Monday, November 15, 2004

The Rundown: 15th to 21st November
Posted by JayGo :: 1:01 PM

Welcome to The Rundown. Each week, we'll be 'running down' (see what I did there?) the games that are set to be released into shops in both the UK and the US over the next seven days, and attempting to steer you in the right direction for any purchases you may make. And boy, did we pick one hell of a week in which to start this feature up..

Let's start by looking at the USA, where undoubtably the biggest release this week is Dora The Explorer (GBA). You get to take Dora through seven action-packed levels and using over twenty activities and abilities in your quest to.. what? You mean you're NOT looking forward to this one? Eh, suit yourself.

There's a lot of big games out this week, in fact. Tomorrow will see millions of gamers finally able to get their hands on Half Life 2 (PC), with the boxed version appearing in stores and downloads via Steam being activated. Reviews that have appeared so far have praised the revolutionary use of physics, strong characters and varied gameplay.. and it does seem that the third of the Big 3 games of the season (after GTA:SA and Halo 2) has comfortably lived up to the hype. You can expect more thoughts on this one to be posted on Another Castle in the weeks to come. Interestingly, also out this week is the first game other than HL2 to make use of the Source engine, Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines (PC). Well, that didn't take long.

The latest installment of the Metal Gear series is also out this week, in the form of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (PS2). Who knows, maybe this time the plot might actually be understandable? The setting has changed, with the action now taking place in a jungle in the 1960s, and this adds features such as traps and camouflage to the otherwise familiar gameplay. Impressions thus far seem more positive than those which met MGS2.. again, expect AC to be bringing you more on this one.

Now, I don't know how things are in the US, but over here in Britain the anticipation around Metroid Prime 2: Echoes (GC) has barely stretched above levels of 'meh'. Seems strange that a game released to such widespread praise last year can't get much interest going in the sequel, but still. Maybe it's a victim of all the other big names around at this time of year. MP2 appears at first glance to be more of the same, but reviews talk of improved play mechanics, a deeper, more involved plot, and a half-decent multiplayer mode. So if you're one of those who really liked the first game, you could do a hell of a lot worse..

Fancy a game you probably won't complete until 2010? Sadists who enjoyed continually dying in the first one will be rushing to the stores this week to buy Viewtiful Joe 2 (GC, PS2). As much as I liked the first game, I haven't seen anything sufficiently different about the second one to persuade me it needs to be bought.. but that's just me. There's more abilities, more levels, and a second selectable character in the form of Joe's girlfriend. For some of you, that might be enough.

EA release another of their all-format blockbusters this week, with Need For Speed Underground 2 (PS2, XBox, GC, GBA, PC). It attempts to happily marry the street racing and car-customisation of the first game with a free-roaming environment similar to Grand Theft Auto.. not the worst of ideas by any means. However, playing the demo for a while shows that the combination of the two ends up feeling a bit off, with neither of the parts meeting the required standard. You want exciting racing action, get Burnout 3. You want freeroaming with your driving, buy one of the GTAs. You want more of both? THEN consider this.

You may have spotted that most of the games this week are highly antipated sequels.. but not all! Some are not-at-all anticipated sequels too! As badly received as the first game was, I'm quite a fan of Blinx 2: Masters of Time & Space (XBox). Really, the demo I've played was quite good.. and it doesn't hurt that it'll be cut-price in the UK, either. Most of the faults from the first game are now absent, and a new set of characters introduces stealth-based gameplay into the mix too. Anyone looking for a platformer on the XBox should at least give it a rental.

What with Halo 2, Killzone, Metroid, Half Life 2, Medal of Honor and numerous others around, you'd think there was no more room for any FPS games right now. Wrong. Call of Duty: Finest Hour (PS2, XBox, GC) ventures out into the great unknown this week, bringing more war-based first person shooting action to the gamesplaying public. Quite how it will perform against such opposition remains to be seen, though. Oh, and speaking of war, Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon 2 (XBox) also sees a release this week. Never got on with the first one, but you might.

Also out this week:

None of the above appealing to you? Really desperate to spend some money anyway? Fine, here's a list of all the other titles emerging in the US this week...
  • Playstation 2: Alien Hominid, Backyard Wrestling 2: There Goes The Neighborhood, Castle Shikigami 2, Choro Q, Crash 'N' Burn, Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3, ESPN College Hoops 2K5, Fight Club, King Arthur, NCAA March Madness 2005, World Championship Poker
  • XBox: Atari Anthology, Backyard Wrestling 2: There Goes The Neighborhood, Cabela's Big Game Hunter 2005 Adventures, Crash 'N' Burn, Dance Dance Revolution Ultramix 2, ESPN College Hoops 2K5, Fight Club, Forgotten Realms: Demon Stone, Godzilla: Save the Earth, Greg Hasting's Tournament Paintball, King Arthur, NCAA March Madness 2005, Pinball Hall of Fame, World Championship Poker
  • Gamecube: Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean, King Arthur, Room Zoom, Scaler, World Championship Pool 2004
  • PC: Bicycle 21 Casino: Texas Hold 'Em, BreakQuest, CSI: Miami, Dragon's Lair 3, EVE Online: Exodus, Galactic Civilizations: Deluxe Edition, Hot Wheels Stunt Track Challenge, Joint Operations: Escalation, Konung 2, MTX Mototrax, Sonic Heroes
  • Gameboy Advance: Beyblade G-Revolution, Dead to Rights, Donkey Kong Country 2, Dora the Explorer: Super Star Adventures, F-18 Super Hornet, Fear Factor: Unleashed, Golden Nugget Casino, Pac Man World, Yu Yu Hakusho: Tournament Tactics
Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom:

So, to the UK, home of delayed launches and much, much waiting. You know those Americans are playing Dead Or Alive Ultimate.. guess when we get to play it? Yeah, that's right - April. *sigh* Anyway, let's look at the big titles that WILL be turning up this week. First up, receiving parallel launches with the USA are Half Life 2, Need for Speed Underground 2 and Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines. More on these can be found up there.

Three quite big games finally make their way across the pond, having been launched in America a fair while back. Mario vs Donkey Kong (GBA) has already been reviewed on this very site by the fair hand of Dan, so check that out if you haven't already. Meanwhile, Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault (PC) is a first-person shooter sequel, being released in Britain in the same week as Half Life 2. So, good luck with that. Oh, and there's another foriegn RPG in the form of Tales of Symphonia (GC).. good, if you like that kinda thing.

So, that leaves us with the games making their debut. First, we have Singstar Party (PS2). Yes, it's a karaoke game. Yes, that is a guily pleasure of mine. This stand-alone expansion on the popular Singstar contains thirty new songs, and a new duets mode enabling you to sing along with a friend. Whether or not you'll still be friends by the end of the song remains questionable. Still, I'll enjoy singing away to Kylie Minogue and Franz Ferdinand, even if most of you readers won't. Don't worry, I'll spare you from hearing the results..

Also making a debut over in the UK this week, Worms: Forts Under Seige (PS2, XBox, PC) is the latest in the popular series of Worms strategy games. It's more of a straight sequel to Worms 3D than anything else, with the additions of fort building and destructible environments adding to the traditional carnage. If you've already played Worms 3D you should know whether this will appeal or not, as the basic play mechanic hasn't changed that much. If you're looking for an introduction to the series, though, this is probably the best place to start.

So, that's about all for this week. Feel free to comment using the handy link below, and I'll be back in seven days with yet more releases to talk about. Who knows, maybe some of them WON'T be sequels for once. Still, apparently, there's some new Nintendo console out or something. Should be interesting. See ya next time!

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