It could have been a dream. Or, more likely, a nightmare.
It started out with me across Santa Monica from where I needed to be. I was at Loew's, and I had an appointment in 30 minutes at the Fairmont hotel. For those of you who weren't at E3 and are unfamiliar with the area... this was a distance in excess of 10 blocks. In the sun. And I am a nerd. A geek. A creature of darkness and air-conditioning. The only part missing is the part where I'm in my underwear and everyone's face looks like my third grade teacher.
Yes, there was a shuttle provided, but although it takes an average of 5-7 minutes between hotels, it was taking about 45 minutes to get from Loew's to the Fairmont, with the multiple stops and the sheer waiting in case someone who wasn't at the bus stop might decide they want to go somewhere. So, the shuttle would take too long. I had to walk it.
Anyway, I arrived at the Fairmont with three minutes until time for my appointment and had to try to determine where this appointment was. The appointment was one I had to cover for StarScream, since he didn't make it to E3 this year. I look down at my schedule. All it says is, "F.E.A.R. Screening. Fairmont." I didn't know where at the Fairmont it was and it didn't say who the company was, either. This wouldn't be important for most games, but there is some strange licensing snafu, whereby one company evidently has the rights to the name "F.E.A.R." and another one has the rights to everything about the game except for the name. So, since I inherited the appointment, I didn't know for sure what company I'm dealing with. I asked a woman in the media room where the F.E.A.R. screenings were taking place. She immediately changed into a deer and evidently saw headlights coming at her in the distance. I could see that my only chance would be to determine a company name. Then perhaps they could consult their tome...
I scrambled to a PC and googled F.E.A.R. Three company names came up. Vivendi Universal... okay. Monolith... right. Sierra... got it. I scrambled back to another media center worker and prayed that this one was more helpful than the last. I'm looking for one of these companies... here. At the Fairmont. See if any of these sound familiar... Vivendi or Universal? "um... no." Monolith? "let me see... hmm.... uh, no." Okay, Sierra. "Let's see... Sierra.. yes, here it is... that's at Loew's... that's not near here, but you can take the shuttle..." From the time she said "Loew's" I had begun deflating, getting closer and closer to the floor. It wasn't until I noticed that her voice was getting more and more distant that I realized that I wasn't deflating at all, but getting smaller and smaller by the second... soon I would be only this tall.
Suddenly, my phone rang. I answered it with all my might - not an easy feat, as it was still its original size - and heard a voice on the other end that sounded like it was straight out of the Matrix. "Are you there yet?" I'm at the Fairmont, but I don't know what company... "Warner Brothers. They're in the outside building to the left of the front of the hotel." Great.. I'm right across from there, now. I'm on my way over there. And, all of a sudden, I was. My phone was gone, no, wait... I feel that it's back on my hip. I pull it out and check it... still three minutes until my appointment. Time had stood still when I started dealing with the deer-in-headlights girl. I would still make it to the appointment on time. They welcomed me and directed me to a small, makeshift theater. It was covered in black cloth to keep out the sunlight and at the front was a large HDTV and an Xbox 360. We waited a few minutes and I had a soft drink and then the lights were dimmed and we were told that we could not film anything. We could not take pictures. We could not take video. Further more, the game we were about to witness had no name. There was not even a project name. They apologized, but said that they could not give us a name to call this game. We would be able to witness the game being played, but would have nothing to call it. I looked down to make sure I wasn't in just my underwear. Nope... Perhaps a quick pinch is in order... ow! Okay, so this is not a dream or a nightmare, but one of the weirdest places one could ever be put by E3.
The presentation started with a video loop... the tag-line, "In 2008 ...fear has a new name." We're told that the name is to be chosen from three finalists at NameYourFear.com. [The finalists will be announced on July 23, and Public Voting will be open from July 23 – 27! ] This game-which-is-not-to-be-named is being built from the same pillars as F.E.A.R.: well developed A.I., where the player drives the experience, with lots of diversity within a single fight. Unfortunately, they explain, the game is hard to demo, due to the dynamic nature of the gameplay. NPCs who are caught on fire will try to extinguish themselves using their surrounding environment and, failing that, can even panic, causing them to do truly stupid, yet realistic, things such as leaping off of a building while on fire.
This game is striving for an environmental density that is greater than that of F.E.A.R. As they explained it, all combat takes place within 10-15 feet of the player - with "in your face" destruction and a yet unmatched graphic intensity. There will be impact effects everywhere, the environment will respond to the destruction inflicted on it. Also helping to showcase the action and devastation will be a slow-motion feature, similar to what is used in Burn-Out. When something over-the-top happens, the camera will change to a more cinematic angle and you'll get to see the action at a slower speed, so that you can fully appreciate what just happened.
In F.E.A.R., enemies would kick over tables and knock over bookshelves to make cover for themselves, but the player couldn't do the same. Well, this new game by the creators of F.E.A.R. will allow players to do just that. The way they see it, combat is the core of the game, and horror is the relief between combat segments. Even so, the game-which-shall-not-be-named will further develop the little girl, Alma, who was at the center of the storyline in F.E.A.R. Also, there are some truly messed up cut-scenes where you are about to be operated on and then you see an "alternate hospital" a la Silent Hill where the doctors look more like they're trying to disembowel you as quickly as possible, then back and forth between these realities as you struggle to maintain consciousness.
The graphics in this game are very realistic, especially the textured glass on the doors in the hospital. I was amazed. The special effect for the weapons were also impressive, especially a laser-like weapon that you can use to simply burn lines across your enemies and light them up.
Stealth is an important part of this game as well; if you're not careful, you'll quickly find that the flashlight on your gun can get you seen and your footfalls can get you heard.
The gameplay we got to see had the player seeking out and chasing some mutant humanoid creature that was bent on killing and seemed to do so artistically, and in very short order. You would be right there - close enough to see him jump around a corner and hear a gun go off. The next second, you go around the corner and see the remains of the soldier who had tried to use the gun to defend himself playfully killed and his blood used to write and draw a wide assortment of things on and around the body... and the hand and foot prints up the wall and leading into a ventilation shaft whose door is still swinging ever so slightly. The enemy is not one to be reasoned with, is more agile than Spider-Man and sounds like a cross between the Tasmanian Devil and Gollum.
The one thing I can say about this game is that whatever they decide to call it, it's going to be the kind of game you want to play in the dark with your surround-sound hooked up.