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Rick Jones @RickJay

Reviews

SimCity 4 (Windows)

By Rick Jones on January 23, 2003

RollerCoaster Tycoon 2 (Windows)

Where's the "2"??

The Good
Everything about "Rollercoaster Tycoon" that's good is good about this one.

The Bad
Frankly, just how is this game a sequel? It's the same game. Despite being years since the original was released, there has been no improvement in graphics, sound, iunterface, or gameplay. It's exactly identical, but with some new maps and rides.

The Bottom Line
This is nothing more than Rollercoaster Tycoon with some extra content of the sort you'd download for free. A complete ripoff; if you own the original you have no reason to buy this.

By Rick Jones on January 20, 2003

Sid Meier's Civilization III: Play the World (Windows)

A Disgrace To The Entire Series

The Good
The IDEA is terrific, sort off; adding multiplayer capabilities to the wonderful "Civilization III." Of course, the game should have come with multiplayer in the first place...

The Bad
Frankly, the quality of workmanship in this package is the worst I've seen in a major release video game in years. Out of the box, the multiplayer system simply did not work; any MP game would crash, and until it did crash lag times could be measured in MINUTES. The various other additional to single player are 70% free online content.

Amazingly, many hardcore fans continue to defend this atrocious product by saying it's hard to program for multiplayer, or that users are screwing it up because they don't know how to reconfigure their computers. I don't doubt that it IS hard to program games, but the fact is that EVERY OTHER STRATEGY GAME ON THE MARKET HAS WORKING MULTIPLAYER. Warcraft III? Working multiplayer. Europa Universalis? Working multiplayer. Every other studio seems to be able to get multiplayer working right out of the box; why couldn't Firaxis?

The Bottom Line
A waste of thirty bucks, and a shameless attempt to make money with a worthless product that should have been offered as a downloadable patch.

By Rick Jones on January 20, 2003

Civilization: Call to Power (Windows)

By Rick Jones on February 6, 2002

Silent Hunter II (Windows)

A very disappointing followup to its great predecessor

The Good
I love submarine games.

The Bad
I don't like this submarine game.

"Silent Hunter II" is just a really, really paltry game. There's nothing overtly WRONG with it - at least it isn't buggy, like most games - but there's just not much right with it. Frankly, it's not nearly the game Silent Hunter was.

First off, the game is technically very primitive. The graphics are appalling; I'm no graphics nut and I know SSI doesn't make games for their looks, but teenagers could have done better graphics than this. This is a 2001 release, and the graphics are 1994-1995 quality at best, they're choppy, and they make the game hard. The sound isn't substantially better.

Secondly, the gameplay is shallow, shallow, shallow. There's nothing more to running your submarine in this game than there was in 1995. I'll grant that WWII U-Boats were not technical marvels like a modern submarine, but driving this thing is about as complex as driving the Cobra in "Carmageddon." It's not THIS easy to pilot a big boat. There's no advanced control options at all, nor is submarine captaincy given any depth - you have no options in terms of outfitting your boat, there's no crew management of any kind, etc. etc.

Third: Nor is there any sort of free-ranging campaign option. Missions are linear and preset. That's more suited to the environment (German U-boat commanders did not have quite the freedom you could give the player in the original Silent Hunter, where you captained an American sub in the Pacific) but it takes away from the appeal of the campaign game. Since you don't have a crew to manage, there's no particular connection between any of the missions, no feel that you're managing a captain through the whole war. It sort of bites, actually.

Fourth, the gameplay itself is no hot shakes. Poor graphics take away much of the fun of looking for targets (and much of the realism; in World War II, submarines had to find their targets and threats visually, for the most part) and the AI is as dumb as a football bat.

The Bottom Line
Bleah. If you want a good submarine game, buy the original Silent Hunter, or buy Silent Service II or something. This game isn't worth the new-game price.

By Rick Jones on February 6, 2002

Europa Universalis II (Windows)

Still one of the best strategy games money can buy.

The Good
Read my review on "Europa Universalis"; this game being 98% of the same game, that review works for this.

Several nice upgrades have been added. The game now allows the player to play any country in the world, as opposed to just eight major European powers. An engine forcing the player to make decisions around key historical events has been added. The AI seems smarter. Missionaries have been added, adding to the impact of religion on the game. A lot of idiosyncracies that made the game unrealistic have been cleaned up, too.

The Bad
Don't get me wrong; this is a GREAT game, and if you like strategy games you should buy it. But it's really not a new game at all; the sum total of changes is just a patch to Europa Universalis... a small patch. I was hoping for more. The graphics could still be a lot more elegant, the sound is still bad, and there's no scenario editor.

The Bottom Line
A classic, wonderful game set in the era of renaissance and imperialism. A must have for the PC gamer.

By Rick Jones on February 2, 2002

Sid Meier's SimGolf (Windows)

Okay, but... well, sort of dull

The Good
The concept, really, is excellent; designing AND running a golf course. It's generally pleasingly executed, too.

The Bad
Frankly, there just isn't a lot of game here; it's very shallow, more of a child's product. Designing and managing the courses, even at higher difficulty levels, is very, very easy, and beyond designing the holes there just isn't a whole lot to do. The tournament function is neat but easy to win. There is no financial management of any kind except designing good holes. The structures available for placement are very limited in number and scope and once placed are totally beyond the player's control. Sadly, SimGolf has almost no replay value; once you've mastered the art of making an imaginative hole, the game's more or less over.

The graphics are not up to 2002 standards. Frankly, I don't much care about graphics if the underlying GAME is good, but the underlying game here is not good; these graphics look as if the game was designed seven years ago.

The Bottom Line
It's a fun game but not really a full-blown gaming product you should pay $40 for. Wait until it's a $9.99 bargain bin purchase.

By Rick Jones on February 2, 2002

Empire Earth (Windows)

Age of Empires III. About as good as it predecessors.

The Good
Make no mistake about it; Empire Earth IS a copy of Age of Empires. It looks, plays, and sounds the same. The graphics are the same, the interface is the same, the game is the same, right down to the resources and what they look like. The ONLY difference is that this game tacks on more technological development, right up to modern times and the "nano age."

This is a shameless ripoff in every way, but to its credit, it does it well. Age of Empires IS a good game, and so is Empire Earth. The graphics are crisp and easy on the eye, the interface is smooth, the sound is great and the gameplay is just as good as when Microsoft published it as Age of Empires. And it IS an upgrade; there are some nice rules changes, and far more units.

The Bad
The game has two major flaws. the first is the AI - which, incidentally, doesn't play fair. The computer doesn't follow the same rules the player does, as a result of which computer players are absurdly strong. Even at the lowest difficulty level, giving the player every possible advantage, the computer seems to get free resources and buildings Winning is very difficult, and will only happen with some luck.

The second is that in an effort to expand the game to modern times, the game zips by the technology progression way too fast. Whereas Age of Empires had four or five "Eras," this game has 15. The differences between Classical and Byzantine techs don't seem really apparent when you're buzzing through them at a rate of one era every fifteen minutes. The game's "epic" Civilization-style scope of the entirety of human history seems very contrived against a standard Age of Empires map.

The Bottom Line
Not the epic masterpiece it's being described as, and not a necessary purchase if you still enjoy your Age of Empires II set.

By Rick Jones on November 20, 2001

Sid Meier's Civilization III (Windows)

Another classic - but it''s got some flaws

The Good
"Civilization" and "Civilization II" remain the landmark classic in strategic gaming, so it must have been hard to improve on them. Nonetheless, Civ III does add some very nice changes; cultural borders add an immense amount to strategy, the new resources system is a tremendous upgrade, and diplomacy is much improved.

What can you say? It's Civ, but they fixed a lot of the problems with AI and tactical frustrations. It's still a remarkably addictive game, the sort that will keep you up all night with JOMT disease (Just One More Turn.)

The Bad
Unfortunately, Civ III has one huge, gaping hole in it; there's no multiplayer mode. No Internet, LAN, hotseat, nothing. This may seem like a bizarre oversight, and it is, but in all likelihood Firaxis's plan is to release multiplayer as a separate product you'll have to buy, despite the fact that Civ III was first marketed as a multiplayer game and the "no multiplayer" announcement wasn't made until AFTER all the preorders were made! This is a remarkably unethical business practice even by the dismal standards of the gaming industry, but more to the point it takes a HUGE amount out of the game; Civ III would be terrific in multiplayer, but as a single player game it's more limited. With multiplayer it might have been the best game of all time. Without it, it's not.

There are a few other play balancing issues, but nothing major, and they'll doubtlessly be fixed in a patch. The music is pretty boring, too.



The Bottom Line
A great game... as long as you don't want to play it multiplayer.

By Rick Jones on November 5, 2001

WWII Online: Blitzkrieg (Windows)

By Rick Jones on August 25, 2001

Ultima Online (Windows)

Coaster of the century!

The Good
The idea is great.

The Bad
The game is the absolute pits. Kudos to EA and Origin for trying to create the first really huge MMORPG, but this thing was a bug jar from the word Go. Assuming you could even log on and get the game to run smoothly - a rarity - you'd be killed by teenagers yelling "wE ROOL D00DZ" within seconds.

If you want to play a MMORPG, play EverQuest.

The Bottom Line
The box and its contents can be burned for heat in any fireplace!

By Rick Jones on August 25, 2001

SimEarth: The Living Planet (DOS)

By Rick Jones on August 25, 2001

SimEarth: The Living Planet (Windows 3.x)

By Rick Jones on August 25, 2001

Pharaoh (Windows)

By Rick Jones on August 25, 2001

Max Payne (Windows)

A fine shooter, but not a masterpiece

The Good
Bullet time, baby.

The presentation and atmosphere of Max Payne is outstanding. A snowy New York night is presented in awesome detail, and the graphic novel interludes do much to add to the atmosphere. The action is fun and easy to get into, and the gun battles can be a blast. Oh, and bullet time, baby. There's nothing like diving into a room in slo-mo, Matrix-style, watching as your bullets slam into your despicable enemies.

The Bad
The game's too damn short. The entire game can be completed in 5-10 hours of effort; many of the levels seem very short. There just isn't enough game here.

The story itself is inconsistent and ultimately very little actually happens.

The Bottom Line
Hey, it's pretty good. But wait until it's cheaper, because there's not enough gameplay here to be worth fifty bucks.

By Rick Jones on August 21, 2001

Sid Meier's Railroad Tycoon (DOS)

By Rick Jones on May 8, 2001

Empire Deluxe (DOS)

A classic, timeless masterpiece

The Good
"Empire" was first designed in 1979; this game is merely a modern update.

To say that "Empire" is addictive is like saying that the Pacific Ocean is sort of big. "Empire" was the beginning of the "Just one more turn and I'll go to bed" games. Even today, the simple but perfectly balanced gameplay make it a joy to play. Any new player will find himself engrossed in this game for hours.

The AI in Empire is better than in many games, and is difficult to find holes in.


The Bad
What's not to like?

The Bottom Line
A masterpiece. A seminal entry in the history of computer games.

By Rick Jones on April 30, 2001

Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings (Windows)

By Rick Jones on April 30, 2001

B-17 Flying Fortress: The Mighty 8th! (Windows)

A technical marvel and a very poor game

The Good
B-17 is beautifully realistic and features terrific flight and damage modeling, great atmosphere, and highly detailed and realistic missions.

The Bad
Good Lord Almighty, what a bad interface. Like its predecessor, B-17 asks that you man or direct all the positions in the plane, which is a great idea. Unfortunately, this version does so using the most impenetrable, bizarre interface system possible, which inexplicably features two different interfaces for each position. Finding your way to various functions requires that you use a heiroglyphic-style popup menu system completely separate from positional controls, which defies any sort of logical explanation. The game includes an appalling amount of unnecessary tedium, including a startup and takeoff sequence that requires you sit through several minutes of nothing happening. The piece de resistance is that you have to click on the "signature" line on your orders to be able to take off. If you forget to do that, back to the orders room you go after going through a passel of other menus. What purpose could that feature possibly serve?

The game's nice graphics and realism just don't make up for the fact that there's very little GAME here. It's unfortunate that the basic underlying principles of the original B-17 game were not used here; it's also unfortunate that the designers chose to make it so that much of the game can't be skipped through, meaning, once again, a game in which you spend hours flying in a straight line and only a few minutes actually fighting. Even hardcore sim fans will not be pleased, since the "Crew management" and Egyptian-menu-interpretation aspects of the game takes away from the time you could be spending flying the plane or manning the positions.

The Bottom Line
A very tedious, inefficiently designed game. You'll have more fun signing up for "Warbirds" and flying the bombers in that game.

By Rick Jones on April 25, 2001

Diablo II (Windows)

By Rick Jones on April 25, 2001

EverQuest: The Ruins of Kunark (Windows)

A necessary addition to an Everquest setup

The Good
To give Verant credit, "The Ruins of Kunark" is a very useful expansion. Aside from adding new equipment, the vast zones of Kunark are a tremendous addition to the EverQuest world; there's a lot of them, they're huge, and some of the zones are really cool. I got the distinct impression that more imagination was put into zone design in Kunark than in the original game, which I guess reflects a few years of experience. Being able to play the Iksar (lizard men) is nice, too.

The Bad
Having to pay thirty bucks for it! When you're shelling out $10 a month just to play, it's hard to swallow a big charge for a small update.

That said, retail versions of EverQuest now come with both Kunark and the original game bundled.

The Bottom Line
Ah, it was a decent upgrade. Not that big a deal.

By Rick Jones on April 25, 2001

Shogun: Total War (Windows)

A fine 3D tactical simulation with strategic gameplay.

The Good
"Shogun: Total War" is a beautiful game. Visually, it's a feast for the eyes from the menu screens to the blood-soaked fields of battle. The Japaneseness of the game is pretty and immersive. The battles themselves are a feast for the eyes - soldiers march, fight, and die on remarkably well-rendered battlefields. Arrows fly through the air and horses balk in fear. The voice acting is excellent.

The tactical battles are simply outstanding; you can play them for hours. They're substantially better than the tactical battles in any other historical game of this type. The game is much helped by a pretty decent set of tutorial missions.

The Bad
Despite the fine tactical simulator, the game is very shallow. Strategic play is boring and largely devoid of depth; to be honest, a linear set of battles to play wouldn't have been any worse. That's unfortunate, because with a really good strategic system like "Europa Universalis" or the old Koei games, "Shogun" might have been a true masterpeice.

The Bottom Line
Pretty good, but not much long-term interest.

By Rick Jones on April 25, 2001

Europa Universalis (Windows)

A perfectly designed, brilliantly executed must-have strategy game

The Good
There isn't much not to like about it. The game gives you the option of controlling one of a variety of European powers during the era of colonization, and the detail and fun in the simulation is awe-inspiring. The best diplomacy model in recent memory, massive multi-front wars, exploration and colonization, discovery of new lands - it's all here.

The interface is elegant and easy to use. The game's depth and interest in phenomenal. Attention to detail is excellent. The game's replay value is astonishing - any one of the dozen scenarios could be played a hundred different ways, since all the countries handle differently and each offers a variety of strategies to follow.

But what really sets this game apart is the astonishing immersiveness of it all. Paradox has done a phenomenal job of making the game really elicit the historical dynamics of the times. Each country plays differently; playing Russia is completely different from playing Portugal, which in turn is completely different from playing England. The strategic, military and financial decisions you make interrelate with the other powers and the dynamics of the time in a manner I've never seen in any other game, ever. The designers very wisely made religion a major part of the game, too (it was a major part of European history at the time.)

Europa Universalis is truly one of the finest games on the shelves today. If you like strategy, you must run out and buy this game.

The Bad
1. Like all games, it's buggy out of the box. Get the version 1.08 (or later) patch and install it or you'll get crash bugs.

  1. Irritatingly, even with the patch, the game seems to hang your system after you exit it. This game is worth the reboots, believe me, but I'd still like to see it fixed.

  2. The graphics and sound aren't anything special, not that it really takes away from the game.

  3. The Europa Universalis manual is awful, explaining next to nothing. Fortunately, the Web community is very strong, so you can get your questions answered.

    The Bottom Line
    This is one of the ten best strategy games I have ever played on my PC, and I've played them all. A must have for the serious gamer.

By Rick Jones on April 24, 2001

Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe (DOS)

By Rick Jones on April 6, 2001

Earl Weaver Baseball (DOS)

By Rick Jones on March 5, 2001

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