John Walker's Electronic House

TB 98

They’re Back 98


Comparisons make for useful tools when reviewing. Today’s analogy shall be… Music. Music comes in all shapes and sizes doesn’t it? No. No, it doesn’t. Music is audible, and not physical. You can’t hold music in your hand can you? No. What colour is music? Exactly. So don’t be so silly about your “all shapes and sizes” nonsense, ok? Good… And in much the same way, games don’t come in all shapes and sizes.

If Doom is some head-banging thrash metal, then Black & White would be a terribly polite string quartet. If Day Of The Tentacle is the Bonzo Dog Doo-dah Band, then Deer Avenger is Hear’say. And by this formula, Thief II is a remarkable cello concerto. Which means I’m going to draw the hideously pompous conclusion that Looking Glass were Bach.

Such a claim, but let’s look at their history… Exactly. And now at their future (in the cluttered disguise of Ion Storm)… Point made, methinks. In fact, if you haven’t learned by now that the words “Looking Glass” on the front of the box loosely translate to “Buy this game if you have to sell relatives”, then you’ve been using this magazine to line rabbit hutches.

The ultimate sneak-em-up, Thief II did more of the same medieval pock-pickiting that it invented so sublimely in the original, but stripping out all the parts that occasional stepped on the toes of fun. Gone are the too-many-zombies, replaced by more complex scenarios and more elaborate schemes. And the guards have had a short spell at AI school, emerging smarter and more co-operative with one-another.

Also, all that made Thief so incredibly entertaining is here once again. The all-engrossing use of shadows and sound absorbs you utterly, quickly turning you into a sharp and cat-like criminal. It is one of those games that requires you to turn out the lights, close the curtains, and then seal the gaps. Then when you stop playing, you will become averse to the light, preferring to slip your way into the kitchen under the cover of darkness, rather than risking revealing yourself to enemies in your path.

Please try not to black-jack your friends and families about the head.


The final official Looking Glass title, and one that should complete every collection.

Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation

Tomb Raider III had one of the worst endings of all time. In case you didn’t get there, Lara dies when a pyramid falls on her. Now you may wish to chant “hooray” over and over until sleep or laryngitis stops you, but think about it more carefully.

When you play Tomb Raider, Lara dies a lot. This is because the game is written in such a way as to cause Lara to die a lot. So with frequent saving one replays and replays a scenario until one appears not dead on the other side. And this is repeated two or three hundred times. You watch that stupid woman die, over and over and over. All she does is die. Your mission is to prevent her death. You become focused on one task: Keep Lara alive. And then the game concludes by killing her in a cut-scene.

This is Not A Good Thing. And who cares that it meant there would be a sequel? You were still rewarded for battling against the grim reaper for 30+ hours with a scripted failure.

Here is the sequel, and oh poo if it isn’t a good idea. Things begin with Lara’s funeral, followed by a rather small group of mourners returning to our late heroine’s mansion to reminisce on some of her previously unmentioned quests. Then the Wayne’s World “diddlydoo”s take us back in time to play as Lara through these wake-memories.

As is always the case with Tomb Raider sequels, the graphics have improved, Lara has gained a couple of extra moves (which makes no sense bearing in mind the hindsight nature of the thing), and the puzzles have become more satisfying.

So yes indeed, this is the best Tomb Raider game of them all. And is she really dead? Perhaps this question should be directed at Eidos’ marketing boys…



Wolfenstein 3D was on shaky ground. Shooting at //people// in computer games has always held somewhat more of a risk of offence than shooting aliens or monsters. Shooting Nazis makes the whole morality debate that bit more complex. But Wolf got away with it by using a very clever little tactic: It invented the most popular PC genre of all time.

It’s fairly safe to say that Mortyr doesn’t quite manage such an achievement. Rather than being the /first/ FPS, it is Just Another FPS, and rather than being innovative and original, it is stealing someone else’s idea. So not a great start.

Perhaps it is never a good idea for a new games company to try to pull the rug out from underneath the firmly established ones. (Unless you are Valve of course, but they did this carpet-tugging in a much more polite and “do excuse me fellows, I’m just giving this mat a little yank while creating the best FPS ever” way). The battle for the role of creating the new Wolfenstein game was a hotly fought one, and Mirage should have accepted defeat more graciously than deliberately and stubbornly making their own version anyway.

You see, Mortyr is what we experts call, “A Load of Rubbish”. The engine, while at first appearing rather pretty, is choppy and glitchy, allowing all sorts of sillynesses to appear, such as rain falling through roofs, or having to crawl through solid grates.

But more importantly, the stupidest thing about Mortyr by a long stretch, is the enemy spawning. Enemy spawning is a fine line in any game, and must be either carefully balanced, or not included. And only the latter should ever be an option when dealing with “human” enemies. It is wrong, wrong, wrong.

In summary then: slightly racist arse.


Mortal Kombat IV
Sold Out

I resign.

I can’t possibly go on. I feel like an artist struggling to capture the essence of a rose, who then stumbles upon the most evocative and compelling rose portrait ever produced. I snap my brushes in half, and throw my paint pots at my easel.

When looking back to see what Gamer thought of Mortal Kombat 4 in the days before I was born, I stumbled upon the original review. I am never going to write a review as good as this one. /Kieron/ is never going to write a review as good as this one. In issue 63, PC Gamer peaked. Ever since, we are but over-glossed toilet paper. Read it: Read it and then poor scorn upon me. I am but nothing. My words are useless dribble in a world of endless drool…

Mortal Kombat 4 looks like an explosion at a blood donor drive. Unlike its peers (Street Fighter, Tekken, Soulblade) MK is shlock-laden with generous bucketings of blood. Gallons of the stuff, pouring out everywhere, earning it the much coveted 18 certificate that so helps to push up sales.

Despite the 3D engine being rubbish, and gameplay-wise pailing in comparison to the seminal Soul Calibre on the Dreamcast, it still remains one of the few playable PC beat-em-ups. The chances are though, that if this is the type of game you want to play, you already own a console machine.

Actually, looking at it, I rather like the pattern those paints have made on that easel…


World League Soccer ’98
Sold Out

Ahhhh, look at them. All the little people dressed in their tribal colours, putting their emotions into an ethereal concept. Look at how they release the inner-loathing they possess about themselves by creating a subconscious transference targeted upon the shoulders of any who support an ethereal concept of a team opposing their ethereal concept. It’s lovely, isn’t it. And all nicely sponsored by our chum Mr Murdoch.

I may have mentioned this before, but I’m not the world’s biggest fan of football. It’s an oversimplified sport that requires no real brain-engagement to watch, with very little variety or room for improvisation. Which is probably why it makes for such a good computer game.

Look at rugby or cricket – proper games. They convert appallingly to computer games because of their complex rules, and huge room for multifariousness. But the nicely subatomic innocence of soccer’s intricacies means the smattering of buttons on a gamepad are more than plenty for allowing you to emulate the sport in full.

WLS ’98 focuses more on realism than other, more popular, football titles. It stands apart from the others with its steep learning curve and requirement for precision when executing nifty manoeuvres such as headers and the like. Sadly, it also stands apart for it’s rather shoddy graphics, and poor commentary. And thanks to the exclusivity of licensing, the poor game isn’t allowed the freedom to title the players with real names. Apparently people own the rights to these words, meaning that another game can’t exercise its freedom of speech.

All in all, this title is now very out of date, both graphically and content-wise. There are better footy emulators out on budget already, making it hard to recommend this one over any others.


And The Rest

I sit surrounded by dauntingly high towers of DVD cased games, wobbling threateningly in the breeze, all from the ever-pregnant belly of the great mother Sold Out. Amongst those that there was no room for (or no obvious concept-review for) were these proud two.

Uprising 2: Lead and Destroy (58%) places you in control of a hovering Wraith supertank in a sort of cross between a first person shooter and a strategy sim. It succeeds at neither, and fails at both (yes, this is the same thing twice, you fill this column if you don’t like it) being really a rather dull affair. It’s disappointing to learn that it isn’t a game about a revolt of pencils trying to take over the fascist regime they are oppressed under. The pencils will have their day, you mark my words (in pen). It costs 500p.

Resident Evil 2(70%) gets another Sold Out, er, outing. Still at £10, this time it comes in a lovely DVD case, so you packaging collectors out there can start getting your shoes on. RE2 still does its scary thing nicely, despite its age. A bit like Christopher Lee.

Midas are the other givers of budget this month, and in the leftovers pile are some absolute piles of cack. Look, I’m going to be honest with you. I’m not going to play Sergei Bubka’s Millennium Games and Deer Hunt, or Cue Club and Fishing USA. Come on, it’s not like I do nothing for you. I played Faust so you wouldn’t have to. And Fog. So you can invent your own marks for these. They are going to be somewhere between 0 and 100. It will only cost you £5 for each pair to find out.

This is called “interactive”. And it’s yours, this month only, for free.