Work Hard. Play Hard.

Recently with work I’ve been on a lot of customer maintenance jobs: patching our cloud systems, upgrading Making Tax Digital add-ons and also tidying up with a few ongoing projects that are about to go live. It’s strange because I’m used to being booked by clients for a full day and now I’m often working a couple of hours a day per client. The (electronic) paperwork is good fun.

I was eager to play a certain title from a certain Polish studio that has certainly been the most anticipated game release of the year and also probably the reason there’s not been much going on in IT this week. I decided I would order a physical copy and it’s still progressing through the Royal Mail’s network which is very overstretched right now.

No matter because that gave me enough time to finish another game I had recently started:Ion Fury developed by Void Point and published by 3D Realms.

Ion Fury is a First Person Shooter (FPS) built on Build Engine that powered Duke Nukem 3D. As such don’t expect photorealistic 3d graphics. Sprites and old fashioned 3d levels are in here. It’s a very nostalgic and overall very fun shooter. You play as protagonist Shelly “Bombshell” Harrison who’s on a mission to destroy Dr Heskel’s laboratory after his goons interrupt her night on the town and spill her watered down and overpriced beer.

The game is pretty much a back-to-basics shoot ’em up. As such there is no regenerating health or shields so health and armour must be replenished by fighting through the level. I know a lot of modern FPS games favour a regenerating health system however I feel this sacrifices tactical gameplay where the player must plan their attack out accordingly. Fortunately with Ion Fury I found this was a really fun and refreshing game to play.

The sound and visuals for the game are also fantastic. Shelly drops the occasional Duke Nukem-esque one liner (although nowhere near as sexist) and Dr Heskel (voiced by John St John who is the voice of Duke Nukem) periodically contacts Shelly through monitors at various points in each level to offer put downs and threats of annihilation. The enemies are a mix of cyborgs, cultists, spider-like heads things and augmented rats each with their own unique sound effects. The world of Ion Fury really comes alive through the headphones.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed playing through Ion Fury. The end-game boss posed a significant challenge and I had an approximately 11 hour play through which feels just about right for an FPS. I’d recommend it to any old-school FPS fan for Christmas.

I’m A Mechanical Man

This week I was supposed to be on holiday in Cornwall eating pasties and drinking Korev beer. Sadly COVID-19 has put a stop to that for now. Not to worry because Command & Conquer Remastered was released last week and I decided it would be a great way to fill some of the time off I have from work.

I first played Command & Conquer: Red Alert on my cousin’s PlayStation. It was the first strategy game I had ever played and I was hooked despite the pad being absolutely terrible for these kind of games. I then got hold of Command & Conquer for the PC, then Red Alert and the expansions, then everything up to the disappointing C&C 4 back in 2010 which was the last entry in the series. Needless to say Real-time Strategy (RTS) games have been my favourite and C&C my most beloved game series of them all. I’ve played a lot of the greats: Age of Empires, StarCraft, Total Annihilation, Total War, Civilization, Dawn of War. Not one of them in my opinion has ever come close to the classic blend of “thrills, spills and kills” (plus Frank Klepacki’s top notch soundtracks and the B-Movie FMVs of course).

I was very excited back when C&C Remastered was first announced and I’ve been following its development fervently. EA sought assistance from the original Westwood team that went on to establish Petroglyph and also Lemon Sky Studios who have leant their talents to other remasters in the art department. Frank Klepacki provided the remastered soundtrack to both Tiberian Dawn and Red Alert as well as joining forces with live act The Tiberian Sons to add their cover tracks in. The only slight disappointment has been that the source for the FMVs have been lost so AI enhanced upscales have been used and also LAN play has been held back for topical reasons.

And now it’s finally here. From the intro cinematic both of these remastered games speak volumes about the effort that has gone into the game. Both the classic installation sequences were re-done as an intro FMV. These really helped to set the tone for the C&C games and it’s an incredible touch. The upscaled graphics and sound effects are very crisp and look outstanding on my QHD monitor.

Gameplay remains quite the same as the original games. I have been playing through the original Tiberian Dawn GDI missions which I have found quite challenging. They don’t code ’em like they used to. Some missions are straightforward build base and eliminate opponent but some take the form of almost a puzzle. I’ve had to do quite a few restarts due to catastrophic failures but I’ve never felt frustrated.

It’s 1995 again and we’re storming the beach. Did you remember your suncream and sandals this time?

The bonus gallery unlocks a new video each time a mission is completed. These are fascinating to watch as they show each actor directed by Joseph Kucan doing multiple takes to get the perfect cut. A lot of work went into the original game and it’s great to get a look at the archives.

My most favourite part of the game is pressing the magic spacebar key. This switches the graphics between the upscaled assets and the original graphics. As a long time C&C fan I really love hitting the key as the action heats up. It really brings back the memories.

EA have also released the source code for the game DLLs on GitHub so we hopefully will see the mod scene for the game reinvigorated. Time will tell.

So overall a very pleasing release for C&C fans that I will be playing online for some time.