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Activision Lays on the Next-Gen Muscle This Fall

Ever since getting behind Windows 95 in a big way, Activision has always been quick to seize the opportunities presented by new platforms. This fall, the publisher hopes to lead the pack of Xbox 360 titles by putting some of its most-successful franchises on Microsoft’s new system.

Getting the next-gen treatment are Call of Duty 2, Quake 4, Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland, and a new property by Tony Hawk developer Neversoft.

“We are taking a multidimensional approach when deciding which games to develop for the next-gen platforms,” says Kathy Vrabeck, president of Activision Publishing. “Activision evaluated the demographic audiences, the strengths of each franchise, and how we can leverage the high-definition graphics and sound capabilities of these new systems. In the upcoming transition, we expect that our early presence on the platforms will allow us to maintain a leadership position as the installed base for the new systems grows.”

For the multitudes of gamers who won’t be getting their hands on an Xbox 360 this year, there’s still a lot of life left in Activision’s slate of current-generation titles. Beefy superheroes and direct tie-ins to hit movies have been at the core of the successful relationship between Marvel Comics and Activision for years, which is why it should come as no surprise that new games in the Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, and X-Men franchises are set for release later this year.

Ultimate Spider-Man (PS2, Xbox, GameCube, DS, GBA, PC) is based on a completely original plotline from the comic book’s creative team. Although Venom gets premier villain attention, the title is set to have the largest assemblage of Spider-Man enemies of any game based in the webslinging superhero’s world. Players can roam free within the deep urban environment or take on specific missions. Treyarch is developing the console versions, Beenox Studios is responsible for the PC game, and Vicarious Visions is crafting the game for all handheld platforms.

Fantastic Four (PS2, Xbox, GameCube, GBA, PC) is the only game connected to the 20th Century Fox movie, and it’s written by Zak Penn, who wrote the X2: X-Men United screenplay. This team-based action-adventure supports both single- and two-player cooperative modes. The console versions are being developed by 7 Studios, Torus Games is handling the GBA title, and Beenox is developing the PC version.

Enhancing the novel RPG treatment of the best-selling X-Men Legends, X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse (PS2, Xbox, GameCube, PSP, PC) provides players with the opportunity to build a four-person team from 16 available characters. The two hot new features are online multiplayer modes and the ability to make teams that combine X-Men heroes with Brotherhood villains for the first time. Raven Software is developing the game for the consoles, Vicarious Visions is responsible for the PSP version, and Beenox is handling the PC game.

Developer Raven is flexing muscle of a more brutal kind, forging Quake 4 in collaboration with Id Software. This PC game picks up where Quake II left off. (For the un-Quaked, the third installment is a multiplayer-specific romp without a story line.) Quake 4 returns to the battle with the cybernetic strogg. While you still play as an intrepid marine, during this invasion there’s an army of marines going in with you, complete with a full armory of combat vehicles and weapons available to use during the fighting.

Activision is planning to release two new Call of Duty World War II action titles. Infinity Ward has created a whole new engine for Call of Duty 2 (working title) that will deliver added realism to accentuate the intensity and chaos of ground combat in this sequel to the 2003 hit. Gray Matter and Treyarch are working together on Call of Duty: Big Red One for the PS2, Xbox, and GameCube. In it, players are thrust into some of the biggest and bloodiest battles of the war as a member of the highly decorated U.S. 1st Infantry Division.

Melee fighting of a not-so-serious sort is at the heart of Shrek SuperSlam (PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube, DS, GBA). Adapting destructible 3D environments from the Shrek movies, the game—which pokes fun at everything from popular culture to classic fairy tales—supports four-player matches and features special moves and attack combos. Amaze Entertainment is handling the console versions, while Griptonite Games is doing the honors for the handheld games.

Anyone who thinks they can tell a story better than Hollywood can should probably put their egos to the test with The Movies, a simulation PC game from Peter Molyneux and Lionhead Studios. Would-be moguls can test their skills at running a motion-picture studio from the early 20th century on through modern times. Players must make the hard decisions, which include selecting scripts, deciding how much they want to spend on sets and costumes, and determining how much sex and violence will sell.

By George T. Chronis

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