(This week's new releases.) Animal Crossing, Tiger Woods, a toothbrush, Star Wars Battlefront, United Offensive, various convicts, Dawn of War, a cuddly toy.
I know (yes, I know - I'm not having that scumbag Reed borrow this column for a week and talk to you in the first-person and then expect me to revert to the default royal 'we', no sir) that... there's... a sunbeam... touching... Actually, I bracketed that up beyond repair. Let's start over: I know... that a lot of you read 'What's New' quite regularly. I don't really understand why, but then I don't understand fusion propulsion either and I've never found that to be a problem (except for that one time). But, bearing in mind that a lot of you seem to return here to scroll past my incongruous ramblings and find out which games are coming out every week, you might be interested to know that there is actually some rhythm and rhyme to the way 'What's New's is constructed.
Apart from the rather tedious task of working out what actually is coming out in a week (a process involving innumerable websites, spreadsheets, "You again" phone calls to local retailers, and wondering what "Available now. Usually dispatched in 1-2 weeks." actually means in the real world), I will usually sit down and highlight a few of the games I most want to write about. The criteria for inclusion varies - games with funny names, obvious jokes, terrible write-ups from all and sundry, or those that conjure up fascinatingly barbaric analogies in my frazzled brain figure pretty frequently - and after that I'll try and trace a path from those games to Giant Ants without stepping on anyone's anthill. (Or encouraging publishers to phone up and ask, "How is it that my game is somehow 'arguably comparable to self-mutilation'?")
But - now for the point of all this jabbering - it's been a while since I've sat down and highlighted games and realised that not only am I being forced to focus on the high priority ones - because there are so many of them - but that I stand almost no chance of fitting everything in anyway. To erase the struggle of the previous two paragraphs and leave you with the short version, then: there be bloody lotsa games out this week! Eagle-eyed observers will probably point out that I've not exactly done myself any favours there by waffling unnecessarily for close to half a page, but, as I used to say to my brother when he kicked over a stack of Army Men competition promos: If I cared, you'd be dead. Now pick them up.
What to buy then. What indeed. To begin with, anybody who hasn't already succumbed to the charms of the American version (via the medium of FreeLoader), should almost certainly pick up Animal Crossing. With the exception of DRIV3R (Is Atari dead, or have they just stopped taking our calls?), any game that encourages over one hundred pages of forum discussion is clearly worth taking note of. But, in the interests of giving you the best possible justification for its worthiness-of-your-money, I shall now defer to former staffer Martin, who explains: "It's a life-consuming, girlfriend-pleasing, insect-collecting, treasure-finding cute-o-rama, and makes the process of gathering funds to pay off an ever-looming mortgage actually pleasurable. It also has a robot frog in it." An interesting side note here: while Nintendo occasionally justifies the utterly phenomenal delay between the release of the US and European versions of the game by pointing out that the calendar events and need for Euro-centric themes turned the localisation effort into a marathon, we were denied PAL review code recently on the basis that not much has changed. Curious.
If you're not into that, however, there's a lot more to consider. Tiger Woods gets its annual update this week, and although it's largely the same game (with online play on PS2 and not Xbox - a travesty of such vast girth it's probably comparable to the size of Tiger's chequebook), it is nevertheless my favourite console golf game to date. It's easy to pick up, continuously enjoyable and rewarding, and it's a fabulous way to spend a few evenings a week with a pile of mates. Even if you think golf is tedium incarnate. Equally, while we're on a sports tip, you might consider the motor-sporting pursuits of young Colin McRae, who puts in a similarly refined-but-not-revolutionary performance in this year's version of his popular Rally title. And, fortunately, that one does feature online play on both PS2 and Xbox - something that Codemasters seems to be doing more and more these days, to the publisher's credit.
But, as the saying goes: Sport - what is it good for? Fortunately there's lots of War out this week. Indeed, PC owners are spoilt for where to direct their rifling mouse pointers. Call of Duty fans will be pleased with Gray Matter's expansion pack, United Offensive, which you'll see reviewed on Monday (short version: bit too scripted in places, but a tremendously enjoyable ride for the most part, and worth it at the price; featuring an SAS man called Major Ingram in a manner that precludes me from making crap jokes about Who Wants To Be Him), while Hidden & Dangerous II followers get their own expansion in the shape of Sabre Squadron, featuring co-op play. In the words of Kristan, who should have lots more words on the subject for you in the near future, "you command a war-crazed bunch of prehistoric tigers sent forward in time to bring down Hitler." Elsewhere there's... Hang on a second. That's... Yep, just had a look over his shoulder: he's lying. There is no sign of Hitler anywhere.
Moving away from World War II and into the realms of the fantastical (I don't think the tigers were war-crazed either, come to think of it), Relic Entertainment's eagerly awaited Games Workshop tie-in (actually, there were no tigers!) Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War is also out this week (or time travel), and, as you may have spotted, we drafted in beloved pal Kieron "Baroquely" Gillen to tell you whether it was any good. It was. Is. But, real-time strategy isn't for everyone. Star Wars, on the other hand, certainly is, so we were a bit disappointed not to be able to review Star Wars Battlefront this week (through a combination of not-working Xbox code and PS2 code that wouldn't go online), but the word is that it's a satisfying, although perhaps restrictive and short-lived, deathmatch-y multiplayer game that doesn't just use Star Wars scenarios as a backdrop, but actually makes good use of them, forcing you to work together in various areas to avoid defeat - having to find two people per snow-speeder when tackling AT-ATs at the Battle of Hoth, for example.
All of which should give you plenty of options. And if you're not satisfied with that lot [ups pace], youcanalsofindawholebunchofportsandother (no no, that'll never work). You can also find various ports and other options, both domestic and imported. This year's NHL game appears on Xbox this week, Silent Hill 4 slopes misshapenly onto the PC, The Saga of Ryzom ticks the MMORPG box (and has done since last week, we know), Terminator 3: Redemption takes a bow (and by virtue of not being Rise of the Machines is automatically the best Terminator 3 game ever made), and Forgotten Realms: Demon Stone is also out on PS2. Again, we'd love to tell you about it, but it's an Atari game, so we can't help you. Other people can though, and they say it's fabulously presented, tediously repetitive after a while, but surprisingly addictive overall. And it has Captain Picard in it as far as we can remember, although he's pretending to be someone else. (He's probably hiding from the Romulans.)
In terms of imports, Fable (a cautionary tale about talking lots of crap before your game is finished and then having to live with the consequences) snuck out while I was off in Amsterdam being extremely conscientious and professional last Friday, and we'll have a review of that for you very soon, and this past week or so has also seen the release of Creative Assembly's Rome: Total War (due out here next Friday, and reviewing very well), Vietcong: Purple Haze for PS2 and Xbox (due out here next month, and not reviewing particularly well), and X-Men Legends (also due out here next month, and, to complete the set, picking up fairly respectable scores - another good comic book game? Surely not?).
With that, I'm spent. And since I can't think of a good joke to go out on, I'm going to recycle one I made up the other day that isn't funny, and you'll have to make do: What do you call your flatmate when he's trying to convince you to stop playing Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2005?
"Shut up you bastard!"
- PAL Releases
- Animal Crossing (Cube, includes free memory card)
- Call of Duty: United Offensive (PC)
- Colin McRae Rally 2005 (PS2, Xbox, PC)
- Dark Fall 2 (PC)
- Evany (PC)
- Forgotten Realms: Demon Stone (PS2)
- Hidden & Dangerous II: Courage Under Fire (PC)
- Hidden & Dangerous II: Sabre Squadron (PC)
- NHL 2005 (Xbox)
- Samurai Warriors (Xbox)
- Silent Hill 4: The Room (PC)
- Star Wars: Battlefront (PS2, Xbox, PC)
- Star Wars Trilogy: Apprentice of the Force (GBA)
- Terminator 3: Redemption (PS2, Xbox, Cube)
- The Saga of Ryzom (PC)
- Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2005 (PS2, Xbox, Cube, PC)
- Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War (PC)
- Yu-Gi-Oh! Power of Chaos: Joey the Passion (PC)
- Key US Releases
- Fable (Xbox)
- Monster Hunter (PS2)
- Rome: Total War (PC)
- Vietcong: Purple Haze (PS2, Xbox)
- X-Men Legends (PS2, Xbox, Cube)