Long before the show started, there were rumours that Activision's preview event was going to be less "press conference" and more "party" than most. That said, most pre-E3 events typically contain some degree of useful information for gamers and the journalists present on their behalf. On Monday night, the slightest bit of information that could be gathered in the Staples Center was that Activision is doing very very well for itself.
The misnamed "preview event" was indeed not much more than an award show-style concert lightly sprinkled with game trailers. Not that I'm complaining.. but one can't help but think that it does convey a message of desperation, for fear of being forgotten, if only temporarily. In case you hadn't noticed, Activision doesn't have an E3 booth this year, opting not to fill their typically massive space with 200 copies of Call of Duty: Black Ops.
Don't get me wrong. Any evening where I get to sit 20 feet away from Travis Barker, and later see him drum Eminem's beats to the tune of Rhianna's voice, is a pretty damn decent one in my book. However, Activision's lineup was decidedly thin.
There was a not-so-subtle mention of DJ Hero 2 that didn't actually show any footage whatsoever. This was followed by a gameplay video of Tony Hawk's Shred, which I'm sorry to say, doesn't look much more exciting than Snowboard Kids did on the Nintendo 64. Moving on to Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock, the visuals showed only that much work has been done on matching character animations to songs, and highlighted nothing of the gameplay. Next up was a trailer for True Crime: Hong Kong, which rapidly described the storyline as a rogue cop with "the heart of a murderer" that is selected to do whatever it takes to infiltrate the Triads. The game's graphics and attitude make it seem very much like a GTA 4.5, which means the developers have their work cut out for them if it's going to be a worthy competitor (the comparison had to be made).
Last up, Call of Duty: Black Ops. We were treated to a first look at the gameplay of the game (the trailer currently available online doesn't count). The level was set in south-east Asia in 1968 (did I see Vietnam?) and once a few baddies are dealt with, the player climbs into an attack helicopter as if it were any other vehicle. He then proceeds to blow the shiznit out of an unprecedented variety of stuff, while Activision activates more pyrotechnics inside the arena than a WWE SmackDown event. It all looked a bit too easy, but we'll assume that was for the sake of the video. The point is: chopper action. Whether this ends up making the franchise better or worse will no doubt become a point of contentious debate.
For the sake of highlighting my initial point, here is the (nearly complete) list of artists that performed at the event: Eminem w/ Rhianna and Travis Barker, RHEA, N.E.R.D, Chris Cornell, Jane's Addiction, Usher feat. Will.i.am, David Guetta, deadmau5, DJ Z-Trip.