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Last Updated: Friday, 2 September 2005, 07:20 GMT 08:20 UK
PSP launch line-up shows promise
By Neil McGreevy
BBC

As handheld gaming is given an adrenalin shot from Sony with the release of the PlayStation Portable in Europe, how do the games on offer line up?

WipeOut Pure

Screenshot from WipeOut Pure
Psygnosis' futuristic racer flew the flag for the original PlayStation as the cool, new plaything for the hip masses, offering sterling gameplay topped off with creative flair and a techno soundtrack that begged for decibels.

Offering more gravity-defying race thrills dressed in designer cool, Sony's Studio Liverpool has crafted a blazingly fast showcase of the PSP's grunt.

Loaded with all-new environments and ships, plus a soundtrack created by top beat-droppers, WipeOut Pure even promises future content for download. An essential purchase.

MediEvil: Resurrection

Screenshot from MediEvil: Resurrection
You cannot keep a good corpse down, especially when his franchise sells by the bucketload.

That is Sony's thinking behind this handheld entry into the adventures of Sir Dan Fortesque, star of the 1998 PlayStation adventure, MediEvil.

The evil Zarok has returned, turning day into night and raising an undead army to conquer the land. Cue another blend of cartoon 3D platform action with RPG undertones, as players guide the resurrected Dan through the land of Gallowmere.

Once again, the comedy-gothic visual style owes a lot to the movies of Tim Burton, with the character designs screaming Nightmare Before Christmas. Expect a solid third-person romp with multiplayer mini-games to help shake the cobwebs from your wi-fi capabilities.

Hopefully the problems that dogged the originals, dodgy camera angles, sluggish controls and repetitive gameplay, will not be as apparent in miniature.

Virtua Tennis: World Tour

Screenshot from Virtua Tennis World Tour
Wimbledon may be over, but our thoughts can once again return to strawberries and cream with a portable version of Sega's classic ball whacker, which tightens up the series' already superb gameplay and adds a roster of licensed stars and new mini-games.

Frighteningly realistic players move perfectly around the court, whilst the eye candy is laced with realistic nuances, from the spray of dust off clay courts to the drifting cloud shadows at Wimbledon.

It is not just a visual triumph, though. Your ears are treated to nigh-on perfect sound effects, from the thwock of an ace to the squeak of overpriced trainers, while wi-fi multiplayer lets up to 16 players challenge each other.

Virtua Tennis on PSP is shaping up to be the greatest example of electronic tennis since Super Tennis on the SNES.

Midnight Club 3: Dub Edition

Screenshot from Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition
It is a sign of the times that auto-philes are ditching Top Gear and its permed host in favour of the likes of MTV's Pimp My Ride. Tricked-out cars with more bling than Elizabeth Duke are the order of the day, and Rockstar's Midnight Club 3: Dub Edition has duly obliged, bringing in the Auto Express for the hip-hop nation, Dub Magazine, to style its fleet.

The third in the illegal street-racing series has players roaring through the moonlit streets of Atlanta, San Diego and Detroit, choosing rides from a garage stuffed with SUVs, import tuners, muscle cars, choppers and luxury rides which can be tarted up with the latest rims and trims.

Six-player multiplayer action and a huge selection of Arcade modes are ruined somewhat by incredibly long load times, as much as a minute in some cases.

But while Midnight Club has underground chic, there is big racing competition from Ridge Racer and WipeOut.

Everybody's Golf

Screenshot from Everybody's Golf
Do not let the cutesy-pie presentation fool you. With pitch-perfect controls and realistic physics, Everybody's Golf promise to garner the cult following it did on the original PlayStation.

Ten funky golfers and five caddies are available to tackle the virtual fairways using old-fashioned button-tapping swings.

But beneath its cartoon cast of bug-eyed anime characters lies a surprisingly mean game of golf.

Ridge Racer

Screenshot from Ridge Racer
Featuring a greatest hits of courses from arguably the greatest arcade racing franchise ever, Ridge Racer was the jewel in the crown of the PSP's Japanese launch.

The 24 circuits take the best elements of the series and allows up to eight players to tear up the asphalt simultaneously, while a new nitro boost feature will have Burnout's lawyers spinning.

With spot-on controls, slick visuals and ear-flaying sound, Ridge Racer is the slickest of a strong launch stable for petrol-heads.

Lumines

Screenshot from Lumines
Puzzlers and handhelds make great bedfellows, and Lumines is the obligatory music-themed block-stacker for grey-matter scratching on the go.

The 24 action-packed levels, each with their own musical theme, offer a mix of artistic achievement and addictive, pick-up-and-play gameplay.

The game from Ubisoft could be the sleeper hit of the launch batch.


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