It's an unusual situation, to say the least. The Spore Creature Creator is one small part of the full game of Spore, due out on 5th September. Specifically, it's the bit - and smart, title-reading readers will spot this - about creating the creature. You stick bits together, in the manner of a 21st Century Mr. Potato Head, and watch it animate. There's no game. Of course, since one of Spore's main selling features is that your in-game universe will be populated with everyone else's creatures, they'll turn up in a game eventually, but right now there's nothing more than making a creature out of computer clay and marveling as Maxis' magic brings it to life. Maybe put it in front of a different background. Make it dance. Make it play with kids.
3D card manufacturers shouldn't take this the wrong way, but it takes a lot to make us crawl out of the communal Eurogamer bed (yes, all the Eurogamer writers share a single large bed - we do it for frugality and communality, which remain our watchwords) and go to a hardware presentation. There's a nagging fear someone may talk maths at us and we'd come home clutching the local equivalent of magic beans. And then we'll be laughed at by our fellow writers and made to sleep in the chilly end where the covers are thin and Tom left dubious stains. That's no fun at all.
Given that Kristan wrote a three-page review of the Xbox 360 version back in November, and the PC version is basically identical, I'm left with a whole review to dwell on the important questions about Mass Effect.
With Fallout 3, we're probably approaching the end of the stage where the game is just demoed to journalists. The content is almost there, leaving the gargantuan task of making it all work properly ahead of Bethesda. Close as we are, though, we're not there yet, and while we long to actually play the bloody thing, there's still much to talk about. Bethesda's enthusiastic vice president of public relations and marketing, Pete Hines, sits back after his latest demonstration of Fallout 3 and asks if we have any questions. Yip.
Given that the developer is responsible for the most successful Western-style RPG of recent years, Oblivion, it was a little surprising, during Fallout 3's demonstration, to get the sense of a team with something to prove. While there's much about FO3 that recalls Oblivion, there are also regular elements that arise as if to signify, "You know - we're good enough to deal with a legend as big as Fallout. Watch this." In itself, this is a tad touching. A team like Bethesda would probably be justified in going, "Damn the lot of you - our way is the best way." The result is something that - on these impressions - seems to be the next logical step on from Oblivion, while infusing as much of what made Fallout Fallout as they reasonably can.
Playing this, I found myself thinking about comrade Dan Whitehead's tongue-in-cheek flame-bait intro to his review of the 360 Universe at War: Earth Assault. For those not into link-clicking, he was saying that whether you prefer a first-person shooter on the PC or console is a matter of preference rather than intrinsic superiority, leaving real-time strategy as "the last bastion of PC snobbery". Which isn't true, however you cut it. There's MMOs too, proper grown-up wargames and what remains of the real simulators. And as if PC owners need anything to feel snobbish about. It's all part of the fun of that big beige box.
By now, the wives of the assorted Command and Conquer head honchos have got to be getting a little suspicious. "So, who have you hired for that new job in the office?" they'll ask. "Oh, no-one special. Just the best candidate," says the commander. "Her references were impeccable." An eyebow twitches. He glances out the window. "Oooh, isn't the Tiberium lovely at this time of year." "Is she attractive?" "Well... if you like that kind of thing. Could do with a few square meals, of course." "She better not be another sex symbol, Mr Commander!" "Is that the time? I need to get to bed." "I'm going to Tank Rush all over your Tesla Coils, mister."
The bits where you order a fleet of a hundred or so cruisers, frigates and capital ships to line up in an epic formation at the edge of a solar system, and jump simultaneously to a neighbouring solar system? Where dozens of portals open up, and your vessels accelerate through them trailing hyperbright lights? Wicked. When you get a mob of Siege Frigates in orbit above a populated world and giggle as the planet's surface blossoms in what you have to presume to be nuclear detonations? Awesome. And when an enemy fleet appears in your solar system, and a dozen fighter and bomber wings take off, closing the distance to the incoming ships while your big boys ponderously manouevre to join in? Hell yeah!
Having played most of the Seumas McNally Grand Finalists for the Independent Games Festival next month, I really don't envy the judges. Entirely smitten by what I played of World of Goo, I presumed it was a shoe-in. Then Walker let me have a crack of the code of Crayon Physics Deluxe which is plain magical, and technically an enormous leap on from what I'd played in the freely available early prototypes. Finally, with Jim acting as a facilitator, I found myself introducing Audiosurf to my MP3 library. They may be getting married. It's technically and conceptually a tour de force. Any one would be a worthy winner.
Towards the end of February, San Francisco hosts the Game Developers Conference, where you can spend the morning listening to someone talk about visual storytelling and the afternoon watching people argue about font rendering. Around the same time, we also get to visit the Independent Games Festival, where the best indie devs in the world gather to show off. And yet we don't celebrate them half as much. So we thought we'd put that right, with a few hands-on previews of the best the IGF has to offer. First up, an exclusive look at 2D Boy's World of Goo. Take it away, Kieron.
You knew that, eventually, it was coming. Perhaps the only surprise is that it came from a relatively obscure French team rather than one of the mega-publishers. You'd have thought that - say - Electronic Arts would have figured that getting paid twelve times a year may be a better bet than getting paid once for an update. But no. It's developers F4 - in a joint venture with the financial muscle of Sports Marketing company Infronts - who have had a crack.
There's something about December that makes me crave turn-based strategy. I don't know what it is - some kind of deep grained memory that when you can't go outside it's time to play boardgames or something. While I've been dabbling with everything from Fantasy Wars to (just starting) the New Galacitic Civilization beta, this is what's been dominating.
Since its creation in 2005, Warren Spector's Junction Point Studios has been quiet. Stories existed, whose details remained stubbornly elusive. It was working with Valve on something that'll be released through Steam. It was working on a massively multiplayer fantasy game... actually, no, now a single-player fantasy game, no now... well, you get the idea.
A backlash was inevitable.
I have to give Mask of the Betrayer this: its qualities were enough to make me decide to restart the original Neverwinter Nights 2, so I could go all the way through the game and into the expansion pack in an enormous fantasy quest. This says something. It's a big fantasy PC videogame quest like Grandma used to make.
If someone walked up to you in the pub and offered you control of a country for a fiver, you'd probably have some questions you'd want to ask. Like - say - what's wrong with it? "Oh, nothing. Nothing at all," he'll explain. "I mean, there may be a bit of a war on but..."
This is the distant past. Things are different here. In the days of July, you may find it difficult to imagine how people lived in such a primitive time. For example, while you write "July" in your calendar, the people of this dark age write "August". They looked forward to a possible summer, while you know that summer's already over. And while in these modern days, Eurogamer writers spend their time typing desperately through midnight fatigue, then they were in Paris seeing the first public showing of Beowulf, the game of the forthcoming film, and then had to sign an non-disclosure agreement to promise they won't write any more until the film's properly revealed to the world in late July at the glorious NerdProm of San Diego ComicCon.
Criticisms are minimal.I kind of wanted to leave it like that, but that's being lazy, even for me. I've wasted happy days playing this, when the article's only abstractly a first look, so I'm in a bit of a rush to get this written because, firstly, I should be really doing something else and secondly I want to get back to finish off the Turks and start my plans for the invasion of Egypt.
The first game I ever reviewed, way back in a distant time they called the early-to-mid nineties was the A500 version of UFO: Enemy Unknown for Amiga Power. I gave it an over-generous 36 per cent. You may be confused on two points. Firstly, if you're an American, you may not know that what you know as X-Com: UFO Defense went under that particular title in the UK. Secondly, you may be wondering why such an well-loved classic got such a low mark. The A500 version simply didn't work properly, which made me - as you'll know if you follow that link - get all het up in a late-teenage manner and sniffle. I always wanted to review a version which worked, which makes me really glad to play UFO: Extraterrestrials. Because - y'know - it's UFO: Enemy Unknown.
I had to genocide the elves. I had no choice, you understand. Well, I had a choice, but that'd involve not killing the elves, so it wasn't really a choice at all. So, as the remaining elf-maids cried to the heavens, my giggling serfs dragged off an enormous pile of gold which I'd spend on an old fridge which leaks CFCs constantly or something.
We haven't talked about City of Heroes for a while now. Even with an MMO in development stasis, that leaves whole stories untold. If you don't change the game, the players and their interactions alter. But when we're talking about a living game, which is expanding the content and providing new skills for players to experiment with, there's a whole story being left untold.
My bank manager's frowning. Were I smart, I could have spun this out for two reviews and doubled my profits. Instead, I'm doing it for one for the simple fact that this dual PC/Xbox 360 release is the same. In fact, I could probably sum up the major differences in one paragraph. Let's give it a shot.
To all good things, a sequel. Or an add-on pack. We're not fussy.
If you're of that particular mindset, Introversion are the closest the 00s have to a genuine underground heroes. Its story is a dramatic one.
Between frenetic bouts of Speedball 2, as related in our earlier feature, we had a chance to chat to Mike Montgomery of the Bitmaps and discuss the long history of Brutal Deluxe's legacy.
I've just performed a brutal sliding tackle into the knees of some armoured gimp, scooped up the metallic ball and sent it skimming across the bas-relief surface of war-zone-cum-pitch towards an open-goal. It's been a while.
This review is constructed on a slope. No matter what we start talking about with this online first-person shooter, we're going to spiral down towards talking about pricing plans. Because - y'know - that's actually what's most important about the game, what's the closest it gets to being unique and the main issue on whether you actually want to play it or not. So, no matter what, we're going to end up sounding like accountants.
There are many good reasons not to buy Earth Defence Force 2017.
Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas on the PC is basically identical to Tom Clancy's Rainbox Six: Vegas on the Xbox 360. Since Kristan reviewed it across three pages, surely that means I can wrap up my first review of the year in record time and finally start my Christmas shopping.
Reviewing add-on packs is always problematic. This one's thrown up special ones all of its own.