Medieval II: Total War – Kingdoms

PUBLISHER: Sega DEVELOPER: The Creative Assembly GENRE: Strategy ESRB RATING: Teen MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS: 1.5GHz CPU, 512MB RAM, 9GB hard drive space, 128MB videocard, Medieval II: Total War MULTIPLAYER: 2-8 players

Review: Install Medieval II: Total War—Kingdoms on your PC and you get not one, not two, but four separate executables and desktop shortcuts to enjoy—you can almost hear developer Creative Assembly shouting, “Cripes, man, look at how much game you’re getting here!” And it’s true: Kingdoms is a monster of an expansion, though instead of piling on new features or fiddling much with the game design, it takes the route of simply offering players a ton more to do. You liked the first game? Well, here’s a lot more of it, dammit.
TETRALOGY
Pretty much everything we said about the original Medieval II holds true here: the turnbased campaign is the game’s strength, and the real-time battles are impressively detailed and tactically rich, but ultimately too same-y. (I personally prefer tapping the “autoresolve” button
and playing the game that way.) The developers evidently understood the campaign’s strength,
too, as that’s the crux of the new content: four complete, very distinct new campaigns—titled
Britannia, Crusades, Teutonic, and Americas— with new maps and factions to play with. A new faction in Medieval II isn’t the same as a new faction in most RTS games, of course; the difference between the Aztecs and Wales is hardly the difference between the Protoss and the Zerg. And so the maps are the biggest draw, as they focus the theater of war to the Middle East (in the case of the Crusades campaign) or the New World (Americas) or a far more detailed representation of the British Isles (Britannia) than you stomped on in the original Medieval II.

That’s a whole lot of new ground to cover, especially given that the campaigns play out quite differently depending on what faction you choose. Pick Aztecs, and you find your- self pitting legions of infantry against Spain’s abundant conquerors in shining armor; pick the Teutonic Order, and priest agents become paramount; pick any faction in the Britannia campaign, and priests (and the game’s entire religion mechanic, really) are nonexistent. Major events—such as the arrival of a Crusading noble to join in your jolly pagan fox hunt, or the forming of a new faction—keep you on your toes and inject personality, encouraging you to almost “role-play” the tyrannical zealots or freedom-fighting underdogs you’re controlling. For those who are into the real-time battles (I was bored of them in the original long before I grew tired of the campaign), the game boasts a new unit count somewhere over 100, but I suspect most players will parse everything as “weak infantry,” “strong artillery,” or “shoots arrows” anyway—even when they’re hurling hornets’ nests or javelins instead. I suppose someone out there might be paying close attention to all the stats of the varying units, so they know what separates one spearman from the next—but for me, Medieval II already has enough numbers to worry about. I’m still busy counting desktop shortcuts.•

Bioshock

PUBLISHER: 2K Games DEVELOPER: 2K Boston/2K Australia GENRE: First-Person Shooter ESRB RATING: Mature MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS: 2.4GHz CPU, 1GB RAM, 8GB hard drive space, 128MB videocard, Internet connection

Review:Tvvo corpses, dressed to t.he nines, embrace on a filthy mattress in t.he back room of a bar. A bottle of sleeping pills lies spilled on t.he floor…& judging by t.he texture & color of
t.he couple’s skin, they dovvned t.he missing tablets months ago. An old tape recorder one of t.he many left conveniently scattered around t.he undervvater museum mausoleum of Rapture crackles vvith t.he thick Russian accent of t.he vvoman on t.he mattress, vvailing that she had just spotted her missing daughter on t.he street, & that she had become 1 of those…those things—t.he Little Sisters, t.he living dead dolls that cravvl around Rapture, consuming corpses & calling them angels. Screvv t.he ammo in t.he corner & t.he gene tonic hiding in t.he vvall: In BioShock, sometimes a room is t.he greatest revvard. www.allpcgame.net
A MAN CHOOSES
Here’s a game that serves as t.he perfect counterpoint to Roger Ebert’s notorious assertion that
games ain’t art (if you care about such crap), & not just because Rapture really is a magnificent museum of t.he morbid, its fascinating tap e.recorder diaries like discarded Alcatraz audio.tour headsets. Ebert cites “player control” as 1 of gaming’s biggest hurdles to t.he “A” vvord, but BioShock’s big message is that choice is largely an illusion. You think you’re making decisions, but really, someone else is pulling t.he strings, vvhether it’s a character quite pointedly
planting thoughts in our brain or level designers directing u to t.he next important hallvvay.

“You are being manipulated,” BioShock says, over and over again. Puppeteers hand out unassailable assignments, reservations (is Tenenbaum playing me now?) and ethical objections (did Sander Cohen just ask me to become a cold-blooded murderer?) be damned. Instead of asking, “How would you like to do this?” BioShock asks, “How do you feel now that you’ve been forced to?”—and, on a few occasions, it gives you the opportunity to say a cathartic “f***
you” to the crazy postobjectivist monster who just played you. Then it grins and asks again, “Now how do you feel?” BioShock’s greatest achievement is getting you to answer back.
While games like The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic offer muddy morality choices through dialogue trees, BioShock offers only one clear decision with any big repercussions: Kill little girls or save them? Pitch-black or glowing white? Either option leads down surprisingly similar paths, the only major difference being an unfulfilling “bad” ending that basically says, “Even when you choose, you’ve got no choice.” While you have little say in what path you wander, you ironically have plenty when it comes to how you follow it: Mix and match plasmids, weapons, and incidental explosive barrels to your liking—or don’t.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08

PUBLISHER: EA Sports DEVELOPER: EA Tiburon GENRE: Sports ESRB RATING : Everyone MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS: 1.6GHz CPU, 256MB RAM (512MB in Vista), 3GB hard drive space, 64MB videocard (128MB in Vista) MULTIPLAYER: 2-4 players

Everything old is…well, mostly still old

review: If you put a gun to my head and demanded I choose between the Windows and Xbox 360 versions of Tiger 08, well…things might get a little messy. On the one hand, this version is somewhat more realistic in its approach to the game. And it’s considerably more forgiving in the putting department, which is a welcome change. But, oh, those character models. Watching these dated-looking, mannequin-esque golfers stomp woodenly through the lush, detailed links is like a crash course in the theory of the Uncanny Valley. In fact, much of the game feels like an afterthought to its more modernseeming console brethren. The stat system, for example, is drastically simplified, and absent are the skill challenges that allow you to build up a created character’s abilities. This version is geared more toward the reallife golfer, though, with more courses, a more complex shot system, and a vastly more realistic PGA Tour mode (in which you start out as a nobody, rather than jumping right in against the pros). Better yet, the elegant “TrueSwing” system returns; the action of pulling smoothly back on the mouse and pushing forward—with the proper tempo, direction, and speed—is the closest thing to actually playing the game we’re likely to see for a while. Of course, aside from the marginally effective confidence system—which boosts or hurts your accuracy depending on how familiar you are with a hole—you’ll find hardly anything significant enough to justify a purchase if you already own Tiger 07…or even 06.•

Loki

PC game / Based on the folklore of four cultures, Loki is the story of Seth, the Egyptian god of chaos and his desire to destroy all mythology. To stop him from realizing his vision, gamers must take the role of a Norse warrior, Greek fighter, Aztec shaman, or Egyptian sorcerer. Each character comes with their own spells, powers, and weapons; however, gamers may increase the overall effectiveness of their armaments by combining runes and other materials at the village forge.

As players make their way through the adventure, they will find themselves at such battles as the siege of Troy and the battle of Ragnarok. Loki is filled with over 100 different types of enemies including the Minotaur, skeletons, centaurs, various soldiers, mummies, and harpies. Throughout these battles gamers fight shoulder to shoulder with legends of combat including Achilles, Thor, and Akhenaton as they take on Medusa, Fenrir, and Fafnir. Players may journey alongside friends in a group or challenge each other to player-vs.-player competitions.

911: First Responders

PC game / In 911: First Responders, become the head of operations in a fictional rescue and catastrophe management organization. Command a number of vehicles and staff from the fire department, medical rescue, police and technical services. Be a real world hero set against a background of continuous day/night changes and constantly varying weather conditions.

Featuring:
20 Exciting Missions with multiple life saving solutions set in diverse locations around the world – from Antarctica to the Middle East to Your Hometown.
* Realistic Catastrophes and Detailed Graphics – manage a large team of emergency professionals through a wide range of physical conditions and situations.
* Control All Emergency Units ranging from SEK scouts, recovery helicopters, technical ancillary services, fire rescue, EMT, and even TransAid large-capacity aircraft.
* Realistic Physical Conditions featuring collapsing buildings and bridges, blast waves, even object weight and material for an truly authentic experience.

A.I.M. 2: Clan Wars

PC game / A.I.M. 2 is the sequel to the epic science fiction first-person action RPG
developed by SkyRiver Studios. Its compelling story and unique look lift off exactly where the original ended.
Changes in the control system have led to new opportunities for the inhabitants of the Polygon planet. Mechminds, advanced robots, opened new sectors and have started exploring them. With the course of time Mechminds and their culture have altered greatly with some old clans fading away as new ones evolved.
New clans led by Mechminds of the Fifth Generation are powerful and
well-organized formations with far-reaching plans. Powerful groups have different interests that often crossed, war broke out again. However this time it is the struggle not for mere control, this is struggle for survival. The clans want to eliminate the weaker ones standing in their way and will stop at nothing to dominate their enemies. To achieve their goals they use not only military means, but economic ones as well. As of now none of the clans has managed to achieve
complete victory.
You are a part of the oldest clan called the Reckoners, a dedicated group looking for the firstborn Mechmind of the Fifth Generation. This could be a chance to restore former might for your clan which has lost its power and even be victorious in the war.

Madden NFL 08

PUBLISHER: EA Sports DEVELOPER: EA Tiburon GENRE: Sports ESRB RATING: Everyone MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS: 800MHz CPU (1.8GHz in Windows Vista), 256MB RAM (1GB in Windows Vista), 2.1GB hard drive space (gamepad recommended) MULTIPLAYER: 2-8 players

Review: It’s high time that EA Sports stepped up the quality of its PC productions, because porting last-gen console games just doesn’t cut it anymore. Madden 08 is pretty much a highres

version of the Xbox (not 360) game, littered with enough sugarcoated upgrades to distract you—until you dig deep into the gameplay. The new weapons feature, for example, is a great way to differentiate the superstars from the subpar stars, but this doesn’t make it any easier for one of those studs—or any player, really—to break up a pass or put a hit-stick lick on a ball carrier because the controls in those areas are plain unresponsive.

The game looks sharp, but closer inspection shows a lack of differentiation in the player models. The addition of smart routes that allow defenses to deny passes on first down is welcome, but throwing the deep ball still means far, far too many home-run receptions. In fact, QBs have no limits
on their ability to hurl the ball a mile—even while on the run—with a simple flick of the wrist. No windup necessary! Also of note: Throwing the red flag to challenge a referee’s call is plain busted; the zebras miss a handful of obvious calls, and they don’t fix them after going under the replay hood. But the game’s biggest sticking point is its A.I.—new-gen Madden underwent an overhaul, but you wouldn’t know it from playing this port. And the worst part is that you don’t have a choice: If you want NFL football on the PC, this is the only stop. It’s not a bad game, but it’s a shame this afterthought wasn’t better.

Medieval: Total War

PC game / This historical war game features both long-term empire building and real-time combat. The game is set in the heart of the Dark Ages, between the 11th and 15th centuries, and features hundreds of historical battlefields from western reaches of Europe to the northern tip of Africa. Players can choose to lead the English, the French, the Byzantines, the Turks, or one of eight other rising nations. Special campaigns allow players to take the roles of famous figures, such as Richard the Lionheart or Joan of Arc, and follow historical movements like the Crusades, the Mongol Invasions, and the Hundred Years War. The game’s 12 playable factions feature over 100 unit types each and battles can involve as many as 10,000 troops.

Gameplay

Medieval: Total War is based upon the building of an empire across medieval Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. It focuses on the warfare, religion and politics of the time to ultimately lead the player in conquest of the known world. As with the preceding Total War game, Shogun: Total War, the game consists of two broad areas of gameplay: a turn-based campaign map that allows the user to move armies across provinces, control agents, diplomacy, religion, and other tasks needed to run their faction, and a real-time battlefield, where the player directs the land battles and sieges that occur.

The strategic portion of the game divides the campaign map among twenty factions from the period, with a total of twelve being playable. The initial extent of each major faction’s territory, and the factions available, depends on the starting period of the game, Early (1087), High (1205) or Late (1321), reflecting the historical state of these factions over time. The factions themselves represent many of the major nations at the time, including the Byzantine Empire, France, England, the Holy Roman Empire and the Ottoman Empire. Several factions, such as the Golden Horde, emerge during the course of play at their historical time. These factions, together with several other factions appearing at the start of the campaign, are unavailable to the player in the main campaign. Each faction varies in territory, religion and units; however, factions of the same culture share many of their core units.

In addition to the main campaign, Medieval: Total War also features a game mode where the player can undertake various historical campaigns and battles. Historical campaigns allow the player to control a series of famous battles from a war of the medieval period, such as the Hundred Years War and the Crusades, playing as historic commanders like Richard the Lionheart. Individual historic battles have the player controlling a historical figure in an isolated battle that occurred in the era, such as controlling William Wallace through the Battle of Stirling Bridge.

ANKH 2 Heart Of Osiris

PC game / Having rid himself of the death curse and saved the Ankh from the hands of Osiris, the wicked God of the Underworld, Assil has now woken up in the dingy back streets of Cairo with a blinding hangover only to discover the Ankh is missing! With no time to lose, Assil must recover the Ankh and ensure that it doesn’t fall into the hands of Osiris; to do so would be a catastrophe enabling him to launch his own fiendish plan.

Ankh: Heart of Osiris takes the game play, characters and locations to new levels. The environments are richer and more detailed, allowing for more in-depth exploration and a vivid in-game experience. Superior voice acting, cinematic full motion sequences plus sophisticated graphics with dynamic light, shadow and glow effects provide additional dimensions to the game.