The gray, raised seal stared at me like the eye of a mythological Cyclops. What was this mysterious message that found its way to my humble mailbox? A treasure map? Perhaps an invitation to a strange, remote island where a grand adventure awaits?
I hurriedly broke the wax seal and began reading. My mysterious letter was a press release from Eidos Entertainment announcing how work is progressing on the latest installment of Tomb Raider.
It must be May.
If the day your favorite game comes out is akin to Christmas, then May’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) is like Thanksgiving—the start of the hype season. At E3 (which wraps up May 20) game companies announce their highlights—from games to systems—scheduled for release between now and next May. It’s tough to talk about everything, but according to press releases and online gaming sites, this year’s conference has exciting things on tap.
The most anticipated releases for me have to be games modeled after two of the greatest mob movies of all times—The Godfather: The Game from EA and Scarface: The World Is Yours from Vivendi Universal. Both games are pulling out all the stops, including recorded tracks of Marlon Brando and new live voiceovers from both Robert Duvall and James Caan for The Godfather. As for Scarface, only Pacino saying “Say hello to my little friend,” would work, and he’s in the game.
While those titles will go through the roof when released, the pre-E3 buzz tells me that Eidos is going to be the company to watch in the coming year. Three of their releases could easily be among the top console titles of the year once released. In addition to the already-mentioned Tomb Raider: Legend, the company will be releasing the fourth Hitman installment—Hitman: Blood Money—and a new title, 25 to Life. I’m a huge fan of both the Hitman and Tomb Raider series, but 25 to Life is the one I’m waiting on. Developed by local studio Avalanche Software, 25 to Life allows gamers to play as either a cop or a gangster. This title will be compared at length to Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas—and this one could be better.
Other titles that could be sleeper hits are The Suffering: Ties That Bind from Midway (a sequel to an incredible game) and two titles from Majesco: Teen Titans and Aeon Flux. As a comic-book fan from back in the day, I’m hopeful that Teen Titans is top-shelf. As for Aeon Flux, I have high hopes, but since it likely will be based on the upcoming film, history isn’t on its side.
And although not a sleeper, I don’t think anyone has to hear how excited I am for Madden NFL 2006. It’s the only sequel that has gotten consistently better year after year and never, ever disappoints.
Hey, maybe Madden’s developers can jump on the Aeon Flux train. Just a thought.
Conflict is apparently the name of the game when sitting at the console with Midway’s Narc. You get to choose which you’d like to be: an honest officer who protects the public at all costs, or a dirty, civilian-beating, drug-selling cop who treats honest taxpayers and skells the same way. But the conflict doesn’t stop there—I feel deep conflict when playing this title where blazing a joint, smoking crack or shooting up smack actually helps your performance. With my well-documented fondness for the likes of Hitman and Grand Theft Auto I’m not one to climb on a soapbox, but this seems to be too much glorification of bad behavior. Am I a hypocrite? Maybe. Could I forgive these unnecessary extras if the game was better? Possibly. But the game play is not fluid, and control for what should be simple maneuvers is way too difficult. To be fair, I do like the idea of choosing whether to be a good or bad cop, but the game stops short of allowing you to become really bad while at the same time letting you shoot up for a game play advantage. I guess I’m not the only hypocrite at the console. (Midway, PS2, Xbox, GameCube, Rated E, $19.99)
Lego Star Wars: The Video Game
It seems strange to review a game from Eidos that received an E rating. After all, can the makers of the insanely popular, gruesomely addicting Hitman series really create a playable, enjoyable title suitable for all ages? Play this game for even a short period of time and you’ll soon find your own affirmative response to that question. The game takes its story from the first three episodes of the Star Wars saga, except the usual overly dramatic tone of most other Star Wars games has been replaced by a lighthearted satirical one acted out by characters made from the popular building blocks. This title is a rare breed: a kid’s game with the chutzpah to entertain and challenge grown-up gamers as well. (Eidos, PS2, Xbox, PC, Gameboy Advanced, Rated E, $39.99)