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Universal Appeal

Vivendi turns on the star power
 
Vivendi continues to spark big-name titles like a giant constellation spinning off new stars. The company's franchise library already included such marquee names as Lord of the Rings, WarCraft, Tribes, and Crash Bandicoot, but recently it has added The Simpsons, Futurama, X-Files, Battlestar Galactica, and more.
 
In April, VU stunned the gaming press with the announcement that the company would bring The Hobbit to all major platforms this fall. The third-person action-adventure lets players walk in the hairy feet of Bilbo Baggins as he journeys from the Shire to the mysterious forests of Mirkwood. Gamers can experience this prequel to The Lord of the Rings on PS2, Xbox, GameCube, GBA, and PC this fall. And there's more lore in store: Vivendi is also unleashing the next action-adventure in the Lord of the Rings series, The Treason of Isengard (PS2 and Xbox). TOI, following up on last year's Fellowship of the Ring, is scheduled to ship later this year. Meanwhile, Battle Realms' creator Liquid Entertainment is working on a real-time strategy game based on Lord of the Rings entitled War of the Ring. The PC-only title is scheduled to ship in early 2004.
 
From Middle-earth to Springfield
 
With Vivendi's recent acquisition of Fox Interactive, the French publishing conglomerate has added The Simpsons and Futurama to its license library. The Simpsons Hit & Run is a mission-based driving game featuring out-of-the-car gameplay and voiceovers by the original show cast. Players control Homer, Bart, Marge, Lisa, and Apu, among others, in car and on foot through familiar Springfield locations. The game is scheduled to ship in September on PS2, Xbox, and GameCube. Simpsons creator Matt Groening is said to be involved in Futurama, a platformer for PS2 and Xbox. With a story by Emmy-award-winning writer J. Stewart Burns and voiceovers from the show's cast, the game is sure to capture the unique flavor of the show. Groening said the game "will help players imagine what it would be like to be alive in the 31st Century. It involves blasting a lot of aliens." Another major Fox franchise, The X-Files, will arrive on gaming consoles this summer. The X-Files: Resist or Serve is a 3D survival-horror game spanning three original episodes created by the executive producers of the TV show. Resist or Serve features the likenesses and voiceovers from the majority of the TV cast, including David Duchovny (Mulder) and Gillian Anderson (Scully). The game is scheduled to release this summer on PS2 and Xbox.
 
Battlestar Galactica
 
Fans of the sci-fi classic Battlestar Galactica will be happy to see Vivendi resurrecting the space-war chestnut from Universal's licensing vault. A story-driven action game for Xbox and PS2, Battlestar Galactica lets players pilot a wide variety of ships to fight off the insidious Cylons. The game is scheduled to ship this fall, coinciding with the 25th anniversary of the hit TV series. Galactica isn't the only space-based combat game in store. The company's Sierra division expects to ship Homeworld 2 for PC sometime this year. The sequel to the award-winning strategy hit from 1999 features a new 3D engine with breathtaking graphics, story-driven missions, all new fleets, and multiplayer support for up to six players.
 
For those who prefer their science fiction closer to terra firma, Vivendi recently announced that Irrational Entertainment is working on the next Tribes sequel, Tribes: Vengeance. Vivendi hopes to take the signature franchise to the next level with an engrossing single-player game, intense multiplayer, and stunning Unreal-powered graphics. The game is scheduled for release in late 2004 for PC only. In the meantime, PC players can sink their teeth into Blizzard's upcoming WarCraft III add-on, The Frozen Throne. This fall release features a new campaign including Human, Undead, and Night Elf story arcs; a new hero; and two new units for each race. More important, WarCraft fans will be able to play Blizzard's massively multiplayer World of WarCraft at Vivendi's booth at this year's show.
 
The latest Crash Bandicoot title, Crash Nitro Kart coming this fall for the major consoles. And be sure to check out the comical Metal Arms: Glitch in the System, a refreshingly different third-person action game that's loaded with personality. It could be the first game that makes you wish you were a robot.
 
- By Ken Brown

 
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