More News from the PSP Front

Welcome to the War. With E3 coming up fast, we’re seeing the moves from the big industry players to come out on top in the next generation of consoles. We’ve also got the next round of platformers from Sony and many little newsbits about the PSP, the 800lb gorilla known as EA throwing down yet another hammer, and the Next-gen X-BOX round-up. Let’s get dirty!

JAK X: COMBAT RACING

Part of the reason for Naughty Dog going with this new take on the Jak and Daxter series is that the developer considers the original Jak storyline to be complete at this point. There was a lot of talk about Jak 3 being the final game in the Jak trilogy, and for now at least, Naughty Dog is staying firm with that line.

That doesn’t mean, however, that Jak X will be devoid of story elements. In fact, it will be one of the most story heavy racing games around, with an adventure mode players can follow that includes a new story for players to follow.

If however, you just want to jump into multiplayer racing, there will be plenty of opportunities to do so in either an offline or online game. In addition to standard options like deathmatch, players can expect creative modes as well. “One is temporarily called Death Race,” says Wells.

“We’ll probably come up with a cooler name for that. The idea behind that is to throw the player onto the track with a bunch of drone cars, which are basically fodder — they don’t fight back; they don’t shoot weapons back. They’re just there for you to destroy. You have to race around the track and try to get the highest score possible to beat your opponents, who are also trying to rack up their score.

The idea is still the high speed racing around the track, because each lap you make actually increments the score value of those drones. You want to get to the second, third, fourth lap as fast as you can so that the point values are higher. So you’re racing around like a madman and just blowing up hundreds of these guys that are constantly populated all around you.”

Having Jak X as Naughty Dog’s first online game is an important part of how this game came together as well. “Jak X started in earnest as Jak 3 shipped and once everyone got a well deserved vacation,” says Wells. “But we had hired a programmer who just had extensive networking experience sometime — I guess it was June of last year.

A lot of that time we were thinking we needed to get more experience with online gaming and were trying to decide what we might do next, so we had him start on getting some of these vehicles networked, and he got that going really fast right away, and it was really obvious that this was the next game we had to work on. He was carrying the torch as a one man team for quite some time. Around the start of November is when the whole team started working on this together.”

Jak X will hit stores sometime close to November 2005 (the official release date is currently “fall”), and players can expect to uncover extra content such as hidden characters by downloading data onto a memory stick from the upcoming Daxter PSP title. (Courtesy 1up.com)

Ratchet: Deadlocked

The innovative guys at Insomniac are taking another step forward in their popular franchise, with more than a few changes on the horizon. the team took the success of the multiplayer mode into account when coming up with the single-player game. The result: a darker, more action-focused game, but one still filled with the gameplay fans have come to expect from the Ratchet series.

One of the new features to help players out in the single-player mode is that you now have squad members that follow you around while you play. Like in tactical shooters along the lines of the Rainbow Six series — but far simplified — you can guide your squad members with a context sensitive button that allows you to tell them to use turrets, revive each other, destroy certain objects, flip switches, etc.

If, however, you decide to play in the game’s new split-screen co-op mode, your partner will take the place of your squad friends and the two of you can take on the game together (both players play Ratchet).

Another significant shift for the series is in the overall story, which takes on a darker approach this time around. Instead of saving the galaxy again, the main plot of the game sees Ratchet and sidekick Clank stuck in an underground sports combat television show where they have fend off various challenges in order to stay alive.

Ratchet’s outfit is hidden under battle armor and much of the puzzle solving from the previous games has been toned down. We should note that you don’t get to play as Clank this time around, and as a result the game is heavily focused on Ratchet’s action-oriented abilities. (Courtesy 1up.com)

PSP NEWS

According to independent research conducted by Enterbrain, Sony’s PSP bested Nintendo in handheld console sales in both February and March of this year.

The most popular handheld in Japan is still the Nintendo DS, however: the DS sold an impressive 1.09 million units during December, a total that Sony has only just now reached after four months of sales.

The PSP, suffering from production delays, sold only 330,000 units in December. The DS continued to beat the PSP in January, selling 450,000 units to the PSP’s 360,000 units.

But the tables turned in February, when 195,000 PSP units were sold, edging out 121,000 DS units. PSP sales increased by a small margin in March, reaching 202,000 units, and DS sales also increased, reaching 136,000 units.

While these new numbers are encouraging for Sony, the PSP still lags behind the DS in overall penetration: Japanese consumers currently own 1.09 million PSPs and 1.8 million DSs.

So what does all this mean? Well, if you’ve seen the two side-by-side, and seen one game for each, you already know who’s going to win out this one…

Also, there’s a Daxter game coming for the PSP, as well the upcoming Grand Theft Auto…

Confirmed Movies for 2005:

Sony

Spider-Man 2

Resident Evil 2: Apocalypse

Hellboy

XXX

Buena Vista

National Treasure

Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl

Reign of Fire

Kill Bill Vol. 1

Hero

Lions Gate

Terminator 2

Total Recall

Open Water

Rambo: First Blood

Young Guns

Step Into Liquid

National Lampoon’s Van Wilder

Saw

House of the Dead

Universal Solider

Stargate

EA Domination

The biggest publisher in the world made more news today with the annoucement of an exclusive deal with the Collegiate Licensing Company for the exclusive rights to NCAA-themed football games. Under the agreement, EA will be the only publisher allowed to use NCAA brands in console and handheld games for the next 6 years.

This leaves Take-Two with no pigskin games for a while. So, you’ll be seeing An ESPN presentation of NCAA and NFL football. This is a good thing for EA, and it will be for the consumer too, as I’m not anticipating a drop in quality for two of their biggest franchises.

Whenever they’re not destroying competition, they make very good games. Two of their racers, Burnout and Need For Speed: Underground have sequels coming down the pipeline. Details below.

BURNOUT: REVENGE

The upcoming Burnout Revenge, in development at series creators Criteron Games, offers a new mode where frustrated real-life commuters (or anyone who wants to see a little automotive destruction) can take out their frustrations on simulated rush hour traffic.

The new title will officially debut at Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles on May 18. Burnout Revenge will be available for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox in September.

NEED FOR SPEED: MOST WANTED

Need for Speed: Most Wanted is the next installment in EA’s popular racing series.

A high pursuit racer in development at EA Canada, Need for Speed: Most Wanted aims to combine the thrills of illegal street racing with the glamour of a Hollywood-style police pursuit.

“Players instantly will feel the thrill of the ride as they hit the streets in an open world environment where drivers can tune their cars to compete against any class of vehicles or use their wits to out-fox the law to satisfy their need for speed,” says said Larry LaPierre, senior producer, EA Canada.

In the game, players will have to build a reputation on their Rap Sheet, and eventually move up on the universal Black List. In addition to taking on the toughest drivers in the world, the police will be in hot pursuit of your shady activities. You’ll have to outrun them with your tuners, supercars, muscles and sports cars.

Need for Speed: Most Wanted is in development for an unnamed next generation console, PlayStation 2, PSP, Xbox, GameCube, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS and PC.

007 NEWS

Actor Sean Connery will lend his likeness and voice work to Electronic Arts’ video game adaptation of From Russia With Love, the second James Bond film Connery starred in, reports Reuters.

In addition to Connery, From Russia With Love will feature more talent from the original film cast, including Q (Desmond Llewelyn), Donald “Red” Grant (Robert Shaw), Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya), Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi), Kerim Bay (Pedro Armendariz) and Miss Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell).

Connery sees his involvement as an important part of the creative process. “Video games are an extremely popular form of entertainment today, and I am looking forward to seeing how it all fits together,” he said.

From Russia With Love is scheduled for a fall release on PlayStation 2, Xbox and GameCube. Casino Royale, the next James Bond film, will be released in 2006 (hopefully, seeing how they have no Bond yet).

XBOX 2 COMING SOON!

While new game consoles are traditionally unveiled at industry-only events like the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), Microsoft’s next-generation game console will make its debut in front of a global television audience on MTV.

“Just as MTV revolutionized the way the world experiences music, the next-generation video game console from Xbox will spark a revolution in how consumers experience games and other forms of digital entertainment,” says Peter Moore, corporate vice president of worldwide marketing and publishing for Xbox at Microsoft.

Elijah Wood, internationally known for his role in the Academy Award-winning Lord of the Rings trilogy will host the event. The special will provide a look at upcoming games, a behind the scenes look at the making of the console, live performances by Los Angeles rock group The Killers and celebrity interviews.

The special will air in North America on May 12 at 9:30 Eastern, followed by broadcast in Asia Pacific and Europe over a 24 hour period.

Now here’s the other stuff that isn’t being said loudly.

Who’s going to make games for it?

Electronic Arts, Activision, Ubisoft, Capcom, Rockstar Games and Konami are some of the biggest names. Korean online content company Webzen, who’s MU Online has over 56 million users in Asia alone, may be the most substantial newcomer.

“This stellar lineup of publishers and developers is poised to deliver games experiences our customers only dreamed were possible, and is ultimately committed to elevating video games to be the No. 1 form of entertainment,” said Microsoft’s Peter Moore.

Other publishers on the list include 2K Games, Atari, Bandai, Bethesda Softworks, Buena Vista Games, Codemasters, Eidos, FromSoftware, InterServ International, KOEI, LucasArts, Majesco, Midway Games, Namco, Phantagram, SCi Games, Sega, Tecmo, THQ, TWP and Vivendi Universal Games.

What’s gonna be different?

Let’s see, it will be more powerful, faster, yadda, yadda. Biggest thing may be it’s wireless controllers, and online functionality right out of the box.

We’ll have a preliminary Head-to-head of both systems soon!

Till next time…

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