Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist was Konami's way of getting around Nintendo's demand that Turtles in Time be a Super Nintendo exclusive; they took Turtles in Time, made a new story, switched some levels around, and tweaked some animations, and then they released it on Genesis as The Hyperstone Heist. It is, in my opinion, a weak, gimped port of Turtles in Time (though there are a couple new levels, making that not an entirely fair assessment), but with a game as amazing as Turtles in Time, even a truly bad port would still be a good game, and this is definitely still a good game.
The story is that Shredder has used the Hyperstone to submerge Manhattan Island underwater as a demonstration of power and then took over the world, so obviously the turtles have to go stop him. Generic as TMNT plots go, but with TMNT, that's not a bad thing. The game is your classic Turtles beat 'em up, and it most respects, it plays pretty much the same as its superior and more popular brother, Turtles in Time. The biggest difference - and one of the few ways IMO that Hyperstone Heist can claim a superior feature - is the dedicated dash button. Otherwise the combat controls and feels pretty much the same with a few subtle differences here and there. The only other big gameplay difference is that Hyperstone Heist has fewer levels than Turtles in Time, but the levels are much longer. All in all, the games are roughly the same length with Hyperstone Heist coming in maybe a little bit shorter.
With regards to graphics and sound, a lot of that comes down to personal preferences between Genesis and Super Nintendo in terms of whether Hyperstone Heist or Turtles in Time is superior. The music in Turtles in Time generally sounds a bit smoother to me with more emphasis on treble whereas Hyperstone Heist has much inferior digitized voice samples and music that sounds rather tinny to my ear but features some kickin' bass. With regards to graphics, Hyperstone Heist is a brighter game with greater use of contrast, but Turtles in Time has more special effects, a superior color palette, and more detailed sprites than Hyperstone Heist, although it's also worth noting that those difference are exacerbated by the SNES's superior image quality over composite; I'm using HD Retrovision's component cables on my Genesis, and the difference is much more minor than over composite. It's definitely a subjective toss up with regards to visuals and sound between the two.
Overall, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist is an excellent beat 'em up and - at worst - a great consolation prize to Genesis owners over the SNES's Turtles in Time exclusivity. With a different story, rearranged or entirely new stages, and a soundtrack with a very different feel, Hyperstone Heist differentiates itself from Turtles in Time enough to be well worth owning on its own. If you're a Genesis fan, you need this in your collection, and if you're a TMNT fan, you DEFINITELY need this in your collection.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on iOS and OSX
Oh boy, when Starships came out, I was like a damn kid in a candy store in terms of excitement. It was my two FAVORITE things - space combat and Civilization - coming together. Or so I thought. Like with Beyond Earth, I had a very negative first impression of Starships, but when I changed my tune on Beyond Earth after revisiting it a few years after release, I decided to give Starships another shot, too.
Sid Meier has said that he envisioned Starships to be a stand alone expansion on the concept of Beyond Earth. We've left the Earth and colonized other worlds, but we'd have to have interstellar travel to do that, so why stop at controlling a new planet? Why not expand that to other star systems? Well, that would be great if that's what the game ended up being. It's not. You do conquer other star systems and expand your empire's borders, yeah, but don't expect this to be like Civilization. Imagine if Civilization were confined to a 10x10 map, and you could only have one unit.
So let me go through the gameplay in a little bit more detail. You have one fleet that you can move from system to system, either trying to gain "influence" with neutral systems (you need 4 influence blocks to annex a system), travel to your systems, or attack another empire's systems. You start off with two ships in that fleet, and you can add up to six more ships. Each ship has nine "sub-systems" that can be upgraded up to level 8 - engines, shields, hull, long range lasers, short range plasma cannons, super long range torpedoes, sensors, stealth, and fighters. The combat comes into play when your fleet enters a system; that's when the turn based tactical combat you'd expect from Civilization comes into play and your single fleet becomes however many independently controllable starships. Engines obviously dictate how much your ship can move each turn. Shields mitigate damage from enemy attacks. Hull is your ship's HP. Lasers are how your ship attacks if a targeted enemy is more than a couple hexes away; plasma cannons are how your ship attacks if a targeted enemy is within a couple hexes. Your torpedoes are aimed in a straight line and, after the turn you fire it, move more each turn and can be detonated at any time. In theory and in AI use, torpedoes are devastating, but I still can't figure out how to make them work, and the game offers almost no guidance. I'll detonate one right beside and ship and do zero damage. I don't get it. Anyway, sensors help you detect cloaked ships, and stealth is your own cloak. Fighters, obviously, determines the strength of the fighter squadrons that you can deploy from your ships.
At first, the space battles are actually a lot of fun, and when you go into a neutral system to try to get influence, you're given a random mission to complete, and there are three or four varieties of missions in those, so that's pretty fun at first, too. The problem is that it gets really boring really fast because you can't really customize your fleet; you just add a "ship." What you upgrade determines if it's a cruiser, a destroy, or a battleship, and every ship within one of those three categories is going to look identical. The only thing that changes appearance is the affinity - Supremacy, Purity, or Harmony - that you choose before a game starts. The presentation is also kind of balls. The main menu only has "Continue Game," "New Game," and "Load Game." There's a tiny options tab off the right side, but it only gives you volume options; there's no way to change video settings whatsoever, and the game is apparently locked at 30 fps whereas I can lock Civ V at 60 fps and even Beyond Earth with its fucked up V-sync runs at around 230 fps when I turn it off (as opposed to a solid 24 fps with it on; that's a weird situation I don't understand).
Starships is an exemplar of missed potential and wasted opportunity. It could so easily have been an amazing game, but much like communism, Star Trek Online, and having a complete political outside be president of the United States, it was INFINITELY better in theory than in practice and leaves you with your head in your hands repeatedly muttering "Oh my god, what have we done?" Given his design brilliance in other games, I have to question how much design input Sid Meier actually had with Starships. Was this just a fluke? It's clear that he's not lost his touch completely; Civilization VI is incredible. Between this and Civilization Revolution 2+, I guess 2015 was just a terrible, terrible year for Firaxis and strategy games. Don't bother with this one unless you see it on sale for, like, $3.
My Rating - 2 Neps
Also available on OSX and Linux
Civilization: Beyond Earth was released in 2014 as a sort of stop-gap game between the release of Civilization V and Civilization VI, and it was also a spiritual successor to Alpha Centauri, one of Sid Meier's games from 1999. Having gotten hooked hardcore on Civilization V the previous year, I was extraordinarily excited for Beyond Earth, especially with the sci-fi theme of the game. At the time, however, I was horribly disappointed with the game and quickly formed a negative opinion of it. Having had a few years between then and now, however, I decided to revisit the game and give it a shot without any preconceptions about what I want the game to be and rather judge it on what it is.
The basic premise of Beyond Earth is that humanity has - unsurprisingly - fucked up the Earth too badly for most human life, so we load up on some space ships and go find a new planet to fuck up. Your "civilizations" are actually colonies chartered by certain corporations, and your "leader" is the CEO of that corporation and, by extension, leader of the colony. Think the East India Company but in space and with lasers. Your research is also a "web" with certain research unlocking multiple branches in a much more complex method than a traditional Civilization game. There's also a thing called "affinity" that certain researches and quests (I'll explain those in a minute) give you points in, either Supremacy, Harmony, or Purity; basically is your attitude to dominate your new alien home and bend it to your will, live in a symbiotic relationship with your new alien home, do whatever it takes to retain what it is to be human and principally Terran, or - this is most common and most advantageous - do you blend all three to some degree?
So let's talk gameplay. The unit construction works pretty much the same as in regular Civ games, the only real difference being that when troops level up, they just gain passive stat boosts instead of specialized perks. It simplifies things, but they're less entertaining. Units also don't upgrade through research; raising your affinity levels (you can have points in all three) allows you to develop and essentially evolve your units, and the affinity evolution you choose will determine what two perks you get to choose between when you upgrade. The buildings and tile improvements also work basically the same as in classic Civilization games, but there are a LOT of buildings, and there are a few more types of tile improvements, as well. Cities halfway work the same way. I say halfway because there are two types of cities that you can build. Your land cities work the same; the only difference is that they start as an "outpost" for a few turns that you can't really do anything with until it develops into a full fledged city. The other type of city, however, is new and very different - floating cities. These begin the same way - as an outpost - but they're settled in the ocean instead of on land. When they develop into full cities, the main differences are that they can move (albeit only one tile at a time, and it takes a few turns) and that they don't gain territory over time like land cities do; they do so through movement. When you move your city to an adjacent tile, all tiles adjacent to it become its territory. So if you move an aquatic city to the right one tile, the tile in front, the tile to the upper right, and the tile to the lower right would all be added to its territory. It's a really cool take on cities that gives your naval units a dramatically increased importance.
My favorite gameplay change is really, in most ways, more a theme tweak than full on change, and that's the aliens. Instead of barbarians, Beyond Earth has aliens. Now don't go thinking you're going to be killing twiliks or Andorians or anything; these aren't humanoid, sentient aliens. They're basically things like enormous bugs and sea monsters and stuff. The reason that I like this more than barbarians is because it's different. Barbarians in traditional Civilization games use the same kinds of units you do; these aliens are, for lack of a better word, totally alien. They're COMPLETELY different from ANYTHING you can build. Through the right research, your Explorer units can "lasso" and take control of most alien units, but you can't build them. Furthermore there are certain colossal alien units like the dreaded Siege Worm. This worm - which can appear VERY early in the game, as I found out - is a RIDICULOUSLY powerful alien unit that attacks through melee and kills most units in one hit while taking VERY little damage from most units. If one of those things strikes your city early on, you're doomed; I threw my entire army at it (granted, that was only four units at the time), and by the time I managed to kill it, I had just a city surrounded by pillaged farms and no military left at all. Imagine the grabboids from Tremors but like a million times worse.
There are two more major gameplay differences that I feel are worth mentioning, one good and one bad. I'll start with the good - quests. You'll get quests randomly - some tied to research, some tied to random events and discoveries, some tied to building construction - that, when you complete the tasks, will offer you a choice for rewards. This may involve choosing between a point to Purity and a point to Harmony, choosing between a building giving you +1 science or +1 culture, choosing to get 1000 energy (gold) now or +1 every turn from a certain building, etc. It adds a cool element that gives you a bit more freedom of choice over how your empire develops. Now for that bad gameplay difference - diplomacy. It's EXTREMELY barebones. Instead of having treaties or pacts, you have just five general "attitude" levels - from best to worst, Allied, Cooperating, Neutral, Sanctioned, and War. That's it. The only real benefit to diplomacy is that there are certain agreements you can use diplomatic capital (another resource) to get with another colony that gives certain perks like faster city healing, reduced research cost, etc. It's not that the additions to the diplomacy that are bad; it's how much is stripped out. There's no trading outside of trade convoys; there's no choice of types of pacts; there's no joint declarations of war. It's just...so minimalistic, and the immersion really suffers for it.
So let's come back and recap my thoughts on Civilization: Beyond Earth. The alien environments keep things interesting along with the replacement of barbarians with alien creatures, and the miasma on some tiles that causes 10 damage to units standing there every turn (I hadn't mentioned this yet) adds another element to take into considering when planning city placement and troop movement. The addition of quests and revamping of the unit upgrades is different enough to liven the game up but not so foreign as to make it convoluted, and cities have been tweaked just enough to keep things fresh. My biggest complaint with the game is that all of those positive improvements came at the cost of completely cutting diplomacy, leaving your interactions with other empires a shell of what it was in Civilization V. While other factors also play into this, because of that severely limited diplomacy, Beyond Earth just doesn't "feel" like Civilization in a lot of ways. That's not to say, however, that it's a bad game. On the contrary, having spent pretty much an entire day with it again, I've come to enjoy the game a great deal. The downfall comes in expecting it to feel just like Civilization V on an alien planet because it doesn't. Beyond Earth is very much its own game distinct from the other Civilization titles, and as long as you approach it with that in mind rather than trying to force it into a shell it doesn't fit, you'll have a lot of fun with this one. I recommend it.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on iOS and Android
Oh boy, talk about disappointing. I absolutely loved the first Civilization Revolution, having played it on both Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Yeah, it's hella watered down Civilization, but it's still Civilization, and Revolution is what got me into Civilization, so it has a special place in my heart. When I heard that there was a second Civilization Revolution with a physical (albeit Asian only but thankfully with English text) release on Vita, I HAD to have that in my collection.
The game plays somewhat like Age of Empires for DS, and while that's not necessarily a bad thing, the controls aren't exactly intuitive. Some things, it wants you to use the touch screen for while others make you use the buttons. Sure, that's not unusual, but it's not always clear why it wants you to use one rather than the other. You scroll through your units using the D pad, but there's no list of units anywhere, so you can't just go straight to one, and best as I could tell, there's no specific order to your units aside from maybe the order of construction, so you're left to cycle through all of your units - both military and civilian - until you find the one you're looking for. When units are promoted, it gives you a choice of two random perks, and it doesn't explain what those perks do until you select one, although fortunately, it has an "Are you sure?" screen before you finalize your choice. Being an Asian game, you press O to advance and X to go back - the opposite of North American control norms - but that's not the weird part with those buttons. Seemingly arbitrarily, some things will do what you want them to with one press of the O button whereas other require you press the button twice as if double clicking. I don't know if that's actually how its designed or if the Vita is struggling to keep up with the sheer volume of disappointment in that game, but it got more than a little frustrating.
Visually, the game looks...okay. The Vita is definitely capable of more, but given that the game was originally designed for mobile phones, it makes sense that the graphics don't exactly push the limits of the system. The sound design feels somewhat uninspired and generic with regards to sound effects and music choices, but it's certainly not bad. The presentation, however, leaves a lot to be desired. Your choices are pretty much New Game or Load Game. There's no options menu whatsoever that I could find, and that's a bit unusual for any game, let alone a strategy game. When starting a game, you can choose between set scenarios, a randomly generated game, or a game with certain customizable parameters, although it is worth noting that the multiplayer featured in the iOS and Android versions of the game is curiously absent from the Vita port. Another thing left disappointingly absent from the first Civilization Revolution is the ability to form an army or corps from your units. In the first game, you could form an army if you stacked three of the same units on one another and combined them, forming one unit with more power than the sum of the three component units. I had hoped that would make a return in Revolution 2, but sadly, at least in the Vita version, it did not.
Civilization Revolution 2+ is a colossal disappointment. Sure, it added a couple new leaders and scenarios that the mobile versions didn't have, but it stripped out the multiplayer, so I'm not really sure how "plus" this version of the game is considering the game itself is pretty damn negative on its own. Yeah, it works, and it's definitely an okay turn based strategy game, but I wouldn't recommend this to anyone, honestly. Go with the first Revolution on 360 or PS3, one of the main series Civ games on PC, or Age of Empires on DS if you need a fix. Avoid this one.
My Rating - 2 Neps
Sit down, kids. It's time for a cautionary tale. Do NOT buy a game on Steam just because it's on sale for $1 and you think it looks cool. Read reviews first. Watch gameplay videos first. Look it up online first. I didn't do any of those things before I bought Apartment 666, and look at where I am now. I'll never get back the 30 minutes I wasted playing through this game or the $0.99 I paid to download it. Truly, it's the tragedy of our time.
Alright, let's break this train wreck of a game down. It's basically a "horror" walking simulator. Picture PT but really shitty and made by a 14 year old. That's Apartment 666. The layout of the apartment looks almost the same as PT, as well; just a right angle. You play as a 12 year old kid who can't find his parents in an apartment full of locked doors. When you get to the door at the end of the hallway, you end up in your bedroom again. Repeat this about 50 times, and that's the game. There's a little more to it than that, but it all pretty much involves the two doors on either end of the damn hallway. Every now and then one of the doors along the hallway will open. You'll usually have some newspaper clipping to read or some obscure and infuriatingly specific spot you have to stand on to trigger the door to unlock (because of course it closed behind you on its own). The latter is the part that really killed it for me. There's one particular part where you're in a "storage room" (although that's TOTALLY a casting couch and the kid just had no idea what his dad did for fun when he and his mom weren't home), and to unlock the door, there's a VERY specific spot in front of the couch that you have to stand on. It took me 10 minutes to figure that out; that's a third of the time I spent playing the damn game.
The next problem is the voice acting. Jesus Christ, the voice acting. I legitimately think the developer got his 12 year old kid cousin to read lines from a hastily written script one afternoon and called it a done job in one take. They're not even well written. It's crap like "I wonder where my mom and my dad are," "I knew that this was a bad idea..." and "I am back in my room again?" The kind of shit that sure, you might think in that situation but that even protagonists don't often say aloud, and protagonists never say them in that silted a manner. The dialogue is stiffer than a middle school boy spying on his 16 year old sister's sleepover. Also - and here's the kicker with functionality - the game has three achievements, and one of them is bugged. All three of them are story achievements; start the game, get like 10% through the game, and finish the game. The "finish the game" achievement is bugged and won't unlock. The dev says "Look, 2% of people have unlocked it! It works!" and we're all like "Bro, you've got a 15 minute game, and you're telling me that only 2% of people who start it finish it?" All of this in spite of the fact that there are dozens of people on the Steam discussions saying "Hey, I finished it, and it's still bugged."
Apartment 666 is fucking garbage, and I'm ashamed of myself for even spending $0.99 on it. The premise is interesting enough, even if it a blatant copy of PT, and it actually does manage to create a fairly creepy atmosphere early on...until its severe flaws become glaring. There's no real options menu, and your only graphical settings are to change "quality" between low, medium, and high (with absolutely no discernable difference between medium and high) and to change the resolution. No brightness setting despite severely needing one; parts of the game are so dark I literally had no idea where I was going and couldn't tell if the game had crashed or just plunged me into pitch black darkness. I almost wish the game had crashed. It sucks. Don't buy it. Go out and buy Sonic Boom or Chasing Dead before you buy this; both are infinitely more fun.
My Rating - 1 Nep
Dear god, this is possibly the best $5 I've ever spent. I was really disappointed with what I saw today when I went to check out the first day of Steam's summer sale, but this looked interesting enough, and I have a mild obsession with sharks, so I figured, "Eh, for $5, why not?" What a damn gem I found.
Depth is an asymmetrical multiplayer game where one team of four plays as divers, equipped with various kinds of harpoon guns, and a team of two plays as sharks. The divers have to protect their little treasure finding robot called S.T.E.V.E. (I don't remember what it stands for; I didn't care) from vicious sharks while it goes to search for treasure. The sharks, meanwhile, have to eat the divers and damage the S.T.E.V.E. to get those pesky fleshsacks out of their home. The scoring system is a bit like Battlefield in that each side starts the game with 30 respawn tickets, and once one team's tickets are exhausted and their last member is killed, the team loses.
If you're playing as a shark, rather than choosing weapons, you choose your species, and each species has different abilities. For example, Great Whites are slow but immensely powerful; makos are a little weaker but wicked fast; threshers are the weakest but the fastest, most agile, and smallest (meaning they're harder to shoot); hammerheads do extra damage to weak walls in the environment, etc. You can also either buy or unlock through earning treasure (similar to how Overwatch's loot boxes work) new skins for your sharks, although these are purely cosmetic. They add new playable species over time, and from what I can tell, they take community feedback into account when deciding what species to add by way of contests not unlike the contests Splatoon did (Cats vs. Dogs, Mustard vs. Ketchup, etc).
While there's no career mode, story, or campaign so to speak, you can play solo offline with bots filling in for the other five player spots. For most people, this won't matter, but as one who thinks about whether or not a game will be playable when the multiplayer servers are offline, this is a big deal to me. That's what pisses me off about Destiny, Overwatch, and The Division and why I swore off buying anymore "online only" games like that; it will literally be unplayable in the future. It's not a big deal to most people, but the fact that I could play solo with bots is actually what tipped me over the edge and convinced me to buy it.
Depth is a simple yet wildly addicting and entertaining game. The concept is interesting, and the way they balanced the teams - having the diver team have twice as many members as the shark team - is a great way to keep things fair while also keeping it from being everyone against one guy. While I wish there were some kind of career mode or progression or something with the single player, the fact that you can play solo against AI bots at all is a huge plus in my book, although this is one game I have absolutely no problem playing online despite the fact that I'm terrible at it. It's currently on sale for $5 in Steam's 2017 summer sale from a normal price of $20, but if you're one who enjoys online multiplayer and are interested in a unique asymmetrical game, I'd say that even with the full sticker price, it's worth it.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on Game Boy Color
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to my childhood. 3DO's ill-fated and frankly mediocre Army Men series was the backbone of my video game entertainment as a child. Sure, I played a lot of games, but until middle school, none caught my attention and fascination as much as Army Men, and it all started with this 1998 PC release.
The premise of Army Men is the same basic story that filled every child's mind when he or she played with plastic army men as a kid - the Green Nation and the Tan Nation are bitter enemies fighting a war spanning multiple fronts. In this first game, you're introduce to four factions - the Green Army, the protagonist nation; the Tan Army, the antagonist nation; the Grey Army, third faction at war with both the Green and the Tan; and the Blue Army, a seemingly neutral faction that aids whatever country pays for their espionage services. Although the role of the Blue and especially Grey armies isn't clarified much in the first game, the impression I get is that the Grey Nation just kind of got pulled into the war as fighting between the Green and Tan spilled over into their territory; towards the end of a game, you fight in a town in which a retired Grey colonel resides.
The game consists of three campaigns. You begin on the desert western front repelling the initial Tan invasion where you learn about a mysterious three-part "key" to a secret Tan super weapon. After acquiring the first part of the key, you learn from a Blue spy that the Tan are keeping the second key component at a mountain base on the northern front. After a few daring missions to rescue Green POWs, you acquire the key and learn from one of the prisoners you freed that the Grey Army is in possession of the third key piece in the bayou region which is engulfed in a fierce three-way fight on the southern front between Green, Tan, and Grey forces. After attacking the Grey base where the key piece is being stored, you help evacuate a Grey defector - the retired colonel I mentioned earlier - in exchange for information on the location of the ancient "portal" that this key unlocks.
Obviously I have a deep love for this game, but in all fairness, it's not an especially "good" game. Visually it definitely shows its age, and the sound design is pretty atrocious. The sound effects themselves are okay, but the voice acting is really bad (and there's not FMV to make it "so bad it's good"), and the music is truly horrific. Each campaign location has its own ten second clip that is repeated endlessly. The desert is by far the worst since it's literally just a simple slow tempo snare drum beat. Ten seconds of it. Repeated endlessly. The controls also take some getting used to. Unless you're navigating menus, calling in an air strike, or calling in paratroopers, you can forget about the mouse entirely. You use the arrow keys to move forward and backwards as well as rotate your aim clockwise and counterclockwise (I remapped these to WASD), the function keys to select between your rifle, your secondary weapon, and your special weapon (I remapped these to the number row), and the spacebar to fire. It only takes a mission or two to get used to the control scheme, but it feels really awkward until you do get used to it.
Army Men is a game with a lot of nostalgia for me, and that nostalgia is probably the bulk of the reason that I look back on it so fondly. Unfortunately, however, the game's controls feel very awkward compared to modern controls, the visuals aren't great, the sound is horrific, and the difficult is downright brutal on the few escort missions the game has. However, with that said, it can be a fun time if you're into the Army Men series or just like quirky 90s games, and it's only $5 of GoG.com. The nostalgic kid in me says that you should give it a go to check it out, but honestly, I can't recommend this one to anyone who's not a general fan of 90s PC games or the Army Men series.
My Rating - 2 Neps
Also available on OSX
First and foremost, this is the 1999 PC game, not the 1994 Atari Jaguar game or the 2009 game. Anyway, I got it for like $2 on GoG's summer sale because I saw it was cheap and a late 90s FPS (late 90s/early 2000s is my favorite era for FPS), so I thought why not? I honestly wasn't sure what to expect given that the Alien games have a....less than stellar track record. I've also never seen any of the Predator movies. I LOVE the Alien series, but I've yet to see anything with Predator.
Fortunately my hesitations were completely unneeded. The game's not a masterpiece, but it's a damn good time in short bursts. The game consists of three campaigns, each roughly six levels long; the colonial marine campaign is six missions, the xenomorph campaign is five missions, and the Predator campaign is six missions. In addition to the main missions, each species has a handful of bonus missions that you unlock after finishing that species' campaign. While I love that they added this to give the game a little more value, I only played a couple of these bonus missions; they're just the other species' missions rehashed. For example, some of the colonial marines' bonus missions would be a mission from the xenomorph campaign with the addition of a jetpack to allow you to traverse the 3D parts as a human. Certainly cool but nothing really new if you've already finished the three story campaigns.
Speaking of story campaigns, while the story isn't strong or told particularly well, there is a story for each species. In the colonial marines campaign, your goal is to try to rid various USCM ships before a final confrontation with the xenomorph queen. In the xenomorph campaign, you try to drive the humans out of your hives and recover eggs that have been stolen by human scientists and marines. In the Predator campaign, you....actually....I'm not entirely sure what you're supposed to be doing. All I really gathered from it was "Go kill shit and prove your honor" or something. Idk. Anyway, that campaign ends by hunting a xenomorph queen.
Anyway, the visuals are okay for a 1999 game. They don't look quite as good as Unreal Tournament, but for the time, they're certainly not bad. The sound design, while generally kind of "meh," did stand out in one regard. The game featured a sort of pseudo-3D stereo sound where the volume of dialogue and which speaker played the audio changed based on your proximity to the monitor and where it was in relation to your character. I know that's nothing too unusual these days, but to see it done pretty well in a 1999 game stood out to me. Otherwise, the sound design is just okay. The music is forgettable, and the sound effects are just okay. One thing that was BRILLINATLY done, however, were the FMV scenes that played on monitors at various points in the game. They were pure 90s FMV brilliance. Worse acting than a high school play and more cheese than a deep dish pizza, they truly were the highlight of the game for me.
In addition to the single player, there's also online multiplayer (which I assume still works; I honestly didn't care enough about it to test it) and your local multiplayer mode against bots called Skirmish. I know that's an alien concept (no pun intended) for kids these days, but back in my day, we used to play multiplayer matches against either real life people in the same room or AI controlled characters called "bots." Just another thing these damn kids killed with their PlayStation Live and Xbox Network or whatever.
Aliens Versus Predator is a perfect example of a late 90s licensed video game done right. It's not flawless, and it definitely shows its age in both visuals and gameplay, but it's fun, it's got a huge amount of gameplay diversity, and it's one of the most fast paced FPS games I've played in a long time. It's got a couple dozen single player missions with three different difficulty settings as well as both online and bot multiplayer, and to top it all, it's dirt cheap, even when it's not on sale. If you're into either the Alien and/or Predator series, late 90s shooters, or (ideally) both, definitely make sure you download this on either GoG or Steam.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on OSX and Linux
Breakthrough is the second of Medal of Honor: Allied Assault's two expansion packs, and this one has you fight against the Italians (and, obviously, some Germans) in North Africa and Sicily. Like Spearhead, being an expansion of Allied Assault, the gameplay is obviously the same, but unlike Spearhead, I wasn't left feeling rather disappointed after finishing Breakthrough.
The big way that Breakthrough differs from Spearhead is that this expansion didn't feel rushed at all. The difficulty was MUCH better paced and increased on a reasonable curve instead of looking like a damn mountain range. There weren't any super bullshit tank levels (the couple tank sequences were pretty well done), and there weren't any spots with health raining from the sky juxtaposed against other spots of absolute health droughts. Speaking of difficulty, I found Breakthrough to be an excellent expansion in that - in my opinion, at least - it provided a slightly increased difficulty vs the base Allied Assault campaign. Not brutal or anything, but it definitely gave the feeling of "You've finished Allied Assault? Alright, try this." It was a challenging campaign in parts, and I couldn't always just Leeroy Jenkins shit as I like to do.
That all isn't to say that Breakthrough is without its flaws, however. Like Spearhead, it took more finagling to get working properly on a Windows 10 PC than the base game did, and I still noticed slightly more glitches than in the base game. It wasn't severe or anything, and it still seemed improved over Spearhead, but I did have a couple of Nazis walk straight through a stone wall and into the house in which I was taking cover. Another time I saw an ally holding his gun backwards and firing into his chest while hitting the enemy. None of these glitches really broke the game or hindered my experience, but they were a bit jarring at times.
While I still think the core game reigns supreme, Medal of Honor: Allied Assault - Breakthrough is everything that an expansion pack should be. It adds a new campaign that is both well made and balanced with few bugs and a fair, reasonable difficulty curve. It expands on the war, telling part of the story of a front that was not only just briefly mentioned in the core game but is also largely ignored by WWII media in general. Given how quickly and relatively easily the Italians were defeated, we rarely pay any attention to that theater of the war, but the men who fought and died against Erwin Rommel's Afrika Corps and Mussolini's forces deserve recognition as well, and it's nice to see an expansion dedicated to those two parts of the conflict. Clearly EA learned something from Spearhead because Breakthrough is a markedly superior effort in pretty much every way.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on OSX and Linux
Speadhead is the first of two expansion packs for Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, and while it's certainly shorter than the main game - three missions clocking in around three hours total as opposed to six missions clocking in around six hours total - it's still a substantial little campaign. It's basically more of the same and even revisits Normandy albeit in the context of the aftermath of the D-Day invasion rather than the invasion itself. In addition to Normandy, you fight the infamous Battle of the Bulge as well as the Battle of Berlin.
In terms of gameplay, it plays exactly like the base Allied Assault game which makes sense considering that it's just an expansion pack, or as the young people these days would call it, "DLC," back when you paid $20 or $30 for an extra campaign instead of $5 or $10 for two or three extra multiplayer maps. Despite being essentially "more of the same," I was left the impression that Spearhead felt a bit rushed. The difficulty wasn't nearly as well balanced as in the core game with some portions being an absolute breeze and others - the infamous snowy "sniper alley" level where the snipers are all Tiger tanks - are balls hard are no matter what difficulty you play on. The health drops also seemed rather haphazard and much less thoughtfully placed. Like with the difficulty, some stages would have you think Costco was having a clearance sale on medkits whereas I literally couldn't find a single health kit in others.
One positive thing that Spearhead did better than the core game in my opinion, however, was ally diversity. In the core game, you were pretty much always fighting with Americans. You may have a British SAS agent or a French resistance operative helping you, but it was pretty much American combat. In Spearhead, you fight with an American unit in one mission, a British unit in another, and a Russian unit in the last (which is obvious to anyone who's familiar with the Battle of Berlin). It's a small thing and something that a lot of folks likely don't care about at all, but it gave it some nice variety for me.
The Spearhead expansion for Medal of Honor: Allied Assault is a fairly good albeit somewhat disappointing add-on to a legendary game. The gameplay is what you've come to love from Allied Assault, but the whole expansion feels like another couple months in development could have made a world of difference. That's really all it would have needed because there aren't any glaring issues but rather minor indicators of a rushed production - unbalanced difficulty, haphazard health placement, more numerous graphical and terrain glitches, etc. It's by no means bad, and it could certainly hold its own against many stand-alone World War II games, but given the game of which it's an expansion, it's impossible not to feel a little disappointed after finishing Spearhead.
My Rating - 3 Neps
I'm Mr. Deck
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach history at a high school in central North Carolina; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.