During the last week, I got Halo 3: ODST. It's the first new Xbox game I've gotten in a good while. I haven't played Halo 3 much since the release of COD4, so before I got it I played through Halo 3 so I'd have something to compare it to. The actual campaign is kind of short, but it's well polished.
The first thing I noticed about was the price. At €45 it's a welcome break from the €60 new releases I'm used to. And definitely cheaper than MW2 which is going to be €70 at release here.
The graphics are about equal to those of Halo 3. So while they are far from bad, they're still outclassed by many other games. Given that Bungie has up until now mainly had to animate armour and aliens, some of the details such as hair and skin have a PS2 feel to them.
The story is where ODST shines. It makes a break from the "infiltrate big forerunner artifact, blow it up, escape" of previous Halo titles. You wake up 6 hours after the drop and have to track down your squad, with flashbacks to the events earlier in the day on finding each piece of evidence. I can't say too much more without spoiling the plot.
During the gameplay, there are a lot of "defend" sections. These are quite fun, and are long enough to be challenging without being boring. The game's special mode is a defense game where you have to last as long as you can, much like COD5's Nazi Zombies mode. It's more serious than Zombies, lacking the powerups (at least on your side, the skulls randomly activate to increase the Covenant's strength), and novelty aspects (ray gun, wunderwaffe) of Zombies, but replacing it with much larger maps and more variations in enemies. Despite much of the hype about the ODSTs being weaker than Master Chief, and a more tactical game, the only part you'll notice this is when you are fighting against the hunters.
Overall, I'd rate it about 7/10. I actually had more fun out of this than Halo 3 itself, which didn't impress me too much.
One of my favourite old games is Theme Hospital by Bullfrog. I still have my original disc, and play it a lot. It has a lot of charm, but it's not always simple to get running. So I'm writing up this guide on playing Theme Hospital on a modern PC. It has been re-released a couple of times, but my disc has both the Windows and DOS versions on the one disc.
First of all, if you are running a 32 bit version of Windows, have the Windows version, and have no intention of playing the multiplayer mode, just insert your disc and install away. It still runs perfectly up until XP. On Vista on my PC, I had to set the compatibility mode to Windows 95, and turn "Run as Administrator" on and it worked from then on. The same steps should work the same on Windows 7 32bit, but I don't have a computer running that to check. [EDIT: A friend informs me that it doesn't work on his Windows 7 32bit, but I still haven't tested for myself. Try the DOSbox instructions if it doesn't work for you]
If you want multiplayer, or you have the DOS version, things become more complex. For Vista, the IPX network protocol, which was used by Theme Hospital, along with many games of it's time has been removed. There is a hack to enable IPX in Vista, but it does not allow you to change the settings, and did not work for me. If you have XP or earlier, installing IPX to the Hamachi VPN software apparently works but I don't have access to a XP computer to test it.
The final option which I eventually resorted to using is to install Theme Hospital to DOSbox. This works on all Windows versions from 2000 up, and for Mac OS X and Linux aswell. Download and install DOSbox. Make a folder to store the files. I recommend you make it something easy to type such as C:\hospital on windows on /home/user/hospital on Linux/OSX. Then open up DOSbox. You will be presented with a DOS prompt. Type the following:
mount C "/home/user/hospital" mount D "/media/cdrom" -t cdrom
Or Windows (replace E: with the actual drive letter of your CD rom drive)
mount C "C:\hospital" mount D "E:\" -t cdrom
Next we need to install Theme Hospital to DOSbox. First, when your cursor is stuck in the DOSbox window (as happens later in the process), to get it out press Ctrl-F10. Now, in dosbox type:
This will open up the Theme Hospital DOS installer. Click the install button and let it install to C:\HOSPITAL (note: For windows users, this is equal to C:\hospital\HOSPITAL on the actual system). Then go to the configuration screen. Configure your sound card and music card. I found selecting Creative Sound Blaster Pro worked fine for me on Linux and Windows. I did have to turn my system volume up to full on Linux to hear it as the volume was stuck down low, however.
To avoid typing in the mount commands each time edit your configuration file. On Windows click the edit configuration file shortcut. If you are using Linux, you first have to issue the command CONFIG -writeconf dosbox.conf inside of DOSBox. Afterwards, the dosbox.conf file will be written to your home directory.
At the very end of the file, add the mount commands you entered before installing the game.
Afterwards click exit. The DOS version of theme hospital is now installed on DOSbox. If you want to play multiplayer, read on. Otherwise, you can stop now.
Edit your configuration file again and replace the line:
For each additional computer you wish to play it on, repeat the above process. Finally pick one computer as the host. On that computer start DOSbox and type the same instructions as startup last time, but add this before starting the game
ipxnet startserver ipxnet connect 127.0.0.1
Find the host's IP address. For internet play, try whatismyip.com. For local network play, check your network connections dialog.
Now on each client computer type the following (replace the 10.0.0.5 with your host computer's IP address):
ipxnet connect 10.0.0.5
And start the game on all the computers, enter the network game screen and play away.
Some Final Notes
Gameplay performance on the same system was much better on Vista than it was on Linux. The game played perfectly under Vista, while under Linux the sound was noticeably choppy. Whether this is a problem with DOSbox or with my computer's drivers is not certain.
I'm not sure if it is possible to play the Windows version against the DOS version. I have not tried.
Many gamers will point to some video of a game on Youtube, and go "Look at how great the graphics are, this is so much better than game . In your face 360/PS3/PC gamers (delete fanboys platform of choice). You've lost.".
This always makes me laugh for a number of reasons:
A lot of those videos are pre-rendered. They might be the intro clip, or other movie clip, not actual gameplay.
Youtube isn't exactly known for it's high quality. Most of these videos are encoded on the default quality. If they come from the company, they might just be high quality, which is still inferior to the video quality actual gameplay on whatever game they're saying it's better than. To see just how bad it is, look at the pictures from this blog post.
And remember, most games nowadays are 720p, twice the quality of the second picture, and scaled up to 1080p by your console, nearly 3 times the quality if you have a full HD telly.