John Walker's Electronic House

TB 119

They’re Back 119

Rolling around in the long grass of lower prices, avoiding the gorse bushes of new release fees.

Ghost Recon
Ubisoft Exclusive

Sometimes I just can’t shake the impression that Tom Clancy might be somewhat right wing. I know, I know, I’m making crazy assumptions, and I really should avoid flying towards these naive judgments. Just because a man is obsessed with nationalism, patriotism, and the shooting of Foreign People, is no reason to go attaching labels.

The Foreign People at the end of your targets this time around are the Russians. “The Russians?!” you cry? Yes, the Russians. “But the Cold War is over, and we have new trendy bad guys now.” Of course, of course, but Red Storm have already programmed enough Middle Eastern Foreign People at the end of Mr Clancy’s wrath, and now it’s the turn of another nation. “But couldn’t he pick someone new?” No no no, you know what they say, ‘write what you know’, and Mr Clancy knows how the Russians can be baddies. This time round, it’s a breakaway group of Russians – a faction looking to kick up settled dust, and have America on their bad side once again. Well, it seems we’re only too happy to indulge.

A delightful thing about Clancy game designers, Red Storm, is that they genuinely do listen to their audience. Feedback from previous games makes a real impact in their thinking when it comes to working on the next, and as the next step from the Rainbow 6 family, they paid close attention to the comments made about the manner in which the game was controlled. It seemed their players weren’t interested in the planning stages of a mission, and were eschewing the intended approach, and attempting to control multiple teams from within the game.

The controls for Ghost Recon eschew the planning stages of a mission, and provide the ability to control multiple teams from within the game. And it does it remarkably simply and effectively. The stabbing of a key brings up a map, on which you issue basic orders to the three teams – where to go, and what sort of approach to use when they get there.

As ever, you play any of the men on any of the teams, and see through their first-person eyes as you do. Each soldier gains RPG-esque attributes at the end of a level, so it’s in your interests to keep them all alive if possible, because frankly, you’re going to need them to be as good as possible – this game is /hard/.

It’s a big step forwards from Rainbow Six, a different step from the comparable Operation Flashpoint, and a huge step backwards in the choice of bad guy nationality.


Incredibly hard, incredibly detailed, and typically Clancy.

Everquest New Dawn

Of all the massively multiplayer online role playing games, Everquest is certainly the other one. Whether your favourite was Ultima Online, or if Asheron’s Call does it for you, Everquest is left as the second choice.

The reason behind this is something to do with the motivation behind wanting to play such a game. Offline RPGs tend to be about great stories, exploring with a party of people all under your control, and discovering what happens at the end. The very nature of an online RPG removes the ability to tell a prescripted story, takes away your controlling a party, and destroys any possibility of an ending. So to be a member of the target audience, it’s a very specific detail of the nature of RPG that you have to be interested in, and of course, ironically enough, it’s the very same interest that pre-computer gaming RPGs were all about: the playing of a role.

Unlike Ultima Online, Everquest aims to bridge the gap between the two, by filling menial roles of an RPG world, like shopkeepers and so on, with NPCs, leaving you to play the more brave, exploring types. The idea being that this will appeal to, which for the sake of sensitivity and good balance I’m going to call, normal people.

Since its original release, Everquest has gotten bigger, opening new ‘portals’ revealing new lands, providing new places to explore, new adventure to be had, and new baddies to fight. And this release contains the first three of these: Ruins of Kunark, Scars of Velious, and Shadows of Luclin. These represent three and a half years of world development, and are inevitably being released now to encourage you to add the latest portal, The Planes of Power.

The great advantage of buying this now is that the early bugs are well ironed out, and the world with its three additions is already enormous. The great disadvantage is that the original idea is nearly four years old now, and it’s probably time to do something new.


Wizards and Warriors

Dear They’re Back,

Please help me, I don’t know who else to ask. Whenever I go to parties, or out to pubs, I always feel really rubbish, and don’t know what to do. Everyone I know is cooler, sexier and funnier than me, and I’m the most rubbish person, no matter where I go. What can I do to make myself better? Yours, A Rubbish Person.

Dear A Rubbish Person,

It’s funny you should ask, as I was recently asked a very similar question by a young computer game I know called Wizards and Warriors. “All the other RPGs are better than me!” he opined. “All the others are much better written, have far prettier graphics, have managed to escape stereotypical cheesy dialogue, possess a far less tired interface, and an original approach to level design,” he whinged on. “What can I do to not be thought of as the most unoriginal, tiresome, boring role playing game at parties or at the pub?”

And I’ll give you the same advice I gave to him. You could try and work on your outward appearance – dress slightly differently, do something with your hair, and so on. You could work on your confidence, enabling yourself to better express your finer qualities, presenting more detail and greater depth. You could improve your, um, storyline and dialogue. But there’s a far easier choice.

Why not find someone more sad, less sexy, and even more rubbish than you, and the invite them to come along, everywhere you go? “Wizards and Warriors,” I said, “meet Might & Magic.” And suddenly in comparison, whilst still dreadful company, he clearly wasn’t the worst. In desperation, people might play with him, in an attempt to avoid the thought of spending time with M&M. Try it. Maybe they’ll end up putting up with you, too.

Yours, They’re Back


Virtua Tennis

It’s time for a public confession. I, John Walker of PC Gamer… (gulp) bought a Dreamcast.

Yes, I know, I know. But please, be bigger people, don’t judge me so. Here was my thinking: If I get a Dreamcast, I’ll be able to write for one of Future’s fine Dreamcast magazines, thereby increasing my financial intake. It will pay for itself.

I believe it was 1.37 seconds after my Switch card slid through the machine that Sega announced the death of the console.

One of the very few things that didn’t dredge a soul-deep feeling of bitter regret was the purchase of Virtua Tennis for the said box of plastic deadness. It was a fabulous and wonderfully nonsensical tennis game, letting you not only play through a peculiarly Japanese interpretation of the men’s tour, but also take part in the bizarreness of tennis 10-pin bowling, and tennis box-breaking.

The conversion to the PC has seen little change, which is both the good news, and the bad. It is still the hugely entertaining tennis simulation, and it still has all the confusingly silly extra games, but it doesn’t make use of the far more powerful machine it now lives inside. This pretty much /is/ the Dreamcast version.

When originally released, there were lots of problems with its system-hungry nature, requiring ridiculously high-spec machines for fluid play. But of course in this modern age (11 months later) ‘ridiculously high-spec machines’ have become ‘remarkably average machines’, and the necessary 1Ghz processor won’t be beyond quite so many reaches. And if it is, at least you’ll get to perform the game’s legendary, shoulder and neck breaking sideways roll as you miss.

My Dreamcast now lives in a plastic bag behind the TV, usurped by the Game Cube that is desperately fighting off the curse of John’s Buying It.


Myst III: Exile
Ubisoft Exclusive

Myst was the beginning of a phenomenon. It was the first game to bring high quality pre-rendered graphics, accompanied by devious puzzles and an intriguing storyline, to a general public who wouldn’t normally have played computer games.

It’s fresh approach to the adventure genre, boosted by the astonishing nature of the visuals, caught the imagination of both young and old, teaching a generation of PC buying families about the enormous capabilities of their recently purchased home computer. Tricky challenges that brought everyone together around the screen, would open up new and more wonderful chapters in the tale of the magical world of books and mystical islands…


I had to have a go! Of course it’s not any good. It’s a hideous pile of old plop! I’d rather put my head in a sack of diarrhoeic scorpions than suffer another second in the fetid grip of the Myst series.

I think perhaps one of the saddest things that ever happened, more sad than the end of Shadowlands, was the wasted opportunity behind the ages old Myst spoof Pyst, that managed to be as awful, even though it was trying to mock it. The association was too much to cope with.

You see, everything to do with it is inherently horrible. I once put my review copy of Myst III on top of my copy of Deus Ex, and the next time I played the latter, JC Denton had started wearing cardigans and insisted on spending his evenings playing with sliding puzzles.

You may be one of the many millions of wrong people who like Myst, and all its horrible little children, and that’s ok. Except of course, it’s not. It’s not a game, it’s a screensaver with rules.


And The Rest

The selection process for which games get a full column review, and which are restrained in this unpleasantly green box (which reminds me, it’s time to start the campaign for a redesign of They’re Back. The green oval has got to go. Email the magazine – fight the system) gets more and more complicated each week.

It used to be that I would pick which games were more deserving of a full column, but that just made no sense. No I have a farm of trained oxen, each with a number painted on their back. When I fire a frozen kettle into the air, each ox rushes to be the one to catch it in their carefully woven net. The number of the winning ox decides which case of woodlice shall be shaken onto a dartboard, where they spell out the name of a game from a list they were shown that afternoon. And then the bats are released.

The unlucky names include Warcraft II (£10, 70%). At over seventy million years old, Warcraft II was originally sold on stone slabs, which might not work too well with today’s modern machines.

Another unlucky ox-rider is Battlezone II (£10, 88%) is a fine example of proof that there’s no real justice to this section (and to think some of your doubted me). Despite sounding like a round in Robot Wars, it is in fact a game in which robots have wars. Both are from Xplosiv.

Well, there we go. I think we’ve all learned a lot. Reviews aren’t available on the disc this month thanks to: Lewis Denby.