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2009 PlayStation preview – part one

So, we’re looking forward to 2009 more than any other year. 2008 was probably the best year for gaming in history but we’re not going to bother listing the highlights here as it’s really the time to be looking forward, forward to a future of brilliant games.

So here goes – we’ll start with the big hitters…

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Uncharted 2: Among Thieves Sony/Naughty Dog

October

While details, much like the first game early in development, are pretty scant, Nathan Drake is making his return late this year. The first trailer shows Drake stumbling through some arctic tundra, sporting what looks like a rather nasty gunshot wound. The tone, from these very early impressions, appears to be a good deal darker than we’ve seen previously, something we wouldn’t be too happy with. With the critical acclaim and sales success of the first title, despite a rather muted release, expect Sony to make Drake’s second outing more of an event. We have to say that this is one title in which we’re not expecting to see a great deal of graphical improvement. That would be no terrible thing though, as long as Nathan’s characteristic charm, wit and ability to seek trouble are all present.

Click here to read our exclusive Q&A with Naughty Dog game designer, Bruce Straley.

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God Of War III Sony/Santa Monica Stuidos

November

Y’know, for once, garrulous foulmouth David Jaffe might be right. In between the numerous expletives posted on his blog, he mentions how he got a peek at his former baby in Santa Monica. After some sweary rambling he then went on to say just how great it is. Despite the departure of Jaffe and Cory Barlog from the team, there are still over 30 staff left from the first game, so we’re expecting Kratos’s first appearance on PS3 to be true to the original. Sixaxis, rumble and 1080p/60fps have been hinted at, but little has been confirmed yet. Interestingly, though, the developer had, for some time, a vacant job posting for an online gameplay programmer, suggesting the possibility of glorious multiplayer.

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Gran Turismo 5 Sony/Polyphony Digital

December

While we’re still waiting for Prologue to be patched to oblivion, and as Polyphony continues to piddle around with showing off 2160p/240fps resolutions, some of us are getting a little miffed at just how long it’s taking to create a real, full Gran Turismo experience. Failing that, even a PSP version would do, but even that’s been held off until GT5 has been finished. So when can we expect it then? We’re looking to the end of 2009 for a near-final model.
First up on the giant patch-a-thon is damage modelling. This is likely to come in numerous additions to the code, and if we see a full game delivered piecemeal like this, and succeeding, it could herald a new era in how game delivery works. Prologue has shipped 2 million units so far – some feat for a game that isn’t really a game.
Next up will be more AI modifications, which reduce the supermarket-style queues we still encounter on occasion. To what level the damage-modelling patch extends to is still a bit of a mystery, but with each car taking 180 days to create, we’re starting to feel sorry for the Polyphony artists.

Assassin’s Creed 2 Ubisoft/Ubisoft Montreal

November

We didn’t like Assassin’s Creed. Sorry, that’s just the way the world is sometimes. That didn’t stop it from selling a cartload of copies, though, nor did it prevent an obsessed fan base from trying to figure out the frankly odd, JJ Abrams-esque ending to the story. Well, here’s what happens next – Assassin’s Creed 2 comes out at the tail end of 2009. It hasn’t been confirmed for this date by Ubisoft, but there’s no reason the game should miss the holiday rush, given the frenzy surrounding the first in late 2007.
Ubisoft head Yves Guillemot announced the sequel at the publisher’s second-half fiscal year report: “What we can say is that we are working hard on the product.” Great. We imagine that Assassin’s Creed 2 will be set in an entirely different period of history, but that some elements of the game remain the same – abandoning the iconic look of Altair would be counter-productive, for example. To reverse our opinions this time around, we hope Ubisoft Montreal will structure assassinations a little better, perhaps offering more ways to investigate the target and eventually take them out.

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BioShock 2 Take 2/2K Marin

October

Xbox 360 owners may have got to play BioShock over a year ahead of those patiently waiting for it to emerge on the PS3, but who got a peek at BioShock 2 first? Eh? Eh? Yeah, we did. The BioShock 2: Sea Of Dreams teaser revealed at the end of BioShock on the PS3 might not have been a huge peek, but it was enough to get us wet. Or at least make us want to get wet. Y’know, under the sea in Rapture. Where it’s wet. What did you think we meant?
Of course, no one’s confirmed that BioShock 2 will be set in Rapture, but it would surely be madness to leave the first game’s incredibly atmospheric setting behind. It’s a big city, right? There must be plenty of places within it that we never saw in the BioShock. However, the teaser isn’t set in Rapture, it’s set on a beach on the Atlantic coast and features a young woman holding the hand of a small Big Daddy rag doll. The implication is that she’s a Little Sister that is now all grown up. Maybe you get to play as her. Well, that’s fine by us… as long as she gets guns and plasmids, of course.

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Resident Evil 5 Capcom

March

Capcom’s long-awaited zombie-fest is still running high on our ‘most-wanted’ lists, but it’s now got to the point where we want it so much that seeing new screens or video or hearing new details just isn’t doing it for us. We just want to shut the door, turn out the lights, place the security blanket out of sight (but within immediate reach) and just play the bloody thing. And bloody hell if ‘bloody’ isn’t the right bloody word for it, mate. We hope you feel the same way, because that’s all we’re saying about Resident Evil 5 for now.

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Street Fighter IV Capcom

February

We don’t mean to gloat, but we’re not sure we even need the finished version of Street Fighter IV now that we’ve got a preview version to play with. Sure there are going to be more characters and stages and modes in the final version, but Street Fighter’s never been about the trimmings. We have a good selection of characters at our disposal, all of whom are functioning correctly, so what more do we need?
Of course, we still reckon that anyone who doesn’t have a trial version of the game at their fingertips on a daily basis should be excited about the release of Street Fighter IV, even if you’ve never played a game from the series before. If you haven’t, then this will be a great place to start. It’s the most accessible version of Street Fighter there’s been for years. The learning curve’s a bit steep at first, but once you’re past that you’re in beat-’em-up heaven.

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Final Fantasy XIII Square Enix

December

Well, we’ve been here before. Back in issue 149 we even anticipated that Final Fantasy XIII would hit in time for the tail end of 2008. That optimism has been drained of us this year, but even if Final Fantasy XIII doesn’t make it in 2009, it will be possible to sample a demo of the game through the Advent Children Complete Blu-ray in spring. This demo has been confirmed to be over an hour long – we’d expect it to hit the PlayStation Store at some point or another.
As for the game itself, we know it returns to the turn-based combat of yore, but still does away with random encounters – good news for those that disagreed with XII’s polarising real-time system. The important point to remember is that no main Final Fantasy instalment has scored below 93% in Play, so, you know… have faith. Hopefully, the game can claw itself into the latter half of 2009, along with PS3-exclusive spin-off Versus XIII.

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Killzone 2 Sony/ Guerrilla Games

February

After visiting Guerrilla Games in November for our colossal Killzone 2 reveal, we’ve never felt more assured that a game will live up to its potential. Packing a multitude of multiplayer options that could potentially dethrone Call Of Duty as the PSN king, as well as a gimmick-free and challenging single-player campaign, Guerrilla has created a game that should sail the PS3 through the first half of 2009. The extensive clan options, managed through central hub Killzone.com, show that Guerrilla has geared Killzone 2 for the long-term – if you were expecting something as softcore as Resistance 2, this will utterly surprise you.
Killzone 2 is hard. Rock, shit and bloodily hard. We wouldn’t exactly call ourselves champions at playing games (Nick can’t even complete Mirror’s Edge, the wimp), but the pressure the AI puts you under is intense. It’s a dynamic, tough slog of an FPS, made difficult to conquer due to the ever-increasing numbers of enemies, but also thrilling as a result. Technically, Killzone 2 is probably the best-looking game on the PS3, as well. Basically, if you can’t register our anticipation at this point, we’ll make it very clear: pre-order this now.

Check back tomorrow for part two: 2009’s dark horses.




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