Clive Barker's Undying
By Star Dingo
Irish sorcerer Patrick Galloway is summoned to the estate of his friend Jeremiah Covenant to do a little paranormal investigation. Apparently, the ghost of Covenant's dead sister - and a whole horde of horrifying freaks of nature - are making regular appearances at the neighbourhood's ominous Standing Stones. Playing as Galloway, you search for answers and uncover unspeakable evils, including a Scythe that drove an entire monastery mad, an unspeakable family secret, and the Curse of the Undying King.
Where Undying really shines is in the details. You wield weapons in your left hand, and spells in your right, and the arsenal you collect is perfectly balanced so that you're always finding new and interesting ways to make your two hands work in tandem. The Scrye spell is an absolutely brilliant little addition, enabling you to see horrifying parts of the world just beyond the edge of reality. It would've been simple to turn Undying into a straightforward first-person shooter. Instead, EA has crafted a complex gothic horror story that's worth dying for.
A tweaked Unreal Tournament engine makes for some creepy, beautiful architecture, and the enemies are bound to give you nightmares. The game requires a lot of horsepower, so expect a low frame rate unless you're running it on HAL 9000.
Excellent voices and a terrifying use of ambient noises makes the audio awesome. The music doesn't chime in frequently, but when it does, it escalates the tension to capillary-bursting levels.
If you've played Unreal or Quake, you'll be right at home. Access to your arsenal is quick and simple, and you always find new and useful ways to play with your hyper-cool weapons and spells.
With a creepy, excellent story and perfectly paced, complex action, Undying oozes freaky atmosphere. The enemies are actually intelligent, and a heap of little touches like the Scrye spell add depth. Undying is the most complete and balanced single-player first-person shooter since Half-Life.
Product: Clive Barker's Undying
Developer: Dreamworks Interactive
By Human Tornado
Codemasters, a company known for the excellent Colin McRae Rally series of games, has gone totally off road in Insane, developed by Invictus. This high-speed racer lets you tear up the dirt in a variety of arcade style games. It's good fun, but Insane comes off as a little loopy rather than full-on schizo.
There are a tonne of different racing games and locations for you to drive, and that's probably Insane's biggest strength. Off Road Race is a straightforward circuit race through gates, while more esoteric games like Capture the Flag, and Destruction Zone (where you get to smash-'em-up for points) round out the selection. Jamboree has all players race for a random gate - the first one through activates another random gate, and so on - Gate Hunt has all gates active, but you've got to find them. All told, there are eight different race types, and you can pick any available environment (as well as time of day) in which to race. If you get bored with the selection the game offers, you can eventually unlock a Generate option that lets you create your own race sites.
The game controls are solid, with the highpoint being the number of great camera angles from which you can choose. A couple of driver's seat views give you a great sense of "being there" and solid external cameras balance the selection. To complement the controls, you can customise your vehicle's steering, tyres, suspension, braking, and gear ratios. While it doesn't give you the exacting detail that a real race sim would, Insane has plenty of options for would-be grease monkeys.
Insane's physics model is excellent, balancing reality with fun. Collisions, spinouts and skids feel particularly realistic, and you can easily roll your vehicle if you drive recklessly. The game automatically pops you back upright, but it will cost you precious time.
As far as the graphics are concerned, Insane keeps up a good frame rate, and there are a respectable number of detail settings so you can customise the game to your machine's speed. The car models are varied with some nice attention to detail, and the vehicle damage is well done. There is some slowdown in places, however, and a number of clipping quirks, like wheels going into the ground and smoke passing through vehicles. The soundtrack has some quality techno tracks, and the engine noise is well done, too; the annoying announcer, however, has got to go.
Overall, Insane is a decent deal. There are enough options to keep off-road enthusiasts tearing up the dirt for quite some time, and the physics and damage modelling is a nice surprise. However, Insane never really makes you say "Wow!". It's a solid, but not exceptional, racing game that won't lock you up in an asylum (as the title suggests). Still, if you yearn to go off road, Insane will get you where you want to go.
EverQuest: Scars of Velious
By Sean Molloy
It never fails. Just when you think you've got your whole world explored, some gung-ho gnomish explorer goes off and finds a whole new continent, and suddenly, BAM - you're right back where you started, with your past creeping up behind you, a whole lot of God-knows-what lurking up ahead, and a malicious black hole of role-playing sucking up all your free time. With the upcoming release of The Scars of Velious, the second EverQuest expansion pack, the already expansive online world of Norrath is gearing up to get even more mind-blowingly huge.
The Scars of Velious expansion pack adds on an entirely new continent for vigilant EverQuesters to explore, containing over 16 new zones and a host of new creatures, towns, enemies, and NPCs to interact with. In addition to the new people and places, the Velious expansion pack also boasts more detailed settings with a pumped-up polygon count and new, more fluid character gestures and animations.
While Velious is a harsh land for newcomers, the continent has been designed specifically with the EverQuest veteran in mind, adding new spells and new abilities to existing character classes, and setting up some all-new proving grounds where level 30+ characters can try out their assortment of new abilities. You'll arrive on Velious via the giant gnomish ship The Icebreaker, landing on the Fingers of the Iceclad Ocean, where gnome pirates and the looming Tower of Frozen Shadow await. From there, you'll move west across the icy landscape, through the Eastern Wastes and past the orc-infested Crystal Caverns, to the fortified Dwarven city of Thurgadin and the ominous graveyard of the distant Dragon Necropolis. We've taken our first few steps into this brave new world - check out the screen shot for an icy taste of what's in store on the continent of Velious. n
Product: EverQuest: Scars of Velious
Developer: Verant Interactive
Publisher: Sony CE
First Look: Age of Sail II
By Brian Wright
TalonSoft is turning back the clocks in Age of Sail II to a time when mighty fighting ships ruled the oceans. Spanning the era between 1775 and 1820, Age of Sail II will cast players as the captain of a massive warship, sailing the seas and battling foes in a real-time 3D setting. With over 1200 ships represented, from the Constitution to the Victory, Age of Sail II will have you advancing from ensign to admiral as you make your way through over 100 historical scenarios, including Copenhagen, Trafalgar and the Battle of the Nile. Multiplay will allow up to 16 friends to engage in massive naval warfare as they battle it out over the Internet. Strategy fans and history buffs will want to keep an eye out for Age of Sail II.
Product: Age of Sail II
First Look: Myst III: Exile
By Jake the Snake
Back in 1993, the original Myst set a new standard for beauty in adventure games, and Myst III: Exile could repeat that success, with the help of an updated graphic engine. The new game also promises to build on the mythology of Myst and its sequel, Riven, with five entirely new Ages for you to explore. While your movement will still be confined to predetermined spots, you'll be able to mouse-look 360§ in any direction. In a demo, this gave the feeling of playing a first-person game while it maintained the fantastic photo-realistic scenery for which the series is known.
Product: Myst III: Exile
Developer: Presto Studios
Publisher: Mattel Interactive
Master cheat code:
At the main menu, type these
passwords to activate these cheats:
Small wheels: gokartz
Large wheels: bigfootz
Big heads: bigheadz
Big hands and feet: boxerz