Comic courtesy of Fat Gamers.

PSP fever hits UK

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It seems that the wait hasn't hampered sales in the UK

So, after months of waiting UK (and European) gamers finally got their hands on the PSP last week. Early sales figures for the first week reported 185,000 units shifted, a new UK hardware sales record. While having one more day in its first week than the DS had back in March, Nintendo's handheld only managed 87,000 units. It seems feeble in comparison, but that was the record until this week.

Many people doubted the PSP in the UK, wondering who would buy a handheld that cost £180. I had no such doubts. From the moment I played Ridge Racer back in January it was clear that the PSP would be a monumental success. While the DS was a step up in handheld performance, the PSP is capable of delivering games that look and play like what people enjoy on their PlayStation 2s. A five minute play on Ridge Racer thanks to a friendly shop assistant was probably more than enough for most people. The first time you use the PSP it feels like you are holding something that isn't from this time. It's that good.

"The launch line-up is poor" claimed hundreds of forum posters across the UK. That statement is quite frankly rubbish. While the PSP may have a slightly unbalanced line-up of games at the moment (with racers in the lead) there is no doubting the quality available on store shelves. Ridge Racer, Wipeout Pure, Virtua Tennis, Lumines, TOCA Race Driver 2, World Snooker Challenge 2005, Tony Hawk''s Underground 2: Remix and Everybody's Golf are all great games, and there are plenty of enjoyable games not in that list. While you could argue that a number of those are ports, they are still great games and unlike anything that has been on a handheld before. However, from the look of the UK games chart the general public were more than happy with the launch line-up, with 20 out of the 24 released games making the top 40.

The Nintendo DS has some great games and I enjoy playing it, as does my five year old sister (I can't see her playing on a PSP any time soon), but the PSP is the first handheld that feels cool to play. I could quite happily sit in a room of people playing on one without any embarrassment, and most people would probably be interested in what the sleek black device was. Of course, the PSP can do more than play games. UMD movies are available from retailers and a high capacity memory stick duo will allow users to put music and their own movies onto the system. Whether or not everyone will use those features doesn't matter. They are there and all help to sell the PSP as a multimedia device.

As we talked about last week, the PSP has received plenty of advertising. While I'm yet to see a TV ad, there are plenty of billboards all over London's underground stations, propelling the thought of a PSP into the mind of thousands of young dynamic people as they commute to and from work. A DS may well be seen as a toy to them, but a PSP is a gadget. And gadgets are cool.

High-Def heaven

This Friday Pro-G's office became HD Ready. It's a term buzzing around all over the place, and being geeks we couldn't wait until the Xbox 360 launch and a time when we really needed a new TV. So, a nice 27' widescreen LCD arrived and is now happily displaying a number of Xbox games (Amped 2, Tony Hawk's Underground 2) in glorious 720p. If you're wondering about taking the plunge yourself, we recommend it. Picking the right set is a problem as there seems to be something wrong with every single make and model available, but do your research and set a budget and you'll be ok.

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You know you want one

Of course, you'll need an American Xbox to experience games in high-def as Microsoft strangely disabled this feature in UK models. Even games that don't support true High-Def resolutions such as Project Gotham Racing 2 and Rallisport Challenge 2 support 480p, and still look great running in progressive scan. The GameCube (US/JAP) and the PlayStation 2 also have a fair share of games that support 480p, and they look considerably sharper than they do running on a standard CRT.

Even if you aren't a console gamer, you can use your PC to run games on the huge HD screens that are available. Games like Half-Life 2 looks simply stunning on a large widescreen LCD. Not all games natively support 720p, but there are plenty of hacks and patches around the net to get most popular outputting the right resolution.

There are some downsides to switching to HD though. If you aren't using a progressive signal the image tends to look pretty poor, and is often worse than what your CRT would produce. This is particularly noticeable when playing PlayStation 2 games which tend to look rather rough in comparison to other consoles anyway. Still, on the whole I recommend you make the switch. With next-gen consoles on the horizon there is no better time.

Next-gen games a go go

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Let's hope we see more of this at the Tokyo Game Show

With the Tokyo Game Show a week away announcements about next-gen games are starting to appear. In the last day there has been two pretty huge franchises making next-gen news. Sega announced that Sonic the Hedgehog will makes his debut on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in 2006, and more details are expected to be revealed at the show next week. Konami also announced that a real-time trailer for Metal Gear Solid 4 will be shown at the event. This much anticipated PlayStation 3 game is bound to shift systems on its release and a trailer running on actual PlayStation 3 hardware is something to get very excited about.

Ridge Racer 6 has also been in the news. Namco has announced that the Xbox 360 game will be playable at the Tokyo Game Show. This will be the first time anyone has seen the game outside of the development studio, and a strong showing could boost the Xbox 360's launch sales in all territories. There are bound to be plenty of other next-gen games revealed at the show, so check back next weekend for all the latest news.

This week on Pro-G

The PSP has received most attention this week with reviews for TOCA Race Driver 2 and World Snooker Challenge 2005. Both games were ports of games that have already appeared on home consoles, but this hasn't prevented them being two of the best games available on the handheld. We also had a rather critical look at Novalogic's Black Hawk Down on PS2 and Xbox, a preview of Far Cry Instincts on Xbox and an overview of Games Market Europe.

This week's new releases

The big two releases this week are The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction and Rainbow Six: Lockdown. Early impressions of Hulk are good and we'll be reviewing that next week, but Rainbow Six: Lockdown seems to be disappointing a lot of people. The general consensus seems to be that the online play is buggy and the single-player campaign is rather ropey. Coded Arms from Konami is the PSP's first FPS. If you can go back to single analogue stick control after years of Dual Shock use then you might get some enjoyment from this sci-fi shooter.

  • Coded Arms (PSP)
  • Colosseum: Road To Freedom (PS2)
  • Hello Kitty Roller Rescue (PS2, Xbox, Cube, PC)
  • Musashi: Samurai Legends (PS2)
  • Pilot Down: Behind Enemy Lines (PS2, Xbox, PC)
  • The Great British Football Quiz (PS2)
  • The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction (PS2, Xbox, Cube)
  • Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Lockdown (PS2, Xbox, PC)

Next week's releases include Burnout Legends (PSP), Madden NFL 2006 (PC, PS2, Xbox and Cube), Fahrenheit (PS2, Xbox and PC) and Total Overdose (PS2, Xbox and PC).

Next week on Pro-G

Expect plenty of reviews next week, including Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition and Colin McRae Rally 2005 Plus on PSP, Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, 187 Ride or Die and a preview of Shattered Union.