What is there to say about The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion? What can possibly be left to say about a game that came out about a year ago, wowing the critics (with average review scores of over 90% and a rare 10 out of 10 from Eurogamer), winning about a gazillion game of the year awards, and selling over 3 million copies? That's the problem facing anybody writing a preview of the forthcoming PlayStation 3 conversion of Bethesda's RPG masterpiece, which is due to be released in March to accompany the launch of the console (in advance of a PSP title set in the Elder Scrolls universe which is set to appear later this year, hopefully).
Remember when you first played Lumines? And it was a bit like Tetris but different - a bit like Tetris but horizontal. And so it took you a while to adjust, right? It took you a while to think horizontally. Remember how daunting it seemed? Remember when you simply couldn't imagine getting to the next skin, let alone the one after that? But then you went on to unlock all the skins and achieve astronomically high-scores, right? Maybe you've forgotten.
"War is an ugly thing," said some guy off the Internet called John Stuart Mill once. He could have been talking about Yggdra Union (which, you may be interested to know, is apparently pronounced ‘yugudora yunion’ according to the spelling on the Japanese box). The best thing about the best turn-based strategy games is that they reduce the messy chaos of the battlefield to a series of uncomplicated elements; a series of building blocks out of which tactical and strategic complexities emerge, simply and without fuss. Fire Emblem, Advance Wars, Disgaea, Civilization, X-COM, Final Fantasy Tactics - they hook you with their accessibility and then reel you in with their intricacy in a really good way.
If you're a publisher, how do you show off a game that's as open-ended and sprawlingly emergent as Elder Scrolls? If the journey's the thing, how do you compress a week-long cruise into a half-hour commute? Well, one way is to let people play it - to experience the trip for themselves. But the three hours that publisher 2K Games recently granted Eurogamer to play the new expansion, Shivering Isles, was never going to be enough to experience everything that developer Bethesda has managed to fit into such a rich and vast world.
One thing that's obvious from the outset is that The Darkness is not a game that's aimed at kids. Whether it's the gloriously bump-mapped trailer depicting a trenchcoated hitman laying waste to a room full of criminals, or the potty mouths of the game's protagonists (it's all motherclucking this, motherfugging that - and wall to wall fecking assholes), this game is being aimed squarely at a mature audience.
Originally conceived as a celebration of Lara Croft's 10th anniversary, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Anniversary is now a celebration of eleven years of Lara. Obviously good timekeeping isn't a prerequisite for lissom archaeologists, but is Lara's platforming action more impressive than her punctuality? Eidos recently offered a sneak preview to provide an answer in advance of the game's release.
Writing this review was going to be very straightforward. The opening of Target in Sight (known as Crossfire in the US) creates such a bewilderingly bad impression that the game seems to be a cruel joke at the expense of ardently loyal Gundam fans across the globe. Reviewing the game would simply involve checking out a few later missions to confirm that it is indeed one of the worst games ever made, perhaps while doing something more interesting, like reading a book or playing on the DS. Then it would be a simple matter of bashing out an extended warning to Eurogamer readers not to even think about thinking about playing it.
It might be the first to appear on the PlayStation 3, but Armored Core 4 is actually the twelfth game in the series. The chances are, though, that you won't be too familiar with any of the previous 11 games in the Armored Core series, so here's a quick rundown: create or customise a big robot (called, appropriately enough, an Armored Core, or AC) by choosing from hundreds of body and weapon parts. Then fight other big robots, either in one-on-one arena battles or in more elaborate missions. It's a simple formula, which conceals an enormous amount of depth. But it's not a formula that, so far, has had a huge amount of commercial success outside Japan and the US.
When Koei decided to port its mega-successful (in Japan) Dynasty Warriors series to the PSP, the company had an utter masterstroke of genius. Instead of undertaking a straightforward port that would have imposed technical limitations on the hallmark huge battlefields and constrained the free-roaming action and multitudes of combatants, the game was broken down into more manageable bite-sized chunks. Each battlefield was divided into a series of smaller areas, and the action itself was divided across turn-based movement over a map of these areas, and real-time combat whenever you moved into an area held by enemy forces. What's more, you could save your progress between each area.
Seven years since the release of Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun, the series that started it all is finally going to get the sequel that the fans have been waiting for. Tiberium Wars represents a return to the roots laid down in 1995 by the very first Command & Conquer. It marks a return to the Tiberian Series that predates both Red Alert and Generals, and is more fondly remembered than both. And that, really, is the main challenge that EA's Los Angeles studio has had to overcome (or conquer, if you like). How do you update such a seminal game, bringing it forward ten years into the future, without upsetting the delicate formula that made it so successful a decade ago?
How do you improve a game as good as Virtua Tennis 2? Even though it's been four or five years since its release, it's still the best tennis game on any platform, anywhere. The sheer simplicity of the series masks an astonishing achievement: by pinning down the physics of a tennis ball and tying it together with simple, effective controls the game boils down to position and timing. Which means it's basically as open-ended as the real thing, and each game - heck, each point - is capable of unfolding into infinite possibilities. So exactly how do you build on 'one of the most enduringly playable games of all time' (as it's been referred to in some very highly respected quarters)?
I can guess what you're thinking. You're probably thinking that Flushed Away is just a hastily constructed effort created by a development studio in sweatshop conditions over just a couple of months in a cynical bid to jump on the marketing bandwagon of a moderately successful movie, by a publisher that reckons it's safe in the knowledge that the vast majority of the people who will be shelling out on it will be parents (who will put up with any old tat if it shuts the kids up for a few hours), and the vast majority of the people who will be playing it will be young kids (who will put up with any old tat if it's got moving bright colours and it's on their telly).
When EA planned to show off Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars at the Le Meridien hotel in Piccadilly, Polonium 210 was just a rare and highly radioactive metalloid, chemically similar to tellurium and bismuth (thanks Wikipedia!). But by the time the game's executive producer, Mike Verdu arrived on a wearying whistlestop tour to demonstrate the game, Polonium 210 had become synonymous with stealth, secrecy, and, of course, lethal poison, thanks to the tragic assassination of Alexander Litvinenko, just a few doors down the road.
It's easy to get jaded as a games journalist. If you think you play a lot of games, think how many games the average reviewer gets through. And think about what it's like to have to play games to deadline, worrying how you're going to come up with another devastatingly clever and unique piece of insight that will distinguish your review from all the others out there. Think about getting so many free games that if a game doesn't amaze or astonish within about ten seconds it's on to the discard pile, never to be played again (or, if you're less scrupulous, on to eBay for a quick buck). Imagine playing so many games that you can only see Gears of War as yet another underwhelmingly brown/grey gruff-voiced third-person shooter, or Shadow of the Colossus as just a boring sequence of tediously lengthy boss battles.
There is a long tradition of showing off new videogames by hiring a glamorous and/or swanky location, dishing out a few trays of canapés and sticking a few demo units in to show off an early version of the game. Presumably when PR and marketing departments do this it's because they hope that the grotty game journalists they invite will write something nice about the game that they're showing off. But actually you book a location like HMS Belfast at your own risk, because, as a grotty game journalist it's very difficult to avoid getting drawn into writing about how brilliant the location is, instead of writing about the game in question.
MotoGP on the PSP is almost the same game as on the home console - that’s Sony’s home console, and Namco Bandai’s MotoGP 4, not Microsoft’s home console and THQ’s MotoGP 2006, since the two are entirely different games that are totally unrelated to each other. Just to be clear.
Sigh, a good walk ruined. Oh, hang on, that's the other one. Ah, the comforting sound of leather on willow, long shadows on cricket grounds, warm beer, invincible green suburbs, dog lovers and pools fillers and, as George Orwell said, 'Old maids bicycling to holy communion through the morning mist'. And Freddie Flintoff going to the Prime Minister's house while shitfaced live on telly, and Girls Aloud playing at the Twenty20 final (which is easily the best thing that ever happened to the sport). Yep, cricket, the nation's favourite sport last summer (and maybe still, what with the terrible rugby results over the weekend and Steve McClaren's uninspiring performance as coach of the England football team).
Catch up with the first and second parts of this series on the history of PlayStation.
Yep, we're home on the range again, back in the big country, checking out all the pretty horses, and hellbent on restoring law and order to Dodge City in old California (sort of), thanks to Activision's decision to enlist the help of a hired hand to convert last year's western, GUN, for Sony's little big man, the PSP. British developer, Rebellion (not a bad company) has shown true grit in porting the title, with some technically impressive results, but unfortunately while the game's got a fair bit of good, it's also got it's share of the bad and the ugly too. How's this concept intro working out for you by the way? I'll level with you: it's not going as well as I intended. Am I (un)forgiven?
Catch up with the first and third parts of this series on the history of PlayStation.
Join us again in parts two and three as we lead up to the launch of Sony's PlayStation 3.
Pilot Academy is a game about flying planes. It's got civilian planes, military planes, new planes, and old planes; it's got missions, challenges and lessons; and it's got records and achievements and multiplayer modes. It's an extension of the Japanese flight sim series, Pilot Ni Narou (or Let's Become A Pilot!), which has been brought out over here by Rising Star Games, a publisher with the admirable mission of releasing lesser known or niche Japanese titles in the west. But on balance, they probably shouldn't have bothered with Pilot Ni Narou.
Here's the plot of Ace Combat X: a country called Aurelia is attacked by a country called Leasath, which has a massive army and advanced technology, including a super powerful flying fortress called Gleipnir, which is used to wipe out almost all of the Aurelian army, leaving a secret Aurelian airborne unit called Gryphus 1 to try to organise the unlikely feat of repelling the invading forces.
When deciding where to show off Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas to a band of journalists, Ubisoft opted against the obvious step of choosing a casino. They were probably mindful of the likely effects of exposing impressionable videogame journalists to too much temptation. Or maybe of the fact that any British casino is likely to feel very dowdy compared to the kaleidoscopic array of one-armed bandits and exotic architecture in the game (feel free to add your own political joke about Tony B. Liar, Tessa Jowell and supercasinos here).
Okay, so I have to declare an interest. My favourite game in the entire world, ever, ever, is a game called Rogue. It's a game created in 1980, in which you play the part of an adventurer who is represented by an @ sign. This adventurer explores randomly generated dungeons made out of ASCII characters and fights monsters represented by letters, and the game itself spawned a whole genre of 'roguelike' games - more complicated imitators that are enormously popular on the internet, where they can generally be downloaded for free.
Taking my cue from the title of this game, I've decided to lay myself bare on the internet. If you click on this link, you should be able to see all my intimate details. Not those intimate details! Honestly! You lot disgust me! No, the details you'll be able to see are my 'player information' statistics for Naked War. See, normally, when you read a review, you just never know how long the reviewer has deigned to play it for. Heck, when I was working for one high-profile games mag, a freelance reviewer submitted a review of a Game Boy Advance game that, to judge from the save games on the game cartridge, he'd only played for a marathon 34 minutes). Whereas if you click on that link, you'll be able to see for yourselves that (at the time of writing), I have completed seven games of Naked War, and sent 113 turns to opponents. And I've won a grand total of zero games. What you won't be able to see, because it's 'private information', is that (at the time of writing) I've played the game for 7 hours 40 minutes. Ample time for it to ensnare me with its addictive charms.
In another coup for Microsoft's commitment to classic gaming, the original Sensible World of Soccer is set to make its return over Xbox Live. The new version will be based on the original (and definitive) Amiga version of the game, retaining its gloriously pixelly bird's-eye view and sublimely intuitive sense of control.
EA has unveiled details of the games it'll be showing later this evening at Microsoft's X06 event in Barcelona. The games in question, which will be available for the assembled journalists to have a hands-on session, include FIFA 07, Need for Speed Carbon, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07, NBA Live 07, NHL 07, Half Life 2 and Superman Returns: The Videogame.
The British Academy of Film and Television Arts has announced that this year's BAFTA awards, which will take place on 5th October at London's Roundhouse, will be presented by Vernon Kay and filmed by E4 for a one-hour special that will air after the event.