Thursday, June 30, 2011

Red Faction Review

Game:  Red Faction
Year (s):  2001
Company:  dev.  Volition Inc.
            pub.  THQ
Engine: Geo-Mod Engine
Type:  First-Person Shooter
Game Time:  SIX HOURS, first time, on default*


The Protagonist, looking for a change of scenery, signs up to be a Martian miner.  After getting there, he discovers slave-like working conditions, more armed guards than miners, and a plague that is killing miners left and right.  The miners, led my the Red Faction rebel group, begin revolting against the evil mining corporation for the liberation of Mars.

It's a 2nd-Generation Shooter...

... and includes the things one would expect.  We've got polygonal graphics, pre-animated death sequences, the occasional glitch, and the occasional crash.  In these regards, it lived up to my expectations.

Sneaking Around

This game has a few sequences where you have only a silenced pistol (no melee) and have to sneak around.  I hate sneaking around.  That being said, this game offers an obvious tool in these segments: you can drag a dead body to someplace less visible.  It's so simple, but I haven't played other games that had that feature.

Geo-Mod Engine

This engine is pretty standard for the time, certainly nothing amazing.  Something interesting, though, is the amount to which you can destroy your environment.  If you have enough explosives, you can avoid a door by blowing up the walls around it.  It's not a useful tool (it's never necessary in the course of the game) but it was innovative.

*Bosses and Cheating

Combat was easy for the first half, and moderately difficult in the last half.  However, I cheated against both the mid- and end- game bosses.  The first was preceded by a ton of enemies, then no medkits, then a boss.  The last boss was preceded by even MORE enemies, and no medkits.  If games are going to be stupid like that, I have no qualms about cheating.

Final Thoughts

While Red Faction had a couple of innovative ideas, gameplay was largely mediocre, the plot half-assed, and the single-player campaign horrendously short.  I would not recommend paying money for this one.

This game started a franchise that now has four titles, Red Faction: Armageddon came out in June 2011.  The SyFy cable network released a full-length film, Red Faction: Origins, to coincide with the release of Armageddon.  Events in the film take place between the third and fourth games. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Catacomb 3D Review

Game: Catacombs 3D
Year (s):  1991
Company:  dev.  id software
            pub.  Softdisk
Engine:  Wolfenstein 3D Engine (an earlier-than-Wolfenstein version)
Type:  First-Person Shooter


After Space Invaders, this was one of my earliest computer games.  Our version was titled Curse of the Catacombs, but it's the same game.  This isn't only the first shooter I ever played, it was one of the first shooters, period.

Ultima Influence

The Catacomb games previous to this were 2D, with an overhead view.  Though Catacombs 3D came out first, it was arguably influenced by a demo of Ultima Underworld that featured texture mapping.  One member of the Ultima team "recalled a comment from Carmack that he could write a faster texture mapper" (Wikipedia).

Hey!  Look at all the id guys!

Adrian Carmack, John Carmack, John Romero, and Tom Hall.  These guys were in the credits for Doom 3 thirteen years after Catacomb 3D.  I'm pretty sure they'll be in the credits for Doom 4 (slated 2013) twenty-two years after this game.  I guess it's more fun to make and play games than retire. 


I really don't remember a plot, just that you're a wizard roaming a dungeon/fantasy landscape.  You throw fireballs at gorgons, tree-monsters, skeletons, vampire bunnies, and other mean critters. 


I already mentioned throwing fireballs.

This game introduced showing the character's hands in the player's view.

If you throw a fireball at particular walls, they are destroyed and you can find secret areas!


Three Catacombs 3D games were released after this.  Catacomb Abyss was developed by Gamer's Edge (published by Softdisk). 
Catacomb Armageddon and Catacomb Apocalypse were developed by Softdisk and published by Frogman.  All sequels use the original engine and, except for Apocalypse, follow the original protagonist.

Final Thoughts

We got rid of our copy of this probably about the same time we threw away the 3.5-inch floppy drives.  I thought this would be a fun one to do mostly by reading online, unfortunately, it's so old (and, compared to later games, not a big splash in the water) that aside from a short Wikipedia article, sites that copy/paste that article, and a ton of damn youtube videos, there's nothing to read.

Fortunately, you can relive the game (minus the combat) by watching the Windows 95 Maze screensaver!  Always reminded me of Catacomb 3D, anyway.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Serious Sam: The First Encounter Review

Game: Serious Sam: The First Encounter
Year (s):  2001 (original), 2010 (HD)
Company:  dev.  Croteam
            pub.  Gathering of Developers
Engine:  Serious Engine. Serious Engine 3 (HD)
Type:  First-Person Shooter
What I Paid: Cheap-o!
Game Time:  12-14 hours, first play, on default

Obligatory Trailer:

It's Time to Get Serious

I killed cyberdemons with a shotgun.  I beat Quake on the nightmare difficulty.  After that, games became increasingly interested on elements other than strafing and shooting.  Plot, characters, musical scores, realistic physics, advanced graphics... yup, times were a-changin'.

Not for Sam, though.  Serious Sam take it back to the basics, and then ramp it up several notches.  No problem killing headcrabs?  How about dozens at a time?  A handful of cyberdemons?  A couple hundred fiends?  It's time to get serious.

Original versus HD

These are the exact same game, straight down the the sound effects.  The only changes are visual, using new textures and a more up-to-date graphics engine.

This is Insane

Facing dozens of enemies at a time is pretty nuts.  To add to insanity, headless suicide-bombers scream while they run at you.  Without heads.  The protagonist has an occasional amusing quip.  These games don't take themselves too seriously.


A bad guy named Mental has a huge alien monster army attacking Earth, and only Sam stands in the way.


Definitely reminded me of the Doom's Thy Flesh Consumed and some of the harder Quake levels.  Only one weapon has to reload.  Combat is pretty straight-forward: don't stop moving.  It's hard (partly because it's been so long since I've played a new old-school shooter) and in one spot I HAD to use god-mode  Other than that, levels were challenging but possible, and beating one felt like an accomplishment.

This game supports up to sixteen players, which would make combat situations much more manageable.

Expansions / DLC

Serious Sam: The Second Encounter also exists in both original and HD versions, and follows Sam as he takes the fight to Mental.  Serious Sam 3 is due sometime this summer.

Final Thoughts

If you remember playing first and second generation shooters, the gameplay here is nostalgic.  If you've grown up on Halo and afterward, you probably aren't going to appreciate the simple joy of constant strafing.