They're Back: 129
In a blatant attempt to get mentioned in Private Eye: Old is the new new.
Haegemonia: Legions of Iron
Wouldn't it be great if you could have a character who lived on your computer, and then with every game you played, he or she could take the lead role. Obviously this wouldn't work for games with enormous background stories for the lead, or say, Sam and Max 2, but what about all those anonymous strategies, or dull, lifeless sports sims? Imagine it, your little guy/girl would learn from each type of game played, developing as a person, getting a rounded education. You could have advantages if you had played lots of RTS, your buddy having a couple of extra experience points from the out. Admit it, it's a great idea. One that could or would never work, in any way or form. But a great one.
The reason for bringing this up, is I'd like my guy to be helping out in Haegemonia. Because he'd have probably played loads of Homeworld, and therefore know what he was doing - be a bit more experienced with the genre of RTS in space, its giant spaceship combat, and fine economy balancing. What with there not being a tutorial and all.
That gripe out of the way, there is a frustrating lack of anything else to mock. This is fine-quality space battling strategy, with absolutely sumptuous graphics, less than a year old. There isn't any room for spotting humorous flaws in the balancing of combat and management, since they appear to have gotten it right. And the system of various characters arriving to offer their expertise, joining your ever-expanding and increasingly experienced team, works far too well for a snide remark about too many cooks, or something equally obvious.
Oh wait, of course. Earth vs. Mars?! Please. Come on. I've had more original ideas when planning an uncornered device for vehicular transport. And how would that work out - the massively evolved human race taking on microscopic bacteria that might or might not have once existed. It's not exactly going to be the epic of the millennium, is it?... Yes, well, of course it's all a bit more complicated than that. It seems that somehow Mars has developed quite the war machine, and they aren't big fans of ours. They probably saw Total Recall and that was that.
Whatever their gripe with us earthlings, the battles prove to be fantastically well thought through, where careful tactics and wise strategies will reward you. This emphasis on intellect is a rare treat, which is a joy, but does increase the sore need for a tutorial.
Perhaps it can all be summed up by the name of the engine upon which it is built. The 'WALKER' engine just seems to carry that mark of quality - a certain something that says, "Incredibly powerful, yet sleekly beautiful".
Very beautiful, very sleek, and full of space shooty goodness.
Hitman 2: Silent Assassin
I learned today, from games guru and nicest-man-ever, Charles Cecil, that the word 'assassin' comes from the same source as the word 'hashish'. The Arabic word "haschishin" is the etymological parent of both hash, and 'aschishin' - the name given to the men in the army al-Hassan ibn-al-Sabbah formed, supposedly recruiting them with his temptingly potent substance. All in the early 12th century, you understand.
You would probably imagine that this would lead on to some sort of rambling about how ineffective a hitman would be if he was stoned, inevitably finishing with a hilarious reference to buying a KitKat at 4am from a petrol station. But no, I was just increasing your knowledge. You have low expectations of me. That hurts.
The original was not met with open arms and readied dining room tables. While the idea of a third-person hitman action game sounds like something that should surely be a hotly contested genre, the level of complexity required to actually achieve it puts most off. Io had a go, and didn't do so well. And here they've had another, and they've, well, done a bit better.
The trouble is, for a game built around the need for stealth, all the tiptoeing everywhere just gets a bit boring. The need to be quiet can be excruciatingly annoying at times, when guards appear to have superhero-like hearing. Or at the other extreme, when they appear to be both deaf and blind no matter the volume you create. This imbalance means that you'll always sneak, but never be sure if you need to.
Missions have multiple solutions, which means your assassinations allow you to feel a little inspired, but often whichever route you take can be equally tedious. By no means a terrible game, Hitman 2 is also by no means a great one. Which is the root of the word 'average'.
Championship Manager: 01 / 02
So I've heard that there's some Swedish man in charge of England's football team nowadays. Things sure are probably better for that, eh? And that one that's married to the one out of the Spice Girls, he's gone now, hasn't he? Does that mean he'll do fewer adverts? I only ask because I saw an advert the other day that he wasn't in, and it was very unnerving. Well, I imagine it must be a terrible struggle towards the end of each month, making sure he's got enough to pay the gas bill, poor love. It must be a strange life, entirely transient, following the strongest scent of money, allegiances changing depending upon the cheque book. Fiercely loyal dedication bought by the highest bidder. Hang on, I seem to have wandered onto freelance journalism. Where on earth was I?
Oh yes, football. Let's talk all about football. I've lots to tell you about this update for Championship Manager 3, and you'll be eager to know what changes there are in this incarnation. Well I can tell you: that transfer system has been updated. Oh yes. Because that other transfer system was a bit wanting, wasn't it? This one isn't nearly so. And you can now use Scouts to help find new players. Presumably it's for some sort of badge they can earn.
There is also a lot more media involvement. Gosh, that's a good one, isn't it? I always thought that the original was a bit lacking in media involvement. I used to play it, thinking, more media involvement is what this needs. Sigh, good old Championship Manager games. Don't we love them!
(I'm fairly sure they'll think I've played this now Ross. Don't forget to take this sentence out though, whatever you do).
C&C: Red Alert 2
One of the perennial dilemmas of a budget column is the balancing of recognising a game's timeless strengths, versus the eroding lashings of time. There will come a day when Half Life is re-re-re-re-re-released on 'Soldsplosiv Presents' for 73p, and I'll have to say, "while we remember it fondly, things really have moved on, and it looks so graphically stunted that it's hard to concentrate on what we once heralded as great gameplay." And then people on the forum will indignantly shout, "WHO DEOS HE THNK HE ISS?!" and then someone else will say, "The quility of writing on PCGAmer has gone down and down every month resently. Jon Walkers colum is just another exaomple of this." Inevitably to be followed by, "were is mY subscripton copy of GAMER!???!!11".
So let's see if we can inspire a similar response for Red Alert 2.
So eagerly awaited at the time, the smile on Britain's face as it was released caused Chester and Nottingham to move up slightly, and Stratford slightly down. Westwood had quite a reputation for the series, and a lot hung on the sequel being great. And it truly was. And is. Epic RTS action, it took the tried and loved formula, and reinvented it for the new millennium. The trouble is, that millennium isn't so new any more.
The action is as brilliant, the resource management as well balanced, the FMV cut-scenes as embarrassing, but the graphics, average at the time, now look a little gruesome. And like it or not, I'm going to pull the percentage down a bit because of that. If you want a review that's frozen in the time of the original release, dig out ish 88. However, us future cowboys can see that age does tarnish, and there's no point ignoring it.
I went on holiday to Fuerteventura this year. A last minute deal, and due to a mistake on the website, £100 cheaper than it was meant to be. A fantastic deal, staying in a nice apartment hotel complex, right by the sea. It would have been a really lovely place to stay, were it not for one small factor: British people.
We're dreadful enough in our own country, but abroad we should be muzzled. Trying to sleep at 1.45 am, to find ourselves serenaded by the strains of a drunken barful of karaoke singing, did not fill me with a love for my fellow countrymen and women. It filled me with a desire to see them eaten by sharks.
And wouldn't you know it, here's Beach Life - the resort management game in which you can watch British people get eaten by sharks. Sold. However, for reasons beyond me, such activities are not the goal of the game. The actual aims are more based around keeping the holiday makers happy, free of fish teeth, and filled with lager and brainless entertainment.
It follows the mould of so many management games before it - build the right sort of entertainments, manage your monies, and try to keep as many simulated people satisfied as they go about their vacation. This is all fairly effectively delivered, with a decent range of scenarios in the campaign mode, and a 'sandbox' mode for freeform play. But that's about all it does - deliver the usual goods. There's no distinctively brilliant idea here to separate it from the rest.
However, it is possible to build bars right by the sea. And if you employ no lifeguards in that area, and have a path to the shore, keep the booze prices low, then you could be well on your way to redefining the phrase, "fish supper".
And The Rest:
Firstly this month, an apology to reader Mr R. Cobbett of Bath. He points out that a couple of issues ago, that month's They're Back writer wrongly down-marked Zork: Grand Inquisitor for being over five hundred years old. PC Gamer fully admits that charging five pounds for a game that had to be carbon dated to find the original review issue is perfectly reasonable. We would like to change our entirely incorrect score of 40% to a far more accurate and grounded-in-common-sense mark of 289%, which it clearly deserves. Thank you. Leave me alone now Richard.
The last game this month from that ominous sounding company, PCG Presents, is Serious Sam Gold. For £10 you get both Serious Sam 1 and 2, plus another five episode adventure called Dark Island, all liberally sprinkled with lots of extra multiplayer maps. The Serious Sam games were a welcome relief in a market that had begun to take itself very seriously. Stealth elements were the flavour of the year, which had put pay to stomping proudly into a room, waggling about a bit, and then blowing up everything that moved, and when finished, everything that didnít move. So the Sam games offer nothing but wave after wave of monsters for your bombs. However, whether their brain-free carnage fill such a need today, where things appear to have reached more of a balance, is your call. And for a tenner for both, it's not a very expensive call to make. 80%. Googling "PCG Presents", the best I can find is some site about the Pentecostal Church of God. I'm just not sure that's them. Something doesn't seem to quite add up. Let us know if you discover anything about this elusive clan.
Remember, if you want to complain about They're Back, all you need to do is get a job at Future Publishing at the usual address. Until next month then, my children. Run along now.