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The Week Ahead - 20/04/07

Feature: Staying out for the summer?

How are you enjoying the sunshine? Great isn't it? The only reason we ask is that there's really not a lot of reasons to be indoors playing games at the moment. This Friday's release list isn't looking like much to get excited about.

So you've probably got a bit of a back catalogue to get through that'll keep you busy. But as far as new releases go - bar a couple of stellar titles over the next few months - it's going to be a fallow period.

What the industry needs is a summer blockbuster mentality. We shouldn't forget that before Spielberg's Jaws shook up the movie industry back in 1975 it had a similar lull in its cycle. Of course, you may remember that Atari admirably tried to bring out a summer blockbuster with Driver 3 a couple of years ago. A shame it was a mess of a game with more bugs than an insect zoo. After saying all that, pick of the bunch next week is probably F.E.A.R. on PS3 or DKR on DS. Apart from that, there isn't a great deal else to say.

The complete list of games released in the UK this week (20/04/07):

  • Diddy Kong Racing, DS, Nintendo
  • F.E.A.R., PS3, Vivendi
  • Free Running, PS2/PSP, Ubisoft
  • Midway Arcade Treasures Deluxe, PC, Zoo Digital
  • Raw Danger, PS2, 505 Games
  • SnoCross 2, PS2, Oxygen
  • Super Fruitfall, PS2, System 3
  • World Championship Poker, PS2/PC/360/PSP, Oxygen
  • Zendoku, DS, Eidos
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F.E.A.R. (PS3)

First the disappointment: F.E.A.R on PS3 is starting to show its age. You may remember it came out to great acclaim on PC in 2005 and last year on 360, but this PS3 SKU just feels a bit dated and un-optimised for its host format. The good news is that it's still a decent shooter with corridors brimming full of atmosphere and slo-mo effects that can still provide breathtaking moments. You also get an additional weapon in the rapid fire shotgun, though lose the 360 exclusive dual SN15 pistols in the bargain. Ostensibly, you're still going to have a good time playing this but there's no getting away from the fact it's a two year old game and very much looking that way.

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Diddy Kong Racing (DS)

Rare's return to the karting genre has elicited mixed reviews so you should exercise caution before purchase. It was always going to draw comparisons with Mario Kart and on that basis the controls and racing finesse fall short, yet there is a clever RPG element that gives it something different. Other additions include touch-screen boost functions, such as blowing into the microphone for the hovercraft, but as you might expect these become irritating very quickly. There are still some great characters and courses but somehow the old Diddy Kong magic just isn't there.

Zendoku (DS)

On the surface this looks like a bit of RPG meets Sodoku nonsense, but when you realise it's been created by Zoonami (i.e. Martin Hollis of GoldenEye fame) it becomes a lot more interesting. Okay, so yes, it is effectively a twist on traditional 9x9 Sodoku grids with a story attached and a martial arts theme but early reports suggest it's really rather addictive.

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Free Running (PSP/PS2)

This one has been bouncing around the release schedules like a demented cricket but we have it on good authority that an April 20 release is a 'definitely maybe'. Developed by ex-Core Design staff (Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness) the game looked destined for the big cancellation bin in the sky until Rebellion bought out the company and injected some extra cash. What emerges is a very competent 3D platformer that sees you jumping across cityscapes with points awarded for style and Parkour leaping brilliance. It's one of those games that might become a bit of a curio in years to come.

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World Championship Poker 2

Is it just us or are there more poker titles around than FPSs these days? Still, with 14 different varieties of game, including classics like Texas Hold 'em and Five-Card Stud to more obscure games like Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw and Razz: Ace to Five, this has everything a budding Devilfish needs to learn the ropes. The videogame versions are still a long way from replicating human emotions and 'tells' but World Championship Poker 2 does contain a clever bluff system that adds some extra spice.

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