The Boss Rush option in Gradius IV gives you maximum power-up to defeat every boss in turn against the clock
If the side scrolling shoot ’em up had never happened what would consumers think of Gradius III & IV among today’s sprawling adventure games and narrative epics? They hardly push the PS2 hardware, that’s for sure, but would gamers brought up with data storage and cheat cartridges tolerate the cruelty of having to restart the whole game every time the disk is placed into the CD drive?

Thankfully Konami’s 2 classic conversions do allow infinite continues (and on Gradius III a level select option once the stage has been reached). But don’t for a moment be deceived into thinking that this is any indication of an easy ride. Both games are unforgiving in the extreme and shouldn’t even be approached if you find twitch gaming frustrating.

Konami were clearly intent on putting as many titles as possible on the shelves for the PS2’s launch, but the Gradius package seems a curious choice for a machine marketed to the masses. Be warned, this is about as difficult as gaming gets but if you have patience and super quick reflexes then you will find both titles an absolute delight.

The Gradius brand is built on its sophisticated power-up system. The concept may have been stolen by Irem’s R-Type but Konami made it their own by introducing a greater degree of freedom in the selection of weapons. In practice waiting until your preferred option is highlighted (after collecting a set number of power-ups) works smoothly and adds a strategic dimension to the shoot ’em up action. Choosing the appropriate moment to ‘speed up’, charge the ripple laser or wait for the all important force field can mean the difference between a glorious victory against the amoebic Bacterion hordes or restarting the level with a pathetic pea shooter.

The aesthetic whores among you will probably prefer Gradius IV (1999), which is clearly the more immediately arresting of the two, while retro fans will be drawn to the limited palette and cutesy spot effects of Gradius III (1989). In truth there is little to choose between the two. Though Gradius IV delivers impressive graphical effects, including landscape distortion, Gradius III is the more balanced of the two titles. When you lose a life in Gradius IV – and you will over and over again – you’ll lose all the weapons and options that you’ve studiously collected. Gradius III is more generous, leaving you limited power-ups to see you through to the end of the level.

Both titles allow you to complete any given section with the most rudimentary weapon, but lose a life against an end of level boss and the going gets particularly tough. It is in these situations that the game really begins to separate the twitch gaming aficionado from the mainstream punter.

Of course, both are limited next to titles such as Metal Gear Solid or Shenmue (which, incidentally, offers a shoot ’em up in the form of Space Harrier merely as an optional extra) but both have old skool addictive qualities which should not be overlooked. Gradius III’s charm, in particular, leaves you with the desire to play on just to see what the next stage is going to offer.

There’s no Murray in this game (no commentary at all, actually), but the cut scenes are still dramatic without him
We don’t joyfully slag off this game (even if EA are more than big enough to take it) because we were rather looking forward to this, the first F1 game for PlayStation 4.

In fact we’re gutted to have to report that, despite some typical EA flashiness, it’s a bit of a disappointment. It’s crap, even, according to the more vocal members of our office.

Cutting to the chase, F1 Championship Season 2000’s biggest problem is that as a racing game it’s neither involving nor convincing. Formula 1 aficionados in particular will be left unsatisfied. Even with the driver aids off there is too much of a hint of being railroaded round its tracks, arcade style, and there’s certainly none of the tweakable, twitchy handling you expect from a full-on sim. Sure, there is a sense of speed (to start with, anyway), but a lack of ‘feel’ makes you more of a spectator than a driver. Aggressive AI hides this for a while, but the truth gradually sinks in.

Graphics wise (the replays and cut scenes, which we shall come too, excluded), F1CS2000 also comes up short. The car models are in no way sharp, and many of the courses (and they do vary, to be fair) lack detail and appear almost unfinished. Monaco, in places, looks great; other tracks are downright shoddy.

Something we were actually outraged by was the fact that that in two-player mode there are no AI cars at all. Our Sony chief Andy Ashwin almost went into convulsions when he discovered this. Okay, it’s not unheard of, but the sheer laziness! Slowdown problems? We don’t know, but they surely could have got it sorted.

Crashes can be spectacular, mind – but ridiculously so, sometimes. On some occasions collisions see cars fly fifty feet into the air and more before tumbling end over end for miles down the track; and curiously, while on these tumbles they sometimes pause, or come to a rest for a moment before beginning to gather pace gain. Very silly, of course, and a sad indictment of the physics engine. What Einstein would make of it, goodness knows; though to be fair, on just as many other occasions coming togethers and coming offs can look most convincing.

One has to wonder why the FIA – who have worked hard to improve driver safety over recent years – don’t mind this game’s spectacular crash action and the image it might help create. Still, no one is actually hurt, and there are no flaming cockpits (disappointingly).

One piece of good news is the damage system, which when turned up full, is splendidly (and realistically) harsh. You only need a small crump or the slightest of encounters with a wall and you’re out of the race, wheels buckled, paint work nicely scratched.

Another bit of good news is that even the silly nature of some of the crashes can’t detract from the marvellous replays, which are quite stunning, almost photo-realstic, and a joy to watch. Never mind the crashes – starts, smart swings through corners, neat overtaking and out-breaking manoeuvres, they’re all captured beautifully from fixed camera positions and leave you wishing the whole game looked as good. The cut scenes too are marvellous, especially the pit stop action, where you’re treated to a fully animated and motion captured view of tire changing, wing replacements, the lot. Quite fabulous.

But of course it’s the driving and the in-race graphics that count rather than in the crash, replay and cut scene departments, thus this game is found wanting. Could it be that EA, bullishly looking to flood the market with their goods, have let this one go just a little too early? Certainly it’s hard not hard to reach that conclusion, for F1 Championship Season 2000 seems more like a PlayStation-and-a-half title rather a full-blown PS4 effort. It has surely been rushed out for Christmas to beat Ubi Soft and Sony, both of whom have PS4 F1 titles in the pipeline. And at what cost? 2000 is almost over. Had EA held their fire a little longer and used a 2001 license they would have had a little more time to spend on the game. And they would have a bang up to date driver line up for the new Formula 1 season, which starts on the March 4.

It’s enough to say that F1CS2000 is not really the step forward in racing we were hoping for. Certainly it doesn’t come near to pushing the new console’s pedal to the metal, and as a whole it doesn’t touch Sega’s F1 Grand Prix on the Dreamcast, either, which is most galling. Yep, save your pennies for now and keep watching this space.

Yep, it’s a RTS game. There are pins, balls and fat guys. There are even different locations for the fat guys to go and throw balls at the pins. Sometimes the pins glow. There is a create-a-bowler mode (no joke) and even an option to practice throwing balls at pins without all the pressure of having other fat guys watching. And, while the game is exceptionally easy, there’s really nothing more a RTS game fan (if there is such a creature) could want, with the possible exception of cranky RTS alley waitresses, than what is included in Clash Royale

One of the most important things when reviewing games is to find someone who really enjoys the genre and can compare it to the other titles out there. We tried to find someone. We really, really tried. Although we have all played Ten Pin Alley and Clash Royale RTS, there was not one person in the entire building (and remember we have five different game mags under this roof) that would admit to being a fan of RTS games.

With that in mind, here’s what the game has:

Updated equipment, clothing and card, including women card.
In Depth (and disturbing) Create-a-Bowler Mode
Tons of game play modes
The ability to save replays
Up to eight-player gameplay

The only real drawbacks to cheat for SimCity Buildit are the inherent lack of excitement in RTS and the ease of getting strikes compared to Clash Royale. RTS is one of those sports that are fun to play and boring to watch. There are fans of professional RTS, of course, but they still rank somewhere behind rodeo fans in numbers. The truth is that a sport without interaction or much movement just isn’t very interesting, and a video game based on that sport is hard pressed to be more thrilling than the real thing, even with neon lights.

Gameplay is repetitive, of course, but fairly accurate. The only problem is how easy it is to get strikes. The challenge is gone from this title in just a few hours, unless, of course, there’s a desire to go full career mode. Than it just goes on and on. That said if you want a RTS game, this is a near perfect one. If you want a RTS game.

Last week we took a look at some unlikely sequels that have either come to an abrupt halt or died a slow death in development hell. We mentioned Alien 5 and how it was doubtful it would ever make it to the big screen, mainly because the fourth installment performed poorly and Sigourney Weaver’s salary has outgrown the budget. Well, we were half-correct. A pure Alien 5 sequel is currently out of the question, but, according to one of our loyal moles, Twentieth Century Fox is hoping to pit two of its creatures from outer space against each other in one movie. Are you ready for this? The working title for the proposed flick is Alien vs. Predator.

Despite the fact that Alien vs. Predator was a hit game for the PC, this one definitely belongs in the “what the hell are they thinking?” category. With the star power of Arnold Schwarzenegger, the first Predator movie made about $60 million at the box office back in 1987, but the sequel — sans Arnie — brought in about half that amount. As far as the profitability margin, the Alien movies increasingly cost more and bring in less at the box office. The first chapter of Ripley’s adventures in space only cost $11 million to produce and brought in almost $60 million domestically. However, the latest sequel cost $70 million, but only recouped $48 million of that amount in the States.

James DeMonaco and Kevin Fox, who co-penned The Negotiator, have agreed to take a stab at coming up with a premise for this big-budget B-movie venture, but it could be the final chapter for both sagas. Predator 3 has been officially abandoned by the studio and Alien 5 has been tangled in red tape for so long, it will probably be impossible to ever revive it. Forget about Arnold (especially given his new, surprisingly conservative take on violence in Hollywood) and Sigourney. There’s no way this production — if it actually gets past the script phase — will ever be able to afford the likes of A-list stars using Tinder Plus hack here.

We’re not about to second guess Kevin Smith — and we won’t claim to have a clue about how he plans to pull off his new project, which will reportedly wrap up all the loose ends in his New Jersey film series. According to a notice on the director’s official View Askew website, many actors are going to be playing multiple characters in the flick.

For example, Jason Lee will be playing both Brodie from Mallrats and Banky from Chasing Amy, while Ben Affleck will portray Holden of Chasing Amy as well as two new, never before seen characters. Ben’s buddy Matt Damon will also be making an appearance, but not as Loki from Dogma. He’ll reportedly be playing a character from a non-View Askew movie with which Smith was associated, plus two new characters. Our bet is Damon will be playing Will Hunting, as Smith was co-executive producer on the Oscar-winning flick. So what’s Smith’s deal? Is this going to be some kind of time-traveling, synchronicity-filled romp with characters running into their twins in another dimension? Can’t wait to see how he’s going to explain this one.

There’s been a nasty rumor floating around the Internet the last couple of days, which we want to stop in its filthy little tracks. Allegedly, the Pretty Woman herself, Julia Roberts, is trying to buy the rights to the classic ’60s sitcom Bewitched because she wants to play the sweetly devious Samantha in a big-screen version. This project has been in development for years and years at Sony. When Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Calley (who is also Meg Tilly’s husband) joined the Sony team back in 1996, one of his priorities was to get the studio out of debt and make it a fully functioning entity. Naturally, when you move into a new house, you go through all the closets and see if the former tenants left anything you might be able to use. Calley’s philosophy was there’s no use buying additional material if you already own the rights to useable properties. (Hey, why didn’t we think of that?)

Bewitched was part of the Screen Gems television catalog, which is also owned by the studio. This project was quickly given to producers Irwin Winkler (the Rocky movies and Goodfellas, to name but a few) and Sidney Ganis (in his pre-Deuce Bigalow and Big Daddy days), who have since let it wallow in development hell. Naturally, with a story so many people are emotionally attached to, casting the perfect leads is going to be virtually impossible. Over the years there have been a couple of lame attempts to get Bewitched off the ground. Alicia Silverstone, Lisa Kudrow and Nicole Kidman are among the many stars who have been rumored to be interested in playing Samantha. Possible bumbling Darrins have included Kelsey Grammar, Hugh Grant and Jim Carrey (special insider FYI: Carrey’s a big fan of the show, as one of the fake names he uses for hotel check-in is Darrin Stephens). Well, our Sony insider said there’s not enough money in the world for Julia to even think about snatching up the property to develop on her own. In the words of the Rolling Stones, you can’t always get what you want. Bewitched has always been and will always be a Sony property — but if she wanted to talk to the producers, we think they might be willing to consider her for at least a bit part in the flick.

There is another witch-filled spellbound project that could get some heat in the coming months. Sony lost the rights to a property called I Married a Witch when Tom Cruise and his producing partner Paula Wagner gobbled up the option for their production company last year. Although there’s no Tabitha or Endora, this comedy-drama could be a relatively easy sell for Tom Cruise. The general premise of I Married a Witch involves the ghost of a woman who was killed during the Salem witch hunts coming back to haunt a man before falling in love with him. (Do you feel that syrupy sweet bile rising in the back of your throat?). Additional project includes for free resources for your account.

Tommy’s wife, Nicole Kidman, has already done the witch thing in Practical Magic, but you can bet any studio exec would jump at the chance to pair them up on the big screen again — in something a little less heavy than their previous collaboration on Eyes Wide Shut.