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Holiday Gaming Potpourri 202

Posted by Zonk
from the i'll-take-that-for-one-thousand-alex dept.
Illness and Holidays conspire to keep even the best intentioned reviewers from their goals, and so today you're going to get a potpourri of gaming goodness. November was a big month for games, but most of the attention went to Microsoft's new console. Three titles in particular stand out for creativity, for fun, for addictiveness, and for their lack of 360ness. Some of them have been out for a little while now, but if you're looking for recent releases to put under the tree and either can't afford or can't find a 360 to gift, these titles may be just what you're looking for. Read on for my impressions of Soul Calibur III, The Movies, and Civilization IV.
  • Title: Soul Calibur III
  • Developer/Publisher: Namco
  • System:PS2
  • Score:8/10

It could be argued that 1999 was the finest year in gaming. Half-Life, Everquest, and a little console called the Dreamcast all made themselves known that year to an unsuspecting gaming public. The Dreamcast introduced the world to Soul Calibur, the sequel to Soul Edge and arguably the finest casual fighting game ever made. Soul Calibur III follows in its footsteps with familiar fighting action, beautiful presentation, and some new twists on the old formula.

Soul Calibur III (SC3), like 2003's Soul Calibur II, is more evolution on the core fighting game than revolution. A PS2 exclusive this time around, the goal seems to have been to introduce players to new styles of gameplay without mucking with the extremely popular fighting system. Feints, devastating combos, and block attacks have all been added to the game, adding an element of strategy while continuing to be a perfectly serviceable button-masher. Block attacks are particularly effective, allowing a blocking character who times it right to open up an attacker for a harsh retaliatory strike. The combat may feel a little stale to someone who's been playing Soul Calibur II for two years straight, but there's enough variety to remind fans of the series why the original worked so well. New characters have been added, and while some older characters may seem to be absent most of them are unlockable through story mode play. Both new and old characters have some highly varied fighting techniques, and certain characters that in the past operated quite similarly (such as Mi-na and Kilik) now have more differentiation in their attacks and movement.

For the first time, Soul Calibur III does not have a cousin sitting in arcades, and so there is no real 'arcade mode' available. You can still fight a string of enemies through a quick-play option, but the primary single-player game is story mode. As in previous games, story mode puts you in the shoes of a wandering warrior on a quest out in the world. Each character has their own personal demon to slay or gewgaw to retrieve, and as you complete stories you'll gain access to unlockable content like characters and costumes. Cutscenes now have a Resident Evil 4 element to them, with interaction moments requiring you to hit buttons to influence a scene's outcome. These interactions aren't vital; if you fail likely the worst that will happen is you'll start battle down a little bit of health. They do add some interest to what would otherwise be traditionally incomprehensible story elements.

SC3 also incorporates a brand new game mode that attempts to add a real-time strategy twist to the Soul Calibur mode. Chronicles of the Sword allows you to take control of a character you design, and put her through a grand adventure of her own. Unlike the story mode, there are elements of tactical movement and an almost RPG-like atmosphere to the gameplay. Unfortunately, the series' weak storytelling elements make this mode fall flat. Generic opponents (like 'Thief' or 'Warrior'), uninspiring and lengthy text-based storytelling, and simple strategy add up to a play mode that is better in concept than in execution. Character creation, too, sounds more interesting than it really is. There are a number of options, but all of them are somewhat plain and any resulting avatar won't hold a candle to the quality of the main cast of characters.

Soul Calibur III's confinement to the PS2 has also resulted in generationally adequate graphics and no online support. SC3 looks good, to be sure, but it looks as I expected it to be. Nothing surprised me about the graphical presentation or the audio environment at all. The game is probably the best looking fighting game on the PlayStation 2, though, so it's hard to fault it for hardware limitations. Sony's on-the-fence attitude about online participation has resulted in yet another title that is inexcusably offline. Given broadband penetration numbers nowadays, it's mind-boggling to me that this solid fighting game doesn't allow me the option of challenging friends online.

In the end, online or not, Soul Calibur III upholds the good name of the series with complex and well-tested fighting, a memorable cast of characters, and a unique storytelling voice. Anyone looking for a title complex enough to challenge the gamer in their life but approachable enough for the button-masher will be well pleased by what this title has to offer.

  • Title: The Movies
  • Developer: Lionhead Studios
  • Publisher:Activision
  • System: PC
  • Score: 6/10

Peter Molyneux's Lionhead Studios has become the industry name in sandbox-style gameplay. They turn from the heady power of a deity to the reality-controlling whims of the director in The Movies, and manage to come up with at least half of an interesting game.

The Movies is actually two titles wrapped up together in the same packaging. One title is a strategy game, where you fill the role of studio lead creating your own movie production company. Like with other strategy titles you purchase buildings, train mooks, and attempt to gather resources. In this case, mooks are hired to fulfill roles on the lot and your resources are gained by releasing films. The core of this aspect of the game is polished and attractive. The game does a fair amount of hand-holding, making sure that you understand what's involved in a film's production and forcing you to learn what it takes to keep the studio running before it sets you loose in the world. The title passes through several eras of film-making, and audience tastes vary with the times. This forces you, as studio lead, to pick and choose movie genres with care because not every genre will be popular in any given decade.

The actual process of making the movie is straightforward. You purchase or create a script, assign actors and a director, add a crew, and build sets. Once all the elements are in place the film's production is carried out by the game, allowing you to see to the studio. The only catch is that once you have a few movies under your belt, actors and directors have a tendency to flake out. You'll have to make efforts to keep them happy before they turn to sometimes embarrassing and destructive forms of entertainment, like pills and booze. The in-game timeline and character moods are what keeps the player thinking, always coming up with new ways to please the audience and their employees. Unfortunately, while these elements are the most interesting to think about they won't be what you spend most of your time doing. The strategy element of The Movies mostly centers around maintaining and expansion of the studio itself. If you can keep your actors and directors mostly happy, everything else runs almost on auto. As long as you keep building the latest sets, keep them looking nice, and pay for the newest building options, you'll be able to churn out good-looking shlock that the movie-going public will pay big bucks to see. Frustratingly realistic, isn't it?

The second game wrapped inside The Movies is much more interesting. As part of the strategy game you are allowed the opportunity to make your own scripts. In the script-creation mode you gain access to a sort of mini-video editing suite which offers up facial animations, moods, and actions. Using the suite you can put these all together, specify sets, change the lighting, add subtitles, and even (with a mic) dialogue. It's a powerful creative tool, and there have already been a number of notable machinima titles released by The Movies directors. Machinima.com has an entire The Movies channel for you to check out recent offerings. Some of them are quite profound despite the sometimes crude direction. A protest film made with the game about the French riots has received international media attention, a strong endorsement of the storytelling power of this title.

The problem is that, no matter how much effort you put into a title with the suite the game has no way of knowing whether it's actually good or not. The in-game audience judges it by artificial standards, and even something that could move a person to tears could get panned by the fickle virtual public. This results in a deep discontinuity between the strategy side and the sandbox side of the game. Despite the power of the suite there is no good in-game reason to expend effort with your own scripts. It's a better idea just to pay a lot for a pre-generated script, and concentrate your efforts on ensuring the studio can shoot it.

The Movies, then, is a powerful tool for creating original content wrapped inside a fairly mediocre strategy title. There are some clever elements to running your own studio, and if you're enamored with the movie industry you'll almost certainly get a kick out of the day-to-day activities you'll be monitoring. Otherwise, the strategy game is nothing more than a distraction from the real power of The Movies: the sandbox script creation mode. If you're looking for a powerful set of tools to express yourself, it's hard to recommend against The Movies for its sheer variety and flexibility. Take a pass on this one if all you're looking for is a strategy game, though.

  • Title: Civilization IV
  • Developer: Firaxis
  • Publisher: 2K Games
  • System:PC
  • Score: 9/10

The addictive spawn of Firaxis Studios strikes again. I spent the better part of my days in college trying desperately to make the AI in Civilization III submit under my benevolent boot of order. That struggle began again with the release of Civilization IV (Civ IV). Civ IV is a turn-based strategy game, and the latest chapter in possibly one of the most popular franchises in the genre. Previous titles are often cited as all-time favorite PC titles, and the series (along with designer Sid Meier) has become an industry standard. Civ IV, then, has big shoes to fill. Luckily, it does so admirably. While Civ III was a refinement of the gameplay offered in Civ II, the fourth installment in the series makes some fundamental changes to the gameplay that results in a faster-paced game that still captures the epic feel of nation against nation combat.

The basics from previous games remain the same. Your goal in Civilization is to take a foundling nation-state and grow it into a world-girding superpower. Along the way you'll engage in diplomacy, develop technologies, and probably involve your country in some 'aggressive negotiation'. You begin by choosing which culture you'll be running. Each culture has an iconic leader, whose role you take on when interacting with other cultures. Every leader has a pair of characteristics which, to a degree, influence how your culture develops. Leaders are notable historical figures from the real-world culture, allowing you the chance to step into the shoes of Abraham Lincoln or Ghengis Khan, as you choose. There are many nations to choose from, far more than originally shipped with Civ III, and you're likely to find at least one culture in the game that will strike a cord.

Once you've chosen your culture you'll place your first city and begin your campaign to rule the world. You have several options on how exactly to go about that lofty goal. Cultural supremacy is a perfectly valid option. Unlike other strategy titles, focusing your energies away from combat is not a sure-fire way to lose. The Cultural win is far more quantified than it has been in the past. Every city produces a number of culture points each turn. These culture points can be increased by building new elements for the city. Features such as theatres, aqueducts, and courts all affect the happiness of the citizenry and the cultural sophistication of the city. Cities have an area of control, a swath of land around the settlement from which your cultural force is projected. By increasing the cultural output of a city, you increase the sphere of control. If an enemy city abuts that sphere of control, and your culture is impressive enough, they may abandon their original culture in favour of your more appealing nation-state. Cultural warfare was possible in previous games, but is transformed into a far more valid option via an important changeup in international relations. Border are no longer crossable by opposing units unless you agree to an open borders pact. While this can be frustrating if a nation is strategically placed, cutting you off from a portion of a continent, this means that the only way a nation can enter your lands without that pact is by declaring war. While this is sometimes not a deterrent to the occasionally bullying AI, at least you'll know they're coming.

Besides city features, religious affiliation is a factor in cultural dominance and the chance that a city could be swayed to your cause. Religions are a new feature in Civ IV, tied to technological developments, that open up another avenues for commonality between cities and cultures. Advancement up the tech tree opens up numerous city additions, military units, movement options, and seven religious movements. Though they're not a required part of the cultural strategy, one common religion can smooth the wheels of diplomacy and encourage your cities to act together. Alternatively, if you encourage several religions throughout your nation and develop the right technology, religious tolerance can be a boon as well.

While the faster pace offered by Civ IV isn't immediately obvious, advancing up the tech tree will quickly make you realize that Firaxis has stepped up the pace in this latest installment. The initial epoch of horse-riding, writing, and the alphabet flies by much more quickly than in previous titles. As much as I enjoyed eight hour marathons playing through one game in college, it's extremely gratifying to be able to tackle the world in a shorter timespan. While normal mode was fast enough for me, with a game lasting about three or four hours, there is an even faster mode available that could see you king of the world in as little as an hour. For traditionalists, there is an 'epic' mode that allows you the sedate pace of previous titles.

Epic would be an apt way to describe combat in Civilization IV, which has been streamlined and tweaked considerably from the third installment of the game. Military units, which previously had a somewhat murky relationship with one another, are now more clearly marked by their relative strength. Despite the inherent comedy, a spear-wielder can no longer take out a tank as more advanced military units are levels of magnitude stronger than their older counterparts. The mid-game is a frantic rush to gain gunpowder, as swordsmen will lose to musket-wielders in almost every encounter. Refreshingly, the AI has also been reeducated. Not only is it more varied in its tactics, but you are no longer subject to degenerate gameplay sometimes seen in previous titles. There are a number of ways to advance troops now, with each unit usually having more than one option to upgrade to a modern fighting force. In addition to upgrades, seasoned units have promotion possibilities open up. This allows for individually more powerful units within your overall army. Units of all types have been given a tweak, as workers now come equipped with a bevy of tools for improving your nation's infrastructure. Besides roads and irrigation, workers can deploy several types of mines, farmlands, and other civic improvements. A new type of unit has also been added to the game, the great leader. Great leaders come in several different flavours, and each are expendable to gain a useful cultural element. Some leaders create a powerful building within the city that houses them, while others allow you a free technological innovation. While leaders don't appear often they're a welcome rarity to spice up gameplay.

The most obvious change to Civilization IV is in the graphical presentation. While Civ III offered a semi-3D look, Civ IV is a true 3D experience. You can scroll in to get as close to the action as you like, or pull far back to get a good sense of the overall scope of your empire. Units and cities are handsomely displayed, with a surprising amount of personality offered up in the little characters that help you run your empire. Combat is much more emotive than in previous games, and you'll have no misunderstandings who is winning and who is losing when the bodies start hitting the dirt. The audio environment is outstanding, with an evocative soundtrack that draws heavily on African rhythms and nationalistic tempos. New tech advances are made just a little more exciting, too, by the addition of the vocal talents of Leonard Nimoy. When he tells you that you've developed a monarchy, you feel good about it.

Civilization IV is a triumphant return for the venerable series. With several careful decision they've breathed new life into this extraordinarily addictive game setting. 'One-more-turn' syndrome is a true danger when you get deep into a confrontation, and easily matches the draw of previous titles. Multiplayer is finally a viable option outside of play-by-email, thanks to the faster pace and variable speeds. Graphical improvements make the user experience more palatable while combat and diplomacy streamlining makes for more understandable moment-to-moment play. If you're at all interested in turn-based strategy titles, you will not be disappointed by Sid Meier's latest offering.

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Holiday Gaming Potpourri

Comments Filter:
  • Sounds fun (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @03:36PM (#14258255)
    I think I'm gonna just keep on playing Animal Crossing, though.

    OMG a Lovely Chair!!!
    • I think I'm gonna just keep on playing Animal Crossing, though. OMG a Lovely Chair!!!
      Fucking Shigeru Miyamoto is a fucking pussy. I'm going to fucking bury that guy, I have done it before, and I will do it again. I'm going to fucking kill Nintendo!

      *tosses chair*

  • Civ IV (Score:3, Informative)

    by ehaggis (879721) on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @03:38PM (#14258270) Homepage Journal
    Civ IV is excellent. Great gameplay, AI and graphics. Only one crash so far (after many hours of play).
    • My only complaint... (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Is that Civ IV is too fast, even on epic mode. You never have a chance to play with the vast majority of military units. Technology advances far faster than production. It takes a couple turns to research a technology, so by the time you have a few knights, riflemen and machine guns are available.

      Other than game speed it's awesome. I've only played Civ III before, though.
    • Re:Civ IV (Score:2, Interesting)

      by ChefInnocent (667809)
      As an old time Civ player (I played the original Civ on my Amiga), I'm kinda torqued that they seemed to have forgotten their base. No previous Civ game in the past required the latest and greatest hardware. Also, no previous Civ game didn't just work out of the box. I thought Civ has always been more about playability rather than amazing graphics. Although I like some of the improvements they made to the game, I wish they had considered their past audience a bit more.

      Since this game failed to play o
      • Re:Civ IV (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Forbman (794277)
        Hmm... Civ3PTW plays WAY better than Civ2 or Civ3, just by the simple fact that you can now move a stack of units together, instead of one at a time.

        A gaming machine for Civ4? The Civ4 demo runs just fine on my computer: Athlon 1400, NVidia GForce FX5200 (I bought it 3 yrs ago to play Halo) and 1GB RAM. and the mobo/proc combo is about 4 yrs old to boot.

        The major source of problems with Civ4 seems to be with ATI cards.

  • Cool! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Shadow Wrought (586631) <shadow.wrought@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @03:40PM (#14258288) Homepage Journal
    Now I can reject my own scripts for a change!
  • So does anyone know why Soul Calibre III was released solely on PS2 when, of all the platfoms, it sold, by far, the least of the Soul Calibre titles? Does that strike anyone else as counter-productive?
  • Civilization IV (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Minwee (522556) <dcr@neverwhen.org> on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @03:50PM (#14258352) Homepage
    One element of Civ 4 gameplay is missing from this review. It's BIG and SLOW.

    Although the producers claim that it requires a minimum of 256M and recommended 512M [2kgames.com] the game, even with the recent 1.09 patch, regularly baloons up to over a gigabyte by the time I reach the Renaissance. With a mere 512M of RAM this leads to heavy swapping during regular play and several minutes of thrashing like a beached whale between turns.

    After struggling along like that for a while the game will eventually just crash. Between the infrequenct auto-saves and painfully long loading times that can cost me anywhere up to a half hour of play time and generally destroys my interest in the game.

    I hope that having more memory will at least lessen these problems as I have heard some glowing reviews of Civ 4 from other sources, but trying to play with the recommended system is just a little bit too painful for me.

    • Re:Civilization IV (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Zonk (12082)
      I've heard many reports of this problem, but I didn't mention the problems in my review because I never experienced those issues.

      I've got a gig of RAM in my box, though. It stinks that they list the recommended specs at 256 megs of memory. Is there any big commercial game made within the last two years or so that ran well on 256 megs of RAM?

      More RAM should almost certainly take care of those issues, and if you like the genre the game will be 'worth' the hassle.
    • by QuantumPion (805098) on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @04:07PM (#14258473)
      There is actually a fan-made patch in the form of a DLL that fixes a major memory leak in the game. It can be tweaked for systems with 512 or 1024 megs of ram in order to eliminate massive disk paging.

      I can't get to the page where it's hosted because I'm at work, but if you go to apolyton.com [apolyton.com] and go to the general discussion for civ 4, the thread should be near the top.

      I havn't had to mess with it, since I have a nice system with 2048 megs of ram. The only bugs I've encountered with the game were graphical glitches in 1.0 that were fixed by rolling back to a previous video card driver. There are a few other in-game usability annoyances, but on the whole, civ 4 is much more playable on release then civ 3 ever was, even after all of its patches and expansion packs.

      • *rummage rummage rummage*

        Here it is [civfanatics.com]. Thanks for the tip.

        Unfortunately the actual link to the patch is hidden inside some kind of forum which is down at the moment. If it returns to the world of the living I'll have to give it a try.

        • by ljw1004 (764174) on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @08:15PM (#14260343)
          The patch is here:
          http://209.174.48.134/downloads/harkfix.zip [209.174.48.134]

          Copying out what the author wrote about it:

          You will need 3 files to be placed into your civ4 game folder
          (where Civilization4.exe resides)

          A single zipped pack is attached to this post (see bottom of the post), or you may visit this URL (thanks to phalzyr for this mirror):
          http://209.174.48.134/downloads/harkfix.zip [209.174.48.134]

          Or you may want to download those files separately:
          http://www.sampo.ru/~headden/zlib1.dll [sampo.ru]
          http://www.sampo.ru/~headden/Patch.v...yHarkonnen. dll [sampo.ru]
          http://www.sampo.ru/~headden/Patch.v01/Harkonnen.i ni [sampo.ru]

          'zlib1.dll' just loads 'PatchByHarkonnen.dll', otherwise it was compiled from most recent zlib source from zlib.net

          Note that it is necessary to download and replace zlib1.dll (either via .zip or solely), otherwise memory fix won't have any effect because PatchByHarkonnen.dll won't be loaded.

          I recommend to turn AGP on (SMARTGART for ATi cards for example) and set AGP apperture size to maximum in BIOS (if you don't know how, just don't care). Your AGP setting might be off because it helped some people earlier to keep game non-crashing, so they still might have it off.

          This patch is primarily for those who have at least 64Mb (better 128Mb) of video memory with preferably TnL card above GeForce2. You may give it a try even with lower specs - some people reported it had effect on very low-end machines.

          First of all please follow these steps. Note that some steps are about decreasing graphics quality. This is not required, it is just to make sure that your first start with my memory-fix to be success, so you may increase graphics quality later when you get it running for the first time.

          So, let's go:

          1) Modify "Civiliation4.ini" - set "D3D9Query = 1", "DynamicAnimPaging = 0". If you have trouble finding/editing this file, don't care and skip to step 2.
          2) If you have 1 Gb of memory or above, skip past step 9.
          3) Run the game (if it doesn't run, follow past step 9)
          4) Set it to windowed mode (not must-do, but preferable to get stable first launch)
          5) Set anti-aliasing to 0 (also not 100% required)
          6) Set all low/high settings on the left to 'low' (same as above)
          7) Check 'Low resolution textures' (same as above)
          8) Then you may check anything on the right, i.e. effects and animations.
          9) Exit the game

          If the game hangs during 'Initializing Python' step, just restart it and hold down 'Shift' key, so it updates its files cache. This thing is not about my patch, this is something about fresh python24.dll sources...

          If you could do all of these steps, try loading some of your huge savegames. If the game crashed or graphics becomes damanged (main menu globe and sun), set 'insane_mode = 0' in Harkonnen.ini file and try again.

          !IMPORTANT!

          If the game crashes during loading (and crash comes from PatchByHarkonnen.dll if you click details), try recommendation from this post on this thread (post #50):
          http://forums.civfanatics.com/showpo...0&postcount =50 [civfanatics.com]
          It says to turn off ATI Tray Tools software. RivaTuner appears to be ok with my fix (thanks to Kolyana for pointing that out).

          Also, xFire coming with 1.09 patch is also causing this crash according to a lot of data sent by filterban per my mail requests. This will be fixed with the next release, and thanks to filterban for his help! It's enough just to quit xFire, no need to uninsntall it. And, again, it's temporary solution until next release of my fix.

          !END-OF-IMPORTANT!

          Subscribe this thread if yo
      • "There are a few other in-game usability annoyances, but on the whole, civ 4 is much more playable on release then civ 3 ever was, even after all of its patches and expansion packs."

        What are you talking about? I played Civ 3 all the time from the very first release, it mostly had minor bugs, I never had any problems with it even with 1.0. It never crashed, I've had Civ 4 crash to desktop once a game almost and it's always right when a wonder building goes up.
    • Looks like they really did mess up on the minimum requirements. I've been playing it on a 3.2GHz P4, 1GB ram and Nvidia 6800GT without any problems except slight slowdown on the AI turns in the very late portion of the game (which is to be expected).
    • Re:Civilization IV (Score:3, Informative)

      by mcb (5109)
      You can change the frequency of the autosaves from the config file. Open the shortcut '_Civ4Config' in your Civ4 folder and look for 'AutoSaveInterval'.

      It really slows you down if you have to pass a lot of turns quickly though (like the beginning of a game on epic speed).
    • this is a turn based game right?
      Are they going out of their way to make it run slow? When I wrote Democracy (www.democracygame.com) I ran out of processing I needed to do, WAY before there was any chance of a performance bottleneck. Thats with a pretty hefty neural network running too.
      Of course, I didn't bolt a totally superflous fancy pants 3D engine on top, which is what makes most modern games take 3 years, 120 staff and 8 million dollars to make. And as you have noticed, it also makes em run like a dog.
    • Re:Civilization IV (Score:3, Interesting)

      by craXORjack (726120)
      Bad news. I have run it on both P4 1.8GHz with 768MB and an Athlon 3GHz with 2GB RAM and both had weird slow downs. It will run fine for a while then inexplicably slow to a crawl. Sometimes if I let it sit for a half hour it will recover. Other times it won't even after several hours. But spending 30 minutes waiting for the menu to come up and saving my game then exiting and rebooting does reset everything. Seems like a pretty severe memory leak. There are also major graphics glitches. I have different mode
    • I've 2GB of RAM and I don't have any of the slowing problems - huge maps, long game sessions etc. It's quite a bit of game to get in to, but now that I've begun mastering the details of the interface (how to get all cities to follow the same build queue, etc) it is ROCKING.
    • Right on the money. I have problems with the gameplay, but they are minor. (500,000 culture and I still can't convert a level 1 city!) My big problem is performance. Even Civ3 was butt slow, but it played. I have a very new PC with a gig of ram and reasonable vid and I still have to have almost every graphical option turned off or down to stay playable.
  • I know I'm not the only one that was VERY disappointed with civ3. I could go into the details, but I'm sure others could do that as well as I. But the long-and-short of it is that I was a fan of Civ1, 2, SMAC, and even CTP (even though that wasn't made by Sid, it was still not bad IMO). But Civ3 was just a massive disappointment.

    Does Civ4 redeem the series? Or at the least, does anyone know of a review that's by someone that EXPLICITLY says that they HATED civ3?
    • Note: My favorite game of all time is SMAC.
      Civ4 introduced a lot of SMAC elements in to Civ. For example, instead of government types, you have the social choices similar to how SMAC works.
      As I've put it before, it is a great game from what I've played. Too bad the coders royally screwed it up with their showstopping bugs, extreme slowdowns, and bloated code. Seriously, when I see my VCard driver BSOD from playing Civ4, something is wrong. I refuse to run that thing again (luckily, I just borrowed it
    • I know I'm not the only one that was VERY disappointed with civ3. I could go into the details, but I'm sure others could do that as well as I. But the long-and-short of it is that I was a fan of Civ1, 2, SMAC, and even CTP (even though that wasn't made by Sid, it was still not bad IMO). But Civ3 was just a massive disappointment.

      Huh. Could someone explain what Civ III did wrong? I've played many, many games of SMAC and Civ3, and I love them both. Can't really say that Civ3 is better, but still lots of fu

    • Civ4 is by leaps and bounds much better than Civ3 and finally makes a game by all qualifications better than Civ2.

      * Tech tree more remniscent of Civ 2 -- Civ 3's tech tree was horribly shallow and game could be won or lost by a couple of advances. Civ 4's tech tree is more like Civ2 since there's more choices at any given point as to what to research and the greater diversity of research advances allows more strategic freedom -- like civ2

      * Corruption was redone -- In Civ3, cities far from the capital wer
    • You'll like Civ IV (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Amonnil (874821)
      Civ IV is a great game. I am a big fan of Civ 1, 2, and SMAC. I personally thought Civ 3 was a deeply flawed game (although it had some interesting ideas), and is the worst in the series. But I love Civ IV--I've already played though it more than I did Civ. III.

      Civ IV fixes a lot of problems I had with Civ III--no more corruption and buildings have no upkeep(so undeveloped cities aren't better than developed anymore). Also, the trade resources work a lot better. You might look at http://www.civfanatics
  • by maynard (3337)
    Is anyone porting Civ 4 for the Mac? Would love to know if/when I can buy this title for my machine. --M
    • Per this announcement [firaxis.com] on the Firaxis Games site - Civ 4 will be released for the Mac in 2006.
    • yes, a Mac version is coming, according to CivFanatics, via this [insidemacgames.com] source.
    • Yes, Aspyr Media is porting Civ IV to Mac [insidemacgames.com]. It's due in early 2006 and I can hardly wait. Strangely, they also just released Civilization III: Complete for Mac that includes the Conquests and Play the World expansions. I'd like the expansions for the gameplay improvements (especially smarter workers), but it hardly seems worth $50 when I already have the standard Civ III and all the PC gamers are playing Civ IV.

      AlpineR

    • How about the same question with Linux replaced with "the Mac"?
  • I heard it bombed in japan where only 39% of their stock was sold, yet noone can find em to buy em around here.
  • by onkelonkel (560274) on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @04:01PM (#14258422)
    As somebody who saw the sun come up more than a few times playing the original Civ, I have to laugh at Zonk reminiscing about playing Civ 3 like it was a way long time ago. I guess "Back in the Day" isn't so far back anymore.
  • by iamlucky13 (795185) on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @04:06PM (#14258459)
    New tech advances are made just a little more exciting, too, by the addition of the vocal talents of Leonard Nimoy. When he tells you that you've developed a monarchy, you feel good about it.
    I don't think you can get much better than having science officer Spock on your side.
    • Apparently you never played Seaman.

      All of the Spock in the univerrse can't stop that thing from being creepy.

      For those that haven't heard of it, allow me to summarize. You have to infect a mollusk with eggs that hatch and cause it to writhe with pain until it dies and expels the Seamen that eventually kill each other until there is one remaining. The last one then constantly probes you with personal questions and carries on disturbing conversations with you until it eventually dies.

      Apparently the designer
  • by yerdaddie (313155) on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @04:11PM (#14258498) Homepage
    Civ IV looks great and all, but with all the time Civ II is still consuming I think I won't dare buy it.

    Civ II can be downloaded from abandonia here:

    http://www.abandonia.com/games/en/99/Civilization2 .htm [abandonia.com]

    Fire up your favorite windows emulator. Clear your calendar.
    • Civ II can be downloaded from abandonia here:

      ...

      Fire up your favorite windows emulator. Clear your calendar.

      Or try Freeciv [freeciv.org] -- versions available for Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X. No emulators required!

      • Is it just me, or is the AI in freeciv too easy? I always play on hard or experimental, and it always gets trounced. It never builds up its cities, so whenever I conquer a city, even late game, it usually doesn't have much more than city walls and a coastal defense, with production=6 or so. It seems to play the entire game as though it was beginning-game.

        Not that I don't really enjoy freeciv, mind you :) One of a surprising number of really good freeware linux games.
  • by Smegoid (585137) on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @04:12PM (#14258510)
    I keep seeing Civ 4 getting excellent reviews and I just can't fathom why. I find it a huge step back compared to Civ 3 (plus expansions). The civlopedia is a mess and near impossible to navigate (what happened to the links?). The technology advances now have no supporting historical text, which IMHO reduces tech advances to a mere pesky requirement for upgrading or building infrastructure. Since Civ 1, the great thing about Civ is that you can actually learn a few things about the inter-relationship between technology and cvilizations. Without any description of the technology (except for a quick sentence by Leanord Nimoy) you no longer have a sense of why it was so important to aquire it in the first place.

    The 3D graphics add nothing to the game and actually make it more difficult to play (zooming out to a comfortable vantage makes the text blurry, and I'm playing at top res with a geforce 6800 ultra). All in all, I think it's a big step back from Civ 3, and certainly underserving of all the 90+ ratings it's getting. The game feels rushed and dumbed down. I think the only reason it's getting such great reviews, is there's nothing out like Civ (well... except for the other Civs).

    • how is this flamebait?, seems like a reasoned critique of the game. Talk about groupthink. just *maybe* civ 4 isnt the second coming?
    • I still think Call to Power was much more of an advance than any of the Sid Meier Civs since Civ II. Why couldn't they include futuristic units like space fighters?

      How about colonizing the oceans?

      Why can't you have group combat where archery units can bombard from the back while infantry fights?

      The depth of play in CTP was much better, although the AI sucked royally. For human-human play I'd choose Call to Power over Civ IV, graphics or no graphics.
    • Civlopedia and interface issues are my only problems with it...

      I want to be able to go to the city screen from the F1 screen by double clicking a city.

      I want to be able to go to the Civlopedia entry for any tech or resource by double clicking or right clicking its name from anywhere (bonus points if its consistent which one will do it - unlike Civ III). And then the civlopedia itself needs to have the historical information right there in front of you, not hidden away on a tab - and more of it.
      And yes - LI
  • Mario Kart [witendofi.com] + Animal Crossing [witendofi.com] + WiFi [witendofi.com] is all I need this holiday season.
  • We've been playing this a lot in the office, and although it's fun I'll warn you all that it's fairly buggy. The first patch is already out and does seem to help a little, but it still manages to crash back to Windows, and sometimes brings the whole machine down on various differently-specced PCs. Not sure if the patch has fixed this one, but there's also a tendency for graphical corruption on my home PC which persists even if I close and reload a saved game after the corruption has started.

    Other than that,
  • by aftk2 (556992) on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @04:20PM (#14258570) Homepage Journal
    The in-game audience judges it by artificial standards, and even something that could move a person to tears could get panned by the fickle virtual public...It's a better idea just to pay a lot for a pre-generated script, and concentrate your efforts on ensuring the studio can shoot it.

    So, you're saying that this is actually a very accurate movie-making sim.
  • Soul Calibur 3 (Score:2, Informative)

    by Puhase (911920)
    I remember getting SC2 for the PS2 and playing the heck out of it and loving every minute. Then I read scathing reviews and felt, what did these people not get out of the experience that I did? I simply couldn't understand it. Yet, SC2 is still one of the most beloved fighting games out there, partially due to the cross-platform release.
    So now with SC3, I see people consistently criticizing the Create A Character mode as being gimmicky and mundane. This is ridiculous folks! How many of us fighting game pe
  • Wait a tick... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ErMaC (131019) <ermacNO@SPAMermacstudios.org> on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @04:27PM (#14258641) Homepage
    allowing you the chance to step into the shoes of Abraham Lincoln or Ghengis Khan, as you choose.

    Gee, that's interesting, considering http://www.2kgames.com/civ4/home.htm [2kgames.com]Civ4 doesn't have Lincoln as a leader! (click Civilizations in the flash thingy, it's the first civ selected in the next screen).

    Seriously, these reviews could be written after playing the games in question for an hour. It's spitting out the feature list of each game but devoting a paragraph to each feature.

    How do the new characters in SC3 actually play? Do they fit in well? What about The Movies, what are some of the interesting scripts you come across? What are some of the genres you have access to? Are there any sort of ties between real movies and the fictional ones? Or are there actor stereotypes like the Arnold-ripoff or something like that? How well does Civ4 play now that it's 3D? (Answer: poorly)

    BTW for my opinion on Civ4: 3 was a better game, and it ran a HELL of a lot faster. 4 is a dog, even on a 3GHz with Geforce6600GT. I ran Civ3 on a freaking 366MHz laptop, and it performed decently. Yes, 3D means you need more horsepower but the game runs rediculously slow even on modern PCs. I can't even use the numpad to move units around anymore because you have to hit the direction, wait for the unit to move, then hit it again, because moving the damn unit one square takes 3 seconds and the game will not queue up movement commands input via the keyboard! Does something that obvious make it into the review, though? No.

  • by lpangelrob (714473) on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @04:27PM (#14258646)
    Despite the inherent comedy, a spear-wielder can no longer take out a tank as more advanced military units are levels of magnitude stronger than their older counterparts.

    Agreed. It's hilarious to see a lone spearman straggle against an army of musketeers. It's not so funny when the spearman wins, elite status or not. :-)

    I didn't try the nuclear option on the spearman, however...

    • by carlmenezes (204187) on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @08:25PM (#14260401) Homepage
      From my Civ playing days, I remember having a nice shiny new Stealth Bomber being defeated by a good old Phalanx unit! :) From that moment on, it was only Phalanxs for me :)

      What I liek about Civ 4 is that you can tell who's winning - a guy with a spear (spearman) will easily dodge blows from a guy with a club (barbarian). The spearman then takes one strong jab at the barbarian and it FEELS like he's done a good deal of damage :) and sure enough, at the next spear strike, the barbairan goes flying a few feet into the dirt :) Very nice change to the game :)
  • While The Movies is a more mogul type game, similar to The Sims 2 but more focused on the actual movie making process (script -> pre-production -> filming -> post-production -> promotion -> release) it fails on the part of offering a true "sandbox". You can enter a sandbox type mode in the game and build your studio, create scripts and even start at almost any decade with up to 100,000 million dollars. The problem is that a) you have to unlock the game in play mode before you are allowed to b
  • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @04:45PM (#14258811) Journal

    First it is a console game. Now consoles may or may not be your thing. HOWEVER what most people agree upon is that a controller is not the same as a mouse and keyboard. First person shooters are an obvious victim on consoles who survive on, horror of horrors, aimbots.

    The Movies is in many ways a The Sims game and controlling this with a gamepad would not be my first choice. Worse the designers seem to have made very few allowences for the PC port. In short the interface is a clutch and often frustating.

    But first the game as this will explain why the interface just isn't up to it.

    You start the game by creating creating a movie company choosing a company name, your name and a logo. Nice touch is that if you choose the pregenerated company name it actually can be spoken during the oscar awards. There are different ones and it is a nice touch. Pity all the logo's are so.... childish.

    Once started you are presented with fixed size typical movie lot. Buzzling street outside the gate (actually a fairly big area with cars driving buy, very scenic but of no use) and 1 fixed building inside the gate where your first unemployed will be queing up. The year is 1920 and you have 150.000 dollars to make a movie empire.

    The first fixed building allows you do hire from a que of nice rendered people standing actually in line on your property both builders and janitors. Female and male, white and black (No racism in this hollywood) and all equally crap. Management games are nothing new and usually you start by carefully examining your new empoyees stats to get the best for the price you can afford. None of that here. Just hire builders to build your soon be put up buildings and sets (and maintain them) and some janitors to keep the area clean.

    Then start building the other buildings. If you got some experience you know that you got 3 kinds of buildings. Hire buildings wich allow you hire a type of staff, namely movie crew, scientist and actor/directors. Static buildings wich you only use sometimes like the makeover department, script writing building and your actuall movie making buildings namely the casting building and the sets themselves.

    Experience will teach you that you can put most of the buildings off to one site and put the casting building at the center of a circle of sets. Your employees actually got to walk between the casting building and the sets so you want to optomize the distances involved. Space will be an issue so learn to optomize.

    Your movie crew will all have the same useless stats so just hire some random ones again. Now it is time to select your stars.

    There are five movie genre's (comedy/horror/sci-fi/romance/action) and your wannabe's will have some or no stats in either. Ignore it. What is more important is their personality. They got a stat in how they handle stress and how they handle boredom. Working creates stress and reduces boredom, resting reduces stress but increases boredom. Can you spot the conflict? Yes a stressfull and easily bored character will be impossible to keep happy. Work them and they will stressout, let them rest and they will get bored.

    One thing must be said about the game and that is you can hire people from other ques for different proffesions, so if you don't like any of the wannabees you can make a janitor hopefull your next star. Just make them an extra first to get their stats to display and promote if needed. Oh and acters can also be used as directors and vice versa. Helps keeping them fresh when the audience gets bored with them I guess.

    So you got your hopefulls. you got your buildings and a few sets. Lets make some magic. Drag your script writers over the part of the script building that has the genre you want and after a while a brand new max 1 star script will roll out. Yes it is 1920 and till much much later post ww2 in any case you will only be able to write crap scripts. No matter what you do. No way to improve. The quality of your script is determined by the level of the script building and

  • This seems to be a pretty accurate review of this title and it is also becoming a pretty accurate reflection on what Peter Molyneux and co. have been putting out... highly ambitious games that come out crippled and lacking fit and finish.

    While I can respect innovation and trying new things, I can't respect half-assed games based on a multitude of unfulfilled promises from Lionhead Studios anymore.
  • I am so sick of reviewers complaining about the lack of online multiplayer in games. I really don't care about online multiplayer on consoles at all, and I don't know anybody that actually uses it. I do not want developers wasting their resources tacking on awkward multiplayer modes to games designed for a single player. When I'm on a console, I want to play a game I can play myself. If I want to play a fighting game, I have my friends over. That's what they're for. If I wanted online gaming, I'd play on a
  • I am a racing fan, really bored with the new breed of "street racing" type games.

    However the latest NFS - Most wanted is really a cool piece of game, which returns to the roots:
    polica cars are back, and pretty clever, and they have a new system that offers you only to run a selection of races to move to the next level (not forcing you to play modes you hate that much (I hate drag race e.g.).

    I have the xbox (not 360) version, and it chokes the system sometimes, but it is the most enjoyable racer I have ever
  • Is a fairly amazing game for the PS2. You have to find and figure out how to climb up a series of huge, living, breathing, (sometimes even flying) painful monsters so that you can kill them. All you have is a sword, a bow, and a horse. The horse animation is unbelievable. The only annoying thing about the game is the camera dynamics- they often seem to be working for the enemy ;) But holding on tight while the thing tries to shake you off, with your stamina draining... A quite exciting experience indeed.
  • Where's the Holiday in those games?

    By that title you should have been reviewing Reindeer Rescue [atariage.com], a brand new game released for the Atari 2600.
  • Am I the only one that does not like the new Soul Calibur III graphics style?

    I'm not trying to flame here, it's a serious question. I liked the style of SC2 much better. SC3 graphics look more like a kids cartoon.

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