Sneak Peeks is a E3 tradition, in which three top game designers present their upcoming titles in a manner much more intimate than on the show floor. This year's group consisted of Cliff Bleszinski, Epic Games Lead Designer on Gears of War for Xbox 360, Hideo Kojima, Kojima Productions Director on Metal Gear Solid 4 for the PlayStation 3, and Xavier Poix, Ubisoft Montpellier/Paris Managing Director on Red Steel for Nintendo's Wii.
Epic Games' Gears of War
Bleszinski played through the very first level of Gears of War, in which the player must escape from prison confines while bloodthirsty creatures are swarming about. The player is broken out by an NPC, who gives us a choice between sneaking out the easy way, or going through the prison blocks, which involves heavy combat.
"Let's take the prison blocks. I'm ready to kick some ass," says the player's character.
"Hell yeah. Let's do it!" replies Dom.
Gears of War is a very combat heavy game, which is evident almost immediately, as a helicopter screams by. Bleszinski flies through the game with ease, gunning men down and slicing others with chainsaws, using his environment for cover. For a game only staffed by around thirty people, by Bleszinski's estimation, Gears of War looks quite impressive.
"It's actually like a sci-fi A-Team, it plays out really interestingly," he says of the squad-based modes, which occur much later in the game.
Ubisoft's Red Steel for Nintendo's Wii
Red Steel has always been in development for the Wii, according to Xavier Poix of Ubisoft, and the gunplay control scheme has essentially remained unchanged since the game was first prototyped, almost a year ago. It came naturally to the team.
"It's a launch title, and we want it to be very very big," said Poix. "It's like being reborn again. You have to get rid of what you know, to present a new challenge and experience to players."
The demo starts with the player blasting random objects in a room. "If you don't like money, or bottles, you can shoot them and make them blow up," said Poix. A television explodes. A stray bullet goes across the street, causing a woman to scream. There seems to be a lot of focus on giving the player lots of toys to play with, in terms of making objects explode.
The player walks outside, where a swordsman is waiting. His gun is holstered, and a gun comes out. The demonstrating player swings his arms around, slicing at his opponent on screen, taking him down easily.
"The movement that we ask the player to do is very intuitive," said Poix, and judging by the player's movements, he's correct.
Interestingly, Red Steel was running on actual Wii hardware, in the same compact casing seen on prototype models. Apparently, the Wii hardware is at a fully functional state.
Konami's Metal Gear Solid 4
Because of its early state of development, Hideo Kojima was unable to show a playable build of Metal Gear Solid 4. "We can't reveal much of our secrets right now," he said. "We're changing the system completely. The MGS3 system we had was good, but we're not using that. We tore it apart and are creating a new engine from scratch, and are creating whole new gameplay for Metal Gear Solid 4," he said.
The system doesn't matter, says Kojima. "We can create Metal Gear for any system," he said. "PlayStation 3, Xbox 360...Wii could be possible as well. If we make it for the Xbox 360, we will try to call it Metal Gear of War for the 360," he joked, causing Bleszinski to laugh audibly.
Kojima also revealed, vaguely, linking options between Sony's PSP and the PlayStation 3 for Metal Gear Solid 4. "We're trying to think of the whole linkage from the whole Metal Gear world, you can go from this game to another back and forth, and that's what we're going for right now," he said.
"We always had anti-war, anti-nuclear in all our series," said Kojima, when asked what the overall message for Metal Gear Solid 4 will be. "This will still remain to some extent. Since 9/11 people say war has changed, but we're going a little bit farther into the future, the next war that we predict is going to be one of the themes in MGS4. It's not about your nationality or fighting for some ideologies, it's about having mercenaries, a war mostly based on business, and that's the kind of society it is and what we're trying to draw up for the game."
"We've had the theme through the others of what to pass on to future generations, but what not to pass on is sort of an invisible theme in MGS4," he continued.
"Will Raiden get naked again?" asked Bleszinski, jokingly.
"I don't know, maybe," replied Kojima, in English.
"Please think of it as like me. I want to reflect myself in Snake," Kojima continued, discussing the inherent messages of Metal Gear Solid 4. He's 43 and still fighting wars, I'm 43 and still making games. I'm getting old," he said. "In Japan a lot of people are getting old, I want to have Snake to cheer up the old guys in Japan as well. So I'll put that message in."