Nov
03
Posted on 03-11-2007
Filed Under (Game Stories) by NightCrawler on 03-11-2007

As you might already know, I have been writing about serial PC games in my last couple of stories, with those being the Battlefield, Delta Force and Half-Life Series.  Well I will not disappoint anyone here that I would like to chat about another gaming franchise that has, or previously had, its own “cult” following within the gaming community, until at least one of the latest releases.  The PC game franchise that I am referring to is named the Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six series of Tactical Shooters (TS), which is somewhat of a First-Person Shooter (FPS) that has some added responsibilities.  And at this time I want to advise everyone that I own each and every title addressed here, except two, and when I get to them, I will try to explain why. 

First I have to explain that in Tactical Shooters you are set into play by first having a complete briefing of the mission, the ability to outfit your entire team’s equipment, and completely plan out your avenues of approach, waypoints, and actions within a specific area or room.  I know others may have a different explanation or definition, but this is mine.  Other games that are in this TS category are the Brothers in Arms series, Delta Force series, SWAT 3&4, the original Ghost Recon, Operation Flashpoint, and America’s Army.

200px-rainbowsixbox.jpgboxart_eaglewatch.jpgBut getting back to the “meat” of this column, the first game of that exciting series was appropriately named Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six, and it made its PC debut on August 21, 1998.  The author of the novel of the same name, Tom Clancy, placed his name on the PC title with the developer’s (Red Storm Entertainment) blessing, since he was actively involved in the games development, missions, and core theme.   I will make only one comment concerning what it did for the PC gaming community, because if I added more it would only be my personal opinion and may “set some people off“, but to me it changed the way FPS games were to be played from its inception.  I know this comment may also make some of the Doom and Quake players upset, however, in this type of environment you just cannot “run & gun” around a map, shoot everyone in sight, expect to survive, be successful at your primary objective, and be able to advance to the next map, without having some sort of preset plan in place.  This game made you “think” in more ways than just one dimensional.  In January 1999, the mission pack Eagle Watch made its entrance and gave us awaiting gamers more missions to complete and to keep the interest churning concerning Rainbow Six

250px-roguespear_box.jpgboxart_urbanoperations.jpgThe second installment of the series came out on September 22, 1999, and its name was Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear.  The game pits the same counter-terrorist unit, Rainbow, against global terrorist organizations that in some cases have taken hostages or have armed themselves with weapons of mass destruction.  In turn, Rogue Spear, like its predecessor, puts focus on realism, planning, strategy, and teamwork rather than arcade-style shoot-em-ups such as Doom or Quake.   The first expansion pack for RS came out on April 4, 2000, and was named Urban Operations, and it added 8 new maps along with 4 new weapons, and 5 classic Rainbow Six maps from the original Rainbow Six game. 

boxart_covertops.jpgIn August 2000, Covert Ops Essentials was released as a standalone product, I personally don’t think it was received well by the Rainbow Six community.  Why do I say that?  Because it was deemed by many as half Rainbow Six mission pack and half civil service test simulator, which did not sit well with many gamers including myself.  The 3 single-player missions contained by the Essentials Mission Disk were just were not up-to-par as the previous Rogue Spear maps were.  

boxart_blackthorn.jpgBut when the third official expansion pack for Rogue Spear was released on September 15, 2001, named Black Thorn, I believe everyone breathed a new sigh of relief that their beloved Rainbow Six was back!  Black Thorn featured 9 new single-player maps, 6 new multiplayer maps, 10 new weapons, and a new multiplayer variation called “Lone Wolf“.   I personally spent many hours planning, executing, and playing that expansion pack.  The one thing that I always liked about the Rainbow Six series in itself was the fact that different approaches, tactics, and even the way you cleared a room or area of terrorists, could be changed each time you played the same map and the outcome would be different than the last.  Was that good or bad?  I believe so, because it tought you what you could and could not do to gain a successful outcome to the mission.

boxart_sumofallfears.gifWhen The Sum of All Fears came out on May 31, 2002, I believe almost every Rainbow Six veteran choked, IF they actually purchased this game.  This game used a significantly simplified version of the gameplay seen in the Rainbow Six series and there was no planning phase to each mission, but instead the player’s 3-man team executes a pre-planned insertion with other anti-terrorist teams solely controlled by the computer.  The player also could not individually select the equipment each team member carries which was a basic system in each and every Rainbow Six title, instead, the player choses from a small selection of pre-defined equipment packages for the entire team.  Even the in-game play’s rudimentary commands to teammates, such as “wait here”, “follow me”, and “clear/grenade/flashbang the next room” was totally eliminated.  This game in my opinion was just something placed out to the community as a movie “tie-in” of the same name.

256px-rainbowsix3.jpgboxart_athenasword.jpg180px-rs3ironwrath.jpgAfter that bad taste in the mouth was finally over, Red Storm introduced to everyone Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield on March 16, 2003.  The popularity of Raven Shield was shown when it was nominated for many game reviewers’ awards, including Best Sound Effects, Best Action Game, and Best PC Game (at GameSpy, GameSpot, PC Gamer & Computer Gaming World Magazines, among others).  This installment of the game really made this game populartised the franchise to a point of it, in some circles, was catagorized as a “supergame”, if there ever was one.  Following up on the Raven Shield extreme popularity was its first expansion pack named Athena Sword, which made its appearance on March 9, 2004.  It expanded on the original by adding 8 new missions, 5 new multiplayer missions, 3 new multiplayer gamemodes, and 7 new weapons.  Iron Wrath was the second expansion for the PC version of Raven Shield and was in production for almost 2 years before Ubisoft, its developer, decided to release it as a free download on June 9, 2005 to Fileplanet subscribers. The Iron Wrath expansion featured a 7-mission campaign, 2 classic missions, 8 new multiplayer maps, as well as 6 new weapons.

230px-r6l_pc.jpgWhich gets me to one of the most recent, and by some within the community regards, and was considered at the time, possibly the final Rainbow Six PC game, but that was not the case.  On Febrary 10, 2006, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Lockdown was released to a very shocked public that was eagerly awaiting this title to see all the improvements that could be accomplished through modern technology.  I want to first say that I did not purchase this game, however, I have played it on a friends machine and I have to personally say that the feel in this release was more fast-paced and more arcadic than what a “tactical shooter” of the Rainbow Six genre or type should be.  The professional reviewers, along with the many members of the Rainbow Six Community, including myself, has rejected this title, in that it veered too far towards being an arcade style of game over a Tactical Shooter

tcr6vcov11.jpgOn December 12, 2006, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Vegas, made its appearance and was hailed by many as a welcome edition into the Rainbow Six Community.  Vegas has won numerous awards, including “Best First-Person Shooter” and “Best Online Game” in IGN’s Best of 2006, as well as an “Editor’s Choice Award” from GameSpot.  It has also received many positive reviews from both online publications and the most popular gaming magazines around.  However, some in the Rainbow Six community, including myself, have expressed vast disappointment that the game requires a video card that supports Shader Model 3.0, thus preventing many PC owners with low-end graphics cards from playing the game.  And that is the only reason that I have not purchased that game is because I currently don’t have the video card to support it.  Hopefully soon down the road I will upgrade my PC to finally get to see what all of the fuss was all about. 

Today the question on everybodies collective minds is there going to be another edition to the Rainbow Six series?  There has not been any word from either Ubisoft, the publisher, or RedStorm Entertainment, the developer, if there is one either in development or in the works.  I would hate to see a very popular and also very good PC gaming series come to an end after so many years of entertaining us through the years.  But if that is finally the case, I can honestly say I enjoyed each and every Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six title that I played to the fullest and concerning the whole franchise, I did got my monies worth!

Thank You RedStorm Entertainment!

Next Up: Your Call of Duty….

Nov
02
Posted on 02-11-2007
Filed Under (Game Stories) by NightCrawler on 02-11-2007

To start out this story, I have to give everyone a short personal background.  If you read my story a couple of days ago concerning the Crysis system requirements, you know that I have been ‘online’ PC gaming since 1998.  Yes, I know what some of you are thinking, an adolescent when it comes to PC gaming, as I have heard, however, I am true to a specific game type.  That game type is First-Person Shooters or FPS for short.   I have immense knowledge of FPS games and own many titles of that genre, one of those being the Battlefield Series.

bf1942.jpgWhen Battlefield 1942 was released in September 2002, I was like a “kid in a candy store” when I walked into my local PC Game Store and this title caught my eye sitting high on the display rack.  That will be a day that I will hate for the rest of my gaming life.  Why do I say that?  Because that particular series of games has caused me many heartaches over the last 5 years since I decided to purchase it.  That game has cost me countless hours of time away from my family, friends, and something very simple as valuable sleep.  When I would start my nightly playing, it was hard for me to stop, till I was forced to by a family member sometimes holding a butcher knife in her hands.  As I said, I will remember when these games were put out. 

bf1942rtor.jpgSince I was sort of a history buff in 2002, and the World War II era of PC games were just coming out, Battlefield 1942 was the perfect game since it had everything that I liked.  It had both a worthwhile Single-Player game, along with a very rewarding Multi-Player component that elevated the competition between me and my gaming friends.  Yes, as many games are, it took several patches for the experience to be complete, but when they finally got it right, it was a game to be reckoned with.  I was so happy when The Road to Rome expansion pack came out, because with that release, it even got better.  My personal FPS gaming needs was so satisfied that I had finally more maps, weapons, and gear to play with on-line with my gaming friends. 

desertcombat.jpgEverything was great in my BF1942 world until the release of a mod named Desert Combat.  That completely changed my total outlook on playing BF1942.  I could not believe that they could make a modern combat game, from a World War II designed one.  I wasted many nights playing that darn game that I eventually passed up the next expansion pack to BF1942, named Secret Weapons of WWII.  I was completely “hooked” on the modern weaponry, tanks, armored personnel carriers, artillery, and the flyable aircraft & helicopters that Desert Combat provided me. 

bfvlogo1.jpgEverything was excellent until the arrival of the next game in the series, Battlefield Vietnam.   That game held a special place in my heart as I grew up in that era of the Vietnam War.  When it came out in March 2004, I had to purchase it because that was the time in my life that molded who I am to this day.  No, I am not a “draft dodger”, I proudly served my country, the USA, in its military for many years, the first part during the latter stages of that War.  But back to the game of “BFV“, I can say truthfully that it was not perfect, in any aspects of the word, but what PC game is.  It served its purpose for being an inviting environment for make believe battles with an enemy that was very elusive and cunning.  On a side note, I still play BFV today, and I still completely enjoy it like when it was first released.  I have even got some of my gaming friends to load BFV up again on their machines and we play it normally about 3-4 times a week.  Also today the gaming group that I am associated with, the JGC, has a Battlefield Vietnam Coop Server for which I proudly manage, and it is my primary PC game right now to the despair of some of my squad mates.

battlefield2box.jpgNow back in June 2005, a game named Battlefield 2 made its dynamic arrival into this series.  This game brought us modern combat, modern air & ground vehicles, in worldly locations around the globe, and brought with it a new aspect of gaming called STATS.  What is Stats, it is personal statistics that is compiled while you are playing on official EA partnered BF2 “Ranked” Servers.  These “stats” are everything that you do while you are playing BF2 on those servers.  I will not go into everything that stats encompass, because it is basically everything you do while playing.  Even though the game still has a great following, I personally believe that this aspect of the game will ultimately be its downfall.  The game taunts “teamwork” within a squad, but how can that be accomplished when lots of players are ONLY thinking about their “personal” performance because they are ONLY thinking about furthering their own ranking?

70100_mb_75.jpgTo add to the series, EA released its first expansion pack to Battlefield 2 in November 2005, named Special Forces.  It was a good title, but not a great one.  Players today seem to still prefer the original maps over the maps released in that expansion pack.  Special Forces did introduce several new weapons, aircraft, and devices to use, but I really don’t believe it actually made that much an impact within the BF2 community as a whole.  I purchased it, and did play it many times with my group, but it never gained my interest, because I always found myself going back and playing on servers that ran the original BF2 maps. 

70101_mb_75.jpg70109_mb_75.jpgIn March 2006, EA Games released to the Battlefield 2 Community a small “Booster Pack“, as EA called it, named Euro Force.  The expansion, at the time, was only available to the public by download from EA’s own “EA Downloader” game delivery service at a monetary price of $9.99.   That personally turned me off on getting this game since I want a disk with my games, and that service did not provide one.  Then again in June 2006, EA Games released another “Booster Pack” named Armored Fury, for which again was only offered through the EA Downloader Game Delivery Service, for which I again refused to get it that way.  However, early in 2007, EA Games finally released both of these “Booster Packs” commercially or retail packaged to the public, for which, I did go out and purchased them both together.  They gameplay and the maps provided in both were OK, but were not spectacular in my opinion.

ltbaaioavd.jpgIn October 2006, EA Games launched Battlefield 2142.  Well I am sorry to say that my travels through the battlefield have ended with the release of that title.  I was a member of the Beta Testing team and played the demo, however, the feel of the game for me personally was not there, and since EA was continually bolstering about “team play“, and still providing those damn “stats” upgrades, I chose to take a pass.  But today I am still completely enjoying the first two editions of the Battlefield series, BF1942 & BFV, that they will give me hours and hours of gaming joy for some time to come. 

I did not envision me saying this, but Thank You EA for at least those first 2 Battlefield Games EA!

Next Up: The Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Chronicles

Nov
01
Posted on 01-11-2007
Filed Under (Game Stories) by NightCrawler on 01-11-2007

Today we are going to talk about a PC Game that is very close to my heart.  This game has probably changed more gamer’s views on the way games are supposed to be played, than any other game that has been produced in the last 10 years.  This game was so innovated in its technology at the time of release that it made other companies stand up and take notice.  What game could that be you might ask yourself?  That game would be Half-Life.  When it was published in November 1998, I specifically purchased a computer system that would play this game at its highest settings.  Was I disappointed?  I would have to say a loud NO!  Half-Lifewas a landmark game that garnered about every award imaginable from about every magazine and internet site around.  It was given the coveted title of “Game of the Year” in most all of the gaming sites that I know of. 

hl-box.jpgWhat was my personal view of Half-Life?  I would have to say I wasted many hours and days playing that game just to see, experience, and witness every aspect of a PC game that was going to revolutionize the way gaming was going to be in the future.  I must have played through that game like 6-8 times, always doing different things, and also going in different directions.  I was never “bored” while I was playing Half-Lifeand I could not believe how a developer could place so much action and suspense into a single solitary PC game that would garner my full attention for such a long period of time.  And I have to say that same feeling, concerning this single PC game, is still happening today in its offspring.  But back to the original Half-Life, it was a game that “raised the bar” on how every First Person Shooter that entered the market would be judged.  If a PC game was not up to the standard that Half-Lifepresented, it did not last very long.  It took the single-player experience to such an elevated level that it was very hard for another developer to match its quality and immersive style of gameplay. 

opposingforce.jpgIn 1999, Half-Life: Opposing Forcemade its arrival and I was almost the first person in line at my local PC Store to get my hands on a copy of this much wanted follow-up.  This title in the series did not disappoint me, even though; a lot of the reviews on it were not as favorable as the original it still quenched my thirst for a continuance of that outstanding gameplay.  But being a devout player of this franchise I played it for many hours and enjoyed it to the maximum.  It was a different experience to play as a marine and play through many of the same levels that I just completed as Half-Life’sGordon Freeman.  It never got boring because you could go different directions, and still get to the area for which you were driven.

bsbox_sm.jpgWhen Half-Life: Blue Shieldwas announced, I was a little skeptical on this release, because I thought it was only just another vision from another aspect of the original game.  It truly was, but it too was very entertaining and enjoyable to play through.  I knew, Valve, the developer, was just trying to get as much out of this game as it could, but it did not make that much of a difference.  I wanted to play as “Barney”, the security guard; through much the same locations as I just went through with both the original and Opposing Force, and it was still a rewarding and enjoyable single-player experience.  I can honestly say that Valve, during the original Half-Life experience, did an outstanding job in providing us, the gaming community, with a very rewarding and exciting game for its time.

logo.gifWhen Half-Life 2was first announced I could not have been more excited at the news.  The mystical adventures of Gordon Freeman would be going forward.  When it was released I was again waiting at my favorite PC Store’s front door again, and purchased it on the day that it came out.  When I got home with the game in hand, I was so excited that I forgot not only lunch, but dinner as well, and was playing it till around midnight, when my wife came into the game room and asked “Hey, are you going to eat something today?”.  I have to say I forgot about everything in my life that day, even about some of the necessities in life.  I have to say, she still brings that up to me every now and then just to make me feel bad!  But I have to say that I have to this day completed the single-player campaign a total of FIVE plus times, and I think I am going back for another round soon just to see if I saw and experienced everything that I could have during this spectacular game. 

episodeone1.jpgWhen Half-Life 2: Episode Onewas released, I again was standing in line and was considered on “Cloud 9” when I walked out of my PC Store with my copy in hand.    My online friends ask me all the time why I am so much marketing this “expansion pack” and I have to say that Half-Life 2is by far a Quality Game, for which, I have to get, because “it is in my blood” to purchase this game to see where it goes.  Episode Onedid not disappoint me, however I did consider it sort of short in length (about 4-6 hours of SP gameplay) for the price that I paid for it ($19.95).  The developers, Valve, accomplished another outstanding job in furthering the story of that devout character Gordon Freeman. 

halflife2-episode2-blackbox-cover.jpgHowever with the release recently of Half-Life 2: Episode Two, I have taken a stance and I am very, very disappointed in the publishers on this release.  When Episode 2 was announced, it was stated that it would be delivered in two (2) “boxes“, the Black and the Orange “Box“.   The “Black Box” was supposed to contain only Episode 2, for people that already had the Half-Life 2 game, and the “Orange Box” would contain Episode 2, along with the new games of Portal and Team Fortress 2.  But a little after that announcement, came the news that Valve had made the decision that they would only put out the Orange Box for retail, which would contain the original HL2, Episode 1, the new Episode 2, Portal, and Team Fortress 2for the single price of $59.99.  Now I was angered at that decision, since I only wanted Episode 2, and why should I pay for additional games that I not only did not want, but would have no use for.  I already had HL2 and Ep1, and have completely no interest in the cartoonish TF2 or that stupid game of Portal.  I know you can purchase the game (Episode 2 ONLY) on Steam, the Valvegame delivery service, but I would be receiving the game by download with NO disk in hand.  I want the game on a disk, since that makes me feel that I own it.  So I have made the decision to wait until they either come down on the price, or some retailer has a gigantic sale of that Orange Box, that it would be a deal I could not refuse.  When will I think this might happen?  Probably not till late next year sometime probably.  But I can wait. 

valve.gifAt the beginning, this whole item that Valve had the idea of, in “episodic content“, saying that they could produce a “short” episodic game in a short amount of time, over making a brand new game, as a Half-Life 3, which would take about 2-4 years, is getting sort of old now.  I have came to the conclusion that they, Valve, have came to the conclusion that they could make more money from this “episodic content” theory OVER putting out a new game, as like a Half-Life 3.  It is sorry to say, but I am also aware, that PC gaming is a BIG business, and companies like Valve, are in the business ONLY to make enormous amounts of money from us consumers in the shortest amount of time.

team_fortress_2_group_photo.jpgI have to tell all of them that I have been playing this game of Half-Lifefor nine years now, and I can’t quit now!  But I have learned a new name in this “big business” and it is something called “restraint”.  I am not and will not cave in to a developer’s ploy to steal the money from me that I have worked very hard for to have in my retirement.  There are other games out there that make me happy to play both in Single-Player experience and in Online Multi-Player.

And what are my thought about a new Half-Life 3 game in the future?  Well I will probably be in-line for that too, as long as it does not try to package the “whole” Half-Life Trilogy into a giganticly priced “box”!  I said I was a Serial Gamer, not a Serial Killer! 

Next Up: My Travels Through the Battlefields…