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IMG Holiday Buying Guide - Part I
December 3, 2007 | Michael Phillips

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Shoot'Em Up
No, I'm not talking about the ridiculous, yet oddly compelling film starring Clive Owen and Paul Giamatti. Though, seriously, seeing Clive Owen bring down a squad of hired killers soundtracked to Nirvana's "Breed" kind of changed my life. But no, we're not going to talk about THAT. Rather, we're here to talk about first-person shooters. Games with guns, lots of guns.

Prey, published by Aspyr Media, is a rather unique first-person shooter in which gravity and death often hold little sway. Prey tells the story of Tommy, a Cherokee auto mechanic. He's unsure about his life, not certain where he wants to land in the world. He's a Cherokee, but he denies his heritage, wants no part of it. One evening while spending time with his girl and locals at the town bar, something happens that irrevocably alters the course of his life. Tommy, his love and every other soul downing drinks that evening are abducted by mysterious and malevolent alien beings. It phase one of a larger, darker plan. Aboard the alien ship, The Sphere, Tommy must kill his way to his girl, his friends, and ultimately, the salvation of the entire human race.

Of course, Prey is a shooter with plenty of kill crazy action, but it also offers some new twists on the genre. For example, in space gravity is often irrelevant. Throughout The Sphere there are levers and switches with which Tommy can Gravity Flip. Ceilings become walls, walls become floors. Things tumble, bodies fall, inaccessible paths are made clear. During his journey Tommy also develops mystical powers, gifts from his Cherokee ancestors. For example, upon his death Tommy enters the Death Realm, a place from which he must battle the dishonored spirits of his fallen ancestors in order to return his soul to his body.

Prey is nicely priced at $39.95 and is a Universal Binary. However, being based on the Doom 3 engine, iBooks, MacBooks and Mac Minis need not apply. Check out the free demo here. Prey is rated "M" for mature, parents, don't buy this and accidentally warp the little ones.

Battlefield 2142
The year, 2142. We face a second ice age, much of the planet is frozen and dead. The equator is humanity's last hope, warm and livable. Problem is, there's not enough warm land to go around. Alliances are formed, fighting begins, people die. Using highly advanced weaponry, human beings continue the work mother nature, or perhaps God, began. This is the essence of EA Games' Battlefield 2142, a squad-based shooter of epic proportion.

Battlefield 2142 is primarily intended as an online multiplayer game in which teams battle it out in one of two game modes, Conquest and Titan. In Conquest, teams of up to 64 storm the field capturing positions, bringing down enemy flags and killing, killing, killing. In Titan mode each team is in control of a massive flying fortress known as, you guessed it, a Titan. The first team to drop the other's Titan wins the day. Of course, players can also play offline with and against computer controlled bots. But what fun is that?

Factions in Battlefield 2142 consist of the Pan Asian Coalition and the European Union, both sides bent on taking what little habitable land remains. Each team has roles to be filled, ground-troops and a Commander. Ground-troops include: Assault, Engineer, Recon and Support, each unit playing a vital role on their team. For instance, Assault members act as infantry soldiers and field-medics, with access to high-powered assault rifles as well as portable defibrillators for jump-starting fallen teammates. Recon members make use of deadly sniper-rifles and Active Camouflage to kill at will, nearly invisible to the naked eye. Each class begins with a basic equipment kit which is then upgraded by scoring points and earning medals in the field. Whether playing on or offline players' scores are tracked between battles. Players can totally customize their soldiers over time. Players can also pilot vehicles such as Hover Tanks and giant armed Walkers.

The Commander acts as team coordinator responsible for all troop movements. With a bird's eye view of the battlefield, Commanders must note enemy positions and instruct the team on the best way to bring them down. When playing online, the Commander's orders can be issued via Battlefield 2142's built-in voice chat feature.

First and foremost, Battlefield 2142 requires an Intel-based Mac. Given the game's astonishing visuals, it will not run on MacBooks or Mac Minis. Battlefield 2142 is available for $39.95.

Online Worlds and You
Depending on how you look at it, massively multiplayer online games are either absolutely incredible, or a massive time vacuum sucking the life from large chunks of society. Personally, I really like them, but I used to really like prescription drugs too. Life's really all about balance and moderation.

EVE Online
EVE Online is the most recent massively multiplayer online games (MMOG) to hit Mac OS X. Set in a vast online universe, EVE promises players an enormous variety of gameplay options, giving no two players the same experience. So, what does that mean exactly? Well, in EVE, players take on the role of space pilot at the helm of their very own starship. Players can pilot anything from small scout ships, to industrial mining frigates, to deadly battlecruisers. There are endless ways to live in the world of EVE. For instance, one can journey the galaxy smuggling contraband from one sector to another, mine asteroid fields for profit, or even play the outlaw, killing other players in cold-blood. The depth of EVE is absolutely amazing, there's definitely no questioning it.

The game features four races for players to choose: the Amarr, Caldari, Gallente and the Minmatar. Each race also has three different bloodlines and several other layers of customization, giving the character creation process many different options. In the world of EVE, over time any character can learn any skill and get into any profession. Skills train over time. So, for instance, training the Rocket Launcher skill to level 4 from level 3 could take 3 days, 10 hours and 42 minutes. Fortunately, characters continue to learn their skills whether they're online or not. However, each race is better suited to begin a certain career immediately. Want to begin in the realm of science? Go Amarr. Is combat an immediate desire? Choose Caldari. A character can always be molded into something else later.

While the game does have some shortcut keys, it is truly a mouse-based game. The mouse is required to perform most of the game's commands, the keyboard is mainly used for interface shortcuts and in-game chatting.

Speaking of chat, EVE Online offers a multitude of opportunities for players to interact. There's a huge chat channel for new players in which experienced Game Masters answer questions and offer advice to rookie pilots. Players can also band together in fleets to complete missions, or simply wreak havoc on other pilots. It is also possible for players to form large Corporations. Corporations are groups of players working together to trade goods, research technology for sale on the open market, military domination and anything else for profit. Corporations can even own their own space stations to serve as a base of operation.

As mentioned, everything from combat to asteroid mining is handled entirely with mouse clicks. While one's ship is steered by its on-board computer, the player still has to issue commands. In combat, this involves clicking targets, locking on weapons systems, issuing the order to fire said weapons, or warping out of a situation that gets to be too dicey. While mainly about planning, strategy and choosing the right ship with the right equipment, there's still a certain degree of urgency in combat. However, players who choose to build their characters more toward scientific research, or dominating EVE's player-driven economy will require far less "clicking under the gun." For example, industrial miners will simply want a ship that can quickly evade attacks, thus protecting their precious cargo.

EVE Online is available for download here and offers a 14-day risk-free trial period. After the 14-day trial, EVE can be purchased for $19.95 which covers the price of the game and the first month's subscription, after which EVE is $14.95 per month. Remember, EVE Online is constantly growing, a game that never ends. Furthermore, all of EVE's major expansion are free of charge. Lastly, players will need an Intel-based Mac, as EVE Online is not a Universal Binary, nor will it ever be. I recommend anything, save for a MacBook or Mac Mini, but any Pro Mac or iMac will run the game nicely.

Stay tuned for part 2 as we cover two more MMOGs, simulations, strategy games and the best of sports, oh, and even some exciting hardware.

Related Links
Tiki Magic Mini Golf
Big Bang Brain Games
Aspyr Media
Electronic Arts
Battlefield 2142
CCP Games
EVE Online



Archives  Features  IMG Holiday Buying Guide - Part I