Tagged: PC games

El Matador: A Czech take on Max Payne.

The early to mid 2000s were a weird time in the shooter realm. Remedy gave us the wonderful classic Max Payne in 2001, the shooter that popularized bullet time and action movie stunts, a tribute to John Woo. Yet it wasn’t until 2003 when the sequels to The Matrix hit did it really kick off a brief “bullet time shooter” boom.

Remedy would return with a sequel that year with Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne. Then two Matrix game tie-ins: Enter the Matrix that takes place inbetween The Matrix Reloaded, and Path of Neo, sort of a loose retelling of the film trilogy from Neo’s perspective. After that, Monolith’s classic F.E.A.R. in 2005. But then Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare happened and the trend died as quickly as it came.

Those are most well-known examples, though. A lot of Eastern European game developers took a crack at bullet time, including today’s entry.

Not even a box quote from PC Gamer’s Norman Chan could sell this.

El Matador was one of a handful of games that saw how big bullet time was and tried to make a decent Max Payne clone out of it. Developed by Plastic Reality Technologies and published by Cenega not long after 1C Company bought them, this game came and went, much akin to other budget games. Thrown into the pit of obscurity to be talked about from people like me.

I’ve owned this game for many years, even writing about grabbing it in an old I Bought Stuff entry from 2012, complete with an interesting story inside the box. In what is a trend I need to inevitably break, it took me a very, very long time to actually get around and write about El Matador. Better late than never, I suppose.

Victor solving the problem the only way he can: with bullets.

 

You play as Victor Corbett, a cop for the DEA who after their success solving a hostage situation gets called down to Colombia to help their police forces take down a drug empire. After defeating one of the drug lords, he eventually gets the title of “El Matador,” which is generally accepted among the squad for reasons not completely explained. Corbett eventually goes from place to place, killing drug barons and helping out his squad to end the drug threat.

Sometimes the game throws in these sections where friendly AI help you in your battle, but they’re just cannon fodder that get in the way.

El Matador falls into the standard third person shooter elements at the time. Hold a gun, left click fires, right click zooms in (or scopes in with the appropriate weapon). Shoot dudes until they die, try not to get shot too much yourself, and don’t die. Pretty simple stuff.

Victor gets a bunch of weapons throughout, which are common for a Max Payne clone. From the common pistols and submachine guns to gimmick weapons like sniper rifles and rocket launchers. Since he’s meant to be a cop, he’ll usually start missions with the assault rifle, which ended up being my preferred weapon throughout most of the game. It’s a shame, because in Max Payne he slowly built up his arsenal, forcing you to rely on pistols and shotguns until you get the bigger, better guns later on down the line. I rarely had to use my pistols or submachine guns unless I was completely out of ammo in those other weapons.

Hope you like motion blur, cause this game loves it.

Since bullet time is a core mechanic, Tab activates the slow motion while Shift does a shootdodge. Killing enemies refills the bar even while in bullet time, and Victor reloads weapons instantaneously while in bullet time, meaning certain weapons become literal bullet hoses. This made certain parts of the game a bit easier, though not by much.

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Alpha Prime: Plunging back to the world of eurojank.

As I’ve been writing about random games for years at this point, I’ve started to look back at the various cheapo bargain bin games I’ve written about. Most of them were made here in the United States and published by ValuSoft, the most infamous of bargain bin game publishers. Other times I’ve written about stuff a little lesser known, like City Interactive’s Enemy Front. But sometimes, despite owning many different bargain bin games over the years, there’s a few that made me wonder “Why the hell did I buy this?” Alpha Prime fits that bill perfectly.

A shame I have no idea who Ondrej Neff is. They should’ve done what they did with Metro 2033 and make a novelization of the game that’s somewhat difficult to read in English.

I honestly can’t remember why I bought Alpha Prime. Maybe it was $1 in a Steam sale. Maybe I saw someone show me a dumb video about it, and it looked so bad I couldn’t resist giving it a try. Regardless, I had the game in my backlog, and I felt like I needed something drastically different from BioShock 2, which I had just finished and written about recently.

Alpha Prime is made by Black Element, a development studio based in the Czech Republic. They were part of a collective called the Independent Developers Association (IDEA), founded by Bohemia Interactive. Suddenly it makes sense why the makers of ARMA and DayZ published this mid-2000s budget FPS. At least, according to the Steam store page.

Since I have a penchant for rough, janky games made in Europe, I decided to give this a try just out of morbid curiosity. Let’s just say the experience was rather… unpolished.

It looks like Arnold isn’t even interested in Livia’s advances. Wonder if that’s a side effect of the Hubbardium.

The plot goes like this: Arnold Weiss (or Arnie as some call him) is a former soldier who was stationed at Alpha Prime, an asteroid full of Hubbardium, a fictitious space rock that is said to give people special powers. After being egged on at a bar by an old fling named Livia, he goes back to Alpha Prime to help his buddy Warren, and stop his group from mining more Hubbardium. But then disaster strikes.

Those are words that *can* be used to make a sentence, but I can’t make heads or tails of it.

At least, I think that’s how the story goes. Naturally, since this was made by Czech people, English is not their first language. There is lots of stilted, awkward dialogue in this game, combined with a bunch of spelling and grammar mistakes that made it very hard to comprehend the game’s story, and I ended up ignoring it after a while.

Leaning? shooting behind cover? Yeah, this is definitely a 2000s era FPS.

Alpha Prime is a by-the-numbers FPS. Shoot dudes, try not to get shot too much, that sort of thing. The weapons are standard FPS fare for the time: pistol, shotgun, assault rifle, grenades, the works. There’s some interesting ideas, like the assault rifle being a mini gatling gun, but it acts no different than your standard FPS assault rifle.

These uses of the ReCon could’ve been useful, but most of the time it’s used to look into cameras, which isn’t really as useful.

The game does throw a couple interesting ideas, however. At one point you acquire a ReCon, a device that lets you hack into cameras and activate platforms and traps. It’s kinda neat in spots, but in most cases seeing into the next area won’t help you that much unless there’s a trap inside to make combat easier.

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Ghosts I-IV for Quake: A different kind of soundtrack.

If there’s one thing I need to improve on in my life, it’s to write something in the moment. I’ve bought plenty of games, played a bevy of mods, grabbed other assorted things for potential blog fodder…

Then I do nothing with it. This has happened more often than not, but only because I get the problem of being an ideas person and rarely act upon them. I’ve been slowly improving on this front, at least more than I was years ago.

Which brings me to this post about a game mod. I played this on a whim back in 2018, and thought it was pretty neat. While I’m currently wrapped in a few other things right now, I thought I’d write something quick for this month.

A few years back, I wrote an article praising the wonders of Red Book CD audio. CD audio tracks that would play in certain games, from PC classics like Half-Life, to even Sega CD games like Sonic CD. Unfortunately, modern technology is not too kind to the concept, as it often struggles to work properly on modern devices. In some cases, digital re-releases of games like Starsiege: Tribes didn’t even come with the CD music, removing part of the ambience.

There have been solutions thanks to source ports and game updates. For instance, playing Half-Life on Steam has all its music files as MP3s, so if the game (or a related mod) calls for that CD track, it’ll play it without needing the CD.

Looks just as good as it did in ’96.

Which brings me to a classic in Red Book audio: Quake. One of the earliest PC games to use it, popping in the CD would fill your ears with weird ambient music by Trent Reznor and his band Nine Inch Nails. Modern source ports such as Quakespasm actually support playable CD tracks in MP3/OGG formats, which means one can rip the soundtrack from their copy of Quake – or just find it on the internet, I doubt id and Zenimax care these days – and play it easily, proper looping and all.

There’s a handful of Quake map packs that come with custom soundtracks tailor-made for the level pack, such as Travail. Others outright replace the Nine Inch Nails soundtrack with different ambient tracks, like EpiQuake or Quake Epsilon. But what if I told you someone replaced Nine Inch Nails music with Nine Inch Nails music?

Ha! Now I won’t be burned by hot slag. Take that!
(Oh wait, now I can’t get out…)

“Ghosts I-IV for Quake” is an interesting mod. Replacing the original 1996 soundtrack with the entirety of Ghosts I-IV, an album by Nine Inch Nails with nothing but ambient instrumentals seems like a good fit. In a sense, Ghosts I-IV is a spiritual successor to the original Quake soundtrack, even if there’s little similarities in style.

The album itself is interesting: Frustrated by their record label, Trent Reznor severs their contract with Interscope Records and decides to go independent – for a while anyway – and released this under a Creative Commons license. This license is how the mod exists without lawyers getting involved, as it’s a free mod for a commercial video game.

Shooting switches the power of magic pellets!

There is one other feature of this mod: There’s no monsters or weapons. Now there’s mostly empty levels with switches, lifts and other assorted things, but nothing to shoot. With god mode turned on. In a sense, this changes the perspective of the game entirely. No longer a straight explosive romp, it’s strictly an exploration-based affair.

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