E3 [Day 2, Pt. 1]: For all my Hackers & Hot Rodders.

There was an underlying theme in Wednesday’s “longest day” of the Electronic Entertainment Expo, and that was distractions.

Distractions are merely the new, finest way to overcome the darn A.I. in many of the hottest next-gen games. From the blistering phat beats of an ol’ school boom-box.. to surveillance-controlled canines.. to a good ol’ fashioned Chi-town blackout (exactly what my Boston Hockey Bruins could use right now!), there was more than an assortment of neat tactics to help your desirable antihero of choice.

Just another man about town.

WHO LET THE HACKS OUT?

Despite the many demos carrying an all-too similar trend, perhaps no game did it better than Ubisoft’s long-awaited Watch_Dogs. Sure, it’s yet another Grand Theft get ’em-when-you-can open world feature — and actually, highly resembles last year’s surprise hit, Sleeping Dogs. But, trust me; you’ve never played a game where your primary weapon was your damn cell phone. Watch_Dogs is a hacker’s dream, and possibly even a hacker’s nightmare. Not even Tron or The Matrix could handle what Aiden Pierce has up his sleeves.

In fact, Pierce will have a hard time handling his own (often) sensational, surprise hack guests. Even the police will use the same tactics as our protaganist, including all the technology from CtOS — software that controls Chicago’s entire informational network.

No wonder those Cubs fans have always been brainwashed!

So, hey, for a guy with no morals, Pierce often tries to do the right thing. For every security guard he puts out of their own misery — all to acquire access to certain district’s CtOS — the man doesn’t mind breaking up a domestic dispute or two. He’ll chase burglars through playgrounds, play Enemy of the State with a fellow hacker pal, and gain vital access codes from dangerous ex-mercenaries. South Beach’s Michael Weston would be proud.

If the wild goose chases and wifi hotspot hacking isn’t nearly enough, Watch_Dogs wins on a technical scale, as well. While the graphics are merely solid with a spell of impressive character (and car) mechanics, certain missions often provide sweet camera angles (especially under illuminated survellience), terrific spy-infused music (though nothing too Bondy), realistic city life (you’ll feel like you’re in a jam-packed Coffee Bean), and a slew of spectacular sound effects: accurate police dispatch alerts, echoes of gunfire, swarming sirens and even a muscle car’s roaring transmission.

Again, Dogs just sounds superb.

Of course, your own personal iPAD or Nexus or Kindle whatever will come into play too. Tablets, basically, work for ANY next-gen game now — so get used to it. You can receive help from a “hopping in” mobile player, who can pitch in with those utter distractions; or you can become challenged by another fiesty jerk tech. Don’t act surprised when your “tagged” armed guards get startled silly by a ghastly moving forklift, or play too smart for their own good and start shooting blindfire; even them thugs go dumb over false car alarms. Either way, it was cool getting to know the people of Chicago, like “Roberto Kim” trolling online politic threads, or personal trainer — and potential assault victim — Sally Windex enjoying some weekend fishing.

Watch_Dogs takes the standard open-world assault to a more ambitious level. Hackers will know for sure November 19.

IF YOU GOT A CREW, YOU BETTA TELL ‘EM

Along with Tom Clancy’s The Division, which I oohed-and-aahed about during the Ubisoft press conference, the software giant’s other present for E3 was The Crew.

I got a first hand look at the massive-multiplayer online racer this morning, which has the most overambitious plot of all time: gather together with other afterburners throughout the entire — and we mean entire — United States to race against one another for no apparent reason than the pure joy of raising utter destruction and tossing out bragging rights. We kid; there’s a trusted story yet attached. But, yes, The Crew certainly does contain the entire sweep of the good ol’ U.S. of A., including the canyons of Red Rock Las Vegas, the metropolitan mayhem of Manhattan, and the crashing waves and tan babes of Ocean Drive.

Mr. James and Mr. Wade spotted elsewhere during practice.

It’s as ridiculously epic in scope as it sounds, and a helluva lotta fun.

Any fans of Burnout, or the classic Need 4 Speed‘s should really be enthralled with this game. It requires next to no loading screens during your time zone warps, and any of your pals or prowesses can challenge or “cooperate” at will (see: MMO). While I found the game to drive a lot harder than, hell, Saints Row IV (a far improved driver than GTA), I’m sure it was my overambitious index doing all the side-swiping. Even cooler.. *tablet alert, tablet alert!* you can customize your car from work, the treadmill or the john before even turning on your new console.

Ubisoft’s open-world racer also looks quite stunning on next-gen, without any major hiccups or glaring pixelation. With an original pitch written all over it, this Crew is a must ride early next year.

  • It’s not hard to see why Forza 5 Motorsport maximizes the most of the next-gen graphics capabilities, at least for the Xbox One. At 60 frames per second and true 1080p, the favorite racing sim is a wonder to behold (just check out the sunset’s dashboard reflection, the density of the street audience, the oil and mud kicked upon your vehicle post-race). But the message sent today from the Microsoft VIP media room was clear: Turn 10 Studios doesn’t want their cars looking too perfect. In addition to learning every possible pop culture fact about the games hundred or so cars, racers will also now notice random fingerprints and smudges to even the newest of showroom behemoths. And, that made sense to the company’s devs who compared this “human eye” situation to buying a new car. There’s 3 layers of paint coats to every ride, so when damaged, you’ll be able to witness the effect to each layer individually.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYTx9DFWMSI

  • With Forza 5‘s 8 different leagues in the championship career, it should take about 60-hours to complete. Good luck doing that. But, your car can be rewarded credits no matter which mode you choose. The cloud-based server will be fully-dedicated, using both Drivatar A.I. to build every racers’ habits and recommendations (such as presorted paint designs) and smart match for online duels. Despite a wonderfully cinematic soundscape from Lucasfilm’s Skywalker Sound (and the newly announced addition of all three “Top Gear” hosts), this season will skip any sort of night racing and weather or climate changes. Hey, let’s respect Forza 5 Motorsport for simply not wanting to just be good at everything. They only need be great at one thing — and that’s racing.

  • Ubisoft had another trick up its E3 sleeves this year, their newly acquired (from THQ) South Park: The Stick of Truth. Sure, we saw the debut trailer at last year’s event, and got to witness some hilarious hands-on stuff at SD Comic Con. But with the transition at hand, Ubi took another initiative to add upon the slinky mock-RPG with more gas. Cup-A-Spell a.k.a. Flaming Fart Fireballs. And they won’t work near a fan. If your Supersoaker’s Arctic Blast won’t do the trick, I suppose it’s time for some.. Alien Anal Probe! This new “technique” allows your douchebag hero — with a newfound moral compass! — to transport to new areas, or use Underpants to shrink for the less accessible areas. There’s also a new Facebook layout for incoming messages, appearance changes, and customizing goods. I promise, nothing will feel better than the fair maiden’s hard-earned reward of a… Friend Request.

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