Weekly Multiplayer Releases: Week of February 12, 2008

Four new multiplayer games arrive in stores this week, none of which will do you wrong.

wipeout pulse boxartPick of the Week: Wipeout Pulse
Racing | PSP
The always-excellent Wipeout series returns to the PSP this week with Pulse. The futuristic hover car racer plays fast and loose with physics, featuring impossible, topsy-turvey tracks. This latest Wipeout title also includes a strong online mode, where up to four players can race online wirelessly. The PSP isn’t exactly known for its library of strong racing titles, especially ones with meaty online modes, so Wipeout Pluse definitely has a niche to fill.

Elements boxartRunner-Up: Dark Messiah of Might and Magic: Elements First-person shooter, RPG-Lite | 360
Yes, the original game shipped a year-and-a-half ago on the PC, where its hype quickly dried up in the wake of bug reports and a small playerbase. Elements adds a bit more spit polish to Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, and some new content to boot. Of course, some of that new content comes at a premium, as the game’s DLC was already on Xbox Live before its release. Couldn’t quite force yourself to stick that content on the disc for “free,” eh Ubisoft? Still, for those of you looking for the hacking n’ slashing of Oblivion without all the conversation, or a respectable swords and sorcery multiplayer mode that supports up to 32 players, this is the best you’re gonna get.

Hit the jump for the rest of the week’s multiplayer offerings.

Also available this week:

Denied Ops boxartConflict: Denied Ops
First-Person Shooter | 360, PS3, PC
Now you can fight terrorism with two gun-totting psychopaths! Innovation came early this year. If you enjoy shooting up Middle Eastern terrorists from a first-person persepctive and still aren’t completely sick of it, Conflict: Denied Ops is more or less what you’re looking for. “More” because that’s exactly what this game entails. “Less” because the only multiplayer mode to speak of is 2-player co-op. Oh well, some co-op is better than no co-op, I always say.

Warrior of the Ancient Arts boxartDungeon Explorer: Warrior of the Ancient Arts
Dungeon Crawler | PSP, DS
Good roguelike duneon crawlers are incredibly addicting, especially when they’re portable. Dungeon Explorer has you exploring dungeons, as the title suggests, murdering every living thing you find there with up to three players online.

Finally, Bulls can scratch 7-year itch Credit Paxson, Skiles for finding formula to return to playoffs

Chicago Sun-Times April 22, 2005 | JOHN JACKSON A lot has changed on the Chicago sports scene in the seven years since the Bulls made their last playoff appearance in 1998.

Sammy Sosa went from beloved icon to a clubhouse cancer who was shipped out of town for a backup player and a dozen baseballs. Soldier Field was transformed from an out-of-date relic with too few bathrooms into a modern structure with a futuristic (and controversial) design. And the Blackhawks made the switch from a mostly forgotten former great franchise to a completely forgotten former great franchise.

Yes, the times they are a-changin’.

In case you haven’t paid much attention to the Bulls in the last seven years, here’s a look at seven differences between this season’s Baby Bulls and the veteran 1998 squad that went on to win the NBA title — the franchise’s sixth overall and third straight — before the team was unceremoniously dismantled the following season:

1. MARATHON FIRST ROUND Back in ’98, the first round of the playoffs was best-of-five, and the Bulls closed out the New Jersey Nets in three straight games. This year, the first-round series with the Washington Wizards will be a best-of-seven affair, but with the way the first-round schedule is stretched out for television, the first round may seem like a best- of-seven-weeks affair.

There are two days off each between Games 1, 2 and 3, so playing the first three games will take a week. If there is a Game 7, it won’t be played until Sunday, May 8.

2. (NOT SO) GREAT EXPECTATIONS The fact that this year’s team has made the playoffs is big news around the NBA. At the start of the season, a 30-win season seemed like a lofty goal to shoot for considering the opening-night roster contained six rookies. Forty-seven wins and home-court advantage in the playoffs are accomplishments no one envisioned in November. website 7 year itch

“After starting 4-15, that’s a great season no matter what happens in the postseason,” coach Scott Skiles said. “We also have the third- best record in the Eastern Conference behind the defending world champs [Detroit Pistons] and a team with Shaquille O’Neal on it [Miami Heat]. Those are pretty big things for a young team.” Of course, in ’98, making the playoffs was a foregone conclusion, and anything less than a championship would have been considered a failure.

3. ERA OF THEIR WAYS Before the ’98 postseason began, there was a great sense that it was the end of an era for the Bulls. Heck, there was that feeling before the start of the season as Scottie Pippen and Ron Harper distributed “Last Dance” hats and T-shirts to all of the players in training camp.

Coach Phil Jackson said repeatedly that the 1997-98 season would be his last with the Bulls, and Michael Jordan said repeatedly that if Jackson didn’t return as coach, he wouldn’t return. Without Jordan, there would be no reason to keep a supporting cast of mostly veteran role players around. in our site 7 year itch

About the only thing that could have added to the feeling of finality was if the marketing folks brought in disco queen Donna Summer to perform Last Dance.” Obviously, the feeling this year is the complete opposite. With so many key players under 25, this appears to be the start of another great era for the Bulls. That’s why general manager John Paxson has repeatedly said he is committed to keeping the core of players on this team together for a few years.

4. COACH-GM RELATIONS Speaking of Paxson, one obvious difference between then and now is the good working relationship between the GM and the coach.

Ever since Paxson fired Bill Cartwright and hired Skiles a few weeks into the 2003-2004 season, there has been no question the new coach had the full support of the GM. That was extremely important — especially early in the season when the team was struggling — because it sent the players the message that Skiles was here to stay and they had better get used to him.

The relationship between Paxson and Skiles should be a benefit this summer when they will have to work out a new long-term contract for Skiles.

5. STAR POWER Back in ’98, the Bulls — actually, Jordan– were the star attraction around the NBA and were seemingly featured on NBC (which owned TV rights then) more than Jay Leno. If Jordan wasn’t enough, the Bulls also had Pippen and Dennis Rodman as marquis performers.

This season’s Bulls essentially are the NBA version of the Miami Dolphins’ No-Name Defense. No one on the roster was selected for the All-Star Game and only rookie Ben Gordon has received much in the way of commercial endorsements — and he’s not even a starter.

6. DENNIS THE MENACE Thankfully for Skiles and NBA officials working Bulls playoff games — not to mention reporters who had to monitor his every word for fear of missing an outrageous statement — this team doesn’t contain any characters like Rodman.

The current Bulls are a soft-spoken, low-key bunch who have managed to mostly avoid controversy.

7. FULL STRENGTH Although the 1998 Bulls were old and suffered some injuries during the regular season, they entered the postseason relatively healthy and at full strength. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of this season’s Baby Bulls, who will be without starters Eddy Curry and Luol Deng for the duration of their playoff run.

“We’ve spent a lot of time shaking our heads, thinking, ‘Man, if we had those guys,”‘ forward Antonio Davis said. “Not that we would definitely beat Washington, but it would give us a better chance.

“We’re going to have to just come in here and have no one guy thinking he has to step up and be Luol, no one guy thinking he has to step up and be Eddy. We have to do it collectively and play the way we’ve been playing these last 10 to 15 games, playing together, sharing the ball.” JOHN JACKSON