Pulse Cannon

Pulse Cannon
Michael O’Reilly

Greetings and welcome back to the Pulse Cannon. Today I’ll be returning to my normal column style as I have run out of Star Wars games to talk about, and I wasn’t able to think of any more game series that I had played where I could come up with 10 or 15 games. I’m sure they are out there, Final Fantasy comes to mind, but I don’t play those. I will be discussing Star Wars just a tiny bit more though, as once again I got some reader feedback in my email after my last column. And once again, I’m going to publish it. What does this tell you? Send me email, see your name in lights.

These past two weeks have been fairly busy games wise for me. GTA San Andreas came out, Ace Combat 5 came out and I had to write up a review for it (look for that today also, I’m told its also going up). Then there’s Rome Total War, which I still haven’t finished with yet. And since this is a bi-weekly thing I’m gonna talk about a few more games. Collin McRae has a new rally game out and I got a chance to play around with that, and finally I’m going to dip into my bag of dusty discs to explain to you why you missed a fantastic game called Sky Odyssey.

But first, onto the reader mail. James, from somewhere, wrote the following:

Thank you for giving Rebel Assault (PC) the review it always deserved. I’ll never forget the glowing reviews in the PC game mags, how it was considered one of the must-haves of its time. Lucasarts could supposedly do no wrong with their days of the tentacle (not bad) and full throttles (way too short). When I put that hunk of mediocrity known as Rebel Assault in my i486DX2-66 double speed multimedia cd rom drive, I was so underwhelmed that I cancelled my subscription to whatever mag it was that heaped the praise upon it month after month, never to subscribe to another game magazine again. Yes the graphics were near state of the art if not truly outstanding, but the game play just plain blew. Like you said: shoot, miss, repeat. Well, everyone liked myst too, so I guess there’s no accounting for taste. I kept trying to tell everyone, it’s not a game it’s a photo album. But you know how that went. Rebel Assault sucks. Myst sucks. Wing Commander I&II RULES!

James

Firstly, I’d like to thank James here for writing in. It does my heart good to know that some people are actually reading me. Anyway, I too have been burned by bad videogame reviews in the past. Thats part of the reason I decided that I wanted to do it myself. Frankly, nothing gives me more pleasure than making some guy waste 50 bucks on a game I knew was horrid. Kidding kidding. If my opinion on a game helps save somebody from wasting their hard earned cash, then frankly I deserve a cut of what you saved. Wait, sorry, thats not what I meant. I always hope my reviews are able to save people from buying really horrid games. That’s all I can really ask for as writer. And sorry James, Wing Commander didn’t rule. That crown belongs to X-Wing.

Now then, onto the games that have been spinning in my drives these past two weeks.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was the biggest bombshell the industry dropped in late October, and while I couldn’t pick it up right away I was able to rent it for a weekend and give it a play. Right from the start I could tell that the two years in between games had given Rockstar a lot of time to play around and squeeze the PS2 for all it has. The city you start off in is HUGE, and its not even fully accessible. It’s also really really easy to get lost while driving around. By the end of the rental I was starting to figure things out in the area I was in, but I’m not even 5% done the game yet. I can’t say I’m very happy with the sunshine in this game, as dusk and dawn are blinding. This might be accurate for California (I mean, San Andreas), but dammit put a friggin cloud or two in there. Also, the music sucks, but then again I can’t say I wasn’t expecting it not to. I hated the 90s, it was all crap music-wise, so this is just being true to form. Happily the talk radio station is awesome once again.

Ace Combat 5 was another game I played this past two weeks. As I reviewed it, I’ll spare you all from making you read my opinions on it again. Instead I’ll discuss what wasn’t in the game. Online play. I can think of no better kind of game for online play. Looking at the X-Box you have Crimson Skies, a slower game admittedly, but still in the same genre.
Picture squadrons of fighter planes dogfighting over a map. They could do it in a survival mode, or to keep everyone interested they could do it with re-spawns. Either way, there is no reason why Ace Combat 5 couldn’t have come with an online play function. I hope by the time Ace Combat 6 comes out (assuming there is one) that this won’t be forgotten again.

Collin McRae Rally 2005 recently came out, and since I gave 2004 a try and was pleasantly surprised, I figured I would take the plunge and give this one a rental as well. Right away I could tell that the driving mechanics had been altered somewhat, as it no longer felt natural to drive the cars. I realized that if I was going to enjoy this game I would have to unlearn all that I had come to expect from rally games like Rallisport and even the previous Collin McRae. Slowly over the course of the rental I got a little bit more comfortable with the steering, the feel of the car, and how the various changes you can make to the car in the pits can make a huge impact on how your car handles on the road. A quick example would just be don’t take pavement tires into the mud, as you will have zero traction when it comes to braking and turning. While these kinds of things aren’t new in a game, they feel that much more important here. By the end of the rental I was cruising through most every country’s stages. All but Germany that is. Keep me away from German roads, because I clearly can’t handle them.

I mentioned a while ago that I had picked up Rome Total War, but I hadn’t really talked that much about it. Other games, the change in schedule for the column, and lately the Star Wars lists have kept me from expressing my opinions on it to you. I began a campaign shortly after I bought the game, over a month ago, and I still haven’t completed it. That’s not from a lack of play either. The amount of territory you have to conquer is quite amazing, and it’s not like your enemys are going to just give it to you. You are given a choice at the start of a game between a short campaign or a full fledged one, and even when you finish the short one you are offered a chance to go the distance. So when I started the game, not knowing just how much I wanted to play it, I chose the short campaign of the Julii faction. Their short term goal is to destroy the Gauls and win a number of provinces. Well once I got into the game, after beating the short campaign, I chose not to end my game there but to keep going, to try and beat the entire game. I’m very impressed with the entire game, but in particular the battle portion of the game. In the last game I basically played it like RISK, just letting the computer fight my battles. This time around I can’t seem to get enough of the battles, fighting them first hand, doing my best to defeat the enemy with as few losses to my troops as possible. And during the strategic portion, I am finding myself equally impressed with the game. I was invading an enemy territory, but suddenly found myself facing two separate full armys. They weren’t in a position to attack me yet, but I knew they were coming. I happened to have a diplomat in the area so I sent him over to the weaker of the two armys and asked him what the price would be for him to disband his army and have him join my side. He came back with a figure I could swallow and presto, deal done, army disbanded and enemy territory all but sown up. While I miss some of the minor details that were found in Medieval Total War, I can honestly say this is the better game, easily.

Now then, onto Sky Odyssey. A game that came out pretty close to the launch of the Playstation 2, this was probably the first flight sim on the console, and while there isn’t any dogfighting in the game, or attacking of any type really, this is easily one of the best flying games on the system. In terms of realism it’s more realistic than anything else on the system, but it’s not so hard that a novice can’t pick it up and learn the ropes. Later on the game does get incredibly challenging as it took me over a year to actually finish the final stage. Still, if you want a game that manages to pack a lot of adventure and tension into a challenging yet rewarding experience, Sky Odyssey is your game.

Well, that’s it for another Pulse Cannon. By the time my next column is up there will be a new President of the United States (should be anyway, unless the lawyers have to get involved again) but more importantly than that, the big hydrogen bombs of the gaming world will have started dropping. Theres already been one, with GTA. Now we’ll see Halo 2 and Metroid Prime 2, along with Half-Life 2 on the PC. So I hope you’re wallet is prepared for the onslaught, or that you at least have a good Blockbuster near by. Until then, O’Reilly here powering down the Pulse Cannon.