There are at least nine potentially great games coming out on Xbox 360 in the next three weeks. That's more than in the entire year so far put together. No one has time and money for them all. Games publishers are crazy.
Before this deluge hits, here are some thoughts on the games I've played over the last few months but haven't had the chance to review. If I don't share them now, it's just not going to happen.
In fairness, some of the games I didn't play that much but, you know, that was because they weren't very good. If a game hasn't got interesting after a couple of hours then something is seriously wrong...
Warhammer: Battle March (15) - Xbox 360 - Hurrah a real-time strategy game set in the Warhammer universe created by Games Workshop! There's no faffing with gathering resources or building bases, it's merely a simple case of arranging your army and leading it tactically into battle...
Er, so was that hold down the right-trigger, press left on the d-pad and then tap A or was it click the left-stick, tap the right-bumper and then hold X? No, no, that's not right... Maybe it was the right-trigger, left on the d-pad and then Y... Oh, never mind, I'll just select everything I can see and charge those goblins... If I can untangle my fingers, that is...
Seriously, the controls have been made too complicated in order to fit in a host of complex commands, meaning even simple commands are impossible to pull off in the heat of conflict. Worse, there's no way to save during battles, so a single screw-up results in going all the way back to the start of the level.
Broken. Even the script is dreadful. 3/5 if you're a desperate Warhammer fan, else 1/5.
Pure (3+) - Xbox 360 - Drive a quad bike around at crazy speeds, doing crazy jumps and pulling crazy tricks in order to go at even crazier speeds. Looks great but upgrading your bike is fiddly and having to pull tricks all the time to earn boost can get wearying. Personally I prefer Burnout Revenge but this is definitely worth a rental. 4/5.
Condemned 2 (18) - Xbox 360 - The original Condemned was a decent launch title for the 360 with a scary journey through crumbling buildings on the trail of a serial killer. The hand-to-hand combat was excellent but the story was rather vague and the gameplay and environments were rather repetitive.
Oddly, the demo makes the sequel look like more of the same and I was somewhat nervous about even bothering to rent it. I'm glad I did. The developers have worked hard to improve almost every aspect of the original. The combat is even better and there's much more to see and do. Puzzles break up the action well. The forensic investigation is still hardly CSI but it does require some thought this time round.
The atmosphere is fantastic. 4/5.
Conan (18) - Xbox 360 - Hack, hack, hack, jump, hack, stupendous limb-severing hack, hack, jump, hack, cataclysmic whirling hack of death, hack, repeat.
If you've played the demo you've pretty much seen it all apart from the occasional topless slave girl.
Travel back in time and give the game to your teenage self. 2/5.
Metroid Prime 3 (12+) - Wii - Step into the shoes of a futuristic bounty hunter, shoot things and hunt out new equipment.
Exactly like Metroid Prime but with different controls. Being able to aim with the wiimote is great but having to frequently use awkward-to-reach buttons is a pain. The motion-sensing is pretty irritating too. Combine this with the reappearing opponents, lack of checkpointing, constant traipsing about, first-person platforming and the need to search out savepoints, and it all feels rather like hard work.
Some people love the exploration and atmosphere, though. 3/5.
House of the Dead 2 and 3 (15) - Wii - Shoot zombies using the wiimote as you're moved around automatically. Sadly, using the wiimote isn't as much fun as using a proper lightgun and running out of lives sends you all the way back to the beginning of the entire game to suffer the ugly graphics and awful voice-acting all over again. 2/5.
Assassin's Creed (16+) - Xbox 360 - Leap across rooftops as a Medieval assassin, do it again, possibly ride a horse for miles, suffer a hugely tedious cutscene and then leap across some more rooftops. Scarily, this is actually less interesting than it sounds and that's not even taking into account the modern-day subplot set in an office.
Assassin's Creed's huge world looks great but it's empty of gameplay. A sandbox game without any sand. 2/5.
Grand Theft Auto IV (18) - Xbox 360 - Travel round a vast city, undertake violent missions and build your own criminal empire. Again.
You can go bowling, play darts and surf an entire fake internet but the city's a maze, getting places is often dull, the difficulty is all over the shop and there's still no checkpointing or proper mission restart option. Oh, and the distance-blurring effect made me squint the whole time and gave me a headache when I played on an HD display, but some of the text was barely readable on a normal telly. Despite enjoying previous GTA games I really didn't have much fun.
There's plenty of sand in this sandbox... but it's all a little dry. Disappointing. Play Saints Row instead. 3/5.
Zack and Wiki - Quest for Barbaros' Treasure (7+) - Wii - A point-and-click adventure. Wander around collecting objects and use them to solve puzzles. Use a saw to cut down a pole and then hold the pole in a fire to make a torch to see in dark tunnels, that sort of thing.
This would be great if it didn't have a tendency to frequently and unexpectedly kill you and send you right back to the start of the level. The game uses the wiimote well but it quickly becomes too frustrating to be fun.
May make you want to cut it up with a saw and then set fire to it. 3/5.
So there we have it. Summary: Rent Pure or Condemned 2 to tide you over the last few days until Fallout 3 comes out...