IntroductionEscape Velocity: Nova
What a time for a firefight. Even though the carbon fibre I’d just added gave my Valkyrie some extra protection, I really didn’t need to get into a scrap with these deep-space marauders. The cargo hold of my ship, the Thuferin Thucotash, was filled with passengers bound for Tau Ceti, and a load of emergency medical supplies headed to Dunroamin that absolutely, positively had to get there fast – and I needed the money both these missions would net. But these brigands weren’t giving up, so I trained my weapons on the enemy ships and let them have it. My shields took a beating, but I took care of business – at least I thought I did, until that most dreaded of all pirate vessels, the Manticore, vectored in and blew me to smithereens. Is this the plot of the latest summer sci-fi blockbuster? No, it’s what happens when you become engrossed in Ambrosia Software’s Escape Velocity: Nova. You begin to talk with your friends as though what’s happening in the game is real. This new version improves graphics, adds tons of new story elements, and runs natively in Mac OS X. Set far in the future, Escape Velocity: Nova puts you in the role of an independent captain of a modest shuttlecraft in outer space. You’re tasked with ferrying passengers and cargo from one star system to another to earn your living. In some locations, you can find outfitters who will – for a price, of course – outfit your vessel with weapons and equipment that will help you go faster, carry more, protect yourself better, and make sure you stay around to keep earning money. Most planets and space stations are also equipped with a Mission BBS that helps you find work. Local bars serve as areas for other meetings that can net lucrative jobs, even if the wages are paid under the table. Depending on the missions chosen and the manner in which you conduct yourself, you’ll activate specific story options in Escape Velocity: Nova that will then determine the outcome of the game you play. There are about half a dozen specific story arcs embedded in Escape Velocity: Nova, each with its own risks and rewards. Additionally, you can just ferry passengers and cargo, become a rebel or a pirate, or simply wander around the stars. However, once you accept a certain series of missions, you’re stuck completing the story or dying in the process. If you manage to finish it, you’ll have to start over from scratch with a new character before doing anything else. Even a shuttlecraft pilot deserves a chance at a mid-life career change. Wipeout 2097
Since the Mac is a niche gaming market, Macintosh users depend mostly on games that debut on Windows PCs, dedicated video-game consoles, or both. To some Mac gamers, the speed of a game’s progress to the Mac platform is everything. But that’s silly – just because a game is old, doesn’t mean it’s bad. Take Freeverse Software’s Mac conversion of Wipeout 2097, a game that first appeared on Sony’s PlayStation console back in 1996. By any era’s standard, it’s a stellar 3D-racing game that has held up well over the years. Wipeout 2097 is the late 21st century’s answer to Formula One racing. As a pro racer, you must grab medals in a series of races on different courses around the world. Instead of cars, the game uses antigravity vehicles. To win, the racing line must be straight, corners tight, and your finger must be on the accelerator. Wipeout offers two different play modes: Time Trial, and Arcade. In Time Trial, you race against the clock, learning the twists and turns of each individual track before getting to Arcade mode. In Arcade mode, you race other pilots. Place in one of the top three spots, and there are medals up for grabs. Win gold for all six circuits in Arcade mode – three difficulty classes with two circuits each – and you’ll progress to Arcade Challenge mode, which unlocks two new circuits and a new vehicle to race. In-progress games can be saved and restored, too. Each circuit sports speedups – patches on the track that cause your craft to accelerate. Hitting these consistently and staying away from walls will shave seconds off your lap times. Weapon grids on the track provide various enhancements, such as terrain-hugging rockets, guided missiles, and electro-bolts; or power-ups, such as autopilot, turbo boost, E-paks that boost shield energy, and more. If your craft gets banged up from weapon impacts or wall collisions, driving through a pit-stop area can recharge its shields, though doing so will slow you down. Wipeout 2097 has TCP/IP or AppleTalk-based multiplayer gaming. Alas, it doesn’t provide plug-in support for the GameRanger online service, and you need a low-latency Internet connection for a successful match.