To me, the biggest surprise of E3 was easily Blade II for the Playstation2. I had walked by the booth several times without even stopping to think about playing it. The first game in the series was so God awful that I had no faith in its sequel. However, needing to kill 5 minutes before I meeting, I gave in and had a rep walk me through the game. To say the very least, I was pleasantly surprised. Blade II is a complete 180 from the first game, with great graphics and even better gameplay.
Visually the game is very strong, but a bit blurry. Blade is very well drawn with lots of detail, and the enemies encountered were also nicely done. The environment in the demo was nice and dark, with a neo-gothic kind of flair. However, the coolest visual aspect of the game was the various cutscenes that accompany the gameplay. Whenever you use your weapon to counter an attack properly, a cutscene shows your enemy's demise in a very cinematic style. For instance, after countering a vampire's attack with the shotgun, I watched as Blade crouched while jacking a shell into the chamber, sticking the barrel under the demon's chin and blowing his head off. There is a finishing move for every weapon in the game and all of them are very well done and more than bloody enough to satisfy mature gamers.
The gameplay uses a system very similar to the upcoming Crouching Tiger game, foregoing the D-pad and focusing mainly on the analog sticks. The left analog stick controls your movement and the right controls your attack. When using a firearm like the pistol or shotgun, you can aim with R1 and fire with the X button. However, where this game really kicks is the use of the sword. By far the most powerful weapon in the game, the sword can only be used once the 'rage meter' is full. You can fill the rage meter by either dishing out or receiving damage. Once it is full, you can tap the L1 button to bust it out, and once you do, you are pretty much invincible as long as you wield it. With the sword you can easily take out 30 enemies in less than 10 seconds, with several different moves inspired by the motion pictures.
Overall, Blade II was a huge surprise, as it actually was one of the more impressive games I played at E3. Look for Blade II to hit the stores this September.
5/28/2002 Ryan Hartmann