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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: NOT A REVIEW: Quake Live
Posted: March 15, 2009 (04:31 AM)
I'd forgotten how fast it was. It's a criminally long time since I played Quake III Arena, iD Software's seminal year-2000 multiplayer shooter. In that near-decade break, games have slowed down. Even the hectic fragging of Team Fortress 2 feels glacial by comparison. This is ridiculous.

Quake Live is Quake III. Simple as. Not Quake III in a browser, even; that it feeds off Firefox or IE is completely incidental. After you register, the game downloads to your hard drive as you complete the mandatory training and matchmaking arenas, and once you're playing, there's no way of telling this from the next FPS. It's full-screen, high-resolution and (relatively) high detail. I can find no significant differences between this and the original product.

Which makes playing it, and thinking about it, a bit weird. Quake III is very old. So Quake Live feels very old. There's an awkwardness to the complete lack of sensible tactics, mechanics that have been since revolutionised over and over again. It's all bunny-hopping, rocket-jumping, spazz-strafing madness. The simplicity is overwhelming. You run, and jump, and shoot. No further taxation necessary.



By extension, what was once gloriously silly feels a bit strange now. I'm quite good at first-person shooters, generally. I'm rubbish at Quake Live. Having demonstrated my ability to rocket-jump and bunny-hop successfully in the training mode, the game decided I was an expert. I'm really, plainly not. I keep forgetting myself, trying to take cover, move carefully, plan strategically. And Quake III just didn't work like that. It's all about speed and precision.

What's frustrating is that, while the former is present in abundance, the latter is really, significantly lacking. There's a miniscule mouse-lag. In most games, it wouldn't be apparent whatsoever. In Quake Live, it can mean the difference between a much-needed headshot and your own untimely and gruesome death. When your game is this ferociously high-octane, the slightest performance issues can be crippling. If they don't get this sorted out by the end of BETA, there's going to be grumpiness.

What's left is a game that's still ludicrous, silly, bonkers fun in short doses, but a decade-old FPS with dated mechanics and underwhelming visuals. The level design remains unprecidented for online shooting, which might just give it the edge it needs. But I kind of wish I hadn't played this. Instead of making me all nostalgic, it's ever-so-slightly sullied the memories of one of my favourite classic shooters.

Title: NOT A REVIEW: The Maw
Posted: March 14, 2009 (04:52 AM)
As much as I love The Maw, there's a constant feeling eating away at me that nearly 10 is pushing it a bit. Two hours of linear chomping leaves little desire to return, even considering its monumental entertainment value. Portal got away with this length, partly because it was The Official Best Game In Ages (what was I thinking when I 8/10'd it?), and partly because it was primarily sold in a package that also included a very strong collection of far lengthier games. I'm a real advocate of shorter, sweeter entertainment - but you have to be realistic about what you charge for it, particularly in these times of banker fuck-ups and stretches of pennilessness.

For all the time you do spend with The Maw, it's difficult to supress wide-eyed smiles and childlike laughter. It seems, along with various critters around this whimsical little planet, The Maw has eaten a fair chunk of World of Goo. The premises of the two games are markedly different, of course, this being a Nintendo-esque, 3D platform adventure, but the visual style, the attention to minute detail, and the compelling accessibility stetch across both games.



When the prison ship on which you're being held captive crashes onto a distant planet, you find yourself - a blue alien, looking a bit like Kif from Futurama - teaming up out of necessity with a small purple blob, the eponymous Maw. Guiding it around the world on a plasma leash, you soon realise that, as the very hungry critter gobbles up the plannet at every turn, he grows bigger, stronger and more powerful, allowing you to undertake more of the game's challenges.

It's completely linear and always guided. I love this about it: it's pure, light-hearted relaxation. Though you're always working out where you have to go and what you have to eat in order to progress, the game always nudges you gently in the right direction, through expressions on the character's faces, and subtle visual clues left around the world. In a way, it's the perfect game for kids: there's a real Pixar quality to the whole aesthetic style, and it's easy enough to trot through without any enormous taxation. In another way, I'd hate for the ugly little blighters to take from us something so brilliant.



The difficulty and linearity are problems, though. While they make the initial play an absolute joy, they effectively ruin any opportunity for subsequent attempts. Everything's going to play out the same, and everything's going to be remarkably straightforward. When your game's only a couple of hours long in the first place, this is an issue. When other games of similar longevity are being released for a few quid less, it grates a bit.

The part of me that loves creative, amusing, charming videogames thinks that something as cutesy, entertaining and polished as The Maw warrants whatever price tag the developers see fit. The part of me that loves eating and being able to make rent feels 10 might be a little bit much for a two-hour game you're unlikely to ever return to. At the same time, it's not a huge amount in the grand schemata of the universe, and if I can justify donating a fiver to Comic Relief - as my girlfriend quite sensibly insisted we did - then it's not too much of a stretch to rationalise doubling that, for something that'll quite nicely counterbalance last night's unusual selflessness.
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Title: Will you stay on the path?
Posted: March 13, 2009 (02:45 AM)
Tale of Tales' ambitious sandbox wanderer comes out on Wednesday. It's an unusual release date, chosen as it marks the tenth anniversary of developers Michael Samyn and Auriea Harvey's first meeting.

The Path is a brilliantly insane game. It pushes the boundaries so far that I'd have almost liked it to be even more insane. It's a game where you guide six iterations of Little Red Riding Hood to their untimely deaths at the hands of a variety of "wolves", in increasingly messed-up conditions. It's only $9.99 on Steam, and it's a game everyone should really try out. Even if it's not to your liking, it's hardly a huge waste of money.

You can read my thoughts here. Please do.

EDIT: You can also read someone else's thoughts here. While I secretly think my opinions are the right ones, it's interesting to see the heavily contrasting responses to this game. This guy felt it exploitive, tacky and tasteless. I disagree, but that's fine. But he didn't like the way it looks?! Man!

Trailer, narrated quirkily by Jarboe from 80s experi-goth outfit Swans. She composed the soundtrack for the game.


The PATH ----- Launch Trailer from Tale of Tales on Vimeo.
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Title: Grammatics
Posted: March 12, 2009 (03:22 AM)
The last time I posted on here about music, I was drunk at about 3AM, Wolf Queen laughed at my typo-littered post, and I deleted it.

There's an album coming out later this month that everyone (even EmP) needs to buy. It's the Grammatics debut.

I "bagsied" this review over at TLOBF ages ago, then the editor forgot and assigned it to someone else. Who then decided that, though he loved it, he didn't really know how to approach the review, so he handed it on to me. More detailed thoughts will be readable over at www.thelineofbestfit.co.uk some time soon, I think.

It's the best debut album I've heard in a long time. The best album I've heard in ages, actually, full stop. It's lined with the sort of elegance of good post-rock, but it's distinctly a pop record. The lyrics are poetic, but in an intelligent, insightful way, not in an introspective-teen manner. The vocals are haunting. The arrangement is beautiful. It's just fantastic.

It's out on Dance to the Radio on March 23d. In the UK at least - I don't know if it's getting a US release, though I'd imagine it'll be doing the iTunes rounds.

A couple of singles:


Grammatics - Shadow Committee from Dance To The Radio on Vimeo.


'Dilemma' video for the Leeds band Grammatics from Marcus Macaulay on Vimeo.
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Title: Searching for...
Posted: March 11, 2009 (10:29 AM)
...someone to write about Street Fighter IV for Reso.

Who's played it? Who fancies lending a freelance hand?
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Title: BAFTAs
Posted: March 11, 2009 (07:22 AM)
Particularly for the UK-based lot amongst you, but maybe of interest to others as well.

Winners in the BAFTA Videogame Awards, which took place last night. Games from October 2007 included.

***

BEST ACTION / ADVENTURE
NOMINEES:
Call of Duty 4
Dead Space
Fable 2
Grand Theft Auto 4
Prince of Persia
Tomb Raider Underworld

WINNER: Fable 2

ARTISTIC ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
NOMINEES:
Assassin's Creed
Call of Duty 4
Dead Space
Gears of War 2
Little Big Planet
Metal Gear Solid 4

WINNER: Little Big Planet

BEST CASUAL GAME
NOMINEES:
Boom Box
Buzz! Quiz TV
Guitar Hero: World Tour
Little Big Planet
SingStar Vol. 2
WiiFit

WINNER: Boom Box

BEST GAMEPLAY
NOMINEES:
Call of Duty 4
Grand Theft Auto 4
Left 4 Dead
Mario Kart Wii
Rock Band
Super Mario Galaxy

WINNER: Call of Duty 4

BEST HANDHELD GAME
NOMINEES:
Geometry Wars: Galaxies
God of War: Chains of the Olympus
Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass
Patapon
Professor Layton and the Curious Village
Soul Bubbles

WINNER: Professor Layton and the Curious Village

BEST MULTIPLAYER GAME
NOMINEES:
Buzz! Quiz TV
Call of Duty 4
Gears of War 2
Left 4 Dead
Mario Kart Wii
Rock Band

WINNER: Left 4 Dead

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
NOMINEES:
Assassin's Creed
Dead Space
Fable 2
Fallout 3
Little Big Planet
Grand Theft Auto 4

WINNER: Dead Space

BEST SPORTS GAME
NOMINEES:
FIFA 09
Football Manager 09
Motorstorm Pacific Rift
Pure
Race Driver: Grid
WiiFit

WINNER: Race Driver: Grid

BEST STRATEGY GAME
NOMINEES:
Advance Wars: Dark Conflict
Civilization Revolution
Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3
Ninjatown
SOCOM: US Navy Seals Tactical Strike
Viva Pinata: Pocket Paradise

WINNER: Civilization Revolution

BEST STORY AND CHARACTERS
NOMINEES:
Assassin's Creed
Call of Duty 4
Fable 2
Fallout 3
Grand Theft Auto 4
Mass Effect

WINNER: Call of Duty 4

TECHNICAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
NOMINEES:
Assassin's Creed
Fable 2
Fallout 3
Grand Theft Auto 4
Little Big Planet
Spore

WINNER: Spore

BEST USE OF AUDIO
NOMINEES:
Call of Duty 4
Dead Space
Gears of War 2
Grand Theft Auto 4
Little Big Planet
Super Mario Galaxy

WINNER: Dead Space

BEST GAME
NOMINEES:
Call of Duty 4
Fable 2
Fallout 3
Grand Theft Auto 4
Rock Band
Super Mario Galaxy

WINNER: Super Mario Galaxy

***

COD4's year, then, and a good one for Dead Space as well. Very surprised to see Fallout and GTA4 failing to pick up any awards, despite being repeatedly nominated.

Main issue of disussion from all this seems to be the panel's absolutely apeshit decision to place COD4 above GTA4 and Mass Effect in terms of storytelling and characters. You know, those two games that were considered milestones in that regard, and a game that people only really liked 'cause of the multiplayer? Yeah. Hmm.
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Title: Steam
Posted: March 10, 2009 (02:17 PM)
I like Steam's little pop-ups that tell you what games people on your friends list are playing.

It turns out everyone in the world is playing Empire: Total War.
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Title: A Great Day
Posted: March 09, 2009 (10:31 AM)
I'm currently tasked with writing about both my favourite game in a long time, and my favourite album in a long time.

Something's smiling upon me.
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Title: Doubya-tee-eff?
Posted: March 09, 2009 (03:28 AM)
Why isn't there a game page for Empire: Total War!?

It's Empire: Total War! Man!
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Title: The light at the end of the tunnel slips further away...
Posted: March 08, 2009 (04:49 AM)
This morning, I got up bright and early to play my new game. I put the disk in the drive, started the installation, and sat back.

This was two hours ago. I am still not even close to playing Empire: Total War.

Sega issued a statement last week about why they'd opted for Steam as a necessary playing platform, mumbling things about piracy, community base and achievements. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think anyone other than Valve has ever forced this before. There's always been the option of Steam installation, of course, and anything digitally downloaded through the service is going to be, by definition, Steam-activated. That's fine.

But I bought Empire in a box from a shop. One of the advantages of this, aside from having a physical product to hold and cherish, is that it's the 'instant play' option - however long the installation takes, then away.

The boxed copy of Empire, like Half-Life 2 so excruciatingly did all those years ago, splits its installation between disk and download. So, after spending 90 agonising minutes crawling up to 50% complete, the installation then connected to the internet, and began to download the rest of the game from the Steam servers. All remaining 7.5GB of it.

This section of the installation process began about 20 minutes ago. So far, it's shifted up from 50 to 55%.

I can just about pretend to understand why the game forces activation through Steam, and why it has to populate the Steam Games list for multiplayer. I completely fail to comprehend how anyone should get away with forcing you to download half the enormous game you just bought in the shops. HL2 was painful, but at a little over 4GB, perfectly managable. This is 15. 15 solid gigabytes of updates, mandatory patches and half the fucking game.

Presumably - it's the only rational explanation I can think of - it's so that everyone who installs the game, ever, will be automatically patched to the latest version. This is no excuse, particularly for those with slower internet connections. If I want to download a patch and get a more optimised playing experience, that's my own perogative, and I'll do so at my leisure. If I just want to get on with playing the thing that you deemed stable enough to release in the first place, I should be able to do that too.

It's now up to 56%. I imagine my Sunday strategy plans may have to be radically rethought.

UPDATES: I foolishly decided to fiddle with the server location to increase speeds. It's reset to 50% and is even slower.
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Title: WTF NO GUNS LOL.
Posted: March 06, 2009 (07:25 AM)
Yesterday, I read something thoroughly depressing.

It was a thread on some arbitrary forum, pertaining to the broken but hauntingly beautiful Dear Esther, which I begrudgingly 7/10'd a while back despite it being one of the most captivating and lovely things in the world.

The thread initially wavered unpredictably between "this is really beautiful" and "it's a bit boring." Both are completely valid responses, and showcase the diversity of people who are at least willing to give it a go.

Then, things started to get silly.

"The walking speed is too slow," someone remarked. Yes, perhaps it is - it's something I noted in my review. But what resulted was an amount of people giving tips about how to speed the game up, in the most horrible ways possible. These ranged from advising bunny-hopping around the island - the biggest immersion breaker in the world, particularly given that it's possible, that way, to completely miss segments of the wonderful voice work, or make them mould together into an incomprehensible mess - to tweaking the code, or even NOCLIPPING around the place.

And then the huge idiocy broke out.

"Wtf? Don't you even get a gun?"

And then I closed the window before I strangled the monitor.
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Title: Reso Forum
Posted: March 04, 2009 (09:12 AM)
Resolution now has a forum.

forum.resolution-magazine.co.uk

I wouldn't want to draw anyone away from this wonderful community, but I'd really, staggeringly appreciate seeing some friendly faces about, helping to kickstart the community a little bit. We're only a small site yet, and I really hope it can grow to something of HG proportions.

So yeah. That would be really nice. Just as long as you keep HG going as brilliantly as ever as well!
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Title: NOT A REVIEW: Little Big Planet
Posted: March 03, 2009 (10:03 AM)
Little Big Planet is a fine example of a mere idea resonating beautifully with a vast audience. It's impossible not to be impressed by the scope of LBP's aims, its dedication to dragging community-based gaming and development away from the moddable PC titles and into the realms of the more mainstream PlayStation 3 market. For some, crafting your own levels and sharing them over that wonderful thing we call the Interweb may feel like old news. And, to some, yes, it will be. Valve have led the way in that respect for some time now, and arguably with much stronger games as a starting point.

But accessibility and friendliness are at the core of LBP's appeal. Few will argue that the complexity of Valve's tools allows for greater development expression. But a look at the heaps of extraordinarily similar level packs and mods for Half-Life 2 suggests that something's been missing. Sometimes, all it takes for some people's whimsical ideas to come to life, is a simple chance. That's what LBP offers.

Developers think differently to people who just play games. LBP is a world in which gamers can bring their ideas to life, guided by the fabulous tones of Stephen Fry, with very little taxation. The idea? You unlock new features and artwork as you play through the main game, then 'drag and drop' them into position in your own maps. You can customise your visuals to achieve a particular style. You can cleverly combine existing assets to build something radically new. You can utilise the advanced physics and programming to craft unique experiences, all within this environment. And you don't need to know a single thing about coding, or engines, or animation, or any of the aspects that define usual videogame editing.

The result is a brain-caving number of creative minds leaping at the opportunity to thrust their ideas into a playable experience. The range and diversity of these user-creations is a joy to behold, fabulously uplifting and always inspirational. Of course, there are dud efforts. But LBP allows for this experimentation at little cost. And the friendly nature of the community means there's always support, always encouragement, and always the desire to try new things.

Media Molecule knew what they were doing. LBP isn't their game. It's ours. It's a set of construction tools, and a game-length demonstration of some of the things that are achievable with them. Their solo experience is often inspired and frequently hysterical fun, but there's a modesty to it, despite the creativity. It shows, rather than shows off. For this, Media Molecule can only be commended.

Frustrations come not as a result of level design, but as a result of trying, bravely, to push the limitations of a platformer. It attempts to hark back to the days when 2D platforming was rife, but incorporates a barely functional third axis and a surprisingly adept physics system. Actually controlling the game becomes a little awkward as a result. It's often difficult to get to the position of depth you want to be at, and jumping whilst nudging the left stick ever-so-slightly often positions your character where you don't want him or her to be. Precision jumping is irritating, with the momentum often carrying you further than you wish to end up - and if there's a firey pit or other instant death trap awaiting over the edge of a platform, as is often the case, there's a tendency to feel that perishing is the game's fault, not your own. Elsewhere, the system's used to fantastic effect - swinging from ropes and riding vehicles downhill make up a large portion of the experience, and are excellent features - but the frustration of falling off that ledge may be a step too far for those used to more traditional platforming mechanics.

But what's wonderful about LBP is how easily it becomes your home. Everything is customisable, from levels, to characters, to the 'pod' that functions dually as a 3D menu screen and online social hub. Everything is perfectly nuanced, with tiny, seemingly inconsequential details effortlessly drawing you further and further into the gloriously silly experience. Certain aspects may be rough around the edges, but one gets the intuition that these things were never at the forefront of Media Molecule's mind. LBP was born of a vision - and, judging by the remarkable amount of people engaging perfectly with it, it would appear they've managed to pull it off.

It's flawed and frustrating. But it's nothing short of a mass-market revolution.
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Title: Spelunked.
Posted: March 02, 2009 (11:47 AM)
Last night, I had a dream about Spelunky.

I dreamt that, after finally finishing the game, I returned to it to find out I'd unlocked a new section. While retaining the pixelated visuals, it had gained an additional axis, and moved into a sort of weird meta-dimension consisting of wireframes and block colours, looking a little like Darwinia. The game mechanics remained the same, but the new depth added a whole new tactical side to the title.

If this were true, it'd be utterly wonderful.

As it stands, it's just really, really, really good and you should all be playing it. Why aren't you all playing it?!
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Title: Reso Issue 4
Posted: March 02, 2009 (09:47 AM)
...is here.

Reviews of Fear 2, Spelunky, The Path (world's first review), The Last Remnant, Cryostasis, Necrovision and more...

Interviews with Dan Pinchbeck and Vince D Weller...

Work by HG's very own EmP (WHO REVIEWS BIG BANG MINI. READ IT BEFORE HE OFFS HIMSELF) and zippdementia...

Plus lots of lovely columns and features.

And now the plugging can stop for a month.
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