Gaming can be expensive [hold the phone... what? -Ed]. Why, I remember a day not so long ago when brand new, triple-A carts for a 16-bit platform cost Ł59.99. In fact, didn't I pay seventy frickin' quid for Diddy's Kong Quest? Don't pity me - save your sympathy for my Neo Geo owning friend who now lives under a railway bridge with King of Fighters '95.
Still, few would argue that we "have it good" in the current, Ł40-a-pop climate, particularly on a Friday awash with tempting new releases like this one. For example, if I went out and bought all the games I want from this lot, I'd have spent Ł205. (Ad-hoc competition: anybody who can name all the games I'd buy wins... a game.)
Let's start with the best of the best of the best, shall we? At the top of the pile, surely, is Namco's spectacular Soul Calibur II, out today in three distinctive flavours: PS2 (with special character Heihachi), Xbox (with Spawn) and GameCube (with bomb/sword/shield/bow-toting Link). Few if any of you can deny its charms. Rob, who has been playing all three versions for ages now, will be bringing you his considered verdict very soon.
Next up in the great rundown from top to bottom is, in my view, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004. Now, there's some disagreement about this one. Many, including me, have pointed out that Europe is being shafted by EA Sports' disturbing ignorance of PS2 Online. On the other hand, many, including me, have pointed out that Tiger Woods 2004 is the best Tiger yet, with more courses, game modes, characters, options, challenges and - my personal favourite - real-time events.
Apart from just challenging you in a particular way on a certain day, Tiger Woods 2004 will also synch up with major golf tournaments, allowing you to watch them on the tele (or, more likely, read about them on the internet) and then pop onto the Links yourself for a bit of pummelling, waggling and downward twisting. In short... well, I don't have to do you "in short", you can just go and read my review.
Next! Ah, Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner. Now, I liked ZOE. I thought it was fun, interesting and a little bit daring. Virtually nobody else did though, but a lot of you bought it anyway because it had a Metal Gear Solid 2 demo in the same box. Philistines. Fortunately, this one is worthy even on its own merits, and we'll be reviewing it early next week. Until then you can see what Rob made of it just after he completed the US version here.
Probably on a par with ZOE2 as far as my interest levels go is Io Interactive's multi-platform Freedom Fighters, which gives us an alternative take on events following the second World War. Set in Manhattan, it gives you the chance to fight swathes of commies as a plumber called Chris, with some of the best team-mate AI in any game ever. You should definitely buy it if you enjoy frantic third-person arcade shoot 'em ups and thought Brute Force was an overrated piece of My First Sci-Fi twaddle like I did. Review.
Good lord, we're getting close to a page of A4 and I've barely scratched the surface. Stick with me! I'm going to use special journalistic techniques to condense some of it into a digestible chunk. Observe: expansion packs! Lots of! Command & Conquer, eh? Boo hiss more WMD in Zero Hour than whole of Iraq. Good at price. Buy if care. Medal of Honor expansion. Breakthrough? Breakdown. Chortle. Wait for Pacific Assault. Sim City 4 Rush Hour. Difficult to say without play, but that won't stop me: probably OK, knowing EA.
Right, that settled things down a little. You can now rejoin me at a more graceful pace. We'll start with Mace Griffin. Stupidly named, yes. A long time coming, yes. Available for review ahead of release, no. Infer what you like from that - we'll try and bring you a verdict as soon as we can. The same goes for Finding Nemo, based on the CG film which outgrossed The Lion King, although when we played it at ECTS we didn't think much of it.
Perhaps equally disappointing and also from THQ is Warhammer 40,000: Fire Warrior. The PC version has been delayed until next Friday, but don't let that worry you, because from what we've seen you probably won't care about the PS2 Online-enabled version out this Friday either. Unless you spell Orcs with a "k", paint lead men in your spare time, and find dice exciting.
Sifting through the leftovers, you'll probably spot a collection of GBA games. We never get sent these for review, really, so it's difficult to say if any of them are good. We will try and get hold of the new Kirby though, because obviously it's a big first party title, and they're generally the best ways to invest on a Nintendo platform. Otherwise, you should be able to make your way past most of these, although fans should presumably take in the new Yu-Gi-Oh title. Oh, and we're not ignoring Homeworld 2, we're just less than thrilled by it. You can expect a review in the coming days.
Finally, then [item is hijacked by more clued up colleague]. Tom was wrong and Rob is blind, Amplitude is out today. Sony says so. You say so. So go and buy it. Because it's ace and online and makes your fingers work so fast that it'll scare you mostly to death. Enjoy.
Adios then, and enjoy the weekend. With so many good games finally out, it should be difficult not to. Join us next week for more of the same, as the Christmas rush begins in earnest. Hurrah!
- Amplitude (PS2)
- Blackthorne (GBA)
- Command & Conquer Generals: Zero Hour (PC)
- Digimon Battle Spirit (GBA)
- Finding Nemo (PS2, Xbox, Cube, PC, GBA)
- Freedom Fighters (PS2, Xbox, Cube, PC)
- Group S Challenge (Xbox)
- Homeworld 2 (PC)
- Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land (GBA)
- Mace Griffin: Bounty Hunter (PS2, Xbox, PC)
- Medal of Honor: Allied Assault Breakthrough (PC)
- NHL 2004 (Xbox)
- Pro Evolution Soccer 2 (PS2 Platinum)
- Psychotoxic (PC)
- Sim City 4 Rush Hour (PC)
- Smash Cars (PS2)
- Soul Calibur II (PS2, Xbox, Cube)
- Space Colony (PC)
- Starsky & Hutch (Cube, GBA)
- The Haunted Mansion (PS2, Xbox)
- Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004 (PS2, Xbox, Cube, PC)
- Warhammer 40,000: Fire Warrior (PS2, PC)
- Yu-Gi-Oh! Duelists of the Roses (PS2)
- Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner (PS2)