Yes, yes, yes. It's E3 time and there's plenty to come from it. But I'm actually going to start with a few things that came out prior to the start of the conference.

Namely, Sony's Welcome Back program has gone live. Anyone with a PSN account made prior to April 20,2011 is eligible for the program's free content. As promised, you'll get 30 days free (starting from the first day you activate the service) of PS+, or a 60 day extension if you're already a member. [Note that any free items you take from the PS+ membership will not be usable after your 30 days unless you renew. However, items bought at a PS+ discount are yours to keep.] You can also get a free year's worth of identity theft protection, which is probably a good idea considering the outage was based on your information being hacked. The biggest benefit, of course, are the four games you can choose. You'll get your choice of two of five free games on PS3 and two of four on PSP.

The PS3 games are:

  1. Dead Nation

  2. inFamous

  3. Little Big Planet

  4. Super Stardust HD

  5. Wipeout HD + Fury

The PSP games are:

  1. Little Big Planet

  2. ModNation Racers

  3. Pursuit Force

  4. Killzone Liberation

Personally, I already have LBP on PS3 and have already earned my platinum on inFamous. I've read good reviews on Dead Nation so I'll probably grab that one. Since Super Stardust never looked appealing to me I guess I'll go with Wipeout. I love LBP and MNR on console so I'll probably grab those two for my PSP. Probably end up needing a bigger ProDuo now. Check out the PlayStation Blog for more details and an FAQ on the program, including the sort of complicated instructions on how to redeem your free games. Not to mention 90+ pages of some really stupid comments.

A few release dates have been announced, in case you want to keep them in mind:

  • Dark Souls - October 4, 2011

  • Tomb Raider - Fall 2011

  • El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron - July 26, 2011

  • XCOM - March 26, 2012

  • FIFA 12 - September 30, 2011 (UK, probably 3 days earlier for US)

  • Star Trek - Summer 2012

Wait a minute! Star Trek? WTF? That's right. Digital Extremes is developing, Paramount Digital Entertainment is publishing, and Marianne Krawczyk (God of War) is writing. They're all working with JJ Abrams' Robot Productions, since it's based on his 2009 reboot of the film franchise. You'll be playing co-op as Kirk and Spock. Wait another minute! Kirk-Spock co-op? Can this get better? Maybe:

From one monstrous film franchise to a better one, more details are making themselves known about the upcoming Kinect Star Wars. Shaz-Bot was clearly unimpressed with what he's seen. But I recall more than one conversation where Swankmotron told me that The Force Unleashed on the Wii actually made him feel like a Jedi because he was using the Force with one hand and controlling a lightsaber with the other. This really looks to expand on that concept, letting two players fly X-Wings, pilot podracers, use lightsabers and more. There's is also a "voice component" included, meaning you have to tell your XBox to ignite your lightsaber (lame). I will be sorely disappointed if this doesn't also include the Jedi Mind Trick. Most of the modes sound like this will essentially be a collection of minigames, but there is a component billed as "Jedi Destiny" that appears to include some story, casting you as a new character playing through environments and events familiar to fans of all six movies. The avatar in the trailer looks close enough to the kid that it's probably user-created.

Far less exciting for me, but possibly good news for some, is that EA has announced The Sims 3 Pets expansion for consoles and PC. I find it hard to believe that this is "the biggest undertaking in the franchise's history" but whatever. Let them have their hyperbole. It will feature over 100 different breeds, plus the ability to stud your beast out to a friend to create your own breeds. I have no idea how robust that feature may be, but if they take it as far as my twisted brain processor can imagine then I love the possibilities.

If you haven't yet preordered Uncharted 3 because you wanted to know where to get the best incentives, you can decide now. If I understand the announcement correctly, it doesn't matter. That's right, no store exclusives. Since all of the goodies are in game bonuses, I'm actually assuming you'll have a code packed into the box for the first printing of copies - meaning you may not have to actually preorder, but why risk it? The bonuses are: laser sight for the AK-47, expanded clips for the Para-9 and G-MAL, creepy crawler and carpet bomb kickbacks, and boost to health regeneration. Clearly, some of those are multiplayer benefits only, but I have an idea that even the expanded clips and health boosts won't work in single player. Which is fine, no reason to make the game too easy. But it clearly means preorder players will have a signifcant advantage in online matches. Besides all of that, there is also a special edition launching with the game was well. That version comes with its own exclusive multiplayer bonuses, though its mostly cosmetic: an avatar, AK-47 appearance, taunt, cash multiplier, and avatar accessories. The physical bonuses to the special edition are a Drake figurine, replica belt buckle, and a sweet replica of Francis Drake's ring necklace.

Operation Flashpoint: Red River releases today. If you're picking that up, keep your eyes on your online marketplace at the end of the month as well. The first DLC pack, The Valley of Death,  has been announced for about $7.00 (or equivalent points). The pack comes with Combat Sweep, CSAR, Last Stand, and Rolling Thunder missions, two of each.

I mentioned last week that Activision had made some announcements about Call of Duty: Elite. Apparently they got sick of the hate mail accusing them of charging for stuff that other games give free. So they've elucidated what comes with the free tier of service in the program, which is actually pretty expansive:

  1. Elite access through web, console, and mobile apps for iOS and Android

  2. Thousands of stats, charts, and graphics

  3. Custom leaderboards, letting you track only the players you want

  4. "Heat" map analysis, showing you the when, where, and how you killed or died for each match

  5. Situational weapons performance - helps you learn what weapons to use when and where

  6. Theater mode to upload and share your game videos

  7. Learn about weapons and customize your loadout from the web or your smartphone

  8. Friend groups and player finder function to meet other players with similar interests, plus Clanning

  9. Integrate with your Facebook friends, or be auto-grouped based on your Facebook profile

  10. Tracking across all games in the franchise from Black Ops on

Seriously, I'm not much for FPS or multiplayer, but this sounds like an amazing free service. They'll need to offer some pretty impressive extras if they plan to charge for more than that list of benefits. I still don't trust Activision's business practices, but it seems like this is one frnachise they really want to treat well. The service is scheduled to begin in November, but some Black Ops players will be getting invites to the beta that begins on July 14th. If you get into the beta, please be sure to send us your thoughts.

And while you're thinking about one of the best shooters in the business, we might as well transition to big E3 news by talking about the shooter that basically redefined the genre. The original Halo is getting the remastering treatment as has long been rumored. I'm hardly the biggest Halo 'bot around though, so if you want to learn more about Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary click here. Oh yeah. That won't be enough for the biggest fans though. So you should click here to read Arse-bot's account of the Halo 4 reveal.

I apologize for the lack of details, but I just realized how swamped E3 is going to make VGQH this week. To clean things up, you're getting stuck with just bullet points on anything that didn't come with awesome details.

Starting with EA's press conference:

  • Bioware showed a Mass Effect 3 gameplay demo. Shepard working a turret on rails against a Reaper walker. Awesome. Street date confirmed as March 6, 2012.

  • Need for Speed The Run will feature Autolog. Social features built in. Taking a page from GTA's playbook, on foot action outside the car, inclduing stealing cop cars.

  • EA is publishing Insomniac's first multi-platform game, Overstrike. It's a futuristic spy game full of Insomniac's style of humor. If you don't play on Sony consoles, you've been missing out on this developer. Keep your eyes on this game.

  • FIFA 12 has a new feature, Football Club. I'm confused. Looks like fantasy soccer that utilizes in-game actions and real-world happenings to move you up an MMO-style progress scale.

  • Battlefield 3 is coming October 25, 2011. Beta in September. Will feature a Battlelog, similar to CoD Elite, but free.

 Next up is the Ubisoft conference:

  • Michel Ancel showed a Rayman Origins demo. Four player co-op. This holiday season.

  • Far Cry 3 announced. Looks pretty. 2012.

  • Brothers in Arms: Furious Four coming from Gearbox. Four booze-hounding irreverent bastards co-opping all over Nazi pigs in WWII.

  • Rocksmith's ridiculously popular Wii title is going multiplatform in October for Just Dance 3. It will be Kinect and Move-enabled on 360 and PS3, respectively.

  • Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn is getting a game tie-in. Platforming and vehicle sequences. Three playable characters: Tintin, Snowy, and Captain Haddock.

  • Raving Rabbids: Alive and Kicking is coming to Kinect on November 8, 2011. It's the minigame collection you expect, but it also features augmented reality. Because you really want those freaky creatures in your house.

Assassin's Creed: Revelations needs a detailed summary. Ezio is going very gray as he travels to Constantinople. But he's still badass enough to take on an army. Until his hidden blades break as he has visions of Altair. Lots of bombs, aiming is similar to Gears of War. Remote or timed charges can knock down entire buildings. The demo showed Ezio ziplining onto a ship where burned everything in sight with a mounted flamethrower and escaped by jumping from ship to ship. Mysterious ending to the demo showed a mysterious, lighted arch. Can we say Stargate? Release date of November 15, 2011 was announced. A Special Edition will include one single player and two multiplayer costumes.

Microsoft recap is heavy on Kinect, as expected:

  • Great demo of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. November 8, 2011. DLC is still a 360 timed exclusive.

  • Tomb Raider didn't really show anything the press hadn't already seen. Still gorgeous. Still grittier. Fall 2011.

  • Tiger Woods, FIFA, Madden, and one more EA Sports game this year will be Kinect-enabled.

  • Give orders and choose dialogue options in Mass Effect 3 with the Kinect. I still don't understand why you can't just do this with a regular gaming mic. Garrus, Mordin Solus, and Liara were all seen with Shepard.

  • Ghost Recon: Future Soldier and all upcoming Tom Clancy games will use Kinect. This one showed voice and gesture commands customizing and test firing weapons.

  • New features were announced for the dashboard. Exciting stuff coming Holiday 2011. YouTube, Netflix, Hulu Plus, Bing, Live TV! All integrated with Kinect commands.

  • Dana White says UFC Pay-Per-Views are coming to 360. Use Kinect to get more stats, videos, etc. Online functionality to compete at "predicting outcomes" with your friends. Just say it, integrated gambling.

  • Exclusive games section:

  • Killer Gears of War 3 demo with Ice T and Cliffy B. Use your allies' armor as cover.

  • Formerly Codename: Kingdoms, Ryse is a first-person, Kinect enabled hack and slash.

  • Halo remake as mentioned above.

  • Forza Motorsport 4 dated for October 4, 2011. Kinect enabled head tracking and voice controls.

  • Fable: The Journey (2012) also Kinect-powered. Control your wagon, cast spells. Not much shown but looked like it was on rails. Maybe that's the whole game, or it could be just that sequence.

  • Minecraft will be on consoles later this year. 360 and Kinect exclusive.

  • Kinect Disneyland Adventures basically has you touring Disney parks on your console in a series of minigames. Hopefully it's fully realistic, with screaming children bothering you while you stand still for two hours at a time waiting for a 30 second game to load. Holiday 2011.

  • Star Wars Kinect also mentioned above.

  • Nothing new about Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster. Still looks great though. Fall 2011.

  • Kinect Fun Labs announced and released. Free addition to the Dashboard. Make your avatar actually look like you. Scan real world items into a virtual world. Edit 3D photos. Looks fun.

  • Kinect Sports Season 2 shown. Baseball, Darts, Football, Golf, Skiing, Tennis. Voice and gesture controls.

  • Dance Central 2 adds voice controls. Simultaneous multiplayer. Import songs from the first game into the second.

Highlights from Sony's press event:

  • Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception was demoed. Nothing new to say. Still pretty, still looks fun. Mentioned the multiplayer beta on June 28th. There's a Subway tie-in.

  • A few minutes of Resistance 3 in 3D were shown. Also announced a Move intro package with the game, a Sharpshooter, Move controller, and Eye camera for $150. September 6, 2011.

  • Both PSP God of War games are being collected on one blu-ray for God of War: Origins. September 2011.

  • Also in September 2011, ICO & Shadow of the Colossus Collection.

  • Playstation brand 3D TV is coming this fall. For $500, you'll get a 24" screen that splits for co-op, one pair of glasses (additional glasses, $70), an HDMI cable, and Resistance 3.

  • NBA 2K12 will have Move-enabled passing. They even had Kobe showing off the gimmick. October 4, 2011.

  • The legendary raccoon thief is back. Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time is coming next year. Looks like Dmitri will be back too.

  • Medieval Moves: Deadmund’s Quest is coming in fall from the people who made Sports Champions. Looks like an actual adventure game with the glowing lollipop dildo. You play as a skeleton. You have medieval weapons but no inventory system.

  • EVE Online has an FPS coming to PS3 in Spring 2012. You'll be able to connect to the PC and the NGP/Vita (see below), but they weren't clear how. Closed beta coming this holiday.

  • Saints Row the Third will have an exclusive multiplayer mode on PS3.

  • You can use your Move controller as a phaser in the above-mentioned Star Trek game.

  • The SSX reboot will have an exclusive Mt. Fuji level on PS3. The level has 10 different runs.

  • PS3 also has seven exclusive cars on disc for Need for Speed: The Run.

  • Battlefield 3 will come with the PSN version of Battlefield 1943.

  • BioShock Infinite is Move-enabled. It also comes with the first Bioshock (not Move-enabled).

  • And here's a special section about the next handheld from Sony:

  • For some reason the NGP is now being called Vita. That's stupid they should change it back. Or just start calling it "excess inventory."

  • Wi-Fi only version is $250. 3G version (AT&T exclusive) is $300. Coming Holiday 2011.

  • A new function was announced called Near. Very little detail, but I think I've seen it before when it was called StreetPass.

  • There is a Bioshock project in the works for NGP/Vita.

  • Uncharted: Golden Abyss was mentioned. Guide Drake up walls with touch-based "painted" path. Also can tap the screen for stealth takedowns.

  • Ruin is a dungeon-crawling RPG. Biggest feature is cloud saves that let you continue your game from PS3 or Vita.

  • Wipeout 2048 has similar cross-play function.

  • A new version, not a port, of ModNation Racers will make track creation easier with touch controls. Build mountains with your fingertip.

  • Similarly, a new Little Big Planet will have all the LBP2 functions and let you swap costumes with PS3 users.

  • Street Fighter x Tekken will be on the handheld with Cole McGrath of inFamous as a playable character.

 Miscellaneous E3 info:

  • Leedmees is coming from Konami. It's a Kinect controlled game much like Lemmings and is coming to XBLA.

  • Also coming to XBLA is Trials Evolution. It's moving Trials HD outside with day/night cycles, multiplayer, and a simplified method of sharing tracks.

Sorry for the giant wall of text at the end there. They fly through these press conferences so fast it's hard to capture anything but the basics. More details will be forthcoming as the press gets some one on one time with the developers and publishers. Friday's edition will probably be another massive update, hopefully with a little more clarity.

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Tags: PlayStation 3 , Video Games , Star Trek , Star Wars , News