Driver: San Francisco play review.

I was a big fan of the original Driver. I played it when it was first released, as well as the second installment, which was a bit of a disappointment. While waiting for Driv3r I even resurrected an old PC to play the original again. Driv3r hit the markets and got my attention for a full 30 minutes before nausea and horror made me uninstall it in a hurry. I skipped Parallel Lines purely because I did not want to live through the torture again.

Then Driver: San Francisco came out and, against my better judgement, I got it.

Once you start with the actual game you immediately begin to realise that everything’s not quite what it seems. Things get even stranger when you realise that you’re not quite who or what you think you are. Then the crows arrive and things get really freaky. The story is well put together, something rare in what’s essentially just a driving game. The storyline evolves well as you play through, with nice features like “Previously on Driver: San Francisco” when you load a saved game. It really lets you feel like you’re watching a story instead of playing it.

The game’s starting (and for the rest of the game for that matter) cutscenes are well done. It really gives you insight into what’s going on, with a bit of mystery, grit and WTF thrown in. Graphically it’s superb, with that 70′s movie feel to it. The city itself is well laid out, with a good mixture of obstacles, interesting pieces of road and the occasional off-road adventure. Driving through the city you can clearly see the transition between beachfront property, dense urban areas, slums and countryside. The buildings, road width, traffic density and vehicle types all zone really well.

Also new to the game franchise is properly licensed cars, with a stunning array of 140 vehicles to unlock and purchase – including trucks, beetles, class B rally, vans, supercars and everyday runabouts. The handling is exceptional, probably the best I’ve experienced outside of a racing simulator. The cars all handle like you’d expect their real-world counterparts would if you were a pro driver, and the fact that they seem to do awesome slides, jumps and traffic weaves as if by telepathy gives you more time to concentrate on the various scenarios that the game puts you in. The “special abilities” like boost and ram also feel quite intuitive and seems a much better model than having every car fitted with NoS.

Shift mode - it changes everything

Then there’s the feature that makes this title stand out from all the others – the Shift mode. With Shift you can jump from car to car as you drive through the streets, and later even quickly shift to anywhere on the game map. This adds a new dimension to the missions you’ll be doing. While doing a race, will you concentrate on trying to get the best time, beating the opponents with skill and your special abilities, or will you jump into oncoming traffic and try to take out your opponents before they can cross the finish line? Shift really changes the game.

Shift out and you're greeted with a bird's view of the city.

Now for the bad, which isn’t really that bad to be honest. The story is extremely linear. You have no say in the direction, and the story only progresses on the successful completion of your main missions. On the other hand, this is a driving arcade game, so expecting RPG-like choices and outcomes may be a bit too much. The other thing is that the side missions quickly become stale, it’s a basic repetition of about 5 themes. The Driver and Movie side missions are quite fun though.

Since installing this game, I’ve managed to unlock and buy 138 of the 140 cars, and done about 80% of the Driver and Movie missions. I’ve also finished the main storyline, which was long enough to keep you interested without being so long as to bore you. Altogether I honestly enjoyed this game more than any others this year, hence it deserves a full 5 stars and my recommendation for arcade game of the year.

Lego Universe pulls the plug.

More than a year ago I posted about beta-testing Lego Universe. The times I managed to play was extremely enjoyable – the idea was fresh, the building and exploring options were stunning, the subscribers refused to bite…

As of today there’s only 2 months left for you to try this gem before they pull the plug on the great Lego server in the sky. I guess this is just another example of how the free-to-play market is dominating and subscription-based MMOs don’t stand a chance anymore. Even WoW now offers a “free forever” option – extremely limited, but it’s there.

Here’s the official post:

Hello Adventurers, 

We are very sad to announce that LEGO Universe will be closing on Janurary 31, 2012. This was a very difficult decision to make, but unfortunately LEGO Universe has not been able to attract the number of members needed to keep the game open. 

We are thankful to have had the opportunity to share this adventure wiith an amazing community of players. We hope you will continue to enjoy LEGO Universe for the last few months. As a thank you, if you are a paying subscriber on December 31, 2011, we will provide you the full game for the final month for free. Click here for the details.

Again, we want to thank the fantastic community of players who made LEGO Universe such a vibrant, fun and creative experience.

(You can discuss this article on the message boards)

Sincerely,

The LEGO Universe Team

Dev page up!

Some changes are taking place. Inspired by Notch’s page, I’ve decided to publish some glimpses on the projects I’m working on. These will fall under “The World of b0b” as seen on the new menu above.The old “TFB” link has been removed, as they now have their own site and forum.

I’m still doing game reviews on the main page – at the moment the biggest news being that Minecraft has gone out of Beta and now carries a Version 1.0.0 tag! I’ve been playing it non-stop for the last few days and am loving the new balance, features and server stability. Your character feels less vulnerable these days, giving you a better chance to survive a night out in the rain.

In other news: I had a tape about 15 years ago. It was “The Simpsons Sing the Blues”. For the last 2 days one of the songs, every single word of a song that I haven’t heard in 15 years, has been stuck in my head. That and the theme to “The Fresh Prince”. Ugh…

Oh, and my awesomely cool Nintendo wallet has arrived! It’s awesomely awesome!

Mount & Blade – Warband

This is probably going to hurt.

Finally another post-worthy game. I found this little gem by accident when I was fixing a scrapped PC and found it installed after the recovery was done. Before now I’d never even heard

of the game, but boy do I wish I had known sooner.

Mount & Blade – Warband is a RPG like few others. You experience medieval warfare in gritty detail: pit fighting, tourneys, open field battles, village looting and even castle sieges.  Here’s an extract from their website:

In Mount & Blade: Warband, you play as an adventurer in the medieval land of Calradia, a fictional land devoid of magic and high fantasy, instead bearing many similarities to our world in the Middle Ages.

The game offers you a great deal of freedom in this world. You may roam around the map visiting towns and villages, trading, pursuing various quests, taking part in tournaments, or trying out a myriad of other activities.

You will soon notice that the world itself is dynamic. Caravans travel between towns, sometimes being waylaid by bandits; villagers take their goods to markets; armies

Storming the enemy before their bowmen reach that ridge

assemble to move across the land, besieging towns or castles and raiding settlements. Instead of giving you a fixed path to follow,

Mount & Blade: Warband lets you freely adventure in this world. In time, you will be well known in many places as you make friends and enemies with other characters, which in turn will allow you to affect events in profound ways. You don’t need to remain a penniless adventurer, either. You may obtain great wealth and power, become one of the trusted vassals of a king; conquer and own villages, castles and towns; command armies, and if you like, even lead rebellions and replace kings with other claim holders.

And who knows? If you are great and cunning warrior you might one day become the Ruler of Calradia.

The game itself seems fairly simple. Recruit some soldiers, battle bandits and rival factions, capture castles and cities, take part in the dusty arena or the glorious tournaments,  rinse and repeat. Warband takes this simple idea and turns it into a masterpiece.  Every step of the way, even on the most basic settings, seems like a new challenge. You swear your allegiance to a king – he now wants you to fight for him during his war campaigns, but he does give you some income and may even grant you control of a few fiefs. Go at it alone and others will treat you like a bandit. Denounce your leaders and start a new kingdom and everyone will be at your throat, unless you can convince them to grant you a peace treaty.

Castle sieges!

Once you are a ruler, things get even tougher. You have to balance out warring other factions, improving your cities, keeping your vassals happy (which is a doozy) and a myriad of other things. And just when you think you have everything under control, expanding your territory at a nice pace, a vassal will denounce his loyalty to you to join your rivals. Of course he’s kind enough to take all the lands you gave to him with him, leaving a gaping hole in the defence you thought was air-tight.

To summarize - Warband came as a total surprise to me. The graphics may be outdated but the sandbox feel of the game, the constantly changing atmosphere and the total replayability makes it a nail-biter. Coming from unknown developers and an unknown publisher (although it is now available on Steam!), this game deserves much more credit that it has received. Even better is the fact that there’s a Song of Fire and Ice (think Game of Thrones) expansion out for it too.

For all you medieval RPG/strategy gamers I’d definitely recommend giving Warband a try. I give 4 out of 5 MisGuilded stars. Just the occasional wonky physics, strange graphic glitches and downright silly AI on sieges prevents this from getting a full score.

Adventures in Nethack

Basically I’ve gone utterly off 90% of the games that I own, and pretty much not looking forward to anything that’s on the shelves or coming out in the near future. The only thing that gives me a glimmer of hope at this point is Diablo 3, and that’s been set back by another few months again.

So I’ve returned to an old nightmare – Nethack. It’s one of those games that looks utterly simple on the surface yet has so many ways to kill you, so many different items, so many different ways to play that no two games ever pan out the same. I have to admit that I’ve not ever been any good at it. I’ve never ascended, I’ve never seen the Amulet of Yendor. I’ve never even gotten past the Oracle or Dwarf Town. This time is going to be different – and here’s my story:

I started off as a Chaotic Human Barbarian. I figured this would give me the biggest chance of survival. Things were pretty standard at first, with me only finding a Lawful altar and a fountain on level 2. Much to my surprise though, quaffing from the fountain gave me a Djinn, a friendly one at that. One wish later and I had a greased silver Dragon Scale Armor, albeit only +0. This would be my fighting chance! Bravely I ventured forth, clearing level 3 with ease. Sadly my wand of detect hidden doors failed to find the entrance to the Dwarf Mines, but I did manage to find a hidden vault. I let the guard escort me out, but I took note of it for the future. As soon as I find a pickaxe that gold is mine! Considering my axe is corroded, the gold will come in handy when the shop finishes taking inventory.

I descended to level 4, where a swarm of Hill Orcs made quick work of my kitten. With no time to mourn, I retreated to a tunnel and tried to take them one at a time. One of the Hill Orcs happened to have a wand of digging though, wreaking havoc on the room I had entered from. I dispatched of the Orcs (finding a cloak of invisibility in the process) and continued exploring – just to find the ghost of a previous adventurer – more specifically the highest level adventurer I’ve had. I kicked that ghost till he begged for mercy. Now I’m sitting with all his inventory, and boy was he a hoarder. Now to carry everything back up to level 2 to check for cursed items and then equip myself further, and give my hitpoints a time to regenerate.

Part 2 to follow!

In other news: My WoW account that’s been dormant for almost a year got hacked… No idea how – I’ve ignored every email from Blizzard or the hackers pretending to be Blizzard, I didn’t even have WoW on a hard drive that was plugged into my machine. Anyway, got notified about it on Facebook, quickly changed my RealID password, downloaded the MASSIVE patches and logged in. Damage wasn’t too bad, I didn’t have much to start with. The bot did leave me with a ton of ore and much more gold than what I started with, and a 30 day timecard loaded so I didn’t bother reporting it. Right after this, Blizzard sends me a “Hey, we’ve missed you, here’s 7 days free playtime” email, which turned out to be legit.

This was last week. How much have I played? A total of 7 minutes. Yup, the drug has worn off, it’s out of my system. I’m no longer driven by the WoWmachine.

Had to share.

[This post has been heavily edited due to problems with authenticity.]

Oh, and just a note on World of Tanks, which has just been updated to version 0.6.6, which added a few new tanks, including the E-50, 75 and 100, a new Tier 10 tank! I had the most awesome battle the other night. I was in my KV, moving along the side of the map (slowly, as only a KV can) when I noticed our west flank had totally disappeared. I turned and rushed back, which caused my east flank to also be destroyed. I found myself the sole survivor at my own base, with 2 kills racked up already and 6 enemies (Tier 3, 4 and 5 lights, mediums and artillery) remaining. With a feeling of impending doom I waited for the inevitable rush.

But as the loading screen tip says “It’s rude to correct your enemy when he’s making a mistake.” The opposing team thought it was a good idea to rush me one by one, giving me the opportunity to pick them off as they came into range. End result: I end up with 8 kills, the win and the Kolobanov’s Medal!

Oh, and the girlfriend started playing WoW…

Street Legal Racing: Redline

Today’s review is on one of my old pets – you know the one, awesome to play with but it keeps crapping on your carpet and chewing your furniture. Street Legal Racing: Redline is that puppy. It’s the second in the Street Legal series by Invictus (a third is rumoured) and improves greatly on the inadequacies of the first one. Sadly it’s just as buggy as the first, requiring multiple patches almost as large as the game install before it’s anywhere close to being playable.

Back to the game itself: The premise is simple – you’re a newbie racer with a bit of cash in your pocket and you have to race your way to the top. You can afford something from the used-car dealer which you can then repair at a cost and start modifying. Don’t bother looking at the new car lot quite yet, this will be out of your reach for a while. Business as usual then, except that unlike most racers where you buy a car and then have limited upgrades available, Street Legal lets you customise your car to your heart’s content. You’ll be fitting each part yourself, tuning things like intake and exhaust cams, air-fuel mixtures, gear ratios and tyre pressure to your heart’s content. Most of the time is spent in the workshop, fiddling with different combinations of spares to try get that extra millisecond off your quarter mile time. The damage model is great too, hit a kerb at speed and your suspension will buckle, hit a tree and you’ve got some serious repairs to do.

The racing is simple. Exit your garage during the day and you’ll see other racers on your minimap, cruising around waiting for challenges. You agree upon a section of road and the stakes (Sort of like the outrun mode in Need for Speed) and you’re off. At night things heat up a little. You head toward the midnight racing location and then take part in organised 1/4-mile drags against ranked opponents for either cash or pink slips. As the power of your car increases it get’s a little harder to keep it in a straight line, resulting in spectacular crashes (and a huge repair bill) if you get it wrong. Build up your car, and your, prestige and you get to take part in the Race of Champions, a mountain circuit race with a grand prize of a new high-powered car.

The cars are loosely based upon real-world cars, with names like Shimutsibu instead of Mitsubishi, Baiern instead of BMW and Furrano as Ferrari. Each car can take a certain type of engine (4cyl, 6cyl, V8, etc) and a certain drive-train (FWD, RWD, 4WD), which can sometimes be modified to other types with special parts. The mod scene for this game is huge, with much more support than the game got from its actual developers, giving you access to many more cars, parts and accessories for the game. There are even community-made patches that greatly improves upon the playability of the game.

The game is still available to purchase, but you can probably find modded game files on the link above (Not that I condone such a thing of course!). If it wasn’t for the awesome customisation and damage model of this game, it wouldn’t have made any impact whatsoever, but the instability of the game engine (This thing crashes more than the Fins crash Escorts in the snow) stops it from being a true great. It has always been a budget title, being released by Activision Value, so don’t expect Need for Speed graphics and Toca handling. It’s just a fun drag-racing game that will keep you in the garage for hours.

Final verdict: 3 out of 5 MisGuilded Stars – A nice time-waster without being a waste of time.

Portal 2 review

I finally made some time to play Portal 2 after it sitting in my “to play” queue for what feels like forever. And wow was it worth it! Immediately after installation I set about the promo vids included in the game, which cracked me and my partner up. I should explain – she’s a total non-gamer and usually has no interest in computers beyond work, but I found her sitting behind me watching as I play, pointing out things I might have missed. Or listening to the dialogue and giggling. Even when I got stuck at key points, I’d call her over and she’d be able to help me out.

Ohhai GLaDoS - Long time no see.

Anyway, to the game, which like all Valve productions is available on Steam. After the original Portal my hopes were high, and I was not disappointed. The game stays true to the theme, and there is a much stronger drive toward a decent plot this time. Without divulging into too much detail to give away the plot, here’s the basic outline of the singleplayer campaign: You start off as your old self again, having somehow been recaptured and kept in stasis for an unknown length of time. Something goes wrong in the world in general and your manservant robot helps you escape your cubicle… back into the now abandoned test chambers. Everything is in a state of disrepair and you fight your way through new obstacles caused by the devastation above ground. Your manservant promises to help you get out of the test facility… but first you need to get past your old friend GLaDoS. I’ll leave the rest of the plot for you to discover, but be assured that the adventure is much longer than what you’d expect, and much more complex than in the original.

The graphics are top-notch, as could be expected by a Valve release, and the music wonderfully changes tone to indicate successes, keeping the atmosphere very much alive. The characters are also much more fleshed out, and there are many more than in the original. The humour portrayed in Portal 1 is also continued and improved upon, giving endless mirth through the dark wit, eccentricities or just plain madness of the cast – ranging from your robot saviour to the previous masters of the test facility to a potato… Yup, a potato. Play the game and find out. As always, your companion cube makes a comeback, but is not as deeply tied to you as in the first game.

The game opens up the story of the test facility, giving you insight into the dark past of the Aperture corporation and as always, giving reference to Black Mesa in delightfully humourous ways. The puzzles are as challenging as always, and the solutions are not always immediately apparent until you sit back and take in the entire scenario. Some of the solutions are so simple once you know what to do that you can’t believe you’ve been sitting for twenty minutes without a clue. If there is one complaint, it’s that occasionally there will be a puzzle so obscure, with no hint as to where to go next, that the game may slow down – leaving you feeling dejected. But once you finally figure it out, the flow keeps you enthralled. The addition of new tools at your disposal opens up a variety of new ways to solve puzzles too.

After my first 3 days of playing I have to say I’m very pleased with what Valve has brought to the table, the singleplayer version anyway. I’m yet to dive into the Co-op missions, which I will review once I’ve finish those darned last stages. Their philosophy of releasing the game when it’s ready, as with Blizzard, makes for a polished and superior play. Now if only they would hurry up with the next episode of Halflife already!

Final score: 5/5 MisGuilded stars – a brilliant game that everyone should play.

Gearing up in Terraria

I had a few requests for this after my initial review on Terraria, and since I’ve pretty much maxed my gear within a few days, I’ll post my findings on gearing up in Terraria. Please note, this post is MUCH longer than my standard ones, so if you’re not into Terraria, you can stop right here.

Continue reading