Currently Hurling Controllers / Mice At… Viking Band: Vegas 2 Prologue

May 14, 2008

So now that the April Foolery is over and done with, let’s try and get back into the serious business that is the internet and this here blog. And what better way to do this than with a brand-new installment of What We’ve Been Playing? Actually, I can think of a few, but since I’ve already got the content for this update, let’s just go with it, shall we? As a special bonus, our newly imported Technical Game Designer Aubrey ‘Bezzy’ Hesselgren makes his blog debut this week, so let’s all give him a warm welcome.

Aubrey ‘Bezzy’ Hesselgren (Technical Game Designer):
Viking: Battle For Asgard came out this week. While a few reviews have been pretty critical of the combat (which does the job, but is nothing to write home about), and the style-over-substance big battles, the thing which really stuck out for me was the excellent handling of stealth.

Most of the time, when stealth isn’t the focus of a game, you’ll get a really phoned-in implementation. Despite Vikings not being known for their Ninja-like skills, Creative Assembly has done a stellar job. The genius is that the stealth doesn’t require any extra buttons or real knowledge to understand. It’s a self evidently obvious system, explaining itself perfectly through your avatar’s animation, rather than through gamisms like magic HUD eyeballs. It’s also very forgiving: even if you mess up the stealth attack, and the enemy is alerted, they’ll still have a “Shocked and Awed!” mode where they take very little damage to kill.

Rock Band is in the office, and I’ve yet to give the drums a try. I can’t wait.

Steve ‘badman’ Hessel (Community Relations Manager):
Rich and I have been playing through the Xbox 360 version of Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 in coop mode. Even though the game doesn’t offer any hugely jaw-dropping new features over the first game, there are a number of small improvements that make it worth picking up. Coop especially feels a lot more polished now and the multi-tiered XP system keeps you coming back for more.

We also finally got around to trying out Army of Two (X360) in all its coop glory, though I didn’t find it quite as engrossing as Rainbow Six. Aside from the coop mechanics, everything about Army of Two feels a bit like a bad action movie that accidentally fell out of the ’90s and on a game disc. It’s still pretty fun despite that, but doesn’t rank among my favorites for the platform.

As far as upcoming releases, we’ve got Gran Turismo 5 Prologue in the office now, which I’m looking forward to gently sampling. I’ll also try and pop in on the on-going Enemy Territory: QUAKE Wars 1.5 BETA community gaming events – keep an eye on the ETQW calendar for those.

Paul ‘MoP’ Greveson (Artist):
In between playing bouts of Soul Calibur 2 (Xbox version picked up from a bargain bin, hooray for the 360’s backward-compatibility!), I’ve been getting back into the swing of Civilization after grabbing Civ4 off Steam.

It’s a fair bit different than Civ2, which I played a lot of back in the day, but mainly good ways. It’s such an interesting and complex game, with many routes to victory… although I tend to prefer the all-out war approach!

In addition to this, I usually play a campaign or two of Enemy Territory: QUAKE Wars every day or so. It still amazes me that after all this time there are still new tactics emerging, and I regularly see crazy vehicle stunts or odd playing styles that I never thought were possible.

Steve ‘malarky’ Gaffney (Development Manager):
I have mainly been learning to disconnect my mind from my legs and arms in order to play the drums in Rock Band. Rock Band is awesome, but it is also very loud if you like hitting the drums hard. In fact, it’s so loud that I have to wait until everyone has left the office before I play.

As one of now four PS3 owners in the company, I felt it was my duty to download and play Gran Turismo 5: Prologue. I’ve got a number of issues with the GT games, which I won’t go into now for fear of triggering an unstoppable rant, but I still play every one of them to death. The basic mechanic of grinding for credits clearly triggers something in me*, even if it isn’t really that much fun. I kind of think that GT isn’t so much about racing as it is about cars (it’s a CAR-PG!), so I like the inclusion of the PGR-style objective races (goal: overtake all the cars in under a lap!). It breaks the monotony of winning 3 lap races by 2 clear laps because your car is way more powerful than the rest of the field.

Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 is top on my pile of games for playing this week.

Richard ‘fluffy_gIMp’ Jolly (Media Director):
My Oblivion addiction has reared its wondrous head once again, adding yet more hours to the total playtime (170+ hours). Now Head Mage Champion Assassin Blade Thief Grand Saviour of Cyrodiil, I’m a force to be reckoned with, despite the slightly awkward job title. I can only wonder what new levels of addiction Fallout 3 will bring when it arrives on my desk later in the year.

On the Xbox 360, it’s a big list – Army of Two and Rainbow Six Vegas 2 both held Steve and my interest for a good while on the co-op side, Steve killing everything in sight and me constantly waiting to be revived. Viva Piñata has also been the order of the day. Having originally dismissed it as a kiddie game, it’s been a fun little interlude which has most recently resulted in a small army of fez-wearing monkeys tearing up my garden in their never-ending quest for bananas.

I’ve also attempted Lost Odyssey but haven’t ventured much further than the first boss battle (Gordon is way ahead of me). It’s a very cinematic game which, dare I say it, has too much story, even for me.

Still gnawing through my controller cable desperately waiting for Grand Theft Auto 4. In the meantime, I’m going to start on Sam and Max season 2 which I’ve yet to play.

Aaron ‘Hoffa’ Hoffman (Lead Environment Artist):
GT5: Prologue is out and I’m already racing my way to purchase the Ferrari F1 car. I love motor racing and the PS3 has been lacking a racing sim up until now. I’m also looking forward to Race Driver: GRID later this year, but sadly, there are no V8 Supercars in it. 🙁 I decided chuck in the Oblivion disk for just a couple hours… bad idea! I’m addicted again, and finally have the Shadowmere. These two games plus Call of Duty 4 should keep me going until GTA4 comes out later this month!

That’s it for this week’s installment. What have you been playing recently and what are you looking forward to?