I went on a bit of a game demo download rampage this week.

This is a game coming from Quantric Dreams – the developers responisible for the respected Omikron: The Nomad Soul of a few years back.

The game pitches itself more as a psycholigical journey where the player makes decisions to affect the outcome of the protagonist in their environment. I’m not sure I really agree – I think I’ll settle with calling it a 3D adventure game.

It’s certainly got it where it counts. It looks fantastic and the production values are on par with something from the Metal Gear Solid. The direct-to-camera introduction from the game’s director only serves to reinforce it’s point of view. His pronunciation of the word “determine” alone justifies the 300mb download.

The opening of the game basically sets you up for a fall. I mean it REALLY sets you up for a fall. Watch the intro and see your game character go a slash some diner patron whilst suffering a trance. When you finally get control of him, you’re covered in blood, knife in hand and guilty as sin. Game on.

What’s particularly neat in this game is the use of a screen-split to show two scenes or camera angles at once. Think of the show “24” and you’ll know what I mean. It works to great effect too. Whilst you’re trying to clean up the blood-splattered bathroom in the diner the screen smoothly splits to show the cop at the diner eating, then getting up and pacing towards the bathroom. The added tension this brings to the gameplay is just fantastic.

The developers stress that all your actions affect what happens in the game. This means that dashing out of the bathroom will be different to cleaning your face and then dashing out. It certainly compels you re-play scenes over. Which is worth doing – the demo is quite short but totally leaves you wanting more.

I think this game could be very special on release.

Demo resources (300mb)

Dungeon Siege 2 (Single Player)
Hoo boy, That’s a big file!

I rather enjoyed the original Dungeon Siege. It was a pleasantly shallow, stat-light dungeon hack. DS did a great job of tackling many of those niggly issues you find with these games by using a very well thought out interface, a huge inventory system (the pack mule) and a really good loading system that meant the entire world remained cohesive.

With the above in mind I’d been keeping a casual eye on this and was looking forward to it. I have to admit to being a little disappointed. The engine appears identical to the original which has definitely lost that cutting edge feel to it. Additionally, some of the interface’s intuitiveness has been removed. I can’t seem to find a really simple way of telling different party members to use different magics/weapons. This was a one key-press affair in the original, not so here.

It appears that things have been expanded upon though. There’s skill trees for your melee, ranged and magic types. There’s also a clear effort at making stronger narrative and plot.

One thing I am really disappointed at is that the interface just doesn’t work well in higher (1000+) resolutions. It’s a tabbed interaface and ends up being WAY too small on my highest resolution of 1280×1024. After playing my first online RPG (Guild Wars) for only a week this feels like a huge step backwards.

I’m not really sure of this one. After playing the demo I’ll hold out until the reviews.

Demo resources (1.4 gigabyte)

F.E.A.R. (Single Player Demo)
Ah, first person shooters. The PC’s staple gaming diet.

First off, I’m not sure that F.E.A.R is meant as a cunning acronym for a S.W.A.T. style assault team or as the more obvious “ooh, scary” tones. Having played some of this demo I think it’s fair to say that it’s a fair amount of both.

Visually this game is fantastic. The texture and shadow detail are as good as anything in Doom 3 but it’s the peripheral effects that really make this stand out. The now obligatory ‘real’ physics are everwhere – that goes without saying. But the bullet sparks, flying debris and, in particular, the dust that billows around firefights REALLY make a difference. The dust in particular adds to the panic and tension of a good firefight.

Being the ‘wow! his stats are off the chart’ supern00b you are means that you have super keen reactions. These are conveyed by the use of user-activated bullet time. So far, so Max Payne. Monolith raise the bar by going ALL OUT for Matrix effects. When you’re playing in slow mo you can see that air trails your bullets leave as they head towards their targets. The audio slows down too. A really great effect that you’ll proably see way too much of by the game’s climax.

As for the scary parts – the lighting and shadowing do a great job. There’s some cunning stuff in there too. Before your first firefight you’ll have seen a mysterious girl running just ahead of you (did you see it? Was it your imagination?) and there’s more where that came from.

Monolith have often churned out really solid stuff in the FPS department. Some hits (Shogo MAD, N.O.L.F) some misses (Tron 2.0). This is destined to be a hit.

Demo resources (700mb)

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