The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) 2002 seems like so long ago now. Still, I remember vividly trekking from an appointment with Microsoft all the way across the convention center to an appointment with THQ and encountering a major roadblock: Two women who seemingly forgot to put pants on in the morning were posing for photos with every Tom, Dick, and Harry who had wallspace going to waste in their cubicles back home. Now, let me say that E3 2002 had the fewest boothbabes I've seen so far at an E3 (and I've been there since 1999). Hell, the IDSA even hired some men to hand out issues of the Game Daily in khaki shorts and polo shirts that matched the modest outfits of the women performing the same job. Without a doubt, these two women in their sheer pink panties and too-tight t-shirts were the most risque and gratuitous examples of boothbabes in the entire show (although I hear the "Who Wants to Be a Porn Star" booth had some provocative moments during their celebrity appearances).
It turns out these women weren't even promoting a game. They were promoting a DVD ? The Future of Video Games vol. 2 ? created by the Australian company, Next Gen Videos. I don't know where I was when volume one came out, but I made sure to sign right up for my review copy of this latest release. A couple months later the DVD arrived, and I have to say that I'm impressed overall.
The DVD advertises a slightly naughty gaming coverage, and the image on the box cover supports this take on it. However, this thing is really tame as tame can tame. The only boothbabe footage is in montage format at the beginning of the video, and the most tittilating boothbabes are the women advertising The Future of Video Games. And the producers of the DVD only show them briefly. There's definitely a sense of false advertising here ? if you buy this expecting to get a full round-up of boothbabes from this year's E3, you're going to be sorely disappointed. However, if you're interested in the games (and let's face it, if you're reading this site you should be), then The Future of Video Games is definitely worth a look.
Covering 120 new titles, these guys were everywhere at E3. There is footage from about 40 games for each of the three console systems: PlayStation 2, Xbox, and Gamecube. About 25% of the game features include detailed walkthroughs by the developers of the titles. This is as close as you're going to get to being at E3. We have to work for months in advance of the show to set up appointments with all of these companies and then scramble from demo to demo so we can come back and write up the latest news about the latest games. Next Gen Videos has done all the footwork for you in this DVD, so you can get a very good idea of what it is like to be gaming media at the Electronic Entertainment Expo. It's really a good time.
The downside of the live demo footage is that NGV filmed these games off the monitors on which they were being shown. That means visual artifacts clutter some of the screen ? those of us who have seen Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell in its full glory will tell you that the footage here comes close but doesn't quite deliver the same quality. Still, the background information you hear from the developers demoing the titles is invaluable, and these segments are much better than the other 75% of the segments, which are simply demo reels and trailers for games. Still, it's nice to have this footage, especially if you just can't wait to see how cool Metroid or Zelda looks in full-screen, full-motion action.
Unfortunately, it's not a perfect product. The DVD presents some technical difficulties. First, it is a Region 0 DVD. That means that it should play in any DVD player, regardless of location. (For those unfamiliar with region encoding, most DVDs will only play on DVD players set to play discs from a certain region. For example, Region 1 is North America, so most DVDs and DVD players sold in North America are coded for Region 1. You could not play a Region 2 DVD in your Region 1 DVD player.) The problem is that some DVD players do not like Region 0 encoded discs ? they see them as some kind of pirated or proprietary media. Next Gen Videos recognizes this problem on their website, and they suggest you try playing The Future of Video Games on a PS2 with the DVD upgrade (that means you've installed the software that came with your official Sony remote control ? if you bought the official controller). Without the upgrade, the PS2 will not play the DVD. The movie worked best on my Apex 660AD, which is known for being a cheap, bare bones player that will play just about anything. If you buy a copy of this DVD and it doesn't work on your DVD player, definitely give it a shot on several other players. It's at least worth it to get to see some of the footage before you have to return it.
The timeliness of a product like this and the technical issues are enough to put The Future of Video Games at a disadvantage on the market. It's also very tough to get here in America (although much easier to get in Australia and the rest of the world). You can order it from ButtonMasher.com at this URL (although we cannot vouch for ButtonMasher.com or their reliability). At $20 the price is decent. What would be even better is if Next Gen Videos could sell a bunch of these DVDs through to rental shops, or if game shops rented the title, because this is really the kind of thing you'll watch once, be completely wowed by, and then drop as soon as the games you're interested in have been released. If you can get a hold of a copy, check it out.