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Dark Age of Camelot: Shrouded Isles

Review - Keith gets excited about new content for DAOC

Hearts of Iron

Review - Keith goes to war early

American Conquest

Review - GSC's long-awaited follow-up to Cossacks is a blinder, says Keith

Big Mutha Truckers

Review - recent addition Keith is sent on a road trip for his first assignment

Capcom vs. SNK

Review - remember SNK vs. Capcom on the Neo Geo Pocket? This is the other half of the two companies' agreement

Far Gate

Review - can Far Gate boldly go where Homeworld has gone before?

Super X Studios Publisher Microids System Requirements  Pentium II 233 or equivalent  32Mb RAM  4x CD-ROM  4Mb Direct3D graphics card Introduction In the huge expanse that is space, you would think that all of its species could find a little room for peace and tranquillity. But as is always the case in any space epic, everyone wants to rule the universe! I guess it would make for a pretty miserable and boring computer game if all of the different lifeforms exchanged polite chatter and sipped tea together. In Far Gate you take control of the Proximan colony, the human side of the story, pitting your wits against the two other races in the game, the Nue-Guyen and Entrodii. Why science fiction type games always spring up planet or race names with a double 'i' in them, or think that having a 'xz' in the name is cool, I will never know. You play Jacob Viscero, a cynical young man who has been blackmailed into assisting the Proximan colony to re-establish them as the dominant force in the universe. It's no surprise then that the game is a strategic battle to occupy and defend territory in different quadrants of space. With games like Homeworld already shining the light brightly for the space strategy gaming genre, Far Gate really has a hard job at hand to impress. Masters of the Universe In single player you only get to play as the Proximan colony, but thankfully you can play as any of the colonies in multiplayer. All of the missions take place within an entire solar system, complete with gas clouds, asteroid belts, wormholes, planets and of course the huge mass that makes the worlds go round - the Sun. The mission formula treads familiar ground, with your first task usually to set up a construction base, or "Station Hub" as they are called in the game. Once in place you can build ships, turrets, remote mining stations, planet-side defence systems and lots more besides. To gather the resources you need you will have to mine nearby asteroid belts using the small Utility Pods. You will often find that the enemy targets these pods, and you are well advised to deploy a few Gunships and Interceptors to protect them. For the most part all of the action is performed via the mouse, and although you will need at least half an hour to acclimatise yourself to the way it all works, once you know what you're doing the interface is a dream to use. From anywhere in the solar system you can zoom in and out from any ship, structure or planet with a simple click of the mouse. Your ships are easily accessed via a neat pop-up menu, and you can divide or merge them into fleets as you please and then assemble these squadrons into various formations. Setting up patrol routes is simplicity itself, and is useful for detecting incoming enemies that were previously out of radar range. The game can become a frightful yawn though if a mission involves your setting up or protecting an area of the solar system a long way from your initial starting position. There is no time acceleration option, and you quite literally have to wait for your ships to traverse the entire distance before continuing. Space is big, man! Space Combat While you are busying yourself with your empire building your enemy will either be doing some construction of their own or trying to destroy yours. The combat system can be awfully confusing, and it is quite difficult to pinpoint just what exactly is going on at any one time, or even whether you are winning! This can be further compounded when you have more than one battle to contend with, and it becomes a major headache to actually administrate everything with any sense that you are in complete control. Enemies also have an uncanny knack of disappearing altogether, and I don't just mean off the radar - they vamoose completely! It can be extremely infuriating when you have made the effort to send a squadron out to deal with an enemy that is no longer there, especially if those troops are needed elsewhere. The game AI also appears to be incredibly haphazard about what enemy it is attacking. If I instruct my entire squadron to attack one ship and one ship only, then I don't expect them to do what the heck they please, unless I have the 'auto attack' function enabled of course. Some of the alien species are big guys that take a lot of pounding to take down, so channelling all of your forces into that one vessel is vital. If the game does not play ball it can easily lead to mission failure. Graphics And Sound One area where Far Gate does excel though is in the graphics department. The gas clouds, planets and wormholes look absolutely stunning, and the sun itself gives off wonderful flames that dissipate into space beautifully. It is quite easy to get struck on the eye candy rather than playing the game. The immensity of space is convincingly portrayed, and the ability to view all of the action from any angle makes the experience even more enjoyable. The graphical excellence continues with the ship and structure models looking superb; ships burners blasting blue and white trails behind them, Station Hubs rotating silently as they build new items, and the industrious Utility Pods to-and-froing from the asteroids. The detail level is very good, and becomes even more apparent when you zoom in and witness the intricacies up close. Audio on the other hand is a little disappointing, with just your typical Star Wars inspired laser sounds and strangely dull explosions. Okay, so in reality you actually would not hear any sound at all in space, but come on, spruce it up a bit! Meanwhile the soundtrack is a strange orchestral mish-mash which sounds more like a concert hall full of musicians tuning their instruments than a game complimenting score, but is still oddly compelling. Conclusion Far Gate then is graphically superb but cursed by a rather confusing and flawed combat system. The length of time it takes for your ships to traverse the solar system is unnecessarily long-winded, and it can be particularly annoying if you have gone there specifically to confront an aggressor only to find that they have completely disappeared. Without the ability to play through the single player game as one of the two other species, the sixteen missions do not give you much in the way of value. The game can be taken online, but at the time of writing there was only a closed beta test server to play on. It's entertaining enough, but the little annoyances will get under your skin eventually, which is a shame as the foundations for something truly splendid were in place. 6

15th January 2001 DNM

Prince Naseem Boxing

Review - the man with the Tigerskin drawers and the quick fists spawns a boxing game - who'da thunk it?

Of all the sports to pluck from real-life and mould a computer game around, boxing is perhaps one of the most difficult. So many boxing games in the past have promised so much, but failed to deliver the crushing punches expected of them. Unrealistic, sluggish boxing titles simply won't sell. Codemasters Publisher Codemasters Platform PlayStation Introduction Codemasters have the enviable license to create a game centred around one of the most successful boxers of modern times Prince Naseem Hamed. Until recently the short and cocky mean machine had clocked up no less than thirty-four wins out of thirty-four fights, thirty of which were straight knockouts! So with this in mind, you would think we have a recipe for a power packed boxing title on our hands. Blood and Sweat As you would expect Naseem Boxing gives you the quick game 'VS' option to either play head-to-head against a human opponent or computer controlled. This is where you will discover problem number one; the load times. It takes an absolute age to get into the action, as there is one load for the boxers introduction by the annoying ring announcer, and then another albeit shorter load to actually get into the fight itself. The ability to skip the former entirely would not have gone amiss! Once in the ring I could not help but be disappointed at how bland the arenas, rings and boxers looked either. I know the PlayStation is showing its age graphics wise, but you can push the old beast a bit further than what is on show here. A fairly impressive range of stadiums are available for your slugathons, and the selection of boxers is also good, with the Prince himself being one of the wisest choices if you want to get anywhere at all. One thing I found with the 'quick game' option is that the opposition are felled far too easily. Alarm bells were ringing! Thankfully there is one saving grace for Prince Naseem Boxing and that is in its 'World' simulation mode. This area of the game is fairly entertaining if a little lacking in features. Your task is to take a rookie boxer up through the ranking system to eventually be the titleholder, all this with Prince Naseem as your coach. A regular check must be made on your training schedule along with your food intake, so that you will be the exact weight and physically fit for your next fight. Though Naseem will guide you as to what is the ideal training regime, you can opt to push yourself a little further. Be careful not to overdo things though, you may well be too fatigued to be of any use in the fight itself. Seconds Away It would have been nice for the training mode to offer a little more variety, perhaps even allowing you to do the training yourself in true "Sydney 2000" style. In the end though it isn't all about adjusting your training and eating habits according to Naseem's directions. The fun comes in taking your rookie for his first few fights! If you played the quick game mode and found it too easy, this next phase will come as something of a shock. Your fledgling boxer finds even the most inept of opponents a tough hurdle to jump. This is where you realise how well the training regime works in toughening up your fighter step by step. I admit, the first few fights I had were nothing but demoralising defeats, but as you train harder so your strength and agility increase. You will then find you are winning rounds, maybe not the match, but the small improvements are there to see. When you make that first leap up the ranking chart, it almost makes it all worthwhile! Gum Shields For a full-blooded boxing match the bouts are just too slow, with the boxers shuffling around looking more like they are gliding than stepping. Particularly in the lightweight division, the fights should be fast and snappy but instead feel like you are playing in treacle. Despite your best efforts you will find your boxer misses more than he hits. Every missed punch contributes to a 'special punch' meter for your opponent, which when used will severely reduce your energy putting you nearer to the KO limit. Decidedly unfair to say the least when the computer rarely misses a shot. It's not that the controls are poor by any means, the array of punches are easy enough to execute, and when you land a quick succession can be quite adrenaline pumping. Conclusion With the Ready to Rumble and Knockout Kings series on the scene, competition has never been so hot in the console boxing world. The Naseem license is one that puts you in a 'can't lose' situation you would think, but the reality is that Prince Naseem Boxing is a wasted opportunity and is nothing more than an average slug-out that never really gets past the first round. The game as a whole is just bland, lacking any sort of draw to keep you coming back for more. One to miss. 5

28th December 2000 DNM


Review - Lost Toys' oddball action game reaches the PC - we check it out

Lost Toys Publisher Take 2 System Requirements  Pentium II 266 or equivalent  32Mb RAM  400Mb hard drive space  x8 CD-ROM  8Mb Graphics Card Introduction Far into the future life as we know it has ceased to be, and there are as many synthetic lifeforms as humans. The two races do not get along at all well either, and crime is all too commonplace. Law and order is still a requirement though, so at least you are safe in the knowledge that in the future you can still stop a Bobby on the street to ask for directions! To maintain the peace, special prison planets have been setup for the synthetics, but we're not talking your standard barred windows, bread and water supper type deal here. These places are gigantic metallic tombs designed to keep the prisoners in, and never let anyone out. The strongest of the synthetic lifeforms are selected to compete in gladiatorial games, but this does not come easy, as they have the lower half of their body cut away and replaced by a sphere - it gives a whole new meaning to the term 'roll with the punches'... MoHo has been developed by Lost Toys, a new team including former members of famous British games company Bullfrog. The policy of their new company is to bring playability and originality back to the masses, focusing on fresh ideas rather than rehashing existing trends. MoHo is certainly original, but does it have the beating heart of rock solid gameplay too? Gladiators Ready! Your first task is to choose one of the five synthetics at your disposal, all of which have varying strength, speed, agility and stamina. Angel is perhaps the best character to begin with as she is by far the fastest, but once you start having to fight more in the later stages you will realise that strength is her weakness. Benny the mining droid is perhaps the most fun, because as he thumps his opponents he can stick in his drill for a devastating spin. The inclusion of only five characters is a little weak though, and it would have been nice to be able to select from a wider group, especially in the two-player mode where a more varied selection would have been welcome. Once you have selected your character you can then choose which prison you are going to compete in. There are ten prisons to do battle in, but only the first will be available in the beginning - you have to complete a sufficient number of events to unlock the others as you go along. There are a total of seven different gladiatorial events to get stuck into as you make your way through the game, and these increase in difficulty as you step up through the prisons. Standing in your way are all manner of obstacles, ranging from laser turrets hurling plasma at you every few seconds to seemingly harmless pools of water which will short circuit your droid should you decide to take a quick dip! It is not only static objects you have to worry about either, with a lot of levels including fellow inmates who are keen to impress those up on high with their own fighting skills. As if that is not enough some of the prison guards themselves have been stripped of their nether regions and partake in the games too, making for much tougher opposition. The one thing you will have to get to grips with straight away is controlling the droids, which at first can be a frustrating experience to say the least. The developers have employed a very clever system, making you think ahead due to the momentum caused by the sphere, and once you get the hang of how this all works it can be immensely rewarding to go whizzing around in complete control of your destination. At first though you may well be cursing and willing to throw your joypad out of the window! The Games Surprisingly the events which I found most enjoyable were the ones that did not involve any combat, namely "Pursuit" and "Tag", with a couple of really quite dreadful events ("Powerball" and "Race") thrown in for good measure. "Pursuit" is amazing fun and requires you to have complete control over your droid as you negotiate thin platforms and precarious jumps over water. The idea is to reach the end of the level before the time limit expires, but with the added twist of the level falling away into water behind you all the time. "Race" has to be the most annoying event by far, and has you racing other inmates and/or guards around extremely dull circuits, with the added pleasure of never being first off the starting blocks. By the time you have got yourself up to full speed you very often find that you are relying on the leader to mess up to stand any chance of winning. Occasionally you get an initial burst of valuable speed, but more often than not you are the last to get going. The event that has caused the most amount of psychopathic rage though has to be "King of the Hill", where each player starts on forty seconds and has to spend as long as possible at the top of the level. The more droids on the 'hill' the slower your time decreases, so this encourages you to thump, hit or barge your opponents off the ledges. The rage occurs when you have clearly spent longer on the hill than everyone else, but you are still not being crowned as king! Definitely not what is supposed to happen, and it can force tedious retries to win the event. Graphics and Sound The world of MoHo is wonderfully colourful, full of lush landscape textures like metallic walls and organic mounds, and superb lighting effects such as laser bolts and leaping flames from turrets. Whenever your character lands heavily or a defeated opponent's sphere explodes, the impact produces a stunning shockwave which ripples like a raindrop in water - A truly amazing effect that has to be seen to be believed. Character designs are nice enough but are not exactly detailed, and when rolling they look like one of those nutty speed-walkers you used to see all the time on English streets. The lack of detail means that combat can get a little confusing too, particularly when there is more than one assailant, with your gladiator getting lost in amongst the action. The audio is pretty poor, with the onlooking crowd sounding extremely tinny and cheering even when you have only done the simplest of tasks. There is not much else to comment on sound-wise, with your characters making grunting noises when leaping and landing, and the odd little spot effect here and there. Even combat sounds dull when it should be a cacophony of metallic clangs and clatter. The industrial styled music also becomes tiresome and repetitive very quickly, and I was soon playing with just the sparse audio. For a gladiatorial based set of tournaments it doesn't half sound quiet; I have heard livelier amateur Sunday league football games! Conclusion So yes, MoHo is definitely original, and it certainly plays very nicely once you get the hang of the controls, but unfortunately it all gets a little repetitive as the game wears on. With only seven different events, two of which are really rather poor, there is not enough variety to maintain your interest and keep you coming back. Add to this the inexcusably lousy audio and what chance the game had of shining is all but extinguished. The game would really suit online play down to the ground and I could warm to the idea of clan based MoHo warfare, but it is rather puzzling that it only includes a basic two-player mode. Perhaps if internet play is bolted on at a later date I might just retrieve it from the shelf, where it is no doubt going to reside from here on in. 6

26th December 2000 DNM

Star Trek Deep Space Nine : The Fallen

Review - following in the wake of Elite Force, could this be another great Star Trek game?

The Collective Publisher Pan Interactive System Requirements  Pentium II 233 or equivalent  64Mb RAM  150Mb hard drive space Introduction It feels quite strange for me to be reviewing something related to Star Trek, as while I do not dislike the television series, I am not its greatest fan either. As of late though it would appear a lot more care and attention is being paid to the games based around it. The Fallen is centered around a five horse race to find three lost red orbs of the Pah-wraiths, orbs that when collected together give their owner the power to destroy the universe. It is down to Captain Sisko and his crew to get to the three orbs first, and to avert the potential catastrophe from getting past the starting blocks. Along the way you will be up against the Cardassians, the Dominion, a rogue Bajoran sect, and an unknown race of bio-analogous aliens known as the Grigari. Taking the role of Captain Benjamin Sisko, Major Kira Nerys or Lt Commander Worf you effectively have three completely separate single player games rolled into one, but all centred around the exact same storyline. The whole thing uses the excellent Unreal Tournament engine to great effect. Setting foot on the worlds of The Fallen for the first time as Sisko is an impressive experience, with the ship you have boarded left in almost total darkness, creating a brilliant sense of foreboding. Any light that there is reflects beautifully off your white spacesuit, and with faulty machinery sending out sparks and arcs of blue electricity, it makes for a pretty gloomy and atmospheric opening to the game. One To Beam Up Indeed this is the way the game plays throughout, with a large focus on giving you the heebie-jeebies wherever you go. It is very hard to convey just how much the game gets into your bloodstream and really grabs a hold, having you genuinely scared and creeping around everywhere like some sort of wussy! Gameplay is the usual "locked door needs a button pushed somewhere to open it" type of deal, with the puzzling element in general never really taxing the brain to any extent. In all honesty though it is not the main focus of the game, with the bulk of the game enjoyment stemming from the rock solid storyline and the combat during its unfolding. Not only do you get to play through three individual adventures, but the variety of missions and their locations is exceptionally good, with you fighting Cardassians on DS9 one minute, and scaring yourself silly in the highly atmospheric temple level the next! It is only when you have played through the game as one character and begun to play through the game again as another that you can fully appreciate just how cleverly the game has been designed to intertwine the main story into three unique adventures. Communicator conversations that you heard the first time round will be heard again, but this time you will become directly involved with another part of the process. You will also find that situations which did not make too much sense before now become crystal clear. Tools of the Trade Weaponry is of course a vital part of the game, but oddly enough you will almost certainly find yourself using the phaser for the most part, although I think this is mostly thanks to the scant amount of ammo available to you for the other weapons. As the Klingon Worf you do of course get to slice enemies up with the razor edged Bat'leth, which I have to admit is extremely entertaining. I may need to seek professional help I guess... Fighting the Grigari is slightly more complex, as you will need to use a combination of your phaser and Tri-corder to penetrate their shields. The Tri-corder is a brilliant feature of the game, enabling you to scan the immediate vicinity for any lifeform movement, hidden switches and other goodies, but perhaps its most important role is the ability to isolate a force field frequency. Once this figure has been registered your phaser will automatically adjust itself to that frequency to enable you to break through the field. The enemy AI is generally very good, with the Cardassians in particular being extremely sharp shooters, and those with personal cloaking devices making your life even harder, while the Grigari are tough to take down and will track you mercilessly with their thin laser sensor - I eventually started to dread coming across these. Occasionally the AI does go haywire though, for example when Cardassian security guards are supposed to be shooting you on sight but instead carry on as if nothing had happened .. which is nice of them considering that I had just wiped out most of their comrades! Graphics and Sound Not enough can be said about the atmosphere of the game, with its dark levels really giving you the feeling that you just want to get out of there. The ability to wander through the main bridge of Deep Space Nine and the bar on the lower decks is just one of the neat graphical treats you are in for, although the framerate does take a noticeable dip on these sections. Character detail is very good, and all of the main characters are instantly recognisable, while the alien lifeforms look excellent too. I was thinking that it would be a hard job to recreate the pimpled squared features of the Cardassians, but the artists and designers have done a brilliant job. The cutscenes all use the game engine and serve to help the story along nicely, handling large renders like the space station itself extremely well. Meanwhile all of the character voices are provided by the real stars of the television series, and as such the acting is generally of a very high quality, though sometimes the conversations can flow a little unevenly. But most impressive of all has to be the soundtrack, which really does compliment the eerie atmosphere of the game perfectly. Even though there is not a wide variety of music, what there is seems to fit each particular scene perfectly. Conclusion Playing through the game once is a pleasure in itself, but having the added bonus of two more characters to complete the game with gives astounding value for money. A solid storyline backed by hauntingly good graphics and sound, with entertaining combat and weaponry make this a hard game to put down. The only disappointment is the lack of a multiplayer option, but to be quite honest single player is so darned good it does not really pose a problem, as you will probably be playing it for weeks. Deep Space Nine : The Fallen is an excellent romp that will have you on the edge of your seat and wanting more .. the difference being that you do get more - you get three times the fun. Set co-ordinates for your local software retailer .. make it so! Eye Candy         9

18th December 2000 DNM

International Karate 2000

Review - hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiya! One of the best beat-em-ups of many years ago gets a fresh lick of handheld paint

Back in the deep and dark mists of time there was a legendary martial arts tournament where karate competitors from all around the world would come to battle for the ultimate prize of achieving the esteemed black belt. All of the action took place within the dojos of the Commodore 64 home computer, where gamers stared at their screens with bloodshot eyes and joystick incurred blisters on their hands. Studio3 Publisher Studio3 Platform GameBoy Colour Introduction Needless to say if you are a veteran of International Karate from it's 8-bit birth, you will no doubt be relishing the idea of this game being freshened up and brought bang up-to-date on your GameBoy Colour. It is actually quite ironic that IK has been ported over as only a while back I was compiling a list of 8-bit games I would like to see ported, and IK was top of my list. IK on the Commodore 64 had me chained in it's web of addiction for months, so does the GBC version capture and maintain the hugely playable standards of it's ancient brother? It most certainly does, and then some. Wax On ..Wax Off The premise behind International Karate 2000 is simple - pick a fighter, and do battle with all manner of opponents to win the coveted black belt. Once you have beaten all that oppose you do not think you can rest, as you will have to prove yourself once and for all to Sensei, the master. Once you have defeated Sensei you have completed the game. Simple? Not exactly. To make matters that much harder for you each opponent has differing skills in all departments. Where one guy will have an excellent defence, the next opponent you face may have a lousy defence but a devastatingly accurate 'roundhouse' kick to watch out for. To further trouble you in your route to glory is the fact that as the tournament wears on so your opponents become more adept. A strategy needs to be worked out, as some players become unbelievably good when competing for the black belt, where others are much easier to take out. You begin by selecting which of the twelve fighters you want to take control of, and to assist you with this choice there is a list of all fighters in the manual complete with their favoured move and fighting style. Once selected you will be taken to the world map where you will be selecting your next opponents later on, but for your first fight you don't get a choice. The idea is to kick, punch or even headbutt your opponent such that his energy level depletes to zero, after which you are awarded match points which are determined by the quality of your knockout blow. A full point is awarded for a full on blow, and a half point for a glancing shot. The round is over when you or your opponent reaches three points, or when the timelimit expires. Whoever has the most points after the times up wins the round, or if the points are level the round is drawn and has to be fought again, with the first to two round wins taking the match. After each fight you have a bonus stage, which will be either deflecting bouncing balls or side-kicking bombs. Bouncing balls come at you from left and right, at differing heights, with the occasionally flashing random bounce ball, with their speed ever increasing in later stages. For the bombs it is a simple matter of side-sweep kicking them off the screen before they explode, or avoiding the shrapnel if they do. Successfully deflect all of the balls or bombs and you will receive a score points award, fail and you don't win anything and you go on to choose your next opponent. Martial Arts Your fighter has a great variety of moves available to him, including high, mid and low kicks, with an impressive array of punches to combine with them. Probably the most satisfying of kicks to execute is the 'roundhouse', but if you can perform the rather more difficult 'flying kick' you will soon be slaying all that step in your way! Controlling is smooth, though you do find the directional key governed selection of the kick and punches to be a little haphazard sometimes, requiring a definite key press for them to happen. This particularly shows itself up when you are attempting the 'high kick' or 'face punch' manoeuvres which need you to press the up key in combination with the A or B key. Apart from that controlling this game is a dream, providing some superb fast and frantic match-ups that will have your palms sweating and GameBoy screen misting up. Beware of thumb ache also, I fully advise a five-minute rest in-between fights, as my thumb is still hurting now two days after a particularly long IK2000 session. Box of Tricks Graphically they have kept the side-on scrolling as featured in the original, but have given the fighters a far more solid look. Animation is splendid with all the moves excellently displayed, and it almost makes you deliberately somersault the fighter to see just how good it is. Never once does the action slow down, ensuring continuity to the fights. With each fight located at different parts of the world, you will not be surprised to hear that all the backgrounds feature key locations to each country. In Egypt you fight against a backdrop of pyramids, in Sydney the opera house, and in London, Big Ben looms above the fighters. You get the idea! All of the backdrops look great, and more importantly don't clash at all with the action going on in the foreground. Possibly the aspect of IK2000 that got me smiling the most was the music. The songs featured are those used in the original, and they belt out in a true Commodore 64 style warble. The sound effects during the fights are also rather good with lots of Bruce Lee style slapping sounds and grunts of pain. Conclusion This game for me is what I have been waiting for on the GameBoy Colour, with its superb graphics, hard hitting sounds and gameplay straight from the old school of gaming. It is raw gameplay like this that can keep a man addicted for months on end, and IK2000 is difficult enough to provide hours more play even when you have won all there is to win. I cannot recommend this title enough; you simply have to have it in your GBC collection. A little piece of gaming history gets a fresh airing, and boy is it good to have it back. 9

13th December 2000 DNM

Gunman Chronicles

Review - we take to the stars with a look at the new sci-fi shooter based on the venerable Half-Life engine

Rewolf Software Publisher Sierra System Requirements  Pentium 233 or equivalent  32Mb RAM  400Mb hard drive space  4x CD-ROM drive The Story So Far Five years have elapsed since Major Archer witnessed the terrifying battle against the alien breed known as the Xenomes. Owing to the General's untimely departure during the war, Archer was put in charge of the Gunmen; a group of soldiers looking like something from the US colonial wars. Now the Xenomes are back in force, only this time there appears to be someone calling the shots. It is time for you, Major Archer, to stand up and snuff out this menace once and for all. The aliens are wiping your troops out, and it is now up to you to face the genetically enhanced aliens, and to eliminate whoever or whatever is controlling them. With just your knife and a nervous group of soldiers at your side you head off for the planet to unravel the mysteries within .. but you are most certainly not alone. Gunman Chronicles began life as a free user-made "total conversion" for Half-Life, and its developers, Rewolf Software, are a group of designers, artists and programmers from various parts of the globe who all met online. But the project caught the attention of publisher Sierra and eventually became a full retail publication, the first new stand-alone release built on the Half-Life engine. Yeehar Grandma! Gunman begins with a great video scene setter, which despite its relatively poor visual quality in places serves to set the scene nicely. After this you are dropped into the familiar Half-Life driven first person world of Gunman Chronicles, beginning with a tutorial that shows you how to perform basic manoeuvres, and more importantly weapons handling. You might be thinking that you won't need to be shown how to operate the weapons, and indeed you could very well enter the foray using the basic weapon modes and go on to complete the game. However, you would not be getting the most of them, in particular the M.U.L.E. (Multiple Unit Launch Engine) which is fully programmable to fire rockets in all manner of combinations. With the exception of the humble knife, all of the weapons have an alternative firing mode of some description. There isn't a vast array of weapons in the game, but they are all solid mad chuckling fun, and with the programmable element it gives them enough variety to prevent them becoming boring. The one thing that confuses the hell out of me though is why you begin the game armed only with a knife, when your accompanying troops all wield firearms. Admittedly it is not that long before you come across the pistol, but it is still a little weird nonetheless. Apart from this though the story is built up nicely from the opening sequence, and there are four different worlds to be explored in the game. I found the desert location to be by far the most enjoyable, riddled with scorpions, genetically modified dinosaurs, and of course rogue Gunmen. What makes this section particularly good though is you get to drive around in a tank letting rip with guided missiles, rockets and twin machine gun turrets. Oh the simple pleasures in life! Know Your Enemy The bestiary in Gunman Chronicles ranges from the hugely impressive to the extremely dull and uninspired. You will discover a couple of huge monsters in the game which are guaranteed to astound and impress, and if you are of a nervous disposition probably scare you witless too! Unfortunately not enough is made of these creatures, and the giant dinosaur you discover near the beginning of the game is never seen again after. It would certainly make for a far more scary experience if more enemies of this size were used in the game. The biomechanical and alien creatures look great though, with neat animation and impressive firepower, but there are a couple of poor inclusions. For example, the alien that looks like a pink scorpion is particularly uninspired, and looks almost like they have taken the acid spitting critter from Half-Life and stuck a different model on top. On the flipside you have the rather fearsome creatures with a flower like crown who fire homing green insects at you, which are almost totally inescapable. Enemy AI is generally good, inheriting the established Half-Life AI code, but still suffers from the same gung-ho nature of some of the enemies, most notably that of the human opposition. Often they hide behind something and then roll out into the open letting all guns blaze for a few seconds, which makes them a stupidly easy target to hit in the meantime. Graphics and Sound The Half-Life engine is still pumping out eye candy as ever, with my only criticism being levelled at the poor quality background images that fail to give the game any real sense of depth. The landscape detail is excellent, and some of the buildings you get to creep around are straight from the Counter-Strike top drawer. When the only sound inside one particular building is the tick-tock of a grandfather clock and your clumping footsteps on the floorboards, the sense of dread is amazingly real. The enemies are all superbly animated, with the aliens having a flesh-like quality that at times is quite grotesque to look at. Rogue soldiers look fabulous in their assorted cowboy style garments, and really give the game a kind of strange Wild West feel. The ability for the Half-Life engine to handle large ships and monsters is in evidence again, and you will be astonished at some of the examples of this within the game. Voice acting is fine, but lacks a decent sample definition which means they are often lost in the environment sounds going on around you, and also sound annoyingly tinny. There is far too much reverb going on too, and frequently in places that really would not reverberate sound in a million years. Conclusion I have been deliberately vague about the locations and enemies in the game, for to go into any further detail risks spoiling the game for you. Gunman Chronicles has a cracking storyline running throughout with its fair share of twists and turns. All of this is set upon some truly stunning landscapes and against some pretty fearsome foes. Though the AI has its flaws and a couple of the enemies are unimaginative to say the least, the game still shines through. With a little more thought put into the puzzle elements of the game, and a few other nips and tucks this could well have been something truly special. It is still a good blast though, even if the price tag is a little extreme for a game which is essentially just another Half-Life mission pack. Certainly a worthy addition to your single player FPS collection. Eye Candy         8

11th December 2000 DNM


Review - we take a look at Cryo's oddball platform game, starring a little red fat guy called Gift

Eko Software Publisher Cryo Interactive System Requirements  Pentium II 266 or equivalent  32Mb RAM  4Mb 3D graphics card  8x CD-ROM Once Upon A Time Deep in the heart of Game Valley sits a video game production plant, currently play-testing their latest creation. Unfortunately the developers have run out of heroes to send into the game to rescue the beautiful princess Lolita Globo. That is until Gift, a red-coloured, overweight, big yellow-eyed slob is volunteered for the job. Armed with a simple stick he will have to brave the strange light and dark worlds within. His task is simple, locate seven garden gnomes to take to the heroine, who is clearly suffering from vague Snow White delusions, and awaken her with a kiss. All of this whilst avoiding the clutches of the Deep Black Shadow of the Obscure Dark Night. As you can imagine, the world in which you control Gift is decidedly strange, and nothing is ever straightforward. A bit like a cartoon nightmare actually! Red Splodge Gift is a 3D platformer which can be likened to Rayman 2, Mario 64 and games of that ilk. You move Gift around the seven different worlds with a combination of running, jumps, sneaks and pole-vaulting with the use of his stick. Unfortunately there is not much variety in his movements, with the ability to crawl, monkey climb or even walk missing. Our rotund hero also finds the simplest of platforms difficult to jump upon, often necessitating a jump to a smaller platform to get to where you want him to go. When this platform is only head-height it becomes annoying, especially since most other games in the genre would allow you to grab and pull yourself up. In general the camera moves with the action nicely, being viewed from behind for the most part. It does have a habit of deviating from this though and can often leave you in situations where you have to constantly refresh the view to see where you are going. The puzzles in the game are intriguing, and some of the most original you will come across. A lot of them are centered around the light and dark theme of the game. For example, you might have to work out how to darken an area patrolled by the Little Shadows who live off light, or shed light upon the Little Lights who thrive off darkness. Both of these creatures will savage you if you go anywhere near them. As you progress through the game you will meet increasingly weird enemies, all intent on snuffing out the yellow lights of Gift's eyes. Quite possibly the most sinister looking are the Patrollers with light sensors beaming from their heads, destroying any lifeform that strays into them with a concentrated energy beam. You Just Can't Get The Staff The staff Gift carries about with him is no ordinary stick. Apart from wielding it like a loon to bash his enemies, he can also gain special powers by walking past a power marker. These come in a variety of flavours, but the ones you will most commonly find are coloured green, red, yellow and purple. All the markers need to be activated to be used, so you will have to find the relevant switch to be able to harness their power. Walking past a yellow marker will give your staff the ability to emit light, utterly necessary for some of the locations which are pitch black. The staff will need to be stocked up with power cells to use this, which are liberally dotted around the worlds. Red markers will slow you down, but allow you to drop powder that can then be lit, while the black markers will do the exact opposite to the yellow and shroud you in darkness. Walking past a green marker or through fields of green light will return your staff back to the normal stick bashing mode. You will also discover the game's only other weapon, the Shadow Gun, which will freeze an enemy or object for around ten seconds when fired at its shadow. Time will teach you how to use this weapon effectively, but all I will say is persevere with it. Gift's World The developers have certainly gone to town on the graphics, which can verge on being breathtaking at times. Maximum use of your graphics card is made with lens flared lighting, shiny metallic surfaces, and sparkling rays that are emitted by the green and red force fields. With darkness and light being such a huge factor in the game the changes are wonderfully depicted, with all characters casting their own shadow in true perspective. Which brings me nicely to the enemies themselves, which are some of the weirdest, freakiest and downright odd creatures you will have witnessed in a platformer. All are beautifully modelled and animated, giving them a strange believable life. 'Dogs' act like a normal canine, but any similarity ends there, and the Magic Powder Generators look like something out of Half-Life! The music in the game will give a first impression of being totally inappropriate, but as you play the game you will realise that the songs actually blend in nicely. Sound effects range from Gift's little blurps of confusion to the soft whimper as a Dog eats stick, or a Little Light or Shadow screams it's little scream as it is vaporized. Nothing too spectacular, but nothing too shoddy either. Conclusion The limitation of Gift's movements is a big surprise for me in a game that seems to have all other areas covered so well. Though he can do most things, little tasks like climbing on to a ledge would be so advantageous at times, along with the ability to walk up to a platform edge and then view your surroundings without risking falling off it. The tendency for the camera angle to wander can also cause much annoyance, particularly when trying to judge an inch perfect jump, or simply to face in the right direction! Whether or not Gift will go on to become a mascot in the flooded world of cutesy 3D platformers remains to be seen, as despite his cute bug-eyes he is actually quite repulsive! The game does deserve to do well though on the strength of it's well worked puzzles alone. But remember - a Gift is for life, not just for Christmas .. or something! Eye Candy           7

7th December 2000 DNM

FIFA 2001

Review - we examine the latest soccer sim from EA Sports on PC and PlayStation

PC System Requirements -   Pentium 166 MMX or equivalent   32Mb RAM   80Mb hard drive space   4x CD-ROM drive   2Mb graphics card   All screenshots are from PC version EA Sports Publisher EA Sports Introduction There are games where you will play through the demo, read through reviews, um and ah over your bank account, and probably still never buy them. I can safely say that the FIFA series of football games does not fall into that scenario, and I will impulse buy every single time. Am I mad? You'd think I would have learnt after the tragedy that "Euro 2000" turned out to be, that even the seemingly infallible FIFA games could come across a hiccup now and again. Not on your life matey, which is why I am now a proud owner of both the PC and PlayStation versions! This review is an amalgamation of my views on both games, which basically play pretty much the same as each other, with only a couple of differences. So what has compelled me to once again shell out the best part of seventy of your wholesome English pounds on what most people are saying is just the same game as FIFA 2000 with slightly better graphics? Well, I liken FIFA to a pair of comfortable slippers. After a hard day's work you come home, have dinner, kick your shoes off, and put them on for hours of fun filled escapism. What makes the game even better still is to have another player to cram onto the sofa with and duke it out against, and it has become a tradition for me to have an annual Christmas tournament with my brother. Body Rock! So what is different in FIFA 2001 then? The general trend from one revision to the next has been for the graphics to be noticeably beefed up, and this version does not disappoint, incorporating yet more pointless side animations and player facial contortions. Not much new then? Absolutely not, how dare you even think such a thing! Taking the PSX version for example, you would be forgiven for not being able to discern the difference between FIFA 2000 and 2001 if they were played side by side. A default camera angle change and slightly re-designed menu system will probably give it away, but game wise there is very little to segregate the two. The graphics are definitely improved upon, but it is not that huge an improvement. No doubt the limits of the now ancient hardware the game is running on have been reached. On the PC however, the graphics have been drastically overhauled, providing some of the most intricate player detail in a footy game to date. It does not stop there either, as numerous side-line animations bring the whole stadium to life, with substitutes warming up, stewards craning their necks looking for trouble-makers, and camera men swivelling the lens to keep up with the action. The result is utterly breathtaking, totally immersing you in this computerised football world, a mini-heaven for any footballing nut I can assure you. What makes the whole experience even better is that little things like the team badges and sponsors are all present on the player shirts. A Subbuteo filled childhood dream come true, as your team emerges from the dressing room and puts you in control. Once again a nice set of tunes have been chosen, including the superb "Body Rock" by Moby and "Power To The Beats" by the Utah Saints. The sound has also gone under the surgeon's knife, with commentary now far more appropriate and varied than before. Other nice touches like the manager shouting from the dugout at his players, and the players shouting to one another on the pitch, serve to make the whole experience that bit more realistic. The Usual Irritations I feel pretty sure that the FIFA forums must get filled with requests to sort out the various control problems that plague one revision to the next, but it appears that fundamental annoyances still exist that are blatant, or at least they are to me. For starters, the ridiculous habit of a keeper to just stand still while an incoming ball heads towards goal. Although this does not happen too often, the game appears to take great pleasure in choosing the most match-losing of moments to spring it on you! Once again there are far too many computer chosen moves when you are simply trying to pass the ball or lob it over a line of the opposing team. All too often the computer will choose to automatically overhead kick, volley or head the ball onwards, and most of the time to completely the wrong team. It is this aspect of the FIFA series that has irritated me from the start, and is still haunting me to this day. Why they cannot just make each pass or move completely and utterly your own amazes me. It makes for some very disjointed matches, where a move you have been brilliantly executing breaks down simply because the computer chooses to head the ball on for you where a simple pass would have been so much better. Internet Play Something that EA Sports have tried and failed to implement in the past is proper TCP/IP driven internet play. It was promised for FIFA 2000, but we ended up with the usual IPX backed LAN play or modem to modem options. These were decidedly difficult to get working, and even when you do the results are really quite abysmal. But this time round FIFA sports internet play via the incredibly friendly EA Sports web-based game search engine. I created an account for myself and the site then proceeded to update my installation with the latest patch. All the while I am grinning like a Cheshire Cat in anticipation. Ten minutes later I get told that the service cannot connect me, and a sense of deja vu overwhelms me. It has been nearly two weeks now, and I have yet to get a single online game going, and I think the only realistic way is to find someone else with the game and set up a match that way. So at this time, yes, there are internet options available to you, but no, I can't tell you whether it fills the gap in this type of game. Conclusion Both the PC and PSX versions of the game play very well, though you will probably make changing the default camera your first task. Unfortunately just another set of graphical tweaks can't quite make this game a classic, and with the usual annoying gameplay aspects rearing their ugly heads again, it almost makes the game a forgettable cash-in. However, there is enough in both versions to prevent them from becoming dust gatherers, and with the PC's internet potential yet to be realised it could well be the making of a classic. I would suggest that if you have FIFA 2000, then you really do not need FIFA 2001 on either platform, unless like me you simply cannot help yourself! If you do not have a recent football title in your collection though, then this is currently the best arcade-style footy game on the market. PC Rating - 8/10 PSX Rating - 7/10 Eye Candy        

5th December 2000 DNM

Links 2001

Review - EuroGamer takes to the fairway to test Microsoft's latest golf sim

Microsoft Publisher Microsoft System Requirements  Pentium II 266 or equivalent  48Mb RAM  200Mb hard drive space  4x CD-ROM drive  4Mb graphics card Introduction When I think of the "Links" series I picture the very early days of my first job in computers, where I assembled PCs and then installed all the software as per customer requirements. No such thing as pre-installed software in those days! Many hours were misspent at the back of the room playing an old DOS golf game, boasting some of the most gorgeous graphics to date. That game was "Links 386", where each scene took anything from twenty seconds to over a minute to render, and caused huge frustration if you happened to get a view you were not happy with! Back then it did not matter one jot though, simply being spellbound by the beauty of the graphics and the accuracy of the simulation was enough. Now, over a decade on, the Links series is still alive and kicking, and keeping up its tradition of being a solid golfing simulation, staged upon lush graphical environments. Once more unto the green dear friend... It's My Way Or The Fairway Links 2001 begins with a dramatic opening video sequence accompanied by a racing heavy metal style theme which, when considering the calm nature of golf, seems a touch inappropriate. Once in the game itself you can go for a quick putt about, or head straight for the virtual tour. Before this you might want to browse through the numerous lessons available to you though, which will teach you everything you can possibly think of. Here is where you can also learn about the three different control methods you can use within the game, namely Easy, Classic and PowerStroke swings. Once armed with the rudimentary knowledge you need to at least look vaguely competent on the fairway, you can go out for a practice round. Taking the shot with the Classic control system is simple, especially as the best club is automatically selected for you. All you have to do is set the power as close to the 12 o'clock marker on the swing gauge as possible, and then close to the snap 6 o'clock marker. If you get these bang on your shot should go straight ahead, depending on any wind that may be present. You will be surprised at how quickly the game grows on you, and how easy it is to achieve your first Birdie or keep a respectable par for the full eighteen-hole course. If you find that things are getting too easy though, do not worry - the skill level increases steeply as you challenge the pros or, dare you risk it, the champs! The game doesn't have its own set of internal tournaments, instead you are given the license to create your own in the Virtual tour section. Here you can choose which of the six provided courses will be used, how many players will be involved, and many other options besides. Add to that the excellent course designer and this provides endless possibilities for your competitive side. Take A Look Around Ball physics are excellently represented, with realistic inertia on gradients and proper slow-down when rolling through the rough. You can enable the grid at any point, which will show you all the gradients you need to be wary of, which becomes a necessity for the green shots. Believe me, some of the greens have been really cruelly designed! When you manage to pull off a stunning shot that defies all your own beliefs you really would like to see it again, yes? The unfortunate thing is that because Links has to render each and every scene, such neat extras as ball-cams and roving cameras are simply not possible. Instead you are limited to watching the previous shot from the original vantage point or from the flag view. The rendering nature of the game becomes even more annoying when you want to simply look around your environment, or 'walk the hole' like you can in other golfing simulations. You can alter your initial stance if you wish, but this brings about another screen render... Graphics and Sound As always the graphics are excellent and have an almost photo realistic quality, with lush fairways, widely varying vegetation, and excellent surroundings complete with buildings and spectators. You really can sit back and admire the scenes as they unfold before your eyes, being further enhanced by subtle animations such as flocks of birds in the sky. The golfers' animations are also superbly done, with actual photo captured imaging used to digitally recreate the swings, jubilation and disappointment of various real-life players. Although these look great, they can appear a little false and fuzzy around the edges when set against some of the course backgrounds. Sound is really not something you look for within a golf game, but what sound there is in Links 2001 does the job quite nicely. A neat touch is the crowd murmuring right up until you go to play your shot, at which point they quieten to near silence. The golfers also make the odd comment, usually in appreciation of a shot you have managed, or disgust at your ineptitude, but these can get on your nerves very quickly. Conclusion If you like golf you simply have to have Links 2001 in your collection; it plays a rockin' good round of golf, and looks simply stunning into the bargain. The lack of free movement in both setting up shots and camera views is very frustrating at times, and goes some way to spoiling an otherwise flawless game. With PC technology now becoming obscenely quick, it shouldn't be too long before we're walking around Links style fairways in real time using a proper first or third person view. Until then though, Links 2001 should satisfy any golfing addict. Eye Candy         8

24th November 2000 DNM

Grand Theft Auto 2

Review - law-breaking, risk-taking, pocket racing city sim!

This is the third time I have reviewed a Grand Theft Auto title, being a huge fan of the game on the PC platform. This time it is the GBC's turn to take your one man/woman crime machine onto the streets. Rockstar Games Publisher Take 2 Platform GameBoy Colour Introduction Steeped with controversy upon its original release, the GTA series has raised many an eyebrow. Like it or not though GTA is one of the most addictive and successful top-down drivers of recent times. Imagine then all the violence, the chaos, pedestrian casualties, gang warfare and police chases of the original game, but all inside your tiny GBC. Sounds good? Read on. You Talkin' To Me? The idea behind the game is simple - earn yourself enough money by carrying out various felonies to move on to the next increasingly difficult area of the city. In GTA 2 you get to choose between three gangs to ally with per zone, receiving differing missions depending on your choice. Play revolves around the respect you have with the three gangs, and you begin each zone with neutral respect from them all. Once you start doing work for one of them that annoys another your respect with that gang will lower, and they will try that much harder to snub you out if you enter their territory. You begin life on foot, without any money or weapon, and most importantly without a set of wheels. You need a car to get around the city, and there is only one way of getting one .. nick it! You have a fairly nice choice of vehicles to pilfer which include coaches, police cars (guaranteed to get you noticed) and even ice cream vans. Care has to be taken not to attract the attention of the local police. Stealing cars is just one way of getting yourself noticed, but a definite way is to run over innocent pedestrians! If you are concentrating on a mission, you are best off trying as much as is possible to stick to the road and traffic systems. If you die, it isn't the end of the world as you will simply lose one of your five lives, and restart outside of the local hospital. However, you may have annoyed the gang you are working for once too often with your failures, and have to find work elsewhere. The Bad Stuff Theft of the cars is extremely finicky requiring you to be positioned just right to be able to hit the "Select" button to take control of the vehicle. You can walk in front of a car to make it stop, but by the time you have moved around to face the side of it, the car has often already moved off. There are also times where you try to enter a vehicle, your character disappears as if to have entered, but it speeds off leaving you with no character to control! Another frequent annoyance is where you exit a car and can't move in any direction, or the car can become stuck between another car and a piece of scenery. These glitches usually mean you have to restart the game, and you can only hope that if you have got a fair way into the game that you have noted down the save game passwords. Unfortunately these annoyances happen too often to be ignored. Graphics and Sound The top down view of the buildings, road and traffic is very nicely done, with all the vehicles being easy to distinguish from the other. There is a surprising amount of detail, with air conditioning fans twirling on the top of buildings and pedestrians going about their business. When the game gets busy you will often find that it will struggle to keep up and move into go slow mode, while in the next minute you will zip along when there's little animation going on. This can get a little irritating, particularly when you are being chased down by the police, but it is by no means a show stopper. Sound is limited to very few spot effects, chiefly when using a gun or being fired on, but apart from that the game is virtually silent. Music plays whenever you enter the cars attempting to simulate the radio station style of the PC, and the tunes are not that bad, but you will soon want to turn them off! Conclusion The game has made the transition to the GBC quite nicely, with neat graphics and the same addictive gameplay of the original. Unfortunately the various problems entering and exiting the vehicles occur too often to keep an even flow to the gameplay. A shame really as it is not that far from being the perfect pocket crimewave! 7

22nd November 2000 DNM

i6 coverage

Article - i6 LAN party coverage from Newbury

The weekend of November 10th - 12th saw the latest in the Multiplay i-series of LAN parties, with up to 1000 players assembling at Newbury Racecourse in wet and windy Berkshire. Having missed out on i4 and i5, both of which have been highly praised, I was not about to make it a third missed event in a row. So, with fellow Dark Republic clannies Comatosed and Xena crammed in the car, we braved the M25 tedium and headed for Newbury. It was to be one hell of a weekend! Power Out - Beer Time! The trip to Newbury is a simple one, and finding the racecourse itself a doddle, but when you also have to drive up to Wolverhampton to drop the kids off at your parents, and then drive back down again it works out to be quite a tiring day! This is what I was faced with on Friday, and we didn't actually arrive back to Newbury until gone 9pm, by which time I had missed most of the initial network teething problems. Result! First things first then - get in the beers, meet some people, and settle myself into some hard and fast Quakin'. Imagine my surprise when, standing waiting for my well earned beer, I see plumes of smoke coming from the back of the bar, billowing from a power line unfortunately situated in the Quake 3 Arena section. Bah! It was a good hour before power was finally restored to our section, with all other sections of the building unaffected. Still, it was a perfect chance to catch up with the rest of the already glazed eyed Quakers, and sink lots of beers. By the time our PCs were rebooting all the negativity had been well and truly drunk out of us! It was showtime, time to get on with the killing. Setting yourself up on the i6 network was extremely easy and trouble free, simply making yourself part of their workgroup and getting the server to automatically assign you an IP address. Without wasting any time I headed straight for the Quake 3 icon, and browsed the servers available. It was good to see Rocket Arena 3 nicely catered for with two 16-player ports, along with the normal Tournament and Free-For-All servers you would expect. I would have liked to have seen a dedicated Classic CTF server thrown in for good measure, as this for me (and a lot of other CTF nutters) is the way Quake 3 CTF should be heading. I did spy a group of lads playing the mod, but it was a 3vs3 pre-arranged type deal, and I was rapidly becoming more involved in the tournaments which were going on at the time to have time to join in! Tournaments Along with Quake 3 1on1 and 4vs4 TeamDM, there were also Unreal Tournament 1on1 and 6vs6 CTF competitions to get the attention of this first person shooter fanatic! I only signed up for the Q3 1on1 initially, but ended up playing in all of the aforementioned tournaments. This would not have been so bad, but the admins experienced various difficulties of one reason or another and games got delayed, causing time clashes and much sweating of the brow! Additionally there were Counter-Strike and Starsiege Tribes tournaments in operation, but I really don't know what went on with either of these. From what I gather from post i6 messageboard banter, it would appear that both were riddled with problems as far as organisation is concerned. I saw plenty of Red Alert 2 games going on though, and even caught sight of someone duelling in Hogs Of War! The Quake 3 1on1 kicked off first, and after I secured a rather nice victory over SLH-Hazza, I then proceeded to get walked over by SLH-Swelter, and then was beaten again in the loser's bracket against SS-W4rh0g. It was business as usual then, as DNM takes an early bath in the 1on1 tournament... The presence of clan 4K provided an element of predictability in the outcome of both the 1on1 and 4vs4 games, and indeed 4K-Q50 took the 1on1 tournament, while 4K won the TeamDM. UT CTF Fortune had it that clan SS only had five players for UT CTF, so I offered my mercenary services. We lost our initial two games against DOA and KEA, both of whom were tipped to be overall winners. Picking ourselves up though, we went on to win our remaining five games, including a satisfying 5:0 win over clan tUT. This placed us in the top four of the league stage, and meant qualification to the semi-finals. Drawn against DOA, we knew we had to conjure up some mad skillz and tactics. As it turns out we opted for the extremely simple all-out-attack method or, as we referred to it, the 'Warcow Frenzy'. This somewhat surprised DOA, and we sneaked in a capture. By this time DOA had been reduced to five men, and rather than risk our precious lead we adopted a 5-1 formation and sat on the lead, eventually winning the game 1:0. KEA beat HSC in the other semi-final, setting up a grudge match with us, as they had won the earlier meeting 5:1. The final was played over two maps, with one map being chosen by each clan. We chose "Face", with KEA adopting for the attacking nightmare "Coret". First up was "Face", where we took an initial lead, only for KEA to quickly respond to make it 1:1. With around ten minutes to go we capped again, and were prepared to sit back accepting all that challenged. Challenge they did, and in a frenetic exchange they managed to grab the flag to draw level, with a couple of minutes to go. Sudden death commenced, and the game just refused to die, with SS getting their flag into our base no less than three times before losing it. After about fifteen minutes of extra time things were getting a little tiring, and KEA piled in, stealing the flag with a three-man attack. I managed to chase them down, killing one flag carrier, only for one of the other guys to pick it up again, who I tagged as well. With just a few pixels between me and our flag though I got sniped, KEA picked the flag up again, and made the winning capture! A breathtaking match. The second half of the game verged on being a farce, as it took nearly an hour for the game to get going due to certain problems where KEA players were not seeing weapons on spawning! Preparing yourself mentally for the fight, knowing you have to win by two clear captures, and having to keep restarting it is decidedly distracting to say the least. Finally the game got underway, and it was evident from the start that both teams were settling in for a far more defensive approach to things. Life in defence was actually pretty boring, and in fact involved more talking with the people around me than looking at the screen. Very boring, and not exactly the thrilling climax to a competition it should have been. Again the game entered sudden death mode as the teams were tied at 0:0. To make life more interesting for the people viewing the game on the big screen, we had already gone into 'Warcow Frenzy' mode about five minutes from the end of normal time, but to no avail. It was to be our undoing - with all of our players scattered randomly around "Coret", KEA managed to sneak the flag out totally unchallenged, making the cap to win 1:0, and the match overall 4:2 on aggregate. Terrific first game, totally dull second. Mustn't grumble though, it was my first ever LAN based final! Other Stuff The UT 1on1 competition was disrupted quite severely by the earlier-than-scheduled CTF final, but eventually ran the course with the winner Execute, beating Jawl by 20:-1. Execute was also the guy I faced in the first round, making mincemeat out of me on 'Tempest', a silly map choice for a duel in my opinion. Meanwhile the CS tournament, although it was riddled with problems, did reach a conclusion, with the final pitting clan D2C against clan KMA. The chosen map was De_Nuke, with KMA taking the first half 8:5 playing as the counter-terrorists, and D2C winning the second half 15:1 as the CTs, meaning D2C run away to far off lands as delighted winners to the tune of 16:9. Unfortunately the UT CTF result is the only one I can be 100% certain on though, as we had to leave at around 4pm on the Sunday, with the tournaments running a little late. Conclusion I've not had this much fun at a LAN in a long time, and am already pencilling i7, 8 and 9 into my diary for next year. The venue was a perfect size, though there really could have been more effort made on the refreshments side of things, with the menu being more akin to school dinners than a hungry Quaker's paradise. There is only so much of Domino's pizza I can withstand! Drinks were ludicrously expensive too, when really they don't need to be with so many people toing and froing from the bar - they would make a killing even if the prices were cut considerably. All in all though it was a splendid weekend, and with slightly tighter organisation it could be the perfect package. - i5 coverage i4 coverage EuroLAN 2 coverage EuroLAN 1 coverage

13th November 2000 DNM

Championship Manager : 00/01

Review - can Championship Manager claim the soccer management title again, or is it in need of a substitution?

Sports Interactive Publisher Eidos System Requirements  Pentium 133 or equivalent  16Mb RAM  1.05Gb hard drive space (full install)  4x CDROM The Divine Game Is it really a year ago now that I wrote my "Championship Manager : 99/00" review, also my first review for EuroGamer? Time sure does fly when you are having fun! If you had to name three games that are guaranteed to be released close to Christmas you would choose FIFA, the next Lara Croft adventure, and of course the latest update to the Championship Manager series. This is without doubt the most successful football management simulation on the PC, constantly outdoing and improving over its closest competitors. So can you expect to see a completely new menu system, enhanced graphics, and maybe even FIFA style in-game footage? Not on your life mister! CM00/01 is not a brand new game, but more of a data disk, continuing on from where last year's 99/00 edition left off. Not much has changed, but not much needed to be changed, and it is still the same life-sappingly addictive game, just with a few added refinements. Those of you that are veterans of the series will be instantly familiar and at home with the way the game operates, but the nice thing is that by maintaining a uniform format through the game it makes it just as easy for someone who is new to the series to leap in as it is for the die-hards. If It Ain't Broke Your first task is to select the football team you are going to manage, which can be any of the teams from the Premier, Nationwide or Conference leagues as far as the English sides are concerned. It doesn't stop there though, with the ability to choose from virtually every league you can think of throughout the globe! If you are a glutton for punishment, or simply want your seasons to last a whole lot longer, you can opt to manage more than one team at a time under different guises. Unfortunately you still can't take control of any of the teams lower than the Conference league, but you can scour them for talent and snap them up for nominal fees. This can be an excellent and inexpensive way of bolstering your side if the team you have taken control of is riddled with injuries or suspensions, or if you just don't have a big squad. The difficulty level has certainly increased in CM00/01, where I have so far not been massively successful in my management efforts. The game is logical though, and taking control of Arsenal or Manchester United provides possibly the easiest of routes to success. To appreciate the game fully you really should try taking control of a Conference team though. Previously guiding them up through the leagues was a reasonably easy task to perform, but now you will need strong management skills to succeed. Commentary speed was something I always used to ramp up to the fastest to get the games over with more rapidly in previous versions of the game. Now I find that it is almost a necessity to watch each match at the normal speed to work out problem areas in the team, or to weed out the weak player who is bringing the rest down. It is extremely satisfying to make mid-game decisions that actually have an effect on the outcome of the match, and equally depressing for the decision to make things even worse! I may be paranoid, but I am also finding I have to pay far more attention to the numerous player statistics than I did before. Buying a player that has a full twenty rating for shooting, you would be thinking you have got yourself a match winner. But not when his passing and teamwork attributes are about as useful as a chocolate teacup! The New Season One of the most impressive additions to the game though has to be the interaction with the national and regional media, along with football web-sites. It gives the game that extra buzz to have the media questioning your recent signings, or asking for your comments about a first team player's age. You get to choose whether you agree, disagree or have no comment for them, remembering that it is not just the press this effects, but the player's morale also. Leagues are now calculated live as your game is in progress, which enables you to see at a glance how well the teams above you are doing. If they are losing and you need the win to take top spot, you then know to increase the attacking nature of your side to secure the points. Another really useful addition is your staff's ability to provide feedback on all of your players, including reserve team members. The physio and coaches will all give their opinions on any player you select, and from here you can assess whether to keep the player on or sell him at the next available opportunity. I think one of the most fun new features though is being able to complain about the referees! Should you have lost the last game due to a dubious 90th minute penalty decision, you can now get your revenge by filing a report against the ref! You can also ask to postpone and rearrange fixtures, which can be useful should your friendly and league match schedule be affecting player stamina and causing injuries. Presentation It's a little unfair to judge this game on its graphics and sound, as that's not what Championship Manager is all about, so I feel it more pertinent to provide an overview of the presentation. The game works around a text based menu system with still background graphics of various footballing heroes to spice things up. Every effort has been made to make the interface as simple as possible to navigate, with very few moments where you are left scratching your head wondering what to do next. Menus are neatly laid out and in a logical order, and although there is an initial familiarisation exercise, you will soon be wearing the comfortable slippers of Championship Manager like the rest of us! You can play the game in full screen mode or in the rather more convenient windowed option. This makes the game one of the best for playing at work, where an Alt-Tab takes you back to that important documentation you really should be working on! Not that I would condone such irresponsible behaviour. Not me, no way. Conclusion Ultimately what you have here is CM99/00 with a few added features, a more up-to-date database, and very little else. But there is method to the madness - releasing the annual updates as data disks would have necessitated owning the original Championship Manager 3 to play. This way not only the existing fanbase but also new disciples can enjoy the game, and CM00/01 still retails for a significantly lower price than your average stand-alone game. There can be no denying that Championship Manager is still the chairman of all football management sims, and with the additional modifications of the 00/01 edition it is made all the better still. Top stuff! - Championship Manager : 99/00 review Championship Manager comes to consoles Eidos re-signs Championship Manager 9

8th November 2000 DNM

Dino Crisis

Review - the hit PlayStation survival horror game makes it on to the PC at long last - was it worth the wait?

CAPCOM Publisher Virgin Interactive System Requirements  Pentium 200 or equivalent  32Mb RAM  570Mb hard drive space  4x CD-ROM drive  4Mb graphics card Introduction Just a routine mission, that is what government agent Regina was led to believe as she accompanied an elite task force headed for Ibis Island. Their assignment was simply to find a certain Dr. Edward Kirk and return him to the home country unharmed. Three years prior to all of this, leading scientist Dr. Kirk was feared to have perished during one of his mysterious experiments. At the time he had been working on what was nicknamed "Third Energy", a technological breakthrough of pure energy. A military agent returns from Ibis Island much later to report back that he has seen Dr. Kirk alive and well, and curiously continuing on with his research at a military facility. This causes much confusion and so Regina, with task force in tow, are assembled to unravel the mystery. Little do they know the dangers they will face, and the Jurassic nightmare they will endure. Dino Crisis is an action adventure very much in the mould of Resident Evil; in fact it is not too far from the truth to say that it is Resident Evil with dinosaurs instead of zombies! The game was originally released on the PlayStation just over a year ago, receiving much praise and acclaim. So why release it on the PC, and why so long after the PSX release? Same Old Same Old It is certainly a big gamble from CAPCOM, with the PC arcade adventure market already chock-a-block full of excellent titles such as "Martian Gothic : Unification" and the recently released "In Cold Blood". But then, you will be thinking that they have used that time to completely overhaul the PSX version to take full advantage of the PC's graphical capabilities. I am afraid you are sadly mistaken... The game starts outside the research complex where Dr. Kirk was last sighted, with the place liberally scattered with the dead and dismembered bodies of the employees. There are three central characters that make up your team, with Regina being the agent you control, and Gail and Rick your associates. Both men are highly trained in their fields, with Gail being an experienced military veteran, and Rick an expert in computers, medicine and heavy equipment. Regina is armed with a Glock 34 handgun and PA3 Shotgun, which is also capable of firing anaesthetic darts to pacify your Mesozoic friends. You will be familiar with how the game operates, simply moving from one pre-rendered location to the next, picking up a variety of objects en route, not knowing whether they are important or not. Progress is only hindered by the odd interception by vicious Raptors, who are easily dispatched by three or four bullets, and .. Now hang on a sec, the base has been trashed by these ferocious creatures, with people being ripped apart, arms half chewed and blood spattered against the walls. You are now telling me that a scantily clad (or clad, you do get the choice) girl comes in armed with a handgun which sounds more like a party-popper, and can lay them to waste as easy as clicking her fingers? Get outta here! Pros And Cons I like games to vex me, to give me moments where I could scream the house down in frustration at a certain puzzle that is proving too difficult to conquer, and of course to resist the temptation to search for a walkthrough! Dino Crisis does none of the aforementioned, with the game playing through from start to finish with the ease of alphabet bricks. The puzzles are ridiculously simple, with practically all of them being spelt out to you in various notebooks and folders which you will find strewn around. One thing that is impressive though is the game's creepy atmosphere, and the odd occasion where it makes you jump out of your skin as a Raptor comes crashing through a window. This is further aided by an excellent choice of soundtrack, which cuts in with appropriately dramatic or creepy music to suit the situation. You also get the Operation Wipeout arcade mode for the more gun happy folk out there, where you wander the complex gunning down Raptors within a set time limit. As with the main game though, it is often very difficult to see where the dinosaurs are coming from with the fixed camera view, and most of the time you are better off waiting for them to attack you first! Graphics I have saved my biggest gripe with the game until last, and it is simply that the graphics in Dino Crisis are just not good enough by today's forever improving standards. It is painfully obvious that this is a console port, and on that particular platform the game probably does look wonderful. But you know the writing is on the wall when you get to select what Regina wears at the beginning and the interface looks like something from the old sixteen colour EGA days. On a PC with high-resolution graphics, where numerous other lighting and manipulation methods are possible, it should look a whole lot better than the often horribly pixelated scenes which you get in this game. The characters themselves are at least fairly solid looking, but seem to suffer from weird warping, resulting in some truly odd facial expressions. It is not to say that all of the locations are badly done, just that there is too much mediocrity throughout the game for it to be ignored. The FMV scenes are all nicely done though, but mixing them with comparatively poor in game cut-scenes renders them a little wasted. Just giving you the option to play in anything other than 640x480 would have made things a little less painful for the eyes. A real shame, as they could have built so nicely upon the PSX version and made something truly sumptuous to behold. Conclusion I am massively disappointed with Dino Crisis, and left wondering how it was ever a success in the first place. With a predictable storyline, childishly designed puzzles and some simply awful graphics, there is very little to haul this game from the clutches of Pantsville! Fortunately the creepy atmosphere still manages to break through the mist of poor quality surrounding this game, and at least keeps you playing the thing. I am not opposed to console conversions, far from it, I would just like to see more care and attention used, even it if involves rewriting the game code from scratch. Avoid this unless you really haven't anything better to do. Eye Candy         5

19th October 2000 DNM

Sold Out Round-Up

Review - Tomb Raider, Worms Utd, Special Ops, GTA and Jimmy White 2 budget re-releases examined

The term 'budget' is generally treated as being more synonymous with rehashed mediocrity than top quality gaming. Very often a game from yesteryear will be re-released on budget, with manuals printed in miniscule print on a CD booklet, and no indication as to whether there are additional patches or configuration changes that need to be made for it to even function on a modern Windows PC. Various Publisher Sold Out Software Introduction Enter Sold Out Software, whose latest range of budget software is aiming to change your way of thinking, with their £4.99 and £9.99 "Extreme" range of top quality games. What you get with each CD is a simple inlay slip and the CD itself, but that is it. "What of the manual", I hear you cry! Well, cunningly enough this has been included on the CD itself in Adobe Acrobat format, as part of Sold Out's new .now technology. It will even install the Acrobat reader should you not have it already. The idea behind .now is to assist you with the game installation process in every way that is possible. Each CD auto-starts with a Macromedia Flash 4 based menu system, which includes a remastered installation routine, online manual, and any patches or updates which are currently available for that product. In this round-up I will be taking a look at "Tomb Raider" and "Worms United", available in the £4.99 range, along with "Special Ops", "Grand Theft Auto" and "Jimmy White's 2" in the £9.99 range. Grand Theft Auto The game that caused such an uproar that they even tried to ban it when it was originally released! Yes folks, it's Grand Theft Auto time again, but now available for the princely sum of ten of your English pounds. So what was all the fuss about then? Surely breaking into cars, mowing down pedestrians, running amok with guns, blowing up buildings, and generally taking no notice of the police force persuing you, is not such a terrible thing? Essentially GTA is all a bit of harmless fun, but it is deemed by some to be promoting and glorifying such ill behaviour in real life. You begin life standing on a street in Liberty City, America, with nothing but the clothes you are wearing. Parked rather temptingly in front of you is a flashy car, which you promptly get into. A voice comes in over the radio directing you to some phone boxes, where you are to receive your mission orders. Missions can be a simple pick up and drop off of a fellow criminal, or can involve the planting of an explosives-rigged tanker to blow up a building. Let's face it, you are not going to be flower arranging in this game! The idea is to attain enough points to complete the current city you are in, and you are told the target you have to reach at the beginning of the level. For the best scores you are better off taking jobs handed to you by the Mob; while giving you nice rewards though, these missions are more likely to land you in trouble with the local constabulary. If you "die" you are taken to the nearest hospital, losing all your weapons but keeping your current score. Get arrested however, and you will return to the streets weaponless and half of your score deducted .. but at least your Wanted level is reset to zero! Although quite pixelated, the graphics are easy to identify, and the top down scrolling cruises along at lightning speed. A wide variety of vehicles are at your disposal, or should that be mercy, and you can be driving a top of the range sports car one minute and a garbage truck the next. Where GTA really flourishes is in the music department, with superbly selected rap tracks booming out of the speakers in some cars, and more mainstream tunes in others. All of this is played to you like a radio station, and is utterly convincing in its execution. I loved the game when it was first released, and I still love it now - there is simply nothing that tops it for mindlessly violent and addictive fun. Sure the ethics are questionable, and maybe it should not be played by a younger audience, but ultimately it's no more violent than watching the every day news bulletins on the television. The add-on pack "GTA London 1969" is also available from Sold Out for £9.99, so for a score you can have the lot mate. Spec Ops: Ranger Assault Listen up soldier! Your duties are many, including upholding the prestige and honour of the elite group of soldiers known as the Rangers. You are expected to move faster and travel further than any other soldier, keeping yourself mentally alert, physically strong and shouldering more than your fair share of responsibility. You are always to be neatly presented, respect your superiors, and care for your equipment. You are better than the enemy, and you will defeat them on any battlefield, and never leave a fallen comrade behind. That will be all Ranger. Spec Ops is a third person strategic warfare game, set in various locations around the world. Think of a "Hidden & Dangerous" style of play and you won't be too far off the mark. You are the leader of an elite unit of US Rangers, tasked with a variety of missions including your normal search and destroy type, counter strikes, and hostage rescues to name but three. The game uses the much touted (at the time) Viper 3D engine, and whilst it gives you reasonable looking graphics, it does produce a really annoying liquid effect at the base of the screen. The movement of the characters is reasonably trouble free, but can be infuriating when you are near a solid object and your character cannot decide whether to walk past or detect it. The result is that your character jerks around the object, making it a difficult task to pick up any health or ammo that may be lying nearby. The combat system is not exactly brilliant either, with the soldier auto-detecting enemies for you, but often not the one you really could do with being killed. The night vision mode is a little overpowering, very often disguising the enemies more than if you did not have it on, and it can also be difficult to isolate where an enemy is firing from, night vision or not. It is a pretty tough nut to crack, and even on a lower skill level you will be staring at the 'mission failed' screen more often than not. I found Spec Ops to be a pretty laborious game to play, with the niggly little problems shining through more than they should. The enemy AI leaves something to be desired, and in a stealth game where this is so important, it defeats the object somewhat as a target meanders into your line of fire without a care in the world. With the sheer number of missions on offer and their great variety it may provide a tenner's worth of fun to deep fans of the genre, but the casual gamer should definitely avoid it. Jimmy White's 2 : Cueball Let's face facts, snooker is perhaps one of the most niche marketed of all the game types - you really have to like the green baized snoreathon to actually get along with a computer version of it! I love playing the real game itself, but I find more excitement from a packet of flower seeds than I do watching it on television. I have enjoyed computer based snooker offerings in the past, "Jimmy White's Whirlwind Snooker" being a fine example, but their long term appeal is rather limited. Enter "Jimmy White's 2 : Cueball", which is no ordinary game of snooker, taking a refreshing change of direction and providing you with an entire suite of indoor games. You begin inside an elegant hallway which has two doors, one leading off to the snooker room, and the other to the pool hall. Yes, there is pool too, an instant plus in the game's favour, but it doesn't stop there. You also have a dartboard, a Drop Zone arcade machine, a draughts board, a fruit machine, and even a jukebox to tinker around with. Of course, the main attractions are the snooker and pool tournaments, and mighty fine they look and play too. The snooker table is situated in a grand lounge with a roaring open fire, and your computer opponent is invisible except for two white gloves - kind of like Rayman, but with less limbs! You decide who you wish to play against, one of the computer opponents or another human player if you so desire, and then the first frame begins. Shots are achieved with relative ease using either the traditional dotted line as a guide, or your own judgement if you are feeling particularly cocky. The early computer opponents are not exactly the most adept of cue wielders, but as you get further into the game the opposition gets tougher. The net result is that you can often have some extremely good frames of snooker or pool, and it is very rare for a shot you have lined up to do something you did not expect it to. There are times where real physics would mean certain shots made to look easy would not be possible though, particularly with shots in the center of the table. Graphics are as you would expect really, nothing too fancy; after all there is not much you can do to make a set of snooker or pool balls look anything more than solid and spherical! However, even though there are more gaming options available to you, you will soon tire of it all, and quite possibly seek out a pub or snooker hall to play the real thing. Good entertainment for half an hour, but not much more than that. Worms United "Worms United" takes the original game and bolts on its add-on pack "Worms : Reinforcements" in one tidy package. Worms can be likened to "Lemmings", but replacing the cute green fellows with little pink worms armed with weapons of mass destruction. The idea is simple enough - take your team of military trained worms onto the battlefield and be the last to survive. The range of violent measures you can take against your foe is impressive, from simply lobbing grenades to ordering a full blown airstrike, all viewed from from side-on. There are four worms to a team, and you will need all your cunning and skill to keep them alive. You can play against the preset computer teams, or crowd around your PC with your friends and take it in turns to make your move, risking much spillage of beer and violent misconduct. Each worm begins with one hundred units of health, and when a worm's health reaches zero it will self destruct, taking any other worms in the vicinity with them. It is therefore prudent to make sure the worm which you are about to wipe out is not too close to one of your own team members. You can teleport your worm to 'safer' locations on the map if you feel they are vulnerable, but this costs you your turn, and the computer opponents are adept at seeking out even the most well hidden of hermaphrodites. Alhough graphically crude and with horribly grainy sound, being a DOS based game, there is something about Worms that keeps you hooked and wanting more. Maybe it is the sadistic side of our natures that compels us to snigger with an evil furrowing of the brow as you finally take that troublesome worm's life. At £4.99 it represents outstanding value, and with the seeding method of randomly creating landscapes there are literally thousands of levels for you to wade through. Tomb Raider Lara Croft needs little introduction, being one of the most widely known computer born characters ever created. "Tomb Raider" is how it all began, and the original is regarded by many as her finest adventure. I was certainly one of the first to rush down to my local Special Reserve and grab myself a copy. Originally released in late 1996, does the original still stand the test of time? The answer is a resounding yes. Wealthy Lara Croft seeks more excitement in her life, as rattling around a mansion house is clearly not enough to satisfy her whims! When she meets up with a tycoon who offers her the chance to retrieve an ancient artefact, she jumps at the chance of exploration and adventure. Successfully retrieving it, she discovers that it is actually just one of four pieces of something called the Scion. Ever the greedy one, Lara sets about retrieving all of the pieces, but she is not alone in the hunt for the Scion, and soon discovers that the tycoon has more than a casual interest in the it. The tycoon's henchmen are just some of the enemies you will face in the game. You also have to contend with the local wildlife, which includes lions and gorrillas. You will even come up against the more pant-filling Raptors and Tyranosaurus Rex, the latter of which scared the bejesus out of me when I first played the game. As you no doubt know by now, you control Lara from a third person perspective, jumping, climbing and shooting your way through a variety of locations, which in the first game includes Peru and Atlantis. Graphics and sound are excellent throughout, but you will need to do some digging to find the right 3dfx or OpenGL patch to show Tomb Raider in it's true glory. Unfortunately these are not available on the Sold Out CD, but are not too difficult to locate on the web. Even in software mode though, the game still plays and looks good, and for a fiver you can't moan. 95779

17th October 2000 DNM

Odyssey - The Search for Ulysses

Review - Cryo's latest adventure game takes us to classical Greece, and then all over the Mediterranean

Cryo Publisher Cryo System Requirements  Pentium II 233 or equivalent  64Mb RAM  350Mb hard drive space  3D graphics card In The Beginning "Odyssey" is another title from Cryo's Legend Collection, which utilises the same graphics engine used in "The Time Machine", and is based loosely on Homer's novel "Odyssey" and Greek mythology. This subject is one of the few that held my attention in history lessons at school, and one that is perfect to center a game around. At the request of Penelope, Heritias has been tasked with finding her husband Ulysses, who was lost at sea after the battle of Troy. Heritias must follow the path Ulysses is known to have taken, a journey that will have him pass through strange lands and battle against mythical creatures. The trail of Ulysses is not as straightforward as he first perceives, and he soon finds that his friend has made quite a few enemies on his travels. As a result your task is simply to follow the clues left behind, solve the various puzzles set along the way, and to recognise who you can or can't trust. Getting anywhere in the game relies on communication with others, and manipulation of the various objects you will pick up along the way. Interaction with other characters is purely a case of 'multiple choice' type interrogation. You will find that the dialogue is a matter of choosing between accepting and refusing certain situations, but it does not often make a difference to the outcome. Or it goes to the other extreme, where if you do one thing you proceed, but if you do the other and you die. This method of interaction gets all very tiring after a while, knowing that if you die after saying one response, you can simply reload and say the other reply to carry on. As a result there is only one set path to take to complete the game, which is not too good for its replay value. Which Way Now? As you would expect from a Cryo game, everything is very nicely presented from the word go. The menu system is particularly impressive, giving the illusion that the various option pages are all mapped within a sphere, and those familiar with The Time Machine will be instantly at home with the controls and inventory navigation. Each location is pre-rendered, and your 3D character sits on top of these with defined routes through and around the backdrops. This works for the most part but can be quite frustrating when you can clearly see a passage through, only for it to be blocked off as part of the scenery. Frustration also sets in frequently where your character cannot seem to negotiate the smallest of rocks and other such tiny obstacles. It is often hard to tell where you are supposed to be heading on some locations too, with finding the screen exits something of a matter of trial and error. The game operates with a rather snazzy rotational graphics system, whereby the camera pans centered on the player, giving the static backdrops their fake three dimensional look. You can ramp the video resolution up as high as you dare and the engine should cope amicably, and it is well worth doing so with the eye candy the game has to offer. Graphics and Sound On the whole the graphics in Odyssey are excellent, but there are a few locations which look far too much like oil paintings rather than realistic settings. The first episode is a prime example, with the main character looking almost daft against the background. The characters themselves are solid and highly detailed, but a little robotic in their animation. Sound is perhaps the one area where the game excels, with excellent attention to underfoot audio, with shingle crunching and rock floors clicking realistically. Voice acting is also of a high standard, although it can be a little drawn out at times. However, all dialogue can be skipped if necessary. Most impressive of all is the music though, which fades in and out during each episode. The tune that plays while you unravel the Lotus-Eaters puzzle is beautifully haunting, and when you visit the Fields of Elysees the music is appropriately heavenly. A Whirlwind Tour Throughout the game you will travel to a variety of islands and towns, all with their own mystery and intrigue. The trail of Ulysses will take you to the island of the Cyclops, across the seas to the curious world of the Laestrygonians, and on to the seemingly harmless Circe's island, to name but three. All very exciting, you would be thinking, and certainly the first few locations are well thought out and compelling enough. Further into the game though there is a big feeling of disappointment which is hard to deny. When you visit the island of the Cyclops for instance, after just two easy puzzles the section is completed and it's on to the next location. The further into the game you go the more rushed it seems. These myths are fascinating I feel, but are not given the loving attention they warrant. The whole sense of purpose is lost as each section is completed with ease. Only twice did I get stuck throughout the entire game, and those were due to a game save glitch that has thankfully since been patched. Conclusion The game looks and sounds excellent, but is let down badly by simplistic puzzles, fussy location routes, and it's essentially linear nature. Just a little more diversity in the way the story develops through your responses could have made a hell of a difference. Each location is over too quickly, so you never get to discover too much about your environment and the mythology behind them. To compound it all, the end sequence is extremely disappointing. I guess if you are purely interested in the mythology aspect of the game, then Odyssey could provide you with a simple piece of entertainment. To the ardent adventurer though this is not going to be much of a challenge. - Odyssey screenshots The Time Machine review Arthur's Knights preview 6

11th October 2000 DNM

In Cold Blood

Review - we take a look at Revolution's stealthy action-adventure game

Revolution Publisher Ubi Soft System Requirements  Pentium 233 MMX or equivalent  32Mb RAM  400Mb hard drive space  4x CD-ROM drive  8Mb graphics card Introduction As he squints through light starved eyes, MI6 agent John Cord can just about make out the faces of his torturers, the evil Dimitri Nagarov and his thug sidekick Lukyan. Drugged and weak, Cord struggles hard to remember how he came to be in such a predicament. The one thing that he knows for certain is that he was betrayed, but by who and why escapes him. He definitely remembers his mission objective, which was to track down a missing agent. He also recalls that what began as a simple task became far more complicated, changing instead to the prevention of a nuclear holocaust. As Cord's memory gradually returns, he starts to tell his story right from the very beginning, and this is where the game begins, playing out a succession of John's memories, until you finally discover just what went wrong, and who it was that betrayed Cord. In Cold Blood is an arcade adventure game set in Volgia, a former republic of Russia, giving the game an instant grim atmosphere from the start. You meet up with freedom fighter Gregor Kostov, who helps you at the beginning of the game, and will pop up again throughout at key moments... Stealthy Does It You can choose to play the game in two ways, either as a headless chicken topping any guards that move, or the far more beneficial stealth method. Cord can creep along silently and unleash a lethal chop to the back of the head. Not only does this conserve your bullets for more volatile situations, but it also doesn't alert other guards to your presence. One thing that Revolution have tried to achieve is the feeling that you are not just one guy going up against the guards, but part of a living world. Technicians and other servants of Nagarov go about their business, and most of them will find time to chat with Cord, often providing vital information. Robots also patrol the buildings, but these are impervious to your gunfire, requiring accurate timing to evade them or sabotage their recharge stations. Cord is equipped with the handy REMORA wrist device, enabling him to hack into security systems, keep a full database on everyone he meets, and display a radar scan of his immediate surroundings. The latter is extremely useful for showing you how many guards are in a particular room, or whereabouts a patrolling robot currently is. The emphasis is clearly on communication. You will often find that having spoken to somebody once, you can revisit them later in the game to squeeze more information from them relating to subjects that you have discussed with other characters in the meantime. This even includes some totally irrelevant conversation threads, like chatting about a football game which two guys are watching! A truly inspired feature is the ability to threaten the characters with your gun, sometimes reaping greater information rewards. Controlling Cord is sometimes very frustrating though, with a tendency for the controls to be overly sensitive to your key presses, resulting in your character facing in completely the wrong direction. With this finicky setup it becomes almost laborious to get Cord to walk into tight areas. Another real annoyance is the occasionally poor sensing of actionable areas - you can sometimes be miles away from a door, press action on something else, and the game will think that you have selected the door button rather than what you were intending to press. When time is against you, as it is later on in the game, this can be scream inducing! Cinematic The whole game plays and feels like you are in a movie, with the plot intelligently woven around FMV sequences of Cord with his torturers. The movies are superbly rendered, and owing to his drugged up state of mind are fairly confusing to follow, as you would expect. Clips of equal quality are also used throughout to depict poignant sections of the game. It's not just the FMV clips that give the whole film-like feel though; the voice acting is exceptionally good, making you actually care about the characters. Cord's English voice is calm but with dark undertones suggesting you really should not mess with him, and the bad guys really do sound like they mean business. Every person you come across speaks with their own individual voice, along with varied personalities. A lot of humour has been injected into the dialogue too, keeping things nicely balanced and entertaining. When you meet up with the male and female technicians who are arguing over a stupid hat, you will know what I mean! The Look On first playing the game I was immediately reminded of the classic arcade adventure "Beneath A Steel Sky". The graphical design and overall look is very distinguishable, and I was not surprised at all to learn that the team behind In Cold Blood also created the aforementioned title. The pre-rendered backdrops look excellent, and in most cases include spot animations to give them some added life. The animations are simple but very effective, like the light fittings juddering on the land-train, or the soft ripple of water in the mines. Great care has been taken to make sure you never have your vision obscured by the camera angle or a piece of scenery, making for trouble-free scuffles with guards. The characters also look very nice, well animated and appearing solid against the backgrounds. They do however lack in facial detail, which is quite surprising when you consider how much dialogue there is in the game, where facial expressions would have enhanced things even further. Not all of the animations are good though, with Cord's running style causing laughter when I don't think it should... Conclusion The game is not without its faults. A lot of the time you will find that guiding Cord into narrow gaps in the scenery, or positioning him such that he will climb a ladder, can be a royal pain in the backside. The controls are generally clumsy both on keyboard and joypad, with the character turning far too quickly at times, making collisions with walls and objects a frequent occurrence. But aside from these quirks, In Cold Blood is a splendid adventure filled with humour and intrigue, challenging puzzles, and a beautifully scripted story. Thoroughly recommended. Eye Candy         8

9th October 2000 DNM

Disney's Dinosaur

Preview - journeying back in time to investigate the offspring of Disney's latest film blockbuster, Dinosaur

Seems that not a month goes by without Disney Pictures swamping us with yet another animated movie masterpiece. Personally I really dig the animation, but rarely enjoy the stories, particularly the musicals that only serve to set my teeth on edge! However, their latest venture "Dinosaur" is intriguing, using the finest computer animation money can buy and digitally enhanced photography, to create a veritable feast for the eyes. As is the trend these days, a computer game is being developed based on the film, and I took a ganders at what it has to offer. Ubi Soft Publisher Disney Interactive Jurassic Lark "Dinosaur" is set sixty-five million years ago, at the end of the Mesozoic era, in times when dinosaurs ruled the earth, and huge winged creatures filled the sky. The story begins with the snatching of an egg from an Iguanodon's nest. The thief however drops the egg, and it tumbles into a tree seemingly to be lost and forgotten. A family of friendly Lemurs discovers the egg, nurturing it through to birth, and treating the newly born as one of their own. Life is just peachy for Aladar, the Iguanodon, with his surrogate family, until disaster strikes as a meteor crashes into the island they inhabit. Forced to flee their comfortable surroundings they head for the unknown mainland where they are stalked and hunted by Carnotaurs and Velociraptors. To compound their predicament, food and water is sparse; this alone threatens their very existence. The game has you controlling Aladar, Zini - the Lemur and Flia the Pteranodon across fourteen levels, with cinematic sequences dotted throughout captured directly from the film. The levels span across four different zones and four mission types, ensuring enough variety to keep things fresh and flowing. A points system is utilised, meaning that the more successful you are in battles or on specific missions, the greater your character's skill level. Your main aim is to protect your friends, and lead them to the sanctuary of the nesting grounds. This is not going to be easy with ferocious oversized lizards trying to make you their main meal for the day! Conclusion If there is one thing that fascinates the majority if not all of us, the prehistoric era is it. The mystery and intrigue surrounding the gigantic creatures that once roamed this earth is enough to stir anyone's imagination. With the movie, Disney is onto a sure fire winner there is no doubt, but the success of its computer game cousin remains to be seen. It is certainly going to be interesting soaring around as a Pteranodon, and from the colourful screenshots it looks like the graphics department is well catered for. My only reservation is in the diagonally scrolling nature of the game, though perhaps that is the first person addict in me. The thought of flying through the air over a prehistoric landscape in a first person view somewhat appeals to me. That said it looks to be an entertaining little shoot 'em up/strategy game, that could well be a big hit for the New Year. "Dinosaur" will be released on the PlayStation, PlayStation 2, Game Boy Colour and Dreamcast. Eye Candy    

5th October 2000 DNM

Rayman 2

Review - Rayman 2 on the Dreamcast was a breath of fresh air in the now stale console platforming genre. Can the PSX verison mimic its success?

What has got no arms, no legs, a big nose and wears white gloves? Give up? Doh, it's Rayman of course, and the little guy is back in an all new 3D adventure. It is nearly a year since the PC release of Rayman 2, and I was beginning to jut my lower lip in depression at the prospect of it never hitting the PlayStation. Ubi Soft Publisher Ubi Soft Introduction Fear not though, Rayman 2 is here on the PSX, and is every bit as fun, good-looking and downright addictive as it's PC and Dreamcast counterparts. From 2D platforming to a full 3D environment, Rayman has come a long way. I had a fear that the switch of environments would take away some of the charm of the 2D world I had become accustomed to, a fear that was to be short-lived. Rayman once again is the world's only hope, as an evil group of pirates invade the planet, sapping all the energy from the land as they go. Rayman begins life locked in a cell at the mercy of the Robo-pirates, with no magic powers and fading hope. Enter Globox, Rayman's best friend, who is thrown unceremoniously into the same cell. Globox hides within his big mouth a gift - Rayman's magic glove. With jubilance they set about escaping the cell and so begins the adventure. 'Armless Fun! For the uninitiated amongst you (where have you been?) Rayman 2 is a 3-dimensional platform game in the mould of Mario 64. That may make it sound unoriginal and not worth the cutesy landscapes it is set on, however, the game is so jam packed full of playability that whether or not it has all been done before does not even enter the equation. The action is viewed from a third person perspective, with the ability to sweep the camera to Rayman's left or right to view his surroundings better. You do have a freelook option accessed by pressing L1 and R1 simultaneously, but this is a tad cumbersome, and you find that some jumps are a matter of guess work rather than judgement. Thankfully this is not something that happens too often. Rayman is able to somersault, climb, fly, slide, bounce and even swing his way around the colourful environments. His ability to fly comes by virtue of twin quiffs of hair, which he uses as propellors, though these only serve to slow down a decent rather than truly fly! Of course the world is not without nasties, and you will need a weapon of some description. This is where the famous Rayman glove comes in, firing out energy bolts, damaging any hapless soul that happens to get in the way. As you rediscover your lost powers throughout the game, the glove will become ever more powerful. Before embarking on the more difficult levels, you will play through a couple of simple introductory missions. These not only introduce you to your fairy friend Ly, but also act as a perfect tutorial for Rayman's many abilities. Golden squares are dotted about in the tutorial and throughout the game. When Rayman walks on one of these Ly pops up and she will divulge some useful information to you. Lums Lums Everywhere Life gets more difficult once you meet the rather cute Teensies, who have a tough job deciding who exactly is King of their tribe, and comically fight amongst themselves! They will eventually transport you to the Hall of Doors, which is where the game truly begins, and is the main gateway to all of the levels. Throughout every level there are coloured bee-like objects called Lums. Red lums replenish a small portion of your energy, green lums will force the game to restart you from the exact spot of collection, pink lums provide magical swinging abilities and blue lums provide oxygen when underwater. The most important lums of all though are the yellow variety. You need to collect as many of these as you can muster; they will be required as payment to the Teensies to progress through the gates to later levels. If you reach the gates and do not have enough lums, you will have to revisit previously completed levels to hunt for any you missed! So it is well worth your while collecting every single one you see, just to be sure. You will also notice little squeaks for help emitting from small cages. Fire at these and you release a friend who will increase your health capacity by way of thanks. At the end of levels, you may find a Teensie trapped in a cage .. Release him and he will open up a vortex back to the Hall of Doors, preceded by a Russian dance of celebration. Hilarious stuff. Graphics and Sound The cartoon world of Rayman 2 is a pleasure to romp around, with the emphasis clearly on humour. I don't think anyone can fail to laugh at Globox's rain-dance, or when Rayman rides what look like fuel injected hermit crabs! The character models and surroundings are solid and lavished with radiant colours, really pushing the PSX to the limit. Rayman himself is beautifully animated, from his bouncing strut to the deft somersaults as he jumps. Leave Rayman for too long and he will grab his torso using it as a basketball out of boredom! It is neat touches like these that keep you coming back for more. Story sequences using the in-game graphics engine play from time to time, and apart from being displayed in an overly narrow window, are good fun to watch and help the story along nicely. Music plays a big part in the game, with songs suiting locations perfectly. The "Cave of Bad Dreams" level for example has a really spooky theme playing throughout, while the initial tutorial level music has a magical edge to it. Spot effects are excellent, ranging from the strange noise made by the floating bombs to the huff and puff as Rayman carries something. The voice acting is also good, though the dialogue is a little staggered at times. Conclusion If you are to have any platform game in your PSX collection, you have got to have this one. It has all the ingredients you need and more besides. Excellent graphics and sound, coupled with smooth controls make this an absolute pleasure to play. Levels are nicely varied, and the humour from start to finish is a joy to behold. One word of warning though, make sure you keep in contact with the outside world, this game could well have you tied to your TV for weeks to come! And if your arms and legs start disappearing, consult a doctor immediately! Eye Candy         9

3rd October 2000 DNM

Sydney 2000

With the Olympics kicking off in Australia, we take a look at the official game of the games

ATD Publisher Eidos Interactive System Requirements  Pentium II 266 or equivalent  32Mb RAM  468Mb hard drive space  3D graphics card Introduction The Olympic Games are perhaps the most celebrated of all the sporting events in the world. There is something about the entire procession that captures even those not usually interested in athletics. To take such a prestigious event and base a computer game around it is no small task, but ATD felt they were up to the challenge. There is no getting away from it though - Sydney 2000 is simply a "Track and Field" style arcade jaunt, involving the disintegration of your keyboard, and strain of the wrists! However, with the official Olympic sponsorship behind it, we can surely expect something a little more than that surely? Well, as you would expect there is a suitably grandiose video which sets the scene for the events included within the game quite nicely. You can then choose to play the game either in straight arcade mode, where no qualification is needed, or in the far more entertaining Olympic mode of play. There is also a coaching mode, taking you step by step through all the events and how to control your athlete in each. Playing in arcade mode is useful to verse yourself with all of the events and how they operate, but although this might make Sydney 2000 sound like a complicated game, in reality only three of the events don't involve brainless key bashing! Chariots of Fire The Olympic mode is excellently thought out, and provides a stiff challenge, albeit a wrist destroying one! Each event puts you through a tough series of training and qualifying competitions, and don't think that you can skimp on the training either. The result of this will be a poor physique and equally poor qualifying performance. Training is focused in three areas in a virtual gym, which will remind you of the Krypton Factor straight away, with it's futuristic interface. The gym puts you through your paces with a travelator, weight-lifting, and starter gun reaction tests. Your first impression will be that it all seems a little pointless, but once you start seeing your hard training reaping rewards in the qualifying events, it all becomes a lot of fun. With any luck you will be fully trained up and your morale sitting at 100% for your final Olympic showdown. And once you have completed that particular event, it's on to the next one. Be prepared to take a few breaks now and again though, as it really is that knackering! The Events There are a dozen events in all, including usual events such as the 100m sprint and javelin, but also included are a couple of surprises in the Kayak K1 slalom and 10m platform diving. Controlling your character in the running and throwing events is a simple case of alternating your left and right power buttons, and in certain cases pressing your action button at the right moment. Yes, this is a rather exhausting method of control, but I fail to see how else you can do it. It's certainly the definitive way of ensuring that you are putting in the maximum effort, short of hooking up a travelator to your USB port! I had no real problems with the controls except for in the skeet shooting, where your crosshair moves far too slowly and there is no support for mouse control, which would have been the ideal controlling method for this type of event. There is no way you can change this sadly, with only a pre-determined set of key combinations for selection, and the optional use of a joypad if you have one installed. Graphics and Sound The graphics range from splendid to extremely average, with events like 100m freestyle swimming looking absolutely brilliant, while the Kayak K1 rowing is pretty bland. And for all of the events the crowd is terribly drawn, looking stupidly two-dimensional against their detailed 3D surroundings. The stadiums are excellently rendered though, with huge television screens broadcasting the live events in sync with the action, and all the expected equipment like the throwing event nets and high jump crash mats looking authentic. The athletes themselves take on a more cartoon like quality, which works very well, especially in the weight lifting where the puffing out of the cheeks is highly comical. Appropriate audio is used for each event with the grunts of exertion in the hammer event sounding really quite painful. The familiar commentary of Steve Rider accompanies you throughout the games, and really adds to the whole Olympic atmosphere. Conclusion With the quality of the events in Sydney 2000, I can't help feeling they really should have pushed the boat out and provided a whole lot more events. After all, this is to celebrate the Olympic games, so why not go overboard and provide the near perfect compilation of events? With the swimming graphics engine in particular being superbly done, I would have liked for more events based around this. Also, what happened to the discus or shot put throwing events, and what about the rest of the running events? Unfortunately, although twelve events may seem a lot, you will soon find you have seen all there is to see. What you do get is very accomplished and well presented, but ultimately it just isn't enough to keep you bashing your keyboard well into the night. It is certainly my choice in the Sydney 2000 vs Sergei Bubka war though, with a far better qualifying system and overall feel to the game. Eye Candy         8

14th September 2000 DNM

Sergei Bubka's Millennium Games

Athletics game reviewed

Midas Interactive Publisher Midas Interactive System Requirements  Pentium 166 or equivalent  24Mb RAM  258Mb hard drive space  4x CD-Rom drive  4Mb 3D graphics card Introduction It has been an absolute age since I have played a "track and field" style game on a home computer, with my last memory being "Hypersports" on the Spectrum 48k! Even with today's swanky new arcade games, with their technical wizardry and complex gameplay, I will still seek out the good old joystick bashing of "Track and Field". It has always been such simplistic fun, and curiously addictive, and it usually only costs 10p too! Athletics games on the PC have been few and far between though, but with the Sydney 2000 Olympics almost here, the inevitable influx of titles is upon us. Midas' Millennium Games is endorsed by none other than Ukranian born Sergei Bubka, World and Olympic record holder in the Pole Vault. With modern 3D graphics technology to further back the game up, my expectations were high as I dusted off my running shoes, and headed for the track... Let The Games Begin Things begin nicely with a dramatic introductory video sequence, followed by an in-game graphics camera sweep through one of the stadiums, giving you a glimpse of things to come. The game can be played in two or three different ways, the Team Arcade mode being the one that you will more than likely get stuck into. In here you take control of an entire team of athletes spanning across nineteen events and a variety of nations. Progression through this mode is a little frustrating, as in every event you have to qualify to compete against the other countries. Oddly enough though, each of the qualifying events is played out on your own, without any computer opponents. This makes for a bit of a shock when you come up against some of the tougher athletes, and consequently you can be beaten easily. There seems to be a very strange skill gap between some of the track events as well, where you will find yourself strolling to an easy victory in the 110m hurdles only to be left standing in 400m relay. I suppose that is real life, but it makes for some pretty impossible targets to beat at times. I would have liked for the game to have flowed a little more evenly, with all the events played out in competitive succession. Having to qualify for the events, in particular the longer races like the 5000m and above, is rather laborious. Thankfully there is an option to play all of the events in any order, but this really only serves as a practice mode. For the real enthusiasts there is also the Decathletic simulation - basically a management simulation for athletics, allowing you to make managerial decisions, customise training schedules and so on. My Poor Keyboard! Those of you fearing for the life of your keyboards need not fret - Midas have incorporated a clever mouse control system, as well as the traditional battering of the keyboard method. In mouse mode you have a circle beneath your athlete with an arrow with a red and green band around the circle perimeter. When the green band passes the arrow, pressing the action key will cause your power to increase, and red to decrease. I found that the mouse system, whilst being very easy to operate, made it extremely difficult to attain enough power to challenge for the gold medals though, let alone any of the world records. In the end I dropped it in favour of the keys - I knew I would find a use for my old IBM keyboard one day! Every event involves a frantic toggling of the left and right keys to keep the athlete's momentum going. The only events that lessen this wrist aching exercise are the 1500m and above. Obviously bashing your keyboard for a 1500m race would be ludicrous, so these events use a far more leisurely endurance versus exertion method. Competition events such as the 4x 100m relay are still all done with the key bashing method, and when coupled with the qualifying session this becomes a quite literally tiring experience. Both the jumping and throwing events can sometimes be extremely fussy in their execution too. Graphics and Sound Graphically the game impresses, with the stadiums looking splendid in their colour and realism. There are brilliant touches like the big jumbotron screens showing a smaller image of what you are seeing in the main screen, creating a cool TV coverage type of feel. Another nice touch are the little time monitors dotted around the track, displaying the current event and your time as you sprint on past. The athletes look and act superbly, with the attention to detail quite brilliant in places. For example, limbering up for the high jump is amazingly captured, and the track racers preparations for an event are also accurately depicted. Strange then that the worst animation is in the running itself, never quite convincing you of speed, and looking like someone's holding a naked flame under their bums! Sound is adequate, never really impressing, but not so bad as to cause irritation. Spot effects range from the rhythmic claps of the crowd as you prepare for a high, long or triple jump, to the grunts of exertion in the throwing events, but all of the athletes make the same noises as each other, with just one set each for male and female participants. A bit more effort channelled into the sound department wouldn't have gone amiss. Conclusion Millennium Games is certainly good entertainment, with great graphics and enough variety to keep you coming back for more. The controls can be extremely unfair, making it nigh on impossible to catch up with the computer players at times, and the fussy nature of the throwing and jumping events will infuriate. The inclusion of a two-player split-screen mode is a huge bonus though, and plays surprisingly well. LAN play is also supported for up to eight players, only make sure you warn the neighbours in advance! I would have liked to have seen a few more events thrown in, but I guess that is just the Hypersports addict in me. Not bad at all - go decimate your keyboard now! Eye Candy         7

12th August 2000 DNM

Suzuki Alstare Racing

Motorbike racing game reviewed

Criterion Studios Publisher UbiSoft System Requirements  Pentium 233 or equivalent  32Mb RAM  10Mb hard drive space  4x CD-Rom drive  4Mb 3D graphics card Introduction Arcade racers - love them or leave them, they are here to stay. Suzuki Alstare Racing is the latest in a long line of fast paced and easy on the realism racers, complete with it's very own lens flare rendition. Don't get me wrong though, I like a little arcade racing now and again, as long as it is a challenge, and not something that will be played a couple of times only to be car boot sold the next week. If you happen to be a fan of Superbike racing, then you will be pleased to hear that you are racing against none other than the Suzuki Alstare racing team themselves. Fancy your chances against Pierfrancesco Chili then? This is your chance to prove you have what it takes. So what does Suzuki have to offer us in the way of originality? Does it take the genre by the scruff of the neck, shake it around and come up with something enlightening? Or is it a pure case of the same old same old? Read on... Vroom Vroom! Suzuki concentrates on getting you onto a bike and racing with the minimum of fuss. Rather than dazzle you with a snazzy video sequence and animated menus, you are simply dropped at a straightforward menu page. There are three main modes of play, and you will probably have an idea what these are already - single race, split-screen two player, and tournament mode, which you begin with a humble Suzuki GSX-R600 standard roadbike. Fortunately for you though, your opponents are not exactly blessed with ninja bikes themselves, so at least the race is balanced and fair. You race a set of three to five groups of circuits per championship, with the idea being to finish top of the table for each. As you win each championship new bikes and circuits become available, until you have all six bikes and all twelve circuits at your disposal. Each group stage will introduce you to at least one new map, but also mixes in the ones you have already raced on. There are three skill bands that you must get through to become part of the Suzuki team - novice, reserve and team. Once you are in the team you will be introduced to the most powerful bike in the game, the GSX-R Superbike. There are no qualifying sessions for the races, and instead you are dumped to the back of the grid for every single race. Initially this is very annoying, as the computer controlled bikes speed off. But even if you get off to a bad start, your bike at top speed is far more powerful than all of the others, and you will soon be back battling for pole position. If you are after something a little more realistic, then your best option is to fire up the two player split screen mode, or if you have no friends the game can be played over the internet, where up to eight players can scrap it out utilising UbiSoft's Game Service. I've Won Again! Controlling the bike is simple, with the only other feature to worry about being the turbo drive. As you drive around circuits, you have a set amount of time to reach each checkpoint, and passing them grants you more fuel for the turbo drive. Not that you will need this, as it is perfectly feasible to win each race on maximum acceleration alone. Miss a checkpoint and you will be out of the race though. This was my first sitting with Alstare Racing, and within three hours I had completed it, having only lost one race in the entire nine championships. I only just lost that single race too, thanks to me trying to find a shortcut! Yes folks, once again an arcade racer that is just too damn easy to beat. The action is blisteringly fast paced though, with the scenery hurtling past and making for some really quite amazing tests of reflexes - it's a bit like Screamer on drugs! Unfortunately regardless of whether you are racing around snowy mountains or a tropical beach, there is absolutely no dynamics involved whatsoever - snow and ice means hazardous road conditions, but sadly none of this is represented in the game. The other disappointing factor is that there is virtually no effect if your bike makes contact with another, making it ridiculously easy to pass other bikes on even the tightest of bends. If you do happen to make contact, then the length of time between crash and returning to the race is overly long compared to that of the computer's in the same situation. That's hardly fair now, is it? Graphics and Sound The visuals whiz past at such a fast rate that you often don't appreciate the scenery you are riding through. Graphically the game looks very nice indeed, with some beautiful backdrops and detailed roadside scenery. The result is a very solid looking game, with enough variation from track to track to keep you interested in seeing those newer tracks later on. Bike models are also impressive, although they do look a little cartoon-like against the slick moving scenery. The bikes pivot realistically into corners, and riders react with realism to speeding up, slowing down, and coming to a complete halt. The engine sound is suitably beefy for all of the bikes, and there is something satisfying about your bike's ignition kick upon the start of each race. As you would expect though, there isn't a great deal else in the spot effects department, except for the sounds of passing or being passed by other bikes, and the screech of brakes. Music is the usual instantly forgettable techno mixed with a heavy rock style, which drones on in the background. Strange though - you would miss it if it wasn't there, but pay it no mind when you are playing! Conclusion There's nothing drastically wrong with Suzuki Alstare Racing, in fact it is a fairly enjoyable experience for the short time it takes to complete it. Alas, the total lack of realism coupled with how quick and easy it is to win simply dent any chance of this game being something you will keep coming back to. The main problem is that there is simply nothing new on show here. How long will it be before developers realise that we need a bit more of a challenge for our money? Suzuki's version of furthering the game once completed is to offer you all the same tracks again, but in reverse! Hardly imaginative. How about a stiff increase in difficulty, along with another five or six evil circuits to get stuck into? I'm not after a hardcore simulation, I just want to play one of these arcade racers and get mad when I can't win. That to me is what a game is all about, but instead you will be yawning all the way to the finish line. Eye Candy         5

8th August 2000 DNM

All Star Tennis 2000

Tennis game reviewed

Aqua Pacific Publisher UbiSoft System Requirements  Pentium 233 or equivalent  32Mb RAM  10Mb hard drive space  4x CD-Rom drive  4Mb 3D Graphics Card Introduction No sooner had I enjoyed the pleasure of Cryo's Open Tennis 2000, than I received UbiSoft's latest foray into the tennis courts, "All Star Tennis". Proclaiming itself to be "today's most realistic 3D tennis simulation", I couldn't help but get enthused. With Open Tennis almost providing us with the perfect tennis game, All Star certainly has a long path to tread in matching the standards already set. The inclusion of seven actual tennis star names certainly gives the title some weight before it has even been installed. Unfortunately, All Star Tennis is a shadow of the promises daubed on the back of the box, and is yet another example of tennis poorly implemented onto the PC. "The realism of this simulation will amaze you!" is another choice quote, but I can safely assure you now that the only thing amazing about this game is that it ever reached the shop shelf. Grit your teeth, it's going to be a rough ride! Starting Up After installation, prepare yourself to bear witness to perhaps the worst quality video sequence you are ever likely to experience in your life. Picture the worst Vivo-based internet video you have ever seen, and you won't be too far off the mark. The better option would have been to simply not have bothered at all. Wanting to check the game out quickly, I fired up the Exhibition mode to get stuck into a single match .. only to find that my Sidewinder game pad didn't function. In the control configuration I managed to re-define the keys to all the buttons on my pad. Surely if it's recognising the button presses within the game, it isn't that difficult to write a proper detection routine? All Star Tennis allows you to play out an entire season over ten tournament locations, or you can select an individual tournament. Tournaments are held in different countries and on varying court surfaces, but sadly none of them actually resemble real life locations. Before a match you can select to play as any of the game's seven tennis stars. Maybe you would like to be Richard Krajicek, or search your feminine side as Conchita Martinez? Each player walks into view, and does a small leap of delight if you pick them to play with. You can choose to play a game of singles, doubles, or even mixed doubles, the latter being a refreshing inclusion. By default all matches play for just one set, making it necessary to get it right the first time or be eliminated. To give yourself a little breathing space, I suggest you change the match length to three sets. Tennis Elbow Regardless of what match mode you are in though, you won't be able to escape how absolutely dire this game is. I can't put it any other way - the game plays like some public domain effort by a wannabe programmer. Your movement is extremely limited, with hardly enough response from the controls to get yourself from one side of the court to the other. Even when you manage to get yourself in a perfect position to return a shot, you will very often find your player either fails to respond to your button press, or the game's lousy collision detection will come into play. The method to serve and return shots is really clumsy too, with far too much emphasis on guesswork than true skill. Some sort of marker system would have been far better, even if it was just for the service. Umpire and line calls are perhaps some of the most diabolical yet witnessed in a tennis game, and that just further infuriates you. If all that isn't enough to have warned you off this game, then perhaps the computer controlled players' wonderful ability to be in totally the wrong place a lot of the time will. There is one advantage to this though - while you are wrestling with the controls, you may well fluke a shot past the computer, who has temporarily lost the ability to predict where the ball is going. Graphics and Sound Not only does the game play like a nightmare, it looks like one too. To be fair the court graphics aren't too bad, but the players look terrible, with some of the most jerky motion captures you're likely to see, and even the pre-match player stills are poorly done, making me wonder if the stars ever actually saw just how they were being represented in the game. The game also suffers from the old 'Spot the Ball' syndrome, with you all too often having to squint at the screen to establish the ball's location. Exterior visuals like the crowd are all very careless too, looking more like a multi-coloured video corruption than a group of appreciative and adoring fans. The downward trend doesn't stop at the sound either, with this being some of the most dull and uninspired audio I have heard in a long while. Crowd hecklers sound out every five seconds, either encouraging a particular player or answering a mobile phone. All well and good, but when you hear the same rubbish time and time again it just gets plain annoying. I think the umpire sums everything up perfectly though, sounding about as interested in the game as I am in playing it ever again. I had visions of this guy standing next to the microphone recording each sample, and afterwards shouting "can I go home yet?" Oh, and if I hear that menu music ever again, I swear I will commit suicide! Conclusion All Star Tennis is absolutely terrible, and I really have tried to find a spark of something good in the game. The fact that the game is not even mentioned on UbiSoft's webpage is kinda ironic in itself. There are no redeeming features at all, with clumsy gameplay, awful graphics and sound that will have you drop-kicking your speakers through a window. There is a multiplayer option for up to four players, but I think you will find the biggest challenge is finding someone else that would want to play it. Steer well clear! - Open Tennis 2000 review 1

4th August 2000 DNM

Sammy Sosa High Heat Baseball 2001

Baseball game reviewed

3DO Publisher 3DO System Requirements  Pentium 166 or equivalent  110Mb hard drive space  32Mb RAM Major League Baseball Baseball is to the Americans what cricket is to the English. Ask anybody on the other side of the Atlantic, and you will almost certainly get laughed at if you even whisper the word 'cricket'. Similarly here in England, baseball is hardly the most popular of sports. Personally I prefer the hotdog and beer fuelled atmosphere of baseball to the rather sterile game of cricket though. This also has a knock-on effect when playing computerised versions of the sports - I've yet to find a cricket sim that has managed to lift the game to the level of entertainment. Baseball on the other hand is different - things are looking decidedly rosy for baseball enthusiasts, with the recent release of Microsoft Baseball 2001, and now Sammy Sosa's latest outing with 3DO. Making a baseball game easy to use is perhaps the toughest challenge for a developer, and 3DO have certainly done their utmost to make all the batting, pitching and fielding moves as simple as possible. Pitching is startlingly realistic. Your pitcher begins in a crouched position, and then once you are standing tall for the pitch you can issue special instructions to your pitcher. This can be to 'pickoff' a cheeky base runner on first, second or third base, or maybe intentionally throwing the ball at the batter. This 'Bean Ball' will result in a disgruntled batsman getting a free walk to first and, if you persist in doing it, your ejection from the game! When you are ready to pitch, select the 'Pitching Key'. This lists all the types of throw which a Pitcher is capable of. Push your directional keys in the relevant direction, and pitch the ball. Using a combination of stalling tactics and deliberate low balls, you will soon be striking out the batters. Batter Up! Batting adopts a similar system to Pitching - the left and right keys determine the angle of your bat swing, while the 'up' direction will do a high shoulder swipe, and 'down' an up and under full swing. When you receive a ball you can choose to guess what type of throw it is going to be, which is made easier by calling up the Pitchers Key for that particular thrower, although you can only display this once. Usually you will receive one of three or four different types of pitch. Fielding has been made relatively easy to perform too. If a ball can be caught, a yellow crosshair moves to where it will land. If you get a fielder within that cross hair, chances are you will catch the batter out. Getting the ball from the outfield to the bases is a simple case of throwing with the directional buttons representing a mini grid - the up key throws to second base, the left to third, and so forth. There are some times where you would kill for a method to increase the power of a fielder's throw though. I lost count of the times a base runner would sneak home, purely because my throw to fourth base was painfully slow. A fair few times I have been victim to some ludicrously poor decisions too - one of my basemen receives the ball, quite clearly before the runner gets to base, but fairly often they get a 'safe' decision. Infuriating, especially in a tightly contested match. Season Sammy Sosa offers a full 162 match season, but I warn you now that I can't imagine anybody playing this for the first time and succeeding. I seriously recommend that you head for the 'Batting Practice' option first, and stay there until you have mastered the system. If 162 games seems a bit over the top, you can create your own custom league with anything from two to thirty teams in it. And if this is still too much to take in, you can opt for the 'Exhibition' option, allowing you to play a single match between any two teams of your choice. You can also select the 'Playoffs' option, which allows you to play in the post-season World Series. This negates the need to play the whole season to get to this stage. There's also a fun game variant called 'Home Run Derby', which adds a little bit of arcade variety to the proceedings and is best played with two or more players. You take it in turns to bat, each receiving twenty pitches, and the idea is to get as many home runs and/or clean shots as possible, with a score kept as you go along. Finally, the game can be played over a network via the 'NetPlay' option, with both IPX and TCP/IP supported. Internet play hasn't been left out either, with full support through Heat.Net, Mplayer and the MSN Gaming Zone. Graphics and Sound Graphically I have no real qualms about High Heat Baseball. The impressive list of stadiums are all nicely rendered, presumably looking like the real thing - I certainly know the Chicago Cubs one looks the part, because I've been there. The scoreboards are a really nice feature; it's just a shame that they don't actually display anything to do with the current game! The players look fantastic, clad in their respective team colours and badges. The movement of the batters and pitchers is worth particular note for its smoothness and realism. Body language plays a big part too, with despondency being clearly visible in a struck-out batter, and elation after smacking a home run. The fielders could have done with a little more work though, often standing like a Sumo wrestler, and running along like they have got hot coals in their pants! On the downside, the sound is merely above average. Every effort has been made to recreate the baseballing atmosphere of the real game, and the crowds cheer along, with the odd heckler saying their Granny could do better, and such like! The announcers bellow out of the cheap and cheerful tanoy systems, often accompanied by a chorus of cheesy organ music. On top of all this you have the commentator and the sounds from the game itself. The problem is that a lot of the samples are not of the best quality. Things aren't helped by the default sound levels making the whole multi-layered audio sound confused and muddled, and you can't hear the commentators clearly until you turn down some of the other sound. Even when you do get a level you are happy with, the whole thing still sounds like it's playing from beneath a cushion. Conclusion If you're looking for a baseball simulation you can't get a lot better than this at the moment. In an effort to cater for all tastes, you can even choose to play the game as a team manager only. Or should that be coach? I get confused. Sammy Sosa's Baseball's database is pretty amazing, and even goes as far as to have most of the top players' mugshots along with their statistics. There are a few bugs though - twice I have played a season game only for it to be aborted by the program not being able to calculate a part of the database. Mastering batting is probably going to be the biggest factor in whether you persevere with this title or not though. It's been made a simple enough task to perform, but you will often find that the kind of batting you pulled off in practice mode simply doesn't happen in the main tournaments. All in all it's a competent enough baseballing package, but not one which I will be coming back to in the near future. Eye Candy         Download The Update Download the ' Start of 2000 Roster Update' (763Kb) - follow the Javascript link. 7

29th July 2000 DNM
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