When does a console generation arrive?
The environments of massive open-world games, particularly in recent years, have been rightly praised for their representation, scale and design accuracy. However, there are some gems at the other end of the spectrum - environments that make you feel cramped, tense and desperate for a break. This is an approach to environment design utilised in our real-world, from gardens to architecture, and is mirrored excellently in some game environments, creating areas that trap us in cramped, claustrophobic conditions.
The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion is now on Xbox One backward compatibility, an excellent excuse to relive its signature moments. And that means even if seeing them demands a considerable investment of time and, depending on your tolerance for bugs that were never squashed, the uncanny valley horrors of its famously potato-faced population, and the sheer early-gen jankiness of it all, sanity. Playing a game from the early days of the 360 is like watching 90s television: you wonder how we ever coped. You can see how we got from there to here, but it's painful to go back.
It was Oblivion's horse armour that set the alarm bells off for me. There was a mixture of amusement and incredulity, which quickly descended into horror as the numbers started rolling in. It was the beginning of a fragmentation from the boxed product you'd scurried away from the shops to greedily indulge yourself in, towards one where a breadcrumb trail of further expenditure lay between you and completion of an adventure.
Before Eurogamer sits down with Todd Howard at QuakeCon to bully him into talking about his new game, we catch his panel with Tim Willits from id Software and Jason West and Vince Zampella from Respawn Entertainment.
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).
Take 2's hugely acclaimed RPG The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion has gone in at number one in the UK sales chart, beating off competition from EA's new release The Godfather, which takes second place.
On arriving in the Berkshire town of Windsor, make your way to the castle's Cambridge Gate. From there it's a short walk west down Victoria Street to the inn called 'Take Two'. Enter this establishment taking care to sheath all weapons first. Within seconds of crossing the threshold you should be accosted by the cheerful wench behind the bar. She always asks strangers for their names and enquires as to the nature of their business. Be honest in your replies. Explain that you've come to gaze upon Oblivion; divulge that you seek the one known as Lawton. Hearing this she will nod knowingly and send for him.