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The Week Ahead - 24/08/07

Feature: Quick - book time off work!

Woohoo! Bring out the party poppers and take the telephone off the hook and book a week off work!. After a few weeks of abject - how shall we put it? - dog dollop we're now blessed with one of the best games of the year. Nay, of all time. Yes, Bioshock has reached CVG towers and we've been exploring its watery depths for the last few days and it's a cracker. But there are also one or two other decent titles available, which essentially heralds in the Q3 rush to Christmas.

Anno 1701 is a particular favourite of ours and DS owners who like their brain cells flossed from time to time will find this perfect portable fun. The next iteration of Madden NFL is also out across most platforms and if US reviews are anything to go by it's the best of the series to date. Finally the much anticipated Blue Dragon is out this week but don't be seduced by the early hype - in our opinion it's more mediocre than a compilation album made up of Irish boy bands and Sonia's greatest hits (What? - Ed).

The complete list of games released in the UK this week (24/08/07):

  • Anno 1701, DS, Disney Interactive Studios
  • Bioshock, PC/360, Take 2
  • Blue Dragon, 360, Microsoft
  • Chicken Little: Ace in Action, PS2/DS/Wii, Disney Interactive Studios
  • Chicken Shoot, Wii/DS, Zoo Digital
  • Loki, PC, Ascaron
  • Madden NFL 08, PC/360/PSP/PS2/DS, EA
  • Nascar 08, 360/PS2/PS3, Xider
  • Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2, PS3/PSP, Ubisoft
  • Hardware: Xbox 360: Elite
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Bioshock (PC/360)

It's a game high on everyone's priority list, but does it deliver or disappoint? Gladly this is a stunningly good FPS destined to go on game of the year shortlists the world over. The premise is already familiar to you but what screenshots fail to capture is a game dripping with atmosphere and horror. Every new corridor and room brings its own challenges, every new enemy a different set of abilities for you to counteract. It does almost the impossible: bring not just a fresh plot to the videogame cannon but also wraps it up in a totally unique setting. Not since Deus Ex has an FPS offered such a compelling world full of cascading possibilities, and there can be no higher compliment than that. If this hasn't enticed you enough then prepare for our full review tomorrow.

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Blue Dragon (360)

This was supposed to be Microsoft's answer to Final Fantasy but it's more like a parody than a trailblazer. Sure, the visuals are lush but they have a glassy look that robs the characters of any kind of personality. Add to this a plot that treads very familiar ground (a group of youthful scallywags are plucked from their humdrum lives and plunged into a conflict of epic proportions) and dialogue that borders on the banal and you have an unsatisfying experience. While Blue Dragon isn't terrible much more was expected of Hironobu Sakaguchi's (the man behind the original Final Fantasy titles) latest. There's an innovative combat mechanic but it's simply not enough to pull you along for its entire journey.

Anno 1701: Dawn of Discovery (DS)

This splendid combination of world building and economical decision making finds a perfect home on DS. Touch-screen control is nothing short of marvellous with whole cities emerging from the earth with a few simple swipes of the stylus while marshalling your forces and resources is simplicity itself. Which is not to say the game is simplistic; far from it. Anno 1701 has more depth than both SimCity DS and the recent execrable port of The Settlers put together. It may be a little lacklustre in terms of the visuals but the satisfaction of this game comes from its ability to tap into everyone's deep, dark megalomaniacal streak.

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