Reviews by Gmen

90

Arguably the best Star Wars game ever made

Gmen | July 1, 2014 | Review of Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast (MAC)

For all intents and purposes, this is Dark Forces III, and continues the story of Kyle Katarn, the central character from the previous two games (three, if you count the expansion to Dark Forces II – Mysteries of the Sith).

The game uses the Quake III Team Arena engine, and it looks pretty smooth to this day. The one thing I always liked about it is that it doesn’t look like just a mere mod for Quake III, like say Return to Castle Wolfenstein always did. It might be a bit dated as far as looks go, but honestly for a game that is over ten years old, it’s really not too bad.

You have all the usual sound effects one would expect from a Star Wars title – the high pitched noise of the blasters, and the ominous “zoom” of the lightsaber. Very good use of sound, especially when one factors in that some voice actors from the original trilogy even lent their voices to the characters in the game. The score is also particularly memorable in my opinion.

You can choose between first and third person mode when handling the weapons the game has on offer, although to be honest lightsaber combat and force powers are much more impressive in third person -- especially when one views the slow motion fatalities in lightsaber battles.

There is nothing more fun than taking force powers and using them on the fairly intelligent and capable AI, and the lightsaber battles are legendary and what one would expect of a licenced game based in the Star Wars Extended Universe.

Once one tires of the singleplayer campaign, they are in for endless fun by engaging in a variety of multiplayer modes. If you have no friends, never fear, because the game can be played with bots too, ala Quake III Arena.

All in all, this is very probably the best game based on Star Wars I have ever played, and very likely the best Raven-developed game ever. This game comes from a studio known for producing mediocre titles, and this was always quite surprising to me. Certainly their Magnum Opus.

In short, if you're a Star Wars fan, get this game. If you're not a Star Wars fan, get this game anyway.

80

The last good Commandos title

Gmen | May 8, 2014 | Review of Commandos 3: Destination Berlin

The graphics are pretty much the same as Commandos 2, so nothing revolutionary in terms of looks. In fact, because of the locked resolution, it may even be worse.

Some of the voice actors for the commandos themselves seem to have changed, which may or may not be disappointing to some out there, and a lot of the sounds effects are just recycled from previous Commandos titles, which I feel is a tad lazy.

Commandos 3 is different from previous Commandos games in the way that missions aren’t as large, and the focus is not on squads of several men like in previous games. Most missions will have 1, 2, or 3 operatives at most, and they all have the ability to use most of the weapons and grenades. Couple this with the fact that missions are more difficult than previous games on the whole due mostly to the fact that a lot of them have time restrictions. So you have a game that will only really appeal to core fans of the series, and even then it really borders on alienating said fans. The time limits force a fast-paced, more action-orientated play style, and don’t allow for careful timing and plotting strategies like the prequels do.

Overall, this game feels like an expansion for Commandos 2 rather than a proper sequel. However, Commandos 3 is still a somewhat decent game, and should provide enough of a challenge for most.

86

Not as good as the original

Gmen | May 7, 2014 | Review of F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin

The thing about the first F.E.A.R. was the pacing, the suspense, and the fact that it left so many unanswered questions at the end that the player really had to try and piece together for themselves – this all contributed to making it the hit it was.

The sequel just doesn’t have the same appeal. It doesn’t continue the story of Point Man, who was the main character in F.E.A.R. and its first expansion, Extraction Point, instead opting for a different character, who amazingly has the exact same abilities as Point Man. The plot just feels a bit ridiculous, predictable, and not particularly well thought out. This game is mainly all action with not much of the creep out factor the original game provided and right at the end, without spoiling anything for those who haven't played it, the plot in its entirety is revealed to you just in case you weren’t paying attention throughout most of the game.

There are some new additions like being able to pilot a mech, and there are new enemies and redesigned weapons to dispatch them with, and there are still parts of the game that manage to creep me out, like the school level, which was obviously inspired by the same sort of location in Condemned: Criminal Origins.

The engine was already starting to show its age in this game. In 2005 it was mind-blowing how good F.E.A.R. looked. In 2009, not so much. This was after Crysis had wowed people with its beauty, and became the measuring stick for graphical standards in games for years to come. F.E.A.R. 2 doesn't come close to that. Having said that, it doesn't look terrible at all, and is very scalable so it'll run on just about anything.

This game fails on some levels because it just doesn’t improve that much upon the prequel, and in some cases is actually just not as good, frankly because it messes with the formula too much and changes too many things, even if they are small and subtle.

In the end it comes off as just good – not great, like F.E.A.R. It’s a more than decent shooter, but don’t expect anything spectacular out of it.

70

Not too much new here

Gmen | May 6, 2014 | Review of DOOM 3: Resurrection of Evil

This is the lone expansion pack for Doom 3, released a year after said game launched. There isn’t that much new here which will keep players entertained. You play as a new character instead of the same marine from Doom 3, but this character isn’t much different – that’s the one criticism I have of id games, or at least games outsourced by id to other developers, as is the case here: there’s virtually zero personality with any of the characters, particularly the protagonists. I mean this guy you play as is different from Doomguy or even the Doom 3 marine, so why not expand his character a bit? That’s a wasted opportunity if you ask me.

One new weapon is introduced: the double barrel shotgun, which you may remember from Doom II: Hell on Earth, and some new enemies and bosses make it here too. There’s also the grabber, which is similar in many ways to the gravity gun in Half-Life 2. and there's the Hellstone, which is a bit like the Soulcube, except it has different abilities, like slowing down time. Overall it’s just uninspired, and tends to borrow ideas that have been done, not only from prequels in the series, but from other games too.

One thing that I found particularly annoying with Resurrection of Evil is that none of the mods that enhanced Doom 3 so greatly are compatible with it, so for instance, mods that enhanced the sound or other parts of the game in Doom 3 won’t work with this expansion, and there aren't many mods for this expansion, and no effort has been made to port a lot of the mods in an attempt to enhance RoE either. Not much replayability value, then. PC gamers also lose out due to the fact that Doom and Doom II aren't included, like they are with the console release. If you want those, Doom 3: BFG Edition might be a better buy.

Only grab it if you’re a real Doom fanatic.

85

Not as good as its prequel

Gmen | May 5, 2014 | Review of Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 (NA)

Red Alert has always been one of my favourite real time strategy series out there – from the iconic music to the rather camp acting displayed in the cutscenes. It’s a series that takes itself less than seriously.

And that’s where the problem lies with Red Alert 3 – somewhere along the line it became less camp, and just lame and admittedly unfunny. It’s unfortunate that there was such a long gap between Red Alert 2 and this game. Developers have since changed hands, and the cast is different. There are several once well known actors who pop up and cameo appearances. Where they were virtual unknowns in the previous games who could actually act worth a damn, these so called actors on board here just plain don’t want to be involved. That much is obvious.

This game is supposed to look better than the originals, but somehow I prefer the charm of something like Red Alert 2 what with its 2D isometric view and sprites. This game uses an aging engine – which has come all the way from Emperor: Battle for Dune and Command & Conquer Generals, and I have to say, I’ve never been a massive fan of this particular iteration of this engine. The water effects are decent though.

The one thing I think Red Alert 3 does better than any of the previous games in the series in naval warfare. It was very limited in scope, perhaps due to engine limitations in years past, but there are some proper battles out at sea to be had here. That and you have a new faction, the Japanese, to play as, so that keeps things interesting for a while.

90

Even better than the first game

Gmen | April 18, 2014 | Review of Mass Effect 2 (EU)

I walked into the first Mass Effect with mixed emotions. After having played that and enjoying it, I was more than ready to get stuck into this game when it came out. You can choose to start a game from scratch, or you can import your savegames from the first Mass Effect, which then changes the storyline – something which isn’t done very often in games.

Everything that made the first game good is here, and in my opinion this is even somewhat better.

Graphically the game isn’t too different. It still uses Unreal Engine 3. But the locations, particularly the ones encountered in side missions are much more detailed, and a lot less generic looking and boring. The same could be said for traversing from one place to another – you have to manually pilot the ship to travel to other galaxies – it’s not a case of click here and away you go. And you have to refuel your ship and obtain more probes for the next thing I’m about to discuss: harvesting. In the past you landed on the surface of a planet and drove around in the Mako, manually collecting minerals and items. In Mass Effect 2, this has been done away with, and instead you scan the planet surface, and once a high concentration of minerals is found, you send probes down to the planet surface to collect it. These minerals can then be used to upgrade your ship, weapons and armour. I personally approve of these additions to the franchise for the most part.

The combat in ME 2 is a bit different too – you don’t run out of ammunition during combat. Instead you have clips that heat up and eject after so many shots. You still need a number of these clips to fire the weapon in any case.

But where ME 2 excels is in the narrative and the characters. The interaction with other characters, assisted by prompts which offer different responses, can change the story in a playthrough, and this offers extensive replayability. Plus there’s also free DLC available for it too.

I would expect nothing less from BioWare, the RPG masters. If you liked the first game, you’ll want this. This is about the best in the series to date.

88

Truly unique if flawed in some ways

Gmen | April 16, 2014 | Review of Mirror's Edge (NA)

Mirror’s Edge is unique seeing as to date it is the only major game where parkúr, or freerunning, features in a big way. You can traverse the city via the rooftops, tram stations, malls, the streets, and any other conceivable terrain, using or negotiating any and every obstacle in your path to get to your ultimate goal.

The graphics were and still are great, relying on colour schemes unique to games, with areas usually white or grey with reds, oranges, blues and greens catching the eye. This is certainly one of the more beautiful games out there, no doubt. The only thing that isn’t very pretty is the cutscenes.

The gameplay is different, refreshing, certainly separate it from the rest of the bunch. Having said that though, there is really only one way to play this game. Even though combat is featured in the game, it’s poor and doesn’t work well. This essentially being a parkúr simulator, the controls are also maddeningly frustrating to master – a far cry from the more simplistic approach employed by the likes of Assassin’s Creed.

Still, if you want something different from the run of the mill FPS, then this is a game you should consider.

90

Definitely worth a play

Gmen | April 16, 2014 | Review of Crysis Maximum Edition (NA)

Crysis is the spiritual sequel to the first Far Cry in some ways. It too, takes place on a remote island somewhere, except this time you are part of a special forces attachment who are sent out to recover anything from an alien ship that crashed in the region. Your group isn't the only bunch of people out there though, seeing as the North Korean army is out there looking for the same thing.

You take the role of Nomad, and you have a nanosuit which has different powers, which are all accessible by pressing the third mouse button by default. These all give you different approaches to playing the game.

Maximum strength allows you to roughhouse your way through enemies and throw objects like barrels at them, and so on. Maximum armour gives you the edge when in a firefight and reduces the amount of damage you’ll take. Maximum speed lets you evade enemies when detected, and cloak lets you stay hidden and you can slip past enemy detection for a limited time. So even though this is a FPS title, you can definitely play it any way you wish, and mission objectives can also be completed in different ways as a result. But don't surprised if you start using cloak as a crutch to make things easier for yourself.

You can also bring up a menu where you are able to attach various modifications to your weapons if you wish, such as a suppressor or a laser sight, etc.

Graphically the game is superb and holds up well to this day, but as a result if you want to play it with all the bells and whistles turned on, you need to have a beefy rig to be able to handle it as it is, and always has been a resource hog.

85

Decent shooter with a great story

Gmen | April 15, 2014 | Review of Max Payne

Upon first looking at this game you’d think that it’s just a plain old third person shooter – but you’d be wrong. It’s arguably the best third person shooter ever.

This game came out at a time when the Matrix was all the rage. It was perfect timing, because the game utilises a gameplay mechanic seen in that film – which hadn’t been done before in games: being able to enter bullet time, which entails slowing down everything in the game including your own movements, and being able to dodge bullets.

The traditional health bar is missing – in its place is a likeness of Max, and when he is hit, it depletes, and turns from white to red if Max takes a lot of damage – which is accompanied by limping. Max can then find bottles of painkillers which he can then use to regain health, which gradually regenerates upon consumption.

The game features some epic gunplay, not just because of bullet time, but because you have a large variety of weapons to collect and use throughout the game, all of which are selectable from a weapons menu not unlike that seen in Half-Life.

This, to me, is the best game in the series. For its time it had good graphics – particularly character models and animation, specifically Max, who showcases emotions, albeit limited, depending on the overall mood – something which was rarely seen before, and perhaps isn’t even seen too often today either. But the story holds up as one of the most epic and engaging of any game ever.

82

Not as good as the second game

Gmen | April 15, 2014 | Review of Duke Nukem

This game is rather similar to several other Apogee classics, like Secret Agent or Bio Menace. It’s a 2D side scrolling platformer which has you getting through each level, racking up points along the way (which usually involves shooting things) and collecting inventory items with the eventual goal of taking on Dr. Proton. The player character only has one weapon through the entire game which can be upgraded, and enemies are limited in their variety and instead, it’s often the environment you find yourself in that poses the biggest threat.

In my mind, Duke Nukem II is miles better. Better graphics, better animation, better sound – overall just a better game. But if you would like to see where it all started, you probably wouldn't risk much by getting this game in a sale.

80

Overhyped

Gmen | April 14, 2014 | Review of Medal of Honor (EU)

There was a lot of hype surrounding this game, as it marked the first time that the famed Medal of Honor series would step into the modern warfare subgenre, tired of having done World War II to death for over a decade.

The singleplayer game isn’t bad looking, and there’s a bit of variety in mission types, often requiring you to sneak around in the dark rather than confront enemies that greatly outnumber you. The one thing that irks me is that this game is way too short – probably as short as any Call of Duty game, if not shorter. This game was made to appeal to multiplayer fans, and not those looking for a deep singleplayer experience, and because of this, in the end it is rather forgettable

As I said, the multiplayer is the main drew here. That part of the game was developed by a different studio, is better looking, has a lot more going for it in general, and will more than likely keep the fraggers happy.

90

Great stealth series

Gmen | April 14, 2014 | Review of Thief Pack

I regard Thief as the classic stealth series. It does away with guns and typical FPS gameplay, and instead makes the player choose which approach they take. You can go in guns (or at least bows and arrows) blazing, but likely won’t last very long against the opposition, which far outnumbers you. Or you can take the stealthy route, and eavesdrop on conversations, scout enemy patrol routes, and plan your mission on the fly, with the ultimate aim of the enemy never knowing you were even there.

Thief Gold is a re-release of Thief: The Dark Project and has some extra missions. It is a bit dated graphically nowadays, although I will say there’s a very impressive mod out there which adds high definition textures to surroundings and character models, to update its looks a bit.

Thief II is my personal favourite in the series, as it has the things that made TDP/TG so good, and improves upon that, with better overall level design, more thief’s tools and weapons in your arsenal to play with, slightly improved graphics, and generally just better gameplay all round. Lots of fan made missions that you can play with this and the first game, which extends its longevity a lot.

Thief Deadly Shadows is a mixed bag for me. Graphically the game doesn’t look bad, but longish loading times, dumbing down for the Xbox version, and things that established the series – made it original – like the rope arrows being taken out kind of ruined it overall. There are many limitations with the console version of the game, and the PC version subsequently suffers because of it. This feels like a port at times. That and I find the AI isn’t even as sharp as it was in the first two games. Definitely a step down from Thief II.

This pack is worth it even if just for the first two games however. Definitely recommended if you want an original stealth gameplay experience, minus the guns.

90

Worth playing

Gmen | April 9, 2014 | Review of Crysis 2: Maximum Edition (EU)

After sitting through the absolutely spine-tingling introduction and listening to that fabulous main theme composed by Hans Zimmer, the first half of this game starts off on a rather good note, going straight from Crysis’s lush jungles to the urban jungle right in the heart of the big apple. There’s an epic feeling while playing through this bit. There aren't many enemies, and the place is quiet. It’s like a scene out of I Am Legend. Crysis 2 feels like a hollywood movie. It’s one of the prime examples of a AAA title I can think of.

The second half of the game by comparison is a bit stale and the action becomes slower as you go up against much tougher enemies, much like in the original Crysis.

The gameplay is similar, and you employ all the different abilities of your nanosuit to take on the enemy, such as being able to use immense strength to throw things at them, or even throw them into things, and using cloak to sneak past enemies, or at least sneak up on them in order to neutralise them silently, or if you want to get up close and personal you can harden up your suit’s armor and charge the enemy head on. There has been some simplification in the controls: maximum speed has been reduced to using a sprint button. In fact, all suit abilities have been reduced to hotkeys instead of utilising the mouse wheel. This is supposedly to accommodate the console versions of the game, seeing as the first Crysis was originally only released on PC. Staying on that subject, the game does not hit your hardware as hard this time around, unlike the first game. You would expect it to pummel your PC, but it just doesn’t – not as hard as I thought it would. It’s immensely scalable and runs on just about anything. It runs on my old PC just fine.

There’s no way that I would not recommend this game. You have to play it, as it is an experience. It is certainly one of the more thrilling FPS games to come out in recent memory.

77

Fun for a while

Gmen | April 7, 2014 | Review of Stealth Bastard Deluxe

This indie game started out life as a free platformer that was supposed to be a parody of the Stealth genre. The truth is that most stealth ‘em ups or sneakers are too slow paced, and so Stealth Bastard aims to bring the speed and platforming action of something like Duke Nukem II to the table. The way to look at this game is in the following way: it’s a fast paced version of Splinter Cell, but it’s also a side-scrolling 2D platformer.

You control a man, known as Bastard, who has to make his way through missions without being spotted by cameras, drones, and without being cut in half by dangerous laser beams.

Graphically it’s not going to impress, but it does possess that old charm that games like Abe’s Oddysee had back in the 1990’s. I dare say the controls are a bit better though limited to running left or right and jumping, although Bastard can perform actions like pushing objects and interacting with things like turning lights on and off.

There is no multiplayer feature as such, but there exists a leaderboard which shows the fastest times missions have been completed in. And once you've gotten through the main missions, there are the downloadable fan-created missions to wade through as well, seeing as the game comes with a level editor. You can even create and upload your own!

Overall it's one of the better and more challenging indie titles I've played. If you're looking for something more story-driven and deep though, you've come to the wrong place.

75

Better than the first in some respects, not as good in others

Gmen | April 6, 2014 | Review of Deus Ex: Invisible War

Invisible War looks better graphically than the first Deus Ex, seeing as it uses Unreal Engine 2.0 instead of the Unreal Engine 1. But one of the gripes I have with it is that it is too dark at times to even make out characters, a bit like Doom 3 was unnecessarily dark, which constantly has me scrambling for the brightness settings.

The levels are divided into separate sectors with loading screens for each of them. This is typical of the Unreal Engine, but honestly, it’s worse than it ever was with the first game. Sectors are too small and this takes away from the immersion when you have to go through yet another loading phase within 5 minutes. The animation and physics weren’t up to scratch even upon release, and certainly don’t hold up today. The same problems that plagued Thief Deadly Shadows are present here too, and this is no surprise since they both came out of Ion Storm. This just feels too much like it has been dumbed down for the console version, rather than an actual improvement over its prequel. On the plus side, I'm going to say that the combat is a bit better here though.

This is about the weakest in the series. If you’re looking for a good Deus Ex game, rather try the first one, or better yet, Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

90

The best

Gmen | April 5, 2014 | Review of Worms Armageddon

Worms Armageddon picks up where Worms 2 left off. Overall, the presentation here is better than in said game, and most of what made that game great is still here. But there are a lot of other things that have been added too, like even greater customisation, right down to the chances of a weapon appearing in a crate.

The game looks pretty much the same and plays the same as Worms 2, but I will say that it’s more polished and ambitious than said game. Having said that, there were more than a few annoying bugs that spoilt it for me, to be honest. The good news is that there are still patches being cranked out for it to this day and even cross support with Worms World Party (Armageddon's immediate sequel) for multiplayer is planned. This isn’t just the best game in this series – it’s a cult classic that still has a major following to this day and plenty of people play it. This is turn based strategy at its finest. While the singeplayer campaign and skirmish modes against AI are great, multiplayer is the biggest draw here.

85

Better than the first, and probably the best originals

Gmen | March 22, 2014 | Review of Tomb Raider II

Not much is different from the first game here, apart from more varied environments, and perhaps slightly enhanced graphics – though still inferior to other games of its time like Quake II. There are some new weapons and lots of new enemies to go up against.

But having been released only a year at most after the first game, it isn't that much different and the things that were wrong with the first Tomb Raider are still present here: awkward camera angles and sluggish controls that make the game unnecessarily difficult. The early Tomb Raider games were not made with the PC in mind. They were rather designed to appeal to the console audience.

Having said that, this in my opinion was the height of the Tomb Raider series, particularly the original games, and it would be another decade before anything else worthwhile in the franchise came along. The sound and music are two of the highlights here, as Lara's voiceovers not only give the character some personality but in some cases also help the story move along, and this is especially pertinent in the game's cutscenes and FMV sequences. And the music featured, including the theme tune, are simply unforgettable.

68

Disappointing

Gmen | March 18, 2014 | Review of Doom® 3 BFG Edition

Nearly a decade after Doom 3 came out, and I can only imagine Bethesda, the new publisher of id Software’s games, must have pushed for this re-release. But I don’t really see the point. It includes Doom 3, as well as the Lost Missions, which is a bunch of cut missions from Doom 3, and it has the rather lacklustre expansion, Resurrection of Evil.

In addition to this it has The Ultimate Doom and Doom II: Hell On Earth packaged in there too.

The problem here is that some mods for Doom 3 don’t work with this version, and many people, including me and people I personally know, have had issues with getting it to even work. That makes it hard to recommend this pack. I would much rather suggest that you purchase Doom 3 and perhaps the expansion separately, and then get a hold of Doom Classic Complete on GMG, which has Doom, Doom II, as well as the Master Levels for Doom II and Final Doom.

This re-release is really set to appeal to the console audience, but for PC gamers, you can do a lot better. It doesn't look or play much better than the original release of Doom 3, and there are mods out there that do a much better job of making the game prettier. It just ended up as a wasted opportunity.

80

Not my favourite in the series

Gmen | March 5, 2014 | Review of Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway

I quite like the fact Gearbox took their time with this title and decided to make a proper sequel with the aim of being superior to the original game rather than just a glorified expansion (see Earned in Blood). Except they didn’t make a superior game in some ways.

Graphically the game is better. It uses a modified Unreal Engine 3 rather than a modified UE 2 like the first two games, and it looks crisper, more modern, and that’s good. The combat system is somewhat improved, with the ability to hug cover much like you would in games like Mass Effect or more recent Rainbow Six games, although problems with the friendly AI and overall controls will lead to a bit of frustration.

Unfortunately, they did away with Situational Awareness, which was one of the series’ selling points. Situational Awareness allowed one to plot manoeuvres on the trot and get a larger bird’s eye view of the battlefield, but Hell’s Highway doesn’t have it, instead opting for a solely first person view. The same squad based tactical gameplay is still there, and I’m relieved about that.

They also did away with bonus unlockable content like slideshows and so on which is also a bit of shame as there was some educational value in the original games due to this.

However, a good story, much like that encountered in the first two games will keep you playing, just to see how it all unravels, with some good voice acting. The cutscenes might be a bit too long and take away from the action however. But good production value here, seriously.

So, Hell’s Highway is better in some areas than the other two games, but worse in others, and did away with one or two of the series trademark features – things that set it apart from the competition. And in doing so it really risked becoming just another generic WWII shooter – the only saving grace here is the squad based combat. Otherwise it would have been indistinguishable from Call of Duty or Medal of Honor. Having said that, it isn't a bad game at all, and if the aged looks of the other two put you off somewhat, then you ought to at least try this one.

82

Not very different from the first game

Gmen | March 5, 2014 | Review of Brothers in Arms: Earned in Blood

You’d think, upon seeing this game in action for the first time, that this is an expansion to the first game, Road to Hill 30, but you’d be wrong. It is actually a proper standalone sequel, and I was a bit disappointed to know that. Here’s why: graphically the game is practically identical to its prequel. It also features a lot of the same weaponry and characters, with the only major different being that you no longer take the role of Sgt. Matt Baker, but rather Joe “Red” Hartsock, who was a Corporal under Baker’s command and led one of his fireteams, but has now risen to the rank of Sergeant, and has his own squad.

The core gameplay is much the same, which is good, and there are still unlockable extras in the game once you complete missions and certain objectives in missions, but there isn’t much to distance this too much from the first game, apart from seeing the story of the game continue to unfold through the eyes of another character. It’s a good game, but it’s just too similar for me to take it seriously as a proper sequel. There is hardly any progression or evolution whatsoever, and that is its biggest flaw.

90

One of the greatest of its generation

Gmen | March 3, 2014 | Review of Half Life

Half-Life is regarded as one of the most legendary PC games of all time, because it came out at a time when FPS titles had only been around for a few years and yet they mostly lacked one thing: a coherent story that went beyond collecting keycards and getting to the end of the level.

Not only does Half-Life do away with keycards, but it also does away with most pickups, since there are no health packs lying around, or armour shards to collect, instead opting for health and HEV suit recharge stations. Weapons don't spin around in the air waiting to be collected. There are puzzles that actually make you stop and think. Half-Life does away with the approach of its forebears and brings some much needed realism and sense to the genre, and got rid of the arcade-y (and even comical in some cases) feel of most FPS titles.

The game uses the Gold Source engine which is a modified Quake engine, and in my opinion it wasn’t the prettiest game of its time (a title I would more readily give to Unreal), but what it lacks as far as its somewhat average (and by today’s standards incredibly dated) looks, it makes up for in terms of ruthless enemy AI, engaging gameplay with plenty of interactivity, and its fast-paced, action-packed gameplay.

There are also plenty of mods for this game, so I would suggest even though it is old, that it’s definitely worth a try. This is one of the pioneers of the modern FPS!

85

Looks different, but much the same

Gmen | March 3, 2014 | Review of Borderlands

Everyone made a big deal about this game when it was released. The looks of the game were changed during development to be more cartoon-like, and the characters and dialogue – the overall feel of the game – is just that: it’s a big cartoon set in a wasteland not unlike that seen in the Mad Max films, albeit with some extra touches. Except it has lots of guns in it – nearly a million randomly generated ones.

Borderlands has been labelled as a role playing shooter, and this is nothing new, as we’ve had games that fit this genre for years, starting with the System Shock titles over a decade before this arrived. The inventory has been simplified, which is very common with so called FPS-RPGs or hybrids these days. In the end Borderlands doesn’t really add much. It’s the same “go here, get this” quests with some incredibly difficult boss fights thrown in, making it a bit of a slog in the end, albeit rather challenging. The ability to get in cars and drive as well as shoot from turrets does make the slogging a bit more fun, but not by much.

There is some replayability in the fact that you have different characters to choose from, all with their own special abilities, weapon preferences, and strengths, as well as several different skill trees for each character.

It’s not the most original game out there. This has been done before. This is Diablo with guns, but set in the first person. For some though, that will sound like a match made in heaven.

90

Crytek’s first and best

Gmen | Feb. 24, 2014 | Review of Far Cry Capsule

In 2004, Doom 3 and Half-Life 2 were set to battle it out to see who was the best. Far Cry managed to swoop in, and to some, went on to be the game of the year, never-mind the other two behemoths.

This was an original and fresh IP, and was set on a tropical island instead of some cliched corridor-laden environment like we had seen so many times years before. Graphically it was, and still is superb. The AI is dangerously intelligent, with enemies not just relying on their vision, but also the sound that the player generates, and therefore the player must resort to using their wits to battle against an enemy that far outnumbers them, often employing strategies like ambushes and sniping, rather than taking them head on like in a typical FPS.

And just when you've mastered taking down human enemies, you can count on mutants called trigens giving you a hell of a hard time, and things are taken up a notch from there. This is a challenging game, make no mistake about it, and also one of the best I have ever had the pleasure of playing. Without this game, there would be no Crysis.

85

Better than the first game

Gmen | Feb. 24, 2014 | Review of Left 4 Dead 2

As the subtitle above suggests, L4D2 is better than the original in just about every way. You have several game modes to keep things interesting, and a lovely selection of new well-designed maps. Graphically, L4D2 is better looking, and this is shown off especially well in day missions, where you can see just how pretty it really is. You have a bigger selection of weaponry to choose from, including some new firearms, some heavy weaponry, and melee weapons too. There are some new pickups like adrenaline shots and boomer bile to help aid you in getting through those much-dreaded undead hordes, which even boast some new special infected as well, a little more easily.

The characters have a bit more depth to them than the ones in the original, and the story is more interesting – more believable in a way. There are scenes in missions such as a wedding where all the guests have been turned into zombies, and there is definitely more interactivity in levels. This world which is filled with undead, has never felt so alive.

Throw in the fact that all DLC is free, and even the original Left 4 Dead missions are available here, and you have quite a winner. Overall, Left 4 Dead is a bit like Half-Life, and Left 4 Dead 2 is more like Half-Life 2. L4D was good for its time, but it has just been completely outdone by its sequel. If you want a decent undead slaying game, then this is the one you should buy.

88

Ad addictive as ever

Gmen | Jan. 12, 2014 | Review of The Sims 3 (EU)

Pros:

  • Addictive gameplay
  • New additions as well as familiar things

Cons:

  • Looks (and plays) quite similar to The Sims 2
  • Irritating AI

Every time a Sims title comes out, I seem to drop everything for a few days or weeks, and just sit there and play the game. With The Sims 3, it was no different.

The great thing about almost any Sims title, is that there isn’t a set story - you invent your own, and it can be whatever you want it to be. You can play as yourself and live the life you've always wanted to live, or you can play as your enemies and make their virtual lives miserable. You have a lot of control over what you can do, and it’s this that appeals to so many people.

Graphically, The Sims 3 doesn’t look that much different from The Sims 2. Some have even gone as far as to say that it, especially the characters, look worse. This is disappointing when you think of what a leap The Sims 2 was in terms of looks over The Sims. The Sims 3 still has a slightly cartoonish feel to it. This of course means lots of colour, and that is something different from most mainstream games today, which like to dwell in darkness, and exhibit nothing but different shades of grey, brown, black, and other dark or neutral hues.

The Sims 3 is bright, vibrant, and has character. Of course you can play any way you want, and your own house can be dim, broken down, and a horrid eyesore, but the rest of the town will carry on shining all the while - unless you decide to edit and change it too, which is totally doable.

The animation is just as smooth if not more so than The Sims 2, and in some cases, can be influenced by what personality your sim has. In fact a lot of things are dependent on this. Your sims can trip, stumble, lose their balance, and do other things that will make you chuckle.

There is the problem of clipping in this game, where items intersecting with other things like walls can stick through them. Sims will walk through each other at times too.

The texture quality holds a few things that I’m not entirely happy with. The quality is reduced as you zoom out and increases as you zoom in, and if you hover over someone else’s house, you’ll notice that the detail is very poor, but sharpens over time. If you hover back to your house, the quality also drops, and you’ll notice that depending on how big the place is, it can take a while for everything to start “showing”; hard to explain in writing. This is most likely all done to increase the framerate, which can already be a bit choppy at times, or so the game is playable on older PCs.

While still on the topic of bugs, there is an annoying bug here -- the speed up feature is broken. So you will spend literally ages waiting for your Sims to be done with sleeping.

The game has its issues, but is still a worthwhile addition to your collection. Just keep in mind you'll be paying a lot more for addon content that isn't included with the base game, as usual, and also keep in mind that The Sims 4 is just on the horizon.

80

Not the best shooter around

Gmen | Jan. 10, 2014 | Review of Battlefield: Bad Company 2

  • Great Sound

I can honestly say that the sound in this game is fantastic. Whether it’s the shouts of soldiers in the distance echoing while fighting in close quarters urban combat, or the gunfire and explosions which sound different depending on whether you’re inside a building or outside. Quite realistic actually.

  • Destructive environments

Living up to its predecessor, the game allows you to destroy a lot of the environment. It’s a lot of fun using an underslung, or barrel-mounted, grenade launcher to blow up walls on a house. Of course this tactic can and will be employed by enemies too, to take out your cover and leave you wide open.

  • Poor dialogue audio

I don’t know what happened here. The sound effects as a whole are excellent, but the speech for some reason was all over the place. It was too muted and didn’t gel well with the other sounds. At one point I turned up the volume on my headset to hear what was going on, and then some idiot fired a gun which nearly blew my ear drum out of it’s brackets. Not cool.

  • Dumb AI in single player

Once again the realistic gameplay is thwarted by stupid AI, particularly your squad. Most of the time you will end up doing all the work and taking down the enemies all on your own, as even at close range, your squad will shoot and miss or fail to even see an enemy. Pathetic.

  • Story

For the most part of the game, perhaps I wasn’t paying attention, but the story isn’t all that good. The game focuses mainly on action, which is all right, but if you want something deep, then you’ll have to go elsewhere.

  • Easy on the gore

There’s no realistic gore element like you might have found in some Call of Duty titles like World at War, even though BC 2 is reportedly only the second game in the series, other than Battlefield: Vietnam to feature blood.

In short, if you like multiplayer titles, then check this out. But for the single player alone, I wouldn't really recommend it.

80

Quite entertaining

Gmen | Jan. 10, 2014 | Review of Red Faction Guerilla

The first Red Faction game made a splash because of its destructible environments, which was something new in games at that time. Red Faction Guerrilla does away with the first person camera which was used in the first two games, and opts for a third person approach instead.

The gameplay is pretty much the same, and allows you to blow up almost everything in the game with detpacks, rocket launchers – or you could take a sledgehammer to it if you’re in the mood. Destructible environments and mind-blowing physics are the order of the day here.

Guerrilla is a lot more similar to Grand Theft Auto, but minus a lot of the silliness of GTA. But the sandbox style of play is much the same. You are able to hijack vehicles and use them to accomplish a variety of missions which you'll get from different characters strewn across the rather large game map.

I had mixed feelings getting into it, but it has proved itself to be one of the better entries in an otherwise lacklustre series of games.

82

Not as great as the first game

Gmen | Jan. 9, 2014 | Review of BioShock® 2

The problem with this game is that nothing really that new is presented. It’s really just a glorified expansion when all is said and done.

Graphically it’s much the same. Getting to play as a Big Daddy? We did that in the original BioShock. Although you do get to go through the experience for a lot longer this time. Some of your combat tactics will change. As a Bid Daddy you are not invulnerable, so you need to use your noggin when taking on a group of splicers. If anything, the combat is much more vicious than it was in the first game.

Getting to explore the ocean floor is arguably the biggest change here, seeing as in the original you couldn’t even set foot in water that was above ankle height.

You have a few new weapons and plasmids to play with, but other than that, if you’re looking for something radically different from the first game, you’re better off trying BioShock Infinite.

89

A modern marvel

Gmen | Jan. 9, 2014 | Review of BioShock

Hailed as the spiritual successor to System Shock 2, there was a lot riding on this one. This one doesn’t take place in space though – it is the polar opposite, taking place at the bottom of the ocean floor. Graphically it is sublime, and incredibly it runs on lower end systems rather well. The sound is also spectacular – particularly the score.

Gameplay-wise this is more of a straight first-person shooter than a hybrid FPS/RPG title, with a simplified inventory and less in the way of RPG elements like the game that inspired it, and so predictably it is a lot more linear with less replayability value even if it does have multiple endings.

Having said that, you won't tire of the whole genetic modification element – playing around with different combinations of plasmids that you are able to purchase and upgrade that you can use alongside more conventional weapons to take on the rather cunning enemies.

It was one of the few games in recent times that I actually played more than once to completion. I can't say that about many of today's games.

80

Same old multiplayer-focused shooter

Gmen | Jan. 8, 2014 | Review of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

The first Call of Duty came out in 2003 and ever since there has been a CoD game every year. This title marked the first time where a CoD game was actually a sequel to one before it (CoD 4: Modern Warfare).

And this is the last Modern Warfare title I bothered playing. The graphics already started to look aged here, and it seems as though IW has been using the same engine for years. Thankfully there is a decent score with some work put in by Hans Zimmer that is worth a listen.

If you’re a fan of Michael Bay films, you’ll like this. This is the Michael Bay of games. Linear as it gets, plenty of explosions and effects, with nothing really that different to offer besides a change in scenery and only a few new game modes to extend the painfully short lifespan of the singleplayer campaign. Multiplayer fanatics will eat it up though, although having said that, it is a step down from the prequel, with no dedicated servers.

82

Entertaining thriller

Gmen | Jan. 8, 2014 | Review of Dead Space (EU)

You take the role of Isaac Clarke, an engineer who travels aboard a shuttle named Kellion to a ship, called the USG Ishimura, referred to as a ‘planet cracker’. While aboard the Ishimura, Clarke (the player character) must traverse the ship from deck to deck and repair certain objects, usually machinery, all the while battling strange creatures called necromorphs and finding out what happened aboard the ship, which involves religious fanaticism and a strange object referred to as the Marker.

The theme and gameplay are both similar to System Shock 2, although the classic inventory system isn't present. In fact, I find the HUD in Dead Space to be rather minimalist. The player doesn’t rely on conventional weaponry, but instead weapons that are made by finding schematics and downloading them at stores that are found throughout the ship, similar to Fallout 3 or BioShock. The player can also modify these weapons at upgrade stations to make them more powerful, like changing their ammo capacity, damage capabilities, and reload time.

Other abilities that the player has are stasis, which slows down moving objects including enemies, and kinesis, which allows the player to move objects out of the way, or throw them.

Load times are quite swift, with animations showing during the time is takes to pass from one section of the ship to the next. The menu system is unique as far as games go, with the menus having a holographic look just like many of the prompts in the game.

The sound in the game is used to good effect, with many an occasion that will have you wondering whether it is the ship settling or an imminent attack by one of the enemies. There are also unique sound distortion effects such as when the player is in a vacuum, resulting in a muted sound perforated by the sound of gunfire and footsteps.

The controls in Dead Space are quite smooth as far as movement controls are concerned, but there are a few niggling issues I have with the game. There are two main sets of controls, one being operated with the right mouse button depressed, and the other not. In combat situations this can lead to a bit of frustration.

The camera is also a bit of a letdown. The game relies on an over-the-shoulder third person type camera, like in Resident Evil 5. You have to increase the mouse sensitivity enormously just to be able to turn the character around.

Overall, this game is worth a try. It has its moments and is certainly one of the scarier games to be released in recent memory.

85

Probably my favourite in the series

Gmen | Jan. 6, 2014 | Review of Assassins Creed Brotherhood

The Assassin’s Creed series has been with us now for more than six years, with a new title arriving each year. But for me, Brotherhood was about the best – it was certainly the last one I have bothered with so far.

You play as Ezio from Assassin’s Creed II, and a lot of what made said game good was improved upon here. You can upgrade your weapons and receive new inventions from an old friend (you should recognise him!) to help give you an edge in combat and in other areas.

About the best feature in Brotherhood is being able to train new assassin recruits and send them on assignments, which will gain them experience and skill points which you can use to upgrade their abilities.

You can buy properties in the city to generate income, which in turn will aid you in being able to acquire more powerful weapons and items. I find there’s definitely more interaction with the world around you, and your actions matter more than ever. Playing as Ezio makes you feel like a powerful mafia boss, which essentially, he is – but he isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. Think of this as GTA: Vice City, but with horses instead of cars.

Combat and manoeuvring your character about is still a weak point here as it had been with every AC game before it. Graphically Brotherhood doesn’t look a hell of a lot different from either Assassin’s Creed or Assassin’s Creed II. A lovely score composed by one of the masters, Jesper Kyd, never fails to disappoint and is one of the highlights of this title.

83

A game of legend

Gmen | Jan. 6, 2014 | Review of Tomb Raider I

Back in 1996, it was a gamble to produce a game with a female lead. But considering that most gamers are testosterone-driven hot blooded males, it’s no surprise that the game ended up being extremely popular. The graphics probably left a little to be desired compared to other games released that year, like Quake, and they haven't held up too well over the years either.

Another thing that always bugged me is the awkward camera angles and the stubborn controls. But the gameplay at the time was revolutionary – it's more like a platformer title than a shooter – except in the third person. And unlike most other games back then, it also had full motion videos, animated cutscenes, and a soundtrack that although was barely noticeable throughout most of the game, wasn’t in MIDI format. It was pretty groundbreaking stuff, looking back.

The game was considerably more challenging than most of its era and required a bit more intelligence that your average first person shooter, and is still one of the best in the series.

82

Very decent start to a great series

Gmen | Jan. 5, 2014 | Review of Assassins Creed

In this title you play the character Desmond Miles in modern times, who is kidnapped by a couple of doctors and forced to take part in an experiment involving a machine called an Animus. The Animus tracks a person’s genetic memory right back to his ancestors and recreates these memories in 3D virtual reality form. Desmond (and therefore the player) assumes the role of Altair, a medieval assassin belonging to a creed, who is out to redeem himself for disgracing the brotherhood, by assassinating key targets in the cities mentioned above.

I’m a big fan of anything that is set in the middle ages. This game doesn’t disappoint, as the cities of Masyaf, Damascus, Acre and Jerusalem that the player will visit during the game are amazingly crafted down to every last detail. The graphics are rather good, and riding around the gorgeous countryside is akin to games like Oblivion or Gun, traveling from place to place. The gameplay isn’t entirely different from those titles either, except for the RPG element in Oblivion. I’d say it’s more like Gun in its objective and side quest layout.

As for the gripes in the game, I found that the sound has a few miscues and skips in dialogue and in-game cutscenes. The cutscenes are very good and inventive besides that though, with the player being able to move around, and change the camera angle while the scene plays out. I also noticed that the controls can be hard to master on a keyboard, with the scheme being similar to Tomb Raider Anniversary and Prince of Persia with the same aggravation present with a missed jump or failure to connect with an environment hotpot like a brick on a side of a wall. On a good note though, the parkour, or free running, element in the game, hopping from roof to roof will remind you of good old Thief and the thieves’ highway, except it’s much better, with the ability to sprint wildly across rooftops, jump across streets and scale up anything vertical (except trees).

There’s also an original concept here in terms of being able to climb to the top of viewpoints throughout the game to learn of important quests that will help you in your main goal, and then carry out those quests such as pick pockets, assassinations, interrogations and helping civilians in order to obtain vital clues for your mission. This seems sort of in line with Hitman: Blood Money, where you have a choice in how to complete your hits. In fact the soundtrack here is composed by Jesper Kyd, who also worked on the Hitman series.

I highly recommend this game to anyone who wants to play something new. It doesn’t completely reinvent the wheel in terms of gameplay, with elements borrowed from some games and put together, albeit nicely. The story is quite exciting, and if you want sword fights and killing sprees, you’ll want this.

88

Great RPG

Gmen | Jan. 5, 2014 | Review of Mass Effect (NA)

Mass Effect is one of those games that will keep you glued to your PC screen for hours at a time.

It revolves around humanity being a young upstart among many other alien races in the solar system. They are fighting for recognition and acceptance, which is hard because they have stepped on the toes of the Turians, one of the so called ‘council races’ in the past during the First Contact War. This is all just the backstory though, but is nevertheless very interesting, with many codex logs to explain every little thing you encounter in the game, like an ever growing encyclopaedia, much like Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl and Doom 3.

The central plot in the game is the chase after a rogue spectre (essentially a Special Forces soldier), named Saren, in a bid to stop his crazy attempt at wiping out humanity and possibly other species too. This sees you go off in your starship with its crew to save the universe.

You can go directly after Saren, but it’s worth the time to do a lot of the side quests in addition to this mission, like other RPGs, as you gain experience and lots of money.

The graphics are very good, the story very well written and you will get lost in the magical universe for hours or days. The sound and music is almost synth-like, blending in with a very modern space theme, but does tend to get a little irritating at times. The AI and path finding of your squad members a problem, with your buddies getting stuck behind crates and boxes in loading bays. The dialogue scenes are usually very long, with many questions passing between characters, and this can get frustrating if there is a fight scene straight after, and you haven’t had the chance to save because of the verbal diarrhoea flowing. This isn’t to say that action isn’t present, because after all is said and done, or your character is more the renegade personality type, and shoots first and asks questions later, gun fights are many, and you will die many times; this game can get very challenging.

I would recommend it any day. It’s excellent.

80

Decent action horror title

Gmen | Jan. 4, 2014 | Review of Aliens vs Predator Classic 2000

Very few games based on the epic Aliens series have ever been good, and the same can be said about the -- very limited by comparison -- games based on the Predator franchise.

Each species in the game has its strengths and weaknesses, forcing you do adopt different playstyles. Very few FPS titles can boast this, even today.

The most fun is to be had in the Alien campaign, which is a bit of a cakewalk, frankly. You have unmatched agility, and have no problem taking on the far inferior colonial marines using sheer stealth and speed to outwit them, although you are best off picking them off one by one. The Colonial Marine campaign is no doubt the hardest and most atmospheric, and if you want to experience what Jim Cameron’s Aliens is like, with a bunch of killer Xenomorphs hunting you down, then this is the challenge for you. The predator campaign is much like the alien campaign – it’s not going to be much of a challenge, unless you come up against a lot of resistance.

Graphically the game hasn’t aged that well, but to play the game and listen to sounds that are taken straight from the films and be absorbed into the lore of the AVP franchise is worth the price of admission.

I would say that this is the ultimate AVP title to own, but the lack of multiplayer, something the original version of the game was noted for, is absent.

84

A significant improvement over GTA III

Gmen | Jan. 4, 2014 | Review of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City

I still regard GTA San Andreas as being the best out of the "trilogy", but Vice City was definitely a step in the right direction, and certainly one of the better entries in the series to date.

First off, you can aim down the sights with weapons (while still in third-person mode), increasing accuracy and making combat somewhat easier. The minigun can be fired in first-person. Some guns like the assault rifle also have a more realistic rate of fire, which means you aren't instantly killed when a National Guard trooper opens fire on you. You also have the ability to ride bikes and fly helicopters (something which was missing from GTA III) – although you seemingly still can’t fly airplanes – or at least not for very long, which is a let down. And although it wasn’t particularly apparent, your skills with various weapons and tools, as well as abilities improved over time. You can also buy properties across the city that act as safehouses, and on top of that you can generate extra income and unlock side missions by buying businesses.

One of the biggest highlights of the game is no doubt the soundtrack. You could tune in to V-Rock on the in-game radio and listen to all the hits of the 1980's. That and chuck in the usual guest stars like Ray Liotta, who voices Tommy Vercetti, who all provide some of the most excellent dialogue in any game, and you have a fun romp that should be a pleasure to play again and again.

73

Fairly entertaining title

Gmen | Jan. 4, 2014 | Review of Dead Rising 2

Ever wondered what GTA would be like if it were mixed with zombies? This is just about as close as you’ll get I think, other than playing a GTA title with a zombie mod (they do exist). Although instead of sprawling, wide open spaces, you are confined to one of the most clichéd zombie apocalypse settings, made famous by George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead: a mall.

There’s plenty of zombies to take on, but you’ll soon find out that it might well pay to just avoid them if you can seeing as guns and ammo aren’t extremely common to come across, and melee weapons don’t tend to last very long either -- although you do have the ability to assemble seemingly random items found and added to your inventory to make interesting weapons.

You can choose to do the main missions, or if you aren’t interested you can just as easily take on the many side missions available. It’s not the zombies you have to worry about in this game – it’s mainly the boss characters, who are very difficult to beat, and will take several tries, and several deaths. So it can and will frustrate the impatient after a while.

In the end this just feels like a stripped out GTA. You’d think that there’s a lot of stuff to do, but you’d be surprised to find out that there isn’t indeed that much. Very likely not the best zombie-bashing game around, and not the best sandbox title either, but it will keep you occupied for a while.

Lastly, with so much happening on screen at once, with so many zombies around, your pc had better be quite beefy, otherwise you're going to take a performance hit. And keep in mind that this is a GFWL title...

90

One of the most fun strategy titles ever

Gmen | Jan. 1, 2014 | Review of Worms

What do you get when you cross annelids with weapons? Madness, you say? Yeah, just about.

The point in worms is to have two teams of four worms aside, and you can employ any number of weapons and gadgets to cross terrain and blow your enemy to tiny bits, all in turn-based combat. What you don't have in your inventory initially you can collect from weapon crates that will drop in random places on the map during play. But it isn't just other worms you have to watch out for – there are also other dangers, like mines. Oh, and worms can't swim – at least not in this game.

The team (or what’s left of it) still standing (or should that be crawling?) wins the round. You can play against the computer (skirmish mode or campaign) or your friends, and there are many options for customisation, with the player being able to select the team’s language, names of the worms on the team, right down to the type of tombstone they will have when they die.

Graphically the game leaves some to be desired – but this is mainly in terms of the worms themselves. The battlegrounds and backgrounds are rather well detailed even today, and rather varied. You will never tire of randomly generating terrain in skirmish mode. The sound is the best bit as worms will utter the most hilarious things in battle, with sayings often coming directly from classic series like Monty Python and The Simpsons.

It's just incredible fun, and for the price at the moment, it's a no-brainer, really.

92

The best DLC for Fallout 3

Gmen | Dec. 31, 2013 | Review of Fallout 3: The Pitt

The Pitt was only the second DLC for Fallout and yet it captured the desperation of a post-nuclear world that was somewhat lacking in intensity in the base game. You are sent undercover as a slave to go and retrieve an item from The Pitt – basically the remains of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which looks to be some sort of cavernous wasteland where you can’t even see the sky, partly because of all the smog generated from the factories in the vicinity.

In terms of atmosphere, The Pitt is fantastic. You start off with no armour, no weapons, and no friends -- only a hidden .38 pistol, if you opt for it. And every step you take you have to make sure that you are prepared for battle because one wrong move and you will be marked for death in this unforgiving metal hell. There are some new weapons and items and some new characters as well as enemies to meet. All in all this was the most well-realised DLC for Fallout 3.

85

Good game, but won't appeal to purists/fans of the originals

Gmen | Dec. 31, 2013 | Review of Fallout 3

The original Fallout games were known for their turn-based strategy brilliance, and fans were a bit apprehensive when they found out that Bethesda was going to make a new Fallout game, which uses the first person perspective (although you can switch to third person if you prefer). That and the combat system has been changed from one that was strictly turn-based to the infamous V.A.T.S. system – or if you prefer you can play combat situations in real-time. In my experience this works best when in first-person and not third-person.

The graphics in the game aren’t bad, although it uses the ageing Gamebryo engine which debuted with Morrowind in 2002 – six years earlier. The animation is rather rubbish, and AI not all that sharp, and the bugs in the game are noteworthy, but likely nowhere near as plentiful or at least as game-breaking as New Vegas.

But still, the game has enough in the way of challenge, interesting quests (the main story is a bit poor and not to mention short) with some well known voice actors to carry off the game’s incredible amount of spoken dialogue that will at least keep people interested in it for a while. It’s a good game, but fans of the originals might not like it. If you want the best modern Fallout experience, you need look no further than Fallout: New Vegas.

100

The ones that got the ball rolling

Gmen | Dec. 30, 2013 | Review of DOOM Classic Complete

Wolf 3D might have been the “first” FPS (it wasn’t, technically speaking), but Doom was the one that really kicked things off for the – at the time – budding FPS genre.

In this pack you have The Ultimate Doom, Doom II: Hell On Earth, Master Levels for Doom II, and Final Doom. This is excellent value for the price, and gives you well over a hundred well designed and challenging levels to play in with several different awesome weapons along with Bobby Prince’s iconic heavy metal-inspired soundtrack, which makes demon slaying all that much more fun.

Graphically – what do you expect – it’s 1993 here in all its glory, but the good news is there are a number of source ports out there that will make it look that much better with higher resolutions and high resolution textures too, giving you some 3D character models to look at, even. And on top of that there are literally hundreds if not thousands of fan-made mods and maps out there that will ensure endless fun for years, maybe even decades to come.

Get this if you're into old school shooters. No question about it – you'll love it.

80

Surprisingly good

Gmen | Dec. 29, 2013 | Review of Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas

Rainbow Six is one of the pioneers of the squad based tactical shooter genre, and it was no doubt at its height with Rogue Spear.

Things have changed, and Vegas has introduced – and done away with – a number of new features here. First, your character has the ability to take cover behind objects, and your team has been cut down from an eight man team down to just three – you and two team members. The planning phase that was present in earlier titles is gone, and this is really a stripped out action affair that has a more Brothers in Arms feel to it. The game is rather challenging, but with regenerating health (and allies who are resurrected at checkpoints) and boxes that have guns and ammo that are conveniently scattered throughout missions, it might be enough to turn more hardcore fans of the series off. A lot of the strategy and careful planning is missing here, and it is most definitely more action-orientated. Nevertheless, the ability to swap weapons on the fly (and there are many weapons) and much improved AI (with very capable friendly AI), along with numerous game modes, might just be enough to interest some.

85

Great platformer

Gmen | Dec. 29, 2013 | Review of Duke Nukem II

This is one of my favourite Duke titles, and one of my favourite platformers of all time. It’s quite a big improvement of its predecessor. It looks quite a bit better graphically, and there’s a larger variety of deadly enemies to take on. There are several new weapons like a laser rifle, a flamethrower and a rocket launcher, some of which have other uses in levels if you play around with them. There are many items that you can utilise to gain an advantage over your foes, and one or two levels even see you flying a space fighter. Duke is a lot more agile in this game and can do more than just walk and drop off of ledges – he can jump, do somersaults, and climb. Plus Bobby Prince works his magic like he did in Doom and comes up with – in my opinion – one of the greatest soundtracks in any game.

This is one of the greatest platformers of all time and is still a lot of fun to this day. I'd recommend it in a heartbeat.

83

One of the better entries in the franchise

Gmen | Dec. 27, 2013 | Review of Half Life: Opposing Force

Often hailed as one of the best expansion packs of all time, Opposing Force places you in the boots of Corporal Adrian Shephard, who is part of a military unit sent in to Black Mesa laboratory to clean up the mess that the scientists created in the first game. The events in this game tie in with those of the original.

Graphics-wise it’s pretty much the same, although there are some new character models, like Otis the security guard. The soldier models are more varied too, and serve specific purposes, like a medic who will heal the player if he is hurt. This is particularly useful if you are nowhere near a first-aid station. They also all carry different weapons, including sniper rifles and light machine guns, which you can pick up and use yourself. These complement other new weapons you'll come across in the game.

As far as sounds go, soldiers' voices are all voiced by the same person: Jon St. John, known for being Mr Duke Nukem, and the only difference between them is that the pitch is heightened or lowered – this and they all have the same catchphrases which they insist on uttering on a regular basis, which does grind on the nerves after a while. They aren’t particularly smart either, so the only way you’re going to have any joy is to recruit a number of them and have a squad of a few men to command. Having said that, the campaign is really made that much easier due to having fellow soldiers to take on the aliens and other nasties that might be at Black Mesa. And this time around, you can even get assistance from the scientists and the guards – you can choose to let them assist you or you can go about eliminating them as the soldiers in the original did.

So if you're a fan of the original, then try it. But keep in mind that it likely hasn't aged too well. The high definition pack for the game might improve things a bit. This can be enabled in Steam. If that still isn't good enough, I would recommend looking up Operation Black Mesa instead, which is a remake of this game.

88

One of the best games of all time... made even better

Gmen | Dec. 27, 2013 | Review of Jagged Alliance 2: Wildfire

Wildfire is supposed to be a standalone expansion for the turn-based strategy classic, Jagged Alliance 2. But it is really more of a mod. Still, Wildfire improves upon the game in several ways.

There are new maps for most if not all sectors, all complete with redesigned buildings and foliage. The building density has been tightened up, rather than the somewhat sparse grouping of buildings like with the base game and inside the buildings there is more furniture and decorations. So while the game looks the same graphically, there is a more realistic layout that looks and feels like a proper town, which is more pleasing to the eye.

The tactical screen has received a noticeable makeover, with the colour and layout changed so things look a little better there too.

There are plenty of new guns and items for your mercs to find on the battlefield or buy, and use against Queen Deidrianna’s forces in Arulco. Most of the weapon portraits have been improved and look more detailed.

Underneath the new coat of paint, the game is still the classic it always was, and the gameplay hasn’t changed much -- which is a good thing. Basically put, hire mercs, liberate towns by eliminating enemy resistance, capture the town mines to secure an income, train up militia to defend said towns from being retaken, hire better mercs and buy better weaponry, and progress throughout the map doing this until you reach the very end. The story hasn’t changed either, but the enemy AI has been reworked and as a result the game is even more challenging than it was before.

The end result is a game that looks and feels pretty much the same as the game it enhances, but it isn't too different to put purists off. Fans of Jagged Alliance 2 and turn-based strategy alike should love this.

80

Pretty good romp

Gmen | Dec. 26, 2013 | Review of Left 4 Dead

Right at the start of the multiplayer zombie-shooting craze that began years ago, there existed a game, and its name was Left 4 Dead.

You form part of a four man (or three man and one woman, to be exact) team. You can play in singleplayer mode and the rest of the group will be AI-controlled, but multiplayer is the main draw here. Your task in the regular mode of play is to make it from one end of the map to the other, and progress through several parts of an episode before finally making it to the extraction zone and hopefully fleeing alive. In your path there are hundreds of zombies, and among the regular ones there are special zombies and even boss zombies to make life even more difficult for the group.

The gameplay is rather repetitive. You start off in a map with a basic sidearm, make it to a weapons cache, lock and load and upgrade to a shotgun, uzi, or an assault rifle, get some pipebombs and molotov cocktails and then do battle with the undead hordes. Rinse and repeat for several missions before reaching the end. Then do it again in another episode. The episodes are thankfully quite different in theme, taking place in cities, rural areas, in an airport, and in a hospital – all common places you’d find yourself in a zombie apocalypse, all inspired by famous horror movies.

Only bother with it if you're into multiplayer, and keep in mind that Left 4 Dead 2 has been released since this game came out, which is much more current.

85

One of the oldest and greatest

Gmen | Dec. 26, 2013 | Review of Wolfenstein 3D

Say hello to what many proclaim as the “grandaddy of ‘em all” – of course referring to first person shooters.

This is as basic as FPS titles get as you might expect, and it will not appeal to younger gamers who perhaps are more used to Call of Duty or Battlefield titles. There is no multiplayer, the visuals are dated, and gameplay revolves around finding keys, navigating samey indoor maps, and making it to the elevator in order to exit the level and progress to the next without getting killed by the sheer number of Nazis around who are more than willing to put you down.

But – and I'm not kidding – it still has that tense atmosphere that you rarely get from games made even today. A large contributor to this is the sound, particularly the music made by the legendary Bobby Prince. And let's not forget the memorable and challenging boss fights.

If you wish to see what the game that supposedly started it all is really like, or you’re an old school gamer who wishes to have it as part of your collection and relive your childhood, then you can’t go wrong by picking this up.

80

Good, but flawed

Gmen | Dec. 25, 2013 | Review of Far Cry 2

Far Cry 2 is a game that is honestly a bit of a let down in some ways.

It looks good, but it doesn’t look as good as it could have – reason being because the developers insisted on using the Dunia engine, which is really just an enhanced Far Cry engine, or CryEngine 1, when they could have used CryEngine 2, which was used to power Crysis. This resulted in a game that still looks pretty if somewhat dated, especially nowadays.

The game also has seemingly no link to the original Far Cry, instead taking place on the continent of Africa, and it has you, a generic mercenary type trying to locate and assassinate The Jackal, a notorious arms dealer.

But the game comes off to me as really just a bunch of disconnected sub plots, with their own quests. The story isn't particularly compelling, and this makes it somewhat hard to stay motivated. There are some gimmicks introduced in the game like the fact that the player contracts malaria, and every so often they have to take a malaria pill. Or they have to do emergency surgery and dig bullets or shrapnel out of their arm. Or weapons rapidly rust, jam and degrade to the point where they can't be used any more. Poor design choices that were meant to add realism to the game, but only ended up being extremely annoying.

What the game has going for it is a huge sandbox style world with plenty to do, from driving, to hang gliding, to taking a boat down the river in order to launch surprise attacks on enemy encampments. This game is by no means tame. It’s just as deadly as the first Far Cry. But if you’re after something that is more like the original, and designed to be the absolute best game it can be, then you’re better off with Far Cry 3.

87

Best in the series

Gmen | Dec. 24, 2013 | Review of Hitman: Blood Money

The only previous Hitman title I ever really liked was Hitman II: Silent Assassin. But this is better than that and just about every other Hitman game as well, in my opinion.

You aren’t limited to just assassinating targets by conventional means like in the prequels. You can also set it up to look like an accident – and this is by far the most intriguing and challenging way of going about things. You have all your typical weapons and gadgets, as well as the option to don an enemy or civilian uniform, that you can use in a pinch if things go pear shaped, but the ultimate goal is for the enemy (or anyone in fact) to never know that you were even there. Still, the game does provide for those trigger happy types who want to rush in and just mow down anything in sight – and you likely won’t get tired of that any time soon. Add the fact that between missions you are able to go to your basement come shooting range where you can try out all the firearms you’ve collected during missions, and you have a gun nut’s wet dream.

The controls still feel stiff as ever, but Agent 47 does have some added abilities like being able to jump from one balcony to another, and shimmy up and down drain pipes, but somehow it’s never as free flowing as something like Assassin’s Creed. The animation also isn't particularly good, and the physics a bit suspect. I personally think they might have gone a bit overboard with the ragdolling effect.

Blood Money was never the prettiest game around, but it has aged a damn sight better than some of its contemporaries.

The soundtrack, one of the highlights of this title, by Jesper Kyd is a personal favourite of mine. It's absolutely beautiful, and suits the mood perfectly, and makes one feel the part: that this isn’t a game – it’s a Hollywood action film and you’re the relentless killer who will stop at nothing to get the job done. And this game is worth playing for that feeling alone.

66

Rather disappointing

Gmen | Dec. 24, 2013 | Review of Fallout: New Vegas Honest Hearts

Out of all the DLCs for FNV, I found this to be the least satisfying.

It had plenty of promise, what with new characters that are hinted at in the base game making an appearance here, but somehow it just doesn’t deliver. There’s a rather large map, but I just feel like there aren’t enough varied things going on, or places to go, as beautiful as this new area is -- certainly a change from what one is used to from playing FNV and the other DLCs. This is more like the Red Rock Canyon areas, but way bigger. It’s made frustrating by the fact that you have to navigate all these mountainous areas – often by going the long way around, made worse by the fact that your Pip-Boy map doesn’t seem to take height into account. And the game engine isn't the best when it comes to object or terrain manipulation. It just feels like an uninspired slog at the end of the day, running from one place to another undertaking samey quests, and battling with the layout of the area.

There are some new weapons to be had, and an increased level cap complete with new perks, but the overall experience feels somewhat lacking. It is also easily the shortest DLC in terms of play time, in my experience, albeit far from being a complete cakewalk. You’ll be able to get through it within a few hours. After playing the first DLC, Dead Money, this was a bit of a let down, in my view.

90

One of the better DLCs for FNV

Gmen | Dec. 24, 2013 | Review of Fallout: New Vegas Dead Money

This is the first DLC pack for Fallout New Vegas, and it’s a good one.

The level design throughout the DLC relies on a central hub with different doors leading to connected areas, allowing you to backtrack and proceed to other areas. The world is consistently drab and dead looking throughout the Sierra Madre Villa until you reach the Sierra Madre Casino later on. Here is where, at least in my mind, it resembles BioShock, particularly with its prominent Art Deco design.

There are also several characters and ideas present here that tie in well with some side quests and stories encountered in the base game, as well as some tough, relentless, and genuinely creepy opponents, including ghost people and holograms, that will require some thought to defeat. In most cases it might be best to evade them entirely if you can. For example, ghost people can only be permanently disposed of if you take off one of their limbs, similar to Necromorphs in Dead Space.

While Dead Money provides a decent enough experience, with new, interesting companions, weapons, items, perks and an upgraded level cap, I will say that it isn’t the most original looking or playing game (or DLC for a game), with several concepts borrowed from other AAA games. It is however atmospheric, mysterious and tense enough to keep you interested for some time, easily providing several hours of play with plenty of souvenirs to take back to the Mojave Wasteland.

Think of this as Fallout New Vegas's The Pitt.

90

What Fallout 3 should have been

Gmen | Dec. 23, 2013 | Review of Fallout: New Vegas

While Fallout 3 was good, it was this game that everyone was looking forward to. Why? Well, because it had a development team which consisted of people who had worked on the original Fallout games, including the cancelled Fallout codenamed Van Buren.

So this was set to be Fallout done right.

And so it was. I found it to be much more enjoyable than Fallout 3. There are plenty more weapons to be had, which can also be modded this time around, and there are several new additions like the companion wheel making it easier to keep a leash on them on your friends. Combat is somewhat improved, with the ability to aim down the sights with most weapons for increased accuracy, and V.A.T.S should be used sparingly due to the damage you can take while it's active.

Many of the enemies from the previous games and some new ones show up for you to take on. Personally I think the levelling up system in the game is much better with many new perks to choose from, and the base level cap has been extended from a puny 20 (as in Fallout 3) to 30. The sound in this game, from the dialogue to the retro music that takes one back to the mid-twentieth century, is absolutely superb, and even the most dedicated thrasher out there will find him or herself humming to the tune of “Blue Moon” by Dean Martin in no time at all.

And to accompany the music, you have that atom punk theme to the game, combining old technology with more futuristic technology, which I find is much more apparent than F3, and I just love it. If I were to live in a post-apocalyptic society, this is how I would want it to look.

While on the topic of looks, yes, Fallout: New Vegas doesn't really look that much different from Fallout 3, graphically. It could pass as a mod for that game, perhaps. And the colour scheme of the game, which consists of hues of orange and brown, might not be to everyone's taste. And the poor robotic animation is still present.

There are also a few issues such as the fact that the game is quite buggy, and you will more than likely experience freezes, crashes, and corrupted savegames. So it isn’t a very stable game. But if one can look past this they will find a real diamond in the rough here. There are plenty of mods out there too, so once you get through the main game several times, which will take you enough time as it is, there’s tons of replayability to be had.

For those of you who complain that Bethesda hasn’t ever made a decent RPG, you should try this – because it isn’t made by Bethesda, and it is more than decent in my book. New Vegas is a bit like owning an Alfa Romeo. You hate it when it doesn't work, but you absolutely adore it when it does.

83

What Doom was meant to be like, but it came up a little short

Gmen | Dec. 23, 2013 | Review of Doom 3

There are two camps when it comes to this game. There are those who love it, and those who hate it. It's almost every bit as controversial as the original, but for almost entirely different reasons.

The graphics were supposedly top of the range for its time, but it just doesn’t look very pretty to be honest. The character models don't look so hot, and the animation on the whole, particularly with more friendly human characters, could be a lot better. The game is also unjustifiably dark – which is meant to induce fear in to players, but in the end it just leads to much frustration instead. This and having to constantly switch between a flashlight and a weapon is extremely annoying.

Get those issues out of the way, and you still have an enjoyable shooter on your hands. There are plenty of weapons that pay homage to the originals, and this time around you also have a PDA which can play audio logs, read emails, and play demonstration videos found throughout the game – no doubt a gameplay mechanic taken from System Shock 2.

The pace in Doom 3 is much slower than the originals, and the game is darker in theme with even more hellish imagery and sounds, which I admit are used to rather good effect. Overall, even though it is like comparing apples to oranges due to the largely different technologies available, the game world looks and feels the part. But those corridors are even more claustrophobia-inducing than I remember.

While it attempts to be scary though, it’s very much a game that will make you jump, but won’t really terrify you out of your wits. It tries too hard. There’s still action to be had, but it’s very stop and start compared to the originals, and it is missing that iconic adrenaline pumping soundtrack as well. It’s more horror than action horror. So it just about does its job as a revamped Doom, at least as far as looks go, although it could have been better as I said before. There are enough high resolution mods out there though to make up for its looks, and they also tweak numerous other things like weapon damage, sound and the like.

If you are a fan of the series and don’t have this yet, then give Doom 3 a try. It's a good game, but several minor issues let it down from being the best it could have been.

70

One of the low points of the Half-Life franchise

Gmen | Dec. 22, 2013 | Review of Half Life: Blue Shift

Blue Shift ties in to the story of Half-Life, this time from the perspective of Barney Calhoun, one of the security guards at Black Mesa laboratory. The game is typically slow-starting to begin with, before the action picks up later on after a brief tutorial. The problem is that the action is never quite at the same level as you would have experienced before in the series, and if it ever does get to that point, the game is rather short with an even more anticlimactic ending. I have to say it is underwhelming, to say the least, compared to Half-Life, and even Opposing Force.

There isn't much new in Blue Shift. Just more of the old that you would have seen in the aforementioned games. There might be a few new weapons, but this is mainly down to a high definition upgrade, which includes replaced weapon models, better character models, and indeed there are new character models introduced here too.

If you're a fan of the series, you'll probably like this. There's enough tense gun battles to keep you occupied for a short while at least, as well as another trip to Xen. It's not a bad game, but it just ends too soon to be that memorable.

75

Solid but somewhat mediocre shooter

Gmen | Dec. 22, 2013 | Review of Quake IV

Quake IV continues the story of Quake II, although you play as a different character. Think of this as Quake II but with highly improved visuals, as it uses the Id Tech 4, or Doom 3 engine. And I have to say it is at least better looking than Doom 3 – particularly the character models. But the skyboxes and backgrounds – those look like they are straight out of Quake II... which isn't so good.

The story has a few interesting twists, and it does delve deeper in to the inner workings of The Strogg – the enemy faction present in Quake II. It’s a deeper, more emotional affair than Quake II was. Gameplay-wise it’s just another linear shooter with not much innovation, and it lacks a lot of the terror and tenseness that was experienced in earlier Quake titles. I think much of this is down to the change in sound direction, and I’m specifically referring to the soundtrack. Quake IV doesn’t have that heavy soundtrack that helped make Quake and Quake II so edgy. That, and you will often find yourself fighting as part of a squad, instead of being the lone marine battling against seemingly insurmountable odds. Think of this game as Quake meets Call of Duty.

Just a standard shooter outsourced by id Software to Raven – and that is what Raven does best: mediocre.

75

Arguably the most legendary PC game of all time

Gmen | Dec. 19, 2013 | Review of Deus Ex: Game of the Year Edition

Many gamers bang on about this being the greatest PC game of all time. I challenge that notion and I’ll tell you upfront that it isn’t. The game is good, but it isn’t great.

First off the graphics are quite bad (even in its day this was true) with low resolution textures plastered all over the show. The character models aren’t much to look at either. The animation isn't the best, and the AI is usually half-asleep, and as a result the combat isn’t particularly engaging. The sound isn’t particularly good, although the music is, having that synth feel to it which is typical of games that used the .UMX format at the time.

The game in its original form hasn’t aged particularly well at all.

Where Deus Ex redeems itself is in its gameplay. The game was very much inspired by the likes of System Shock 2, and is a hybrid FPS/RPG title which allows you to upgrade your character’s abilities, has a classic inventory system, and many weapons and gadgets that can be deployed by the player to make life somewhat easier. There’s also plenty of voiced dialogue in the game to bring some life to characters, and missions can be approached in several ways, making it a less linear affair than most run of the mill shooters.

With high resolution packs that will improve its looks and not to mention many other mods that will provide endless hours of replayability, this is a sure buy, make no mistake. If you ever wanted to be an augmented super spy, this is the original spy thriller game.

85

One of the greatest WW II shooters ever

Gmen | Dec. 11, 2013 | Review of Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30

Most first person shooters pit one man against an army, and this is also true when it comes to World War II shooters. Think of the original Call of Duty or the Wolfenstein series. CoD had other soldiers on your side, but you still ended up doing most of the work, and it relied on scripted sequences that would only kick in once the player character initiated them by moving through a certain area. BiA is different from that. BiA makes it necessary for you to rely on your squad in order to achieve mission objectives, and if played well, you needn’t even fire a shot yourself.

Most of the game takes place in the countryside of Normandy, France. You take on the role of Sgt. Matt Baker and you command your squad which is comprised of two fireteams – one is equipped to lay down covering fire and suppress the enemy, and the other team is the assault team which will flank the enemy and take them out. You can use hay bails, hedgerows, fences, and all sorts of other obstacles as cover. You also have a nifty feature called Situational Awareness, which allows you to view the battlefield from a bird’s eye view, even letting you zoom in and out, so you can plan strategies before going back in to combat where you can assign orders on the fly to your team.

The game uses Unreal Engine 2, and graphically I don’t think the game has aged particularly well. That was always one gripe that I had with it – that I felt it could have looked better considering the technology that was powering it, which was at least more modern than the Quake III Arena engine which powered Call of Duty and Medal of Honor: Allied Assault. Compared to games released the same year it just wasn’t up to snuff as far as looks go. I will say that the facial expressions of soldiers are convincing.

Animation is decent enough, but the AI isn’t the best. Your squad mates rely on you to issue commands, and they aren’t particularly interested in self-preservation, so they won’t actively seek cover if they find themselves out in the open for some reason, making your job much harder than it should be.

Another thing that bugs me is the sound. Smaller details were left out of the game, like footfalls. When running across wide open fields, one would expect to hear heavy footfalls of paratroopers carrying many pounds of gear, the rustle of uniforms and the soft clinking of weapons and ammunition, but this just isn’t the case. Your squad mates are whisper quiet when on the move. It seems Gearbox didn’t learn their lessons from Opposing Force. Tiny details like that niggle me. Apart from that, the weapon sounds seem authentic enough.

After making it through missions and achieving specific objectives and completing missions on different difficulty levels, you are given access to media such as films, photographs, and other bonus material that often serves to educate the player on concepts, weapons and tactics used in the mission, or just used in World War II in general.

The result is a fine if slightly flawed gaming experience that brings the tactical squad-based shooter genre, made popular by the Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon series, to the WW II shooter genre made popular by Medal of Honor and Call of Duty. Those seeking an authentic WW II shooter will find it a worthy candidate indeed.

90

Best in the series to date for PC gamers

Gmen | Nov. 30, 2013 | Review of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

At the time of writing this, GTA V is not yet out on PC. GTA IV was a bit of a step down from San Andreas, which is as the heading suggests, about the best the series has to offer to date.

There are three large islands, much like previous titles such as GTA III and GTA: Vice City, for the player to commit all sorts of heinous crimes in, from hijacking cars and going for joyrides to doing drive-by shootings, robbing stores, and getting up to all sorts of criminal mischief. Couple this with a good albeit perhaps clichéd story, truly excellent voice acting providing for hilarious dialogue and cutscenes, characters that have immense depth, and a rocking in-car radio that allows you to listen to several stations all with licenced music and corny radio chat shows (V-Rock is always the best though) and you have a game that is one hell of a fun ride.

In addition to the main quests, there are also plenty of side quests and you can spend time levelling up your character so they can become the biggest, baddest gangster in the game. This is sandbox style gaming at its absolute best. Plenty of mods for the game will prolong your enjoyment for years to come, too.

My only real gripe would be the looks of the game. Not much changed in the years from GTA III through Vice City to this, so it isn’t particularly pretty. Other than that, the controls aren’t particularly good either, but this is a minor issue.

If you’re looking to get in to the series before GTA V comes along, then get San Andreas.

80

About the best this series has to offer to date

Gmen | Nov. 29, 2013 | Review of Return to Castle Wolfenstein

Although the game has “return” in the title, its proper intent was to be a remake of the first game by id Software, Wolfenstein 3D.

It uses a modified version of the Quake III: Team Arena engine, and it is quite obvious to those with a keen eye. As far as its looks, it’s not too bad – the effects such as explosions are particularly good. Being an old game you won’t be wowed by its rather evident lack of physics. This was released back in the day when the concept of ragdolling hadn’t even entered its infancy. This was in a time when unvaried death animations were still common.

Many of the sounds in the game were recycled from another game, Kingpin – a previous title by Gray Matter, then known as Xatrix. And it definitely has the same feel as said game in several ways. The music consists of a track or two that will instantly bring memories of the original flooding back.

The story is decent enough, and it is interesting to see enemies besides the Nazis come back. The Wolfenstein series, or at least Wolf 3D and Spear of Destiny, has always been centred around the bizarre and the supernatural, so RTCW definitely has a more fictional twist to it than its contemporaries such as Medal of Honor: Allied Assault. That might put some looking for a more true to life experience off. Then again on the other hand it might give those who have long since tired of the same factually correct WW II shooter some hope.

But that doesn’t necessarily save this game from being a bit of a slog – a standard run and gun action title when all is said and done. Yes, it’s definitely superior to its predecessors in the way that you have more varied mission types, and it isn’t all corridor shooting monotony, but even so somehow the game fails to be as tense or as fresh as the originals were back in their day and does become a tad boring after a while. It certainly isn't a game that I go back to very often, so after one or two playthroughs, the only option left would be the multiplayer, which was always the most popular feature of the game in any case.

This certainly is one of the better WW II shooters on the market, but it isn’t the best in my mind – not by a longshot.

85

A pioneer of the genre

Gmen | Nov. 28, 2013 | Review of Thief Gold

In the 1990’s most of the popular games were first person shooters. While this game takes place from the first person perspective, the gameplay therein is almost a complete departure from what one is used to.

There are no guns – the closest you have in terms of weapons to firearms is a bow with several different types of arrows, which you can use to, among other purposes, set things alight, douse torches, or put guards to sleep with. You will also rely a lot on sound to determine where noise is coming from so you have less chance of running in to an enemy – but this works both ways. You need to make sure you don’t make too much noise or risk giving your position away. You also need to keep to the shadows and stay in the dark as often as possible. This is in stark contrast to most FPS titles, where you can make as much noise as you want and you'll still stand a fair chance against the enemy. Here, combat often doesn't favour you – and that could have something to do with the sluggish controls, but I digress.

The graphics in this game were never one of its selling points, but the AI is still frighteningly intelligent to this day. Couple this together with hauntingly atmospheric missions and excellent sound design, including an ambient/electro industrial type OST – not too dissimilar from the work of Trent Reznor – and you have a unique title that many have been inspired by but few have been successful in emulating.

You should have no problem liking this game if you like stealthy titles. If you’re more into Call of Duty, avoid at all costs.

80

Very competent and enjoyable platformer

Gmen | Nov. 26, 2013 | Review of Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project

While we were waiting for Duke Nukem Forever to come along, we got this: a side scrolling platformer which was very much like the original Duke Nukem games from the early 1990’s.

There are new additions in this game, most notably the ego bar, plus returning features from previous titles such as changes to the Duke Nukem character like fingerless gloves and his golden desert eagle that carried over from the console-exclusive Duke games. Duke also has new abilities like being able to double jump, and grab on to ledges, making navigation of levels that much easier.

While it wasn’t what most of us wanted or were expecting, it filled the gap nicely and proved to be a solid game with plenty of obstacles to overcome, puzzles to solve, and a variety of new enemies to dispatch. Graphically the game looks decent with fully 3D environments, although the camera angle can be a bit non-compliant at times making it hard to see the character or what’s going on in general.

Of course the iconic one liners complete with pop culture references made a return and the writing took a different turn here. It wasn’t as aggressive as Duke 3D, but it probably wasn’t as bad as DNF. If in Duke 3D the main character was viewed as a very capable, hyper masculine, no nonsense action hero, then I can’t help but shake the feeling that it was in Manhattan Project that he became more of a cartoon character; a self-parody. The overall tone is definitely less serious, but I suppose the chance was taken seeing as it is from a different development studio to most of the other games in the main series, and is classed as a spin-off. In my opinion, Jon St. John (voice actor for Duke Nukem) sounds noticeably different.

It’s a decent platformer that should keep casual gamers and fans of the series amused for a few good hours.

76

Underrated gem

Gmen | Nov. 24, 2013 | Review of Condemned: Criminal Origins

From the makers of F.E.A.R. comes Condemned: Criminal Origins. The atmosphere and environments you find yourself in are somewhat similar in theme to what you would have encountered in the aforementioned title, but the gameplay is rather different. You have to engage in close quarters combat with the foulest psychopaths the city has to offer. There aren’t many firearms around, and ammunition is scarce, meaning that this game could quite easily fall in to the survival horror genre.

But it isn’t as utterly brilliant as F.E.A.R. in my book. First off, the PC version is a rather subpar looking port. The graphics are rather ugly, even when it was first released it wasn’t going to win any awards for its looks – the character models are particularly bad, and the animation isn’t much better. Rather strange considering it uses the same engine as F.E.A.R., but I would chalk it up to being "optimised" for the console version. I will say that the enemy AI is as cunning as it is deadly.

But on the plus side it does give you plenty of unlockable content in exchange for finding various items in the game – this was common for games in the mid 2000s, like Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay – a somewhat similar title.

It is also easily one of the scariest games I’ve played. So if you’re disappointed with the direction that most survival horror series have taken nowadays, try this one. It won't let you down.

93

Even better than the first

Gmen | Nov. 23, 2013 | Review of Commandos 2: Men of Courage

Commandos ended up being quite a hit, even spawning an expansion pack. But getting on to the sequel – it had to be even better than the original game, and boy was it.

Missions now have beautiful music that plays in the background (in my opinion one of the best game soundtracks of all time). The sound is much better in this game, with incredible detail right down to the footsteps on surfaces and more variety than the original game. There are new characters introduced here, and the look and animation of all characters is improved. Their abilities go far beyond the limitations of the original, with all characters now able to drive vehicles except tanks (almost rendering the driver redundant), wear enemy uniforms, and you can climb just about anything, and swim just about anywhere too.

The graphics in this game are better in general, and while it is still played from an isometric 2D angle, one can even rotate the camera so you aren’t stuck with the same boring and restrictive view all the time. You can even zoom in to get a better look.

Even more varied locations are visited in this game than the original, including the Pacific theatre where you fight the Japanese, and add to that there are some bonus missions as well, altogether making this my favourite in the series to date. It's also arguably a bit easier for new players to get into initially, but make no mistake, the missions can and do get challenging later on.

83

A great gamble that paid off

Gmen | Nov. 23, 2013 | Review of Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines

In a time when base building strategy games were at their peak, and turn based strategies at more or less the same point, Commandos dared to be different: it was about the first game to do away with both of the aforementioned concepts and pioneer a genre of its own.

Missions in the game are based on real life operations that took place during World War II, mainly based in the European theatre of war with some missions in Africa. You control a squad of specialist commandos who each have their own skills. The aim is to use them in order to complete the mission objectives.

It's an unforgiving game, pitting your small squad of men against a seemingly endless supply of German soldiers, and you might spend more than a few hours on a mission, but the rewarding feeling of completing a mission is worth the suffering. If you are an impatient type, I suggest you avoid this game.

Graphically it might look a bit dated by today's standards, although the buildings and scenery in the game were always particularly well detailed, and the units are quite well animated. The way the game is presented will still impress, with old war footage, briefing screens, mission walkthroughs and wonderfully detailed end mission or score screens that were popular back in the decade it was released.

One issue I had with the game was the sound. The sound effects used just weren’t extremely varied, and vehicles all used the same monotonous drone. That and the vocal acknowledgements of the commandos were irritatingly repetitive as well and were not very clear at times in my opinion.

Fans of wartime strategy games couldn't do a lot better than to play this old classic.

90

A very worthy sequel

Gmen | Nov. 23, 2013 | Review of Thief II: The Metal Age

Thief: The Dark Project achieved the status of cult classic rather quickly, and fans of the game couldn’t wait for the sequel. And it didn’t disappoint. TDP had its share of issues, and Thief II addressed most of them. Firstly the character models look better as do decals like blood stains, and textures are improved. The result is a noticeably prettier looking game, but it isn’t that big of a leap technologically speaking – still using the same engine as the first. But I would say that this game has aged somewhat better than the first graphically.

The level design is significantly better in this game than its prequel, opting for a less linear approach, with more emphasis on sprawling urban environments. The things that made the original so great are still here, with plenty to explore, conversations to eavesdrop on, and a beautiful and at times tense ambient soundtrack in the background.

82

Highly underrated classic

Gmen | Nov. 22, 2013 | Review of Dark Messiah Might & Magic

The concept behind this is quite novel but probably nothing new. It’s a spin off of the famed Heroes of Might & Magic series, but instead of a strategy title, this is more of an action RPG. You take on the role of Sareth, a wizard’s apprentice who is sent on a seemingly harmless errand, but eventually Sareth ends up being involved in a much deeper plot, and is more central to the goings on in the game than he was originally aware of.

The game takes place in the first person perspective, and it would seem that this is nothing more than a linear hack and slash affair. But there are RPG elements involved. You can upgrade your character’s abilities, unlock powerful spells, or make him a force to be reckoned with in combat. Weapons, armour and items like rings also add to your abilities and grant you damage bonuses.

Melee combat is usually not the best way to go, and it’s a good thing that there are plenty of obstacles like barrels that you can use to throw at your enemies as well as traps that can work in your favour. Battles are therefore very bloody and engaging, challenging the player every time. One can also choose a stealthier approach, or use magic, or even a combination, to raise the odds in their favour.

The game uses the source engine which debuted in Half-Life 2. The characters aren’t very pretty and neither is the animation, but the surroundings and textures, especially in deeply atmospheric dark indoor environments, is where the looks of this game shine through.

The game is poorly optimised though and lag will be very apparent even on higher end systems. Long loading screens, freezes and crashes will also detract from the overall enjoyment of the game.

Overall, this is a highly underrated classic plagued by issues, that if overlooked, will reveal a decent game that will offer you several hours of fun. Unfortunately there isn’t much replayability value once you’ve finished it besides trying out a different skill tree (there is no fixed class system in singleplayer). Your best bet would be to try the multiplayer at this juncture seeing as there are no mods for this game, which is rather disappointing.

70

Not the best in the series

Gmen | Nov. 19, 2013 | Review of Thief: Deadly Shadows

Growing up playing and loving Thief and Thief II, I was looking forward to getting my hands on this game.

While it is a decent game, too much has changed from the originals, that fans of the series will miss. There are no rope arrows, instead the developers opted for climbing gloves – this was apparently done due to engine limitations with the Xbox version, and the PC version suffered as a result. The shortsword is missing so while you may have stood a decent chance against guards in the prequels, you have no option but to flee in TDS – although this does encourage stealthy gameplay, which is, let’s face it, what the series is all about. You also can’t swim, and there are less potions and gadgets at the player’s disposal, which means strategies that might have worked in the prequels won’t work here.

Speaking of engine limitations, there are now several loading areas in missions, and this contributes to a feeling of disconnectedness. Another thing that adds to this is that the game tends to ignore most of the characters from prequels, and there is no acknowledgement of The Mechanists or other major events in the series.

The game feels very similar to Deux Ex: Invisible War, and that’s because it not only came out of the same studio, but also utilises the same engine. The graphics aren't really anything to cheer about, and the physics are pretty awful to the point of being hilarious.

The soundtrack, composed by Eric Brosius, a fan favourite who also worked on the soundtracks of the original games, is quite moving. One of the key points of the series is relying on sound in order to avoid guards, and the highlight would obviously be the scripted sequences – eavesdropping on conversations in order to pick up useful information. These things thankfully made it in to TDS, and a few familiar voices are sure to bring a smile to your face.

Despite its many shortcomings, TDS is not a bad game. It is however the low point of the series to date (the new Thief was not yet released at the time this was written and published).

65

A little above average maybe, but not great

Gmen | Nov. 19, 2013 | Review of Duke Nukem Forever

The game was never going to bowl one over with impressive graphics. It’s horribly dated and the developers tried to mask this by adding in pseudo-modern technology. The physics are a bit iffy too, and the animation almost laughable at times. The soundtrack is probably the game’s one saving grace, composed by the returning Lee Jackson who shared the music duties with Bobby Prince in the prequel. And to add to that the sound effects have some nice touches, such as the three beeps that accompany the detonation of a pipebomb, resembling the intro of Grabbag, the game’s legendary theme.

Duke 3D was known for Duke’s awesome one liners, but here in DNF, much like Manhattan Project, the voiceovers of both the character and NPCs sound rather corny with horribly dated references – a direct result of poor writing. And a lot of what made Duke 3D fun, like non-linear level design, and lots of gadgets like jetpacks and scuba gear, are mysteriously missing here, making for a largely linear campaign with only a few interesting bits on offer.

Duke 3D was also known for its interactivity, and DNF has this in spades too, from playing games in one of the clubs on the strip, to picking up objects, and generally just fiddling around to prolong game time. But DNF also quite cleverly combines this with the ego bar introduced in Manhattan Project, so certain actions boost the ego bar (health), such as lifting weights or a few other more adult-themed actions that I probably shouldn’t mention here.

In the end, DNF doesn’t really know which audience it’s appealing to. On one hand it cannot hope to entice the younger generation, and on the other it doesn’t live up to its original purpose as a worthy sequel to DN3D which would endear fans of the series. One can only think that if it had been released years ago, while it was still under the control of 3D Realms that it might have turned out better, but time and too much fiddling around ruined what might have been a great game. Instead, it’s merely mediocre.

95

A horror masterpiece

Gmen | Nov. 19, 2013 | Review of F.E.A.R

The game tells the story of an anonymous operative known as Point Man, who is part of a team, called First Encounter Assault Recon, sent in to investigate the goings on at a site in the Auburn district, with reports of gunfire in the area. It isn’t long before the player is thrust headlong in to the midst of a paranormal nightmare, as all of his squad mates are slaughtered in the blink of an eye by some unexplained malevolent force. And this is only the beginning of the game too – the pace picks up from there as there are many action-packed gunfights (enhanced by slow motion) with extremely intelligent and intimidating enemies to be had, and supernatural creatures – some that can’t be killed by conventional means – to face off against, and not to mention there are plenty of scares.

This isn’t a Doom 3 type game where there are monsters hiding in a closet waiting to pounce on you. This involves the player embarking on a dark, twisted, psychologically tormenting journey in to a brilliantly crafted world where they will strive to put the pieces of a much larger story together.

There are several inspirations evident in F.E.A.R. as it draws from famed horror films such as The Ring, and by extension the Japanese film it was based upon, Ringu. This is easily the best in the series, and Monolith shows its mastery when it comes to the horror genre.

The only real gripe I have with the game – and it’s a very minor one at that – was perhaps the sound effects, particularly the weapons, which I found to be a little flat sounding, although there is a wonderfully fitting soundtrack composed by Nathan Griggs that more than makes up for it.