On Tuesday night myself and John found ourselves standing outside of the Century Club on Shaftesbury Avenue in the West End of London. We were there thanks to Ubisoft, who had invited us to check out their Christmas games line up on the roof terrace of this swanky Soho club.
Despite having read earlier in the day that the reason the club was called the Century Club is because it has exactly one hundred stairs, we made the schoolboy error of walking to the roof. The only consolation for me was that John was even more knackered than me by the time we reached the top, but then he does have a few years on me! Let me tell you. If there’s one thing in life that’s better than a free beer, it’s a free beer when you’ve just walked up 100 stairs.
The dimly lit and cosy roof terrace offered some excellent views across London, but more importantly to us, some excellent views of lots of new games ranging across the different consoles. Being keen to make huge fools of ourselves, and wanting to do anything involving balance before the beer sunk in, we first gravitated towards the section set up to show off the new Wii titles.
Rayman: Raving Rabbids TV Party
The first game that we played was Rayman: Raving Rabbids TV Party, which is a game with a truly brilliant sense of humour, and had me laughing out loud a number of times in the short time I spent with it. Who wouldn’t laugh at a mini-game involving sledding down a hill on an upturned cow, especially when you can hit a jump and perform hilarious rabbit on cow trick combos? A crazy person, that’s who. And to make you feel as ludicrous as the game itself, you can control your bovine bobsled by sitting on the Wii Fit board and leaning yourself left, right, forwards and backwards. Tremendous fun, even if it made my already beaten legs feel stiffer! I also played a dancing mini-game with one of the girls who was demonstrating the game, and enjoyed that too. A free beer and a dance with a girl (sort of) – the night was going well.
Shaun White Snowboarding
Another game using the Wii Fit board was Shaun White Snowboarding, which offered a slightly more serious way to zoom down the side of a mountain; atop a snowboard rather than an extremely rare steak. This was an enjoyable game, with graphics that were actually very impressive given that they aren’t normally the Wii’s forte. I didn’t really get the hang of any tricks, but I saw several people perform some great ones. John tried out the 360 version, which is played with the normal controller. He thought that, while it was OK, there was some work still to be done before release as he managed to fall through the scenery!
Petz Sports: Dog Playground
Being male, and in our thirties, Petz Sports: Dog Playground for the Wii wasn’t really being aimed at me and John, but we had a go anyway. Apparently the target audience is 6-12 year olds, so we did find it a bit advanced for us. Seriously, though, this really was one for the kids. Look after your puppy, dress him up, pet him, and compete against your friends in a Crufts style obstacle course race – all good fun for kids, and it even put a smile on John’s face! The lady who had been demonstrating it all day had obviously been passing the time wisely, as she had dressed her dog in a jumper, shorts, sandals… and the sort of moustache you see in 18th century paintings. Most disturbing.
Planet Rescue: Wildlife Vet
Stepping up a little from pet dogs to wild animals is Planet Rescue: Wildlife Vet, another Wii title aimed at children who love animals. In this game you play a vet who has to work your way up through different animals, helping them all out. The level we saw was a big cat that had a nasty dental infection. Using the Wii remote, you had to hunt down the injured beastie with a listening device, then tranquillise it and finally clean up it’s mouth and file down it’s teeth. Like most Wii games, it was bright, colourful and cartoonish, and would be simple enough for kids to play without them getting stuck.
Prince of Persia
The new Prince of Persia game was next on my agenda; partly because I was quite interested in the game, but also because after all that Wii action I needed a sit down. The new game has a very distinctive visual style, very bright and colourful, with a partly cel-shaded look to it. I found myself thinking of it as part Ico, part Dark Chronicle. I played it on the Xbox 360, but the PS3 version was right next to us and looked near identical. The platforming was solid and good fun, and the main character is something of a joker, with little quips and one-liners. The combat was good, with an interesting combo system, but it was frequently interrupted as I was playing on the first level and the tutorial kept kicking in to try and help out. Once you’re past the first level though, I’m sure this distraction will go away and you’ll be free to kick some arse with gauntlet, sword and acrobatic combos. I could have played this for a lot longer, but we only had a couple of hours and there were lots of games to see, so to quote The News Of The World: I made my excuses and left.
Far Cry 2
There were more consoles set up for Far Cry 2 than for any of the other games. In fact, there were 9 in total, one showing off the single player, and the others all networked together for four on four team action. I knew Far Cry 2 would be one of Ubisoft’s biggest titles, but I was personally thinking that it’d just be yet another first person shooter. After a short demonstration of the game though, I realised I was wrong. Far Cry 2 is an incredibly impressive game, which is amazingly detailed and immersive. I found myself saying “That’s a nice touch” almost every few seconds as we were shown the games myriad of impressive features. The scenery is stunning and the playing areas are huge, and you can appreciate the scenery as there is no HUD at all to clutter up the screen. It was just jam packed with neat details, such as when our demonstrator showed us what happens when you use a flame-thrower on an ammo pick up; once it gets burning the bullets start to heat up and pop out all over the place, in a most realistic fashion. I was impressed, and then the guy broke out the level editor, which is truly stunning. The real-time storm/weather effects that were layered on while we watched were nothing short of outstanding, as was the ability to raise the water table of the entire environment to create puddles, ponds and ditches on the fly. Also, our demonstrator told us that every single building in the single player game is available to be placed into the multiplayer custom built levels, which is yet another very nice touch.
All in all, I think I can safely speak for both John and myself when I say that we had a great night, and there was a little something for everyone there. I left with a slightly depleted liver and a slightly expanded game shopping list – which can only be a good thing. What with all these games, and others from other companies, I think all of us gamers are going to have a pretty happy christmas this year.