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Title: Initial Impressions: The Last Remnant
Posted: February 10, 2009 (08:56 AM)
Title: Sessler Screams and Swears
Posted: February 08, 2009 (10:40 AM)
Adam Sessler from XPlay posts an astonishing video response to some of the comments on his Killzone 2 review. He's hilariously angry, but you can understand why. He 5/5'd it, and still people are questioning whether his overall tone suggested he resented having awarded it such a high score because it's a Sony game. His Christian Bale-esque rant is fabulous to watch, and it's great to hear an excellent and respected games journalist really stand up for himself like this. Lovely work.
Title: Review-plugging for a reason
Posted: February 08, 2009 (10:07 AM)
If you've the slightest interest in original ideas in 3D engines, you need to read this, please. If you own Half-Life 2 as well, download this free mod, play it through a couple of times, and report back.
I'm *extremely* interested to hear what people think.
Posted: February 07, 2009 (05:15 AM)
So much stuff to write in the next few days that it's bordering on ludicrous.
- Penumbra review for here
- The Last Remnant review for RealGamer
- A double album review for TLOBF
- A live review for TLOBF
...and some less deadliney stuff that I still want to get out of the way while ideas are still fresh:
- Dear Esther "review" for here
- The Carer postmortem for Unfiction
Did I ever tell you about The Carer? In 2005, I ran a month-long alternate reality game with my dad. It was a thoroughly interesting experience, which I think benefitted from our complete lack of experience within the genre. It was a pair of outsiders' take on what alternate reality gaming should be like, without being constrained by the expectations of its community. I'd love to do it again sometime, but can't ever imagine having the sort of time and patience it takes to run such a mammoth project. We had to, essentially, dedicate our entire lives to the project throughout its duration, while being completely secretive about what we were doing. Crazy stuff. Amazing.
Title: My university in lizard shit fuck-up
Posted: February 06, 2009 (08:05 AM)
Title: Not Even Close To Being A Review: The Path
Posted: February 03, 2009 (12:51 PM)
I am priviledged enough to have been given the opportunity to play The Path. It's currently in its beta stage, set for release in March/April, and currently undergoing final tweaks. For what it's worth, in the couple of hours I've spent with it so far, I haven't noticed a single significant problem, glitch or bug. I find it impressive that some enormous games are released riddled with such issues, yet a game crafted primarily by two people and not even considered finished yet is so smooth, so stable. Rather telling, methinks.
Anyway, for a variety of reasons, I'm not really obliged to say a lot about this yet, other than, y'know, what's already known. It's a third, second and first person adventure game, split into six chapters, which are in turn split into three acts. Each chapter essentially comprises one 'play-through', but depending on which character you've chosen, your experience will be rather different. Each chapter play-through takes anywhere between five minutes and a couple of hours to complete. That length is entirely up to you. You can practically see the end of the game from the start of it. But there's also a wealth of other things to do between the two points. At the end, the game grades you. If you survive, you get a low mark. If you die, you get a high one. Hmm...
The Path is about growing up. It's so heavy on its symbolism that it's going to alienate a lot of people. There's not much in the way of a 'story', but it oozes 'meaning'. It's artistic. It's suggestive. It's metaphorical.
It's really good...
It's actually quite difficult to snap out of the idea of 'gaming for completion'. When you can see the finish line, it's always tempting to sprint straight for it. What's admirable about The Path is that it lets you guide your character into whatever you want. It doesn't prevent you from finishing in five minutes. You just get a very banal, predictable ending. Nothing happens. It's no fun. Venturing away fom the path and into the forbidden forest is dangerous, but it's where most of the interest lies.
The Path teaches its players about independence. It shows us that, one day, we'll have to let go of our videogame mummy's hand...
A bit of subtle 'state-of-the-medium' satire, perhaps?
Perhaps the most impressive thing about The Path is its constant tendency to surprise. Its AI routines are fabulous to behold, utilising a system whereby letting go of the controls for a certain amount of time causes your character's own mind to take over, your avatar behaving as she chooses within the context of the area. The writing (comprised entirely of the characters' 'thoughts', scribbled in pen over your viewpoint) is rare and minimal, but so carefully worded and credible that it's an absolute joy to read each time it appears. The discovery of the 'wolf' in each chapter is simply fantastic, with its heavy suggestion of the different phases of a girl's childhood and adolescence. The occasional ambiance of European New Wave cinema is just beautiful.
At the risk of sounding incredibly arrogant: a lot of people aren't going to 'get' this game. Tale of Tales know that, and they're not aiming their title at those who care about whether Killzone 2 is better than Halo 3. But the people who do get it are going to have a lot to say about this. It's testament to the quality of The Path's design that it's incredibly fable-esque without ever being preachy; uncomprimisingly artistic without ever being overly inaccessable. This is shaping up to be very interesting indeed. I can't wait until the finished version, and the opportunity to share my more detailed thoughts with you all.
Title: Pluggy-pluggy plug-drops
Posted: February 02, 2009 (12:20 PM)
Well, whaddya know? Resolution Magazine issue 3 is available to read online now. Visit www.resolution-magazine.co.uk to see it in all its glory.
It's a bit shorter this month, as the inevitible post-Christmas lull has left us with precious little to talk about. But we hope you like what's there. Felix Arabia even makes an appearance, slaughtering Prince of Persia! And next month has some pretty delicious stuff in store, including reviews of FEAR 2, Killzone 2 and Cryostasis, and interviews with Ice-Pick Lodge and Iron Tower Studios, about their upcoming titles The Void and Age of Decadence respectively.
Lovely lovely. Back to work then.
Posted: February 01, 2009 (01:10 PM)
Isn't snow rubbish when you have to venture out in it with a crippling hangover?
Title: Neptune: look at me playing my own game!
Posted: January 27, 2009 (09:43 AM)
First in-game footage of Neppers. Sorry for the rubbish video quality. Youtube is murderous. Will keep people posted once I get a high-quality version online somewhere.
Title: Videogamers are druggies
Posted: January 26, 2009 (06:35 AM)
The Telegraph hilariously misrepresents already flawed study in piece of sensationalist bollocks that would make even red-tops cringe.
That's my initial reaction to the article, anyway. I've managed to track down the journal this research was printed in, and I'm about to read the whole document. Back in half an hour...
Right. A few things strike me.
Firstly, the focus of the study is very much on exlporing, simply, whether or not there is a link between the playing of videogames and other social and behavioural patterns in the life of young people. It is by no means intended as conclusive proof of what effects they have, and the only thing it really concludes is that it's an area which needs more specific research. Professor Walker even goes as far as to say "There needs to be caution against overstating the impact of video games and internet use on the development of young people based on the current findings." It's quite odd that she makes such an outlandish claim as "our findings were exclusively negative" in The Telegraph, given her caution expressed in the article, and especially given that the study is on the effects of videogames on RISK BEHAVIOURS in adolescence. Of course you're only going to get negative results. It's like when Wakefield linked the MMR vaccine to autism. BECAUSE HE WAS ONLY LOOKING AT CHILDREN WITH AUTISM. I think researchers need to be more aware of how the media is inevitibly going to exaggerate their findings...
Even so, it's a bland piece of preliminary research that doesn't seem to quite understand that it's an area that doesn't lend itself necessarily to the causitive effect model. Yes, there is proof that, out of these 800 participants, the longer people spent playing violent videogames, the more cannabis they tended to smoke. But you could equally reverse your variables and get the same results, drawing probably more sensible conclusions. We all know cannabis makes you want to do nothing more than slump into a chair and do something non-taxing (and before anyone gets on their high horse, it's clearly true. And I'm speaking as someone who used to get through quite a lot of the stuff back in the day). Videogames lend themselves perfectly to cannabis use. The reverse, I'm almost certain, isn't true - but the results were never going to show this discrepancy.
If anyone's interested in reading the study... well, you might have trouble if you aren't a university student. If you are, you can access it at Springerlink, by logging in through your University student portal and so forth... I'm sure you know how it all works. Search for Journal of Youth and Adolescence - it's in the February edition.
Title: Come on, BHPR.
Posted: January 26, 2009 (01:46 AM)
Are Barrington Harvey being paid by some sort of Government anti-piracy initiative or something?
Or is it just that the publishers they work with are keen for them to point out that PIRACY IS BAD, HMMKAY?
Seriously. I subscribe to BH's press release feed for journalistic purposes, but I'm not a sensationalist tabloid reporter. Generally, I'd like to find out about the games you're supposed to be promoting, not stuff like this. Every bloody day I seem to be getting another email from them regarding this issue. Stop it.
Any other UK journos noticed this new trend?
Title: F.E.A.R. Away!
Posted: January 24, 2009 (03:23 AM)
Utterly brilliant Fear 2 trailer that's just been released:
Title: Not a review: F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin
Posted: January 22, 2009 (09:18 AM)
We'll do away with the ridiculous acronym right from the get-go. Fear was an interesting game. It started sublimely, but didn't move much beyond its opening hour. What was left was a fairly bland and particularly grey corridor shooter, saved by blistering action sequences and some genuinely surprising jump-moments.
Fear 2, from the half-hour or so we've been given access to so far, seems very much like more of the same, but executed in a far more exciting and interesting manner than its predecessor. It's still completely linear, but it's much more guided. It's still a straightforward mash-up of brainless Hollywood action and shades of Asian horror (though, in fact, the scares seem much more Western in their approach now). It still makes you jump a lot, but it also builds tension much more finely in between the individual scares.
It might lose its pace after the initial section, as the original did. But for now, it's really good fun.
Given the problems in the original, I'm extremely impressed by the level design. Monolith have evidently been playing a lot of Valve games. On top of the eerily familiar set-pieces, each area gives the illusion of reasonable freedom, but through a clever combination of audiovisual techniques, it carefully funnels you in pretty much a straight line from start to finish. You can go through that door to your left, sure, but the lights are out, so you really don't want to. Instead, you head for the well-lit area up ahead... only for the lights to flicker off there too, and the door to slam behind you, leaving you to fire blindly into the night like the kind of paranoid super-soldier you are.
The cinematics are wonderful. At the start of the game, I thought a pre-rendered sequence had frozen. Actually, the game had begun, dropping me into a phenomenal warped hallucination scene. These bits look staggering, with all sorts of special effects overlaying the view, contorting the environment into something truly unnerving. Outside of these sequences, it looks okay - quite similar, in fact, to Left 4 Dead, which the level design and artwork seem to take an awful lot of inspiration from. But, commendably, it runs astonishingly smoothly on my rapidly ageing PC, without sacrificing the quality of the visuals. It isn't that scaleable - the resolution is about the only thing you can alter - but it doesn't need to be. This engine is brilliantly optimised.
This opening section is split very definitely into two halves. The first is relentlessly tense, with long, spooky corridors and flickering lights, regular hallucination sequences, and a few genuine jump-out-of-seat moments. There's an appearance of Alma that caused me to literally shout "HOLY FUCKING SHIT" at my screen. There's also a staggeringly awesome part near the beginning that sees all normal vision go completely fucked, as doors thwack open and shut, ethereal enemies appear and disappear all over the place, screams emit from every direction, blood appears on walls, items fly around the room, lights strobe on and off, and all you can do is run, panic-stricken, firing randomly at nothing tangible. Delectably spooky.
Oh, and the sountrack for this bit is ludicrously good. Really adds to the atmosphere.
The second half, which takes place largely in carefully crafted outdoor areas (again, very much like Left 4 Dead's city missions), focuses more on the old high-speed, brutal gunplay, which is... a bit slower and less brutal than before. There seems to be less emphasis on the need for slow-mo John Wu combo action, which is a little disappointing, given how much it carried the original game. That I didn't miss it all that much is a fairly big compliment to how refined the rest of the formula is. This section of the game ends with a frankly ludicrous sequence that sees you climb inside a massive mechanised suit of armour, ploughing through hordes of enemies with double chainguns. It sounds out of place, and I suppose it is a little, but I still enjoyed it. Probably a lot more than I should have.
A few gripes. The world is a little too static. At one point, the game gives you a missile launcher. But it's pretty much pointless, as you can't destroy any of the scenery. You may as well just pick off enemies with the other blissfully powerful weapons in your arsenal. All collectable items are highlighted with big blue glowing boxes, which seems a little gratuitous and patronising. The HUD is basically ripped straight out of Invisible War, which seems like an odd decision, given how many people complained that it was intrusive and unnecessary. And at the moment, it only supports widescreen. I really hope they fix this for the final release, otherwise it's going to alienate an awful lot of PC users with its horrific letterboxing.
It's looking very promising. A lot more promising than I ever expected or dared to hope. Talk of a shift in focus towards blockbuster action left me rather sceptical, but actually, it really works in this context. It's not spine-chilling terror. It's Westernised horror-action - but, from first impressions at least, it's crafted extremely well. Roll on next month!
Posted: January 21, 2009 (08:46 AM)
Someone just addressed a very formal job-related email, sent to the generic email@example.com, as:
That's either just weird, or this person has a fantastic sense of humour. Either way, I like it.
Title: Italian Idiocy
Posted: January 19, 2009 (02:39 PM)
Michael Samyn from the wonderful Tale of Tales brings my (and others') attention to the proposed piece of legislation that led to Sony cancelling their EU release of lackluster horror title Rule of Rose. Its quality aside, there's an issue here. Beyond the link below is the body of a motion by an Italian MP. I don't know if it actually passed, but the controversy led to Sony deciding it wasn't worth the hassle of releasing Rule of Rose anyway, and the proposed EU release was canned.
Here you go.
I can't get over how monumentally stupid this is, driven by a barage of convoluted half-truths, plain fabrication, and the complete removal of context. The only way to even try to understand is to assassinate it, very carefully, point by point.
"in Europe a lot of violent video games for children are on sale"
Yes, definitely aimed at children. Note how this one carries an enormous "R" rating in the bottom corner on the US version.
"the aim of the video game is to bury alive a girl who has undergone psychosexual and physical violence"
No, that's partial content of the game, removed entirely from the context of the mature narrative. Not its aim whatsoever. Not even a significant portion.
"the latest of a series that has become increasingly popular with the younger generation and whose only end is the instigation of violence, bullying and abuse of the weakest"
The latter half is simply not true, but the fact that it's backed up by no evidence makes it difficult to argue against. Still, actually finding any evidence for it would be a hard task, since it's bullshit. He does try though, later on, bless him.
And anyway, if these games are becoming more popular with children, then perhaps we should be thinking about a motion to help regulate their sale and play, not banning them outright. Mm-hmm?
"there have been serious episodes of violence among minors including the harassment of a disabled boy (which the perpetrator filmed and posted on the Internet)"
Not even slightly relevant in any way. An attempt to provide evidence for the previous point? You're usually supposed to show a link between the two events when you do that.
"Community institutions have always protected and safeguarded the rights of minors"
Very true. But exactly why the sale should have been permitted in the EU. Europe continues to support the safeguarding of both minors and adults through the ELSPA classification system, and in cooperation with various official national bodies. It's the perfect place to release a game like Rule of Rose, in terms of potential safety.
"[we should] define a single code of conduct for the sale and distribution of children's video games"
...which underpins everything: the entire motion is based on the completely false assumption that videogames are, by definition, for children. It all makes sense now. Kids intentionally exposed to graphic violence.
Except, y'know. It carried an R rating. So you're just phenomenally wrong.
Everything here demonstrates a completely moronic lack of understanding of the issue. I can't believe it held any weight whatsoever. What kind of regime censors art in this way, without even trying to understand it at a base level? Worse than that: without even trying to understand the medium in any meaningful way? No, fuck it, scratch the word 'meaningful' out. It just doesn't even try. Full stop.
This made me really angry, even though it's a few years ago. Utterly, utterly bizarre, and thoroughly revolting.