Sinjin's 2002 Post-E3 Wrap-Up
25 Hours on the Showroom floor.

June 1, 2002


My first stop on day 2 was at the amazing THQ booth. These guys really know how to put on a show. They chose not to be part of the larger hall, opting instead to entirely take over one of the medium size conference areas. In addition to an overwhelming number of games (at least 40) on display, they also managed to get the sexy Stacy Kiebler to show up and promote their new wrestling game, as well as Bruce Campbell on Day 3 to sign autographs and hype the new Evil Dead game.

Given the scope of this article I can't come close to covering everything I saw, so I will stick to the high profile titles and you can find out about the others as we start doing previews for the various games.

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This was the first game that was shown to me and it was amazing, even at this early stage of development. Slated for an early 2003 release on PS2 and Xbox, this is going to revolutionize action games as we know them.

In Alter Echo players assume the role of Nevin, a reluctant hero with the ability to alter time and morph his PolySuit between three unique combat forms. Nevin must fight for survival against an entire planet that has gone mad--the actual surface of the planet is alive, and uses its bio-mechanical properties to spawn enemy after enemy, ensuring relentless action. Alter Echo features innovative action gameplay and a groundbreaking visual style based on pioneering technology. TimeDilation and real-time morphing between three combat modes add tactical depth, and the revolutionary PostFX camera system intensifies the action with spectacular visual effects that heighten the drama of every combo and special attack.

Using an advanced real-time skeletal morphing system, players can changes between Melee, Gun, and Stealth Modes. You can also manipulate time, freezing the action in order to cue up a series of moves and attacks to unleash an unstoppable flurry of attacks. All of this amazing action takes place in a totally original and complex world whose very surface is alive. It knows you’re there, and it wants you dead.

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Red Faction 2 is well on its way for a holiday release this year as a PS2-exclusive. Volition is really tweaking this sequel to take full advantage of the power of the PS2. For those of you who shy away from FPS games on console because of poor control, Red Faction 2 is going to support the USB keyboard and mouse, but you might find you don't even need it. The game is being designed around the DualShock for excellent control, movement, and aiming. You'll even be able to wield dual weapons and fire them independently.

This sequel takes place five years after the last game. Defend your country as Alias, a demolitions expert, with the help of five elite squad members, each specialized in their own means of destruction. Fight through diverse levels using vehicles, an arsenal of specialized weapons and explosives in a rampage to overthrow the government. Featuring an enhanced Geo-Mod™ engine that allows players to strategically alter and destroy the game environment in real-time, Red Faction 2 expands and builds upon the experience and technology of the original game.

I was very impressed with the fact that many objects now have multiple levels of destruction. You can shoot the marble from concrete columns with your pistols then blast chunks of concrete away with rockets or grenades to reveal steel support beams. The enemy AI has been tweaked so that if enemies are hiding behind objects and you destroy them, they will seek out new cover.

Players will be tasked with completing multiple mission objectives with an arsenal of 15 weapons and inventory items at their disposal including grenade launchers, sniper rifles, rail drivers and thrown grenades. As with the first game, you will be able to commandeer a number of different vehicles including tanks, hover flyers and submarines. Team up with 5 elite squad members, each with their own unique attack attributes.

The overall game length has been extended and there are multiple endings to the main story. The four-player split screen mode and customizable computer opponents will extend the life of this title even further. Look for Red Faction 2 this Winter only on the PS2.

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Following in the footsteps of last year's story-based snowboarding game, Dark Summit, Toxic Grind is a BMX game with a storyline. In the year 2097, BMX riding has been outlawed and a twisted reality game show is the showcase for public execution of these fugitives. The maniacal host of the show, Dixon Von Blass, has eliminated all but a handful of these riders and resorted to risky time travel technology to pluck new contestants from the past to fuel his gladiatorial exhibition. To ensure that no rider survives the deadly gauntlet, they are injected with a powerful toxin before the show. Jason Hayes, fresh from 2002 is about to give the show its highest ratings as he rides for his life in a world where death equals ratings.

Injected with deadly toxin, ride through 11 sets recreated from famous locations and time periods in the first ever mission-based BMX game. The only way to survive the deadly game show is to complete objectives, avoid deadly obstacles and pull off insane tricks all the while avoiding Dixon’s henchmen. Will you be remembered as the savior of BMX or just another rerun?

In addition to trying to stay alive, you will complete a multitude of objectives such as finding keys to deactivate bombs, sinking a battleship and destroying a helicopter while avoiding hazards such as lightning bolts, cannons, and orbs of death. Ride through 14 diverse levels from the past, present, & future including the Sherwood Forest, the ancient Roman Coliseum, and an Underwater Cave.

Toxic Grind will feature four gameplay modes including; Underground – Ride for your life on the twisted game show Toxic Grind, Circuit – Compete against all other characters in the game for the highest score, Arcade – Free ride all of the level unlocked in Underground mode, and Multiplayer – Featuring different games such as Score War, Quick Draw and Tug of War. Look for this innovative title to ship for Xbox and GameCube this Fall.

I hate to think how close I came to missing this booth. I had never heard of 1C before last week, and it was only by pure chance that I even received an invitation to this booth. Located in Kentia Hall - an area often known as the flea market of E3 - the 1C booth was one of my top 5 booths of 2002. This large software company is the Russian version of Microsoft, and the products I saw during the media demonstration were amazing, and refreshingly innovative.

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The first game I'll talk about is also the first game you will see from 1C this year. Coming in June for your PC, Jazz and Faust is an exciting adventure game that unfolds in a mysterious and dangerous world of the Ancient East. Unlike other adventure titles, Jazz and Faust is more than a graded adventure resulting in the completion of a preset mission. It represents a well-balanced combination of strong storyline, high-quality 3D graphics and sound and goes on to offer two distinct paths, each offering dozens of nonlinear quests set in a heady and intense atmosphere of ancient ports, stuffy tea-houses and dingy caravans.

In Jazz and Faust you have the unique opportunity to look at the same events with a different pair of eyes. The effect results from constant contiguity of two linear plots, which you live through in the course of gameplay representing one of the two main characters - Jazz or Faust. Jazz and Faust will run into each other throughout the game, separate after a while and follow their own lines, but in the end come to the same final end game. Different personalities and life objectives of the two heroes result in a feeling that you are playing a completely new game when you start it anew with another character.

In the beginning of the game you will have to choose whom you will start playing first. There are two characters to chose from - thrifty smuggler Jazz or dreamy captain Faust. In addition, there are about 50 NPCs in the game. There is a world of difference between the personalities of the two characters. Jazz (a smuggler) is a representative of the world where cupidity is the driving force of life. He constantly finds himself involved in all sorts of risky undertakings, which frequently result in failure. Faust comes from the country on the other side of the sea. He is a captain of his own ship and is always busy with work that doesn't prevent him from dreaming idly. He considers the world an object of contemplation, not a source of filthy lucre.

Having chosen your main character, you may not change to the other while playing the game, but you may meet the other character occasionally and help him overcome a variety of complicated and dangerous adventures. Playing either Jazz or Faust you will be constantly confronted with the need to unravel a variety of unusual and challenging tasks, frequently finding yourself in unexpected situations.

The beautiful 3D real time effects (fire, magic, smoke, mist, etc.) with multiple light sources providing real shadow effects and "Live" background scenes including signboards swaying in the wind, water splashes all reminded me of the graphical quality of the Myst games. But this game is much more interactive with 53 interactive characters and 90 locations with a night/day cycle, hundreds of items to operate and up to 5 puzzles for each location. Combine this with the fact that you can play the game through twice and experience a totally new adventure, this is going to be one of the must have adventure games for 2002.

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Ever wonder what impresses the people a nVidia? Well this is it. Perimeter is a real-time strategy game built on the concept of nonstop terraforming. The gamer will embark on territory seizure by means of especially designed units thus turning it into the principal energy resource. Then the subsequent encircling of the zones with an impenetrable perimeter will follow. Alongside unique terraforming and protecting perimeter opportunities the game provides powerful nanotechnologies, which allow managing groups of modifiable combat units. The necessity of efficient strategic territorial planning and tactical flexibility of combat units make the game appealing to any admirer of strategy genre.

The game takes place in a detailed science fiction universe and embraces an epic plot centered on the fate of Exodus civilization that once abandoned the dying Earth in search for a new world. The story leaves no sci-fi admirer indifferent and the gamer participates in a large-scale expedition covering several centuries in mysterious Pshychospere worlds. Perimeter does not copy other RTS products but instead offers a well-balanced combination of new terraforming principles and territorial wars with traditional strategy elements.

Perimeter marks a new approach to RTS with the emphasis on territorial warfare, tactical flexibility of units management, control over united energy system. The unique technology of detailed real-time terraforming using modern 3D hardware accelerators will push even the latest 3D card to the limits. The impressive visualization of a new game universe and its laws, mysterious and dangerous Psychosphere worlds; unique but recognizable game objects design; full screen videos all combine to draw you into a millennium long story of an enclave civilization. The prehistory and the plot follow the best traditions of science fiction.

Look for this amazing strategy game coming to your PC this holiday season.

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RTS gamers and WWII gamers rejoice; 1C is planning on bringing you the ultimate WWII game in 2003. Featuring an amazing 3D graphics engine, this game will let you relive historic battles with stunning visusals unparalleled by anything you have seen to date.

World War II RTS (working title) is a real time tactical strategy depicting the most significant battles of World War II during 1941 – 1945. Players will command a special task force composed of different kinds of units, including tanks, APCs, field guns, mortars, various infantry regiments and will also have an opportunity to call for artillery and air support. With a focus on unit detail and combat realism, would-be generals are faced with authentic battle scenarios, taken straight from actual World War II records and maps.

Human Resources Management sets this game apart from the competition. Every unit is a combination of "equipment" and a "soldier" (i.e. a "tank unit" is a tank + crew). Soldiers can change equipment, leave and enter vehicles. Behavior of units depends on morale, experience and skills. Player can assign any soldier to any unit. Behavior of any unit can be tuned by a very detailed and flexible control system. AI will choose an optimal behavior style automatically if ordered so by the player — an optimal solution for casual gamers.

Also new to the RTS genere is a clever mix of RPG elements. Soldiers gain experience, skills, and special abilities through a system of promotions and decorations. There is also a Detailed Unit Micromanagement system that lets you execute precise control over hundreds of units including infantry regiments, tanks, artillery and aircraft from all major nations involved in WWII. All units are based on real historic data from military sources for the ultimate in realism and historical accuracy.

Essential Reality
Anyone remember that Nintendo PowerGlove from about 15 years ago? It was pretty cool but way too far ahead of it's time for gamers and game designers alike. Well now it's the 21st century and Essential Reality has taken the technology from the old PowerGlove and slimmed it down into the new P5. The bulky Nintendo PowerGlove has evolved into a slim exo-skeleton that fits comfortably over your hand and sophisticated sensors detects movement of your fingers or hand in real 3D space.

I got to demo P5 and while it looked cool and wasn't uncomfortably to wear, I felt like I was "all dressed up with no where to go". I was able to move my arrow around the Windows' desktop and click on icons by flexing my index finger. I even got to play a few levels of Rage's old shooter, Incoming. Movement seems a bit laggy and I'm not sure flexing my fingers to fire lasers and rockets is the best way to play a game. Sure it's cool and a novelty, but until a game or program is designed around this technology, I think it will be one of those items that techno-geeks run out and buy then put in their closet next to those VR headsets they bought back in the late 90's.

The guys at Essential Reality assured me they are currently working with developers for more direct support of the P5 in games, business, and even 3D CAD/Modeling applications. While I see great potential for a virtual controller in 3D applications, I'll have to take a "wait and see" approach when it comes to using the P5 as a game controller.

Altec Lansing
My next visit was with Altec Lansing; those wizards behind some of the best speakers made for PC's. I've been using Altec Lansing speakers since 1995, and I still have the ACS500 Dolby Pro Logic speakers on my current system. There is just something extremely cool about the twin 18" towers on either side of my monitor. They have now expanded their product line and are in the process of invading your living room with some of the coolest speakers you have ever seen...and heard.

Let's face it. TV audio sucks unless you your video games are already being piped through an expensive home theater rig. Altec Lansing video game speakers let you pick and choose from a variety of speaker configurations so you can buy what you need or can afford. If you are on a tight budget then you may want to simply add the XA 3001 Subwoofer for only $49.95. It's amazing how much difference this one speaker can make simply by bringing out the low-frequency effects (LFE) of your video games. Music and sound is richer and more vibrant and explosions and thumping bass tracks will shake the room.

You can step up to the XA 3021 that combines the XA 3001 with a pair of stereo speakers to give you some outstanding 2.1 stereo audio with a powerful 40 watts. The wired remote control looks a cool as it is functional, giving you full volume and bass equalization and even a pair of headphone jacks. At $99.95 this is still a very affordable alternative.

For the audiophile who wants the best possible quality you will want to go for the XA 3051 six-piece system at $199.95. This 100 watt rig features stereo speakers, the subwoofer, and a pair of rear satellite speakers for total Dolby Pro Logic surround sound. Like the XA 3021 system, all of the smaller speakers can be tilted for optimum sound placement. If you watch DVD's on your PS2 or Xbox you won't believe how much better your movies will sound with these speakers.

While Altec Lansing currently doesn't offer a Dolby Digital 5.1 solution for video games, you can expect something in 2003 to address the growing popularity of this amazing surround technology.

With so many companies making speakers for your PC these days it can be confusing as to what you need and who makes the best. Sound card technology has increased exponentially these pass few years, and your PC is now capable of deliver high-end audio that rivals the most expensive home stereo systems. Altec Lansing offers a diverse selection of quality speakers packaged for a variety of user needs.

Are you unhappy with those speakers that came with your PC. The Model 220 priced at a low $29.95 offers 10 watts of power in a 4x9 speaker that is attractive and portable. You can even hook these up to your portable CD, DVD, or MP3 player. If you need more power you can go with the Model 221 that includes a subwoofer and 50 watts of power for only $49.95

If you demand the best quality from your speakers then you will want to look at the desktop theater speakers, which offer total surround sound. The Model 251 checks in at $99.95 and provides a 6-speaker 5.1 surround system with 90 watts of power. If this still isn't powerful enough you might have to go with the ultimate Model 641. While this is only a 5-speaker 4.1 surround option it will blow you out of the room with 400 watts of power and a dual ported subwoofer. The remote control and wall-mount brackets for the rear speakers are just the icing on the cake.

The 4100 4.1 speaker system features highly stylized speakers with a futuristic look. The small footprint allows you to put these 140 watt speakers on even the most cluttered desk, and the dual subwoofers will have your floor thumping. At $149.95, this is one of the most visually pleasing and best sounding speakers you can buy.

Coming this July is the new 5100 5.1 speaker system that features the same cool speakers from the 4100 series with the added bonus of a center speaker. The spatial sound and 5.1 separation on these speakers must be heard to be believed. At $199.95, this is the ultimate and last set of speakers you will ever need to buy.

Blizzard Entertainment
After having my ears treated to amazing sounds at the Altec Lansing booth I made the hike to the South Hall to visit the Blizzard booth and get a personal demonstration for the new WarCraft games. After about 30 minutes of watching these two games in action I was left speechless with a tiny trickle of drool running down my chin.

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World of Warcraft is the new massively multiplayer online role-playing game set in the rich fiction of the Warcraft universe. This new epic game scheduled for a 2003 release creates an incredibly dynamic online gaming experience complete with endless possibilities to surprise and engross both hardcore Warcraft veterans and novice gamers alike.

My demo explored the amazing world of Azeroth in great detail and featured notable advancements to the dynamic Warcraft universe including two new uncharted regions – the Deadmines and the Monastery. These diverse new environments give gamers the ability to quest through mystifying lands filled with countless adventures. Feats of legendary heroism ensue as the journey continues and players find themselves engaged in action-packed combat.

The graphics engine left me speechless. The screenshots I have included hardly do this game justice. You have to see these detailed charaters in motion to realize the amazing detail put into this game. Also worth noting is the fact that moving between indoor and outdoor environments is totally seamless with nary a pause in the action.

Additionally, three of the game’s many character classes – Warriors, Mages, and Shamans – were being shown for the first time at the show. These new classes give players the opportunity to customize their experience and use their imagination to create the ultimate, mighty character. World of Warcraft’s fourth race, the Dwarves, was also revealed at the show. These proud warriors serve as excellent craftsmen and are considered by many to be the hardiest of all the races. They are an ancient race, strong, stocky, and well suited for plumbing the depths of the world in search of hordes of treasure.

World of Warcraft takes place four years following the aftermath of Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos, where a great tension has settled over the ravaged world of Azeroth. As the various races begin to rebuild their shattered kingdoms, new threats, both ancient and terrifying, have arisen to plague the world once again. Players must explore the lands of Azeroth, forge fellowships with other players, and build their strength in order to prevail.

Customizable character classes, innovative races, and thousands of weapons allow for a truly distinct gameplay experience that will enthrall fans of any genre. A simple and intuitive user interface will allow players of various skill levels to easily join the adventure. The game also features support for advanced graphics hardware, giving the player superlative graphical enhancements, as well as a sophisticated massively multiplayer network architecture capable of supporting thousands of players in a world simultaneously.

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Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos is the latest installment in the single-player campaign set in the Warcraft Universe. As the multiplayer beta test has already proven a success, all eyes turned to the single-player missions version of the game being shown at this year's E3. Reign of Chaos chronicle the events that will forever change the world of Azeroth and lead to the events of next year's World of Warcraft.

With the game near completion, this summer will mark the first time in years that players will be able to return to the Warcraft universe, where Blizzard made its PC debut. For the first time, a Blizzard real-time-strategy game will be rendered in full 3D, allowing a more immersive and compelling experience. As an upgrade to the real-time-strategy formula that Blizzard helped create, the game will be focused on groups of noble warriors supporting mighty, Legendary Heroes, each of whom can advance and become more powerful as the game progresses.

These Heroes are the central focus of the single-player game. Four linked campaigns – featuring the Humans, Undead, Orcs and Night Elves – together form the story of the day the sky rained fire and war once again swept the battered lands of Azeroth. Players first take the role of Arthas, Paladin and crown prince of Lordaeron, as he investigates an uprising of Orcs and rumors of a plague sweeping the northern end of the kingdom. As the single-player game advances, the story moves on to other races, with each campaign picking up where the previous one left off. Heroes of other races make their appearance throughout the campaigns, many times as allies, yet other times as enemies.

Warcraft III immerses players in a compelling, dynamic 3D world of incredible depth and detail. Daunting monsters roam a landscape filled with neutral towns, strongholds, and temples, while stunning environmental effects bring the world to life. The game includes a robust campaign editor for creating custom 3D maps and unique missions, with scripts for units, spells, and action-packed events. Expanded multiplayer options are also incorporated, allowing players to compete anonymously against one another over in enhanced ladder tournaments and improved clan support.

Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos will be available this summer for Windows 95/98/2000/NT and Macintosh formats. The game will sell for approximately $55 - $60 at retailers nationwide.

Sierra had an excellent line-up this year with several new titles for both PC and console.

Malice is a platform action-adventure game featuring the most unexpected heroine to come to the console arena. In development for the PlayStation 2 computer entertainment system and the Xbox video game system, Malice is due to release worldwide later this year on both next generation consoles under the Sierra brand. Boasting a tough and feisty teenage heroine, players will no doubt grow addicted to guiding through time in order to undo the terror of a Dog God gone mad. Malice features 22 levels, a truly original story, and a cast of quirky characters. It's been heralded for its fantastic graphics, unique weaponry, compelling storyline, and intriguing heroine.

SWAT: Urban Justice is the fourth in the SWAT series and the most compelling game yet from their award-winning franchise. With a new engine and new gameplay options, SWAT: UJ offers a premier law enforcement experience, allowing gamers to become a modern day hero and live the life of an elite SWAT officer. Players can go head-to-head with Los Angeles' most brutal street gangs when the game is released worldwide this September for the PC. SWAT: UJ is the only game to reward players for saving lives and protecting the innocent. It delivers 16 intense missions set in stunningly realistic Los Angeles locations that can be played in mission, career, and multiplayer modes. New weapons, characters, and gear will also be included.

The Hobbit is the first video game based on the worldwide best-selling book of the same name, "The Hobbit" is a third-person action/adventure game set in the worl d of Middle-earth. In the game, players take the persona of Bilbo Baggins, an unassuming hobbit who has been unwittingly thrust into an epic adventure. Due to be released in 2003 for the Nintendo GameCube, "The Hobbit" aims to set new standards for fantasy video games.

Universal Interactive
The lifesize mock-up of the Shire complete with gorgeous booth babes was certainly a show stopper at this year's E3. The line to get into the "theater" for a sneak peak at the new game wrapped around several other displays, but it was worth the wait. This is going to be one amazing game!

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While Sierra may have "The Hobbit" for the GameCube, Universal is not falling off the Lord of the Rings bandwagon. They are bringing the Fellowship of the Rings to the Xbox and Game Boy Advance.

Also on display were new versions of Crash Bandicoot for the Xbox and Spyro the Dragon for the Game Boy Advance, but there was one last title that totally amazed and thrilled me as much as the movie it is based on.

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Coming late 2002 for the Xbox, PlayStation2, and the PC, The Thing is loosely based on the events of the cult classic movie - The Thing. After the enigmatic deaths of an American scientific expedition in the uncharted and frozen wastelands of the Antarctic, a military rescue team is sent to investigate their deaths. Within these inhospitable surroundings the team encounters a strange shape-shifting alien life-form that assumes the appearance of people that it kills.

The game brings fear and suspense to unimaginable levels, with a compelling plot and unique gameplay elements based upon action, evasion, trust and fear. Forget everything you ever learned about obliterating alien species simply with a barrage of violent ammunition - this monster is difficult to see, hard to kill, and seemingly impossible to evade...and when you actually see it, it's often too late!

Taking place shortly after the events seen in the 1982 film - The Thing takes us back to the Antarctic base and familiar locals from the film for a terrifying, new chapter of isolation and paranoia. Advanced trust/fear interface adds a new dimension to the genre, and how you influence non-player characters (NPCs) psychological state determines whether or not these characters will cooperate with you.

Computer Artworks (Evolva) has created amazing lighting, weather and particle effects complemented by subtle sound cues and scripted events create a new level of suspense and terror. A unique combat system allows weapons to be customized and scratch built in many cases. Puzzle can be solved by a multitude of scenarios - there is never just one way to accomplish an objective. The varied pace of gameplay throughout the game, blending action, puzzles, horror and human interaction with have you on the edge of your seat.

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Jurassic Park (working title) is a mission-based world-building game being developed for the PlayStation 2, Xbox, and the PC in fourth quarter 2002. Jurassic Park allows players to design and manage the most amazing dinosaur theme park the world has ever seen, or battle their way through 12 intense missions that will test their mettle against the awesome powers of nature and its most dominant creatures. Think of it as Roller Coaster Tycoon with dinosaurs.

Jurassic Park lends itself particularly well to the world-building genre of games by allowing players to recreate the very things about Jurassic Park they always loved to see on the big screen. This is the game that Jurassic Park fans and gamers who love the SimCity style games have been waiting for.

This will be the first mission-based world-builder developed for console and PC. Two unique styles of games rolled into one title allows for full-fledged world-building or mission-based action gameplay. The powerful, yet easy-to-use, world-building engine allows the player to build and manage the ultimate Jurassic Park from the shape of the island to the price of admission, every decision is yours to make.

Test your skill in 12 intense missions; including rescuing stranded park visitors and stopping a dino rampage. These action-packed missions will provide a variety in gameplay not seen in other world-building titles. The game’s music (10 original tracks) was written by Blue Tongue’s internal sound engineer and composer Stephan Schutze and is being performed by the Melbourne Symphony, conducted by Graeme Abbott. Two scores from John Williams’ (movie composer) soundtrack also will be included.

Multiple cameras and gameplay modes add to the experience. Stop a rampaging dino with your tranquilizers in Ranger Cam mode, pilot a helicopter around your park in Chopper Pilot mode or take in all the amazing sights with the first person Visitor View.· Control your dinos through mixtures of chemicals brewed in the dino-vet lab. Make them angry, sleepy, aggressive, hungry, etc. Watch out though, the wrong mixture could lead to disaster!· Complex A.I.: Watch the fascinating interaction among more than 25 long-extinct Jurassic giants as they hunt, fight, feed and display flocking behavior. The lush 3D jungle environments and incredibly detailed dinosaur models deliver the excitement of the Jurassic Park movies to powerful next-gen platforms.

Ubisoft marked the halfway point of my 3-day adventure. Their booth was massive with over two dozen games on display; so many games in fact, that I had to return on day 3 to cover a few titles I couldn't fit it on my initial visit. There was an incredible display for the new Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc game, as well as large sections of the booth dedicated to the new XIII and of course, the Tom Clancy games.

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I can't believe that Dragon’s Lair 3D is almost 20 years old. It only seems like yesterday that I was shoveling quarters into the original laserdisc game in my local arcade. But I can't think of a better way to celebrate the game's birthday than this amazing new release for the Xbox, PC, and Mac.

This all-new 3D fantasy adventure game, based on the popular game and characters from legendary animator, Don Bluth, brings to life the popular characters and creatures featured in the original Dragon's Lair arcade game while harnessing the power of Xbox and today’s ultra-powerful PCs and Apple Macintosh. Developed by Dragonstone, gamers will be able to fully experience Dragon’s Lair with the highest quality graphics and sound that made the arcade version a blockbuster success. Dragon’s Lair 3D is scheduled for release on Xbox, PC and Mac in Fall 2002.

Words can't adequately describe the rich and vibrant colors and silky-smooth animation that rivals the latest feature film animated movies. The game uses real-time 3D modeled and hand painted, textured world featuring new next-generation visuals, and this will be the first Xbox title to feature 1080i High Definition TV graphics mode.

While the technology has evolved over the past two decades, the story remains the same. Dirk the Daring, a courageous knight, must save the beautiful Princess Daphne who has been kidnapped by the evil dragon Singe, and hidden in a medieval castle owned by Mordroc, a powerful and malevolent wizard. Gamers must use cat-like reflexes, cunning and resourcefulness to solve puzzles, defeat a variety of enemies, and fight their way through the castle to find Daphne and save the kingdom from Mordroc's clutches.

There are more than 150 new, unique 3D animations for Dirk the Daring allows Dirk to run, jump, roll, sneak, climb, crouch, crawl, swing, push, lift and somersault. The control system is very intuitive, and the 3D camera system does a great job of tracking the action. With 15 large levels spanning 40 unique environments and over 250 rooms, you will visit several locations from the classic original plus many new exciting areas. Your adventure awaits this Fall.

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New versions of Myst: III: Exile for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox were on display. For the first time, the intrigue and adventure of the Myst franchise will be fully realized through the power of these next generation consoles. Developed by Presto Studios, Myst III: Exile is the award-winning third instalment to the best-selling Myst franchise and will arrive in stores 3rd-quarter, 2002.

Bringing Exile to these next-generation platforms will allow a whole new group of people to experience the magic of Myst who may not have been able to play the PC version. There have been definite enhancements made to the new console versions including full interactive support of surround sound and the rumble features of the controllers. Video enhancements bring the world of Myst alive with stunning animated water, reflections, and incredible lighting effects.

During my demo there were several new features pointed out that set this new version apart from the PC original. The surround sound actually allows you to identify the location of people and objects, and the rumble feature adds a new interactive element to the control system. I had the luxury of doing a side-by-side comparison of both the PS2 and Xbox versions, and while they both looked great, the Xbox edged out the PS2 in overall graphics quality.

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The high-profile thatched hut booth around the Rayman exhibit looks almost as good as the game itself. The mysterious cloaked hoodlum wandered around the area drawing everyone in for a closer look at Rayman's exciting third adventure. Rayman 3 Hoodlum Havoc, is the latest cartoon fantasy in which Rayman comes face-to-face with some of his greatest adversaries yet. Epic game play and Rayman’s trademark humor will mark Rayman 3 as one of the biggest games of 2002.

In addition to sumptuous worlds and innovative game play, it features a deep story line that will immerse players in this unique experience. Rayman 3 will give gamers the quality they have come to expect from the 10 million selling series. Rayman 3 Hoodlum Havoc is scheduled to ship to retail shelves in Autumn 2002 for the PlayStation 2, Nintendo GameCube, Nintendo Game Boy Advance, Xbox, and PC. With this massive cross-platform coverage there won't be any excuse for missing out on this amazing title.

Rayman 3 Hoodlum Havoc will feature many brand new game elements. Its action adventure format will be familiar to many fans but advanced combat will form the heart of this latest installment. Rayman will have new movements and powers including, The Power Fist, Grapple and Super Helicopter, and he will certainly need them as he comes up against over 20 powerful enemies, including the savage Hoodlum tribe. The new Tactical Arcade Combat System will ensure players use their brains, as each enemy has specific strengths and combat strategies, and will only be defeated by the correct fighting techniques.

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Shadowbane, Ubisoft's new massively multiplayer online role-playing game also debuted at this year's show. Shadowbane, developed by Wolfpack Studios, represents the evolution of persistent online games by offering gamers a unique MMORPG experience that combines role-playing and strategic elements that allows players to directly affect the online world with their actions. The game has been in closed beta stage since January 2002 and is scheduled to enter large-scale beta in June with a targeted ship date of Fall 2002.

Shadowbane is the first MMO to incorporate the Dynamic World Model, in which players’ actions and decisions permanently change the history, politics and landscape of the game. Each player impacts this dynamic world whether they choose to be a simple adventurer, shopkeeper or heroic leader. Advanced role-playing elements combine with strategic elements to allow for city management, army creation, siege warfare and economic development. Players can purchase items, housing, cities, armies, economies or build an empire. The extensive guild system allows for true social political maneuvering and tools such as grief log, kill on site list, bounty hunters and player locator greatly enhance player accountability.

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Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Raven Shield will be available on both the PC and the Xbox in the fall of 2002, with the other next generation platforms to follow. Raven Shield is the sequel to the immensely popular Tom Clancy’s Rogue Spear, 2000 Action Game Of The Year, and Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six, 1999 Action Game Of The Year. It will be the third game in the Rainbow Six line, which has sold more than 6.7 million copies worldwide.

Developed by Ubisoft’s Montreal studio in close collaboration with Red Storm Entertainment, Raven Shield features a brand new Tom Clancy storyline in which Team RAINBOW is led all over the world in a series of dramatic operations. The game will utilize graphics technology provided by the next-generation Unreal engine to power 15 new single-player missions that include the discovery of a cache of biological weapons and stopping an armed gang from terrorizing a London bank.

Michael McCoy, the lead designer, gave me an impressive amount of information on this new game. The new graphics engine is able to render some amazing weather and real-time lighting effects. There are also some additional first-time features for the franchise. Those of you familiar with the earlier games may remember the lack of any rendered weapons for your character. Raven Shield now displays whichever weapon you are carrying. There is also a new prone position that is new to the series.

Perhaps the most noteworthy advancement is the new command interface that is so easy to learn and use that I wouldn't be surprised if it started cropping up in ever FPS strategy game in the future. The way it works is that you move your targeting reticle over any object in the game and open a menu that is specific to that object. Click on a door and you get a menu with all the options related to that door. Have your team enter first and clear the room, or have them back you up as you enter. Choose to toss a grenade and the menu flips over displaying all available grenades at your disposal.

The AI has been greatly enhanced to allow greater realism in formations and tactics. Your men will act and react much more appropriately in every situation. You can always count on your team to be in the right spot at the right time provided you aren't straying from the mission plan. Raven Shield is the ultimate evolution of the Rainbow Six series.

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Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell, introduces a brand new genre in the Tom Clancy line-up. Taking place in the realistic, highly detailed geopolitical universe of Tom Clancy, Splinter Cell is a third person stealth action game, featuring cyber-terrorism, shadow agencies, and covert operations. In the fall of 2002, Ubisoft will debut this lone stealth action game worldwide on the Xbox video game system and then follow with other next generation platforms in 2003.

Splinter Cell will grant players access to the highest echelons of national security, where shadow operatives have the freedom to do whatever it takes to safeguard America. In Splinter Cell, the player controls Sam Fisher, a field operative of a secretive "black-ops" NSA sub-agency called Third Echelon. Sam Fisher is geared up to infiltrate high-security strongholds, seize critical intelligence, destroy threatening data and neutralize the enemy - all without leaving a trace. Developed by Ubisoft’s Montreal Studio, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell, is a unique experience that will have the player thinly skate on the fine line that separates fact from fiction.

Martin Caya, lead artist and character modeler, gave me a personal tour of this ambitious title that reaches unparalleled visual quality and innovative action packed game play thanks to Ubisoft’s highly modified version of the next generation Unreal Engine. Splinter Cell focuses on stealth rather than combat. Weapons and ammo are in short supply creating an extra dimension of suspense.

Light plays a major role in Splinter Cell. A meter on the HUD shows how "visible" you are, and the real time lighting also casts real-time shadows that you must constantly be aware of. The level of detail in this game is stunning, with silky smooth fabric effects such as curtains and spider webs that morph as you pass through them and flutter in the breeze.

The game is played from a third-person perspective and features a fully controllable camera that presents the action in a very cinematic and exciting style. The control was intuitive and surprisingly accurate and responsive for an Xbox game. Move Sam against a pipe and he automatically grabs on and can shimmy up. Grab a suspended cable and slide down to the opposite side of the compound.

Sound plays a major part of this game. You must pick your path carefully, as certain objects like broken glass, creaky floor boards or scattered debris can give away your position. On the bright side - it can give away the enemy's position just as easily. Utilizing the amazing surround sound capabilties of the Xbox, Splinter Cell brings new realism to the stealth genre.

Topping off this strategic masterpiece are 14 varied and tension filled levels with interactive environments and objects such as Retinal Scanners, Finger Print Key Pads and more. Sam has a good selection of weapons including the multi purpose F2000, and a backpack full of high-tech toys like thermo vision/night vision goggles, laser mikes and gas grenades. Combined with a seamless blend of scripted and reactionary AI that keeps the player on their toes, Splinter Cell is going to take the Tom Clancy franchise into a new and exciting dimension.

Konami is like a dormant volcano. It lies there sleeping until you almost forget they exist then they erupt with some mega-hit like Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and leap to the top of the developer list. Well, after my visit to the Konami booth prepare for a lot of eruptions over the next year. Over 30 amazing titles were on display, including some amazing new titles that you might not expect from Konami.

Konami is entering the extreme sports genre with a new series of Evolution games including skateboard, snowboarding, and snowmobile racing. You might think these genres have already been done to death by EA and half-dozen other developers, but Konami is approaching the genre with a new attitude. They are abandoning total realism in favor of fun, wild tricks, and fantasy-style levels. You might even see places and characters from some of your favorite Konami titles.

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Evolution Skateboarding grinds onto the Sony PlayStation 2 and Nintendo GameCube. Featuring an exciting mix of authentic tricks, incredibly detailed graphics and out-of-this-world fantasy levels, gamers are sure to enjoy this skateboarding experience for hours on end.

From the neon streets of Tokyo to the deep, dark dungeons of a European castle, virtual skaters can grab air and perform over 70 death-defying tricks in eight radical environments that leave ordinary skate parks in the dust. The challenges continue with the exciting new “Boss Skate ” mode – the first ever featured in a skateboarding game. Going head-to-head against such bosses as a giant spider or a run-away truck, skaters must use their decks as a weapon to proceed to the next level and unlock hidden areas.

In Evolution Skateboarding, players control their riding experience by designing their own deck, building and saving signature combo tricks and even creating the riders’ personalized look. Should gamers want to stick with the pros, they can choose from eight pro-skaters including famed riders Danny Way, Arto Saari, Stevie Williams and more. Or you may opt to take Solid Snake on a skateboarding tour of the Big Shell.

Skaters love to talk trash about who’s the coolest skater in town. In Evolution Skateboarding players can settle any such dispute with an incredible head-to-head two-player split-screen mode. And when riders are done putting the smack down, the action can be reviewed in slow-motion instant replay with adjustable angles. All this and a soundtrack of over 12 high-intensity tunes makes Evolution Skateboarding a must grab when it slides into stores this October.

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Yu-Gi-Oh!, the global videogame/trading card/television phenomenon, will make its next-gen console debut when Yu-Gi-Oh! Duelists of the Roses (working title) lands on the Sony PlayStation 2 in 2002. Featuring deeply strategic gameplay, an all new dueling system and beautiful graphics, Duelists of the Roses is primed to propel gamers even further into the rich Yu-Gi-Oh! world. Inspired by the top-selling trading card game and #1 rated animated TV series, Duelists of the Roses brings the adventures of Yugi to life in stunning 3D.

“Duelists of the Roses takes the Yu-Gi-Oh! sensation to the next level by enriching and enhancing the gameplay experience,” said Dennis Lee, Product Manager at Konami of America. “With the power of the PS2, Duelists of the Roses delivers breathtaking graphics, immersive gameplay, and all of the popular Yu-Gi-Oh! characters making Duelists of the Roses the most exciting Yu-Gi-Oh! game ever.“

The first Yu-Gi-Oh! game to emerge on a next-generation videogame console, Yu-Gi-Oh! Duelists of the Roses, traces the lineage of Yugi and Kaiba – as the two duelists clash yet again. Battling each other, as well as characters from the hit animated TV series, players will attack with a powerful deck, ferocious monsters and mystical traps. The new Card Movement Battle System ensures that players will have to think strategically in order to become the supreme Duelist, while 680 beautifully 3D rendered monsters keep the on-screen action exciting.

Yu-Gi-Oh! follows the adventures of Yugi, a young boy who possesses the “Millennium Puzzle” that allows him to transform into the Game King whenever he is challenged. The game is based on the “Yu-Gi-Oh!” comic series from artist Kazuki Takahashi that appears in Shonen Jump, Japan’s largest weekly comic book (“Manga”). Since Yu-Gi-Oh! first appeared in Jump in 1996, the comic has spawned a hit cartoon show, a hugely popular collectible card game, several Game Boy Color and Sony PlayStation games and other licensed merchandise. Yu-Gi-Oh! Duelists of the Roses comes packaged with three exclusive Trading Card Game cards.

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DDRMAX Dance Dance Revolution (DDRMAX) will be available for the Sony PlayStation 2 in Fall 2002. Marking the series’ highly anticipated debut on a next-gen videogame console, DDRMAX boasts over 65 songs, full-motion music videos, high-resolution graphics and a wealth of new gameplay modes. DDRMAX is the most comprehensive version of the game ever to be released and is sure to have gamers jumping to the beat.

“This game takes the DDR experience to the MAX!” said Jason Enos, Product Manager at Konami of America. “Powered by the PlayStation 2, DDRMAX delivers an all-out music, dancing and party experience that everyone – young, old and even those with two left feet can enjoy.“

The most expansive Dance Dance Revolution title yet, DDRMAX will have gamers working up a sweat to over 65 songs. The 100+ minutes of music include licensed tracks, fresh dance hits, and cool new songs exclusive to the North American release. Designed to take advantage of the powerful PlayStation 2 hardware and its increased storage capacity, DDRMAX delivers never-before-seen in-game videos, new gameplay options, blistering 60-frames per second frame rates and the largest song library in franchise history.

Further enhancing the gameplay experience is the introduction of the FREEZE ARROW option that freezes on-screen arrows and forces players to modify their dance steps thus increasing complexity and adding a twist to the routine. Popular gameplay options that return in DDRMAX are the Edit Mode that enables players to customize their own dance steps, and the special Work Out mode that tracks the number of calories burned with every move.

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Inspired by the simple, addictive gameplay of the original arcade game, Frogger Classic launches our green hero into a whole new world of challenges, obstacles and platform-action fun. The adventure begins as the young hero faces the Elder Council on the eve of his birthday and is told that he must overcome a series of challenging obstacles as a right of passage into ‘teenage-hood’. Frogger’s troubles begin when our leaping lead frog sets out to conquer the lush world that he inhabits and is quickly faced with fierce foes and challenging puzzles.

With easy-to-learn controls, classic gameplay, colorful graphics and a host of extra features, Frogger Classic promises to deliver lively tile-base platform action that’s perfect for the whole family. I played this game for several minutes and found it just as addicting as the original from the early 80's.

Frogger Classic stars the unflappable Frogger in an adventure that takes the little green guy to a whole new level. Set across eight expansive worlds with detailed and exotic environments, Frogger Classic features a wide range of mischievous enemies and puzzling obstacles that will challenge gamers of all ages. In addition to hopping around, the emerald amphibian will find himself navigating a snowboard, steering a run-away mine cart and even navigating an asteroid field.

Multi-player mode for up to 4 players make this the perfect party game, while a number of hidden features including unlockable characters, a blooper reel, and cheat codes ensure that gamers will come back to Frogger Classic again and again.

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Without a doubt, Contra is perhaps the most famed action shooter of all time and hold a special place in many a gamer's heart. All of the legendary action and adrenaline of the famed Contra series comes to the PlayStation 2 with Contra: Shattered Soldier. Fans of the series will feel right at home with the game’s signature frenzied, side-scrolling 2D gameplay, while newcomers to the series will be awed by the game’s ultra-detailed 3D visuals and wide assortment of enemies - human, alien and mechanized.

Massive, screen-filling boss characters, a Contra series staple, do everything they can to keep players from proceeding through the multiple action-packed missions, while environmental threats such as swarms of bugs, aggressive enemies and alien encounters keep players on their toes. When the action gets too intense; players can always opt to take on the enemy with a friend in the cooperative 2-player simultaneous mode.

Featuring the gritty, futuristic character designs of celebrated artist and Comic Book illustrator Ashley Wood (Spawn, Aliens, X-Men, Star Wars), Contra: Shattered Soldier takes Contra and action gamers on a whole new roller coaster of harrowing gameplay, stellar visuals, and non-stop action. Simple, easy to pick-up-and-play controls gets players right into the game, while multiple endings and hidden levels add substantial replay value.

I got to play a few levels of this amazing game, and I can guarantee this is going to be the hottest, most addictive shooter on the planet this November.

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The all-new Silent Scope 3, comes exclusively to PlayStation 2 computer entertainment system in October. The story in Silent Scope 3 begins when a nefarious terrorist organization abducts a leading expert on cloning technology in a plan to use his knowledge for world domination. As a top-secret government operative, it’s up to the player to prevent this global threat by rescuing the scientist and neutralizing the terrorists.

Silent Scope 3 contains an original story mode with numerous new areas created exclusively for the PlayStation 2. As an added bonus, all 14 missions from the smash-hit arcade game Silent Scope EX are also included. In a Silent Scope series first, an innovative 3D sound system can be used to help spot and target enemies. Rounding out the features, hidden options can be unlocked, and multiple endings and paths add replay value.

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The enormously popular Suikoden series will debut on Sony PlayStation 2 in November 2002. The latest installment in the renowned RPG franchise, Suikoden III offers ground breaking features including the Trinity Sight System, which allows gamers to view the storyline from 3 characters’ perspectives. The tale of Suikoden III unfolds from multiple character points of view as players strategize and maneuver through complex battles in a rich 3D world.

The adventure begins 15 years after the concluding events of Suikoden II as players follow the intertwining stories of Hugo (son of the Leader of the Karaya Clan), Chris (a virtuous Knight of Zexen) and Geddoe (a mysterious unit commander). Fate brings these three unlikely heroes together as they seek to destroy the source of political dissension and ease the unrest that threatens the entire land.

Once again, the Suikoden series raises the bar in storytelling and gameplay. Suikoden III offers many gameplay features that create an epic adventure. For the first time in an RPG, the Trinity Sight System enables players to experience the game’s events from the viewpoints of all three main characters to gain a larger view of the rich story. The ability to recruit and control over 100 characters, various storyline twists and multiple endings further enrich the gameplay experience and add replay value.

The battles in Suikoden III feature an unprecedented amount of depth and detail with the introduction of ground breaking combat systems. The new Battle Pairing System allows party members to either join forces with one another and attack in unison or mount fierce beasts to gain power and strength. The Free Positional Combat System is a free-roaming dynamic in-game camera that positions itself in the heart of the action during battle. Suikoden III also features three styles of combat, including Party Battle, Army Battle, and One-on-One duels.

Delivering a larger-than-life adventure with all of the intensity and emotion of past titles with a rich 3D world, 3 enhanced battle systems, 3 unique styles of combat, and 3 dynamic heroes with 3 individual storylines in an epic quest to battle evil, Suikoden III promises to be the most innovative Role-Playing experience to land on the PS2.

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For those of you that thought the original Zone of the Enders was just a bit short, you weren't alone. Just when you arrived at Mars and things started to get exciting it was GAME OVER. Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner, the sequel to last year’s hit mech combat game, will be available for the PlayStation 2 in early 2003. ZOE2 is an entirely new 3D adventure from producer Hideo Kojima and character designer Yoji Shinkawa, the creative team behind the celebrated Zone of the Enders and Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty.

In ZOE2, players are once again thrown into an interplanetary conflict, but this time the stakes are even higher, as the fate of Jupiter and Mars are held in the balance. Players will find a host of new gameplay features to help balance the odds. Exhilarating new maneuvers enable players to swing around enemies, target and destroy swarms of enemy fighters, tear down walls to use as shields or as a weapon, and even teleport out of danger. There are also more sub-weapons that support basic attacks and enhance strategic play during combat.

The game’s setting expands greatly beyond that of the first ZOE. Battles will be fought in canyons, cityscapes, enemy fortresses and even in the depths of space. A new cast of characters populates these diverse settings, promising to infuse this epic saga with a human element.

Strategy First
Strategy First was tucked away nicely in the back corner of the Infogrames booth, but what they lacked in square footage they more than made up for in quality titles and the most impressive press kit of the show. While everyone else was passing out CD's with screenshots and PDF press releases, Strategy First included actual playable demos of all of their upcoming titles along with assorted (and very cool) promotional items. What a great concept!

There were eight titles on display that will be releasing throughout the rest of the year ranging from traditional (and not so traditional) strategy games to an amazing combat flight simulator.

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O.R.B. is a visually stunning 3D real time strategy game that pits the forces of two races against each other in a desperate struggle to control the resources they need to expand their empires. O.R.B. stands for "Off World Resource Base" and what happens in the "Off World" is the stuff that dreams or nightmares are made of. Within the multiple systems are the precious resources that both planets desperately need to thrive. The stage has been set for a battle to control the solar system. While the two races play a deadly game of hide and seek in the asteroid belt, they are unaware of a predatory alien menace that threatens the entire solar system.

The story behind this strategy game takes place in a universe where the long forgotten struggles between ancient beings of indescribable power have left intergalactic scars across the great expanse of space. Amidst the destruction, two lonely survivors cling to small globes in a remote, debris-filled solar system called Aldus. Through the ages, these two races have evolved, slowly but steadily becoming distinct and uniquely powerful nations. The Malus: an aggressive but intelligent society of interdependent clans who, when unified, have achieved great evolutionary deeds. The Alyssians: a race of autonomous thinkers, tireless in their search for enlightenment and unwavering in the defence of what they hold dear. In time the Alyssians would stretch out to search beyond their own world, having heard the spatial whispers of nearby Malus orbiting their common sun. Misconstrued transmissions between the two worlds have resulted in an interplanetary war steeped in cultural disparity. The resulting charge to seize the space between their planetary homes has resulted in the creation of off world resource bases throughout the solar system from which to launch their onslaught on one another. Who shall be the victor, and what menace lurks beyond the outer rings of Aldus?

The design of this game reminded me a lot of the hold HomeWorld game, but the graphics, control, and stellar gameplay puts this game in its own league. Featuring unparalleled 3D real-time strategic gaming action with full freedom of movement in space, two fully developed races with their own single-player campaign and unique strategies, and a one-of-a-kind dynamic universe depicting multiple solar systems alive with planets, moons, asteroid belts, complex orbits, persistent debris and extraordinary spatial environments, O.R.B. is an amazing and complex game.

The single player campaign is supplemented with multiplayer action featuring epic fleet combat with a wide variety of vessels and specialized units including tactical ships, shock troops, various fighter types, multiple capital ship classes and support vessels, a downloadable campaign editor and tools, complete with the ability to script your own scenarios, event triggers, campaigns and cut-scenes, and explosive battles with up to eight players in cooperative and head-to-head multiplayer. Look for O.R.B. coming this August.

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Strike Fighters - Project 1 is being developed by Tsuyoshi Kawahito (TK), a flight-sim industry veteran with five years of experience. His past titles include European Air War (awarded the "Best Simulation Game of 1998" by CGW), Jane's Longbow 2 ("Best Simulation Game of 1997"), Jane's Flash Point Korea, and Jane's AH-64D Longbow ("Best Simulation Game of 1996").

Strike Fighters is a multi-faceted flight-simulation game that features one of the most versatile combat aircraft of all time - the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II. The core of the game is traditional combat flight-simulation - players take command of a thundering jet fighter and engage in aerial dogfight with enemy fighters while seeking and destroying ground targets. The game is set in the 1960s - when aviation technology was still primitive, but advancing at a rapid pace. Some missiles and guided weapons are available later in the game, but true to history, they remain somewhat unreliable and inaccurate. Most air battles involve visceral, in-your-face gunfights, and your skill at outmaneuvering your opponents remains the key to victory and survival.

This game utilizes an all-new "next-generation" graphics engine using DirectX 8.1. The graphics engine, developed by Third Wire, is optimized for rendering scenes with high poly count in full 32-bit color. Aircraft are modeled with exceptional details, each exceeding 5,000 polygons. It also supports advanced features such as colored point light-sourcing, specular highlights, multi-layer textures, bump mapping, and reflective environment mapping.

The game features a dynamic campaign, set in a fictional background, that spans the entire decade of aviation history. Players start the game with the F-100 Super Sabre - a simple aircraft with basic avionics, no radar and no missile. But as the campaign progresses, new technology will be slowly introduced, including new aircraft, more powerful weapons, improved avionics and deadlier threats. Some technologies, such as surface-to-air-missiles, drastically shift the balance of power, and players must continuously change and adopt new tactics in order to be successful. By the end of the campaign, players will be flying the sophisticated F-4 Phantom II, exchanging guided missiles with MiG-21 while dodging radar-guided SAMs!

The campaign can be played normally, where players take on a role of an air force pilot. In this traditional role, you are rewarded for a successful career with medals and promotions. In addition, players may also take on a role of a mercenary pilot; this adds another dimension to the gameplay by allowing them to build up their pilot's abilities, resources and finances. Players can earn money for target destruction and mission accomplishment, and the profits can be used to buy ammo and fuel, fix battle damages, upgrade the aircraft, or buy bigger and better weapons. This added element of role-playing provides the player with more incentive to fly that next mission and keep on playing the game.

In addition to the campaign, the game also features Instant Action and Single Mission modes of play. Instant Action immediately puts players into the cockpit with a single mouse click, while Single Mission enables players to design custom missions and pilot their favourite aircraft. These two additional modes of play let players tailor the game experience to match their own playing style.

The list of player-flyable aircraft planned for initial release includes the manueuvrable F-100 Super Sabre, the fast and sleek F-104 Starfighter, the ground attack A-4 Skyhawk, and of course, the big and powerful F-4 Phantom II. Other featured aircraft include; Martin B-57 Canberra, Lockheed C-130 Hercules, Cessna L-19 Bird Dog, MiG-17 "Fresco", MiG-19 "Farmer", MiG-21 "Fishbed", Su-7 Fitter, IL-28 Beagle, Tu-22 Blinder, An-12 Cub and additional planes will most likely be made available post-release. More importantly, support for the user community, by creating after-market modifications, including user-created missions, campaigns, maps, and aircraft are also planned. Look for Strike Fighters coming this August.

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Nexagon: The Pit is a 3D real-time tactical game that transports players through time to a futuristic world unlike any other known to mankind. At the turn of the fourth millennium, planet Earth has become a thriving sphere of intergalactic activity. With a combined population of human and alien species, the face of the planet has been transformed into a complex grid of concrete, polymers and steel. Oxygen trickles into the atmosphere by virtue of precious biospheres that hang suspended in the skies several kilometers above the surface. Life has never been better. A strong feeling of well-being seems to permeate even the darkest corners of parliament, where a daring decision concerning the treatment of prisoners is made - a chance to fight for freedom. When television networks receive news of the decision they immediately proceed with the necessary preparations for what will inevitably become the most incredible battle in Galactic history…Nexagon: The Pit. Gameplay features a fully interactive 3D destructible environment - environmental objects can be smashed, blown up, broken, knocked down and otherwise affected by your in-game actions - every wall, turret, elevator and statue can be attacked and eventually demolished, inevitably impacting the overall strategy of any given battle.

Nexagon also features a Persistent and Editable Sanctum (Base of Operations) with Editor. As part of the menu interface, the Sanctum Editor allows you to purchase a wide variety of Sanctum Objects between battles such as walls, weapons, traps, columns, embellishments and more are all readily available to you (assuming you have sufficient Network Credits). Using a simple interface, you have access to a comprehensive top down view, as well as a fully navigable 3D view with which to place your Sanctum objects.

Thralls are your eyes and ears in the field and without these Persistent Units it would be impossible to win a battle. Using them to destroy the Enemy Nexus is only half the fun as your thralls actually gain experience between battles. Permanent upgrades are also available for certain thralls, which adds to their value and overall effectiveness.

Persistent Units naturally lead to a Persistent League. As a competitor for freedom, you must fight Enemy Contenders in three different divisions before earning the right to fight in Nexagon; the ultimate title fight for liberation. Each division has several contenders who move up or down in the rankings depending on their performance. Your statistics are carefully maintained and can be viewed at your leisure before or after any battle. The multiplayer aspect of Nexagon: The Pit takes full advantage of this feature for tracking contenders battling against each other on-line. Look for Nexagon: The Pit this Fall.

Look for more detailed coverage on these and other Strategy First titles as they near their release dates.

Working Designs
My last stop for Day 2 was at the Working Designs booth where I got the scoop on three new titles coming out over the next year for the PlayStation 2. Working Designs is a California-based company that specializes in converting CD software from Japanese to English, and enhancing the graphics, gameplay, and audio before releasing the titles in the United States.

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Robot ninjas, magical felines, and samurai from outer space – it’s just another day in the life of Goemon, the mystical ninja! And now he’s coming back to North America, courtesy of Working Designs’ acquisition of Mystical Ninja Goemon, the popular Japanese adventure series’ most advanced installment yet!

Mystical Ninja Goemon continues the “Goemon” franchise that has been established in Japan since the 8-bit era. While this will be the series’ fifth chapter released in the United States, it will be the first to take advantage of the current generation of powerful gaming technology. Developed by the legendary Konami Computer Entertainment Kobe, Mystical Ninja Goemon follows titles such as Legend of the Mystical Ninja and Goemon’s Great Adventure.

“Goemon is a fabulous series that’s never quite received the recognition it deserves here,” said Victor Ireland, president of Working Designs. “With Mystical Ninja Goemon, we hope to change that. There are very few 3D action-adventure games with well-established characters, and fewer yet with a story and gameplay as immersive and interesting as Goemon.”

Set in a wild, action-packed, and often comical version of feudal Japan, Mystical Ninja Goemon is an intense adventure that combines thumb-spraining platform action and real-time fighting with the puzzles, magic spells, special weapons and leveling-up of a role-playing game. As Goemon, players will explore castles, caves and countrysides, and battle through obstacle-laden environments, from fiery pits to frozen glaciers, and even to outer space! Along the way, they’ll encounter famous friends such as Goemon’s rotund crime-fighting partner Ebisimaru, ninja woman Yae, and Sasuke the robot. Goemon is also aided in his quest by a friendly white tiger that can grab items, solve puzzles, and attack enemies at the direction of the player.

Due to the series’ Japanese setting and theme, Working Designs plans to retain many of Mystical Ninja Goemon’s Japanese aspects, while enhancing and localizing it for the English-speaking audience. The game is scheduled to ship with a full-color manual and premium foil-stamped packaging. Other packaging details, release date, ESRB rating and pricing have yet to be determined.

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Gamers all over North America have been pleading for a domestic release of one of the most respected strategy/RPG series in Japan, and soon it will be a reality with Working Designs’ acquisition of Growlanser II: The Sense of Justice and Growlanser III: The Dual Darkness for the PlayStation 2 computer entertainment system!

Developed by Atlus and Career Soft, the Growlanser saga is an epic fantasy tale featuring a unique mix of strategic, menu-driven combat and real-time character movement and fighting. Its sublime combination of action and strategy was crafted by the key team members responsible for the long-running hit series Langrisser in Japan. A deep story, 30 - 40 hours of play time for each game, loads of voice work, and fantastic character designs by anime artist Satoshi Urushihara (best known for his work on Plastic Little) compliment the gameplay and will keep players’ eyes glued to the screen.

“Growlanser is the strategy/RPG series that fans on this side of the Pacific have been demanding more than any other,” said Don Shirley, Working Designs’ VP of marketing. “There’s really nothing else like it. No other games offer the same balance of story, strategy, and real-time interaction. There’s a void in the genre and we want to fill it with the Growlansers.”

Growlanser II: The Sense of Justice introduces players to Growlanser’s world of swordplay and magic, where a tenuous peace between three neighboring countries is on the verge of shattering. Players control the hero, Wein Cruz, and up to seven of his companions in ever more massive, strategic battles against the enemy forces in a variety of scenarios. Customizable characters with upgradable magic, skills and power rings, and multiple story branches through the game make Growlanser II one of the most flexible strategy/RPGs to date.

A regal sword-wielding hero and his female partner take the stage in Growlanser III: The Dual Darkness, which is set before Growlanser II in a world that is slowly dying as the sun is extinguished. Building on its predecessor, Growlanser III features even more freedom to explore, more locales and a larger overworld while retaining the variety and unique combat system previously established. Growlanser III also features randomly generated dungeons for added challenge.

Growlanser II and Growlanser III are each scheduled to ship with full-color manuals and premium foil-stamped packaging, and will be enhanced with all-new introduction scenes and updated graphics for their North American release. Other packaging details, release dates, ESRB ratings and pricing have yet to be determined. Each game will be sold separately.

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