Full Throttle review

Posted in Game Reviews on August 11th, 2009 by samuraisam

I first recall playing Full Throttle in primary school on an old mac; it was absolutely great then however I cannot recall ever playing through the entire game. It has been at least 13 long years since I last played this game.

Ben, just out of the dumpster and ready to kick some ass.

Ben, just out of the dumpster and ready to kick some ass.

I was visiting my regular game store and I saw 2 copies of Full Throttle on the shelf (yeah sometimes they just find crates of vintage stuff laying around). This game from 1995 is sitting on a shelf in 2009. Unopened. Sealed in plastic. The asking price was 30 USD so I just had to oblige. I purchased both copies–one sits on my shelf waiting to be opened never, and the other copy I opened.
It’s quite nice to open something that has just been sitting there for 14 years; it has a nice expensive smell to it. The pamphlets and slips of paper, although ultimately useless still posses some form of charm that cannot be found elsewhere (like the “send this in and get six free Duracell batteries” offer that came with my Virtual Boy). The box contains a survey, mini official player’s guide, a lucasarts promo booklet, a reference guide and a Jewel Case that has a small booklet inside it (along with the game obviously); these pieces of paper separate old games from new games, most new games don’t even come with a single piece of paper in the entire box, everything is a PDF that you can just search through. But this paper stuff is nice. It’s what makes me want a physical copy of the game.

Unfortunately this is a mac version of the game, so I had to copy the game files and after minimal fiddling around I got it running on ScummVM. The game starts with a brief rundown of the story.

The entire game world is actually a dystopian kind of world; everyone is out to get you. Evil suits, badass bikers, and a decent story to boot.

One of the first interactions you have with anyone in this game (in which you interact) is with a fat bubba barman; you have to use the P key to ‘punch’ him, which really just pulls him by his nose ring down to the bar. He gives up the keys to your bike instantly. Imagine seeing this as an 8 year old. Come to think of it, what kind of a primary school lets children play on a game in which you have to handle someone by a nose ring?

"You know what might look better on your nose?... The bar."

"You know what might look better on your nose?... The bar."

This is what this game is like. For a point and click the interaction is unique; you have a selection of keys (walk, examine, inventory, talk, punch and kick) which you have to use to go around the world and do what you need to do. You can either use the keys or just click and hold for the ‘action menu’. The action menu is quite well designed and although the keys are faster it is still nicely done.

Full Throttle Action menu

The action menu

Full Throttle inventory

Full Throttle inventory

The music for the game is provided by a real band, The Gone Jackals; it’s nice that the music isn’t too in your face and the subtle bass guitar notes here and there suit the barren American motorcycling landscape well in my opinion.

The audio and dialogue quality overall is good for an adventure game for its time. The box advertises movie quality sound and I can’t really see any reason to argue with that; in particular the recording quality of the dialogue stands above many other point and click adventure games.

As the game menus etc are replaced by ScummVM I will avoid commenting on them.

One of the novel features of the game comes about half way through; you have to beat the crap out of some other bikers. There are 4-5 different bikers during this situation and it is a nice dynamic touch that many other point and click games don’t really have.

Full Throttle fighting sequences

Full Throttle fighting sequences

Ben weilding a spikeball after defeating an enemy

Ben weilding a spikeball after defeating an enemy

Some of the stuff in the game is a bit far fetched to expect most people to discover. The controls and actions you are able to direct Ben with, whilst novel aren’t very straight forward in some situations.

Even though Ben’s motorcycle gang, The Polecats, is mentioned enough times it barely has any presence in the game.

A major shortcoming of the game is length–the quickest playthrough of the entire game was recorded at just under 17 minutes. Whilst you may argue that that is a speedrun there aren’t really that many locations in the game either; but what isn’t there in length is made up with by dialogue, gameplay and a solid story.

Overall, Full Throttle is a great, entertaining game.

I rate it

9.5/10

More links:

wikipedia: Full Throttle (video game)

Walkthrough: Full Throttle

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars review

Posted in Game Reviews on August 10th, 2009 by samuraisam
a screenshot of brokensword

a screenshot of brokensword

Broken Sword, Ireland screenshot

Broken Sword, Ireland screenshot

I first played Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars (alternatively titled Circle of Blood in the US) on a mac; it was included on a demo disk with a magazine around the time of its release (1996). The scenes of Paris in the game are absolutely stunning and I can still recall the scenes in Paris even though the game is over 13 years old. The game has obviously had a lot of hard work and care put towards it as witnessed by the hundreds of unique lines of dialogue and a captivating, in-depth story with a range of characters and locations all around the world.

The Good

  • A beautifully crafted game–hand drawn scenes, interesting characters and attention to detail.
  • More dialogue than you can poke your cursor at–this is particular seen with the hand buzzer and also a dirty tissue, almost every single character has a unique reaction to these items… Keep in mind that each extra piece of dialogues indicates care and attention to detail. This extra load of stuff to uncover during the game is part of its charm.
  • A thrilling story (I won’t say anything about it because it would ruin it)
  • A working menu system!
  • The usage of musical cues to inform you when you are on the right path helps a lot
  • Good humor about Irish, French and American people
  • Beautifully composed music, great sound design
  • Leprechaun, assassins, Guidos, psychic detective, terrorist clown and a whole bunch of other interesting and diverse characters

The Bad

  • Damn French people
  • The use of 3d or at least computerized illustrations in some FMV’s is really off-putting for me; it just doesn’t fit in well and really breaks the artistic side of the game. For 1996 they may have been impressive, but nowadays aren’t.
  • Unfortunately this game – like all point and click adventure games – can become a little tedious at times when you can’t figure out how to proceed.
  • It can get a little tiring going back to people to talk to them and having to wait several seconds while they complete an animation before you can speak (i.e. the coughing guy in the Irish bar)
  • There are some small bugs that make it impossible to progress further in the game (i.e. the tap in the Irish pub)
  • Not available on Steam

Overall, Shadow of the Templars is what I would call a great game; it still rates as one of the top games I have ever played and amongst the point and click titles out there it is the cream of the crop. It is appealing to people of all ages and shines as an example of good game design.

I rate this game:

9.9/10

More links:
Broken Sword walkthrough
Metacritic: Circle of Blood
Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars trailer (youtube)

Tags: , , , , ,

The Dig review

Posted in Game Reviews on August 9th, 2009 by samuraisam

The Dig (1995) is supposedly a famous point and click game; I’ll be perfectly honest with you though, I’d never heard of it until it popped up on Steam a month ago so I bought it and have played through most of it and overall I would say it is a really great game.

Any game having Steven Spielberg’s name attached to it and being produced by those wise people at LucasArts (back in 1995) is worth a try in my books. With a 6 year development cycle for this game it goes without saying that it took a long tedious time to finally be released.. This game is an adventure/exploration game–if I delve too much into the story it would really ruin it; all I will say about the story is that it is really enthralling and worth purchasing this game to experience for yourself.

The Good:

  • The atmosphere of the game is convincing and well designed from all angles; the game succeeds at being extremely immersive the entire way through
  • The art design of the game is superb–the hand drawn backgrounds are probably one of the most impressive elements in this regard.
  • The sound and music design deserves a lot of praise for its role in the immersion of the player within the environment
  • The attention to detail in the world makes it a fascinating, interesting and life-like place to explore.
  • The voice acting is another strong point of the game; the dialogue also varies and doesn’t become stale
  • The number of characters is a minimum which helps in driving the story in my opinion
  • The communication system within the game is certainly unique

The Bad:

  • Unintuitive save system (even though you cannot die or ‘fuck up’ there is no automated save system even though there should be)
  • No main menu (the game just starts at the beginning every single time you start it)
  • The ‘pauses’; i.e. the communication system is frustrating because every time you try to communicate with someone they start talking for a few seconds before you can proceed–although this talking is sometimes necessary to drive relationships and the story across, most of the time it is not. There are keys to skip through unnecessary parts if you want to.
  • The doors: Without revealing much there are doors/areas that are really integral to the game, you have to put in a code to unlock each door however entering codes into doors is a real asshole and takes time and whats worse is that there are at least 65000 possibilities for each door which is a bit excessive. The symbols are also confusing due to the angles at which they are shown and the resolution of each symbol is poor and leads to confusion given how some of the symbols look confusingly similar
  • In your inventory you can’t move the stupid fucking walkie talkie, so I accidentally click it all the time which is a real pain in the ass. You can move every other item around except for the walkie talkie which is a pain because it’s right next to the magnifying glass–you can however move the magnifiying glass.
  • The game doesn’t tell you things; for instance there is a malfunctioning door in the game, I put the code in and it just sits there. So I must have the wrong code (because there is no way to match the door codes to the doors, you just have to guess); I go around to all 4 doors and have to fucking arrange the keys in the stupid ass inventory, then I try the door code again and it doesn’t work–the only way I figure out the door is broken is by using the magnifying glass, and when the outward appearance of the panel is practically identical to all the other panels HOW ON EARTH CAN HE SUDDENLY ‘SEE’ THAT IT IS CORRODED.
  • Again with the save game system:

    “Do you want to replace this saved game?”

    Yes.

    “The game was NOT saved”

    What the fuck?

  • Some parts of the game are immensely hard to figure out (in my opinion anyway)

Additional observations (regarding releasing an old game on steam):
Whilst the meat and bones of the game remain; other features like the save and load system are probably alien to todays gamers and could’ve done with being changed/updated.
There are minor bugs with the game (like if you try and use the numpad to save a game with the name involving 0 it will escape the menu and go back to the game without saving) however the game is quite stable for an old game on a new system.
The game also has some issues when not running in full screen mode mostly relating to input.
Although I don’t think the game really needs a hi-definition rerelease it would still be nice to see some limitations addressed.

If you’re not bothered to read through the manual then here are some handy shortcuts:
ALT + TAB: toggle between full screen and windowed modes
F1 or F5 = menu (save games etc); if you can’t get this to work try hitting CTRL+F1
C = communicator
. = skip current line of dialogue
esc = skip current sequence
double click (when used on edge of screen) = quick travel to another area

Overall
This is a solid game. With celebrity names attached to it it can be easy to think it might suck however this game is the real deal and impresses on many levels. The difficulty is too high in some areas and some parts of the game (the save system, the menu design) wouldn’t be seen dead in todays games.
I rate this game

9.5/10

More links:
The Dig museum
The Dig on Steam
Wikipedia: The Dig

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Under Siege review

Posted in Game Reviews on July 28th, 2009 by samuraisam

It’s time to move a bit away from common games and review a bit more of an obscure game.
You know you’ve just stumbled upon a game of unparalleled quality when the cashier at a shop asks you if you’re actually sure you want to buy the game; I am telling 100% the honest truth here– this is exactly the exact scenario I faced when I picked the game “Under Siege” off the shelf. The cashier asked me

“Are you sure you really want to buy this game?”

She asked me this while she was visually noting how crappy it looked. Unlike the rest of the games it didn’t have a price tag, she had to look up the price –at around 25 US dollars the game is what you might call cheap. Covered in Arabic text it is difficult to discern exactly what the game is about, however the games outward appearance is professional enough to appease me.

Under Siege (alternatively titled Under Ash 2, as it is a sequel to Under Ash) is a game about the Palestinian/Israeli conflict; The game was released in 2004 and is produced by Afkar Media, a Syrian company that seems to specialise in media relating to the Palestine/Israel conflict.

Under Siege game cover

A good explanation of what a typical Afkar Media game is like follows:

Road Block Buster is our new adventure PC game; it is all about jumping around and doing tricks to soldiers with guns, just avoid to be busted and have fun, follow the steps of ‘Maan’ the boy with thousand way to get over any barrier or road block implanted by Israeli Defense forces without using violence, earn respect by helping surrounded people whom can’t get through the separation walls, get deep into the conflict in Palestine and sense the life of ordinary peoples, whom are trying to survive the burning lands using hope and lots of fun.

Sounds like a barrel of laughter doesn’t it?

A review of sorts has been made of the game previously by The Independent;

Under Siege is another pro-Palestinian first person shooter (FPS) and is the sequel to Under Ashes, a game launched in 2001. Under Siege and Under Ashes were developed by Afkar Media, a Damascus-based software company that claims it creates games to educate as well as eliminate. “We believe we had to share responsibility in telling the story behind this conflict and targeting youngsters who depend on video games and movies -which always tell the counter side – to build their world knowledge.” Under Ashes went on to sell more than 10,000 copies in the Middle East, as well as being downloaded more than 500,000 times from the company’s website.


Politics

Before writing any sort of review about this It is probably a good idea to mention my position on the Palestine/Israel issue; I am not for or against either side, I don’t read about the conflict at all (in fact, after hearing about the conflict for the past 18 years while living in the Middle East on a regular basis I avoid it at all costs) and this is probably my first forey into a piece of media based upon it.

It is important to mention what the creators of the game claim; according to the game’s website:

  • “UnderSiege is a video game about the modern history of Palestine, it focuses on the lives of a Palestinian family between 1999-2002 during the second Intifada”
  • “All levels are based on true stories and the characters are a pure reflection of the Palestinian society.”
  • “level contents are inspired by real stories of Palestinian people, that were documented by United Nation records (1978-2004), west bank and Gaza strip are occupied land according to UN law, and military actions performed by local fighters against occupying forces is considered eligible.”

It is probably better for someone more acquainted with the conflict to comment on the accuracy of the game, I however will not be making such observations during this review. I may throw in a link here or there linking missions to real life scenarios (just for your benefit) I also must state that I can only understand a handful of words in Arabic so a lot of the content within the game is not going to be understood by me. I cannot see why having the game in Arabic makes sense, it would’ve been better in English as Arabic speakers are probably the most acquainted with the conflict. I am probably this game’s ideal demographic, yet sadly I can learn almost nothing through playing the game. According to some interviews I read with the creators, they consider their ideal demographic to be young Arab children that are being taught by American games–this seems a fair argument, however the low cost involved in at least adding english subtitles and menus is a questionable one to avoid*

*=I should note there is a demo (Watercooler games: Under Siege demo) which features English and Arabic (you can choose) however to my knowledge and research the game was never released in full form in English.


Mission runthrough

As no one reading this review will likely exert the effort to locate a copy of the game (or even be able to) I think it is necessary (and also fun) to provide some sort of a runthrough of the games content:
The game’s introduction is an FMV, you can watch it here (YouTube);
Mission one: in the game starts you as an unarmed man in a mosque, there is a man with an uzi shooting from side to side–he doesn’t move, he just stays there in a stationary position and goes from left to right, and back again, and again; he only stops to reload. It is somewhat reminiscent of classic arcade in that his movement is continuously looping. Beating him with your fists is easy and only requires a bit of timing, this level can be finished in 30 seconds or less. It is really a very poorly designed map and provides no platform for thought at all by the player. (this mission is apparently based on Baruch Goldstein, a Jewish settler who killed 30 around a mosque in 1994)

Mission two: (Through the Narrow street of Hebron) places you as a Palestinian with a gun, your aim seems to be to kill all the Israeli soldiers. Not much to say on this mission really.

Mission three: (titled David and Goliath) sees you as a young teenager (perhaps best described as a boy) who equipped with a slingshot has to kill/maime Israeli soldiers to save the life of someone who has been shot (as best as I can tell, again, I don’t speak Arabic). I’ll be honest here; this mission is impossible, it took me ages to figure out I had to follow the annoying guy at the beginning. So basically you follow this guy and he shouts “run” every now and then and you knock out an Israeli solider.

Now lets stop for a second here; who else better to kill/maim a soldier who is standing guard with an automatic rifle using a slingshot? If you looked through all the possibilities of grown men who seem to be running backwards and forward in this level and then saw the little kid you guessed right!

So you kill/maime the Israeli soldier and the guy who you followed to begin with runs forward and rescues some injured person who is in the line of fire and runs off; much like in mission two the Israeli’s seem to have a particular hatred of you and you alone, no matter how close anyone else gets they only shoot at you. The next objective in the mission is to pick up a smoke grenade and throw it at the tank; yeah, you a small kid picks up a smoke grenade to throw at a tank while a bunch of grown men run backwards and forwards having a relay race with some Israeli soldiers.

Although I can read Arabic I cannot understand it, and as mission objectives are written in Arabic that isn’t copyable, I had to resort to capturing the text as an image and running it through twitter and hoping someone would translate it for me.
via twitter I figure out that I’m actually supposed to pick up the smoke grenades launched by the military jeep and throw it back towards it, and if my aim is perfect the car drives off in probably the most unconvincing sequence I have ever witnessed.

After the jeep drives off a tank takes its place (complete with an israeli flag on the back); I spend a few minutes fiddling around and it turns out you have to go behind the tank and steal the flag (yeah that’ll sure stop it from blowing the shit out of everything) at which point the game cuts to an FMV in which the solider on the tank starts shooting at you (the kid that just stole the flag) and injures you, he jumps down from the tank and tries to finish you off with a pistol (which jams), so he picks up a brick, holds it above his head as if he’s about to smash your head in and the screen goes black. You can watch the FMV on youtube at this link.

I did manage to find a glitch with this mission whereby if I used the volume dial or any media keys on my keyboard (Logitech G15) the 3rd person view of the little kid would switch to a first person view of him holding a grenade–unfortunately the grenade doesn’t work, and instead it’s basically still the slingshot but with a different view. It’s possible the mission originally called for the boy to throw a grenade at the tank but this is merely an assumption based upon this finding.

Mission Four:
Mission four places you as a guy with a gun, you have to be stealthy and avoid some passing Israeli military jeeps, and you basically go and pick up some TNT;


What your average pack of TNT might look like if the creators of Under Siege ruled the earth

Anyway, there is some bridge, you get the TNT and you blow the shit out of the bridge using it. You have to do all this while avoiding the stupid jeeps that keep on passing back and forth on the bridge (think of a similar look to the Israeli military relay race video I placed in mission three) and every time they are about to pass some voiceover comes on and the guy starts whispering about them passing (presumably, again it is in Arabic)

Now in just about every single movie or piece of media I have ever seen, the TNT is placed UNDER the bridge, this is logical incase anyone were to see it. However, in Under Siege you have to place the TNT on top of the bridge. Then you have to go back and shoot the shit out of a bunch of Israeli soliders and then you get an FMV of a tank passing over the bridge as it blows up.

Mission Five:
Mission five starts where mission four left off; the bridge has been blown to shit and now a bunch of Israeli soliders are trying to kill you. Basically the aim of this mission is to kill all the Israeli soldiers and that is pretty much it. Not much to say about it.

Mission Six:
This is where the hilarity really begins; you start the game with a sniper rifle and basically have to cover some guy that goes and presumably rescues some other guy from a truck.
I forgot to mention that the other guy pretty much looks like rambo:

Anyway, the sniper rifle is pretty good. You basically have to just patrol the area while waiting for this other guy; this game is so heavily scripted–however in this mission the scripting really shines, particularly the shitty way the scripting seems to loop (a.k.a. Israeli soldier relay race)
So basically what happens is you see this guy hiding behind the road barrier absolutely noob-cannoning his sniper rifle into the adjacent mountains, you aim, fire and he drops dead. Problem sorted yeah? Except there is something weird about the Israeli army that this game reveals, their military jeeps may look normal but they are in fact clown cars.

The area in this screenshot circled red is where I shot the sniper, however the guy now walking towards the circle is another sniper, who came from the same car. In fact the same thing happens from all 4 corners of this mission:

  1. A group of people get out of the car and start shooting
  2. You kill them all
  3. Rinse, repeat (except that the people are IDENTICAL in both look and actions, there is no variation between the subsequent groups that come out of the clown cars)

It’s like space invaders; just wave after wave of the same shit.
By the end of the mission this is what the ground looks like:

Under that guy; the assortment of guns you see lined up towards him? They’re the remnants of the identical enemies I shot.

Mission Seven:
Mission seven is an alternative viewpoint to mission six; the first thing you see when you start is this:

I guess that is who I was playing as in mission six. So basically you’re rambo this time, and you have the big bad ass para military machine gun and you get to own everyone. Meanwhile this radar in top right corner of your screen starts beeping with the proximity of Israeli soldiers to the hostage (I hestitate to use the term Jewdar as it might be considered racist but I don’t think a more appropriate time for this term will ever be witnessed as I do not believe anyone, has ever before or will ever again creat a radar that beeps according to the distance of Jewish people)

So, you break this guy out (as to whether he is Palestinian or Israeli I am unsure), and you have to follow/guide him back to your car




Needless to say, guiding him around is a pain in the ass.
While you’re rescuing/capturing this guy your wife (again, I guess) is shooting at things. She’s shooting at things like the mountains and basically in random directions. Seeing as she is using an automatic sniper rifle and firing it rapidly you could consider her to be noob-cannoning.


Look at that shit. She shoots at EMPTY MOUNTAINS, then she shoots at YOUR CAR, then she shoots at THE FLOOR, then she shoots AT YOU. Unbelievable.

So you rescue this guy, put him in the car and drive off; you are on top shooting at stuff and the woman that was just emptying clips of ammunition at the ground is driving–I think it goes without saying that she cannot drive for shit.


Obviously when there is a huge car wreck in front of you she just tries to drive straight through it. She eventually drives STRAIGHT into an oncoming hummer, which means I have to start the entire level again as I autosaved just before as I cannot destroy the oncoming hummer quickly enough.

Mission eight:
Obviously your wife does nothing useful and just LITERALLY walks past enemies; she then proceeds to use her sniper rifle against what could be argued as a plain wall or a tank (both of which are stupid things to shoot at with a sniper rifle)


As you might be able to notice from the video’s of this mission–there are a shit load of enemies, and rambo and his wife who cant shoot or drive to save herself are supposed to take down 2 tanks, a helicopter and at least 30 superiourly-armed infantry by yourselves. Does that sound convincing to you? Because it doesn’t sound very convincing to me. Although when you’re on the side that has the Jewdar at your disposal maybe it helps to tip things a bit in your favor.
Yes, the Jewdartm makes another appearance this time; whenever enemies come too close to your wife it starts beeping away and if you don’t kill the baddies soon enough you fail the mission.

Then you run outside with little-miss-can’t-drive-for-shit-but-can-shoot-at-the-ground and a helicopter hovers above (yeah, a helicopter) then the helicopter starts using its gattling gun on you, you shoot it down and it crashes.

Then you run for a bit… and then…
You see some Israeli guys hiding behind a van complete with blue skull caps:


and then……
and then what happens you ask?

Then the game crashes… and while trying to navigate the menus I press a button, I read ‘naam’ and ‘la’ in Arabic (Yes and No) I just click any old button and I accidentaly delete my save game profile. So I have to redo all the previous 8 missions or just end my review here. I choose the latter option.


Installation

For a game from 2004 its installation is of poor quality; the game screws up dual monitor setups based upon my experience–as to why the installer wants to run in full screen is beyond me anyway. It takes 5 attempts to finally get the game installed (this in the end requires enabling XP compatibility mode in Vista and also running the program as an admin), the installer appears to ‘work’ but Vista insists it is timing out and I have to quit it and start again each time to get the installer to go further. The menu buttons dont show up and the installer is pretty much a complete failure, I have to guess and press enter to get the installer to work at all. As to why a game that requires a Pentium 3 needs to be Direct X 9 is also beyond me, the game seems to be a bit of a screw up from a technical point of view.

To get the game to run properly I actually have switch to single monitor mode and switch down to 640×480 in the hope that it might work–and it does! It is perhaps the weirdest game in that one of the menu items is to uninstall the game which I have never seen before (perhaps a seperate program to uninstall the game, but on the main page of the game would you really expect an uninstall item?)

As for the actual content the game installed, it is mostly a large file containing levels, a bunch of FMV’s and some music. The actual executables run off the CD, so it is something like a basic installation.

The game runs at 640×480 up through 1024×768. I’m serious. A game in 2004 that can only run at a maximum resolution of 1024×768 is a game that is starting off quite badly in my books.

The audio quality of the game is poor to say the least, during many levels a ‘chanting’ of sorts can be heard throughout, though it sounds as if it was recorded on a cassette rather than anything approaching decent quality. The sound effects are poor also, a select few sound as if they are lifted directly from counter-strike.

The game difficulty I would say is rated somewhere near ‘literally impossible’ in many instances–enemies have ninja reactions and the whole game is spent quicksaving/quickloading and trying to tap around corners without being killed. I’d say that this game is even more challenging that Halo on legendary mode. Once you master the weird difficulty and sloppy design it becomes quite a bit easier. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the game has AI, in my opinion it is more akin to playing against the computer in pong, it just has its scripts, almost everything is scripted in the game, it doesn’t feel as if it is dynamic in any sense.


Graphics and Gameplay

The graphics are decent; I would not criticize them as they do the job. It is merely the game engine that is at fault in much of the game, had stuff like recoil been a bit smoother and stuff like movement been also a bit smoother the game would have been far improved.

There are several major design flaws in the game, notably:

  • The hitboxes of the wall (if that’s what you call it) seem to protrude a bit outward and even though the enemy can hit me, I cannot him them effectively despite my crosshair showing their entire body in plain view.
  • Even running the game on a GTX 280 with 1 GB of VRAM, the game doesn’t hop above 26 fps at its max resolution. 26 fps is a weird frame rate to cap a game at–motion film (i.e. cinema) runs at 24 frames per second, but although this frame rate has certain aesthetic appeal it does not work in the gaming world, so I cannot see why it has been capped. In my experience, a game of this visual quality should run far above 60 fps at the very least. I even tried forcibly turning anti-aliasing off yet the frame rate stayed at 26 fps.

According to some (PDF warning), the game is a reaction to the Delta Force series of game, which in themselves single player has been a poor element in my opinion (that is mostly in the first title of the series). The creator of Under Siege does deny this link however. It has also been compared to Full Spectrum Warrior.


Conclusion

A conclusion of this game was extremely difficult to make–although it is fun at some parts it is unintentionally fun. It does certainly provide a unique story although perhaps I am unable to appreciate the finer detail due to my lack of knowing the Arabic language.
Although the game is of a poor standard, it does make an imaginative usage of switching between different viewpoints–not only between first-person and third-person but between different people, different situations, and different abilities. In my opinion the major letdown of the game is overall quality and its demographic limitations, the game could have easily been translated into English (just with subtitles, no need to redo audio) and it’s spread may have been further.
The constant killing during the game does make it quite a redundant title; there is little thought required to play.
As for the games faults, they are numerous and large. The save game system in the game is poor; it fails to save automatically when you reach an important event during the mission, so if you only use quicksave/quickload it can sometimes lead to ‘infinite death loops’ (whereby you quicksaved moments before an unavoidable death) and when this happens you have no choice but to start over from the beginning of the mission. The game itself suffers from severe technical problems and it could have done with quite a bit of overall polish.
Another problem with the game is it is so absolutely linear; the difference being between this and other games if you try anything else you will just die and have to start over again.

One thing that is nice about the game is the design of buildings and vehicles and pretty much everything; it is very localized which is a nice thing to see in a game rather than a bunch of template designs just thrown together.

For a game for the Middle East I would consider it a pretty good effort, however from an international stand point I rate it:

4/10

More links:
Afkarmedia webpage for Under Siege
Watercooler games: Under Siege demo

Tags: , , , , ,

GTA IV review

Posted in Game Reviews on July 22nd, 2009 by samuraisam

I have played GTA (or Grand Theft Auto as it used to be called) since its earliest incarnations, I have played just about ever iteration of the series. Although I have not completed every single title, I have played them enough to get the grasp of what each one is about.

I initially started playing GTA IV on Xbox 360 and eventually ended up restarting the entire game once it was released on PC. Trust me when I say the PC version is superior in just about every conceivable manner.

I played GTA IV until I had completed approximately 55% of the game (having unlocked all the islands), at this point I grew bored and let the game sit around for some time. I have recently started playing it again and have completed it.

Immersion
One thing the game does right is immersion. Aside from a graphics point of view, the city is built well, it breathes, the people talk, the drivers shout and it is an interesting place to explore. However I do wish it were a little more like the first level of Half Life 2 (where you throw a can at a policeman and get humorously chased), everyone in the GTA world seems to act a bit too seriously in this game.

The range of cars is ok, but the more interesting vehicles of past games are gone (i.e. the tank); the motorcycles are just plain badass and that’s all there really is to say on the subject.

Multiplayer
One of the most anticipated features for me of the game was multiplayer, and it lived up to my expections to a certain point, however, Rockstar was too cheap to get a proper anti-cheat system going and the game was ruined in part due to this.

Multiplayer with a friend is well worth it–randomly wandering the city and performing stupid stunts is something you can do till the early hours of the morning.

Arcade heaven
One thing that is notably absent from GTA IV is the arcade feel of previous titles – specifically GTA 3 – that once provided the player with added bursts of adrenaline, the game has undeniably harsh veneer, and as the first in the series to explore eastern European criminals it is certainly a very different direction.. Power-ups and free guns were stashed randomly across the map, however in GTA IV it is near impossible to find random power-ups scattered, there are some such as health kits and the very rare weapon or two strewn across the entire game world however it is definitely a vast change from previous titles.

The game seems to split from its linear story-line every now and then and provides the player with the option to kill or save someone–this has literally little or no bearing on the rest of the story. In fact the most it can result in is a few extra perks that don’t really do much. One of the deaths during the finale of the game is however decided during one of these ‘decision moments’. They are ineffective in challenging the player and in my case confused me as I’d never encountered the choice before in a GTA game.

To be honest I fired up my steam browser and looked up a walkthrough of the game each time because I was so worried as to how drastically it might affect the game, it is also so unexpected in a GTA game that it is actually a bad decision.

This is probably the weakest point in the game–it is trying to be something that it is not. GTA is supposed to be telling me the story and not trying to get me to help tell the story.

I’m not speaking Chinese here; arcade = fun, GTA IV = serious. I wouldn’t say that the move to ‘serious’ is all bad, the game does have a bit more of a dramatic side, however the audience you’d expect for GTA style games probably wouldn’t even give a crap about this.

Too good
Despite the game’s nonlinear wishes, it is anything but, it punishes you for being imaginative or ‘too good’ (more on that in a second); the main problem is that the missions are too easy, they’re not really challenging–the main challenge lays in you getting highly inappropriate cars, such as the Cognoscenti (Maybach if you want to use proper brand names) to chase a Huntley Sport (Range Rover) in the finale of the game–while you’re busy slipping and sliding around trying desperately to keep up the Huntley is able to weave in and out of traffic with ease, at one point you need to do swerve into the oncoming lane of traffic which is nigh on impossible due to the clumsy handling of the Cognoscenti. In a game where the sole purpose of the game is being able to steal whatever car you desire it is a severe handicap to be forced to use a crappy car.

Rather than the game focusing on being truely innovative it is just ‘sneaky’ in my opinion.

Back to my point about being ‘too good’; there are some instances within the game where you are pursuing a target and you manage to utterly and totally shoot the shit out of them (I’m talking empty clip upon clip dead on target at them) yet the game ignores this damage instead forcing you to chase the suspect for as long as the story requires. If I can shoot better than the game expects me to, why should I be punished, indeed why should I actually even have to shoot the suspect when there is no requirement? Instead the game is just teasing me and wasting my time once again.

Look at this particular example, I shoot the rocket launcher and I HIT the target, yet he magically keeps on going on.

You might ask yourself “well you’re not supposed to know that he’s going to drive off in a boat at that point in the game are you?”, actually I knew the first time, I anticipated this and threw grenade towards him and he flew away in a boat apparently taking no damage. Absolute bullshit.

Not only did I shoot his boat with an RPG, I also successfully shot literally directly at him with an RPG with absolutely no effect (later on I aimed at him as he was escaping in his stupid boat and his health was shown as full)

Despite this, Pegorino was bought down by a mere few bullets in the finale of the game. This was intensely frustrating given how long I spent trying to shoot at him on his stupid boat, and as he also ran away from me on foot. I didn’t even watch the ending sequence I was so convinced that he wouldn’t have actually died. As an ending to the game it was pretty lacklustre and I just didn’t feel it. It’s important to note that I wasn’t actually aware this was the end of the game–though I had heard about this referred to as the ‘mission with that stupid part with the helicopter’ it was never known to me to be the ending.

Tactics such as these (ignoring the player) are definitely cheap in my books; either make it a non-playable sequence or let me be as good as I am going to be.

(I recorded these using the in-game video editor, which is a nice PC only feature)

Dating bullshit
Repeating the mistakes of San Andreas, GTA IV constantly hassles you to take people on dates or other social events. I already have people in real life I’d much rather socialize with, I’m playing GTA to relax and have some fun, instead the game constantly frustrates the player with some stupid Rasta idiot constantly calling you and hassling you to come for dinner, or that stupid bastard Roman hassling you about titties.
I don’t know about what they want to do and quite frankly I don’t care–however if I choose to decline a social invitation I get some kind of negative rap for refusal that is kept tab of in the in-game stats.
Does it matter? No. So who gives a crap. Why is this crap even in the game?
There are a variety of ‘socially’ oriented places in the game such as strip club, snooker, bar, restaurant, comedy club, bowling etc. Yet none of these really offer any real entertainment in my opinion and are mere filler, I would have preferred some more interesting things in the game such as more guns…

Guns and Bullets
The guns in the game aren’t as wide as I was expecting; there are 2 variations of most classes in the game (Pistol, SMG, Shotgun, Assault Rifle, Sniper Rifle, Grenade). The M4A1 has lost most of its power since previous version of GTA and in GTA IV the MP10 SMG is the single most powerful and versatile gun.

As a game GTA IV is much easier on a computer due to the usage of a mouse and most enemies are actually very easily defeated. Sadly the lackluster range of weaponry in GTA IV is a real letdown. Although for most urban battle situations you could conjure up in your mind the weapons would suffice, it would be nice to have some more varied weaponry.

Timing
Time in GTA has always been an important factor in the series, this is heightened even more in GTA IV; however there are some instances where it doesn’t make any sense…
It’s the middle of the night and I get a call from Roman,

“hey Niko come to my wedding tomorrow at 10 AM”

Sure. It’s dark now. So it must be around 10PM.
So I continue getting calls from more annoying characters in the game and eventually I have to go and pick up some Irish woman (Kate) who I really don’t care about, Niko and her get talking in the car and completely out of my control Kate falls in love with Niko or something to that effect.

I drive around and finally get to the church
at 1PM
What was the point in even mentioning the time 10 AM if it had absolutely no bearing on what time I should have arrived at the wedding?

Other times in the game you will be given a specific appointment time which is added to your mobile phone, if you’re too late for the appointment you fail.
It’s like make up your fucking mind, does the time matter in the game or not?
All in all the presence of time in this capacity is really nothing more than an annoyance, in short, it is frustrating to keep track of time in the game.

Sound
Sadly whilst the quality of sound is high it is disappointing that dialogue comes through the center channel on a 5.1 setup, this is more typical of hollywood movies in my opinion and doesn’t belong in games. It’s nice to drive and hear someone shout from behind the car, otherwise the usage of positional sound have limited value within the game.

Overall, this is a very difficult game to rank, whilst the immersion, and gameplay are up there, the storyline, whilst interesting from a content point of view, is held back by its attempt at a more non-linear manner.

I rate this game:

7.8/10

Tags: , , , ,