Sunday, 1 June 2003

Archive Review: Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield

(PC review)

It's not that I love guns, I just want one. One of the key reasons to why so many games nowadays are being made with vast inventories of weaponry is because the guys with the brains know that us gamers, well most of us, want to see guns in our games. As Neo intelligently, and quite philosophically, put in "The Matrix" when asked what he needed: "Guns, lots of guns". What words...

Tom Clancy's Rainbow six 3: Raven Shield (a name in serious need of editing) offers guns, infact it offers lots of... guns. 57 in total, but this does not account for the modifications of each gun. You can add silencers, extent the magazines size (even for pistols), or attach a mini-scope if you so desire. Each one of these add-ons comes in different forms, like with scopes you can go for a simple 4x lense or if you prefer it have night vision - even thermal vision! With this aspect in mind Raven Shield actually has something nearer 150 weapons! Insane. This does not include gadgets either, or different armour types. Nor does it include the different types of ammunition each gun has which you must also select. The great thing here is that each type of ammo really does make a difference to the performance of your firearm. Your ammo decision can mean the difference between life and death. FMJ rounds (Full Metal Jacket) will drive their way through anything when fired from a powerful gun, including body armour. But these rounds will hit your target and simply go straight through him/her. This will mean that they will obtain less injury, and may well still have enough strength to fire back at you. So only use these rounds when you know your enemy will be wearing body armour, because it will penetrate it. On the other hand, if your up against a bunch of freedom fighters who fancy their chances against your elite posse' then insert some JHP rounds into your boom stick. JHP (Jacketed Hollow Point) rounds expand on impact to the size of a football, terrible against anything except human flesh. They are alot more lethal than FMJ rounds against un-armoured tangoes. The physics for death animations in this game are the best ever created. It incorporates the new "Karma" physics system which came from Unreal 2. This basically creates a rag doll effect on player models so death animations are not so much programmed in as they are completely and utterly natural and always unique. Bodies will fall down staircases in total realism without any clipping issues. It's a mark of the next gen that's for sure. One sad note is that RS has blood but not on player models. Blood pools will build up under dead bodies and even mark the walls behind a struck foe but you see no impact marks on the bodies. Even Rogue Spear, the previous game in the series, had this in. I feel it simply is lacking in RS and for no obvious reason.

It's detail like this that RS is all about. The Tom Clancy games series has always boasted content and a challenge but no title has ever come close to RS.

Yeah yeah yeah, how does it play?

This game, incase you don't know, is an FPS. It's based on strategy rather than simply playing pre-scripted levels. In RS you plan the mission, right down from selecting your squad members to kitting them up and setting waypoints. This is all very cool stuff but the great thing is you don't actually have to do any of it. By default the game creates a plan for you to use and if your like me and simply want to get into the action and use your brains once inserted then this games allows for it. As I have already stated the actual equiptment selection for this game is insanely large. Any gun you can imagine is here, anything (unless your some gun expert freak guy). What really appeals to me about this feature is that when in multiplayer games the chances of someone using the same gun as you are slim! Someone may well have the actual gun your slinging, but do they have the extended mag and FMJ rounds? No, their using a silencer with JHP. I sound geekish I know, but it just feels so cool knowing that each player on either side has a unique gun configuration - unlike a game like Counter-Strike where you either have an AK-47, M4, or AWP, the rest is cack.

Q himself would be proud of the gadgets in this game. Anything from lock picks to breaching charges exist. The amount of tactics this implies for multiplayer is beyond imagination. You can snipe, set C4 charges, simply assault all guns blazing, use a heartbeat sensor and detect where everyone is, hell you can even blind everyone with a mad array of flashbangs and smoke grenades (which unlike most games will stay for ages). Why not put on a gas mask and lob a series of gas grenades around, ha, that'll do it! A great feature in this game is the door opening system. Most games, well every other FPS to date actually, does not incorporate any such system. You see a door, you open a door. In RS door opening is a skill that requires practice. You approach a door and have a choice: simply press the action key and open the door fast, or use your mouse wheel to manually slowly crank that door open. You can open it just a tiny bit to get a sneak peek of the room, or you can open it just enough to hurl a frag grenade in and then quickly close the door back. Bang! Then you open it fully and storm the room, which will probably be filled with dead bodies. But the best aspect is not this. The neatest, coolest, part of this system is the way you can use your smoke grenades. If you chuck one down just by the front of a closed door the smoke will go through the doorway gaps and fill the room up! Then you charge in with full smoke cover. This works in multiplayer games very well too, and gas grenades can also be used in the same way.

The single player in this game consists of 15 levels. Each level can be played over in various different modes such as lone wolf where you are placed on the map and have to make it to a waypoint on the other edge of the map. Sounds simple enough... but that waypoint and you are separated by anything up to 45 bad guys, mostly with Russian accents. So is the AI any good? When set for high difficulty settings the enemy in this game will put up a bloody good fight (did you get it? I used the word "bloody" heh). They will run after you, run away, strafe shoot, throw grenades, even call for backup which actually will arrive. The other aspect you must remember is that they have as much health as you, in most other FPS games the player is advantaged because they have a health bar and the enemy don't. Well in RS there is no advantage so each enemy tango must be treated as a worthy adversary. This good AI does not fall short when it comes to your teammates either. Many a time have my computer controlled squaddies saved my life whether it be because I couldn't be bothered to check a room before entering and they could or due to an enemy tango pinning me down and my team taking that tango out. In other words, they help which is all we can expect from them. Will they make you a cup of tea during moments of reflective silence? No. Will they tell you to stop so they can adjust your helmet strap (because they really are truly concerned for you) ? No!


Online RS is a little gem. It sparkles, no really I've seen it. At night, the box, it, it talks to me. Really it does. Anyway multiplayer consists of either your standard team versus team affair, last team standing. As well as this you can do co-operative mode which is where the game truly shines. An 8 player team can either play out one of the games missions together, including all the sub variations like Lone Wolf mode. The best variation, and the simplest, is simply a Terrorist Hunt. Your team must hunt down all of the terrorists on the map. The server can decide how many terrorists there are, and also their difficulty setting. The funnest servers host the cruel "45 Elite" settings. This is basically 45 terrorists all set for maximum difficulty! Even when all 8 players are amazing and work in a tight team this setting is tough, very damn tough. You grow to hate your enemy. If a squadmate dies you are fuelled by anger because you then know that you need to kill even more of them for the team to stand a chance. It's all a matter of ratio.

Graphics and Sound

What can I say? This game is next-gen. It is so next generation that you feel like you have travelled in time when you play it. The graphics engine is based on the Unreal Warfare one but is heavily modified. Player models don't let the side down either, even the very guns themselves are highly detailed. Cartridges will hit the ground and stay there, and one of the neatest features is the way you can see what everyone is carrying. This is not just a bunch of grenades and a pistol modelled on the player models, it's what that player is equipt with. If there are no grenades on his belt, he has no grenades. If there is one, that player has one remaining. Sound is also equally good. Each weapon has it's own unique effect, gunfire echoes around the corridors of indoor maps in a way that intensifies the immersion to a new hight. And one great aspect of most Tom Clancy games is the music! A game with good music! The dramatic score to RS is great as is the menu music, well done lads, well done.



Guns, lots of guns, a real challenge, good AI, great multiplayer, guns, lots of guns.


A few more missions would have been nice, no bullet impact marks on bodies, so many guns you forget which one you liked!


If you like FPS games, buy it

by The Critical Alien
© 2003

Archive Review: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

(Note: The long gone contributor who submitted this review went off on a rant after the review. I have included it in this blog transfer for all to see! admin)

(Xbox, Gamecube, PS2 Review)

On the offensive

Shiny blue light's just don't impress me anymore

Right, listen up. This is not a normal review. I have officially now entered some new territory. The days of giving games reviews impartially are over now. This is because developers are beginning to take the piss. In a nutshell, and trust me, a nutshell is all this game deserves, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is yet another example of an absolutely appalling computer game produced by a publisher with more financial muscle than the entire continent of Africa.

This is a serious look into what is now happening in the gaming community. It is parallel to what is happening in Hollywood and even Global Politics. Everything is getting slacky, cheap, sexed up, yet it is lacking, hollow, and dry. What is happening nowadays is quite simple to understand. It is based on a premise; that which we can get away with is that which we do. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is the latest in a line of titles that has come out and been promoted in the big "Hollywood" way, marketed to the point of genius in cinemas, on the television, and in magazine, and is, after all is said and done, completely atrocious.

Before I really get into my aim's and agenda in doing this I will briefly sum up and review this debacle. It is a Harry Potter gamed based on an RPG style world. You play in a third person view as Harry. The only reason I decided to try this out was due to my intuitive feelings about it likely being bad. I am currently on a deep investigative journey into the depths of the big players in the gaming world. I am going beyond the "veil" of what we see on mainstream websites, magazines, and television and entering the true world of what is going on. EA has currently been the focus of my studies. This vast and powerful publisher of computer games has always produced varied games. It use to bring to the table great games, but these were in the days when gaming was pure... now it has cashed out. EA publish junk. Games that are lacking in every way and totally contradict where interactive technology should be aiming to reach now we are in the 21st Century. EA bully developers into rushing titles and letting them "add the polish" just so they can get in on the market trends. Big, and talented developers are not so easy to control so EA rarely use them but trust me when I say that publishers control the gaming world, not the talented ones - developers.

Review Mode - (Enabled)

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is no laughing matter. Children will demand and crave this £39.99 ($50) game and parents will pay for it in the hope it will please their children. Not even the young fans of the movie franchise will fall for this game though. It is Mcdonalds food for the consoles, fast, streamlined, produced on the production lines of false creativity. This game is the sum of a formula. EA's briefing to the programmers would likely have resembled this:

"We need a game of the latest movie. Make it quickly for the tie in of the DVD release and make sure you include platforming, impressions of character advancement, boss fights, lots of cut-scenes, and dialogue. Also add a story - it needs to be quick, and don't worry about A.I or anything like that, we don't want anything more than the shell of a game. Remember to use our acknowledged graphics engine for the visuals too, don't try to tweak it either - just focus on cut-scenes..."

Obviously this is not likely how the wording went but you get my point, I hope. This game is what I hope you can imagine, just read our other reviews on this site. This is another "frisbee" yes, but it's a "frisbee with a purpose". Crap games aren't made nowadays - they are designed. Programmers don't generally think they have made a "good" game here, they "know" what it is, and know why they've done it - money. Money. MONEY. MONEY.

The game is an odd one. On the one hand it's very easy but you will occasionally be really challenged by the odd boss, or troll. Most enemies are easy to kill, with magic spells you slowly begin to learn. I am of the opinion that this is actually the result of lackluster play testing. If this game is aimed at kids then kids won't have the incentive to try, and try again, when it comes to killing a troll. I am quite the pro gamer and seriously, I was getting really annoyed with how hard it was to kill things so early on in the game. I know this sounds really bad of me and against the statement this website boasts about "in depth and unbiased" reviews but the Alien wrote all that, not me :) And the fact now is, times have changed. I will not go into this game and give detail of it, I honestly don't have the will to.

At one point you come across the character Percy. He is another example of the games bug of difficulty. Percy was so hard to defeat that I am guessing that not many people will ever pass him. Isn't it funny how something this important to a game which currently sits in store shelves is just left in a game without any comment from EA. This is a Zelda-clone adventure game. It plays like the latest Zelda game with stealth elements, platforming elements, and of course combat elements. Let me sum up these elements; stealth element - lacking. Platforming elements - very boring. Combat elements - either too easy or bordering on impossible / not play tested.

This game has some nice features. Harry has to brew his own health points and store them. Whenever you need to get health you must go get them if you have run out. This was good. As well as this the actual movement options you have are varied and make sense. It's just a shame that the game crashes almost as much as Survivor, terrain often vanishes, your character occasionally falls through textures, audio cuts out entirely, and the games camera makes about as much sense as the end of the Matrix Revolutions (which, for reference, actually didn't make sense in the intellectual meaning of the word). Did I mention about the camera? You can't control it but neither can the programming. It's just left to the God's it would seem. It wonders, no it completely randomly positions in angles that make the view seem like some Esther painting.

By the way, my list of bugs has yet to end. As you move around you often find yourself constantly near the edge of a long, dark, drop into "game over" territory. One twitch of the analogue stick and your dead. This works in parts of games, not the whole dame thing! The graphics are also quite hideous. The PS2 version is the worst, yet the Xbox and Gamecube versions are hardly that much better. The cut-scenes are also terrible. They come so often that you begin to wonder if your playing a game or interacting with a DVD. They are badly synched, un-edited, and in all intensive purposes, shite.

Voice acting is borderline comedy. Dumbledore’s actor sounds like an older, wiser Towely from Southpark for example. Other voices include one that can only be described as what it would sound like if Bill Murray begun murmuring down a plastic tube whilst being tickled from behind. By the way, that wasn't the instant image that came into my head upon hearing the voice...

Look, I really don't know what to say here. This game is so low it hurts my balls. Whenever you see a troll in this game the thought that enters your head is "oh no, not another one of those F*CKING trolls" and this anger is never a good thing. Bear in mind you can't control the camera; you also can't aim manually at enemies. Enter.. auto-targeting. The list of gaming's shoddiest features has always been:

1) Linear, scripted "interactivity"

2) False choices.

3) Auto-targeting.

4)Lack of camera control.

5) Invisible walls

My list is a lot longer but these are the entries in that list that apply to this title. I am not a Harry Potter freak so don't know the story that well, nor do I want to. For the record J.K Rowling based her books on a Russian story about a Satanic magician and his young apprentice. I don't pretend to get the connotations this game has to the story. This sort of thing don't make a game. Review mode really is concluded for me now. The game is garbage and only the most manipulated, dumb, and ignorant of life forms will disagree with me.



A few moments of slight interest, charged at $10 per second.


(See above: the entire Review)


Oh so very, very, terrible.

My little Rant (continued)

Harry Potter is just an example of the modern day trend we now see in gaming. Don't get me wrong, many good games are still being made, but virtually all of them are lacking in so many ways. Reviewers out there seem completely unable to understand this. They just give them a swift review and move on. I cannot do this. I realized something quite major was afoot. I did a little research...

I spoke to The Critical Alien on MSN recently about this and he agreed; there is without a doubt a conspiracy regarding modern games development. Instead of advancement we are now seeing the devolution of ideas and basing games on formulas. As the big players get bigger this will become more and more unstoppable. This is not the paranoid rants of a few people, it's obvious. I use to live in Japan, I'm now back in the States. When I was in Japan I taught English and had little free time to do much else but what I did do once was speak to a bunch of programmers in a bar. They worked for some small time developer but one which has produced many games that are mostly out in Japan. They all insisted that games development, even in Japan, has now become such a big business that only a few top people call the shots. Games are only published if they meet criteria, and criteria is set by top players. EA, although not so prominent in Asia, is pretty on top of things right now. Another big player is Eidos, although not so big. Microsoft also is prominent but not so much in the gaming world (more in every other world). EA is the real baddie here. EA is so big not even the likes of Nintendo, Sega, Konami, Namco, and other big Japanese names can rival it. You see EA is the Corporate American sleaze.

I can't go ultra deep here, nor would you want me to, but I want to emphasize to you that games as bad as the above are not just "bad games". EA "know" the game is bad. So why does it con us so? Money. I use to really enjoy reviewing bad games until I realized they were bad for a purpose. I thought I was simply showing crap for what it was. What I didn't realize was that this crap knew it was crap so in that respect my words were a waste of time - the publishers didn't care an ounce. Consumerism is not a movement, or a philosophy, or a way of life, it is the worlds new mental disorder and there is an epidemic. People "will" buy this game and people will not complain. People will buy this game because they are fooled by advertising. This is all just so corrupt I felt compelled to say it.

Terminator 3 is a prime example, and the Alien identified what I am saying in his review of it. When will we wake up! Now I am back in the States (Japan proved to be nothing more than the West with neon lights and I felt I'd seen enough) I can see this mindset people have nowadays. People are beginning to become docile, stupid, and games like this just come out and are accepted! On the links section of this site the Alien has placed a link to At first I laughed at this and told him it was a bad idea to link it but after looking at it, and thinking about what I have been saying, I'm beginning to actually believe that there is so much more to it all than that which we are being told. I know this is just a games review but to ignore the deeper reality to why this crap game was made is to write a bad review. EA knew this game was crap, they knew it would sell, they knew this would make money fast. Games like this are unforgivable. Take what I've said here as you will, it's all just my opinion after all. Over and Out.

by Joey T 2003