August 2001 Archives
Developer: Human Head Studios
Reviewed on PC
Windows System Requirements: Pentium II 300 MHz, 64 MB RAM, 88 MB HD space, 4x CD-ROM
You take on the role of Ragnar, a young Viking newly-admitted to the ranks of the village warriors. As a member of the Odinsblade, you must defend your village and the sacred stone of the gods entrusted that lies at its center. All the land is in peril, however, as a warrior named Conrack has sworn allegiance to the evil god Loki and is using Loki's power to ravage the country. When Conrack attacks a neighboring village, you set out with the village's best warriors to render aid. Conrack, however, is not so easily turned aside. He calls upon Loki's might and kills your entire company, including you.
Floating in your watery grave, you are visited by Odin who gives you back your life and one last chance at vengeance. But if you're going to get to Conrack, you must fight your way there with sword, axe and mace plus any magical runes Odin deigns to drop along your path. Your fight is long – you start in Hell and work your way up.
Developer: Remedy Entertainment
Reviewed on PC
Windows System Requirements: Pentium 450 MHz, 96 MB RAM, 16 MB Direct3D video card
Max Payne combines a film-noir sensibility and the style of Hong Kong Blood Opera with computer game shoot-'em-up conventions. While Max was a New York City policeman, his baby and wife Michelle were killed three years earlier by addicts of a drug that would soon become a revered name on the street – Valkyr. Max joined the DEA afterwards as an undercover agent, and became part of the all-out effort to stop Valkyr from spreading. As the game begins, Max attends a rendezvous that goes hideously wrong. A blizzard is shutting the city down, and Max has been framed with the murder of his fellow agent. In his pursuit of the gangster that set him up, Max meets up with members of the Italian and Russian Mafia, corporate magnates, ex-Army project scientists, occult enthusiasts and a mysterious conspiracy. Mafia crime drama, conspiracy theory and Norse mythology all compete for Max's attention. When Max discovers the connection between his set-up and the deaths of his loved ones, he becomes determined to enact his revenge upon the woman who began his nightmare three years before.
Film noir is a genre in which the world is dark and nihilistic, with an unheroic, all-too-human hero, a setting filled with cold, darkness and shadows, and a narrative with frequent use of flashbacks and voiceovers. Hong Kong Blood Opera is exemplified by John Woo's films, and has done much to popularize the slow motion action sequences in which characters leap from the paths of flying bullets, spraying automatic gunfire as they dive. In these films, bullets trace paths through the air and shell casings trace lazy arcs from guns to bounce on concrete floors with an obscenely loud clang. Max Payne takes some of the better elements of each, and weaves them into a game that takes a standard shooter in some new directions. Max Payne's film-noir aspects come from the cut-scenes that take the form of panels in a graphic novel and voiceovers that permeate the action. The game begins with a flashback to the death of his loved ones, a scene he revisits throughout the game. Shoot-dodge and Bullet Time functions let Max execute Hong Kong Blood Opera style moves. Max can hurl himself sideways while blasting away with duel automatic weapons, and can slow time to a crawl, giving him an edge over the underworld he is determined to purge.
Developer: Mucky Foot
Reviewed on PC
Windows System Requirements: Pentium II 450 MHz, 64 MB RAM, 8 MB video card, 300 MB HD space, 4x CD ROM
StarTopia gives you control of a donut-shaped space station, with the mission to rebuild it one section at a time. Your station is occupied by a diverse array of alien species all with their own, sometimes conflicting, likes and dislikes. You must keep them happy by terraforming the bio-deck to give each species a little taste of home and by building fun hangouts like discos and lovenests on the entertainment deck. All the while, you must keep your station functioning and your economy humming by putting some of your visitors to work on the engineering deck. Of course, you're not alone out there. Other station managers are competing to take over the station through economic strength or plain old brute force. In space, no one can hear you scream – but they might be able to hear you chuckle through this quirky, humorous, station-building simulation.