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.

Tyrian 2000

Blast away, upgrade your weapons and even buy new ships in this classic top-down vertical scroller shooter.

Release Date

November 1999.

Pros

It is free! Get it now from GOG.com.

There are lots of weapons to get/buy.

There is a ship editor where you can change weapons for the ship, modify the armour and even change the graphics for the ship. This could be considered as cheating as you can start with a super ship, but it does give more variety to the game.

The two player mode is quite innovative in that not only are there two ships flying around blasting things, but you can join the ships together and one player controls the movement of the ship and a few guns, while the other player controls a turret on the ship.

Street Fighter type moves in a vertical scroller? It is unofficially called ‘Twiddles’. Perform a sequence of moves and button presses and something special happens. If you are lazy to find out yourself what these moves are, there is a cheat document included in the GOG.com package of the game. Or you can check out this Tyrian 2000 fan site. Be careful with the twiddles as most of them use up shields or armour when triggered.

After playing Astro Avenger I came back to Tyrian 2000 and discovered that Tyrian 2000 can actually be played using the mouse too! It does not control as easy as Astro Avenger but at least there is a choice.

Cons

Like all action scroller shooters, Tyrian 2000 gets repetitive. I find that I can always return for a quick game, but I usually cannot play one sitting for long.

Half the time, when I exit the game, DosBox freezes. I then have to kill the process manually. I am unsure whether this is a DosBox issue or a game issue, but I have run other games with DosBox and have never encountered this problem until Tyrian 2000.

Other Points

The graphics are old and appears pixelated, but the animations are very smooth and looks great.

There are four game modes: Two player arcade mode, Timed battle, Arcade mode and full game mode.

Timed battle has a time limit where you have to score as high as possible.

Arcade mode, is the standard shoot stuff, pick up weapons/upgrades and keep going. You start with a number of lives but can get more.

Full game mode differs from arcade mode in several ways. There are no weapons/upgrades to pickup. You must score points and use them to buy stuff. You can also buy different ships. The story is told in this mode and there are data cubes to collect which tells part of the story as well as provide some information. You only get one ship and if that is destroyed, you must start the level again. After each level you can save your progress though.

Play Tyrian 2000 around Christmas time.

Biases

Reviewed version 3.0

All information is based on the GOG.com packaged version of the game.

I really liked Xenon 2: Megablast and Raptor: Call of the Shadows.

I also really liked RIP 3 The Last Hero and liked Larva Mortus. They are not scroller shooters, but they are simple action shooters.

I swap between using keyboard and a gamepad to play.

I have NOT completed all the levels.

DRM

Tyrian 2000 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
  • The site also says compatible with Windows 7(32 & 64 bit). I have not verified this.

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
  • Thrustmaster Firestorm Digital 3 gamepad.
  • 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 use a joystick/gamepad and are running the GOG.com version of Tyrian 2000 via DosBox, you can set autofire on for the buttons. This helps if you do not like button mashing for some of the weapons. The down side is, the rapid firing weapons won’t fire as often AND you can trigger the twiddles unintentionally.

To turn on/off autofire in dosbox, search for autofire=false in the dosboxT2K.conf file and swap between true and false

VR Soccer ’96

A soccer/football game from the 90s that is not FIFA, but is in full 3D.

Release Date:

March 1996.

Pros:

There are eight camera angles to choose from. Some views can be zoomed in and out and some can also be moved around.

Cons:

There is commentary, but it sounds quite poor. I remember the commentary in FIFA 96 was smooth and continuous like watching a game on television. In VR Soccer ’96, the commentary is on and off, which does not give the watching TV feeling.

When you are defending sometimes the player selected will automatically change, which is very annoying in my opinion. What is worse is half the time, it will select a player in a worse position than the one you were controlling originally.

The AI controlling your team mates is completely crap when you are defending. The goal keeper is the only person that seems to do anything and even he is stupid sometimes. All your team mates will do nothing to get the ball. Sometimes they would even run away from the ball. So it is up to you and you alone to pick the right player and control him to get the ball.

When I run a player towards the ball I expect the player to get the ball. Half the time in VR Soccer ’96, the ball just bounces off the player. Why did the player not get the ball? In FIFA 96 it was so easy to get the ball.

The goal keepers act inconsistently and it does not matter which team it is. Sometimes they will do their job and jump all over the place defending the goal. Other times they just stand there and let the ball roll in. Very strange when you see it happen.

There is no manual for the GOG.com version of the game, but you can get the manual for Actua Soccer which some people say is the same game with a different name. The screen shots in the Actua Soccer manual looks the same as VR Soccer ’96, but half the things the manual says you can do, cannot be done in VR Soccer ’96. In the end I only learnt how to shoot, pass and slide tackle. Besides slide tackling, the only other way to get the ball from the opposition, is to run into them and pray.

You can set the formation before the match. It is a pity that when you start the match, the formation is reset to 4-4-2 every time. So you have to waste time setting the formation again for each and every match.

There is a bug where you see the goalie catch the ball, but the game declares a point is scored. Then the ball disappears from the goal keeper’s hands and appear like it just came out from the net.

Other Points:

The graphics look old, but is in full 3D and does show the action OK.

Music has been fixed for the GOG.com version of the game.  It doesn’t sound bad either.

You can change the names of the players, but it is quite pointless since the commentary still says their original names.

There are the usual options like whether to have offside, bookings, free kicks, substitutions and the choice of game time length from five to ninety minutes. You can also choose whether to have wind affect on the ball.

Only the international teams are available with forty-four countries available to pick from in friendly and league games and thrity-two contries in the cup game.

There is multiplayer, but I did not try it out.

Each player of a team has their own statistics. I am not sure if they affect the game though. So far no matter which team I pick, which players I use and what formation I use, I still lose matches big time.

Overall the game is very difficult to play. Part of the difficulty is due to the bad AI of your team and the strange ball getting behaviour.

I played both arcade and simulation modes. Apart from slowly clicking through all the other teams’ results in simulation mode, I did not notice any difference between the two modes. I still lose games big time in either mode.

If you fancy a challenging football/soccer game and you do not get frustrated by the very bad AI of your team mates, then VR Soccer ’96 is your game. As for me, I wish I still had FIFA 96, or RTWC 98.

Biases:

Reviewed GOG.com version of the game.

I really liked FIFA International Soccer, FIFA 96 and FIFA RTWC 98. After those I only played the odd multiplayer game of the newer FIFA games, of which I still thoroughly enjoyed.

I do not follow football/soccer in real life and do not really know which teams are good or which players are good.

Despite all the cons I still play this now and then.  Probably because I do not know what other soccer game to get and I have not found any free giveaways yet.

DRM:

The game is DRM free from GOG.com

Minimum Requirements (as stated on GOG.com):

  • Windows XP or Windows Vista
  • 1.8 GHz Processor
  • 512MB RAM (1 GB recommended)
  • 3D graphics card compatible with DirectX 7 (compatible with DirectX 9 recommended)
  • 4GB HDD (I have no idea where GOG.com got 4GB from. On my PC the game is around 170MB installed.)
  • 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.
  • Keyboard or Thrustmaster Firestorm Digital 3 gamepad.
  • 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 Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

200 years after the events of Oblivion, move to the province of Skyrim to once again live another life in the world of The Elder Scrolls. The king is dead and the region has descended into civil war. To make matters worse, dragons have suddenly appeared, destroying everything in their path. Grab your sword, don your robe and discover what is behind these troubling events.

Release Date:

November 2011.

Pros:

The graphics are fantastic. It is expected to be better being newer than Oblivion and it sure delivers. I was amazed seeing the game for the first time. Despite greater details in almost everything, the effect of the eyes adjusting to the different light levels impressed me the most.

The beginning tutorial, like Oblivion before it, is excellent. Everything is well explained and I would say very beginner friendly. It is a bit difficult for me to judge its beginner friendliness as I am very familiar with Oblivion.

To compliment the beginning tutorial is the in-game help system. It is very handy and explains things by topic.

The level of interactivity has increased since Oblivion. Forge weapons, upgrade them, cook food. You can also play hide-and-seek with children or brawl in a bar. Of course we did not buy Skyrim just to cook and play hide-and-seek. This is just some nice extras on top of a very well fleshed out fantasy RPG.

Dragons! Big, don’t mess with me, fire breathing dragons. I was especially impressed when I fought the first dragon at level four and the beast ate me for breakfast. Yup, not just breathing fire, it actually took a big bite and threw me off like a toy. I like!

Just like Oblivion before it, Jeremy Soule did a fantastic job composing the soundtrack for Skyrim. Being a big fan of the Oblivion soundtrack, I was happy to hear some “shadows” of Oblivion in Skyrim. Of course they could all be “shadows” of Morrowind. Most of the of music for Skyrim is new though.

Also like Oblivion, Skyrim provides a very large open world for exploration. I am not sure which game is larger, but the cities of Skyrim feel smaller to me.

I find the main story to be more interesting than that of Oblivion. I also find many of the side quests have quite interesting plots. The stories combined with the massive world really makes Skyrim an interesting place to lose yourself in, just like Oblivion but better.

You can get followers to join you on your adventures They will fight with you… or die trying. You can also ask them do things like pick locks. Only one follower can follow you at any one time so you cannot have the whole party of adventurers thing happening.

Just like Oblivion, Skyrim is moddable and has plenty of mods. Check out the collection at Nexusmods.

Cons:

The inventory listing looks cleaner than Oblivion, but it lacked the very important feature of sorting items by value, weight or damage/protection values.

The audio volume level is very low. I set everything at maximum and I can hardly hear the people talk. There are quite a few discussions on how to fix the audio, but nothing has worked for me.

It is possible to get stuck in places and not be able to jump out of it even though it is quite shallow.

There is a bug with the interface when selecting items to store in a chest or to sell items to a merchant. Each time I selected an item to sell or store, the highlight moves up one item and up the screen. Sell or store enough stuff and the highlight will completely go off the screen! Minor but annoying.

Other Points:

The combat feels a lot easier than that of Oblivion. With unmodded Oblivion I had to play on the easiest difficulty as I was dying so quickly. In Skyrim, I started playing on the hardest difficulty of legendary, but dropped back to master difficulty. At the second hardest difficulty of master, I found the game challenging without dying every few minutes.

More like Dark Messiah of Might and Magic and less like Oblivion, Skyrim has done away with classes. All skill levels are raised by performing their specific activity and the class your character will develop into is pretty much what you like doing most.

In Oblivion you were a prisoner that escaped, because the Emperor had to use your cell to escape. In Skyrim you are a prisoner again. This time though you escape because a dragon came just when you were about to get your head chopped off. Is there something about prisoners becoming heroes that I do not know about?

The levelling up is very similar to Oblivion in that as you use your skills, they raise in value. Raise enough skills and you level up. What is different is, each time you level up, you select whether to increase health, magic or stamina. You also gain a point to spend on perks.

There are quite a few other things that have changed since Oblivion. Equipment no longer degrades, so there is no more repairing. You no longer have a mobile potion factory. Some of the skills have been merged. You must now arm your spell with your hands before you can cast them.

People can permanently die in Skyrim, including shop keepers. Once they are gone, that is one less person you can sell stuff to. It is good that the game has this level of realism but it is also bad as I always liked certain people to be immortal to make my own gaming life easier.

Biases:

Reviewed Legendary Edition with all released DLCs, version 1.9.32.0.8.

Initially I played the game unmodded. Later I installed the Convenient Horses mod.

I have not completed the main story of Skyrim.

I am a big fan of Oblivion, but I have never played Morrowing or any other Elder Scrolls game.

I liked Dark Messiah of Might and Magic.

DRM:

  • Steam.

Minimum Requirements (as stated on box):

  • OS: Windows 7/Vista/XP (32 or 64 bit)
  • Processor: Dual Core 2.0 GHz or equivalent processor
  • Memory: 2 GB System RAM
  • Hard Disk Space: 9 GB free HDD space
  • Video Card: DirectX 9.0c compliant video card with 512MB of RAM
  • Sound: DirectX compatible sound card

Computer Played On:

  • Windows 7 64 bit.
  • Intel Core i5 2.3GHz
  • 4GB RAM
  • NVIDIA GeForce GT 525M 1GB RAM
  • Conexant SmartAudio with headphones.
  • 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.

Recommended Mods:

Convenient Horses – Gives a lot of options for horse management. The main thing I use this mod for is calling my horse. I seem to lose my horse a lot.

Sacred

A demon unleashed. Evil factions draw near. A kingdom under threat. And you are thrown right in the middle to fix it all. Welcome to Sacred. Choose from eight characters to roam the world of Ancaria. Have fun beating up loads of enemies, while helping a sheep get back home and gearing up your character for bigger better fights.

Release Date

October 2004.

Pros

There is a very good tutorial. Text boxes pop up when you reach certain areas and explain how to play the game. For veterans, they can be skipped totally as well.

There are plenty of animals walking around. People go around doing their own thing. Although they may not have any purpose in life, it does make the world feel alive. Oblivion had animals and people roaming around as well, but I did not find the game as alive as Sacred.

The graphics and animations are not as smooth as Torchlight, but does look nicer in my opinion. The game is very detailed with landscapes of all sorts, different buildings, caves that you can enter , different interactable items, arrows sticking out of monsters and much more. For the gore conscious, please note that the details also show dismemberment, blood flowing from the dead and exploding bodies.

There are loads of side quests which you can choose to complete or ignore. So far I have found the many side quests more interesting than the main campaign quest, even though some of them are a bit silly. There are no puzzle type quests, so some RPG players may not enjoy this aspect.

There are tons of items to loot and great crafting options.

When the music does play, it sounds good. It does not play enough though.

The world is quite open and very large. The roaming restriction by nature’s barriers may be by design, but the world still allows for significant free roaming. If you roam too far though, you might encounter opponents that will smack you back to town.

Unlike Torchlight and Marvel Heroes, you can actually save and load your game manually. So, save before trying something crazy. Have multiple saves to try different things and reload if you cannot bear to die and lose gold.

There are eight characters to choose from. That is five more than Torchlight, but obviously a lot less than Marvel Heroes. Having played the Wood Elf and the Daemon, I would say that the different characters are quite different. Each has their own skills and abilities, and have their own specialist equipment.

The AI is good and varied. Some enemies will run away, while others fight to the death. Some of your allies can and will fight with you and they actually help, while others will always run away. Overall, the different NPCs react differently and in my opinion react quite well for what they are.

Sacred is not the first game with horses, but it is the first game I have played that has horse charge! Use your horse to run into enemies to damage them and knock them over.

The speech, although limited, does sound good. Not as good as the likes of Marvel Heroes, but much better than that of Torchlight.

The sounds are also good. Weapon strikes. Spell casting. The death cries of goblins. Mooing cows. They all sound good. Unfortunately, Sacred cannot detect surround sound with the Logitech G35.

Spell/Special Combos! I have never seen this in any other RPG. You can create combos to cast/use spells/specials automatically in order with one mouse click. It is like creating macros to cast all your favourite spells in one go, or crafting a special whacking sequence. It is not for free though as you need gold to build the combos and you have to wait quite a long time after each use.

One very handy feature in Sacred is the auto-collect. Just press ‘a’ and your character will run around picking up loot. It sure beats clicking on every item. It is also configurable to pick up everything, just gold and unique items, or just gold.

There be dragons! They are not just small type dragons like the dragonkin of Torchlight. We are talking big fire breathing dragons that will roast you in seconds if you are not prepared. This came as a refreshing surprise as I cannot remember the last time I saw a dragon in an RPG.

Cons

The user interface is not as good as Torchlight and this does make Sacred a bit more difficult to play. The keys cannot be changed either.

It is a bit difficult to position the mouse cursor on an enemy to attack. Many times when I thought the cursor was over the enemy, it actually was not and my character was just running around rather than actually attacking.

The graphics resolution cannot be changed. It is fixed at 1024×768.

Riding horses is great, but there is one quite annoying bug. You can only mount a horse from the horses left. So if the horse is positioned with something in the way, you just cannot mount it. You then have to walk away far enough then call your horse again and hope it does not move to a place with more things in the way.

Other Points

Compared to Torchlight and Marvel Heroes, Sacred has less action. There is more going from place to place where there are only a few enemies to fight. This makes Sacred feel more like a traditional RPG rather than an action RPG. Do not let your guard down too much though, as there are areas with plenty of enemies to beat up.

There is good information that must be collected. They do help with the game, but it also means there is a lot of reading involved.

If you die, you will respawn at the last check point and lose some gold. This is not that big a deal as you can save your game at any time and reload it.

The Gold edition of Sacred comes with the extra Underworld campaign. I have not tried out the extra campaign though.

There is a day/night cycle, but other than changing the cosmetic lighting, it does not seem to do anything else. I have not played using the Vampiress character, but the manual does mention about suffering damage during daytime.

There is some light humour in the game.

Biases

Reviewed Sacred Gold version 2.28 of the game.

I have been playing using the Daemon and Wood Elf characters.

I really enjoyed Torchlight and Marvel Heroes.

I also really enjoyed Oblivion.

I have only played the single player main campaign and I am far from completing it. According to the game stats, I have only explored 2.25% of the world.

DRM

Sacred is available DRM free from GOG.com

Minimum Requirements (as stated on GOG.com)

  • Windows XP or Windows Vista
  • 1 GHz Processor (1.4 GHz recommended)
  • 512MB RAM (1 GB recommended)
  • 3D graphics card compatible with DirectX 7 (compatible with DirectX 9 recommended)
  • Mouse, Keyboard
  • Compatibility notice: This game is NOT compatible with Intel integrated graphics cards.

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.