A school gym in England, mid-'90s, and two local rugby players await orders. One is small and wide and called Adrian, and one is tall and weighs about 20 stone. He's Big Dave. Adrian has been getting flattened by Big Dave all day but he keeps getting back up. It's the rugby training in him: you bloody well get back up if you're knocked down. But this instinct is starting to annoy the people he's in the school gym for, the people making the sports game. They're trying to motion-capture for a rugby game and would rather Adrian lay still. They should be careful what they wish for.
Four years after being released on PS3 and Xbox 360, Creative Assembly's mediocre action strategy game Viking: Battle for Asgard has been ported to PC.
2008 game revitalised for 2012 and PCs, apparently.
Eurogamer has spoken to Creative Assembly studio director Mike Simpson about the future of Total War. What new historical settings are under discussion? Will there be more remakes? What about consoles? Those questions, and more, are answered in the article below.
Welcome back to the latest in Eurogamer's continuing range of Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 comparison features, designed to provide additional commentary to the original Eurogamer reviews for each release, while doubling up as an ongoing commentary on the state of cross-platform game development in the new era of high definition gaming.
Supplementing our views are in-depth technical analyses of the titles at hand, backed up by high quality screenshots of each game only possible in the new digital AV age. Lossless 24-bit RGB frame grabs are ruthlessly swiped from the HDMI ports of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 Elite using a Digital Foundry HD capture station, the only kit available built from the ground up for videogames in high definition. 720p 'screens' are taken as a matter of course, with 1080p shots also grabbed for comparison purposes when the game in question supports it on PlayStation 3 (that'll be just one then in this feature).
Yes, you're all waiting for the GTAIV face-off, and we have something special lined up for that, but in the meantime, perhaps we can tempt you with this delicious range of cross-platform fancies?
Opening up gaming to the masses is one hell of a double-edged sword. Sure, make games more approachable, with intuitive controls and a steady learning curve. By all means introduce rechargeable health systems and automatically save progress as you go along. Hell, respawn the player into the action if it's feasible in the context of the storyline. Some of our favourite games of recent times have managed all of the above without making us cry. But Viking? It makes us want to swing sharp implements of death around with scant regard.
It takes accessibility to a ludicrous, self-defeating extreme, where playing the game on its hardest difficulty level still allows you to beat most of the enemies simply by stabbing a single button in anger. After a few hours of doing the exact same thing over and over, you'd prefer that the stabbing and anger were directed at the normally reliable Creative Assembly. Instead of lending its strategic prowess to the increasingly crowded hackandslash genre, any semblance of tactical nous is thrown out of the window quicker than you can dismember one of the game's many clueless drones.
It all starts off promisingly enough, with a reasonably engaging yarn with Brian Blessed's excellent contribution ensuring that you won't skip every cut-scene. For the record, it centres around a tussle for Asgard, the realm of the Norse Gods, with goddess Hel none-too-happy about being kicked out for defying Odin. Essentially, the battle has spilled over into the mortal world of Midgard, and Freya, the goddess of love and war, takes it upon herself to make young warrior Skarin her champion. Blessed with immortality, he must save the future of mankind, blah.
Bear with me for a bit, but Viking: Battle For Asgard could well end up being the game a lot of people wanted out of Fable. See, the cornerstone of Fable was this idea of letting the player step into the (massive clown) shoes of a 'Hero'. And you could decide what kind of hero you wanted to be, and what you did, and how you did it, but there was something so important missing. A real hero is a one in a million, stand-out kind of guy, yet Fable's world was tiny and quirky. At best you could be the champion of a dozen zany hayseeds, hick inbreds whose praise was irritating enough to make a lot of players abruptly turn to the dark side half way through the game after butchering the population of an entire city. So, about twelve people. You could be a protagonist, and you could become quick and beefy, but you never felt like a hero.
A few libations poured here, a quick virgin sacrifice there, and good old SEGA has sent down the first ever teaser trailer for its gods-bothering rampage, Viking: Battle For Asgard.
Mixing the epic battles of Total War with the mythological gore of God of War, Vikings has been forged by the skilled hands of Creative Assembly – they of the aforementioned Total War fame.
Eschewing God of War's Mediterranean classicism for the equally fertile northern European Norse legends, Vikings promises to retain the brutal violence of Sony's spectacular brawler, while adding scale and tactical depth to the battlefield.
Fighting alongside hundreds of rampaging Vikings is the sort of thing PS3 and 360 are meant to let us do, and given Creative Assembly's Total War background it's no surprise to learn that Battle for Asgard - despite its third-person action premise - is focusing fairly heavily on that. What makes this particular deviation interesting though is the idea of influencing the battle rather than just managing it. In essence, gameplay is split between preparing the ground for war and then making sure the war goes to plan. A bit like Dynasty Warriors with funny hats. And dragon air-strikes.
Norse for the faint hearted.
SEGA has announced it will be releasing Creative Assembly's new game Viking: Battle for Asgard in early 2008.
The Norse mythology-themed hackandslasher is being developed on 360 and PS3, and promises oodles of wince-worthy violence and limb dismemberment thanks to its new game engine, as well as the ability to order around mythical beasts and liberated troops in enormous battles.
You'll play as young warrior Skarin, picked by the Gods to defend the mortal world of Midgard from the rampaging goddess Hel and her undead Viking army.