The Weakest Link
You've probably seen or at least heard of this half game/half reality show. Maybe you've played along by answering questions, picking who you think should be booted after each round, and laughing at Anne Robinson's dagger-sharp wit as she humiliates and belittles the players. Now it's your turn… sort of. Get up on stage and see if you know as much when the pressure is on, the time is ticking and Anne is glaring at you, and prove to everyone that you aren't The Weakest Link.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
The Weakest Link on the computer plays almost exactly like the TV show. Anne asks your team trivia questions of various difficulty from all sorts of categories such as arts, entertainment, history, politics, people, places, science, nature, sports and leisure. Each player answers and tries to bank as much money as possible in the time allotted. At the end of each round, each player then must vote off the person who they believe got the most questions wrong, a.k.a. the weakest link. Eventually the team of seven will be narrowed down to two final players who must face off in a five-question showdown to see who will walk away with all the money banked during the show.
There are some minor differences between the show and the game, though. In the game, all the questions are multiple choice. If you get a question wrong, you will not be told or shown the correct answer as in the show. The questions in the game are not read to you, but rather printed on the screen. In the show you'd have to call "bank" to secure money before the question is asked, but in the game you have enough time to read the question completely before banking. This can be used to your advantage. These differences are completely understandable, as the game would require way more space on your hard drive (or possibly multiple CDs) if each question were read to you. The closest it gets to reading a question is when Anne says "In entertainment…" or whatever category the question is in, before the question appears. Unfortunately, I thought having to read the question on screen did take away from the game a bit. I found that there were several instances where Anne would state a category and the question would be from a different category (i.e. an entertainment question that she says is a sports question, for instance). I even found a misspelled word in one of the questions. The worst, however, is that the game is supposed to contain over 100,000 questions, yet the exact same question was asked twice in the same round. One computer player got it right and the other didn't -- and the one who got it wrong got the question the second time!
Speaking of computer AI, I found it to be below par. Many times a question that would be simple or common knowledge would be missed by one of these players. I understand that everyone knows different things and what may be simple for me may not be for you (or vice versa), but these were questions that anyone over five years old would likely know and the computer would miss them. In addition, each of the twenty-four different players is supposed to have certain categories that he or she is better at -- or so the manual says. Occasionally I found that when some characters were asked a basic question from their primary field of expertise, they would get it wrong. Really, do you know a single sports buff who wouldn't know in what sport one would find a pitcher's mound? Now maybe I'm a little bitter, but it seems that if you play a single-player game and miss more than one or two questions in any round, you will be voted off regardless of whether or not you are the weakest link. I found this to be extremely frustrating, as I was rarely able to make it past the second round. One time I was the strongest link and got voted off anyway. That's the way the game goes -- or is it?
You have the ability to bend the rules before you start a game by selecting whether to get a normal amount, more or fewer questions of any particular category. You can also adjust the "voting abuse" which really has no impact on gameplay, but will give players harsher than usual treatment from Anne after being voted off. You can also select the general difficulty level of the game before beginning. The options are Normal, Easy, and Junior. The only difference between these is how the multiple-choice answers are presented. Normal will show only the first letter or two of the four different answers. This is a great way of requiring the player to know the answer, since you'll likely not select the correct answer unless you know what it is (that's how it works in the TV show). Easy will show all four choices with complete text and Junior will show you two possible choices with complete text.
On the TV show, after someone is voted off, they usually show a clip of him or her reacting to being booted. The game attempts to do this but fails miserably; it just shows a static picture of the player in the corner and the person talks and talks. Actually, it seems all the comments in the game are fairly lengthy and there is no option for bypassing any of them except the full motion videos. It might be somewhat interesting to hear these comments once or twice, but there aren't many (or any) different ones for each person so it gets old quickly. I got bored of the between-round voting very fast.
The game consists of single-player, multiplayer and championship modes. Single player and multiplayer are essentially the same game except for the number of people playing. Actually, you can still set up a multiplayer game to be a single-player game by selecting the player you want to use and starting the game, so the single-player option isn't really necessary. Multiplayer has an interesting feature where you can select less than seven players and choose to start from the round where that number of players would still be in the game (i.e. select five players and start in round 3 or play the full game). If you don't select any options from the main menu for about a minute, you can watch a one-round demo of the game. Championship mode plays the same as single player, but is a four-game contest. Each game is supposed to be harder than the last and the money values get higher with each game. If you win, you will receive a password so you can continue later. The password is given in a very 'console game hidden code' fashion which reminded me a lot of Mortal Kombat -- you have to pick a character on the screen and press a series of eight arrow keystrokes; if you do it correctly, you can continue. I thought this was extremely silly since they could've just saved your game to the hard disk rather than making you write down and enter these codes.
Aside from the whole championship password thing, the controls and interface are very simple. The game is completely keyboard driven -- just use the arrow keys to select players or answers and use the space bar to select. The 'B' key will bank and 'P' will pass, although I'm not sure why you'd ever want to pass when the questions are multiple choice -- better to guess than give up. You can vote people off by using the number keys 1-6 when asked.
To find this game's saving grace, you need to gather some friends and hover over the keyboard. The multiplayer mode supports up to seven people on a single computer. There is no network or Internet multiplayer, though. Personally, I think an Internet multiplayer option would've added a lot to this game as the best AI is always a real person.
This game REQUIRES a 3D card. I found that a little surprising considering the type of game this is, but I guess everything's gone 3D these days. I wasn't particularly impressed by the graphics. For the most part, each character is very blocky-looking with photo-realistic attributes. The way the camera swings around the studio during gameplay, the people sometimes look pretty weird. The studio itself looks fine, but the audience is simply a single photograph of some people wallpapered in the background. I was mostly disappointed that none of the mouths of the players move at all or even have the appearance of moving while they talk. It's especially noticeable since the camera is focusing close up on the players much of the time, and you hear speech but never see any mouths move. It seemed a little creepy to me. There is also some live-action footage of Anne that looks to be from the show. The quality of the video was not the greatest I've seen -- the backgrounds looked blocky.
There's not much sound in this game aside from the speech and music. The speech is clear and distinct for each person and sounds, well, the way you'd expect a voice to sound. In other words, the quality of the speech is fine. The music comes straight from the TV show. There is an option for adjusting the volume, but it's practically useless since it doesn't adjust it much anyway.
Windows 95/98/ME/2000, DirectX 8.0a, P200 or Athlon, 32 MB RAM, 130 MB uncompressed hard disk space, 8M D3D/DX8.0 compatible 3D video card, DirectX 8 true 16-bit sound card, 4X CD-ROM drive, mouse (why is this listed? The game doesn't even use a mouse).
Reviewed on: Windows 2000 Professional w/ Service Pack 2, Diamond Viper V770 (w/ nVidia TNT2 Ultra chipset) using nVidia's XP/NT 21.83 reference drivers, SoundBlaster 64 PCI, 128M RAM, 30G HD, 10X CD-ROM drive.
Aside from learning the so-called strengths of each player and other general info, you'll probably need to look up the controls for the game since they aren't totally obvious.
I've been a game show fan for most of my life. Most game shows translate pretty well to the PC, but this isn't really one of them. While answering questions is fun, it gets boring watching the computer try to act like it's thinking about the answers and then waiting for a response. It's even more boring watching the 'reality show' portion of the game, especially when the responses are the same every time and you can't bypass any of it. It doesn't help that the graphics and video aren't all that great either. I can see how this might be a really fun game if you were playing with a group of friends, or if it had Internet play (which it doesn't). I wouldn't recommend this game unless you are a die-hard fan of The Weakest Link, a game show fanatic, or find it in the five-dollar bin at the software store. As far as TV game show home versions, this one is The Weakest Link -- goodbye.