Medal of Honor: Allied Assault + Spearhead + Breakthrough

The game version of Saving Private Ryan but with a much better storyline. Medal of Honor: Allied Assault is a World War II action first-person shooter.

Release Date:

Medal of Honor: Allied Assault: January 2002.
Spearhead: November 2002.
Breakthrough: September 2003.

Pros:

The tutorial is excellent. It teaches not just the features of the game but also the basics of how to play first-person shooters. For anyone that has not played a first-person shooter before, this is an excellent game to learn with.

The speech is excellent. The acting sounds very convincing and contributes to the game feeling like a movie.

The music is also excellent. Appropriate music is played at the right times to set the mood of the game giving it an even better movie feel.

The stories for the game are also excellent and presented well through the mission introductions and in game events. This combined with the good speech and music makes MOHAA feel like you are playing a movie.

Omaha Beach.

The enemy AI is good. Some know how to hide and run around and others are stupid and come charging forward. You can also sneak up on them. The AI is pretty much on par with Red Faction.

There is a good mix of close quarters battle and open space gun fights. There are also a few stealth missions where you have to get a disguise and not alert any enemies. Much like Red Faction.

There are mods, custom maps and bots available. Check out the external links list.

You get to drive vehicles and use fixed guns.

Cons:

There is an option for surround sound but it does not work with the Logitech G35. Reading around, it looks like surround sound was not implemented properly for MOHAA. Apparently some people managed to hack around to get surround sound working, but I could not get it working.

Your team mates AI are very stupid. Sure they know how to shoot the enemy now and then, but they like to stand out in the open and get shot. Sometimes they also come and stand right in front of you while you are trying to shoot the enemy.

Other Points:

Besides the story being better than Saving Private Ryan, MOHAA also does not have the blood and guts of the movie. Some people will not like this, but I personally did not mind. There are mods to add blood to the game. Check out Filefront if you are interested.

In plain Allied Assault, you can only gun whack with the pistol even though your enemies can whack you with their rifles and sub-machine guns. Spearhead and Breakthrough fixes this so you can gun whack with other guns too.

Medal of Honor: Allied Assault has six missions with a few stages for each mission. Spearhead adds an extra three missions plus some new weapons and Breathrough adds another three missions plus some new weapons. The expansions also add a couple of new multiplayer modes and new multiplayer maps.

Surprisingly, there are still people that play MOHAA multiplayer(2011). I managed to squeeze in a few games and yes it is still fun. Not as good as Battlefield 1942, Star Wars Battlefront 2 or Call of Duty 4 but still fun enough to play. I did not get to play Spearhead and Breathrough on multiplayer though.

Biases:

Reviewed version 1.11 of plain MOHAA, version 2.15 of Spearhead and version 2.40.

I played Medal of Honor: Allied Assault back when it was first released. I do not remember much about it though. When I saw the 10th Anniversary box in the store only one thought came to mind, “Hey that’s the game with Omaha Beach.”.

Replaying MOHAA was good fun. It also reminded me of another WWII FPS – Call of Duty. I remember enjoying Call of Duty although I do not actually remember what the game was like. MOHAA stuck in my head because of Omaha Beach.

I really liked Serious Sam, all the Doom games and Quake 2.

I also really liked SWAT 4, Red Faction, Bioshock, Alien Vs Predator, Soldier of Fortune 2, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky, Rainbow Six, Rogue Spear and Call Of Duty 4.

I also liked Red Faction 2, Painkiller Overdose and Star Wars Battlefront 2.

I also liked Battlefield 1942, Delta Force and Spec Ops 2.

DRM:

Serial numbers must be entered when installing the games.

The appropriate CD must be in the drive to play the games.

There is a DRM free version available on GOG.com

Patches:

Spearhead 2.11 patch – Updates Spearhead to version 2.11.

Spearhead 2.15 patch – Updates Spearhead from 2.11 to 2.15.

Breakthrough 2.40 patch – Updates Breakthrough to version 2.40.

Minimum Requirements (from Readme.txt of Breakthrough):

  • Windows XP, Windows Me, Windows 2000, Windows 98, or Windows 95 (Windows NT is not supported)
  • 733 MHz Intel Pentium III or 700 MHz AMD Athlon processor
  • 128 MB RAM
  • 8x CD-ROM/DVD-ROM drive
  • 800 MB free hard disk space plus space for saved games (additional space required for Windows swap-file and DirectX 8.0 installation)
  • 16 MB OpenGL capable video card using an NVIDIA GeForce, ATI Radeon, NVIDIA Riva TNT2, ATI Rage 128 or PowerVR3 Kyro II chipset with OpenGL and DirectX 8.0 compatible driver
  • DirectX 8.0 compatible sound card
  • Keyboard
  • Mouse

Computer Played On:

  • Core 2 Duo 2.16GHz
  • 2Gb RAM
  • ATI Radeon X1600 256Mb RAM (laptop version)
  • Logitech G35 headset and/or Realtek HD Audio(no idea what model) with my egg speakers or Logitech ClearChat Premium PC Headset.
  • Win XP Pro
  • Graphics settings are set to whatever I feel comfortable with playing on this PC. They are usually not set to the highest settings. All screenshots are taken with my settings.

Handy Tips:

Add +set cl_playintro 0 to the game’s shortcut properties target to bypass the introduction movies and go straight to the main menu. This works for Spearhead and Breakthrough as well.

Recommended Mods:

Mod Editor. A nice little tool to enable/disable mods(raw pk3 files). It only works with MOHAA so files must be manually enabled/disabled for Spearhead and Breakthrough.

City Nights Final. Brings modern day weaponary to MOHAA. Not just that though, it also has two single-player maps and a few multiplayer maps. The mod seems to work OK with the MOHAA campaign although there are some sounds missing. I have not played through the whole MOHAA campaign with the mod.

EagleAR bots. A nice package that adds bots to some default maps of MOHAA, Spearhead and Breakthrough.

If you are looking for something different in bots, try The Complete Mod v3.1. The mod adds an easy interface to control bots and also a working scoreboard. It also adds other stuff, but I have not tried them out. You will still need to download the jv_bot mod separately or get it as part of the EagleAR bots pacakge. Using The Complete Mod with the EagleAR bots package seems to cause some crash to desktops.

For more single-player goodness try VC Addon (v1.1). This is pretty much a mini campaign made up of a few large maps. The objectives and compass may not always be accurate so a little bit of exploration is required. A part from that it is a very well done single-player addon.

Test Drive Unlimited

Buy a house, buy a car and race around Oahu island of Hawaii. Win races, get money and buy more cars to race around.

Release Date:

March 2007.

Pros:

Ferraris! Lots and lots of Ferraris.

Has other supercars too including Lamborghini, Saleen, Lotus and Jaguar.

If you purchase the MegaPack you will also be blessed with the Ferrari 512 TR.

Apart from racing against other cars, there are other types of events like speed trap, time trials, car transportation and ferrying hitch-hikers.

The online mode seamlessly blends single player events with multiplayer events. You just free form drive around the island and enter whatever events you want. As you are driving you will also encounter other people online and you can choose to have a duel if you like.

Everything in the game looks good. The environment looks good. The cars look good. Even the interior of the cars look good.

The inbuilt speech communication works well. The only problem is, some people have their game running on speakers so loud that the sound gets to the microphone on their end and you can hear it over the speech communicator.

You can actually “test drive” cars before buying them.

The stock music is pretty standard, but the good thing is you can add your own music to played on the radio in the car when driving around.

Cons:

Everyone connects to one main online server. When the server goes down, no online game. Luckily I have only experienced this twice so far.

The police are quite stupid. They will only chase you if you hit them or other cars. They won’t chase you if you overtake them at 300km/h.

Sometimes your profile will just get corrupted and you got to start all over again. Good idea to keep backups of the profile.

There are replays but only for some events. They should have put it for all events.

Other Points:

You can play the game single player only. In this mode you can only take part in all the single player events. There are also AI cars driving around to make it feel like the online people driving around.

There are motor bikes in this game but I have not unlocked them yet.

You can damage other cars, but your car will always be in pristine condition. Not sure if this is a good or a bad thing because I stack it quite a bit.

The driving model can be tweaked between hard core mode and easy mode, where hard core mode is where you need the steering wheel and pedal kit if you want to stay on the road.

Biases:

Reviewed version 1.66A with the Megapack.

I like Ferraris. Especially the 512 TR.

I have not driven a real super car in real life.

I really liked the original Test Drive, Test Drive 3: The Passion, Need For Speed 2, Need For Speed Hot Pursuit(the old one), Need For Speed High Stakes, Need For Speed Most Wanted, Trackmania: Sunrise, Burnout 3 and Gran Turismo 1-4.

I did not like Need For Speed Underground. I haven’t tried the other Need for Speeds.

I played with keyboard on the easiest driving mode.

DRM:

  • A CD key must be entered when installing the game.
  • The disc must be in the drive to play the game.

Patches:

  • 1.66A – Fixes some stuff and also adds the Audi RS4 and Nissan Skyline R34 cars.

Minimum Requirements (as stated on box):

  • Operating System: Windows 2000/XP and above
  • Processor: Intel P4 @ 2.4GHz or AMD Athlon 2800+
  • Memory: 512MB – 1GB recommended
  • Hard Disk Space: 8 GB
  • DVD-ROM Drive: 8X minimum
  • Video: ATI Radeon 9800 256MB VRAM or Nvidia 6600 GT with 256 MB of VRAM. Video Cards with vertex/pixel shaders 2.x and above are recommended
  • Sound: DirectX 9.0 compatible Sound Card
  • DirectX: DirectX version 9.0c (included) or higher

Computer Played On:

  • Core 2 Duo 2.16GHz
  • 2Gb RAM
  • ATI Radeon X1600 256Mb RAM
  • Realtek HD Audio(no idea what model) with Altec Lansing ACS41 speakers or Logitech ClearChat Premium PC Headset.
  • Win XP Pro
  • Graphics settings are set to whatever I feel comfortable with playing on this PC. They are usually not set to the highest settings. All screenshots are taken with my settings.

Stranglehold

A third person shooter starring Chow Yun-Fat as Inspector Tequila (Same guy from the movie Hard Boiled). Blast through hundreds of bad guys in John Woo style gun fights. Watch Tequila fly through the air with guns blazing and bullets zipping past and debris flying all over the place.

Release Date:

September 2007.

Pros:

It’s like playing in a John Woo movie.

It looks just like a John Woo movie.

Very destructible environments. All the gunfights always involve things blowing up or breaking or debris flying all over the place, just like a John Woo movie.

Plenty of John Woo slow-mo action. And it looks very good!

Very good gun fighting action and lots of it!

Cons:

Very very very short single-player campaign story mode. It is okay if you don’t mind playing through the story over and over again.

No weapon reloading except for the special move Tequila Bomb which shows a nice animation of reloading your weapon. There are times when I think that reloading the weapon at that point in time will make the game look even better. They don’t have to reload it realisticly after 8 or 13 shots or whatever a real gun holds, even reloading after 100 rounds would make the game look better.

No LAN playing mode. Got online and no LAN. For this game I think it craves a LAN session.

The Online game setup is terrible. You cannot join an existing game being played. Everyone must wait in the lobby and start a game together and that’s it. No one else can join your game. It really ruins this type of fast paced action shooter.

Not built for modding or map editing. This game craves a map editor at least. Especially since the single-play story is so very short.

No Cantonese recordings for the Hong Kong bits. It just sounds wrong when you hear Cantonese being spoken by the bad guys during the action parts and then they speak English in the cut scenes.

It looks like the online server lobby service has now been taken offline permanently.

Other Points:

Some of the action moves in this game look so good I wish there was an instant replay feature to record the moves and play it back from different camera angles.

It is repetitive, but like a good arcade game, I keep coming back for more John Woo action.

There are no save games. The game automatically saves as you complete checkpoints. The other thing is, there is only one profile, so only one person can play through the game in sequence. The easiest way to get around this problem though, is to use a different user profile on the computer to play the game.

Biases:

Reviewed version 1.1.

I have never played any Max Payne games.

I really liked the movies Hard Boiled and The Killer.

I have completed the game many times but only on normal and easy difficulties.

DRM:

The disc must be in the drive to play the game.

Patches:

1.1[EU] – I did not notice any difference with or without the patch.

1.1[US] – I have not used this patch because my game patched with the EU version.

Minimum Requirements (as stated on box):

  • Operating system: Windows XP Service Pack 2/Vista
  • Processor: Intel Core Duo processor or equivalent
  • Memory: 2Gb system memory
  • Hard Disk Space: 15 Gb of free disc space required
  • DVD-ROM Drive: 16x DVD-Rom Drive
  • SOUND: DirectX 9.0c and higher compliant sound card
  • DIRECTX: DirectX 9.0c and higher will be supplied on the DVD
  • Video: DirectX 9.0c and higher compatible, including the following: Nvidia GeForce 7800 or above/ATI x1300 or above.
  • MultiPlayer: BROADBAND Internet connection required for online play.

Computer Played On:

  • Core 2 Duo 2.16GHz
  • 2Gb RAM
  • ATI Radeon X1600 256Mb RAM
  • Win XP Pro SP2
  • Graphics settings are set to whatever I feel comfortable with playing on this PC. They are usually not set to the highest settings. All screenshots are taken with my settings.

Ghostbusters: The Video Game

If there’s something strange in your neighbourhood. Who you gonna call? YOU of course, plus the other four guys. As the new recruit of the Ghostbusters, you get to go around catching ghosts, experiment with brand new potentially dangerous, untested equipment and go on a tour of some of the locations in the movies.

Release Date:

June 2009.

Pros:

The game is easy to learn with the start of the game being a tutorial as well. You can also access a training screen in-game which describes how to do different things.

The AI is excellent. The other Ghostbusters (Venkman, Stantz, Spengler and Zeddemore) do actually catch ghosts on their own. At the same time they do not do all the work giving you a game to play. The ghosts act like ghosts, well at least slimer acts just like slimer.

The graphics are excellent. All the environments look excellent, all the people and ghosts look excellent and the proton stream and trapping effects also look excellent.

The different locations are very well fleshed out. Each location has its own look and feel and the amazing attention to detail really makes each place feel different from other places.

The sounds and music are Ghostbusters authentic and sound excellent. It sounds like the original film scores are mixed with some new music in the game.

With the original people playing as the Ghostbusters and scripting the story for the game, it is no surprise that the game’s speech and story is top notch. It is like playing through the sequel to the Ghostbusters II movie.

For the full Ghostbusters atmosphere, all the HUD indicators can be turned off. This includes the targeting reticule. Most of the important information are displayed on your proton pack anyway so you do not miss out on much. Of course, playing with out a targeting reticule is extra challenging.

It just wouldn’t be Ghostbusters if you could not destroy stuff. Good thing Ghostbusters: The Video Game has got wonderful destructible environments. From all the games I have played so far, the only game with better destructible environments is Stranglehold. Just like Stranglehold too, Ghostbusters has a tally of how much damage you have caused.

Cons:

There are no save games, only checkpoints with the option to replay completed checkpoints. I usually would not put this as a con, but there is only one profile which means only one person can play through the game in sequence without searching for which checkpoint they left off. If one computer has different user profiles, only one user can play the game, because the DRM asks for a new activation code for a different user.

I am not sure why, but during the final battle, the frame rate would sometimes drop to around 5fps for about thirty seconds, then return back to normal. This only happened during the final battle.

Other Points:

Surround sound is evident when using the Logitech G35, but position of the sounds are difficult to place most of the time.

The game is very linear, but some areas are reasonably big and it pays to explore around.

As a Ghosbuster your primary and only weapon is the proton pack. Unlike the movies though, there are four different, uhhhh, thingies attached to your proton pack and each thingy has two firing modes. So, effectively it is like saying the game has eight weapon types. It may not be a lot compared to other games, but they do work differently and does give good variety to the game rather than just trapping ghosts.

The GamersGate version of the game does not come with a manual. It is not necessary though, because there is more than enough information within the game itself. For those that still want to read the manual, it can be downloaded from replacementdocs.

The Ghostbusters song by Ray Parker Jr. does not get played in full.

The story ties in heavily to the first Ghostbusters movie, but very little to the second movie.

Biases:

Reviewed GamersGate version of the game.

I like the Ghostbusters movies and the cartoon series.

I have completed the game once on casual difficulty. I started playing at the hardest difficulty of professional, but had to decrease down to the easiest difficulty of casual because I got stuck on two battles.

DRM:

Only one user profile of the computer can play the game. Each user that tries to play the game on the same computer, the game will ask for a new activation code.

Uses Securom. Directly from the horses mouth, below is the first thing you see when you first start the game after installation.

This software must be authenticated online prior to use. For activation a valid SERIAL and an active Internet connection is required.

Minimum Requirements (as stated on GamersGate):

  • OS: Windows® XPCPU: Dual-core Intel®, AMD®
  • RAM: 2 GB
  • Video: NVIDIA® GeForce® 8400, ATI®Radeon® X1300, Pixel shader 3.0
  • VideoRAM: 512 MB
  • Sound: DirectX® 9.0c compatible
  • Hard Drive: 9 GB
  • Input: Keyboard, Mouse or Xbox 360® compatible controller
  • DirectX: DirectX® 9.0c

Computer Played On:

  • Windows 7 64 bit.
  • Intel Core i5 2.3GHz
  • 4Gb RAM
  • NVIDIA GeForce GT 525M 1Gb RAM
  • Conexant SmartAudio with egg speakers or earphones. Or Logitech G35.
  • Graphics settings are set to whatever I feel comfortable with playing on this PC. They are usually not set to the highest settings. All screenshots are taken with my settings.

Falcon 4.0

From the golden age of flight simulation, the king of flight sims lives on in the form of FreeFalcon 5. Learn to fly the F-16 Fighting Falcon with your PC and now available for free.

Pros

Most realistic F-16 Fighting Falcon flight simulator I have ever played on the PC. There are settings to dumb it down, but it is still difficult, just not as difficult as with full realism settings. As expected, the learning curve is very steep.

FreeFalcon 5 added ramp start to the realism. Learn the proper procedures to start the engine and set things up. Note that this also involves waiting for the navigation systems to initialise and waiting for take-off clearance from air traffic control(ATC). When I timed the sequence for one instance, it took me five minutes real time to complete the navigation initialisation. Then it took another three minutes real time before the ATC gave clearance for me to take-off. I was number two in the queue. So, a total of eight minutes before getting into the air and this included using 4x time acceleration when I was waiting around doing nothing. But if you do not like all this start up stuff, you can skip straight to take-off time.

Although Falcon 4.0 was an F-16 only sim, the FreeFalcon group have added other planes into the sim, complete with cockpits. I think the different planes use the F-16 avionics though. Once I learned up one aspect of the F-16’s avionics, I found that they work the same way in other planes. It feels like Jane’s Fighters Anthology, but with less planes and higher realism.

Falcon 4.0 came with the mother of all game manuals. 500+ pages of F-16 goodness. If that was not enough, the FreeFalcon group having added more stuff to the game, also added 1000+ pages of reading material to complement the Falcon 4.0 manual. The FreeFalcon documents are in PDFs only though. And I am not about to print them out either.

Falcon 4.0 in the form of FreeFalcon 5 was available for free, but the project has been shut down. You may still be able to download it from the Free Falcon Wiki though.

Clickable cockpits! If you cannot remember some of the keys, you may be able to find the corresponding switch, knob or button on the cockpit and click it with your mouse.

The graphics in general are beautiful. All the planes look great, complete with moving control surfaces. The cockpits also look great in 2D and 3D. The landscape also looks great, but only when you are high up in the sky. When flying at low altitudes, the ground looks very flat.

The airports are realistically busy. You can see F-16s, B-2s, C-5s and other planes taking off and landing at the airports. A very good reason to listen to the ATC.

The radio chatter is the most realistic I have heard in any sim. You can hear chatter from many flight groups, not just your own. This gives a deeper atmosphere as it sounds like there are others fighting in this war too. This also means you must pay attention just in case the chatter is directed at you.

The dynamic campaign engine is definitely dynamic and gives different missions depending on what is happening and what plane you have chosen to fly. I do not know how good it is as a full blown war simulator though as I have not played enough of one campaign to see how it turns out.

Cons

The Air Combat Manoeuvring Instrumentation(ACMI) does not work. Everytime I try to view a recorded flight, the whole thing freezes after several seconds. I have to invoke task manager to kill the process manually and restart the game.

There are random problems with the game ranging from not being able to get into flying mode, to full blown crash to desktops. These random problems seem to automatically get fixed after a game restart though. Luckily these problems do not happen too often. I have managed to fly a few missions continuosly without issues.

During flight there is no music at all. Sure this is realistic and all, but after playing T.F.X., I want good music with all my flight sims. They could have made it an option so people can turn off the music for ultra-realism. The original Falcon 4.0 had excellent music at the front menu section, but this has been replaced in FreeFalcon 5.

Although there is an option for ForceFeedback, it does not seem to do anything. Unless it is not compatible with my Wingman Force 3D.

Other Points

There were options for screen resolutions but I had to set it to the max and native res of my monitor. I found that setting it lower caused the multi-function display(MFD) text to be difficult to read. As a result the 2D cockpits all looked fat on my 1280×800 resolution.

The general sounds are standard flight sim sounds to me.There is the sidewinder growl, various radar beeps, lock and missile sirens, gun fire and missile launches and low-key explosions from either your jet or something else being hit. The only sounds that I thought was very well done are the roaring engines and the canopy opening and closing.

Here is a list of non-F-16 flyable planes I found that can be played in a campaign and have 2D and 3D cockpits: A-10 Thunderbolt II, F-4 Phantom II, B-52 Stratofortress, Mig-29 Fulcrum, AV-8B Harrier, F-14 Tomcat, Su-33 Flanker-D, F-22 Raptor, Mirage 2000, JAS-39 Gripen, AJS-37 Viggen and F-105D Thunderchief.

For those that still have the original Falcon 4.0 disc, Benchmark Sims(BMS) has a mod to improve Falcon 4.0. I have not tried it out so I do not know how good it is.

GOG.com has released a Falcon Collection which includes Falcon 4.0 v1.08 as a bonus. I have not tried it out personally, but the GOG team has confirmed that their release does work with BMS.

Biases

Reviewed version FreeFalcon 5.5.5. The original Falcon 4.0 plus the 1.08 patch just refused to work on my PC.

Since FreeFalcon 5 added lots of new stuff, I tried them out as well. As a result, this page contains information that was not featured in the original Falcon 4.0.

I really liked Gunship 2000 including Islands and Ice, Falcon 3.0, Knights of the Sky, T.F.X., Fleet Defender, F-15 Strike Eagle 3 and Jane’s Fighters Anthology.

I also liked LHX Attack Chopper and Harrier Jump Jet.

I played with a mixed bag of realism settings. As I am reading the manuals and learning the accurate avionics and flight model, I played on the easier modes just to get some action happening.

I play with the easiest enemy AI settings, as the game is already difficult enough without smart enemy AI.

The F-16 Fighting Falcon was(and still is) my favourite plane, even before I played Falcon 3.0.

I like air-to-air missions more than air-to-ground missions.

I have not completed even the first 24 hours of one campaign. I have been playing many different campaigns to try out different planes.

I have not tried out the AGMs, GBUs, rockets and mid-air refuelling.

Although it is not realistic to do so, I frequently use external and full screen views as my situational awareness is not the best.

DRM

The original Falcon 4.0 was DRM free and FreeFalcon 5 is the same.

Minimum Requirements

I cannot find the minimum requirements for FreeFalcon 5. And since it has been improved so much from Falcon 4.0, I do not think the original minimum requirements are relevant anymore.

One thing is for sure, joystick required!

Computer Played On

  • Core 2 Duo 2.16GHz
  • 2Gb RAM
  • ATI Radeon X1600 256Mb RAM (laptop version)
  • Logitech G35 headset and/or Realtek HD Audio(no idea what model) with Altec Lansing ACS41 speakers or Logitech ClearChat Premium PC Headset.
  • Win XP Pro
  • Logitech Wingman Force 3D.
  • Graphics settings are set to whatever I feel comfortable with playing on this PC. They are usually not set to the highest settings. All screenshots are taken with my settings.

Handy Tips

If you have the original Falcon 4.0 game, you can replace the FreeFalcon 5 menu music files with the original Falcon 4.0 music files.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

Play your part in yet another galactic war in the Star Wars Universe. Star Wars: The Old Republic(SWTOR) is a story rich Star Wars massively multiplayer online role-playing game(MMORPG). It’s all about you and yet you can call on buddies to help you fight the dark/light side.

Release Date

December 2011.

Pros

It is Star Wars.

There is plenty of variety. First of, there are two sides, four classes per side with room to further subclass at higher levels and each subclass has lots of skills to upgrade. There are plenty of quests, enemies, NPCs and the staple of any good RPG, loot.

It is a very large and open role-playing game.

Each class has its own storyline which begins with a long high quality introduction cutscene. Then the story is progressed with quests and conversations with NPCs. From the little bit I have played, I have to say the story is Star Wars excellent.

The quests system is very well done. A part from the main storyline quests, there are tons of side quests and also super difficult heroic quests that pretty much require a group to work together to complete. The storyline quests can also be completed in a group, but I do not know who’s story it progresses or whether it gives the completion status to all involved.

My Logitech G35 detected surround sound from SWTOR, but it sounded very much stereo. I did not hear any surround effects at all. Having said that, all the sounds, speech and music do sound Star Wars good.

When your character reaches level 10, you can enter player versus player(PvP) warzones. This section does not seem to be related to the main game other than you can bring your character in to fight. The warzone plays similar to first-person shooters in that you are on a map and have objectives to complete while whacking as many of the opposition as possible. What is different is that it plays very much like the main RPG part of the game. No need to aim, just click on your target and choose the appropriate action you want your character to take.

The game handles fine with my ping of around 300ms. The long ping does make the game more difficult during the warzone fights, but it is still easier than playing an FPS with 300ms ping.

SWTOR’s game engine is quite clever in that the control mechanics makes it play like an RPG, but the flow and good animations makes it look like an action game. A Star Wars action game at that!

The graphics look excellent. Everything is well detailed and well animated. The battles look very much like Star Wars battles. Maybe, it’s just me, but I do not think SWTOR graphics on this newer PC are as good as S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl on my older PC. SWTOR looks better than every other game I played to date, just not S.T.A.L.K.E.R.

You can get companions that are kind of a cross between the pet in Torchlight and people that join you in Baldur’s Gate. Like the Torchlight pet, you can send your companion to sell all useless loot and you can also equip your companion with new stuff. Like Baldur’s Gate people, they will converse with you now and then, but I am not sure if it has any bearing on the main story. Your companion can also be sent on missions where they get stuff for you. I actually do not know what to do with all the stuff they bring back from missions. Probably have to play deeper into the game to find out.

Cons

The size of the download is 27GB. This download must be done with their custom game client launcher. The usual download speed I get from the web is around 700KB/s, but with their custom client launcher, half the time it would only download at 100KB/s. So it was a very long wait before I could start the game.

There is a lot of walking to be done. This is normal for such a big open world, but it gets quite boring after you have walked the same path many times. There are quick travel points and taxis to take you between places but not enough in my opinion. After playing this, I am so grateful for Oblivion’s many quick travel points, which is pretty much every where.

The music is Star Wars-ish and is there, but does not sound so impacting. They play depending on what events are happening but it just does not give the big Star Wars feel like say Empire at War.

Other Points

The online account security is quite heavy. Not only is there a password, but sometimes you must answer security questions on login as well. There is also some sort of optional physical security key thingy. I am not sure if this is the norm for MMORPGs since this is the first one I have tried.

The game’s interface needs a bit of learning, but once you know what there is and what can be done, it is actually quite easy to use. The complexity is due to the amount things that you can do in the game.

The difficulty of the quests and for getting from place to place is done not just by the level of the enemies but also by them respawning pretty quickly. So you cannot just take your time to pick them off as the old ones will come back.

I usually never mention the cost of a game because some places are cheaper than others. I will say this about SWTOR, you must buy the game then you must pay a subscription fee to keep playing past 30 days. I guess this is the same with most paid MMORPGs.

There are many choices to be made in the game. I see indicators that I am leaning towards the dark/light side. Other than changing a little bit of the story and quests, I have not witnessed any ground-breaking events. Or maybe it is because I have not played the same character and pick different choices.

There is now a free-to-play option with limitations. Having not paid to play the game, I do not know how much these limitations affect the game playing. The website does say the full class story content is available though.

Biases

Reviewed friend’s 7-day free trial version.

I briefly tried out the Smuggler class and the Jedi Knight class but focused mainly on the Imperial Agent class.

I missed out on trying the space battles and visting areas where you can attack and be attacked by random players.

I have played many RPGs before, but this is the first MMORPG I have tried.

I really liked Torchlight, Oblivion and Baldur’s Gate 1, 2 plus expansions.

I also liked Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, Lands of Lore 3, Might and Magic 3, 4 and 5.

I did not like Styrateg.

DRM

Being an MMORPG, I am guessing online validation and code entries are the very minimum for DRM checks.

Minimum Requirements (as stated on Buy Star Wars: The Old Republic)

  • Processor: AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual-Core 4000+ or better or Intel Core 2 Duo Processor 2.0GHz or better
  • Operating System: Windows XP/Vista/7
  • RAM:
    • Windows XP: 1.5GB
    • Windows Vista and Windows 7: 2GB
    • PCs using a built-in graphical chipset are receommended to have 2GB RAM
  • Graphics Card:
    • ATI X1800 or better*
    • nVidia 7800 or better*
    • Intel 4100 Integrated Graphics or better*
    • *Minimum of 256MB of on-board RAM and Shader 3.0 or better support
  • DVD-ROM: 8x or better

Computer Played On

  • Windows 7 64 bit.
  • Intel Core i5 2.3GHz
  • 4Gb RAM
  • NVIDIA GeForce GT 525M 1Gb RAM
  • Conexant SmartAudio with egg speakers or earphones. Or Logitech G35.
  • Graphics settings are set to whatever I feel comfortable with playing on this PC. They are usually not set to the highest settings. All screenshots are taken with my settings.

Screamer

An old school simple arcade racer. Just pick a car and race!

Release Date:

October 1995.

Pros:

As they say in the manual, Screamer is a very simple game. At minimum there are only four keys to use when driving in automatic or six keys for manual. Simple to learn but not necessarily easy to win.

There is a good sense of speed in the game. Not as fast as Burnout 3 or Trackmania: Sunrise but it is still quite fast.

There are six different cars to drive and their handling are noticeably different. They have fictional names, but if you know your cars, they are easily recognisable. When you complete the championship, an extra fictional super-ultra-mega car is unlocked.

Being an old DOS game and loading up so fast on current PCs, Screamer makes a good game to give a quick speed fix if you feel the need for speed and are in a hurry.

The game has the usual, single track racing, championship tournament and time trials, but there are also two other race types. The first one is Cone Carnage, where you try to knock down cones to increase your time limit. The second is Slalom, where you try to drive between cones to increase your time limit.

The game stores the top times for each track and you can view the replay of those races. Completing a normal mode race also shows you a replay of your immediate performance.

There are six different tracks and they are varied and well detailed despite the old graphics. Six tracks is not many but when you complete the championship, all tracks can be raced in reverse! To me that is as good as having twelve tracks.

The music was average racing music to me in the beginning. As I played more, the tunes really grew on me. It gives the fast racing feeling.

Cons:

The game randomly crashes!

It is a bit unfair that when you bump into the AI cars, your speed drops a lot, but when they bump into you, it is as if nothing happened. On the up side, I have seen them stack it a few times, which does slow them down.

There is no denying, the graphics look old.

Allowing to play the tracks in reverse is good, but there are no separate records for the best reverse tracks’ times. What is worse is when you score a best time on a reverse track, it actually saves it in the normal track’s records.

Other Points:

The cover image has a picture of the Lamborghini Countach. Wikipedia also says there is a Lamborghini Countach. But everytime I see the car named Shadow, I swear it is a Lamborghini Diablo!

There is a narrator that yells out updates and wise cracks, but if you do not like it, there is an option to turn him off. Note, if you turn him off, you will not hear the “three, two, one, GO!” either.

There is multiplayer, but I never got the opportunity to try it out.

Biases:

Reviewed GOG.com version of the game.

I really liked Test Drive Unlimited, the original Test Drive, Test Drive 3: The Passion, Need For Speed 2, Need For Speed Hot Pursuit(the old one), Need For Speed High Stakes, Need For Speed Most Wanted, Trackmania: Sunrise, Burnout 3 and Gran Turismo 1-4.

I did not like Need For Speed Underground. I haven’t tried the other Need for Speeds.

I have completed the championship.

DRM:

Screamer is DRM free from GOG.com

Minimum Requirements (as stated on GOG.com):

  • Windows XP or Windows Vista
  • 1 GHz Processor (1.4 GHz recommended)
  • 256MB RAM (512 recommended)
  • 3D graphics card compatible with DirectX 7 (compatible with DirectX 9 recommended)
  • Mouse, Keyboard

Computer Played On:

  • Windows 7 64 bit.
  • Intel Core i5 2.3GHz
  • 4Gb RAM
  • NVIDIA GeForce GT 525M 1Gb RAM
  • Conexant SmartAudio with egg speakers or earphones. Or Logitech G35.
  • Graphics settings are set to whatever I feel comfortable with playing on this PC. They are usually not set to the highest settings. All screenshots are taken with my settings.

Handy Tips:

For the GOG.com version of the game, To run setup without it crashing, the file dosboxScreamer_setup.conf must be edited.cycles=max must be changed to cycles=140000 or a number around that range.

Just Cause 2

Jump on top of a car, shoot bad guys and blow up stuff. Get guns, shoot bad guys and blow up stuff. Steal helicopters, shoot bad guys and blow up stuff. Skydive, shoot bad guys and blow up stuff. Yup, Just Cause 2 is all about shooting bad guys and blowing up stuff, but you do so with some crazy action stunts.

Release Date:

March 2010.

Pros:

The pop-up tutorials are quite good. It sure helped me learn all the different stuff you can do in the game. You can also turn them off if you are a seasoned player.

There is also a good amount of information that you can view within the game. If you just want pure action, you can safely ignore this, but it does give nice background information for the game as well as hints on how to play.

The mounted minigun is awesome. Not only does it have unlimited ammo, but you can also pick it up and walk around, doing some serious damage. It is slow walking so you cannot take it everywhere… unless you are very patient.

The game is very open with a massive playing field. I thought Oblivion was big, but Just Cause 2 dwarfs it. It is so large that it takes planes some time to get from one place to another. There is a nice quick travel system so not too much time is wasted travelling from place to place.

Just Cause 2 also has lots of things to do. Or should I say lots of things to blow up and lots of places to get into gun fights. There are main quest missions, factional side missions and of course lots of places to simply blow up stuff. In the time it takes to complete Stranglehold, I only got through 13% of the game. And this was when I was focused on completing the main missions and playing on casual(the easiest) difficulty.

If you do get bored of blowing up stuff(you shouldn’t be playing this game), there are race time trials scattered around where you can earn money from.

There is a good variety of environments including large city areas, small villages, jungle, desert and snowy mountains. When you get to high altitude you can see the great views of the land or water. Although graphically very good, I still prefer the scenery of Oblivion.

Blowing up stuff looks fantastic with the Hollywood explosions and there is a good level of environmental destructibility. Although the destructible environment is not as detailed as Stranglehold, Just Cause 2 does provide an island load of stuff to blow up.

Other than explosions and great landscape , the rest of the game also looks great. Gun battles, vehicles, people, buildings, everything looks great.

Take to the skies, the water or the ground with vehicles on land, sea and air. Although ficitional, there are planes, helicopters, boats, motorbikes, cars, APCs and even tuk tuks.

Not since Quake 2 have I played a game that has a grappling hook. Just Cause 2 takes the grappling hook to a whole new level and allows you to do some very crazy stunts. You can dual-hook two objects together with some interesting results. Grappling vehicles quickly brings you to the target vehicle and you can hijack it while moving, and that includes planes and helicopters! Just to top it off you can also grapple hook people, which comes in quite handy sometimes.

The game takes place in a fictional South East Asian country with Malaysian/Singaporean accents. Sounds good to me! Those are not the only accents though, depending on the characters there is a range of accents and the speech is great in my opinion.

There are no John Woo dive shooting or slow mo actions in Just Cause 2, but there is dual wielding action. It i not just twin pistols or twin sub-machine guns either. You can can use different single handed weapons on each hand. For example you can have a sawn-off shotgun in one hand and a sub-machine gun in the other.

There are mods for Just Cause 2. Check out Just Cause 2 Mods

The game is made in such away that if you do not mind dying a lot, you can always progress and improve your character and weapons. I am not the best action gamer in the world, but I did manage to complete the story line missions on hardcore difficulty. This was made possible by slowly and constantly upgrading my weapons and character before progressing each story mission.

By now you probably realise that Just Cause 2 is very thick on the action. Even though playing through it provides some absolutely awesome action sequences, the most mega-ultra-super-awesome action sequences are on the last mission.

Cons:

There is no option for how close the chase camera is when driving a vehicle. I found it quite difficult to drive around as I could not judge which way the car was facing when it turned.

All this driving around and no horn? How could they do this? OK, I am just being picky, but it would be more fun if you can horn people to get out of the way.

Other Points:

This is a crazy action game, but it does limit the weapons and ammo you can carry(except the minigun). I have run out of ammo very often and picked up different guns during and after battles.

As you blow up stuff, you get chaos points. The more chaos points you accumulate, the more weapons and vehicles you unlock to be purchasable from the black market. There are also parts you can collect which you use to upgrade those weapons and vehicles. The enemy also gets tougher as chaos points increases.

When you load a game all the vehicles reset themselves to their default locations. This means any vehicles you buy will also disappear.

The story is OK. There are missions that follow the story, but it is quite clear that Just Cause 2 is about blowing up stuff and shooting bad guys… And maybe about doing crazy stunts too. The government of Panau is no longer friendly to the US and one of The Agency’s agents has disappeared. Your job is to find out why. How do you do that? Blow up stuff of course! Then the government troops come rolling in so you have a nice shoot out.

Although the government’s troops are marked as the bad guys, you can kill civilians like in GTA. However, there are no benefits or consequences if you do, other than more government troops coming along.

I like flight sims, but I found the planes difficult to control. I also rigged up my Logitech Wingman Force 3D to be playable with Just Cause 2 using x360ce and still found it difficult to fly. After some practise I found flying with keyboard actually easier than joystick. I guess Just Cause 2 was made for keyboard flying.

The AI of the game is not that smart, but smart enough to make the game a lot of fun.

The Logitech G35 detects surround sound but it sounds like normal stereo to me.

After you complete the main story line, the game enters mercenary mode, where you can just continue travelling around the island to blow up stuff.

Out of the blue, while listening to Roxette’s Joyride, I started seeing images of Just Cause 2. So, I made this:

Biases:

Reviewed version 1.0.0.2 of the game.

I have only played the first Grand Theft Auto and seen videos of the other GTA games. A part from having free reign to hijack vehicles and fight authorities, I do not know what other similarities or differences Just Cause 2 has with GTA.

I really liked Stranglehold.

I liked the first Grand Theft Auto.

I have completed all the main story missions once on hardcore difficulty.

DRM:

Uses Steam.

The first time I installed the game, it installed Steam and tried to update the Steam platform but failed. I had to run the installer again. The update completed on second run and I managed to reach the Steam login screen. When I entered my username and password, it crashed. Have to run the installer again. I had to retrieve a lost account and reset my password before I could login.

After three runs of the installer, I had to enter the Product Code into Steam to activate the game. Then the actual game started installing.

After game installation, I still could not play because it was getting game updates. It did not ask to get updates, it just went and got it all by itself. More waiting.

It took just over four hours before I could play the game. I am guessing it would not take so long if Steam was already installed.

Minimum Requirements (from the readme file):

  • OPERATING SYSTEM: Microsoft Windows Vista (Windows XP is unsupported)
  • DIRECTX: Microsoft DirectX 10
  • CPU: Dual-core CPU with SSE3 (Athlon 64 X2 4200 / Pentium D 3GHz)
  • RAM: 2GB system Memory
  • GRAPHICS: DX10 compatible graphics card with 256 MB of memory (Nvidia GeForce 8800 series/ ATI Radeon HD 2600 Pro)
  • SOUND: 100% DirectX 10 compatible sound card
  • DVD-ROM: Quad-speed (4x) DVD-ROM drive
  • HARD DRIVE: 10GB of free drive space
  • INPUT DEVICES: Keyboard and Mouse

Computer Played On:

  • Windows 7 64 bit.
  • Intel Core i5 2.3GHz
  • 4Gb RAM
  • NVIDIA GeForce GT 525M 1Gb RAM
  • Conexant SmartAudio with egg speakers or earphones. Or Logitech G35.
  • Graphics settings are set to whatever I feel comfortable with playing on this PC. They are usually not set to the highest settings. All screenshots are taken with my settings.

Payday 2

Payday 2 is a cooperative multiplayer-focused first-person shooter RPG where you are part of the Payday gang of heisters completing contracts for various people. Pick your character, train your skills and arm yourself as you see fit. Then go forth and steal artworks with stealth, empty vaults of banks or fight your way through the FBI to steal their server. There are plenty of contracts to complete.

Release Date:

August 2013.

Pros:

John Wick! To be honest, I only bought Payday 2 because of John Wick. Although Keanu Reeves did not provide the voice for the game’s character, he still sounded good. The graphical portrayal of John Wick does look like Keanu Reeves’s Wick though.

John Woo! He is not in the game, but his influential dual-wielding gunplay is. The dual wielding works more like Stranglehold and less like Just Cause 2. That is, you can only dual wield the same type of gun in both hands. Only pistols and sub-machine guns can be dual wielded, but there are enough skills, perks and modifications to make them fun to use. Now, if only they had the slow motion side diving action…

Although the number of maps are limited, every contract has some elements of randomness. Even if you restart a contract, things change and you have to work your strategy differently (if you decide to use any).

There is some good humour in the game. There are funny contracts, funny weapons, funny masks and then there is Jimmy. All of the heisters I have used sound all so serious or maniacal. Jimmy, who is supposed to be a maniac, simply sounds hilarious to me. Some of his speech does sound normal, but I just cannot help chuckling every time I play as him. I am also surprised John Wick has not killed him!

Except for a story, Payday 2 has all the elements of a full-blown RPG. As you complete contracts, you gain experience, level up and improve skills and perks. You also get money from contracts to buy or upgrade weapons. There are also plenty of things to collect for customising your character’s masks.

Even without any DLCs, there are plenty of weapons, upgrades, contracts and perks to choose from. Of course, DLCs do add more variety.

There are tutorial missions that teach about the different things you can do in the game. It does not teach the basics of first-person shooters so if you do not know what is WASD, you may have some trouble at the beginning.

Payday 2 is like the opposite of SWAT 4. I mean opposite in every sense of the word. Not only do you play heisters instead of SWAT, but the realism of SWAT 4 is thrown out the window to give Payday 2 a great blast of simpler shooting fun. There is still enough realism in Payday 2 to make you think, but most of the game works like Hollywood action movies.

The graphics are excellent. Everything from courier packages to weapons look excellent. The animations are also excellent. There are graphical glitches here and there, but most of the time things just look beautiful.

The audio sounds wonderful. The guns sound great. The speech sound great. The only thing that I was a little bit disappointed with is the lack of surround sound coming through my Logitech G35.

The dynamic music is not something I would listen to outside of the game, but it does sound good and enhances the game’s atmosphere. I had to turn down the volume quite a bit as I could not hear the sound of my own guns.

Cons:

I did not get a good impression on first launch. When I first started the game, it asked me if I would like to go to the basic heist mission (tutorial). I clicked yes. Then it asked if I would like to go to the safe house because I have not been there yet. I clicked yes. Then it presented a day 1 screen with Bain’s Safe House with some explanations of what it is and what can be done there. After looking around I clicked ready and NOTHING HAPPENED! I spent ten minutes looking around more trying to figure what I was supposed to do. Eventually, I gave up and went to the options and restarted the game. This time when the Day 1 mission screen appeared, there was speech with whom I assume was Bain talking. When he finished talking, I clicked ready and immediately I was taken to the actual tutorial mission. I really hope they have fixed this in one of the many patches since I started.

During the stealth portions of the game, you have to hide the bodies of people that you have silently whacked. This involves putting them in a body bag and dumping the body somewhere that no one will accidentally discover. Unfortunately, when you are out of body bags, that’s it, you cannot do anything with the body. As professional killers, I do not understand why you cannot drag the body without a bag and hide it anyway. Riddick can do it! OK, there is the question of leaving a blood trail, which leads to another undoable action. Why can’t these professional killers whack a guard from behind silently and without a mess, like Riddick? These lack of actions does make the stealth portions of Payday 2 more challenging, so some players might like it. For me, it is just extra frustration.

Argh! Invisible walls! I was very surprised to find invisible walls in such a new game. Oblivion and Skyrim are the only games in recent memory where I still hit invisible walls. All the others provide some sort of visually obvious object barrier to represent the edge of a map. It is made even worse by the fact that enemies can come from and shoot from beyond the invisible walls. Once I learned the maps, it was a bit better. Before that, though, I would happily run trying to escape and SMACK!

I have been getting quite a lot of random crashes. About one in four games crashed back to the desktop. Sometimes in-game, both single and multiplayer. Sometimes while doing things in the inventory. Once the game even crashed at the main menu when I was not doing anything.

There is no story as such for Payday 2. Some contracts have a mini-plot of sorts and each character has a short biography. That is pretty much the story for Payday 2. Just choose a character, enter Crime.Net and select a contract to participate in. Complete contracts, gain experience and money, then upgrade your character. Then it is just rinse and repeat.

A drawback of being a multiplayer-focused game is that your buddies’ AI are quite poor. On the plus side, they seem to be nearly indestructible and never run out of ammo. They do not interact with anything and just shoot and run around. You can tell them to stay or follow as well as carry stuff, but there are no commands to perform mission critical stuff like picking locks and setting up drills.

Other Points:

To use John Wick you must follow the Payday 2 community in Steam. In fact, quite a lot of stuff requires you to follow the community. Easy enough to do.

The contract selection screen, called Crime.Net, pops up different contracts with different difficulties and you choose which one to accept. You may have to wait a while before your preferred contract and difficulty shows up though. Even with the ability to pick the difficulty level, the game is quite difficult, especially when starting off. With enough money, there is also the option of buying a specific contract. In this case, you can also choose the difficulty level.

Crime.Net also serves as the matchmaking area for multiplayer games. If you pick a contract that already has people in it, you will join their game. If you pick a contract with no one, you host the game that others can join in.

Harder difficulty levels provide tougher opponents, but also higher rewards. As you level up, it is either grind through the lower difficulty contracts or play better at higher difficulty contracts to level up faster.

The SWAT guys are crazy! They do not act like SWAT at all. Instead, they just come barging in disregarding the danger it poses to any hostages you might have. Although they do act like a team, there does not appear to be any SWAT tactics in play.

Where the opposition fails in tactics, it succeeds in throwing what looks like hundreds of troopers at you. The difficulty of the game is based more on how many opponents are thrown at you and how heavily armoured they are. There are also special units like snipers, shield bearers and what looks like Big Daddies from Bioshock!

Being a cooperative multiplayer focused game, it is not surprising that you cannot save the game while on a contract. Depending on the contract type and your skills, the contract could take a while to complete. Some contracts also span several days! I have never completed a contract under nine minutes and I have encountered contracts that last longer than one hour. My average time of completion seems to be around 45 minutes.

The only penalties you suffer for failing a contract are wasted time and loss of money from any asset purchases. Even when the police raid your safe house and you fail because they stole all your bags of cash, the actual funds in your account still stays the same.

A strange thing I noticed while playing online was I did not experience any lag as such. The whole game would either play smoothly or go completely out of sync and disconnect. There were no mixed lag and smooth moments. I have no idea how the matchmaking service works and I could not find the ping times to people, but when the whole thing works, it works well.

Biases:

Payday 2 has updated many times since I started. I did not pay attention to the version number that I started playing on, but at the time of writing this review, I was on version 1.65.0 and/or Update 133.

I really liked John Wick the movie.

I really liked John Woo’s The Killer and Hard Boiled as well as the game Stranglehold.

I also really liked SWAT 4, Just Cause 2 and The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena.

I bought the Humble Starbreeze Bundle: Presents John Wick package, but started playing the game with only the John Wick Weapon Pack DLC enabled. After I got a feel for what the base game (plus John Wick Weapon Pack) was like and what it included, I then enabled the other DLCs to see what new stuff they provided.

DRM:

  • Steam.

Minimum Requirements (as stated on Steam):

  • OS:Windows 7
  • Processor:2 GHz Intel Dual Core Processor
  • Memory:4 GB RAM
  • Graphics:Nvidia & AMD (512MB VRAM)
  • DirectX®:9.0c
  • Hard Drive:31 GB HD space
  • Sound:DirectX 9.0c compatible

Computer Played On:

  • Windows 10 Home Edition
  • Intel Core i7-6700HQ 2.6GHz
  • 8GB RAM
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M 2GB RAM
  • Conexant SmartAudio HD with built-in speakers or earphones. Or Logitech G35.
  • Graphics settings are set to whatever I feel comfortable with playing on this PC. They are usually not set to the highest settings. All screenshots are taken with my settings.

The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena

Butcher Bay, the galaxy’s toughest prison. No one escapes from Butcher Bay, except Riddick of course. Sneak, punch and shoot your way out of Butcher Bay and straight into the mercenary ship Dark Athena. Bad things are happening on the Dark Athena and the crew is out to get you. More sneaking and brute forcing your way around the ship.

Release Date

April 2009.

Pros

The speech is top notch and of course there is Vin Diesel reprising his role as Riddick.

Head movement is simulated realistically much like Dark Messiah of Might and Magic. The view changes to third-person view for some things though, so not all of the game shows the nice head movement. The movement during hand-to-hand combat looks brilliant though.

Everything in the game sounds excellent. There are also plenty of ambient sounds that gives the game a very good atmosphere. My Logitech G35 picks up the surround sound from the game and it sounds great. I would say as good as S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl.

Excellent graphics. Everything looks great in the game.

There are some very good built in smarts for your character Riddick. As you turn a corner or hide behind cover, he is smart enough to move the gun to the side or above the obstacle so that you can still get a clear shot. He can also climb boxes, edges, ladders and railings.

The cutscenes are very well done. This combined with all the other great stuff in the gives the game a great atmosphere and makes it feel like you are playing in a movie. Much better than Quake 4 even.

The package includes a remake of Escape from Butcher Bay as well as Assault on Dark Athena. Having never played Escape from Butcher Bay before, it sure feels like I got two games in one.

There are guns and shooting, but that is not all. You also fight hand-to-hand with bare hands or pick from a selection of weapons. To add some icing to the cake, you can pull off special moves which look very impressive.

The story is excellent. Escape from Butcher Bay also tells of how Mr. Riddick got his fancy eyes.

There is some sort of adaptive difficulty adjuster. It does not change from Hard to Normal or easy, but I noticed that when I die and reload often enough, my health goes up. This only happens when your health is not full.

The game really rewards you for thinking like Riddick. Both Butcher Bay and Dark Athena are stealth focused. Even though there are sections where you must brute force your way through, most of the time there is an alternative way of getting through quite easily. This is most evident when playing the game on hard difficulty.

Cons

There is no volume control for sound! Sure this is only a minor con, but why are they missing such a simple thing? I am grateful that they have volume for music though.

The game has great cutscenes to progress the story, but you cannot review earlier cutscenes without loading an earlier checkpoint and playing through until you get to the cutscene point. Another annoying thing about not have save game functionality.

For some strange unknown reason, the game will randomly turn off Decals setting for the graphics. You can turn them back on, but it gets annoying. It seems to be related to blood/gore automatically turning off as well. There is a solution outlined here, but I have not tried it.

Other Points

As expected, the game is very violent and gory. I have not seen any dismemberment like Soldier of Fortune II, but you do see from first-person view, breaking someone’s neck and stabbing a person in the eye.

There is also a lot of bad language. It is expected for this game and fits well. I find it strange that there is an option to turn off gore, but not to turn off profanity. I am not sure how many people would want to turn off gore and want to keep the profanity.

The game is definitely a first-person shooter even though it does show some parts in third-person.

There is dynamic music in the game and it does transition nicely, but I did not find it that impacting.

In general the game is quite linear, but there are sections where you have to run back and forths a bit and there are parts where you can take alternate paths.

The AI is smart enough to make the game fun, but is not the smartest in the world. Probably a good thing it is not too smart, or the game would get very difficult.

There is no save game functionality. You must pass checkpoints to save your game progress. So, if you hit a difficult spot there will be a lot of doing the same thing over and over until you can get to the next checkpoint. Fortunately the game reloads the last checkpoint automatically when you die.

Biases

Reviewed GOG.com version of game.

I watched the movie Pitch Black many years ago. Apart from some guy wearing shades and can see in the dark, I do not remember anything about the movie. I do remember that I did not enjoy the movie. I will have to watch it again after completing the game.

I have completed Escape From Butcher Bay on hard difficulty and completed Assault on Dark Athena on easy. I played through Dark Athena on hard, but just could not finish the final battle on hard.

I really liked Serious Sam, all the Doom games, Quake 4 and Quake 2.

I also really liked Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, SWAT 4, Red Faction, Bioshock, Alien Vs Predator, Soldier of Fortune 2, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky, Rainbow Six, Rogue Spear and Call Of Duty 4.

I also liked Red Faction 2, Painkiller Overdose and Star Wars Battlefront 2.

I also liked Battlefield 1942, Delta Force and Spec Ops 2.

DRM

The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena is available DRM free from GOG.com.

Minimum Requirements (as stated on GOG.com)

  • Windows XP/Windows Vista/Windows 7
  • Processor: Intel Pentium D 805 or AMD Athlon X2 +3800
  • RAM: 1 GB Windows XP / 2 GB Windows Vista
  • Graphics: ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT or NVIDIA GeForce 6800 Ultra or better
  • Sound: DirectX 9.0c-compatible
  • Hard Drive Space: 11 GB

Computer Played On

  • Windows 7 64 bit.
  • Intel Core i5 2.3GHz
  • 4Gb RAM
  • NVIDIA GeForce GT 525M 1Gb RAM
  • Conexant SmartAudio with egg speakers or earphones. Or Logitech G35.
  • Graphics settings are set to whatever I feel comfortable with playing on this PC. They are usually not set to the highest settings. All screenshots are taken with my settings.

Handy Tips

When playing through one of the games, do not change the difficulty part way. At one point I changed the difficulty to normal to explore and reloaded the checkpoint and set it back to hard again to play through. At the end of the game, I did not get the accomplishment of completed the game with either normal or hard difficulty. Time to play through again.