Sunday, February 24, 2008

First Eagles: The Great Air War 1918 (2006)

Since my C64 Microprose Gunship days I've loved flight sims but never been good enough to play with full realism settings. I prefer WW1 for some reason, so really enjoyed Red Baron 3d, which I played with about 50% realism settings, but RB3D is way old in the tooth now and doesn't play will even with glide wrappers (I go from120+ to 1 FPS). I've been on an FPS kick for a while so don't have any recent sim comparisons (I have IL2 but haven't really played it much as I crash way to much in it). I'm also not a good source of how well flight models or historical content is. I just like a good dogfight in old planes and this game definitely does it for the 1/2 arcade + 1/2 simmer in me.

So far I've only played Instant Action in First Eagles but I really like it so far. Looks nice for a small dev game. Tons of graphics and realism options that can either be quickly adjusted (Low, Med, High) or the different options can be customized. There are also Single Missions, Campaigns and MP but I have yet to try those. I haven't been shot down too often but I do have a hard time taken out the enemy though I haven't set them to Hard or ran any AI mods/tweaks (Game is easily moddable like its sister games Wings over Europe and Wings over Vietnam). It will definitely fill my WW1 prop fix until a more hardcore sim such as Knights of the Sky comes out, but this might be enough for me since I like shooting them down more than me crashing due to losing my wings after banking/diving too hard.

Casual sim fans of WW1 will probably like this like I do. The more full on sim crowd may like it more once its been modded or they may prefer the CFS3 mod OFF or the upcoming Knights of the Sky (By IL2 makers I think). I thought about getting OFF instead but CFS3 is still $30 and I've heard bad things about how well it runs so went with FE instead since its newer and expect any shortcomings to be either fixed by patches or mods. I also wanted to try out one of Thirdwires games as Wings over Vietnam may be my next sim purchase, but I needed a WW1 game to replace RB3D since I have IL2 to cover WW2 prop era (I'm not into more modern jet sims).

I tried the AI Mod v5 and the enemy and friendlies definitely are more aggressive and shoot at each other now. I got shot down a few times which was a rarity before. The flight model seems to have changed too as loops require a lot more height now and spins/stalls are easier to get into and a bit harder to get out of. My current pilot skills with this mod have me crashing into the ground by doing to many loops before they could get me while I was trying to get them. These are noted as prepatch mods but seem to work fine (They probably need some tweaking by the author but I like the AI changes so will keep it and look for the next version). I'm playing on Hard AI and Hard Flight Model so unsure how Normal + Mods would feel but it is harder now, which is a nice change.

While I do think RB had better atmosphere in the menus/pilot roster, FE has good atmosphere once in the game. RB does too but it really hates my system so I cant play it anymore without stutter and random crashes (unless I dig up my voodoo2s). FE feels good in the air with tons of planes and lots of flake bursting all around along with tanks on the ground. Though the flight model of FE isn't as hard as RB3D (I played RB3D on medium settings and can play FE on Hard settings). Both make me fight for my kills though, but the planes in FE do seem to break up quicker once hit than in RB3D, at least with default INI settings.

If only RB and FE could go off and have a love child...

Monday, February 18, 2008

No One Lives Forever 2 (2002)

I always enjoyed playing NOLF1 and Shogo from Monolith but never picked up NOLF2. Not sure why. Maybe its because I heard it was short so I didn't want to pay full price or maybe because the story wasn't as good as the first one. Picked it up on a trade and finally got to it.

It had a good mix of indoor and outdoor environments. Most levels had multiple paths so you weren't railroaded down one specific road. Even if the end of the level was a specific place you could take multiple ways to it.

It was definately shorter than NOLF1 but still had some nice moments. Xfire still shows it took me 14hrs which isn't bad for a SP game, especially compared to SP length nowadays. Still not the length of older games though. I enjoyed the tornado level and underwater/undervolcano bases are always fun.

Like 1 it has a good sense of humor and pulls a lot of imagery from the Bond and other spy films with the retro60s tech look. While the supersoldier storyline is a bad game cliche those parts of the game were more puzzle like or combat focused without being impossible.

Similar to Tron 2.0 it had upgradeable weapons, armor and skills. While I like the RPGliteness of it, I'm not sure how effective some of the skills were. While my health/armor meter got larger, gadget speed got quicker and searches resulted in more stuff being found, I didn't notice my weapon skills really improve. Still, I liked that it was there and that they attempted it, since its something missing from most newer games.

Some of the boss fights were hard as you had to attack/protect 1 person while enemies spawned from all around. Those were the worst part of the game. Most AI fights were not too bad but they shouldn't be since the superspy should be able to get through the villian's horde. Weird thing is that one of the last boss fights was the hardest part of the game for me and not the actual last levels.

Overall it was still a fun game to play through. Once I get some other games out of the way I plan on replaying NOLF1 to see if I still enjoy it as much as I remember or if its mainly nostalgia. Might need to watch the Bond films before doing so too.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Things To Read When I'm Surfin' Bored

Paleo-Future - Our past's dreams of the future.

Retro-Futurismus - Another retro-future site with nice artwork

Osburne World of the Future Books - Usborne Book of the Future & Usborne World of the Unknown: UFOs - I remember reading these in elementary school and still like the artwork

WW1 Solders Blog - Letters from a WW1 soldier being posted to a blog 90 years after they were written

Shorpy - 100 Yr Old Photo Blog (History in HD)

Crime Library - Covers major crimes, criminals, trials, forensics and criminal profiling by prominent writers

Strange maps - Lots of different maps of different styles

Pictures Of The Past (Now in COLOR!) - WWI, WWII, US during WWII & Vietnam

I'll add more as I find stuff I want to go back and read.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Tron 2.0 (2003)

Finally finished Tron 2.0. Got it in a trade last year and had never started it as I was busy on other games. Really liked the whole setting and vibe of the game. Matched well with the movie, which the game made me want to see again.

Nice variety of levels and I liked the imagination used in creating the insides of a PC. Nice use of colors too. Decent length SP especially when compared to newer games.

Enjoyed the RPGness of upgrading weapons and skills. Nice variety of weapons, though I still mainly just bulked up on armor mods and used my disc along with the sniper rifle. But Tron is all about the disk so was happy to use it a lot.

Enemy AI was decent. While most were easily strafed it was still easy to die if you had too many attacking at once. The boss battles were not too bad. Lucky for me I played after the patch that lets you skip the lightcycles if you die to much. While it took time and effort to beat them it was never frustrating.

I've always enjoyed Monoliths stuff and this was no exception. I still want to go back and play NOLF1 and Shogo but have NOLF2 and FEAR to play first.