(warning: this post started out short and then...)
Last December I bought a spankin' video card in preparation for sequels to 2 computer games that I hold very dear ... Half-life and Doom.
First a little history. Like most teens in the 80's I played a lot of Atari and Commodore 64 games. And since I lived out in the middle of cornfields I really had nothing else to do besides ride my dirtbike (Hodaka Wombat 125). 1988 I go off to Taylor Univ and experience my first 286 and 386 PC's. Wing Commander became my favorite new game. Then at some point before I graduate someone on our floor says he's found the coolest game ever!
I'm introduced to Wolfenstein 3D. Ask anyone...this game altered the course of PC gaming by introducing the concept of the First Person Shooter (FPS). Of course the demo version only had maybe 1 level of play...but we played it over and over. So I graduate ('93) and get my first teaching position and beg the school to get me a laptop...they agree. Soon I'm playing with a Gateway2000 486-25MHz with 4MB ram. My birthday arrives shortly there after and my wife has purchased Wolfenstein 3D for me!!! Awesome! We both play it all the way through over the next few months. You can actually get the original shareware from 3D Realms ... it installed and played with no probs on my WinXP machine. Ahh, the nostalga!
Then someone in my class tells me about this new game from the same dudes (id software) that made Wolfenstein...called Doom.
He has it secretly installed on one of the library PC's and he shows it to me after school. Oh my! I couldn't believe how sweet this game looked. Next day he hands me a floppy and says enjoy. Sadly Doom didn't look that great on my LCD display so I played it afterschool in the drafting class on their Pentium PC...until I finally got an external monitor for the laptop. Many hours were enjoyed blowing away demons and Doom received tons of top gaming awards and was downloaded an estimated 10 MILLION times over 2 years. Can you say cult classic? And now the movie Doom has just been released. I'll wait until it hits the dollar theater before partaking of it.
I move on to a much better school/position the next year and Kim gets a job also...we're rolling in the money so she's get a new '94 Blazer and I get a Gateway2000 Pentium 90 with 16MB ram and 730GB drive and I believe a 8MB video card. It was a smoking system and cost $3706. Playing PC games is pretty much what I did for fun and I went through many. Only the best though would I play all the way to the end. Doom2 came out a year later and was just as awesome...building slightly on the original but keeping it fresh enough to still be very addicting. In '95 it won many gaming awards.
In '96 Final Doom comes out, but it's basically like Doom2 so I don't bother...luckily Duke Nukem 3D comes out and keeps me happy.
Not until '98 does a game really make me go WOW! A student says I have to check out this hot new game called Half-life. I know he's a hard core gamer so I go pick up a copy.
Shazbot! It takes like 30mins to install on my Gateway...which by now has been "Evergreen'd" to 180MHz and max 32MB ram...and it just is unbearable to play. Time for a new PC :-)
I build my first "custom" PC. Abit BP6 motherboard running Dual Celeron 533Mhz processors, 256MB ram, Matrox G400 video card, Sound Blaster Platinium on Windows2000 which can handle mutiple processors. The BP6 mobo was great for overclocking the processors...I don't remember exactly, but I had them both running high 600's with no stability problems.
Half-life looks and plays great on this new box. And wow...this game blew everything prior away! Graphics were incredible and gameplay was a thrill. I remember being startled so many times while playing...and the enemy artificial intelligence (AI) was very good. Enemies would try to avoid your shots and anticate your moves...sometimes sneaking up on your from behind. It was several months before I made it completely to the end. I still have great memories of playing Half-life.
Along come kids and thus gaming becomes less and less. I download demos now and then to play when I have a few spare moments. Once Jacob gets old enough he and I find multi-player demos and have our own little LAN parties.
Then last year I catch wind of possible releases of a new Half-life and Doom. Towards the later part of 2004 the buzz is huge and Half-life2 and Doom3 are setting the stage to again take PC gaming to a new level. I'm drooling big time! 2 of my all time favorite games this many years later...and the pre-release news and videos are 2 thumbs way up. Must have!! By now my home rig is a Dell GX270 2.6GHz with 1GB ram and 64mb video card. But that vid card won't cut it for these graphics intense games. After research I plunk down almost $400 for a BFG Technologies GeForce 6800 GT with 256MB and overclocked to 370MHz.
Doom3 was the first to release a demo to download. Wow, this game stressed my PC big time even with a kickin' vid card. The lighting was amazing and errie. By far the spookiest game I've ever played. Play it at night with the lights turned off and headphones on...and your heart will be poundin' as you make your way through dimly lit passages where you know something is about to jump out and scare the crap out of ya...which tends to happen often in the game. The audio is sweet as well...immersing you into the experience. Yes, and that's just the demo version!!
The Half-life2 demo follow shortly after and was incredible in it's own way. Picking up in some respects to where the prior ended...you are reunited with Barney and a few other pals from the first game. The graphics details are insane. Some textures are so good you'd swear it's the real thing. The storyline and gameplay are familiar yet new. Like Doom3 this demo stressed my PC big time. The physics in this game are phenominal...kudos to the dudes that coded it. And the new gravity gun ... well, it's worth the giant download just to play with it. Pick up objects and propel them around...or into enemies...now that's just plain fun :-) I really enjoyed this demo which was over too soon giving me a strong desire to go purchase the real thing. At $55 though, it was just too much to spend.
About 4 months ago I was in Best Buy and would you believe they had Half-Life2 on sale for $20...and I just happened to have $20 in rewards points...hooray! Knowing I needed every ounce of power I could eek from my PC I created a new user account and began seeing what devices, services, etc I could turn off/tweak and still be able to play. It didn't take long and I had a setup that would run Half-Life2 at about 50-60 frames/sec which is very good frame rate...and that's with all the in game detail settings set to max. I'd typically play on Monday nights until 2-3am since I didn't have to be in on Tuesday until 2pm. Amazing graphics/effects and the environmental details and scenescape just seemed to go on forever with incredible realism.
The AI was a good challenge this time 'round. For instance, enemies will coordinate attacks/movements...one team will lay down cover fire as another team advances on your position...nothing like being pinned down while you hear footsteps getting closer. However, I did wish the AI was better. I had the difficulty rating maxed out...and it seemed a little too easy to proceed through the game. Granted there were some very challenging situations that I had to play over and over before actually surviving, but overage I thought it should have been a little harder...or perhaps I'm just that good :-)
Storyline was very well done, and just when I figured I was reaching the end of the game, it would continue on and on. There were some good puzzles to figure out, but not so difficult that it took away from the overall gameplay...which was a bit frustrating in the prior version.
This week I finally made it to the end...which was both satisfying and a bit sad. This was a perfect sequel to the original Half-Life and the best game I've played to date ... and don't just take my word for it as PC Gamer calls it "The best game ever made!" And I just read that Half-Life 3 is in the works ... I just hope it doesn't take another 6 years until it's released! So go get the demo and experience for yourself one of the best games ever. Half-Life 2 is set to come out on XBOX this month also.
My buddy Rob gave me Doom 3 for my birthday recently so now I'm ready to put it through it's paces ... nothing melts away the stress like blowing away baddies :-)
Have you tried HL2 or Doom3 yet? What are some of your favorite PC games past or present?