What we've been playing this week.
Tom Orry, Editor - Top Spin 4, Xbox 360 and PS3
Top Spin 4 isn't flash and didn't arrive on a wave of hype, but it's really very good once you get the hang of the controls and timing. Part of what makes it so appealing is the smoothness of the visuals, with the unflinching frame rate helping the animations look superb. When you're in the heat of a rally with both players being forced out of position, desperately trying to reach ball after ball, there's a real sense of struggle conveyed by the virtual on-court pros. Yes, the career mode isn't the best and some of the players look downright scary, but Virtua Tennis 4 will have to be very good to unseat 2K's effort as the current tennis champion.
Martin Gaston, Staff Writer - Forza Motorsport 3, Xbox 360
Remember Gran Turismo 5? No, you probably don't - it was a myriad of crushing disappointments, and the uncoordinated clutter of its ridiculous menu screens was more confusing than the departure board at Clapham Junction. And what ever happened to the leaderboards, Sony?
Let's be honest, people, Forza Motorsport 3 is the superior game. I just don't understand enough about cars to get involved in the nitty-gritty of the simulation aspects, but Turn 10's product is a far more consistently enjoyable experience. The career mode gently funnels you through a slowly unravelling sense of progression, the menus are intuitive enough to make everything a cinch to access, and there's a decent cockpit view for every single car in the game. Bish bash bosh. For £5.99 (which is what Amazon was selling the Ultimate Edition for earlier in the week) I honestly don't think there's any point in buying another serious racing game on the market.
Sometimes I do feel a bit like I'm in over my head, however - it would be nice if there was sometimes a pop-up that just said "this is the car you probably want." And I'm constantly worried that if I buy a car I'll end up being given another one for free when I win a championship - similar to the kind of trepidation you get if you ever buy anything full price for the App Store.
Jamin Smith, Staff Writer – Gears of War 2, Xbox 360
It's been sat on my shelf, unopened, for about two years, but this week I decided to get stuck into Gears 2. Sadly, it took little over an hour before boredom reared its ugly head, and I was forced to pursue a more entertaining activity. I have a pretty low threshold for boredom when it comes to third-person shooters, and despite the testosterone, bulging muscles and shooty shooty gameplay, nothing about the game excited me. I'll stick with it though, because I enjoyed the first, and – despite my apathy towards this – I'm excited to get caught up in the buzz of the third game. I know there are some fairly epic set pieces to look forward to, so I'll see it through to the end regardless. Hopefully this time next week I'll have changed my tune.
Emily Gera, Staff Writer - Civilization V, PC
I've destroyed the French - you can thank me later. It's not really the first time. Generally I play the role of a peaceful Bismarck but it seems like in every incarnation of the Civ series they're just begging for me to roll out the troops. I tell them, "Look, Napoleon. I'm not trading you my nation's supply of cows for zilch" and the guy starts waving around a gun like a giant human baby. Classic Leon. Don't ask what happened when I accidentally refused to trade maps one time. Funny how a combination of livestock and a few hours of Civ can turn into The Most Dangerous Game. Can't we all just get along, guys?
Tom Pearson. Video Producer - VVVVVV, PC
Viridian, Violet, Victoria, Vermilion, Vitellary and Verdigris, are unquestionably my favourite colours of the rainbow. Coincidentally they also happen to be the names of the crew members in the indie title VVVVVV. Gameplay in V world is compromised of the usual walk left and right, however there is no jump. Instead a switch of gravity will propel you to great heights, and you'll spend the majority of your time upside down. While the game can be tough and will definitely get you thinking that the challenges are impossible, it's always forgiving. Not by way of puzzles and platforming (because they are a total brain ache) but by checkpoints. Checkpoints are thrown about like breadcrumbs and you never spawn too far away to feel scalded by the puzzles. Ultimately what I really want to mention about Vx6, where the game's true beauty lies and what I believe to be its greatest asset, is its array of tracks. Wonderfully composed, the game's chip tune composer Magnus Pålsson should have named each file victory.mp3. The game's OST named PPPPPP, is definitely worth a listen.
Neon Kelly, Deputy Editor - Street Pass Quest, 3DS
Since the kerfuffle of launch day, I've spent surprisingly little time on my 3DS. However, that changed this week when I suddenly remembered the existence of StreetPass Mii Plaza. EA held a big showcase event on Wednesday, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to gather a few recruits for StreetPass Quest. Lo and behold, within an hour of turning up I had assembled a crack team of avatars, distilled from the crème de la crème of the UK's gaming press. Unfortunately, the cream of the UK's gaming press turned out to be utterly crap when it comes to battling ghosts, so I had to hire a bunch of cats to do the job instead. You can draw your own conclusions from this troubling tale...