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FEBRUARY 2003 NEWS
February 27, 2003

    Games
    Well the rumours have come true as Konami have confirmed a new Castlevania is being updated for release on the Playstation 2. As yet nothing is known of the game, not even if Konami will move the series to 3D (dodgey N64 versions ignored) or retain the 2D styles of the original as they have done with their recently released Contra: Shattered Soldiers. All shall be revealed at E3 in May.

    According to Game Informer Activision are developing a new X-Men game titled X-Men Legends. Most excitingly, the game, which is in development at Raven Software, is a RPG based game. X-Men Legends stars 19 of Marvel's most popular mutants, including Iceman, Gambit, Beast, Jean Grey, Cyclops, Storm, Colossus, Psylocke, Nightcrawler, Angel, Forge and Wolverine. As yet there is no specific release date although late 2003 seems likely.

    One of the most exciting updates expect this year is Pitfall Harry from Activision. Originally released on Atari 2600 the game, in development at Edge of Reality, will retain a younger, almost childish, style. Gone are the instant deaths if you land on a crocodile. Instead Harry can pry open his mouth to escape. Expect to see and hear a lot more about this title around May.

    Review
    Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance is one of the most anticipated titles in early 2003. One of the more controversial video games ever gets an update on Playstation 2, and Midway have promised several new additions and enhancements. Is this the resurrection or the death knell for Midway's bloody fighting series. Find out in this review.

February 23, 2003

    Games
    According to Eurogamer, Konami have confirmed that their upcoming horror game, Silent Hill 3 will be released in Europe first. Yes, even before America and Japan. The game is currently expected to Europe around May 23rd. Strangely Gamenation, the Australian distributer, still have the game listed for August 1st.

    Companies
    Following the trend of many companies, most notably Electronic Arts, THQ has announced plans to open a development studio here in Brisbane. Anyway they are looking for programmers artists etc. Here's the full press release:

      THQ ANNOUNCES AUSTRALIAN DEVELOPMENT STUDIO

      Steve Dauterman Named Director of Asia-Pacific Product Development

      MELBOURNE, Vic. - February 20, 2003 - THQ Inc. (NASDAQ: THQI) today announced that it is building a studio in Australia to manage the production of games developed throughout the Asia-Pacific territories. The company also announced that it has appointed Steve Dauterman as Director of Asia-Pacific Product Development. Previously vice president of product development of Electronic Arts' Australia and UK studios, Dauterman brings more than 10 years of game development experience to his newly created position at THQ.

      Mr. Dauterman believes that Australia, and in particular the state of Queensland, will provide the perfect location for a games development studio.

      "Brisbane is considered the epicenter of games development talent in Australia," Dauterman said. "The studio will be designed to facilitate production throughout the region of high quality games from the stable of THQ licensed properties. Our early goals are to employ 35-50 people over the next two to three years."

      The Brisbane-based studio is part of a new product development initiative, resulting in the restructuring and globalization of its internal production staff. The company's internal production staff, which oversees products both internally developed at THQ's studios as well as externally through the company's many independent developer partners, will reside in three separate locations - U.S., U.K. and Australia - in order to more effectively work with product development talent worldwide. These production groups will be comprised of technical, creative, project management and quality assurance teams and will complement THQ's existing publishing groups in each of these territories.

      "The goal of the restructure is both to work more closely with development talent around the world and to more effectively manage product development cycles," said Jack Sorensen, executive vice president of worldwide studios, THQ. "The new structure will enable us to improve both product quality and predictability which are critical to success in the increasingly competitive global marketplace."

      THQ Australian Studios Pty Ltd is currently recruiting art, production and programming staff. Please forward resumes to:
      THQ Australian Studios Pty Ltd
      PO Box 1148
      Spring Hill
      QLD 4004
      Or via email to: ozstudio_resumes@thq.com

    Review
    The Sims has been a phenomenal success for Electronic Arts on the PC and at last the game has hit the consoles with the Playstation 2 being the first benefactor. With a mission structure, improved graphics and more objects this game is definately worth a look. Here's the full review of one of the most unique games in recent years.

February 20, 2003

    Lack of updates...
    Well I have to apologise about the lack of updates over the last week, but there is a reason. I have been absolutely flat out at work installing a new server for the school. On top of this I had a uni assignment to complete last weekend. The good news is that all this hard work is finished once again and in reality very little has happened in the gaming world over this period. Anyway, onto the usual updates.

    Games
    BMX XXX has been a game surrounded by controversy since its release. Now Dave Mirra has filed a lawsuit against acclaim the publisher of the title accusing the company of improperly using his name and image to promote the game. But rather they just try to get an apology and a small cash settlement Dave Mirra is aiming for $US21 million ($AU40 million - odd). Now if this was someone big like Michael Jordan, Michael Jackson or Britney Spears you would understand. But who has actually heard of Dave Mirra? A pretty small percentage of the worlds population - and most of those only from the video game. Still, it's America so anything is possible. What affect may this have on Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX 3? Who knows.

    Forums
    A reminder to everyone to enjoy the Forums on Future Gamez which now has almost 4,000 posts. Want to discuss today's news? Want to talk about the games you're playing? Got anything to say or ask? Click here to go to the forums and post a message.

February 14, 2003

    Football
    Well I'm a couple of days late on this one - but you can blame that on the uni assignments due in 4 hours ago (which are still being worked on) but I would like to congratulate the Australian football (soccer) team who despite all the odds have made English football look like a joke. Australia, who FIFA ranks at #50 in the world, managed to demolish England, ranked #8, 3-1 during a friendly. It was well worth my 5.30am start yesterday to watch it. Well I guess that the poms have Rugby remaining as their only sport to offer a challenge - then again I don't consider that much of a sport anyway.

    Online Gaming
    It now seems likely that Sony Europe have delayed their online services for the Playstation 2 from Q'2 2003 to sometime in the second half of the year. The trials of the service have not even begun yet with these expected to begin in March. We can also expect the Australian online services to be delayed as a result.

    Companies
    It's been a pretty quiet week in the gaming world this week - until today. Today Sega announced that it will be merging with Sammy with Sega holding 54% of the stock and Sammy 46%. The new president will be Sammy's Hajime Satomi while the deal is expected to be struck in May and will go to shareholders in June before becoming effective on October 1, 2003.

    Review
    Battle Engine Aquila is one of those games that surprises, not for any major plot twists, but rather that there were virtually no expectations but small developers Lost Toys have crafted a game equal to or better then so many other Mech styled battle games. If you're after some action then this game should keep you busy for some time.

February 8, 2003

    Games
    Electronic Arts have announced four new titles for the Playstation 2 in Australia. The first is F1 Career Challenge which is expected on the 5th May. The next game to make an appearance will be Alien Vs Predator Extinction for release in Australia on July 21st 2003. Rugby fans will be glad to hear that Rugby 2004 is in development and is schedule to make an appearance on 4th September. Perhaps the most exciting news, however, is that Cricket 2004 is well into development and will be released on October 13th. It was a strange move by Electronic Arts not to develop a game based on the World Cup this month, but considering that EA Sports Cricket 2002 is still making it to the number 10 position on the retail charts last week there was no urgency for a sequel. More news on these games as it comes to hand.

February 7, 2003

    Games
    According to Gamenation's website Metal Gear Solid: Substance will come out here in Australia with a bonus disc which is actually the previously unreleased Documents of Metal Gear Solid. This disc is possibly the most detailed behind the scenes collection of information on game (or possibly even movie) making of all time and is a more then welcome addition to the title.

    Preview
    Def Jam Vendetta remained a mystery on EA's schedules until very recently when the game was revealed as a wrestling title featuring music artists from Def Jam Records. It's a strange mix that certainly looks impressive enough and with the EA Sports BIG branding we can expect something pretty extreme at the least. Check out this preview with the latest screens and info on the game.

February 4, 2003

    New Bundle
    Those of you who keep an eye on retails would have seen a new deal, which Sony has released in the last couple of days. When you purchase a Playstation 2 you have the choice of one of six games including Ratchet & Clank, WRC II Extreme, Kingdom Hearts, The Getaway, or the just released Sly Raccoon (expect the review of that within days). This deal allows gamers to get a head start on their game collection with one of the 5 most impressive Sony titles released in recent months.

    Preview
    Sega Sports NBA 2K3 is one of the most welcome additions to the Australian gaming schedules in recent months, in fact all of the Sega Sports titles are. For years we have all been hearing about how great the Sega games were, but they never got a release here. Well, come April Australian gamers will finally be able to play the most serious challenger to EA Sports' titles in years. Here's a full preview.

    Companies
    It is with some sadness that Interplay Australia has confirmed the closure of their offices from February 14th. We all know how much financial trouble the company has had in recent months, even forcing the sale of Shiny Entertainment and the Matrix game license, but the closure of the Australian offices is still a shock for the company with hits such as Descent, Star Trek, Icewind Dale, Kingpin and Baldur's Gate. Never fear however as Vivendi Universal will be taking over distribution of future titles. But what if Vivendi is sold off to Microsoft? Well, that's another story. At this stage I would like to thank Tony Reed for his invaluable support over the last couple of years.

February 2, 2003

    Games
    Sega America has confirmed their upcoming Playstation 2 games for March in America. March 18th will see the release of King of Route 66 which is essentially a truck racing game. Also on that date we can expect the release of Aero Elite while an unspecified March date has been given for World Series Baseball 2K3. As yet, none of these titles has been picked up for release in Australia.

    Kemco have opened a site for their upcoming game, Batman: Dark Tomorrow. The site can be accessed by going to the following address: http://batman.kemcogames.com. The web site includes some nice screen shots and video footage of the game. Batman: Dark Tomorrow is currently expected to hit American shelves on March 18th with a PAL release soon after thanks to UbiSoft.

    One of the most original, frustrating and yet engrossing titles of 2002 was Codemasters' Prisoner of War. The game was moderately successful on a variety of format but word has just come in from Wide Games, the developers, that Codemasters have decided not to go ahead with a sequel. Shame that.

    Review
    The Playstation 2 version of MicroMachines was always going to have a hard time catching up to the greatness of Micro Machines V3 on PSOne. With a new development team the potential was there for upgraded graphics and some new ideas, but according to Chrisg, fails to deliver.

    Companies
    Electronic Arts recently held a conference to announce its financials and major changes for 2003. In financial terms the company reports over $US1.23 billion in sales during 2002, up 48% from $US833 million in 2001. This can be largely put down to the success of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, James Bond 007: Nightfire, FIFA Soccer 2003, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Need for Speed Hot Pursuit 2, NBA Live 2003 and Medal of Honor Frontline. Breaking down the markets the Asia Pacific region was the biggest improver by a massive 75%, but only accounts for $US38 million in sales. The biggest shock is that the company no longer sees Westwood as a major brand (the company behind the PC hits Dune and Command and Conquer) and will merge it with it's EA LA offices. Looking to the future the company confirmed that NBA Street Vol. 2 will be pushed back to Q'1 2004 while other big games being worked on include LOTR: The Return of the King for late 2003 and a new Need For Speed game - although that name may be changed prior to release.

January 29, 2003

    Games
    Sega Rosso has delayed the release of Initial D: Special Stage for the Playstation 2 in Japan from March 27th to June 26th. Apparently the delay is to further improve the quality of the game. No word yet on a PAL, or even American, release.

    Not really concerning Australia but Everquest Online Adventures has gone gold in America. This game will be most interesting in that not only will gamers have to shell out $US49.95 for the game, but also $US9.95 per month to play the game online. The game is expected to be released in America on February 12th with no PAL release announced to date.

    Preview
    Midway are looking to resurrect their fighting franchise with some major changes to this game. The extra power provided by the Playstation 2 has allowed the developers to include an all new fighting engine, 3D graphics and, of course, new fatalities. Better still Midway are including a story type more in Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance.

    Ulala is back again and United Game Artists look to have progressed the dancing game quite a bit further. Now some may say that Lara Croft is the hottest video game babe, but my vote goes to Ulala. It may not be apparent in still photos but when she moves... Anyway it's a great looking game so check out the preview.


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