Friday, 15 July 2011

PowerSlave (MS-DOS) - Guest Post


Don't touch that dial! It's time for Part Two of an unexpected Science Fiction Double Feature!

PowerSlave on the PC. This came out after the PlayStation version, so it had better be twice as awesome.

We start off with a LAUGHING SKULL. As any Amiga gamer knows, the laughing skull means game over (external link).

This doesn't seem as nice looking as the map from the PS version. The PS version was more cartoony. This one's more bland and the isometric structures look a bit crap. Why didn't they use the same map?

We've started in a totally different level to the PS version. Same old machete. Doesn't like we're meeting up with Ramses this time around so I'm not sure if there's anything in particular I'm supposed to be doing.

Let's go!

The scorpions have been replaced with evil spiders. They still bounce around the place and still explode when hit. There's no magic context-sensitive 'blue' for the weapons in this version; ammo is found as gun-specific bullets and magazines lying around the ruins. Strangely, the enemies still drop the red healing spheres when you kill them. You can also eat berries. GLUG GLUG SLURP.

The jackal dudes and their fireballs are present and accounted for. Their fireballs lit up the walls properly in the PS version, but they don't seem to do that here. They don't explode violently every time they die in this version, which I suppose is good.

It's still a lovely day in Karnak, but the levels seem a lot darker than before. I don't recall seeing any trees in the PS version, so that's a nice change.

I can't put my finger on exactly what's bad about the PC version, but these levels just don't seem as interesting as those on the PS. The PS version has the player running about at full tilt jumping on giant staircases, diving through narrow tunnels and dodging traps. The brightly coloured PS levels were simple but functional, with smartly presented light and shadow effects giving a sense of scale.

In comparison, the PC version just looks like a bunch of rectangular polygons splattered about the place.

When you died in the PS version, you restarted the current level. In this version, you restart at the last checkpoint you activated within the same level. You have a set number of lives. All the enemies you killed stay dead and it's possible to find your own corpse.

I don't think I ever saw enemies fighting amongst themselves in the PS version. Everything moved too fast for you to try to provoke them.

Game over. I've had enough. Stop the bus.

I'd forgotten how awful playing an FPS with the cursor keys as look and turn could be. There's no ingame menu to reconfigure the controls, which is a right pain in the arse. It doesn't seem that there's a way to have mouselook, so you're stuck with mouse-forward being move forward, which is (and always has been) absurd.

I'm somewhat lost for words. Beyond all reason, the PlayStation version of PowerSlave is a well-made, easy to play, interesting and fun FPS whereas the PC version is a tedious shambles. The PS version was made first! How and why they managed to completely destroy it for the PC is mystifying.

2 comments:

  1. The playstation version features the original design plan of the game, a somewhat-RPG-ish FPS (artifacts and whatnot, and worldmap and sorta freeroam through the levels) and ran on their own unique FPS engine (which rules)

    The PC version, afaik, was a lame sell-out to bring Powerslave to the PC gamers without porting the Powerslave engine. Instead, they took all the assets from Powerslave and made a ho-hum FPS running on the Build Engine (same one as Duke Nukem 3D, Blood, Shadow Warrior)

    That's why the PS version is generally better than this mess.

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  2. I'm probably a bit biased, having only played this specific version of Powerslave; but I feel it's worth pointing out that it (ancient control scheme and all) was more than acceptable at the time. I played the demo for this around the same time as Duke Nukem 3D and thought it was quite impressive. It was at least memorable enough to stick in my brain all these years, especially due to the fact it featured possibly some of the creepiest ambient sound effects ever put into a computer game.

    As for controls, I've always found playing vintage FPS games (the non 'true' 3D ones) with mouselook beyond nauseating, so why would you actually WANT to punish your eyes and innards that way? Just *thinking* about that weird vertical warping effect makes my stomach churn in pain. To me, part of the charm of the 'classic' FPS is not really having to worry about directly facing what's above and below you and, as mentioned above, there was a good reason you almost never had to.

    All that said, I really do want to hunt down one of the console versions having finally seen Powerslave in it's true 3d glory. >_>

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