I’ve re-kindled my love for playing computer games.
Just weeks ago, I bought a new custom PC so I could play the latest games and those that I have had missed out but was always curious to try. I have to thank Alfred Ko for his awesome suggestions on the custom computer specs. 🙂 I’ve installed and played a few games so far, and I’ve been itching to write my personal reviews on them. So here goes!
NOTE: All ratings are on the scale of 10, highest being the best. These reviews are based on personal gaming experience in Single Player campaigns – oh, and also own opinion. 🙂
The Plot: 6.5/10
Unlike Quake 3 which has no definite plot, there’s a storyline to follow in Quake 4. The events of Quake 4 takes place right after the ones in Quake II (not related to Quake 1 & 3 at all). If you have played Quake II before, you would remember assuming the role of a lone marine battling your way into the heart of Planet Stroggos, fighting a variety of Strogg abominations. The lone marine had killed the Makron in the final showdown and Planet Earth is now launching an all-out assault on Stroggos by sending its best, toughest, strongest men. 🙂
In the Single Player mission, you assume the role of a marine named Corporal Matthew Kane. Apparently, he doesn’t talk at all throughout the game, though you will see cinematics of him from a third party perspective every now and then. Like the previous Quake FPS games, Quake 4 maintains the tradition of ‘shoot them all’ but only this time you will work with other AI marines (though don’t count on them a lot to help you clear mass enemies as they’re often cannon fodders or the allied AI had been purposely programmed to under-deliver to your advantage).
This game has expanded the Quake universe and you can now witness wicked Strogg technology and explicit medical experiments from the corporal’s view. For example, you can now see what Strogg do to their enemies that are held captive. This explains why most of the Strogg army consists of part flesh, part cyborg combatants and that the species vary greatly. At one point in the game, the player is ‘stroggified’ as well but narrowly escapes being a puppet to Strogg command. I won’t spoil everything else here, go play the game yourself. 🙂
Overall, I’d say that the plot is more interesting and elaborate than that in Quake 1 & 2 (and none at all for Quake 3). However having played Call of Duty 4 before this game, I couldn’t help but have higher expectations on the plot.
Something about the plot screams familiarity to that of Half-Life and Aliens vs Predator 2. For example, the other marines give the “I’m busy” excuse during calm times (like the scientists in Half-Life before the lambda cascade disaster) and weapons, some aspects of the marines and the horror value mimic AvP2 to a degree.
Graphics look familiar to that of Doom 3 (though I haven’t played it yet, just saw its screen shots) but is a radical improvement over its predecessors, for sure. I like it!
Game Play: 8/10
It feels bulky and slow when moving the character, the player can get hurt easily from jumps and it’s a little bit more realistic than its predecessors. In some of the Single Player missions, the player can also be commandeer the hover tank, tram, walker (I think that’s what it’s called) and mounted machine gun. What I still like about the game play is that it keeps Quake 4 slim in features, and rid of ‘extra fluff’. (Unlike BattleField where you get a tone of controls to configure I could’ve sworn I need a second keyboard. Blah!)
I got bored of the game after completing the game three times in a row. The re-playability value is little in my opinion and once you explore all the stages, the Strogg monsters probably won’t really scare you anymore. It’s still worth re-playing again but only sparingly and once in a while.
It’s an awesome game overall and if you’re a Quake fan, don’t miss this out.
Command & Conquer 3: Kane’s Wrath
The Plot: 7/10
The Messiah lives! Or he just cannot die. 🙂 The events start from where C&C 3 left, assuming that the Global Defense Initiative (GDI) had won the second Tiberium War. The player must help Kane rebuild his NOD army, fight and convert other NOD traitors, enlighten the GDI, and play tag with the “Visitors” a.k.a. Scrin on brief encounters. 🙂
Kane’s Wrath is the first and latest expansion pack to Command & Conquer 3 and this time, it’s in one word: different. To begin with, there are no GDI missions to play, and the Scrins are still kept mysterious whereby nothing much is known about them even until now. However, the player will be pitting against GDI and Scrin factions throughout the Single Player campaign as Legion, the Super AI that serves the Brotherhood of NOD – I mean, Kane, of course.
Speaking of factions, the three main factions are now further divided into 3 sub-factions, making a total of 9 factions you can choose from in the Skirmish and Multi Player games.
Awesome graphics once set to its peak, though it obviously requires a high performance computer. I kept the graphic details down to an acceptable level though I’m running on a very good PC. Smooth sailing over looks, I say.
Game Play: 6/10
Due to the number of factions being added, price heavily revised compared to C&C3 v1.0 and new units and structures introduced, the game is now somewhat more complicated. The introduction of several sub-factions meant deploying various types of units into the battlefield.
Even if you’ve played Command & Conquer 3 before, you will still need to re-learn the game. For example, GDI has a sub-faction called the “Steel Talons” and you will see the return of the Titans and Wolverine Walkers (the same units we saw in Tiberian Sun). Each sub-faction has their pros and cons so choosing the right faction against your opponents in Multi Player does matter a lot that it can possibly affect victory or defeat to a length.
Another distinct feature is that now each main faction has a SUPER UNIT – usually costing at $5,000 to produce. They’re unique and on description they read “Strong vs. Everything”. 🙂 The GDI can deploy the MARV that grinds Tiberium everywhere it goes and garrisons up to 4 squads. The Scrin has a Hexapod Walker while The NOD, if you had played the mission, can construct the Redeemer, a bigger version of the Avatar as a response to dealing with GDI’s greatly feared MARV. (From what I tested, the Redeemer is the weakest of the 3 Super Units.)
The hot keys are not convenient either – you have to rely on F1 through F12 buttons to build units on the fly, and CTRL+A or CTRL+S to execute a special unit ability. In games like Starcraft and Company of Heroes, you can execute all these through hot keys in the alphabets.
The expansion game now sees more focus in garrisoning infantry squads that will require great micro-management, though I think it’s becoming ridiculous because garrisoning the infantry one-by-one can be very tedious. Remember the times you clicked on the ‘riflemen’ icon a 100 times to produce a 100 of them in Tiberian Dawn and Red Alert? Well… it’s happening again in another form like the one here.
The infantry units looks dwarf and small (owing to the massive tanks and technology) and most of them die easily in the hands of vehicles, so it’s harder to appreciate their contribution to combat. Buying infantry is like buying sea monkeys so it’s yes, again, harder to appreciate infantry. Am not saying they’re completely useless but for the same price of training so many infantry squads, they are better invested in solid vehicles with medium to heavy armor.
There is a serious flaw of imbalance in the units and price and the use of tanks and mightier technology only proves how vulnerable infantries are. Like most of its predecessors and staying true to the C&C style, tank spam rules.
The Skirmish game will always be enjoyable, though I wasn’t that happy with some of the major changes and fixes ever since C&C 3 v1.0 – like you cannot build more than one secondary structures from the Crane at the same time. (But then I guess this would only render building the second MCV useless?)
Prices went up ridiculously for some units like the Venom and Stealth Tank, as if there’s a fuel price hike like what’s happening right here in Malaysia (maybe Kane was inspired by Abdullah Badawi).
I still give it a good rating and it’s probably more fun if you play the game with friends over LAN or cyber cafe. The only hope I have for the next game in the C&C franchise (Red Alert 3?) is that they beef up the role of infantries and cut down on allowing impractical units to be produced (think of the ‘technician’ from Red Alert and ‘jumpjet infantry’ from Tiberian Sun).
Company of Heroes
The Plot: 7/10
Company of Heroes is based on World War 2 and while many games have been created around this popular part of world history, CoH is truly exceptional and its RTS game play is what I would proudly call revolutionary.
The player takes charge of the brave men of Able Company and you get to, in a way, go back in time… all the way back to 1944 and lead the Invasion of Normandy. The Single Player campaign begins on D-Day (Day of Days) when a series of American crafts land on Omaha Beach, German occupied France. The first cinematic shows familiarity and tribute to the infamous D-Day scene in Saving Private Ryan, and you have to lead your men against the fearsome Mg42s, head on.
After taking out the bunkers the player then goes on a series of field missions that take place throughout France, all of which eventually contribute to driving the Axis force off France in the last days of war.
The graphics and the Essence Engine rocks but because I’m running on low model and terrain detail in exchange for speed and performance, I didn’t get to appreciate the graphics more. I’ve run the game on max graphics options and it was stunning in my opinion, just too bad the game would end up slower. 🙂
Game Play: 8.5/10
The CoH game runs on Essence Engine and one obvious feature it has that other RTS games don’t is that you can view the battlefield from any angle – unlike the fixed ‘from the sky’ view in most other RTS games.
CoH has as many as over 35,000 different voices and speeches! If you listen carefully enough, you can hear the soldiers interacting and making humorous conversations. They’re as real as they can get as during battle, the soldiers can be screaming, in anguish, and yes vulgar too.
If you’ve been used to playing games like C&C then don’t start getting ideas that spamming your opponents with tanks will ensure victory. This game brings RTS realism to a whole new level and the playing field is now more leveled even for the infantry.
While tanks are good for clearing structures and infantry, these armored vehicles aren’t invulnerable to anti-tank destroyers, bazookas and panzershrecks.
In Skirmish mode, whether you’re playing in the Allied Team or Axis Team, you can choose one from three given companies and the company you choose can decide victory or defeat given the circumstances of war.
This applies to the Skirmish mode. I got bored of the Single Player missions too quickly (played only once in full). One thing unique about CoH skirmish’s high re-playable value is that every time you play the game, the experience is different. There is no ‘definite’ or ‘perfect’ way to predict your opponent even for an AI of any level. And cover means life or death for your men as well. This said, I enjoyed my Skirmish experience a lot because it is different and less predictable every time I play.
No prize for guessing – Company of Heroes remain my all-time favorite and it will be that way for a long time before I get addicted to another game. 🙂
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
The Plot: 8.5/10
Call of Duty 4 is a radical departure from its previous predecessors. No longer set in the World War 2 era, CoD4 takes place in the near future (a few years from now) and introduces modern time weapons, tactics and global conflicts, though there was no detailed reference to the current world issues.
A First Person Shooter game that takes Counter-Strike to the next level, the player assumes different roles throughout the Single Player Missions. Two distinctive characters are Sgt. ‘Soap’ MacTavish (British SAS) and Sgt. Paul Jackson (1st Recon Force, USA). You will be joined by a few friendlies that you will constantly be working with throughout the mission such as Captain Price (SAS) and Gaz (SAS) and Lt. Vasquez (US) and Staff Sgt. Griggs (US).
The story line is very detailed, elaborate and REAL. I won’t elaborate it all over here but if you’ve been watching CNN then you should get some ideas. However, I feel there is a mis-representation in how CoD4 was marketed. If you see the posters and the splash screen, they mostly feature the American Marine, giving the impression that majority of the missions involve US operations. When in actual fact, there are only 4 US missions while the rest are SAS missions (since the Paul Jackson character would die mid-way of the game, as an in-direct result of the nuclear explosion).
Splendid, splendid, splendid. I love it and this makes the game feel real. I played the game at max performance and the speed was still acceptably fast. The lightings are good and the HUD and effects vary very well depending on the player’s condition – for example you will see the screen blurred and experience distorted hearings temporarily after being knocked out or exposed to flash bang. (these features had been present in all previous CoD titles)
Game Play: 8/10
I won’t dive into the controls because it’s relatively the same as CoD2. As far as the Single Player Missions are concerned, there’s a realistic feel when engaging enemies in combat. Unlike most other ‘shoot them all’ games, the friendlies (Captain Price, Gaz, Griggs, Vasqueze) have detailed characters of their own, interact well with each other, and they connect well with the player so not only you won’t feel like you’re working with another ‘desktop application’, you certainly won’t treat your teammates as ‘just another pixeled face’ waiting to be fragged on enemy lines.
Unfortunately in the end, the player’s teammates will be killed by Imran Zakhaev and his lackeys though the player-controlled SAS, Soap, will survive the entire ordeal. There is a bonus mission after the main campaign called “Mile High Club” which seemed somewhat irrelevant to the main campaign. But I personally speculate that the character the player controls is still Soap on a new mission with a squad of new teammates. But then, I could also be wrong. 🙂
TRIVIA: I was wondering what “Mile High Club” meant so I did a Google search for the term. Guess what it was? Well… go see it for yourself!
Too bad the Multi Player game doesn’t come ready with bots. Since I’m not into the cyber cafe scene anymore, this would had been handy. However, the Single Player Missions have high re-playability value that I rarely got bored playing any of the missions.
No surprise that I still keep this game in my computer. Can also see why many others have enjoyed it just as much as I did. 🙂
In a nutshell, all in all…
If you’re a Real Time Strategy fan, you MUST absolutely play Company of Heroes! 🙂
Call of Duty 4 makes Counter-Strike’s ‘realism mod’ approach a joke.
C&C3 has radical improvement in graphics and game play but usually, victory goes to the best spammers, like filling the skies with Venoms for instance.
Play Quake 4 Single Player Mission when you want to scare yourself a bit at all the gore details of human anatomy, and marvel at what kind of a wicked mind can conceive a race like the Stroggs. 🙂
Until I try out the next computer game and hope you’ve had fun reading my reviews.