Although Sony remained tight-lipped about the upcoming Playstation3 console, the leading videogame giant had a respectable lineup for its existing console, the trusty PS2. Here’s a glimpse of the jewels in Sony’s crown for the next wave of triple-A titles.
Shadow of the Colossus
Release: Q4 2005
The spiritual sequel to sleeper hit ICO, Shadow of the Colossus (formerly known as Wanda and the Colossus) was shown in an 80% complete incarnation. Shadow’s haunting visual style, similar to 2001’s ICO, meshed surprisingly well with its unusual play mechanic dealing with the colossal foes the player faces. The player, a young man strangely named Wanda, races across wide plains on his horse in pursuit of the titular colossi, and once one is located the player leaps off of his steed to climb the massive enemy. The colossi’s are bodies composed of grassy terrain with rock faces that double as facial features, making enemies part obstacle and part enemy. The colossi shown in the demo was felled by stabbing it directly in the center of their heads, resulting in disturbing spurts of blood. As the blood drains out of its body, its health dropped on the meter at the top of the screen, and when its health was completely drained, it collapsed with a resounding impact.
Besides its unique giant-hunting play mechanic, Shadow of the Colossus shows plenty of promise in its other capacities. Instead of a compass or traditional map, the player finds out where he needs to go by holding his sword up to the sky and rotating his view. When the reflection off the sword garners a glint on the horizon, the next destination is revealed. The game’s animation is another highlight, specifically the movements of the player’s horse, which proved to be incredibly well realized.
Genji: Dawn of the Samurai
Developer: Game Republic
Release: Fall 2005
The first game from ex-capcom producer Yoshiki Okamoto’s new development company looks to be an interesting spin on Onimusha-style combat, combined with the combo system of Dynasty Warriors. The player controls two warriors, the agile samurai Genji and a massive club-wielding fighter Benkei, and both have their own particular nuances. For Genji, each successive combo attack completed without getting hit, makes his two swords burn brightly with fire, and apparently causes more damage to enemies as well as absorbing more experience for each finished foe. Benkei’s blunt weapon is not without its own unique benefits; initially appearing like a huge bedpost, it can literally tear enemies to pieces. At the end of certain combos, Benkei’s attacks sever enemy torsos and body parts, in almost comical displays of violence. Responsive controls which eschew the traditional Resident Evil-style controls that Onimusha employed, make the experience more intuitive and less frustrating.
Genji’s experience system infuses the game with an RPG element. As continuous combos (or even successive strikes without being attacked) rack up, the player’s rating increases from low ranks such as “skilled” to “master swordsman,” and as the player climbs these ranks, experience points multiply in value, encouraging the player to perform at the top of his game. The game’s visuals, while varied and interesting with plenty of bright colors and visceral violence, appeared quite blocky and jaggy, especially for a latter generation PS2 game. Hopefully the graphic issues can be ironed out in time for Genji’s stateside launch, to better compliment its fun gameplay style.
Developer: Insomniac Games
Release: Fall 2005
The next entry in Insomniac’s long-running Ratchet and Clank series has changed its focus toward the multiplayer experience. With support for up to 4 players via multitap, and up to 8 online, Deadlocked’s concentration has decidedly shifted to a more community-oriented feel. Granted, Deadlocked still sports a single-player campaign that can even be played through cooperatively with an additional gamer manning the controller, but the series’ newly-implemented squad can be ordered to lend the player assistance (via the d-pad) even through the solo adventure. Taking a cue from The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventure, the demo level on display required the player to order squad members to deactivate two lock-like devices connected to a barrier. Only when the player successfully gives the orders and protects the two bots from attack as they finish their task is he allowed to advance, making teamwork (or at least squad competence) vital.
Ratchet: Deadlocked’s weapons continue to be customizable to an extreme degree. Besides being able to level up weapons and increase their base firepower, players can mix and match weapon modifications, allowing hundreds of possible combinations. The demo level on show was based around a series of circular platforms hovering over a large drop, but less linear levels are promised for the final release.
Soul Caliber III
Release: Q4 2005
Namco’s flagship fighter was on display for the sole platform it will be appearing on—the PS2. While only at 40% completion, returning fighters Kilik, Mitsurugi, Talim and Berserker were included either as selectable characters or opponents for the game’s single player campaign, dubbed Tales of Souls. The only new character shown was the sharp-edged ring wielder Tira, battling with what appears to be a hula-hoop on steroids. The most intriguing developments were the currently locked “Chronicles of the Sword” and “World Competition” modes; the former seeming to offer something besides one-on-one fights, with “use strategy to prevail against the opposition” as the only intriguing clue as to what the mode will contain. World Competition suggests an online component to the game, an unsubstantiated but logical claim given Namco’s decision to develop for only one platform. With a narrower focus and a single system to develop for, it is certainly possible that players will be able to stage battles across the internet once Soul Caliber III launches at the end of the year.
Marc Ecko’s Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure
Developer: The Collective
Release: September 2005
Taking Jet Set Radio’s graffiti-based gameplay a step further, Marc Ecko’s Getting Up stages the urban art/vandalism pastime as the dominant mechanic in this unusual title. As Trane, a graffit artist/revolutionary set on educating the populace about the oppressive force governing the city of New Radius, the player braves traffic, extreme heights, and foes in order to spray paint warning messages in public places such as overpasses and on billboards. When encountering enemies such as construction workers, painters, and even SWAT-like special forces set on disrupting Trane’s mission, the game switches into a secondary combat mode which adds some interesting variety to the title.
For the game’s main graffiti mechanic, the player pushes the right analog stick in to activate his artist’s ‘intution’, which displays the ideal place to tag as a halo of light. After climbing to the spot, holding R1 brings Trane’s spray paint can out, and pressing the square button over the selected area paints it with a pre-determined design. The process is fairly complex, requiring a moderate amount of coordination—and when the SWAT team descends from a helicopter up above and opens fire, the tension increases. From playing the demo, it quickly becomes apparent that the game had a feel all its own (despite similarities to other software), and certainly has the potential to channel a rarely-targed demographic.