After a brief issue with the DVD drive on my laptop, I’ve had the opportunity to review a couple more products from the 2011 SHOT Show. 

First is a new video game from game-maker/distributor, Mastiff Games called “Reload”.  At the show, Mastiff had a demonstration of several of their games, which include titles like Remington’s “Great American Bird Hunt” and Shimano’s “Extreme Fishing”.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend.  However, I did get in touch with the company later and was able to get a review copy of “Reload” for the PC (it’s also available for Wii).

As it says on the game cover:

Split second reflexes, nerves of steel and total focus are just part of what it takes to win in this fast paced, pulse-pounding package.  Challenge your friends, grab your weapon, and enter a world where speed and skill decide your fate.  Just don’t forget to reload.

Reload is a target shooting game.  You start out with basic target shooting drills that get more and more difficult as you move up.  Some of it is accuracy, some is speed, and some is both.  Nothing particularly novel there, but I did find it to be a lot of fun… at first.  And then it got hard.  I got stuck.  Then I got frustrated, and that made it even harder. 

So let me back up first and be clear.  I enjoy the occasional computer game, but I’m not what you’d call a hard-core gamer.  I’m not real good at the fast-action shooters, and don’t really have the background to just figure these things out.  I suppose reading the directions would have helped, but really, who reads directions?  Isn’t a completely intuitive user interface a key goal in game design? 

In the case of “Reload”, I was able to jump in and start playing right away without spending time on complex instructions or reading Help files.  After I went back to the instructions and tips, I did learn a couple of tricks that made gameplay easier and improved my scores, but I think I could probably do OK learning on the fly.  I like that in a game. 

I’m also not sure playing on a laptop in my recliner is exactly the environment they had in mind when they put this game out.  Aiming with the touchpad is not nearly precise enough.  Fortunately, I was able to connect a mouse and that helped steady things.  I also read enough of the instructions to find out there’s actually a keystroke that “holds your breath”, and that helped too.  Still, once things got fast and furious, I just couldn’t keep up.  After an hour or so of gameplay, I’m still stuck at a fairly low level… far from the cool stuff that’s supposed to happen later in the game, like hostage rescue and sniper missions. 

It’s hard to criticise a game when the biggest problem is the player, and really, I don’t have anything particularly negative to say anyway.  It’s actually kind of fun, and I intend to load it up on my desktop PC and keep at it from time to time until I get it figured out.  However, I have a feeling that’s gonna take awhile and I thought I should get this review out while the game is still fresh on the market. 

To sum up, I didn’t think this game was particularly easy on the PC, but it is fun (unless you can’t handle frustration).  The graphics aren’t bad, the action is paced well, and it’s definitely challenging.  I can see where it would be a blast to play this with family or friends, and that’s where the Wii version might be a better bet than the PC.  I do think I’d like to try a few more of their titles, particularly the hunting-oriented games. 

All is not fun and games. 

The other title I’ve been looking at is the latest edition of the Firearms Multimedia Guide.  I reviewed the first edition of the Guide last year, but they’ve incorporated a few more features.  This DVD is a reference guide that allows the user to look up just about any firearm you can think of (and some you’d never think of).  There are over 50,000 firearms listed on the DVD, with complete specs and information about ammo, available configurations, and other minutiae.  You can even find the MSRP for just about any firearm you’d be interested in purchasing, as well as a list of FFL locations to help you find a dealer in your area.

The biggest upgrade for the new edition is the inclusion of the schematics for over 1500 guns, but there are also new listings and a selection of printable targets too… just for fun.  The price has gone up by about $10.00 this year, as it now sells for $39.95.  That’s still a pretty good price for such an extensive and easy-to-use reference tool although, to be honest, this isn’t really the kind of thing your casual hog hunter might find particularly useful.  But I would consider it a must for the gun nut or gunsmith, as well as for neophytes to the shooting sports. 

Even more importantly, I think this should be a mandatory tool for any writer who intends to write about firearms… especially journalists.  Every newsroom should have this thing, if for nothing other than a quick fact check before publishing yet another story about “.22 caliber shotguns”.  Novelists and fiction writers would benefit from it as well. 

The Firearms Multimedia Guide isn’t something I’d use every day, but I do like having it on my reference shelf for those times when I need a quick source of information about a specific firearm.  And sometimes I just like to browse it for fun, entering some criteria such as caliber or configuration and seeing what comes up.