E3 2006: Picks and Pans

Scarface Revisionism: Spoiler alert! In Brian DePalma's 1983 crime drama Scarface, Miami thug Tony Montana (Al Pacino) comes to a violent and, almost anyone would concede, richly-deserved end. But in Vivendi Universal's new game based on the movie--originally due last year and now supposedly arriving this fall--you play Tony, and the goal is to escape the shootout and go on merrily setting up front operations, assaulting people, swearing up a storm, and selling massive amounts of cocaine. Judging from the demo, eliminating the movie's hard-nosed moral may also remove much of what makes it memorable. --Harry McCracken

Mobile Games Take Flight: Just like the casual hop-in, hop-out games seemed to have a lot of buzz (especially as part of Microsoft Xbox Live Arcade program), so too did mobile games. That Nokia was exhibiting on the show floor with N-Gage titles wasn't surprising. However, even heavyweights Electronic Arts and Vivendi Universal had mobile divisions showcasing quick-hit games, including Flying Toaster, Eragon, and Tetris. And Microsoft's Live Anywhere initiative will be compatible across hundreds of handsets--not just Windows Mobile. --Melissa J. Perenson

Casualware?: Everywhere I went, vendors seemed to be talking up the importance of "casual gaming"--gaming experiences that don't require a massive investment of time (or a pricey, high-end computer) to enjoy. Games, in other words, for everyone. Sounds good to me, although most of the show's big launches still seemed to target hardcore gamers. --Harry McCracken

Get Your Body Moving: From the latest in Konami's Dance Dance Revolution to Nintendo's Wii and Nunchuk controllers and Sony's wireless controller with multi-axis sensitivity, the industry is now rife with ways for gamers to get off their couches and throw their bodies into action, literally. In a way, this is a great step for those who have long since worn out their trigger, err, thumb muscles. However, I can see the increase in medical claims already, for former couch potatoes who throw their shoulder out after an overly enthusiastic serve in a Wii tennis match. --Melissa J. Perenson

Oddest Comeback: Sierra showed off Flying Toasters, a cell-phone game based on After Dark, the popular screensaver of the 1990s. In this epic space drama, you, um, pilot a flying toaster which cruises through space, zapping slices of bread and bagels. --Harry McCracken

Now That's High Definition: Am I playing a game, or have I been inserted into an environment? PlayStation 3 games like Gran Turismo HD, presented in splendor at full 1920 by 1080p resolution, have such highly detailed artwork that it's sometimes possible to forget you're actually in a game, not a real, movie-like environment. The flyover of the Grand Canyon in Gran Turismo looks as photorealistic as it gets. At some point in the not-too-distant future, I'm convinced we'll start to see some of the same CG-generated animations that are used in films trickle into the environments that make up the next generation of gaming in high-def. --Melissa J. Perenson

Build Your Own Darth Vader: LucasArts' Star Wars Lego II seems like lots of fun. But an equally-as-big a hit at the LucasArts by-appointment-only room was this bin of Star Wars Lego characters pieces parts. The bin always seemed to have a queue of folks trying to find the matching bits to create a mini-Lego Vader or Skywalker. The stormtroopers, at least, were easy to find. --Melissa J. Perenson

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