Why pay to play?
In the beginning man made the internet. And it was good. It was also free. Then some other men saw the opportunity to make serious money out of the internet, and much of the freeness stopped. But whilst a lot of the web has been monetised, there are still some places you can go that won't ask you for money at the door. Sure they're a little run down, and they haven't been lavished with the same kind of time and attention as their corporate peers have, but that doesn't mean that they aren't worth investigating.
In this new regular feature, we here at Gamereactor are going to trawl through the world of free gaming looking to unearth those little gems that often get overlooked. So come with us as we take you on a tour through the back streets of videogaming as we look for the best places to have a good time - for free.
First-Person Shooters on Mac
The poor old Mac has always had a tough time when it comes to keeping up with its PC brethren. Whilst there are many ways in which the Mac outshines the PC, it sometimes can't match it for speed. This makes it less than ideal for playing top-end first-person shooters. With that in mind, most developers just don't bother with the port, tending to flirt with Apple's customers via the medium of iOS. But that doesn't mean that there isn't fun to be had. You've just got to know where to look.
Black Shades is a game that shows us that less can be more.
The premise is as simple as the graphics; you are a bodyguard, you wear black shades and protect your client from a variety of would be assassins.
The game plays very smoothly. It's not bogged down by overly complicated controls, and the simplistic scenario means that you don't have to spend too long getting into the swing of things.
A typical game sees you following your client along a busy street, keeping as close to him as you can. It's not long before you'll notice assassins making a beeline for your man and it's off to work. The first two or three assailants are relatively straight forward affairs, but it's not long before you're frantically trying to keep up with your client and keep him safe. Eventually you reach a crossroads, and your man has decided to keep you on your toes; so which way will he go? As each round progresses you've got to keep up with your unpredictable client, as well as dispatching a never ending supply of enemy assassins. It's never long before something gives and - bang - your client is dead. Game over. Start again.
Verdict: Repetitive, but fun.
Open Arena is very, very similar to the popular Quake 3 Arena. That in itself will either attract you to the game, or put you off. If you liked the original then the chances are that you will find much to enjoy here.
First up; I had real trouble with setting up my controls. I know it's not the done thing, but if it's possible I like to play my shooters with a pad, even on PC. Open Arena was most unforgiving on this front. Had I kept playing with the settings I may have had some joy, but after awhile you get bored of pissing about in the menus and you just want to get stuck in.
Once the game is up and running the first thing you notice is that the graphics are far from pretty, but they just about do the trick.
If you can look past the graphics then there is plenty of fun to be had here. The single-player modes consist of a series of bot fights taking place over the various maps of the game. If you're into narrative based campaigns you might not get on too well with what is being served up here.
But campaign isn't really that important on a game like Open Arena: Multiplayer is where the action is at. The learning curve is steep, and for the first few games I got well and truly owned, but once I found my feet I started to enjoy myself a bit more. If you're new to the Quake online experience it may take you some time to get competitive, but for those who are seasoned veterans of the original, chances are you'll be up and fragging in no time at all.
Verdict: Butt ugly frag-fest.
My first impressions of Cube 2 - Sauerbraten were entirely positive. I jumped straight into one of the campaigns and started blasting away.
On the outside, this is an elegant game. Considering the price tag you'd have to consider the graphics in the 'very good' category. The extensive map making facilities have created a community feel to the game, with players able to get involved with the construction of maps. It's not simple by any means, but for those willing to invest the time, there is plenty to do.
The single player content looks considerable, so fans of a lengthy solo campaign will have much to occupy themselves with. However, we all know that the cornerstone of a game like this is not the single player.
Multiplayer content on Cube 2 - Sauerbraten is excellent. There are plenty of maps, all of them look good and play well. The action is fast and frantic. It's not difficult getting a game, and once you've put in a little bit of practice, it wont be long before your in the thick of things.
Verdict: Fast and frantic.
Assault Cube is a very good looking game. The textures are clean and crisp and the various maps are all well designed and distinctive.
Single player is another selection of bot fights; this is another game where the focus is purely on multiplayer frag-action. Though if the repetitive bot battles are your thing then there is a plentiful supply to be found here.
Multiplayer is exciting and immediate. The beautifully designed levels play host to brutal and fast-paced matches. The controls are straightforward and easy to pick up, and once you've got the hang of things it wont be long before you're getting stuck in, although at first you will find it tough.
It does take a while to get to grips with the weapons; accuracy can be hard to come by at the beginning. But it's a minor gripe and one that is easy to overcome with a little bit of practice.
Verdict: Beautiful and uncompromising.
We'll be back in the near future for more Free Where? articles, but if you've found titles you think should be featured, drop us an email.