Currently Hurling Controllers / Mice At… Demos and Things

February 24, 2009

It’s been a few weeks since we last hurled peripherals at unsuspecting games, so it’s about time for another installment. After the absolute insanity that was the holiday season, it’s a bit strange to be back at “only” two or three big AAA releases a month. But, somehow, we’ll manage to cope.

In this installment, Richard Ham hobbits his way through Lord of the Rings: Conquest, Ed plays with Men of War, and Jamie totally na-na-na-na-na’s everyone in Rock Band 2. Take a look:

Richard ‘Rahdo’ Ham (Creative Director):
World of Goo is incredible. If I had played it last year, it would have been my game of the year. But I didn’t get around to it, so right now, it’s my #1 pick for 09’s GotY (never hurts to get started early).

I’ve also been playing a bit of Lord of the Rings Conquest, and I don’t get all the extremely negative reviews. It’s a fairly fun game… not OMG-set-the-world-on-fire, but solidly good fun. Very unfairly beaten up, and I’m not sure why it got the smear campaign. 56/100 average on Metacritic? That’s a cruel joke. The user review average of 7.6/10 seems much more credible and on the nose.

Paul ‘MoP’ Greveson (Technical Artist):
We’ve experienced something of a retro resurgence recently, due to Transport Tycoon Deluxe. Or, more accurately, OpenTTD, a free open-source client for running that old gem, Transport Tycoon Deluxe. Many of us here at SD had fond memories of the Tycoon game, and after digging around in old boxes at home to find the old discs (and a spare floppy drive to load them from – ancient!), we have managed to have several long and amusing games where our trains run frantically on time, steal each others’ coal and generally cause mayhem with tunnels, bridges and heavy excavation work.

Considering the game’s age (first released in 1995, it’s probably older than some ET:QW players!) the visuals hold up surprisingly well, and the gameplay mechanics are timeless. Quality gaming!

I’m also still regularly playing Enemy Territory: QUAKE Wars on the public servers, and played some really good campaigns recently.

Halo WarsEnsemble’s swan song Halo Wars is a promising one.

Edward ‘BongoBoy’ Stern (Senior Game Designer):
Ignore the none-more-generic title, the very-reasonably sized Men Of War demo looks absolutely stunning. The sequel to the sequel to the excellent but sadly under-known Soldiers: Heroes of World War II, it’s a tactical Real Time Strategy (is that a term? RTT? It should be) set in WWII, with squads and vehicles but also individual per-soldier inventory, splendid animations (at last, crew actually climb into a tank, not just walk up to it and disappear), really smart AI, destructible buildings, lovely terrain and foliage, a Direct Control key that turns the whole thing into a Third Person Shooter…there’s just so MUCH game there, depthwise and bigwise. The controls take a little getting used to, but the compensation is that it’s bloody brilliant and is apparently only the merest hint of what’s to come in the full game. Looks like that’s my WWII/tactical combat sim itch scratched for a long time to come.

The Halo Wars demo looks intriguing. At first glance it looks a really solid combination of the Halo universe with thumbstick-controllable RTS gameplay, although both humans and Combine do sort of play like the Flood at the moment (Select All – Attack!) The SP campaign looks really nice too. Huzzah!

Jamie ‘Fishbus’ Manson (Level Designer):
I got to play LittleBigPlanet a lot over Christmas, what a fantastic platformer! I spent most of yuletide with a stupid grin on my face watching my sackboy hop around some greatly imaginative levels. The physics system has totally left me gob smacked, how they work all the switches and levers, and indeed the scripting of all the levels uses mechanical and physics to pull off some really mind boggling tricks, traps and events.

Continuing my stupidly absurd passion for Rock Band, I gave Rock Band 2 a stress test last week. I love all the improvements that it adds to the formula; being able to use the one character for any of the instruments is certainly a much welcomed idea. That and being able to play World Tour with any number of people at any time, all under the same band. I’ve always appreciated the little details in the characters during a song. It was awesome to see my drummer turn to the camera off the side while playing to shout “Na na na na na” to Beck’s E-pro. Always thumbs up from me when it involves Harmonix!

Apart from that, I’ve been having multiplayer sessions with Civilization IV with lots of AI. Lots of drama, lots of impatient sighs and lots of fun.

Dawn of War IILots of things explode in the Dawn of War II beta.

Steve ‘badman’ Hessel (Community Relations Manager):
The Halo Wars demo really surprised me. Ensemble’s control scheme is probably as close to perfect as one can get on a console and it’s all wrapped up in extremely well-produced cinematics. Sure, it doesn’t have the tactical depth of, say, Company of Heroes, but I have a feeling it’ll be great fun nonetheless. I’ll be picking this one up for sure.

Continuing my RTS romp, I also spent some time playing the Dawn of War II multiplayer beta. After some intial concerns about the lack of base-building and its focus on small armies, I’m now sold on the concept and with there being campaign co-op, this should turn out to be another fantastic effort by Relic. What a great month for RTS gamers this is turning out to be.

Lastly and rather unexpectedly, I also played quite a bit of Monopoly on the Xbox. I didn’t have great expectations of any sort, but the game is actually really fun. There’s a new, fast-paced mode called Richest in it that allows you to have quick 15 minute games – just about the right amount of time for me. Recommended for Monopoly fans and those looking for a more casual game.

Richard ‘Fluffy_gIMp’ Jolly (Media Director):
This time I have been mostly playing on the DS. I picked up Civilization Revolution and Professor Layton and the Curious Village, and they’re both great! To start with Prof Layton, it’s an interesting take on those sleuth puzzle magazines you can still buy, only it’s set around a fairly engaging story. In order to progress, you must solve the puzzles that the village’s inhabitants relentlessly bombard you with. They are fun, and you do keep finding yourself saying “Oh just another puzzle and I’ll stop”, only to discover it’s now 3am. As for Civilization, it’s still the same old game but hasn’t lost any of its charm. And wow, is it a time killer.

Oh and who could forget the Fallout 3 DLC, Operation Anchorage. It was a lot of fun and left me eager for the other two packs coming later in the year. I may just wait for the third to come out, so I can play with the extended level cap as I’ve already maxed out my guy.

For the future, I’m looking forward to getting my teeth into the Grand Theft Auto IV DLC. Vrrrroooooooooom!

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