Archive for April, 2010

My Top 10 (or so) Gaming moments: Best games of all time, on all platforms

In this list I will try to identify the 10 best games from all my years of gaming. This isn’t the same criteria as my “Desert Island Discs” list – rather these are the BEST games that stick in my memory and may not really be ones I would go back to now or ever again… but defining games in the history of games development and my interest in the evolving genres.

Let’s start at the top!

  1. Monkey Island 2: LeChucks Revenge: (Graphic Adventure by Lucasarts – released 1991 – PC)
    As eluded to in my post about Point & Click Adventures, Monkey Island 2 has all of my heart and my most vivid and undoubtedly some of the best gaming memories! At the time the graphics were beautiful, the sounds so full of soul, the story so wonderfully written, the puzzles so fun and ingenious and the jokes so laugh out loud funny – I can remember it clearly to this day! Number 1 spot with no hesitation!!
  2. AV-8B Harrier Assault: (Flight Simulator by Simis – released 1992 – PC)
    I remember getting my first analogue joystick for this game and revelling in the fluid flight simulation that is AV8B Harrier Assault. You have to take control of a huge island using your aircraft and battleships. There were 2 parts to the game – the 1st person flying/mission running/tactics – and the top-view commander strategic side of planning the missions and assigning AI aircraft to various roles and missions. You could play the game exclusively as one or the other role or do a bit of both. The frame rate of the graphics was unbelievable (only recently matched with the latest hardware, what with all the emphasis on glossy graphics and lighting effect these days) which made flying the Harrier a real joy! And the depth of the mission planning and overall “big picture” of a dynamic war effort to take control of the island (based on a real location) gave it some serious ‘stickyness’! I was hooked, lined and sinkered!!
  3. Grand Prix 2: (Racing Simulator by Microprose & Geoff Crammond – released 1996 – PC)
    This sequel to the groundbreaking “Grand Prix” by Geoff Crammond was the first racing game that suceeded in my mind at actually being a realistic simulator of F1 racing. Accurate lap times, subtle effects that car setups had, tyre degradation,ย  real circuits, real teams and drivers – the whole atmosphere was totally convincing. I felt like a racing driver at home at last!! Because of this game I absolutely love racing sims now – my favourite genre by far – and I couldn’t wait to get back from school to play GP1. I learned the Monaco track inside out to the point where I could do a competitive lap literally with my eyes shut for the whole lap… Dad was impressed anyway ๐Ÿ™‚ย ย  – funilly years later I watched an F1 build up show that showed Jenson Button (I think) doing just that i.e. imagining his way around the track (like bobsleigh dirivers) and being observed by his trainer… he can imagine a lap down to something like 0.2 seconds off what he would really be doing in the race, and it’s what all the best current F1 drivers can do!!! Maybe I could have made it!! :p
  4. GT Legends: (Racing Simulator by SimBin/10tacle Studios – released 2005 – PC)
    I just adored the cars chosen to be a part of this wonderful game – classic road cars from the 60’s an 70’s (The Alfa GTA was my out andf out favourite) – with all their lack of power, or lack of chassis sophistication to deal with too much power that they had (AC Cobraย  ๐Ÿ˜ฎย  ), made each one feel and drive completely differently and made it a real challenge and ever so satisfying to learn the intricacies of each car enough to master them and start winning with them. It’s the first racing simulator that I had taken seriously online, getting in so many hours practice it scares me to think about it too long ;P
  5. Midi Maze: (First Person Shooter Multiplayer by Xanth Software F/X – released 1987 – Atari ST)
    Very early multiplayer game, linked 2 (or more) Atari ST’s together with a Midi cable, and introduced the concept of shooting your friends without hurting them!! The 3D graphics were simple, but the feeling was amazing – the knot in your stomach when you know you are being chased and just need to get round the next corner to be safe for a second, then quickly double back around a column or corridor and sneak up on his behind was incredible!
  6. Battlefield 2: (First Person Shooter Multiplayer by Dice – released 2005 – PC)
    Taking Midi Maze a few hundred steps further in every way – the feeling of being part of a bigger team at work, and relying on your team mates as much as they rely on you, was again a defining moment in my gaming history. What would we have done without the Internet!!??
  7. Half Life: (First Person Shooter by Valve – released 1998 – PC)
    They all do it now, but the first time you PLAYED THE INTRO(!) of a game, then suddenly found yourself with control was a jaw dropping moment! The rest of the game just flowed on seamlessly and it was just such a well scripted, paced and superbly written experience that really did change the face of gaming for good… for everyone!
  8. Starglider: (Arcade Space Flying by Argonaut Software – released 1986 – Atari ST)
    I still clearly remember this game purely because it was the first time I heard a computer talk to me with a realistic synthesised voice!! It was quite surreal – both my Dad and I were looking around the room to see where this voice could be coming from then realised it was the game LOL!! The intro music has a girl singing “Staaaarrrr Gliiiddeeerrr” repeatedly. I don’t think the game was all that great but it still sticks in my memory ๐Ÿ˜€
  9. Turbo Esprit: (Driving game by Durell – released 1986 – ZX Spectrum)
    Basically a Grand Theft Auto style game in a huge 3D city. You had to stop the bad guys from getting out of the city by cutting them off and dealing enough damage to stop them. The sense of freedom and the fact you had to stop for petrol and repairs was interesting – I played this for soooo long!!
  10. Test Drive III: The Passion: (Driving simulator by Accolade – released 1990 – PC)
    The first game release I was excited about (or even bothered to know anything about before I saw it on the shelves) was Test Drive 3. My friend had a PC that could play it becuase at the time I only had an Atari ST and this was “next-gen” gaming, so was never to be released on Atari, but I bought it anyway so I could take it round to his house to play together. It was truly epic at the time. Full 3D free roaming world. A choice of real sports cars with 3D shapes (woohooo!) and just a sandbox approach to driving. No races, or missions, or anything really to do as far as I remember. Just driving around slowly then caning it for the fun of it!! I treated each second like a real test drive and didn’t want ot damage the cars… stopping at all the junctions, not overtaking madly – then when you let it rip you really felt the power of those supercars ๐Ÿ˜€
  11. Spy vs. Spy: (Action game by First Star Software – released 1984 – ZX Specturm)
    Absolutely desparately needs a remake! This would be amazing as a modern day multiplayer game. I suppose the nearest thing we have currently is “The Ship” (a quality mod on the valve engine) – but it’s not really the same concept at all. The sneaky sneaky, frantic split-screen action was a breath of fresh air even then. Great visual style and attractive main characters… more like this please!
  12. Syndicate: (Real Time Strategy / RPG by Bullfrog Productions – released 1993 – PC)
    One of those games that was so ahead of it’s time in its scope, features, gameplay mechanics, depth, adult themes and graphics. But what would you expect from Peter Molyneux, one of a handful of truly genial game programmers. A re-imagining of Syndicate was on the cards but seems to have been shelved – which is a massive shame as I think the theme and setting would still get all generations of gamers interested all over again.
  13. Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle: (Graphic Adventure by Lucasarts – released 1993 – PC)
    It’s hard to compare DoTT to Monkey Island for me, as I have such a soft spot for MI in my heart – bu objectively I think it’s the most fun Graphic Adventure game ever made! If you are a youngster reading this… please, do yourself a favour and play it!! Dont scoff at the graphics – they are cartoony anyway so have aged very well – but you will see how games are MEANT to be done when you are sucked in to the whacky world of Bernard, Laverne and Hoagie. The underlying concept of time travel is handled so superbly it just makes me weep that with all the money and creative power we should be able to summon up these days, we seem to be going backwards in almost all areas apart from graphics and audio ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Please send your replies in the form below and tell us your ultimate gaming moments! I would love to reminisce and hear your stories ๐Ÿ™‚

Apple iPad for gaming

I must admit I am seriously tempted to get myself one of these!

I think I have the will power to wait until maybe the 2nd generation of hardware, or at least until some bigger and better games are released as iPad versions before I take the plunge!! But at the same token I might just succumb to it’s charms and get one anyway ๐Ÿ˜‰

The only games specifically for it at the time of writing this, that I would be interested in, are Flight Control HD and Real Racing HD (both by Firemint) but I don’t think it’s worth it for those!

If they made a Civilization Revolution to fit the native screen resolution and full 3D, I think that would just about swing the deal for me! … uh oh! Ummm… it is available already! 2D but, damn!!! ๐Ÿ˜€

So, how much are they again?!

The Death of “Point & Click” Adventures

My fondest ever memory of gaming… Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge by Lucasarts (released 1991). The atmosphere, art style and story was (still is) incredible. I loved the 2D hand drawn art in those earlier games. They had so much more character than anything 3D shaders can throw at us.

All Lucasarts titles were top notch quality in every way, but at the age of 16 playing in my darkened bedroom, MI2 had me totally captivated!

What has happened to my beloved Point & Click games??!!

The most recent games are of course all geared up for joypad control systems. Fine… but where have the ideas gone?

The writing of any Lucasarts game was so sophisticated, subtle and most importantly just plain funny!!

The most recent Monkey Island 5 (Tales of Monkey Island) is now developed by Telltale Games as an episodic release in 5 parts, but with a cohesive storyline betwen all episodes. I have not played all the way through yet… somehow it just doesn’t feel quite right although it is of a very good standard – better than their previous games of this ilk, Sam & Max and Wallace & Gromit. It’s on my “to play” list so will report back with a mini review when I’m done.

Other more recent P’n’C games I have tried are:-

  • Ceville (a bit slow and trying too hard to be whacky)
  • A Vampyre Story (quite good story with some good puzzles and stylish 3D graphics)
  • Sam & Max season 1 (episodic approach makes the puzzles a bit too self-confined and sequential)
  • Wallace & Gromit seasonย  1 (good fun if you like W&G – very kid friendly!)

But they really can’t compare with the Lucasarts Classics such as:-

  • All the Monkey Island games (a class of their own… well 1, 2 and 3 stand out as the best, 4 was a bit off but that was semi-3D where you moved the character with the cursor keys, so not a real point and click any more)
  • Day of the Tentacle (sublime story, amazing puzzles, original game mechanics, beautiful pace, great characters and voice acting)
  • Sam & Max Hit the Road (funny story and lines, great locations)
  • Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis (very clever mechanical puzzles, long story)
  • Grim Fandango (stunning visual art style, brilliant script, imaginative story)
  • Beneath a Steel Sky
  • Full Throttle

…I will post more detailed reviews of these at some point!

So going back to my first question… What HAS happened to Point & Click games?!

Has the audience changed THAT much? Are the development costs too high now? Have the writers all gone on holiday?

What are your thoughts?

And… what was your favourite of the pointy clicky games?

Film: “9” by Tim Burton

Just bought and watched a great film I somehow never heard of before! 9… by Tim Burton.

Most excellent CG animated film!A post apocalyptic world taken over by machines with brains, and a remaining small crew of a human scientists last creation are the only chance of retaining anything worth keeping of the world…. a soul.

It has so many cool influences in its artistic style. Definately ladels full of Fallout 3 (Tim must have played this!), Little Big Planet’s Sackboy, War of the Worlds walkers, The Matrix machines – and all in a Burtonesque moody atmosphere.

If you have never seen it, I can’t recommend it enough!

Addicted to the App Store?!

Is it possible I have an App Store addiction?

I recently accidentally broke my iPhone – it slipped from my hand and dropped to the floor in a shop, killing the screen – the only thing it wanted to do was go white! At first I thought “how has it loaded my Flashlight App by dropping it” but thankfully I had taken insurance so 14 days later I had a new one arrive. Had to restore all my data but for some reason it didn’t put any Apps back on. It was at this point I realised I have acquired 279 Apps since I got the phone in August 2008! Is that bad?

Tjis is taking up 6Gb of my hard drive space which is getting pretty limited now! New laptop required soon, or can you tell iTunes to look to a different folder for Apps, so that I can move them off the ‘C’ Drive?

A lot of these Apps were free of course, but I have paid for a fair old whack of them! Don’t even want to add it up ;p

I will be adding reviews of some of these to the blog in the near future, but one I think every iPhone (or Touch) user should have is Awesome Note. It really is as the name suggests ๐Ÿ˜€

How many Apps have you got and what ones do you use all the time?

My Top 10 PS3 Games

This will be easier than the PC Top 10 purely because I have only bought a few PS3 games. My criteria for this list are longevity, fun, innovation or technical prowess.

  1. Little Big Planet: (Platformer by MediaMolecule – released 2008)
    I think there’s still a long way to go before the power of the PS3 is fully harnessed by developers, but LBP showed what really can be done. It’s a PS3 exclusive with a lot of input from Sony, so it uses the hardware to maximum effect (unlike most cross-platform ports) – and what an effect! The most interesting aspect to me are the level creator tools. It’s the ultimate platformer in my opinion with so much flexibility in the object oriented modular approach. You can almost do anything if you think about it in the right way just by combining switeches, pistons, motor joints and materials together. They real-time physics are unbelieveable (well, believable, actually) and things just feel “right” no matter what you do. It feels like your screen is just a window to a real experimental workspace, and you are jsut remotely inteacting with it with a joypad, rather than a computer game… quite an odd sensation at first. The textures are alive and the movement of different materials and objects just utterly convincing. It looks like a youngsters game, and I suppose it is, but the things you can make in the “creator” are so wide ranging that you can really make your own games, only limited by your imagination and the psuedo-3D world. Some users creations that are out there to download are absolutely stunning in the creativity and polish – even surprising the developers with their ingenuity of how THEIR tools were used!!
  2. Civilization Revolution: (Turn Based Strategy by Firaxis – released 2008)
    A nuetered cousing of the full PC game, but still great fun and a welcome “long session” game for the consoles. Having said that it plays at a much more frantic pace that the PC game, which tends to flow a lot better especially in late game. All the main decision making is intact though, and with weekly scenarios to compete on, random map generator, other scenarios, and downloadable content – there is enough meat here to keep you going and coming back for more. It’s kind of nice playing on the sofa too ๐Ÿ˜‰
  3. DJ Hero: (Rhythm Game by FreeStyleGames – released 2009)
    A fascinating and addicitve game – admittedly you have to like this music style for it to appeal but I do! Although the rock based games of this nature are fun they don;t ring my bells like this hip-hop mash-up style. Some of the mixes are legendary and some of the harder levels in the game are insanely hard, even on medium setting let alone hard or expert ๐Ÿ˜ฎ
    It helps being a DJ IRL too I tihink ๐Ÿ˜‰
  4. Tom Clancy’s End War: (Real Time Strategy by Ubisoft – released 2008)
    This is in my list for having some amazing tech, not really being a great “game” but using the voice recognition control method transforms the experience in a jaw dropping way – showing what IS possible if only developers thought outside the box a bit more in general. It’s a fairly basic “scissors, paper, stone” RTS where you fight over control points of a map which benefit you through various upgrades you can apply to them, but you can control the entire game without actually using the joypad at all other than to “activate” the microphone. It feels so natural and intuitive once you learn the prompts and makes it feel like you really are a general in the filed of battle. You are not slowed down by the interface – you can pretty much play at the speed of thought, which feels great and should be done for all strategy games… I suppose the reason it’s not is that it may be an unfair advantage when played online against someone that isn’t using a mic., but we can’t let that minor point hold technology back!
  5. Ferrari Challenge, Trofeo Pirelli: (Racing by System 3 – released 2008)
    I’m probably biased but, being a fully fledged Ferrari Nut, I love this game. There’s about 40 different Ferrari’s in the game and they aim to release, as DLC, every Ferrari ever made!! The handling is a bit weird, although the cars do feel different to each other and there are some licensed tracks to race on both single player ‘seasons’ and online.
  6. WipEout HD: (Racing by Sony Liverpool – released 2008)
    A beautiful, classic, flowing, futuristic, low-grav racer that feels quite surreal to play once you get used to it. The frame rate is eye popping and the action intense. You need to be a Zen Master to be good at this, which I am not, but it’s still good for a blast and something you could get really satisfyingly good at given enough practice.
  7. Grand Theft Auto IV: (Third Person Action & Driving byRockstar – released 2008)
    Extremely polished in every way. A fun game that is worth coming back to in bite size chunks and progressing your character a bit more. Top quality audio, nice car handling, a good story, a vraiety of missions with great pace, lots of free roaming stuff to do between missions, or just go on a bender driving like a lunatic around a huge city map! All good fun!
  8. Assassins Creed II: (Third Person Action by Ubisoft Montreal – rleased 2009)
    Designed to work best on console, thisis the native home for this game! With a bit more variety than the first game in the series (which I thought was far too repetitive) this takes the action to Italy (my favourite country!) and continues the theme of accessing the memories of the lead characters ancestors. The movement of Altair, the character you control in the game, is sublime and the atmosphere of the game sophisticated. Not sure I would come back ater completing it, but as I am still playing it now, it goes on the list!
  9. Lego Star Wars, The Complete Saga: (Platformer by Traveller’s Tales – released 2007)
    Perfect game for a quick co-op play session with friends on the console. Always fun, great subject matter and one of the only Star Wars games that doesn’t feel like a cheapening ofย  the brand (Star Wars or Lego!).
  10. Heavy Rain: (Interactive Movie by Quantic Dream – released 2010)
    Another PS3 exclusive, I think it’s a great game but doens’t quite fit my criteria of lasting appeal due to the heavily scripted nature of the story-driven game. However it slots into last place just due to the originality and intrigue of playing again to see what other endings are like. It’s more fun (or… interactive) than simply watching a movie IMO! More like this please!
    ยป Read my 1st impressions of Heavy Rain.

I would like to give a special mention to Gran Turismo 5, but seeing as Polyphony Digital are taking an age to get around to releasing it (already about 6 confirmed release dates and delays!!) it’s hard to include in the list based upon the Prologue “paid for demo”… so we just have to wait. However, with the direct input from Sony developers, this is another title that will fully utilise the graphical power of the PS3 and it does look amazing… almost photo-real. The handling is still a bit ‘digital’ for my liking but the shear amount of content makes for a seriously long lasting game. Stated release date is now 24th September 2010 but I’m not holding my breath as I have heard it all before!

Wow that got hard towards the end!! Shows where gaming really lives IMO! PC all the way… where’s the depth gone? I know it’s a different audience but surely there’s room for more depth in console based games!?

On the other hand, for me, it’s worth owning a PS3 just for Little Big Planet, DJ Hero and other PS3 exclusives like Heavy Rain and Grand Turismo (when it finally arrives!).

What would be your top games that you couldn’t live without??

My Top 10 PC Games: Desert Island Discs

This is going to be hard!! I will write a Mini Review of my top games of all time here and be adding further links to more detail about each game as the blog expands.

My criteria for this selection is not necessarily the BEST games, but ones I would HAVE TO HAVE if I were only allowed these games for the rest of my life… this is “Desert Island Discs” for games ๐Ÿ˜€ย ย ย ย ย ย ย  …as long as they have an internet connection on this deserted island, we’ll be fine!

What are yours? Please comment but also base your selections on the same criteria. I guess for clarity I should mention that for example, of course, Deus Ex is a fantastic game and achievement, but could you play it forever? I couldn’t, so it’s not going in this list. Doesn’t mean I didn’t like it, but I want games that are “keepers” – for which, for me, they need to be deep and highly replayable. I prefer the “sandbox” type games for this reason so please don’t take offence if your favourite game is not on here, but it would be great to hear your arguments as to why you think it should be! ๐Ÿ™‚

So here goes, with my absolute favourite first:-

  1. GT Legends: (Racing simulator by SimBin/10tacle Studios – released 2005)
    I have probably spent more time in GT Legends than all my other games put together, so I guess that automatically gives it the number 1 spot?!
    Based on 1965, 67 and 78 cars, but a recreation of the modern-day classic car racing series (now run by Top Hat). I feel like I am at one with the game… like I really am driving a car and can feel the slightest difference in it’s handling. I use a really nice wheel/pedal/H-shift gearstick setup, and with a 37″ screen about 60cm away (which I also want transported to my island) – it is the most absorbing thing in the world! Realistic car physics, tyre behaviour, car setup tweaks, force feedback steering, a massive number of downloadable tracks (and some new cars as mods too), and a great bunch of online gentlemen racers this game (and genre in general) is absolutely amazing!
  2. Civilization IV: (Turn Based Strategy by Firaxis/Sid Meier – released 2005)
    A truly ever-lasting game if you want it to be. Athough GT Legends is at #1, if I were only allowed one game, it would probably be Civilization because of the insane depth, variety, and replayability. It gets even more meat if you add the expansion packs Warlords and Beyond The Sword. I love that you can go at your own pace in single player mode, or play more competitively in multiplayer online. I have been playing this game for years and still don’t fully understand it so every minute is still a learning experience. What more could you ask of a game!? Maybe Civ 5 will be even better!!!??? ๐Ÿ˜€
  3. Sins of a Solar Empire: (Real Time Strategy by Stardock – released 2008)
    An epic space RTS with a unique and gorgeous interface which makes managing the game, even with it’s epic scale, very streamlined. It plays more like a board game than an action game and with the addition of the 2 more recent official expansions (Entrenchment and Diplomacy) there is a good amount of depth to the gameplay. It’s billed as an “RT4X” game (Real Time Explore, Expand, Exploit, and Exterminate) but what they have managed to pull off and what puts me off a lot of these games, is that in the late-game it doesn’t all become overwhelming! Things like the innovative “Empire Tree” allows you to see at-a-glance the status, position and strength of your forces around the galaxy. You can order ship replenishment and planet upgrades without having to actually scroll/find them, and you can assign ship factories to output new ships directly to your fleets so you don’t have to micro-manage your units leaving you to focus on the overall strategy. It’s depth and relationship between various research, factions, ship types and diplomacy means it’s got that classic element of “easy to learn, hard to master” which I find very appealing in games.
  4. Sim City 4: (Simulation by Maxis – released 2003)
    I’m in 2 minds about Sim City 4 or putting Cities XL in it’s place. Undoubtedly Sim City 4 is a better simulation and underlying game, but I just loved the creative freedom of the CXL graphics engine (curved roads, custom parks, fully movable camera in 3D space) but the game was weak and the strategy of Monte Cristo extremely questionable. I think going by my criteria Sim City 4 wins because of the much more ‘living sandbox’ nature, the stronger game mechanics and the way your city would evolve with a life of it’s own if you managed your city well. We need a Sim City 5!!!
  5. EVE Online: (MMO by CCP – released 2003)
    I can absolutely see the fascination with MMORPG games, but I have never been able to get into the fantasy theme most of them adhere to (looking at you WoW!)… but EVE Online did capture my attention for some time. It is a game I keep going back to then stopping a few months later. You really do need a LOT of time to put into this game to get anything worthwhile back – which sounds perfect for desert island life! The structure of the game is unique in that ALL players are on the same server which really does make this an alternate world.. and you can so easily get lost in it. Regularly there are 50,000 people online at the same time which just boggles my mind. And 7 years on there is no sign of it letting up with more and more joiining every day! The level of depth is astounding and overwhelming, but the community is ever ready to help you learn. It’s really something to get your teeth stuck into, but I just haven’t got the time to do it justice ๐Ÿ˜ฆ
  6. Battlefield 2: (First Person Shooter by Dice Interactive – released 2005)
    I joined this game late, thinking I wouldn’t really be interested but I was wrong! I love the feeling of being part of a war effort, and you AREN’T the hero. You ARE expendable, so you gotta make sure you make yourself useful! I love the new Battlefield Bad Company 2 and will probably never go back to Battlefield 2 now, but really this was the pinnacle of PC multiplayer shooters in my view. If BC2 had 64 players per server and maps to match then hands down it would be better… Dice really do know how to put a MP game together, but blighted by console limitations it’s not all it could have been unfortunately so their older title wins out for my “keepers” list. I find games like ArmA too serious and complex and prefer the semi-arcade style of Battlefield to keep me interested. Don’t even get me started on Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising!!
  7. Rome, Total War: (Real Time & Turn Based Strategy by Creative Assembly – released 2004)
    There is something about this time period that I adore. I admit I have trouble getting through a whole campaign as they go on for such a long time, but with all the hours I will have alone on my island this would be the perfect time to finally complete the game! I have also played Empire: Total War but really don’t like the ship combat sections. Sometimes less is more and I think Rome had the best balance of depth and clarity… they just have to keep adding don’t they!!
  8. R.U.S.E.: (Real Time Strategy by Eugen / Ubisoft – released 2010)
    Now, I may be jumping the gun a bit here seeing as the game is not even released yet, but from the amount I have played the VIP and Public BETA, I just know I am going to love this game! It’s a relaxed but fast paced (if that makes sense) pure macro-strategy game. The strategies you can employ are almost endless and it’s great fun trying out new approaches which might work one time and might not the next – depends how you pull it off and who you are up against. The novel idea is that you can use deception (accrue “ruse” points during the game and spend them on various time-limited bonuses/boosts such as radio silence in a sector, camo nets, spies, speed boosts, terrorism, fake bases and attacks) which is just such a cool idea!
  9. Railroads: (Simulation & strategy by Firaxis / Sid Meier – released 2006)
    Although it’s quite shallow compared to previous releases in the series by Sid Meier, I find this version more fun and eminnently more playable. It has a tendancy to crash to desktop when your routes start getting too complex which is frustrating, but assuming it was stable this is a sandbox game I could play with and tweak for ages!! (Hint: Play on hard settings for the best experience, where the trains cannot pass through each other)
  10. Lock-On, Modern Air Combat: (Flight Simulator by Eagle Dynamics – released 2003)
    A Sim I have barely scratched the surface of due to the near vertical learning curve and lack of time to “get into it” – all I need is solitary confinement on a desert island ๐Ÿ˜€
    A close call between this and Falcon 4.0, with it’s dynamic single player campaign, but I think the variety in aircraft in LOMAC wins out for long-term playability. The complexity is extreme – you have to know your chosen bird’s systems inside out, and remember all your controls off the back of your hand – just like a REAL fighter pilot. There’s no short-cuts here. Even lcoking on to an enemy target requires running through several steps (selecting the correct radar scan mode, arming the weapon, getting within the right range and approcah corridor for the selected weapon, and all this has to be done under time and survival pressure)

Runner Up:
Settlers 7, Paths to a Kingdom:
(Real Time Strategy & Simulation by Blue Byte)

I’m still in my honeymoon period with this game, so my views on this may change with time, but it’s a surprisingly deep simulation with a lot of scope for different ways to win. It’s actually bloody hard!! Old-skool hard!!! Which is a lot of it’s appeal. When you do win you know you must have done something right! I may get bored of it once I figure out the intricacies, hence my hesitation to put it into the top 10, but so far it’s been great and because it’s largely focussed around competitive online multiplayer it may have some good mileage left in it.

    So that is my list… I am sure I have forgotten some gems, so join in by commenting below and give me your top 10’s ! ๐Ÿ™‚

    I will be doing other lists of top games with different criteria so keep and eye out for those soon.

    Introversion Software: my sort of developers

    There aren’t many left, but these guys get my full support for the way they approach their game development.

    The complete polar opposite of the way EA do things!

    As you probably know, they are a small UK based company with only something like 4 or 5 employees, with a small catalogue of really neat game concepts done really well. Very polished titles that have a timeless charm about them. Their current “next” project looks and sounds fascinating to me! But let me back-track a bit and highlight their past before talking about the future ๐Ÿ˜‰

    All their games have a minimal graphical style which has many benefits all round. Cheaper and easier to develop for a small team, doesn’t date as quickly if at all, has a unique stylised feel when compared to all the standard 3D engine stuff you see now, runs well on older PC’s and focuses your mind on the MECHANICS rather than the SKIN of the game. Brilliant stuff…

    Their first game was ‘Uplink’, released in 2000 – a pretty damn geeky game (well they are mega-geeks ;D ) where you take the role of a computer hacker and have to get into ‘virtual’ systems using various tools and retrieve certain bits of information. You have to stay undetected and erase any signs that you have been in, which gets harder and harder as the game progresses. There’s a real sense of pressure and tension even though the graphics were minimal to say the least.

    Next came ‘Darwinia’, a simple RTS focussing on pure strategy and understanding of the game rather than a quick mouse finger. The scenario was that a computer virus had infected a mainframe computer, and what you see on screen is a representation of the internals. You have to beat the virus and stop it from spreading.

    Next up was my current favourite of all Introversion’s games so far, ‘Defcon’. Another pure RTS based on the idea of global nuclear war and the 80’s film “Wargames”. It has an amazing atmosphere and a pace unlike any other strategy game I can think of. It’s mainly an online multiplayer game where each player controls a “superpower” continent, with or without alliances, and it plays out in distinct phases…

    Phase 1: Place your bases and structures (everyone has the same number of units (radars, missile silos, air bases, aircraft carriers, batteships and nuclear submarines) but can place them in different formations and fleet make-ups so there is a big amount of tactics at this crucial stage.

    Phase 2: Start to move your units away from your contienent and towards the ‘enemy’.

    Phase 3: Start to launch the nukes! This part is very timing based… kind of like Missile Command. The aim being to launch a volley of nukes to the same target and try to make them all arrive at the same time so as to break through the enemy defences. Each nuke that lands halves the population of the target city, so going for the bigger capital cities first is key, but also likely to be the most heavily defended. The catch being that the silos which launch nukes form the land are also your only form of defence and they take a good while to swith from attach to defence mode – so you have to make defining strategic decisions as to whether you want to attack or defend or a bit of both, and what is right at different points in the game. Do you just use the subs, or the nuclear bomber aircraft, and in what order should you focus! The strategies are endless ๐Ÿ˜€

    Phase 4: Whomever loses the least population wins the game.

    There are some seriously good players online so I don’t actually stand a chance to win against them but it’s good fun trying anyway!

    Their 4th game was ‘Multiwinia’: Basically an online competitive multiplayer version of Darwinia. An RTS boiled down to the core ingredients. Easy to learn – very hard to master. Just like Defcon in that respect.

    They have recently released a version of this game onto the X-Box Live store, called ‘Darwinia +’ which seems a stop gap to fund their next project which really does sound amazing!…

    Subversion: A culmination of all these concepts plus some amazing prcedural programming crammed into a game! Little is known at the time of writing this about the game itself but if you can picture being the man in charge of the Oceans 11 (film) team of high-tech thiefs – the man with the ideas of how to put the skills of your various team members to best use… that’s it!

    So there’s going to be some hacking, some electronic bugging, acrobatics to avoid weight sensitive floors, some social engineering to gain access to private information to make your “job” easier and if all goes wrong some good old fashined violence to get you out.

    The tech they have showed and talked about so far looks and sounds incredible. Randomly generated ‘maps’ with adaptive and procedural AI and tools which you can apply in different ways so that you can really achieve your goals in multiple ways depending on how you think/approach the situations. No scrpting and leading you down fixed routes like so many games that give a false sense of freedom… sounds promising indeed, no!?

    Here’s some links to whet your appetite!

    The best ยฃ50 I ever spent: PlayTV

    …well, ยฃ100 anyway.

    ยฃ50 for PlayTV hardware.
    ยฃ50 for 320Gb 2.5 inch hardrive upgrade.

    Personal Video Recorder + Freeview receiver

    An amazing bit of kit:

    • Really nice user interface and Electronic Programme Guide with search function.
    • Unlimited recording with no timeouts for when you have to view it by.
    • Pause rewind and fast-forward live TV.
    • Play games or watch DVD/Blue Rays whilst recording TV.

    I also bought a Bluetooth remote control which makes it much nicer to use on a daily basis than a joypad.

    Overall it’s the best value hardware I have ever bought apart from essentials like mice, keyboards etc.

    Highly recommended!!!

    The biggest let down in PC gaming history!

    Well, what can I say! Operation Flashpoint 2… Codemasters. I was following the development of this game for something like 4 years and rushed out to buy it on day 1 as I guess many millions of poeple around the world did. What a massive waste of time, for us, for the developers and for all the time I spent salivating over the prospect of the massive open battlefiled tactics!

    I really cannot believe the way it turned out. It still has such huge potential to be amazing but Codemasters (from now on known as Conmasters) are just notย  interested. They fell at the last hurdle in 2 major ways… 1) Rushing the game out for Christmas… and 2) developing jointly and mainly for consoles ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

    It’s still a good game at heart – but only 11 single player campaign missions over in a few hours and a completely unplayable multiplayer game (which I suspect 95% of gamers bought the game for) due to a really shoddy Peer-to-peer system. I think I only managed to get in to 3 or 4 games in the 3 months that I was trying (trying every day I might add) but it got to a frustration level where I just gave up entirely! That was money well spent – thanks Conmasters. I know this sounds like a 12 year old’s rant, but… “I’m not buying another CM game ever again and I mean it!”… disgraceful after sales customer services with absolutely no acknowledgement of the problems or any contact back on their forums after the game launched, when they were on there touting it weekly before release!!

    Don’t believe their ‘hype-machine’ for any future games – it’s all hogwash, I tell you!!