Friday, September 28, 2007

Zero Punctuation Reviews - Manhunt

Sorry for the couple updateless days, folks.. I just got promoted Darth Vader style (by attrition) and the transition from my old position to my new one has me busier than a one legged cat trying to bury turds on an asphalt parking lot.

Anyway, here's another great fast-talking ZP Review of the ultra-gorefest Manhunt.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Company of Heroes - Opposing Fronts Expansion Ships

The first expansion for one of the best RTS games ever released has now shipped, called "Opposing Fronts."

"Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts delivers Relic's best RTS gaming experience to date, weaving together the epic stories of the Battle for Caen and Operation Market Garden with countless advancements in soldier and vehicle AI, environmental strategy, and visual realism," said Tarrnie Williams, general manager, Relic Entertainment. "The addition of two new unique armies opens up many exciting possibilities within the Company of Heroes universe, and we are very proud to deliver the highest level of RTS gameplay to our fans worldwide."

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Vista Graphics Driver Support Getting Better

At release, Vista was having some serious problems keeping performance up to par with XP on the same machine. Seems over the last 7 months, both AMD (ATI) and Nvidia have been busy little bees, making improvements to the vista drivers. While still taking a little bit of a hit (most seemed to be somewhere between 5-10%), the performance of each set of cards seem to be a whole lot closer than they used to.

Also, reading between the lines of the conclusion there, it seems that Nvidia imperialism is definitely in full swing... as many of the benchmark games aren't even supported for CrossFire at this point, but SLI is available for pretty much all of them. I hope AMD gets their rears in gear at some point... even though they've treated me pretty badly lately, I still want there to be competition for Nvidia. A monopoly is never good for the consumer. Competition is essential for keeping prices low and features rich.

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Nintendo Power Magazine Changes Publishers

Up till now, Nintendo Power magazine has been an in-house production of Nintendo of America. Now, it seems a company called Future US, Inc. is taking the reins.

When I was just a little Bandit, I remember first getting the "Nintendo Fun Club Newsletter" which then sort of morphed into Nintendo Power. The first Nintendo Power had Super Mario Brothers 2 on the cover (the second had Castlevania 2, if I recall. I bet I still have both in a box somewhere). Nintendo Power was what clued me in to the Tetris explosion. Nintendo Power was my official monthly periodical until well into Jr. High, and I only stopped reading (and subscribing) then because all the articles were starting to be about SNES games, and I didn't have an SNES.

It kinda tickles me to know it's still around.

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Free Game - Plasmaworm

Cheapass Games' Plasmaworm is now free to download. If you're looking for a good short-term timewaster, I recommend this one. It's deceptively simple yet gets challenging in a hurry. It's as close to an "A" as I think a free game can get.

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Review: World In Conflict

I've had high expectations for this title for some time now, as the hype machine has been going non-stop on it since E3. Now it's time to see if it lives up to the hype, or is just another game that spent too much time on marketing and not enough on development.

I got this little devil as soon as I could, after its launch. I've been tracking World in Conflict news for a little while now. So maybe I built myself up a bit much, but hard as it is, I am trying to maintain neutrality in my review.


World in Conflict is a Real Time Strategy game that really tries to break the mold by completely removing the base-building dynamic. It also uses fully textured 3D models for all solid game assets, so no sprites here (there is quite a bit of particle action however).


At first the controls are deceptively easy and intuitive. Left click selects, right click performs actions, and so on. However, there are some wrinkles to which I feel they could have called more attention (particularly in the tutorial, where they aren't even mentioned). It took me something like 4 missions before I figured out that to use the keyboard hotkey for a special ability that needs a target you had to HOLD DOWN the hotkey and then click while holding it down, which is largely unstandard.

Of course, once you realize this, it makes enough sense (though it still takes quite a few accidental selections of intended targets to get used to the idea). Additionally, I kept trying to hit tab to cycle through the special abilities of the various different units I had selected (a-la Warcraft 3), which doesn't work in WIC and I never managed to figure out if there was an alternate method of doing this. If there isn't, it's a strike against them because it makes for some aggravating searching for the unit you want to do something, then performing that task. Something of a step backwards. Not gamebreaking, but a little irritating.

Other than that, the control scheme is well thought out and implemented. I especially liked the ability to click either on the unit itself or on its tag/label above it both for selection and for performing actions upon that unit (such as repair). Holding ALT to show the health bars of all onscreen units is an excellent feature, one I can't believe hasn't been thought of before. And I am also pleased to see that they used a similar method as Supreme Commander (E.G., holding shift) to queue up subsequent orders to units so that you can tell something, for example, go HERE, then repair HIM, then go back over HERE where it is safe. Saves so much of the aggravation I felt in C&C3 from engineers standing around and getting themselves dead. Also the standard number/ctrl-number group selection/assignment methods are kept intact. All in all, a pretty solid control scheme, minus a few complaints outlined above.


As mentioned before, the main method by which WIC shakes up the genre is by completely removing bases and base building from the gameplay dynamic. Instead, the flow of the game focuses on taking and holding areas of strategic importance, and as you hold them autonomous defenses (That suspiciously sound like small bases) will start to build themselves around that strategic location, allowing you to move on. You'll never have to worry about what to build first so that you can build "that" so that you can ultimately make "one of those."

The game keeps it simple as far as units types go. Things will seem especially familiar to anyone who has played Company of Heroes. Infantry is squad-based and is broken into familiar subsets (Normal, Anti-armor/air, sniper, paratrooper), Armor falls into light, medium and heavy varieties, same for choppers and so on. The archetypes follow the usual rock-paper-scissors models with some wildcards thrown in. A certain amount of personal attention and micromanagement can see a group of APCs kill heavy tanks that would usually decimate them easily through use of the APC's special abilities (which are on cooldown timers, so you can't constantly spam them, of course), in this case anti-armor rockets. Also, in the open infantry has a really rough time, but there are lots of buildings and heavily wooded areas that can only be entered by infantry, which render your little guys very formidable against all comers if you have cover for them to hide in. The strategy for what beats what in this game starts with a very simple foundation and adds some very good twists that please deskchair generals like me who pride themselves on tactics rather than fast clicking and massed units.

You gain units through the use of "Reinforcement Points." You start out with a large glob of these available to you, which you spend on a menu in a pulldown on-screen, allowing you to configure your initial force upon the map to your liking, and reinforce later according to how the battle progresses. When one of your units is destroyed (or you choose to decommission it), it enters into the "Incoming Reinforcement Points" pool which trickles into your reinforcement points slowly over time. You can choose the point at which your new units are air-dropped to you, though the available locations are usually limited according to what areas of the map over which you have undisputed control.

Then you add into this another pool of a separate set of points you accrue as you take objectives and blow up enemies, and you can use these to call in air strikes, artillery barrages, all sorts of nifty deus-ex-machina (or as I like to call them, "Exquisitely Timed Boulders," from that one Mario Kart track where the huge boulder that smashes into you is always exquisitely timed to smush you no matter how fast or slow you are going) that can turn the tide of a battle instantly in your favor. Most of combat, for me, consisted of setting up formations of meatgrinders to give me a steady stream of these points which I then used to bombard the rest of the bad guys off the map. They range from single laser guided bombs all the way up to carpet bombings and tactical nuclear missiles, each with their own costs, times to deploy and cooldown timers.

There's a little more micromanagement than I like, but I suppose not having to worry about a base makes up for that mostly.


The plot of the single player campaign is that World War 3 broke out between Nato and the Soviet Union in the late 80s, and you fill the role of the predictably anonymous field commander who never speaks any lines and whose face is never directly shown on camera yet the lion's share of "saving the world" falls directly on his shoulders. And if that sounds formulaic to you, I have some more bad news.

The characters in the single player campaign take the term cliché to a whole new level. Not only are you the stock faceless, voiceless wundercommander, but your boss is the oft-used cranky-growly been-there-done-that-impossible-to-surprise jaded colonel who the bureaucrats malign yet run crying to for help when they dig themselves something they can't get out of. Your peers are the off-the-shelf token minority who is the only other competent one besides you, and the off-the-shelf cocky dumbass glory-hound who spends his entire career screwing up everything for everyone, only to redeem himself via the ultimate sacrifice at a crucial later juncture. Oh, sorry, did I spoil that for you? Don't worry, you would have known it was coming by the second or third mission anyway. Throw in two comedy-relief national guardsmen who spend the whole game gushing over this amazing device called a "portable CD player" with a Bon Jovi (or is it Def Leppard?) CD in it, an adulterous American-disliking French Nato commander, and one cameo from a stereotypical singing (AH!) black (AH!) Rev-er-end-DAH! and you've got your full cast without a single shred of new ground broken between them.

The plot, too, is so cheesily, cornballishly familiar that the whole mess just wraps up to make a great big work of ironic satire. In fact, it's when you realize that the whole thing is just one big work of satire that it becomes brilliant and enjoyable. The plot never deviates from the established formula, there are 80's references aplenty (especially in the music department), and you start giggling at each new chestnut as it appears. You can't help it.


The immersive 3D nature of this game cannot be overstressed. There's a lot of stuff, and you have full 3D camera control to look at all of it in an intuitive and fast way. Not quite as grand as Supreme Commander's, but still an excellent use of camera freedom. The models are well done, the textures (especially for the "actors") are detailed and realistic, and all in all it would be an area of high praise if not for this next thing I'm going to mention.

The bugs. Oh my god, the bugs. It's been a long time since I played a game as buggy as this one. I lost count at the number of times I had to reload a saved game (and because of this issue, I found myself saving every time 3 bug-free minutes had passed) because some graphical glitch had made buildings or bridges disappear, ground suddenly go untextured, sound cues cut out, or my personal favorite, when the view fades to black to switch to a cutscene but never fades back in, leaving you with a black screen you can't get out of without forcibly crashing your way back to desktop. Listening around on the various forums that discuss such things, I am led to believe that the majority of my graphical bug woes stem from good old NVidia imperialism. Nvidia's trademark motto may be "The way it's meant to be played" but they may soon be changing it to "the only way we'll allow things to be played." From what I've read these bugs may only happen on computers with ATI video cards. Now, granted, I've already declared myself for Nvidia for my next computer, but it's still highly unprofessional for a game dev house to (allegedly) not do any ATI testing or bug fixing despite beta testers trying to frantically warn them about said bugs existing. Big minus here.

Another interesting side note is that the game, at least in DX9 mode, isn't as taxing on your computer as it thinks it is. The "benchmark" utility in setting the detail options is 15 times heavier and more complex than any part of actual gameplay I ever came across, so even if WIC is warning you in dire terms that your computer might not be up to the task of your current settings, and even if the "benchmark" runs at a slideshow-esque 5 frames per second, don't be shy about cranking up the detail, because the actual game performed well even with them on, aside from the aforementioned bugs.


While the sound effects themselves are stock/standard, the voice acting is superb and the musical score is an interesting mix of orchestral fare with period poprock and the occasional contemporary song (there was one Audioslave song during a cutscene that made me raise an eyebrow, since in 1989, the year this game purports to take place, Chris Cornell would still have been with Soundgarden and wouldn't have cut this song for another 17 years). There is one recurring bug I found where voice stops working, but I think it's tied in to a graphical glitch.


The multiplayer game differs slightly from the single player campaign, in that you must declare yourself a certain type of commander at the start of the round (Infantry, Armor, Air or Support). This adds an interesting layer to the game if you have a lot of friends to play with, because each "type" of commander cannot build units that the other types can... Armor commanders can't build infantry units, helicopters, artillery or repair vehicles, etc. This means the game was clearly designed with multiple players cooperating with each other in mind, and the game does claim 16 player multiplayer 2-sided conflict. You can fill in for players with as many bots as you want, even to the point of playing by yourself with and against various AI-controlled commanders. However, it lacks what C&C used to call a "skirmish" mode, that is, a true custom-generated single player experience outside the campaign. With the single player campaign clocking in at around 10 hours to beat, it's a little disappointing that the replayability of the game must suffer for their being no single player options other than relying on bots to repair your tanks or replaying old campaign scenarios.

The Final Word -

I think this has been the longest review I've written for a game yet, and it stems from my internal conflicting feelings about this title. World in Conflict is a great game. It is within grasping distance of being the best RTS title to date, yet it falls short due to a few control quirks, my personal distaste for micromanagement, a lack of single player replayability, and particularly due to the numerous gamebreaking bugs I was forced to endure (and reload past saved games after) over the course of my playing it. However, the game itself is an impressive solid title and an evolutionary step in every area that is considered part of an RTS-genre game. Thus, I must make a very firm pronouncement of a B- for a game that should have been an A+, sorry as I am to say it. Massive Entertainment, see me after class. You're lucky it wasn't a C.

And that's the word from Bandit Camp.

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Free WiFi = Bye Bye

Sorry to burst your bubble, but we all knew this wasn't gonna fly.

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Warhammer Online - Griefers Turn to Chickens

I was browsing over this interview on Warhammer Online over at, and it was the usual stuff we've been getting all along until I got to this one little new nugget of information -

So, how are you preventing the higher level players from assisting or griefing in the low level areas?

"We turn you into a chicken," was Eric's dead-pan response.


"Serious!" All three responded with grins on there faces

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Off Topic Friday #9 - Pain For Laughs

I discovered in my youth that bicycles are nefarious instruments of torture and murder. This video does nothing to convince me otherwise.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Operating System Contradiction

Get a load of this. Found it (as I do so much else) on Bluesnews-
Vista Pushes Linux into Primetime
Linux Community Issues Push Beginners Back To Windows

Vista's so bad, it's leading people who otherwise would never dream of such to say "well, let's see what this Linux hubbub is all about maybe."

I can only imagine my dear old Dad then trying to compile his own Linux kernel... it makes me sad and want to call him and offer to install XP for him if he'll just buy me the plane ticket.

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Battlefield 2 Pirates Mod

I had the Pirates mod for BF1942, and it was awesome. I just wish more people played with it. Ship to ship combat was an absolute riot. I hope this one turns out as good. I'll have to try it.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

World in Conflict Ships

They've sent out the press release, it's on the way to the store. I'm really curious to see what they have here. There's some serious hype to live up to:

"Sierra Entertainment is extremely proud to have delivered World in Conflict, one of the premier PC games of 2007, the best strategy game of the year and a title that will appeal to fans of all genres," said Martin Tremblay, president of worldwide studios, Sierra Entertainment. "World in Conflict represents the next-generation of PC gaming, effectively blurring the lines between strategy, action and first-person-shooter with amazing DX10 graphics, groundbreaking multiplayer, and a deep, emotional single player game."

World in Conflict emerged from E3 2007 as the clear choice of industry insiders and media as the Best Strategy Game of the show, claiming victory in the category from all major outlets hosting E3 awards. In addition, the game was recognized as one of the top PC games of 2007, earning additional nominations in several "Best PC Game," "Best Graphics," and "Best Multiplayer" categories.

Early reviews from around the world are hailing the game's intense action-packed gameplay and cross-genre appeal. IGN PC called the game "An RTS for the shooter generation" and " ... an action junky's dream," awarding World in Conflict a 9.3 out of 10.'s 9 out of 10 highlighted the game as "strategy at its finest."

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Yep. We All Knew This Was Coming.

The inevitable star wars Lightsaber-sim title for the Wii.

Little too late to catch me, but I'm sure everybody else is gonna cream their jeans.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Five Broken Promises of Windows Vista

A little rundown of some of the ways Vista isn't all we were told it would be. Like I've been telling you for months.

I use it daily, but I also use it with the full knowledge that it's a pre-service pack 1 OS from the boys in Redmond. That necessarily means it will have glitches, bugs, and annoyances. That's a given.

I'm willing to put up with all those headaches, certainly more so than Jim Louderback. But there were several things I was really looking forward to in Vista that are simply missing in action or broken. These are features I'd really hope would improve my productivity and make life a little easier.


Read it here.

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Another WH40k:DOW Expansion

Seems the next one is called Soulstorm, and word has it the new race introduced will be the Dark Eldar. I'm a little nonplussed by that little tidbit, but what the hell... if Chaos isn't "Dark Human" than what is it?

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Off Topic Friday #8 - Plugging the Wiki

Alright, so this week's Off Topic Friday isn't entirely off topic. It's still got to do with video games.

I administrate the Video Game Babes Wiki, another part of the conglomerate. I'm trying (ok, perhaps trying is a generous description of the amount of effort I've put in lately, but...) to build a visual catalogue of every attractive female in video gaming, ever. I think I've made a pretty good effort thus far, but the reason I made it a Wiki instead of just another page was so that anybody could contribute. Because, of course, there's way too much for one man to do, 'specially when there's video games that need playing.

So anyway, if you want to see what I've got so far, and maybe think you could contribute, just head on over. You'll need to register a login to contribute (which is a fast process, anyway), but not to view what's already there.

If you have any questions about anything there, such as how it works, the method by which it is organized, or just want to spout off at me, my E-mail address is listed at the top-right of this page. Feel free to use it.

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Zero Punctuation Reviews - Tomb Raider Anniversary

The cranky British version of the Micro Machines Man is back again, this time talking about Tomb Raider Anniversary, which I reviewed myself some time ago. He's meaner to it than I was, but I think that may have something to do with him reviewing the PS2 version whereas I reviewed the PC version (which doesn't have many of the issues he talks about). Anyway, without further ado...

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I've Found the Perfect PC Party Game Experience.

A lot of console enthusiasts like to point out how fun it is to get a few friends together and play some Smash Brothers or Mario Party or Mario Kart or Kung Fu Chaos or whatever other multi-multi-player game is available to them and have a Big'ol'Time (tm) yelling and hooting and laughing and playing and whatnot.

And for a long while, that's kind of been something hard to find in a LAN party atmosphere. I mean, sure you've got your Deathmatches in FPSes, and 8-way clusterhumps in the RTS of your choice, but often enough these were as much excercises in frustration as fun for at least some portion of the attendees. And I know, I spent many a weekend back in high school carting my 486 over to my buddy Adam's basement, along with 4 other friends who were doing the same thing, and spending the next 48 hours in a candy-and-soda fueled frenzy of unbathed nerdery. Yeah, come sunday afternoon we were six tired, smelly, incontinent, frazzled lumps of humanity but overall we had a blast.

But there was always something wrong with each game we played. Somebody was too good at this one. Nobody but guy X liked that other one, but he kept pestering the others so they played it (I raise my hand as the guilty one here). Yet another would not work on somebody's machine.

I think I've found the solution, and only 10 or 15 years too late to help my situation!

The answer is the Serious Sam multiplayer co-op experience.

As I'm sure you are all aware, Serious Sam was a pleasant surprise from previously unknown Croatian dev house Croteam, blasting onto the scene a few years ago, followed by two sequels (Serious Sam: The Second Encounter and the deceptively named Serious Sam II, which is, in fact, the third Serious Sam game). The weapons are over the top, the levels are cleverly made, and the enemies are novel. The whole thing is just a great big funfest, with big guns, big men, big enemies, and enough spent brass to build a life-size statue of Unicron.

I recently got the opportunity to play it multiplayer cooperatively (looking for ANY reason these days not to play WoW). For a good long while, I've been prejudiced against FPSes in Coop mode (abarring, of course, BF1942) due largely thanks to peer pressure exerted upon me back in high school, where friends of mine seemed to hold the opinion that openly expressing a desire to try Co-op play in Doom was analogous to declaring one's self to be homosexual (I'm looking at you, PPMcBiggs). Finally, though, I've conquered my old school insecurities and gave it a shot.

It was a blast. Serious Sam is the perfect Co-op FPS. Everything that was good about Sam singleplayer (Big guns go bang) is better multiplayer, and everything bad (they expect me to kill HOW many giant aliens at once??) is lessened by having friends with you. The difficulty can scale as you see fit, the respawns are adroitly handled and smoothly implemented, ammo and other powerups are all able to be picked up by everybody (so once guy can't bogart all the ammo), and best of all you don't have to sign up for any stupid online big-brother service to set up and run your games because you can all join by IP address with no 3rd party intervention whatsoever. Players can join and leave the game dynamically (which means you don't have to restart the game to let somebody back in if they drop connection or something), and all in all the thing just goes right out of the box without a damned hitch for up to EIGHT players simultaneously.

And one of the things that was impressive about Sam even when it came out was that it delivered superior looking graphics at modest hardware requirements, so even your poorest of computer buddies can probably play this, and your casual buddy with a laptop that sports the generic Intel 3D accelerator can too. And the levels are all bright and colorful, which was a big selling point to me back then, when every other FPS seemed to be engaged in a contest to see who could get their players to stumble around blindly in the dark the most.

So, if you're looking for something different to try at your next LAN party, I heartily recommend the Co-op mode of Serious Sam (and possibly its sequels) by Croteam. Especially if you set the game to the most enemies possible, turn on infinite respawns and infinite ammo (yes those ARE options in game setup, Croteam apparently knew what the hell they were doing), and then just have at it.

And that's the word from Bandit Camp.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Guitar Hero 3 Comes to PC! (Oh, and Mac)

You heard right. Guitar Hero 3 will also be ported to PC and Mac. It's tempting. Even with Frets On Fire.

Lord help me.

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I Think I'm Tired of Star Wars.

I may have to turn in my geekery license for this, but I can't drum up any enthusiasm for the latest Star Wars game.

Remember when Lucasarts made more games than just Star Wars games? Remember Monkey Island? Indiana Jones? Maniac Mansion? Zack McCracken? Full Throttle? Grim Fandango? Sam & Max (though they've made a combat, I'll admit)? Thems was fun times, weren't they?

Maybe it's just because I'm tired of witnessing George Lucas, or one of his licensees, take a big stinky shit in a cardboard box, slap a picture of a wookie on the outside, and ship a million units (one of whom goes to me, because it's Star Wars so I have to buy it, right?). I guess I'm just glad that Episode 3 wrapped up on a decent quality note, but it couldn't erase two terrible movies, a bajillion overhyped and overexposed novels, and a smattering of games which, at best, can be described as hit or miss. It's gotten to the point that I don't even think that, if it were rereleased using modern engines and hardware, I'd even want to play what was once my favoritest PC game franchise of all time, the X-Wing/Tie Fighter series. I'm just that tired of it.

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Monday, September 10, 2007

ArchLord - Turns Out There's A Reason It's Free.

It seems to me that often I don't get to flex my "cranky" muscle doing a lot of these reviews. Well, I'm happy to say an opportunity to remedy this situation has presented itself.

Astute readers will recall a while back I linked an article talking about how some MMOs were switching from monthly fees to fee-free/micropayment models. The big one quoted there was Archlord.

Lately I've been so burnt out on WoW that some days I think if I have to see just one more Dranei I'm going to scream. So, this weekend I took the opportunity to check out what, if anything, there was to this vaunted ArchLord game. Short answer? Not much.

Codemasters has laid a real stinker here. I can't believe they actually expected anybody to really pay for this turd at any point. I'll break down my gripes into categories.

The graphics are about 1999ish or so, there's no support for widescreen resolutions. Anti-aliasing is either "on" or "off," with no indication whether it is 2x, 4x, 6x or whatever, and on top of that having it "on" causes text to sometimes "hide" itself under things that are rendered behind it, even something as unobtrusive as open ground. The UI is clunky and slow, and for a click-to-move style game the pathing is nonexistant. The /ignore command does not work for shouts... so the spammer shouting "BUY MY PLATINUM CHEST! /w Charllot" every 8 seconds for 4 hours straight is only filterable by leaving the shout channel entirely, which should not happen. Speaking of which...

The Players-

From every nation and every walk of life they come, and you can't get away from them. And they all want to chat with everybody, because let's face it, the game is pretty dull (see next section). But this is the internet, and when you put the whole world in one room all it takes is one chucklehead to say the word "Bush" and all of a suddenly the monsters seem to be taking more damage from angry european gibberish and jingo english tirades than from your +2 sword of uniformity. And speaking of uniformity, that brings me to...

Gameplay, AKA "The Asian Factor"-

Why is it every MMORPG game conceived in the far east seems to think that character customization doesn't belong in an RPG? Not only is there no stat customization (which can be forgiven if there are other options, a-la WoW), the extent to which you can customize your character's appearance consists of race, class, and 5 faces and 5 haircuts. You can't even pick your gender for crying out loud. Human fighter? You're a male. No choice. Mage? Female. No room for negotiation. There's no deviation from standard in body type, equipment, gender, and even the various available "faces" and "hairstyles" are incredibly generic and don't give you choices of colors within as a subset. There was a similar problem in Space Cowboy Online, if I recall. There's no tactics at all employed, either (and no support classes to enable tactics, either.. everybody's a fighter, ranged attacker or offensive magic user). Combat consists of target, turn on autoattack, and fire whatever timered abilities you have until they're all recycling or you're out of mana. Though that isn't an excuse, the game supplies you with copious potion drops, and no sort of cooldown between using them. So you can pretty much kill any number of enemies so long as you keep guzzling the potions. And only the most rudimentary quests are there to break up the grinding. Go here and get this, kill X of monster Y, and come back. At least RF Online (another Codemasters exercise in mediocrity) had the self awareness to know that if you were going to make potion gulping a requisite part of success you should provide an easy way to make the gulping automatic, and also used a cell-phone like mechanic to remove the "and come back to me" part from quests. But for the most part, what you are left with is a veritable army of identical drones grinding away in repetition in the same conveniently placed zoo-display like monster spawns. It's as if absolutely no thought went into monster placement in world design. All the level 1 monsters go here. All the level 2 ones go here. All the level 3 ones go slightly farther out, and so on. It's a bot user's wet dream... or perhaps a chinese gold farmer's easiest day's work ever. At least the translation is halfway decent, though you do see the occasional pidgin interject itself. I can has silver sword?

The Misapplied Budget-
I think I see why the rest of the game is so crappy. I don't know how much it costs, but I bet it isn't cheap to get your game's entire musical score performed by the London Symphony Orchestra. So at least you have pretty music to listen to while your brain dies of asphyxiation in this abominable abortion of banality of biblical proportions? Well, almost. The LSO may perform it, but whoever composed the score was having a serious case of the mondays that day. And there's one piece that I swear is lifted right out of the movie "The Mask Of Zorro."

Well, that about sums it up for me. One game, one day, 1.4 gig download, a few hours of playtime and already sick of it. No wonder it had to go free-to-play. A very unrepentant D.

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Monkey Island Fast Forwarded... WTF?

If you're like me, this game was a major part of the formation of your opinion of what makes a good game. Apparently someone else agreed enough to create an entire hand-drawn fast-forwarded (badly voice-acted) movie of the entirety of The Secret of Monkey Island by Lucasfilm Games (which later became Lucasarts, which much later suddenly started to refuse making anything that wasn't Star-Wars).

So, go watch, if you have fond memories of Monkey Island. If you don't, well, don't. And piss off.

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Horizons Billing Issues

Man, am I glad I never fell into the trap of playing this overhyped monstrosity. From Bluesnews -

The Horizons community forums offer another twist in the quite twisted tale of Horizons: Empire of Istaria, the MMORPG that's had nearly as many owners as players since it was developed. You may recall the last installment in this soap opera involved the latest transfer of the game, from EI Interactive to Virtrium, LLC (story), and how Virtrium had already replaced EI Interactive's insecure billing method with a new system. Unfortunately it seems the old billing system makes up for its lack of safety measures with a degree of relentlessness, as the post states El is failing to transfer subscriptions to Virtrium, and is still billing folks for a game they no longer run. As for the game side of this, word is: "This does nothing to affect Horizons moving forward. It's taken a lot of time, energy and money to reach this point, and it's good that we can now move forward. In fact, we can stop putting energy into this issue and put that effort into Horizons." As far as those still being unfairly billed, they outline a course of action to follow
Read more at Bluesnews

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Apple Tries, Fails, to Thwart Iphone Free Ringtones

Apple took another fell stab at choking off the ability of their enslaved drones to do what they want with the products they buy, this time taking the form of a patch to iTunes designed to prevent users from creating their own ringtones and then synching them to their iPhones. However, it seems a workaround already exists.

Chalk another one up for the internet hive mind, and for consumer rights everywhere.

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Friday, September 07, 2007

Zero Punctuation Bioshock Review

I was seriously considering writing a bioshock review, even after all the posts I've made about it thus far, but then I saw this British guy do it better than I ever could, expressing just about every opinion I have on the matter save for the awful things I've already said.

So... go watch this.

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

Tabula Rasa Goes Gold

The latest brainchild of Ultima creator Richard Garriot (formerly known as Lord British) has gone gold - a Sci Fi MMO called Tabula Rasa.

(Source - Bluesnews)

NCsoft Announces Launch Date for Richard Garriott's Tabula Rasa

Gaming legend's widely anticipated online space adventure to launch October 19th

Thursday 6th September/...NCsoft® Europe, the world’s leading developer and publisher of online computer games, announced today that Richard Garriott’s Tabula Rasa® has reached gold master status and will launch commercial service in Europe and North America on October 19, 2007. Pre-order customers will begin their three-day head start on October 16.

One of the most anticipated PC games of the year, Tabula Rasa is gaming legend Richard Garriott’s newest title, which combines a vast, persistent game world and rich storyline with fast paced action. Set in a near-future science fiction storyline, players create characters that must fight to save humanity against hostile alien enemies while trying to gain control of the universe. The game introduces several innovative elements to massively multiplayer online (MMO) games, including a Character Cloning System™ that allows players to explore different character classes without having to create a new character, and dynamic battlefields where players experience the frenetic action of combat in an ongoing war.

“It has been a heck of a journey,” said Richard Garriott, the game’s Executive Producer. “The fact that we are getting ready for the final stretch towards launch feels great, but it is also just the beginning. I think we’ve managed to do something truly unique and I hope that the gaming community likes it as much as we do. Now, I am looking forward to a really fun ‘end of beta event’ for our incredible testers, and focusing development on new planets and innovations for future expansions of Tabula Rasa.”

The standard edition box of Richard Garriott’s Tabula Rasa will be available at major retailers at an expected retail price of £29.99 / €44.99 and at the PlayNC® store ( Customers will be able to purchase the recently announced Limited Collector’s Edition box from major retailers at an expected retail price of £49.99 / €69.99. Both products include the first month of online game play. After the first month, players will be charged a monthly subscription fee of £8.99 / €12.99. The game is rated 16+ by PEGI (

For more information about Richard Garriott’s Tabula Rasa go to

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F.E.A.R. Sequel Titled

Needless to say, I am disappointed they did not choose my submission, S.C.A.R.E.D. S.H.I.T.L.E.S.S.

The new title, as "picked by the community," is Project Origin.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Two More Reasons Bioshock = Worst Launch Evar

(1), Your Radeon 9800 pro 256, which still sells on pricewatch for over 100 bucks (it was 200 back in the day), won't run bioshock because it doesn't use shader model 3. Never mind that it has more video muscle than many cards that do. Thank goodness somebody over at is willing to kludge the backward-compatibility that 2k thinks is so negligible.

(2) Sharing with your brother IST VERBOTEN! Das wird nicht erlaubt! Way to play right into the pirates' hands, 2k.

Read the other reasons.

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Joust - The Movie?

A movie, based on the classic arcade game Joust?? Can no video game IP go untainted?!

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Xbox Live Users Getting Reprimanded For Using Word "Linux"

That's right. Get a load of this. Apparently mentioning "Linux" could get you in trouble on Live.

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Sunday, September 02, 2007

World of Borecraft - Educational Games Still Suck

An interesting little op-ed over at Slate, I found via Bluesnews. Go read.

Ever since video games were invented, parents and teachers have been trying to make them boring. Any child of the 1980s and 1990s will remember Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing and Math Blaster Mystery: The Great Brain Robbery, games that promised to make skills acquisition fun. They'll also remember ditching Mavis Beacon for something with guns as soon as their parents' backs were turned. Making games educational is like dumping Velveeta on broccoli. Liberal deployment of the word blaster can't hide the fact that you're choking down something that's supposed to be good for you.

The basic issue here is that it's easier to make a fun game educational than it is to inject fun into an educational game. In his 2005 book, Everything Bad Is Good for You, Steven Johnson argues that games like The Sims and Grand Theft Auto make us smarter by training the mind in adaptive behavior and problem-solving. Most overtly educational software, though, ignores the complexities that make games riveting and enriching. The serious-gaming types think they can create educational software from whole cloth. In reality, they have a lot to learn from Grand Theft Auto.

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Saturday, September 01, 2007

The People's Mario

Da, Comrade.

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King of the Console Gamers

I'm a hard guy to impress, but my hat's off to this fella.

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