John Walker's Electronic House

TB 92

They’re Back 92

Rogue Spear Platinum Pack January £29.99
UBI Soft

When you put all your efforts into creating something you think is going to be the very best in its genre – something that will cause jaws to drop, onlookers to take note, and the disinterested suddenly sit up and take a good bit of notice – it must be more than a tad frustrating to find some other bastard’s not only beaten you to it, but also beaten you /at/ it. For example, other PC magazines on the shelves (you know, the ones you turn around to face the other way, and hide behind any copies of Gamer you aren’t buying) must weep each month as they realise that their toilet-papery badness has once more fallen so short of their dazzling competition.

How awful Red Storm must have felt when Hidden & Dangerous shat on their heads from a not inconsiderable height. Rogue Spear – the sequel to the ground breaking Rainbow Six – was very unfortunate to have met such a rival of such quality. We weren’t of course, because competition is the catalyst that makes game designers strive that much harder to win our temperamental hearts. And what fickle beasts we are.

Rainbow Six has the strength of a certain Mr Tom Clancy behind it, and if you can forgive him Netforce (and let’s face it, that isn’t exactly the easiest of forgiving dismissals), then he’s a name to be reckoned with. The planning stages were and are still unique, painstakingly plotting out each and every footstep of your eight covert soldiers as you send them in to tackle the terrorists and rescue the hostages, within whatever Clancy-inspired political tangle you’ve become embroiled. Then into the mission these plans are carried out to the letter, with either disaster revealing your weaknesses, or success crowning your abilities. Rogue Spear picked this up and ran with it, using the same techniques, but with much more AI and a hugely smoother approach.

This platinum release contains the Urban Operations mission pack alongside Rogue Spear giving you twice as much fun for the price of, er, one fun.

It’s just a shame the Hidden & Dangerous just came out on budget last month. Laugh? They probably cried.


Covert soldiering for the anally retentive. But in a good way.

Baldur’s Gate II DVD

Hooray. The advantage of a re-release section that includes DVDs means getting to review some of the most loveliest games available to freshly purchase at the moment. With the knowledge that this blessing is not to last – games will surely soon all get their DVD release either simultaneously, or even exclusively – there is no way that the chance to again encourage everyone to purchase thing one is going to be missed.

The number of hours a game lasts on its first play through used to be absolutely critical during the RPGs previous strong period. The early 90’s saw boxes boasting “30+ hours of play”, “minimum of 45 hours of blasting gaming”, the length being absolutely paramount to your interest. This soon waned, and with FPSs and RTSs becoming the flavour of the day, the speed at which you ploughed through became as fast as possible, or for ever and ever, respectively. The fact that Baldur’s Gate II, when only 90% of the available quests and tasks are complete, will take you over 300 of your hours should make you wobble in some very interesting places.

But 300 hours of bending paper clips would be torture, so there had better be something in here to absorb that time, and oh goodness there is. Here is one of the most grippingly plotted, one of the most carefully detailed, one of the most beautifully scripted, one of the most stunningly scored and one of the most elaborate and compelling games your coins of money can buy.

Comparisons to Deus Ex are drawn, because every RPG/FPS/RTS/Flight Sim will be compared to Deus Ex for the next two years, but in Baldur’s Gate this weighing off is remarkably balanced. It really is /that/ good.


Industry Giant
Best Of

Find a preferable way to untwist after a day’s work, than to get home, slip off your work-shaped shoes, re-cover your legs with a choicier comfort of trouser, pattern a glass with the liquid of taste-bud delight, and slide bottom-grateful in front of your computer.

Distraction is the menu option of moment, and what better brain-referral than an entire recreation of a day’s work, computer simulated shoes and work trouser, coatings of pressure, and the thick stimulation of competition.

Or perhaps not. Management gaming has always stood on a tightrope wire of thin credibility, taking near-genius (Sid Meier, Will Wright) to be able to manage the balance, with far too many plunging into the crevice of tedium. The near-intangible quality that holds the certain few to the rope has to do with making something that by rights should be uninteresting (organising train timetables, arranging water pipes) and allowing it to set your imagination on fire. It really is a case of seeing whether the next boring activity can be spun into an hours-eating entertainment.

Industry Giant attempts to draw together the entire ensemble of running a business in the competitive world of marketing. Quite a huge, sweeping ambition, and one that reasonably could never be achieved. But for an impossible task, Industry Giant does a remarkably good job, to a point.

Although immediately very hard, the challenge soon wears off as you learn a couple of neat tricks that will befuddle the annoyingly primitive computer opponents, which is made especially aggravating when the inclusion of a multiplayer option would have solved this dilemma.

It’s a good attempt at something that perhaps isn’t possible to satisfactorily create, but do you really want to simulate work in the spaces between work?



One of the most compelling features of a good computer game is the discovery of a reflection of real life. More and more companies are trying to invest as much of the recognisable world around them into their creations, all in a deliberate attempt to capture our imaginations and draw us further in to accepting this electrically-generated fantasy as ‘real’ for just that tiny moment. Look at Deus Ex – what made us all slobber quite so much? The real-world locals, and recognisable real-world behaviour. Some flag-stones of reality allow us to believe in the fantasy with that bit more conviction, and hence put that much more of ourselves into a game.

Yesterday I was in a right quandary. A load of these chipmunk like creatures called Gobbos (you’ve probably seen them in public parks) had been captured by my arch nemesis Baron Dante. The rotter had gone and put them all into wooden boxes, and then scattered them all over the place. I was already late with this copy, but I couldn’t leave them there to die (it’s a whole other story with the Gobbos that I’ll tell you another time) so I had to head off.

The quandary: I was really okay – I had enough crystals on me that touching one of the creatures Dante had put there to guard the boxes wasn’t too scary. It would still hurt, and yeah, the crystals would spill everywhere, but I wouldn’t die. But the boxes were the other side of these collapsing platforms, which would fall away as soon as I stood on them, and I had to get back. How was I going to do this…?

Honestly, you wouldn’t believe the shock when I played Croc this morning.


Masters of Orion II

Eagerly running toward the stall, having pestered and pestered for the money to have a go, Crucial thrust the coins into the hand of the burly man and turn to face their goal. Excitedly rolling a shirt sleeve above the elbow, the tension is huge, and that trembling arm plunges deep into the lucky dip barrel. Rummaging through the sawdust and shavings, various shapes and lumps are mapped out by the groping fingers, until they firmly grip about a likely feeling object. Yanked from beneath the wide eyes re bursting to see the winnings. Masters of Orion II, for just a fiver.

More of a catastrophic explosion from the past, than a blast, this is One Of The Classics. Very much inspired by Microprose’s other monumental title, Civilisation, this was very much more of the same, but this time Romans and Aztecs replaced by bug-eyed aliens and other bug-eyed aliens. There is the same conquering, the same battling, and the same empire building..

When all the games that ever were are put together, only very few can stand out as exceptional. Upon release a game can appear to be wonderful, but either time or competition will dwindle its glory until it becomes just another on the pile. The test of time (sic) means that there is a tiny number able to survive throughout. Civilisation is one, and Masters of Orion II is certainly another.

If dancing graphics are not a requirement for an intensive and involving game for you, and you have a couple of lifetimes to invest away, then for a measly five pounds you’d be slightly barmy not to be putting your shopping shoes on at them moment.


And The Rest

Since Ubi Soft’s acquirement of Red Storm, they have seemed very keen to let you lucky, lucky people have their back catalogue and pleasantly reduced prices. Not only is there the Rogue Spear Platinum pack (on your far left sir), but also its daddy. Rogue gets to be platinum, Rainbow Six only gets a Gold Pack (80%). For fifteen pounds you will receive the original seminal Rainbow Six, and the expansion pack Eagle Watch. So now you can get the lot for just £45. Suddenly it stops seeming quite so cheap.

Here’s a funny thing. Cryo are legendary for the mind-stretchingly appalling adventure games. Time after time they pump out the same sausage of dreadfulness, and it seems they will never learn. Now they are seeing fit to bundle two of these monstrosities per box, and still having the cheek to charge you £30. And they have the audacity to bare the quote “The Greatest Adventures For The PC” on the front of the boxes, not attributed to any source. The first contains Egypt II and Aztecs (no, it doesn’t think to include Egypt I), and the second contains Arthur’s Knights and The New Adventures of the Time Machine. It is very suspicious that Arthur’s Knights should appear in a bundle in the shops while we’re still waiting for our review copy. Please make up your own percentage score for these. A possible method is to take an ordinary household dice, and roll it. Once.