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E3 2006


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#1 Gamble

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Posted 26 April 2006 - 10:40 AM

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Peter Moore's Pre-E3 Chat

Gamers everywhere are counting down the days until the biggest event in the videogame community begins. This year's Electronics Entertainment Expo (E3) will reveal what gamers everywhere will be playing for the next few years. While the wait is winding down, the hype is just beginning.

We tracked down Peter Moore, Microsoft?'s Corporate Vice President for Interactive Entertainment Business, Entertainment and Devices Division, for a quick chat with Xbox.com to share his thoughts on E3, the Xbox 360? console, and the Xbox Live? service. Peter took some time out of his busy schedule to give us some inside info, and even hinted at what to expect next from Microsoft.

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"It is our goal to bring E3 home
to Xbox Live members as best we
can, all the videos and the news
as quickly as possible."
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Up and Coming Games

With the launch of Xbox 360 behind us, gamers are definitely looking forward to the games of the future. Xbox? has received incredible support from third-party partnerships. Launching with 18 titles at once gave the Xbox 360 the strongest launch lineup ever. "To follow up as quickly as we have done with a roleplaying game like The Elder Scrolls? IV: Oblivion?, which everyone seems to be involved in right now, only four and a half months after launch, is a huge achievement," Peter said.

While everyone may be wrapped up with Oblivion now, Peter sees Xbox 360 rolling out between 150 and 200 games in the next 12 to 18 months. Microsoft has already announced seven upcoming titles:

* Crackdown?
* Gears of War?
* Too Human
* Mass Effect?
* Viva Pi?ata?
* Blue Dragon
* Lost Odyssey

Embracing All Gamers

Aside from the action games coming from Microsoft, the company is also aiming at another demographic with the title Viva Pi?ata. Peter mentioned, "It will appeal to all demographics despite the targeted audience range of eight to 12 years of age."

Gamers can build a garden world in Viva Pi?ata where candy-filled animals live happily. The goal of the game is to create the ideal atmosphere to attract all 60 unique pi?atas. With lighter gaming experiences, rather than high-intensity, blood-pumping action, Xbox is creating an environment where people who haven't played in years feel welcome.

Peter added, "We also need to look at Xbox Live Arcade as an incredible example of a non-intimidating way to break your way back into video games."

Xbox Live Arcade

peaking of Xbox Live Arcade, Peter said, "Old school playing, that kind of retro game ? Joust? is one that comes up a lot in conversation, as well as great new experiences, Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved in particular." Xbox Live Arcade has become, for a lot of people, the killer app on Xbox 360.

Xbox Live Arcade also opens the door for small game developers?who may not have the resources to create full-blown high-definition games for Xbox 360?to get into the gaming industry. "The ability for Xbox Live Arcade to provide the ultimate distribution for innovative games takes it back to where you would hope that two guys in a garage could actually develop a game," Peter added.

Tune Into Marketplace

Xbox Live Marketplace is the environment that brings Xbox Live Arcade into the home. Besides being home to the newest trailers, demos, game content downloads, and more, it will also play host to some of the hottest downloads from E3 2006. "It is our goal to bring E3 home to Xbox Live members as best we can, all the videos and the news as quickly as possible," vowed Peter. "We will give you the flavor of what's going on, on the show floor and some of the stuff that we are showing and debuting here."

E3 will be a real test for Xbox Live because everyone will be tuned into their Xbox consoles and continually downloading new content. "If we can get through Halo? 2, which we did, then I think we can get through anything."

Xbox Live members should be able to play many of the demos that even the celebrities will be testing out at E3. Steven Spielberg tried out Call of Duty? 2 last year at the Microsoft booth, and Peter says he is sure Spielberg has E3 already marked on his calendar. The movie industry and the gaming industry are moving closer together as more and more games are developed based off of films.


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"Somebody's going to crack it; I
don't know who it's going to be.
I'd like to think it could be us."
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Consoles Meet MMOs

While Hollywood-related games seem to be everywhere, Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs) are a huge hit with dedicated gamers. More than 5.5 million people in the world are immersed in at least one. Yet a MMORPG has yet to make its debut on a console. "Getting that on Xbox Live is a bit of a change in the business model and we're looking into that," said Peter. "MMORPGs really break down the boundaries on a global basis because it doesn't matter where you live or what language you speak; these games knock down geographic and language barriers."

"Somebody's going to develop that game that becomes the classic metaverse that you read about in Snow Crash," said Peter, "and I think that day is going to come sooner rather than later." Peter thinks the company that brings this dream to reality just might be Microsoft. "Somebody's going to crack it; I don't know who it's going to be. I'd like to think it could be us."

Not Just for Gaming Anymore

Xbox Live creates a community where people from all over the world can interact, with the central focus on games. A little more than 55 percent of Xbox 360 owners are connected to Xbox Live and get to truly experience all of the machine's capabilities.

Of course, the digital entertainment lifestyle far exceeds that of games, also involving everyone's love of music and video. Peter wants people to understand and use the abilities Xbox 360 has when connected to HDTV, surround sound, and the PC.

What the Future Might Hold

Peter wants everyone to give Xbox Live Gold a chance. "It is such a rich experience ? whether it's demos, trailers; obviously gamer cards; the ability to see achievements and build that up to a very sentimental level; or just playing Arcade games ? It's an incredible world out there," he said.

What are Peter's hopes are for Xbox 360 and the gaming industry? "My hope would be that five years from now we scratch our heads and say, 'Remember the days when consoles weren't connected?' And things would seem so primitive, almost medieval, that you would have an offline box like how now it seems medieval if your computer somehow doesn't connect to the Internet."

We appreciate Peter taking the time to give us an E3 preview, and we can't wait to see what surprises are revealed at this year's show. Stay tuned to Xbox.com for all the details!

Article by Xbox.com Staff

#2 Gamble

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Posted 27 April 2006 - 04:15 PM

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Some pre-E3 news.

SEGA announces Virtua Tennis 3?

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Includes a new improved Career mode and Player creation mode. Due for release Spring 2007.

Press Release & Screens

Lost Planet Pre-E3 Trailer

Capcom's Lost Planet is certainly coming along nicely. Check out this stunning 720p pre-E3 trailer. This trailer is also available in the Xbox 360 Dashboard.

PlayLogic International announces Infernal

A third person action game for 360. The "hero" is Ryan Lennox, a man with two personalities. Apparently he comes from hell, and will be able to transform into a demon.

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More Screens


SEGA ANNOUNCES SEGA RALLY

Press Release

#3 Gamble

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Posted 02 May 2006 - 01:46 PM

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Xbox Live Invites All Global Gamers to Jump In to the E3 experience

For the first time ever, Xbox brings E3 ? the biggest video game event of the year ? to the people, by inviting the world to engage in the full Xbox Live experience free for an entire week. From 12:01am PDT Monday May 8 ?11:59pm PDT Sunday May 14, connected gamers can access the best of E3 content, including the first-ever Gears of War high-definition game trailer on Xbox Live Marketplace, the playable demo of Capcom?s Lost Planet: Extreme Condition, and Game with Fame multiplayer sessions live from the floor with celebrities like Dave Navarro (Panic Channel), Method Man and Jenny McCarthy.

During E3 week, Xbox 360 fans will be able to download game demos and trailers from the hottest E3 titles and experience them in high definition. Over 60 pieces of new downloadable content will be available to gamers this week including:

* Playable game demos and/or trailers from highly anticipated titles like:

o Crackdown (Microsoft Game Studios)
o Dead or Alive? : Xtreme 2 (Tecmo)
o The Lord of the Rings ?, The Battle for Middle Earth? II (EA Los Angeles)
o Lost Planet: Extreme Condition (Capcom)
o Moto GP? ?06 (THQ)
o Sonic the Hedgehog? (Sega)
o Splinter Cell Double Agent ? (Ubisoft)
o Test Drive Unlimited (Atari)
o Viva Pi?ata (Microsoft Game Studios)
o Plus a flood of HD trailers from games that have yet to be announced

* Call of Duty?2 ? New Multiplayer Map Packs (Activision)
* The release of UNO on Xbox Live Arcade

* Game with Fame celebrity gaming sessions with stars like Jenny McCarthy, Method Man and Panic Channel (Featuring Dave Navarro, Stephen Perkins, Chris Chaney and Steve Isaacs).
* Play and Win contests with the latest Xbox 360 and Xbox Live Arcade titles
* Exclusive high-definition blockbuster movie trailer downloads
* Limited edition E3 Gamerpics and Themes
* A Backstage Pass to see developers preparing for E3



Verizon rewards gamers in the U.S.

Building on the success of the Xbox Live Free Gold Weekend partnership, Verizon will be presenting gamers in the U.S. with a free full week of Xbox Live Gold access and sponsoring the Xbox.com E3 coverage for the week. In addition to this, Verizon will be sponsoring the giving away of a million Microsoft points. For more information about the week long programming and giveaway, US gamers should check out www.xbox.com/e32006 and www.richerdeeperbroader.com/xbox/.


European football fans getting a boost from adidas

As well as bringing E3 right into their homes, soccer loving Xbox 360 owners in Europe can also take advantage of the Xbox Live? Football Free-For-All, sponsored by adidas, taking place at the same time. This is a week-long schedule of activities on Xbox Live that celebrates all things football in a non-stop, connected world ? gamers in European countries should check out www.Xbox.com for more details.

Stay tuned to the Xbox Live Calendar pages on Xbox.com for more information on the schedule of events taking place during ?E3 Bringing It Home? week. Sign up for Xbox Live and Bring E3 Home on your Xbox 360, because remember, membership does have its privileges!

#4 Gamble

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Posted 03 May 2006 - 02:13 AM

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E3 2006 Preshow First Look: Hitman: Blood Money on the Xbox 360

After hearing about all the new features packed into Agent 47's next mission, we finally saw them in action in lovely high-definition.

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Screens

Gameplay movies and developer interview

We've been getting a steady stream of information about Hitman: Blood Money for the last few months, but until recently we hadn't gotten to see the version we were most interested in--that being the Xbox 360 edition, of course. That all changed recently when Eidos whipped out a nearly completed build of Blood Money on Microsoft's next-gen wonder box, and we got a high-def dose of Agent 47's most feature-rich covert operation yet. For more information on all these new features, such as the customizable weapon and persistent notoriety systems, check out our previous coverage of Blood Money on the, uh, lesser consoles.

For now, we're just looking at how the game has made the transition from those current-gen platforms to the Xbox 360. One of Blood Money's most interesting new features on the technical end--and one we hadn't yet gotten to see to our satisfaction--is the large-scale crowd system, which we finally got a good look at with the 360 build. Essentially, the new engine can populate an environment with literally hundreds of fully interactive NPC bystanders, which we saw in action on two different missions without any appreciable hit to the game's frame rate. You can part the crowd when you confidently stride forward, and nearby citizens will even react appropriately when you end up taking hostile actions against enemies. For instance, we saw 47 throw a dead enemy over a balcony railing into the crowd, which made people scatter and hang back, gawking at the body. Little touches like this helped to make the missions we saw more organic and lifelike than usual.

The crowd system was most evident in a New Orleans level set during Mardi , in which Agent 47 had a number of objectives. Primarily, he had to protect a politician who was in town to give a speech, and in support of this objective he had to neutralize three rival assassins who were undercover in giant chicken costumes. Per the Hitman series' preference for stealth, it was far more effective for 47 to corner these three operatives in isolated locations and kill them without raising the partygoers' suspicions. Of course, you could always just gun the bad guys down amid a bunch of onlookers, but that will affect your notoriety, which is something you'll generally want to avoid.

Several missions in Blood Money will take place in Las Vegas, and we got to see another level that will take a look at a fictionalized version of Sin City's shady underworld club scene. This mission took 47 to a series of heaven-and-hell-themed bondage-style clubs in which everyone was wearing some sort of disturbing costume (and of course, if you can covertly neutralize them, you can wear those costumes). In this mission, 47 had to take out the mistress of the rave, who would be performing in a heavily pyrotechnic show later that evening. The best way to do this, of course, was to tamper with the effects controls and roast her alive. (Nobody said this assassin stuff was pretty.) We saw 47 sneak in through the club's garage, disguise himself as a security guard (complete with devil mask), and toss one of those same guards into a shark tank, just for kicks.

In addition to the massive crowds, Blood Money naturally just looks a lot better on the 360 than the previous versions we've seen. We were quite impressed to see the game running in the 360's full resolution of 1080i without any noticeable impact to the frame rate. The level of detail on characters and backgrounds has also naturally been increased significantly. Developer Io has also added some stylistic touches to the visual presentation. For instance, you'll often see the screen split into a comic book panel-style format so the game can show you some key event that's happening elsewhere in the level.

Lastly, as with all Xbox 360 games these days, we couldn't resist asking Eidos how Hitman's gamer points will be distributed. Though the list for all the achievements hasn't yet been finalized, we were told that unlike the first run of 360 games, Blood Money's achievements won't all be easy to come by. Moreover, the achievements will primarily be focused not just on completing the game's missions, but specifically how you complete them. For instance, one achievement might require you to get through a particular mission without ever firing a weapon, or another might instruct you to take out your targets in a particular manner. It's a safe bet that however the achievements end up being implemented, it won't be a walk in the park to unlock the full 1,000 points.

So far, the Xbox 360 version of Hitman: Blood Money is looking like the one to get, with its vastly superior graphics and all those delectable points to unlock. The game is slated for release around the end of the month, so we'll bring you more on it at E3 and beyond.

#5 Gamble

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Posted 03 May 2006 - 09:15 PM

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Shadowrun Teaser

After all the little findings and suggestions that a Shadowrun game was in the works, today we find real evidence that Microsoft Game Studios, and the talented people at FASA Studios, could be only days away from announcing the game for the Xbox 360.

Back in April, 2004, we reported on an editorial at Xbox.com called ?Lifestyle: Gen X? where it was suggested that FASA Interactive was already working on ?the next big thing that the game world has no idea is about to hit it?. That editorial has since been removed from Xbox.com, but can be found using Google?s cache. Later that year, more precisely in November, we found out that Microsoft applied for the ?Shadowrun? trademark at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

There were other findings that suggested FASA was working on the game; the www.shadowrun.com domain name pointing to www.fasastudios.com, Theron Berson, an animator at FASA Studios, revealing that he?s working on Shadowrun and a freelance artist?s resume revealing he worked for the last five years creating high-poly characters and cinematic quality models for the game.

But today the proof that a Shadowrun game is in development is irrefutable. The website, www.shadowrun.com (which will take you to FASA Studios official web site) displays the following teaser:

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In case you don?t know what those silhouettes reflect, it shows the shapes of a Street Samurai, a Troll (that might play in the game as an Enforcer), an Elf (a Face or a Weapons Specialist?) and a Drawf (Drone Rigger?).

Shadowrun is a fictional universe that was introduced as a pen-and-paper role-playing game (RPG) by FASA Corporation in 1989. You can think of the Shadowrun universe as a Tolkien-meets-William Gibson world in which elves, dwarfs, orcs, trolls, and vampires meld with modern weapons and Matrix-like technology for a man meets magic and machine experience.

We are now wondering if this teaser image with four characters suggests that the game will put you in charge of a squad, similar to Gears of War. We think co-op gameplay is a given.

Anyways, we are excited that there?s finally some evidence that Shadowrun is coming and all our questions could be answered next week.

Team Xbox

#6 Gamble

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Posted 04 May 2006 - 12:55 AM

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Pandemic training next-gen Mercenaries

Studio readying sequel to the popular free-roaming military action game; no specific platforms, publisher announced.

Over the weekend, Pandemic Studios quietly began dropping hints on its official Web site as to the subject of one of the four unnamed games it currently has in development. The title in question, code-named "Project Q," suddenly got a subsite with a photo gallery of various military scenes with semi-ironic captions. One showed a rocket-propelled grenade with the subtitle "centerfold," another showed a V-22 Osprey airlifting a Humvee over the word "valet," and another of a F-117 Stealth fighter dropping a JDAM-guided bomb above the caption "candygram."

Many took the photos as not-so-subtle hints that Pandemic was readying a sequel to its darkly humorous free-roaming military actioner, Mercenaries. Sure enough, today the company announced that it is indeed readying a second entry in the series. Titled Mercenaries 2: World in Flames, the game will be on display at the Electronic Entertainment Expo next week.

Pandemic gave a brief, vague description of Mercenaries 2 in its announcement. According to the developer, the game will offer "a whole new 'playground of destruction' from the ground up, fully stocked with the hottest vehicles and weapons. Set in a new and exotic hotspot, you can be your own boss in a wide-open world where there's only one rule: everybody pays."

While no specific platforms were announced for Mercenaries 2, Pandemic made much of the fact it is coming to next-gen consoles. "We're building on the core mercenary experience we created for the original," Pandemic CEO Andrew Goldman said in a statement, "[but] we've taken full advantage of next-gen technology to offer a more richly detailed, reactive, living world." The original Mercenaries was released for the Xbox and PlayStation 2, making the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 the leading candidates for the sequel's platforms.

Besides not mentioning specific platforms, Pandemic also did not name a publisher or set a release date for Mercenaries 2. However, that could very well change next week. "Pandemic is keeping the full story under wraps until E3," read the developer's statement. The original Mercenaries was published by LucasArts in January 2005.

Gamespot

#7 Gamble

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Posted 04 May 2006 - 12:58 AM

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NCAA Football 07 E3 2006 Preshow First Look

We take an early look at EA's upcoming college football game.

If there's one thing you can count on in college football, it's that momentum changes everything. Just ask the Oregon State Beavers--a team that in the past few years has nearly upset some major competition (we're thinking of two games in the 2004 season where the Beavers came this close to upsetting both LSU and USC, only to blow it in the end). Momentum changes are hard to quantify; certainly a big play--a huge touchdown run, a key interception--can change a team's fortunes in a heartbeat. But there's also the every-down grinding that can slowly see the football fates turn on a favorite and lift the underdog to glory, or just as easily, grind that same overachieving team into dust. Momentum is an essential and ineffable slice of college football, and it will make its presence strongly felt in the upcoming NCAA Football 07 from EA Sports.
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NCAA 07 is heading to a number of different consoles, including the PlayStation 2, Xbox, Xbox 360, and PlayStation Portable, and the new momentum feature will find its way into each version of the game. The basic idea of momentum is the same throughout all the platforms--you'll be rewarded for a successful play with a small amount of momentum, and you'll be able to gauge your momentum progress thanks to some handy on-screen menus. Make a crucial catch in the 360 version, for example, and the menu will show a miniature helmet crashing into your opponent's helmet. Unlike older EA Sports games that also featured momentum (such as the NHL series)--where it was often tough to see what you were getting from a built-up momentum bar--in NCAA 07 you'll notice tangible benefits from your accrued momentum. Fill the bar up, and players on your team will get attribute bonuses and be able to make special plays, such as one-handed grabs or huge tackles, that they might not make otherwise.

The development crew at Tiburon is striving to make NCAA 07 a unique experience on all platforms, but there's a reason they chose the Xbox 360 version of the game to show off at EA's recent pre-Electronic Entertainment Expo press event: the game looks gorgeous. After pausing the game, the producer pointed out some of the small details that make the environments in NCAA 07 so impressive. Details they may be, but they're the kind of details that no fan of a particular school will mis--the "Touchdown Jesus" mural, which looms over Notre Dame's stadium, and Howard's Rock, atop the hill at Clemson's Memorial Stadium, are just two examples we saw.

When it comes to the college atmosphere, it isn't just about notable landmarks, however. The development team has also striven to make sure the crowds are as realistic as possible, too. The majority of the crowd will be wearing home team colors on game day, but there will be a designated area for visiting fans. They'll even react appropriately to the action on the field--if the home team scores a touchdown, for example, the visiting fans will throw their arms up in frustration. Thanks to accurate satellite imagery, campus buildings in the stadium backgrounds are authentic as well--as opposed to generic backgrounds in older games. Of course, all this accuracy comes at a price--not all of the 119 1-A teams will have their stadium recreated with such detail in the game; producers told us the number is around 70 right now, with the rest of the stadiums planned for next year's game.

Impact players return in NCAA 07, but according to game producers, their effectiveness has been toned down a bit. In addition, thanks to the new spring-practice game feature in dynasty mode, you can designate that season's impact player after playing out the all-important spring game. Sure, at first glance a meaningless practice game might not sound like something that's worth your time, but if you look a bit closer, you'll realize just how much value you'll have by playing it out. Just as in the real world, the spring-practice scrimmage is all about addressing holes in your roster and judging new talent in the process. If you've got a stud freshman wide receiver that needs some catches, you can throw to him all day long in the practice game and watch his receiving attributes benefit in the process. By the time late summer rolls around and the season is underway, you'll be happy you took those reps on the practice field.

There's more good news for NCAA 07: the playbooks have gotten significantly bulkier this time around. Producers told us they've added around 100 new playbooks to the game, with around 21 new school-specific formations, including the Nevada pistol (a modified shotgun formation, where the tailback stands behind the quarterback, as opposed to next to him). Furthermore, the artificially intelligent players on the field are smarter than ever before--players in motion will run behind the quarterback to set up the triple-option play.

Other new additions to the gameplay include the ability to set slide protection for your offensive linemen and a cool feature that lets you take control of the defensive end on punts. When you switch to that player, your perspective switches to a behind-the-back view, giving you more of a feeling of being there than in previous games and giving you a better chance at making the punt block--something that has been all too rare in previous versions of the game. A new analog kick meter, which judges your kick's strength and accuracy based on your skill with the right analog stick, felt okay to our hands, if a bit too easy.

Then there's all of the behind-the-scenes work that has gone into the game's AI, particularly when it comes to better line play when defending against scrambling quarterbacks, a big flaw in previous games. Quarterback spies, for example, now actually work; as does committing your defensive line to stopping left or right sweeps by leading your coverage in that direction. That said, there is a trade-off--committing to stopping a sweep right, for example, might spell disaster if your opponent decides to run a counter play. From a control standpoint, you can rush the snap with your defensive linemen by pressing the Y button to get a big jump on the quarterback, but you'll want to be careful--it's all too easy to jump the snap and get called for a penalty if you use the move too much.

Last year's Race for the Heisman feature was the first attempt at a player career mode in the series, and this year, the formula has been tweaked a bit. Your goal is still to become a legend in your school's football program, but this year you'll have the added challenge of becoming more of an all-around achiever. You'll declare a major and be required to keep up your GPA while taking a series of periodic tests. It's okay if you're more Marcus Vick than Tony Gonzalez, however; you can choose an "easy" major such as football trivia, as opposed to something tough like chemistry. Just keep in mind that GPA counts--if you can't keep your grades up, you run the risk of being suspended. There's also your social calendar to worry about--will you be the kind of student that hits the books every night, or do you plan on making the most of your big-man-on-campus status and hit the parties? At the end of your campus career, all of your achievements, both on and off the field, will be recorded for posterity.

Dynasty mode is the heart and soul of the NCAA series, so it's no surprise that it's on the way back in NCAA 07. You'll be able to take the reigns of a real college team in the Xbox, PS2, and PSP game, of course, as well as in the Xbox 360 version. Much of the mode will feel familiar to longtime vets--in-season recruiting, pipeline states (for those areas where you typically have the best shot at getting star pigskin talent), hiring and firing of assistant coaches, and the ability to set your schedule. The Xbox 360 game will feature a 3D map of the country, as well as a new menu system, which should help you navigate through all 50 states and your team-specific needs with greater ease than ever before. And of course, there's the aforementioned spring-practice game--which pits your first-team offense against your second-team defense, and then the second-string offense against your primary defensive team--to help you address the biggest holes in your team.

As for other changes in the Xbox 360 version of the game, "turbo" has now been switched over to the right trigger, which, according to the producers, is becoming more the control standard these days. In addition, pressing the B button when on offense will bring up a retuned hot-route menu, which you can cycle through and assign to specific receivers. Players will be able to save snapshots from their game to a photo album, complete with game statistics.

There will be new minigames, as well--bowling, tug of war, and option dash. Bowling is similar to the Ten Yard Fight mode of old; you simply try to gain yardage from deep in your opponent's red zone and rack up "pins" as a result. Gain six yards on a drive, and you'll end up with a six in the frame; manage to score a touchdown in the same frame, and you'll get the spare. Tug of war features a rope meter underneath each team on the field; as you gain or lose yards, you'll gain or lose rope in the process. The first team to score wins. The final minigame, option dash, is basically a tool to teach you how to run the option and has you trying to score as many touchdowns using the option as you can within a time limit. The coolest thing about the minigames on the Xbox 360 version is that there are no load times when switching between them--when you're done with one, you simply call up the next one and it comes up more or less right away.

The final piece of the NCAA puzzle is better ESPN integration than ever before--one can see the links between EA and ESPN cropping up more and more in their games. In addition to streaming audio blasts from ESPN Radio, as well as ESPN the Magazine taking the place of Sports Illustrated in the weekly season updates, NCAA Football 07 will feature a live ticker, complete with the real-life game-day picks from the ESPN College Gameday broadcasting duo of Kirk Herbstriet and Lee Corso. If Corso picks Michigan and Herbstriet picks Ohio State on game day, you'll know about it while playing NCAA 07.

The greatest thing about college football games such as NCAA Football 07 is that information leaks months before the game is released. The worst thing is that it makes us miss the real game of college football that much more. Nonetheless, we'll be bringing you more on all versions of NCAA 07 in the coming weeks and months as we all weather the long off-season, so stay tuned for more.

GameSpot

#8 Gamble

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Posted 04 May 2006 - 01:14 AM

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Lego Star Wars 2 Hands-On - Just a Farm Boy From Tatooine...

Our first go at this new sequel based on the classic Star Wars trilogy made us remember just why this unusual combination works so well.

"Punch it Chewie!"
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Videos


It's a proven fact that if last year's Lego Star Wars didn't make you get a big, goofy grin the first time you saw it, you have no soul. Given that highly scientific conclusion, Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy ought to tug at even the most jaded gamer's funny bone when it ships later this year. This new sequel, based on--take a guess--the original three Star Wars movies, could have been a no-brainer for LucasArts and developer Traveler's Tales. Take the first game, dump in some Han Solo, and you're done, right? But based on our first chance to play an early version of the new sequel, you'll also find a slew of mechanical tweaks and unique gameplay updates under the hood that should make Lego Star Wars II a better-playing game, in addition to all the wookiees and Death Stars.

Let's get the obvious out of the way first: All three movies--that is, A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi--are equally represented here, with six levels and two bonus stages a piece to represent the high points of their respective films. We got to take a look at a number of levels from the first movie, starting with the Mos Eisley spaceport on Tatooine, where Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi hire a rickety cargo ship called the Millennium Falcon and begin their grand adventure. The first part of the level put the player in control of those two heroes, along with C-3PO and R2-D2, and as in the original game, you can switch to any character in your group at any time. We had to make our way to the famous cantina, at which point we took control of Han Solo and Chewbacca as we fought through waves of stormtroopers in an effort to reach the docking bay where the Falcon was docked.

Many of the new gameplay improvements were evident in this demo stage. In fact, we started out by driving into Mos Eisley in Luke's trusty landspeeder, showcasing one of the controllable vehicles that will be on offer in many of the game's levels. (In the first game, vehicles could only be used in specific vehicle-action stages.) In fact, later in the level we came upon a pile of spare parts and were quickly able to build the bipedal AT-ST (most memorable from Return of the Jedi's forest battle), hop in, and then gleefully mow down Imperials and bystanders alike with the walker's massive cannons. Decidedly un-Jedi-like behavior, to be sure, but it was too much fun to resist. It didn't hurt that the environments are a lot more destructible now, so we cut a swath of destruction through the Mos Eisley streets as we went.

Speaking of building, returning players will remember that only Force-enabled (that is, Jedi) characters could build structures and machines in the first game. Now, all nondroid characters will be able to build, and the non-Force users will simply run up to the pile of parts and start throwing them together into a functional gadget (with an inspired, hilariously frenzied bit of animation). The designers have also made an effort to give all of the characters distinctive moves and abilities to make them all worth playing. Each Jedi character will have his own special Force power, for instance: Obi-Wan can use the Jedi mind trick, while Darth Vader has his signature Force choke and the Emperor can use Force lightning. Non-Jedi characters will also have special moves of their own. Luke has an evade move before he becomes a Jedi, for instance, and many characters have unique melee attacks, such as Princess Leia, who slaps enemies in the face, and Chewbacca, who literally pulls stormtroopers' arms out of their sockets.

As if the 60-plus playable characters won't be enough for you to mess with, Lego Star Wars II will also have new character-customization options where you can mix and match all of the body parts in the game--heads, torsos, hands, legs, capes, the works--and create some disturbingly amusing new characters with a strange mix of special powers. There will also be a randomize function that will spit out the weirdest little Lego dudes, and with purportedly millions of possible body-part combinations, you ought to have plenty of playable characters to chew on. The game will even give your creations goofy names such as Chewvader or Stormbacca when you're done.

Later on, we got to see what will surely be the first stage in the game, set aboard Princess Leia's ship, Tantive IV, as it's overtaken by Darth Vader's Star Destroyer. This was a bonus level in the original game, played from the perspective of the Imperials, but this time you'll take control of Leia and friends as you try to fight off a bunch of stormtroopers and that nasty Sith lord long enough to give R2-D2 the all-important message and send him packing down to Tatooine. In keeping with the Lego Star Wars series' quirky humor, we saw some nods to the original movie in this level, such as catching a glimpse of Vader practicing his Force choke through a window. Next we saw a stage in which Luke, Obi-Wan, and friends invade the Death Star to rescue Leia. Luke and Han could walk among the stormtroopers in this level unmolested while they were dressed as stormtroopers themselves--and amusingly, so could Chewie, who merely had a helmet balanced lopsidedly on his head.

Finally, we got a look at the climactic vehicle-action stage that will cap A New Hope, which is naturally centered on Luke's triumphant X-Wing attack on the Death Star. Unlike the on-rails shooting levels in the first game, the vehicle stages in this sequel will let you go anywhere and shoot anything. This level used a sort of three-quarter overhead perspective and let you fly all over the Death Star's surface, blasting turrets and TIE Fighters before heading down for the final trench run. In the free play mode, you'll be able to switch to any of the vehicles you've unlocked up to that point at the touch of a button, so we saw this same level also being played with a Y-Wing, TIE Fighter, and even the Millennium Falcon.

In the first game, you could search for hidden "mini-kit" pieces that would eventually let you unlock entirely new vehicles, and the same is true in the sequel. But this time there will be a lot more gameplay involved in getting the mini-kit pieces, as they're often given as rewards for a bunch of new optional minigames. One such game in the Mos Eisley level had us jumping into a turret to shoot womprats that were streaming out of a building, and when we hit enough, we got the piece. The Death Star had a crazy crane-style minigame where we had to use the crane to pick up stormtroopers and drop them down a bottomless shaft. Once you've unlocked a new vehicle (which there should be a lot of), you'll get access to a new bonus level to play with it in, though we didn't get to see any of these ships or levels in action.

On top of all this new stuff, the designers have made some basic gameplay tweaks that should make Lego Star Wars II more enjoyable for older gamers. For one, you've got a small degree of camera control now, since you can use the right analog to slightly move the perspective around. Moreover, the camera will now pull way out in two-player when your characters move away from each other, letting players put a lot of distance between each other during battle or exploration. Finally, let's face it: the difficulty of the first game was targeted at little kids. Luckily, the sequel will have an adaptive difficulty option that will pay attention to how well you're doing and subtly ramp up the difficulty to provide more of a challenge.

o far, Lego Star Wars II is looking like everything a fan of the first game could want in a sequel. In addition to the scads of new gameplay features, that adorable, characteristic sense of humor from the first game is well intact, with the little Lego dudes jumping around and mugging for the camera during the cutscenes we got to see. Speaking of cutscenes, we can say with confidence that Han does, in fact, shoot first here (revisionists, take that as you will), with Greedo flying apart at the seams in true Lego fashion. Lego Star Wars II is looking great so far, and we've only seen bits and pieces of the first third of the game, so we're excited to see what else is in store as the game's fall release date approaches.

Gamespot

#9 Gamble

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Posted 04 May 2006 - 03:04 AM

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Tony Hawk's Project 8

Neversoft and Activision took a bit of heat last year when they released Tony Hawk's American Wasteland for Xbox 360 without making major improvements to the game to differentiate it from its current generation counterparts. Well, now the time has come to see what the developers can really do with a next-gen game, as Activision has just revealed the first bits of information on the next game from Neversoft in the much-loved franchise, Tony Hawk's Project 8.

We don't have much hard information on the game as of yet, but as you can see in the screenshot below, the level of detail in the characters looks to have increased nicely, and the game seems to support depth of field graphical tricks to soften the background appearance and make the world appear more realistic.

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#10 Gamble

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Posted 04 May 2006 - 05:49 AM

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Colin McRae Next Gen announced

Codemasters just announced Colin McRae next-gen, exclusively for next-gen consoles - which leaves out the PC. There aren't that much info released, except that the game will be released next year. First images/renders inside.


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#11 Gamble

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Posted 04 May 2006 - 06:46 AM

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The Sopranos & Reservoir Dogs Update

THQ today announced its upcoming videogame based on HBO's series The Sopranos. The game will evoke the atmosphere, action and conflicts that are the cornerstone of the hit show, and is backed by key members of the all-star cast who will lend their voices and likenesses, including James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano.

"Teaming up with one of the best in the business, we're excited to enter this new entertainment medium with our most successful and widely recognized original series, The Sopranos," said Carmi Zlotnik, executive vice president, New Media Programming, HBO. "It's clear that fans want more of The Sopranos, and creating a game that puts the player in their world is a great way to satisfy them."

"We're excited to work with HBO on creating a game that captures the spirit of the groundbreaking series - a modern classic that redefines the life of crime genre," said Kelly Flock, executive vice president, Worldwide Publishing, THQ. "The Sopranos has become television legacy for this generation and now fans and gamers can become part of the story and see if they have the muscle and wit to become 'made.'"

A mob war is brewing as Philadelphia's and New Jersey's most powerful families are about to collide. As the illegitimate son of "Big Pussy," you have been born into the organization and are now being given an opportunity to demonstrate your loyalty to Tony Soprano. As a soldier you must earn money on collections, protect your turf through intimidation, and gain admiration within your own family to move up in the ranks of the organization. Carry out orders from Paulie, Silvio, Christopher and Tony in familiar locations such as the Bada Bing!, Nuovo Vesuvio's and Satriale's. Storyline collaborated with show creator David Chase and voiced by the show's key cast members.

The Sopranos game is scheduled to release for the Xbox 360 and PS2 this holiday season.



Reservoir Dogs Update

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In 1992 an unknown director released a film about five total strangers, teaming up to commit the perfect crime. The heist went wrong, people were killed and they smelt a rat. This is the premise for one of the most esteemed and duplicated directorial film debuts of all time. Based on Quentin Tarantino?s cult classic and staying true to the original plot and chronology, this intense third person shooter follows the progress and planning of that famed heist, filling in some of the blanks left from the film: What happened to Mr. Blue and Mr. Brown? Where did Mr. Pink hide the diamonds? What actually happened at the heist? These questions and more will be answered as the game unfolds.

Today, Eidos Interactive revealed further details for Reservoir Dogs on the Xbox, the PlayStation 2 and PC, releasing in Fall 2006.

?We are proud to be working with one of the most original films to be released in our lifetime on a gaming format,? said Helen Lawson, Brand Manager, Eidos Interactive. ?RESERVOIR DOGS will appeal to both movie and gaming fans, and offers an unprecedented opportunity to play through the events of the movie and fill in the gaps.?

Featuring the full, iconic soundtrack from the movie, the super sounds of the seventies brought to life including; ?Little Green Bag? and the unforgettable ?Stuck in the middle with you?, play as all of the characters in this violent version of the film.

RESERVOIR DOGS will be released on PlayStation 2, Xbox and PC from autumn 2006.

#12 Gamble

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Posted 04 May 2006 - 06:14 PM

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Pre-E3 2006: MotoGP 06 Hands-On

Already one of the best looking games on the 360.

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Jostling for position, you elbow the rider next to you. In the distance, a wall of tires approaches at about 160 mph, so you quickly give up the fight for position, fall in line behind your rival, break, anticipate the giant U-turn, and carve into it. Seeing an opening to pass, you give the bike a little gas even though your right knee is already scraping hot asphalt. You take the turn wide, barely in control of the 990cc superbike, pushing it to its absolute limit. You can feel your opponent, gravity -- even the hills of the track in Tuscany -- working against you, but you come out of the turn a few mph faster than everyone else and accelerate. Nine times out of 10 you may fly over the wall, testing the laws of gravity like that. But this time, you barely hold it together and you cast a mocking glance at your opponent as you speed away.

That's MotoGP 06 for you, the latest in Climax Studios acclaimed racing series, slated for release on Xbox 360 at the end of June. Building on the great motorcycle racing simulation that was MotoGP 3 on current-generation consoles, MotoGP 06 returns with the same white-knuckle sensation of speed and the same unforgiving, hairpin turns that will leave you gasping for air on the way out. As far as simulation racing games go, MotoGP 06 is well on its way to eclipsing what GP 3 accomplished.

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Visually, the unfinished build of MotoGP 06 already rivals the rest of the 360 library for best looking game. Climax did a fantastic job of separating the rider and bike into two separate entities, which helps the game visually and in terms of gameplay. In the game, you'll feel the weight of the rider making a difference; you'll feel leans helping you accelerate and break -- they also help you crash quite easily if you lean the wrong way. Graphically, both the riders and bikes are a feast for the eyes. Combined, a bike and rider total more than 40,000 polygons, more than the rides in Project Gotham Racing 3. You'll notice every crease in a rider's suit, every glint of light off his helmet, accurate shadows and authentic buildings and landscapes. Check out the Q & A with Climax to learn all the technical mumbo jumbo, features like High Dynamic Range Lighting and the dedicated grass shader -- yes, even blades of grass got the visual overhaul. MotoGP 06 is moving at a solid 60 frames per second, not that you'll have much time to notice the backdrop of the Autobahn or Laguna Seca while you're jostling with Italian rocket jockeys.

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Controlling the bike took some getting used to, just like in other games of the series. You need to see a turn, anticipate it, break, break, break, break, lean, turn, maybe breaks some more, and then accelerate out of the turn. For Burnout fans, turning is frustrating and a complete turn-off. But to simulation racing fans, the act of turning in MotoGP 06 is among the most satisfying and rewarding turns in racing. Based on how intense you want to take the turn, you can slow to a crawl and take the turn with ease, risking speed at the same time. You can fall in line with your opponents and take the turn at a medium pace, or you can risk dismemberment by taking the turn hard on the outside. When done perfectly -- there's no room for error here -- the sensation is absolutely exhilarating as you rocket past the competition to the finish line. Of course, beginners will most likely break their helmets on hard asphalt if they try these advanced maneuvers. You can use a traditional button configuration for gas and brake or you could opt to use the right analog sticks for acceleration and breaking -- a config that I found the most intuitive.

In terms of new game modes, MotoGP 06 isn't introducing much. There's the Career Mode, in which you work your way up the world rankings, beginning at No. 100. There's Xbox Live, which will feature ranked matches, a Championship mode that is a full GP or Extreme season, Tag mode and Stunt mode. The GP tracks are accurate representations of their real-life counterparts. There are lots of turns, so only on long straight-aways will you reach top speed. As far as the Extreme tracks go, Climax widened the tracks and they are even faster than what we saw in GP 3. There will be a lot less accidental crashing on these tracks, yet they still retain the simulation feel that defines the franchise.

The Extreme riders and bikes are fictional; bikes are broken into 600cc, 1,000cc and 1,200cc classes with either Inline 4 or V-Twin engines for varying speeds and challenges. These can later be upgraded with new parts to enhance speed, cornering, etc. On the GP side, the riders are all real, so you'll see accurate gear, like leathers, helmets and boots and their bikes, which are 990cc and either Inline 4, V4 or V5s. This time around, you can also customize the entire painted area of the bike by creating your own logos or stretching and distorting existing logos. Then you can take your customized ride onto Xbox Live for other GP racers to gawk at.

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None of this really mattered to us though. In our limited playtime with the game, all we wanted to do was set up slit-screen Extreme races and rub the back tires of the producers over at THQ. There's a lot of risk and reward to clipping an opponent or slamming him into a wall. You can obviously slam into the wall with him. Or you can send him tumbling to his doom and watch your rider turn around and pump his fist in victory. That's a good feeling. And right now, so is the rest of MotoGP 06.

Stay tuned for more coverage at E3 next week. In the mean time, feast your eyes on the exclusive new screens and HD trailer, located in the media section below. Don't forget about the Q & A with Climax lead designer Max Williams who actually got us excited about three-dimensional grass. MotoGP 06 should be in stores on June 30.

Ign

#13 Gamble

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Posted 04 May 2006 - 06:46 PM

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Pre-E3 2006: Phantasy Star Universe Preview (Xbox 360)

Phantasy Star remains one of the most recognized RPG series, nearly 20 years after it debuted on the Sega Master System. So much so that the original has become a collector?s items amongst both classic gamers and the hardcore RPG crowd. The series has seen many changes throughout the years, with the most prolific being the evolution from a single-player adventure into a multiplayer-based online endeavor, with Phantasy Star Online on the Dreamcast. Xbox?ers got a taste of PSO two years later, and now the Xbox 360 will join the PlayStation 2 and PC as the landing pad for the latest game in the series - Phantasy Star Universe.


What differentiates Phantasy Star Universe from the recent Phantasy Star Online games, is the focus to once again include a robust single-player campaign, in addition to the deep online offering. From SEGA?s estimations, the single-player campaign will be comprised of 30-40 hours of gameplay, while online can topple well over 100 hours. The key here is that the offline component is completely separate and unique from any online play. In fact, the story that the online multiplayer campaign is based on, takes place after the happenings of the single-player adventure.

Being described somewhat as a ?space opera? the game world of Phantasy Star Universe will consist of three main planets within the Gurhal System. Each planet has its requisite native races, creatures, and individual surface make up. The three races found in PSO, Humans, Newmans, and Casts, are now joined with a new Beast race. You?ll take on the role of Ethan Waber, a young Guardian cadet, who is enjoying peace between the once warring planetary factions. During the centennial ceremony (celebrating the creation of an alliance amongst the races) a mysterious entity known only as the SEED attacks the Guardian Colony. Ethan is immediately thrust into a catastrophic battle between the planets of the Phantasy Star Universe and the forces of the SEED. Ethan will fight alongside his younger sibling, Lumia, as well as a multitude of NPCs that are intertwined in the war against the SEED. The story of the single-player campaign, at least from the onset, appears to be the most intriguing since that of Phantasy Star II on the Genesis. All of the dialogue in the game has been completely voiced, but text bubbles provide a classic Phantasy Star spin.

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hantasy Star Universe will be an action-RPG with all the combat taking place in real-time. Simple combos, which can include both weak/strong ranged, technique, and melee attacks, can be chained together to now reach strings of 6 ? surpassing the old maximum of 3 hit attack strings. Deadly, finishing blows will occasionally be available as the ??????? of combat. Also new is the addition of Photon Arts which act as upgrades to weapons and expand variations into the hundreds. The Photon Arts are completely different from MAGs, which also return with a revamped crafting system. Weapons will be similar to those found in Phantasy Star Online, including the likes of swords, staffs, handguns, powerful canons, and hand-held claws. Any one-handed weapon can now be dual-wielded, making for some intense battles on-screen. Ethan begins as a Hunter class, but this can be changed (on the fly) if you prefer to follow the ways of a Ranger or Force.

From our demo, it appears that the members of your party have a fairly high degree of intelligence and are formidable in combat on their own. Each character can work independently, making the most of their current abilities and will level-up right along side Nathan. The number of characters in your party will alter throughout the game, depending on the course of the story. For example, during a mission to find the Divine Maiden?s crashed shuttle, Nathan and his 4-man posse are split up ? leaving him and another companion to face one of the game?s many bosses. Speaking of bosses, Phantasy Star Universe will feature twice as many as PSO. The development team has kept with the gargantuan size of previous boss battles, meaning you can expect this fights to be epic in every sense of the word.

Many details regarding online play are still being ironed out, but we do know the game will support up to 6 players simultaneously, and will take place after Nathan?s adventures in the single-player campaign.

Personalization will play a larger role in Phantasy Star Universe, allowing you to craft your character down to every last detail. Aside from the obvious race choices, PSU has the customization depth similar to that of the Tiger Woods games. The ability to alter everything from eye shape to clothing and gear can be tweaked through selection sets and sliders.

Phantasy Star Universe will support USB keyboard entry for text chat, as well as voice chat ? an Xbox 360 exclusive. Even though the game is being released on the PC and PS2, gamers on each platform will be limited to playing with one another.

It is unclear if Phantasy Star Universe will adopt a similar monthly playing fee that accompanied PSO, but with Final Fantasy XI following that route on the Xbox 360, we?d say it is probable.

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The Outlook

The addition of yet another RPG for the Xbox 360 is music to our ears, especially when it comes from the long lineage of the Phantasy Star series. The inclusion of a beefy single-player campaign and a separate online adventure provides the best of both worlds. Graphically, Phantasy Star Universe doesn?t initially look like a next-gen game, but there is a lot of time to polish things before the game?s Q4 2006 release. Anytime there is 100+ hours of gameplay involved, count us in.

Look for more details on Phantasy Star Universe next week from the E3 show floor.

Team Xbox

#14 Gamble

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Posted 04 May 2006 - 06:53 PM

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Pre-E3 2006: Chromehounds Preview (Xbox 360)

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Mechs simply makes sense in video game form. They?re big, they?re powerful, they pack immense offensive firepower, and they?re futuristic. The sky is the limit when it comes to making games that revolve around these hydraulic brutes of the late twenty first century and beyond.

A handful of mech game development houses have thrown their hat into the previous-gen Xbox ring, which resulted in a little something for every sci-fi combat guru. We?re hoping the Xbox 360 has a slew of mech games available in the near future as well, but for now there has only been one official announcement: FROM?s Chromehounds which is being published by SEGA of America.

We had a chance to play Chromehounds at TGS in Tokyo last year, and we came out impressed. The game was a bit light in the britches at TGS time, but the action was what we expected - hot and heavy.

SEGA of America decided to showcase Chromehounds a bit differently for its pre-E3 event in San Francisco. Instead of building a playable demo that showed off the core mechanics of this complex fighter, the PR team decided it was time to let the press know a bit more about its gameplay depth and multiplayer capabilities.

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We were treated to a combat-oriented demo room at SEGA?s offices (complete with camouflage netting and ammo boxes) with networked 360?s for a thorough multiplayer run-through. No, we weren?t able to get any more hands-on time with Chromehounds, but we fully expect that to happen during next week?s E3 2006 event.

Let?s see how the hounds from hell are shaping up?

Veterans

You may or may not have heard of Chromehounds?s developer before. Those familiar with mech titles and PlayStation software will be familiar with FROM?s Armored Core franchise which consist of a handful of games for the PS, PS2, and the PSP. The Armored Core games were good, but there was always this feeling that the developers were being limited a bit by the hardware they were working with. At least, that?s what we hope that was what held the AC titles back from being great, as there will be no hardware issues with the strength of the Xbox 360.

FROM brings a thorough knowledge of third-person action-style games to the table, plus a laser-focus on the world of fighting mechs. It?s already apparent that both of these backgrounds have come in handy during the development of Chromehounds, as this title already sports the kind of gameplay features and depth usually reserved for MMORPG?s or simply straight RPG?s. We know Day 1 has some experience under their belt as well, but we?re not quite sure it matches FROM?s when it comes to creating futuristic battles among huge, upright tanks.

We were told in our TGS demo that the mechs in Chromehounds could be created from over three hundred different items, although our parts bin was limited during the playtest. This time around, we were merely spectators, but we now know that FROM wasn?t exaggerating when it comes to constructing a mech from the ground up. There are over three hundred parts available, which pretty much guarantees that no mech will look alike in the online arena.


There?s a complex, RPG-like system that determines what your mech will be like on the battlefield. Characteristics such as speed, firepower, maneuverability, range, and more will change as you change parts in the create-a-mech bay.

Just as with any decent edifice, a mech is characterized by its foundation. Chromehounds isn?t some rinky-dink mech fest that includes only walker-style beasts. YOU are in control of what type of movement system your mech will employ. You are free to slap on a set of hydraulic legs to your creation- great for slower but stable forward movement - but you?ll also have the option of throwing a full set of tracks, a hovercraft bladder, or even a set of fully-motorized wheel pods.

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Mechs will have completely different handling, speed, and overall feel depending on the tracks, and therefore will be better in certain roles than others. This plays heavily into the team-based multiplayer schemas as you can imagine. For instance, a hover-based mech will have blinding speed over water passages, which almost makes it necessary to have at leas tone mech of this nature when using aqueous maps. The same rock, paper, scissors rules apply with walkers, track-type, and wheeled mechs too, as some are better at tackling certain types of terrain than others. There?s even a tactical advantage of using one base form over the others; i.e., you may want to send out a legion of slow, armored walkers in first, thereby protecting the weaker yet agile light units that are good for flanks and recon chores.

Armor and armament works in a similar rock, paper, and scissors fashion in Chromehounds. Load your mech up with heavy armor and you can guarantee that it will move at a snail?s pace. Sure, it will be nearly impenetrable- even with a huge cannon- but it will move gingerly. An armored mech has a true place on the field, whether as a type of sacrificial shield or as an answer to an opposition that is outfitted with an immensely powerful cache of weapons.

Offensive firepower in Chromehounds is interesting, as it can be both futuristic and antiquated. You?ll be able to fit a primary and secondary weapon on your hound, and the choices are dizzying. Main weapons can be as rudimentary as a large-bore artillery shell, or as advances as laser-guided rocketry.

One main weapon in particular - the sniper cannon - impressed us most. Imagine having a crew of sniper mechs that could take out enemies long before they see the rest of the battalion; this is the gist of the sniper mech in Chromehounds. You?ll be privy to the same scope view as one would sniping in a first-person shooter, although this reticule is far more advanced (looking at least).

Secondary weapons come in all shapes and sizes as well. Most of the designs we saw were in clusters which provide multi-directional shooting and/or targeting. A nice feature in Chromehounds?s mech buildup is that weapons placement is up to the user. For instance, if you choose to put multiple dumb rocket pods on your mech, you can place them pretty much anywhere you choose, including custom arrays. We noticed more than one of the playtesters using their secondary weapons as a cheap (and light) form of armor for their primary weapon; affixing multiple weapons pods or guns around a main weapon can help to deflect rounds or shrapnel, or make things more difficult on a sniper mech.

The Outlook

The highly decorated meeting room at SEGA of America was filled with very serious looking play testers. Each chap was patiently awaiting the launch of a Team Deathmatch game that would take place in front of a live audience of journalists; more exciting than match after match from a cubicle we?re sure.

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Each pre-match screen showed just how customized each mech can get in Chromehounds. Strip off the fancy, custom camouflage schemes (there?s even a host of team logos available), and you?ll notice some craftily-placed metal. The mechs, at first glance, kind of appeared random for the sake of looking cool, but this wasn?t the case. Each time ended up working harmoniously due to how one mech balanced out the other. Snipers, heavy gunners, and quick-moving rovers all worked hand-in-hand, knowing their role as the squad leader barked out commands.

The varying terrain proved no match for a properly designed mech, but it was easy to see that balance is the key word when creating a team. Quickly gaining ground and getting into the advantageous positions seemed like concern number one for each team (intimately knowing the maps helps here too).

It was at this point that we notice how crumbly the environments are in Chromehounds. Trees topple as a giant mech rolls into them. Buildings stick their heads underground when artillery strikes them at the right frequency. And pretty much everything but the general land topography can be disintegrated via force. It?s a beautiful sight really, since Chromehounds is a truly gorgeous game. If there?s a game that isn?t done any justice in stills or movies, it?s Chromehounds. Our posted movies and screens of Chromehounds look just okay, which is odd since the game is really mind-blowing in person. Even through the picture-in screen (an inset cam that gives you either a first person or third person view, depending on the main view), Chromehounds looks as real as futuristic combat can. The mechs are on the greasy side, but the scale and overall modeling is divine. Backgrounds look phenomenally real too, further increasing the palpability of this highly-anticipated title.

We have much more to report on Chromehounds, including a closer inspection of the Conquest-style persistently online mode, and specific information about the strengths and weaknesses of mech parts. Also check out our E3 2006 Hub for reports from the show floor about Chromehounds.

Team Xbox

#15 Gamble

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Posted 04 May 2006 - 07:07 PM

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Pre-E3 2006: Enchanted Arms Preview (Xbox 360)

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Love ?em or hate ?em, Japanese role-playing games (JRPG) have a huge cult following. Despite many attempts by Euro and North American developers to mimic the creativity and depth of these epic games, the Land of the Rising Sun still does it the best.

The Xbox 360 already has one huge RPG in its stable with The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, but Bethesda?s masterpiece is directed in real-time, whereas most JRPGs favor the classic turn-based style. So is the case with FROM Software?s Xbox 360 exclusive, Enchanted Arms. Released earlier this year in Japan with the confusing title, [eM] -eNCHANT arM-, we had hoped that a publisher would pick up the game for North American distribution. Earlier this week Ubisoft announced it would continue to expand its offerings by publishing Enchanted Arms for the Xbox 360 this summer. This will be the very first JRPG to land on the console in North America. This fits Ubi?s new focus on Japanese-based titles, being that the flight combat title, Over G Fighters will also hit the states under the Ubisoft brand.

Enchanted Arms was originally set to release in Japan as a dual-disc title, due to its massive environments, 50+ hour gameplay, and high-definition cinematics. Ultimately the game did ship on one disc, as it should in the U.S., being that Ubisoft plans only on minor tweaks before the release. Enchanted Arms will get the full North American localization treatment, including English voice-overs and text. The rest of the game should largely remain the same as its Japanese counterpart.

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The Story

In ancient times, man harnessed the power of fantastical creatures to do their biding, and came to be known as Enchanters. The vast majority of time, these Enchanters used their power to squabble amongst themselves; pitting creature vs. creature in combat. As it usually does, greed overcame man and many began to explore methods to improve their enchanting abilities. Unfortunately, this led to creatures breaking the ties of their masters, thus wreaking havoc upon each other and mankind.

Thousands of years have passed, the world has been rebuilt and mankind is flourishing once again?but a mysterious force lurks in the shadows. The creatures that lay dormant since the near destruction of all life, are again being resurrected, but by whom?

The story of Enchanted Arms follows a spry, young enchanter-in-training, that goes by the name of Atsuma. Enchanters, being the designated magic users of the world, craft their abilities in unique ways, but Atsuma has a special gift. Like those of the ancient world, Atsuma finds he can absorb creatures (and their powers) into his own body - more specifically - his arm. This power then enables him to use any creature as a weapon.

An enchanting RPG

As in any RPG, there is plenty to explore in Enchanted Arms. The story and all missions are heavily driven through an extensive amount of dialogue that includes full voice-over. NPC interaction not only guides the story, but many characters will befriend Atsuma and become part of his party (more on that in combat). The environments are populated with subtleties that showcase why this is a next-gen title. Cities show the hustle and bustle of the inhabitants, including everything from the standard street kiosk, to massive casinos. Side-quests will entice you to explore every nook and cranny of the Enchanted Arms world, as the spoils that are gained will play a major role in gameplay and combat.

The turn-based combat of Enchanted Arms does include some classic JRPG elements, but also offers up its own unique style. The party system consists of 4 characters, Atsuma and up to 3 others. With over 75 unlockable characters (dragons, mermaids, and so on), don?t worry - you?ll have plenty of variety when it comes to your party. Combat is based on a 3x4 grid system that is fully customizable, depending on the current characters. Each attack will have a different range, depending on where a character is placed on the grid. For example, characters are have a higher defensive ability and powerful close range attacks should typically be placed at the front of the grid. In our demo, one of the unlockable characters (a mermaid) was placed toward the back, due to her healing specialties. While Atsuma was taking the brunt of the damage, the mermaid could sit in the background (in her clamshell) and heal the party of their wounds.

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Successful attacks on enemies by your party will occasionally execute a cinematic combo sequence, which has a flashy, anime-style look. These combos not only look sexy, but they dish out a large amount of damage to any foe.

Turn-based RPGs are typically passed over by most action-loving gamers, but FROM Software has included nifty ?fast-forward? and ?auto-battle? options in Enchanted Arms. Pressing the Y button while in combat will skip through the battle sequences quickly - no more sitting around, waiting for the battle to end. For those that really want to jump through the game, the auto-battle option takes into consideration how you?ve managed previous combat sequences and the CPU then will determine the outcome automatically.

Leveling up and customization are essential in Enchanted Arms, not only for characters, but also for the creatures that are attained. Items can be purchased at various shops to increase abilities, but attributes can also naturally rise, based on gained experience points in battle. Unfortunately, we didn?t get any hands-on time with Enchanted Arms, so the leveling-up system is something we?ll focus on in a later article.

We?re told that Enchanted Arms will have Xbox Live support for versus battles in which you?ll be able to use any creature absorbed in the single-player campaign. Online leaderboards will display the best of the best. While this mode wasn?t demonstrated, we?re hoping it has a slight Phantom Dust feel.


The Outlook

While RPGs aren?t traditionally the most popular titles amongst U.S. gamers, the genre still plays a major role in the success or failure of any video game console. It took way too long for the Xbox to see multiple, quality RPGs, and it looks like the Xbox 360 will not suffer the same fate.

We are ecstatic that Ubisoft has picked up Enchanted Arms for release here in the states, but we hope the localization process doesn?t sap the campy JRPG flavor that most possess. That being said, Enchanted Arms does appear to stay more on a serious tone. The epic scale and presentation of Enchanted Arms should be a hit with the North American crowd. Aside from the customization options, what impressed us the most was the seamless transition from gameplay to the high-def cinematics.

Ubisoft has ensured us that the game is still being balanced and some of the glitches found in the Japanese release will be fixed. We?ll have more on Enchanted Arms as we move closer to its summer release.

Team Xbox

#16 Gamble

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Posted 05 May 2006 - 04:47 PM

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Pre-E3 2006: Call of Duty 3 Official

World Premiere! Activision confirms new sequel for next-gen consoles.

Trailer

With E3 headed our way just after the weekend, we knew we had to leave our readers with something promising while they wait for the big show. With that in mind, we've been granted permission from Activision to announce that Call of Duty 3 is headed to next-generation consoles this fall (that's 2006, folks). Here's the official line provided to us by Activision for the announcement:

"Through the eyes of four Allied soldiers, Call of Duty 3 brings players closer to the fury of combat as they fight through the Normandy Breakout, the harrowing offensive that liberated Paris and changed the fate of the world. Developed by Treyarch, Call of Duty 3 is the follow up to the #1 next-generation game and is scheduled for a 2006 release."

So which systems does "next-generation" really mean? According to the end credits of the official trailer, logos for Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo's machines have all been included -- which makes it obvious as to where the game is going.

Speaking of the trailer, Included below is the official E3 teaser that will appear at the show next week. Click the image above to check it out.

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#17 Gamble

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Posted 08 May 2006 - 08:02 AM

Bringing E3 Home Marketplace Content

Marketplace Trailers

Download these high-definition Xbox E3 booth montages for many of the games on display at E3.

* Monday, May 8: Check out The Lord of the Rings?, The Battle for Middle-earth? II and many more.
* Tuesday, May 9: Get a sneak peak at lots more new Xbox 360? game trailers.
* Wednesday, May 10: See WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2007 in action, plus many more game trailers.
* Thursday, May 11: Take an early look at Dead or Alive Extreme 2.
* Friday, May 12: The trailer for Saint's Row is finally unveiled.

Marketplace Demos

Trailers are great, but nothing beats the hands-on experience! We've got plenty of new game demos premiering all week. Download the demo to your hard drive, then sit back and play the latest E3 games from the comfort of your living room.
Monday, May 8

* Test Drive? Unlimited: Race exotic vehicles on diverse Hawaiian roads in Atari's fast-paced racer.

Tuesday, May 9

* Lost Planet? : Capcom shows off its upcoming action sci-fi shooter set on the frozen tundra of a hostile planet.

Thursday, May 11

* MotoGP '06: Experience extreme racing with stunning photorealistic graphics and a blisteringly fast game engine.

Marketplace Premium Downloadable Content

Tuesday, May 9

UNO?: The latest additon to Xbox Live Arcade is the classic party card game that?s number one for family fun! Compete against three other players to match colors and symbols, go Wild with special command cards such as Skip and Reverse, and be the first to play all your cards. Add-on theme decks offer new art and new card effects, keeping the game fresh and challenging.

Like all Arcade titles, you can download the demo and try it out free. Get ready to shout, "UNO!"



Wednesday, May 10
Call of Duty? 2 Map Packs: Activision has some exciting new premium and free map packs to get you through the week. Battle across new multiplayer maps for this intense WWII shooter.

* Bonus Map Pack: These free multiplayer maps bring combat realism to new heights. Both are for online, split-screen, and system-link play. Vossenack, Germany challenges you with limited cover and varied terrain. Wallendar, Germany is perfect for squad-based combat, including hidden paths, rubble, and high-cover areas. Its war-torn cityscape embodies World War II-style urban warfare.
* Skirmish Pack (400 MS Points): Two more all-new multiplayer maps, both for online, split-screen, and system-link play. Kalach, Russia is a multi-level war zone with twisting passageways perfect for sniper attacks. Beaumont-Hague, France features open fields for rushes and clustered buildings for ambush maneuvers.

Marketplace Digital Entertainment Lifestyle

Check this section often?we'll be adding new trailers and exclusive content every day!

Monday, May 8

* Poseidon movie trailer.

Wednesday, May 10

* A Scanner Darkly movie trailer.

Thursday, May 11

* Rihanna will have a live performance of her song, "S.O.S."

Friday, May 12

* Hip-hop star Chris Brown will perform three songs live.

Saturday, May 13

* The Promise movie trailer.

Marketplace Gamer Pictures and Themes

Download exclusive gamer pictures and change your dashboard with these E3 themes.

Monday, May 8

* adidas Picture Pack
* X-Men Picture Pack

Tuesday, May 9

* adidas dashboard theme

Wednesday, May 10

* Silver and Gold Picture Pack
* X-Men dashboard theme
* adidas dashboard theme

Thursday, May 11

* Silver and Gold dashboard themes
* X-Men Picture Pack
* adidas dashboard theme

Friday, May 12

* X-Men dashboard theme

Saturday, May 13 and Sunday, May 14

* X-Men Picture Pack

#18 Gamble

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Posted 08 May 2006 - 05:58 PM

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Rainbow Six Vegas gameplay teaser

Link

#19 Gamble

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Posted 09 May 2006 - 03:24 AM

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Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 screens and trailer

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More here

Trailer

#20 Gamble

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Posted 09 May 2006 - 11:06 AM

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E3 2006: The New Wireless Fleet

Today, the day before E3 2006, Microsoft unleashed the first set of wireless controllers since the console launched in November 2005, and today's new fleet take the wireless idea to the next level.

Microsoft unveiled three new wireless products, all internally developed: 1) The Xbox 360 Wireless Racing Wheel; 2) the Xbox 360 Wireless Headset; 3) and the Xbox 360 Wireless Gaming Receiver for Windows.

After studying the statistics on attach rates, Microsoft watched as wireless products went from a 17%-18% attach rate (the ration tie-in of peripherals and consoles sold together) in 2004 to a 60% attach rate in 2005 and 2006. Wireless controllers, says Microsoft's Albert Penello, the global platform marketing lead, responsible for console and accessories, out-sell wired controllers four to one. Microsoft plans on delivering these three wireless peripherals by fall 2006 on Xbox 360 and PC.

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The wireless steering wheel.

The Xbox 360 Wireless Racing Wheel (release date: fall, price TBD) is in development internally at Microsoft by several members from the Microsoft Sidewinder team. The first-party design has a thick, contoured rubber pad for lap usage, and a sturdy clamp for table usage. The wireless steering wheel comes with F1-style shift paddles and pedals equipped with a medal rim to anchor your heels while playing.

The existing battery life is the same as the wireless controller and, by using the AC adaptor, you'll get force feedback. There are two levels of feedback, the basic rumble motors that pick up wheels on gravel and low-level rumbles, and force feedback, from the actual car performance -- slides, crashes, etc. The same rechargeable unit that works for the controllers works with the Xbox 360 wireless steering wheel. The wheel comes with full Dpad usage, ABXY buttons, and a guide button. It comes in one color, "chill white."

The Xbox 360 Wireless Racing Wheel (release date: fall, price TBD) is in development internally at Microsoft by several members from the Microsoft Sidewinder team. The first-party design has a thick, contoured rubber pad for lap usage, and a sturdy clamp for table usage. The wireless steering wheel comes with F1-style shift paddles and pedals equipped with a medal rim to anchor your heels while playing.

The existing battery life is the same as the wireless controller and, by using the AC adaptor, you'll get force feedback. There are two levels of feedback, the basic rumble motors that pick up wheels on gravel and low-level rumbles, and force feedback, from the actual car performance -- slides, crashes, etc. The same rechargeable unit that works for the controllers works with the Xbox 360 wireless steering wheel. The wheel comes with full Dpad usage, ABXY buttons, and a guide button. It comes in one color, "chill white."

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The wireless headset.

The Xbox 360 Wireless Headset (release date: fall, price TBD) is a small ear-clip that mimics the current fad of Blue Tooth-enabled cell phones. It fits over your ear; there are two sizes for smaller and larger size ears. The wireless earpiece features better sound quality than previous headsets and features a better mic and better sound reception technology. It features an adjustable boom, 30-foot range, and a built-in lithium battery with eight hours and a wall charger to recharge.

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The wireless PC adaptor.

The Xbox 360 Wireless Gaming Receiver for Windows (release date: fall, price TBD) enables players who use both consoles and PCs to attach wireless accessories to their PC. Using a simple USB port, players can plug this tool into their PC permitting other wireless controllers and accessories to be used with their PC.

Take a look at these in-game images and then check out the additional images in the gallery section.

Gallery

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