John Walker's Electronic House

TB 80

They’re Back 80

Those Winter-time blues have really sunk into the hearts of budget publishers. It seems that they don’t want to share their games any more. This is all that’s up for grabs. Roll on the spring.

Big 6: Burn Rubber
Publisher: GT Value
Price: £20

And your six games are…

Destruction Derby 2: Quite a blast from the past. You kind of just drive about crashing into the other cars seeing who can do the most crashing before you have nothing left with which to crash. It was a direct port from the Playstation, but yet holds its own on the PC, and though dated, remains a fun car destroying romp.

Rollcage: Not so much of a blast, and not that far in the past, Rollcage is a misfire of a racing game. 500kph anti-gravity juggernauts are all well and good, but haven’t we all got one? Well, no, but the game isn’t any fun. So it doesn’t matter. Or something.

Wipeout 2097: When it first came out, Wipeout 2097 was something of a system-buster. Now that seems rather sweet. Patronizing aside, it’s still relatively pretty, and it’s still very fast, and it’s still very hovery. And that is a word.

Carmageddon: It’s amazing to think that when this game was first released, the public of the day considered endorsing the murder of innocent pedestrians to be in some way wrong. How silly they look now. The pictures are dated, and there’s a sequel that’s better, but it’s still a laugh. Ha ha ha.

Formula 1 97: Somewhat archaic, and not exactly legendary in its day, F1:97 failed to generate the kind of excitement that F1GP2 managed in its day. Probably its greatest mistake was the choice of Martin Brundle for commentator. While the man has a use on ITV, sitting the insane old Murray Walker back in his chair and reminding him of the month, he is horrible here. The game is fine really. And that is the kind of sentence that PC reviewers are made for.

Grand Theft Auto: Somewhat of a classic, GTA is the biggest pull in this pack, though rather pointlessly considering that it is included in over 700 other budget packs currently on sale. Elsewhere within these hallowed budget pages lies the GTA: London add-on pack, and you’re going to need this original to play it. And if you need it, then this pack isn’t that bad a way of getting it.

A mixed lot, all racey, all quite old. But it does shine in places.


GTA London

Publisher: Sold Out
Price: £10

Arr yoo lookin at moi burd? Huh? Yoo slaaaaaaaaaaaag. Hurrah, it’s 1969, and it’s London… and it’s Grand Theft Auto. What a superb combination. This is the official mission pack for DMA’s classic GTA, and you will need the original to run it. Fortunately Sold Out have already very kindly released the original for a tenner, and it is also available in many bundles (search the contents of these pages for such a find).

It’s all the same idea as the first game, though this time you are firmly on the left side of the road, and all those American bits and pieces are replaced by the good old home made produce of Blighty. Your pager is replaced by some dubious 60’s communication device, the cops are now plod, and bestest of all, the soundtrack is completely changed for music reflecting the era.

There are a couple of problems however. First of all, the most common complaint with GTA was the rapid decent into repetition. At first it was fun to race about committing those crimes, killing those innocents, and shooting those cops, but after a while you do feel that there are no real changes in gameplay. This problem is not in any way solved by GTA:L, and, in fact, probably worsened by the limitation of being restricted to one city. Secondly, GTAII is reasonably freshly in your shops, and at the combined price of twenty quid to be able to play this, you may as well get the all-new snazzy version.


Unreal Gold
Publisher: GT Value
Price: TBA

On its original release, Unreal was held aloft the shoulders of the gaming public, and showered in a rather generous quantity of confetti. Since, every time it is looked back on, there is an increasing level of complaint and dislike. So let’s be level headed about this, and approach it anew.

There can be absolutely no argument at all that Unreal is graphically exceptional. Quake 3’s curvaceous edges may have succeeded it in the Miss Computer Game Championships this year, but for an ageing game, Unreal can still hold it’s own in many a lighting effects contest. (They have them you know, they don’t tell the public, but they have them.) On what would now be considered an average 3D card, things run beautifully smoothly, with barely a glitch.

But if good looks were all that mattered, Winona Rider would be President of the World, and I don’t think she is. Unreal suffered from actually being too long, which is quite extraordinary. The vast levels, and the vast number of levels, meant that after many hours of gameplay, you felt that all that could happen, had happened. And the storyline was never believable enough to keep you engrossed, a la Half-Life.

This latest budgie release comes with the official strategy guide, and also the recent Return to Na Pali mission pack. Thank you for the guide, but you can keep your extra missions. They were a weak and tedious collection when first released, and who would feel like playing them with the original in tow is a complete mystery.


Armour Command
Publisher: Sold Out
Price: £10

What a peculiar appearance on the new release schedules of Sold Out. In fact, back up, what a peculiar bunch Sold Out are altogether. They provide the widest selection, from all manner of developers and publishers, and always at a decent price, never rising higher than a tenner. So this is all lovely. But who on earth is it who chooses which games they are going to put out next?

It seems hard to believe that there was whooping in the offices as they secured the rights to Armour Command, before a large party, and much bottom photocopying. In fact, do you remember the game at all?

It was a poor cousin to many other RTS’s of it’s day, especially so to Battlezone that did everything it did, but only betterer and largerer. The idea was to incorporate 3D graphics into the RTS in a way that Command and Conquer or Total Annihilation had not, but only managed to prove why they had not. Stuff and Things were not complicated enough at the time, and the 3D elements became so confusing that you had to switch them off before your eyes fell clean out of your head.

Instead you were left with a completely 2D environment as the only way to play the game without that optical spillage. So it ended up looking worse than C&C or TA, which offered an isometric compromise. And when was the last time you were offered an isometric compromise? There are many other better RTS’s available at budget prices for you to spend your pennies upon.


Battle Cruiser 3000AD
Publisher: GT Select
Price: £14.99

When this was originally released it was as bugged as the Russian nuclear defence program. It only ran in DOS despite Win 95 being the dominant operating system of the day, and it was all in dodgy old SVGA graphics. And this was all rather a shame really, because it was about as ambitious a project as anything in recent years. You were in command of a massive starship, and given the range of the universe to play in. You just didn’t want to.

Now it has been given a complete overhaul. Version 2.0.8 runs only on Windows 95/98, it only runs with a graphics card, and it would very much like to meet your 3DFX chip.

In theory, this should be the greatest strategy game in the whole world ever, ever. In reality it still contains many of the drawbacks of the orginal.

Here’s the thing you see. Imagine a level of, well let’s take Half-Life as we’ve all been there. You enter a brand new level, and there are four directions you can head off in. You would want to eliminate the three dead ends and head off on the right path. But each of those four passages lead to networks of more passages, and more choices, which in turn lead to more. Argh, make it stop. As much as we bang on about linearity in games, when you completely remove it, things become so daunting that you create a combination of monolithic decision making, and a lack of desire to make any.

If you want to really be immersed and threateningly submerged, then this is your beast.


And The Rest

EA are very generously offering the absolutely abysmal Streets of Sim City (17%) this month. How nice of them. Like wrapping up a piece of poo and presenting it to a dear relative. It was horrible, horrible, horrible on release, on re-release, it’s horrible, horrible… you get the idea. Also from EA comes the winner of Most Stupidly Titled Game Ever, 688(i) Hunter/Killer (59%), a submarine game that is just too darned old.

GT Select are offering up an interesting bunch. As well as Battle Cruiser 3000AD, comes yet another contender for the aforementioned prize, Bfris (60%). Stick that in your spellchecker. It’s a “new” game, but essentially asteroids, and quite frankly there are far too many of those already. On its side, it does have a multiplayer option, which would make for a strangely retro/contemporary amalgamation. And we all need that now and again.

On the same label comes the Playstation’s Attack of the Saucermen (57%). It’s a platform game, which pretty much dooms it from the start. We don’t buy our big grey boxes for such frivolity. Plus, it’s “hilarious”, which is never a good sign. Again, it’s brand new to the PC, but £14.99 is still too much.

And finally from Sold Out we have Montyzuma Returns (60%) (what is it with titles this month?) a kiddie version of Duke3D, and Jet Fighter Full Burn (68%) aeroplaney action from a couple of years ago. And relax.