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Reflections on Celebrity

While Xbox Live had Jenny McCarthy, the band Panic Member and Method Man come by their booths at E3 this year, it seemed like there were less celebrity appearances this year from game companies. Paris Hilton isn't really "technically" a celebrity, yet she drew a crowd at the Gameloft booth on Thursday.

Original Batman Adam West was at 2K Games' booth Thursday to promote the Family Guy game. Although he's a very nice guy, he's not exactly A-list. In years past, I remember actors like Vin Diesel drawing huge crowds at E3. Speaking of Diesel, I saw the game trailer for Vin's new videogame over by Midway's booth. The next-gen game is called The Wheelman.

Paramount and MTV are doing a film based on the game and the same Hollywood scribe, Rich Wilkes (XXX), is working on both projects.

The game trailer was very impressive. It featured a virtual Diesel driving a guy through a high-speed chase that almost totals the car along the way. It featured Diesel's voice and likeness, and it felt like a movie.

The game's not due out until late next year, which is when the movie is supposed to hit. So perhaps Diesel, who has his own game studio, Tigon Studios, will appear at the next E3.

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, who's starring in Midway's Spy Hunter: Nowhere to Run, was not at this year's show. Johnson is a huge gamer, and a great guy to interview.

I was on the Doom set with him in Prague last February and spoke to him recently about the new Spy Hunter game and movie. He was very involved with the new game, which ships this September, providing both voice acting and motion capture for the game. Next summer, Johnson will star in the big screen version of Spy Hunter, playing the same character, Alex Decker.

Diesel's doing the same virtual and real-life acting thing with both The Wheelman and Hitman.

Fox has optioned Eidos's Hitman for the big screen and Diesel will star as Agent 47. He's in talks to star in the next game, playing the same character on both the small and big screens. With all of these types of Hollywood synergies going on -- I cover this beat daily for The Hollywood Reporter -- it just seemed like E3 being in L.A. provides an opportunity to get these celebrities in front of the crowds to promote their projects. I understand schedules are busy, but E3 is a once-a-year event.

Speaking of Hollywood, Midway's John Woo's Stranglehold for Xbox 360 and PS3 looks and plays awesome. (In John's case, he's currently filming a new project overseas.)

Woo directed the new video game, which is a virtual sequel to his 1996 hit film, Hard Boiled. Actor Chow Yun-Fat reprised his role of Inspector Tequila for the game, which picks up 10 years after the events in the first film. Getting my hands on the Xbox 360 controller, this game is one of the best examples of Hollywood synergy that I've seen.

From a graphics perspective, Yun-Fat looks exactly like the actor. And the environments in the game are completely interactive, which means every bullet you fire (and you'll fire thousands) will tear apart the surroundings. Hit a pillar and the tiles will chip away. Throw an enemy back and he'll break a table into pieces. This makes the game feel like a Woo picture.

But the real winning aspect of this game was the intuitive gameplay. The controls are simple enough that anyone can instantly get into this Mature-rated game. The right trigger button fires your weapon, the left performs an action with the environment. Press this trigger and you can swing from a lamp while firing at enemies below. Or jump on a cart and target bad guys en route. Or jump on a staircase railing and ride down guns blazing. All of these actions are unique and dynamic--and they all have a cinematic feel.

Because it's a snap to perform them, the game is pure action fun. It's really like playing a John Woo movie--but you're the star and you direct the action.

By Kyle Balluck  |  May 12, 2006; 12:03 AM ET  | Category:  E3: Off Screen
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