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.


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


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.


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.


- 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.


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 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 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