Friday, January 13, 2006

Byte: Status Report

A couple of things to report today: Firstly, I should have my review of Mario Kart DS go up on Pro-G in the next day or two. Sublime stuff, even if I do have to travel five miles to the nearest wi-fi enabled pub to be able to play it online.

Secondly, after reading the "Why don't they remake..." article in the latest edition of gamesTM about Ant Attack, it appears that the very promising Blitz3D remake of Ant Attack I discovered by chance when I was still running State is dead and buried. Modesty's not updated her blog in nearly a year, and her website URL's up for renewal, which is disappointing. I still have a very early set of Alpha code lurking around on my laptop's hard drive; I'd really been looking forward to this, as Modesty had some really nice ideas of how to improve it over the original Speccy version. Ah, well. At least I still have the Alpha code to remember you by!

Finally, after the relative success of downloading Pirates of the Sword Coast for Neverwinter Nights, after reinstalling Half-Life 2 yesterday, I was suddenly all nostalgic to play Half-Life (1) again. Unfortunately, my Half-Life CD has gone AWOL somewhere, and I can't find the bloody thing, so I thought I'd download Half-Life: Source, since it's just as cheap to download it as buying it in the shops, plus you get the game reworked in the Source Engine. It doesn't make that much difference cosmetically (it's on a par with the original HL: Blueshift remaster), except for the lovely water effects and all the post-OpenGL particle and lighting effects. However, it's still an incredible game to play, especially when you notice those little differences in gameplay the port to the Source engine has made. They're subtle, but occasionally striking, most notably with the physics. The first time it really caught me off guard was towards the tail end of Unforeseen Consequences, when you have to use several package crates suspended from crane cables to traverse from one balcony to another.

Even in the original, this was a section that had me reaching for the quicksave, but I simply wasn't prepared for what happened when I leapt onto the first crate. The momentum from my jump transferred itself to the crate and it started to swing. A *lot*. After a few seconds, it was enough to start making me feel a little bit seasick, which rather complicated the next series of jumps. Especially since your momentum can sometimes make you slide when you land, making you slip off the top of the crate to a plummetting doom. There are other improvements, too. The Physics of the shotgun seems improved, and the flashlight is much better than in the original engine. You can actually see further than three feet with it in air vents, which is nice. The AI of the Barneys and Scientists is a lot better than in the original, as well. At one point in Office Complex I had two Barneys and four scientists following me around, which was rather amusing. I'm just up to Blast Pit, which is probably my least favourite level of the lot - because of that bloody tentacle creature. Brrr. Still, after having not played it for a couple of years, it's a damn good game even now. Can't wait to get my hands on the Egon Gun and Tau Cannon again. It'll be like seeing old friends.

I have to admit, after a bit of a dodgy start, I am starting to quite like Steam, and the whole internet game distribution thing in general. When you have as many games as I do (something over 200 at this point) it's nice to not have to faff around getting out CDs and the like. So, could digital distribution be the way of the future? Provided broadband keeps getting faster, and developers let us have their titles for a discount as opposed to retail, let's hope so...
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