This Week’s Top Stories: December 6 – 12, 2010

Welcome to another instalment in our weekly news digest where the team at PSU Towers picks our favourite slices of gaming gossip from the past seven days, before proceeding to offer our two cents on each story for good measure.

See below for the past week’s top stories.

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PSP2 will be “dead on arrival,” says Pachter

Word to the wise: If you’ve yet to make the transition to handheld gaming, don’t ask Michael Pachter what console you should invest in. It won’t help. Indeed, even we’re starting to get a little flabbergasted by Pachter’s continued negativity towards the portable market – especially Sony’s efforts – considering the amount of highlights that await. There’s no doubt the iPod Touch has made its mark, but to label the PSP2 “dead on arrival” before we even know any concrete details, such as specs, software, and other assorted jargon is outright premature. Likewise for the 3DS, which has already got industry folk chattering amongst each other like giddy schoolgirls. True, DS sales have declined and the PSP has been struggling outside of Japan, but it’s still sold over a whopping 50 million units worldwide. As for Nintendo’s handheld, well, it’s the same story with the Wii – sooner or later, sales are bound to taper off after having endured so much success. The portable market just needs a little shot in the arm, and the arrival of new platforms from industry heavy weights such as Sony and Nintendo is exactly the ticket. Plus, you have to consider the amount of exclusive software available on PSP and DS that won’t be available on iPod – it might have cheaper software, but we can’t see it nabbing those triple-A titles that’ll inevitably sway punters in the direction of Sony or Nintendo’s slab.

Square unveils Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider’s pedigree speaks for itself, though it has to be said the past few endeavours in Miss Croft’s extravagant lifestyle have been decidedly hit and miss. When we first caught wind that Square was planning on giving the venerable series a reboot by having an inexperienced Croft shipwrecked on a remote Island abundant with pits and perils, we figured this would be the ideal kick up the backside the franchise needs. Fortunately the rumors turned out to be the real McCoy for a change, and that’s exactly what we’re getting – and we couldn’t be happier. Details so far include talk of gruesome deaths, an open-world environment, various base camps allowing Croft to create makeshift tools and upgrade her own abilities, and the need to procure water and food in order to ensure survival. From the sound of things there doesn’t seem to be mention of any, well, raiding of tombs, but we’re confident Lara will still get to explore some creepy, long-forgotten ruins or catacombs somewhere along the way. Either way, this is shaping up to be quite intriguing indeed and we’ll be keeping a close watch on its development to say the least.

Europe getting 3rd Birthday, Dissidia 012 in spring 2011 

The PSP could do with a little jolt in PAL regions, and fortunately, Square looks set to be the company to seal the deal. Lifting the veil on a sumptuous software line-up this week, the company confirmed that behemoths such as The 3rd Birthday, Dissidia 012: Final Fantasy among others will finally be released in Europe in spring next year, offering a much-needed boost for Sony’s troubled handheld. With talk of a PSP2 doing the rounds and an expected reveal to pop up at E3 next June, we couldn’t think of a more appropriate time to unleash some of the original machine’s finest titles to remind punters that PSP hasn’t gone the way of the dodo – at least, not yet. Start saving those pennies, folks.

The Agency “needed a lot of work,” says SOE boss

We’ve been waiting for the likes of DC Universe Online and The Agency for what seems like a lifetime, and it hasn’t helped that both MMO outings have racked up so many delays in their time it makes the folks at Virgin Trains seem punctual. In the case of DC Universe, the superhero romp was originally pencilled in for release in November 2010, before being elbowed (sadly, like so many of Sony’s triple-A holiday line-up) in to next year. Still, at least we got to have a butcher’s at the game every now and then to see how things were shaping up. Conversely, The Agency – a spy-themed MMO offering from Sony Online Entertainment – has been keeping a low profile for most of the year, and now won’t see the light of day until late 2011. The reason, we’re told, is because the chaps at SOE didn’t think the game was up to scratch, and needed “a lot of work.” Fair enough, but we were promised a look at the title before the year was up, which isn’t looking too rosy at present. Indeed, when games are pushed back as often as this pair, one can’t help but subconsciously cross all fingers and toes in the hope that the wait will be worth it. Here’s hoping SOE deliver the goods.

EA confirms Dead Space 2 demo

Anyone who digested the recent Dead Space 2 Q&A over on Facebook earlier this week should have been able to deduce that a demo was always on the cards – executive producer Steve Papoutsis wasn’t exactly overly subtle about it, after all. Still, if EA wants to drop a Necromorph-shaped surprise in our stockings this Christmas, then we’ll embrace it with open arms – or rather, the business end of a plasma cutter. Indeed, the original survival horror spectacle remains unequivocally one of the greatest scare ‘em ups ever to grace a home console in recent years, and the follow-up – despite allegedly placing more emphasis on action – is shaping up to be as equally of a thrilling experience as its predecessor. As such, those of you who haven’t yet braved the blood-soaked bowls and dilapidated halls of the USG Ishimura would do well to fork out for Dead Space 1 before the sequel spooks up store shelves next January. Better yet, hit up the sequel’s demo like the rest of us while you’re at it and wet the appetite for launch day. 

Rumor: PSP2 visuals to match early PS3 games

There can be no denying that Nintendo’s 3DS is a beautiful piece of kit, and if Sony wants to steal its thunder for the next lap of the portable hardware racer, it’ll need an equally impressive slab to do the business – from the sounds of things, PSP2 is set to deliver the goods, at least from a graphical perspective. Obviously its just rumors at this point, but if Sony’s pint-sized platform is indeed packing enough clout under its hood to churn out visuals on par with early PS3 games, then we reckon Nintendo will be bricking it come release. Sure, graphics aren’t everything, but to deliver such scrumptious visuals can only serve as a testament to how much technical prowess PSP2 possess, and there can be no doubt that Sony is working to up the ante in other areas. Still, the prospect of indulging in a cinematic extravaganza on par with PS3 offerings such as Resistance or Uncharted while on the train or waiting for the bus has us positively foaming at the mouth. We can’t wait to see what else the system is capable of, and everyone and his granny pretty much knows it’s only a matter of time now.

Mortal Kombat PS3 to feature Kratos

If this doesn’t get you eager to crack some heads come next year, we don’t know what else will. After all, Kratos’ penchant for spilling buckets of claret and brain matter combined with Mortal Kombat’s application of bone-crunching fatalities has the potential for all kinds of awe-inspiring moments. While we’re not sure if MK developer NetherRealm Studios plans to take a leaf out of Namco’s book and offer 360 owners their own exclusive brawler (ala Soul Calibre II, where PS2 owners got Heihachi, Xboxers received Spawn and GameCube gamers got Link – easily the best of the bunch), we imagine the prospect of hopping in to the boots of Master Chief or perhaps a Gears of War grunt would sit will with owners of Microsoft’s box. But speculation is best left to the comments section. For now, we’ll spend the rest of the day imaging the many brutal ways God of War’s resident bald badass could clobber Kabal and eviscerate Ermac.

Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception unveiled & dated

Crikey, can nothing stay under lock and key these days? Not that we’re complaining – although we can’t say we anticipated one of the hottest games of 2011 to be unveiled on a dreary Thursday afternoon while we were sipping on a well-earned mug of Maxwell House. Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception is a reality. Yep, we knew a third game was coming, in fact we have done ever since Nolan North said it’d be “common sense” to do a sequel to 2009’s scrumptious sequel Among Thieves. Much to our delight it’ll be set in a sprawling desert, and as we later found out at the VGAs this weekend will be on shelves in less than a year – November 1, 2011 to be precise. However, what’s really got us salivating at the lips like a rabid hellhound is the fact the narrative is tied specifically to cheeky treasure hunter Nathan Drake’s relationship with the utterly brilliant Victor “Sully” Sullivan. Frankly, we can’t get enough of the cigar-smoking, wisecracking sidekick, and were slightly miffed at Naughty Dog’s decision to restrict the old boy to Uncharted 2’s beginning chapters only, save for an obligatory comical appearance at the climax. As such, we’re eager to see how the team expand on Drake and Sullivan’s relationship this time around, and we can’t wait to see how the dynamic duo go about pillaging tombs and battering bad guys in pursuit of a “legendary lost city.” Apparently the developers are keen to spice up the multiplayer side of things this time around, and, while we enjoy indulging in a spot of online gunplay, we just hope the extra tinkering with the multiplayer won’t be at the detriment to the quality of the single player experience. After all, Uncharted is a polished package in every respect, but the meat and potatoes has always been about delivering a compelling, cinematic single player experience – and we wouldn’t want that to change. Either way, we’re absolutely stoked and can’t wait to have a gander at the first gameplay footage this coming Monday.
Sony reveals new controllers to coincide with Killzone 3

This put a smile on our face. After all, we can’t be the only ones to possess fond memories of waving plastic guns about in front of our PlayStation’s as we laid down an uncoordinated onslaught of digital death upon unsuspecting bad guys in Time Crisis. Now it looks like we can do it all again – albeit in front of our PS3’s, in glorious 3D and blasting Helghast to pieces in Killzone 3. Yep, as far as gun attachments go, we’ve seen far worse than Sony’s effort, and we’re looking forward to its impending February release so we can relive those care-free days all over again. Still, we’re slightly miffed at having to shell out $40 – $10 less than the price of a full game – for the peripheral, but we know we’ll do it regardless.

Mass Effect 2 PS3 gets release date

While we’ve known for some time that sci-fi spectacle Mass Effect 2 would be arriving on PS3 in January, we haven’t been privy to an actual date until now. Yep, January 18 is the day to mark in your diaries folks – unless you’re from Europe, in which case you’ll get it a couple of days later on January 21. Excited yet? If that wasn’t enough to float your boat, BioWare’s also confirmed that the port will feature a heap of DLC (Lair of the Shadow Broker, Project Overlord, Kasumi: Stolen Memory, and the Blood Dragon Armor), making this celebrated sequel even more of an essential purchase for fans and new adopters alike. Speaking of new adopters, we’re keeping our fingers crossed that the digital comic included in Mass Effect 2 will deliver the goods in bringing new users up to speed with the intricate plot – after all, there’s a lot of ground to cover. Be sure to look out for our definitive dissection of Mass Effect 2 late next month.

Tomb Raider won’t depict Lara Croft as “sex object”  

Those of you who found Lara’s more conspicuous physical assets quite the titillating sight better pull out the old Tomb Raider games to get your fix – you won’t be getting any fleshy flashes in Croft’s latest outing. Frankly, we’re excited to see a new side to the archaeologist adventurer after all this time, and we’re intrigued to see what Crystal Dynamics comes up with. The prospect of an inexperienced, naïve Croft fending off against near-insurmountable odds certainly provides a strike contrast to the one-woman wrecking machine we’ve become accustomed to, and the overall emphasis on survival makes for a welcome change to an industry chock full of blasters and cinematic blockbusters. Our only concern is the poor lass’s height in comparison to the burly brutes that inhabit the island – a less than intimidating 5’7. Better go for the skins old girl – slays ‘em every time.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim announced

About bloody time, Bethesda! We’ve been gagging to get our hands on a follow-up to the majestic Oblivion ever since spending much of 2007 locked in our rooms ploughing through the exquisite PlayStation 3 version, and have been wondering if it’d ever show its face. Surprise, surprise though, and it seems that the developers have been quietly chiselling away at the sequel for the past two years – they just didn’t want to let us know until now. Frankly, we’re glad this was the case, since it means less waiting, with The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim pencilled in for release on November 11, 2011. Back when Oblivion was announced many moons ago in 2004, fans had an excruciating two-year wait (three years if you didn’t snap it up for PC or 360) for the game to arrive on store shelves, so we’re not complaining. While the trailer has certainly wet our appetite with its moody dialogue and bombastic orchestral score, what we really want to clap eyes on is some cold, hard gameplay footage. Still, it’s on its way, and will be joining a heap of triple-A offerings that look set to cement 2011 as one of the greatest gaming years in recent memory. Bring it on.

Mass Effect 3 announced, confirmed for PS3

Let’s not kid ourselves here; we all knew BioWare planned on lifting the curtain on the third instalment in its sci-fi behemoth at the VGAs, but our jaws are still rooted to the ground nonetheless. Frankly, if it wasn’t for the extended Uncharted 3 teaser, this may very well have been our highlight of the entire show. London, UK, trashed beyond recognition as countless Reapers lay waste to everything in sight as we witness an eagle-eyed sharp shooter nesting in the remnants of Big Ben itself, desperately trying to cap any enemies in his line of sight as civilians flee in terror. Then we cut to main man Shepherd as he surveys the onslaught from space, a moody voice over proclaiming the end of mankind is nigh if our hero doesn’t get in on the action sharpish. Bloody fantastic. Furthermore, the best news is that it’s coming to PS3 – and with Mass Effect 2 due in January, we wouldn’t have expected it any other way. Oh, and it’ll be in our hands by this time next year. Can 2011 get any better? We honestly don’t think it’s possible at this rate.