E3 2009 Day 2 – Brett Reports on MARVEL ULTIMATE ALLIANCE 2, DJ HERO, and The Triumphant Return of Booth Bunnies!

     June 4, 2009

e3_2009_booth_babes_01.jpgNow that booth babes have made their illustrious return to E3, so, too, have the rolling good times. I’m told some jackass last year gave these fine creatures, typically eager models clad in skimpy skirts, knee-high pleather boots, and lots of glitter, the heave-ho opting for a more ‘professional, focused environment.’ Clearly, the corporate goons had their vice grips tight on the balls of Gotham City, but thankfully reason prevailed in this recession and so has the money. E3 boasts, by all accounts, twice the exhibitors than last year spread now over two floors at the LA Convention Center, and certainly more than twice the fun.

But let’s not give all the credit to the beautiful women who cheer your high score or, in my case, de-stroy you repeatedly at Tekken 6 in front of your peers. The games weren’t too bad, either.

marvel_ultimate_alliance_2_logo_01.JPGMARVEL ULTIMATE ALLIANCE 2

Unlike my capable Collider counterpart, Brandon Bales, giving you the hardcore gamer skinny at E3, consider me more your cultural attaché who kinda-sorta uses his 360, but mostly for GH and Netflix.  That being said, after seeing the demo for Marvel’s team format title, MARVEL ULTIMATE ALLIANCE 2, I think you might have a geek-in-the-making.

The good people at Activision were kind enough to set the thing up for us in a tiny home theatre booth: something’s rotten in the Alliance, sides are being taken, and it’s up to you to sort it out. That’s right, the coolest RPG concept I’ve yet encountered at E3 – customizable civil war.

marvel_ultimate_alliance_2_deadpool_01.jpgPlay Wolverine with Iron Man, Storm, and new to this edition, Deadpool [editor’s note: Deadpool was a playable character  in the first MARVEL ULTIMATE ALLIANCE] while heading off Venom, Mister Fantastic, Daredevil and the Hulk in a fully engaged, thoroughly Technicolor environment. You get to decide the alliance, but the collaboration doesn’t end there. As you tear through Latveria destroying everything that gets in your way in pursuit of some mad scientist gone berserk, you run into your formidable Alliance counterparts now and then, and Wolverine’s claws aren’t really gonna do the job on Spider-Man. That’s when you employ the game’s sickest feature: Fusion. This is an engine that allows Storm to call upon the Gods of Lightening, let’s say, and re-direct it to the shield of Captain America, which then requires the player to directionally control the violence onto its unenviable victim. A new character to the franchise, Songbird, summons sound waves and converts it  to matter (glowing pink mater, that is) and can then fuse it to Juggernaut who rolls around the fully engaged environment demolishing anything, and I mean an-y-thing in his way.

In addition to choosing the details of your own civil war, you can also decide which team is going renegade against the mutants or the humans, following the X-Men storyline, which will be familiar territory to those new to the Alliance franchise.

A lot of thought has gone into this game, it’s slick and clearly it’s stacked for Co-Op mode. With these kind of strategy ‘RPG concepts’ as the Activision producer referred to it as, I wonder if even the inspired feature of Fusion proves to be old hat. Only the story will tell. Look for this release on all formats Fall, 2009.

dj_hero_gameplay_screenshot_01.jpgDJ HERO

For me, this was worth the price of admission. Well, okay, I didn’t exactly pay for admission, but this was worth dodging a near-fatal collision on the 10 Freeway  on a drizzly Wednesday morning in Los Angeles. For the billion (yeah, that’s with a ‘B’) dollar franchise that is Activision’s GUITAR HERO, with the emergence of a worthy (although, in my opinion, subservient) competitor in ROCK BAND and their upcoming Beatles edition release, the ball is now firmly in the former’s court, so let’s go ahead and say this urban crossover platform is more than highly anticipated.

I can report, having been invited into the inner-sanctum of Activision’s booth accompanied by an entouraged Vern Troyer (more on this later), that DJ HERO will be the best game of 2009.

e3_2009_dj_hero_01.jpgAnd it all starts with the DNA of those consulted for the game, none other than: DJ Shadow, Cut Chemist, Z-Trip and AM, all living vinyl legends. Whether it’s the concept of the DJ  battles (pit DJ vs DJ, throw in someone spitting lyrics on the mic, or mix in a guitar), the sleek turntable controller, or the primetime mash-ups of over 100 premium title tracks from Beastie Boys, Jay-Z, Eminem, Marvin Gaye, Gorillaz, Black-Eyed Peas, Gwen Stefani, Benny Banassi, from every imaginable genre, it’s at your fingertip.

The hallmark of this game is personal creativity, the extent of which on its HERO counterpart is slamming the whammy bar and a front kick to the ceiling. As three colored ‘buttons’ spin your way, each representing a different effect, you press down on the turntable, then depending on the corresponding direction of the scratch you push up or down. When the beat shifts to the left, you turn your channel the A position, then back to the right you flick it to B. There is an effects knob and a crash button that round out the DJ controls, and so you start to get a picture of the density of the options for the player. Again, DJ HERO seems to be a richer, more involved experience than the button mashing of GUITAR HERO, but the caveat to that, of course, is difficulty. And let me just say, for a GH novice who rocks four stars on Expert, this thing looks daunting.

Another thing that remains to be seen is how effective these, indeed, carefully supervised mash-ups of, certainly, killer tracks actually play in the game. Some were wicked,  like B-Boys with Marvin Gaye, but others were decidedly undecided, like Benny Banassi with Black-Eyed-Peas. And who knows what this system will run you.

All I know is, I’ll be there with my Dr. Dre headphones and milk crate, Day One – October 27, 2009.

Post-Script: Oh yeah, Vern Troyer rolled up in my DJ HERO demo with about three of his eager hommies who asked people repeatedly to ‘move so Mr. Troyer can see.’ They lowered the turntable, so he could get down to business, but his response was apt: ‘I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing.’

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