This weekend begins with the unpleasant realisation that it isn’t the weekend at all, but in fact Monday. Please accept our apologies for that, along with our assurances that normal service will resume next week.
Now, onto the list, where Rob realises that a lifetime of RTS micro-management isn’t enough to prepare him for the numb terror of the Company of Heroes 2 beta, and a nostalgic brain override sees Tim playing the Xbox sequel to Motocross Madness. He doesn’t like it. Obviously.
Rob Zacny: Company of Heroes 2 Beta
I had forgotten how stressful this game is. I’d forgotten how the sound of an MG42 opening fire sends rational thought fleeing for cover, and how a cacophony of infantry screaming in my ear sends a jolt of blinding panic out to every nerve ending.
I love it.
I love how immediate Company of Heroes 2 feels, how the Company of Heroes series makes the spectacle of warfare an integral part of the game. You can turn the sound down, yes, but then you might miss the “thunk” of a mortar tube that signals trouble for your infantry, or the grinding rattle of an approaching armored vehicle. I don’t just command from a cold, remote distance the way I do in StarCraft 2. Company of Heroes forces me down to the level of an infantry squad dashing for cover behind an overturned farmer’s cart, trying to find the flank of an enemy position. It puts me in the commander’s seat of a Panther tank, trying to hold a single position during a driving snowstorm against enemy infantry and a T-34.
Fire, reverse into cover, reload, back into the open to take another shot, repeat. It’s the most-micro of micromanagement, second only to the Men of War games, but it’s what makes Company of Heroes such an intense, exhausting experience.
It’s also why I struggle so much with it. If this weekend is teaching me anything, it’s how unprepared most other RTS games have left me for CoH. It’s approach to territory control and pacing make it far more dynamic than most of its peers, meaning that major battles can happen anywhere and everywhere, and at any time. That first skirmish between infantry squads can sputter along for several minutes before the first support weapons show up, then armored vehicles, and suddenly there’s artillery and tanks blasting half the map to ruins. Or you could be so intent on fighting a battle that you miss the fact that a single rifle squad just captured a quarter of the map. I’ve got a big readjustment to make before Company of Heroes 2 comes out.
Tim Edwards: Motocross Madness (Xbox 360)
Apologies for the brief detour into Xbox land, but I have to get this one out. There is a Motocross Madness game now available for the Xbox 360 and I have played it. All it did was make me pine for an old friend.
There was a PC game called Motocross Madness, released back in 1998. I loved that game - it was a weirdly open motorbike stunt sim, in which you rode around vast bowls of mud and sand, leaping off ramps and falling off in amusing ways. It was cheap and throwaway (I remember it came bundled with a Sidewinder motion control pad), but utterly captivating. The open world /thing/ was new. Score attack trick games were new (Tony Hawks released a year later). Motorbike games were relatively new.
The thing I remember the most, though, was the invisible wall of comedy. To prevent you from straying from the edges of the map, you'd first have to climb a near vertical wall of mud. Then, if you got past the wall, you'd be given two seconds of leeway before being slingshotted into the sky, arms flailing, landing with a bounce and a scream.
Beating that wall became the game. Trying to get past it, trying to squeeze a little bit more distance before the inevitable slingshot boing, became a weird, brilliant obsession.
It's worth noting that I screwed up my maths A-Level in 1999. I blame Motocross Madness for being the perfect distraction.
Is the new Motocross Madness worth playing?