The games we've been playing this week.
Tom Orry, Editor - Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, PC, PS3, Xbox 360
I've played most iterations of Counter-Strike over the years, but I've never been a huge fan. Having now seen out the 45 minute trial period on the Xbox 360, I feel the same about Global Offensive. This is going to make me sound like a complete noob (which I probably am to be fair), but the thing I struggle with the most is working out if that guy running towards me with a gun is on my side or not. Generally I'll spot someone, stare at them for a fraction of a second, go to pull the trigger, think better of it because I'm afraid I'm about to shoot a team mate, and then get shot in the face. A small part of my brain is telling me to hand over 1200 Microsoft Points in order to play the full game in order to get better and hopefully learn to enjoy it - the rest of my brain is telling me to play New Star Soccer instead.
Neon Kelly, Video Production Editor – Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, PC, PS3, Xbox 360
By my reckoning, it has been at least eight years since I last played Counter-Strike to any serious extent. It's a long time to stay away from a franchise, especially one that's changed so little in the interim. Originally I planned to hold out on GO until I'd bought a new PC, but earlier this week I caved and bought the 360 version. And despite my initial concerns about how the game would handle on a pad, I have to say that it's bloody marvellous. I'd forgotten just how pure and focused it is; I've seen lots of newcomers moaning about the absence of killstreaks, unlocks, and sights to aim down, but for me this is precisely why CS works so well. It makes Call of Duty look like a bloated, needlessly complicated mess. Granted, that's the opinion of someone who's always struggled with CoD, but now that Counter-Strike is back in my life, I doubt I'll even bother to look at Blops 2.
Martin Gaston, Reviews Editor - Dota 2, PC
Hello friends! Here's another 150-odd words about Dota 2 that you can quickly scroll past to see what Dave's currently playing. Been having an odd week this week and I'm ping-ponging between this and League of Legends a bit - namely because Matt doesn't really want to play Dota 2 anymore, and I'm sure he's got his own story to tell about all that. But, well, it's incredibly hard to play both simultaneously when you're not particularly good at either, because the habits you pick up playing one don't work in the other. Which means I've ended up worse at both games, apart from one round where I absolutely destroyed the opposition as Lich. But, yes, I'm getting worse at Dota 2 after 80 hours played. Thanks, Matt!
Also, it's my birthday today. I'm 26, so I'm basically dead.
David Scammell, Staff Writer - Sleeping Dogs, Xbox 360
Whoever said that video games can't be entertaining and educational needs to play Sleeping Dogs. I've been taught more Cantonese cuss words this week than I have in 26 years, learned that drinking fizzy pop makes you stronger, and realised that getting a girl into bed is as simple as taking her to a Judo class. So, if you see a bloke wandering around Croydon with a girl on his arm swigging back Irn Bru and yelling Chinese profanities, it might be me. Although knowing Croydon, that won't exactly be an unusual sight...
Nevertheless, I'm 10 hours into Sleeping Dogs and, though I haven't yet found any of the titular puppies, I'm enjoying it a lot more than I expected to. As an open world game it does just enough to keep you interested: the combat is superb, the city is interesting, and there are a tonne of things to see and do, including - you got it - snatching up all those collectibles. But there are also things that I greatly dislike about it. Vehicle handling is atrocious, mission design is weak, and - as intentional as it may or may not be - the story is far too clichéd for its own good. The karaoke mini-game, too, is a rotten cherry on an otherwise fairly scrummy cake.
As a side note, have any of you struggled to get a hold of a copy of Sleeping Dogs? After trawling Croydon high street and a selection of shops and supermarkets across parts of Greater London, almost every retailer I've found seems to be sold out of United Front Games' kung-fu open worlder. That's great news for Square, of course, but a worrying indication, perhaps, that retailers and/or the publisher were cautious of the IP's potential.
Matthew Nellis, Video Producer - Ghost Recon Online, PC
So as mentioned on this week's podcast I've been dipping my toes into the free to play world of Ghost Recon Online. It's a satisfying experience so far and I've yet to feel hampered by the progression system which is what usually happens in these free to play ventures. I'm currently rocking as a level 8 assault class and have gained enough in-game credits to purchase a new rifle, body armour and keep myself with a plentiful supply of HE grenades (that's right, 'nades are classed as consumables and so have to be purchased before every game). Now I'm not sure if I'm super good at this game or if everyone else is super bad, but I'm regularly getting high kill/death ratios and being awarded 'Best Assault' at the end of the round. I think I might just have found my calling. See you on the pro circuit.