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Before the E3 doors opened to exhibitors, journalists, and boothbabe-lusting fanboys, each of the big three hardware makers drove folks into auditoriums like herds of cattle to listen to their major announcements. In years past, Sony’s press conferences—featuring mind-numbing PowerPoint slides—have generated more snores than cheers. But not this time, as Sony used its self-created spotlight to unveil the PlayStation 3.

So does this mean its current console is yesterday’s news? Hardly. PS2 owners will have plenty of new and exciting games to play this year and well into 2006, as no other system has such overwhelming third-party support and huge exclusives. Sure, you won’t see a PS2 megablockbuster of Grand Theft Auto caliber, but you’ve still got several heavy hitters, including the Disney/Final Fantasy–filled RPG Kingdom Hearts II, the weapons-based fighter Soul Calibur III, and the online military shooter SOCOM 3: U.S. Navy SEALs. Even some promising original titles are in the pipeline, like Okami and Shadow of the Colossus.

The only area where the PS2 remains one step behind the competition is online. During last year’s show, Sony Computer Entertainment America President Kaz Hirai spoke about how the company planned on creating a central online hub (think Xbox Live) and enabling you to sell in-game data like, say, Gran Turismo 4 cars. Unfortunately, the wait just got longer for such features. “There’s a reason why we don’t want to rush [these features] out and that’s because we have two other systems now,” says Hirai. “We don’t want to do something specifically for PS2, PSP, or PS3.... We want to make sure it’s a comprehensive online program as opposed to ‘here’s something for the next six months.’”

Notable Games

A quick look at the major titles heading to the PlayStation 2 in the months to come. (Games noted with an asterisk are confirmed to have online functionality.)

August

*Madden NFL 06

September

Shadow of the Colossus

Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves

*SSX On Tour

October

*SOCOM 3: U.S. Navy SEALs

Soul Calibur III

We Love Katamari

November

Dragon Quest VIII

Kingdom Hearts II

Peter Jackson’s King Kong

*Ratchet: Deadlocked

The Godfather

The Matrix: Path of Neo

December

Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Legend

Fall 2005

*Burnout: Revenge

Castlevania: Curse of Darkness

*Jak X: Combat Racing

*Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence

Shadow the Hedgehog

*Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland

Ultimate Spider-Man

Late 2005/Early 2006

Final Fantasy VII: Dirge of Cerberus

Onimusha 4: Dawn of Dreams

Resident Evil 4

2006

*Black

Final Fantasy XII

Okami

*Phantasy Star Universe

*StarCraft: Ghost

Status Check: Final Fantasy XII

We’ve played FFXII only once—and that was at last year’s E3. Since then, Square’s hotly anticipated RPG has gone into isolation, reappearing only in video form at the 2005 show. Is FFXII in trouble? Well, word is that its director spent the week of E3 at ancient temples in Kyoto, Japan, praying for the game (seriously). For the sake of cosplayers everywhere, let’s hope his prayers were answered.

Report Card: A-

Strengths:

+Robust software lineup makes the competition’s look embarrassing

+Most exclusives of any platform

+Continued EyeToy support

Weaknesses:

-No upcoming games as big as GTA

-Online network still needs work

-Hard drive add-on has practically become vaporware

Overall:

With a game library of this caliber, we don’t mind waiting awhile for the PS3.

Copyright © 2005 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in Electronic Gaming Monthly.





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