Gaming News for the Non-gullible

Welcome to the War. Big changes and annoucements from all parties as we march on the road to E3. We’ve got Next-Gen Xbox console pics and news, a couple of Franchise titles getting updates and Gaming charts for March. Let’s get to it.

XBOX NEXT

Microsoft is using viral marketing and won’t confirm anything until their special on MTV., but it’s supposed to be backwards compatible and that infrared port up there means wireless controllers, unless this machine given you mental powers of some sort.

Ok, so what does all this mean? I’ll tell you–nothing. And here’s why:

Despite all the Pundits saying it’s time for a new system, Xbox can get a lead on the PS3, etc, there remains a few issues, mainly called Sony, but we’ll get to that in a minute. First off, the Xbox system life isn’t very long, and even though it will be backwards compatible, a three-year hardware cycle is a Sega product. They now make software. Not a good model to follow. Second, it may seem like Microsoft has the upper hand, but in all actuality, they still haven’t given me a reason to buy this over say, 5 PS2 games comes Xmas time.

And that’s where they still don’t get it.

You can have the best hardware, wireless everything, and a VR headset, and it won’t mean anything unless you have GAMES…or content. So, I’m going to look at the games that are AAA titles…we got Halo (which is driven more by hype that anything else, as Doom 3 and Half-life were better than Halo 2), The DOA series, Ninja Gaiden (one of the best action games ever made) and Project Gotham Racing.

Ok, so looking at that line-up, I’ll just look at Sony’s. They don’t have a FPS to match Halo, and Microsoft has no platformers either, so they cancel each other out. Fighting games, is a toss-up, as the best street fighter games are still on the PS1. Action game exclusives–GTA, Metal Gear Solid, Onimusha, Devil May Cry, Resident Evil, God of War and the best driving sim out there, Gran Turismo 4. So, Microsoft was unable to pull any of the action exclusives from Sony (exception being a 6-9 months wait for GTA) and pretty much evens out with the third party stuff, although there are still more decent to good games made for the PS2 due to volume and user base.

This is why they’re launching first. They still don’t have the product catalog to compete with Sony. I’m not talking one or two, I’m talking 10 games that are exclusive to your system. They ain’t got 6. Sony uses the Nintendo business model, albeit widespread because they have more money, and lock-up AAA titles for the hardware cycle, which is 5 to 10 years.

And that’s why despite all this hype, Sony’s still going to deliver a Thor-type smackdown with the PS3.

It’s interesting that no one stated that Sony’s sytem is at least going to be marginally more powerful due the Cell technology that’s exclusive to Sony, IBM and Toshiba. Or that they still have 5 powerful development studios with some of the best designers in the business. Or that another sister division (SOE) is getting into console games, so maybe the idea of Everquest or Star Wars Galaxies on your console isn’t so far-fetched.

Just something to keep in mind–Sega’s Dreamcast had the biggest launch in history, and got steam-rolled by the PS2, which now has 80 million people playing Ratchet, Dante and CJ.

Let’s see if history repeats itself.

Franchises!

PRINCE OF PERSIA 3

In addition to confirming Prince of Persia 3’s platforms and release window, Ubisoft also dished out details aplenty about the game. First was a plot synopsis, which reads as follows:

“The Prince of Persia, a seasoned warrior, returns from the Island of Time to Babylon with his love, Kaileena. Instead of the peace that he longs for, he finds his homeland ravaged by war and the kingdom turned against him. The Prince is rapidly captured and Kaileena has no choice but to sacrifice herself and unleash the Sands of Time in order to save him.

Now cast out on the streets and hunted as a fugitive, the Prince soon discovers that past battles have given rise to a deadly Dark Prince, whose spirit gradually possesses him.”

Ubisoft also revealed plenty of information on the sequel’s gameplay. Players will be able to “wield the powers and weapons of two master warriors with different combat styles, attitudes, and histories.” Presumably this means the regular prince and the dark prince. Players will be able to take advantage of “an expanded free-form fighting system to destroy enemies in [their] own style.”

In addition to a revamped repertoire of Sands of Time powers, the game will feature a “brand-new stealth art” that will allow for “one-shot kills” much like those of another popular Ubisoft series, Splinter Cell.

Besides the release-date announcement, the highlight of the day’s news was the release of the first screenshots from Prince of Persia 3 (pictured). The images show that the series will feature the same dark aesthetic as Prince of Persia: Warrior Within.

The first shot shows the titular Iranian scion attacking a fearsome armored demon from behind, much like a medieval-fantasy version of Splinter Cell hero Sam Fisher. A subsequent shot shows him about to engage in a similar stealth kill, as does a later sequence of images. The final screenshot is a panorama of a picturesque Middle Eastern cityscape, replete with palm trees and minarets.

Today Ubisoft also launched a teaser Web site for Prince of Persia 3. The site’s homepage features the Prince’s face half in light and half in dark, further indicating the hero’s newfound schizophrenia. The company also confirmed that the game would be “showcased” at its booth during E3 next month.

SCARFACE: THE WORLD IS YOURS

VU Games dropped another surprise into the collective lap of the game and film industries–or so it seemed at first glance. It announced that Tony Montana himself, Al Pacino, “headlines roster of top talent” in the upcoming Scarface adaptation, now called Scarface: The World Is Yours.

However, the publisher’s statement mentioned only that Pacino was lending his likeness to the game, and reps later confirmed he is not in fact voicing Montana. Still, as evidenced in screenshots released today (pictured), the game’s virtual likeness of Pacino is uncanny.

However, Scarface: The World Is Yours still has plenty of top-notch voice talent on board. Besides original Scarface cast members Steven Bauer (real name: Esteban Echevarria) and Robert Loggia, the game will also feature the voices of James Woods (who was also in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas), Jay Mohr (from TV’s Action), Cheech Marin (of Cheech and Chong fame), Michael York (Logan’s Run), Michael Rappaport (The 6th Day), Miguel Sandoval (Blow), and Robert Davi (Licence to Kill).

In addition to announcing the voice cast of Scarface: The World Is Yours, VU Games revealed that the game will be playable at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles next month. The game is due out for the PC, Xbox, and PlayStation 2 this coming fall and is being developed by the now-internal VU studio Radical Entertainment (The Simpsons: Hit and Run).

ONIMUSHA 4: DAWN OF DREAMS

That’s a big goddamn sword.

Shin Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams takes place in 1598, 16 years after the last duel between Samanosuke and Nobunaga in Onimusha 3. The site hints that the events of this new Onimusha will take place in Kyoto, which was the capitol of Japan in those days.

This time, the player will slip into the blue armor of an original character known as “Kaijin No Souki” (the blue demon of dust), a nickname he received in his battles against the Genma demons.

Kaijin No Souki will challenge the rule of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who’s been made insane by the appearance of a red star in the sky. Hideyoshi’s madness has driven him to order that all the Sakura (cherry blossom) trees in the country be collected in Kyoto. This would seem to explain the predominance of cherry blossom trees on the Shin Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams Web site.

NPD CONSOLE CHART – MARCH 2005

ALL CONSOLES
Last Month Rank Title Platform Publisher Release Date Average Price
1 1 Gran Turismo 4 PS2 Sony Feb ’05 $49
4 2 MVP Baseball 2005 PS2 Electronic Arts Feb ’05 $29
** 3 Fight Night Round 2 PS2 Electronic Arts Mar ’05 $49
** 4 Devil May Cry 3 PS2 Capcom Mar ’05 $49
** 5 Star Wars: Republic Commando Xbox LucasArts Mar ’05 $50
** 6 God of War PS2 Sony Mar ’05 $50
** 7 Fight Night Round 2 Xbox Electronic Arts Mar ’05 $49
** 8 Major League Baseball 2K5 PS2 Take-Two Interactive Feb ’05 $19
** 9 Brothers In Arms: Road To Hill 30 Xbox Ubisoft Mar ’05 $46
17 10 MVP Baseball 2005 Xbox Electronic Arts Feb ’05 $29
** 11 Tekken 5 PS2 Namco Feb ’05 $50
** 12 Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory Xbox Ubisoft Mar ’05 $50
** 13 Major League Baseball 2K5 Xbox Take-Two Interactive Feb ’05 $20
** 14 Twisted Metal: Head On PSP Sony Mar ’05 $40
** 15 Need For Speed: Underground Rivals PSP Electronic Arts Mar ’05 $49
** 16 MX vs. ATV Unleashed PS2 THQ Mar ’05 $40
16 17 Warioware: Touched! DS Nintendo Feb ’05 $34
3 18 Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas PS2 Take-Two Interactive Oct ’04 $47
** 19 Untold Legends: Brotherhood of the Blade PSP Sony Online Ent. Mar ’05 $40
** 20 Robots GBA Vivendi Universal Feb ’05 $28

No Gamecube games on the list. Well, that doesn’t matter…but the PSP does, as Sony’s shipped about 3 million of those cool thingamabobs so far, and is rapidly catching up to the DS in a short span, and it’s becoming the new iPod, only better. Word of advice, don’t walk around with these in New York, they’ll get snatched. Not kidding.

EA continues their annual domination of the charts, with 2 of the top 3, and Capcom must be happy, as Devil May Cry is still ahead of God of War, probably not for long though. Xbox serves up a decent showing, and May’s gonna be a big month.

Till next time…

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