Its Always Heart-Warming when you realise you're at the helm of a PC which can provide the best visuals of any videogame in the history of mankind, and you're instead spending more time playing a game which could probably run on your mobile phone (although not mine, as it's soaked in Kronenbourg). Imagine forking out for an Xbox 360 and Project Gotham Racing, only to spend more time playing the semi-hidden Geometry Wars 2 demo instead. That's what a lot of people do, because as trite as it sounds, the sheer unilateral pleasure of destroying hordes of geometric shapes supersedes any need for flashy HDR lighting or real-time thingy-bobs.
Not only that this completely unofficial, free and fan-made PC version is an improvement over the 360's, bringing to the table a host of tweaks which you'll only recognise if you've already shovelled hopeless hours into the console version. The most obvious change is that there are no levels this time around, just an endless stream of enemies to destroy. Other changes are less apparent but ultimately more important - such as the new way the black holes work, now allowing you to lure enemies into them, keep the hole's mass in check to prevent it exploding and racking up huge combo points when you finally pop it. Endless, addictive fun.
Also, if you don't already own one, I'd suggest picking up a 360 pad for Windows (compatible with the 360, but not vice-versa). It really is one of the best PC pads you can buy.
Download GridWars 2
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
Imitation. If You spend enough time peering at this section of the magazine, the notion of it being the sincerest form of flattery is no doubt validated in your mind. It's what the entire games industry is built upon, with almost every original idea being taken away and wrought into something new and hopefully better -these days, it's something that's especially prevalent in freeware titles.
True originality is hard to come by anyway, and this is no more apparent than with the most imitated genre around. Fun though they may be, almost everything about current-generation shoot 'em ups is derived from the genre's past successes - sometimes more literally than developers would like.
But when does imitation turn from innocent flattery to outright thievery? Is it fine to ape the game mechanics of a popular title as long as you steer clear of copyrighted visuals, sounds and characters? Or are even intangible gameplay elements a no-go area? It's an issue that developers should be aware of - especially in the wake of recent action by Bizarre Creations, developers of Xbox 360 exclusive Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved, to have Mark Incitti's PC exclusive GridWars 2 pulled from the Internet.
"We're beginning to feel the effects of the Geometry Wars clones on our sales via Microsoft now," begins the Bizarre Creations warning, "and are beginning a process to start to more robustly protect our copyright and intellectual property. Therefore, I'd like to ask you in an amicable fashion to stop infringing our IP and pull the game GridWars from the Internet for download. I hope you understand and are able to do this without us having to take further steps."
The decision to have the freeware remake removed was met with fierce response from both sides of the fence. Incitti complied with Bizarre's demands regardless. "They're trying to protect their IP, I agree with that" he confided, "but I never thought it would be negatively affecting their sales on Xbox Live Arcade, and I still don't think it does. If anything. I think I've got many people to take a look at Geometry Wars."
The thought of a free, fan-made PC game potentially damaging sales of a $3 game on a different platform, especially one which allows you to play in high-definition from the comfort of your sofa is slightly barmy. However, in a later statement made through their forum, Bizarre clarified their reasoning behind the decision: "The issue that we have with the proliferation of GW: RE 'clone' games is their own lack of originality -particularly on the visual front"
Hang On a Minute...
It was this statement that seemed to stick harshly in the throats of most freeware fans, as Geometry Wars.- Retro Evolved is hardly a bastion of originality in itself. The clue's in the title: Bizarre's shooter is merely an evolution of retro concepts, if it can even be called that Vector graphics and Robotron-style gameplay have been done many times before, just look at the oft-mentioned works of freeware developer Kenta Cho, and the classics of Atari's arcade prime. And even though GridWars 2, despite being dissimilar in many aspects, unashamedly looks and feels like the commercially released Xbox title (grounds enough for legal action), Bizarre's trumpeting of their own "passion for the creation of games -and the origination of new ideas and concepts" reeks of hypocrisy.
What's more, offers from Incitti to change GridWars enough to absolve it from any copyright infringement apparently went unheeded.
Not So Soft
"The initial emails were friendly enough, with offers to change/differentiate," explains Incitti. "Then after months of no contact, the 'please remove' letter appeared." Of course, when you have Microsoft knocking on your door with a very real case against you, backing down is probably the smart move.
"I suppose I could have held to my guns a bit better and evolved GridWars away from their game, thus avoiding controversy," reflects Incitti. "But how far away would have been comfortable for them?"
Rob Fearon of RetroRemakes.com is no stranger to freeware copyright issues. "If we start making game mechanics answerable within a court of law," he explains, "then you can kiss your precious industry goodbye."
Same But Different
His website has just finished accepting entries for their annual Retro Remakes competition, and he continues to extol the virtues of remaking classic games as freeware. "We don't do what we do to tread on any toes, we're not out to strip the authors of any money that they're rightfully due. Somewhere down the line, it's someone else's hard work, someone else who invested the time and effort to put fingers to keyboard and code the original game." Fearon continues: "While we may be bringing the games back to life, we're doing this out of love for the originals - the original authors get the credit that's rightfully theirs. To me, not giving respect where it's due defeats the entire ethic of Retro Remakes."
Incitti, meanwhile, seems hopeful about a re-release of GridWars as soon as he's got the time, though he's currently working on a 360 title called Polarity - perhaps all the attention from big developers has done him some good after all. Still, if imitation truly is the sincerest form of flattery, it seems some games companies just don't know how to take a compliment.