Wednesday, November 12, 2008

TIE Fighter, Left 4 Dead thoughts

Recently I just finished TIE Fighter, a great space simulator from Lucasarts that puts you in the role of an Imperial Pilot. The game originally debuted in the mid-1990s, back when a lot of people played various flight simulators, and it was the sequel to the classic game X-Wing. TIE was not just a sequel, but a major technical facelift, both in terms of technology and adding a lot more gameplay options and a much deeper experience. In 1997 PC Gamer even rated it the number one PC game of all time, although admittedly for PC gaming this was BHL (before Half-Life!). I picked it up again not just for nostalgia (the original came on floppy disks!), but because I never did play through all the expansions and I wanted to see the whole thing through.

The main thing I want to highlight about the game is its surprisingly intriguing overall story throughout the original title and its two expansions. You see, during the flight missions you have your main objectives as explained to you by an Imperial officer's briefing. However, there are alternative "secondary objectives" given to you by a shadowy cloaked agent of the Emperor. As you complete these secondary goals you gradually learn that the commander of your ship is becoming increasingly involved with the Rebellion. But even better than this, during a mission where you plan to finally trap the remnant of this mutiny, you get double-crossed by another segment of the Imperial fleet, who attempts a coup against the Emperor. Since the overall plot of the game takes place between Episode V and VI of the movies, it's a great subplot to the overall Star Wars universe. Finally, not only do you get to work alongside expanded-universe uber-fan-favorite Admiral Thrawn, but you get to fly missions with Vader himself. A must play for all Star Wars fans, probably the best SW-based video game to date.

That's an old game. Now to talk about a new game - Left 4 Dead. Today I just downloaded and sampled the demo. Simply amazing. Every since I first played Doom multiplayer, I've yearned to play a great co-operative multiplayer FPS. This game basically puts you in a 28 Days Later/Dawn of the Dead-Zack-Snyder-remake zombie fest alongside 3 other people (either bots or other players). It feels very arcade-inspired, you only use a couple weapons at a time, hordes of enemies, maximum of 4 players, etc. This simplicity however is great, as it shifts the emphasis from solving "monster puzzles" (fire weapon #45 at monsterC's knees!) to just outright mayhem and saving your buddy when they get surrounded by angry, hungry, zombies.

Even though I could only taste two levels, it was a ton of fun, and the experience is tripled when you play with friends instead of the bots. Furthermore, it was developed by Valve and one of their recently-purchased developers, so it uses the fantastic HL2 engine, replete with realistic lighting effects, physics, and atmosphere. I've played the two levels multiple times now, and I'm still hearing snippets of banter between the characters for the first time. Once I get some money together, I can't wait to buy the full version.

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