It's always gutting for us when we can't bring you reviews on or ahead of release, but due to review code and staff issues in the last week (we broke Rob), we're unable to bring you our verdicts on Top Spin or True Crime: Streets of LA this frosty Friday morning. (Aside: weather conditions are sponsored by your truly getting up at 7:30 to pay £450 for some arse to change his brake pads and windscreen wipers.) However! We do plan to let you know what we think of two of the other big cellophane-wrapped lovelies glistening in the dew, namely Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike and Call of Duty. The former will definitely be featured later, and the latter almost certainly will be - so watch out for that!
Since we like to make sweeping generalisations in this column though, it seems only fair to point out that Rebel Strike is poor and that you shouldn't buy it until you fully understand what it is, which, if you're just expecting a straightforward follow-up to Rogue Leader, you do not. In the case of Call of Duty, however, criticism has been rather thin on the ground elsewhere, but opinion seems to be divided around here between those who love it to pieces and then crawl around on the floor licking the boots of those pieces in adoration, and those who think it's merely good. This writer fears the comments thread will degenerate into an interesting showdown between the trenchfooted fleets of flaming fanboys and those who are bored of these World War II bayonet-fests. As for me? Well, I've not had a chance to play it properly. Such is my life at this time of year.
Of the two titles we've already apologised for, it's been interesting to see the critical reaction to Top Spin on Xbox. Or, rather, the almost total lack of criticism. Everyone seems to love it, and we have to wonder whether the scores would be as impressive were it an offline-only game. Having spent some time with an offline-only preview version of the game, we certainly weren't left thinking "Virtua Tennis killer", but then perhaps we didn't play it long enough? Who knows, but we'll be having a proper look at it early next week following a weekend of non-stop racketeering [that's not what that means, you pillock -Ed]. But Virtua Tennis 2 on PS2 is about £14.99 most places, and that's a bargain if you haven't got it...
Likewise, True Crime seems to be scoring highly, and apparently errs more on the side of the linear, mission-driven GTA clone The Getaway rather than full-on freeform car jack and criminal-'em-up. If you want to relive that experience, you're going to have to wait until this time next year according to Take-Two. As for True Crime, we'll let you know what we think when curmudgeonly Activision sends out review code. We might even buy it, actually.
Elsewhere, we're interested to see that Star Wars Galaxies is finally out. This massively multiplayer title has been much maligned in the US, despite widespread interest thanks to the premise: a Star Wars MMORPG. Unfortunately we simply don't have the time or staff to play something like this properly in the current climate of massive releases, but if we can find someone cheap and knowledgeable enough, we'll happily chain him to a keyboard and get him to Wookiee it to the Empire. And you are of course all encouraged to submit your own reviews for next week's instalment Reader Reviews. 300 words (or whatever, really) - email to email@example.com. Also interesting is NBA Jam, which is out today. We've sought assurances from Acclaim that it is, and they're quite adamant after last week's misfire.
As for the rest, there are a number of titles which hold some interest but look destined to drown in light of the quality elsewhere, and a number of pieces of rancid crap. Dino Crisis 3, for example. We don't hold much hope for Backyard Wrestling's launch figures either, although we haven't played it yet, and maybe we just haven't met the legions of avid Backyard fans eagerly anticipating this. We somehow doubt it though. This week also welcomes expansion packs for Civilization III (Conquests) and RollerCoaster Tycoon 2 (Time Twister), both from Atari, as well as the long overdue release of rubbish PS2 RPG Unlimited SaGa - no doubt destined to flop and convince yet more publishers that "Europeans don't like RPGs". No, you freaks, it's just that we don't like rubbish RPGs! Give us Suikoden III! Mothers!
Oh, and a word here at the end for the two titles most likely to sneak into the Top 10 next week that we really don't care too much about: WWE SmackDown! Here Comes The Pain and Codemasters' Pop Idol title. We don't much care for Pop Idol the TV show once it gets beyond the "annoying slags having a pop at overpaid musical charlatans masquerading as judges" bit, but, well, it's going to sell, isn't it? Even my sister asked me about it (the fool!). As for SmackDown... it's got legions of fans, and will sell despite sounding worryingly similar to last year's effort.
Finally though, we feel compelled to point out that despite all the quality on display this week, folks keen on saving their pennies for bigger titles would do well to note that Mario Kart: Double Dash is due out next Friday. That is all.
P.S. Obviously Rainbow Six III is also out today on Xbox. We forgot about that. Smug anonymous comments about how we never do any research are welcomed. Kristan is playing it as we speak.
- Backyard Wrestling: Don't Try This At Home (PS2, Xbox)
- Beanotown Racing (PC)
- Call of Duty (PC)
- Civilization III: Conquests (PC)
- Dino Crisis 3 (Xbox)
- FIFA Football 2004 (PC, GBA)
- Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup (PS2, Xbox, Cube, PC)
- Korea: Forgotten Conflict (PC)
- NBA Jam (PS2, Xbox)
- NBA Live 2004 (PS2, Xbox, Cube)
- Pop Idol (PS2, PC)
- Power Rangers Ninja Storm (PC, GBA)
- RollerCoaster Tycoon 2 Expansion Pack 2: Time Twister (PC)
- Scooby Doo! Mystery Mayhem (GBA)
- Silent Hill 3 (PC)
- Star Wars Galaxies: An Empire Divided (PC)
- Star Wars Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike (Cube)
- TG Rally (GBA)
- Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six III (Xbox)
- Top Spin (Xbox)
- Trainz Railway Simulator 2004 (PC)
- True Crime: Streets of LA (PS2, Xbox)
- Unlimited SaGa (PS2)
- WWE SmackDown! Here Comes The Pain (PS2)