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PSP Launch: Fired Up locks and loads

Ex-Hardware bods prime free-roaming vehiclular combat mash-up for action

People complain about PSP's line up being largely composed of a bunch of ports and new versions of old games - mostly Nintendo fanboys, admittedly, who can't see the Mario 64 DSs for the styluses.

Fired Up is the answer. It's a totally original title developed by Sony in London exclusively for the PSP that dumps you and your raggedy arsed motor into a futuristic free-roaming battle against a totalitarian state. Mad Max meets GTA? Christ, we hope so...

Okay, so it's not totally original. Fired Up is actually a new version of Hardware: Online Arena, the vehicular deathmatch-fest that Sony launched alongside their PS2 online gaming service. Hence the strong multiplayer component: up to 8 motorheads can blow up each other's tyres in a bunch of sweet game modes like King of the Hill and Capture the Flag. Even better, downloadable content is planned in the form of new multiplayer maps.

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But the bonus is the expanded single-player mode. The dev team are promising a huge, free-roaming world with loads to do and even more to find. Of course, you'll be able to soup-up and kit out your motor so that you'll be able to pull skirt down the local Burger King as well as kick some despotic government bottom.

Check the screens. Looks good, eh? No confirmed release date for Fired Up as yet, but by way of compensation here's a quick Q&A with Sony London for ya.

Fired Up is one of the new, originally developed titles for PSP - can you give us a bit of background on the game?

Fired up is a brand-new action game from the London Studio. It's a vehicle combat game with a free-roaming, story-based single player mode and a blindingly fast-paced, enormously expansive multiplayer mode.

The player controls a team of cool and quirky vehicle combat specialists who find themselves fighting the invasion of a totalitarian superpower in a small eastern European country. The team members have diverse backgrounds, unique customised vehicles and their own joyous way of dealing out extreme violence.

What are your favourite features in the game?

Four things. Firstly, we've managed to get big, free roaming levels in our single player mode, large outdoor environments (cities and countryside) that the player is free to drive around at will, full of enemies and cool little touches like turrets and trains that the player can take control of. Integrated into this big world are numerous story-based missions and arcade-style mini-challenges.

Secondly, we've developed a game that can be fun if you play it for 30 seconds or if you play it for three hours. You can literally boot the game up and play it for under a minute and have made progress in the story mode. You can also spend hours and hours trying to find all the hidden extras in the environments if you want.

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Thirdly, we've all been surprised that graphically, the game looks a lot better than the team's previous PS2 release. The PSP is a really powerful piece of kit.

Finally, we've got a multiplayer mode that rivals most modern PC or console releases.

What games have the team worked on before?

The last game some of the team worked on was the London Studio's critically acclaimed PS2 online title 'Hardware: Online Arena'. We based our multiplayer mode on elements of this game. We also have a batch of new blood on the team who have worked on other London Studio games as well as titles for Sega, Criterion, Warthog and Lionhead amongst others.

Are there many major differences in the development for a software title for PSP?

Our team is relatively small for a PSP project at around twelve, and our development time is fairly short (as are most launch titles), but in general I think PSP development is going to be as large-scale as PS2 development, given the hardware is comparable in terms of performance, and also because it has additional features like WiFi

Tell us more about the WiFi elements in the game.

We have a full-scale 2-8 player multiplayer mode using the PSP's WiFi capabilities. Twelve maps and eight game modes, including Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, King of the Hill, Bomb the Base and more. The player can also unlock extra vehicles for multiplayer by playing through the single-player mode. This is the PSP launch title that really shows off the multiplayer capabilities of the machine.

Are you going to include any downloadables that can be used to enhance the title at a later date?

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We are currently looking at providing additional multiplayer maps after launch, but nothing is confirmed at the moment.

As a developer, what is the most exciting element of working on software for PSP?

It's a portable PlayStation! It really doesn't get any more exciting than providing a launch title for a platform like this.

What features has the game got that takes into consideration the fact that the PSP is portable?

There are technical considerations that the programmers have to take into account, but as a designer, I haven't really noticed any significant restrictions that impact the game design. Obviously we have a 16:9 aspect ratio screen which makes HUD design different, and also the controls on the PSP are different (more elegant) to most home consoles. We have made sure the game can be played for shorter periods of time than home console games, but other than that, we have always thought of this as a fully featured, modern console game.

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