2007 releases, while Crysis hits this holiday season.