Posts Tagged ‘retrospective’

Retrospective: Darksiders II – Deathinitive Edition

Returning to Darksiders II [official site] nearly five years after I first reviewed it, for a worrying time I wondered what on Earth I’d been on about. I remember absolutely loving the game, and writing a rave review back in 2012, so why was I struggling to even want to carry on in the first hour? It turns out, it just has a really dull first hour, because ten hours in I’m so utterly engrossed, and want to rave about it all over again. Read the rest of this entry »

Saved Games: Interstate ‘76 is the game worth saving from 1997

Every game released before 2015 is being destroyed. We only have time to rescue one game from each year. Not those you’ve played to death, or the classics that the industry has already learned from. We’re going to select the games that still have more to give. These are the Saved Games.

There’s a moment just seconds into Interstate ‘76’s intro cinematic that I think neatly captures its spirit: two American hot rods are racing along a desert highway, one firing its roof-mounted machine guns perfectly in sync with the wacka-wacka funk guitar underpinning the scene, while the other weaves from side to side in front of it, also in time with the music. There are probably a total of seventy polygons onscreen, and yet the game’s stylistic vision and world of bizarre menace are communicated instantly.

Set in an alt-history southwestern USA in which the 1973 oil crisis provoked the rise of criminal gangs and a resultant vigilante uprising, Interstate ‘76 is a vehicular combat game as concerned with nailing an aesthetic as it is with the mechanics of cars shooting at one another. It’s a game that achieves remarkable harmony between its visual style, narrative and what you do as the player, and it does so in a world that’s not quite seventies pastiche or fantasy dystopia. Instead, it’s something strange and distinct in between the two. It is the game release of 1997 that should be preserved forevermore. Read the rest of this entry »

Deadly Premonition is the game worth saving from 2013

Every game released before 2015 is being destroyed. We only have time to rescue one game from each year. Not those you’ve played to death, or the classics that the industry has already learned from. We’re going to select the games that still have more to give. These are the Saved Games.

Deadly Premonition, in many respects, is one of the worst games I’ve ever played. The combat is awful, with a three-button aiming system and melee weapons that break after four swings. The sound design essentially consists of the same four or five audio clips on loop for the 25-hour story (I’d recognise that door creak anywhere). The driving is shocking, some of the acting is straight out of your local am-dram class, and the graphics wouldn’t look out of place on something released 15 years prior. To top it all off, the PC port is locked to 720p. Glorious.

So why on earth would I choose it as the game I’d save from 2013 (or 2010 if you count the game’s initial console release)? Read the rest of this entry »

Red Faction: Guerilla’s destructible scenery makes it still worth playing today

Two hostages. One building. Five government guards with reinforcements waiting in the wings. In most games, I’d try to sneak in with a silenced rifle, methodically popping enemies in the head one-by-one. But in Red Faction: Guerrilla, I don’t even have a gun in my inventory, let alone a silenced one. What I have instead are explosives. Lots of explosives.

I rig five charges at random points on the outside of the building, retreat to a safe distance, and squeeze the detonator. Glass shatters and debris flies off at all angles, a steel girder whizzing past my left ear as concrete and metal crumble down on top of the EDF soldiers, crushing them alive. But, predictably, the hostages are caught in the chaos. One is buried in the rubble, the other limping out with her health in the red.

The game tries to make me feel bad, alerting me that ‘morale’ in the local area has fallen to account for the dead guerrilla fighter. But I really don’t care. Because blowing up buildings is fun – and Red Faction: Guerrilla makes it more fun than any other game out there. Read the rest of this entry »

The remarkable community around a 27-year-old MS-DOS racing game

What does it take to keep a game alive for 27 years?

Stunts, released by Distinctive Software in 1990, is a brutally unforgiving racing game. In glorious 640×480 resolution, it boasts 3D graphics in bold primary colours, a physics engine (that will regularly destroy your car), and a track editor. Prior to the fall of the Soviet Union, it was pretty cutting edge. But what is most noteworthy about it is that it still has an active playerbase. I spoke to members of the Stunts community to find out why they’re still playing. Read the rest of this entry »

Why F.E.A.R.’s AI is still the best in first-person shooters

The shadows on the wall tell me they’re coming. Two of them, both with assault rifles swinging idly at their hips. If I’m quick enough, I’m sure I can take them both out in one go. I peek out of cover as they round the corner, and let my stake gun sing, pinning the first enemy to the wall with 10mm steel projectiles. But at the sound of gunfire the other one legs it back the way he came, hunkers down in cover, and yells for reinforcements down his radio.

This five-second episode tells you a lot about the attention to detail in F.E.A.R., a 12-year-old game with AI that puts many modern-day shooters to shame. Its army of clone soldiers feel smarter than any enemy I’ve faced in an FPS since, and remain razor-sharp to this day. Read the rest of this entry »

Meet the superfans still playing Populous: The Beginning

In 1998, Bullfrog released Populous: The Beginning, a quirky RTS sequel to the legendary Populous series of god games, to middling reviews. It ‘[wa]sn’t really Populous’ (Ron Dulin, GameSpot). It was ‘incredibly entertaining for about two weeks’ (Trent Ward, IGN). EA absorbed Bullfrog in 2001, and shut down the game’s multiplayer server in 2004. And that was that.

So how come there’s still an active group of Populous players keeping the flame alive nearly twenty years later? I got in touch with some of the community’s longest-standing members to find out. Read the rest of this entry »

Raised By Screens, chapter 17 – Planescape: Torment

Raised by screens is an intermittent autobiography, structured around the PC games I played in my youth. Most instalments are currently only available to RPS subscribers, but I shall compile them somewhere once the series reaches its eventual end.

Some spoilers for Planescape: Torment’s ending follow.

Too many games now, too many websites, too much happening each and every day. I mean only ‘too much for me personally to keep pace with’, not that this is inherently a poor state of things. I think about how I came to play Planescape: Torment, and how differently that might happen today.
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The RPG Scrollbars: Old Habitats Die Hard

There’s no better way to cause trouble than to talk about ‘firsts’. Say for instance that King’s Quest IV featured the first female adventure character, and you’re probably going to be drowned out by some pedant waving a copy of Infocom’s Plundered Hearts in your face. That pedant may even be me. Of course, that’s nothing compared to the folly of calling, say, Everquest the first MMO and leaving it without some very quick clarification. The extent of the first M in MMORPG, the importance of success over existence, the jump between mainframe and computer and all manner of other stuff makes it tricky to plant a flag everyone can actually agree deserves to be there.

But there aren’t many games with a better claim than Lucasarts’ Habitat, the latest classic game to get a fancy modern revival project. It definitely deserves it.

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Stunt Island, a vital piece of PC gaming history, is back

SWAT 4 isn’t the only golden geriatric to fetch up on GOG lately, you know. Stunt Island joined the ranks of olden wunderkinds on the Steam alternative late last year, but we were too knee-deep in festive fractiousness to cover it at the time. I don’t want to just ignore the charming and ambitious flight sim-meets-movie-making game, so let’s do this now.
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Prey 2006: A giant pile of ideas abandoned in a heap on the floor

2006’s original Prey came a full eleven years after 3D Realms began its production. Eventually completed by Human Head Studios, although using some of the original concepts (primarily the portal tech), it was released to rave reviews. Which is odd, because it’s a colossal pile of shit.

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Creeper World 3 has the best monster of any game

What’s the best video game monster? Stop and think. You’ve probably thought of something bristling with claws, which snarls as it rushes to bite you, or some skittering horror that lurks in the shadows. Perhaps it’s a shiny robot or a soldier with particularly fiendish AI. These are all understandable choices. They are, however, wrong.

The best monster is in Creeper World 3 [official site]. It is gunge. It has no weak point to exploit. It has no face. There will be no victory. There will only be gunge.

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Friendless Space: Why Master Of Orion 3 Is Important

Games are either good or the worst thing to ever happen. That’s just how it works. Oh, sure, there are divisive games, but once the consensus has been reached that a game is bad, that’s it. Cast it away into the pit of 1 star reviews, the lair of the Thumbdown, to be spoken of only with frothing hatred and contempt. Never to be touched. Never to be examined.

Master of Orion 3 is one of the most important 4X games ever made. There, I said it. It’s all over for me now. Follow not where I dare to tread.

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The Making Of Company Of Heroes

In 2001, Band of Brothers was still airing on HBO and Canadian developer Relic Entertainment was finishing up development of Impossible Creatures, its freaky animal RTS. Space and sci-fi had been its muse for years, but it found, in the increased cultural interest in World War 2, another setting and the impetus for Company of Heroes.

Relic celebrated the game’s tenth anniversary this month. It remains one of the most acclaimed RTS games of all time, lavished in 2006 with glowing reviews and heaps of awards. I’ll mostly remember it as the reason I got chewed out by a lecturer for dozing in class, after a long night of liberating Europe.

We’ve talked four of the original developers into taking a trip down a potholed, tank-lined memory lane with us.

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Retrospective – Star Trek: Elite Force II

Jean-Luc Picard looks small and lonely. Older, somehow more statesmanlike than ever, still captain of the Starfleet’s flagship, but weirdly tiny, as though he is slowly disappearing. Because he’s alone. All of his officers have gone. There’s just all these unfamiliar young people now. Young, quiet, anonymous. Oh, and a visiting Tuvok from Voyager, but he’s no Data, is he?
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What Civ VI Could Learn From Civilization: Call To Power

I’m not entirely sure what’s going on. I’m playing Civilization: Call to Power, and at some point the world turned from relative Civ familiarity (with shoddier mechanics) into a Twilight Zone where everything is just… wrong. I think things started getting strange when my still ancient-looking capital city of Rome circa 1700AD started being showered with little animations of paper, crippling the city’s production. Sending a spy to investigate, I uncovered that a man in a blue suit (all the rage in 1600s Thailand, apparently) was behind it all – a scummer lawyer catapulting bloody injunctions.

What in Sid’s name is going on?

Civilization: Call to Power and its sequel are baffling, yet also fascinating – they’re the shameful secrets of the esteemed 4X series that Sid Meier and Firaxis had no involvement with, borne of huge ambitions, an inexperienced dev team at Activision, and (fittingly, given the stifling, all-pervasive role of lawyers in the game), a lawsuit.

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Why Gothic Is More Believable Than Modern RPGs

One of the many nebulous concepts that spring up when writing about games is “a sense of place”. We talk about worlds and locations and settings, but often these boil down to unusual geography or art direction – surface details and imagery rather than a real identity.

Gothic, by contrast, wasn’t particularly pretty. Its setting wasn’t the singular underground world of Arx Fatalis, nor the varied alien landscape of Morrowind. Instead, Piranha Bytes recognised back in 2001 that a place is a place not because of its landscape or biome or buildings, but because the people there make it one.

Most RPGs have NPC traffic. Gothic had a society.

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Frags For The Memories: Quake Is Twenty Today

Twenty years ago today, id Software released Quake. Following a multiplayer test that gave the world a first glimpse of the studio’s new, cutting edge 3d engine, the full game arrived on June 22, 1996. Its bizarre mash-up of medieval architecture and crunchy, industrial weaponry didn’t run through the sequels, which have focused on both singleplayer and multiplayer combat, and there hasn’t been anything else quite like it in the two decades since release.

Arena-based Quake is set for a revival with the recently announced Quake Champions, but here, we remember the original. Happy twentieth, Quake.

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What Cinemaware Understood About Cinema And Games

Cinematic! What a loaded word it’s become. Once the game industry’s marketing buzzword du jour, the descriptor certainly earned its current status as a groanworthy sign that a developer would much rather be doing something else.

With such a disclaimer then, it’s safe to specify why It Came From The Desert, and in fact most games from its developer Cinemaware, had “cinematic” firmly in their sights. But in a good way.

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