Rumor Control: The Matrix on Xbox Next and the ATI/Doom 3 deal

This week: G-funk in GTA: San Andreas and Half-Life 2 nears completion--<i>again</i>.

RUMOR #1: A new Matrix game will be released as an exclusive launch title for the Xbox Next in 2005.

Source: Capitalism's premier publication, the Wall Street Journal.

The official story: "Sorry, can't comment on that"--David Perry, the president and founder of Enter the Matrix developer Shiny Entertainment. Attempts to elicit comment from Microsoft or Atari were unsuccessful.

What we heard: Inside the WSJ's Weekend Journal, tucked beneath a lengthy column on Fahrenheit 9/11's Oscar chances, was a brief article entitled "Wachowski Watch." While the gist of the piece was directors Larry and Andy Wachowski's first post-Matrix film (one possibility: an adaptation of the cult comic book V for Vendetta), author John Lippman also spoke with their agent Laurence Mattis about the pair's game projects. Besides mentioning Sega and Monolith's Matrix Online, Mattis also mentioned "an Xbox Matrix game for 2005." While the development of a new Matrix title is well known, Mattis' statement sparked rumors of a Microsoft exclusive. Throw in the year--2005, when analysts predict the Xbox Next will hit the US market--and the launch-title theory is born. Does it hold water? Maybe. Consider this scenario: Since Atari announced it is developing two Matrix titles, it could have the best of both worlds, creating a fighter/shooter sequel to Enter the Matrix for all platforms and another Matrix game in a different genre (role-playing perhaps?) solely for the Xbox. But, given that no one is talking, that's about as speculative as speculative can be.

Bogus or not bogus?: While there will be another Matrix game for the Xbox (or its successor), it's way too early to tell if it will be an exclusive.

RUMOR #2: Id Software has struck a deal with ATI to bundle Doom 3 with Radeon graphics cards.

Source: The raging hardware-heads at Rage3d.com.

The official story: "I'm checking on this."--rep for Doom 3 publisher Activision; ATI had no comment.

What we heard: On Wednesday, trollers of the Rage3d.com forums got a bit of a shock--convincing (if blurry) evidence that Doom 3 will be bundled with one of ATI's Radeon GPUs. The proof came in the form of several low-quality cameraphone photos (pictured), allegedly taken inside an EB Games, of a poster bearing the likeness of Doom 3's space-marine hero. "Want Doom 3 free?" read the copy in large white letters, next to an image of an ATI Radeon card. According to the poster, the store staff accessed the EB database and said that they were "expecting 9600XT's and X800PR0's bundled with Doom 3 on August 3rd." While a picture is worth a thousand words, more doubts surrounded the rumor than the usual Photoshop-hoax-hypotheses. One, the poster lists his location as "Australia," raising the possibility it might be some sort of exclusively antipodean arrangement. Two, on Tuesday, id's John Carmack conducted a benchmark test with hardware site HardOCP, which resulted in Doom 3 performing best on an Nvidia 6800 Ultra, not a Radeon. Third, ATI already has a high-profile bundle deal with Half-Life 2--would it make sense for them to shell out big money for another one? Given its cutthroat struggle with Nvidia to be the top GPU-maker, the answer may well be "yes." But, fourth, this also could be a deal EB cooked up all on its own.

Bogus or not bogus?: Looks pretty authentic--probably not bogus.

RUMOR #3: Half-Life 2 is only two weeks away from completion. Really. They mean it this time.

Source: Valve Software fan site hl2world.com.

The official story: E-mails to Valve PR director Doug Lombardi and the e-mail address on the post got no responses.

What we heard: On Tuesday, a frequent hl2world.com forum-poster and self-described "1337 d00d" started a thread with an audacious claim--that he personally had contacted Valve head Gabe Newell to ask about the progress of Half-Life 2. Less believable was the poster's claim that Newell wrote back and told him that, "At our current rate of find/fix bugs, we'll be down to zero bugs in 16 days." If true, that would mean that the infamously delayed shooter "might go gold at around the fifth of August." Normally, it would be easy to dismiss such posting to the overactive imagination of a PC gamer driven mad by the stranger-than-fiction story of Half-Life 2's development. However, the reputable news crew at Shacknews.com confirmed the story with Newell (who speaks to them regularly), all but legitimizing the story.

Bogus or not bogus?: Not bogus, although whether Valve makes that deadline is a whole other matter...

RUMOR #4: Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre will appear on the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas soundtrack.

Source: A news post on the official Death Row Records Web site.

The official story: Rockstar spokespeople had no comment; correspondents were too scared to call Suge Knight.

What we heard: Earlier this week, a brief blurb appeared in Death Row's news section, beneath a posthumous birthday greeting to Tupac Shakur. It read as follows:

"We have three songs from our catalog appearing on the upcoming Rockstar Games release 'Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas'. The songs that will be playing while you jack cars, recruit gang members, and make drug deals are 'Let Me Ride', 'Nuthin' But A G Thang', and 'Gin & Juice'. The game will be release (sic) October 2004."

Although the post was taken down within hours, it was picked up by several other sources, including Death Row fan site thuglifearmy.com and the official UK PlayStation Web site. Given that the game draws heavily from 1990s 'hood movies, the fact that it would have musical accompaniment from tha G-Funk era was a foregone conclusion. But getting some of the biggest hits of the gangsta-rap genre shows how great the stature of the Grand Theft Auto franchise has become.

Bogus or not bogus?: Not bogus. Now all GTA: SA needs is some N.W.A.

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