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It’s been a hot week here in Los Angeles. Of course, I’m talking about the time I’ve spent at the Playboy Mansion. This shameless cash-in was developed by Cyberlore (!!), who also made Majesty. Unlike Majesty, Playboy: the Mansion combines America’s two favorite things: The Sims and titties. I guess that’s three favorite things? Anyway, let’s see if this game holds up. One thing’s for sure — it takes place on a 2D map, so it can’t be worse than Planetary Annihilation!

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Fallout_1

[Editor's note: Every two weeks, we'll pick a classic game to play and discuss. Then the choice of the next game will be made by a randomly selected participant from the current discussion. It's like a book club, but with videogames. We'd love to have you join us. Register for the forums and hop into the discussion! This week's choice, by Stefan "Desslock" Janicki, is Fallout.]

As a lover of classic games, choosing just one to inflict upon you was extremely difficult. I narrowed down my choices to two games which I think everyone should have the experience of playing — they’re among the best games ever created and were influential, and yet neither was a significant commercial success at the time of release and they’ve proven surprisingly difficult to replicate well. They are also surprisingly similar games, despite being from different genres.

My choice is the original Fallout, developed and published by Interplay Productions in 1997. Several of the principal developers would leave Interplay to form Troika Games, while other members of the team who remained at Interplay would go on to release Fallout 2, Icewind Dale and Planescape Torment under the “Black Isle” Division that was formed shortly after the release of Fallout. Fallout was a spiritual successor to Wasteland, an earlier game published by EA and developed by Interplay founder Brian Fargo – Interplay couldn’t get the IP rights to produce a Wasteland sequel, so it instead choose to develop its own post-apocalyptic setting. Fallout was also originally supposed to use Steve Jackson Games’ GURPS rules system – a popular and versatile pen and paper RPG system at the time – but disagreements during development ultimately resulted in Interplay creating its own system, which it called SPECIAL, which turned out to be one of best RPG development systems ever created.

After the jump, the game not chosen. Continue reading →

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In_defense_of_Halo_library

(NOTE: The following article originally appeared online for Gamepro three years ago. I’m running it again now because I’m hoping there’s something even remotely this good in Destiny. Fingers crossed!)

Depending on who you ask, The Library in the original Halo is one of the most reviled levels in all of videogaming. It features infinitely spawning enemies, long empty stretches of repeating level design, and none of the cool tactical combat against smart AI that has characterized the game up to this point. If Halo were to include a dialogue option like the Modern Warfare games — “This game features The Library, which may offend some players. Would you like to skip this level?” — many of you would select “yes”.

At which point you would miss one of the greatest levels in all of videogaming.

After the jump, that’s right: one of the greatest levels in all of videogaming. Continue reading →

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In the late ’90s, I saw Spycraft littering more bargain bins than there are humans in the United States. And yet, today it’s regarded as a pretty solid adventure game that tried to do a lot of things, and was good at most of them. Plus it’s got tons of FMV, which no ’90s game was good at. Add those ingredients together and you’ve got a recipe for what I hoped would be a fun Quarter to Three Let’s Play. Was I right? Click that big fat “Play” button and find out.

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Hey, I’m playing a modern game! Well, sort of. This is a “reboot,” to use a term typically reserved for Hollywood and I guess also computers, of the beloved 1987 adventure game, Shadowgate, which was ported to every system under the sun. There have already been a few lackluster Shadowgate follow-ups on your grandfather’s video game consoles like TurboGrafx-16 (a side-scrolling beat-em-up!) and Nintendo 64 (something involving polygons!), but this one promises to be the real deal. It was funded on Kickstarter, and designed by the two old dudes who brought us the original Shadowgate, a game I played and loved. Will it kill me promptly? It wouldn’t be Shadowgate if it didn’t. Only one way to find out.

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Seven_cheat_codes

As long as there has been games, there have been cheat codes. Whether it’s a programming tool left in by the original creators or a secret meant for some overzealous fan to find, cheats are still as popular as ever. But there are still some that haven’t yet been discovered. Until now. Here’s some of our favorite undiscovered cheat codes for you guys to try out at home!

After the jump, we get our cheat on. Continue reading →

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CGC_Sacrifice

[Editor's note: Every two weeks, we'll pick a classic game to play and discuss. Then the choice of the next game will be made by a randomly selected participant from the current discussion. It's like a book club, but with videogames. We'd love to have you join us. Register for the forums and hop into the discussion! This week's choice, by krayzkrok, is Sacrifice.]

Pick a game, they said. Make sure it’s a classic, they said. It has to be available for less than $10, they said. What kind of lunatic forces someone to choose from the thousands of classic games out there, many of which they’ve likely never played? Perhaps I should toss a coin? A multidimensional coin with thousands of sides.

Okay, I have a plan. I am going to pick a game that I’ve never played before, one that I suspect many have never played before, one that’s often mentioned in conversations about under-appreciated games, and conversations about games that still hold up today. All the while resisting the temptation to choose Descent? Right then.

My Classic Game Club pick is Sacrifice. Developed by Shiny Entertainment, published by Interplay, and released in 2000 for Windows and Mac, it completely passed me by at the time despite being highly praised for its innovative RPG/RTS hybrid gameplay. According to Wikipedia, players control wizards who fight each other with spells and summoned creatures.

Wait, that sounds awesome! Why did I never buy this?

According to Wikipedia again, it was the first video game to “make full use of video graphics cards that can process transform, clipping and lighting instructions.” You had me at “full use”.

The reason for choosing Sacrifice, aside from all the above, is partly the fault of the previous Classic Game Club pick of Command & Conquer: Red Alert. Despite my fond memories for that game, it just didn’t click with me. I wondered if I might be over RTS games, but then I realized that I need more from my RTS games these days. Sacrifice certainly has RTS elements, but it apparently does something quite different. It does away with all that resource-gathering and base-building nonsense that I’ve never really enjoyed, and it puts a greater focus on the tactical combat. Which reminds me of another favorite game of mine, Ground Control. Furthermore, the creature summoning mechanic and the completely “out there” Bosch-inspired art direction convinced me it was time at last to give Sacrifice a go.

Sacrifice is available from Good Old Games and Steam for the trifling sum of $9.99. It was clearly written with the future in mind, so there are no DOSBOX shenanigans required, and hopefully it should work out of the box. If you can’t stand horiziontal black bars on your widescreen monitor, you can force widescreen support by hacking your registry. It only affects the in-game resolution, in case you get as confused as I was about the main menu remaining resolutely unadjusted. Just for fun, the game also sometimes resets the resolution tweak when you quit the game, so if you really like widescreen you’ll soon get used to retyping those hex values into your registry. I found the best results by setting the desired graphic detail in the options first, and then editing the registry.

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After the rip-roaring success of my Let’s Play video last week (upwards of three comments!), I’m going to do these more frequently. Now they’re going to be every Thursday, until I get bored. But why would I get bored? Video games are fun, and some of them are sexy! Like this one. It’s Voyeur, from 1993, a time without software content ratings. So they were free to jam-pack it full of sexy sex and turgid boners. Watch this video of me playing the first part of Voyeur and see what I mean.

I’ll be back next Thursday with another video.

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C_and_C_Red_Alert

[Editor's note: Every two weeks, we'll pick a classic game to play and discuss. Then the choice of the next game will be made by a randomly selected participant from the current discussion. It's like a book club, but with videogames. We'd love to have you join us. Register for the forums and hop into the discussion! This week's choice, by Otagan, is Command & Conquer Red Alert.]

They call me ‘Killer,’ but I live only to serve the People, and the People’s history will judge me.

-Joseph Stalin

The venerable Command & Conquer Red Alert is the 1996 sequel to Westwood’s legendary Command & Conquer. Eschewing the pseudo-modern setting of its predecessor, Red Alert is based around an alternate history wherein Albert Einstein invents the “Chronosphere” after the end of World War 2 and uses it to travel back in time, assassinating Adolf Hitler before he rises to power.

After the jump, let’s do the time warp again. Continue reading →

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Hi there, my name is Tony Carnevale. For years now, America has been clamoring for me to record video footage of myself playing through Kingdom: The Far Reaches while I say silly things about it. Clamor no more, for here it is!

This version of Kingdom: The Far Reaches was released in 1995, as a repackaged version of a 1984 game called “Thayer’s Quest”, which was originally released in arcades and for a home laserdisc game console called Halcyon that only had two games ever. That even makes the Wii U’s library look vast! Join me on my quest to, uh, save the kingdom, I guess. And also to figure out what the hell is going on.

I’ll be doing one of these videos each month, playing a different game each time. See you in September!

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Wing_Commander_3

[Editor's note: Every two weeks, we'll pick a classic game to play and discuss. Then the choice of the next game will be made by a randomly selected participant from the current discussion. It's like a book club, but with videogames. We'd love to have you join us. Register for the forums and hop into the discussion! This week's choice, by CraigM, is Wing Commander 3.]

I grew up a huge fan of science fiction, I became obsessed with Star Wars as soon as I discovered it. When my family finally got a PC my first game was a flight sim. And when Wing Commander 3 came out, here was a game combining sci-fi flight sims with Luke Skywalker! It was tailor-made for 12 year old me. Unfortunately at the time the only computer I had access to was an old Apple IIE, and most of my gaming was done on the Sega Genesis. By the time I had the ability to play the game, it had already faded from its glory days. It is one of the greatest omissions in my gaming history, and it thrills me to no end to see if this game really lives up to its reputation.

There are other reasons to pick Wing Commander 3 other than reputation. Space sims are quickly gaining traction. Look no further than Elite: Dangerous and Star Citizen to see examples. The designer of Star Citizen is none other than Chris Roberts of Wing Commander fame. So now is the perfect time to see why his name can garner $48 million in crowd funding. That kind of cash is evidence of fierce loyalty that only could come from some truly seminal games.

Wing Commander 3 is also notable for its story. It might seem odd for a flight sim of any stripe to be heralded for narrative, since they often rank with strategy games for their perfunctory nature, but it remains one of the frequently cited strengths of the series. Full motion video, with live big-name actors, underpin the storytelling. The Kilrathi have managed to gain enough notoriety that even my complete absence of any experience with the series does not prevent me from knowing who they are.

Wing Commander can be found at Good Old Games for $5.99.

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Blood_classic

[Editor's note: Every two weeks, we'll pick a classic game to play and discuss. Then the choice of the next game will be made by a randomly selected participant from the current discussion. It's like a book club, but with videogames. We'd love to have you join us. Register for the forums and hop into the discussion! This week's choice, by Pod, is Blood.]

Blood. Blood! BLOOD! I quite like the short, snappy, literal-minded names given to the early FPS games: Doom, Quake, Blood, etc. It’s nice that they let you know what you’re in for before you begin playing, and in this game you’re in for lots and lots of blood.

This 2.5D first person shooter is based on the Build engine most popularly seen in Duke Nukem 3D. It has the characteristic 3D-walls-and-sprites look that accompanied other Build games, and much like Duke Nukem and Doom, it features fast gameplay, lots of guns, lots of explosions, and irreverent humour focused on references to B-movies. I think it’s meant to be the cutting edge of 2.5 shooters. Interestingly it came out in 1997, which is after the dawn of non-shit 3D games like Quake and Tomb Raider (in fact, one of the cheat codes proclaims that “LARA RULES”), but yet it stuck to the sprites and fake-height walls of the Build engine. I don’t know why Monolith chose that engine. Easy to use? Well proven? Good business deal? They wanted lots of enemies on-screen, which was difficult with early 3D? Whatever the reason, I’m quite glad they did, as I think that Blood still looks very nice. There’s something about sprite based enemies in a 3D world that I find charming, something not present in its successor. Blood 2 strayed a bit too far enough into that early-3D, uncanny valley that these days looks less like an arcadey videogame and more of a big blurry 3D mess. I think you can definitely see the attention to detail in these 2.5D environments, enemies, and sounds that you don’t really find in the early 3D games as they were more technically constrained.

I have fond memories of playing the game, which is interesting given that I only played the shareware version, and therefore only played a fourth of it. But what I do remember is vivid enough to make me want to go back. For instance, the way the game starts. You wake up in a grave with a pitchfork and proceed to sprint at and stab zombies in the face. These days zombies are a cliche, but somehow I don’t think my enjoyment of this beginning will fade.

Also, the bombastic weapons were memorable. Flare guns that set fire to people, TNT to throw at people, Tommy guns to rat-a-tat-a-tat at people. You can dual wield flare guns and sawed off shotguns! Who doesn’t love dual wielding things? And the weapons have alternate fire modes. I have no idea if Blood invented this, but it was the first game I played that featured this. I remember being in some grey castle area full of monks, near a courtyard with a fountain in it, and accidentally pressing the ‘X’ key. The Tommy gun did a little dance as it sprayed bullets in the alternate fire mode. I was overjoyed to discover that button.

Of course, one of the trademark features is lots of blood and gibs. Possibly dismemberment? I know that you get to shoot the heads off zombies and then punt them about like footballs. I also remember the acolyte dudes screaming lots as you set them on fire. And I don’t think you can turn it off.

I even remember some of the levels. The initial graveyard. Then there’s a level set entirely on a moving train (that you can fall off!), then there was a circus level, though I remember that sucking. But even then, these levels stick out in my head a lot more than Quake’s, even though I replayed Quake last summer. Black and white tiled Gothic castles full of lightning.

But really, I picked Blood for the Classic Game Club because it’s just come out on Steam, which reminded me how great it is and that I want to play it again. I’m hoping Blood further reinforces my love for Doom-style gameplay, and brings those of you who never really experienced early FPS games over to the dark side.

Blood is available from both Steam and Good Old Games.

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Best_of_2014_so_far

It’s that time of year again! America celebrates her emancipation from all those tea-drinking monarchists loitering off the coast of Europe and I post a list of my favorite games so far. It might seem a bit arbitrary to pick out games at the half-way point of the year. But it’s not! Like movies, games come out at very specific times during the year. A publisher that wants to make a lot of money saves the big guns for October and November, to cash in on holiday shopping. So if you sit down in the beginning of July to consider the year so far, there’s less AAA noise. There’s more room on a top ten list — this isn’t the Academy Awards, so we can’t just make the lists longer — for smaller games.

That said, why is there a picture of Titanfall up there?

After the jump, the first half of 2014. Continue reading →

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Martian_Dreams

[Editor's note: Every two weeks, we'll pick a classic game to play and discuss. Then the choice of the next game will be made by a randomly selected participant from the current discussion. It's like a book club, but with videogames. We'd love to have you join us. Register for the forums and hop into the discussion! This week's choice, by Nightgaunt, is Martian Dreams.]

Everything about Martian Dreams makes me giddy. First of all: Mars. Martian Dreams doesn’t give it the gung-ho treatment of a Red Faction. Nor does it have the technical coldness of a rover or colonization sim. Rather, it admirably constructs a place that could have flowed from the imagination of Ray Bradbury, who knew that Mars and Martians could tell us a lot about Earth and ourselves. Then there’s the history. This is history through characters: Percival Lowell, Nikola Tesla, Andrew Carnegie. Mark Twain! Marie Curie! Tiffany and Rasputin! I love the joyful, colorful way they are sprinkled around on Mars, each with their special role to play in the story.

I love the balance in the game between exploring a world and following the story. This is really an adventure game in RPG clothing. Mars is a broken world, and it has broken the human societies that have arrived there, and there are some specific things you need to do to fix it all. This is a ripping steampunk yarn with an appropriately pulpy sensibility.

Martian Dreams was made by Origin in 1991, and it sports all the gameplay features of its parent-game, Ultima VI: The False Prophet. A nearly seamless open world, rich environments populated with hundreds of items, a solid and useful conversation system, accessible combat. As Warren Spector tells it, Origin realized it should still produce games between the major releases headed by Richard Garriott and Chris Roberts, so it looked to its more junior designer-producers, Jeff Johannigman and Spector. They made these self-contained spin-offs from the Ultima world, both with pulp slants: Savage Empire and Martian Dreams, respectively. And they are self-contained. Martian Dreams sloughs off all the Ultima baggage with some quick time travel and a rocket-load of characters you are never going to see in Brittannia.

If you’re skeptical, at least you can get it free from Good Old Games! This version has the very useful map, a manual and reference card that will help you get used to the primary interactions if you’re not familiar with the Ultima 6 engine, and also a cluebook that might help save you some time on a few of the quest branches. You will need to take some notes, particularly of lat/long coordinates of different landmarks.

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silver_sphere

One of the advantages of an actual physical pinball table is that it’s always and only going to exist on its original platform: the real-world. It won’t be traipsing off into other dimensions or realities, where you have to consider buying it again because maybe it looks better, or maybe that’s where your friends are playing now, or maybe you need to set a high score there because you have the compulsive need to at least get your name on a leaderboard. An actual physical pinball table offers the dumb, loyal, here-and-now consistency of analog objects without EULAs.

Of course, they also have moving parts that fall apart. Not to mention there’s no room in my garage for a real pinball table thanks to all the plastic instruments and the Tony Hawk Ride skateboard I’m storing out there. So pinball is a strictly virtual pursuit for me. But what a confusing pursuit these days, with the next-gen systems and the iPad and the sudden ongoing relevance of Nintendo. Where does a guy pitch his pinball tent? Now that the Xbox 360 has been thrown over by a Playstation regime in my house — move over Tony Hawk Ride! — what’s the Zen Pinball platform of choice these days?

After the jump, my frank advice for the roving bands of homeless pinball wizards. Continue reading →

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