NCAA GameBreaker 2000
Publisher: Sony (2000)
After several disappointing years the NCAA GameBreaker series finally broke through with this surprisingly strong 2000 edition. I'm pleased to report all of the major flaws have been addressed. First and foremost, the game moves a lot
faster. Before each play a prompt is displayed to press X to hurry, and you'll hit it every time. The action on the field is remarkably fluid with running backs that slice through the line and fight for yardage while dragging tacklers. The passing game has improved so much I can't believe it. Open receivers are easy to find and the passes are crisp and accurate. Sometimes a receiver catching the ball on a sideline will magically stay in-bounds and zip right up the sideline. On defense the triangle is used to break up passes and the dive button is effective. Some tackles can be pretty brutal, like when players are picked up and body-slammed!
After certain plays the game will prompt you to "celebrate" (triangle) or "show off" (circle). When I tried the show off button my player performed some kind of break-dance spin on the field! It looked hilarious, but guess what? I was awarded with a 15-yard personal foul penalty! The kicking meter is slick - a model of elegance and simplicity. Keith Jackson's commentary is entertaining, but I wouldn't describe a running back as being "stopped cold" if he just picked up nine yards. The lack of a halftime show is disappointing (*sad face*) but I like how the band pipes in sporadically during the game. NCAA GameBreaker 2000 is the real deal. If you've had a love/hate relationship with the GameBreaker franchise, this is sure to put it back into your good graces. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sony (1996)
Playing this 20-year-old college football game can be pretty enjoyable provided you know what you're getting yourself into. If you're looking for realism and pinpoint control, you might hate this. But if you're looking for some fast arcade-style football action, you won't be disappointed. NCAA Gamebreaker was one of the last football games to use sprite graphics, and the players appear small and pixelated. The surface of the field is textured but in this case it appears grainy and not particularly pleasing to the eye. The opening kickoff meter comes up really quick
so be ready for it! The camera is pulled way back, giving you a nice wide angle for passing plays. During running plays you might get lost in what looks like pixel soup. The players appear to move slowly but advancing just an inch up the screen will effectively pick up a few yards. The so-called "speed burst" move is lame but the stiff-arm is no joke! I enjoyed running the wishbone offense and executing various option plays. Open receivers usually catch the ball but defenders often dive in and jar the ball loose. That dive move is lethal
. If you take control of a safety on defense you'll be able to break up all sorts of plays. One negative about the game is how if you don't take control of your player, the CPU immediately assumes control (why?
). The play selection is limited but that "flip" option sure comes in handy. The crowd looks like a splotchy wallpaper but I like the fact that there are cheerleaders and a chain gang. There's even a real halftime show with a band marching in letter formations. There's no play-by-play but you do get a PA announcer. The season mode incluces extensive statistic tracking. What makes Gamebreaker appealing to me is its pacing. It's one break-neck play after another with few lulls in the action. Gamebreaker's graphics may not have aged very well but gamers with short attention spans will appreciate it. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
NCAA Gamebreaker 98
Publisher: Sony (1997)
The second edition of Gamebreaker made the big leap from flat sprites to 3D polygons, and the results are visually appealing. The menus look stylish, the player models clean, and the field surface smooth. Before each game a camera pans around the stadium and really gets you psyched up. The marching band music sounds crisp and those thumping drums really put you in a college state of mind. Close camera angles let you get up close and personal with the players, but they look extremely boxy. The animation is smooth at least, with quarterbacks motioning at the line and defenders executing wrap tackles. Sadly the gameplay feels like an afterthought. The still arm control was moved from R1/L1 to R2, so now when I try to stiff-arm a defender I end up pitching the ball backwards (to no one)! And even when I do hit the correct button my player will often use his wrong arm.
The close camera angles prove a real liability. Prior to each snap you can preview the receiver icons, but this causes the camera to slowly rotate to the side
, which is a useless, disorienting view. When handing off the ball the game pauses briefly for no discernable reason. Oversized pass icons make it hard to locate an open receiver and the CPU defenders are tenacious! On defense the player select button rarely puts you in control of a player in proper position to make a play. When you score your player stops at the goal line like he just hit a brick wall. There's no fanfare over a touchdown, so you might not even realize you scored! And what happened to the cheerleaders and halftime show? NCAA Gamebreaker 98 is a case of a franchise going through some major growing pains. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
NCAA Gamebreaker 99
Publisher: Sony (1998)
If the goal of Gamebreaker 99 was to upgrade the blocky visuals of 98, they did a pretty decent job. The players are more well rounded (literally) and exhibit slick new animations. Players shake hands before the game, signal first downs after a catch, and celebrate in the end zone. Devastating hits give receivers virtual whiplash and runningbacks drag defenders down the field. The play selection screen is a lot clearer, limiting the number of plays to three at a time. The kick-off animation is amazing because it looks like the ball is headed right towards you! Keith Jackson provides serviceable play-by-play and text displays the result of each play. Referees now make calls on the field for penalities like pass interference, although these are rare occurrances. Despite its visual pizzazz Gamebreaker 99's gameplay stagnates badly. Before each play the quarterback slowly
approaches the line, and while it looks dramatic it's very time consuming and annoying. You can hold the shoulder button to preview your receiver icons, but the camera zooms back so slowly
you won't even want to bother! The close camera angles makes it hard to tell what's going on during running plays and passing is ridiculously hard. Throws hang in the air forever, giving defenders ample time to dive and knock the ball loose. Adding insult to injury, the referee often blows passes incomplete before the ball even reaches the receiver!
Perhaps most annoying aspect of the game is the crowd noise. Once they begin to boo in the early stages of a game they will continue the boo nonstop for the entire remainder of the game!
I guess they know a bad game when they see one. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Midway (1998)
This is hands-down one of the most fun and addictive sports game I've ever played. Why? Because there are no rules or lulls in the action! Leveling other players before they can make a catch is part of the game, and it's a blast! When the play's over, you can drop a knee (or elbow) on the down player for good measure. This game is a trip! The controls are simple and responsive, and the crisp arcade graphics are outstanding. The wacky announcer tosses out hilarious lines like "That was totally uncalled for ...but alot of fun to watch!" The game's torrid pacing is key. A single contest takes less than ten minutes to play, but those are ten minutes of non-stop action!! NFL Blitz is to football what NBA Jam was to basketball, effectively emphasizing the best aspects of the sport. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sony (1995)
Rating: Kids to Adults
As the first football game to grace the Playstation, NFL GameDay is a pretty sweet! It was certainly a step up from the 16-bit football games of the time. Ironically, what makes this game so cool is its 2D sprite graphics, which seem refreshing
compared to today's polygon-based games. GameDay took the tried and true Madden formula and elevated it to the next level. Players on the field look pixelated up close but perfectly fine with the default camera view. The action on the field unfolds slowly but that gives you more time to survey the field. Unfortunately passes tend to be soft and floaty - you can't just zip it in there. Passes can be tipped, and I was amazed
when I saw a defender dive after a tipped pass and pick it off! The extra buttons on the Playstation controller are effectively used to facilitate directional stiff arms and jukes, adding a new dimension to the running game. The triangle is the "catch" button. I don't know if it makes any difference on offense, but on defense it's very useful for breaking up passes. Diving is incredibly effective on defense, as you can often "pop" the ball out of a receiver's hand. The kicking meter moves up and down too fast, which is likely to frustrate beginners. Contests tend to be quiet affairs except for the understated crowd noise and crisp player grunts. When someone finally scores and that official NFL music booms out of your TV speaker, it will scare the hell
out of you. I love the halftime show that features dancing cheerleaders and a helmet-shaped car that putts around the field. Thanks to a fast-moving clock and minimal lulls in the action, a game can be played in under a half hour. Surprisingly fun and oozing with old-school charm, NFL Gameday has held up extremely well over the years. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sony (1996)
Rating: Kids to Adult
I'm not sure what the developers had in mind, but they wrecked
this game. The intro gets you psyched by showing real footage of bone-crunching hits, but the actual game is disappointing. The first thing you'll notice is the graphics, which are severely degraded
from the previous year. The animation is smoother and faster, but everything is lower in resolution. It doesn't help that the game zooms in very close, exposing you to an alarming degree of pixelation. The "total control passing" needlessly complicates the controls, and the "improved" AI can be obnoxious. Defenders blanket receivers so closely that you really need to get rid of the ball extra early to complete a pass. The play selection screen now shows four plays at a time (instead of three) but looks ugly and it's hard to make out the symbols. Diving tackles are still fun on defense, and the running game is easier so you're bound to pick up a yard or two even after being stacked up at the line. The stiff-arm works great in the open field, and during one play I effectively punched out
a would-be tackler. Two issues they really needed to address were left unchanged, namely the touchy kicking meter and the inability to throw a hard pass. The PA announcer is new, but he's very dull and sometimes wrong ("A 10 yard gain on the play. Second down and one.") There are a few new cosmetic tweaks like nets behind the goalposts, banners in the stands, and cheerleaders on the sidelines. GameDay 97 made a lot of changes to the original game, but most were not for the better. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sony (1997)
This 98 edition marked the year that GameDay traded in its pixelated sprite graphics for boxy polygons. I think it was pretty much a wash. The angular players seem ugly in retrospect, but at the time they were pretty amazing. Their movements certainly look more fluid and natural, and you can even see the numbers on the backs of their uniforms. It's cool how they "wrap each other up" when making tackles, and runningbacks will sometimes even drag
tacklers (it looks like defenders are gnawing on them
when this happens). The camera zooms in close whenever possible, but that makes it hard to survey the field before the snap. The polygon graphics definitely benefit the instant replay function, which lets you smoothly rotate around the play. It seems easier to run between tackles this year, but receivers forget how to catch when there's a defender in the vicinity. At least you can now put a little mustard on your throws. The lack of a half-time show is disappointing, but I guess it would be hard to create curvacious cheerleaders out of such angular polygons. The play selection screen is better this year, but it can be frustratingly hard to find basic plays like "punt". I hate the quarterback's high-pitched voice, and the pixelated crowd looks awful. The PA announcer is back, and he still has no idea what the hell is going on. GameDay 98 took a few steps forward, but the franchise still had a ways to go. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: 989 (1998)
Unlike the previous edition, GameDay 99 made substantial improvements to the series. The players look ten times
better, with polygons that look more rounded and less angular. Actual player photos are displayed between plays, and I was surprised to see Jim Harbaugh quarterbacking my Ravens. The two-man play-by-play is a terrific new feature. Dick Enberg and Phil Simms provide interesting dialogue that can be unintentionally funny. Phil: "You know Dick, I get the feeling that any moment now they're going to bust
one." Quick - cut to commercial!!
Other welcome additions include drive summaries, celebrations after big plays, and support for analog control. Penalties like pass interference are called, but they are few and far between. The kicking meter is much easier to use, and I love the new camera angle that gives you a clear view of the ball sailing through the uprights. GameDay 99 isn't without its growing pains however. The confusing new play selection screen displays two plays in the foreground and two in the background. Before each snap the quarterback moves slowly up to the line, so you'll need to hold in X to get his lazy ass moving. Stadiums like Mile High have plain blue backdrops that make them look as if they're floating in the sky. The game tends to cut away from passing plays too early - sometimes before you even know what happened. Despite its flaws, GameDay 99 is a well-rounded football game that gave Madden a run for the money. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
NFL GameDay 2000
Publisher: 989 Studios (1999)
GameDay 2000 delivers fast-moving, hard-hitting pigskin action, but often at the expense of realism. There are some interesting new features, but many come across as annoying or even comical
. The new coin toss sequence takes forever
to get started as the players slowly drag their asses to the center of the field. Does anybody want to play football
around here?! The game's engine has been tinkered with, and I'm not sure it was for the better. The players look chunkier and collision detection is loose. The runningbacks appear to be sliding on ice
at times. It's easy to break away for the big run, but when stopped short the game fails to account for forward progress! One new feature that rocked my world was the use of the "telestrator" during instant replays. It's so awesome that I wondered why it wasn't in Madden, considering John Madden pioneered
the freakin' thing. I also enjoyed GameDay's first-down chain measurements, which are inexplicably missing from most football games. Vibration is supported, but your controller buzzes too often and frequently for no good reason. GameDay 2000 has its share of unintentionally funny moments. A lot of passes are tipped, and the commentator is always astounded that these aren't interceptions. The triangle button can be used to initiate a celebration animation after any play
. Yes, only in GameDay 2000 can you make your quarterback perform an elaborate break-dance move
after throwing an incomplete pass. During one play my kick returner pulled up lame, and it looked like he was trying to pull a monkey
out of his butt
as he struggled up the field. Some of the new tackle animations look more like body slams!
What is this, professional wrestling?
During a two-minute warning, my quarterback remained in place under center even after his teammates had walked away. The two-man commentating team is back, but this year they sound like crap!
Not only is the dialogue filled with static, but the volume is all over the place. It's really irritating. Music was licensed for this game, but it's mainly a bunch of tired oldies like "Wooly Bully", "Respect", and "Working for a Living". That rendition of Moni Moni sounds awful
. GameDay 2000 has a lot of entertainment value, but the franchise seemed to be slipping into mediocrity. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
NFL GameDay 2001
Publisher: Sony (2000)
It's nothing spectacular, but GameDay 2001 did smooth out a few of the wrinkles that plagued last year's game. A much-improved play-calling screen proves the adage "less is more" by limiting your selection to three plays at a time. It looks a hell
of a lot better. The audio quality of the commentary is much clearer this year, and the licensed songs have been mercifully axed. One new feature is "new player models" that are supposed to be scaled to the height and weight of the actual players. Frankly I would not have noticed if I hadn't read about it on the back of the box. GameDay 2001 is very offensive-minded with runningbacks who shed would-be tacklers with ease and receivers that make a lot of leaping grabs. There were a few times when I witnessed a receiver shove a defender out of the way, make the catch, and take it to the house. Not cool! In one game there was a particularly heinous glitch where I couldn't see the plays on the selection screen! It shook my faith in the game, but I'm hoping it was just an isolated incident. GameDay 2001 isn't terrible, but it could use some fine-tuning. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
NFL GameDay 2002
Publisher: Sony (2001)
I wasn't expecting much from GameDay 2002, but this is probably the most satisfying edition since the original 1995 title. It's definitely the best looking. The screens are clean and attractive, sporting a new "glossy" look. On the field the player animation has been tightened up so there's less sliding around. The game has good balance, so both running and passing are equally fun. I like how runningbacks will sometimes fall forward for that extra yard instead of being stopped dead in their tracks. I noticed that if you hold in R1 before the snap, you now get a nice wide view of all of your receivers. Another notable improvement is the ability to call a timeout by simply pressing the select button. When the clock is ticking down, the last thing you want to do is fiddle with the menus! I love how in Ravens stadium you can see Jumbo-trons on each end which reflect the action on the field. One change I have mixed feelings about is the new kicking meter. It's a lot harder to use than the previous one, but it does add to the challenge. Speaking of kicking, why is it that the CPU always nails his field goals with perfect accuracy and power? Bogus!
During one game the "chain gang" was called in after a third-down for a measurement, and the tip of the ball was clearly past the chain. You can imagine my dismay when my quarterback lined up for fourth and inches!
I guess no football game is perfect, but on the Playstation, this is close enough. The GameDay series would continue through 2005. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1999)
This game generated some incredibly favorable reviews in its time, including some of the highest ratings ever awarded
to a sports title. In retrospect, it's hard to argue. NHL 2000 has a polished, arcade style that anybody can pick up and enjoy. Its motion-captured animation appears smooth and natural, and the action moves at a break-neck pace. This may be the fastest hockey game I've ever played! The analog controls are responsive, but you can't pass the puck through a crowd as you can in other hockey games, which limits your one-timer opportunities. The "world famous" wrap-around-the-goal shot seems especially effective though. NHL 2000 has a few special features that make it more exciting that your garden-variety hockey game. The highlighted puck is easy to follow, and hard shots leave dramatic streaks behind them. When holding down the shoot button, a nifty "power meter" appears under your player. You can deliver some serious blows on defense, and it's even possible to knock an opponent through the glass
! The play-by-play commentator has got to be the most enthusiastic I've ever heard ("Great save!
") This guy gets so worked up that he sounds like he's going to have a heart attack
! It's pretty hilarious. The color commentator, on the other hand, is so quiet you might not even notice him. The energetic music soundtrack features the hit "Push It" by Garbage. NHL 2000 is definitely a good time, but some may find it too
chaotic. Also, the rink is wider than most hockey games, and your limited view makes it hard to keep track of your teammates. The instant replay system is awfully choppy, which is surprising considering how smooth the game moves at normal speed. You'll want to turn the fighting off
, because these idiotic brawls consist of both players simply throwing lightning-fast jabs at each other with exaggerated sound effects. It's like a bad martial arts flick! The loading screen takes a while, but at least you get to view a photo of the arena you'll be playing in. It's easy to nit-pick, but pound for pound NHL 2000 is probably the best hockey game you'll find for the Playstation. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sony (1995)
Despite its age, NHL FaceOff delivers some seriously intense arcade-style hockey action. Much like NFL Gameday
(Sony, 1995), FaceOff dishes out the sports action the old-fashioned way - with beautiful, pixilated 2D sprites. Okay, maybe it's not the best-looking hockey game for the Playstation, but it plays
as good as any with fast, non-stop action. In terms of pure fun, this even compares favorably to those stellar NHL titles for the Genesis. The players are not very distinct and the animation is a bit choppy, but a smooth frame-rate makes it easy to follow the puck (although the action can get muddled in front of the net). FaceOff's use of sprites was once considered a liability, yet now it's part of the game's charm. There's no analog stick support, but you can still make pinpoint passes and quickly switch defenders. The CPU opponent is remarkably aggressive and even skillfully executes one-timers. Despite what the title would suggest, there are minimal faceoffs, thanks to CPU-controlled goalies that kick out the puck right away. There's no audio commentary, but the organ music, grunts, expressive crowd, and sound of scraping ice are very clear. The rich option menu includes a season mode, a create-a-player feature, and player "cards" with photos and statistics. As the very first hockey game for the Playstation, NHL Face is a remarkably strong effort that should not be overlooked by hockey fans. Some may even prefer this to the highly acclaimed NHL 2000
(Electronic Arts, 1999). © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Nagano Winter Olympics 98
Publisher: Konami (1998)
Rating: Kids to Adults
Nagano Winter Olympics plays like a winter version of International Track and Field, and that is a very good thing. The events include Skiing, Speed skating, Short Track, Bobsled, Luge, Ski Jumping, Curling, and Free Style. While fun with four players, this game does have some glaring issues. First and foremost, the difficulty between events is wildly
uneven. Qualifying for the ski events is an exercise in frustration, and it's worse in the multiplayer mode, since the runs are long and only one player can ski at a time. In fact, the only event that supports two-player simultaneous play is Speed Skating. The most oddball event here is curling (similar to bowling), but it's strategic quality provides a nice change of pace. I love the variety and winter scenery, but Nagano plods along too slowly and lacks the excitement of International Track and Field. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Namco Museum Volume 1
Publisher: Namco (1995)
This fine collection of old arcade favorites includes Pac-man, Galaga, Pole Position, Bosconian, Rally-X, New Rally-X, and Toy Pop. Yes, these are exactly the same as the arcade versions. Pac-man and Galaga are true classics with endless replay value. Pole Position is fun, but the control is lacking without the steering wheel. Rally-X is an underrated maze game, and Bosconian is a generic space shooter. Toy Pop is a bit of a dud. The virtual museum feature is interesting at first, but the actual content is disappointing, consisting mainly of instructions, tips, and Japanese ads. Even so, this is one of the better editions of the Namco Museum series. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: Galaga
Our high score: ER 99,060
1 or 2 players
Namco Museum Volume 2
Publisher: Namco (1996)
The second Namco collection is seriously lacking in big-name titles. It includes Xevious, Gaplus, Super Pac-Man, Mappy, Grobda, and Dragon Buster. Xevious is by far the best title here, but it's still a "semi-classic" at best. Mappy is a mildy entertaining, cutesy platform game with a trampline-jumping mouse in a police uniform. Grobda is a fair third-person tank shooter with laughable voice synthesis. Gaplus, the alleged sequel to Galaga, is entirely too hard to be any fun. Super Pac-Man is probably the least fun
Pac-Man game of all time, and Dragon Buster is an interesting but hard-to-control early D&D-style game. There's not much to get excited about here, but completists will still want this in their collection. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Namco Museum Volume 3
Publisher: Namco (1996)
Namco really got back on track with its third collection, which features a number of bonafide classic arcade hits. Galaxian, Ms. Pac-man, and Dig Dug need no introduction - these games are incredibly fun and madly addicting. Pole Position II is a decent sequel to the venerable racing game, and it features multiple tracks. The last two games however are extremely lame. Phozon features strange build-an-atom gameplay that's not the least bit compelling. Tower of Druaga is a slow
Dungeons and Dragons maze game that will make you want to play Wizard of Wor instead. On the strength of the first four games however, this is a disk worth owning. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Namco Museum Volume 4
Publisher: Namco (1996)
Namco appeared to be running out of titles with the release of this fourth compilation, containing Assault, Pac-Land, Ordyne, The Return of Ishtar, and The Genji and The Heike Clans. To be honest, I've never even heard
of most of these games! Out of the five, only Assault stands out. Supporting dual-analog sticks, this tank game is an absolute blast! With scaling graphics and challenging gameplay, this amazing shooter practically justifies the whole disk! Pac-Land is a departure from the previous Pac-Man games, playing like a second-rate Mario Brothers. Ordyne is a side-scrolling shooter with excellent cartoonish graphics and multiple weapons to choose from. The final two titles try to combine arcade action with RPG strategy, but fall flat. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Namco Museum Volume 5
Publisher: Namco (1997)
For completists only, this fifth Namco collection contains five little-known games: Metro-Cross, Baraduke, Dragon Spirit, Pac-Mania, and the Legend of Valkyrie. In fairness, none of these are particularly bad, but none are particularly good either! Metro-Cross is a decent skateboarding-thru-obstacles type game, and Baraduke is a bad maze shooter with corny, low-quality voice synthesis ("I'm your friend!"). Dragon Spirit is an extremely difficult vertical shooter with small, pixilated objects. Pac-Mania is a 3-D version of the original Pac-Man, and the only thing the new graphics add is the ability to jump over ghosts. The Legend of Valkyrie is a arcade/RPG game which didn't hold my interest. For this fifth edition of Museum, Namco was clearly running on fumes. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Virgin (1997)
Rating: Kids to Adults
In this third-person space shooter, you guide your ship around the inside or outside of a giant tube, firing at cannons and enemy vessels while dodging and jumping over barriers. Naturally you can pick up power-ups and new weapons along the way. Nanotek boasts great 3D visuals, with a smooth frame-rate and outstanding explosions. You'd think that someone who grew up with Tempest would appreciate the old-school nature of this game, but I'm really not too crazy about it. Maybe it's the complex controls that turn me off. You can fire in three directions, bank, strafe, jump, climb, dive, accelerate, brake, and fire a special weapon. That's too much for an arcade-style game. The challenge is immense and you really have to stay alert. Another issue is the monotonous stages. Flying in or around tubes is a rush for the first few minutes, but wears thin in a hurry. Nanotek's sound effects are impressive, and its pulsating soundtrack will get your adrenaline flowing. It didn't win me over, but for shooter fans looking for a real challenge, Nanotek may be just the thing. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1996)
Rating: Kids to Adults
To be honest, I didn't expect the original Need For Speed (NFS) to age nearly as well as it has. When first released, NFS set a new standard for realism in a driving game. Granted, this was before Gran Turismo came along! NFS incorporates eight real-life "super cars", including the Lamborghini Diablo, Chevrolet Corvette, Dodge Viper, Ferrari 512TR, Acura NSX, Porche 911 Carrera, and Toyota Supra Turbo. The game emulates the cars' performance characteristics (allegedly) and there's an interesting "showcase" for each car, composed of narrated slides and stylish videos. I've never been a car nut, but a few of my friends were absolutely enthralled with all of this. Need For Speed earns an "A" for presentation. The attractive menu screens are well organized, and crystal clear photos of the cars are displayed during loads. One dead giveaway that NFS is an "older" game is the fact that almost all of the tracks are unlocked from the start (yes!). In most modern racers, you begin with only one lousy track and have to painstakingly unlock the rest! Need For Speed's locales range from a desert road, to snowy mountains, to my personal favorite, a gorgeous coastal highway. The races are exciting, and even the two-player split-screen mode is respectable. There are no CPU racers in the split screen mode, but at least there's oncoming traffic to spice things up. For the solo player there's a challenging tournament mode, and unlike modern racers with their "rubber band AI", if you fall too far behind the CPU cars you're not likely to catch up! The CPU drivers are aggressive too, running you off the road at every opportunity. One area where Need For Speed suffers is its stiff control, and it doesn't help that the analog stick is not
supported. The frame-rate is fair, but in terms of sheer velocity, the game falls short of its title. Also, the boxy cars and seams in the scenery never let you forget you're playing a 1996 game. The audio consists of generic beats and guitar jams - nothing to get excited about, but still preferable to the "extreme" soundtracks of more recent games. In the end, Need For Speed isn't the showpiece it once was, but it's still worth pulling off the shelf every now and then. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1997)
Rating: Kids to Adults
I'll never forget how disgusted
I was upon purchasing Need For Speed 2 (NFS2) in 1997. I was especially bitter because I had just sold the first one back! The original game took its racing seriously and tried to be as authentic as possible, but NFS2 totally compromised those principles. Instead of realistic tracks, you get fanciful wonderlands with castles and psychedelic tunnels. Not only are these courses annoyingly unrealistic, but most are butt-ugly to boot! The gratuitous scenery also takes its toll of the frame-rate, which only rates as fair in the single-player mode and unacceptably poor in the choppy split-screen mode. Case in point is that pathetic bridge on the "Outback" track, where you can see the arches being rendered as you're driving over the freakin' thing!
Even back in 1997, my friends mocked this game to no end. Adding insult to injury, NFS2 tried to overcompensate for its stiff controls with an "arcade mode" which has the cars sliding all over the road! At least the car showcases still kick ass, featuring cool videos of the cars cruising around town to pulse-pounding beats. NFS2 was apparently trying to appeal to both the car purists and arcade crowd, but fell short on both counts. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Need For Speed III: Hot Pursuit
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1998)
Redeeming itself after the disappointing Need For Speed 2, Electronic Arts has managed to deliver a racing game that's both fun and graphically impressive. Need For Speed 3 (NFS3) features attractive tracks that are attractive but not too far "out there". The analog control is tight, and the game has an arcade feel which I like. The two-player split screen mode is compelling, at least until someone pulls too far ahead. NFS3 has a load of options including varying weather conditions and police cars which make the races a lot more interesting. The pumping background music is outstanding. If I had one reservation, it would be with the so-so framerate. Even so, Need For Speed 3 did a fine job of rejuvenating the series. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Activision (1997)
I really enjoyed Nightmare Creatures, if only on the strength of its creepy atmosphere. This game is right up there with Resident Evil when it comes to creating a tense atmosphere straight out of an old horror movie. Its stages tend to be dark and foggy with old, decrepit buildings. Zombies rise from their graves and werewolves leap out of the darkness. There's plenty of fun to be had as you battle weird creatures and large bosses. Unfortunately, the frantic action is marred by an overly-complex control scheme which is condusive to mindless button pushing. Nightmare Creatures is no classic, but it's a certainly good Halloween game. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
No One Can Stop Mr. Domino
Publisher: Acclaim (1998)
It's true - you can't
stop Mr. Domino - that little bastard just keeps going and going! This game stirred quite a few emotions in me, from confusion, to frustration, to obsession. When first released in 1998, Mr. Domino was overrated by game magazines who were desperately searching for something original. Mr. Domino is certainly one of a kind, but it's also gratuitously difficult and frustrating. It's a puzzle game in constant motion. You guide a running domino man around a "track" strewn with obstacles and targets, leaving other dominos in your wake. The idea is to situate your dominos strategically so during the next lap you can knock them down onto target squares, triggering amusing (and often bizarre) animations. The problem is, if you don't set a domino in front of a target during one lap, you know it'll take at least two more laps to hit it, and that's demoralizing. Mr. Domino turns gray in color over time, and he'll eventually die unless you can refresh him by moving over a health square. If it sounds complicated so far, you also have to factor in a demanding obstacle course of barriers and moving hazards that spell cheap hits galore. But by far the worst part of the game is those "reset" squares that completely wipe out all
of the progress you've made. It's very easy to accidentally
run over these things, especially after hitting a speed boost. The control is responsive, but there's little room for error. The stages are interesting in a Micro Machines kind of way, and highlights include a convenience store and an amusement park. The electronic music is nothing short of amazing, and the game saves your current stage and high score. As tedious and maddening as Mr. Domino can be, I can't deny that I was intrigued enough to play for several hours straight. Once you "get it", it's an absorbing experience. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Psygnosis (1995)
Rating: Kids to Adults
This version of Novastorm is a different animal than the 3DO edition (1994), and it really doesn't compare well. The intro mixes live actors with grainy CGI graphics, which is par for the course for an early PS1 title. Apparently your character is the last hope of humanity against the evil Scarab forces or whatever. The grainy cutscenes are a lot
less impressive than those in the 3DO version. Even the in-game graphics look a little rough, although the frame-rate is far smoother than anything the 3DO could pump out. The action is "on rails" as you view your ship from behind and enemies scale in from the horizon. The colorful landscapes you skim across look nice, especially the glacier stage with its flying ice sharks (not a typo). In addition to blasting enemies with rapid-fire weapons, you must avoid surface hazards like volcanic eruptions. Unfortunately, the swinging camera and lousy collision detection makes it almost impossible to skillfully navigate these areas (unless you memorize the patterns). It's hard to tell when you're taking damage, and by the time you hear the "shield low" warning it's usually too late. Your smart bombs will not protect you from enemy fire, so never let your guard down. Destroyed enemies occasionally drop gold icons that give you a major (but short lived) firepower boost. A few of the bosses look amazing due to good use of smooth textures and lighting effects. My biggest gripe with Novastorm is the poorly-tuned difficulty. Under the normal difficulty it's hard to advance far enough to enjoy the good power-ups, but on easy you can breeze through the game. High scores are not recorded. Novastorm could have been a decent arcade-style shooter, but it feels a little undercooked. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
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