th Annual PSX Extreme Awards
Aaron: The PSP launched with a bang. Lumines, Ridge Racer,
Wipeout Pure, Hot Shots – they were all great games. Then things got quiet.
Really quiet. UMD movies, which nobody really cared about were hitting stores,
but games were hard to come by. Slowly things got better, as Midnight Club,
Burnout Legends, Virtua Tennis, SOCOM: Fireteam Bravo, and Grand Theft Auto:
Liberty City Stories made their way to the fledgling handheld. There's no doubt
the PSP is a very powerful piece of hardware, but the large number of lackluster
releases and their missing features as well as long load times were starting to worry
gamers that had invested $250 on the system. Fortunately, a number of developers
have taken their time and have been able to produce some amazing games. Not
just great games for a handheld, mind you, but great games period. What say you,
Frank: People have been complaining that the PSP doesn't
have any games. While I'll admit that the release schedule has slowed to a crawl
since launch, I simply don't agree with the blanket statement that there's
nothing to play. WipeOut Pure has been a mainstay in my PSP since launch, and it
just keeps getting better thanks to the new levels and ships that Sony makes
available for download each month. And how about Namco Museum, Burnout Legends,
and Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories? Those are hardly chopped liver. The
kiddies tell me that Virtua Tennis is great fun, if you like tennis. Personally,
I was pleasantly surprised by two recent releases–Lord of the Rings: Tactics
and Tokobot. If you want a solid strategy-RPG or a cute platformer, I suggest
you check either of them out.
Heck, I didn't even mention the emulators and homebrew games that those of us
with firmware revisions 2.0-and-earlier can play. No games? Perhaps the
PSP's library isn't as prolific as the PS2's, but there's still plenty of
quality to be had. Take over for me Cavin.
Cavin: The PSP started off with one of the strongest system
launches in gaming history, delivering several high-quality hit titles up front.
And then…there was nothing. For a really long time. OK, there was Hot Shots
Golf about a month or two after release. Other than that, we got a lot of
movies, which I haven't yet bought into, but apparently they're selling well
enough for studios to keep rolling out new titles. However, it is to be
expected, as nearly every fresh, new system comes with a built-in lull period.
Now the PSP is getting back into the swing of things. New titles are being
announced all of the time, most remakes or updates to classic series (which is,
at least, preferable to ports of currently available ones), but that's not to
leave out interesting new prospects such as Loco Roco or Hideo Kojima's new
Metal Gear games. While the future looks bright, a surprising number of quality
titles were released in 2005 and that should make any owner very happy. Oh look,
Bill's taken a break from driving on the wrong side of the road to tell us about
the PSP's year across the pond.
Bill: The European release of the PSP was just one big
enigma; full of problems and technicalities that pushed the release date back, delaying it to a September release. With the
legal stuff aside, the console itself had a very inflated price compared to that
of our US cousins. The system itself costs £185 (about $50-60 more than the cost
in America) and the giga pack costing about £270 with two games (That's about
$465!). Nonetheless the late release may have been a blessing in disguise, with
the console launching with some great games that may not have been there on the
Aaron: Enough jibber-jabber. On to the awards fools!
PSX Extreme Top 5 PSP Games of 2005
Lumines (Game Of The Year)
GTA: LCS (Bronze)
Game of the Year
Lumines (Q Entertainment/Ubisoft)
PSX Extreme Review Score: 8.9
Bill: A crazy addictive puzzle game that also came to a surprise to
me. I've never been big on puzzle games, in fact I get tired of them really
easily, but Lumines is totally different. Most people that I know, in real life
and on the forums, would probably agree with me when I say it'd be quite easy to
sit and play the game for hours on end. The mix of vibrant colors, cool music
and a puzzle formula that is easy to pick up make this game one of the most
original and inventive games of the year, and certainly one of the best games on
Frank: Take one look at it and you know everything there
is to know about Lumines, except, of course, that it's insidiously addictive.
Play it for 5 minutes or play it for 5 hours — you'll come away smiling.
Mizoguchi's landmark puzzle-music game combines the simplicity of Tetris with
the symphonic bliss of trance music to literally put players "in the zone."
Aaron: Lumines is a solid puzzle game, but it really
stands out from others in the genre due to its distinctive style. The fact that
you have to devote so much time achieving a new high score to unlock things is
one of its few faults, and when you wake up bleary-eyed in the morning because
you wanted to finish your game before you went to bed, you’ll be cursing this
Cavin: One of the most addictive puzzle games I've played
in years, its sublime marriage of music and block-matching could put you in a
trance for several hours at a time. Though the mighty praise for this game is
more than justified, the hype seemed to wear off once people started hitting the
maximum high score. Even Q Entertainment's other puzzler released this year,
Meteos, didn't place a cap on how far you could go. What gives? There's little
other fault to find in Lumines, though. It's one of those games that is always a
joy to play because each time you can feel yourself getting better and better.
Burnout Legends (EA Games)
Review Score: 9.0
Frank: This tiny miracle crams everything from the console versions of
Burnout into a single PSP disc that you can play anywhere. Burnout Legends is a
"greatest hits" collection of sorts, because it contains cars and courses taken
from the first three original Burnout titles. Gameplay is ripped right out of
Burnout 3, with fender bending takedowns, brutal aftertouch crashes, and nasty
revenge takedowns all featuring heavily. Spectacular crashes, spark-filled
explosions, and smooth 30FPS graphics are a joy to watch. Five play modes, 175
events, 90 cars, and the smash-a-riffic road rage and crash competitions will
keep players occupied for weeks, and the ad hoc 4-player multiplayer support
ain't bad either.
Aaron: Even though it has been shrunk down to the small screen, Legends
manages to maintain all of the white knuckle racing you’d expect from a Burnout
game. Burnout Legends does a great job of showing off the power of the PSP. The
framerate is crisp, the cars are of course, fully destructible, and even sparks,
motion blur, and explosions are present. It's a hell of a way to pass a
cross-country flight – I've done it a few times. Also, just so you know, Frank
cheats during Crash Mode and plays it in slow motion at 111mhz.
Cavin: People initially doubted the ability of the PSP to faithfully pull
off games like this. Though it would've been nice to have more custom content
instead of being an anthology of sorts for the previous PS2 titles, it is some
of the best racing action you can have on the run and delivers it to nearly the
same level as its console counterparts.
Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories (Rockstar)
PSX Extreme Review Score: 8.9
Aaron: There’s an amazing amount of stuff to do in the game, and it truly
is a full-fledged Grand Theft Auto title. The graphics are nice, the game is
huge, the radio stations are great, and you can (with considerable effort)
listen to your own music if you wish. One of the most amazing things about
Liberty City Stories are the load times, or more appropriately, the lack of load
times. Other than some brief loading going into and coming out of cut-scenes,
there’s no loading whatsoever. It would have been nice to see a few more
concessions made in the transition to the handheld, such as the ability to save
anywhere and restart missions immediately, but minor quibbles aside, it’s a heck
of an effort from Rockstar.
Cavin: Like Burnout Legends, a lot of skepticism surrounded the PSP
version of Rockstar's key franchise. Press and fans alike weren't confident that
a full-fledged city could be rendered in real-time with little or no loading,
but they pulled it off. Liberty City Stories not only matches GTA3 in terms of
quality, but surpasses it. I'd like to see them tackle a new city next time, or
at least open up more new areas, but the bevy of new missions and characters
kept it from feeling like a retread.
Frank: I'll be honest. This is still sitting on my shelf waiting to be
played, because I have to update my firmware to play it and I refuse to do that
until I've downloaded a firmware-downgrade hack. You hear that, Sony?! I
value emulators over your Draconian lockout plans! I know it's wonderful;
I've watched people play it; but for now I'm busy playing Smash TV, Cybernator,
and Zombies Ate My Neighbors.
Wipeout Pure (SCEE)
PSX Extreme Review Score: 8.3
Frank: One of the PSP's earliest games and still one of the best, mainly
because they keep making new tracks and crafts available for download. Bring it
home and you can fire up the in-game downloader (if you have a WiFi router and
broadband Internet) to add a half-dozen additional crafts and ten more courses
to the 10 and 12 already on the disc. And Sony still has more download packs on
the way! Tackle those courses in the five-class single-player mode or invite
friends over for some 4-player local WiFi play. Besides all of that great
content, this fast-paced futuristic racing game leaps off the PSP with the two
things we love most: a sublime future-techno soundtrack and gorgeous technicolor
graphics that often achieve 60fps smoothness.
Cavin: Wipeout Pure's depth is at first subtle, but the farther you get
into the game the more you realize there actually is. Managing weapons and speed
around the crazy turns becomes increasingly difficult as you make your way up
through faster and faster ship classes. Out of the spotlight for awhile due to
the series' near absence throughout the lifespan of the PS2, it made a
triumphant return to its roots on Sony's new portable this year. Still one of
the few PSP games to feature Downloadable Content, Wipeout Pure is the
futuristic racer that keeps on giving. Now if only they'd give us those trippy
artist-designed tracks that the Europeans recently got!
Aaron: Like Frank with GTA, this is one game I just haven't been able to
spend any time with. I've played a few games here and there, but I just haven't
been able to commit the time to unlocking everything, which seems to be a big
part of the game's draw. Perhaps 2006 is the year for more Wipeout in my life.
Aaron: Virtua Tennis: World Tour is an updated version of the
popular Dreamcast game, and it has lost nothing in its transition to the PSP. In
fact, the game is so well suited for the handheld that this might be the most
enjoyable version of the game yet. Virtua Tennis is easy to pick up and play,
but learning the nuances of the game takes a great while to master, so it's fun
for all types of players. The mini-games, like Fruit Dash, Blocker, Blockbuster,
and Balloon Smash are tons of fun to play and are crazy addictive as well. Just
like the original game on the Dreamcast, it's fun for fans of tennis, but it's
also a very accessible title to people that don't follow, play, or even care
much about the sport.
Two sets of awards down, and three more to go. Tomorrow we'll have our Editor's
Picks, and those will be followed by our Reader Awards, and our "Extreme Duds"
of 2005. Thanks for visiting the site in 2005 – we've grown tremendously, and
we'll continue to provide you great coverage of all things Sony in 2006.