The boys at Creative Assembly appear to be aware that a great game cannot exist without great sound. Medieval 2, with the direct support of Creative (the game flashes up the X-Fi symbol every time you load it), hits the nail on the head once again with a combination of breath-taking battle sounds, top-notch voice acting and the Dark Ages equivalent to the Spice Girls providing the backing track.
The game offers a few audio options in the menu, ranging from the basic default sound settings through to a wide range of X-Fi settings. Using the top of the range X-FI we were able to run the game with the EAX 4 option turned on and the difference between that setting and the others was fairly pronounced. With the X-Fi, sound was crisp and clear, battlefields sounded spookily empty before the armies clashed and once they did the explosion of chaotic sounds was about as close to real as games have come (not that I've ever heard a medieval battle).
It's not quite the best sound we've heard in a game though, coming a close second to Company of Heroes. Despite this, the noise of a cavalry at full march is amazing. How did they get hold of these sounds? Did they actually get 30 Knights of the Realm and their steeds to gallop about? The sound engineer deserves a medal.
The Greensleeves-inspired backing music you hear whilst on the 2D map creates the perfect medieval atmosphere despite being on a repeated loop. In a game as long as Medieval 2 it's an absolute necessity that the sound is inoffensive, relaxing and enjoyable as you'll spend long hours listening to it. The great thing about the nature of Medieval 2, though, is that the sound isn't necessary to playing the game, so if you want to catch up with a podcast or your favourite album then you can easily do so by knocking the in-game music off.
I remain a fan of the Total War series though my passion is starting to wane slightly. This feeling of impending dread is made worse by the knowledge that the series will undoubtedly spew out a few expansions, probably involving barbarians or mongols, and despite the fact that I've played it all before I'll be sucked back in to lose more precious hours from my life.
My hope is that Creative Assembly doesn't rest on its laurels with the series. This game still makes it into the excellent bracket that so many games failingly strive towards. If you let it you'll easily become hooked. Intent on wreaking havoc on your neighbours and savouring every drop of blood spilt on the battlefield. The question is, how long will people keep coming back for this formula?
If you fancy buying this game then you have two options. You can either pick up the boxed copy from Play for £24.99
or, if you're too lazy to walk to your front door to pick up your mail, you can open up Steam and download it through there. It's listed on the Steam website as $49.95
so you probably won't actually save money by buying the game through that (though more of your money will probably end up in the developer's pockets). Word of warning though, the game is absolutely huge, requiring 11GB of free space. If you want to download it through Steam you'd probably better get started now!