When big name titles on the horizon are few and far between, I have found that checking out some of the lesser known budget games can prove to be rewarding at times. While these games exist on the same shelves among the more expensive and more anticipated games, they're often described as being found in the bargain bin. Many bargain titles are easily dismissed as cheap in price and even cheaper in value, but you can sometimes find a diamond in the rough. In this series of articles, I'll explore the depths of the bargain bin and bring you the goods (and not-so-goods) on some of these underappreciated PC games.

With each round of games I present, I will have spent no more than twenty bucks per title, each one purchased blindly without having read any reviews prior. As I did with these first six games, I will simply march into my local retailer and make selections based on the appearance of the retail boxes and their descriptions of each game, all the while trying to provide a fair mix between genres. The games I choose must also have been released within the past twelve months, give or take a month or two. For my first round, I have selected a tactical first-person shooter, a straight up adventure title, a puzzler, an arcade style space combat sim, a survival horror game of sorts, and an off-the-wall shooter that we'll look at first. I won't be including any hardcore analyses as most of what I've found can be played on low to mid range machines. Instead, I'll focus on functionality, playability, and above all the fun factor. At the end of the article, I'll give you my pick of the litter. All set? Let's begin Round One.

Hell is empty and all the devils are here.
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  • alexruiz - Thursday, November 06, 2008 - link

    How about Universe at War: Earth Assault?
    Great RTS game, and priced to move. Anandtech should have reviewed this one ;)
    Reply
  • Pirks - Wednesday, September 03, 2008 - link

    The author of this review totally misrepresented "You are empty", his take on this cool game is totally clueless, let me explain where and why.

    1) Sorry Eddie, but you look like a total noob, have you even played at least one level of this game? This game has NOTHING to do with Nazi and/or Germany! In fact it's the total opposite: the main hero is a Soviet NKVD officer that got into a car accident, spent several months in coma after that and when he woke up he found himself in a totally different world - the world where communism has been really built, I mean it was really finally pushed upon Soviet people... in some peculiar "scientific" way... which way exactly? You'll see this if you throw out this Eddies clueless shit about "nazi" and start really understanding what this game is about.

    2) Black and white arty cutscenes in fact are ABOUT this game and they tell the story of the main antihero of the game - the guy who ultimately helped the Party to implement communism with his special device (again play the game and pay attention to the plot to understand what was that device)

    3) The last cut scene shows how and why the main hero (NKVD officer) dies at the end

    4) The last cutscene also hints at a couple of pretty famous Soviet political figures of the last century (again play the game to understand whom exactly)

    5) If you are not Russian and/or you don't know anything about Soviet history - this game will look like this crazy "nazi" nonsense to you. Hence Eddie's BS about nazi and such.

    I as a former Soviet citizen enjoyed it very very _VERY_ much.

    It's just not for you lazy rich Americans :P

    Sorry, Eddie, nothing personal, but for me your review of this game looks totally idiotic and waaaaaaaay off the ground. At least I can understand why.
    Reply
  • EddieTurner - Wednesday, September 03, 2008 - link

    Well, it looks like you've done your homework. As for me, I didn't. In fact, I made it a point not to. As I stated in my initial paragraphs, I read nothing about this game. No previews, no reviews. I didn't even check out the official site. I sinply saw the box, thought it looked interesting, and popped it into my machine. Just goes to show that different people can take away different impressions of the games they play.

    Anyway, I'm not a German or a Soviet, so forgive me if I didn't recognize the writing on banners and signs in the game as such. Truth be known, the game had no recognizable story and I was not able to put together any aspect of the cutscenes with what I was experiencing. After I played the game, I handed it over to a much more weathered PC gamer who did not take away much more than I did. So what I wrote about was not BS. All that you pointed aout may be evident to some, but it wasn't to me.
    Reply
  • Frumious1 - Wednesday, September 03, 2008 - link

    Before you go flaming at someone, try to tuck the raging fanboy into a corner. You liked You Are Empty? That makes you relatively unique... or clueless about what's involved in a good game. But don't take my word for it - or Anandtech's word. Let's see what others have to say.

    http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/youareempty/inde...">http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/youareempty/inde...
    "...you've already wasted too much of your life reading about You Are Empty.... Now move on with your life and try to pretend that games like You Are Empty don't exist." Score: 1.5

    http://pc.ign.com/objects/678/678686.html">http://pc.ign.com/objects/678/678686.html
    "You Are Empty needs a lot of things, aside from a title change. More intelligent enemies would have been great, or at least greater numbers of stupid foes. Digital Spray instead decided to throw small numbers of morons at you, give you an infuriatingly inadequate run speed, and make available one of the most boring arsenals in recent memory. It's an absolute must-bypass." Score: 2.1

    http://pc.gamespy.com/pc/you-are-empty/837100p1.ht...">http://pc.gamespy.com/pc/you-are-empty/837100p1.ht...
    "So now, we are left wondering what the point is of You Are Empty, because it certainly doesn't even rate as a modern game. Bereft of any sort of challenging AI and sporting a handful of weapons that all seem to have been dredged from some imaginary WWII shooter from the eighties, this game is the kind of thing you can expect to get for Christmas from a grandma that knows nothing about video games and relies on a shifty game store employee looking to move the non-sellers." Score: 1.5 stars = "Poor"

    http://www.metacritic.com/games/platforms/pc/youar...">http://www.metacritic.com/games/platforms/pc/youar...
    34 generally negative reviews

    http://www.gamingnexus.com/Default.aspx?Section=Ar...">http://www.gamingnexus.com/Default.aspx?Section=Ar...
    "That feeling of mild disappointment is a good way to sum up You Are Empty. It feels a little behind the times and doesn’t fully deliver in every respect, but it’s still fun from start to finish. To really get the most out of the game, you need to look past the shortcomings and appreciate the work that went into making the levels and setting the atmosphere. I’d certainly like to see Digital Spray do more with their engine—they are obviously quite talented. You Are Empty is a pretty average FPS, but its sense of style makes it much more than the sum of its parts." The only "not lousy" review with a score of C. Of course, when I went to school getting a C was cause for severe lectures.

    In summary: Take your communist political views elsewhere. Lazy, rich Americans we may be, but at least we know a pile of shit when we see it! Eddie may have called some stuff "Nazi" when in fact it's "Soviet" (or something), but the game is still garbage based on all the reasonable data out there. As far as I'm concerned, Pirks, your comments in the future now deserve the right to be ignored by anyone with half a brain.
    Reply
  • 7Enigma - Wednesday, September 03, 2008 - link

    Me thinks he works for the company that made the game. Think about how powerful this review is. The thousands of people that will read it could easily have doubled, quadrupled the sales of this apparently horrifyingly bad game. It's very likely Penumbra will see a fantastic surge of sales after people read this article, and for good reason as it apparently deserves it. If I owned any of the companies or worked at any of the development houses that produced these I would bombard the messages with faulty praise trying to salvage a possible goldmine.

    As it is, you can't polish a turd.
    Reply
  • Jynx980 - Wednesday, September 03, 2008 - link

    A limit of one year on budget games is pretty conservative. Several titles on budgets shelves are at least 3 years old and can date back to 2000.

    Another thing to consider is that people who buy budget games are not likely to have powerful systems. The system requirements for Tarr Chronicles and You are Empty are pretty high.

    I picked up three titles up from Target awhile ago. They were Gunmetal, Black Buccaneer, and Divine Divinity. While Gunmetal was fair, and Black Buccaneer a bit better, Divine Divinity was definitely a diamond in the rough. To complete it your looking at 40-50 hours! The system requirements are a measly 450mhz cpu, 128mb of ram, and a directx 8, 8mb video card!

    If you do another budget review give the time frame more leeway and consider the system requirements.

    Additionally, I do agree with Nihility about the index titles. It would be fine for the title of the page, but the index needs to be just that, the index of the game reviews. Quotations don't work well when text space is limited.
    Reply
  • R4F43LZiN - Tuesday, September 02, 2008 - link

    Dude, Freelancer was freaking awesome. I can't see how can you recommeding a so-so game for a Freelancer fan. Thats just wrong. Freelancer is a top-notch game.

    But hey, since Microsoft don't release a sequel to it... I might just give this one a try.

    Overall I like you article because I'm running a low-end machine, built in 2003. yeah! So I was hoping to find some decent but not-exchange-your-videocard games. Well, live can't always be good. =P

    But keep'em comming. Three cheap games worth a try is kinda nice.
    Reply
  • Krioni - Tuesday, September 02, 2008 - link

    This is just what I needed!

    I've been playing my PS3 for a while and have missed out on some PC gaming for the past year. I was just telling myself that I should go back and pick up on some of the great PC games from the past year or so. They'll be new to me and I should be able to get them at a great price.

    BTW, I second the idea of looking at the bargain games on Steam... that's a great resource for those of us that are too lazy to go to a B&M store.

    Thanks for this series of articles. A wonderful idea!
    Reply
  • Vidmo - Tuesday, September 02, 2008 - link

    It's great that you went into a B&M to buy what they might have on the shelves. But, how about doing round 2 from Steam?
    Reply
  • EddieTurner - Wednesday, September 03, 2008 - link

    Definitely. While my next round of games may not be totally from Steam, I'll surely give the games their due and include one or two. Thanks! Reply

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