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.

Pure Pinball 2 Redux

Three beautiful tables of pinball goodness which is, unfortunately, marred by strange pinball mechanics.

Release Date

February 2005.

Pros

The graphics are very nice. Not as good as The Pinball Arcade, but I do think it is nicer than Dream Pinball 3D.

There are twelve camera angles to choose from. There are no static cameras, but the first two move only slightly. With so many camera angles I am sure every player will find one to suit them.

Although there is no nice animated tour of the tables and how to score points, the manual is quite comprehensive as to how to play each table. The included manual from GOG.com‘s version of the game is missing the diagram of the tables, but they are available in this forum post.

Cons

The music is mostly non-reactive. I say mostly because, I have encountered one time where I triggered an event that actually changed the music. The rest of the time the music sounds like a single track being played from a CD and setting it to repeat infinitely. Even Pinball Fantasies had more reactive music than Pure Pinball 2.

Out of the three tables, only Runaway Train has music which I thought matches the table theme. The other two tables sound like just random music picked from some where.

The pinball mechanics feels wrong. The ball motion is okay, but it does not bounce enough off static surfaces. The flippers also feel very weak and sometimes it would propel the ball in an unexpected direction.

The family friendly nature of the pinball tables are ruined by the display of scantily clad women for the loading screens. The images have no relation whatsoever to the pinball tables. Fortunately, a nice person has provided replacement loading images and can be downloaded from this GOG forum post.

Other Points

There are three tables. That is more than Pro Pinball Timeshock, but less than all the other pinball games in recent memory.

The sounds are OK.

Biases

Reviewed the GOG.com version of the game.

I really liked The Pinball Arcade, Pro Pinball Timeshock, Dream Pinball 3D and Pinball Fantasies.

After reviewing The Pinball Arcade, I found a real pinball table and have been playing that before Pure Pinball 2 Redux.

DRM

Pure Pinball 2 Redux is DRM free from GOG.com.

Minimum Requirements (as stated in the manual)

  • CPU 450 MHz Pentium® II or equivalent
  • System RAM 128 MB
  • Hard Drive 800 MB of free hard drive space
  • Graphics Display Adapter with T&L hardware and 32 MB of Video RAM (these include NVIDIA GeForce 256/2/3/4/FX series, ATI Radeon series, SiS Xabre, and Matrox Parhelia series)
  • Sound DirectSound® compatible sound card
  • CD-ROM 2x CD-ROM (GOG.com‘s version definitely does not need this)

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.
  • 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.

Medal of Honor: Allied Assault + Spearhead + Breakthrough

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

Release Date:

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

Pros:

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

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

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

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

Omaha Beach.

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

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

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

You get to drive vehicles and use fixed guns.

Cons:

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

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

Other Points:

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

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

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

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

Biases:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DRM:

Serial numbers must be entered when installing the games.

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

There is a DRM free version available on GOG.com

Patches:

Spearhead 2.11 patch – Updates Spearhead to version 2.11.

Spearhead 2.15 patch – Updates Spearhead from 2.11 to 2.15.

Breakthrough 2.40 patch – Updates Breakthrough to version 2.40.

Minimum Requirements (from Readme.txt of Breakthrough):

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

Computer Played On:

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

Handy Tips:

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

Recommended Mods:

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

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

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

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

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

First Eagles: The Great War 1918

Join the Entente Powers or the Central Powers and duke it out, in the skies of World War I.

Release Date

December 2006.

Pros

The graphics are nice. The planes look great and the lighting and shadows look very good as you fly around. The plane damage is also well done with bullet holes and bits and pieces flying off. Although nice, I think Falcon 4.0 still has the edge on First Eagles in the graphics department.

Force Feedback! First Eagles works well with my Wingman Force 3D. Sure the firing guns feedback is just cool, but you also get feedback when the plane is about to stall. Very useful to know.

The game is very easy to get into. You can change settings so that it becomes an arcade flyer. For those that want a challenge, you can bump up the settings to make it a difficult sim. There is also a separate setting for ammo which is good if you like to play a difficult game, but with unlimited bullets. The number of bombs is always limited though.

World War I planes did not have autopilot. Luckily First Eagles does. It also has a wing leveller, time acceleration and even a skip to next event key. Very good for skipping all those boring bits of flying. Ultimate realists can always choose not to use these options of course.

There are mods for the game including more planes. Check out CombatACE.

You can paint your own planes if you like.

The campaign missions are dynamically generated. The single missions can be fixed missions or dynamically generated as well.

Cons

No music during flight.

You can have different pilot profiles for different people playing on one PC, but the game settings are not saved on a per-profile basis. So if you normally play on easy and someone else comes along and changes the game to hard, it will stay on hard until someone changes it back to easy.

For those that crave ultimate realism, First Eagles does not deliver. At it’s most difficult setting, there is still a HUD that displays your plane’s flight information like speed and altitude. Sure there are instruments in the plane and they are animated, but nowhere in the manual does it explain which instruments are for what and some instruments are partially blocked from view. Yes, the hard setting is definitely harder than normal, but still not ultimately realistic. I do not mind this so much, but some people would not like it.

You can crash into buildings, but you cannot crash into trees.

The manual is quite short for a flight sim. Although it does explain the basics and how to play the game, I wish there was more information.

Other Points

During installation, my anti-virus detected a trojan in the file mpmission.dll and quarantined it immediately. I am guessing this is a false positive. The good thing is, when I installed the November 2008 patch, a new mpmission.dll was installed without issues.

On my Windows 7 64 bit with DirectX 11, I had to install DirectX 9 that came on the CD, because the game was reporting missing files.

If you set the graphics settings to unlimited, each mission takes quite a long time to load. Not annoyingly long like SWAT 4 but quite long considering the age of the game. After trying out unlimited graphics settings, I had to downgrade a few of the unlimited settings to high, as the frame rate dropped too low when there were lots of planes around.

I am not sure whether it is the aircraft of the era or just First Eagles, but all the three planes that come with the game sound the same.

I am unsure how realistic the flight model is, but I find the planes quite easy to handle even on the hardest flight model setting. I hardly stall the planes and also find it quite easy to recover if I do stall them. Maybe that is how World War I planes handle, but I do not know.

Biases

Reviewed version November 2008.

I like to play with unlimited gun ammo.

I also like to use the assisted HUD and external views to show where targets are. Otherwise, I cannot see where anything is.

I mainly play air-to-air missions.

I really liked Falcon 4.0, Gunship 2000 including Islands and Ice, Falcon 3.0, Knights of the Sky, T.F.X., Fleet Defender, F-15 Strike Eagle 3 and Jane’s Fighters Anthology.

I also liked LHX Attack Chopper and Harrier Jump Jet.

I mainly played with hard settings for everything except enemy skill level, HUD display, and ammo usage.

I only played single player.

DRM

First Eagles is DRM free.

Patches

November 2008 – This patch must be applied to make First Eagles work under Windows 7 64 bit.

Minimum Requirements (as stated on box)

  • Windows 98/ME/2000/XP
  • Pentium III 800 MHz
  • 256MB of System RAM
  • 500MB Hard Disk Space
  • 128MB RAM Video Card
  • DirectX 9.0 or later
  • Sound card with speakers
  • Quad Speed or better CD-ROM drive

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.
  • Logitech Wingman Force 3D.
  • Graphics settings are set to whatever I feel comfortable with playing on this PC. They are usually not set to the highest settings. All screenshots are taken with my settings.

Handy Tips

If you decide to play single missions with custom add-on planes, make sure you get planes on both sides of the conflict that were used during the same time frame. Or else you might not see any enemies. For example, I downloaded the Airco DH.2 and was flying it around as the RAF in 1916. There were no enemy planes at all. Later I downloaded the Fokker E.IV, and they started appearing in the skies of 1916.

Recommended Mods

FE_Sounds V.2 – Gives some better sounds for the game.

First Eagles Effects Pack – Makes the game look better.

Here are some nice planes to try out:
Morane-Saulnier N “Bullet”: July 1915-December 1916,
Voisin Type V: December 1915-November 1918,
Pfalz E.V: February 1916-August 1916,
Fokker E.IV: February 1916-December 1916,
Airco DH.2: February 1916-July 1917,
Albatros D3: November 1916-November 1917,
Aviatik-Berg D.I: January 1917-November 1918.
Airco D.H.5: March 1917-November 1918.
Nieuport 28 C.1: March 1918-November 1918.

108 FE1 and/or FE2 FMs March 2010 – Improved flight models and some extras to make the game even better. You must get the planes first before adding the flight models for them though. This mod also makes the Salmson 2 A.2 and the D.F.W. C.V flyable, just copy the flight model files to their respective aircraft folders.

A SPAD XIII skin of Francesco Baracca, Italy’s best ace of World War I. See the prancing horse before it became Ferrari’s Emblem. For more information see Wikipedia.

 

Kingmania

You are a king. You want to grow potatoes. You do not have enough land. Time for war. That is the plot for this easy to learn but challenging to master real-time strategy(RTS) game. So, get FIGHTING!

Release Date

October 2007.

Pros

Kingmania is very easy to learn with the first mission being an interactive tutorial as well. The game itself is very simple to play, but as you progress, the levels get more challenging.

The graphics are cartoony and quite good. Not state of the art but still good.

It is DRM free.

Cons

You cannot scroll the camera. You can only turn left/right, up/down and zoom in and out. Although the maps are small, sometimes it is just difficult to see everything when you cannot scroll.

There are no shortcut keys for anything in the game. You must use the mouse for everything.

Variety is a bit lacking. There are no different sides. There are only 2 unit types, and a hand full of buildings. The game is fun to play for several minutes at a time but does get repetitive because of the lack of variety. Although I do not play the game for hours, I do return to the game every couple of days.

Looking at the number of levels and the short time it takes to win(or lose) each level, it looks like the single player campaign of Kingmania is quite short compared to other RTS games.

Other Points

The sounds and music are fitting to the game.

This is one of those rare games where I get to set the graphics to full.

Kingmania is definitely a real-time strategy game but it plays nothing like the traditional C&C type RTS. You don’t build buildings. You don’t build units. Units and resources grow over time from different buildings you own. With your troops you can capture other buildings on the map. With your resources you can purchase upgrades for your buildings. Some buildings also have special abilities. You cannot control your units except in telling them where to go fight. The overall strategy of Kingmania is deciding where to attack and what to upgrade.

It is probably best to start playing the game on hard difficulty as the hard difficulty setting feels like normal difficulty of other RTS games.

Biases

Reviewed version Kingmania + North Kingdom v1.5.

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 Empire Earth 2, Dark Reign, Warcraft 1 and 2, Supreme Commander and Total Annihilation.

I did not like Homeworld and Styrateg.

There is a multiplayer component but I only played the single player campaign.

I have not completed the campaign.

DRM

Kingmania is DRM free.

Minimum Requirements (from official website)

  • PC: XP/Vista 1.2GHz, videocard 64MB, OpenGL recomended.

Computer Played On

  • Core 2 Duo 2.16GHz
  • 2Gb RAM
  • ATI Radeon X1600 256Mb RAM
  • 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 change the graphics setting from Direct3D to OpenGL and the game keeps crashing on startup, run the game with “-d3d” to force the game to start in Direct3D.

 

Test Drive Unlimited

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

Release Date:

March 2007.

Pros:

Ferraris! Lots and lots of Ferraris.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cons:

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

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

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

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

Other Points:

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

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

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

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

Biases:

Reviewed version 1.66A with the Megapack.

I like Ferraris. Especially the 512 TR.

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

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

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

I played with keyboard on the easiest driving mode.

DRM:

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

Patches:

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

Minimum Requirements (as stated on box):

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

Computer Played On:

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

Painkiller Overdose

Fast paced first person shooter based in a very creative depiction of purgatory. You are a half-demon, half-angel dude that was locked up somewhere in purgatory. Suddenly you are free and it’s time to blast through all manner of weird creatures to get revenge on the guys that locked you up.

Release Date

October 2007.

Pros

It is like playing Serious Sam in Hell.

Good assortment of weapons including the standard shotgun and machine gun. Also includes other weirder weapons like the face that shoots out some laser thingy and can also scream at your enemies.

Lots and lots of very weird and wonderful monsters to fight.

Good non-thinking, run and gun, shoot everything in sight game.

There is a customisable power up mechanism in the form of tarot cards. As you play the game, if you finish a level and meet certain conditions, you are awarded a tarot card. These tarot cards can then be placed on the use slot so the next level you can use that tarot card to give you a certain power. Some tarot cards need to be activated in game and can only be used once in the whole level, while other tarot cards are “always on”. But you must use money you collect through out the game to place these tarot cards. Luckily you can replay completed levels to get more money.

This game has an interesting way of handling frame rate drops. Instead of skipping frames to keep the game going at the same speed, it shows every frame making the game run slower. The whole game goes into slow motion mode, so you can still move around and aim, only slower.

Cons

The reload time is way too long. On my PC it took around 46 seconds to reload a save game for the first level. This includes quick loads when you die. So every time I die, that’s another extra 46 seconds down the drain.

Each level is a different environment, but they do not link cohesively. The first level looks like Pompei and Mount Vesuvius and you are fighting people on fire but the second level you are in Japan shooting up ninjas. I failed to see how you got from one place to the other. My best guess is that they are all in a separate location of purgatory.

Although fun it is not as much fun as Serious Sam overall.

Other Points

Multiplayer is the standard twitch shooter fest. Hardly anyone plays online anymore though.

Although it does not have as many monsters as Serious Sam and the levels are not as large as Serious Sam, there are enough monsters to make it fun and the levels are large enough for decent entertainment.

This game is very gory. Not Soldier Of Fortune type gory. More like blood splats everywhere gory and body parts flying all over the place gory.

Biases

Reviewed version build 84 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, 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 not played any of the other Painkiller games.

I have completed the game.

DRM

I cannot remember what DRM was on the retail version of Painkiller Overdose. I do not own the game anymore so I cannot check.

The game is available DRM free from GOG.com.

Patches

Build 84 – No comment.

Minimum Requirements (as stated on GOG.com)

  • Minimum system requirements – Windows: XP / Vista / 7 / 8 / 10
  • Processor: 1.5 GHz Intel Pentium III or AMD Athlon processor
  • RAM: 512MB RAM
  • Hard Drive: 2.5 GB available
  • DirectX Version: 128 MB DirectX(R) 9 Compatible Video Card (NVIDIA(R) GeForce(R) FX 5600, ATI(TM) Radeon(TM) 9600 or Better)
  • Sound: DirectX 9 or better compatible sound card
  • Mouse & Keyboard

Computer Played On

  • Core 2 Duo 2.16GHz
  • 2Gb RAM
  • ATI Radeon X1600 256Mb RAM
  • 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 screen shots are taken with my settings.

Handy Tips

There is a way to make Painkiller Overdose reload faster. Just create a Maps folder in your
Painkiller Overdose\Data folder.
ie. If your Painkiller Overdose is installed in
C:\Program Files\DreamCatcher\Painkiller Overdose
then create the Maps folder in
C:\Program Files\DreamCatcher\Painkiller Overdose\Data\

For the first level this fix improved my reload times from 46 seconds to 28 seconds. I found this fix from this forum entry.

 

Stranglehold

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

Release Date

September 2007.

Pros

It’s like playing in a John Woo movie.

It looks just like a John Woo movie.

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

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

Very good gun fighting action and lots of it!

Cons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Points

The only place I am aware of where you can get Stranglehold is GOG.com.

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

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

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

Biases

Reviewed version 1.1.

I have never played any Max Payne games.

I really liked the movies Hard Boiled and The Killer.

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

DRM

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

Patches

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

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

Minimum Requirements (as stated on box)

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

Computer Played On

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

Astro Avenger

A top-down vertical scroller shooter rendered in beautiful 3D and can be controlled with the mouse.

Release Date

December 2004.

Pros

This is the first vertical scroller shooter where I used the mouse to play. Yes, you can use the keyboard too, but with the mouse you can move the ship much faster. After finding out that this game could be played with the mouse, I went back to Tyrian 2000 and found out that could be played with the mouse as well. Tyrian 2000 does not control as easy as Astro Avenger with the mouse but it is good to know there is an option.

Generally a fun shooter that is simple to play.

The graphics are rendered beautifully in 3D. The explosions look great and you can see enemy ships blowing apart.

Cons

There are only a handful of weapons. Although there are upgrades the variety still feels lacking, especially when compared to Tyrian 2000.

The levels feel very same same. Sure there are multiple worlds and several levels per world, but they all look and feel the same. In the later levels there are more enemies coming at you simultaneously but it still feels very same same.

The enemy ships also lack variety. Good if you like more of the same to blow up.

Like other simple scroller shooters, it is repetitive. The lack of variety makes Astro Avenger feel even more repetitive.

Other Points

Calling Astro Avenger a vertical scroller is not entirely correct. Yes it plays like a vertical scroller but the playing field also moves slightly in 3D forwards. As such, if you are on the left or right edge of the screen and shooting straight, your shots do not move straight up the screen. It takes a little getting use to but is innovative.

The sound of the guns are very “pew pew” sounding.

The game saves your progress as you complete each level.

Biases

Reviewed version 1.7.0

I really liked Tyrian 2000, Xenon 2: Megablast and Raptor: Call of the Shadows.

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

I have completed the game.

DRM

There is a registration key you must enter to play the full version.

I do not know if there is any other DRM device other than the registration key.

Minimum Requirements (from Readme.txt)

  • Windows 98/2000/XP/ME/Vista
  • Pentium 700MHz or better
  • Direct3D compatable video card
  • RAM: 256Mb
  • 35 megs free hard drive space
  • Sound card (optional)
  • DirectX 9.0 or higher

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.