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Title: One A Day
Posted: January 05, 2010 (07:30 AM)
Those who follow me on Twitter may have seen that I, along with several other games journalists and a few people who don't even do anything to do with games at all, am embarking on a year-long writing project. That is, to write one thing a day that isn't an actual commission or assignment.
Others taking part include Playstation Mag's Andy Kelly, who masterminded the whole thing, PC Gamer UK's Jaz McDougall and Rich McCormick, Reso's own Dan Lipscombe and Jen Allen, BritishGaming's Mark Brown and a whole heap more.
My stuff's all happening over at www.lewisdenby.com. Have a read, if you want. And go to Andy's blog for a full list of participants.
Title: My Top 50 Games of the Ever
Posted: December 31, 2009 (05:37 AM)
Once a year, I lose myself in the banality of lists. These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things 2009 is still to follow, perhaps during a hungover tomorrow or something, but for now you get to see me working out where I stand on games at this very moment in time.
It's my Top 50 Games of the Ever. Last time I did this was during the Autumn of 2008. I hope to keep these as annual things around new year now. It strikes me that lists like this are great in two different formats. They're great for large-scale concensus stuff (ie. Readers' Top 100), and they're great as personal snapshots. This, clearly, is the latter. Comparing this year's and last year's lists is really interesting, as it's not only new releases that move things around. Returning to old games has led me to realise I didn't get them first time out, or that I'm just not that into them any more. So without further ado, here are 50 games, ranked in order of favouriteness.
50. Resident Evil 4 [Last year: n/a]
49. The Longest Journey [Last year: 42]
48. American McGee's Alice [Last year: 35]
47. The Witcher [Last year: 48]
46. Planescape: Torment [Last year: 10]
45. The Path [Last year: n/a]
44. The Nomad Soul [Last year: 39]
43. Pathologic [Last year: n/a]
42. Far Cry [Last year: 13]
41. Team Fortress 2 [Last year: 11]
Resi 4 is the only one of the series I ever liked. Planescape takes an enormo-plunge - I returned to it earlier this year and, while I still love the writing, the game moves at such an astonishingly slow pace that I found myself glossing. The Path, which I predicted would be a big talking point at the start of the year, ended up being just that - and I still love it. I rediscovered Pathologic after Quinns wrote loads about it, and realised just how wonderful it is. Far Cry plunges too, mainly because of its sequel. Just like TF2, which plunges mainly because I played so much Left 4 Dead and sequel this year.
40. No One Lives Forever [Last year: 20]
39. Empire: Total War [Last year: n/a]
38. ICO [Last year: 18]
37. Eternal Darkness [Last year: 45]
36. Wii Sports [Last year: 38]
35. Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time [Last year: 19]
34. Thief II: The Metal Age [Last year: 27]
33. System Shock [Last year: n/a]
32. Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker [Last year: 32]
30. Halo: Combat Evolved [Last year: 31]
Empire was brilliant despite the bugs. Eternal Darkness is still exactly how to do survival horror. Wii Sports is still the most drunken fun I've had with a game. Ocarina's another victim of the "my goodness, it feels slow these days" curse. I rediscovered the majesty of System Shock. Wind Waker is now my favourite Zelda game. Halo's still so solid it hurts.
30. Dragon Age: Origins [Last year: n/a]
29. Half-Life [Last year: 16]
28. Far Cry 2 [Last year: n/a]
27. Counter-Strike [Last year: 15]
26. Mario Kart: Double Dash [Last year: 14]
25. STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl [Last year: n/a]
24. Batman: Arkham Asylum [Last year: n/a]
23. Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion [Last year: 23]
22. Okami [Last year: n/a]
21. Dear Esther [Last year: n/a]
Dragon Age's detailed lore never stops amazing me. Half-Life's still exceptional, but showing its age, and Xen seems less and less acceptable. Far Cry 2 was nearly top ten material, if it weren't for a few design problems. Old STALKER replaces new STALKER, mainly because I'd not played old STALKER when I did the last list. Batman is TIGHT! Oblivion refuses to budge. Wow, Okami is really very good, isn't it? Can't believe I didn't play it until this year. Dear Esther is a mod! A mod! On this list! How could it be? Well, because it's really astonishingly brilliant, is why.
20. Giants: Citizen Kabuto [Last year: 22]
19. Left 4 Dead [Last year: n/a]
18. Half-Life 2 [Last year: 3]
17. System Shock 2 [Last year: 9]
16. Deus Ex: Invisible War [Last year: 24]
15. Mass Effect [Last year: 5]
14. LittleBigPlanet [Last year: n/a]
13. Machinarium [Last year: n/a]
12. Red Faction: Guerrilla [Last year: n/a]
11. Grand Theft Auto IV [Last year: 1]
People really need to make something else like Giants. Only Zeno Clash came close with its world design, but narrowly missed out on the list. Half-Life 2, like its predecessor, is starting to feel like a last-generation shooter, despite still being exemplary. Shock 2 remains one of the most tantilising pulp-horror tales in the world. Invisible War is great, shut up. I suspect Mass Effect might be one that keeps dropping down the list - exceptional when you play it, but fades from memory fairly quickly. LittleBigPlanet is just the most adorable game, and gorgeously versatile. No, wait, Machinarium is the most adorable game, and the prettiest one ever. Red Faction: Guerrilla is just astonishingly brilliant in its unhinged chaos. GTA4 suffers perhaps the most notable decline - having not played it in a while, it's not the one in the series I remember most fondly now. Still tremendous, but not Best Evah material.
10. Spelunky [Last year: n/a]
The most flabbergastingly brilliant platformer. Brutal and oddly tactile, it manages to subtly deliver a whole load of in-depth features and throw them at you in the most gloriously unforgiving of manners. An indie triumph.
9. Fallout 3 [Last year: n/a]
Touching the Deus Exalikes for wealth-of-options mission structure, Fallout 3 didn't just meet expectations, but totally slashed them into pieces. One of the most atmospheric, engrossing role-playing games in recent memory.
8. BioShock [Last year: 7]
I still prefer it to Shock 2. Its story is more intelligent, even though the pacing is worse. But most wonderful is Rapture itself, one of the few videogame settings that I have to continually remind myself is not a real place.
7. Super Mario Galaxy [Last year: 4]
As far as traditional videogames go, this is just about perfect. So tightly designed, so masterfully presented, so gloriously creative at every turn. It's one of those that, when I first played, made me do a little squee of childlike glee.
6. Portal [Last year: 21]
This year has been the one in which I realised just how astonishing Portal is. It's short-form (ish) gaming at its best: the puzzles are so expertly designed, the story so flabbergastingly twisty and GLADOS one of the most brilliant characters ever to grace the medium.
5. Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind [Last year: 8]
Still my favourite fantasy RPG, all these years on. It felt so enormous at the time. I don't think any game has ever matched that sense of sheer scale - even those that are technically bigger. Morrowind delivers so much atmosphere, so much emotion, in those tiny little stories you tell yourself during your time there. I really must find my copy.
4. Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis [Last year: 12]
The crippling meh-ness of the sequel only served as a reminder as to just how astounding the first game was. Sure, the fierce realism of the combat was its main draw. But for me, the main reason why Op Flash deserves all the accolades it can get is this: the final 20 minutes of the game comprises driving around the huge world, picking up various army buddies, and driving them to the pub. Absolute game-ending perfection.
3. Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines [Last year: 6]
I've now played Bloodlines, ooh, five or six times, I think. I went back to it this year because Monsieur Bramwell asked me to pen some wordythings about it over at Eurogamer. The ending snagged this time, being fucking rubbish as it is, but that first 15-20 hours... well, put it this way: if Troika had somehow found a way to tie up the story before the Hollywood sewers, and tidied up all the horrible bugs, it'd be number one in a flash.
2. Grand Theft Auto 3 [Last year: 29]
Well, that's a big climber. GTA4 had me absolutely mesmerised at the time, but it's the third one that sticks in mind. And when I think of it, I think of all the ludicrous fun we had back in the day, just driving, listening to the radio, blowing shit up, causing various degrees of chaos and generally behaving like the little teenage shits we were at the time. And that's fine: sometimes, that's all you need in a game. It was absolutely what the medium, and my group of friends, needed in the early 2000s. Wonderful.
1. Deus Ex [Last year: 2]
Because it's Deus Ex. And, y'know, I can't believe I didn't number-one it last year. It's the only year I've ever thought, for a second, that it was anything less than the greatest videogame ever made. I'll never make that mistake again. Once again, I returned to it this year. Once again, it blew away all competition. Or snuck quietly around the back. Or just buggered off and played basketball instead.
I'll say this: it's too long. Seriously. Yeah, it's only 30 hours or so, which is tiny compared to some. But it could be tightened. That's jusy ridiculous nitpicking, though, as Deus Ex remains the absolute pinnacle of complex gaming, intelligent and thoughtful throughout, stupid glitches bedamned. Cool, sexy and innovative, it's also the best. The best at being a really good videogame, man!
A Game I Forgot About Until Just Now:
Title: BREVITY OR BUST: Stalin vs. Martians
Posted: November 08, 2009 (04:15 AM)
It's called Stalin vs. Martians.
That's the review in a nutshell. The name tells you all you need to know about this utterly barmy and impossibly stupid strategy game, from which the "strategy" bit seems to have been left out. You select legions of Soviet troops, then click like great heck on the endless stream of alien foes until they die in a big explosion of ridiculousness. There is no strategy. There is just charging and hoping.
It should be rubbish. It is rubbish. It looks awful, there's absolutely no variety and the gameplay is as mundane as it gets. Its sense of humour is childish, the AI bugged and broken.
But it's kind of impossible to hate. It's all so cheeky, irreverant and knowing. It's a hugely self-aware game, and you get the constant impression that its trio of developers understand exactly how awful it is, and that we're all in on the joke together. No other game, for example, is ever going to cut to an intermission in which Josef Stalin dances to drum and bass music. No other piece of entertainment is ever likely to feature the line "I am a Bolshevik on a bicycle."
When you're actually parting with money for such a thing, the wacky humour and sly parody will only carry it so far. But you can't hate this game. I mean, it's called Stalin vs. Martians. What's not to love?
Title: BREVITY OR BUST: Zeno Clash
Posted: October 20, 2009 (05:04 PM)
Zeno Clash is all about fists and fantasy. It's characterised by the joy of discovery, those splendid moments where the game world escapes from its constrained format and spills out into glorious, open dreamscapes, filled with exotic beasts and dripping with alien culture. It's also characterised by punching a giant bird in its beaky face.
It's a first-person brawler, punctuated by brief sections of exploration and of shooting. Its standard FPS mechanics feel weak, its adventuring never quite substantial enough. But, my goodness, the brawling is joyous. A combination of clicks and mouse movement powers up a range of combos, each landing with a breathtaking admiration for kinetic energy. In Zeno Clash, fighting is brutal.
It's also occasionally clumsy, thanks to a lock-on system that excels in one-on-one fights but flails when pitted against multiple opponents, as you usually are. And despite a relatively short length, it strays towards repetition in its later stages. Yet the sheer intensity of the fighting, coupled with its bizarre world and imaginative set-pieces, makes Zeno Clash an absolute delight to romp through.
Title: Hey. Would you like to win a game?
Posted: August 22, 2009 (03:38 PM)
We've a competition on over at Resolution to win one of two copies of Super Laser Racer, a delightful little indie PC game that should run on most computers.
Fancy it? You'll have to answer a very easy question, and tell us a few things about Wot You Think about Reso, and then you're into the draw.
Title: Oh my, I've not been keeping up with this
Posted: July 25, 2009 (06:23 AM)
How long is it since I last blogged here? Man. Stuff's mainly been going on down at my website (www.lewisdenby.com) but I do hope to keep up with stuff here as well.
Judging the TT has been mad-work, but I do have a couple of reviews I'm working on myself, which will hopefully be on the site early next week. I'd have liked them to be done already, but stuff's been crazy-busy.
Meanwhile -- and I've not mentioned Reso for a bit, so it seems a reasonable time to do so -- we've set up a new subscription service over there. It's £2 a month (that's, um, just over $3 at the moment?) and you get an exclusive, full-length, subscribers-only feature emailed to you each weekend. It's getting to the stage where running Resolution and maintaining its growth simply isn't feasible without a bit of financial help, as advertising revenue doesn't come anywhere close to funding the running of the site blah-blah-blah you know this already from HG stuff. But plenty of you seem to be lovely enough to be donating to HG (which I still need to do, actually, but certainly will be doing when I get paid on Monday), so hopefully a few of you will find it in your hearts to be that wonderful to us too.
(There's always the option of one-off donations too, of course.)
For more info, go to www.resolution-magazine.co.uk, scroll down a bit, and click the big flashing hatched ad.
THANK YOU PEOPLE YOU ARE AWESOME.
Title: FAO WolfQueen
Posted: June 15, 2009 (04:14 PM)
Why do you like wolves so much?
Title: GRAMMAR POLICE
Posted: June 15, 2009 (03:59 PM)
Will someone fix the typo on the focus window?
Posted: June 01, 2009 (08:15 AM)
Interviewing Introversion on Sunday. Crikey! I need to find a dictaphone.
Title: Videogame Nation
Posted: May 27, 2009 (05:26 AM)
I don't know if any of the UK lot are interested, or already know about this, or - hell - even the overseas lot... but:
A series of fantastic-looking lectures at Urbis in Manchester, alongside an exhibition of the history of British games development.
It's a pity they couldn't have done the lectures a bit closer together, in more of a conference format, as I'd have happily paid the collective £35 to go see the lot across three days or something, but can't reasonably justify forking out the fiver plus £17 for a return train ticket every time.
So for now, I've booked in to see Introversion, and I would imagine I'll almost certainly book a ticket to Charles Cecil as well.
Posted: May 27, 2009 (03:48 AM)
I have been asked to write a regular column for somewhere... well, not somewhere stupidly big, but it's the sister site of somewhere stupidly big, run by a stupidly big network. It's also a site (hell, a network) I have a stupidly big amount of respect for, and some of the writers working there are some of the best in the business.
Christ. What to pitch!?
Title: An angry and arrogant rant
Posted: May 25, 2009 (06:33 PM)
Um. I'm quite angry today, it would seem. So I write this.
Talking to Gillen, he reassures me "a little bit of venom never hurt anyone. Though the people on TV dying in Snakes on a Plane would probably disagree with that."
Title: GDC Rants - a (belated) response
Posted: May 25, 2009 (07:37 AM)
GDC came and went ages ago now, but I only recently got round to watching the Rants panel that had everyone arguing so vehemently a while back. I've managed to track down videos of a few of them, though there are a couple I haven't found that I'd really like to see. If anyone knows where I can find Chaplin's or Croal's, I'd really appreciate that. For now, I'll do my best to respond to those ones based on what I've read about them. The rest will be more direct. Would be interested to hear others' thoughts on the matters tackled.
"Games aren't adolescent; you're a bunch of fucking adolescents."
Heather compared her audience, a room full of primarily male game developers, to a chiuaua: through the concept of neotony, she suggested developers were stuck in the image of a juvenile version of their adult selves, as chiuauas resemble foetal wolves. I'm amazed at the guts Heather displayed in doing this. That definitely takes some courage. And I agree with her concerns: that games are stuck too rigidly in the realms of adolescent fantasy. But her argument is severely flawed, and attacking developers on a personal level seems misplaced.
She points to rock and roll as having matured after 35 years, to the point where it had given us The Beatles, Bob Dylan and The Clash. But music had been around for centuries, and exists in a much wider cultural bubble than games. She points to film having Citizen Kane around this time. But we totally have our own cornerstone of the medium.
As for her astonishingly generalised comment that "men are afraid to show emotions or intimacy," I just can't see that in any way other than an unnecessarily personal attack that sticks out as gender-misrepresentation from the ugly side of feminism. Utter nonsense. There are better ways than this to go about encouraging more intelligent games.
"Who's more hardcore: the person who plays Peggle sixteen hours a day, or the person who plays Halo once a week?"
N'Gai expressed his distaste at the terms "hardcore" and "casual", and how they act as an avoidance of being more analytical and descriptive of genres and types of play. It's a very specific topic to rant on, and I don't really have much of a response to it, other than to say he's obviously totally right.
"Our reporting is fine; it's our writing that sucks."
Totilo responded to the numerous accusations that games journalism suffers from poor reporting, and swung it round to the idea that it suffers from poor writing. I agree wholeheartedly. His main point was that we're not being concise and confident enough, unnecessarily hedging our opinions and utilising words that we don't need. "The word 'compelling' doesn't tell us anything," Totilo said; "Nobody knows what 'visceral' means; what's the difference between being 'engrossed' in a game and being 'completely engrossed' in it?"
I'm certainly in favour of chopping out the babble from games journalism, and I'm making a conscious effort to be more concise in my own writing. However, I'd want people to be careful not to excise the important qualities of their own personal style. The joy of long-form journalism is that such styles can seep through and engage the readership, something that more concise writing sometimes struggles to do. It's not impossible, but it's a tricky manouevre.
"The negativity between PR and press has a trickle-down effect to our audience, which is not a healthy thing for the industry."
A usually beautifully articulate Leigh rambled slightly incoherently (although admitted to being hungover and apologised for her behaviour the previous night) about what she called "the three-way ecosystem of negativity" between development, journalism and audience. She pointed out that PRs refusing to reveal specifics of their work to the press leads to factual inaccuracies and extensive speculation, which in turn leads to audience disappointment and a dislike of journalists.
She's spot-on with it, but I was disappointed by the lack of weight to her rant. Of course we'd like everyone to be more honest and friendly with each other. That's kind of a given, and her talk felt somewhat like a plea for the obvious to be fixed. Which is fair enough, I guess.
"Your reporting impacts people, both personally and professionally, and with this power comes great responsibility."
I really enjoyed Hecker's talk. It focused more on the reporting side of games journalism, and contrasted starkly with Totilo's speech. His argument was one of journalistic integrity, and a plea for fact-checking in news journalism. Chris pointed to an article written about him on 1Up, which had been extrapolated from a speculative forum post about the nature of his involvement with Spore's development. The headline, however, referred not to a forum post, but to an article, meaning the negative comments against him held far more weight.
In the piece, 1Up stated that they would attempt to contact Hecker for his side of the story. They never did. "I've had the same phone number for 12 years," he said. "I'm not difficult to find."
I remember reading this post on 1Up and thinking, well, that's just not news. It's the sort of nonsense that N4G will post about, not a major and respected blog. Pure, forumite speculation may demand some attention if it's interesting enough, but to imply in the headline that it's a professional article is awful, and I'd hope to not see this sort of stuff repeated.
As a lighthearted goodbye, Hecker continued the trend of IGN-bating started by Totilo, by showing a slide with the following quote:
"'There's a tendency among the press to attribute the creation of a game to a single person,' says Warren Spector, creator of Thief and Deus Ex."
IGN, I hope that was ironic. I very much doubt it was.
"It's no secret that Metacritic is being used as a means of withholding renumeration from you guys out there, and that's bullshit."
Given the vitriol displayed in the Sessler's Soapbox series, it wasn't surprising that Adam was one of the more venemous and interesting speakers of the rant session. He firstly expressed anger at Metacritic's insistance in "translating" other scoring systems to fit their own /100 mark scheme. Upon receiving a complaint from a publisher about G4TV's "40%" score of their game, one that had actually received 2/5, Sessler had contacted Metacritic. "I explained that's not how we do things," said Adam. "I said there's a reason why we have a one-to-five points system, and it's not like everything's equatable in that. They said: 'No, you're wrong.' It's my scale!"
As a quick aside, Sessler pointed out that he didn't understand the concept of a hundred-point scale. "Someone tell me the difference between 73 and 74," he pleaded. Here's a clue for you, Adam: one of the numbers is higher. There's a common assumption that marking on a percentage basis means you're looking for something quantifiably different between two games that score similar, but different, percentages. That's not the case. It's not a scientific gauge. It's an impression of the overall effect of the experience. And though one writer's 68 might be another's 75, it's sometimes a valuable shorthand for expressing something's ever-so-slight superiority over another product - in the opinion of that writer.
Sessler eventually got onto his main point: Metacritic's use from a publisher's perspective as a gague for delivering or withholding bonuses for developers. Which is something I think we can all agree on.
People have said, "stop using scores, then." I don't think that sticks. Our readership demands them, and ultimately, those are the only people we have to answer to. I'm also a little undecided about the merits of Metacritic. In a way, it's a really valuable tool to have, and potentially rather valuable for growing publications to get their name about, should they be accepted into the listings. I also have no problem with scores being collated on a single database for people to browse at their leisure, nor with Metacritic's decision to claim a game has been "universally acclaimed" or received "mixed or average reviews." That's fine. But I agree that translating scores and assuming what they would be equivalent to on a hundred-point scale is maddening. Worse is their decision to take reviews without scores and simply make shit up arbitrarily. That's not acceptable at all. And it needs to stop. But I don't think the concept of a meta reviews site is bad at all. They just need to lose the arrogance.
Title: It doesn't work!
Posted: May 20, 2009 (07:40 AM)
This just goes to show how infrequently our computer is left unattended.
Installing a game, and it's taking ages. I begin idly flicking through GamesTM in the meantime, reading about the new Red Faction and, ooh, a new and interesting take on OnLive and all sorts of loveliness. I'm just starting to get rather involved in all the magaziney goodness when my monitor flicks to a black screen.
I check the CPU. The disc drive's still whirring, so it seems to be my monitor at fault. I wiggle the cables in the back, but nothing. I unplug it and plug it back in again. Nothing. I take the cables out fully, straighten them out, plug them back in. Still nothing.
I sit back, thoroughly confused. What the hell's going on? If the game's still installing - it's near the end now, and it's taken the best part of an hour - I don't want to reboot the system and lose all progress. What to do? A move forward to take a closer look at the monitor, and accidentally nudge the mouse.
And the monitor springs back to life.
It's been so long since the computer was unattended for 45 minutes straight that I'd forgotten it's set to automatically power off after that time.
Anyway, minor embarrassment over, the real point of all this is that, today, I did something incredible. I went into a shop, and I bought a game. A game with a red sky and silhouettes of trees on the front. A game sporting the title "Resident Evil."
Not Resi 5, of course. God, no. I'm hardly going to splash out £30+ on a Resident Evil game. But number 4, the supposed pinnacle. I got it on the PC because I saw it going cheap, and thought it probably deserved another go. The shop didn't have it on the PS2.
What I didn't know is that it's one of the most famously awful conversions ever. This is a port whose quick-time events STILL DISPLAY PS2 CONTROLLER SYMBOLS ON-SCREEN, meaning you've no choice but to frantically hit every button you can think of until one of them happens to be the right one. It's a game stuck in ugly, fixed 800x600 resolution, and a game without an option to exit back to windows. Seriously. You honestly have to bring up the task manager to leave the game.
And what's tragic about all this is that, to my amazement, the game itself seems to actually be not awful. A little clumsy and full of itself, sure, but not the catastrophic mess that people inexplicably adore that I expected. It's quite tense, reasonably atmospheric, and the pacing seems exceptional. Not bad, y'know?
I'd go as far as to say it could have been the game to revolutionise my opinion of the series. Except it won't be, because this version of it is barely playable. There's no excuse for shoddy conversions, full stop. When they're this abominable, it's mind-blowing. There is no way this was fit to be released on the PC.
Title: Tell us what you think of Reso and win a free game!
Posted: May 16, 2009 (11:23 AM)
From the site:
"Hey! You there, with the opinions!
We want to know what you think of Resolution! So please do tell us. We’ve set up a questionnaire for you to ponder over, and - should you choose - you can be entered into a prize draw to win a free game*. A free game! Isn’t that awesome?
*Prize only open to UK residents, we’re afraid. Sorry!"