October 2003

[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/toee/cover.jpg[/floatleft]Once more, the world of Forgotten Realms takes its brilliant fantasy world to a video game. As games begin to utilize new technology that replicates the “rolls” of a pen and paper role playing session, DnD is now in full swing within the video game industry. Temple of Elemental Evil is a pen and paper Greyhawk Campaign that many role-players are familiar with. Trokia Games and Atari have translated the classic adventure to a roleplaying game simple enough to play (maybe not understand) for those not familiar with Dungeons and Dragons, yet challenging enough for the most hardcore of role-players. TOEE being the first game to use the new 3.5 rules edition means the game will offer more then any other DnD game previously has.

[heading]Who invited that guy?[/heading]

As with any adventure you must form a party. You can pick from a few pre-made characters, but why would you when you can create you own perfect fellowship of up to 5 adventures? You can customize each of your character’s statistics, look, class, voice set, deity, alignment, among other things. The customization is pretty shallow, as there are not enough looks to differentiate characters from others in your party. A lack of voice sets to choose from is a bit disappointing as well. In the game you may recruit other NPC characters to help in your journey. They will, however, take some of your loot or require you to pay for their services. A nice addition, as you can pick up a tank for the tough battles in the game. If you need a better thief, then go to the local inn and recruit one.

Alignment plays a crucial part in your party, as only party members of compatible alignment can be in the same party. A lawful good paladin cannot join a party with chaotic evil rogues. Of course, a paladin would never associate with, much less run with an evil doer, so the game does not allow it. You must choose a party alignment for the whole team and then you may pick from your character pool accordingly. Your actions in game will affect your party. If you chose evil deeds with a lawful good party, you can cause your paladin to fall or lose certain bonuses for those particular classes that have restrictions on alignment.

Your basic classes are all here and represented. You can create your perfect wizard, paladin, rogue, fighter, cleric, druid, ranger, wizard, sorcerer, monk, bard, and, of course, the hardcore barbarian. You may also multi class as you level up. Of course, with the checks and balance system that is DnD, choosing one class will restrict you from ever using another class. Alignment will also dictate which classes you can or cannot chose from. Some classes require you to be neutral and others require you to be anything but evil.

[floatright]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/toee/ss02_thumb.jpg[/floatright][heading]A task made simple.[/heading]

Off the bat comparisons with Baldurs Gate and Icewind Dale will surface as you control a party of five or more. The difference, however, is a less chaotic turn based format that TOEE uses. As in Baldurs Gate and Icewind Dale your party will meet up with hostiles and have to battle through the enemy to achieve a goal. Instead of each character taking his or her own “turn” all at once TOEE has your party go individually based on their statistics or items that may boost stats.

Each character makes an action depending on the time they have. Each action takes up a certain amount of time, even changing weapons. Moving long distances will leave you no time to attack, cast magic, or use an item. As you control your party you must find a medium between positioning your character and having time to enable them to take an action. It is your job to manage your team for the best opportunity for defense or offence. Of course, you lean a few tricks that help along the way such as extra turns per round or even give up your moving for an extra action. You are able to see whose turns are up on the top of the screen, allowing you ample time to strategize your moves and lay out a plan of attack. The new system is easy to learn. Most gamers will have it down after the first few battles.

The engine on which the game runs, runs smoothly as each character’s actions take place. All the “rolls” that happen on the table top happen in real time from the saves your character makes to the bonuses that get stacked on to your attacks or defense. You attack and the hostile parries the move just like that, without the complaining and rolling of a few 20 sided dice just to see if your attack scored a hit or missed (most times you will miss). For those unfamiliar with the rules of DnD the game makes the complicated numbers game that is really going on in the background, seem like an after thought. To ignore it completely however would be hazardous to your future as a fellowship. For instance, you will need to build up as high an armor class as you can without infringing on the restrictions some of your characters may have. For instance, a ranger with heavy armor looses all of his bonuses from that particular class. A wizard dawning armor suffers an arcane failure percentage. No need to worry if you have no idea what I am talking about as the item descriptions tell most of what you need to know. I do, however, strongly recommend reading the instruction booklet, or even glancing through the classes sections so you know what your characters can and cannot do. Yes, this game is deep, yes, it is complicated, but TOEE manages to make DnD a bit more understandable, however, you will find yourself flipping through the manual a bit.

[heading]My characters keep going…dammit![/heading]

The point and click heavy interface is hesitant to work at times. When the screen has even just a few enemies the interface bogs down. While this is a minor problem it becomes more annoying each and every time you have to fight. To make matters worse, sometimes the paths your party takes split them in two groups often times leading one group to an encounter while your other guys are too far away to help. Annoying tight hallways will have your characters blocked off and your weak Druid will accidentally be on the front line of combat while your fighter with full armor stands in wait.

[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/toee/ss03_thumb.jpg[/floatleft][heading]Can I get a glowing sword?[/heading]

I love little details and this game is full of them. The character animations are great (minus the corny Monk’s crane kicks) as they fiddle around with their equipment or search the surrounding area. The sneaking animations are my personal favorite, as they lower themselves to the ground and seem to cover up with their cloaks in true thief style. Most items you place on your body are shown on the character. From crowns, hats, cloaks with hoods, wizard gear, shoes, gloves and of course weaponry that all look different. Rusted swords look jagged and a shiny new longsword gleams. I try to make my elves look elven with leather armor and a green cloak, and my paladin look like a brilliant holy warrior. For fans of equipment – you will not be disappointed.

[heading]A good purchase?[/heading]

This game will appeal more to the fans of DnD then anything else. Those that love games where they can whoop up on everything will be dissatisfied, as you will not get to benefit from the god like spells that high level characters get in DnD. Most of the annoying factors can be looked over, that is not to say they won’t get to you though. I have turned the game off on quite a few occasions only to come back and plan my attack because I know what lies ahead. Noobs to the world of DnD can manage the game just fine, however they might miss out on some of the benefits of the feats a characters should have. Ignorance in leveling up can cost you dearly at times. While TOEE offers a better game play then some of the other DnD video games the lack of multiplayer has turned many off. I do enjoy running with a group of friends battling bad guys. This game, above all else, is more of a pass time then an epic roleplaying game. A good buy for those who are fans of the genre or fans of DnD. For those who love a long enthralling roleplaying game – you more then likely should not bother with Temple of Elemental Evil.

Amped 2

October 28, 2003

Microsoft’s Amped: Freestyle Snowboarding was one of the first games out of the gate for the Xbox two years ago, and the first real competition for the SSX series. It met with mixed reviews, mainly because of the steep learning curve and awkward control scheme, but gamers who toughed it out were treated to a fun, if not overly-realistic, snowboarding game that more than held its own against the original SSX. Now, two years later, and facing stiff competition with SSX3 and 1080 Avalanche, Microsoft returns with Amped 2, and fans of the first game will definitely not be disappointed.For better or worse, the basic gameplay here is still the same. The left analog stick handles the brunt of the control – it moves your boarder and controls your spins while in the air. Holding down the A button accelerates your boarder, while releasing it will make him jump. B and Y are used for grinding and lip tricks, respectively. The L and R triggers are for tweaking your tricks. The main difference between Amped and SSX, and the one thing that most gamers have trouble getting past, is the fact that the right analog stick is used for grab tricks. This means you’ll constantly have to move your thumb from the face buttons to the stick, which never feels completely natural, even after extended play. Fortunately, there’s a lengthy tutorial mode to help ease new players into the game.

New to the game are A

Dots here to bring you your weekly news update. News was spread a little thin as I drudged through the volumes of “news worthy” articles out there. But, none the less, there is news to be told, so here it goes.

First off, for all you people who are just dying to have a Nokia Ngage of your very own, but aren’t ready to make a $299 commitment for it, this is for you. Both EB and Gamestop now have the Ngage available for just $199…for a limited time. Nokia is claiming this is for a soon to be announced Halloween Special that will only run through November 4th. Yeah, we’ll see.

Why buy an Ngage when you can buy an Xbox? Apparently, that is the opinion of other people in this world besides me. I know this because, once again, Xbox sales are up. In fact, they are up a whole 20% since last year. Of course, this is not entirely contributed to the Xbox, as the success of Microsoft put out games, both console and PC, played a role as well.

Nintendo is making the news again this week, and it isn’t in a bad number dropping way. Word around the water cooler is that there is now a way to system link your Gamecube over the internet. Called the “Warp Pipe Project” (aw, how cute) it now only supports one game, but promises are there to soon encompass others, like Mario Kart: Double Dash. It isn’t as easy as linking up a couple of Xboxes, but the potential for some fun times is definitely there.

Now some news on something I will never understand; the modding of PC games. I just don’t see how that the developer like people messing with their stuff…anyway, back to the news. There are some new modding tools for Max Payne 2 that were just released. Click on the link for all your Max Payne 2 modding needs. Just remember kids, mods for Max Payne are not compatible with Max Payne 2.

For all of you people that have been living under a rock for the past couple of weeks, I am going to point out one of the funniest articles I have read online in a long time. It is about kids and playing our beloved classic video games. It will make you think, give those kids a Quaker chewy granola bar!

Since we here at Snackbar keep such close ties on all things gaming, I wanted to show you a picture of the upcoming Phantom that was snapped at a Q&A session last week. Think that will fit in your entertainment center? Think again. In this Q&A, Infinium Labs spent a lot of time dodging questions and not releasing a whole lot of information about how things are going to work if and when the console comes to market. The big thing that is still unknown is exactly what companies are developing games for the “console” and Robert Shambro of IL had this to say: “I can tell you I can’t tell you. I can tell you I’d like to tell you. I can tell you who we don’t have. Do we have EA? No.” Thanks for clearing that up Rob!

Just a last tidbit that I read in my weekly News of the Weird newsletter that comes to my e-mail every Monday morning that I thought you guys migh
t find interesting. According to a BBC report, the police in South Korea are being forced to look into some odd 22, 000 complaints that their characters and online property is being stolen by Hackers and sold to other gamers, thus making their own EverQuest characters more built up. Right. The “experts” are saying that such theft should be punishable under law due the fact that players development of that property might equate to hundreds of hours. So, if these said players then die from not eating while playing EverQuest, are the characters then punishable by death?

[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/bf1942sww2/cover.jpg[/floatleft]Have you ever wondered what World War II would’ve been like if it spanned for 10 to 15 years longer than it did? It’s interesting to think about it, but I really think that this game pretty accurately presents what could have been. I also think it was quite interesting that on the day BF 1942 Secret Weapons was released, the History Channel was presenting a documentary on the Secret Weapons the Nazi’s were developing during the war. Fortunately, the war was over before those weapons were put to use. For example, the fighter-bomber, “The Horton HO 229,” was an actual stealth bomber that the Nazi’s were developing that had the capabilities to reach New York and back to Germany with a massive payload of bombs on a full tank of jet fuel. It was a good thing they never actually finished the project. The design of that same fighter jet spawned the design to many of the U.S. designs of stealth fighter jets today. In case you were wondering, I just thought I would throw some of the History Channel knowledge to you Snackbarians out there. All in all, this game has a good amount of positive aspects to add on to the BF 1942 series.

EA decided to go ahead and add some creative elements to the soldiers on the battlefield. A really cool addition to the weapons mix was the Remington Auto 5 Shotgun. You can definitely run around a corner and take someone’s head off. Another weapon which I love to use is the Gewehr 43. This sniper rifle has gone semi-automatic baby. Instead of waiting to reload after every shot, you can set off several more rounds and cause more damage from afar. Speaking of reloading, sometimes it’s hard to find an ammo depot nearby. In this case, you can pull out your trusty knives and throw them at your foe. That’s right folks, SLICE AND DICE!! There are many more weapons that EA has added to your arsenal, but I’m just listing my faves.

[floatright]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/bf1942sww2/ss03_thumb.jpg[/floatright]Let me just go into the vehicles that were added to the madness of BF 1942. AAWW YEAH PEEPS, this is where it gets insane!!! Now, I’m not sure that if the war even spanned for another 10-15 years that anyone would’ve ever invented a rocket pack. I mean, I wouldn’t put it past the Nazi’s to develop something as crazy as that. The rocket pack is really cool to use when you want to make a quick getaway. It’s also good when you want to cause some damage from a high point. The rocket pack freaking rules over all. EA went crazy with adding more vehicles by adding jet planes, stealth bombers, a Harley Davidson with a gun-mounted sidecar, an amphibious jeep, and powerful tanks. Did I mention that there is a commando raft too? Powerful tanks? Well, these tanks aren’t your ordinary tanks; think a Sherman tank with a mounted rocket launcher canopy or a Flakpanzer, which is a mobile Anti-Aircraft weapon that causes mass damage. All the new tanks are much faster, much more maneuverable, and can sustain much more damage before blowing up. Now, the rocket jets are different story. These planes are super hard to maneuver and way to fast to cause any damage from ground forces. The Natter rocket plane is way too fast. It banks too fast and gives you no time to react. The bombers are also very difficult to maneuver. When you bank, it flips you upside down, and it makes insane wide turns. But it does let off multiple bombs at one point, as a bomber should. I personally liked the old war birds like the P-51, the Messerschmidt, and the Spitfire. They are fast, maneuverable, and damage effective. Now, before I move on, let me mention one of my favorite additions to the series. THE ONE AND ONLY…C-47 CARGO PLANE!!! First off, I’m the biggest 101st Airborne fan of all time. The C-47 flies like a dream. It carries a mounted machine gunner position and it’s a mobile spawning point. This is a great tool to use especially when the enemy’s across a huge body of water. I just love being able to spawn over enemy territory and parachute out. DEATH FROM ABOVE!! Umm, did I mention you get to guide freaking rockets to the enemy’s base? YEAH!! Freaking Noobs will never know what hit’em!

EA improved on maps by a huge margin by adding more obstacles, advantage points, and much more room to boot. The graphics still stay true to the BF 1942 feel, and a lot of the rough parts are smoothed out. Buildings, scenery, weapons and vehicles are much more attractive. Movements and the such have been the same since the beginning, so don’t expect any changes. EA really just wanted to add some spice to the mix with exotic weapons, vehicles, and environments. Overall, this game freaking rules and has been a great addition to the series. I was highly pumped to see many people greet this expansion pack with open arms. If battles get too intense for you sometimes, then you can always go back to old conventional warfare. Playing Secret Weapons is great fun with the original feel of BF 1942. I recommend all who enjoy the BF 1942 series to get this expansion, as it really is a great addition to the series.

Freedom Fighters

October 23, 2003

[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/freedomfighters/cover.jpg[/floatleft]Have you ever considered what the world would be like if Russia would have won the Cold War? Let’s go a bit further, what if Russia had started to spread their Communism all over the world? Well, in the case of this game, Communism makes an abrupt visit to the United States. Freedom Fighters takes us into the life of an ordinary hardworking American who is forced into the life of a rebel soldier trying to take back an invaded New York City. The great thing about fighting this war is that you don’t have to fight it on your own. As time progresses, your experience is measured by your charisma level. The higher charisma level you have the more people you can recruit to fight with you in a battle. And believe me, these volunteers will be more than happy to fight with you.

This third person shooter has a unique method of choosing weapons, giving commands, and soldier placement. This is not your ordinary detailed squad-based management game. It does not have the command menu like Rainbow six which it lets you choose different precise actions. And this is certainly not a specific pin-point location movement management game either like Ghost Recon. FF is a simple three command squad based game. You simply tell them to defend, attack, or scout. All three ways will have each member of your team attacking the enemy without being told to do so. You can move each player individually, one by one by simply pointing your aim arrow and designating a position there after. If you choose not to control them individually, each member of your squad will follow you like body guards. You can command up to twelve recruits and each recruit carries one of three weapons, a pistol, an AK-47, or a shotgun. I prefer to recruit those with the heavier fire power. You can recruit has many people as you want depending on your charisma level. If your charisma level is at 5 then you can recruit 5 people, and so on and so forth. You are only allowed to carry two primary weapons, three explosives, other handy weapons like a wrench, and a medi-pac. Each item can be selected by scrolling through an item menu during game play. Weapons range from sub-machine gun, an unmounted machine gun, an AK-47, an RPG, frag grenades, revolver, glock, C-4, and the special Molotov Cocktail. The movements of the characters are simple and straight forward. Reloading is automatic along with aiming and mission objectives. One complaint that I have with the controlling is the manual aiming when throwing Molotov cocktails and grenades. Throwing explosives becomes a huge challenge because you find yourself taking too much time calculating distance. If you put too much of an arch on it, the grenade will find itself falling on your head. If you don’t put arch on it then it falls a foot in front of you. Finding a happy medium was quite annoying during a heated battle.

[floatright]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/freedomfighters/ss04_thumb.jpg[/floatright]EA decided to give FF a small hint of GTA when designing this game. I mean, playing in the streets of New York, camera movements, the whole third person shooter action just reminds me of GTA 3. The graphics are a little above average compared to GTA 3. FF and GTA 3 are almost alike with shadows and good lighting and some destructive environments. The buildings have depth and very good texture. Backgrounds are incredible with beautiful skylines and tall enormous sky scrapers. The AI in FF is a little rough around the edges, but overall decent. Enemies will fire if they see you, and they will run and call for reinforcements. Every once in awhile you find a soldier at point blank range crouching in front of you pretending to hide from you. That’s always pretty funny. One thing I found pretty ridiculous was the helicopter explosions. A Russian attack helicopter would hover around mowing all of us down constantly. Every once in a while I would find myself with an RPG. Every time I would blow that thing up it would just disappear. No magnificent explosion with a blaze of glory, nothing. No parts falling from the sky, nothing. It was dull, however, it would take about 5 tries to hit that thing. The helicopter would dodge anything you shot at it.

Overall, I thought EA did a great job making this title. I enjoyed the entire storyline of taking back New York and building a rebel army. I especially enjoyed every last objective of every mission. Raising the Stars and Stripes!! To complete each mission you had to take back certain locations and raise the American Flag. I thought that was a cool touch to the game. This entire game reminds me of the movie Red Dawn with Charlie Sheen, Patrick Swayze, only the game was in the city. Freedom Fighters has a “WOLVERINES!!” feel to it! If you’ve seen the movie then you understand what I’m talking about. I truly enjoyed playing this, I suggest for those of you with a passion for war and squad based games to try this one out.