Saturday, November 15, 2008

2008 - The Album

2008 was a good year, don't you think?

We had good games this year, filled with gameplay-driven joy, graphics that proved how advanced technology has taken us and music that pleased our ears like there's no tomorrow.

So, I created this album, this tribute, this soundtrack of the year.
I tried to make it cover as much of the year as possible. And if you can't find a track representing an event you cared about, it probably wasn't worth caring about in the first place (except Dead Space, sorry guys).


1/21. Valve - Left 4 Dead Main Theme
2/21. Chris Geehan & Dan Byrne McCullough - Make Your Mind Up
3/21. The Ink Spots - I Don't Want To Set The World
4/21. ?BIDEO GAME IDORT? - you'd think martin galway would have been pissed but it was the early 90's and i'm sure he didn't care
5/21. Baaba Maal - Far Cry 2 Theme
6/21. Takeharu Ishimoto - Calling
7/21. Linkin Park - Session
8/21. Metamorphosis Jazz Band - Minuki's Theme ~ Child of Sorcery
9/21. RealFaction - Simple Sight (inatrumental)
10/21. Shawn Phase - Santa is Dead
11/21. Prope - Let's Tap Main Theme
12/21. Frank Klepacki - Hell March 3
13/21. Roy Brown - Butcher Pete
14/21. Simon Viklund - Heat Wave
15/21. Team Megamix - Radiant Emerald Zone
16/21. Rhymes With Stomach - Rainbow Road
17/21. Kyle Gabler - Ode To The Bridge Builder
18/21. MegaDriver - MetalHog (Sonic 1 & 2)
19/21. Matt Ulemen (?) - The Age Of Reckoning Has Arrived
20/21. Jun Ishikawa, Dan Miyakawa (?) - Masked Dedede Battle
21/21. Brian Eno - Spore Menu Theme


1/21. Studio Pixel - Cave Story BETA Theme
2/21. Tanguy Ukulele Orchestra - Megaman 9 Title
3/21. Masafumi Takada - Pleather for Breakfast
4/21. XOC - Vegetable Valley 2
5/21. The Go! Team - Get It Together
6/21. Jason "Shyboy" Arnold of Hyonogaja - Shall Never Surrender
7/21. Robin Beanland, Grant Kirkhope, Dave Clynick - Spiral Mountain
8/21. Planetboom - SuperSonic
9/21. Philip Glass - Pruit Igoe
10/21. Tomoya Tomita - Trailer Funk
11/21. Isvaffel - Jeesus Voittaa
12/21. Nobuko Toda & Jackie Presti - Love Theme
13/21. Wojahn Brothers - Oh No You Didn't
14/21. Tomoya Ohtani (?) - Spagonia Day
15/21. Shoko Sakai - Open Sesame!
16/21. Asuka Ohta, Ryo Nagamatsu - DK's Snowboard Cross
17/21. Alcorus - Shine
18/21. Michael Hunter - Soviet Connection
19/21. Noriyuki Iwadare - Gyakuten Saiban 3 - Special Blend Mix
20/21. HAL Laboratory (?) - Endpoint (Vs. Master Hand)
21/21. Toru Minegishi - K.K. Soul

Thanks, anyone who helped me with anything. I love you, bros <3

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Oh, Rayman. How I love thee. Everyone has atleast one or two nostalgic game that they will never forget, Rayman is one of those games.

The story in Rayman was nothing, really. It was something about a villian called Mister Dark, that kidnapped all the Platoons in the world, which is some kind of AWESOME FORCE OF NATURE THAT KEEPS THE WORLD TOGETHER, and Rayman stepped up to the challenge yadda yadda yadda.

The gameplay however is simple 2D platforming. You control Rayman, jumping around and throwing his fist. Literally.

Aside for some permanent abilities and temporary powerups you could find in the game, it doesn't get more complex than that. And that is for the best.

What made Rayman unique is the design. As you can see above, Rayman has no limbs. In Raymans world, noone has limbs. It looks really good together with the drawn graphics, and if anything, it's all very imagintive.

That's my main love with this game, the design. Everything looks like it's straight from a cartoon, and the sound effects are all cartoon sounds. The music is very fitting for wherever the game takes you, and it all fits like a glove. And while you admire everything you see and hear, is the gameplay good, even through it's simplictic sidescrolling action?

It is. Even through it's not complex, it's fun. And hard. Gosh, was it hard. Fortunally, I can now play it with reasonable gaming skills, and its difficulty is just right.

And hey, if I chicken out and activate the "99 Lives" cheat again, I'll still be having fun, like the good old days.

Oh Rayman, how I love thee.

Monday, November 10, 2008

East vs. West: A neverending battle of recurring themes and developmentally stunted neckbeards

In pretty much every videogame community out there, the East vs. West argument is bound to pop up at some point. 99% of the time, this will turn into an endless bitchfest between two completely insufferable groups of people: the emoticon-spouting, anime-obsessed japanophiles and the overly patriotic Western gamers. Both sides will spend hours on end verbally fellating their favorite developers while claiming that the opposition is the cancer that's killing gaming and/or the reincarnation of Satan, effectively ridding the thread of any sane and semi-sane posters that might have taken part in the argument.

When dealing with such people, you can simply resort to the easiest way out: the old "both sides are wrong in every way, the answer is somewhere in the middle" argument. While this definitely isn't the worst stance, it's also wrong in many ways. It's hard to admit, but even those pathetic rants written by blithering fanboys might have SOME truth to them under all that self-righteous nerd rage. There's one thing you just can't deny: by and large, both types of games contain certain recurring themes and gameplay styles which might be enough to put certain people off. And if you're not a complete douche about it, that's really nothing to be ashamed of: it really depends on what you personally want from gaming.

There has been a distinct difference between Japanese games and their spiritual Western equivalents, especially during the last three console generations. While most Western games attempt to simulate certain real life activities which might seem out of reach for most of the gaming public (from sports to playing a musical instrument), Asian ones tend to throw any attempts at realism out the window in favor of an over the top, often ridiculous and inherently unrealistic experience that simply wouldn't work in real life.

As a way to prove this point, I chose to compare a distinctively Japanese game to its popular Western equivalent. Namely, I'm comparing the Guitar Hero franchise to the semi-obscure rhythm game Gitaroo Man from iNiS. Those of you who have played iNiS' Ouendan/Elite Beat Agents series probably know where I'm going with this right now. Both games are based around the same simple main concept: a guitar-based rhythm game. Guitar Hero just screams modern Western game design philosophy: It tries its best to simulate the experience of playing a real guitar in a believable environment, right down to giving the player a guitar-shaped plastic controller.

Gitaroo Man, on the other hand, is the exact opposite. In the tutorial level, you play as a young boy while your pet dog, the Obligatory Talking Animal Sidekick teaches you how to play the guitar. As soon as the actual game starts, an insanely annoying baby demon inexplicably breaks into your bedroom, warps reality in various insane ways and CHALLENGES YOU TO A ROCK-OFF. Your dog hands you a futuristic guitar which turns you into an all-powerful superhero. The rest of the game is spent battling a wide variety of characters including but not limited to giant robots, racial stereotype bees, mecha sharks and creepy metrosexuals, using THE POWER OF MUSIC. You really can't make this shit up.

This is also blatant in RPGs. Even fantasy-themed Western role-playing games try to make everything as believable and realistic as possible while their Eastern equivalents feature unrealistically powerful children with ridiculously unrealistic hair cuts taking down unrealistic monsters using unrealistically huge swords. Western developers churn out fairly realistic military warfare games based on events that actually took place in real life. Their Japanese equivalents contain many unrealistic things including but not limited to Stalinist colonels with electric super powers, foes that can read your mind AND your PSX memory card, and last but not least, giant enemy crabs. While Western mech games try to simulate what piloting a large mech would REALLY feel like, Japan goes all out in a blaze of over-the-top ridiculouslness. With such polarizing design philosophies, it's no wonder that some people happen to be prejudiced against certain types of games based on their country of origin.

Of course, it goes unsaid that not ALL Western and Eastern games conform to these stereotypes. In the long-gone NES days, virtually all developers shared similar design philosophies. As Zero Punctuation's Yahtzee pointed out, you could make a game about pretty much any ridiculous crap you could think of and people didn't seem to mind it. Though really, past attempts at those sorts of games are now being mocked endlessly. I think gaming went from being too ridiculous to overly generic and serious, but I'll leave that stuff for another entry.

So yes, there are certain tropes and elements that clearly define games based on their cultural origins and there's nothing wrong with preferring a certain type of game. Does that justify your endless Gamefaqs rant explaining why WRPGs are superior to JRPGs and why anyone who disagrees with your views is a faggot? Is it a good idea to never shut up about the superiority of video games from GLORIOUS NIPPON compared to their Western counterparts? Hell no, you worthless sack of flab.

If you're still interested in the whole culture clash seen in modern gaming, I recommend reading Kurt Kalata's Killer7 article over at HG101. It makes a few great points about the whole thing and overall it's a pretty fun read.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Gripan gaems

As much as I love video games in general, there's several trends in games both recent and old that've been a kind of a pain in my ass ever since I've been playing these games, so I figure I should waste a blog entry in listing some of these flaws and the games that exhibit them. Starting with...

1: Bullshit difficulty
I have to confess: I've never finished the original Super Mario Bros. on the NES. Every time I'd get to a world I've never been at before, and thus haven't had a chance to memorize perfectly, I'd stub my toe on a Goomba or trip over a bottomless pit time and time again and would have to start my game over again. And throughout the third, fourth and even fifth generation, many other platformers would persistently use a similar system: Run out of lives and you start the game all over. This is not how you make a game more ”challenging”, this is how you make a game stupid and frustrating. This is bullshit difficulty.

Fuck you too, Goombas.

Bullshit difficulty isn't just restricted to platforming, obviously: How many shooters can you name with ammo pickups so stupidly scarce you wind up using your pisswig melee weapon half the time? (If you want to discourage players from using their guns, make them so weak any player with half a brain will just run away from every encounter they can, just let us use our guns if we want to!) How many times have you played an adventure game with a puzzle so ridiculously obtuse or hard-to-perform there's no way anyone could solve it without paying a visit to GameFAQs or shelling out twenty bucks on an official strategy guide? Learning to make a game more accessible and fair might still earn you the ire of ”hardcore gamers” who insist that anything that isn't stupidly, artificially difficult means that it's been ”dumbed down for the casuals”, but as we all know, hardcore gamers are masochists – besides, ain't no rule that says you can't add an extra bullshit difficulty mode just to please the hardcore crowd.

2: Widescreen schmidescreen
This is a personal gripe more than anything, but seeing as both of the two televisions and the monitor on my computer have widescreen aspect ratios, it would be rather nice if my games let me make use of them from time to time. Even now, when widescreen monitors are outselling fullscreen and 5:4 monitors by a wide margin, developers are only just starting to grasp the concept of widescreen gaming properly, and now that we're only about 7 generations into console gaming, console developers are finally getting in on the widescreen/high definition train. But take a trip barely three years back in gaming history, and it's a whole different story: Console games with proper, even decent widescreen support are few and far between, and even on resolutions with varying aspect ratios, computer games demand players to tinker with their settings files just to get the aspect ratio right.

Pictured: Far Cry 2, doing it wrong

Seeing as we've had widescreen tellies for almost a decade now, and even some PS1 games have featured widescreen modes, there's really no excuse why devs couldn't have catered to widescreen gamers for the entire last generation in gaming, instead of developing strictly for players with fullscreen Tvs. And all throughout the last generation, even if a game did offer widescreen support, it was hardly ever even perfectly implemented: Usually games would just snip off the top and bottom halves of the fullscreen picture and call it a perfect widescreen mode, not to even mention stretching in-game HUD elements and FMVs. And some developers (namely DICE, developers of the Battlefield series and winners of the Widescreen Gaming Forum's first annual Narrow-Minded award) even insist that being able to see more of the playing field gives an unfair advantage to widescreen gamers over people playing at a fullscreen ratio.
Fortunately, as far as widescreen goes, recent PC and console games have been getting a lot better at this, implementing proper widescreen modes and automatic aspect ratio correction (see: Every Source-engine game ever), and for older PC games widescreen solutions are usually available on the Widescreen Gaming Forum's comprehensive database. All the current-gen systems (as well as the original Xbox) also allow players play their games in widescreen if they so prefer – it's still a shame it took them so long to start getting it right.

3: Don't release it if it's not finished!
I remember playing Spyro 3 on the PS1 as a tyke, working hard for that elusive 100% save game, eagerly hoping to reach that final bonus level...until the counter froze at 99% even though I'd collected absolutely every damn thing in the whole game. So what went wrong exactly? Simple: I forgot to collect one of the dragon eggs in one of the speedway levels while I was visiting that level for the first time. The minute I left that level, I might as well have shut off my Playstation and tossed my memory card in a fire – there was no way I was ever going to reach 100% without starting over.
Pictured: Jurassic Park: Tresspasser: a broken, unfinished piece of shit.

PC gamers have had to put up with this sort of thing for much longer than console gamers – seeing as hardware configurigations for PC systems can be very different from one-another, and game-shattering bugs are easily fixed through patches, which are free to distribute on the internet, PC devs can get away with more and more flaws in their games as long as they promise to fix it in a patch. Now this very same issue seems to be rearing its ugly head to console gamers as well – all the current-gen systems have online connectivity, so developers are understandably tempted to half-ass their games and release a couple of patches if any bugs find their way into the final product.
Pictured: Gears of War: another broken, unfinished piece of shit.

But here's the thing: When I plonk down €60 for a game I've wanted to play for months, I expect it to work, I expect it to work flawlessly, and I expect it to work now, without having to wait a few months for these issues to be fixed. And even if a patch DOES come out at some point, there's no guarantee it'll fix all the bugs. (Thanks for not fixing the freezing glitch, Gears of War patch!) In the days of old, when a bug slipped through in a console game, the best the devs could do was fix it for a re-released edition of the game, but really, if you release a buggy game in the first place, your credibility is as good as gone and no amount of patching and re-releasing is going to fix that.
Finally, seeing as Duke Nukem Forever is still taking its sweet time, I'm expecting it to be the most polished, glitch-free title to ever hit the market – they've had more than ten years to polish to game to perfection, so if a bug slips through into a game that's been in the making for that long, there's really no excuse.

By the way, the rest of you guys can feel free to add to this list in future blog entries – I'd very much like to hear what pisses you off about the games you've played.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


Heck yea, its time to get serious.

One-liners aside, both Serio
us Sam: The First Encounter and Serious Sam: The Second Encounter meet all the requirements of a "no brainer" FPS shooter. And these are:

  1. Shoot anything that moves;
  2. Check for more moving things;
  3. Shoot some more to check if it's really dead.
You must be asking "but dear Cosmico, aren't there a thousand other generic shooting games like this?". Yeah, there are. So what made this one so special, to stand out of the endless wave of FPS games for PC? Well, these did everything right.

To start off, your character is a Duke Nukem-clone called Serious Sam, Sammy for friends. Duke Nukem will always be the king, but this dude is just as cool, and he will make you laugh from time to time, either with his corny one-liners, or commenting the actual game and other stuff.

There's a memorable scene that actually criticizes most shooters (and a lot of other game genres as well). There's this room where this pumpkin-fat-chainsaw-guy shows up for the second time, and after you kill it, Sam will spout "Hey, didn't I kick your ass a few rooms back?". Obviously mentioning the fact that most enemies in games all look the same, this basically tells you this game will make you laugh, not aiming for a more generic "serious" tone, despite the game's title. I also literally laughed out loud when Sam started humming the Indiana Jones music while running away from a huge boulder. There needs to be more games like this.

And the actual gameplay is a blast to play. As I said, it's just shoot and run, but damn is it fun.

There will always be a huge amount of enemies in your screen to enjoy murdering. The game's engine is pretty optimized, allowing up to (if I remember) 150 enemies on-screen. That's a lot to kill. The enemies are also varied and fun to kill, going from mindless one-eyeball monster things to huge scorpions.

Serious Sam: The Second Encounter beats the original game thanks to it's great level design, sporting huge arenas and some clever puzzles.

Then came Serious Sam 2. That's when things got ugly.

We know Serious Sam is supposed to be silly, but not this silly and random. Serious Sam 2 is childish as shit, it looks like a carto
on for 10 year olds. The jokes are stupid, Sam's one-liners are still corny, but an annoying type of corny, and oh my fucking god what the fuck did they do to the enemies.

What the fuck. No, just no. What were they thinking.

The game's engine isn't optimized. At all. It can barely handle 10 enemies on screen without lagging everywhere, no matter how much expensive or top of the line your pc is. The guns sound really weak and crappy, and you can snipe people with the shotgun. What.

It's still a good game, but it holds nothing to the great two first games. Serious Sam 3 is coming in the future, hopefully playing more along the lines of the originals - silly, but not that silly and stupid.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Team Fortress 2 - Gameplay Footage

Hi there, Ben Laserlove reporting with my first blogpost, and this one isn't going to be anything special. Frankly, it's just me testing equipment, so to speak.

If you've seen the previous post about Team Fortress 2, and want to see the game in action, or just want to see a guy with mediocre skills in TF2, look no futher then below.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Fan Art Extravaganza part 1

Generally, the Internet is a heavily cynical place. People always seem to get some sort of twisted pleasure from digging up the worst and most disgusting pieces of crap the intertubes have to offer, all in the name of irony and e-penis enlargement. This is especially common on fan art websites. For this wonderful gem of a blog though, that kind of stuff just won't cut it. Let's be honest here: harshly criticizing a piece of Sonic the Hedgehog yaoi scribbled in MS Paint by a fat 12 year old girl is about as impressive as beating up an armless midget. For that reason, I chose to take a look at the lighter side of video game fan art and dig up some truly impressive, well drawn stuff.

Note that most of these were stolen from a fan art thread on a certain image board, so I honestly have no idea who most of the original artists are. If anyone does, be sure to drop a comment since proper credit *will* be given.

Let's get the ball rolling with a brilliant piece of Sonic the Hedgehog fan art. Yeah, that kind of stuff really does exist.

Thanks to some professional use of CG, perspective and an insane amount of detail, this piece definitely stands out. If only Sonic Team's own artists were this good.


Everything about this picture suggests that the artist certainly knows their shit. Just look at it, IT OOZES WITH STYLE.

And now for something completely different.

These people have truly done the impossible: they've taken Sonic CD's seemingly perfect opening and made it even more mind-blowingly awesome.

While on the subject of highly detailed paintings, have some amazing Shadow of the Colossus/ICO work.

By the way, if you haven't finished Shadow of the Colossus yet, you shouldn't have looked at this picture. WHOOPS.

Time for some wonderful Yume Nikki artwork, and by "wonderful" I mean "horribly scarring in an awesome sort of way". This IS Yume Nikki after all; I wouldn't have it any other way.

To top it all off, a comic that will solidify your feces and warm your heart at the same time.

(click here for a better size since Blogspot fagged it up)

Yes, there will be a part 2.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Seeing as this is my first time writing for the blog and I haven't really gotten my shit that well together, I figure the logical thing to do would be to write a whole bunch of crap about a game I like and calling it a blog entry, since that seems to be a bit of a recurring theme around here. So why not start off with an underappreciated gem from ye olden days of about ten years ago, with the sadly forgotten PS1 should-have-been classic Incredible Crisis?

The game's storyline can best be summed up as Murphy's law taken to its logical extreme: After an average Japanese family's eldest specifically asks her extended family to honour her birthday by coming home early, the father of the family suddenly has his lunchbreak calisthenics interrupted by a giant stone globe crashing through his office window and chasing him out of the building, before he's put on an ambulance and has to navigate a busy highway while strapped to a stretcher, give his femme fatale secretary a backrub and shoot down fighter jets with a massive anti-aircraft cannon, in that order. His son, on the other hand, has to deal with being shrunk down to the size of a thimble by a passing alien spacecraft, his wife gets caught up in a furry bank robbery and later has to pilot a fighter jet in order to take down a sentient, giant stuffed bear, and his teenaged daughter has to reunite an adorable baby UFO with its mothership after shopping for some cosmetics and avoiding the wrath of her teacher, who can apparently fling chalk at misbehaving students across the classroom so hard it knocks them out and causes permanent brain damage. Holy shit, that was a lot of words.

So the overarching goal of the game is to guide each member of the family through each increasingly bizarre scenario while making sure they don't stress out and die. Yes, the game measures how well you're doing by your character's stress level, and if you get too stressed you either get squashed by a huge spike-shaped trap or eaten by a praying mantis, or just die from a spontaneous brain aneurysm or something (Douglas Adams' Bureaucracy, anyone?). This probably ties in with the game's main character being an efficiency-obsessed salaryman who wouldn't think twice about working until his heart gives in, simply out of blind loyalty to his company, but in the context of the other player characters it seems a bit weird, since I can't imagine japanese housewives and schoolchildren having much to stress about in their day-to-day lives.

Gameplay is divided into short minigames, each taking anywhere between two or four minutes to beat, much like in any other minigame compilation like WarioWare or Raving Rabbids, with short cutscenes and info boxes in-between levels to clue you in on what's going on and what you're supposed to do, along the style of ”Mash the X button to make the elevator slow down, use the D-pad to dodge crap that's falling at you”. Yes, that's an actual minigame. The game throws these minigames at you two or three at a time, and when you're done it gives you grades and extra lives depending on how well you did, and then lets you save your progress and move on. Each character's scenario unfolds episodically, and you can go back and play any individual minigame again if you like. Nothing too special for the genre.

Now that we're about three or four paragraphs into talking about the game, it might seem a bit late to say this, but the reason I wanted to tell you about Incredible Crisis is that this game serves as a prime example of how much bad game design players, including yours truly, are willing to tolerate in a game when the atmosphere makes up for it. There's about twenty, maybe twenty five minigames in total, so players who know what they're doing can plow through the Story mode in an hour, maybe an hour and a half tops. There aren't any secrets to unlock, so the only tangible reason to replay a minigame is just to get a high grade...and let's be honest, who gives a shit about high scores anyway, especially when the game doesn't save them?

And even worse, out of the twenty-or-so minigames, at least four are shameless retreads of previous ones. In fact, the game makes you perform one minigame up to three times, with the exact same scenario: the family member who you're currently controlling is catapulted into a stranger's boat, who offers to give you a ride for free, and then your character decides that the logical thing to do is to pull the plug on his boat and flood the whole thing, just so that you get to fling water overboard and dodge falling debris until you get to shore. So if I've got this right, all three members of the family were big enough idiots to pull the plug on the boat they were on, miles away from shore, without thinking any worse of it? I'm no advocate of karma by any means, but if your entire family is stupid enough to instinctively pull the plug on a boat they happen to be sitting in, you pretty much deserve whatever cruel shit the world decides to throw at you. Yes, even giant teddy bears.

That's not to say the few minigames that aren't repeated don't suffer from problems of their own: One sequence that specifially springs to mind is one where you, taking control of the mother of the family, are abducted by the clan of furry bank robbers and forced to swap around the contents of your grocery bag to match the exact weight of a giant, golden piggy bank, so you can swap one for the other, Raiders of the Lost Ark-style. What ruined this particular minigame for me is the time limit imposed on you: You only have about three minutes to work out the contents of your bag so they weigh just enough, and if you don't make it, you get impaled on a bunch of spikes. Oh, and in case you didn't have a hard enough time, the timer gets sped up when you try it again. This got to the point where I had to pause the game and break out a calculator just to figure out what I had to do, which should already have set off some alarms in the game designers' heads – and really, who the hell wants to do maths in a party game?!

That wasn't quite enough to steer me away from the game though, as you can probably guess. With a game this uniquely japanese in every way, it's a small wonder this game ever made it to European shores in the first place. Think of it as the PS1 equivalent to Katamari Damacy. A little charm can go a long way in a game, and Incredible Crisis literally oozes bizarre, unique charm out of its every pore, with completely insane situations, offbeat animation and characters, little references to movies and television sprinkled everywhere, all of which just beg the player to keep playing to see what happens next. The soundtrack also contributes to the mood in that it doesn't actually sound like video game music at all – and it figures, since the soundtrack is composed and performed by Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra, and when's the last time you heard ska music in a video game anyway? I mean seriously, just listen to the song that plays over the intro and try telling me this won't be stuck in your head for hours.

As a party game, Incredible Crisis is best enjoyed at a party obviously, but not the competitive kind – just play through the story mode with your friends, passing the controller around with each minigame: every single one of them is instantly accessible, and you and your friends are likely to be chortling merrily through the whole experience, hell, you could even make a dumb drinking game out of it. Just don't expect to be able to do it again in a few weeks with the same people, as Incredible Crisis is best the first time you play it.

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Monday, November 3, 2008

brick shitting games.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. (recommended by Cosmico, who happens to be a serial dog rapist) is surprisingly fun for a "dark and gritty" FPS, but it's certainly not without its share of flaws which I COULD ignore, but choose not to since writing about good things just isn't as fun as bitching endlessly. For example, its free-roaming aspect feels a bit fake and dumbed down sometimes. Eventually I told the main story to go fuck itself and went for a more appealing assassination side quest instead. After spending half an hour tracking down my victim, it turned out his area was guarded by the military and the only way of reaching my target without throwing my life away (AKA trying to take on legions of highly trained guards with my noobish weapons and skill) was advancing the main storyline. This, by the way, required backtracking to the very beginning. Mind you, I DID try to go around the fenced area to look for a different route, but I was literally greeted with the END OF THE GAME'S WORLD. The developers didn't even bother setting up some half-assed boundary or at least an invisible wall to signify that I couldn't go further - the map literally just ends and you're left gazing into a white abyss of nothingness. I honestly couldn't think of a worse immersion killer, except maybe Okami's Issun suddenly spouting bullshit about PS2 memory card space just as soon as I started getting into the game's universe.

Then there's the whole horror aspect; to many people including myself, anything that tries to be creepy and shocking in an over-the-top manner is about as scary as a 10 year old boy's Halloween costume. So far, this definitely applies to Stalker. Instead of trying to be subtle and clever in its creepiness, this game abounds in cheap scares by crapping out as many grotesque radiation-influenced mutations at you as possible. Hideously mutated and highly aggressive animals? Check. Slow-moving anthropomorphic... things with deformed faces which can control your mind, but only at an insane range which pretty much renders them harmless? Yep. Zoidberg clones who can become invisible, block your path, suddenly pop up and squeal while doing insane scratching motions? Check. I'm half-expecting zombies to pop up later on in the game.

I know this makes me sound like a massive weeaboo, indie "games = art" faggot, but I wish every horror-themed game developer gave Yume Nikki a try. It's a perfect example of a truly scary game that doesn't need hideous creatures, a dark color scheme or even polygonal visuals to create an inherently unnerving, often disturbing atmosphere. Yume Nikki is entirely based on the fear of the unknown; there's very few actual exposition. You play as a girl who's bound to her bedroom and you have dreams. Any attempts to leave the room are met with a strange head-shaking motion from the girl. That's all there is to it; everything in-between is for you to discover. All the disturbingly surreal things you encounter only have one explanation: the girl's descent into madness which ultimately leads to a fairly predictable ending. In fact, the finale is my only real gripe with the game. You'll never encounter any creepy music, hideously grotesque creatures or cheap scares, and the game's only attempt at a screamer is just too well done and memorable to hate. As a whole, Yume Nikki oozes with creativity and subtlety and is what all horror-themed games should strive to be like.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Team Fortress 2

In case you didn't notice by this blog's horrible header, I love Team Fortress 2. A great, cartoony, FPS online game, with balanced gameplay (well, most of the time), a good variety of classes, and just plain fun. Also hilarious.

Team Fortress 2 has this nice feature that, whenever you die, the cam will zoom to your enemy who just killed, which often results in some pretty good screenshots. I picked some of my screenshots folder:

Poor Spy.

Infinite Soldiers
Maggot Action
He died laughing.
A hungry Heavy.
I hate that Ben and his little sentries.
Rockin' Pyro
A dead Scout.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Quake series

There's something you should know about Quake 4, a game released in 2005, the fourth (obviously) game in the Quake series. This game, while released after Quake III, isn't, in fact, a sequel to this game. It is a sequel to Quake II, a game released in 1997.

In Quake II, your mission is to enter the Strogg planet and to kill the Strogg leader, Makron, in an
attempt to save Earth from invasion. And you're going to do it alone, since everyone else is pretty much dead. This game was met with great reviews and it received various awards. Again, this game isn't a sequel to the game released before, Quake, but
rather... a sequel to nothing. The Quake - Quake III storyline and Quake II - Quake 4 - Enemy Territory: Quake Wars storyline have nothing in common: they're completely different games.

In fact, the only reason Quake II is called Quake II, was because the name sells. Big time, thanks to the success of Quake. Not that it makes the game worse, in fact, Quake II is a gem.

If you've only played Quake III, and expect Quake 4 to be an upgraded Quake III, you're going to hate this game . This is because the great singleplayer campaign comes to the cost of multiplayer. While Quake 4 has multiplayer, it's basically the same thing, or worse, as Quake III Arena's. This is probably the reason why so many people hated Quake 4.

Quake 4 expands the plot of Quake II, with the same amazing singleplayer, and it was a great game. Using the Doom 3 engine, this game also sports great and optimized graphics, some scary/disturbing scenes, although this game is a lot more actiony than Doom 3. The levels were awesome, and the enemies were great to battle, and it was challenging at some points.

On a funny note, the only Quake games I own are Quake II, Quake 4, and Enemy Territory: Quake Wars. I should try to get both Quake I and Quake III...