Sunday, August 28, 2022

Need For Speed: Most Wanted (2005) (PC) Review

I finished this game on Thursday, May 28, 2009, 8:05:00 PM. This review was first published on GameSpot on July 20, 2009.

Need For Speed series was reinvented with Underground, the series focused solely on illegal street racing. Underground and Underground 2 focused on nighttime racing. Most Wanted takes place during the daylight. It is a welcome change after two games which were exclusively under street lights.

This time around, there is a stronger emphasis on the story. Underground 2 had a story for the first time in the series but it was weak and was not treated very well. Most Wanted has a better story line and played a stronger part in the game.

The career begins with the player taking on the role of a nameless protagonist, who enters the city of Rockport to be a part of the street racing circuit. As you win races you go up in the Blacklist. The story starts to unfold when you enter a race with Razor. Razor sabotages your car and wins it from you at the end of the race, and you get caught by the police and land up in jail; but released soon due to lack of evidence.

You get help from a mysterious woman named Mia. She assists you in getting a car and taking part in the Blacklist races to win your car back from Razor, who reached the top of the Blacklist with it.

The police keep an eye on your from the beginning and as you start to win races they get more aggressive in their pursuit. Winning races in the Blacklist involves meeting certain criteria, such as having certain amount of bounty, evading cops in chases, and finally winning a one on one race against the opponent. This process repeats until you defeat the final Blacklist racer.

The story is told through full motion video with real actors. You won't remember the game for the acting, it is just about in the same league as your latest Fast and Furious movie, which is to say, mediocre and laughably bad at best but still fun to watch. Story is compelling enough with a few obvious plot twists to hold the interest to see it through the end.

The game makes it easier to jump in to a pursuit or a race right from the menu without having to drive in the city, which is convenient if you want to get into action right away. This makes the game less tedious. It thankfully does not follow the GTA style of having to drive to a certain location to get the mission; that would have been a completely unnecessary way to prolong game play.

Evading the police is a welcome return to the franchise; they were not to be found in the last two games. A chase typically starts slow with one car on your tail, but soon you might find 20 cars giving chase, in addition to a chopper flying overhead. Getting to the top of the Blacklist to beat Razor needs a LOT of work. There are tons of races and cop chases you need to beat to even get to race with a Blacklist driver. Halfway through the Blacklist, this process started getting tedious, more so because the AI starts to act crazy. For instance, I was in the final lap of a race and I was almost three quarters of a lap ahead of the race, and I happened to crash, and before I know, the AI is almost on top of me in a matter of seconds; and another time I was way behind in the race when the AI inexplicably slows down to allow me to win the race. The AI tends to do more of this as you go higher up; it oscillates between extremely tough and extremely easy.

The game has a lot of licensed cars that can either be purchased or won; I particularly loved the Ford Mustang GT. The customization of parts is really fun, and it gives you a sense of accomplishment when you install a higher upgrade of nitro and race past the AI.

The game, for the first time, has a speed breaker, which is a version of bullet time. The game slows down to a crawl and this allows you to navigate some really sharp turns without crashing. I thought this was a nice addition to the game.

Graphically, the game looks great. Playing it at 1600x1200 with all settings maxed is very exciting. The large environments of the city are well done. The different parts give a nice sense of variety, and the car models look sharp, especially when you start painting them with crazy triple-colored paint. The visuals scale reasonably well, I tried this game on machines with AGP cards and it worked well.

The game has outstanding engine noises that change depending on which car you're in and which upgrades you have. The rest of the sound effects are also of excellent quality. The game uses quite a bit of voice acting in the story, which is good, but sometimes they are entirely out of context. That's easily forgiven.

Most Wanted is an excellent arcade racing game with high quality visuals and sounds and some very interesting gameplay additions.

+ Visuals
+ Cop chases
+ Sound effects
+ Full motion video
+ Ford Mustang GT!
+ Speed breaker

- Racing in career mode can be tedious
- Unpredictable AI

Verdict - Buy

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl (PC) Review

I finished this game on Friday, October 2, 2009, 5:30:00 PM. This review was first published on GameSpot on October 22, 2010.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R is one of those games that is hard to describe. Games like this are produced once in a generation. S.T.A.L.K.E.R enjoys a cult like following among PC gamers and for a good reason too.

At release, it was quite buggy for most people. Thankfully, I never bought it at release. I have been told stories of people who played about 30% of the game and the developers released a patch which rendered the previous saves useless. I can imagine the frustration of gamers who bought it at launch.

Nevertheless, the game is not without merits. I wouldn't begrudge the game for its bugs. I am not a very forgiving gamer, I don't persist games which frustrate me; but I stuck with the game, and I am glad I did. This is typical PC game in that quick save is your best friend.

If you are spoiled by games like Call of Duty with regenerating health, then S.T.A.L.K.E.R is going to be hard, even on normal difficulty. I remember struggling my way through the game at the start because i did not have good weapons. This part was really the least fun for me. Once the good weapons become available, which is not too long into the game, life in the zone becomes more bearable.

Also, irrespective of the type of weapon, the game is easy or hard depending on how good a shot you are. Once you get used to the game, its easy to score head shots with pistol and earn one shot skills. Just don't expect an achievement to pop up every time you do that. None of that nonsense here.

Speaking of the atmosphere, the developers got it spot on. Unless I am mistaken, this was about the time when dynamic day/night cycles in games were yet to become a norm. At least I don't recollect playing a game with dynamic day/night cycle prior to this (If my readership knows of such a game, be kind enough to mention it). The zone feels a lot more eerie at night than it does during the day. Being the kind of person that I am, I hated venturing out at night; I even found the dogs scary, so I stuck to traveling during the day.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R is not a scary game as such, it does not try to scare you the way F.E.A.R or Doom 3 do. Those games rely on startling the player with enemies jumping out of dark corridors. S.T.A.L.K.E.R instead relies on creating a very depressing atmosphere, with a few scares thrown in. The overall atmosphere of S.T.A.L.K.E.R is a great mix of open environment and claustrophobic underground labs. There are some very tense moments in the underground labs.

If you are too scared to go out at night, go out during the day and you see mutants going about their business in broad daylight. They seem a lot less scary in that case. This is probably what sets apart S.T.A.L.K.E.R from a survival horror game. A survival horror game gives you very little options and there is no escape, hence the survival aspect. I remember parts in the game where I could almost always find a perch and take my time picking off the mutants. The game is scary in very subtle ways.

I need to touch upon the topic of bugs before I conclude. I played the game with the latest patch (1.0006) installed and I have encountered numerous AI bugs. There were times when all the AI around you is just plain dead and times when after a quick load, an enemy would spawn right in front of your face and shoot before you could do anything. This resulted in some backtracking.

I recommend the game to any FPS fan. Bugs or not, this game must be played. Its about 20 hours long, and that's almost 5 times the length of some games released these days (Medal of Honor - 4 hours long; Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 – 6 hours). Of course, the time taken to beat is not always a measure of a good game, but in this case it is, and for what it costs, its incredible value as well.

+ Excellent visuals
+ Atmosphere
+ PC game inside out
+ Level design
+ Story (Yes, its rather good, although its not very well told)
+ Enemies (When they all don't play dead, but to be fair that only happened once)

- Bugs

Verdict - Must play

Mirror's Edge (PC) Review

I finished this game on Friday, September 25, 2009, 7:39:00 PM. This review was first published on GameSpot on November 1, 2009.

Mirror's Edge is a first person running game developed by DICE. You play as Faith, a free runner. The story is set in a modern utopian society with a totalitarian government. Invasive surveillance is a part of life in this city and runners help exchange information between parties without getting caught.

Game play is the most admirable aspect, its not perfect but its very innovative and first of its kind. I was skeptical of how the game is going on handle, and it seemed baffling that DICE would not go the Prince of Persia route and make this a third person game. I remember there being a lot of talk in the press wondering why DICE are not making this a third person game. I am glad that DICE persisted with the first person perspective because Mirror's Edge is very unique.

Graphics can be stunning, some of the views from the tall buildings are beautiful and vertigo inducing. During the frantic chase sequences when there is a real rush to escape, vision tends to get a little blurry by the edges when leaping over rooftops and I could feel my stomach lurch forward at times. Playing this on my 24 inch monitor at 1920x1200 at highest settings with PhysX enabled is real treat. PhysX are supposed to be the selling point for PC version, but I did not find anything special about them - not that they are bad, but we have seen this in games all the way back to Max Payne 2.

I absolutely loved the soundtrack in this game. This ranks right up there with Halo for me. The theme song "Still Alive" by Lisa Miskovsky is now one of my favorite songs. Rest of the soundtrack includes some fast techno music which is perfect during free running segments. Voice acting is quite good as well. Sound is a very impressive aspect of this game.

On the flip side, Mirror's Edge can be frustrating in spite of DICE getting all the hard parts right. They made a game that handles free running extremely well. I never found the camera to be a problem and the controls on the PC are great. I loved the the chase sequences and getting the stunts right is not very difficult. The is hurt mainly by some intentional bad design choices - the scourge of all games. Weapons are extremely weak, it reminded me of Tomb Raider Legend and not in a good way - those of you who played it would know the reference, and melee combat is frustrating and unsatisfying. This only serves to break the momentum needlessly and seemed like an after thought. DICE have developed Battlefield games, so its not as if they are inexperienced in first person shooters, yet the gun play in Mirror's Edge is very inadequate. I would recommend playing the game on Easy setting to avoid the frustration of combat.

Also, the game is quite short. On Easy I finished the game in about 7 hours. For a free running game to be truly effective, it must have the feel of an open city where the game play is not restrictive. Mirror's Edge in this case is like a modern version of the old school platform adventures because most often, there is one and only one way of proceeding. I can understand that at times this might be necessary, but throughout the game, you will be in a huge city, which you cannot explore and the path is very linear - just like an old platformer. I also get the feeling that it could benefited from the no-death mechanic of Prey, Bioshock and Prince of Persia.

Puzzles in the game are fairly intuitive but there are places where the player can get stuck without a clue. I remember a couple of such instances. Thankfully, Xfire's in-game browser supports this game, and I could quickly log into Youtube for the video walkthrough. That said, the free running part is very well done, but there are always some needless breaks in the free flowing game play, and the linearity would impede this too.

My biggest complaint is the lack of realizing the full potential, reminds of Quake 4 in a way for not capitalizing on key moments.

I bought this game for $7.22 with shipping on Amazon and I also got an audio CD with the soundtrack, and for that money, it is well worth it. If I paid the full price though, I would be very disappointed. Anything around $15-$20 would be a good price. So if you can find it around that price, this is a must buy.

+ Free running is very well done
+ Visuals
+ Brilliant soundtrack
+ Decent story telling
+ Some segments are truly breathtaking
+ Tight controls

- Very weak combat
- Some puzzles break the momentum
- Short

Verdict: Buy it for around $20

Gears of War (PC) Review

I finished this game on Wednesday, June 17, 2009, 10:09:00 PM. This review was first published on GameSpot on June 27, 2009.

Gears of War is a 3rd person shooter developed by Epic Games and published by Microsoft Game Studios. It was first released as an Xbox 360 exclusive, and it went on to become one of the most successful games for the console. It was later released for the PC with some added content and better visuals to support the high end graphics cards.

You play as Marcus Fenix, a former COG soldier who was imprisoned for abandoning his post, and reinstated into command and asked to join the Coalition to fight Locust. The game is quite different from most 3rd person shooters in that, it relies heavily on cover mechanics. You take cover behind various objects during firefights, and stand up to shoot and duck back out of sight.

Even in the casual setting, there is some frustration to be had. Difficulty climbs quite steeply in these sections; I felt there should have been at least one checkpoint during these parts, instead there were none.

The sound track is good, but it could have used more variations. Every time there an action sequence, the same music kicks in throughout the game. Granted that the game itself is not very long, yet, listening to the same tune over and over again tends to get monotonous, and however good it might be. The effects are top notch, weapons pack a punch, especially the top gun and the six-shooter.

Weapons are fun to use. I especially loved the torque bow it reminded me of Rambo. In fact, the whole game feels like a big Hollywood movie. It's very slick and fast paced. The melee combat has some great moments. The chainsaw to the machinegun was a great idea; when you get a chainsaw kill on an enemy, the game takes over and it shows you slicing an enemy into half. As cool as this might be, it could have been implemented better, because sometimes it doesn't work like it should.

The best in the game for me are the visuals. Gears of War uses Unreal 3 engine, and it looks fantastic. I played the game in DirectX 10 mode at 1920x1200 with all settings on maximum on my EVGA GeForce 260GTX, and it looked out of this world. There is something about the art and environment though, while they are beautiful and unique, most of the game the environment is various shades of dirt. This can seem monotonous after a while. This could have used some lush green jungles as seen in Crysis. It would have looked beautiful in Unreal 3 engine.

Technically speaking, there is a nasty savegame bug that causes the savegames to disappear after exit. This happened a few times even after patching it. If you are playing offline, there is a fix, and also a way to backup the save games.

Over all it's a fantastic experience. Gears of War is an excellent port. It has all the qualities of a good port should have and some bad ones too. Controls are very well optimized for the PC. I have no hesitation in recommending this game.

+ Graphics
+ Sound effects
+ Level design
+ Fast paced game play
+ Cover system
+ Weapons, especially torque bow

- Savegame bug
- Repetitive soundtrack
- Uneven checkpoints on two occasions

Verdict - Must play

Red Faction 2 (PC) Review

I finished this game on Wednesday, August 29, 2007, 8:03:00 AM. This review was first published on GameSpot on June 14, 2009.

This game is a sequel to the fairly successful Red Faction. It explores the situation back on earth in 22nd century, 5 years after the uprising on Mars.

For 15 years Chancellor Victor Sopot has oppressed the people on Earth belonging to the Commonwealth. You play the role of Alias, a demolitions expert, who is a part of a 6 member rebel group united to put an end to the tyranny of the evil Chancellor. As you play the game, you will find that the story takes a few unexpected twists.

The game play is very similar to its predecessor. Geo Mod once again is in focus, and it plays a greater role. Battles take an advantage of the Geo Mod, and you are never quite safe when hiding behind a wall or a barricade, because it can be destroyed with the right kind of weapon. This makes the game play challenging and the battles can be quite intense at times.

The weapons are quite good. There are all kinds of different weapons to be had in this game. Playing with these toys is a lot of fun, especially because of the destructive environments.

But the good part is over.

This game is a PS 2 port, so the graphics seem very dull and dated. I am not really impressed with the visuals in general. The game almost looks the same as Red Faction, which was released almost 2 years ago.

There are slightly better particle effects, but that's about it. I feel that PC gamers deserve better visuals than the dated PS 2. It feels more like an after thought and an attempt to cash on the franchise.

The game is more like an arcade shooter than a serious action game. It is terribly can be completed in one evening without any difficulty. So PC gamers are going to feel terribly cheated out of a good shooter that they would have expected to see, after the solid content the first game delivered.

Over all, I am quite disappointed with this title. I expected some solid game play, but it was over before I knew it. I finished it in a matter of 6 hours of casual gaming.

Perhaps fans of the series might want to play this in the wake of the release of Red Faction Guerilla. Otherwise, there is not much to be missed.

+ Geo mod
+ Weapons are fun to use
+ Plot twists

- Short
- Dated visuals
- Feels like an arcade shooter

Verdict - Pick it up if you find it for less than $5.

Call of Duty: United Offensive (PC) Review

I finished this game on Monday, February 5, 2007, 10:52:00 AM. This review was first published on GameSpot on June 10, 2009.

Call of Duty United Offensive is an expansion to Call of Duty. It is developed by Grey Matter Interactive. They developed games such as Return to Castle Wolfenstein and Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2.

The game is centered around three allied forces – United States, United Kingdom and Soviet Union. It includes some of the key battles of World War II such as Battle of the Bulge, Battle of Kursk, and the Invasion of Sicily.

Graphics are better than the original, with a heavily tweaked Quake 3 engine; explosions look superb with great particle effects. There were a few framerate issues though, but they are only few and far in between to affect the gameplay. My 7600GS AGP was able to run this game just fine at maximum settings without any problems.

Environments are varied, and like in the first game, you get to be a gunner on a variety of vehicles. I particularly loved the Sicily level where you get to be a gunner on the sidecar of a motorcycle and the driver navigates through the narrow streets at breakneck speed. Very exciting!

The sounds set the mood of the game, with battle cries and occasional orchestra music. There is a sound issue when using my Creative soundcard, so I had to switch to Miles 2D audio. There was a lot of crackling and static at times when I was using Creative hardware drivers to play the game. Sometimes restarting the game helped solve the problem.

The game is not too long, it shouldn’t take more than 6-7 hours to finish in normal difficulty mode. It keeps you hooked until the very end, just like the original. Most of the missions involve demolition, and it’s always fun to watch your hard work paying off at the end with sweet sight of everything exploding and falling to pieces.

+ Very intense action
+ Great visuals
+ Level design

- Minor technical issues with sound

Verdict: Must play

Far Cry 2 (PC) Review

I finished this game on Friday, August 20, 2010, 8:48:00 PM. This review was first published on GameSpot on November 13, 2010.

I can't remember being this mad at a game. Far Cry 2 showed me new levels of boredom and rage that I am yet to experience. The reason I get so angry is because the game had great fantastic potential. It easily could have been one of the best games ever made. It had all the right elements. However, the stupid decisions the developers made turned this game from a fantastic shooter to a mind-numbingly boring game that tries everything and fails rather miserably.

The story is quite good, believe it or not. The fighting between different factions in an untamed land, greed, deception, a journalist writing a book about the situation of the country and the plight of its people, and an enemy with a political and philosophical agenda. The game even incorporates a choice system a few times, its quite simple and shallow, but its still there.

Far Cry 2 game play. Played on 1920x1200, GeForce 260GTX and Intel Q9400 & 4GB RAM

Its really hard to appreciate any of the redeemable qualities when the rest of the game is so monotonous! The constant driving around between towns would not have been so bad, if the enemies weren't re-spawning endlessly! I've heard people on some message boards say this adds realism to the game. I've never accused message board trolls of having a brain, but this is a bit much. How is that enemies who got killed not 5 minutes ago appear magically in that exact same location translate into "realism"?! This makes the game seem longer than it is, because the actual "game" part of it is rather small. I even bothered to time the game play. If I played the game exactly as the developers intended the player to, in a 30 minute session, I spent 18 minutes travel (driving, walking, swimming), approximately 90 seconds in conversations, and the rest of the time shooting. So you can see, nineteen and a half minutes in doing something that absolutely adds NO value to the game, because you keep doing it ALL the time. Over and over again.

There is a fast travel system, but its not like Fallout 3. It involves driving to a bus station, select a bus station nearest to the mission location. Get off at the bus station, take a nearby car and drive the reminder of the way to the actual location.

Now, on the way to the destination up to two guard posts maybe encountered. So once that business is taken care of, continue to the actual mission location, take care of the mission, and then begin driving back to the bus station. The guard posts destroyed are magically resurrected. So fight the same guards and again take the bus, get off the bus, drive the car back to pick up more missions. I fail to see the realism or any semblance of fun.

The game somehow got rave reviews, not just from suspect publications, but from a lot of other publications I hold in high regard. PC Gamer handed out a 94! I can't imagine what they might been smoking. These are the guys know their stuff. Its really inexplicable. Its as if they played a different game from the one I played.

Don't even get me started on the weapons. No, they are not bad. The handle very well, until they decide to fall apart right in the middle of a firefight. I see the logic behind this, but then, if you have re-spawning guard posts and degrading weapons, tense and frantic game play soon turns into utterly boring arbitrary gimmick.

The other aspects of the game are extremely well done. Visuals are brilliant. This game stands up to Crysis in terms of graphics. Sounds are fantastic. The environment is absolutely brilliant. But what is the point? I am not going to recommend this game. Why bother talking about it about all those when the actual game is a total waste of time?

Even if the game is really dead cheap, I wouldn't recommend it, reason being it has no entertainment value. If the point of purchasing a game is to have fun, and that is not a far fetched assumption, then it is pointless to buy this game. There is no fun to be had.

- Boring, absolutely utterly boring

Verdict – Do not play

Quake 4 (PC) Review

I finished this game on Saturday, June 6, 2009, 11:49:00 PM. This review was first published on GameSpot on June 7, 2009.

For the first time ever, a Quake game is not developed in house by id Software. Raven Software, the developers of Soldier of Fortune, were entrusted with the job of creating a new Quake game. The story continues right after Quake 2, where the unnamed marine destroyed the Makron, and the player, as a part of Rhino squad has to secure the planet of Stroggos.

Graphics are stunning. Shadows are very realistic and add atmosphere to the game. There are a few low resolution background textures, which stand out poorly in comparison. Indoor levels look fantastic. Player and enemy models are rich in details and fluid in movement. Doom 3 engine really shines here.

A word has be said about the hydraulics in the game. As you can see in the video (00:29), they are these elaborate set pieces, and while you cannot call them beautiful, they are awe inspiring mechanical marvels. Its fairly obvious that a lot of work went to designing these machines throughout the game. I have never played a game which had this kind of environment, where machines are so well created.

Sound quality is good, and weapons sound better than they did in Doom 3. I enjoyed using the shotgun a lot, it packs a lot of punch, and it is very lethal at close range.

Most of the weapons here are variants of the old ones, which work very well for the game, but I thought the BFG was somewhat lacking the power of its predecessors. Quake II and Quake III had better BFG. I was hoping to see a BGF that was similar to Quake III.

Vehicle section are basic, but fun, and they break up the action very well. I particularly enjoyed the mech walker level.

Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the game is the potential that was left unexplored. About a quarter of the way through the game, the player is captured by the Strogg, and undergoes a ‘Stoggification’ process. This involves a rather gruesome bioengineering process where the limbs are severed, and mechanical counterparts are attached in their place. The brain is implanted with a neuro chip which when activated, turns the human into a Strogg. Kane is rescued just before the activation is complete, and so remains as a human with Strogg implants.

The developers had the chance to turn the game around with this, and yet, we never get to see any real gameplay changes. There is a slight health increase, and it is now possible to read the letters on the walls, pass through some portals towards the end, but nothing much else. There are no abilities to be gained here. So, that part was disappointing. It would have made a difference between a good shooter and a great.

Overall, my reaction to this game is very positive. This is a fantastic game, albeit it does not utilize its full potential. Given that the game is very cheap and latest official patch will make the game work without the CD/DVD (that’s the kind of support I’d like to see from developers), it must be bought and played.

+ Stunning visuals
+ Lots of action
+ Plenty of weapons
+ Fairly long single player

- Missed out on better game play

Verdict: Must buy

Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alive (PC) Review

I finished this game on Tuesday, November 23, 2004, 5:23:00 PM. This review was first published on GameSpot on June 2, 2009.

Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alive belongs to the subgenre of tactical strategy. Such games have enjoyed success in Europe, but not so much in North America.

Although this game is called a Commandos clone; I do not think so, just as Crysis is not a clone of Far Cry. It has taken the elements of Commandos and perfected them. The setting helps show off these innovations.

The story is set in New Mexico, 1881. Many trains have been robbed the last few months by a bandit called "El Diablo". The railroad company has offered a bounty to anyone who can stop El Diablo. Bounty-hunter John Cooper accepts the task, despite the objections of bad-tempered Marshal Jackson, but soon learns the mission is not as simple as he first assumed.

He then decides to enlist the help of his old friends. The initial missions involve rounding up the gang members – Sam, Doc and Kate, each of who have tutorial missions. These missions are integrated quite well into the rest of the missions and they do not feel disconnected. Later in the game, two more characters – Sanchez and Mia - become allies, making it a total of six characters.

Each characters have unique abilities. The game does not impose stealth as heavily as Commandos did, this leaves a lot of room for different strategies. It is not necessary to maintain cover at all times, so Sam’s shotgun and Cooper’s colt come in handy often. The other characters have decent weapons as well, except Mia, who has a blowpipe, which I was not very useful.

I found that I did not use certain skills all that often. For example, Kate can blind enemies using her mirror, and I did not use this in the game anywhere but in the tutorial. Same goes for Doc’s balloon.

Copper is the protagonist, but he is not expected to do all the work in the game. Each character plays an important role, and its not as if they are useful at the very end to blow something up. It is possible to chose a certain character to perform majority of the tasks, but ideally, the game becomes a lot more interesting when all possibilities are explored.

Quick action comes in very useful when there are multiple enemies to take out, and multiple characters to control. What this does is, help you assign an action to each character, and “save” the action. This action can be performed quickly at the press of a button. Very neat feature.

Level design is fantastic that way. It is challenging without being frustrating. I never had to spend too much time trying to figure out a way, because often, there is not just one way to accomplish tasks. Of course, this game has the Commandos syndrome too, in that, if you need to blow up a bridge, you will need Sam to do it for you. The story involves travelling through the American west, Mexican haciendas, and heavily guarded prison fortresses, providing a lot of variety. There are also night and day missions, so the strategies employed will be vastly different. The game contains 25 levels in all, and it takes a while to complete them.

Enemy AI is fairly intelligent. There are vision cones to see the field of vision. Green indicates all is well and the enemy saunters around. Once suspicion is aroused, the cone changes to yellow and the enemy scans in all directions frantically to find you. This gives you a clear indication of the situation at hand.

Visually, the game is stunning. The artwork is beautiful, the detail that has gone into it is amazing. Graphics are in 2D, and I got the feeling that a 3D engine would have done more justice to the excellent style in the game. Zooming in would make the game a lot pixelized, so this is not recommended, but it is sometimes useful.

Cut scenes, voice acting and sound deserve a worthy praise. The story is very well told and all the characters sound authentic. Sounds in the levels are very well done. Night time levels have crickets chirping, and water cascading and so on, which add atmosphere to the levels.

Anyone who has played and enjoyed Commandos should definitely play this. Its fantastic and will give your money’s worth.

However, this game, like all others in the genre, has a high learning curve. I cannot imagine a casual gamer putting in the time and effort to plan each move to complete a huge level. Its not a fast paced game at all. It is meant to be enjoyed for a long time, not something that can be casually beaten.

+ Excellent level design
+ Beautiful artwork
+ Challenging yet fun game play
+ Quick action

- High learning curve

Verdict – Excellent.

Call of Duty 2 (PC) Review

I finished this game on Thursday, March 19, 2009, 11:19:00 PM. This review was first published on GameSpot on March 21, 2009.

A sequel to the 2003 game, Call of Duty 2 tells the story of three soldiers from different parts of the world – Russia, UK and US, fighting against the same enemy – Nazi Germany.

Call of Duty 2 takes the high standards higher. The campaign is more visceral and engaging. Although the core game play aspects remain the same, some minor changes go a long way in making the game more immersive.

You are only a soldier in a group fighting against odds in the midst of heavy battle, there are no one man army missions, and you are always a part of a platoon. This gives you the feeling of being a small part in a great battle.

You begin your campaign in Russia as a private in the Russian army fighting to regain control of Stalingrad. Once you capture the city hall from German army, you move on to the British operation in Africa. You attack the Germans in tanks and race through the narrow streets of Tunisia in an armored car evading the Panzerfaust, and then a final mission in Amaye sur Seulles will see the end of the British campaign.

The American campaign begins in frenzy on the D-Day, not at the Omaha beach in Normandy (Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, remember?), but at the foot of steep cliffs of Pointe du Hoc in Normandy, France. You are a part of United States Army Ranger Assault Group in Operation Overlord. You have to scale the cliffs and gain the control of the 155mm guns. This for me was the best part of the game. It was truly epic.

The visuals and sound ensure that you are completely immersed in the game. At high settings the game looks amazing. Particle effects, explosions and rain have been greatly improved using the proprietary graphics engine. The game has native widescreen support, so there is no need to resort to user created patches. Character models look great, and the animations are very smooth. Soldiers don't appear to glide like they did in the previous game.

Level design is top notch. Environments in different parts of the world have been created with a great detail. The sand covered deserts in Libya and Egypt, icy streets of Russia and the ruined cities in France are outstanding.

Sound increases the intensity of the battle. The weapons sound really sharp and the score is very moving. You can hear soldiers screaming and taunting, and the sound of explosions create a great atmosphere. The Battle for Hill 400 level comes to mind; it begins with a battle cry and the allies charging to take on the Germans. The game puts you in a war movie.

Each level begins with real World War II footage and all the battles are factual. You get to read the diary entries of the character before each mission. It shows the work the developers put into the game to make it as real as possible.

Game play has received some minor tweaks. Unlike most other games, there is no concept of health packs. When you are hit by an enemy, your vision is blurred, and it turns red. You need to find cover quickly to recover. I was initially surprised and not sure if I liked it. After having played for a few minutes, I realized I didn't have to worry about getting health packs, and I could concentrate on the action instead.

The save mechanic in the game is different too. You don't ever have to save your game, the does this for you – it's a checkpoint system. When you start the game, you don't have to look through a save game menu, you just hit resume game and you are done. While I am not such a fan of not having Quick Save, I think in this game, it works perfectly, because there are no frustrating parts that would require you to play over and over. The pacing is just right.

I played the game on hard difficulty, and the enemy AI presents quite a challenge, so you don't ever want to rush into a fight. Instead you take cover, flank the enemy, use smoke grenades etc. The friendly AI is also very helpful and they often rescued me from tight spots.

Perhaps the only negative aspect that I can think of is the infinite soldier spawn. There are times when you have to advance in battle or else enemies keep spawning endlessly. You could be crouching behind a wall and kill hundreds of soldiers, and unless you move forward, they keep coming at you. This will not spoil your experience by a long way, but I expected something more than the age old infinite enemy spawn trick.

The campaign is about 15 hours long at Hard difficulty setting. This game deserves to be played by all FPS gamers. It is an amazing experience.

+ Great graphics
+ Some innovative game play changes
+ Excellent friendly and enemy AI
+ Sound
+ Level design

- Infinite enemy spawn

Verdict - Must Play!

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Prince of Persia: Warrior Within (PC) Review

I finished this game on Tuesday, June 3, 2008, 2:14:00 PM. This review was first published on GameSpot on March 14, 2009.

Prince of Persia Warrior Within is a sequel to Sands of Time. The story picks up seven years after the Sands of Time.

The Prince finds himself hunted by the Dahaka, the guardian of the timeline. Anyone who opens the sands of time should die, but the Prince escaped his fate, and the Dahaka who is a reincarnation of fate, tries to ensure that the Prince dies as he was meant to.

Seeking counsel from an old wise man, the Prince learns of the existence of the Island of Time, where the Sands of Time were created, which is ruled by the Empress of Time. The Prince sets sail for the Island of Time to attempt to prevent the Sands of Time from being created. The mysterious island is said to contain several time portals which enable the Prince to travel back in time. He believes that if there are no Sands of Time, the Dahaka will cease to exist as well.

The story has taken a much darker turn this time around. The Prince is no more the young and restless chap he was in Sands of Time. He is weary, scruffy and very angry.

The premise of the story is very interesting to me, but the way it is told was very convoluted. I was really confused some way through the game about my objectives, and I was playing through the levels not knowing what was going on. This made the game less immersive.

Although you understand the bigger picture of the plot, you are never quite sure the exact reason you are doing something. This is a result of the complicated story telling. Having said that, the story is unique and I quite enjoyed the ending and reading about the plot that I had missed during the game.

The level design is very interesting. Rather than taking the player to different locations, the whole game is set in a big palace. While you get to explore the palace, which is quite big, you get to do it in different time periods – the past and the present.

Traveling through time will greatly modify the levels; in the past, the palace is shown in all its glory, and in the present, it is a vine covered derelict with walls crumbling apart, and in a state of ruin.

I like the concept of showing the same levels at different times. It brings a sense of nostalgia. Having said that, the complex story telling disorients the player and the objective is not quite evident. This means a lot of needless backtracking. Of course, not all players might feel find this as a problem.

Combat is something I enjoyed for most part. The much publicized freestyle combat is a lot of fun. It was a little difficult to get all the combos right at the exact time you want to execute them, and often the combat turns into furious button mashing, yet it is very entertaining. Sometimes you got to pull off some really cool moves unintentionally – that is a very sweet feeling. There are a lot of combos to perform, and the game sets up quite well to execute them. The quality of animation is superb.

But like all other aspects of the game, there is a flip side to this. Certain parts in the game are very frustrating, especially when you don't get to have better weapons, and you get to see the Game Over screen very often.

The camera sometimes plays tricks and it is not possible to align it the way you like, making it harder to control the character. The controls are camera dependent, meaning W does not always mean forward, so should you ever be hanging onto a pillar and need to a jump to a ledge, if you do not align your camera right, you might leap to your death. If you have enough sands though, it's always possible to rewind.

I got the feeling that the game was unduly challenging sometimes because of the game play issues rather than the player's ability.

The boss fights are tedious at times and it requires a lot of retrying, which was very frustrating for me, especially because the camera has a mind of its own, and decides to act a little crazy during a crucial fight.

I understand that having checkpoints in a game will make it exciting for some, but there were times when I wished it had a proper save system and I wouldn't have to go through the same part over and over again.

Graphics in the game are very good, and they are very scalable, so older computers can handle this game very well. The environments are both vibrant and colorful or dreary and desolate depending on the time period.

Puzzles are for the most part are very well designed. Puzzles for the same level change with the time period, this is because they are environment based, and the environment sometimes vastly differs with time.

The choice of music for this game is very strange. I loved the music in Sands of Time and I was hoping I would see (hear) more of the same, but to my surprise, there was Rob Zombie playing in the background. I am a fan of heavy metal music, but in this case, it's definitely out of place. I would have loved more of the Persian/Middle Eastern kind of music in this game.

All said and done, Warrior Within is a solid game. I do not have second thoughts about recommending this. Keep in mind though that there is frustration in store for you, but it's a great journey.