Review by Saikyo Ki

"A great gaming platform with many possibilities, but will never supersede consoles."

In this day and age, a lot of people think that you have to have THE most powerful x86 compatible PC to run every piece of software. Thankfully, that isn't true in the least. You can get great 2D and 3D graphics without spending a lot of money, not to mention you will never have difficulty at finding games in all of your favorite genres.

Graphics Capabilities: Varied
There are a lot of ways to get awesome graphics without spending that much money. If you are on a very tight budget, you should try and find a video card with 16 megs RAM. Unless you are a PC gaming freak, you won't need more than 32 megs on your card. As far as speed goes, you can get an adequate amount of that from even low end graphics chipsets like the TNT2 M64 (especially if you overclock it...more on overclocking later). As far as image quality goes, the current leader is nVidia, but other card/chip companies image qualities are just fine as well.

I hear a lot of people pouting that all they have is an old 3dfx card. Well guess what, they are still pretty fast even by today's standards. I myself have two Voodoo 2 cards and I can play Q3A at 1024x768 with almost all effects on max and my framerate almost always stays at 60 fps! Granted, 3dfx cards can't play the newest games that require DirectX 8, but at the present date of this review (3/8/02) there aren't even that many of them anyway. Hopefully, someone will be nice enough to make some 3rd party drivers...

What about CPU speed and RAM size's effect on video performance, you ask? IMO, if you have at least a 500 Mhz CPU and 96 megs of RAM, you will have all the power you need for a good amount of time (unless you want to use Windows XP, which needs way more than that). I myself have a 541 Mhz Celeron with 96 megs of 83 Mhz SDRAM and I am not starved for power at all.

You may be thinking, ''What!? 541 Mhz isn't a standard CPU speed. Neither is 83 Mhz SDRAM.'' Well, you're right. My PC is overclocked. Overclocking is well worth shelling out a little bit of more money for some good cooling fans. Without going off on a technical tangent, you might be able to overclock your CPU, system bus AND your video card (personal results will vary).

Have an old computer without 3D hardware acceleration? You can STILL play some good 3D games. More on that later.

One burning question about PCs is this: If you have a great PC, why do you need console systems? The answer is this: Console systems are straightforward gaming machines which are built specifically for running one type of software. They don't take as much effort to maintain. A lot of console games don't make it to the PC. If someone doesn't feel like spending upwards of 1000 dollars to play games, they can get a DC or PS2 for a fraction of that cost and get amazing visuals, audio and gameplay. Sadly, consoles today are becoming less and less straightforward, but they are still mainly for gaming.

Audio Capabilities: 10
It's not hard to have awesome audio on your PC at all. All you need is a 16 bit Sound Blaster compatible ISA card and a decent pair of speakers. You can pay extra for a subwoofer if you want. Is a Sound Blaster Audigy worth the money? IMO, no.

Controller Design: Varied
I myself have gotten accustomed to using the keyboard combined with the mouse. Most FPS players stick with this setup. Some people enjoy having a console style controller and for them there is a large selection to choose from. There are also joysticks which are usually optimized for flight sims cuz, let's face it, that's mostly what they're used for now. :) It all depends on what you want and how much money you're willing to spend.

Memory Saving Capabilities: 10
Just use your hard drive. Doesn't get any easier than that. :)

Load Time: 10
Most modern and not quite so modern PCs have large enough hard drives so that the user can choose to install games completely onto them, so load time is never a problem.

Game Selection: 10
This is a no brainer. You can find any type of game on this platform. The most obvious genre is the FPS genre. If you have a decent enough computer, you can play games like Unreal Tournament, Quake III Arena/Team Arena, Shogo, Serious Sam, Max Payne, etc. If you don't have a computer with a 3D card, there are STILL some fun FPSs you can play! Some of the best DOS 3D games are Strife, Quake 1, Rise of the Triad, the ever popular Doom and many more. There are also a great amount of online (Everquest) and offline (Avernum, Betrayal at/Return to Krondor) RPGs. There are also a slew of sports games, platform action games, puzzle games, you name a genre the PC has it!

Some people like PCs because of emulators. Yes, emulators are good, but no matter how good they are, none of them are 100% compatible. Also, modern consoles are not going to be easy to emulate (The DC has it's own type of disc, not to mention it and other modern consoles will take a very powerful PC to emulate at a decent speed, even with 3D hardware acceleration and dynamic recompilation).

THE best thing about the PC's game selection is the fact that there are things called Shareware, Freeware and Public Domain software. Some companies let you try out the entire game without cripples except for a time limit, which lets the consumer see EXACTLY what they're getting before they buy it. Some shareware programs don't have any cripples or time limits at all...hee hee hee... :X

Here is one thing that may hinder your PC gaming experience. A lot of Microsoft's versions of Windows are very unstable and unreliable, something you don't want to have to worry about when you are locked in a Q3A multiplayer battle or near the end of a great RPG like Avernum. You'll have to test them all to see which one is the best for you. Sadly, although I love Linux/Unix/etc., it does not have many games available. :(

Bottom Line?
The PC will always be a great gaming platform, due to the fact there are games for people with insanely powerful computers and games for people with mediocre computers. People who have small budgets will devour all the shareware they can get their hands on and nobody will ever be at a loss for finding a game they can enjoy, which is why I give it a 9.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 08/28/01, Updated 03/08/02

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