What's New? (Super Catch-Up Alpha Plus 3)

AS SOON AS MY BACK'S TURNED.

Honestly. You go off somewhere to do your thing, you tell everyone in advance, you warn them not to do anything drastic while you're away and then all of a sudden you come home, drag your FireFox kicking and screaming out of the chicken coop and discover the new release list resembles a cross between Valhalla, the Elysium fields and that other one with the women who don't even want to talk to you they just coo and want your hotness to roll all over them like some sort of biblical katamari. Where have all these games come from? Well, never mind that, we can't afford to waste words when there's so much joy to articulate. On with the party.

The last two weeks have seen the emergence of games that invite you to tinker, putt, smash, fly, engage your brain, get engaged to your male lover, slaughter the innocents and roll things up in a fashion that leaps into your wallet covered in Superglue and then runs away as you reach back there and wonder what the hell happened.

Fahrenheit is finally with us, and you all deserve hugs and kisses for helping it to chart well. It's a marvellous game - flawed, but invitingly thoughtful and different, and one of the best recent collisions of sympathetic characters and imaginative game design. Fable: The Lost Chapters isn't quite that, but it cleans up some of the things that were wrong with the Xbox version, and as Jim eloquently noted, "Fable is about: messing around in fantasyland." Sure, saving the world's a bit of a laugh, but why not do that later when you've gorged yourself at the local inn or tried sacrificing people in the woods?

Self-awareness is something the Burnout twins get too, dodging the desire to go for realism when there's fun to be had. The twins are out now, and both the PSP version and the PS2/Xbox newcomer have received blanket praise (although we've heard some unpleasant mutterings about the PSP one that Ellie will presumably get to the bottom of in her review soon), with the latter in particular defying any expectation that it might struggle to remain interesting four games in. Apparently it's quite easy later on, but with so much to play this Christmas that almost sounds appealing.

There'll be plenty who miss out on Meteos in this rush of new games (particularly given another DS highlight we'll be talking about in a minute), but for anybody with a love of puzzle games and a desire to see how the stylus can be used to drag the genre in a new direction rather than just helping it to whisper its sweet nothings more fluently (cf. Zoo Keeper), it's a must-buy. In fact, it's a must-buy on most levels.

Across the pond, Kuju's 3D Cube take on Advance Wars, Battalion Wars is either fire-out or misfiring depending on which cliché your reviewer's decided upon. Its frenzy of management and direct control is praised in some corners and derided in others; the difference seems to be that some find that the strategy and strong-arming work against one another rather than together. Sticking with WAR, Dawn of War - Winter Assault is Winner Assault on both sides of the Atlantic. Even says we - to stick with tugging lines out of Jim's reviews (we could do it all day), "Winter Assault and its parent game are more concerned with being spectacular than they are about being sophisticated, but we appreciate how that works," and now there's a demo so you can see for yourself.

Again with the WAAAAR, only this time absolutely nowhere near the Atlantic, Heroes of the Pacific is Codemasters answer to the question, "Where do WWII flight sim type actiony wojims go from here?" and it's an answer that, disparate though that dismantling's been, seems to have met with approval. We talked to someone on a train about it recently (not a terrorist or anything), and he said that it's happy brainless action-flight stuff that's devilishly tricky in places. More SWON than Flight Simulator, then. Back in the US (somebody point out that I'm all over the place today), Brothers In Arms: Earned In Blood is Gearbox's second attempt to get the World War II FPS and the squad-based shooter drunk and make them sex. Bizarrely we can't find any reviews, but we had a look at it at an Ubi press day recently and it looked a lot like its predecessor, except with more urban bits and less tress (although the trees were lovelier and had birds in them that you could scare off by throwing Kiaora at their orange-fearing heads). Crows: hating Vitamin C since we said so.

It's already getting late and there's been no mention of Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves yet, not to mention, you know, THIS WEEK'S RELEASES, so we're going to stop summing things up (and leave We Love Katamari's US release for my review, which goes up tomorrow - yes, actually, this time). Although maybe I can jam in more if I try. [No - Ed] Lost in Blue DS isn't very good says IGN! [Stop!] Marvel Nemesis is exactly as rubbish as we expected! [I command you to shut up and be relevant!] And[backspacebackspacebackspace and now he's done - Ed].

880 words later THIS WEEK sees the launch of at least five games I'm going to mention. Primarily Advance Wars: Dual Strike, which tries hard to do new things on the DS and succeeds - at least according to our mystery reviewer with an Amis fixation. But the DS also says "come in" to Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, which adds drawing symbols to jumping, whipping and trying-to-be-like-an-RPG. Is it good? We'll find out for you.

There's also Far Cry Instincts on Xbox, which has confused us enormously by being good despite basically just adding press release bullet-point stuff and being on a format that shouldn't be able to handle its luscious looks. Full review early next week - and yes, we will bother to play around with the map maker, because in this case it looks like it could actually be something people use. Speaking of maps and conquering them, Rome: Total War - Barbarian Invasion invites us to have hell unleashed at us by stubbly Spaniards from today, and The Kieron says he's still in no way bored of Creative Assembly's series, which this time's introduced horde-building and rabble-running to the fun of sacking the empire's outreaches. Worthy of your Denarii.

As, perhaps, is FIFA 06, speaking of empires. Kristan's feeling on the Xbox version is that it's full of things you might like to do and silly additions, but still solid underneath all of it and perfectly respectable whatever the Pro Evolution mob snickeringly insist to the contrary. Plus you can officially be European Champions Liverpool, which is always a good thing.

There. That's most of everything. Not quite the dish you're usually served, but that's what happens when nobody writes this stuff while I'm away, so blame them. Undoubtedly I've overlooked the odd thing, so I'd invite you all to tell each other what those things are instead of just shouting at me about them, tempting though it must be. Normal service, such that it is, will resume next week. That was the what that was and is new. Ta ra.

PAL Highlights of September 16th and 23rd

  • Burnout: Legends (PSP)
  • Burnout: Revenge (PS2, Xbox)
  • Everybody's Golf 4 (PS2)
  • EyeToy: Kinetic (PS2)
  • Fable: The Lost Chapters (PC)
  • Fahrenheit (PS2, Xbox, PC)
  • Heroes of the Pacific (PS2, Xbox, PC)
  • Meteos (DS)
  • Myst V: End of Ages (PC)
  • Total Overdose (PS2, Xbox, PC)
  • Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War - Winter Assault (PC)

US Highlights from the past three weeks

  • Battalion Wars (Cube)
  • Brothers In Arms: Earned in Blood (Xbox, PC)
  • Genji: Dawn of the Samurai (PS2)
  • Lost In Blue (DS)
  • Lunar: Dragon Song (DS)
  • Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects (PS2, Xbox)
  • Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves (PS2)
  • We Love Katamari (PS2)

This week's PAL releases

  • Advance Wars: Dual Strike (DS)
  • Beat Down: Fists of Vengeance (PS2, Xbox)
  • Bet On Soldier (PC)
  • Bounty Hounds (PSP)
  • Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow (DS)
  • Conflict: Global Storm (PS2, Xbox, PC)
  • ER - The Game (PC)
  • Evil Dead Regeneration (PS2, Xbox, PC)
  • Far Cry Instincts (Xbox)
  • FIFA 06 (PS2, Xbox, Cube, PC, DS, PSP, GBA)
  • Gungrave Overdose (PS2)
  • Madden NFL 2006 (DS)
  • Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks (PS2, Xbox)
  • Rome: Total War - Barbarian Invasion (PC)
  • Sniper Elite (PS2, PC)
  • Sonic Gems Collection (PS2, Cube)
  • The Suffering: Ties That Bind (PS2, Xbox, PC)
  • Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas: Oogie's Revenge (PS2, Xbox)
  • Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Lockdown (Cube)
  • Yeti Sports Arctic Adventures (Xbox)

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