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Mercenaries is pretty grand. Oh and there's DOA Ultimate. What's the hook? Er...

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

Unfortunately, due to a scheduling mishap, this week's What's New will not be full of commentary from my cherished younger brother Edward, whose ruminations on games past and present are near-legendary in the context of whatever else is in my head. He's coming along this afternoon instead to ignore the likes of Gran Turismo ("why can't you park the cars?"), Prince of Persia ("there's no guns"), EyeToy ("you're too fat") and Halo ("I 'ate this") and to complain bitterly about my buying the wrong sort of lemonade ("don't like that one") and biscuits ("you shouldn'ta got these ones"). Fortunately, given his burgeoning pubescence and apparent acceptance of the Kylie calendar I bought him for Christmas (the most embarrassed I've ever seen him), the addition of Dead Or Alive Ultimate to the pile ought to give me something to fall back on. Before I fall over and cry into the fluffy cushions ("these are WAY too fluffy; you shouldn't've got 'em") about the fact that he can probably beat me at an arm wrestle by now. How I long for the day when I can go out and get drunk with him and harness his innocence, selflessness and good looks to appear interesting to the opposite sex by association. (They say true love is blind. It bloody well better be.)

My own experience with Dead Or Alive Ultimate is noteworthy partly on these grounds but largely because, despite it being a beat-'em-up in a series I've never held much affection for, I've actually played it quite a lot - and found there was something rather compulsive about fighting through the arcade mode repeatedly at 4am in a drunken haze in my best mate's cupboard at university. It was a compulsion rooted within Tina's pants, rather post-rejection-lecherously, but it did at least convince me that Rob was right about DOA2's quality (and Ryu's backside) when he reviewed it this week and praised the differences between it and DOA3. Whether I'll take it online is an entirely separate issue, but it's interesting to realise that it was the game's latching on to my typically repressed depravity during a moment of downtroddenness that hooked me in and led me to actually figure out how to play it properly.

Admittedly, reading back over that, I'm still not sure whether I'm recommending it or not, but we've already reviewed it so frankly I'm not that bothered.

Mercenaries, on the other hand, we haven't already reviewed. Kristan's soldiering (ha) through it at the moment and informs me that he has a great deal of respect for the logic of a lot of the design. Obviously it's tapping somewhat into the zeitgeist when it lets you drive through war-torn areas to get to your mission objective and actually see them being torn apart by war, entrenched-cameraman-in-a-tank style, but that's not it. More it's the way it's a turf war-tinted take on GTA set in a warzone that actually gets things like the third-person camera, mission-restart rules and mission balancing right.

For the former, you use both sticks and apparently - this is what I remember of what he told me in the pub last night, anyway - it just works, while the mission-restart isn't your typical "lose all your toys and go back to some random location miles away or reload and lose any record of your progress since you switched the game on" approach. I was also quite interested to learn that unlike Vice City, for example, where you can stress over a mission for hours by trying to do it in a car and then realise it's a cinch in a helicopter, the options are your disposal in Mercenaries are balanced out. Give up on the road and hop in a chopper and you'll still have to worry about anti-aircraft defences, to use an obvious example. About the only complaints I can remember were "mumble mumble mist to cover draw distance" and "mumble mumble only one lot of C4 in a crate mumble mumble bastards mumble makes no sense".

Yeah. I have been drinking rather too much lately. I feel bad about that. Sorry - I feel bad because of that. And, on the above evidence, I also have glue-ear.

Elsewhere this week has the makings of a surprisingly decent GBA line-up, although "decent" may be the operative word. Banjo Pilot and Astro Boy: Omega Factor have both been receiving decent enough write-ups (Astro Boy, in particular, is said to be something of a gem compared to its lacklustre PS2 sibling), while Advance Guardian Heroes, despite reverential recollections of its Saturn forebear, has been shot down for being merely decent.

Decency is not a theme, however, that we'd associate with Konami's Nanobreaker, which seems to be attempting to sneak out this week without much notice. Unavailable from Amazon this lunchtime, Konami of Europe's website nevertheless claims it's out today and low and behold Play and GAME will both sell it to you for immediate dispatch. Not that you should buy it - having spent several hours in its company I'd argue that it'd be better as a head-on-a-spike style warning to developers as to what they shouldn't do with third-person action games. Full review soon, but I seem to recall fighting the camera and controls, perpetually bypassing the entire combat system with a one-hit-kill move, laughing at invisible barriers and then crying at pre-boss save spots situated prior to the annoying, draining, kill-everything-in-the-room bits that seem to make up most of the game.

Of course, if you wanted a real car crash of a game you could always pick up DRIV3R on PS2 Platinum or Xbox Classics today instead. Although, to be fair to Reflections, DRIV3R is a better (and certainly funnier) game than Nanobreaker - a game that (one last rib) holds the unique distinction of not only making you want to eat your own face off, but actually being about things eating their own faces off. Come back Cy Girls - all is not forgiven by a long shot, but at least your double-disc format gave me the facility to save our coffee table from two coffee-ringing mugs simultaneously.

(Oh all right it's not quite that offensive. It's just really depressing when you come across a game that actually cobbles together all the painful bits of other third-person games that you've come to fear and loathe through saturation over the years. Newcomers to the genre will probably wonder what it was that so upset me.)

All of that excess excessive negativity then leaves us with little room to mention that Ace Combat 5 is out today, that Ubi's latest Settlers game is also out (and not scoring fantastically, to be honest) and that NBA Street V3 will be prominently occupying the EA shelves at your local EA (and games) retailer this weekend.

Although it doesn't rule out our taking a small paragraph aside and encouraging it to mention that Star Fox Assault is finally out in the US along with Xenosaga II, a near-future that Rob is almost certain to get stuck into in his own near future if indeed he hasn't already. (I won't check, because it'd spoil that line completely.)

With that, I'm off to spike the Jammie Dodgers and lemonade with valium.

  • PAL Releases
  • Ace Combat 5: Squadron Leader (PS2)
  • Advance Guardian Heroes (GBA)
  • Astro Boy: Omega Factor (GBA)
  • Atari Anthology (PS2)
  • Banjo Pilot (GBA)
  • Bujingai: Swordmaster (PS2)
  • Dead or Alive Ultimate (Xbox)
  • Energy Airforce - Aim Strike! (PS2)
  • Mercenaries (PS2, Xbox)
  • Nanobreaker (PS2)
  • NBA Street V3 (PS2, Xbox, Cube)
  • Return to Mysterious Island (PC)
  • Smashing Drive (GBA)
  • SpellForce - Shadow of the Phoenix (PC)
  • Super Power 2 (PC)
  • The Settlers: Heritage of Kings (PC)

  • Key US Releases
  • Constantine (PS2, Xbox)
  • Star Fox: Assault (Cube)
  • Tenchu: Fatal Shadows (PS2)
  • Xenosaga II (PS2)

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