(This week's new releases.) Burnout 3 is out. So's Silent Storm Gold, Locomotion, .hack//OUTBREAK and some other games that we'll flippantly rumble though within.
Rather like our trip home from the pub last night, Burnout 2: Point Of Impact was about getting close but not quite ploughing headlong into traffic and cartwheeling into the air and dying horribly in a heavily fractured and crumpled mess wrapped around the nearest crash barrier. Burnout 3: Takedown, released today, recognises the fact that near misses are only exciting up to a point. Hence the expanded Crash mode, which is, in the words of our esteemed editor, "almost an entire game on its own" - something that's bound to sound like music to the ears of anybody who's ever sat in a group and argued over whose turn it was to try and get a gold medal at the junction du jour in Point Of Impact. Like the music of screaming metal and death, in fact.
More carnage is very much the name of the game. Well, it's not - Burnout 3 is - but you know what our booze frazzled tongues are trying to twist you into thinking. Shunting, headlong collisions, flying off hills - all of these things are key to doing well now. And whereas Xbox Live mainstay Project Gotham Racing 2 was often spoilt by one or two arseholes' desire to block up a straight and have willing racers thunder into them at a fearsome pace (there's barely any damage you stupid bastards), in this case that sort of behaviour really is the name of the game. Takedown, see. The idea is to take people down. Off the side of a cliff, perhaps.
It's convincing enough for us, and, given the EA marketing machine (possible slogan: "It's a family product. So kill your family at it."), it's hard to imagine it not being one of the first truly justified Number 1s of 2004 when the charts roll around next Monday night. We'll certainly be putting the hours in over the weekend to make sure. Oh, and there's a demo of Need For Speed Underground 2 in the box. Clever girl.
Understandably then, the anticipated ocean of September-y game releases seems to have parted to let Burnout haul itself through into first, and what little's left to join it on the shelves this Friday is certainly not of the "arcade racer" variety. There are a few games that Burnout will be "taking down", however, including Chris Sawyer's Locomotion, the third .hack game, and Sony's DJ - Decks & FX package, which isn't really a game, but will probably appeal to anybody who bought their PlayStation 2 "in da club" while on some sort of 90s Wipeout throwback nostalgia trip. With Es.
Locomotion, though we haven't spent much time with it, arrives at the sort of price that screams (or 'steams', perhaps) budget. It's Mr RollerCoaster's modernisation of Transport Tycoon, or something of the sort, which doesn't mean a huge amount to this strategy-phobic column (we're far more interested in what Frontier's doing with RollerCoaster Tycoon 3), but ought to tickle a few engine rooms amongst empire builders. Likewise we're not completely on top of CDV's Codename: Panzers, but note that it is reviewing rather well, and that any company prepared to give us Nazi Action Man figures as competition prizes clearly deserves to make some moolah.
On the other side of the pond, Konami has finally booted Silent Hill 4 out of the door on PS2 and Xbox, which gives anybody put off by the prospect of trying to find that "toggle English" option in the Japanese version a safer avenue of exploration. We quite liked Silent Hill 4, but on the whole it wasn't quite up to the high standards set by its predecessors. It's not that we don't appreciate the developer's attempts to make changes (criticising invention in a fourth-in-the-series would be daft, right?), but rather that the result is a bit hackandslashy for all its grime and twisty-turny narrative, and bafflingly recycles more or less the entire first half of the game once you reach a certain stage. And, well, that it wasn't even meant to be a Silent Hill game in the first place, which starts to loom large in your mind after a while like some sort of slimy cat thing with three tongues on its back, nipples for ears and an arse for a hat. (There are no giant ant people in Silent Hill 4, incidentally. Perhaps we're safe after all.)
Crossing back over the ocean again swiftly enough, we've just enough room to mention the last two things on our "mention these games or the readers will burn the website down" list. First, the third game in the .hack series (pronounced "dot Hack", as Rob is fond of pointing out), .hack//OUTBREAK. It probably won't make much sense to you if you haven't played the first two games, but if you did and you enjoyed them then you'll probably have a certain amount of fun with it. Imagine us holding our hands very far apart - that's how much fun you'll have.
Finally, if you can imagine us holding our hands even further apart, then that's how much you'll have if you stump up for Silent Storm Gold, a re-release of what was by all accounts an under-appreciated and critically ignored little PC title, which we do intend to getting round to playing this time. Turn-based strategy needn't be a frightening thing, as fans of Advance Wars et al know only too well - in fact it can be over the top, visceral and overcome the silliness of its name with consummate ease, something we hope to tell you Silent Storm Gold does in the coming weeks. In the meantime, newcomers should note that Gold includes the original game and add-on "Sentinels", featuring a new campaign and some other assorted jigglery War-rery.
And if that's not enough to keep you happy this weekend, then perhaps you should just buy Burnout 3 like everybody else on the planet. Or run us over properly. The world will thank you in either case.
- PAL Releases
- .hack//OUTBREAK (PS2)
- Arena Wars (PC)
- Burnout 3: Takedown (PS2, Xbox)
- Chris Sawyer's Locomotion (PC)
- Codename: Panzers - Phase One (PC)
- DJ - Decks & FX (PS2)
- Port Royale 2 (PC)
- Silent Storm Gold (PC)
- Yeti Sports Deluxe (PC)
- Key US Releases
- Silent Hill 4: The Room (PS2, Xbox)