With Tom busy sampling all that Amsterdam has to offer with the aid of Vivendi-Universal's flexible friend (do we even want to imagine the levels of madness that are going to occur later this evening?) it's up to me to inform you of this weekend's retail-related chaos. That's if your time isn't already taken up by mad ginger scouse fellows with an army of dogs, Clay Pigeon shooting, Archery and Stag weekend madness, followed by a Sunday spent wondering exactly why people in this country insist on forcing as much alcohol down their necks as possible in the name of fun. Tip: throbbing hangovers aren't fun; drink three pints of water before bed and feel like a king in the morning while your partners in crime swim in an alcoholic fug for the rest of the day and curse you for being so bloody chirpy.
Despite dispensing sage like wisdom on the solution to the dehydration caused by excessive alcohol intake, I can't guarantee any tales of giant Ant-invasion fear. I can, though, comment on one memorable Ant Invasion - that of the now-mad-as-a-lorry Stuart Goddard and co. Yes, as an eight year old in 1981, there was only one band worth listening to, and if you're still not with me, I'm referring to those Dandy Highwaymen Adam & The Ants. [Good god, I'm old - crinkly, decaying Ed]. I clearly recall my older brother sat in the back of the car on the way back from school bawling his eyes out that my kindly mother had bought me a copy of Stand & Deliver on day of release and not him. Hah. He was the bigger Antfan, he claimed, and such gifts were only worthy of him. He was probably right. Dear old bro was the more loyal follower that had all the pre-fame stuff, and even stuck with Mr Ant through those barren solo years. Still, you've got to know the point at which loyalty and quality should part, right? And with that pointlessly lengthy anecdote out of the way, let’s wish Mr Goddard all the best with his rehabilitation and talk about games shall we?
For the first time in ages there's a whole pile of gaming related fun to keep you amused - not least the long-overdue arrival of The Sims 2, a PC game that in commercial terms is only likely to be eclipsed by Half-Life 2, so, um, kinda important in the scheme of things. If you're wondering why there's no review yet, that'll be because our boxed copy only actually showed up this very morning, and EA decided not to send up any advance code on this one, despite blessing us with all manner of other stuff that's not out for ages yet. They needn't have worried about us slagging it off or anything, because we've been very impressed by what we've seen so far, and will be getting to grips with this "Next generation people simulator" next week. If it's anywhere near as dangerously unhinged as we are, there should be some fun in store. We're hoping for a kind of next gen Alter Ego. Remember that C64/Apple classic from 1986 that Activision put out that basically psychologically profiled multiple choice responses to given scenarios from birth to death? It's bloody amazing. Still. We're still looking for the Female version if anyone wants to sell it to us for an extortionate price...
Catching us entirely on the hop is Silent Hill 4, pulled forward by a week and thus almost entirely missing out on being covered at all. Konami's latest stab at the survival horror genre is a bit of a disappointment after the enormously high standards set by the previous three. This one tries a few new tricks with the occasional use of a first person viewpoint, but ends up being slightly dumbed down by its desire to appeal to action gamers. Expect endless hordes in this one, and much less in the way of puzzles. It's still a decent story, mind you, and the atmosphere is top notch - but by the time you realise that the entire second half of the game is a retread of the first half's locations you start to realise that it's below par compared to previous efforts. Big big shame, but still worth checking out if you love the previous games.
Next in line, in our humble opinion is Crisis Zone, probably the best light gun game Namco has ever put out on a console - or at least it would be if they had a clue how to get their plastic peripherals to work properly on anything other than a 4:3 aspect TV. We long for Widescreen/100Hz/Plasma support (some of you claim to have had success, but on three different widescreen sets we've been utterly scuppered), but thus far the man from Namco, he say "no". But seeing as most of the audience will be playing the game on standard TVs, you can almost feel the gust of wind of thousands of shoulders shrugging in unison as they shout "who cares?" at the monitor. Alright. I was only saying.
Moving on, Final Fantasy XI makes its long overdue European appearance on PC today, giving thousands of 'bottle pissers' (as Rob so eloquently put it yesterday in his examination of the merits of the MMORPG) an opportunity to duck out of living anything approaching a normal life for a while. Apparently it's quite good. We'd find out, but sadly living something approaching normal life, and levelling up our real experience has to take precedent until we can work out how to clone ourselves.
Scanning further through the list, Nintendo has finally released Mario Golf: Advance Tour over here; a game that Tom appeared to love to bits when he was playing it for the first time yesterday afternoon, describing it as "just like the Cube, but with RPG bits in it for some reason." Expect a full review of that on Monday.
If you're fond of endless hackandslash, KOEI has yet another slice for us on PS2 in the shape of Dynasty Warriors 4: Empires, in a breathtakingly cheeky display of franchise stretching, which asks fans to buy the game for a third time. Great value for £24.99 if you don't own it already, but you'd have to be a superfan to buy it again, eh?
Mopping up the rest of this week's list, there's NHL 2005 and Madden 2005 - games we’re sure are really really good, but in the absence of having a clue about the real sports (especially the latter) we're not in the best position to give an authoritative overview of either. No online play on either, folks, despite US versions having them. Maybe next year?
As for the rest of the rest: Zoo's Dangerous Hunts is out on PS2 and Xbox today, but to be frank, we have absolutely no idea about it. It's, erm, about very unsafe Ant hunting, probably? And it's at a sub thirty quid price point. Don't hurt us. Kohan II: Kings Of War, meanwhile, emerges on PC, Jaleco's World Championship Pool 2004 hits the Cube, and THQ's WWE: Day Of Reckoning also hits the Cube canvas, grunting. Be sure to let us know if any of these are worth following up on, won't you?
Stateside, the ones to consider importing (or buying from your local import games shop, at least), are Call Of Duty: United Offensive, the rather excellent PC expansion pack to Infinity Ward's WWII shooter, the Uber-hardcore side scrolling PS2 shooter Gradius V, and Sucker Punch's PS2-only platforming marvel Sly 2: Band Of Thieves. A veritable overdose of gaming, by all accounts. This is where things start getting silly folks. Get used to it, and get used to seeing a stack of unplayed purchases on your shelves. See you next week, poorer, but wiser.
- PAL Releases
- Crisis Zone (PS2)
- Dangerous Hunts (PS2, Xbox)
- Dynasty Warriors 4: Empires (PS2)
- Final Fantasy XI (PC)
- Kohan II: Kings of War (PC)
- Madden NFL 2005 (PS2, Xbox, Cube)
- Mario Golf: Advance Tour (GBA)
- NHL 2005 (PC)
- Silent Hill 4: The Room (Xbox, PS2)
- The Sims 2 (PC)
- World Championship Pool 2004 (Cube)
- WWE Day of Reckoning (Cube)
- Key US Releases
- Call of Duty: United Offensive (PC)
- Gradius V (PS2)
- Sly 2: Band of Thieves (PS2)