The Week in Video-Game News

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By LOU KESTEN
The Associated Press
Wednesday, August 1, 2007; 2:27 PM

-- News from the virtual world:

_COMIC CHAMELEON: When the San Diego Comic-Con started in 1970, about 300 people showed up. This year's event drew 120,000 fans _ enough to get the attention of not just comic-book publishers, but movie studios, TV networks and video-game companies as well.

Just about every major video-game company (with the glaring exception of Nintendo) had some kind of presence at Comic-Con, but Ubisoft made the biggest splash. The French company has snatched up the rights to four of the most geektastic properties in Hollywood, including "Avatar," the new sci-fi epic from James Cameron, and "Beowulf," Robert Zemeckis' animated retelling of the classic saga. Ubisoft also announced that it will be developing a game based on NBC's "Heroes," and showed the Comic-Con crowd a one-minute trailer for the "Lost" video game, due around the same time in 2008 that the series will be returning to ABC.

Electronic Arts chose Comic-Con (rather than the E3 video-game convention a few weeks earlier) to announce that its EA Chicago studio, developer of the bone-crushing "Fight Night" games, is working on a new brawler featuring Marvel superheroes. But the best news came from LucasArts, who revealed the next project from "Lego Star Wars" creator Traveller's Tales: "Lego Indiana Jones." Get to work on your Lego fedora now.

_FALLOUT BOYS: LucasArts didn't save all its firepower for Comic-Con. At the E3 Media & Business Summit in Santa Monica, Calif., the company gave demos of "Fracture," a first-person shooter with a unique twist. Some of your weapons are "terrain deformation" devices that let you mess around with your opponent in a variety of interesting ways, like suddenly heaving a mountain in front of him.

Disappointingly, many of the games we saw from third-party publishers (those not named Sony, Nintendo or Microsoft) were things we had seen last year, including promising titles like 2K Games' "BioShock" and Ubisoft's "Assassin's Creed." Once again, all we saw of Konami's "Metal Gear Solid 4" was a nonplayable clip.

But there was some fresh meat out there. "Sid Meier's Civilization Revolution," from 2K, finally brings the PC strategy classic to console gamers. Activision's "Call of Duty 4" drags the shooter franchise away from World War II and into the 21st century. EA's "Skate" could revitalize a genre that been exhausted by the increasingly irrelevant "Tony Hawk" 'boarding series. Other highlights included the first glimpses of Capcom's "Resident Evil 5," EA's "Burnout Paradise" and Warner Bros.' "Looney Tunes: Duck Amuck."

The game of the show, however, was Bethesda Softworks' "Fallout 3." A role-playing game that takes place long after a nuclear holocaust, it's the new project from the team that created "The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion." By the time "F3" is published in 2008, it will have been 10 years since the last "Fallout" RPG, but this looks like it may have been worth the wait.

_HIGH-DEF JAM: Sony's Blu-ray DVD format appears to be winning the high-definition format war over Toshiba's HD DVD. Target Corp. will be promoting Blu-ray in its stores during the holiday season. Blockbuster Video says the only high-def discs it will carry will be Blu-rays. Most Hollywood studios are putting movies out in Blu-ray; only Universal Studios is committed to HD DVD alone.

Still, Microsoft is hanging in there with the HD DVD attachment it introduced for the Xbox 360 last year. The company cut the HD player's price from $199 to $179, and if you buy one by Sept. 30 you get five free movies. And the game still hasn't been decided; most buyers are still on the sidelines, waiting for one or the other to take a clear lead so they don't burned by buying the wrong format. (Ah, Betamax ...)

_NEW IN STORES: Sick of sudoku? Nintendo brings another Japanese logic puzzle to the DS with "Picross DS." ... Nintendo's most popular character on the soccer pitch in "Mario Strikers Charged," for the Wii. ... Natsume's cult-favorite farming sim returns to the PlayStation Portable in "Harvest Moon: Boy & Girl." ... Xseed's "Brave Story: New Traveler," another trippy role-playing adventure for the PSP.


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© 2007 The Associated Press

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