Christmas: A Review of Video Game Gift Ideas
By Andre' Hagestedt
|Enemy Territory Quake Wars
(Portland, Oregon) - It's not everyday
we review video games. In fact, we've never done it.
It's certainly not part of our normal coverage of travel
and paranormal. But since we're a tourism media outlet
and video games have a definite paranormal slant, well,
a review for those thinking about the seasonal gifting
thing isn’t too out of line.
In fact, it’s universal enough
it fits all our audience demographic.
A bit of info upfront: all of these video
games are rated Mature, as they feature plenty of violence
and such, so they won’t be suitable for your little
ones. However, there are some in here that will be appropriate
for teens. My own personal preference is for the FPS
category, although there are some exceptions.
For the grown up little kid in your life
who loves tons of action and some intriguing brain challenges,
here are some real monsters of the PC (and other format)
game world. All these are still on the shelf, mostly
released in the last year.
need to know, however, my own personal take on these
is that “Painkiller” and “Enemy Territory:
Quake Wars” are hands down the coolest games ever
made – for their extremely innovative approaches,
never-ending delights and mind-bending scenarios.
I can’t recommend them highly enough:
so I begin with them.
“Painkiller: Triple Dose.”
Three video games in one, you know you can’t
go wrong. The original was released in 2004 or so, and
is still the best of the three. The package includes
the extension “Battle Out of Hell” and the
darkly humored “Overdose.”
You are stuck between Hell and Heaven
and must fight a bizarre, nearly endless horde of demons
who represent evil from a variety of places and time
periods. One minute you’re in a Turkish palace,
the next in a creepy castle, a medieval town full of
jittery zombies, a 1960’s-era airbase, a cold,
totalitarian city or a sinister Soviet lab from the
Cold War, among numerous other nightmare scenarios.
Excellent graphics and unbelievably intriguing
designs of the surroundings are just some of the highlights
and make for a lot of the mesmerizing qualities here,
but it’s the wildly innovative nightmare realms
that reel you in as much as anything.
The other aspect that’s fun here
is that it’s pure horror genre: not that goofy
mix of supernatural with sci-fi elements that’s
gotten kind of old. Also, the main character isn’t
an army dude: he’s a regular Joe (who for some
reason knows his way around battle tactics, but whatever.)
It also keeps your interest by not being completely
the same each session, like “Doom” or even
“Quake 4.” Yes there’s predictability,
but it’s still amazingly difficult to completely
master. It never leaves you wanting.
The ultimate game gem of the Quake saga of games is
the latest, and definitely the best of all of them.
“Enemy Territory” never plays completely
the same way each time. It’s actually geared towards
team online playing – which I admittedly haven’t
done. But even playing “against the computer”
creates a new experience each and every time, with all
sorts of interesting ways to change the game around,
according to your choosing.
You get to be either the evil invading
force of aliens called the Strogg, with their superior,
futuristic technology, or the humans fighting them.
That choice alone offers a wide variety of different
experiences. Then you can choose the different battlefields:
including a desert canyon, a bucolic countryside or
the outskirts of some town in New Jersey, among numerous
others. You can set up the fight the same way and it
won’t happen the same way twice – ever.
This makes the learning curve pretty hard at first:
I hated it initially. But I’m not the gaming veteran
many are, so die-hard FPS folk will likely catch on
faster than I did.
The details of the buildings and surroundings
are spectacular, and the weird machines of the alien
forces you can ride around in are thoroughly addicting.
This is one magnificent thrill ride of a game.
Portal. This is the
one non-violent game in this review, and I can’t
speak highly enough of this one, either. It’s
a long, futuristic puzzle that’s sleek, delightfully
cerebral and awe inspiring. Plus there’s a whole
lot of surreal sci-fi elements and Orwellian humor.
Essentially, you have a device that punches
holes in space, creating holes in walls, floors or ceilings
where you can wander in and out of, bypassing various
structures in your way. But they set up a series of
bizarre schemes and barriers, and then ways to get around
them that involve manipulating the operation of this
device. It forces you to think about physics in a very
All the while along your journey through
this strange, futuristic complex, an electronic voice
guides you with a hilarious double-speak and thinly
veiled dark sentiment that would’ve been at home
in a comical version of “1984.”
It’s a non-stop kick and a lovely
brainteaser that’s perfect for teens and older,
with some minor blood – especially for those you’d
want to foster an interest in science. Frankly, I found
the totalitarian feel of the thing way more disturbing
than the brief bits of blood, which is really only hinted
The big drawback: you pretty much have
to download the whole thing from Steam, which produces
some of the coolest games ever – but that dynamic
is a pain.
This one’s a big best seller right now and justifiably
so. It blends battle action with that genre of sci fi
set in the near future, where you’re some crusty
British soldier wearing a high tech suit that allows
you to do incredible things. This too is quite varied
in its play. Although the “missions” run
more or less the same each time, the actions you take
create very different situations for you to do deal
with. It’s quite sophisticated and quite a joyride.
You start in Asia, battling local forces,
and move on to other exotic locales that eventually
involve aliens. Truly awesome.
It keeps your interest while kind of
teasing your brain a bit, but mastering the vehicles
is exhausting and frustrating.
Another gem from Steam, you’re again in some freaky
totalitarian world that is partially occupied by creepy
aliens, but this time you have to navigate between them
and enforcement squads that fill you with Iron Curtain
dread. Bright, even cheery graphics are smooth as silk
and extremely realistic. The brainiac element is high
at times, forcing you to think yourself out of one puzzle
I liked it so much I didn’t want
it to end, so I stopped playing it and bought the first
“Half-Life,” which is primitive by the current
standards, but still a lot of cerebral fun. The second
one expands on that greatly and has a few episode packs
that will be interesting to get to as well.
“FEAR Platinum Collection.”
It’s a collection of the three militaristic/paranormal
games from TimeGate and Sierra that seem to have made
quite a name, though I’m not thoroughly engaged.
It seems many tried to duplicate the feel, the fright
and approach of “Doom 3” but never completely
achieved that same standard. Still, it’s spooky
and tense as you wander all sorts of rooms and pick
off enemy humans and monsters – or try not to
get picked off yourself. Plenty of creepies jump out
at you and up your blood pressure. It’s nice to
have all three, in any case.
Quake 4 and Doom 3.
Sure Id Software is in many ways the reigning king of
scare software in the gaming world, having produced
these two monster franchises.
Doom 3 is on the shelves these days,
and it’s the hallmark of the scare-your-pants-off
genre, with things jumping out at you at almost any
turn you don’t expect. But that whole regimented
mission aesthetic has become all too common these days,
and that aspect of D3 gets old quickly. Still, it’s
hard to get more scare for your buck as this spine-chilling
beast sells for about $20. Nobody, not even Painkiller,
makes you jump in your seat this much – at least
the first time through.
Quake 4 was – until “Enemy
Territory” – the most intense of the Quake
games, and by far the most interesting in terms of that
sinister universe. It runs on the same regimented mission
style as “Doom” and numerous other imitators,
and thus looses a little spark. But the heebie-jeebies
still arrive in droves with those adrenaline-boosting
aliens, and parts of it are really hard to get through,
making for weeks of scary sci-fi fun.
OK, I’m fully willing to admit this one wound
up not very popular with the gaming public in general,
and seemed to quickly find itself in the bargain bins.
But I love this game for a lot of reasons – and
almost none of it has to do with being a BG fan myself.
Sure, that was the original attraction, but it turned
to be much more.
BG has been described as “nothing
more than a dogfight,” and that’s essentially
true. But it allows you endless hours of shooting at
either humans or cylons in little warships of varying
types, and no skirmish is the same. There’s a
whole section of the game where you engage in regimented
battles taken from the series - which is cool for cylon-stalkers
– but the free-for-all is weeks or months of fun.
Trust me, I was addicted for months.
“Penumbra: Black Plague.”
Dive into the seriously eerie paranormal with this mind-numbingly
frightening constant test of the mind. You're the hapless
man in search of his irresponsibly monster-hunting relative
who must try and follow his baleful footsteps to rescue
him, through some sort of ultra-creepy place full of
insanely freaky beings and an impressive litany of intellectual
challenges. All around you are deviously dark surroundings
and an atmosphere of sheer dread, ever present in the
colors, the details of walls and textures that ooze
evil. It gets ever more disturbing as you go, and it’s
not for the dimwitted.