Friday Flashback Five: Week of December 12, 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 week, we’re skipping back to the week of December Tenth, Two Thousand.

Though a good number of games came out this week, titles generally fell into two areas—ports from other platforms, or games closer to the “meh” end of the spectrum.  There were a few that weren’t ports and were actually pretty decent, but they were almost the exception.

Even so, the not-so-great games are as important to our hobby as the utterly and truly fantastic titles.  They can be examples of what to not do with a game (whether such warnings are heeded or not), they can be examples of games that are enjoyable to a certain sub-set of gamers, and so on.

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!

Anne McCaffrey’s Freedom: First Resistance
Based on Ann McCaffrey’s Freedom series, Freedom: First Resistance was loaded with errors and counter-intuitive elements.  For one example, you could save your game anywhere—but if the character died, you had to wait a few long seconds, unable to load your saved game.  Then you had to stare at a map screen for ten or so more seconds, still unable to load your save.  To load the save, you had to go through a confirmation dialogue and several more seconds of loading to quit all the way back to the main menu.

Then you had the world itself.  Being set in a post-alien invasion Earth, it can make a certain bit of sense for this or that city to be empty, even barren.  However, First Resistance took it to new levels—specifically, to boring levels.  Mind that one of the main points of the game was exploration.  As such, the levels being mind-numbingly boring—all the way down to a lack of ambient sound effects—only made it a real chore.

Between boring hunt-down-the-key game play and boring settings, First Resistance really was a game to pass up.

W.C.W. Backstage Assault
It can be said that wrestling games are—formulaic.  As much, perhaps, as a certain famous brand of football games.  Therefore, when W.C.W. Backstage Assault came out (originally for the PlayStation a few weeks prior), it was with a certain anticipation.  Not only was it Electronic Arts’ second game under the World Championship Wrestling license, but—it was Electronic Arts.  They were a famous company eleven years ago, and for good reason.  Further, to have a wrestling game without a ring, well, that was just interesting.  It turned out that the game didn’t quite live up to the interest.

To be fair, though, it did have a number of intriguing elements.  There was a challenge mode that was similar to the one found in the Madden series, where you had to fulfill certain objectives like lighting your opponent on fire, smacking them enough times with this or that object, and so on.  There was a Create a Wrestler mode, but it wasn’t exactly the most fleshed-out system around, though some of that could be forgiven for the limitations of the time.

The game play itself was basically a copy-and-paste from W.C.W. Mayhem, the first W.C.W. game published by E.A.  As such, there was really nothing new or interesting about it.  That there was no ring, that there was a direct focus on backstage brawling, was kind of interesting, but not enough.  It wasn’t enough to carry a whole game.  It wasn’t a bad game, really, just—not that interesting.

A humorous Let’s Play can be found here.

Coaster Works
There was a time when it felt like you couldn’t throw a rock in a game store without hitting a bunch of roller coaster-themed video games.  That wasn’t necessarily true, mind, but it did feel like it.  Some, like RollerCoaster Tycoon were pretty good.  Others, like Coaster Works—well, that’s a different story.

Like others of its ilk, it was light on plot.  You were an engineer who builds roller coasters based on the needs of the different parks—speed, safety, thrill factor, and a few others.  That was actually pretty interesting, but one thing that worked against it was that it didn’t have many levels—six, to be exact.  That’s not very much, even by the standards of the day.  It was a very bare-bones coaster-sim, and though by now means a bad one, what it offered was really for much more of a “niche” than other coaster sim games.

Game play footage can be seen here.

Suzuki Alstare Extreme Racing
Motorcycle racing games aren’t exactly few and far between, nor were they eleven years ago.  As such, it took a lot for a game to stand out in the crowd—unfortunately, Suzuki Alstare Extreme Racing didn’t quite have it.  It was another of those games that couldn’t really be called bad—it just wasn’t innovative.  Being a barely-updated version of its predecessor, Redline Racer, didn’t help any, as that one wasn’t exactly new and refreshing, itself.

The two main things working against it were terrible artificial intelligence and a complete lack of depth.  While the different environments were interesting, there weren’t many of them, and the game play itself wasn’t very interesting at all.  It was basically trying to keep control of a crazy-fast bike with rubber-banding ensuring that you’d never be far from the other racers.  That would be obnoxious enough, but the other racers seem to have no notion that the player even exists.  The other racers would happily plow right into you—repeatedly.  That’s not because they were programmed to make you lose—they just didn’t seem to even know you were there.

It just wasn’t a very interesting game, which is a shame because there needed to be more interesting motorcycle racers out there.

Game play footage can be seen here.

Top Gear: DareDevil
The first Crazy Taxi was odd.  It almost shouldn’t have been as insanely fun as it was.  It captured gamers, so it was inevitable that, sooner or later, someone would try to recapture that weirdness and fun.  Enter Top Gear: DareDevil.  The game gives you four real-world cities—Tokyo, San Francisco, London, and Rome, and puts you behind the wheel of tiny cars.  We’re talking vehicles like the Mini and V.W. Beetle.  You plowed into other vehicles, intentionally, as you raced through the streets like a lunatic.  It was an interesting premise—that the game failed to live up to.

To start with, while you could—and were basically asked to—smack into anything you saw, the physics engine was odd.  You could take your Mini and smack into a bus with little more than a bump, but you couldn’t take down a street light—but things like crates and, again, buses, were fair game.  You were also supposed to be collecting coins and power-ups, such as ones that extended the time, but they were so prolific you rarely had to really worry about time.

There were other issues, too—frequent slow-down, terrible turning combined with a wonky power-slide, and more.  It looked good, but looks alone aren’t enough to carry a game, and they never were.

Game play footage can be seen here.

*                        *                        *

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

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