Currently Hurling Controllers / Mice At… – LEGO GRID Band

June 12, 2008

Grand Theft Auto 4 has come and gone, and so the eyes and hands here at Splash Damage turn to a new crop of games. With games like Lego Indiana Jones, GRID, Rock Band, and Enemy Territory: QUAKE Wars hitting consoles last week and with stuff like Metal Gear Solid 4, Battlefield: Bad Company, and Sins of a Solar Empire all set to assault our wallets before month’s end, the impending advent of Summer doesn’t appear to be affecting release schedules very much at all so far.

Let’s take a look at what we’ve been playing recently and what we’re looking forward to in the coming weeks:

Matt ‘Anti’ Lowe (Production Coordinator):
This last weekend was mainly spent in outer space on the PC version of Mass Effect. I always struggle to get more than two or three hours into a single player game before massive boredom sets in but Mass Effect has really got me hooked for some reason. The characters are great, the combat is fun (especially on the PC) and the conversation system works really well.

I’ve also been back to the best mod of all time (no, not Counter-Strike), the Defense of the Ancients Mod for Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne. This game is awesome! It breaks so many rules of multiplayer game design (too complex, games are too long, player numbers are fixed) and yet it is still hugely popular and really good fun to play.

Although I don’t have a PlayStation 3 and am dreading the 90 minute long cutscenes, I am still very keen to try Metal Gear Solid 4 in the next week. The question is, do I buy a PS3 for it or just buy it to play in the office? Perhaps I should just pray to Kojima to give us a PC port in the next six months!

Steve ‘badman’ Hessel (Community Relations Manager):
Rock Band has landed! I really didn’t know what to expect of this game going in (apart from a colossal price tag), but after the first few gaming sessions, it was clear that Rock Band is completely above and beyond my previous shredding addiction Guitar Hero III. The entire experience feels hugely polished and the Band World Tour mode is a ton of fun to play. Highly recommended!

I also had a go at Enemy Territory: QUAKE Wars on the Xbox 360. It’s a pretty solid adaption of our original PC game with the added bonus of being able to play it on a big telly while lying in bed. In other 360 news, I finally managed to get the last few remaining achievements in Viva Pinata. If you haven’t tried the game yet, do so now. Yeah, you’ll probably want to do it on your own and lie about it after, but it really is very fun and quite addicting. The Project Gotham Racing 4 downloadable content also found its way onto my harddrive and it proved to be a good bit of fun, though the included selection of new vehicles is a bit naff.

As far as games on the horizon go, the Civilization Revolution demo actually turned out to be a very intriguing affair and I’m tempted to pick up the full game when that comes out. The critically acclaimed Sins of a Solar Empire is finally coming to Europe too, so it looks like the coming weeks might be very strategic indeed.

Tim ‘Huntle’ Rose (Production Coordinator):
Hooray for Steven Spielberg! He may have had a hand in Indy’s demise, but he has brought us a fun and addictive game in the form of Boom Blox on the Wii. It’s a simple game with simple controls that combines puzzling single player with immensely competitive multiplayer action. This is probably why lunchtimes at Splash Damage have been turned into Boom Blox 4-player marathons for the last few weeks.

Staying with the Wii, I have also been enjoying Frontier’s Lost Winds. You control the wind via the Wiimote, giving you the ability to move your player character, fire, boulders and windmills amongst other things. It looks beautiful and cute, and the music is just lovely. Grab it from WiiWare, you won’t regret it!

Having just picked up my copy of Lego Indiana Jones from the Post Office today, I am looking forward to a bit of archeology and forgetting about the new film (apart from the monkey scene, which is inspired).

Richard ‘Fluffy_gIMp’ Jolly (Media Director):
LEGO Indian Jones on the Xbox 360 is 100% complete, eat that Steve! Read my gamer tag and weep πŸ™‚ Seriously though, I really enjoyed it this past weekend. It’s nothing revolutionary but its good fun to play; the mine cart level from Temple of Doom didn’t disappoint either. I’d recommend it as one of the few games you can play coop with your girlfriend on πŸ˜‰

On the DS I’m chipping away at Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings, but it’s a slog. It’s a departure from the standard Final Fantasy Adventure/RPG fare, and more like Final Fantasy Tactics (an RTS RPG). What I do like about it is if you fail a mission you still keep the XP you’ve achieved, this helps as largely the reason for failure is that the enemies are higher level than you, allowing you catch them up.

On the not too distant horizon there’s Alone the Dark 4, and it looks pretty awesome from the released media so far. And lest we forget, Metal Gear Solid 4 is out today, which I will still pick up despite the rather off-putting news that it features two 90 minute cut-scenes!

Ben ‘Randles’ Hopkinson (IT Manager):
Due to a pesky holiday to the emerald isle I’ve not been keeping up with my game-ercise routine. However on my return I quickly grabbed a copy of GRID.

The pack racing feels just like TOCA did many moons ago, but now the AI opponents more fantastic than frustrating. The movement of the other cars feels human, fallible, less predictable and certainly more aggressive than their GT, Forza and PGR peers, and the flashbacks replay innovation allows you to undo a mistake and leads to much braver flat out cornering and overtaking. So you get more fun, less frustration and the ability to really enjoy a good smash and tumble Burnout-style without spoiling your race.

Paul ‘MoP’ Greveson (Artist):
Currently, still Enemy Territory: QUAKE Wars (on PC though, I never worked out how to control FPS games on consoles)…

Looking to the future, though, I saw a cool hands-on demonstration video of Spore‘s Creature Creator, which apparently is getting released as a stand-alone mini-game in a month or so, prior to Spore’s full release near the end of the year. It looks quite impressive, considering all the procedural and parametric creature generation going on, the range of crazy aliens and animals you could make seems to be essentially infinite!

I can’t wait to give it a try, seems like it’d be fun just messing around with gluing limbs onto things even if you don’t get to actually play any sort of game with them yet.

Ed ‘BongoBoy’ Stern (Senior Game Designer):
Recently I’ve found myself replaying Relic’s excellent Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts standalone expansion in particular. I won’t waste much time hooting about how great these games are. If you haven’t already played them, even if you don’t like RTS games, especially if you don’t like RTS games, they’re consistently astonishingly well polished titles.

It’s amazing how they’ve manage to create and sustain a filmic sense of immersion throughout, even when you’re blundering/flailing/Zerg rushing, and it’s plain astonishing to realise that despite its immaculate WWII historical realism it’s basically the same game as (the also excellent) Warhammer 40K Dawn of War. Although that said, it does have fewer Eldar Fire Avatars that pick up your troops and wang them to the horizon using the flat of their flaming swords as tennis rackets.

Laurel ‘Tully’ Austin (Concept Artist):
I picked up Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training the other week and have found it surprisingly fun. Now that there’s no longer anybody legally obliged to subject me to state-run educational curricula, I’m finding it possible to actually enjoy doing simple maths as fast as I can! In spite of what Dr Kawashima tells me, I’m unconvinced that it meaningfully improves my brain power in life outside the game (if my “brain age” has fluctuated from 51 years to 20 in the last week, it makes me suspect something’s a tad off). It’s an amusing time-filler in any case.

Aubrey ‘Bezzy’ Hesselgren (Technical Game Designer):
This time around, I’ve barely had time to play anything, on account of using my spare time for the TIGSource Procedural Generation contest. Now that submission is over, I managed to blaze through some of the other entries. Considering the amount of time given to these games, it’s unfair to expect too much of them, but still, a few stand-outs deliver:

Dyson, by my buddies Alex May and Rudolf Kramers, is a mellow abstract RTS game. It’s got a lovely look to it, and has a fairly sedate pace (so much so that I could switch between apps and still enjoy it). The guys are going to develop it further, and I’m glad they are, because it’s already really rather nice. I may be premature in declaring a winner of the competition, but my money is on them… If I had any money. I lost my debit card on Friday πŸ™

MMORPG Tycoon by Trevor Powell is a sort of hilarious entry in that it makes a game out of the (often tedious and flame inducing) job of balancing MMOs. I was really struck at what a decent game it turned out to be – with the chosen theme, it could easily have gone toward “gimmick” territory, but it’s actually quite good!

The game that had me most addicted, though, was Self Destruct. This was done in one day by programmer Terry and artist Anabelle. It’s a nicely put together shooter. It’s tough, but fair and has an online highscore board which instantly brings out the competitor in me. I played for 2 hours straight without realizing, and got up to rank 15, before being knocked down the list by countless others.

What are you playing this week? Sound off in the comments!