Nips, tucks and retextures for gaming's recent past
A far more expansive, imaginative and, frankly, batshit-crazy RPG than its sequel Oblivion, but its spindly puppet-men and myopic draw distance have not aged well.
The modding community has done incredible things for it; replacing almost every texture in the game, new character models, the option to run it any resolution, add HDR and draw essentially the entire world at once. With a bit of legwork, Morrowind can be made to look as good as Oblivion in most ways, and even better in others.
It may not be quite as mad as its prequel, but Oblivion is still one of those games that can draw people back in time and again. The big problem for most people though was the levelling system.
Possibly designed to appeal to everyone, the system of levelling everything in the game to match your level meant that at the same time as being able to complete any quest or dungeon at any point in your character development it also meant that if you reached a high level, then so did all the little bandits, goblins and guardsmen.
Oscuro's Oblivion Overhaul though takes care of this by going through every NPC in the game and giving them a specific level cap. At the beginning this makes things double-hard, and you'll find yourself having to run away a lot, but it makes you pay more attention to the minutae of your avatar.
There's a whole host of other third-party mods built into the latest version of OOO, including a full worldwide economics system as well as a raft of cosmetic enhancements. Check it out here.
System Shock 2
Two complementary mods have kept the spiritual precursor to Bioshock alive and well. System Shock 2 Rebirth replaces the blocky character models with smooth modern version – including, controversially, a monster with oversized ladylumps – while the Shock Texture Upgrade Project repaints walls and items with pin-sharp new textures.
Shock 2 remains an astonishing game, and these mods mean its peerlessly creepy atmosphere is relatively undiminished by the march of technological progress.
Also worth a look is System Shock Portable, which gets the first Shock to play nice with XP et al, and can even run from a flash drive – ideal for netbooks.
One of the finest single player role playing games ever made, at least in terms of narrative and emotional clout. What can change the nature of a man, it asks? Well, staring at pixels the size of baby's heads will probably drive any man to violence.
Fortunately the curiously understated Widescreen Mod changes all that. When this 2D game's hand-painted backdrops are stitched into hi-def versions, what its artists created becomes jawdropping.
The interface suffers a little at monster resolutions, but it scarcely matters when the landscapes are quite this imaginative and beautifully created. This mod also supports Baldur's Gate 1 and 2 and as well as both Icewind Dales.
Similar projects also exist for the original Fallout and Arcanum: of Steamworks and Magic Obscura.
Deus Ex: Invisible War/Thief 3
Some might claim that Deus Ex 2's graphics are the least of the immersive sim/FPS' problems. They might have a point. However, there's no denying that freeing the troubled sequel's visual technology from the constraints that were imposed on it by the original Xbox (the system it was primarily made for) helps make its world a whole lot more palatable.
John-P's vast collection of new textures comes to around 790 in total, and the effect upon the game is startling.
Thief: Deadly Shadows was perhaps in less need of a visual overhaul than most of these games (you spend most of the time in the dark, after all), but it definitely makes for a better-looking game overall, and will keep you busy until the Dark Mod is finished.
Protagonist Garrett in particular looks much more realistic, and the scarring around his false eye is impressively horrific. Grab both upgrade packs from here.
First published in PC Format Issue 231
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