Oh man. It's pretty hot today. I can't see through the silky curtain protecting me from prying eyes on the street, such is the sun's ferocious impact on that fibrous barricade this morning. And my geek-issue hay fever pixies are sprinkling paprika or something on the inside of my eyelids and nostrils at regular intervals, despite my having scoffed Piriteze Cetrizine Dihydrochloride, which presumably works by baffling said pixies to death by forcing them to read the label.
And yet, I know I'm not alone, because up and down the land I'm joined - in force - by all sorts of people who want nothing more than to abandon their desks, race outside and continue doing nothing, just in a less mundane and formal manner.
This is undoubtedly a good thing, because were it raining, it'd be a sorry sogging weekend inside, particularly if your other geek-issue ailment - new game fever - is perking up like Ron Jeremy's member in an aeroplane lavatory.
You see, although we're inclined to offer some things the benefit of the doubt, this week we know that half of the games on their way to retail land are frustrating, crap and/or overpriced, and we can make an educated guess about one of the others.
Let's deal with the former games first. First of all, SOCOM: US Navy SEALs, actually released this Wednesday along with the PS2 Network Adapter, is, as I've been learning to my allergy tablet-spiked horror, a game of two distinct halves, both of which make use of the Logitech microphone headset that rides the cost of the game up to a princely £49.99.
On the one hand, we have one of the most annoying, poorly planned, sub-Conflict Desert Storm Rainbow Six clones that anybody here has ever seen in the shape of the single player game. Although there are 12 missions here, we seriously doubt we could be bothered to see them through if it wasn't for your benefit, as they are insidiously frustrating, easy to botch up and mercilessly unforgiving, lacking the "just one more go" mentality infused by the sublime Raven Shield and also lacking a laundry list of other important articles: decent AI, interesting objectives, a good plot and sensible controls to name but a few. And the voice recognition? A novelty that you'll rapidly wish yourself rid of.
On the other hand, the multiplayer game is as close to Counter-Strike as we've seen on a console. Admittedly it suffers on account of a few niggly mistakes - like a slight pause between pressing circle and the voice comms channel opening - and the third person perspective/console FPS control system means that the gulf of talent is even more vast than that between the various levels of CS player, but it's actually good fun if you stick with it. And there's a genuine sense of camaraderie amongst the players, even if some of your team-mates do turn out to be antagonistic shits.
We'll be rendering our final verdict on that one early next week, and we do suggest you wait for it if you haven't taken the plunge yet.
Having wasted most of our word count on SOCOM, it's fortunate that Twisted Metal: Black Online is such a pointless waste of time. We'll review that next week too, but here's a preview of some of the words we'll use: "incongruous", "appalling", "crap" and "faster than a flying tank on the M1".
Elsewhere, you should avoid The Hulk for the various reasons [er, soon to be highlighted by Kristan, cough -Ed].
Furthermore, our "educated guess" game would be Roller Coaster Tycoon 2 Expansion Pack: Wacky Worlds. Based on the fact that we've played Roller Coaster Tycoon 2, and it wasn't much different to the first one. So, if you just want more of the same, buy some more of the same!
The other two - Gothic II and Will Rock - are more enigmatic. Will Rock has been described to us as "the next Serious Sam", which implies that it'll be derivative and a bit overspent, rather like Third Encounter inevitably would have been. The promise of so-called "balls out" action with a Doom-like persona is quite promising. Then again, PC Gamer's review of Will Rock was summarised in one word: "won't". Ouch. We're hoping to review this soon, so wait and see if you're on some sort of fence. Mind you don't get splintered in the bum, too.
Finally, there's Gothic II, a game that enjoyed (or endured) a frighteningly boring press campaign of immense size (but we still love you Becky). Instead of dredging up our nightmares though, we're going to tell you that all the signs are good! If you liked Gothic, itself a much-revered PC RPG amongst "its people", then you may well find Gothic II, with its greatly extended world and huge number of heavily press-released improvements, well and truly up your hamlet.
So, not necessarily the sodden wash-out we were expecting, depending on your taste in games, but with only six games demonstrably out this week, it's hardly exciting, is it? Achoo!
- Gothic II (PC)
- Roller Coaster Tycoon 2 Expansion Pack: Wacky Worlds (PC)
- SOCOM: US Navy SEALs (PS2)
- The Hulk (PS2, Cube, PC)
- Twisted Metal: Black Online (PS2)
- Will Rock (PC)
Disclaimer: All of the above release data is verified against four online stores (Amazon, GAME, Gameplay and Play) as well as our latest release schedules and, where available, publisher extranets. If it's wrong, then quite honestly it really is someone else's fault, and if you complain then nobody will ever love you, you will die alone and you will burn forever on an altar of pure sin within the bowels of this very planet. So don't.