You can tell it's getting warmer when you look out the window and the house opposite is literally ON FIRE.
Fortunately our wonderful emergency services seem to have stifled it completely now, which is comforting, but still.
From firefighting to firefights, then, as we face up to a pretty combative line-up of new releases. The biggest game out this Friday is probably Resident Evil 4 - reworked with a new control mechanic, and insane pitchfork and chainsaw-wielding South Americans in place of zombies, at least for a while. It's a wonderful adventure that, if you'll excuse the pun (something What's New readers are probably used to doing by now), breathes new life into the series. But it only rises above by the skin of its putrid rotting teeth.
Fighting for its market share with big freakin' rockets are the likes of Act of War, Brothers In Arms and, to a lesser extent, Fight Night Round 2 and Mario Party 6.
There's also Rugby 2005, although I have no idea what that's like, sadly, EyeToy: Monkey Mania and Championship Manager 5. The latter is particularly interesting. It's Eidos' first stab at CM without Sports Interactive, the developer responsible for making the CM name in the first place. Reports of its quality have been sketchy, and - perhaps tellingly - we only received review code this morning. But there's a sense among the few people we know who've played it that, for all the scepticism that's dogged the game since its announcement (not helped, it has to be said, by its recent slippage), it might not be that bad. No one's suggesting it tops what SI's working on elsewhere in London under the Football Manager banner, but rather like much-hyped-then-surprisingly-not-actually-that-abysmal games like Daikatana, the knives were out from the start, and if it is actually decent it'll be interesting to see how far people are prepared to sheathe them.
I'd like to clarify, somewhat topically given that it's out on the PC today, that DRIV3R is not a game that qualifies for the overly hyphenated description I just applied to Daikatana. Although, who knows, maybe the extra development time and extra grunt of a high end PC will lead us to see even that in a different light? As long as we can actually see the light from the lamp-posts more than 10 feet away this time out.
Back on track, then, and back to Act of War - an Atari PC game that definitely deserves some praise and is, according to our beloved Gillen, "a real-time strategy game". (Insightful, us.) The point being, naturally, that for once we're looking at a real-time strategy game that isn't trying to earn itself a "transcends" in press literature. It knows what it is, and it's bloody good at being what it is. The structure will be familiar to fans of the genre - skirmish, campaign, online, etc - but it looks that much better and handles itself in... Sod it, I'll just nick another line from the review, which sums it up far better than my stumbling prose: "in terms of doing the pure Red Alert thing, there hasn't been anything as competent and thrilling in ages".
While I'm on Act of War though, funnily enough when it was first mentioned on the phone I misheard and assumed it was some sort of chav dating game. Figure that one out.
(Act of PHWOAR!)
On a similarly warry and similarly well received note, Brothers In Arms: Road To Hill 30 gives us what some are describing as the best and most authentic trip through World War II from behind the gun since whatever was brilliant in the genre last month. The signs are all good - it's made by Gearbox, who have been pretty bankable ever since Half-Life: Opposing Force (even though my only enduring memory of that is having a medic stick a needle in my arm in a garage before I fell in a huge hole in the ground), and it's been crafted with such care and attention to detail that even your squad-mates are authentic. Some of the guys you fight with are actual war heroes. We'll have a review of it shortly, but in the meantime we suggest checking out the BIA website and watching the videos.
Last amongst our squad of punchy releases is Fight Night Round 2 from EA - the GameCube version of which is surely the one to pick as it includes an unlockable copy of SNES classic Super Punch-Out!! Presumably EA and Nintendo decided not to do what they've done with NBA Street V3 and chuck in Mario, Luigi et al as boxers on the grounds that being able to beat them up is only acceptable when you're playing a game where even ultraviolence is merry and painless, like Smash Bros. You can't help feel they missed a trick though. What better way to convince PS2 and Xbox owners to buy a Cube game for once than letting them punch Mario in the face?
Existing Cube owners can also pick up Mario Party 6 this week. I'm not going to say anything about it because I have a pretty irrational hatred of Mario Party in general, and reiterating that I think it's dreary and disengaging next to the likes of Monkey Ball would just get me flamed. Although I can probably get away with telling PS2 and Xbox owners to scoff and wait for Super Monkey Ball Deluxe - or just import it from the US today.
In the interests of not getting sacked, mind: Mario Party 6 has been reviewing better than I remember any of the others doing, with US reviewers saying it's more polished and enjoyable than either previous Cube version, despite not really doing anything new beyond adding novelty microphone bits.
Finally, there's just enough room to mention EyeToy: Monkey Mania, an EyeToy Ape Escape tie-in with absolutely tons of monkey mini-games, and isometric curiosity Rayman: Hoodlums' Revenge on GBA. The latter presumably being a simulation of what happens to a guy standing around minding his own business after continually using his weekly new releases column as a soapbox for rants about people who say "bling", put neon lights under their cars and took the "Stupid Spoiled Whore" episode of South Park seriously. Yep, ow.
With that, and a quick glance to confirm the fire has died, I'm off to light my own - under a big bowl of pasta.
- PAL Releases
- Act of War: Direct Action (PC)
- American McGee's Scrapland (PC, Xbox)
- Blitzkrieg Strategy Collection (PC)
- Brothers In Arms: Road to Hill 30 (PS2, Xbox, PC)
- Champions: Return To Arms (PS2)
- Championship Manager 5 (PC)
- Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 2 (Cube)
- DRIV3R (PC)
- Duel Masters: Sempai Legends (PS2)
- EyeToy: Monkey Mania (PS2)
- Fight Night Round 2 (PS2, Xbox, Cube)
- Mario Party 6 (Cube)
- Painkiller: Black Edition (PC)
- Rayman: Hoodlums' Revenge (GBA)
- Resident Evil 4 (Cube)
- Rugby 2005 (PS2, Xbox, Cube)
- Sentinel: Descendents in Time (PC)
- Silent Hunter 3 (PC)
- Key US Releases
- Phantom Dust (Xbox)
- Super Monkey Ball Deluxe (PS2, Xbox)
- Yoshi Touch & Go (DS)
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