Genestealers! Their begged and bayed for inclusion in multiplayer is almost enough to make Chaos Rising an automatic must-sell for Warhammer 40,000 enthusiasts. The betaloned, baldy death-beasts haven't had much gaming action since Space Hulk: Vengeance of the Blood Angels. Their welcome addition to the Tyranid ranks in this first standalone expansion for Dawn of War II represents just one of the affectionate nibbles to the earlobes of 40K fans.
Supreme Commander is a fearsome beast of an RTS: utterly bewildering to anyone who isn't a long-term veteran of the PC's most mainstay genre, but profoundly satisfying to those who have always sworn by base-building. With Supreme Commander 2, Gas Powered Games wants to bring everyone in from the cold instead, as you can read in last week's Supreme Commander 2 preview.
There are two possible reactions to any mention of Supreme Commander. Yes, just two. Don't pull that "how dare you force the entirety of human experience and attitude into just two boxes" stuff with me. Two! If it turns out there's more I'd have to axe this entire introduction, and then where would we be? We'd have a preview without an intro, and there'd be anarchy. Killings would be necessary. So: two possible reactions.
No one sets out to make a bad game. Conversely, not enough people set out to make a really brilliant game. Sometimes, though, it happens anyway. That's Canabalt - a one-button, one-man, one-idea Flash game originally created as a fun but throwaway entry in an Experimental Gameplay Project competition. It's been my go-to game in any idle moment over the last few months, and the strange grey world that I most often see when I close my eyes and let my imagination idle.
Jordan Thomas is a games journalist's dream. He talks a mile a minute, hitting a dozen tangents in the process, but is consistently fascinating and entertaining - even when, as was the case with this interview, he's soundtracked by the alarming sound of a dozen dogs barking from the house next door.
It's okay everyone, the nastiness and xenophobia is all over. America and Russia are videogaming friends again. All these years of digital conflict, and suddenly it's all resolved. Splinter Cell: Conviction's multiplayer features a US agent and a Russian agent working not against each other, but together for the common good. Is this a videogaming first? Probably not, but I'm going to say it is anyway, because I like making grand statements. For instance: cats are smarter than monkeys. Baked beans can cure leprosy.
It's worth it for the tents alone. My little one-man pyramid of canvas was bought so as not to waste precious hours returning to the hotel whilst out on a long expedition, but it was upon realising it was in my Sim's inventory on my return to homely Riverview that I realised its true worth.
I'm both the best and the worst guy to be reviewing this. The best because last year's strategy/role-playing curio King's Bounty: The Legend was comfortably my game of the year, and one I bent the ear of anyone unlucky enough to be in the same room as me about. The worst because, well, that. I know the thing inside out. Armored Princess is a standalone expansion for it, and as such it's pretty much the same game. If I'd come to it without already knowing how good King's Bounty is, I'd have been grabbing people in the street, staring at them with wild eyes, shaking them by the shoulders and shouting, "Princess! Armored Princess! Omi god it's amazing it's a proper PC game you have to play it you have to play it whoops I just had a trouser malfunction."
Was that a Warthog? I could have sworn... Given Halo seems to have informed Big Mad Jim's upcoming scfi movie more than a little, it's unsurprising to see it making its presence known in the spin-off game. Pandora (confusingly, also the name of the planet in Borderlands) is a lush land of human soldiers in vehicles battling alien humanoids with a tribal bent - it's familiar, if rather more ornate, territory. But this isn't Halo, nor is it yer bog-standard made-in-eight-months movie adaptation. Avatar really wants to be its own world, and its own game.
My cat can summon zombies. In a way, that's all I've ever wanted from a videogame - for something to come up with something absolutely, wonderfully, wilfully absurd, and let me achieve it with glorious ease. Something that only a videogame could do. Seriously, my cat summons zombies. I don't even have to tell her to. She just does it, because I've given her the spell to do it. I could summon them myself, but I just can't be bothered to add one more hotkey to my left and right mouse button repetoire. So the game does it for me, via curious cat-based necromancy.
Here's a sequel that takes precisely zero time to prove it's not simply a repeat of its forerunner. Remember all those super-long, super-serious conversations between unsmiling men? From the very off, Assassin's Creed II features gags, flirting and urgency. Even Desmond, the glowering buzzcut bloke whose ancestors' memories the Assassin's Creed games document, gets to grin, joke and make eyes at a lady. What, what, what? Light-heartedness in my gritty historical stealth game?
I was watching my housemate, also an on-off WAR player, creating yet another character. "What's the point in choosing a face for him," he asked, "when they all look the same?" On-screen, a parade of only faintly distinguishable Dark Elf visages cycled around and around. In truth, I couldn't tell at what point we returned to the first face in the roster, but nonetheless I unconvincingly offered "yeah, but you can change the colour of your outfit at any point". My housemate remained silent. Meanwhile, the near-identical faces continued their eerie dance.
A few minutes of footage is always unlikely to be representative of a role-playing game, because in a few minutes of videogame footage, in the face of lots of game-hungry industry folks, it's vital to show several things, those things being: guns, guns being fired at someone, someone falling over when fired at with guns. Given that RPGs are as much about dialogue and narrative as they are about action, this approach is rather like promoting an album by stitching together all the choruses. Sure, it's noisy and excited, but it's also confusing and peculiar. For the same reason, E3 didn't do Alpha Protocol many favours.
EDF! EDF! EDF! There is one central thing you need to know about Earth Defence Force: it is not what people have come to believe they want from a videogame. Graphically it's last-generation, the animations are like watching stop-motion puppetry, the voicework sounds like extras from Baywatch reading the script of an Ed Wood movie, and the monsters appear to be based upon stock photography of insects.
No, no - I can't go out tonight. I have to finish writing this article. Even though I'm too tired and bored, and keep getting distracted by playing videogames. Yes, I know it's sad. I won't be doing this kind of thing forever though - honestly, I'm working on that novel. It's just taking so long, and there always seems to be something better to do with my time.
A basic rule of thumb you'll need as you explore the Land of the Dead, the Egyptian-esque new area due to expand the world of Warhammer Online later this year: if it's big, you can bet it's going to take a pop at you sooner or later. Whether it's a giant, apparently long-dead skeleton, a mighty obelisk with a strangely glowing light at the top or a skyscraper-sized statue of an evil pharaoh, it has little interest in simply being architecture. The Land of the Dead aims to impress, and few things achieve that more successfully than giant stuff coming unexpectedly to life and clobbering you.
Moo! I am a cow, wandering peacefully through a warzone. Splat! I am now a tank, running over that cow. Boom! I am now an armed insurgent with a rocket launcher, claiming revenge for my bovine brethren. This is Armed Assault II: military simulator as pure, instant fantasy. While an elaborate campaign and intrinsic co-op play are what will sell the game, it's the amazingly easy to use editor that will keep people playing. You can create a war in minutes, then immediately jump into it as a soldier, civilian or dumb animal of your choice. The editor is truly remarkable, and astoundingly accessible.
Real-time strategy is an oddly gentlemanly affair, given its ultimate goal tends to be small-scale genocide. "I insist, good sir - let me clearly mark upon your map the exact location of my neatly-clustered power station." "Nay, sir - I could not in good conscience own a tank with more hitpoints than yours." Oh, balance - you have so much to answer for.
The public apology starts here. Mythic copped a fair chunk of flak for the late revelation that they'd axed four classes and four cities from Warhammer Online. The grand, sprawling world we'd been anticipating suddenly seemed smaller and more ordinary. Indeed, MMOs breaking their own promises is something that happens with depressing regularity - look at the difference between what Conan was meant to be and what it is. Whither those severed limbs?
As updates to fading MMOs go, a feature that rewards you for not playing stands as one of the odder ones. City of Heroes' European servers are already the wrong side of desolate - so exactly how is encouraging players to stay offline going to help? Cuts down on server costs, maybe.
The trouble with ravaged fantasy worlds locked in constant battle between man, monsters and short beardy fellows is that they don't leave a whole lot of options for socialising and sight-seeing. “Fancy meeting for a coffee? Great. I'll meet you by the torture pits. Wear something you don't mind getting splattered in ichor.”
It takes a while before you notice that you've bumped into someone. You're trying to run forward, and annoyingly something seems to be blocking your path. A lump of rock on the ground, perhaps, or some errant clipping. A forwards jump should sort it. Hmm, no. How about a step to the left? Wait. What? A person. It's a person that's in your way.
I removed my brain because I was bored. I replaced my entire head with lump of glowing metal because there was nothing else to do. My legs are now pistons because it was the only decision I felt I had to make. My chest is a mass of steel and circuitry because surgically removing my torso seemed like more fun than walking down another corridor.
My enduring memory of Casino Royale is the scene where Daniel Craig wades out of the ocean in his speedos. Apparently this vision of slick-skinned beefcakery caused some viewers to swoon, and understandably so. Me, I was simply staring in incredulity at the size of the man, thinking "bloody hell, how does he move? Look at the size of those muscles on his shoulders - can he even lift up his arms with those dog-sized lumps of meat squatting on top?"
Max Schaefer is the operations chief and co-founder of Flagship Studios. Flagship was created by Max, brother Erich, Bill Roper and David Brevik after they all left Blizzard North, where they had worked together on the two Diablo games. Its first game, the anticipated online action-RPG Hellgate: London, released last year to mixed reviews. Flagship is now working on Mythos, a colourful free-to-play MMO with very Diablo-style, fast-paced, top-down action, which we rather liked when we tried the beta.
Bloke with axe is tough, bloke with magic is weak. So goes the stereotype, anyway. So you stand axe-bloke at the front chopping away merrily, and you stick magic-bloke at the back dealing out enormo-damage from afar without ever getting in harm's way. Thus has it ever been.
It might be because I'm paranoid, it might be because I'm a cynic, or it might be because I'm horribly myopic. I'm convinced nevertheless that every time the Treyarch team heard the name 'COD4' during their recent demonstration of the fifth Call of Duty game, their eyes narrowed a little, their lips pursed and a distinctly frosty tone crept into their voices.
Hopefully yesterday's surprise announcement of Civilization IV: Colonization has quietened strategy gamers' hysteria that this cartoonish, slimline version of Sid Meier's favourite (or at least most lucrative) son might be the long-running series' only future. You don't get much more niche than an out-of-the-blue sequel to a 1994 turn-based PC game about trading rum between America and Europe, after all.
Revolution's a dangerous word. It promises absolute change, yet so often means the same but tweaked - a new colour, a new interface... It's much the same as how 'awesome' once was used to describe humanity or nature's greatest achievements, but now can mean 'that's a nice hat'. I rankle a little at seeing it applied to this console overhaul of the venerable globe-conquering turn-based strategy series. It's still Civilization. It's not Civilization played only with your tongue, or Civilization that can travel through time. Civilization Smallerisation or Civilization Simplification would perhaps be more apt, but they don't look quite so good on a shop shelf. They suggest what Civilizution has done is merely to lessen itself. In truth, that's exactly what it's done. But it's done so with noble purpose, to focus on what is most important.
Of all the MMOs in all the world, there's no happier moment for me than logging into City of Heroes after a few months away. Not into the game world - just the character selection screen. Laid out for me there is my curious history with the game, a half-dozen angelic, demonic, mutated, comical creations all of my own. No-one else in the world sees the same screen, and that never fails to excite me.