Command & Conquer

Another retro game that deserves recognition, one of my favorite Real-time strategy franchises and the first RTS I played. Released in 1995 on DOS, Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, Sega Saturn, PlayStation and the Nintendo 64 by Virgin Interactive, Sega, Nintendo and developed by Westwood Studios and Looking Glass Studios for the N64 port. I owned the game on Playstation shortly after its port was released. Its concept and genre was alien to me, I was used to adventure games and side scrolling platformers. Getting to build a base in an alternate universe and destroy an enemy base I found highly enjoyable. The story-line the game is based around is interesting, the world being divided over the harvesting of Tiberium that is a strange substance that is spreading across the world. It becomes a valuable resource and highly sought after by the two factions, the Global Defense Initiative and the Brotherhood of Nod, it’s the main source of income in the game despite it being poisonous to biological lifeforms. This is a common theme in RTS games, for example Spice from Dune, Minerals & Vespene Gas from Starcraft, eventually later Real time strategy games start to develop more complex resource management by introducing wood, stone and metal in games such as Warcraft and Age of Empires.

As most games and most story-lines there is a suggested bad guy (Brotherhood of Nod) and a suggested good guy (Global Defense Initiative) and in the single player campaign you can do missions for either. Both have their respective objectives and integral characters. GDI’s main objective is that of a super-power claiming resources and power to look after the planet, no extremist views. Mirroring the USA/UK global powers of today. The NOD on the other hand are based on a militant organisation of ancient origins suggesting extremist views on the Tiberium and its properties. Their armies are light weight and easily maneuverable, their tactics are of a guerrilla army. They also have unwavering support for who they consider a demi-deity Kane the leader of their organisation. Whereas GDI’s army is large and powerful but not easily maneuvered. Most of the missions are about the two global powers going head to head over the control of Tiberium.

Command and Conquer UI

command-and-conquer-010

The games is relatively user friendly and its UI is easy to workout.The building option bar on the right, including power bar (tells you the amount of electricity or power you are using on your buildings), resources located at the top and map on the top right. Normally the game has a “fog of war” so you cannot see the enemies positions but after exploring you can monitor their movements on the map allowing you to reinforce your base and defenses. It has a wide variety of units and buildings to build including defenses and even includes “hero” units such as the Commando. Later developing into Tanya in the Red Alert series. This allows you to formulate multiple strategies from either ground, air or sea to attack your opponent. Therefore, a highly strategic game, not only do you have to plan your attack you have to build your base on limitations such as terrain and spaciousness as some buildings require a large amount of space to place and construct. Furthermore, as the harvesting of Tiberium is the sole source of income, building your base close to a Tiberium field is absolutely necessary as it will otherwise become a hindrance if you have to rely on your harvesters having to travel long distances to obtain your only source of currency.

Graphically it is a mix-match of pre-rendered graphics for the building and unit icons and 2D graphics you would expect for a DOS and Windows 95 and considering it was before 3dfx released the ‘Voodoo1’ into the graphics card market. Its 2D environment you tend to overlook due to the fact it would require a lot of power to make the game 3D and without many machines or consoles able to support 3D games it really was not important for the franchises flagship game. Its cut scenes mainly consist of CGI pre-rendered graphics and during mission briefings they use Westwood employees and professionals to act out scenes.A professional actor was hired for Kane in the NOD campaign, this added a immersive feel to the game and try to make it relatable.

A critically acclaimed game with great reviews putting RTS’s on the map. Definitely worthy of the ratings and titles it has received. I am going to give it a personal 9/10 as it had great replay value and its scenario mode allowed endless fun playing computer generated maps against CPU players with adjustable difficulties, allowing you to hone your skills to attempt higher difficulty levels on the single player campaigns.

Hope you enjoyed the read!

Dec

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The Last of Us

The Mona Lisa of the modern gaming generation. It really is an amazing piece of artwork and has one of the most gripping and emotional narrative I have ever come across in a game. Released in 2013 by Sony Computer Entertainment and developed by a company we all love, Naughty Dog, they really know how to knock our socks off and they did so with this game. Honestly, I cannot find any faults with this game and you probably wont find many gamers who will. The game is set in a post apocalyptic world where a strain of fungus (Cordyceps) has mutated into controlling human hosts when infected. The fungus itself is based on a real life fungus whose spores infect insects and grow into their brains killing the host but reanimating it for a short period of time to spread more spores into more hosts. In the game the mutated fungus turns its hosts into cannibalistic creatures who will stop at nothing to infect you or kill you, they are referred to as “Clickers” owing to the clicking sound they make after the fungus completely disfigures the hosts head into this:

Concept art of a Clicker 

468px-Clicker

They really are indescribable and are quite terrifying once you come across one of them.

The narrative starts during the day one outbreak, you follow Joel and his experience with the outbreak. The opening sequence is extremely emotional so I wont spoil it for you, but lets say it is definitely full of “feels”. You do get to play a part in the opening sequence and you control his daughter and then Joel himself in this part of the game. It really gives you a great depiction on how modern society would deal with a viral/fungal outbreak. Once you have finished the highly emotional opening sequence it fast forwards twenty years and society has barely survived, the world has been reclaimed by nature and humanity has been reduced to small settlements as the fungus has claimed majority of the worlds population. Joel and the rest of the surviving inhabitants of a small settlement he is now part of has to scavenge to survive barely able to keep the growing epidemic at bay. The scavenging becomes a major aspect of game as you make use of the surrounding resources to explore and fight off any enemies. The remaining survivors have retreated into quarantine zones which are heavily policed. Joel becomes a smuggler with Tess in the Boston quarantine zone and eventually comes across the infamous “Fireflies” a rebel militia group who are opposed to policed quarantined zones. Enter Ellie a rebellious teenager who is apparently immune to the infection. She immediately becomes humanity’s only chance at creating a cure and the survival of the human race. The story-line focuses on Joel and Ellie’s relationship and the quest to bring her to a facility where she can be used to develop a cure for the infection. Their relationship becomes a massive focal point of the game as you really grow attached them both, their struggles and the impending feeling that not all is what it seems in regards to this facility. As the player you want nothing more than to help both these deep intriguing characters to live happily ever after in this harsh now unforgiving world that they have been thrown into.

The graphics and audio are exceptional as expected for a top end game and really makes you feel part of their ongoing struggle. Despite the horrifying Clickers and monsters, the overgrown scenery and detail is beautiful, you really feel like you are there. Here is an example of the graphics to expect:

An artistic design of a location in the post-apocalyptic United States:

The_Last_of_Us_visuals

Audio in the game adds to the immersion and gives you a feeling of playing an interactive film with brilliant actors and a quality screenplay/script. It adds to the suspense, terror and even awe in many of the numerous different environments and situations you find yourself in.

The gameplay is really impressive, you play in third person controlling either Joel or Ellie depending on the situation. Just like any survival horror or RPG you rely on scavenging and crafting to make weapons and health kits to help you progress. Depending on the difficulty you chose at the beginning of the game determines how often you come across resources making it a real challenge for the most seasoned of gamer. During the game both Joel and Ellie work together (including some friendly NPCs you come across) to overcome obstacles and combat making their teamwork invaluable to completing the game even indirectly adding to the relationship between the player and the two protagonists as you increasingly understand how hard life is now and the only way forward is to work together. There are a fair selection of weapons both craftable and obtainable giving you many methods to avoid detection and to protect yourself from any enemy. The mostly destructible environment assists in protecting you and even becomes integral in formulating strategies to take on the most hardiest of enemies.

Overall, I give this a 10/10, this game really is deserving of all the accolades and Game of Year awards, its impressive and gripping in every aspect. Once you have played this game you can understand why it is so critically acclaimed and deserving of high ratings. I cant fault it and I am extremely excited for its sequel.

Hope you enjoyed the read!

Dec

Tomb Raider

Released in 1996 on Playstation by Eidos Interactive and developed by Core Design, a great game in almost every aspect. A popular game and successful enough to create a massive money making franchise that eventually led to Angelina Jolie playing the protagonist in a film adaptation. Some of my earliest gaming memories were of this game and the frustrating puzzles that drove me mad a kid. Still one of my favorite games of my youth and I will explain in this review why.

Its story-line is an interesting one, you follow Lara Croft an English archaeologist with a serious set of skills that puts Liam Neeson in Taken to shame. She has an unhealthy appetite for rare artifacts in which puts her life in danger in extraordinary ways. But we wont judge her for that as her adventures take us on an exciting journey through amazing places of geological and archaeological wonder. However, she is not the only one looking, she has a fair bit of competition. Enter Jacqueline Natla and Pierre Dupont, during the game they are also trying to obtain the “Scion”, which you learn about in the opening, as Lara you continuously come into contact with Pierre whom was hired by Natla to find the “Scion”, he is rather frustrating as he appears when you least expect it and he wields a pair of magnums and they hurt, big time. Not only are you trying to solve puzzles in ancient tombs owned by civilizations that clearly have a lot more to hide than meets the eye, you are trying to kill exotic wildlife, ancient monsters and competing archaeologists, so it does get rather complicated. It does include a fair bit of historical, mythological architecture and locations for all those history buffs out there. For me it made the game awesome as some of the puzzles included King Midas’s Hand and you can only imagine what happens if you come into contact with it and a massive room full of puzzles based on the Roman Gods. The whole game really brings to life the past and extinct civilizations even including dinosaurs. Yes dinosaurs. Not that long into the game you come across a Tyrannosaurus Rex and Raptors, awesome right? The puzzles themselves really take some thought and keep you on your toes, however they are not forgiving, as it is a save point based game, if you die due to the excessive amount of traps during long and tedious puzzles you do have to start all over again. The game does however make up for this by adding secrets which can give you new weapons and helpful health kits challenging you at the end of each level to go back and find them all.

The controls are not to be desired in regards to moving around and performing actions can be quite difficult, if you don’t aim Lara correctly or take the right amount of steps in a run up you can find yourself falling onto spikes, into an abyss or to the ground with bone crunching audio for added effect. It does require a fair bit of trial and error which can be frustrating but very rewarding once a puzzle is completed. The combat system is pretty decent but the only thing letting it down is the camera angles, as you don’t have control over the camera it can be quite the hindrance, it even holds you back during jumps but you normally have time to execute those. You do however, during combat end up dodge rolling until you can see your enemy clearly and then opening fire. The auto-aim on weapons is extremely helpful as Lara automatically aims at what is closest to her and this can help you locate hidden enemies or enemies not in plain view which is exceptionally helpful for when Pierre decides to make an appearance as he always appears at the most inopportune moments and his movement is less predicable than other enemies. You definitely need a controller for this game, do not try to play this on Android or IOS as the touch screen is impossible to execute any maneuvers you need to do without having 4 hands.

The graphics and audio are what you would expect from a game of this caliber. 3D polygon models and pre-rendered scenery which in some places becomes 2D, normally bushes, small foliage and scattered non-interactive artifacts you do tend to look past this though, as it was expected for the limitations of its era. The music is one of my favorite aspects of the game, just like any adventure game it continuously changes from area to area and even during important moments, for example when you have a time restraint due to a trap being set off such as a boulder rolling towards you (Indiana Jones style) or imminent danger. I would recommend checking out some of the soundtracks on YouTube. It has a classical feel to it in places and it really does set the scene for the areas you visit in your journey.

Tomb_Raider_Tomb_of_Qualopec

Overall, a 7/10, its story-line and puzzle solving is really impressive and it really does get immersive, however, the only drawback is the trial and error, if you are impatient and one to lose interest after a dozen attempts this really isn’t your game. Graphics and audio are impressive for its day and add to the immersion for the player. However, what holds the game back is the controls and camera angles, if the game had better handling it would be much more enjoyable because you really can give yourself carpal tunnel trying to execute jumps and grapples to progress forward and complete puzzles and with its length it can be quite tedious. However it does give you a great sense of achievement once completed and you can really understand why the game is critically acclaimed by companies such as Metacritic.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the read.

Dec

Kingdom Hearts

One of Squaresoft’s masterpieces, taking everything we loved about Final Fantasy and RPGs and mixing it with all our childhood stories and characters that Disney created for us during our youth. A strange combination you may think and how could it possibly work, to be honest I thought the same when it was mentioned to me in 2002 upon its release to Playstation 2. My cousin told me about the game at one of our family parties, we used those opportunities to discuss up coming games and other interesting gaming news. Needless to say I was intrigued so I asked my folks to get it for me for my birthday or Christmas of that year. Christmas rolled around and I got what I hoped for. Opened the packaging and went for it and I was not let down by it, it really was a masterpiece.

You follow the main protagonist Sora in the immediate setting of the Destiny Islands, it’s a very small set of islands and you really do get a feeling of claustrophobia as you explore it. Sora spends most of his days exploring and having fun with his two friends Riku and Kairi, you start to notice the crossover when characters such as Wakka, Selphie and Tidus are also inhabitants of the island, as children. They act as tutorial characters and introduce you to the games mechanics before throwing you deeper into the Disney/Final Fantasy crossover realms. Like any RPG the protagonist has a love interest, hence Sora having a soft spot for Kairi and focuses on her and her friendship at the beginning but Riku starts to feel that there is much more to this universe and starts to question everything and wants to escape this island and explore the world. He inspires Sora and Kairi to do the same thing but they are not as determined as Riku is and you start to sense that Riku knows more than he is letting on. As the story progresses strange things start to happen on the island and Sora starts having weird visions and dreams of Riku reaching out to him while he is engulfed by the ocean waves.

Eventually, a darkness surrounds the island and Sora loses both Kairi and Riku and has to face a strange enemy, which is introduced as the heartless. You try to fight them off with a stick but quickly discover that it is useless and once cornered and overwhelmed you are given a weapon in the shape of a very large key. Nicknamed the Keyblade respectively. You make quick work of the enemies but eventually the islands are destroyed and you drift into space. Enter Donald and Goofy, two of Disney’s biggest names. Donald is introduced as the wizard to the king (Mickey Mouse naturally) and Goofy a respected knight. Sora lands in Traverse Town and is discovered by Pluto and eventually Donald and Goofy who eventually join up with him and become very much inseparable.

This brings me on to game-play, after some story building you discover the universe is built up of many different worlds. All of which are based on Disney films and are now struggling with the heartless. Your task is to defeat this new foe, however to reach each world you have to fly through space between each world in a Gummi ship created in a workshop run by the Chipmunks. The inter-world space travel is hilariously fun, you can create any type of ship with very little limitations and it always ends up looking like a mismatch of strange shapes. Great fun. You eventually meet all of your favorite childhood characters from Aladdin to Hercules while helping them fight off the horde of heartless that are trying to swallow the universe. Final Fantasy story-lines also get displaced into these worlds and you come across Cloud, Squall, Yuffie and many more taking part in their side quests adding an interesting crossover element to the game. Introduction to the combat system, all in real-time, Sora, Donald and Goofy fight continuously as monsters spawn all around you. You really build on your reaction skills as the fights get harder and timing/dodging plays a major factor as the difficulty increases especially in boss battles. Magic and summons as well as techniques are a major aspect of the game, including items, items play a major role like in any role playing game and help you customise and build new Keyblades. Spells are taken directly from Final Fantasy and are self explanatory the only difference is you now have to aim them due to the battles are now in real-time. Summons add another fun aspect to the game, unlike Final Fantasy games they are not Gods or monsters that can command catastrophic destruction, they are characters from Disney that have fun yet helpful abilities to assist you in battle. Techniques are also a nice new addition and they add combos and special attacks that can change the tide of battle and increase MP and HP depending on which abilities you chose and who you chose them for.

One criticism I have is the fact that Donald and Goofy are CPU controlled and can either be rather helpful in tight spots or stupidly annoying and wasteful. You can chose an algorithm in how they act but its vague and not overly helpful. Example, losing a chunk of health choosing to heal yourself only to hear Donald squeal “SORA!” and heal you at the same time, you tend to respond with “… for f**k sake Donald, I got this.” or just sighing in disbelief.

The graphics are a combination of Disney’s high quality 3D artwork and Japanese anime/manga artwork for the crossover characters. Impressive and really brings to life your childhood heroes and villains as well as your favorite Final Fantasy characters you only previously saw as hideous polygons years previous (excluding Final Fantasy X characters). It is very easy on the eyes and is not overly complex, decent for its time but more focus is clearly made on the story and the mechanics rather than the graphics. However, you tend not to mind because the story-line is amazing, I honestly can’t think of anything more fun than teaming up with Disney’s finest to explore and relive my childhood while saving them from heartless demons.

Overall, I give this a strong 9/10, considering it was a massive risk for both Disney and Squaresoft/Square-Enix to team up on a game, it paid off and then some. It has a massive cult following now and is one of the most critically acclaimed RPGs of today. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys Disney and loves Final Fantasy, the nostalgia is amazing.

Dec

Resident Evil (Bio Hazard)

Another great franchise I am a fan of. Resident Evil released on Playstation on March 22nd 1996, now it is strange that this is one of my favorite games as when this was released I was 6 years old and the prospects of zombies or mutants terrified me. Its story-line and monsters played integral roles in many of my childhood nightmares. It was one of the first games I owned on my Playstation, my father bought the game for himself knowing full well I was not old enough to play it, therefore my first experience of this game was very much a spectator. After watching him play the iconic opening sequence and the introduction of the first zombie I did not sleep for weeks. Needless to say my mother was infuriated with my father for this. To be fair he wasn’t to know it would scare a 6 year old to his inner core. But I digress you didn’t come here to read my backstory, you came here to read a gaming review, but I guess you are now curious how something that scared me as a child is now one of my favorite games.

A first of its kind, Resident Evil set the scene for horror games paving the way for other franchises such as Silent Hill and games such as Nightmare Creatures and Parasite Eve. Capcom really did well with this storyline. It sets the scene in on the outskirts of a fictional city called Raccoon City, a series of bizarre murders have occurred in a town surrounding Spencer Mansion. You follow the protagonists the S.T.A.R.S Alpha Team comprised of Jill Valentine, Chris Redfield, Barry Burton, Brad Vickers, Jospeh Frost and Albert Wesker the teams captain. Initially Bravo Team was sent to investigate the murders but they had lost contact with them upon their entrance to Spencer Mansion. Alpha Team discovers their crashed helicopter and land hoping to find survivors. Now during the opening scene in the game, before CGI, they had actors filmed in full attire of the Alpha team, it made me laugh as it was extremely cheesy even for a 6 year old and even funnier for the elder version of me replaying the game years later. Again, I digress. They land looking for survivors and very soon afterwards Joseph Frost gets mauled by what appeared to be rabid dogs/wolves tearing his throat out before turning to the rest of the team poised to attack. Their pilot freaks out and takes off in the helicopter to escape leaving Jill, Chris, Barry and Albert Wesker to fend for themselves. They make a break for the mansion as their only point of safety and avoid further contact with the rabid animals.

From there the game is yours to explore, you get a choice of two playable characters; Jill Valentine, she started with a handgun which was ideal but had less space in her backpack for items or Chris Redfield, he started with a knife and more bag space. Essentially, Jill was the most appealing character as the handgun really comes in handy early on and fighting enemies with a knife, considering what enemies you were expecting to come across. In the GameCube remastered version they change the differences slightly aswell as some of the story. Jill has a pick-lock which is very useful and Chris has a lighter which is also helpful. However, they still leave the Jill character more appealing than Chris as you can obtain the lighter later on while you cannot find a pick-lock and have to survive with one-use keys and if they are used incorrectly or sporadically it can leave you in quite the predicament. Needless to say I chose Jill in the original and the remastered version. I will say though depending on the character you chose will determine many story-line differences so it is worth playing as both.

Once you have “ummed and ahhed” at what character you want to pick the game opens up and your placed in the eerie Spencer Mansion foyer. It’s quite impressive. After a small discussion regarding whats happened, the remaining three members of Alpha Team you decide to split up and look for Chris or Barry who has for some reason disappeared or not made it to the mansion with the team. Splitting up to investigate in a horror setting… always a recipe for disaster and a terrible cliche. As Jill you and Barry search the West Wing of the building and Wesker investigates the East Wing by himself. Eventually you come across a pool of blood and a body and back to tell Wesker who has not reappeared so you decide to continue by yourself. You then come to one of the most iconic scenes in the game and the whole of the horror gaming genre, it really is terrifying. The lead up to it and the door mechanics really adds terror to the game. Opening any door goes into a door opening sequence with a blacked out background and the door opening, with a loud cliched creaking sound, adding ridiculous amounts of mystery and tension every time you open a door. You genuinely have no idea what is on the other side before it is too late and you are thrown into horrific situation where everything in that room wants to cannibalize you and will stop at nothing to do so. They don’t even feel any pain, goddamned zombies. This scene introduces you to the enemy. You see a person crouched over what seems like a dying person, who you soon recognize as one of the Bravo Team (Kenneth) and just as his soul escapes his body the person who was crouched over him looks around displaying his/her horribly disfigured face covered in entrails and blood. If your heart doesn’t sink or your core temperature stays normal it has not had its full effect. As a kid I ran from the room I was that scared, these days it sends a shiver down my spine. The game cuts back in and you’re thrown into a situation you are not sure you can handle as this person/monster shuffles towards you with his/her arms outstretched. It’s not a spacious place this mansion and the controls are not forgiving so it is best to avoid contact with these monsters whenever possible and for other reasons I cannot explain without spoilers. So just avoid anything and everything as ammunition and heath kits are not easy to acquire. Before I spoil the rest of the game I will move on because I will end up writing about everything and it will become pointless to play. I have already spoiled the opening so I apologize for that. However, in the grand scheme of the game its but a mere taste of whats to come.

Left: 1996 Original Right: 2002 Remake

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The graphics of the original for 1996 was amazing, polygons had taken over sprites and were now the start of the gaming golden age. As polygon graphics were slowly becoming the norm, it really adds to the horror of the game. Limitations such as most of the zombies looking very similar, mangled face, white blood stained top and black trousers you dont tend to mind considering the era they came from. There are some variations later on but they mostly look the same. Once other monsters such as spiders, dogs and ravens make their arrival you do really get a feel for the complexity of the graphics for the game. Even the blood splatter is rather good for its time. Considering modern games tend to not even add blood splatter.

Overall, an excellent survival horror game, a real ground breaker of its day paving the way for survival horror games to come. The setting, puzzle solving, small enclosed rooms and terrifying enemies make this a difficult but enjoyable game. The only complaint I have is the controls. Inverted controls and awkward camera angles make it extremely difficult to take on enemies and avoid them from time to time you will hear something and not see it, as much as that is fun for suspense and horror trying to target something from a distance  it takes a lot of work and it’s not ideal to take on enemies in close combat considering its their strongest strategy. It is also one of a few games which have multiple endings, pushing you to go for the best ending which comes hand in hand with doing a hell of a lot more to achieve. Definitely a game I would recommend to anyone who is a fan of survival horror games. I would not however recommend the films, so don’t get me started on that.

I hope you enjoyed the read!

Dec

Horizon: Zero Dawn

Now, since it has been a while since I have blogged about games I will start with a game I am currently playing.

Horizon: Zero Dawn released on 1st March 2017 by Sony Entertainment and developed by Guerrilla Games. Already a critically acclaimed game by big reviewing companies such as IGN, giving it a 9.3/10 and Gamespot giving it a 9/10. They have a good reason to give it such good ratings as from my first impression from playing it that it ticks 99% of what I like in a game.

Lets start with the storyline, you start the game as it builds around the protagonist “Aloy”, can’t help but think its a weird play on words of Alloy, I won’t spoil the game but there are similarities between her name/personality and backstory that strikes me that she is indeed a mix and match of materials, in my eyes the onomatopoeia fits. You learn that she is an outcast for reasons unknown and your guardian Rost is also an outcast again for reasons unknown. Even as I am half way through the main story I still don’t know why. I NEED TO KNOW… please tell me.

You then learn that this is a post-modern world setting where the “old metal world” was reclaimed by nature and reset the balance between ecosystems in an attempt to reverse the damage humans had caused. Humanity has been reduced to tribalistic ways and some animals have been replaced with machines. Strange right? I found it very intriguing and it compelled me to try to find out. Already a great start for me, its gripped me from the beginning and it is not like most of the modern games of today it doesn’t tell you everything you want and need to know in the opening cutscene, the game pushes you to explore and figure out the story for yourself.

You end up discovering what seems like a facility of the old world complete with futuristic computers, technology and complete with the charred remains of some of the inhabitants of that particular civilisation. You notice what looks like a handsfree bluetooth headset but as its a game its a lot cooler and obviously has a lot more going for it than meets the eye. I won’t spoil it for you but its tech becomes vital to the whole game.

The graphics are what you would expect from a Triple A game of the gaming boom. The detail is impressive and in parts it shows the natural beauty of the reclaimed lands and even shows the detail in the old derelict builds of the past civilisation. No two areas are the same in detail and you will find yourself in awe of the amount of detail of your surroundings before being jumped by a vicious Sabertooth Machine making visceral work of your body before you know it and then turning your body to dust, then having to start back from your last save point, frustrated that you got lost in the graphics of the game. To be fair despite the fact it is aesthetically pleasing the detail in damage is very limited if there is any your body doesn’t show damage and your health bar is the only indicator of damage you have received. Finally, the constantly changing weather adds to the overall aesthetics of the game adding to the gameplay and some of the tactics you apply to your gaming experience.

The gameplay is complex and interesting, you learn very early on that you need to make use of all the resources you come across. As it is based on a world where money is redundant and everyone has been reduced to trade. You do have a currency but it doubles up as a usable material for ammo for your weapons among other objects you either pick up or loot from dead humans or destroyed machines. You fight in real time with primitive and futuristic weapons however skill modifiers can assist and mix up the combat system quite effectively. The only negative thing I have to say about the combat system is how it works with the camera, I’m not overly sure this is intentional but owing the viciousness of the machines and their power they tend to either rush over towards you to tear you limb from limb with erratic attacks or blast you to dust with fireballs/lasers or plasma balls. The camera cannot keep up with the erratic behaviour of hostile targets and you can find yourself spinning around aimlessly getting ripped apart as you try and locate an enemy to take it down. I tend to dodge roll until I see the enemy again so I can make decision of how I want to attack.

Overall, the game is very good and definitely worthy of all the accolades it has received being the beginning of a new franchise. Including its difficulty level which you can choose at the beginning of the game allowing the bravest of gamers to attempt a very masochistic experience. I would recommend this game to mostly anyone who is a fan of RPGs with an intriguing storyline concept.

Anyways, I’ll stop rambling. I hope you enjoyed the read!

Dec

Heart of Darkness (1998)

A game created by Amazing Studios, and published by Interplay,
onto both the Playstation 1 and PC. Retro, I know. However, it was one of the
most difficult games to complete by any child; one of the games I remember from
my childhood was one of the few I couldn’t complete till I relived it 14 years
on. The game starts in a classroom with a boy named Andy asleep in class, who is
awakened by his teacher, who reprimands him and decidedly throws him in a
closet… (That would be illegal nowadays, that teacher would be sacked ha-ha
^.^) Andy then escapes and meets his dog called ‘Whiskey’(You can’t help but
think he will grow up to be an alcoholic) who then run to a park and eat a picnic.
Everything turns bad as a Lunar eclipse occurs randomly and Andy’s dog is
kidnapped by unknown beings. Andy overreacts and runs home, ignores his mothers
shout for his dinner and goes to some Tree house/Laboratory, gets in his flying
car (its 1998… :/), picks up a weapon and helmet and flies to what looks like the
Grand Canyon or Death Valley, crashes and then the game starts.

The graphics are in the context of its era, large sprites with
CGI pre-rendered cinematic during cut sequences of the game, mimicing the emulators
of today. However, it stood above the rest in my eyes in its difficulty, from
the very beginning the computer decides to throw everything it has at you,
without explaining what is dangerous and what is friendly. Well from the first
couple of scenes you realise everything wants to kill you, and it can in ways
that will irritate to the brink of insanity.

As a side scrolling game is has its trademark, enemies
can attack you from their screen but you can’t attack  them,
which comes at a delight when your hit from a firebolt from an enemy three
screens ago. However, the puzzles are semi-intellectual for a child’s game, not
giving you any hints until you’ve died 102,344 times, not on par with Portal
mind you, but difficult and bizarre, puzzles that relate to the storyline do
baffle but once you solve one, you will know for the next puzzles.

Well I recently decided to take this up a day ago, after taking a
lifetime to install it, choose the right compatibility settings so that it would
play on my PC and not warp on me. Took me and my housemates 6 hours to complete,
which in great scheme of gaming, is nothing, BUT, back in the day to the
untrained eye and to these modern puzzle games, this took weeks of dying,
retrying, restarting and controller throwing to complete. However, one term you
will say over and over again is ‘FOR F**K SAKE, I PRESSED DOUBLE JUMP!’, which
you will find delightful.

The difficulty does increase tenfold after the first area as your
best weapon is eaten by some massive lizard creature and the game becomes a race
against time to not get eaten by anything that has a shadow, whilst avoiding that
shadow because it also wants to eat you. You do eventually stumble across
another power/weapon in the game which helps in solving puzzles and removing
obstacles, which is helpful, and towards the end it gives you back your old weapon.
In addition, you gain a race of allies, whom look similar to flying
goblins, who smoke pot and have pictures of naked ladies (:S This game just
jumped up a couple of PEGI ratings.), you then team up against the big scary
‘Sauron’ looking character and to save your dog. Oh and enjoy the ending, not
saying anything…

To conclude this review I will give this game a 5/10, mainly
because of the difficulty and because of the genre of games it has joined. It’s
a game that deserves to be relived, it’s not like the new puzzle games that
take two attempts and the computer does it for you, you actually have to think.
The storyline lets it down; the main linear one is a standard hero versus army
led by an ultimate being that by chance has chosen to kill you (I never
understood why?), the storyline fillers are ridiculous but does add a small
hilarity factor. It does lose rating due to the lack of replay value, once
completed you will feel satisfied for another decade until you feel the need to
spring clean and stumble across it and decide the time is right to complete it
once again. However, it does have a difficulty changer, which I have not attempted to change yet worried about the consquences. Overall a ‘deffo’ for the retro gamer, for those who don’t like to delve into the past, it wont be your cup of tea.

Thanks for reading!

Dec