What we've been playing this week.
Tom Orry, Editor - Football Manager 2013, PC
I won 14 trophies at Spurs in my 10 years in charge, but the lure of Barcelona was too strong to turn down. So as of now I'm the Barca manager, but things feel a bit strange. For one, while players are desperate to move to the club, the clubs don't want to deal for anything less than £120 million for a player of 3.5 stars or higher. Before I left spurs I managed to sign a couple of the top players in the game world for less than £50 million each, and I'm already starting to regret the move. For one, I'd built the Spurs team over hours and hours of time, poaching youngsters and seeing them grow into superstars. At Barca I've got loads of superstars but they're not mine.
Still, there's hope. The previous manager seems to have run them into the ground, with almost no up and comers in a squad full of players past their prime. There's the opportunity to rebuild, but I hope that I can at least grab a few youngsters for under £20 million a pop.
David Scammell, Deputy News Editor - Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Xbox 360
In between rounds of Wordament (which, if any budding wordsmiths are reading, is bogglingly brilliant by the way), most of my playtime this week has been spent chasing down Call of Duty 4's ghastly 'Mile High Club' achievement. I'd nailed the tactic: Sprint forward, knife toilet man, flash, run, duck, flash, shoot, up the stairs, flash, shoot, flash, flash, run, slow-mo slot, boom. No really, BOOM. It all sounds quite simple on paper, but in reality it's absurdly challenging.
Nevertheless, it's also unfathomably compelling. You just don't see levels like Mile High Club any more. The level design is so tight, with enemies and furniture so particularly placed that it demands the player to learn the architecture and scripting, and rely on muscle memory and split-second reactions to even survive the first few seconds. It's the kind of thing that you would imagine publishing executives scoffing at in the present day, but as an end-game bonus designed to keep the disc sitting in the tray, I'd much rather see more ideas like this than a poorly bolted-on multiplayer component.
I finally unlocked the achievement on Thursday night. I've unlocked a fair few over the course of the 360's lifetime, but this could end up being the most satisfying of all.
Matthew Nellis, Video Producer - Firefall, PC
On paper, Red 5 Studios' debut is everything I want from a game at the moment. A sci-fi MMO shooter with flexible classes, deep customisation through crafting and competitive multiplayer built to be an eSport. All of this wrapped up in a free-to-play package.
So after playing the beta for the past few days, is the promise anywhere near the reality? Not quite, but it's certainly going in the right direction. While there are still a lot of gameplay elements yet to be added, such as a proper single-player episodic campaign, the features currently in place are fairly substantial. Dynamic world events, akin to Guild Wars 2 and Rift, serve their purpose well by making the world seem alive and bring players together. Resource collecting, so commonly a point-click-wait chore in MMOs, now becomes an event in itself. You first scan the surrounding area by slamming a massive hammer into the ground, which performs a kind of 'seismic scan', revealing quantities of ore in the area. You then call in a 'Thumper', basically a giant mining drill which literally drops in from the sky and crashes into the ground. As the thumper mines, you're tasked to defend it from waves of enemies until it's 100 per cent full.
There are no levels either, and you're never locked to just 1 class. The Secret World has a similar system whereby instead of gaining XP, you gain points to unlock skills and abilities as you choose. In Firefall you still gain XP, but this is essentially the games currency which you use to unlock skills for a battleframe (a class such as Assault, Engineer, Biotech and Recon).
At the moment I'm having a ton of fun with the game. It's part Borderlands, part Tribes, and elements from various MMOs throughout the years. It's hard to judge the longevity of the game at this stage as it's still only in closed beta, but for me it's definitely something I'll be keeping an eye on.
Matt Lees, Video Production Editor - Various things
This week I've been playing even more Dota 2 than usual as part of my efforts to create a series of tutorial videos that don't immediately terrify noobs. It's easier said than done, however, but hopefully you'll see the fruits of this labour popping up online early next week. When I'm not busy raging at Russians who simply refuse to purchase any wards, I've been popping on to The Witcher 2 for microscopic breakfast sessions. In the time it takes me to drink my morning cup of tea, I'm able to chop up about three nekkers. Current estimates suggest I'll have completed the game at some point in early 2043.
Last but not least, Ni No Kuni. I've only played a tiny bit of this so far, and that was on the Live Stream with Mr. Nellis. I've installed it at home on my PS3 though, and I'm looking forward to digging in further this weekend. As our astute reviewer pointed out, Drippy is a triple-A slice of legend – even if the rest of the game ends up being balls, I'm still willing to put the hours in just to spend more time with this yellow Welsh lump of joy.