Category Archives: 2000

#87: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2

Format: Playstation Genre: Extreme Sports Released: 2000 Developer: Neversoft

Back in the year 2000 I was halfway through my English Literature degree in Southampton, but during the holidays I could usually be found propping up the sofa at Paul, Phil and Richie’s house, which we affectionately knew as ‘Foxhill’ (after the attractively named road it was located on, in the not-so-attractive environs of North Watford). Along with regular visitors Gav and Curly, I busied myself over those summer months in creating a buttock crevice in the Foxhill sofa while watching various kung-fu films and episodes of Alan Partridge (that is, if I could see the TV screen through the fug of cigarette smoke – the eventual ban on smoking in the house came as a welcome relief).

Foxhill was a bloke paradise really: the walls were graced with engaging bloke ephemera (I distinctly remember one wall had a pair of nun-chuks next to a homemade Kylie calendar), the whole house was wired up to a LAN network for multiplayer PC gaming, and the living room played host to an enormous TV complete with every bit of audio-visual equipment you could ask for. Not only that, a full wall was taken up by DVDs, and next to that stood an absolutely enormous beer fridge that Phil managed to get as surplus from the bar he managed (sadly though, it was only ever turned on intermittently after the first month owing to the ridiculous amounts of electricity it used).

I have very fond memories of Foxhill, and looking back it feels like I spent practically all of my time there when I wasn’t at university – although I know I had a summer job, so obviously that isn’t the case. In fact, I don’t really remember anyone going to work – it feels like all we did was stay up till three in the morning watching Bruce Lee movies every night.

Well, that’s not all we did – we put some serious time into playing video games as well. In fact, there were a few games that the denizens of Foxhill invested silly amounts of time in: Gran Turismo 3 was the sole topic of conversation for months at one point, and Paul became so obsessed with it he even went out and bought a £100 force feedback steering wheel before going on to unlock every single car in the entire game. Alien Versus Predator on the PC caused a similar stir when it arrived, mostly because it did a bloody good job of scaring the crap out of us. Picture the scene: four grown men stood around a PC, the only sound the increasing ‘ping’ of a marine’s motion detector… ‘BANG’! A pipe falls from the ceiling of a corridor, causing four grown men to shriek like girls and wet themselves.

Shogun: Total War was another one: Paul and Richie got pretty obsessed with playing this against each other – I’d often be in the living room, watching TV while Paul played on the PC, when suddenly he’d erupt in an explosion of cursing, accompanied by the sound of maniacal cackling coming from Richie upstairs as he decimated Paul’s army with his archers.

But the game that probably clocked up the most hours of play time was Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2. The level of devotion to this game at Foxhill was just phenomenal – every time I visited, THPS2 seemed to be on the Playstation, and often the sunken eyes of the current player would indicate that they hadn’t actually been to bed the previous night, such was the level of commitment to Tony and pals. But the thing about THPS2 is that it doesn’t really end – although there’s only a finite number of characters to unlock (Spider-Man being the obvious house favourite), there’s no end to the pursuit for high scores, and we’d sit for hours patiently taking it in turns to beat the score records for each level.

The key innovation of THPS2 was the introduction of the ‘manual’ – balancing your skateboard on two wheels – which allowed you to link tricks together in an unbroken train and achieve some utterly ludicrous combo scores (I seem to remember Curly was particularly skilled at this). But the brilliant thing was that it was almost as much fun to watch others performing tricks as it was to do them yourself, so waiting your turn to play was an entertainment in itself.

Ten years down the line, the residents of Foxhill – although still in touch – have gone their separate ways, and looking back, those hours spent playing games seem like a world away. Where did we find the time? Easy I suppose – most of us were single and didn’t have much responsibility, which meant we had loads of spare time and cash to spend on pursuits like learning intricate trick combos and practising nose grinds. They were good times, and although I wouldn’t change anything about my life right now, I sometimes miss those carefree days of blokeish pursuits…

…but then I remember about Gav’s fungal foot infection and suddenly the past doesn’t seem so rosy.

Lewis

(Screenshots from giantbomb.com)

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5 Comments

Filed under 2000, Extreme Sports, Neversoft, Playstation

#84: Spider-Man

Format: Playstation Genre: Action Adventure/Beat-em Up Released: 2000 Developer: Neversoft

‘Greetings True Believers! It’s me, the Sensational, Surprising, Staggering Stan Lee! During the 60s I (co)created loads of iconic Silver Age superheroes and villains – The Fantastic Four, X-Men, the Hulk, Thor, Daredevil, and many, many others. Then after the 60s I just made up loads of rubbish ones. Anyway, today my good pal Ian is here to talk about maybe my most fabulously famous creation, the Amazing Spider-Man! Over to you Ian’

Thanks Stan. Stewart Lee, in his excellent ‘How I Escaped My Certain Fate – The Life and Deaths of a Stand-Up Comedian’, mentions how much he loves Marvel comics and how Spider-Man’s code – ‘With great power comes great responsibility’ carries far more moral weight for him than the various commandments and declarations of the world’s major religions. Though I’m not massively into comics (I don’t really buy any titles regularly, just getting the occasional trade paperback) the Spider-Man love resonated with me. For me, Spider-Man is not only the best superhero created, but one of the greatest fictional characters of the 20th Century. Yes. Better than Batman.

Similar to Batman though, Spider-Man has not had the greatest vintage when it comes to video games. Back in the day both characters were often stuck in dull side scrolling beat-em ups, with only a token effort made use the unique abilities and powers of those characters. In fact Spider-Man the game and Batman: Arkham Asylum share a lot in common – they really reflect the spirits of their characters. Whereas Batman: Arkham Asylum was a game with a dark and twisted atmosphere, Spider-Man is joyous and fun, just like the title character normally is (between bouts of teenage angst of course). Both make full use of the universe the characters are in, using many of the supporting characters from their respective comics, films and animated TV shows. Both featured as many iconic villains as possible but used them all in a brilliant way. Both tapped into the ‘collecting’ urge of the average nerdy comic book fan by having various secret items to collect. And finally both are brilliant.

Not enough computing power to create the streets of New York? Don't worry, Dr Octopus has luckily released a yellow gas into the streets. Phew!

The game itself is great fun to play. I distinctly remember how exhilarating it was the first time you jump off a building, start to fall before shooting out a web and gracefully swinging over to the next building. Or the buzz you got as you realised what classic villain you were going to face now (I was stuck on flippin’ Mysterio for ages). Or indeed which classic hero was going to make a cameo appearance – everyone from Daredevil to the Punisher to Captain America pops by.

When I got Spider-Man I had lost interest in the character and comics in general (the ‘Clone Saga’ had just about finished me off I’m afraid) but the sheer joie de vivre of the game made me fall in love with Spidey again. The game feels like a comicbook, from Stan Lee’s typical verbose opening narration, to the bright colours of the levels, to Spider-Man’s sarky comments as he punches Rhino in the face. Not only that but the sheer number of various characters and comic book references crammed into the game reminded me why I had liked the comics in the first place. Plus I could look all knowledgable (and tragically geeky) in front of Lewis and our friend Paul as they played it and asked me who ‘such and such was’ or where the ‘Bag Head’ costume came from.

As usual Ol'Knuckle Head - J. Jonah Jameson has got himself into trouble and it's up to Spidey to save him. This time, from the Scorpion.

Sadly the game’s sequel, and the various Spider-Man (Spider-Men?) games that followed in its wake over the years failed to capitalise on the original’s innovations and they never matched the simple fun of that first game. It’s telling that the latest Spider-Man game – Shattered Dimensions – is still being compared to the 10 year-old Spider-Man. I still hope that a new game will come along and match the originals sense of fun and get the old spidey-sense tingling once again.

Oh, it also had a fantastic ending:

Ian

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Filed under 2000, Action Adventure, Fighting, Neversoft, Playstation

#75: Resident Evil CODE: Veronica

Format: Dreamcast Genre: Survival Horror Released: 2000 Developer: Capcom/Nextech

I have a love/hate relationship with this game. Love because it’s one of the best Resident Evil games out there, with some of the most memorable characters and storylines of the series. Hate because some IDIOTIC PUZZLE with an EMPTY FIRE EXTINGUISHER meant that I WAS UNABLE TO FINISH THE F**KING GAME. The memory still haunts me now, hence the extravagant use of capitals and self-censored swearing. I’ll explain…

In our student house at uni we’d often play through games together, or we’d play the same game but using different saves. Not long after I started playing Code Veronica, Paul, my housemate, began playing through it too. We’d swap stories about good bits in the game, and I’d drop excited hints about what was coming up next. All was fine and dandy until right near the end of the game, when I inadvertently uncovered a bug that made finishing the game all but impossible.

Tense, nervous headache?

Earlier in the game, Claire uses a fire extinguisher to retrieve a briefcase that’s stuck inside a flaming room, but for some reason she keeps hold of the empty extinguisher. This either means that Claire is a compulsive hoarder, or the game is subtly trying to tell you that there may just possibly be a puzzle later on that might – just might – require an empty fire extinguisher. Seeing as Claire generally isn’t the type to push around a shopping trolley filled to the brim with carrier bags full of knick knacks and shiny things she finds in the street, I placed my bets on the latter option, and kept the extinguisher to hand.

This guy was very creepy. Despite having his hands tied behind his back, he was still able to attack you using the organic broomhandles sticking out of his back. As you do.

A bit later on, Claire and her hapless companion Steve come across the chap in the pic above, who goes by the name of Nosferatu. History doesn’t relate how he came to bear this moniker – I’m imagining the label was thrust upon him after his unfortunate transformation, before which he was probably called Alan or Dave or Alfonse. Anyway, Claire makes no bones about swiftly dispatching poor Alan (or Dave or Alfonse) and we’re treated to a cut scene in which Alexia, the sister of antagonist Alfred Ashford, awakes from her long hibernation and unleashes the full force of the T-Veronica virus on Steve and Claire’s smiling, unknowing faces – the truck they’re driving is destroyed by one of Alexia’s handy new tentacles, and  control switches to Chris, who’s just pitched up in Antarctica on the hunt for Claire.

Alfred's twisted relationship with his sister Alexia was one of the most memorable parts of the game. Here the newly regenerated Alexia emerges for the first time.

I just want to jump in here for a second to say what a fantastic character Alfred is – definitely my favourite character of the series. Wesker is always held up as the series’  ultimate villain, but he’s so incredibly one-dimensional – there’s nothing really beneath the implausible hair and the Johnny Cash sunglasses. Alfred, on the other hand, has an interesting backstory, which the game goes to great pains to relate – from his possibly incestuous relationship with his twin sister to his penchant for dressing up in women’s clothing. You almost end up feeling sorry for him in a way – through no fault of his own he was born into an incredibly screwed-up family, was ruthlessly used by Umbrella and then ended up losing his mind. Having said that, I’d have a lot more sympathy for him if he stopped trying to kill me all the time.

Claire and Steve admire a digger. Whatever you do Claire, remember to take that fire extinguisher out of your pocket before you get in...

OK, back to the story. After the fight with Alan*, control switches to Chris, and the difficulty steps up a notch. The Antarctic facility is infested with various horrors, including a giant spider that has somehow managed to survive the freezing temperatures, and these fiends quickly take their toll on Chris’s ammo supply. As I limped to the final showdown with Alexia, I was down to just a few assault rifle rounds and a couple of clips for my handgun, but I was finding plenty of ammo for the magnum. So where could the magnum itself be hiding? Wait, there it is, behind that wall of flame. No problem, I’ll just fill up my empty fire extinguisher with that handy extinguishant refill device nearby… Hold on, the extinguisher isn’t in the space/time defying inventory box. Wait a sec, didn’t Claire have it in her personal inventory when she got whacked by that tentacle?

Bugger.

Don't worry, he's 'armless.

With no access to fresh weaponry, it was impossible for me to defeat the final boss, and instead I watched impotently as Paul went on to finish the game. I suppose I could have used one of his save games to go and fight the final boss for myself, but by that point I was so rankled by the whole fire extinguisher thing that I couldn’t bring myself to do it. And anyway, I would have been finishing his game, not mine.

Yet, like a middle-aged man trapped in a loving but turbulent marriage, I still have a soft spot for Code Veronica, despite all of the seething resentment bubbling below the surface. It was denied the suffix ‘4’ by its creators, but in my mind the game stands proudly with its numbered brethren, and possibly slightly above them.

Lewis

*I’ve just found out that Nosferatu was actually Alfred’s father, who went by the name of Alexander, not Alan (or Dave or Alfonse). This is slightly disappointing in some ways (I would have preferred Alan), although I’d forgotten just how convoluted the backstory to Code Veronica is, particularly the history of the Ashfords. You can read about Alfred Ashford’s creepy upbringing here: http://residentevil.wikia.com/Alfred_Ashford.

(Screenshots from http://uk.gamespot.com)

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Filed under 2000, Capcom, Dreamcast, Nextech, Survival Horror

#69: Dead or Alive 2

Format: Dreamcast Genre: Fighting Released: 2000 Developer: Team Ninja

I couldn’t think of a better game than Dead or Alive 2 to feature as post number 69. After all, this is the game that famously featured an option to adjust the bounciness of the female characters’ bosoms, so I think it’s deserving of a slightly saucy number in the 101 Video Games countdown.

Tch, “101 Video Games countdown”? I’m starting to sound like some withered old DJ cliché. Or Steve Priestley from Movies, Games & Videos (née Movies, Movies, Movies). Apparently he works for Magic FM now…

OK, I think I’ve drifted from the point a bit there. Right, let’s start again.

In many ways, Dead or Alive has become a cliché of itself. (See how I worked the whole cliché thing back into the post there? Yeah, I know, I’m good. Let’s see if I can keep it up…) When DoA2 was released, it was a revelation in terms of fighting mechanics and graphical finesse, but subsequent versions have failed to add much of note to the basic game, and the infamy of the Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball spin-off series has somewhat overshadowed the brilliance of the original games.

Yoga-inspired trust exercises featured heavily in Dead or Alive 2.

Dead or Alive Xtreme (and all of its subsequent incarnations) annoys me. It’s basically soft porn dressed up as a series of lacklustre minigames, and it’s exactly the type of game people point to when they argue that computer games are just the preserve of sex- and violence-obsessed adolescent boys. Imagine the scene: a respected university media lecturer is delivering an empassioned speech about how games like Heavy Rain are pushing the boundaries of the medium and exploring territories that could never be reached through film or literature.

Lecturer: “…and that’s why we can expect to see the videogame demographic continue to expand, with older gamers reaping the rewards of a more sophisticated approach to interactive narrative. Any questions? Yes Mackenzie?”

Student: “Professor, can you explain how the recently released Dead or Alive Paradise fits into this demographic? How can we relate something like Heavy Rain to a game in which the main aim is to achieve victory in a handful of simplistic and shallow minigames in order to unlock increasingly skimpy bikinis for a group of proportionally exaggerated fictional women?”

Lecturer: “…erm… Ah, well, you see, errr….. Any other questions?”

Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball - good, clean, wholesome, semi-nude fun.

Arguably, the Xtreme spin-off series is now more famous (infamous?) than the main series, and you can probably imagine what greeted me when I typed ‘Dead or Alive screenshots’ into a Google Image search – let’s just say that the screenshots presented here are by far the most tasteful I could find.

But get past the sauciness and you’ll find that Dead or Alive 2 is a technically brilliant and hugely entertaining brawler. The counter system was particularly fun – get the timing right and you could turn almost any attack back on your opponent, which made for some tense back and forth fights. Plus the animation and collision detection was spot on:  your punches,  kicks and counters connected exactly where they landed. This seems like an obvious point, but if you look at older 3D brawlers like Tekken, sometimes the punches seem to land in mid-air or the reaction doesn’t quite match up with the attack.

See? There are men in the game too! Although it was never quite explained why Zack was wearing a bra.

One of the game’s best features was the the multilevel stages. One stage was set in a church tower, but if you got your attacks lined up carefully you could punch your opponent through a window and jump down after them to carry on the fight below. Along with Power Stone, Dead or Alive 2 was one of the first fighting games in which the stages themselves had as much influence on the fight as the actual fighting, if that makes sense.

And there’s nothing quite as satisfying as knocking your best mate off a skyscraper, then leaping directly onto their head for the finishing blow. Metaphorically speaking of course.

There's nothing quite like punching your opponent out of a church window then jumping after him to deliver the final blow, that's what I always say.

Sadly, I was just as bad at Dead or Alive 2 as I am at most fighting games – although I love the genre, I’ve never quite managed to become an expert. (As evidenced by my recent foray into playing Soul Calibur IV online, in which I failed to win a single fight. Harrumph and, indeed, Grrr.) My gaming nadir occurred sometime in 2001 during a trip to Cowes in the Isle of Wight. A local pub had installed a PS2 with Dead or Alive 2 on a giant screen, so I stepped up to have a go against my friend Louise. Despite owning the game on the Dreamcast, I lost every single round, unable to defend against Louise’s cast-iron tactic of whacking all of the buttons very quickly. I retired defeated, mumbling some half-hearted excuse along the lines of “the button layout is different on the Dreamcast”. I never went to that pub again.

Yet despite the rancour surrounding this particular memory, I still regard Dead or Alive 2 as one of the finest fighting games ever released.

And the bouncy boobs are just an added bonus.

Lewis

(Screenshots from http://www.gamershell.com and http://uk.gamespot.com)

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Filed under 2000, Dreamcast, Fighting, Team Ninja

#61: Hogs of War

Format: Playstation Genre: Turn-Based Tatics Released: 2000 Developer: Infogrames Studios

If anyone has listened to our podcasts (anyone?) then you’ll know there are lots and lots of games that I haven’t played. So it seems fitting that in one of my rare posts I talk about a game I have never played before and have very little idea what it’s about – Hogs of War.

Here’s what I imagine Hogs of War to be – something like Worms, but with pigs. I had absolutely no interest in playing it when it came out and have even less interest now. I’ll be honest with you, if you want to read an overview of the greatness (or rubbish…ness) of Hogs of War I’m afraid this is not the place…

Several years ago I found the North Star. The North Star is, in my humble opinion, one of the greatest pubs on planet Earth. There’s nothing flashy about it. It has no gimmicks, it doesn’t need them. It’s a friendly local. ‘Local’ in the very best sense of the word. It has its regulars but it’s friendly to new comers as well. Patrons range from people who have lived in the area for years, to trendy young things who have probably just moved to London, to a big group of middle-aged lesbians. The bar staff know what I drink there and I know most of them by name. The juke box has excellent tunes and, as an extra-large cherry on top, they have a dart board. The only thing missing is the piano. Sadly they had to get rid of it for some reason last year.

Every Monday I head down the North Star, play darts with friends Andy and Paul (plus the occasional special guest) and drink one too many bottles of Newcastle Brown Ale (it’s always one too many). We talk about everything under the sun – previous subjects have included the feasibility of building a replica Spitfire, whether or not the gunpowder plot was a protestant conspiracy and the greatness of Alan Whicker. It helps me get over Monday blues, gives the week a kick-start and always helps put things in perspective. It’s rare to leave the North Star without feeling that little bit better about the world and life in general.

Of course, drinking Newcastle Brown Ale means I have to occasionally use the facilities. It’s a small pub, so said facilities are not huge: three urinals and one cubicle. Above the urinals there are two advertisements. One for Reebok Classic trainers the other…

North Star toilets

Oh the glamour...

Hogs of War. I could sit down and come up with a relatively accurate estimation of how long I have spent staring at that Hogs of War poster over the years. But I can’t be bothered. So lets say I’ve spent the equivalent of 3 weeks, 5 days, 2 hours and 41 seconds reading the, ah, hilarious innuendo of the advert. Hahahaha, who’s got the biggest weapon? Hahahaha. Do you see? Do you understand? It has two meanings? One a bit rude. Hahahahaha.

So how exactly has a mere advert for a game I have never played before made my life slightly better? Well it symbolises for me how this pub doesn’t really change. And I like that. In my life, and I’m sure in your lives, things constantly change and adapt. We get new jobs, move house, meet new people, get married, have children, and so on. Don’t get me wrong, usually change is good, and life is all about moving forward and facing new challenges, but… It is nice to have something that doesn’t change, something that stays constant, if only for a little while.

That Hogs of War poster represents the little oasis of calm that is the North Star. That no matter what happens in my life I’ll be down the ‘Star on a Monday talking about it. Last year the pub was redecorated yet they kept the Hogs of War advert. Somehow they knew…

One day they will take down the Hogs of War advertisement. I hope to try to get it off them when they do and keep it. No doubt there will come a time when I can’t go to the pub every Monday to play darts with Andy and Paul: after all, nothing lasts forever. But if I have that poster (above my toilet, it’s definitely the perfect place for it) then at least I’ll be able to have one thing that doesn’t change.

“My favourite public house, the Moon Under Water, is only two minutes from a bus stop, but it is on a side street, and drunks and rowdies never seem to find their way there, even on Saturday nights. Its clientele, though fairly large, consists mostly of “regulars” who occupy the same chair every evening and go there for conversation as much as for the beer.”

That’s how George Orwell described his perfect imaginary pub and it’s the perfect description of the North Star.

Ian

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Filed under 2000, Infogrames Studios, Playstation, Turn-Based Tactics

Podcast 6: Quake III Arena (#57)

Format: Dreamcast Genre: First Person Shooter Released: 2000 Developer: id

Quake III Arena. Bane of Degrees. Annoyer of Female Housemates. Enemy of Social Life. King of multiplayer FPS games on the Dreamcast circa 2000.

Yes Lewis and Ian step into the time machine that is their collective memory and travel back to the Space Year 2000 where they wasted so many hours playing Quake III Arena. Hear the journey on this, our 6th podcast. You’d think by now we would actually be good at them.

But wait! There’s more. For the first time ever in 101 Video Game Podcast history we welcome a special guest star, our friend Paul. Stupid Paul (his full name) lived with us at university and wasted his time playing Quake III as well. In many ways he is the ‘5th 101 Video Gamer’. If there were four rather than two of us. Luckily he escaped a life of blogging about old and obscure video games by getting married and having children.

And the ‘firsts’ don’t stop there. Listen out for the first ever 101 Video Games Podcast edit. Yes, Ian finally made a joke so distasteful that it was decided to overdub the offending section. We even got a mystery guest (not a special one) to do the overdub. See if you can spot it! Here’s a clue to find it – you’ll notice around the twelve-minute mark Ian suddenly makes even less sense than normal…

If we’re brutally honest this isn’t one of our best efforts, but it does have a certain charm. Hope you enjoy it.

Click above to listen directly through this site or click below to listen/download in your media player of choice:

Podcast 6 Quake III Arena

Ian & Lewis

(Screenshots from http://uk.gamespot.com)

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Filed under 2000, Dreamcast, First Person Shooter, id, Podcast

#47: Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2

Format: PC Genre: RTS Released: 2000 Developer: Westwood Pacific

Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 is not only the greatest C&C game but one of the finest RTS games ever made. Yes, you read that correctly. Stick that in your non-Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 RTS pipe and smoke it!

Box Art for PC version

Ok, before I justify such a bold statement (I’m sure there are literally… 6 furious people right now) a bit of background. C&C: Red Alert 2 is a sequel to, unsurprisingly, C&C: Red Alert, itself a spinoff to the original Command & Conquer games. The C&C series are real time strategy (RTS) games. Essentially you build a base, collect resources, build an army then attack. A simple idea but when done well RTS games are as fiendish and tactically minded as a game of chess (note – I don’t play chess).

Set in a more or less separate universe to the first Command & Conquer, Red Alert depicts a world where Hitler never rises to power (somehow he’s stopped by a time travelling Albert Einstein – no, really). Instead of WWII we get a war with Stalin’s USSR. The suggestion is the people of the world just really wanted a war in the 1940s. Good thing there was another totalitarian one party state led by a psycho with a moustache. Otherwise we’d have just got bored. You play as either the Allies, pushing back the massive Red Army and defending freedom, or as the Soviets, bringing the revolution to the capitalist pigs of Western Europe.

Red Alert 2 is set a few years after the first game (in a world where the Allies won) where the Soviet Union still exists under the rule of Allied puppet leader friendly to the West. Except he’s not! He’s just pretending you imperialist idiots, and before you can say Fyodor Dostoyevsky there are Zeppelins in the skies above New York and Soviet tanks rampaging through Texas. The Cold War just got Hot.

I’ve always loved the C&C games. I was there at beginning, getting the very first C&C game on, slightly bizarrely, the Playstation (alright, I know technically Dune 2 was first but I never played it so it doesn’t count). One of my all time top gaming moments is the end of the NOD campaign where you get to decide which famous monument to destroy (for patriotic reasons I always went for the Palace of Westminster). Of course the gameplay is great, yadda yadda yadda but C&C games are known for their full-motion video (FMV) cut scenes.

FMV was already a bit of an oddity by the time of Red Alert, with most games preferring to use CGI intros and cut scenes. It was cheaper and I’m sure many designers probably felt they were less jarring than video scenes. But the FMV makes those games. In Red Alert 2 they are over the top, bombastic, ludicrous and hilarious they totally bring you into the games. Just watch the intro above. How can you not love a game which opens with an American President talking to an intern who looks suspiciously like Monica Lewinsky?

The C&C games which, to me, have been the weaker entries to the series are C&C: Tiberium Sun and C&C: Generals, and I put this down to the lack of/poor FMV. Generals dispensed with FMV cut scenes entirely and while Tiberium Sun still had them, the characters in them did not talk directly to ‘you’. For me at least it really made a difference. It made  playing the game a strangely detached experience.

Red Alert 2 also has the most finely balanced sides in the game, each with corresponding strengths and weaknesses. Being the Allies or the Soviets isn’t just window dressing, you really do play the game in a different way depending on which side you’re playing as.

An Allied Base. Quiet. Maybe too quiet...

There are just enough units to make the gameplay varied and interesting, but not too many to become overwhelming. I’m working my way through Red Alert 3 at the moment and while it’s fun they seem to have dispensed depth for variety. Though Red Alert 3 does have a lot more women with big boobs in it than the last ones. Swings and roundabouts.

The Soviets Invade! Bye, bye Pentagon

There is a sense of joie de vivre which can be seen and felt throughout Red Alert 2. Considering it’s a war game it doesn’t take itself to seriously, in fact in so many ways it’s stupid. You’re talking about a game where one of the military units at your disposal is a giant squid. Yet Red Alert 2 is a properly satisfying gaming experience.

Now, if you forgive me, I need to dig out my Russian hat and turn the Eiffel Tower into a giant electric weapon again. Or maybe fight for freedom and try to stop the Commies from blowing up the Statue of Liberty. ‘Incoming Transmisson’…

Ian

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Filed under 2000, PC, RTS, Westwood Studios