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Rome: Total War
I've finally gotten around to starting Rome: Total War and I'm really into it so far. It's like combining the empire building in the early eras of Civilization with the combat of Age of Empires. I'm starting to chafe at some of the design decisions, though, and the empire management is so much more shallow than Civ2 or Civ3 that the restrictions on what I can do are really frustrating me. The user interface could really use some work, both at the strategic and tactical levels. And though I'm playing at only a medium difficulty, I'm finding the AI to be rather disappointing, especailly at the macro tactical level. Often an out-numbered enemy troop will prefer to sit stationary and get whittled away to nothing by my archers rather than rush forward and attack. Dealing with family members and retinue can get redious and a bit frustrating. But still, the fights are glorious and the game is fun so far.
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Michael Moore, social leper?
As always, I'm happy to bring you the latest negative Moore coverage:

Moore now getting less

Permalink   Filed under: Politics, People, Movies

Hitman: Contracts
Last night I wrapped up the final level of Hitman: Contracts, not really a Hitman 2 sequel, but then not exactly an expansion either. In fact, I wonder if the developers even really knew what it was they were creating. Unlike the previous two Hitman games, this one did not follow a linear timeline of jobs that (more or less) tie into the overall story. Instead, Contracts is a series of flashbacks to previous jobs as the character of 47 lies critically wounded on a table in a dingy hotel room. So, first off, we lack the story arc that ties the jobs together, however tenuously. The second problem is that many of these missions seem to be revisions of tasks in the original Hitman: Codename 47 game. Both games have a sequence of 4 missions involving rival Hong Kong gangs, culminating in the elimination of the negotiators and the crooked chief of police, and then the assassination of a gang leader. Each game also has a hotel mission involving two brothers, a florist, and a bomb. I can't figure out why they felt the need to include these rehashed maps. They're not the original map layouts; the levels have been completely redone and your starting equipment is different. But... why? Was it really so hard to come up with new ideas?

Anyway, the game ends on a clear and unambiguous lead-in for a sequel, so I'm really hoping that the next Hitman game makes up for these shortcomings.

(Updated Friday, February 25, 2005 2:15 PM)
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Half-Life 2
With the gift-cards I received for my birthday, I picked up a copy of Half-Life (which was already on sale for $40). I managed to find time to play it between bashing the bejeezus out of Murlocs in World of Warcraft.

Does it live up to the hype? Well, it's a good game. The physics are good and so are the toys, generally. It's heavily scripted, though, with a linear course designed to funnel you through exactly what they want you to experience. Which is not so bad; it's just not very well hidden. There is an advantage to never being given a real choice: you never worry that you made the wrong one. On the other hand, it's hard not to feel like a slave to the game and its creators.

The ending is, as others have said, somewhat irksome. There is still a climactic battle, and one that makes more sense than a giant baby with a retracting skull. Still, if the next Half-Life doesn't have me killing that withered old briefcase-carrying fuck, then I'm writing off Valve for good.

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