Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Games of 2009 - The Lookback

Specifically, Tingler's lookback, for despite being in China and having no legal access to this blog I've still managed more posts in the last couple of months than all my companeros combined. I do invite them to have a look see and do their own lookbacks on the year... but for now this is mine, all mine! Bwahahahaa!

My main focus is
this post here that I did at the beginning of the year - my Most Wanted games of 2009. Let's see how my choices all held up here at the end, and which games I missed that I found myself more drawn to (and yes, I realise it'll still be 2009 for the next few weeks, but I somehow doubt there'll be any games released in the next couple of weeks that'll sway me!):

My Most Wanted 2009...

Batman: Arkham Asylum - ahh, this one I got right at least. There was the possibility it could be a linear and dull action/adventure, but instead was a highly polished labour of love. It got Batman spot on, and for that it instantly becomes my game of the year. Even the little things impressed me, like saving in the middle of a hard boss fight - how many games do that? Loved it.
Wolfenstein - conversely, probably my biggest disappointment of the year. Not terrible, but a decidedly average and poorly designed FPS that shamed the name Wolfenstein. There wasn't even a fucking chaingun - how can you have a Wolf game without a chaingun?! The final boss sucked ass too, and don't get me started on the needs-an-Xbox-pad multiplayer.

Wallace & Gromit's Grand Adventures - sadly overshadowed by Tales of Monkey Island, both in terms of public perception and in Telltale's mind. The Xbox releases disappeared, the final episode was a rushed buggy mess with a terrible finale, and the whole thing just wasn't as funny as the source material. It looked and felt perfect at least, and episode 3 (Muzzled!) was almost great, but I doubt it'll be back for a second season.

Fatal Frame IV/Project Zero IV - a shame this, the only game on my list not to make it out at all. It could've been the scariest game this year despite being on Wii, instead it seems to have been forgotten. Silent Hill: Shattered Memories should've taken its place... although I can't play that yet where I am now!

Ghostbusters - I was correct, nothing stopped me from enjoying this game, not even the European release becoming exclusive to Sony until last month. A quick PC import that turned out was ridiculously lacking multiplayer, not to mention the repetitiveness of the combat, did nothing to dampen my enthusiasm. I enjoyed it, but doubt I'll play it again for a while. Got a two-page review out of it for Zone though, so it wasn't all bad!

Brütal Legend - I thought it was impossible for me not to like a Tim Schafer game, but here it is. Word of mouth, for the first time in Schafer's gaming catalogue, turned against him, as the demo and all EA's marketing forgot to mention one thing - that the majority of Brütal Legend was a strategy game. It looked like a hack-n-slasher with some cool vehicles, and sounded like a Guitar Hero imitator. Understandably, people were not impressed. When you have to do a huge blog post to explain exactly how to play your game, you haven't done your job as a game designer.

Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings - you know how I said how getting Batman spot-on in game form instantly made Arkham Asylum my game of the year? Well, if Staff of Kings had done that with Indiana Jones it would've beaten it. It didn't. I knew, honestly, as soon as LucasArts made it Wii-only that it would be crap. It was being made by A2M for starters, the studio reknowned for only making shit licensed games. They even forgot Indy's satchel. If they couldn't even be bothered to look at a picture of Indiana Jones before they shipped their game, then they obviously couldn't give a shit.

FEAR2: Project Origin - may not have been as good as the (PC ONLY) original, but I still enjoyed it. It just wasn't as scary, and too easy, at least until the (PC ONLY) patch came out. The Mech bits were a bit wasted too. The Reborn mission pack, despite being a bit short for the price, was excellent, and returned the superb Paxton Fettel to the series. I'm eager to play the next one already.

... And the ones I missed

Dragon Age: Origins - A very close contender for game of the year, I just simply didn't expect it to come out in 2009 and be so great. It's not Baldur's Gate III and that dodgy Day One DLC and confusing multiple Special Editions have tarnished it a bit, but it's still a damn fine game. It was so good I even considered writing a post on it until I forgot. D'oh.

Left 4 Dead 2 - no one expected this and the fan hate (from me included) is still palpable. It was a great game finally, but Valve have obviously abandoned the original now without giving it anywhere near the updates it deserved.

Tales of Monkey Island/Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition - I knew about these before they were announced, but like many others I'd written them off as fan-wishing rumours. Monkey Island 5 being licenced to ex-LucasArts guys Telltale? LucasArts themselves, who had just fucked Indiana Jones again and fired all their staff, making a special edition of the original game? Not likely! Then both turned out to be true, and I almost spontaneously exploded.

Call of Juarez: Bound In Blood - hadn't played the original so wasn't particularly looking forward to this, then Dave recommended it, I loved it and the sequel immediately went on my wish list. Was far more of a straight FPS game, but still very enjoyable.

Cryostasis - more of a first-person horror adventure game than a shooter, it ties up plenty of scares, a cool Quantum Leap narrative device and a brilliant warmth-as-health mechanic. A great game from an unknown developer.

Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena - again, I hadn't played the original, so hadn't considered this before. Luckily I loved Starbreeze's previous game (the sadly console-only The Darkness) and so was eager to get this, and I wasn't disappointed. I even picked up and enjoyed the movie! That surprised me more.

I'll be back for a Most Wanted 2010 post at some point soon, but I'm quite happy with the way 2009 went. Fortunately a hell of a lot of games were delayed to early next year, so I have a lot to talk about... if no money to buy them all!

- Chris Capel


Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Noumiso!

Left 4 Dead may have become strangely prophetic.

Get those safe rooms and random piles of miscellaneous ammo ready.

- Chris Capel

Thursday, 12 November 2009

An Open Letter To The Internet

Dear World,

I have not bought, nor am planning to buy, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Modern Warfare 2, Modern Warfare Reflex, Activision's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, That New Infinity Ward Call of Duty Game, Modern Warfare 2: Modern Harder, or whatever the fuck it's called now.

Stop asking about it and stop telling me about it.

That is all.

Chris Capel

P.S. It's not just because I'm in China and can't actually buy it either.

Friday, 6 November 2009

China Chris

Yes, I'm now in China, and bloody freezing it is too. The big shocker was both what I could and what I couldn't get. Could included Dairy Milk, Everlasting Gobstoppers (unavailable in the UK for many years but now officially available in every other sodding country I've ever been to), Steam (fortunately), plenty of English books and DVDs and the ability to order any one I fancied from Amazon UK or US.

Saying that, China only lets in a few English language films and games in each yeah. That being the case, why oh fucking why did two of those have to be the atrocious adventure game FBI Confidential and the Max Payne movie?!?

Still, I'm more worried about that second lot - the can'ts. I couldn't access this blog for example, and it took some tricky playing around to get that access back (and is very temperamental I've got to say, if you're reading this it's nothing short of a miracle).

I also can't buy games. DVDs and books? No problem, but games off Amazon? No way! Steam as usual won't let you buy anything abroad, so getting Left 4 Dead 2's going to require some creativity. Fortunately Direct2Drive is proving to be a saviour as I can buy and play things without hassle from there. I'll have a Dragon Age post up in due time.

Until then I'll sign off, but expect more fun from the Land of the Dragon... y'know, if they bloody let me see this blog.

- Chris Capel

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Boredomlands and Dragging-on Age

(Okay, slightly unfair title as I haven't played either yet, but I thought it was too good to pass up)

Here's what this post is really about though. A few weeks ago Gearbox/2K announced that the PC version of Borderlands was going to be put back a week for "optimisation purposes".

This was a lie. Not only are stores getting the PC version at the same time as the console version, but it's clearly complete. People who managed to get hold of a legal copy in the confusion simply can't play it, as Securom forces them not to until the game's official PC release date - which was obviously put back for no good reason whatsoever. Why not go the whole hog and just shut people out from playing your game forever? They can't return their copy, so you'll get the money no matter what. Plus the criticism will be slightly less.

In a similar vein, i.e. delaying PC versions of games and then lying about why, Eurogamer previewed Dragon Age: Origins this week. Note paragraph 4 on the first page:

"...publisher EA started distributing a complete PC review version to press months before its release."

Um... excuse me? The game was finished for its original release date, then? The one you put back claiming Bioware needed more time to finish and polish the game? Bullshit. You (being EA) were terrified of the prospect of a PC game being released months before the console version. You were worried that console would feel left out and just ignore the game when it was finally released, or you were worried about that everyone would pirate it on PC and not buy it on consoles.

To 2K, EA, Bioware and Gearbox: fuck both of you. If Dragon Age had been released when it was supposed to have been I would've got the Special Edition and all the DLC. Now I'll stick with the standard version. And I'm not even going to bother with Borderlands at all now. Thanks guys, you just saved me a lot of money.

- Chris Capel

Monday, 19 October 2009

Brütal!

Yes, we're still here. I've been extremely busy since the last post (doing an English Teaching course, y'know), and the others, well, they're just... themselves.

Anyway, let's talk about some games quickly. In fact one in particular, since I've just finished it: Brütal Legend. After the fantastic Psychonauts (as featured in our Bare Essentials gaming list on the right) the ever-misspelt Tim Schafer and never-misspelt Double Fine have been beavering away on this big homage to the epic heavy metal music of yore.

Despite being advertised everywhere as a free-roaming/driving hack n' slash game, people are going to be quite shocked to discover that that's only the first hour or two. Pretty much all of the rest of the game is a genre that we PC players know exist but console gamers have never heard of, hence why everyone's wrongly referring to it as an RTS game. It's nothing of the sort: it's an Action Strategy game. The biggest comparisons are to Sacrifice and the Reaper third of Giants: Citizen Kabuto. You're right in the middle of the action, but you're commanding troops on the fly too.

And sadly, this is where two things come in: 1. All types of Strategy game are much more at home on the PC because it's far easier to issue orders with the mouse and keyboard, a problem which makes ordering and controlling units very frustrating in Brütal Legend, and 2. Double Fine have no experience of this genre, and it shows.

They break one of the big Golden Rules of Good Gaming: if you get something new, useful, and vitally important, you need to be shown how to use it, and then be forced to do so to make sure you get the hang of it. Brütal Legend does not do this, and it doesn't do it often. If I hadn't been told by Kotaku that Rally Flags existed I never would've used them, and I never would've finished the game.

The style, humour, and story (despite an anticlimactic rushed ending) suck you in, but unless you're an Action Strategy Heavy Metal fan, you'll get frustrated fast. Brütal Legend's easy to fall in love with, but hard to love. At least for me.

- Chris Capel

Monday, 28 September 2009

Feudian Slip

I've mentioned before my plans to stay in China with my girlfriend for a while. I'll be going end of October, but my original plan was end of September - pretty much now. I remember when the date slipped due to various reasons, looking at the gaming release schedule and thinking "at least there's some damn fine consolation prizes".

What a great month. Bioshock 2, Dragon Age Origins, Borderlands, Alpha Protocol, Brutal Legend...

Of course, we know what happened next. Bioshock 2? Next year. Dragon Age Origins? November. Borderlands? Last day of October now, after I'd moved forward my travel plans since nothing was coming out October 30th previously. Alpha Protocol? Next year now very probably (although Sega are still baffingly tight-lipped). Brutal Legend? Despite my fervent predictions/hopes/demands, EA aren't releasing it on PC (yet). As my 360 ain't coming with me, I have to turn down a Tim Schafer game. I feel dirty.

Oh, I'll be playing most of them no doubt (unless they require some hideous online activation that won't work in China...), but this constant slipping does really bug me. Especially when it's unique to the PC.

Borderlands has slipped a week, only on PC. What the fuck guys? Surely you knew about all these technical things? And didn't you make the damn game on a PC? It works fine! And if it doesn't, how does just an extra week help?

Assassin's Creed II was never coming October, but it was coming November - now the PC version isn't. It seems like someone at Ubisoft made a mistake when they said it was coming out on PC at the same time as the console versions and they've only just realised. "Sacre bleu (they're French, remember)! Assassaaan's Creed Deux was announced as coming le same date for PC! PC games do not come out at le same time as le consolé, it just isn't Tour De France!"

This just in: Mass Effect 2 delayed on PC. "We were just kidding," explains Bioware. "We never thought anyone would take that announcement seriously. I mean, whoever heard of a PC game releasing at the same time as the console version?"

- Chris Capel

Friday, 11 September 2009

Back to the Front

"You will die, when I say, you will die... BACK TO THE FRONT!"

That's what Metallica once said and, at the moment, I feel like dying. It might certainly be less painful than the sciatica/back trouble I'm currently suffering from. At the moment, it is calm, but who knows when it might rage again. Right on deadline week too, sadly.

Also, I've been severely vexed by the atrocious state of our national health service, which has literally refused to provide me with an appointment to see a doctor because I, not having lived in my new flat for more than two weeks, don't happen to have a bill addressed to me. Funny that. Now I have to get the billpayer/landlord to write me a note before I can be registered.... which then takes 7 sodding working days to "process" and then AND ONLY THEN can I actually begin to even make an appointment! By the time I see a doctor, I won't be in any pain, so they'll probably refuse me a note....

What a fucking system.

DB

Thursday, 10 September 2009

I never could get the hang of Thursdays

If there's one thing I love as much as gaming, it's the works of Douglas Adams. While Last Chance To See is probably my favourite (now being "updated" as a Sunday documentary with Stephen Fry which, sadly, isn't as funny because the team aren't quite as incompetent), no book series has had a big an influence on my writing as his most famous work, The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. The five books, the two radio series, the TV series, and to a much lesser extent the incredibly hard computer game.

As I said, it's a huge influence on my writing - and so therefore my entire life. Hell, the damn book was even first published the day after my birthday!

Which means that nothing in the world pisses me off quite so much as people fucking with it.
The first screwing with is this latest re-release of the books. First off, why is it still so impossible to find a collection of the five books together? Especially in paperback? It's very easy to find a paperback collection of the first four books, but why would anyone buy that? It's missing the fifth!

The latest re-re-re-re-re-re-release is, once again, all five books separately. Even more stupidly, they don't go with the new book cover which I'll talk about shortly. This is obviously a money issue, but it's still ridiculous.


But some bright spark had the idea of giving away stickers with SciFiNow magazine to customise the books with official new "wacky" artwork that once again misses the point of the books spectacularly.


If you had some stickers themed on Hitchhiker's Guide what would they be? A big '42'? The words 'Don't Panic'? Dolphins? A totally black spaceship? A man with two heads? A man in a dressing gown? A Babel Fish? A snotty green lump-like Vogon? A slogan advertising 'Milliways', 'Stavro-Mueller Beta', or 'The Domain of the King Bar & Grill'? A bored-looking robot?


Here's what I got:

Yes, I couldn't be bothered to scan it in and just took this with my camera.

You'll notice that none of those things I mentioned turned up. Instead we have:

  1. Some generic-looking planets with one attempting to be wacky.
  2. A very generic-looking flying saucer spaceship.
  3. A green drink that I assume is meant to be a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster but looks so generic it could be anything.
  4. A cartoon cow that looks in no way alien.
  5. A sandwich, which is one I could agree with - pity it's so small.
  6. A number 37 raffle ticket, which I also agree with.
  7. A pair of generic-looking sunglasses which I presume are meant to be Zaphod's Peril-sensitive pair but which frankly don't appear cool or imaginative in any way.
  8. A fish bowl with a fish in it. If it had "So Long..." written on it I could accept it. If the fish was a small, yellow, leech-like and very odd Babel Fish instead of a generic goldfish I could accept it. It doesn't and I don't.
  9. An electric guitar. This one puzzles me the most. The rest I can identify at least, as poorly designed as they are, but I can't think of a single guitar in the whole saga. Can some correct me? Maybe they were thinking of Red Dwarf...
  10. This one is the real kicker: an analogue watch. This is the one that proves that whoever designed these stickers didn't give a shit about Hitchhiker's Guide. Anyone who's read the first book, listened to the first radio series, or watched the TV series will know that the whole joke here is about digital watches. Whoever pulled these stickers off Clip Art didn't know their Gargle Blasters from their gold brick to the head.

Oh, and there's the small matter of a new book coming out, not by Douglas Adams, which is being released on my birthday. Gee, thanks world.

- Chris "Pissed at Eoin Colfer and SciFiNow" Capel

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Shh... Alpha Protocol release date, keep it under your hat!

Okay, now what the fuck is up with the release dates this year? First pretty much every game was delayed to "give it the time needed", or in Activision's case in a surprise moment of honesty, "not come out within three months of Call of Duty: Overpriced Warfare 2". While it's good that publishers are trying to thin out the number of games released in the always crowded Christmas period, they're all delayed to the same time next year - meaning the first few months of 2010 is going to be equally crowded!

To be honest, it's not the slipping, it's the ones that just slip out of my grasp that annoy me. I'll be going to China for a good long while on 23rd October, so that's the last possible day for me to buy a game from the shops. So when Dragon Age slipped from that week to just two weeks later, that made me annoyed. Oh, I'll still be able to download it (LEGALLY), but the install's about 20Gb with discs! Borderlands, if you slip too, I'll be ticked off.

But I'm more worried about Alpha Protocol.

Now I've got lots of hopes and worries about this game anyway. Right now the game is down for an 'October' release. That's just a few weeks away and still we don't have a proper release date.

Right now there must be serious arguments in Sega HQ about the game. They've been saying October all year, to slip it now will make them look incompetent and stupid. On the other hand, rushed release dates have spoiled all of Obsidian's other games and will get them some serious marking down if it happens to Alpha Protocol too.

However, there's one day in October that Gamestop is touting (Amazon UK's saying 4th Oct) and that's 27th October. In no way can Sega release an RPG using a Bioware graphics engine and style on that day, for the obvious reason that Dragon Age comes out a week later. No matter how different they are, Bioware are a known quantity for most people. PS3 owners burned by Mass Effect will want to see what the fuss is about, 360 fans of KOTOR and ME will consider it a must-have, and PC owners know Bioware pretty well by now.

So, yeah, don't release Alpha Protocol a week before a Bioware game, Sega. Release it on or before 23rd October, they're the best dates.

- Chris Capel

Sunday, 16 August 2009

The Devil Vs The Tingler

You know, I was ready to come here and do a big post about Bobby "CEO of Activision, Blizzard, Sierra, and Hell" Kotick's latest affront to gaming, in which he claims that people are happy with existing franchises and you don't need new IP. But then I started worrying about my immortal soul.

Now, this was going to be a big rant about how Call of Duty isn't that old a franchise really. Furthermore if people don't inevitably get bored with a franchise some company will come along and do it better and more excitingly - which is exactly what Call of Duty did to the formally popular Medal of Honour franchise. Finally, if you don't create new games, where are these magic "old" franchises coming from?

But you know what? I'm not like that. I wouldn't even call Mr Kotick the stupidest most money-grabbing arrogant over-confident CEO prick who's ever put stupid word to mouth. Let's look at his exact words:

"A small segment of very vocal gamers say everything has to be new and different every year. Actually, people are happy with existing franchises, provided you innovate within them."

You see, perfectly reasonable. It's totally true about innovating with franchises. Look at Super Mario for example, he's been going strong since the '80s and people still get excited about his latest games.

Unfortunately, Activision doesn't innovate. Modern Warfare 2, as good as it may be, is not going to innovate. The most innovative thing about World At War was the Nazi Zombies mode, and that only came with one map. And as for Guitar Hero... don't make me laugh.

The most innovative game from Activision this year was, surprise surprise, an original game: Prototype.

More to the point, we're happy with innovation in existing franchises. I agree with that statement. I'm looking forward to Thief 4, Fallout: New Vegas, Deus Ex 3, Doom 4, Mass Effect 2, and indeed Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. The trouble is I'm more looking forward to Borderlands, Dragon Age: Origins, Rage, Alpha Protocol, Scribblenauts, and Batman: Arkham Asylum (technically a franchise, but the first in a proper Batman series anyway).

Oh, fuck it, what am I on about? This guy's Satan and he's only saying this stuff to make excuses for pumping out the same shit every year and inflating the price for each instalment. Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 in 2011 will cost £70, you mark my words. Go back to Hell, Kotick.



Bobby Kotick pictured in his usual office under the Earth's crust.

- Chris Capel

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Wot is Welsh?

Wales. Yeah, apparently it is in fact a real place inhabited by like five or six people. I'm as surprised as you are. I always thought "Welsh" was just a funny accent, and a word you might use to describe the clearing of your throat, but apparently it's a real language that people actually speak. In the mythical land of Wales. All five or six of them.

Anyway, apparently the five or six people in Wales who actually speak this strange language, "Welsh", would like a particular popular computer game to be translated into their native language.




So, I find myself wondering...of these five or six mythical "Welsh" people, how many of them actually speak Welsh? And how many of those don't actually speak English?


- Brax

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Genesis of the Tingler

Here is my online name's origin story.

I wish horror films were still made like this. It certainly deserves to be counted as one of the Top 20 Most Dangerous Films ever made. Out of that list, it's the only movie that's ever physically attacked the audience!

Sunday, 2 August 2009

I fucking love Plants Vs Zombies

Anyone who's been on a game site in the last couple of months can't have failed to notice the ads for a crappy game called Evony. Not that the game itself is worthwhile in any way (being a shit Civilisation rip-off that charges you for play), but the ads themselves have actually drawn more criticism than the game itself. The game doesn't even really feature women at all, let alone Nuts models to save.


Fortunately though, PopCap have noticed all this and responded in the best way possible with their latest ad campaign for Plants Vs Zombies:


- Chris C

Monday, 27 July 2009

I© Own™ ¥our $oul

Without wanting to sound like a stereotypical idealistic student-type with nothing better to do than whine about the many injustices of the world, I'm going to have a good old whine about one of them

Patents and IP and all that shit.

While, as an aspiring writer, I find myself frothing at the mouth over any tale of plagiarism, there is a limit to that which I believe one can claim ownership of, at least in terms of ideas and intellectual property.

Not too long ago, I read the following piece on Kotaku, detailing a patent for drop in/drop out coop gameplay, and it made me think. What if, back in the day, id had decided to patent many of the FPS gameplay mechanics that Wolfenstein and Doom made so popular? What if someone had patented the idea of looking down and seeing your own legs while in a first person perspective? What if someone had patented the idea of weapons with alternate fire modes? If everyone owned every gameplay concept, gaming history would be a hell of a lot less interesting.

I remember playing one of the Broken Sword games, and marvelling at its installation process and the fact that, rather than have me sitting there bored, it gave me a little mini-game to play while I waited. This was a fantastic idea. Not only was I mildly entertained and distracted during the lengthy installation, but I couldn't help but respect the developer's attention to detail and dedication to the spirit of entertainment. And that was the last time I saw such a mini-game. For years I wondered why nobody had caught onto the idea of installation/loading screen games, until someone told me (think it was Steve) that they couldn't. That somebody owned the idea. Somebody whose games I didn't generally play, and who clearly could not be arsed with the idea anyway.




I'm all for the protection of intellectual property...but surely there's a line to be drawn between protecting your interests against those who might simply steal from you and profit by it, and jealously warding off competition 308 to the point of shitting 311 on anyone who might prove to *be* competition by claiming ownership of concepts that are, when you think about it, borderline abstract. It's a wonder nobody has patented the first person perspective really, or the presence of characters with both left and right legs...or, hell, simply the concept of "a computer game".

Can you imagine how many writers would be fucked if similar things happened in the literary world? Nobody could ever be "inspired" by the works of other writers, for fear of being mashed into the ground, legally speaking, by some publisher who had once patented the idea of "a person or group of people who live through a dramatic series of events, learn important life lessons, face overwhelming odds and eventually prevail". Hell, they'd be lucky to write a prologue without discovering that someone owned the concept.

You know what? Here's mine:

I'm gonna patent the idea of an omnipotent supernatural entity that created the universe and everything in it, occasionally interacts with mankind by means of miracles, magic, angelic visitations, burning bushes and ethereal voices, may or may not have a beard and lives in the clouds surrounded by annoying fuckers that play harps incessantly. Ergo, I own god.
In fact, no, wait...fuck it, I'm gonna patent reality. Ergo, I AM god.


In other news,
experts have been discussing the possible repercussions of advanced AI, such as viruses that mimic human interaction with the digital world for the purposes of identity theft, or the "Skynet Scenario", as I'd like to call it;
"a runaway chain reaction of machines capable of building ever-better machines."
Of course, they're a bit late. In my opinion, Skynet has already planned our downfall in the form of Conficker.


- Brax

Monday, 20 July 2009

Why F.E.A.R. 2 Was Crap

This wasn't in it.

- Chris C

Rage Gives Me Rage

Way to alienate your entire fanbase, John Carmack:

Game is being developed with controller first in mind (X360 pad on PC version demo'ed) because Carmack says, "...the largest chunk of our market's going to be on the consoles."

Gee, thanks id Software!

Furthermore, reading all the information on that website, one thought came to mind (apart from things to do with every single copy of Wolfenstein and Carmack's arse):

"Isn't that Fallout?"

- Chris C

Sunday, 19 July 2009

I'msorrywhut?

So here I am, having vanished yet again (due in no small part to University cock-ups and my subsequent need to hide in a small hole and play games until 5am). I survived not only another week being molested by Dave and Steve at PCZ, but also the worryingly obsessive 105 hours spent in Fallout 3 (more on that story later).

In the meantime, I just thought I'd have a good short bitch about something.

Bioshock team's next project more "ambitious" - Kotaku


Uhuh. "More ambitious" than anything they've ever done? "Substantially more ambitious than Bioshock"?

What, you mean like...System Shock 2?


- Brax

Friday, 17 July 2009

We don't care about the young folks

Now this caught me by surprise. I'd been looking forward to Call of Juarez: Bound In Blood for a while and I've nearly finished it. In fact I'm fairly certain I'm on the last level,
ominously set in the same fort I bitched about recently. I was also really enjoying Fallout 3, which is still very new. Plants Vs Zombies also took up a bit of my free time too.

And then, out of nowhere, I got hit with a retro vibe. Instead of finishing Call of Juarez, I've returned to Return To Castle Wolfenstein. Instead of killing Super Mutants with my dog friend in Fallout 3, I've got back into the Clone Wars in Republic Commando. Instead of killing Michael Jackson as a zombie (ahem) I've insulted pirates and enslaved monkeys in Secret of Monkey Island.

Of course I'm blaming LucasArts for most of this. Releasing a load of their old classic games of Steam along with a really cheap Special Edition of one of the greatest and funniest games ever made? Sold. Wolfenstein's Activision's fault though, delaying the game for two weeks and reminding me how much I preferred RTCW to Medal of Honour.

Now with Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 up to fifty-fucking-five pounds I'm actually looking forward to Raven's attempt.

Although I'm sure I'll get halfway through it and start playing Blood instead.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Coincidence?

Turns out I'm actually a German writer, journalist, actor and model. Won a few awards too. Who knew?

Wait a minute, that's the life I want! DAMN YOU PHILIPP TINGLER!


Smug git.
- Chris 'Not P. Tingler' Capel

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Dragon Age, by... who, again?

Here's an interview with Bioware's Ray Muzyka about Dragon Age: Origins.

Here's what I was thinking while watching it:

The Witcher, The Witcher, The Witcher, yeah right, you said that about Mass Effect, The Witcher, The Witcher, we getting a story or something? It looks like a MMO! A book, like The Witcher, backstabbing Bioware saying its just as good on consoles when you just said PCs were the only platform getting the quest editor, The Witcher, is that a console screen in the background? The Witcher... ooh, October 23rd? Cool!

- Chris Capel

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Merge For The Kill!

Developers, merge and form Devastator!

Sorry for the crappy Transformers reference, I'm just trying to put a lighter spin on June Merge Week as it's beginning to be known.

First Bethesda purchases id Software yesterday, today EA staples together Mythic and Bioware. Tomorrow Valve is becoming 2K Steam.
So what does this mean for us? That some great developers aren't as independant or free from publisher messing around as we'd hoped? I think that should be obvious now. Ensemble Studios never made a bad game that wasn't successful, and Microsoft destroyed them. Irrational Games sold their souls to 2K to make Bioshock a success, the game paid for it, and they're not even allowed to touch the sequel. Westwood and Bullfrog got devoured whole by EA, and all they'd done was make great genre-defining games. Lionhead have lost Peter Molyneux and must surely be on their way out. Rare is now making casual games and 360 avatar clothing.
I'm more interested in what will happen with the games. I doubt Bioware will change much, but poor Mythic feel like they've just been trodden on. I'd hoped EA were past this stage. Bioware have already made their mistakes.
It's the id Software buyout that has me raising my eyebrows. They've been with Activision for years, and it's obvious they don't like what that publisher's become now. Even Rage is still down for being EA published instead. I'll give John Carmack some due for being honest, but mostly to this quote:
"We're not going to change the kinds of games we make…. It allows us to accelerate the growth of our internal studios, so we can focus on making all of our internal games as opposed to working with external partners where there has been a step down in quality..."
Heh. Not liking the look of Wolfenstein either, John? Still, about damn time. Doom 3 came out five years ago, and all we've had since then are ports. Rage isn't due out until next year, and it's looking... unexciting so far. Maybe if id stop worrying about making a new engine from scratch for every game and hoping to rely on licensing to keep them going (which backfired with the D3 engine), and instead work on making games, maybe they wouldn't be selling out. And hopefully now they'll stop getting Raven to make their games...
Oh, and 2K Boston's days are numbered. You know I'm right.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Oh the Payne, the Payne of it all!

Why are they even bothering? I think Rockstar are a little too up their own arse with their dark, gritty stories.

You know, I'm actually looking back at the Max Payne movie with something approaching respect at this point. Even Mark Wahlberg, the unexplained weird Valkyr angels, and the dull non-ending (all they had to do was copy the game's, and they fucked it up! There was even a helicopter circling the building, but did Max blow it up? NO!).

None of these compare to... whatever this is.

Now, I'm going to have a go on Stranglehold.

- Chris C

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Remove head from onus kthx

Tomorrow I'm off to London, and on Monday I shall be returning to Team PCZ to ooze sexuality at them and smother them in Braxline goodness. Come on Dave, you know you want it.

Anyway, this week in a new series I'd like to call Americans Trying Too Hard, "Tycho" from Penny Arcade once again rapes the English language -

"...I can't actually enunciate a clear onus that would culminate in your purchase..."

Mate, seriously, you can't expect to "enunciate" anything clearly with your head so firmly entrenched between your own buttocks. In all honesty, I don't think I've ever read beyond the first paragraph of a Penny Arcade article without feeling my brain start to trickle from my ears and nose.

SPEAK ENGRISH.

Don't get me wrong; I love Americans. They're awesome. But my GOD, when they start to think that their grasp on the English language is anything other than tenuous...the pain of it. It's like when a friend gets all intellectual down the pub, finds a fancy word like...like "dichotomy", and tries to crowbar it into every sentence. It's the very zenith of facepalmery.

Urgh, now I'm doing it. Who the fuck says "zenith"?


You know, I think there was a character in Unreal Tournament called "Zenith". Can you imagine what a twat he'd be in conversation?

"My name is Zenith. Because I am."
"You am what?"
"The Zenith."
"Is your head pointy or something?"


- Brax

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Call of Wrrarrrezzz

In preparation for the very good looking sequel out in a couple of weeks, I decided to try out the original Call of Juarez. Basically the only Western game I've ever played was the classic LucasArts FPS Outlaws, which I enjoyed immensely, so was hoping for a worthy successor. It didn't disappoint. Oh sure, it had it's problems, but it had a great story, an interesting two alternating players mechanic with each character (Ray and Billy) having different skills, some great setpieces, and a fantastic character in Reverend Ray, whose backstory will be told in the sequel/prequel Bound In Blood.

I was hoping the big problems would begin and end with Billy's "spiritual journey" Episode. A gigantic open area you can traverse on horse-back, with mountains, fields, rivers... and no enemies. Techland created this hugely impressive level to go rabbit hunting. That's it. After that you have to climb a mountain, but the massive open area plays no part in that.



Oh, and the mountain, the mountain. This now infamous section involves literally climbing a mountain, which takes ages, all in the name of getting a feather. But it's not just a linear climb, oh no, it's a goddamned maze. And just to further add irritation to this already very irritating cake, there's a eagle that you can't kill that does a very good job of knocking you off the cliff.

I hate you.

In the end though, if you manage to work out that you were actually at the top (I didn't as the eagle kept killing me within moments), grabbed the feather (didn't notice it at first for the aforementioned reason, and even then grabbing a tiny feather while being raped by a homicidal eagle is quite tricky) and made it down the mountain without dying (several quicksaves later), you find it was all for nothing but at least you can get back to shooting things again. Phew.

But unfortunately it wasn't to be the end of my troubles.

The final section of the game is filled with plotholes, conveniences, questionable gameplay choices, stupidity, and the breaking of most of the rules Techland had spent hours carefully cultivating. I don't want to list all the problems... oh, hell, yes I do!

(Some spoilers here, so if you haven't played it and are going to, don't read!)

  1. The baffling removal of Ray's patented 'concentration' mode for all of two moments in the game, with no explanation given.
  2. Respawning enemies for the first time, en masse. This also makes no sense as they don't have anywhere to come in from.
  3. Billy being asked to put his guns down, then having to do a fistfight because his guns have apparently vanished.
  4. Main villain Juarez coming back to life all of three times, and both Ray and Billy being surprised each time he does.
  5. And on the third time, Billy keeps his back to Juarez for ages, allowing him to get to his feet and pull out a Crocodile Dundee-size knife from nowhere.
  6. And if he had a knife all the time, why didn't he use it in the fucking fistfight?
  7. How the hell did Juarez and his entire gang manage to follow Billy through some of the most irritating Tomb Raider traps ever without making a noise, and finally make it there before him?
  8. How did Ray know where to go? We didn't get to play that part.
  9. Some bosses who inexplicably have a health bar, including one who just runs around in circles making you chase him... and he warps, too.
  10. The final moment is just a joke. After Juarez pulls that knife, without any warning you get control and have to shoot him. The first time I didn't realise what was happened and Billy died, long unskippable cutscene, the second time I tried to take out my gun and found out it was a Quick Draw moment even though this the first time the game hasn't slapped me in the face to tell me so, Billy dies again, long cutscene again, third time I do it straight away. The drama's long gone by now though.

Up until this point I was utterly loving this game. By the time this ridiculous scenario was over (and I've by no means mentioned everything that ticked me off, this is just off the top of my head) I was glad to see the back of Call of Juarez.

Nevertheless, I'm still eagerly awaiting the sequel. If there's an eagle however I may just snap the game's disc in half and have done with it.

- Chris C

Thursday, 11 June 2009

OMG PIE-RASEEE!!


"Sure it glows, but can it run Crysis?"

Crysis 2 to hit consoles. With a big stick. Of performance issues. And odd creative decisions.

Here's a thought Crytek; if you're so desperate for money, how about you try releasing a game that actually RUNS ON OUR FUCKING PC'S.

Alternatively, live in a country that doesn't seem to hate you.


-
Brax





Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Monkey Island 5 and 1 Special Edition Out Soon, Life Officially Good

Considering we're named after it I think we're officially obliged to talk about the Monkey Island games here, but as much as we love the games we never thought in a million years would LucasArts:-

a) give the licence to ex-LucasArts adventure game and Sam & Max developer Telltale to make an episodic Monkey Island 5
b) re-release a Special Edition of The Secret of Monkey Island with full voice acting, new improved graphics, and an orchestral soundtrack
c) have Monkey Island as their only internally developed game
d) have Monkey Island as the main game on their website
e) produce an adventure game again after cancelling both Full Throttle: Hell On Wheels and Sam & Max: Freelance Police six years ago and going down the Dark Side of almost pure Star Wars development.



Yesterday they did all of these things.




I heard all the rumours, but I dismissed them as pointless wish-fulfilment. Then they all turned out to be true, and I spontaneously combusted. All I can say is it's lucky I had to change my trousers anyway.


Dominic Armato's still Guybrush! Michael Land's doing the music (his first composing job since helping out with EFMI)! While the consoles get screwed over in some fashion (Wii gets new, 360 gets old, Sony gets nothing) the PC gets everything! And it starts NEXT MONTH!


Gentlemen, start your quotations!

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Consoles invented AI


Are Our Games Alive? - Kotaku

"...More than the graphics or surround sound, the latest game consoles' processing power are bringing to life AI-controlled characters unlike anything experienced before..."

All I can say is,

Fail face.

-_-


- Brax

Friday, 29 May 2009

Chocolate breasts and Dragunovs

So long story short there I was, walking the Las Vegas Strip at midday, sweating in strange new places and in quantities I didn't think were possible, drinking some peculiar blue drink calling itself a "Hurricane" from a long plastic tube, and wearing sunglasses to hide the fact that I was a deformed freak thanks to a nasty case of conjunctivitis.

I drank vast quantities of alcohol to distract me from the fact that there really isn't much to do in Las Vegas except gamble and vomit, I took antibiotic eye-drops to keep myself from going blind, cough sweets to hold back the feeling that I had swallowed razorblades, and received oral sex from my ex in the changing rooms of a multitude of expensive clothing stores that all looked alike (each featuring a clone of the original effeminate trendy-hair-plastic-grin gay shop assistant) as she dragged both me and my roommate through them all without mercy.

Far Cry 2 felt a bit like that.

Yes, it would have been nice if I hadn't had conjunctivitis. Sure, it would have been great if I had slept the night before, or my ex hadn't insisted on assaulting my wardrobe with such zeal, or I hadn't been mentally undressed by quite so many men in one day...
...but all that being said, I achieved an impressive level of intoxication, I saw the sights, my roommate acquired a vast collection of "hooker cards", and by the time we left I felt utterly destroyed in that wonderful "oh my god yes" post-orgasm-panting sense.

And then there were the little moments of magic; the little understated moments that gave the whole thing an added layer of depth. Like driving through the desert at dawn, mountains silhouetted ominously before the rising sun, evaporite basins there in the distance like ghostly lakes. And the time a waiter flirted with my ex, unaware that I was the one paying. HOW YOU LIKE ONE DOLLAR TIP BITCH!?



So yeah, Far Cry 2 was awesome. Fuck all you people with your “I got bord all u do is shot peepol crisis wos bettar”. Crysis can fuck right off; Far Cry 2 looked like breasts smothered in chocolate and yet was just as smooth and occasionally sticky (don't ask).
Oh, and I hereby present a new award to Far Cry 2:

The Brax Award for the Gratuitous Slaughter of Main Characters

Never before Have I been allowed to kill quite so many of the annoying fucks that give you missions in games.
As for the endings; the entire internet seems to think that they were shit, but you know what? Fuck that too. It was a fantastic ending, presuming you weren't a complete pussy and went with the car battery.

So now I'm playing The Witcher. Just thought I'd put that in bold, since everyone has been pestering me to play it for ages.

I have to ask: Why the hell does Geralt have to keep, like, talking? Shut the fuck up Geralt you albino twat and draw your fucking sword. I swear, every time I see a group of bandits just waiting to be slaughtered by the power of my left mouse button, he starts talking to them, brimming with his "I'm not sure if I'm Jack Bauer or Max Payne" grumbling badassery.

And then when he's done talking? HE STANDS THERE LIKE A COMPLETE FUCKING CRETIN, no sword drawn, taking damage while I hammer the "draw your sword you tit" button. The sword he sheathed so that he could tell them he was going to kill them.



GARAWRAWRRARARARWRAWRAARRGH!!!

It's a hot day.

- Brax

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Finding £5 in an Old Pair of Trousers

The title refers to that lovely feeling when we're digging through some old junk we haven't looked at in ages, and finding some real gems we had no idea we had.

Like just now I was digging through my very very old games pile, and discovered this lot:

1. A Star Trek game compilation, comprising Starfleet Academy, Generations, 25th Anniversary, A Final Unity and Deep Space Nine: The Fallen. The last three I was thinking of tracking down as they're supposed to be really good, but it turns out I had them all along!
2. A special Eidos demos CD, with demos of Deus Ex, Anachronox, Thief II, Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation, Urban Chaos, and most prominently... Daikatana. And more! Man that was a good time for Eidos. Mostly.
3. Duke Caribbean - Life's A Beach, Duke Nuclear Winter, and Duke!Zone expansion packs for Duke Nukem 3D. And they work with Good Old Games' version of Duke! Woo!
4. Redneck Rampage Rides Again. I knew I had the original, but the expansion?! No way!
5. Realms of the Haunting. The precursor to Clive Barker's Undying. When did I buy that? And why haven't I played it to death?!
6. Star Wars - Episode I Insider's Guide. Um, okay, I do remember buying that one. Whoops.

- Chris Capel

Monday, 25 May 2009

Post-University Whoring

The degree’s in the bag and there’s little being released this summer, so it’s back to old games I missed first time around.

Brax and I have been playing through the Call of Duty: World at War single player (and the odd round of nazi-zombies) cooperatively. I’m enjoying it – far more than I originally thought I would. Then again, Infinity Ward basically coded the core concept, and TreFail just reskinned it. Thanks go to Steam for offering this at £14.99 (which is actually a reasonable price).

Neverwinter Nights 2 has actually held my attention second time around. I originally played it on release, but found it ridiculously buggy and system intensive, despite the sub-par engine. I’m on the final battle for the keep and might progress onto the expansions if I can pick them up cheap. If not, the community is still thriving and there are plenty of awesome single player mods out there that could capture my attention.

That’s if I don’t lose any remaining free time to Titan Quest: Immortal Throne. Diablo, but in Greece, Egypt, China and Hades. How I missed this first time around I don’t know. Ludicrously addictive and polished, if you enjoy loot, it’s awesome. It’s a shame Iron Lore went out of business.

Freelancer played online with friends is also pretty cool. It’s like a lite-EVE, something I’d probably find myself addicted to if I had the time. Freelancer is what X3 should have done to my spare time. Easy to get into and masses to explore, it’s a blast – apart from trade lane disruptions and Brax’s irritating habit of cutting cruise engines and shooting me when I’m in formation.

Snoozer out.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Spot The Cliché

I've discovered a fun new game. It's called "Spot The Cliché". Basically you watch this trailer for GI Joe and see how many clichés, stereotypes, rip-offs, or things done before and better in other movies you can see. "Here they come!" "It's only just begun..." "We're running out of time!" etc.



I want to make it clear that under no circumstances should you see the movie afterwards. They're never as good as the trailer.

Additionally, doesn't it seem like a live-action version of Team America? Except shit?

- Chris Capel

Monday, 18 May 2009

Correction

I'd just like to say that no, I'm not Paul Presley in disguise. I have beaten him on Football Manager Live a few times, but he supports Arsenal and I completely do not. That is all.

Prezhead.

Well, I'm back!

Bet you didn't even know I was gone, did you? Actually no, you probably did, because no bugger wrote here while I was away (glares at blogmates).

So where was I? As Dave can attest (and Brax too actually, since he was spying on us), I've been living the high life down at Zone Towers in sunny Marylebone.

I won't get into too much detail, but highlights included playing Left 4 Dead "to get screenshots", an okay pub breakfast for £2.99, Dave and mine's comical attempts to play DeathTrack (which was on course for a 0% since it was actually impossible to play it with a keyboard), me getting in 45 minutes early on the first day because I didn't realise they started at 9.30, spending an entire 30 seconds on Dave's computer before managing to spill orange juice all over his desk, Steve making the Dead Space developers cry, Plants Vs Zombies addiction spreading to me after I spent just 5 minutes on it getting some pictures, The Path proving to actually being quite good, Damnation proving to be actually quite shit, Perimeter 2 becoming my new worst game of all time (HOW THE FUCK WAS I SUPPOSED TO DEFEND AGAINST THAT WITHIN 10 SECONDS OF STARTING?!), Brax freaking me out by knowing what I was wearing, CVG playing Mario Kart hourly and only stopping to glare daggers at me for asking whether they played Smash Bros at all, another Telltale game to add to my PCZone reviewing list, being repeatedly stabbed in the back by Omar during Fight Club Team Fortress 2, a surprisingly good Greek pizza, and just generally having a good time.

Oh, and it turns out David Brown is actually just Paul Presley in disguise.

- Chris Capel

Friday, 8 May 2009

And so much for June too.

A couple of posts ago I was disillusioned with the quality of May's games, while at the same time looking forward to June. Well, thanks to last-minute sneaky business tactics, those games might be no longer optional. These two games I'm about to talk about I was really excited about, as you can see if you go all the way back to my Most Wanted List. The first is Ghostbusters: The Videogame and the second is Batman: Arkham Asylum.
(This is all your fault)
This first one wasn't the first to slip but it has me the more annoyed, as the game was already done and will be released in June in the US. It's Ghostbusters, which is one of my favourite films.
Despite the film being a Sony property, Sony didn't give a shit about the game back in 2008 when Activision dropped it. It didn't give a shit when Atari picked it up and carried it on for every format except the Sony PSP. Spider-Man is a far more lucrative license that's even more closely connected to Sony (the PS3 logo is in Spider-Man's font, for example) and yet all the games based on it have always been multi-format. Sony just didn't care.
Suddenly, a month before release and just after ex-Sony head Phil Harrison arrived at Atari, they suddenly give a shit about a game based on a 25-year-old film. Ghostbusters is now PS3 and PS2 exclusive until later in the year. The PSP version comes later. And only in European territories.
I mean, huh? There are so many things here that don't make sense. Why wait until a month before release? Why only push for the PSP version now when it's too late to arrive for the timed exclusivity? Why only in PAL territories? Why are Atari claiming that Sony's support will "allow them to reach more customers in Europe" when they were doing perfectly fine without Sony's help and actually will now be reaching about 64 million less customers than they were before? Why do Sony think this will do anything but piss off Xbox, Nintendo and PC gamers, magazines, stores, and the developers?
Still, us PC gamers have the last laugh because we can import it from the US without fear of region-locking. And even with tax and international delivery rates it's still cheaper than the PS3 version


(You're a bastard too.)

Which brings me on to my second game, which I accept a lot more... providing the reasons behind it were honourable. It's Batman: Arkham Asylum, it was due to come out the same day as Ghostbusters, and once again this decision was only made a month before release (is that day cursed or something?). And unlike Ghostbusters, there's no importing as it's worldwide not coming out until "Late Summer 09". Nice of you to be specific, guys.

Once again just like Ghostbusters, the reason for this seems down to last-minute business shenanigans, with Square-Enix taking over Eidos (the game's publisher). Eidos had been really ramping up the hype (both PCZ and PSM3 have it on their latest covers, demos in stores), so I doubt they would've gone with this choice themselves.

If Eidos/Squeenix are to believed that the game was held back "to make it as perfect as possible" (I thought it was perfect already) then I don't mind too much - more development time means a better game (unless you're 3D Realms of course). On the other hand, maybe they wanted it at a more lucrative time of year... but publishers aren't driven by money, surely?

Oh well, at least I've still got Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings on the Wii.

(Sobs).

- Chris Capel

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Getting all emotional

Maybe I'm a psychopath, but when I was presented with three Nazi prisoners about to be executed by the Russians in Call of Duty: EXTREME HARDCORE AAWWW YEEEAAH! (World at War), my immediate and unflinching response was to shoot them. Poor Gary Oldman; he's a fantastic act0r, but quite frankly he was taking far too long with all his words and sentences and whatnot. Even as he opened his mouth to speak, I had identified the situation as one that had to be resolved before the general violence could continue. So I shot them. And chuckled a little at the abruptness with which what was clearly meant to be a "dramatic" moment was brought to an end. It reminded me a little of Call of Duty multiplayer; of creeping along, watching your corners, keeping an eye open for snipers, staying low and quiet...
...only to have some little shit with an SMG come bunny-hopping around the corner, spraying you with bullets and utterly destroying your attempts to play soldier "properly".

"Wut iz morraleaty?"

Actually, you know what? Fuck you. I'm not a psychopath. I simply failed to connect to the sequence on an emotional level; I saw the entire scenario through the eyes of someone who knows how to make a skybox in UnrealEd. I saw it as that which it really was; a scripted event designed to regulate the flow of gameplay and ensure that it wasn't all run-shoot-run-shoot-quickload. And given that the run-shoot aspect is WaW's strongest component (and it should be, given that the entire game is essentially a WWII mod for CoD4, which had rock solid gameplay), I really didn't want the flow of such running and shooting and frolicking amid the corpses to be regulated at that moment.
Gary Oldman; I love you, but stfu, seriously. Just shoot someone. And then shout, "I. AM. VEWWY DISAPPOINTED!" like you did in the Fifth Element.

Penumbra, however; now that's a different story entirely. I was really very impressed with Overture and Black Plague; they showed not only a level of polish that is rare in indy games, not only a really interesting combination of the FPS and Survival Horror genres, but most surprising of all; they made me feel something.

"WHOTHEFUCKISTHAT!?!"

For a game that uses the player character's isolation and claustrophobia as its primary weapon, I found the secondary characters to be the most interesting and engaging that I've encountered in quite some time. For the most part, they did nothing; they were voices, or text, or the occasional image. For the most part, their physical presence in the game was manifested merely in terms of the associated scenery; the places they'd been, the things they'd done before you arrived. And yet, I found myself actually giving a shit.

Perhaps it was the isolation that served to emphasise what little non-hostile life there was in the game, or perhaps the writing was simply fantastic (certainly, I'd put a few of Clarence's lines up there with HK47, given his tendency to call you "monkey"). More likely it was a combination of the two, and perhaps this is related to the small development team; a closer relationship between the writing, and the "physical" side of the game.

Dunt look like much, but this had me all emotional

Whatever the case; as much as I laughed at the prisoner-execution in World at War for trying too hard to be dramatic...I found myself quite unexpectedly speechless and rather sad at the conclusion of Red's story in Penumbra: Overture. In a world full of games in which I'd happily set fire to virtual opponents, and then throw their flaming flailing bodies at their friends before jumping up and down a bit on the remains...here was a game in which I actually felt a little shocked by such violence. I think it was the manner in which it was handled, in addition to the writing itself; there was no big cinematic effects-laden spectacle. Just a sad end to a pitiable character.

And in the end, I suspect that the easiest way for a game to trigger emotion in the player...is to not try too hard to tell the player what to feel. The trick is to understate the entire thing; if the player in question is capable of feeling something, they'll be more inclined to feel it with a subtle nudge that sets their imagination on fire, than a big foam hand being thrust in their face with the words "CRY NOW BITCH" written upon the finger.

Of course, another way to make the player emotional is to not let them play the game. The publishers of Dark Athena apparently like losing money; completely fucking up the game's PC release so that at least two online retailers no longer have the game's price listed, while potential buyers are having a hard time finding copies in the shops. I was rather looking forward to playing this, having been a fan of the last game, so I'm getting a tad emotional over the fact that the universe apparently doesn't want me to have it.
An emotional state that is compounded by the fact that I'm still waiting for Far Cry 2 to arrive, despite having been told that the item had shipped last week.

- An Emotional Brax

Thursday, 30 April 2009

Mayday, mayday!

It's May tomorrow. Barring a few interesting films, it's a really dull month. Why? Look at the feckin' gaming releases, that's why. Those are the best games out this whole month. The Wolverine tie-in game man! Yeah! When the most exciting film of the month can't be bothered to release a game - this year Star Trek, last year Indiana Jones which only got Lego Indy, and that was in June - it's a sign that publishers really hate the month.

Let's look at some "big" games this month:

Velvet Assassin - potentially okay, a proper pure stealth game, but scuppered a bit by trivialising the real-life story of one of the bravest women in WW2 and the bizarre and exploitative idea that taking morphine removes all her clothes.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine - It's by Raven who I normally would say are a good choice (they've done X-Men before and are a mediumly-good developer), but as they've got a lot on their plate already it can't possibly be any good.
Terminator Salvation - The makers of Wanted: Weapons of Fate create a game that plays identical to it in every way, just with robots. Given the mediocrity of that game (it managed to get boring even though it was only three hours long) I'm not expecting much. They didn't even hire Christian Bale to voice John Connor.
Damnation - This one's been a long time coming, and it could be interesting. I'll wait and see.
Coraline - Film looks great, game looks shite. A familiar pattern.
Fuel - Looks a lot like that Disney racing game that was released last year. Or indeed, every racing game ever.
Fable II DLC - Are you taking the piss?
inFamous - A direct copy of Prototype, rushed out the door so as to beat that game to the shops. And it's PS3-only, which instantly disqualifies it as a purchase for me.
Bionic Commando - Could be fun, if a little console-y.


Compare that to June, which seems to have every game out this Summer crammed into it. After that it's one big drought.


Still, it'll give me time to complete The Witcher at least.


And in other news:



In the words of the great Otto: "Man, that is flagrant false advertising!"

- Chris Capel

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Celebrity Spotting

I met Tim Schafer the other day. I resisted the urge to question him about all his old games, preferring to browbeat him mercilessly about why Brutal Legend isn't currently slated for a PC release. That is all I can actually say due to various embargo agreements etc etc.

But yes, here he is:


(That's Murray behind me, by the way.)



Dave B

Monday, 20 April 2009

Fly SWAT

On the advice of my erstwhile colleagues Dave and Nick (Plughead and Brax to their groupies), I recently purchased tactical FPS SWAT 4. This was partly because it's still a really great game that's fun to play in co-op, but mostly because it's one co-op game where Brax can't yell "Tank!" every few seconds and hack his game to make his character laugh every time he shoots someone.


(The graphics are still excellent)


I was a little wary at first, as I've never warmed to the tactical squad shooter genre. I don't mind stealth, I don't mind planning, I just don't like very very slowly crawling around a map with a bunch of useless bullet-magnets who take commands yet rarely obey them, while being unable to shoot straight yourself and having about fifty keys and a hundred items to keep track of.

And you know what? I was totally, utterly wrong, at least in SWAT 4's case. The teammates are, as I suspected, a little bit brainless (particularly from Dave and Nick's point-of-view), and tend to shoot first stun later. Still, at least they can throw better than Dave.

Apart from that quibble the game's excellent, and far exceeded my expectations. My squad, while a little trigger-happy mostly did what I told them to, even sensibly avoiding corners until they'd been scouted. The equipment was all kept quite sensible, the masses of commands were mostly all mapped to the right mouse button in a lovely simple menu, and it mostly just felt like one of my beloved (but rare) FPS stealth games - except with a squad.


(This is one of the first pictures I got after typing 'SWAT 4' into Yahoo's Image Search. There's not even four of them!)


I'm enjoying the single-player just as much as the co-op, and it reminded me what a great developer Irrational was before they sold their soul to 2K (as much as I like Bioshock, I suspect most of the problems the game, and indeed the franchise now, was down to publisher interference). I can only hope 2K won't stunt their creativity. Still, I'll never forgive them for "2K Boston".

Another Freedom Force, please. '70s-style.
- Chris Capel

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Remake It What It Is

If there's one thing across the board in the entertainment industry I cannot stand, it's remakes. It comes from my own personal desire for originality as a writer, and remakes are the absolute bane of originality (well, that and reality shows, which I also hate but are just a TV-based phenomena at least).

I don't really hate all remakes, just the ones that are unnecessary. For example, I embraced the remake of The Amityville Horror because the original was only "okay" to start with. Unfortunately that turned out to be even worse, but I accepted it as a valid basis for a remake. Friday the 13th is another that wasn't particularly good to start with. Then there are the ones that actually turned out very well, like The Fly or The Thing - although we haven't had any of them for decades. King Kong is the only recent one I can think of.

The likes of The Omen, Halloween, A Nightmare On Elm Street, Psycho, and - eek - The Wicker Man, are unnecessary as the originals are still great.

(No America! Naughty America, put that down right now!)

I also don't like the fact that remakes invariably fit into two categories - the ones that stick too close to the superior originals and make the whole thing seem pointless (The Omen, Psycho) and the ones where they change so much you wonder why they kept the name in the first place (The Day The Earth Stood Still).

America is at the forefront of this practice. When they remake their own films I get cross and slap my head at the unoriginality of Hollywood, but it's when they remake other country's films and TV programs just to make them American that I get really angry. It's bad enough that foreign films, no matter how great, seem to scare Those People In Charge Of The USA. Quarantine was an almost identical remake of [REC], just without subtitles. What's the point? But when British stuff, which is already in English, starts getting remade, then I write angry blog posts.


(You don't know how close the world got to this)

Most of them get cancelled, thankfully. Red Dwarf, Coupling, Life On Mars, Spaced, even Doctor Who (see the Paul McGann movie for reasons why) were planned. The first three were pretty much identical apart from being 'Americanised', raising more questions about the point in doing it. Coupling I loved, because the reason it got cancelled was because they kept the scripts the same and the US press attacked it for having more discussions about sex than any US show. The Office is the only one I don't mind, as that was one of the simplest ideas ever made (even the title was unoriginal).

What makes it even more interesting is that when they leave these things alone, American audiences love them. Red Dwarf, Spaced, Coupling and Doctor Who are really, really popular in the US. Same goes for films - Shaun of the Dead for instance. They couldn't care less that the cast aren't American. Clearly the US public aren't as xenophobic as those in charge make it seem.

Which brings me on to game remakes. I don't really mind them as much, as most are older games that don't really have a story. Prince of Persia, Bionic Commando, Doom 3 etc are more making a new game. Chronicles of Riddick: Assault On Dark Athena is less remake, more 2-Disc Remastered Special Edition.

In fact, the only proper, straight gaming remake I can think of is Tomb Raider Anniversary. This one illustrates the dearth of ideas for Lara Croft right now, with the poor sales of Underworld showing how bored everyone is with the character. I did buy it, but only because it was £3 at Zaavi.

Gaming remakes don't bother me, in other words. On the other hand, if Eidos Montreal are remaking Thief: The Dark Project instead of making a new game in the series there'll be hell to pay.

- Chris Capel

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Inadequate Referencing

"Hey Sarge? Is this war...ethical?"
"Not a real country Joe. Kill'em all."


So, Konami are making a realistic CoD4-style shooter. Everyone's getting worked up over the subject matter...but me, I don't give a flying fuck about whether or not it's "right", whether or not it could be considered morally dubious to make it. For me, the issue is this;

Konami.

Console.

"Realism".

Anyone remember that Daikatana strip Penny Arcade did years back?

CVG article

Kotaku article


Anyway, on to the bulk of my rant for the day. I was reading this here article on New Scientist's website;

Teh New Scientist

"Many studies have suggested that violence in video games could be linked to aggression. To investigate further,"

Of course they're linked to aggression, you fuckwits. All competition generates aggression to varying degrees; it's human nature. Give a player of any game win/lose conditions, and watch the chemicals fly. It's the way our brains work; you give the brain the right stimulus, and it'll switch into chase/kill/flee mode, telling the body to pump you full of all the chemicals required to survive and process information quickly. There's no fucking mystery here, and quite frankly I'd be more concerned if someone played such games and showed an ice-cold state of emotional neutrality and calm...because it'd mean that they were a psychopath, and/or unhinged.

"Fuck! He saw me!"
"Are you feeling aggressive yet?"

But that "violent games ate my baby" verbal-excrement is old news, and an old rant. No, that's not what gets on my man-tits today. What gets on my man-tits today, is this bit:

"To investigate further"

To investigate further. I'msorrywhutnow? No, you can't talk about investigating further, when you're performing exactly the same sort of study as all the others, but with a *broader* range of games.

Let's bring this into some sort of context. Film Theory. Big thing, dontcha know? Entire libraries of people talking bollocks about films, making words up and generally being pseudo-intellectual. Nonetheless, they're respected pseudo-intellectuals, and their essays are required reading for anyone studying films. Not just required reading; such essays must be referenced in any subsequent analysis of films.

In an academic environment, you try stating an opinion or putting forth an analysis without a veritable sea of references and quotes, and your words will be dismissed.

You know what I see in every report surrounding such computer game studies, and the comments from the general public that soon follow?
A complete lack of what I would consider required reading. We see terms such as "driving games" and "violent games" bandied about as if they actually mean something. They mean absolutely fuck-all. What the fuck is a driving game? Are they talking about racing games? Because a racing game and a driving game could be considered to be two different things, and capable of triggering very different emotional responses. You know what would help clarify this? References. Give me names. Tell me that you sat people down in front of the following games, and that you have a carefully thought-out reason for selecting them based on setting, control system, target audience, gameplay, graphics, sound, music and all those other little details that any discerning gamer would be isolating and considering without even thinking about it.
Violent games. What the shit is a violent game? In the Thief series, it's entirely possible to complete each game (on the easier difficulty settings at least) by killing every living thing. Does that make it a violent game? Should it be dumped in the same category as Soldier of Fortune?

If someone would like to investigate further, then please feel free. But until I see such studies discussing the impact of player perspective, character design, narrative structure, basic gameplay mechanics and fucking anti-aliasing, their results are completely and utterly meaningless, and "investigating further" isn't really a term they can use.

It's about time we had something of a revolution. I want to see Game Theorists talking bollocks and making up words with as much authority as Film Theorists. When computer games are discussed, I want those who have never played games to be ridiculed and dismissed, should they decide to wax lyrical about the effects such games have on the player.

And most of all? I want Colonial Marines to be fantastic, and Bioware to realise that Dragon Age is a heap of clichéd shit, stop pissing about, and remake the Baldur's Gate series in a new beautifully-drawn Myst-4-esque version of the Infinity engine.

If I can't change the world, I can at least escape from it.

- Nick Brakespear