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Nuts ‘N’ Bolts: Volume 3

I know this is late but Happy April Fools Day- especially to those who are waiting for the Limited Edition Army Men Compilation and Halo 2 on PS2! Sorry if we caused any harm but it was worth the effort!

Earlier this week Capcom released details of their 2003 lineup. Expect previews and the works from Thunderbolt when the time comes.

Quirky Gamecube beat-’em-up Viewtiful Joe revisits the days of classic side-scrollers such as Final Fight, with tons of stylish effects thrown in for good measure – not least Matrix-style slow-mos. The game is scheduled for a spring release in Japan and will hit the UK towards the end of the year.

Dino Crisis 3, for Xbox, comes from Shinji Mikami – the producer of the Resident Evil series – and sends players to the outer limits of space where, natch, all-new dinosaurs have been discovered by a team of intergalactic Marines. It’s due to be released in the autumn.

Finally, PN03 sees you play as Vanessa Z Shneider, a mercenary with a personal vendetta against CAMS (Computer Arms Management System), which was responsible for the death of her parents. Cue plenty of sci-fi shootery. The Cube-only title will be released at the end of August.

Jak And Daxter was a platforming treat and now Naughty Dog is set to unleash a sequel to be called Jak II: Renegade. The new game includes characters from the first adventure as well as a new collection of colourful characters. Once again, the game is heavily plot-driven and every mission that you complete on your journey has a direct effect on the outcome. The world of Jak II is bigger than the original and the game also promises to be much darker than the comedic first title.

Naughty Dog co-founder Jason Rubin told us this about the new adventure: “Jak II: Renegade will push the PlayStation 2 to new levels, adding visual impact and detail to both the environments and the characters. With the addition of multiple weapons that can be employed at any time, and numerous power-ups available to the player in every game location, Jak II: Renegade provides far more freedom and immersion than gamers have experienced before.”

With one hour of cinematic animations, the story of Jak II should immerse players more than the usual platform adventure and if this is anywhere near as impressive as Jak And Daxter then we could be looking at one of the games of the year.

Now this is looking quite promising. Bam! Entertainment will be releasing Ice Nine, developed by Torus Games, in June this year. Following the current consumer love affair with stealth games, Ice Nine takes the form of a FPS.

Your mission is to stop the theft and deployment of a devastating computer virus known as Ice Nine. Throughout the game the player will apparently make choices that will determine which of the game’s multiple endings you receive. You can either play as a straight-laced, by the book CIA officer and progress through the ranks, or do a bit of double crossing and work for a Chinese terrorist organisation. Promised are loads of guns and gadgets, smart AI, and a convincing physics engine. Expect more on this very soon.

Midway have announced details of ESPionage – which it describes as the first ever psychic combat game. Along with the usual array of weaponry such as handguns and rifles, you’ll be able to make use of psychic powers such as telekinesis, remote viewing, mind control and pyrokinesis. We’re not entirely sure what all of those mean. But they sound good.

The game sees you having to take on a terrorist group made up of pre-programmed super soldiers bent on world domination. It’s not exactly an original premise but Midway are clearly hoping to make up for this thanks to the means by which you must tackle the fanatics.

“Never before have players been given the ability to use psi mind powers in an action/stealth game,” says Midway’s director of marketing, David Burton.

“ESPionage provides a highly entertaining experience that opens up unique and creative combinations of the way gamers can play the game.” Espionage is due out in the autumn on PS2, Xbox and Gamecube.

Codemasters has announced that it is to release a game based upon the Pop Idol phenomenon this autumn. Before you ask – yes, the game does feature a CGI version of Simon Cowell, but at least you can turn this one off.

Pop Idol is set to be a rhythm-action game, where the player creates their own wannabe star who then travels through the rehearsals, the heats and finally the finals to compete for the big title, whilst avoiding the snide comments of Mr Cowell.

In a similar way to Britney’s Dance Beat, you need to use button presses in time with the music in order to get your contestant to sing in tune and dance in time. Miss a beat and their voice will fade or their moves will fail – if this happens firstly the judges will become unhappy but if you continue to make mistakes, then the audience will lose interest too. Pop Idol is set to feature forty top ten music tracks to try your hand at, although no titles have been announced as of yet.

Infogrames has announced that their much-anticipated Driver 3 (on all formats) has been delayed. Originally pencilled in for a launch date later this year, the game is now scheduled for a spring 2004 release.
Driver 3 is developed by the UK based Reflections studio and is said to include a location roster that ranges from Florida to France and a gameplay set up more akin to GTA and The Getaway.

Updating Spy Hunter, one of the finest arcade games of all time, seemed to be a foolish idea, but somehow Midway pulled it off and the updated Spy Hunter was a fast blasting treat. Now Spy Hunter 2 is on the radar, keeping the same espionage action and including a brand new female spy into the mix.

Alec Sects now sits behind the wheel of a brand new vehicle, the G-8155 Interceptor which can now transform into an off-road vehicle, a motorcycle and a snow ski. As well as old weapon favourites such as oil slicks, there are also auto tracking turrets and indestructible armoured shields to aid you. Another new edition are a series of end-of-level bosses and brand-new enemy AI that can react swiftly to your particular style of driving.

You may remember Hugo the troll from The Evil Mirror on the PSone, or from his huge European fame or from those annoying phone-in games they used to have on Saturday morning TV (you know, he’s driving in a minecart whilst kids shout “LEFT! RIGHT!” with little or no success) but now he is heading for the PS2.

Hugo’s first PS2 adventure is bizarrely entitled Bukkazoom and is a racing game in which Hugo and his troll buddies have been shrunk to the size of greenflies. All your Hugo favourites will race and fight in a magical world – Bukkazoom promises plenty of rude and obnoxious speech too, which its young audience is sure to enjoy.

Instead of power-ups being randomly planted around the track, they will be dropped by insects, so you never know when you’re gonna find one – also you can mix power-ups together to gain extra powers.

Bukkazoom offers up to four player simultaneous action and we can only pray that it is better than Antz Extreme Racing, a similar idea that had us eating our own hands rather than play it again. Bukkazoom hits in September.

The bad news for fans of Zone Of The Enders is that the sequel has now been delayed and does not arrive in PAL territories until September. The upside of this is that the UK version will include a series of enhancements, making the game even more epic than the Japanese version. As well as new modes, Zone Of The Enders : The 2nd Runner also features added battle sequences and exclusive stages.

Following on from an all-new opening sequence (that includes a remix of the main theme) are three brand new levels which can be played as either part of the main game or separately via the Extra Mission mode. European players can also challenge themselves thanks to the two new difficulty modes – European Hard and European Extreme. Zone Of The Enders : The 2nd Runner explodes onto PS2 in September. Unless it gets delayed again, of course.

Launching on the third of next month – the one year anniversary of the GameCube’s PAL release – is this limited edition platinum GameCube Pak. The Pak comes complete with a platinum-coloured controller, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and the bonus disc Ocarina of Time and The Master Quest. Nintendo tell us that the Pak should cost around 199 Euros, which roughly translates to about £130 on your local high street.

Disappointing news has reached from Japan that the GC version of the futuristic, anti gravity racer F-Zero has been delayed. Having previously been due to launch in May, SEGA’s conversion of Nintendo’s much loved driving game will now launch in the East on July 25th.

The only scrap of Xbox news I could find this month is that there is no news on a next Championship Manager just yet. The lack of news suggests a breather for developers after a hectic first year of getting the console on its feet.

And while we are on the subject of games, you may have noticed various pieces of retro gaming material written by yours truly floating around on Thunderbolt. Looking back at the ‘good old days’ its amazing how far games have evolved over the space of 20 years.

The gaming industry imploded with the weight of useless games that had amazed players back in 1983, causing many observers and critics to simply write off videogames as a fad. Shooting aliens with a side- scrolling tank, eating dots with a yellow man and playing pong were just the ‘in thing’ and would pass quietly like all things aimed at children they said. How wrong they were.

Here in 2003 the games industry is at its peak with four major next-gen consoles on the market, top developers and even talk of the next war between the big three. There are several shops that are dedicated solely to bring us the latest games. There are websites too. And many a magazine where the staff sits around and review games all day. No wonder those ‘old fogies’ call us mad. But while games are being accepted into everyday life, influence on the wider world is often being over-looked. For the past 20 years videogames have been making their presence felt well beyond the confines of a monitor or TV screen.

The movie industry has felt the impact of games and every since the release of Disney’s Tron in 1982, both film and the videogame industries have watching each other very closely. Examples that the boundaries between the cinema and games are collapsing can be seen in the film-orientated Metal Gear Solid and the Final Fantasy series. Movies also copy the games and this can be seen with the success of such films like Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, Pokemon and Tomb Raider.

Videogames are not only becoming the subject of films but, perhaps more interestingly, they are increasingly influencing contemporary cinema. Hollywood is increasingly re-creating the look and feel of games in films and is evident in the ongoing fascination with the slippery border between reality and digital illusions in The Matrix. The pace and multidirectional plotting of Run Lola Run are also a good example as is Spike Jonze’s use of the role playing metaphor in Being John Malkovich or the puzzle solving structure of Memento. Videogames feature when a film tries to exaggerate reality (particularly in fighting scenes) because they offer players an over-the-top version of the real world (leaning against a wall to heal yourself in The Getaway is a prime example). Unrealistic events in action films have always been present but the way videogames presents that unrealism is growing fast.

The rise of DVD has narrowed the gap between films and games and the extra features on DVD’s have laid the path for game-like interactivity. DVD allows users to control the presentation of audio and visual sequences and has refined the act of watching a movie, from a passive experience to an interactive one.

Gaming’s influence on the music industry has still to take off though. Despite hits like Pac-Man Fever (a US top ten hit) and Kerncraft 400’s Zombie Nation (based on the music from Lazy Jones on the C-64) interest has been low.

But game soundtrack albums have begun to appear more frequently with the likes of Smugglers Run, GTA Vice City and Jet Set Radio Future all releasing music CD’s.

The soundtrack albums to GTA Vice City were a small step in the right direction but releasing it across 7 CD’s could be off-putting for gamers as what we are getting is essentially a branded Eighties music collection. In the longer term soundtracks are seen as a strong platform for music labels to reach new artists. So many times a band has been on the verge of collapse until a hit from one of their songs in a videogame. We really aren’t that far from seeing videogames being a useful tool for music to reach a wider audience, and for unsigned bands to get taken seriously by record labels.

It remains to be seen if game music would scale the charts in the gaming Motherland that is Japan (where the Pikmin tracks were a big hit) but with the experience of extreme sports it really does seem that games can create stars.

The best example is Tony Hawk’s rise to fame and fortune in Europe where he is most noticeable for featuring in his game series than his sport of skateboarding.

Games have also generated interest in Japanese culture in the western countries. Prior to Japan rising to gaming heights, only games like Godzilla and Battle Of The Planets (based on a Japanese cartoon) made their way to our shores. But as Japanese games become more and more popular a wider interest in Japan has emerged.

Although the games people play don’t always reflect life in Japan- since many use non-country specific fantasy worlds- games have potentially helped bring Japanese culture to the west. Those that focus on very specific parts of modern Japan or elements of Japanese history such as samurai have developed an interest in Japan from gamers.

Games have been influential in the way they have bought over manga and anime and historically accurate games like Kessen to the west and have introduced many to Japans history.

However Japanese music has failed miserably to make the leap. It is suprising that there has been no musical invasion by Japanese musicians, given the popularity of games it would be a gateway to a chart topping hit.

Although games have given us a slice of Japanese life, many tend to focus on the wacky games such as Cosplay- where you dress up as your favourite character from a game-, which don’t provide the true picture of Japan.

Many games seem to focus on the stereotypes of samurai cars and technology, and TV is the same. How many times have we seen a weird Japanese game show on Tarrant On TV? The Japanese are just like us and in fact they are much more like us than Americans are. For whatever reason, we tend to pick up on the odd bit of Japanese culture (Kung Foo being my example) and they do likewise with us picking out things like The Royle Family and Mr Bean which are hardly indicative of everyday Britain.

While the accuracy of the view of Japan we get through games is questionable, we can proudly say that we know more about the country and if government plans come together we could be learning more about others too.

Currently teachers organisation around the country are trying to make games part of the curriculum. They see Sim City and such titles as educational and that children will take more notice of characters than a teacher. Back to school for me then!

So it seems that the extent to which games have changed the world so far is little more than the warm-up before they really make their mark.

Check back next week for a slightly shorter (phew!) Volume 4. In the meantime, read the news and reviews going up all across the site from our new contributors. See you next week!

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in June 2002.

Gentle persuasion

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