PC

Automobilista: The beauty of racing simulation – Gaming Thoughts

Have you ever desired to strap into a Formula One car? Do you actually have the skills to get the car around the track and back into the pits still intact? For those who might think this an easy task – especially those who’ve played Codemaster’s Formula One titles – you might be quite surprised to find out that it’s easier to damage the car’s engine attempting to exit the paddock than it is to finish an entire lap with a cold car. Reiza Studios’ Automobilista opts for hardcore simulation and lately it hasn’t just fulfilled my “Need for Speed” – I’m flat-out addicted.

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Destiny? I chose the original Half-Life instead

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Life has been busy lately – my lack of updates here is not for a lack of effort – and no, I haven’t been wasting my free time playing Destiny along with the millions of other FPS fans across the world. Don’t get me wrong, I know that it is a great game for what it is, but I’m just very tired of the online multiplayer FPS genre and it’s over abundance of foulmouthed preteens. What have I been doing lately? After dropping Ubuntu 14.04 LTS on my ASUS gaming laptop, I took a look at the 100+ games in my Steam library that were Linux compatible, noticed that all of the Half-Life games were available, and decided to start back at the very beginning: the Black Mesa Transit System in the original Half-Life.

I recall playing the original Half-Life on the PS2 in the early 2000s. I also recalled beating the game; yet, oddly enough, approaching the final stretch of the game, it became quite clear that my memory had not served me correct. Hey, it happens to the best of us – some of us a bit more than we want to admit, really. Anyhow, settling back into the game once again after all these years isn’t sore on the eyes, thanks, in part, to the HD resolution and updated graphics found in the Steam release. While new-age atmospheric titles like Dead Space make these older games’ scares a bit laughable, the environment and atmosphere of Black Mesa is still creepily enjoyable to explore – especially when there’s half a game here that I thought I’d seen before.

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If you’ve somehow missed the Half-Life series, it’s a FPS game from the masterminds at Valve. The game pushed the genre further than few thought possible at the time of its release and even still today it’s an enjoyable experience that’s well worthy of blasting back through. The game didn’t reinvent the wheel, so to speak, but instead brought excellent shooting mechanics, graphics, narrative, and environmental and atmospheric effects all together into one intentionally designed package. The combined effect of all these elements coming together creates an experience that immerses the player into its world in a way that no shooter before had done so before. Even in its age, the game sucked me in completely until the end credits rolled, which is more than I can say for Destiny – okay, okay… no more sly japes at Bungie’s new shooter; it’s unfair, I know.

Half-Life runs pretty well on Linux, with only a few minor noticeable hiccups that I can recall. The most memorable of these was a few non-interactive walls that had a tendency to blink when moving the character around. Aside from that, there were a few (and I mean a few) instances where I had some limited frame rate drops for a few seconds. Aside from these minor compatibility issues, there was one specific issue that brought back memories from another classic FPS title: Turok (N64). Considering that you can see further than three inches, err…feet, in front of your character in Half-Life, that would mean that it would be the jumping sequences that can be quite an annoyance at times. While so much of Half-Life is near perfectly designed, there are few baffling jumping segments that disrupt the smooth flow of the game play. There’s nothing too terrible, for sure, but the annoyance is there nonetheless. Now that I think of it though, having the bow from Turok to silently take down some pesky head crabs would be ace – can we get the modders on this, like, ASAP?

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If you’ve never played the original Half-Life, you probably should. Even if Halloween is already over for this year – the time that many people choose to play creepy games – there’s never a bad time to jump back into this classic shooter. If you’re a Linux fan like myself, retro PC titles just feel great to play on the platform. Can’t really pinpoint the reason why that is, really, but hey, some things are just the way that they are, I guess.

Preview: Wrack (PC)

 

People that grew up in the late ’80s and early ’90s undoubtedly have fond memories of arcade-style FPS corridor shooters. Wolfenstein and Doom were all the rage (no pun intended) and for good reason; the pure fast-paced nature of these games is, simply put, a lot of fun. Indie developer Final Boss Entertainment’s Wrack reanimates the old-school corridor shooter once again in a fantastic cel-shaded style. Fans both new and old alike should indeed be looking forward to this one.

The speed of the game play in Wrack is instantly captivating. Swiftly running and gunning through the corridors might bring back a bit of nostalgia for some, but it feels great still today. In a more modern touch, putting down baddies finds kill count combos quickly becoming commonplace, significantly increasing the level score with intentional combo chains.

 

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Preview: Altitude0: Lower and Faster (PC)

 

Nearly two years ago, when Steam Greenlight was in its infancy, several of our team pitched our most anticipated titles that we wanted to see receive the elusive ‘green light’. One of my two picks was Altitude0: Lower and Faster. This air plane racing title looked to be right up this wannabe pilot’s alley.

In those early chaotic days of Steam Greenlight, the duo indie team of Gugila made the executive decision to remove the game from the service and has spent the past two years hard at work bringing the game to life. Today, it’s now available in beta access on Desura and has finally been greenlit on Steam, bringing the beta action onto that platform later this year. We’ve gotten the chance to strap in and take to the skies of Altitude0 and I can honestly say that the long wait was definitely worth it.

 

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Review: Transistor (PC)

There’s a certain eloquence that hinges on Shakespearean tragedy intricately seamed into the fabric of Supergiant Games’ Transistor. The talented minds behind the critically acclaimed and wonderfully crafted Bastion have moulded together another beautiful world in a signature digital oil painting aesthetic.

What happens when a world goes cold? Dark, yet alluring, the utopian world of Cloudbank is intricately brushed to life with futuristic neon hazes and an opulent touch of Gothic architecture. In its opening moment, we find an oil painting depicting a beautiful woman with flowing red hair and pale skin, looking away from a man sitting in shadows with a futuristic computer chip-like great sword protruding from his chest. There’s no blood, instead there’s almost a sense of tranquility through the sorrow. Accented by the incredible lighting effects reflecting off her luxurious attire makes her seem, well… famous, possibly. [Review Score: 5/5 Stars]

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Freeware Focus: Leaf Me Alone (PC)

Leaf Me Alone began life at the Ludum Dare 26 Challenge by two very talented and passionate developers: Mark Foster and David Fen. What the duo created in a mere 72 hours was something special; so much so, that continued work found the game to be one of the most polished and charming minimalist RPG-lite platforming titles found most anywhere. The best bit, it’s a freeware browser game that’s available to most anyone with a decent Internet connection.
There’s few times that I’m instantly captivated by a game from its onset, yet Leaf Me Alone found a way to do just that. Pausing for just a moment at the game’s opening screen finds a few small butterflies fluttering about on what appears to be the side of a lush cliff face on a beautiful Summer day. The elegant use of pastel colours finds a harmonious, soothing balance as the gentle chirps of birds sound off in the distance. Nature is beautiful; nature is bliss to the senses – to step into Leaf Me Alone is to step into nature.

Click here to play the expanded version of Leaf Me Alone at Nickelodeon’s Addicting Games.

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Review: Croixleur Sigma (PC)

 

The gaming industry today is filled with a vast array of indie games, and they offer unique alternatives to major AAA releases. The recent indie movement has not only disrupted the industry, but has fundamentally changed it for the better, because now a talented development team can find great success, regardless of its size.

We’ve become accustomed to the indie scene in the west through such games as Gone Home, Dear Esther, Proteus, and so forth – but have you ever wondered about the indie scene in Japan? Lock your eyes to Nyu Media, a specialist in bringing quality Japanese indie titles outside of its native shores for the world to enjoy. And then take a look at its latest; Souvenir Circ.’s Croixleur Sigma.

The majority of DDNet readers are well-accustomed to the differences in Japanese and Western games. A lot of Japanese retail titles have niche appeal here, because they tend to focus on appealing to a specific niche group through excellence in design for that specific group, instead of the mass appeal and accessibility that’s the typical western game aims for. Croixleur Sigma falls right into its niche then. It delivers 60 FPS of glorious high-speed hack-and-slash action right to your fingertips and it’s okay with the fact that not everyone will love it. [Review Score: 3/5 Stars]

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Hittin’ the Open Road, Indie Style – Euro Truck Simulator 2

 

Buy the original base game

Guess what? I’m still alive and kicking – yes, I know that it’s been far too long since my last post here at Tired Gamer. A mix of life and minor narcolepsy issues over the past few weeks, as well as my acquisition of an ASUS gaming laptop – courtesy of my younger brother – have kept me doing a lot more updating drivers and tweaking settings in my spare time than, well… writing. Excuses, excuses, I know.

Being an avid indie gamer, I’m not overly enthused with the current state of console gaming. I’ve not yet purchased a next generation console and have no intention of doing so in the near future. I had, however, planned to build a decent gaming desktop this year, as the vast majority of what I care to play over the course of the next year is indie developed, and therefore, finding itself landing on PC. Well, I’m in the PC game now, so there will be a drastic shift from console titles to PC titles here now; that means a lot more indie love!

The first indie title that I’ve stumbled across that really has taken me by surprise is SCS Software’s Euro Truck Simulator 2. I drove a Class A CDL truck for Pepsi Cola for about six years and I know very well what it ‘feels’ like to drive a commercial vehicle. I’m amazed at how well the team has replicated what it is like to drive a truck in a virtual environment. It isn’t perfect, of course, but it’s believable enough to keep my interest for hours on end, and I’m still truckin’. Hooking up to trailers, backing the into designated delivery docks and feeling the weight of the load on the truck’s engine on inclines, the game simply ‘feels’ right.

Yet, there’s another part of this game that’s completely shocked me, and that is that you can build a truckin’ empire. Yes, what starts off as simple contract deliveries, turns into bank loans, truck and garage ownerships and eventually hiring and managing drivers – all while you’re on the road yourself. It’s brilliant and something that you would never find outside of PC gaming. If you’ve not tried this gem yourself, I highly recommend giving the game’s demo a download on Steam and trying it for yourself.

Future Euro Truck Simulator 2 updates are sure to come.

 

Freeware Focus: The Plan (PC)

This is a new feature of my design for DDNet that I’ve had in mind for sometime, as I’ve always enjoyed freeware indie titles and I wanted to see them given a ray of light on the site. I thought about doing this exclusively here at Tired Gamer, but decided that DDNet is a much better place to do so, and well, I’ll always be dropping the links to my work there here for the finding. Enjoy!

 

The Plan
 
Krillbrite Studio’s homepage for The Plan reads: “Every word you read of this useless print is another second of your life.” If that doesn’t intrigue you, then feel free to move along. There’s truth in those words – how much time in our short and fragile lives do we merely waste to nonsensical ‘filler’? We think that our lives will be long and fruitful, but there is never any guarantee, really. It poses the question – Is there something else that I should be doing right this very second? Something, well, more important than this?

The Plan is a side project from the same team that’s bringing the psychological first-person thriller that puts you in a terrifying world as a mere two year old child: Among the Sleep – it’s quickly apparent that this isn’t your typical development team. From start to finish, The Plan took me six short minutes to complete. Within that small time frame, it created a multitude of emotions within me, and is yet another argument for why people would be more concerned with the quality rather the length of games.

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Settling in with (Linux) Kubuntu 13:10 64-bit

I’ve been dual-booting Linux alongside Windows 7 on my Sony Vaio since November of 2013 and I’ve been a proud Linux user ever since. My first real Linux experience came when my Dad’s computer had a major “Windows” problem when I was over visiting this past Thanksgiving. There was talk of buying a new PC and I just decided on a whim that I give it a shot at dual-booting Linux onto his machine to save him a few bucks. I selected Ubuntu 12.04 LTS for the ease of use that it offers and within a few hours, I had his computer running like new once again.

Naturally, I came home and decided that I too wanted to dual-boot Linux on my Vaio, so I reached out to a friend that’s an avid Linux user and he recommended Linux Mint 13 LTS (KDE), for its customizability, support and speed. Within weeks, I had fallen in love with the Mint distro and when Mint 16 (KDE) released, I instantly upgraded. I’ve spent hours learning Terminal commands and shell scripts over the past few months, and I had my Mint 16 desktop all set up to my personal likings. There was only one hitch – my Vaio has Intel HD Integrated Graphics, which is poorly supported on anything but the Ubuntu distro.

A few weeks ago I decided it was time for a change. I downloaded the Ubuntu 13.10 ISO file and within a few hours I had it installed and running like a dream. Out of the box, I could instantly see that my graphics drivers were fully supported and when running Firefox (and a few extra open windows) my CPU was only using around 2-4% capacity, which is a good 20% decrease from Mint 15, due to my poor driver support. I was already very pleased with the change.

Now, I’m not crazy about the Unity desktop environment that comes pre-installed with the Ubuntu package. There’s nothing wrong with it, of course, but I just like to have full control of my desktop and I find Unity to be a bit limited. A quick Google search found that the KDE SC 4:12 desktop had released for Ubuntu 13:10, and without even thinking about it, I started downloading and installed it. The usual KDE set-up was performed and the automatic reboot took place, before my eyes came across a sight I’d not seen before: “kubuntu”.

Let me put this bluntly – Kubuntu is awesome! It offers up the KDE desktop environment that I loved about Mint 16 (KDE), but with better driver support and much better stability on my laptop. The customization features are all in place courtesy of Plasma, as well as the now standard software: music and movie players, the LibreOffice suite, disc burners, partition editor, a few basic games and quite a bit more. The great thing about the Linux distro is that there is tons of free software that can be downloaded right through the Software Center, but seeing that this is Ubuntu based, there is also paid/premium software available there as well. One nice touch is the free Ubuntu One service that backs up your files to a cloud server – think Google Drive – that can be accessed on multiple devices, including your smart phones and tablets.

Of course, Steam is a must download for any gamer and it runs great here, just as it did on Mint 16. Thankfully, the improved driver support means that my laptop can run games more efficiently now, yet I was a bit surprised to realize that I can actually run games in Kubuntu that I have issue with when trying to play on Windows 7. For the record, my laptop actually has decent specs, it’s just that major Intel HD Graphics problem (that I mentioned a bit earlier) that bogs me down.

Kubuntu is a fantastic distro that I highly recommend giving a try, especially if you’ve got integrated graphics. It’s easy to setup and the best part, it can be freely downloaded through this link:
http://www.kubuntu.org/