John Walker's Electronic House

TB 91

They’re Back 91

Hidden and Dangerous

Working on one’s own, versus working in a team is something we must all do battle with at various stages in our lives. Does one seek to stand alone, taking on the world knowing that only /you/ can let yourself down, that you need not depend upon others? Or is the wiser choice to side with some dependables you trust, spreading the load amongst a select few that can carry the collective weight of the burden? Are you going to ask that guy/girl you fancy out all by yourself? Or are you going to get your friends to ask her/him for you? Or other such important examples.

And the same must be asked for action gaming. Can the traditional single player action genre manage a team-play angle after establishing itself so strongly as a mono-charactered structure? It is already proven that team-based multiplay gaming is a very viable way to shoot at others (Team Fortress, Counter Strike, and other such eaters of lunchtime are all the evidence required), but what happens when it’s just little old you controlling them all?

Well, Rainbow 6 and Delta Force were the answer. The increase in player characters was not accompanied by a substantial increase in AI, and it became more of a battle to stop your own people tripping over their own shoelaces than to defeat the enemy.

But now the beehive of gaming has produced the delicious honey of Hidden and Dangerous – WWII based infiltration/assassination/demolition missions with a team that seemed not to be filled with a suicidal death wish. Your team is very much your own, eight chosen from a pool of forty, each with their own background and statistics.

But also like a beehive, it is jam-packed full of bugs. (I’m probably fired). In fact, it’s fair to say that HAD has been responsible for some of the most obscure glitches around. Soldiers are liable to leap to quite extraordinary heights, and perform acts that aren’t normally associated with Reality.

But over all, this is a truly stunning title, really exploring the team aspects where others floundered pathetically, creating a thick atmosphere of war-play and violence… in a good way.



It’s dark. It’s misty. It’s ever so slightly spooky. It’s Bath on a Thursday night. And if you ever happen to be travelling in the area during such conditions, you’ll be well advised to be packing – preferably laser-sighted – for as you quietly slip through the back-streets and narrow passageways, you will never know what could appear around the next corner. Local legends tell of a hideous creature that tumbles from darkened doorways, lurching its twisted form through the deepest shadows, feeding on the hapless, and stalking through the sourest, seediest gutters of filth and depravity.

Altogether now: Reports that these sightings coincide with Kieron’s nights out are still being investigated.

And all of that is scarier than anything to be found in Nocturne. The 1930s is the time-house for your creature-of-the-night investigating antics, wherein your play The Shadow, top investigator for peculiarity-pondering agency, Spookhouse.

Attempting to recreate the atmosphere of previous spook-em-ups such as Resident Evil and Alone in the Dark, Nocturne uses a very impressive, fully rendered engine to paint the finely detailed darkness through which you dispatch the undead. Sadly, it falls short of such ancestry by stumbling over every, er, stumbling block available. The script is hammier than a Neighbours episode written by David Hasselhof, the cut scenes last longer than a Middle Eastern war, and the poor design of the third person camera angles means that almost every battle takes place two-thirds off of the screen, which is more irritating than a hot, itching rash in the shape of Robert Kilroy Silk.

There are redeemable features – it looks lovely, and the element of surprise can occasionally cause a little bit of chair-jumping. But otherwise this is a real case of style over substance, and really bad hats.


Railroad Tycoon 2

Haven’t we all dreamed of running our own railway empire? Come on, let’s be honest, there’s probably no one reading this who hasn’t at some point wanted to chuck in the paper-clip arranging, forfeit the stylish frocks and capes, turn away from the lightbulbs of indoors, and create a network of parallel tracks along which to power hollowed out chunks of metal… Well, okay, but at least there’s no one who hasn’t thought they could do a better job than Mr Branson.

So now’s your chance. In 1990 Sid Meir proved that something which by all rights should be intensely boring – running a train company – is in fact a highly entertaining and long-living ride. His unique ability to balance business management and in-game building has been proven numerous times before and since, notably recently in the excellent Roller Coaster Tycoon, and the original Railroad Tycoon still stands as a testament to this talent. But Meir’s influence on this sequel lay only in the legacy he left in the former, so could the obscurely named Poptop live up to the levels of expectation required?

Well, yes and no. Eight years is a very long time if you are a PC processor. Their mayfly-like existence gives gaming that heady-rushing feel as exponential increases in sophistication leave even the most ardent technophile spinning on their spot. So wait nearly a decade, and one heck of an update is required… but not delivered. So instead, RRTII gives as good as it got given, but doesn’t really add much more of its own. And in fact removes the ability to build tunnels which is a burden we could have done without.

Still, it’s a great game, but when you can buy it in the Tycoon Collection (PCG 79) along with Coaster Tycoon on budget already, perhaps it isn’t the bargain you deserve.


Wing Commander Prophecy 2000
Command & Conquer Red Alert
Sid Mier’s Alpha Centuri

EA Compilations

More and more it seems the case that triple packs released on budget have no pattern nor forethought to their contents, other than that they are three titles that a company doesn’t have anything else to do with. If anyone can see a concrete link as to why these three should share a box, then please put your answers on a postcard, and send them in to any of our rival magazines.

One at a time then. Wing Commander Prophecy is the usual pile of toss we have come to expect from the FMV-loving, Mark Hamill-worshiping dross merchants at Origin. Promises that this 78th release in the series would contain less agonizingly abysmal video sequences were all broken, meaning that to play to mediocre space-blaster, you must watch through acres of tedious “acting” that really put a challenge on that whole ‘will to live’ aspect of life.

Thank goodness for the next two. C&C Red Alert may now wear a long, grey beard and talk endlessly about the good old days, but it still shines as a bastion of RTS gaming and should be looked upon with a self-demeaning respect. It’s rightful heir has now been born into your shops, but here is the chance to catch up if you didn’t already.

And lastly, and bestly, the second Mier re-re-release of the month, Alpha Centuri. Although neither this nor Test Of Time were true sequels to Civ II, this one is probably the most acceptable for the title in the eyes of the true fan. Created by the Great Grandaddy of strategy gaming, it picks up where Civ II left off, giving things a wholly satisfactory other-worldly feel.
Meat Loaf said that two out of three aint bad. But is /he/ a man to be trusted?


World Cup England Cricket 99
Tiger Woods 99

EA Compilations

Finally! Finally a triple pack that has some sort of connection as to its contents. Oh the choice of intros available. Oh the plethora of opening gambits from which to plunder. The excitement! I can’t contain the excitement! So why exactly am I choosing the nasty cliché: Tonight were going to party like it’s 1999.

I’m not really much of a populist sportsman myself, and certainly not in the most widespread activities that achieve a high enough level of recognition to deserve EA turning it all pixelly. I’m still waiting for /my/ games of badminton, climbing, and whitewater kayaking.

Until then, there’s something called “football” that appears to be quite popular. It seems a little over-simple, which probably explains its wide appeal, /and/ its ease of translation into a computer game. EA do this best, and the FIFA license is always strong. If your one of those types who enjoys a none-too-challenging afternoon, then this is your best recreation out on budget.

Next is cricket, a far more interesting game, though perhaps a little slow for the attention span of the majority. And perhaps a little complicated for a computer game to entirely encapsulate. This is actually the best attempt so far, pushing Brian Lara Cricket into a close second place, but it still does not manage to be the classic that cricket fans deserve.

And lastly it’s golf. Brooks described it as a good walk ruined, and now some young whipper-snapper has gone and made the whole thing more popular to a new generation. Woods 99 does not match Links for its golfing prowess, but is still a worthy inclusion in the sport’s trophy cabinet.

Altogether a fine pack, just so long as you don’t mind the jumpers having last years copyright logos.


And The Rest

Xplosiv is not only the stupidest name for a budget label, but also the stupidest name for anything ever. But never mind, they do seem to deliver the goods despite having a name that sounds like a description of a particularly bad spot. Mig Alley (87%) is a really good flight sim cum jet fighter. Developers Rowan are dedicated and passionate about creating really refreshing design and multi-layered play. Of course, it carries the penalty of being very specifically targeted to a limited audience, and if this sort of thing isn’t to your tastes, it isn’t really going to welcome you into the fold.

EA still have more Compilation triple packs for you. The penultimate contains Dungeon Keeper 2, Sports Car GT and Theme Hospital (over all, 79%), probably being the most random so far. DK2 is not as good as it should have been, though still a good puzzler, and extremely funny. Sports Car GT is an above average racer, and Theme Hospital is a disturbing and slightly addictive theme game from Bullfrog. Running a hospital is possibly the most perverse idea for management gaming, but each to their own.

The last holds The FA Premier League Stars, Superbike World Championship and FA Premier League Football Manager 2000 (70%). A collection of the more average sporty numbers that won’t set your shoes on fire, which is a good thing I suppose. Unless you like charred trainer.