Although most publishers clearly wouldn't be caught dead going anywhere near June 11th, this particular 11th day of the sixth month happens to mark the completion and release of three rather interesting and protracted projects - featuring pirates, outlaws and thieves respectively. Yarrr yeee-haw or your life? [He shoots, he misses -Ed]
Try wearing a corset
Most noteworthy amongst this week's releases is probably Galleon, simply because it's been in development for so long now that we're keen to see exactly what the hell we've been waiting for. Reviews seem to suggest that the quality varies rather wildly throughout (and visually it's not going to win any awards - certainly not from this writer in these post-Riddick days), but we're intrigued by the simplicity of the control scheme - and also just plain curious.
Rockstar Games' Red Dead Revolver has also picked up various scores, all of which praised it in some way, but some of which (including ours) felt that it was a bit too repetitive and too short. Everyone agrees it's a good rental, but if you want to buy something this week we might advise against it.
However, with a bit of practice on our third game-that-is-out-this-week-which-we-can-be-bothered-to-talk-about, you could well be in a position to get a copy of it free of charge! Though there's still some confusion over a daft bug relating to difficulty levels and saved games, Thief: Deadly Shadows certainly encourages burglary - and assuming you have a lockpick shaped like an Xbox pad, you can expect to make plenty of progress breaking into homes and disused railway stations in future.
Dead Lee who?
Whether you'll want to bother with the learning process in the first place (rather than just going out into the streets and buying a crowbar) is something that we haven't quite fully established yet. Thief is certainly accomplished in many ways (first reaction from the reviewer: "I'm certainly enjoying it enough to continue playing it"), but on the Xbox in particular there are a number of technical and presentational issues that conspire in hushed tones in the dark and then leap out and stab you in the suspension-of-disbelief.
The tech is just too ambitious for the format really - with frame rate issues proving quite serious in our review copy, while the 'simplified' console menuing and map system prove more of a hindrance than a help. The problems are mainly niggling, to be honest, but they niggle so much that sometimes - perhaps as you're presiding over the "carted off to jail" load screen for the umpteenth time after 'death' because you didn't dive into menu quick enough - you feel like giving up. Look for a full review of Thief early next week.
Outside what you might call 'the big three', this week's other arguably key release is the PS2 version of Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow, which despite the obvious technical deficiencies of the PS2 compared to the Xbox (and the PS2's lacklustre online service) compares rather favourably, even ironing out some of the more unfairly difficulty crinkles in the otherwise smooth design thanks to a more checkpoint-based save system. It's not going to convert anyone who didn't like Splinter Cell in the first place, but fans who have been holding out for other console versions will get what they pay for - as, hopefully, will Cube owners early next month.
(Update; Despite what was written here earlier, it seems that one other title made it out this week too - no doubt sheltering in Thief's shadow so as to avoid detection. That game is Phantasy Star Online III: C.A.R.D. Revolution for the GameCube, which takes the PSO series in a new direction by means of card battling. Good news if you prefer to leave your attacks up to the deck, and good news if you have nothing else to play on your Cube this week, but bad news if you were hoping for another Phantasy Star Online title cast from the same mould as the previous two. We haven't played it yet, but reviews from the States were relatively positive.)
And that, sadly, is more or less your lot for June 11th in Europe. There were some other games threatening to come out, but judging by the response we got from the retailers we called this morning ("Goblin Commander? Yer avin' a larf, right?") these are pretty much it. There may be some Platinum releases from Ubisoft in amongst them, but if you don't have a copy of Prince of Persia by now then we despair, frankly.
Over the pond the situation isn't much more exciting, with just The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventure to jump up and down about, and if you can't find three more people willing to jump up and down in the same room - and bring their handhelds along to boot - then you're almost certainly doomed to disappointment. Indeed, unless you're absolutely sold on one of the games we've mentioned this week already, we'd advise you to go off and consult some of our recent reviews and find something special that passed you by.
Or you could just watch Euro 2004, which is what everybody else is going to do. Go Europe!
- PAL Releases
- Galleon (Xbox)
- Phantasy Star Online III: C.A.R.D. Revolution (Cube)
- Red Dead Revolver (PS2, Xbox)
- Thief: Deadly Shadows (PC, Xbox)
- Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow (PS2)
- Key US Releases
- The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventure (GameCube)