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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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What's New?

(This week's new releases.) Riddick on PC! And... er...

Bollocks. I thought I was being clever. I'd got everything done in advance, I'd worked out which games were coming out, and I don't think too many people noticed that Eurogamer basically shut down last Friday at around 1pm when we all descended on Brighton for our Xmas party to go bowling (and admire Rupert's once-in-a-lifetime feat of six consecutive strikes), gambling (and admire Rupert's once-in-a-lifetime feat of covering all the bets except the ones which came up and losing lots of money), eating (and admire Rupert's once-in-a-lifetime feat of eating more food than me) and dancing (and admire Rupert's once-in-a-lifetime feat of... actually he dances all the time, like when he talks. And when he poos). Anyway, long and short of all that is that as Kristan rang up Nintendo to ask about review code in the car on the way down, we realised Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls had actually come out. And I realised I thought it was coming out today. Sorry about that.

(Update: If I didn't love the above paragraph so much, I'd be very frustrated at the "Nintendo were being silly, FF is out this week" message sitting on my desktop. Ah well!)

So, apologies in advance for any repeat rubbishness. But we're sure that you'll be content with the games we have noticed are coming out this week. The Chronicles of Riddick on PC, for example. We may have only received review code literally as I was in the process of writing that last paragraph, so we can't tell you whether it's better for the things that have changed since its exceptional Xbox forerunner, but we can use the expression "exceptional Xbox forerunner" as a kind of stick to beat you in the direction of shops with. Half-Life 2 may be out, but the strength of Riddick is that it's still strong enough in every regard to endure as a game worth buying in this post-City 17 world.

But we talk enough about Half-Life 2 as it is. We'll stop. Um, although we should say there's a tin box special collector's edition out today. Which is bound to be better than the US Collector's Edition this writer picked up earlier this week as an "auxiliary Christmas present" for anybody who might want it. Apparently it has a T-shirt and a player's guide in it. Which, er, is the same as the US version. But the box is tin, not cardboard.

That said, if we stop talking about Half-Life 2, Riddick and co., it leaves us with relatively little of particular interest. Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic: The Sith Lords (or do we call it "KOTOR2"?) is out in the States now, and seems to be popular (unsurprisingly), but closer to home the most exciting prospects on the release schedule are things like Lord of the Rings, The Battle for Middle-Earth, which is mid-to-upper good, and then, er, Armies of Exigo, another PC EA expulsion that arrives to a flurry "ooh it's good but it's not quite marshalled itself into 'excellent' territory" reviews.

Other than that there's .hack//QUARANTINE, which you'll either want to buy because you've played the other .hack games that lead up to it, or you won't because it'll be utterly irrelevant to you; Atari Anthology, which anthologises some Atari games (presumably); Fight Club, which was a bad idea for a movie licence in the first place and hasn't surprised us with its reported failure to be anything other than a big heap of soapy wank; Godzilla: Save the Earth, which has got horrible reviews (for a better monster sim, pick up the hugely underrated and presumably massively reduced War of the Monsters on PS2); TRON 2.0: Killer App on Xbox, which in the first-person shooter stakes simply cannot compete with recent additions to the Xbox canon like Riddick and Halo 2; and games like Hot Wheels Stunt Track Challenge, which are clearly not aimed at us.

So then. What to buy? PC: Riddick, despite Vivendi's peculiar reluctance to give us review code up to this point, would still be better than most first-person games you've played this year even if it's just a lazy port, while strategy chums Lord of the Rings and Exigo are probably best picked between by people who get on with that sort of thing. On the consoles though, we're inclined to send you back in search of previous weeks' output, because as we near Christmas we're aware that there are some utterly phenomenal games left unloved - like Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, for example - that bring us much more joy than the likes of the stuff filtering out in these dredge-y final pre-Christmas Fridays when, to be utterly honest, we're sitting around drinking at 1:26 in the afternoon...

Anyway, one fleeting mention of the US release of Mario Party 6 aside, that's the end. All done. We're off to play Feel the Magic: XY-XX on the Nintendo DS, which we (sorry, we don't do "we" here do we?), which I happen to be quite enjoying despite its obvious simplicity and utter inability to convince as any manner of relationship simulator. Right now I'm trying to whack a plant with firebombs in order to rescue my potential match. Still, easier than trying to talk to someone in a bar.

  • PAL Releases
  • .hack//QUARANTINE (PS2)
  • Armies of Exigo (PC)
  • Atari Anthology (Xbox)
  • Fight Club (PS2, Xbox)
  • Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls (GBA)
  • Godzilla: Save the Earth (PS2, Xbox)
  • Guilty Gear X2 #Reload (PS2)
  • Half-Life 2 Collector's Edition (PC)
  • Hot Wheels Stunt Track Challenge (PS2)
  • Lord of the Rings, The Battle for Middle-Earth (PC)
  • Monopoly (GBA)
  • Pool Shark 2 (PS2)
  • The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay - Developer's Cut (PC)
  • TRON 2.0: Killer App (Xbox)

  • Key US Releases
  • Mario Party 6 (Cube)
  • Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic: The Sith Lords (Xbox)