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There's nothing quite like the annual reveal of a new sports game cover star. The US goes crazy over each Madden, with this year's star Brett Favre causing much of a storm due to his recently-retired status. There was even more of a kerfuffle when he came back to the game and moved to the New York Jets, only to remain in his Green Bay Packers strip for the Madden game. But on most occassions, a game's choice of athlete acts as a barometer for the current state of the sport--a chance for the publisher to show off its sporting nous, and for an up-and-coming star to prove that they've actually made it.
For this year's Pro Evolution Soccer, Konami has selected Argentinian star Lionel Messi to represent its best-selling football sim. Despite sharing a first name with ex-Commodores crooner Lionel Ritchie, Messi is something of a prodigy on the pitch, having become the youngest player ever to appear in the Spanish premier league.
Following a healthy amount of criticism for last year's game, the 2009 edition of Pro Evo will feature a new graphical update as well as the requisite improvements to moves and controls. Messi will adorn the PS3, Xbox 360, PC, PS2 and PSP versions of the game this Autumn, and the Wii version in Spring 2009.
Best Buy, the US consumer electronics shop, is planning to roll out more than 200 stores nationwide, according to a report by the Financial Times, after coughing up £1.1 billion for a 50 percent stake in Carphone Warehouse last May.
British consumers can expect to see Best Buy's yellow price tag adorning shopfronts from 2009 onward, followed by an expansion into other European markets. The retailer is avoiding strong competition in Germany and France and instead targeting countries with fewer rivals. Apparently five stores will open at the launch next year, which will no doubt place increased pressure on competitors Currys and PC World.
Carphone Warehouse plans to announce more details on its plans including "broad store format" during an October trading update. It is currently unknown if it will sell white goods in addition to regular consumer electronics. According to FT.com, "people familiar with the plans said a typical Best Buy store in the UK would be 30,000 sq. ft with an annualised rent of about £1.5m, requiring £1.5m of working capital and about £2.5m of capital expenditure."
Economic conditions have resulted in a 45 percent drop in Carphone's share price this year, to the point of being "in danger of falling out of the FTSE 100 only a year after being promoted," says the FT.com article.
Zavvi's flagship store in central London will be hosting a Soulcalibur IV tournament tomorrow and is inviting local gamers to come down and celebrate the game's launch. The first session will be at 10:30 a.m., followed by a 6:30 p.m. session for those burdened by full-time jobs. Each group will consist of 32 competitors, and the final two will face off after the evening session has concluded.
The tournament will use the Xbox 360 version of the game--sure to keep Yoda fans pleased--but if you're an apprentice of the dark side, there may be a few stations running the PlayStation 3 version of the game, complete with Lord Vader.
Although the tournament prizes are still being finalised, Nick Fabian, games manager at Oxford Street, said that there should be a few copies of the game up for grabs. If you're not the competitive type, the event will be open to spectators, and Fabian assured GameSpot UK that despite having pre-orders for the game, the store will be well stocked on the day.
If you're interested in competing, the event will be filled on a first-come, first-serve basis, and Fabian advised fans of the series to get down to the store from 9 a.m. and register at the games counter. For more on Namco's latest fighter, head over to GameSpot's Soulcalibur IV Launch Center.
As the new football season approaches, EA Sports has announced that FIFA 09 will be in UK shops from October 3. UK trade magazine MCV broke the news, and we spoke to EA Sports, who confirmed the release date. The PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, Nintendo DS, Wii, PSP, and mobile versions will all be released on the same day. The publication also quotes EA senior product manager Trevor Uzice as saying that there are more than 250 improvements from the previous game, including a 20-player online mode and an arcade mode built specifically for the Wii.
You can check out our previous coverage on the game here.
A team of British pro gamers has won the US-based Championship Gaming Series after becoming the first international team to reach the final.
The tournament, which is run and owned by DirecTV, British Sky Broadcasting, and STAR TV (Asia), started in earnest last year, when it was won by North American champions Chicago Chimera. This year, victory went to Birmingham Salvo, who beat San Francisco Optx 22-15 in the final round, and so get to split $500,000 and take the Mountain Dew Trophy back to the Midlands.
"I'm extremely proud of my team right now," said Michael O'Dell, Birmingham's manager. "They truly deserve the title of World Champions. We faced a lot of tough competition throughout the season, but when our backs were against the wall, every player demonstrated the skills and the poise to step up when it mattered the most. My players spent hundreds of hours practicing this season, and their hard work paid off tonight."
Andy Reif, CEO and commissioner of CGS, summed up the victory, saying, "Birmingham had some of the most exciting and close matches that pro gaming has ever seen coming into the Championship Match. However, they proved themselves dominant. We couldn't have asked for a more worthy champion in our second season."
This year teams were pitted against one another on two PC titles--FIFA 08 and Counter-Strike: Source--and two Xbox 360 games--Dead or Alive 4 and Forza Motorsport 2. Each team comprised 10 players, each specialising in one game. Counter-Strike matches were played 5-on-5, Forza and DOA4 2-on-2, and FIFA 08 1-on-1.
The finals were broadcast live on DirectTV's channel The 101, and highlights will be beamed to American homes on Saturday via G4 TV. Those in Europe wanting to watch Birmingham's victory over the colonial upstarts will have to wait a little longer, though, and should keep an eye on their TV schedules--Eurosport and BskyB will be broadcasting the matches during August and September.
Those who thought the Sega Mega Drive died back in the 1990s are sorely mistaken. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, UK distributor Blaze is reviving the Mega Drive in a new portable form complete with 20 pre-loaded classic titles.
According to the company, the handheld console runs on 3 AAA batteries, and features a built-in LCD screen, speakers, and a PAL TV output with supplied cables. It looks like the built-in games will be a case of take it or leave it--from what we can tell it will not support extra games via cartridges. That's right kids, no Sonic the Hedgehog, Wonder Boy or Streets of Rage on this Mega Drive.
The console will be available on shelves from the end of August, priced at £29.99. More information can be found on the product's official web site . While we're yet to get our hands on a unit here at GameSpot UK, we'll be sure to post our impressions when we do.
The full list of games is below.
Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle
Dr Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine
Ecco the Dolphin
Sonic and Knuckles
Shinobi III - Return Of The Ninja Master
In emerging news, the government has banned 18-rated games from prison. The document outlining the changes to the regulations, Prison Service Instruction 32/2008, says that "with immediate effect, prisoners on Basic level of IEP [the level of privileges earned through good behaviour] must not under any circumstances be allowed access to games consoles and console games save exceptionally for those under suicide prevention measures."
The document also states that "Governors must ensure that all games consoles and console games are purchased at prisoners' own expense. No public funds must be used by establishments to purchase games consoles and equipment." Those who have reached the "Enhanced" level of privileges--defined by the prison service as those "who are demonstrably well-behaved, who commit to their sentence plan and fully comply with the prison regime"--will be allowed to use consoles bought at their own expense. Additionally the document states that "no 18-rated console games are to be permitted. Governors must ensure that action to implement these changes is completed by 30 September 2008."
The Daily Mirror reported on Friday that part of the reasoning behind the crackdown was that playing games was making prisoners more violent, going on to say, "We want inmates involved in useful activities. Spending hours in front of a games console did not qualify."
Geoff Dobson, deputy director of the Prison Reform Trust, was supportive of the move, saying to the BBC: "I don't think anyone would have a great problem with incorporating these into a good behaviour programme, but we should not forget the usefulness of these games to prison officers and governors keeping order in overcrowded prisons."
The crackdown follows widespread condemnation last year when Ian Huntley, jailed in 2003 for the murders of two 10-year-old girls, was pictured with a PlayStation. It is also a step up from the ban on PS2s at Wakefield jail in 2006 after prison authorities realised the consoles were being used to watch hardcore pornography--though controversy dogged that move, when prisoners were given £1,800 in compensation for the removal of the hardware.
Public funds will still be available for the purchase of consoles and software in young offenders' institutions, as the ruling only covers adult prisons. That is expected to change, however, as a review is currently under way into the expenditure on such devices in such institutions after it was revealed that £10,000 had been spent buying consoles and software for inmates.
One of Sony's biggest announcements at E3, that of the new PlayStation Network video store, was also one of the least surprising pieces of news to come out of the annual industry shindig. Even more predictable to European PlayStation 3 owners was the news that despite the fact the service was launching immediately Stateside, they would have to wait for an unspecified period of time before getting a similar service this side of the pond.
One enterprising European has, however, found a way to circumvent the region lock, and has posted video proof of movies downloading to a PS3 based in the UK. On Saturday a report was posted on gaming blog vgwatchdog that demonstrated how to access the service, with instructions on the rather involved process.
This was followed up yesterday by a post with video proof of the workaround in action.
The workaround allows you to use a host computer in the US to present what is described as a "fake PS3" IP address, and requires the user to have access to a host in the USA through which they can route their PS3's Internet traffic. This circumvents the region lock by tricking the video store into thinking it is talking to a US PS3, when all the data is actually being routed to one in the UK.
According to vgwatchdog, the same workaround should work for those wishing to access the Xbox 360's US store, but this has not been tested.
Neither Sony nor Microsoft had responded to requests for comment by press time on either the workaround itself or any potential repercussions for users who exploit it.
I've just posted some photos from E3 over on my GameSpot profile. While the exhibitors are still setting up for the official start tomorrow, Guy and myself headed over to the convention centre yesterday (Sunday) to pick-up our passes and scope out the scene. You can also follow what I'm up to at E3 on my profile, and twitter feed.
First impressions from the GameSpot UK team are also just in following Microsoft's E3 press conference, highlights include Resident Evil 5, Guitar Hero: World Tour, Battlestations: Pacific, Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts and the Xbox 360's new Avatar feature which will arrive in the autumn system update.
Rockstar Games and parent company Take Two have had their fair share of run-ins with the authorities this year. In the UK, a long-running battle with the BBFC ended in victory when Manhunt 2 was granted an 18 certificate after an appeal to the Video Appeals Committee. Over in the US, Take Two ended up taking legal action against the Chicago Transit Authority for pulling down advertising relating to Grand Theft Auto 4.
Today, the UK's Advertising Standards Authority has rejected complaints from viewers about ads run earlier in the year for Rockstar's Bully: Scholarship Edition. The ads featured scenes from the game, including a student being given a wedgie, Hopkins kissing a girl, and the firing of a catapult. The complainants had indicated that they thought the ad was "distasteful," gave the wrong message in the current climate of problems with teenage violence, and should not be shown when it might be viewed by children.
Take Two responded that the ad was no longer running, and that it was primarily comic in nature. The company felt that "many of the complaints were directed against the name and contents of the game itself rather than the ad," according to the ASA ruling. The previous version of the game was released in the UK under the name Canis Canem Edit.
Clearcast, which screens advertisements before they are shown on television, said that "far from glorifying bullying, the aim of the game was actually to beat the bullies." It also believed that the name of the game had attracted attention to the advertisement. Clearcast had also issued an "ex-kids" restriction on the advert, meaning that it could not be shown during programmes that have under-15s as more than 30 percent of their audience.
The ASA did not uphold any of the complaints. The body felt that the ad was "unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence," even if many people might feel the game itself was in poor taste. It also "considered that viewers were unlikely to draw a direct analogy between the computer-generated, stereotyped school setting and contemporary society," and did not find any breaches of the restrictions placed on the broadcasting of the advert.
Nintendo has decided to bring Wii Fit to the masses who haven't otherwise got the energy to get off the sofa and go out and buy it.
'The Feel Great Britain Tour'--as in feeling good, not inappropriate touching of the nation--will, says Nintendo, "invigorate your fitness routine and demonstrate how staying active and energised can be the key to feeling happy and satisfied."
This will, of course, involve Wii Fit, which will be rolled out for interested parties to try. The roadshow will also feature 'Health Hubs' where people can get free health and fitness checks.
The tour will run across Great Britain and Northern Ireland; the first event kicked off between June 19 and 22 at Festival Place in Basingstoke. The tour runs through to the end of August, and areas to be visited include Brighton, Milton Keynes, Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Belfast, and Manchester.
A full list of venues and dates, and more information about the Feel Great Britain tour can be found at the official Web site.
Games stores in the UK have been slashing prices across hundreds of games, and there are some great bargains to be had.
Starting with Play.com, the recently released Ninja Gaiden II on the Xbox 360 has been reduced £20 to £24.99. Other popular 360 titles have also been significantly reduced, including Burnout: Paradise, which is now £24.99, Gears of War, which is £14.99, and Halo 3, which is currently £17.99.
The PlayStation 3 version of Burnout: Paradise is also down to £24.99, but probably the biggest bargain is Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas 2, including an exclusive steel book for £17.99 (the same deal is on the 360 also). Thirty-six PlayStation 3 titles have been knocked down in price, including The Club, which is down to £29.99, and John Woo Presents: Stranglehold is also £29.99.
More than 60 PC games have also been discounted, including The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar (Gold Edition) for £14.99, World in Conflict for £14.99, and The Sims: Castaway Stories is £5 off at £14.99.
The DS range offers some far more impressive price cuts, including Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates and Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings for £9.99 each, and My Word Coach for £14.99.
The biggest surprise in the Wii category is Battle of the Bands down £20 to £9.99. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption has also been reduced to £24.99, and there's £30 off Guilty Gear XX: Accent Core, which is currently £9.99. There are also 35 PSP and 46 PlayStation 2 games reduced.
On to Game, which isn't having a massive sale per se but has gone for a different approach, heavily discounting some older titles. The cheapest of these is Stolen on the PC for £1.99. Other notable blags include Tomb Raider: Legend on the 360 pre-owned for £7.99 and World of Warcraft on the PC for £7.99.
HMV has 163 games in its sale--notable titles for the 360 include Dark Sector for £27.99, Condemned 2 for £24.99, and Ratatouille for £24.99. The same deal can be found for Dark Sector and Condemned 2 on the PS3, along with various others, including Kane and Lynch: Dead Men for £15.99.
For the Wii, MySims is reduced by £3 to £29.99, and Speed Racer is £14.99. For the DS, My Sims is reduced £10 to £14.99, and High School Musical 2 is £16.99. The PC section is equally slim, although it does have Enemy Territory: Quake Wars at £13.99. Various Sims 2 add-ons are also now £11.99 each.
For the PSP, Lumines 2 is £6.99, a saving of £11, and Wipeout Pure: Platinum Edition is £12.99. There are also 16 PS2 games with various savings.
[UPDATE] Zavvi, the retailer formerly known as Virgin, has also now launched its sale. The biggest highlights include Bioshock on the Xbox 360 for £11.99, Drawn to Life on the DS for £6.99, and Sonic and the Secret Rings on the Wii for £9.99. Conan on the PS3 is £6.99, and Stuntman: Ignition is £8.99.
Assassin's Creed: Directors Cut edition on the PC is £17.99, Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories for the PSP is £12.99, and Me and My Katamari is £5.99. Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops and Portable Ops Plus for the PSP are both £13.99. No More Heroes on the Wii is £17.99, and Eledees [Elebits outside Europe] is £10.99.
For more great bargains, check out the Bargain Hunt thread in the UK forums.
Unlike the cricket world, in which Australia almost always trumps the Brits, the world of football is rarely predictable. Who, for instance, would've picked Greece to win Euro 2004, or England to fail to qualify for Euro 2008?
Thankfully we have a secret weapon in our tournament predictions: UEFA Euro 2008's simulation mode on the Xbox 360. Now that the group stages have been tossed by the wayside, along with the undeserving teams, we can get down to finals business.
Turkey, Croatia, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, Spain, and Russia now remain after Germany's 3-2 defeat of Portugal last night at Basel. Despite goals from Gomes and Postiga, it wasn't enough to stop Schweinsteiger, Klose, and Ballack from reaching the back of the net, taking Germany through to the semis.
You can read the GameSpot UK Euro 2008 quarterfinalist predictions on the Sports Beat blog. We'll also be running separate predictions for the semifinals and finals, based on the real-life winners of those stages, so stay tuned to see who'll win the virtual UEFA European Football Championship, and just how accurate UEFA Euro 2008's AI is compared to the real thing.
Brits will soon get the chance to see who can control their favourite Nintendo mascot like no other, with retail chain Gamestation announcing its nationwide Super Smash Bros. Brawl Showdown.
There will be 20 stores hosting in-store competitions on June 28, and 64 players from each store will fight for glory, and a home entertainment system. The winner of each store's final head to head will score a Samsung 40-inch HD LCD television and 5.1 channel home theatre system. The runner-up will walk away with an iPod Nano.
If you're interested--and at least 12 years of age--you must register on the competition page by June 21 and wait for a Nintendo representative to get in touch.
The stores participating in the competition include Edinburgh, Birmingham, Liverpool, and Hull. The full list is available on the Web site.
Konami's Metal Gear Solid 4 had its London launch at Zavvi's flagship store last night, and GameSpot UK was on hand to cover the event. A sizable crowd queued up outside the Tottenham Court Road entrance to the store, with the first in line having arrived more than 14 hours before in order to secure a life-size Solid Snake statue.
Other goodies were also on offer at the event, with the first 15 people in line securing a Hideo Kojima-signed copy of the game. There was also a signed, limited-edition print up for grabs, given to a randomly chosen member of the 100-strong crowd outside.
We'll have a video from the event in a couple of days time, but in the meantime, check out the photos below and see the full set for more.
Elite supersoldier Solid Snake is going to attempt a slightly less than usual covert infiltration mission under the cover of darkness this Wednesday in the UK, on the eve of Metal Gear Solid 4's worldwide release.
High street giant Zavvi will be opening its doors at midnight, but only at the flagship Oxford Street store in Central London. The first 25 Metal Gear fans can snag a copy of the game that has been signed by creator Hideo Kojima (ahead of the event, naturally) and all who attend will also receive a swag bag and "have the chance to enter a competition to win a 'money-can't-buy' Metal Gear Solid 4 prize," according to the retailer.
Meanwhile, Zavvi's main high street competitor, HMV, has said it won't be opening at midnight. HMV Oxford Street hosted an event last Monday where Kojima signed 300 limited edition slipcases available exclusively to those who preordered the game on the day. In addition to Kojima, lead artist Yoji Shinkawa and actress Yumi Kikuchi, who plays one of the game's Beauty & the Beast characters, were also on hand to sign autographs.
Lastly, for those living in the Hull area, the local Gamestation will be open from 11 p.m. A spokesperson for Gamestation said that while the retailer wasn't planning any official midnight openings some other stores may open at their own discretion and customers should phone their local store for more details.
At the time of publication, specialist retailer Game had not yet returned GameSpot UK's request for comment.
After a long, four-year wait, Solid Snake is soon to be back in action when The Guns of the Patriots arrives June 12 worldwide. In the lead-up to launch, the series' creator and director, Hideo Kojima, has embarked on a world tour. In doing so he is giving fans a chance to meet the man behind one of the most successful video game characters of all time, and perhaps say farewell to the legendary soldier once and for all.
Kojima-san kicked off his world tour at HMV's flagship store in Oxford St, London, partly because (according to a Konami staffer) Kojima is a fan of HMV in Japan.
Meanwhile, Konami's spokesperson told us that fans had started queuing up from Saturday. Those who got there early enough and whacked down a £5 deposit on the game were given an exclusive HMV Metal Gear Solid 4 sleeve, limited to 300 copies that day. The sleeves officially went on sale at 9 a.m. and were sold out well before Kojima stepped onstage at midday.
Thankfully HMV bestowed apon us a media pass, allowing us to get in the thick of the action.
Along for Kojima's whirlwind tour was series lead artist Yoji Shinkawa and actress Yumi Kikuchi.
Unlike his colleagues, however, the man requires no introduction.
The stage is set, the crowd awaits...
This is what fans have been waiting hours for. A limited-edition MGS4 sleeve, limited to a mere 300 copies at the store.
Hundreds of fans lined up for a brief chance to meet the team behind the series.
Coincidentally (or not), the stage is mere metres away from another type of metal, although it appears Kojima-san is a fan of another style of music...
According to a Konami staffer, Kojima is a big fan of Joy Division, evidenced by his walking onstage to their song "Atmosphere" while sporting a Joy Division T-shirt. He's flanked by Kikuchi on the left and Shinkawa on the right.
Without stopping for questions, Kojima jumps straight into the hot seat and begins the task of signing autographs.
Kojima passes a sleeve over to Kikuchi to add the finishing touches.
Kojima takes time to chat with fans, pose for photos, and shake hands.
Some even presented him with gifts, and their own fan art.
While bouncers informed fans that only one sleeve per person was to be signed and those who didn't conform might be ejected, Kojima-san nevertheless seemed happy to oblige fans.
Cem Hizli, who came all the way from Surrey, was chuffed to get his sleeve signed.
London is the first stop on the Metal Gear Solid 4 World Tour. Other appearances include Milan, Madrid, Hamburg, Amsterdam, Paris, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Tokyo, Yokohama, and Osaka.
Codemasters is holding a launch-day event on Oxford street today to celebrate Race Driver: Grid's arrival.
As well as some early morning silliness, a bunch of gamers are competing for a BMW M3 (having taken part in a pan-European fastest-lap challenge), and there are a number of booths set up for anyone to have a go.
The day kicked off with a parade of six supercars rocking up at Zavvi on Oxford Street, with The Stig among them--apparently there to pick up a copy of the game and an Xbox 360 Elite.
The Stig in-store.
If you head down there during the day you can have a play on the game on 360 or PS3 before buying it; when we headed over to see what the fuss was about there were loads of PS3 and 360 demo stations set up in the games area on the first floor. There are other prizes on offer, including Race Driver umbrellas, shirts and other related stuff, for those who just turn up to have a go, and these should be going on 'til 6 p.m.
Watch out for our review next week.
The Metal Gear Solid creator will be in town on June 2 along with artist Yoji Shinkawa to sign game sleeves for the upcoming Metal Gear Solid 4.
However, the time that the two video game celebs can spend meeting and greeting the great unwashed is subject to "time constraints," and will be "strictly limited." This means that there will only be 300 sleeves for the duo to scribble on, and these will go on sale at 9 a.m. sharp.
The signing will take place in HMV's flagship 150 Oxford Street store on Monday June 2 at noon.
Gamers will need to pay a £5 deposit towards pre-order of the PlayStation 3-exclusive game Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, which is due to land on British shores on June 12. In return, they will receive a "pre-release HMV exclusive sleeve" for the highly anticipated title.
Ryu Hayabusa will be descending on us like, well, a ninja in the night on June 6. Ninja Gaiden II continues the story of Ryu, is a follow-up story to his 2004 Xbox outing in Ninja Gaiden, and precedes the original NES Ninja Gaiden series (or Shadow Warriors, as it was known to us PAL territorians).
Those who purchase the game will be able to obtain variations on Ryu's ninja garb through Xbox Live, and Game is getting the ball rolling with a preorder offer. It doesn't mention how many costumes preorder customers will receive, other than you'll be entitled to "in-game costumes worth 200 Marketplace points."
Meanwhile, HMV is including 1000 free Xbox Live point in its offer. According to its site, the offer is only redeemable on UK Xbox 360s, and will be emailed to your registered HMV.com e-mail address seven days after release.
Lastly, while Play.com doesn't have a special pre-order deal, they do have a 7-inch Ryu Hayabusa figure for preorder at £10. Unfortunately it won't be out until the end of September, and there's no final product image on the listing.