Review: Wolfenstein – The Old Blood

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Deviating from my Final Fantasy playthrough for a moment, I wanted to share my review of the newest Wolfensein title: The Old Blood. This game is a direct prequel to The New Order; using the same engine and overall game elements. But it focuses on the events leading up to the beginning of the New Order.

The release of this game muddles up the timeline a bit. In fact, I’m now not even certain that Old Blood/New Order even exist in the same continuity as RtCW and Wolf2009. The events of this game actually seem to overlap with the some of the events in those games. Despite my best efforts to figure out the continuity, I was unable to find a definitive answer. So we have a bit of a mess when it comes to the Wolfenstein timeline now. Regardless, The Old Blood is a great game.

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In a lot of ways, this game feels like DLC for New Order. The game is fairly short, only 8 levels. But they are long levels. Plus, just like New Order, the game comes with a number of hidden areas and collectibles. Each real level also has a secret hidden level – done up in retro Wolf3d graphics. So it’s almost like two games in one. A new addition to this game are Challenge Maps. As you play through Old Blood you will unlock special challenges. These are a bit like timed battlefields. The goal here is to beat your best ranking, etc. I tinkered with these, but these sort of challenges are not really my cup of tea.

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Just like the previous entry in the series, this game is single player only. The graphics are top notch, but a little intensive. Again, the storytelling and voice acting are superb. The New Order featured a dystopian Nazi-ruled scenario. This game, being a prequel takes place during the brunt of WWII. The first game is a pretty realistic WWII adventure. But then out of nowhere the game takes a quick sci-fi turn. Without spoiling too much, I will reveal that fans of zombies will not be disappointed.

All in all, The Old Blood is a fun little romp in the FPS genre. It’s a bit short, but then again the price is a mere $20. So you get your money’s worth. Plus, this time around, you get to whack things with a pipe. What else is there to say?

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Difficulty: Variable–  There are multiple difficulty levels available to choose from. From my testing, these seem to be very well done and appropriate. I played the game on the default setting and the hardest. I found these to be appropriately balanced.

Story: Being a prequel to The New Order, we get to see things from BJ’s perspective during the war. The game starts with an infiltration mission that naturally goes wrong. We get to experience the thrill of escaping from Castle Wolfenstein (again), and even exploring some crypts that may look familiar to veteran fans of the series.

Originality: Not much is new here in terms of gameplay, to be honest. But that doesn’t really detract from the fun of the title.

Soundtrack: The game soundtrack is appropriate and fitting. The music seems to be adaptive and ramps up at the appropriate time, but nothing except for the end credits theme really stands out.

Fun: Personally, I enjoyed this game. It’s short and sweet, but worth the price.

Graphics: This game looks excellent even with a game engine that’s starting to show it’s age. Most graphics/performance issues have already been addressed with a patch. I played the game on a pretty high setting, (but mot max) and encountered no real performance issues on the 4 year old graphics card.

Playcontrol: The default PC controls are pretty standard. There’s a few combo moves, for sliding and running that seemed a bit difficult for me to master at first, and this cost me more than one death in the game. It kind of felt like my fingers were on a twister mat. But other than that, no real complaint. Plus, all the keys can be reassigned. Same issues I had with New Order.

Mature Content: Yes – Extreme violence, gruesome imagery, language, occult references.

Value:  New for $20 is a pretty good price in my opinion. Many people have criticized the game for being sold as an individual title instead of being marketed as DLC for New Order. But I do not really have an issue with this. We have a full game here at a discounted price.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 3 – When I saw the announcement for this game, I was surprised. It has only been a year since New Order was released and this one seemed to come out of the blue. The game itself is great, but a little short. It’s certainly worth the purchase but it’s not as ground breaking as its predecessor.

Currently available on: PC (Steam)  ***PS4 and Xbox One (Coming soon)

Other Reviews In This Series:   Wolf3DRtCW – Wolf ETWolfenstein New Order – The Old Blood

Review: Quake III Arena

Right on the heels of my Unreal Tournament review, comes my thoughts on it’s competitor Quake III arena. Both of these titles are similar in terms of gameplay and they were released only days apart. So how does Quake hold up? Let’s see.

First, let’s talk about what Quake III is not. It is not a direct sequel to either or the previous games in the series. Nor is it packed with loads of single player content. Quake III, much like Unreal Tournament, was designed to be a multiplayer/arena style game. It does feature a brief single-player scenario to help new players get familiar with things, but this can easily be played through in a matter of hours. The single player campaign features a very loose story regarding a race of aliens that pluck contestants from various points of space and time and force them to fight in gladiator style areas for their own amusement. Once you’ve got your feet wet against the computer, you’ll be ready for the true focus of the game, which is pure multiplayer action.

As far as the game goes, it is very well done. The arenas are plentiful and fairly diverse. The level design certainly has that “Quake” feel to it. But I found the arenas to be rather small and somewhat overly symmetrical. I found some of the best maps to actually be community created content.The weapons are diverse and will be familiar to anyone who has played the previous entry’s in the series. One big gripe I have with the game though has to be the character models. They seem to be well done overall, but the models don’t really feel like they belong. Some of them are cartoonish, while others are photo-realistic (featuring the faces of the developers). I couldn’t really find one that really suited me.

The gameplay itself feels a bit looser than UT, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The slicker playcontrol in this title gives the illusion of faster-paced combat. But If you’re used to the feel of UT, there’s a small period of adjustment that will take some getting used to.

Overall, as a combat arena themed game goes, Quake III is a classic and ranks right up with the best of them. However, there’s quite a bit of content missing from the original release. Aside from Deathmatch, there are not other modes of gameplay available unless you purchase the “Team Arena” addon.

Quake III Team Arena is a separate product that adds new gameplay modes like Capture the Flag, Overload, and Harvester. These styles of play are mostly team-focused but feature some alternate gameplay modes that multiplayer gamers have come to expect. The odd thing is that they are not available free of charge (as they always have been). In its day, these features seemed to cost quite a bit and many players initially overlooked the expansion. These days, the two games are often bundled together for one low price.

Difficulty: Variable–  Needless to say, all bets are off when playing against other people. The difficulty in multiplayer mode is directly related to the skill of your opponents. In the single player campaign, you can choose between several skill options. The AI is pretty good, but it does feel to be a bit more automated than UT.

Story: The background story in QIII is pretty weak, but do we really need much of one?

Originality: Many people wanted to point fingers at either Quake or Unreal back when these games came out. The debate over who ripped who off were endless. Despite both being arena-deathmatch focused games, each title feels pretty unique. Quake III certainly manages to keep the “techno-gothic” feel the series is known for.

Soundtrack: The background music very appropriate and well done. The sound effects are familiar and somewhat recycled from other games in the series.

Fun: Despite its age, Quake III is still fun today. It’s still fairly easy to find active players on the net, although many of them have moved to “Quake Live” (a free and mode modern version of Quake III arena). The BEST way to enjoy Quake III today might be with a group of friends. But make no mistake, there’s lots of fun to be had.

Graphics: Quake III has a very unique graphical style. If put head to head against UT, I feel that QIII comes in second place. Although, I have to admit, many of the arenas have some very well rendered visuals. Despite this, the overall graphical tone of the game seems just a sub par.

Playcontrol: The default controls are pretty much perfect. The modern standard of WSAD is included out of the box and is implemented flawlessly. The mouselook seems to be a bit looser than previous games in the series. This can be adjusted, but even in its default state doesn’t take much getting used to.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 3 – Quake III is an excellent multiplayer game. In fact, it was pretty much the standard for several years. I recommend it to almost anyone with an interest in these types of games. However, when compared directly with Unreal Tournament, I have to say I feel it falls a little short. Don’t let that put you off though. Quake III is definitely worth your time.

Currently available on: Steam

Other Reviews In This Series:

QuakeQuake IIQuake III Arena – Quake 4 – Enemy Territory: Quake Wars

 

Review: Unreal Tournament

 

Continuing my dig thru the archives brings me to the ever popular Unreal Tournament. This game is not a direct sequel to the original Unreal, instead it is designed solely around the concept of a multiplayer area. The nasty multiplayer code from the original game was fixed and enhanced with an in-game server browser allowing players to find live ongoing games at any time. This game also takes the beautiful graphics of the original Unreal and boosts them even further with the inclusion of optional high-definition textures and few tweaks here and there. I should note that the game pretty much focuses on violence and is pretty graphic and bloody. But, honestly, that is kinda what makes it so cool.

In UT there are a number of gameplay options. These include: Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Domination, and Assault. While the first two are pretty familiar to most, Domination and Assault may be a bit unfamiliar.

In Domination, players are divided into teams and must try to tag several “control points” on the map. Once these are tagged, that team will earn points as long as they maintain control over those areas. If the point is tagged by an opposing team, that team will earn the points instead. Whichever team earns a predetermined number of points will be declared the winner.

In Assault mode, players are again split into teams. An offensive team and a defensive team. In this mode, the goal is to invade the defending team’s base and complete a number of objectives in a pre-determined amount of time. If this is completed, the sides switch and the previously defending team now have to complete the same assault they previously defended against and they have to do it in whatever amount of time the previous group was able to achieve.

I found these modes of play to be unique and very original. I’m not sure there was anything like it at the time the game was released.

Aside from the built in modes of play, there are variety of mods and other community-created enhancements for the game available. During my recent playthrough, I encountered a number of custom maps, weapons, and even modifications that changed the basic physics of the game. When digging through the server list, you never know what you might encounter out there. It’s also important to note, that some of these mods are not always “safe for work”, as the “Hot Bang Porno Theater” level I found myself on will attest. These mods all download automatically when you join the server hosting them.

While the focus of the game is multiplayer, the game does include a single player scenario that consists of a simulated multiplayer experience. In single player mode, you compete with and against AI controlled bots. As you progress through the single player scenario, other modes of play are unlocked. Upon completing everything, you eventually get to challenge the reigning champion in a one-on-one deathmatch battle.

Yes, the single player mode does has some semblance of a story, which I guess actually carries over to multiplayer mode as well. In Unreal Tournament, you are a competitor in a series of high-tech gladiator style tournaments hosted by an extremely powerful corporation known as Liandri. The tournaments have become a shady, but legal method of sadistic entertainment. So there you have it.

Unreal Tournament, like many games of this type offer a number of interesting weapon options and various helpful items such as armor and in some cases, relics that boot your abilities temporarily.

There are four official add-on packs that add new player models, maps and other little goodies. Modern players will probably also want to seek out some of the unofficial patches that really help the game function on modern hardware. I found that a large number of active servers also support these unofficial patches as well.

Difficulty: Variable–  Needless to say, all bets are off when playing against other people. The difficulty in multiplayer mode is directly related to the skill of your opponents. In the single player campaign, you can choose between several skill options. I founds these to be very well done and accurate. The AI that the bots in the game display are really spot on.

Story: The background story is a nice addition to a game that is essentially an e-sport. While a little shallow, it does seem that the lore of the Unreal universe does tend to become clearer with each game in the series. At beginning of each match in the single player mode, you’re also given a little lore snippet of the area and the other contestants in the game. This is a nice touch.

Originality: Technically, Unreal Tournament was the first of the big name “arena” style deathmatch games. It was released a mere few days before the juggernaut Quake III Arena. In terms of design, both games are similar. But Unreal Tournament offers multiple modes of gameplay right out of the box. I’m not sure which of these two titles was actually announced first, but its safe to say that each game is different in its own way, and UT certainly offers a slew of unique features and gameplay elements.

Soundtrack: The background music very appropriate and well done. But overall doesn’t stand out in any particular way.

Fun: If you enjoy multiplayer FPS games, you can’t go wrong with UT. Even today, 15 years or so after its release there’s still an active community of players. With a variety of gameplay options to choose from, there’s a little something for everyone.

Graphics: Gorgeous. Even by today’s standards. For the best look this game has to offer, I recommend finding an updated openGL addon for the game, and installing the HD textures that are included on the second CD. If you purchased the game on Steam, these can also be found on the web with just a little sniffing around. The screenshots in this review should speak for themselves.

Playcontrol: The default controls are pretty much perfect. The modern standard of WSAD is included out of the box and is implemented flawlessly. Even the mouse-speed (which is customizable) seems to be exactly right.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – I love Unreal tournament. Until this playthrough/review it had been years since I touched it and I was surprised at how well it’s held up. My original intent was to simply play through the single player scenario and write my review, but I was have having so much fun that I spent another day just exploring various servers and checking out all of the random mods out there. This game is an excellent example of a multiplayer PC title.

Currently available on: SteamOther Reviews In This Series:
Unreal   Unreal Tournament   Unreal II   UT 2004  UT3

Review: Heretic II

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Sneaking off from the Christmas cyclone today to post another review. I actually played through this game earlier in the month, but I wanted to wait until a day when I had some extra time to properly put my thoughts down before posting the review. Today is the day.
Heretic II is the final game in the “Serpent Rider Series”, although there’s not a Serpent Rider to be found in the title. This game, as the title suggests, is the direct sequel to the original Heretic. The game begins immediately after Corvus’s defeat of the Serpent Rider. Upon returning to his homeworld, he discovers that the entire city has been infected with a terrible plague. To make matters worse, he soon realizes that he too is infected. His goal is to discover a cure for the disease – to rescue both himself and his countrymen. Of course, things are never quite that simple….
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Heretic II is a strange game. It is built using the Quake II engine, but instead of being in a familiar first-person perspective, the game is actually in a third-person view. In many ways, Heretic II is very similar to Tomb Raider. There is a lot of ledge jumping, platforming and over-the-shoulder combat. So if you take Tomb Raider, put it in a fantasy setting, and enhance the visuals with Quake Engine graphics, you’ll have a pretty good idea on what to expect.

Upon its release, the game suffered from a number of bugs and missing features that were promised by the developers. It took several months for these issued to be addressed. Eventually, the game received a mega patch called the “Heretic II Enhancement Pack”. This bundle fixed many of the game’s issues. As well as offering more configuration options and multiplayer content.

Personally, until this review I had not played this game since its original release. I had very difficult time getting the game to run properly. Even now, for the sake of this playthrough, I had to do a lot of tinkering and experimentation to get this game to operate with any amount of stability. Although once I got it working, all was well.

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There is a of platorming in the game. But other than that it actually plays a lot like a first person shooter. There is a variety of weapons to choose from, as well as a number of spells and usable items. My biggest gripe with this game is its controls. It is just as “wonky” feeling as the first three Tomb Raider games, but in a different way. The camera controls actually work much better than Tomb Raider in my opinion, but the control scheme is funkier. Yes, you can customize the controls, but I could never find a setting that quite felt right.

Regardless of the playcontrol, the developers did a wonderful job on the game as a whole. The graphics were top of the line at the time, and very detailed. The dynamic lighting used for the magic effects are also very well done. The game features a pretty interesting story and actually helps to add a little depth to the Heretic/Hexen series. All of these things I found enjoyable. My only complaint was that the single-player game felt a little bit too short.

Luckily, the title does include multiplayer, but like many of these Quake-era games, it can be difficult to find an active community. Even in its day, Heretic II was a niche game with a small but dedicated group of online. The third-person perspective did make for a slightly different DeathMatch experience. I think I probably spent more time playing multiplayer on this title back in its heyday than I did on the single player scenario. I missed it this time around.

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Difficulty: Variable–  The game offers three levels of difficulty. The first setting is definitely recommended for new players who are not familiar with the controls. Once you have the hang of things, you might be ready for a more intense level of play. There is also a tutorial. I cannot recommend this enough.

Story: Being a part of an ongoing series, it is refreshing to see a brave new chapter. The direction taken with this game does a lot to expand upon the lore of world. This is a game world that I would love to see explored further.

Originality: In the eyes of many, this game was a blatant attempt to ride the success of Tomb Raider. I have to disagree. I really feel like the developers were attempting to step out of the “first person comfort zone” and do something unique. Regardless about how you feel of the end result, it was certainly a bold step.

Soundtrack: The music included on the CD is very fitting and pleasant. Nothing that particularly stands out. Overall appropriate for the game.

Fun: I found this game to be fairly entertaining. I like fantasy games and the environment was fun to explore. But the game did have very odd feel about it that made it very hard for me to really get into fully.

Graphics: The graphics in the game pretty good. Some of the textures are bit blocky and rough, but the lighting effects and backgrounds are very well done.

Playcontrol: The controls are bit unusual but not too difficult to get the hang of. I still found them lacking from time to time. The camera is actually pretty good especially when considering when the game was original released.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 2 – This game is interesting. Fans of the series may be interested in checking out the conclusion to the franchise, but most other will probably be inclined to pass this one by. I find it difficult to recommend this title to modern gamers.

Currently not available.Other Reviews In This Series:HereticHexenHexen IIHeretic II

Review: Unreal (Gold Edition)

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This is a review I’ve been looking forward to. I finally reached the point in my “to play” list and dusted off my copy of this fantastic game. Unreal is an interesting beast. It came out during the height of Quake’s reign of dominance in the FPS market. I remember there being a lot of hype over this game when it came out. Friends of mine were rattling off all of these random “facts” about the game with looks of sheer awe on their faces. You see, Unreal shipped not only with the game, but with a complete functional level editor. One friend of mine touted the power of the level editor; “I hear that real estate companies are using it to design virtual walkthroughs for clients! It’s POWERFUL!” Rumors and anecdotes aside, the game looked beautiful and it certainly gave quake a run for its money. Releasing the game with a level editor didn’t really factor in to my personal experience. I’m more of a player, not a designer.

Unreal did manage to awe me when I experienced it for the first time. Even today, playing through it again, it’s still a beautiful game. This was the first game I played that featured things such as detailed textures, curved and reflective surfaces. It important to note, that the technology of the Unreal engine is still maintained and thanks to the community there are resources and unofficial patches (ie: 227i) that allow the game to shine even on modern hardware.

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In Unreal, you play as Prisoner 849. A convicted criminal aboard a prison-transport ship known as the Vortex Rikers. While en route to the prison moon, the ship crash lands on an unknown planet. The game begins shortly after the crash landing when you wake  up in your cell – all hell is breaking loose. As you wander about the ship, it soon becomes obvious that the ship has been boarded by some rather malicious aliens. With only the thought of survival, you make your way out of the ship and into the alien world hoping to find a way off the planet.

Throughout the game, you get to explore a variety of environments. You have interactions with both friendly and hostile alien monsters. I don’t want to reveal too much and spoil the game, but it wise to pay attention to your surroundings and to make sure that the target in your sights is actually a bad guy and not someone who might be able to lend you some assistance. For me, this type of interaction really added a lot to the FPS genre. The beautiful scenery, audio and amazing AI of in-game characters were refreshing

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The game was quite a success upon its release and spawned an expansion pack called The Return to  Na Pali. In this scenario, your character is forced to return to the planet and given a task that, if successful, is promised to lead to a full pardon. The expansion adds new levels and weapons and does a good job at expanding the story, but other than that it offers little in my opinion. These days, both the original game and the add-on are sold together in the Unreal Gold collection. This is the only way to go.

Unreal does include multiplayer but it is largely ignored. Even when the game was new, my friends and I had a terrible time getting multiplayer to work well. We were plagued with connection errors and lag spikes. These days, there are other Unreal games that focus on multiplayer – so the online community for this title is nearly non-existent.

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Difficulty: Variable–  Unreal offers multiple difficulty settings. This is really where you can see the advanced UI shine. On the lowest setting, the monsters seem pretty dull and dim witted, but on higher settings… yeah. You don’t really stand a chance. There’s something for everyone here.

Story: The game had a brief synopsis written up in the manual, but you really don’t need it. Even without reading anything, it becomes obvious pretty quickly what’s going on. The story is told through the environment and series of events that you experience while you play. This is exceptionally rewarding if you take your time to explore and read the pop-ups from your translator device.

Originality: When this game was released it was getting difficult to be original in the FPS market. But Unreal managed to stand out with some really advanced technology for the time. It’s obvious that a lot of care and thought was put into the game. Everything from the graphics, to the level design, weapon design and AI were really top of the line. Even today, many aspects of the game rival modern releases.

Soundtrack: The music for the game is alien and wonderful. A lot of the game features a very dreamy synthetic sound. I found the music to fit very well. But better than the music is the ambient noise. This is obvious from the very first level. You wake up in your cell to the sounds of alarms, explosions, and distant screams all in surround sound (if you feel so inclined).

Fun: If you look at this game as single player experience, it is fantastic. The multiplayer, not so much. I enjoyed this game way more than expected to, both at release and even today.

Graphics: Absolutely top of the line in its day. There was nothing else that could rival Unreal when it was released. Even for several years after, the code kept being improved and expanded. Today, the game shows its age a bit, but even now it still holds up surprisingly well.

Playcontrol: The original PC controls defaulted to a funky arrow-key driven scheme. But this is easily customized to the modern mouse and keyboard standard.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – Even despite is poor network coding, I have to give Unreal a four star rating. The single player scenario is amazing. If you’ve never played this title, do yourself a favor and grab it the next time you see it on a Steam sale. When you play it for the first time, turn off the lights and turn up the volume. You’ll be in for a treat.

Currently available on: SteamOther Reviews In This Series:
Unreal   Unreal Tournament   Unreal II   UT 2004  UT3

Review: Quake II

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Next up in the Oldschool File is another FPS classic: Quake II. After Quake took the Internet by storm, id Software was quick to develop a proper sequel. Quake II takes most of what was popular about Quake and pops it up a notch.

One of most hailed aspects of the game is its multiplayer. I’ll touch on that in a minute, but first let’s take a look at the single player scenario. This game is not really a direct sequel to the original Quake. Whereas the original game showcased a “space marine” fending off an invasion of inter-dimensional beings, Quake II features a different scenario. In this game, you play as a member of an Earth-based invasion force.  The game opens with a cutscene showing the human forces preparing to invade and attack an alien world. The aliens are known as The Strogg and they have recently made an invasion attempt of their own on Earth. The plan is to bring the fight to the Strogg and launch an all-out counter-attack. During the descent to the alien world, our hero’s fighter is clipped causing him to fly off course and crash. Meanwhile, the Strogg launch a surprise defense, a super weapon called The Big Gun. Instantly, almost the entire fleet is wiped out in one fell swoop. Only our hero and a handful of other soldiers manage to survive the assault. This is where the game begins. Our hero attempts to infiltrate the alien stronghold, lone wolf style, to bring down the Big Gun so that more forces can be sent in. Of course, its never that simple…

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When it comes to story, Quake II certainly has a much better scenario than the original game. The game story is driven by an on-screen communication device that will flash new objectives from time to time. I really enjoyed this feature and I feel it helped to fill a gap in terms of storyline that many games from this era lacked.

The weapons and other items in the game also feel very improved. Everything from the detail of the models to the way the weapons function are a step above the original game. The enemy AI also seems to be much more intelligent. But one of the best things about Quake II when compared to the original game is the level design. The stages are very well done and engaging.

Aside from the main scenario, there are also two additional Mission Packs. These add-ons feature the sidestories of alternate soldiers and the part that they played in the Strogg invasion. If you find yourself to be a big fan of the main scenario, these may be of some interest as well. Like most id Mission Packs, there’s new enemies and weapons. The expansions are interesting but in my opinion, they were not nearly as good as the main game.

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As I mentioned earlier, probably the most popular part of Quake II is the online play. Even today, over 10 years later it is not at all difficult to find active multiplayer games going if you know where to look. The multiplayer features include the standard Deathmatch that one would expect, but also features co-op and Capture the Flag play – right out of the box. Out of the three, CTF is probably my favorite way to play Quake II online. Back in the day, I was even an active member of an online clan. I still know those CTF maps like the back of my hand.

All in all, Quake II marks an important milestone in the FPS genre. It’s another one of the those must-have titles for any serious online gamer.

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Difficulty: Variable–  As expected, there are several options for difficulty for the single player campaign. The difficulty options feel very appropriate. Of course, when you play online, the difficulty is strictly determined by the skill of the other players. And trust me when I say that there are some BRUTAL players out there…

Story: I was glad to see the creators spend a little time on a backstory for the game. The scenario is interesting. The opening cutscene is a classic and leads you right into the opening of the game. Not as engaging as many modern games, but Quake II was an important step in the right direction.

Originality: As far as originality goes, there’s really not much here. Everything here had been done in previous games. Of course Quake II demonstrates a natural evolution, but there’s nothing breakthrough brought to the table for the first time here.

Soundtrack: No more Trent Reznor, but Quake II offers a pretty good soundtrack. Most of the levels start off with some type of Metal riff, but they eventually succumb to silence. The music does a good job at getting your pumped early on, but it does become a bit repetitive later on.

Fun: If Quake II is anything, it is fun. The single player scenario is entertaining a time or two, but the real fun lies in the online play. The game comes with enough multiplayer maps to keep anyone busy for a while, but of course there’s countless maps out there on the net. You’re only limit is your attention span.

Graphics: The Quake II engine is certainly a step in the right direction. It shipped with a number of 3D acceleration options and even included a software renderer for older machines. Compared to today’s games, its certainly dated, but it actually holds up pretty well. Of course, at the time of release it was state of the art. As usual with games like these, there is an unofficial patch that supports modern resolutions and options.

Playcontrol: This game was released during a time when FPS controls were shifting from arrow-keys to the new WSAD default that we are familiar with today. The default controls are bit antiquated for an FPS title, but are easily customized.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – Another classic from id Software and the one of the biggest online games ever. Quake II is not to be overlooked. It’s aged well and I consider it to still be relevant today. This game comes highly recommended.

Currently available on: SteamOther Reviews In This Series:

QuakeQuake IIQuake III Arena – Quake 4 – Enemy Territory: Quake Wars

Review: Hexen II

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The next stop on the nostalgia train brings us to another game designed using the Quake engine and the third installment in the Heretic/Hexen series; Hexen II.

As I mentioned, Hexen II was designed using a refined build of the GL Quake engine. Aside from out-of-the-box acceleration, we also a few new features such as semi-transparent water, interactive and destructible environments and an enhanced HUD.

Playwise, this game is very similar to the original Hexen. The hub-style level system is back. So is the ability to select a character class at the beginning of the game. In Hexen II, you can chose between Paladin, Crusader, Necromancer and Assassin. An additional option, The Demoness is also added for the expansion, Portal of Praevus.

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This game focuses on the world of Thyrion, home of the third and final Serpent Rider, Eidolon. This time around, the Serpent Rider has summoned forth the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. So naturally, these must be dealt with first. Each Horsemen resides of a specific region. So throughout the game you will experience a variety of terrains. The game starts out in a typical medieval European setting, but is followed by an Aztec or Mesoamerican region, an ancient Egyptian area, and finally an area that resembles a Roman or Ancient Greek setting. Once the Horsemen have been defeated, its time to confront the Serpent Rider himself.

A Mission Pack (expansion) was also released that features a new mega-boss and level hub to complete. In this scenario, an evil wizard known as Praevus is attempting to resurrect the Serpent Riders. So once again, the heroes are called into action. These levels are set in a Tibetan themed area. Also, as mentioned previously, the Mission Pack includes a new class option, The Demoness.

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Hexen II certainly features enough single player content to be worth your attention. However, there is also multiplayer Deathmatch to keep things interesting. The ability to select a character class helps Hexen II stand out from most other early FPS online play, as each class plays a little differently.

In addition to Deathmatch, another mode of Online play called Siege was also later released. This mode featured an interesting twist to online play at the time, Team Co-Op.  Unlike some of the Capture the Flag mods that had been developed for Quake, Siege focused on the invasion and takeover of the opposing teams castle. During its heyday, I sent a number of nights participating in Siege battles. However, these days, the game gets very little attention in its old age. So unless you have a group of interested friends it may be a bit difficult to find enough people to enjoy this content. If you do plan to try your hand at online play with this title, be prepared to have both the original game and the mission pack installed. Most players that still participate in online play, are playing with the full experience installed.

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Like many of these older games, it can sometime be difficult to get the to run well on modern system. Hexen II is no exception. Luckily, like many of these Quake-engine games, the sourcecode has been released and the gaming community has provided us with a solution. Personally, I recommend the Hammer of Thyrion version of Hexen II. This codeport allows for modern resolutions and also adds support for modern graphical effects. All this is done without modifying the original vision and mechanics of the game itself. The mod also includes support for the Mission Pack and Siege add-ons. For more information on this port, do a Google search for “Hexen II Hammer of Thyrion”.

Difficulty: Variable–  Like Quake, Hexen II features several options for difficulty for the single player campaign. The difficulty options feel very appropriate. Of course, when you play online, the difficulty is strictly determined by the skill of the other players.

Story: This game is the conclusion to the story set up by Heretic and Hexen. For the most part, I found the background and set up for the game to be very well done. It felt like there was a little more thought put into the set up for this game than most other FPS titles of the age received.

Originality: At first glance Hexen II may seem like nothing more but Quake in a fantasy setting. But in reality, it is much more. The HUB system is back and even more complex than before. The decision to include regional themes always felt quite refreshing to me. Also, your character is able to level up over time and improve their stats. This is something I had never seen in an FPS game at the time. I feel the creators of this game really put forth an effort to fashion a game that felt new.

Soundtrack: If you happen to have the original CD ROM version of the game, there is some very good CD Quality music that accompanies the game. The level themes are fitting an appropriate. There’s even a throwback to fans of the first two games.

Fun: I found my playthrough of the title to be better than I expected. While the HUB system is interesting and adds a new level of challenge, I’m not really a fan of it overall. But in Hexen II, it seems to be a bit easier to handle that it did in the first game. By far the environments and level design were the most enjoyable aspect of the game.

Graphics: Today, the graphics are a bit dated but at the time Hexen II represented the finest in 3D acceleration. If you can get past some of the blocky texture and sharp angles, the game actually looks pretty good. Unlike some, I have no complaints. It is what it is.

Playcontrol: This game was released during a time when FPS controls were shifting from arrow-keys to the new WSAD default that we are familiar with today. The default controls are bit antiquated for an FPS title, but are easily customized.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – Hexen II is easily a four-star game for people that enjoy both FPS games and fantasy titles. It’s an odd mix of the two but it works well. Players who are just looking for carnage and are frustrated by puzzles may want to look elsewhere.

Currently available on: Steam (Mission Pack currently not available)Other Reviews In This Series:HereticHexenHexen IIHeretic II

Review: Quake

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A review of Quake. Where does one even begin? Quake is such an iconic title, no review I could ever give will truly do it justice. So I’m going to focus mainly on my feelings for the game, and its overall legacy. The breakdown at the end serve as more of a tit-for-tat review.

Quake represents a real paradigm shift in the world of PC Gaming. No longer was PC Gaming only for nerds, this is the game that took it mainstream. Quake was developed by the same team that gave us Wolfenstein and Doom. This is immediately obvious if you’ve played any of these titles. Quake is very much the next step up in evolution from Doom. Most of the Doom basics are here, a variety of weapons, upgrades, futuristic space-action and strange occult elements. This time around though there’s a more intelligent enemy AI, the controls have native mouselook and jumping, and the environment is even more atmospheric.

In this game, you play as an unidentified human soldier who is forced to face a legion of extra-dimensional creatures. Apparently the only survivor of an onslaught by these strange monsters, you must make your way from your overrun military installation, deep into the bowls of hell from which they came. The ultimate goal, to find the source of the invasion and end it.

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When Quake was originally released, it was a software-rendered DOS title. However, it wasn’t long before the game received a port to Windows and was given full GL accelerated graphics. The upgraded version, GL Quake is the title that most players are familiar with. Over the years, the game has been ported to nearly every operating system and game console. However, it is the PC version that we will focus on here. These days, the game is best experienced using a frontend called “Darkplaces”. This enhancement allows Quake to run smooth on modern hardware and features a variety of upgrades without comprising the integrity of the original game. This is the mod that I personally recommend.

As I mentioned earlier, there are two ways to play Quake; single player and multiplayer. While the First-Person Shooter Genre had been around for a few years by this point, Quake is really the one title that brought multiplayer to the forefront. Until now, most FPS games were played via LAN or modem-to-modem connection. Quake is really one of the first games to take advantage of the rising popularity of the Internet. Multiplayer through TCP/IP is one of the shining points of this title. All over the net, Quake servers were popping up. There was even third party software released that allows players to locate and join existing Quake servers (Quakespy being one of the most popular). I spent many hours hunting my friends through various tunnels and arenas thanks to this title.

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Despite its popularity, like all things, the attention of most gamers shifted over time. While Quake still sees a surprising number of online players, it’s not a popular as it once was. For this reason, most of my playthrough this time around was based on the single player campaign and the two official expansion packs.

It had been many years since I played through the single-player mode of Quake. I half expected to have my fond memories ripped away from me as I realized how dated the game had become. But I was pleasantly surprised. The game was just as good as I remembered it. Quake still held the same mystique and atmosphere that enchanted me as a young man.  Everything from the level design to the soundtrack still felt new a fresh. I was shocked. I can only chalk this conclusion up to the fact that this was really a game that was done right the first time. It still holds up even more than 10 years later.

The single player scenario is not long. It can easily be completed in one evening if you’re a fairly decent player. But as I mentioned earlier, the game was also built with multiplayer in mind, so for many, the single player mode was nothing more than a training ground used to hone the skills that would later come to good use in an online Deathmatch.

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For those players who crave more, have no fear. There were two official expansions (or Mission Packs) released for Quake. These two add-ons together, add about thirty new levels total, a handful of new weapons and extend the story of the original game a bit (although not very effectively). As you might guess, they also included a number of multiplayer maps as well.

My frequent readers probably know that these reviews have so far served as my own personal trip down memory lane for the most part. This review is no exception. But regardless of my own nostalgia. Quake is one of those games that every PC Gamer should own and cherish. Regardless of what’s out there these days, Quake is classic.

Difficulty: Variable–  Quake features several options for difficulty for the single player campaign. There’s even a couple hidden options for those really sadistic players. The difficulty options feel very appropriate. Of course, when you play online, the difficulty is strictly determined by the skill of the other players.

Story: The story for the game is semi-weak and mainly only found in the paper manual. In typical ID Software fashion, there are few blurbs as you complete the various chapters throughout the game. But If you want to know the backstory (what little backstory there is) you’ll need to read outside of the game itself.

Originality: As I mentioned in the overview, FPS games were nothing new. Quake manages to be original with its refinement of the genre and its excellent presentation.

Soundtrack: Musicwise, the game soundtrack was crafted by none other than Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. The music is very alien and appropriate for the game. The Mission Packs also include new music tracks (not by Reznor, but are just as groovy and interesting). The environmental audio is also superb. Monster noises, weapon sounds everything is very well done.

Fun: Despite is age, Quake is still quite a bit of fun. I thoroughly enjoyed playing through both the main game and the mission packs. I was impressed both with how much I remembered about the game and how much I forgot. It was like rediscovering the company of a long, lost friend.

Graphics: For a game that started out as a software rendered title, the graphics actually manage to hold up well. The GL upgrade to the game really improved things. Today, with mods like Darkplaces, the game can run under modern resolutions and take advantage of some more modern enhancements that really help keep it look good.

Playcontrol: This game was released during a time when FPS controls were shifting from arrow-keys to the new WSAD default that we are familiar with today. The default controls are bit antiquated for an FPS title, but are easily customized.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – I hate sounding like a fanboy, but Quake is a classic and it still holds up to the test of time. This is the game that started the online FPS craze, but don’t let fool you, there’s still a lot of fun to be found in the good old single player scenario. This is a title that I recommend to anyone. It’s a must have.

Currently available on: SteamOther Reviews In This Series:

QuakeQuake IIQuake III Arena – Quake 4 – Enemy Territory: Quake Wars

Review: Blood (One Unit Whole Blood Edition)

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With Halloween just around the corner and my recent playthrough of two other Build engine games, I decided what would be more appropriate for the month of October than a playthrough and review of the classic PC game Blood?

Blood is one of those games that I fell in love with the very first time I saw it. I remember coming across it on a store shelf with a friend of mine. We bought it, took it home and spent the better part of the week taking turns working our way through the game. We were hooked.

In this title, you play as the recently resurrected anti-hero: Caleb. Prior to the beginning of the game, Caleb, along with his lover Ophelia, had long been a faithful servants to the dark god Tchernobog. One day, for reasons still unclear, Tchernobog expressed dissatisfaction with his servants and had them executed. The game begins with Caleb rising from the grave seeking both answers and revenge for his untimely demise.

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The majority of the game features Caleb making his way through various horror-themed levels, and fighting off hordes of zombies and cultists until he reaches his final destination the inner-sanctum of Tchernobog.

Blood plays very similar to most other Build-engine games. There’s a variety of weapons to choose from. Caleb’s arsenal runs the gamut from mundane weapons like a Pitchfork, Flare Gun, and shotgun, to more exotic items like a Tesla Cannon and Voodoo Doll. Also, much like Duke and Lo Wang, Caleb will occasionally spout off humorous one-liners. These often take the form of movie quotes or even the occasional song.

One of the more noticeable features of Blood is…. the blood. This game is gorier than Shadow Warrior. Bloodied corpse can be found in droves, enemies meet gruesome deaths, and you will often uncover rooms covered in blood and body parts. Zombies can be beheaded and then their heads can be kicked around like soccer balls (leaving a trail of blood wherever they roll). So this is not one for the kiddies…

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Shortly after the release of Blood, followed an expansion called Cryptic Passage. The add-on features an additional chapter with ten new levels. The levels seem very well designed, but to me, they didn’t seem to fit with original plot. I found that I didn’t enjoy them as much as I did the original game. It’s worth noting that this add-on was created by a third-party, but was official sanctioned by Blood’s original developers.

Not long after Cryptic Passage, a second expansion was released. This time, the add-on was created by Monolith, the developers of the main game. I found The Blood Plasma Pak to be much more enjoyable that the previous add-on. Together, Blood and its expansions were eventually released in one package called: One Unit Whole Blood.

Blood was one of my favorite PC games upon its release. My friends and I spent many late night hours playing multiplayer death-matches. This game really catered to the multiplayer environment, and several of the deathmatch maps included with the Plasma Pak are still some of the best multiplayer arenas I have experienced. Sadly, these days it’s nearly impossible to experience multiplayer Blood due to both the lack of interest and the difficulty in running the game.

That’s right, at the time of this writing, Blood has not seen a proper conversion to Windows. Unlike Duke and Shadow Warrior, there’s no native Windows client for Blood. If you want to play this game, you’ll need to emulate through DosBox. Luckily, GOG.com makes this easy. They sell One Unit Whole Blood complete with DosBox integration. While this makes things simple for single-players, it still makes things very difficult for those wishing to play online.

All in all, Blood is a great game. In today’s world, its held back by aging technology but its legacy still stands. If you really have the desire to play, the GOG version is the way to go. It features the complete game with all patches (except for the ill-fated alpha 3dfx patch… but don’t get me started on that). I still keep my fingers crossed that the game will eventually get the same treatment as Duke Nukem 3D and Shadow Warrior.

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Difficulty: Variable–  Like many games of this type, there is a variety of difficulty settings. I find that these are fairly appropriate. Gamers experienced with this type of game would do well to stick with the default option, while those without a lot of experience may benefit from one of the easier options. The hardest setting is pretty intense and only recommended for the hardcore.

Story: Unlike most Build games, this game has a serious story. Most of the comic relief is situational. The storyline seems to be a blend of several common horror themes, with a little bit of “The Crow” thrown in for good measure. I like it.

Originality: If Duke was an action movie, and Shadow Warrior was a Kung Fu movie, here we finally have our Build Engine Horror Movie. Motifs aside, the game does a pretty good job with feeling fresh. The backstory and environments presented in the game are very unique. I was enthralled with the title when it first game out.

Soundtrack: The in-game audio and soundtrack is appropriate for the environment. The tracks are very mellow and ambient. While there’s nothing particularly groovy, the soundtrack is very well done for this type of game.

Fun: I’ve been a longtime fan of Blood. The game is very enjoyable and has a quite a few “jumpy” moments. When you play, play in the dark, be prepared for anything. You never know what’s lurking just around that corner…. Atmosphere is key.

Graphics: The graphics in Blood are on par with Shadow Warrior but they seem to look more antiquated these days. Since the game has never received an official port, its pretty much impossible to play in modern resolutions This causes the game to retain its blocky visuals.

Playcontrol: Like many of these old games, the default controls seem a bit antiquated. There is customization available but it has to be done in DOS emulation and its not very user friendly. Also, the game wasn’t really designed with a mouse in mind so, the mouselook does not perform in a way that modern gamers would expect. If you plan to play, be aware of this up front.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 3 – Despite its age and flaws, I still love Blood. Its hard to recommend the game today because of all the work that goes in to just making it run. But in its day, it was easily my favorite Build game. That being said, if you’re willing to put in the effort, there’s nothing better to play this Halloween…

Currently available on: GOG.com
Other Reviews In This Series:BloodBlood II

Review: Shadow Warrior (Classic Redux)

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Somehow I’ve managed to tear myself away from Final Fantasy XIV long enough to bang out another PC classic from my youth. Next up in my list of classic FPS titles is another BUILD engine game, Shadow Warrior.

Shadow Warrior is best described as a Kung-Fu version of Duke Nukem. Instead of a burly action hero, you play as the aged Kung Fu master, Lo Wang. Wang, much like Duke is a dirty-minded wisecracking antihero. The premise of the game is simple; until recently, Lo Wang served as the personal body guard to a the President of a futuristic corporation known as Zilla Enterprises. Upon learning that Zilla had plans to take over the world by summoning demons, Lo Wang resigned his position. The game begins when some of Zilla’s goons pay Lo Wang and unexpected visit in his dojo. Not willing to be the target of cut-rate assassins, Lo Wang makes it a goal to put an end to Zilla’s evil ways.

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Players familiar with Duke Nukem 3D or other BUILD engine games will feel right at home with Shadow Warrior. The game play is very similar. You progress through the game level by level, obtains keys, unlocking doors, finding ammo and weapon upgrades and defeating enemies.

The game is loaded with Easter eggs and humorous references to Kung Fu movies and anime pop cultures references. These are often scattered throughout the levels, which by the way, are very well done for the most part. In fact, I think the level design in Shadow Warrior is a step above that of Duke 3D. When it comes to violence, Shadow Warrior is really over the top. Enemies get slices in half, blood spurts and squirts all over the place. Also, the game is filled with toilet humor and half-naked anime girls. As a 17 year old, it was the greatest thing I’d ever played.

Much like Duke Nukem, the weapon selection in Shadow Warrior is very diverse and interesting. Lo Wang can wield anything from Ninja Stars and a Katana to Submachine Guns and Nuclear Warheads. A few of the weapons in the game seem to be more geared towards multiplayer than the single player scenario.

Until recently, the game was a bit hard to come by. Thankfully, a new port of the game was recently made available. Shadow Warrior Classic Redux, contains the original game, as well and two previously unreleased expansions.

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I played through the original game years ago, but never had a chance to dive into the add-ons until now. I have to admit that the main game seems to shine way brighter than the two expansions. The first of the two, Wanton Destruction, does feature some pretty interesting levels, but I found it to be a bit long in the tooth. The second, Twin Dragons bored me almost completely. Regardless, these are included with the main game, and the price is well worth it. It’s important to note, that a third add on was also under development. Shadow Warrior: Deadly Kiss was teased and advertised, but from what I hear, development on the title was cancelled before it was completed. Rumor has it that the files were recently discovered and MAY make their way to the public before long.

Multiplayer-wise, the game can really be a lot of fun assuming you can actually find someone to play with. As I mentioned earlier, several of the weapons seem geared for deathmatch (Caltrops, sticky bombs, etc). Plus, there’s some really great deathmatch maps included with the game itself. If you can a friend to team up with, a lot of fun can be had.

A remake of the game is coming out in the VERY near future, and I plan on making it my next review. Until then, here’s the breakdown:

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Difficulty: Variable–  Like many games of this type, there is a variety of difficulty settings. I find that these are fairly appropriate. Gamers experienced with this type of game would do well to stick with the default option, while those without a lot of experience may benefit from one of the easier options. The hardest setting is pretty intense and only recommended for the hardcore.

Story: Build game = ridiculousness. That’s to be expected from the makers of Duke Nukem 3D. Don’t go in expecting something serious and you won’t be disappointed.

Originality: Shadow Warrior is simply Duke Nukem 3D in an Asian motif. But, that doesn’t seem to matter. The dev team did an excellent job at taking the D3D formula and making it into something new.

Soundtrack: If you’re lucky enough to have the original game CD, then be ready for some really high quality music. The original CD ROM contained redbook audio tracks that serve as background music. Even the modern port of the game will support it if you have it. If not, there’s little to hear outside of the environmental sounds in the game. The CD audio tracks are very well done, and add quite a bit to the experience. Sadly, most players of the Redux version will miss out on this.

Fun: As a fan of Asian culture, I found this game to be very entertaining. These days, many people consider the racial and cultural stereotypes to be a bit over the top. Maybe they are, I don’t know. But the game is a parody of itself and its important to remember that its not meant to be taken seriously.

Graphics: Originally released as a DOS game, the graphics are very similar to other software rendered BUILD engine titles of the day. Shadow Warrior, did however, receive an official “3DFX” patch during its lifecycle. In those days, hardware accelerated graphics were the newest trend and I felt that the original patch was  a bit rushed and actually a step backwards. Luckily, the modern version looks great on today’s high resolution PCs.

Playcontrol: Like many of these old games, the default controls seem a bit antiquated. The Classic Redux version comes with default controls that better match those of today’s games, but you still have the ability to customize the controls to however you like.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 3 – I am a big Shadow Warrior fan. But, its not a game for everyone. The game seemed to have been lost in the shuffle of FPS titles back in the early days. It was released as a time when PC games were booming. The focus was shifting to hardware acceleration and gamers were beginning to focus on multiplayer first, and single player secondary. I recommend this title any one who enjoyed Duke 3D, or likes games with an Asian flair. But I fear that many of today’s gamers just won’t “get it”.

Currently available on: Steam and GOG.com

Other Reviews In This Series:

Shadow WarriorShadow Warrior (2013)