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Well, the Eidos brand is still live and kicking thanks to SCi Games, so I guess we all know what that means... Indeed, a new Tomb Raider game is coming. A few years ago, as Lara was going through her midlife crisis, the prospect of another Croftian adventure wasn't too appealing. But after this year's unexpectedly great Tomb Raider: Legend, the heat is on once more!

We still don't have a title for the next Tomb Raider game, so we'll just call it Tomb Raider 8 for now - in hope that we didn't screw up while counting all the previous major instalments.

Tomb Raider 8 was not only confirmed as being developed by Crystal Dynamics - the team behind TR: Legend, but SCi's latest financial report also mentions that the new Tomb Raider game will include a PS3 version (probably alongside a PC and Xbox 360 version). Other than that, the brits are in no rush to release any PlayStation 3 titles in the near future, reasoning that it's always been their company's policy "to launch titles on a new platform when the platform reaches a commercially viable installed base". Fair enough, if that's what it takes to keep the series going.

SCi didn't offer any release date for TR8 in particular, however they announced that their PS3 projects currently in development are planned for release "from the 2008 financial year onwards". Assuming that Tomb Raider 8 is among them, the calendaristic 2008 would be a safe bet for now. And if you can't hold on that long, don't forget that Crystal Dynamics is also putting together a 10th Anniversary Edition for the franchise. Should be interesting to see how that turns out, most likely next year.

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I don't think there's been any good - let alone great - tennis game on the PC since 2004, when the first Top Spin came out. But thanks to Aspyr Media, fans now have a reason to look forward to Q1 2007, when a PC version of Top Spin 2 is expected to be released in North America. As announced this week, Aspyr will be acting as both publisher and developer for this PC version, after having licensed the game from 2K Sports.

It's not clear to us yet if this will be a direct port of the Xbox 360 version released earlier this year, and just how much of the original content will survive the transition from console to PC.

The first few PC screenshots do look similar to the ones taken from the Xbox 360 version, so that's pretty good news for now. And we'll see how the game plays, once they release it early next year. Until then, you can check out Aspyr's product page for Top Spin 2, and here's a brief description they supplied along with the announced:

"The hit tennis game Top Spin 2 serves up 24 top-ranked athletes (Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova and more), a wide variety of events including all four Grand Slam tournaments, a multi-season career, and a set of new risk and advanced shots. In detailed, real-world venues such as Wimbledon, gamers can create realistic player models and their own on-court style with slices, drops, top spins, lobs, and drives against the tennis world's best-of-the-best. For experienced players, Top Spin 2 adds depth to gameplay with a number of risk shots and advanced controls, giving gamers the ability to pick apart their opponent piece-by-piece. If hard-core competition isn't your thing, take it easy and enjoy multiplayer party games, like Splash Court, Wall Breaker, and Time Bomb. The game supports up to four players on a single PC, and two players over the Internet or a LAN."

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Speaking of well kept secrets, Microsoft continued their salvo of X06 announcements with Halo Wars - an Xbox 360 real-time strategy game taking place in Bungie's Halo universe. Wow, who would've thought!... Oh, wait. Actually, somebody did predict this weeks ago, and with great accuracy as well - by speculating that Ensemble Studios could be working on such a Halo RTS. Which turns up to be perfectly right, as the team behind the Age of Empires series was indeed confirmed as the developer of Halo Wars.

But even so, it's certainly surprising that Microsoft announced this strategy game exclusively for the Xbox 360, once again leaving PC gamers with little hope for a new Halo experience on their trusty home computers. One can only wonder why would they do that, when the genre is so clearly tailored for the PC.

But even if there would be a PC version some time after Halo Wars' release on the Xbox 360 (which has yet to be set), it would still feel like a console game, as Ensemble is dumbing creating it for the Xbox 360 from the ground up. The game already has a website in place at HaloWars.com, and here's what the F.A.Q. has to say about this issue:

"Halo Wars was created for the Xbox 360 from the ground up, which meant we didn't have to make compromises or shoe-horn in artifacts from a Windows PC game. We were able to take all the best aspects of RTS games, make them work perfectly on the Xbox 360, and exclude the rest."

It's also interesting to point out that, before Halo, Bungie developed the first two Myth RTS games, and that at least one of the people credited with the design of Myth II (Max Hoberman) has been working over in Texas (where Ensemble is also based) since Spring. Not to mention that Microsoft shut down the fan-made Halogen project (an RTS MOD, go figure!) just weeks ago. With so many "coincidences", I guess this was bound to happen.

But getting back on topic, Halo Wars will take place before Halo 1, during the UNSC's first deadly encounters with the Covenant. Players will lead the crew of the UNSC's "Spirit of Fire" from initial skirmishes to an all out war against the evil Covenant. And... that's about it for now. There's also a great cinematic trailer available on the game's website, and some wallpapers that we also added locally. Worth a look.

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From the depths of time, id Software's ancient Doom shooter has made a shocking surfacing at this week's X06 event, where it was revealed that the game is arriving on Xbox Live Arcade, effective immediately. The announcement came practically out of the blue, so for once Microsoft and id Software managed to keep a tight secret until the very last moment.

This XBLA version of Doom contains all four single-player episodes from the original DOS game, as well as some polished multiplayer features, including access to leaderboards with match-making capabilities. Deathmatch and cooperative frag-fests will be playable online via Xbox Live, but also in split-screen mode, for up to four players. Doom was recreated for XBLA by Nerve Software (RtCW, Doom3:RoE) and features enchanced HD graphics, along with 5.1 surround sound.

All that fraggin' stuff can be downloaded now on Xbox Live Arcade for 800 Microsoft Points, or $10 for the arithmetically-challenged. If I had a dollar for every time I felt the urge to replay that game in the past decade... Oh yes, I would more than afford it!

Oh, and if you're new to this whole Doom thing, do yourself a favour and play it in complete darkness. If your heart can take it, you won't regret it.

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Exclusive News - Bioshock, GTA IV, Oblivion, Splinter Cell // UPDATE

   These last couple of days brought plenty of announcements with regard to the exclusivity of some high-profile titles, such as Bioshock, GTA IV, Oblivion and the next Splinter Cell game. And by that we mean Splinter Cell 5, not the imminent Double Agent, which is expected next month on multiple platforms. But let's take them one at a time.

   We'll start off with Splinter Cell 5, since this is the only one from the aforementioned titles that has yet to receive an official clarification. Actually there should have been one by now, but we'll update this story once we know for sure. So, according to 1UP - via a leaked press release detailing Microsoft's X06 announcements, the next Splinter Cell game will be exclusive to the Xbox 360. This is not Splinter Cell: Double Agent, mind you, but the fifth iteration in Ubi's stealth-action series, possibly titled Splinter Cell: Conviction.

   Next in line is Grand Theft Auto IV, known to be targeting the PS3 and Xbox 360. Microsoft has previously hinted at some sort of exclusive content for their console, and now it seems that the game's publisher Take-Two will provide "exclusive access to two downloadable, epic episodes of Grand Theft Auto IV via Xbox Live, each with hours of entirely new gameplay". Scott Henson (Director of the Game Development Group at Microsoft) claims that these episodes are a "complete exclusive" and will not be available on the PS3 download service. Expect them within months after the release of Grand Theft Auto IV late next year.

   What's next, Oblivion? Well, let's see. In today's press release issued by Bethesda, it says here that The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion will be a launch title for the PlayStation 3, meaning it will be out this November in North America, and next March in Europe. So much for the PC / Xbox 360 domination... But wait, there's more! The same communique heralds the first Elder Scrolls role-playing game for Sony's PlayStation Portable, called The Elder Scrolls Travels: Oblivion and due for release in Spring 2007.

   And finally, there's Bioshock. Much has been said and speculated about the destination platforms for Irrational's ultra-ambitious first-person game. But today 2K Games set the record straight, by announcing that BioShock will be an exclusive Xbox 360 and PC (Games for Windows) title. Oh and, by the way, it seems we're back to "BioShock", instead of "Bioshock". How shocking!

P.S. If you really want to see something shocking, be sure to check out the HD version of the recent Bioshock demo trailer, available here, here, here and in several other places.

UPDATE: Indeed it's official: "Ubisoft confirmed that the next "Splinter Cell" title, the next installment in the series after "Splinter Cell Double Agent," will be a console-exclusive on Xbox 360, a testament to the ability of Xbox 360 to deliver a complete experience no other console can match."

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Years of surfing the Internet have taught us at least one thing: that a good browser is a free browser, no matter what you call it, or what platform it runs on. Unfortunately, it is this very sacred rule that Nintendo and Opera are breaking as we speak on the Nintendo DS (at least in Japan, other territories to follow) and will continue to do so on the upcoming Nintendo Wii console. That was the bad news; now for the good news.

The good news is that Nintendo will be offering the Wii Opera browser free of charge at first, as a temporary promotion for all Wii users until June 2007. After that - starting with July 2007 - users will have the option to purchase the Opera browser, using their Wii points. Just how many Wii points? That... is for them to know, and for us to find out. Some other time.

For now, here are some features announced by Opera for their Wii browser:

"With support for Flash and AJAX-based content such as Google maps, Wii users will benefit from a feature-rich Internet experience that is uniquely customized for the Wii. Opera for Wii boasts the same complete standards support as the Opera 9 Desktop browser, and includes the added functionality of "Zoom" and "Bookmarks". The Wii remote control will also be an integral part of browsing, allowing users to intuitively control the Web with their Wii remotes."

As you should know by now, Nintendo plans to release the Wii in the US on November 19, in Japan on December 2, in Australia on December 7, and in Europe on December 8. For a sneak peak at Wii Opera (let's call it that way for now), check out Nintendo's preview clips - starting at the bottom of that page, and on to the next one.

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PS3 Games To Cost Over $75 In Japan? Perfectly Normal

Any moderately-sane gamer can tell you that if you're willing to pay over $75 for a single game, you got issues. Which only goes to show (was there ever any doubt?) that the Japanese are something of a special breed, as they're already used to paying that kind of money for a PlayStation 2 game. Not just any PS2 game, true, but if the title reads Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest, they'll usually go for it. No expense spared!

Unfortunately for them - and hopefully only for them, the $75 mark may well become a rather common price for a PlayStation 3 game. At least according to a feature published by the Japanese website Impress Watch, quoted by IGN:

"Citing "multiple information sources," the article states that the price of PS3 games will be concentrated in the 8,800 to 9,800 yen range. The primary reason given is the rising cost of development."

In other words, most PS3 games might cost between $75 and $84. A ludicrous price for the western world, but only slightly expensive for Japan. However that's not even the real issue here.

The main underlying problem is a disturbing shift in Sony's strategy for the PS3 over the past months. As of E3, Sony was still hoping to turn the PlayStation 3 into an open platform, allowing users to create their own games and share them through the console's online service, free of charge. In their utopian hopes and dreams, third-party companies would also benefit from a similar pricing environment, so the games would be cheaper, and eveyone would be happy.

Well guess what: it's not gonna happen. At least not from day one, because Sony hasn't made much progress with turning the PS3 into an open platform (development environment, manuals, security management, community features and such are still missing or incomplete).

So, with its utopian plans currently on hold (or lagging way behind), Sony is reportedly shifting its strategy towards a more traditional business model: selling cheap(er) PS3s, and making up for the loss through software sales. This would also explain the price cut for the 20 GB PlayStation 3 model in Japan, and may eventually lead to a similar announcement for western territories. Guess we have a few more weeks to find out.

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Final Fantasy XII Late In Europe, FF XII DS Details, FF XIII At TGS

With the new Final Fantasy XIII universe revealed at this year's E3, the recently announced Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings for the Nintendo DS, and of course Final Fantasy XII - which has yet to be released in the US and Europe - Square Enix was bound to draw a huge amount of attention at the ongoing Tokyo Game Show. And so they did, despite heavy competition from the likes of Konami and, I dare say, some very impressive Xbox 360 RPGs targeted at the Japanese market.

The big news for us Europeans is that Final Fantasy XII will only arrive in PAL territories in early 2007, almost one full year after its Japanese debut. This makes for a rather disappointing holiday season, but I guess that's traditional by now. In North America, FF12 is still set for release on October 31 of this year. I wonder how they'll welcome the new "Active Dimension Battle" (ADB) system implemented in the game. It supposedly "gives players the freedom to move seamlessly between exploration and combat", while also eliminating random battles, but so far it stirred quite a controversy between older and younger fans of the series. You can get a glimpse of the new system in these new FF XII screenshots.

Moving on to Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings, it was revealed that this new DS incarnation of the series will follow a different timeline that the PS2 version of Final Fantasy XII. The main characters in Revenant Wings are Vaan and Penelo, but the action takes place when they are 18 and 17 years old respectively. According to N-Europe, features will include a stylus-controlled battle system, more airships than the PS2 original, plenty of dancing (apparently) from Penelo and a focus on the two characters being air pirates, and their relationship with each other. We got the first FF XII: Revenant Wings images (not screenshots unfortunately) in our local gallery, and Square Enix have already opened an official website for the game. Worth a look.

And finally, also "worth a look" is our new batch of Final Fantasy XIII screenshots released at the Tokyo Game Show. There are only three of them, but boy, do they look yummy! I'm starting to feel like it's almost worth buying a PlayStation 3 for this game... Almost.

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Metal Gear Solid 4 In Late 2007, Real Gameplay Footage At TGS

Another big show, another big showing for Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. One year after Konami's TGS 2005 presentation ripped our jaws off and slammed them to the ground, they return with a new MGS4 trailer put together by Kojima's crew. It's "real gameplay footage" this time, we're told, and it looks almost as great as before... Well, except for some questionable first-person bits, which look like they could use a finer targeting system.

But anyway, why don't you go and see it for yourself. GameVideos are showing a pretty good version of the trailer, but we'll keep our eyes opened in case a clean, high-res trailer shows up so we can add it locally. The video is "just" 6 minutes long this time, but it's allegedly 100% gameplay (bar some camera perspective teaking) and it shows several interesting things.

Gameplay wise, there's plenty of diversity here. Snake's "OctoCam" (Octopus Camouflage) suit comes in handy for stealthing around; and so does a barrel... His little robotic friend Metal Gear MK-II zapps unsuspecting enemies in the groin (what a heartless piece of machine), while Snake shows off some new moves. Then there's the dubious first-person parts I mentioned; then the ending credits; and finally... well that last part got me confused - meaning it served its purpose. In the final scene, another guy shows up in one of those OctoCam suits, which some said resembles a younger Solid Snake, but it may even be Gray Fox (Frank Jaeger) for all we know.

For now, the thing to remember is that Metal Gear Solid 4 will put more focus on the player's freedom of choice, and it will be less stealth-orientated. They'll give you a goal, you'll decide how you want to achieve it - sneaking around or with guns blazing.

Our local MGS4 gallery hosts some new screenshots for your viewing pleasure, and word is that Kojima has narrowed the game's launch window to late 2007, at the earliest, according to Famitsu. Not too encouraging.

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Remember when Piranha Bytes announced on September 12 that their RPG sequel went gold and that it had been shipped for replication? Well, some mighty poo must have hit the fan in the process, because later they discovered "several problems" with the first goldmaster disc. The disc in question was pulled out of production before any retail copies were made, and they are now working on a new goldmaster.

Whether or not they will manage to fix it in time for the previously announced October 13 release, we're not quite sure yet. And I don't think they are either. Nevertheless, the devs are still expecting Gothic 3 to start selling on October 13 in various European territories, according to their latest update from the game's official website.

But aside from the newfound problems, there also seems to be another thing troubling the developers. In the same update, they express some concerns regarding early reviews of the gold scrapped version:

"no one has had any access to the [new gold] version that will start selling on October 13th in various European territories. No testing (by external persons) of this version can have been done. All test results that have been published up to now are based on the scrapped goldmaster or in many cases on even older preview versions."

So, hypothetically, if we were to see an early review rating Gothic 3 at 90+, would that mean it could be even better?

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