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Get PlayStation Vita Early by Pre-Ordering a Bundle

PlayStation Vita First Edition Bundle

Thanks to it being region free, you can import a PlayStation Vita from Japan and not have to worry about whether North American or European games will work on it. If you’d rather not resort to importing but want to get your hands on the system before anyone else, Sony is now presenting you with an option to do so.

By pre-ordering the PlayStation Vita First Edition bundle, you’ll be able to get the system on February 15, a week ahead of its scheduled release on February 22. The caveat is it’s bundled with some things you may or may not want, resulting in some extra costs.

In the United States the bundle includes the 3G model of Vita, a limited edition case, a 4GB memory card, and downloadable title Little Deviants for $349.99. That’s a $50 premium over purchasing the 3G system on its own, and $100 more than you’d be paying for a Wi-Fi-only system if that’s what you’d prefer. In Canada, the bundle consists of the same things except it’s the Wi-Fi system with a $299.99 price tag. It’s not a terrible deal when you consider you’re getting a game and a memory card, the latter of which is all but required for Vita owners.

For those who end up with the 3G system, be aware that you’ll be using AT&T in the U.S. There’s also a file size limit on what can be downloaded over 3G — only things 20MB and less can be downloaded when not connected to Wi-Fi.

By Chris Pereira

Black Ops 2 Looking Increasingly Likely as the Next Call of Duty

Call of Duty: Black Ops

A new Call of Duty game release is expected every year, making last week’s news that, yes, 2012 will see a new game in the series come out no real surprise. With Infinity Ward and Treyarch continuing to alternate releases, this year is Treyarch’s turn to bring out a game. At this point we don’t know any of the specifics, but it’s looking increasingly likely that it will be a direct sequel to Black Ops, at least in terms of naming.

After previously acquiring Black Ops-related domain names (from BlackOps3.com up through BlackOps6.com), Activision reportedly got its hands on BlackOps2.com not long ago. The domain acquisition on its own didn’t seem like a confirmation that Black Ops would receive a follow-up; many companies purchase domains in order to simply have their hands on them so others cannot profit on their intellectual property. Other times it’s done to avoid embarrassing situations where a URL based on a game’s name cannot be used to promote the competition — a situation Activision found itself in last year when ModernWarfare3.com was home to a site knocking Call of Duty and encouraging visitors to pick up Battlefield 3. Activision decided to take action against the domain owner in an effort to acquire it, which it managed to do successfully. The entire situation could have been avoided had it simply registered the domain sooner, so BlackOps2.com falling into the hands of Activision seemed insignificant on its own.

Evidence has since been uncovered suggesting BlackOps2.com may soon come in handy. The LinkedIn profile of Nerve Software artist Hugo Beyer listed Black Ops 2 among the games he has contributed to before the page was amended, reports Joystiq. Nerve is an independent developer which has worked with Treyarch and Activision before on the original Black Ops and Quantum of Solace.

Additionally, Amazon France reportedly published a listing for Black Ops 2 recently. After originally being reported by French game site Gameblog.fr, Activision supposedly requested the story be pulled and then blacklisted the site when it refused to do so. In other words, it was uninvited from an upcoming Transformers press event and told it would not be receiving review games in the future. We can’t confirm the accuracy of these claims Gameblog has made, though we have contacted Activision for comment.

Black Ops is by far the most successful Call of Duty game Treyarch has made, a list that includes Call of Duty 3 and World at War. Despite the name change, Black Ops did share something in common with its predecessor, World at War, beyond the inclusion of a Zombies mode, namely the Gary Oldman-voiced character Viktor Reznov. But the two games were not as closely related as Infinity Ward’s last three titles, each of which featured an overarching story and (for the most part) the same protagonists. It’s arguable which approach is the better one, but I know I appreciated the return of familiar characters in the Modern Warfare games like Captain Price.

Establishing another mini-brand within the Call of Duty franchise similar to what Infinity Ward has done with Modern Warfare only seems like a natural way to go, particularly since it seems likely Treyarch will stick with Cold War-era content to compliment Infinity Ward’s modern-day stories. (It also opens the door for an additional line of Call of Duty titles to compliment Modern Warfare and Black Ops.) We’ve theorized a game set during the 1970s could make a lot of sense for Black Ops 2, if that ended up being the direction Activision decided to go in. Whatever the case may be, it’s all but guaranteed that Zombies mode will make a return.

Being only three months removed from the release of Modern Warfare 3, it’s too soon to expect Activision to start talking about the next game. The big leak of Modern Warfare 3 screenshots and details occurred in May last year, and Activision still wasn’t about to announce anything at that point. It decided to respond by releasing a series of teaser trailers it had ready to go but was holding onto for a later time. Now with Call of Duty Elite keeping the series fresh in gamers’ mind and delivering new content on a monthly basis, Activision could be keen on waiting even longer before revealing the next Call of Duty title to the public.

As such, the company is unlikely to address these listings with anything more than a “no comment.” But with all signs pointing to Black Ops 2, we can start guessing about what Treyarch may have in store this year. Will Gary Oldman be back for more crazy voice acting sessions? Will Treyarch finally top Infinity Ward? Will it be available on Wii U? On Vita?

It’s all guesswork at this point, of course, but that doesn’t make it any less fun. Let us know what you think a potential Black Ops 2 could bring with it, as well as whether you’d prefer to see Black Ops 2 or an entirely new, Treyarch-made Call of Duty title.

By Chris Pereira

Vita Launch Week: Everything You Need to Read

Pretty much all anyone is going to talk about for the next few weeks is Sony’s fancy new PlayStation Vita. Whether you’re waiting for the traditional February 22 launch date, or picking up your First Edition Bundle pre-order this week, we’ve got you covered for news and opinions about the Vita. We’ll collect every Vita-related story — whether it’s a new feature or a review or a news tidbit — and file it right here for your convenience. Keep checking this page throughout the week as we add Vita stories of all stripes.

Features:

PlayStation Vita Scorecard: Is Sony’s new portable all it’s cracked up to be? Read our in-depth evaluation.

The Making of Uncharted: Golden Abyss: In case you missed this last week, check out this in-depth behind-the-scenes look at what most people consider the Vita’s signature game.

Got Vita? Don’t Miss These Great PSP Games The 1UP.com staff compile their knowledge and recommend some great PSP games to download from Vita’s PlayStation Store. Afterwards, we toss out some recommendations for games we’d like to see added in the future.

A Peek Inside Vita’s Development: 1UP’s Matt Leone talks to Sony’s Shuhei Yoshida to talk about Vita’s development, the first games in development for the system, and what he’d do differently if they started Vita’s development from scratch.

Reviews:

Uncharted: Golden Abyss: After reading about the toil in making Uncharted: Golden Abyss, now read our verdict on how it actually plays.

Lumines Electronic Symphony: Read our thoughts on the Vita reboot of the puzzle-music classic.

Touch My Katamari: Is Namco phoning it in with this series? Our thoughts and more in this review.

Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus: How well does developer Team Ninja’s fast-paced action epic hold up on Vita? Find out in this review.

Escape Plan: Find out why developer Fun Bit’s new puzzle platfromer is one of the best looking games on the Vita, and how it stumbles a little with touch-based controls.

Round-ups (of the games that we don’t have full dedicated reviews for):

Launch round-up day one: Our first quick rundown of the Vita’s launch titles. Covers EA SPORTS FIFA Soccer, Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational,
Hustle Kings, Little Deviants, ModNation Racers: Road Trip, Plants vs. Zombies, Super StarDust Delta, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, and Virtua Tennis 4: World Tour Edition.

Launch round-up day two: The rest of our quick takes on Vita launch titles. Covers Army Corps of Hell, Asphalt Injection,
BlazBlue: Continuum Shift II Extend, Dungeon Hunter Alliance, Michael Jackson: The Experience HD, Rayman Origins, Shinobido 2: Revenge of Zen, and Wipeout 2048.

News:

OP-ED: How Vita Can Avoid The PSP’s Fate: While waiting for news to pour in, you can check out Bob Mackey’s Op-Ed last week on what he thinks Sony CEA needs to do for the Vita to succeed where the PSP didn’t.

Marketing Vita a Different, But Equally Challenging Task to Advertising 3DS: Sony is spending $50 million on what it describes as its “largest platform launch in terms of marketing investment” ever, but it is faced with competition that did not exist when launching the PSP in 2004.

Sony Denies Vita Losing Support Among Japanese Developers: An anonymous source in the Japanese development community has suggested Vita games are being canceled in favor of 3DS game development.

Check Out What PSP Games Look Like on Vita: Check out what Mega Man Maverick Hunter X looks like on Vita.

How to Map Right Analog Stick Controls on PlayStation Vita: Want to see how added right analog stick support will work with your PSP games on Vita? Check out this story to find out.

Blogs:

Handheld: How to Get the Most Out of Your Vita: 1UP’s Jose Otero shares eight quick tips to help get the most out of your new system.

By 1UP Staff

OP-ED: Sony’s Spin on ModNation Racers Vita Lacking Online Multiplayer Comes Across Poorly

ModNation Racers

ModNation Racers: Road Trip comes with a variety of online features, allowing you to compete and connect with friends and strangers in more ways than one. While many would presume the game includes online multiplayer, you can only go head-to-head against others through ad-hoc (local) multiplayer. This isn’t a new revelation, as Sony confirmed earlier this month that the only methods for race against other players is to connect locally or by exchanging ghosts. What is new is the puzzling rationale being used to describe why this decision was made.

In a post on the PlayStation Blog today, SCE San Diego’s director of product development, Erich Waas, outlined Road Trip’s online features. Ghosts and localized leaderboards should provide a nice asynchronous experience for those seeking that kind of multiplayer. And of course, ModNation’s biggest allure is the ability to create and share tracks, a feature that not only makes it into the Vita version intact, but brings with it backwards compatibility for the tracks created in the PS3 game.

The inclusion of those features make the absence of online multiplayer even more puzzling — this doesn’t feel like a quick, bare bones port or something of the sort. The PlayStation Portable version of the original ModNation Racers featured pretty solid integration of online multiplayer. Only six players could play together, half the number supported on PS3, but what’s important is that the feature was there. Vita is a more powerful and online-centric system, so it can’t be a technical reason holding it back. Even the last two handheld Mario Kart games were online, and Nintendo is not exactly known for pushing the envelope in the online space. So what gives?

“I know there are some of you that are disappointed that ModNation Racers: Road Trip doesn’t let you play head-to-head online other than ad-hoc. But we really wanted to evolve online functionality and take advantage of the PlayStation Vita’s unique feature set in new ways,” Waas wrote. “If all we ever did as developers is rehash features that have been done in previous games, we’d still be entering passwords instead of using save files and you’d have to start the entire game over after you lost your three lives (extra 1-ups aside).

ModNation Racers

“While online head-to-head has been a mode used in many games in recent years, we focused on making a game that is crafted for how portable games are most often played-in quicker ‘pick up and play’ sessions multiple times in a day. Your online interaction, competition and socialization will always be when it’s convenient for you. I hope that all of you are as interested to check-out the robust online features that ModNation Racers: Road Trip has as we are to see you enjoy them!”

I don’t find the decision to leave out online multiplayer to be a deal-breaker, personally; the ability to create tracks and play those designed by other players is the real hook here. However, with one of Vita’s two models featuring 3G support, it would make sense to allow online multiplayer to be enjoyed from wherever the player is located now that it’s something the system is capable of.

Setting that aside, it’s the beginning of what Waas had to say that was truly dumbfounding. Online multiplayer in and of itself is not a feature that makes people think, “Again?” It’s in the actual execution that it can become boring; people might groan if all they can do online is partake in the same standard racing modes we’ve seen again and again, but offer something unique and your online multiplayer won’t feel like a “rehash.”

Positioning a feature that’s been left out as being played out is reminiscent of Sony’s attitude towards controller rumble in the early days of the PlayStation 3. Former Worldwide Studios boss Phil Harrison famously described rumble as a “last generation feature” in 2007. In fact, there was pending litigation between Sony and Immersion that led to rumble being left out of the PlayStation 3′s Sixaxis controller until years after launch. Rumble would later make its return with the DualShock taking the place of the Sixaxis (though the latter’s motion control was added to the DualShock).

Whether online multiplayer won’t be included because the game is being rushed for Vita’s launch or because San Diego Studio had to choose between implementing online multiplayer and the asynchronous features Road Trip has, the smart thing to do is be up front. Trying to spin this as a positive thing — especially when it’s so easy to detect, as evidenced by the comments on the PlayStation Blog — only makes the situation more frustrating for fans who feel like an obligatory feature has been left out for no good reason.

By Chris Pereira

Vita Missing Out on the Holidays Doesn’t Worry Sony

PlayStation Vita

Since it became very apparent the 3DS wouldn’t immediately turn into the hit Nintendo expected it to be, the company has been urging investors to allow the system to reach its first holiday shopping season before passing judgment on it. After all, that’s the best time of the year to be selling gaming hardware. Sony, on the other hand, decided not to rush Vita out so it could benefit from the last quarter of 2011; for much of the world, the new handheld will be out in early 2012, a launch window Sony says it’s fine with.

In an interview with All Things Digital, Sony hardware marketing director John Koller called pre-orders for Vita “substantial and” indicated the wait until 2012 is due to a desire to meet demand.

“We’ve increased production materially since E3,” he explained. “We learned our lesson to make sure you have enough product.”

It’s not a guarantee that having a hardware shortage is actually a bad thing from a sales perspective. It was incredibly difficult to find a Wii for a long period of time after launch, yet it continued to sell well despite that. PS3 wasn’t quite so hard to find even though Sony tried to make it seem like it was.

Vita will launch in Japan on December 17. Three months later, on February 22, it’ll be out in North America and Europe — unless you decide to pre-order a First Edition bundle, in which case you’ll be able to get it a week early.

Koller points to the launch of the PlayStation Portable’s North American launch in March 2005, when the system sold one million units in its first week, as evidence that a launch during that part of the year isn’t a major disadvantage.

Of course, the world was much different in 2005 both in terms of the economy and the state of handheld gaming. Many would say smartphones and tablets have taken a permanent chunk out of the handheld gaming market, and it’s partially due to this that the 3DS has struggled in its first year. Koller, as you’d expect, doesn’t think it’s a problem because Vita offers something more.

“This is a larger game experience. We think we are insulated from the competition,” Koller claimed. “We love mobile games. Mobile and tablets games are additive.”

We’ll see if Koller is right once the system launches next year at $249.99 (for the Wi-Fi-only model) and $299.99 (for the 3G model).

By Chris Pereira