Comic Con Roundup

Comic Con used to be purely for the comic book fans like myself, but over recent years the convention has changed entirely. With movie adaptations leading to game adaptations the event is now filled with companies from all around the world in every major industry. What was E3's after party is now potentially the grand finale of summer conventions. I was pleased to have been given a chance to attend this year’s Comic Con, so below I detail my experience of the whole event.

This year’s Comic Con was bigger than ever when it came down to video games. Sony Computer Entertainment, Konami, Capcom, Epic, almost every other major studio had something to show off. Many companies like SCEA provided several kiosks to try out the new games coming out later this year, while other studios provided fans with surprise events to check out games that have never been available in public.

Well let’s start there: almost every hit title that will be available in the upcoming year was playable and we got the inside info.

Sony, as most gamers know, was at Comic Con and had over 20 kiosks set up for PSP, PS2, and PS3. All kiosks had playable versions of upcoming games including anything from Lair on PS3 to Syphon Filter on PSP. Sony created buzz for the booth by handing out bags, PSP UMD cases, memory cards, posters, and holding several promotions, some of which are here for your viewing pleasure:

Lair Bag

Folklore Bag

PSP Memory Stick Giveaway

PSP Game Holder Giveaway

The PSP kiosks were fairly empty throughout the event as everyone had their eyes on the new SingStar for PS2 and stunning visuals from the numerous PS3 games. The Eye of Judgement seemed to be the main attraction at the SCEA booth. The turn based card game is the first game Sony has shown off using the new PlayStation Eye for PS3. Players select cards and place them on the game mat, while the camera simultaneously brings the card to life and displays a full moving character on screen. Many attendees were amazed by how the PS3 was capable of doing this and the two PR people from Sony explained how the game worked. They explained that the game played similar to Pokemon and Magic the Gathering. Sadly the two reps wouldn't let anyone play so we were stuck watching them the whole time. H

The PS Eye seemed very responsive, and the game itself may in fact be in the final stages of production for its scheduled Fall release. After watching the demonstration, I quickly went off to see what else PS3 had to offer.

Lair was the next game up, and it seemed to be another crowd pleaser with a decent amount of interest. The game is the first to use the Sixaxis controls to its full potential. The gameplay seemed to be a major problem for many users, as several people took the controller and got frustrated with the controls fairly quickly. The ground combat seemed dull and very repetitive but the tremendous air combat made up for that. Lair introduces a new way to play, but after 5 minutes, people didn’t see so bothered. The crowd slowly degenerated with very few people leaving happy.

After Lair, it was Heavenly Sword, but the version on display just replicated the demo released on PSN earlier in the week providing the same controls, graphics, and overall appeal. Then there was Folklore. The game kept freezing at one point so no one really got a full hands on experience. Ironicly this was the only kiosk that was having problems at all, and it was in no way caused by the game, according to the the PR guy.

Finally to finish up the Sony booth, the last game to try was Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction. Ratchet & Clank games are known for the fun side and not much of anything else, but Insomniac sure surprised fans at Comic Con. First off the game plays extremely well; a kid that seemed to be 6 or 7 was playing the game and having fun with no problems. The game resembles movies from Pixar animations with crisp and clean graphics and effects. The story is entertaining, and the game just like past versions, is extremely fun to play for all ages. Overall, Ratchet & Clank was the most impressive game at the entire Sony booth.

The one thing that kept many fans in the dark is why Sony didn't provide certain games such as Warhawk and why the PSP kiosks weren’t using the new PSP slimline. Sony finished with SingStar, which was rivaling the Wii's DDR located just across the walkway, gathering a tremendous crowd of people. Overall Sony did a extremely good job at this year’s Comic Con and gamers were impressed with what they saw.

Sony's booth wasn't the only booth that was showing off PlayStation though, as several other booths including Lucas Arts and Epic were showing off games on PlayStation format too.

In the Lucas Arts booth was several PSP kiosks that were demonstrating the up coming Star Wars Battlefront: Renegade Squadron that will be provided in the Star Wars PSP bundle coming in September. It visually looked like a PS2 game but the controls were changed from the previous versions which made things a bit harder to handle. On the other side of the booth, Lucas Arts had Star Wars: The Force Unleashed for Xbox 360 but not in playable form. When asked if the game will be available for the PS3 the PR replied “Yes but will not be as clean as the version you see there” which may have been a personal opinion but who really knows. The game’s visuals didn't seem much different from what has already been seen in previous demostrations.

All in the same general area were Konami, Capcom, and THQ. The booths were not huge at the event but did have some decent games to show off. Konami had both Dance Dance Revolution games coming out later this year in playable form, Hellboy 2, several card games, and the debut of Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles and Silent Hill Origins for the PSP. In THQ's booth, there was WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2008 and a few TV based games. In the Capcom booth, however, there were some more interesting games including Devil May Cry 4 in playable form and Resident Evil Extinction for Wii. However, the booth had PR guys filtering the crowd where only one person at a time could play either game making it nearly impossible to get a hands on experience without waiting ages in line. The Capcom booth had a hand full of games to show off for all systems, including the PS2.. Roaming characters, such as Megaman, were provided by Capcom as well, attracting an even larger crowd.

Marvel’s booth also had a surprise inside with the playable demo of the upcoming Ironman game which will be based off the blockbuster movie coming in 2008. The game showed off some amazing visuals while running off the Xbox 360. The two PRs demostrating the game wouldn’t let anyone play but overall the it looked fun and creative. Ironman could easily be the best super hero game to date, if only it doesn’t follow the same path as Spider-Man.

Finally to finish up the hands on experience was the big grand finale: Epic’s showcase. Instead of having one unified booth, Epic hung posters all around the event advertising games, such as Gears of War, and showcased several games at the Alienware booth. The Alienware booth had posters of Unreal Tournament set up but no sight of the game at first glance. It was when we stuck around the booth for a while that we found out UT3 was actually hidden. At the end of every hour Epic and Alienware hosted a UT3 tournament which is the first time the public layed eyes on a playable version of the game.

The game was running off top notch Alienware computers with all the latest hardware and upgrades but when the PR stated the game will be available for PS3 as well, we couldn't help but ask about the PS3 version. He stated: “Yes the game will be available on the PS3 and will run almost identically to what you see here, complete with mouse and keyboards support.”

The tournament was set up using a LAN connection through a UT3 server hosting 16 players. The winner received a reward based on the time of day. (anything from a Zboard to computer parts). Luckily I happened to grab a spot in the tournament and got a hands on experience. As most fans of the franchise would know the game plays very similar to Resistance: Fall of Man with the open, all out, combat system. The game play is sped up quite a bit compared to Resistance where people can actually escape from behind attacks and need to react a lot faster than usual. The game runs a lot smoother than expected as the load times were very fast with absolutely no lag at all. The graphics are what should be expected from next generation games with great details in ever aspect including character models. It is extremely fun to play and is easy to learn leaving most people in the tourney wanting more. PSU will have a full hands on preview shortly!

Now for some news that may not have been leaked just yet. After enjoying a lot of the fun booths downstairs I then moved up stairs to check out a panel from Aspen Comics. While watching the panel they revealed something I did not expect. One of the guys that works for Aspen use to work for the game industry, which led into a comment about Mercenaries: World in Flames. When the panel started to talk about the game they revealed character art that they created for the game developers.

The panel stated that they were asked to do the cover for the game and design the characters. Now this may not be extraordinary news but shows how closely related the comic book industry is to the video game industry, and the panel itself reiterated this.

One quote I truly liked was: “When I moved to the comic book industry I soon realized it's the same as when the game industry wasn't that big. Everyone is friends and you have like 8 people on one job. The only difference is you’re not coding for hours. Now a game company can have thousands of people on one job, and you might not know the guy thats in the next room, so it’s kinda nice to go back to old times.”

After visiting the event this year and reading all the news that came out of the show afterwards, maybe gamers should add one more event on their calendars for next year. E3 is “downsizing” and Comic Con is…upgrading, which is driving more and more developers to show off what gamers want at Comic Con. Unreal Tournament wasn’t playable at E3 but Epic arrived at Comic Con with 16 playable copies. Last year Kojima revealed the Metal Gear movie plans. Who knows what surprises will appear in following years. Comic Con is no longer purely a comic book convention, but instead an international power house of gaming showcases.