Although I have two excellent new releases sat on my desk and hundreds of miles of Hawaiian road still to light up blue in Test Drive Unlimited 2, I'm going to be spending tonight and possibly much of the weekend playing a three-year-old game.
Bizarre Creations, one of the UK's finest game studios, shuts its doors for good today. This isn't the place to re-rehearse the reasons for its demise or to rail against the perpetrators of it, real or imagined. I'm sure the many talented individuals there all those Stephen Cakebreads and Gareth Wilsons will go on to do great work wherever they land next.
But a company is more than the people who work there. It's a culture, a philosophy, and on a personal level it's the relationships between those people. Bizarre Creations had a personality. Tastefully brash with a kind of discreet braggadocio, a lover of the fine-tuned, skilful rivalry of the leaderboard, it was every inch the English sportsman. It will be missed.
It will be missed most of all for its preternatural gift with the digital kiss of rubber and tarmac. Bizarre's Xbox classic Project Gotham Racing 2 is an all-time favourite of mine, and still one of the best and certainly the most elegantly poised racing games ever made. Tonight, though (and with the greatest respect to the rambunctious Blur) I'll be revisiting PGR4, the better to hold my wake with others online.
So PGR4 is my personal game of this week and many, many others before it, and I considered enshrining it as such, but you'll probably (and justifiably) have limited patience with me pulling that kind of sentimental stunt. Besides, if life in the gaming limelight really is this brief, we should give the débutantes their due.
So, after a quick passing nod for the terrific miniature party RPG Battleheart "Like multiboxing WOW on your phone!" Kristan didn't say, because he's not that sad we'll turn our attention to two traditional-yet-progressive arcade games, both of which fell under Simon's expert eye this week. Both blend frantic action with surprisingly considered tactical elements, and both make clever concessions to accessibility whilst staying true to their hardcore roots.
Cave shmup Deathsmiles arrives on European Xbox 360s in a good value Deluxe Edition today. It's "one of Cave's finest achievements: a game that lowers the barrier to accessibility without compromising its ultimate depth, a new Defender of the shoot-'em-up faithful," said Simon.
He did have to admit that it "has the look of a Sega Saturn title", though. For a game that offers an audiovisual assault of a 2011 vintage that can look as well as think like it belongs in the 21st century you don't need to look far.
Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds
Capcom's royal rumble possesses neither the pure grace nor the feature set of the peerless Super Street Fighter IV, we reckon, but it does offer a surprisingly deep and different design.
"Far more welcoming to button-mashers than Street Fighter IV, this is a game in which you can tap stuff and watch sparkly miracles happen. But to begin to understand and master its systems will take just as much practice as it did in Ono's game and quicker reactions to boot," wrote Simon in our review.
Faced with these robust signs of life, I can hardly argue that the arcade game is a dying art. But today we lose one of its great practitioners, a real score-attack artist. RIP, Bizarre Creations.
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