The Hitchhiker’s Guide To Video Games 03.02.04

Ah, it’s good to be back. not that I was ever really away, but it’s still nice to be back. Even Marvin’s almost cheerful, too.
*Only because I broke into your University’s Electronics Lab over the weekend, and made myself a new upgrade
Well, that’s one way of going about Self-Improvement… Generally, the best way to do that is to read books, though
Yes. But I’ve already read them all. And I was so unimpressed that I insisted the Time Lords take me to visit each and every one of them to tell them how disappointed I was
Well, everybody’s got to have a hobby…. Yes indeed, this is the Hitchhiker’s Guide. News on Tuesday, all for you. As always, I’m Misha, here with the ever-present Marvin.

First off: A shameless Self-Plug. My first-ever review from 411Games will be going up very soon. So if it’s there, check out my definitive verdict on Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles. Go on… We’ll wait… There.

And on with the show…

News

24: The game?

A recent interview with Elisha Cuthbert, better known as Kim Bauer from the TV series 24, on the BBC’s “Radio One” station, yielded some tantalising hints about a possible video game based on the series. During the interview, organised to promote her latest movie, she admitted to not knowing much about it, but implied that it was currently in the planning stages, when she mentioned that the game-people came round, took some photos, and asked a few questions. Word is that the storyline may not be totally under the control of the show’s writers: she described what she heard about the plot as “very Bond-ish, I think”.

Misha: WOW. If they can make the game as good as the show, we have a future Game Of The Year candidate.
Marvin: Don’t be silly. They’ll just go and make a shameless cash-in, like all licenced games are…
Misha: Not true! The Buffy games were good… And if the show’s creators have any sense, they’ll be damn careful about not seeing their show’s good name ytarnished by an inferior game.Rest assured, 411 will be keeping you well up to date with this…

credit: cubed-3.co.uk

Next GTA finally confirmed

Well, after much kerfuffle and speculation, Rockstar Games have confirmed that Grant Theft Auto: San Andreas has been in development for some time, and will ship to the US on 19th October, with a European release on the 22nd of the same month. Interestingly, the game will apparently be a PS2 exclusive. Sam Houser, president of Rockstar Games, said “In the past couple of years, we have put an enormous amount of pressure on ourselves to ensure we do everything possible to exceed people’s expectations with Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Even though we still have eight months to go, we are starting to become very proud of what we have achieved and we can’t wait to get the game into players’ hands.” Rockstar North’s president, Leslie Benzies, commented “We are extremely humbled by the success of the Grand Theft Auto series and it has made us push ourselves further than ever to create a title in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas that will hopefully redefine the Grand Theft Auto series and revolutionize open-ended gameplay and video game production values.”

Marvin: Hmm. I find myself almost enthused for this one. The pointless killing of humans has always been an interest of mine…
MIsha: And did you see the release date?? 3-day time lag! That’s practically a simultaneous worldwide launch!! I’m happy with that…

credit: nowhere, since the news is public domain now.

Shoot-em-up classic reborn in 3D

Konami have recently relesed new footage of the latest game in their legendary Contra series on the PS2. Provisionally titled Neo Contra, the game appears to be every bit as psychotic, brutal and fun as its predecessors, with all the high-quality explosions, oversized weaponry, and freakish bosses. View the movie here, courtesy of gamesradar.co.uk.

Misha: Watch the movie. Do it. Do it now. Then join with me: “Mmm… Neo Contra… Droooooooool…”

credit: gamesradar.co.uk

Jak, Daxter, Ratchet, Clank… Sounds like Sony Celebrity Survivor…

Sony has recently lifted the lid on two new PS2 sequels to its popular Jak and Daxter and Ratchet & Clank franchises. So far, two screenshots of each have been released, and can be found here and here, courtesy of gamesarefun.com. No other details are available at present, except for tentative “Fall 2004” release dates

Marvin: No details? My my, what a surprise… I suppose the games might be alright… But I doubt it…

credit: gamesarefun.com

Goldeneye returns!

Hot off the presses, EA have confirmed that a new James Bond game is in the works, based on the 1995 smash hit Goldeneye. Rare’s original N64 game would, of course, be a tough act to follow, so EA have apparently decided to take a different track. The promise to “explore the darker side of the Bond universe” seems borne out with the game placing you in control of a rogue MI6 agent who defects to join the baddies (just like Alec Trevelyan in the film).

No word on platforms, but it’s expected to be published on PS2, Cube and XBox. Release date is pencilled in for the end of 2004. More info is promised by the time E3 rolls around.

Misha: Well well… I’ve not played EA’s Bond games much, but to me, none of them have matched up to Goldeneye. But the premise sounds very interesting, and I’ll be keeping a careful eye on this one…
Marvin: Don’t bother. It’ll just be another botch-job.

credit: gamesradar.co.uk

Warren Spector goes Tomb Raiding

The latest speculation on the future of the Tomb Raider franchise got a little bit more interesting recently, when rumours began to surface that Eidos have taken the project’s development out of Core Design’s hands, and given the task to US developer Crystal Dynamics, most well known for developing the Gex and Legacy of Kain series. furthermore, if reports are to be believed, Warren Spector, lead developer of the groundbreaking PC game Deus Ex, will be consulting on the game’s development.

Marvin: All very well, of course, but I doubt even CD are going to be able to save the series now…
Misha: I’m with Marvin on this one. Even with a codehouse with a pedigree like theirs (just ask Fred about the Legacy of Kain series) isn’t going to be able to salvage the TR franchise. Of course, I could be wrong… but I doubt it.

credit: spong.com

Commentary

Does Misha watch Monty Python? Mr. Bean? Who’s Line Is It Anyway? Absolutely Fabulous? Black Adder? Any other stereotypical British show I can think of? Maybe he’ll let me know next column…

Thus asketh Alex Williams, Norweigan athlete and Very Busy Man, in his news report last week. The answers are yes, preferably not, yes, no, hell yes, probably. But it got me thinking… There’s a whole world of culture out there that DEMANDS to be spead to a wider audience. And now, as my country’s Unoffical Geek Ambassador, the responsiblity falls upon me to share it. Those of you who followed me from the columns section will remember my occasion ECW (English Culture Watch) spotlights. So, duly inspired by a desire to make up for some of Marvin’s rudeness (plus the fact that research on my big commentary project has been held up somewhat this week), in an attempt to spotlight some of my country’s more obscure television shows, I present what may or may not be the first in a series of 411 UKTV reviews.

This week, it’s BBC1’s favourite “HowDunnit” show, Jonathan Creek (actor information can be found here thanks to imdb.com

The title character, played by actor Alan Davies (who, incidentally, is currently being rumoured as a hot favourite for the new Doctor in the BBC’s upcoming *new* Dr Who series) is, quite frankly, an oddball. He makes his living as an “ideas man” for stage magician Adam Klaus (basically, he comes up with all the tricks for Adam to perform). He’s recruited by investigative reporter Maddy Magellan (Caroline Quentin) in order to help her solve the seemingly-impossible murder of a famous artist. Jonathan, of course, comes through with some amazing deductive logic (such as how the prime suspect for a murder can be in two places at once), and solves the case. Inspired by this success, the two of them begin taking on other mysterious cases, each time Jonathan coming up with rational answers for the most fantastic crimes. All the while, a current of simmering sexual tension between the two leads is playing out, early-season-X-Files style. In later series, Maddy is ‘away on a book tour’ and Jonathan’s new sidekick is an old girlfriend, Carla Borrego (Julia Sawalha), but the concept remains the same.

As a concept, the show is amazing. It takes the usual stalwarts of a murder mystery and turns the genre on its head. The sheer wealth of different ideas on show is phenomenal, making it damn near impossible to guess at how it was done until right at the very end. Of course, once you’ve had it all explained, you jut sit there with a mixture of “Wow, he solved it again” and “Why didn’t I see that??” It’s the sort of feeling you get when you’ve just finished readig the Final Exposition in a Sherlock Holmes novel; indeed, Mr Creek could be argued to be a more contemporary version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective. But while Holmes was generally a self-assured man, confident in his talents, Jonathan is a far more vulnerable character, with his rampant insecurities (especially with regards to women). His various female sidekicks fill their “Dr Watson” roles in fine fashion, more often than not making some offhand comment that leads to the ‘moment of realisation’ when the parts of the puzzle begin to fall into place, or contributiing to Jonathan’s mental processes in other ways.

In a more aesthetic sense, credit had to go to the set designers and location managers, who have some really beautiful sets and scenery for the show. From ancient castles with hidden trapdoors, to modern houses with hidden pnaels at every turn, or just perfectly-set period houses, everything about this series is sumptous. The music, too, is a cut above, with the theme tune and incidental music (variations on Danse Macabre, among other things) perfectly complement the tone of the show. Somebody put a lot of effort into getting the look and feel just right. Don’t expect CGI dinosaurs or epic space-battles: this is a murder mystery, after all.

In TV terms, I’d rate it well above-average… Probably a relative 8/10 on the Review Scale. It scores mega-points for originality and execution, and performs more than adequately in other dpeartments.

If you want more info on the series, a good place to start is Liane Broadley’s site which is all the information you’ll want, presented in an effective, uncluttered format.

The Pimp Must Go On

Cory does me a huge favour by posting his report in a way that fits the time difference. It really means a lot when someone can put the extra effort in to help me out (since I wouldn’t want to duplicate news coverage). AND he’s got reviews out, too. Check NCAA and Armed and Dangerous

Bryan “The Businessman” Berg, professional industry analyst, is at it once again. Gaze in awe at his l33t b1ZZniss sK1LLz. Then weep as he sings a requiem for a bygone gaming era.

Alex Williams is breaking every record he’s set himself on DDR. And as every gamer knows, if you can score 500 AAAs on that gamre, you can accomplish ANYTHING. So hang in there, my friend, it’ll come out right in the end…

Liquid bemoans gratuitous use of adult content. And he’s absolutely right.

Alex Lucard has numbers 21-19 in his RPG countup. Just because there are recent entries doesn’t mean he’s sold out on his RPG Snob ways, though…

Lee is looking at Ranma this week. This scares me, because it gives me flashbacks to the Star Trek Society’s RanmaThon (two full season in one night? It’s enough to drive anyone insane. Yappapa yappapa yappapa-pa… MAKE IT STOP!!!!

And with that, I must away. Say goodbye, Marvin…
*Get lost. All of you
Charming as ever, that’s our Marv.