Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Doom & Doom 2 Reviewed

Game:  Doom and Doom 2: Hell on Earth
Year (s):  1993 and 1994
Company:  dev.  id Software
            pub.  many
Engine:  id Tech 1
Type:  FPS
What I paid:  0, present
Game Time:  varies by difficulty, familiarity with levels, and percentage    completion


Doom:  Facilities located on the moons of Mars are researching teleportation.  Demons invade through portals.  You are a space marine.  You were left to guard the ship.  Your comrades went forth and died.  Now it's just you with a pistol.

Doom 2:  Demons invaded Earth!  You have to save humanity and go to the other side to stop the invasion.

General Comments

I'm writing about these because:

1.  It's the start of a franchise, and the break of id with Apogee
2.  They are iconic

This game came out the same time as the Apogee-published Blake Stone series.  As a result, Blake Stone did not do as well.  id had worked with Apogee on Wolfenstein, but for Doom, they were not together.  Both Doom and Blake Stone had a shareware version that featured the first episode.

Graphically, this added "vertical" to the shapes geometry established via Wolfenstein.  Note, this has only 90 degree angles, and while you can fall, you cannot jump.  Animation is still sprite-based.  Aside from doors and the end-level swich to throw, Doom/Doom 2 had other buttons to operate elevators, bridges, etc.


Midi music!

What is Unique?

This has a SLIGHT edge over Wolfenstein's "You're in a prison cell!  Nazis!" plot. 


It's not very revolutionary in combat, because it's setting the basics for combat for further games.  As compared to Wolfenstein, it introduces different ammo types.  And a chainsaw.

Actual fighting isn't very hard, with some strafing and running all the time.  Most enemy projectiles are slow and easily dodged.

Final Thoughts

This was a great game for the time.  Some Doom 2 levels (Barrels o' Fun, Gotcha, Tricks and Traps) are still fun to play.  Mostly, these are not as engaging as what we have come to expect, and as such, are more of a chore to play than they seemed at the time.  I would only recommend these out of nostalgia.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Unreal Tournament 2004 Review

Game:  Unreal Tournament 2004 (UT2K4)
Year:  ...2004
Company:  dev.  Epic Games, Digital Extremes
            pub.  Atari, MacSoft, Midway
Engine:  Unreal Engine 2.5
Type:  FPS with multiplayer emphasis
What I Paid:  $20 (?) on eBay
Game Time:  as long as you want

A Bit of Explanation

The second of the Unreal Tournament games was UT 2003.  It was titled as such because Epic thought to imitate sports games in releasing similar games annually.  Thus, UT2K3 used the Unreal Engine 2, and UT2K4 uses Unreal Engine 2.5.  These two titles have many similarities and share several maps.  As such, they are considered together to be "Unreal Tournament 2," justifying the most recent 2007 UT title to be called Unreal Tournament 3.

The Engines

Unreal Engine 2 and 2.5 are used in a whopping 80+  games, including the BioShock franchise, Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell games, Red Orchestra, and the upcoming Duke Nukem Forever.  I suspect Epic may make more via licensing than by selling games.  Non-game simulations also used these engines.  From Wikipedia, "Until October 2007, more than 500 companies had an Unreal Engine 2 Runtime Licenses."

Lighting, water, and particle effects are decent for the time.  Everything is a little blocky, but you have to remember, this is BEFORE Source and id Tech 4 redefined expectations.

Game Types
With both a single player ladder campaign and ELEVEN built-in multiplayer game types (custom maps allow even more types, like Vehicle Capture the Flag), this has the most variety of any UT title.

This is by far the easiest game to LAN that I have ever played.

Mods and User-Created Content

In addition to coming with a variety of game-altering mutators, a slew of custom created mutators were created.  The most notable was the "RPG mod," which allows all characters to level up, gaining different bonuses as they kick ass.

Gobs of custom maps exist, most of them suck.  The best custom assault maps I've found are the half-hour, vehicles everywhere Confexia map, and a hard-to-find map called Utopia.

Horsehell Commons is a good Vehicle Capture the Flag map, also, one that starts with A that I do not currently have. 

Final Comments

UT2K4 might not be the prettiest game out there, but it's definitely worth the price for the amount of content.  I've probably played this more than any other shooters I currently own.

Unreal Tournament 4, which will use a new engine, is planned to come out along with the next generation of consoles (PS 4, Wii 2, etc) so it will probably be a couple more years before we see another Unreal title.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Unreal Tournament

Game:  Unreal Tournament
Year:  1999
Company:  dev.  Epic Games, Digital Extremes
            pub.  GT Interactive
Engine:  Unreal Engine
Type:  FPS with multiplayer emphasis
What I Paid:  ten bucks
Game Time:  from 12 hours to infinite

The Engine
Epic Games doesn't just make games, they make engines.  Licensing their engines for third party use might be worth more than game sales.  The first Untreal Engine was used in 25 games total, including Deus Ex, Star Trek titles, and Harry Potter titles.

Graphically, Unreal Engine was pretty comparable to other engines of the time, like id Tech 3 and the Halo engine.  Which brings us to our next topic of conversation.


For multiplayer PC shooters of the time, the big players were Unreal Tournament, Quake 3: Arena (and the expansion, Team Arena), and Halo: Combat Evolved.  They each have a single player campaign.  Of the three, Halo has a plot and has by far the best single player experience.

For multiplayer, Unreal has six game types, Quake 3 (with Team Arena) has 7, and Halo has 7, HOWEVER, Halo is the only one that does not have computer-controlled bot support.  Bots are easier to set up in Unreal than in Quake 3.

Changes from then to UT 2003/2004

Most of the weapons, with minor adjustments, carried through to later Unreal games.  Two were discarded, and one was nerfed.  The Ripper, that circular-saw shooting, ricochet-happy head chopper, gets eighty-sixed.  The melee... whatever it is, gets replaced by the similar but easier to use shield gun.  The Pulse Rifle is replaced by the nearly identical, but much weaker, Link Gun.

Some of the combatants carry on, such as Malcolm, Xan, Kragoth, Barktooth, some of the Skaarj, and a handful of other names.

And, the sniper-friendly map Facing Worlds returns later as "Face Classic."

So, Anything Else?

Well, I can leave a lot of things unsaid, because this franchise, and modes like deathmatch and CTF,  are pretty well known across the board.  It's a fun game, just like all the UT titles, and gives you something to kill time, with friends, or with bots.  If you don't have any FPS multiplayer games, this wouldn't be my first recommendation.  But if you're feeling nostalgic, it's something to do for a weekend or two.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Borderlands Robot Revolution and New Patch

Borderlands Claptrap DLC and Newest Patch

1.  Claptrap's Robot Revolution

If you've beaten the original game, you'll remember a claptrap turning in to a interplanetary ninja assassion robot.  Well, in this DLC, that robot starts a claptrap uprising.  Soon, claptraps are turning bandits, skags, Hyperion soldiers, and anything else in to cyborgs to fight you.  A few bosses (mostly from other DLC) return in cyborg form as well. 

After completing the main quest, you gain access to a bunch of loot that you can get to in about a minute after loading the game, and you can do it over, and over, and over.  MUCH better than Knoxx armory raids!

Some of the achievements are collections, based on random enemy drops.  I have spent at least twelve hours just killing claptraps, and still haven't earned them all.

The Robot Revolution offers about a weekend's worth of content, and it's priced around ten bucks, so it's about what one would expect.  Or, it's included in the Borderlands Game of the Year edition with all DLC (fifty bucks on Steam).

2.  The Newest Patch for Borderlands

...which you have probably already read about if you own Borderlands.  It ups the level cap by another eight, for a maximum of 69 (or 58 if you only have the main game).  The patch also levels all enemies to match you, so you'll never be overleved on a quest.  Higher level enemies means better loot, so this is a good thing all around.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Zero Casting Cost Deck

(edited Jan. 26)

The Zero-Casting Cost Deck- 60 cards

Zero-Cost Artifacts


4 Ornithopter
4 Memnite
4 Phyrexian Walker
4 Shield Sphere

(non-creature artifacts)

4 Welding Jar
4 Dark Sphere
4 Urza's Bauble
4 Mishra's Bauble
4 Tormod's Crypt

"Free" Creatures

4 Salvage Titan

Affinity Artifacts

4 Frogmite
4 Myr Enforcer
4 Tooth of Chiss-Goria
4 Scales of Chiss-Goria


4 Teetering Peaks

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

BioShock Review

Game:  BioShock
Year:  2007
Company:  dev.  Irrational Games et al.
            pub.  2K Games
Engine:  Unreal Engine 2.5 and 3 (modified)
Type:  First Person Shooter (some horror and  RPG elements)
What I Paid:  $20 the first time (Best Buy)
            $5 the second time (Halloween sale on Steam)
Game Time: about 20 hours


The game starts in 1960 with your plane crashing in the middle of the ocean.  Luckily, there is a building there, with an elevator of sorts.  You are transported to a city under the sea, Rapture, seperate from any government or religious influence.  A place where a man is entitled the sweat of his brow.  You arrive in the middle of a genetically-enhanced rebellion, and you become a pawn in the uprising..  A mid-game twist explains the main character better than a Shyamalan flick.  There are two endings, depending on how you treat little girls.

General Comments

This game is visual beauty.  REAL-TIME WATER REFLECTION EFFECTS.  And a whale!   
The good ending incorporates game-generated material with real video footage.
Why does this have survival-horror elements?  Well, for much of the game, ammo is a bit scarce.  There are creepy little girls with glowing eyes, and people with hooks that crawl on the ceiling, also, occassionally ghosts. 
Why does this have RPG elements?  There is a (limited) inventory system, some flexibility in weapon upgrades, and different avenues of genetic splicing upgrades..


There is a score that helps at key points in the plot.  There are also jukeboxes that play music to enhance the atmosphere/era.  Audiotape journals found throughout tell the story.

What is Unique?

Players can attempt to hack anything electric, which starts a non-shooter mini-game.  Sucess opens locks, accesses uncommon vending machine items, or will turn turrets/cameras in to allies.  Failure makes hurt go, "Ow!"
The most unique things are the complex story and the amazing water graphics.


Every non-wrench weapon has three ammo types.  For example, the machine gun has standard rounds, anti-personnel rounds (better against people) and anti-armor rounds (better against machines).  Scattered "Power To The People" upgrade stations can each be used once to increase a chosen weapon effectiveness.

Genetic splicing gives the player a range of super powers that don't use ammo, but something called Eve.  You can shoot ice, fire, lightning, toss objects around,summon bees... there's some variety here.  Like ammo types, different enemies are weak or strong against different attacks.

Many plasmids are not "attack spells", but help with hacking, nutrition, damage reduction, etc.  So, some are always on, and other happen per click and use Eve.  Capeesch? 

Final Thoughts

I gave this game away after I played it the first time, because I discovered that only using the wrench, with power-ups, makes everything cake.  Also, I could not see well enough to fully appreciate the phenomenal water effects.  So, if you're going to play this, try to NOT use only the wrench, and it will be more challenging and fun.  It really is a very attractive game from 2007.  If you're still reading and at all interested watch the first six minutes or so of the game in this video (the last four minutes in this are not necessary)  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZgDEh3UN404  

A sequel came out in the last few months, returning to the underwater city.  BioShock 2 contains DLC, mostly for the platforms.  PC players currently cannot play some of the DLC, but programmers, we are told, are working on it.  Reviewers give it good scores, and it's only thirty bucks for the base game.  I have heard (not read, because I haven't looked in to it yet) that the sequel is not beatable if the player has any color blindness.  If so, that counts me out.

Anyway, the original is a decent game.  It won some game of the year awards, and I'm not sure it's THAT good, but it's not bad.  You want something to do for a week or so, give it a shot.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Fallout 3 Review

Game:  Fallout 3
Year:  2008
Company:  dev. Bethesda Game Studios
            pub. Bethesda SoftWorks, ZeniMax Media
Engine:  Gamembryo
Type:  RPG Shooter
What I Paid:  $0, Christmas/birthday present for '09


200 years have passed since nuclear war.  You have lived your entire life in a safe undergoud community known as a vault.  When you are nineteen, your father leaves the vault unexpectadly.  At the same time, giant mutated cockroaches invade the vault.  You leave the vault in search of your father, and thus learn about the Capitol Wasteland in all of its super-mutant, zombie-dwelling, bandit-infested, irradiated glory.

General Comments

I grew up in the 90's.  My favorite Nintendo games were those by Square and Enix.  I also spent time playing Doom, Duke Nukem 3D, and pretty much any other shooter on the PC.  So, a marriage of the two genres appeals to me.
That being said, this is the best combination so far.  Similar elements as those in Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (also by Bethesda) and the Deus Ex franchise, but more streamlined and intuitive.

A word about the Gamebryo engine, it sucks.  It looks alright, but crashes often, making hard saving a priority.  It also has some glitches that can, at times, disallow further progress


Voice actors include Liam Neeson and Malcolm McDowell.  By which I mean, holy shit!
There are also a few different in-game radio stations that the player can listen to on the go.  These play music, help cement the feel of the world, and sometimes report on the player's activities.

What is Unique?

This game is very open.  You can ignore the main plot altogether and wander about the Capitol Wasteland, looting, fighting, and taking up any of the huge amount of side quests. 

Players can choose how to build their character, whether they like sneaking around, guns a' blaizin', hacking computers, whatever.
Fallout 3 also has a karma system.  You can be good, neutral, or evil, depending on your actions.  Karma status then, in turn, influences dialog and choice of sidekicks.

The range of ways to get through quests yearns for multiple run-throughs.  The first time I played it took about sixty hours.  Every time I play I find something new I hadn't found before.  Tons of gametime.


Combat is, generally, not that difficult.  At any time, you can access the menu and use any number of healing items, change weapons, or repair equipment.
Right mouse button zooms for guns, and blocks for melee.  Fire and reload.  One thing that may be new to you though, is that weapons and armor degrade with use and have to be repaired or become useless eventually.

Fallout 3 introduces the VATS combat system, which is a unique alternative.  VATS combat pauses the game, and shows you what percentage chance you have to hit various parts of an enemy's body.  Depending on how many Action Points you have (and on how many such point a weapon uses), you can, for example, have your character shoot the enemy three times in the torso.  If you are out of Action Points, you have to get back to normal combat until they recharge.  The VATS system means, that people who are completely new to shooters can still play this game and have a good time.

If you like to sneak around, you deal extra damage to enemies that didn't see you coming.

The number of weapons is staggering.

Some of the sidekicks are basically indestructible.

Down-Loadable Content (DLC)

Broken Steel-  Ups the level cap by five and stretches the main story.

The PItt- This is a decent-length addition that involves Pittsburgh steel mill slavery and the struggle for revolution.  Or not.  Either way you want to do it.

Mothership Zeta- Fantastic.  The audio tapes really add some great horror to this.  Oh, you get abducted and fight aliens.  Your allies include a samurai, a cowboy, and a little girl.

Point Lookout- This is the lamest of the DLC.  A tribe of hippie stoners are convinced by a brain in a jar to attack a particular zombie, near an abandoned amusement park, in a swamp.  Also, there are violent hillbillies..

Operation Anchorage- This is the shortest of the DLC.  It allows for the best armor in the game, and shows some of the pre-war world.  Gameplay is different in this because, it being a simulation, you don't have your usual inventory.

Final Thoughts

If you like shooters, you should try this game.  If you like RPGs, you should try this game.  If you like games, you should try this game.  It won game-of-the-year awards for a reason.

Fallout: New Vegas is due out next week.  It's also built on the Gamebryo engine (hopefully with less bugs) and has a few improvements in gameplay you can check out in the E3 video.  A notable difference is that New Vegas is not being developed by Bethesda, but by Obsidian, the original creators of the Fallout franchise.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Should-Play PC Shooters

I have made a list of PC shooters that I would highly recommend to anyone at all interested in the genre.  In no particular order:

Fallout 3

This game is really the culmination of the FPS RPG genre.  There are many different ways to play through the game, lots of different weapons, very long gameplay, good voice acting that includes Liam Neeson, and above all, a fifties-era mentality in a post apocalyptic world.  Did I mention the forty-foot tall, anti-communist Freedom Prime robot?  Good times.


One of the first non-spite shooters, but that's not why it made the list.  Quake is engagingly difficult, any enemy can kick your ass.  The most common enemy has a grenade launcher and a chainsaw.  With a loosely Lovecraft-based story and various traps to keep you on your toes, this game aged well.


Fantastic storytelling and voice acting, Art Bell, and gobs of creativity.  You'll be walking on floors, wall, and ceilings; gravity is not constant.  Oh, and the composer for the music has won awards, as he should.  The music really helps to make this a very evocative, powerful game. 

Unreal Tournament 2004

This has the most game types of any Unreal Tournament game.  While the single player campaign isn't too thrilling, the Instant Action and multiplayer options are great.  This is the easiet game to LAN I have ever played.  Bots are easy to adjust, and there are lots of fan-made maps in addition to those that come with the game.  Also, this is one of the most stable game engines I have ever encountered.


This game has a good length, and a great story that has led to a franchise.  This is a game that really went after secondary fire with a vengeance.  I've played through this game at least twenty times, and I still like it.

Doom 3

If you've never played this before, Doom 3 has jump scares that'll, well, make you jump.  As much as able, while sitting.  The PDA functions of this make it more realistic and immersive.  The attention to darkness keeps players on their toes (I DO NOT recommend the flashlight patch if you want to get the whole experience).  Overall, an intense shooter with great visual effects and a solid story.

Halo : Combat Evolved (the first Halo game)

This is the first of the Halo franchise, and, apparently, has the most solid story.  Game length is decent, there are many intense firefights, and the voice of Master Chief is none other than Steve Downs, Chicago classic rock station The Drive's very own deejay!  The story in this game is awesome, and the soundtrack is memorable.

Half-Life 2

For those that didn't play the first Half-Life, this has little to do with that!  So it's easy to just jump right in to this game.  There is a fantastic story and very well developed characters.  The graphics were ground-breaking and are still good.  It's easy to lose track of time will playing this.

For anyone wondering why Doom, Wolfenstein, etc are not on here, have you played them recently?  I played Doom all the time back in the day, because there was nothing else to do.  I played it a few months ago, and it was more of a chore than a fun time.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Legendary Review

Game:  Legendary
Year:  2008
Company:  dev. Spark Unlimited, pub. Gamecock Media Group et al
Engine:  Unreal Engine 3
Type:  First-Person Shooter
What I Paid:  $0.  Came free with my DVD drive


In Legendary, you are a thief that tries to steal Pandora's box and inadvertently opens it, spilling all sorts of monsters out in to the world.  The bad guys want to control the creatures and use them to rule the world.  The good guys want to destroy the box.  So while you're getting shot at by the bad guys, you're also dealing with werewolves, fire drakes, minotaurs and so on.  The ending is cool.

General Comments

Spark Unlimited was founded by people that had worked on the Medal of Honor franchise.  They have only developed three games, the most well known a Call of Duty title.

Unfortunately, lack of attention to detail ruin the game.  There are NPCs that can be walked through.  If you swing your axe at them, it sounds just like when you hit concrete.  There are a couple of simple puzzles, but they're so non-intuitive they're just frustrating.

What is Unique?

The combination of modern times with mythological monsters is cool, and the monsters look great.  The boss fights are epic.  While fighting normal enemies and trying to activate scattered machinery, a golem is punching holes through buildings and trying to step on you.  A kraken knocks down Big Ben before you get to pummel it with rockets.


You get an axe, and two guns, similar to FEAR and other titles.  This game uses check-point saving, so no quick saves.  Though there are probably a dozen or so different kinds of enemies, there seem to be more werewolves than anything else.  Chopping their heads off actually gets to be tedious.  There are about half a dozen weapons, and they do not adhere to the "equal, but differently useful" philosophy.  Lack of ammo limits use of the most powerful weapons.

Legendary has a simple magic system.  You kill monsters, you get energy.  This can be used to push enemies (not very useful) and to heal yourself. There are no med kits.  Killing humans does not give you energy.

Final Thoughts

Some copies of this (such as mine) have a fatal coding error that makes it impossible to reach the last area and beat the game.  There is no patch for this, and starting from an earlier save or starting over entirely is ineffective.  This and other things that should have been addressed by play testers make the cool story and nice graphics crash and burn.  I would not recommend paying money for this game.

Spark Unlimited is currently working on their fourth game.  There are currently no details.  Hopefully, they will learn from their mistakes.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Another Dragon Deck

straight red, type one, sixty cards.  a bit of an improvement over the last one, i'd say.

4 kilnmouth dragon
4 two-headed dragon
4 rimescale dragon
2 Hellkite Charger
2 Furnace Dragon

4 Dragonspeaker Shaman
4 Urza's Incubator
4 seething song
4 Rite of Flame

2 Browbeat
2 Glacial Crevasse
4 Crucible of Fire

20 snow covered mountain

I'd also like to say that, based on the spoiler so far, Scars of MIrrodin looks pretty freakin' badass.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Borderlands Review

Game:  Borderlands
Year:  2009
Company:  dev. Gearbox, pub. 2K Games
Engine:  Unreal Engine 3 (modified)
Type:  RPG Shooter

What I paid for it:  $20 including all three currently available DLCs on Steam (everything was on sale))

Plot/General Gameplay

You are one of four unique characters on a desert planet.  Alone or with mulitplayer, you are looking for The Vault, a mythical stash of alien technology.  There's also lots of mercenary work to be done.
Each of the four characters has three different skill trees.  After a level up, you can put a point in to one skill.  This allows for basically twelve different ways to play through the game, each having different benefits.
After playing through the game once, you can do a second playthrough, where you start the game with all the stuff you ended it with, and the enemies have been leveled up appropriately.  The variety of ways to level characters combine with the Playthrough 2 option allows for this to be a very long game.

What is Unique?

The graphics are what stand out the most.  Gearbox used a modern engine and then went for a somewhat cartoonish, almost 2D look.  Sharp outlines and bold textures add to this effect.  At first, I didn't care for playing a shooter that looked like a Gorillaz video, but after a while it really grew on me.
Other than that, there's some humor here and there.  Nothing laugh out loud, but just little things to keep the game a little more light.


There are lots of different weapons.  Each weapon type can be leveled up, and some characters have bonuses for specific weapons.  Some weapons are magic (they call it "elemental damage") and can shoot lightning or fire.  Enemies drop weapons fairly often, and it seems as though loot and store inventory is randomly generated.
Death isn't so bad in this.  After your health bar goes to zero, you have a few seconds to kill something.  If you do, your health goes back to full.  If you don't, you respawn at the nearest waypoint and lose a small amount of money.  In addition to health, there is a recharging shield system a la Halo.

Down-Loadable Content (DLC)

Currently there are three DLCs, with a fourth out soon. 
Zombie Island of Dr. Ned is pretty short.  It adds a few new areas and new enemies. 
Mad Moxxi's Underground Riot is lame.  It has three arenas where you fight waves of enemies.  You gain no experience in these areas and enemies do not drop anything.
The Secret Armory of General Knoxx is more like an expansion.  Many new areas are added, along with some new enemies and some familiar faces.  This is by far the lengthiest of the DLCs.  My only complaint is that they removed fast travel from this, and having to walk or drive everywhere gets tedious.

Final Thoughts

The only other game I've played by Gearbox was the Half-Life expansion Opposing Force.  That game was terrible, and the last boos fight was a tentacle monster coming through a portal.  Not to ruin the ending of Borderlands, but the last boss is a tentacle monster coming through a portal.  The plot is also kind of weak in Borderlands.
Compared to other RPG shooters like Fallout 3, it's a lot less intense and simpler.
Criticisms aside, it's not a bad game at all.  The first playthrough is a longish game, and if you want to do Playthrouh 2, explore other characters, do multiplayer, or check out the DLC, this game can provide as much gameplay as you want.
Due to the success of this game, there will likely be a sequal, but no details are currently available.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Magic Red Black Green Deck

theme: destroy lots of stuff, then have the only creature in play.

Defiler of Souls
Voracious Cobra 

Jund Hackblade
Naya Hushblade
Grixis Grimblade

Hull Breach

urza's filter

Pillar of the Paruns

and soon (probably tomorrow) a post about Borderlands.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

American McGee's Alice Review

Game:  American McGee's Alice
Year:  2000
Company:  dev. Rogue Entertainment, prod. EA
Engine:  id Tech 3
Type:  Third-Person Shooter, Platformer

American McGee

Who the hell is American McGee?  He's a guy, and that's his real name.  He got his start as a level tester on Wolfenstein, and then worked for id in the nineties on the Doom and Quake games.  Although he did sound effects and other things, he primarily was a level designer.  Now he makes his own games.  For fans of the band Dredg, he directed the video for "Same Old Road."

Plot/General Gameplay

After returning from Wonderland, Alice's parents die in a house fire and she is put in an asylum.  The white rabbit tells her to save wonderland, and down the rabbit hole she goes!  It's more complicated than that, but I don't want to ruin the ending.

The game reminded me of Tomb Raider in some ways.  There's lots of jumping to do, and some simple puzzles here and there.  The graphics are pretty much par for the time, but the water effects stand out.  The scenery and characters are all dark and twisted.  There's a lot of creativity in the look of things.  Level design is very linear.


The music fit the mood, and wasn't bad.  The voice acting (especially Alice) was great.

What is Unique?

It's a nightmare version of wonderland.  The cheshire cat looks demonic and Alice attacks with a knife.  Taking a children's tale and making it twisted, that's what's unique.


Do you like to throw knives?  You'll be using your knife (the first weapon) a whole lot.  I only used about half of the weapons.  The half I didn't use ranged from crappy to completely horrible.  In many shooters, the weapons are balanced, each being useful in its own way, and the fact that it wasn't so in Alice was a downer.

Every enemy drops health and ammo when killed, making things easier.  Some of the bosses are very difficult.

Final Thoughts

If you played this game when it came out and you love it, good.  I thought it was ok but didn't age well.  If you can get this game for free, it'll give you something to do for a week or two.  Unless you're nostalgic, I would not recommend buying this (the cheapest use copy on eBay is fifty bucks).

A sequel, Alice: Madness Returns is due out in 2011.  Checking out photos and a plot synopsis, it looks and sounds like the original, but with better graphics.  I'd wait to hear more before I decide to play the sequel.  And if you're looking for the trailer, there is a short teaser on the EA site.  There is also a fan-made, not official trailer that comes up in searches, so just be sure to check if what you are watching is the real deal or somebody's film class project.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Unappreciated Magic Cards 1

First and foremost, I want to bring up Plague Sliver.  Juzam Djinn sells for over $200.  Plaguey goes for a buck-fifty.  Each is a 5/5 for two colorless and two black.  Each causes the controller to lose one life during upkeep.  "But Plague Slivers suck in sliver decks!"  The losing life ability does not stack.  In a sliver deck, yes, this card would suck.  Would you put Juzam Djinn in your sliver deck?  Probably not.  They are the same card except that if your deck has Plague Slivers in it, you screw over any sliver deck you might play against.  This dollar price discrepancy is insane.

Next, Skyshroud Elf.  It's a common green elf for two mana that allows you to filter colorless to red or white mana.  Fantastic.  Joiner adept, somewhat similar, rare.  This cheap common makes a green/red/white deck pretty easy.

And last, the split card LIfe/Death from Apocalypse.  The Death part is 1B to put a creature in your graveyard into play.  You lose life equal to the mana cost of said creature.  Sound familiar?  The B casting cost Reanimate rare from Tempest does the same thing, from any graveyard.  Life/Death sells for twenty cents.  Reanimate goes for eight dollars.  I'm not saying that they are equally powerful cards, I'm just pointing out alternatives to rares that cost more money to do roughly the same thing.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Prey Review

Game:  Prey
Year:  2006
Company:  dev. Human Head Studios, prod. 3D Realms
Engine: id Tech 4
Type:  First Person Shooter, Puzzle

Plot/General Gameplay

I picked this as my first review because this game is fantastic, and I think more people should check it out (I got a brand new copy for eight bucks on eBay),
The story follows protagonist cherokee Tommy, who, after being abducted, must fight his way through the living alien ship (The Sphere) to rescue his girlfriend and find a way home.  For fans of Doom 3 or Quake 4, some of the textures on the ship are going to look pretty familiar (they all use id Tech 4).
There is a Zippo instead of a flashlight.  Zippos get hot, so it makes sense that the player has to turn it off after a bit.  Unlike Doom 3, light and dark do not play a large role.


The soundtrack for this game is orchestral, and makes it feel like you are part of a movie.  The character talks occassionally, taking away from immersion value but adding to story-telling value.

What is Unique?

The most unique thing about this is the spirit walk ability, basically astral projection.  While spirt walking, the player can walk through forcefields and flip switches that affect the environment.
The best uniqe thing about Prey is gravity.  Players (and enemies) can walk on floors, walls, and ceilings by using a variety of methods.  Between this and spirit walking, there are some neat puzzles and totally unique ways to get around.


Prey doesn't have the usual shotgun/machine gun/rocket launcher buffet.  With the exception of a wrench, every weapon is alien.  Some can be described as "like a minigun with a grenade launcher," or "a spider grenade," but all are unique.  A somewhat limited supply of ammo means that the player can't go through the game just using one or two weapons, like a lot of shooters.
The enemies are creative.  Fighting in general is not too difficult.  If a player dies, they go to a different area for ten seconds or so and then come back to life in the same spot, so for once I didn't have to constantly hit the quicksave button.

Final Thoughts

Prey has something like twelve hours of gametime, so it is short.  However, this game is very cheap and very unique, a la Portal.  A sequal was given the green light in 2008.  In 2009, Zenimax aquired 3D Realms, but as far as there is to know, a sequal (in cooperation with Human Head) is in the works.  Take a weekend and play this game, you won't regret it.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The First Post

I started playing Magic in the mid '90's.  The current household collection has AT LEAST ten booster packs worth of cards from revised/The Dark onward, and a smattering of cards from earlier.  Additionally we have bought singles (mostly rares) for use in decks.  We have thousands of cards.

I've been playing PC shooters since the early nineties.  The following lists PC shooters I have bought and/or played.


* have played but do not currently own
+ Down-Loaded Content (DLC) and/or expansions
/ Month Year   date of blog review

This list is alphabetical by type and revised every once in a while.


Alan Wake / April 2013
Alan Wake's American Nightmare / April 2013 (brief)
Aliens vs. Predator / December 2011
*Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold (shareware)
Bulletstorm / June 2012
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare / March 2012
*ChexQuest /March 2011
Crysis /May 2011
+Both DLC
Crysis 2 / February 2012
*Curse of the Catacombs /June 2011
Dead Space /March 2011
Dead Space 2 / March 2012
Dino D-Day
Doom /December 2010
     +Thy Flesh Consumed
Doom 2 : Hell on Earth /December 2010
Doom 3
     +Resurrection of Evil
Duke Nukem 3D
Duke Nukem Forever / November 2011
     +The Doctor Who Cloned Me
FarCry / November 2011
FarCry 2 / April 2013
F.E.A.R. /January 2011
     +Both DLC
F.E.A.R. 2 : Project Origin /February 2011
F.E.A.R. 3 / February 2012
Final Doom / September 2012
Frontlines: Fuel of War / August 2011
Half-Life /March 2011
     +Both DLC
Half-Life 2
     +Episode 1 and 2
Halo : Combat Evolved / January 2012
Hard Reset / March 2013
Heretic /July 2011
Hexen / October 2011
+Deathking of the Dark Citadel
Hexen 2
Killing Floor / November 2012
Left 4 Dead / April 2012
Left 4 Dead 2 / April 2012
*Legendary /September 2010
Max Payne /April 2011
Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne / April 2012
Medal of Honor / May 2012
Metro 2033 / July 2012
Painkiller /September 2011
Painkiller: Overdose / February 2012
Painkiller: Redemption / March 2013 (brief)
Painkiller: Resurrection
Quake /January 2011
Quake 2
     +Both DLC
Quake 3 / April 2012
     +Team Arena / April 2012
Quake 4 / June 2012
RAGE / December 2011
     +The Scorchers
Red Faction /June 2011
Red Faction 2 / January 2012
Red Faction: Guerilla
Red Orchestra 2
Resident Evil 5
Return to Castle Wolfenstein
Section 8 / February 2012
Section 8: Prejudice / March 2013
Serious Sam: The First Encounter (HD) /June 2011
Serious Sam: The Second Encounter (HD) / May 2012
Serious Sam 3: BFE / January 2012
     +Jewel of the Nile
Shogo: Mobile Armor Division
Singularity /July 2011
Star Wars: Battlefront / August 2011
Star Wars: Battlefronts 2 / August 2011
Team Fortress 2 / January 2012
Tribes: Ascend / September 2012
Unreal Gold /January 2011
Unreal Tournament /December 2010
Unreal 2: The Awakening /March 2011
Unreal Tournament 2004 /December 2010
Unreal Tournament 3 (Black Edition) /May 2011
Wolfenstein 3D / September 2011
Wolfenstein 3D: Spear of Destiny March 2013

Puzzle Games With Some Shooter Elements

Portal 2
Prey /August 2010
The Ball / October 2011


Dishonored / January 2013
Sniper Elite / April 2013 (brief)
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory / October 2012

RPGs With Some Shooter Elements

BioShock /November 2010
BioShock 2 / July 2012
Borderlands /August 2010
     +Claptrap's New Robot Revolution /December 2010
     +Other DLC / August 2010
Borderlands 2
Deus Ex /November 2011
Deus Ex: Invisible War
Deus Ex: Human Revolution (Augmented Edition)
     +All 3 DLC
Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind
Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion / October 2011
       +Shivering Isles
       +Knights of the Nine
Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim
Fallout 3 /October 2010
      +All five DLC
Fallout: New Vegas /August 2011
+All four DLC
Mass Effect (third-person) /January 2011
Mass Effect 2 (third-person) / December 2012
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadows of Chernobyl /May 2011
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat

Platformers and Other

Alice: Madness Returns / December 2012 (brief)
American McGee's Alice /August 2010
Batman: Arkham City GOTY February 2013 (brief)
Darksiders / August 2012
Darksiders 2 / February 2013 (brief)
Dead Island / January 2013
Dear Esther / July 2012
Hydrophobia: Prophecy / September 2011
Just Cause / December 2012 (brief)
Prototype / March 2013
*Tomb Raider
Tomb Raider Anniversary / August 2012