May 29, 2002

    Only days away from release Electronic Arts' impressive looking Freekstyle has been pushed back from May 31 to July 26th. No reason has been given for the delay as yet.

    Electronic Arts, who distribute LucasArts titles in Australia, have announced that Star Wars Bounty Hunter will be released here in Australia on November 21. The game was looking pretty special at E3 so it will be worth checking out the preview if you haven't already.

    Another game put onto the release schedules from Electronics Arts is Madden 2003 for September 20th. The game in America will include online gameplay and it remains to be seen how, or if, this will be included in the Australian game considering the online gameplay isn't expected until very late this year, or early next year.

May 22-25, 2002

    SPECIAL: 2002 E3 Show
    It's that time of the year again. No, not the Christmas rush, but E3. This article will be updated several times a day so keep checking back. Sony have plenty of surprises in store.

May 20, 2002

    According to rumours on the net the Playstation 2 Hard Drive (HDD) will retail in America for about $US80 when released. This is about half the price of the unit in Japan which is still shipping in limited quantities. Although the online adapter will be released in August for $US39.95 there is still no confirmed date for the hard drive.

    Criterion Studios have unofficially announced Burnout 2 by putting up a web site. As yet there is no details about what systems, or who will be publishing the title but we can expect something at E3.

    Sega have had a rather busy week. Firstly they have announced many games which will be compatible online. These game include Sega Sports NFL 2K3, Sega Sports NBA 2K3, and Sega Sports NCAA College Basketball 2K3. The company is also developing several Phantasy Star Online titles although they are expected to be hitting the Xbox and/or Gamecube only.

    Sega Japan recently had a meeting for stockholders in which they disclosed their plans for the coming year or so. Here are the main points (thanks to ps2.ign):

    • Sega expects a revitalization of the market in Japan, Europe, and the United States in the next quarter, and feel that the games to be unveiled at E3 next week will help to lead the way. Additionally, Sega feels that the negative press it has received over the years for the failure of the Dreamcast and various other hardware decisions has been swept away because of their commitment to software.
    • Virtua Fighter 4 has sold 1.5 million units, Sonic Adventure on GameCube has sold nearly 1 million units, and Super Monkey Ball has sold almost 700,000 pieces.
    • Sega's goal is to become the number one company for amusement, and forecast 16.9 billion yen in sales for the next fiscal term. These numbers include software sales, pachinko, and arcades.
    • Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution was talked about slightly, but is headed for arcades only at this point, with no console named. It will have networking capabilities of an unknown extent.
    • An upcoming mahjong game whose title was not revealed and Bingo Party were other arcade titles slated for Japan, while a version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" will be distributed in throughout European arcades and allow players to win prizes if they answer questions correctly.
    • Sega is working diligently on arcade boards to make for easy transition to consoles. One of which was the previously named Triforce (the joint Namco and Nintendo board) and another one codenamed "Chiro". The GameCube and Xbox specifically were named as the target systems for "Chiro".
    • Sega will be releasing fewer titles in Japan and North America and restructure its research and development teams to focus on making games as efficiently and effectively as possible.
    • Sega plans on matching EA Sports release dates, title for title, so that a clear winner can be determined. The phrase "Sega vs. EA" was a dominating theme throughout the sports-related presentation.
    • A video was shown illustrating Panzer Dragoon (Xbox), Shinobi (PS2), and F-Zero (GCN), but were unfortunately blackened out for the internet viewers. There was also another video shown earlier in the presentation, but what game it represented was not revealed.
    • Sega has secured the seven year exclusivity rights to all 700 works of Osamu Tezuka, Japan's most famous comic artist, the creator of Astro Boy and Kimba the White Lion. Sega's other high-profile manga acquisition is the license to Hokuto no Ken, the bloody post-apocalyptic adventure known in the states as Fist of the North Star.
    • Sega plans on introducing a new simulation-based soccer game to its ongoing line of Sega Sports games. As well as a new versions of Sonic the Hedgehog and Sega Rally.
    • House of the Dead is returning to consoles, but not as a light-gun shooter. It instead will be revived as a survival-horror adventure series. No other details were revealed. A Sakura Taisen sequel was also mentioned for release "overseas".
    • After those major revelations were announced, a reiteration of becoming the number one company for amusement and called it a day.

    Final Fantasy XI came out in Japan last week but due to limited supplies of the broadband adapter only 150,000-200,000 copies were released. As you would expect there were some teething problems with reports of players having to wait 10 hours to register online.

    While rumours of a fourth movie start to cement into reality LucasArts are going to give PS2 owners an all new Indiana Jones Adventure. Indiana Jones & The Emperors Tomb already looks terrific and should be a great game. Check out the preview now.

    Yet another original game from LucasArts and although RTX Red Rock isn't due out until early 2003 it's already looking pretty good. LucasArts look like they have another great title in the pipeline. Prepare to destroy the alien scum.

May 16, 2002

    It's that day!!
    It's Star Wars Day!! It's Star Wars Day!! What more needs to be said.. It's amazing anyone is actually reading this. Sadly, I won't be seeing it until next Tuesday night at a Gold Class cinema so try not to spoil it for me. Just drop me an e-mail (without spoilers) telling me if you liked it...

    Price Drop
    Well it was a toss up between Star Wars and this as the major story of the day, but Star Wars won due to the fact that this price drop only concerns America. Sony America have confirmed that effectively immediately the price of the Playstation 2 has been slashed from $US299 ($AU560) to $US199 ($AU370). As yet there is no confirmation of a price drop in Australia or Europe while Japan has been given an open pricing policy where the stores can set their own prices.

    Well there is no word yet of an official price drop but it looks like Australia will be getting a Playstation 2 bundle with Final Fantasy X. The package is selling at Harvey Norman for $AU499, and may be cheaper elsewhere seeing as they usually charge full retail.

    According to Acclaim their port of Zombie Revenge to Playstation 2 "may not be happening" after all due to "technical reasons" - whatever that means. One thing is certain though. The game hasn't appeared on Acclaim's E3 line-up which suggests that it's either going to be a very long wait, or has been canned. Expect more news at E3.

    Sony Europe and Square have confirmed that Final Fantasy X not include a 60Hz mode, but there is a good reason for it. Despite the fact that 60Hz is becoming more common in PS2 games Square have confirmed that there wasn't enough room on the disc for the 60Hz graphics. C&VG posted the following from Squaresoft:

      "In preparation for the European release of FFX, we have carefully examined the technical factors involved with the PAL conversion. After a thorough analysis of both the 50/60Hz switch and full screen display support, our development team has come to the conclusion that these features cannot be implemented due to the lack of free space for image data on the DVD to support the 50/60Hz switch.
      "In order to do a 60hz switch, it would have been necessary for the development team to store all of the FMV files on the DVD disc twice (in both 50hz and 60hz modes) and there was simply not enough space on the disc to achieve this.
      "The PAL version of Final Fantasy X makes full use of the potential of the hardware and fully supports voice-overs and other technically advanced features. Furthermore, the PAL version of Final Fantasy X is based upon the International version of the game, which was released in Japan in January 2002, and will come packaged with an exclusive bonus DVD that was specially produced for the PAL market. Squaresoft is hopeful that consumers in all PAL territories will enjoy this version of Final Fantasy X."

    Electronic Arts have confirmed a new game for PS2 called Ty the Tasmanian Tiger. The game is a 3D action adventure and stars a character based on the extinct Tasmanian animal. The game is currently being developed by Krome Studios, the team behind the average Sunny Garcia Surfing. The game is expected to be released by Christmas.

    Eidos have announced their E3 line-up, and it's quite impressive. The PS2 games expected to be on show include Timesplitters 2Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness, Hitman 2: Silent Assassin, and Legaia 2: Duel Saga.

    Not to be outdone THQ have also announced their E3 line-up. Their Playstation 2 games include MX Superfly, Pride FC, Battlebots, Summoner 2, Britney's Dance Beat, Circus Maximus, Dragon's Lair 3D, Jackie Chan Adventures, and a whole new line-up from the company's kid's licenses, Matchbox and Nickelodeon. Although missing from that list THQ have also confirmed that Red Faction 2 will also be on show.

    Well it's due out on Friday, but it's worth having a last look at Final Fantasy X with some updated details. I'm still getting over the disappointment of no 60Hz mode, but I would prefer the bonus disc choc full of extras anyway. Check out the preview for all the extras details.

    Sorry about the problems with the forums lately, but they have been fixed. Make sure you check out the forums by clicking here.

May 13, 2002

    Sorry about the problems with the forums lately, but they have all been fixed. So make sure you check out the forums by clicking here.

    Electronic Arts have announced that they are developing an all new James Bond game, called Nightfire. The game will be heading to all next-generation consoles as well as the PC. Much like EA's impressive Bond: Agent Under Fire the game will have an original storyline taking elements from the movies over the last 40 years. The game will be set across a wide range of locations including the snowy Austrian Alps, into the underwater depths of the South Pacific and even aboard space stations above the Earth's atmosphere as Bond does battle with the criminal mastermind Rafael Drake, the head of a mysterious environmental corporation seeking world domination. The game is primarily a First Person Shooter and is being developed by Eurocom Entertainment on the consoles (Gearbox are working on the PC game).

    Infogrames have announced their E3 line-up, and it's massive with 41 games on all platforms. The PS2 games on display include Fugitive Hunter, Men in Black 2: Alien Escape, Micro Machines, Monopoly Party, NASCAR Heat 2, Stuntman, Superman: Shadow of Apokolips, Taz: Wanted, Terminator: Dawn of Fate, V-Rally 3, Wheel of Fortune, and Zapper. Most Impressive.

    Konami Japan have spilled the beans in a financial statement in what would have been a massive announcement at E3 for Konami America (Japanese parent companies seem to do that quite often sadly). In the statement Konami Japan have announced many new titles in development. First off the ranks were development of a new Contra game on Playstation 2 (and Gamecube) as well as Silent Hill 3, which is not really a surprise given the success of the second game. Also confirmed is Z.O.E. 2: The 2nd Runner which is more of a surprise given average reviews and sales mainly attributed to a special demo of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. The biggest surprise from the statement is that the company is developing Metal Gear Solid Substance for XBox and PC. The company also stated that they would continue the series with a third game in about 2 years time and they are also exploring the possibility of an online Metal Gear game sometime in future.

    Rumours of Rare moving to multi-platform are gaining even more momentum, but the deal may be even more shocking. Apparently Activision are not only looking to publish games but possibly buy the company outright. According to reports Activision have had auditors looking over the company, which would only happen to assess a companies worth. Expect more soon.

    LucasArts have also announced their game line-up for E3. The games on show for PS2 include RTX Red Rock (see below), Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb, Gladius (a roman gladiator based RPG), Star Wars Bounty Hunter , Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and possibly Full Throttle .

    While on the subject of LucasArts, Electronic Arts Australia have sent out the following press release about RTX Red Rock. Here it is:


      Gripping Character-Driven Original Game for PlayStation 2 and GameCube Introduces a Unique New Hero to Defend Humanity from an Overwhelming Alien Threat

      SYDNEY -- May 8, 2002 -- 100 years in the future Red Rock, mankind's first colony on Mars, is besieged by a brutal alien force and military leaders on faraway Earth are stymied - so they call on Radical Tactics Expert (RTX) Eugene Zeno "E.Z." Wheeler as their best hope in RTX Red Rock from LucasArts Entertainment Company LLC. RTX Red Rock is an epic third-person action-adventure expected to release autumn 2003 on PlayStation 2 and Nintendo GameCube.

      Radical Tactics Experts, who evolved out of the military's special forces, are the smartest and toughest members of the armed services, uniquely known for their strategic thinking, adaptability, and pure military muscle. Individuals from this elite unit are trained for insertion into undefined combat situations where even a small team is too large and unwieldy.

      In RTX Red Rock players immerse themselves into the role of Wheeler, who engages in fierce tactical combat, investigates mysterious, foreboding environments, and solves challenging puzzles to reclaim the Red Rock colony on Mars.

      The game begins when Wheeler embarks on a reconnaissance mission to Mars' inner moon, Phobos, to monitor the movements of the L.E.D.s, a ruthlessly hostile alien species who have ransacked the colony. The expectation is that everyone is dead. Upon arrival, Wheeler picks up a distress call from Cimmeria Rajan, Red Rock's young and beautiful Chief Colony Officer. Contrary to the military's worst fears, she and a handful of others survived the alien invasion. Wheeler quickly descends to the planet's surface for a sustained rescue operation that challenges him to swim through underground waterways, cross Mars' frozen deserts, penetrate the colony ruins, and sneak into alien ships, battling L.E.D.s at every turn.

      "RTX Red Rock follows in the tradition of classic award-winning original games from LucasArts such as Grim Fandango, The Dig, and Full Throttle," says Tom Byron, director of product marketing for LucasArts. "We know players will quickly welcome E.Z. Wheeler into the LucasArts family of heroes, as this game perfectly blends them with a rich, compelling story and gripping game play."

      Action in RTX Red Rock is distinguished by Wheeler's unique mechanised abilities, granted to him through a series of medical operations to mend previous combat injuries. Wheeler's synthetic right arm is both tool and weapon, upgradeable to grappling hook, taser, grenade launcher, and more. Likewise, his synthetic left eye is sensitive to special wavelengths and can be used to locate and target hidden aliens, identify traps, and uncover power-ups throughout the game's 10 levels. State-of-the-art computer techniques allow LucasArts to blend realism and fantasy, bringing players to the planet Mars in a way never before possible.

      Joining Wheeler in this treacherous adventure is his faithful digital sidekick IRIS (Independent Removable Information System). IRIS is a portable computer module with an impudent female personality. When inserted into standard ports on various robots and control panels she comes to chattering life and, guided by the player, helps Wheeler solve his problems. Utilising control of IRIS for portions of the game, players directly command robots, Martian rovers, and other highly manoeuvrable alien craft.

      RTX Red Rock also will feature a two-player split-screen multiplayer mode for head-to-head battles, capture the flag tournaments, and exhilarating races in some of the game's many vehicles.

    May 10, 2002

      Playstation 3
      The Kayodo News Agency in Japan has confirmed that Playstation 3 development has officially begun, and has a scheduled release date of 2005. Sony are aiming for an MPU (microprocessing unit) codenamed 'Cell' which is 200 times faster than the current generation of game consoles. The development of this MPU is expected to cost $US400 million, and the entire system is being developed with high speed internet in mind and may not use any media storage at all, resulting in downloadable software. How well will this one sit with consumers? In my mind, not too well at all. Still, 2005 is a long way away.

      UbiSoft have also announced their list of games to be shown at E3. The Playstation 2 games include Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc and XIII while The Sum of All Fears and Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Splinter Cell are both to be shown in PC form, but are expected to hit Playstation 2 sometime in 2003.

      UK courts have told the World Wrestling Federation to get the "F" off... it's name. The World Wildlife Fund has won a court case over the use of WWF, and the judge has agreed that they hold the rights to use WWF, not the wrestling federation. In response the wrestling "WWF" will now be known as "WWE" which stands for World Wrestling Entertainment. This won't have too much effect on games except that any future wrestling games will now be called "WWE".

      Damn the Playstation 2 games are coming thick and fast over the next couple of months, and it's not even Christmas. Today I have popped up a preview to what could be the most gory FPS ever, Soldier Of Forune Gold.

    May 8, 2002

      Namco have announced their E3 show line-up as well. The Playstation 2 games on display will include Ninja Assault, Pac-Man Fever, Tekken 4 and Xenosaga. As with most companies there are bound to possibly be a couple of surprises and in this case it may well be Soul Calibur 2. Let's hope.

      Square have announced that they have now shipped 750,000 units of their RPG Kingdom Hearts. Square had predicted to ship 500,000 copies. Sell through figures for the game have just surpassed 650,000 units. Fortunately the game should be out in America/Europe in time for Christmas, or shortly after.

      Japan is pretty much the console capital of the world. Whatever happens there usually has a flow on effect around the world and in order for a console to have a strong Japanese line-up you need consoles sold. With that in mind here is the Japanese hardware sales for last week according to Media Create:

        PlayStation 2 - 72,100
        GameBoy Advance - 43,200
        GameCube - 11,700
        PlayStation - 5,500
        Xbox - 4,700
        GameBoy Color - 2,200
        WonderSwan Color - 2,100
        Dreamcast - 600
        Nintendo 64 - 200
        WonderSwan - 100
        PocketStation - 50
        GameBoy - 20

      I have added a preview to Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force which will be released in a couple of weeks time thanks to Codemasters. This FPS should have plenty of action and variety and being able to talk to crewmembers should be a blast. Check out the preview now.

    May 5, 2002

      Capcom have announced their Playstation 2 E3 line-up. The games expected to be on display include Onimusha 2: Samurai's Destiny, Jojo' Bizarre Adventure, Auto Modellista (which THQ have just confirmed for a release in Australia), and Dino Stalker (aka Gun Survivor 3: Dino Crisis).

      Sega of America have also announced their E3 lineup of games. The Playstation 2 games announced to date include F355 Challenge, GunGrave, Sega Bass Fishing Duel, Shinobi, Sega Sports Tennis, Sega Sports NFL 2K3, Sega Sports NBA 2K3, Sega Sports NHL 2K3 and one which is unlikely to ever appear outside America, Sega Sports NCAA College Football 2K3. Strangely one game which seems to have gone missing in recent months is the port of Super Monkey Ball from Gamecube. The game has also disappeared off European Infogrames schedules indicating either a lengthy delay, or total cancellation. To deepen the mystery a sequel was announced for Gamecube only last week.

      Sega have announced 2 new Playstation 2 titles in the last couple of weeks. The first is Shinobi which is an all new 3D action game based on the classic series. The second game is being developed by Smilebit and is called Gungrave. The game is being developed by the team that worked on Gun Valkyrie. Both games will be revealed fully at the E3 show late this month with both games likely to hit the shelves around Christmas.

      For those of you interested I have completely updated the release schedule with around 30 date changes and 10 additions. The schedule can be accessed by clicking here.

    May 2, 2002

      Sony today announced details about Playstation 2 sales. SCEE has sold over 7 million units in total with Sony Australia confirming that there has been 330,000 units sold in this country alone. Here is the official press release for those interested:

        Sydney, April 26, 2002
        Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (SCEE) today announced that it had sold over 7 million PlayStation2 computer entertainment systems to consumers in the territories served by SCEE, which includes Australia.

        The 7 million milestone came as Sony Corporation announced their financial results for the year to 31 March 2002. Total world-wide production shipments of PlayStation 2 for the year ending March 31 2002 were 18.07 million units, resulting in cumulative production shipments of 28.68 million units as of March 31, 2002.

        Shipments of PlayStation 2 software titles for this fiscal year (including those from both SCEE and independent publishers under SCEE licenses) were 35.5 million units, resulting in cumulative production shipments to the PAL territories of 42.8 million units as of March 31, 2002.

        Commenting on the sales figures, Chris Deering, President of SCEE was bullish, "Not only did we have a fantastic year in driving ahead to the 7 million milestone, but we are looking forward to the coming year with increased momentum".

        Michael Ephraim - Managing Director, SCE Australia added, "In choosing PlayStation 2, consumers are assured access to the largest range of games available at the widest range of affordable prices, the reliability of Sony engineering for the Broadband future, the benefit of DVD movie playback, right out of the box at no extra cost, and the capability to play over 1,300 original PlayStation games as well."

        There are currently 260 PlayStation 2 titles available with more than 30 first party games and over 200 third party titles for PlayStation 2 scheduled for release in the coming year. These include The Getaway, Primal, WRC 2002, Ratchet and Clank and This Is Soccer 2003 from SCEE and Harry Potter, Timesplitters 2, Superman; Shadow of Apokolips, TOCA Race Driver, Medal of Honour Front Line, Onimusha 2, GTA Vice City, Red Faction 2, Tribes 2 and Tony Hawk 4 from third party publishers. Several key third party titles are exclusive to PlayStation 2 including Final Fantasy X, Stuntman, Virtua Fighter 4, Kingdom Hearts and Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness and the recently released Metal Gear Solid 2.

        The past month has seen positive results for software sales, with gamers taking advantage of the recently launched Platinum range. The collection of 'Platinum' games debuted in stores on 1 March, offering consumers the best selling games at affordable prices, such as lead selling game GT3 from as little as $49.95.

        Referring to the competitive environment, Mr Ephraim said, "Competition is part of the dynamics and excitement of the industry. It draws attention of potential new gamers to the market, and it energizes PlayStation's resolve to remain the console of choice for our loyal fans, retailers and game creators". He continued, "We are firmly on track with PlayStation 2 and have no plans for any price cuts in the near future. The consumer proposition of PS2 is a potent, future friendly mix of design, quality, variety and affordability over the lifetime of its ownership. Not only is PlayStation 2 the best overall consumer value, it's also the most fun to drive!" -ENDS- Note: The installed base of PlayStation 2 in Australia has reached 330,000, whilst combined installed base of all PlayStation formats has reached 2.5 million units.

      Sony Computer Entertainment America have confirmed that The Mark of Kri will be released in America this July. The game, which was revealed a couple of weeks ago, is a Conan styled action adventure game with details thanks to PS2.IGN today. Exclusive to Playstation 2 the game is played in a third-person perspective where gamers take on the role of Rau, an archaic warrior accompanied by a friendly large black bird (which is apparently neither a raven nor a crow), a "familiar" that can be utilized to scout out upcoming locales strategically. Players see the game from Kuzo's point of view and can scout out various settings and retrieve items to prepare Rau for upcoming battles. Rau wields four powerful weapons, a broadsword, bow and arrow, battle-axe and the New Zealand Taiaha (spear) to lay the smack down on his opponents. Rau switches from a free moving wander mode to a more focused lock-on mode to attack up as many as nine enemies simultaneously. "With its unique combat system and intense strategic adventure, The Mark of Kri really is the thinking man's fighting game," said Ami Blaire, director, product marketing, SCEA. "We are adding a truly unique title to the PlayStation 2 library that takes a whole new approach to adventure and action-fighting gaming never seen before."

      I've added a review to Koei's strategy game, which is much improved over last year's already impressive effort. Check out the review of Kessen 2 now.

      XBox Trouble?
      If you thought that Microsoft and nVidia were cosy over the XBox then think again as the two companies are now arguing over the amount of money which Microsoft owes nVidia. Reportedly this amount is around $US13million. Could this be another nail in the XBox coffin? Perhaps. You can read the entire suit by clicking here.

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