Overclocked On Caffeine v.1.1 2009-11-20 06:38:00

The Suffering: The Ties That Bind

PS2

I’m stuck in Folsom prison, and time keeps draggin’ on…

When the first game in the Suffering series was released, it was to critical indifference. It was seen as trying too hard to be dark and edgy, throwing in lots of blood, gore and random swearing simply because it could. This was a Mature game for Mature gamers – read: impressionable teenagers who still think saying ‘fuck’ is the epitome of cool. First impressions, however, are never anything short of deceptive. Actually play it, and you’ll discover that, behind the swearing and the violence and the unrelenting darkness of it all, there’s actually a good game behind it. Surprising considering the lengths it goes to to prove it’s got a pair, but The Suffering actually had something to back up its posturing. The plot concerned Torque, prison for the murder of his wife and kids. He was being transferred to the brutal Abbot State Prison on Carnate Island, before an earthquake released all manner of evil monsters and freaks. Barely escaping, Torque made it to Baltimore, and is now hunting his old stomping grounds for a man known only as Blackmore.

One of the interesting things about plot of the original game was there were three different endings depending on how you played it. Along the way, there were people you could save or outright kill depending on your actions. Save people, and the story would reveal that you’d been framed for the murder of your family. Kill anyone and everyone and you’d be shown as an irredeemable monster. In the first game, all this would do is affect your ending. Here, it also acts as a sort of experience meter for your Insanity Mode, a sort of berserker mode in which you turn into a giant rampaging demon and rip everything around you a thousand new ones. It was somewhat gimped in the last game, since if you over-relied on it, you’d eventually trigger the third ending of the game, the Beast ending, which pretty much sucked if you were aiming for one of the other two. Here, it’s been fleshed out properly. Depending on your alignment, you’ll not only get a different form, but different attacks as well. And considering a whole class of enemies requires you to use it, it’s probably a good thing.

Outside of that, the game does a lot of other things right. The voice acting is a cut above, with Michael Clarke Duncan doing his best Scary Black Man voice as Blackwood, the main antagonist, and Rachel Griffiths (Brenda from Six Feet Under) as Jordan. There’s one or two bad spots, but by and large, the talent on show here is great. Unrelated, but also worthy of note, is the fact that you can switch out of first-person mode and into third person, something a lot more FPSes could stand to do. Considering the speed some enemies attack with, being able to see more around you will save your rear more than once.

Aside from that, the story is, once again, all over the place. You start off arriving in Baltimore, trying to find Blackmore. Then you’re attacked by a group trying to capture you to work out how you do that transformation thing of yours (despite it being hinted at in the last game as a mental, rather than physical thing). Then you escape only to find that the entire city has been taken over by the monsters from Carnate, as well as the spirits of a pair of notorious murderers. Then you wind up in another prison, then sewers, then a mining complex, then everything gets a bit Twilight Zone and by that point, you’ve either stopped playing or caring. Dr. Killjoy, the mad ‘experimental’ psychiatrist from the first game also makes a return which I’m somewhat split over. On the one hand, his appearance in the first game added a sort of House On Haunted Hill vibe to the proceedings. Utterly out of place, but not necessarily in a bad way, since he was arguably about the only person in the game you could say had any kind of character to him. Here, on the other hand, its harder to argue that, since he barely has any impact on the story, unlike in the last game. He shows up on a TV screen, does a kind of summing up/trial of the player at the end then… well, doesn’t do much else. Even worse, it’s not until you get to the very end and you look back on both games that you realise that not a damn thing in the story makes a blind bit of sense, even for an action game, such is the scattershot application of the events and plot. Impressive in a perverse sort of way.

Of course, any and all goodwill the game’s built up by this point will evaporate swiftly in the face of one small detail. The game glitches like you would not believe. No joke, this game is horribly programmed: I’ve had CPU-controlled characters refuse to move, blocking my path, falling through floors or failing to trigger the next section. I’ve had enemies refuse to activate at all, just standing there, seemingly taking no damage or even noticing me. I even had the game crash outright on me, twice! I honestly can’t remember the last time I played a console game with such glaring bugs. On a PC, sure, you almost expect it, but on a console… And they all happened at more or less the exact same places with worrying regularity, which, frankly begs the question: did anyone even bother to playtest this game before release?

The original Suffering was a great game, far better than it had any real right to be. Not a classic by any measure, but not a game you’d regret spending time or money on either. The sequel, on the other hand, takes all of that and squanders it, somehow winding up with a worse game in the process. If the game had actually been coded properly, it would’ve merely been below average, but with the glitches and bugs present (including one which makes the game impossible to finish, should it kick in) there’s no way to recommend this. And the ending is non-existent as well, but that should come as no surprise to absolutely anyone. Get the original, but woe betide anyone who goes looking for the sequel: all that awaits you is a litany of disappointment and NPCs glitching up to their knees in the floor.

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Fat Princess – Online Rescue the Princess Gameplay

YouTube – Fat Princess – Online Rescue the Princess Gameplay.

Fat princess is a cool little ps3 game with multiplayer options. The offbeat gameplay objective is to steal the rival team’s princess from their castle (While killin’ their dudes) and drag her over to your own to stick her in the dungeon while making sure they don’t steal yours. In order to make the enemies task more difficult you can feed your princess to fatten her up, making her harder to move (Yes really!)

Incidentally, the game had problems in it’s Japanese release, not due to the feeding/fatenning aspects surprisingly enough, but because the character designs feature four fingered hands and this constitutes an obscure social slur on part of the population.  Weird, considering most western toons (Such as the Simpsons, Futurama and practically all classic toons) use 4 fingered hands for convenience.

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YouTube – NES Left 4 Dead Gameplay Video 1

The flagship title of the PixelForce NES de-makes is Valve’s Left 4 Dead.

This game play footage gives you an idea of what the project looks like in action and how it plays. As you can see, it’s a standard top-down 4 directional action/shooter. Remade in the NES retro style, the resolution is at 256 x 240 and features 16 colors and a 4 sound channel soundtrack.

Now, let’s just get this out of the way….

Q: Is this just an animation or an actual game?

A: An actual game. It will be available for free download on PC around January 4th, 2010.

Q: I only see one “special infected.” Will there be more?

A: Yes. All 5 special infected appear in this game regularly.

Q: How far along are you currently?

A: As of November 15th, I am completed with the first “mission: No Mercy” as well as most of the core game play mechanics.

Q: Does Valve know about this? And would they approve?

A: No, Valve doesn’t know about it yet, but I’m sure (with their love of community creations) that they will find this mildly amusing at worst, and hilarious at best.

Q: Will this version have all of the campaigns from the original game?

A: Yes. All 5 maps of all 4 campaigns will be present in the final product.

Q: Like your other games, did you make this one all by yourself?

A: With the exception of a few friends backing me up in the QA area, yes, the coding, debugging, sound effects, music and pixel art are all original work of Eric Ruth.

Q: Will there be more videos that show off more of the game?

A: Maybe 1 or 2, but that’s about it. If you want to see every campaign and fight every zombie, then you will have to download and play it.

This should just about wrap it up. When more information becomes available, I will display it somewhere here. Thanks a lot guys, and keep watching!

via YouTube – NES Left 4 Dead Gameplay Video 1.

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Controversial scene in Modern warfare 2

This is the famous controversial scene in the new Modern Warfare 2 game where you are undercover with a terrorist group and are brought along on an attack on a civilian airport. To maintain your cover you are expected to fire at unarmed civilians.

This scene is reminiscent of the covert ops episodes in the space sim freespace 2, even unto the intro descriptions, but of course in fs2 you are in a cockpit not “up close and personal” like in this game so the impact is lessened.

Interestingly, the squeamish among you have the option of skipping the scenes you are warned beforehand will contain “morally questionable” elements.

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Call of Duty: modern warfare 2 trailer released

Spectacular as all hell. We’ll see how the gameplay holds up.

Also, is that the ISS blowing up halfway through?? Oh noes…

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The Best Game Ever (Pt.3)

Shin Megami Tensei

Super Nintendo – 1992

‘Der Wille zur Macht’ as a lifestyle choice

WARNING: The following review contains spoilers. Big ones. Continue at your own risk.

In case its escaped anyone’s attention (there may be a few of you not really listening at the back there) I am a huge fan of the Shin Megami Tensei series (‘Megaten’ to those in the know) and all its various spinoffs, from Persona, to Digital Devil Saga and all the little forgotten ones along the way. Yes, even Maken X, a hideously flawed attempt at doing something different, both in the series and in the realm of the FPS. There are a few games I’ll admit didn’t grab me as much as others – Raidou Kuzunoha Vs. The Soulless Army just rubs me the wrong way for some reason, and the original Persona has some very questionable gameplay mechanics that were bizarrely kept for the PSP remake/update – but it’s hard to say the franchise has ever had an outright bad game, something that I’d be hard-pressed to say about any of my other favourites.

The game opens with a dream. In it, our hero rescues two relative strangers, one from crucifixion, one from a demon, then meets a girl bathing in a pond, who says she’s been waiting for you. Unfortunately, it’s not that kind of a dream, and before sexytime can begin, you’re awoken by your mother, telling you you’ve overslept.

It’s the far-off, but indeterminate year of 199X, and the world is in a bad place. A general by the name of Goto has launched a coup d’etat and effectively taken over Japan, putting the country in a state of martial law. Meanwhile, the rest of the world, and in particular, America, is attempting to put an end to his game by any means necessary – even if it requires extreme measures. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, there are increasing reports of demonic creatures running rampant and attacking anyone and everyone. The hero receives a program via email sent by someone called ‘STEVEN’ (yes, all in caps). He explains that he’s afraid of the threat posed by these demons, and in response, has developed a program to control and summon them. He’s sent this program to as many people as he can, in the hope that someone, anyone, can do something to stop the outright anarchy that’s about to break loose on mankind. Of course, no one can possibly guess what’s about to happen next…

Okay, let’s get the bad stuff out the way first. Graphically, this game sucks. Everything is played from a first-person view, which, in theory, is great. However, the SNES doesn’t really have the grunt to pull it off, the screen lazily flicking from one map tile to the next. The endless hallways that make up the game have little to distinguish them from each other, so getting lost is stupidly easy, even in the simplest of areas. There is an automap, but it’s buried deep in several layers of menu, and the only way to get it onscreen while moving is to cast a spell only found on certain demons. And since this is one of the first incarnations of the demon fusion system, there’s none of that fancy ‘offspring gets the skills of the two parents’ skill mixing seen in the later games. So, your choice is to either keep one demon on hand solely for that one skill (it runs out fairly swiftly as well, requiring constant recasting for extra giggles), or to just wing it, checking the map every so often to make sure you haven’t taken that fatal left turn at Albuquerque.

Of course, that’s not where the only problems lie. As mentioned, the controls are hideously clunky. If you want to do anything, you have to navigate through several menus. You’re never told what difference armour will have on your character before you equip it. In demon negotiation, there’s no clear indication that you’re saying the right thing, and what works right one time may not work at all the next. And the only way to find out what a particular spell does is to use it, all of them carrying names like ‘Bufula’ or ‘Dia’ with no indication of what does what. Much, if not almost all of this was fixed in later updates (most recently the GBA port) but wouldn’t you know it, it’s only the SNES version that’s available in English, thanks to those wonderful people over at Aeon Genesis. In short, this is a game created long before most of the RPG conventions we all now take for granted, and for the vast majority of you, that alone is likely to put you off. And that’s before we get to the legendary difficulty.

Okay then, graphics are very early SNES standard, controls suck, and the game’s harder than a punch with a granite boxing glove. Why bother playing it? Well, the short answer is that it’s awesome. But you probably guessed as much by the fact that I’m discussing it under the ‘Best Game Ever’ tag. The more direct answer… now, that’s a tricky one.

Back in the day all RPGs were exactly the same: there were castles and knights and you ran around with a sword and beat up evil wizards. Actually, when you boil it down, that still applies to a lot of RPGs even now – for all the innovation in gameplay and combat we still run through the same familiar stories. But back then, there was even less variation than we have now. Everything was, without exception, exactly the same. The exceptions were the two Megami Tensei games on the NES. Set in the modern day, it revolved around a high school student tinkering around with a computer program that accidentally opens a breach to the demonic realm, letting all manner of nastiness in. The sequel went a step further and was set in a world devastated by nuclear war. Utterly unheard of at the time, and while it didn’t exactly set the world on fire, it did set the scene for its SNES-based older brother, and the series as a whole.

The game starts off in a recognisable modern-day metropolis – the Kichijoji area of Tokyo to be exact. Wandering around, you’ll quickly come to the conclusion that something is very wrong here. People are disappearing, some turning up dead, torn to pieces, some not turning up at all. The Yakuza are operating openly, attacking anyone they feel like. And more and more people are talking about the oncoming threat of nuclear war. No, not a good place to be at all. It’s while out doing errands for his mother that the player character eventually encounters a demon, as it rips the throat out of a poor bastard at the local shopping mall. Things only get weirder as he has another dream, saving a girl from a strange occult ritual, before meeting with one of the people from dream in real life. He soon discovers the bigger picture: Goto, the general, is in a secret war of sorts with the US ambassador, Thorman. Thorman represents a group trying to build the Thousand Year Kingdom in the name of God. They believe that mankind has gone astray, and that the slate needs to be wiped clean, Old Testament-style. Of course, if you talk to Thorman, he’ll let you know that the demon attacks have actually been started by Goto himself, a side effect of him making bargains with dark forces in exchange for power. That, and he’s also been kidnapping anyone who might be involved with the resistance and authorising inhumane experiments on innocent civilians. And it’s here that you realise that the story is a lot darker than you ever suspected.

SMT has three possible paths to play through the game as: Law, Chaos and Neutrality. Law is under the purview of the Mesians, generally characterised as a church militant. They believe in order, following rules. At its extreme end, it’s ‘do what we say and follow our laws or we’ll break you’. Directly opposite them is Chaos. Chaos is represented by the Gaians. Chaos believes in free will, taking whatever path you feel is the right one in the name of self-improvement. Its extreme is the survival of the fittest mantra, that the strong should be able to take and do whatever they want because no one can or has the right to stop them. And in the middle, there’s the Neutral path. They’re not directly represented by anyone ingame, unless the player actively chooses to do so. Being neutral, obviously, requires you to maintain a balance between the two, as going too far down one path or the other results in suffering. Of course, you’re being pitted against both extremes on a regular basis, so that requires bloodshed on an even more regular basis.

One of the most fascinating things about the options, as you can see above, is that, when you boil it down, there are no straight-out “good guys” or “bad guys” in the game. Everyone is equally wrong or equally right in one way or another. Goto’s responsible for locking down Japan and unleashing demons on the unsuspecting populace, but he’s doing it in the name of freeing the world from the tyranny of the Mesians. Thorman’s holding the threat of nuclear war over everyone’s head, but it’s to stop a dangerous general from dragging the world into disaster, as well as to bring everyone together under the same banner. And if you walk the path of Neutrality, trying to keep everything on the same even keel, well, that involves slaughtering anyone who even dares rock the boat one way or another.

Perhaps one of the biggest shocks in the game (and this is your last chance to back away: skip this next couple of paragraphs if you don’t want it spoiled, and believe me, it’s more effective if you’ve never played it) comes at the end of the first act. This is about 10 or so hours in on an average playthrough. You’ve finally listened to both Goto and Thorman, and, one way or the other, you’ve decided to make your choice: your mission now is to kill one or both of them. At this point, you might be expecting that after this, you’re going to be sent out on missions to destabilize the various factions present. You could not be more wrong. Lets say you choose to side with Thorman. You go to Goto’s headquarters and assassinate him. Upon your return, he thanks you for your loyal devotion to his cause… unfortunately, this world is too sinful to be kept as is. A new age must be ushered in on the ashes of the old. He reveals himself to be the Norse god Thor, and brings down his hammer in judgement of mankind – he launches his nuclear ICBMs on Tokyo. You’re then presented with a hige red 30-second countdown on-screen as you desperately attempt to escape somewhere, anywhere, as you try and outrun nuclear destruction. You fail, but somehow find yourself transported to a realm outside of time and space.

Of course, even if you choose not to side with him, mankind is screwed, and he launches the missiles as a kind of last-minute ‘fuck you’ upon his defeat anyway. But, far from being an annoying ‘But Thou Must’ lack-of-choice, this is where the game really shows its teeth. One brief detour in limbo later, you arrive back on Earth. But it’s a different world to the one you just left. Thirty years have passed since Thorman launched his missiles, and the destruction of the world has been near total. Mankind is only just starting to crawl out the wreckage, and now, somehow, you have to help it. Yup, not content with bringing the world to near-obliteration, the game now has you attempting to bring it back from the brink. You failed to save it in the past, but maybe you can do something here. To my mind, there’s only one other game that has ever had the successful destruction of the world midway through, and that’s Final Fantasy VI. Two games that actually have the balls to pull the rug out from under you and drop the hammer – literally, in this case – on the very thing you’re striving to protect. It’s a hell of a way of punching the player, and a sadly underused tactic in games. Of course, things can always get worse: remember that two of your party members – who are more than willing to give up their humanity for more power in one form or another – are known as the Law Hero and the Chaos Hero and that, one way or another, you’re destined to fight at least one of them. All of this gives the game an unparalelled atmosphere. Suddenly, the graphics only add to the bleakness of the setting. The music too, gives you the feeling that you’re walking through a dead world, just trying to survive long enough to avoid the next demon attack. Not an easy prospect considering the crushing difficulty here.

(it’s okay, by the way, you can come back now)

Ever wonder why the Megaten series has a reputation for being the hardest RPG series around? Wonder no more! Yes, this is a game from the early days of RPGs, when concepts like ‘balance’ and ‘fairness’ were just seen as silly friviolities, so the challenge is to be expected. Somehow, the game actually manages to go beyond that, however, and winds up being outright sadistic. There’s no instant game over if the main character dies, so that’s one saving grace, but beyond that, everything is an uphill struggle. If you’re even slightly underlevelled, you will be punished at great length, and opportunities to heal, or even save for that matter, are limited. Depending on your perspective, that’s either a plus or a minus: you can’t scrimp on the level grinding, but on the other hand, lots of people enjoy that. Same with the difficulty – it’s generally agreed that games are getting easier all the time, so going back in time and playing something that bends you over, slaps you in the face and demands you call it ‘Daddy’ makes for a welcome change.

Believe me when I say that this really is a fantastic game. If you’re new to the series, having gotten in through the anime-stylings of Persona 3&4, this is a huge step backwards. Tremendously so, since we’re talking going back three or four console generations and 18 years here. This is not an easy game to get into, even for someone determined to crack its shell. I’ve made numerous attempts and replays across different PCs and machines. I’m now currently replaying it – again – on my PSP. I don’t even want to think about what number attempt this is. But that alone should tell you something about the game: It’s tough and it’ll kick your ass hard, but you will come back to it. You need to play this, not just because this is where it all began – many of the basic ideas, such as contacting, summoning and fusing demons, the Law/Chaos alignment system and even most of the demon designs are still in use in some form today – but because even now, it’s unique. The third game in the series, Nocturne (or Lucifer’s Call if you prefer) shares some of the same feel, but the tone is arguably more hopeful,as you’re looking to rebuild a shattered land. Here, there’s no real hope. At best, there’s survival, at worst… Shin Megami Tensei is a game with problems, and a couple of outright bugs that can stop you from finishing the game if you’re extremely unlucky. But look past that and you’ll find one of the darkest RPGs ever, as well as one of the best on the SNES. It’s a tremendous work, overshadowed by its descendants, and one that needs to be appreciated as more than a piece of history.

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