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# Sunday, 30 October 2005
I haven't had much time on my hands lately, what with buying a car, moving into a new place (a nice large flat in Haifa), work and starting university (at the Technion). Coupled with the fact that I've stopped working full-time and that I'm eagerly awaiting the new Visual Studio 2005 (due to come out on November 7th), the direct result is a very low rate of posting lately.

Despite all of the above, I've managed to snag a few hours of gameplay and have a few comments to make:

  • The F.E.A.R demo was absolutely terrific. Admittedly my (now two year-old) machine is no match for the souped up 3D engine, but it still managed perfectly playable (>40) framerates at 800x600 at very high detail levels. This will not do so I expect to buy a new console/machine pretty soon (probably the latter, I'm not very fond of consoles), but regardless the hour or so of gameplay featured in the demo was very satisfying indeed. The graphics are absolutely top-notch and the bullet-time effect is finally something to write home about (although it seems more like a last-minute addition than a feature based in solid design) and the gameplay is very good indeed.
  • I also played the Serious Sam 2 demo and enjoyed it quite a bit. It's not as slick and tongue-in-cheek as the first game was, but the 30-minute-odd level was very fun indeed. This time, however, the 3D engine is anything but revolutionary; it's decent enough, but not quite as fast and not quite as good looking as some of its competition (F.E.A.R, Doom 3, Half-Life 2 come to mind). My laptop (Dothan 1.7GHz, Radeon 9700 Mobility) couldn't handle more than medium detail at 1024x768; considering that the game isn't really visually groundbreaking (the laptop handles HL2/Doom 3 fluently) this isn't very encouraging.
  • Half Life 2: Lost Coast is out and kicks a lot of ass. Aside from the top-notch map design (which isn't annoying, stupid or frustrating like some parts of HL2 itself), the new HDR mode is absolutely stunning. On my gaming machine (same one that couldn't handle F.E.A.R...), as long as I don't run with AA everything is very smooth and looks beautiful. There is also a nifty commentary feature which allows you to hear (on demand) audio commentary by the team responsible for the game. On the negative side, Source is still a horrible mess as they haven't fixed the millions of caching and sound issues, and the loading times are dreadful to boot. Plus, 350MB for a demo based on pre-existing resources seems a bit much.
  • I had amazingly high expectations from Indigo Prophecy considering all the hype. To make a very long story short, it got uninstalled about 5 minutes into the tutorial. The controls are horrible, horrible to the point where I couldn't figure for the life of me what the hell the tutorial wants with me. Aside from the already convoluted interface, the tutorial at some point wants to "test your reflexes"; it does this by showing you a sketch of a D-pad controller (I guess the game was originally devised for consoles...), and at the opportune moment one of the controller buttons lights up and you have to press the same button on your actual controller as fast as possible. As the reigning deathmatch king in the vicinity I think I can safely say that my reflexes were NOT the issue here, not after about 20 attempts by myself about about 20 more by my brother. Either the tutorial does a terrible job at conveying what it is you're supposed to do, or the game is simply badly programmed. Either way, removed, gone, zip, zilch. Unless some future patch seriously alters the control scheme I'm not touching this game with a 60-foot pole. This only goes to prove my theory that consoles are directly responsible for the lower quality of PC titles today; not because of technology, not because of cost, but simply because of shitty controls originating in consoles and badly ported to the PC. Want a counter-example? Psychonauts has absolutely perfect controls, even on the PC.
  • I spent about 25 minutes watching my brother play Shadow Of The Colossus on the PlayStation 2. Graphically the game is very impressive, however it tries to do a lot more than the aging PS2 platform can really handle; I've seen framerates in the 10-15 range, which for a straightforward console title is simply not cool. I haven't actually played the game, but from watching my brother I can safely say that the controls are either poor or difficult to get a handle of, but a couple of days later my brother said that the real problem is simply an ineffective tutorial and "it's really quite alright once you get the hang of it." Gameplay-wise it didn't seem overly exciting, but I may yet give it a shot at some point.
  • After a couple of hours playing Five Magical Amulets I believe I can safely conclude that, while I appreciate that it is a labour of love and a lot of work went into making it, it's simply not a good game. The plot is very simple and uninspired; some of the dialogs are very poorly written; the quests are either too simple and easy to figure out or simply make very little sense (minor spoiler: combining the fly and the pitch made some sense, but the bag?!) and the graphics are very amateur. The whole game is Kyrandia-esque but without the high production values, although in its defense the music is actually quite good. Bottom line: there are better independent games for sure. The White Chamber is one.
Sunday, 30 October 2005 19:47:48 (Jerusalem Standard Time, UTC+02:00)  #    -
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