What we've been playing this week.
Tom Orry, Editor - Portal 2, Xbox 360, PS3 and PC
I really, really like Portal 2. Everyone has talked about the brilliant dialogue, but during my last session it struck me just how superb the level design is. At one point I could have sworn I'd found a secret area, accessed a place that was off the beaten path, but I hadn't - I'd simply been made to think that by some excellent design work. What I thought was the normal way forward was in fact not the way at all, but my brain had been programmed to look for portal-friendly areas of wall so well in the hours previous that I instantly took the "secret" route - a path through the level that was in fact exactly the way I was intended to go. Anyway, it made me feel smart until I spoke to others in the office who all did EXACTLY THE SAME THING.
Neon Kelly, Deputy Editor - The Killer (Flash Game)
It's been a strange week for me. I've spent a fair bit of time wrestling with jetlag after my return from LA (it's a hard life, I know). To compound matters I'm about to move house, and so most of my post-work time has been spent vainly attempting to pack all my tat into boxes. In short, I've not had much time for "proper" gaming... but I have managed to discover a couple of great Flash titles.
The first, The Killing, is less of a game and more a piece of Flash Art - but I'll recommend it here anyway, as I found it to very moving. To say too much would be to spoil the impact, but it's essentially a brief but thought-provoking meditation on the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia. The I of It, on the other hand, isn't especially thought-provoking, but it is both strange and undeniably stylish: a platform puzzle game with narration that reminds me of the Mr. Men. It's also the only game you're ever likely to play in which you control a letter of the alphabet... until Microsoft decides to make Hal-O.
Jamin Smith, Staff Writer – LA Noire Xbox 360, PS3
The other day, Neon asked me which I preferred: LA Noire or Red Dead. The question had me stumped. If I think about it hard, though, I'd probably say Red Dead; I think it just about wins out in terms of setting and atmosphere. But that's not to say that Team Bondi's offering isn't one of my favourite games this year. It is.
I think I'm going to 100 per cent it, actually. I've had precious little time this week, but I'm slowly working my way through free-roam in each desk. So far I've completed 23 street crimes, found 67 cars (including all the hidden ones) and attained maximum rank. I haven't got a single gold film-reel, though - which is something I hope to remedy this weekend. I'm a few cases into the Arson desk now, too, and very much looking forward to seeing how Cole's story is concluded. Things got very interesting at the end of Vice...
Emily Gera, Staff Writer - The Witcher 2, PC
To compliment last week's non-stop marathon of The Witcher 2, this week I went back to playing The Witcher 2. God bless save files. Multiple endings means you have a basic incentive to rev up the game one more time to check out how things could have potentially gone had you changed one or two of your decisions. It's worth trying yourself to be honest as each ending is relatively different enough from the other. And look, a lot of tedious things have been patched!.
Martin Gaston, Previews Editor – DiRT 3, Xbox 360, PS3, PC
DiRT 3 kicks like a mule, but that's why it feels so good. Counter-steering is required for all but the most basic of turns, and the game does its best to encourage risky behaviour by often dishing out glorious wads of bonus experience for hitting speeds firmly within the "uncomfortably fast" range. A smooth racing line is regularly ruined by your back wheels losing the ability to stay steady, but as you develop the foresight and muscle memory to anticipate upcoming corners the gratification derived from weaving perfectly through the tracks is something you just don't get in other racing games.
I wasn't especially keen on the Gymkhana mode when I started, but after a few hours I'm finding the various tricks of its trade slightly easier to pull off. My big problem at the moment is drift challenges – I still haven't been able to work out the knack. I swear getting a platinum medal on these will prove next to impossible for me.
Here's a fun game, too: crash into the edge of the finish line as you complete a race, because the slow-motion photo finish looks absolutely awesome with your car careering wildly through the air.