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Big game hunting

Big game hunting

Christmas is on the way and let's get realistic here, the only present to give in this cyberage is a computer game. So resellers, get ready for an influx of pimply teenagers and twenty-something geeks as they scope your store for the choicest games on the market. If you're now feeling a bit insecure, then perhaps the following feature prepared by Molly Furzer will help you decide what's rad, gnarly and trés cool . . .

Wolf Interactive

Title: Monopoly Star Wars

Category: board game

Platform: Windows 95

RRP: $79.95

Publisher: Hasbro Interactive

Distributor: Wolf Interactive

Availability: now

"It's a classic Monopoly game," says the brochure, only instead of a shoe there's a full motion 3D Darth Vader. Princess Leia replaces the dog, and the good old favourite, the racing car, becomes Luke Skywalker. Houses and hotels being passé in the greater galaxies of course, you now build spaceports and fleets on Death Star and Dagobah.

C-3P0 (the brassed one) hosts this inter-galactic game. Speaking "brand new" dialogue performed by the original voice of C-3P0, he introduces players to "new and exciting locations", including scenes from the rereleased Star Wars trilogy which screened earlier this year.

Warlords III: Reign of Heroes

Category: strategy/action

Platform: Windows 95

RRP: $89.95

Publisher: Red Orb Entertainment

Distributor: Wolf Interactive

Availability: now

Warlords III: Reign of Heroes is set in the medieval fantasy world of Etheria. It's a game of conquest where players assemble armies and control heroes to undertake and conquer challenging quests.

This is the third instalment of Red Orb Entertainment's Warlords series, first released in 1991. Warlords III was co-released by Red Orb and Strategic Studies Group (a developer of computer-based strategy games) that worked together to include full multiplayer capabilities, turn-based play and a new simultaneous movement mode. The simultaneous movement mode means players can play at the same time within a time limit or until all players are done.

Title: Take No Prisoners

Category: action

Platform: Windows 95

RRP: $89.95

Publisher: Red Orb Entertainment

Distributor: Wolf Interactive

Availability: now

From the developers of Heretic and Hexen comes an action game with a slightly different edge.

Unlike its siblings, Take No Prisoners offers players with a view from above only, but like Hexen, it's all 3D blood and guts.

The plot centres around the user, a mercenary called Slade in a post-nuclear world who must make it inside the "Dome" where the secrets to survival are hidden. Users must travel to the centre of the city to find the Dome, battling 22 enemy armies in 20 non-linear territories.

Take No Prisoners has multiplayer support for eight players over a LAN or two players via modem.

Directsoft

Title: Dark Colony

Category: futuristic military strategy

Platform: DOS, Windows 95

RRP: $79.95

Publisher: Take 2 Interactive Software

Distributor: Directsoft Australia

Availability: now

The setting for Dark Colony is distant space, 200 years after the first human vessel reached Alpha Centauri. Since then humans have spread throughout the galaxy.

This game allows the player to play on either the human or alien teams. Along the way they will battle numerous alien, human and indigenous species.

The gamer starts the mission in a corner of a large map with very limited viewable terrain. As they accumulate credits, by mining with a Mobile Ore Drainer, you can build troops and start to explore the map. While the player is busy building new units, opponents are doing the same, building a huge army to mount a campaign of destruction.

Dark Colony requires the gamer to employ a strategic campaign against the enemy - size doesn't count as much so players can't win by simply having a larger army.

At first the controls and interface were slightly confusing. It seemed difficult to control large numbers of men, especially during battle. As I played for longer I found myself getting used to the controls, but the interface still needs some improvement. The cutscenes after each mission are impressive and smooth, the graphical quality is excellent. The cutscenes tell the story as you play, and once you get past the first few levels, an extremely interesting plot unfolds.

The CD soundtrack is excellent. It suits the game very well, fitting in perfectly as you control your armies against the enemy forces. The in-game graphics initially looked very good but after a while, flaws in the terrain and a lack of detail in some areas was apparent.

This game has been touted as the game that would defeat Red Alert as the best real-time strategy game, but after playing it, I have to say that it doesn't live up to expectations. Dark Colony is a fun and excellent game, but it doesn't have the same playability or fun level as similar games, Red Alert and Krush Kill and Destroy.

Title: Earth 2140

Category: futuristic strategy

Platform: MS DOS 6.x, Windows 95

RRP: $89.95

Publisher: Topware

Distributor: Directsoft Australia

Availability: now

As the title suggests, this game is set in the year 2140. It's a bleak situation where after years of war and environmental disasters, it's time to evacuate the underground cities of the United Civilised States and Eurasian Dynasty. Resources are in short supply and the remaining survivors must struggle for survival on the earth's surface.

Earth 2140 is a real-time strategy game with the usual military style gaming, overhead view and lots of bombs and gunfire. It features over 70 different vehicles, robots, ships and planes, 55 missions and five types of terrain. Another 30 missions are available in the network version of Earth 2140 which allows up to six players to battle at a time.

We gave a review copy of Earth 2140 to Scott Phillips, a student at William Clake College in Sydney, who did work experience with ARN.

This is what he had to say about Earth 2140:

"The gameplay in Earth 2140 is complex but enjoyable with a large and interesting range of fighting units to choose from. The graphics are high quality with detailed scenery and units. Sound in the game is excellent with a very high quality soundtrack and special sound effects. Overall Earth 2140 is a high class game that is very enjoyable for players who like strategy games."

EA Sports

Title: Madden NFL 98

Category: sports

Platform: Windows 95 native

RRP: $89.95

Publisher: EA Sports

Distributor: Electronic Arts

Availability: now

NFL: footy American style. This was the best selling sports game last year and it's back for the (northern) winter season this year in an updated form. The plays are based on defensive playbooks from the NFL. A system of defensive reads and coverages mirror what NFL players experience in every play.

Developers have beefed up the graphics. A TV-style presentation even includes play-by-play commentary and a player of the game award.

Title: Andretti Racing

Category: sports

Platform: Windows 95

RRP: $89.95

Publisher: EA Sports

Distributor: Electronic Arts

Availability: now

The only drawback with this title is that it does not cover Grand Prix racing.

Still, it offers the other two major types of racing in the US - Indy car and stock car - and 16 challenging tracks from which to choose. Developers claim it is a blend of arcade racer and car simulation. You can select from five driving perspectives and eight different instant replay camera angles.

Pre-race introduction and a racing commentary are included plus, of course, racing tips from the Andrettis - Mario, Michael and Jeff.

Title: NBA Live 98

Category: sports

Platform: Windows 95

RRP: $89.95

Publisher: EA Sports

Distributor: Electronic Arts

Availability: now

New features for this old favourite include a 32-bit front end, upgraded speech and colour commentary plus the scanning of actual players' faces on the characters. New animations include dunks, cross-over dribbles, 360 degree spin moves and defensive moves. More control over the players is also featured and graphics have been improved. NBA Live 98 is an officially licensed product from the NBA and includes the 1997 NBA team rosters with player and team statistics. There are unlimited camera angles and five play modes - season, series, exhibition, play-offs and a 3-point shoot out.

Title: NHL 98 Hockey

Category: sports

Platform: Windows 95

RRP: $89.95

Publisher: EA Sports

Distributor: Electronic Arts

Availability: now

This was voted by PC Gamer as the best sports game of the year. The updated version has smoother graphics and enhanced gameplay. Coaching strategies were developed in conjunction with Marc Crawford, Stanley Cup Champion and coach of Colorado Avalanche. The game features glass-breaking checks, huge saves, precision passes and perfect positioning of players. Characters feature the faces of actual players. NHL is formatted for an international tournament with 16 international teams. Unlimited camera angles are available with instant replay. Automatic TV-style stats are updated on-screen during gameplay.

Tech Pacific

Title: Entertainment Pack: The Puzzle

Collection

Category: arcade/puzzle

Platform: Windows 95, Windows NT

RRP: $49.00

Publisher: Microsoft

Distributor: Tech Pacific

Availability: now

The Puzzle Collection offers 10 colourful and challenging brain-teaser style games. They're easy to get into - great graphics and cute themes but are frustratingly difficult to master. Tetris addicts will love the collection which includes puzzles with names like Rat Poker, Finty Flush, Mixed Genetics and Jewel Chase.

Title: Age of Empires

Category: strategy

Platform: Windows 95, Windows NT

RRP: $89.00

Publisher: Microsoft

Distributor: Tech Pacific

Availability: now

Age of Empires is in the SimCity genre, a real-time strategy game which starts with the Stone Age and continues through to the Iron Age.

With limited resources to begin with (a few cave men, some trees and some animals) the player is given the challenge to create a civilisation. They can choose one of three ways to achieve world domination - exploration and discovery, economic victory (by accumulating wealth) and domination of enemy civilisations.

The player can also choose what type of civilisation and race to build (eg. Assyrians, Babylonians and Greeks) and the type of technological path the civilisation should follow (eg a military route starting with archery to naval warfare).

Title: Flight Simulator 98

Category: simulation

Platform: Windows 95, Windows NT

RRP: $89.00

Publisher: Microsoft

Distributor: Tech Pacific

Availability: now

Flight Simulator 98 is the 15th year edition of Microsoft's popular flight simu-lation game. New features of the latest version include a Bell 206 helicopter, a Cessna 182 Skyplane and the Learjet 45.

Flight Simulator 98 also sports some 3000 airports and 45 cities (including Sydney) in which to fly.

Technology advancements include faster frame rates and better scenery with 3D accelerator cards, MMX support, and support for force feedback gaming devices (like Microsoft's new SideWinder Force Feedback Pro).

Title: Close Combat: A Bridge Too Far

Category: strategy

Platform: Windows 95, Windows NT,

Power Mac

RRP: $89.00

Publisher: Microsoft

Distributor: Tech Pacific

Availability: now

This is the sequel to Close Combat and developed by Atomic Games for Microsoft. Close Combat: A Bridge Too Far is a real-time strategy game based on Operation Market Garden, an actual operation which took place in WWII against the German forces.

Players may choose to control the German or Allied Forces, and have responsibility over controlling five strategic bridges.

Microsoft says it features true line-of-sight and line-of-fire game play, elevation effects, the ability to hide in buildings for cover and "troops behave like real soldiers . . . they're affected by their strength, ability and mental condition".

Title: CART Precision Racing

Category: Indy racing

Platform: Windows 95, Windows NT

RRP: $89.00

Publisher: Microsoft

Distributor: Tech Pacific

Availability: now (mid november)

This is Microsoft's answer to the Indy 500. Not the kind of "carts" we're used to but Cham-pionship Auto Racing Teams in 3D "photo-realistic" graphics.

Some of the features of CART Precision Racing include rolling starts, advanced racing manoeuvres, and personal mechanics who give feedback to players.

A "realistic" race is achieved with the combination of Microsoft's Force Feed-back Pro joystick (which lets you know when you've hit a wall for example) and the built-in effects in the game (the user's view for example, is affected by vibrations, turns and acceleration).

Up to eight players can race each other over a LAN and up to four players through the Microsoft Internet Gaming Zone - www.zone.com/.

Pactronics

Title: Total Distortion

Category: adventure

Platform: PC, Mac

RRP: $49.00

Publisher: Pop Rocket

Distributor: Pactronics

Availability: now

Aimed at the teenage market but also for those young at heart, Total Distortion takes the player on a rock 'n' roll adventure.

The game is centred around a quest: the player must search Total Distortion's 3D universe for rock 'n' roll, get the best sounds and music video material and create a music video. The ultimate aim of the game is to have a music video masterpiece sold to TV executives back on earth.

GT Entertainment

Title: Quake for Mac OS

Category: gorefest

Platform: Mac OS

RRP: $89.95

Publisher: id Software, MacSoft

Distributor: GT Interactive

Availability: now

The second most eagerly-awaited game for the Mac this year (Riven comes in ahead), Mac Quake arrived a short while ago, some months after its PC counterpart. Most of that anticipation has to do with the multiplayer aspect of the game, since Mac folks were feeling left out of the networked Quake games which suddenly dominated the social lives of the PC-based co-workers. As a single-player game, it rates about a six out of ten - there really isn't much of a plot, and wandering around shooting stuff wears thin after a while. The saving grace is lushly-detailed 3D graphics and realistic character motion, setting Quake apart from so may games of its genre. In multiplayer mode, the range of weapons and special powers available allows a lot of scope for players to develop their own individual styles - unlike Doom, where the biggest gun always wins. And yes, Mac users can battle it out with PC players.

Europress

Title: International Rally Championship

Category: racing

Platform: Windows 95

RRP: $89.95

Publisher: Europress

Distributor: Europress

Availability: now

This is the follow-up to Europress' original Rally Championship, a game which had worldwide sales of 750,000 copies.

Features include a choice of nine cars, a selection of 12 songs, a split screen for two gamers and a track editor.

Frankson

Title: Entrepreneur

Category: strategy

Platform: OS/2 Warp 4, Windows

95, Windows NT

RRP: $79Ð$89 ESP

Publisher: Stardock Systems

Distributor: Frankson Information

Management

Availability: now

It's not often that a game which takes off in universities and colleges is endorsed by lecturers. But Entrepreneur is different.

It's set in the real world of business where CEOs wage wars on one another for market share. Not a business simulator, Entrepreneur presents players with a corporate challenge to choose a product portfolio and build a company from a single office and sales executive to a multimillion dollar corporation with a monopoly over the market. The game now shipping, is based on the computer market, Stardock Systems meanwhile, will be releasing further markets to add.

Electronic Arts

Title: Galapagos

Category: arcade game

Platform: Windows 95, Mac

RRP: $89.95

Publisher: Anark Game Studios

Distributor: Electronic Arts

Availability: now

Galapagos is a game which takes a different tack, asking the player to control the surroundings of the central character to steer it to freedom.

You are given the task of guiding Mendel, a prototype robot, away from the clutches of his evil creators by manipulating his path and controlling objects such as bridges, platforms and ramps.

Title: Nuclear Strike

Category: action/shooter

Platform: Windows 95

RRP: $89.95

Publisher: Electronic Arts

Distributor: Electronic Arts

Availability: now

It's a battle against time as you, the commander of an underground military organisation, attempt to eliminate a major nuclear threat which could trigger WWIII.

This is the sequel to Soviet Strike. Nuclear Strike has 12 new vehicles for the gamer to control including hovercrafts, tanks and cobras. Electronic Arts also claims the game has improved pyros - "send your enemies flying with more intense explosions and flaming debris", faster and smoother gameplay, and enhanced 3D terrain with new lighting, terrain craters and shockwaves. Smarter battlefields too, where your enemies and "friendlies" react to your commands and actions.

Title: The Baby-Sitters Club: Clubhouse Activity CentreCategory: edutainmentPlatform: Windows 3.1 or 95, MacRRP: $39.95Publisher: Creative Wonders, Scholastic ProductionsDistributor: Electronic ArtsAvailability: nowThe Clubhouse Activity Centre is based on the popularity of The Baby-Sitters Club series of books, and so is aimed at the readers - girls aged seven years and older.

There are five programs in the activity centre, which encourage creativity and exploration of electronic communications. Users can create greeting cards, custom stationery, posters and tickets; send electronic postcards over the Internet; keep a secret journal; and maintain a personal electronic calendar, address book and bulletin board.

A Baby-sitters Club membership kit and games are also included on the CD-ROM.

Title: Bill Nye, the Science Guy: "Stop the Rock"Category: science/adventure edutainmentPlatform: Windows 3.1 and 95, Mac, PowerMacRRP: $79.95Publisher: Pacific InteractiveDistributor: Electronic ArtsAvailability: nowBill Nye is a science guy and being America's favourite scientist he has his own TV show called, you guessed it, "Bill Nye the Science Guy".

Bill's CD-ROM, Stop the Rock, aims to teach children nine years and older earth science through an entertaining adventure game. During 20 hours of game play, the user faces the challenge of saving the world from a deadly comet plummeting straight to earth. Seven science riddles must be solved to get MAAX, "the diabolically smart computer network" to stop the comet. Along the way, 20 earth science objectives from the US National Science Education Standards manual are covered.

Gamers gadgets

The new gaming devices reaching the market are now not only telling the computer what you want to do, but giving you the feeling of actually being immersed in the game. Sell a game which supports virtual reality, combine a few of the following products and you've got an add-on sale with value!

Virtual reality visor. Queensland-based distributor Pactronics believes virtual reality to be the next logical progression in the gaming world. As the distributor of a new virtual reality visor, VR97 (priced for the home users at $199 RRP), Pactronics also believes the virtual reality gaming experience is set to take off over the next six months.

It has the exclusive distribution rights in Australia for the VR97 visor which is manufactured by the Taiwanese company Apec. Only released recently in Australia, the VR97 visor uses shutter glasses technology with wired LCD shutter glasses, a VGA shutter synchroniser and a VGA driver.

It works with existing games supporting 3D (it comes with a number of games including Descent II and Slipstream 5000), 3D Internet sites, 3D animations and 3D movies.

VR Joystick. Only in a gamer's wildest dreams you might say, could they sit back or slump comfortably in an armchair whilst playing a computer game. Well, now they can, thanks to the Total Control Joystick!

The Total Control Joystick is no ordinary controller - it has advanced internal motion sensor technology allowing the user to hold the joystick (which has no base) in mid-air and move it backwards, forwards, left and right, all actions of which register on screen like a normal joystick.

Distributed by Pactronics, the Total Control Joystick retails at $99.

Digital game controller. How impressive is this? Logitech's CyberMan 2 digital controller is based on optical technology originally developed for a NASA space mission.

CyberMan has an RRP of $199, supports Windows 95 and DOS games and is bundled with Descent II. Distributed by Dataflow.

SideWinder Precision Pro.

Released this month and replacing the Microsoft SideWinder 3D Pro is Microsoft's SideWinder Precision Pro joystick. With a new design incor-porating better ergonomics, SideWinder Precision Pro has a more natural grip to its predecessor, a new 3D throttle control with a thumb wheel to adjust speed.

SideWinder Precision Pro has an RRP of $129 and is distributed by Tech Pacific.

SideWinder Force Feedback Pro. This is Microsoft's entrance into the force feedback game controller market, with SideWinder Force Feedback Pro (RRP $299).

With its own 16-bit processor, SideWinder Force Feedback Pro gives gamers playing force feedback supported games the shock of their lives.

SideWinder Force Feedback Pro only works with Windows 95 games and is distributed by Tech Pacific.

In the pipeline: games on their way

Title: Hedz

Category: action

Platform: Windows 95

RRP: no pricing available

Publisher: Hasbro Interactive

Distributor: Wolf Interactive

Availability: February 1998

Fiction? I think not! Apparently a race of super-beings, dubbed H.E.D.Z. have been visiting our peaceful planet in search of humans to decapitate. Scientific purposes? Not exactly. Reportedly this "hyper-intelligent, trans-galactic and cross-dimensional" race requires the heads of humans for its most popular sporting pastime.

Human heads are converted to Head-Ware, weaponry which the aliens may slip over their own heads, and take possession of the powers of the previous head's owner.

Hedz has been based on this story, and gives the gamer the chance to take control of an alien "Hedhunter" and participate in a series of combat environments.

Hedz features 35 combat arenas, 220 collectable H.E.D.Z. characters and can be played modem to modem or over a LAN.

Title: Beast War

Category: Action

Platform: Windows 95, Sony

PlayStation

RRP: no pricing available

Publisher: Hasbro Interactive

Distributor: Wolf Interactive

Availability: early 1998

The battle for control of the universe is on. The evil Predicons (who are after world domination) versus the Maximals (intergalactic peace is all they want). Low in strategy, high in speed and excitement, the user can choose who to play for in this shoot-em-up game.

Beast Wars has 24 missions, 10 characters for each mission, four high-resolution 3D terrains, real-time game play, and "exciting" and "authentic" sound effects.

Can be played over a LAN or modem to modem.

Title: StarCraft

Category: sci-fi adventure

Platform: Windows 95, Windows NT,

PowerMac

RRP: $89.95

Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment

Distributor: Wolf Interactive

Availability: 15 December 1997

StarCraft comes from Blizzard, the developers of WarCraft. They promise it isn't just WarCraft in space, but a totally new engine and design with "better art, more realism, more special effects", than WarCraft II.

A real-time strategy game, StarCraft is centred around the battles of two rival alien races, the Protoss and the Zerg. And caught in the middle of this conflict is a group of nomads, the Terrans.

There are 30 different missions which take place in a mix of scenarios including space, ground and installation settings. The new game has enhanced tactical realism, Blizzard says, for example, there are advantages to fighting in space as opposed to on the ground.

Users of Blizzard's games have free access to the company's gaming server, battle.net.

Title: Armored Fist 2

Category: simulation

Platform: Windows

RRP: no pricing available

Publisher: Novalogic

Distributor: Electronic Arts

Availability: details not available

The new and improved Armored Fist 2: M1A2-ABRAMS "21st Century Rock & Roll" is out.

A tank simulation game, it features 3D graphics delivering "photo-realistic" combat environments and a virtual sound environment in thundering Dolby Surround Sound.

The player takes control of the main battle tank, the M1A2-ABRAMS, or an entire platoon, and is able to call in air support and military strikes.

There are over 50 missions which take place in a variety of battlefield locations (such as the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe). The user can view the battle from inside a tank or from above.

You don't know Jack's back

Berkeley Systems, publisher of the "You Don't Know Jack" game series, has released three more volumes to add to the bookshelves:

You Don't Know Jack Huge XXXL: the original You Don't Know Jack plus volumes two and three make this edition the biggest ever, weighing in at 2400 irreverent quiz show questions. RRP: $59.95You Don't Know Jack Volume 3: the latest instalment of the quiz show party game, it features 800 new questions with some special "Impossible" and "Threeway" questions. RRP: $49.95You don't know Jack TV: the version of You Don't Know Jack all couch potatoes have been hanging out for - 800 brand new questions with the same irreverence and style of the original You Don't Know Jack. RRP: $69.95.

All are available now and distributed by Wolf Interactive.

Contacts: games distributors

Activision

Tel (02) 9869 0955

Fax (02) 9869 0977

Directsoft Australia

Tel (02) 9482 3455

Fax (02) 9482 3650

Electronic Arts

Tel (02) 9955 7744

Fax (02) 9955 6868

Europress

Tel (02) 9748 4847

Fax (02) 9748 2990

Frankson

Tel (02) 9402 5006

Fax (02) 9402 5007

GT Interactive

Tel (02) 9950 1555

Fax (02) 9950 1530

Pactronics

Tel (07) 3889 7177

Fax (07) 3889 7299

Roadshow Interactive

Tel (02) 9552 8700

Fax (02) 9584 1385

Tech Pacific

Tel (02) 9381 6000

Fax (02) 9381 6290

Wolf Interactive

Tel (02) 9417 9700

Fax (02) 9417 9797


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