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The Villainthropist's blog

5:29 AM on 10.11.2014

Villainthropist Voyage: Legend of Zelda and Metroid

It's been a long time since I did anything here. Considering recent events in the video game industry, I have not really been in a frame of mind to interact with it too much, whether it be the writey-all-about-it side or the makey-play-it-so-we-can-sell-it stuff. Generally, speaking, I've been keeping my head down and S'ing TFUAJPG's, not because I'm actually pissed off or emotional at anything going on; it's rather difficult to be when anyone else who puts finger to keyboard does plenty of that already. Time contraints are my main issue, and despite some ideas which have been hovering in my head, I just haven't had the inspiration to get down with it.

One feature I did used to really like on this site came from Chris Carter, and his Carter's Quest series. For those not familiar, Chris would play through an entire series of games, and then tell you what he thought of them. This is pretty much the purest sort of gaming blog I can think of. I'm not opposed to political charged or controversial content, but there's just something so pure about that concept; a concept I hope to imitate over the coming weeks.

Playing off of the alliteration of Carter's Quest, I shall be producing a series called "Villainthropist Voyage", each entry of which will be focused on a different game series. Browsing through my collection, it occured to me I have quite a few series I could do this on, and have chosen my first two.

Legend of Zelda

Legend of Zelda Collection

The origin of this collection is rather simple; a few months ago I bought a Playstation 4, blasted through Infamous: Second Son, and then picked up Watch Dogs. It was about three missions into Watch Dogs that all my enthusiasm for modern gaming diminished immediately. Suddenly, there in front of me, was everything that gaming had evolved into over the last five or so years, and I wanted no part in it. For a few weeks, I played nothing. I've had these burnouts on gaming before, where my drive to actually muster the effort to even switch a console on was just gone, including my brand new Playstation 4 (which I recently switched on again for some Shadows of Mordor, so all is not lost in shadow).

What eventually rejuvenated my interest was picking a copy of Spirit Tracks off my shelf which I hadn't touched since buying it. I'd previously played some Phantom Hourglass, but hadn't really clicked with it, despite Ocarina of Time being one of my favourite games. Spirit Tracks, I have to say with some confidence, is quite possibly the worst Zelda game. I couldn't believe how little respect the creators seemed to have for my time. It gradually occured to me that this game was surely designed with a younger audience in mind, but this seemed a poor excuse for such a bland and time consuming mechanic like driving a train everywhere and occassionally shooting a cannon at things. My Link is still waiting to pick things up on the fourth level of that bloody tower, and I have promised that I will return, but not until I could remind myself that Zelda was actually a good series.



Prior to Spirit Tracks and Phantom Hourglass, my experience of the Zelda franchise was minimal. The only games I owned and had completed were Ocarina of Time (and the 3DS iteration), Twilight Princess, and A Link Between Worlds. I do have vague childhood memories of when my Dad borrowed and completed A Link to the Past for the SNES back when I was 5 or 6, but only vague snippets spring to mind from that original playthrough. I therefore decided that, along with another series I'd recently discovered, I would endeavour to buy and play through all of them, and maybe write a blog about it.

I think the reason Zelda came to mind was twofold; the series obviously has a lot of prestige and presensce. Asking a layman to name video game series they know, and they'll likely say Mario, Call of Duty, Halo, Wii Sports, and to my reckoning, Zelda. Sure they might think Zelda is the name of the green guy you control in it, but you can't win every battle. Secondly, the games represent what gaming is ultimately about to me; a little bit of action and challenge, some exploration, a nicely detailed world to explore, and ultimately, just something a little different to reality. It also helps that despite being so similar fundamentally to each other, they can be whole worlds apart in how they actually feel, without alienating series fans each time (although I have heard Skyward Sword can get a little trying, but I'm yet to be the judge of that).

It will be a little while before I can post a full account of my time with the series. The next time I post about it will be when it's all done. In the meantime, here is a progress report. Struckthrough are finished, and italics means not currently owned:

  • Legend of Zelda (GBA) I have plans to get the NES version too.
  • Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
  • A Link to the Past
  • Link's Awakening
  • Link's Awakening DX
  • Ocarina of Time
  • Majora's Mask
  • Oracle of Seasons
  • Oracle of Ages
  • A Link to the Past/Four Swords (As I have limited copies of this, Four Swords will likely be completed via the 3DS Anniversary edition)
  • The Minish Cap
  • The Wind Waker
  • Four Swords Adventure
  • Twilight Princess
  • Phantom Hourglass
  • Link's Crossbow Training
  • Spirit Tracks
  • Skyward Sword
  • Ocarina of Time 3D
  • The Wind Waker HD
  • A Link Between Worlds
  • Hyrule Warriors

As you can see, a bit of work to do. But as I mentioned, another series has only recently come to my attention, and is one that hit so hard, I feel the need to explore it fully.


Metroid Collection

I discovered Metroid only last year. To some of you, this may be blasphemy, but kindly put down those pitchforks and hear me out. As someone who went through early life from Sega console to Sega console, coming back to the Nintendo 64 for a bit before back to Sega and then the Xbox's, Metroid never really had an opportunity to show what it could do for me. This changed last year when I picked up a Wii U from HMV back when they were at risk of closing down, and noticing Super Metroid was only 50p on the eShop. I'd obviously heard that this was one of those SNES games which were up there as a classic, so thought I'd have a look to see what the fuss is about.

Despite being twenty years old, and despite being played on hardware that no one could have conceived of back when the game was first made, Super Metroid very quickly became one of my favourite games of all time. It opened up my interest in the term "Metroidvania", and the classic examples of the games this newish term refers to, to the point where once Zelda and Metroid are done, I might be taking a bit of a closer look at Castlevania. At this point in time, I have managed to gather all but the NES game, which is a hidden bonus on Zero Mission anyway,  but I have chosen to be pedantic and get it in its original form anyway to round off my collection (along with the NES Classics GBA rerelease, because I am a fussy son of a bitch who will always think something is missing until I have it.)

Metroid Ridley

I would go into further detail on Super Metroid, but I figure that is best saved for the future blog I will be writing on the series. I might consider doing some videos on it, but it depends how willing I am to subject people to my droll monotone voice as footage of games you've seen hundreds of times rolls in the background. Anyway, again, here's my progress:

  • Metroid
  • Metroid II: Return of Samus
  • Super Metroid
  • Metroid Fusion
  • Metroid:Mission
  • Metroid Prime: Hunters
  • Metrod Prime: Pinball
  • Metroid Prime
  • Metroid Prime 2: Echoes
  • Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
  • Metroid: Other M

So why am I doing this?

Well, for one, I always liked Carter's Quest, and would like to see it come back. Second, I need to make an excuse for myself to be buying all these retro games (some costing more than when they were new), and thirdly, I've started to miss writing about games, but I don't know what else to write about other than... I don't really feel like wading into the "issues" of the moment, be they issues with marketing companies, youtubers, feminists, misogynysts, resolutions, 900P's and 1080P's, Ubisoft's and all that other stuff. I prefer to just read what other people have to say, and make my own choices without broadcasting it to the world. And by doing this series of blogs instead, maybe one or two people might decide to play a game they haven't played before. Heck, I'd forgotten Oracle of Ages and Seasons existed until I looked up Zelda on Wikipedia so I could write my shopping list!

One further thing: Due to the nature of my history with these two series, these blogs, I'm hoping, will have multiple purposes; a minor history lesson (and I will be trying to do a little research to go along with my own thoughts) as well as modern consumer advice. Will a modern gamer who is used to the sensibilities of Quick Saving, checkpoints, and not being able to crawl through small gaps be able to get along with Metroid or Legend of Zelda? I believe there comes a point where today's gaming children will scratch their heads, unable to fathom what the heck they're supposed to do. After all, the first Zelda game was designed not to make things easy and self explanatory. Instead, you were either supposed to get a walkthrough if you got really stuck, or heck, talk to other players to see what they had found out! Can you imagine many kids today doing that? Well, there are always the various walkthroughs and wiki's, but I'm tempted to think this would prove to be too much work, and the game would get abandoned in favour of something flashier and easier before you can say "SHIT! I'M RELOADING". I'm open to the idea that some of you may disagree with some of my assessments on this, but these would be based on my own time with these games, which is recent and fresh, and from the perspective of someone who has very much gone the way of checkpoints, respawning and chest-high-walls. And I too, unfortunately and embarrassingly, tried to make "Metroid crawl".


1:32 PM on 11.06.2013

Val Kilmer's Emergency Podtoid Conclusion Stadium Showdown Arena On Ice

The bar was silent. Uncharacteristically silent. Usually, the sound of a beatbox playing oldey-time honky-tonk piano under a piano made of cornflake boxes and the sound of a women screaming as she was chased endlessly by a dirty cowboy filled the room with noise, and the hearts of the patrons with joy. Tonight was not that sort of night at Jonathan Holmes Authentic Saloon Bar and Brothel.

Barkeep Holmes was not be seen. His cloth and polishing glass left abandoned on the floor nearby. Propping up the bar tonight was Lily Nelson, Beaney Tuesday, Beige Santa, and Soda Baby. Other patrons sat silently at the tables, nursing drinks they'd helped themselves to, leaving a few groats on the bar out of courtesy.

"So, looks like I'll never get a photo of Brendan Fraser's ass now!" Beaney said, staring down into his non-alcoholic beer.

Lily Nelson looked up. "No, motha-fucka" he said in an uncharacteristically dulcet tone. Dutfifully, he pressed rewind on his tape recorder, played back the utterance in a higher pitch, before bursting into tears and slamming the machine down on the bar.

"Whaaaat happend, booys?" Soda Baby piped up, nervously scratching at his diaper. "What's this all mean?"

Beige Santa put a hand on Soda Baby's shoulder. "It means that we're history".

"Whhaaat are you talkin' abou', seeee?" Soda Baby uttered between minor sips of whatever the yellow frothy liquid in his sippy cup was.


Chungus (Son of Chungus) jumped up. "But, we're here! We're in his head! His head isn't going anywhere is it?" he said meekly, holding an icepack over his sore recently tattooed penis.

J. Jonah Jameson looked like he had a retort, but instead fell back in his seat and buried his head in his hands.

The Mysterious Benefactor of District Dafoe (A.K.A Willen Dafoe), who was leaning on the wall by the cornflakes-box-swinging-doors cleared his throat, which judging by the raspy voice he spoke in, achieved nothing. "Listen kids. I been in this guys head for nigh on a year and a half. That's longer than most of you put togedha! No one knows what's going ta happen!" he screamed through hi cloth mask and his self-urination.

His words were followed by silence. Captain Crack Cocaine snorted in disgust, and the Baby Police whimpered in their cot, as a SterlingCorp Fart Filter shuffled out from under one of the tables, before quietly shuffling back under.

Hours passed. No one spoke. In the silence, you could almost hear Lady Genital's heart break as she slumped to the floor from desperation and potential bloodloss from self-mutilation. All the while, a noise seemed to be stirring outside.

"What Godawful noise is that from yonder, sirs?" a nearby graverobber said, rubbing his scab-laden forehead.

"Probably just the Fun-Gestapo on another rampage, raising morale" Beaney Tuesday whispered. the thought that things couldn't get any worse than possible instant non-existance whilst being throttled and kicked in the groin by bikers wearing smiley-faced masks crossed more than one mind.

"AAAAAH! DOOOWN'T YA WORRY LADS" Bono Vox out of the U2 piped up. "OY'LL GO 'AVE A LOOK AND SEE WHAT ALL THE NOISE IS AAAAL ABOOUT". Before he could push the cornflake-box swining door aside however, he was knocked flat on his back, as MunkusBerger burst through the opening, sunlight erupting into the room and blinding the patrons, some permanetly. Both MunkusBerger and the horse that he was both attached too and consequently was were panting heavily.

"What is it fair Cenobite?" Chungus (Son of Chungus) asked, jumping from his seat and helping MunkusBerger into the room by tugging sharply on his reins. "What new devilry approaches?"

"The..." the Cenobite steed said, panting. "The... Queen... she... speaks...".

There was a moment of silence. Suddenly, everyone jumped to their feet, with a new sense of purpose suddenly filling their cold, dead hearts. The room was chaos as everyone made for the exit, and the air was filled with shouting and the sound of bodies hitting the floor lifelessly. They ran, they sprinted, and then realised they hadn't asked where they were going. As they rounded back on MunkusBerger, he pointed (with his nose, as he had no arms and legs, you see) to Val Kilmer's Emergency Podtoid Conclusion Stadium Showdown Arena On Ice.


Under any other circumstances, they might have cheered and whooped as they ran, cycled, galloped, or rode Mark Wahlberg to the stadium. This was not that time, but a small spark of hope seemed to have ignited. Soon, they were not alone either. Scores of elves that looked like Jim Sterling, Max Scoville, Hamza Aziz and Conrad Zimmerman poured out of Beige Santa's Christmas Erection. The two decedent gentlemen stampeded past atop an elephant, each with a Walt Disney's head lodged firmly between their thighs. Further down, Colin Moriarty, the Napolean of Crime, ushered The Ghosts, a bus load of homeless men covered in glow in the dark paint, and Professor Cockknowledge and his pupils past a busy cross roads. The Amazing Spidered-Man ran from rooftop to rooftop, cursing and yelling, his pillowcase and genitalia flapping in the wind. Voldermort collapsed out of a nearby opium den, supported by a small chinese boy and The Emporer. There were yells. There were screams. There was some laughter, but there was also blood and other bodily fluids.

Finally, the bar patrons arrived at Val Kilmer's Emergency Podtoid Conclusion Stadium Showdown Arena On Ice; its obsidian gates swung open for the first time, and the impossibly large bust of Val Kilmer looking down upon them, sneering with a plaque on his forehead which read "The Man Who Was The Bat". Hundreds were piling through the entrance, some getting trampled by the prementioned elephant as the handsomer of the two threw rubies at the peasants below. The patrons pushed and shoved, sometimes pulling their hand back in horror, wondering what they had just pushed and shoved and what that was now covering their hands.

Val Kilmer's Emergency Podtoid Conclusion Stadium Showdown Arena On Ice was lit by moonlight; this was mainly odd considering it was 3:46pm. The crowd moved forward towards a large, impressive stage which had been erected between two giant chrome phalic objects, each covered in defintions of the word "Chungus". After several minutes of shuffling impatiently, a familiar noise which brought floods of tears and joy to all filled the stadium.


And there she was. The Queen. Her mesh tanktop today was gold. The cut off denim shorts were red like the fires of Hell, and upon her face was not a look of grim defeat, nor of pain or worry. No. Freaky Constantina, in all her majesty, wore a gas mask with a smiley face written on it in black marker, with the word "fine" written in lower case on the cheek.

"Citizens of Podtoidia!" she cried as Usher died down. The audience fell silent immediately. "I see many people here today. Many good, hardworking people. People who have faced adversity, like you!" she pointed into the audience at Grandpa Coca Cola.

There was no explanation as to why she'd focused on Grandpa Cola, and she just moved on.

"You come here today in panic. You come here today in fear. You come here today fearing that your existance as you know it is threatened. And by what?"

Her question had sounded like it was rhetorical, but she left an unnaturally long pause. After several seconds, some crowd members even raised their hands.

"I'll tell you by what!" she said, pointing a golden-painted fingernail in the air. "By our creator abandoning us. By our creator stepping away from the canvas upon which he has vomited us up upon over the last three years. I see that fear in your eyes. It is the same fear that would take me. Save... for one thing".

The crowd murmered to itself. Somewhere, towards the back, there was a shrill voice which cried out in pleasant surprise "WE HAVEN'T EVEN HAD THE SAUSAGES YET!"

"And that one thing!" she continued, finally, "is... our legacy".

Again, the murmering kicked off. There was a tone of disappointment clearly audible, but she continued.

"You may not think much of such a thing, but I say before you today, that such a thing, to have such a privelage, is to be..." she paused, slowly getting down on her knees, before raising her arms in the air like Willem Dafoe in Platoon. "IIIIIMOORTAAL!"

There was five seconds of silence. Somewhere in the audience, a small group of Foot Clan politely clapped.

"You doubt me," she said, awkwardly jumping to her stilletoed feet again. "But consider this. Out there... outside this festering fuckdump that Jim Sterling calls a mind, are legions upon legends of weird horny men and some beautiful women, who have taken us, our stories, our adventures, to their hearts. And there, ladies, gentleman, and dogs, is where we dig in. Where we spit out our everlasting poison, that warms, and possibly poisons their hearts. We are the fucking infection. We are eternal. We shatter all who listen to our fables, and we will live forever!".

The crowd was finally nodding in agreement. Some cheered, some whooped, but she waved them silent.

"And though we may not outsee this day. Though we may wither and die. Though the many different versions of Willem Dafoe in the audience may cease to be, there is forever, one thing that will never change. One thing that they'll never take from us".

The crowd fell silent in giddy anticipation.

"THIS HAPPENIN' BE HAPPENIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIN" the Queen of Podtoid bellowed into the sky, and as she did, the crowd of beloved Podtoid characters erupted in simultaneous applause. The Muddy Buddy wept. Keanu Reeves said "Hooorse" with more enthusiasm than was normal, and even Time Capsule Jonathan Holmes, locked forever in his red and yellow prison, cracked a smile through the shit smeared glass.

And then everyone fucked.


Willow pulled the earphones out, and jumped out of her chair, clocking Xander round the head with her hardest right hook.

"WHAT THE FUCK DID I JUST LISTEN TO" she yelled.   read

4:45 AM on 04.27.2013

Souless: The Curse of Modern Racing Games

People often like to talk about the game that got them into gaming. Whilst I had consoles from a very early age, the game that got me hooked came when I was eight years old. With my freshly unwrapped Sega Saturn, I immediately fell in love with Sega Rally Championship 1995, a port of the popular arcade game that still haunts the dusty corners of Brighton amusements to this day. With just four tracks and three cars, I set about for nigh on a year perfecting my craft. I was an expert; the dirt was my slave, the car my instrument of war against time itself. If there were world records for lap times being maintained, my name would inevitably appear somewhere. The day I learnt to use manual transmission was my gaming equivalent of a Bar Mitzvah; Sega Rally made a man out of me.

Well, not really, but at the time, it was a massive deal to gloat about whilst my friends with their PlayStationís struggled round the various courses of Gran Turismo 1 & 2 in AT. This aside, Sega Rally will always maintain a special pedestal within the grand exhibition which is my gaming history. It cemented my love of a genre which we as gaming enthusiasts rarely talk about. I have often been surprised at this; Gran Turismo, the Forza series and the Colin McRae series (with its DiRT series offspring) are rarely written about beyond the odd preview and the obligatory review, and yet remain series which boast impressive sales numbers and colossal install bases. These are games that, like many first-person shooters, will attain dedicated followings of people who devote themselves to online competition, time attack modes, and even livery editing facilities within the game. It really didnít take too long for me to crack this chestnut. Thereís nothing to bloody write about!

When reviewing a racing game, the reviewer will inevitably focus on handling, gameplay modes, online functionality and visuals, as well as tracks and available cars. Thatís it. Thatís all there is to focus on. Take two examples that I have just in the last week completed. DiRT: Showdown is essentially a collection of car-based mini games and the odd race which fails to hit the high standards that the previous games of the DiRT series. Additionally, Forza Motorsport 4 was a long, soulless grind of race after race in a campaign that long overstayed its welcome with this humble racing fan, despite a plethora of tracks and cars to vary the experience.

My main issue with the modern racing game is simple; theyíre soulless. They lack attitude. It almost feels like the developers deliver these technically brilliant racing experiences the way a world-class chef would bring his most famous creation to you, only to drop it in your lap with a grunt of indifference.

It also often feels like all Iím racing is a bunch of coded car shaped things! Many games make it far too obvious that youíre merely racing against pre-coded opponents with no apparent personality. Some games, like Forza, actually contain AI behaviour modifiers which means your opponents can make mistakes, or even try and ram you out of their way. This is amazing work, but it still feels like my opponents may as well be inanimate objects. I often imagine something as dull as a small potted apple tree has spun out in front of me, whilst the pumpkin behind me in the Ferrari Enzo is desperatly trying to T-Bone me into submission.

Sure, there are signs that some people on those development teams really care; Forza 4 had plenty of nice little touches for your average car fanatic. But Iím not a car fanatic, Iím a game fanatic. In real life, I could barely tell the difference between a Lamborghini and a telephone box with wheels full of sick. I care very little about who won the Forumla 1, the WRC, the Touring Car Championships or the Nascar (especially not the Nascar!) What I love is the racing itself. It doesnít matter whether Iím in an F1 car, a supercar, a go-kart being driven by a villainous turtle, or even a futuristic anti-gravity vehicle from the year 2048. As long at the mechanics are sound and the thrills are there, Iíll probably play it.

But that extra layer of attitude and of immersion into the world these races occupy boosts the experience to new levels. Even Sega Rally was memorable for the cheekily sung ďGAME OVER YEAAAAAAAAAH!Ē as was Segaís later effort with Daytona USAís memorable soundtrack and ďROLLLLLLIIINí STAAAAAAAAAAAAAART!Ē I can give only three great examples of racing games that go the extra mile in this way from, which I personally have played.

Firstly, Wipeout 2048 on the PS Vita, which achieves this extra mile through slickly designed menus, awesome music, and even the smallest most negligible detail; the opening video. The video shows how racing evolves over time, from classic racing cars right up to the anti-gravity monstrosities youíll be using in game. Having played past Wipeout games, this video made Wipeout 2048 all the more compelling, as it finally felt like it might just be tied to our own reality.

Secondly, another entry in an existing series, MotorStorm: Apocalypse does very well in creating a narrative for its racers. The plot isnít very good, even by game story telling terms, but it works just enough to set the tone for the races, and to provide even more motive to play what was already a very sound racing title.

But finally, my favourite racing game of this generation is inarguably Colin McRae DiRT 2; a game which did everything as well as one can expect. Menu systems which replicate the experience of living out of a trailer as you tour the world? Check! A wide array of contemporary music to set the tone of the events youíll be attending, such as the XGames? Check! Rival drivers communicating with you, making you feel as if youíre actually racing against people as opposed to inanimate objects (such as a pumpkin, or a small potted apple tree)? Check! A surprisingly affectionate tribute race to the late Colin McRae within the game, followed by an emotional video tribute as the pre-mentioned real life racers pay tribute to their fallen rival? Check!

And whilst the racing itself was somewhat improved in DiRT 3, with a larger focus on rally events and the obligatory improved visuals, Codemasters seem to have lost that spark of attitude which made DiRT 2 so great. Sure, some of their design decisions can be seen replicated in their F1 series, but again, this is a series which lacks the balls-out Ďtude of DiRT 2. But perhaps the biggest feather in DiRT 2ís cap is the fact that, whenever I was playing it, I felt like I wasnít just some guy eating bread from the bag, wearing a scruffy hoody I bought when I was sixteen with a controller in my hand. DiRT 2 near convinced me that it was actually me behind the wheel of that car, or living in that trailer with all the people outside listening to Queens of the Stone Age. It achieved what even some of the most pretentious and narrative-driven videogames fail to do so- escapism.
[img][/img]   read

11:45 AM on 10.14.2012

Jebussaves88 Vs Bad Men and 100 games!

Well, after something of a hiatus, Iím back. I have recently upgraded my career to that of a Registration Officer (a person who helps book civil marriages and checks youíre not dodgy), and am very happy in my new position. I no longer work nights, and only have one job that I have to travel to. But enough about the bland characterless NPC of life which is me, letís talk about videogames!

First up, as part of an effort to integrate my backlog blog with something more entertaining, I have taken the effort to start a ďLetís PlayĒ video series to go along with it. This will be a highly unambitious project where I will graciously share with you, the indifferent Destructoid community, moments from my personal relaxation time. My hope is that you find me a witty and charming if not slightly an acidic and unpleasant host to my own personal shenanigans. This first video comes as I strive to complete the 100th Backlog Videogame!

Jebussaves88 Vs: The Bad Men of Dunwall

So why do a ďLetís PlayĒ series? As a casual working-man critic of all things explodey and violent, it is my hope that showing you my gameplay and voicing my thought process as I play will allow you, my beautiful lovelies, to get a better insight into my opinion of the game. If I take the piss or whine during a playthrough, itís probably not one Iíd recommend. If itís a game I take the piss out of, but all in good fun and with an air of good times to be had, you better stick this thing on your Steam wishlist, because if I say so myself, I have excellent taste. I also, in all seriousness, want to make something of this account here on Destructoid, which is why, other than on Youtube itself, I will not be promoting this video series anywhere else. This is just for us. Iíve come to greatly respect the Destructoid staff and community, and if I manage to entertain and inform you with a glimpse of gameplay and commentary by some berk in England, then it is a great honour to have contributed to the greatness of this herew ebsite. Also, Iím quite aware that the backlog blog on its own was rather boring.

Done watching that video up there? Okay cool. So, as I say, I am soon to complete the one hundredth game in my backlog. I will write more in detail about my opinions on these games later this week once Dishonored has been completed. The reason I donít now is because Iím busy packing for a short excursion to Scotland to see the rain and hopefully capture a mountain troll, and any effort I make now to write about the sixteen games Iíve completed since we last spoke in July would be rushed and of low quality. Basically, I just wanted to let you all know that I love you and Iím not dead.

So for now, itís farewell, and I look forward to griping about Skyrim , Super Mario Galaxy 2, Lollypop Chainsaw and Dead Rising 2 at you. Bye bye now!

(Not dead)   read

5:05 AM on 07.04.2012

A blog in the making since January 2010!

AKA A Backlog Diary: Part 33

Itís been a busy couple of weeks since my last update to you fine chaps and chapettes. On the last Backlog Diary update, I mentioned how Iíd finally got past a rather tricky boss fight on Chapter 12 (of 13) on Final Fantasy XIII. Well, I come to you now as someone with a great weight lifted from their shoulders, as I have now finished the game and cast it back upon the shelves from whence it came. But Iíll get to that later.
Alright. Letís get this out of the way. Alice: Madness Returns on PC. Didnít finish it, because itís a crappy port of what could have been a good game. It gets a 1 for being a dreadful product. Anyone else had any luck with it on PC? Does it just hate AMD graphics cards? Basically, whenever the gooey doll monsters show up, the game lags up to unprecedented levels. Seriously? 5 frames per second? For shame EA. Patch this nonsense! Itís unplayable.

Alright, what else we got hereÖ ermÖ oooh, Ultimate Marvel Vs Capcom 3. Very cool game, but I give up. Itís too hard, and I donít have the willpower, dedication or time to be considered a threat online. And thatís really what this game has been created for; beating the shit out of friends and strangers alike. And sure, I can knock fifty shades of grey out of someone sitting in the couch next to me, but online? Wow, these guys are scary. I sometimes wonder if the only games they own are this and Marvel Vs Capcom 2. ďNo time for Skyrim, Call of Duty or FIFA games, Iím going to be amazing with SentinalĒ.
So, after a disappointing Win/Lose ratio of 3:20, I hang up the towel, and the game goes back to the shelf alongside Soul Calibur V, awaiting the day that someone visits me again and we run out of things to talk about in our dull repetitive lives. The game is beautiful, treats its entire roster of characters with the utmost respect and love, leaving a game that the casual and the hardcore can enjoy, so long as the casual are not stupid enough to go online. It will hurt your pride. UMvC3 gets an 8. I wouldnít recommend it for single player, as it suffers from Split/Second syndrome; that mother fucker is going to kick the shit out of you if it wants to.

And now, an unusual tangent to my usual playing habits. A puzzle game. Professor Layton and the Curious Village suddenly caught my attention due to my love of Phoenix Wright and the incoming news that the two franchises may get a cross over which I am now praying to the Flying Spaghetti Monster makes it to European shores. If it doesnít, I might kick some livestock about, because I can now honestly say that I love these two franchises. Whilst Phoenix Wright is sometimes ďoverboard-crazhy-tchimes-Japanese-rikeĒ (a potentially offensive term which probably has a better shortened version, but nevertheless is the phrase I hear in my head in relation to this kind of thing), Professor Layton is much more grounded and universal (except for the part where it turns out everyone is robots, because of reasons). A cross over of the two would be a great experiment and certainly would be a day-one purchase for my dust-gathering 3DS.
But back to Curious Village; the game is pretty much 150 puzzles held together by a charming hand-drawn-esque backdrop, with charming characters trying to solve an overall mystery. Little details like customising the rooms of Layton and Luke in the inn, building a robot dog out of scavenged parts, and other meta-puzzles make for a very solid product, perfectly framed in a charming story about two puzzle enthusiasts out to find some treasure or something. The treasure turns out to be something else though, which ultimately begs the question; is it paedophilia or not?
But I digress. Level 5 could have just slammed some puzzles on a DS card like so many other developers, but instead set out to make something much more charming, likeable, and memorable. Iíll give it a 9. It would be higher, but I did start hearing Lukeís voice in my head.

Next up, Tomb Raider: Underworld. Itís seemingly impossible to play this without casting comparisons to the now vastly superior Uncharted series. Nathan Drake is more likeable than the bloodthirsty and seemingly reckless Lara Croft (even though Nate himself is guilty of just as many atrocities against the human race). The visuals are mostly kind of bland and uninspired in Tomb Raider, in contrast to Unchartedís rather fantastic range of locations, and it lacks the exciting set paces of Drakeís adventures. That said, I did enjoy the game, despite some rather annoying instances of Lara seemingly not able to make jumps that she looks like she should be able to do because of reasons. The motorbike sections donít really work in my opinion, as it feels more like youíre on a tricycle towing a fat man in a trailer. But, this aside, I would put Underworld on a par with Uncharted: Drakeís Fortune. It gets a 7 from me.

And yes, more tigers will get fucked up in this one.

Yesterday, I also finished Spec Ops: The Line. It was, well, very interesting. I would describe it as a cross between the movie Platoon (for general message), Call of Duty: Black Opsís single player (for similar plot devices), Gears of War (for controls) and Journey (for locale and motives behind development. Itís a great game, but itís not the best third person shooter. The plot and the interesting gameplay mechanics brought on help carve something unique out of a rather over saturated genre. It doesnít handle as well as Gears of War in my opinion (cover mechanics are a bit odd, with separate buttons for vaulting and taking cover), but it more than makes up for it with well-grounded characters who find themselves in a world gone to hell, with the overall message of the gaming seeming to be ďYou just made Hell worseÖ good going son!Ē
Itís hard to summarize my feelings towards this game. I enjoyed playing it, and I respect its motives, but I think it could have gone a lot further to achieving its goal; make the player question their actions at the end. As it turns out, Iím one evil bastard of a player, but I wonít ruin it for you.

If you have a liking for third person shooters, then definitely go out and get this, but I donít know if I would recommend it to anyone who doesnít particularly like this genre based on story alone. It ticked a bunch of boxes for me personally, as I love games with plot, morals, violence etc. The characters are pretty convincing, prime amongst them the player character Captain Walker, played by Nolan Desmond Nathan The Prince North. Itís not quite on a par with Gears of War in terms of gameplay, but for its plot, itís worth a punt. I give it a 7, in the hope that fellow C-Blog readers will eagerly try it, but with an air of caution in their stomachs, as it may not be fully fulfilling an experience for you.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand finally! Final Fantasy XIII is complete. Feels good to write that. Whatís strange is, it wasnít an overly difficult game; I beat the final three bosses with relative ease on the first attempt. Whatís odd is I got stuck on a boss creature called a Proudclad in the summer of 2010, and just didnít go back to the game for nearly two years. As such, the game has weighed heavily in the back of mind as something I really ought to get on with, and always appeared in my mind as a massive impenetrable barrier between me and the completion of this backlog. But, the barrier is destroyed, and I can now report to you in all honesty that I thoroughly enjoyed the game.
First point; Iím not a massive Final Fantasy fan. The only other game in the series I properly enjoyed (and completed fully) was Final Fantasy VIII, another one in the series which receives a fair share of dislike amongst its hardcore fans. With this in mind, I wasnít expecting the same things as existing fans; open world, cities etc. I knew pretty much what I was getting when I bought the game, and therefore didnít have any major expectations which could be dashed.
The visuals: Very good for a nearly three year old Xbox 360 game. One of the finest points though is artistic direction, the design of locales and monsters. Every screen of the game could be used as promotional art (except some of the blander areas on Pulse)
The Characters: Sure, Vanille does make a lot of sexual sighing noises, and Hope doesnít seem to have a penis for the first few chapters, and Snow is a moron, but they grow on you, and develop as the plot progresses. I managed to drop my overly Western view of the game and take it for what it was, and I really started to enjoy this aspect. The way Hope plans to kill Snow in revenge of his motherís death, the near suicide of Sazh (my favourite character FYI). It seems the characters take their cues not only from traditional Final Fantasy stock characters (Snow and Lightning are named as such because they come from a CloudÖ geddit?) but also were designed to appeal not just in the East, but also the West. It seems maybe they failed, due to all the negative opinions of the game, but hey, they won me over!
The plot: It was followable. I wasnít mad bat shit off the wall craziness that you might expect from a JRPG, although there were elements of this within. Six dudes and dudettes get cursed/blessed with magical powers and are told to fulfill their FalíCie masters wishes or turn into big crystal mantelpiece ornaments. It works.
The gameplay: Probably my favourite part. I know a lot of people felt it was just a case of surviving by using ďAuto BattleĒ constantly. But when you truly master the effectiveness of every role, study/Librascope every enemy and determine how to be their downfall, or simply try to figure out how best to attack a crowd of three different enemy types, it becomes a lot more tactical. This is the best turn-based combat system this generation. I know they might not gel with a lot of RPG fans round here, but for me, it worked. It was accessible, but had depth enough to require a learning curve, which if followed, could lead to utter domination of the latter enemies in the Tesseractís and Orphans Cradle.

So, in summary, I really liked a game that by general consensus was pretty bad. I donít get it! Sure, I gave up on it for a year and a half, but I donít think this was really the game fault. So, who also liked it? Who partially liked it? Who thinks Iím a prat for liking it? Who loathed it? Iíd like to see why peopleís views vary so differently from mine. Iím giving Final Fantasy XIII a 9 and there ainít nothiní you can do Ďbout it!   read

12:53 PM on 06.19.2012

Why am I here?

AKA A Backlog Diary: Part 32

It is a question I ask myself quite a lot. Whether it be slogging away at two jobs I donít even like, or hanging out with friends I donít find interesting or even very agreeable in any respect, or perhaps whilst browsing some website in the early hours of the next day, reading some trivial article about something I care little about.

More recently, this question has been focused on video games, namely two I have decided to cross off my backlog list at a time which some may consider premature.

ďWhy am I still trying to win this race in Split/Second when clearly, the AI is totally misbalanced?Ē

ďWhy am I still trying to unlock Kilik in Soulcalibur V after around fifty attempts and two hours of lost time which I cannot chalk up to being fun?Ē

ďWhy am I bothering with this backlog?Ē

Most of the time, it is difficult to actually find a good answer. To the three questions above, I could merely reply that it is plain old stubbornness; refusing to be defeated by an AI which has seemingly been designed for the primary purpose of beating me.

Split/Second: Velocity is yet another racing game (following Gran Turismo 5 and Shift II: Unleashed) which I am crossing off my list despite not really having completed it. For those unacquainted with the swansong of Black Rock Studios, itís pretty much Mario Kart, but more grounded in reality. Instead of Go-Karts, you have sports cars, trucks, SUVís and the like. Instead of blue, red and green shells, banana skins and mushrooms, you have traps set all along the course, such as swinging cranes, falling buildings, crashing aircraft, and attacking helicopters. And instead of the bright and colourful Bowserís Castle and Luigi Circuit, you have the not so bright but still quite colourful backdrop of a wrecked city, with courses bounding through canals, shipping yards, airplane graveyards and nuclear powerstations. The game is just a huge freaking spectacle, a lot of fun to watch.
But unless you can by some miracle find a lobby of opponents online or can tolerate splitscreen racing, thatís all it has. The AI is just far too messed up. It slaughters you. You can be leading for a near full lap, driving like a pro, and suddenly, three AI opponents will all cruise past you at light speed, robbing you off necessary points to proceed. I retried a lot of races trying to bump up my scores, but to no avail. I was defeated no matter how well I did. Eventually, I became tired of this, and stopped. This is one of the worst games for AI opponents Iíve ever seen in the driving/racing genre. AT least with real human opponents, you can probably expect to be beaten fair and square, but there is no fun to be had in the single-player campaign. If anyone else has had more luck, please tell me which rainbow you found a four-leaf clover stapled to a rabbits foot under.

But this rather crippling flaw aside, Split/Second can still be a lot of fun through couch multiplayer and online (if you can convince some buddies to buy the game as well, because the online community is dead). Itís a very good idea, and a darn spectacle to boot, but the crippling AI difficulty means you will not enjoy this alone. I give it a 6

Next up, another sort of DNF, Soulcalibur V. The original Soulcalibur on the Dreamcast stands as my all-time favourite fighting game. Since then, however, without exception, it has seemed that the series has gone majorly downhill. Soulcalibur 2 was still very good, but failed to really innovate beyond its predecessor beyond a few new fighters and some prettier looks. Then it got bad, to the point we got the broken inclusion of Yoda in Soulcalibur IV. And yet, once again, I found myself handing over a few notes for the latest from Project Soul, hoping the trend may finally buck.
Good news! It has! This game is such an improvement over III and IV, and I can honestly say Iíve spent about twenty hours in multiplayer, be it online or against my father (who originally bought me the Dreamcast just so he could buy Soulcalibur). The things which made the series so appealing back then still stand; diverse characters with a wide array of moves and styles to learn and perfect over long periods, and the feeling that not one experienced, non-button-mashing player plays the same as another. Arenas and beautiful andÖ haa zaaa! Multi-tiered! A feature Iíve quite enjoyed in the Dead or Alive series, which to my mind, is a feature that makes a lot more sense than a square arena in the middle of nowhere which you can fall off and die. Well, actually, most of the levels are still death squares, but the one or two exceptions spice things up a bit.
Character creations a bit crap, but Iíve seen videos where people have clearly had fun making Scorpion, Batman and Sub-Zero (someone should tell these guys about MK Vs DCU, theyíll shit a house!)

But again, the game is at times crippled by AI. There is a constant theme as you play through the rather agreeable story mode and arcade modes where the AI can block the way only a computer which is reading your inputted commands could. Sure, you can throw them to combat this, but youíll probably already be ten feet in the air counting your shiny new sword wounds before you get the opportunity. Itís moments like this that made me retire the game back to the shelf until my father wants to resolve some trivial issue with simulated mortal combat, or have the nagging desire to smash a stranger in the face with a six foot sword. Soulcalibur V gets an 8.

Sorry Elsa, itís not old Ezio.

And now (sigh), Homefront. Fucking. Homefront. I donít know why I begrudge this game the two and a half hours it took me to complete its mediocre campaign. Oh God. Oh God Iím having flashbacks, ARGGGGGGGHHHHHH MY HEART!
In all seriousness, donít buy it. It was launched with the promise of a Call of Duty-esque game with a good story. That is bullshit. Itís a mess of dislikeable characters, who fall squarely into the army game stereotypes, mucky graphics which despite the engines promise is not taken advantage of, instead offering up lazy and uninspiring visuals. A finale on the Golden Gate Bridge? Should be pretty epic right? No. It felt like one of the more boring filler sections of a Call of Duty or even Medal of Honor. And it was the FINALE!!! The last point of contact the player will have with the story, and we got pretty much fuck aaaaall!
Also, I died. A lot. On the easiest difficulty setting. Enemies often spawn behind you, or hide or get stuck on scenery, and yet shoot you through it, invulnerable to your attack. I swear to God, there was one point where an RPG soldier just appeared and killed me seven times in a row, with me being able to do very little about it. It was dumb luck that I managed to snipe him before he killed me an eight timeÖ right before his friends all popped in (literally) and tore me to pieces.
I really, really didnít enjoy it. The best thing about it was it wasnít any longer. The helicopter bit was okay, but most of the time was spent waiting for your squad-mates to come unstuck from scenery, slowly walk up to you, and open a door for you.

And concerning your squad-mates, just fuck this guy. Worst character in any shooter of recent years. Homefront gets a 3, the only other game to receive a score as low as this being the dreadful Tom Clancyís HAWX. I donít want to talk about it anymore.

So why not talk about SSX? Hooray, a score based extreme sports game for the modern consoles which isnít a beaten to death Tony Hawkís game. To summarize, I really did enjoy it. The genre has been MIA for quite a while, and itís satisfying to get good at. The levels are pretty, the visuals and music are spot on, as youíd hope for an SSX game, and the control system, possibly the most important feature of games of this genre, just works. Why fix what ainít broke with a crappy peripheral, right Tony Hawk?

SSX: Not compatible with crappy skateboard controllers which break your arms.

I did enjoy the more difficult sections later on. Funnily enough, one of the most fun levels is one where you canít see shit. Also, along with the World Tour mode, there is a well implemented Arcade mode where you can compete with friends based on score or time. Little features like that just make it feel like a well-rounded package with plenty to do, and a constant challenge to not let Andy, the little shit at work, get all smug because heís doing better than you in Antarctica. I give SSX a 7, but only because I donít quite get on with snowboarding games as well as I do skateboarding games. If you mess up on SSX, you canít just restart your line without doing a ďSands of TimeĒ and losing a ton of points. And on your journey to get good, you will mess up a lot. If youíre a perfectionist, prepare to restart the level a heck of a lot.

And finally, a game Iíve been kind of waiting for since 2004. A game I simply had to add to my backlog despite the hordes of other titles screaming from the shelves. Max Payne 3, the third entry in what may be my favourite series of games. Ever. And no, I was not disappointed in the slightest.
Now we all knew all along this was not going to be an HD carbon clone of the first two entries. Graphic novel cutscenes are gone. Freaky nightmare sections are gone. New York, for the most part, is gone, only returning to tie the new setting of Sao Paulo to Maxís origins. And yet, despite the visuals and the location being thousands of miles away from what it once was, the game retains what made Max Payne so good; a dark, twisted tale of murder and revenge, following a man with only his life to lose, and he isnít exactly fussed about that.

And yet, there was something amiss. Why is Max so down on himself? Isnít he aware of what heís capable of? Iím pretty sure that heís killed more people than polio, and yet he still feels useless. He has the power to slow down time and end the lives of seven goons whilst crashing through a club window, and yet will not put the bottle down and consider what heís capable of. The only reason heís worthless is because heís constantly wasted, and yet he drinks because he feels like heís worthless. I donít know whether this is just a plot hole or an over sight, or is an accurate portrayal of the horrific circle of self- abuse that drinking and drug abuse lead to, but either way, it was a little bit annoying.
But then maybe that speaks volumes for the character that Remedy created back then, and that Rockstar have maintained. I cared more that Max eventually drops the bottle and pull his life together than anything else. This is a man who the player genuinely sympathizes with, as he has suffered one of the worst personal setbacks a person can suffer; the loss of a family.

And whilst Max is definitely centre stage, the supporting actors in this piece really do their work. From his sidekick to his target, from his boss to the bosses wife Max seeks to save. The world of Max Payne 3 is full of three dimensional characters, and it is a world that despite the evil that dwells there, the player will certainly revisit. Heck, I might revisit it in a minute, if not just for the awesome modernization of bullet time, the horrific level of detail within a gun fight, and the pure Matrix-esque level of spectacle. But with the gore, its not there for fun. The game is actually quite shocking. Bullet holes in people really do look like bullet holes in people, as jets of blood erupt from the forehead of your latest victim. And it never really is enjoyable. Each time the camera zoomed in on a headshot, it was actually a little sickening. But thatís what I love about this game, something so horrific enhances the experience, because the game isnít setting out to be similar to some massive Hollywood blockbuster where people get shot in the stomach, fall to the floor and swear bloody revenge on the protagonist before falling over the side of a building. This is a game which shows a man on the edge, plowing through an army of smugglers and mercenaries, grasping on to what small glimmer of purpose he can feel for himself, be it revenge, or saving the girl. And if you have to murder people along the way, the game is going to make sure you know about it.
Also, multiplayer. Max Payne 3 has it. Itís alright.

I give Max Payne 3 a 9, an absolute triumph of a sequel, despite my dread that I felt around 2010 when the original ďshaved head MaxĒ started doing the rounds on the internet. The only let down really was the ending, which was somewhat disappointing after the pure madness of the rest of the game.

So back to my original question. Why am I here, surrounded by games, slowly making my way through them in order to justify their purchase to myself and to you?

Because of Final Fantasy XIII. A game I got stuck on in the summer of 2010. A game that has hung over my head like the sword of Damocles, forever tainting my purchases with a small whisper in my ear. ďWhy are you buying that? You havenít finished me yet! You still havenít killed the Proudclad! You worthless human being!Ē

But last night, after putting the disc back in the 360 for the first time in nearly two years, I killed that Proudclad. And now, finally, the sword will fall, and I wonít be sitting like an idiot in the chair underneath it. Finally, I will get to write a blog two years in the making; a critique of f***ing Final f***ing Fantasy XIII, a highly enjoyable game that I just got too stuck on. So, next time, Final Fantasy XIII, and maybe DJ Hero.

F*** YOU PROUDCLAD!   read

10:03 AM on 06.06.2012

Why's she called Bayonetta? She has no bayonets.

I'd have called her Gunonetta.

AKA A Backlog Diary: Part 31

Having just finished one more game in the backlog, I find myself at a cross-roads; a cross-roads with about thirty different exits. There are still so many games to go, and even though, lately I have been carving off chunks from my console backlog, Steam and physically packaged PC games dominate the horizon. The hard part is where to start, as with so many choices, it becomes difficult to know what Ifeel most like playing next, and instead end up picking one through eenie-meanies-miney-mo methods, which due to a lack of willpower, I may not enjoy to its fullest. If I re-emerge myself in LA Noire as best as I can, I may simply get bored and end up stopping again. Here are some choices from the list of games I have already started and ought to finish first:

ē LA Noire- I have just gained access to the Homicide desk, but found the game tedious in its repetition and constantly felt like Phoenix Wright had a better handle on the detective genre, possibly due to its wackiness and pretty colours. LA Noire is just a bit too noir, and yet not noir enough, feeling more like a dull episode of CSI than an interesting fifties era crime thriller.
ē Final Fantasy XIII has been untouched for nearly two years after I got stuck quite close to the end. Itís a shame, because unlike most people, I was really enjoying it.
ē Mortal Kombat is all good fun, but I havenít quite got the knack of its mechanics, and keep getting my sorry ass handed back to me with apologies from the Netherrealm. If I get the hang of it, this could be fun, but being competent at MK is harder than being competent at DOA or Soul Calibur.
ē SSX has a similar problem. I tried to play this last night, and managed to get a fair way through World Tour mode, but then got horribly stuck in Antarctica to the point where the game offered me the option to skip the level I was doing. I must have been that bad, but some levels are just hard to make good lines on.
ē I keep getting quite far into Super Meat Boy, and then having to reinstall Windows on my PC, at which point, despite best efforts to back up save files, I lose progress and have to start again. Good fun, but Iíve finished the first two sections about five times now.
ē I was really getting into LocoRoco 2, but my PSP died.
ē Resident Evil: Revelations failed to set off a real spark of intrigue when I first started it two months ago. Could be really good, but I may have to work for it.
ē HomefrontÖ urgh Homefront. Started the first level yesterday and kept getting blown up by grenades in this section near a downed airplane. Unlike Call of Duty, the grenade indictator is pretty feeble, and I got blown up five times in a row before I swore at it and exited. I need a good reason to come back.
ē Forza 4 just keeps on going. I probably still have another 60 races before World Tour mode is completed. May just renew my Xbox Live Gold subscription and take it online, because thereís only so much racing against the AI on the same tracks over and over in lovely weather I can take.
ē Split/Second is also quite hard. Like Mario Kart, itís just luck if you cross the line in 1st place and some fucker hasnít squashed you with an airport terminal.
ē Madworld- Iíll be honest, I forgot I had it.

So to sum up, I donít know what to play next. Particularly idle days just see me playing Temple Run on my phone, so some encouragement for a certain title might just give me the drive to get going again. Either that or I end up collecting stamps and blogging about that. Do you want that?

So, Bayonetta. Am I allowed to like this? Am I allowed to actually fucking adore this game, hail it as the best hack ní slasher this generation, whooping the ass of Batman, Dante, Ryu Hayabusa and all those Dynasty Warriors guys? Am I allowed to say that Bayonetta herself may be one of the most entertaining and likeable protaganists of all time?
The reason I doubt this is primarily awareness of the times weíre in. There is a strong call for more rounded female protaganists in games who donít purely rely on the sexuality of the character and the player to sell themselves to their audience. I cite Alyx Vance and Rochelle and Zoey from Left 4 Dead as examples of game characters who arenít there to be pretty and sexually appealing (or at least, not purely created for those reasons). Bayonetta, in contrast to these three Valve creations (oh, and Chell) has been designed very much with her (and for the male/lesbian population, our) sexuality in mind. She dresses in what appears to be skin tight bondage gear, which is in fact her hair, which at her beck and call can scarper, take demonic form, and tear evil bastards to shreds whilst Bayonetta looks on in her barely censored birthday suit. She taunts her enemies with sexual innuendo, swears, backflips, and even poses after some attacks, at which point a camera click can be heard. As a liberal minded modern mid-twenties male, pro-female, and part of a society that encourages a loss of ditzy sexy female stereotypes, am I supposed to dislike this game?

Now I know that there has been little, if not no fuss about this game. I have not read or heard of any objections from the female populace about the character or the game. I am not trying to create a controversy where this isnít one. So why do I feel the need to doubt whether Bayonetta is a good example of a female video game character? A character done right? Is it just her sexuality that at first made me cautious about outwardly declaring that despite the objections some may have had to her, she is one of the best pixellated women to come out of Japan in forever?
I suppose I just feel the need to be cautious. Generally, I feel the need to declare that I too dislike the rather adolescent use of female semi-nudity in Dead or Alive, despite the games being some of the best beat Ďem ups available for entry level players and veterans alike. I liked Bayonetta, and at first I didnít know why. I felt like ought to be put off because of her in-your-face sexiness. But to take things into further analysis, despite this focus being a primary part of her character, it is the other ingredients that justify citing her as brilliant. Sheís smart and cocky (both shown by her taunting of angels the size of buildings), confident, dominating, independent. In fact, the ďtraditionalĒ role of damsel in distress is reversed here as she frequently saves the life of clumsy journalist Luka (a male sidekick, so to speak).
So what does Bayonetta teach us that we did, or probably should have already known? That a characters blatant sexuality is okay, so long as the other traits of the character justify it. Despite being a kick ass ninja, Kasumi seems to spend half her time in bikinis, crying out for her brother Hayate. Bayonetta needs no one. People need her. And that is why Bayonetta herself kicks ass. She may be a sexy female protagonist, but she isnít there just to be a sexy female protagonist.

I can't see this fighting stance allowing too much accuracy with firearms.

Also, the game itself kicks ass. The combat is very well developed, with the Witch Time dodge mechanic testing reflexes and allowing you to dominate your enemy. Torture attacks are entertaining, levels are gorgeous and well designed, enemies are both beautiful and terrible (in a good way) and demand different tactics and thought processes to be felled. The game offers much replay value through the collection and purchase of items as well as a scoring system, action sequences are varied (youíll ride not only motorbikes, but hellsíaípoppiní missiles!) and the plot, despite being a bit mad and hard to follow at times, is at the best of times entertaining, and at the worst of times adequate enough to encourage progress. If you want a good looking and challenging hack ní slash game with a great protagonist and some real depth, I canít recommend Bayonetta enough, even though from what I hear, the PS3 version is plagued by loading times and slowdown.
Iím giving Bayonetta a 10, because it showed me what Platinum games are capable of. I loved Vanquish, I enjoyed MadWorld (and hope to finish it soon), and Bayonetta is probably one of the best games of this generation. Much more than a pair of spectacles and a pair of tits.   read

10:29 AM on 06.01.2012

This Metro isn't what Berlin was singing about... too many mutants.

AKA A Backlog Diary: Part 30

In the wake of the short film to promote Metro: Last Light, I felt a sudden urge to finish something I started over a year ago.

There are many games in my collection that I have started and not finished. Reasons vary from over-exposure (Forza Motorsport 4 remains incomplete, as the World Tour is huge and I simply canít do it in one go), frustration (unlike most people, I enjoyed Final Fantasy XIII, but got stuck a mere two hours from the games end) indifference, boredom, and distraction.
My reason for having stopped playing Metro 2033 is unclear to me. I donít remember what else I was playing at the time, but I vaguely remember buying Garryís Mod around the same time, which may be an explanation. The short film with the people attempting to take shelter in the underground rail system reminded me of this bleak, dark, pessimistic games existence. I had been enjoying it, despite my older incarnation of my PC barely managing to run the thing to the extent it can now. Two HD 6970ís and a six-core processor sure do work wonders for this one though.

If you talk about Metro 2033, you have to talk about its looks. It seems a tradition for developers of an Eastern European persuasion to offer bleak, dark, pessimistic juggernauts which most PCís the consumer side of NASA can only dream of running. When you do have the horsepower though, these games come alive. STALKER, Cryostasis and Metro 2033 are a dark delight when at full capacity. Flames flicker idly up the walls of human inhabited metro stations, whilst eerie dilapidated tunnels begrudgingly reveal their secrets to your flashlight as you travel the dark expanses beneath the Earth. Character models and creature design are pretty damn good, and the sound design is spot on. Drips, growls and gunfire echo ominously, and even the dodgy voice acting of Russian voice actors speaking English does little to hamper the experience.

Alloí Beastie!

The story works too. Being based very closely on one of my favourite foreign novels helps the experience, and even though the game, being a game, must cut out large chunks of the plot from its original source, the game still tells a story worth seeing.
But for lots of gamers, these bonuses are secondary to the primary draw; the scares. Itís not Amnesia, but it can be darn creepy, possibly edging out the dodgier sections in the STALKER series in terms of heebie-jeebies. One of my favourite aspects is the ďghostsĒ, a shadow or two which huddle in groups, which as you walk into them, trigger a hallucination of the ghostís final moments. All this while hideous mutants jump out at you from the corner, or a grate, or the freaking floor. Some sections are scarier than others, and late game, the horror is somewhat lost when instead of terrible snarling monstrosities, youíre faced withÖ ermm.. giant amoebas. Strange.

An example of one of the more tense stands against the mutants.

The biggest disappointment is the end. It seems impossible to get the ending from the book, instead having to settle on one of two endings of which the original is a mixture. I wonít spoilt it, but it made be confused. Perhaps one was supposed to be a ďgoodĒ ending, the other a ďbadĒ ending which still satisfies and doesnít leave you with a bad taste in your mouth.

The best thing about Metro is its budget price. I picked it up a year or two ago, but by now, you can get it for around £5.00 on Amazon or wait for its regular reappearance in a Steam sale. I canít comment on the quality of the Xbox 360 version, but if it holds up, you should definitely think of splashing down a note or two if bleak pessimistic Russian horror could be your thaaang.

I therefore reward Metro 2033 a 9, which isnít a bad score at all for an eight hour game that took me a year and a half to complete.   read

9:36 AM on 05.31.2012

Hype: My envy of a fifteen year old me.

Itís been a long time since I have been truly hyped for anything game related. Iíve enjoyed a lot of games lately, but none have had me counting down the days on a calendar to a much anticipated release date. Sure, there are a tonne of games Iíve enjoyed, and even ones Iíve bought on release day, but none that have raised the same levels of anticipation that the games of yesteryear have managed.

The last game I was truly hyped for was Doom3 for the original Xbox. Having only recently delved fully into first-person shooters, Doom3 was to be a change of pace from Halo and its sequel. Halo 2 had me hunting down a copy on the day of launch, eventually securing one from Sainsburyís (a UK supermarket chain) at a reduced cost from the specialist stores. ďHaĒ I had thought, ďNot only have I managed to get my hands on the best video game yet, but I bought it cheaper than most peopleĒ. I was more naÔve at the time. At only fifteen years old, my gaming life focused solely on one console at a time, and I was lucky if I could afford more than one game every two months. Purchases counted for more, as I was going to have to spend many hours on this game, and if it wasnít the best one out at the time (or at least the second best if I already owned the best) then what was the point? Things seemed much simpler back then. I took what the gaming magazines said to heart. If they thought a game wasnít worthy of a 90% or over rating, then it wasnít good enough for my hard saved cash from my Saturday job. As youíd expect, being under exposed to what I would later learn of many PC and Sony exclusives, such games as Halo 2 were simply amazing. Each few months, something would come out that was just a little bit prettier, and that was enough for me. I had to own it. Magazine articles on upcoming games built up a little flutter in my chest as I eagerly read about a strange FPS/RPG hybrid called Deus Ex: Invisible War (which got a perfect 10 from my preferred publication) and the sequel to my favourite Dreamcast game ever; Soul Calibur II.

The last gaming purchase I ever ran home with.

But Doom 3 was the last one to garner as much of my attention. I rushed to Gamestation and pre-ordered the limited edition steel case version, securing a small piece of gaming history for myself. Finally, that dark and scary game Iíd watched my friend play on his PC a year ago was coming home, and I was going to savour every damn minute of it. It was around a month to go until it arrived. Iíd put two crisp £20 notes in a jar on my windowsill, ready for the big day. April 8th, 2005. I spent much of that month replaying Jet Set Radio Future, the game that had made me so excited to buy an Xbox in the first place. I dipped back into Halo: Combat Evolved after watching videos of people dropping dozens of grenades under the warthog jeep and sending them skywards. Such sights were truly epic in my younger eyes, and the incoming horrors of iDís port were sure to hold equal, if not better delights.

The day came. I walked briskly to the store after school, did the usual song and dance of finding a willing adult to buy it on my behalf, and rushed to the bus, eager to get my obligatory two hours of study out the way and fire up this monstrosity.
It was amazing. Aside from Splinter Cell, no games I had played had used darkness as effectively at that time, and as I cautiously moved through the sprawling corridors of the UNSC base, Iím fairly sure my face was a mixture of pure delight and ďOh no! Iím far too old to piss myself in terror!Ē. I loved that game, and had no regrets about my purchase. I finished it twice before I picked up a magazine and started browsing for what I ought to pick up next. By this time, Deus Ex: Invisible War had received a price cut, so that was my favourite candidate.
But whilst Deus Ex: Invisible War certainly didnít disappoint me, and put me off the medium, I found that my metaphorical calendar was no longer covered in little red Xís which led anywhere game related. This was about the time that the Xbox 360 and the Wii were starting to emerge, and screenshots of Perfect Dark Zero and Twilight Princess sure looked good, but failed to excite anything like what Master Chief and the Mars demons had.

Have games changed? Considering Call of Duty has an annual queuing party at every game store I come across on late nights coming home from work, I'm tempted to think they haven't. Kids today still get excited about Halo: Reach and must already be writing Christmas lists with just ďHalo 4 plzĒ in big letters with a smiley face and an offer to wash one thousand cars if it sweetens the deal. Games still have the power to bring excitement and anticipation, just like they always did.

Perhaps itís the journalistic aspect of the industry. Now we have an uncountable number of sources of information and opinion about upcoming releases. On one side, you have the big names like IGN which report every aspect of news that comes their way. Peter Molyneux has a haircut, David cage said something stupid, Activision hates you and wants your money. Meanwhile, bloggers and other gaming personalities weigh in on topics and paint whole new canvasses portraying aspects of the gaming world we as consumers and gamers wouldnít have worried about before. When I think of gaming now, do I think of my excitement for Assassinís Creed III, Borderlands 2 and Dishonoured? Or do I instead worry about whether the Vita is going to be competitive enough against the 3DS, whether smartphones are going to see off portable gaming as we know it, and whether Microsoft and Sony are going to kill off Nintendo and our wallets in one fell swoop of over-competitiveness and dirty tricks (On-disc DLC and anti-used methods being examples) Weíre now bombarded with so much information, its hard to stay focused on games themselves. Every upcoming game release is hindered by news that some bastard in the company said something evil, making my metaphorical gaming wood disappear.
I donít mean to suggest that we should have less gaming news outlets, less attention to detail from them, or that we should stick our fingers in our ears and ignore it. Gaming today has a lot more issues than it did before, and as devoted hobbyists, we probably ought to know what weíre in for. All Iím saying is that perhaps such an influx of information kills a lot of the magic of a date circled on a calendar, and I miss eagerly turning the pages of a single magazine, becoming increasingly hyped for some game or another.

In todayís modern internet based gaming journalism, news seems to come at you more like this.

But perhaps the biggest reason Iím not skipping around in circles waiting for Grand Theft Auto V is me. Iíve changed. My world has got a lot bigger and more complex as time has gone on. Yes, games remain an integral part of my personal time, and has influences and benefits to my social and family life, just like it did for the socially awkward fifteen year old me with bad hair who loved to go round friends houses and slaughter them in one-on-one Halo matches. Games are still, and for the far foreseeable future, will remain as my primary entertainment form. But now Iím twenty-three; still young I know. I may not have kids and mortgages to worry about just yet, but the world is a bigger, scarier place. Instead of counting down the days to a video game, I find myself worried about my lack of financial safety nets, the shaky future of my career in the public sector, but looking forward to weekends off with friends, day trips in my car, which itself has opened all kinds of doors. Casual drinking, music, further education and a wealth of other activities are now viable options for my weekend or my year. Games will always be a part of that, but now, I take them as they come.
Maybe its that each purchase is no longer an agonising decision which will affect me for weeks to come. Much higher levels of disposable income mean game or console purchases are no longer something to dwell on too long. If I donít like a game I buy, I buy something else. If I really like something, I finish it and move on to something else. Iím no longer stuck with one game for extended periods of time, for better or worse, and perhaps that takes that preciousness away from each individual experience.

My heart doesnít give an extra beat of excitement until Iím putting the disc in the tray. Dead Space 2 was one rare exception, with its advertisement with ďBullet with Butterfly WingsĒ playing over some scenes of pure epic-osity (I always loved that song, and the idea of jetpacks in my legs). Aside from this, games just donít have the same pull on my upper spinal column they once did. But they didnít change, the industry did, and more importantly, I did. Yes, I miss the excitement, but hey, got stuff to do, so Iím going to go polish the car and cash my tax rebate, and then when I get back, maybe some Metro 2033 and an ice cream.   read

11:01 AM on 05.30.2012

Will the Vita live up to its name? - Uncharted: Golden Abyss and BF: Bad Company

AKA A Backlog Diary: Part 29

Two sets of treasure hunters, rather different in their approaches. One group seeks to liberate their wealth from a group of evil mercenaries; the other from ancient civilisations. Although the latter does also deal with evil mercenary types and corrupt dictatorsÖ wait a minuteÖ

Both stories feature a group going about their daily business. Both cross paths frequently with corrupt dictators, and spend a good portion of their time blowing stuff up and killing mercenaries. I guess until I started writing the above paragraph, I hadnít noticed how corrupt dictators and mercenaries seem to be finding their way into everything I play. Heck, I bet even Metro 2033, the next game on my to do list, features some kind of facist regime. Wouldnít surprise me at all.

So on to the differences, one was released nearly four years ago, one was released but three months ago. One is a first person shooter, one is an action/adventure/platformer. One is based only on consoles, the other only available to a handheld. Iím going to leave a little gap so you can try and guess the two games. Ready?

Battlefield: Bad Company for the Xbox 360, and Uncharted: Golden Abyss for the PS Vita. Yes, I now own a Vita too.

So, theyíre different ages, different genres, and have different names, but they shared an equal level of disappointment. I was expecting a little more from each of them based on other games in their respective series, but in the case of Battlefield:BC, I guess it had a slightly more humble beginning than its frankly much more awesome sequel.

One way it trumps its follow up is actually being a lot more humerous. It seems to have a slight throwback to the old WW2 era heist-esque movies, where a squad of commandos would take on a league of Naziís, all the while with a tongue in their cheek and a gun in their hand. Sound is used very well, from the choice of music in menus and emitting from vehicle radios to the obvious explosions and gun fire. I played a demo back when the game was first launched, but only bought the game a month ago. I guess it really shows its age. The Frostbite engine has come along nicely from this comparatively ugly game, and whilst it isnít the worst looking game out there, you can tell this was released four years ago.
The plot is wafer thin, but Sweetwater, Marlowe and friends carry it along at quite a cheerful pace, and the gameplay itself works fine, with an interesting alteration on the replenishing health system of most FPSís. If you see it for £5.00 in a bargain bin, it isnít a bad flutter, and should provide something of an entertaining weekend. Just donít expect a revolution, because despite the games merits, there are more engrossing first person shooters out there. 6

As for Golden Abyss, I have to say itís the weakest Uncharted game since the first, probably finding itself on par. Levels are repetitive and somewhat bland, and the game fails to contain any of the features that made Uncharted 2 & 3 as great as they were; namely awesome location, thrilling set pieces, and Elena. Instead we get an Elena clone who ends up as a love interest of Drakeís, but being a prequel, we can all assume how that one ends. Chase fails to fill Elenaís shoes; she just isnít that likeable, and yet you still have to spend a whole chunk of the game with her. The Sully section is as fun as you can expect, but is marred by previously mentioned repetitiveness in both locale and action.
Touch controls feel kind of shoe-horned in, with charcoal rubbings becoming tiresome, as well as the sections of QTE where you swipe the screen. Initially, the gyro controls were annoying too, but become essential once you realise how hard it is to aim without them. I ended up using a combination of right stick to line them up, and gyro controls to enhance accuracy, which when you get used to it, isnít too bad a system. However, it wasnít worth the hassle, and doesnít really add anything beyond initial frustration.

I really feel the developers missed a trick with Uncharted on Vita. If the system doesnít start getting some rock solid titles, it could plummet into oblivion right next to the Sega Saturn; a good piece of tech which no one knew how to program for. With Resistance getting the shoddy reception it is, we can only look forward to a potential Playstation All-Stars release. Come on Sony; this is the first time Iíve bought one of your systems close to launch, donít make me regret it! Ironically, it seems the Vita may well run out of life prematurely, but then the PS3 was a late bloomer in my opinion.
Uncharted: Golden Abyss gets a disappointing 6.

Next time, Metro 2033, which so far Iím really digging.   read

8:42 AM on 05.23.2012

Has a mod ruined Single-Player games for me?

AKA A Backlog Diary: Part 28

Davey Wreden You may have just ruined single player games for me.

Davey Wreden is the man behind The Stanley Parable, a mod which, on its surface, is about a man named Stanley, who works in an office, entering what he is told to enter into a computer, day in, day out, never changing routine. One day, no commands show up on his screen, and he comes to realise he is the only one in the building.
But this is not what the game is about. This simple mod, with few unique textures from its Half-Life 2 starting point, is really about you, and the choices you make throughout the mod which takes no more than ten minutes to complete. If you follow the instructions of the narrator, you get a satisfactory ending where Stanley walks outside and is free, all because he took the correct path, thanks to the Narrator. See, on the ďcorrect pathĒ, you act as the narrator says Stanley is to act. You even reach a point in the deserted managers office where a safe is on the wall; a safe which you have no idea how to open until the narrator says something to the effect of ďOf course, unbeknownst to Stanley, the code to the safe was 9-3-6-4, a code which Stanley had no hope of ever guessingĒ. But of course, because the narrator tells you this, you enter the code, leading to a secret wall opening and the Narrator in apparent surprise saying ďBut against all odds, Stanley guessed the code correctly!Ē This scene may not sound like to big a deal, but it does raise some questions about gaming, which Iíll get to shortly.
There is a ďcorrect endingĒ, but there are also several others. Rather than shutting down the machine that monitors and controls the workers, you could take control, at which point the narrator decides to blow up Stanley, annoyed that Stanley has chosen to rebel against his fate and the narrative. You can disobey at the very first of the narrators ďinstructionsĒ, going through a blue door instead of the destined red door, causing the Narrator to start talking directly to the player in annoyance, questioning why the player is so insistant on going against the narrative he has crafted for Stanley. This leads to Stanley discovering an untextured room; a simple cube, at which the Narrator tells Stanley/the player that it is their own fault they ended up here after trying to hard to disobey the rules of the game; even warping Stanley to the opening setting of Half-Life 2 (with all NPCís removed), which after Stanley escapes from, leads to another ending, an ending in which the Narrator questions whether the rebellion was really worth it. He had, after all, served up a lovely little story about a man in an Orwellian nightmare (not you Zombie Orwell) escaping his bonds, but you, the player, decided you didnít want to see that and sought to escape the confines of the narration.

The office of a man named Stanley? Or the prison we lock ourselves into every time we put a game on?

You see the irony? In one scenario, Stanley himself escapes a certain linear fate, but in the other, it is the player who escapes a certain linear fate; following the narration, pressing buttons and entering commands until the desired result is reached, much like Stanley originally did before escaping himself.
But further, isnít the second ending also a linear path itself? Did not Davey Wreden himself anticipate the players rebellion, and thus give them the ending they sought? One which felt like a rebellion against traditional linear game design?

The Stanley Parable has more endings than this, and later, I plan on seeing them all, but these two encapsulate the main point of this ďgameĒ. It is supposed to make you question what the hell you are doing. Not just with this mod, but with all games. We are often given the illusion of choice, whether it be multiple paths through the Mass Effect series, or doing missions in whatever order you feel like in Grand Theft Auto. How you personally do this may vary ever so slightly; whether youíre good or evil in inFamous, or whether you favour the whip mutation over the blade in Prototype 2, but when push comes to shove, you are engaged in something futile for two major reasons.

1. Every action you take is anticipated by the developer. You are confined to a small world with a strict rule set which can not be broken despite illusions. You may choose to use these tools in different ways to other players but reallyÖ
2. ÖYou will end up with the same fate as everyone else, or merely at one of several anticipated outcomes, each one as deliberately crafted as the others.

There is no escape from the Narrator, no matter what game it is or what form he takes. If youíre playing a traditional single player game right now that has both a beginning, and an ending, youíre doomed to your fate, whether it be positive or negative, whether it be one or many.

Yes, there are exceptions to this rule, where the Narrator is impotent and not the key player. Multiplayer focused games are an example. Does it matter to me that the AI Director and the writers at Valve are governing the world I inhabit in Left 4 Dead 2? No, because I feel that my fate lies in the hands of three other real life people whom I am playing the game with. Does it matter that the design of Forza Motorsport 4 or DiRT 3 provide circuit racing and not much more? No, because the timing/score is what matters, and I can make an impact via online leaderboards or multiplayer, my actions potentially influencing the motives of other players around the world to best me. It is in multiplayer games (or even just games that contain leaderboards) that we write our own destinies and make an impact. Even in Call of Duty multiplayer, you actions can affect fifteen other people and how they play the game.

Single player exceptions are limited, but Iíll name a few. Mostly games that allow creativity, like Minecraft and LittleBigPlanet, which while I donít care too much for the latter does give players the opportunity to provide playgrounds for other players around the world, thus escaping the confines of any kind of narrative. Heck, you can even write your own. I remember Far Cry: Instincts on the original Xbox, with which I had fun not only playing online, but also making my own maps for people to play on. So no, not all games are mere rulebooks or linear narratives to trap a player in for a few hours in exchange for money. Some are competitions, some are canvases, some are exercises in communication and group thinking and co-operation. Anything else, where you do not have the ability to reach out, change the game world to your liking and allow the world to see the results, is nothing more than a multi-linear trek to an inevitable conclusion.

Now this may sound bad, perhaps, but Iíll explain why it isnít always. Some of the best and most well loved games are linear treks through a world with a plot. Half-Life, Portal, Zelda, Mario, Uncharted, Killzone, Halo. These are about the journey, not the destination. Theyíre about how many stars you can find, or about the challenge of making your way through a room with a portal gun, or even just the spectacle of a vast temple or a destroyed City 17. Your path goes only so far to the left and the right, sure, but youíre still glad to be moving forward within.

So why has The Stanley Parable put me on edge?

The only thing I can think is itís just something I havenít thought of before. No matter which single player experience I dive into, Iím merely playing the same game in the same way as most people out there. Is this really any different to seeing the same movie as everyone else on DVD at home? My experience with a movie may differ from everyone elseís, and I may have different opinions or levels of enjoyment. I might even watch the film for entirely different reasons than everyone else, but Iíll still have seen the same film, just like Iíll still have played the same game, without interference or alteration by other players. So why should finishing Batman: Arkham City give me any more satisfaction than watching Batman Begins or The Dark Knight? Before The Stanley Parable, I may well have been more satisfied, but now, Iím not sure.

Now I donít want to sell the game short. Itís beautifully dark, well written, and with sixty years of Detective Comics behind it, contains a cast of brilliant villains and a great idea for a setting to put them in. The combat is satisfactory when done right, and there is no greater feeling than clearing a room of twelve armed goons armed with nothing but a belt full of mischief. The plot is not too bad, though seemed like it was trying to do too much, and thus not quite doing enough with any one key part. The main antagonist of the game seemed to change multiple times from Joker, to Penguin, to Rías Al Ghul, to Hugo Strange, quickly back to Rías, before deciding once again on the good old clown of crime. The main problems Batman faced seemed to just disappear; what happened to all those poisoned with the Titan/Joker virus? Were they cured in time? And whilst the setting of Arkham City is good on the surface, I felt like I was revisiting areas quite a lot. A whole city, and I end up in the same sewers twice? It got a lot higher rated than Batman: Arkham Asylum, and Iím not too sure I agree with such sentiments. The Asylum itself was a much better setting, and seemed, despite its open world nature, to have a more varied locale than a whole freaking city of inmates and goons. Major characters were squandered on very little. Two-Face was in for two minutes, Cat Woman simply at the beginning and the very end, and why was Harley Quinn tied up in the Sugar Mill upon your second visit? The game left me a little confused, and whilst I donít need everything handed to me on a silver platter, the option to understand what the hell is going on would have been nice.

Iím still not sure how the Joker came to be the primary villain of the piece, or even if he ever wasÖ

But despite a fair few criticisms, Iím giving Batman an (arbitrary) 8. Why? After realising that this game meets the criteria of the pointless exercise in linear progress through a narrative that is slightly more inferior to movie and even comic counterparts? Why still so high a score? Because the experience was pretty fun. I enjoyed beating up some fools, the battle with Mr Freeze, and the Blood of the Demon section in particular. Not quite up to par with Arkham Asylum, but still fun. I guess this is still the point of these linear narrative single-player video games, just as it was thirty years ago; it isnít about where you end up, but the journey there. (Here I come Mass Effect 3, to test that theory!). So in answer to my original question; has a mod ruined single-player games for me? No, but they're going to have to work a lot harder now that I've come to some rather simple realisations.

In backlog news, I am now tackling Forza 4 head-on, whilst also playing Battlefield: Bad Company on Xbox 360. Until next time!   read

10:54 AM on 05.17.2012

A Backlog Diary: Part 27- A Tale of Honor and Skele-Kanga-Horse's

Itís been something of a busy week. In total, five games can now be ticked off my to-do list, the latter two of which I will get to shortly. Meanwhile, I have acquired some new games to take their places.

Now yes, it may seem redundant to write about a backlog which is shortened with the one-hand, and added to with the other. However, I should point out that these new games are ones I have planned on purchasing for a while, and have only bought them now due to finding them at what I consider a more appropriate price. Mass Effect 3 for PC at £20.00 is first to join the ranks, as well as three Wii titles; Donkey Kong Country Returns (£14.99) New Super Mario Bros Wii (£15.99) and Sin & Punishments (£4.99). After a fair bit of ďgrown-upĒ console debauchery, Iím ready again for some remote-wavey fun. These, along with the two No More Heroes games will be played as soon as my new Wii HDMI adapter (which scales Wii video output up to 1080p with what customer reviews are saying are very good results) and a new set of non-console specific headphones (I own a turtle beach headset for PS3, 360 and PC) arrive in the post. Iím not too sure which Iím going to start with, especially considering I last night found Batman: Arkham City for 360 in a Morrisonís bargain bin (£15.00. Steal!) Iíve also dipped my toe into X3: Terran Conflict; something of a departure from my usual repertoire. The game looks kinda huge, so I might set myself a couple of arbitrary goals so I can at least consider it played to a decent enough extent that I can post about it here.

But on to my spoils of war, the first of which, finally, being Serious Sam: The Second Encounter HD.

(Ctrl-C on Serious Sam: First Encounter blog post. Ctrl-V here)

Itís very similar to the first game, right down to weapons, enemies (with only one or two additions and some very typical but still fun boss fights) and appearance. The levels do stretch their legs from time to time, changing from your deserts and tombs of FE to your jungles, temples, medieval villages and the like. The guys at Croteam and Deep Silver did just about enough to warrant this being more than just an expansion pack, and bring all the mayhem of the first game back in full force. Considering the games age (as an entity, despite this being a prettied up re-release) itís a lot of classic strafe-and-shoot fun. At times, it can drag on, but thatís why you stick Spotify on in the background and craft yourself a soundtrack to the murder! Considering this game is pretty much constantly on sale on Steam for under £4.00, you really canít lose. I certainly didnít. 8

This rather accurately gives you an idea of the scale of what youíre up against.

The two halves of Serious Sam 1 did enough to arouse my interest in the series as a whole. I have plans to track down Serious Sam 2, but for now, all I could find was the latest iteration, Serious Sam 3: BFE

Acting as a prequel to all other Serious games, the plot tells the story of Sam, a man who falls out of helicopters a lot and kills a heck of a lot of things. I thought Serious Samís 1 and 1.5 were nuts, but this one takes it to a whole new legume-y level.
First of, itís pretty, and it sounds a lot better than its aged predecessors, negating the need for a personal playlist. Whatís more the on-screen enemy count frequently exceeds triple figures. Towards the end, in the notorious ďValley of DeathĒ I reckon was up against three hundred enemies at a time; something unheard of outside the realms of real time strategy. The action is so intense, I reckon I spent 80% of that forty minutes fighting my way through with the left mouse button pressed down. Absolutely insane, and a lot of fun, that last level.
And then thereís the main point of Serious Sam games; this is not a realistic FPS, despite sprinting mechanics and iron-sights now being added. This is not about picking off a squad of five enemies from behind cover. This game is about riot control. Itís about putting yourself in the safest possible position whilst dispatching as many ďalien freaksĒ as possible. There is one game I can compare this to in this respect; Geometry Wars: Evolved. Weave your way through enemies whilst blasting away at them, clearing a path so you can turn, rinse and repeat. A very unique game, despite its roots in a rather bogged down genre.
Enemies also demand some prioritisation. The Dark Brides should be dealt with first, even if they are a bitch to find and kill whilst theyÖ I donít know what it is they do to you, but it hurts! Then there are the things that can shoot you from afar. They die next. Then the fast things that hit you, then the slow things that shoot you but miss a lot, and then everything else. But make sure you shoot anything screaming with no head (yeah I know) first. Oh, and the weird helicopter monsters, theyíre fuckers too.


If Iím honest, despite games simplicity, I grew very, very fond of it. In fact, Iím pretty sure Iím having withdrawal symptoms. Booting up X3: Terran Conflict, I found myself yawning at the lack of thins running and screaming at me. This game may have just spoilt gaming for me as a whole; hopefully nothing a little bit of Batman wonít fix, but weíll have to see.

SS 3:BF3 gets an 8 from me, my only real problem with it being the over use of what I came to call Skele-Kanga-Horseís, and the rather dull locale. Hopefully, the reasonable success of this game might lead to expansion packs with prettier levels. But not too soon please. Iím a bit shagged out.

Next time: Something!   read

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