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Good evening everyone, I AM Terry Butcher

June 10th, 2016

Written by: Rik

It’s the Euros! And in an attempt to build excitement for the forthcoming action, the BBC has compiled a series of video highlights of memorable moments from previous tournaments. One featured match that I didn’t immediately recall was Spain’s 4-3 victory over Yugoslavia in Euro 2000, secured in dramatic circumstances with a late winner.

I have fond memories of Euro 2000, despite the fact that England were awful and failed to get out of the group. They’d needed a play-off to get past Scotland and qualify for the tournament, and scraped through despite a dreadful performance in the home leg at Wembley. Just like the fuss surrounding current England captain Wayne Rooney, there was pressure on England manager Kevin Keegan to drop Alan Shearer for being too slow, with many suggesting Andy Cole as a replacement.

Shearer: 63 caps, 30 goals; Cole: 15 caps, 1 goal

Shearer: 63 caps, 30 goals; Cole: 15 caps, 1 goal.

Twice they lost leading positions, and Keegan’s insistence that England shouldn’t be written off following a narrow victory over Germany had more than a ring of his “love it” breakdown of a few years earlier. He eventually quit after a defeat to the same opponents in a World Cup qualifier, declaring that he lacked the tactical nous for the job. Still, I enjoyed the tournament, probably because as a first year undergraduate doing an arts degree, I could watch all the matches and drink a load of beer while doing so.

I became very familiar with Spain’s 2000 squad because they were my team of choice during that particular era of PES rivalry (ISS Pro Evolution 2) with my friend PG. You can develop strange relationships with teams under such circumstances: while famous names are guaranteed to start, the other members of the squad are endlessly rotated in an attempt to find the winning combination, and end up playing thousands more matches than they ever received real-life caps. During the course of an evening, a player could have gone from hero to villain and back again several times over. Having achieved legendary status in your head as a result of their exploits, though, they’d often be cruelly excised from the next game in the series, sending you scuttling to Wikipedia to find out what had happened to your fallen heroes.

Uncanny...

Uncanny…

And so it was with some surprise that I witnessed two such players having an impact in a real-life tournament, with strikers Alfonso and Pedro Munitis both scoring in the victory over Yugoslavia. Having only ever seen them in action in ISS, I was struck by how well their real-life appearance and physical attributes had been replicated in blocky and blurry PSOne form: I recalled Alfonso as a somewhat ungainly forward with floppy long hair and big white boots, while Munitis was a small, quick and irritating (I mainly used him as a salt-in-the-wounds-type substitute, for annoying PG with a late goal when victory already seemed assured). Both were immediately recognisable in the clip.

Un...canny...

Un…canny…

PG later revealed that he never feared either player, claiming to have more concerns about Raul and the “giant head” of Ismael Urzaiz. Despite Raul’s status as one of my squad’s star players, my assessment of his real-life counterpart as a talented but somewhat hapless player, representative of Spain’s general reputation at the time (possibly sealed by him missing a crucial late penalty in the Euro 2000 quarter final) meant that I never really held him in high regard, and I used to shove him out on the left wing. As for Urzaiz, his ISS representation wasn’t especially accurate but, revisiting the game now, the “giant head” accusations do appear to have had some foundation.

Can you spot the giant head of Urzaiz? Write in and claim your prize.

Can you spot the giant head of Urzaiz? Write in and claim your prize.

I hate you, Super Mutant Overlords

June 9th, 2016

Written by: Stoo

Welcome back to an occasional series where I grumble about some of the enemies that have been kicking my ass in various cRPGs. Today’s installment is Fallout 3, which isn’t actually the most difficult of games, particularly not compared to the hardcore RPGs of days gone by.

In particular the VATS mode, which is sort of a turn-based option, is overpowered. The game pauses, you choose enemies (and their specific body parts) to shoot, with each action costing a number of points. You queue up shots until out of points, then hit go and watch your commands happen in slow motion. Then you have to play in realtime for a bit until action points have recharged.

In principle VATS is a clever compromise between fallout’s roots as a turn-based RPG, and its modern first-person shooty incarnation. However, it’s rendered a bit too effective by a few other factors. Although enemies can still attack you while it’s active, the damage you take is cut drastically. Also, with late-game perks, you can automatically recharge action points for every kill made in VATS, thus removing the need for recharge time. So combat can sometimes become a bit trivial; you just queue up headshots and watch people fall over with minimum effort on your part.

That said, there are still some monsters out there tough enough to ruin your day. Especially if you have the Brotherhood of Steel expansion, which adds a range of high level monsters.

Now the answer to some of these might just be “bring Fawkes to help”, referring to the companion NPC who himself gets boosted to godly levels in the expansion, but you may not have access to him yet if you’ve left the main quest till late. Also he can’t go with you to the other expansions like Point Lookout.

All pics taken from the Fallout Wiki.

Super_mutant_overlord

Super Mutant Overlords
Super Mutants are the big guys who look and talk like a yellow version of the Hulk. The Overlords represent a huge leap in power over their lesser bretheren. For one thing, they have a huge reservoir of hitpoints. You can engage VATs, use up every point you have, and the things are barely scratched. Then they have the Tri-Beam laser rifle with its special “fuck they player up” abilities – a load of extra damage that ignores armour, and only applies when aimed at you.

So you basically cannot withstand a shootout in the open against these guys; they hit too hard and can take too much punishment in return. A good opening move is to sneak up close and unload your strongest gun into their face, but that only gets you so far towards putting them down. ust one of these in the wild with a couple of lesser friends is a challenging enough obstacle. A building full of them (as occurs in a few quests) seems downright hellish.

I was starting to dread encountering Overlords until my brain finally woke up and said, hey, why not use VATs to shoot the gun out of their hand! I’m sure smarter gamers would have thought of that right away. Once disarmed they may find (or spawn?) backup guns but those are nowhere near as grievously damaging as the Tri-Beam. Now your problem is far more manageable.

Feral_ghoul_reaver

Feral Ghoul Reavers
Exploring abandoned subways beneath the ruins of DC I step round a corner and find myself facing pack of Feral Ghouls. Stumbling across them unawares like this is sloppy, Stoo, I think to myself. Pay more attention to your surroundings next time. Still, these should be easy kills, let’s just line up some headshots with my trusty rifle –

oh crap it’s a reaver
run Run RUN

Like with these super mutants, there’s a whole family of Ghouls ranging from low-level monsters to top-tier monstrosities that while utterly destroy you if you’re unprepared.

There’s no gun to disable in this case, they just charge at you with frightening speed, and claw you to bits or hurl radioactive stuff. The Dartgun is a friend to you here; it does negligible damage but its leg-crippling effect greatly slows them down.

Point_Lookout_Tribals

Tribals
By late game you’re probably wearing powered armour, and carting around an impressive array of military grade hardware, advanced plasma guns and possibly even salvaged alien weaponry. Then you go to point lookout and suddenly find yourself in fight for survival against a bunch of cultists in rags carrying rusty shotguns.

For all my grumbling in these articles, obviously there should be something to challenge high level players. However, if I look at a tough enemy, I should be able to identify why they’re tough. There should be a rational explanation, according to the logics of the fictional world you’re exploring, as to why this person or monster is beating your face into the floor.

Let’s return to the mutant overlords for a moment. It’s an eight foot, muscular, radiation-fuelled brute with a triple-barrelled laser rifle. It makes total sense that such a creature would threaten you, even at your most powerful. Losing to these tribal jokers, however, is just faintly embarassing. It’s like a Need for Speed letting you rise through the ranks to buy a Lamborghini, then in the final race struggling to beat knackered old Ford Fiestas that for some reason handle like sports cars.

Goalscoring Superstar Hero

June 5th, 2016

Written by: Rik

Hello!

Ok, so I went down the rabbit-hole again and decided to revisit a game we first covered a number of years ago. Fortunately, doing so also led me to a place where I could come up with some new content, too.

This year, it’s 20 years since Euro ’96. (If Baddiel and Skinner released Three Lions today, they’d be singing about 50 years of hurt). So what better way to prepare for the forthcoming Euros than by revisiting some football games from the 90s?

Here we have coverage of Sensible Soccer, Sensible World of Soccer 96-97 and Football Glory.

sensititle

swostitle

fglorytitle

Hello, my friend. Stay awhile and listen…

May 13th, 2016

Written by: Stoo

Hello everyone.

You’ve probably noticed Rik has recently redone a few of the first reviews he wrote for this site, 15 years ago. There’s Toonstruck, a lesser known point and click adventure, and Speedball 2 for some violent future sport with that distinctive early 90s bitmap brothers art.

Well, I’ve gone and redone one myself – I thought it was time for a fresh look at Blizzard’s early action-RPG, Diablo.

This isn’t something we plan on doing a lot more of; we don’t want to get too caught up in tinkering with old content. Speaking for myself, I don’t produce enough new content anyway. Also I like having articles dated from about 2002 here, even if my own are the slapdash writings of a callow young man just to remind the world how long we’ve been doing this.

In the late 22nd century, mankind took to the stars, to see what wonders the heavens offered

May 6th, 2016

Written by: Rik

Hello everyone.

Regular readers – if they, indeed, exist – will know that in recent years I’ve stuck quite closely to my comfort areas: namely, old football and racing games. Occasionally, I do get the taste for something a bit different, although often my attempts are thwarted by my own ineptitude and/or lack of patience.

Anyway, I’ve dipped my toe into the shallow end of the RPG water with a review of Space Siege.

spacesiegetitle

Returning to the past in World of Warcraft

April 26th, 2016

Written by: Stoo

Via RPS:

Blizzard On Vanilla WoW Servers

I’ve occasionally considered talking about World of Warcraft here; it was released in the tail end of 2004 which does makes it older than some of the other games we’ve reviewed. It felt a bit wrong to speak of it as an actual old game, though, given how much it’s evolved over the years. Expansions have brought new places to explore, new character classes and races, new dungeons and raids. Character class mechanics are constantly changing, re-balancing, and abilities come and go. The character graphics have received a substantial upgrade. New features like automated group-matching for dungeons add convenience.

Even the old world, where the original pre-expansion game took place, was comprehensively overhauled in 2010. A giant dragon tried to break the planet, you see. So running around the Barrens or the Wetlands is rather different to how it was a decade ago. The quests are all new, you meet different people, new castles and outposts have sprung up and old towns lie abandoned . Sometimes even the layout of the land itself changed.

Also, a lot of content that used to be aimed at max-level characters still exists but becomes irrelevant when new expansions are released. Once upon a time players at level 70 would raid Tempest Keep or Black Temple, for shiny rewards. Now there is no point; we all charge right past it, and past level 70. The monsters of those raids stand around forlornly, forgotten. We only care about raids aimed at the current max level.

WoW players are as prone to nostalgia as anyone else, and sometimes miss the Warcraft they used to play. So some clever folks have managed to set up servers running older versions of the game, some going back to the days before any expansions. No panda-people, no Cataclysm, no modern easy-mode levelling. Your level cap is 60 and you (or, er, your Dwarvern Paladin) will sweat blood and tears getting there, dammit!

So I guess this is where WoW does start to intersect with our interests here. I can totally understand the pull of returning to Wow as it used to be. I wasn’t around for the first days, what we now refer to as Vanilla, but I did sign up at the start of the first expansion, sometime early 2007. So I have my own memories of the Old World in its original state, and also Outland. I spent several weeks in the Barrens, fighting those damn quillboar and waiting for the Alliance to trash the crossroads yet again. I ran around the dungeons of Uldaman with a group who only vaguely knew what they were doing until an experienced warrior tank kindly showed us what to do. I loved Azshara, with its bleak empty coastlands,before an expansion turned it into goddamn Goblin city.

The game was in many ways far more of a chore back then; endless running back and forth long distances on foot just to complete “collect 12 badger arses” quests, the difficulty in finding groups for dungeons, the difficulty accessing half-decent gear if you weren’t in a raiding guild. The hunter pet-training mechanics were especially tedious.

Yet we old-timers look back fondly on those days. Some say servers had more of a sense of community, back before they all got merged, and group-finders removed the need to socialise. Some also say you had to earn your success more back then, without epic purple lootz getting handed out like candy. Plus, well, there’s always nostalgia. A hearkening back to those days when you first started WoW, to good times had with friends in you guild, and probably to when you were a more carefree twenty-something.

I’ve often thought I’d like to play on a classic server. How far I’d get though, I couldn’t say. Maybe I’d make it all the way to level 60, 70, 80, wherever they decided to freeze WoW in time? Maybe I’d join a guild of friendly, dedicated people and have great adventures raiding Karazan? Or maybe I’d run out of steam somewhere around level 32, release what a slog I have ahead of me, and realise god dammit I spent enough of my life on this game already! Seriously I could have churned out so many more retro-reviews between 2007 and 2013 if I’d never played WoW. I am not going back to that. No chance.

Anyways, what I failed to mention so far, but you’d know if you read that link at the start, is that is that these retro-servers are totally unofficial. So Blizzard doesn’t especially approve, and sometimes deploys lawyers (on griffon-back, from its shining citadel in Stormwind city) to shut them down. The obvious answer seems to be for Blizz to run some classic servers itself, but they apparently cite a bunch of technical difficulties. I’m surprised it’s that much work to install some old software on a bunch of servers but maybe making it talk to the modern battle.net infrastructure is the tricky bit.

They do mention turning off a bunch of the modern conveniences that speed up levelling, such as heirloom gear (fancy swords and armour you obtain on one character, then pass to another newbie hero that you create). So you’d take longer to reach max level, monsters would be tougher, you’d have to do more quests and search harder for gear. I guess that’s a compromise worth considering.

Something about ice cream

April 16th, 2016

Written by: Rik

Hello.

For the second time this month, I’ve gone back to revisit a game that I already covered a while ago, in an attempt to provide a slightly more insightful review.

I don’t think I’m going to make a habit of this. It was fun to go back and play the games again – but there are many more out there, and if I keep picking at the old content we probably won’t get much new stuff.

Anyway, today’s reheated write-up is of Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe.

sb2title

But oh, oh, those Hot Import Nights

April 11th, 2016

Written by: Rik

Good evening.

Today we have another one of those street-racing games for you, a sequel to one we covered a while ago (and quite liked). It’s Juiced 2: Hot Import Nights.

juicedhintitle

Yes! Of course I understand, Mr. Asparagus!

April 5th, 2016

Written by: Rik

Hi there.

For reasons of maintaining my own sanity and preventing the trickle of new content from me slowing to an occasional drip, I don’t tend to make a habit of re-visiting old reviews and tinkering with them. However, I’ve temporarily abandoned my it-is-what-it-is approach in an attempt to fix one or two of my oldest write-ups.

I’m not going to keep the originals on the site anywhere because, well, what would be the point of rewriting them in the first place. But in an attempt to avoid my own newspost paralysis, I’ll borrow Stoo’s original intro for this first one. Here’s a point-and-clicker from the latter days of the genre’s 90s heyday, starring everyone’s favourite ex-Klingon, Christopher Lloyd: it’s Toonstruck.

toonstrucktitle2

You’re not hardcore, unless you live hardcore

April 1st, 2016

Written by: Rik

Those who remember previous iterations of FFG may recall that our list of reviews used to come with a brief introduction. I thought it was quite a good feature, but by God did it cause me some trouble. After tapping out a review with relative ease, the prospect of coming up with some kind of pithy summary caused significant dithering, until it seemed as if I’d spent as long thinking about that as I did writing the piece itself. So I’m also sort of glad it’s gone, although I still have the same problems with accompanying text for newsposts and social media – there isn’t much deviation from “Hello, today’s review is this.” These days, thank goodness, I can at least put in a screenshot of the title screen.

Perhaps we should return to the very early days of the site, pre-Wordpress, pre-CMS, when I had to send my reviews to Stoo to upload, and he’d come up with all of that on my behalf. I was reminded of this after I posted the last of the When I Played features, and he described it on Twitter as a piece about the therapeutic effects of writing about old games, which was both entirely correct and something I never would have come up with myself. It also got me thinking.

I find there’s something reassuring about the world of games, the fact that it all just exists: ticking away and churning out new titles faster than any one person could ever keep up with. These days, I still follow it all, without having much sense of what’s going on. But I’m still interested. One day, I might get around to some of the things everyone’s talking about now.

gamingt4

Hotline Miami: Not as new as I thought.

You’re not hardcore, unless you live hardcore continued »