Week in Review: PSN Store Facelift, HD Film Shorts to LIVE, Tons of Game Release Details, and more!

Week in Review: PSN Store Facelift, HD Film Shorts to LIVE, Tons of Game Release Details, and more!


This week was filled with solid gaming news, but of course we had to submit a few Fool’s Day whoppers to keep you guessing and on your toes.

Nintendo got the week started with two quality entries on the Wii Shop Channel. Each of the latest game offerings represents the first title in a memorable series that has influenced many subsequent titles over the years. Cruis’n USA was an arcade classic that was ported over to the N64 and is now available for 1,000 Wii points. Wonder Boy is a side-scrolling adventure classic that’ll have you collecting fruit and olleying over baddies. It originally released for the SEGA Master System and is available for 500 Wii points.

We also found out that the PSN Store is set to get a facelift. The new look of the store is very sleek and far more accessible. It does a much better job of mirroring the look and style of the Sony consoles. Much of the site’s functionality will stay the same, however it should be more efficient as the store “will live natively on PS3, enabling customers to more easily and quickly locate and purchase games, and download demos, game videos, Blu-ray movie trailers and other game-related content for PS3.” A minor drawback to the revamping of the store is that no new content will be released until the new storefront releases on April 17th. To have access to the new store, consumers will simply have to download a new firmware update.

In an effort to expand HD content to consumers, Microsoft has partnered up with Safran Digital Group to bring exclusive, original content to the Xbox 360. A series of six short films will be available via the service for you to download. The topics of the films will vary from comedy to horror and are supposed to nicely match the interests of the 360 consumer demographic. There are no details as to whether these films will cost money or not, but we’re hoping it will be a free service especially considering the films will only last about ten minutes.

We were excited to find out that The Bourne Conspiracy has finally been dated. Sierra Entertainment will release Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Conspiracy video game in North America on June 3, 2008 for both the Xbox and PS3. The game will sport a unique combat system that really brings Jason Bourne’s technically masterful combat style to life. According to Sierra Entertainment, the fighting is realized by mixing of hand-to-hand segments with gunplay and dramatic on-foot escapes. To further enhance the gameplay there will also be epic car chase portions that simulates the predator-prey feel of the books and the movies. Jason Bourne certainly is the perfect weapon and we can’t wait to get our hands on the title.

There are a couple of interesting studies that released in the UK this week that specifically deal with gaming. The first was conducted by Miss Jane Barnett and her colleagues at Middlesex University. The team found that generally people who play violent games online become relaxed and less angry after they have played. They only sampled 292 subjects that ranged in sex and age and the “violent” online game they used was World of Warcraft. Their findings were mixed, but compelling enough to debunk the link between violence and online gaming.

The other study came from the collaboration of Dr. John Carlton of the University of Bolton and Ian Danforth of Whitman College in the USA. According to these Psychologists, people who are addicted to playing computer games show some of the same personality traits as people with Asperger’s syndrome. This syndrome is a mild form of autism.

The researchers questioned 391 computer game players, 86 per cent of whom were male. They found that the closer the players got to addiction the more likely they were to display negative personality traits. As players showed more signs of addiction, they were increasingly characterized by three personality traits that would normally be associated with Asperger’s. These traits are neuroticism, a lack of extraversion, and disagreeableness. This sounds like a straw man to me. We’ve always known that addicts have had these traits whether they’re gamers or alcoholics. I’m not sure classifying it as similar to autism actually furthers science or the human consciousness in any significant way. What do you think?

Getting away from the gamer-as-lab-rat realm, Sony announced that the DUALSHOCK 3 Controller will hit store shelves in North America later this week. The new controller will retail for $54.99 and will include rumble support as well as the familiar motion controls of the six-axis system.

Epic Games announced that they are joining up with chip developer Intel to follow up the original “$1 Million Make Something Unreal Contest” with an all new competition. To participate, game developers create mods for the PC version of Unreal Tournament 3. Winnings will exceed $1 million in value, and consist of one coveted Unreal Engine 3 license as a grand prize and other cash awards and prizes, including Intel Software Development Products and Velocity Micro PCs. The 2008 “$1 Million Intel Make Something Unreal Contest” will be judged in four preliminary phases in June 2008 with the grand final prizes being awarded, in fall 2009.

There were also a few important game release dates and/or details announced including Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II, Gran Turismo 5, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, and Sonic Unleashed. The new Warhammer 40K game has no official release date yet, but there will be a deep cooperative multiplayer online campaign experience in addition to the single player RTS campaign, plus gamers who already own Soulstorm will be invited to join the Beta.

According to Kazunori Yamauchi in an interview with IGN, Gran Turismo 5 will most likely include vehicle deformation. Yamauchi stated that as early as this fall players could be able to download a patch that will bring deformation into Gran Turismo 5 Prologue and that the full game may then ship with the damage feature. We’ll have to wait and see if this actually happens.

LucasArts gave us the release date for Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. The game should hit the street in North America on September 16, 2008. In case you haven’t heard, Darth Vader will be a playable character for at least a portion of the game and the story will clarify the events in the largely unexplained period between Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope.

Finally, Sonic Unleashed is in the works. It is being developed on a brand new “Hedgehog Engine” that will give the classic platformer a decidedly current generation HD look. The story will get back to its Sonic Vs. Dr. Eggman roots and shift you between day and nighttime sequences.

And Sam & Max will hit the Wii sometime this fall. The console offering is a direct result of the loads of fan email clamoring for a Wii release of the title. The disc will include all six episodes and future development of the series will be done with consoles in mind.

That’s it for this week. Check back on Monday for more gaming news highlights.

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