Playing F.E.A.R: Extraction Point

Last summer I started playing “F.E.A.R.” for the PC. This horror first person shooter has an artificial intelligence (A.I.) that wasn’t always too predictable with enemy soldiers surprising me by their reactions and initiatives. When I lured a squad out of hiding one by one to kill with a head shot, the last soldier standing over his fallen comrades shouted out: “He wasted the entire squad!” That cracked me up. On several occasions, I tried to circle around to the other side and ran into a soldier doing the same thing. Or sometimes I catch the soldier trying to circle behind me by surprise. These little moments that made the game enjoyable.

The biggest problem with “F.E.A.R.” was the sagging middle that spread out forever in a long office complex, which got tedious as the tension and horror went slack from time to time. I picked up a bug that shifted my character in and out of god mode (an indication that something got scrambled between loading levels). I was very much relieved to finish playing “F.E.A.R.,” as the boredom between fire fights was  killing me.

I started playing “F.E.A.R: Extraction Point”, which appears to have fixed the mistakes made in the original game. The tension and horror get maxed out at the beginning. I hope that continues towards the end. Combat seems is more tactical now. I can use darkness and coverage to systematically clear out a building like soldiers would do in a real life scenario. Special crates are now breakable with items hidden inside that the original game didn’t have; a standard feature in every first person shooter game since “Half-Life” came out in 1998.

Being an expansion pack to the original game, it’s more of the same. The splatter effects are still gruesome as ever. The weird little girl burning to death in a wall of fire is a constant motif. So far I’m not disappointed, but I haven’t reached the middle of the game yet.

The Problem With Windows Vista

The more I think about Windows Vista, the bigger my headache gets. Ever since Microsoft announced the ship date for Windows Vista Home Premium, I’ve been pondering on how to handle upgrading my gaming rig to the latest and greatest. The upgrade path is ever so uncertain.

On the software side, Windows Vista won’t happen anytime soon. With the Mac being my primary system 99.9% of the time, upgrading to Mac OS X “Leopard” that’s coming out later this year is a higher priority. Maybe someone will give me a copy of Windows Vista for my birthday in August (hint, hint).

On the hardware side, things are more difficult. I could keep my existing hardware since it meets the minimum hardware specs for running Windows Vista. But running any version of Windows at the minimum hardware specs gets too slow in a hurry. I could upgrade the memory and get a new AGP video card that won’t transfer to a future system. I could get a new motherboard, CPU, and video card while still keeping the same memory as a halfway measure. Or I can bite the bullet by spending $500+ USD to build a whole new system. Not sure where I would get the money for any hardware upgrades this year.

John Carmack of id Software, creator of the Doom and Quake video game engines that has driven the hardware upgrading scene for the last ten years, said in Game Informer that he’s taking a wait-and-see approach on Windows Vista because there wasn’t enough demand for either hardware (i.e., new DirectX 10 video cards) or software (i.e., games requiring Windows Vista). Maximum PC recommends not upgrading to Windows Vista until the current hardware compatibility issues are fix.

Since the video games I want to play in the near future don’t require Windows Vista, I might not upgrade my gaming rig until next year.

MacWorld Expo 2007

My New Year didn’t begin until I went on my second pilgrimage to the MacWorld Expo 2007 in San Francisco. One of the few places I don’t feel weird for having a chest-length beard without the mustache. I’m often told that I look Amish—or an Islamic terrorist. (When people ask if I’m planning to blow something up, I always say no but they would be the first to find out and sometimes they run away screaming.) I’ve never been mistaken for a graybeard geek. Not yet, anyway.

With the keynote in Moscone West Hall, the expo got spread out over the North and South Halls. While there was more stuff to look at, the expo was smaller in comparison to last year. This was noticeable at the book tables of O’ReillyPeachpit Press, and Wiley, where the selection was very limited. The gaming area barely existed with three vendors, including EA showing off some iPod games. Perhaps I lost some of that wide-eyed excitement from last year before I got a Mac mini and a MacBook. There wasn’t anything exciting to look forward to.

The highlights for the day was seeing the new iPhone with the killer user interface f0r a smart phone, my friend getting books signed by Andy Hertzfield (Mac designer) and Bob Weir (Grateful Dead guitarist), and the Berkelee College of Music demonstrating how to assemble a Journey soundtrack on the Mac. I picked up a MacAlley Bluetooth wireless mouse with a recharging dock for my MacBook. It’s weird having a tailless mouse, but it’s a very sweet tailless mouse.