He Got Game

November 24, 2005

Finally got around to playing Half Life 2. Been waiting for it ever since I played through the prequel and its addons, and this baby failed to dissapoint. The graphics aside (which were pretty decent by themselves) the game simply enthralls you with the way it presents an illusion of free will. You know the damned thing is scripted. You know that as you step down corridoor A, Zombie X and Zombie Y will jump out and insert Fist F in your Orifice O. But it just doesn’t feel so tedious as that because it always feels like you have other choices. On the airboat levels I often found myself zipping down the correct branches of the canal even though there were equally enticing branches that could have just as easily been the right way through. The fusion leaves you feeling less like a gamer and more like the star in an action movie. Even though there were a few low points in the game like Ravenholm, on the whole the game just felt right. And don’t get me started on the Physics ‘cos I won’t stop. It’s a pity that Far Cry and Doom 3 are just bloody crap in comparison. I couldn’t even be bothered finishing them.

Apart from that haven’t really played much else lately. Toyed with Ground Control 2, which was nice in small doses, and quite well put together, but I felt something missing, just got bored with it after a while. Will probably finish it later. And then there’s Earth 2160. All this intricate detail. Custom building units, heroes and items a reasonably usable 3D camera. What’s not to like? And then you find out that all the intricacy in the world means nothing when the only tactic that actually works is to build as many units as you can and rush, then rinse and repeat. Starcraft players are just made for this kind of ‘Strategy’. I still think that Total Annihilation and Homeworld are still the Kings of Real Time Strategy regardless of whatever Frenchie says.

And then there was Dawn of War. Big Mofos in suits of armor. Even bigger guns. Orks. Demons. Elves. Wait, they’re not elves… they’re … Eldar? Frickin’ hell it’s just Warcraft with a makeover. Relic have taken their own Creatures engine, a Warhammer license and with a couple of years development time ended up with a game that Blizzard did three years ago. Hats off to Relic for re-inventing the wheel. Cant wait to see what they’ll come up with next. Pleasure Suit Barry adventures perhaps?

And Imperium Galactica 3. Sweetmotherofgodwhatagame! Oh, it was released as Nexus: The Jupiter Incident, but people like myself who’ve been following it’s progress for the last four years still call it by its original name. If ever there was a game that comes close to challenging Homeworld this is it. Tactical space combat that just feels right. Carefully balanced weapons mounted on customizable ships that can be modified to suit individual playing styles and completely breathtaking graphics to watch it all come together in. But it still feels like half a game, like there’s something missing. And there is as the original game was to include a strategic 4X element in the mix, but that was dropped in favour of a purely tactical narrative driven experience. Oh, well maybe next time.

Oh, and got my hands on Civ 4. Very interesting… Not quite sure what to make of it as it’s still only a few hours game time for me. I’ve played all the incarnations leading up to this, but I’m not yet quite sure if this is a rehash with prettier graphics or a revolution. There are a lot of nice touches that need closer examination. Still one thing lacking though, an auto-diplomacy feature ‘cos damn me if I’m not already sick of Catherine the Great popping up every couple of minutes offering me Gold for Fur.

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