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TB 113

They’re Back 113

They’re Back contains 90% of your daily nutrition, and /may/ help reduce the risk of heart disease.

Return to Castle Wolfenstein Special Edition

You may think that we are particularly buried beneath sequels at the moment – you’ve probably noticed that the biggest games of the near future are Deus Ex II, Half Life 2, the next C&C, the next Counterstrike, the next Barbie’s Magic Dreamhouse – but this is somewhat misleading: the spreading of roman numerals after titles is a perennial plague, no worse now than it ever has been. However, it is only recently that we are witnessing a new phenomenon.

The retro craze has decided to disobey the predefined rules of crazes, and won’t go away. The television is full of so-called documentaries, dredging up nostalgic minutiae that you barely care that you remember, fashion is belly-flopping through the decades, and cinema is tiresomely remaking identical replicas of films with the current zeitgeist of stars. So thank goodness that computers make everything ok.

You’ve already read more articles about how the original Wolfenstein games were blah blah classic yawn groundbreaking blah diddly blah than you will ever want to remember, and you already know that RTCW is five million times better than Wolf 3D, in graphics, gameplay, and Nazi-romanticism. But did you know that it’s actually incredibly boring for huge stretches? I bet you didn’t.

By plundering the idea of playing a soldier fighting against the evil Nazis and their mystic, cultic demon raising from the original games, everything was set up for a good-old shooting romp. But id’s eyes became bigger than their stomachs, and they were dazzled by the glittery gold of the modern sneak-n-snipe action that kids love so much these days, and they tried to do both at once. The result is a split personality meaning certain levels are going to bore you, depending upon which style of game it was that you were after. If you wanted Serious Sam-style Doom-esque shooting, you’ll be happy for one half; if you wanted Medal of Honour style sneaking, you’ll be happy for the other. But the two halves just don’t seem to gel.

However, this really shouldn’t put you off playing it. The joyous thing is, the two halves are so good at doing what they do that they’re worth fighting through the half you don’t like to get to them… if you see what I mean. It’s just a shame that the two couldn’t have been split into two distinct games, caged separately, and allowed to grow into two full-sized adults.

What makes this edition special? Not much really, other than the price. There’s a few more multiplayer maps, and a map editor, and then some DVD-like “specials” such as a making of featurette. But hey, there’s the price.


Extremely good shooting fun, but confused about what it wants to be.

Fallout Radioactive

I’m not scared of nuclear disaster. Not any more. I’ve thought well ahead and have dedicated a great deal of time to preparing for the inevitable day. I’ve built an underground bunker, lined by three metres of Sunny Delight bottles. Inside I have a computer, a phone (to call any other high-sugar fruit juice encased catacombs), and cockroaches for pets. And no, you can’t join me – go build your own.

One of the things I’ll be most looking forward to after the bombs will be the mutations. Watching the development of more and more bizarre creatures as the post-apocalyptic world breeds the next generation of life forms. Which is very much the experience when buying the Fallout Radioactive pack. Inside you will find three generations of the game, each more evolved than the last.

Things start with 1997’s original Fallout – a lovely RPG that poked pins into the behind of a sleepy genre, and some might even argue laid its cloak across the puddle for Baldur’s Gate. Set in Northern California after the world went bang, it reminded a nation of the glory of Story. By 1999 the exposure caused Fallout’s child to be born with a few genetic advantages, despite an almost identical appearance. It had improved enemy AI, a bigger story, and more importantly corrected weaknesses in its parent. Full of atmosphere and enormous RPG statistical variety, it was a compliment to the original, and a step forward.

Another two years past, and Fallout 2’s baby was born, this time with a much greater display of mutation. This third generation has an enormous chromatic change, causing it to be born an RTS. Instead of controlling one man’s journey, this time you take on a pack of up to six, in what is a far more action orientated game.

Getting all three together has the enormous advantage of letting you follow the story through, and perhaps more importantly, letting you play three darned good games for not much money.


Quake III Gold

Make sure you’ve got your most protective gloves on – I’m about to be quite controversial.

Quake III was an incredibly lazy game.

Pick yourself up, dust yourself down, and sit yourself sideways. Let me at least defend the comment. The Quake III engine was the greatest computer gaming engine ever created. It still is the greatest computer gaming engine ever created until the Doom III one appears. The power and the versatility of it astonished the world, caused many rival games designers to go screaming back to their drawing desktops, and amazed a nation’s gamers by its not being entirely brown. Technologically, despite not really delivering on its curves promise, it couldn’t have been better.

But if I bought you the most beautiful car you could imagine (a Nissan Micra for example), but only allowed you to drive it through Stoke on Trent, you’d only be able to admire its sleek design and gorgeous interior for so long. After a while you’d be begging to be allowed to drive it through the sunny streets of a place that did it justice. Like Guildford.

Quake and Quake II had remarkably good level design. Perhaps both were a bit short, but that was forgiven due to the enormous step forward they marked in PC gaming, and the remarkably well created gameplay. Id had the natural skill to pace things just right, letting you roar through the levels, learning your way about, and not minding that you were mostly key collecting. But part three has none of this. Come on people, look! It’s just a bunch of multi-player maps! And the so-called single-player game is atrocious.

This Gold version comes with both Quake III Arena and Quake III Team Arena – the add-on never really adding on as much as most would have helped. But it’s darned good value to have both here.

We would not be the wonderful people we are today without Quake III’s engine, but I put it to you that the game itself is just a little bit poop.


MDK 1 + 2
White Label

I knew about MDK 2 before you did. Ner. You see, I while in Seattle for the launch of Baldur’s Gate 2, one of the Bioware fellows had had perhaps a few too many cold drinks, and decided it was time to give an impromptu demonstration of how far they had got with their sequel to Shiny’s game. Booted up on a Dreamcast, myself and a couple of others were treated to a confused madman showing off the bits he liked best, interspersed with harsh warnings that we were not to tell anyone what we were about to see.

Sadly, the revelation that some character in some sequel to a game that no one had bought had some special move, wasn’t really the most exclusive of exclusives. It was very hard to know who to let know I wasn’t going to tell. However, it seems that the best thing would be to have told everyone, just so someone might have heard of the poor games.

If you like action adventure (think Tomb Raider, Indy Jones, Metal Gear Solid), or if you like games with a good sense of humour, just go buy this pack. The hero is Kurt Hectic (the name alone being reason enough to purchase), and in Bioware’s sequel is joined by Max, a robotic dog, and Doc Hawkins, the man responsible for Hectic’s suit, and building Max. Each has a very different approach to play, with levels specifically designed for their individual strengths.

But I appeal again – do buy these. For the sake of Shiny’s fragile ego. The poor boys invented the sniper play, brutally stolen and made famous by Goldeneye, and did you buy a copy? No. You didn’t. And look at their hurt feelings.

Dammit, they’re funny, they’re colourful, and they’re very well made. Play them.


Giants: Citizen Kabuto
White Label

Oh dear, we don’t like change, do we? In fact, is there anything that drives fear into the hearts of humans anywhere more effectively than change? When a person is held at gunpoint in the street, threatened with demands for the contents of their wallet, it’s not injury or death that worries, but the thought of the change a bullet hole will make to their clothing and their volume of blood. We fear change. Turmoil.

And yet we march around like a small child pretending to be a soldier, lifting our knees up high and banging out imaginary drum, demanding originality in computer games. “Give us new ideas!” we cry. “Stop making the same old games over and over!” we bellow at the tops of our voices. But as soon as someone does, what do we do? That’s right – we run away and hide behind Magic & Combat LXII, our previous cocky soldier-walk completely gone.

In Giants: Citizen Kabuto you begin as a lonely soldier, dumped on an alien planet, avidly searching for your mates – familiar enough territory for the change-wary you’d imagine. As you progress through the levels, you get more weapons, more abilities, and more aspects to play, all taught to you neatly as you go along.

But then, change! It changes. Now you’re controlling a squad of guys, NPCs following your command. But then, change! Now you realise that this isn’t such an action adventure any more, but slightly more of an RTS. But then, change! Now you realise that your main character isn’t there any more…

And so it continues, ever evolving, adapting, changing. And frankly, it’s time you learned to deal with that. Because if you don’t spend a mere £10 on this game, you’ve forfeited your right to ever complain about the lack of progress in PC gaming.


And The Rest

A lot of big names out this month, and not enough pages for them to fit in. I know what you’re thinking, “why not dedicate more pages to They’re Back, perhaps make it its own section in the magazine?” And I believe quite a few of you are thinking, “frankly John, I don’t understand why They’re Back doesn’t get its own supplement every issue.” Well, it remains as much of a mystery to you as it does to me.

White Label also offer us Sacrifice (£10, 88%), the second Shiny game to feature this month. They are an extraordinarily ambitious company, daring to create original games. This of course carries the penalty of meaning that they will occasionally miss the mark, but not this time. In fact, Sacrifice solves the gripes mentioned in the Quake III review, beefing up the run-around action strategy into a fabulously exciting game. Well worth a tenner.

Sold Out have released a few more titles at five pounds, some of them frustratingly recently released at over ten pounds. These include Ground Control (90%), the eye-delighting beauty-fest of sleek, elegant and easily accessible RTS, and Gunman Chronicles (81%), the entertaining but woefully short addition to the Half Life legacy.

Finally from Sold Out comes out with Heist. It’s a dreadful attempt to cash in on the Commandos cow, but it’s cheap, lazy, and shoddy. Five pounds too expensive.

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