World of Warcraft Review

This game is, quite simply, the best Fantasy MMORPG I have ever encountered. Having played during the entire 11 day Stress Test, I can honestly say it will probably be around even longer than EverQuest. This work of art has all the magic of EQ, without the many frustrations that finally caused me to give up on EQ (such as extreme grind, a very punitive death penalty, and being forced to group at high levels).

The graphics in WoW are awesome. Some people complain about the “cartoonish” colors, etc. I find these graphics to be very pleasing to the eye, and extremely well detailed and arranged. Guess this just shows that it isn’t possible to please everyone, particularly those who go out of their way to find a flaw in other people’s creations. To me, it is just right.

I won’t elaborate on the basics of the game, such as the 8 races and 9 classes. Others have already covered them. Rather, I will focus on some other areas that are important to older players (I will soon be 60 years old, and no longer have the lightning-fast hand to eye coordination and sharp vision I once enjoyed).

There appeared to be no need for extremely quick reflexes in this game, but instead a player needs to use strategy and planning to avoid getting in over one’s head. The wonderful hotkey bar across the entire bottom of the screen was very helpful and well thought out. Kudos to Blizzard for making such a great interface. The screen is not all cluttered up like it is in most games.

The game runs on a 24-hour clock, so it is dark nearly half the time. Blizzard wisely chose to not make the game black as night in most locations. It is possible to play effectively in caves and other usually extremely dark areas, without benefit of an external light. I thought this was a very wise decision and really enjoyed playing in those locations for the first time ever in an MMORPG. Some players complain that it is too bright. I would say to them: Turn down your Gamma control in the game if you like. Many of us do not have your young night-vision, and we are paying customers too. I think that Blizzard got this part just right.

The quest system in this game is better than I have ever seen. I actually liked doing quests, something I haven’t previously enjoyed. Also, quests give lots of experience, and since they can usually be done on a casual basis, they don’t require the same level of one-track focus that they do in other games I have played.

During this “way too short” Stress Test, I decided to try a variety of different characters and locations, so played the following characters: Night Elf Druid, lvl 12; Tauren Hunter, lvl 13; Human Mage, lvl 8; Human Warlock, lvl 6; Gnome Warlock, lvl 6; Troll Shaman, lvl 6. Unfortunately, I have a full-time job and could only devote about 40 hours a week to the game. The initial leveling rate is quite quick, with it slowing down a lot at about level 12. Just about right, IMO.

The game is bug-free, for the most part. It is way more bug-free than SWG is even today. I would be willing to pay a subscription now, if it would “get me my game back!”. There are only two problems I see with this game:

1. Even though the Stress Test ended at 6pm Sunday evening, three days later I am still going through withdrawal and still have no desire to play on my two City of Heroes and three SWG accounts.

2. World of Warcraft is still not out, so my pre-ordered copy hasn’t arrived, nor do I know when that will happen. The sooner, the better, IMO. There is no doubt in my mind that this game will be way more popular that EQ2, which I also plan to try. Hopefully WoW will arrive first.

Verdict: 90/100

Top Spin PC Review (2004)

As a major fan of Sega’s Virtua Tennis and Tennis 2K2 on the Dreamcast (the latter also appearing on the PS2 as Sega Sports Tennis), I could not wait to get my hands on Power And Magic Development’s newest virtual tennis game, Top Spin Tennis. A relatively unheralded console developer, PAM has done a fantastic job taking Sega’s amazing formula and attempting to refine it – in fact there are aspects of Top Spin that are improvements – but despite the online capabilities of Top Spin, the gameplay itself doesn’t quite match the fine-tuned perfection of Sega’s efforts.

Top Spin was designed from the start to be more of a simulation than the arcade-based Virtua Tennis, and as such has more complex gameplay. Each face button on the Xbox’s controller is used for a different kind of shot: A is a “safe” shot, X is a slice, B is an angled top spin shot, and Y is a lob. These shots can also be used to mix up your serves. In addition, each trigger performs a “risk” shot, which can be quite a potent weapon when mastered. The R trigger is used for power smashes, and the L trigger is used for drop shots. As a result, the game doesn’t quite have the same instant pick-up-and-play accessibility of Virtua Tennis, but once some time is spent behind the controller, the shots become second nature. Top Spin also features an In The Zone meter, which is basically a power meter meant to simulate adrenaline. Play well, and the meter rises, and once full, risk shots come easier and the player performs at his/her peak. To help with this, you can have your player react in between points, celebrating a great effort or complaining at a missed opportunity.

Top Spin features several modes, including a tutorial, Exhibition for up to four players, and a mode that lets you create a Custom Tournament. Most of your single-player hours will be spent in Career Mode, in which you build your own player using a pretty robust creation system and send him or her out on tour in a quest to become number one in the world. Your player travels from continent to continent, competing in various tournaments, earning sponsorships, and visiting coaches to learn skills. This aspect of Top Spin is closer to an RPG than Virtua Tennis, as you must choose distinct strengths for your character instead of becoming a superhuman performer. It is important in Top Spin to choose skills that will cover up your weaknesses (as you cannot max out all abilities), but it is also possible to become a specialized power baseliner or a quick serve & volleyer. You earn money for match wins, which you can use to purchase more gear and to pay coaches to train you, and victories also assure a rise in rank, but should you lose a match or two, your rank will drop. The Career Mode is a very nice idea, but it doesn’t have the imaginative challenges of Virtua Tennis (where you’d serve to knock over bowling pins, etc. etc.) and you can enter any tournament at any time, rather than having to wait a simulated year before retrying. When you add that Top Spin’s AI can be easily exploited, the battle to become and stay number one can drag.

Visually, the game is terrific, especially the detail of the courts. Fully polygonal crowds cheer, real-life ads are everywhere in the larger arenas, and cities rise in the background. There are even playground courts ranging from in the middle of the desert to indoor arenas with snow falling outside or joggers out for some morning exercise. Player animation is very well-done, and the licensed players look strikingly lifelike, even down to signature animations (Lleyton Hewitt’s serve looks just like it does on TV). However, there are no night courts, the ball boys don’t chase the ball, and ambient shadows don’t change during play as in Sega’s games.

Top Spin’s sound package isn’t quite as remarkable. Matches can get very quiet with no music or crowd noise – only the grunts of the players and the smack of the rackets. It’s supposed to simulate real matches, but the option to include music would have been welcome. In addition, crowd noise will suddenly appear as a roar out of nowhere, which can be jarring.

The gameplay itself is good, but doesn’t quite measure up to Virtua Tennis or Tennis 2K2. New players will have trouble making risk shots, and as a result, points can be unnaturally long, especially in doubles. Sega’s games did a great job allowing many types of shots with just the control stick and a single button, but it’s not so easy to pull off a drop shot in Top Spin. Players will often lunge when you don’t want them to, and then won’t lunge when you DO want them to. Top Spin also is a lot more sensitive when it comes to player position in relation to the ball – in order to hit with power, you’ve got to be in exactly the right position, even after being fully trained. You’d think that a pro player could adjust, but Top Spin is a little too precise. Also, once players get the timing of the risk shots down, matches end up going far too quickly and lose a lot of the sim nature.

Still, even with these slight problems, Top Spin is quite an achievement. It looks great, plays well online or off, and has a deep Career Mode. With a couple of changes, Power And Magic could very well upset Sega’s Tennis 2K2 as king of the virtual court.

Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow Review (Some great updates to the original.,)

If you are coming off playing the original and thinking about getting
Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow then chances are you liked the first
one. If you liked the first one there is nothing about Pandora that
will disappoint. It exceeds the original in almost every category.

are a few new moves in this outing. They are easy to learn and
incorporate if you are already accustomed to the first game. If you
have not played the first SC, then you will have a much higher learning
curve. I would also recommend playing the original first, as it is
extremely cheap right now and very fun. The original will hone your
skills for taking Pandora on.

Pandora bests the original in
graphics and also corrects some strange behaviors that were in place in
the original game. The most noticeable is the absence of bullet-proof
light bulbs. My friends and I use to have fun pointing out that flaw in
the original. We would joke around about how terrorists shouldn’t be
in it for the money if they had enough to install so many bullet-proof
lightbulbs. We would also go on about “boo-let-pruf-leit-bulbs” in
thick russian accents – good times. So far all light-bulbs in this game
are breakable. I still do not understand why there is no option to
simply unscrew a lightbulb. You still have to waste a bullet (or find a
throwable glass bottle) to create some cover of darkness.

A new
welcome feature in Pandora is the quicksave/load. I played the original
on the X-box, so this might not be new in the PC versions. I don’t
know how many times I had to execute a sequence of events that took 15
minutes just so I could mess up time and time again at some difficult
spot right before the checkpoint. No such headache here.

A few
new improvements include an indicator that tells you exactly how many
times you can be spotted before the mission is compromised and an
indicator that tells you when bodies are sufficiently hidden.

is a fun continuation of the original. It suffers from the sequel
syndrome – that it may have not lived up to expectations of some, but
this is certainly a great outing for ubisoft – irregardless of their
attempts to curb piracy that only serve to alienate their fanbase.

Verdict: 78/100       

Tetris Elements Review

its got 6 modes including classic tetris. It basically changes the back round and then one extra thing, like in the fire mode you can clear 8 rows instead of 4 if you super heat the bottom 4 rows by dropping them fast.
You can load your music into the program by putting it in the music folder provided so you can listen to your tunes while you play without minimizing. It keeps your score and you can have several log ons.

The only problem is you can’t minimize (probably because its an old game?) you have to use CTRL-ALT-DELETE. It doesn’t crash the game, thankfully, but its kinda annoying.

One other thing is that when you get a tetris (clear 4 rows at once) the game lags for a second. It doesn’t matter if you’re competing because it consistently lags for a second (freezes the game to give you your bonus score) so it’ll be fair, i just found it slightly annoying.

I’d say if you really like tetris, its worth the $15 i payed for it.

Verdict: 75/100