Publisher: Eidos (1999)
Rating: Mature (blood, gore, violence, suggestive themes)
I don't know how I missed out on this game the first time around, but it is outstanding! This addictive thriller incorporates innovative visuals and a mysterious occult storyline in world straight out of Blade Runner. Fear Effect comes on four
CDs (!), so you know
you're getting a lot of game for your money. The stylish graphics are unlike anything I've ever seen before, with pre-rendered, realistic backgrounds combined with animated characters that sport amazing facial expressions. Cinematic sequences are seamlessly intertwined with the action, and the music and voice acting is absolutely top-notch. Fear Effect's controls are similar to Resident Evil and Tomb Raider, but an intelligent user interface lets you manipulate items without even bringing up a menu screen. There are plenty of save points, and that's always a good thing. Fear Effect is one exciting, dark adventure that Playstation fans should not overlook. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Eidos (1996)
Fighting Force was the victim of some unrealistic expectations upon its release, so I figured it was time to give this side-scrolling beat-em-up another look. Many gamers (including myself) expected it to be the 3D incarnation of Streets of Rage (Genesis, 1991). I recall having a bunch of friends over to give it a go, but they were not impressed. The opening sequence features a helicopter dropping off our heroes on a city street with an amazing digitized skyline looming in the background. The chunky characters and blocky urban environments looked fine, but the game itself was awkward to play. The camera was never positioned correctly, and thugs would always linger just outside of the frame. It was hard to tell where you were supposed to go and there were a lot of invisible walls. Factor in lengthy and frequent load screens and you have one big party killer on your hands. Fighting Force was a disappointment in its time, but when I revisited the game's single player mode I was in for a pleasant surprise. The camera isn't great but it's a lot better since there's only one character to focus on. The responsive controls include punch, kick, grab, and jump. The shoulder buttons are used to run and execute hilariously floaty jump-kicks and super-effective slide-kicks. The triangle button pulls double-duty as the back-punch and
grab move, which was a horrible design decision. The fighting action is satisfying enough thanks to pixelated blood that splatters with each kick and punch. You can even attack thugs when they're down! Weapons like bats and clubs pack a whallop, and the pistol lets you shoot thugs point-blank in the face. After running out of bullets, you'll throw your gun, and it's pretty funny when that turns out to be the knockout blow. Fighting Force is loaded with unintentionally funny details like that. When defeated, goons drop huge wads of cash and sometimes even gold bars
. Despite being decked out in black suits, the henchmen still don silly names like Bruiser, Snakey, and Punk. You can kick a soda machine and enjoy a refreshing beverage while goons hang back and wait in their fighting stances. Why aren't they firing their weapons? As in Streets of Rage, bad chicks tend to be decked out in sexy dominatrix outfits. Fighting Force has its share of eye candy, and the office that looks out over the harbor at night looks really spectacular. The game is fun while it lasts but it's hard to progress. Health packs are few and far between, and the endless stream of thugs eventually wear you down. You'll get further if you play with a partner, but that requires both players to make a concerted effort to stay close to each other. It's possible to harm one another, so don't stand too
close! This is an oddball title for sure, but there aren't many games like Fighting Force, and retro gamers should get a real kick out of it. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 55,450
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Id Software (1996)
Final Doom certainly has the look of a money-grab, reprising the original Playstation Doom with a new set of levels. It's targeted at those who played the hell out of first Doom (literally) and crave even more first-person demon-shooting mayhem. I guess Final Doom serves its purpose. Not only does it contain a whole new set of stages, but the difficulty has been ratcheted up to the max!
The levels are jam-packed with enemies and the elaborate stage layouts expose you to constant danger. If you feel like a sitting duck, it's not your imagination. Complicating matters is the fact that armor and health packs are in very low supply. One thing you do have in your favor is firepower. Heck, the chain gun and plasma gun are available in the very first level
. You'll need them, because to these demons you're like a walking McRib. Completing any of these levels is a monumental achievement. Final Doom uses the same graphic engine as the first, and since the action is more intense it sometimes struggles to keep up with the chaos. The mouse controller is supported and a two-player mode is available via the link cable. A password is provided between levels. It's bad enough the first Doom didn't let you save your progress to memory card, but there's absolutely no excuse for it here. Final Doom is a respectable extension to the series but I think its audience is fairly limited. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Password
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Hasbro (1998)
With Frogger, Hasbro decided to fix what wasn't broken, and in the process transformed a charming arcade favorite into a mundane 3D maze game. Like the original game, the first stage features a street full of cars followed by a stream of floating logs. It's not bad, but the blocky 3D visuals don't add anything at all. After that, things take a turn for the worse as you toil through several stages of generic jumping platforms and uninteresting mazes. And don't get me started about the unresponsive controls! Your frog seems to jump a full half second
after you move the freaking joystick! I was really excited about the four-player mode, but even that turned out to be a complete dud. As the last straw, Hasbro didn't even bother to include original arcade version! © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: THQ (1998)
Set in an underwater world teeming with monstrous fish, this side-scrolling shooter boasts slick 3-D graphics and a two-player simultaneous option. G Darius is impressive to behold but chaotic to play. The number of objects on the screen is excessive at times, making it difficult to tell what the heck's going on. Capturing enemy craft is part of the game's strategy, but that just makes things more
cluttered and confusing. The game offers selectable branching stages, but you'll still need to replay the first stage every time, which gets old. G Darius isn't bad, but it has a certain disposable quality. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Galaga Destination Earth
Publisher: Hasbro (2001)
Okay, I think it's about time for someone to tell Hasbro to knock it off
with the 3D "updates" of classic games. I've been a Galaga fan since 1982, but I hate
Galaga Destination Earth! In the process of incorporating modern 3D graphics and fancy sound effects, Hasbro has inadvertently sucked every last bit of fun and excitement out of the franchise! This new Galaga is mission-based (yawn), which means having to sit through the endless obligatory CGI cut-scenes (Zzzz...). The first stage is much like the original shooter, except with some very mediocre 3D graphics. Unfortunately, this stage doesn't capture an ounce of the fun of the original. After that, you're off to a series of horrendous first-person stages with graphics so cluttered that you can't even tell what's going on. Other elements of the original Galaga, like the double-shot and challenge stages are included, but these are so poorly executed you'll wonder why they even bothered. With Galaga Destination Earth, Hasbro has taken a classic and watered it down with every boring modern game cliche known to mankind. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Gekioh: Shooting King
Publisher: Natsume (2002)
Rating: Everyone (violence)
Gekioh: Shooting King is a forgettable, low-budget shooter imported from Japan. Like most modern-day shooters, there's a heck of a lot happening on the screen at any given time. Still, Gekioh is more forgiving than most, limiting the number of projectiles and letting you retain your weapons upon losing a life. The multi-layered backgrounds are attractive but not spectacular, and enemies consist of planes, tanks, battleships, and large robo-warriors. Your weapons definitely pack some punch, and my favorite is the lightning bolt that moves from one target to the next. Also cool is how enemies go down in flames instead of exploding into nothing. Two-player simultanous play is supported. But easily the most interesting aspect of Gekioh is the extra modes. Mainly intended for laughs, these have little play value but are worth checking out nonetheless. There's the Pocket Mode, which presents the game in blocky black and white graphics like the original Game Boy. The Comical Mode features wacky sound effects and an irritating laugh track. The Slow Mode includes eerie music and sound effects. The Ancient Mode resembles an old black and white film, complete with distorted sound, a jumpy screen, and even an occasional hair in the frame! As you would imagine, these tend to be fun for the first few minutes, but have minimal replay value. The game has no options menu despite the urgent need for a screen adjustment option and a high score save feature. Fortunately you can switch off the unbearable vibrate function. All in all, Gekioh serves its purpose, but please don't ask me what that purpose would happen to be. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sony (1998)
When Gran Turismo first hit the scene, it knocked my socks off and set a new standard for realism in racing games. The graphics are remarkably lifelike, especially when viewed through the multi-angled replays. The cars almost look nearly photographic and the depth of gameplay is unprecedented. Over 140 actual car models are available, and they are customizable down to the smallest parts. Two thick manuals are included with the game, including one dedicated solely to driving techniques! Money is earned in races and used to purchase new cars and soup up the ones in your garage. Yes, this was the first time the "garage" concept was used, and it has been adopted by dozens of racing games since. I would sometimes take my car over my friend George's house (via memory card) to challenge his souped-up ride. Gran Turismo's play modes include tournament, two-player split screen, arcade, and time trial. The ten tracks are realistic but not very interesting. The rocking soundtrack features several licensed songs, including a track by my favorite band - Garbage. Gran Turismo was one of the first games to support vibration feedback, and it feels amazing as you roll over grass. Although the controls are supposed to be ultra-realistic, it's hard to steer rear-wheel drive cars in this game without fishtailing all over the place. Otherwise Gran Turismo is a landmark title for the Playstation that took the world of racing to a whole new level. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sony (1999)
The first Gran Turismo set a bold new standard for realistic racing, and Gran Turismo 2 (GT2) effectively builds on that solid foundation. You'll find more cars, more options, better tracks, and even off-road rally racing! This may be the best racer ever released for the Playstation. The handling is improved substantially (especially with regards to rear-wheel drive cars), and the rally tracks provide some much-needed variety. The scenery is more exotic this time around, although there are some draw-in issues. GT2 comes on two CDs: One for ultra-realistic simulation, and one for pure arcade action. Both are jam-packed with unlockables. Like the first game, Garbage is featured on the soundtrack, but I was less thrilled to hear Rob Zombie's "Dragula", which seems to be in every
video game (enough already!). If you're looking for realistic racing on the Playstation, this is your game. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Rockstar (2001)
Rating: Mature (animated blood, strong language)
Grand Theft Auto (GTA) was controversial due to its criminal violence, blood, and profanity. It wasn't a best-seller however until Grand Theft Auto 3 (Playstation 2, 2001) gave the series its third dimension. The crude, flat graphics of this game are a far cry from the virtual 3D world of GTA3. The overhead perspective doesn't always give you a good angle, since buildings and overpasses often block your view. The graphics aren't particularly good, with tiny people and pixelated scenery. The sound effects are amusing however, especially the "splat" of running over pedestrians. There's a car radio, but it doesn't play anything worth hearing. GTA's action is a mix of car driving and on-foot mayhem, and you receive mission instructions from pay phones across town. You'd be wise to carry out your dirty deeds without generating much commotion, because once the cops swarm they will drag your criminal-ass right out of your vehicle. A handy yellow arrow always points to your next destination, and it's absolutely necessary considering there's no map or radar display. As you can imagine, constantly following this arrow starts to feel tedious after a while. The missions are somewhat challenging, but that's mainly due to the controls. The directional pad controls your direction, but you need to hold down buttons
to run forward and backward, which is awkward to say the least. The driving is even worse. Not only does it seems like you're always turning in the wrong direction, but your car constantly gets stuck. It also doesn't help that the layout of the city is so poor. I've never seen roads that zig-zag through town (except that one in San Francisco), but in this game they're quite common. In light of the frustrating gameplay, the blood and profanity seem more silly and gratuitous than offensive. GTA2 was a slight improvement, but the series didn't grow teeth until its third installment. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Atlus (1998)
Rating: Teen (animated violence)
Critics largely wrote off this fighter in 1998, mainly because it was a 2D game released at the height of the 3D fighter frenzy. Little did anyone know this series would actually prosper on the next
generation of systems. Guilty Gear conforms to the tried-and-true formula popularized by Street Fighter II, with basic attacks, special moves, and blocking by holding the joystick "away" from your opponent. Certain Guilty Gear characters tend to wield weapons, giving the game a Samurai Shodown (Neo Geo, 1993) flavor. Despite its derivative mechanics, Guilty Gear's artistic style is all its own. The bizarre characters and unconventional backdrops tend to defy description. There's the hot blonde Milla with her killer hairdo (she will literally kill you with it), the heavy-metal inspired Axl, an anchor-swinging girl named May, and the hulking behemoth Potemkin. The imaginative locales include scenic palace courtyards, the wings of a flying plane, and mysterious occult sanctuaries. Guilty Gear's graphics are stylish but somewhat pixelated. Contests inexplicably commence with the words "Heaven or Hell!", and conclude with "Slash!". Players with an arcade-style joystick will love this game as they execute crazy, satisfying combos. Guilty Gear's gameplay is slower and less chaotic that most modern fighters, so you can actually tell what the hell is going on
. Guilty Gear has some interesting original features, like special moves listed on the load screens (great idea), health meters that "peel off" layers (not so great), and eye-popping "instant" kills (ouch!). I like how this game retains its original Japanese voice samples, but that grinding guitar background music has got to go. I was also disappointed that high scores and rankings are not
saved to memory card. Still, Guilty Gear is fun to play, and 2D die-hards will certainly want this in their collection. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Gunfighter: The Legend of Jesse James
Publisher: Ubi Soft (2001)
In recent years light-gun games have been the exclusive domain of Namco and Sega, but this entry from UbiSoft is also worth a look. Gunfighter adopts a style of play like Time Crisis, where you constantly duck behind obstacles to take cover. Unfortunately, the action isn't quite as smooth, the graphics are rougher, and the control isn't as accurate. But Gunfighter has other things going for it. First of all, it supports any type of Playstation light-gun available. Also, this game has atmosphere, making you feel as if you've stepped into a western movie. Even the voice acting is good. The action is non-stop, and shooting certain destructible items reveal bonuses and power-ups. You even man a stationary gattling gun, allowing you to mow down bad guys by the dozen. The Gunfighter's one big misstep occurs at the beginning of the second level, where your partner is about to be hung. You only get one shot
to break the rope, and even with the best light gun, it's hard! You may find yourself blowing through your continues quickly at that point. It could have been better, Gunfighter is a rather pleasant surprise for light-gun fans, especially with its low price tag. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
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Screen shots courtesy of IGN.com, Moby Games, Gaming Age Online, GameSpot, Rotten Tomatoes, GameFAQs.com