Zdravstvuj. My name is Valentin Seleznyov and i'm a 26 year old self-employed kitchen designer from London, England.
When i'm not making housewives dreams come true, i work on my space ballet and play video games.
It's like a regular ballet, only instead of traditional instrumentation, it will be performed on electric guitars, drum machines, and the space-aged equivalent of a cannon. A sort of ode to Tchaikovsky, my musical idol.
I wiped and packed up my xbox 360 yesterday. With the next generation of games consoles mere weeks away it seemed like a good time to trade it in for some store credit, but before clearing the HDD and putting it back in its box, i took a little time to look over my gaming history and achievements.
130,816 gamerpoints, 243 games, and more hours than i care to count's worth of memories.
As i did so it occurred to me that many of my favourite games came and went without much fanfare or critical acclaim, and that i seem to be in a very unvocal minority when it comes to championing them on forums and the like. So i would like to take another shot at rectifying this as i take a look back at what i consider to be some of the most under-appreciated computer games of the current times.
Quantum of Solace.
I was immediately struck by how appropriately presented the game was. Its main menu is sleek and stylish and just very 'Bond', and the score was very much what you would expect. Despite being played predominately from the first-person perspective, when taking cover or using a takedown the game switched to third person view, making the most of Daniel Craig's likeness and making it very clear that you are 007.
The attention to presentation was such that it trickled down to less relevant things like the achievement list, where each achievement/trophy was named for a film or famous line from one, and relevantly so. 'He's playing his golden harp' is awarded for meleeing the man with the golden gun in multiplayer mode, while 'Octopussy' is quite hilariously reserved for finishing the game on its easiest difficulty setting. If you're a Bond fan, little touches like that can really enhance the experience.
The game also features what i consider to be the single-greatest song recorded specifically for a video game. Kerli's When Nobody Loves You.
The game was made by Treyarch at around the same time they were putting Call of Duty: World at War together, so you can be pretty sure that as a shooter the mechanics are solid. A modified version of the CoD4 engine was used.
Unlike Call of Duty, however, stealth is a viable and enjoyable option in many of the game's situations. Sneaking through the backstage area of the floating opera at Bregenz and the terrorist-controlled terminals at LAX is all the more fun for Bond's signature silenced PPK and how well Treyarch captured the brutality of Craig's 007 in hand-to-hand encounters.
I wouldn't say that Quantum of Solace is a game everyone must rush out and buy, i wouldn't even say it is a game that those who particularly like shooting games must play... but i don't think that any Bond game has been made with quite as much love and respect for the source material than this one, and in that respect it is severely under-appreciated by 007 fans.
This is a legitimate contender for my favourite game of all time and the thing i most love about it is how much agency is afforded to the player. I really liked both Dragon Age games, but while there were often multiple ways of resolving an issue or completing a quest, these options were quite neatly laid out for you on almost all occasions. Not the case on Risen 2.
As an early example (and a very minor spoiler), you need to free a pirate who is being held in a cell. You can obviously nick the key from the commandant or pick the lock... but more industrious gamers can find some much more rewarding ways of doing things.
Scattered around the town are cannons that you can use. One is conveniently positioned so that it can be swivelled towards the back of the prison tower, and can be fired so that it blows a hole in the wall through which our pirate friend can escape. At no point does the game tell you that you can do this, and there is an even more fun way of completing the task.
In the game you have the option of learning the art of voodoo or receiving special training in firearms that allows you to use muskets and shotguns. If you opt to illuminate yourself in the black magics you can take control of certain characters throughout the course of the game. In each case there is a reason you need to do this, but the game seems to know that you're going to want to do more. In one case you control a particularly loathsome man for the purposes of entering a restricted area.
If you feel like it, you can take this opportunity to ruin his life and resign from his position of power within the city. I did feel like it, and the writing is good enough that you likely will too.
Graphically you can look at the game and see that the animations aren't that great and that the textures are not all they could be, but this game has a really nice feel. The weather effects, foliage and geography combine beautifully to create a world that is absorbing and fun to explore as it is lush and tropical. Each of the game's visitable islands also has its own distinct feel.
I would say that the combat is something i suffered through. It's not bad, but the game is at its most enjoyable when you're talking to people and looking for interesting ways to complete quests. Although its sense of humour can be described as a little off-colour, i found it hilarious... particularly enjoying this potential response when informed i may enter a pirate tavern, though may be disappointed it isn't 'gay night'.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
There are very likely Transformers fanatics who didn't even bother with this game, considering all that Michael Bay has done with his trilogy. I'm the sort of person who tries to see the good in things even when they aren't what i would have wanted, and found more than i expected to like in the three Transformers films... and High Moon brought most of that to the forefront in this game, unlike Bay who relegated little things like characterisation for anyone who isn't Bumblebee to the back of his movies.
Firstly, i'm not going to lie, i like the look of most of the Autobots in the movie universe, and especially Bumblebee. Whoever had the idea of having the four doors position like that on his back to resemble bumblebee wings was inspired.
High Moon did a great job bringing him and Optimus and Ironhide to life. The transformation animations are terrific, as is that of general movement and attacks. The transformers look and handle impressively, and getting that right is half the battle in a game based on this IP, i think.
More impressively than that, though, they actually took the time to give the Transformers a little personality. You play as a different robot in each of the game's seven levels, and unlike the films, each one does more than just look spectacular and smash stuff... though admittedly that is a big part of Ironhide's level. Optimus has to reprimand him on a couple of occasions for his indifference towards collateral damage.
Ironhide will always be a red fire engine with a Southern US accent to me, but his black, English namesake can be very amusing when given the opportunity and lamenting the fact that 'the Decepticons don't want to come out and play'.
High Moon's Cybertron series rightly gets all the plaudits, but Dark of the Moon did more to impart fond memories of the film-versions of the likes of Mirage, Ironhide, Soundwave and Ratchet than the films managed.
Of course, there is still a little life left in the current generation. I have decided to keep my PS3 and could not be looking forward to Batman: Arkham Origins any more. To get in the mood i recently went back to the Asylum to clear up the remaining challenge maps.
On my way home from worth the other day i stopped at the bakery, and noticed in the lead-up to Halloween they were selling bat-shaped gingerbread biscuits. I don't really like gingerbread, but bought a couple anyway, thinking they might inspire me.
I was sitting at home, playing the Rumble in the Jungle Extreme combat map and fondling one of the biscuits, sort of like Christian Bale did his first batarang, when my girlfriend came home and asked what i was doing and why i was eating a biscuit i had claimed not to like.
I told her: 'Ginger frightens me. It's time my enemies shared my bread.' and threw it at the wall, where it smashed.
Unfortunately she didn't get it, and my amazing movie reference was wasted... much like the fragmented biscuit i had to hoover up.
I realise that i am a little too late for the monthly challenge, but i'd like to talk about my new favourite GTA moment anyway. It only happened yesterday, and amazingly the one thing that instantly annoyed me about GTA Online ended up being the thing that caused me the most enjoyment.
When you stick up a store you are encouraged to shout at the poor clerk behind the cash register. Doing so apparently makes him prepare the money a little faster, but as you can probably imagine, the majority of the people who bother with this are little kids who just shout rather dull obscenities.
When i got to this part of the game i decided that i would take part - only i would roleplay as a 1940s-era English gentleman, as opposed to the 21st century English gentleman i am.
'I am dreadfully sorry to be a bother, my good man, but if you do not place all of your money into this plastic carrier bag with the utmost haste i shall be for forced to smash your head in with this policeman's truncheon. Which i retrieved from the cadaver of a bobby who stuck his nose where it was not wanted.'
Unfortunately by this time, the Old Bill had actually turned up. Even more unfortunately, i didn't have any ammo, so the nightstick i pinched from the rozza was actually my only means of defending myself. So i hit the two policemen with it.
'You get a wallop. And you get a wallop.' and then a poor passer-by. 'EVERYBODY GETS A WALLOP.' Then got into my automobile and sped down the highway, where a short time later i had a head-on collision with another player. His car was totalled and he was killed, but i was fine because i had purchased an armour upgrade. This seemed to offend him and he went apesh*t at me.
'My apologies, sir, but i am from Britain you see? I am still adjusting to driving on the right side of the road.' and then i explained that you can insure your cars, and that all he had to do was give the insurance company a ring and he would get a brand new one. But he didn't have insurance.
'No insurance? That must mean you nicked it! A marauding renegade such as yourself really is in no position to speak to such an esteemed and mostly law-abiding subject like me, Sir Percy, in such a tone.' At this point he threatened to kill me. 'I suggest you think long and hard before starting a row with me, dear boy. Or else i shall have to get the chaps on the horn, and you shall be in for the thrashing of a lifetime.'
You can probably guess that i don't actually have any chaps on who to call, unlike he, who really did sic his crew on me. I had to ditch my beautiful navy blue Banshee for a lorry, for the additional protection. Which proved a good decision when i was able to push a car containing three of my pursuers into the canals near the beach area. Of course i had to quip 'you fellows need to cool off'.
It wasn't long though, before the lorry was no longer functional and i had to make my escape on foot, which is rather difficult. Fortune smiled upon me though, as i was disconnected, presumably as a result of the shaky servers.
As i was taken back to the single-player campaign, i couldn't help but think 'you lead a charmed life, Sir Percy' and look forward to the antics he would get up to next time.
I want to make a crew that consists entirely of players of different nationalities, roleplaying as national stereotypes. It is empowering, to take the things uncultured people use to make fun of you and use them as a weapon yourself. You get to take the cool things, like the accent, manner of speech and ingenious methods of staving off scurvy, and ignore the dumb things like bad cuisine and teeth.
Last week i was at the game store and noticed they were selling pre-owned PS3 games under a 'buy 2 get 1 free' promotion, so i snapped up inFAMOUS 2, Uncharted 3 and GoldenEye: Reloaded. which i thought i could finish the last little bit of this morning before heading out.
I'm sure most of you are familiar with the GoldenEye story. The difference in the update is that Alec Trevelyan is motivated by a hatred of the bankers instead of his parents being Lienz cossacks and some of the locations are different. Instead of taking place in Cuba the finale is set at a clean energy facility in Nigeria, which is where i was at.
During the 'cradle' level there is a part where you need to traverse a series of collapsing catwalks, all while infinitely-spawning enemies shoot at you from all sides. Cover is limited and your health doesn't regenerate while sprinting... and you only have 90 seconds to reach the end. There is not method; you just need to get lucky.
I wasn't getting lucky. Ten times i tried and ten times i failed, and what's more is that i was totally ignoring the bowl of Frosties i had prepared as my breakfast. They were going soggy and it was all 006's fault. The bastard traitor. Why couldn't he just join Occupy Wall Street or something?
By the 15th attempt i was out of my seat. Partially because i was too annoyed to sit, but also the red light on the controller was flashing, signalling that it needed a charge. So i plugged it in, and as the charger cable is short i couldn't sit even if i wasn't so agitated.
I had no been trying this for about half an hour, and hadn't very long until i absolutely, positively needed to be out the front door, and after a few more failed attempts i'd had enough. I softly threw the controller backwards, so it would land on the sofa.
Only it didn't land on the sofa. It was still plugged into the charger cable which tethered it to the console. Instead of gliding gracefully to the padded safety of my remarkably chic sofa, the wire caused it to snap back, and it took a nose dive right into the barely-eaten bowl of cereal. Milk went everywhere.
You play 007 games to feel like James Bond... but i ended up feeling lit Steve Carell in Get Smart, which is only marginally better than feeling like Johnny English.
Over the course of EON's 007 series a slew of villains have attempted to do some really messed up things, like irradiating the US's gold supply in Fort Knox and instigating a war between Britain and China, but i don't think that there is a single line, in all the films, that i disagree with more.
Okay, maybe in real life a name isn't always terribly important, but for those of us who use the internet to communicate with other people, the handles we choose become a part of our identities, and in many cases can convey something about us, without even needing to type a thing.
I chose YesConsiderably. If the title of this blog or my heading graphic didn't make it quite clear, my handle should let you know that i'm a little bit of a Bond fan. Unlike the rubbish Mr Big spouted in Live and Let Die, this line from Casino Royale is an all-time favourite.
Dryden: How did he die?
Bond: Your contact? Not well.
Dryden: Well you needn't worry, the second is...[Bond shoots him]
Bond: Yes, considerably.
This line encapsulates the coldness and eloquence of Bond beautifully, which is why i adopted it. I feel that in some ways i share these traits with 007 - particularly when it comes to gaming. I don't tend to be very gentlemanly in competitive multiplayer games, and will often throw out Bond-style quips relevant to the manner in which i dispatched of my foe.
Needless to say i very much enjoy the old game cliché of electric panelling. Shocking. Positively shocking.
What i'm not enjoying quite so much, is the nagging feeling that the xbox One is not the next-gen console for me. I wont go into it, because so many other people have, but at times over the past week it has felt like the only thing stopping me from ditching my 360 and jumping over to Sony is my pathetic attachment to my xbox live gamertag.
Names are important to me, and the thought that i might not have a cool name in the event i do switch to the PS4 worried me.
So instead of worrying, i decided to do something about it. I watched each of the 23 Bond films over the course of the weekend, keeping a diligent eye out for something - anything - that sounds cool, is an obvious Bond reference, and will fit the PSN's character limit.
I considered things like 'You've-had-your-6', 'Sheer-magnetism-darling', and 'attempting_re-entry'... along with 'the gamer who pwnd me', 'you only respawn twice'... but i was pretty sure i had a winner about halfway into Goldfinger.
You expect me to talk? Wouldn't fit, so... No_iExpectUtoDie.
Admittedly, at first glance it isn't as sleek in appearance as YesConsiderably, but in the Playstation font that arrangement of upper and lower case is quite fetching, and the well-positioned underscore emphasises the word 'no', which i expect will be used as shorthand.
It's silly, but now that i have a handle in place, i'm not actually that stressed about the idea of making the switch. Perhaps i'll even be able to find someone to edit another of Fleming's novel covers to reflect my new gamername, in the same way one kind soul did Diamonds Are Forever.
It is not unlike in Fleming's version of Casino Royale, when Bond becomes hindered by doubt over whether he is the good guy or the bad guy, but became hardened when he realised that Vesper was a double and messing him about.
I'm not quite ready to say 'the bitch is dead' and will give MS a chance to demonstrate that its restrictive DRM will result in some sort of benefit for the player - possibly in the form of lower, more PC-like game prices - but if Andrew House called me into his Sony office to ask if i'm ready to get back to business...
i would say 'with pleasure, Sony Playstation 4. With pleasure'.
I went paintballing yesterday as part of my brother's stag festivities. It was quite fun, but beforehand i was quite nervous about being shot. I reached out to an ex-military guy on another forum i frequent, and he told me something i had long suspected. That the real-life fear of being hurt is a powerful tool for the front-line soldier.
Unfortunately once you've been hit a few times it's hard to be that worried, but it reminded me of a quote from Dragon Age II, where Hawke tells his party 'i don't know if we can win this, or if we even should, but i do know i can fight harder scared than they can angry'.
So obviously i decided it would be advantageous to subtly rile up our opponents, who happened to be a mixed-gender party of 12 celebrating someone's birthday. This took place in Essex, so imagine they were quite chav-like.
Anyway, in the first game i eliminated two of the women (like a big man) before being shot myself and having to sit out the rest of the round. I got hit in the neck, which really, REALLY, f*cking hurt. As i was tending to my wound in the sit-out area i overheard the two women talking. 'Yeah, some guy hit me in the arse... it was you wasn't it?'
'Sorry. The weapon instructor did say we'd get better results aiming for the larger areas of the body as opposed to always going for head shots'.
'You cheeky gi...'
'It was a compliment. You're quite callipygian'
She didn't know what that meant, so i told to look it up at dictionary.com when she got a moment.
Which she must have done, as after the break for lunch she approached me to say that it was quite a 'fancy way of telling me i have a nice bum' before adding she isn't used to that kind of language.
The rest of her party were watching, so i made a point of slowly looking at the men before telling her that doesn't surprise me. She laughed in agreement.
(at this point i understand that it seems like i was flirting, which might seem a little shady considering i have a girlfriend of my own, but i'd like to point out my brother's fiancée is having strippers at her hen party')
As you can imagine the guys didn't appreciate that, and during the next game seemed to make a point of going after me. Which they did quite successfully when they flanked me. I looked like a Kandinsky painting, and noticed in the shower just now that i have about half a dozen red marks on my back.
However, this was an objective game. Capture the flag. In focusing so heavily on me, they didn't give due thought to the rest of my team who managed to retrieve it and win the game.
And all because of messir Hawke (and my tactical brilliance and ability to charm a woman - i feel a bit like a cross between James Bond in Goldfinger and Sun Tzu).
It's also notable that the things i learned on Dragon Age helped me more than anything i had learned on Call of Duty, while playing paintball at a place which prides itself on having a recreation of a Modern Warfare 2 map.
My girlfriend started Dragon Age: Origins over the weekend. I was hovering in the living room and noticed that she opted to name her female human noble 'Cherrie'. Before she could finalise her choices are stopped her.
'You know that Cherrie is the French spelling of Sherry? Well, the in-game analogue of France, Orlais, invaded and occupied Ferelden for 100 years. There is no way a member of the Ferelden nobility would take such a name for his daughter. I think you should reconsider.'
This seemed to annoy her, and she sarcastically asked why the name i used for my Warden was any better. Even though she didn't want me to answer, i did anyway, because i'm quite proud of it.
Many human characters in Dragon Age have names taken from Celtic mythology. Morrigan being a prime example. In legend, she is a goddess of war, strife and sovereignty, and is said to take the form of a crow.
In the game, she is shown to have had a very tough upbringing (strife) and her position as an apostate and general hater of the Chantry demonstrates how much she values her independence. Sovereignty. Also, notice the black feathers on her shoulder.
So knowing this, i gave my male human noble the name 'Taranis', who was the Celtic god of Thunder.
I made sure to always equip his primary weapon with a lightning rune, and as the god is usually depicted as holding a wheel, i went with a 'sword and board' build, to emulate the look.
Also, and this is what i was most proud of, a lot of old Celtic coins had wheels on one side. And nobility tend to have quite a lot of money.
She concluded that i was insane to put so much thought into it, but it made me realise just how much i enjoy really thinking about the game world and choosing a name that not just fits it, but also the type of character i want to build and role-play as.
I'm about to start Divinity II and am currently racking my brain in an effort to come up with something. It has become a big part of the rpg experience for me. Even though the game will always refer to me as 'the Warden' or 'Shepard' or 'Vault Dweller', i always get a kick out of seeing my perfectly devised name on the character screens.
I guess i'm wondering if anyone else takes it this seriously.