Saturday, 31 January 2009


My word, aren't Swedish ladies of an attractive disposition? Ok, I did see one or two heffalumps, but generally it was all eye-meltingly gorgeous females as far as the eye could see. There were some reasonable games on show too (the real reason I went there to Stockholm for a few days) and I got plenty of tasty tidbits and amusing soundbites for you all to read about in issue 206 of PC Zone, which is out in March sometime.

- David Brown

PS - Sorry if that sounded sexist. I'm sure there were plenty of studly Vikings there for our lady readers.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Self Indulgent Games of 2009 Post!!

In a desperate attempt to wrestle this blog back to non-random-musings territory, I thought you'd like to know (you want to know, you need to know) the games we're most looking forward to this year.

We'll try to keep out too many big obvious names, but some will inevitably sneak in. We'll also leave out the games that have no chance of coming out this year, like Rage, Mass Effect 2 (sorry Brax, knew you were looking forward to it), Diablo III etc. We'll also keep it down to just five games so to keep it tight.

Anyway's here's mine:


Batman: Arkham Asylum

I've always loved Batman and videogames. The trouble is that there's never been anything better than an 'okayish' Batman game. Arkham Asylum finally looks like the game I've always wanted (if not that cool freeform one I really want). Dark, gritty, with excellent comic/series writer Paul Dini doing the story and series veterans Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill reprising their spot-on roles as Batman and the Joker. Can't wait.


This choice may surprise people. I love id Software's FPS games, and while Raven as a developer isn't anywhere near as talented they still make good, solid games that I enjoy. Quake 4 was great fun. I also don't mind the idea of alternate dimensions and aliens in a series that previously gave us Nazi zombies, centuries old super-soldiers, and Robo-Hitler.

Wallace & Gromit's Grand Adventures

Wallace & Gromit, in the hands of Sam & Max and Strong Bad comedy adventure extraordinaire developer Telltale. All we need now is Doctor Who to be given to Revolution and my adventure game loving self will explode with excitement. Sorry Sam & Max Season Three, I'm looking forward to you too, but there can only be one (Telltale adventure in this list).

Fatal Frame IV/Project Zero IV
Another surprise perhaps? Well, with Bioshock 2 a long way off, Silent Hill Homecoming sucking like mad, and Resident Evil 5 not being scary anymore, this instantly gets promoted to my most wanted horror game. A Wii exclusive. Wow. If you haven't heard of the series, imagine that ghost level in Vampire: Bloodlines expanded to four games. Damn scary stuff, and I likes me good scares.


Aha, the big one for me. I'm still cursing Activision's name for stopping me playing it last October (my birthday ruined, you bastards!). This is the game I've always wanted. This is wish-fulfilment of the highest order. A new Ghostbusters story with all the cast, with me playing a fifth member. I get to fight Slimer, Stay Puft etc. Drool. Despite Harold Ramis and Bill Murray possibly giving a phoned-in performance, nothing will stop me enjoying this game. Nothing.

Honourable mentions: Brutal Legend 360 (if it was on PC you'd be on this list, mate), Indiana Jones & The Staff of Kings Wii (can't help it, I'm obsessed), FEAR2: Project Origin PC (I love you Monolith, but you better perk up soon)
(Okay Dave, Nick, take it away with yours!)

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Sshh, I'm talking

Ahoy! Avast! And other such exclamations that vaguely resemble the sort of hearty hairy-chested things that stereotypical pirates might voice in a loud manner reminiscent of Brian Blessed!

You know, I once met a real pirate. I mean, he was working at Disneyland in Anaheim (California), but he was convincing enough that I let go of my cynicism and distrust of Disney, posed beside him for a picture, and just briefly was tempted to bellow "YAAARGH!" at the top of my lungs. As such, I consider him as real a pirate as I might ever hope to meet. After all, those Somali pirates don't count; they don't have beards, quaint names and speak English. Nor do they swab decks. They just steal cargo ships. And then fail to burry them on desert islands.

Anyway, pirate references aside, I be Nick Brakespear. Yes, real surname. If you're a PC Zone forum lurker, you might remember me from such aliases as Brax and Flatline. If not, consider me a nobody for the time being, for my ascension to godhood is not yet at hand.

Now that the introduction is done and dusted, I can proceed with the more important issues. Namely, dialogue. Is it just me, or has the evolution of dialogue disappeared up its own arse and begun feeding on itself, becoming a rather malnourished but admittedly highly-polished pile of crap? My apologies for the rather unseemly imagery there.

As an example, I present to you two games of different ages, by the same developer. Firmly entrenched in the "good old days", we have the Baldur's Gate franchise (and in particular, Baldur's Gate 2). And there, prancing about in, as my mother would say, a fur coat and no knickers we have Mass Effect. Both games of course developed by Bioware.

In Baldur's Gate 2, the lines of dialogue are beautifully written. Some are given a voice-over, but the game never feels the need to voice every single line of text. Much like an illustrated story doesn't feel the need to feature a picture that corresponds to every minor action within the narrative; the lines that are voiced simply serve to gently prod your imagination, to feed your internal recreation of the game world. And, once prodded, you are able to read following lines of text and hear the voice without ever actually hearing it.

A specific example; Minsc, the deranged ranger with pet hamster called Boo. All we needed to hear from him is one or two classic exclamations, such as "Go for the eyes Boo! GO FOR THE EYES!", and from then on anything written beside his name was enhanced by that auditory mental image we had created of his character.

This more old-fashioned approach to dialogue not only stimulated the imagination and allowed us (or at least, allowed me) to connect with the story on a more meaningful level...but it also meant that characters could say a hell of a lot more, with a hell of a lot more variety, and with a hell of a lot more interaction from the player.

Fast-forward to the days of Mass Effect, and we are presented with a new era of "cinematic" (*cough*console*cough) gaming, in which our imaginations are not prodded at all. True to the experience of sitting in front of a television, we switch off and let the game wash over us, our interaction with it reduced to dialogue trees that seem arbitrary at best, generic responses that have clearly been tailored to serve a multitude of possible queries, and secondary characters whose minds seem capable of holding onto nothing more than simple one liners reminiscent of "this door is locked" gameplay mechanics.

Yes, it's rather fancy having a character talk to us. But when our interaction is sacrificed, it becomes less a matter of the character talking to us, less a matter of us engaging with a character, and more a matter of us watching a glorified cut scene.

I would like to put forth the notion that perhaps a return to older ways would be nice. That perhaps -at least until voice emulation, language recognition software and artificial intelligence have evolved to a state where we can in fact talk in real-time in our own words to a character- we might ditch this rather silly idea that all dialogue must be voiced.

Perhaps I'm getting old and grumpy, as I find myself wanting to add; that perhaps graphics too could do with a return to the traditional. That perhaps immersion does not correlate with polygon count. That perhaps the simplest of visuals can be the most evocative.

Defcon had the right idea.

- Nick Brakespear

Cool Runnings

Sometimes rooms get hot and fans aren't necessarily good enough to deal with the problems. What you need is ultra-cooling - like liquid nitrogen and liquid helium. Oh, and experimental conditions. And no common sense whatsoever.

You might even be able to get a decent frame rate on GTA IV

- David Brown

The Legend of Monkey Island

I don't know if my picture of me and Dave as JC and Paul Denton got him thinking about Deus Ex, but the retitling of our Blog to something more Insulting got me thinking about the Monkey Island games.

A long time ago now, I was playing The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker for the first time (I'm going somewhere with this anecdote, believe me). I'd gotten to the second island and found myself (or rather puny protagonist Link) stranded on the strange pirate town on Windfall Island. He had a ship, but needed to buy a sail from the merchant in town. After going to the correct merchant's window, he found that luckily a sail was available, but the merchant wanted something in return.

Sounding very adventure gamish, right? Well, for some reason I couldn't work out how to get the sail and presumed it would come up naturally during my exploration of the island. I discovered many puzzles to solve, many locals to talk to, many strange little minigames to play (completion of which undoubtedly would get me an item someone else wanted), and lots to do even though I couldn't swim more than a few yards out to sea and didn't have a sword. Oh, and there was plenty of humour too.

How Monkey Island-like was that? That's what I want adventure games to be like now. It's all very well getting such brilliant titles as Sam & Max and A Vampyre Story, but the genre hasn't really evolved since Maniac Mansion 20 years ago.

Forget Quicktime Event Extravaganzas like Fahrenheit/The Indigo Prophecy, I want adventure games to be third-person, move with normal movement keys, not have static screens, with everything you can interact with being nice and obvious, and have natural barriers like the sea. No loading screens, no transitions, all natural. That's what I want Monkey Island 5 to be like.

(Not that's it's going to happen what with LucasArts being... what they are. Oh well)
- Chris Capel

Monday, 26 January 2009


...has there never been a game adaptation of a Steven Seagal film? Answer me that, peoples of the world. You've got all the ingredients for a game there - terrible voice acting, plenty of limb snaps, bone breaks and vicious hand-to-hand/ranged combat - all you need is to get, say, the people behind Dark Messiah to come up with a brutal hand-to-hand system and you could be snapping bones like twigs in a couple of months.

Developers, Seagal needs you!

- David Brown

Sunday, 25 January 2009

My Little Denton

When I first played Deus Ex, I decided to make JC Denton black, simply because, while Ion Storm had included the option, it was clear they never intended anyone to ever choose it. For a start, the facial model didn't change, neither did his voice or bearing. He was, effectively, a Black 'n White Minstrel for the 21st Century. I think it was this outrage that spurred Barack Obama on to the presidency. So - Deus Ex, not just one of the greatest games of all time, but truly world-changing in its importance.

JC Obama, we salute you.

- David Brown

What I particularly loved about that feature in DE is that they remembered to make your brother Paul black too.

- Chris Capel

Monday, 19 January 2009

Highway To The Danger Zoners

"Welcome, dear reader, to the new cave home of Tingler (moiself) and Plughead ('im), erstwhile PCZoners (writing, foruming, and occasionally working) and just damn fine fellows.

Because we're both too lazy to keep up a blog separately, we thought we'd combine our beards talents in order to give you an insight into our daily, non-Zone lives. That's the reason it's quite barren at the moment. Fret not, more will be up here as soon as I can think of something and Dave actually finds out about this blog's existence.

Until then, enjoy this picture:

- Chris 'The Tingler' Capel

UPDATE: Since we started this blog we've added two new videogaming veterans to our midst, which is good because it disguises Dave's laziness in actually writing for us. They are Nick "Brax" Brakespear and Marco "Snoozer" Fiori, and they've both written for, ooh, tons of things. And now this too. Welcome guys!