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ArmA III

Yes, I do own GTA V, and yes, I do think it's awesome. But everyone is talking about GTA V, and I'd rather talk about the more-or-less just as recent ArmA III on PC. OK, so I got my hands on the game last Friday, and I've played a couple of hours so far. I have to say I'm quite happy with it. I've been a Bohemia fan since Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis, and in terms of gameplay, I kind of knew what to expect. The core gameplay has not changed much since the original ArmA, or even Flashpoint, but that's just the way I like it.

I suppose it's a little irritating that Bohemia has not yet released the campaign DLC's for the game, but the multiplayer content and good-old fashioned editor are enough to keep me occupied until then. To be honest, I'm just surprised at how well the game performs on my PC, which is beginning to age somewhat. The game seems to perform just as smoothly as ArmA II around the same sort of video settings (most options set to 'high', but not 'ultra'). I was actually considering upgrading in the near future, and this game was one of the reasons why, but I think I'm OK for now...

So yeah, ArmA III is pretty much the game I expected it to be thus far, and that's a good thing because I guess you could say I'm a fanboy!

Recent thoughts on gaming...mostly negative thoughts I'm afraid.

I confess that there isn't really any specific point to be had with this blog, it's just a long explanation of my views of gaming in general, and I'm writing this in a way that takes me anywhere, so apologies if it's difficult to follow, hopefully it won't be. I'm not trying to prove anyone wrong or start any kind of flame war, these are just some of my thoughts. If you disagree with me then I respect that, just don't be rude about it.

So the first thing I want to discuss is first person shooters of course. After all, this is me doing the talking, and if you've followed my blog or read my reviews, you'll know that I'm a hardcore FPS nut. It's difficult to say this without treading into elitist territory, but I think the genre really started going downhill somewhere around 2007 (...Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare *cough, cough*). It's true that superb titles such as the groundbreaking Crysis were released that same year, but there's certain elements of those games that in my opinion were the real turning point for the modern FPS.

I could be talking a load of rubbish here, but it wasn't until I played these games that I started to notice single player shooters were getting shorter; not necessarily worse gameplay-wise, but definitely a lot shorter. Maybe I could throw Half-Life 2: Episode One into the mix, which was released the past year, but both Episodes One and Two were simply intended to expand the Half-Life 2 story, and stand-alone, they weren't priced as high either.

The majority of single-player shooters seem to focus on being a huge, explosive cinematic experience; they're constantly throwing in slow-mo cut scenes and linear, scripted action sequences (such as driving parts) where the computer does most of the work for you. And that's a major problem I have with games of this ilk - I find them to be too linear for the most part. The latest Medal Of Honor, Call Of Duty titles and Battlefield 3's campaign are prime examples of this. I'm not suggesting all games like this are 'bad' as such - in fact, I can sit down have fun with each of the games listed it's just that developers tend not to focus on, dare I say it, gameplay anymore. Of course, there was a period during the '90's when developers were obsessed with FMV-based games, but I'm talking about first person shooters here.

When you look back at games such as Doom and Quake, you're thrown into a level, and you don't necessarily follow a linear path. You can explore the level at your own pace, and remember where key doors and traps etc. are. Let's not forget that classic shooters often contained secrets to find, and the fact that the majority of each level was not off limits encouraged you to search for rewards. If anything, developers weren't afraid of trying to appeal to a wider audience, so they cranked up the difficulty and kept the gameplay at it's purest; maybe shooters were designed for hardcore gamers over the vast gaming audience. That sounds ridiculous on paper, but I think it's somewhat true, at least to an extent. On the other hand, developers certainly didn't have the technology to make a game so scripted and movie-like so I guess there wasn't a lot of choice back then.

I've said I don't always have a problem with an FPS being linear, and full of fancy cinematic sequences, but it's the fact that so many of them seem to be going down this route nowadays. I've been playing through the 2010 Medal Of Honor on my PS3 lately, and while I have had some fun with it, I hate the fact that you often have what appear to be such vast environments ruined by invisible boundaries; and if there is no real boundary as such, you'll be told off for leaving the 'Combat Area' and then slayed by the computer. You can't even fall down cliffs for God's sake.  It's like the developers can't always make their minds up as to whether they want the game to be realistic or more like a big-budget action movie. 

Way back in 2001, Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis was released on the PC, and this was a title that blew me away. It was hardcore PC gaming with few limits in terms of freedom and exploration within action games and shooters. The maps were huge and every inch of terrain was available to explore; you could drive any vehicle at any time, you could command squads and infantry combat was brutal - unforgiving firefights taking place over several kilometers between you and your foe. Sure, the actual campaign cinematics weren't exactly up to much, but the gameplay was incredible as far as I was concerned.

When Halo first hit the shelves for the original Xbox, it proved that console shooters didn't have to be sub-par in comparison to PC exclusives. The levels were often vast and open and the graphics engine took advantage of the Xbox's hardware (at least to the best of a developer's ability at the time). These days, the majority of games are built around consoles over the PC. This isn't a bad thing if you are primarily a console gamer of course, but I haven't played a PC-exclusive title that's really 'wowed' me in a long, long time. Maybe since Crysis...

...2007's Crysis was built for the PC, and took great advantage of the technology available at the time. I know the game was eventually ported to the PS3 and 360 (I heard it was watered-down somewhat), but back then it seemed impossible (and it technically was to match the quality of the PC). Games like this were pushing the boundaries of gaming. But even the later Crysis titles haven't exactly impressed me.

The poor quality of PC titles these days concerns me too. By that I don't mean the quality of the gameplay itself (...or do I?), I mean the way the programming or porting was executed. Put simply, there's a lot of buggy PC games out there. Sure, the majority do eventually get patched and updated, but that's not the point. It's fair enough for some developers to focus on consoles more so than others, but then again, I was heartbroken when id Software released their shoddy Windows version of 2011's Rage. id Software for crying out loud! The same guys that redefined PC gaming! If Half-Life 3 turns out to be broken upon launch, I'm fairly certain I'll have lost faith in the PC gaming industry, let alone Valve.

Even the physical product of a video game itself these days is somewhat tragic; what happened to those big old cardboard boxes PC games used to come in (well, alright, maybe it was costly and did waste materials)? But most of all, what happened to game manuals? All you get with the average game these days is a five-page pamphlet and a security code. Call me old-fashioned, but in some ways you were getting more for your money in this respect. A lot of games in those days featured thick, detailed manuals covering many ,many aspects of the game, but these days, you tend to be getting a brief summary of the options available, controls, a bunch of security codes for online activation and not much else. *Sigh*

And don't even get me started on DRM and always-online requirements. I guess it was inevitable that some day all this would come. I do like services such as Steam up to a point; I like the fact that you can buy and download games in two clicks, but I don't like the fact that this is the future for games. So...I guess I'm glad the option is there, but at the same time, I'm sad that eventually this is the way all the games will inevitably be sold and obtained. As for actual DRM - well, I guess proof of purchase is fair enough (serial keys have been around for years, but you could still install the game on as many systems as you like), but the days of lending games to your buddies and vice versa are coming to an end, at least with the PC market.

Discless consoles are the future, and I think it's pretty ridiculous because not everybody in the world has a stable internet connection. I know that in some ways it is more convenient to be able to purchase games there and then without leaving the house, but for many, it would be faster to go to the shop and buy a physical copy of a game than it would be to download the damn thing. And what happens if you lose your online account? I suppose you'd have to create a new one and purchase the games all over again because DRM won't let you transfer the games from your original account. Always-online games can be particularly annoying as well. By this I mean when you want to play a single-player game that requires you to be online. Games like Diablo III, for example. It's a joke, but then what can I do?

Ironically, I rather like the whole DLC business. Actual copies of expansion packs are becoming more rare nowadays, but I do think that it makes sense to release smaller add-ons for certain games via download. For example, a disc for a simple multiplayer map pack does seem a bit uneccessary. However, I fear I may be treading into microtransations territory; that's obviously something I dislike and I don't feel an explanation is necessary.

Having said all this, there have been several titles I've enjoyed on both Windows and consoles in recent years. L.A. Noire, Sleeping Dogs, Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Battlefield 3 to name a few. Not a huge list of games per say, but not small enough for me to be put off by gaming in the slightest - a lot of the things I've discussed don't affect the core gameplay. But at the same time, it's been a very long time since I was last really, truly been blown away by a specific game. L.A. Noire comes close, but that was more for it's authenticity, attention to detail and character animations rather than the actual gameplay and visuals combined.

For now though, I think I'll boot up Doom II and have a blast on the 'Ultra-Violence' difficulty.

Confessions from an annoying Doom fanboy

So I just went and pre-ordered myself the upcoming Doom 3 BFG Edition, despite the fact I've had the PC original since it's release in '04. The same applies for it's expansion, Resurrection of Evil. Oh, and did I mention that I also have Doom 3 and RoE on the Xbox? And the fact that I've beaten both games countless times on either platform? And who could forget the fact that the BFG Edition is also going to contain both Doom and Doom II...If you've been following me on GameSpot for some time, you'll know that I'm a crazy old-school Doom fanatic and own all original Doom titles - Doom, Ultimate Doom, Doom II, Master Levels for Doom II and Final Doom - across countless different systems.

Yep, I have had an unhealthy obsession with the entire Doom franchise ever since I first had the opportunity to play it God knows how many years ago, and it's quite pathetic to say the least. I need my Doom fix every month, and I usually don't have a preference as to which game in the series I play. I think the title to this blog post is pretty suitable.

So yeah, what I'm trying to say is that this fanboy seriously can't wait for Doom 3 BFG Edition. Let's be honest, there isn't much NEW content other than that new chapter titled The Lost Mission, and I know this...but I don't care! Doom 3 has aged incredibly well in my eyes (was I really going to say it hasn't!?), and I'm psyched for a tweaked, HD version a definitive edition if you will. Heh, maybe the title Ultimate Doom 3 would have been more suitable, as a reference to The Ultimate Doom from 1995.

If you wanted to know (which you probably didn't, but hey, I'm going to share it anyway), I pre-ordered the PS3 version. This may seem a little controversial, maybe even hypocritical coming from a PC gamer, but I just want to see the game in action on my Sony HD TV. Besides, I'd prefer to have another version of Doom 3 on a platform I haven't already played it on, so it makes perfect sense really. Sort of. Plus, I have faith that the PS3 version will be pretty competent given that Doom 3 was originally released in '04.

This annoying Doom fanboy needs more Doom!

PS3 games I've been playing lately...

Obviously I still consider myself a PC gamer primarily, but I must admit that I am having a lot of fun with my new PS3. Here are a few games that have been entertaining me over the past month or so.



Heavy Rain

I played Heavy Rain solidly after work on the late shift for about a week until I completed it. I have to say it's by far one of the best games I've played in recent times. I'd have to put it up there as one of my favourite games of the past couple of years, along with L.A. Noire. The story is fresh and unique, the characters interesting, and I had no idea whatsoever how the game would end, especially since there are several endings that occur depending on your actions throughout the game. By far the best PS3 game I've beat so far. Just need to beat Metal Gear Solid 4 now, and maybe my opinion will change...

GoldenEye 007 Reloaded

Although the game's single-player isn't as close to the legendary N64 game as I was hoping it to be, I'm finding this to still be an enjoyable, polished Bond game. The shooting is solid, the visuals are crisp and clear at 1080p (which it actually does support for once) and the framerate is FAR better than your average console FPS. I know Daniel Craig replacing Pierce Brosnan does add a somewhat more mature feel to GoldenEye and the story, but it still works for the most part.

The multiplayer is actually where the game shines the most, in my opinion. I love how you can play as an endless amount of Bond characters (provided they're from GoldenEye or before), and this is close to the N64 game. Several friends have all checked out the split-screen modes, and I think it's safe to say we've been having a blast.

Dead Island

I'm not a much of a fan when it comes to zombie horror games or movies - other than the odd title I find them to be too similar to one another, but I found Dead Island in a sale, and it's pretty decent for the most part. I like the emphasis on melee combat in the first person perspective, and I'm keen on the almost RPG-like side to the game too. I wasn't actually expecting the game to have as much depth as it does. While I am having fun with Dead Island, I do think some of the missions and tasks are a bit on the stale side, and the game feels a bit rough around the edges, like it's missing a coat of paint. Still, it's a solid game with a unique setting that does make you feel stranded, helpless and desperate to survive the outbreak. The game does what it sets out to do just fine overall.

Medal of Honor

Alright, I've been a fan of the series since Frontline was released in 2002, but I'm not keen on the new direction EA has taken. Obviously I'm talking about the sudden change from WWII to present day, although this was inevitable. Still, the game isn't bad even if it doesn't particularly feel like a Medal of Honor title anymore. The single-player is somewhat generic, but the multiplayer is really quite awesome. Also, since I picked up the limited edition version of the game, I got a free HD copy of Frontline as a bonus, which is nice.

Gran Turismo 5

Predictably I'm loving this one. GT5 has so much depth, and so much to do it's absurd. There are a couple of flaws along the way - I don't like the fact that only certain cars have the full inside view for example, but there's not enough cons to prevent the entire game from being the best racer on the console, because it is in my opinion. The game looks sweet at 1080p, and you can really feel the effort the developers put into this game. Essential if you ask me.



Other games I've picked up so far include Metal Gear Solid 4 (which I've already mentioned), Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising, Red Dead Redemption, Fallout: New Vegas, Tom Clancy's Endwar and Condemned 2. I haven't played much of these games to have an opinion as of yet, seeing as I don't have as much time to play games these days, but I'll get there eventually.

Retro: DOOM - PSX vs. Saturn

As one of the most sad and annoying Doom fanboys you'll ever meet, I've played just about every official, commercial version of Doom out there. I own many console ports of the game, and the one's I don't, I've still played at some point in my life, from the humble Jaguar port to the abysmal 3DO interpretation. Just because these ports have the Doom logo slapped on the case, don't expect all of them to be worthy of that name. Two of the ports that I find particularly interesting, for different reasons, are the PlayStation and Saturn ones. Both games are similar as a whole, yet one is vastly superior to the other, despite the fact both systems are around the same power. Here's a comparison of the two...

GAMEPLAY:

The PlayStation port was developed by Williams, and was released in 1995. To make things a little more complicated, the game is technically a port of the Jaguar version of Doom, which featured all three chapters of Doom, and of the twenty-four levels featured, many were altered slightly; these were mostly just minor changes, such as a few odd rooms and details removed here and there, but you still got a great Doom experience either way (plus, the completely re-done versions of Hell Keep and Spawnign Vats were actually better than their original counterparts, in my opinion). To add to this, many levels from The Ultimate Doom's added bonus chapter, Thy Flesh Consumed are also thrown in for good measure. Heck, if that's not enough, you're also getting at least two-thirds of Doom II, which leaves a total of over FIFTY levels. It should also be noted that a couple of levels were also console-exclusive and never seen before the game was released.

Doom for the Saturn was developed by Rage Software and released in 1997, and is more-or-less a direct port of of the PSX game, so, admittedly, there isn't much to say in terms of actual game content. You're getting every level that you saw in Williams' port. HOWEVER, Rage Software lied to their American market. The US box claims that the game features over 60 levels, when in actuality there are 59...

GRAPHICS:


Of all the Doom console ports out there, the PSX version is certainly one of the better ones. Williams' took advantage of the 32-bit system by improving Doom's light sourcing and using coloured lighting that you didn't see in the PC original or any other port. This not only gives the game a very atmospheric vibe, but it also makes many of the levels feel completely different to how they did initially, in a good way. While the actual textures are a little on the pixellated side, they are more than acceptable for an early PSX title (which it is). Also, the framerate is fairly consistent throughout. It's true that the game will occasionally bog down when the action really picks up, the game runs probably around 30 fps for the most part, and it's great. It is true that many of the levels don't quite have the detail that the PC had, but the game still looks and runs nicely, and with the coloured lighting, Williams actually improved upon Doom's atmosphere.

The Saturn port is similar to the PSX in terms of textures, but lacks the coloured lighting that was exclusive to the port. The game doesn't look particularly bad without this lighting as such, but at the same time the Saturn, being a 32-bit system like the PlayStation, was more than capable of having that same lighting Williams implemented in their port.

That's not the problem sadly, because Saturn Doom's legacy as a rushed port is all because of it's framerate. Anyone who's ever, EVER played Doom on the Saturn must have complained about the choppiness of the game upon their first (and probably only) time playing. As soon as you are dropped into Hangar, the first level, you'll instantly notice the horrendous framerate. It makes no difference as to how many enemies there are on the screen, or how large the level is as the framerate is always sub-par, no matter what. It's an absolute abomination to the Saturn! And come to think of it, Doom is quite possibly the most simple, straight-forward first person shooter on the Saturn, yet powerhouse games (at the time)like the true-3D Quake and the impressive Duke Nukem 3D ran far better on the system. The simple answer: lazy programming.

SOUND:

Williams did an amazing job here. They completely re-did all the sound effects and music, and what you have is something truly unique. With the limitations of the PlayStation, Williams focused their port on atmosphere and horror, something that was present in the PC game, but not nearly to the extent of the PSX port. The music is much, MUCH more eerie and ambient, and to this day stands as some of the best video-game music of that direction in my opinion. The sound effects are often echoed too, depending on the level, and this is something else the PC didn't have. With the coloured lighting effects, foreboding music and sound effects, this is the most atmospheric and disturbing version of Doom to date, and for that reason alone it's still worth playing. I have absolutely no complaints with the Williams' sound design overall.

The Saturn version boasts the same sound and music you saw in the PSX game, only some of the music tracks have been removed and they appear in a different order. What is also missing is the echoed effect you saw in Williams' port. While this isn't exactly the biggest complaint, it is a flaw none- the-less. Without the coloured lighting, Saturn Doom doesn't really feel 'right' having the same music and sound effects however. Because the game lacks the atmosphere of the PSX, the game is a little brighter and if anything looks more like the PC version than the PSX, and therefore, I think it would've made more sense to have imported the original, up-beat MIDI music of the PC. Not a huge con overall, but certainly not a pro either.

CONTROLS:


Doom is by far the most-suited FPS for the PlayStation controller. Because the game lacks the ability to look up and down, playing with the D-Pad is just fine. Add to this the fact that you can customise the controls at your own will, and you have the best handling console port of Doom out there. The shoulder buttons are perfect for strafing, and the entire layout just feels perfect. Naturally, this being a console FPS, you can't compare it to the good old keyboard and mouse, but as far as the controls go, I again have no complaints.

The Saturn controls are also customisable, but I never found the Saturn controller to be particularly good for shooters. There's just something about the design of the controllers' D-Pad and buttons that never felt right. Saying that, the controls are technically as good as they can be. Circle-strafing is still easy and there's nothing about the control schemes within the game that are worse than any other FPS on the system, it's just that PSX controllers suit first person shooters better while Saturn controllers are more suited to arcade/fighting games etc.

MULTIPLAYER:

Actually, both games are completely worthless in this sense, yet the Saturn still comes off as worse purely for the fact that the game came out two years after the PSX version, meaning they had more than enough time to work on a functional multiplayer mode. Unfortunately, both versions of Doom require two TV's, two consoles and two copies of the game to play the co-op and deathmatch modes within the package. To be quite honest, I just don't see the point in even bothering with a multiplayer mode of any kind if split-screen is not available.

The box of the US version of Saturn Doom contains another, BIG error, and claims that the game supports the multiplayer I have just described. Well, it doesn't. Only the PAL and Japanese versions do. Fail.

OTHER:

This category is basically just an excuse for me to rant about any other pros/cons within these ports. The PSX version does not have memory card support of any kind, and instead you are stuck with passwords. This is a minor inconvenience, not really a big deal, at least in my eyes. Since Wiliams' port was released in '95, it was an early PlayStation title anyway, and I would imagine that the majority of PSX games at that time lacked memory card support too. The Saturn version also features passwords, but in this instance, there's absolutely no excuse for it, a) Rage had two years to sort this out and b) the Saturn has INTERNAL MEMORY as well as a memory cartridge option.

CONCLUSION:

So, there you go. An in-depth (almost) comparison of the two ports. One is superb, the other is an epic fail. True, the PlayStation does have it's flaws, but they are outweighed by the game's unique atmosphere and intense sound design. In my opinion, PSX Doom is a must-have for all Doom fans. The Saturn port on the other hand is a depressing mess of a port; an abomination to id Software that doesn't take advantage of, well, ANY of the 32-bit power brewing inside the Saturn console. The only thing it has going for it is the fact that it has all the levels of the PSX version. But seriously, just thinking about that sluggish framerate makes me sick!

If by any chance you own a Japanese or mod-chipped Saturn, you may want to track down the Japanese version of the game, which has a slightly smoother, cleaned-up framerate, but honestly, it's not worth it at the end of the day. Even if it has been improved, the PSX still runs faster.

Retro: Duke Nukem 3D - PSX vs. Saturn

Duke Nukem 3D is one of the all-time FPS greats on the PC, certainly one of my personal favourites, but console ports can often turn a gaming icon into an ugly mess of a game that won't appeal to anyone. I've played both the PlayStation - developed by Aardvark Software (known as Duke Nukem: Total Meltdown in the US and simply Duke Nukem in Europe) and Saturn (developed by Lobotomy Software) ports to death, and surprisingly, they differ a lot. Here's a comparison...

GAMEPLAY:

Duke on the PlayStation is more faithful to it's PC father due to it's content - we're talking more-or-less a direct port here. Pretty much everything you saw in the PC game has survived the transfer to the console. Each of the three chapters are in tact along with all enemies, weapons and items plus an extra exclusive six-level chapter titled Plug N' Pray. While you can't exactly compare these levels to 3D Realms', you've gotta give the developers some credit for actually giving players more reason to play the PSX port. You'd think it'd be silly to bash Aardvark for giving us a complete port in terms of content, but I'm getting ahead of myself for now...

The Saturn port does contain all three original chapters (though all levels play one after the other, so they aren't really chapters anymore) and twenty-nine levels plus a secret exclusive one titled Urea 51 but virtually all of them have been reduced in detail. Expect some levels to be missing walls and interactive objects as well as some levels being split into two separate ones. All the enemies, weapons and items are still there, but with regarding the levels, one could argue this is certainly bad news, and technically it is; for a start, Duke Nukem 3D was known for it's interactivity with the world around you as it was one of it's key features in setting itself apart from other shooters at the time, but thankfully, it's all for the right reasons with the Saturn port - to save memory. There's still enough content and interactivity to make Saturn Duke a competent port, so it's not too drastic anyway.

Despite Saturn Duke having enough content to satisfy, the PSX wins by default simply because it has just about everything the PC game had to offer.

CONTROLS:

Unfortunately, both ports suffer on this front, albeit for different reasons. The PSX has three stupid default control schemes, and they aren't customizable in any way. The 'Nukem 1 and 2' setups make the game virtually unplayable. The third 'Doomed' setup is a slight improvement as it is loosely based on the PSX version of Doom's control scheme (which worked great in Doom), but even so, Duke has so much more in the way of maneuverability that you can only really relate the basics; shooting, moving, strafing to what you saw in Doom. With the additions of ducking, jumping, item use and looking up and down you still have some annoying controls to be had here. What's disappointing is that as I said, they aren't customizable in the slightest. If they were, you'd easily be able to create something that WORKS, but, alas, you're stuck with one of three setups, one of which only slightly works and the other two being totally redundant.

Saturn Duke does feature customizable controls but what lets it down is the fact that Saturn controllers don't really have enough buttons for Duke Nukem 3D to work well. While the default controls are functional for the most part, swimming up and down can be extremely awkward to pull off sometimes as can free-looking. Ducking had to be removed completely because of the lack of buttons, and instead the game ducks for you, occasionally at random too. Also, to use items in your inventory, you even have to pause the game to select them. No real winner here, although the PSX Duke certainly COULD have worked if the developers had given more thought to the matter.

GRAPHICS:

This is the PSX's downfall - true, the game runs on the Build engine that powered the PC game, but Duke on the PlayStation has some ugly visuals at times as well as an unstable framerate, and it's probably due to the fact that Aardvark crammed every aspect of the PC original into the game that it struggles to run the darn thing. It looks like a grainier, rougher PC version at a lower resolution. OK, so graphics don't really mean a thing to me, especially seeing as Duke Nukem 3D is one heck of a fun game, but I DO have a problem with bad framerates. No way is the framerate the worst I've ever seen from a console port (PSX Hexen and Saturn Doom are far worse), in fact, it can be relatively smooth at times, but it is certainly noticeable right from the start. On the larger levels like The Abyss or Toxic Dump, it can slow the game to a crawl at times. Even with the framerate constantly changing it's mind, PSX Duke is still playable, but sometimes sacrifices are necessary to keep a game running at a decent speed.

The Saturn is a completely different story. Instead of running on the Build engine, Lobotomy programmed the Saturn port around their own SlaveDriver engine, which offers true 3D environments (enemies and decoration etc are still the same sprites though), coloured lighting and more detailed textures. Compared to the PSX, the Saturn Duke easily wins this contest. The framerate is near-perfect throughout, and the graphics are superb - probably up there as one of the best looking Saturn titles. In fact, the graphics are so good that many textures actually look BETTER than the PC original! BUT - as I've said already, the altered levels and fewer interactive environments are the price you pay for these visuals. It should also be noted that the game actually runs slower; not in terms of framerate of course, but as in enemies move a little slower and weapons fire a little slower too, but personally I didn't have an issue with this. I'd still much rather have the smooth framerate, better textures, coloured lighting and the slightly-slower gameplay than the PSX's ugly visuals and dodgy framerate any day.

SOUND AND MUSIC:

As far as I know, the PSX isn't missing any of the sound and Duke talk you saw in the PC original, so you can't fault the game in this respect. Also, the music has been completely remixed to a higher-quality standard. Of course, if you're a DOS enthusiast, you might think that it just ain't the same without that retro-sound, but personally I think the music here is actually an improvement on the former.

The Saturn port also features a remixed score and while it's good in it's own right, I still actually prefer the PSX music but either way I'd say the music here is on par with the PC. Unfortunately, the sound effects are lacking. While most of Duke's famous quotes are still there, he doesn't seem to talk as often, and many quotes have been removed from the game. What's also strange is the fact that many of these quotes seem to have been sped up - Duke talks faster. This was probably done to save more memory, but if you ask me, much of Duke's personality is missing because of this. It's not a huge issue I guess, but there's no denying that the PSX is the superior game in this respect.

MULTIPLAYER:

It is true that PSX Duke does support competitive play, but only if you have a PlayStation link, two TV's, two consoles and two copies of the game. I never understood why developers even bothered with a multiplayer option if this is the only way you can access it. Predictably, you get a deathmatch mode, which is probably good fun if you can actually tolerate the effort of having everything I just said before. But overall, the multiplayer here is a complete waste of everyone's time.

Saturn Duke is one of the VERY few Saturn titles to support the Netlink capability that nobody had in those days. Yes, you can technically play the game in an online fragfest! While this is of course, completely worthless by today's standards as well as costing everyone a fortune to play in the '90's with 56K dial-up, you have to at least give Lobotomy credit for the innovation of this function. Sure, people were playing Quake and Doom online in those days, but I'm talking console gaming here, not PC. Despite not having any kind of offline multiplayer, the Saturn port wins for it's innovation and originality at the time. There's some good footage on YouTube of people playing Saturn Duke online via the netlink.

EXTRAS:

Nothing to say here regarding PSX Duke as all you're getting is exactly what I've listed. Saturn Duke on the other hand contains a bizarre multiplayer battle game titled 'Death Tank Zwei', which is similar to Worms in that it's a 2D shooter where the landscape is affected by your shots, only it isn't turn-based. Not exactly revolutionary stuff here, but a pretty awesome extra if you ask me!

CONCLUSION:

While Duke Nukem on the PlayStation is a fairly solid, direct port of the PC Duke Nukem 3D, I still think that, despite the sacrifices, Duke on the Saturn is the superior game. Although the framerate in PSX Duke is nowhere near as bad as some PC-to-console ports I've played over the years (brings back nightmares of Saturn Doom), it's still pretty choppy a lot of the time. Plus, the controls are horrendous to begin with, and will take some getting used to. I would only really recommend the game to fans of the series who have not yet played the exclusive episode, 'Plug N' Pray'. You'll still get plenty of enjoyment out of it, but PSX Duke is best treated with caution.

Duke Nukem 3D on the Saturn is probably the best FPS for the console, at least in my opinion. This might not sound like much, but really I think this is a must-have game if you own a Saturn. Even with the slightly watered-down levels and the fact Lobotomy cut back on some of the interactivity within the levels, I still felt like I had the full Duke 3D experience. The SlaveDriver engine actually improves upon the game in my ways graphically, and the framerate is mostly smooth and consistent throughout.

So I finally bought a PS3...

I'm late into the game I know, but I finally bought myself a PS3 last Thursday, mainly for social purposes. I guess as a PC gamer, I didn't really see the point in coughing up for one, but I'm glad I did. I don't have anything against consoles of course, it's just I like to play current games on the PC and retro games on consoles, but the PS3 has a fair few titles I'm looking to play.

The only games I've got for it so far are Gran Turismo 5 (which I've been enjoying immensely so far), Heavy Rain, Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising, Dead Island and Condemned 2 (which I can't seem to install the update for no matter how hard I try). At some point down the line, I'm hoping to get hold of the following:

  • Red Dead Redemption/Undead Nightmare
  • Resident Evil 5
  • Virtua Fighter IV
  • Metal Gear Solid IV/MGS HD Collection
  • Killzone 2/3

Diablo III

Being a PC gamer, I guess I fell victim to hype surrounding Diablo III, as I bought the game last Wednesday and spent a few hours with it last night. Actually, I KNOW I fell to the hype, because normally I wouldn't buy a game like this. I only played Diablo II once, however many years ago, and I'm not exactly the biggest Blizzard fan either.

However, I am enjoying Diablo III. I don't think it's groundbreaking in anyway, but it's way more addicitve than it looks. And I do mean it. The game is FUN! I half-expected myself to be questioning why so many people play Diablo upon playing, but of course, now I am a Diablo player!

On a side note, I payed 35 pounds, which is basically the maximum asking price for just about every brand-new PC game bar COD in the UK. I wouldn't pay any more than that. But presumably due to crazy sales, the game is going for ridiculous prices of over 50 pounds on sites like eBay and Amazon!

Far Cry 2

I recently spent several hours with Far Cry 2, hoping for a better experience than when I first got hold of the game several years ago. Although I was getting smooth framerates with the game on my old PC, this was only running on medium-low settings, so I guess I hoped that now, maxing the game with no issues on my new PC would change my opinion of the game. Of course, the environment is stunning, absolutely flawless, but that still didn't help me change my mind of the gameplay.

It's certainly a game that many people love and many people hate. I hate the fact that it's related to the original Far Cry, but at the same time I love the new African setting. There's plenty of interesting gameplay ideas, but I found most of them to be flawed. You can check out my new review at the bottom of the page (I would've inserted a link, but it's not letting me for whatever reason...).

Am I looking forward to Far Cry 3? Yes. But my hopes aren't high.

Saturn nostalgia!

Last Saturday I won an eBay auction for a Sega Saturn, a console I used own about ten years ago. For a while I had been looking to get another and re-live all the great memories I had with my old Saturn but I find that it's difficult to get one for a reasonable price as they seem to be desirable amongst retro gamers these days. Well last Saturday I finally got one for a good price, and it arrived Wednesday! Boy did it bring back humble, happy memories when I booted the thing up!

The seller threw in Sega Rally and some football (soccer) game (football games go straight over my head). I actually used to own Sega Rally Championship, and it was easily one of my favourites in those days when it came to arcade driving games, and personally I think it's the best driving game on the Saturn. I've bought Daytona USA (another decent arcade racer port thatt I use to own) and X-Men: Children Of The Atom (a superb 2D beat 'em up) as well as two of my favourite PC games, Duke Nukem 3D and Quake, and I've bought these simply because I can't resist just owning ports of my favourite games! I've also got the Saturn version of Doom...yes, this is a terrible port and yes, I already knew that...I got it for collection purposes only (Doom fanboy alert!).

Games appear to be more expensive than I thought. Compared to PSX games, Saturn titles generally go for a lot more on sites like eBay, but I guess this is just the price you pay for getting hold of a relatively unsuccessful retro console for it's time. Anyway, I want to track down the following games, provided I can get decent copies at decent prices!:

  • Command & Conquer
  • Die Hard Arcade (probably won't ever happen, this is a rare title that tends to go for more than I'm willing to pay!)
  • Exhumed
  • Sega Touring Car Championship
  • Sonic 3D
  • Sonic Jam
  • Virtua Cop 2
  • Virtua Fighter 2
  • Virtual On
  • Wipeout
  • Wipeout 2097

Of course, I won't have ALL of these game soon, they're just games I plan to eventually get hold of at some point in the next few years.