John Walker's Electronic House

TB 128

They’re Back 128

Time travel for beginners. We’ll keep an eye out of temporal rifts, and you play the games.

Operation Flashpoint
PC GAMER Presents
PCG 98

The dilemma of the soldier sim is how realistic do you want to be. In a real war, when the bullets hit you, it makes a horrible hash of your aliveness, and the running around and shooting stops all of a sudden. And there are horrible shouty men who tell you what to do all the time, and say words like “maggot” and “give me twenty”. Plus you have to spend months in hot seaside resorts with Robsome and Jerome. Shiver. But then you can’t really call yourself a soldier sim if you have rail guns and rocket launchers, fighting with Zombie Aliens on the planet Fixixious. The answer is Somewhere In The Middle.

The answer, so far anyway, is Operation Flashpoint. It is wise. In the same way as the correct response to the call for non-linearity is to be completely linear, but pretend you aren’t, Op Flash pretends to be completely realistic, but whether it is or not is entirely unimportant. As long as you /think so/, then you’re there.

Beginning as a lowly weasel-like grunt, obeying the orders of others, you are thrown into a grizzly world of, um, fields and trees. And through there you shall slowly travel, until you begin to wonder if you’re actually playing some hellish FPS version of A Tale In The Desert… when BANG! Your head is broken. Or perhaps the head of the person beside you. Because that’s how it happens in a pretend version of something a bit like reality. The enemy is few and far away, not an endless stream of spawning sprites from a closed-walled back room. It is clever, not a dumb, blundering monster. It is fighting for its life, not presenting itself to you as a brightly coloured target.

As you move through the missions, you’ll ascend the ranks, and have people to give orders to. And for the most part they’ll respond well, and appropriately. But they will die. Like in a war. And unlike in, say, Medal of Honour, it matters to you when they die. They died under your command, and you failed them. You let them die.

The pseudo-reality breaks down somewhat when you are in command of vehicles. Especially the winged ones. This is perhaps the weak point, where simulation is sacrificed for playability, but at the same time, poorly implemented and awkward.

But this doesn’t dent into what is a painfully “real” game: a war sim where bullets hurt, and enemies have preservation instincts. Emotionally involving, and more than a bit good.


War’s a bit horrible, and for once you’ll feel it. Painful, but honest.

No One Lives Forever
PCG 91

Despite the Austin Powers franchise beginning three years before No One Lives Forever first appeared, it’s impossible to make accusations of a ride on a bandwagon. In fact, in the battle of spoof sixties spies, Agent Cate Archer, in this reviewer’s mind, is easily the winner. In both terms of entertainment, and quality of comedy.

NOLF for me, if you’ll forgive this horribly self-indulgent prose (I’ll make up for it in the next column – I’ll do one of those “we” reviews like PC Format) represents something very important: proof that comedy in games is not only possible, but also incredibly effective. And the joy of NOLF is that you don’t have to pretend it’s better than it is in order to celebrate its rarity as a comedy. It’s not only funny, but also one of the best FPS’s your lazily earned money can buy.

Beautifully balanced levels, engaging and well rounded characters, and a superb plot, mean this is one of the few titles comparable with Half-Life. Visually it’s spoiled by the early, weaker graphics of the Lithtec engine, but you won’t be able to care after about ten minutes. After ten minutes you’ll have noticed the ridiculous nonsense of the gadgets, the excellent story you’re falling into, and the spot-on-spoofery of the lazy xenophobia in James Bond films.

Perhaps the best proof of its achievement in comedy is that the funny isn’t reserved for the cut-scenes. It’s throughout, in absolutely fantastic scripted conversations heard through doors (anyone who’s played it is now thinking of the goat), and even more impressively, in the very structure of the scenarios.

The comedy genre is near empty, and almost entirely adventures. Here, for once, is an example of how some proper effort, and some decent writing, can create a stunning, and extremely funny, FPS.


Gangsters 2
Sold Out
PCG 99

We at PC Gamer like nothing better than to commit crimes. We love it. When we’re not out robbing, we can be found downloading illegal bomb making information, or committing High Tech Cyber Thefts. We haven’t a spare moment that isn’t filled with some sort of criminal activity.

Why are we doing this? Because we know that the way we will become best at games is to recreate them in our real lives. We want to find out if a life of illegality will improve our performance at these games, and we have became hooked, and can’t stop. We don’t want to stop! We positively endorse committing crimes, ALL THE TIME. Oh yes we do.

One thing we regret is our inability to commit crimes in the past. We are building a special crime committing time machine at the moment, to attempt to address this. But at the moment, we find that our efforts to recreate 1920’s organised crime in order to improve at Gangsters 2 is limited.

We enjoy the real time strategic nature of this sequel, as this is how we operate. Orders are issued to your eight lieutenants, each of whom can have up to four beefy men helping them, although we find the beefy men unnecessary in Bath. There are lots of different types of missions (or as we like to think of them, “ideas for what to do”), be they a drive-by shooting, protecting certain individuals, or bribing local authority figures, each to be completed within the time limit.

We find the isometric perspective ideal for gameplay, but unhelpful in terms of realism, as helicopters prove expensive. However within the game, it is appropriate and effective. The graphics let us down a bit, and found that in recreating some scenes we had to squint to make it look right.

And that’s what we all think. All of us. Including anyone who adds comments in brackets.


PCG 50

Is there really any truth behind this idea that postal workers are the most likely people to go bonkers and set off on a crazed killing spree? My previous postman was the nicest man you could have met. I remember a time when I had a parcel when I got home, which he’d signed for it himself, leaving a note saying that he’d done it to save me the trip to the sorting office. It’s really hard to imagine him grabbing a machine gun and mowing down the slower running residents of Guildford. In fact, what he did do was emigrate to Australia.

Postal (re-released by Whiptail on the back of the “success” of Postal 2) attempts to be oooooooh, so naughty; so controversial. Look at it, tee hee hee, it’s breaking all the rules! It’s so crazy! It’s ZANY! It’s bloody awful.

Written with the deliberate intent of being offensive, it manages to achieve the very same as its stand-up comedy equivalent, Bernard Manning. Yes, here’s your box-quote: “Postal is the Bernard Manning of the gaming world.”

Very quickly: you play a postal worker who believes the population of the town in infected with some weird thing, so you have to kill them all. That’s it. From an isometric or top down view, kill everyone. But kill them in LOTS OF NASTY WAYS!!! How terribly cheeky!

It’s horrible. Being controversial for the sake of being controversial is a logical misunderstanding. You achieve nothing. If I set out to kick someone in the face, I can hardly celebrate their broken and bleeding face as some sort of genius victory that only proves me right when my victim complains.

To set out to get complaints, and to get complaints, is about as clever as tripping up the blind. (Legal Warning: Anyone who thinks the content/opinion of this review is in any way incongruous with the previous review, is wrong. Thank you).


Who Wants To Be A Millionaire
Sold Out
PCG 89


Who is a millionaire?

Chris Tarrant. And it gets worse. Jasper Carrott. Part owning Celedor, they are millionaires, and not, for instance, me.

Every other review of this computerised version of the tv show has mentioned the fact that winning misses out something that the televisual equivalent does not, so we won’t talk about that. And we won’t bother with some tired, and horribly out of date, joke about coughing. In fact, it’s very hard to find anything to talk about.

It’s not as if I could spend the 300 words describing it to you. It’s a PC game of the show, you answer questions read by the disembodied voice of Chris, and have the lifelines. That’s your lot. It manages quite well.

What I will do is print the name Tecwen Whittock. He’s currently attempting to trademark his name to prevent a cough medicine of the same name being produced. But it’s going to take several months for it to be processed, so while I can: Tecwen Whittock, Tecwen Whittock, Tecwen Whittock.

It’s my belief that had he had an ordinary name, like for instance “Matthew George”, he would never have lost that case so badly. Matthew George would have been told he couldn’t have the money, and let off. But Tecwen Whittock – he was always going to get the blunt end…

Um. Dum de do. Ah, by the time you have this in your grip, that American Pepsi billion dollar giveaway will already have happened, and despite my being ahead of the curve having heard about it as I write, now it will be tired old news….

…Oh yes, someone dared me to get the word “crepuscular” into this month’s column. So that’s that taken care of.

So, whatever really, buy it if you like. Are we there?


And The Rest

What a rag-tag and clumsy month. It all feels a little airy, perhaps loose around the edges. But think of it as a comfy old jumper that you love to wear. Sure it’s got holes, but it’s just so cosy and lovely.

Championship Manager 00/01 (Sold Out, £5, 76%) is being released again. When it was re-released a year ago, it was already a year and a half out of date. Now it’s… blimey… and add the seven… which is divided by… carry the nineteen… two and a half years out of date. Which is perhaps a problem. You see, in the heady world of football, the teams will often do something called “changing players”. I don’t pretend to understand it, but apparently they can either go by “swapsies”, or cash. Anyway, it means that the teams in the game no longer match up to real life. This of course doesn’t matter at all, since the whole concept is entirely stupid. But you will play them, you silly little scamps.

Xplosiv are having a go with Aliens Vs Predator Gold (£5, 70%). The first one. They’re the third budget company to release it, and it’s increasingly outdated. Still, if you’re using an older machine, and you never did play it, it’s a good old spooky one.

They’re Back. Oven cook: 200 C for 30 minutes. Microwave: full power for 6 minutes. Ensure contents are piping hot before eating.