The Bureau: XCOM Declassified – Compatibility

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified Title Screen

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified Title Screen

System Requirements

Operating System: Windows 7 or better
Processor: Quad Core x86 compatible
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Video: AMD Radeon HD 6950, NVidia GeForce GTX 560, or better
(Incompatible with Intel HD 3000 integrated graphics)
Sound: DirectX compatible sound card
Hard Disk: 12 GB

Windows 10

The Steam version of The Bureau: XCOM Declassified ran flawlessly for me in Windows 10.

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified – Windows 8 and Mac OS X 10.8 Game First Impressions

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified Title Screen

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified Title Screen

When I think of the XCOM series, I think of turn-based strategy and covert government agency management. I have fond memories of playing the first game in the series, XCOM: UFO Defense, with a close friend a few years after it came out in 1994. He found it in a bargain bin at a Tuesday Morning and talked his mom into getting it for him, much to our delight. The gameplay elements introduced in this first game were recreated in Firaxis Games’ reboot XCOM: Enemy Unknown released in 2012. In both of these games, the player recruits a squad of elite special forces soldiers to train and send on missions to defend against the extra-terrestrial menaces facing the planet while determining how government funding should be spent to best protect Earth’s security interests. The premise underlying these games provides intense potential for fantastic storylines across genres. And given the cult following of not only the original game, but also for shows like The X-Files, game developers worked to release other XCOM titles spanning other genres of gameplay.

Just casually walking up these stairs at a reduced speed talking to my superior officer on the telephone while all mayhem is breaking loose around me.

Just casually walking up these stairs at a reduced speed talking to my superior officer on the telephone while all mayhem is breaking loose around me.

When I first installed and played The Bureau: XCOM Declassified, published in 2013 by 2K Games and developed by 2K Marin, I thought it would be based on XCOM: Enemy Unknown from the previous year. Interestingly, development on The Bureau: XCOM Declassified began in 2010 and these games seem in most ways unrelated outside of them both having the player defend earth from extra-terrestrial aggressors. The initial events of the game occur in 1962 during John F. Kennedy’s presidency. I haven’t played the game far enough to know if the developers made it tie-in with the story of other XCOM games in the series.

Press Spacebar to Enter Battle Focus Mode.

Press Spacebar to Enter Battle Focus Mode.

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified is primarily a third-person shooter with tactical elements. As the player receives new recruits throughout the game, they can press the spacebar to command those recruits to move to points of strategic cover and target specific enemy locations. The interface to this is similar in some ways to Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six but happens from within the mission. Time slows down when entering what is called “Battle Focus Mode,” but does not stop entirely and the player is vulnerable while they are making decisions.

Ducked behind a barrier for cover on a two-dimensional plane.

Ducked behind a barrier for cover on a two-dimensional plane.

In general, the core gaming mechanics require that the player seek cover behind objects while being shot at, and when the time is right, use the right mouse button to aim and fire at enemies. Aiming makes you vulnerable, so it is prudent to time your shots when the enemy is firing the least and is the most vulnerable themselves. The controls used to take cover seemed a little awkward to me. Left-shift while facing a wall or other such structure is supposed to enable the player to crouch behind it. Left-shift while moving forward is also supposed to make the player run. Once in such a defensive position, the player may then use A or D on the keyboard to move left or right respectively across the defensive surface. This maps a number of two-dimensional planes onto a clearly three-dimensional world that is at best confusing. I have yet to tell if I’m just not comfortable with the controls yet, or if there is actually a disconnect in some cases with how the game’s engine handles ducking behind a surface versus running around in the larger three-dimensional environment.

Right-Click to Aim and Shoot Aliens in the Face

Right-Click to Aim and Shoot Aliens in the Face

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified is a very linear game divided into levels with cutscenes throughout to advance the storyline. The storyline is fairly typical for its genre, though rich enough thus far. It reminds me a bit of Resistance: Fall of Man. It plays much like the typical console third-person shooter, but without any save-point frustration that I have noticed thus far. The player may press F5 at any time to get a graphical overlay with the direction they game intends for them to go to progress, and any in-game objects that can be interacted with glow a bright golden yellow.

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified is unfortunately only single-player. I think it would be incredible to have an arena in which players may strategically command their squad while simultaneously participating in a classic deathmatch. Perhaps someone could eventually release a mod for the game to accomplish this.

If you are a fan of The X-Files, XCOM, Men in Black kind of stories, The Bureau: XCOM Declassified would be relevant to your interests. Outside of having an interesting story, I could think of a multitude of other games I would rather be playing. The Bureau: XCOM Declassified is a good game for what it is, polished and enjoyable. But it doesn’t quite stack up as a game that would keep me coming back again and again, like the more traditional games in the XCOM series whose namesake The Bureau: XCOM Declassified shares.

Carmageddon TDR 2000 – Compatibility

Carmageddon TDR 2000 Load Screen

Carmageddon TDR 2000 Load Screen

System Requirements

Operating System: Windows 98 or later.
Processor: 1.8 GHz or better.
Memory: 1 GB RAM recommended.
Video: 3D graphics card compatible with DirectX 9
Sound: DirectX compatible sound card
Hard Disk: 1 GB

Windows 10

Carmageddon TDR 2000 runs almost flawlessly in Windows 10. Multiplayer requires DirectPlay which is unsupported, but there may be workarounds to make multiplayer work.

Carmageddon TDR 2000 – Windows 98 Game First Impressions

Carmageddon TDR 2000 Load Screen

Carmageddon TDR 2000 Load Screen

Carmageddon TDR 2000 is the third game in the Carmageddon series released in 2000. It was developed by Torus Games and originally published by Xicat Interactive for the Microsoft Windows 98 and 2000 operating systems on PC. The TDR in the title stands for “Total Destruction Racing,” for those who were wondering.

When I was a kid, I’d be sitting in the back seat when my parents took me along to the grocery store in the family car. More often than not when driving through the parking lot, a pedestrian would walk right out in front of my dad’s car without ever looking up to see if any vehicles were coming. Whenever this happened, my dad liked to jokingly say, “There’s fifty points!” as they crossed in front of his car’s grill. This is the kind of sense of humor the Carmageddon series is geared to.

I can drive a Steam Machine while playing on my Steam Machine.

I can drive a Steam Machine while playing on my Steam Machine.

If you are unfamiliar with the Carmageddon series, the original game’s tag line is The Racing Game for the Chemically Imbalanced with a pedestrian carrying a briefcase being run over by a fast-moving red sports car. Like most racing games, the player races against other contestants around a track for a certain number of laps, reaching check points along the way. If the player is able to reach the next check point in time, they are awarded more time as they make their way to the finish line. Where the Carmageddon series differs is that the player is awarded bonus points for each pedestrian they are able to run over.

These guys are about to get steamrolled.

These guys are about to get steamrolled.

In Carmageddon TDR 2000, railroading pedestrians rewards the player with satisfying crunch and squish sounds encouraging the player to produce more carnage. Performing fancy tricks also awards points to the player. These bonus points can be spent purchasing new vehicles or upgrading an existing vehicle’s engine power, armor, or weapons. Unlike real-life, many of the pedestrians really seem to have a death wish. In many cases the race track is clearly marked with innocent bystanders carelessly walking right into harms way, even when they are walking around the remains of their already previously unlucky comrades.

I didn't know this doubled as a airplane. Vroom!

I didn’t know this doubled as a airplane. Vroom!

I forgot how much I have missed playing with Hot Wheels or Matchbox cars as a kid and pretending I was in the cars doing the incredible tricks and causing massive crashes. I had fun doing all of this in Carmageddon TDR 2000. The tracks I have played so far have not been linear like in other racing titles to the point of being rather impressive. The game seems much more open-world than most games ever got in the year 2000. There is plenty of room to drive around and explore provided the player doesn’t run out of time. I just figured out where the checkpoints were and made sure I drove through them in sequence whenever I needed to add time to the clock. The rest of the time I was trying to drive up and over anything I could, enjoying the full extent of fun the sandbox I found myself in could provide. The first track provides a loop the loop to speed through and a ramp to jump over a series of RVs and trailers.

It's sometimes too easy to get stuck doing crazy fun stuff.

It’s sometimes too easy to get stuck doing crazy fun stuff.

There are a number of interesting cars available to choose from even at the beginning of the game before any of the later cars are unlocked. I noticed one called the Steam Machine. Given that I am an avid PC gamer, I had to drive it. It was massive fun steamrolling everything in my path. With great freedom of movement comes great responsibility though. I found it trivial in many cases to pin myself in a place where I could not maneuver free. When aborting a race, a player keeps the points they accumulated up to the point they aborted, so it’s not much of a loss to start the race over when stuck. If you run the race straight along the track, you shouldn’t have this problem, but if you’re like me and enjoy pushing the limits of the game, it will likely become a fairly frequent occurrence.

Is that a car that's just a moving wooden wheel? I want to wreck it!

Is that a car that’s just a moving wooden wheel? I want to wreck it!

The multiplayer functionality in Carmageddon TDR 2000 requires DirectPlay to work. When I attempted to install DirectPlay in Windows 10, the process locked up and wouldn’t let me proceed. A quick check of the Steam forums indicates there are people who were able to get it to work, but their solutions may not work in all cases. Microsoft’s official current stance from what I can tell is that DirectPlay is deprecated and therefore completely unsupported for Windows 10.

Got 'em!

Got ’em!

Carmageddon TDR 2000 is available for download on both Steam and GOG.com for a fair price on each. This game is raw arcade vehicular mayhem and racing, and devoid of any meaningful plot or story-line. The Grand Theft Auto series probably fills this niche for gamers better these days, but I had a great amount of fun launching my steam machine around for the small time I have played. I do plan to revisit this one and see where the rest of the game takes me.

Tom Clancy’s The Division – Compatibility

Tom Clancy's The Division Character Screen

Tom Clancy’s The Division Character Screen

System Requirements

Operating System: Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows 10 (64-bit only)
Processor: Intel Core i7-3770 or AMD FX-8350 or better.
Memory: 8GB RAM
Video: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970, AMD Radeon R9 290, equivalent or better. DirectX 11 required.
Hard Drive: 40GB free space

Windows 10

This game was designed to be run on Windows 10 and is fully compatible with Windows 10.

Tom Clancy’s The Division – Windows 10 Game First Impressions

Tom Clancy's The Division Character Screen

Tom Clancy’s The Division Character Screen

Often Valve’s Steam platform will offer a free weekend on a newer game to allow gamers to try the full version of a game before they decide to purchase it. This weekend’s game is Tom Clancy’s The Division released by Ubisoft in 2016 for Windows 10. The game is set in a post-apocalyptic not-too-distant future where some mysterious highly contagious disease has been released in an act of bioterrorism around Black Friday. People start dying, panic and rioting ensues, and civilization as we know it – at least in New York City – is about to collapse. That is when you, a strapping, youthful, athletic soldier who looks like they were cast for an Alien movie, are called up using a signal to your red wrist-watch. You see, you are a member of the elite group called The Division. They are called in when all other options have failed.

It's really secure for them to put the HQ behind such a tricky door to open.

It’s really secure for them to put the HQ behind such a tricky door to open.

Reporting for duty immediately, you learn that you’re part of the second draft. It is implied the first group didn’t make it, and you’re sort of given your first mission. This is one of the interesting things about Tom Clancy’s The Division. I would almost call it a Grand Theft Auto V simulator. It’s sort of open world, but there are very limited things you can do in the open world they give you. If you are frustrated with a quest you are currently working on, run down another street in the city and find a quest that might interest you more, though keep in mind the restricting game mechanics will be present on any quest you choose.

She can crouch, she can jump, she can crouch and jump. Division girl!

She can jump, she can crouch. She can jump and crouch. Division girl!

My first mission was to rescue food stolen from some rioters. The rioter was behind a barricade of chain-link fencing. The player is not offered a clear jump or a clear crouch button. If you press the crouch button at the wrong place, you will not crouch. If you press the jump button in the wrong place, you will not jump. The game (generally) tells you when you’re standing in front of an obstacle whether you can crouch behind it to use it as cover, or to jump over it to get closer to an objective. In order to achieve my mission, I had to determine which section of the fence I could jump over and stand correctly in front of it while pressing the jump button to jump over it. Others might have more success than I have, but I found the non-player characters to be much more proficient with their firearms from a long distance than I was. Getting as close as possible to an enemy to shoot them and continually moving was my preferred strategy.

The graphics designers did a good job making foreground blend with background. Probably the most colorful post-apocalyptic future I've seen.

The graphics designers did a good job making foreground blend with background. This is probably the most colorful post-apocalyptic future I’ve seen.

The most frustrating game mechanic was pressing the “Use” key when I needed to. The default for this is the “F” key. Sometimes I would head right for a situation where I needed to press this key, I would press it and the game would progress flawlessly. Other times I would spend ten minutes trying to get my character in the correct position to push the button correctly. In the first mission there is a body that the player is supposed to search to look for clues. I pressed “F” from every angle at every distance for nearly twenty minutes and could not get it to work to progress with the mission. I finally gave up and went looking for other missions.

Graphics designer be like, "Love More!"

Graphics designer be like, “Love More!”

I found a new mission to rescue some hostages from a bank. In order to get there I had to take a subway tunnel. In order to get into the subway tunnel I had to press the “F” key. It worked perfectly; perhaps I had just been a dumb dumb all those other times. I ran in guns blazing to the bank, got routed by the thugs, and they disoriented me with some sort of gas grenade. Even though I killed three of them, I still died, which caused me to respawn at the beginning of the mission; once again faced with the subway tunnel. I tried again for ten minutes to get the subway tunnel open and eventually gave up. Reading through forums, it looks like this has happened with others running Tom Clancy’s The Division on a laptop.

Code developer be like, "F that."

Code developer be like, “F that.”

One interesting mechanic included in Tom Clancy’s The Division are special abilities, almost like spells cast in fantasy RPGs, that are equipped by the player and activated using the “Q” and “E” buttons. The player’s character levels up over the course of missions. At the beginning of the game only the “E” button can be equipped with one of three starter abilities. When the player reaches level 5, the “Q” button is unlocked, and as the character levels up, they can pick up abilities with greater power in the game.

Equipping new abilities

Equipping new abilities

I saw in many of the related forums I read through that four player cooperative play was possible in Tom Clancy’s The Division and that there was also a multiplayer option for playing with others online. Scanning my in-game menu, I was unable to find these features. There is a section where you can add friends and be a part of groups. Maybe I just need a friend playing the game with me. From what I was reading online, it looks like Ubisoft was attempting to make this game a massive open-world experience with most sections being PvE and a section called The Dark Zone for PvP where friendly fire is enabled. I have yet to experience these intriguing offerings.

Some initial connecting took over four minutes. Start game ready to work on laundry or dishes and then come back.

Some initial connecting took over four minutes. Start game, work on laundry or dishes, and then come back.

I really want to like Tom Clancy’s The Division, but feel like I could have played other games in the time it took me to try to open doors and search bodies. I am not sure I would purchase this one; there are quite a few kinks in the game and it feels like it’s still in beta in places. That being said, a free weekend is a free weekend. Get on Steam, download it, and play it for yourself to see what you think.

 

Arcanum – Windows 98 Game First Impressions

Arcanum Cover Art

Arcanum Cover Art

Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magic Obscura is a role-playing game developed by Troika Games and published by Sierra in 2001. The game is played from an isometric perspective and combat occurs in real-time. I would say Arcanum feels most like a cross between Diablo and Fallout.

Upon starting the game the player first creates a new character or selects a pre-built character. The pre-built characters have compelling back stories regarding who they are, where they are from, and why they are boarding the IFS Zephyr air ship on their way to Tarant. The entire world of Arcanum has this steampunk feel to it. Some players are best with magic, while others with technology, and a few walk the line between both. There seems to be a great tension in the Arcanum story as to which type of power is stronger and will ultimately win out over the other. After selecting or creating a character, the opening cutscene plays and the player sees the air ship shot down by some unsavory fellows.

Many character background stories are fascinating

Many character background stories are fascinating.

After the crash, while fumbling in the wreckage, the player hears someone crying for help and moves debris in order to get to the person pinned down. Upon inspection, it appears the person is an elderly gnome. He gives the player possession of a ring and tasks her with bringing the ring to a boy while talking of unspeakable evil saying that the boy will know what to do. After breathing his last, a shadowy figure is seen approaching through the smoke of the wreckage and the game enters its first load screen.

Arcanum summed up in two words: Steampunk

Arcanum summed up in two words: Steampunk

Arcanum is incredibly rich in story but chock full of technical difficulty. The game lagged constantly while I played it. You can make your character walk smoothly or you can scroll to see more of the surrounding area in a given direction smoothly, but if you try to do both at the same time you will have problems. Entering new areas causes the game to seemingly lock up, though it really just seems to be an extension of the really long load times.

After the first obnoxiously long load time the player meets the shadowy figure from the cutscene, a man by the name of Virgil. He informs her that he is a recent follower of the Panarii religion, that she is the chosen one, and that she must fight the evil one while babbling about her like a half-wit. He suggests they go into the nearby town of Shrouded Hills to meet one Elder Joachim to get some answers. Once she agrees, he joins the player’s party.

Arcanum Gameplay

Arcanum gameplay

I decided to take this time to scavenge among the wreckage and hunt wolves and other hostile creatures I found. From just killing all the unsavory creatures around the downed air ship I was able to reach level 2 and I picked up a sword that was twice as good as my starting dagger. Combat is achieved by clicking on an enemy using the left mouse button. Once a player has successfully slain all nearby enemies, combat mode does not always go away. Clicking the right mouse button will exit combat mode in those cases.

Notes are kept of vital in-game info you can refer to later.

Notes are kept on vital in-game info you can refer to later.

Satisfied I had explored everything and received as much experience in the area as possible, I traversed the clearing that seemed to be part of a road. On the way the party of Virgil and I was greeted by a strange cloaked figure that wanted to know if I had survived the crash. It doesn’t matter what dialog options you use with this guy, he will attempt to kill you. He was apparently there to ensure no one survived.

Arcanum Overworld Map

Arcanum Overworld Map

Once the party is done killing the assassin, it is possible to bring up the overworld map and travel to Shrouded Hills. Alternatively it appears it is possible to just continue to walk through the entire world map without any fast travel, much like in more recent role-playing games such as those in The Elder Scrolls series. Upon fast traveling to Shrouded Hills, after fumbling about in town looking for it we entered the Shrouded Hills Inn. There we found dead assassins in Elder Joachim’s room. He had left a note and bid us to travel to the place where he was safe. It was at this point that I began looking for a way out of town. While looking we ran into an incredibly lucky wolf that got a fatally critical hit on yours truly.

The graphics are superb for when Arcanum was released. The cutscenes are emotionally stimulating and truly make you feel a part of the story. The in-game graphics are a step above Fallout and Fallout 2 though obviously similar in design. Arcanum was developed by Jason D. Anderson, Leonard Boyarsky, and Timothy Cain, all former designers of the game Fallout. The sound and background music is also superb and really places the player in the mood and environment of the story the designers intended to tell.

Arcanum contains great cutscenes

Arcanum contains great cutscenes.

It’s obvious I am going to have to spend much more time playing Arcanum. There is so much story here, all of which appears to be incredibly deep with well crafted lore. The question will be whether my patience will hold out with the technical difficulties presented by the game’s issues. This would seem to be the perfect title for a remastered version, one where all the bugs are fixed. Troika Games closed their doors in 2005, but given that Arcanum can still be purchased on Valve’s Steam platform, I would imagine that someone would have the rights to make such a remastered version possible.

Arcanum Game Disc

Arcanum Game Disc

I would say Arcanum is worth owning for serious computer role-playing game fans who have already played through all of the other more approachable classics such as those from The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Diablo, and Dungeons & Dragons series. Even without the technical difficulties present in this game, it seems to be geared more toward the experienced role-playing gamer. The setup application even suggests the player get familiar with certain chapters of the manual while waiting for the game to install on their hard disk. At the moment I am writing this article, Arcanum is selling on Steam for $5.99. I feel that is a worthy price to have this one in my collection, but be advised this game does not hold your hand at any point. I look forward to exploring this game further as time goes on; perhaps as an angry Twitch stream, that could be interesting.

Arcanum – Compatibility

Arcanum Cover Art

Arcanum Cover Art

System Requirements

Operating System: Windows 95, 98, ME, or 2000
Processor: Pentium II 450MHz
Memory: 128MB RAM
Hard Disk: 1.2GB Required
Video: DirectX certified for version 7a. 16MB video RAM.
Sound: 16-bit DirectX compatible sound card.
Format: 2 CD-ROM Discs

Windows 10

  • Installs – Yes.
  • Runs – Yes.
  • Uninstalls – Yes.