Review: “Resident Evil 3” (PC Version) (Retro Computer Game)

Well, because I’m still reading the next novel I plan to review (“Transition” by Iain Banks) and because I had a bit more time whilst reading another novel, I thought that I’d take the chance to replay an old favourite of mine 🙂

I am, of course, talking about Capcom’s 1999 survival horror classic “Resident Evil 3” (or, more accurately, the PC port of it from 2000). After all, I’ve reviewed the film adaptation of this game and the novelisation of the film (but I haven’t got round to re-reading S.D. Perry’s novelisation of the game yet). So, I’m kind of surprised that I haven’t reviewed the actual game itself yet.

This is a game which I first played on the Playstation during the early-mid 2000s and then replayed it at least once when I found a version of it that ran on the PC (during the late 2000s, if I remember rightly). So, I thought that I’d replay it yet again – albeit in “easy mode”, mostly for time reasons.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Resident Evil 3”. Needless to say, this review may contain some (unrealistic) GRUESOME IMAGES.

*Sigh* I miss the days of budget games, second-hand game shops and when the BBFC was hilariously over-zealous about displaying age certificates on games.

The events of “Resident Evil 3” take place during the same time period as the events of “Resident Evil 2“. It is the late 1990s and the American city of Racoon City has been infected by a zombie virus, leaving the streets crawling with the undead.

Jill Valentine, star of the first “Resident Evil” game, must explore, puzzle and fight her way through the city and reach safety. Not only that, there’s also a giant mutant called “Nemesis” chasing her too.

And, yes, he’s the kind of gnarly heavy metal monster you’d expect to see on an Iron Maiden album cover.

One of the first things that I will say about “Resident Evil 3” is that, whilst I should be cynical about it, I absolutely adore this game 🙂 Even though I’m more nostalgic about “Resident Evil 2”, I’ve probably replayed this game more times than any other horror game. It’s just the right mixture of challenging, spectacular and fun. This is probably because it was designed for both die-hard fans of the series and for people who are new to the series.

On the one hand, things like the slightly more action-packed gameplay, the “easy” difficulty option (on the PC at least) and the game’s (ridiculously silly) costume design were designed to appeal to the “mainstream” and/or “casual” gamers of the late 1990s/early 2000s. But, for fans of the series, the game contains numerous awesome call-backs and references to previous games in the franchise – with the core gameplay not being too different either.

Not only does Brad Vickers have a cameo in this game, but you also get to explore part of the police station from “Resident Evil 2” too 🙂

Surprisingly, this dual focus actually works really well and it turns the game into it’s own distinctive thing. But, I should probably start by talking about the gameplay.

Whilst the exploration, puzzle and combat gameplay is fairly similar to the previous two games and is something of an acquired taste (eg: modern gamers might take a while to get used to the movement/combat controls, the animation that plays every time you walk through a door, the fixed camera angles, the limited inventory space and the obtuse puzzles), there are numerous cool additions which help to give the game more depth and drama.

Whether it is the much wider range of locations to explore, the fact that there’s now a “dodge” move (and an auto-aim feature), the inclusion of exploding barrels or the fact that this game contains refreshingly limited early versions of over-used modern things like quick-time events and a crafting system, this game feels a little bit more action-packed and “cinematic” than the first two games in the series. Yet, unlike what I’ve heard about some of the later sequels, this game doesn’t lose it’s identity and turn into a generic mindless action-fest either.

Yes, the only “quick time events” in this game are a few multiple choice questions 🙂

Likewise, the only “crafting” here is a fairly basic gunpowder-mixing system 🙂

This is helped a lot by the inclusion of difficulty settings (in the PC version at least) – if you play on “hard mode”, then the game is more of a traditional survival horror game, with fairly limited ammunition, limited saves and lots of other things that really help to ramp up the suspense and tension. Yes, the auto-aim makes the game a bit easier than previous instalments, but it’s still reasonably similar.

If you play on “easy mode”, then you get unlimited saves (but you still have to use fixed save points) and lots of extra weaponry – which makes the game a bit more relaxing, action-packed and “casual”. So, you can choose what type of game you want it to be – which is really cool.

On “hard” difficulty, this game is a tense, challenging old-school survival horror game.

But, on “easy” difficulty, it’s more of a wonderfully badass action-horror game 🙂 [and, yes, the exploding barrels are also there in “hard” difficulty too]

Still, one change I’m a little ambivalent about is the lack of character selection. Yes, there are technically two playable characters (eg: Jill and Carlos) – but the game switches between them automatically at certain points in the story. In other words, you don’t get two separate campaigns in the way that you did in the previous two games. On the one hand, this means you only get half a game. On the other hand, it does make the story a little bit more streamlined and varied.

As for the graphics and visual design, they are awesome 🙂 Yes, even with the PC version’s enhanced graphics, the game’s 3D models and CGI cutscenes still look pretty dated. However, this game has aged really well visually thanks to all of the really awesome pre-rendered backgrounds, dramatic camera angles and dramatic lighting. Seriously, I love old-school pre-rendered backgrounds and this game is an absolute work of art 🙂

Seriously, the background here could almost be something out of “Blade Runner” 🙂

And just check out the awesome lighting here 🙂 Seriously, people knew how to use lighting properly during the 1990s 🙂

And just look at all of the background detail here 🙂

In terms of the game’s horror elements, whilst you shouldn’t expect something genuinely scary (unlike, say, “Silent Hill 3), this game is a pretty decent horror game.

In addition to all of the suspense that things like the limited inventory, saves and/or camera angles can provoke – this game also uses jump scares slightly more frequently and effectively than the previous two games in the franchise usually do.

Boo!!! With the exception of the “Dog” scene from the first game, this game has some of the best jump scares in the old “Resident Evil” games 🙂

Other horror elements include the creepily unwelcome return of the series’ giant spider monsters too. Likewise, you can also find lots of ominous in-game documents describing the spread of the zombie virus. Plus, of course, there’s also a really awesome scene where some zombies quite literally rise from the grave….

This is so cool 🙂

In terms of the writing and the characters, they’re “so bad that they’re good”. Whether it’s the series’ traditional hilariously awful voice-acting, the gloriously wooden script, the minimalist characterisation/story or the ridiculously silly costume design….

Note how these experienced, well-trained zombie fighters wear sensible protective clothing like sleeveless vests, tube tops and mini skirts.

…. This game is utterly hilarious. But, this is part of the charm of the series. It was the 1990s, a more laid-back age when “dramatic” games could be hilariously silly. When games were still “low culture” in the same way that old pulp novels, horror comics, B-movies etc.. were.

Plus, in addition to having better 3D models, the ability to skip cutscenes/ door animations and the inclusion of more difficulty options, one interesting feature of the PC version of the game is that the unlockable costume selection option in the Playstation version is unlocked by default (and also now contains something like eight different options too).

And, yes, you can play as the “Resident Evil 1” version of Jill too.

In terms of the game’s music, it is the kind of dramatic, suspenseful, spectacular orchestral music that you’d expect from a classic “Resident Evil” game. In other words, it is absolutely epic 🙂

All in all, whilst this game is a bit of an acquired taste, it is a hell of a lot of fun 🙂 If you miss classic survival horror games, if you want a gloriously cheesy “B-movie” of a game, if you want to wander the streets of a post-apocalyptic city or if you just miss the creativity of the 1990s, then this game is well worth playing 🙂 If you want a tense survival horror game, play it on “hard” difficulty. If you want a fun, slightly quicker and gloriously silly action game, play it on “easy”.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, then I’d personally give it a five 🙂 But, more objectively, it’s probably more like a four or a three and a half.

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Partial Review: “Enclave” (PC Version) (Retro game)

Sometimes, there are reasonably enjoyable games that get overlooked. A computer game from 2002 called “Enclave” is one of those games. I hadn’t even really heard of it before until I happened to notice it during a sale (where it had been reduced to about 99p) on GOG a couple of weeks before I prepared this partial review.

And, yes, this will be a partial review. Basically, due to getting distracted by other stuff, I’ve only got up to the final level of the game’s “light” campaign. So, this will be more than just a ‘first impressions’ article, but less than a proper full review.

So, let’s take a look at “Enclave”:

“Enclave” is a fantasy-themed “hack and slash” action game from 2002. Interestingly, the game lets you choose whether you play as the “light” or “dark” side in an epic Tolkien-esque fantasy story. However, it seems like the “dark” campaign doesn’t unlock until you complete the “light” campaign – so, this review will just focus on this one side of the story.

To sum up the story of the “light” campaign – you have to escape from prison, defend a small city from the forces of darkness and then go on an epic quest across a nightmarish wasteland in order to find and gain the support of various allies. Just imagine all of the epic parts from the “Lord Of The Rings” films and this will give you a fairly good idea of what to expect:

You. Shall. Not. Pass!!!!!!! … And, yes, you can play as a wizard in some of the later levels.

The game also occasionally includes some vaguely steampunk elements too – like this vaguely “Riven”/”Myst”-like location.

And, yes, the “Lord Of The Rings” movies are an excellent comparison to make. This is mostly because the bulk of the “light” campaign involves fighting goblins, orcs etc…

Although there are some mild puzzle-solving elements occasionally, this game is a proper action game – in that you will be spending most of the time swinging swords, shooting arrows or casting spells.

And, some parts of the game look like a heavy metal album cover too 🙂

Although the hit detection in this game is a little clunky and the combat can feel a little bit imprecise at times, it is kept reasonably fun and interesting due to the variety of enemy types, the challenging difficulty, a few boss battles, the fact that this game is almost like a heavy metal album (except for the music) in videogame form and the level of character customisation available.

Technically, you play as a group of characters… and they all actually appear in one cutscene.

Although you start the “light” campaign with just one character (the knight), more characters become available as the game continues.

Each character has different strengths and weaknesses, and you can also choose their weapons, armour etc.. too. These things are unlocked by completing levels and by finding in-game bonus items (and, unlike in greedy modern games, you can only get in-game gold by earning it via gameplay 🙂).

See that cool-looking fiery sword. You’ll actually unlock it via gameplay 🙂 Yes, this game is from the glorious age before *ugh* micro-transactions were a thing 🙂

This high level of customisation also means that, if you’re having trouble with one level, then you can try it with a different character type or with different weapons.

The character types are sort of what you’d expect, and the best character in the “light” campaign is probably either the “halfling” character – who is a badass heavy metal/punk warrior who has scary facial tattoos, can move quickly, can use the game’s best swords, who grins maniacally whilst fighting etc.. or the “knight” character – who is a badass Roman gladiator/barbarian style character, and is also pretty metal too.

Once you’ve got some decent armour (as opposed to the default crop top) and a good shield, then the halfling is probably the best character in the game.

You can also play as a cool Roman gladiator/barbarian-style character too 🙂

The worst character is probably the “druid” character, who is an elf-like character who has little to no protection against damage (probably due to wearing a swimming costume into battle) and has a few magic-based attacks that are shared with a much cooler Gandalf-like wizard character you can unlock later.

Plus, some characters only become good later in the game when more weapons become available. The “huntress” character is a good example of this. She’s a character who specialises in using longbows and crossbows. Whilst she is playable from the second level onwards, she’s only really a good choice a few levels later – when you can equip her with some of the more powerful bows and arrows, and when you’ll find yourself in situations where you’re faced with fighting long-range adversaries from a distance.

Although the huntress is playable from the second level onwards, she’s a terrible choice for levels that involve lots of close combat (like the second level).

In terms of level design, this game is reasonably good. Although most of the levels are reasonably linear, there are occasional non-linear segments, set pieces and easy puzzles that help to prevent it from becoming monotonous. Not only that, the variety of locations on offer in this game is pretty good too:

There’s even a really awesome “Ancient Rome”-style level too 🙂

Which even includes a beach area and a gladiatorial arena too 🙂

But, saying all of this, it is very clear that this game was originally designed with consoles (rather than computers) in mind. This is most notable with regard to the game’s saving system.

Whilst you can go back and play levels that you’ve completed, you can’t save mid-level. Although most levels feature mid-level checkpoints (which penalise you 10 gold whenever you use them, meaning your gold counter doubles up as a “lives” system), the only way to save your progress is to let the game auto-save at the end of each level…. and only at the end of each level.

Yes, if you leave the game after finding a mid-level checkpoint, then you’ll have to restart the entire level next time…

Since some of the levels can take 15-30 minutes to complete and since the difficulty level of some of the later levels is very much on the challenging side of things, this can cause a lot of frustration! Still, thanks to the character customisation and the relatively short length of the levels, it won’t take too long before you’ll feel like having another go at the more challenging levels.

Plus, this saving system encourages you to play the game in shorter bursts, which means that the combat won’t feel as repetitive as it might do if you played for longer periods of time.

In terms of music, voice-acting and general presentation, this game is fairly good. Whilst it would have been cool if there had been heavy metal music on the game’s soundtrack, the game’s more traditional “epic fantasy” music is pretty cool.

Likewise, the game’s animated menus and pre-rendered cutscenes still look pretty impressive to this day (less so with the in-game cutscenes though). The voice-acting is a little bit more variable, but there isn’t that much of it and even the cornier examples of it are “so bad that it’s good”.

One thing that helps with the pre-rendered cutscenes is that they mostly involve looking at a book, which is probably easier to render realistically with early-mid 2000s computer graphics.

In terms of length, this game is fairly reasonable. Although the “light” campaign contains 14 levels (some of which are fairly challenging) and probably at least 10-20 hours of gameplay, the fact that there is another campaign (the “dark” campaign) that can be unlocked when you complete this means that this is anything but a “short” game.

All in all, this is a fun (if occasionally frustrating) epic fantasy action game. If you like heavy metal album covers, gleefully mindless action games, the epic battle scenes in the “Lord Of The Rings” movies and things that are “so bad that they’re good”, then you’ll absolutely love this game 🙂 Yes, it certainly isn’t a perfect game, but it is something of an overlooked gem and it’s worth picking up when it goes on sale…

If I had to give what I’ve played of this game a rating out of five, it would just about maybe get a four.

Review: “Deus Ex: Invisible War [PC Version]” (Retro Computer Game)

Although the original “Deus Ex” is widely regarded as a masterpiece, it’s sequel from 2003 – “Deus Ex: Invisible War” – doesn’t seem to have gained this stellar reputation. So, when I saw that this game was on special offer on GoG last spring (it had been reduced to a little over £2), I just had to get a copy to see if it was really as bad as people have said that it is.

In short, it both is and isn’t a bad game. I’ll obviously go into more depth in the rest of the review. But, like with the original “Deus Ex”, it’s important to point out that you shouldn’t judge this game purely based on the early parts of it. However, unlike the first “Deus Ex” game, this sequel takes a lot longer to start turning into something a bit better.

That said, let’s take a look at “Deus Ex: Invisible War”. Needless to say, this review will contain some PLOT SPOILERS:

The events of “Deus Ex: Invisible War” take place two decades after the events of the first game. Regardless of the ending you chose in “Deus Ex”, a catastrophic event called “The Collapse” happens sometime between the ending of that game and the beginning of “Invisible War”.

This event sets technological progress further back, leading to the world becoming a less centralised place. Like in the original game, the world quickly ends up being run by a series of mysterious and secretive organisations (the WTO, the Order and the Templars).

The intro cinematic looks really cool, and wonderfully cyberpunk. The rest of the game, on the other hand…

The introduction to “Invisible War” begins with a nanotechnology-based terrorist attack that devastates Chicago. Luckily for you, you are many miles away in the Tarsus Academy training centre in Seattle.

You play as a nanotechnology-enhanced soldier called Alex D (you can choose whether you are male or female) who has been in training for years. However, the centre is soon attacked by armed terrorists and you have to escape….

Unfortunately, some of your fellow recruits don’t seem to have enhanced intelligence. Seriously, “more demolition”?

Once you escape the academy, you find yourself on the (mostly) grey and boring streets of Seattle, bombarded by messages from several competing organisations, all wanting you to do stuff for them….

And, yes, these messages can get in the way of the gameplay! Likewise, this is pretty much the only vaguely cyberpunk-looking area in the whole of the Seattle segment of the game.

Before I really get into all of the technical details of the game, I want to talk more about the story and the atmosphere. When you start playing this game, you’ll probably be wondering how this is a “Deus Ex” game.

Apart from the occasional info-dump in the dialogue, a few background details, a greasel or two, and several amusing pieces of wooden voice-acting, there seem to be barely any connections between this game and it’s predecessor. Don’t let this put you off!

This might look more like a low-budget episode of “Star Trek”, but keep playing and it will turn into a “Deus Ex” game… eventually.

Yes, you’ll have to wait a while, but I can assure you that this is very much a “Deus Ex” game when it comes to the story!

Even though the earlier and middle parts of the game often seem like a totally different game altogether, you’ll eventually start to see a few familiar faces and locations again. These are – by far- the best parts of the game! Yet, you’ll only see them for a few hours at most. Seriously, this game would have been so much better if the rest of it was more like those parts.

Yes, JC Denton is back! But, only after you’ve played several hours of what can sometimes seem like a totally different game!

Still, the new stuff isn’t entirely bad. Yes, the fictional world of the game is less expansive and atmospheric than the original “Deus Ex”, but there’s still a fair amount of complexity and detail here. Suddenly being thrown into a confusing web of clandestine politics near the beginning of the game helps to give the game a conspiratorial cyberpunk atmosphere in a much more vivid way than in in the original “Deus Ex”.

Likewise, the game still includes a lot of interesting background details. Yes, the in-game documents are a lot shorter and the locations are often smaller or simpler, but there’s still a lot of background stuff. There are two competing coffee chains (who turn out to be run by the same company), there’s a famous pop star called NG Resonance who also exists as a friendly AI construct who will reward you for giving information to the authorities (although, if you meet her later in the game, the actual NG Resonance acts exactly like you’d expect a rich pop star to – which is hilarious!) etc…

Interestingly, if you don’t explore, you can go through the whole game thinking that NG Resonance is just a friendly hologram..

Rather than a thoroughly annoying celebrity.

Still, at the beginning, it’s a game that will barely feel like a “proper” cyberpunk game, let alone a “Deus Ex” game. But, as it goes on, it gradually becomes more like the cyberpunk “Deus Ex” game that it should have been from the very beginning.

Anyway, onto the technical details and the gameplay…

One of the very first things that I should say about this game is that it was primarily designed for consoles. What this means is that certain aspects of the gameplay have been simplified slightly (which is both a good and a bad thing) and that the various areas of the game are split up into smaller segments that cause a loading screen to appear between them.

Whilst these segments aren’t quite as tiny as some reviewers might have you believe (and some of them are relatively large), they’re a far cry from the vast expansive levels of the original “Deus Ex”.

From what I’ve read on Wikipedia, this is mostly because the designers created artificial parity between the Xbox and PC versions of this game – so, the game is coded to only use 64mb of RAM. There don’t seem to be any mods on the internet that can correct this defect either. So, the loading screens can take longer than you expect:

Yes, you’ll get used to THESE after a while. But, they can be frustrating at first, especially if you’ve played the original game.

Likewise, one thing that I noticed when I started playing “Invisible War” is that it’s surprisingly demanding for a game from 2003. After all, the vintage mid-2000s computer (1.8ghz single core, 2gb RAM, GeForce 6100) I played this game on can run games like “Doom 3”, “Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines“, “Far Cry”, “Red Faction II“, “Quake 4”, “Dreamfall: The Longest Journey” and “Half Life 2” on low graphics settings perfectly well. Yet, even with the settings turned down to minimum, this game ran slightly sluggishly during quite a few parts. However, it was still just about playable.

Anyway, in terms of the gameplay, it’s relatively close to the original “Deus Ex”. In other words, it’s an action/role-playing game that is played from a first-person perspective. But, whilst the gameplay is strongly reminiscent of the original “Deus Ex”, there’s less versatility in many areas. It’s kind of like “Deus Ex lite”, which is cool – but it might temporarily annoy you if you are a fan of the original game.

On the plus side, the multi-tools now have a vaguely “Harry Potter”-like animation. Expelliarmus!

For example, whilst there are sometimes multiple ways of doing the same thing (eg: bypassing a door by using a multi-tool, climbing through a vent or finding a key etc..), there don’t seem to be as many as there were in “Deus Ex”.

You also still have nanotechnolgy-based abilities that can be upgraded and chosen (plus, unlike in “Deus Ex”, the repair bots/medical bots have no recharge time). Likewise, although you can still find hidden stuff by exploring – there aren’t as many places to explore.

Still, you can sometimes find interesting places if you explore, like this dubious underground greasel fighting arena.

Plus, although you often get coflicting objectives (in addition to a fair number of optional side-quests), you can switch your allegiances fairly often during the game and, until the later parts of the game, there isn’t really a sense that you have to follow one path.

In some ways, this is actually a good thing though – since the predominant emotion in the early parts of the game is a confused sense of not knowing who to trust. So, the lack of a firm allegiance system is a forgiving way to let players make their own decisions. Plus, of course, it adds replay value to the game too.

However, the game will sometimes channel you along a particular path. For example, I’d originally planned to ignore the WTO chairman’s orders. But, you have to follow them here in order to progress easily.

The most significant gameplay change is probably to the ammunition system. Basically, all of your weapons share a single pool of universal ammunition. This is both a good and a bad thing.

On the one hand, it can easily result in you running out of ammo in the middle of a fight. However, when you get your hands on the more powerful weapons (eg: the sniper rifle and/or rocket launcher), it also means that ammo is a lot more plentiful. But, fallen enemies have a habit of falling on top of any ammunition that they drop – which means that picking up extra ammo in during or after a battle can be a little bit annoying.

Even so, if you use the sniper rifle, then you’ll be able to fight from a distance – especially since, if you aim it properly, it will one-shot most enemies who aren’t wearing heavy armour.

In addition to this, one good gameplay change is the fact that – when someone gives you a passcode – the game stores and uses it automatically. One of the frustrating things about the original “Deus Ex” was having to physically write down lots of 3-5 digit passcodes (or trawl through in-game menus to find records of them). So, this change is extremely welcome 🙂

Plus, although this game was originally designed for consoles, it has a proper saving system too … and none of that modern “checkpoint saving” rubbish 🙂 Plus, even more joyously, the only “regenerating health” you get in this game is an upgradable special ability that costs resources every time you use it.

However, the combat in this game can be clunky at times. Although this is something that you’ll probably get used to after playing for a while, don’t expect this to be a slick, intuitive FPS game with totally accurate aiming and perfect AI.

Still, you CAN use this to your advantage sometimes. If you climb a ladder, not only will any pursuing foes not follow you, but they also won’t think to shoot upwards at you either.

Whilst the original “Deus Ex” excused the few deficiencies of it’s combat system by occasionally encouraging the player to take a pacifist path, there isn’t really much of this in “Invisible War” (you get a few non-lethal weapons and there are some basic stealth mechanics, but that’s about it). The only example I can think of is possibly one part of the game which seems like a stealth segment at first, but the objective requires you to “neutralise” some troops guarding a plane.

Still, if like me, you loathe and despise stealth segments in games, the fact that this area is more “use tactics” than “use stealth” is wonderful 🙂

In terms of the graphics, this game is fairly decent for something from the early-mid 2000s. But, the improved graphics aren’t taken advantage of as often as they should be. What I mean by this is that although “Invisible War” contains some really cool lighting and a few awesome-looking cyberpunk areas, these are relatively few and far between. A lot of the game takes place in generic buildings, city streets etc… Likewise, thanks to the limitations of the level size and level complexity, don’t expect to see anything too expansive or dramatic.

Yes, there’s a very short Hong Kong-based segment. But, looking at the city through a window is as close as you’re going to get to it.

And, sometimes, the game looks as cool as THIS 🙂

But, the locations willl also sometimes look as dull as THIS too 😦

In terms of the voice acting and music, this game is acceptable. The game’s soundtrack is nowhere near as distinctive or memorable as the soundtrack from the original “Deus Ex”, but it isn’t exactly bad either. The voice-acting varies a bit and can sometimes be a little bit wooden, although this is part of the charm of the classic “Deus Ex” games.

All in all, this is one of those games that is something of an acquired taste. No, it isn’t as good as “Deus Ex”. But, the fact that they tried to make a “lite” version of the game that will run on early 2000s consoles is absolutely adorable. So, I have to applaud the effort, even though the PC version should have received more love (eg: resolving the RAM allocation limit problem I mentioned earlier)

Yes, there are a lot of clunky elements to this game. But, no, you shouldn’t judge it by the first few hours. The later parts of this game are actually good, even if you have to trawl through a fair amount of the game to get to them. Even so, if you can get used to this game’s many flaws, then there is a good game lurking in there. Or at least a “so bad that it’s good” game. So, it’s probably worth waiting until it goes on special offer before buying it.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get three and three-quarters.

Review: “Killing Time [PC Version]” (Retro Computer Game)

Well, for today, I thought that I’d take a look at a mostly-forgotten FPS game from 1996 called “Killing Time” that I finished a few hours before writing this review.

Although “Killing Time” apparently started life as a console game (from 1995), the PC port is apparently so different that it’s pretty much it’s own game (modern developers, learn from this!). So, this is what I’ll be reviewing today.

When I bought a DRM-free direct download of this game on GOG last spring, it was on sale and had been reduced to about £2. At full price, it’s about £7-8 or so on GOG. The Steam version, at the time of writing, seems to be marginally cheaper (at a little under £7). Both versions also include a MP3 version of the game’s soundtrack too.

But, due to both my computer and the slightly old-fashioned graphics system in the game, this review won’t contain any gameplay screenshots – since any in-game screenshots I took tended to glitch out like this when I took them, and didn’t reflect my actual experience of playing the game. This is kind of a shame since the best way to show what the gameplay looks like is to.. show what it looks like. But, written descriptions and a screenshot from the intro movie’s video file (from the game’s folder) will have to suffice.

So, that said, let’s take a look at “Killing Time”:

Note: This is a screenshot from the intro movie. As mentioned above, the gameplay screenshots glitched out to the point of unusability. Still, as intro movies go, this game has a really cool one 🙂

“Killing Time” is a horror-themed FPS game which revolves around an unnamed archaeologist visiting a mysterious island near Maine. His Egyptology professor mentions that the owner of the estate, Tess Conway, took an artefact from an expedition she sponsored and that the artefact’s last known location was her private island. However, ever since a “roaring twenties”-style party on the island in 1932, no-one has been seen there since…..

One of the first things that I will say about this game is that it is something of an acquired taste. But, like a lot of FPS games from the time, it was incredibly innovative and also included features that were at least slightly ahead of their time (eg: an open world environment, in-game FMV etc..).

The best way to describe this game is that it’s a bit like “Realms Of The Haunting” in that it actually contains a story and a large explorable environment. But, in terms of gameplay and graphics, it’s a bit more like “Doom” or “Duke Nukem 3D“.

The gameplay in “Killing Time” is something of a mixed bag. A large part of the game inovolves exploring the island and finding both keys and spirit vessels (you need something like eight of them to unlock the final boss).

One innovative feature here is that there are no real level boundaries – you can explore about half of the island from the very start of the game. Each segment of the island loads instantly (without needing a loading screen) when you enter it and, for the time, this was really innovative. The only vaguely similar thing from the same year is possibly “Realms Of The Haunting”, but even that had defined level areas in some parts. Seriously, “Half-Life” wouldn’t come out until two years after this game – and “Half-Life” did have loading screens between areas!

But, as cool as this is, it is also one of the game’s main flaws. Since you have to search for lots of keys and items, you literally have to search the entire game for them sometimes! And, as much as I love non-linear FPS games, this can get a little frustrating sometimes. At least when games like “Doom” or “Duke Nukem 3D” make you search for something, you only have to search a relatively small level, rather than an entire island.

This problem is compounded by the fact that the only walkthrough I could find at the time of playing the game was a series of videos on Youtube, rather than a more easily-navigated text walkthrough. Although you probably won’t get completely and utterly stuck that often, it happened to me at least four or five times throughout the course of the game.

On the plus side, the game actually features real time in-game FMV! Basically, there are glowing blue ghosts scattered around the game’s world and, if you walk into one, you’ll be treated to a very pixellated FMV movie that takes place in-game (eg: instead of displaying a full-screen video, the “video” consists of an “.Avi” file that has been converted into an in-game sprite). Or, you’ll get an error message. Or the game might crash. All three have happened to me. Still, for something made in 1995/6, this is ridiculously ahead of it’s time!

These movies deliver hints occasionally and, more often, they tell parts of the game’s story. The acting in these videos is relatively good and they really help to bring the game’s locations to life. One cool feature is that, in two locations, you can move the hands of a clock to see what happened in an area at different times of the day. However, the game isn’t exactly averse to including the same video in two or more different locations, which can get repetitive.

In terms of the combat, this game is reasonably good and as enjoyably challenging as you would expect from a 90s FPS game. The game’s various monsters attack often and in groups, and the amount of ammo available to you can vary throughout the game. It’s fun, furious and frenetic! Likewise, although the game features a vertical look system, it also includes a “Doom”-style vertical auto-aim system too.

Plus, if you use the default “Duke Nukem 3D”-style keyboard-only controls, the combat will probably bring back a lot of memories of playing FPS games during the 1990s 🙂

Although the game apparently includes options for mouse and gamepad controls, I haven’t tested either of these. Still, since this is an official version of the original closed-source game that has been made compatible with 2000s & 2010s – era PCs, it doesn’t include the features (such as modern-style controls etc..) that you would expect from a fan-made source port for an open-source game like “Doom” or “Duke Nukem 3D”.

However, the difficulty can get slightly cheap sometimes. The first half of the final boss battle is a case in point.

Although this boss battle features something vaguely similar to the Nemesis in “Resident Evil 3” (again, this game is ahead of it’s time here!), where you are chased through the mansion by a teleporting monster who can only be temporarily slowed rather than killed, it’s one of those puzzle-based boss battles that 90s developers were so fond of. But, rather than solving a puzzle in the room where the boss appears, you have to find and traverse several monster-filled towers throughout the mansion… whilst being chased by the boss (who gloats at you the whole time).

In terms of the weapons, they aren’t really that creative by the standards of the time. Yes, they have a 1920s/30s theme (like in “Blood) but they’re mostly just a copy-paste of the weapon scheme in “Doom”.

The default weapon is a crowbar (yes, before “Half Life”!) and you can get two pistols but, apart from that, they’re pretty much just the “Doom” guns with different sprites, sounds etc.. (eg: there’s a flamethrower instead of a plasma cannon, a BFG-like ankh etc..). You’ll probably be using the shotgun most of the time, on account of the fact that, although the tommygun is the coolest weapon in the game, it guzzles ammunition at a prodigious rate.

However, the weapon sprites are based on pictures of 3D models, which look slightly out of place when compared to the slightly more cartoonish aesthetic of the rest of the game. Yes, the monster sprites are also based on 3D models, but they have a less “realistic” look than the weapons do.

In terms of movement, this game is a little bit of a disappointment. Not only is there no auto-run option, but the running speed is relatively slow (especially given the distances you have to traverse!). Likewise, if you walk along the edge of a tree or a wall, you slow down slightly. Plus, the less said about the jumping system, the better! It’s more accurate to describe it as a “hopping” system than a jumping system.

Likewise, the game’s map screen is zoomed in so much (even when you zoom out) that it is virtually useless, which is especially annoying in a game that relies so much on exploring large areas.

As for the graphics, I really liked them. Although 1996 is most famous for “Quake“, which introduced proper 3D graphics to the FPS genre – this game uses good old-fashioned sprite based graphics, like in “Doom” and “Duke Nukem 3D”. I really miss this graphics style in games, so it was great to see it again. The game also has an art deco/ ancient Egypt-style aesthetic in many locations too, which looks really cool. However, there are also a fair number of rather generic-looking forests, corridors, caverns and sewers here too.

As for the level design, it’s something of a mixed bag. The game’s one gigantic level contains some fairly well-designed areas which show how cool 90s FPS games were.

These include areas where you’ll have to use your brain in order to work out what you’re supposed to do (eg: a clever hedge maze-style area where you have to follow a series of clues given by a ghost). These include areas which are perfect for more strategic combat. These also include areas where monsters can leap out at you when you least expect it. Some parts of the level design here are really cool.

But, that said, there are also some really annoying areas too. Several corridor-based areas can get confusing, one of the keys is hidden in a way more befitting a secret area (eg: a moveable pillar that is hidden amongst lots of non-moveable pillars. Good luck finding it without a walkthrough!) and there are even one or two parts that require you to use the game’s horrible jumping system. Plus, with important items spread out across the game’s map, the item placement and extreme backtracking can feel like padding sometimes.

In terms of the music and the voice-acting, this game is surprisingly good. The game’s soundtrack is filled with lots of roaring twenties-style jazz/swing music and more ominous horror-movie style ambient music. Both of these things really add a lot of atmosphere to the game, and there’s nothing quite like tommygunning zombie monsters to the sound of jaunty swing music.

But, one slight problem with the music system in the game is that the background music changes very abruptly when you move between areas, which can break the immersion slightly. Likewise, the voice-acting in this game is a little cheesy, but it fits in well with the vintage atmosphere of the game.

All in all, this game is an acquired taste. If you stick with it, then you’ll have a lot of fun. But, it has a fair number of flaws too. Still, compared to the generic military-themed FPS games of the modern age, this game has an actual personality. It’s imaginative and unique and, as I said, a lot of fun once you’ve learnt to put up with it’s shortcomings. At full price, it’s worth thinking carefully before buying this game. But, on special offer, it’s a no-brainer.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would probably get three and a half. It has flaws, but there is a good game hidden in there!

Mini Review: “Guilty Gear X2 Reload” (Retro Computer Game)

2017-artwork-guilty-gear-x2-reload-review-sketch

Well, it’s been ages since I last played a fighting game! Still, during a weekly sale on GoG a few days before I originally prepared this review last autumn, I noticed that the PC version of a rather interesting looking 2D fighting game called “Guilty Gear X2 Reload” was on special offer. Since it only cost about two quid during the sale, I decided to check it out.

However, this review is probably more of a “first impressions” article than a full review, even if it was written quite far in advance.

Note: Whilst looking over this review a few hours before publication, I’ve just looked online and apparently this game no longer seems to be sold on GoG (but, thanks to their sensible “No DRM” policy, if you’ve already bought the game, you can still play it). So, it seems like the only current place to buy a new copy of this game is on Steam.

I don’t know if this was the responsibility of one or both games sites or the company who made the game. But, regardless, this is the kind of silly corporate BS that has no place in a sensible and fair games market! If a game is sold online, then it should remain available wherever it is sold. It isn’t like physical shelf space is an issue. Plus, why would games companies and/or retail sites want to alienate potential customers and/or lose out on sales?

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Guilty Gear X2 Reload”:

guilty-gear-x2-reload-title-screen

“Guilty Gear X2 Reload” is a 2D fighting game from 2002-2004, which is a PC port of an updated version of a console port of an arcade game.

Despite it’s convoluted history, one of the first things that I will say about this game is that, despite a few flaws, it is probably the coolest and funniest fighting game that I’ve ever played.

 I'm playing as an androgynous goth character (in a vaguely "Blade Runner"-like version of Britain), who can not ONLY wield a giant scythe but who also has a pet raven and the ability to create "Silent Hill 3" save points! This is AWESOME!!!!!!!

I’m playing as an androgynous goth character (in a vaguely “Blade Runner”-like version of Britain), who can not ONLY wield a giant scythe but who also has a pet raven and the ability to create “Silent Hill 3” save points! This is AWESOME!!!!!!!

Yes! This is a fighting game that is all about heavy metal/ hard rock music, ludicrous weapons and comically surreal combat! Well, most of the time anyway – there’s also some cheerful, brightly-coloured settings and “moe” anime characters in the game that detract from the cool aesthetic, badass characters and wonderfully metallic atmosphere of most of the game.

Plus, some of this non-metal/non-gothic stuff can occasionally seem a bit out of place.

The “May Ship” is probably the worst example of this. It’s a giant plane that is filled with groups of cheerful children and brightly-coloured graffiti. It’s about as out of place as you can get in a metal/gothic-themed game!

In terms of the gameplay, it’s a fighting game. However, it’s certainly more on the challenging side of things.

When I started playing, I just did the usual beginner’s trick of randomly hammering the buttons and hoping for the best. This didn’t work as well as I’d hoped and it was only after I’d really focused on learning a few basic special moves for about two or three of the characters that I really started to become even vaguely ok at this game.

Even then, the boss battle at the end of the "Arcade" mode seems completely unwinnable, unless you've probably practiced for weeks.

Even then, the boss battle at the end of the “Arcade” mode seems completely unwinnable, unless you’ve probably practiced for weeks.

This game apparently has something of a reputation for having a complex combat system and it would be hard to disagree with this. This seems to be a game that has been primarily designed for fighting game enthusiasts.

Even so, the combat is still accessible to people who have only played the game for a few hours (despite the constant in-game “counter hit!”, “recovery!” etc.. notifications, which can often be puzzling). This is especially useful, given that the novelty value from all of the hilariously random stuff in the game will wear off after a day or so.

But this doesn’t matter because there are so many funny, quirky and downright cool special attacks in this game. Since “Guilty Gear X2 Reload” uses 2D graphics, the designers and animators had a lot more creative freedom and they use it in all sorts of amazingly cool, funny and bizarre ways.

Yes, even when you're getting thoroughly beaten by the computer, it STILL looks amazingly cool!

Yes, even when you’re getting thoroughly beaten by the computer, it STILL looks amazingly cool!

Hell, one of the characters can even summon the ghost from "The Ring" to block your attacks!

Hell, one of the characters can even summon the ghost from “The Ring” to block your attacks!

In terms of the controls, this game can be played using a keyboard or, apparently, a console-style controller.

Not having one of these controllers, I used the keyboard – although I had to reconfigure the keys into a more ergonomic and intuitive setup (eg: using the arrow keys for movement and the WSAD keys for the attack buttons, with nearby keys serving as the the shoulder buttons). Also, the only way to quit the game when you’ve finished playing is to press “F12”.

As for gameplay modes, there are quite a few different ones on offer here – which help to add some variety to the game. As well as the usual “arcade”, “VS CPU”, “VS 2P”, “Training” etc.. modes, there are also a few other innovative game modes.

For example, the “Survival” mode is actually fairly easy and fairly innovative. Although it’s game over if you die, your health replenishes between battles and – every now and then – you’ll get a “Daredevil” fight with a shadowy version of one of the characters whenever you score 20 more points.

This can happen mid-fight, so it's a also a good way of getting out of more challenging battles

This can happen mid-fight, so it’s a also a good way of getting out of more challenging battles

There’s also a story mode where you get English text/Japanese audio cutscenes between single-round fights with other characters. Plus, there is also a mode called “M.O.M” which is more like a “traditonal” survival mode (eg: you have one health bar that doesn’t replenish between fights), but where you gain coins for every successful attack that you make.

As I hinted at earlier, the character design in this game is varied to say the least. Although there are some really cool gothic, heavy metal, samurai and/or horror movie-style characters, there are also a few a slightly generic characters, and about three or four characters who look like they’re far too young to be participating in violent gladiatorial combat! Seriously, this game would have been better off with a smaller – but slightly more thematically coherent – character set.

If you’re a new player then, although it can be fun to play as some of the really cool characters (like I-No and Testament), the best character to start with is probably Baiken.

Not only does she wield a mid-range sword, but she also has at least three or four easily-learnable special and/or standard moves that can give you a fighting chance against most of the other characters (eg: the most useful one is to use the “heavy slash” attack whilst kneeling, since she will literally spin her sword around, striking anyone nearby 2-3 times with it within a second or so).

Plus, one of her victory animations is wonderfully sarcastic, and it’ll make you laugh out loud when you see it for the first time (she literally just sits next to her fallen opponent and starts casually smoking a pipe).

Another cool feature about the character design in this game is that the characters’ outfits will change colour depending on which button you press when selecting them. Seriously, each character has something like five different outfits. Although they’re all just palette-swaps of the same outfit, it’s still a really cool addition to the game:

This option will also sometimes change the character's hair and/or skin colour too. Still, it's not like every game lets you choose to play as a sarcastic, pipe-smoking samurai version of Elvira!

This option will also sometimes change the character’s hair and/or skin colour too. Still, it’s not like every game lets you choose to play as a sarcastic, pipe-smoking samurai version of Elvira!

The sound design in this game is very good, although the same cannot be said for the voice acting. With the exception of the in-game announcer and the text screens in story mode, most of the in-game dialogue is in un-subtitled Japanese. Likewise, one or two of the character names (Baiken springs to mind for starters) on the character select screen aren’t translated either, which can be confusing.

Yes, this is realistic and it adds atmosphere to the game. But, it’s kind of annoying when you can tell that the characters are making sarcastic comments to each other -but you can’t understand what they’re saying. Some English subtitles might have been a good idea!

Seriously, they were able to include subtitles in the story mode, so why can't there be any in-game subtitles?

Seriously, they were able to include subtitles in the story mode, so why can’t there be any in-game subtitles?

In terms of music, this game has one of the best soundtracks that I’ve ever heard. Literally every piece of background music in this game consists of instrumental metal/hard rock music. Seriously, more games should have a soundtrack like this \m/.

All in all, this game is incredibly cool, unique and fun. Yes, it would have been even better if it had had a more consistent aesthetic, a more consistent character set and more consistent location designs – but most of this game is still really cool.

It’s fast-paced, it’ll make you laugh out loud and it will make you feel like a badass when you play it. It isn’t a completely perfect game, but the parts that it does get right, it really gets right.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get four and a half.

Review: “Red Faction II [PC Version]” (Retro Computer Game)

2016 Artwork Red Faction II Review sketch

Although I have very fond memories of playing the Playstation 2 version of “Red Faction II” when I was a teenager, I’d almost forgotten about this game until earlier this year when I saw that the PC version of this game was on special offer on GOG. Out of sheer nostalgia, I bought a copy within an hour of seeing it.

During the sale, the game cost about two quid and this is probably what I’d recommend paying for this game (for reasons I’ll explain at the end of this review). So, it’s probably a good idea to wait until it goes on offer again. At the time of writing, this game also seems to be available on Steam for a slightly lower price than the full-price GOG version, however it also comes with all of Steam’s DRM too.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Red Faction II”:

2016 Red Faction II Main menu with bot match

“Red Faction II” is a dystopian science fiction FPS game that was originally released for the Playstation 2 in 2002 (with the PC port being released in 2003). Although it is supposedly a sequel to “Red Faction“, you don’t need to have played that game first since it’s almost a completely different game.

In “Red Faction II”, you play as Alias, a demolitions expert in a team of nanotechnology-enhanced super soldiers that serve under the command of a Stalin-like dictator called Sopot. However, after a few years, Sopot becomes suspicious of the super soldiers and orders them killed.

Fortunately, Alias and the rest of the team are able to escape execution and they decide to ally themselves with the Red Faction, a group of rebels who are waging a civil war against Sopot’s government….

Although the premise of the game sounds slightly generic, there’s a surprising amount of complexity in the game’s story. Yes, it can’t exactly be compared to a novel – or even a TV show – but, for a FPS game from the early 2000s, the story is slightly more complex than you might think. However, I don’t want to give away any plot spoilers.

I have a lot to say about this game, so I’ll start by talking about the things I loved about this game and then I’ll talk about all of it’s flaws. There are a lot of things in each category, so I’ll split this review into two segments.

The Good Things About “Red Faction II”:

One thing that I really love about this game is it’s atmosphere. Although there are at least few generic “military base”/ “dreary factory” levels, some of the levels have a very distinctive cyberpunk aesthetic to them that reminded me of a cross between “Tron” and “Blade Runner”:

Yay! An ominous-looking laboratory :)

Yay! An ominous-looking laboratory 🙂

It may be a brutal dictatorship, but it also looks like "Blade Runner". Every cloud DOES have a silver lining, I guess.

It may be a brutal dictatorship, but it also looks like “Blade Runner”. Every cloud DOES have a silver lining, I guess.

The range of weapons in “Red Faction II” is surprisingly good too. Although this game includes a few boringly “realistic” guns, many of the weapons on offer here are of the futuristic variety and they all look, sound and feel really great.

The weapon that you’ll probably be using the most is the “NICW” – a futuristic assault rifle that also contains a powerful grenade launcher. Since it’s extremely useful at both short and long ranges, you’ll probably just end up ignoring all of the other weapons once you find it.

Not only is the NICW useful during normal gameplay, but it's secondary fire can also come in handy during boss battles too.

Not only is the NICW useful during normal gameplay, but it’s secondary fire can also come in handy during boss battles too.

Plus, unlike many other FPS games, “Red Faction II” contains a ridiculous number of weapons. One of the advantages of playing classic FPS games on the PC is that you can use the number keys to switch between weapons. Well, in “Red Faction II”, you’ll also have to use several punctuation keys to select weapons too. And that’s not even including the 4-5 types of grenades that you’ll find throughout the game. Seriously, I cannot fault the weapons in this game.

As for the enemies, they’re moderately interesting. Since this game came from the tail end of the time when FPS games were at their best, there is some actual creativity here. Although you’ll spend the first few levels fighting generic “enemy soldier” enemies, you’ll soon also be facing robots (large and small), evil “nano elite” super-soldiers and two types of zombies.

Yes, they’re technically nanotechnology-enhanced corpses but, well, zombies!:

Yay! It's a known fact that the presence of the undead automatically makes any FPS game about ten times as fun :)

Yay! It’s a known fact that the presence of the undead automatically makes any FPS game about ten times as fun 🙂

In addition to this, the game also contains several challenging boss battles too. Does anyone else remember when FPS games used to include these? Although these battles can occasionally become frustrating due to some poor elements of the game’s design (which I’ll discuss later), they mostly provide an enjoyable challenge where you’ll have to think carefully about the tactics that you use.

This game also includes several vehicle segments too. Although I’m normally opposed to vehicle segments in FPS games, most of these segments are fairly good (especially those where you get to use a giant suit of battle armour). However, the segment where you control a gun on an aircraft plays like an on-rails shooter rather than a FPS game, which can be confusing at first. However, as I’ll explain in the other half of this review, one of the game’s other vehicle sections isn’t so good.

Another good thing about this game is the excellent voice acting. A few seconds after you see the main menu, you will be greeted by a thunderous speech from Sopot which really sets the tone for the game. Seriously, it’s something that you won’t forget – and will probably be able to recite parts from memory after listening to it a few times. Not only that, there are also a couple of famous names amongst the voice cast too:

Lance Henriksen AND Jason Statham :)

Lance Henriksen AND Jason Statham 🙂

Plus, as a single-player gamer, one thing I loved about the PC port of this game is that fact that instead of a multiplayer mode (that I’ll never use), the game only includes a “bot match” mode, where you can play deathmatch, capture the flag etc… games against the computer 🙂

The bot match system includes a classic-style health system and several unlockable levels. However, those expecting an online or local  multiplayer mode will be disappointed.

The bot match system includes a classic-style health system and several unlockable levels. However, those expecting an online or local multiplayer mode will be disappointed.

Since you’ll unlock extra content for it (as well as several movie/ model/ concept art galleries) as you progress through the main game, it has even more replay value than you might expect. However, if you’re a multiplayer gamer, the lack of local or online multiplayer will probably be a critical flaw rather than an awesome feature.

The Bad Things About “Red Faction II”:

Despite all of my praise for this game, it is not without a litany of serious flaws. Most of these problems stem from the fact that this game is very obviously primarily designed for consoles. These are things that I didn’t notice much when I was a naive PS2 (and PC) playing teenager but, as a more seasoned retro FPS PC gamer, they stand out from a mile away.

The first of these problems is that this game uses the dreaded checkpoint saving. Yes, I can see why this was done for practical reasons on consoles, but there’s no excuse whatsoever for it in PC games. And, as if to taunt you further, the game contains a “save game” option in the in-game menu, which only allows you to re-save your latest checkpoint.

This problem is compounded by the fact that many of the boss battles are preceded by unskippable cutscenes which you’ll have to re-watch every time that you die. And, this will probably happen again and again and again….. Seriously, I pretty much memorised the dialogue in the cutscene before the final boss battle.

This (approximately one minute-long) cutscene is permanently seared into my brain, thanks to a combination of checkpoint saving and the fact that it is totally unskippable!

This (approximately one minute-long) cutscene is permanently seared into my brain, thanks to a combination of checkpoint saving and the fact that it is totally unskippable!

In addition to checkpoint saving, this game also includes a limited form of *ugh* regenerating health. Since the original version of this game was released in 2002, the rot hadn’t fully set in yet, so you’ll still be able to collect health power-ups. However, these serve as more of a “lives” system and you lose one of them whenever your short regenerating health bar runs out.

Ironically, the “bot match” mode includes a proper non-regenerating health system, so I don’t see why this couldn’t have been added to the main game as well.

Plus, despite carrying the “Red Faction” name, this game has barely any links to the previous game. In fact, even the really cool “geo mod” system in the first game (that allowed you to destroy almost everything in the game) has been reduced to a few specific pre-determined desctructible items, walls and areas. I really don’t understand why this unique and distinctive feature was mostly removed in the second game. I mean, it was one of the things that made the original “Red Faction” stand out so much.

Not only that, there are only a few very easily-missed token references to the first game here:

Wow, I never that that I'd actually be happy to see the logo of the nefarious Ultor Mining Corporation....

Wow, I never that that I’d actually be happy to see the logo of the nefarious Ultor Mining Corporation….

The level design in “Red Faction II” is also more “modern” than classic too. What I mean by this is that many of the levels are of the highly linear variety. Yes, there are a few non-linear parts and a few cool hidden areas to find but – for the most part – there isn’t really much room for exploration. You just carry on walking along the one fixed path that the game designers have told you to follow.

This bridge may look cool, but it also sums up the design of a lot of the levels.

This bridge may look cool, but it also sums up the design of a lot of the levels.

This level is quite literally just a shooting gallery.

This level is quite literally just a shooting gallery.

Even though I’m not really much of an options nerd, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that, apart from re-bindable keys and a few gameplay options, the “options” menu is fairly limited. You can’t change the screen resolution or do many of the things that you would expect in a PC game. Still, since it’s from 2002-3, this game will run smoothly on even fairly old PCs (like mine).

Although the game’s progamming is fairly stable and reliable, I had one “shout at the screen in frustration” moment when a glitch prevented me from completing a particularly difficult boss battle. After several attempts, I’d finally completed the first half of the battle and I was moving to the second half when….

 ... I got stuck in a door. I'd just spent the past five minutes fighting a difficult boss... Oh well, back to the last checkpoint to do it all over again !!!

… I got stuck in a door. I’d just spent the past five minutes fighting a difficult boss… Oh well, back to the last checkpoint to do it all over again !!!

The absolute worst part of the game by far is, of course, the submarine section.

Many of the vehicle segments in this game are fast-paced and thrilling… and then you have to spend some time aboard a … well, I can’t think of an insult strong enough to describe it … submarine. Not only does this decrepit rust-bucket handle like a slow-moving brick (unlike the enemy submarines that will be shooting you and the homing mines scattered on the ground below you), but it’s weapons are slow-firing and inaccurate too.

 I'm not a religious person but, in the very unlikely event that hell exists, all of the computer games there probably look like this one level!

I’m not a religious person but, in the very unlikely event that hell exists, all of the computer games there probably look like this one level!

As if that wasn’t bad enough, you’ll be spending these parts of the game navigating murky underwater caverns. In fact, once you’ve completed the objective in the last part of the submarine level, you then have the fun task of finding the submarine bay that will allow you to finally leave this despicable crime against gaming behind you. Forever.

Of course, the submarine bay doors are not clearly lit or clearly marked. In fact, they’re hidden in a part of the level that doesn’t even obey the laws of physics! In one part of the level, there are several thin metal platforms (that are thinner than the submarine) protruding from a rock. If you try to land on top of them, as any sensible person would, nothing will happen. Instead, you have to go underneath one of these thin platforms… to surface inside a large indoor facility that is obviously directly above the thin metal platform that you just landed on top of twenty minutes ago! AAAARGH!!!!

Conclusion:

All in all, this game is a real mixed bag. For every wonderfully cool thing about it, there is also something absolutely terrible. Although I miss the days when I could be naively nostalgic about this game, re-playing it wasn’t an entirely bad experience. As such, I’d recommend waiting until this game goes on sale before you buy it (or, even better, buying the first “Red Faction” game instead).

Even so, there’s a lot of fun to be had here, if you’re willing to put up with some extremely frustrating moments and console-centric PC game design.

If I had to give this game a rating out of five, it would maybe get a three.