Editor's note: With the recent release of Mass Effect Andromeda, quite possibly BioWare's worst RPG to date, we look back to one of its best. This retrospective first appeared on Eurogamer in June 2014.
Editor's note: To mark the announcement of the BioShock Collection - okay, the confirmation of the BioShock Collection after more leaks than even the tattiest corner of Rapture - we're returning to Richard Cobbett's brilliant retrospective on BioShock 2, first published in April 2013.
Editor's note: Shenmue 3 is not only a thing after its reveal at last night's barnstorming Sony conference, it's already reached its Kickstarter goal. What better time, then, to go back to the original Shenmue in this retrospective piece, first published in 2012, about a day-trip to Yokosuka.
We're fast approaching the endgame of ITV's knockabout Saturday night gameshow Ninja Warrior UK, the latest international incarnation of a tried-and-tested Japanese format. Centred around a comically oversized and carefully padded obstacle course, the show is an absolute triumph of non-lethal razzamatazz, with guffawing commentary from former footballer Chris Kamara as competitors negotiate awkward hurdles and tumble into water hazards. There are no shurikens but lots of shrieking. Any true ninja would harrumph at the overeager procession of Lycra-clad, would-be shinobis and rightly dismiss the whole gaudy enterprise as frivolous shadowplay, a noisy, inelegant distraction from the important business of infiltration, sabotage and assassination.
After signing up to write this retrospective, it dawned on me that I might not have time to replay Loom. I looked at my schedule and saw that I'd left myself a single evening in which to struggle through a 90s LucasArts adventure. You know, those games notorious for their fiendishly difficult puzzles and dozens of red herrings. I still have nightmares about that forest in Grim Fandango.
By now, of course, it's official. A new version of Star Wars Battlefront will arrive later this year, in time for JJ Abrams's seventh instalment of the biggest space opera of them all. The galaxy might have got its first proper look at how veteran Battlefield developers DICE have revived the franchise at this weekend's Star Wars Celebration event, but we've known about it since 2013 thanks to a steady drip-drip of Imperial intelligence from publishers EA. No Bothans died to bring us this information.
The Wii U re-release of Super Mario 64 seems like the perfect time for a retrospective, especially when you realise it's been nearly 20 years since its release in 1996. But there's something about the idea of a retrospective that doesn't quite fit this game. Hindsight is often ahistorical, free of the day-to-day chatter and contemporary context. A pioneering work like Super Mario 64, on the other hand, is impossible to divorce from its context because those same factors made it more than a great game.
Editor's note: This retrospective was originally published in September 2010, and we're returning to it this weekend to celebrate the imminent release of Homeworld: Remastered, which is due on PC next week.
Sega's boot-up logos of the 16-bit era might be the most fondly remembered, but for me it's Konami's that will always be the best. That scan line bringing the black screen to life, climaxing with a twinkling chime reminiscent of an arcade cabinet fed with a new 20 pence piece; it promised so much, and more often than not it would deliver. The early 90s were a golden era for Konami. Viewed through the filter of my own personal tastes, I'd go as far to say it saw the developer at its very best.
When film scholars talk about the magic of cinema, you increasingly wonder if they mean being hit by a Skyrim Vampiric Drain spell. There is nothing enchanting about the fiddly process of online booking, of navigating the drab corridors of a 13-screen multiplex, of breathing in the aroma of foot-long hot dogs apparently doomed to stew on heated rollers for eternity. Even if you manage to find your allocated seat among the choppy, often chippy sea of humanity, there's a deafening prelude of crass house ads, spoiler-filled trailers and Kevin Bacon hawking 4G before the magic can even begin - and that's usually the exact moment someone opens a gigantic bag of crisps.
I find The Settlers 2 spellbinding. I could watch my tiny happy village dudes for hours as they march back and forth between checkpoints along roads, passing goods and raw materials up and down the chain. One moment they're transporting the flour and water sent off to the bakery to be made into bread to feed the miners who dig iron ore out of the ground for smelting into slabs that are combined with coal to forge tools and weapons. The next, they're hauling logs to the sawmill and ferrying pigs to the slaughterhouse so that they have boards and meat, respectively, for the builders and miners to do their jobs.
The recent, unexpected and utterly delightful arrival of Valkyria Chronicles on PC has set me wondering about curious fate of Sega's franchise. It's a series that's garnered a passionate and loyal fan base thanks to the 2008 PS3 original, which won as many hearts with its colourful cast and timeless painterly aesthetic as it did minds with its quirky strategic action. Yet the chronicles of Valkyria seem to have played out in reverse and, through no fault of their own, suffered a demoralising downward spiral of devolution.
Most of my memories of Warcraft 2 fall somewhere on a spectrum between the fond and the ridiculous, very often featuring elements of both. It was the first game that gave me the opportunity to win a protracted battle of minds with another person; my first multiplayer victory in something that wasn't a five minute action or sports game, set up on a rudimentary home network typical of the mid 90s. We only had one CD, but that was fine. Warcraft 2 allowed you to share your copy for the purpose of multiplayer. Blizzard were a permissive bunch.
Given Sunset Overdrive's obvious debt to Jet Set Radio and its role as a key Xbox One exclusive, where better to go for this weekend's archive piece? This retrospective was originally published in September 2012.
It's difficult to look Modern Warfare in the eye without glancing at the long shadow that trails behind it. The small library of gradually worsening sequels and annual follow-ups, the abysmal Medal of Honor games and all the other middling to poor efforts at competition that defined the next half-decade of first-person shooters ( Terrorist Takedown anyone?).
First things first: unplug that Logitech G27 or Thrustmaster T500RS. Road Trip Adventure is not the sort of driving game that requires a force feedback steering wheel to truly appreciate its subtleties. The most appropriate peripherals are a travel rug, a Scotch egg and a few pouches of Capri-Sun - it's an open-world racing game concerned primarily with easygoing exploration, presenting you with a sizeable, brightly coloured land mass to pootle around looking for picnic spots. Parking up to admire the view? Highly recommended. Popping into a photobooth for a personalised postcard snap? Sounds like fun. Claiming the treasure at the end of an underground maze? I can dig it.
"This isn't a joke, you idiot; we were just attacked by a big-ass lizard!"
They say there's a war going on in video games. But those of us who have been around a while know what real war looks like. It is the image of two perfectly matched adversaries locked in brutal combat, their faces twisted with a terrible rage that burns in their souls and blackens their hearts. The air is filled with thunderous primal screams, punctuated only by the sound of a hedgehog bashing a plumber's head against a pipe.
This is a little story about a magazine that no longer exists, and a game that, for all intents and purposes, no longer exists either.
It's everything you'd hope for. There's a dream-like projection of the Japanese arcade, where candy cabinets sit stretched out row upon row in smoky, dark rooms, sugar rush soundtracks and freshly sunk 100 yen coins chiming together to create a chirpy wall of static. In the game stations of Shinjuku and Shibuya, it's a scene that's harder to come by, tastes having moved on to the likes of Gundam Versus EX, Lords of Vermillion - a card-battling series in its third instalment that looks like a hyperactive Hearthstone - or more recent entrants like Square Enix's Gunslinger Stratos, an athletic light gun shooter with a gloriously extreme cabinet. They're excellent games, and wonderful places, but you'd be forgiven for wanting to look elsewhere to get closer to that well-worn ideal.
Usually, you wage war in order to take over the world. DMA Design did it the other way round. In the early 1990s, their crowd-control mega-hit Lemmings was an irresistible love bomb that won hearts and minds by appealing to the benevolent dictator in us all. Despite its cutesy appeal, Lemmings wasn't a game free of violence - far from it. You could always order your entire green-and-blue army to self-destruct, the little critters exploding in sequence like microwave popcorn. But the main thrust was saving lives through engineering, creating a secure route for your daffy charges and allowing them to shuffle to safety. DMA Design conquered gaming without firing a single shot.
I have spent hundreds of hours playing Halo 3, and I'd rank Bungie's trilogy-capping blockbuster in my top five of the last console generation. I know it with an obscene intimacy, from the inside out - its feel, its weapons, the intricacies of its physics and geometry. I have absorbed the game in some essential, comprehensive way, and yet I cannot pull from memory a single certain moment from its story campaign.
Every Sunday we present an article from our archives, either for you to discover for the first time or to get reacquainted with. This week, to mark the departure of the amazing Ellie Gibson from the Eurogamer editorial team, we give you her inside look at 90s favourite GamesMaster, an article typical of her incredible writing talents. We're going to miss you Ellie!
Back in 1984, a game like Raid Over Moscow had everything a primary school cold warrior could want. It had a doomsday scenario enlivened by a ticking clock. It had villainous Soviets, who were planning to launch three nuclear strikes from silos in Leningrad, Minsk, and Saratov. Best of all, it had a plucky last-ditch plan to save the day, crafted by those eternal underdogs the United States of America, and involving a team of heroic pilots waiting by their space planes in an orbital hangar.
Oh how I miss the days of five-hour seasons and having the power to select and arrange advertising boards. Even when they took themselves way too seriously, like with The Manager and the Premier Manager series, football management games used to have a wonderful innocence to them that the latest Sports Interactive fare lacks. There was a playfulness and a willingness to part from realism because it was cool, and because games don't need to be lifelike.
This week we learned that Hideo Kojima and Guillermo Del Toro are collaborating on a new game in the Silent Hill series. Despite both men having a reputation for attaching themselves to projects that either take years to materialise, if they happen at all, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that this could be the best thing to happen to Silent Hill in over a decade. Why? Because both Kojima and Del Toro are into weird stuff.
While not a sport to be advocated, if one were handing out scores for gut-punching strangers Double Dragon would be a straight ten.
Derbyshire lad Chris Sorrell has come a long way since pounding the streets of Matlock in the 80s. He's worked with the likes of Millennium Interactive, SCE Cambridge and Radical Entertainment, and has had a hand in creating world-famous video game franchises such as MediEvil and James Pond.
My best friend buys his first arcade machine. Secretly, I'd hoped this might be a mid-life Time Crisis, or at the very least an Operation Wolf. But it's simply a careworn upright cabinet, an entry-level fixer-upper. An eBay description would most likely describe it as "generic", although that doesn't feel like the right word to describe the sweeping, if slightly puckered, blue and yellow side panel art, even if the marquee signage says, simply, "VIDEO GAME". (It's a Ronseal-esque sentiment stealthily undermined by an oversized "O" that resembles the Death Star.) This cabinet looks bashed and slightly battered, its authentic vintage confirmed by a control console designed to accommodate an ashtray. In short, it looks pretty much perfect.
Some video game developers could make for great architects, just as some architects would have made great developers. I yearn for a Call of Duty map pack styled after Le Corbusier, and I reckon Richard Rogers could work wonders if he was allowed to design the Martian space station that houses the next Doom.