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The three incarnations of TIE fighter

October 30th, 2014

Written by: Stoo

So yesterday I was very enthusiastic about GOG releasing TIE Fighter. Now unfortunately, having investigated further, I have a bit of bad news. Your purchase gets you original 1994 DOS release, and also the 1998 version. What’s missing, though, is the 1995 Collectors CD-ROM edition. This boosted the graphics resolution up to SVGA, improved the cutscenes and also had some extra voicovers.

You might say, if you want an upgrade to the original, why not just play the 98 release? However the change over to texture mapped graphics is something that rather changes the feel of the game. I guess it was a step forward in videogame graphics but I think, whether you prefer those early days of textured 3D to clean polygons, is something of a matter of taste. Meanwhile the soundtrack is no longer the dynamic imuse system, changing on the fly to match events, that did such great work in building atmosphere and excitement. It’s just ordinary CD tracks.

So that release could be seen as TIE overhauled, and not entirely for the better. Whereas the 1995 one is still the original game, just sharpened up and improved. It’s in my view the definitive version, and hopefully GOG will add it sometime.

(RT if you’re reading, I just quickly tried the ’94 DOS version, and it recognised my generic USB joypad right away without any need to tinker with the config)

Launch all TIE Fighter squadrons: Lucasarts games (finally) available at GOG.

October 28th, 2014

Written by: Stoo

New Publisher at GOG: Lucasarts\Disney

This is fantastic news, something we’ve been waiting for since gog.com first started up!

First up, we’ve got the space-sim X-Wing, an important event in PC gaming history. There had been star wars games before these, but a fully fledged simulation was something new and amazing. You were right there in the pilot’s seat, throwing the X-wing into loops as you evaded TIE interceptors, or gritting your teeth and staring down the sights as you closed for a strafing run on a Star Destroyer.

For variety you had the agile A-wing and the heavily armed, but clunky, Y-Wing. To add depth, you had to keep an eye on energy levels between lasers, shield and engines – nothing too complex, but a system that forced you to decide which factor was more important in a given situation. All this to a great score that not only featured familiar Star Wars themes, but changed on the fly to match events, using Lucasarts’ imuse system.

If there was one point against X-wing, it was that it was rather unforgiving – if you had to, say, protect a friendly ship you basically had to know ahead of time when and where enemies would hyperspace in, or you could never be there in time to protect it. The sequel TIE fighter eased back on the unfair map design, and then improved on X-wing’s strengths with a huge range of ships (6 or 7 fliable) and a wide range of missions. It’s probably one of the top few finest PC classics of the decade, in fact, still one of the greatest games of it’s sort to this day.

(for both games, and gog have included both the original and the 1998 versions with texture-mapped graphics, although those latter ones dropped the responsive sound-track for just CD-audio).

Like a lot of 30-somethings writing on websites I could prattle on here if I don’t watch myself. Let’s move on to the point-and-click adventures that Lucasarts were also known for. The most important release in this department, since it’s the first time it’s been seen on digital distribution, is the original Sam and Max. It’s a great example of the offbeat, wacky humour that made Lucasarts stand out over the competition. There’s also Fate of Atlantis, and the Monkey Island special edition, which were already on Steam but we’re always happy to see DRM-free releases.

The front page promises more to come. I’m particularly hoping for Day of the Tentacle. I also wonder if we’ll ever see their old World War 2 flight sims, like Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe.

Get a bloomin’ move on

October 25th, 2014

Written by: Rik

Whoops! Back again already.

This is kind of an accidental review, as you’ll see, but new content is new content, I guess.

The game is The Italian Job.

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What’s wrong with being sexy?

October 25th, 2014

Written by: Rik

Hello there.

We have a new discussion review for you today. Chosen for reasons of simply trying to give something a go that we’d never bothered to look at before, rather than any attempt to be topical, we make a belated attempt to take a look at a game from the Leisure Suit Larry series.

So – and I can’t believe I’m finally typing these words on FFG – here’s our review of Leisure Suit Larry: Love for Sail!

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3D Realms are back. And they’ll always have Duke3D, at least.

October 24th, 2014

Written by: Stoo

It’s been many years since we thought of 3D Realms as a company that actually made games. Their glory days were back in the late 80s to mid 90s, first releasing a bunch of platformers and scrolling shooters under their initial name Apogee, then several of the early classics of First Person shooters. From there they slipped into a decade-long failure to make a sequel to the most famous of those games. Then they shut down development altogether in 2009, not doing much more than fighting legal battles and licensing out remakes.

However, they’ve now been bought out and relaunched by Interceptor, the guys who did the remake of Shadow Warrior. This should be exciting news, I guess? One of the titans of days past, brought back from hibernation? Well, one new title they’re working on is bombshell which frankly… does not look promising at all. It’s like they took a generic “hot woman” 3D model from 10 years ago, stuck a robot arm on her and tried to give her attitude with a motorbike and a half-assed attempt to look a bit punk.

I’d like to be optimistic. Maybe they will have sucess with a new intellectual property. Or maybe we’ll get an awesome new Rise of the Triad. Or they’ll challenge all those indie hipster platform games by relaunching Bio Menace.

What a guy.

His mullet will now be ironic.

For now though, they’re celebrating the revival with an anthology of their their back catalogue. There’s a lot of content here – going all the way back to the really early stuff. Want a full list? Of course you do! It’s after the cut!

3D Realms are back. And they’ll always have Duke3D, at least. continued »

Her Majesty’s loyal terrier, defender of the so-called faith

October 18th, 2014

Written by: Rik

Hello!

I’ve been in the mood for some shooty action for a while, and a quick look through the archives suggests it’s been a while since I tackled a first-person shooter. (It doesn’t seem like a long time to me, because I’ve reached the age where all the years blur together, but it is.)

Anyway, it’s time to fight for queen and country as MI6′s most famous spy in 007: Nightfire.

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We have more coming, including another discussion review, soon.

Altaïr isn’t as cool as Corvo, but he’ll do for now.

October 9th, 2014

Written by: Stoo

Lately I thought I should give Assassin’s Creed a try, since it looks like an interesting variant of sneaky-stabby gameplay, and I like to at least have a vague idea of what’s going on in the world of modern triple-A gaming. Here are just a few thoughts, which I try to keep brief as I doubt anyone comes here for a long-winded review of a modern, famous title.

Interesting new take on stealth gameplay. Instead of lurking in shadows, this is more about hiding in plain sight. Don’t get too close to guards or make them twitchy by running and jumping around. Stroll around nonchalantly, or try blending in with groups of scholars (since you have the same white robes and, er, guards don’t notice all your swords and knives?). Or just go on the rooftops, leaping from one building to another with ease, although there are archers up there too that get a bit agitated by you being Mr Parkour Guy.

Maps are large and open. Freedom of movement is always a positive in my book. Cities feel quite authentic – dry, dusty and crowded. Houses and shops are packed together around narrow streets, full of beggars, merchants and thugs. Standing out amidst the humble dwellings are larger, grander structures like towers and mosques. I do kind of wish that there were a few more options for interaction with these people and places.

The structure of the game is starting to feel a bit repetitive: go to section of town. Climb towers, save people from guards (you do this a lot, this game is sort of Vigilante Creed on the side), do a bunch of little challenges to gain info. The assassination missions themselves, which form the climax of each section, offer a bit of variety and challenge at least.

I’ve gotten the hang of combat, at least against standard enemies. Block, counter, repeat. Or push them off rooftops just for hilarity. Those armoured templars are a lot tougher though, the bastards.

I like the historical setting – the holy land at the time of the crusades – but not sure I’m really feeling drawn into the story yet. Interesting though how the assassination targets, supposedly all villains, claim to be trying to do some good. I already suspect there’s going to be some twist about the motives of the Assassins guild.

Novel framing device in the plot, with your character reliving his ancestor’s memories through some piece of advanced technology. It does handily provide a justification for all those old gameplay tropes like health bars and save games – you are, in effect, playing a game within the game.

Anyway mostly positive thoughts so far and it’s good to catch up with, er, the gaming of 2008. A quick look at wiki tells me there have been five sequels already. Doubt I’ll play them all, recommendations on say the best two, would be appreciated!

Atari ST Trivia Corner Part 3

October 8th, 2014

Written by: Rik

ITV often have the same, misguided idea for new programming: copy something that’s been a success on the BBC and then pay a huge sum for the presenting talent to defect in the hope that the solid viewing figures can be seamlessly transplanted to their network. In practice, it rarely works: the show itself often looks like the thin facsimile it is, while the newly-acquired presenter shifts uncomfortably under the glare of a new environment and the weight of increased public expectation.

(Around 15 years ago they secured the rights to the Premiership highlights and the services of former Match of the Day presenter Des Lynam: a sure thing, you would think, but somehow they conspired to mess it up with some terrible decisions, including Andy Townsend and his infamous tactics truck. Even now, whenever England’s tournament matches are shown on both channels, and despite the obvious shortcomings of the BBC pundits, no-one watches them on ITV, whose live football coverage is fronted by Adrian Chiles, a man they thrust into the spotlight of matchday primetime on the basis of his likeable low-key appearances on the BBC’s Sunday highlights programme Match of the Day 2.)

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Anyway, I never saw Sporting Triangles when it was on TV, but it was basically ITV’s version of A Question of Sport, and true to form, at one point former QoS captain Emlyn Hughes was persuaded onto the show. As far as I can tell, it was ultimately cancelled with no great fanfare. Sadly, no footage exists that I can find, save for a brief clip of the opening credits. But it was obviously popular enough to warrant the release of home computer version, which we can look at now! [Oh dear God not again – a reader]

After the title screen and (authentically reproduced) accompanying music, you select the number of human players, the level of difficulty, and enter your own name and area of sporting expertise. Although the TV show had celebrity captains, they’re not featured here, and it’s just you against the computer (or friends, if you have any, and they have similar niche interests). Comically, your on screen representation has turned up to the studio kitted out as if ready to play actual sport – there’s obviously been a misunderstanding involving your agent and the producers, or you’re just choosing to take things really seriously. Fortunately, the other players have done the same thing:

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Well, having not seen the show, I can’t really comment on whether the format has been accurately replicated, or indeed what it was in the first place – Sporting Triangles is a pretty weird name after all, and I’m not sure to what, other than there being three players, and a playing board in the shape of a big triangle, it referred. The main difference between this and the QoS game is that the multiple-choice answer format is eschewed in favour of an honesty-based ‘here’s the answer, did you get it right’ system, which probably works best if you play with the family, as intended, instead of sitting alone wondering whether you were nearly right and deserve a bonus point because you’re getting thrashed by the computer players.

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There is a little variety among the individual rounds: ‘Hit for Six’ asks you to guess an answer from a list while providing increasingly less vague clues as the number of points on offer diminishes, while ‘Jigsaw’ does something similar, but with the addition of a picture that gradually becomes more complete. Add in the obligatory ‘quick fire’ round at the end, and you’re done.

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Without the aid of multiple-choice guessing, I got soundly beaten by two computer players of ‘average’ (ie the lowest) ability. During ‘Hit for Six’, one of these players responded to the clue ‘America got their hands on it in 1979′ with the answer ‘Billie Jean King’, which further compounded the insult (the answer we were looking for was, incidentally, ‘The Ryder Cup’). Some snooker dick called Chris won in the end.

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It looks awful, it lacks star quality, and it’s a paper-thin concept to start with. Just as it was in 80s TV land, Sporting Triangles is a bit like A Question of Sport, but not as good (and they’re both rubbish really).

And for some further reading about 80s British sport on TV, featuring a (dis)honourable mention for Sporting Triangles, take a look here.

Next time: Ken Bruce’s PopMaster: The Game

Mike Read’s Computer Pop Quiz

October 1st, 2014

Written by: Rik

And you thought I was being facetious last time!

(More proper content soon, I promise, but just at the moment I only have the time and energy to dip into daft nostalgia items like this one).

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Unlike A Question of Sport (the TV show), Mike Read’s Pop Quiz isn’t still going in a revamped, modernised format (although apparently there was an attempt at bringing it back at some point in the fairly recent past) but, like A Question of Sport (the TV show), Elite did make a tie-in game of it during the late 80s (which, according to my research, was several years after the show itself had ceased its original run).

And, like A Question of Sport (the game), Mike Read’s Computer Pop Quiz is just like A Question of Sport (the game). In fact, you’d go so far to say that they’re virtually bloody identical. I mean they haven’t even bothered to change the cast of anonymous faces that you can choose from to make up your team:

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Hmm…don’t they look familiar? I suppose they have at least actually used a picture of Mike Read as the host, instead of Ian ‘Beefy’ Botham with his moustache erased. (Although the posed picture featured is slightly unnerving, almost as if they’ve used a shot from another product Mike Read promoted. The same is true of the pictures of Ian and Bill from QoS, it looks like they’ve just found random pictures of them from a sticker album or something. David Coleman looks ok though: I bet he came in and had a photo done specially for the game – what a pro.)

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The rest of the game follows suit: it’s QoS with some different backgrounds and music, and (obviously) the questions are about music rather than sport. Any potential for innovation, or variety, when it comes to each round has obviously been ignored, and don’t expect to hear any actual music except for the odd incidental jingle here and there.

As for how I fared, well, perhaps I’m not all that good with music trivia, or maybe it’s the fact that Read – and, by extension, the BBC – were hopelessly out of touch with anything remotely hip or culturally significant during the 80s, meaning that many of the questions refer to a time and space now considered a depressing pop music wasteland, memories of which have since been encased in concrete and pushed to the bottom of the river of public consciousness, I don’t know, but, despite a few lucky guesses, I, um lost.

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To be honest, I only wanted to look at this one because I’d heard it was a hasty (bordering on mickey-taking) re-hash of QoS. But, you know, how dare they? How dare they destroy the memories of top-left corner moustache man, and his football knowledge, when he’s here moonlighting as some kind of rock music expert?

Next time: Sporting Triangles.

The sport is literally going on forever

September 25th, 2014

Written by: Rik

Hi there.

It’s the Ryder Cup this weekend, and in a remarkable piece of forward planning, here’s a review of a golf game: Sensible Golf.

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One of the problems with having an idea to tie in content with real life sporting events is that real life sporting events are happening constantly – as David Mitchell would say, all of them mattering to someone, somewhere, presumably. It’s become a bit of a cul-de-sac for me recently, so I’m in the mood for something different in the coming months.

Still, at least I got it finished before the event itself started this time. Good luck to both teams! (But mainly Europe, obviously).