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Tell me doctor, where are we going this time?

November 21st, 2015

Written by: Rik

So I just finished Telltale’s Back to the Future game. Despite having bought it in a fit of excitement upon release, I’d only played the first episode until last Christmas, at which point I declared that the very enjoyable second episode would mean that I’d be working my way through the rest at the earliest possible opportunity.

I’m not sure what happened to that plan – it’s taken me nearly another full year to get around to revisiting it – although I do think it’s possible that the sense of closure provided by the ending of each episode does provide an excuse to put the game down, in spite of effective use of cliffhangers and during-credits teaser trailers.


Anyway, I’d say I definitely enjoyed it overall. The story isn’t without the odd misstep, but in general it feels very faithful to the spirit of the movies. One of the central tenets of the original film was the question of what your parents were like when they were your age, what it would be like to meet them, and whether you’d be friends. Cue lots of Marty hanging around with the teenage versions of his parents.

For various reasons the film sequels went in a different direction, but the game revisits similar territory by having Marty go back to the 1930s, befriend a teenage Doc Brown, and make sure that his scientific career doesn’t go astray. (While Christopher Lloyd does feature, incidentally, he only plays the 1980s version of Doc and beyond – young Doc is voice by James Arnold Taylor, and a good job he does, too).

Although the Tannen dynasty is present and correct, along with older McFlys – mainly grandfather Artie – the game does have some other ideas when it comes to the primary antagonist, meaning the trope of one Tannen or another being the main source of trouble is, thankfully, broken.

For some, it may feel a little unnecessary to keep revisiting these characters and contriving new situations for them to sort out, and not everyone’s expectations will be met. Others will complain about the low level of difficulty, although it’s definitely an exaggeration to say it’s merely a case of just pushing a button to continue the story.

However, I reckon you’d have to be particularly hard-hearted not to engage with it at all, even if only out of plain nostalgia and love for the films: I even bopped along to Huey Lewis and the News during the end credits. (Yes, I said ‘bopped’.)

welcome to my death machine, interloper

November 18th, 2015

Written by: Stoo

Recently I took 10 mins to play a bit of the newly enhanced System Shock. Some observations:

Most importantly we have the option of mouselook. Shock was originally lumbered with clunky controls, where the mouse moved a pointer around the screen, and you had to click in certain places or use the keys to turn, or look up and down. It makes all those simple acts like moving around and looking at stuff just that little bit more difficult. Now though, the crosshairs stay centered and the direction in which you’re looking changes as you move the mouse. Just like a modern game.

You’ll still need the old system occasionally, to use the inventory interface or throw a grenade. Just hit the E key to toggle between old and new controls. If like me you prefer mouselook with the Y-axis inverted, there’s no option in the game itself, but just go into controls.cfg and set the y sensitivity to a negative value.


We also have some new options for graphics resolution, where previously the upper limit was 640×480. You can have 854×480, which is only a modest improvement on before, but it is a proper widescreen mode. Or you can go to 1024×768 with black bars either side. So basically you can have widescreen, or significantly sharper graphics, but not both. Which is odd. However I’m not a programmer and I have no idea what sort of work had to be performed on this old engine. Perhaps it’s like coaxing an old and temperamental piece of machinery back to life? Or summoning a recalcitrant demon?

Anyway Like RT said previously, the Enhanced Edition isn’t bundled up with Dosbox but instead somehow runs natively in Windows. I didn’t notice any problems running it under Win10.

Apparently the keys can be remapped, but I’ve not noticed anything else worth mentioning. So this is still System Shock as we remember it, just with a few adjustments for the modern gamer. I only spent a short while roaming the blue-panelled walls of the medical deck, soaking up the atmosphere, but hope to find a spare weekend to revisit Citadel Station properly.

Look at that! Look at that!

November 17th, 2015

Written by: Rik

Lewis Hamilton features in a regular column for BBC Sport Online. I’m not desperately interested in him, or F1 in general, but I have kind of a long commute and there comes a point at which I end up reading every article on the BBC website.

Anyway, in a recent piece, hidden amongst the tales of his jetsetting lifestyle, and in the context of looking forward to the Brazilian Grand Prix, was this unexpected mention of retro gaming:

“When I was a kid, I used to play a game called Grand Prix Two. Interlagos was always the first race of the season on that and I never really got much past the second race…I would always restart the season, so I always seemed to be doing Interlagos – it was a real pain!”

The game Lewis is referring to there is Geoff Crammond’s Formula One Grand Prix 2. He’s also identified the precise reason why you won’t see many F1 games reviewed on FFG, because the above describes my experience with each and every one I’ve ever played. At best, I manage to get really good at one race before giving up: at worst, I don’t even get that far.


Still, it’s good to know that the current F1 world champion once had exactly the same issues as me. [Er – he had these problems with an F1 game when he was about 10 years old. Now he’s the world champion of the real sport, while you still struggle with the games – how are you similar, exactly? – FFG reader]


November 11th, 2015

Written by: Rik

I promised I’d look at a strategy game this year, if only to contrive some level of variety in my output, and not just an endless cycle of old football games and vaguely obscure hover racers.

So far, it’s not going that well. The game I had in mind was Republic: The Revolution, a political strategy title from the mind of Demis Hassabis, who worked at Bullfrog – most notably on Theme Park.

I’d taken some confidence from my earlier revisiting of the Football Manager series, in that it was a game that could seem overwhelming if you tried to work everything out by endlessly rereading the manual before you started, but wasn’t too bad once you actually took the plunge and started playing.

Our glorious (and clueless) leader

Our glorious (and clueless) leader

Admittedly, I was helped in this regard by countless hours spent with previous iterations of the same game, but I thought I could apply this approach to a strategy game of my choice: rather than being simply petrified of starting, I wouldn’t fear failure, and work it out as I went along. Plus, I have a politics degree, and some level of interest in the subject, so it couldn’t be that hard, right?

I’m not going to review the game by not reviewing it, and my thoughts are based on limited (and nowhere near enough) play time. However, all I can say is that I devoted half a day to Republic, in a relatively open minded and calm mood, seeing as I was off work and not trying to cram the game in on an evening or at a weekend, and emerged none the wiser. I wasn’t cross, or frustrated – just confused. Things were happening, but I didn’t know why, really, although the on-screen advice sort of made sense in isolation, I didn’t really figure out what the game actually involved.

Plenty going on. I think it's all gone wrong.

Plenty going on. I think it’s all gone wrong.

There was a cut scene involving some military types going into a house and gunning down some innocents that was quite juddery: I remember at the time there was a lot of Edge-magazine-type bollocks (possibly in Edge magazine) about the fab-whizzo graphics engine and what it could do, but then when the game came out it seemed there was little point in it at all. The main bits I enjoyed were the superficial ones at the start: the quiz where you work out what kind of leader you’ll be, and naming your party.

In short, I gave up. It could have been my fault, or the game’s, or a combination of both. This isn’t a rage piece where I invoke pantomime anger at my own stupidity or the game’s lack of clarity in some areas. But I’m going to have to leave it there. As a result, my confidence in such matters has been knocked slightly although some contemporary reviews suggest I probably shouldn’t be too hard on myself.

Anyway, I need to find an alternative – requests or suggestions are, as always, most welcome.

Move move move (The Red Tribe)

November 7th, 2015

Written by: Rik

Hi everyone.

Sometimes I just get the urge to play a really old football game. Most of them are quite bad, really, but there you go.

Today’s review is of Manchester United Europe.


You kill a few men before a jury gives you permission to, and they fire you

October 30th, 2015

Written by: Rik

Good evening.

October seems to be a fairly productive month for us at FFG. No, not because it’s Halloween. (You know, that really isn’t such a big deal over here).

Anyway, it’s been a little while, but we’ve got one of our discussion review features for you tonight. The game is Outlaws. Yee-haw! *fires guns into the air* (sincere apologies).


The fastest game on Earth

October 23rd, 2015

Written by: Rik

Hi everyone.

I seem to be on a bit of a roll with these futuristic racers. Here’s another one for you: a game called Ballistics, from 2001.


Thank goodness for Stoo and his Duke Nukem retrospective! Next time: something completely different.

I’m Back

October 14th, 2015

Written by: Stoo

Hello everyone. A lot of my retro gaming time lately has been eaten up by a vast, sprawling 90s cRPG (I’ll leave you to speculate on which one), the sort of one that could take months yet to finish. I could cut it short but kinda feel like I want the full, beardy, dicerolling experience.

So I’m trying to fit in a few others along the way, the sort that aren’t such a massive commitment. Today we’re going back to the Apogee lineup, looking at the first couple of installments in the Duke Nukem series, back in the days before he went 3D and started hanging around strip clubs.

Damn, damn und blast

October 3rd, 2015

Written by: Rik


Another day, another review, another future hover racer thing (but, you know, from the past). It’s Slipstream 5000.


Twenty two megaton, you’ve never seen so much fun

October 1st, 2015

Written by: Rik

Hi there.

There’s been a lot written about this game recently, probably because the PlayStation is 20 this year (in Europe, at least). I can assure you, though, that the timing of this review is completely coincidental. (Oh! To be able to plan such things so meticulously…)

The PC version, as we shall see, loses a few cool points, and – perhaps – so do I, for refusing to call it WipEout or wipEout or wipE’out”.

Look, I’m not writing the logo. It’s called Wipeout.