John Walker's Electronic House

TB 84

They’re Back 84

Still wearing last year’s clothes? Still listening to last year’s music? Still saying, “Monstrooooo”? Then these are the games for you.

Alien Vs Predator Gold

How hard should a game be? We are forever smothered in easily completed titles, and this can only lead to disappointment. So how much harder should they be, and how long before we start complaining in the other direction? Commando’s got a few people riled. Its complexity and need for lightning-fast reflexes put off a great deal of folk, but surely at the same time gained itself a lot of respect from the hard-core, top-end gamers.

AvP is another in the same class. The first media meeting of the Aliens and the Predators proves to be a challenge for even the most veteran players, putting off the more casual mouse-botherers in droves. Should we care? Well, no, but those making money from the game probably should.

But let us not complain. Here is an incredibly challenging game, that is not attempting to appeal to the mass-populous, but instead to you, yes you, the quality PC gamer. Instead of the usual fifteen or so consecutive levels, AvP divides itself into three parts, Marine, Alien, and Predator. You play through the same story, but from three separate perspectives, in three varying time frames.

Each game style is unique, requiring an entirely new attitude and approach, based on the skills you possess. As a Marine, you must be cautious, and alert, using ammo sparingly. As an Alien, you must vomit on everything, and run up the walls quite a lot. And as a Predator you must make use of your invisibility and stealth.

AvP Gold is a re-release of the game, but with some remarkable additions and improvements. Alongside the original, there are nine new multiplayer levels, each borrowing, or replicating previously missed scenes from the Alien and Predator movies. They have also thrown in three new weapons – pistols, dual pistols, and the Skeeter. The Skeeter is a homing weapon that will spend five seconds rushing about searching for a victim. Nice.

But rather uniquely for such re-releases, the development team haven’t left the engine alone. Instead, they have tweaked and twisted, and managed to draw out an extra 20% of speed. So if you didn’t buy this terrifying title before, (turn around, turn around) then now is as good a time as any (over here, over here).


Requiem: Avenging Angel
Sold Out

God, as we all so rightly know, moves in mysterious ways. Sometimes he moves like a penguin, waddling about the place; and other times he moves like a cat burglar, shimmying into dark, secret rooms. All very mysterious you’ll agree. But none so mysterious as allowing a gun-toting angel to spread bloody carnage, wasting all the bad angels who have fallen to Earth.

Such is the story we are asked to immerse ourselves in for Requiem. Strange how movies such as Dogma were massively campaigned against for their blasphemous content, and suggestions of the fallibility of angels, yet Requiem escapes scot-free. Could it be something to do with how average it is?

‘Tis a shame really considering the two years of hype we were given prior to its release. Which was probably setting itself up for a fall. Imagine telling your friends about this great thing you can do, and then spending twenty-four months building it up and up and up. Balancing peanuts on your nose will never hold the same majesty in such conditions.

As the eponymous angel, you begin in Hell, and then make your way to Earth and onwards through a series of linear and repetitive levels. Weapons are lacklustre, and also mismanaged – the second weapon is by far the best, removing the desire to search out new ones.

The saving graces lie in its Jedi Knight style extra powers. These are revealed to you as you play through, and provide an alternative to the mediocrity of the weapons. But this isn’t enough to rescue a first person shooter that does not meet the standards set by its peers.


Army Men
Sold Out

We all remember those days in our childhood’s, entire afternoons just vanishing away as we disappeared to the garage, setting up rows and rows of little toys. Entire battles were constructed or reconstructed in meticulous detail, through carefully controlled ranks of plastic figures, each vital in the complex operation. Wars were won and lost in the space of a summer holiday. Yes, none of us will ever be able to forget My Little Pony’s.

But ladies and gentlemen, please strap yourselves down, and have your complaint-pens unsheathed and charged to go… Such a game does not exist. Somehow, through a sinful oversight, Pony War™ was canned during the development stages, and instead, we were left with this. And when you read that “this”, please apply a thick layer of bile paste.

Army Men is not pretty. Falling under the category of Top Down Shooty Runabout type affair, you control the green little men, and more specifically their leader Sarge. Your enemy are the Tans, the colour you made your little cousin be when you were younger, and repeating that pre-pubescent warfare, it’s your job to Take Them Out.

Sadly, while you may have grown up, Army Men is still at primary school. Its shoddy, yet system hungry graphics are a blight on the landscape, making a confusing mess of top-down and 3D graphics that will drill into your brain after ten minutes. And there is no gameplay woven safety-net in which to catch your disappointment – missions are formulaic and annoying.

It is quite incredible that even at a fiver, this is still a rip-off.


Screamer Rally
Sold Out

When a title this freshly in your memory arrives on your desk, and turns out to be nearly three years old, you really start to feel your age. On it’s release it got 87%, and an excellent report to take home to its parents. So now is the ideal time to debate whether improvements in technology are necessarily directly proportional to the enjoyment derived through playing. I’d like at least two thousand words from everyone, in my pigeon hole no later than Monday morning. Here are some suggestions you may find useful in considering your argument:

Screamer Rally was immensely fun in its day. It followed on from the progressively good Screamer, and Screamer 2, and was just about the best thing the PC had to wave back at the Sega touting jeerers. An excellent selection of tracks (seven in total), and six different cars to race, were all used in a customisable arcade simulation, that was fully wired up to LAN or internet multiplay, and on top of that, the ability to play split-screen on the one PC. And you can replace all the past tense in this paragraph with the present. It still does all of these things.

This is all well and good, but time has passed, and between, some stunning rally games have emerged. From your Colin McRae to your Rally Championship, we have seen all the previously mentioned features, but executed with more technology that Screamer Rally had at its disposal.

When drawing your conclusions, for full marks you must take into consideration the remarkably low price tag, and the fact that it will run on lower-spec machines. Your mark will go down by 10% for every day the essay is late. Get going.


Resident Evil 2
Sold Out

It’s very strange to look back and realise that Resident Evil 2 was first reviewed in the same issue as Alien Vs Predator. They both bear a lot of similarities (the most obvious being the shared desire to scare the living’n’breathing shit out of you), and yet in hindsight, AvP drops from the ceiling in a terrifying stealth attack on RE2, tearing it to shreds, and then chuckles at the stains left on the wall.

This is somewhat explained when it is realised that RE2 was already a year old when adopted by the PC, having had twelve months of environmental social-conditioning from its PSX parentage. Such a terrible upbringing is a very hard thing to reverse, and though Capcom have tried, they have all but failed in removing the worst behaviour it learned in its youth.

By now, the graphical difference between a PC and a Playstation is an unbridgeable gap, and despite improvements in the two main characters, Leon and Claire, the rest is so flat and pallid that it pains the eye.

But, and it is so nice to be butting here, the terror the game always held (in all formats) lives on. The air of tension created as you creep down a corridor, viewed from the brilliantly cinematically placed cameras, is breathtaking. You never know where or when a zombie will come exploding into the scene, providing genuine jumps as you play.

Although there are still faults – terrible load times, poor graphics, etc – this is a game based on tension, and it delivers its payload in buckets. Big sloppy buckets, overflowing with slippery intestines, and fresh, warm blood.


And The Rest

You may notice the words “Sold Out” a couple of times in this months spread. And, er, it isn’t going to end here. Honestly, we’re not sponsored by them or anything. If we were, I wouldn’t be here writing this – I’d be taking the money and running away on holiday. It’s just they are buying every title out there, and squeezing the other labels dry. It continues with Mass Destruction (54%). It’s a strange old thing, requiring you to shoot a great deal, and drive tanks at speed that Formula 1 cars would get a little green over. No level of realism means that it becomes very hard to get immersed into the game. Yours for a fiver.

F16 Aggressor (60%) was a flight sim that could run in resolutions of 1280×1024 with no troubles over a year ago. And it still is a flight sim that can run in resolutions of 1280×1024 with no troubles today. Funny that. While bombing about in the Aggressor is fun, it isn’t fun enough.

Finally, Sold Out also give us Viva Football (39%). Um, thanks guys. Not the nicest of presents. Apparently the men-folk of today like to watch this “football” game, and it appears that this isn’t enough for them. It also seems that they like to simulate the experience of this sport through the medium of their personal computer. But not through this pile-o-shite they don’t. Oooh, it’s a rubbish footie game. Leave it alone, and pretend you never read this.

Both these two will drain ten English pounds from your wallet or purse.