As is tradition in the gaming industry, every year developers push to get their new games out in the fall just before the holiday season. This year saw a plethora of new games, many of which were big name high quality titles. In this post I’m going to briefly review some of those titles made for the PC.
Age Of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties
The second expansion for Age III, The Asian Dynasties was not done by Ensemble Studios but instead by Big Huge Games. It shows as the game art does not feel quite as polished as the art of the original game and the expansion. Despite this it is still a very good looking game as Ensemble’s work is always top notch and hard to match. The game adds 3 new civilization to the game: The Japanese, The Chinese and The Indians, as well as 3 new campaigns, one for each civilization. Each civilization plays quite differently than any other previous civilization which helps to spice up the series a bit. The maps of the campaign look great and are very well done. The new random maps added are very well done as well and are a lot of fun to play.
Overall The Asian Dynasties is a very good expansion and is a must have for any fan of the series. The new additions to the game add enough variety to keep you playing Age III a little longer as you wait for Age IV. I must warn you though, unlike the original game and the first expansion where easy was not hard, but not easy; when you play these campaigns in easy it truly is easy. Unless you really just want to blow through the campaign, do yourself a favor and play it on moderate.
Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
The latest in the call of duty series, COD4 takes place in modern day rather than the all too familiar WWII. Thank God! Overall, this is a Great Game! The graphics are excellent, the battles are ferocious, the AI is good and the action is almost non-stop! The game features some truly memorable moments. My favorite part of the game is the C-130 Gunship mission “Death from Above.” You sit at the gunners position of the plane looking through the night vision/thermal site and rain munitions down on the enemy. It looks exactly like the NV/thermal images of precision bombs dropping that you’ve seen on TV. I mean exactly like it! I only wish the mission had lasted longer. I could have done that part for a good 2 hours or more.
While COD4 is a fantastic game I do have a couple gripes with it. The first and biggest one is that the game is short. I mean damn short! The entire game took me approximately 6 hours to beat. Perhaps it is because they spent a lot of time on the multiplayer as I hear that it is actually really good, still I like to see my single player games offer me at least 15-20 hours of play time. This one wasn’t even close. My second gripe has to do with the game play. In this game, if you stay in one place, no matter how many enemies you kill, more will keep coming until you advance to the position they are flooding in from. Because there is no break in flooding of enemies, this can make advancing extremely difficult and frustrating to do and you will end up dying A LOT before you beat this game. What ticks me off about this the most though is I feel like they did it this way simply to make the game take longer to beat, rather than do the proper thing and add more content. I mean yes it’s cool to see tons of enemies pouring at you and taking them down, but we don’t need it in every scene.
Despite my gripes this is still an excellent game and I highly recommend it however, if you don’t plan on playing the multiplayer be sure to wait for a sale to pick this one up as the single player is too short to warrant spending $50 ($60 for you console players) on it.
Crysis takes place in the not too distant future on an Island off of North Korea. A distress signal has been received from the Island and you and the rest of your special forces team has been sent in to extract the distressed personnel. You and your team are equipped with the latest in secret military technology, a nano-suit that offers you super human abilities. The suit can be set on the fly to one of four modes: superior armor, superior speed, superior strength, and cloak. Armor mode lets you take bullets without taking damage as long as your suit has energy (no worries it regenerates). Speed mode lets you run extremely fast and is great for escaping a chasing army. Strength mode gives you the ability to jump really high and through things really far (like enemy soldiers). Finally cloak mode turns you invisible similar to the predator; great for sneaking up on enemy soldiers. This suit combined with an interesting array of weapons makes you a lethal force to the unsuspecting North Korean Army.
Overall this is an excellent game. The graphics are amazing and it arguably has the best graphics of any video game currently out (the only real competition being Unreal Tournament 3). The jungle island scenes are absolutely beautiful and the lighting effects and explosions are magnificent. Let’s just say the game is very pleasing to the eye. The game play is very good too. The game is semi-linear meaning it has a set path of where to go but, due to the large map sizes, how you get there is up to you. You can drive your Humvee down the road to your destination, stick to the woods and get there on foot, or grab a boat and assault the destination by water. The combat is great fun. Between the suit, your arsenal of weapons, and a variety of vehicles you have plenty of fun ways to take out the enemy. The game features a fair number of destructible objects as well. All of the shanty type buildings can be blown apart/knocked down and all of the palm trees can be mowed down. This is great fun when you get on an MG and the enemy is advancing from the trees or vice versa. Think the mini-gun scene in Predator.
The game is not without its flaws though. The AI could be better although it isn’t bad. It just has it’s moments of stupidity. There also is occasionally some problems with the computer controlled tanks where for some reason they’ll go flying into the air for no apparent reason. These problems only happen on occasion though and don’t really take away from the game play. I actually found them to be quite funny and in fact enjoyed them. Another problem is that this game requires a beast of a system to play if you want to turn the effects up. Fortunately I have a beast of a system so this wasn’t too much of a problem, but even on my system, at 1920×1200 with settings on high I’d find moments where the frame rate would dip a bit more than I’d like. Finally, I didn’t care for the way the game took a turn about 2/3rds through. It’s not that the story went bad, it’s just that I was still really enjoying taking out North Koreans and then suddenly I was never fighting a North Korean for the rest of the game. At least one more big map with NK’s would have made me happy.
While the game does have some problems, the only one I would say that is big enough that should keep you from buying the game is the system requirements. Sorry, but this game just is not going to play well on your two year old machine. Get the game when you upgrade. Other than that, if you like shooters, then get this game. The single player is great fun and though I haven’t tried it online yet, the multi doesn’t look too shabby either.
The Orange Box
The Orange Box is the latest in Valve’s marketing scheme of packaging multiple products into one well… box. Unlike the Half-Life 2 Steam Packages that came out when HL2 was released, this one is actually a really good value. In the orange box you get the following games: HL2, HL2:Episode 1, HL2:Episode 2, HL2 The Lost Coast, HL2 Deathmatch, Peggle Extreme, Portal and Team Fortress 2. In this review I’ll briefly cover each of the new Items.
Half-Life 2: Episode II
Better than Episode I. Not to say Episode I was bad but, most might have found it too cramped and it seemed like Alyx did all the work and all you had to do was stand back and let her shoot. Episode II is not like this. Instead most of the game is in open outdoors and there’s plenty for you to shoot. Yes Alyx is still in it and doing a good amount of shooting. The difference is you actually won’t mind having her there. When she’s around the bad guys you encounter are typically a lot tougher than those found in Episode I so having her there is not a bad thing. When the baddies are the simpler kind of zombies and head crabs you’re usually on your own.
Overall this is a very good installment in the Half-Life series. The graphics aren’t the latest gen, but they are still very good plus you’ll still be able to play the game even if you have an older computer. Play time will generally run you about 8-10 hours. That’s longer than COD4 and this is only an episode, not a full game. If you’re a fan of the Half-Life series then this is a must have.
Two words: Instant Classic! What seemed simply to be a simple puzzle game meant to showcase the Source Engine’s Portal ability turns out to be a game pop culture hit. In the game you must complete a series of puzzles using the portal gun to interact with the environment all while being instructed/taunted by the hilarious computer voice named Glados. To tell you more would be to give away some of the priceless moments of the game. This game is completely worth it and every first person shooter fan and even non shooter fighter should play this game. Half-Life fans should definitely play this as you will find the game has ties into the HL world. Go get this game! The cake is not a lie.
Team Fortress 2
Well after what? 8 years? Team Fortress 2 I finally out. If you saw the screenshots and videos of Team Fortress 2 back in the day when it was clearly still on the HL1 engine you might remember that the game was going to be something like what we might call today a Counter-Strike, Battlefield 2, Team Fortress Hybrid. TF2 as it is now… it’s nothing like what we saw in that media. Today Team Fortress 2 is more true to its roots and is really an upgraded TFC. TF2 has a new look to it. The characters are inspired by old corny spy movies, but feature cell shading and a cartoon appearance akin to that of the movie Toy Story. The combination works well to give the game a unique and fresh look to it.
Classes remain the same however, weapons have been varied from class to class and grenades have been removed except for the Demoman’s grenade launcher. Some people will find this removal a welcome change, especially on Dustbowl as you can no longer just grenade spam the choke points, while others will not as it forces them to relearn how to play each class. When I started playing TF2 I leaned more toward the later but, due to the change found some of the other classes to be really fun, such as the Scout. I would never play as the scout in TFC because he was so lightly armored and wasn’t good for killing anything. In TF2 he is still lightly armored but, now he has the best shotgun in the game, moves really quickly and has a double jump which makes him really hard to hit and chase, plus he has a nice bat for a melee weapon. The bat is probably the most fun as it actually fairly easy to get a kill with it and the sound it makes when you hit someone is great. What’s great fun is to run up on an unsuspecting heavy weapons guy and bat him down. He won’t go down in one hit but, you swing fast enough to get enough hits in pretty quickly and a chaotic situation he probably will not react to you fast enough to save him. Bat kills are really rewarding!
Overall TF2 is a good successor to TFC. It’s fast paced and easy to jump into. It’s different enough from TFC to be fresh and similar enough to be familiar. If you’ve been looking forward to TF2 and expected a game similar to that in those old screenshots then you might be disappointed but, if you try out this new fortress I’ll think you’ll find it works pretty well and you’ll forget about what it was going to be.
Unreal Tournament 3
The latest in the Unreal Tournament series UT3 offers something none of the previous UT’s did… a storyline! Don’t think much of this though. It’s really just kind of a weak tie in for why you’re fighting and why you can respawn. It’s still arena fighting just like any other UT except now you have a cause. The core of the game is still the multiplayer aspect. The game features two “new” game modes. I put new in quotes because in all honesty they aren’t new. The “new” Total War mode (I think that’s what it’s called) is really just the same as UT2004’s Onslaught mode with the addition of an orb around you can carry around that will cap the points instantly. The other “new” mode is Vehicle CTF which is it’s titled is just Capture the Flag with vehicles. While adding vehicles to CTF does seem like much, what it does is allow for CTF on a lot bigger maps and is actually pretty fun. The game also feature some new vehicles like these alien walker things which are pretty fun but, perhaps the best addition is the hoverboard. With huge maps running all the time can be a real drag. The hoverboard can be pulled out at any time to help you get across the map.
The biggest thing about the new UT is the graphics. They are awesome! The new UT does it again by impressing us with eye candy. The graphics are on par with Crysis (although Crysis’ may be a little better) but it doesn’t require near as much system to run it. My brother’s computer is pushing 2 or more years now and it runs fine on his system while still looking good. On my system I have everything cranked to max with res set to 1920×1200 and thus far I’ve only experienced slow downs in one map. All the rest of the maps play nice and smooth. It really is quite impressive what they’ve been able to do with unreal engine and it’s no wonder so many games are licensing it.
Overall I found I like the game, but it isn’t different enough from UT2004 for me. If you’ve never played a UT or at least haven’t since the original, then this game might feel new to you but, if you have… it’s going to feel the same. If you’re a big UT fan or at least a big deathmatch fan then this game is definitely for you. For people who can’t get enough UT, the fact that this game is really UT2004 with prettier graphics and some gameplay improvements won’t bother them and they’ll be pleased. If you haven’t been a huge fan of the UT series or are looking for something new then you may want to hold back and if anything catch it on sale. The vehicle CTF is pretty fun addition but, it’s definitely not enough to justify full price.