Bioshock

Single player only, heavily story driven first-person shooter(FPS). Your plane crashed into the sea but you survived and swim to a nearby island. On the island, inside a building there is a submarine ball thing that takes you to an under water city where some nasty things have happened. Time to find some guns and shoot some nasty peop… errr things!

Release Date

August 2007.

Pros

The story is very very good. From start to finish it is good all the way.

The graphics are top notch. Even though I have to play with the lowest graphics details, it still looks great.

The main sound effects and the ambient sounds are very good. They really give the game a very good atmosphere. Everything from the gun shots and zapping people with electricity to flowing water and people’s footsteps sound good. The voice acting is also top notch.

Surround sound is evident with the Logitech G35 and it sounds very good.

The Vita-Chambers are a nice little feature that works like save points or check points in other games. If you pass a Vita-Chamber and die later on, you get resurrected in the last Vita-Chamber you went passed. Unlike other games though, the game continues from when you died. So all enemies killed will remain dead and all ammo used will not be refilled. The other difference is, that your health and Eve power is only at half when you are resurrected. Although some people complain that this is cheating, I think it is a fantastic idea that saves you from reloading everytime you die. And for those that complain, there is a very easy solution, DON’T USE THEM.

Has a good assortment of guns, ammunition types and you can also upgrade your guns. The guns also behave as expected with recoil and accuracy differences.

Apart from guns, Bioshock has got this thing got Plasmids. Plasmids are like drugs that you take to give yourself special powers like shoot lightning, start a fire or use telekinesis. You could say it is like taking drugs to get Force(Star Wars) powers.

There is also a good RPG type element in the game. As you progress you can upgrade yourself to be better at certain things like hack machines better or increase overall health or be more resistant to fire.

The AI for Bioshock is quite good. The enemies know how to hide and even go and heal themselves if injured badly. Although good, it is not the best I have seen. Sometimes you can just wait for them and they will keep coming round the same corner and then retreating back when they get shot.

Although there is no tutorial, each feature of the game is introduced slowly as you play through the game.

Cons

There are no cons! Bioshock is just simply brilliant!

Other Points

This is the first game I have played with high level profanity in it. Although it does fit the game well, some people might not like it.

Bioshock is a single player ONLY first person shooter. I do not think this is a bad thing though because it is a very well presented single player first person shooter.

This is not a simple run and gun game. Ammunition is in short supply and there are many things to do like hacking machines, upgrading your self with different abilities and looting dead bodies and containers. You can also used hacked turrets to take care of the enemies which saves your own ammunition.

I read that there are two and a half endings. Why half an ending? Apparently two of the endings are very similar and so does not really make a proper third ending. I have only finished it once so I don’t know what the other one and a half is like.

Biases

Reviewed version 1.1 of game.

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

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

I have not played System Shock or System Shock 2.

I have completed the game once.

DRM

For the Direct2Drive(now Gamefly) version, the game must connect to the Internet to activate on first startup.

Patches

1.1 – Added an option to turn off the Vita-Chambers. Also a field of view fix for widescreen displays, although I didn’t notice any difference. The Direct2Drive(now Gamefly) game now comes pre-patched to v1.1.

Retail v1.1 patch can be downloaded here.

Minimum Requirements (as stated on Gamefly)

  • Minimum OS: Windows XP (SP2) or Windows Vista
  • Minimum Processor: 2.5GHz Pentium 4 or equivalent
  • Minimum Memory: 1.0GB RAM
  • Minimum Graphics: Pixel Shader 3.0 compliant video card with 128 MB RAM and floating point frame buffer blending
  • Minimum Hard Drive: 7.0 GB free hard disk space
  • Minimum Sound: 100% DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card

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
  • 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 -nointro to the Bioshock shortcut to skip the Unreal Engine/Nvidia/2kGames intro videos.

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.

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

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

A first/third person role playing game where you can live in the fantasy world of Cyrodiil. Be a wizard or a knight. Be a good guy or a bad guy. Do this quest or that quest. It is all up to you.

Release Date

March 2006.

Pros

A very very very large game. And it has an open gameplay structure. You can choose to complete the main story quests or complete the many many side quests. After completing the main quest, the game keeps going, so you can finish all the other many side quests. Although not the first game to do so, Oblivion does have some quests that can be completed in different ways, including failing the quest.

Excellent music. It really adds to the atmosphere for the game.

Excellent graphics. Even though I cannot run it on full, the game simply looks beautiful. The outside scenery, interior of buildings and dungeons, the animals, people and monsters, it all looks great. Of course we also have to thank the map designers and character builders for the good looks.

Lots and lots of mods to try. Check out The Elder Scrolls Nexus

There is day and night cycles with lighting changes depending on the time. The time also affects when shops are open and whether people are a sleep or roaming around. Daytime also affects you badly if you are a vampire.

There are nice weather effects.

Lots of classes, lots of skills.

Cons

You can tell this game was designed for gaming consoles. It only uses a handful of keys on the keyboard. Just like enabling modding for the PC version, they should have used more keys for shortcuts and make them customisable.

There are a few buggy quests. Luckily there are mods out there to fix some of them.

The patch that comes with the Knights of the Nine DVD did not work. I had to download another patch and reinstall the whole Oblivion because it stuffed up the game.

Other Points

Knights of the Nine adds extra quests and locations and stuff. I am really not sure if it adds a lot of value to the plain Oblivion because I never played plain Oblivion by itself.

Some people in the game can die and when they do, it is permanent. This is all nice and real but it also means that if a shopkeeper dies, that is one less person you can sell stuff to.

Biases

Reviewed version 1.2.0416 of game.

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

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

I have never played any of the other Elder Scrolls games.

I have completed the main storyline campaign.

Mods used:

    1. Auto potion.
    2. Harvest flora.
    3. Harvest containers.
    4. Unofficial Oblivion Patch.
    5. BTMod.

DRM

The disc must be in the drive to play.

Patches

1.2.0416. UK/EU/Aussie – Patches the game up to version 1.2.0416 for UK, Europe and Aussie versions of the game.

1.2.0416. Other versions of the game – No comment.

Minimum Requirements (as stated on box)

  • Windows XP
  • 512MB System RAM
  • 2Ghz Intel Pentium 4 or equivalent processor
  • 128MB Direct3D compatible video card and DirectX 9.0 compatible driver
  • 8x DVD-ROM drive
  • 4.6 GB free hard disk space
  • DirectX 9.0c (included)
  • DirectX 8.1 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 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.

Handy Tips

If you have a joystick connected to the PC and you do not want Oblivion to detect it, go to the My Documents\My Games\Oblivion folder, edit the Oblivion.ini file. Look for the line bUse Joystick=1 and change the “1” to “0”. Found this from 2K Support.

Recommended Mods

Auto Potion – Automatically use potions when your health or magicka is too low. Very handy.

Harvest Flora – When you harvest plants and herbs and stuff, they visibly disappear so you can see that they have been harvested.

Harvest Containers – When you search boxes and other containers, you can see that they have been searched.

Unofficial Oblivion Patch – It fixes a lot of bugs that was not fixed by the 1.2.0416 official patch.

BTmod – Improves the games user interface to be easier to use.

Free Levelling – Monsters and loot of different levels appear randomly. So when you are at low level, you will encounter high level monsters and get high level loot. This makes the game a lot harder when you first start off. Not recommended for first time players, but it is good fun once you know the ins and outs of Oblivion.

Bank of Cyrodiil – Gives a nice bank for you to deposit gold and get interest. You can also buy a safe deposit chest to dump stuff, which is the same as buying a house but cheaper. I get missing textures or meshes, but other than the cosmetic problem, the mod works fine.

CM Partners Mod Basic – Provides companions to join you in your quest. You can get multiple companions to join and they can be commanded to do many things. With extra people fighting with you, it also means the game’s balance is thrown off. A small price to pay for some extra fun.

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.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky

The prequel to S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky is a first-person shooter(FPS) set in the wastelands around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. The land is crawling with mutants, dangerous anomalies, treasured artifacts and people willing to kill for those artifacts. You are a mercenary that survived an anomalous blowout. Saved by a faction called Clear Sky, your job now is to find out why the blowouts are occurring and try to stop them.

Release Date

August 2008.

Pros

The graphics are slightly better than S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl. And the animations look a bit better too. The user interface has also been modified to look more atmospheric.

This article was originally written based on my experience with Clear Sky on my older Windows XP PC with the specifications listed on this page. The screen shots were also taken with this XP PC listed. Having got a newer Windows 7 PC, I played Clear Sky again and was truly amazed how much better the graphics are. I still cannot max out the graphics settings, but the game looks much better than S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl.

Sounds are also slightly better than S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl.

Faction wars are a nice addition. But they are also available in the first S.T.A.L.K.E.R. via mods.

You can custom upgrade your weapons and armour.

There is now dynamic action music and it works pretty well.

The AI is just as good as Shadow of Chernobyl.

Clear Sky has mods. Check out the recommended mods section of this page.

Cons

The story is nowhere near as good as the first S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and is also shorter. Even though Clear Sky is better in almost every aspect, I do recommend playing through Shadow of Chernobyl first to be able to understand the plot for Clear Sky.

Clear Sky only has one ending.

The random tasks you can get is buggy. Sometimes the game just does not let you complete a task even though it is done.

There is a bug where I cannot see fences sometimes. It is like walking into an invisible wall.

There is quite a few random crash to desktop bugs. I even reached a point where it was crashing consistently at the same point that I could not continue from my save game.

Other Points

The artifacts’ powers in Clear Sky are different to S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl even though they have the same name and look the same.

The night time is much darker than vanilla Shadow of Chernobyl, but of course getting the Oblivion Lost mod for Shadow of Chernobyl fixed that.

Biases

Reviewed version 1.5.10 of the game.

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

I also really liked Alien Vs Predator, Soldier of Fortune 2 and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl.

I also liked Star Wars Battlefront 2.

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

I have not played multiplayer for Clear Sky.

I have completed the single player story campaign on the easiest difficulty.

DRM

CD-Key must be entered when installing the game.

Uses Tages protection. The first time I ran the game, it asked to install the Tages driver.

The disc must be in the drive to play.

Patches

Make sure to install the patches BEFORE seriously playing the single player campaign. Save games in some old versions are not compatible with newer versions of the game.

1.5.10 – Bug fixes and a whole bunch of other stuff.

Minimum Requirements (as stated on box)

  • Microsoft Windows 2000(SP4)/XP/Vista
  • Intel Pentium 4 2.0 Ghz / AMD XP 2200+
  • 512 MB RAM
  • 10 GB free hard disc space
  • 128 MB DirectX 8.0 compatible card / nVIDIA GeForce 5700 / ATI Radeon 9600
  • Keyboard, Mouse
  • LAN / Internet for Multiplayer

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
  • 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 run Clear Sky in DirectX 10 mode and the game is crashing on start up on a Windows 7 64bit PC, it may be caused by the Platform Update for Windows 7×64-Edition (KB2670838). This was an optional update for my PC and from reading around, it was supposed to enhance some graphics stuff and prepare the PC for IE 10. I uninstalled the update and Clear Sky started running fine. Checking a few games before and after uninstalling the update, I did not notice any performance changes. I found this information from this forum thread.

Recommended Mods

Smart Mod Manager – A nice little application for loading and unloading all your Clear Sky mods.

Clear Sky Real Weapon Names – Shows the real names for the weapons in the game.

Clear Sky Complete – Improves the game in many ways including better graphics.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: A great series of first-person shooter games where you roam an open world full of dangers and treasures. Call of Pripyat: The final episode that takes you back to The Zone to survive all the radioactivity, anomalies, mutants and of course other people, while trying to discover what happened to the military choppers sent to the centre of The Zone, but disappeared.

Release Date

October 2009.

Pros

The S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series have always had excellent atmosphere. Call of Pripyat takes it one step further by giving the option to turn off the user interface. It makes it a lot more difficult to play, but at least the option is there for those that want to see the game this way.

The graphics have improved in all aspects since Clear Sky. The things I noticed most though is the better lighting and shadow effects.

Just like Clear Sky and Shadow of Chernobyl before it, Call of Pripyat sounds excellent and gives an awesome surround sound experience.

The S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games have always had a creepy atmosphere, but the slight ambient sounds and music in Call of Pripyat gives it an even creepier atmosphere than the rest.

The whole Zone environment has improved since Clear Sky. There is a lot more random activity than the previous games. Groups of people move around and engage in combat. Mutants roam around and sometimes even wander near safe zones… Well, if you can call it a safe zone.

The AI has improved since Clear Sky. The stupid gun fighters are still stupid, but then there are smart fighters as well, and they indeed are smart. This is the first fps game where an enemy went into hiding and never came back out. I had to go in after him and he was there waiting for me.

The equipment customisation and dynamic action music from Clear Sky is also present in Call of Pripyat.

The side missions are more interesting than in previous games. Some of the missions are quite puzzling and requires good exploration as well as good thinking to solve. Even more so than Shadow of Chernobyl.

The story is very interesting. Not as awesome as Shadow of Chernobyl, but is definitely better than Clear Sky. The ending gives a conclusion to the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series, but at the same time also leaves enough room to make a sequel. Depending on the decisions you made in the game, different people can have different endings. There is no ending movie as such. Instead, a slide show plays as the conclusion is narrated to you.

The weapons’ weights not only affects your in-game inventory, but also influences how fast you can turn the weapon with the mouse. This was most noticeable when I first picked up the light machine gun, although different guns do move at different rates. I do wonder whether this was already part of Shadow of Chernobyl and Clear Sky as I only noticed it in Call of Pripyat. It sure adds to the realism that the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series holds so high.

Cons

Faction wars in Clear Sky are not in Call of Pripyat. Yes, people from different factions still duke it out when they randomly meet each other in The Zone, but there are no missions for you to help take over checkpoints.

The game seemed perfect at the beginning. Everything worked well and smoothly. Then I reached Pripyat and the game started crashing randomly now and then.

Other Points

In general Call of Pripyat is pretty much an improved version of Clear Sky with new content.

The artifacts’ effects are similar to Clear Sky with some slight modifications.

There are only three map areas which is about half the number of the previous games. On the plus side, each of the map areas in Call of Pripyat are huge! Believe me, you will not get bored.

Story wise I do recommend playing through Shadow of Chernobyl first, then optionally play through Clear Sky and finally conclude with Call of Pripyat. Although good fun, I think Clear Sky is the weakest of the three games and the story does not add much to Call of Pripyat or Shadow of Chernobyl.

Biases

Reviewed version 1.6.02 of the game.

I am a big fan of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky.

I have completed Call of Pripyat once on the easiest difficulty level of rookie.

I only played the single player campaign.

DRM

A DRM free version is available from GOG.com.

The version I got from GamersGate uses Tages DRM.

A CD-Key must be entered during installation. It looks like this is for Internet multiplayer.

When you start the game for the first time, another serial number must be entered. Then information (do not know what information) is sent to the Tages server to get an activate code.

For me the game tried to connect to the Tages server and failed. It then gave an option to send information to the Tages server via http but that failed as well. I just could not connect to the Tages server via the Tages client or the web browser. In the end I did manage to get the activation code by using the http method and connecting through my VPN. I can only guess that the Tages server does not serve the Asian region or something. What ever the true reason is it is not good. If I did not have VPN it would be another case of DRM punishing customer.

Note that the GamersGate edition of Call of Pripyat provides the keys/serial in the wrong order on their website. The second number must be entered on installation and the first number must be entered when first starting the game.

It appears that GamersGate has got a new version of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat which uses Starforce instead of Tages. So, all of the stuff I wrote above is probably not relevant anymore.

Minimum Requirements (as stated in the readme)

  • Microsoft® Windows® XP (Service Pack 2)
  • Processor type: Intel Pentium 4 2.2 Ghz / AMD XP 2200+
  • 768 MB RAM
  • 6 GB available hard drive space
  • 128 MB DirectX® 9.0 compatible card / nVIDIA® GeForce™ 5900 / ATI Radeon® 9600 XT
  • DirectX® 9.0 compatible sound card
  • LAN/Internet connection with low latency Cable/DSL speeds for multiplayer
  • Keyboard, 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.

Handy Tips

If you run Call of Pripyat in DirectX 10 mode and the game is crashing on start up on a Windows 7 64bit PC, it may be caused by the Platform Update for Windows 7×64-Edition (KB2670838). This was an optional update for my PC and from reading around, it was supposed to enhance some graphics stuff and prepare the PC for IE 10. I uninstalled the update and the game started running fine. Checking a few games before and after uninstalling the update, I did not notice any performance changes. I found this information from this forum thread.

Recommended Mods

Call of Pripyat Complete – This is an amazing mod that brings better graphics, sounds, Yakety Sax and more.