First Person Shooter Day is here at last, and our toilet's not working. Crap.
It's not even lunchtime, and you're reading this week's instalment of 'What's New'. Wonders genuinely never cease around here, do they? Neither does the torrential rain outside the window, the endless "whooping" as high scores tumble, and the monotone rumbling of an empty stomach. However, there are a few things we've encountered lately that do cease. The jingle-jangle of cash in the pocket, for example, after a spending splurge encompassing a magnificent eBay NES bundle, the latest Japanese Winning Eleven game, and certain popular Xbox dance mat titles. Or the flush function of our trusted toilet - that's ceased too, although we've fashioned an alternative out of a big bucket and a nearby bath tap. (Any plumbers in the audience?) Oh, and apparently the rain has now ceased as well. Great. Stop sabotaging our elaborate introductions Mother Nature you INDOMITABLE TART!
First! (Person Shooter!)
It's just as well the rain's subsiding though, because nothing ought to get in the way of your hour in front of the game racks this lunchtime, particularly if you're a PC owner. For reasons that will forever remain unknown, the vast publishing machines of Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, Atari and, er, CDV have locked cogs and decided to make March 19th an unofficial First Person Shooter Day. If you like to point and kill, there's been no finer Friday for a while, with Battlefield Vietnam, Unreal Tournament 2004, Raven Shield: Athena Sword and Breed literally exceeding our knowledge of collective terms. What the hell is it? A quart? A quadrilogy? A quadogy? A tetralogy? A gaggle thereof? We prefer to think of it as a Quality Street compilation, which explains the chewy and unpleasant one that get stuck in the teeth and rots the pre-molars. Sorry Breed.
Fortunately for the others the critics have been fairly kind. Athena Sword, which been delayed so often that we've run out of jokes, has enjoyed a healthy amount of acclaim. It's an expansion, so it's hardly a quantum leap over Raven Shield (or Rainbow Six III, or whatever we're meant to call it now), but it's been described as a must-have for its multiplayer content alone. Otherwise it's merely "worthy". Likewise Battlefield Vietnam, although we've seen trace amounts of disappointment bandied around with regard to this one. In fact, some folks are calling it Battlefield Random Asian Jungle, particularly the Desert Combat loving contingent that balks at its very name.
All of which suggests that Unreal Tournament 2004 is destined to prevail over its release date companions, and judging by the mountain of CDs on our desk there's a lot to talk about. (Speaking of which, surely the postage cost involved in sending us six discs offsets the otherwise prohibitive cost of burning a load of DVDRs? No?) We're preparing to rip it open and spend a weekend killing people violently, and if the recent demo was anything to go by it's going to be a high scoring game indeed. In fact, we doubt any FPS fan needs much of a prompt to pick this one up - the demo more than did the job, as with previous Epic endeavours.
Killing Me Softly
Of course, as we're so fond of saying telling our cleaners, it's not all blood, guts and slaughter around here. In fa-- wait a minute. [Picks up phone.] "Uhuh. Yep. Okay. Got it." Right. This week, it is all blood, guts and slaughter. Highlights on other formats consist of Tenchu: Return From Darkness (ninjas, Xbox), Silent Scope Complete (snipers, also Xbox), Max Payne (wannabe poet with gun, GBA), Sword of Mana (RPG with "Sword" in title, GBA), and Disney's Aladdin (stupid crap Disney crap rubbish crap, GBA). The latter one merely drives you to kill and maim, but it's a valid inclusion nonetheless. Judging from what we know about Midnight Nowhere (PC), meanwhile, it's a very, very gory day to be out and about.
Although there's a lot of quality in that paragraph (games-wise at least), we only have enough time to single out a couple of things. First of those ought to be Tenchu: Return From Darkness, which probably won't emulate its PS2 sibling's No.1 chart position, but could well entertain fans of the series with its new co-op multiplayer mode. (It's also the first game in living memory with a self-conscious web advertising campaign, starring a pair of ninjas who leap down to slash a guard in succession, rather than the original banner with its one solitary aggressor). Tenchu on PS2 always felt a bit underrated to us. It was undoubtedly flawed, but then Ninja Gaiden has a pretty poor camera system and that's still one of the finest action games ever made. If you like the tension you get from meticulously wiping out an entire village that remains none the wiser beneath you, we'd recommend a Return From Darkness this weekend.
Elsewhere there's just enough time to "big up" a pair of GBA titles that - along with the rest of the GBA's catalogue of releases these days - would probably otherwise go unnoticed by most. First off there's Sword of Mana. This is a tricky one, as it's patently not going to impress gamers in the same way as its life-affirming SNES progenitor. The original Secret of Mana was one of a few 16-bit titles that grew the European RPG market tenfold. This, on the other hand, is merely a pretty solid action RPG. It presses all the right buttons, but it lacks the vigour and invention that held the first Western Mana together. Of course your mileage may vary, but we felt it only fair to warn you in advance. If you still want a GBA fix this weekend, the other game we want to mention is Max Payne, and there are two things to note about handheld Max: 1) it's actually surprisingly good; very enjoyable at times in fact, and 2) you should not under any circumstances pay full price for it, because it doesn't last anywhere near long enough.
All of which leaves us with just enough space to tell you what's going on in the States this week. Or rather, what isn't going on, as - with a couple of exceptions - not much has made it out in the past few days that isn't out over here already, or due within the next fortnight or so. Those exceptions, then, are The X-Files: Resist or Serve (due out here in May), which is something of an unknown quantity even across the pond, and Namco's Xbox-exclusive Breakdown, which is desperately disappointing by all accounts - something we're almost loath to accept as it looked like it could be really good. What is it with Namco lately? They're about as consistent as Michael Owen in front of goal [Did he really hit the post from a yard out and miss a penalty in the same match, mate? -Ed]. Still, it only takes a couple of swings of Link's sword in Soul Calibur II to remind us what they're really capable of producing.
Now, if you'll excuse us, there's an editor lurking around here somewhere that wants killing violently...
- PAL Releases
- Battlefield Vietnam (PC)
- Breed (PC)
- Disney's Aladdin (GBA)
- Disney's Hide And Seek (Cube)
- Disney's Magical Quest 3 (GBA)
- Dr Seuss' Cat in the Hat (PS2, Xbox, PC, GBA)
- Etherlords II (PC)
- IL2-FB: Aces Expansion Pack (PC)
- Knightshift (PC)
- Max Payne (GBA)
- Mega Man Battle Chip Challenge (GBA)
- Midnight Nowhere (PC)
- Mojo! (PS2, Xbox)
- MTX: Mototrax (PS2, Xbox)
- Paradise Cracked (PC)
- Raven Shield: Athena Sword (PC)
- Sacred (PC)
- Scooby Doo! Mystery Mayhem (PS2, Xbox, Cube)
- Silent Scope Complete (Xbox)
- Sword of Mana (GBA)
- Tenchu: Return From Darkness (Xbox)
- Unreal Tournament 2004 (PC)
- Key US Releases
- Breakdown (Xbox)
- The X-Files: Resist or Serve (PS2, Xbox)