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It didn't happen at E3, but a shareholder meeting is fine, too. At the latest such Electronic Arts bureaucratic gathering, EA Games head Frank Gibeau confirmed - more or less voluntarily - that a sequel to last year's The Godfather game is in development. According to a report on Gamasutra, Gibeau offered the Godfather 2 title as an example of future project targeted at older customers (alongside other games listed below), in response to a shareholder question regarding EA's attitude towards mature games:

"The appeal of those types of games is growing as the demographics start to open up for that older demographic. (...) We make products like Godfather 2, Army Of Two, Crysis - a lot of products that appeal to that older customer."

Unfortunately, that's all he let slip, leaving us to guess the platforms for which The Godfather 2 might be released (probably all of them, except perhaps the Nintendo DS), and the release date. 2008, 2009?... Could be 2008, if they're still whipping their developers overtime hard enough.

As a curiosity, Gamasutra recalls that The Godfather 2 game was also thought to be in development by a certain analyst, Todd Greenwald, after his visit to EA a while ago. Not that we needed a genius to figure out the obvious, even more so considering that the cinematographic trilogy was spread over - you guessed - three parts. So, to be continued.

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Dark Motif Adventures In Business With Adam Syndrome

Today we get acquainted with the young studio Dark Motif, thanks to an announcement revealing not only their new official website, but also their first project: an adventure game called Adam Syndrome, subliminally hinting at pseudo-history's first man. Only subliminally, because Adam also happens to be the name of the game's main character. Professor Adam Reed, to be more precise, on his quest for answers following a strange chain of occurrences that ends with the sudden and mysterious death of his wife.

Starting from this scenario, and driven by the tagline "Being the first has its price", the game promises to delve neck-deep into an intricate web of conspiracy and secrets dating back to the very beginnings of mankind (hmm, yet another subliminal hint?). As a respectable "mystery thriller", Adam Syndrome will blend real-life historical facts with provocative fiction, backed by a sombre visual presentation - as also suggested by the first artworks added to our local gallery.

Throughout the game, Adam will visit around fifteen locations, such as ancient lost cities, futuristic laboratories, underwater complexes or gloomy old cemeteries, totaling over 150 pre-rendered backgrounds and 50 interactive 3D characters, plus all sorts of weather effects and other stuff meant to thicken the atmosphere. The gameplay will be as classic as they come, "point-and-click", with the character being controlled from a third-person perspective.

The folks from Dark Motif hope to launch their debut game in summer or autumn of 2008.

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Now there's a screwed up PR aberration! Probably trying too hard to get their futuristic, and otherwise bland, racing game out in the spotlight, today publisher Lexicon Entertainment announced Voltage as a "racing game with real-time strategy elements". Sure, it would be interesting if someone managed to combine these two totally antagonistic genres, but I'm affraid it's not the case here, or at least the rest of the announcement brings no solid arguments to support this hazardous statement. That is, unless choosing shortcuts during a race and managing the different types of fuel have become "RTS elements", all of a sudden...

But let's see what they have to say about Voltage - a project that looks like it's one and the same as Tachyon Drive, both being developed by the Czech company IBA Group:

"Races take place far in the future on the planets of the Solar system, where players compete in the fastest and most technologically advanced races, to acquire the supreme title of the Solar System's Best Racer. Players can choose from a number of vehicles powered by anti-gravity engines that run on electricity, nuclear and tachyon fuel and can jump to reach special sections of the track for a more advantageous position.

(...) The tracks feature a myriad of futuristic elements: Teleports, Electromagnetic Platforms, Nuclear and Tachyon fuel power-ups to get more of the thrill of speed. Choosing shortcuts to cut down the lengthy races, finding the best route through the turns, up hills, and traps in each course is the main strategy, but along with this comes the responsibility of battling opponents for the right to hold first place."

Aside from these "undoubtless" RTS elements, Voltage also prides itself with non-linear tracks, decorated with futuristic constructions and tunnels, set on Earth, Mars, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, on the Moon and on Europa (as in Jupiter's moon, not the continent). Fascinating, isn't it?

Wipeout... err... I mean Voltage, is set for release in autumn 2008, on the PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

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James Cameron's grand directorial return, after a decade of absence (not counting all those post-"Titanic" documentaries), was sure to catch the opportunistic attention of the gaming industry. Even though his latest cinematographic project - the sci-fi action movie "Avatar" - is still shrouded in a bit of a mystery, only coming out in 2009, we can already start getting excited, even if based on nothing but his previous movies: "Aliens", "The Abyss", "Terminator" 1 and 2, "True Lies" and, with the risk of repeating myself, "Titanic".

The lucky ones who won the rights to make a game based on the upcoming "Avatar" movie are the folks from Ubisoft, whose deal with 20th Century Fox will allow them to launch the game in conjunction with the movie's premiere, set for May 2009. We didn't expect to receive any details about the game this early, nor did we get any, so here are just a few things about the film, along with James Cameron's statement that was included in the announcement:

"Avatar" is the story of an ex-Marine who finds himself thrust into hostilities on an alien planet filled with exotic life forms. As an Avatar, a human mind in an alien body, he finds himself torn between two worlds, in a desperate fight for his own survival and that of the indigenous people.

"For the movie 'Avatar' we are creating a world rich in character, detail, conflict and cultural depth. It has the raw material for a game that the more demanding gamers of today will want to get their hands on - one that is rich in visuals and ideas, and challenging in play", said James Cameron. "I told the Ubisoft team I wanted them to be free to do their very best work, and not think of this as a movie-based game. They responded with a fully realized presentation which captured the soul of the world and the characters, while promising to be a knockout game on its own terms. Their passion inspired my confidence that they are going to do something transcendental."

The "Avatar" movie is said to be more than ten years in the making, with special effects done by WETA Digital (see the "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy or "King Kong"), and with a cast that includes Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, and Sigourney Weaver (did someone say "Aliens"?...).

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It's no accident that the first episodic series was called Sam & Max Season One, and it's also no accident that the folks from Telltale Games have being hinting at it for a while: the sequel predicted by everybody was officially announced last night, and along with it we also received the first image ("render" they say, though it still looks like a screenshot) from... ta-daaa... Sam & Max Season Two. Congratulations to the 99.97% of fans who bet it would be called this way.

The image in question, quite suggestive really, shows the Stinky's diner, down the street from Sam & Max's office, that remained closed for the entire first season. Again, by no accident. And just as premeditated is the fact that the announcement was made precisely the day before the Comic-Con show in San Diego, where they'll be revealing more about the game: new characters, environments, and maybe some nutcase scenario. Because right now we still don't know what adventures await the eccentric detective duo. Careful not to divulge anything too early, Dave Grossman from Telltale only had this to state:

"We're keeping the general structure and gameplay, and focusing on telling farther-reaching, crazier stories. You'll see some changes to the world, too; improvements that were born out of player feedback and our own desire to make the most fun games anyone has ever played."

The premiere of the second Sam & Max season is set for autumn 2007, and the episodes will once again be released in pretty much the same way: first through the GameTap service, and then (the very next day), they'll be up for modestly-payed download on the developers' website.

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Activision Becomes Largest Third-Party Publisher In The US

For more years than we can remember now, Electronic Arts' domination over the third-party games publishing scene was so firm, that it became completely useless to point it out every single year. It was, but now it's over (finally), at least in the US. That's because the new leader in games sales for the first half of 2007 is Activision, who gathered $387.8 million from January to June, compared to just $365.7 million for EA.

As a sidenote, considering that Activision posted net revenues of $1.5 billion for their previous fiscal year, we get a great picture of how spectacular games sales rise during autumn and the holidays season, for pretty much everyone in the industry. And since Activision's shares jumped 54% over the last year (says LA Times), we can expect this new fiscal year to bring them even larger revenues - maybe even another $1.5 billion, from now to December (they estimate $1.8 billion for the entire year).

When interrogated about this change of things, Electronic Arts didn't risk making any comments, so we'll just settle with the following statement made by Robert Kotick (Chairman and CEO of Activision) as part of yesterday's communique:

"Our record performance was fueled by strong sales of our proven franchises Guitar Hero II, Spider-Man 3 and Shrek The Third, as well as our new intellectual property Transformers: The Game. Our balanced portfolio has enabled us to continue our leadership position across the console and handheld platforms."

The Guitar Hero franchise will be their main source of income this year, with total sales estimated to reach $360 million. But since the rest of their "hits" are mainly movie-based titluri (Spider-Man, Shrek, Trasformers), it seems like their reaching the #1 spot was in vain - they still pour out unoriginal games. Guess we'll just have to take confort in Call of Duty 4 when it launches... next year or whenever.

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World of Warcraft - 9 Million Subscribers And The Comic

Slowly but surely, World of Warcraft's population has surpassed yet another arithmetical and psichological milestone this week - that of 9 million subscribers, leaving just one final hop to the inevitable 10 million mark. The difference could be crushed once they release The Burning Crusade over in China or, at the very latest, that enigmatic second expansion they're working on. Or, why not, by a mind-blowing BlizzCon next month. Depends on what the blues plan to announce and show over there, from the WoW front...

If you're interested in a brief recollection of World of Warcraft's evolution, since late 2004 until now, the announcement is there for you on the Blizzard website. And, also there, they announced World of Warcraft: The Comic, created by DC Comics and set for release in November 2007. The comics' official website hosts some sketches and the following starting scenario for the series:

"When a human is found unconscious on the shores of Kalimdor, with no memory of who he is or how he arrived there, how will he survive? Enslaved by an Orc Shaman, he must fight for survival against members of both the Alliance and the Horde. Will he strike the uneasy balance with the other races he'll need to find the secrets of his past?"

I think the long-since cancelled Warcraft Adventures sounded a bit more interesting, if anyone still remembers it...

P.S. One of those 9+ million players is also a senator with a lv.70 dwarf priest. So not all politicians despise video games.

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Hot on the heels of last week's Unreal Engine 3 scandal (which began with Silicon Knights suing Epic Games), we now learn about a new game adopting Epic's technology. So, meet The Scourge Project, a shooter designed from the ground up as a cooperative experience for four players, promising to revolutionize this niche of action games.

The Scourge Project is the up-and-coming work of a certain Spanish studio called Tragnarion, who plan to release it in 2008 for the PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. They're also making some sort of Nintendo DS game, but they're not willing to say anything about it yet. Shortly put, here's what The Scourge Project is about:

Set on Earth in the near-future, players and their friends take on the role of Echo Squad, a four-man team of hardened mercenaries caught in the chaos of an invasion of unknown origin. Cut off from the rest of the world, and left no choice but to find and confront the source of this threat before the sky darkens forever, Echo must think fast and fight hard if they are to survive.

Featuring a wide range of intense co-op focused combat scenarios, as well a unique perspective on the story depending on which playable character you choose, The Scourge Project will raise the bar for what gamers expect from a multiplayer First-Person Shooter.

And that's about all. Well, almost: there are still some tiny images to be seen on the official website, and a trailer also around there, or here.

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CSI: Hard Evidence Also Coming To Xbox 360 And Wii

I for one am not aware of any "pure blooded" adventure game released on the Xbox 360 or Wii, so it seems like the honor of adapting this classic PC genre for the two consoles will go to CSI: Crime Scene Investigation - Hard Evidence. As Ubisoft informs us today, it will be released along with the PC version this autumn, all three editions being developed by the Telltale Games studio (the guys with the new Sam & Max episodic series). However, while the Wii is indeed a perfect host for adventure games, I can't say the same about the Xbox 360... But hopefully I'm wrong.

The difference between the two console versions of CSI: Hard Scene should be as visible, as palpable. On the Xbox 360, the game boasts "cinematic-style" graphics, while the Wii version will likely put our Wiimote handling skill to the test, when analyzing crime scenes and evidence. The latest CSI also introduces a new "Garage Lab" for examining large pieces of evidence (like cars and trucks), and players will be able to recreate gunfights using ballistic lasers, and to uncover shocking secrets with video analysis, among others.

More info about the game was conveniently crammed by Ubi in the following synopsis:

"Players will join Gil Grissom, Catherine Willows and the rest of the Las Vegas cast to help solve crimes using realistic techniques and lab equipment. The game features forensic reconstructions and atmospheric crime scenes taken directly from the television show, including an all-new garage lab for analyzing large pieces of evidence, improved evidence gathering, lab mini-games, and more. There are more areas to explore and increased interaction with the CSI team, resulting in a longer play experience."

Based on our last investigation, CSI: Hard Evidence was supposed to come out on the PC on September 11, although the new communique mentions that the PC version will ship simultaneously with the Xbox 360 and Wii, in "fall 2007". So it might get delayed once again, slightly.

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Playing some game set in Africa is probably the last thing we need, in this devastating heat around here, but in this case, we'd be more than willing to make an exception. Because the title in question is the long awaited sequel to the first Far Cry on the PC, aptly called Far Cry 2. Yes, they're making it, it's official, and it's supposed to come out in spring 2008. Except that it won't be made by Crytek, but by Ubisoft's Montreal studio, just like the latest console editions.

Ubisoft didn't bother to go into any kind of details about the sequel in their announcement, only saying that these will be revealed at the end of August, by the American PC Gamer magazine, and prolonging our agony with a typical PR statement:

"Far Cry marked the beginning of a new era for shooters. An era of gorgeous graphics and of advanced artificial intelligence", declared Tony Key, vice president of marketing at Ubisoft. "We are confident that Far Cry 2 will have the same impact again on the FPS genre landscape."

The only clue regarding Far Cry 2's setting comes from the official website opened by Ubi. This shows a suffocating African landscape, just as wild but less colorful, and without any further info - only two links: one to the Far Cry 2 forums, and another one to some silly contest.

So we wipe our sweat off, take a breath of more-or-less-conditioned air, and wait for this heat to pass, so we can properly enjoy the announcement of a new Far Cry...

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