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Nuts ‘N’ Bolts: Volume 10

Hmm, an interesting few weeks have passed us here at Thunderbolt. A new lady member recently joined the ranks, in which most of us were hauled into Phil’s office and briefed about cutting out the blonde jokes. Fair do’s, she’d probably kick our asses at videogames and can write one hell of a review. Is this a lady after my own heart? After telling Matt to put it away several times (you don’t want to know what ‘it’ was- trust me) the fact of the matter hit me square in the face like the cricket ball last summer. She’s a good looking lass talking to grey haired old men called Charlie who can just about figure how to turn the ‘pooter on. We don’t stand a chance. So join us in welcoming Sophie Cheshire!

In the last month we have seen some good quality games come out under the blanket of shoddy tennis games. Music 3000, Starsky and Hutch and World Championship Snooker were all handed some good marks by yours truly and I even spent some time re-reviewing Championship Manager 2002/03. LMA Manager 2003 was found lying under the shelves at GAME so with my last £30 of the week I invested in Codemasters effort at tipping the SI Games crown. To no avail, but an enjoyable experience none-the-less, writing a FAQ soon after would bring far more contacts in the shady world of videogames.

Whilst being complemented endlessly by a Codemasters Public Liaison Officer, I managed to stumble onto the press emailing service and bag an information pack on Total Football. Result. Phil doesn’t know yet but what does he care, lying on a sun bed drinking those cocktails with fancy umbrellas and getting rubbed down by Turkish women. Not bad for a weekend at Bognor Regis.

Matt has been unusually quiet for a while, rarely lifting his head from his PC monitor. A while back he reviewed Silent Hill 2, Splinter Cell and Midnight Club 2 all in one go so we didn’t have to, bless. Since then we’ve had a well-written piece on Star Trek Elite Force 2 and various flirty comments towards our newest female member.

The member in question is Sophie, our sweet darling who keeps us from having wet paper towel-throwing competitions every Tuesday afternoon. ‘Stop calling me darling or I’ll knee you in the nuts’ she says. Ah, sweet kind words. Beyond those lip-licking looks lies a fantastic writer, and you can check out her DBZ- Legacy of Goku review and Phantasy Star Online Version 1 and 2. Currently tapping away on her ‘pooter, writing features on histories of gaming series.

Josh has been busy showing us pictures of his puppies. By that I mean students and local area in Japan. We all stare in awe. They have a cemetery that looks like a mini-city from Godzilla. A department store with over 30 floors and a garden at the top. They also get games way before us. Life’s not fair. But we don’t tell him that, the muscles scare us. In between taking snaps of the lovely Japanese landscape and his gorgeous lady friend Josh has been working non-stop. Flexing those muscles, we now have reviews of Hitman 2 on Game Cube and Xbox, WWF Raw (Xbox), Rogue Leader (GameCube), Medal of Honour Frontline (GameCube) and Morrowind for Xbox. Following a preview of Morrowind: Game of the Year he continued to slate NFL Blitz 2003 for the GBA to round off a busy few weeks. Well done that man.

Meanwhile our webmaster has been having a lazy few weeks. Sending Jim to an event in London, dealing with sponsorship, updates and reviewing Perfect Ace (a corker!), Gothic 2, WWE Crush Hour, Indy Car Series, Midtown Madness 3, Colin McRae Rally 3 for PC and Moto GP for Xbox and then previewing Thug for the PC. Several minutes later he emerges with said suitcases and goes on holiday. Tsk! Honestly! It’s a wonder that anything gets done around here.

Just as some of us wondered if Jessie was still alive there he was, like a bat out of the rafters. After wowing us yet again with the sheer detail and accuracy of his writing skills, he disappeared. Phil was left checking under cushions and behind pot plants but to no avail.

Finally, we have to profile the old man. Jim has still left many of us pinned against the wall with his NBA Street 2 and Evil Dead reviews, but picks us up for this week as he is covering editor. The first few days are spent soaking up the sun before realising we’ve left the site alone with no news updates or exclusive reviews. ‘Code Blue’ is shouted, and everyone runs indoors and types away frantically in a feeble attempt to fool Phil that we’ve actually been working hard. Recent work on the PS2 version of Perfect Ace is still under way, but we let him off easier than the others. Older people tend to be more fragile minded.

But my highlight has to be when Brute Force landed on the desk. Flicking through various magazines to get an idea of what I was up against, it seems a great deal of PR dealings had gone underway. Xbox World dedicated four whole pages to “a solid, beautiful game” with a big fat 9 for “rich, colourful and detailed” graphics and 8 overall. However, flicking over to controversial extremists Edge we get two pages (with the subscription slip in between- hmm nice t-shirt). “But the existence of Halo renders it all rather pointless, and it’s certainly not the groundbreaking squad-based Halo-beater we were promised” followed by an average 5 bought on the feeling that either XBW were being far too generous or Edge were up to their usual tricks. Last but at no means least is the magazine I rely on for my ‘monthly fix’. Equal parts humour, good writing and retro make up Games TM. Equal parts crap, boring, dull and crap again make up Brute Force. “Yes, it looks as though Microsoft has signed a dud once again. Does Brute Force have the quality to make it a memorable classic? Nope. Is it likely to shift a bucketload anyway? Not a chance. Will you see it in the second-hand bin of your local game shop for less than £20 in a couple of months? Definitely.” Followed by a lowly four.

No surprise then that GameFAQ’s had an average rating of nine when going to press. You can see my verdict on the site right now, but let me tell you it was no simple task getting from writing pad to website. Kobold and I argued for days on end about the score, numerous cups and plates were smashed and Jim slowly ducked his head under his typewriter muttering something about Tesco’s raising the price of tinned carrots. Order was finally restored as Phil stepped in waving our next review copies over a lighter. We stopped talking for a while as I finished off the argument with a few swear words. Then, gulp, came Kobolds photos of him and his mate in Japan. He’s a pretty big lad, am I’m very skinny. Our Japanese-loving Yank loves to workout you see, whereas my exercise comes from lifting a cup of tea to my mouth once every 3 minutes. Josh – the greatest guy around. Honest. So with white flags waving behind up-turned desks and hands shaken rather tightly, normal service is resumed. My old mate Kobold gets stuck into Hitman 2 on the GameCube whilst I wipe my cue on World Championship Snooker 2003- yes, snooker really is that hot.

Just as site traffic is on the rise Phil slams his suitcase on the endless paperwork building up on the desk, waking me from the 19-frame Embassy Championship I’ve been so happily playing all day. Looking up through dazed eyes I see a Tommy Vercetti-esque shirt and funky sunglasses. ‘I’m off on me hols, moderate for me won’t you James?’. And with that Phil tottered off through the door whistling Cliff Richards We’re all going on a Summer Holiday. How I hate that song. Jim was playing with his funny eye contacts he ‘borrowed’ from the zombie movie film set he’s been cast in, and we were all soon to learn that the old man was indeed in charge. ‘Last one on the sun bed buys Army Men’ hollered Ives as we all scuppered out the fire exit.

So anyways, as we all sat outside hoping to erase our pale skins and attract the ladies with twiglet bodies, the world of videogames spun on around us. The biggest piece of news for the week surrounds Pro Evolution Soccer 3 from Konami. Yes that’s right, the football game well tell you all is the best around so you can go and buy FIFA. Again.

The information we were given (it was thrust into our face actually, but after learning that a review copy could be on it’s way we didn’t mind) included several teams which would be included. Amongst the usual Man-U and Real line-ups were Everton, Spurs and the mighty Fulham. Super Fulham. Amazing Fulham. Without Craven Cottage. Bummer. Still, just knowing that West London’s finest would be pickable from the start makes it number one on my shopping list. Next were the screens. Oh god were they the screens. You could make out the rafters on the stadium roof, see ‘the suits’ in executive boxes and fans aren’t leaning back flat like in previous attempts. 

On the pitch this is an entirely new game. Becks has that girly hairband and actually looks like him. Player detail is brilliant this time round, with shirts no longer body hugging like long haired bearded Italians and more like Joe Cole on a wet Saturday afternoon. What we don’t know yet is whether the gameplay is as fluent as Fulham or dodgy as Farnborough. But hopefully that sun-loving webmaster of ours can sort out a review copy when the time comes. Hint hint. The potential that Konami have sitting under the PES3 bonnet is amazing. Without purchasing a license means Konami should have a lot more freedom with teams and players than EA can have. For instance, by using made up names for both players and clubs, then throwing in an edit mode means we can have literally hundreds of teams. Think about the top divisions in Holland, England, Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Portugal plus invitations to the top teams in the USA, Belgium etc.

Add to that a more complex management system and, with the gameplay of the ISS and PES series you could have the ultimate player-manager title. But what we really want to know is will there be more attention paid to the little details that can make or break a game? Things such as streakers (complete with fuzzed-out knobbly bits like The Sims), streams of bog roll flying across the screen, ball boys, scratch and sniff disk with half-time pie and mushy peas scent, riot police battering hooligans and best of all pitch invasions when goals are scored. It doesn’t ruin the game, just adds atmosphere. Because of politics though Konami will never fully re-create George Best. It is impossible to make a player that staggers about the pitch hung over then dribble past all 11 of the opposition in the second half. It would bring the game into disrepute. It would mean the Daily Mail having a field day condemning something remotely fun, and that we can’t have.

Another new feature coming our way soon was covered in a news story earlier this week in which First Person Sports will soon be the ‘in thing’. Controlling one player on the field, aka Libero Grande, you feel the atmosphere of the crowd and hear instructions shouted by fellow teammates. How the view will fare to allow equal parts field and ball is intriguing and only time will tell.

And only time will tell how well the Thunderbolt team will handle the sun over the next few days. One thing’s for sure, we’ll be putting that EyeToy webcam to use. Remember that infamous scene in American Pie where Jim ‘blows his load’? There are plenty of sexual acts going on around here (like the couple over the road at precisely 1pm every afternoon) so stay tuned to see how we get on.

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in June 2002.

Gentle persuasion

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