This week's What's New is brought to you by the number 7. Without prejudicing reviews we haven't posted yet, Call of Duty: Finest Hour, Crash 'n' Burn (or "Crash 'n' Bum" as our front page font seems to insist) and Prince of Persia: Warrior Within are all games we sort of expected to be good-to-ace, and all have slotted neatly into that above-average-but-not-quite-brillifabulent bracket reserved for games that aren't quite as good as all the stuff we were recommending with such gusto last month.
Prince of Persia is probably the most disappointing of the three from our perspective, although we're at pains (and pained by the need) to point out that it's actually pretty good. We just feel deeply let down by it after a year of championing The Sands of Time, which was and still remains one of the best games Ubisoft has ever made. Someone seems to have left the Evanescence album on repeat in Montreal and it's all gone a bit dark and gritty and lost a lot of its charm - like the choirboy who discovers death metal when his voice breaks and starts smoking behind the bike sheds and spitting on your sports bag whilst flicking braided hair into his eyes to look "cool". We hope now that the Prince has tuuuurned back tiiiiime he can get back to being the likeable hero who so enchanted us just 12 short months ago.
Call of Duty's inevitable console outing, meanwhile, aims to provide value for money by trying to go it alone and borrowing only bits and pieces from last year's fabulously popular PC World War II FPS, and the result - although undoubtedly a very competent game - is a little less than what we wanted and expected. Still, given that most PS2 and Xbox owners' last taste of World War II was Medal of Honor: Rising Sun, Finest Hour is probably worth a look. PC WW2 enthusiasts should look up last month's Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault.
This week also finally sees the release of Konami's PC version of Pro Evolution Soccer 4 - and there's already a patch out which apparently addresses some online play issues. We actually reviewed this a while ago. It was perfectly finished then, or so we thought, but it seems Konami found some reason not to release it alongside the Xbox version last week, so here it is now. If you don't have an Xbox then this is the next best thing, and obviously looks the best of the two - and far better than the slowdown-troubled PS2 version which topped the charts in October. And given what we now know about the Xbox version's online ranking system - that people who quit games when they're losing aren't penalised in any way - the peer-to-peer approach in the PC version doesn't seem quite so rubbish by comparison. At least if you have to go to the trouble of setting up a game directly with someone, you know where to chuck your insults if the game ends before it ends...
A couple of other points of interest - first off there's Sid Meier's Pirates!, which introduces us to the joys of swashbuckling via a competent bunch of mini-games, and only flounders slightly when you find yourself trying to get anywhere against a strong headwind. It's like my Dad always used to say: This is where we could do with a motor. Actually, he never used to say that. He's much cleverer; he would have said something much funnier and we would have floated a good few feet back downriver as we chuckled over it. You know what he once said when we drove past a "Caution Horses" sign? "Naaaaaughty horses!" Still cracks me up.
Sorry, um. Blinx 2 is the other thing to mention, although as review code only turned up on Thursday it's a bit difficult to say what we think of it. So we'll just remark that the consensus from the US is that it's good, but still not great. A competent little thing with a ten-hour-ish single-player adventure and some fun offline multiplayer modes. Mind you, we'd still probably advise you to track down a copy of Voodoo Vince if you fancy some Xbox platforming this weekend; it'll be dirt cheap around now and it's sufficiently inventive and interesting to occupy even the most klept-out platform fan.
Beyond that, as you can see for yourself it's thinning out. Atari's slung a lot of 'younger' titles based on cartoons and like out the door this week, and we're sure they'll appeal to the people the last lot appealed to, while there's also an expansion to Painkiller, and of course Crash 'n' Burn from Climax and Eidos, which young Pat very much enjoyed when he tackled it earlier this week, giving it a 7. Which, 7 paragraphs later, is just about the end of the road. Check back next week for whatever the hell else anybody forgot to release last month.
- PAL Releases
- Beyblade Grevolution (GBA)
- Blinx 2: Master of Time & Space (Xbox)
- Blowout (PS2)
- Call of Duty: Finest Hour (PS2, Xbox, Cube)
- Crash 'n' Burn (PS2, Xbox)
- Dragon Ball Z: Budokai III (PS2)
- Duel Masters Limited Edition (PS2)
- Miami Vice (PS2, PC)
- Painkiller: Battle out of Hell (PC)
- Prince of Persia: Warrior Within (PS2, Xbox, Cube, PC)
- Pro Evolution Soccer 4 (PC)
- Sid Meier's Pirates! (PC)
- Trivial Pursuit Unhinged (PS2)
- World War II: Panzer Claws 2 (PC)
- Key US Releases
- Viewtiful Joe 2 (PS2, Cube)