Friday, 26 April 2013

PC Gamer Magazine Lookback Part 1: Issue No. 4 March 1995

Ah, 1995. Microsoft were in the process of unveiling a brand new games-friendly operating system, the Playstation was beginning to trounce all other gaming machines and PC magazines came in two flavours: CD-Rom and Floppy disc versions.

PC Gamer was always my favourite and at the time these discs were very important. Unbelievably, many computers were still not connected to the internet, so the plethora of playable demos that adorned each issue's CD were of huge interest.

But what of the mag itself? Written by a clutch of experienced late 20's to 30-somethings, many who had cut their teeth on 8-bit magazines from the previous decade, the content was cheerful yet professional, varied and colourful. And most importantly, there were no dry features on the copious technical aspects of owning a PC - like Crash magazine 10 years earlier, this was unashamedly all about the games.

This is the CD-rom edition from March 1995.

On the cover is flight sim Flight Unlimited, Looking Glass' excellent rival to Microsoft's Flight Simulator.
Interestingly, PC Gamer gave the game two scores: 81% if you play the game on a bog-standard 486 which "runs like a tortoise on caffeine" to 93% if you own one of those "plush pentiums".

Also touted on the cover is an 8-page report on an American PC gaming exhibition called the Consumer Electronics Show - or CES for short. Any excuse to get to Las Vegas...

As you can see, there's a wide variety on the cover disc with demos of classic Lucasarts adventure Full Throttle, Id's Heretic, Mortal Kombat II and Kick Off 3, as well as a range of shareware games and extra levels.

Tir Na Nog was a famous 8-bit game from Gargoyle. With the help of Liverpool's Psygnosis, a remake was heavily previewed in this issue with input from Gargoyle's Greg Follis. The few screenshots on display provide a view of what looked like an interesting game, with an odd design seemingly based on the original, but with more point and click elements. Sadly, it wasn't to be and the project was abandoned early into development.
On the next page was a preview of a game from another old developer, Digital Integration. Unlike Tir Na Nog, however, Apache did see release.

Into PC Gamer's coverage of CES now as "where are they now" candidates Tia Carrere (Wayne's World) and Christian Bocher (Melrose Place) star in Virgin's cd-rom sci-fi extravaganza The Daedelus Encounter. Spread over 3 discs, PC Gamer are guardedly optimistic on the game, despite already nurturing a healthy disregard for FMV-laden efforts.

On this page the PCG boys highlight their favourite games of the previous two months. There's a nice breath of genres here: the destructive NASCAR Racing rubs shoulders with Westwood's RPG The Legend of Kyrandia 3, survival horror Alone in the Dark 3 and a brace of Sci-fi adventures in Wing Commander III and X-Wing Collector's CD.

Into the reviews section now and here's PCG's withering account of CDRom game Cyberia, another much hyped FMV-style game with pre-rendered backgrounds that played like a dog.

As I mentioned earlier, the PCG crew were already tiring of these sort of games and sci-fi adventure Cyberia did nothing to change their opinion of the genre.

Quotes include: "A worthless extension of Dragon's Lair"; "The backgrounds are by and large bland"; "Is it real or is it a game asks the advertisement. I hadn't noticed it was either."

Industry verteran Gary Penn gave Cyberia a poor 34%.

On the next page we have the review of Gametek's Hell. Incidentally, I've always loved the way PC Gamer gave one word titles to their reviews - although it has led me to get confused as to the name of the reviewed game on occasion!

Here they use the word "Soulless" to perfectly sum up a rather boring and empty game that secured a then-rare 18 rating thanks to half a second of bare skin.

Gary Penn was the "lucky" reviewer once more. I'll leave you with his amusing parting paragraph: "Those with anything approaching a life and in search of an entertaining diversion in the form of a strong story or even - gasp - unusual interaction should try something more stimulating, like counting out a million grains of salt." Miaow!

On a related note, Penn's fellow veteran Phil South wrote the adventurers journal column for PC gamer back then, and he rails in a similar fashion against the common FMV and prerendered games of the time that limited interaction so much that the player almost became a spectator in some grainy DTV endurance test.

He praises the freedom of movement of the FPS genre (in particular Doom and also the third-person Ecstatica) as a means by which the adventure and RPG genres can possibly expand into, skipping games akin to those above.

Finally a good game!

This is PCG's review of the outstanding Descent. Another sci-fi themed game, this shooter gave absolute freedom of movement, causing many players to get disorientated as you piloted your vehicle through the complex areas.

As it's still the mid-nineties, the internet has still not assumed the gargantuan presence we take for granted today.

This is shown more than anything by the "Diagnostics" section of this issue. In other words, tips.

Today you just look on IGN or one of the other exhaustive gaming websites for clues on how to beat games. Back in those days, the tips pages were God!

This is an advert for the largely unknown Operation Body Count, from US Gold and Capstone. Despite boasting many interesting features (controllable allies, destructible environments), the game reviewed poorly, mainly thanks to using the Wolfenstein engine, a year after Doom had blasted into everyone's consciousness. As a result, journalists were less than kind to its dated visuals despite the new features and the game was largely considered one of the worst first person shooters around at the time.

In an age of FPS ubiquity, at least Capstone tried to do something a bit different!

Finally for this issue, the regular subscription offer which, as befits the time, is staged into cd-rom and floppy disc. There's some pretty decent games too with Warcraft, Alone in the Dark 2, Dawn Patrol and Cannon Fodder 2 all available for nowt should you decide to subscribe to PC Gamer...

That's it for this issue, I'll be back with the highlights from another issue of PC Gamer soon.

1 comment:

  1. Some really cool stuff! I wish game magazines today were as huge as those old PC Gamer issues. I'm writing an article about Tir Na Nog for a game website and I'm really intrigued by the article you found. Is there anyway you could post/share scans of the two page spread? Thanks!