Quake Wars, GRID, LEGO Indy Jones, Overlord, Euro 2008.
It's that time again. Eurogamer's ongoing coverage of the latest developments in cross-platform gaming continues apace, as five brand new releases are put to the sword. The aim here is simple: to supplement existing review coverage with additional commentary based on any technical and gameplay differences we might happen to find. An exhaustive range of HD screenshots supplement the piece, derived from HD video of each game. Where 1080p is supported (either natively or via scaling), additional galleries are included - so that'll be just one this time, in the form of LEGO Indiana Jones.
As readers of the epoch-making Grand Theft Auto IV Ultra Face-Off will know, we've recently added video to our comparison analyses; the difference being that it's video that actually works, based on an ultra-quality workflow. Each game is captured at lossless 24-bit precision from the HDMI ports of the respective consoles using the now obligatory Digital Foundry TrueHD capture kit, ensuring that literally every piece of video information sent from the source at our mercy, to do with as we will.
From there, we're free to extract shots from the streams and create videos (maintaining the lossless workflow) before exporting them to ultra-high quality h.264, nicely streamable courtesy of Eurogamer TV. The action is slowed down to 50 or 25 percent for two reasons. Firstly, slower movement allows for precision video playback. Secondly, it's the only way to make sure that the entire 60fps stream is viewable. Plus of course, actually seeing the differences is a hell of a lot easier.
Writing a Euro or World Cup review usually involves moaning about the absence of club teams and other FIFA features. So we will do that, but let's concentrate on the good news first: last year's FIFA, as you may remember, was arguably the best yet, perhaps even toppling Pro Evolution Soccer, and EA has actually improved on almost every part of it, with game elements and modes that aren't the usual vacuous twaddle slapped on the box to tempt unwary fanboys.
The excitement of Euro 2008 comes not from tweaks to passing, shooting, crossing, tackling and heading - although veterans might spot a few nips and tucks, such as more easily definable passing meter, more satisfying header contests and better turning - but from the plethora of new modes and how well they play to the game's strengths. The headliner is Battle of the Nations, which is introduced - at length - the first time you load the game up. Designed to milk the rampant xenophobia/patriotism that accompanies international tournaments, you select your European nation and your performances both offline and online contribute towards an overall daily leaderboard specific to your country.
At the end of June (when the real tournament finishes) the winning nation will be crowned European champion, regardless of which team you actually play as (for example, you could decide to play as France, even if your chosen nation is England). The number of points you earn at the end of each match are relative to the challenge, so there's a greater incentive to play as a minnow, and this subtle tweak is a smart one, as it gives Euro 2008 a degree of depth that it might otherwise lack. Until the game is out, though, it's hard to tell whether the extra reward for playing as underpowered teams will be enough to stop people picking the big guns as usual - or whether national allegiances will be anything more than a gimmick. Will players simply abuse it and play as the Faroe Islands en masse to expose the system? Actually, probably not.
As the shame of England's failure to qualify for Euro 2008 still tugs at the entrails of our eviscerated pride, EA readies itself to roll out the latest iteration of FIFA in the form of UEFA Euro 2008.
Electronic Arts has announced its inevitable Euro 2008 game although shockingly it's only announced it on six formats. They are Xbox 360, PS3, PS2 and PSP. "It will also be available for PC and mobile in Europe," the press release says, implying that it won't be outside Europe. Bad luck, Brazil! Not long to go, either - the game's being prepped for release on 11th April.
As you might imagine, it has all of the teams and official stadiums from the tournament itself, which takes place in June, and you will be able to play as your favourite country from qualification (or not) right through to the end of the tournament itself (quarter-final penalty shootout, surely).
New bits include a mode called Captain Your Country, where players can "put themselves on the pitch, earn the captaincy of their team and truly inspire their country to [turgid, soggy and embarrassing home defeats that I was at]", and they've even got interactive goal celebrations "that will add to the pageantry and atmosphere of the event".