Playing In To Stay

By John Paul Bichard, 21 January 2004

The Psychosemiotic Intervention of the Computer Game on the Politico-Virtual Model of Post-Communist Net Centric Macro-Sociology.

What an amazing coincidence that, in this issue about net.politics, there should be a flurry of games that aim to address some of the major political issues of the modern era. Take for example Colin McRae Rally, a political march simulation based around the teachings of the 19th century Celtic revolutionary and father of latter day political activism which recreates such milestones as the Poll Tax March, the Jarrow March, a dozen or so anti-Vietnam war marches and The long March to name but a few. Then there is Vigilante 8, the first person social conscience judge-em-up endorsed by Sir Paul Condon, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, and Sir Michael Winner in which the whole notion of violence in society and the media is rigorously tested. Then, of course, I bring you the piece de resistance: Dead or Alive; the 3D cyberological adventure that brings into question the impact of the Internet and virtuality on the world's major socio-political hotspots through the subtle manipulation of real and virtual political ambassadors and the placement of select 'rogue' pundits in the game's varied arenas. So, quelle jamboree bag we have lined up for you this issue! Can't wait to search the web for a 'virtual' copy of Marx's Mein Kampf and do a bit of academic research, don't you know.

playing in to stayCommandos

Alarm Alarm.........

Eidos/Pyro Studios - PC - WWII strategy - £30

OK so admit it, you always had this fantasy to be like Steve McQueen. You know: die of cancer and then be resurrected in a Ford virtual car advert. Nooooo, I mean escape from a WWII POW camp and jump the border on a 750cc motorbike with Wehrmacht bullets whizzing around your ears. Well, your time has come: you are a crack commando (actually, a group of crack commandos) in a series of mind bending scenarios from the Second World War. Lead your men across the rooftops of Tunisia, through the fjords of Norway, up the beaches of Normandy and on into the very heart of the Third Reich. If ever a game was further from the blast-em-up excesses of Quake & Co. than this is it. Beautifully drawn scenes and razor sharp strategy transport you back to a time when eggs were powdered, beef was corned and real men laid down their lives for queen and country as you slit throats, snipe, spy, swim, climb and generally sneak around the twenty-four exquisite scenarios. 911/1000

playing in to stayVigilante 8

Kiss my jive ass Bo and Luke Duke

Activision - PC - driving boogie blaster - £30

When Henry Ford first thought of putting the mass produced automobile into the hands of the populace, I doubt he had any idea that nearly a hundred years later, a bunch of crazy vigilantes would be tearing around the peaks and plains of America's South West blowing the shit out of each other in a bunch of full-on, funked up, ordinance bristled, nitro'd out, auto-mo-biles. But that is precisely what V8 delivers. Ride the snow fields of Colorado, plough up the fruit fields of California, land a big gun on the Hoover dam as you blast your way through state after state, razing anything that looks even vaguely inhabitable to the ground. If the game is exciting in single player mode, then you ain't seen nothin' yet 'til you plug in the second controller and skid, crash, smash and jump around the arenas with a buddy. The 70s were never this good. 921/1000

playing in to stayDead or AliveMeaty Beaty Big and Bouncy

Sony - PSX - beat-em-up - £30

Close your eyes and drift across a soft, pink landscape as the kaleidoscopic sun goes down behind two giant mounds of milk jelly, gently wibble-wobbling in the soothing evening breeze....... kerwhackkk haaaeeeeeah whack crakcrak wakey wakey sucker, get those goddamned thumbs working, block, sharp right to the head, upcut and snap down into the throat, drop, wheel about leg out and spring, knee up into the sacrum, elbow down onto the cranium, drop back, double punch to the chest, faint, then in for a headlock, drop and break that throat across your knee, quickly up and drop again, knee to chest, back, block and punch punch, upcut, parry, round kick, drop kick neck punch, crack-ack. Diagnosis: severe contusions to upper trunk, neck and left cheek, multiple compound fractures to ribs, left tibia, right fibula and skull, fracture to lumbar vertebrae, dislocation of right shoulder blade, collapsed left lung, ruptured pericardium and spleen, massive damage to frontal lobe, cardiac arrest. Prognosis: good, should be up in time for round 2. The only fighting game with the real-time fluid dynamic female chest gravity control system and a thoroughly intense, sinew stretching, joint busting whack-em up. Vavoom 901/1000

playing in to stayGran Turismo

Round and round and round they go, where they stop...

Sony/Namco - PSX - Real driving sim - £30

"The real driving experience", if you can ignore the lack of car damage (forbidden by the car manufacturers), the over energetic collision control (watch those kerbs), the fact that the car models are either Japanese production, American hi-octane or British bulldog (where are all those hi-performance European beauties)... but hold it, cut this negative bullshit, the game is brilliant. Where else can you work your way up from a Nissan Sunny in the Sunday League to a fully blown 960 bhp Nissan Skyline GT-R LM with an International racing licence in a couple of weeks? How else could you accurately manoeuvre 900 horses of carbon fibre clad past some of the world's best GTs without a Swiss bank account and a deathwish? GT is quite simply, a brilliant driving experience, very tough, very precise, very realistic, very reliable. In fact you can't afford not to buy it. 931/1000


Get real guys.

GT Interactive/Digital Extremes - PC - Reality changer - £30

You got me. I must admit to having been a little sceptical when I first heard of Unreal. In a market saturated by 3D first person corridor games, the prospect of yet another labyrinth blaster didn't exactly inspire me. But ohh how wrong can you be, for Unreal is without question a re-markable game (providing of course that you have the latest in 3D acceleration to enable the volumetric lighting and hi-res 16 bit textures). The game has a real epic feel to it, brought on by the combination of widely varied interiors and exteriors, breathtaking lighting effects (you actually pass through the light) and tough, intelligent opponents. The resultant effect is to move the genre another step further towards a participatory story, a realtime adventure novel (forget VR or non-linear fiction bollox) which is a genuine pleasure to engage with. Top marks also for the inclusion of benevolent creatures that, providing you don't splatter them, will help you to get on in the game. 951/1000

playing in to stayColin McCrae Rally

Left 1 to Left 3, square right, rocks.......

Codemasters - PC/PSX - Rally game you dummy - £30

Who the fuck decided to call a video game Colin? I mean it's bad enough that the poor fella's parents decided on the name but a hardcore rally game - perleease. It's lucky then that the game is such a radical, full-on portion of seat-of-your-pants driving. Forget trying to memorise a bunch of short, slick tracks, CM Rally sets you off on a marathon forty-eight course rally season. With loooong tortuous courses from New Zealand to Africa (via Europe), an eager navigator and a fast, twitchy 4WD turbo charged Subaru, be prepared for some serious adrenaline-induced low flying as corner after corner flashes past you. Add to this a highly realistic games engine, big wide landscapes, changeable weather conditions and an effective car management system and you have probably the best car driving experience to hit your screen. It definitely beats standing around a muddy cart track in the rain with a cagoule tied up round your chin and a flask of luke warm cup-a-soup in your pocket. 941/1000

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John Paul BichardXjohnny AT metamute.comX