I hate "driving" games. My life is short. If I wanted to move round in circles with little chance of variation for countless hours I would have bought a motorcycle and grown a giant arm. It's not the concept, but the trend towards gimmickry and "realism" over enjoyment that makes me so miserable. Games like Forza and Gran Turismo leave me cold. I can't play them. I know they're "seminal", and I understand why they're popular, but I find them slow and cynical. For me, the fun in any car game is in racing very quickly, and immediately. Think SEGA Rally. Blue skies. Think those early McRaes, the original TOCAs. Think Burnout. Think the first Gran Turismo on PlayStation, all those years before "PSone", the breakthrough console game that felt so thrilling and fresh. All of them showed depth but were never a chore. Ferrari Challenge - originally planned for November release and now pushed back to March next year - appears to fall in the right category. Despite being hung up on realism, preview code suggests passion and fun have been kept at the forefront. That's right, sports fans: it's actually enjoyable.
World in Conflict (WiC) isn't like other RTS games, as developer Massive Entertainment has been at great pains to stress throughout its development. Set in an alternate reality where the Cold War went critical, the game purports to be the antithesis of Supreme Commander's mega-complexity. With a plot penned by Clancy cohort Larry Bond, the single-player game pits the player against a Soviet force on American soil, theoretically focusing on layering ease-of-use and bite-size gameplay over deep, fast-paced military strategy and the allure of tactical nukes.
Crysis lead designer Jack Mamais is grinning. Microsoft's game showing at CES is relatively small compared to the insanity that was E3, but the reaction his baby's getting leaves nothing to the imagination. Even in its pre-alpha state, PC shooter Crysis looks absolutely knock-out, especially to the general consumer crowd.
The roads north of Kiev are relentlessly bleak. A capital's spattering of wealth gives way to a dark, eastern European quaintness as the setting morphs to rural Ukraine outside the city, then to abject poverty. Farming towns turn to villages then to hamlets. Cow herds thin. Geese gaggles vanish. Blue painted roofs become fresh metal, as bright as can be expected under such a ghoulish sky, then holey rust. Broad-faced men with deep-set eyes stare back at us from monolithic concrete bus shelters. Shops sell nothing but dull oranges behind muddy glass. A woman wearing a torn floral headscarf sits in the heaving rain underneath rotting beams next to a milk bottle. She doesn't even look up. The coach thunders on. Humour peters out. There are no modern cars here, just 50s trucks and green ambulances hung-over from the USSR. The driver slows and we pass a road-sign bearing a right arrow. The word "Chernobyl" even looks ominous in Cyrillic.
With S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl edging closer to it's first quarter 2007 release, publisher THQ and developer GSC Game World made a full showing of the near-complete game in Ukrainian capital Kiev late last month. Making its first public appearance with its final structure, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. showed itself to be a feature-heavy FPS which compromises between GSC's original ideal of a totally scriptless, randomised "adventure" through the 30km exclusion zone around Chernobyl's ill-fated Reactor 4, and fully scripted, story-driving levels.
There are many reasons to hate Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movies. There's the dwarf-tossing. Alone, that's unforgivable. There are the myriad, meaningless plot changes. They're far too numerous to mention. But worst, worse than even randomly altering the flow of Tolkien's epic, is the omission of Tom Bombadil and Goldberry. For that, Jackson, you go to Hell.
The Japanese video gaming myth has largely been dispelled over the past five years. "Facts" and figures about the way games are consumed in the largest Far Eastern console-hungry market have been laid bare. Pokemon really did appear on the side of a Boeing 747. Hundreds of kids in Tokyo did play link-up Neo Geo Pocket outside PlayStation Festival 2000 in an orderly queue. Shops in Akihabra do still sell Dreamcast games. There is a gaming "basement" in Tecmo's headquarters where Tomonobu Itagaki goes to smoke fags, and there really is a guy on the Dead or Alive team that models breasts. And Enix RPG Dragon Quest is the biggest selling game in Japan, PlayStation 2 or otherwise. No, it really is. In the past 20 years it's sold more than 40 million units in Japan alone, dwarfing the likes of Pokemon and Gran Turismo. Sometimes fact is more awe inspiring that fiction.
The eponymous Sid Meier and starlet Firaxis designer Soren Johnson are putting a brave face on it. "It's good to travel," says Johnson blearily, "but I think we're really looking forward to getting home."
Natasha Bedingfield is "delirious". Today's been a busy day, apparently, full of radio interviews with ITN and the BBC regarding her cameo appearance in the latest chapter in EA's grinding, yearly grip on the James Bond license, the interactive adaptation of From Russia With Love. Eurogamer meets her in a lower-floor room of a London hotel where she's lying on a leather sofa barking her lines from the game in falsetto posh.
The PSP has finally launched in Europe. With stock spread thin across the UK on day one, most of the initial allocation has now been snapped up, and retailers claim you'll be hard pressed to get hold of one until Sony ships the next batch in a few weeks' time. But, as is so often the case with the launch of new console hardware, there were a few units kept aside for those determined enough to spend most of the day camped outside high street stores. In London, HMV's midnight opening drew a crowd of around 300 people. At the front of the queue were Londoners Paul Arneil, and John and Louise Brock.
As numbers go, 85 million is "big", especially when that figure is describing book sales. If you're talking about 85 million children's books, you're talking about Potter, right? Only half-right in this instance. [Classic misdirection! - Ed] Specifically, Potter is the only children's book series to ever sell more than this amount, the total sales of CS Lewis's Narnia series. That's an awful lot of books. And if your memory of Peter, Edmund, Susan and Lucy's harrowing adventures in the land of snow and ice has been dismissed to some childish corner of your rapidly deteriorating brain, along with Texan bars and hazy episodes of The Red Hand Gang, you'd best prepare for its inevitable return: Disney's about to release the first tale in the series, "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe", as a railroading media franchise this Christmas. The movie will be Disney's biggest to date, in terms of marketing spend at least. When it comes to numbers, Narnia's got it all sewn up.
It's unusual for a game to launch on a Wednesday in Europe. Then again Gran Turismo 4 is a pretty unusual game. Enormously popular almost by default, it's the most detailed and extraordinarily vast racing simulation available on the PlayStation 2, and the gains made by developer Polyphony Digital since GT3 have made for a more accessible, rewarding and varied experience than ever before. Team leader and series creator Kazunori Yamauchi was in London last week to celebrate the launch, and we took the opportunity to ask him about the proposed online version, the competition, next-generation games development and PSP title GT4 Mobile.
"Gran Turismo on Xbox" doesn't really do Forza Motorsport any real justice, although that is certainly how it will be branded by anyone with a passing interest. Seeing the latest version of the game at Microsoft's London offices showed a project far matured over that shown at E3. It's a different game to GT4, although the underlying principals are the same. It's a realistic racer, set on realistically modelled tracks with real cars and real physics. It's just that there seems to be so much... more to it.
Okay, so we've long since realised it's all make-believe. And, to be honest, we don't watch it on the telly any more. Yet we still tune in for Yuke's annual SmackDown! updates. Force of habit? Nah. They're just damn good games. With its latest offering, SmackDown! vs. Raw, Yuke's and THQ are taking the series online for the first time, and making another clutch of changes that should help the series retain its lead over the rest of the genre - including publisher's stable of other-platform wrestling titles. During a recent press event in London, we caught up with THQ creative director Nick Wlodyka to try and find out what keeps the series slamming.
You can almost see the look of horror on the faces of Rockstar San Diego bigwigs when the Christmas 2003 charts flopped onto the doormat. "Like, crap, dude," said one, probably. "I'm pretty sure Need for Speed wasn't supposed to be this successful."
Following yesterday’s spellbinding interview with Rockstar legend Dan Houser from Official PlayStation 2 magazine in the UK, we’ve dug up another rarity from the same issue. Aaron Garbut, Rockstar North’s art director, outlines in this interview what will make San Andreas the definitive game of its generation: its style.
"Black is about shooting stuff and blowing s**t up," screams Criterion's creative boss Alex Ward in a closed off room at E3. A few years ago, Ward told Eurogamer that Burnout was about "driving fast and crashing cars". Simplicity in concept, Ward explained then, was key to his brand of high impact console game. Criterion's not rubbish any more, Burnout's sold millions and a few minutes with Black last week left us terrified, so we're in no position to argue. Frankly, heaven forfend.
Until now, German 'art' videos have been the only entertainment package designed to make participating men with voices like cement mixers actually feel good. Contrary to popular belief, grisly 'bear' types need reassurance as much as anyone that they sound exciting when ‘performing'. Singstar may very well be a defining moment for big men with a softer side.