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Codename: Eagle Review
2000-04-08 Staff
CodeName Eagle Review

At one time, erik and I worked at night in a lab at Case Western Reserve University here in Cleveland.  We babysat a roomfull of cows while they were held in place by harnesses and given giant, running sores by a machine that was a cross between a robot, a tank, and a belt sander.  We had two jobs: if a cow became overly agitated, one of us, usually erik, would have to wade into the screaming herd and administer a sedative to it.  And then to us.  When a cow looked suitably injured, we pressed a button and a cart came and took the cow into another room that we couldn't see where it was sprayed with an experimental anti-bacterial solution, which was the point of the whole operation, apparently.  The point of the story is, if we were paying (instead of the other way around) for the privilege of being, as we called ourselves, scientists, we would never have stuck around to see what happened after the part where erik gave us both a cow sedative. 

We've decided to apply what we learned when we were wage-slave scientists to game reviewing: Either we enjoy ourselves, or we quit.   Unlike some professional gamers, we pay for our games.  We used to think that we needed to solve a game before we unleashed a review of it.  We'd bought into the line of crap delivered by some of the more sanctimonious gaming pundits which states that a "real" reviewer always slogs through the whole thing, because it "might get better."  You know what?  Hell with that.  We're not getting a degree from the U. of Firing Squad.  Here's a note to developers regarding what we hope will become an industry-wide policy: if your game has some good parts, try to put them at the fucking beginning.  It takes us ten hours of dismal labor to earn enough money to buy your game, so please commence the entertainment early on.   If possible, pack something fun right into the box, for instance a balloon.   Instead of padding out your games with junk levels, take a cue from Monolith and release the truly unplayable garbage as a separate mission pack.  

With that in mind, here's our new rule: if a game can't manage to provide some thrills in the first hour, it gets a bad review.  Welcome to the new era of common sense.  Developers have one goddamn job: entertain us.  And we mean now, goddamnit, not in six hours.  When we're stomping Levelord's head at E3 and it sucks for him, should we continue simply because at some later point he might die and maybe go to heaven, the best level of existence?  From his point of view, probably not.   Likewise, FAKK2 better be fun right away.

Codename: Eagle, the first game we're reviewing using our new system, fails.  We played two shitty levels.  Maybe it gets better later.  Who knows.  But neither you, nor I, nor even erik should have to find out.  When you're playing it, the important thing is that it's not better now.

The intro sets the tone for the game. There's a huge battle.  It's the "Time of Heroes."  Then it flashes forward ten years. Talonsoft is letting you know early on that you aren't man enough for the Time of Heroes so they have to set the game in some other era, which has the displeasing effect of making you feel like a big pussy right away.

Even though you're no hero, it's easy to survive in CE. The enemies - Russians who speak English in a German accent - like to run right at the sound of gunfire.  "Vut ees dot noise? Vut ees dot moossle flash? OH!"

With most games, you are treated to something special in the first level.  Do you remember the scripted event in first level of Unreal?  You probably played the rest of the game just waiting for one more scripted event.  CE doesn't bother.  It starts off with  you jumping in the back of a truck that can't stay on the road.  It seems Talonsoft couldn't figure out how to handle AI pathing of vehicles.  Your driver just plows over trees and even a soldier (with no reaction from the nearby soldiers).  The only way this talented team can get the truck to stop is by having it recreate a scene from a Fox special, the driver plows the truck into the side of a building.   

At least that's funny and unintentionally entertaining.  But that's as good as CE gets. The handgun, rifle and motorized guns use the same ammo and have the same effect and range.   Chain-link fences are bulletproof.  All the vehicles handle like hovercars - the kind of hovercars that have bad handling. Did I mention everyone runs right at you? Or that the game takes place in an alternate universe?  All of this might actually work if we truly did live in an alternate universe where so many games better than the first two levels of Codename: Eagle weren't released on a regular basis.

Alternate Universe is a good euphemism for both "Limitations of The Engine" and "Dumb".  Thanks to erik for taking the time to write one of his short plays about this topic starring the staff of Talonsoft:

Staff 1:"Why can't you go into any of the buildings, even though soldiers come out of them and live in them?"
Staff 2:"In an alternate universe, no buildings have doors you can open from the outside.  They are 'one-use' buildings."
Staff 1:"Why do all the vehicles float?"
Staff 2:"In an alternate universe, all the vehicles float."
Staff 1: "Why do the Russians sound German?"
Staff 2: "They... Hmm..."
Staff 1: "Could that be how things are in an alternate universe?"
Staff 2: "Yes."


I will give the programmers at Talonsoft some credit. They have extended the alternate universe concept to the interface.   Gone is our reality's quick-save.  To save, you must escape out of the game, go to the save menu, then save in one of 10 slots.   We've always found the quick-save feature to be annoyingly helpful, bordering on obsequious. 

Also, I suppose Codename: Eagle is something of a technical triumph for Talonsoft. In their last big hit, Operational Art of War, you chose your map by starting different executables.  At least this time they managed to cram everything into one program.  Or maybe level three is a separate exe, I wouldn't know. 

Another feature of our new era of reviewing is that we're no longer going to try to wrap things up with a pithy summary.  Instead, we're going to speculate on what lucky tragedy might tend to slow the development team down as they're grinding out their next awful product.  Say the staff at Talonsoft had their hands cut off - it might be a long time before they released another game. 

After our Blaze & Blade review we were appalled to discover that people wanted to play the game because of our negative comments.  We wrote that review specifically to encourage you to avoid   Blaze & Blade.  Did you turn to your date at the end of Schindler's List and, while thoughtfully rubbing your chin, say, "you know, I should really start a Holocaust"?  To try to burn some fear into the lumps of coal our readers use for hearts, we're going to utilize this screenshot space to review something so terrible, you couldn't possibly misinterpret our message:  the life of singer Eddie Money.

Before he discovered music, Eddie was a NYC cop.

Eddie's First Album, released in 1977.  It was during this period that he earned the nickname "the man with no control of his bladder."  Record execs shortened it to "the man with no control", which made it sound like he couldn't control his all all-night rock n' roll rampages and his appetite for chicks and drag racing.  Associates still knew it mostly meant his bladder.

Eddie then proceeded to make four other forgettable albums and one unforgettably annoying album with shakin' as the hit single.

Here's Eddie's last non greatest hits album.  It contains the single Broken Down Chevy (God Only Knows).  Nobody's ever heard this song, though some people will tell you they have.
The word "baby" is prominently featured in 8 of the 11 tracks.

Not letting Eddie's complete lack of any actual hits stand in its way, his record company has released a total of 6 "greatest hits" albums.   He has released a greatest hits album every year for the last 4 years.

The number of non-greatest hits albums that eddie has created?  6.

Still thinking you might want to listen to some eddie money?   Here are the complete lyrics for his biggest hit.

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