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Review: Test Drive Unlimited 2

December 7th, 2019

Written by: Rik

Hello! I hope you’re all well.

Somehow it’s December already – I know, right? Well, to take your mind off the cold and dark winter season, here’s a review of a game about hanging around in sunnier climes: it’s Test Drive Unlimited 2.

Reissues, remakes and belated sequels

November 16th, 2019

Written by: Rik

This has never been the place to come for gaming news [or anything else – FFG reader] but amongst the avalanche of announcements and new releases, I noticed a couple of things relevant to our interests here:

Firstly, the cel-shaded shooter XIII is back on GOG, having previously been de-listed for some reason or other, presumably tedious rights issues. It’s been some time since I played it, but I have reasonably fond memories: I enjoyed the setup, the visual style, and the fact that being ‘stealth’ meant creeping up behind people and hitting them over the head with a chair.

Presumably related to the original’s sudden reappearance, a remake has also been announced. It was initially supposed to have been released around about now, but has now been pushed into next year. Details are relatively thin on the ground, although a handful of screens have been released and it (obviously) looks a lot smarter, and I’m glad to see that the chair-to-head smashing feature apparently remains intact.

(Image from GOG.com)

It looks like this is just going to be a new game also called XIII rather than the original game touched up a little bit for modern gamers. I’m not sure the latter would really work: I increasingly feel that whatever the technical shortcomings of a particular title (in this case, checkpoint saves and quite small levels), they should be considered part of what makes the game what it is and places it at a certain point in time. (Patches that make them work on modern systems, or add a widescreen mode, are of course welcome!)

Under the heading of massively belated sequels, a follow-up to Beneath a Steel Sky has been announced. The original is beloved by many adventurers, and I often wonder whether I was a bit too harsh on it back in the day. As with Revolution’s main franchise, Broken Sword, I did remember it being tonally all over the place at times, mixing dark, dystopian sci-fi themes with broad sitcom humour, with characters cracking wise at inopportune moments (much like our tactless friend George Stobbart). It’s one that I’m tempted to revisit at some point.

Anyway, the sequel, Beyond a Steel Sky, looks to be far removed from its predecessor’s point-and-click origins, which is a bit of a surprise given Revolution’s mixed experiences with 3D in Broken Sword games 3 and 4, and ultimate decision to return to 2D for the fifth game. They also seem at this stage to be distancing it from the first game by claiming it isn’t a sequel and emphasising that you don’t need to have played the first game to enjoy this one. That’s perhaps less surprising, given that the characters in Broken Sword seem to begin each new game with few memories of what transpired previously.

It certainly looks nice enough, based on early footage, though, utilising a visual style not dissimilar to XIII. It’ll be interesting to see how it turns out.

Soundtracks: FIFA 2000

November 3rd, 2019

Written by: Rik

Hello and welcome to the first in a new series of articles looking back at the use of licensed music in games. If you want a little more background, there’s a piece here explaining what it’s all about.

Today’s game is FIFA 2000, not a particularly standout entry in the series in terms of great computer footy, but notable for a few other things, not least the prominence of a major UK pop star, who not only provided some music but featured in the game’s intro and provided motion capture for goal celebrations. If you want to read more about the game, we reviewed it here.

Soundtracks: FIFA 2000 continued »

Implanted memories and a four year lifespan

November 1st, 2019

Written by: Rik

A bit late to this, as usual, but as it’s now November 2019, it seems like as good a time as any to mention that Blade Runner is now supported by ScummVM.

Until recently, the game was technically playable on 64-bit Windows, and I personally found the jiggery-pokery here sufficient to get things up and running on my own machine, although that doesn’t seem to have been the case for everyone, and some have claimed that playing on a modern PC messes up one or two timing-specific puzzles later on in the game.

I haven’t played Blade Runner all the way through for a long time, although it’s a game I think about often. It was the first review I submitted to FFG and, some years later, I wrote about how it was one of the first games that left a significant mark on me. That piece involved playing through some of the early stages again and I was sorely tempted to keep going.

I didn’t, though, so I can’t comment on any gameplay issues the workaround may or may not cause. I understand that playing through ScummVM is a safer bet in this regard, although again I can’t vouch for that myself. There’s also an option to experience an alternative version of the game featuring some restored content that the ScummVM team unearthed during the (long) quest to get it working, and I’ll be interested to try that out.

The main thing you need, of course, is a copy of the game, which isn’t that easy to get hold of legally unless, like me, you still have your original discs. An official re-release via GOG or some other platform is unlikely due to fairly complex rights issues, but I dare say you’d be able to find it on some abandonware site or other.

Even if it’s a flawed game, it’s also an interesting one, and I’m personally glad more people will be hopefully now be able to experience it. Thanks, brainy internet boffins!

Review: UEFA Champions League: Season 2001/2002

October 26th, 2019

Written by: Rik

Hi everyone.

Great news for our legion of football game loving readers – it’s another old football game review! This time, we’re taking a look at UEFA Champions League: Season 2001/2002.

And, of course, this means a change to the standings in the FFG Football League.

Moments in Gaming: Thumbs Down

October 25th, 2019

Written by: Stoo

Warning: spoilers for Fallout New Vegas lie ahead…

The Fallout series is set in various locations around the former USA, a couple of centuries after civilisation ended in a nuclear apocalypse. For New Vegas (the fourth in the series), we focus on the Mojave desert. At its heart lies Vegas itself, miraculously largely untouched by the destruction that ravaged the rest of the country. Around the city are small towns populated by hardy, self-reliant folks. The Mojave is a dangerous place, afflicted by radioactive monsters and marauding tribes of raiders, but society is slowly rebuilding itself. The question is, what direction will this progress take? A return to the economy and governance of yesteryear, or something else?

Three major actions are pitted against each other, each working to a very different ideology As you work through the game’s main quest line, you can choose to support any one of the three, gaining their favour but potentially earning the enmity of the others. Alternatively there’s a fourth “screw you all” option. In the grand finale, you decide who will finally control New Vegas and the Mojave.

Moments in Gaming: Thumbs Down continued »

Soundtracks: Introduction

October 24th, 2019

Written by: Rik

Over the years we’ve branched out from being mainly reviews-focused to the occasional blog series or regular feature. There are various reasons for this, among them that we don’t have as much time to play the oldies as we used to, but it also adds a bit of variety to the content on the site. From our point of view, it makes things a bit more interesting and reflects the changes in gaming coverage that have taken place over the 15 plus years we’ve been going, and hopefully the same goes for you (although a recent survey of the site’s 7 readers was inconclusive: if you’ve not completed it yet, don’t forget that you’ll be entered into an exclusive prize draw if you meet the deadline).

In this series we’ll be looking at music featured in games – specifically, existing songs by real bands licensed by publishers for a soundtrack. A lot of coverage of gaming music focuses – correctly, perhaps – on original compositions or chiptune music and remixes, and this is undoubtedly a lot cooler than what we’re going to do here, which is basically talk about bands and their most commercially attractive material in the context of being plonked onto the menus of some publisher’s annual franchise instalment.

On the other hand, we’re in the business of looking back here, and while upon release it may be perfectly valid to cynically dismiss an expensively assembled collection of tracks as irrelevant in terms of the overall experience, digging through them after a few years gives us an opportunity to revisit those choices, those songs, and what they said about the time. Plus it’s an opportunity to have a bit of a giggle about some things that haven’t perhaps aged too well, and embarrass myself by revealing rather too much about my own preferences in the process.

Some ‘discs’ from the ‘days’ when you could ‘own’ your ‘music’.

My own qualifications in this regard can best be described thus: I had a healthy appreciation of most of what was popular once upon a time, during those formative years when such things seemed so important, and your choices and preferences were part of who you were, or so it seemed; and anything even slightly away from the mainstream made you extremely cool and original and definitely not just following a different set of pre-packaged tastes and trends.

However, since then, as with most things, I’ve gradually fallen more and more out of touch, and however I might try to listen to new stuff, my Spotify account is mainly used to access old albums that I’ve either lost or haven’t ripped audio from. But occasionally the corporate appropriation of music for gaming soundtracks has been successful and I have found myself getting into a band as a result of hearing them during a game.

So, basically I’m even less qualified to write about music than I am about games, although I do like reading about it: even those extremely sneery pieces that used to appear in the likes of NME and Melody Maker and still pop up in newspaper arts sections like The Guardian’s Saturday Guide, which seem able to extrapolate and express so much criticism of an artist or band from a particular single or album (which would, of course, drive the ‘objective games criticism!’ crowd wild as these pieces fail to note the ability of the singer to hit the right notes or the general competence of the guitar playing). I kind of like and admire their snootiness, while at the same time still considering them rather mean-spirited and not the kind of writing I could really pull off myself.

Hey, now, wouldn’t this be a good one to cover? We won’t be doing so, though.

My choices for this series will be predicated on the fact that I do think that’s there’s something interesting to say about at least some of the featured songs. Some other rules: we must have reviewed the game already, and the pieces will try to avoid repeating anything in the review (which will be linked to), while still talking about the music in the context of the game. But it’s likely we will also be going off on tangents at various points.

Also: this will be a discrete blog series, otherwise separate from the reviews themselves. While it would sort of make sense to bolt these pieces onto the relevant review as a side feature, those extras tend to be mainly for little additional tidbits and thoughts about the game, and more significant pieces tend to be rather hidden away there. Also, although we’ve done this in the past, the practice of adding new content to old reviews can be a bit jarring, especially if there’s several years between when the pieces were written.

So, there we go. We’ll get started on this shortly, so why not join us for a fun look back at some old music from the 90s and 00s?

Discussion: Her Story (spoilers!)

October 6th, 2019

Written by: Rik

Hello. Today we’re reviving our once semi-regular discussion format to take a look at a relatively modern title. For this purpose we welcome back to FFG, after a number of years away, our sometime contributor and unofficial third member, Jo.

The game we’re discussing is Her Story, released in 2015. Unusually for a modern game, it was based almost entirely around a large number of filmed sequences, and for the first time in many years, the much-dreaded (and completely nonsensical) term from the 90s, Full Motion Video (FMV), started to re-enter the gaming lexicon.

It’s really one of those games that you could go into knowing absolutely nothing, but, essentially, you spend your time watching footage from a series of police interviews with the same woman, regarding the disappearance of her husband. As you uncover more details, you’ll be able to search the database for more clips and eventually work out (more or less) what happened.

That’s probably about as much as we can say up to this point: this discussion will be extremely spoiler-tastic, so unless you’ve already played it, have absolutely no intention of doing so, or don’t mind having the entire story of something discussed before experiencing it for yourself, you’re probably better off stopping here.

Her Story was pretty well-received at the time, and we both liked it, so I’d suggest first enjoying this minimal teaser-trailer and then checking out the game itself, if it seems like it might be of interest.

Okay? Now here’s your final ***SPOILER WARNING*** before we proceed…

 

Discussion: Her Story (spoilers!) continued »

Review: A Golden Wake

September 20th, 2019

Written by: Rik

Hi there.

Here’s a funny thing: I usually feel bad if we go a while without posting a review. Now I feel bad that it’s been a few reviews in a row. Basically, I just feel bad about everything all the time.

Today we’re looking at a comparatively modern adventure: A Golden Wake.

Review: Olympic Soccer

August 24th, 2019

Written by: Rik

Hello there!

Football is a thing that some people like. Some other people, less so.

Here’s a review of a game called Olympic Soccer.