A terrible force stalks the wilds of Peregrin, unseen but inescapable, its shadow falling across every beautifully weathered nugget of wasteland art. No, I'm not talking about the demonic Guardians you'll face as you sift through the wreckage of yet another extinguished civilisation. No, I'm not talking about the playable character, Abi - a young woman with a long scarf, a big stick and the ability to possess other creatures, on a mission to appease the gods responsible for the devastation. I'm talking about the script. It just won't leave you alone. To enter an area, approach any striking object, or even just cross the middle of the screen in Peregrin is to risk attracting the attention of either the narrator or a radio contact back home.
First Impressions Archive
Editor's note: this is an early verdict on Dawn of War 3 based on a full campaign playthrough and a couple of hours in multiplayer. Watch out for our final thoughts after release, once we've had a chance to see how the online holds up in the wilds.
As I sat down to play through a 90 minute demo of Agents of Mayhem, I found it impossible not to think of Saints Row. While Agents is being sold as a standalone game, the branding is heavily based around Saints Row's established aesthetic - the colour purple and the signature Fleur-de-lis icon, for instance.
Rime has seen more than its fair share of reversals: an open world platform-puzzler from Tequila Works set on a deserted tropical island, it was originally pitched as an Xbox One exclusive, then scooped up as one of PS4's headline indie titles, only to be cast adrift a couple of years later. Save for a slightly rocky frame-rate on Xbox One, however, it's shaping up rather well. As the game begins, your character, a mop-headed youth in rags, awakens on a balmy shore studded with enormous marble ruins. Wandering along the beach past milling gulls and fretful crabs, you discover an inlet leading to a wooded dell. At its centre, the curiously lifelike statue of a fox.
The fact that Flatout 4 even exists after the tragic car crash that was Team6's Flatout 3 is an achievement in itself, so having a new developer, Kylotonn in the driver's seat and not BugBear (the original creators of Flatout) could be seen as a rather unnecessary risk.
This is an early impressions piece based on review code - look out for our final verdict on Ghost Recon Wildlands later this week.
The last time Vin Diesel got involved in videogame production, it all turned out rather nicely. Arguably 2004's game of the year, The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay demonstrated in breathtaking fashion how to make good use of a movie licence. Billed by Midway as "the true driving force" behind The Wheelman, the bald beefcake and his Tigon Studio cohorts are hoping to have a similarly dizzying effect on The Wheelman, Midway Newcastle's "ultimate car-chase experience" due for release on 360, PS3 and PC this autumn.
Ever since early man discovered sticks and fire and the wheel and Nurburgring Nordschleife, we've been hitting pause and restarting the track to make up for some terrible error. Whether it's letting a wheel slip beyond the rumble strips into a sandpit of doom, or screwing up the apex on a crucial hairpin, we've all been there, and it's always annoying, and it's always on the final lap, and we always shout, and unfortunately we can't all run away into the hills and blame it on Dietrich. So thank goodness for Race Driver: GRID, which has something called Flashback that you can use to undo catastrophic errors. In the 80-percent-complete preview build we've been pootling around for the last few days, it's exactly the sort of lifesaver you'd expect.
Grand Theft Auto IV's 29th April arrival on PS3 and 360 has been widely, not to mention voluminously heralded as the defining moment of this generation of consoles. Cruising around Liberty City in high definition on the biggest LCD television in the world, you can easily tell why: where Vice City and San Andreas were only able to extrapolate from the GTA III base - albeit to record-breaking effect - getting to know GTA IV is a steady sequence of pleasant surprises and sensible reconfigurations. Liberty City may be, to borrow from the game's amusing website, "where the American Dream comes to die", but it's also where the Grand Theft Auto series has come to be reborn.
On 10th and 11th April, Nintendo of America invited a select group of journalists to a media event to experience the company's upcoming Wii, DS and WiiWare titles firsthand. While standing in a hallway before the event began, we caught a glimpse of NOA president and COO Reggie Fils-Aime as he was ushered through a back door and out of sight. Alas, Reggie never made a public appearance at the show. Like those who track the elusive Bigfoot, we were only able to capture a fuzzy cell phone photograph as evidence of his presence. But who is going to believe us? [Or care. -Ed]
Eurogamer knows a thing or two about making monsters. For example, we give money to rogue states to fund nuclear proliferation, and murder the fathers of impressionable lion cubs. However, Monster Lab has a more entertaining alternative: turn-based strategy battles, interspersed with agreeable Wiimote mini-games and backed up by Edward Scissorhands graphics, a Count Duckula sense of humour and Creep Show sound effects. Do you like the noise of scrunching cartilage? Squidge this way.
Porting Okami to the Wii always seemed like an obvious decision to make - at least on a mechanical level, with its gesture-based controls lending themselves well to the Nintendo machine. But, for a long time, the chances of this ever happening appeared to be a distant prospect. Despite numerous Game of the Year awards in 2006, this nailed-down 10/10 classic just didn't sell, and cold business logic dictated that Capcom eventually had to pull the plug on Clover Studios.
In real life, the Baja 1000 race, which generally runs for about 1000 miles, takes 27 hours to finish. And that's if you're the world-record holder. It's a serious business, but it's a pretty rubbish business, by the sound of it. According to our giddy THQ and 2XL guides during the game's first playable showing, racers spend up to a million dollars on their vehicles and then have to spend another half-mil on race support from a watching helicopter - all for a prize purse of just five grand.
As the shame of England's failure to qualify for Euro 2008 still tugs at the entrails of our eviscerated pride, EA readies itself to roll out the latest iteration of FIFA in the form of UEFA Euro 2008.
Battle of the Bands
Empire of Sports is the Eurovision Song Contest of massively multiplayer gaming. It's brash, colourful, competitive, plastic, repetitive, and curiously addictive; it's cheap but glossy, shallow but expansive, cheesy but endearingly earnest.
It's hard to think of a more hostile environment for a game's launch than the one Free Radical's Haze faces. On one hand, it's viewed as a flag-bearer for the PlayStation 3, a console whose vocal detractors aren't afraid to come out in force online to criticise any weakness. It's also got the misfortune of being billed (although not by its developers) as a Halo-killer (well, it's a first person shooter where some of the characters wear funny looking helmets, what did they expect?) and it's launching at a time when the world's FPS gamers are still in the midst of a torrid love affair with Call of Duty 4.
Just as before, we're not going to tell you anything. Well, we're going to talk about the game, obviously. We're going to talk about the slightly incongruous American killer running around the Middle East in an eagle garb severing jugulars. We're going to talk about the new PC-specific missions, and how it looks compared to the multi-million-selling console versions, and what kind of crackpot control scheme the console-to-PC converters have assembled this time.
SouthPeak has had a ropey start, but its goals are ambitious. We've seen a couple of examples of this already in Two Worlds and Monster Madness, and there are others such as Edge of Twilight, and X-Blades sitting promisingly on the distant horizon. But before that, SouthPeak has the PS3 "overhaul" of Monster Madness to offer us, as well as a Xbox Live Arcade offering called RooGoo. So we picked up our pads and put them through their paces.
The gap between consoles and PCs, once a yawning chasm, is now but a tiny crack. This has made dedicated PC owners wail and gnash their teeth and use phrases like "dumbing down" more often than they really should. For all their protests, many of the things that were once lynchpins of the PC scene are now just as common on the consoles. Online play is taken for granted, and people grumble if it's not there. Sadly, so is the habit of patching games after release. And now it seems that even the sacred ritual of the public beta test has become a console event. Thousands piled online to give Halo 3's multiplayer offering a trial run before release, and now EA has created another big ruckus by dishing out keys for Battlefield: Bad Company, the console-exclusive shooter based on the popular PC online title.
Sometimes it's nice to be reminded that not all games are about guns or cars or zombies. It's refreshing when a producer doesn't bang on and on about the number of weapons or the individual polygon count of the hero's eyelashes or why the enemies have machetes for limbs. It's good when they say things like, "I mean, playing as a carrot is not ideal. But you can do it if you want."
StarCraft II is fast. Really, really fast. But lead designer Dustin Browder talks faster. The bald-headed, sharp-eyed veteran of Command & Conquer titles, hired in by Blizzard to take command of this sequel to its decade-old real-time strategy warhorse, jumps into questions halfway through and peppers you with rattling bursts of ideas and arguments. It's like he's involved in a constant game of StarCraft II in his head, where precision, pre-emption, and speed of execution are absolutely everything.
I was initially a bit surly when I sat down to play Civ Rev (or Civilizution, as I like to call it). People kept telling me what to do. Get away from me, I gestured with dismissive hand-flaps. I may even have hissed, like an angry cat. I know how to play Civ, thank you very much. Or so I thought. Yes, I knew perfectly well what everything was, and exactly what I was trying to achieve. I didn't, however, know how to make it happen in this new, console-specific remake. This was because it was simpler, more obvious - because it wasn't expecting me to already comprehend Civ's elaborate mechanisms. I had to unlearn hard in order to learn easy. I felt a little like I'd spent years diligently crushing and fermenting grapes whenever I fancied a tipple, only for some passing helpful soul to observe that they sell wine for four quid a bottle in Tesco's. Oh. Right. Yes, that does make more sense.
New International Track & Field never strays all that far from the old International Track & Field. It's a game where you hammer the buttons (or flick the stylus) as fast as possible to win, occasionally breaking up the action with events that call for timed button presses to jump hurdles or take breaths. Launching to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Track & Field, the new version is a DS-only title that's been put together by the chaps at Sumo Digital - the Sheffield studio responsible for OutRun and Virtua Tennis arcade conversions in recent years - so there's another reason to take an interest, as we did when Konami asked us to jog to Yorkshire for a look.
At one point in our demonstration of LittleBigPlanet, someone asks a simple question about the physical interaction of the materials you can use to create stuff in its sticky-back-plastic platform-game world. It's answered, wordlessly, by level designer Dan Leaver. In a minute or two, he creates a constellation of blocks of concrete, wood and sponge hanging in mid-air. Then he exits edit mode - effectively un-pausing the game - and they crash to earth convincingly, tumbling, bouncing and squashing each other.
Remember the last time someone tried to make an online co-op zombie shooter? I wouldn't blame you if you'd forgotten, because it was absolute arse, to be blunt. Capcom, of all people, managed to botch it up so spectacularly back in 2004 that the survival element of the horror was sheer toleration.
If there's one thing more boring than listening to people complain about the endless mini-game compilations churned out for the Wii, it's having to play the endless mini-game compilations churned out for the Wii. So three cheers for SEGA and the new titles it's bringing out for Nintendo's console, none of which are mini-game compilations.
Bound to be rubbish, right? Let's see. The Bourne Conspiracy is a bit of an anomaly in the world of movie-licensed titles. There's no movie of that name in existence, for a start - and although some of the game's sequences are taken from the first movie, The Bourne Identity, it's described as a companion piece to the existing series rather than a re-telling. There's also no sign of Matt Damon, or any of the movie's stars; Bourne himself is a re-imagined, brown-haired everyman with piercing eyes and a nasty line in lethal combat.
So, many moons after the XNA (Xbox Nautical Acclimatiser) was first announced, we're finally getting to see the fruits of all those amateur coders, beavering away over a hot keyboard. Seven preview versions of XNA titles are available from the Xbox Live Marketplace, but will turn into smoke and be blown away on a fragrant breeze in just over two weeks time.
Full disclosure: this hands-on preview appears with dinky PS3 and 360 icons next to it, but we haven't played those versions. In fact, Capcom refuses to confirm whether or not they even exist, despite admitting that it would be "pretty surprising" if Street Fighter IV failed to make the transition from arcade to home console. Still, it's worth pointing this out so that the PRs don't wake me up with a phone call at 2am PST to complain. I need my beauty sleep. As you'll know if you've ever seen my face.