Annual home to the LA Auto Show, the Los Angeles Convention Center was transformed into a 509,000-square-foot arcade late May for the 2002 Electronic Entertainment Expo. Affectionately known as E3, this industry-only event featured over 400 companies revealing their latest video games and hardware to more than 60,000 insiders, providing a comprehensive look at imminent releases and holiday season titles. A unique working environment, the convention halls were filled with massive displays, movie-theater-sized screens, pasty-faced T-shirt wearing programmers, colorful game-inspired characters, and ear-ringing soundscape that was equal parts thrashing music and explosions.

We braved the sensory overload to discover and -- in most cases --drive, the next wave of automotive-related games, from marque-specific showcases and official motorsports titles to Hollywood-themed adventures and fanciful combat missions. Thanks to potent console hardware and sophisticated programming, the latest games better approximate driving the actual cars, as well as simulating NASCAR, F1, and rally racing experience. Due to heavy involvement from pro drivers, these motorsports games are now so accurately rendered, real-life racers know when to swerve to avoid dips in the road and even use them for practice (and bragging rights) before races.

Real-time online gaming was the big buzz, with both Microsoft and Sony making announcements for this year's releases of online gaming packages. Both will offer annual introductory packages that loiter around $50, though the Xbox Live service will be available a little sooner for broadband users only, and PlayStation 2 online gaming module will be available a little later for both analog and broadband users. While it is a fact that 60 percent of frequent game players play with friends, imagine real-time racing with a buddy across the country, each of you sitting on your own couch talking to each other through the game's headset. It's literally just around the corner, with Xbox Live Beta testing beginning in June.

The Expo had a variety of platforms to investigate, with all types of games for Microsoft Xbox, Nintendo GameCube and Gameboy Advance, Sega Dreamcast, Sony PlayStation 2, PC, Mac, and even for some handheld PDAs and cell phones. And while our focus here is on driving games, rest assured the event featured far more, from shoot-em-up slaughterfests to fantasy/sci-fi role-playing epics. Beyond the briefs we present here, the staff used this as a reconnaissance mission for targeting titles for full reviews as they become available.