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Long read: The beauty and drama of video games and their clouds

"It's a little bit hard to work out without knowing the altitude of that dragon..."

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RollerCoaster Tycoon 3: Wild!

The Really Wild, shown

Someone's been listening to the blasé 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.

Except not here. With Wild, they've only gone and changed the bleeding genre on us.

What was once videogaming's premier theme-park management game, known for the gentle customisation of rides, construction of pretty places and the happy smiles of tiny people, has turned into a Jack Thompson-baiting first-person shooter.

Yes, it keeps quiet about it. When you start playing, it'll pretend to be just the same friendly management game it always was, but we know the truth. You see, this "Wild" expansion pack is all about animals. Beasts. And not just the beasts we keep in cages to stare at for our amusement - the beasts we keep buried in ourselves, which we let out in entertainment like this.

Hurrah for advanced consumerism! It's ace!

You see, if an animal's cage gets a little too run down, it'll break out. Run Wild! And then it's up to you to get into a helicopter, hover over the park, look through the sights, pull the trigger and send a devilish dart flying towards the innocent hind-quarters of rampaging beasts. The real reason why Jurassic Parks always go astray is revealed: the owners just want to get involved in exciting hunting. This is no rollercoaster! This is the satanic snake itself crawling into this garden of gaming Eden.

For those who don't get over-excited over minor sub-games, and perhaps expecting something to match the variety of animals in the (fun, if slight) Zoo Tycoon games are going to be a little disappointed. While they're full of personality - especially when knocking around the toys in the cage in a "is that real physics? It might be, you know" kind of way - there's not really the number. This is very much an adding of a different attraction to the park than a whole new lease of life. While the new campaign missions highlight them, it really doesn't hugely change the game's core dynamic. The assorted non-animal additions don't either, though the sight of the robot-arm rollercoasters which allow you to lob your park visitors around in circles while travelling along the usually serpentine tracks made us worried ever to return to an amusement park in case we were ever forced to go on one.

The Lion sleeps tonight. But today the fight!

The only real drawback would be that it seems to stress your already-whining desktop machine a little more than the occasionally system-demanding predecessors, and the vast majority of the problems with the engine haven't changed. While the tunnelling has been considerably improved since what was added in the previous 'Soaked' pack (you can now go through non-vertical surfaces), and some user tools, it's still often a little fiddly. Coming straight from The Movies highly streamlined interface makes the wading through sub-menus when you want to perform any task whatsoever a little more trying than usual - though, to be fair, The Movies does offer far less options than RCT3. However, if these problems were enough to turn you off the game, it's unlikely you'd be even reading a review for an add-on pack, so it's slightly beside the point.

So, what's the time? Oh it's time for good-expansion-but-not-good-enough-to-make-anyone-return-to-the-game-if-thoroughly-sick mark o'clock.

7 / 10