Archive for April, 2009

Retrospect: Resident Evil 4

Posted in Retrospect with tags , on April 19, 2009 by Baggie

Resident Evil 4 is a zombie game by Capcom, where you play as Chris Redfield, leading a 1 man expedition to rescue the president’s daughter. First off I’ll say that if Spanish terrorists actually got their hands on the president’s daughter they’d send in a good amount of SWAT teams and then nuke the entire island once they got her out, just to emphasise the point.

It was a game originally created for the Gamecube, and has been ported to the PC rather sloppily.
First gripe I have is that they didn’t even bother letting you use the mouse, rather they just ignored it entirely and kept the same control system as the Gamecube had. While it was rather appropriate for a controller (more about this later) it made the PC controls hard to use and rather irritating.

To aim your equiped weapon you have to press the ‘aim weapon’ button, where the character aims and then the movement keys turn into aim keys.
This annoyed me immensely, since I hadn’t needed to use the keyboard to aim since they invented the SODDING mouse. But I can deal, right?

Well the next gripe was that they don’t ever tell you which keys you need to press for specific actions, they give you pictures for ‘Button 1’ etc. While this is bearable if it’s easy, like Enter being Button 3 to do most actions that was fine. But then they ask about the 1,2,4,5,6 buttons and I have no idea what the hell they’re on about. I figured how to open the Inventory and it felt like a big accomplishment, cause the game never tells you how to do it.

Third, there are quite a few quick time events. I don’t have a major grudge against well done quick time events, there are problems I’ve encountered where it’s asked me to mash E repeatedly but it won’t register because I’m mashing too quick (I’m too awesome), or when it flashes up before the actual button becomes active, and if more than 1 button is pressed it fails and I die, so I’m wondering if I didn’t press it right and if I press it again will it kill me, like some sort of Quantum quicktime event. Not great.

But here the control problem comes up again. Suddenly it’s asking me to press 5 and 6. Well hell, I don’t know what those are! Game never told me, I’ve probably been using them all this time without knowing what the hell they were labeled. So I die, wondering what the hell the buttons were, but it’s okay, cause it flashes up a different combination of buttons I don’t know. So it never gives me solid testing groups to find what buttons are which.

Mainly though it’s not a fault with the game itself, it’s the team who ported it either being too lazy, not given enough time, or not paid enough. Or all 3. PC gamers are 2nd class citizens in this respect a lot of the time.

So I was trying to get through the game while feeling I was playing it in Japanese or something. Not really enjoying it but compelled to keep playing because the story was decent.
Then I borrowed my brother’s controller.

Suddenly the sun came out and flowers started blooming, Parades happening in the street. For this game was now actually playable. And it was pretty fun.

The buttons on screen actually matched the buttons on the controller, quick time events were possible, and I could aim. One could argue that the game was designed to be used with a controller on the PC, due to the instant compatibility and design, but what idiot creates a game that you need a specialised piece of hardware most people on the particular platform don’t have?

The graphics aren’t terrific, the environments and most of the characters look like they were created just after Quake 3 was, though again this was a Gamecube design restriction, the console not being able to pull the skin off a custard, so I can’t really blame them.
But what stands out is the main character look extremely high detail, better than a lot of recentish games. While this is good, it’s be a better if they did this to the entire game, cause the characters look like they’ve invaded from another, more recent game, and clearly don’t belong in this pixelated mess.

The zombies, while entertaining to a point, it takes FAR too long to kill them.
What would happen if you got shot in the head with a 9mm pistol? Why, you’d die. So why can these guys take a good 5 rounds before their head explodes, presumably due to the built up force of 5 bullets to the skull. And why does carrying a chainsaw give you the ability to take 3 shotgun blasts? Cause I’d have one on my person at all times if it were the case. Zombies do not  get bulletproof skelletons, they die like the rest of us, something only a few zombie games do properly unfortunately.

While this game is supposed to invoke a sense of horror, I found myself running away from zombie hordes not out of fear, out of frustration, because it would take a good half a minute to kill 5 zombies and I wanted to get on with the plot.

(Speaking of which this game MAY be scary to your average person, but I’ve played far too many horror games to be squimish at virtual blood or limbs flying off.)

The game has a bit of a treasure hunting mechanic, where random jewels, jewellery, other things of value are scattered around the place, and gives you more money to buy weapons etc. I actually enjoyed looking for these more than the zombie killage, and the brief level you play as the President’s daughter (Whom I REALLY wish would put on a longer skirt) where you didn’t have conventional weapons was insane fun for me, pity it only lasted ten minutes.

Back to quicktime events, now I can actually perform them they’re pretty decent, however there’s one particular cutscene that has about 7 quicktime events. Cutscenes are supposed to be a time to learn about the plot and reflect, not be watching the bottom half of the screen in-case of of the 2 quicktime combos popup and kill you in a variety of fun and messy ways! I don’t mind quicktime events in gameplay e.g. Press X to throw zombie off you, but in cutscenes seems a bit cheap.

The inherit danger in playing a game that’s been lazily ported from one platform to another is there’ll be some inherit bugs at the very least. Take the Orange Box, it gave me about 500 hours of entertainment for 50 dollars. Brilliant. It was released at the same time on the Xbox 360, which was also awesome, everything worked brilliantly, the only issue being Microsoft’s unwillingness to let developers give away free content.
But EA decided it wanted to port the game to the PS3, because EA, as we all know, are money grabbing whores. The game never really ran well, controls were sometimes unresponsive and a couple of bits were nigh unplayable, because EA did a lazy port, effectively ruining the game for anyone silly enough to buy a PS3 (their own fault really).

So Resident Evil 4, rather strangely for a PC game, practically requires a controller to be functional.
It’s decent enough and compels enough interest to actually get through, but don’t go out of your way for it. Personally I only bought it cause it can with Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, but that needs about 2 gigs of updates before it works, so I might be able to play it at some point in the distant future.

Restropect: GTA Vice City

Posted in Remembering on April 6, 2009 by Baggie

GTA Vice City is a game by Rockstar. It’s the 4th in the series, and follows the exploits of our favorite mobster Scarfac- No, sorry, Tommy Vercetti.

The GTA series goes back to 1997, when GTA came out. It was a top down 2d shooter that was difficult to navigate in, resulting in many people (including me) to not bother with the mission system and just go on a rampage. It wasn’t a bad game, but it was difficult to play in the way is was meant to be played, following the missions and going up to the level.

GTA 2 was much the same as GTA, but GTA 3 made the jump into an extra dimension and placed the camera behind the protaginist’s head, also making the streets and buildings not look exactly like each other. Suddenly the game was playable, fun and intriguing!

GTA:VC came after that, and incidentally was the first GTA game I ever played.  You played as Tommy Vercetti, a maffia chap who has just gotten out of prison for 8 or so years, and now is oddly enough working for the same employer. First thing you do in the city goes horribly wrong, surprise, and now there’s a good amount of cocaine that isn’t yours anymore and you’re getting constant death threats. This sets a whole lot of events off and leads you through a rather interesting storyline.

The GTA series has always been sandbox heavy, that is you can do whatever you like in the confines of the game. You can race RC cars, deliver pizzas,  perform stunts, hunt for secret bags, and go on rampages. Hell, they even  give you rampage pickups which give you a reward if you kill a certain amount of gang members, cars, etc, with a certain weapon. Hell I’ve even tried to land get on a boat by jumping off a bridge at the right time. Worked once too, free boat.
You can really go crazy in this game, and it rewards you for it. Everything I’ve mentioned in this paragraph gives you a cash reward which you can use to buy… well weapons really, not much else.

It’s kind of annoying that it gives you all these wacky fun things to do and the only way you can spend your reward is with violence. Now if I had a problem with violence I wouldn’t be playing this game, but it’d be really cool if you could buy speedy race cars, helicopters or other symbols of excess, rather than just more guns. Violence isn’t always the most entertaining option unfortunately.
Fortunately they fixed this in subsequent games, but oddly enough they took OUT most of the wacky fun things you can do, kind of negating that change there.

While there’s a good amount of freedom in the game, there’s a few features that you can’t access until you’ve completed some story missions, which is kind of a bummer really. I can understand why you can’t build a business empire before x event, but restricting the islands you can get to in the game feels just silly in a game which primarily relies on sandbox gameplay.

The storyline itself is quite decent though, playing through the missions gives you moneys, access to weapons, new safe houses and other things.
Though the storyline itself could been seen to be short depending on how you play the game. First time I played the game it took a couple of months to finish, it felt like a real achievement. But since then I’ve finished the storyline in 1 day. It really depends on how focused you are on the story line, and it’ll go quite quickly if you don’t periodically stand on cars and use them as a mobile shooting platform (Which I highly recommend).

The weapons themselves are good, you’ve got certain slots for different types of weapons, but it leads to the “Walking Army Stockpile” syndrome most games suffer from. You can walk, run, swim (well not in this game, you just drown) perfectly fine with a bazooka on your person (god knows where), not to mention the 3 machine guns, 4 pistols and 10 grenades you cart around. I mean you’re carrying more than you weight with no problems, which is why I don’t quite like it when games default to it.

The variety of cars is decent as well, there’s cars that are useless, cars that can go from 0 to 60 in 2.5 seconds, cars that have 2 wheels, golf buggies (Which are hilarious getaway vehicles). The only way you get them though is you break into them or just car jack people. Again, it’s supposed to be a violent game, but I’d rather some choice in the matter. I mean mobsters may frequently kill people, but you scratch their car and they’ll… well, kill you.  But this game makes you get a new car every 5 mins max, even if you’re really careful, there’s still  a chance that you’ll leave your car for 5 seconds, turn around and it’ll have disappeared (bloody car thieves).

My main gripe with this game is they put a lot of emphasis on water in a game where the main character can’t swim. I don’t know why he can’t swim, maybe he has an irrational fear of water after a particularly wet mob initiation, but it causes massive problems in the game play. I remember one occasion where I somehow ended up on top of a car that was floating around in the water (honestly I have no idea how I got there).
I spent a good 5 minutes wondering how the hell I could get out of the situation without dying and losing my stockpile of weapons. Eventually I just fired a rocket down at the car when it was clear I was drifting out to sea, purely out of annoyance… although it looked really cool and my body, though dead and lifeless, flew back to the main land and blocked a main roadway.
If the character could, I don’t know, swim 5 metres, then I would have been fine.

Vice City is a terrific game which adds a lot to the previous games, and was terrific in nearly all aspects. It gives you the freedom of choice in what you want to do in it, and provides a extremely decent storyline, though recycled from a certain movie.

Retrospect: Chronicles of Riddick, Escape from Butcher Bay

Posted in Retrospect on April 4, 2009 by Baggie

Escape from Butcher Bay is one of the most cinematic games I’ve ever played. Developed by Starbreeze, it focuses on a man named Riddick(Vin Diesel through and through), as he tries to escape a prison facility known as Butcher Bay. To be honest the title is one of the things I like about it, actually having a bearing on the events of the game, instead of other games that have poetic titles with little relation to the actual game.

Riddick is a First Person Stealther, with the occasional shooty section. The main point of the game is to get though the levels without alerting the guards to your pressence, and in defience to gaming LAW, it actually does it well. You primarily use darkness to hide yourself, though the guards will find you if you’re not careful. The focus on dark in the first part of the game, is rather interesting, but there’s the problem that often YOU can’t see either. Mildly annoying, but it actually functions as an extention of Riddick’s character.

If you’ve not seen the movies or in fact, this game, Riddick is a chap who has eyes that are incredibly sensitive to light, usually called Eyeshine. To get around he has a pair of SWEET welding Goggles, taking them off gives him the advantage of being able to see in the dark.
Well in the first part of the game you don’t have that. As I said before, annoyance.
After the first chapter of the game, you get said Eyeshine, and I was incredibly impressed about how… right it felt. It was like a part of me (The character, I’m not Vin Diesel no matter how hard I wish) had been put back in the right place, and I was going to kick ass with it.
And you do kick ass with it, it makes sculking in the dark much more fun,  laughing at the guards who can’t see crap.

The main focus in combat is melee weapons. Whilst you do use guns, and use them a lot, whilst you’re a prisoner you obviously haven’t got access to them, so you have to rely on getting shivs. There’s a number of people who can hook you up, though they usually want you do to something for them. The melee combat is a nice change from the “Click to Attack” attitude normally present in FPS’s, Butcher Bay has an intuitive blocking system where you can use the arrow keys to perform different attacks, usually you want the one the enemy isn’t currently blocking. It’s rather akin to a dynamic, bloody version of Scissors Paper Rock.

The people you meet in the Prisons are pretty interesting, though most just want to gamble, complain or kill you.  Sometimes all three if you’re good at pissing people off. It shows off the conversation system, where you can pick your replies, similar to Mass Effect of Fallout. You’re often given multiple ways to complete objectives, and choosing is often difficult.

The game ties in with the 2 other movies, serving as a prequal in a good few respects. Vin Diesel was heavily involved in the movies, and the way he represents Riddick is incredible, a lot like Simon Jones and Arthur Dent (Well.. a few changes).  Video game representations of people weren’t exactly terrific back in those days, but Riddick looks almost exactly like he does in real life, it was refreshing to say the least to see someone in a game who actually looked like the person who was portreying them.

The narrative, although I can’t talk too much about it without revealing some fairly big spoilers, is very nicely done, has a nice prison formule it  switches up occasionally with alien colonies and sci-fi elements, a good ammount of reviews said it was actually most intriging than Pitch Black, which was basically unheard of back then, games were for shooting people.

There are a couple of Critisms I have though, the game was a bit buggy in places, such as the health station recharge system which didn’t work at ALL, the mech sequences were a bit… unnessisary really. I mean I’m a killing machine, brutal and animalistic, for some reason I’m going to use a Mech. I’LL USE MY BARE HANDS! (Actually did once, it was pretty damned fun)

There’s a new Riddick game as a sequal called Assault on Dark Athena, which takes place on a spaceship. Called Dark Athena. Which you are assaulting. However, because Escape from Butcher Bay was never ported to the Xbox 360, the developers decided to redo Escape from Butcher bay as a part of the game. AWESOME!  I just hope they don’t change too much, ideally I’d want a game with improved graphics, maybe a couple more different options to get from point A to point B, nothing more really.  Course video game law states any remakes must be of equal or lesser value than the originals, but I’m hopeful.

The new Riddick game comes out later this month, here’s to hoping it lives up to the original.