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I would start with the few that I don’t like. Although I wrote a guide for both Resident Evil 1 and 2, I am actually very disappointed with these two games. Its graphics is simply lousy. And RE2 has aboslutely nothing new — just like playing RE1 again inside a different building. RE3 has much better graphics (uses DirectX 6), and even have reconfigurable keys. However, the movements are just as stupid. Strangely, the story of RE3 starts immediately after RE1 and before RE2.
If you like Resident Evil, you probably like the Tomb Raider series. TR1 and TR2 are truely dated (1996, 1997), so forget about them. TR3 is a bad one, one of the very few games I can’t make myself continue to the end. There is hardly any improvement to the game, just the sexy girl again and again. Seems TRLR (Last Revelation, 1999) is a better try. The main problem of TR is also the main problem in RE — clumsy controls and bad camera. You pull Lara Croft around like a stiff puppet.
Although TR4 (Last Relevation) has decent graphics in terms of technical stuff like resolution, the world is still made of cubes with width, depth and height of 1 meter. Every rock, every ledge starts and ends on grid lines spaced 1 meter apart. Lara is just as clumsy to control. The whole game is not about tackling problems, but about living with the controls. If it were not for the Egyptian theme, I would have thrown it away after playing the two training levels. Even so, I am angry at the designer calling levels like KV5 while it has absolutely no resemblence to the real thing, and the developer cannot even tell which direction the Sphinx should be facing.
You can see clearly improvements in Indianna Jones (ie Infernal Machine) over Tomb Raider. The puzzles are more realistic and death traps have reasonable warning (so you don’t die time after time as in TR3). However, Dr. Jones is still a stiff puppet. Gives the world a very bad impression to Third Person Perspective games.
However, the bonus level (Return to Peru) of The Infernal Machine is worth recommending. After completing the game, I found that I played the whole game just for that level. It demands all the skills you learned from other levels, and is on a separate story line. It tells the story about Indy going back to the site at the beginning of the Raiders of the Lost Ark. Indy discovered a second crypt, and you play the level like participating in a sequel of the movie.
Unfortunately, Indy inherit the problem of every game I got from Lucas Arts: bad graphics. Same problem plagued Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II. An interesting FPS, where you use the Light Sabre and other Force powers against your dark enemies. Yet the pastel colored graphics looks like it is hand drawn cartoon. And I always have difficulty telling whether a rock surface is concave or convex.
For a really good Third Person Perspective game, proceed to the next section.
Let me start with a really good Third Person Perspective game: Heretic II (published 1998). For the first time, I realise that the 3PP can make the game even more alive than FPS (First Person Shooters). The agility of Corvus (the game character) is unsurpassed, and makes Lara looks like a crippled old lady with a stiff back. The beautiful rendering of the magics and weapons forced me to conclude that playing Heretic II in First Person mode would have been a total waste. And up till now, it remains as the only Quake II engine game sold as a 3PP game (actually you can switch any Quake II game to 3PP mode using console commands, but it just doesn’t worth trying). Moreover, it is an action plus adventure game. One of its kind, way ahead of its time. Unfortunately, it never sold well, probably because nobody has confidence in a 3PP game. Read about this sad story at Game Center: Top 10 Games No One Bought. Heretic II ranked number 10, selling less than 29,000 copies.
Heretic II is, of course, the sequel to Heretic. Few people would be crazy enough like me to buy this 1994 game four years after it is published. The graphics are archaic (it is using Doom engine) but I just love its story background. Incidentally, Herectic has TWO sequels. The other set of sequels is Hexen (1995) and Hexen II (1997). Both are great games. In Doom, and Quake, you just keep on shooting around. Hexen (still using Doom 2 engine) brought puzzles to action games, making them more interesting. In Hexen II, which uses Quake engine, the puzzles are more realistic and the game even more entertaining.
For more information, go to my page on the Heretic saga. It is not easy to get hold of Heretic games now. If you are interested, contact me.
Recently I found another interesting 3PP action/adventure game. Heavy Metal: FAKK2 is not unlike Tomb Raider, but much better. 3PP with a view behind a good looking girl, but FAKK2 is much better to control and won’t get stuck at corners like Lara Croft and Indy. FAKK2 is the first game to use the Q3A (Quake 3 Arena) engine, and therefore the control (keyboard and camera control) are nice. Graphics has, of course, good quality, and probably can use all the high end features of your 3D card. Moreover, Julie (in FAKK2) won’t dress as much clothes as Lara did. Get the demo from 3D Gamers. Or read the review at Adrenaline Vault.
Besides the Heretic Saga, there are plenty action games I like. Most of all, I love Thief: sneaking, stalking, and stealing. The thrill of standing in a dark corner waiting for a guard to walk by is unique. Thief is a game that really make you afraid, make you hesistate whether really to load the game and continue to play it. Remember to post a Do Not Disturb sign when you are play it — any disturbance may lead to shocking reactions from you, bringing physical harm to yourself, the intruder, your PC, or your house. Thief, Thief Gold and Thief II are out of stock everywhere. If you want to buy the game, contact me directly.
Another lovely game is Shogo — Mobile Armor Division. Playing the game is like participating in a Japanese anime (their term for cartoon, with implications in the style). You complete some missions with normal weapons, and others by controlling 10-meter high combat robots. And on your mission you find your girl friend who has been reported dead with your brother in a previous mission. You don’t know whether to tell her you are dating with her sister, while OTOH she tells you your brother is also alive. And your brother is organizing the very rebel forces you have been instructed to wipe out…
But I am rather fed up with several other Action Games. Before I reached half the game, I find SiN boring. While, like Half Life, SiN has an interesting story line, I am getting tired of shooting like Rambo. Even Half Life is intolerable to me after the Commandos join the party. Probably I don’t like shooting human. I cannot even make myself finish the demo version of Soldier of Fortune.
Recently I got interested in an Action game — American McGee Alice, which calls itself a demented, twisted adventure. Who is American McGee? He’s the designer of Doom and Quake! You play Alice and enters the Wonderland rendered by the Quake III engine, and meets the Rabit, the Cheshire Cat, soldiers of the Deck and other people, of course, including the Queen. Even your weapons are interest stuff that came from the story. Download the demo, and remember to have a look at the settings screen. Or read a preview prepared by Game Center.
I’ve just found an interesting game. Oni is like Heretic II, being an agile third party perspective game. Yet is a full combat game with both fist to fist fighting and weapon shooting. You would find yourself kicking around like Street Fighter. The only catch is, like Shogo MAD, it is a Japanese game using the Lith Engine. It looks like a anime (Japanese cartoon), and if you don’t like Anime, then you may not like the style of the game. As for the story, you play an agent against criminals and terrorists, and as always with Anime, the story will be deeper than you at first think. Go get the demo from its Home Page to have a try. Even the demo missions are not easy to finish successfully (I think they are selected real missions from the game). By the way, Oni means “ghost” — but I have not yet found out what it has to do with the game. Finally, the only bad thing about Oni I know of is that you cannot save your game at times of you choice. The game is automatically saved when you pass certain locations (from one sub level to another).
Where to go after Thief? Obviously Thief II: The Metal Age. What else? System Shock 2 is a very good one. Developed by Irrational (who wrote SS1) and Looking Glass Studios (who supplied the engine), it uses the same Enhanced Dark Engine, and has a nice story on a spaceship. It was sort of co-developed with Thief II, so that the two games use practically the same code base. However, SS2 is a full RPG: besides action and puzzles, you have to maintain your inventory and upgrade your own training. The RPG elements integrate well with action to become a very attractive game. And you feel so lonely and frightened in the space ship that you may want to be one the aliens to save yourself from getting mad. It ranked 12th in the GameSpy's Top 50 Games of All Time (Aug 2001), much higher than Thief Dark Project (ranked 40th only).
The demo is big (>130M), but before I completed the training mission I am sure it is an excellent game. It is so much like System Shock 2 that I looked back to check whether it were from Looking Glass (fortunately not, because no more game will come from LG). In the game, you are an anti terroist agent with missions filled with action, adventure and RPG. The inventory system is not unlike SS2, and you can assign your training and upgrade credits to build yourself up to your liking. Plus, it requires you to be a good thief.
Many parts in the mission are best tackled by sneaking past the terrorists. Expertise in Thief actually puts us into a disadvantage, because without the luminosity gem, it is not easy to tell where to hide. All too often, I sit at a dark corner but the villains saw me as they pass by. Download the demo for a try. I am sure you would like it. It ranked 18th in the GameSpy's Top 50 Games of All Time (Aug 2001), much higher than Thief Dark Project (ranked 40th only).
Some of my favorites do not involve action. Go and see a game that ranked 7 in Top 10 Games No One Bought. Neverhood is fun, and a demo (11M or 22M) is available. Just as an indicator to how popular it now is, go to eBay. Since Dreamworks Interactive is no longer marketing Neverhood, its price is now going rocket high. Now you can only get a second hand copy at about US$60, nearly twice as much as it was originally sold! I have never seen another game that sells like this.
Another adventure game even more entertaining (but much easier to buy) is from Lucas Arts. The graphics this time is definitely better than any other of their games. The toy shown at the home page of Grim Fandango is rather discouraging. Anyway, get inside and have a look at its cast and gallery. Not too much details, but with a nice style. Most important, the story is interesting, and the game is full of fun. Get the demo for a try!
Finally, if you like Egypt like me, this is a game you cannot miss: Riddle of the Sphinx. Go to its home page to read reviews and the background story.
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