Christmas 2000 Games

My calendar says that Albert Schweitzer won his Nobel prize on this day in 1954 which is interesting but totally irrelevant.

Ahem!

So enough of that and on to our task for today which is to take a look at two new games which recently came my way. Midtown Madness 2 and Crimson Skies are both are from Microsoft and are both currently available from computer shops.

Crimson Skies is set in 1937 in an alternative universe in which America has fragmented and zeppelins and air pirates rule the skies. You are invited to participate in this aerial mayhem as the legendary air pirate Nathan Zachary and fly a selection of weird and wonderful aeroplanes from your zeppelin Pandora.

The full story of what is going on emerges as you undertake various missions but, as I haven’t got very far, I don’t know too much more. One thing I did discover was that the British had apparently occupied the Dixie states and I met, and fought, a formation of their fighters and bombers while looking for Francis Drake’s gold.

The whole concept of the game is fascinating but I have to confess that I did miserably and was scarcely able to find the enemy, far less shoot them down. The only shots I have so far fired in anger were at Betty my wingman, er person, who summed up the situation pretty well by calling me a dipstick.

A feature that I would have liked in the game would have been a training area where one could learn navigation and gunnery before getting involved in combat. I was also a bit uncomfortable with this further evidence of the prevailing American tendency to depict the British as enemies; that discussion belongs in a different forum, however.

Midtown Madness 2 is described as a cure for the crabby commuter offers you the opportunity of racing your choice of vehicle around the streets of either London or San Francisco. There are various vehicles ranging from a Mini to a Mustang to choose from and there are some, like the Audi TT, which you can drive only after you’ve earned the right.

You have a choice of participating in driving courses, races, or just to cruise round taking in the sights. I even stopped off at Buckingham Palace but I was disappointed that they weren’t changing the guard.

Midtown Madness is good clean mindless fun and, if the reactions of the kids who dropped by while I was doing the research for this column are anything to go by, they also enjoyed it hugely. The 3-D renditions of the two cities are marvellous and I think that this may be how maps will look in the future with users able to take a virtual walk or drive through the area.

Both games are quite hardware-hungry and require a computer with a minimum of a Pentium II 266MHz processor, 64Mb of RAM, an 8Mb video card and plenty of hard drive space. I would think that the above would the absolute minimum and that you would need beefier hardware to get the best results them.

The two games would not run on my 266MHz test machine because it only has a 4Mb video card but they ran very well on my work machine which is a Pentium III 733MHz with 192Mb of RAM. The games worked very well and the graphics on both were excellent with those of Crimson Skies being among the best I’ve seen on a flying game.

Midtown Madness 2 and Crimson Skies would be a good choice this Christmas for yourself or for your favourite flight or driving game fanatic. There will be bags of fun all round provided that you, or they, have terrific coordination and enough computer to run the games.

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