John Walker's Electronic House

TB 85

They’re Back 85

Welcome to what would be a DVD special, were it that they were all DVD reviews. They aren’t. It isn’t.

Freespace 2 DVD

Welcome to the wonderful world of DVD. What a hideous threat. Yes ladies and otherwise, Here We Go Again. You’ll remember back in the early 90’s when all games came on towering piles of floppy discs, along came the format to revolutionise the gaming world. And CD’s genuinely did do this, but not straight away. Oh no. While there were the CDROM reissues – fair enough – riding high alongside were “games” that utilised the new found freedom of 650Mb of space. “Games” that consisted of… I can’t bring myself to say it… argh… rendered graphics. Ew. It wasn’t pretty. Well, it /was/ pretty, but… oh, you know what I mean. So people, our new friend, the DVD, can hold up to 17.5Gb. Bugger.

Luckily though, while we are inevitably to be showered in shite-storms of graphical blunderings, the good people of Virgin are going for the more acceptable idea of reissues. And their first to jump on the plastic-conserving bandwagon is Freespace 2. Originally three discs, now only one, the DVD could save you from the threat of massive medical bills for the treatment of repetitive strain injury, by removing the tiresome chore of disc swapping.

Freespace 2 uses the very same ideas as its original incarnation, but has bought said ideas a hefty gift voucher for a trip to the beauticians. One impressive make-over later, this is one lovely looking game. Microsoft’s surprisingly good Allegiance has one-upped it for brain-drowning gorgeousness, but doesn’t offer the superb one-player missions found on this silvery-suit wearing disc.

There is an extraordinarily comprehensive tutorial that will teach you everything you need to know to face the challenging levels ahead, plus a vast wad of info to wade through providing background to just about everything you could have a question for. While this may seem a bit of a chore, such detail does make for a more complete gaming experience. It all becomes a bit more “real”.

There isn’t really a good reason to buy the DVD edition if you already own it on those antiquated “CD” things, but if you have the technology, and the correctly shaped hole in your collection, this is well worth picking up.


Big and beautiful, and all on one futuristic disc

Outcast DVD

Okay, time for complete honesty. I hate this game. I have played adventure games since they were bundles of letters on a black and white screen, and still play pretty much every adventure release today. I can’t get enough of them, and sorely mourn their slow and painful demise. But quite frankly, I’d rather that there was never another one ever, than have to play Outcast.

But, and it’s a big but, everyone else seems to disagree. Everyone else boasts about its immense storyline, vast worlds, complex characters, and beautiful graphics…

Hold on there. Beautiful graphics? Me thinks… no. Ingrid’s Back on my Spectrum had better pictures. Bring a character to the front of the screen, and wow, pixels the size of Gibraltar dance across my screen like an overweight hippo in a loosely fitting leotard. You see, Outcast doesn’t use your graphics card. In fact, it positively shuns it, making snide remarks about it under its breath. Instead, amazing new technology drives your software beyond the previously held possible limits. Much like “dinnerladies” drove the comedy of Victoria Wood beyond the previously held limits.

So in conclusion then, confusion. When all is fair, there is a good game in here. It’s huge, and it is very, very complex. These are good things. In fact, the late, great Jim Flynn of this parish gave it 90%. But he chose to live in Australia on purpose, so perhaps he isn’t to be entirely trusted. But just think what it could have been. Imagine if Appeal had bothered to have it milk your 3D card. Ooooh, just imagine. And that is all you shall do. But you can relax a little knowing that it is now on DVD, so you’ll only have to hide one disk when the neighbours come ’round… I mean, have no disc swapping.


Faust DVD
Atlantis II DVD

Oh good grief. What did I say in the Messiah column? What was it? Oh yes, Here We Go Again.

I expect Cryo have spent the last few years, curled back on their haunches preparing to pounce, just waiting for a storage device like the DVD. They must have been monitoring it for a couple of years, watching its evolution into the film market, biding their time to make sure it was a format to last, until they were at last ready to commence the onslaught.

Faust and Atlantis II are not bundled together. I have just confined them to the same section for reasons of security. While you cannot see them, the sides of this column are protected by invisible laser barriers that prevent anything getting out. They are under arrest.

Both are very bad games. No more details are really required, other than to make these words meet the bottom of the page without leaving an ugly white space. Both are “adventure games” by genre alone, since neither really contains any measure of adventure. It is merely a case of plodding slowly through their self-congratulating story-lines with no real interaction other than clicking on the next object to trigger the next scene.

Faust has one advantage however. It is divided into seven chapters, each intended to be played through on separate occasions, as if instalments in a TV series. Well hooray, now is your chance to play Major Network Executive, and cancel the series before it has even begun.


Gex 3D: Enter The Gecko

It’s not that as PC games reviewers we believe that platform games are beneath us, it’s just that they… are beneath us. So to help out, we invited a journalist from one of our sister Playstation magazines to review Gex. Come on in little Timmy. Sit in the big chair. No, no, it’s okay, I’ll press all the scary buttons. Off you go then:

“I like Gex. He’s funny. He’s a gecko, and he has a funny voice. I like the way he jumps up and down, and can hit all the stuff with his tail and things. It has really nice pictures and nice colours. There are lots and lots of levels which have lots and lots of different things to do in them and have lots of different sorts of baddies.”

Yessssss. Are you going to play it then?

“Um John. It doesn’t work, why not? Make the game work John. I WANNA PLAY THE GECKO GAME.”

Calm down little Timmy. Let me take a look.

Ah yes. It seems that the mean people at Focus haven’t bothered to update this game since the days of old-fashioned 3D cards… 3D cards? Don’t worry Timmy, I’ll explain about them later. But you see, there used to be one big 3D card that everybody had called 3DFX. Now there are lots and lots, and they don’t work with the old magic files that make Gex work.

So unless we can find a way of getting our new card to work with the old Glide files, we’re stuffed.

No Timmy, that /doesn’t/ make Playstations better. Now, how’s about a game of Quake III…


Maximum Flight

It’s four games in one everybody [round of applause], so let’s welcome our first guest, F/A-18 Korea.

You’re stuck in Korea, and you’re stuck in an F/A-18, but after that the restrictions are few. An inbuilt mission builder allows a near infinite variety in Stuff To Do, and it is all very lovingly created. Not the youngest here, but still doing well for the years that have past.

Secondly, Flying Corps Gold. Four story-led missions are your to be consumed, along with another mission builder letting you go beyond the constrictions of the game once completed. Plus there is the ability to go online and practise against the more fallible opponent of another human being.

Next is Apache Havoc. Second youngest, and second best, and in a helicopter. Although missing the helicopter-rides-at-the-school-fete feature, this is a good, solid chopper-sim. There have been other, better, simulations of the bladed sky-beast since, but since it’s in a bundle, let’s not be so fussy, eh?

Lastly, and least leastly, Mig Alley. A baby compared to the others it lives with, Mig is the natural successor to Flying Corps. Set in the Korean War of the 1950’s, this title pits older, bulkier aircraft against the relatively newer jet-powered machines. (Stop me if I get too technical). It incorporates the best of all sorts of flight sims to create a really satisfying gunfest.

This is a really strong pack in which all four titles are worthy on their own, instead of being carried by just one big name. The usual problem being that if you aren’t really interested in flying planes, nothing here is going to cause any major conversions.


And The Rest

Hold onto your hats my friends, I have no Sold Out titles to offer you this month. Yes, weep. But to dry those tears the kindly folks at Infogrames have pulled from their pocket the hanky of a new bundle of Best Of names.

Abe’s Exodus (66%) is the sequel for slave-saviour Abe. It’s slightly more than the standard platforming fare – more of a puzzle game really. But it isn’t nearly as funny as some would have you believe. Unless farting makes you laugh /every/ time.

Hooray for Actua Soccer 3 (80%) and Actua Golf 2 (79%). Well, hooray for them when we saw them the first time. Now it’s more of a slightly sarcastic ‘whoopee’. Usual story – still work, but you can find better.

Total Annihilation (71%) causes arguments wherever it goes. But it is very, very old now, and is no longer deserving of the accolade it once held.

All of the above will rob you of a tenner, like a cat burglar breaking in during the darkness of night, and having away with your Placedo Domingo albums. Or not.

For those of you with the powers to make Glide work with your 3D card, to accompany Gex are Pandemonium 2 (43%), Pod (62%), and Perfect Assassin (23%). It just seems sensible not to, doesn’t it?