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Ape Escaped - King Kong conquers Ubisoft

Ubisoft’s King Kong game has a colossal presence at the company’s booth, which is only fitting for the gargantuan ape. This action-adventure game—based on the upcoming Peter Jackson movie—is being shown in a 200-person-capacity closed theater.

According to Ubisoft, Jackson was so impressed with Michel Ancel’s talents on Beyond Good & Evil that he sought Ancel out to ensure the same quality storytelling for the King Kong game. The game, in development for both consoles and handhelds, will use a newly optimized version of the Jade engine, which was created for BG&E and is used in the Prince of Persia games. The goal with King Kong, Ubisoft says, is to re-create the emotions of the movie and put key decisions into the player’s hands. Jackson and his special-effects company, Weta Digital, have provided the developers with unlimited access to the film’s production; Ubisoft is importing content directly from Weta, some of which is exclusive. Both the film and game are slated for a holiday 2005 release.

While Kong takes up nearly half of Ubisoft’s booth, he’s got lots of company. The Prince is back in the final episode of the Prince of Persia trilogy, subtitled Kindred Blades, which is slated for a fall release on the PS2, Xbox, GameCube, and PC. This installment begins with the Prince’s return to Babylon with Kaileena, who arrive there only to discover it’s been ravaged by war—and he’s being hunted. A Dark Prince has also arisen, complete with a distinct combat style; players will find that some territories are more favorable to play through as the Dark Prince, others as the regular Prince. The agility, puzzles, and combat from the previous POP games are back, but this time, fast-paced stealth-action is employed as well.

Another game that’s marking a return for a well-known franchise is Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon 3 (working title), which will hit Microsoft’s next-generation console in winter 2005, as well as the PS2, Xbox, GameCube, and PC. This tactical military shooter set in the near future employs the CrossCom, a satellite-powered communication device that provides visual and auditory intel from allied forces and unmanned drones.

The PC hit Far Cry is moving to consoles in Q2 and will feature new feral attacks and stealth moves, along with an array of weapons and vehicles that should prove useful when trying to escape the elite mercenaries in a tropical wilderness.

Another familiar franchise that’s getting an overhaul is the Heroes of Might and Magic series. Although it retains its old-school turn-based strategy roots, Heroes of Might and Magic V incorporates a 3D animated world into the battles and hero raising. It’s due out for the PC in early winter 2006.

Pioneering adventure franchise Myst will make its swan song this fall with what creator Rand Miller calls a “quiet story with huge ramifications.” Myst V, for the PC and Mac, is the first Myst to be played in real-time 3D, although it also has a classic mode for old-school point-and-clickers.

War gamers aren’t left out of the mix: America’s Army: Rise of a Soldier, shipping this summer for the PS2 and Xbox, seeks to give gamers the most authentic Army experience possible. It was created with the help of four real-life Army advisors, who gave input on everything from weapon effects to dialogue. Meanwhile, Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII (working title) allows players to relive every famous air battle of that war. The Xbox-exclusive squad-based combat game is slated for a fall 2005 release.

Both AND 1 Streetball and 187 Ride or Die inject some hip-hop-influenced street culture into the Ubisoft lineup. AND 1 Streetball, set for a holiday release for the PS2 and Xbox, is urban b-ball with attitude—with all the music, panache, and moves of the real game. 187 Ride or Die, which combines racing with shooting, is set to a hip-hop soundtrack. It’s due out this summer for the PS2, Xbox, and PC.

By Carrie Shepherd

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