The games we've been playing this week.
Tom Orry, Editor - New Star Soccer, iOS
I'm still playing NSS on my iPod Touch more than any other game, and things have moved on quite dramatically since we last spoke. I'm now playing for Arsenal (yes, the Arsenal from the Premier League) and have played two games for England. My rise to fame hasn't been easy, and I had some misgivings about signing for Arsenal, but the money was just too good to turn down.
Despite my success my reputation with my manager and fans fluctuates constantly. One minute I'm the talk of the town, the next I failed to make two passes in a game (or dared to shoot and missed), and I'm on the bench and the fans boo every time I receive the ball.
At the moment I'm saving my pennies to buy a private island, and also hoping Arsenal's slip from 4th in the league to 12th isn't because of me. Even so, things are looking good for O - a player I lazily named on the assumption I'd be done with the game after an hour. How wrong I was.
Neon Kelly, Deputy and Features Editor – PES 2013, PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Yeah, I know: I've been playing a football game. What's that about, eh?
Despite my violent lack of interest in the sport, I actually used to spend quite a lot of time playing PES; I have a mate who insisted on playing whenever we met up, and for a while I was almost semi-competent at it... as long as my friend picked Scotland, and I got to play as France. This was in the days when Thierry Henry was game-breakingly effective.
In any case, I don't really do football games anymore, but this week I jumped aboard the demo for PES 2013. I was playing against Dave, and to be quite blunt, the only reason I'm talking about the game here is because I did quite well. As a result, I can honestly say that PES 2013 is the most fun I've had with a football game all year.
The fact that it's the only football game I've played all year is beside the point...
David Scammell, Staff Writer - Darksiders II, Xbox 360
When it comes to THQ titles, there's always that thing where the end product never feels quite as good as it probably should do. Just look at the publisher's recent back catalogue: Homefront, Darksiders, de Blob, Red Faction... Sure, they're all okay games, but each one lacks that spark, that extra bit of care and attention that you would expect from a true AAA title.
With Darksiders II, though, Vigil appears to have broken the THQ curse. Despite hearing good things about the sequel before going in, I still hadn't been expecting what I found, partly because I didn't feel the original quite deserved the level of praise it received from some of my peers, but more so because of the 80-something lay-offs at the developer earlier this year. A studio hit by major redundancies partway through its development cycle doesn't often tend to turn out to be a good thing...
Surprise surprise, then: Darksiders II appears to be genuinely fantastic. It feels like a slightly different game to the original; now more a quest-based, loot-fest action-RPG than the original's hack & slash, Vigil's ability to seamlessly (and seemingly expertly) juggle multiple game mechanics from titles like God of War, Zelda and Prince of Persia should be commended. How often do you see those three games mentioned in the context of one particular title? And how often do you see it done well?
I've only managed to play just over an hour of it, so I'm not in a position to make a judgement call on the entire package, but already its rich world, vastly improved combat and exquisite mechanic mash-up hint at a game that could go on to become one of the year's finest.
And for a game that I'd all but written off, that's quite a feat.
Martin Gaston, Reviews Editor - Dota 2, PC
Almost 28 hours and I knew it would happen eventually: I encountered my first hostile and overly aggressive game. Single draft had left me picking Riki, the permanently cloaked assassin that always seems to do inordinate amounts of damage whenever used by any player that's not me. I went top lane with new video guy Matt, who had picked the two-headed dragon Jakiro who looked a bit too confusing for my tastes.
We both went up against Pudge, some sort of mutant butcher who can become a real nightmare in the hands of a skilled player. It was pretty safe from our perspective, though, and Matt and I managed to defend our lane. Perhaps we were playing too defensively, but we managed to have the lane in our favour in quite a short amount of time. It all felt like it was going a little bit too well.
It turned out it was going a lot too well.
Our middle lane crumbled (my map awareness wasn't really good enough to know what was going on) thanks to an enemy Viper, some ghastly flying monstrosity who can easily destroy an entire team with a level advantage, which is exactly what was happening.
Viper then made his way to the top lane and managed to kill Matt and myself quite easily a couple of times. He was just too powerful, and my confidence was perhaps a little over-inflated from having a relatively easy time knocking down the enemy Pudge. My mistake.
Then the nasty comments started happening.
Apparently Matt and myself were solely responsible for this Viper becoming too powerful, and we spent the rest of the game suffering a ceaseless torrent of abuse from two players on our own team. We were effing noobs (I'm softening the language for this) and a waste of two perfectly good beta keys. Everyone should report us to Valve for being terrible players, also - and these comments were all said in the post-watershed style of a sailor with tourettes.
The barrage of anger was relentless. Matt was even described as the worst Dota 2 player in the entire world at one point, which I'm at least 65% sure isn't true.
Were we at fault? Perhaps slightly, though I feel that the overreaction of our team was a little spiteful. I haven't been on the receiving end of an online twenty-minute hate binge in a very long time - possibly ever, now that I think about it. Usually insults in online games are fleeting throwaways, but here they felt like a room full of angry Xbox LIVE players doing their best to write a dissertation on why they all hated me. And also Matt.
On the post-game screen, our team seemed pretty even in terms of both experience and gold earned. Turns out we were just completely outclassed by the opposition. Who knew?
Matthew Nellis, Video Producer - The Secret World, PC
One of the things I neglected to mention in any of my introductions was that I have an inherit weakness for MMOs. My latest lapse involves Funcom's The Secret World, a game that many believed to be dead before launch.
The usual MMO trappings are all here, kill X number of mobs, instanced dungeons, phat loot... but what I didn't expect was to be sucked into the story. NPCs are actually interesting to talk to. You get a real sense of character and back-story from almost everyone you meet, and often the conversation you have with an NPC is so elaborate that the quest you receive at the end is a bit of a let down.
However some of the quests are wonderfully mind boggling. The one I'm currently doing requires me to decipher 4 pieces of code in binary, hexadecimal, ASCII and base64. This is insane, and I love it.
I'm put in roughly 25 hours now, and can honestly see me spending a good few months with the game simply to discover more of the world and the stories contained within.