Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Top 10 Game Publishers of All Time - #6 Microprose


Coming in at #6 for top publisher is Microprose.

Like Virgin Interactive, Microprose is sadly another defunct studio. It was originally formed in 1982 by legendary game designer, Sid Meier, and Bill Stealey, a retired USAF Lieutenant Colonel. The company slowly died off during the late 90s with the 2002 game, Geoff Crammond’s Grand Prix 4, being the last to have a Microprose logo on the box. The first Microprose game I can ever remember playing was Covert Action (1990), an old EGA game where you played a secret agent, flying around the world apprehending dangerous terrorists.

The biggest franchises published by Microprose would have to be Civilization, Master of Orion and X-COM. The first Civilization came out in 1991 but I remember playing it much later than that, in 1995 I believe, shortly before Civilization II (1996) was released. Even in 1995, Civilization's graphics were considered primitive but the addictive 'just-one-more-turn' gameplay was already there from the start. Playing Civilization II cemented my love affair for the series and I’ve been a Civ fan ever since.

Master of Orion (1993) was another sensational game which was basically Civilization in space, so it made sense for Microprose to publish this franchise! The best features of Master of Orion though were that each race had different benefits and best of all, you got to kit your own ships with the technology you researched! Master of Orion II (1996) would continue with this formula and just like Civilization, I became a Master of Orion fan.

To complete the trifecta of big Microprose franchises we have the X-COM series. UFO: Enemy Unknown (1994), was one of the first tactical, squad-based strategy games that I've played and there were many tense moments when you played this game. In the beginning of the game, the aliens have advanced technology and your team has practically no armour to protect themselves – so you can understand why it gets a bit tense! Only after several successful recovery missions and days of research do you finally get some nifty weapons and armour to combat the alien menace. X-COM Apocalypse (1997) continued with the same formula although it was set in retro-futuristic city instead of encompassing the entire Earth.

Other games that I've bought from Microprose include Sid Meier’s Colonization (1994), a strategy game that simulates the founding of the United States; Transport Tycoon (1994), the best transport company simulator I’ve ever played; Worms 2 (1997), the best version of Team 17’s take of the artillery game genre, and Mechwarrior 3 (1999), a highly realistic battlemech simulator (if you can call piloting battlemechs, realistic)!

As Microprose is defunct, no-one will be buying games from this publisher any time soon – unless they decide to resurrect the brand name of course! 2K Games is the natural successor though as it owns Firaxis.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Choicest VGM - VGM #55 - King's Quest V - The Hermit



You know I don't remember the Hermit in KQ5 too well, except for the fact he lives in a shack on the beach IIRC and he probably was once a sailor, hence the sea shanty I suppose! Anyway, it's definitely one of the tracks I remember, probably because it sounds like "Blow the Man Down".



Thanks to Sierra On-Line and Quest Studios for providing these memorable tracks.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Choicest VGM - VGM #54 - King's Quest V - Bandit Camp



I fondly remember the many times I had to reload the game as I couldn't figure how to sneak past a sleeping thief. He'd always shout "WHO ARE YOU? A SPY!" before running over to Graham, who makes no objections to the thief stabbing him to death. Good times...

Thanks to Sierra On-Line and Quest Studios for providing these memorable tracks.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

SimCity 2000 Review

This classic city-simulation game will reach its 20th anniversary next year, as it was released back in 1993. In the good ol' days, Maxis's cash llama was this series of games before they started making The Sims series and its gazillion expansion and extra content packs... it was also a lot more respectable, as a heterosexual male, to say you were playing the latest SimCity than Virtual Doll House, I mean, the Sims. The game was more technical too and it was awesome seeing your small hamlet turning into a thriving metropolis.

Again, the replaying of classic games like SimCity 2000 are only really possible when I go on trips with my netbook (otherwise I'd most likely be playing more recent games). As it was before, I won't review this game as if it was me reviewing it in 1993 but as someone wanting to experience this retro game nowadays, either as a newcomer or an old fan wanting to buy into the nostalgia.

Plot (5/5)
As with a lot of the Sim games, the best part about them is that you use your creativity to make the story. The basic premise of every SimCity though is that you're the mayor of a city and you are responsible for its future development. You're also part of a nation known as SimNation which your neighbouring cities are part of.

I've always thought SimCity 2000 trumps the other cities in this category though. Unlike other SimCitys, you've actually got a city newspaper which not only contains humourous random articles, but also articles about yourself, the mayor. Don't be surprised to find articles on events you've attended and issues you've responded to. There's even a mayor approval rating column! As your city grows, you get more newspapers targeted at different demographics (just like a real city).

Gameplay (5/5)
As with other SimCitys, your responsibilities as a mayor sound simple enough: create a city by providing the appropriate infrastructure, residential, commercial and industrial zones. You gain money by taxing your populace and then use that money to zone new areas of development. The areas won't develop however without connecting roads, rail, water and electricity. To help increase the value of your city you have to ensure there are public services such as police, fire protection, health facilities (hospitals) and educational facilities (schools, colleges, libraries and museums). Parks, leisure facilities and nature also help to increase the value of an area. Things like crime, pollution, traffic, brownouts and high taxes however will scare off potential residents. Oh and there's also the occasional disaster to worry about too...

So there's a lot of stuff you can do in this game and, as mentioned before, there's an enormous amount of satisfaction in seeing your city grow from a humble village into a huge metropolis. All the other SimCitys are very similar in how they work however I believe SimCity 2000 is equal best with SimCity 3000, as the original is too basic and primitive, while SimCity 4 has too many performance issues and bugs, when trying to run it on a modern PC.

There are games like Cities XL out there nowadays which are basically spiritual successors to SimCity, but if you've ever played one of them, they are so inaccessible to new players that it might make Will Wright reconsider his statement about SimCity being too complex!

Sound (3/5)
Audio is of a low quality, but that's to be expected of 1993 sound effects. My favourite sound effect would be the crowd booing noise that seems to play every time your Finances Adviser recommends upping the tax rate!

Music (3/5)
The music in SimCity 2000 is basic but that's to be expected considering they are probably using MIDI tracks. It's also weird how they have a random mix of genres.

Graphics (3/5)
As you can see in the screenshots, graphics are at a low resolution and game developers were only just starting to dabble with SVGA in the early 90s. While the graphics may seem primitive by today's standard, they're still passable and cities still look impressive, especially when you get large skyscrapers as part of your skyline.

Replay (5/5)
The SimCity series is renowned for having high replay value. I mean you can play the game as many times as you like and have vastly different cities each time. The only problem with sandbox games like SimCity is that there is no end to the game, no goal. You stop whenever you wish to stop playing (although building a city to the edges of the map and attempting to get the highest population possible is probably the defacto goal).

SimCity 4 is probably slightly better in the replay department as it has an interesting hook where you can connect your cities up - i.e. you can build all the cities in SimNation if you wanted to.

Polish (5/5)
I didn't encounter any serious issues while playing this game, although I do know that in the old days, SC2K was very performance hungry - thankfully this is no longer the case.

Also, as SimCity 2000 is an old game, zooming using the mouse wheel doesn't work, which is a minor annoyance.

Score - 8/10

While the audio and graphics are rather dated, SimCity 2000 is addictive as it was almost 20 years ago.

If you want to get the game, you can get it off Good Old Games, DRM free.

If you like this game, you might like...

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Top 10 Game Publishers of All Time - #7 Microsoft


Coming in at #7 for top publisher is Microsoft.

Microsoft have been publishing games for a long time – the first Microsoft published game I played was in fact Microsoft Decathlon back in 1982 – although it’s probably debatable whether I can truly include this game considering Microsoft did not have a dedicated game publishing arm at that stage (as far as I know).

The biggest franchises published by Microsoft would have to be Age of Empires and Fable. Back in 1997, I tried out this new Real-Time Strategy (RTS) game that claimed to be different than the sci-fi and fantasy offerings of Westwood Studios and Blizzard. This game, by Ensemble Studios, was set in ancient human times and involved guiding your humble tribe from the Stone Age to the Iron Age. It was an addictive game and its legacy can be seen in such recent memes as "Wololo". The game also had an intuitive level editor to boot. Its sequel, the medieval Age of Empires 2 (1999), added even more civilizations to play with and was critically acclaimed.



While often over-hyped by Lionhead Studios’ Peter Molyneux, Fable, released in 2004 on PC, was still a fun RPG. Like Knights of the Old Republic, the game allowed you to perform good or evil actions and this would change your alignment (and appearance) as a result. Sadly the PC never got a version of Fable II but we did get the opportunity to play Fable III (2010) which was set in an Industrial Era Albion. Fable III was interesting in that it played with the idea that being a hero often meant choosing the lesser of two evils.

Other games that I’ve bought from Microsoft include Gorillas (1991), a game that was bundled with Microsoft’s QBASIC; Starlancer (2000), a space sim by Chris Roberts which is similar to Wing Commander; Freelancer (2003), a sensational space trading sim by Chris Roberts, similar to Privateer; Rise of Nations (2004), an RTS that is a winning combination of Civilization and Age of Empires, and Jade Empire (2005), a Bioware RPG with a Far Eastern setting.

Will I continue to buy Microsoft games in the future? It really depends on a couple of things. Firstly, Lionhead Studios appears to be taking the approach that it will only release games on console which means Peter Molyneux is unlikely to get any money from me in the future, no matter how good his games are. Secondly Microsoft doesn’t seem to be doing much with some of its better IP like Age of Empires or Freelancer. The most recent Age of Empires game, Age of Empires Online, didn’t rate well and Freelancer is unlikely to be touched ever again considering Chris Roberts has seemingly left the game development business (his brother, Erin, still works in the industry though...).

Choicest VGM - VGM #53 - King's Quest V - The Weeping Willow



An appropriately sad medieval-sounding tune. Being the nice guy Graham is, he eventually helps the Weeping Willow - although to be honest I can't remember how - may have to replay KQ5 perhaps!

What was interesting about this track though, if I remember correctly, is that there is a short digital audio segment where the Weeping Willow actually sings to this tune. It was actually quite rare in computer games at that time. Of course the audio was of a rather low quality but was amazing for its day nonetheless.

Thanks to Sierra On-Line and Quest Studios for providing these memorable tracks.

Monday, February 20, 2012

New Mass Effect 3 trailer released



Another pretty sweet trailer for Mass Effect 3. Looks like the female character next to Commander Shepard will be Diana Allers. I wonder if she's a potential love interest (just for those who've missed out on love interests in ME1 or ME2)?

Also I was half expecting a mini-geth to attack Shepard, considering the little girl was playing in the cornfield...

So what do you think about the new trailer? Will you be getting ME3?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Low framerates in Need for Speed: The Run?

If you're getting low framerates in Need for Speed: The Run (NFS:TR) and you've got a PC copy, that's because the game is locked at 30FPS during a race. Apparently, this is due to the game being a console port so once again us PC gamers get the short end of the stick (yay)! Not to worry though, in the last patch that was released for NFS:TR it allows you to get around this by removing V-Sync. By removing V-Sync the game is no longer locked at 30FPS and you can definitely tell the difference (sadly the cutscenes seem to still be locked at 30FPS but you can't have everything I guess)!

Here are some instructions on how to do it.

1. Select Settings from the Main Menu



2. In the Settings Menu, select Display



3. On the Display Options menu, select Advanced Display Settings



4. On the Advanced Display Settings menu turn V-Sync off.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Battlefield 3 Soundtrack Review

  • Name: Battlefield 3 Soundtrack
  • Label: EA Games Soundtracks
  • Composer(s): Johan Skugge and Jukka Rintamaki
  • Number of Tracks: 19

Being a fan of the Battlefield games and the Battlefield main theme especially, I decided to purchase this soundtrack off Big Pond Music (BPM). There are quite a few tracks on this soundtrack but they're all mostly 1-2 minutes long so there's already not that much music here for the $15 it costs off BPM.

What makes it worse is that a lot of the tracks on this soundtrack are what I consider filler tracks. Sure you probably hear most of this music in the game but they're simply not enjoyable to listen to if you're listening to them on your MP3 player or car stereo. Most of the tracks are ambient and minimalist - I mean you just need to listen to the track "Brawl" to understand what I mean:



My favourite tracks would have to be the Battlefield 3 Main Theme and the Solomon Theme. Incidentally, these tracks are used as the multiplayer game victory music and defeat music respectively. While the BF3 main theme has nothing on the orchestral versions of the Battlefield theme, it's good to see they've still incorporated the old theme somewhere in the game, usually during the most epic segments of the single player campaign.





Besides the two tracks above though, and Fire from the Sky and Operation Metro, two of the better "loading level" tracks, there's not much else to recommend on this album.

Score - 3/10

You can grab the album off Big Pond Music (BPM) for $15 - although I'd recommend just grabbing the tracks you like as it might turn out cheaper!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Choicest Games now on Twitter


Choicest Games is now on Twitter! Yay! It was about time I guess, although I still have reservations as to how effective Twitter is in connecting with other gamers. I guess only time will tell! Anyway, interested to know about experiences people have with Twitter and whether they reckon it's worthwhile or not. I'm hoping it is or else I've made a serious mistake!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Top 10 Game Publishers of All Time - #8 Atari


Coming in at #8 for top publisher is Atari.

Atari has a long and complicated history as a brand name being owned by several entities since its humble beginnings as Atari Inc. in 1972. Back then, Atari was of course famous for the development of video game consoles its most famous being the Atari 2600. Atari Inc. eventually became the Atari Corporation in 1984, after a video games crash in 1983 resulted in them being sold off to Tramel Technology. The failures of the Atari Lynx and Atari Jaguar consoles to gain market share resulted in the company being merged with a hard disk manufacturer in 1996. Atari wasn’t heard of until 1998 when Hasbro Interactive bought the Atari name and IP. Under Hasbro Interactive, Atari was known as Atari Interactive. In 2001, Infogrames took over Hasbro Interactive and Atari became Atari Inc. again. Atari Interactive however still existed as a separate entity. In 2009, Infogrames renamed itself to Atari SA which was now the new name for the parent company of Atari Inc. and Atari Interactive. So there were now three Ataris… any questions? Well I can’t be bothered answering them so tough bikkies :) (If you want to know more, read Wikipedia).

I bought my first Atari published game in 2004, when Infogrames was the name of Atari’s parent company. The game was the spiritual successor to Transport Tycoon known as Chris Sawyer’s Locomotion. Incidentally, it was around this time that Chris Sawyer started suing Atari for not paying him his fair share of royalties and now Chris Sawyer has disappeared.

The biggest franchises published by Atari would have to be Neverwinter Nights, Test Drive and The Witcher. Neverwinter Nights (2002) was a breakthrough RPG in that it provided modding tools to allow players to create their own adventures quite easily. While I never actually owned Neverwinter Nights or played it that much (which is why it will be excluded from my count) I did play its sequel in 2006, Neverwinter Nights 2 (NWN2), by Obsidian Entertainment. While NWN2 was panned by Neverwinter Nights purists, I actually liked the game as it had a stronger focus on the main plot and characterisation – similar to games like Knights of the Old Republic, Mass Effect or Dragon Age.

As I’m a fan of the Test Drive games from way back (my first experience was Test Drive III in 1990) I was quite excited when Test Drive Unlimited (2006) and then its sequel Test Drive Unlimited 2 (2011) were released. While the multiplayer was buggy in both games for us here in Australia, the ability to cruise around Oahu in a large number of classic licensed cars was a great experience.

I’ve yet to play the sequel to The Witcher (2007) but I was impressed by the original in that the consequences of your actions were only felt much later on in the story. The game also branded itself as an “adult” RPG by having lots of violence and nudity. While I don’t mind a game trying to appeal more to an adult audience, rewarding the player with trophy cards each time you slept with someone is a bit degrading to women methinks.

Other games that I’ve bought from Atari include Sid Meier’s Pirates! (2004), an update on Sid Meier’s classic swashbuckling adventure; Fahrenheit aka Indigo Prophecy (2005), an adventure game that allowed multiple paths to its conclusion; Driver: Parallel Lines (2006), an open-world GTA clone that had a funky soundtrack, and Ghostbusters: The Video Game (2009), which was apparently scripted by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis.


While Atari has access to some interesting IP such as Neverwinter Nights and Test Drive, the upcoming releases don’t seem to interest me at all. For the Neverwinter Nights fans, we have a new game called Neverwinter which is in development. However it is going to be an MMORPG and it’s not part of the original Neverwinter Nights series. Also it doesn’t look like Atari is involved at all. For the Test Drive fans, a new game called Test Drive: Ferrari Legends is being released very soon. Of course, if you’re not a fan of Ferraris, this game is going to have limited appeal.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Top 10 Game Publishers of All Time - #9 Virgin Interactive


Coming in at #9 for top publisher is Virgin Interactive.

Unlike 2K Games in the #10 spot, Virgin Interactive is a fairly old publisher, forming as early as 1981. It wasn’t until 1992 that I bought my first Virgin Interactive game, which was a classic of the Real-Time Strategy (RTS) genre, Dune II by Westwood Studios.

The biggest franchises published by Virgin Interactive would have to be the Command & Conquer (C&C) series and the Broken Sword adventure game series. While Virgin Interactive was publisher for the C&C series, I bought the original C&C (1995), Red Alert (1996) and Tiberian Sun (1999). I also bought another Westwood Studios game which was basically an updated Dune II, known as Dune 2000 (1998). That’s a lot of classic RTSs right there! From the Broken Sword series, I’ve only really played the second game, Broken Sword II: The Smoking Mirror (1997) although I am playing through the first one at the moment! Another legendary Revolution Software game, one that is set in a cyberpunk Australia, is Beneath a Steel Sky (1994), which incidentally is now freeware.

Other games that I’ve bought from Virgin Interactive include KGB (1992), a cold war spy adventure game; IndyCar Racing (1993), a racing simulator and The 7th Guest (1993), a classic puzzle game which was one of the first games to be released on CD-ROM.

While Virgin Interactive did publish some very popular games they are sadly now defunct.

Choicest VGM - VGM #52 - King's Quest V - The Town



This track plays when Graham visits the local town and is constantly spammed by locals coming by saying in an over-enthusiastic voice "NICE DAY, ISN'T IT?"

Anyway, it actually reminds me of when I visited some markets in the Netherlands... don't ask me why...

Thanks to Sierra On-Line and Quest Studios for providing these memorable tracks.

Choicest Games ranked higher than Ron Gilbert on Technorati


I know right? Doesn't make much sense - not that I'm complaining mind you, it's not every day that you can lay claim to having a blog that is ranked higher than a legendary game developer but there you have it. Makes you wonder how Technorati's algortihms work in determining how many points your blog deserves. Perhaps activity of posts is important in this regard?

And don't tell me you don't know who Ron Gilbert is! He only developed some of the most memorable Lucasarts adventure games like Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion. His more recent gems include the Deathspank series.

And sorry, don't mean to gloat Ron, but you know what they say about simple minds... :)

Battlefield 3 receives new update


A new update has been released for Battlefield 3. It's mainly a technical update to improve support for future video cards and fix a couple of glitches. Looks like we can expect more balancing updates in the future though.

This is what DICE had to say:
"List of issues fixed:


Support for Intel’s new Ivy Bridge product line (as yet unreleased)

Fixes for two reproducible client crashes:
Operation Firestorm- Conquest Large – Fixed a client crash when users spawn in certain vehicles.

Canals - Rush – Fixed a client crash at the 2nd set of mcoms if the player drives a vehicle into the vicinity of the exploding rocket battery.

AMD Radeon 7xxx series performance improvements

This minor fix is releasing on the 14th February, 8AM UT. This download will be via Origin.


We would also like to inform the community that we have several ongoing developments with regards to balance and gameplay, performance, stability and the overall feature set that will be announced in the coming weeks."

Mass Effect 3 Demo Released


For those of you who still have never played a Mass Effect game or if you're wanting to check out what the co-op is going to be like in ME3 can now download the demo off Origin. Since I've already pre-ordered game, I'm not really that interested - plus I've got plenty of other games to play and review in the near future :).

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Top 10 Game Publishers of All Time - #10 2K Games


I thought it would be an interesting exercise to perform a bit of research on all the PC games that I’ve played and owned over the years and objectively determine which publisher I bought the most games from and also which developers seemed to be at the helm of my favourite games. I could even run a Top 10 games for each year of the 1990s and 2000s (although admittedly, for a few years I didn’t quite reach the 10 games played mark!).

This might seem simple to do at a glance but there are some issues I had to make a call on – like which games to include? Some of the games I may have bought but didn’t turn out liking at all or I only played them for 5 seconds. Also many of the publishers/developers are actually related to each other if you delve into their history. I’ve done my best to identify which developers and publishers are actually the same company or are an offshoot of an existing company.

Anyway, in terms of collecting the raw data here is my methodology:

1. Try and remember as many games that I’ve owned that have been (a) played a lot, (b) finished and/or (c) really liked.
2. Record the release date, developer and publisher for each of the games remembered
3. Created PivotTables to record the counts of each of the developers or publishers
4. Merged developers or publishers who were actually the same company or offshoots and their associated counts.
5. Selected the top 10 out of these lists


At the end of the exercise I ended up with 343 games, 42 publishers (who published more than one game) and 50 developers (who developed more than one game). The games I’ve played span from 1969 – 2011 although most were mainly focused around the early 1990s (see graph below).


Anyway my #10 pick for favourite publisher is 2K Games.


2K Games is actually one of the more recent publishers I’ve bought games from – the first one being the greatest of Civilization games so far, Civilization IV, which was released in 2005. This actually coincides with when 2K Games came into being as they were officially founded in 2005 when Take-Two Interactive acquired developer Visual Concepts and it subsidiary Kush games from Sega.

The biggest cash cow for 2K Games would arguably be the Civilization series. As mentioned I bought Civilization IV (2005), but what I didn’t mention was that I also bought all of its expansions! I also bought Civilization IV: Colonization (2008), as I was a fan of the 1994 original and also the most recent Civilization V (2010). Other games I’ve bought from 2K Games include the fun American Civil War Mk II game, Shattered Union (2005); the sci-fi FPS, Prey (2006); the FPS/RPG hybrid, Borderlands (2009) and the open-world mafia game, Mafia II (2010).

Considering 2K publishes games for developers like Firaxis, Illusion Softworks (now known as 2K Czech) and Irrational Games, it’s likely I’ll be buying more games from them in the future. In fact, two X-COM games, XCOM and XCOM: Enemy Unknown will be released by 2K Games in 2012-2013.

Choicest VGM - VGM #51 - King's Quest V - Introduction



I was tempted to have the Sierra fanfare as the intro theme but then decided it was too short and inconsequential to add. So here we are with a whopping 13 min track which is the intro track to King's Quest V. Here's a rundown of what each part of the track represents:

0:00 - Castle Daventry surrounded by beautiful countryside
0:17 - Mordack stealing Graham's castle with a magic spell
0:45 - Graham peacefully strolling through the forest
2:46 - Graham realising his family and castle had disappeared. Cedric the Owl arrives and explains what has happened.
7:06 - With the help of some Faerie dust from Cedric, Graham flies with him to visit his employer, a wizard named Crispin
8:30 - Graham meets with Crispin and Crispin offers all the help he can before letting him go on his quest.

Thanks to Sierra On-Line and Quest Studios for providing these memorable tracks.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Rage Review

It’s been a long time since id Software developed a new game, their last effort being Quake 4 back in 2005. What that experience taught me is that while id Software aren’t very good at making a revolutionary game in terms of gameplay, they’re at least good at developing awesomely realistic graphics engines (and indeed, that’s where they have made a lot of their money from). When information on Rage started to trickle in, it sounded promising: They were going to allow you to explore an open world with a sci-fi post-apocalyptic setting; you’d be able to drive around in buggies and there were various quests you could go. It sounded like they were onto something. Of course, a very similar game in terms of setting was released before Rage even saw the light of day called Borderlands. So Rage had to be particularly special if it was going to prove it was the better post-apocalyptic Sci-Fi game to play.

I purchased my copy of Rage since I’m a fan of old-school developers like id. They made games that are legendary like Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, Quake, even Commander Keen. Who was to deny that id couldn’t repeat their successes of yesteryear?

Plot (3/5)
In Rage, you play the survivor of an asteroid impact that has turned the Earth into a barren wasteland. You awaken from stasis to find that the world is plagued by mutants and bandits. Those that aren’t mutants or bandits try to survive as best as they can, usually in small communities dotted across the wasteland. The game has a very Sci-fi Western setting, a bit like Borderlands or Fallout, which already presents a problem for Rage since frankly I think the market is already saturated with games based in these genres. In 2008, gamers fought through post-apocalyptic Washington D.C. in Fallout 3. In 2009, they fought alien creatures on the frontier world of Pandora in Borderlands. Do gamers really want to play another Sci-Fi Western game? While I’m normally a big fan of the genre, I think sometimes you can have too much of a good thing and I think Rage was released too late.

Gameplay (2/5)
The best way to describe the gameplay in Borderlands is that it’s basically two games tacked together. On one hand you’ve got your typical FPS. Sure it’s got some RPG elements now since you’re actually doing quests/mission objectives and you’re also able to create tools and weapons by merging items together. However, the game at its core is an FPS and it doesn’t really change the formula much at all in this department (which is not surprising – we’re talking about id Software here).

On the other hand, you’ve got an arcade racer similar to the Megarace series. You’re able to deck out your vehicle with guns and ammo, and either compete in tournaments for cash or collect on bounties by destroying bandit vehicles.

While the game is fairly competent in both the FPS and racing/driving parts of the game, it’s all been done before and there’s nothing truly revolutionary. To make matters worse, there are actually other mini-games to divert your attention making you wonder what is this game trying to be? Is it trying to be the post-apocalyptic version of the Elder Scrolls? Well, I’m sorry to say that it’s far from it (Fallout 3 has already succeeded in that regard), and by trying to make the game more of an open world, id has neglected other areas.

Sound (3/5)
There’s nothing that truly stands out about the quality of the voice acting in the game or the audio in general. There is occasional sound stuttering but that’s about it.

Music (3/5)
While the music isn’t bad, it isn’t particularly memorable either. Most of it is ambient, despairing music which fits the desolate wasteland Earth has become. Otherwise, you’ll hear hard rock playing while driving or Country ‘n’ Western when you’re in town.

Graphics (1/5)
Remember when I said id Software were really good at making realistic graphics engines? You would think they’d score pretty high in this section then wouldn’t you? Unfortunately something went wrong, seriously wrong. Sure id Software did do some neat things with the engine like having things being textured on the fly, however this was very noticeable when the game first came out because the game wasn’t taking full advantage of the PC’s ability over console (that’s right, once again PC gamers suffer because of a console port). The game still ran pretty slow though in terms of framerates, which is when I discovered there was a performance driver developed by AMD/ATI *especially* for Rage. Thankfully this patch seemed to increase the framerate however shortly after this occurred I started seeing artefacts on my screen. I also couldn’t play Cities in Motion since the performance driver didn’t play ball with it at all. Eventually I just gave up playing altogether since I was investing ridiculous amounts of time just trying to get the graphics in the game running smoothly and without artefacts. I don’t know if it’s some conspiracy against AMD/ATI card owners but it’s definitely not very choice!

Graphics card problems aside, I still don’t rate the game’s graphics highly. The character models aren’t that realistic, looking a bit like Borderlands except without the cel shading.

Replay (3/5)
There are several mini-games and quests to play in Rage, which I suppose is better than previous id games when it comes to replay potential – you’re even able to hunt for Steam achievements by doing so. However, the main storyline (at least from what I’ve played) is rather linear and involves rather monotonous quests which involve lots of violence.

Polish (0/5)
The game was really buggy. So much so that I eventually gave up playing and I don’t usually admit defeat when trying to get a game to work, especially one I plan to review. I hate reviewing half-finished games but sadly folks, that’s all you’ll get with this one.

As mentioned the major issue was the graphics, to the point that I couldn’t actually see what was happening on my screen thanks to the sheer number of artefacts on the screen. I even saw purple haze at one stage – and I wasn’t even on drugs!



Score - 5/10

A buggy, boring, disappointing mess of a game. The only rage I feel is for buying this game in the first place!

If you want to get the game, you can get it off Steam.

If you like this game, you might like...

Choicest VGM - VGM #50 - Wing Commander - Death and Funeral



And here is the last of the Wing Commander tracks on Choicest VGM - how fitting that it's the Death and Funeral track :). Here's a mildly amusing story for you:

When I originally played Wing Commander, I was pretty young and during the briefing of one of the mission's, the commander instructed that if my wingman, Maniac, gave me any trouble, I had permission to blow him to bits. Maniac is notorious in the game for not following orders so sure enough, when I attempted to get him to obey me, he failed to comply. The answer was frontier justice: I destroyed his ship - after all the commander said I was allowed to do it right?

After the mission, there was obviously a funeral for Maniac but of course they just assumed that a Kilrathi shot him down! The icing on the cake is when your character says something along the lines of "don't worry Maniac, I'll get the furball that shot you down!" But the furball was me!

Many thanks to the Wing Commander fansite Wing Commander Combat Information Centre where you're able to download heaps of Wing Commander related media.

Friday, February 10, 2012

What is the best class in Battlefield 3?

I heard on the Internets… that one of the classes in BF3 is better than all the rest. For those of you that keep thinking there’s a best class in BF3, please listen carefully – There is no bathroom! I mean, there is no best class in BF3!

However, certain situations or maps in the game will result in one class being more useful than another. I aim to go through the classes one by one and hopefully help you in deciding which is best.

Assault
Standard Weapon:
- Assault Rifle

Gadgets/Abilities:
- Revive Teammates
- Throw medpacks
- Fire underslung grenade launcher
- Fire underslung shotgun

Pick this class if:
- you’re attacking on a Rush map (if you have medpacks)
- you’re playing on a small, urban map (if you have a grenade launcher or shotgun)

Engineer
Standard Weapon:
- Carbine

Gadgets/Abilities:
- Repair vehicles
- Drop landmines
- Use EOD bot
- Destroy vehicles

Pick this class if:
- you’re playing a map with a lot of vehicles or aircraft

Support
Standard Weapon:
- Machine Gun

Gadgets/Abilities:
- Replenish ammunition
- Drop Claymores
- Use C4 explosives
- Fire mortar

Pick this class if:
- you like to provide suppressing fire for your teammates
- you’re playing a small map with very little vehicles
- you have a lot of engineers on your team

Recon
Standard Weapon:
- Sniper Rifle

Gadgets/Abilities:
- Detect nearby enemies with T-UGS
- Designate enemy targets with SOFLAM
- Provide surveillance using the MAV
- Create extra spawn points with a Radio Beacon

Pick this class if:
- you like picking them off from a distance
- you’re playing a medium-large map with very little vehicles
- you want to help your team with surveillance, especially if it’s a normal server
- the engineers on your team have Javelins
- you’re playing Rush as an attacker and need a spawn point near the objective

After all is said and done though, I do think that the Engineer is perhaps the best class in BF3 only because the Battlefield series is inherently a game about using vehicles to their greatest advantage and the only class that can take aforementioned vehicles out is the Engineer (and arguably Support – although the Engineer is more effective). The Engineer can, of course, repair friendly vehicles to boot. However as mentioned before, it really depends on the map. If there are no vehicles, the Engineer really isn’t as useful - unless you’re one of those dirtbags that uses rockets on infantry of course…

You should also take into consideration what the rest of your squad is playing as since you can get quite a lot of points for helping them out. Is there an engineer on the team that keeps running out of ammo? Go as support! Are your teammates struggling to stay alive as they advance on a point? Go as assault (medic)! You get the picture.

Choicest VGM - VGM #49 - Wing Commander - Flight and Combat



Okay the quality on this Wing Commander track ain't the best but it still needs to be played: It's the music that plays while you're flying around in your spaceship :). This is in fact only one of the potential tracks that plays - I believe there are a couple more depending on what the goal of the mission is (i.e. whether it's a search and destroy, patrol or escort mission).

Many thanks to the Wing Commander fansite Wing Commander Combat Information Centre where you're able to download heaps of Wing Commander related media.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Double Fine raises $400,000 from the public for new point 'n' click adventure



This is one of the most heartwarming stories I've heard in awhile: Double Fine Productions, who has Lucasarts adventure game legends Tim Schafer and Ron Gilbert behind it, are planning to create a new point 'n' click adventure. As they describe in the video though, most publishers nowadays laugh at the prospect of resurrecting the point 'n' click adventure to the mainstream. However, Tim Schafer decided that all the adventure game fans out there should put their money where their mouth is. If they think there's so much interest, surely there'd be enough fans out there to fund their next game for a modest $400,000 (with $100,000 going towards a documentary).

Amazingly, in less than 24 hours they've got their $400,000! At the time of this article, it's now up to $534,698! More than half a million!

They're still accepting contributions any extra money will go towards a larger budget for voice-overs and music (hmmm perhaps they could even hire some Hollywood actors if enough gets contributed :P). Depending on the level of money you contribute, you receive more extra stuff. You can donate even $1 if you wish but you need to donate $15 at least if you want a copy of the game when it's released. Someone's already donated $10,000 and that gets you lunch with Tim Schafer and Ron Gilbert along with a whole bunch of other choice stuff. If you want to get into the credits you need to dish out $100.

I'll probably go for the $30 option as it's like a collector's edition of the game (comes with a digital soundtrack!). Word of warning though, you'll need to signup with Amazon.com as part of the process. Besides that, it's pretty simple!

If you want to contribute go here.

Civilization V will have animations in multiplayer


Didn't you hate it how when playing multiplayer, battles weren't as much fun anymore? Now instead of your units fighting each other, it was more like a chess game where pieces magically disappeared after being defeated. Sure, you could rationalise that it helps speed up the game but you know what? One of the major reasons I didn't continue to play Civ V multiplayer was because of the lack of animations - that and the fact the game chugs horrendously... well Firaxis have promised to enable animations in multiplayer just as it was in Civ IV (Hurrah!).

Unfortunately, it's apparently going to be a few months until they introduce this patch so we've still got a long time to wait (as if we haven't waited long enough!)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Deus Ex: Human Revolution Review

The original Deus Ex is a legend in PC gaming. It was a game that was able to incorporate elements of both FPS and RPGs, giving the player choice in how they achieve their objectives. Even many games of 2011 still can’t get that right (Rage being a recent disappointment that comes to mind, but more on that game when I review it). There’s a reason why PC Powerplay for example, still rates it as the #1 game of all time, even though it’s over a decade old.

At first, I wasn’t actually that interested in Deus Ex: Human Revolution (DX:HR). From what I could tell, none of the original developers were involved with the project and trying to make a game as half as good the original Deus Ex is a monumental task. However, being the sucker that I am for games that belong to a nostalgic series, I bit the bullet and purchased the game. The question was, did Ubisoft and Square Enix end up tarnishing Ion Storm’s venerable Deus Ex? Is the game even worse than Invisible War? Or did Ubisoft manage to make an excellent game in its own right which manages to please old and new fans alike?

Plot (5/5)
DX:HR is set in the not too distant future – a dystopian cyberpunk world at that. It actually acts as a prequel to the original Deus Ex and is set 25 years before it in 2027. You play the game as Adam Jensen, a security chief for a bio-engineering company known as Sarif Industries. A break-in results in Jensen becoming seriously injured and as a consequence Jensen is turned into a cyborg. The game is interesting in that it tries to sensitively cover the ethical issues and questions, which arise from augmenting humans with artificial limbs and organs: How much augmentation is considered valid? Should humans be allowed to receive augmentations if they want to become stronger, faster or more charismatic? Are augmented humans losing their humanity? What is humanity?

As you can see the game is a very deep, mature and thought-provoking game which is rare to see in computer games. For me, the subject matter really hits close to home as I’ve actually received an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) recently which incidentally is what Adam Jensen is installed with in the game. In fact some of the information you can stumble upon in the game reference actual medical articles.

While on the topic of information you can stumble upon in the game, the hundreds of e-mails and tablets you can read helps to build a bigger picture, just as it was in the original Deus Ex. This helps immerse you in the game and Eidos Montreal has done a good job in this department. Another example of where the game attempts to immerse the player is when you visit Shanghai. Many of the locals speak actual Mandarin – similar to how a couple of NPCs in Deus Ex spoke Cantonese in Hong Kong.

A lot of the plot, characters and locations are similar to Deus Ex, almost to be a conspiracy in itself!

  • Both Adam Jensen and JC Denton are cyborgs with gruff voices that are knee-deep in conspiracies.
  • Deus Ex takes place in the American City of New York first, then the Chinese city of Hong Kong and then the French city of Paris. DX:HR takes place in the American city of Detroit, then the Chinese city of Shanghai and then the French-Canadian city of Montreal.
  • Both Adam Jensen and JC Denton have to face a moral dilemma at the end in deciding which faction to support.
  • Deciding who the bad guys and good guys are isn’t as clear as it seems.

Gameplay (4/5)
For fans of the original Deus Ex, if you thought the plot was similar, wait till you check out the gameplay! DX:HR goes back to Deus Ex’s roots in having a similar interface and inventory system to the original. Unlike the previous Deus Ex, Invisible War, you now have to worry about ammo again as you only can carry a limited number at a time. Once again, stealth is quite important and you in fact receive the most experience points for being stealthy and non-lethal in any given situation. You actually have to take extra effort into being stealthy in DX:HR since the guards even notice the opening of doors and they’ll say it out loud too (e.g. "Wait a minute, that door just opened. But noone came through...")!

For those who haven't played Deus Ex, basically the game can be thought of as a FPS/RPG hybrid. You basically get to run and shoot enemies like your typical FPS but like an RPG you can gain levels (in the form of "Praxis Kits") which allow you to upgrade your augmentations. With upgraded augmentations you're able to run faster, jump higher, lift heavier objects and so on. Consequently, depending on which upgrades you pick, you’re able to tackle missions in different ways. For example, picking the strength upgrade might allow you to lift a heavy box which reveals a secret passage or picking the jump upgrade might allow you to fall down several floors circumventing the need to fight your way downstairs. This is what made Deus Ex such a great game and I’m pleased to say that Eidos Montreal adopted the same formula when designing this latest iteration… well at least most of the time.

Occasionally you may encounter quests where there’s only one way to finish it. For example one quest required you to hack a door and if you didn’t invest enough points into hacking, you couldn’t get in. For most of the quests in DX:HR there’s often another way but in this instance there wasn’t. Another annoyance is the fact that the game suffers the same issues as Alpha Protocol when it comes to boss fights. Boss fights are usually fights to the death with very little opportunity for your character to hide or perform a non-lethal takedown. So if you’ve been investing all your points into being sneaky and non-lethal this means you’ll find the boss fights almost impossible to finish. One of them took me several retries and I only got through thanks to a pathing glitch which caused the boss to get stuck.

Sound (2/5)
Again, just like the original Deus Ex, the overall voice acting in DX:HR is poor. While you’ll occasionally hear some good voice acting most of the time characters have outrageously stereotyped accents or they place emphasis on the wrong words. Also sometimes the volume of background audio/sound effects is too low and the character voices, too loud.

In a step backwards from the original Deus Ex, there is no aural cue to when you’re drinking or eating things from your inventory. This means there’s a chance you’ll waste some of your items as you’re pressing a hotkey and focusing your attention to somewhere else instead of your inventory bar.

Music (4/5)
The game doesn’t have as good music as the original Deus Ex and is more ambient than thematic, but I was actually impressed by what Michael McCann (famous for his work on Splinter Cell: Double Agent) did for this soundtrack. The dystopian, cyberpunk future, where mankind plays with the concept of humanity, is served well by a mixture of gloomy electronica and choral samples. Some of the music sounds like they’re in the same key and style to original Deus Ex tracks, so even though you don’t hear those memorable themes from the original (unless you’re passing by an in-game radio) it still has the same feel.

If you want a more in-depth review on some of the game's music check out my review.

Graphics (4/5)
In terms of graphics the game has a reasonably good engine and I encountered very few framerate drops, glitches or hiccups. The environment of DX:HR is incredibly detailed allowing you to interact with everything but the kitchen sink (oh... actually you can interact with that too). The only thing that seemed a bit silly to me was that some of the character models had heads that were disproportionately small when compared to their torsos.

Replay (3/5)
The game is similar to the original Deus Ex in that there are multiple endings to the game and just like Deus Ex, since you make the choice at the end, you can quite easily experience all of them provided you load a save game near the end. This unfortunately decreases the game replay value as the only reasons to replay the game would be to hunt for Steam achievements or experience an alternative approach to a mission objective.

Polish (3/5)
I can’t actually remember any serious issues or glitches with the game, except for the fact that one of the side quests was seriously bugged – to the point where I couldn’t complete most of it. It was apparently fixed in a later patch but by then it was too late, I already finished the game.



Score - 8/10

It’s Deus Ex for the next generation

If you want to get the game, you can get it off Steam.

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Sunday, February 5, 2012

Where is Chris Sawyer?


You know, the Scottish chap that created one of the best games ever, Transport Tycoon (and also worked on its spiritual successor, Locomotion, and the Rollercoaster Tycoon series).

To fans, it's been a mystery what has happened to this legendary game developer. The last anyone heard of him was when he agreed to an out-of-court settlement with Atari over unpaid royalties in 2008.

It's now 2012, four years later and there's been no word from him. Apparently he was credited as the inspiration for the recent game Cities in Motion (no surprises there) but has he been actually working on any games recently? What has he been up to? Mobygames claims that he's retired from games development, yet he was still credited in 2008 for being involved in Worldwide Soccer Manager 2009.

Unfortunately he doesn't seem to be directly contactable and the only lead is the Marjacq agency which apparently handles any enquiries to him.

So I will start by trying to contact Marjacq and then seeing if I can find any other leads.

17/07/2013 EDIT: Chris Sawyer has at last re-surfaced! It appears he has a company in Dunblane, Scotland called 31X Ltd. that managed to secure the Microprose IP related to his work (i.e. Transport Tycoon) and is now working with Origin8 Technologies to develop a port of the game for mobile platforms. That means a touch-screen version of Transport Tycoon may be arriving soon.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

FUS RO DAH



The creators of this video obviously liked one of Skyrim's most famous memes over another... :)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Guild Wars 2 Music

Jeremy Soule seems to keep getting better and better! I've just found some music from Guild Wars 2 and it's sounding appropriately epic. Check out the themes for each of the races below (love it how the Norn theme is a re-worked Song of the Shiverpeaks :)):











Battlefield 3 sells more than 10 million copies


According to a recent EA financial report, Battlefield 3 has sold over 10 million copies - that's a lot of copies!

Also PopCap was acquired by EA in August (apparently) and EA's Origin has 9.3 million subscribers (not surprising since you have no choice for certain EA games).

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Mass Effect 3 voice cast trailer



And it's a big voice cast at that, considering you've got all the main character voice actors from Mass Effect 1 and 2. There looks like there are a couple of new additions though (I guess a couple of more potential romantic interests?).

Freddie Prinze Jr and Jessica Chobot (who is apparently an IGN host and staff writer) join the cast. It must be a dream come true for gamer girl Jessica to actually star in such a high-profile game like Mass Effect 3!