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Lewis Lewis Denby is a freelance videogames journalist and critic. As well as HonestGamers, he has written for PC Gamer, Eurogamer, The Escapist, Gamasutra and BeefJack.

Title: Neptune
Posted: September 11, 2008 (04:26 PM)
I'm sure I've vaguely mentioned this in the past, but I'm working on a single-player Half-Life 2 mod.

And today, good people, we released our first screenshots.

Click the linky above for more information. For fans of the 'Shocks, naturally. What else did you expect from me?
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Title: Lots and lots of words.
Posted: September 10, 2008 (12:02 PM)
See the External Links box for a new Big List Of My Work. It's not entirely complete yet, but do check it out if you're intrigued as to what I've been up to outside HG-HQ.
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Title: Max Payne
Posted: September 10, 2008 (04:22 AM)

Title: Yes.
Posted: September 10, 2008 (01:42 AM)

Dr. House meets Dr. Freeman. There would be no better doctor.

Anyway, in twenty minutes we could all be sucked into a black hole. My prediction, however, is that it won't happen.
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Title: LW Denton
Posted: September 09, 2008 (02:46 AM)
I'd like to thank Gary for the little Deus Ex injoke on the package he sent me today. Lovely as it was, the postie nearly didn't let me sign for something addressed to L. Denton.
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Title: Return of the Mac (or, rather, the Windows PC)
Posted: September 08, 2008 (10:41 AM)
Computer returns with a lovely clean hard-drive. After getting over the initial horror of having lost loads of reasonably half-important stuff, it's actually nice to have my 150 gigs of hard drive space back, and not to have everything cluttered around in odd places.

I'm now becoming incredibly impatient as Half-Life 2 and Source Engine stuff sluggishly download back onto my machine. 39% done after nearly 3 hours. Pain.

Sir Gary of HonestGamersVille, did you try to send me something in the post today? I was asleep when it arrived. It's being redelivered tomorrow.
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Title: Ouch.
Posted: September 06, 2008 (10:52 AM)
In some sort of horrific karma, my arrogance in the previous post has been countered by a well placed virus-kick to the PC-bollocks. My hard drive is absolutely boshed. Replacement due Monday. Normal service resumed ASAP.

Rachel won Big Brother. Surprising. You'd almost think I watched it, wouldn't you?
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Posted: September 01, 2008 (10:31 AM)
This may get a little arsey and arrogant in places. I'd like to say I don't intend to be, but in this case I absolutely do. Below is a real look at exactly why I feel BioShock is so criminally underrated by a lot of people who will read this feature, or essay, or whatever you might want to call it. If you don't like BioShock, and you feel I'm being a little heavy in my claiming that you're wrong... well, that's kind of the point. Imagine this blog has turned into the HonestGamers debate society for a while, and this is my opening speech.

Hopefully it'll spark some interesting responses in time for the PS3 version, anyway. Enjoy!


I got it wrong.

My review of BioShock for the PC was glowing. It's rare for me to enthuse as shamelessly as I did over that title. Now, approaching a year after release and with the PS3 version looming, the reception's worth revisiting. I've spoken to a number of people in preparation for this article, almost all of whom say BioShock is at its finest on first, novel play-through, when the weapon/Plasmid combo tricks are still fresh, when the big plot movements are still unexpected, and when Rapture is still so shocking around every corner. They're wrong too. They aren't looking hard enough, and nor was I. My over-critical analysis did it no justice. BioShock is more special than any of us gave it credit for.

2k Games' masterwork started bouncing around my mind again after reading Mike's review of the X360 version. I read his excellent piece again and again, and what struck me was that we agreed on practically every point other than the overall level of enjoyment provided by BioShock. The only feature we disagreed about was the inclusion of Vita Chambers, which regenerate the player in a nearby location upon death, eliminating the need for frequent saving and loading. Yet Mike, despite awarding a decent score, felt significantly less compelled by the title than I did. Why is this the case? I could never be entirely sure but, having spent weeks considering it, I can present a pretty thorough idea…

"BioShock is no masterpiece," Mike wrote. "It's simply a solid FPS that just happens to look and sound incredible." He got it wrong. We all got it wrong. With a dramatic number of spoilers, here’s why:

BioShock is the first true anti-game in the world. To go with a plot that hinges around a lovely piece of frank satire about the nature of the videogame itself is a brave move, and by informing the player that they are not free to do what they want, are forced down a linear path and will do what they are told without question, BioShock cements its notion right from the start. Complaints about the lack of motive early on, or the inability to wander off around the city, or the fact that much of the gameplay involves completing tasks from people that you really can't be bothered with totally miss the point. You're not supposed to like these things about BioShock. For now, you're supposed to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the blasting. When Andrew Ryan forces you to kill him with a golf club, you know something's up. Once you've defeated Fontaine in a glorious moment of symbolism, you sit back, and you think. Then you play it all again - and it's magical.

BioShock does essentially demand two plays, and I'll accept this as criticism in a world where many gamers struggle to find the time to blast through a lengthy shooter even once. But the result of this is an astonishingly rich, effortlessly intelligent game that has a strong enough core to remain in people's minds for far longer than almost any other videogame on the market. It's the first game I've ever played where completing it was only the start of my emotional journey with the thing. It made me consider every action I'd taken in Rapture. It made me want to read page after page of interviews with the people who had created this astonishing range of characters. It made me want to go and read classic literature to ensure a better understanding of the world should I choose to return.

Stop. A computer game made me want to read classic literature so that I understood the game better?

Yeah. Exactly.

Rapture is an astonishing place, and the more time I spend there the more I realise it's clearly the greatest videogame setting ever dreamt up. Half-Life 2 pushed the boundaries for 'environment as a narrative device', but BioShock absolutely defines that concept as 'something that just works'. It's almost a shame that we can listen to so many audio diaries that fill in the blanks, but even many of these are presented in a truly brilliant and slightly ambiguous way, allowing us to interpret them ourselves. A fabulous example just before the famous Ryan sequence is one that will stick with me for a long time. "Break that sweet puppy’s neck," Dr. Suchong commands. In floods of tears, a boy obliges. It's shocking at the time, but ten minutes later when you’re struck by the sudden realisation that it was you who killed your pet, it's you who was the mind control subject who's been referenced a few times throughout the game, and it's you who's being used, beyond your control, at this very moment... well. That's just a little bit good.

The world itself, though, is the crowning character of Rapture, explaining a whole lot more than any of the game's NPCs manage. I was speaking to someone recently who'd bought BioShock on my recommendation. A couple of days later, I asked him for his impressions. "It's okay," he said. "It's a lot of fun, but the story's rubbish. I have no idea where I am or what's going on." I was confused, until we spoke more about it. He'd been playing it like a Quake game, finger constantly on the 'forward' button, paying no attention to any of the intricacies BioShock scatters about its universe. Once I pointed them out, he began to understand.

One of the first sights of the game is a huge statue of a man's head, situated above a banner reading "No gods or kings; only man." Practically the next thing you see is one of said men being repeatedly stabbed by some sort of psychotic and mutilated woman. From this point onwards, nothing is shoved in your face, but it's still omnipresent. On my second play-through, I took to spending a good few minutes after slaying any Splicers in each area just soaking up all the detail. The face of Andrew Ryan at every turn, a faux-socialist with an ulterior motive. That picket sign, a protest from the now deceased against their delusional ruler. The reams of posters advertising a product so unethical that it would be frowned upon by the majority even today, let alone half a century ago. The horrific reality of what this advertising is actually saying, beyond its words alone. "Is your daddy as strong as my daddy?" one video clip asks. The fundamental wrongness of this horrific human GM experiment being manipulatively marketed to children is something I didn't pick up on to begin with - but it sure as hell affected my playing style from the moment I realised.

People regularly praise - let's grab a relevant example - the Deus Ex series for being proud and learned enough to actually make a statement. The first game provided a governmental stance, the second a social commentary. Both were considered glorious for doing so, but then each was an open-plan, non-linear, immersive simulation, and that sort of highbrow stuff is what draws people into the genre. I wonder if it's clouded by the fact that BioShock is 'just' a first-person shooter, but it makes enough political statements at both ends of the spectrum to blow the Deus Ex series, along with any other game of its type you may like to mention, completely out of the water. Whenever I actually consider all the dimensions of the plot, I constantly have to remind myself that BioShock is indeed a computer game - an example of the medium most commonly associated with children, but one that has the guts to tell us, in such a horrific and genuine manner, that it doesn't believe socialism works. And then it shows us why, in a more remarkable way than almost anything else you’ll find on the shelves of HMV or Game - or, for that matter, Borders.

Hell, even the fact that, as despicable a man as Ryan is, he's not even the most fundamentally bad character in the game is a gutsy story to tell in itself. It's brave, thoughtful and absorbing at every single turn – and it's so effortless. It's smarter than you or I will likely ever realise.

So all this isn't ingenious because it's a linear game created by a team renowned for non-linear game development? It's worthless because you have to backtrack sometimes? Or because the AI system isn't the finest ever crafted? Or because you can't outright die in this world?

Well, actually, maybe Mike was right. Perhaps it's not a wonderful 'game' per se - but it's important to realise that BioShock is so poignant because of its computerised nature. The film version that has recently been licensed will need to be very careful not to betray this, and at the moment I worry that it may be an impossible task. Movies have no choice but to directly show us stuff. Videogames have the distinct advantage of allowing our own exploration to tell a story. What's more memorable - watching a travel programme, or visiting the country yourself? Crushingly, I can think of only a handful of games that acknowledge the obvious answer to this question, but BioShock is not merely 'one of them', it's the absolute definition of how to implement this idea into a game. And you know what? As a result, it's given me more emotional and philosophical mileage than anything else I've played, seen or read in a long, long time.

Does any of this matter? Who knows? Super Mario Galaxy resides at the opposite end of the spectrum, but in its classic approach lays an equally marvellous game. All of us here will disagree over which direction, if either, the videogame industry should take, but BioShock, finally, provides us with perfect ammunition against those who say gaming is a brain-dead pursuit.

I bet half the people who claim that don't even know what 'Atlas Shrugged' is, let alone how computer games can expand upon it.

Title: FEAR, Fallout and Fiddles
Posted: August 30, 2008 (07:17 AM)
Fallout 3 had better not be shit.

I'm currently fighting Gary for the coverage rights when it's released. Both of us are optimistically ignoring the pre-release negativity that seems to be surrounding it, and neither of us have played the preview code yet. It's the next-gen sequel to possibly the finest 'first-gen' game in the world. It's made by Bethesda, who are consistently wonderful. Surely nothing can go wrong...

I recently found a copy of Fallout 2 that I didn't know I had. Might play that again in the meantime.

Off to a classical music concert with my girlfriend and my folks tonight, oddly. Should complement my half-hangover nicely.

Here is a review for you.
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Title: Festival Morons
Posted: August 28, 2008 (02:28 AM)
Please give a warm welcome to the FF'ers. At least a warmer welcome than the idiots at Reading Festival gave them, anyway.

The FF'ers are a lovely bunch of folk, who supported my band in Leeds a year or so ago to a great reception. I was really pleased for them to have landed, in the Reading/Leeds weekend, such a high-profile pair of gigs.

But then, this.

Rumours started circulating a while before the festival that they were in fact the Foo Fighters playing a secret show, rather than an unsigned band who were thrilled to have won a competition to play at one of their favourite music events. Despite the band's best efforts to quash the rumours by posting on various sites explaining who they actually were, around 5,000 people gathered around the festival's smallest stage (designed to host 500-1000 people), and proceeded to behave abysmally towards the band for absolutely no reason other than that the Foos weren't playing.

Bizarrely, this extended to the next band as well, who were forced to cut their set short as security pulled the plug on the stage in order to disperse the crowd.

What's more worrying, though, is that a lot of people in this footage don't seem to be hurling abuse, bottles etc through anger, but through amusement. Listen to some of the comments, look at some of the faces. These people are enjoying themselves even more than if the Foos had been playing.

Now, an equally ridiculous rumour is circulating that the whole thing was a PR exercise by the band, and that it was them who started the original speculation that the Foo Fighters would be appearing. It certainly wasn't.

Anyway, hats off to them for pushing through and completing their set. And for the brilliant comment they close with. And for having inadvertently gained themselves so much publicity through this. They've been namechecked, through reports of these riots, on national television and in big national magazines and papers.

"Thanks Reading, you've been the best crowd ever!"
"Oh well, thanks anyway."
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Title: Source Engine
Posted: August 23, 2008 (10:28 AM)
Long shot, but does anyone use Source Hammer?

Any ideas why the hell I can't get shadows working properly in my maps? They were bloody working before and are still working in one of the maps I'm working on, but nothing else. Nothing in the maps or in Hammer is set up any differently. Both scenes have both light and light_spot entities, as well as adequate cubemapping.

What the sodding hell is going on? Any ideas?

It's for this, by the way. Do have a look. I've been looking forward to unveiling this for quite some time. Early days... but I hope some people on here might follow it a little.
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Title: Fuck you, Ultor
Posted: August 23, 2008 (06:40 AM)
I'm going to have to play through Red Faction again, after mentioning on someone's blog post the other day that Half-Life 2 is essentially a lesson in how to excel in what RF failed in. Strip it down to the core ideology: a fast-paced, story-driven first-person shooter about a rebellion against an opressive regime, with buddies to help you out on the way, created in a physics-based engine that allows you to create your own set-pieces by blowing things to smitherines. It's an identical concept at pre-pitch phase. Valve just know how to make shooters better than Volition.

Still, Red Faction's always been one of my guilty pleasures, particularly once the rubbish first hour's out of the way. In spite of its confused and confusing narrative, it actually boasts a great deal of atmosphere at times, particularly in the later stages of the game. It controls like a dream, too. Shame about the AI and the horrendously weedy pistol at the start.

It's one of those games that, whilst clearly bad, I actually really enjoyed. I've even played through it three times, making it second in repeat playthroughs only to Half-Life on my list.

"In-laws" staying here this weekend. Will blast through it again next week, when it's more acceptable to spend all day on the computer.
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Title: Turok
Posted: August 21, 2008 (02:03 PM)
...And here's the review.

Jason is clearly unwell. While 2008 hasn't been ace for shooters so far... well, he referred to it as "one of the most atmospheric of the year so far" when we were discussing it earlier.

It's not. But it's not awful. It's an odd combination of the brilliantly enjoyable and the unforgivably bad. Try it - you might like it. Heck, you can take it back.

Review's very much of the PC version. It'd seem a lot of the glitches I mention are not present in its console counterparts.
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Title: First impressions
Posted: August 21, 2008 (05:24 AM)
Turok takes TWO HOURS to install.
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Title: Unity Day
Posted: August 15, 2008 (06:56 PM)
Back from the Grammatics gig, disappointed. The sound was poor, and they just didn't seem that bothered to be there. Second time I've seen them, and a band I absolutely love on record... just seems to be lost in the live show, unfortunately.

Tomorrow (well, later today really) is Unity Day, which potentially no one here will know about, but I'll discuss it anyway. In response to the race riots a decade ago in the area where I live, residents set up a volunteer-run community festival. Over the year's it's grown into a full on live music-based event, with a multitude of stages and loads of West Yorkshire bands playing, as well as loads of other stuff going on. It's fabulous. This year's is particularly poignant due to the tragic deaths of two of its organisers in the past year, including Pat Regan, who I'm sure some people will have heard of. The main stage is named after her this time; the second stage named after Paul McSporran who lost his brave fight to cancer earlier this year. I was supposed to be working with Paul in the organisation of that stage this year before his passing. Didn't know him that well, but still feel a pang of sadness writing this nevertheless.

Highlight of the day will be Eureka Machines, I reckon, who I mentioned in an earlier blog.


Check it.
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