Upcoming PS2 Hits
Review by Le Chupacabra
Even though the Xbox 360 is released and the PS3 is coming up by the end of the year, the current generation is far from over. Here are some upcoming games that should give you enough reasons to hold onto your hard-earned cash:
Final Fantasy XII (October 2006)
Does FF need an introduction? Once again Square-Enix is creating a stirring, magnificent adventure that will suck up atleast a hundred hours from your life! FFXII is also a complete departure from the other eleven. The main change: the combat. Now in real-time, you can see your foes before engaging them and facets like mutual foes/friends add greater twists. Lure the Mandragora towards a group of reptiles and watch the enemies go at it, while you hang back and add the finishing blows to get the EXP points! Being able to take advantage of elevation and ambush tactics will give battles a whole new layer of complexity. You can also customise your party's AI behaviour with the flexible Gambit system. Interestingly, the story is also taking a different route with emphasis on political intrigue and latent power struggles. The art design is stunning and Ivalice is teeming with interesting characters and diverse races that make the world truly come alive - par for the course for Square-Enix! Many purists aren't too pleased with the change in gameplay, while some really appreciate it. I guess it's a matter of opinion. Personally, I'm rather excited and the last proper Final Fantasy was released way back in 2001 (FFX). (The Japanese version of FFXII was released on the 16th of March, 2006 with Japan's most revered gaming magazine Famitsu - giving it the perfect score of 40/40 which was an honour bestowed upon only five other games).
Hitman: Blood Money (May 2006)
Blood Money features a tense and involving story where all members of the Agency are being neutralised by a lethal assassin - and despite your tepid relationship with the corporation, you're still on top of the newcomer's list. The gameplay has received major upgrades especially in the vein of some much-needed close-quarters combat tactics ala Metal Gear Solid 3. There's greater emphasis on stealth and you're rewarded in kind for being a ghost in every sense of the word - being able to bribe people into denying your existence is a very cool addition indeed. Hitman's vaunted open-ended level design is taken to new heights so players can experience the game in accordance with their personal preferences. According to IO, this game will boast 'next-generation graphics' even on current-gen consoles. This is the first Hitman game to interest me and if IO make good on their promises, this looks to be a stellar title.
Kingdom Hearts II (March 2006)
It's part two… enough said! The story is now skyrocketing to truly epic proportions as the fray becomes a lot more complex with the addition of the enigmatic 13th Order and the mysterious Nobodies. Sora and Co. return to once again thwart the plans of evil alongside familiar and new faces. All the worlds from the first game are included but this time we also explore the old school world of Steamboat Willie, the magnificent Kingdom Castle and surprise, surprise… the world of The Pirates of the Caribbean! Fighting side-by-side with Capt. Jack Sparrow is now a reality you PotC fans! But that's not all; other worlds include the Pride Lands (Lion King), the Land of Dragons (Mulan), Beast's Castle (Beauty and the Beast), the virtual-reality realm of Tron and many more! The graphics look incredible and the fighting system has had major upgrades with all manner of new spells, context-sensitive attacks and FF-inspired Limit Breaks. Did I also mention that there's a side-story starring FFVII's Cloud Strife? (The Japanese version was released on December 2005 with Famitsu giving it an exceptional 39/40 - which means it was just a wee bit short of perfection.)
Okami (August 2006)
Yet another beyond-the-norm experience from Capcom's Clover Studios (the makers of the surreal Killer7 and fantastic Viewtiful Joe). Here you play as the Sun God, Amaterasu, who is on Earth in the form of a white wolf. Evil has been unleashed and all the world's colour (and life) is vanishing. It's upto you to restore peoples' faith and bring back colour to all. The art style is absolutely unique; it gives the impression that you're playing through a traditional Japanese calligraphy painting. It sounds odd, but once you see it, it is utterly compelling and in fact, no words can express the ethereal artistry of it all - think Ico but with a wolf. Given that you attack with a calligraphy pen and that you can literally draw changes to the world around you with your Celestial Brush, this becomes a truly unique experience that only a PS2 can offer.
Tomb Raider: Legend (Mar-Apr 2006)
Tomb Raider is back… again! Don't run away though; this is no Angel of Darkness! Created by the minds behind the revered Legacy of Kain series, Lara Croft is looking better than ever before. Not only does she look more realistic, she comes across as a far more believable character this time! The graphics are brilliant with the stunning artistry and architecture as expected from the crew who gave us the world of Nosgoth?. The puzzles are reportedly very organic this time, requiring more lateral thinking; think less box-pushing and more fun. The action is brilliant with all manner of new moves the melds some of the shooting aspects from Max Payne and the acrobatics of Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. Just don't expect any wall-running or bullet-time, thank god. This game could very well be the one to revitalise Lady Croft and bring back her former glory.
Also worth watching out for:
Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence
X-Men: Last Stand
Splinter Cell: Double Agent
Phantasy Star Universe
By Gokhra and Mood Dude
Mood Dude (DM): Dude, if they give me that truck to drive then I won't mind becoming a truck driver/delivery dude for my entire life or a week whichever comes first.
Gokhra (G): Dude, who are 'they' that you refer to?
(DM): They is someone who would be stupid enough to buy a truck like this for work purposes. This is something you put in your garage and wear a baby bib to avoid drooling upon the paint job.
(G): Dude, you need a life.
And so starts yet another car induced argument. But what's it about this time? Well, all you readers who are interested in cars must know the Dodge Viper. Crazy ar with a stonking big 8000cc V10 engine. Now you wonder why someone would do something crazy like that? That's because they have the money to do so and the gut s tog o ahead and try lob it off in production. Car's a success from what we know.
Now what you may not know is that the original engine was taken form a pickup truck hence its amazing torque and huge cylinder displacement. So it's no wonder that the engine this time goes back to a truck. Except that this time is goes into the truck as the 'engine form Viper'.
(G): Yeah, so they created a mean truck. Just how mean is it?
(DM): It's so mean it entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the "World's Fastest Production Pickup Truck." The monster was driven by Brendan Gaughan, a six-time winner in a Dodge Ram in the 2003 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. What did the guy do? Well, he proved the claims.
(G): So you saying that this The Dodge Ram SRT-10 is the fastest way to carry goods across town? But Americans aren't very good at finesse when building cars.
The truck tested for Guinness was not modified in any way for additional power or enhanced aerodynamics. It went stock like a new born baby in the nude. Gaughan posted a two-lap, both-directions average speed of 154.587 mph on the 4.71-mile oval at the DaimlerChrysler Proving Grounds in Chelsea, Michigan.
The truck's record run was certified by Guinness World Records and the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA). The previous record was 147.54 mph, set in July of 2003 by the Ford SVT F-150 Lightning.
(G): Yeah, everyone thought THAT was the fastest truck ever. But I fail to see the charm of the truck. I mean, it does have a brutish sort of good looks. But let's face it it's a truck, a big heavy truck. What can it possibly do?
(DM): For starters it has the typical American formula of bigger is better. Everything is huge and practically oversized. The engine is the same Viper V10 with 8277cc. It churns out a stonking 500 BHP and 525 lb-ft of torque. That's enough to uproot an average tree.
(G): It seems to have 22 inch wheels shod with 305 section tires. That is freaking wide. You weren't kidding when you said it was oversized. It also has the regular race worthy ABS and vented disc brakes. It even ahs a rear wing (a.k.a spoiler) that is fully functional, providing a 165 lb. reduction in lift. It also provides a reduction in drag, which is a rarity and allows the truck to sail smoothly where no truck has gone before.
(DM): Now comes the interesting part. Weighing in at a whopping 2338 kg this thing treads heavily on mother earth. For such girth it is surprisingly fast at 0-62 mph (0-97 kmph) in only 5.4 seconds. Now how many lightweight cars do you know can do that?
(G): Corvette, Mustang GT, Lotus Elise, BMW M5, Subaru Imprezza WRX, Lancer Evo VIII……need I go on? Most of them aren't even lightweight. But that's not very practical is it?
(DM): Ok, ok you made your point but hey this is a big truck and it's definitely fast for its size and barn like aerodynamics. It's about as practical as a commode with internet access but damn it's cool.
(G): I'll give you that. The wide, chiseled and masculine profile spells out the boldest and baddest pickup on the planet and it looks like it means business. It has the mean tough guy attitude but maybe a bit too tough.
(DM): I bet you like the diminutive Smart Car eh?
(G): Hey what's wrong with that? It's small, easy to park and saves gas.
Review by Gokhra
Nanny McPhee - Emma Thompson
Mr. Brown - Colin Firth
Evangeline - Kelly Macdonald
Aunt Adelaide - Angela Lansbury
Simon - Thomas Sangster
Mrs. Quickly - Celia Imrie
Mrs. Blatherwick - Imelda Staunton
This is another movie where kids terrorise adults. The difference is that here the kids are terrorized right back. Let's face it, cute kids or not, it is always great pleasure to see someone get their just desserts. Yes, they are tortured right back. The first 15 minutes of "Nanny McPhee" pretty much go showing that a bunch of obnoxious kids getting their way with everything.
The Browns family consist of six insolent kids and one helpless infant living in the English countryside. They must have nannies since their mother died and someone HAS to look after them. You see fathers are usually portrayed as hopeless and helpless and this movie is no different. Since their mother died, the kids have scared off 17 nannies. Each victorious battle is posted on a chart. That leaves the kids' useless mortician father, Cedric (Colin Firth), to go beg for a new one.
Just when you think these kids cannot get any worse in walks Emma Thompson as Nanny McPhee, a severe, stupendously unappetizing woman. She has all the classical maniacal traits such as not just one wart but two. She is rather large and one weirdly obtrusive tooth. To top it off she has a psycho look in her eyes that wil scare off plenty of silly hindi soap opera villainesses. And she carries with her a big black supernaturally charged stick.
With a stamp of her walking stick, the children's pointless horseplay is given a functional hyperactive twist. Vegetables fly violently into a boiling caldron, and Simon (Thomas Sangster), the brood's recalcitrant leader, can't stop maniacally stirring.
McPhee teaches the kids manners, kindness, the value of listening and cooperating. What's coolis that she does all this not by being a soppy goody two shoes but by playing cruel practical jokes that go one-up on the unruly brats. She is sinister but has kindness in equal measure.
"I never say please," exclaims Simon. Now that's a typical macho hero figure in the making. They're mad that their father never makes time for them because he's obsessed with finding a new wife. Oh, did I mention that there is the needed cute female character played as their housekeeper, Evangeline (Kelly MacDonald). She has a crush on her boss and also hates the fact that he is too busy looking for a new wife. She also stubbornly thinksthat there is good in the children. Somewhere. Some atom at least.
Cedric has reasons for obsessing over a wifey replacement. It's a lot like the old classics where his aunt-in-law Great-Aunt Adelaide has been supporting the Browns. She will cut Cedric off from the finance unless he remarries. If not that then she will take one of his daughters. Now how that deal worked out or even makes good business sense is too mind boggling to wonder but it does create a good premise for the plot.
Wishing to avoid losing one of the girls and the frantic search for a wife turns up a local down-market tart Mrs. Quickly (Celia Imrie).
This is a brilliant movie. It's funny, it has an old world Dickensian charm. The acting is fantastic with the child actors being unusually good. Imelda Staunton is a riot as the Browns' frazzled cook. The movie was adapted Christianna Brand's "Nurse Matilda" books and it has all the requisite amount of slapstick and levity. "Nanny McPhee" maintains a satisfying, all-ages balance between broad comedy and human warmth.