Category: Reviews

Late to the Party: Red Dead Redemption.

I had written this shortly after I finished the main campaign of Red Dead Redemption in mid-2011. I was intending to post it as a community blog on Destructoid, but I didn’t get around to it for whatever reason. As I was sifting through my past writings, I found this one and decide to post it here. I only changed minor grammar and spelling errors, and changed the formatted BBCode back to HTML.


So, I wrote a blog back in January on how I’ve always been behind on video games. Thankfully, I’ve gotten better this year at trying to keep up, but I can’t afford every single game at launch. Because of this, I end up getting games long after their release date, sometimes end up playing them much later after that. Since L.A. Noire just came out a week ago, I think it’s topical that I write about another Rockstar-published game that came out last year. This, my friends, is me being late to the party on Red Dead Redemption.

Shout out to whoever made the cover. It’s rather stark. If only the rest of the game looked like this.

Red Dead Redemption
Played on 360
Released on May 18, 2010
Started January 18, 2011, Finished May 14, 2011

(Finished in this case means “Finished last story mission, roll credits.” Since it’s a free-roaming action game and all.)

My dad was the one who got me to notice this game. He’s not a gamer, he just pays attention to TV ads and asks if I’m familiar with certain games. This, coupled with the Man from Blackwater Machinima that aired on FOX shortly after the game’s release, made me mildly interested in it. I asked for it as a Christmas gift, and started by dabbling with multiplayer in early January. (First achievement I got? “Red Dead Rockstar.” The viral achievement.) After a while, I started playing the single player on and off, playing it around the same time as other games like Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit and Saints Row 2.

Now, I hadn’t played a recent Rockstar game. The last Grand Theft Auto game I’ve played was GTA: San Andreas, so I can’t make any comparisons from RDR to GTA4 as I haven’t played it. I also never played the spiritual predecessor, Red Dead Revolver. That game was released back in a time where I didn’t have a large Xbox/PS2/Gamecube collection. I was essentially going into this with little expectations other than who published it — Rockstar, known for high quality and critically acclaimed games — and who developed it — Rockstar San Diego, the guys who brought us Smuggler’s Run back in the PS2/GC days, as well as the Midnight Club games.

For 2010, this looks rather alright.

I’ll refrain from spoiling large chunks of the story, as it’s a decent story for a Western-style game. When I started the game, I just assumed that John Marston’s role is similar to The Man with No Name’s from the famous Dollars trilogy of Spaghetti Westerns.

Continue reading…

Chaser: The Total Recall game we should’ve got.

One thing I’ve been trying to do this year is to tackle my long, burgeoning backlog. I’m limiting this to mostly current generation stuff like the 360, PS3, PC and Wii. But only because I wasn’t really up to digging out my Xbox to play Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 and or play through the gauntlet that is Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4. If I tried to finish everything I owned, I’d be left with a task that would be impossible to finish in my lifetime.

I’ve been making a slight dent at that backlog in recent months, tackling Borderlands and all its DLC, Saints Row: The Third (which is good timing considering Saints Row IV hits later this year), F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin and Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. Lots of shootybangs, basically.

BADASS SPACE MARINE COVER

So it makes sense my most recent completion was this little-known budget FPS called Chaser. A first-person shooter that was developed by Slovakian developer Cauldron and published by JoWood Productions in 2004. I had heard of the game in the past thanks to owning a PC Gamer demo disc that had a demo of the game’s multiplayer. While the demo wasn’t amazing by any stretch, it did seem like an interesting shooter that I might play someday.

Fast forward to 2012, when I see the game on a Steam daily deal for $2.50, which got reduced even further to $1.24. I have a soft spot for bargains, and when a game hits that “$2 or less” threshold, it’s an instant impulse purchase. Then it sat on my Steam backlog until very recently, when I had decided to try it shortly after beating Redneck Rampage, wanting an “old-school” FPS fix of a different kind.

Douglas Quaid John Chaser in an unusual predicament.

You play as John Chaser, an amnesiac stuck on a spaceship being hunted down, with no memories of what happened prior. You eventually make it to Earth and become acquaintances with members of “The Family,” as you try to do missions to find out who you are and what happened. Eventually you find the truth, befriend a few people along the way, and find out you were doing a mission on Mars. So you get your ass to Mars, go to the Hilton and flash the Brubaker ID at the desk.

Obligatory sewer level screenshot.

Okay, I know a Total Recall reference sounds dumb here, but Cauldron clearly was looking at the Schwarzenegger sci-fi classic for inspiration: From the amnesiac main character, to befriending people who would later be enemies, being chased through a spaceport, even having to go through murky Mars caves to find the truth. This is the closest we’ll get to a “Total Recall: The Video Game” that isn’t that terrible NES game from many years ago.

Let’s be honest here, shooting a bunch of dudes is better than punching similar-looking monsters and dodging glory holes.

The game is not perfect, though. Being made by a game studio where English is not their primary language, there’s that weird case of “eurojank” to Chaser‘s design. Voice acting is a very mixed bag, leading to awkward line deliveries and unusual word usage. Subtitles don’t always match what’s spoken. Jumping physics seemed a bit off, where I was more likely to miss a platform than land on it. There are many points where it wasn’t clear where I needed to go next, which lead me to walking around a lot and frequently backtracking, among other problems that are common to unpolished shooters.

Cauldron’s CloakNT Engine makes for large, expansive levels. Impressive for a game released in 2004, however it makes later stages like the last few levels drag on considerably.

Chaser is not just a rough unpolished game, it’s also very difficult. On Normal difficulty, it didn’t take much for the bad guys to whittle my full health and armor down to zero pretty quick. Enemies occasionally drop medkits and armor, but I ended up losing that as quickly as I got it. This even applies to fall damage — later stages have you dropping down on pipes, taking off small bits of your health as you descend, making it pretty easy to miss a jump and easily crater, forcing you to quick save repeatedly.

This is cruel irony.

Lately I’ve been trying to avoid playing games on harder difficulties, but Chaser was incredibly difficult to play on Normal, leaving me to go through the remaining 2/3s of the game on Easy just to get through it. Even on Easy difficulty, some of the later stages still kicked my ass, with enemies having grenade launchers that one shot me even with near-full health and armor. The quick save key became my best friend.

Even the game’s ending is especially bleak. I won’t spoil it, but I was honestly expecting a much different outcome, and playing a shooter with a downer ending, especially the long journey it took me to get there, is disappointing. I would preferred a choice, like in Singularity, another game I played fairly recently.

That isn’t to say this game is bad per se, it’s just difficult because it was clearly made in a different mindset than most first-person shooters today. Chaser hearkens back to the late ’90s-early 2000s era of first-person shooter design: reflexes, speed, exploration, backtracking, rationing items, and quick saving often to make progress. The average player today would likely have a very difficult time playing through Chaser if they’re used to the Call of Duty style of game play.

Despite that challenge, I enjoyed the varied level design — from space stations, to cities, to the Russian tundra, even the redness of Mars looked pretty neat. The soundtrack was good, reminding of MOD tracker music that was popular in Unreal Tournament and Deus Ex. There’s a bit of charm to Chaser that I had a soft spot for, despite it’s ridiculous length and punishing difficulty.

It’s on Steam at an affordable price of $5, though it does go on sale occasionally. It’s worth checking out if you want some early 2000s eurojank in your life. Just remember that it’s gonna kick your ass, but stick with it. Despite that eurojank, it’s not a bad shooter. I’ve played worse shooters out there. Much worse.

Some screenshots taken from the Steam store page and Mobygames.

(Update 8/20/2019: Updated the post with a few changes here and there.)

Plunder & Pillage: A pirate mod with a seedy past.

I have a very stream-of-conscious sort of thinking. I’ll be in the middle of something like watching a video, listening to music, playing a game, then suddenly think about something related to what I’m doing right now, like information on a movie or song. It happens to me very often, leading to me going on weird tangents about silly stuff. In some cases, it can lead me down a rabbit hole I wasn’t expecting, such as how a jingoistic military FPS lead me down to a pirate mod.

I wonder where he got the background from.

Plunder & Pillage is a standalone modification for the Build engine where, naturally, you play as a pirate sailing the high seas. From creator Jesse Petrilla, he seemed to be a bit interested in modifying the old Build engine long after engines like Unreal Engine and id Tech 3 were available.

I could give you the plot summary, but I’ll just quote the modification’s readme file:

You are Capt. Jess Murdock, a renegade pirate who has lost everything in a shipwreck on the high seas. You wash up on the shore of an island inhabited by pirates of other gangs, you must fight your way through the island, and plunder and pillage all that you can in an attempt to regain what was lost and make a name for yourself as the most feared pirate on the high seas.

This isn't Blood caliber level design, but it's probably better than most fanmade levels.

This isn’t Blood caliber level design, but it’s probably better than most fanmade levels.

Yeah, it’s a simple game, this isn’t Secret of Monkey Island levels of story complexity, it’s a by-the-numbers first person shooter. There isn’t anything wrong with that.

After I downloaded Plunder & Pillage and gave it the proper tweaks for it to work in DOSBox — as of this writing, no Build engine source port supports this abandonware — I stepped into the boots of Jess Murdock, “arrrrrr”ing like the rest of them.

The “quick kick” function from Duke Nukem 3D is also here, which in this mod is his cutlass sword. Thus you can pretend you’re the kraken and have multiple arms.

Plunder & Pillage shows three episodes, but in reality there’s only one episode with three short, quick levels. In the first level, Murdock kills some pirates to get a new ship. The second level involves him going through Parrot Island and… plundering the place? I guess that does fall right into the game’s title.

Unfortunately this has all the hallmarks of a Duke Nukem 3D total conversion, and not done very well. Enemies will do devastating damage even at range, and a lot of the items and weapons are just identical to the base game. Murdock starts out with a flintlock pistol and can get more weapons like a blunderbuss that works like a shotgun, and an explosive crossbow, which acts like the game’s rocket launcher.  Even the setup menu references stuff like the Holoduke and Jetpack, something our Cap’n doesn’t get the opportunity to use.

I’m pretty sure that villager sprite is stolen straight from Strife. How unprofessional.

At one point, finishing the second “episode” lead to a cutscene from Duke Nukem 3D plays, the one where Duke Nukem kills the Overlord boss. I’m genuinely surprised 3DRealms didn’t get on his ass. Guess they were too busy “developing” Duke Nukem Forever to care.

Plunder & Pillage is surprisingly short. There’s only three playable levels, and as far as I know the only version available is this three level demo. It would’ve been nice to see some more levels with interesting designs, but I think Jesse Petrilla should’ve gotten some level designers, because all three levels here are unremarkable and rather straightforward.

You think that would be the end of this saga, which would make for a fairly short article. But now here comes the twist, and it’s gonna go in a way that you don’t expect.

After the tragic events on September 11, 2001, Plunder & Pillage designer Jesse Petrilla completely switched gears and was hard at work on a new game. Sticking with the aging Build engine, he changed the premise: going from fighting pirates to fighting… the War on Terror.

Continue reading…

PRISM: Guard Shield: Sponsored by the National Guard.

Happy after-Thanksgiving, everybody. Hope you had your fill of fattening birds, parade floats and talking to your very bigoted grandparents. Unless you’re reading this on a day that’s not Thanksgiving, in that case then happy whatever-day-it-is.

I was gonna write about this game on Thanksgiving Day itself, but stuff came up. However, it has been a while since I last dabbled in bargain bin shenanigans, and this one is gonna be a doozy.

You’ve probably heard of America’s Army. Sponsored by the U.S. Army, the game was a significant hit back in its day. It was known for being an accurate simulation of the Army’s functions and operations — at least, for a military video game, anyway. A decent little game for its time, in spite of the blatant “JOIN THE ARMY” overtones.

At one point, the U.S. Navy sponsored Sony’s SOCOM series of video games. Realizing the “big boys” were getting video game deals, the U.S. National Guard decided to have their own sponsored game. A free, sponsored game, just like the U.S. Army did.  The problem is, it’s one of the worst free games I’ve ever played. And I’ve played a fair share of garbage.

As opposed to what, the seventh line of defense?

The National Guard’s sponsored game is PRISM: Guard Shield, a futuristic first-person shooter. I don’t know who the developer is exactly, the company mentioned on the (now defunct) website is Rival Interactive, a developer of unknown, unremarkable strategy game Real War, and a program about… Neonatal Intensive Care Units. I’m not making this up, by the way, it was on their website when it was still around.

However, the game also features the logo of another familiar developer: Rebellion Developments. Ah yes, that wonderful UK developer that gave us such great hits like Dead to Rights: Reckoning, Shellshock 2: Blood TrialsNeverDead and motherfuckin’ Rogue Warrior. Oh, and a bunch of Sniper Elite games, I guess. I’ve played Dead to Rights: Reckoning and Call of Duty: World at War – Final Fronts, so I am familiar with their body of work. It usually varies from “not completely terrible” to “how in god’s name did this get commercially released?” So, I knew to temper my expectations accordingly.

I’m familiar with this game for one reason: Back when this was brand new, I got an email from Fileplanet (RIP) saying I could get a free T-shirt if I filled out a form and played this silly game. I happily obliged, and after installing it, I played it and was shocked at how poor it was.

I remember playing this during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2005, alternating between playing the game, and watching the floats and silly Broadway numbers. So if you’re wondering why this is somewhat Thanksgiving themed, that’s why.

As for the T-shirt, I got it months later, in the wrong size. It was a black T-shirt with the logo on the front and a dead link to the website on the back. As far as I know, it’s somewhere in my house with other junk clothes, including a NASCAR t-shirt I won from a GameSpot stream back in 2006. I can’t say I’m really attached to that shirt.

Onto the game itself, our hero is a nameless, faceless character named Frank Shepherd. No, he’s not related to the Half-Life: Opposing Force character, and I doubt he’ll tell you that what their favorite store on the Citadel is. A successful graduate of the Gordon Freeman School of Character Development, Frank does his routine security guard beat at a “New York Harbor” — which I’m not sure which harbor in New York they’re referring to — which gets ambushed by evil bad guys, forcing you to shoot a bunch of generic goons while occasionally picking up intel and scanning laptops.

Look at those wonderful particle effects! Far Cry 2, eat your heart out.

Continue reading…

Mountain Dew Game Fuel, Halo 4 Edition.

Yeah, you read that right. I’m going to review a soda on this blog. Why, you may ask? Well, because I can. But also because Halo 4 fever is slowly dying and being replaced by Call of Duty: Black Ops II fever, so I gotta squeeze this in now while it’s still relevant. No one’s gonna care about this in a month’s time.

I like to exaggerate the name of this stuff. Imagine if it was said by some obnoxious 90s announcer.

So, this is the fourth time that Mountain Dew has done the limited “Game Fuel” thing to advertise whatever hot new video game was on the market. The first time Game Fuel was introduced was in 2007 for Halo 3, then re-released in 2009 for a World of Warcraft: Cataclysm and most recently, last year for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. I honestly expected them to skip this year, judging by the “every other year” cycle, but since Halo started the unique limited flavor/marketing tie-in for Mountain Dew, they might as well do it again for the newest installment involving a Master Chief and some Halos.

I was never a big Halo guy. I played a leaked prototype of Gearbox Software’s PC port back in 2003, and eventually bought the game the following year. I thought it was interesting and kinda fun, but hardly the mind-blowing revelation that gamers were making it out to be. Halo 2 was a dull, monotonous corridor shooter I’d rather forget, and all I remember of Halo 3 was me and and a friend co-oping it in two long sessions one time. I even got the Anniversary edition of Halo: CE and only finished a level or two before moving on.

Still, I can’t say I hate Halo, it just never really grabbed me outside of the soundtrack and occasionally its multiplayer. Maybe it’s because I was anti-Xbox ’til about 2006. Forgive me, I was still an oblivious teenager.

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Modern Warfare 3: The most disappointing Call of Duty.

This post is particularly hard for me to write. When I wrote this originally, the game was having a free weekend on Steam, as is common for a lot of PC games these days. Since I’m not the richest person around, getting a taste of these big budget AAA games are a treat. But then there’s Modern Warfare 3, and how particularly busted it is. Modern Warfare 3 is a bad Call of Duty game, and you shouldn’t play it.

This took me like a hundred hours in MS Paint to make.

I should back up a bit. I’m not one of those pretentious jackasses who bemoan that “Call of Duty is killing the video gaming industry.” I mean, it’s part of a larger problem, but I’m not one of those hipsters who slam the big budget stuff and praise stuff like McPixel. (This is not to say McPixel is bad. It looks pretty fun, actually.)

In fact, until about a few years ago, I was a Call of Duty nut. I owned practically every game in the series up to that point. I played the multiplayer a lot — perhaps not as much as the maximum level max prestige players, but enough to still have a blast playing it — and I even enjoyed the campaigns of each despite how much they’re corny action movies in disguise.

You wanna know my dedication? I did an unboxing of Modern Warfare 2‘s Hardened Edition, at launch, in one of the last times I’d go out for a midnight launch for anything.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8QW80hIZiA?rel=0&w=640&h=480]

But as I kept playing Modern Warfare 2, I came to a realization. It wasn’t as great as Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was. Treyarch’s World at War felt better at times.

Modern Warfare 2 is basically Michael Bay: The Video Game, complete with homages to The Rock. They even got Bay stalwart Hans Zimmer to do the score. But the story was full of nonsensical twists, ridiculous American jingoism and cliched catchphrases of Keith David yelling at Ramirez to defend a Burger Town.

The multiplayer, which is basically the major reason I played Call of Duty was not very well balanced at launch, and prone to bizarre bugs like the “Javelin glitch” — where you could prime a Semtex grenade, cancel it by switching to the javelin, and cause a massive explosion when you died. A few times I accidentally joined hacked lobbies of 16-player Rust where the only winning outcome was the game-winning Tactical Nuke. This was not long after launch, even.

It really felt like Infinity Ward didn’t have the passion or love, throwing anything at a wall and seeing what stuck. Then the Respawn fiasco happened in 2010 where about half the team left due to creative differences between them and Activision, then it all started making sense.

2010 was around the point when I started losing interest in Call of Duty: I didn’t pick up Black Ops until earlier this year, and as of this writing, I never bothered grabbing Modern Warfare 3. After replaying MW3‘s multiplayer again through the Steam free weekend– the third the game has had since launch — I realized why.

Kill Confirmed is probably one of the best additions to the series yet.

While there are a few cool new things, such as the small skirmish Face-Off mode and Kill Confirmed, it’s the same multiplayer stuff from Modern Warfare 2, just amplified to a ridiculous degree. The maximum level is now 80, and there’s a whopping 20 prestige levels! Weapons have levels now, them trying to fix a problem that was already fixed in Black Ops. You can get prestige tokens that unlock double XP bonuses. There’s new guns, new killstreaks, they added deathstreaks, there’s perks for weapons now, the whole nine yards.

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Yakiniku Bugyou: An import game that’s unabashedly Japanese.

Since I started this blog, I’ve been covering mostly stuff made in the US or Europe. I didn’t realize this until a few months in that there hadn’t covered Japanese games on this site. For the most part, it’s because I don’t really play a lot of games from Japan these days. They’ve made a fair share of good stuff over the years, and stuff like Nintendo is untouchable.

So let’s change that by playing a game that I had recently gotten from a promotion. Bonus: It’s a PlayStation game so it’ll be nice and nostalgic, compared to the last time I got a game from a promotion: The eurojanky StoneLoops! of Jurassica.

For context: There was this website called Raptr, a social networking site for gamers where you can track achievements and keep up with friends and stuff. I kept forgetting I was on the service until I had gotten an email from them, saying I have fulfilled a requirement for Raptr Rewards, which was their obligatory “gain points by playing games and redeem them for things” service.

They were doing one in collaboration with publisher MonkeyPaw Games, who released a bunch of import PlayStation games on digital storefronts, most notably the Tomba! series of games. I was hoping for something cool like Tomba!, or Arc the Lad, or even Alundra. Sadly, I got the short end of the stick and got something else entirely.

Oh, this looks *very* Japanese…

Yakiniku Bugyou is an import game for the PS1. Published and developed by Media Entertainment, this game is one of the selections Monkey Paw offered on selection, and while it wasn’t what I wanted, I was hoping I’d be able to make something interesting out of this.

There’s one big problem: It’s entirely in Japanese. This has very little English in it. I know a total of about three words in Japanese, so I knew I was in for a rough time.

Admittedly I have only a vague idea of what I’m doing here.

Continue reading…

Shadow Warrior: I messed with Lo Wang, and got my ass beat.

Man, remember when 3D Realms were considered one of the coolest PC publishers? Then Duke Nukem Forever happened and now they’re just a shell of their former glory only to be laughed at. Where did it start going all wrong? Probably when they thought they could make a Duke Nukem 3D ripoff of their own.

This looks eerily similar to the Duke Nukem 3D box.

This is Shadow Warrior. Released in 1997 on the PC, it was a first-person shooter much in the vein of Duke Nukem 3D. Sadly, it didn’t sell as well as Duke 3D did. Shadow Warrior is considered to be part of the “Holy Trinity” of shooters that used Ken Silverman’s Build engine: The others being Duke Nukem 3D and either Redneck Rampage or Blood, depending on who you talk to.

I had already bought DukeRedneck Rampage and Blood through GOG.com, but as of the time I wrote this, Shadow Warrior was nowhere to be found on that service. The only ways to buy it were through 3D Realms’ online store at a ridiculous-for-an-old-game price of $10, or hunt down a copy on eBay or local shops.

Well, luck was on my side when I finally found a copy at a Goodwill recently. After a little cajoling with DOSBox to get it to work properly, I was ready to play Shadow Warrior, told by the man himself that “You no mess with the Lo Wang.” I had heard from friends that this game wasn’t very good. Was this gonna be a repeat of the Blood II debacle, where I found enjoyment in a game everybody else hated? Well, not really.

“Zilla sends his regards…” with ninjas that will quickly die to my fancy katana.

The game starts out in Lo Wang’s dojo, where some goons come in from Master Zilla, who apparently wants you dead after you find out he wants to rule the world or something to that effect, and even kills Lo Wang’s master in the process later in the game, forcing Wang to avenge his death and kill Master Zilla. Granted, this was pre-Half-Life and pre-Deus Ex. Shadow Warrior was made when stories in first-person shooters were there just to make the unrelated levels connect to each other somehow. I can’t fault 3D Realms for the paper-thin storyline.

Wouldn’t be a 3D Realms game without a poke at other games in it.

Unlike Duke Nukem’s claim to fame from stealing from Roddy Piper and Bruce Campbell, Lo Wang doesn’t crib from any kung fu movies, so we get wonderful lines like “Howsa that for Kung Fu Fighting you Chickenashit?!” to “Cocks and balls, squashy penis,” even saying “Ancient Chinese secret!” any time you find a secret area. The jokes come off flat, crude and mostly unfunny. The voice of Lo Wang, John Galt, gave it a shot, but Lo Wang just doesn’t hold a candle to Duke in terms of cheesy one liners.

Since this game is a pastiche of Asian cinema, there are references all over the place that don’t quite fit. It has dojos, references to eating animals, fortune cookies as health boosts, plus weird anime references before anime was even a thing in the US. I can give them effort for trying, but in a sense this comes off as a bit culturally insensitive. Granted I’m the whitest person around, so I cannot really give my piece about some of the game’s questionable elements.

The game loves throwing tough foes at you even early on.

The game is also punishingly difficult, with many enemies being able to do rapid amounts of damage and small enemies that are a real nuisance to hit. Granted, Build engine games can be tough for many different reasons, but Shadow Warrior is considerably harder due to enemies that can easily whittle down your health pretty fast. Not only that, armor is considerably scarcer in this game. I usually don’t have problems with Blood or even Duke Nukem 3D, but the quicksave button got a lot of use while playing.

Ah, the days when you could make a blatant Speed Racer reference and *not* get sued.

Despite my frustration of this, there are a few good things going for it. The art style’s good in spite of the Asian stereotypes, Lee Jackson’s soundtrack is filled with goddamn bangers, and some pretty unique interactivity where you can drive RC cars by using your mouse and keyboard among other drivable vehicles. This was pretty cool stuff for 1997, all things considered.

There were going to be three expansions, which only two — Twin Dragons and Wanton Destruction — got released; the other one would be cancelled after the poor sales of the original game. Both of these are freeware now, so if you wanted more Wang, there you go.

No, Lo Wang isn’t gonna try to eat the rabbit. He’s trying to snatch a fly with those chopsticks.

I feel a little bit bad for 3D Realms. They clearly wanted this to be the next Duke Nukem, going a big marketing blitz, complete with novels based on the game, which I heard are worse than even the Doom novels. But it wasn’t enough as people were already enamored by id Software’s Quake and its innovative 3D engine, and nobody wanted these old looking “2D” shooters.

When I look at this, I see a shooter that despite some cringe-worthy moments like mostly naked anime girls and terrible stereotypes, is actually alright. It does justify its place in the “holy trinity” of Build engine games. It’s tough as balls, but still fun in the end. That’s really all that matters.

If you wanna play it now, it’s freely available on either GOG or Steam, but this is the original game in a DOSBox wrapper. If you want something a bit easier to handle on more modern machines, there’s Shadow Warrior Classic Redux, which was ported by General Arcade. Either way, Shadow Warrior is worth a look at least, in spite of its issues.

Oh well, at least 3D Realms got better after this, right?

Balls of steel, indeed.

 

Nope, they did not.

Updated 1/16/2020 for grammar and tone changes. Added screenshots from the more recent Redux release.

Vietnam: Black Ops: Not the Black Ops you’re thinking of.

Way back in January of 2012, I had written a post about a bargain bin shooter I had grabbed called Elite Forces WWII: Iwo Jima. That wasn’t a fun game to play. But there are several other bargain bin shooters out there, some of which that are actually alright.

Granted, I wouldn’t say it’s good, but I wouldn’t say it’s as bad as Elite Forces WWII: Iwo Jima. It’s yet another game based on a war, this time a little more recent. So let’s play Black Ops.

Sadly, Woods did not learn time travel and appear in a budget game from 2000. Though anything’s possible these days.

No, no, silly, not that Black Ops. Though I wouldn’t mind talking about probably one of the better games in the Call of Duty franchise, we’re actually talking about a game called Vietnam: Black Ops, and it was made way back in the year 2000. Insert your “In the year 2000” joke here.

With that font, I wonder if I’m playing Black Ops or Postal…

Made by a podunk little studio called Fused Software, this would end up being their only published game. Most of the people would work on this game and a handful of other projects around the late 90s to early 2000s, though one art designer for this is still in the biz working on art for stuff like Dragon Age: Origins, so good on him.

Oh, and this is another Valusoft joint. I had mentioned them in the previous post, and I wasn’t expecting to be playing two war games published by the same company. It shows how ubiquitous they were during this period. While I can’t say I remember this era fondly, it was certainly more interesting than seeing copies of Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 on my PC budget aisles.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MuyN8Njt5c4]

You play as some unknown marine during the Vietnam War. Captured by Vietcong, your goal is to kill General Phan, and get out of there safely. Occasionally you’ll see text giving your character some personality, but that’s about it. Honestly, I’ll take Alex Mason and him babbling about “hearing the fucking numbers” over this bare-bones plot.

So, it’s another first-person shooter on the Lithtech engine. Which is weird, because I thought it was the Quake engine at first, until I dug into the files and realized it used the REZ file format that Lithtech uses.

In every level, you just get to kill a bunch of Vietcong, do some slightly obnoxious platforming, and get to the end of the level each time.

You start with a useless knife, then get an AK47, M16, a M60, a Sniper Rifle, and two explosive launchers during your travels. Most of the weapons will be in your collection not long after you start, and unlike Elite Forces WWII: Iwo Jima, there’s actually ammo for these guns this time!

Never thought the Vietnamese would have some hidden temple like this.

However, that doesn’t excuse the game’s punishing difficulty. You have 100 health and no armor, and it doesn’t take much for you to die. Get used to seeing the Purple Heart and “Taps” playing repeatedly every time you die, because you will likely see it a lot. Expect to be hitting the quick save key a lot.

Now I can give this game credit for something: The levels are pretty large, which is impressive for a 2000-era game. Problem is the the levels look blocky and simplistic, with the later levels being “my first FPS level” in some spots. They look like they belong in an action-adventure Tomb Raider knockoff rather than a Vietnam War FPS, but I’m not expecting realism here.

On the bright side, a handful of the levels feel somewhat non-linear, allowing you to take one of two different paths which probably take you to the same place anyway. At least, it felt that way, I didn’t replay the game to be sure if I was right.

Besides the ugly graphics and very banal gameplay of shooting dudes and getting to the exit, there really isn’t much else to this game. Thankfully it’s ridiculously short: I beat it in an hour and a half over two separate sessions. Honestly I was hoping for something longer, but then I flashback to WWII Iwo Jima and realized how much the game padded its levels with ridiculous difficulty spikes, so I’ll take the short length.

I found this in a thrift store for $2. For the time I got with it, $2 is the right price. It’s not mindblowing, but it’s not awful. Hence, Vietnam: Black Ops is just a passable, but ultimately forgettable game.

Surprisingly, there was a sequel: Vietnam 2: Special Assignment. Some of the developers from Black Ops return for the sequel, which surprised me. I haven’t found a copy of this anywhere, but I’m not expecting anything mind-blowing. Maybe I’ll find it and get around to writing about it some day…

Call of Duty: Black Ops promo picture taken from the Call of Duty Wiki. Vietnam: Black Ops video courtesy of YouTube user Marphy Black.

Facebook Games: The Price is Right Slots and Zynga Slingo.

Okay, I confess: I play Facebook social games. For a long time I vowed against these kind of games, because of a long-standing view to not play games meant for the “casual crowd” like my mother. Eventually once I got a Wii a few years ago, I caved in and enjoyed the goofy stuff like Wii Sports Resort. This “relaxing” of playing casual games extended to Facebook and the social games there, thus my really stupid stigma of not playing “casual games” had disappeared, and for a while, was my thing.

Anyway, onto the Facebook games. My first taste of Facebook games was Wheel of Fortune. I have a bunch of big game show fans on my Facebook friends list, many of whom I’ve known for years, and it makes sense they’d jump on board to the game show games. After getting hounded for requests on Wheel of Fortune, I hopped on and started doing the daily puzzle thing like the rest of my friends.

After a while we all kinda got burnt out and moved on from Wheel. It didn’t help that Wheel was a single player game on Facebook, thus not as exciting to play as the actual TV show. That was the end of that for a while, I stopped playing Facebook games with the exception of contests, such as winning a Def Leppard track pack for Rock Band 3 thanks to a contest program once.

Cut to months later, where I started getting requests for The Price Is Right Slots and Zynga Slingo. At that point, I had not played any Facebook games for several months, and decided that now was the time to scratch that itch again. First with TPIR Slots, then with Zynga Slingo. Now here’s my rough opinions of both.

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