Death Rally

A top down racing game where you can shoot the other cars and ram them off the road, do whatever it takes to win. Win money, upgrade your car and race some more.

Release Date

Late 1996.

Pros

Death Rally is a FREE game! Get it from here.

Simple race your car and shoot the opposition.

There is an RPG element similar to Death Track of old. You win money and then buy car upgrades and weapons or repair your car for the next race.

Cons

Multiplayer was disabled in the free windows version.

Not enough weapons. The only weapons are guns, mines and ramming spikes.

Not enough tracks. I got bored of each league of tracks quite fast before I moved on to the next league.

Other Points

Very similar to Micro Machines V3/V4 except that you have to get money to buy weapons and upgrade your car.

If you have played AutoDuel of old, Death Rally is kind of like the racing version of that.

Another way of thinking of this game is a top down version of Death Track.

Biases

I really liked Death Track and AutoDuel.

I also really liked Micro Machines V3 and V4.

I have completed the whole game.

DRM

Death Rally is DRM free.

Minimum Requirements (from Readme)

  • Operating System: Windows XP SP3 is the minimum requirement. Windows Vista and Windows 7 both work as well, in 32-bit and 64-bit configurations. The game may work on older Windows versions but it has not been tested.
  • Hardware: Death Rally for Windows is a light-weight game, and should run well with different hardware configurations and PCs. If your PC runs any other games you should be OK. It has been tested to run e.g. on Intel Atom-based netbooks. Sound card and OpenGL support are recommended, but neither is absolutely required.
  • Gamepad support: Death Rally for Windows supports one stick control and 4 buttons. The gamepad needs to be plugged in before launching the game.
  • Multiplayer: Unfortunately one of the best aspects of Death Rally, multiplayer, is not available in this release. It was built for the modem and IPX network era, and would have needed a full rewrite. That was sadly out of the scope on what we could do with this free release.

Computer Played On

  • Core 2 Duo 2.16GHz
  • 2Gb RAM
  • ATI Radeon X1600 256Mb RAM (laptop version)
  • 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.

Sins of a Solar Empire

A very large space based real time strategy game with lots of things to research and big battles to fight.

Release Date

February 2008.

Pros

There are lots of things to research and use. They are split into war stuff, non-war stuff and stuff to support a larger fleet.

The three sides are quite different.

The graphics are beautiful. The ships, structures and space battles all look great. However, I do think Empire at War looks better.

There are a bunch of fixed maps of different sizes to play through. When you get bored of those you can build your own maps or just play a randomly generated one.

The battles can get huge! We are talking masses and masses of ships shooting everywhere and powers being activated. Luckily, even these chaotic battles are easily managed with the well-thought-out user interface and the smart AI on your side.

Cons

There are no storyline campaigns. It is just one battle after another of your choosing.

The game is insanely difficult. Sure the tutorials explain a lot of how to play the game but the AI is just way too good. Even on easy I only win half the games.

To get the latest game patches, you must install GameStop App.

Other Points

As good as this game is, after playing Empire at War, I prefer to play that over Sins anytime. After this write up it is unlikely I will return to Sins because I enjoy Empire at War so much more.

Biases

Reviewed version 1.193.078 of the game.

I really liked Star Wars Empire at War, Act of War, Dune 2, Command And Conquer, C&C Tiberian Sun, C&C3 Tiberium Wars, Rise of Nations and The Moon Project.

I also liked Kingmania, Empire Earth 2, Dark Reign, Warcraft 1 and 2, Supreme Commander and Total Annihilation.

I did not like Homeworld as I kept running out of resources and found it too difficult.

This is a re-review as I have played Sins of a Solar Empire a few years back, but the review write up was not up to current standard.

DRM

When you first start the game, there is an activation key to enter and the game connects to a server to register the game.

Patches

To get the latest game patches, you must install GameStop App.

Minimum Requirements (as stated on box)

  • Windows XP SP2/Vista
  • 1.8GHz Single Core Processor
  • 512 MB RAM (1GB RAM for Windows Vista)
  • 128 MB 3D Video Card
  • (GeForce 6600/Radeon 9600 or Better)
  • DirectX 9.0c
  • Broadband Connection for Internet Multiplayer

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.

Fort Zombie

Choose your fort. Find survivors, weapons and supplies while trying to survive the masses of zombies that want your brains. Prepare your fort for the ultimate show down against the great zombie horde.

Release Date

October 2009.

Pros

Fort Zombie puts the “apocalypse” in zombie apocalypse. This is the first zombie game, I have played where a horde of zombies really is a horde! I lost count how many have appeared during the final show down, but I am guessing more than 100.

Fort Zombie is not just about getting guns and ammo and mowing down zombies. There are different weapon types and different guns need different ammo. You need to find weapons and ammo first. Then you have to decide who best to give those weapons to.

There are different zombie types with different abilities. For instance, the jogger zombie is faster than the rest, the police zombie shoots you and the doctor zombie puts other zombies back together.

The RPG component of the game is quite good. Stats and skills controls pretty much how good a character can do certain things. If the character has no pistol skills, shooting at close range will miss often. So if you are looking to gun down zombies nicely, you will need to skill up the guns skills. There are no experience points and levels either. Skills are improved by using them.

Strategy also plays a big role in Fort Zombie. Basically, you have twelve days to find survivors, find supplies and find weapons to build up your fort ready for the big zombie horde. Then you have to manage the people to help you get stuff, build barricades for your fort and heal others. Time is always ticking away and every choice can make the final show down impossible or just insanely difficult.

Health management is very detailed in the game. Not only is there body component damage, but they affect your performance too. You cannot run if your leg is injured badly. You cannot aim properly if your arm is injured badly. Once your health is down, doing first aid is not going to bring your health up much. You have to get proper medical treatment and rest to heal nicely. The whole health system reminds me of S.T.A.L.K.E.R., but even more realistic.

The survivors, supplies, weapons and locations are all randomly generated which gives some replay value. You will notice the same buildings appear over and over again, but where they are placed relative to each other is different.

Cons

I do not know if this is a problem with the Direct2Drive version only, but when I tried to install the game on a drive that is not C: drive, it kept complaining that C: drive did not have enough space. Yes, C: drive did not have enough space, but I selected my other drive which had plenty of space.

The tutorial is too basic to learn to play, especially being a difficult game to play.

The AI for the survivors is terrible. Sure they can help you out by looting and attacking zombies, but trying to lead them is a real chore. They get stuck at so many places which means you have to back track and try to lead them slowly or through another way. They even get stuck behind low fences that zombies are smart enough to climb over. Sometimes they can also get into a place and permanently get stuck.

The first time I installed it, when I tried to start the game, it just crashed on start up and keeps doing so with no messages. After reading around, I installed Microsoft XNA Framework Redistributable 3.0 and it started up fine. Why did they not check that the framework is there and give a message, rather than just crash.

Apart from the main menu, the game is completely devoid of music. Sure this means you can listen for zombies better, but it also makes the game feel more boring.

The graphics were quite bad. It was nice that the zombies limbs and heads come off and can also be put back together, but the whole game looked worse than Red Faction.

The sounds were also quite bad. Other than a few zombie sounds, everything else sounded weak.

The volume control does not work properly. When you are in the game and you adjust the volume it is fine, but when you restart the game, the play back of sound is back to default even though the volume slider shows as adjusted.

You are supposed to run and hide from zombies when a fight is not necessary, but it is quite hard to do so when zombies with guns can see and shoot through walls. This is an annoying bug that happens half the time.

Other Points

For anyone that has not reached this conclusion yet, I will state it plain and simply right here. Fort Zombie is not an action game. The game stresses heavily on survival and even the manual says that running away is always an option. If you like to fight more than run, you will die.

If I could pick only one genre for the game I would say it is an RPG. Overall I would say it is a RPG/strategy/survival game.

The story is minimal and the completion time is quite short at twelve days before the zombie horde attacks. Bear in mind though, Fort Zombie’s focus is on whether you can take different character types and build up your chosen fort to be able to withstand the zombie horde.

The game difficulty ranges from impossible to insanely difficult. Even the first stage of getting to the fort took me twenty goes before I got there. Then the game starts good and proper. Whether it is the first stage, the middle of the game or the final show down, you will die and die a lot, which also means a lot of reloading.

The controls take a bit of getting used to, but once you do, it works out quite good.

There are random events like zombies attacking your fort before the final show down and being ambushed when going on a mission. Other than wasting your ammo and threatening you life, they do not add anything to the game.

Biases

Reviewed version 1.0.7

I have never played any game similar to Fort Zombie. The only games that came to mind while I was playing are Alone in the Dark and Resident Evil. They have zombies but they play nothing like Fort Zombie.

I have completed the game a few times, but only on the easiest level of the police station.

DRM

Fort Zombie is DRM free.

Minimum Requirements (from the manual)

  • OS: Windows® XP SP2 / Vista / 7
  • CPU: Intel® Core2® Duo 6600 or equivalent processor
  • RAM: 2 GB
  • Video: DirectX 9.0c SM2 compliant graphics card with 512M of RAM (SM3 compliant graphics card with 1G of RAM preferred)
  • Drive: 4X PC DVD-ROM
  • Sound: DirectX® 9.0c compatible sound card
  • Available Hard Disk Space: Approx. 1 GB
  • DirectX®: 9.0c

Computer Played On

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

Handy Tips

It is a very good idea to read the manual and understand how the game works.

 

Red Faction

Futuristic first-person shooter. You are a miner on Mars working for a bad bad company called Ultor. One day the miners decide to revolt against the company and that’s when you pick up your first pistol and start fighting your way out of the Ultor mines.

Release Date

September 2001.

Pros

There is a nice tutorial that takes you through how to play the game. But it does assume that you know basics of first person shooter games like WASD for movement.

The Geo-Mod game engine allows for some environmental destructibility. The destruction is nowhere near the amount of Crysis or Stranglehold but it is still cool how you can blow away the wall when the door is locked.

There is a good assortment of weapons including the usual, shotgun, rifle and rocket launcher. But also has other unusual weapons like riot shield and tazer baton. The weapons are quite realistic. Just because you have the crosshair on the bad guy, it does not mean that your shot will hit. And also do not expect to hit anything at range with the shotgun.

You get to drive vehicles like submarines and jeeps and also get to use turrets! There is also a floating fighter type aircraft where you fly through tunnels like Descent.

The level designs vary from combat in wide open spaces to corridor shoot outs.

The story starts out slow and boring but then picks up as you go deeper into the game. It is actually quite interesting. Not as good as Bioshock but is better than Doom3 and Painkiller Overdose.

The AI is pretty good but not the best I have seen. Red Faction’s AI is actually quite similar to Bioshock’s AI in that they will try to hide if under fire and then come out again after a while. Just like Bioshock though it is quite predictable sometimes. They will hide, then come running around the same corner again if you wait long enough. This doesn’t happen all the time but it does happen.

There are mods for Red Faction. Check out Red Faction View.

The multiplayer component is also excellent. The Geo-Mod engine really adds to the fun and variety of the game. Each map starts out pristine but soon enough there will be holes in the ground and walls have disappeared and you cannot hide behind there anymore.

Cons

Although the main scripted speeches are voiced alright, the generic comments made by the generic people sound quite poor.

I find the music weird. Maybe they were trying to capture the atmosphere on Mars but it was just too weird for me.

Other Points

This is one of those rare games where I actually have the graphics set to maximum. That is because it is quite old (2001). An old but good game.

This is not a simple run and gun game. The weapons are realistic and the AI knows how to use them. Sometimes you have no choice but to run and gun and other times doing that will get you killed very fast. there are also stealth sections of the game where you have to keep your silenced pistol hidden and try and sneak around. You can use the the pistol if necessary but then you will have to hide the body and turn off the alarm (or wait till the alarm switches off).

The multiplayer component is quite fast paced and the realism of the weapons means that you either kill or be killed very easily.

Unfortunately at the time of writing this, not many people play online anymore.

Biases

Reviewed version 1.20.

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

I also really liked Bioshock, Alien Vs Predator, Soldier of Fortune 2, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl and Call Of Duty 4.

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

I have completed the single player story campaign.

DRM

I do not think there is any DRM. The disc is not required in the drive to play and there is no serial key to enter.

Patches

1.20 – No comment.

Pure Faction 3.0 – a community made patch which adds a lot of good functionality to Red Faction including automatic map downloads for multiplayer, larger resolution settings and server creation assistance. Highly recommended. This patch is also required if you want to play on Windows 7 64 bit.

Minimum Requirements (as stated on the box)

  • Windows 95/98/ME compatible computer system with DirectX 8
  • 500 MHz Intel Pentium III or AMD Athlon Processor
  • DirectX 8.1 (included on disc)
  • DirectX 8.1 compatible 3D Hardware Accelerated 16MB NVIDIA TNT1 or ATI Rage 128 video card
  • 128 MB RAM
  • 8x CD or DVD drive
  • 2 Gb of Free Hard Disc Space
  • DirectX 8.1 compatible sound card
  • 100% Microsoft compatible mouse and keyboard

Computer Played On

  • Core 2 Duo 2.16GHz
  • 2Gb RAM
  • ATI Radeon X1600 256Mb RAM (laptop version)
  • Realtek HD Audio(no idea what model) with laptop 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

There is a bug where you have to press a button to lower a submarine into the water. But if you play with a newer PC (including my specs) the submarine will explode instead of going into the water. A solution is to enable VSync in the Video Setup. I normally play with VSync off, but after I hit this bug, I turned it on and left it on.

Red Faction works on Windows 7 64 bit, but you need the Pure Faction patch to play it.

Recommended Mods

HIVE – This is a weapon mod that modifies all the standard Red Faction weapons. The single player campaign can be played right through with this mod. It also comes with an awesome minigun! To play the HIVE mod on Windows 7 64 bit, you must first install the Pure Faction patch. Then backup the file RF.exe. Make a copy of the file PF.exe and rename the copy to RF.exe.

 

Torchlight

A simple dungeon crawler action-RPG(role-playing game). The mining town of Torchlight is under attack by monsters coming from the mines. It’s your job to clear it out. That is it. Now straight into the action.

Pros

The cartoony graphics are good and colourful. Everything is wonderfully detailed and drives the game well. All things that move are also very well animated.

Lots of monsters, lots of weapons, lots of armour, lots of magic, lots of accessories, lots of customisations, basically lots of everything!

Very low minimum requirements for a game released in 2009. I am guessing the game can even be run on netbooks, because there is an “Netbook mode” option.

When you start the game, there are tips that display every time something new happens. Very helpful for new players like me. You can turn them off if you are a seasoned player. The game is already easy to learn and play, but these tips makes things even easier.

Each time you start a new game, the dungeons are randomly generated. If rampaging through the main dungeon gets too linear, boring or difficult, there are side quests and extra maps that are also randomly generated.

The game is moddable and looks like there are lots of mods to try out. Check out the Runic Games Fansite for mods.

You get a pet that follows you around and helps you fight and carry your loot as well. Your pet can even be sent back to town to sell the loot for you.

There is a fishing mini-game where you try to get… well FISH! You may not like to break away from monster whacking to go fish, but the advantage is you feed fishes to your pets and they turn into different monsters with different abilities. This lasts for a limited amount of time before your pet turns back to normal.

If you have created multiple characters, you can trade items between the characters through the shared stash chest. I noticed that stash can only be shared between characters belonging to the same hardcore mode or non-hardcore mode. ie Characters in hardcore mode and share with each other, characters in non-hardcore mode can share with each other, but characters from hardcore mode cannot share with characters in non-hardcore mode.

Once the main story dungeon has been completed, you can continue playing OR retire your character. A new area called the Shadow Vault becomes available if you decide to continue. This gives the choice of the Shadow Vault or buying more extra maps to explore or one-hitting your way through the low-level monsters of the main dungeon again. On retiring your character, you get to pass down one item to a new character to start the Torchlight adventure again. The item passed down gets a stat boost and the requirements lowered. This descendant character also starts off with one extra fame point to make their journey just that little bit easier.

Cons

Although I do not mind, I am sure some people will not like this. There is no multiplayer.

The characters’ speeches do not sound convincing.

Apart from zoom in and out, you cannot rotate the camera. Although the game and level designs are made in such a way that you can see most things, it still would have been nice to be able to rotate the camera to get a better view.

Other Points

There is no save game or load game as such. You just play and when you want to stop the game, just exit and your progress is automatically saved. Next time when you come back you can pick to continue a game or start a new game.

Along with the no save or load, there is also hardcore mode. Essentially, this is permadeath mode. You only get one shot, if your character dies, there is no reload. He/she is lost forever.

If you are not playing hardcore mode and die in the game, there are four options: Respawn at the current location at the cost of losing experience and fame; Respawn at the entrance to the level at the cost of losing gold; Respawn back in town for free; Or exit to the title screen and lose your progress.

Biases

Reviewed version 1.15.

Although I have seen many of my friends play Diablo, I myself never got around to buying it. This is the first action-RPG I have played on the PC. The closest thing to an action-RPG I have played is Larva Mortus. But that is primarily a top-down shooter. I have played Champions Of Norath on PlayStation2 though and I liked that a lot.

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

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

I did not like Styrateg.

I have completed the main story on very hard difficulty using the destroyer. It took me around 30 hours. It was not a straight play through, as I needed to complete many side quests and extra maps to gain enough levels and good enough equipment to reach the end.

Torchlight is one of those rare games where I get to play with full graphics settings.

I tried out all three classes but mainly focused playing with the destroyer.

DRM

I bought the Direct2Drive version of Torchlight and I remember entering an activation key the first time I installed. Now, I installed it for a second time on the same computer, it did not ask for the activation key.

Unfortunately I do not remember upon activation whether Torchlight actually phoned home to say that I have activated my game on this PC. It did not phone home on this second install.

I have read around that the Direct2Drive version of Torchlight uses SecuRom but I cannot verify this.

On the official site, they do say that if you buy from Runic Games directly, an Internet connection is required to activate the game and an activation key is provided which gives ten activations before you have to contact them.

Torchlight is available DRM free from GOG.com.

Minimum Requirements (from the game manual)

  • CPU: TORCHLIGHT requires an x86-compatible PC with an 800 MHz processor or better. Your computer must have at least 512 MB of system RAM.
  • Operating System: You must be running Windows 2000 or later to play TORCHLIGHT.
  • Controls: A keyboard and mouse are required for playing TORCHLIGHT.
  • Video: TORCHLIGHT requires a video card that is compatible with DirectX. Your video card must have 64MB of addressable memory. Popular examples of compatible video cards include the ATI Radeon 7200, Intel GMA 950, and the NVIDIA GeForce 2.
  • Sound: TORCHLIGHT works with any DirectX 10 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.

Torchlight works great on my Windows 10 PC too.

Recommended Mods

Emberfiend – Adds quite a bit of new stuff like crafting, permanent companions(other than your pet) and new areas. I continued playing my normal character after installing this mod and it seems to run fine.

Total Respec Mod – Adds purchasable potions that allows you to reconfigure the skills and statistics of your character.

Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar

A 1985 RPG where you travel the world of Britannia on a quest to be the Ultimate Good Guy. Now available for free.

Release Date

September 1985.

Pros

There is an interesting conversation system where you have to type in keywords to progress. Quite similar to text adveture games of old like Borrowed Time and Tass Times in Tone Town. Although the vocabulary in Ultima IV is not as much as text adveture games.

It is a very big world to explore. I am not sure whether it is bigger or smaller than games like Oblivion or Might and Magic VI, but it is still very big.

Even though the game’s presentation is old and clunky, there is a very strong story in the game. Your main quest is to be the Ultimate Good Guy, but how you get there is the challenge and the story of the game.

Replaying Ultima IV after games like Fallout and Arcanum made me realise that even so long ago, Ultima IV provided immense freedom in RPGs. You can go any where as long as you can survive and you can do pretty much anything. Of course since the main quest is to be the Ultimate Good Guy, doing nasty things will not lead to completion of the game.

Cons

The graphics are very old and it shows. Most of the game is represented by low resolution icons. After playing a while, you will learn what each icon represents, but it cannot hide the fact that it is a very old game.

Like a flight simulator, you have to memorise the whole keyboard. Until you remember it all, the reference card will come in very handy.

The game is quite difficult to learn to play, with no tutorials or help on how to play. You basically need to read the manual and the reference card to learn how to play.

Make sure to take your own notes for everything. There is no journal record of any kind.

The sounds are all old PC speaker beeps. There are games that sound good even with PC speaker(Xenon 2 Megablast), but Ultima IV is not one of them.

There are lots of random monster encounters which means lots of combat. Unfortunately the combat sequences are not that interesting and gets boring and repetitive.

Other Points

Screen shots have been taken with the unmodified version of the game and with the Ultima IV Upgrade patch.

Although the game is played in turn based mode, the moon phases shift in real time. The phases of the moon determine where quick travel moon gates appear and where the destination is.

Biases

Reviewed GOG.com version of the game with and without the graphics upgrade patch.

Ultima IV was the first RPG I played. Playing it again sure brings back memories. Not all of it is good since I like a lot of the improvements that come with modern RPGs.

I really liked Fallout, SWTOR, Might and Magic VI, Torchlight, Oblivion, and Baldur’s Gate 1, 2 plus expansions.

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

I did not like Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura and Styrateg.

I have never completed Ultima IV. I have completed Ultima V and VI and played Ultima VII.

DRM

The game is available for 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)
  • 2GB HDD
  • Mouse, Keyboard
  • Notes from myself – The game runs on DOSBox so I am unsure about the absolute requirements of the 3D graphics card. The game’s installer is 28 MB and the installed game takes up 23MB, so I do not understand what the 2GB HDD requirement is all about.

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.

Recommended Mods

Pro Pinball Timeshock

Pro Pinball Timeshock really puts the simulation in pinball simulation.

Release Date

September 1997.

Pros

The game comes with two comprehensive manuals. One is a technical manual which explains technical stuff like options for the game. The second manual explains the rules of the table, what options there are for the table and also has a section on pinball techniques.

The game is built like a real pinball table simulation. There is even an operator’s menu where you can set all kinds of settings as well as test the table’s mechanisms. Most of the settings are initially locked and will unlock over time as the number of games played increases. All the settings unlock when Total Play Time has reached 24 hours.

The realism is amazing. You can actually trap a ball under the upper right flipper.

The excellent graphics also add to the realism. All the ball movement, bumpers, flippers and flashing lights look and move just like a real pinball table.

The music is excellent and I would also say, better than Pinball Fantasies!

There are four table views which are all non-scrolling including the top-down view.

Although slightly more difficult than Pinball Fantasies, the game is still well balanced. All ramps and targets can be reached, but it is not too easy.

The multiball is absolutely insane. I managed to get six balls on the table at one point. Very frantic but very good fun.

Cons

With only one table, variety is definitely not a strong point with Pro Pinball Timeshock.

Other Points

There is a credit system where you can use credits to buy-in extra balls to continue a game, but there is actually no way of adding credits like inserting coins. Credits must be won by playing the game.

There is an examine table feature where you can select a section of a table for a zoomed up view and a slide show feature that shows parts of the table from different angles. I do not think it has any impact on the actual game other than just showing off the table.

Biases

Reviewed version 1.07 from GOG.com.

I really like pinball in real life, although I have not touched a pinball table in over 20 years.

On computer I really liked Raster Blaster, Night Mission and Pinball Construction Set on the Apple II.

On the PC I liked Epic Pinball before Pinball Fantasies came along and blew me away.

I also really liked Space Cadet, the pinball game that came with Windows XP.

DRM

Pro Pinball Timeshock is DRM free from GOG.com.

Minimum Requirements (as stated on GOG.com)

  • Windows XP or Windows Vista
  • 1 GHz Processor (1.4GHz 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.

Alien Shooter – Revisited

A remake of Alien Shooter using the Alien Shooter 2 engine.

Release Date

April 2009.

Pros

Just like Theseus – Return of the Hero, Alien Shooter – Revisited is simple alien blasting fun with hordes of aliens.

The graphics have improved since Theseus. The most noticeable improvement was lighting effects.

The sounds have also improved. The guns now have more boom.

On top of the normal survival mode, there is also gun stand mode. In this mode, you control a fixed gun emplacement and you just turn the turret and blast aliens coming from all around you. At the end of each wave, you get to choose one upgrade and the next wave starts. Just like the rest of Alien Shooter, it is simple, but gives an extra bit of variety.

There are nine weapons to get, which is three more than Theseus’s six.

Cons

Same like Theseus, it is very repetitive. Yes there are different guns and different aliens, but the core gameplay is still mow down all the aliens in the level.

I first installed Alien Shooter – Revisited around 29 January 2013 and after playing for a while I uninstalled the game. Then I installed Zombie Shooter, but could not play it because it kept crashing on start up. I was after some shooting action so decided to reinstall Alien Shooter – Revisited on 16 August 2013. Alas, Alien Shooter – Revisited was also crashing like Zombie Shooter! I have contacted Sigma Team, but after two weeks of support tennis they stopped replying. Lucky for me, I got Steam keys with these shooter games and when I tried them on Steam, they ran fine. I guess the crashes are caused by the SecuROM DRM. So, if you want to play these shooter games, make sure you have or are willing to get the Steam version, or it might not work on your PC.

Other Points

Same like Theseus, each mission must be played to completion and the game is automatically saved at the end of each mission.

Same like Theseus, you can buy upgrades for your character as well as weapons and ammo.

Different from Theseus, there are different characters to choose from. They have different statistics, but the differences do not impact the game much. Of greater impact is what upgrades you buy for the character.

Different from Theseus, you can select an earlier mission to play through once you have completed it.

Guns can only carry a certain amount of ammo and you must take time to reload. Some guns reload faster than others, but it is still valuable time when hordes of aliens are running towards you.

Survival mode has unlimited ammo in Alien Shooter – Revisited. You still have to reload, but the ammo supply is unlimited. In Theseus there was no reloading, but the ammo was limited.

If you are unsure if this is your kind of game, download Theseus and try that out first, since it is free. If after playing through Theseus and you want more alien shooting goodness, then get Alien Shooter – Revisited.

Biases

Reviewed version 1.0 of the game.

I have not completed the campaign.

I reinstalled and replayed Theseus, just to see the differences between it and Alien Shooter – Revisited. I really liked Theseus.

Another shooter I really liked is RIP 3 The Last Hero. Although that is a top down shooter and the action is limited to one screen size. RIP 3 does have different characters which have different upgrade paths though.

DRM

Uses SecuROM.

The first time you start the game, a serial code must be entered.

The activation server is contacted via the Internet to activate the game for play.

There is also a Steam version.

Minimum Requirements (as stated on GamersGate)

  • Operating system: Windows 2000 / XP / Vista
  • Processor: 1.7 GHz
  • Memory: 512 Mb
  • Hard disk space: 250 Mb Free Space
  • Video: nVidia GeForce2 / ATI Radeon 8500 or better video card with 128 MB video memory
  • Sound: DirectSound compatible sound card
  • DirectX®: 8.1

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.

Theseus – Return of the Hero

Shoot aliens in this free game built with the Alien Shooter engine.

Release Date

December 2005.

Pros

Lots and lots of aliens and sometimes they come in hordes.

It is free! Get it from Sigma Team.

The graphics are very nice in 3D isometric view. Every thing is quite detailed from shell casings coming off the guns to bits of aliens flying everywhere. This also means there is blood, lots and lots of blood every where.

There are fixed turrets which does massive damage. Very useful to stem the tidal wave of aliens.

Cons

The game is very short with the campaign mode having only 10 missions. But I guess that is expected for what looks like an extended demo for Alien Shooter.

There are only six weapons and a handful of upgrades.

Although the game looks nice, sometimes it looks like you can fit through an area, but when you try you get stuck. Kind of like a mini invisible wall problem. Not good when you are trying to escape a large horde of aliens.

The game is very repetitive. All you do is shoot aliens. Of course if you like this kind of gameplay, then this repetitiveness could be considered a pro.

Other Points

Theseus is very similar to RIP 3 The Last Hero in that as you progress you can upgrade your character. Unlike RIP 3 though, you can get money and buy upgrades. There is no experience and levels in Theseus.

There is the choice of green blood or red blood.

There are two game modes: Campaign and survival.

The campaign mode autosaves as you complete each mission. You cannot save while in the middle of a mission.

Biases

Reviewed version 1.0.

I really liked RIP 3 The Last Hero.

I also liked Larva Mortus.

From simple shooters of the vertical scrolling variety, I really liked Tyrian 2000, Xenon 2: Megablast and Raptor: Call of the Shadows.

I have completed the campaign.

I have not played any games from the Alien Shooter or Zombie Shooter series.

DRM

Theseus – Return of the Hero is DRM free.

Minimum Requirements (From official game site)

  • Pentium II 400 MHz processor
  • Direct3D compatible 3D graphics card with 16 MB
  • 64 MB RAM
  • DirectSound compatible sound card
  • Mouse compatible device

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.

Marvel Heroes

Marvel Heroes died on the 27th of November 2017. I have not played it since 2016 and it still ranks as my second most played game on Steam (Payday 2 has the top spot). Except for cosmetic changes, my review will be here, left untouched for historical reading.

Battle through the Marvel Universe with your favourite heroes in this free to play action packed massively multiplayer online role-playing game.

Release Date

June 2013.

Pros

Marvel Heroes is free to play, get it from the official game site or Steam.

The game is very easy to pick-up and play. The prologue mission also doubles as a tutorial and is played in single-player mode only.

There are random events that you can participate in. It is pretty much an excuse to do some extra villain bashing, but is still something different.

Like all good RPGs, there is plenty of loot and also lots of different types of upgrades for the equipment. There is also a good crafting system where you can improve your stuff or make new stuff. Come to think of it the whole game feels and plays like an enhanced version of Torchlight with super heroes.

The action is great. There are plenty of low level goons to beat up and the super villains put up a great fight. If your character is high enough level, you can take on the super villains solo, but generally it is a better idea to team up with other players.

The maps are well designed and big enough to make exploration fun and yet not so big that it is tedious to get from place to place. Sometimes I replay a level/map and I still find it fun.

It is nice to see other super heroes running around, sometimes helping out and sometimes doing their own thing.

When you are defeated, you can wait for others to come and revive you. In turn you can revive others that have fallen. A nice touch to the game I reckon. It is your choice whether to accept a revival and if there is no one around you can either wait a certain amount of time or manually select to return to the last waypoint.

The player vs environment campaign is large enough with eight-plus chapters, each with multiple areas to get through. When this main campaign is completed, special group, daily and survival missions are unlocked along with player vs player functionality.

The post campaign group, daily and survival missions are a lot of fun in their own right. There is no plot as such for them and the locations are the same as the main story campaign, but all the enemies are higher level including the super villains and it is simply great fun to beat up loads of bad guys.

The different heroes are very different. Even heroes of the same class are different enough to make the game interesting. Before, I thought Dare Devil would play roughly the same as Captain America, being the agile fighter type. After playing both characters, it was clear they play very differently. This adds to the variety even when you are playing through the same story.

Gazillion Entertainment have done a great job adding new stuff and improving the game. There are periods of time where I stopped playing Marvel Heroes. Each time I return to the game, I find Gazillion have added a lot more content including a new chapter for the campaign, more challenges, new loot and also more heroes. To make things even better, bugs get fixed along side the adding of new stuff.

Player vs player is still in beta, but it is good fun. Two teams duke it out to overrun the other’s base and at the end you get rewards for your efforts. The heroes’ powers work slightly differently in PvP than in PvE, but it is still good fun.

You can trial all starter heroes to level ten. Then you can choose one to uncap the level to progress further. It looks like Gazillion Entertainment swap the starter heroes now and then so different people may get different heroes to trial. For the latest information, check out the Marvel Heroes Forum.

The ‘w’ key can be used to move. Basically it works like left clicking to move, but does not attack if your cursor is on an enemy. I like this a lot since it means I do not have to keep left clicking every where or hold down the mouse button.

Cons

Except for the introduction, the rest of the cutscenes are presented as a “motion comic”. If they were presented as still comic images, it would have been great. If they were presented as a fully animated cartoon, it would have been great also. I have never seen a motion comic before and this first experience makes me feel like they wanted to do an animation, but were too cheap to go through with it properly. It just looked wrong to me.

If you do not have Steam then you have to use the horrible BitRaider Web Client to download and play the game. I was installing Marvel Heroes on a friend’s PC and encountered two problems. First the download was abysmally slow averaging around 60Kb/s. On Steam I was getting 400Kb/s. Second problem was part way, the download just plain stopped and would not continue. I had to uninstall everything and reinstall from scratch and start the slow download again. After about thirty-six hours of downloading the play button became green and I could actually start the game even though it was only about 25% downloaded.

The BitRaider Web Client is just as slow when downloading patches which means more waiting, because patches are released regularly.

Other Points

There are only two ways to get new heroes after your first selection. One way is to collect Eternity Splinters from defeated enemies and use them to get heroes. The cheapest purchase is the Random Hero Unlock at 175 Splinters with specific hero choices costing more. On average I get three Eternity Splinters in one hour of play, but there are so many special events and bonuses that collecting Splinters is faster than expected. Of course there is the second way of getting a hero which is to fork out real money and buy one. Much quicker if you are willing to pay for it.

Heroes are not the only thing you can buy with real money though. There are also costumes, pet/follower type entities, extra stash storage and special items. Also all these items are not bought directly with real money. You have to purchase Gs and use Gs to buy the items.

Due to my slow ping of 350-700ms, some of the actions I perform gets a delayed reaction from the enemies in the game. It spoils the good action animations of the game, but at the same time I found it amusing. No point complaining since there is nothing I can do about the slow ping times.

The slow ping time also causes jumps and freezes about half the time. The other half plays quite smoothly with other players’ actions moving nicely.

The sounds sound good and the music sounds OK, but they are nothing special. There is some humorous chit-chat between heroes, but once again, nothing special.

In general the frame rate of the game has been good on my PC averaging around 35 FPS, but when there are too many super heroes on the same screen doing their stuff, the FPS drops real fast to about 12 FPS. This always happens during a super villain fight. This is with graphics set to the absolute minimum.

When you get a new hero, they always start at level one and the story progression also starts from the prologue. Each hero has their own story progression tracking, so there is no need to remember where you left off.

Apart from the usual MMO functionality of being able to chat and invite people to form a party, there is also an optional auto join party functionality when you enter certain areas.

The story is standard super hero fare. Doctor Doom has stolen a super duper item that can help him rule the world(or maybe universe) so it’s up to the super heroes to stop him. Of course they do not know what has happened yet, so they have to find out first. I did not pay that much attention to the story because I was too busy beating up the bad guys, and loving it!

Biases

Reviewed versions 1.10.1.14 to 1.30.0.92 of the game.

I have never played any of the Diablo games, but I do like Torchlight tremendously.

Playing Marvel Heroes also brought back good memories of Marvel Ultimate Alliance which I played on PS2. I chose Thing as my initial character because I enjoyed using Thing in Marvel Ultimate Allinace. He was a much better fighter back then than in Marvel Heroes though.

I downloaded and played the game through Steam. I also got to try out the BitRaider Web Client which is required to download and play the game if Steam is not installed.

The screen shots are with graphics set to absolute minimum.

Although I have not read any Marvel comics, I do enjoy watching the cartoons like X-Men and Ultimate Avengers and also most of the movies like X-Men, Iron Man and The Avengers.

I have completed the player vs environment campaign using Thing.

I have also been playing using Dare Devil and Captain America.

DRM

It is a MMORPG. An email address is required for an account and of course a constant connection to the Internet is required to play. I am not sure if this is classified as DRM since it is free to play any way.

Patches

Patches are downloaded automatically.

Patches are released regularly to add new stuff as well as fix existing bugs and balancing issues.

Minimum Requirements (as stated on official game site)

  • CPU: Core 2 DUO 2.1 GHz / AMD Athlon X2 2.1 GHZ or better
  • Graphics Card: DirectX10 Compatible Graphics Card with 512 MB VRAM or higher
  • System RAM: 2Gb or higher
  • Hard Disk Space: 10Gb or higher
  • OS: Windows XP 32 bit or higher

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

my Winamp causes Marvel Heroes to crash on start up. Nothing needs to be playing in Winamp, as long as it is running, Marvel Heroes just keeps crashing. I am not sure if all versions of Winamp causes this crash or just mine.