The games we've been playing this week.
Tom Orry, Editor - Halo 4, Xbox 360
One of the first published reviews I wrote was for the original Halo. I wrote it for the now long-gone Madgamers.net. I don't remember much of what I said, but no doubt it was an overly long piece full of gushing praise. These days I'm more cynical, but I still love a bit of Halo. For me, Halo 4 is the most fun I've had with the series since the original, and that's quite something given that I really really like Halo 3 and Reach.
The core gameplay is absolutely top drawer, with no combat in a shooter feeling as dynamic as it does here, but I've never shied away from the fact that I am taken in by big budget spectacle. I tend to gravitate towards games that excel at throwing graphical wonders onto the screen, so Halo 4's pristine appearance (it really does feel like 343 spent more money on the main menu than the budget for some entire games) is quite something.
While some games feature open worlds, Halo 4 features a believable world. Everything here is so solid, so deliberate, so thought out, it's easy to lose the sense that you're walking through a virtual area, with walls that literally block out the nothingness on the other side. As Master Chief I'm there in the world, completely immersed and loving every moment.
Martin Gaston, Reviews Editor - Hotline Miami, PC
I'm not sure about you, but I didn't think Hotline Miami looked particularly fun from the screenshots and videos. Unbelievably violent, sure, but not fun. Then somebody told me it was frustrating in the way Super Meat Boy was frustrating (as in, totally awesome) and I handed over a fistful of digital pennies to have a crack. In the past few days I have senselessly killed a lot of pixelated people.
So, yeah, it's pretty good. Well, it's very good. It's very moreish, actually. I play it in short little bursts of about fifteen minutes and then quit out to do something else (read: play Halo) before going back an hour later and have another quick pop. Hotline Miami is very good at getting under your skin like that.
The Soundtrack is wonderful, too. I find the controls a little bit fiddly, but you get over that. All in all, definitely worth your time.
Neon Kelly, Video Production Editor – Assassin's Creed 3
I don't know about you, but I thought that Hotline Miami looked like lots of fun from the screenshots and the videos. And then it turned out that it was. The End.
Okay, fine. I'm not going to talk about Hotline Miami, as I've done enough of that in recent weeks. No, I want to talk about Assassin's Creed 3. I want to, but I can't really – I'm too concerned that I'll spoil something for those of you who haven't started it yet. For those of you who have started already, I'll simply say this: isn't he amazing? What a brilliant character, even in a year where we've had a particularly generous crop of interesting creations. And don't even get me started on his hat. It's 100 per cent prime rib badass.
David Scammell, Deputy News Editor - Need For Speed: Most Wanted (2012), Xbox 360
When I spoke to Criterion's Matt Webster a few weeks ago, he opened the interview by posing a couple of questions. "Are we on the right track?", he asked rhetorically. "Are the decisions we've made the right ones? And are people going to understand why we've made them?"
After 'finishing' Most Wanted, I can understand why he'd ask such things.
Don't get me wrong, I think Most Wanted is fantastic: Its vehicle handling makes driving its selection of supercars immensely satisfying (albeit perhaps not quite as gratifying as Hot Pursuit's drift-crazy motors), and its sense of speed, the thrill of the chase, and the realisation that just one minor mishap could send you hurtling into the path of an oncoming SUV makes racing tense and exciting. But Criterion's decision to rip up the rule book in its approach to Most Wanted's structure works both for and against it.
I've put around 7 hours into Most Wanted now and have finished climbing the core 'Most Wanted' ladder. I've beaten the Most Wanted list. I've driven the fastest cars. The credits have rolled. I've experienced - I assume - the vast majority of race events available. And now I'm grinding. I'm grinding to unlock items and finish races specific to cars I don't particularly care for, and I'm searching high and low for gates and billboards, slowly working my way towards that magical 100% completion barrier. That's fine, but with very little sense of purpose besides satisfying the completionist within, I can't help but feel that I - and I expect many of you - could be burned out long before that time comes.
Clearly, then, the meat of Most Wanted lies in its multiplayer, and I'm looking forward to exploring that in more depth this weekend. But if you're thinking of going solo, be warned that - though there's an incredible amount of fun to be had within Fairhaven's concrete playground - you'll likely race through Most Wanted's core path far quicker than you had perhaps expected to.