After the utter madness of last year, this year's E3 looked like being a total let-down. In their infinite wisdom, the organisers of the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo, the biggest games show of the year, decided to massively downscale the show, making it effectively an industry-only event, locking out the screaming gaming hordes.
Gone are the garish stands, replaced with corporate-style 'roundtable' discussions. Gone are the steadfastly un-PC booth babes, replaced by respectable besuited PR people. E3 has been emasculated. But it turns out that, to me, sitting here in rainy Blighty, it was only the games I was interested in all along -- and this is one of the biggest years I can remember for spectacular new games.
The three manufacturers are falling over themselves to prove that their system has got the best line-up going into the key Christmas season -- when most consoles are bought. They all know how important this year is, and they're rolling out the big guns. Nintendo's Wii has Metroid Prime, Mario Kart and the heaviest firearm of all, a new Mario platformer -- Super Mario Galaxy. (I can't wait to be Bee Mario, by the way.)
Sony's PS3 has Heavenly Sword, Unreal Tournament, Ratchet & Clank and the stunning-looking shooter Killzone 2. Not to mention the massive Grand Theft Auto IV and the gorgeous Assassin's Creed, which are also on Xbox 360. Sadly we have to wait until next year for Metal Gear Solid 4.
In terms of sheer firepower, Microsoft has edged this year's E3, for me anyway. Halo 3 looks more than capable of living up to expectations. What I've seen of BioShock has frightened the life out of me -- I thought I'd got over those X-COM: Terror from the Deep nightmares. But my highlight of the whole show has been Mass Effect. I'm an enormous fan of BioWare's Knights of the Old Republic, and Mass Effect looks to expand on that game's open, explorable feel with a whole universe of planets to get your roleplay on.
All these games are out in the last quarter of this year -- how on earth am I going to find time to play them all? Ah well, sleep is over-rated anyway.
My hard-working colleagues at GameSpot have been slugging their guts out writing up news and hands-on previews from E3, so head over there for some impressively in-depth coverage.