This Week’s Top Stories: February 14 – 20, 2011

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.

– – – – – – – – 

Rumor: Mirror’s Edge sequel on hold

Mirror’s Edge is a bit like marmite – you either love it, or hate it. Indeed, that seemed to be the general consensus among critics and gamers alike, with the parkour-inspired actioner attracting mixed reviews and luke warm sales upon its release back in November 2008. Still, it attracted a cult following among some gamers, who have been clamouring for a sequel ever since. EA’s previously said a follow-up was in the works, with company boss John Riccitiello claiming it does “deserve a sequel.” Unfortunately though, it seems things have hit something of a brick wall. According Internet reports, DICE have moved on to something else, and the project’s stalled. This is all despite the fact EA cobbled together a demo and showed it off behind closed doors some time ago. I personally haven’t played the game myself, though PSU’s Steven Williamson wasn’t overly keen on it as you can see from his review here. Nonetheless, my curiosity has been piqued, and I’d be interested in seeing what DICE could come up with in a potential sequel. No doubt a few of you would also like to get your hands on another of feisty Faith’s building-hopping, baddie-bashing antics, so for now we’ll keep our fingers crossed.

PS2 has shipped 150 million units worldwide

Blimey, how time flies. I still remember back when the PS2 was the ‘next big thing’ at the turn of the millennium, when Sony was knocking down social barriers and wowing punters with its DVD-compatible juggernaut. I recall walking to the local game store at some obscene time in the morning with a mate to pick up his shiny new PS2 on launch day, taking it round his place, and tearing through copious rounds of Tekken Tag Tournament. And whopping his arse in the process. But I’m babbling on here. PS2’s been around the block, having lasted over ten years on the market, and has reached yet another milestone – 150 million units shipped worldwide. Not too shabby, eh? Indeed, it cannot be denied that Sony’s trusty work horse has seen some of the last decade’s finest slices of interactive entertainment, from sprawling sandbox outings such as Grand Theft Auto III to compelling, innovative works in the shape of Fumito Ueda’s artsy ICO. Sony ruled the roost during the 2000s, seeing off competition from the then-struggling Dreamcast, as well as GameCube and Xbox. I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t play nearly as many games for the system as I should have done (GameCube was my console of choice last-gen, an underrated system if ever there was one) but those I did own have received much attention to this very day. In fact, I make it a yearly ritual to plough through Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater at least twice, a game that happens to be one of my all-time favourites on any platform, period. Hats off to you PS2, and cheers for the memories.

Sledgehammer aiming for ‘bug free’ Call of Duty

Thank the lord for that. Don’t me wrong, Black Ops was a competent shooter and I for one feel it’s easily one of the best games in the series to date. I mean, Viktor Reznov – need I say more? That aside, the online experience was marred beyond recognition. To compound the issue, Activision took their sweet time attempting to fix the issue, and by that point gamers had understandably got so cheesed off over the whole fiasco, the updates did little to quell tempers. In fact, things got so out of hand; Activision was accused by folk of using PS3 owners “like game testers.” Not exactly the sort of thing that screams customer satisfaction. Anyway, with Sledgehammer at the helm of this year’s game (which may or may not be Modern Warfare 3), I’m relieved – as no doubt many of you are too – that they’re aiming to deliver a solid experience for their inaugural entry into the series. Of course, whether or not they deliver on that promise is another kettle of fish altogether, but we’ll just have to wait and see. As for the game itself, well, as I’ve said many times, I absolutely loved Modern Warfare and its sequel, so I’m stoked for a third outing. That is, just as long as we at least see Captain Price or Soap again. PSU will be sure to keep you in the loop on any developments surrounding 2011’s Call of Duty outing as they break.

Bleszinski praises NGP twin analogue sticks

Good ‘ol Cliffy B. Ahem, sorry, that’s Cliff Bleszinski – you know how he hates being called Cliffy B. nowadays. Either way, the pint-sized Epic Games dev is renowned for his frank opinions on numerous industry goings-on, and this time has turned his attention to Sony’s NGP. And from the look of things, he’s rather stoked for it. In particularly, he’s expressed his delight at Sony’s decision to include twin analogue sticks in its pint-sized portable, citing it’ll improve the hardware’s chances in the FPS genre. For Cliff, twin-thumbed shooters just don’t translate all that well to a touch-screen platform, you see. Of course, I can’t personally comment on the effectiveness (or lack of) on touch-screen shooters, having never played any, though Cliff’s a bloke who obviously knows what he’s talking about. And if he claims that the NGP is better off with twin analogue sticks – which isn’t hardly to understand given how fiddly the original PSP proved in some cases – then that’s good enough for me. So far, it seems every man and his dog is frothing at the mouth over Sony’s PSP successor, and comments like these only further cement that belief. I’ve personally never been much of a handheld gamer, and despite the 3DS looking like a mighty impressive piece of kit, NGP has already swayed me – after all, I can play Zelda and Star Fox on my N64, I’d much rather spend my hard-earned dough on all-new games like Uncharted and Resistance on NGP. How about you guys? Made up your minds yet?

New Assassin’s Creed in FY2012, Brotherhood ships 6.5 million

Although we’ve already heard rumblings of a fresh instalment in the Assassin’s Creed franchise, it’s still welcoming to hear an outright confirmation of a new game. In this case, it’s straight from the horse’s mouth, with Ubisoft boss Yves Guillemot confirming a new game will arrive “this year” (aka FY2012). What’s more, the first details will drop in May, so it looks like we’ll be getting pre-E3 reveal. Perfect. Meanwhile, news that Brotherhood has shipped 6.5 million units worldwide should be equally applauded, as this can only be good news for the brand. Still, I’m hopeful Ubisoft will deliver on its promise of not milking the series dry – in light of what happened to Guitar Hero, I’d gladly wait 2-3 years for a new game as opposed to annual releases. Still, there’s no doubt in my mind that this won’t be the case for the stealthy series.

THQ teases “HUGE” announcement for next month

Frankly, I’d be surprised if this announcement turned out to be anything other than Saints Row 3. THQ’s been promising a reveal for quite some time now, and as we’ve reiterated on more than one occasion in the past, was due to show up at E3 last year and later, the Spike VGAs in December. Those never happened, with THQ pulling out of a formal reveal due to “quality” reasons. However, with a new RTS scheduled for an August reveal, Saints Row 3 is the only logical conclusion left. Unless of course, they’ve got something else up their sleeves all this time. Nonetheless, I highly doubt this is the case. Saints Row 3 is long overdue for a proper announcement, it certainly fills the “HUGE” credentials and it makes perfect sense for us to get a pre-E3 peak at the sandbox sequel. Watch this space – mid-March should be quite the spectacle.

Guerrilla hints at future Killzone games

To coin a popular juvenile phrase, “duh.” I mean, let’s face it, did anyone ever have any doubt that the Killzone franchise would be going underground anytime soon? Thought not. After all, it’s one of Sony’s biggest exclusives, and the series’ multiplayer component has legions of gamers flocking to online battle zones like bees to honey every month. Obviously, Killzone 3’s only just on the verge of release as I type these words, so it’s a bit premature to be thinking about a possible fourth offering of Helghast-blasting antics. Nonetheless, with the franchise already making the transition to NGP, it’s not too hard to imagine the esteemed shooter has a healthy future ahead of it. After all, Guerrilla notes that it hasn’t exhausted all avenues yet, leaving “ample opportunity” for a potential follow-up. As it stands, I personally feel Killzone will be lying low as far as PS3-iterations go for the next couple of years to make room for the aforementioned handheld outing, while Guerrilla may turn its attention to something fresh. Killzone 4 though? That’s definitely on the cards somewhere down the line. Just don’t hold your breath.

160GB Killzone 3 bundle, perfect PS3 starter kit?

My answer to that would be an unequivocal yes. Killzone 3’s probably the most anticipated PS3 release so far this year (although to be fair, the competition is pretty stiff), so I couldn’t think of a better way to introduce someone to Sony’s black box of tricks than with a meaty 160GB PS3 with a copy of the Guerrilla Games shooter thrown in for good measure. Indeed, regular readers may recall that PSU caught wind of this bundle the other week after it was leaked on Amazon, though at the time it was thought to be a European-only release. As it turns out, the bundle’s due out in North America, but that’s beside the point – it’s a tempting package, and will no doubt facilitate PS3 sales for the month of February and beyond. And anything that flogs more consoles gets the thumbs up as far as I’m concerned; especially as Xbox 360’s exclusive line-up is a little bare at the moment. As such, this gives Sony plenty of leg room to sway punters over to the PS3 side of the fence, especially given the sumptuous software line-up the hardware manufacturer has up its sleeves in the coming months. Killzone 3’s a system seller, and it’ll no doubt do the business like its predecessor accomplished this time two years ago (blimey, doesn’t time fly?).

EA wants to reclaim FPS market, claims Battlefield 3 will be best game out this year

As hard as it may be to conceive of in this day and age, EA did indeed once dominate the FPS market before conceding the pedestal to Activision’s Call of Duty franchise. Apparently, this was a result of a dodgy transition to then next-gen platforms (i.e, PS3 and Xbox 360), leaving Medal of Honor behind in the trenches scraping mud off its face. Call of Duty, meanwhile, became the undisputed champion of the FPS market.  Now EA’s keen to supplant the Activision juggernaut, says CEO John Riccitiello. Truth be told, I’m not too sure if they’ll succeed or not. The thing about Call of Duty is, while some hardcore gamers have turned off the series as of late, the shooter still has mass market appeal, attracting everyone and his dog with each yearly instalment. Battlefield on the other hand, while undeniably offering a fresher experience and perhaps resonating more with hardened gamers, doesn’t quite pack the same punch from a commercial point of view. That’s not to say it won’t pull in the punters, of course. I’m expecting great things from the game, and it’ll no doubt sell like hot cakes – but enough to steal CoD’s crown? I’m not so sure. It’d be great to see it happen, though. Nothing like healthy competition after all, and with Battlefield gunning for CoD’s glory, maybe it’d give Treyarch and/or Infinity Ward the nudge it needs to implemented some fresh tweaks to the formula. Regardless, I’m stoked to see what EA comes up with in Battlefield 3 and it’ll be interesting to see how it stacks up against this year’s CoD offering. Bring it on.

EA’s John Riccitiello mentions Dead Space 3

Frankly I’d be surprised if anyone ever doubted the possibility of seeing Dead Space 3. True, the franchise proved somewhat of a slow burner at retail with the arrival of the 2008 inaugural blood bath, but the sequel soon fixed that. In fact, it’s already outsold its predecessor, and it’s not even been in shops for more than a few weeks. Not too shabby. Apparently though it hasn’t sold well enough to cement itself a place in EA’s list of “growing” franchises, with head honcho John Riccitiello suggesting the series’ sales won’t really take off until the arrival of a third instalment. Being a huge fan of Dead Space (though admittedly, I haven’t played the sequel at the time of writing) I’m eager to see the franchise grow beyond where it currently lies, though not at a detriment to the overall quality. No CoD-style brand milking here please, EA.

Sony “not debating” PlayStation 4, says Hirai

Blimey, are people still talking about PlayStation 4 after all this time? As if Sony hasn’t made it abundantly clear on several occasions that a PS3 successor won’t be seeing the light of day anytime soon, it seems the platform holder still find itself ramming it down our throats again and again. Indeed, as Kaz “Riiidge Raaacer” Hirai points out, PS3 has a decade’s worth of shelf life, and it’s not even half way through that lifecycle as I type these words. As such, it’s not surprising to hear that Sony’s “not even debating” the topic of PS4 yet. It’s not just Sony, either. Numerous developers and publishers have commented many times in the past that fresh hardware won’t crop up for some time, and while the prospect of a Wii HD isn’t entirely inconceivable in this savvy, high-tech era we live in, Sony and Microsoft certainly won’t be rolling out any new platform’s just yet. Of course, this is direct contrast to earlier generations, particularly in Sony’s case, where a new PlayStation would emerge from the shadows after five years or so. Take a look at PS2 and PS3, for example; the former hit shelves in 2000, while its successor was announced in 2005, before launching a year later. Still, there’s ample potential left in PS3, not to mention the fact NGP’s on the horizon, so while I can’t speak for everyone, I’m quite content to have my black box sitting comfortably next to my TV for the next few years. How about you lot?

SCEA to present new NGP details at GDC 2011

The next few months are going to be a pretty exciting time for PlayStation owners. Aside from the barrage of triple-A PS3 exclusives looking to drain our wallets, Sony’s NGP will be taking centre stage as we enter the event-heavy spring/summer season, where journalists can expect to go hands-on with the pint-sized platform, many for the first time. Unsurprisingly it is then, to see that the console maker is looking to lift the cloth on fresh details on its PSP successor at GDC, which is just around the corner. Quite what the platform holder has up its sleeves is anyone’s guess, but we’ll be sure to keep you in the loop.

Exclusive: Crysis 2 producer talks PS3 demo, downloadable content

PSU was lucky enough to bag ourselves an insightful chinwag with Crytek’s Nathan Camarillo at EA’s recent “Swing into Spring” event this week, who offered some tantalizing tidbits on Crysis 2. Specifically, Camarillo told our New York-based correspondent Eric Blattberg that PlayStation 3 owners can ‘probably hope’ for a demo, as well as indicating that DLC was almost definitely in the pipeline. Naturally I’m chuffed to hear this, as I’ve wanted to get a taste of Crysis 2 before I decide to part with my hard earned cash, especially due to the fact I’ve not played the original. Still, from the sound of it, the game’s quality certainly speaks for itself, though it’s worth pointing out that PSU’s Edwin Evans-Thirwell wasn’t entirely convinced by the sci-fi shooter’s basic mission objectives. Nonetheless, I’ll reserve judgement for now. More promising, however, is the fact there won’t be any discernible differences between the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game. Indeed it’s great to see developers squeezing the most out of Sony’s black box as far as multi-platform development goes, putting the times of shoddy third party ports firmly behind us.

Dead Island screens are dead good, PS3 version confirmed

As I touched on in my news article, Dead Island’s been MIA for quite some time, and like many folk I was starting to wonder if the zombie-centric survival romp would ever rear its maggot-infested head after all this time. Fortunately it has, and with good news – a PS3 version will also be lumbering onto store shelves alongside its 360 and PC counterpart. Frankly this is some of the best news I’ve heard all year. Being the huge zombie aficionado I am, Dead Island immediately caught my attention upon its initial unveiling back in 2007, and I’ve been following the game’s development ever since. The premise sounds utterly brilliant. Survive on a tropical island infested with cannibalistic undead hordes while making use of a myriad of every-day weaponry and scraping around for precious ammunition. Sounds a lot like survival horror to me, which can only be a good thing – lord knows we need more of them in this day and age. Furthermore, the visuals look utterly scrumptious, and presuming things haven’t changed in three years since it’s been on hiatus, the developers will be implementing some pretty gruesome blood and gore effects. Lovely jubbly.

CoD: Black Ops tops January US software sales

If ever there was proof needed that everyone and his granny have been gravitating towards Call of Duty: Black Ops since its November release, look no further than the latest NPD figures for January. Indeed, the ubiquitous Cold War-era shooter came out on top as the top-selling game release for the month, as was the case with December. Will it ever stop? Not likely, at least, not until Killzone 3 shows up, and even then we’re not entirely convinced the Guerrilla shooter has the pulling power to supplant the CoD juggernaut. And that’s not us being pessimistic, either – we’re just being realistic. Black Ops has toppled virtually every single platform exclusive that’s popped up over the past few months, so it could go either way. Nonetheless, we’re expecting big things from Killzone 3, and hopefully February software sales will reveal healthy numbers for the PS3-exclusive blaster. Elsewhere, I’m ecstatic (and no, it doesn’t take a lot to excite me) to see Dead Space 2 making third place, which when you consider the woefully underwhelming sales of the original must be music to EA and developer Visceral Games’ ears. God knows the sequel deserves the attention, since it’s bloody brilliant (no pun intended). LittleBigPlanet 2 also made the top five much to my delight, while DC Universe Online poked its head in at ten. Overall, not too shabby on the PS3 front, more so because Sony followed up with the announcement that software sales for its flagship console had increased 25 percent year-on-year.

inFamous 2 dated for North America

So there we have it: June 7, 2011 is the day that Cole McGrath finally shocks it to PS3 owners in the electricity-charged infamous 2. Truth be told, I’m actually relieved it’s not out for a few months, PS3 owners already have their hands full with a deluge of triple-A delights as it is. Plus, a June release will help supplement that notoriously dodgy summer period, where quality games are something of a rare sighting. Still, the best part’s not the date – it’s the official confirmation of the Hero Edition that’s got tongues wagging. Previously outed on amazon, the bundle easily stands up there with the likes of the Killzone 3 Helghast set, and the forthcoming Duke Nukem Forever Balls of Steel Edition, throwing in a heap of goodies including a super voucher for in-game content and McGrath statue. You get what you pay for, though, and in this case it’s a wallet-draining $99.99 USD. I can already feel my trouser pocket getting lighter and lighter by the week thanks all these bundles that keep popping up – just what is a bloke supposed to do faced with such a dilemma?

OPM backs up Modern Warfare 3 rumors, says Dead Space 3 is in the works

Typically I try my best not to be baited by rumors these days no matter how intriguing they are, but in this case I’m mentally crossing my fingers. Modern Warfare has always been a favourite of mine, and while I’m not the biggest fan of prequels, I’d jump at the chance of being able to command cockney Ghost for the first time. Plus, gravel-voiced Craig Fairbrass is an absolute legend, and having always been a big fan of his work, it’d be brilliant to see him return to the Call of Duty universe. Just a shame he’s playing a character that will inevitably meet a grisly demise. Elsewhere, news of Dead Space 3’s supposed development put a huge grin on my rugged unshaven features Saturday morning, and if true, ties in neatly with comments uttered earlier this week by EA’s John Riccitiello. So, take with a pinch of salt as I said in the news article, but for me personally, I genuinely hope these rumblings come into fruition. Fingers crossed.