Tuesday, April 06, 2004
04:11 pm UTC
Those of you who have not yet succumbed to the inevitable temptation that is Unreal Tournament 2004, you're a stronger person than I. This game is good in subtle ways that are difficult to quantify.
There is this disturbing trend for PC games to cost $59.95 of late. I've gotten games that cost this much money, and played them for a grand total of 8 and a half minutes before discovering the game was not to my particular tastes, nor would I be surprised if they were not to the tastes of other homo sapiens, but allowing for the possibility that there might be the periodic monkey or crustacean that could be challenged by or otherwise enjoy the game. Unfortunately when this occurs with a game I've just spent $60 on, I cannot cease to play the game at this 8.5 minute epiphany. At slightly more than $7 per minute (if I chose to stop my torture at the moment of discovery), I refuse to be taken advantage of in this way, so I of course continue to play the game long after It's lost any semblance of entertainment. Now it's a test of stamina. My stamina vs my computer's.
Perhaps I should install Windows 98 or something on my computer, then maybe I'd win this encounter now and again when the computer screen inevitably turns blue and white. I have no such fortune when playing games under Windows XP (or when I can, under WineX in Linux). Always I lose, but usually I've breached the limit of being at least less than 1 dollar a minute for the entertainment, or lack thereof.
When I went to the store to pick up a copy of Unreal Tournament 2004, I did so with $59.95 plus tax in hand, prepared to spend all of it, and based on the experiences I'd had in the demo, I wasn't for the first time in a long time thinking that I was being ripped off for the quality I'd inevitably receive. How pleasant was the discovery though that UT2004 was only $39.95. Flash back to 1995, buying video games with a week's worth of high-school-part-time-job income for this exorbitant $40. Now I count my blessings at such incredible pricing.
If you have not yet purchased this game, I strongly recommend you do so, given that you have any tolerance for FPS games in the least. If you played the original Unreal when it was first released, this engine broke technological ground in many different ways, and as you wandered this alien landscape, you'd be constantly amazed by the things you saw being done that had not previously been done. Well, UT2004 doesn't really do this. Sorry. It does, however, push various other barriers of enjoyability.
In particular, I'm speaking of the new Onslaught game type. This is a rule set where there are two teams. Each team has a power core at the heart of their territory, and this power core is linked to various power nodes. The objective is to destroy the enemy's power core. To do this, your team must occupy a power node which is adjacent to the enemy power core. To occupy any power node, you must first occupy an adjacent power source, be it your power core, or another power node.
When you first arrive at an unoccupied power node, you have to run across a platform that controls the node. Doing so, you being construction of your own power node. Once the node is complete, you're able to take control of adjacent nodes. If a power node becomes isolated, it's still a valid power node, and you can continue to build outward from it. To take an enemy power node, you have to control an adjacent node, and destroy the node they have located there. So you build a chain of power to the enemy base, and when you arrive there, you have to destroy their power core.
It sounds complicated, but it really isn't. The thing that makes this game type particularly interesting though is the introduction of vehicles. The vehicles can be overpowered at times, but this is countered by the fact that your opponent will have similar vehicles, and ground troops have access to an anti-vehicle rocket which is extremely effective. There's five main vehicle types, a heavy truck (which comes with two guns, and requires at least two players to operate - one driving, and 1-2 operating guns), a light buggy (fast but weak), a hover craft (very fast, but hard to control, take out entire groups of ground troops as your hover fans make short work of their heads), a tank (slow but strong), and a sort of jet which is capable of 5 degrees of freedom in its orientation and movement (every direction and orientation but roll).
These guys do a good job of balancing the weapons, and game play is SMOOTH SMOOTH SMOOTH. I play at 1600x1200, and get a very fluid frame rate. Above and beyond the frame rate though, there's this feeling to the game that just makes you feel good as you run through the world, like it's somehow right. I've never been a hot knife, so I'm not sure what it feels like to cut butter as one, but I imagine this is much the way it must feel. They place clip boxes around bits of geometry that you might typically get caught up on as you're running around, so that you're not suddenly stopped mid-awesome-move, but rather more like real life; when you encounter an errant blade of grass, or small lip on the wall, you can just keep right on going. Other FPS games have in the past felt slightly sticky to me, like someone has coated the world with orange marmalade, and just now and again you stick in some spot you might not have expected.
Sorry for the metaphor of food, I haven't had lunch today.
Oh, and if you have already bought UT2004, do yourself a favor, and visit the "Community" button from the game's main menu. You'll discover in there a section called "Ownage." This area hosts maps that the UT team developed after release. For now, there's only one map there, but it's very worth the download. It's called Icarus, and is an Onslaught map. The map takes place high above the earth, either atop a tall skyscraper or a low satellite, I'm not sure. There are several platforms, and you're able to jump your vehicles from platform to platform, among other fun things.
If you can't afford to run right out and spend money on this game now, I recommend you instead go and download yourself a copy of the demo, though if you expect to do this, and still be $40 richer than you might otherwise have been in a week, I recommend you don't risk it. There is a native Linux version of the demo if that's your style. There's also a Mac and a Windows version too.
02:08 pm UTC
World of Warcraft Reviews
I'll start my blogging experience by offering up a pile of World of Warcraft reviews. WoW is a Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game (MMORPG if you've heard the acronym -- if you haven't, well, now you have) that is currently in beta. I'm really excited about WoW, though I'm trying to temper that excitement with the realization that if I let my expectations get too high, I'll be dissapointed no matter how well done the game is.
Sadly I didn't get in to the beta, so all I can do is slurp up the information that those who did feel the need to share. Fortunately for us non-elite, the WoW beta comes sans any NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement), which means that beta participants are welcome to publish their experiences in the beta. Most games have strict NDA's on the beta which preclude participants from sharing any information about the game with anyone, including but not limited to the teddy bear on his or her bed (mine's name is Mr. Bear, and he'll kick your bear's butt any day, though he prefers to sleep and eat marshmallows).
Incidentally, I'm prepared to unload a mountain of donator points to anyone who could secure me a spot (prefferably two, my wife will overthrow my account if she doesn't have her own key) in the WoW beta.
All that said, here's a few WoW reviews that have been published:
Those of you who follow the sometimes crude Penny Arcade know that they love the games they love, and when they don't love a game, they make sure you know it. They also don't usually spend much time talking about any particular game, as they seem to have a bit of VGADD (Video Game Attention Deficit Disorder). That has not proven to be true so far of their WoW experiences, which have merited four separate posts on the subject, spanning over two weeks already (basically the duration of the public beta to date):
This review is dated yesterday, though it only crossed my inbox today.
more as they become available.
02:07 pm UTC
Introducing My Blog
I'm tossing in a new feature, which is my personal blog. I make no promises on how often I'll update it, but now and again I feel I have some unique insight, oppinion, or bit of information about the world in general to offer, and this seems the ideal way to deliver it to attentive masses. When a new update has been posted, the link you see in the village square, etc, will be bolded. If nothing new has been posted, it won't be.