As I sit in the cramped back bedroom I call my office, I think to myself, “Thank God summer is over.” Yes, I slogged through the warm days and lengthy twilight evenings and prayed for the onset of blessed winter. While stubborn contrariness may explain this desire, I’m afraid the truth is even less attractiveit’s addiction, pure and simple. As you might have guessed, I’ve got a bad jones for computer games and I need a fix of the good stuff every so often or I get a little twitchy.
The problem is that because winter embraces the Holiday Shopping Season, game publishers slate the release of their best and brightest products for December. Not that the summer is completely devoid of new gamesI’ll manage to get by with Quake II, Age of Empires, Descent 3, Rainbow 6, SimCity 3000, and Fly until winter arrives. But there’s some tasty stuff yet to come. I’ve made my list, checked it twice, and here’s what’s on it.
Sure as Shootin’
Despite the best efforts of those who blame society’s violence on video games rather than the NRA’s political payola, first-person shooters are as popular as ever. Three outstanding representatives of the genre are slated to appear before the holidays: Sierra’s (425/746-5771,
) Half-Life, Activision’s (310/255-2050,
) Quake III: Arena, and MacSoft’s (800/229-2714,
) Unreal Tournament.
It’s no fluke that hundreds of thousands of copies of Half-Life made their way to PCs earlier this year. The game not only looks great under hardware acceleration, features more-realistic character movement than shooters of the past, and lacks hard-and-fast boundaries between one game level and another, but Half-Life also offers characters who behave more like living beings than scripted robots. Better still, Half-Lifeunlike most shootersactually has a compelling story line: as Gordon Freeman, a 27-year-old scientist, you find yourself unintentionally involved in a secret war between the government and an icky alien race. Your job is to save humankindand if that means leaving this world to kick alien patootie, then so be it.
Quake III: Arena and Unreal Tournament take a different tack by dispensing with the plot entirely. Undoubtedly you’ve read game reviews that state, “Great as the single-player game is, it can’t hold a candle to networked DeathMatch play.” The developers of Quake III: Arena and Unreal Tournament realize this and have focused these games on head-to-head combat. Although both games offer a single-player mode, these single-player levels are designed to mirror networked play.
Although multiplayer battle is the point of the two games, they approach it differently. Quake III: Arena focuses exclusively on DeathMatch play, whereas Unreal Tournament will offer both DeathMatch and team play. With hardware acceleration, both games will be visual delights. Unreal Tournament should be just as beautiful as its predecessor, Unreal, and Quake III: Arena will feature rounded surfaces and effects such as volumetric fog that shrouds opponents until they’re close enough to carve with the chain saw.
Speaking in the Third Person
Forms of battle that take place aboverather than behindthe gun are also coming, in the form of Aspyr Media’s (888/212-7797,
) Tomb Raider III, Blizzard Entertainment’s (800/953-7669,
) Diablo II, and Bungie Software’s (800/295-0060,
Surely you’re familiar with the Tomb Raider series, so suffice it to say that Lara’s back with more of what Lara does best. In Tomb Raider III, Lara and her environment are more polygon-rich, she carries an enhanced weapons set, and you accompany her to such exotic locations as Antarctica and Area 51. Likewise, Mac gamers know the ins and outs of Diablo, the outstanding kill-the-dungeon-dwelling-baddies adventure. Diablo II will offer five new character classes, four towns, a host of new weapons and enemies, and hardware acceleration for even richer and more-beautifully lit environments. Additionally, you’ll be able to enlist other characters to accompany you on your quests.
Oni is the one wholly new third-person game coming to the Mac this year (or early next year). It’s a hand-to-hand and gunplay 3-D action game done in a Japanese anime style. Featuring immense indoor and outdoor environments, dozens of opponents, a fair mix between fisticuffs (and footicuffs, elbowicuffs, and kneeicuffs) and artillery, hardware acceleration (required), and more moves than United Van Lines, Oni should be a must-have for action gamers.
Bungie Software was kind enough to show me a very early version of a game that will blow network gamers awayHalo, a third-person-perspective war game pitting humans against aliens. The game will allow up to 32 players16 players per teamto have at it across a network or Bungie’s own Internet-based BungieNet.com. Halo is drop-dead gorgeous and encourages players to adopt different skillsfor example, you can hone your skills as a driver or gunner on a land-based vehicle. Regrettably, you won’t see it until the middle of 2000.
The High Holidays will also bring us two strategy games that are big, big, big in the PC worldSid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, published by Aspyr, and MacSoft’s Civilization: Call to Power. Both are turn-based games, and each features civilizations that peer into the future. In addition to tarting up Civilization II’s graphics and interface, Civilization: Call to Power encompasses more years than Civ IIit includes those years between 4000 B.C. and A.D. 3000. Alpha Centauri takes up where Civ II left offthe descendants of those aboard the spaceship you launched at the end of Civ II have been broken into seven factions with very different ideas about how a planet should be run. You must compete against the other six factions for control of the planet.
Patience Pays Off
Two of the most common complaints you hear among Mac gamers are
sports games for the Mac, and
why can’t LucasArts commit to the Mac platform? Partial answers to both are coming later this year. Aspyr is bringing a
mainstream football game to the MacMadden NFL 2000. And LucasArts (888/532-4263,
) has committed to putting Mac gamers behind the controls of their very own pod racer in Star Wars: Episode 1 Racer. Neither of these developments will drop basketball and baseball games or a Mac-compatible version of LucasArts’ Grim Fandango in my lap by December, but they’re both a very good start.
Shakin’ All Over
These are just
of the highlights of the season. I haven’t even touched on Baldur’s Gate, Pro Pinball: Big Race USA, Aliens Versus Predator, and Interstate 76. With games of this caliber coming down the pike, it looks like winter’s going to be a long,
The Game Room
Holiday Wish List
Madden NFL 2000
Contributing Editor CHRISTOPHER BREEN coauthored My iMac (IDG Books Worldwide, 1999).