Once again, NextGen Videos has produced a wonderful anthology of all the highlights from E3, and this year's edition is bigger and better than last year's. Before, the one disc DVD anthology was impressive, but the newly bulked-up four DVD collection, The Future of Videogames 2K4, features some great new coverage and plenty more video footage of the games we'll be looking forward to for well over the next year.
The DVD is available in several packages. The best value by far is the four disc set, which goes for $19.99 here in the US. This is definitely the way to go. But if you're one of those gamers who just can't stand to see an Xbox title in action (which is probably why you're able to maintain that point of view), then you can invest in just one of three system-specific discs for $9.95 each. Obviously, four discs for the price of two is a better value, and that fourth disc is the one that contains all the booth babe footage (oh, and the new-to-this-year's-model PC game footage).
As I wrote about last year's installment of this series, the Future of Videogames 2K4 is about as close as you're going to get to being in the industry at E3. Footage from all three of the major press conferences (Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony), walkthroughs of games by the producers and developers, and interviews with all sorts of game luminaries (including the reclusive Peter Molyneaux) all make this more than worth it. Of course, these elements are unobtainable to most folks, so if you want the inside dirt on Fable or BC from the guy who is creating the game, you won't find coverage of this caliber anywhere else.
The walkthroughs of the games are wonderful, too. This really gives you a sense of the game that a simple trailer or gameplay movie can't. It's also fascinating to hear a little inside scoop about the development process or the designer's reasons for including or excluding certain features. Again, this is the single most attractive element of the Future of Videogames: These walkthroughs are really enjoyable. Now if I could get NGV to simply videotape all of my scheduled appointments at E3, I could enjoy the show from the comfort of my living room without all the hustle and bustle of E3's carnival environment (that option becomes very attractive to us gaming media as the years tick by).
Of course, a stellar standout in this year's edition is the inclusion of PC games. Let's hope for a whole disc dedicated to PC gaming next year. Seeing new PC titles like Half-Life 2, Deus Ex 2, and City of Heroes is enough to make any die hard console fan want to upgrade his PC video card. Unfortunately, it's a double-edged sword in the 2K4 edition: The coverage is there, but it's not fully fleshed-out. I'd love to see this aspect more fully developed.
Other drawbacks to the discs are somewhat minor. Of course, until every game is accompanied by an interview or walkthrough, I'm going to complain that the walkthrough footage makes the game trailers pale in comparison. The walkthroughs are just that much better. And seeing a truly fascinating title like Beyond Good and Evil or Half-Life 2 summed up in a simple game trailer makes this discrepancy of quality even more glaring.
The only other real drawback is that with the four disc set we see a lot of duplication. This is understandable: Games released on all platforms must be represented on each disc, and it's clear that the discs we get in the four disc version of the Future of Videogames are the same discs we could have purchased individually. This is a small concern, but don't be surprised when you see Enter the Matrix featured prominently (and painfully) on each disc.
So do you really need the Future of Videogames 2K4 collection? If you're a hardcore gamer you do. And if you're a hardcore console gamer without a broadband connection, then you'll never really be able to experience coverage like this anywhere else. Gamers with fast internet access can fill the game trailer void in their life at any number of websites (including GamesFirst!), but without that broadband connection it would be virtually impossible to download all of these game trailers before the games are actually released.
The Future of Videogames 2K4 should be waiting for you at your local videogame shop, and it's available all over the web right now. We like Lik-Sang, so check them out.