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Reviewed: Wheel of Time
Author: Chris Kim       Date: December 23rd 1999
Page: 3

Multiplayer is where Wheel of Time really shines. Out of the box, two game modes are supported, an Arena or Citadel mode. The arena mode is the typical deathmatch mode where players just compete all out trying to destroy each other with any of the Ter'Angreal. There seems to be a slight misbalance in gameplay during the arena, however. Usually the person with the most powerful Ter'Angreal will always dominates and rules the game. The lower ones that were just killed or joining the game will have a very difficult time trying to take over the game from this guy with the most power. The citadel game is something that is really worth playing for, though. Citadel is pretty much a capture the flag type game, but is similarly constructed as Team Fortress is. The players must control a portion of the level, but they set traps everywhere to hinder the progress. Players must capture the other team's seals four times to win. The only problem with citadel, which really isn't a problem but more of an authority or configuration thing, the very first person on each team can design the traps.

One of the major problems with Wheel of Time is the incredibly difficult and unfair AI in the game. The AI in the game is not anything spectacular, but simply put it's unfair. Enemies will bounce around the screen, slide, and strafe so much to avoid weapon shots, that weapon shots are nearly ineffective. Almost all shots will be avoided and dodged because how much the enemies move around. In fact, the almost only way to hit enemies are to either attack up close or use some sort of Ter'Angreal with a tracking or homing device on it. The general AI is not too impressive, it's all pretty much standard stuff. But the extra bounciness and movement of the enemies really makes the game very difficult, I found myself on the easy setting very quickly because the enemies have very strong attacks.

Swimming the Five Oceans
Super Monster
Super Monster Far Away

Switching from Ter'Angreal to Ter'Angreal can be one of problematic causes because there are so many different Ter'Angreal in each of the numbers. With three to four items in each slot, switching to each of the Ter'Angreal can be extremely time consuming, which can mean the difference between life and death in many situations. Not being able to crouch might annoy some gamers, but it doesn't really effect the gameplay any. Mouse support from the interface is also missing, which might lead to some consolish feelings to the game. Aside from not being able to switch Ter'Angreal quickly, there are no major conflicts. The game's controls are completely configurable and the controls are very responsive. The traditional mouse and keyboard combination for gaming in first person shooters works nearly the same and just as well. Load times in the game are also horrible.

Swordsman Ally
Evil Mage
Lighting Effects at Work

Taking advantage of the Unreal game engine, the visuals in Wheel of Time are simply gorgeous. The game uses a heavily modified version of the engine that includes better support for large environments and more detailed textures. As said before, the environments in the game are some of the most impressive and beautiful looking in any game seen to date. Whether the room is rendered on a very small scale or a grand huge scale, Wheel of Time handles it nearly perfectly. The architecture used in designing the levels must be of professional quality as the game sports some of the most impressive looking structures and awe inspiring buildings. The textures used in the game are extremely detailed and give a sense of the tremendous work that was put into creating the visuals in the game. The sense of scale created is also tremendous, from the huge towering buildings to the smallish cargo carts, the feeling created is one of monstrous size.

Special effects are a very important part of the graphics in this game because all of the Ter'Angreal are effects. Each of the weapons packs a special and unique visual that is also a treat to look at. Even the puny and crappy little air blast looks cool, the smoke trails that follow the blast is something to look at. The fogging effects and dynamic lighting are excellent. One part of the graphics that was really a bummer, however was the dithering. It is a bit known that the G400 chipset has a bit of more dithering problem than other chipsets, but the dithering is horrible in the game. Nearly all the textures and special effects are broken down, and there wasn't an option to run in 32-Bit true color.

Models also look very solid and give a rock feeling to the atmosphere. The detail that went into each of the models looks quite well. The realistic feeling is great. Each of the models was very well animated, even though there are a few choppy animations, there aren't really enough to notice. But with so much graphical splendor, it does not come without a cost. Wheel of Time is a performance hog. Even on the test bed machine with a fairly powerful processor and video accelerator, the game was barely chugging along at 640x480 resolution with most details set to low and medium. Machines with equipment even lower than the recommended system specs on the box should not even attempt to run this game and not expect to see some major detail degradation and abysmal performance as the test machine was nearly double the recommended speeds on the box. The engine does not scale very well at all, Direct3D performance is quite buggy out of the box, but there is a patch that does address the issue and improves performance significantly. OpenGL performance is so poor that it isn't even worthy to be called in alpha stage.

Flies on the Corpse
Electro Death
Arena Action

As with most other first person shooters, sound effects play a major role in immersion of the player. Wheel of Time is excellent at creating a very creepy environment with the lot of ambient sounds. Many of the sounds like the movement and rolling of the water along the water bend, lighting strikes, and flies and bugs chirping and flapping. Sounds from the enemies have a distinct touch to them that make it known what type of enemy is being encountered. From the largest type of enemy, a more deep and bassful hulking sound is made, while the smaller ogre type characters have a high pitch screech. The voice acting of the characters are all pretty well done, especially in the cutscenes. Musically speaking, the game does offer a pretty good soundtrack, but Wheel of Time gives another reason it is such a performance hog, all the music is in MP3 format. While having a soundcard that can decode MP3's in real time on hardware will significantly improve performance, it is not recommended unless users have 128MB of RAM run with music enabled. Otherwise, the game creates on hell of an environment with the music score.

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Added:  Thursday, December 23, 1999
Reviewer:  Chris Kim
Page: 3/5

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