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October 31, 2005

Curious George to Ship Feb. 1, 2006

Namco sent out a press release announcing the ship date for Curious George is February 1, 2006. It will ship for PS2, Gamecube, Xbox, GBA, and PC. It looks very cute.

I remember the Curious George books from when I was a kid so I'm looking forward to this one.

Dance Dance Revolution: Mario Mix Entertains While Players Exercise

REDMOND, Wash., Oct. 31 /PRNewswire/ -- Halloween brings with it candy apples, lollipops and everything sugar -- not the healthiest food to gobble down right after a nice workout. And with approximately 15 percent of
children and adolescents ages 6 to 19 considered seriously overweight*, it's a critical time of year for families to find new ways to work out where everyone can actually have fun doing it. Dance Dance Revolution(R): Mario Mix offers alternative way to dance away the carbs and sustain a healthy lifestyle together. Players will move their body and exercise without even realizing it.

So, boogie down with Dance Dance Revolution: Mario Mix for Nintendo GameCube(TM). The highly interactive video game keeps players engaged as they dance their way to victory. The benefits will be monumental as players remove their hands out the Halloween candy jar and get their feet moving on the Action Pad.

"In general, most people aspire to be healthy, but either can't find the time or don't enjoy it if they do actually make it to the gym," said George Harrison, Nintendo of America's senior vice president of marketing and corporate communications. "Dance Dance Revolution: Mario Mix transports the gym to the living room and makes working out something the whole family can enjoy."

With an all-new Story Mode, five difficulty levels and a mode where players can stomp familiar Nintendo enemies, this new take on the popular arcade franchise will have players young and old working up a sweat. The creative storyline will keep players dancing for hours on end. The music keys have been stolen and someone has released the music. The Mushroom Kingdom is in turmoil as the unstable power of the music brings chaos
to the land. Using the Action Pad, players must perform the correct steps and dance their way to victory. The kingdom will not be safe until all the Music Keys are collected.

Mario(TM), Luigi, Toad, Waluigi, Wario(TM) and Bowser make working out especially fun for younger players who can finally experience the thrill of stomping Goombas and other enemies. Dance Dance Revolution: Mario Mix also provides the means for children to work out in a group effort rather than simply by themselves. Learning to work out with Mario at a young age fosters a healthy routine for a lifetime.

Nintendo is renowned for broadening the video game experience with radical new user interfaces that entice the imagination. The musical adventure Donkey Konga(TM) had great success as players drummed and clapped their way through the highly interactive game. Dance Dance Revolution: Mario Mix transports the player right into a virtual universe with the dynamic Action Pad. Players of all skills and fitness levels can join in the fun, with levels from Easy to Very Hard. A special "Workout" feature even tracks the burned calories while the player grooves to the music that includes 25 dance-flavored songs, from classic Nintendo themes to familiar favorites.

Dance Dance Revolution: Mario Mix is Rated E for Everyone. The family-friendly game is story driven and keeps players involved with hands-on -- make that "feet-on" -- entertainment. For more information about Dance Dance Revolution: Mario Mix please visit http://www.ddrmariomix.com.

*According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

October 27, 2005

UBISOFT ANNOUNCES PETER JACKSON'S KING KONG: THE OFFICIAL GAME OF THE MOVIE HAS GONE GOLD

SAN FRANCISCO October 27, 2005 Today Ubisoft announced that Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie, based on Universal Pictures' December 14 release, King Kong, from three-time Academy Award® winner Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings trilogy), has officially goneGold on the PlayStation®2 computer entertainment system, Xbox® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, Nintendo GameCubeâ„¢ system and Windows® PC. The title will launch in North America November 22 at the manufacturer's suggested retail price of $49.99 and is rated T for Teen.

"Ubisoft is extremely excited to reach this milestone in collaborating with Peter Jackson, Wingnut Films and Universal Studios Consumer Products Group," said Yves Guillemot, president and chief executive officer of Ubisoft. “The response among the media, core gamers and the mass-market audience has been tremendous and we can't wait to launch Ubisoft's most impressive and successful game of 2005 " Peter Jackson "King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie."

While the Xbox 360 video game and entertainment system from Microsoft version of Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie is slated to go Gold the first week in November, it too will launch on November 22, 2005, alongside its console counterparts and the Game Boy® Advance title Kong The 8th Wonder of the World. PSP
(PlayStationPortable) system and Nintendo DS versions of Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie will launch soon thereafter.

The King Kong Collaboration:Michel Ancel, creative director at Ubisoft, regarded as one of the top innovative minds in the video game industry, and his team at Ubisoft's Montpellier (France) studio are working with Peter Jackson and Wingnut Films to capture and create the King Kong movie dynamics through a unique video game experience.

"It's an absolute pleasure working with Ubisoft on the video game," said triple Academy Award winner and King Kong director Peter Jackson. "Being able to collaborate closely together from day one is of utmost importance, which is why we've given Ubisoft unlimited access to every creative aspect of our film production. We really want the game and the film to be part of the same universe."

We're amazed by Peter Jackson's creativity and what he brings to the project,” said Michel Ancel, creative director at Ubisoft. Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie is a creation that closely follows the storyline of the movie yet, as video games have the innate ability to do, will push the emotional tension of the film to even greater depths. Players will experience unprecedented dual game play within a movie-licensed game which alternates between Jack Driscoll in first-person and as King Kong in third-person. These contrasting perspectives will immerse players into the journey featuring epic battles, tough choices and a dynamic experience within the visually stunning environment of Skull Island."

For more information on Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie, please feel free to visit the official Web site at http://www.kingkonggame.com.

Shadow of the Colossus

Shadow of the Colossus is a visually stunning game. Colossi stand as enormous as a mountain and possess massive powers and your job is to kill them all. That's the only way that you can restore life to a dead loved one.

Created by Sony Computer Entertainment Japan, developers of the critically-acclaimed ICO game released in 2001 for PS2, Shadow of the Colossus is a single player, third person action adventure game.

Essentially, this game is 12 boss battles. The battles are enormous, covering a lot of ground. You're fighting this enormous (literally as big as a mountain) enemy. How do you bring something like that down? With the help of your magic sword. The sword first tells you where to attack the colossus, then you use it to kill it. Blood splurts everywhere and the earth shakes as the monster goes down. Usually, you have to mount the colossus, then climb up him, then figure out how to get to where you need to go to attack it, and then get it done. It's sort of a big puzzle to figure out how to climb over the colossus and jump over obstacles while trying to be aware that it might try to shake you off at any time.

The only problem is that you ride your horse around from battle to battle. Sometimes it's pretty far and that's just a waste of time and boring. I can see how someone thought that the game would be too short if it was just 12 big battles in a row.

Overall, Shadow of the Colossus is definitely a game worth having. It's an experience of larger than life combat.

If you'd like to view the slideshow click here.

Shadow of the Colossus is rated T for Teen.

Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None Ships Into Retail Stores

Toronto, Canada – October 27, 2005 – The Adventure Company, a division of global publisher of interactive entertainment DreamCatcher Interactive Inc., today announced that the company’s highly anticipated mystery adventure game "Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None" has shipped into retail stores in North America for PC CD-ROM.

“Fans of Agatha Christie’s mystery novels and adventure gamers alike will be enthralled by 'Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None.' They will be thoroughly immersed into the storyline of the Best-Selling Mystery of All-Time,” stated President & CEO Richard Wah Kan. “'Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None' has been carefully crafted to the writing style of the Queen of Crime herself, but includes multiple endings that will keep even the most devoted Agatha Christie fans in suspense.”

Rated “T” for Teen by the ESRB, "And Then There Were None," the renowned #1 Best-Selling Mystery of All-Time, is brought to life in a new format. Audiences will be captivated by Agatha Christie’s thrilling storytelling and discover fascinating plot twists. The storyline follows 10 strangers who are invited to Shipwreck Island only to be accused of murder by a recording from their absent host. Players take on the role of a new 11th character, Patrick Narracott, the boatman who takes guests to the island, and ends up trapped with the others. Delve into Agatha Christie’s renowned classic and solve the mystery before you become the next victim.

For more information on Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None please visit: http://www.AgathaChristieGame.com.

The Matrix: Path of Neo

As the second Matrix title prepares to launch (the original Enter the Matrix came out three years ago and sold 5 million copies worldwide), I had that opportunity to sit down with Atari and Shiny and play the game.

In this game you play as Neo through what resembles all three movies but has scenes added and scenes deleted. The game is the movies and it isn't. It's an expansion of the movie world. Scenes and situations that were only hinted at in the movie are in the game. The original music score is very good. The Wachowski brothers were deeply involved in the design process. Atari promises a surprise ending.

You start as Thomas Anderson. Actually, that's not true. In an innovative level setting scheme, the game has you start off in the dream lobby and test your skills. A progression of bad guys come after you, from security guards to the riot squad and agents. The game bases the difficulty level on how well you handle this battle. It is from here that you would have to become The One and replay the game to unlock everything that's hidden.

Then you start as Anderson with no skills. It's important to do exactly as Morpheus says because you have no skills. There are different ways to escape the building and the game unravels differently depending on how you meet each challenge. There are six training missions to prep you for combat, and then off you go.

I found the game fun to play, a step up from a button masher. The timing of my attacks seemed at least as important as the attack itself. Attacks can be upgraded over time in RPG fashion. And the story certainly is compelling.

The Matrix: Path of Neo will ship on November 8, 2005 for PS2, Xbox and PC. It it rated T for teen.

You may view the trailer here

Doom (the movie)

Last night I went to an advanced screening of Doom. It was interesting. Definitely a horror flick. There was a lot of gore and violence. There are some really cool special effects. At one point a creature is trapped inside a wall and the texturing on it looks very cool. But overall, the special effects were not impressive. I thought that the imp was definitely a man in a rubber suit. And I was disappointed that my beloved enemies from Doom were not in the film, only the imps and a single pink elephant. At one point the film switches to first person view and this person just starts kicking ass. It's pretty cool. But the film falls short in my eyes. It didn't capture the true feeling of Doom, that feeling of invinceability, that feeling that Hell should bring it on. It's work seeing on DVD and definitely needs the surround sound.

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Logitech PlayGear Amp

Logitech sent me some goodies yesterday and I've taken the liberty of evaluating the PlayGear Amp, an amp and speakers designed specifically for PSP. They come in a nicely designed case that got covered in cat hair within seconds of touching my desk.

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The case is well constructed and padded. There are compartments for the PlayGear Amp and associated equipment.

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The whole thing folds up ingeniously. It's a good design. Hinges appear sturdy and nothing felt like it would fall apart.

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They list for $59.99 and seem worth it. They sounded pretty good. Not much low end on such tiny speakers, and when I made them really loud they buzzed and distorted the music I was playing on my PSP. I watched a little bit of SpiderMan 2 and the speakers seemed good for movies as well as music. The PSP mounts on the front of the PlayGear Amp with a plastic bracket.

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So, all in all I was impressed with the Logitech PlayGear Amp. I wasn't totally happy with it though, but I'm a pretty tough customer with very specific wants and needs as far as video game peripherals are concerned. I would liked better bass response, and the PlayGear Amp doesn't have pass through power so you'll still need to carry your PSP's charger in addition to the PlayGear Amp's power supply (unless you run the whole setup on battery). However, due to the PlayGear Amp's elegant design and compact form factor I would still recommend it to someone looking to make their PSP sound better.

EA AND DIGITAL ILLUSIONS ASSAULT STORE SHELVES WITH BATTLEFIELD 2: MODERN COMBAT

Redwood City, Calif. – October 25, 2005 – Hotswap your way to victory! It’s time to prepare for all-out war on the modern battlefields of the world. Electronic Arts (NASDAQ: ERTS) announced today that Battlefield 2: Modern CombatÔ is available now on the PlayStation®2 computer entertainment system and Xbox® video game system from Microsoft®.

The first-ever Battlefield 2™ console installment drops players into the heat of battle on the high tech frontlines, entering a new modern era of combat with more firepower and new expansive environments. The single player game highlights the innovative “Hotswapping” feature, allowing players to instantly take control of any soldier in their squad to stay in the middle of the action at all times. Players will fight on both sides of a vicious conflict, and in the end must choose which army they will lead to victory.

In addition to the single-player campaign, Battlefield 2: Modern Combat can be enjoyed within an online multiplayer environment that supports up to 24 players. Players can choose to fight for one of four military superpowers: the United States, the Chinese, the European Union, or the newly formed Middle East Coalition. Players can also increase their rank and garner promotions that are tracked globally.

Armed with the latest modern weaponry, players can choose from more than 30 vehicles including helicopters, and more than 50 weapons, and communicate with one another in real time via a USB headset. (PlayStation 2 online play requires Internet Connection, Network Adaptor and Memory Card for the PlayStation 2. Xbox online play requires Xbox Live™!)

Developed jointly by Sweden-based developer Digital Illusions and EA’s UK studio, Battlefield 2: Modern Combat is rated “T” (Teen) by the ESRB and has an MSRP of $49.99. For more information about Battlefield 2: Modern Combat, please visit http://battlefield.ea.com .

October 26, 2005

Majesco's Winter Wonderland

I met with Majesco last week and we went over their holiday and spring lineup. Most of it looks pretty good. I'm really excited about Infected.

Teen Titans is due to ship in February 2006 for gamecube, ps2, and xbox. It is up to 4 player story mode coop or arena. In coop mode you can switch between titans at any time to make use of their special attacks. The game has the look and feel of the cartoon with locations from the shows and more than 12 voice actors involved. Each character gets upgrades to his/her special attacks and can pull off combo moves. There are 24 characters to choose from in arena mode, which is an up to 4 player free for all. There are also some puzzle levels that are like retro games, ie pong and invaders.

Jaws Unleashed is due to ship in February 2006 for PC, ps2, and xbox. Built on the Echo the Dolphin engine, this is a story where you play as Jaws and attack and destroy everything. If you're really careful you can disembody your prey before consuming it. They are adding cinematic fatalities to the game. There are more than 12 kinds of boats and different ocean and land areas (mainly harbors and docks) to be explored. The night levels were pretty cool - the moon reflects off the ocean's surface and down below it is murkier than during daylight.

Age of Empires is due to ship for Nintendo DS in January 2006. Built on the success of earlier Age of Empires games this brings a solid foundation to wifi enabled 4 player battles. User profiles track scoring and bonuses so you can compare yourself to friends and enemies. They're currently working on adding more artwork, streamlining game play, and tweaking the battle system to show more graphics in the results. You can use the stylus or the d-pad to control troops. There are 28 missions total, 5-6 per campaign.

If you'd like to view the slideshow click here.

Bust A Move is for Nintendo DS and for some reason I didn't write down when it ships. There's a 5 player mode. Essentially, you use the stylus to pull back and aim a slingshot and then link balls together that fall down. You can send garbage to your opponent to make it harder for him to compete. There's also classic puzzle mode which includes over 200 puzzles for you to solve, and endless mode where a random set of bubbles keep falling sort of like Tetris.

Infected is due to ship in November for PSP. I'm very excited about this first person shooter set in an NYC filled with zombies. In this build they've added a lot of cut scenes that have a wacky, morbid sense of humor. You can create your own custom avatar. Then when you play other people over wifi and beat them your avatar infects their PSP. Majesco says that there will be a web site where you can track different avatars as they spread across the world. There's the standard map and radar which are useful in the killing process. You can play 4 player in infectious mode (where your avatar infects your opponents' PSP) or 8 player in non-infectious mode. The game also ships with 3 music videos, including one by Slipknot.

October 25, 2005

Capcom Releases Resident Evil 4 for PS2

SUNNYVALE, Calif. ¾ October 25, 2005 — Capcomâ today announced the release of Resident Evil® 4 for the PlayStationâ2 computer entertainment system. The critically acclaimed survival horror masterpiece arrives on the PlayStation 2 with brand new features, enhancements and exciting surprises. Based on the popular Resident Evil series which has sold more than 26 million units worldwide and is Capcom’s highest selling series, Resident Evil 4 sees the return of a familiar hero on a mission of the highest level. Resident Evil 4 is now available at retailers across North America and carries an “M” rating for mature audiences by the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board).

In Resident Evil 4 players are reacquainted with Leon S. Kennedy, Raccoon City Police Department’s idealistic rookie cop from Resident Evil 2. It has been six years since the destruction of Raccoon City and in that time, the U.S. government has been able to destroy the nefarious Umbrella Corporation. Fast forward to 2004 and players rejoin Leon, who is now a U.S. agent with a top-secret mission. He has been tasked to look into the abduction of the President’s daughter and his investigation has led him to a mysterious location in Europe. As Leon encounters unimaginable horrors, he must find out who or what is behind everything.

“Capcom’s Resident Evil series is synonymous with survival horror. The games have a long standing reputation for introducing innovation and raising the bar to create intensely terrifying experiences for players,” said Todd Thorson, director of marketing, Capcom Entertainment, Inc. “With a slew of new and redesigned concepts, Resident Evil 4 presents a fear more real than ever before. The game is set to revolutionize both the world of Resident Evil and survival horror.”

Resident Evil 4 includes the following features:

· Unsurpassed visuals – Resident Evil 4 features breathtaking 3D graphics and effects

· Behind the camera view – Camera follows the player from behind and allows for intuitive movement

· New never before seen enemies – Creatures that defy the laws of nature!

· Advanced AI – Enemies are now smarter than ever and use their cunning abilities to team up and attack the player en mass

· Enhanced, deeper story elements – Conversations and monologues can be heard in real time

· Action button – Pressing the context sensitive button allows players to perform various actions

· Aim and shoot – Ability to zero in on enemies with weapons

· Exclusive new features for PlayStation 2

o “Separate Ways” – play as Ada Wong in five new chapters that reveal startling insight into the original storyline

o New weapons – Leon’s P.R.L.412 laser cannon and Ada’s gunpowder bow gun unleash explosive power

o New costumes for Leon and Ashley

o Supports true 16:9 widescreen, progressive scan and Dolby Pro Logic II

o $39.99 retail price point

Capcom is a leading worldwide developer, publisher and distributor of interactive entertainment. Founded in 1983, the company has created world renowned franchises including Resident Evil, Street Fighter, Mega Man, Breath of Fire, Devil May Cry and the Onimusha series. Headquartered in Osaka, Japan, the company maintains operations in the U.S., United Kingdom, Germany, Tokyo and Hong Kong. More information about Capcom and its products can be found on the company’s web site at http://www.capcom.com.

Xbox 360 Preview

I wrote a hands on preview of the Xbox 360 for PC Magazine that got posted today. It's a helluva piece of hardware. I'm excited about a bunch of the games for it.

Gun, from Activision, is wild ride set in the 1880's west. It's along the line of High Plains Drifter and various other spaghetti westerns. It looked absolutely beautiful in 720p. At one point I was riding my horse along a ridge and across the valley the sun was setting. I paused to look at it and reflect on the insane number of polygons involved in the moment. You start off hunting but the violence starts soon. There's a quick draw where you draw in real-time while everyone else moves in slow time. You'll need it in order to take down multiple foes in a crowded room. Enemies take damage in 12 body areas and react accordingly. You can go to Dodge City or Empire City and get missions, then carry them out wherever they take you.

Project Gotham Racing 3 - This looked great. All of the speed of PGR 1 and 2 with bigger views and more detail. There are more polygons in the Brooklyn Bridge in PGR3 than in a whole city is PGR2. That pretty much says it all. Online racing is a big focus of PGR3 with world rankings. There's a part where you can set up your own track in any of the cities in the game. Shadowing was great and reflections off the hood are a nice touch. The crowd reacts to you. It's kind of cool to smash into the wall and make them scatter.

Call of Duty 2 - A tremendous amount of fun, as one would expect from COD. There's a lot more texturing in the Xbox 360 version than in the Xbox version, and HD makes a big difference. This is a completely different game from the Xbox version so I'm looking forward to playing both.

NBA Live 2006 - EA Sports has put an insane amount of detail into their player modeling. It's very hard to tell the difference between NBA Live and a real game on TV at this point. Players sweat and their blood vessels stick out. Their shorts have physics. A very cool thing is that you can play one-on-one while loading a game in the background.

Dead Or Alive 4 - Talk about beautiful vistas! There is eye candy aplenty as the perennial fighter returns. Everything is pretty much the same but there's a few new characters. The big draw here is the online functionality. Players meet in a lobby where they can look at world rankings. You can search for a match or find your friend. You can stand in the lobby and watch other people fight on a TV, then text them and set up an impromptu tournament where you have winners.

Condemned - Sega may have a hit on their hands with this crime-horror-survival game. The lighting, graphics and sound quality is top notch which makes for an immersive experience. I don't want to spill the story because that is part of what makes it fun. You can pick up almost anything in the game and use it as a weapon, which leads to situations like using a manequin's leg to fight a dope fiend with a knife.

Kameo
- This Action Adventure game from Microsoft Game Studios has you play as a female who can take the form of different elements as needed. The elements are very creative, like a pile of rocks that throws itself as an attack or an ice yeti that can impale enemies on spikes on its own back. Each warrior has special skills and the big puzzle of the game is figuring out how best to use them.

If you'd like to view the slideshow click here.

SOULCALIBUR III Ships to Retail Outlets

SANTA CLARA, Calif., (October 25, 2005) – Leading video games developer and publisher Namco Hometek Inc. announced today that "SOULCALIBUR(R)III" has shipped to retail outlets throughout North America. The latest
installment of the most celebrated weapon-based fighting series of all time, "SOULCALIBUR III" continues the tale of souls and swords with three new characters, an incredibly robust character creation system and an unprecedented variety of brand-new gameplay modes. Exclusively for the PlayStation(R)2 computer entertainment system, "SOULCALIBUR III" is rated T for Teen and carries a suggested retail price of $49.99.

“With three all-new characters, unique gameplay modes and an updated fighting engine, 'SOULCALIBUR III' delivers on the expectations of being one of the most respected and distinguished fighting games of all time,” said Yoshi Niki, business unit director at Namco Hometek Inc. “In this installment, players can create personalized characters with unique fighting styles and personalities to truly immerse themselves in the 'SOULCALIBUR' universe.”

"SOULCALIBUR III" introduces new characters Tira, Zasalamel and Setsuka to a roster of more than 25 returning fighters as they struggle for possession of the legendary swords, Soul Calibur and Soul Edge. The game
marks the debut of an unprecedented amount of new gameplay modes, adding to replay value and providing more content than ever for fans to unlock and enjoy. In addition to the existing roster of characters, players can construct their own warriors in the game’s Character Creation mode, selecting from a wide variety of clothing and accessories, fighting styles and weapons to create a truly unique and impressive addition to the lore of the "SOULCALIBUR" series. The original characters can be played in the various VS modes of the game. In addition, characters can be created for use in the Chronicles of the Sword mode, an original mode that expands upon the series’ traditional gameplay with real-time strategy elements. Players can also fight to fulfill a series of special
objectives such as taking down a massive living statue or collecting coins from opponents in Soul Arena mode, learn all of the game’s new moves and combos in Practice mode, and view unlocked game content in Museum mode.

For more information on "SOULCALIBUR III," please visit http://soulcalibur3.namco.com.

Call of Duty 2: Big Red One

A few weeks ago I got to play Call of Duty 2: Big Red One while meeting with the good people at Activision. The game is entirely new, meaning a new core engine for GameCube, PS2, and Xbox. They also improved the enemy AI. I could tell. The Nazis don't just stand there and shoot back. They drop back, regroup, even try to flank you. In addition your comrades' AI improves over the course of the game as they become experienced.

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You play as a member of America's most decorated and heroic fighting unit, The Big Red One. You'll have to work with your squad to accomplish a variety of land, sea, and air combat missions spanning North Africa, Italy, and Nazi-occupied Western Europe. The goal of the development team was to "create an epic war movie" and they did. And then they threw you right into the middle of it.

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I played for a few minutes. It is every bit as fun as the first one. I could tell right away that the enemy AI is improved. It should be out soon. If you like WWII games go get it.

October 24, 2005

NHL Eastside Hockey Manager

The Collyer brothers began programming computer games in their bedroom in the late 1980's and they produced their first game in 1991. That game was the wildly successful Championship Manager, or Football Manager. Risto Remes began programming hockey games in his bedroom in the early 1990's and released a freeware hockey management
simulation game that received a lot of critical acclaim. The Collyer brothers launched Sports Interactive in 1994 and eight years later asked Risto to join and make a hockey game. And then the magic began. The combination of the fan driven features that Sports Interactive has come to be known for in their Championship Manager (Football Manager) and a great hockey game designer yielded an accurate, fun to play hockey simulation for PC and Mac.

In this second iteration of the game, there are many more licensed leagues because of Sega's involvement. Sega has a dedicated licensing team that is able to go after more deals than Sports Interactive was on its own. Gamers act as general manager for one of more than 250 playable pro and semi-pro teams from a list of more than 3,000 teams and 20 playable leagues worldwide including the NHL, AHL, ECHL and Canadian Hockey League. Over the course of a multi-year game, players can switch leagues just like in real life. If you're got a favorite player, chances are he's in the game.

The goal of NHL EHM is to build a hockey universe and drop gamers in rather than building the world around the gamer; even if there were no gamer interaction the universe would continue undeterred. SI provides the universe of hockey and, as general manager of the team of your choice, the universe is your blank slate. Gamers can start as a manager in the minors and work their way up to the pros, then lead their team as they charge towards the Stanley Cup. Or gamers could start in the NHL and build their favorite team into an unbeatable dynasty.

This latest version includes all the latest player moves up to the end of August 2005 (SI are planning to issue a roster update on their website in late October), as well as the new NHL rules. Player statistics include last year when the NHL was "on break". Gamers will have to confront the salary cap head-on. The game benefits from much needed context sensitive floating help that appears when one hovers over an attribute or command.
In-game graphics include an improved zone based view (x's and o's on an oval rink), which the company tells me will become more ice and player based than zone based next year.

New features include a training camp where all players on a team must tryout and scrimmage to prepare for the season. Scouting has been improved so that information is incorporated from the International Scouting Service; there are more scouting reports and more types of scouting assignments so you can get the information you need. Gamers can manage through international tournaments, world championships, and more. The trade screen has been improved to display the current salary and projected salary under the cap as a result of the trade. Gamers can offer players around and see if anyone wants them.

Playing the game is an experience. It takes a little while to get used to the routine of getting the boys ready in practice, setting lines and strategies, and playing games, but it will become second nature. Gamers can decide to coach their team or not during games. A lot of information is provided about a game, the boxscore, goal snapshots, a play-by-play tactical report, shot charts.

The new NHL rules are in and yes, there is more scoring. And when Sports Interactive simulated a season it was Pittsburgh that walked away with the Cup.

NHL Eastside Hockey Manager is a must-own for hockey fans. It's available from
http://sega.com, or http://sigames.com for $29.99 and is rated E

If you'd like to view the slideshow click here.

Quake 4 Preview

New York City September 22, 2005.
This morning I met with Activision and id about Quake 4. This involved a lot of playing the PC version and some playing of the Xbox 360 version. This preview is tainted positively because I have so much fun killing everything that moves. Quake 4 is a whole lot of fun in single player story mode. A sort of edgy fun. The kind of edgy fun that involves invading your enemy's home world with a pistol.

Quake 4 is really the sequel to Quake 2 in story mode and Quake 3 in multi-player mode (supports up to 16 players). id brings the both of best worlds together in Quake 4. So here's the story. The ground assault begins on the Strogg home world. You play Matthew Kane of Rhino Squad, a squad of elite ground troops. You're on the ground just outside the Strogg fortress. Fight your way in and...at this point who cares? I know all I need to know. I kill the Strogg and protect my comrades in Rhino Squad. Now let's start killing.

If you'd like to view the slideshow click here.

The Strogg are a nasty bunch. Improved AI means that they take cover and set up crossfires where they can. And they like to hide around corners and come out shooting. You follow missions that are usually spoken to you by some commanding officer. If it's a major mission then the objective appears on screen as well. Then you make your way through dark hallways where evil lurks around every corner and across battlefields that are pure chaos to accomplish this goal.

It looked great on PC, very crisp and clear, tons of detail in the character modeling. You get all the bloody gore in crystal clear detail, blood splatter and all. The pacing of the game is very good. There are places to fight and places not to fight. There is a high degree of suspense, where surprises literally made me jump (and start firing). This is a guns blazing kill all the aliens kind of game.

And then suddenly you become one of the aliens after being surgically altered to become a Strogg. From this point on this game is just crazy. Running from battle to battle in a frenzy of destruction. Once in a while I paused to look at a beautiful backdrop, a city in the distance, the sun setting on the far side of a valley. Ahhhh, so peaceful. Now back to the killing! Quake 4 looks good and feels good. Controls are responsive and targeting is accurate.

The Xbox 360 version is every bit as beautiful as the PC version. Everything is a little bit brighter than on the PC. Multi-player mode only supports 8 players, 4 player split screen, coop or not, with a system link cable you can play 4 on 4. The 360 version includes Quake 2 updated to run at a higher resolution.

I am eager to get my hands on the final version. This game is tons of fun if you like killing stuff.

Total Overdose

Get ready to enter a Robert Rodriguez film. BTW, if you haven't seen El Mariachi go rent it. You play as a criminal released from prison to take the place of your DEA Agent brother in the hunt for your father's killers. The whole thing involves shooting your way through the Mexican drug world. You get missions and drive around to them, or you can go directly to the mission and skip the exploration. I'd recommend the exploration because it is not only fun but also the best place for finding pick-ups, some of which like Day of the Dead in which you kill as many people as you can, end up being great bonus opportunities. Driving around or running around you can find a lot of stuff that you can use to improve your character's skills.

It's a fun game. The heart of it is shooting the crap out of everyone and everything. You use the left trigger (L1) to pull off all the dodges and shooting moves, such as walking up a wall, diving left, reversing and diving backwards, all while shooting. You can use vehicles as weapons, ramming into enemies or driving at them and then jumping out of the car before it smashes into them and explodes. Every battle is a guns blazing battle where charging forward using special moves is the way to go. There's no drop back and pick off the enemy like a sniper here; it's all bull forward laying down the lead. It's set against a surreal Mexican background so there are a lot of opportunities for humor. A dark humor pervades this game. I actually found myself laughing aloud at times.

The bad news is that the load times are just ridiculous. It's not that the load times take a long time, but rather that there are so many of them. It seemed like every 2 minutes I had to take a break and watch the game load. It completely ruins the atmosphere to have that many loads. My only other gripe is that vehicle control is not so good. Everything handles like a sled. It is good that there's a way to skip the driving and go right to an objective.

Total Overdose is a fun shoot-em-up set in a stylistic Mexican drug world. It's not for the faint-hearted or little kids. It's a lot of fun to play it.

If you'd like to view the slideshow click here.

Total Overdose is available for PC, PS2 (what I'm playing), and Xbox. For more information see http://www.totaloverdose.com.

EA Holiday Demos

Yesterday I met with EA and saw some game demos. The most interesting were:

Black is a first person shooter that sets out with the goal of creating a hyper-realistic weapons experience. It's like stepping into some over the top special forces movie. You are pretty much firing incessantly, lobbing grenades and taking cover. There are any number of ways to accomplish something. For example, if you need to get by some enemies who are behind a care you can sneak around the car and shoot them, blow up the car and them with a grenade, or shoot out the tires and then take head shots at the enemies when the car sinks. I played almost a third of a level and it was a blast, literally. It's an all out firefight. It'll be out late February 2006.

Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle Earth 2 is a PC only real time strategy game. It's pretty cool because it uses the Middle Earth world as a background. You build your castles, recruit your heroes, fight your enemies, and control Middle Earth. It looks beautiful with a lot of detail on the buildings and troops.

If you'd like to view the slideshow click here.

October 21, 2005

Every Game Site Needs to Have One of These

What would a game site be without a mascot?
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Athought Nina does have a sister, Sonja. They're named after Nina Williams from Tekken and Sonja Blade from Mortal Kombat.

Blu-ray to Win Format War, says Forrester Research

Independent technology and market research company Forrester Research has predicted victory for Blu-ray in the next-generation DVD format wars. Unfortunately for consumers, however, the firm believes that the battle will not end that quickly.

At least two years before consumers can decide
"After a long and tedious run-up to the launch, it is now clear to Forrester that the Sony-led Blu-ray format will win. But unless the HD DVD group abandons the field, it will be another two years before consumers are confident enough of the winner to think about buying a new-format DVD player," Forrester analyst Ted Schadler said in a report.

Forrester feels that Blu-ray's multi-use functionality for movies, computers and games gives it the edge over the Toshiba-led HD DVD camp. Indeed, the inclusion of Blu-ray in Sony's PlayStation 3 could be a big factor, and it's largely for that reason that Paramount recently decided to endorse Blu-ray when the movie studio had formerly only backed HD DVD. In addition, the Blu-ray format offers greater storage capacity and uses the familiar Java for its interactive features. And although manufacturing costs for Blu-ray will be slightly greater than HD DVD initially, the industry is working on ways to bring down those costs quickly.

Copy protection compromise could be key
Although a tedious format war seems almost inevitable, companies backing the respective groups would like to avoid such a scenario. PC maker Hewlett-Packard, a Blu-ray supporter, offered an olive branch of sorts yesterday, when it urged the Blu-ray group to be more consumer friendly by loosening its copy protection. Maureen Weber, HP's general manager of personal storage, said that consumers want to be able to store copies of their movies on their PCs to make them accessible over a home network. This "mandatory Managed Copy" feature is standard on the competing HD DVD. "It's critical that we have the ability to move content around the home," Weber told Reuters.

The idea behind this is that if the Blu-ray camp compromises and includes a feature heavily touted by HD DVD, then it should be able to attract further studio support and eventually convince Toshiba to drop out of the race. That being said, movie studios naturally prefer stronger copy protection of their content.

The longer the format war drags on, the longer consumers are likely to wait before even trying out a high-definition DVD. They don't want to get involved in a battle similar to the Betmax/VHS days. "Consumers will postpone a decision until the winner is obvious. The war between Betamax and VHS trained a generation of consumers to be wary of competing formats. Many consumers were caught with an expensive device that couldn't play the movies available at the video store," said Schadler.

Digital to takeover?

As the Sony-led and Toshiba-led camps fight for their respective formats, consumers remain quite satisfied with the current state of DVD, as the jump in picture quality may not be enough to entice mainstream users. Furthermore, it's possible that physical media will be replaced by digital media and that none of this bickering over a new format will even matter in the end. "The irony of this format war is that it comes at the tail end of the century-long era of physical media," Schadler noted.

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates echoed similar sentiments in a speech given recently at Howard University in Washington D.C.—perhaps that is also why MS has decided to stay with DVD-9 for the Xbox 360.

"The home activity of the future will be very digital, we actually call it the digital lifestyle," he said. "Your music, of course, is already moving away from being on a physical media to just being on a hard disk or streamed across the Internet. My daughter, who's 9, asked me as we went into a record store what a record was, and, of course, she's never seen a record, and five years from now people will say what's a CD, why did you have to go to the case and open something up and you couldn't sequence it your own playlist way; that will be a thing of the past."

Gates continued, "Likewise, even for videos that will happen. The format that's under discussion right now, HD versus Blu-ray, that's simply the last physical format we'll ever have. Even videos in the future will either be on a disk in your pocket or over the Internet and therefore far more convenient for you. You can organize things the way you want and it will show up on all these different devices."

October 20, 2005

From Russia With Love Has Gone Gold

The Lector has been decoded and the message reads: From Russia With Love™, starring Academy Award®-winner, Sir Sean Connery has gone gold on the PS2 and Xbox and will be shipping on Tuesday Nov. 1, 2005! A version for the Nintendo GameCube™ will be released shortly after in mid- November.

From Russia With Love, the game, is based on the classic Bond film from 1963 but features new plot twists, gadgets, weapons and characters. Sir Sean Connery, appearing in his first-ever videogame, lent his voice and likeness to the project. Also making their videogame debuts as original Bond girls are movie and TV star Maria Menounos and multi-platinum UK pop star Natasha Bedingfield.

Officially licensed by MGM Interactive, From Russia With Love was developed by EA’s Redwood Shores, Calif. Studio and has an MSRP of $49.99. This game has been rated T (Teen) by the ESRB. More information on the game can be found on the official website at www.007.ea.com.

October 17, 2005

Namco Wireless

I met with Namco Wireless a few days ago to talk about their games for cell phones and ringtones. Overall, the games look pretty good. The last time I saw a mobile game it looked pretty crappy, but on today's phones these games can look good.

Namco's big hits are their arcade classics like Pac Man, Dig Dug, and Galaxian. All three of these are quite playable.

They also have original content like Pac Man Bowling, PC Man Pin Ball, and PacMania 3D. The 3D games is cool because you can jump over the ghosts if you time it right.

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Pool Pro was cool. You sign in and immediately someone challenges you. Then there is almost no delay between turns so the games are fast.

Particularly innovative is Time Crisis. If you recall, Time Crisis is a first person shooter. How do you create an FPS for a cell phone. Divide the screen into quadrants like the keypad, then push the number that corresponds to the quadrant to fire at it. I could see spending a lot of time if I had this one.

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Ridge Racer is coming out soon. It looked to be about PS One quality. Pretty good for a phone screen.

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October 13, 2005

Xbox 360 Launch Lineup

“Kameo: Elements of Power™” (MGS-Rare Ltd.). Renowned game developer Rare introduces “Kameo: Elements of Power™,” a mystical action-adventure game available exclusively on Xbox 360, in which the ability to morph into unique and incredible warriors allows Kameo to search out and battle ever-present evil. Boasting impeccable next-generation graphics and innovative gameplay, “Kameo” shines as a giant leap in game development. Continuing its legacy of creating dynamic puzzles, immersive combat and enormous environments, Rare fuses multiple genres to create a strikingly fun gaming experience destined for widespread appeal.

· “Perfect Dark Zero™” (MGS-Rare Ltd.). Joanna Dark returns in the Xbox 360-exclusive “Perfect Dark Zero,” the prequel to the international award-winning and multimillion-selling first-person shooter “Perfect Dark®” from famed game developer Rare. A secret war has begun between shadowy corporations bent on world domination. Joanna Dark and her father, Jack, are caught up in the fight for the planet’s future. A routine bounty-hunting mission rips open a global conspiracy that will change Joanna’s destiny — forever.

· “Project Gotham Racing® 3” (MGS-Bizarre Creations Ltd.). The popular “PGR®” franchise zooms onto the Xbox 360, expanding many of the “Project Gotham Racing” features that gamers have grown to love. “PGR 3” creates the ultimate roster of the hottest supercars in existence, introduces them to the high-definition era, and drops them into a completely new gaming world, where style rules the road. Racers define and create individually customized gameplay, and can race each other — online or offline. The “Project Gotham Racing” franchise is designed by Bizarre Creations, a long-established independent games developer, based in Liverpool, England. Bizarre is focused on producing high-quality, playable games that make the most of the advanced technology for which they are designed. Bizarre Creations can be found on the Web at http://www.bizarreonline.net or http://www.bizarrecreations.com.

Other great games announced or shown at X05 included these:

· “Crackdown” (MGS-Real Time Worlds). “Crackdown” pushes the action-driving hybrid genre into the next generation with the introduction of the first truly 3-D persistent playground, highly innovative cooperative gameplay, and an extensive prop interaction system all while taking place in a massive and highly stylized urban center. All strategies and tactics are acceptable provided players clean up the streets. Players roam a virtual city built to encourage and allow the full width, depth and height of the space to be explored and exploited. “Crackdown” will offer free-form gameplay, over-the-top action, and, for the first time in this genre, online cooperative play.

· “Gears of War” (MGS-Epic Games Inc.). Blending the best of tactical action games with the best of survival horror titles, “Gears of War” is the first game developed by Epic Games exclusively for Microsoft Game Studios and Xbox 360. “Gears of War” thrusts gamers into a deep and harrowing story of humankind’s epic battle for survival against the Locust Horde, a nightmarish race of creatures that surface from the bowels of the planet.

· “Too Human” (MGS-Silicon Knights). In “Too Human,” players are treated to a nonstop barrage of action powered by the seamless integration of melee and ranged firearms combat and fueled by breathtaking visuals previously not possible thanks to a powerful combination of Xbox 360 and the Unreal Engine 3. Battles unfold in awesome scale as players engage with vast numbers of enemies.

· “Mass Effect” (MGS-BioWare Corp.). Set 200 years in the future in an epic universe, “Mass Effect” places gamers in a vast galactic community in danger of being conquered by a legendary agent gone rogue. A spectacular new vision from legendary developers BioWare, “Mass Effect” challenges players to lead a squad of freedom fighters as they struggle against threatening armies to restore peace in the land. “Mass Effect” is the first in a trilogy of games with an overarching story, where the real conflict between organic beings and artificial intelligence comes to life in startling clarity.

· “FIFA 06: Road to FIFA World Cup” (Electronic Arts). EA celebrates its new exclusive FIFA World Cup interactive entertainment partnership with the release of “FIFA 06: Road to FIFA World Cup,” a game that immerses players into the emotional intensity of the next-generation football. Utilizing the power of the Xbox 360, fans will be able to revel in the world’s most sophisticated representation of football ever. Experience a newly enhanced gameplay engine that delivers extremely responsive controls and greater level of depth. New physics and animations mean that players will now react more realistically to every tackle, shot or pass of the ball. For the first time you’ll see and feel the joy, anguish and pain of 90 minutes of soccer in a videogame. Through the power of high-definition technology you’ll see how the detail of the players is accurately recreated in fine detail. The power of the Xbox 360 truly brings to life 80,000 chanting fans in a stadium and immerses you in the emotional intensity of FIFA World Cup football.

· “Saint’s Row” (THQ Inc.). Under threat from rival gangs and corrupt officials, the 3rd Street Saints must conquer the city of Stilwater or face destruction. From the spectacular opening battle to regain control of the local hood, “Saint’s Row” offers an unparallel level of freedom to explore this living, breathing city. Players are free to engage in the multitude of different activates at their leisure, all while building up respect in a gameplay-rich world. Build enough respect and the 3rd Street Saint’s lieutenants will trust the player with more dangerous missions.

· “Full Auto” (SEGA Corp.). Combine fully-automatic, weapon-equipped vehicles with highly detailed and interactive urban environments and you have “Full Auto,” the most destructive racing action ever experienced in a video game. This racer allows players to choose from a wide selection of unique vehicle designs and arm them with any combination of machine guns, cannons and other deadly weapons. The rules of the road don’t apply in this high-octane, no-holds-barred competition. And once players have honed their skills against computer opponents, they can jump onto Xbox Live® and take on real players in both destruction-heavy lap courses and last-man standing arena matches.

· “Condemned: Criminal Origins” (SEGA). “Condemned: Criminal Origins” allows players to experience a heightened level of psychological tension as they use their instincts, forensic tools, and melee/firearms combat to track serial killers and bring them to justice. Gamers will play as Agent Thomas, a detective in the FBI’s Serial Crimes Unit, whose pursuit of relentless serial killers leads him through gritty, life-like environments filled with sociopaths lurking on the brink of humanity.

Franchise titles that will make their debut on Xbox 360 were also announced, including these:

· “Superman Returns: The Videogame” (Electronic Arts). “Superman Returns: The Videogame,” developed by Electronic Arts-Tiburon in Orlando, Fla., in conjunction with Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and DC Comics, features storylines from both the movie that will be released in 2006 and more than 60 years of comic book content. “Superman Returns: The Videogame” combines strong creative vision and compelling new technology to deliver a powerful and emotional gaming experience to consumers. Gamers will experience a real sense of flying while mastering Superman’s unrivaled superhero powers to save Metropolis.

· “Call of Duty 2” (Activision Inc.). The sequel to Infinity Ward’s 2003 Game of the Year, “Call of Duty 2” delivers an unparalleled portrayal of the cinematic intensity and chaos of battle as seen through the eyes of ordinary soldiers fighting together in epic WWII conflicts. The sequel offers more immense, more intense and more realistic battles than ever. “Call of Duty 2” features stunningly lifelike graphics, advanced AI technology, dynamic sound effects, the most authentic squad combat and astonishing action in new historic campaigns.

· “Castle Wolfenstein” (id Software). id Software’s newest chapter in the legendary “Wolfenstein” series will deliver players deep behind the enemy lines of a war-torn Germany, where Nazi experiments with technology and the supernatural threaten to turn the tide of World War II. Utilizing a revolutionary new graphics technology targeted specifically at next-generation hardware, this new “Wolfenstein” experience will draw players into a world of unmatched exploration, action and espionage.

· “The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion” (Bethesda Softworks LLC). “Oblivion” is the quintessential role-playing game for the next generation and another leap forward in gaming. Step inside the most richly detailed and vibrant game world ever created. “Oblivion” is the latest chapter in the epic and highly successful “Elder Scrolls” saga and utilizes the latest next-generation video game hardware to fully immerse gamers in the experience. With “Oblivion”’s powerful combination of free-form gameplay and unprecedented graphics, players can unravel the main quest at their own pace or explore the vast world and find their own challenges.

· “Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell 4” (Ubisoft Entertainment). “Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell 4” will thrust players into a new breed of gameplay that promises to innovate and revolutionize the “Splinter Cell” franchise. Ubisoft is taking the saga of Sam Fisher into entirely new territory, expanding the story and depth of his character.

· “Quake 4” (Activision, id Software and Raven Software Corp.) is the sequel to the award-winning and historic “Quake II.” In a war for Earth’s survival, against an unrelenting enemy, the only way to defeat them is to become one of them. Built on id Software’s revolutionary “Doom 3” technology, “Quake 4” also features fast-paced multiplayer competition modeled after the speed, feel and style of “Quake III Arena.”

· “MotoGP Ultimate Racing Technology (URT) 2006” (THQ). “MotoGP URT 2006” takes the franchise to the next generation as the only official game of the MotoGP Championship on Xbox 360. Developed by the same team behind the award-winning “MotoGP URT 3” and created exclusively for the Xbox 360, MotoGP URT 2006 looks set to create a new definition of high speed for racing fans looking for the fastest thrills on the fastest console.

Commenting on the announcements made at X05, Peter Moore, corporate vice president of Worldwide Marketing and Publishing for Xbox at Microsoft, said: “The biggest and the best names in publishing are committed to the success of Xbox 360, and looking at the titles we have announced tonight we are very excited. From exclusive titles to debuting the next installment of some of the world’s best-loved franchises, Xbox 360 will redefine gaming and entertainment. The high-definition era of gaming starts now.”

October 7, 2005

Activision Demos

This morning I met with Activision and saw three games: Gun, Call of Duty: Big Red On, and True Crime 2: New York City. I'm not allowed to write anything about Call of Duty. I'm sorry. I will say that I enjoyed playing it, but that's to be expected.

Gun is simply breathtaking; it is the first game for Xbox 360 that I've seen that is really stunning. There are parts where the sun is setting over the mountains or on another side of a valley and you have to just stop and look at it. The storyline is just like a western movie. It's 1881 and you and your pappy, Kris Kristofferson, are out hunting. This gives you a chance to learn to shoot. Then all hell pretty much breaks loose. So now you're on your own and you can ride around the West taking missions and/or following the main storyline. You can go to Dodge City or Empire City where you'll meet people who will give you quests. You can be a bounty hunter, a miner, ride for the pony express, just about any profession that belongs. There's even a Texas Hold 'Em mini game where you can win money.

It's all about the gun. Quick draw slows down everyone else for a limited amount of time and lets you mow down enemies. The shutgun is just a fun weapon. Enemies take damage in one of 12 body areas and react accordingly. You can blow someone's foot off and watch them hobble around. You can even shoot someone's hat off and juggle it with additional shots while it is still in the air. Mounted combat is also pretty cool. That's riding a horse and shooting, or using the horse to trample people.

Activision estimates that it'll take about 20 hours to play straight through the storyline. They think if you try all the side missions there's at least 40 hours there. And it looked like a lot of fun to me. Gun for Xbox 360 will be available November 22, 2005.

True Crime 2: New York City will be available for Xbox, GameCube, and PS2 on November 15, 2005. It's much more story heavy than the previous game. In True Crime: Streets of LA I eventually stopped following the story and just drove around and attacked people and then arrested people to keep the law off my back. Any, this is a GPS accurate world of Manhattan. We drove to my corner but the buildings looked different which I guess is ok as long as they're in the same spirit. You can walk into just about every building. You can take the subway (not the same lines and stations) or a taxi. Then there's the incessant carjacking. Or you can requisition one from the NYPD motor pool.

There are a lot of well-know voice actors in the game: Lawrence Fishbourne, Christoper Walken just to name a few. There are 80 music tracks split into channels. You can then rank the tracks as to what you'll hear more often. There's a big thing about Puma shoes, finding new pairs, selling them. There's shooting, puzzle solving, stealth missions, and driving missions so game play is varied.

TC2 will be fun, and Gun will be a blast. I can't wait to get Gun.

For more information please visit www.activision.com

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