Not talked about games much recently, so I thought I’d do a quick roundup of what I’ve been playing recently:
Game of choice in our office at the moment is Battlefield: Vietnam, the followup to the wildly succesful multiplayer Battlefield: 1942 (which I believe is still second only to CounterStrike in terms of popularity). It’s still fundamentally the same game, except with the Allies and the Axis replaced by the American and the Vietcong, and the cliffs of Dover and rolling hills of the mid-European countryside replaced by the swamps and jungle of Vietnam. Basically, it’s a glorified expansion pack for BF1942, and to be quite honest, I can’t say as I’m terribly impressed with it – a lot of the maps feel quite unbalanced, and the planes and helicopters are still damned near impossible to fly.
My preferred ultra-violent FPS of choice at the moment, then, is Unreal Tournament 2004 – which is, again, basically a glorified expansion pack. This one, however, adds a whole slew of new gametypes over UT2003, introducing vehicular warfare to the series for the first time. Whilst UT2003 disappointed in many ways compared to the original Unreal Tournament, 2K4 brings things right back on track – the new maps are stunning: well laid out, good looking, and nicely balanced; the Assault levels make a welcome return; and the new Onslaught gametype is great (a difficult-to-explain-but-easy-to-play affair involving capturing control points; it’s also the only gametype to make use of the vehicles). The Bot AI seems to have got even better, with even the lower levels providing considerably more of a challenge than the old cannon-fodder style AI in the original UT. And it’s fast. Really, really fast. And it’s only cost me a tenner, too, so it’s officially bargain of the century. Ace.
It seems that Puyo Pop has finally been released for the GBA, which is a good thing. We had the Japanese ROM going around our office for ages a couple of years ago, and I played it to death back then. I picked the UK version up for a tenner last week, and the good news is that it’s still as stupidly addictive as ever. My only complaint, though, is that the difficulty curve is too shallow – the first four sets of levels are far too easy, with only the last set of the base set of levels and the unlockable labyrinth levels providing a serious challenge. Fortunately, there’s a multiplayer mode and a single player challenge mode to make up for this, so there’s plenty of life in it, even if the story mode doesn’t last as long as it could.
The general consensus surrounding Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles seems to be that the single player isn’t worth bothering with, and that the multiplayer is the bees knees. Well, I beg to differ. I’m thoroughly enjoying the single player (although I’m yet to try multiplayer) – I’m not a big RPG player (except for my near-terminal Final Fantasy Tactics: Advance addiction) so it’s Phantasy Star Online-esque action-RPG-lite gameplay suits me down to the ground. You go to an area, hack and slash your way to the boss, have a big boss fight, and move on, levelling up a few abilities or collecting new weapons as you go. No-brainer RPGing. Oh, and did I mention that it’s the best looking game in the world ever? It’s absolutely gorgeous, and it’s almost worth buying it just to look at it and go “oooooh”. Which you will. A lot.
Lastly, Prince of Persia: Sands of Time is one of those rare games where the 3D update of an old-school classic has actually produced a better game than the original. In this case, not only a vastly better game than the original, but a vastly better game than almost anything else I’ve played in the last year. It is, quite simply, brilliant – old school platforming brought bang up to date. Sure, there are plenty of niggles (the combat feels like it’s only been introduced to make the game seem longer – without it, you could probably play through the whole game in a little under 4 hours; with it, it’s still only about 10 hours in total) but they’re forgivable, because it’s just so much fun. If you have even the slightest interest in gaming, you owe it to yourself to get this game: it’s things like this that restore my waning faith in the games industry and prove that proper old-school gameplay isn’t dead after all.