The Week in Games: July 28, 2008

Published July 31, 2008

| Associated Press

Real news from the virtual world:

— SUPERBAD: A few hours at the Comic-Con convention in San Diego — the annual fanboy-palooza that has become one of the entertainment industry's biggest events — should have been enough to convince anyone that video games are becoming as much a part of the culture as movies and TV shows.

The cross-pollination was rampant: You had games based on movies ("Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," "Ghostbusters"); movies based on games ("Prince of Persia," "Gears of War"); and comics based on games ("Mirror's Edge").

And, of course, you had plenty of games based on comic-book or cartoon characters.

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New titles on display at Comic-Con included Activision's "Spider-Man: Web of Shadows" and "Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2: Fusion"; Midway's "Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe"; Warner Bros.' "Lego Batman"; the Cartoon Network's "FusionFall"; and Telltale Games' "Wallace & Gromit's Grand Adventure."

The loudest buzz at Comic-Con surrounded Warner's forthcoming movie adaptation of the classic graphic novel "Watchmen," which is being ushered to the screen by "300" director Zack Snyder.

Naturally, there will be an accompanying video game, but Warner is trying something different:

The game will be released as an episodic series on Xbox Live, the PlayStation Network and the Internet.

The company describes it as "a mature action-brawler" that "provides gamers with visceral superhero combat as urban vigilantes Rorschach and Nite Owl."

Still, the most ambitious project at Comic-Con was Sony's "DC Universe Online."

The massively multiplayer epic will let you create your own superhero or supervillain from scratch and explore familiar locales like Metropolis, the Batcave and Arkham Asylum.

You'll be able to fight alongside — or against — Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and dozens of other heroes as they take on the likes of the Joker, Lex Luthor and Two-Face.

Stan Lee, the longtime majordomo of Marvel Comics, is impressed by the quality of superhero games.

"Now you watch one of these games and it's like watching the greatest superhero movie, except you're part of it," he said at a Comic-Con panel. "It's indescribable."

— GUITAR WARS: The battle between Activision's "Guitar Hero" and MTV Games' "Rock Band" raged on at this year's E3 Business & Media Summit in Los Angeles.

Attendees were mildly impressed by the music-creation tools in "Guitar Hero World Tour" (which few players are likely to experiment with), while "Rock Band 2" was largely regarded as a refinement of an already excellent game.

MTV won the PR battle, though, by enlisting The Who to play at its E3 party; Activision settled for former Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker and Paramore singer Hayley Williams.

The Who's Pete Townshend even took a few shots at Activision, making fun of the stars of "Guitar Hero: Aerosmith."

Both companies are wrestling for the rights to tunes from the classic-rock canon: "Rock Band" has landed AC/DC and Bob Dylan, while "Guitar Hero" can claim Jimi Hendrix and the Eagles.

Other publishers are trying to scramble aboard the rhythm-game bandwagon.

Konami's "Rock Revolution" is built around a six-pad drum kit; you can play other parts with a "Guitar Hero" controller.

Other games, like Nintendo's "Wii Music," Disney's "Ultimate Band" and Sega's "Samba de Amigo" remake, let you use the Wii controllers to simulate playing an instrument.

And Microsoft introduced its karaoke game "Lips" by hauling out Welsh chanteuse Duffy to sing along to her own single "Mercy."

— SPELLBOUND: Ever since "Scrabulous" became a phenomenon on social networking site Facebook, the game industry has been wondering when Hasbro, which holds the rights to Scrabble, would sue its creators.

Wonder no longer: The game giant has filed suit in New York against Rajat Agarwalla, Jayant Agarwalla and RJ Softwares, the team that developed the knockoff.

"We view the 'Scrabulous' application as clear and blatant infringement of our Scrabble intellectual property," said Hasbro general counsel Barry Nagler.

Now that a legit version of Scrabble is available on Facebook, Hasbro is hoping that the hundreds of thousands of "Scrabulous" addicts will make the switch.

— NEW IN STORES: Namco Bandai's popular brawler returns with some new fighters — Yoda and Darth Vader — in "Soul Calibur IV" (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3). ... It's opening day for 2K Sports' lighthearted baseball game "MLB Power Pros 2008" (Wii, PlayStation 2).

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