Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Blast From the Past: Gauntlet, Doom, Burnout 3: Takedown


Released by Atari in 1986 during the emergence of popularity of role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons, the game was a sensation being one of the first true dungeon crawl arcade games.  Countless home ports, re-imagings’ and re-makes of this hugely popular arcade game surfaced over the years but it was the original arcade game that remains one of the most popular and important video games of all time-so much so that it even saw itself re-launched on Xbox Live Arcade.  Arguably without Gauntlet we may never have seen the likes of World of Warcraft and many other popular RPG’s that have fascinated and enthralled gamers over the years.  For my part, (as a fan of Table Top RPG’s back in my youth), Atari’s dungeon crawler was the video game that cemented my own passion for games and gaming and today still remains as one of my all time favourite video games.


In 1993 programmer John Carmack and designer John Romero unleashed their first-person shooter Doom onto the world and suddenly what was possible with gaming was changed forever. Widely recognized for having popularized the first person shooter genre; pioneering immersive 3D graphics, networked multiplayer gaming and support for customized additions and modifications, Doom was an overnight sensation. Halo and Call of Duty might be the crème de la crème of modern day, online multi-player first-person shooters, but without Doom they may have never existed; certainly not in their current format. In 2004 Doom was re-designed and released as Doom 3, a darker, more sinister take on the 1993 original. Boasting state of the art visuals, sound and effects, id Software’s remake was, unsurprisingly, met with critical and commercial success. I dare anyone to play Doom 3 on their own, in the dark, with headphones on for more than a couple of hours without having to take a break due to it being so pant-wettingly frightening. However, the original Doom is still a firm favourite and is as playable and as intense as it was nearly twenty years ago.


Criterion Games' take on arcade racing mayhem with Burnout 1 & 2 saw this small British developer garner the interests of publishing giant Electronic Arts soon after their original publisher, Acclaim, went bankrupt.  To say their relationship with EA got off to a rocky start is an understatement, but through sheer stubbornness of Criterion’s lead developers wanting more creative freedom, EA soon decided that their current project(s) be scrapped and that the Criterion should do what it does best. The result was one of the most exhilarating and addictive combat racing games ever created: Burnout 3:Takedown.  Featuring state-of-the-art visuals and effects with game play that took players at breakneck speeds through hundreds of events across the USA, Europe and the Far East using every dirty trick in the book to take out the opposition, Burnout 3: Takedown was an absolute blast and was very difficult to put down once you’d begun. It was also the first racing game that upon taking out an opponent the camera would, on the fly, zip back in slow motion and gleefully show you your rivals vehicle flip and turn in mid air, spewing out chunks of car and glass before throwing you straight back into the action in one seamless moment.  It was impressive stuff and set the game apart from many of its peers by a country mile. While each subsequent sequel has proven to be as entertaining in their own right, (particularly the recent Burnout: Paradise with its open world gameplay), they've failed to capture the magic of Burnout 3: Takedown.

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