Free games! Exploring Gametap.

Following my last post about virtual bargain bins, I went ahead and downloaded some of the free titles from Gametap. I figured I’d check out the service for a little bit before I decide to drop $60 for a year subscription.

There are a couple downloads before you can start playing the free games. There’s a Gametap client which manages your downloads and your playlists, and there’s a plugin involved as well. Pretty painless.

The list of free games has a few gems hidden among the way-casual or older games. Psychonauts for free? It doesn’t get much better than that. Episode 4 of Sam & Max is on the free list (and it’s a tiny download, you can be playing in a few minutes if you have broadband, once the Gametap client and plugin are installed. Well, a few minutes, plus 15 seconds for the advertisement, anyway).  I downloaded Thief: Deadly Shadows, Colin McRae Rally 2005, and Tomb Raider:Legend. What’s up with colons in game titles? Guess I should ask the folks at Star Wars: Galaxies.

I haven’t gotten to Thief yet, but I’ve played a little Tomb Raider and a lot of Colin McRae. Rally 2005 is another total free game gem. If you like racing games, it’s wicked fun. Rally’s not too popular in the U.S., unless you grew up a racing geek like me, but it makes a great driving game. One of my favorite things to watch on TV is the insane lunatics racing in the Dakar Rally, and getting a chance to drive like that in a game is a blast.  And unlike a lot of PC driving games, it’s possible to be competitive using the arrow keys to drive.

Like most things that are free, I figured there had to be some sort of catch. There is, but it’s pretty minor. When you download and play a free game, you have to watch a 15 second ad from the time you click Play. I’ve got a really low tolerance for TV because of all the advertisements, but I hardly notice the 15 seconds before my game starts.

I also played a little Sam & Max, but Rally 2005 was calling me, and I couldn’t concentrate on an adventure/story game. That’s the first Sam & Max I’ve played, and I’m not quite sure what to expect. I’m a fan of some adventure games (Funcom’s The Longest Journey and Dreamfall, for example), but I sometimes get impatient clicking around trying to solve puzzles. I generally prefer to blow things up when I can’t figure things out 🙂

I’m also easily distracted. Suddenly having a bunch of games at my fingertips means I’ll probably be switching back and forth between everything I’ve downloaded.

While I was typing this, I was pulling down the Hitman titles in the free section (The original Hitman and Hitman 47). If I upgrade to the Gold membership, I’m a little afraid of all the choices I’ll have at my fingertips. The “easily distracted” label could quickly be upgraded to “swimming in choices”.
I’m finding Metacritic to be a big help figuring out what might be worth playing. Actually, this is kind of like a game geek research project, like I wandered into a game archive and I kind of get to browse through all the source material, deciding what might be worth checking out. Metacritic definitely helps me sort through things.

There are 117 free games and 897 Gold games. You can browse the entire catalog by genre or divided into Gold and Free. Overall, I’m pretty impressed with what you can play for $60 over a year’s time.

I had one crash in all the time I’ve been playing. I froze up once when I launched Tomb Raider, and I had to hard reset the machine. It hasn’t done that since, so it might have nothing to do with Gametap. Other than that, the worst part of my Gametap experience was waiting for Colin McRae to download, it was a big file. Since it’s free, though, I can afford to be patient 🙂

If you’re looking burned out on daily quests, raiding, drama, alts, PvP, mining, whatever, chances are pretty good you’ll find something to amuse you at Gametap. Between Gametap and Steam, I might never buy games in a retail store again. Still hatin’ Gamestop, but it’s more fun to write something positive about services that work, instead of ranting about Gamestop stores and PC games.

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