Thursday, April 28, 2022

No One Lives Forever 2: A Spy in H.A.R.M.'s Way (PC) Review

I finished this game on Tuesday, November 27, 2007, 2:35:00 PM. This review was first published on February 17, 2008.

In the year 2000, gamers were treated to an amazing 60's style movie like game called The Operative: No One Lives Forever. I had the good fortune of playing the demo when it first came out, and very soon, I went on to play the full version and enjoyed it immensely.

Now, after 5 years of its release I finally started playing No One Lives Forever 2: A Spy In H.A.R.M's way.

I am delighted that the game picks up right where NOLF 1 left us. The game retains the 60's style setting of the first game. If you enjoyed NOLF 1, you are going to enjoy NOLF 2.

The graphics in this game are top notch. For its time, the game required a high end computer to make it run at high settings, but most of the current computes can handle the game without any problems. I played the game at high settings and never had any frame rate issues. But of course, my computer is way over the requirements, but I suspect even medium range modern computers will run the game without any problems.

The Jupiter engine does a great job with the outdoor environments and character models. The textures are sharp and there are some great particle effects on display.

The music in the entire game is has a 60's groovy psychedelic pop theme, with a few remixes thrown in depending up on the location. All in all, the music complements the location of the, unlike some games, where the music and setting do not match; none of that here.

Voice acting deserves a special mention. Although the accents may not be authentic, they manage to be very entertaining.

The game has some very basic RPG elements. There are different attributes that can be upgraded over time within the game. Skill points can be collected by finding hidden packages, intelligence items, messages etc. Once enough skill points are collected, they can be spent for upgrading various skills, such as targeting ability, searching ability, gadgets, etc.

Upgrading one or the other will not make a huge impact, because the game is linear, but it can make certain parts a little easier.

One of the aspects that made the first game so popular was the humor; I am delighted to say that this game has managed to retain all the humor, and if you actually spend time reading through the letters, messages, memos, or hearing conversations, you will find yourself having a good laugh.

There is one thing about the game I didn't enjoy as much, minor as it maybe, it is worth mentioning. In certain parts of the game, enemies tend to spawn infinitely; there is just no end to it. I thought for a game that sets very high standards, this is a bit of a blemish on a clean slate. This shouldn't stop anyone from playing the game though.

In conclusion, No One Lives Forever 2 is a fun experience, and I enjoyed it all the way through.Give it a chance. I think you will enjoy the exploits of Cate Archer just as much as I did :)

+ Graphics
+ Humor
+ Basic RPG elements
+ Voice acting

- Infinite enemy spawning at times

Verdict - Excellent!

Far Cry (PC) Review

I finished this game on Thursday, May 1, 2008, 9:31:00 PM. This review was first published on GameSpot on July 26, 2008.

When almost the entire PC gaming industry is waiting for the release of Doom 3 and Half-Life 2, Far Cry comes out of nowhere to compete against these giants. This game put German developers CryTek on the map.

Far Cry is a first person shooter set on a tropical island. The player assumes the role of Jack Craver, who is hired to sail a woman named Valarie around the pacific. The situation goes completely wrong when the ship is attacked, and Valarie is kidnapped. It’s now your job to rescue her and get away from the island.

The first thing that comes to your mind about Far Cry is the graphics. If you have the hardware, then you will be treated to some excellent visuals. The islands are beautifully created and the water effects are superb.

The game offers some panoramic views over cliffs and waterfalls. I cannot count the number of times I spent gazing over the horizon at the beautiful scenery. Some of the indoor levels are extremely well done too. The shadows help make in making them very creepy at times; it’s very immersive that way.

The environment for most part is very open, and it gives you a feeling of freedom, although the game is fairly linear. However, it does not restrict you to take a single route to your objective. There are often multiple ways to accomplish the goals on the islands and some routes can be easier than the others.

The action is very intense throughout, because even on Normal settings the game is quite hard. It’s not advisable to attack in the open, you are often required to take cover and move carefully. The game does have a little bit of a stealth factor, but the slightest bit of a noise is enough to alert everyone on the island.

I thought this could have been implemented better. Going through the forest generally provides some good cover, but not for long. You only need to make a small commotion to alert everyone – it’s almost as if there is a marker pointing right to your location.

There are a variety of enemies to deal with, both human kind and the mutated kind. The humans tend to take cover and shoot through the forest. This usually means waiting for the right moment to attack. Headshots become essential to conserve ammo and deliver a deadly blow. The mutants tend to jump at you and can kill very easily.

You also get to drive plenty of vehicles such as boats and jeeps, and for the first time that I have seen in games, you have a hand glider to use. I thought this was really well done. I enjoyed jumping off a huge cliff with a hand glider and falling slowly into the water.

The audio provides a good experience for those with a good sound system. The sounds effects are excellent, and the weapons sound realistic. Each scenario has its own sounds; the jungle has the chirping sounds of birds, and the indoor sound effects such as hissing of steam through pipes contribute heavily to the atmosphere of the game.

Although visually the game is almost perfect, there are a few gameplay glitches that keep showing every now and then, such as erratic enemy behavior – they sometimes tend to get stuck into walls or bounce about in water; and a certain level glitch which will prevent progress. Updating the game will solve this problem.

The game is fairly long, and provides 20-30 hours of gameplay, which is quite unusual for most shooters, which tend to be shorter. Given the aggressive AI and the checkpoint system, it’s almost certain to take as long to finish this game.

+Excellent graphics
+ Beautiful environment
+ Great level design
+ Plenty of vehicles to use

- Hard!
- Checkpoint system
- Technical glitches

Verdict - Must Play!

Diablo (PC) Review

I finished this game on Thursday, January 3, 2008, 9:30:00 AM. This review was first published on GameSpot on April 12, 2008.

Diablo is a simple RPG made by Blizzard, in 1996. The premise of the game is very simple, explore the depths of the church and kill all the monsters. Yet, the game manages to be very complex and satisfying, because the number of ways the levels can be finished are numerous.

The story is like this: Tristram, once a peaceful town, has entered dark times when it was attacked by demons and it is up to you to save the town and its inhabitants. There is a lot more to the story than this, but I'll leave it for you to find out.

The player gets to choose from three different classes of characters – the warrior, the rogue and the sorcerer. Each class has a different approach to combat.

The warrior specializes in melee combat, effectively using swords and axes. The rogue relies on accuracy; with high dexterity, the rogue can kill enemies before they have a chance to get close. The sorcerer can cast spells destroying enemies with the use of magic.

The experience will be very different depending on the class of the character. The warrior can rush into battle, while the rogue and sorcerer have to use the hit-and-run strategy at times.

As the game progresses the player gets to level up, and develop the character. Strength, Dexterity, Vitality and Magic can be improved with progress. New weapons or new spells will be unlocked giving rise to a number of different ways in which a same level can be played.

Another huge positive aspect of the game is the replay value. Each time a new character is created the levels are generated randomly, which means that Level 1 with a character is not the same as Level 1 with another character. So even if the game is completed, it can be replayed using a different character and the levels are never repeated.

Although the game is linear in its conclusion, that is no matter which character is chosen, the ending is always same, the path to the ending is always different. To have implemented this when almost all other games during its time are strictly linear makes Diablo stand apart from the rest.

The game is not without its faults or fault as I can only think of one. I thought the whole idea of going through levels back and forth to visit the town was a little tedious, but that didn't stop me from playing the game, and I'll have you know that I am playing the game again with a different character. The game is that good.

Even after 11 years of its release, Diablo is still regarded as one of the best games of all time. New generation of gamers may not be acquainted with this game, but I think it should be tried by everyone. If you manage to look past the graphics, Diablo has a lot to offer.

+ Excellent level design
+ High replay value

- Backtracking through levels

Verdict – Excellent!

Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines (PC) Review

I finished this game on Saturday, May 1, 2004, 7:30:00 AM. This review was first published on GameSpot on March 14, 2008.

Hitler has captured most of Europe, and has turned his attention towards Britain. As a last resort to foil the Nazi efforts, the Prime Minister authorized the deployment of a squad of elite soldiers, the Commandos.

Commandos is a unique strategy game, the first of its kind to gain recognition. Unlike most strategy games, the concept of gathering resources does not exist here, the resources given are very limited, and just enough to complete the mission, the focus is entirely on tactical gameplay.

The game involves controlling your Commandos in enemy territory to achieve the required goal. All missions require the use of stealth to a degree – some more than the others.

Perhaps the most deterring aspect is how unforgiving the game is at times. Caution is extremely important, and the progress is slow, often involving a number of attempts to complete the objective. Usually mistakes would mean the end of the game; reloading is the only option. This is definitely not a game for casual gamers.

Yet, the game is very rewarding. It is very satisfying to watch the mission progress according to the plan, and frequently there will be some fireworks at the end of the assignment – by destroying a dam, or blowing up a mansion and so on. Not all missions involve destruction; there are a few rescue missions to break the routine.

You have a total of 6 Commandos.

'Tiny' (The Green Beret) – The strongest of all the commandos; excellent at melee combat.

'Duke' (The Sniper) – Expert shooter, and uses the sniper rifle, with limited ammo of course.

'Fins' (The Marine) – can dive underwater in aquatic missions and carries an inflatable boat.

'Inferno' (The Sapper) – demolitions expert, can rig up explosives to cause widespread destruction.

'Tread' (The Driver) – expert at handling vehicles and provides transport for escape of other commandos.

'Spooky' (The Spy) – can infiltrate enemy camps using soldiers' uniforms and has the ability to distract other soldiers allowing the other commandos to carry their work unsighted.

Succeeding in a mission involves collectively using the abilities of the commandos assigned for a particular mission. Some missions are straightforward and others are quite difficult involving a lot of planning and patience.

The game will run on basic computer hardware. It uses 2D graphics to render the visuals. The background contains some detailed textures and the sprite animation is quite good. The audio is quite well done. Sound effects in the environment, vehicle noise and the voice acting are top quality.

In spite of the difficulty, the game is very innovative, and the focus is more on the gameplay than the visuals.

+ Excellent level design
+ Very rewarding experience
+ Low hardware requirements

- Difficult for beginners

Verdict - Excellent.

Friday, April 22, 2022

Revisiting Battlefield 1 in 2022

I played a few rounds of Battlefield 1 today. It was a great experience. It got me thinking, how did DICE go from making a game as good as Battlefield 1, and follow that up with Battlefield V and Battlefield 2042?

A pristine looking Arisaka rifle

Weapon has cosmetic degradation as the round progresses

Fantastic atmosphere

The atmosphere, maps, weapons in Battlefield 1 were so good. It really makes me wonder how things went so wrong with the franchise. DICE had the perfect formula. There was no reason to make sweeping changes across the board, there was no reason to reinvent the wheel, and most importantly, there was no reason to subject us to their political agenda in the name of being on "right side of history".

If they focused on making a good game, and not have contempt for their player base, we wouldn't be in this situation. Battlefield V is the worst Battlefield game I have ever played. Everything about the game was offensive to me, and I am not talking about the liberties they took with history. The mechanics, the weapons, the vehicles were all poorly implemented. Its baffling. They had the perfect game in Battlefield 1. All they had to do was fix minor bug, change some of the UI elements, and make a WWII game with the existing technology. That's it. I simply do not understand how they failed at it.

But coming back to Battlefield 1, going back to it now, it is a real treat. I thoroughly recommend this game to anyone wanting to try Battlefield. It frequently goes on sale, and its available on Steam.

Here is a video I uploaded in 2018 before the release of Battlefield V. I had such high hopes for it, but it wasn't meant to be.

As I look back, its rather sad. Will Battlefield 2042 survive another year? Will the next Battlefield ever recapture the magic of the Battlefield 4 and Battlefield 1? We shall see.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation (PC) Review

I finished this game on Tuesday, May 29, 2001, 12:29:00 PM. This review was first published on GameSpot on March 14, 2008.

Tomb Raider 3 was a bit of a disappointment for a lot of fans; it strayed away from the classic gameplay of the original. The series needed to be redeemed after the wayward sequel.

The Last Revelation goes back to the roots in a lot of ways. The series needed to be reinvented and this game does a very good job at it.

Last Revelation explores the childhood of Lara Croft by providing an insight into her early life. You get to play as the teenage version of Lara croft for the first time in the series. The game starts with young Lara Croft, on an expedition with Warner Von Croy, in Cambodia, in search of an artifact known as the Iris. Lara barely escapes with her life from the ordeal that ensues.

Moving to the present day, Lara is in Egypt in search of the Amulet of Horus. She finds the artifact in the burial chambers embedded on the sarcophagus. Upon removing it, she unknowingly releases the curse of Seth upon the world. Now, it is up to you to set things right by imprisoning Seth in the Temple of Horus.

The emphasis in this game is on exploration unlike in Tomb Raider II & III. The puzzles are innovative, and require some thinking to solve. I wasn't frustrated with this game, although the difficulty can sometimes be quite high. I think that's one of the reasons I like this game so much. I love the way puzzles have evolved.

We see a whole new inventory system this time. No more use of the passport, and it works better too. It allows players to combine objects and weapons, which is crucial in solving puzzles.

You get your share of vehicles as well. The jeep which is available in the early part of the game and the motorcycle which is available a little later handle well, and provide some exciting moments.

Apart from the first two levels, the locations are all set in Egypt. Lara will not be travelling the world in search of objects. The gameplay is more focused on one location, which is not your usual Tomb Raider material. I thought the developers did a fantastic job creating the Egyptian environments.

Contrary to the perception that all locations might look alike, they are surprisingly varied and very beautiful, which leads us to graphics.

The engine is not new, but it is heavily tweaked. The textures are much better and the Lara Croft model looks more consistent because of single skin texturing; unlike in the previous games where it looked as if the model was a combination of different body parts tailored together. I was pleased with the result; I didn't care if the engine was not new. Besides it was 1999, graphics were not what they are now.

There are some technical faults to be mentioned though. The game contains some bugs in the later parts of the game, so it's not technically polished. I believe patches are released to prevent this bug, so applying those will save some trouble.

The gameplay involves traveling back and forth between levels and sometimes that can be quite disorienting, because you tend to lose sight of your goal at times. That was a minor gripe I had with the game.

All in all, I am thoroughly pleased with Last Revelation. Given the thrilling ending, this is a true sequel to the original Tomb Raider.

Crysis (PC) Review

I finished this game on Wednesday, April 29, 2009, 3:36:00 PM. This review was first published on GameSpot on June 3, 2009.

I believed that FPS genre has reached a point where there is not much room for innovation, especially after Portal. Crysis for me, took action FPS in a new direction.

Crysis is set in the year 2019. Us scientists have made some significant discoveries on one of Lingshan Islands. The North Korean government then goes on to seal the island and hold several American citizens in custody. Raptor Team, a US Army Special Forces unit is sent to rescue the scientists. This was not a war but a rescue mission. However, things turn nasty when they discover that they are not just fighting the Koreans, but extra terrestrial life as well.

As a part of the special forces unit, the player, i.e. Nomad, gets to use a nano suit. This suit gives the player the ability to use speed, stealth and strength. These functions are seamlessly integrated into the game. After a while, switching between different functions is so natural and intuitive. The suit changes the way the game is played. It can be used to employ different strategies to take out enemies. The semi sandbox nature of the game allows for a lot of freedom in the initial levels.

Combinations of abilities will lead to some very interesting gameplay moments. The same scenario can be played differently depending on the gameplay of choice, either use stealth throughout, or run and gun, or a little bit of both.

I would call a game immersive when I tend to keep playing and forget to quick save. This happened to me a lot in Crysis. I kept going and I never really saved. If I died, I was happy replaying from the last save point, and trying a different approach. Personally, I have not had that kind of immersion in a very long time.

Let me make this very clear, this is not Far Cry with better visuals. Far Cry is a good game, but this is way better. I played this game on hard difficulty, and I found it to be challenging and fun.

Visuals in this game are stunning. They are much talked about, and rightly so. In my opinion, this is the best looking game on the PC yet. I played the game on Core2Quad 2.66GHz, 4GB DDR 800, GeForce 260GTX and Acer 24" widescreen. The game ran quite smoothly on high settings at 1920x1200, with 2xFSAA. There were times when the framerate took a hit, but that was a very occasional snag. Overall, it was very satisfactory, and I am glad I waited for as long as I did to play it.

The game is not all about the visuals though. They play a huge part in the experience, but there are plenty of features which make it fun. I cannot recommend playing it on a machine which meets the minimum requirements, but to be honest, it can still be enjoyed on low settings.

Sound effects through out the game are solid. Weapons, vehicles sound effects are well done.

There are good number of weapons; assault rifles, sub-machine guns, pistols, LAWs, shotguns, miniguns, sniper rifles, gauss rifles, an Alien energy-based mini-gun. Most of the weapons can be customized with silencers, scopes, laser light etc.

Vehicle sections are also very well done. I didn't use a whole lot of vehicles except tanks, but when I did use them, they were smooth and easy to handle.

If I absolutely have to criticize this game, then yes, all is not perfect. I found the voice acting to be very inadequate, especially the repetitive taunts of the Korean soldiers. It was just…lame. The AI can be a little erratic at times, although this is really not a concern, just nitpicking.

The finals levels of the game are not as good as the rest. They are more confined, and do not offer a lot of freedom. Comparatively, I did not enjoy them as much.

The VTOL aircraft was hard to handle. That's not something I enjoyed. It could have been a lot better.

Now, that's out of the way.

I have to ask myself, is this the best single player game I played so far? Yes. Undoubtedly. I am so surprised to hear gamers complain about Far Cry being better. It makes me wonder if they even played the same game, because the improvements are so obvious that such a statement seems ludicrous.

I am glad PC gamers had a chance to play an exclusive, something that did not happen for a very long time.

Crysis gets two thumbs up.

+ Fantastic visuals
+ Great level design
+ Nano suit
+ Weapons
+ Vehicles
+ Sound effects
+ Made me forget to quick save

- Voice acting
- Weak story
- Final levels are not as good
- VTOL could have been better

Verdict – Fantastic, groundbreaking and an absolute must-have for all PC gamers.

Return to Castle Wolfenstein (PC) Review

I finished this game on Saturday, September 13, 2003, 1:54:00 PM. This review was first published on GameSpot on January 27, 2008.

Much has changed in gaming since the early 90's, and old school gamers would have been delighted to know that a sequel to one of the most famous games during its time, Wolfenstein 3D, is going to be released in the new millennium. Return to Castle Wolfenstein is a successor to Wolfenstein 3D that was released over a decade ago; Wolfenstein has come of age and is keeping up with the times.

The game is set in 1943 Germany, the player returns as U.S. Army Ranger B.J. Blazkowicz, who is captured and is being held in the dungeons of Castle Wolfenstein. Upon escaping the castle, a plot is unveiled involving Nazi experiments into cybernetics and the occult to gain supremacy over the Allied forces.

The game uses Quake 3 engine to render the beautiful graphics seen throughout. Nvidia users will be treated with improved textures that will make a lot of difference. The snowing mountain ranges of Germany are wonderfully recreated. The cobblestone paved roadways and bridges, and castle interiors are a work of art.

The catacombs are very reminiscent of levels in Quake 3, they have an eerie atmosphere and while the game is not meant to be scary, they do manage to make you feel a little uneasy.

The combat is very engaging and the cable car part in the game seems to have been taken right out of Where Eagles Dare. Very well done.

The AI in the game is very competent, and you will be dealing with a lot of different types of enemies, living and the undead. They do not rush at you squeezing rounds or waving their arms about; instead they take cover, throw grenades, making your progress harder. The perception of the AI has also been considered. They can hear footsteps or any noise that the player might make. So if you fire a shot in room, expect the soldiers in the other room to hear it and attack you. While the AI is not the greatest, it will still provide a challenge.

The weapons models belong to the World War II era, you get to use the Luger, Thompson, Sten gun, the German Panzerfäuste, chain gun and something called a Tesla cannon. This is a heavy weapon that sends rays of electric current in all directions. It's not the most effective weapon but it's quite fun to use at times.

Speaking of fun to use weapons, the flamethrower has got to be one of the best weapons I ever used. The flame effects are still regarded one of the finest in gaming. I remember people being mesmerized when they first got to see the screenshots of the flamethrower, and personally, I couldn't wait to get my hands on it in the game.

The sounds of the weapons are very realistic, and the music adds a lot to the experience. The soundtrack in this game isn't talked about a lot, surprisingly. I thought it was really good.

Return to Castle Wolfenstein is an excellent game that will offer a little over 10 hours of very engrossing gameplay. I am thoroughly satisfied with this game. It does not break any boundaries, but provides a solid experience.

Halo: Combat Evolved (PC) Review

I finished this game on Wednesday, January 16, 2008, 10:20:00 PM. This review was first published on GameSpot on November 2, 2010.

Many people regard Halo as the savior of Xbox, which didn't have a lot of games worth mentioning at the time of its launch. Halo helped Xbox compete with Sony's PlayStation 2. It was released on PC two years later, in 2003.

I have only just finished Halo, and I can see why the game is as famous as it is on console.

First let me talk about the game, which is set in the 26th century. You play as Master Chief, a cybernetically enhanced human solider, equipped with regenerating battle shield and accompanied by an AI program known as Cortana.

There is a battle raging between the inhabitants of Earth and an alien race known as the Covenant. During this battle, the space ship containing the Master Chief travels to unknown and random coordinates selected by Cortana and they find a ring shaped planet called Halo and they are forced to land on it to escape the Covenant. This is where it all beings, and Master Chief will soon learn the secret of Halo.

I have never played on console, but I know a good port when I see one. Halo is among the very best, it works flawlessly on PC. The controls are like your standard FPS game, and they handle perfectly. The Mouse/Keyboard combination handles very intuitively, and I never faced any problem with the controls.

The graphics are a lot better than the Xbox version I am told. Judging the game by itself, the graphics are brilliant. I was amazed at the lush scenery and the water effects in the outdoor levels. Everything is polished till it gleams; the bump mapping effects see to that. Some of the levels are a sight to see, the Silent Cartographer level comes to my mind; very beautiful.

Halo is one of the first games to feature vehicles that can be driven by the player, and believe me you are going to do a lot of driving in the game. There are a lot of levels in the game which require you to drive around, and it's a lot of fun. Its not only land vehicles, but the game gives you a chance to fly one of the Covenant's aircraft (Banshee) as well, I loved flying those.

The levels with vehicles are very lively and trigger happy gamers are going to enjoy those immensely and fortunately all the vehicles handle quite well for most part. There will be an odd occasion when they don't, but that isn't a problem at all.

Coming to audio, I first have to mention the soundtrack. I think its one of the very best in video games. Martin O'Donnell has done a brilliant job with the music; it made the experience so much better.

But all is not well with the game, there are a few nagging issues that blight the experience.

The level design in the game can be extremely repetitive, and this is very annoying. For a game which has set such high standards, to employ this sort of dubious ways to prolong gameplay is quite unbecoming of them in my opinion.

Few hours into the game, you have this feeling that you have been going through the same rooms, killing the same monsters over and over, and yet you are not making any perceptible progress. This can be very annoying and it made me stop playing for a while because I got really tired.

The audio can be a little erratic at times. The gun fire is suddenly muted during battle; dialogue is lost when a cut scene is playing, and other such irritating glitches. It will not affect your gameplay too much, but it is annoying.

All in all, despite the problems, playing Halo has been a great experience. It does give you the feeling of being a part of something truly epic.

Some games have this quality about them, they are destined for greatness. In spite of the problems Halo is one of those games.

Conflict: Desert Storm (PC) Review

I finished this game on Wednesday, August 9, 2006, 4:07:00 PM. This review was first published on GameSpot on March 3, 2008.

The game is based on the 1991 Gulf war. Through most part of the game, you control 4 characters that have to infiltrate enemy camps, destroy missiles, warheads, and rescue POWs etc.

The game spans 15 missions...fairly decent gameplay time, any more than that, I would have quit playing. After the 10th mission, I had just about enough of this game, but I don't usually leave games this easy unfinished.

Let me highlight something good about this game before I go on to the many bad aspects.

The graphics are decent…nothing special, but they are not too bad either, and the game has some huge environments, all of it is desert landscape, with varying degrees of visibility and time. Oh yes, there are night and day missions too. In one of the missions, the day turns to into night, and that was a bit of a surprise for me, because I wasn't expecting anything slightly creative, and then there are desert storms, which are quite well done. In this case, the visibility is very restricted.

After a couple of missions, once the control system gets familiar, playing the game isn't as tedious as it is in the beginning.

The enemy AI is nothing special, but the enemies have an incredible gift of sight it seems. Even during night missions, they never seem to miss spotting your soldiers in spite of being miles away. Also, in every mission there are a huge number of soldiers, so their stupidity doesn't really matter much because they are going to keep you really once that alarm is raised.

The same can be said about your teammates I suppose… they are equally up to the task when it comes to clearing crowds of enemy soldiers. But sometimes they act really insane, like walking into the enemy's line of fire, wasting away rockets ad such. So you have to constantly watch over your teammates, watch the kind of weapon they equip themselves once they run out of ammunition for a certain kind of weapon.

For example, one of the soldiers was carrying two fully automatic machine guns, and a pistol. While fighting a bunch of enemy soldiers closing in, this guy ran out of ammunition and equipped himself with a pistol instead of another automatic machine gun, just because the pistol happens to be the next item in the inventory. And this cost me the mission and I had to reply from the previous save point all over again.

Now the most irritating part of the game is the controls. Even to do simple things like using a medi-pack, or changing a weapon, you have to go through elaborate procedure of scrolling the inventory by holding the shift key. If you are in a battle situation, either you will get killed or suffer a significant loss of health.

Also the movement is terrible. When they are confronted with a wall, the character cannot turn right or left, you have to move back and then turn, so if you are running from enemy fire, and happen to run into a wall, consider yourself dead. Also they move quiet slow…

Finally, the game could have been better, but the control issues and movement have spoilt the experience for me. I know some people don't find this a problem, but I have played a lot of 3rd person games, and after having played them, this game just didn't cut it for me.


Wolfenstein (2009) (PC) Review

I finished this game on Thursday, September 3, 2009, 3:02:00 AM. This review was first published on GameSpot on October 1, 2009.

When Wolfenstein was first announced back in 2005, I had very high hopes. I could not wait to play it. Return to Castle Wolfenstein remains one of my favorite games. Having played Soldier of Fortune and enjoying it immensely, I was happy to know Raven would be in charge of the development. After playing Quake 4, I was confident it would be fantastic.

Four years later, I am not sure if am entirely happy with the game.

B.J Blazkowicz returns as the protagonist to fight against the Nazis. The game begins with Blazkowicz on a Nazi warship getting ready to launch missiles on London. He battles the Nazi soldiers on the ship and makes a last minute getaway with the help of a medallion with mystical powers. He discovers that the medallion contains crystals which are found in in Isenstadt, and that the leader of the excavation is a Nazi general named General Zetta. Blazkowicz goes to Isenstadt to uncover the secret, and meets with the agents of rebel forces from the Kreisau Cricle and the an occult group called the Golden Dawn in order to end the control of Nazi's over Isenstadt. There is plenty of action throughout, with lots of weapons. Flamethrower and Leichenfaust44 deserve a mention here. Leichenfaust44 is Wolfenstein's version of BFG - its fantastic.

Almost the entire game is set in the city of Isenstadt. The game is somewhat linear, you need to travel through the city to various locations to access missions. The city is well created but there are some nagging flaws in the execution. The game tries to be an open world game, but it doesn't quite live up to that and it feels contrived. For example, when you backtrack to a location within the city, everything is respawned including enemies and fuel barrels! That just feels really wrong especially when you shot the very fuel barrel less than 10 minutes ago. It immediately has an effect on immersion, and feels like a cheap trick to create an illusion of an open world. The changes are not persistent. After a battle in an area, should you leave it and return, there will be absolutely no sign of anything, and enemies will be back in their place, going about their patrol. No lessons learned from STALKER, because its Diablo 2 style monster respawn - seeing this in a first person shooter and Wolfenstein at that, just didn't feel right.

Highlight of the game are the veil powers that the medallion lets you have; a slightly different version of Nano suit from Crysis. Once accessed, the veil takes over and everything turns green - basically lets the player into an alternate universe. This allows the player to spot enemies easily, move faster, access hidden location, increase damage, and acquire shield which can deflect enemy bullets. I thought the visual effects in the veil were very well done. Taking down enemies with these powers is a lot of fun.

There is a certain RPG element in the game as well - you get to upgrade veil power and existing weapons. This can be done by completing missions and earning cash rewards and then going to the nearest Black Market and spending them on veil power and/or weapons.

Soundtrack is really good, and audio, as in weapon sounds and sound effects, is quite impressive. The voice acting - not so much. The fake German accent is cringe-worthy.

The game is built on Doom 3 engine. Its not spectacular, but I had no issues with the visuals at all. My biggest complaint with the game is the gameplay - it just does not feel like an id game. Let me give you an example.

You are in a big room, with all doors locked and enemies are attacking you, you manage to defeat the enemies and the door automatically opens for no particular reason. I understand the reason this has to be so, but here is where it failed badly. One of the enemies was half dead - the enemy wouldn't move and I naturally assumed it to be dead, yet the door wouldn't open because all the enemies are not completely dead. I spent about 20 minutes trying all possible ways to get out of the room, when i suddenly realized, all corpses vanished except for the one in the corner, so I shot at it, and pop! The door opens.

You kill the final two bosses multiple times - four and three respectively. I thought those boss battles were boring, and given the fact that there is no quick save in the PC version (!), it was frustrating as well. Half-Life 2 managed to deliver fantastic endings just fine without any lame design to prolong gameplay, in fact prolonging the gameplay was never an issue. That clearly is the concern here, for I see no reason for some very stupid design decisions - the door opening for example. Scripted gameplay is fine if its done right, but in this case, the developers employed some very archaic methods at linear gameplay. If in a Mario game, you had a room full of enemies, and you have to defeat all of them for the door to open, it probably makes sense, but in a 'serious' first person shooter, an innocuous door staying locked for no reason while enemies are alive...just doesn't cut it. This could have been done a lot better if some thought went into it.

To me, Wolfenstein is a disappointment. I feel sorry for fans of the series who paid full price for this, expecting a game in the same league as Return to Castle Wolfenstein, which this clearly isn't. I don't hate consoles, but its a shame when a PC game is built with console gamers in mind, and given that fact that this series is a PC classic just makes it worse.

Is this a bad game? Technically, its not. Is this something worthy of id software/Raven? No. Not from the people who made Doom 3 and Quake 4.

+ Veil powers
+ Excellent soundtrack
+ Lots of action
+ Weapons
+ Sound effects
+ idTech 4 engine still looks good
+ Lengthy single player campaign, about 12 hours on hard

- Bad gameplay design
- Does not have the atmosphere of Return to Castle Wolfenstein
- Very bad voice acting
- Everybody calls him BJ...
- Fake German accent
- Feels like a console game
- Traveling through Isenstadt completely breaks the momentum
- Lack of quick save

Verdict - Buy for it for about $20 or less

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Tomb Raider III: Adentures of Lara Croft (PC) Review

I finished this game on Thursday, September 7, 2000, 1:30:00 PM. This review was first published on GameSpot on May 10, 2008.

The third installment in the highly successful franchise, Tomb Raider III tells the story of a meteorite crash that occurred millions of years ago in the Antarctic region. The Polynesians discovered the meteorite crash site and settled in that region until they were forced to leave due to terrible events that ensued from living in that area.

In the present day a research company, RX Tech headed by Dr. Willard, is excavating the crash site and discovers the journal of a sailor, Charles Darwin. According to the journal, a few of his group members have explored the interior of the crater. The sailors soon travelled to different parts of the world and died, each leaving behind an artifact taken from the meteor.

Oblivious to this history, Lara Croft is in India in search of one of those artifacts, the Infada artifact. She encounters the hired mercenaries of RX Tech and soon learns the reason behind their presence. After retrieving the artifact she meets Dr. Willard and sets out in search of the rest of the artifacts.

This journey takes her to different parts of the world – London, South Pacific, Nevada and finally to Antarctica where she learns the truth behind the expedition.

The gameplay is essentially the same as the previous two games. You are given huge levels filled with various puzzles which have to be solved to get to the next level and so on. However, the addition of new moves in the game adds some form of variety in the way these puzzles are implemented, but the concept does not bring anything new to the series.

For the first time, the players can choose their path of progress. The first and the last chapters of the game will remain the same, but the order in which the middle chapters are played is up to the player. This does not impact the game in anyway, but its just an interesting addition.

The puzzles have evoked mixed reaction from me. Some of them were very innovative and some are extremely frustrating. More often than not, solving a puzzle is not difficult once you figure out what to do and that is the hard part. The clues, if you chose to call them that are very obscure and very often you find yourself in a situation where you are completely stumped and a walkthrough is your only hope. Frustrating as this might be, I had a lot of fun playing through the levels and trying to figure out the puzzles on my own.

The levels are bigger than ever and they are filled with traps, enemies throughout. The combat is more prevalent in this game, and you are fighting every step of the way in a given level. The emphasis seems to have shifted more towards fighting enemies, unlike in the previous games where exploration was the key feature. I am not sure I like that shift, because Tomb Raider for me has always been about solving puzzles and exploring, with combat included to break the monotony.

Another major flaw is the locations. Tomb Raider II had its little share of urban settings, but Tomb Raider III takes that to a different height. Nevada, London and partly the Antarctic are all urban settings, which made me wonder why this game was even called the Tomb Raider. There is nothing remotely resembling a tomb in these levels. This is not just an occasional aberration in the game. Three out of the five chapters feature complete urban environments. I was not pleased with that at all.

The game doesn't flow at a steady pace like the previous versions. You find yourself getting stuck in places not knowing what to do VERY often. You find yourself struggling every step of the way. Some might find this challenging, but to me it was frustrating. As if this wasn't enough, there are a few bugs in the game, and should you activate it, then its game over. You'll have to revert back to a previous save game, or download one from the web.

However, there are some definite improvements. I thought the game started off extremely well with the India levels, which are quite creepy at times, and the puzzles in these levels are very fascinating. The South Pacific levels are very entertaining as well.

The game has a lot of enemies depending on the location. India levels have tigers and giant cobras, the south pacific levels have all sorts of different enemies like dinosaurs (including the Tyrannosaurs Rex), Polynesians. So there is a lot of fighting to be done throughout the game.

The graphics are quite good throughout the game, but the lack of bump mapping means that you get to see a lot of sharp edges on characters and objects in the environment. This is only just a minor observation, overall the game looks great.

The audio for most part is very good. Sound effects are very well done and it adds to the atmosphere, the Indian jungles have excellent background audio of rainfall and insects chirping. The game doesn't have a lot of music, but when it does, it's done right; the sudden sound effects produced when a booby trap is sprung are very startling.

One part of audio that I did have a problem with was the voice. It's not that acting isn't well done; just that the clarity of the voice during the conversation is surprisingly poor and it's quite hard to follow what's being said. I thought there might have been some problem with my CD audio, but turns out that a lot of people had this issue.

This makes following the story, which is complicated as it is, even more difficult. Also some of the accents in the game are bad and hard to understand as well. Lara's voice though, for most part is quite good. The rich English accent is well done by Judith Gibbins.

Overall, I had mixed reactions about Tomb Raider III. I tried hard to look past the level design and the often frustrating puzzles, but this is just not what I expected from a Tomb Raider game.

+ Graphics
+ Interesting puzzles at times
+ Audio
+ New moves
+ Some levels are brilliant
+ Vehicles

- Too many urban levels
- High difficulty
- Bad voice acting
- Technical issues

Verdict – Does not live up to the standards of the previous game. It manages to be mediocre with flashes of brilliance in between.

Tomb Raider II (PC) Review

I finished this game on Thursday, November 28, 2002, 6:57:00 PM. This review was first published on GameSpot on April 25, 2008.

Tomb Raider 2, released in 1997, is a sequel to the very successful Tomb Raider. It is arguably the most eagerly awaited game of the year.

The story concerns the Dagger of Xian, an ancient Chinese weapon used by the Emperor to command his army. By plunging the Dagger into its owner's heart, the weapon has the power to turn the person into a dragon.

In one such battle, the warrior monks of Tibet succeeded in removing the dagger from the emperor's heart and the battle was won the monks. The dagger was restored to its resting place in the Great Wall for centuries.

In the present day, Lara Croft is investigating the truth behind the legend of the dagger when she discovered the entrance to chamber at the Great Wall. However, the entrance is locked and the mechanism to open the entrance is located elsewhere. The search for the key to the chamber takes Lara to different parts of the world – Venice, Adriatic Sea, Tibet and back to the Great Wall.

The presentation of the story is somewhat unconnected, and it's hard to understand it at times. The game tends to meander along during the middle, but picks itself up for a very good finish. The locations for most part are very interesting, and beautiful.

The graphics are tweaked to deliver some great visuals, stunning landscapes, beautiful snow covered mountains, and the eerie catacombs of the Great Wall. This game looks a lot better than the original – of course, a full year has passed since the release of the first game, but the visuals draw a lot of attention because of their good looks.

Level design is somewhat different, with more difficult puzzles and urban settings. This game features vehicles for the first time in the series; cruising through the waterways of Venice is a lot of fun, so is driving through the snowy landscape of Tibet.

Overall, the levels are great, except during some where the level design tends to get a little monotonous. The Great Wall and Tibet levels are very well done, and I thoroughly enjoyed them. The scale of the levels is huge, which is particularly noticeable in some of the Offshore levels. Lara is often dwarfed by the environment.

The emphasis of gameplay has shifted a little. Tomb Raider 2 contains more combat with all kinds of new enemies – tigers, yetis, sharks, thugs, spiders, etc. The AI is not the greatest, but the enemies provide a lot of challenge, more so because they often tend to attack from behind, or jump out of dark corners without any warning and so the gameplay becomes very challenging.

Lara is equal to the task, with a variety of weapons at her disposal. The weapons are more powerful and do a lot more damage. The sounds of the weapons have been changed to provide the right effect, and the result is very satisfying.

Apart from inexperienced gamers, Tomb Raider 2 should not frustrate anyone who played the previous game, because this heavily relies on gameplay elements perfected by the original, so apart from a few nagging puzzles, everything flows at a steady pace.

The problem with Tomb Raider 2, if you can call it a problem, is the lack of innovation. Tomb Raider was revolutionary, it set an example for all the other aspiring 3D games, but one year afterwards, the sequel did not break any new boundaries, the gameplay essentially remained the same. So this is somewhat disappointing.

That is of course the bigger picture. However, all that won't matter while you are busy dodging booby traps and flying over bottomless chasms with the snowmobile, because the game is immersive and addictive enough to play it through to till the end, giving a huge sense of accomplishment once it's done.

+ Great level design
+ Improved graphics
+ Vehicles
+ Interesting choice of locations

- Urban settings at times
- Not enough innovation
- Persentation of story

Verdict – Must play.

Commandos 2: Men of Courage (PC) Review

I finished this game on Monday, August 13, 2007, 1:21:00 AM. This review was first published on GameSpot on September 13, 2009.

>World War II was not just about charging head on into enemy territory in Normandy. There is an entirely different facet to war - to infiltrate behind enemy lines and wreck enemy operations from within.

Commandos 2, like its predecessor, follows the exploits of a group of British Commandos who penetrate enemy operations and cause major destruction.

This visually stunning sequel retains the core gameplay of the original and builds off of the features from Beyond the Call of Duty expansion and adds plenty of great new ideas. For the first time in the series, the player gets a little more control on how the mission is accomplished. Stealth is not a strict priority; you get to steal weapons, health packs, and other items from dead/stunned soldiers. Resources are not as scarce, which seems more realistic, and provides a lot of interesting ways to completing tasks.

Missions in the game are impressive. The objectives are varied and plenty. The game takes place in Europe, South Pacific and Asia. The art style in the game is beautiful, with a lot of attention to detail, be it the Arctic snow desert or the swamps of Burma. Level design is almost flawless throughout the game and completing a level gives a great sense of accomplishment.

In comparison, there are 10 main missions in the game – small in number, but the levels are huge and it takes a lot of planning to finish them. The game does not get progressively harder, but the final level is truly epic.

All the characters in the previous games make a comeback here with a few new ones: Natasha, Paul Toledo (thief), and Whiskey (dog). Having an animal in the midst of things provides an interesting gameplay addition to completing missions. It was slightly disappointing that Natasha is not used as much as throughout the game. It would have been a lot of fun to have two spies in the same mission.

The key to finishing a mission lies in staying hidden while secretly eliminating guards that bar your passage. It is sometimes possible to shoot your way out, but not all the time. Enemy guards’ line of sight is represented by a colored cone. It is now possible to eliminate guards quietly in a lot of different ways. Green Beret does not have to do all the work. Green Beret's still adept at knifing them up close, while the marine has perfected throwing his blade, making him perhaps the most lethal of his comrades.

Most characters can now punch guards unconscious; they will come to their senses later, however it is possible to tie them, taking a more humane approach to get the job done.

Another addition to gameplay is the ability to change uniforms. All characters can now change into an enemy uniform, but they will be recognized up close. Only the spy can travel freely within the enemies.

Commandos 2 on normal difficulty is more forgiving then the previous games. There is less frustration to be had here, and more room for improvisation. The learning curve is high for newcomers. It is easier than the previous game, so a little bit of effort and thought into the game will make it a enjoyable experience.

We rarely see sequels being better than original – this is one such instance. Commandos 2 is a brilliant game, which tactical strategy fans will love.

The only downside that I can think of is the high learning curve. Commandos 2 is not as difficult as the previous games, but there is a lot to learn here. Tactics used in the previous games are transferable, so a novice might find it hard to complete levels as easily.

Experienced players are going to love this game, but new comers need a little more patience to appreciate it.

+ Fantastic visuals
+ Level of detail
+ Locations
+ Level design
+ More abilities to Commandos

- High learning curve

Verdict – Must play

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell (PC) Review

I finished this game on Tuesday, March 25, 2008, 6:28:00 PM. This review was first published on GameSpot on April 6, 2008

Splinter Cell is a stealth based game in which the player assumes the role of Sam Fisher.

Sam Fisher is an operative of Third Echelon, which is a part of the NSA consisting of an elite team of strategists, hackers, and field operatives who gather intelligence from various sources to anticipate crisis and act swiftly.

When diplomatic relations need to be maintained, espionage operations are carried out by deploying a lone field unit by the Third Echelon who is accompanied by a remote team relaying instructions through radio contact. Sam Fisher is the Third Echelon's best agent – A Splinter Cell. They are granted the use of Fifth Freedom – protect United States using any means necessary, and should the agent be captured, the United States government will deny all knowledge of their existence.

When two CIA undercover agents disappear in Georgia, Sam Fisher is sent to investigate the matter and rescue them. Fisher soon uncovers a deeper plot involving a Georgian invasion on United States through nuclear warfare.

Splinter Cell is played in the 3rd person perspective with an over the shoulder camera when in combat mode but the emphasis on stealth.

The game manages to stay interesting because the levels are varied and in some levels the player is allowed the freedom to use force and other less subtle means of approach. Yet the game difference from other action games because the player has to be careful about the ammo, which is sometimes limited.

Thankfully, Fisher has the ability to sneak behind enemies and deliver a blow that will cause the enemy to lose consciousness, this comes in handy when ammo low. But I never encountered a situation where I ran out of ammo even when I used my weapons to take out enemies most of the time; getting headshots will ensure that you get maximum return for your ammo spent.

weapons are good although somewhat lacking in variety, but the gadgets are very interesting. You are given a SC-20K M.A.W.S. (Modular Assault Weapon System) and a SC Pistol attached with a silencer and an assortment of tools such as lock picks, optical cable, camera jammer etc, along with the trademark goggles which has thermal and night vision modes.

I felt that the pistol could have been more accurate and the sniper mode in the SC-20K could have benefitted with less amount of head bob, that is just a minor observation though.

PC gamers gain the advantage of having a quick save feature, which comes in as a blessing. I would have detested the use of checkpoint system in a game such as this.

The graphics are very impressive. The lighting effects are superb and the use of shadows is excellent throughout, in fact, it is very essential to use them to your advantage. You are given a visibility meter, and if properly concealed in darkness, the character is as good as invisible.

Sound effects are superb with good voice clarity. Footsteps can be heard very distinctly and this helps to alert the player of enemy presence. There is no music during the game on most occasions, but the music in the cutscenes is very good, and so are effects such as splintering of glass, computer keystrokes and so on.

One of my main complaints about the game is the linearity. You proceed in the exact same path that the developer intended you to, and perhaps that makes this game rank below Dues Ex and such because there is no replay value.

Overall, Splinter Cell is a great experience, which does not follow the usual route of other action games, but tries to be a little more realistic.

+ Graphics
+ Sound effects
+ Great use of stealth
+ Level design

- Linear
- No replay value
- Weapons lack variety

Verdict – Sam Fisher is the PC version of Solid Snake. Excellent game.

Tomb Raider Chronicles (PC) Review

I finished this game on Thursday, March 25, 2004, 1:25:00 PM and the first version of this review was published on Monday, March 31, 2008.

Chronicles is the fifth game in the Tomb Raider series. Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation, which ended on an interesting note, gave rise to a lot of speculation about the next game. Tomb Raider Chronicles promised a lot, but I am afraid that it did not deliver.

The game had a lot of potential, but instead of carrying the story forward, it dwells on the past exploits of Lara Croft, previously untold adventures discussed by a group of friends who mourn her believed loss. I felt quite disappointed to know that the game does not shed any light on the future.

The graphics are almost identical to the last installment, with a few improved textures and bump mapping effects thrown in. The game supports higher resolutions, but those who have played Last Revelation will have weary feeling of déjà vu, because the improvements are not very perceptible.

The sound is as good as ever, whether or not there are any actual improvements is hard to say, it remains solid throughout the game. Unlike in Tomb Raider III, this time it is possible to follow the dialogue without any difficulty.

Gameplay wise, apart from a new weapon and the ability to walk on a tight rope, not much has changed. I was willing to tolerate more of Last Revelation type of gameplay but the levels do not capture my interest. Although the starting levels were quite good, and I enjoyed them, the rest of the game does not offer a lot, because you find yourself in many urban settings.

There is an entire episode dedicated to young Lara Croft, where you play without any weapons, and evasion is your only course of defense. Yet again, this is not something new, we have seen this in the previous games, and personally, I found these levels quite tedious.

I did not quite understand this decision by the designers to include such levels in the game. Seeing the lukewarm reaction they got with Tomb Raider III, they should have realized their mistake, especially because Last Revelation has redeemed the series with excellent level design.

I have to mention some technical flaws as well. The game has a few bugs in the final levels, and if they are activated, it would be impossible to finish the game, and sometimes the player may not even know that the bug was activated. I know I had to face that problem.

In spite of these faults, Chronicles is not such a bad experience. I did enjoy some parts of the game, and to its credit, it is not very frustrating. It is the shortest of all the Tomb Raider games so far, and that works in its favor.

Coupled with a level editor for the PC, this game has some good value for money. Tomb Raider fans like me would enjoy it. By itself, it is not such a bad game, but it just does not have a lot to offer and being the fifth game in the series, that is a bit of an offense.

+ Decent graphics
+ Good quality sound & voice acting
+ Level editor gives good value for money

- Poor level design
- Technical faults
- Not enough innovation

Verdict - Fans of the series might want to play this; others need not bother.

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag (PC) Review

I finished Assassins's Creed IV: Black Flag on Saturday, April 16, 2022, 1:15:00 PM. I got this game via Uplay for free a few years ago, and I finally decided to play it in March 2022 and I enjoyed this game despite Ubisoft’s best efforts.

The only other Assassin's Creed game I played was the first game, and I never finished it because it frustrated me to no end. There were aspects I really liked, but the controls, and the mission design were really frustrating for me.

My biggest issue, the one that made me quit the first game, was the lack of checkpoints within missions. This has been largely addressed. There are still a few missions here and there which require multiple tries, but for the most part this is not an issue. This does not mean the main missions are good. Far from it, but more on that later.

This game is beautiful. It's almost (but not quite) on par with Witcher 3,. There are so many islands to explore, and they are very well crafted by the designers. The Caribbean setting didn’t seem ideal for an Assassin’s Creed game, because pirates in the West Indies is not what comes to mind when I think about a conflict between Assassins and Templars.

Yet, the vibrant world of the 1700s Caribbean proved to be a great setting for an Assassin’s Creed game. The map is massive, and there is so much to explore. I spent many hours exploring the islands. Some of the islands are very large expansive areas and they are dotted with many collectibles, missions, etc. I particularly enjoyed activating the viewpoints, because of the beautiful vistas of the island that are shown.

Sailing the open seas is also a great experience. There are storms, water sprouts, massive waves, combined with the day night cycle, its a sight to behold.

When I first started the game, my expectations were low, and I did not have an idea of what the visuals were going to be like. I was told by a friend (a fellow PC gamer) that the game is very good, so at least I knew that it wasn’t a below average console port. As I made my way from the shore of Cape Bonavista towards a cliff, I was taken aback by the vibrant visuals. I was expecting something similar to the first game, where the visuals are very drab and muddy, so I was very pleasantly surprised. Little did I know at this point that the best is yet to come.

The most beautiful islands for me are The Great Inagua and Mysteriosa. When I stumbled across the waterfall on The Great Inagua, I had to stop and stare. This island is quite complex with many different routes, and this will eventually become the pirate hideout. Mysteriosa is an island with Myan pyramids, and the views can be quite spectacular.

There are three main cities - Havana, Kingston and Nassau. Havana is controlled by the Spanish, and this is the first main city available to explore. Nassau is a pirate city, which the English monarchy wants to control, and finally Kingston is a city controlled by the British. Of these three, I enjoyed Havana the most.

In terms of visuals alone, this game is in a different league compared to the first game. Getting lost in the world of Black Flag was a fantastic experience.

In Assassin's Creed Black Flag you, the player assumes two roles - Edward Kenway, our pirate of the Caribbean in the colonial era, and as a research analyst employed by Abstergo Entertainment, set in the modern day.

Edward Kenway, born in Swansea, Wales, has lofty ambitions of becoming rich. To that end, he leaves England in pursuit of making it big. This takes him to the Caribbean where he becomes a pirate. In his quest to get rich, he stumbles across an Assassin, and our pirate adventure begins. The story has a lot of interesting characters, and the voice acting is top notch.

I didn't quite understand the modern day angle of the story, and thankfully, it's not a big part of the game, and what little of it there is, is thoroughly forgettable.

The main story missions are quite weak. They borrowed some of the worst aspects of the first game. A lot of it involves tailing someone, and eavesdropping on their conversations. I found this very tedious. Considering how many such missions there are, and how easy it is to make a mistake and have to retry, this is easily the lowest point of the game for me. It appeared as if there was very little thought put into this aspect of the game. I got the feeling that there were two teams with very different design philosophies working on the game. One team was responsible for the linear main missions, and the other team worked on the open world mission design.

How else can I explain the massive difference? While the main missions are linear and boring for the most part, the side missions are generally open ended and there is a lot more fun to be had. There are so many side missions in the game, it's ridiculous. I can see someone sinking in around 60 hours into the game to get to 100% completion. Hunting, fishing, conquering forts, assassnation contracts, naval assassination contracts, collecting items, deep sea diving for treasure, exploring the world, managing a trading fleet, and conquering the sea by capturing or conquering ships.

How did an Assassin’s Creed game become popular for naval combat? I am not sure why they decided to go this route, but I am glad they did. This may be the best pirate adventure game I have played. I think this is a better Pirates of the Caribbean game than an official Pirates of the Caribbean (if it exists).

The player gets to control Jackdaw, a ship that you get to upgrade as you progress through the game. Some elite upgrades require completing story missions, a rather arbitrary requirement in my opinion. As the ship is upgraded, it gets easier to sink or capture enemy ships, and this is where the game really shines. There is a great sense of progression here. Capturing a level 36 man-of-war for the first time is an exhilarating feeling. Once the player reaches a certain level of upgrades, elite enemy ships are unlocked, and they put up a lot of fight. Its not possible to capture an elite ship, only sink it.

Capturing a ship is a very interesting concept. Once a ship is damaged past a point, it is possible to board the ship, and capture it. There are certain objectives that need to be met such as destroying reserves, killing captains, taking down flags etc. Parts of this get very repetitive and highlights the severe shortcomings of the regular combat system.

Combat is nothing like what we see in Middle Earth Shadow of Mordor or Batman Arkham Asylum. It's a very basic system, where you get to press E at the right time to counter an enemy and an execution move ensues, without the need for any player input. However, sheathing swords is assigned to E as well, and you will find yourself putting weapons away in the heat of combat. Quite annoying.

The platforming is smooth but inconsistent, and as a PC gamer who plays first person shooter, I found it somewhat unintuitive. Pressing Space doesn't make the character jump, instead, it should be used in combination with Shift, and it is context sensitive, and this can often lead to inconsistent results based on the kind of terrain you are in. Why not just go the Tomb Raider route? I am not sure. I believe this kind of control system is the staple for this series.

The game ran fine on my setup, and I wouldn't expect any less. I played the game at 2560x1440 resolution, and scaling was not an issue. I would have liked to test this on ultrawide resolution, but I do not have access to an ultrawide monitor at this time. However, the game is locked at 60FPS, and there has been no fix for this to date. All the YouTube videos with steps to unlock the framerate are just clickbait. There are occasions where the game would jitter, especially when the character lands on hard ground after leaping from tall structure. This was very similar to the problem with the first Assassin’s Creed game. Looks like engine related issues from the first game are still lingering.

There are a surprising number of occasions where the game just froze. When I alt-tabbed to look at the task manager, I would see the game executable is no longer responding. I did not find a fix for this. Repairing the game would solve this problem for a while, but it would start to occur again. Initially I thought it might be related to starting the game using GOG Galaxy 2.0 Launcher, but it happens even if the game is started using UbiSoft Connect (they decided to rebrand Uplay. It's still awful).

Speaking of launching the game, UbiSoft Connect prompts for the password when the game is first launched after a computer restart. Considering that login information is already provided to launch UbiSoft Connect, not sure why it prompts for a password. Brilliant user friendly move by UbiSoft’s developers.

Also UbiSoft Connect does not show the play time of the game. Apparently the client does not support showing playtime for older games. Makes no sense. It's unfortunate that UbiSoft insists on subjecting PC gamers to this awful client and while it may not be as terrible as Games For Windows Live, they are really pushing.

In conclusion, this is an amazing game, and totally worth playing. I spent 43 hours and I might go back and explore a little bit more. I am not uninstalling it yet.

+ Naval Combat
+ Open World
+ Pirate story
+ Voice acting
+ Music

- Controls
- Main missions
- Combat system

Verdict - Must Play

Thursday, April 7, 2022

ROCCAT Vulcan 121 AIMO Review with Cherry MX Brown Switches

I purchased the Renewed version of this keyboard on Amazon for $64.76. The original retail price is $159.99. I ordered it on April 4, 2022 and it arrived on April 6, 2022, and I didn't have to pay for shipping! Thank you Amazon.

The Corsair K70 Low Profile keyboard with Cherry MX Speed switches is my favorite keyboard of all time. I think this is a very close second. I wasn't sure if I would enjoy Cherry MX Brown switches, but I am happy to report that I do. I feel they are perfect for productivity. Although this keyboard is marketed as a gaming keyboard, I think I still prefer Speed switches for gaming. That said, I am going to try this keyboard for gaming for a while and see how I like it. I will try this as my primary keyboard for a while, and if I do not like it for gaming, I will swap this with my Corsair keyboard with Speed switches, and move this to my office setup.

The keyboard feels like a premium product. The LEDs are nice and bright. The wrist rest is magnetic and attaches to the keyboard base very easily. I think this design should be adopted by more keyboard manufacturers. Key caps are very thin, and as a result do not enclose the entire switch, this means that the LEDs give off a glow from the side, and I quite like that look. Out of the box, the LEDs are set to warm lighting which is perfect for me, so I did not have to install any software to customize it. The default color scheme blends nicely with the warm lighting in my gaming room. I am not a big of rainbow lighting that seems to be the default on Corsair keyboards.

I did not detect a lot of key wobble. The backspace key feels a little bit different than the rest, but nothing too bad.

I am willing to overlook a few things because of the price I paid for it. I got a premium mechanical keyboard for little more than what a premium membrane keyboard costs. Therefore the lack of a USB pass through, additional accessories (like textured keycaps etc.) do not bother me. The full retail package might have accessories, but the lack of USB pass through is an issue I might not be willing to overlook.

I am also quite happy with the font on the keycaps. Unlike some of the newer keyboards, which tend to have the secondary key functions printed next to the number, here they are printed below as they were for many years. This makes it more readable, and gives the keys a cleaner look. However, the text for secondary function is not as bright, and I am fine with that.

I am glad I found this keyboard for the price that I did. I fully recommend it. I am not sure I would recommend it at its retail asking price of $159.99.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Prince of Persia: Sands of Time (PC) Review

I finished this game on Monday, February 26, 2007, 7:49:00 PM. This review was first published on GameSpot on July 27, 2007.

I usually don’t review a game unless I have finished it completely. However, after having finished 65% of this game, I say without a lot of doubt that this is one of the most entertaining games I have played.

I have to draw comparisons with Tomb Raider sometimes because Prince of Persia set out to be a Tomb Raider initially, but now the trend has been reversed.

Let me talk about this game, one part at a time.


Those of you who have played Prince of Persia 3D will know that the series was really going down the drain. That game was an awful Tomb Raider clone. The controls were not responsive, the environment was restrictive most of the time, the combat was boring at best…I played through half of it and I got tired and left it. The series was going a disaster. What it needed was a solid game to make for Prince of Persia 3D.

Prince of Persia Sands of Time was perfect in that sense. This is a genre defining game, so much so that the new Tomb Raider had very similar control system. I guess this goes to show how good the game actually is.

There is never any dull moment in the game. The puzzles basically involve precision jumping and movements and of course moving around objects. And that’s one of the highlights of the game. The movement of the character is incredible, I mean if you thought that Lara Croft was agile in Tomb Raider then this game will make your head spin.

The kind of moves that Prince can pull off is insane, and that’s one of the most fun parts of the game and I don’t remember seeing anything like this. Ever. There are often puzzles that require you to navigate spike traps, rolling blades, swinging, spiked columns etc. And you will have to jump off walls, climb up pillars, shimmy across narrow platforms and more to make it past these traps. It can get a little difficult, often frustrating, but it’s really just a matter of practice.

There is also the whole concept of the Sands of Time. The prince has in his possession a dagger that can control time. You are given about 4 sands clocks in the beginning, and the number will increase as the game progresses. What that means is that you can rewind time, it’s nothing like the bullet time concept that we have seen a million times in video games. This actually turns back time, so can execute your moves better, kill enemies effectively etc. You get to gain the sands by killing enemies and taking their sand. It’s an interesting concept; very unique.


I really didn’t bother too much with the story, but it goes something like this: The prince along with the King, invade a kingdom in India and acquire among many treasures – an hour glass and a dagger which gives the possessor the control over the sands of time.

The evil Vizier tricks the prince into using the dagger to unleash the Sands of Time. This results in complete chaos and turns everyone in the kingdom into monsters save for three people – the Prince, the Indian Princess Farah who assists the prince during the course of the game and the evil Vizier, and all these three people are vying to possess the dagger.

I thought the way the story unfolds was pretty good; it’s actually told by the Prince as the game progress, so it’s a sort of a flashback.


Let’s talk about everyone’s favorite subject – graphics. The game looks beautiful. I played it on high settings and I was particularly impressed with the water and fog effects. For its time, this game was truly ground breaking. The atmosphere has been superbly created with excellent effects.

The dungeons have a very eerie feel to them and the open environments are expansive and stunning at times with lush green surroundings and waterfalls. Although most of the time the Prince is perched on a high cliff or on top of a castle and you don’t actually get to travel through backdrop, but it adds to the atmosphere nevertheless and it’s beautiful.

Most of the game takes place in the castle and that’s where the level design truly shines. The interiors are magnificent and the attention to detail is truly amazing. This adds to the overall feel of the game and on high resolution it’s brilliant.


Well, that’s a very relative term, so these are just my personal opinions and need not reflect anyone else’s opinion of the game. Since I am new to playing these kind of games, I guess I am not able to adapt to this as easily as most other gamers.

The camera can be a little difficult to control, and the controls are camera sensitive. That means ‘W’ doesn’t always mean move forward, it actually depends on direction in which the camera is positioned. Getting used to that is a pain…if you are inexperienced like I am, you will find yourself making mistakes very often, and initially that might mean instant death. There is a particular location where there are number of sand creatures to be fought in a closed room, and camera was very hard to position the way I wanted. That was extremely frustrating for me.

And that’s another complaint, I got the feeling the Prince died way too easily in the beginning…just a couple of blows from the enemies, or a fall from a ledge is enough to kill the Prince. This was frustrating in the beginning, but as the game progresses the health bar increases, and the resistance increases as well.

While the combat is a lot of fun, each enemy has to be killed about 4 times on an average. Every time you kill an enemy, take their sand that is, the enemy will re-spawn, and this goes on for about 4-5 times. AND there are about 3-4 enemies attacking you at the same time, so that means a lot of time is spent blocking them and moving about. So it’s not as easy as you think it might be, attack too soon, and you will get hit, and if you are in the initial stage, that’s game over.

I can recall this initial battle where I think I had to kill the enemies 7-8 times each, and my health bar was still quite low, and I had to replenish it ever so often. That was so frustrating that I almost gave up. But once you keep playing, you will get a hang of it, and then it doesn’t get as frustrating.

Another disappointing factor is that there is no Save Anywhere feature in the game; you will have to reach checkpoints in the game that allow you to save the game. Although the checkpoints are fairly evenly distributed, I felt I would have enjoyed the game more if there was a Save Anywhere option. But that’s just my personal opinion, some people find the lack of this option perfectly acceptable, and some might even feel the need for it. But initially, inexperienced gamers will find it frustrating.

I have not encountered any bugs so far in the game, it seems pretty solid although the audio could have been better I felt – just a personal opinion. All in all this is a very solid and fun game which can be frustrating initially, but with a little persistence it will become very immersive. I would recommend people to try this once and see if they are patient enough to play certain parts of the game over and over, and if they can actually get a hang of the controls. If yes – you will enjoy the game and the sequels, if not, give it a rest.

I can say for sure that this game is not for everyone. Those who enjoy the straight forward gameplay of First Person Shooters will have a hard time adapting to this one. But since I have played Tomb Raider before, and I am somewhat used to the whole idea of solving puzzles to progress, I guess I could say that the learning curve for me was not as high. But in general, the learning curve for an average gamer that plays shooters is quite high.

Verdict - Give it a try, you might just like it.

Monday, April 4, 2022

Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast (PC) Review

A slightly modified version of this review was first published on March 5, 2008 on GameSpot.

Jedi Outcast is a sequel to Dark Forces II. You re-assume the role of Kyle Katarn, the mercenary working for the New Republic.

Kyle Katarn and Jan Ors go on a mission to investigate an abandoned Imperial outpost on Kejim, but it turns out that the outpost is not abandoned, and they discover an operation involving lightsaber crystals. Two dark Jedi known as Desann and Tavion are behind the operation. The story then starts to unfold and will eventually lead to Kyle travelling to the Valley of the Jedi to regain his force powers to defeat the dark Jedi.

Raven, who developed the popular shooter Soldier of Fortune, have been given the task of creating this game, and they did a great job.

The game is divided into two parts. In the first part, Kyle Katarn is a mercenary, who has relinquished his force powers, and therefore uses projectile weapons to attack enemies and it is played in the first person mode. The second part begins when Kyle returns to the Valley of the Jedi to regain his force powers to fight the dark Jedi and gets his lightsaber; from then on, the game is played in third person mode whenever the lightsaber is used.

Although the focus of the game is on the lightsaber combat and the use of the Force powers, both parts of the game were equally good.

Once you attain the Force powers, you have the ability to control the minds of some of the weaker enemies, the force pull and push, force grip, force lightening, force jump and the ability to slow time. As you keep going further into the game, the strength of your force powers increases as well, and you will eventually turn into a master Jedi who can kill a number of storm troopers in swift motion using the force pull or the push.

I thought the Force powers work brilliantly. It was a lot of fun to use the powers against a group of storm troopers who do not stand a semblance of chance against you. The lightsaber can deflect blaster fire, just like in the movies.

However, it is not going to be easy against some of the tougher enemies who use the Force as well. It takes some doing to defeat those enemies, and you will discover that even as a Jedi, you are not invincible warrior; so there is a lot of balance in the combat.

The game is not all about using guns, lightsaber, or the Force powers. There are plenty of puzzles to solve as well, sometimes they can be quite difficult, and that provides a bit of a break from the combat. Some may like it and others may not. I have played many puzzle-based games over the years and I did not have any problem with that. It was a welcome change for me.

The atmosphere is beautiful and you will have a definite sense of déjà vu if you have seen the movies. The game uses a heavily modified Quake 3 engine with double polygon count, and it shows. It looks fantastic. All the cities, jungles, Jedi temples etc. are very well created and retain the feel of Star Wars.

You cannot mention a Star Wars game without taking about the audio. I thought the audio in this game was top notch. The soundtrack from the movies is used throughout and the voice acting is excellent. The sound along with the visuals capture the Star Wars universe and the fans are going to love it.

If some of the flaws of the game have to mentioned, it must the complete linear gameplay. You do not have the ability to choose the powers that you want to upgrade or the path you intend to follow. The game does this for you. This in a way hinders your experience a little bit. Although this game has the makings of a very good RPG, those elements are not carried out.

Boss battles are quite tough; your foes are too powerful and the force powers are not as effective. Sometimes it comes down to button mashing in lightsaber battles. This could have been done better because there is a lot of luck involved at times.

In spite of that little shortcoming, this remains one of the best games I have ever played.

+ Graphics
+ Soundtrack
+ Force powers are a lot of fun
+ Variety of weapons
+ Excellent level design
+ Special appearance by Luke Skywalker and Lando Calrissian.

- Lacks RPG elements
- Linear gameplay
- Boss encounters

Verdict - Excellent

Grand Theft Auto Vice City (PC) Review

This is the review of the original PC version of the game, first published on March 8, 2008 on GameSpot.

Vice City is the next episode to GTA III. It is not exactly a sequel, more like a prelude to GTA III.

You play as Tommy Vercetti, a thug working for a mafia boss. When a drug deal turns into a bloodbath, you go to Vice City to settle some scores and earn back the money. Your stay in Vice City becomes longer than planned and it will eventually become your new home.

First, let us talk about the good parts of the game.

I loved the way the story progressed. You come to the city with no money, and start running errands for the local gangs; soon you climb up the ladder, start acquiring properties, and become rich enough to run the city.

Vice City is a sprawling metropolis. It contains two islands connected by bridges and some islets as well. What this means is that, you will spend a lot of time exploring the city which makes the game quite long, and very enjoyable for most part.

The missions are non-linear, you do not have to follow the main mission; you could just pick one of the many side quests, and get to the main mission at your own pace. Completing certain main missions is necessary to unlock parts of the city, more side missions or to buy properties etc, and also to earn the much needed money – you can't hope to earn all the money needed driving a taxi or delivering pizza.

Some of the vehicles seen in GTA III are seen again, like Cheetah and Patriot, but the most significant introduction is the bikes. I spent a lot of time driving through the city on the bike, squeezing between cars at break neck speed!

Most of the vehicles handle very well, some better than others of course, and soon you will have your own favorites. You also get to fly a helicopter and a plane during the game, so there is no shortage of variety in Vice City!

The graphics in the game have received a lot of makeover. Even though the game runs the same engine as GTA III, it looks a lot better. The draw distance has improved, and this is particularly noticeable when flying.

Sound is very good, with excellent voice acting from Hollywood celebrities. I also loved listening to the radio while I was driving. I can recollect driving through the city just to listen to the radio station, some of them are hilarious, especially KCHAT and VCPR.

Given the excellent features of the game, I have some mixed feelings. The game is brilliant. There is no doubt about that, I would not spend 46 hours playing it, if it was not good, but the game has certain inexplicable flaws.

To being with, getting to a mission involves driving to a certain place, picking up a certain person etc. Sadly, it is not possible to save the game during a mission, or even at the start of a mission. One slight mistake is enough to fail in the mission, which most of the times means you will have to restart from a previous save point, and go through the whole process of driving to the place, going through the cut scene and what not. To add to the frustrating, you die for stupid reasons such as falling into a puddle.

Controlling the flying vehicles, especially the RC (Remote Control) Helicopter is extremely tough. You are a given a mission where you need to pick up and drop bombs in certain places using the RC Helicopter within a time limit, and there are people shooting at it.

Similarly, you need to control an RC Plane while it is being shot at, and its fuel is running low. I just could not get this to work on my keyboard, and I had to resort to my controller, which defeats the whole purpose of playing on the PC.

I cannot imagine why these defects even exist. What is the point of not having autosave during missions like on consoles? Why were the controls for flying vehicles not tweaked for the PC

I tried hard to love this game, and give it a 9.5, but bearing these faults in mind, the PC version is just not that good. Mind you, the game is still worth playing, but I am severely disappointed with some of the gameplay elements.

If only the developers were not so dim-witted, this would have been a classic, it probably is for many people; just not for me.

+ Open ended gameplay
+ Great level design
+ Bikes!
+ Good story & voice acting

- Terrible save system
- Mediocre graphics
- Some vehicles handle very badly
- Frustrating gameplay design

Verdict - Very good, but it could have been a lot better.