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F1 World Grand Prix

Motor racing game reviewed

Lankhor Publisher Eidos Interactive System Requirements  Pentium 166MMX or equivalent  32Mb RAM  582Mb hard drive space  4Mb 3D graphics card  2x CD-ROM drive Introduction A heat haze shimmers above the dry tarmac. The faces of the team members in the pits tell a thousand stories - anxiety, excitement, adrenaline pumping fast, and a sweat forming on the brow. They have done all they can for you the driver. The car has been tweaked and tuned, with testing proving beyond a doubt that the performance is much improved. It's all down to you now; the race is in your hands. Nerves jangle, and a strange feeling of doom comes over you. The feeling is gone in an instant, returning instead to full focus to the task ahead. One red light blinks, and all the twenty-two cars rev in a deafening crescendo. All five lights are now beaming down on you, and you take a moment to recap your tactics. The lights disappear... The talking is over, it's time to prove to the world that you are the new king of Formula One. Starting Grid Of all the genres, I suppose that motor racing games are one of the hardest to do anything different with. The problem is that you already know what to expect before the game is out of the cellophane. You can guarantee that you will find seventeen tracks, and that all will be accurate renditions of the real life F1 circuits. You will also expect to find the full list of drivers and constructors in there too. So what exactly moves us to keep buying these games? For a lot of people, a big love for the sport will be the main motivator. For others it's the gradual improvement in the look and control of the games. F1 World Grand Prix certainly has looks on its side, starting impressively with the intro video, although the quality of the racing action depicted in it does make you wish that the game itself looked as good. But that's not to say the in-game graphics are bad by any means. From a neat if slightly over complicated menu system you can delve straight into a full season or a single race. After selecting your difficulty level, you get to choose both the constructor and the driver you wish to represent. You may also choose your own name if you so desire. F1WGP features all seventeen tracks, constructors and drivers from the 1999 season. Why 1999 you may ask? Simply because choosing the 1999 season means that you have a complete season's data ready to go. And you can relive Damon Hill's harrowing time with the Arrows team once again! A mention should be made here of the tremendous replay system as well. This little baby records your entire race, which can then be saved to disk, reviewed at your leisure, but best of all .. get this, you can actually take control of the car at any point during the replay! This has so much potential, like learning how to take nasty corners correctly, or seeing how a change of style might have won you the race rather than losing it. The First Bend To get the most out of this game I strongly recommend that you plug in the Thrustmaster steering wheel you got bundled free with your PC! Seriously though, using a wheel is obviously the best way to appreciate the game fully. Before the main race itself you can practice on the circuit, attend the qualifying session, and even have a pre-race warm-up. All of these steps are optional, and you can go straight into the race if you so wish, although you will be slung into a random place on the grid if you do. A word of warning with regards to qualifying - regardless of the difficulty level, you will find it stupidly hard to match the other cars' times. You very often find yourself beaming with delight at a particularly well taken lap, only to see that you are way down the pecking order! The cars handle very nicely, with braking, acceleration and steering all very responsive. Sometimes the braking can be a little too sensitive, coming to an almost complete stop with the slightest of key pressure. In the main though, what you ask the car to do, it does. Cornering can sometimes feel a little arcade like, with cars smoothly taking corners at high speed where you really ought to have spun off. In fact, as a whole F1WGP feels like it is torn between being a true simulation and a raw arcade game, regardless of whether you are in the simulation or arcade mode of play. Graphics and Sound The whole look and presentation of F1WGP is top notch. Every track has been faithfully recreated, with the inclusion of a lot more surrounding detail than most other F1 games. A couple of examples of noteworthy scenery are the splendid ferris wheel of Japan, and the excellent city backdrop of Brazil. The cars themselves look terrific, all emblazoned with the relevant sponsors and team colours. All the action can be viewed from a variety of different camera angles, the in-helmet camera being an original inclusion. Another nice touch is the mounted wing mirrors, which show strikingly good detail of what is going on behind you. Whether you will have the time to appreciate such extravagance is another thing. Perhaps the neatest of touches though has to be the curbs. Don't laugh okay, I'm being serious! The curbs start out nice and clean with their alternate red and white stripes, but as the race goes on they become more and more blackened by tyre marks from cars running over them. Completely useless really, but authentic all the same. Weather effects like rain are also nicely done, causing realistic visibility problems as the cars in front slice through the surface water. Sound in general is a little disappointing, with the car not quite getting that irritating wasp-like quality you would expect. The other cars however sound fantastic as they swoosh past you, and there are nice touches like the Doppler effect as cars pass you in the pits. Crashes sound pretty unspectacular. Where you would expect to hear a loud crack of bodywork and shower of gravel, you get a simple thud and a slight rustle. Okay so the aim isn't to be off the track anyway, but I at least want to wince when I crash! Conclusion At the end of the day, does the world really need another Formula One game? With Geoff Crammond's Grand Prix 3 just days away from release, and the already established F1 2000 from EA Sports, you would think another title would be overkill. However, what F1WGP gives you is a nice blend of arcade and sim, which in my mind would be perfect for the uninitiated amongst you and die-hards alike. The split screen two-player option is also a bonus, and works extremely well. There is a noticeable dip in performance, but it's not enough to render the game unplayable. Also worth noting is that if your graphics card supports T&L technology you will benefit from effects such as heat haze. In F1WGP you have a pretty cool racer on your hands. I only hope that with all the buzz and excitement surrounding Grand Prix 3, it doesn't just get swept under the carpet and forgotten. Eye Candy         Download The Demo Try before you buy! Download the F1 World Grand Prix demo (66Mb) 8

27th July 2000 DNM

The New Adventures Of The Time Machine

3D adventure game reviewed

Cryo Publisher Cryo (Europe) / DreamCatcher (USA) System Requirements  Pentium 200 or equivalent  32Mb RAM  492Mb Hard Drive space  4x CD ROM drive Introduction It's the 1st of January 1893. Herbert Wells prepares to realise a life's dream .. to travel through time. The design and construction of the Time Machine took almost ten years, but now it is ready to be tested. Herbert starts the machine. With violent convulsions and bright lights, the machine is propelled into a temporal tunnel. Everything is functioning as it should, but suddenly the machine begins shaking again. With a blinding flash the machine appears in a strange city. According to the chronometer on the machine's console, he has traversed 800,000 years into the future. Suddenly he is ejected from the seat, and the machine disappears. He is now trapped in the future, in a world totally strange to him. Temporal storms sweep through this world on a regular basis, robbing its inhabitants of their memories, and forever changing their period in life. You can be a child one minute, and an old man the next. You soon learn that your time meddling has upset the very core of the universe itself, and you must help Herbert to unravel the secrets locked within the sand swept walls of Hourglass City, overcoming many puzzles and hazards in your quest to meet the man behind it all .. Khronos. Only then can you avert universal catastrophe and return home to your era. The Book .. The Game I love my adventure games to have a good solid story line, with believable characters, twists in the tale and for my interest to be held throughout. "The Time Machine" gets a head start straight away, being loosely based around the classic HG Wells book of the same name. Indeed, the character you control is Herbert George Wells himself. Dressed in a Sherlock Holmes style costume, and speaking with an affable tone, he's everything you would expect from a late 19th century man. The game begins with a stunning piece of video showing you Herbert's laboratory, and how he takes his machine on its maiden voyage. Video of equal quality can be seen in the middle of the game, and obviously the final scene. From the introductory video alone, you can tell the quality and attention to detail the developers have poured into this title. Before We Begin The Time Machine welcomes you with a neat menu interface, a construction of animated clock-cogs and golden rectangular menu buttons which makes it easy to manipulate. From the menu you can change video resolution up to a maximum of 1600x1200, and I do recommend you try this. Even with my lowly Riva TNT2 the game still pumped out smoothly at this resolution! Audio and keyboard configuration can also be altered here. An option that is sadly lacking however is the ability to use a joypad of any sort. There aren't a lot of keys to memorise though, so keyboard play isn't too much of a hardship. Finally you can load and save games through the interface, with a maximum of twelve slots available. A picture pops up in the middle of the interface to show you the stage you were at the time of saving. Useful if, like me, you give totally meaningless names to your save games! City of the Hourglass You begin the game in a side street, with empty pockets and no clue as to what you should do. In front of you is a crystal Nautilus, which you need to pick up, as the spiral shell acts as your inventory selector. It also shows your energy level via the internal spiral, and the amount of "Jad Garrul" you have in the outer spiral. Jad Gurrul allows you to cast spells, and if this runs out you will need to top it up again soon. Further exploration will take you out into a street blocked by a cart, and a small market square. It certainly has you draw breathe in admiration - the world you are walking around is full of people, and you can press your 'use' key to speak to any of them if you wish. Most you will find don't have much time to speak with you, but some will offer you valuable clues and suggestions that will help you understand what to do next. You will find old people stooped over and shuffling along, young children wandering around, sometimes alone, sometimes accompanied by an adult. People stand in the streets chatting, others go about their business. The population of the city really gives a believable setting. You can quite believe that these people have done what they are doing for years. Their ways and methods are far different to what Herbert is used to though, with the main confusion starting with why they are so obsessed with time. You will soon learn that time is everything in this game. You won't have travelled very far before you experience the first temporal wave ripping through the city, and when it has passed you will have turned into a child. But whereas the inhabitants have all lost their memories, yours remains intact... Temporal Wave Of course, like any game, you have enemies to contend with. The city guards will be quite happy for you to roam the streets in the beginning, but further down the line you won't be able to breathe without one of them firing on you! As an Effahid (child) you are not well liked by some of the guards. Being small does have its advantages though, as you will discover. You will also be turned from Effahid to Vissahid (old man) later in the game, and back to your normal self. All very disconcerting... The temporal waves themselves are a joy to watch. A big wave of blue light sweeps ominously across the lands, reverting anything in its path from youth to old age to middle age again. The sound the wave makes is like a hurricane, and sounds excellent with the volume cranked up! Meet the Shekandars The key to your progression within the game is to learn about the Shekandar monks, and (with their help) to awaken your chronomantic powers. These spells are learnt inside Chronomantic Spheres, which look small from the outside but each contain a vast cavern. Spells are shown as floating crystals, radiating a cool blue. Simply touch one of these spells and you will learn it. The sphere also enables you to practice your spell casting without any detriment to your Jad Gurrul. A key toggles between normal combat and spell modes, and when in spell mode the icon for the spell you currently have selected will appear to the right of your energy indicator. Simply press the action key to launch the spell at your enemy. Perhaps the most clever of the spells is Slow Motion, which actually causes yourself or your enemy to slow, while the whole world carries on around you. Other spells allow you to shield yourself against magic and attacks. You can also freeze enemies, or drive them insane with the song of the Mermaids of Time. Don't ask! Fire Power It's not all magic and wizardry though. In fact, the first sort of weapon you will come across is the Wrist Jadgar. This is the weapon of choice for the guards, and fires out a blue bolt which can take the enemy down with four or five shots. You will find the higher priests later on will take more than the Jadgar to take down though. The only other weapon I managed to find is the Chronophore, a weapon of pure chronomantic power. This little baby fires out bright green bolts, and makes mincemeat out of the opposition. There may well be other weapons in the game that I have not discovered, as there are a few secrets and sub-missions to be discovered. The combat system is not the best in the world though. A lot of the time you just cannot see the enemy you are fighting. Getting too close in on the more powerful Priests or Lemurs is a painful exercise, so the need for keeping your distance is paramount. This often forces you to fire at an enemy off-screen, hoping you are making an impact. Sometimes you will find that an enemy can quite happily fire at you from his vantagepoint, but you can't fire back, merely hitting the parapet the enemy is standing in. Not funny, especially when you have little or no health to risk close combat. Graphics and Sound Saving the best for last... The location graphics in the game are simply breathtaking. Although the locations are the usual pre-rendered backdrops, a rotational system is employed to make them wrap and rotate around the main character. The 3D effect this produces is remarkable. The characters themselves are 3D real time rendered, and blend in nicely with the backgrounds. Animation is a little on the rigid side, with some of the characters walking more like robots than people. The whole look and variety of the models more than makes up for this though. A lot of the location graphics also need fine-tuning. Although they look splendid, you will often see blocky groups of pixels on the exterior of the main graphic. This is particularly noticeable when a character walks behind part of a location. The soundtrack to The Time Machine is perhaps one of the most original I've heard. Mixing all sorts of styles together, the composers have created a unique blend. I can only describe it all as a little bit of Chinese, a hint of Indian, and a smattering of New Age style. The result is a mysterious set of tunes, which compliment the equally mysterious game perfectly. Unfortunately it's not all good news though - the voice acting is woeful to say the least. Things start out okay, with Herbert's voice being perhaps the only reasonable effort, but Herbert as a child sounds like the adult voice has been used again with the pitch ramped up. I may be wrong here, but helium balloons spring to mind... The old women sound remarkably like the wicked Witch of the North from the Wizard Of Oz, while the evil Tetradon Logor Shar doesn't sound evil at all, sounding more like something from Doctor Who. They all speak so slowly too. Fortunately it is all subtitled though, so you can always read ahead and skip on to the next bit, although some scenes just can't be skipped. Gah! Conclusion The Time Machine had me glued to my seat from start to finish. That in itself gets the game a merit. Graphically it is possibly the finest 3D adventure to grace my PC yet. With an original soundtrack accompanying it all, the whole game oozes atmosphere. Some will find the puzzles in the game a little too far fetched, but in the main they are logical and well thought out. The biggest problem I found was actually knowing what to do next! You don't have a nice friendly arrow pointing at the next person you should speak with, or the next object you should collect. You're very much on your own! The combat system is a little messy, and can result in frequent visits to the "Game Over" animation. The variety of spells at your disposal makes up for this though, allowing you to perform some nasty combinations. But perhaps what stands out most of all is the brilliant story that unravels before your eyes. From start to finish it encapsulates you and never lets go. The game also boasts one of the finest end sequences to a game I've seen in a long while. Have you ever had one of those situations where you sit staring at the end credits in awe of what you've just experienced? The Time Machine certainly had that effect on me. Eye Candy         Download The Movie Try before you buy! Download the (French language only!) Time Machine demo (165Mb) 9

20th July 2000 DNM

Open Tennis 2000

Tennis game reviewed

Carapace Publisher Cryo Interactive System Requirements  Pentium II 233 or equivalent  32Mb RAM  220Mb hard drive space  4Mb 3D graphics card Introduction With Wimbledon now over you may find yourself hankering after a little bit more tennis action. Whether it's pure coincidence or not, the PC games market has been hit by a couple of big hitting tennis titles recently. Roland Garros French Open 2000, to give it's full title, is one of these games. Tennis has always been one of the most difficult games to create on a computer platform, and to make it realistic - they have somehow always managed to wind up being nothing more than arcade style games. No bad thing you might say, but I feel it's about time we had some realism here. I want to shout at the umpire in utter disgust when a call doesn't go my way! I want to experience fast paced rallies, resulting in a glorious smash to win the point! I want to get to the final only to be trounced by the hardest computer opponent you have ever witnessed. So it was with a sweaty brow and a fidgety racquet hand that I loaded up Open Tennis 2000... Tennis Wot Wot! The game starts at the excellently presented main menu. Here is where you can set up a quick match, start a tournament, or head for the practice courts. Selecting 'Match' will throw you into a single game against a player of your choice. You also choose the player you are to represent, from an initial six. All players names are fictional, but they all have differing ability levels. You can opt to play a men's or a women's game, play a singles or doubles match, and can choose the kind of court surface you wish to play on. The 'Tournament' mode is pretty much the same except that you are now thrown into a knockout tournament. As in the real game, women's tennis is held over the best of three sets, the men's over five. You initially have access to four tournaments, although as you win these on different skill levels you will gain access to more. Like the player names, the tournaments are all fictional too, with the exception of the Roland Garros in France. Roland Garros is a clay based court, with grass, indoor and hard courts also available in the USA, England and Australia. A neat option is 'Training', which throws you into a practice court with the surface of your choice to train on. A machine then proceeds to pump balls out at you simulating another player's serve. A list of function keys at the top determines how the ball is ejected, so you can practice specific shots. Very cool. Ace or Double Fault? Serving is a breeze to execute. Click button A on your joypad, hold it and guide the little marker to where you want the shot to go. The longer you hold the button, the longer the shot will be. Increase and decrease the power of the shot with the up and down arrows. You can also perform lob, drop and spin shots on service, and although these won't surprise your computer opponents too often, they may provide an easier follow up shot. The shot controls are exactly the same for open play. We now discover the horrible truth of the game - it's just too easy! Having thought that winning my first game in straight sets was purely down to playing on a lesser skill level, I ramped it up to the most difficult. Sure, the players perform better at a higher skill factor, but I was still winning games with ease. When receiving you can go an entire game returning serve without the computer getting a single point. Same applies to the serve, which can have you hitting ace after ace. The computer players just move too slowly, and even in some cases don't move at all! Disappointed with this, I tried out the doubles match option. Excellent, I think, there's no chance that I can return serves quite so easily. Absolutely right .. except that your partner is basically about as useful as a chocolate teacup! More often than not he will stand still on receiving serves, and will choose random moments to have similar foot seizures during open play. Graphics and Sound You can be nothing but impressed when you first arrive on court for your virgin match though. The crowd cheers merrily as the French accented umpire introduces the players. Grass and clay courts look gorgeous, and the court surroundings are accurately portrayed. You even have all the officials in their correct positions, and raising their arms when calling a fault. Player models are superb, with nice facial texturing and motion captured animation. Particularly impressive are the serves, with movements that are slick and utterly convincing. The only downside is when the players walk - they look rather stilted, as if a visit to the doctors could be prudent! With a lot of tennis games the speed of the action is such that sight of the ball can be easily lost. Not so here. The ball is bright yellow, and if that isn't clear enough, it has a cool motion blur effect. The result is the ball is never lost from sight, no matter what court surface you are playing on. Audio wise the game is quite a treat as well. Crowd samples are crisp and clear, but most of all they are loud. In the rare moments where you get into a rally, the roar of the crowd if you win is quite uplifting. Oddly enough, sometimes when you expect the crowd to cheer, they don't. Winning a set or the match rarely gets a crowd reaction, which rather spoils an otherwise excellent feature. The umpire's dulcet tones could well grate on the nerves after a while, but thankfully he can be turned down. The sample quality is again excellent though, and in the Roland Garros tournament the umpiring is purely in French too. A nice touch. Conclusion What we have here is a game that could have been absolutely brilliant. I've never been so frustrated in a game yet, and for such a daft reason! It's got lovely visuals, great sound, superb gameplay, but it's just too darned easy to beat. Unlocking some of the hidden players doesn't help in the least either. All of them are easily passed by returned serves, and are fodder for my own serving. You can disable the ball position guide, but that renders the game virtually impossible to play. In any case, you shouldn't have to. Winning six love, six love, six love is no fun at all. There is an option for two player games, both in singles and doubles, which could well be the saving of the game for some players. For me though, it's the best tennis game to ever be deinstalled from my hard drive. Eye Candy         Download The Demo Try before you buy! Download the French language only Open Tennis 2000 demo (30Mb) - follow the javascript link on the website to download. 6

18th July 2000 DNM

EuroLeague Football

Soccer arcade and management game reviewed

- DinamicHomepage - Euro League Football System Requirements -   Pentium 150 or equivalent   32Mb RAM   200Mb Hard Drive space Introduction Of all the game style fusions I've wanted to see happen, Euro League Football could perhaps have been just the thing I have been waiting for. Combining football management with raw arcade play, it seemed like the dream ticket. If you had read my preview back in January, you will have read of my fears regarding this marrying of styles though. My primary fear was for the balance between the two to be just right - something that I think is virtually impossible to achieve. At the time I only had screenshots to go by, and for sure things certainly looked impressive. Crisp in-game graphics, along with a neat looking menuing system, promised to make the game a joy to play. The proof is always in the playing though. Can ELF see through the full 90 minutes, or will it be substituted at half time? Read on... What Do I Do Then? I don't know whether I've just been unlucky, but there doesn't appear to be a manual with the game. You get the English league handbook, which shows squad details for all Premier and First Division clubs .. but that's it. This would be fine, but the menu system is a little confusing to begin with, and some pointers would have been rather nice. Anyway, it doesn't take too long to get to grips with how it all works. The menu system is very neatly presented, but you can easily become lost amongst all the windows. I also found the transitions from screen to screen to get very annoying after a while. Thankfully these can be disabled though, so that each screen simply flips into view rather than fading in and out. The game begins with a short video introduction, and then drops you at the main menu. There is a whole range of options to choose here - you can opt for 'Virtual Competition', which allows you to set up any match of your choosing, or you can head straight for 'EuroManager', the main game itself. You also have other features like 'History', showing you all the winners of all the cup competitions since their conception, and 'Database', which is a comprehensive list of all teams in the English divisions, along with their players. Finally 'Football Quiz' gives you a pub style A, B or C game. Team Selection Your first task in the 'EuroManager' option is to select the team you are going to represent, and your name. Once this is done you must ensure you check through your entire squad first. This is important so that you can ascertain early on who is in need of extra training, who is unhappy, and who looks good to keep. You will almost certainly find that your squad could do with two or three extra players, particularly in the lower division teams. Head on over to the transfers section and put your name down for some players. It can't hurt, and who knows, you may just snap up the bargain of the season. After all, part of the game is keeping the board and, more importantly, the fans happy. Sadly the transfers section is fairly weak, and I found it really easy to get the players I wanted. In the real world there is nearly always a tussle for a player's signature, but pretty much any player I wanted, I got. You must also visit the staff roster - I found I had three or four key roles missing, including training staff. Training is an essential ingredient in the development of your players. Before and after each match you should always check the manager screen for any messages from members of staff. The person you will have most dealings with is your personal assistant, who lets you know the gossip from the dressing room first hand. You also have frequent reports from the training staff, the club psychologist, and medical expert. If a player is injured, the medical consultant will inform you accurately of how long you can expect to be without your precious players. Taking To The Field You can opt to play the entire match from the dugout, playing the game as a football management simulation only. This isn't really the point of ELF though, so get your boots on and play! Annoyingly I couldn't get my Microsoft Sidewinder to operate, so was confined to keyboard play. Grumble. When the game has loaded in its various elements, you are greeted with a panoramic view of the stadium and an introduction from Dominik Diamond. Kick off! The player you are currently controlling has a circle underneath him, and you can tap the selection key to change to the next nearest player at will. Slide tackles can be performed, along with short or long passes, but that is it - there are no special moves from what I can tell. I would have loved to have tried the game on a pad, as I found the keyboard controlling to be awkward and imprecise. Far too often you will intercept the ball, run past it, and experience a tedious couple of seconds to stop and run back the way you came. Directional co-ordination is also difficult sometimes, with it being nigh on impossible to get your player to run in a diagonal direction. The dreadful player AI further compounds your annoyance. Computer controlled players will quite often lose the plot and kick the ball straight into touch. In close scraps for the ball they very often end up facing completely the wrong way, understandably looking quite puzzled. Worst of all though are the goalkeepers. Many times a ball has gone astray into the penalty box, with the keeper walking back to his line, before he actually turns back to pick the ball up! As you can imagine, scoring goals from this situation is quite easy. My worst fear is confirmed - it's just too easy to beat. Running in on goal, I have three guaranteed ways of scoring, and I can't even bring myself to mention the terrible off-side rule implementation... Graphics and Sound Player graphics are actually not too bad, with some great facial expressions in there. There are also a fair amount of recognisable faces of footballing stars too, which is a nice feature. The pitch itself is nicely done, from the plush greens of premiership grounds right down to the mudbaths of the lower divisions. The further out you go though, the less care seems to have been taken. Stadiums look really bland, with the crowds consisting of a mixture of badly drawn cardboard cutouts and a pasted bitmap. It's the backgrounds that ruin the otherwise nice look of the game - they look completely out of place, and are blocky and badly focused. It makes the whole game look like it's being played within a seriously poor bitmap. The sound department follows almost the same path as the graphics. Things start off well, with nice menu and video music, and your staff telling you the latest information about the club. Once in the game, things also sound promising with some really well done crowd sound. There isn't a vast array of crowd singing and chanting, but it's all well sampled and sounds convincing. The killer blow though... Who chose Dominik Diamond to do all of the match commentary? There is just no enthusiasm in his voice whatsoever - a commentator is supposed to carry the game along, and spark your enthusiasm to do better. Half the time he sounds bored with it all, and at other times like he is actually falling asleep. Mind you, to have to read off virtually every single player, ground and football team name must be a gruelling experience. But, if you were going to all that effort, wouldn't you make sure the results were worthwhile? Not only do you have to put up with this, but the commentary also lags badly behind. After you score it can be a good five or six seconds before this is acknowledged. There are far too many times where lines are used in totally the wrong places too. Very shoddy. You could argue that you can turn the commentary off, but for me it's one of the key elements to a good footballing game. Conclusion The idea is one that I have had in my head for years, and it's a beautiful one. Sadly, Dinamix have failed to deliver anything close to realising this simplistic idea. A game with a balanced management system behind it simply has to be tough to beat. Even when you do win regularly, you still need the computer to have that extra bit of intelligence to up the skill factor, or perhaps injure one of your key players. None of this is in ELF. After an initial learning curve, you will be smashing the computer teams by silly margins every game. If you were to play ELF as purely a management game, you actually wouldn't have too bad a game on your hands. The menu systems could do with being a little less cluttered up, and the transfer option is far too easy to get players from, but in the main it's an accurate sim. There are some beautiful features to discover as well, like the ability to create your club's own merchandise, hiring and firing your staff as you see fit .. you can even select your own set of advertising banners which will gain that little extra capital. However, the game has been advertised as a merging of both worlds, whereas in reality an average management game has been bolted on to a rather poor arcade game. Steer clear, unless you really are curious. Eye Candy         Download The Demo Try before you buy! Download the Euro League Football manager demo (58Mb). 4

8th July 2000 DNM

PGA Championship Golf 2000

Golf game reviewed

Headgate Studios Publisher Sierra Sports System Requirements  Pentium 166 or equivalent  32Mb RAM  765Mb Hard Drive space (full install)  4x CD ROM drive Introduction There's nothing like a misspent Saturday afternoon, wandering the fairways of a golf course. The sun beating down on your back, a light breeze rustling the trees... A cool calm surrounds you as you eye up your first shot of the day. Dressed in a ghastly beach shirt and chequered trousers, you certainly look the part. "I'll take the Driver for this one", you instruct your caddy, and he hands you the hard hitter. A final analysis, and you settle down for the swing. Passers by stop to watch you play your stroke. Thwack! The ball soars through the air gracefully, catching a top branch of a tree, and landing in thick undergrowth. Time for a beer. Handy then that my fridge is but a few yards away from my PC. What? You didn't think that I actually go out and play the darned game did you? Features PGA 2000 has all the features of PGA 1999, but with a plethora of new improvements and content. The game comes with eight courses, with an additional five created using the game's "Course Architect", a simple to use editing facility which allows you to create your very own nightmare golfing scenarios. You can now easily customise your own events, seasons, and even an entire career. Earn money in your fictitious world, while the game tracks every single player's statistics. Work your way from lowly amateur where 50 over par isn't uncommon, to the heady heights of actually getting under par. There are other side games to be played too, such as Sandies and Greenies, but sadly no night-golf option. The graphics have all been updated, giving far more realistic looking turf, trees and players. The game also boasts dynamic galleries, meaning that the crowds are attracted to the better players more than the poor ones. With a real-time rotating ball complete with logo, and more camera views than you can shake a stick at, PGA 2000 works out to be quite a nifty package. Anyone for Goff? From the main menu you have a whole string of options open to you. To get straight into the action you can choose the 'Quick Start' option, which allows you to play a relaxing round of golf without any opponents. The 'Play Golf' option will allow you to select between 'Local', 'Remote' or 'Season' games. 'Local' allows you to set up a multiplayer session using one computer, taking it in turns to take your shot. 'Remote' allows you to hook up with other players via the Heat.Net service or modem-to-modem. But 'Season' is obviously where you want to be heading for the serious competition. Unless you are a complete wizard you will want to select or define an amateur player to play against similar opposition. Once you feel more confident you can start tackling the big boys. You can either follow the default season provided for you, or you can create your own. The flexibility is great, and it makes a nice change not to be forced to play through a pre-set batch of courses. The 'Options' menu allows you to alter the level of detail of the golfer and course. By default the game will try to play in 1024x768, but if your system is having a hard time with this, the options menu is your answer. You can also choose whether the weather conditions will change, and even alter the ball size should you find yourself peering at the screen wondering where it is! Finally you have 'Stats' and 'Preview'. 'Stats' allows you to view the comprehensive statistics of every single player in the database. You don't actually get any of the real player names, even though the PGA endorses the game. Odd indeed, but I believe there is a data-file you can download with all today's celebrities. 'Preview' simply opens up the on CD tutorial, a handy starting point if the comprehensive manual is too daunting for you. TrueSwing 3 So now that you've set up your dream tournament, it's time to show the world what you're made of. Usually you will play in a group of four players from the entire leaderboard, although you can change this if you want the game to progress quicker. The players you're putting with are picked in relation to your position on the leaderboard - if you're in the top four, then logically the top four is who you will be playing alongside. Having watched the computer controlled players do their thing, it's now your turn. This is where I fell completely in love with the game. The "TrueSwing 3" technology has been refined quite superbly, and is totally realistic as a result. To play your stroke, simply pull the mouse back to draw the club back, and forwards to release the shot. The advantage of this over traditional arced swingometers, is that you can actually control what you do with the ball. All the trick shots that you can perform in real life can be done with this system. Subtle shots are possible with gentle nudges of the mouse, whereas driving from the tee involves a hard push to achieve. Like the real game, club position and fluent swing movement are critical. If you rush the swing forward you will quite easily mis-hit the ball. Particular care must be taken when performing out-of-the-rough shots. You really need a smooth style to carry these shots off. Graphics and Sound An area which lets a lot of golf games down is poor representation of gradients and distance. I can happily report that PGA 2000 deals with both perfectly. Even the smallest of inclines is clearly visible, making it easy to pinpoint where not to hit your ball. You can also opt to play with a grid, accurately showing you the peaks and troughs, but you shouldn't need it until you reach the green. Location graphics are nicely varied from the desert sands of Cabo del Diablo to the lush flowering fairways of the Whisperwood course. Both of these were designed with the excellent "Course Architect", showing you just how powerful a tool it is. Real courses are of course in the game, including the Royal Birkdale in northwest England, Black Diamond Ranch in California, and the Pete Dye Golf Club in West Virginia. The golfers' animations are splendid too, with poise and posture nicely rendered. There are also amusing touches like dramatically falling to the knees due to a close shot, or the amusing tapping of the watch when you're taking too long over a putt. The only downside to the graphics are the cardboard cut-out crowd. Sound is utilised well in the game. The usual swoosh of a swinging club and dull sound of ball hitting grass are well sampled. Crowd cheering, clapping and gasping also occurs at moments when you do something of note. Superb spot effects like birds chirping, ducks quaking, and even planes flying overhead, all add to the realism of the environment. The two American commentators add to the game immensely as well. They provide helpful tips, such as how the wind will affect the next shot, or how far it is to the flag. They also let you know when you have hit a poor shot, while acknowledging your moments of excellence. There are the odd occasions when commentary gets muddled up, but on the whole it flows along nicely. Conclusion Quite frankly this is the best golfing simulation on the market. Graphically the game is superb, and landscape variety is good too. With 13 courses to get your teeth into, you're not going to get bored in a hurry. And of course you can also design your own, or download other people's custom courses. The main attraction has to be the "TrueSwing 3" system though. You have to actually use this to believe just how good it is - it reacts accurately to your mouse movements, and behaves just as you would expect. Sierra proclaims the game is "Written by Golfers for Golfers". I'd certainly recommend it to enthusiasts and non-golfers alike. Mighty fine stuff. Eye Candy         9

29th June 2000 DNM

Tachyon : The Fringe

Space combat game reviewed

NovaLogic Publisher NovaLogic System Requirements  Pentium 200 or equivalent  32Mb RAM  500Mb Hard Drive space (full install)  8Mb graphics card  4x CD ROM drive The Story So Far "Just what the heck is a Tachyon?", I hear you ask. Well, here's a brief explanation : a warp is formed in space by a Ripstar, which allows a spacecraft to fly through a faster-than-light wave. This wave consists of millions of sub-atomic particles called Tachyons, which can never go slower than the speed of light. Tachyon Coil Generators (TCGs) are used to harness this power, creating Tachyon gates which allow you to travel immense distances in just a few seconds. It's the 26th century, and Jake Logan is quite happily employed as a Corporate star-pilot in the Sol system. Whilst on a routine escort mission to Halley Station though, two shuttles launch carrying passengers riddled with a lethal disease. The occupants refuse to return to the station, and Jake has no other alternative than to eliminate them rather than risk galaxy wide infection. The shuttle he had been escorting suddenly explodes, taking with it the entire station. Star-Patrol (the local constabulary) appear on the scene, and immediately accuse Jake of the crime. His sentence - banishment to the fringe of colonised space, where anything goes, and anything could happen. Preparing for Battle All of Tachyon's locations are split into regions, each of which can be reached via a Mega-Gate, a slightly more powerful version of the Tachyon gate. You need security clearance to use one, and until you have got further into the game you will be fairly restricted as to where you can travel. Each region has a main base where you will receive all your missions, buy or upgrade ships, and listen to the latest news. You will also be able to hire wingmen (or women) with varying skills and reliability. Unfortunately there is no trading in the game - it's purely mission based, and completing these missions is your only way of making money. At first missions posted to the job board are from two distinct cultures - the Bora and Galspan. AS you would expect, the two of them aren't best buddies, and you're going to have to pledge allegiance to one of them. There are other missions that come your way as well, usually something dodgy, or else a routine errand. So far, so predictable. Maiden Voyage Before you travel anywhere though, you are advised to get some basic training in. The training mode is excellent, particularly the Saturn ring circuits in which you have to fly through a series of hoops in a set amount of time, getting progressively harder and adding targets for you to shoot. The HUD at the bottom of your screen is both informative and easy to use. On the left a box shows you your current target and, in the case of an enemy craft, its hull and shield integrity. The next area shows you your currently selected primary and secondary weapons. If the ammunition of a weapon is limited, it also shows you how much you have left. The centre of your HUD is taken up with a simple but effective radar system, with the usual range of coloured dots depicting the objects around you. Green is an ally, purple is a neutral, and red is an enemy. Gates are shown as blue dots - make sure you know where these are at all times, should you need a quick exit. To the right of the radar is an icon of your ship, with a circular field around the front and rear. This is a graphical depiction of your shield and hull integrity. If your shields are depleting the circle around the ship will gradually dim, and if your hull is taking a beating the icon will change from green to red. Finally you have the 'Energy Allocation' section. This is a clever feature which allows you to allocate energy to particular parts of your ship. You can shift more energy to the shields, lasers and afterburners to reduce recharge times, but this has a detrimental affect on the speed of your ship. Another nice touch is the ship's slide mode. When activated you can rotate your ship in any direction, whilst still maintaining the same course and speed. As soon as you release the slide button your ship will then head in whatever direction it is now facing. This can be very useful when repositioning yourself to dock at a station, and can be very handy in combat to surprise your enemy. Combat And Multiplayer Combat in Tachyon is a fairly repetitive affair, but enjoyable all the same. Most battles will involve a blip on the horizon gradually getting closer, eventually blazing its guns at you. You would do well to avoid face-offs, especially in the early stages of the game when your hull will break easier than a soggy biscuit. Dogfights with enemy craft are quite difficult at first, but once you have mastered how to lead with your laser fire and follow your opponent it all becomes too easy. You will often find that you can pelt the ship with lasers and missiles, and it doesn't make any effort to move. Also, after an initial head on attack, it's very rare for them to put up any further attacks that are of any threat. Most of your deaths will come from tangling with bases, which are heavily fortified with gun turrets. Disappointed with the AI opposition, I took the game online. Tachyon features an in-game browser which directly connects you to the available servers. Over a hundred star-pilots can be on a server at any time! The servers that I found had nowhere near that number of people on them, but I did manage to find one with nearly thirty, and the connection was still surprisingly smooth and playable. There are a few breeds of game-type to play online, but the main two are 'Arena Match' and 'Base Wars'. The former is a straightforward free-for-all deathmatch, kill of be killed. 'Base Wars' is what I've been waiting for though... One team play the Bora, the other the Galspan. Each team has to reach a technology level of 10, collecting crystals and defeating any enemy attackers to get the money needed. Once this level is reached, the team can then destroy the other base's life support system. Darn good fun! The game also comes with its own voice communications facility. Now you really can have your very own wingman! Graphics and Sound Tachyon's graphics are rather good. They lack the intricate detail of games like Starlancer and Freespace 2, but are by no means bland, and the size of some of the starbases and freighters is impressive. The constructions and spacecraft are all well designed, making it easy to recognise locations and the many different ships. Weapon effects are nicely done, and although none of them really leap out and impress, the explosions certainly light up the night sky! The game is badly let down by the sound though, and the weapons sound puny. Firing your lasers sounds more like a playground re-enactment of Battlestar Galactica then a meaty hull piercing bolt! The explosion sound has no guts behind it either. The noise made by the ships is perhaps the worst though, sounding like a vacuum cleaner gone very wrong! A decidely average soundtrack doesn't help things either. Never in the game does it grab you, spurring you along to get that next kill. There needs to be far more drama in the music - it is a space epic after all. The saving grace is the voice acting, which is truly excellent. Most impressive of all is Jake himself, played by Bruce Campbell, better known as Ash from the Evil Dead movies. Some of his sarcastic comments will make you laugh, although whether that's because you find yourself picturing him with a chainsaw strapped on to the stump of his arm saying 'Groovy!' is another matter. Conclusion Tachyon's story and gameplay isn't going to win any prizes for originality, and the mission based nature of the game may well dissuade the Elite purists out there. However, it does have a lot to offer, with an impressive selection of missions to get through, good graphics, and excellent design, not to mention probably the easiest internet play interface you're likely to come across in a space combat sim. The single player combat is a little disappointing though, as are the poor sound effects and music. Another thing you will notice is that as you upgrade to a newer more powerful ship it never really feels like anything has changed. You keep expecting some sort of learning curve to control a newer model, but each handles exactly the same as the last. It's all good, harmless entertainment, but don't expect it to be the next great space adventure. Eye Candy         Download The Demo Try before you buy! Download the Tachyon - The Fringe demo (57Mb). 7

13th June 2000 DNM

F1 2000

Hi-octane racer reviewed

Playstation Developer:EA SportsPublisher:EA Sports Introduction One of my ambitions in life is to get inside a Formula 1 car and take it for a spin around Silverstone. The fulfilment of this dream hasn't happened as of yet. So what does a speed freak like myself do instead? Well I can always try and notch 130mph out of my Honda Accord on the M25. This would risk both my license and the distinct possibility of causing a big pile-up. Instead, I have to content myself with computer simulations. Problem with F1 games in the past is that they've never quite captured the speed and adrenaline rush that GP racing should induce. Does F1 2000 get the heart pumping? Read on. Present and Correct If there's one thing I can't stand, it's a GP simulation featuring made up names and car manufacturers. Thankfully F1 2000 isn't cursed with such an irritant. All the driver and manufacturer names from this year's championship are included. Whether you want to be at the helm of Ferrari's much improved car, or try and improve Jacques Villeneuve's luck in the BAR; the decision is yours. The first thing that will strike you is the sheer attention to detail that has been crammed into the game. As you'd expect, all the 17 circuits are included, with every twist and turn accounted for. Before each race, cars can be adjusted to your own custom specification. Race strategies can also be planned out. Are you a one-stop kinda racer, or you going to risk a three-stop strategy? You have complete control. Go Go Go! From the main menu you have a few choices. You can leap straight into a 'Quick Race', with your choice of track and driver. You can even customise the starting grid, rather than beginning the race at the back! I recommend you have a quick spin around a couple of the tracks to get used to the speed and controls of the game. A steering wheel setup would probably be best too, but it is perfectly playable on a pad. The 'Time Trial' option allows you set up a timed lap based competition. Choose your own three-letter player name, the lap begins with your car at full pelt approaching the finishing line. The object is to complete the lap in as quick a time as possible. When the lap is complete, your time is registered for the next person to come along to try and better. Next up is the 'Weekend' mode. This allows you to simulate a full Grand Prix weekend, on any track of your choosing. The mode features practice, qualifying and race sessions, but without the stress of a full season tournament. Finally, you have 'Championship' mode. This is the full monty so to speak. This mode is really only for the die-hard fans of Grand Prix. By default a lot of the damage and penalty options are off. This is fine, but you won't get the most out of the game. I recommend you set all damage to on, allow the warning flags, set the game to hard or expert if you really are a glutton for punishment, and prepare yourself for a rather splendid experience. Handling and AI Too many GP games look good, but the cars glide around corners rather than pitch. F1 2000's cars handle superbly, taking corners realistically, with accurate portrayal of suspension. As mentioned previously, the game is probably best played with a steering wheel setup, as sometimes the braking and acceleration can be a tad on the sluggish side on the pad. On the whole though, the cars brake hard when you want them too, and accelerate out of bends perfectly. As in the real sport, it's very easy to spin off with the slightest of misjudged corners or braking. Once off track, care has to be taken not to simply wheelspin your way into further trouble. There's a superb feeling to be close to winning a race, knowing that your next move could well be fatal. With the 'fault' option set to on, it can also be worrying that your engine could blow at any given time. Certainly makes your palms sweat anyway, especially if you've opted for a full race set over 50 plus laps! What about the opposition though? Well, on normal skill mode, you will find you're lapping them twice in a race. Unless you're into easy victories, you'll soon be switching to the harder difficulty. This is where you realise how good the game is. The contention for corners is brilliantly depicted. When you nip in front at a corner, don't be surprised to see the computer-controlled cars almost angrily try to cut you up on the other side. Aggression is one aspect of the game, but another is etiquette. An example of this is when you are coming to lap the tail-enders; they will wait for a suitable opportunity and move over so you can pass with ease. Be warned though, just like the real thing you'll get the odd stubborn driver who simply won't get out of the way. With the second and third placed cars breathing down your neck, this can make for some rather exciting moments. Graphics and Sound Graphically F1 2000 is splendid. All the cars have the relevant advertising logos on them, and look superb when sat on the starting grid. There are even heat waves coming from the back of the engines! Similarly all the tracks are faithfully rendered, with advertising boards whizzing past and the stands full to the brim with adoring fans. All of this goes on at a rate of knots, and you'll be surprised at how fast the game actually plays. Of course the benchmark for a GP graphics engine is to have a full race on the Monaco circuit. With all it's buildings, hills, and of course the famous ship quay, not to mention the cars themselves; it's a lot for the engine to handle. But cope with it, it does! Sound wise the game is a bit of a let down. The sound of the car engine is accurate enough, but when you're in the pits, there's no huge sound of cars souring past. For me a GP game has to be noisy. It's a noisy sport. However, when you are out on the track with all the other cars, the cacophony of noise is very well done. Passing through the tunnel on Monaco is also well represented with the engine noise echoing as it should. There's a nice selection of music tracks that play throughout the menu options. As you'd expect though, there isn't any in-game music. What is also sadly lacking is any form of commentary. Apart from Jim Rosenthal introducing each Championship or Weekend race, there's no other commentary whatsoever. The only voice you'll hear throughout the race is your team in the pits, who'll inform you of such things like how far behind you are from the car in front, or to request you come into the pits. Where's Murray Walker? Where's Martin Brundle? Not in F1 2000 unfortunately. Conclusion F1 2000 certainly gives you a realistic and challenging game of Formula One racing. With all the realism settings switched on, and a full or half set of laps per race, it's enough to please this ardent GP fan. The game plays smoothly and at an astonishing speed, with rarely any dip in frame-rate to note. Even on the processor crushing Monaco circuit, the game's engine handles things amicably. Cars handle with satisfying realism, pitching around corners, rather than gliding. Sometimes braking and acceleration can be a little sluggish. This can be a tough break at the beginning of a race where you need decent acceleration to take advantage of a pole position. There are two big areas that let the game down though. As mentioned, the lack of commentary is disappointing. The simple calls from your team in the pits, and the sound of the engine, really aren't enough. I want to hear Murray losing control of his emotions as you spin off the track, and hear Brundle bore you to tears with statistics about a particular corner on the track. The second and rather huge failing of the game is the split-screen two player mode. In short, it's unplayable. Even on the less graphics intensive circuits like Interlagos, the game plods along at a frustrating crawl. You are left with the 'Time Trial' option, where you simply try to beat each other's times. This soon gets boring though. You really need to be able to thrash it out against each other. With all the attention to detail, I find it hard to believe that these things have been skipped over. That said, it's a superb single player experience, which will have you commandeering the television for weeks. What The Scores Mean - Out Now        

1st June 2000 DNM

Resident Evil 3: Nemesis

Slash-em-up reviewed

Playstation Developer:CapcomPublisher:Eidos Interactive Introduction Jill Valentine's nightmares are set to continue. Heroine and survivor of the infamous mansion incident in the Arclay Mountains, there's not much this girl hasn't already been through. After resigning from S.T.A.R.S. a specialist police taskforce, she headed for Europe. She hoped the bizarre T-Virus epidemic was over, the disease that turned humans and animals into horrible monsters. A series of inexplicable murders in Raccoon city suggests otherwise. Jill heads for the city, a place now crawling with zombies. You must help Jill uncover the secrets behind the Umbrella Corporation, now in control of the city. No-one dared to oppose them .. It may already be too late. This is the city's last chance, and Jill's. Her last escape... Raccoon City You can't knock the success of the Resident Evil series. As a PSX owner, one of the most common questions is whether you've got the first RE! The success comes with the fear factor RE induces, and the sheer gore of it all. Resident Evil: Nemesis sees you playing as Jill Valentine, a stereotypically scantily clad girl with a gun! Parts of the game also involve playing as the Umbrella Corp. soldier, Carlos Oliviera. He'll have you believe that Umbrella's motives are noble. Options are limited to loading or starting a new game. You can adjust the screen and choose a different set of controls to the default. If you're not into vibration, then this can be disabled too. Upon starting a new game, a video plays showing you the mayhem going down in Raccoon City. Zombies ambling around, fire licking at cars, and the police department being vastly outnumbered. You take control of Jill in the midst of all the chaos! Zombie Fever Yes it's yet another game with a deluge of zombies, but Capcom do it so well. These walking corpses sound genuinely tormented, and amble along quite sickeningly. Fortunately for you, weaponry is in good supply, and once those suckers are down, they usually stay down. There are a nice variety of zombies; after all, it's the city's occupants that have been touched by the virus. You will come across both male and female zombies, along with fat, less agile ones, and frighteningly fast critters too. Your opponents aren't just confined to zombies though, with Cerebus Dogs, Giant Spiders and the rather evil looking Drain Deimos! Not to mention the Nemesis himself .. or itself! Objects are easily manipulated and combined where applicable with the simply inventory system. An object that is collectable will usually glint in it's location, attracting you to it. A lot of the objects like bullets and health you'll need a keen eye for though. The game has the usual array of puzzles to solve, doors to unlock, obstacles to hurdle, etc..etc.. In Resident Evil 3 though, it's all done with you sat on the edge of your seat wondering when the next heart stopping moment's going to happen. The horror was a big plus point in the first game, and is still an addictive quality in this one. Visuals and Audio Like the previous games, RE3 uses a flip screen pre-rendered background method. The background graphics are extremely good, with an impressive amount of detail. Fire still rages in a few locations, and absolute destruction is witnessed wherever you go. It all looks mighty convincing. Similarly the foreground characters have a nice cartoon style quality to them, and they fit perfectly with the backdrops. Animation is also nicely done, and in some cases is very clever .. the slight stooping and slow down to ascend or descend staircases for example. Cut-scenes look great, and aren't too many in number and aren't unnecessarily long. The dark figure of the Nemesis itself is particularly chilling, especially when it comes hurtling after you! It can run faster than you too! Gulp! The sound department has been busy too. Atmospheric sounds go on all the while you're playing, further bolstering the chilling mood of it all. The zombies all sound like the tortured souls they are, and make a delightfully disgusting squelching sound when hit! Of course no horror story would be complete without a suitably eerie soundtrack. The music in RE3 perfectly sits alongside the action, instilling dread in turning that next corner. Doors and Puzzles They've annoyed me before, and it looks like they're going to annoy me until my dying days. What am I blithering on about? The door animations that's what! I know it may sound trivial, but having an animation of a door opening each and every time you walk through is still one of the most annoying things about the Resident Evil games. I wouldn't be bothered if you could skip the animation, but you can't! If you're back tracking to retrieve an item you forgot, the sight of the same doors opening time and time again gets mind numbing. I'm not sure they serve a higher purpose, maybe loading more level data in, but I'd rather it just say 'loading...'! While we're on a negative note: I have to say the puzzles in RE3 aren't exactly going to warp your mind. In fact, a lot of the time it is far too obvious what the solution is. Having said this, there are a couple of little brainteasers in there that make up for the rest. Conclusion Some would argue it's a moneymaking certainty to keep this series running. What Capcom provide though isn't just simply a rehash of the last game. RE3 stands on it's own merits, adding to it's predecessors nicely, and improving in all the important areas. The horror mood of it all is superbly done, with creepy music, eerie sound and moments in the game which have you almost losing the control pad in panic! Weapon variety is also nice, and all do as expected with the right sounds and damage. The shotgun is a favourite, easily dropping zombies with one blast. The grenade launcher is also top quality, and if you manage to snag the Gatling Gun get ready to rumble! I will say the text descriptions of locations and items gets a little annoying after a while, as you can't skip it, only able to make it scroll in faster. The door animations are annoying for the same reason. There are a possible three endings to the game, ensuring a little more shelf life for the game. You will also get choices to make throughout the game which can aid or be detrimental to your progress. You only get a short amount of time to decide too! Lights off .. Volume up .. That's the best way to play this game. Only, make sure you're not alone! What The Scores Mean - Out Now        

24th May 2000 DNM

The Time Machine

3D adventure game previewed

The third person 3D adventure genre is well and truly thriving. Games such as Nocturne, Fear Effect and Martian Gothic : Unification have all helped to feed our addiction. With titles such as "Alone In The Dark 4", "Myst 3 : Exile" and "Escape From Monkey Island" on the horizon, the adventurer has never had it so good. Quietly walking on to the stage though is Cryo's "Time Machine". What does this game have in store for you? Read on... Sands Of Time There are many stops and starts in life. The birth of a child, the death of an elder... But there is one element that continues on regardless .. Time - The most fascinating force of them all. Herbert George Wells, author of such classics as "The Invisible Man" and the famous "War of the Worlds", wrote an equally prestigious tome called "The Time Machine". It is this book that Cryo have based their game around. The hero, Wells himself, has been teleported into the year 800,000. His time machine disappears on arrival. Temporal storms now ravage the lands. Powerful energy waves sweep the surface, robbing the people of their memories, and returning them to their youth. There is only one being that can restore the balance of time and get Wells back to his own era - the mythical master of the hour glass, Khronos. Perspective Time Machine is a 3D adventure game of the pre-rendered backdrop variety. Wait a second though, there is more to this one than just static backdrops! Ever wondered what it would be like to wander around a graphical environment akin to that of Myst or Riven? Ever got frustrated with one fixed camera position stopping you from seeing the full picture? Time Machine goes a long way to solving both problems... Yes, the background graphics are still 2D pre-rendered scenes, but what brings them alive is the fact that they all pan around the central character, who is a real time 3D animated character. Moving Wells will rotate the background around him, providing a totally believable environment that gives you the best of both worlds. Real World The backdrops are absolutely stunning, if a little blurred around the edges. I assume this is a method used to maximise the speed of the panning. After all, even in 1600x1200 resolution there is very little slow down. It is this blurred edge to the backdrops that makes the foreground characters look a little false by comparison, but in no way does this spoil the overall look though. In addition to Wells, you will meet lots of town folk going about their business, although very few of them will have time to spend talking to you let alone help. From market sellers to priests, young children to the older generation grumbling, great lengths have gone into making as real a world as possible. There is a great feeling that nothing in the game is contrived, with the characters following their own irregular paths through the town instead of standing around like zombies waiting for you to talk to them. If you see somebody in one area, you might meet them again on the other side of town later in the game. Conclusion You only have to view the screenshots to see the quality of presentation of this game. It looks and moves along like a dream, and you control Wells via the keyboard, which is responsive enough and easy to get to grips with. The music score is also impressive, and refreshingly different, sounding like a cross between Indian and Chinese styles. Voice acting is a little hammed up and long winded at times, but is good in the main. It's hard to describe the atmosphere generated by the game, but it's an addictive one. I can't wait to get my hands on the full review code. Time Machine is currently due for release by Cryo near the end of June in the UK, and is due out in the USA through DreamCatcher this Autumn. But in the meantime, why not check out the bonus page of eye candy following this preview? Eye Candy         Download The Demo Try before you buy! Download the French language only Time Machine demo (165Mb!)

24th May 2000 DNM

Soldier of Fortune

Mercenary first person shooter reviewed

Raven Software Publisher Activision System Requirements  P233 or equivalent  64Mb RAM  800Mb Hard Drive space  4x CD ROM drive Introduction Deathmatch oriented games like Quake 3 Arena and Unreal Tournament are all well and good, but I am a sucker for a good single player romp. So it is with wide-eyed glee that I received Soldier of Fortune into my grubby mitts! You play John Mullins, a 'consultant' who has been drafted in by the US government to do the chores that they can't! John is actually a real-life 'consultant', and was directly involved with the production of the game. Your mission is simple - track down four stolen nukes, and eliminate the terrorists that were responsible for the theft before they can do some serious damage. A lone Soldier of Fortune, you will have to be at your most cunning just to survive. The safety of the world is in your hands .. don't screw up now! Kitting Out Soldier of Fortune is based on a heavily modified version of the engine that powered Quake 2, and those of you who are familiar with the workings of that game will be instantly at home with SoF. SoF's menu system is very smart looking, and the whole interface assembles itself before your eyes, in a cool mechanical fashion. Individual icons depict the various options, and moving your mouse over them causes a text description to pop up. An in-game movie sequence introduces you to the game, before you are dumped at the mouth of a subway .. which is where the slaughter begins. Terrorists have taken control of the subway, and are killing innocent people for the kick of it. Along with your companion Aaron "Hawk" Parsons, you must take the subway back and eliminate the enemy threat in the first of the ten missions that make up the game. Complete this and you will meet secret operative Sam Gladstone, a friend from your service days. He runs an innocent looking bookshop, which hides within an underground mission base. Here you will be briefed, load up with weaponry, and get hints on your up and coming missions. Once you have read the mission brief, you go to the deployment screen. Here is where you will select your weapons and combat items. You are limited in how much artillery you can carry, but are given recommendations to aid your choice. Toys For The Boys To aid you in your quest you have a choice of twelve weapons and seven other combat items to arm yourself with. By default you always carry the "Pig Sticker", a standard issue combat knife which can be great for sneaking up on the enemy with, or can be thrown at them in secondary mode. Usually this gives an instant kill, but get ready to switch to something with more bite if not! As you progress through the game, new weapons will be unearthed. You will be particularly happy once you pick up the "M202A2 Flash" rocket launcher. This is always a weapon of choice in any first person shooter, and SoF's version is a cut above the rest. I found the weapon I utilised most though was the "Eagle Eye" sniper rifle. Additionally you can equip yourself with flash packs, grenades, and plastic explosives. The balance of the weaponry is just right, with all the guns and items having their own use in different situations. Some weapons also have a secondary mode - the flamethrower can also fire a flame grenade for example. Another nice touch is the ability to look round the corner. This allows you to enter sniper mode, and take out the opposition before they even see you. Another neat thing about this is that if your holding a weapon in your right hand, and look round a corner to the left, John will automatically switch the weapon to that side so that you can shoot. Graphic Violence The animation is absolutely stunning, with each enemy having over 200 motion-captured animations, providing the most realistic body movement possible with a variety of death-throes to view. Each enemy has 26 different hit locations, allowing you to accurately target a specific area of the body to take your enemy down, and it's great to just sit and watch the animations. An innocent victim may have just got a stray shot to the ankle; he will then proceed to drag his injured leg behind him as he attempts to flee. Also amusing is seeing an enemy lose his or her weapon, and crouch with arms upraised grovelling for their life. This depiction of violence in the game isn't for the faint of heart, with dismemberment being the order of the day. Thankfully all the gore can be toned down or even switched off completely, if sprays of blood and severed limbs are not your cup of tea. The violence does have you wondering whether you should be playing this game though. Indeed, you have to question your own ethics when you quite gleefully blow apart an already fallen soldier, just for him having the cheek to shoot back at you! If you thought Kingpin was too violent, then I'm afraid SoF isn't for you... Sound And Vision Raven have managed to stretch the Quake 2 engine to the limits. Background graphics sit nicely with the action in the foreground and, particularly in the case of the Iraq levels, look superb. The locations are varied but all of excellent quality - from the cold and icy Siberian levels through to the New York locations. Effects such as fogging and smoke are excellently done as well, giving items such as the flame-thrower a realistic look. You may wish to lower the detail within the game though - I found that even at 640x480 with default settings the game would slow down in places. The music in SoF is typical dramatic military style, suiting the mood of the game perfectly, and pumping along with the action. Never once did I think of turning it off. Sound effects are also good, and you will soon be getting complaints from the neighbours! The weapon effects sound brilliant, giving all the guns their own individual character. The shotgun punches out with ludicrous bass, the Talon magnum .44 makes a monstrous noise, and the Heavy Machine Gun actually caused my empty mug to vibrate on my desk! Yes, sitting outside you could be forgiven for thinking that World War 3 had broken out in the house of DNM. Conclusion It's not tremendously original, and it's certainly not the best looking first person shooter on the market now, but there is still a mountain of fun to be had with Soldier of Fortune. There were times where due to lack of health, I was forced into playing more stealthily, and these moments also happened to be the most enjoyable. Heart pumping, sneaking round an office building, knowing that the next move could be my last. Awesome! Due mainly to the pretty poor AI though, I found the game to be pretty easy to beat, even on the harder settings. That's where multiplayer mode comes in, with straight deathmatch, capture the flag, assassin, arsenal and team deathmatch modes all included "out of the box". Once tweaked, SoF plays just as well online as Quake 2 does, and it's one hell of a ride. Soldier of Fortune is a welcome return to the story driven single player first person shooter. Just don't take it too seriously eh? - Jake Simpson of Raven interviewed Marcus Whitlock of Raven interviewed Eye Candy         Download The Demo Try before you buy! Download the Soldier of Fortune demo (95Mb). 9

23rd May 2000 DNM

Fear Effect

3D action adventure reviewed

PlayStation Developer: Kronos Studios Publisher:Eidos Interactive Wee Ming Lam, daughter of a powerful Chinese businessman has disappeared into the dangerous Shan Xi Protectorate, under mysterious circumstances. You have a team of three mercenaries - Hana Tsu-Vachel, Royce Glas and Jakob "Dekes" Decourt. These three feel there's a pretty penny to be earned in getting to Wee Ming before the Protectorate. The girl's father is hell-bent on stopping you from reaching her first. In an alternate reality China where nothing is as it seems, you have to prepare yourselves for some truly sinister beings also. You must discover the truth behind the terrible secret that Wee Ming holds. Many will die before this little gem is revealed. How will you cope with the Fear Effect? The Drop Off Fear Effect begins with a short introductory movie, narrated by Wee Ming herself. It serves well to set the scene for the decidedly supernatural goings on further on into the game itself .. One can also gather Wee Ming likes a bit of pain too! Once at the menu, you have a simple choice of loading a previous save or starting fresh. The usual options to change subtitles on/off, controller key config and difficulty level are also included. Choosing a new game will kick off a cut-scene showing Hana and Glas arriving in a helicopter, and landing on a heli-pad atop a skyscraper. You begin the game controlling Hana, armed with a simple pistol and knife. Glas takes off again, to meet again later in the adventure. Navigating your inventory and using the items can be a little confusing at first, but becomes natural in a fairly quick time. If an object within the game can be used, the 'Use' panel will pop up. Similarly if you reach what seems to be a void, there may be some way down .. If so, the 'Climb' panel will flash into view. This also applies to taking items, equipping, looking and saving your game. At certain points in the game, the save icon will light up and your mobile phone rings. Save locations are excellently distributed throughout the entire game, never leaving you having to play over huge chunks of the game again .. Unless of course you didn't save! A little heart monitor pulses in the top left-hand corner of the screen, whenever any of the three characters are in danger. The Fear Effect. This pulses a nice green colour if you're healthy, through to deep red when you're approaching your death! A watchful eye on your ammunition level is quite prudent too. The pistol isn't unlimited, and fighting purely with the knife is both a hazardous and foolhardy tactic. Fighting Talk It's a mere five screens in that you first meet a couple of Wee Ming's father's henchmen. All weapons are auto-targeted to the nearest enemy. A green crosshair appears in the top-middle of the screen to show that your aim is locked in. If the enemy has their back to you, use the 'sneak' key to creep up on them. A red crosshair will mean you are close enough to perform an instant kill, with whatever weapon you choose. Care has to be taken to disguise your presence. Footsteps can be easily heard by the enemy, as too can gunfire. I have often found that even if you use a gun in a room with three guys, the other two don't always catch on! A gunshot is not the most difficult of sounds to hear. The battle system works reasonably well, but there are times where you really could do with someone other than your current target to be selected. Far too often you are fired upon by enemy off screen also. This can make for some blind firing in a vain hope you're making contact, and hence using up your precious ammo. Weaponry isn't really that varied. Apart from the differing default weapons of the three characters, the only other weapons to come into the game are Machine Guns, and heavy weapons like Assault Rifles and Heavy Machine Guns. Glas by default carries a Smak-Jack (basically a metal bar), and Deke totes a fine pair of Brass Knuckles. Deke also has the nicer default weapon, the Hand Cannons; a bit like shotguns but fatter! There's never a moment where you really feel like a kick ass mercenary though. The weapons are just far too weak both in sound and feel. Sound & Vision The pre-rendered backgrounds remind me a huge amount of what was trying to be achieved in the big Commodore Amiga smash 'Bat'. Obviously being based in Hong Kong, the Chinese influence is evident. The Blade Runner feel to it all is also quite strong. What sets Fear Effect apart from other games of this ilk is that the backgrounds aren't totally static. Little things are going on, like the flash of car headlights on a highway, or the movements of shadows. The main characters are done in a cartoon style, which is both very pleasing to the eye and also sits well with the background. Facial close-ups are particularly impressive, with mouth and eye movement looking good. Character movement is also nicely done, except for when they run .. Running makes them look like they're desperate for the toilet, and running at 45 degrees! Sometimes the angles of the backgrounds can make it a real headache to judge where dropped ammo and/or items are. You can find yourself walking to the front of the screen, when the item is in actual fact further away. The game is accompanied by good background music. I particularly liked the Vangelis like sound to the first level. Each song matches the mood of the setting quite nicely, and in the underground gives it that extra sinister edge. The spot effects such as weapons are a little weak sounding, lacking the crisp punch needed. The voice acting ranges from the good to the really bad. Good being the actress who plays Hana, and bad being the lousy Australian accent of Dekes. I'm assuming it's supposed to be Australian anyway! Is That It? Of course no 3D action adventure would be complete without a set of puzzles throughout the game. Fear Effect's puzzles I have to say are ludicrously easy. There wasn't one single puzzle that stumped me. Far too linear and just left me with an average shoot 'em up to play. I don't consider myself a gaming genius by any means, but I like to at least have to scratch my head once in a while during a game. Which brings me to the game itself. For a game that comes on four CDs, it is amazingly short. Let me define short - Completed in one three hour session. Finito! Not only this, but I found myself asking thin air 'is that it?' after the end credits began! Apparently if you play the game on the 'hard' setting, there's a different ending, but there's just not enough pull to the game to make me want to do it. The plot also had some amazingly bad mistakes in it. Two of which I must highlight as near criminal, both involving Glas. One time he's bounding along weaponless, then moves to a cut-scene where he rescues Hana .. Not with bare fists, but with twin pistols! Even worse is the fact that he loses his other arm late on in the game, only for the last sequences to have him restored back to one! I know there's magical powers going on here, but magically self-stitching arms is pushing my realm of fantasy! Conclusion Fear Effect is undeniably a good-looking game. The pre-rendered backdrops have the nice bonus of extra little animations going on, giving a more believable feel to locations. Everything is viewed in wide-screen, which looks fine and dandy, but an option to switch would've be nice. Music helps to bolster the look of the game with added atmosphere, getting more grim and sinister as the game progresses. Sound used within the game is a little lacking, particularly with the weapon sounds. Most importantly though, the voice acting is on the whole good, as long as they don't try Australian accents! The puzzles are far too easy, and game too short, despite the promise of a different ending on the 'hard' difficulty setting. Spanning across four CDs, you're lulled into the false sense of hope that the game is going to be massive. A bit of an opportunity missed for me. I'd be interested in seeing where they go if a sequel is planned, but for me Fear Effect is just another average 3D adventure. Nowt special. What The Scores Mean - Out Now        

15th May 2000 DNM

Martian Gothic : Unification

Spooky action-adventure game reviewed

Talonsoft Publisher Take 2 Interactive System Requirements  Pentium 266 or equivalent  32Mb RAM  450Mb Hard Drive space  4x CD ROM drive Introduction August 6th, 1996 - NASA hold a press conference. An announcement is made that a meteorite discovered in Antarctica, originating from Mars, contains possible microfossil bacteria .. primitive life. A surveyor flight visits Mars in 2005. It returns with evidence that microorganisms may have existed a million years before. But nothing conclusive. A decade later, the first ever manned mission to Mars is instigated. Vita 1 base is established a year on. The mission for the crew is simply to find any evidence of organic life above or below the surface. Sub-surface exploration begins 252 days after colonisation, and then on the 254th day, all contact with Vita 1 is lost. June 17th, 2019 - Three investigators are sent to Mars; microbiologist Diane Matlock, computer expert Kenzo Uji, and security man Martin Karne. None of them know the nightmare that is about to unfold before their very eyes. The last message received from Vita 1 provides the trio with a chilling mission directive - "Stay alone... Stay alive..." Starting Out Upon loading up Martian Gothic, the first thing that hits you is the simplicity of the main options. Your choices are limited to starting a new game, loading a previous save game, or quitting. You also have an options screen which allows you to redefine the keys, adjust sound volume, and toggle subtitles on or off. Starting a new game, you are treated to a moody introductory video. This depicts the journey to Mars of the intrepid trio, along with an in-game graphic sequence to set the scene. The three characters each begin in a separate airlock to each other, heeding the warning to 'stay alone'. Upon entry to the base they contract the air-borne virus that wiped out the previous occupants. This in mind, you must not allow any of them to meet each other. It soon becomes obvious that the only method of success in the game is to work together. For a start, only Kenzo can move out of his airlock, while the other two are locked in. His first task therefore is to set free his teammates. What Now? As Kenzo steps out into the corridor, it's immediately apparent how atmospheric the game is. Spot music plays unobtrusively in the background, while his boots clang on the metallic floor. Other than that, deathly silence! The feeling that the place is deserted is superbly done. Wandering around the base you will discover the dead bodies of the Vita 1 inhabitants, which you will need to search for items and clues. Any object or item that can be manipulated in some way will flash up a white magnifying glass when you get near to it. Selecting your use/examine key brings up your inventory list, which also shows you your wristwatch which monitors your health status, whether you are poisoned, your current weapon .. and the time of course! That's Mars time. Each character begins with a default set of items including the watch and a radio, along with a couple of personal artefacts. You will have to hunt for a weapon to use... They Live! Although the bodies strewn around the base may look dead, they are decidedly undead! In the beginning only the odd zombie will drag itself lazily to its feet. The further you progress into the game though, the more bodies become animated. A lot of the zombies can be dodged with ease by running past them. Others loiter around in narrow corridors, where your only option is to use a weapon on them. Get too near, and they will grab you to nibble at your neck muscles! Each zombie usually takes five or six bullets to drop to the floor. Ammo is very scarce though, so you are advised to evade them as much as possible. This is even more important when you consider that every zombie will get up again. They just won't die! Zombies found further into the game also have the additional twist of taking more bullets to knock them down, as well as some of them getting up straight away! And of course there are alien creatures, which are just as morbid, but far more lethal. Togetherness As mentioned previously, working together is the only way to get anywhere in this game. One of your team members might find an item that is useless to them, but is the key to solving a problem for another. You can pass items to each other via vac-tubes, which hold a maximum of four items. The tubes are liberally dotted throughout the base, and you should memorise their locations. Problems occur when you have a full inventory and you want to take stuff from the tubes. There is no way to drop items, so you will have to find an empty locker or use up a health syringe to offload unnecessary items, thus making space. I found this system to be extremely tedious. What would have been a lot better would be to have an additional sidepack which could store things away. Or to simply be able to drop stuff! OK Computer You really are on your own in Martian Gothic, as the brief history of the base and the garbled distress call is the sum of your knowledge of the situation. Help is at hand though. In some rooms around the base you will find computer terminals. These have a variety of functions. Solve a few more puzzles, and you can go speak to MOOD! I won't spoil it for you. One of the main terminal functions is to enable you to save your current game position. Each terminal has a mini-game called Martian Mayhem, touted as the worst computer game in the history of mankind! It's within this game that you can save your position. Be warned though, there are a limited amount of game saves per terminal. Use them wisely! Each terminal also has a comprehensive database on the base, Mars and even the team. You will also be able to gain access to privileged information, which can only be accessed with the correct pass code. Audio feeds can be played back, and a lot of which have valuable clues hidden within. You can also activate machinery and doors from certain screens. Graphics and Sound The pre-rendered world of Martian Gothic is fabulous, and each location has been given the full graphical treatment. The camera angles on some of the screens can be a little crazy, but it all adds to the gothic horror of it all. The characters themselves are 3D models which are nice enough, although they are a little lacking compared to the backgrounds. The zombies look great though .. well, really they look awful, but then they should! They are horribly gaunt, and shuffle along with arms outstretched, hell-bent on strangling you to death. The most chilling aspect of the zombies is the echoed voices you hear, as the entities in Martian Gothic have the ability to use telepathy to get into your mind. Sometimes you can't decypher what they are saying, but at other times you can hear fragments. Very haunting. The voice acting in general is excellent. In particular the micro-tape machines with messages recorded by Vita 1 team members are all nicely done. You can really hear the worry in some of the recordings. Sound is very well used. Even the simple opening of a door is a major event with the quietness of the base, and the Trimorphs make a noise that is quite spine tingling. When the first one attacks you it is almost guaranteed to make you jump! A lot of effort has been put into making this game as horrific and encapsulating as possible. It shows. Patch Me Up Baby! Martian Gothic is undoubtably a good game, but there are a few bugs to iron out. One of the worst I have come across is when a zombie has grabbed me, and the location has changed to somewhere totally different. I was still able to change between characters, but when I flipped to Kenzo it was just this location without him standing there! This has happened to me on a few occasions, and at times where I haven't been anywhere near a computer terminal to save my game. Growl-worthy I can tell you! The actual collision detection between character and enemy can be a little shoddy too. I've been far enough away from a zombie, only for it to lock its arms around me. The annoyance is doubled when you try to perform a grapple break, and this doesn't work either! A few people have also reported system hangs whenever Matlock tightens the screws outside Airlock 2. I didn't suffer this problem, but I have had four occasions where my machine has hung solid, for no apparent reason. A patch is planned though, so hopefully some or all of the problems above will be sorted out. Conclusion Comparisons are bound to be drawn between Martian Gothic and the Resident Evil series. There is far more tension and atmosphere to this game though, and you don't have to put up with any door animations either! As you push further into the game, you get a really nasty feeling that the worst is yet to come. It's this very feeling that drives you forward. The pre-rendered locations are all superbly done. However, you will find that some battles will push you off into the next screen, which usually results in you losing track of where your enemy is! The curse of most flip screen adventures truth be told. The means to change video resolution would have been welcome too, as the game only pumps out a measly 640x480. Overall it's entertaining stuff though, but it really needs a patch to fix the problems I mentioned, along with a few other minor issues. It's for this reason that I feel I must mark it down a notch. Eye Candy         Download The Movie View before you buy! Download the Martian Gothic .MPG Video (12Mb). 8

13th May 2000 DNM

Worms Pinball

Pinball game reviewed

Playstation Developer:Team 17Publisher:InfogramesPrice: £34.99 The Pinball Years I think of pinball, and I think of misspent youth! Even with the advent of newer and more complex arcade machines, I would still head for the pinball section. Particular favourites are the Harley Davidson and Addams Family tables. Pinball's transition to the home computer was inevitable. I always remember a simplistic game called 'Video Pinball' on the ZX Spectrum, which had me locked in my room for hours. The Commodore Amiga's 'Pinball Dreams' was perhaps the best pinballer of all time. Epic's Pinball was my first PC silver ball experience, and one that I still have a fondness for. The Robot level is the best of the bunch, and I now have a hi-score table which is stupidly hard to get on! Worms Pinball, is yet another title in the Worms series. I'm not a great admirer of the strategy games, but give me a pair of flippers and I'm happy! Does Worms Pinball light up the million, or should it really shoot again? Read on. Before You Start Worms Pinball has two tables for you to test your reflexes out on. The first one is 'Worms', a tribute to the strategy series itself. The other is called World Rally Fever (WRF). Before starting a game, you have a number of options available to you. Under the 'options' menu you can change audio, display and controller settings. Here is where you also set up from 1 to a possible 4 player game. Within this screen you can also change 'Tournament' on or off. This mode will even out the awards given to each person in a multiplayer game. This way no-one gets an unfair advantage. Personally I think if you're a demon of the silver ball, then you should be awarded as such. Loading and saving settings are also done here, and you can also view the current hi-scores. These are automatically saved to any available memory card. Remember those arcade days of getting the top score, only for the machine to be powered off overnight? Come back the next day, and everything's back to default! Aargh! Not any more! Different Views Once you've set everything up to how you want it to be, it's on with the game. Hitting 'Play' will give you a choice of the two tables. It is here where you can change your viewpoint. I found the default view to be very off-putting. It's fine when the ball is in the lower half, but the LED panel at the top of the table obscures your view. A lot of guess work and sharp reactions are involved in guessing when and where the ball is going to drop back down. There are four different viewing angles. I found the top down view to be the best for overall viewing of the table, but the worst for judging speed and direction. The next option down I found to be perfect though. Slightly angled, with the top of the table in full view. Once in the game, you will notice that the LED display is a little hard to make out. The default setting really is quite hard to distinguish. Have no fear though, as hitting the 'Select' button will bring the in-game options up. One of these is the opacity setting for the LED display. Change this to low, medium or high. I recommend high! If things aren't going too well, you can also restart the level from this option screen too. Pinball Science One of the keys to the success of a pinballing game is of course its realism. Ball movement within Worms Pinball is very well done. Important things like ball momentum increasing the further down it trickles are catered for nicely. The flippers also respond realistically. A gentle click will ping the ball lazily upwards. A hard click will whack the ball for all it's worth. When the ball is hit hard up a U-turn ramp, it really does fly back down. This requires some lightening quick reflexes. As with a real-life game, the ball can drift to certain points, and come to rest. This is where the game's nudge feature come into play. A nudge can be performed upwards, or from left to right. Be careful of doing this though, as excessive nudging will cause the dreaded 'tilt' to occur, and flipper use then becomes void. The ball itself reflects nicely as it passes over lights, giving the impression that it is truly three-dimensional. It hasn't been lightly done either. Careful viewing of the base of the ball will show you reflected detail wherever it goes. A nice touch. Worms Pinball, like every other pinball game to date still doesn't do one thing though. There's never a time where the ball actually leaps about, or hits the inside of the glass. Okay, so that would be over-the-top realism, but it would be pretty cool. The Design The most obvious attractions of a pinball table are the lighting, sound and layout design. No amount of flashing colours can disguise a poorly thought out table layout. The tables play nicely, I can happily report. Both have a wide variety of different bonus missions and skill shot rewards. A favourite on the Worms table is the 'Super Sheep Video Mode', where you have to guide a flying sheep (!!) across a landscape bombing enemy worms. All nicely portrayed on the LED panel. Tables are full of bright colours and flashing lights, but everything has been designed to be easy to spot and target. Full marks for the table design. The WRF table has an added bonus of more audio assistance than the Worms table too. Indeed, the sound is perhaps the most accurate I've heard. The music for WRF is superbly cheesy, and the announcer is your typical loud-mouthed racing commentator. Music for the Worms table is tongue-in-cheek war style. It sticks in your mind for ages. The high-pitched 'oh dear' as you lose a ball, and 'bye bye' as you lose completely, are guaranteed to annoy you on the Worms table though. Conclusion Worms Pinball is definitely an entertaining game of pinball, that both looks and sounds like a pinball machine should. A huge amount of effort has been made to make the game as realistic as possible. There is however one big and score affecting flaw, which is simply the lack of additional tables. There's no denying the quality of the two tables you get, but at £34.99 I expect a little more for my money. The game could really benefit from an additional five or six tables. I don't know, maybe there's a way to unlock a hidden table or something. It's tempting to knock the game's box on the side of the table, see if maybe another CD drops out! Despite excellent overall design, the two tables just won't be enough to keep you interested in it for long. This unfortunately confines the game to the occasionally played part of your collection. What The Scores Mean - Out Now    

5th May 2000 DNM

Battlezone 2 : Combat Commander

3D action-strategy game reviewed

Pandemic Studios Publisher Activision System Requirements  P200 or equivalent  64Mb RAM  600Mb Hard Drive space  4x CD ROM drive Introduction What a difference an alien attack makes! The USA and Russia have forever tiptoed their way around each other, knowing that the slightest unrest on either side could cause a world war catastrophe. In Battlezone 2 these two heavyweights have already been at war in space. But a greater common threat exists now, with the impending attack of a strong alien race known as the Scions. The decision is made to unite and form the ISDF (International Space Defence Force). Lucky old you has been chosen by the world powers to lead the systematic planet by planet elimination of this alien threat. The very fabric of life itself is hanging in the balance, and it's up to you to do something about it! As the game goes on though, you will soon find that not everything is as it appears... After the rather nice introductory video, you are presented with the option to create your pilot. From here you are taken to the main menu, which allows you to go straight into an arcade style game, play the single player adventure fully, or take the battle online. Choosing the 'instant' option will take you into arcade mode. This lets you jump straight into a game against the computer, with the fight ending when either side's Recycler is destroyed. You can either choose to build everything yourself, or have the computer do it for you automatically. The former is far more stress inducing! The 'single' option will take you into the full mission based game. Here you will be briefed both by audio feeds from your commander, and additional text information. Hit 'launch' when you're ready to rock... The Basics The first couple of missions serve as a tutorial to learn the basics of the game, the fundamental lesson being that your Recycler is paramount to any mission success. Once deployed, the Recycler is responsible for building other essential machinery such as Scavengers and Constructors. To build anything you need scrap or bio-metal resource pools, and to mine these pools you need a Scavenger. Build and deploy one, and you can now start to create your little empire. You will soon learn that the Scavenger is your second most precious item to defend. Now you can create a Constructor. Looking like a cargo walker from Aliens, this little beauty lets you create a whole variety of buildings. Of course, buildings need power, so the first task is to create a Power Lung. Once created, you can then build Service Bays, Relay Bunkers, Gun Towers and more. Want a more advanced craft than the default Scout? Easy, just create a Factory and you will soon be waltzing around in an Assault Tank. Obviously the more advanced the building or craft, the more resources you're going to need. This is where you will need to locate more resource pools and deploy a Scavenger and some Turrets to defend it. Meanwhile the enemy is also constructing, and your base can come under attack at any moment. At Your Command Sir Each craft in Battlezone 2 is equipped with a different set of weaponry, which means you have to learn what ship is going to be of more useful at any given time. For example, you might be low on energy, and you have to secure a resource pool surrounded by enemy turrets. Simple .. build and deploy two or three Mortar bikes, tell them to target their turrets, and bombs away! You begin with a simple ISDF "Thunderbolt" Scout, equipped with Dual Guns and Rockets, and certainly for the first few missions the Scout does an adequate job. The further you get into the game though, the more help you wil need, and it can be extremely satisfying to leave the base followed by a war party of four Sabre Tanks, two Missile Scouts, and maybe an Assault Tank for additional backup! Perhaps the neatest craft though is the ISDF APC. This ship will fly from place to place, dropping off ground troops who will infiltrate any base and die for the cause. It is quite awesome watching these fellas do their work. And when hell breaks loose, it does it with great gusto! The battles are fantastic fun - you get a great feeling of being in charge, and most of the time everyone does as they are instructed. Remember though, you must be careful to safeguard your key buildings from attack, and more importantly .. keep your ass alive! Graphics and Sound Graphically, Battlezone 2 is a stunner. And, unlike the first game, this time it has a whole lot of atmosphere too. Some of the scenery is really quite breathtaking, and is nicely varied. One moment you can be flying around pink hued mountains, the next dodging and weaving through rich vegetation. One of the missions involves getting to another location on foot, under the cover of night. This has to be one of the scariest experiences I've had in a game in a long while. The dim glow of twilight is superbly represented, with tree branches only dimly visible, and water shimmering darkly. The eeriness of this mission just can't be described. Wonderful stuff. Everything is lovingly rendered, and you can actually see the buildings taking shape as they are constructed. Buildings are often animated, and you can watch the Gun Turrets' twin cannons revolving, looking very foreboding. The ships look brilliant too, and are all unique in design. I defy you not to be impressed by the Walkers and their alien counterparts, the Maulers. The sound department hasn't been neglected either. Distant gunfire and the thunking of mortar fire is very well done, and weapon noises range from the simple shrills of laser fire to the ear-piercing scream of guided missile locking system. In a heavy battle it can get a tad noisy! Conclusion I wasn't at all impressed with the original remake of Battlezone, released back in 1998. I felt at the time that it was nothing more than an extravagant demo for 3D graphics technology with no soul. But I must say I am pleasantly surprised by Battlezone 2, which oozes atmosphere and looks superb. Mission variety and difficulty is nicely balanced, providing hours of solid playtime, and the interface is also very easy to manipulate and manage. There are times when your Constructor or Scavenger can get stuck due to another vehicle being in the way, which can get very annoying if you're hurriedly trying to build your base, with an enemy attack imminent. It is, however, a tiny black spot on an otherwise flawless experience. Multiplayer action is also very good. Servers are few and far between at this time, but the games I did play were reasonably lag free, and hugely entertaining. Even though the computer plays a mean game, it's always better to face-off against a human opponent... If you've deliberated about getting this game, then deliberate no more. Buy it, and tell them DNM sent you! Eye Candy         Download The Demo Try before you buy! Download the Battlezone 2 Action demo (14.9Mb). 9

2nd May 2000 DNM

PGA European Tour Golf

Golf game reviewed

PlayStation Developer:InfogramesPublisher:Infogrames Introduction Let's get this straight. I'm not the world's biggest golfing fan. In fact, I'd go as far to say that I would much rather redecorate an entire house, than sit and watch it on TV. I can't even stand playing the real game itself. That could be down an inability to actually hit the ball though! So why, you may be asking, am I reviewing a golf game on the PlayStation. It's purely for the simple reason that I absolutely love computerised golf games! Why waste all that money on expensive clubs and fancy cardigans, when you can simply shell out £39.99 instead. Dump yourself in an armchair, grab a controller, and set those balls flying down the fairways. European PGA Tour Golf is the latest offering from Infogrames, attempting to nestle itself in an already bloated market of golfing games. Have you got what it takes to conquer all in the European Tour? Features The game is officially supported by the European Tour itself. All the player names you'd expect to see in their respectively skilled tournament are included. It'll take a little work to get to meet the likes of Nick Faldo in the professional world. EPGA has six authentic courses, including Druid's Glen in Ireland, The Islands in Italy and Hanbury Manor in England. I can only take their word for it that they are indeed authentic, not having seen or played on any! In addition to the serious tournaments, you also have five fun variants too. These are Clock, Hazard, Island, Night and Super Shootout golf. More importantly, for the amateurs amongst you, there is a set of practice modes too. To further the atmosphere and authenticity of the game, commentary comes to you from Peter Alliss and Alex Hay. Know Your Fairway Once at the menu, you can either go for a quick match, enter the main tournaments, practice, or choose a fun game. Unless you're skilled already, you're better off heading for the practice options and get yourselves used to the way the game works. When ready, head for the tournaments. You begin with the two-day AMA Season tournament, consisting of 24 golfers over 36 holes. You need to have achieved a handicap of 0 (zero) at the end of the season, to enable you to progress through to the Challenge Tour tournament. Easier said than done. With your golfer ready to take the putt, you have a number of pre-shot options. One of the most important of all is to actually know the fairway you're about to play on! You can do this in two ways; firstly before selecting to play the shot you can use the game's Walk or Fly-By hole. The latter option will give you a neat panoramic view of the fairway ahead, preceded by a handy dotted indicator showing you the ideal path to take. Secondly, and after you have opted to play the shot, you can switch the camera view at any time from golfer to fairway centre and to the flag. This isn't the best way of seeking out the best path, but can be useful sometimes. A Stroke of Genius? Once you are ready to tee-off, a green arrow appears indicating the altitude and direction the ball will take. You can adjust this to putt further or nearer, depending on the situation. You may also opt to change the club selected for you. Quite often an Iron club will be selected when the Driver club would do a far better job. Wind must also be taken into consideration. An indicator in the bottom left hand corner shows both the direction and speed the wind is blowing in. Careful analysis of this can be crucial. The green arrow will flash red if the path is blocked by something, yellow if it isn't in line with the flag and orange if the shot is blocked but clearance can be attained by selection of the correct shot-type. The shot accuracy and power are governed by the Swingometer. Pressing the 'X' key will initiate the shot, and set the power bar moving. Press it again when the power level reaches the recommended level. The bar will then go back down, and you then press it again to select the accuracy. For a perfect shot with no sidespin, you need to stop the indicator bang on the thicker accuracy mark. The Iron clubs are easy to judge both power and accuracy, but the Driver is a lot harder to judge with the bar indicator rising and dipping a whole lot faster. This makes for some really quite hilarious mishits if you don't get anywhere near the main accuracy mark! Graphics and Sound With the luscious green fairways and scenery from the real life locations, you already have yourself a perfect opportunity for "eye candy central". Not that EPGA takes advantage of this. Graphically the game is rather dull. The courses are represented well enough for sure, but there's a real washed out look about it all. The background graphics don't seem to sit well with the foreground most of the time, nullifying the illusion of depth completely. The player graphics are quite awful, and lack variety. No attempt has been made to make each player look different to the other. The actual courses are all very well done though despite their washed out look. Hills and inclines are all very easy to spot, and rough areas clearly visible. As you'd expect, sound really isn't the main focus of a golf game. Commentary from Peter Alliss and Alex Hay is very good, with some classic statements. The crowd, though not actually graphically depicted, cheer the good shots, birds chirp and the wind blows against microphone wind booms. It does the job. Conclusion Let's face it, EPGA plays a good round of golf. There are no real complaints about the gameplay itself, with Birdie and Par shots being reasonably easy to achieve, even for a golf luddite like me. Unfortunately, it's the graphics that ultimately let the game down. After 36 holes of the same bland looking fairways, it becomes fairly tiresome to play. Move to the next course, and there's no real indication that you're playing in an entirely different location. I'm not asking for people to come out dancing in sombrero hats in Spain, or for there to be tea and biscuits laid on in England; just for there to be a little variety to soothe the eyes. An opportunity missed has to be the Night Golf option. I was expecting fluorescent strips on the golfers, flag and ball, but otherwise pitch black - Like the real night golf. Alas no, the background is darkened, but the game still looks like it's playing in twilight! I love a good round of computerised golf me, but sadly the 19th hole was to switch this off and play something else. What The Scores Mean - Out Now        

30th April 2000 DNM

WWF Smackdown

Wrestling game reviewed

Playstation Developer: Jakks Interactive Publisher:THQ Introduction Wrestling is one of those sports that you either love or completely and utterly hate. Fortunately I am of the latter category, so can review this game with an enthusiasm for the sport itself. It's only recently that I have become locked into the big soap opera that wrestling is. It's addictive, good fun and provides great amusement. Yes, of course it's all acted out. Hell, the scripts are written three or four months in advance for most shows. It is all so well choreographed though. There are times you wonder how the hell they haven't actually broken several important bones! There's something that draws you in. It makes you want to find out just how The Rock is going to get revenge on Triple H and his cronies, for the latest totally unfair beating. Or maybe witness the day that Steve Blackman smiles! There's a fair few WWF PlayStation titles already on the market. Some have been fair attempts at reproducing the WWF atmosphere, but others have been decidedly poor. Can WWF Smackdown rise above the rest? On With The Show After the intro video from the actual Smackdown TV show itself, you are dropped at the main menu. From here you can choose to go straight into an Exhibition match, create your own wrestler or tournament, see the current belt holders and even kick start a complete season of wrestle events. Choosing Exhibition will bring up another menu chock full of game variants for you to set up. These range from a simple 1 on 1 fight, to a tag-team tournament. The sheer range of wrestling match types is very impressive. Each option will allow you to choose which wrestler you want, and his or her opponents. You can even change the style of arena if you so wish, along with the canvas pattern. Other options include whether or not other wrestlers interfere, rope breaks on/off and match length. To practice those special moves and to get used to the speed of the game, I recommend you just go for the Single Match option. Once you have a feel for the game, you can then start picking up baseball bats and microphones to hit your opponents with in a Hard Core match-up! Raw is War The main single player experience is in the Season option. This is where you take control of one wrestler over the course of a complete Wrestling season. You have a total of 36 wrestlers to choose from at the beginning. As you progress through Season mode you will unlock a few more, including Prince Albert. Unfortunately these don't appear on your Wrestler list, but merely appear as additional body and head sections in the Create a Superstar section. Season mode never ends, merely going on through various recognisable events; Raw is War and Smackdown itself being just two. At certain times you will be asked whether you want to change the wrestlers on show. This means you can get rid of less interesting characters like Tori, in favour of someone a little more kick ass. Season mode works really well, with the additional cut scenes before fights setting the scene. For example, a wrestler can be shown getting ambushed and beaten up in a corridor backstage. This has a knock-on effect to that wrestler's heart rating, and thus begins the match already weakened. Like the real thing, belts will change hands on a frequent basis. You will also have wrestlers interrupting a fight, either on your side, or coming to help your opponent out. This can spoil your plans drastically, and makes for some classic encounters. Rock Bottom! All these options and features are fine, but what's the game like visually? This is where WWF Smackdown excels itself. Graphically, the arena's and Wrestlers are extremely accurate in representation. Pain staking attention to detail is evident. Before each fight, each wrestler gets his or her own introductory video and music, with a close up of them walking to the ring. Just from this alone you can see the amount of detail there is in the body and facial movements. The Rock's trademark raised eyebrow, and smug look is there. Al Snow looks as psychopathic as ever, Big Show looks mean and Kane looks huge! Nothing has been skimped on. This also applies to the moves each wrestler can perform. The Rock's "People's Elbow" is superbly rendered, and Triple H's "Pedigree" drop looks as painful as it does on TV! The diversity in moves from one wrestler to the next is superb, meaning that once you're tired of kicking butt with one, you can learn all the new moves of another. Each wrestler has his/her own finishing move, which is guaranteed to KO your opponent. The game boasts some of the best graphics I've seen on the PlayStation. The pleasing thing is that all of this eye candy sits on top of an excellent engine, meaning everything happens at a blistering pace. There is very little slow down. Speak Up! Visually amazing, but not so cool in the sound department. The intro tunes for each wrestler are all accurate and get you revved up for the fight ahead. Sadly, this is where the audio department jumped ship it seems. All fights are played out to a variety of heavy rock tracks. The only other sound going on is the slapping of opponents, and the odd thud as you crash to the canvas. The crowd cheers along merrily too. All of these are nice enough. So what's wrong? No commentary and no wrestler banter. This is made even worse in Season Mode when you see the cut-scenes. The wrestlers are all mouthing words, but there's no speech. The only way of telling what the scene is supposed to mean is by the pop up text boxes. With all the other near obsessive detail, I just cannot fathom why such an important area has been so neglected. I mean how cool would it be for Stone Cold to shout "Hell Yeah" during a fight, or to hear Big Show's roar! It's also hugely disappointing not to hear the familiar tones of Jerry Lawler and Jim Ross (the commentators), for me the backbone of WWF. Conclusion WWF Smackdown looks and plays absolutely brilliantly, giving hours upon hours of frenetic two-player fun, not to mention the cool single player aspect. The AI of the computer controlled wrestlers is pretty much spot on. Only occasionally do they stand still, trying to calculate what to do next. This occurs quite frequently in Cage matches for some reason, which can make for some really easy escapes! The Create a Wrestler feature is a little lacking. You can only use the heads, bodies and legs from all the existing wrestlers. It would've been nice to have been able to add/remove different hairstyles, eyes, mouths etc..etc.. That said, it's still quite fun to play around with, just very limited. The total lack of commentary and wrestler banter is a massive disappointment. With all the other ingredients there, it's kind of expected for both to feature. Not only that, but the game sounds so empty without it. Less vital, but puzzling nonetheless, is the omission of certain superstars. Wrestlers like Rikishi, Kurt Angle, Crash Holly, and Tazz, are all missing. The non-inclusion of inactive stars like Ken Shamrock could easily have made way for them. Overall though, an extremely polished product, that oozes quality. The sheer speed of it all will be enough to impress alone. Thoroughly recommended and not just to wrestling freaks like me! If you smell what DNM is cookin'! What The Scores Mean - Out Now        

24th April 2000 DNM

Grand Theft Auto : London 1969

Grand Theft Auto add-on reviewed

Take 2 Canada Publisher Sold Out System Requirements  486 DX4/100 or greater  16Mb RAM  80Mb Hard Drive Space  4x CD ROM Drive Shut It! The original Grand Theft Auto was released back in early 1998 amidst a big cloud of controversy, battling the evil forces known to us all as The Censors! The game's mission pack, London 1969, is now available on budget for £9.99 from Sold Out Software, and as the game was released before EuroGamer was even in a twinkle in anybody's eye, we thought now was as good a time as any to review it... With GTA London you get thirty new vehicles to pilfer, and thirty new missions to get through. And this time around, instead of the yellow taxi filled roads of America, you get to cause merry havoc around the black cab stuffed streets of London. "Gawd blimey guv!" Well, it's not quite as easy as that. The more crimes you commit, the more interested the police will be in making your acquaintance. Their Panda cars also happen to be the fastest cars in the game! Once you have a mission to undertake, a little white arrow will point in the direction you have to go. Simply follow this arrow, and once you are near your target it will home in. All missions have two or more stages to them, which can range from meeting someone who has a juicy slice of information, to picking up a suitcase full of cash. Failure to complete certain missions will result in you having to locate another phone booth to take on a new mission. And a mission can be failed for a variety of reasons. Failing to complete a task in a set time, killing a key person, or getting caught by the Police - these are just some of the sticky ends your walking crime machine will meet. Fail the crime bosses too many times though, and you will soon be a freelancer on the roads, with no guidance whatsoever. Not the best scenario in the world, I can assure you. Cops and Robbers As you're tearing around London, it is inevitable that you will get a few bumps and scratches along the way. Damage resistance varies from car to car. For example, steal a bus and this will endure a huge dose of punishment. Get inside a VW Beetle on the other hand and you will find it hard to keep it roadworthy unless particular care is taken. If the heat from the police is getting too much, you can visit one of the few garages dotted around the map for a new lick of paint! Particularly useful if you've just used a Copper as a speed bump! You will also notice wooden crates dotted throughout the map. Smash these by punching them, as they usually contain weapons. Yes my friends, you can even go pedestrian bashing with a machine gun! Sometimes you will need to locate a particular crate containing a more violent weapon, a rocket launcher for example. Joy! Top Down A Downer? GTA London adopts a top down view of everything. For the most part this isn't really too much of a problem. In fact, the way the camera pans back at high speeds, revealing more road, can be quite hair raising. There are moments where it can be utterly infuriating though. Street obstructions such as lampposts, fences and signposts can be very difficult to distinguish at times. This results in you going from 90mph to stop in a flash, which not only serves to be highly annoying, but can also make you an easy arrest for the police. The instant stop annoyance doesn't stop there though. You only need to slightly glance off another car or edge of a building for your car to stop dead. Fine if you've slammed into the back of something, but a mere glance shouldn't hinder your Police evasion. The handling of the cars is very good, but with no attempt to be a driving simulation by any means. This is raw arcade we're talking here. Just get in a car and screech round those corners. Not a care in the world! Minces and Gears "Minces and Gears"?!? That's "eyes and ears" to those non-cockney speaking people! It has to be said that GTA London, like the original game, is not a great looker. The graphics are highly pixelated and scrolling isn't the smoothest. You are hard pushed to see what the fuss was all about to be honest. However, this aside, the representation of the cars and locations are very recognisable. The Union Jack painted E-Type Jaguar, for example, is particularly cool to mow down pedestrians in. Also some of the locations are easy to spot - Big Ben has never looked so pixelated .. I mean good! What makes the game tick though is the superb music. Each car you get in will be tuned to its own radio station. This means that one-minute you will be driving along to a reggae beat, and the next some real 60's style funk. It all adds to the dodgy atmosphere of the game. Couple the music with unrelenting arcade style play, and the graphical limitations pale into insignificance. Conclusion You can't go far wrong if you buy both GTA and the mission pack in one hit, as £20 will get you hours of fun. You can even link up via IPX on a LAN and duel it out with friends if the mood takes you. A special note should also be made here on the rather excellent packaging the Sold-Out range provides you with. The game comes in a swanky cardboard outer box, which houses a Playstation style opaque blue case containing the CD and game catalogue. Budget in this case doesn't mean skimping on quality. A refreshing change. GTA:London won't win any prizes for graphical excellence. Yes, it is unbelievably frustrating at times to come to a full stop, having not seen a lamp post looming. It can also be annoying to smash into a car you haven't been able to see due to the top-down nature of the game obscuring your view. However, with an absolutely stonking soundtrack pumping along to the beat of super smooth arcade style gameplay, you simply have to love this game. It's old school gameplay come back to visit .. and it's wild wild fun! Eye Candy         9

22nd April 2000 DNM

UEFA Champions League 1999/2000

Soccer game reviewed

Silicon Dreams Publisher Eidos System Requirements  Pentium 233 or equivalent  32Mb RAM  3Mb Hard Drive space  4x CD ROM drive Introduction It's known as the most prestigious of footballing tournaments. The competition to end all competitions. The silverware that every professional club aspires to. The league of champions. The glory and the glitz, the making or breaking of a football team's season. I give you .. the UEFA Champions League! Up until recently the competition played host to the champions of all the various European leagues. In more recent times, however, it includes the second placed sides, and sometimes third also. Not so much a champions league, more the 'elite' of European football. Now Silicon Dreams has taken all aspects of the real-life tournament and tried to capture the thrills and spills there-in. Can you be the one to give Arsenal success? Or maybe be responsible for kicking Manchester United out at an early stage? Before The Match Installation is a doddle, with the game only installing 3Mb's worth of necessary files. The rest of the game is run entirely off the CD, console style. After a short, and rather poor quality, video capture from ITV's introduction sequence, a crisp and concise menu greets you. From here you can go straight into the action with the 'Quick Match' option. This will select two teams at random to play out a friendly - a good place to start, mainly to get to grips with the controls. Once you are ready, hit the 'Play Game' option. This will take you through to the 'Tournament Menu'. This is where you select the team or teams you wish to take control of for the main tournament. You can also create a custom tournament with its own set of rules and teams. You can also customise the game's default settings from the 'Options' button in the main menu. Here is where you can change video resolution, controls, audio, etc. The main option to note though is the game mode. This can either be 'Arcade' or 'Simulation', the latter obviously giving you a harder game. Also featured are match scenarios from 1960 through to last year's dramatic final between Manchester Utd and Bayern Munich. These drop you into the game at a set time, and you have to try to recreate the final result. Kick Off! Now you have your desired team its time to take to the field. After a short load-time the players spill on to the pitch, filing out in two parallel lines, then lining up as if to receive a national anthem. The camera, as in real-life, pans along the line of players, before they break up to begin the game. I recommend playing with a Sidewinder or equivalent controller pad - it just isn't practical to play on a keyboard. Controlling the players is then fairly trouble free - an arrow with a star in it sits underneath the player currently under your control. From here you can do a number of things. You can pass the ball to the nearest available player, which can also be converted into a 'one-two' with a quick press of the passing button. You can choose to run with the ball too, which can be a slow trot, or a full paced sprint. While you are running you can perform a shimmy or a pass ahead with relative ease. Of course, if the computer nicks the ball off you fouls are also easy to perform! Set pieces are nicely catered for, with corners, throw-ins, penalties and free kicks all easy to accomplish. In 'Simulation' mode, players will tire if asked to sprint too much. Defences becoming noticeably drained towards the end of matches, which can make for some really interesting climaxes. Sound and Vision Unfortunately I can't report on what the menu music sounds like, as on my system it just made a crackling noise and I had to disable it! The rest of the sound within the game is pretty average though. Crowd noise is a big factor in a footy game for me. The sound provided in UEFA Champions League is nice, but it isn't anywhere near varied enough, or as responsive to situations as it should be. Commentary comes from Bob Wilson, Clive Tyldesley, and Kevin Keegan, but is a big disappointment. Both Keegan and Wilson sound like they're reading off cards, making them both sound false and disinterested. Tyldesley is the one saving grace, with some of his excitable squawks providing great amusement! The graphical trend with football games is to out-do the last good-looking one. UEFA Champions League looks absolutely gorgeous - the stadiums in particular are some of the best I've seen, with floodlights dazzling and stands looking superb with their three-dimensional crowds waving merrily. They've even put in the fire exits! How considerate. Player animations are also very good, with some excellent facial expressions and convincing limb movement. With the stunning stadia surrounding the players, it makes the whole environment look solid and life-like. Yellow or Red Card? So the game's great you would think? It looks great, yes, but sadly that's where the only greatness is, making way for average everything else! For a start it is far too easy to get from one end of the pitch to the other virtually unchallenged, even on the hardest skill. Being able to do this one time out of ten would be fine, but most of the time? I don't think so. The goalkeepers also have a terrible habit of ignoring a back pass or header, letting it go for a corner instead. Infuriating. Another really quite unbelievable problem is in the commentary. You will quite often find that Bob Wilson is still harping on about the game about to happen a good half-minute after it has started. It doesn't detect you skipping the introduction ceremony, and hence loses itself totally. Also, you can score and be ready for kick off while Keegan or Tyldesley still waffle on about how you shouldn't have gotten away with that last foul! There are a lot of occasions where the commentary is inappropriate too, like being 2:0 ahead and having Keegan tell me that there's still time for there to be a goal in the game. Hmmm! Conclusion UEFA Champions League is a waste of a rather smart graphics engine, truth be told. It's entertaining enough, but the game is just far too easy to beat. Either that or I'm just a total footballing genius! I also feel that there could have been more put into the game. A practice option would have been useful, rather than simply offering you a friendly match. Some of the moves would have been great to practice without a computer opponent getting in the way. The lack of any real challenge and the poorly implemented commentary make this game nothing but mediocre. A real shame. Eye Candy         6

14th April 2000 DNM

Gran Turismo 2

The racing marathon returns

: Playstation Developer : Polphony Digital Publisher : Sony Entertainment Price : £34.99 It's now over two years ago that the original Gran Turismo jumped on an unsuspecting public, and chained them to their Stations! How time flies. GT has given me many moments of drunken pleasure; having my bro and a couple of mates over for a PlayStation night. The arguments over how you lost because the other player chose a faster car are quite common. It has to be said that Gran Turismo 2 is the sole reason why I bought a PlayStation. Up until recently, I'd only ever played on friend's Stations, but I've finally got my own little grey box. Yes, it's taken me this long! Two years on and the game finally gets the sequel so eagerly awaited by the Dual-Shock wielding masses. It's a situation that confronts many forms of media - how do you make the best better? Read on. What's new? If you're thinking that GT2 is going to be a vastly different game to it's predecessor, you'll be sadly mistaken. Basically, it's more of the same, with the onus firmly on not fixing that which isn't broken. One of the main differences between the two is the sheer volume of cars available for selection. Whereas GT gave you something like 250 cars, GT2 gives you a whopping 600! The sheer variety of makes and models is incredible, with a total of 33 manufacturers included. 19 of these are European, an area decidedly lacking in GT. GT2 also has a bigger assortment of tracks to hurtle round. There are 20 normal, and 6 dirt tracks. The dirt tracks really are a great addition to the road based tracks we're used to. You will need to choose the proper wheel type for rallying, or just to look cool in replays! This is done from the wheel selection screen, another new feature. A total of nine wheel manufacturers are present. The most notable of the game improvements though, has to be the inclusion of car damage. Collisions and scrapes now have a knock-on effect to your vehicle's performance. This means you can no longer simply rush a corner, knocking the other cars out of the way. Darn! Gran Turismo Mode As with the first game, GT2 comes in two flavours. The full Gran Turismo mode, or Arcade mode. The modes come on separate discs, ensuring no annoying disc swapping occurs. Gran Turismo mode is the full works. You start life with a measly sum of money with which to buy your first car with. Make sure you don't buy anything too powerful, as this will prevent you from entering some of the preliminary competitions. You require to have won all GT2's competitions to complete the game. Like the first game you have to take a number of driving tests, which then allow you to enter certain competitions. The higher the prestige of the tournament, the higher class of license required. You will also need more powerful cars for the later more difficult tourneys. Don't upgrade and all you will see is their taillights vanishing into the distance! As you win competitions, so you win more money and occasionally new cars too. You could splash out on a new set of wheels to pose around in, or with some cars you can buy spoilers and body kits. As mentioned, damage has been incorporated into GT2, and adds a certain element of risk to everything. It isn't as bad as it seems though, with the ability to ram your car into a siding at 120mph merely denting your car. It's designed to hinder your progress rather than scupper it. I think I'd prefer a little more realism myself, but it's not a spoiler. Arcade Mode This mode is designed for two sets of people. On the one hand, it's for the people that really can't be bothered with the complexities of the GT mode. On the other, we have the drunken lad's night in brigade, purely interested in split-screen maximum blur-o-vision! You have a huge selection of cars to choose from the beginning. It really is best to be playing this with two players, if not just for the quality arguments it produces! Choose the track you want to play, and you're away. In two-player mode, the screen is split horizontally into two. This system works perfectly. It also provides much amusement when you realise half way round the track that you've been looking at the wrong half of the screen! You also get to race the dirt tracks. These are fantastic, with your specially equipped rally cars hurtling around. The handling of the cars, like with all the tracks, is appropriate, and can provide some really nail-biting races. Although not the main focus of the game, the rally sections are far better than most dedicated rally games out there. Under the Bonnet Graphically GT2 is identical to its brother. In other words, it still looks fantastic! Scenery whizzes by with wonderful realism, looking solid and giving the game great depth. The cars themselves look superb, with light reflecting off the bodywork and windows realistically. All this helps with the heart pumping illusion of speed. The cars are instantly recognisable; a testament to the sheer man-hours that it must've taken to incorporate all of these makes and models. The game looks superb in-game, but wait until you see the replays - These look like mini-films, and you quite often find yourself watching them, even if you failed to win the race! The sound department hasn't been neglected either. An unbelievable 100 European cars were recorded by the developers at the UK's Donington Race track. This gives you a superb array of engine audio, further enhancing the already terrific feeling of being there. You can almost smell the fumes! Actually, you can if you scratch the GT mode disc label. Yes, obsessive though it sounds, they have introduced a scratch and sniff CD! Finally, we have the music. For me, this is the one big let down. The songs on GT grooved and kicked ass, whereas the selection for GT2 seem to lack that bit of punch. A nice set of tunes for sure, but not the foot stomping stuff I was expecting. Conclusion The purists out there will be scoffing down at how similar this game is to the original. For me though, giving us more of the same is a very good thing. With the splendid variety of cars and tracks to select from, this almost makes the sequel worthwhile in itself. The deciding factor is rather more down to the gameplay underneath the bonnet so to speak. There's nothing currently around to top the sheer adrenaline rush GT2 gives you, be it in GT mode or competing in Arcade mode with a friend. The cars all handle realistically, and differently, taking a lot of varying skills to succeed. There's hours of play time in this monster, stop reading this and get driving! What The Scores Mean - Out Now

14th April 2000 DNM

Toshinden 4

The master returns

: Playstation Developer : Studio 3 Publisher : Virgin Interactive You can't have gone through your console gaming life, without ever having heard of the Battle Arena Toshinden series. Labelled as one of the standards in the fighting genre, with it's previous three incarnations all hits on the PlayStation. Pardon the pun. If there's one thing that the PlayStation has and still does better than the PC, it's the good old fighting game. You just can't get a game like Tekken or Toshinden on a PC platform. Mind you, I'd far rather sit myself in a comfy armchair and fire up a console, than huddle precariously around a PC keyboard! Beer spillage is of course a dangerous risk! With the previous Toshinden titles success in mind, you're onto a good thing by releasing another sequel. Does Toshinden 4 offer anything new though? The Master Returns! Toshinden 4 continues the ongoing story line of its predecessors. However, the usual hero Eiji has now turned villain, turning to the 'dark side'. His son, Subaru, has been left to pick up the pieces, and clean up the now tainted family name. With the assistance of a veteran of the Toshinden wars, you must guide Subaru through many gruelling fights in your search for the reasoning behind your father's transformation. As you'd expect from the game, there's going to be a huge variety of moves you can get Subaru to perform. Skill and timing will be of the essence, if you are to succeed against the game's many adversaries. Apparently a lot of work has been put into making even the most advanced of attacking moves easy to perform. Something of a blessing, when you consider some games require a stupidly complex combination of pad presses to perform a simple move. Things are made even simpler with the introduction of the 'overdrive' mode. This allows players to produce devastating combinations of moves, with only the touch of a button and a directional button. Conclusion Unfortunately, I have not seen the game in action, and can only go by the screenshots and artwork I have been given. Certainly the graphics look nice enough, with some really smart looking weapon effects. The player models also look very nicely done, with a good variety of different characters to fend off. The actual surroundings look all too familiar though, with some truly uninspired and unoriginal backdrops. It doesn't help that the screenshots of the game in action aren't of the best quality either. Toshinden 4 is bound to be an instant success, just on the name alone. I just hope this doesn't mean too much of the 'same old same old' syndrome. It's looking nice, but not looking like anything groundbreaking. Release Date - April 2000

30th March 2000 DNM

Revenant

RPG / adventure game reviewed

Cinematix

24th February 2000 DNM

Creatures 3

Life Simulator reviewed

Creature Labs

27th January 2000 DNM

EuroLeague Football

Soccer management game previewed

Those of you who read my Championship Manger 99/00 review will remember that I touched upon why I feel the game's simple text driven menu system works over fancy graphics. Introduction I feel that if a football management game were to adopt a FIFA 2000 style of play for every match, there would be a few obvious problems with this. Every arcade style football game has one shared flaw - the fact that they're beatable. With most, once you have learnt certain weaknesses and/or exploitable bugs, you can pretty much guarantee you'll win most if not all games. [One nasty example of this was the problems the UKPCGC had with Actua Soccer, with one player notching up 109 goals in 15 minutes! - Ed] Put this into a football management game and you take away the whole point of the simulation. Or you have the other extreme, where the skill level is just too daft for even the most adept of players to conquer. This said, one of the sparkling entries on my wish-list is still for a football management game which allows you to take control of the team itself for each match. Using your brains as well as your joypadding skills! It was with great interest then that I received the rolling demo of Euro League Football... The Dream Realised Developers Dinamic have certainly packed as much into ELF as they possibly can. All the usual football management features are there, driven by a smart looking menu system. However, the game goes much further, allowing you to take control of each game in an arcade style mode. ELF will allow you to take control of any team from the current English league, as well as any of the major continental European teams. No mention in the press release of non-league teams is made, which is a shame because I would like to think I can take charge of Chelmsford City's fortunes .. at least in dreamland anyway! Like all the popular titles, you also have your own sets of suited people looking after your accounts, physios, and scouts. Something else that looks to set ELF apart from the crowd is the complete control you have over your team and stadium development. Even down to what food you sell in the ground! You can of course modify your team's training schedule as well. Practising your set piece play could prove a match winner for the next fixture. It's going to be interesting to see how all these attributes are interpreted by the pitch play. Will a player who can't shoot to save his life be as bad when you take control of him? Conclusion Though excited by the potential of this title, I can't help but feel that the task of striking a workable balance between simulation and arcade play will be insurmountable. I think a more workable combination would be for you to only control one player for the games, rather than the entire team. Be a Player Manager in other words. I just worry that once you know the computer play inside out, you will be in a position to exploit certain 'score every time' scenarios. Also, like most games of this ilk, there is always the odd undiscovered bug, which can sometimes give a player an enormous advantage. I really hope I am going to be proved utterly wrong. The 3D engine used in the arcade aspect of the game looks great, with over 500 motion-captured sequences used. Live match commentary will feature, as well as the original sounding player banter! While you're waiting for the game to walk down Wembley way, check out the screenshots to whet your appetite. Eye Candy      

12th January 2000 DNM

Urban Chaos

Third person shooter reviewed

Mucky Foot

4th January 2000 DNM
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