Medal of Honor: European Assault: An Assault in Europe (and North Africa)

Released 7th of June 2005, Medal of Honor: European Assault is the 7th entry in the Medal of Honor franchise. After the poor reception of Rising Sun, the planned sequel was cancelled, that game would have followed the player character’s brother and would have also taken place in the Pacific. European Assault instead follows Lt. Holt, a person, who does things. While European Assault was better received than Rising Sun, the reviews were mixed and it’s very easy to tell why.

Strong openings are a staple of the PS2 Medal of Honor games so far, with Frontline’s D-Day and Rising Sun’s Pearl Harbour, but European Assault’s somewhat falters. If we take the first mission as the opening, then it’s short and not very good, though if you consider the first four missions to be a single opening, then it is definitely far better. Even maybe the best. Unfortunately, the game’s engine definitely wouldn’t be able to handle that, it can barely handle the levels it has.

The opening, Operation: Chariot, shows the raid by Royal Navy and British Commandos on St. Nazaire on the 28th of March 1942. The events shown in the game vary from what actually happened, but historical accuracy clearly isn’t a focus of the game. That said, European Assault does vary from the previous two console entries in the series in that it drops the ‘heroic war movie’ theme and instead focuses on the ‘war is hell’ angle. The opening narration makes this pretty clear, and it’s hammered in throughout the rest of the game. It takes this in a weird direction, with the narrator seeming to imply that the allies were fighting for the same reasons as the Nazis during his ‘there’s nothing good about war’ speech, which I’d certainly hope isn’t the case on account of that whole genocide thing.

But this isn’t really a story or theme analysis, so onto the game. Each level opens with a briefing explaining the basic layout of things, then it shows you your objectives. Some are hidden and you find by exploring. The maps are fairly open though still quite linear. You have multiple paths but you always get funneled through the same door. Sometimes you’ll have to backtrack if you missed something and with the slow speed that Holt moves at this is tedious at the best of times. Still, having multiple objectives to pursue around the levels does make them feel a bit bigger and lends to the idea that this is actually a military engagement.

The levels being big does have one rather big downside though: the framerate is terrible. I’m not sure if this is due to the level size or just the density of effects but the game barely runs. I think it despawns a lot of things after the set piece is finished, so it’s pretty common to see a bunch of soldiers fighting only for everything to quiet down rather abruptly once you’ve pushed forward. This game is trying extremely hard to be ‘cinematic’, but ironically in trying to do so it becomes less movie like. Like Medal of Honor: Frontline, European Assault is at an awkward point, but while Frontline was somewhere between Doom and Call of Duty, European Assault is between Call of Duty and Call of Duty.

Gone is the stats screen at the end of levels. Now, you just get a run down of what objectives you completed. Most of the staples of early FPS are gone, replaced with dark grim “cinematicness” (yes I know that isn’t a word). This game has more in common with the late WW2-Early Modern Call of Duty games than it does its own series, and that is pretty sad. Some of the set pieces are nice, but it relies on them far too heavily and when the game is chugging throughout your epic explosion, something is fundamentally wrong and you need to design around your tech limitation.

Oh yeah and you can’t shoot nazis in the dick anymore. Well you can, but there’s few animations for it, and it isn’t obvious what part they’re grabbing. I suppose the fun haters at EA Los Angeles decided it would be tonally off for a game that opens with “There’s nothing good about war” to have fun sequences where you deliver buckshots to bellends. They aren’t wrong but I still miss it. Then again these are the same devs that implemented a headshot counter. When you get a headshot you get a little German helmet in the bottom right of your screen with a crosshair on it, get another one fast enough and you get two little strikes on it. I assume this increments more with more headshots but lining up a lot of headshots isn’t exactly easy.

While we’re on animations, the fun animations that Frontline and Rising Sun had are gone. This is good and bad, while those games’ animations were fun, they weren’t good by most measures. They were hand animated. The animations in European Assault seem motion captured, at least to my eye, and are a lot more realistic looking. The downside is that they aren’t as fun to watch. It’s a mixed bag. In place of a lot of the death animations, the enemies just ragdoll when killed. This is literally never good. The ragdolls are extremely poor, they bounce hilariously when they fall, get stuck on things, sometimes they get thrown the wrong way. Shooting an enemy with a shotgun and having them fly toward you is pretty funny but breaks the tone a bit.

This is overly negative, let’s talk about some positives. Despite clearly trying to be Call of Duty, this game does not feature regenerating health. Instead you have two health pickups. Canteens, which heal you instantly, and medkits, which you hold onto until you need. You use them by pressing down on the dpad. You have a lot less health than in previous games, which isn’t great. It depletes very fast and if you’re being shot you can die before you can react. If you die, you can revive if you have a revive. You get these for completing the bonus objectives. Honestly I’m not sure why they went with this. The revives are automatically used after a lengthy animation where you fall over and die. After that animation plays, you’re right back where you were at half health. You know. Still in danger from the thing that just killed you. One standard enemy can kill you in a matter of seconds. 

Wait, shit, positives. Right. So instead of being a one man army like in previous games, you have a squad. You have pretty limited controls over them, you can make them attack or make them come back. Their attack range is pretty limited, but generally can be quite useful if you want a room stormed. They aren’t invincible but they’re pretty close to it, if one of your pikmin does get low on health you can heal them up using one of your medkits. These guys can help you out in a jam so it’s usually a pretty good idea to keep your accountabilibuddies healthy

Unfortunately they aren’t very smart. They have a habit of running into machine gun fire, either yours or the enemy. Expect a lot of shots you have lined up to be absorbed by a passing dipshit. Thankfully, unlike Call of Duty you won’t get failed for friendly fire. The reload button is also the ‘waste a health kit on whatever is in front of you’ button, so be careful trying to reload.

The spread of bonus objectives is decent. You discover them by exploring: get close enough and you get a radio message telling you to go take the burger joint or whatever. Usually, these are to find semi-hidden items, destroy something, or kill that level’s “nemesis”. The nemeses are just special enemies with a visible healthbar (it’s an iron cross above their heads). They eat a lot of bullets and will usually home in on you, so expect to die to them and use a revive. Thankfully they’ll also drop one. Some of these objectives, like the semi-hidden documents, will require you to look around to find them, but most of them are basically just main objectives. You’ll go past them while on the normal route through the level. It feels a lot like a lazy way to pretend to be non-linear and give player choice but you’d have to try hard to not complete these objectives.

Yeah, it’s really hard to talk about the positives in this game without tangenting into a negative. I don’t hate it, I swear. It’s just very flawed.

The missions are broken up into groups, each group following a set plot over a specific location. Assaults (that take place in Europe) end with a screen where it breaks down the rank you got for each level and gives you a medal if you achieve a gold rank in every level, which requires you to complete all the objectives. Length varies, the first assault (in Europe) has four missions. The second is in North Africa, but that’s pretty close to Europe I guess.

Each assault opens with a cutscene made up of footage of World War 2 with a narration, it starts with an older person, presumably Lt. Holt, describing their experiences, but transitions to a younger voice for the second half or so. These are nice openings. I like them. Holt clearly isn’t a real person. I’d have preferred to have multiple characters. As it is, having an American show up to all these historic campaigns just serves to push the “America Saves the Day” narrative.

If the cheap enemy spawning in Rising Sun annoyed you, then give this a miss. I saw enemies t-posing after being spawned in around a corner from me repeatedly. It’s upsettingly common. It frequently spawns enemies behind you too, I assume this is to make backtracking less dull but it fails miserably. It simply isn’t fun. If I clear a room, then I want it to stay clear. A submachine gun spawning in my face isn’t fun. It’s also common for allied units to spawn in front of you, so you fight through a gauntlet of enemies and round a corner to see a gaggle of friendlies just hanging out. Not that the friendlies are all that helpful.

The selection of weapons is pretty varied. You have British, Russian, American, and German guns but you don’t get to choose from all at once. The guns depend on who you’re fighting with. This is generally fine since they’re all nice options. Unfortunately the shotgun is only available in two of the ten missions. It’s the sign of a good FPS that the shotgun is fun to use, and when it actually gives you one European Assault’s shotgun is okay. Its spread is pretty bad, and it has terrible range. Aiming down the ironsights improves the spread a bit but it’s pretty dire. It passes the shotgun test, but barely.

The AI is just as bad as previous entries, if not worse. The allied AI is close to useless (and with how often the game seems to despawn them, completely unreliable), your squad mates usually just find new and creative ways to get themselves killed, and the enemy AI cheats. They have near instant reaction times, and don’t even need to be aiming at you to shoot. I’m fairly sure they always know where you are. I’ve seen guns clipping through walls tracking me. Rounding a corner just to have most of your health vanished in a few seconds by a t-posing nazi isn’t fun. Retreating to find that the game has spawned enemies in the room you just left is even less fun.

Speaking of things that aren’t fun, the levels lack any checkpoints. Once you’re out of revives you start from the beginning. The levels aren’t long or anything, they’re just frustrating. Dying at the end of a level is the kind of thing that makes me want to go play something else. They improved this in Rising Sun with checkpoints, but now they’ve just gone back to how it was. And it isn’t great.

Continues are a concept invented when games were made to gobble your money. Revives are essentially continues, and they shouldn’t be here. Playing the same level over and over just to die at the same difficulty spike isn’t fun. Not hitting down on the dpad in time and dying with zero revives and six medkits isn’t fun. Revives are worse than continues. The game inflates difficulty in many ways, such as starting you with very limited ammo or infinitely respawning enemies. The last level is pretty close to the least fun you can have in a video game.

The story is nothing to write home about. It’s told almost exclusively through the opening cutscenes, there are no real secondary characters. The ones that are there aren’t around long enough to get to know. It’s a nice touch that there are multiple women in the Russian and French forces.

This game has a non-trivial amount of bugs. The worst I encountered was on a mission toward the end where I had to destroy a tank, I did. Later on when I got close to the tank again, a scripted sequence began where the tank activated. The enemies near it respawned shouting about getting it operational, and it started shooting its frontal machine gun at me. It was also invincible. These bugs plus the general lack of polish makes me think that it might have been rushed for release.

The spawn system also feels incomplete. Games will often spawn in and out NPCs a lot. In the case of a FPS like this, they’ll spawn in enemies and allies to keep it feeling like there’s a battle going on. European Assault doesn’t do this properly. Enemies will keep spawning almost indefinitely, but allies don’t. Allies get spawned based on certain events, so you’ll start off with a bunch of friendly soldiers fighting with you, but once they all die it’ll get quiet, then when you progress further it’ll spawn more in. So you’ll single handedly complete the objective and suddenly be surrounded by people. This is never not jarring.

On top of everything, the technical issues are impossible to ignore. Constant environment pop in, animations don’t play past a certain distance leading to enemies just sliding around, frame rate issues, sound problems, muddy graphics, poor textures, bad hitboxes, clipping issues, the time it takes to pause and unpause. It’s just a mess.

I wanted to like this game. I really did, and the earlier levels are much better. I have a feeling that as their deadlines approached they had to pump up the “difficulty” in the later levels to pad game time out. The earlier levels are far more fun to play. They feel tighter and better optimized. But the further you get in the game’s (short) runtime, the worse everything starts to feel, culminating in the slog of a final level where almost everything seems to go wrong.

Weirdly enough, in the memories I have of this game from when I was a kid, I remember it as a Call of Duty game. Now I need to go play Call of Duty: Finest Hour to find out what that game actually is.

This is part three of my reviews of PS2 Medal of Honor games. You can find the first two, Frontline and Rising Sun, on this site.

If you enjoyed this, consider following me on twitter for updates here

If you like these reviews and want to support me, I have a Patreon and a Ko-Fi. One Playstation 2 game is pretty cheap, and I do take requests, so if you do donate feel free to suggest a game to review in the message.

I also have a Discord if you’d just like to talk retro games.

Thank you very much for reading.


Photowalk – Manchester [B&W] – Part 2

This post is a continuation from the previous post about my black and white photos from my short trip to Manchester [Part 1 here].

The previous part showcased the images that I had taken with a telephoto lens with a focal length of 85mm. For lenses with longer focal lengths, I can take similar photos from farther away or capture details of my subjects without having to get uncomfortably close. As I was still not very familiar with the city and its people, the 85mm lens was a better choice for my shooting style. However, I needed to get out of my comfort zone in order to improve in street photography.

I had used a “nifty fifty” lens, referring to the 50mm focal length, for the majority of the following photos. The 50mm lens is my preferred lens when I am starting out in a location due to its ability to shoot close-up and wider angle shots. With a shorter focal length than the 85mm lens, this lens required me to get closer to my subjects. However, the advantage of the wider lens is that I am able to capture more of a scene than if I am to shoot with a longer lens from the same distance.

Although the autofocus had been very useful in both the 50mm and 85mm lenses, I did not want to rely on the autofocus to shoot from the hip. One small issue with the 50mm f/1.8 STM II lens is the lack of a zone focus indicator so it is difficult to judge the exact distance to which the lens is focused. This is a minor inconvenience as the autofocus has provided me with more shots than I could have gotten had I been using the manual focus FD lenses with my 1979 Canon A-1. When the autofocus wasn’t working with my vision for a scene, I was able to adjust the focus quickly with the muscle memory I had gained through shooting with the Canon A-1.

Man in the Park [Ilford FP4+, 1/125 s , EF 50mm f/1.8 STM II]

This first photo was taken in one of the parks near the University of Manchester. While walking through the park, I noticed a man on a bench who was feeding a large group of birds. I got close enough to capture some detail of the man but not too close to startle the birds. I had also wanted to photograph some of the birds flying in and out of the larger group, but I decided that I still wanted the man to be the main focus of the scene and the movement of birds would have drawn interest away from the man.

I adjusted for a slower shutter speed so that the camera would choose a narrower aperture to keep more of the scene in focus. I didn’t want to have a shallow depth of field as I knew that I could use the negative space in the grass to draw more attention to the man. I’m not too happy with the location of the tree being in the center of the frame, but I believe that this was the best angle at the time.

The man and the bench fuse together to form a single object, and this is complemented by the large group of birds in the center of the frame. I decided against a tighter crop in order to provide more context for the man. While the man is the only human in the frame, he is not alone as he is surrounded by a large group of birds. By including more of the surrounding park area, there is a sense of isolationism that is juxtaposed with the crowdedness in the center of the scene.

Life Moves On [Ilford FP4+, 1 s, EF 50mm f/1.8 STM II]

I wanted to capture the busyness of the city and I knew that a long exposure would be the perfect way to achieve this goal. Here, I saw a pavement area with a lot of pedestrian movement. I had held up my camera to pretend to shoot some shots and observed that many people just ignored me and kept on moving. This was a welcome change from the touristy city of Edinburgh where the inhabitants and visitors are sometimes a bit too considerate of people with cameras.

For a one-second shot, I propped my arm up against a pole in order to stabilise the camera. Thankfully, the slower shutter speed was compensated by a narrower aperture and this allowed me to keep more of the scene in relative focus. I decided set my focus point to a distance which was approximately 1/3rd of the way into the scene.

The results from long exposures are difficult to predict, but they are very satisfying when they work. There is a diverse selection of people in this scene, and the differing amounts of motion blur reveal the uniqueness of each individual. Some people are moving quickly and busily to their destinations, while others are slower and enjoying their walks.

Between the Frames [Ilford FP4+, 1/250 s, EF 50mm f/1.8 STM II]

Sometimes mistakes can occur in the photographic process, either in the development and printing of the film, operation of the camera, or otherwise. I believe that it is important to embrace these mistakes as they are an important aspect of shooting with film. In this case, there are light leaks in the frame and these led to two overexposed rectangles at the top and bottom of the frame. The light leaks are likely the result of a mistake I had made when I had respooled the film from a larger spool into the film canister.

The original scene itself is not particularly interesting. There is a woman talking on her phone and standing beside a traffic sign. I have included the out-of-frame person with the umbrella in order to indicate that it is raining in this scene. The reflections on the road also contribute to the rainy scene.

The light leaks help to remove distractions from the scene and increase the emphasis that is placed on the woman. While not forming a conventional frame around the subject, I feel that the light leaks around the woman also achieve a sub-framing effect. Interestingly, the top and bottom light leaks stop right above and below the woman respectively, leading me to wonder if there is something special to the woman.

The Disappearing Man [Ilford FP4+, 1/180 s, EF 50mm f/1.8 STM II]

Similar to the previous image, the things that you fail to account for sometimes produce the most interesting effects. In this photo, the man on the right’s upper body appears to be transparent while his lower half remains opaque. This is contrasted with the other people in the frame who are quite nontransparent (with the exception of the reflection of a person with an umbrella and a stroller).

The photo was shot in the rain while I was waiting under a bus shelter. I looked behind me and through the glass to see pedestrians walking past the stores. I decided that the man on the right would be my point of interest and placed him in the lower right corner of the frame using the rule of thirds. A mixture of the reflections caused by the rain and the reflections in the glass resulted in this peculiar effect.

The disappearing effect is caused by the reflection of the bright bricked building being reflected in the glass. The surrounding buildings around this bricked building are not as brilliant, and as a result are not displayed as prominently in the reflections.

I hope you enjoyed the images as much as I had enjoyed taking and editing them. I may continue the series in the future with more black and white images or move onto the colour images that I had taken on this trip.

The images have been shot on a Canon EOS Elan 7e (EOS 30) film camera using either a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM II lens. The expired Ilford FP4+ film stock (expired in 1996) was shot and developed at 125 ISO. The majority of the photos have been taken using shutter priority with an adjustment of EV +0. I have only listed the shutter speeds for the images as I do not recall any of the corresponding apertures.

The film was developed using Ilford Ilfosol 3 for 5:30 minutes at 20C. Ilford Ilfostop was used to halt development for 0:30 minutes at 20C. The film was fixed with Ilford Rapid Fixer for 3:00 minutes at 20C, followed by a water rinse for 3:00 minutes at 25C. The resulting negatives were scanned using the Epson V550 and edited in Photoshop.

Medal of Honor: Rising Sun: Affix Bayonets

Medal of Honor Rising Sun case

Medal of Honor: Frontline may have been the critical darling and the first to be mentioned in ‘top 6th generation console games’, but Medal of Honor: Rising Sun is many people’s favourite too. In fact, I preferred Rising Sun as a kid. I’m not sure why, honestly. Though the opening is a strong reason. Most people who played it will say that it’s a fantastic opening (And it is but we’ll get back to that), but I was surprised to learn that Rising Sun was savaged by critics back in 2003, with a Metacritic of 68%. EuroGamer gave it a 4/10, praising the rest of EA and commenting on the game, “The difference in quality sticks out like J-Lo’s ass after a particularly intense course of collagen injections.” [1].

But now for an info dump. Because I like info dumps. Medal of Honor: Rising Sun is the sequel to Medal of Honor: Frontline. It’s the 5th game in the series (7th if you include expansions to Allied Assault), and the 3rd for consoles. It was released in 2003 for the Playstation 2, GameCube, and Xbox. I’m reviewing the Playstation 2 version here. Originally they planned a sequel, but Rising Sun received pretty poor reviews, and it was canned. The next game on consoles was European Assault instead.

EA Los Angeles decided to move from the somewhat overdone European theater of World War 2 and instead focus on the Pacific. Few games really focused on that, perhaps because gunning down Nazis is easier on the sense of morals. 

To give some background to me, I grew up in and still live in the city of Darwin in the Northern Territory. Darwin was attacked by the Japanese and growing up I saw a lot of the legacy of that. Old bunkers, the East Point shore guns, the War Museum. One of my favourite books as a kid was The Bombing of Darwin, about a fourteen year old boy living in the city at the time. It’s weird, but growing up I felt that the Pacific theater was more relevant to me, despite having obviously ended sixty years prior.

Back to the game. 

Rising Sun has a very strong opening, most are familiar with it, if you aren’t I don’t want to spoil it. Suffice to say the emotional impact and coolness is the same as it was when I played it as a kid. It’s hard to really describe it. If you’ve played it (and since this is a decades old game, most people reading this will have played it), you know it and you know how it made you feel. It has aged well. The controls are a bit stiff, it can be hard to hit the planes and the opening turret section goes on a bit long, but other than that it’s good.

There are save points scattered around the levels along with autosaves at certain points, which is a very welcome change to Frontline’s lack of any mid-level saving. This makes the difficulty spikes slightly more tolerable, because you won’t have to reply levels over and over, just the part giving you issues, but the save points can be hidden.

The engine is the same and it very much plays the same, the graphics have mildly improved, the textures are a bit less muddy though the low resolution (by today’s standards anyway) makes it hard to tell. Ultimately the biggest issue with the graphics is the resolution, so if you’re running this on an emulator you can boost that up and improve things a lot. I’m running it on original hardware because I’m a horrible hipster, and it is noticeable. The muddiness often makes it hard to see enemies, since their uniforms usually blend in well. The 3rd level is a night level and this is even more of an issue there. On top of this there’s quite a bit of blur. If you have issues with eye strain this probably isn’t the game for you.

You can see your stats at any time in the pause menu, if you need groin shot counts on the fly. You can also view briefing info and historical info about each mission. What got me into these games as a kid was the historical things. Newsreel footage, narration, all that, so this is a nice touch.

They added a crosshair that’s displayed at all times but it’s basically just a visual thing. The guns don’t feel like they’re actually pointed at it. Like Frontline, the guns are laughably inaccurate. This feels a lot worse when there’s a crosshair. The bullets stray massively off the path you’d expect, and they can miss at near point blank range. This is pretty annoying, and impacts the gameplay quite a bit.

The enemy AI is just as brain dead as it was in Frontline. They made some ‘improvements’ to try and hide this. The AI is much more active, they’ll go prone while shooting from range, which makes them a lot harder to hit largely due to how hard it is to see them like that, but also due to the extreme inaccuracy of the guns I mentioned earlier. They’ll also perform banzai charges, they’re generally much more effective than Frontline’s AI when in melee range. The banzai charges are not a sign of a good AI but in a way they hide the poor quality. These charges don’t tend to be challenging on their own, they’re only an issue due to the issues with aiming that this game has. Overall it’s clear that small improvements were made but they simply aren’t enough to make the AI more than a passing challenge.

You also have friendly AI partners now, but they’re as brain dead as the enemy AI. They sometimes get kills but usually just act as bullet sponges for the enemies, along with shouting at you to follow them while staring at you and waiting for you to move so they can follow you.

Speaking of the AI, let’s address the elephant in the room. Yes, the game spawns enemies a lot. If you use a turret, the game will spawn enemies and send them at you. I guess this is meant to be dramatic or cinematic. Sometimes it just spawns enemies in rooms you just cleared. This feels cheap but I think it’s meant to evoke the feeling of being in hostile lands. The enemy lying in wait for you and surprising you. This would be more effective if you could actually see some of these enemies in their hiding spots(which you can in their covered foxholes, if you look close enough), but you just can’t. It’s a cheap way to do this.

By the time Rising Sun came out it’s clear that the game engine was struggling. Some elements, such as the caves seen in many levels, would be at home on the Playstation 1. You can see the seams in the game’s terrain on many occasions.

There are some bugs too, the biggest one I encountered was on mission four. An NPC was meant to lead me into a secret door to a cave, but after opening the door he just stood there and never went in. Since he never went in he couldn’t trigger the next scripted sequence, this would have softlocked the game, but after standing there for a minute or so he just teleported ahead and triggered the next sequence which was likely on a timer. It’s good that the game’s scripting failed gracefully, but it still shouldn’t be failing.

The level design has some improvements, the levels are much more sprawling than they were in Frontline but this isn’t always a good thing. Everything typically looks the same so it’s very easy to get lost and disoriented, especially in the dense jungle levels. There’s also a lot of reliance on turret sections, which at the time weren’t nearly as common as they can be in modern first person shooters. They’re rarely fun and usually out of place. The levels have a lot more verticality, which is nice, but it’s usually badly implemented or just pointless.

On the topic of guns, the non-mounted variety have no real improvement over Frontline. The selection is slightly different. The silenced pistol has been replaced with the Welrod, a single shot gun that’s actually useful due to its ability to one hit kill enemies. It isn’t affected by range at all and it’s probably the most accurate gun in the entire game. The change to the Pacific theater could have given opportunities to explore Japanese guns, there are some LMGs to use, but they’re basically the same as the other guns.

Early on you’re largely limited to the M1 Garand and M1911 pistol, later you get a wider selection but it has a habit of only giving you a Sten MKII, which sounds about the same as a Nerf gun and has an effectiveness to match. Sometimes it’ll grace you with a Thompson that’s largely useless due to the extreme inaccuracy. It takes until the games 5th mission to be given a new gun, the Welrod, and the 6th to be given a shotgun. The selection opens up around that point, but it’s quickly back to a limited set of guns, and never the fun ones.

Rising Sun does pass the shotgun test. It’s a sign of a good shooter that the shotguns are fun to use. The Trench Gun is amazing to use. It’s satisfying to clear through dense jungle or tight corridors with it, and this time you’re given ample ammunition for it. The game’s last mission — A tight aircraft carrier level — would be a great place for a shotgunfest, but instead you get the Sten MKII. Boo.

Ultimately the gameplay is basically the same as Frontline, and that’s not a great thing. Instead of European towns — where you can’t see anything — filled with Nazis who stand in place and shoot, you’re fighting through jungles — where you can’t see anything — filled with Japanese who take cover and shoot but sometimes pull a sword out and charge at you. The trees are not only speaking Japanese, they’re screaming “banzai!” with annoying frequency.

It seems that maybe EA LA got Imperial Japan mixed up with the Imperium of Man and decided to have the Guardsmen affix bayonets at every opportunity, that’s when they aren’t pulling out katanas and charging you with those. This portrayal of the Japanese is sketchy at best. Banzai charges are a real thing, yes, but they were used as a last ditch attempt to turn the tide of a losing battle, not against one guy with a shotgun.

Rising Sun lacks Frontline’s war movie charm, though it tries. The story isn’t great, and ends on a sequel hook for a game that never happened. The characters aren’t that interesting, and character deaths are pulled out far too often to be effective. The animations aren’t even as good, maybe they tweaked the rates because a lot of the animations are the same but the fun animations that I liked so much from Frontline aren’t anywhere to be seen. The music is a downgrade too. It’s hard to explain why but it has far less impact. While there are a few nice moments where that war movie charm shined through, most of it was just a dull slog. If Frontline is the midday Sunday war movie, then Rising Sun is the weird sitcom that follows that you’re half asleep through. It’s not unenjoyable, but it’s not exactly memorable.

While the exploration of the less commonly seen Pacific theater is an interesting change, Medal of Honor: Rising Sun simply doesn’t live up to Frontline. By this point Call of Duty had released to critical acclaim, which certainly didn’t help Rising Sun’s chances. Its failure led to the cancellation of its planned sequel, instead being followed by Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault for PC. While Pacific Assault did perform better, it’s clear that the franchise had been surpassed by Call of Duty, which was rapidly becoming the massive franchise that it is today.

This is the second review in my series covering PS2 Medal of Honor games, next is European Assault. I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope you look forward to the next review.

If you like these reviews and want to support me, I have a Patreon and a Ko-Fi. One Playstation 2 game is pretty cheap, and I do take requests, so if you do donate feel free to suggest a game to review in the message. I also have a Discord if you’d just like to talk retro games.

Demo Disk Roundup #1

Demo disks are a weird passion of mine. I just love them, and can’t explain why. So I’ve decided to collect them and document them on this blog. So welcome to the first of (hopefully) many Demo Disk Roundups.

Our first disk today is Australian Summer Special. It has six games and one video on it, which are selected through a truly seizure inducing menu. Watching this screen made me feel somewhat sick.

The games are:

  • Medievil
  • Tekken 3
  • Psybadek
  • Colony Wars Vengeance
  • Crash Bandicoot 3
  • Spyro the Dragon

The video included on the CD is “Making of Medievil”

Australian Summer Special comes in a very neat fold out case design. It’s pretty clear that Medievil was thought to be the main attraction here.

The text on the front and on the center says “Do not underestimate the power of Playstation”, leading this disk to be called “The Power of Playstation” sometimes.

The selection of games is very solid, though obviously these are demos. They all run very smoothly, and without any issues that I noticed on my 7500x PS2 slim, which is the most likely model to have issues with Playstation games. Medievil, Tekken 3, Crash Bandicoot 3, and Spyro all support analog sticks, but Colony Wars and Psybadek don’t and act as though you’ve disabled the controller if you enable it.

The video footage is very compressed, as one would expect for a compact disc circa the late 90s, but it’s certainly watchable. Once you start it, there’s no way to stop it except for restarting your console, so keep that in mind.

Next up is Official Playstation 2 Magazine Australia Demo 15. The disk is labeled as ops2m 33.

It comes in a very standard DVD case without much special to note.

This disk has ten demos total.

  • Shinobi
  • Moto GP3
  • Pride FC
  • Evolution Skateboarding
  • Primal
  • Dynasty Warriors 3
  • Conflict Desert Storm
  • Herdy Gerdy
  • Project Eden
  • WRC II Extreme

It also has four videos. These are all trailers.

  • Resident Evil Online (Released as Resident Evil Outbreak, without online features in PAL regions)
  • SOCOM: US Navy SEALs
  • Evil Dead: A Fistful of Boomstick
  • True Crime: Streets of LA

Full reviews of all of these are out of the scope of this blog post, but there’s a lot of gameplay on offer here. Shinobi is top billing on the cover art, but the first demo you’re offered on starting it is actually Conflict: Desert Storm. Shinobi is probably the most attractive option on this disk, showing off the first level of the game.

For this roundup I did two disks, but for future ones I’ll likely only be doing one. If you enjoyed it, please do follow the blog so you can be notified about future posts. I have a lot of PSX demo disks to do next, so look forward to that.

If you like these reviews and want to support me, I have a Patreon and a Ko-Fi. One Playstation 2 game is pretty cheap, and I do take requests, so if you do donate feel free to suggest a game to review in the message. I also have a Discord if you’d just like to talk retro games.

Photowalk – Manchester [B&W] – Part 1

I had recently travelled to Manchester as a break and also to do some street photography. I had never been to Manchester before and I thought it would be a good experience to broaden my horizons and improve my photography. For the first few days of the trip, I explored the downtown and surrounding areas and was mainly photographing in colour. I used these days for scouting areas which would contain interesting scenes and people, and also to identify any areas to avoid.

My preference for street photography is still black and white film and I chose to use the expired Ilford FP4+ film stock for this purpose during the last couple of days of the trip. I brought my 50mm lens for general shooting but also used my 85mm lens for some shots where I wasn’t able to get close enough to my subjects in time. The benefit of using prime lenses with these particular focal lengths is that it forced me to move around and keep my eyes open.

I Want to Ride My Bicycle [Ilford FP4+, 1/500 s, EF 85mm f/1.8 USM]

Sometimes, there’s no time to think about composition and you need to take the shot and hope it turns out well — especially with a medium such as film. This was one of those times.

I was resting on a bench in front of the town hall when I had noticed a boy performing tricks on his bicycle. As he was about to pass by, I turned around quickly and readied my camera for less than half a second before I snapped the shot. Thankfully, the autofocus on the 85mm was fast enough to focus on the boy as he performed a wheelie across the tiled floor.

The positioning of the boy in the scene ended up being even better than I had expected. The negative space in the image is perfect as the light-coloured floor and pillars in the background contrast against the boy’s dark-coloured clothing and bicycle. Due to the faster shutter speed and longer focal length of the 85mm lens, the other objects in this scene are not in focus, placing an even greater emphasis on the boy.

Street Portrait [Ilford FP4+, 1/350 s, EF 85mm f/1.8 USM]

This photo was also shot in front of the town hall, but on the other side on the bench. I was watching the trams pass frequently and figured that I would be able to work with the windows to sub-frame the passengers within the tram. I noticed this scene as the tram had pulled up to the station at the perfect location.

The metal pole and seat inside the tram, the border of the tram window, and the metal framing around the glass pane all combine together to form a frame for this “portrait” of a woman. I had intentionally metered so that the woman would be underexposed and appear as a silhouette against the white pillar in the background.

Unlike the previous photo where I did not have time to react, I had a bit more time here and noticed another pedestrian walking down the ramp from the station. I had adjusted the shutter speed to be able to freeze the motion as well as capture both the man and the woman in focus, and waited patiently for the man to come into the frame. Both people have similar postures, but the bright visage of the man provides contrast against the darkness of the silhouette.

Child-like Curiosity [Ilford FP4+, 1/250 s, EF 85mm f/1.8 USM]

In this scene, I was walking along the sidewalk and I noticed a little girl walking alongside her father. They had stopped at the bus stop and were likely waiting for the bus. I realised that the bus stop would be perfect for framing subjects and possibly be a subject in itself.

The adults are obscured by the signs and supports of the bus stop, leaving the children as the focus of the scene. The girl is interested in something outside of the frame while the child in the stroller is preoccupied with something in front of him.

I attempted to use the rule of odds in this composition with the three panels of glass of the bus stop. The scene may be enhanced with the addition of a third child in the last glass panel. Of course, part of the fun of street photography is unpredictability and oftentimes I find that the scenes are not exactly as I would like them to be.

City in Motion [Ilford FP4+, 1/2 s, EF 85mm f/1.8 USM]

I had wanted to capture the motion of the city while still having a stationary subject. Due to the placement of the tram tracks and the openness of the roads, many pedestrians were interrupted momentarily in their crossing of the streets by the crossing of the trams or other vehicles. With this knowledge, I took an opportunity to photograph a man who was waiting for a tram to pass before continuing on with his journey.

The difficulty of photographing motion in the scene arose from the high amount of light present. I did not have a neutral density filter available so I would need to use the smallest possible aperture in order to achieve usable images with slower shutter speeds. Thankfully, the slower film speed of FP4+ was a huge boon for longer exposures even in the daylight.

The blurred movement of the tram, together with the darkened trunks of the trees, frame the man perfectly. The trio of trees to the right also draws attention away from the other parts of the frame.

I feel that the man represented myself. While I was remaining stationary and resting on a bench, the world wasn’t going to stop and would continue on moving without me.

I hope you have enjoyed these images and I look forward to sharing more photos from this trip in the future.

The images have been shot on a Canon EOS Elan 7e (EOS 30) film camera using either a Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM lens. The expired Ilford FP4+ film stock (expired in 1996) was shot and developed at 125 ISO. The majority of the photos have been taken using shutter priority with an adjustment of EV +0.5. I have only listed the shutter speeds for the images as I do not recall any of the corresponding apertures.

The film was developed using Ilford Ilfosol 3 for 5:30 minutes at 20C. Ilford Ilfostop was used to halt development for 0:30 minutes at 20C. The film was fixed with Ilford Rapid Fixer for 3:00 minutes at 20C, followed by a water rinse for 3:00 minutes at 25C. The resulting negatives were scanned using the Epson V550 and edited in Photoshop.

Experiment with – Lomochrome Purple

Hey there, Mr. Green Sky

Lomochrome Purple is a colour negative film stock produced by Lomography, a Viennese-based company focusing on analogue cameras and photography. This film promises weird and wacky colour shifts while still maintaining fine grains and sharp contrasts. After seeing the results from many other analogue photographers, I knew I had to try it out myself and experience the world through Lomochrome Purple.

According to Lomography, the film exhibits different effects based on the ISO at which the film is being metered. I chose to shoot the film at ISO 400, which provided me with the flexibility to shoot scenes with lower available light or the fast-paced action of the street. The other suggested speeds, ISO 200 and ISO 100, would have resulted in additional exposures of 1 and 2 stops respectively. It was unclear how the choice of ISO would affect the final images so the only option was to experiment.

After developing the film, I was surprised at the resulting negatives and the scans. The lighter greens had transformed into lavender or lilac hues while the darker greens became indigo. Blues had become greens while yellows became pinks or magenta. Reds, pinks, and oranges appeared to maintain their hues.

I suspect the colour shifts are a result of different colour dyes being used for the blue, green, and red layers in the colour film — with the colour dyes for the blue and green layers changed and the red layer’s dye remaining the same compared to C-41 process films without the colour-shift effect. However, I won’t delve too deeply into this topic as it is purely speculation.

Interestingly, there is a yellow base for the Lomochrome Purple instead of the red-orange base found on most other colour negative films. Yet, I am not certain if this base colour has any contribution towards the observed colour shifts in the images.

Aside from shooting still subjects, I was also interested in the film’s suitability for street photography.

While these images were shot in harsh sunlight, the muted purple hues soften the scenes and provide a calming effect to the viewer. The film is able to modify the busy scene in the midday sun into one that is tranquil and bathed in a purple cast.

Familiar scenes are rendered alien due to the unfamiliar colours, and this departure from reality offers an almost otherworldly experience in purples. It has the ability to breathe new life into otherwise mundane scenes.

Overall, Lomochrome Purple is a very interesting film stock. The colour shifts provide interesting and surprising results which require more experimentation. I believe that this film lends itself to fine art or experimental photography but also has its place in street photography.

I look forward to shooting more of this film in the future and I hope you enjoyed my first foray into Lomochrome Purple.

The images have been shot on a Canon EOS Elan 7e (EOS 30) film camera using a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM II lens. Lomography’s Lomochrome Purple film stock was shot and developed at 400 ISO. The majority of the photos have been taken using shutter priority with an adjustment of EV +0.

The film was developed using Tetanal’s C-41 kit developer for 3:15 minutes at 38C. Blix was applied to the film for 4:00 minutes at 38C. The film was rinsed with water for 3:00 minutes at 30C, followed by a stabiliser for 1:00 minute at 25C. The resulting negatives were scanned using the Epson V550 and edited in Photoshop.

Medal of Honor: Frontline: Nazi Dick Shooter

If you ask someone that grew up with the console what their favourite games on PS2 are, oftentimes Medal of Honor: Frontline will make their list. And that’s hardly surprising, after all, it’s considered by many to be one of the best first-person shooters on the console. But how much of that is rose tint? How well has it actually aged?

Medal of Honor: Frontline is one of the three 2002 entries into the series, and the only console entry of that year. Released on the Playstation 2 on May 29th, it was later released on the GameCube and Xbox. Developed by EA Los Angeles (formerly DreamWorks Interactive, currently DICE Los Angeles, briefly Danger Close Games) Frontline is the 4th entry in the Medal of Honor series as a whole, and the second for consoles. The franchise is now largely dormant due to the extremely poor performance of Medal of Honor: Warfighter, the second entry post 2010 reboot.

Frontline is one of those games released at an awkward point for its genre, from a time before the fairly radical shift that was Call of Duty’s explosion onto the market, for better or worse. There’s no magenta keys for magenta doors or anything like in other similarly timed games such as Warhammer 40k: Firewarrior with its partially regenerating health and primary/secondary guns alongside coloured door keys, but the gamefeel is very similar to games like Doom rather than later genre-definers.

The core gameplay isn’t unfun per se, it’s just awkward. Aiming is awkward, shooting is awkward, movement is awkward, the controls are awkward, almost as much as the animations but we’ll get back to that. Despite these issues, and there are many, shooting Nazis rarely gets old. Especially since you can shoot them right in their nazi dicks.

Let’s talk positives. The score is great. It complements the action wonderfully, making things feel cool and heroic. When the music swells as I mow some nazis down with a shotgun, it gives me the warm and fuzzies. The story is interesting in the same way that an old war movie playing midday on a Sunday is interesting. Which is to say it isn’t, but it’s enough to keep you engaged.

The game’s player character, Lt. Jimmy Patterson is just a blank slate and has no real character, much like the protagonists of the aforementioned war movies. Did I mention that shooting nazis is fun? Because it is. At the end of each level, you get a stats sheet which tells you how many times you shot a nazi in the dick, which is a good touch. It says groin though.

As fun as it is, shooting nazis in the dick can’t carry an entire game, so, unfortunately, this is where the positives end. The framerate is simply bad. Not always but I’d say the majority of the time it was affecting gameplay. If a game performed this badly on my computer, I’d stop playing it. I don’t know if it was always this bad, though maybe I’m just spoiled by 60fps now. Mild motion sickness resulted from the lower framerates for me, so if you have issues with motion sickness in games this probably isn’t the best choice for you. The framerate issues are made even more strange by the simple fact that this game does not look good at all. Even for the time, the textures are very low quality, reviews from its era pointed this out. So this isn’t just my modern eyes being spoiled by 4k textures. The graphical muddiness is made even worse by the constant screen-shake. Some levels are worse than others for scripted shakes caused by explosions, but the camera shaking from being shot is always there and never welcome.

The AI is also bad, or as I put it in my notes during my playthrough, “AI is a fuck”. There was one particularly amusing sequence on the pseudo-stealth bridge level where I came up some stairs next to a gun emplacement, and the nazi on the gun just stared at me shouting. So I shot him and his friend ran over and took his place, also staring at me while shouting. So naturally I shot him too. This repeated until all the nearby nazis were dead. While hilarious, it demonstrates just how bad the AI is. Most of the time – if they bother to shoot at all, they just stand in place shooting at you, sometimes they’ll take cover if it’s available (which is honestly just annoying more than anything as you have to watch their cover animations, which are not fantastic). They can also get stuck on objects, but their guns clip through them, meaning they can shoot you but you can’t shoot them. This did only happen less than ten times in total though, so it wasn’t super common.

While the death animations are unique, they’re bad on most levels but they’re almost charming. It reminds me of the old war movies that I don’t remember the names of that I’d watch as a kid, which makes sense as Spielberg’s inspiration for the series was Saving Private Ryan. It is, in many ways, a war movie game series. Shooting a nazi in the head and having him take one hand off his gun, put it to his head, look at his hand and only then have his brain realize it’s on the wall behind him is far from realistic but it’s just fun. It’s more of that war movie charm, enemies dropping over railings and giving Oscar-bait death performances.

Let’s talk guns! There are lots of them, but you’ll generally be using the same ones, which is unfortunate because a lot of them aren’t fun to use. The silenced pistol may as well be a water gun for all the good it’ll do you in a firefight. Not only does it do barely any damage, it’s also extremely inaccurate. Most of the guns feel inaccurate, even the sniper rifles. The shotgun is by far the most entertaining of the game’s selection.

It’s a sign of a good shooter if the shotgun is satisfying to use, and Frontline does pass that test – With caveats. While viscerally fun to use, it’s far too stingy with giving you ammo for it. It will, on occasion, give you some shells, point you to a room full of nazis with their abdomens intact and ask you to rectify that situation, but it does it far, far too infrequently. Often times it’ll take two shots to kill a target, largely due to inconsistent spread, and the game usually only gives you six at a time. The fun is always interrupted by a lack of ammo. Grenades should also pass the same test, but unfortunately the grenades available fail. They’re situational at best, and usually useless.

The difficulty is all over the place, I played on medium difficulty, and it ranged from boring to obnoxious. The lack of checkpoints made this vastly worse, dying near the end of a level because you can’t find health and having to start back at the beginning is extremely frustrating. One checkpoint per level would have improved things greatly, but I’m 16 years late on that advice. Being killed in one hit by a tank and having to start again is not what I would call particularly fun.

It’s unfortunate to revisit a game I played so much and loved so much and find it so lacking, but really I can’t think of many positives with this game. It’s simply aged badly. I still have fond memories, but they’re not for the game. Not really. They’re for the childhood that surrounded it. This game has aged about as well as bananas. Poorly.

I’m in the process of playing through all of the Playstation 2 entries in the Medal of Honor series as part of a larger retrospective I’m working on, so if that interests you, consider following me on Twitter to get updates on it, or following this blog. Next up is Rising Sun.

If you like these reviews and want to support me, I have a Patreon and a Ko-Fi. One Playstation 2 game is pretty cheap, and I do take requests, so if you do donate feel free to suggest a game to review in the message. I also have a Discord if you’d just like to talk retro games.

On a roll – Expired Ilford FP4+

Ilford’s FP4+ is a medium speed panchromatic black and white negative film with a fine grain structure. Like its sibling, HP5+, the film exhibits a medium level of contrast and pleasing midtones.

While browsing eBay, I had stumbled upon a deal that I just couldn’t pass up and obtained a 400 ft spool of expired FP4+ in 35mm format. Given the expiry date of 1996 and the one stop per decade rule, the film should have been rated at 25 – 50 ISO compared to the 125 ISO of a fresh roll of FP4+. However, I had previously tested the film at the box speed of 125 ISO and the film did not appear to suffer from a reduction in sensitivity even after all these years.

Looks like it’s from way before 1996

I shot the film during a sunny day trip in Berwick where the low to medium film speed wouldn’t be too restrictive. I decided to shoot the film at 125 ISO but metered for the shadows to compensate for the possible slower film sensitivity. The bright sunlight also allowed me to use faster shutter speeds while still having narrower apertures to keep the majority of the objects in the scenes in relative focus.

I set out to capture scenes with high contrast and detail in order to test out the film’s capabilities. To be quite honest, I did not have any particular scenes in mind and just shot whatever caught my interest.

Being a slower film stock, I needed to be careful with my selection of subjects as I would not be able to shoot fast-moving subjects without having some degree of motion blur. I was lucky to be able to catch the butterfly at rest as it was stretching out its wings to absorb the sunlight.

The film is also great for capturing scenes with patterns and textures as showcased in the following images.

Although I chose to slightly overexpose the shots with an intent to adjust the images in post, the expired film was still quite versatile and handled a few stops of under or overexposure with ease. Having previously shot fresh FP4+, the expired film yielded a comparatively softer level of contrast while maintaining a similar level of fineness in the grain.

My choice of developer was Ilfosol 3 as this developer provides a high level of detail and sharpness with films shot at box speed. The already beautiful rendition of the midtones in the scans meant that I had to spend a minimal amount of effort on editing.

This particular spool of FP4+ has aged like a fine wine. The reduction in contrast in the final images is desirable and the film retains most of its positive aspects such as the fine grain and film speed. Due to these attractive qualities, I look forward to shooting more of this expired film stock in the future.

The images have been shot on a Canon EOS Elan 7e (EOS 30) film camera using a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM II lens. The film stock used was an expired 35mm Ilford FP4+ film stock (expired in 1996) and developed according to ISO 125. The majority of the photos have been taken using manual settings with a tendency for overexposure by 0.5 – 1 stops.

The film was developed using Ilford Ilfosol 3 at a dilution of 1+9 for 5:00 minutes at 20C. Ilford Ilfostop was used to halt development for 0:30 minutes at 20C. The film was then fixed with Ilford Rapid Fixer for 2:30 minutes at 20C, followed by a water rinse for 3:00 minutes at 25C. The resulting negatives were scanned using the Epson V550 and edited in Photoshop.

Daemon Summoner: The Worst Video Game

The game, surrounded by empty alcohol bottles.
No cute cat pic this time.

Daemon Summoner is a 2005 game developed by Atomic Planet Entertainment and published by Midas Interactive Entertainment and it is a strong contender for the worst game on the Playstation 2. This review is probably better described as a rant than a review, because it is literally a rant I posted to my discord server after playing the first level. I have not, at this time, gotten further than the beginning of that second level for reasons that are explained further on. I have no plans to go further but I could probably milk another rant out of it so I might do it the next time I have the money to get completely wasted.

Midas Interactive Entertainment are a budget publisher currently based in Essex, England. Many of their games are bought at a low price from Japanese developers and localized for a cheap release, often only in PAL regions. So their games may be unfamiliar to US readers. They got their start in publishing with their 1999 Pocket Price Games label, and 2 in 1 and All in One Packs. They stopped releasing any new games in 2012, instead focusing on re-releases on the Playstation Network.

Atomic Planet Entertainment was a development studio founded in 2000 by former Acclaim Teesside developers. Defunct as of 2009, their first title was a mobile phone port of Dino Island (aka Dino Tycoon). They’re most notable for developing the PS2 version of The Guy Game, a game which contained child pornography. 

Credits for the game. The guilty parties.
The Guilty.

This concludes the informational part of this post, and now we go into a slightly edited version of the rant I posted originally.

The game opens with a long, badly narrated and unskippable cutscene about vampires I think. You’re then treated to a seizure inducing menu with a small loop of extremely generic ‘dramatic’ music playing. This was likely something purchased for cheap. The credits lack any credits for music related positions, and the “voice actor” for the main character is also one of the character animators.

It has shit performance with constant fps drops, it looks like a Playstation 1 game at a higher resolution, the first level is a catacomb level where you walk through dimly lit tunnels while zombies sometimes move toward you and groan slightly, a sound effect that is clearly a guy groaning into a low quality microphone, but you can just run through them because they don’t have collision and killing them is slow and shitty because you have one weapon that fires once before having to reload and you melee only works maybe 10% of the time.

It has a kinda neat system of locational damage so you can shoot limbs off but it’s really badly implemented with only upper body damage causing the head to pop (which doesn’t kill them or stop them chasing you) and lower body damage causing a leg to drop off which stops them from moving so you can just keep going and ignore them so the end result is doing the entire thing looking down so you don’t have to aim. The aiming sucks dick (in a bad way) and has massive deadzone so precise movement is impossible. The control scheme is terrible and makes no sense, the buttons don’t even always work.

Near the end of the level you’re treated to the games second enemy, dudes in robes. These dudes in robes do the same thing as the zombies but slightly faster. Either their hitboxes are broken or the gun is because if they’re right in front of you your shots will just do nothing. I assume this might be a case of the bullet spawning behind them and not technically hitting them. Since their attack pattern is basically just ‘Run at and hit’ this makes the hardest part of this getting far enough away from them to be able to shoot them since they run at the same speed as the player does. If you’re curious on how to do this for whatever reason, you wait for them to start to attack since they’re so incredibly basic that they can’t attack and move at the same time.

You then fight the final boss, Emily. According to the back of the box one of this games features is “Unravel the compelling and mysterious story-line and discover the truth behind Emily’s disappearance” but you spend the entire level chasing her and then fight her at the end. It takes three shots to the head while backpeddling and since she also can’t attack while moving you do this in complete safety. Then she escapes, so you chase her to the next level.

Or don’t.

I actually recommend you don’t.

Anyway, this is easier than the dudes in robes because your shots actually connect with her. Turns out that the game is in fact easier when it functions.

How this got a release on an actual fucking disc(Compact disc, in fact) in 2005 is beyond my understanding, oh, and since I can’t fit this anywhere else that makes sense, it comes with a whopping 4 page long instruction booklet and the cheapest and shittiest case design I’ve seen since the last time I looked at a Blast game.

Everything about it is cheap and wrong, even the rating appears to be some kind of knockoff, using a different design to the normal Australian ratings labels, lacking the border and using the wrong text size.

The game case compared to a copy of Grand Theft Auto, to  show the difference in design.
For comparison.

This game came out the same year as FEAR, Star Wars Republic Commando, Spiderman 2, TimeSplitters, Lego Star Wars, GTA SA and Shadow of the Colossus for fucks sake and someone thought ‘hey let’s add to this line up of great games with this pile of fuck’.

The second level is a stealth level and it’s where I stopped, it opens with a narration that if you skip just keeps playing over the next cutscene which shows some vampires(?) meeting and boarding a boat, you’re told to get aboard the boat without being seen but there’s a dude blocking the way onto the boat so you’ve gotta sneak around the guards, but David Hayter’s voice is nowhere to be seen(heard?) and you are far from dummy thicc.

This is where I gave up, the enemies have massively varying detection radius, most of them are basically blind and as far as I can tell they’re all deaf but sometimes I’d just get detected and not know why. When you get detected you’re treated to minutes of cutscene, then loading back to the menu, loading your save, and more cutscene before you’re back into the game. This is probably the single most frustrating way to lose a level and at first my reaction was simply ‘How did they not realize that this wasn’t fun while testing’, then I thought back to the credits and remembered a distinct lack of QA credits. If this game was tested, it was tested as well as it is voice acted, which is to say, poorly.

The game is on a compact disc as mentioned before, and my PS2 makes pained noises while reading it, and it hurts me to know that my consoles lifespan may have actually been lowered by this waste of bytes. This game is simply bad. It is not worth playing and has literally one redeeming characteristic that I encountered in my brief time playing it.

The street reflections on the rainy street the game opens in. They look very nice, especially for the PS2. They aren’t dynamic of course, and I assume they’re just a static image of a render of the street, but it’s a good visual effect.

Of my collection this game is by far the worst thing I own, and my collection includes Trixie in Toyland, Sonic Unleashed, An American Tail, and Hidden Invasion. I enjoy bad games and failed forms of art but I can’t bring myself to even tolerate this game. It is possibly the worst digital thing I’ve subjected myself to. The only possible reason I could recommend this alleged video game is as a conversation piece of having a game made by the people who brought child pornography to the Playstation 2.

If you like these reviews and want to support me, I have a Patreon and a Ko-Fi. One Playstation 2 game is pretty cheap, and I do take requests, so if you do donate feel free to suggest a game to review in the message. I also have a Discord if you’d just like to talk retro games.

V8 Supercars Australia Race Driver 2 aka TOCA Race Driver 2 aka DTS Race Driver 2 Review

Bhaalgorn (Kitten) inspects a copy of the game.

V8 Supercars Race Driver 2 aka TOCA Race Driver 2 aka DTS Race Driver 2 is a 2004 racing game by Codemasters and the 5th entry in the TOCA series of racing games, it’s the second of the Car-PG style with a character and a story. It’s not a very good story. It was released for Windows, Xbox, Playstation 2, Playstation Portable (Twice, two years after original release) and mobile devices, because 2004 was a strange time. I’m reviewing the Playstation 2 version here. I never played this one as a kid like I did with the first, and I think that might be why I like the first one so much more. Yeah that kinda gives things away early on doesn’t it?

Let’s start with the changes. Gone is the car tuning system. Admittedly I never really used this, it felt somewhat pointless most of the time, but it was a nice thing to have for the enthusiasts. You can’t do test drives either, but you can restart during races, so you don’t really need to get familiar with a map before racing it. The car damage system is different. Instead of a diagram of your car showing the damage to each part, it’s now just a set of lights that change colour. This is a pretty big downgrade to usability. In the first game you knew which wheels were damaged, in this one you just know that a wheel is damaged and won’t know which until it explodes and you have to restart. The replay system remains, but now you can save replays, which is nice. 

The graphics have improved slightly, but this game was released in 2004. The Playstation 2 version suffers from the same issues that most Playstation 2 games have, loads of jaggies from the lack of anti-aliasing and a relatively low resolution. If you play it on an emulator this won’t be an issue of course, and it’ll look much nicer, but if you’re a strange collector like me you’ll want to run it on original hardware. I’m just using an up-scaler and it looks pretty good despite the jagged edges on everything. The map backgrounds are much more detailed than they were in the first game, but I can’t speak for the accuracy of them. It has Hidden Valley, which I live near and have been to a few times, and it isn’t surrounded by rolling green hills. It’s surrounded by dirt. They do pretty it up for the V8s though, from what I remember anyway. There’s also none of the stands or anything like that. I guess they just used a generic background, which is unfortunate. Having accurate backgrounds could add a lot to the character of the tracks. 

The car physics are similar in a way but definitely different. I don’t know if they’re better. Sometimes it feels like my car is floating above the road and sliding all around. Sliding is a theme in this game. There’s a lot of sliding. The devs decided that to stop players from cutting corners and having fun, they’d make the gravel and grass cause your car to abruptly turn right. I can only really describe this as intensely lame. There’s nothing worse than taking a corner a bit too wide and touching the grass only to instantly spin out of control. There’s no way to get back up to speed fast enough to not end up in last place too. It’s just straight up un fun. Some cars are better than others in terms of handling though, so it won’t be as much an issue. Unfortunately some choice choices were made that amplify this problem.

In the first Race Driver you had to advance through a set of championships to progress, but you could do them in whatever order you want, and if you performed badly it was fine, you’d get another offer with a different car that maybe suited you better. Race Driver 2 on the other hand is much more linear. You pick from two championships, and then once you beat that or give up and do the other, you get one option and you have to finish that championship in that car to progress. So if that car handles like shit you just have to bear with it till you win. No alternate car options for you. You’ll be restarting a lot. Like.. A lot.

The AI is slightly better, in that it’s worse. It seems more human, and is much more prone to imperfect play. This is a great upgrade, but it seems to work in tiers, so the cars at the back are usually the lowest tier of AI and are pretty shitty. They take corners slowly, almost coming to a complete stop on some bends, and are slow to recover if they crash. The higher tier on the other hand plays much better, which is actually a problem. They play too well, and overtaking them gets pretty hard. The irish guy (I’m sure he has a name but I don’t remember it) has a bunch of radio call outs based on how you’re doing or who’s behind you. He’ll call them out by name, which is neat.

There’s a larger variety of cars available, from Formula 1 to big rig trucks, but it’s clear that the physics isn’t meant for this. The trucks are just boring, they feel weighty but they’re just not as fun as they sound. The Formula 1 cars handle poorly, and they’re dummy thicc, which can make it hard to overtake the cars since the clap of your wheels keeps making the physics break. If the wheels come into contact with another car things go strange and you fly across the track. Some of the cars also make annoying noises, one in particular making a high pitched hissing noise whenever I accelerated. 

It’s a lot harder to recommend Race Driver 2 than it was for the first game. There’s a lot wrong here and not many improvements. The only noticeable improvement is the graphics, and that the main character has no face or voice now. Massive improvement in that regard. There is a story, but it’s really not interesting enough to mention beyond the fact that your character doesn’t talk. Car-PG is a fun term, but this isn’t an RPG. It’s a racing game, and as far as racing games go it’s a thoroughly decent one. 

If you like these reviews and want to support me, I have a Patreon and a Ko-Fi. One Playstation 2 game is pretty cheap, and I do take requests, so if you do donate feel free to suggest a game to review in the message. I also have a Discord if you’d just like to talk retro games.