November 2006, Sony had won the 6th generation console wars with the most succsessful video game console of all time, the PlayStation 2. Sony were riding on the crest of a wave of unprecedented popularity and were the new kings of the home console market. The market leaders released their 3rd console in Japan and the US in November 2006 with the European launch following in March 2007, however the 7th generation would not be smooth sailing for Sony’s new machine. Microsoft had released the Xbox 360 a year in advance of the PS3 and was enjoying almost global success (apart from Japan) and Nintendo would release the Wii only 2 days after the PS3 in the US. Sony had to pull out all the stops to deliver quality titles from day 1, releasing 14 titles for the US launch and 25 titles for the European launch. Sony’s console was also £100 more than the Xbox 360 and £150 more than the Wii, the games would have to be great to convince early adopters to opt for Sony’s machine. Nintendo had a Zelda game at launch and packaged the Wii with Wii Sports (the most successful home console game of all time), could the PS3’s launch line up win people over?
Enchanted Arms (2006 From Software/Ubisoft)
From Software’s JRPG received a mixed reception on its release, hardcore fans of the genre should enjoy the tried and tested turn based formula; however there is little on offer to convert any new fans. The characters are the usual JRPG fair with various amusingly coiffured teenagers with magical powers and angsty looks on their faces, game play wise however, Enchanted Arms employs a battle system similar to that of Shining Force’s grid system. Characters in the game have an affinity for one of the elements (fire,water,wind,earth etc) meaning certain characters will be stronger against their opposite element, water being strong against fire for example. There is an element of strategy involved in battles as organising your team into the optimal formation of power and abilities will be far stronger than just random placement on the grid.
All in all Enchanted Arms is a decent enough JRPG which filled the gap for those awaiting the next Final Fantasy instalment, however there are better examples of the genre out there.
Fight Night: Round 3 (2006 EA Chicago/EA Sports)
The Fight Night series came exploding out of its corner for its first round of the 7th generation fight, with Fight Night: Round 3. EA’s celebrated heavyweight champion of boxing sims had been incredibly successful on the PS2 and this 3rd instalment didn’t disappoint. Boasting 26 boxing greats from all weight classes (Evander Holyfield was omitted from the PS3 version of the game) including Ricky Hatton, Mohammed Ali, Joe Frazier, Oscar De La Hoyer and Manny Pacquiao to name but a few, Fight Night: Round 3 had more than enough pugilists for boxing fanatics to get their hands on.
The game featured classic fight and career modes with the PS3 version including a first person mode missing from all other versions of the game. Critics at the time praised the game’s graphics, game play and overall presentation but criticised the overuse of product placement (which went as far as to use the Burger King as a trainer in the game) but this was a small concern next to the overall quality of the game.
Fight Night: Round 3 would be followed by Round 4 in 2009 and Fight Night Champion in 2011, however fight fans are still waiting for the long rumoured Fight Night: Champion 2 for the PS4.
Call of Duty 3 (2006 Treyarch/Activision)
Ah Call of Duty, I wonder what happened to that franchise?… Yes the multimillion selling behemoth started life in 2003 on the PC with subsequent sequels being ported to the PS2 and other consoles, however it would be on the PS3 that the franchise really took off. Call of Duty 3 would be the final game to be set in World War 2 and the final game before the all conquering Modern Warfare and Black Ops series would take over (for comparison Call of Duty 3 sold 7.7 million copies world wide in 7 years, where as Black Ops sold 7.5 million copies on launch day in the US alone).
Call of Duty 3’s single player game is set over 4 separate campaigns including British/French, Polish, American and Canadian campaigns. Each campaign focuses on the characters of the respective armies as they try and capture the French village of Chambois from the forces of the Axis. As with previous instalments there is a multi player mode, pitting the Allied forces against the Axis and allowing up to 24 players to play simultaneously.
The game received mostly positive reviews from critics gaining an average score of 8/10 in most publications, and winning awards for sound design and best shooter of 2006.
Sonic The Hedgehog (2006 Sonic Team/Sega)
If it had been 1992 and you had been told your new console was launching with a Sonic the Hedgehog game it is highly likely you would be jumping up and down with glee, alas however this was 2006 and this wasn’t your dad’s Sonic the Hedgehog.
Sonic 2006 was a disaster of epic proportions, the game featured awful character control, dire camera physics and a Hedgehog/Human love story which made the Howard the Duck movie seem like Romeo and Juliet. There simply wasn’t anything to recommend in Sonic 2006 and unsurprisingly it regularly features in the worst game of all time lists.
The trouble with Sonic 2006 and most of the Sonic games post Sonic Adventure is that they strayed from the series’ routes. Sonic Team created a cast of supporting characters which were quite frankly crap (Big the Cat, Rosie the Rascal, Silver, Rouge) and which no one really cared about and designed a game world based solely of speed with no thought for game play whatsoever. Gone were the expertly crafted 2D levels of the Mega Drive Sonic games and in came poorly thought out 3D worlds and a plot which was convoluted and down right weird in places.
One of the worst launch games of all time and a possibly the biggest stain on the very mixed career of the once brilliant blue hedgehog, avoid at all costs.
Resistance: Fall of Man (2006 Insomniac/SCE)
From one of the worst launch games on the PS3 to one of the best, and indeed one of the most talked about prior to the console’s release. Resistance: Fall of Man was a first person shooter from Insomniac Games (Ratchet and Clank/Spyro the Dragon) where players had to defend Europe from a deadly alien threat.
Set in the late 40’s and early 50’s, Resistance tells the story of Sgt Nathan Hale as he leads an American task force to locate and retrieve a secret weapon which can be used to defeat the alien Chimera. Sgt Hale is subsequently attacked by the alien invaders but instead of perishing, gains special powers similar to that of the Chimera.
Resistance also featured a 40 player online multi player game which allowed players to create their own clans and custom games or join ranked matches. Many of the maps used in the game were based on real life UK cities such as Nottingham and Manchester and these recognisable locations added to the fun of online battles. The online multiplayer along with the single player game received high praise from critics and players alike.
The leaders of the Church of England made several legal threats to Sony due to the games representation of Manchester Cathedral in the game, saying that a violent game shouldn’t be set in a house of god (and indeed a city with a high gun problem). This controversy however only added to the games popularity and Resistance would go on to be the PS3’s first million selling game.
Of course there were more than the 5 games featured here released on day one for the PS3, the full list below:
Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII
Call of Duty 3
Def Jam: Icon
Fight Night Round 3
Formula One Championship Edition
Full Auto 2: Battlelines
Genji: Days of the Blade
Marvel: Ultimate Alliance
Mobile Suit Gundam: Target in Sight
NBA Street Homecourt
Need for Speed: Carbon
Resistance: Fall of Man
Ridge Racer 7
Sonic the Hedgehog
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Double Agent
Tony Hawk’s Project 8
The Godfather: The Don’s Edition
Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom
Virtua Fighter 5
Virtua Tennis 3
World Snooker Championship 2007
The PS3 launch lineup was a mixed bag with some cracking titles mixed with some absolute garbage with nothing really justifying the £100 extra consumers would be forking out. The 7th generation ended with Sony losing out to both Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Nintendo’s all conquering Wii, could Sony get back on top?