Zhooibaal\’s house of the unholy

20 May 2006

Dual screens

Filed under: My stuff, PC, PC games — zhooibaal @ 13:03000000

Yesterday my boss had been very nice to me; he gave me a 19″ iiyama Vision Master 1451. It may not be the newest of the new or the best of the best, but it is actually quite a nice screen and above all, it’s big. So I installed it as the secondary screen for SlashDev. My buddy Atariboy blogged about his triple screens over at his old blog a while ago and there I found a link to Ultramon.

Ultramon is a very nice little app that lets you control a lot more about your multiscreen setup than standard Windows does; you can stretch out the taskbar for instance and then the taskbar for each screen only displays the tasks that actually run on that screen. Or you can choose different wallpapers for each screen or stretch one wallpaper out over both screens. This app actually makes dual screens a lot more workable and it even makes the benefits of dual screens to be even stronger than they allready were.
Dual screens 1Dual screens 2Dual screens 3
Oh yeah, I got that screen for free, that’s actually the best part of it!

Besides that I decided to venture into the computer shopping world to get myself a new mouse and while I was shopping anyway, I decided that I could also replace my old headphones which had been put back together using sticky tape and a few days ago it fell apart beyond repairability.
So, the mouse, well, it’s a Logitech MX400 to replace my old MX500. You might think that that doesn’t sound very logical, but the MX500 is already 4 years old and due to heavy use it’s showing it’s age by hanging buttons and sometimes faulty response, it’s still good enough for my old Pentium 3 comp (stoomketel) though.
The MX400 is unlike the MX500 a lasermouse. It features 2000dpi accuracy which means that it’s very sensitive and pretty much equal to the Logitech G5 which costs about twice as much, but is a bit bigger and has more buttons. The shape of the G5 is the same as the shape of myold MX500 to be exact. The MX400 is slightly smaller and the only thing it lacks are the buttons I don’t use anyway.
MX400 1MX400 2

And last but not least, I got myself a new pair of headphones. Just like my previous headphones, this one is also from Philips. The Sennheisers they had sounded slightly better, but this one just sits better on my head and I still think that that is also very important. It costed only €35,00 and for that price I have nothing to complain about.
It is a Philips SBC HP830. There is no need to adjust it’s size as it adjusts itself whenever you put it on and it retracts when you take it off. The overall sound is very good and I can keep on this one for hours without it irritating me and you can barely hear it from outside due to it’s closed acoustic system which also prevents any outside noises to get inside.
It also has a 3 meter long detachable curled cable. The fact that it’s curled comes in pretty handy considering I sit only about half a meter from my pc and the curling keeps it quite a bit shorter but enables it to stretch out pretty far.
Philips SBC HP830

And before I forget to mention it, I also picked up Warhammer 40000: Firewarrior (which doesn’t seem to have a mobygames entry) for €15,00. I’ll make a seperate blog entry for that one whenever I got to actually playing it.

…End of line.


18 May 2006

Pariah (PC CD-ROM)

Filed under: Bargain hunting, PC games — zhooibaal @ 20:14000000

A few days ago (last monday) I was walking through the city center of Sittard (the Netherlands) once again and when we stopped by Dixons I found Pariah lying around there for €12,90. So I picked up Pariah there and when I got back home I installed it. All good so far, but when I first started the game the troubles began…

The good

But let’s talk about the troubles later, in the “The bad” section. First I will discuss the good parts of this game.

The graphics of Pariah are good, but you’ll have to keep in mind that this game is allready over a year old and that it uses the Unrealtech 2 engine and thus it won’t look as good as DooM 3 or FEAR. Anyway, the game looks good. There is quite a lot of detail in the environments as well as on decals and other objects. The enemies look pretty detailed too, comparable with the playermodels of Unreal Tournament 2004. Also the special effects like explosions and heat distortion look nice. The weapons aren’t of the best designs I have ever seen, but they look smooth and also don’t fall short on details.

My conclusion is that the game looks very nice overall, Digital Extremes has done a good job on the graphical part of the game.
The intro movie isn’t much revealing, but that’s not neccesary either, a good story unfolds during the game, but this is what I know after playing through the first few levels:
You are Jack Mason, a military doctor who has the assigment of transporting a young woman called Karina (who isn’t that bad looking for a polygon model :P) who is infected with some kind of virus to someplace I don’t know about. Karina is cryogenically frozen, so transporting her shouldn’t be all too much of a problem, but then the ship gets hit by a missile and goes down… Karina escapes, finds you and points a gun at you. She gets shot by someone else and her blood splatters onto you transferring the virus to you. While you explore the surroundings, your buddy who shot Karina dies and Karina gets captured and you have to find her… Etc… Not too much of an exciting and original story, but it doesn’t matter, it does it’s job and should prove pretty interesting.

The bad

Well, that’s about all the things I can come up with that are actually good in this game… Seriously.

Here is where we get to the troubles that I mentioned earlier, when I started the game at first, it came up with the Groove Games logo followed by the Digital Extremes logo followed by some music and a black screen… I pressed Alt+Enter to see if anything was happening and it switched to windowed mode and showed me a menu with a rather cool animated background. I then switched back to fullscreen to be presented with the black screen again.
After a support mail to Groove Games it turned out that the latest nVidia drivers can’t render Pariah properly, but that the 91 and 92 series of drivers did work. So I downgraded my drivers and now the game ran fine.

The story could have been interesting, but the point of actually shooting everybody, except for the fact that they’re shooting at you, is unknown… Even the enemies motives for hating Mason are unknown to me. I don’t know who they are and where they come from or who they might work for.

On top of that, the story is told using cutscenes during levels or between them, but the last played sound from the ingame action is echoed through the cutscene at a higher volume than the cutscene itself making it almost impossible to understand what the characters are saying. The cutscenes themselves look pretty bad compared to the ingame graphical quality. Low resolution prerendered scenes that are actually rendered using the game engine, what’s the point of that? They could’ve been rendered in real time to keep them at least at the same quality as the rest of the game… But that shouldn’t kill the fun.

Something that does kind of kill the fun is the audio… The sound effects are blunt, the voice taunts repetitive and the music, in the parts where there is music, is nothing special either, not bad, but it doesn’t add to the atmosphere of the game, neither does it invoke tension. The sounds of the weapons don’t add that neccesary punch to it. The Bulldog (machinegun) sound like a nerf gun to me and the shotgun sounds more like a firecracker than like a gun. Another bad thing about the guns is that they are actually as powerfull as they sound… The only rather satisfying gun would be the grenade launcher, which delivers quite a punch, but a green flame from a grenade explosion isn’t really doing it for me either, but at least it’s good at killing enemies and Pariah’s grenade launcher is much easier and better to use than the grenades launchers of many other games.

Anyway, next point; the levels. Linear, that’s it, there is no alternative path, just like we’ve seen before on games like DooM 3, but for some reason, with DooM 3 it’s not annoying and with Pariah it is. I think it’s a matter of game athmostphere which is completely absent in Pariah…

Then we arrive at the controls. The controls of Pariah suffer from, what I like to call, the Halo syndrom. Both Halo and Pariah were originally developed for the XBox and then ported to the PC. Pariah has been ported a lot better than Halo as far as performance is concerned, but both games suffer from pretty much the same control issue.

The controls seem a bit off… Slow response, slow movement pace and it seems tough to move in exactly the direction you want to go. The gameplay itself seems a bit too fast for the controls and I can assure you that Pariah is really, really slow paced action. I like it a bit faster and more intense, like Unreal Tournament 2004, DooM 3 and FEAR. In other words, Pariah’s gameplay sucks for PC standards, but I’m pretty sure it’ll work quite well on the XBox, as with Halo.

They did use the Havok physics engine, yes, but I don’t seem to be able to notice that. Why didn’t they just use the physics engina that comes with Unrealtech 2? It’s called Karma and would have done the job at least as good as Havok in this case. The only things that happen are barrels that roll around and ragdolls that fall to the ground or fly away from a grenade explosion… Did they really need Havok for that?

The last point, which is certainly the worst is that it seems that you die at random every now and then. Just when walking up a staircase with full health, no enemies and no boobytraps around (all taken out if at all present) you hear somekind of blasting noise and you’re dead… Then, when replaying that section and walking up the stairs again, nothing happens. Or you bump into a wall and die, or you heal and you… Yes, die… Very strange and if it wasn’t for this, I might even consider trying to finish the game.

The unknown

I haven’t played through the whole game and I’m not planning to either. The last point in the “The bad” section points out why. But this brings me to the point where I haven’t seen everything in the game. I haven’t used any of the vehicles, which look pretty nice and I haven’t used all weapons. I also haven’t played the multiplayer part.

I have read that the multiplayer part is quite Halo-ish and should prove to be fun, but I’m not willing to try it as I think the… Well, you probably allready know what I think. I’m not mourning about the vehicles either. Allthough they might be cool, they won’t be able to make me actually like this game. The other weapons don’t seen very interesting either. As for what I’ve read about those there is an underpowered plasma rifle, a wimpy rocketlauncher and a sniper rifle, which is never to my tastes anyway.

The bottomline

Pariah is bad… Pariah is very bad… Stay away from Pariah if you haven’t played it before… Even the lousy €12,90 I payed for this game has proven to be too much for it. It’s not fun, the controls are dodgy and the audio section doesn’t add any fun value either. Most lousy addition to my games collection in a long time. I’ll give it a 3/10. 1 point for the developers efforts and 2 points for the overall graphical quality, I can’t give it any more, it’s just too bad. The worst thing is that the developer of this game (Digital Extremes) is the same developer as the one that created Unreal back in 1998. How on Earth is it possible that the creators of such a brilliant first person shooter can create something like this?

Peace out…

…End of line.

13 May 2006


Filed under: My stuff — zhooibaal @ 13:22000000

In the huge post below I have mentioned that my Palm Tungsten E broke… Well, here is the deal; it was a software problem. During one reset a while ago something must have gone wrong and thus the little bugger was a little out of sync. The date was 14-1-03 which is already more than 3 years ago and it doesn’t seem to take any appointments that are set over 2 years in the future, so it kind of tripped…

So now I corrected it’s date and time and reset it once more and now it works again, no problems at all. Batterylife is back to normal and touchscreen response is like it should be as well as the softkey response and it reads my memorycards again.
Strange what a wrong set date can do.

…End of line.

09 May 2006

A lot of things…

Filed under: Events, Handheld, My stuff, PC games — zhooibaal @ 13:27000000

You may have noticed that I haven’t posted in a while. That has several reasons, but the most important one is schoolwork. I have entered the last phase of my current education as ICT Administrator which is called “Proeve van bekwaamheid”. Which is actually nothing more than a few projects based on everything we should have learned in the past 2 years and these projects serve as final exams.
Besides that we will also have some (or maybe just one) “normal” test, but I’m not entirely sure about that.
This also explains my current absense from the limit.

But anyway, quite a lot of things have been happening and I thought, let’s just make one big blog entry on a lot of things at once, so, here we go.


The Party 4
Painkiller Black Edition
Bevrijdingsfestival 2006
R.I.P. Palm Tungsten E

The Party 4

Let’s start of with The Party 4. As stated in my previous post I’ve been to The Party 4.
For all of you who don’t know what The Party is, here is a little (short) explanaition:
The Party is a yearly returning lanparty event which is being held in Beursgebouw Eindhoven which is quite a big event hall. For Dutch standards that is. This year was the fourth time, hence the name The Party 4.
Every year The Party has a certain theme, which is probably being decided by their sponsors. This year the theme was Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter. I can’t actually imagine that the crew chose this game as their theme for themselves, because, to be honest, I think that game stinks. It looks nice, but the gameplay isn’t exactly good fun, not to speak of the controls.
Anyway, The Party is one of the biggest lanparties of the Netherlands and this year it featured 1024 seats. They weren’t all taken, but it was still pretty crowded.
So then, what is a lanparty all about? Well, that can be different for anyone who visits one… One person only goes there to enter the compos and win as much prizes as possible and others just go there for the fun of it. I chose the latter, I won’t win any compo anyway… So what did I do there? Well, download stuff, download more stuff, check out new games and ofcourse, play multiplayer games with as many people as possible. In the end I only played 2 multiplayer games: Flatout and UT2004…

And I’ve taken some pictures, here they are:
TheParty 4TheParty 4TheParty 4TheParty 4TheParty 4TheParty 4TheParty 4TheParty 4TheParty 4TheParty 4TheParty 4TheParty 4TheParty 4
And allthough I haven’t entered any of the compos, I still did win some stuff… In the lottery:
Sharkoon 5 port fast ethernet blue led switch:
Coolermaster 80mm green led casefan:
For the Dutch readers: more info on The Party can be found here.
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F.E.A.R. is a pc game, a very good one too. F.E.A.R. is short for First Encounter Assault Recon, which is a special forces team which specializes in paranormal threats. F.E.A.R. is a first person shooter which may not look very exiting at first sight, but only the opposite is true, this surely is one of the best games I’ve played the last few years.

The good

The graphics, period. F.E.A.R. looks awsome, even on my GeForce 6600 AGP with 256 MB VRAM which can’t pull off the maximum detail level, more towards the minimal to be honest. I refuse to set the resolution lower than 1024×768, I’d rather cut down on some effects and details. So I played with nearly everything set to medium and water detail and reflections and displays set to minimum. I only set model decals to maximum. And even with these settings this game looks pretty damn awsome.
Only a few graphical details actually ever pull off to be gameplay enhancing and I’ve noticed 3 in F.E.A.R.

  1. You can see your own body (legs) when you look down, this actually adds to the intensity as you get much more of a feeling to be inside the game.
  2. Bumpmapped bulletholes. Allthough this might not be something you can’t miss out on, damage to the environment always adds to the fun, especially when it’s done properly like in F.E.A.R.
  3. Dust and sparks. Whenever you shoot anything that doesn’t bleed it will result in a dust cloud flying of the object you hit. If the object happens to be metal, there will be sparks instead of dust. The sparks themselves don’t really add anything to the gameplay, but the dust does. Whenever the details are set so low that the dust is disabled, this really cuts on the fun and intensity of the game. A good thing about the dust is that it doesn’t just blind you, it also blinds your enemies.

Another strong point of F.E.A.R. is the audio. Allthough I have no high-end soundcard (just some integrated sh*t), the audio is really good. Good sound effects on the weapons, very good athmospheric and very minimalistic music and the best thing is that you can hear your enemies talk. Enemies come in squads and every squad has a squad leader who gives orders to the others. Sometimes you hear them scream things like: “Squad! Take cover!”, “Anybody see him?!”, “Oh shit!” or simply “Fuck!” or “Shit, he’s too fast!”. They also just swear at eachother sometimes or they call for reinforcements when they’re losing the battle. And yes, that is fun and adds to the athmosphere and thus to the gameplay of F.E.A.R.

The weapons are also very good, with an exception of the submachinegun, I never like SMGs, they’re too fast and the recoil is mostly so high that they’re almost never effective against anything. But I love using the pistol (or 2 if I happen to have 2). the machinegun, which is a lot slower and more stable than the SMG is a good weapon to use. The Penetrator is also somekind of machinegun, but it’s a lot slower, more accurate and more powerfull. The rocketlauncher needs no explaination. The repeating cannon, this one is not only very effective, it is also great fun to use. It shoots large explosive slugs which are very effective against both heavy armor and unarmored enemies. Heavy armor will be taken out without too much effort and unarmored enemies aren’t left in one piece when hit directly with this thing. I like to compare the repeating cannon with a miniature tankgun. And last, but not least there is the particle cannon. This is somekind of lasergun which isn’t very effective against armor, but unarmored enemies are killed in a most brutal way. When hit they burn up in a blue flame and all which is left is a burned out skeleton.

F.E.A.R. does have it’s share in realism, but the fact that the player isn’t just your average soldier compenstates this. Your reflexes are beyond exceptional and you can enter slowmo to make use of that. Slowmo will slow down the entire gameworld including the player, but looking around and aiming will go as fast as normal and your accuracy will increase significantly. A bit “borrowed” from the Matrix and games like Max Payne, but it’s still good and great fun to use and it can and probably will help you with beating some challenging situations.
A realistic element of the game is that your accuracy will decrease when you’re moving and you can increase your accuracty by aiming extra sharp. Aiming will also slightly zoom your view, the player will hold his weapon closer to his face to aim extra sharp. When aiming you will also move a lot slower.

And the last very cool element is that you can take down enemies by hitting them with the back of your weapon or by doing a slidekick or bycicle kick. when a melee attack is performed while in the air the player will perform a bycicle kick which can be very effective for knocking down enemies silently. I haven’t used the slidekick to take down enemies though, so I can’t really say anything about that.

The Bad

Not much to say here, except for the fact that the environments look very monotonous. Sometimes you get the feeling that you’ve allready been somewhere before and then it turns out that it’s a new place. But the athmosphere and other gameplay elements make up for this and you won’t notice it anymore when you really get into the game.

And them there are system requirements… Allthough my system meets the recommended specs, it’s still unable to run F.E.A.R. with high details turned on with a proper framerate. With my current setting it runs between 25 and 45 frames/second. Which is good enough, but could be better.

And the last thing, this really bothers me, is that I can’t update the game allthough I have bought it… I have the Directors Edition DVD which is version 1.0 and I want to update to version 1.03 and then to version 1.04, but it only gives me the message that I have the wrong version… I’m in contact with VU games for this.

Bottom line

F.E.A.R. is awsome for anyone who likes first person shooters which aren’t too realistic and have a good story, horror elements and great graphics, but keep in mind that you’ll have to have a pretty powerfull pc to run it properly.
I’ll give it a 9/10.
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Painkiller Black Edition

Painkiller Black Edition
Painkiller is another game that I think is one of the best of the past few years. That is also the reason why I bought this special limited edition. I’m not going to write a full review about Painkiller, but I’ll tell you that this is the best modern old-school first person shooter since Serious Sam. It’s just running around and blasting everything that moves and sometimes doesn’t move. Great graphics, fast paces action and lovely weapons like the rocketlauncher/chaingun and stakegun/grenadelauncher make this game on of the greatest.
Painkiller Black Edition includes both Painkiller and the Battle out of Hell expansion on one DVD, which is better than the 5 cd gold version which includes the same. 3 CDs for Painkiller and 2CDs for Battle out of Hell. Allthough I don’t like Battle out of Hell that much, it’s still a must have for anyone who likes/loves Painkiller.
Black edition also includes the making off Painkiller, the Painkiller Hellwars XBox trailer and a Mech music video. Mech is the band that played the themesong which actually quite good and in the music video they look like nice old-school eighties rockers 😛
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Bevrijdingsfestival 2006

Bevrijdingsfestival is a festival which is held every year on the 5th of may, which is the Dutch liberation day from the Nazi’s back in 1945. There are several festivals all over the country on this day which all share the same name and I also go to Bevrijdingsfestival Roermond, just because that one is closest to me and features the least big commercial music. There are always several local bands performing there and that is always good fun.
But enough talk allready, I’ve taken some pictures of me, my friends and a band, the Feromones.
bevrijdingsfestival 2006 1bevrijdingsfestival 2006 2bevrijdingsfestival 2006 3bevrijdingsfestival 2006 4bevrijdingsfestival 2006 5bevrijdingsfestival 2006 6bevrijdingsfestival 2006 7bevrijdingsfestival 2006 8bevrijdingsfestival 2006 9bevrijdingsfestival 2006 10bevrijdingsfestival 2006 11bevrijdingsfestival 2006 12bevrijdingsfestival 2006 13bevrijdingsfestival 2006 14bevrijdingsfestival 2006 15bevrijdingsfestival 2006 16bevrijdingsfestival 2006 17bevrijdingsfestival 2006 18bevrijdingsfestival 2006 19bevrijdingsfestival 2006 20bevrijdingsfestival 2006 21bevrijdingsfestival 2006 22bevrijdingsfestival 2006 23bevrijdingsfestival 2006 24bevrijdingsfestival 2006 25
As you can probably tell from the pictures, noone was really serious and we had a good time that day, yay!
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R.I.P. Palm Tungsten E

I might have mentioned before that I have a Palm Tungsten E which is a very nice handheld. But all the sudden it won’t wok on the battery anymore and what would be the use of a handheld that doesn’t work on it’s battery?
Ah, too bad, looks like I’m going to have to replace it sometime if I really want a handheld, but no Windows Mobile…
I’ve heard rumors that Palm might be pulling the plug on their PDAs and focus only on the Treo series of smartphones. I don’t really believe it though and besides that, I hope it’s not true. If Palm PDAs are out of the way there really is no more choice than to take a PDA with Windows Mobile installed on it…
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Allright, that’s it for now, enough to read 😛

…End of line.

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