Nigh is the season to dust off your sporting uniform of choice and comically attempt to emulate the summer’s great sporting spectacles. Something now eminently possible from the comfort of your own living room, ideal for when the British summer strikes! Enter Ashes Cricket 2009 (available on PS3, WII and PC); some blatant bandwagoneering from the same people that brought you the much loved Brian Lara Cricket. The game only contains two fully licensed teams and just twelve in total, but is full of nice touches, such as video tutorials from legends Shane Warne and Ian Botham and even includes Hawk-Eye analysis!
For the ultimate ashes experience, how about getting two TVs side-by-side, one for live coverage of the Ashes, the other for the game and a wiimote in hand, shining it on your trousers as you run up to bowl, the depressingly familiar sound of leather on willow, yet another boundary to the seemingly invincible Australians, praying for the prospect of rain to save a draw. It has never been so easy to imagine that you are, in fact, Freddie Flintoff. Just remember; he’s really hurt his knee doing this and steer clear of pedalos!
If cricket is anathema to you, never fear, for also out this month across all the platforms, is the latest instalment in EA’s highly successful Madden NFL series, number ten to be precise. The definitive American football simulation, Madden is as lean and well-honed as you would expect from a game that has been through so many incarnations. Gameplay is as realistic as it has ever been and when you factor in convincing post-match analysis (even including a tv-style weekly round up show!) and commentary from the legendary John Madden himself, the lack of tedious advert breaks in between plays means the game is almost better than the reality!
Fans of motorsport will enjoy System 3’s latest offering: Supercar Challenge, out this month on PS3. With its combination of polished graphics and almost indecently attractive cars, including the Pagani Zonda, the Aston Martin DBR9, the ultra-exclusive Ferrari FXX and the 1000hp legend that is the Bugatti Veyron, it provides the perfect fillip for gamers frustrated at the incessantly-delayed Gran Turismo 4.
Film tie-ins are now an inevitable part of the gaming landscape, the latest blockbuster to get the treatment is the new all-action GI Joe film – The Rise of the Cobra, on all consoles and handhelds. The film is full to bursting with ridiculous plotlines, hi-tech gadgets, beautiful women and masses of fight scenes, car chases and glossy CGI. This has all made it into the video game without any dilution whatsoever, so if some simple, mindless, high-octane gunslinging whets your appetite, look no further.
Wolfenstein’s first shoot-em-up incarnation was one of the seminal first-person shooters and it makes a welcome return to the shops this month on PC, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. The early games earned infamy with their prominent use of Nazi iconography and controversial plot, something that appears to have been sidestepped on this new release by taking the plot down a bizarre undead horror route. Regardless of this, the graphics are great and the game utilises a modified version of ID Software’s Tech 4 physics engine, previously featured on Doom 3 and Quake 4, it is pretty much flawless.
Perhaps the most exciting game to drop this month is Batman: Arkham Asylum, out on all major formats bar the Wii. It isn’t, as you may assume, based on the recent Batman films, but rather the storylines of the comic books. As far as gamers are concerned this can only be a good thing, as the plot of the game remains unconstrained by events happening in the films and allows the developers much greater scope. As we have unfortunately seen on all too many occasions prior, ‘games of the film’ tend to be turgid!
The game itself is a stealth-influenced action adventure game and has earned favourable comparisons to the brilliant BioShock. Tension is created cleverly by use of a third-person viewpoint, imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, as it is lifted from the popular Resident Evil games – players have to watch the action unfold over batman’s shoulder, which heightens the sense of claustrophobia. To better explore areas, players must instead climb around the buildings to gain better vantage points. The combative elements are pleasingly diverse, requiring players to utilise Batman’s array of gadgets, as well as his brute force and whilst the stealth gameplay isn’t quite of the same standard as Metal Gear Solid, it is certainly enjoyable