Happy Easter, March is over. Rather like October, March is an incredibly busy period for the average gamer as publishers both great and small inexplicably attempt to cram as many titles as possible into our laps, like Laurel and Hardy faced with a narrow tar-lined doorway and a pot of gold on the other side. April, meanwhile, is a graveyard strewn with minor titles, tardy ports and would-be triple-As that sort of fell off the March bandwagon as the party on the back got a bit rowdy, and April 2nd does a rather good job of emphasising this.
Fools of April
Say hello, first of all, to the newcomers. On PS2 we have Kya: Dark Lineage, an Atari-backed platformy fantasy thingy that enjoyed massive publicity on the publisher's closed stand at ECTS last year, and wound up, in the words of one of our esteemed colleagues, "not awful". On the PC and Xbox, there's Dead Man's Hand, which, despite tapping our shareware nostalgia gland earlier this week, is unlikely to do well enough to justify the blindingly obvious potential for a Dead Man's Glove expansion pack.
Straying farther into the realms of multi-format, Fallout - Brotherhood of Steel makes a belated appearance on PS2 and Xbox this Friday, but we have no idea if it's any good at this point, while Pool Paradise on PS2, Cube and PC ought to have all the requisite modes, physics and trick shots you'd expect from an Archer Maclean clack-'em-up, with the added incentive of an exotic island location to mope around in between matches.
Meanwhile, Namco's decidedly limp R: Racing splutters past the chequered flag this Friday after a couple of minor delays. With the help of EA's marketing machine and the draw of the (admittedly tainted) Ridge Racer brand, this could do quite well, but it really is remarkably average for the most part. Cube owners vaguely tempted by the prospect of a new racing game can at least tell their friends they only bought it for the bundled copy Pac-Man Vs. We'd wait until it's reduced, or until Nintendo wakes up and realises it needs to bundle Miyamoto's brilliant multiplayer bauble with something that isn't a wildly disappointing multi-platform franchise update.
This week's highest profile GameCube release, for what it's worth, is Pokémon Chanel, an unusual crossover title aimed at introducing kids to the collectible side of expensive women's perfume, whi-- [heated discussion with editor]. Oh CHANNEL. Right. Actually this is a new Pokémon game for the Cube, which involves sorting out a minor crisis in the land of pipsqueak lightning yellow bastards and bulb-headed collectible creatures. What's happened, see, is the Pokémon TV Channel has lost segments of one of its best shows, Pichu Bros., and it's the player's job - YES! - to try and collect them bloody all. There are some other aspects to it of course, and Pokémon fans will presumably buy it for all its synergistically minded peripheralism [that's not a word -Ed], but everyone else says it's boring and we fancy that you can do better.
Somewhat defying our pigeonholing this week's release list into silly categories, the PC version of Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow also makes it out this week, which ought to be good news for those of you who don't have Xboxen lying around. It's bastard hard, sadly, even more so than before, but the multiplayer mode is an exciting development. We're also curious to see whether the PC version suffers from the same light/fuzz issue surrounding Sam's head on the Xbox, which at times makes it look like you're controlling a JPEG artefact.
That's the new boys out of the way, then, which leaves us with tardy ports, the first of which is actually over 20 years late. Space Invaders Anniversary publisher Empire probably doesn't look at it that way though, and it's only a tenner for lots of variations on the classic Space Invaders formula, so do as you will. Whether that was fair or not though, you can't argue that Colin McRae Rally 04, Mission: Impossible Cube and Unreal II: The Awakening Xbox are all a bit bleeding late. We're not even 100 per cent sure the latter is actually out today. As for World War Zero: Iron Storm... surely the less said the better?
Better from America
All in all, with the exception of PC stealth types, we're not confident you'll be rushing out to the shops this lunchtime. Not, that is, unless you're reading this from across the pond (or via some form of internet console on a transatlantic flight). Over there you can pick up Koei's Crimson Sea 2 on PS2, which ought to be worth a punt if you're looking for something a bit different, not to mention Resident Evil Outbreak, which has made it to market with its online mode intact to boot (sniff).
We're trying to track down a US copy of that at the moment, so expect to hear more in the days to come. The good news at this point is that the critics are giving the single-player aspect the thumbs up, which bodes well for the game's offline-only release in Europe this September. Ah, September. That's probably the next time we'll have a release list to rival last week's...
- PAL Releases
- Colin McRae Rally 04 (PC)
- Dead Man's Hand (PC, Xbox)
- Fallout - Brotherhood of Steel (PS2, Xbox)
- Kya: Dark Lineage (PS2)
- Mission: Impossible - Operation Surma (Cube)
- Pokémon Channel (Cube)
- Pool Paradise (PS2, Cube, PC)
- R: Racing (PS2, Xbox, Cube)
- Space Invaders Anniversary (PS2)
- Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow (PC)
- Unreal II: The Awakening (Xbox)
- World War Zero: Iron Storm (PS2)
- Key US Releases
- Crimson Sea 2 (PS2)
- Resident Evil Outbreak (PS2)