John Walker's Electronic House

TB 93

They’re Back 93

Cheaper than cheap? That would be getting close to… could it be?… free? Indeed it could, and is. Here’s how.


Budget prices are falling. Recent quality games can now be picked up for about a fiver, meaning those with a years patience can save themselves £25 on some of the best games around. Unreal Tournament can be found for five pounds. That’s the price of a Sooper Value Meal at your local Slop Burger. But believe it or not, it’s getting even cheaper. is now firmly established, and it’s about time it got itself mentioned within your favourite two pages of this magazine. The more astute of you may draw some sense of the pricing policy of this site from it’s name. It’s, well, free. But we’ve heard that word before (coughDixonscough) so surely it’s a trick? There must be a catch? Well, not really, no.

How come? Well, strangely enough, it’s all about people making money. But how do you do that when giving something away for free? Well, adverts. Next question? How do you make a net-savvy people look at adverts?

Freeloader works on a credit system. You require a certain number of credits to make each download from the site, and there are only so many in your “account”. Credits are earned every time you click on a banner ad, or fill in a questionnaire. Games are divided into three or four sections, each downloaded separately, and each requiring you to impatiently answer random questions about anything from how much money you earn, to whether you like buying CDs, all the while being offered new banner ads with hesitant “continue” buttons popping up after teasing you for a while. Annoying? You bet. Worth it? It entirely depends upon your internet connection.

If you are hooked up via a 56k modem over a metered line, then downloading an entire game is going to take a very long time. 20 meg at a daytime call charge of, say, 2p/min is going to cost you near enough a fiver. If you are sailing on a cable modem, then it’s about as free as free can be. So it’s really all about connections. However, the chances are there’s going to be something you’ll like.

Hidden & Dangerous
Episodes: 23
Total Download: 94.05 Mb

It was only last month that we reported to you the trials and tribulations of poor old Rainbow Six. At every stage it has been gazumped for your attention by crafty old Hidden & Dangerous, and now last months complete re-release of the original game and all its mission packs is starting to look a bit silly. To be fair, there was no way Red Storm could have predicted that H&D was going to suddenly announce that it was free.

This is probably the biggest name Freeloader has to boast, which makes it all the more strange that there is no mention of it on their front page. If you dig through the archives you will find this FPS strategy-em-up hidden away with no fanfare nor jubilation. It seems a peculiar choice to keep such a secret baring in mind quite how popular the game remains today.

You probably know the score, but just in case, H&D puts you in charge of an elite squad of hand-picked men, sent off into past battles to complete set missions. Play combines pre-emptive planning, and FPS team execution, letting you snipe, explode and storm your way to most satisfying victories.

Perhaps one reason why this title remains locked away like a hideously disfigured child in a Victorian attic is its monstrously obese size. At nearly 100Mb, this would be a complete bastard to get even on a T3 connection, but it’s worse than that. Due to the episodic nature of Freeloader’s system, this requires 23 separate painstaking downloads, driving you to distraction with the mind-explodingly irritating questions and banner ads. And if you are on a 56k modem you may as well poke your eyes out with a baboon. Perhaps a group of friends working in shifts could get through this together, but frankly for the agony involved, spending a tenner in the shops suddenly feels like a bargain.


GTA / GTA London 1969
Episodes: 10 / 4
Total Download: 17.9Mb / 7Mb

Probably vying for first place with Unreal for the uncoveted Most Released On Budget title, Grand Theft Auto has been put on your shelves in at least 7 billion different packages. Sold Out are currently hawking it, and it’s similarly prolifically distributed mission pack, for a fiver each. But that’s not cheap enough for us any more is it? Oh no. The word of the month is free. And free they shall be.

GTA is really beginning to show its age now. When DMA first put it out nearly three years ago the graphics were already retro. And if anything doesn’t age very well, it’s retro. To look old fashioned in a modern way has a lifespan of, ooh, three and half seconds. After that it tends to look, er, old fashioned in a very old fashioned way. But never mind, this is a budget section, and we must all get used to things not boasting the bounteous curves they once displayed. In its simplicity it holds its charms. I expect.

Dashing about from “job” to “job” in a car that you haven’t entirely paid for is becoming disturbingly old hat for computer games at the moment. Good grief, with that being the case it’s a wonder the Daily Mail hasn’t spontaneously combusted. Delightful fantasies aside, GTA was probably one of the first to pave the way for such celebration of illegality, and London 1969 did very much more of the same with a, oh dead, retro feel. The trouble was, and still is, that GTA doesn’t have a lasting appeal that gets anywhere near reaching the number of levels it contains. The one-trick-pony nature means the thrill can wear thin disappointingly soon. The episodes aren’t horrifically large, but this really is one where you must weigh up paying for it in the shops with how much it will ring up on your phone bill.


Jimmy White’s 2: Cueball
Episodes: 4
Total Download: 14.4Mb

Despite being two and a half years old, Jimmy White’s 2: Cueball is still the second best sports game PC Gamer has ever encountered. Whether this says something for the quality of the game, or more about the appalling state of non-racing sports games available for our favourite platform is very much open to debate. But there can be no doubt that this is a darned fine game.

Created by Archer MacLean, the undisputed champion of snooker and pool simulation, this sequel to the ’93 Amiga classic is by far the most realistic and playable in the admittedly minor genre. Not only does it provide you with a table upon which you can knock balls in the style of snooker, UK pub pool, and American 8-ball and 9-ball, but also distract yourself between frames with the array of Other Things To Do scattered about the virtual club. There’s a darts board, draughts table, fruit machine, and an arcade machine loaded with the classic Dropzone. These are really nothing but trivial temporary distractions, and the fruit machine does raise that age old question most recently brought to our attention by the bizarre popularity of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire computer simulations – what on earth is the point if your PC doesn’t pay out? But that doesn’t really matter, they aren’t what the game is for, and it is more than generous that they are included.

What counts is the realism of the cueing, and here it fails to fail. The simulation is so accurate that an ability to play the game in Real Life ™ is an advantage in the game. You even have to chalk your cue.

Being one of the smaller big-name downloads, this is well worth your transfer time.


Magic & Mayhem
Episodes: 12
Total Download: 53.7Mb

Raised eyebrows were certainly the facial expression of the day when the Gollop brothers revealed Magic & Mayhem. Having provided us previously with the nearly unpleasantly complex X-COM titles their approach to gaming appeared to be to scare off all but the most dedicated. UFO: Enemy Unknown was incredibly hard, and took a long time to master on anything other than the easiest setting. The follow-up Terror From The Deep was harder than answering the specialist subject questions of a Mastermind contestant with a fanatical interest in Albanian underwater basket weaving. Basically, very hard. But Magic & Mayhem wasn’t full of aliens and robots. It was wizards and their fantasy ilk.

At first appearance M&M looks like a traditional RPG. But this is the very first appearance. As soon as you start playing it quickly becomes apparent that this is in fact another real-time strategy, uniquely taking a very trad role-play atmosphere and making manage the previously unmanaged resources. Put in charge of the wizard Cornelius, you are charged with the role of walking around the fantasy environment, exploring the story, and finishing off any naughty little beasts you may encounter. But you aren’t on your own in these battles – your wizardly powers enable you to summon creatures to your side, the volume and strength of which being decided by the level of mana you possess at the time.

The problem is it just isn’t polished in the same way the X-COM titles were. Maps are wrapped – walk far enough and you end up back where you started, play is a little simplistic in theory and over-complex in execution, and the choice of colours are a complete dog’s dining experience. Also, this is another of the heftier downloads that will have your modem smoking. But hey, it’s free!


And The Rest

The games on your right are some of the bigger named titles available, and ones that have been on available at a full price previously. Others in this vain include Viva Football (30%), a horrid tacky little footy game; Beneath A Steel Sky (71%), incredibly old (first reviewed in Gamer #1) but still a great adventure; Three Lions (35%), more weak and unpleasant football; Spec Ops (64%), another much released budget fave; and the phenomenally abysmal Thrust, Twist & Turn (20%).

But that’s not all that can be drained from their abscess of gaming pus (thank you), there are all sorts of oddities there for the sifting through. Plus these have the added advantage of not being epic-ly sized. Perhaps most fun are the retro-classics including Breakout clone BlasterBall, a high-res version of Moon Defender, and Gobbler that owes a great deal of royalties to Mr and Mrs Pacman.

Some of the above and many more are online games played immediately off the site using Java or Flash applets – a very nice idea for those who can’t be bothered with downloading (or who want to play at work). They include nice little programs like Arcade Tennis, Arcade Grand Prix, and Arcade 5-aside Football.

And it’s all free. Apart from clicking on all those flaming adverts.