This years ECTS has seen a host of new titles and a host of sqeuels coming to a console or PC near you. We run done some of our favourites that are due to be released over the next months.
Ground Control II
Following on from the RTS of a few years past, this latest offering from VU Games sees increased detail and a stronger focus on graphics and gameplay.
Based over 24 missions the levels still seem to be charged with plenty of action. Gone is the base build extremes of command and conquer styled gameplay and in with a drop ship situation that allows you to bring in more vehicles and troops as long as you hold an airstrip. While this may be concerning to some we felt this made a nice change and meant that the game was more focused on combat rather than resource management. With combat so fresh on the mind, its no surprise that changes have been made here to. Now you have the ability to break you selected troops into flanking manoeuvres and confuse enemy troops via clever cross fire traps.
The other main notable factor is landscape. Now landscape really does make a difference in both how you troops are detected and their military might once they are. Hills are understably hard to take as you are attacking a highly defensive position and the game reflects this well but its not just gameplay that has been overhauled. Graphics are stylized and gritty with reflective marshland water and savannah grasses to take you eyes off the fighting.
Ground Control II is due to be launched by VU Games Q1/Q2 2004
While Ground Control offers gamers the chance to battle in the future, BC is based in the battlefields on Europe at the time of the second world war. Based on historical battles of the time there will supposedly be over 83 levels to get your teeth into.
Graphics like GCII are very impressive with plenty of detail paid to vehicles and troops alike. Once again river ripple and grasses sway.
It also seems that bases are a thing of the past for the new wave of RTSs as BC does support then either. Here missions are based around keeping you men and calling in air strikes for additional support.
Gameplay also sees the introduction of a Role Playing Game scenario into the mix and the longer individual soldiers survive within your game the better they become at certain skills and task. Give an infantry solider the task of manning your artillery guns and he will do a piss poor job
BC is due to be launched by Codemasters Q1/Q2 2004
Every once in a while you come across something different for the first person shooter. XIII or thirteen is just one such game. Based on a graphical style similar to an Airplane escape manual or comic book the game is a mix of 2D animation within a 3D background. On the surface the concept sounds appalling, but in practice is actually works very well as everything is spelt out (footsteps are represented by tap tap tap on the screen as well as the noise). Better still the gameplay is good enough to match. This is going to be one of the benchmark games for the X-Box and one that might just save the console losing the battle altogether with Sony and the PlayStation2
(Updated August 30 2003 - XIII won both Best Console Game and Overall Best Game of the Show)
With the atrocities of September eleventh the humble fire-fighter was thrown into the spotlight as the ensuing hero of the hour, and rightly so.
It wasn't long therefore before the gaming world got its hands on the idea and made a game of it all. Not 9/11 before you reel back in horror, but being one of a fire-fighter. Konami famous for Metal Gear Solid are asking us to dare the flames in this third person fire fest.
The task - simple, get into the building, put the fire out and save the people in side. Initial gameplay looks good if not a little linear. After all your charged with an axe and a hose pipe.
The other publisher to be pushing fire-fighting, if not in a slightly different vain is THQ. With Warhammer 40000:FireFighter.
While some games strive to be as realistic as possible there are other that are firmly routed in the fun side of things. Drake is one such game and as the graphics profess this game is a third person shooter based in a world not too dissimilar from the Batman cartoon series. Punching makes Pows, blams and smacks while the matrix style freeze frame option while old, well executed to make for interesting gameplay and great eye candy.
Drake is only some 15 levels long although the games developers suggest that these fifteen levels are so jammed packed with bad guys, tasks and action that it will feel a whole lot longer. The verdict is still out on that.
Ubisoft's current version of the Online RPG still holds the number one title for an online game, and if version II is anything to go by then it is likely to retain that title for some time yet. Based this within a more RPG environment the game takes both a more easy graphical style to both play and use. Those familiar with Microsoft's Dungeon Siege RTS/RPG will be right at home and this format is likely to bring a lot more people to the genre.
(Updated August 30 2003 - Everquest II won Best Online Game of the show)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Anyone who has paid arcade games will remember the classic four player Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Well Konami has brought all the action and gameplay to the X-Box. Due to be launched in February, this version unfortunately only supports two players. However if you can get past this then once again will you be able to say Cowabunga as you chose to play Leonardo , Donatello , Michelangelo , Raphael . Turtles in a half shell - Turtle magic.
Stuart Miles was on the secret panel of judges for this years ECTS Awards.