John Walker's Electronic House

TB 88

They’re Back 88

There back. Their back. Theyre back. Grammar checkers of the world beware… It’s They’re Back.

Unreal Tournament
Best Of

It’s been a year, and the war still rages on. Never has a more bloody battle been fought, than that between the clans of Epic and Id. Still the letters pages of every magazine, from PC Gamer to Cross Stitching Weekly, are filled with the propaganda of one side and the other. Let alone the gore-fest that resides permanently on the favoured battle-ground: the net.

Unreal Tournament managed to beat Quake III to the shop shelves a year ago, which perhaps gave it an edge it would otherwise have lost under the über-hype that accompanies every release from Id. Trying to push your online FPS with the “Q” word plastered across every shop window would have been a challenge beyond even the greatest of marketing geniuses. And it wasn’t as if Epic had the platform from which to jump – Unreal had really lost a lot of favours in the passing of time. Incredible engine indeed, but who could be bothered to finish it? Such arena size juxtaposed with such a weak story made for a quickly tiresome affair. It was certainly enjoyable when it lasted, it just didn’t last long enough. So the reputation wasn’t so hot, and the competition was about as formidable as you could expect… the answer? Make a shit-hot game and don’t care what anyone else thinks.

While there is a single-player bot-battle, this is clearly a multiplay game first and foremost. Taking the feel of the original Unreal, but souping up the much criticised weapons, it’s you against the rest of the world in a beautifully coloured, and exquisitely detailed, frag-fight. And that’s about it. Simplicity itself, and thank goodness. UT is not about finding keys – it’s about painting the walls with the more internal parts of your friends. And it does this very well.

But is it better than Quake III Arena? Well, no. Unless you think it is, and then, yes. But you’d be wrong because it isn’t. Q3 is just faster, louder, and more curvy, and on these three counts UT just cannot compete. But don’t be fooled – it’s still the second best online FPS there is. And good Heavens above, it’s only ten quid. Buy two.


A serious contender for the Carmack crown, that just loses out on speed and violence.

Best Of

It’s time to come clean. I’m not really a PC games journalist. I’m an undercover cop, planted to investigate the Gamer staff, whose actions have been growing steadily more dubious by the month. Donning my disguise (deer-stalker hat and wellington boots) I was able to conceal myself easily in amongst the team, fitting in like a baggy pair of trousers at a folk festival.

As you will know by now, my investigations have led to the removal of the ring-leader James Ashton (or “Mr Big”), and the suspended arrest of Kieron Gillen for crimes against humanity. Matt and Steve have both gotten away with a warning, and Mr Atherton is completely innocent of all accusations made against him. (That’s another £20,000 please Ross).

The inspiration behind this action? Well, Driver of course. Reflection’s car-chase thriller sees you playing undercovercopplantgetawaydriverextraordinair, thrown into the middle of some dastardly criminal activities, and required to get people from A to B via the most straight line possible. That straight line of course not accounting for obstacles in the way; obstacles such as red traffic lights, bollards, or other cars.

And all done incredibly well. The graphics are lovely, and the feeling of excitement that drills down your spine as you plough through red lights, chased by cops, with time running out, is almost unsurpassed. But unfortunately not entirely unsurpassed. Midtown Madness managed to do it just that little bit better, and without the unnecessary cut-scenes that serve only to disrupt rather than ingratiate.

But however, it’s still a classic title. Just a slightly unlucky one for having been beat before it even came out. Though at a tenner it’s a bargain you’d be dumb to miss. Right, back into disguise…


Dungeon Keeper 2
EA Classic

It’s hard to know what to think about Bullfrog at the moment. Looking back at the last year or two’s releases, it starts to look like a summer at the movies – sequel after sequel after sequel. Populous 3, Theme Park World, and Dungeon Keeper 2 are all that has emerged from the once-creators of new genres of PC gaming. Not that there is anything wrong with any of these titles – each has been received with huge critical acclaim, and deservedly so. It’s just that, well, where are the ones without a number after the name?

That rant aside, DK2 is certainly no cash-in on the original. A brief flick through the muddle of the last few years at Bullfrog will reveal that working conditions were not, perhaps, ideal, and through this Dungeon Keeper was never able to be the masterpiece Molyneaux had been hoping for. In fact, it annoyed him so much that it became the inspiration for the interface of Lionhead’s long-awaited Black and White.

Although made in his absence, this sequel more than makes up for any problems with the former. It’s pure Bullfrog: innovative, entertaining, addictive, incredibly funny, and now cheap.

As the “god” of this underworld, you control your minions in the building of multi-roomed dungeons that will ultimately stand up to the battles of rival masters. Its god-game building is hugely fun, with loads of species to play with, manage, and maintain, all held together by the blackest of black humour. The only down-side is the disappointing simplistic approach to fighting. It’s rarely more than a case of pushing all you’ve got at the baddies and hope you win.

It may not be an original name, but it is absolutely an original game.


Beetle Crazy Cup
Best Of

There are some pretty recent titles in this months budgetal delights, but none so fresh-off-the-peg as this. Perhaps the release date and the year of setting got mixed up on an important desk somewhere, but who’s complaining? This 60’s Flower Power Beetle racing game is but a few months old, and it’s already arrived.

Do not be fooled. The norm for titles rushed to the cheap-bin is that they are hot, stinky poo in a box. But Beetle Crazy Cup is bloody brilliant.

As soon as the installation procedure is over, you know exactly where you are with this oh-so-original racing title. Enormous colourful flowers twirl and dance, accompanied by the sand-flavoured tones of the Beach Boys, followed by an incredibly rewatchable intro sequence, which all puts you right in the mood for jumping behind the wheels of a VW and going for a spin.

It certainly is a novelty game, but this isn’t used as an excuse to forego essentials such as good handling and varied play. It oozes with both. You are able to drive all manner of Volks Wagon metallic beasts, including the classic Beetle, dune buggies, Monster Trucks, and best of all, Campavans, and each handles violently differently from the other. Taking a dune buggy around the beach has your fingers bouncing from the keyboard as you spring from dune to dune, whereas manoeuvring the sluggish and hefty Monster Trucks through the indoor assault course gives the impression that there are weights on the backs of your hands.

All this is backed up with incredible graphics that eschew fogging in favour of some much cleverer behind-the-scenes tinkering, and a soundtrack that’ll cause you to fall off your swivel chair from “bopping”.

It’s great, it’s a huge laugh, and it’s only ten notes. Go get some. Dude.



Wahey! I never thought I’d get to write a review of Quake. What a joy. What an honour. What on earth hasn’t been said yet?

Well, if you haven’t at least heard of Quake before, then you are either three years old, or you have accidentally picked up this magazine, and the one you meant to get is on the row below, about five to the left. Is it one of the most important games of all time? Well, probably yes. It certainly didn’t make the impact of Doom, and it didn’t change the world like Civilisation, but it sure as hell made one huge difference. After Doom, Doom II, and the various add-ons, the competition was finally catching up with Id; they had to make another move to re-establish themselves as the Kings of the respective Castle.

I don’t think anyone could quite believe their eyes when they first played it. It was one of those rare games that would have any unsuspecting passer-by immediately lured in, watching over your shoulder, and then constantly pestering to have a go. The ominous brown-ness was then not a cliché, but instead an intriguing feature, and the various enemies were more frightening than Doom’s, scaring the digested food out of most players at least once.

This is all very retrospective stuff, but of course there is no other choice. Its second sequel is currently setting the standards, and its archaic engine is firmly locked into a dusty cabinet at the Gaming Museum. And this all makes it very difficult to encourage the purchase of.

If you have a clapped out machine and the desire for great gaming, but not the pennies to update it, then this is a perfect solution. You won’t find a much better old-fashioned FPS, and at five pounds you aren’t gambling away a huge loss if you find it is just too dated. Almost worth buying just so you can say you did.

And The Rest

The fruit loops at Crucial have been quietly dripping games retrieved from their time machines into the shops again. Some that haven’t been mentioned before are Earthsiege 2 (64%), F1GP (62%) and Small Soldiers (34%). Although they are all under £5, they are also so old (or in the case of Small Soldiers, so awful) that they are for the retro-freaks only.

Infogrames Best Of range is also offering forth the superb Le Mans 24 Hours (80%). And yes, you can play it for 24 hours. That would be some kind of gaming devotion, but thankfully there are save games possible, as well as various modes of play: Arcade for the most impatient, and a time-lapse feature that speeds the passing of time up, but thankfully not that of the cars. It is well made, with great handling, and not bad graphics, though slightly let down by its pit stops which could have been a lot more imaginatively handled. That’s a tenner.

EA are also re-releasing the F16 / MIG29 double pack. The price is, as ever with EA, not decided, but expect between ten and fifteen English pounds. It’s actually not a bad bundle, but the annals of time have not served it well, mostly because a lot of stuff that’s better is already on budget.

Lastly, we forgot to mention poor old Puzzle Bobble (51%) on Replay a couple of months ago. It doesn’t matter really, because it’s arse, but it’s only £5 and for the most simple of time-passing it will probably suffice.