This week the annual Consumer Electronics Show kicked off in Las Vegas to show off tons of new technology ranging from cell phones to plasma/LCD/DLP technology to visualizations for human resource software. Pretty nifty all in all, but the biggest announcement for gamers came in the form of the PSP Debut Press Conference, which really didn't reveal too much new at all.
The press conference focused on Sony's successes with the PSP in Japan (510k seems small, but that is every unit shipped), Sony expects similar successes here. President and CEO of SCEA Kaz Hirai chest thumped a bit, saying, "The baton has been passed," and later, "We will elevate handheld gaming out of the ghetto it is in."
Those are tall words for a company about to take on Nintendo's new DS, which flew off shelves this holiday season and is still in high demand. Nintendo could have several million units installed by the time the PSP launches in "late March" with an undisclosed amount of units shipping. While developer support is strong for Sony's device, it'll still be more of a fight than N64 vs. PSOne.
After showing off the ability to move music, photo and movie files from USB and memory stick to the PSP, Sony finally gave us the chance to play some games on UMD. The closest unit to me got me started on a game of TWISTED METAL: HEAD-ON. The controls were a little shaky in the early version, but immediately noticed is the clarity and beauty of the PSP screen. Sony passed out headphones for us to use and the sound wasn't bad either.
The hardware itself felt good in the hands, but it does pain us to report that we immediately noticed a unit with two dead pixels. Another issue that was brought to life for us was load times. Now, these are by no means final versions of games and not optimized, but the load times did seem to be a bit much. Maybe the are comparable to consoles, but for a handheld it seemed a bit much.
However, with the bad out of the way, I must say the games looked great. I had the chance to play WIPEOUT: PURE, which made me all sorts of giddy. Another impressive racing title was RIDGE RACER, running at a smooth as a baby's bottom 60 frames per second and with controls tighter than you would believe, you'll be into it right away.
METAL GEAR SOLID: AC!D
All in all, the lineup of games for the PSP is very impressive, with lots of high-quality games in the horizon. Sony has its bases covered, and with its well-known marketing, Nintendo is going to face a tough challenger.
The PSP should be on shelves in late March and just as quickly back off them and into the hands of hungry gamers.
GRAN TURISMO 4 shipped one million units in Japan... Sony says the graphics processor shortages are what is delaying PSP production... CASTLEVANIA is coming to the Nintendo DS and is the sequel to ARIA OF SORROW... Dolby is showing Dolby Digital Plus, a new sound technology capable of 13.1 Surround Sound, whether or not next-gen game consoles will take advantage of this remains to be seen... Nintendo characters will make an appearance as players in the GameCube version of NBA STREET VOL. 3...
RESIDENT EVIL 4 is easily the console choice for gamers this week, though fans of the series may cry foul as this is said to be very action-oriented. Handheld gamers will dig Link's latest adventure in THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: THE MINISH CAP. Other big titles hitting include a sequel to THE GETAWAY called BLACK MONDAY, and MERCENARIES, the latest game from LucasArts.
Gamers' Thumb is our weekly Video Game column.