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"Sam & Max Episode 4: Abe Lincoln Must Die is now available for 100% off the retail price. As in free. Complimentary. Gratis. For just the price of a few mouse clicks, you'll play one of the best-reviewed episodes from the first season of Telltale Games' flagship series."

That's right. Valve released the fourth Sam & Max episode on Steam for free. To download and install it, click HERE. Steam account [also free of charge] is required.

In other news, just recently Valve treated us to a sneak peek at their plush version of the Weighted Companion Cube. Perfect for hanging up in your car and distracting you while you drive.

With the newly added classics and some other titles, my list of games on Steam has reached a whopping 54 entries. Nice. A big plus for Steam [which does not compensate for all other flaws] is that I don't have to keep the titles in my start menu. Click the image to enlarge.

The pre release demo of Crysis has finally arrived so I took the opportunity and tried it out right after I got home from work today. So how does it look like, how does it play and is the CryENGINE2 properly utilizing your computer's resources?

Graphics wise, the game can be described as a fine blend of Far Cry [the 360 version] and Splinter Cell: Double Agent. If you set everything to "high" in your config menu, you'll see the jungle moving, lights playing, particle effects all over the place, depth of field stuff, HDR processing and all that. To make a long story short, the game has it all.

How does it play, you ask? It plays just as you'd expect it to play. Like a decent FPS game should. You have your weapons, flashlight, silencers, you can pick up objects and throw them [and you don't even need a gravity gun], you can swim, you can jump and you can withstand against a rain of bullets thanks to your suit. It plays like a fine tuned and slightly upgraded Far Cry.

Being a new game and all, what do you need to run this one? If you want all of the effects and fireworks, you'll need a DX10 graphics card and of course Windows Vista. If you're perfectly fine with DX9 and XP, I'm afraid a single core CPU and a half ass graphics card aren't going to cut it.

The hardware requirements for Vista / DX10 setup are slightly higher than a normal XP / DX9, but if you want it all while the game pushes some decent frames, you should own a dual core processor and a 512 meg graphics card [GeForce 8XXX series for example]. 1 gigabyte of RAM is a must have if you want to boot the game in the first place. 2 gigabytes of fast memory on dual channel should do the trick though.

So we got that out of the way. You need a rather powerful PC, the game looks really nice, plays decent, but what about the story? I didn't play much, but from what I could tell it's your standard "mission gone wrong" scenario.

This game is what a "Predator" game should be like. Jungle, weird stuff going down, gutted soldiers hanging from the trees upside down ... If anyone dares to make another "Predator" branded title, it should be the Crytek guys who do the job.

Do you want to rename a ton of files? Are you tired of the crappy and underdeveloped programs that will never give you the result you're looking for? If you're not afraid of japanese, you should take "Namery" for a spin.

This small piece of software will give you all you need and loads more. Any feature related to renaming the files you might think of, this program has. I just started using it about a week ago and I'm beyond pleased. Get your free copy HERE. You'll find it under "Program" [duh!]. There's also a current beta on the main page [executable only, no help files included]. The proper releases are avalable on Vector, but require no registration. If you want to check out how it looks like, just click on the crappy quality image above. A nice and large *.png will pop up.
It's finally here and I've got it. Thanks to Telltale Games we finally get a proper Sam & Max sequel and not only that, there will be more! Telltale had decided that they will go with the nowdays oh so popular episodic delivery system and so, after the all six episodes had been released online, we finally get the disc version.

Earlier last week I finally recieved a package containing the game. Telltale were really slow and I waited for about three weeks before the game arrived, but I guess I can forgive them since they were moving into a new office building.

Annoying delays and pulled out hair aside, here it is. The disc version in all of its glory and splendor. So what is it exactly that you get when you purchase the disc? You get a nice DVD disc with Brady Culture hypno swirl print on it and a brief instructions manual. All of this, stuffed into a standard DVD case.

What seems like your avarage, standard game edition, hides a few surprises. It's all about the disc. It contains not only all of the six episodes, but is also fully loaded with extra materials, and that's where the real fun is [aside from the game itself kicking ass, of course].

Since the DVD is a hybrid, you can either pop it into your PC or a standard DVD player. Almost all of the extra material is stored as DVD video. From the menu you can choose the following options: Cutscenes, Shorts, Trailers, Bloopers and Concepts. The cutscene menu contains all of the non gameplay sequences from all of the episodes. You can simply choose an episode and enjoy the story without a single point or click.

Shorts menu allows you to watch small bits of dialogue that for one reason or another weren't included in the game. Trailers are pretty self explainatory, so I won't even go into that. Blooper.. Now bloopers are something you just have to see. In this case, it's a video that shows the screw ups of voice actors during the recording sessions, which later were combined with ingame animation. Since I'm such a nice guy, here. Just click on play.

"Concepts Video" shows you a rolling showcase of various designs and, um... concepts. Sketches, renders, test visuals and all that, combined with some game music.

But that's not all. There are secrets, and I'm going to give one of them away. Well, I guess I already did, since the meny screenshot appears earlier in this entry. Anyways, if you're running the DVD on a PC, just point on Sam in the window. If you're using a DVD player, mark the Cutscenes, and go left. A video chosen at random will play, and if you're lucky or patient enough, you might just find the secrret ones. Or you can just cheat and open VOB's directly from the disc.

If this wasn't enough, there's still some bonus content to be found. If you explore the disc, you will a folder named Goodies. If you open it you will find two additional ones called Wallpapers and Soundtrack Sampler. I guess I don't have to explain this one either. As you can see, Telltale team really tried to make the disc version into a complete experience.

Now, a few words about the game itself. There are many among you who will probably say "Nah, this game is nothing like the good old Sam & Max I used to play...". That only depends on how you look at it. It's 2007 and the game recieved a facelift. It's no longer 2D, but the gameplay mechanics are still intact. The music is changed, but only for the better. If LucasArts developers weren't limited to iMUSE, they surely would go for real audio. There were no mp3's at the time, remember? The game did not lose any of its humor and the dialogues are sharp as always. So if you're one of those who whine about no 2D, no iMUSE and no LucasArts, just think for a second. This game will become a classic in a few years time and you will be looking for a copy on eBay, kicking yourself in the ass.

Wait, I'm not done yet. When Sam & Max: Season One demos were released, along with the digitally distributed complete episodes, I complained about the DRM solution that was used to protect the software. I truly and deeply hate DRM. It's pointless to protect the software against its users in a world where hackers will always be able to penetrate the protection. Telltale decided to go with Software Passport / Armadillo, utilizing not only its DRM solutions, but they combined them with hardware locking. This may render your game useless when you buy a new computer, or if Telltale goes out of business and you won't be able to activate your software.

This in mind, I was concerned that the disc version might also force some sort of online activation upon me. I was relieved when I got the disc and found out it that it uses SecuROM instead. I did a quick check before I ran the installation.

Yep, that sure smells like SecuROM. Feeling good about Telltale's choice of protection, I started the installation. It went smoothly and after it was done, I immediately ran the first episode to check if everything is working as it should. It wasn't. The game refused to boot and displayed this sweet message:

I quickly figured out what was wrong. SecuROM configuration that Telltale used detects most types of virtual drives and it's enough to have one present. So whether you are using Deamon Tools, Alcohol 120% or PowerISO, disable the drives before you run the game. And one more thing. Disable any process monitors or system debuggers too.

Since the main executables in the disc version are no longer compressed nor protected, it's easy to poke around see how things work. The program is basically the same as the downloadable version but you don't have to play around with unpacking the Armadillo shell to get to the interesting stuff. Anyways, if you do decide to play around the executables, this is what you might find:

Telltale left some stuff behind and thanks to this you can see the build configurations they use when it comes to protecting their titles. While the demos clearly use the "Unlockable Demo - Software Passport" setting, the disc version of Sam & Max uses "Full Game - SecureROM CD". Ok. Enough about the protections. Bottom line: Is the game worth buying?

Of course it is. The humor is there, the visuals don't dissapoint, the music rocks, and Steve Purcell kept a close eye on developement. This is the sequel you've been waiting for so grab your credit card and order the damn thing today. You won't regret it and you'll certainly get your money's worth. And remember, it's just a beginning. Season Two is approaching and after that, there are still a couple of seasons to come. To convince you further, here's another one of the hidden videos. Enjoy it, and enjoy the game.

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