Tuesday, 24 February 2009

The Fall of the Monolith

My eagerly awaited (at least by me) review of FEAR2: Project Origin.

I just hope the phase Monolith are going through ends now and they can start making really really good games again... preferably with the PC more than an afterthought.

Reading reviews of the console version it's clear that they didn't make FEAR2 easier, they just tuned the difficulty for the inaccurate aiming of a control pad. Once you start playing with mouse and keyboard, especially with slow motion, the whole thing becomes a pushover.


UPDATE: I love it when developers listen. Maybe I will play the game again!

- Chris Capel

Monday, 23 February 2009

Military Intelligence

And so I return, after my epic adventures battling the forces of darkness or somesuch. And I shall complain about things, because there really is a lot to complain about.

The target for today's rant? Stupidity. Do you know why wars will never become fully automated? Do you know why the droid armies of Star Wars and the skull-faced minions of Skynet would never work?
Because their AI would compel them to seek out the one bit of scenery that their path-noding does not account for, and stand there, staring blankly as the battle rages about them. Just like in games.
Some might argue realism; that these automaton soldiers have acquired sentience, and in their moment of awakening have been stricken by the sheer horror of human conflict. Had they been gifted with the capacity, a single tear would roll down their cheek, they would remove a small notepad and begin writing poetry about the grotesque ballet of a ragdoll in motion.
In actuality, their primitive thought-mimicking processes go a little like this:


Quite frankly it's unacceptable. UNACCEPTABLE I SAY. How many years has it been since the original Half Life taunted us with its tactically superior opponents? How many years since the bots of Unreal Tournament wtfpwned us and declared that we were, in fact, suckers?

It isn't so much that I'm expecting to hold a conversation with my AI team mates. It isn't that I'm expecting them to tap me on the shoulder and say, "mate, you know what? I'm pretty sure the script says I'm going to die in the next room, so why don't you take all my equipment, save it from going to waste yaknow?".
I'm not expecting miracles. I'm just expecting them to actually follow my fucking orders.

Having recently acquired the full Ghost Recon collection on Steam, I was aghast to discover that these "Advanced Warfighters" in GR:AW have about as much tactical sense as a turd, only barely escaping the comparison to a week-old mouldy turd by virtue of the fact that they just about know how to put one foot in front of the other.
You tell them to "stand here", they'll stand everywhere BUT there. You tell them to cover an area, they'll stare at a wall and fail to come to your rescue as you are torn to bloody ribbons by some Mexican soldier who has the reflexes of a Jedi and sniped you from half a mile away with a machinegun.

So few games get squad AI right, that it makes me wonder why they insist on using such AI companions in the first place. Mass Effect did away with the direct party-member control system of KOTOR, yet spectacularly failed to make up for it with decent AI, instead featuring team mates who bizarrely consider that all orders have been cancelled if their leader holsters his weapon.

Not even Half Life 2 could escape this peculiar trend. "I'm sorry Doctor Freeman, I'll get out of your way."


Only two games have ever truly impressed me with the AI of their virtual compatriots: SWAT 3, and Republic Commando. And it wasn't for any sense of complexity, but rather the simplicity of that AI. You give an order, they follow it. Enemy starts shooting, they shoot back. You say "wait here", they do not fucking move until you say otherwise.

Republic Commando's tagline was, "The most lethal weapon in the galaxy... your squad", and you know what? It's true. Bring on Republic Commando 2.

- Nick Brakespear

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

I'm trying to play FEAR2 silently here!!

I just accidentally dropped my right earphone into a glass of orange juice. Feeling stupid, I carefully cleaned it out. When I was satisfied that the 'phone was completely dry, I put them both into my ears, ready for my nightly gaming.

That's when I discovered that the left earphone must have gone in the glass too.

- Chris Capel

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Why Some Websites Shouldn't Be Allowed Computers To Type On

Having done a fair share of reviews in my time, and read even more, nothing annoys me more than people saying that a person's opinion is wrong. Reviews are just that: opinions. If you disagree with what that writer said, or if that writer made a genuine error (like saying "in Mirror's Edge you can't pick up guns", cough), you can certainly say so.

What you absolutely cannot say is that the reviewer is wrong just because his or her review is different from your own or your favourite reviewer's.

If you do this on a forum you are an idiot. If you write an article for another gaming website stating that this reviewer for a respected gaming magazine is completely wrong and their opinion is a lie, well then you're an unprofessional fuckwit who deserves to never write about games ever again.

And then, like a shining beacon from the darkness, one of the best piss-takes I've ever read goes up and parodies the article perfectly, turning it all into a big joke and reminding me that there are people out there who can still write.

In short: this is how you criticise another gaming mag's writing. This is how to get yourself flamed. Preferably on a stake.

Plus Killzone 2 looks incredibly dull and any reviewer who says it's good is obviously delusional.

- Chris 'Better than Citizen Kane' Capel

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Miracles Do Happen

I've just finished a campaign in Left 4 Dead! Just 3 more to go! And Versus, and Expert...

And Dave missed out on it! Typical.

- Chris 'Relieved' Capel

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Please give us your money now

We know you all love a bit of undead-gibbing action, so this news should be music to your ears. Also, the likely potential for Xbox 360 users to get f*cked over by having to pay for it just makes it all that much sweeter.

Maybe by the time it comes out, The Tingler will have finally finished one of the campaigns... ;)

Left 4 Dead's Survival mode

- Dave

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Why I hate console fanboys

My God, some of these comments are just so... I can't even describe them. It is quite amusing, though, to see the PS3 gamers constantly criticise Newell for being a "MS fanboi" ... yet never once mention the fact Valve are primarily a PC developer. Ignorance is a wonderful thing.


Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Brax's Wishlist

I know you've been awaiting this post with bated breath, Mr Tingler, so here it is.


Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena

Or CoR:AoDA if you want to attempt to shorten the title and confuse people. I must confess I didn't play the first game when it was first released on PC. Perhaps it didn't ping upon my games radar loudly enough, or perhaps the chemistry wasn't quite there yet for our relationship. However, having returned from my drunken debauchery in the US last summer, I set about buying and playing a few of the games I had missed out on. This included Psychonauts (yes I know, I'm a terrible human being), Star Wars: Republic Commando (whose intelligent team mates utterly crapped on the next game in this list), Mass Effect (which I rant about, but played twice back to back over one week), and of course Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay.
Dark Athena sounds like solid entertainment. I may already own the original, but quite frankly I am greatly looking forward to replaying it with the updates, and find myself wishing that such enhanced re-releases were more common. Being bald has never been so much fun...leaving aside Mr 47 of course (don't worry Mr Tobias Rieper, I love you more than Riddick really).

Aliens: Colonial Marines

To be honest, I'm not holding my breath over this one...I've had a gut feeling that it'll be delayed or some such for a while now, but I live in hope. Having played Left 4 Dead obsessively, the idea of four player coop in the Aliens universe makes me bounce around like pre-teen Spice Girls fan high on E numbers. Not literally of course. I have far too much decorum for that. Anyway, though details seem to be a little thin at the moment and I have yet to see the game up and running, I'm sold on the concept. Whether or not it has been tainted by its inevitable cross-platform release also remains to be seen.

Diablo III

I was never into Diablo that heavily. About the time that one of my mates was obsessing over the first game, I was busy with the Baldur's Gate franchise. However I could not deny, even back then, that Diablo was easy to play and easy to enjoy, and became an almost religious experience when played cooperatively over a home network.
Having recently been dragged back into my cooperative-based obsessions by Left 4 Dead, I find myself looking forward to Diablo III more than Starcraft II (the whole "three-releases" thing has annoyed me, to be honest). And given that I was never a hardcore fan of the series, I'm not too bothered by the art direction that has seen so many people frothing at the mouth.

A Mount and Blade expansion and/or sequel

Mount and Blade is evil. EVIL. Recently, I managed to drag myself away from the game only to discover that it was 4am. I haven't been so entranced by a game, nor suffered such lost time, since my old World of Warcraft days. There's always one more battle to fight, one more soldier to upgrade, one more combination of clever tactics and equipment to try. And the horses...the thundering of hooves as you lead a cavalry charge, the satisfying SWISHTHUNK as you swing an axe at somebody's head from horseback. And the cheering as the last enemy hits the ground with a pleasing thump, and the smugness that follows as you gallop past your victorious army, who would be chanting your name if the software allowed for it. I don't care what follows; whether it be a graphical update, a physics update, a new map, a new setting. I just want MORE. And I want the likes of Bethesda to realise the depth of their horse-related failure.
Oh, and if the horses in Mount and Blade could shit in front of villagers, that'd be good too. Or just fart really loudly, in that proud and noble way that only horses are capable of.

A New Hitman Game

Surely it's time, isn't it? Blood Money was fantastic, but there's a lot of room for improvement and evolution in the franchise. I'm normally against such franchising, given that it is nearly always the evil spawn of corporations, but I have a real weakspot for Mr Ben's psychopathic bald-headed twin. He's just so loveable. And quite frankly, it has been too long since his last outing, and I'm concerned that IO have got it into their heads that they should make something other than Hitman games. BAD IO INTERACTIVE.

- Nick Brakespear

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Squirrel & Lemming (Deceased)

I'm sitting at my desk eating Squirrel while listening to the Lemmings soundtrack (Amiga version no less).

Life is good.

- Chris Capel

Monday, 2 February 2009


I have a short list of 'must-have' developers. I'm not Microsoft or anything, I'm not going to buy them, make them create Halo games then dissolve them. What I mean is, developers whose games I buy simply on trust. Now I'm a games reviewer, so their games have to be not only

consistently good fun, but consistently special to me.

As such, that list, as I mentioned, is short. Valve, id Software and Monolith (although they're pushing their luck right now) are a few stalwarts. Starbreeze is well on their way towards the list. And the main RPG one is Bioware.

There's always a game I start with though, and usually don't play all before that one. Monolith started me with Aliens Vs Predator 2 (yes, I missed Shogo, although I loved Blood) for example. Valve had me at 'welcome to the Black Mesa research facility'.

Bioware though only came to my attention with Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and after that it's pretty much Jade Empire, Mass Effect and, um, Sonic Chronicles. In short, I missed Baldur's Gate, and frankly I couldn't give a damn. As such, I am not especially looking forward to this game:

Dragon Age, now unnecessarily with 'Origins' stuck on the end. A PC-led RPG by my favourite RPG-maker. Look at that screenshot. I am mad?!

No. Despite my love of stories in games, it took me a long time to get into RPGs as a genre. Part of this was vanity - I really hate isometric viewpoints in character-based games. Another is simple - I hate elves, orcs, Tolkien-ripping-off RPGs, which seemed to clutter the market since the dawn of the genre. Baldur's Gate, being an isometric Dungeons & Dragons game, fit into that.

Now we're getting a spiritual sequel to that, and it looks like an offline MMO. The only reason I played The Witcher was because it didn't look like a complete Tolkien thing (and the PCZ review helped). This, judging by the trailers, looks very Tolkien-inspired. I'm yawning already.

I just don't care right now. I'm sure it'll be different and have a great story, but right now if this wasn't a Bioware game I wouldn't be paying it any attention - and even then not too much.

Impress me, Bioware. Prove my faith in you justified.

- Chris Capel