This is a perverse kind of game. And, perversely, I find myself liking it.
Time for a diversion until we get to the review? Oh, I think so. Press page down a couple of times if you want to skip the history lesson. Everyone else: leave your pencil alone and don't take notes. I won't be asking questions later.
It's a joy of living. If you wait long enough, the world will prove any of your arguments for you.
Someone's been listening to the blasť complaints of reviewers everywhere, struggling to finds words to say about another decent expansion pack for another decent game. A few more levels? A few more features? A few more pounds in the plus column of the all-important Q4 publisher spreadsheet? All is usual.
It is, it has to be said, a killer idea.
December is going to present a dilemma, and more than worrying about whether I'd rather spend Christmas in Bristol or Stafford or how little I can spend on presents for people I don't really like without offending them too much. The Christmas spirit of gleeful hypocrisy lives.
Downstairs there's a massed crowd of Blizzard acolytes. Upstairs, it's different. Quieter. With more tea.
It'll only work once with any individual, but that once is worth everything.
The crowd is cheering. It's deafening. Wooping, cheering, merlock-blurbles: Near on seven thousand voices merging into one.
I've done loads today. In total: one cup of tea, brewed. One piece of cheese on toast, prepared. Two bladders, emptied. And then hours of the rise and fall then rise again of Spanish Taoism.
There's a moment in most serious gamers' lives. They find themselves looking at a game in disgust and thinking, "Christ - it can't be that hard". And then, later, they find themselves looking at an enormous manual of some kind and thinking, "Christ - does it have to be that hard?". And it's the evolutionary niche between those two urges that creation-systems like this one colonise.
Serious Sam was the most first-person shooting first-person shooter in the world (even if you were mad enough to try and play it in the third-person mode). Serious Sam 2 is the same game, but prettier, madder, bigger and packed full of more options, so is obviously not nearly as good.
This is a game about hitting people. It's pretty damn good.
We've dealt with why Creative Assembly is making the game in the first place. We've dealt with how it has managed to get hundreds of armoured Greek men crammed inside an ageing console. And we've dealt with many replacements of expletives with innocuous words to prevent the moral guardians complaining.
This review was meant to be in on Monday. Not this Monday, but two Mondays ago. Thereís been as determined procrastination over writing the review as any game ever, with me attempting to distract Kristan by sending in lots of other work which isnít due yet to avoid him asking where this Space Rangers review has got to. Thank God that Nintendo saw fit to release the most exciting gaming news of the year recently too.
In the first part of the interview, we talked about the conceptual grounding for Creative Assembly's move into the third-person mass-combat game. Now, with the effusive Lead Programmer Clive Gratton, we have a look through the technical demands of a game that manages to keep hundreds of people hurting each other on screen without dropping a frame.
Total War's been reigning champion of the strategy game for the last five years. And, yes, it's been deposed twice, but only by its sequel. It does something that nothing else does even half as well, and at times seems to be the keeper of the progressive spirit for the whole damn genre. All true. But there's a question that nags me as I start to play this latest add-on.
You want to know about Colosseum, yes? Well, youíll have to make your way through this paragraph first.
How many people have you killed? It's a nagging question for a games fan. How many simulated murders have you committed? I've been playing games for a couple of decades. For the newer generation, even if you're in your early teens, you'll probably have been gaming in some form since you were five. Hell Ė even earlier if you were suckled on the Nintendo-teats of the late nineties. While games like God of War may seem like the killers, it's the quiet turn-based world of Civilisation where the real numbers pile up. Burn that town? Why not. Oh, there goes another few million.
Creative Assembly's headquarters nestle in bosom of Mother England's green and pleasant land. It's an unassuming building to have to been the home of the genesis of some of the greatest PC Strategy games of all time. However, Eurogamer's visit here isn't to talk about that. It's about something quite different: Spartan: Total Warrior.
The previous two columns have primarily dealt with genres outside of the PC games mainstream. The first took on games that exist in the casual gamer world or art space. The second examined the Shmup [shoot-'em-up - Ed], a founding-stone of our gaming world now relegated to the touchlines. This time, we're looking at something that's a little more central to our thoughts of PC gaming: the strategy game. The twist being that both of today's examples show precisely how limited our conceptions of strategy games have become.
There's no such thing as a dead genre. Because you can't kill an idea.
There's a part of Eurogamer's personality it doesn't talk about too much. It's the part that wants to bulk up, cover itself in oil, strip off and slide into a customised leather harness, wear a hockey mask, move to the Australian Outback, wait for an inevitable collapse of the world's socio-economic structure and then rule a tribe of barbaric machine-riders as king supreme. It's not satisfied often (except for a private party back in 1996 which still causes it to toss and turn at night at the memories), but it's always there.
Not all games have ten-million-pound budgets. Not all games take five years to make it from conception to completion. Not all games come with a massive marketing spend. Not all games do yearly updates to squeeze coins from their fanbase's pockets. Not all games are something you've played before with slightly shinier graphics and ten times as many polygons in the lead character's nose. Not all games even have boxes. Not all games even want boxes.
Have you seen the Fahrenheit demo yet? Christ on a bike! It looks brilliant. I mean, it's clearly not going to be perfect, but it's intelligent, insightful, funny, atmospheric and determinedly adult entertainment. Clearly, it could all fall apart in the final game, but that I've seen something which works and demonstrates it has a vision worth praying for makes me get out the dusty rosary beads and start Hail Marying.
You may be a little depressed that this is currently the best selling game in our blighted isle, but pecker-up, eh? I went to the zoo last week and discovered a fascinating fact which is sure to lighten your day.
If Battlefield has a fault, then it's that it doesn't spew golden coins from the top of your monitor when you play it. More realistically, it's that as a multiplayer game which opened up its code to the community, inclusions in the latest edition are things we might have already seen (and become overly familiar with) in a mod capacity. If it wasn't for Desert Combat, the modern setting alone would be enough to make people queue up to reenlist in a Battlefield sequel. As it is, we're a little harder to impress. Basic limitations like a smallish selection of maps and that there's only one game mode included also makes hackles rise. It's lucky that the beauty of Battlefield is in the details.
It's with no small horror that I realise I'm inching towards my ten year's anniversary of doing this (i.e. Writing nonsense about videogames in exchange for a small pile of money). Starting on the Amiga, I was in the front line of its battle in the post-Sonic Brushfire conflict where everyone and their dog made a rudimentary side-on action game of varying flavours. I've still got the scars, man. Hell: I get Flashback flashbacks [not as good as Another World, was it? - Equally ageing Ed].