Currently Hurling Controllers / Mice At… Calm Before The Storm Edition

October 14, 2008

We’re slowly creeping towards what’s looking to be another completely insane holiday season littered with great releases. Among others, Fable 2, Quantum of Solace, Gears of War 2, Mirror’s Edge, Far Cry 2 and of course Bethesda’s post-apocalyptic juggernaut Fallout 3 are all coming out within the next month, so this is promising to be a great time for gamers.

And now, let’s see what we’ve been playing:

Richard ‘Rahdo’ Ham (Creative Director):
I’m really enjoying Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. I’m playing on the highest difficulty level, and feel it’s got a great challenge level, really forcing me to play smart and use the force powers wisely. It’s the most fun I’ve had with a brawler since the first God of War. Plus, this is by far the best Star Wars story I’ve seen told in a long long time. So I’m a big fan of what LucasArts has accomplished here!

Matt ‘Anti’ Lowe (Production Coordinator):
I’ve been having a crack at Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway. I’m a big fan of Band of Brothers and if ever there was a game of that show, BiA wants to be it! Alas the game is nowhere near as good as the awesome TV series. That said, for some reason I’ve stuck at it (something I rarely do in single player games) and still have a desire to play it through to the end – I guess it’s because there isn’t much else like it on the market. That and my insatiable appetite to keep throwing grenades at sheep that have rag-doll physics! 😀

FIFA 09 has also appeared in the office this week and despite only minor changes, it is much better than the 2008 edition. The major exploits of ’08 have been removed (no more abusing the keeper or un-defendable corner kicks) and in their place a greater range of control has been added. The addition of better physics on the players, a greater variation in their movement speeds and an all round increase in the realism makes for really fun games! The only downside is the slightly harsh refereeing, but who cares, as long as I keep beating Smooth and Chris D then I’ll be happy!

This next week will see me finally trying out Battlefield: Bad Company and I might have a go at Fracture when it comes out, too.

Hell's Highway
Hell’s Highway welcomes careful drivers.

Tim ‘Huntle’ Rose (Production Coordinator):
A month after requesting Battlefield: Bad Company, it finally arrived last week. Usually I would skip the single player and jump straight into an online skirmish, but the Splash Damage forum Xbox Live leaderboard has turned me into an achievement-seeking whore. For once I’m glad I am! While essentially multiplayer with bots, the singleplayer is great fun, filled with entertaining cut-scenes and a story to make Kelly proud.

I have also been shaking along to Samba De Amigo on the Wii. As a big fan of the original Dreamcast incarnation, I was very excited to pick this one up. For the most part it is the same game, with a lot of the songs making a welcome return, and 2-player battles, which are exciting and ridiculous all at once. My only disappointment is that no matter what difficulty setting you have it on, some songs never require you to move and shake along at the natural tempo you would expect, instead forcing you to perform more intricate movements over speed and rhythm. Sometimes, you feel yourself holding back and not fully immersing yourself in the song because you are concentrating on the tricky maracas moves. Oh well, time to dust off that Dreamcast…

Looking to the future, I am excited by Saint’s Row 2; I enjoyed the first and it will be interesting to try it with less bugs, or at least new ones!

Aubrey ‘Bezzy’ Hesselgren (Game Designer):
Apart from replaying a little Skate, I’ve been very pleased to get my soon to be grubby mitts on World of Goo. Having worked on another Goo themed game, I’ve been watching their progress with great interest, jealousy, and lust. World of Goo is in the vein of Bridge Builder, Armadillo Run and Crayon Physics – 2d phys’em ups, crossed with Lemmings. While Chronic Logic’s Bridge Builder developed further and further toward a realistic simulation of physics in 3D, World of Goo embraces a cartoon aesthetic. While one could argue that this was just an aesthetic overhaul, World of Goo steps far, far further than this.

Every level’s theme re-uses the incredibly intuitive core mechanics to completely different effect. In one level you’re building a bridge, but in the next you’re creating a constantly rolling wheel. World of Goo has fully embraced anything you’d want to do with this core mechanic. From a design stand point, it’s masterful, and translates to a incredibly compelling and fun time. Highly recommended.

Flavius ‘Flawe’ Alecu (Programmer):
I wasn’t a very huge fan of the Wipeout games, mostly because I never played them before. But anything released on PSN ending in “HD” must be worth a shot, no? Wipeout HD turned out to be really fun and addictive.

The controls are way too advanced for me, even with the pilot assist on, but ending up last in every online race has never been so much fun before. The weapons you pick up could have had a bit more of an impact on the race, a la Mario Kart, but I suspect it’s just me who doesn’t really know how to use them well.

Since crashing in Wipeout isn’t really that much fun and that’s the thing I do best, I had to get my fix from Burnout Paradise. With the recent addition of sportbikes, day and night cycles and even more challenges I’ve been able to spend quite some time in Paradise City. Though I must admit I was a bit disappointed that the characters on the bikes didn’t turn into flying ragdolls during crashes.

Wipeout HD
Wipeout HD: Blink and you’ll miss it.

Steve ‘badman’ Hessel (Community Relations Manager):
After playing the first level mere months ago, I finally dusted off my copy of BioShock and wrenched/shotgunned/plasmid-ed my way through the rest of the game. It turned out to be a much more enjoyable experience than the rather lackluster opening level let on. Definitely a gaming experience I can recommend!

On the opposite side of the fun spectrum, I rolled my way through most of Beautiful Katamari, which unfortunately felt like a fairly lackluster port of the old PS2 game. It doesn’t even have autosave (I of course only discovered this when I picked up the controller again the next day) and calling the camera and controls frustrating puts it mildly. In somewhat related news, Top Spin 3 easily has the worst set of tutorials ever. The whole affair is about as intuitive as its newfangled control system, which is to say, not very. At all.

Ed ‘BongoBoy’ Stern (Senior Game Designer):
Between my usual clockwork-regular smiting of head against desk I had a probably-too-brief look at Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway. I was a fan of the first BiA – I was impressed by Gearbox’s historical verisimilitude and the effort they’d made to yoke together the two perma-bickering snorting stallions that are the tactical sim and the first person shooter. No crosshairs, just iron sights when iron-sighted! Tactical suppression, in first person! Fire and movement! Clocks above people’s heads! It was a little clunky but it was different and made with love and I hearted it back and was keen for more.

Alas, I didn’t get much joy from the PS3 version I played. Everything seemed significantly clunkier and all the gameplay seemed like gamework. The instant SloMo replay of headshots seemed gratuitous, and unskippable cutscenes were highly missable. Setting any commercial entertainment in such a hideous reality well within living memory is a tough ask. Company of Heroes did a great job of maintaining a genuine gravitas even though it was a sort-of-Zerg-rushing-RTS. I’ve heard BiA:HH plays significantly better on PC than on console so here’s hoping I’ll be less grumpy it upon my chuffing and puffing work machine.

Richard ‘Fluffy_gIMp’ Jolly (Media Director):
I’m still playing The World Ends With You on the DS and I can now safely give it the award for the most hours I’ve ever played a single DS game. I really just want to finish it so I can play something new, but those darn RPG/collection mechanics have got me hooked. That aside, it’s a refreshingly different game and I would recommend it to all DS owners.

Just on the horizon there’s some great games on the way; and wooooooohooo Fallout 3 just went gold!

What have you been playing? Let us know in the comments!