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December 14, 2004 - January 24, 2005 - See More Archived News

Monday, January 24, 2005
[PC] Super Furious Releases 'Cellblock Squadrons' - posted by Erich Becker at 3:53 pm CDT

Super Furious Software, www.superfurious.com, announced today that their first title, Cellblock Squadrons, is officially ready for electronic distribution. You can download the free demo or purchase the game from their secure website.

For more information on the game, here's a clip from today's press release:

Cellblock Squadrons takes the player out of the bogus, “I’m going to save the world” attitude and slaps them into a prisoner’s cell. As a convicted anti-government rebel you are forced to repay your debt to society by flying fighter missions against an invading alien force. With each successful mission you are one step closer to freedom. Enjoy all the action you would expect from a space combat game with a fun and witty storyline brought to you in your cell by e-mail each “week” of play.

The game features massive battles against alien capital ships where you and up to 99 computer controlled wingmen take on some of the most dangerous ships this side of Alpha Centuri. Don’t worry about your wingmen being the standard incompetent and useless pilots they have been in other games. The advanced AI makes them a force to be reckoned with, and you are going to need all the help you can get. You can select up to 5 different ships, each with unique attributes and abilities, such as shields, overpowered weapons, and teleportation. Plow through over 100 randomized levels and over 40 different ship types with no “script” to follow. Destroy the enemy and get yourself a few thousand dollars closer to buying your freedom from the Cellblock Squadrons.

Cellblock Squadrons is available as a free demo from www.superfurious.com and the full version can be purchased from that same site.

[PlayStation2] 'Champions: Return to Arms' Goes Gold - posted by Erich Becker at 3:50 pm CDT

Sony Online Entertainment Inc. (SOE) today announced that Champions: Return to Arms™, the sequel to the critically acclaimed Action/RPG, Champions of Norrath™, has gone gold. Champions: Return to Arms, available exclusively on the PlayStation®2 computer entertainment system, will ship to U.S. and Canadian retail stores on February 7, 2005.

ESCMAG will have a full review of the game next month, stay tuned!

Thursday, January 13, 2005
[GameCube] 'Resident Evil 4' Impressions - posted by Erich Becker at 8:48 am CDT

So far the game can be summed up in three words: Holy [bleeping] [bleep].

When Capcom set out to reinvent the Resident Evil series I never expected this, and I'm sure anyone booting up the game for the firs time this week will feel the same. Resident Evil 4 not only reinvents the series, it also gives the lagging survival horror genre a shot of adrenaline right into the heart.

At first I was skeptical with the new aiming scheme. In RE4 you are no longer stuck in pre-rendered backgrounds with a fixed camera view, now you have full 3D environments in which to explore. The new camera is positioned just over Leon's shoulder giving you a very cinematic and unobstructed view of the enemies in front of you. Holding R brings you into aiming mode where your gun's laser sight turns on, allowing you to aim for particular parts of your foe's bodies causing different degrees of harm. The ever elusive head shot is now much easier to perform and gamer's are rewarded with a visceral explosion of blood and bits of flesh.

So far I'm about two hours into the game (just past Chapter 1-2) and I've had to pause at times for two reasons. Reason 1: I needed to catch my breath from staring at the amazing environments Capcom's artists have crafted, and Reason 2: I simply needed ot catch my breath after a wave of enemies (who are smart) came at me.

Resident Evil's formula has been tweaked a bit to the point where you no longer fear what will be lurching out behind the next corner, you are more concerned with just how you will survive the next wave of baddies coming at you. There is a real sense of dread as ammo runs low and you begin to only have one option: run.

So far the game hasn't been too hard, but with save points abundantly located throughout this world, and a steady supply of ammo in key parts, maybe the old RE days of just trying to survive long enough to find a save point may be passing.

If you don't own a GameCube, this is the reason to buy one. The Resident Evil series has never looked, played, and felt this good; a definite must buy for any video game player.

Look for ESCMAG's full review soon.
Impressions by: Erich Becker

Friday, January 07, 2005
[Multi] EA Sports Announced Rugby 2005 - posted by Erich Becker at 1:51 pm CDT

EA has announced that they will be adding Rugby to their lineup of EA Sports games in 2005. For those of you wondering what rugby actually is, I'm at a total loss as it doesn't involve ice, a puck, and a stick to hit people (and the puck) with. For those of you wondering if I'm kidding, I'm not...or am I? Anyway, here's a snippet from the press release:

Electronic Arts today announced that EA SPORTS™ Rugby 2005 is under development as the newest ongoing franchise in the EA SPORTS™ lineup, heralding the sport’s emergence as a global phenomenon. The game, which features a host of gameplay and graphical upgrades, will deliver an authentic rugby experience and is scheduled for release in spring 2005 for the PlayStation®2 computer entertainment system, the Xbox® videogame system from Microsoft, and the PC.

Rugby 2005 has not yet been rated by the ESRB and no price point has been set as of publish time.

Thursday, January 06, 2005
[ESCMAG] The News Returns Tomorrow - posted by Erich Becker at 1:37 pm CDT

After an elongated holiday for those of us in the ESCMAG press room we'll be resuming updates tomorrow, although with all the major releases and news stories happening before the holiday season, there just isn't a whole lot going on...except for Age of Empires III.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004
[Multi] 'NFL Street 2' Streets December 26 - posted by Erich Becker at 12:26 pm CDT

EA's NFL Street 2 will be hitting store shelves the day after Christmas this year as all that money mommy and daddy gave you can easily be put to waste. The release of the game comes at a very "interesting" time for the future of football games on home consoles as EA has scooped up the rights to the league for five years.

For fans of the game, look for it to be released on PS2, Xbox, and GameCube for $49.99 each. NFL Street 2 is rated E for Everyone.

[PC] Strategy First Ships 'Shadow Vault' - posted by Erich Becker at 12:16 pm CDT

Publisher Strategy First and developer Mayhem Studios are happy to announce that Shadow Vault has shipped to retailers nationwide.

The sky is blackened by dark clouds and planet Earth is nearing its sad end. Humans have already tried all possibilities to avoid doom. Only one option remains - a ‘time tunnel’ leading back to the year 1958. The alliance is back in the year 1958 and the ‘time tunnel’ is their only chance to change what has transpired in order to avoid a war that should have never happened. But the alliance plans are delayed when the Contingent government, an organization hell-bent on war and domination, went through the tunnel first. Now they must begin battle again and save the Earth from these invader’s hands.

Shadow Vault is a turn based Strategy RPG set during a violent time in Earth’s alternate history. Battle the forces of the Contingent government through 20 different levels, featuring over 30 unique characters and units or go against human opponents in 10 multiplayer levels over LAN or internet. Designed for both casual and hard-core strategy players, the games provide countless hours of strategic gameplay delivering lots of action and strategic possibilities without the need of studying a huge manual.


- Stylish nuclear war ravaged environment where buildings and structures can be destroyed or used for cover
- Unique unit classes, each with its own special sets of abilities, such as medics, engineers, snipers and more
- Units improve abilities and acquire new ones as they gain combat experience
- Over 30 unique abilities and 40 different actions to enhance and update your units
- Hours of strategic gameplay through 20 game levels
- 30 units and characters to choose from or battle against
- Epic story and dynamic storyline that immerses the player into the game
- High level Artificial Intelligence that reacts to as player’s strategy
- Intuitive game rules and interface placing emphasis on the strategical experience rather than a steep learning curve

Shadow Vault is available at all major retailers with a suggested retail price of $29.99. Rated T by ESRB. To learn more about this game please visit www.strategyfirst.com or www.mayhem.sk

[PC] Activision Release 'Bloodlines' Patch - posted by Erich Becker at 12:08 pm CDT

Activision has released the 1.2 patch for Trokia's Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines. The patch resolves a number of in-game issues and bugfixes. For a complete list of the fixes and a link to download the patch, check out: http://www.vampirebloodlines.com/patch/

Look for ESCMAG's full review of Bloodlines soon.

Thursday, December 16, 2004
[Industry] SpikeTV 2004 VGA Winners - posted by Erich Becker at 12:33 pm CDT

While I didn't sit down and watch the awards show (what's it doing on at 10PM anyway?) here is a listing of the winners from the telecast on Tuesday.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (Rockstar Games)

The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay (Vivendi Universal Games)

Brooke Burke - Need for Speed Underground 2 (Electronic Arts)

Samuel L. Jackson - Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (Rockstar Games)

BloodRayne - BloodRayne 2 (Majesco Games)

Burnout 3: Takedown (Electronic Arts)

Madden NFL 2005 (Electronic Arts)

Mortal Kombat: Deception (Midway)

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (Rockstar Games)

Halo 2 (Microsoft Game Studios)

Green Day "American Idiot" - Madden NFL 2005 (Electronic Arts)

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (Rockstar Games)

Jason Jones and Bungie Studios, for Halo 2 (Microsoft Game Studios / Bungie Studios)

Burnout 3: Takedown (Electronic Arts)

Game Informer


Call of Duty: Finest Hour (Activision)

Half-Life 2 (Vivendi Universal Games)

Might and Magic (Gameloft)

Half-Life 2 (Vivendi Universal Games)

Nintendo DS (Nintendo)

Metroid: Zero Mission (Nintendo)

City of Heroes (NCsoft)

Fable (Microsoft Game Studios)

For the most part I agree with the winners (especially GTA: SA and Burnout 3) but some others don't quite sit right with me. At least I can say I voted for what I wanted.

[PC] New 'Starshatter' Demo Released - posted by Erich Becker at 12:30 pm CDT

Matrix Games (www.matrixgames.com) and Destroyer Studios (www.starshatter.com) announced today that Starshatter has released a new demo that will take prospective players deeper into their unique, immense, world. The demo is free and can be found at the Matrix Games website at www.matrixgames.com.

Starshatter extends the game concepts of the classic space simulations by combining fighter and starship combat in a single game. You begin the game as either a fighter pilot or the commander of a small starship. As you progress through the game, you can earn promotions and awards until you are commanding a massive fleet carrier with three wings of fighters and a complete escort of warships.

The new demo includes the training campaign, Operation Live Fire, and the first five days of the first dynamic campaign, Operation Highland, along with a few single missions and a few multiplayer missions that can be enjoyed entirely for free.

The full version, which can be purchased from Matrix Game’s website, comes with four full dynamic campaigns and many multiplayer missions to battle online with. The full version of Starshatter is fully mod-able, allowing for endless creativity by its many fans.

[PC] 'Hearts of Iron 2' Demo Available - posted by Erich Becker at 12:25 pm CDT

Strategy games publisher Paradox Interactive today announced that the demo for the much-awaited sequel to the multiple award-winning Hearts of Iron is available on most major gaming sites.

To commemorate the 60th year Anniversary after the start of the Ardennes offensive on Dec 16, 1944, the demo features the same battle scenario covering France, the Netherlands and Belgium during 1944-45. The full game contains 4 major campaigns which enable the player to play the full course of the war, as well as 15 battle scenarios taking place during specific timeframes on a dedicated part of the map. The battle scenarios offer a plethora of World War II operations such as Barbarossa and D-Day as well as local battles like the Spanish Civil War and the Winter War.

In Hearts of Iron 2, you are the supreme leader of a country (of your choosing) during the tumultuous struggle of World War II with the goal of winning the War through warfare and diplomacy. To achieve your goals you need to guide your nation through a multitude of aspects including alliances, technological advances, strategic thinking and military production.

Hearts of Iron 2 is no less than the ultimate World War II strategy experience and a dream come true for every armchair general. The game is scheduled to be shipped to stores on January 4 in North America and will be available on all markets by mid-February.

For more information on Hearts of Iron 2 and/or Paradox Interactive, please visit www.paradoxplaza.com or www.heartsofiron2.com.

[Industry] The NFL/EA Saga Continues - posted by Erich Becker at 12:21 pm CDT

In what can only be described as some serious backlash to EA and the NFL, Midway officially announced Blitz: Playmakers, a game based around the canceled ESPN series. In a move that hopefully show the NFL just how stupid they are for agreeing to this low-blow move, Playmakers will feature all the elements from the show including late-hits, showboating, drug-use, violence, etc., actually just about anything the NFL doesn't like.

The game is expected to gain an "M" rating.

While the story seems more of a "oh-yeah-well-take-this" move on the part of Midway, it is one that should be recognized for the balls it is going to take to go up against the league, but someone has to do it.

Numbers are finally starting to appear (EA is reportedly paying $50 million a year for the license) and remarks from Take-Two (who co-distributed ESPN NFL2K5) show the industries distaste for the deal. Although EA's "Microsoft" like stance in the industry has finally started to turn some heads, they aren't doing anything illegal by doing this, although I'm sure there will be many, many unhappy consumers (especially the 40% share of the market that bought ESPN this year, including me).

I've already decided that I won't be buying Madden 2006 and that I'll live off of NFL2K5 for as long as possible on my PS2. EA's aura of a scared little girl isn't likely to diminish anytime soon.

Source: Reuters

Tuesday, December 14, 2004
[Industry] EA Gets Exclusive NFL Rights - posted by Erich Becker at 9:15 am CDT

In a news announcement posted on IGN today, the network is reporting that EA has secured exclusive NFL rights for its Madden, NFL Street, and unannounced franchises. What does this mean to the common man or woman? The best football series is now gone as there will be no more ESPN NFL2K6.

Frankly, I think EA is scared of the sales numbers NFL2K5 posted this past season, and they are even more scared by the fact that, with a $19.99 price point, the game was much better than the aging Madden franchise. So, like Microsoft, rather than compete, they simply buy what they want. I see this as bad for the industry as a whole, without two good series going at it each and every year. Who's to say EA will just stop caring and start releasing crap?

The announcement also affects NFL Gameday, and NFL Blitz, both games now have lost their NFL and NFLPA licenses.


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