Good week, this was. It was monumental for PAL gamers on the other side of the world, as Sony has finally announced their launch plans for the European and Australian PS3 debut. With this announcement a lot of the anti-Sony flagging that's been going around should settle down. Ben and I have grown pretty tired of having to damage control every miniscule rumor about Sony and the PS3. So with this final launch announcement, the enormous chunk of rumors regarding delays of the PS3 for PAL regions can now end. The month isn't April and it sure isn't September, it is what Sony always said it'd be: March. And March 23rd is just a few short weeks away. Likewise, with 1 million units to launch, this will serve as a major catch-up boost for Sony. With Sony approaching 2 million shipped between North America and Japan, by the end of March they'll probably be close to around 4.5-5M sold, with 6 million shipped.
Meanwhile, Nintendo announced the delay of a number of games for the Wii. In typical Nintendo fashion, Mario Galaxy has been delayed, as is Mario Party for the Wii. Typical, because if anyone recalls the delays of Star Fox Adventures, Wind Waker, and Super Mario Sunshine this is nothing new. Ultimately the skeptics who say the Nintendo Wii will drop off quick in sales have fuel added to their fire. The Nintendo 64 started off equally fast in sales (relatively speaking), but with an abysmal post-launch line-up, Sony took over extremely fast and the 64 would be left in a very, very distant second. The Nintendo Wii has a lot of promise, but Nintendo should not be relying on their Virtual Console releases to maintain the momentum of the console. It was nice of them to launch with Zelda, but they need to continue that momentum with another AAA caliber title and fast.
Look Mom, No Jags!
So how about that firmware update? No one expected the visual fix to come this early. It's a little weird, because Sony doesn't list the backwards compatibility fix as one of the updates on their official site. I'm looking at the email they sent out regarding the update, and all the email says is that firmware 1.5 allows you to:
-Customize your User icon on the PS3 system’s XMB™ (XrossMediaBar) by selecting an image from your system’s hard drive.
-Choose between automatic sign-in to the PLAYSTATION®Network when your PS3 system is turned on or just saving your password for signing in manually.
Though clearly, we know that the firmware contains more than that. Sony doesn't publicly acknowledge the fix to avoid bad press. But hey…they could've spun the fix by saying that the PS3 now optimizes PS2 games to look fantastic on HDTV sets. Because that's essentially what the PS3 does now; it seems to make the game's run in 480p by default. I say that because when activating God of War's progressive scan option, the differences in visual quality aren't very noticeable — they're there, but they seem small. The next big firmware fix that Sony has to release is the Blu-Ray 720p fix, which will allow Blu-Ray movies to display in 720p, as opposed to just 480p and 1080i. But I'm, personally, looking for a way to have custom soundtracks enabled while playing a game — it can be done either via software, or through the cross media bar (XMB). The first is up to the developers, but the second is in the hands of a firmware update from Sony.
Ratatatatatat…Ratatatatatat. GWAAAR! Boom! Game Over.
My next bit of 'bickery' (I may have just made this word up) is first-person shooters. While Ben enjoys the genre, I'm seriously getting really annoyed with the amount of FPS games developers are churning out for next-gen consoles. Don't get me wrong, I love the genre. I spent many, many years and mouse clicks playing Unreal Tournament and Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear on my PC. And I was downright obsessed like a crack addict when it came down to multiplayer games. But now, I just feel like the genre has lost a lot of what made it good. Forgive me for saying this, but when I saw Blacksite: Area 51, I rolled my eyes — 'great, another generic looking alien FPS game.' We already have Resistance, which may have not had the best character art, but it sure did have great looking environments (and it helped that it played superbly well).
Gears of War is probably the epitome of kick ass gameplay with some very intriguing art design, and if more FPS games were developed with that kind of detail in mind, I'd appreciate the FPS genre a bit more. I'm looking forward to Rainbow Six: Vegas and Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2, as I love the more realistic FPS approaches from the Tom Clancy franchise. Unreal Tournament 3 is also on my radar, but every other generic looking FPS game isn't.
The aforementioned games are the best in their respective FPS category, and thus continue to hold my attention. Developers working on the genre need to employ new mechanics to keep the experience engaging and fresh; Resistance did this well with A.I. that was a force to be reckoned with. And Gears of War provided elements of tension, combined with stealth, and immense action that created a superb package. Start getting creative, developers…don't just give me a gun with some aliens and a creepy scenario; it's the reason why Doom III is perhaps the most over hyped FPS game in a very long time.
The War is Over…Let's All Stop The Fight
While on the topic of genres that have grown old, here's a sub-genre of games that needs to end: World War II games. How many possible scenarios of World War II can videogames cover, already? I feel like every WWII game is a repeat of itself. Quite frankly, the first couple of Medal of Honor games and the first two Call of Duty games were enough. With every new iteration, each series grows old and redundant. I can't say that I'm a fan of Call of Duty 3 at all. It is beyond average in every way and an absolute bore to play.
The WWII games are becoming more and more uninspired as times goes by. Does anybody recall an old Konami PS2 game called Ring of Red? It was a war game that takes place in 1964 Japan, but it is unlike any other war game ever made. Instead of mindless shooting, it featured mechs. And instead of being first person, it was actually a strategy game (sort of like Square's Front Mission). I'm not saying WWII games should be strategy, but they do need to be infused with some new traits that'll make them stand out above the rest.