Tag Archives: First-Person Shooter

Realms of the Haunting, PC

I have to admit that, in spite of the slightly wonky graphics/cut scenes, I have a real soft spot for Gremlin Interactive‘s 1997 PC MS-DOS release, Realms of the Haunting. Mostly because I was lucky and got to visit Gremlin‘s offices in Sheffield to see the game in production, and to talk to the people who were making it. I drove all the way from Bournemouth – where I worked as a video games magazine editor – and spent an entire day there to preview the game for PC Power magazine.

Back then, Realms of the Haunting looked good. It was a Doom-type 3D engine-based survival horror game, co-programmed by Tony Crowther, and written and produced by Paul Green. It had specially-filmed cut sequences using professional actors and came on four CD-ROMs. The thing it had over Doom, though, was being able to interact with objects on-screen, by clicking a mouse cursor on them.

Now time has passed and we can use hindsight to inform us, I have to say that I still quite like Realms of the Haunting, even though it’s dated badly and the graphics look weird (especially when looking up and down – the game doesn’t have any real perspective correction, just like the original Doom). Also: I always thought the cut scenes were hokey – even back in 1997 – so watching them now doesn’t appal me. It’s not the acting in them that’s bad (it’s actually pretty good), it’s the way the cut scenes have been produced. The film “special effects” are awful; the compositing is basic at best; and the video encoding is worse than standard definition. And I’m being charitable…

Thankfully the story is quite good. You play an investigator called Adam Randall who goes into a dark house looking for clues about the mysterious death of his father. And of course he finds more than he bargained for… Again, thankfully: there are weapons to be found and used against whatever it is that is out to get him. Eventually Adam discovers that the house is in fact a portal to different universes and that he must prevent an impending apocalypse by visiting each universe and unlocking its secrets. So nothing major…

Realms of the Haunting is involving and atmospheric – even gripping in places. It’s been designed to be scary, and succeeds in places. Some of the monsters look a bit dodgy but are tough opponents to beat, and the environments are relatively simple, but overall RotH is well worth a play if you like old school survival horror games. It’s still available to buy on GOG.com and Steam, which is heartening.

More: Realms of the Haunting on Wikipedia
Steam: Realms of the Haunting on Steam
GOG.com: Realms of the Haunting on GOG.com

Fallout 4, PC

The fourth Fallout was released by Bethesda in 2015, some seven years after Fallout 3, and five years after Fallout: New Vegas. In fact: I would call this the fifth Fallout game, because Fallout: New Vegas was more than just game number 3.5, in my humble opinion – it was the best game in the entire series. But anyway… What do I know?

What Fallout 4 retains from the previous games it benefits from (like lockpicking, hacking, and companions, which are essentially the same), and what Fallout 4 loses from the previous games it also benefits from too. Excepting for maybe the Perk Chart, which I found to be a big step backwards, usability-wise, in Fallout 4.

That ‘blip’ aside, I love the sparse and refined interface of Fallout 4; the story and conversations are simpler and more realistic; and ‘crafting’ has taken on a whole new meaning this time around. New additions to the gameplay, such as building and defending settlements, the use of power armour, and manufacturing helper robots, I think are all excellent. Although base-building in Fallout 4 is not perfect (trying to get fencing to connect up is a bitch), the fundamentals behind it work very well and add another dimension to the Fallout experience.

Of course, Fallout 4 is all about chasing quests, gaining and using experience points, playing politics with different factions, and hoarding every piece of tech and weaponry you can get your hands on. Exploring the crumbling, post-apocalyptic Boston, Massachusetts yields many surprising moments.

What I love most about Fallout 4 is the world itself. And the atmospherics. The effort Bethesda has made to create a believable, destroyed world is remarkable. The use of light/dark; coloured lighting; weather effects; music and sound effects all combine to make something really worth experiencing. On normal difficulty Fallout 4 is a challenging game – that I like too. At times the enemies in the game can be utterly ruthless and punishing (try meeting an Assaultron Demon and its friends when you’re lower levelled and see what you think of that experience…), and there are many unique monsters in the game that are way beyond your initial capabilities and who will mince you for dinner without warning if you make a mis-step. Which is all part of the Fallout RPG experience – fear, followed by eventual domination (when you go back to get your revenge later). And – there being no real level cap this time – you could in theory just keep on surviving indefinitely.

At times Fallout 4 can be frustrating. A game this big and complex is going to have some bugs, and I did experience a couple that broke my game (which I had to use to the console to fix), which nobody wants to do, but at least a fix was available, saving hours of gameplay that I’d otherwise have to re-do. I also think that the item management is still not quite as good as I’ve seen in other games. Organising items can be quite tiring in Fallout 4 and a few tweaks to the menu system might have made it a lot easier. But overall: I don’t want to complain about it too much, because I really enjoyed playing Fallout 4.

Where would I put Fallout 4 in my list of best Fallout games? Is it better than Fallout: New Vegas? Mmm. I would probably put it joint top with Fallout: New Vegas. In some respects, Fallout 4 is better, but in other respects: not. The story/characterisation and world-building in Fallout 4 are outstanding. There’s no doubting that.

More: Fallout 4 on Wikipedia
Steam: Fallout 4 on Steam

100 Best Level-Grinders Of All-Time
100 Best Level-Grinders Of All-Time

Fallout 3, PC

After a gap of some ten years – between the release of Fallout 2 and “the void” of there being no other Fallout games – came Fallout 3 from Bethesda. Like a bolt from the blue: Fallout was back, and this time it was in 3D.

The year was 2008, and it seems like an age ago now, but the release of Fallout 3 onto the market really invigorated the RPG scene. Not to mention: brought back a much-loved series with a modern twist on the game world and mythos. Not everyone was happy, though. A few fans were unhappy with the change to first-person, or the fact that Super Mutants were ubiquitous early on in the game (when, in their minds, Super Mutants should only appear at higher levels). Which is nonsense. Fanatics will be fanatical…

What were slight problems with Fallout 3, though, were the bugs (the game is notorious for having an abundance of game-breaking bugs); the sometimes ridiculous story-telling (the ending is much debated on those terms); and the rather trite voice acting. Not all the voice acting is bad – only some of it – and it kind of holds the game back a little.

Personally: as an admirer of the original two Fallout games, I spent hundreds of hours playing Fallout 3 and enjoyed every minute of it (except when I had to replay because I’d saved a game-breaking bug into my game). I was just so happy to be back in the Vault again. It was only later, after I’d played the superior Fallout: New Vegas, did I realise how limited Fallout 3 was.

Fallout 3 is still a huge amount of fun to play now. The seamless mixing of real-time action and (optional) turn-based combat impresses me a lot. The combat system – called V.A.T.S. (Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System) – is a joy to use and gives you a great view of the action while it plays-out. As long as you’re not taking on an opponent who is way stronger than you, you always feel in a control of the action, and as you level up you can face stronger and stronger enemies. Which is just how it’s supposed to be.

More: Fallout 3 on Wikipedia
Steam: Fallout 3 on Steam
GOG.com: Fallout 3 on GOG.com

Aliens versus Predator 2, PC

Not to be confused with the Aliens vs. Predator games from British developer Rebellion, this gaming sequel was created by Monolith Productions and published by Sierra On-Line in 2001.

Whatever you think about the AvP series you can’t disagree that the concept does work extremely well as a video game, and this first-person shooter arguably proves that.

Assuming the role of either Marine, Predator, or Alien, Aliens versus Predator 2 provides the player with three separate single-player campaigns (one for each faction), plus a healthy multiplayer game. Each campaign differs significantly in terms of weapons, environments, goals, and gameplay.

The Alien, for example, has an entire life cycle that can be played-out, which is really interesting. Facehugger, chestburster, then big alien, with each having slightly different mechanics. It doesn’t take long for the alien to reach maturity, but playing the life cycle in real time is both fraught with danger and also quite fascinating (well, fascinating for those who like their sci-fi).

The Predator has his guns and gadgets, and also weird, hieroglyphic readouts at the side of the screen. The Marine – as you’d expect – is packing state-of-the-art ‘Jim Cameron‘ style firepower, plus: also has use of the APC (Armoured Personnel Carrier) as seen in the film Aliens.

Strangely, Aliens versus Predator 2 doesn’t seem to be available to buy now, at the time of writing. I can find the other AvP games for sale online, but not this one. Am not sure why (possibly legal reasons), but am hoping that changes at some point soon. Monolith‘s game deserves a re-release.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aliens_versus_Predator_2