Last week in gaming: R.I.P. Guitar Hero, Dial P for PlayStation and new trailers

I'm a bit late with my recap of the past week's gaming news, and for that I apologize, but I did warn you that I am quite lazy.

THE DAY THE MUSIC DIED

Activision Blizzard, in its most recent quarterly report to investors, released Feb. 9, announced that "due to continued declines in the music genre, the company will disband Activision Publishing's Guitar Hero business unit and discontinue development on its Guitar Hero game for 2011."

In effect, this means the "Guitar Hero" franchise is dead. Sure, they could re-establish it at some point in the future, but it'll be years before that happens -- and who knows what direction gaming will have taken by then.

The success of the "Rock Band" franchise (which itself has had a few troubles recently) undoubtedly has something to do with the end of "Guitar Hero." But I'd lay more of the blame at Activision's feet. They drove the series into the ground with countless mediocre sequels and failed to innovate in any meaningful way.

In the same release, Activision also announced it is ending development of "True Crime: Hong Kong."

For some reason, I imagine that Activision has turned most of its attention to churning out more "Call of Duty" games, as that series has been a major bread-winner. I expect that they'll find a way to kill that golden goose as well.

THE PLAYSTATION PHONE

It's a smartphone. It's a PlayStation-certified gaming system.

Sony Ericsson on Sunday revealed the Xperia PLAY, an Android-based smartphone designed as a gaming device. It will operate on the Verizon Wireless network.

According to the various videos, photos and spec sheets, like most smartphones, the Xperia PLAY has a 4-inch touch-screen, as well as a 5-megapixel camera with flash and video-recording capabilities.

Its more unusual feature is the slide-out gaming control pad, which has a digital D-pad, two analog touchpads (taking the place of the usual thumbsticks), two shoulder buttons and the four iconic PlayStation buttons (square, triangle, circle and x.)

The press releases claim it will play games at 60 frames per second while still having minimal battery consumption, but I'll believe that when I see it.

It will come with several games preloaded at launch in March of this year -- "Asphalt Adrenaline 6," "Bruce Lee," "Star Battalion," "The Sims 3" and "Tetris" -- and 50 more games will allegedly be available for purchase then.

For a look, click this video link.

BACK TO WAR

The newest trailer for Sega's "Total War: Shogun 2" debuted last week on Valve's Steam site: http://bit.ly/hJLdDQ.

While it doesn't really show anything of the strategy title's game-play, it sure does look pretty. There's a point in the fight sequence between the two samurai that I could almost forget I was watching completely computer-generated imagery. Of course, they had to ruin that illusion with a hokey death scene.

According to my notes from last year's Electronic Entertainment Expo, much of the game will take place on a Risk-style world map, with battles taking place in real-time, and you can zoom in to observe and direct the action in minute detail -- the developers boast that you can have 56,000 units on screen at one time.

There will be 30 combinable military unit types, with a rock, paper, scissors formula helping determine the outcome of encounters. The game will have both land and naval warfare (largely coastal in nature) as well as a morale system, dynamic weather and even night battles.

"Total War: Shogun 2," a PC-only game, is scheduled for release on March 15, 2011.

CAN'T I BE THE HUNTER?

Bethesda Softworks also released a new game-play trailer for "Hunted: The Demon's Forge," available at the game's website.

I liked what I saw of this cooperative dungeon-crawler when I got my hands on it at 2010's Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle, as it had the looks of "Oblivion" but with much more intense, action-oriented game-play.

Frankly, I was just impressed that the cooperative game-play is more than just two characters hacking at enemies alongside each other. For instance, E'lara the huntress (an Elven archer, basically) can freeze enemies into ice cubes with magical arrows, allowing the warrior Caddoc to more easily smash them into pieces. Yes, that's sort of cribbed from "Bioshock," but here it involves two people actually working together.

Yet you can play the game alone, as your AI-controlled partner will behave like an intelligent companion, even helping with puzzle solving. At least, it worked that way when I played the PAX demo.

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