Friday Flashback Five: Week of November 05, 2000


It’s the end of the week, and of course that means it’s time for another Friday Flashback Five!  Each week, we go through five random games that debuted this week in history, and this week is no different. This time around, we’re heading all the way back to the week of November Fifth, Two Thousand.

A large number of games came out this week, with the vast majority of them for the PlayStation.  This was one of those weeks that saw games from every genre imaginable, though not many of them will be remembered today.

Now for the usual disclaimers: Where possible, I’ve included links to Let’s Plays, play-throughs, game-play videos, and so on.  Some, many, most, or all might well be utterly infused with profanity and vulgarity.  Keep that in mind as you ready your clicking-finger.  Also, this isn’t a “top” or “bottom” list.  It’s just a look back at five random games from our hobby’s history and a peek at what effect they may or may not have had.

With that out of the way, let’s get it on!

Starship Troopers: Terran Ascendancy
Whether one liked it or not, I dare say it’s inarguable that Robert Heinlein‘s Starship Troopers is one of the more influential novels of the era, and certainly the most well-known of the author, who himself has written quite a few novels.  It spoke of war and maturity, following the perspective of one Juan “Johnny” Rico as he goes from a boy unsure of his place in the universe to a soldier.  Interestingly, when it was turned into a film, the result was almost the polar opposite of the novel.

That controversy aside, this game was the second in the series, though the first to be based closely on the novel.  Visually, it used design elements from the film, but that’s all.  It was a rather linear game, consisting of twenty missions that each have a certain goal that must be met—but it really just boiled down to walking around hurling a storm of bullets at anything that moved.

It was rather boring game play, but on the other hand it looked stunning.  Different times of day, different weather conditions, different looks to the locales—the developers really went to town, and it showed.  Unfortunately, it didn’t make up for the generic game play, meaning that this was a title that was played once and forgotten about almost immediately.

A commentary-less Let’s Play (so more of a play-through, but, hey, I didn’t name it) here—an the audio book is on YouTube here, for the curious.

Escape from Monkey Island
The Monkey Island series has been consistently popular over the years, and for good reason.  The games are irreverent to common sense, preferring to make the player think about oddball ways to use items rather than try and apply any sort of internal logic or cohesion, and the series is better for it.

Escape from Monkey Island was the first to use three-dimensional character models.  Some game series didn’t make the jump too well, but Escape was downright beautiful.  It was no less visually interesting for three-dimensional models to roam around two-dimensional backgrounds than its fully two-dimensional predecessors.

One of the downsides is that the humor seemed to be edging more toward reminding the player of earlier games, which made gamers new to the series who played this one first potentially unsure of just what the joke was.  That aside, though, it was a great title, and a worthy addition to the franchise.

A blind Let’s Play can be found here.

The Operative: No One Lives Forever
When the first Half-Life came on the scene, it was considered a game-changer.  First-person shooters that came afterward were usually compared to it, and also usually in a comparably negative light.  “If you can’t get Half-Life, you could get this” and similar comments were used in relation to such other F.P.S.es.  Then The Operative: No One Lives Forever came on the scene.  With good enemy artificial intelligence and nice stealth elements, all wrapped up in a paisley bow and set in the ‘Sixties.

The plot was as simple as spy movies of the era the game is set in usually were—the baddies, an organization named H.A.R.M., are trying to take over the world, and the goodies, an organization known as U.N.I.T.Y., are trying to stop them.  It seems simple, but it was partly the implementation that made it stick out.  For one thing, someone at developer Monolith Productions apparently realized that the boring camera angles through which most F.P.S.es delivered their story weren’t set in stone.  Here, each shot is framed as if for a real Hollywood film, and this was added to with solid voice acting.

The A.I. of the enemies was nothing to sneeze at, either.  Tactics depending on their numbers was just the first thing on offer.  They’d also create cover to hide behind, spray suppressing fire at you, and much, much more.  All of this was set in a nice-looking world.  Items were a touch blocky, and there weren’t any reflective surfaces to be found, but those were really nits to be picked rather than actual complaints.  Any problems with the game, graphical or otherwise, were surprisingly tiny.  Over all, it was an incredibly solid experience that didn’t get the fame it deserved.

A Let’s Play can be found here.

Crash Bash
“Party” games occupied that uncomfortable niche of being the “next big thing” after kart racers.  Also, of course, any “party” game was compared with Mario Party, whether it deserved to be or not.  Adding to all of that, “party” games involve the most well-known characters of the company—mascots, really.

Enter Crash Bash.  Starring Crash Bandicoot, who was never really A-list mascot material save for a very short period, the game saw players take control of up to four characters from the series as they played through a series of mini-games.  Standard “party” game stuff, really.  That’s actually a pretty good description of the game as a whole—standard.  It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great, either.

One of the upsides, though, was that it did support up to four players, through the use of the multitap, which was an accessory used to connect more players to the console (which normally only allowed two players).  That’s actually the best thing about the game, since there was a notable dearth of multitap-ready games for the PlayStation.  Still, it wasn’t really enough to save this rather mediocre game.

A humorous co-operative Let’s Play can be found here.

Half-Life: Counter-Strike
What we have here is an unusual case.  Technically, Half-Life: Counter-Strike is somewhere between a mod and stand-alone expansion for Half-Life—however, as crazy-popular as Half-Life is, Counter-Strike is insanely more popular.  Twelve years later, and it’s still the game of choice for many L.A.N. parties.  Yes, to this day, many players still play this game.

At first glance, one may question why, especially if they’re a non-gamer wondering why their loved-one or friend is playing such an old game when their X-Box 360 or PlayStation 3 is sitting right there.  To be sure, modern games offer more than Counter-Strike seems to—but one of the main things is that the elements in Counter-Strike were implemented incredibly well.  Rescuing or holding hostages, escaping from or guarding an area, bombing a target or defusing a bomb, and assassinate or guard a V.I.P.—these four game modes didn’t necessarily bring anything “new” to the table—but they were implemented nicely.

On top of that, you had the plethora of accurately-modeled pistols, rifles, shotguns, and more.  They also mimic real life in that each weapon “kicks” differently, making the player have to think about what they’re doing a bit more, and let them seek out a firearm they’re comfortable with.  Add all of that to nice sound effects and excellent level layouts, and one can see why it’s still an addicting game, even over a decade later.

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That’s all for this week.  See you on Monday, and have a good weekend!

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