SIDEBAR: It's the first of April, and that means 24 straight hours of heightened skepticism about everything reported or announced in the gaming world, and even longer if you take international sites and differing time zones into account. The pranksters were out in force this year, and while most of them were obvious jokes designed to amuse more than deceive, not everyone was afraid of skirting the realm of plausibility. Take Konami and Ubisoft, for example. They apparently collaborated on a trailer posted to YouTube titled "Assassin's Solid." Introduced by Assassin's Creed producer Jade Raymond, the trailer showcases gameplay from the upcoming Metal Gear Solid 4, with one significant wrinkle. Instead of featuring Solid Snake negotiating a hectic urban firefight between foot troops and walking robots, it appears to follow Assassin's Creed protagonist Altair, who now packs heat and smokes a cigarette.
Although Metal Gear Solid and Assassin's Creed share convoluted storylines full of virtual reality simulations and stealth-action gameplay, the video doesn't tie the two continuities together. As the action comes to a head, "Altair" loses his robe, revealing him to have been Solid Snake all along. However, the five-minute trailer does employ the tagline, "On an Altaired war zone... Solid Snake Altaired into an assassin," and promises that "all truths will be revealed" in Metal Gear Solid 4 when it launches June 12. Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima closes out the video himself with the understated question, "Did you like it?"
As usual, Blizzard went all-out for April Fools' Day, releasing a flurry of fake news. Playing off the recent news of a merger between Blizzard parent company Vivendi Games and Activision, the World of Warcraft maker announced a Guitar Hero-inspired bard class for the upcoming Wrath of the Lich King expansion. The company didn't forget about its other famous franchises, revealing a Diablo-branded Loot Pinata full of potentially cursed weapons, the inclusion of a bovine Taurine Marine character for StarCraft II, and the company's next console effort, World of Warcraft: The Molten Core... for the Atari 2600. The gags are accompanied by concept art, screenshots, and even some video to lend authenticity to the joke, or perhaps just run it into the ground.
Of the console makers, only Microsoft has a joke front and center, with the company's Xbox 360 home page now featuring an improbable spring lineup of new accessories. Among the fake products in the pipeline are a wireless helmet, a USB-powered Xbox 360 board game, and a Vintage Edition Xbox 360, with a remodeled original Xbox case featuring faux wood-grain paneling, and a thoroughly retro knob-and-switch-based joystick.
An ancient gaming April Fools' joke has resurfaced on Capcom's community blog, as a post indicates that Sheng Long will be a hidden character in the upcoming Street Fighter IV. During Street Fighter II's arcade heyday, Electronic Gaming Monthly first ran an article about the supposed mentor of Ryu as an April Fools' Day joke, telling gamers they could fight the character only after fulfilling an absurd set of conditions (beating the game without taking damage). The Capcom blog post suggests similarly unlikely criteria will need to be met in Street Fighter IV, and includes a picture of the supposed secret character in silhouetted form.
Microsoft-owned developer Rare had its own April Fools' plan, as the studio posted an update about the upcoming Banjo Kazooie 3 on its own official site. But since the developer claims it's "not in the business of crushing your dreams," the update isn't entirely fraudulent. Instead, Rare posted five different rumors about the upcoming game, and said that only one of them has any truth to it.
It's not just game makers that are getting into April Fools' this year. GAME has either posted its own gag listing or revealed the single worst peripheral decision in gaming history, as the UK retailer is currently advertising the GAMEware Double Bass controller, a full-size bass violin compatible with Rock Band and Guitar Hero games, not to mention the slopes of Val d'Isere, for Timothy Dalton-era James Bond fans.