Tuesday, 1 July 2003

Archive Review: World War 2 Online

(PC review)

In the glory days of Ultima Online I made many an online pal. When I moved on from this classic online rpg I kept in contact with many of them via ICQ or MSN messenger. One day I asked one of them what game he was currently playing: "I'm playing the only game worthy of internet gaming other than UO. WW2 Online!" I asked him what this game was since I had never actually heard of it: "It's an online war game. It's an FPS, a tank sim, a plane sim, all set on a map half the scale of Europe!" I was interesting and he suddenly sent me a link for a free 7 day trial of the game (120mb). I got downloading.

After I had created my account and updated the client to the latest patch (1.9) he wanted to meet up with me in a town called Eghezee. Like everywhere your be fighting in ww2 online Eghezee is a real French village that may or may not have seen much action in the real war. I asked what server he played on? He laughed: "my friend, ww2 online has only one server where everyone plays :)". This is a brilliant feature of the game. My first sight of the game was the talk bar which is split into channels such as "side" - everyone on the side you are on sees it, "mission" - those involved in a common aim, "objective" - those involved in a more defined goal. As well as this you can create your own channel. The amount is infinite. You can create channel 3343 (which will be the number you stated) or join channel 1 and annoy those that are in it talking about fishing and Star trek instead of battling the Hun! The initial interface has a large, live, map of the battlefield. Each town has a flag next to the name representing who currently is in control (Axis or Allied). Along with this there are warning icons where recent enemy activity has been spotted. A red tank represents an enemy armour presence and a red soldier, enemy infantry. Eghezee had both! I was heading for the action...


Karador-uSm- was my old uo bud. He told me to tune to channel 32 where we would communicate. I remembered him as a somewhat eccentric old mage in uo, he wore green everything and loved his llama, but now he was a soldier. I spawned into a shed in the town and he stood in front of me waiting. His avatar waved and we ran out of the devastated village and into the woods like a pair of elves charging into tolkienien forests. My first reaction to the game was hardly positive. I laughed. I didn't want to say anything to Karador but... I gave it patience.

The graphics are strange. On the one hand the landscape looks great with the best draw distance I have ever seen. The horizon is completely like real life and as distant. It's not like operation flashpoint where terrain appears either, everything is placed and visible from insanely long ranges. The sky was bright blue with nice cotton wool clouds... it was good. But then there were the player models. Initially I thought it was a joke. They looked terrible, but as I slowly became aware of what this game was all about I realised they were actually just fine for what they were. They don't need to be anything more than what they are. They look like soldiers of the era and that's it. The animation was pretty average but acceptable. It was lucky I was on 1.9 because this update was a huge one that resolved many issues. Before this version player models ran like lego men mincing around the fray. Thank Christ this was sorted before I turned up with my l33t skillz.

Karador and me sneaked around the bushes, heading east out of the village, I was very impressed to see proper grass and bushes with no flat green fields. They were all grassy and I then realised the graphics were actually very good. My gripe which didn't go away though, and never has, was the mouse cursor which was on screen and could be moved around with the mouse. It's a bizarre problem the game seems to have with Windows based computers. It is apparently not an issue on Apple-Macs for this game works on both. The cursor is there so you can scroll down the history of the talk bar incase you miss anything. Fine... but why can't you hide it, like you can in Planetside? It just seemed strange to me. The gun itself does not have an on-screen crosshair. You right click and this zooms up the gun and puts you into a view of the weapons iron sights. This was a feature I immediately loved.

As we ventured deep into undergrowth I suddenly begun to realise quite how much was going on in this battlefield. Aircraft raced overhead with a large dog fight visible between German fighters and bombers and the good old British Spitfires and Hurricanes. Every plane has an icon next to it telling you it's type. If the icon is red, it's an enemy plane, if it's blue it's a friendly, I really liked this aspect. I knew what everything was and who it belonged to. Tanks roared up the country lanes, artillery was positioned around the area with players firing the odd shell deep into the horizon, and infantry lay in the long grass waiting for the enemy or sniped from the rooftops of the village. I really felt like I was a part of a huge defensive force. As we headed further up the roadside I asked ignorantly: "Where is the enemy?" Karador swiftly replied, "look to your east as we pass this tree line". I did... O...M...G!

For those of you unfamiliar with internet slang the abbreviation I just used means "Oh...My...God!". I was met with the sight of an army of the infamous German Panzer tank charging towards our position. The tanks varied in their forms, and enemy infantry raced to keep up with them. Yet more German aircraft swept over our heads, I heard the whistling of a falling bomb. Was this my calling? Was death to come so soon? No. The bomb exploded in a huge fireball just beyond our position, making mince of a played called "Derek_32".

Suddenly a spitfire mk iv flew over our head and dropped a heavy bomb onto the incoming German axis of advance. Then an array of machine gun fire opened up on them from our tanks. "Fire your weapon phonesis! Fire! They are coming!" Karador yelled. He had obviously seen the 3rd episode of Band Of Brothers one too many times but this didn't matter. I brought up my rifle scope and aimed through the sites. I placed my aim firmly on what looked like a German solder crouching behind a certain configuration of a Panzer tank and let rip a shot. He fell into a grassy grave.

I won't bore you with a prolonged battle story. This early experience hooked me. It is a bizarre game in the way your initial reaction is so negative yet this changes to that of being in love! I recently convinced, after much effort, a mate of mine to try this game out. I met up with him and after 10 minutes of sneaking around a field he stopped, out of cover, yet I doubt he cared: "I can't believe they charge money for this game!" He said and abruptly left the server. He had not seen the light!

Graphics and Sound

As I have already mentioned the graphics are rather hard to review. They are good and perfect for the job - to recreate a half scale map of Europe! The landscape has a European, lush, feel to it with amazing draw distances and no fogging! You can see feint battle in the horizon with flashes of explosions and distant anti-aircraft fire racing up into the air. The operator of that battery could be anything up to 25 miles away, literally! Yet the player and gun models could do with work. But the vehicles look great! Especially the planes. I actually think the explosions in this game are some of the best I have ever seen as well. The sound is very good. One of my initial reactions to this game was how good the sound was. Everything sounds realistic and like how you hear things in a war movie. Whether it be the incoming whistles of stray bullets passing overhead or the engines of a Hurricane airplane.


This game does have it's flaws. The mouse cursor issue needs addressing and I think there is still a lot of room for improvement on some of the graphical sides. But this review has only touched on the games surface! One thing I want to say right now though is that this game is best for those of you that want to man a vehicle. The infantry aspect is great but you don't get very many weapons to select from (smg or rifle) and your standard kit of grenades, a knife and pistol. This game shines when it comes to vehicles. The amount of tanks, armoured cars, artillery pieces, transporters, boats, and planes for either side is immense. I think that most stuff from ww2 is accounted for in this game! The overall amount of vehicles actually runs into 3 figures!

I have recently got into flying in ww2 online and must say this is the jewel of stuff to do. I take my Spitfire off from Dover and fly across the English Channel to where ever my services are needed. The journey takes as long as it would in real life too (assuming Europe is half the size) and this is an aspect I love. You feel like you are really making a journey. There is nothing funnier than finding a bunch of axis players huddled up for a group screenshot session and casually flying over and dropping a bomb into their party :) You can also hop into a bomber as a tail gunner and another player will pilot the craft. This is a great way to introduce yourself to air combat. Many have made comment that in reality this game is an air combat simulator with ground elements. I disagree with this since the ground war is so detailed as well as the air war. In fact the air war side of this game is probably more detailed than a game like Microsoft Combat Simulator 2003! And ww2 online also has a raging ground and sea war to boot. I was amazed whilst chatting on the games forums. Sometimes it feels like you are playing an entirely different game to the one other people are talking about. A few players recall a naval battle they were involved in north of Scotland and your chasing after a German Sapper in a remote French wood who is trying to place bombs around your line!

This game has suffered in my view due to an image it has. This developed due to it's bad release which was, I have to admit, particularly terrible with so many bugs players were left thinking "Have the devs even play tested this?" This is all now a distant memory and the community is vast and growing. Many see ww2 online players as Dutch or Swedish students who love their Apple-Macs over Windows PC's and deep down wish Germany had won the war! This is complete bull crap. This game has the most friendly community I have ever seen. My most recent experience of this was when a player asked on the "objective" channel (where everyone talks who is involved in a set objective within an overall mission) if anyone wanted to tail gun for him. I said I would and logged out and re-spawned in Dover where we departed in our Blenheim Bomber. As we flew over the English channel, heading for some newly discovered German power station, we got chatting. It turned out his name was Walter and he sold mobile homes to much ado American householders. He then wanted to know if I wanted to buy a mobile home and begun trying to sell me it with small talk. For a moment I thought he was going to hand me a virtual business card. He then asked me what I did but I didn't need to answer. My screen name was phonesis so I was obviously a door-to-door phone salesman. "I need a good phone," He said. "I need a stiff drink," I thought. I was invited to join a clan within 20 minutes of playing this game and have never looked back from the 9th LAG since, even though our commanders often take our formidable tank convoys on routes that make them end up barbecued road blocks.

This game has so much to offer. If you want realism... this game boasts a map which consists of all of Europe, halved in scale for gameplay purposes with the most realistic and large selection of ww2 equipment ever! If you want dog fights... this game has every single allied/axis aircraft you can imagine and the physics for flying are ultra realistic as are the plane damage models. Fancy tank action? This game has more tanks than I've had Pot Noodles, now that is a lot of tanks! The infantry aspect is there... but in my view is in need of additional equipment. Like Karador had said all those... many days ago, this game is a true virtual battlefield.... I was hooked.



The only virtual, persistent, online battlefield, many things to do and learn, you feel like you are involved in something as large as World War 2! No Lag issues whatsover!


Get rid of that bloody mouse cursor! Could do with graphical improvements in some areas, infantry need more equipment to select from, the game has a monthly fee - this may put many a potential soldier off.


Like hair, this game will grow on you

by The Critical Alien
© 2003

Archive Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

(Gamecube review)

Turtle soup, anyone?

For a sec there, I thought the game had crashed.

I'm hip, I'm happening, and that's why I know that the Turtles are now officially back! Yes that's right those 80's icons are now well and truly popular once more. And as soon as the money men get even the slightest hint of this type of thing they act! A game is made, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to be precise.

So with a new slap of paint and a tv show series on the air the green things seem to be running the show once more. TMNT stinks of something pretty damn obvious when played. I decided to give it a spin, you see I own a Gamecube and really am desperate for a "good" Gamecube game which doesn't boast monkeys, Mario, or strange silver things. Also, for the record, I kind of dig Ninja Turtles.

So what does TMNT smell of? It smells of that old chestnut... being rushed in order to meet a deadline which corresponds to the release of the new series. The thing is though this game does not just seem rushed in terms of ,"it could have been good if...", it is just a terrible game anyway. So let's begin. So some rat finds some turtles. This rat trains them up to Ninja status. This comes when they reach teenage years. It is clear their destined for hero status. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is born! And so is this outrageous game. It's a side scrolling beat-em-up Final Fight style. There are also two arcade games.

The graphics are stylised cel-shading. Enough said then. The sound is just a mix of striking punch impacts effects and Mr. Han on the Casio Keyboard. He really works overtime that guy. The levels consist of walking sideways. From left to right to be more precise. One day a game will go outlandish and go for a - from right to left style side scroller but not today. But in this game you can also move vertically downward and upward. Sad isn't it? Excuse me whilst I yawn and fail to smile in surprise at this one. So could you in Streets of Rage One and Golden Axe! 1985 kind of was the year this became a "feature" to a game. Deep breath... It's 2003! You don't advertise this as a game "feature" in a bullet point on the back of the box, you just don't do it, period.

The other thing is that the levels are as linear as Final Fight. Straight lines. Sometimes the action is cut up by a cartoon cutscene. These are actually pretty good though. There are also in-engine story scenes. Not quite so good, but still acceptable. The four turtles whose names I can't be bothered to remember each play uniquely. This is something other games based on multiple characters often forget. Charlie's Angels was comical. Each turtle has a different weapon and it all goes back to which one you like the best. They're armed with a very simplistic range of attacks, including sweeps, dashes, and the basic light attack so the actual weapon is the only true difference, and the color of the head band. I got annoyed when playing this because the block button wasn't obvious to suss. Like any true gamer I paused the game and resorted to the manual. On a side note I would like to see a section of this site devoted to the reviewing of "game manuals" since the standard has really got slacky nowadays. Don't think us gamers ain't noticed! Anyway after hunting for the control I discovered, to my horror, that this game actually does not have a block button. You can't block!

This meant one thing. As the enemy number builds up on screen you get mashed. The actual amount can build up in this game to a high number which would be cool... if you could actually prevail without button mashing to the point where your hands internally bleed and you can no longer feel your index fingers. Recieving too many cheap hits from being surrounded by enemies grows increasingly frustrating. So no block, only a few basic moves, and simple weapon attacks, is the sum of TMNT. Not quite. There are also ninja stars littered throughout the levels that the turtles can use directly on enemies, as well as barrels full of oil for explosions. I don’t quite understand the theory behind making every tin can you slash open a combustible bomb, but for some reason every button-masher sticks to this tried and true rule.

This really is a button mashers game. I am actually beginning to think that the Gamecube on a whole is the button mashers console, with titles like this, Super Smash Bros Melee, Super Monkey Ball 1 + 2, etc. The enemy you face has no A.I. They move towards you and once close enough they apply one or two differing punch/kick attacks. The difficultly in this game is not from this but from recieving cheap hits from this when the enemy number is vast. This game incorporates the typical foray of baddies. Your're encounter punks, punks, punks, punks, etc. Sometimes a big robot will appear which is odd since a) why would a big robot be in the vicinity (who put it there?) b) punks really make big robots? The enemies will actually randomly appear too. This is so tedious. They just appear from thin air like some crap game - TMNT appeared from nowhere too. Even in Final Fight you knew one thing; you could always rely on the knowledge that your enemy would approach from the right. Now in Streets of Rage things got a little more complicated. Enemies would actually come from the left too, which was strange since you'd just been there and killed everyone but hey. Sometimes they would even come from the.... top! But not bottom. This was obviously the result of overly ambitious programming.

The only argument this game has to justify it's existence is that it was actually going for the "dated, retro feel". There is a thin line between the stylised and the crap. This game is crap. Trust me. You do get a two player co-op mode though but no four player mode! Time to go to school Konami....

Day One: Lesson One

- There are four turtles...1...2...3...4. 4 is the number and the number is 4.

- 4 players can only be the number which control 4 turtles.

- 2 is way out, as is 5.

3 hit combo! Steaming.....

Why no four player? How annoying is that for turtles fans with more than 2 friends? I mean, Jesus. So the only other thing is the arcade modes. One is a versus battle. Player vs. Player. Shame that the games control system is completely unsuited for vs. style combat, with no block system, and button mashing tendencies. Apparently there is a second mini-game but I'm guessing it has to be unlocked since I personally couldn't find it.

The graphics may seem suitable for the game style but the "Pow", "Boof", and "Oomph" pop-up words really do not. It gives the game the 60's Batman show style which it downright shouldn't have. This was probably put in to hide the poor animation when enemies recieve a blow no doubt though.

So the game is bad, the graphics are just bog standard cel-shading, and the sound is... generic. Have fun, kids!



Apparently people like cel-shading? Some good cutscenes, two player.


I can't believe I put "two player" as a pro in 2003! Bad game, no block! Weak sound, no four player!


Teenage Generic Zero Turtles

by Mojo Jojo 2003

Archive Review: Kung-Fu Chaos

(Xbox Review)

What? Who dares stand before my drunken tiger mantis fist style? It looks like a challenger created by Microsoft named Kung-Fu Chaos! How dare this spawn of programming challenge me! He who hatheth conquered Karate Champ. The very same warrior who slammed Yi-Ar Kung-Fu! So it is Microsoft with the latest in 70's Kung-Fu style retro stomping action with great characters, great music, great gameplay and multiplayer heaven? I accept the challenge!

"Everybody was Kung-Fu fighting!"

Anyone remember the 1970's? Amongst the political sleaze, strange architecture, deranged gray suits with pink ties and other terrifying fashion, oh and this, there was little to shout about. Computer gaming was a mere abstract concept with little thought. It lived in a World of dreams in the minds of the more creative. This was way before the days of the Sinclair Spectrum with its impressive 48k of ram.

But one thing that was kicking - literally - was the Kung-Fu scene. The glory days of Enter the Dragon and Chinese Super Ninja (which is not to be mistaken with Super Chinese Ninja) were at hand. Chuck Norris had his beard, and no-one messed with this bad ass moffo master

Director Shao Ting, the legend, of course, has gathered a collection of cheeky, happy, clappy, mostly jappy type fellows and fellowesses to his studio to star in his upcoming Kung-Fu flick. This is the story but it actually bogs down to you facing off the other warriors and evil ninjas in a series of duels, bundles, and brawls. You see in the 70's they had no CGI or means to "fake" the action. Well they didn't if you believe the games story for in this the reason you fight is because real fighting is the only way to make an action movie, apparently. Who are we to argue?

The basic premise to this game is good old fashioned fighting. You select one of the characters who each possess a unique style and play quite differently. There's the Lone Wolf and Cub duo, Chop & Styx, Cleopatra Jones' long lost sista, Lucy Cannon, Monkey (the Monkey God) and a variety of others. The only missing battlers from this bunch is a Drunken Master and Shaolin Slammer - which is quite a shame really. The levels you play on mostly consist, in single player, of having to flaw as many assailants as you can in the given time. But there are many novelty style game types, including saving the stuntman, dodging the seals, avoiding the cows which are being hurled at you from above - fun. The basic system is based on stars. You have 5 star slots and the fight begins with 0 stars. To gain them you quite simply have to kill baddies. The more you kill the better. You need at least 3 stars to pass any given stage.

The amazing and first thing you will be struck by in this game is the soundtrack. You have the classic Kung-Fu fighting Carl Douglas style, the infamous Enter the Dragon theme music, and if these get boring why not rip your own music onto the Xbox hard drive and create your own soundtrack! Finally games developers are getting the idea and actually adding this feature! Then again, this is a Microsoft title so therefore it would be a joke for them not to include it really.

Where this game shines is the multiplayer. In "battle" mode you can take on your pals or the computer in single player without the hindrance of an actual objective. What makes this great for multiplayer is the record feature. You can play back your fights but not only this, you can edit the footage in a vast and powerful number of ways from zooming in, changing the camera angles, even creating slow-motion "Matrix" style effects and save your fondest mayhem memories :)

Multiplayer bone crunching action is not limited to a simple "last man standing" wins affair. There are a number of comical and wacky game types. Why not play style mode where the winner is the one who pulls off the most varied types of moves? Try Mojo mission where the winner is the player who keeps their "Mojo" for the longest time. Then comes wooden man. He who wineth the duel is he who claims the most men carved from wood. Bizarre yet oddly reminiscent of the 70's.

You get a training mode too and this acts like your standard move sparing system. So what is the fighting style like in Kung Fu Chaos? I compare the fighting system in this game to Bowling. Seems simple, is easy to understand, but requires a wise warrior to master. It is more complex than it seems. You get basic punch/kick action with abilities to string vast numbers of combination attacks. The combo system is fun and the amount of stringed attacks really is colossal with each character boasting unique moves and combi's. If you perform three successful taunts during a fight then you can perform special moves. This special move will crush the enemy and turn any poor receiver into a dark red stain on the level texture. Not quite Ricky-Oh, but a harsh lesson in martial arts, old school style.

With such a basic, yet tough to master, style to the game Kung Fu Chaos can, and does, often turn into a button-mashing clash of egotistic gamers. Many a time have I and my larger-than-life buddies fought savagely to be the first to get the special move. The fights often turn into "first to get the special move wins" affairs. This game is exactly what it looks like - Super Smash Bro's Melee but without the mental items and Mario.

If your a fan of Smash Bro's style unlocking gameplay Kung Fu Chaos will tease you with a huge amount to set free. Costumes, modes, levels, options, and even a character are there for the taking. The question is, will you be able to see the path and walk it? Will you prevail in the cruel world of 1970's-old-school-wise-old-man-mystery-martial-arts?

One thing I got annoyed with, and so have many others to my knowledge, is the Director character Shao Ting. He is a really, really, annoying character with a loud, obnoxious voice and just get's on my nerves big time. He is also stupid and really tedious. But, alas, you can mute the fool and even turn off his entire basis of existence - disable "direction". I am not sure if you can kill him. I have a feeling it is possible but would require a black-belt of skill.

This game should appeal to two types: People who dig the era this games portrays and who enjoy a light hearted approach to martial arts brawling, and those of us that enjoy the Smash. Bro's style gameplay of extras to unlock and wacky level design. On a whole I really enjoyed this game. If you want a solid multiplayer title look no further than Kung Fu Chaos.

It has a solid feel, solid graphics with a good frame rate and attractive colors, and it also boasts great music and awesome sound effects. That "old school" feeling was never more prominent than when hearing the classic bad dubbing, overly loud thuds, and crazy "Hey-Ya's" of the 70's. This game includes all of this retro sound.

Just call me The Big Boss.

Indeed a worthy opponent



Strong Kung-Fu action, many game modes, lots to unlock.


No Drunken Master, button mashing tendencies, can you spell depth?


Good old arcade style, 70's inspired, innocent fun

by Joey T 2003