Good games getting lost in the avalanche

Owen Sound Sun Times (On)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

So many games come out all at the time that some get lost in the deluge.

Almost every movie now gets a tie-in game. Sometimes TV shows get the same. Once a game catches on, it is endlessly copied. Factors like these lead to a saturated market.

This leads to good games getting overlooked. This is mostly a bad thing, but some of these games (if you can find them) sell for next to nothing now. Here are a few that I’ve enjoyed (all are for PC, though some have console versions as well):

No One Lives Forever (Also on PS2) and No One Lives Forever 2: a Spy in H.A. R.M’s Way.

These two games are great. They are among my favourite first-person-shooters. You take on the role of Cate Archer, a female super-spy in the 1960s.

The games have everything going for them; they had great graphics when they came out. The voice acting and animation is great, the games are exciting, they don’t get boring.

But what really sets them apart is humour. They rival any cinematic spy parody I’ve seen. There are ridiculous, overblown characters and situations, fun and silly gadgets.

The gameplay (particularly in the second game) is very well done. You can sneak, or you can just run and shoot everything. You need to hide and distract people. If you make noise, the baddies will actively look for you, turning on lights and checking under and behind things. The whole thing feels like a spy movie, but very, very silly. You’ll sneak around in dark alleys collecting documents. It’s even got a level in a submarine.

The games are total throwbacks to 60s spy movies, but never take themselves seriously and that’s why they work so well, they’re always campy. Plus they never get tiresome. One moment you’re running down the street in India, guns blazing, the next you’re tripping guards with banana peels.

The bottom line is they’re great games. I recommend them both. And where else would you get to fight ninjas in a trailer park during a tornado?

Freedom Force and Freedom Force vs. the Third Reich.

These two games are tactical RPGs, so they won’t appeal to everyone. In both games you control a group of superheroes through various levels.

The story is way overblown and the game is a great throwback to superhero comics: big angry villains, uber-patriotic heroes, the whole nine. Both games have great voice acting and cutscenes, lots of action and plenty of moves for your heroes (you can fly, smash up buildings and throw cars, all sorts of fun stuff.)

The games are controlled with the mouse. You point and click your heroes around. At any time you can pause to plan (you need to do this a lot).

The games are very interactive – you can destroy everything. Plus you can play online with friends and you can even make your own superheroes, name them, and name all their attacks.

It’s great fun. The mission in the games are varied, it’s colourful and fun to look at. It’s very tactical, it will not appeal to everyone, but if you like RPGs, this one’s a good bet. It got great reviews all around and it is a great addition to anyone’s RPG collection.

Tribes Vengeance.

This game flew totally under the radar. It’s by Irrational Games, who have quite a strong gaming history, as does the Tribes franchise, but this game just missed the monetary mark.

The game has a solid first person adventure mode. It’s sci-fi, with lasers and jetpacks and the like, but the multiplayer is what’s really cool.

The game has huge levels full of hills and you have a jetpack and the ability to ski. By holding the spacebar, you remove the gravity from your “boots” so you can effectively “rocket-ski” around the levels using the jetpack and the ski button. It’s really fun and an experience not to be found in other games.

The one downside is you basically have to have friends who own the game, as the online servers are deserted. It’s altogether a great FPS and well worth picking up, especially for the multiplayer component.

Psychonauts: There it is; widely hailed as the most underrated game ever.

It’s by Tim Shaffer. He co-designed “Day of the Tentacle” and designed “Full Throttle” and “Grim Fandango”. These games were highly acclaimed adventure titles for the PC, known for their humour and storytelling.

Psychonauts is a 3D platformer carrying on that pedigree. It’s hilarious, well acted, well animated. It’s like playing a twisted cartoon. It’s a similar style to the works of Tim Burton or Jhonen Vasquez.

You play Raz, a psychic kid who is recruited to a summer camp where he is trained as a psychic commando. What ensues is a ridiculous journey through the various minds. It’s all very weird and funny, and fun. (This game is also out for xBox and PS2)

Calen Henry is a fourth-year student of Japanese Studies and Multimedia at McMaster University. He grew up in Owen Sound, has been a gamer since childhood and is also interested in music and film.

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