Saturday, 31 October 2015

Resident Evil 2/ GameCube



Hmmmmm 1998. It seems like light years away since Resident Evil 2 was first released....Can you remember demo disks? Those things that you used to get with a magazine when the PS1 was the console that chewed up your spare time and often your school time (either late in or sick). I had the demo for Resident Evil 2, possibly months before I actually borrowed a copy of the full game from my friend Alan's dad...yes his dad. (I had considered stealing my step-brother's copy first). That is how popular this game series had become and this is partly why I have chosen this now ancient title as my second game to review, with my twisted take on how I view it today.
(Plus the hype that a remake is in the early stages of development).



The demo was enough. Maybe around 10-20 minutes of total play. (the only other demo with this type of playability was GTA). This was at a time just before copied disks around my way. I was skint with no income for buying titles that had just been released. So I played the waiting game, knowing that at some point someone would complete it or get sick of it and hand me a copy. That day was the end of my weekends playing football for a little while..Well a large part of it anyway.

I couldn't wait to get the disk into the PS1. It had two and not just for loading time. Oh lord! The anticipation that it was going to be the best game ever. The demo, on constant replay had set me up nicely and the full game did not let me down. 

'What I remember from those days spent playing the demo, which gave you control of rookie police officer Leon S. Kennedy, is that Capcom hadn't just made another Resident Evil title, they had completely changed the setting and how I would play survival horror games forever.' 

Poor Leon, first day on the force and me at the controls. Not even cops in Compton have it that bad. 
You could get as far as the police station in the demo, where you meet up with a soon to turn police officer (who I convinced all that would listen, was none other than Will Smith) and then not much further. You were playing from scenario a. So your first interaction with another human, is the gun shop owner, who staring down the barrel of a very square looking pump action tells you to freeze. 'I love this part.' After an exchange of pleasantries and a little look around for items, zombies burst through the front window of the gun shop and begin munching on the owner who helplessly fires off a round as he regrets having hit on Claire previously. 'At least that's my version if I had written the script.' From here it's off to the police station where the game really begins, with a format that is similar to that of Resident Evil; puzzles, finding things, shooting or avoiding new and improved zombies in terms of looks and not so much in movement and stupidity. Newly mutated monsters, as well as occasionally bumping into the other characters. Once I had the full game, I could really begin to explore the massive maze of the police station, which thankfully isn't just another mansion (If you forget about the fact that you still need key sets and gems) and thankfully not as it was originally intended in Resident Evil 1.5, the initial version of the game, which was scrapped in the development stage, due to producer Shinji Mikami, being disappointed and labeling it 'dull and boring'.

Still fairly new to survival horror at this point and overly excited at the prospects, I set out in full on rampage mode wanting to kill everything in sight. It probably wasn't until after the first completion of a scenario, of which there are four in total, that I figured that it was wiser to be more tactical with my approach to the process of surviving another attempt at completion. The fact that there are two disks, two characters and four scenarios to complete is also one of the reasons that this game is a classic and still worth playing today; there is so much to do. If there is to be a remake, it will only make this game even more classical, as has the HD remake of Resident Evil, which can be downloaded for PS4.  'Now available on the Origins disk bundle.' I have played and completed this title too, it was like playing it for the first time again. More on that another time though.


Plot

In brief. Rookie cop Leon S. Kennedy, bumps into Claire Redfield (Chris Redfield's sister), before the game begins, as he heads towards his first day on the job. After almost shooting Claire in the head, they both realise that something isn't quite right with Raccoon City. After some zombie avoiding and explosions, the pair are separated and the game begins with whichever character disk you have chosen to play first. RE2 tells the story of how the viral outbreak that was confined to a creepy mansion that not even Luigi would enter, has now infected the majority of the population of humans, dogs and the odd plant and crow of Raccoon City. Choosing a character to play out the main story with, you embark on a mission to find out what the hell is going on.


Gameplay

It pretty much has it all in terms of survival horror and zombie horror in particular; that which we have come to expect today. There are zombies of course. There are twisted stories that don't quite add up until you get closer to the end of the game, but of which there are clues throughout indicating that the terror is far bigger than an isolated incident in a woodland mansion. There are kick ass characters, as well as slightly naive characters, who don't tend to last too long; plus the odd psychotic one just to make sure that you are truly on your toes. There is also the introduction of Ada Wong, who becomes one of those characters that you just expect to show her face in every new release of the main game series. You also get to play as Ada in Leon's scenario, bringing more than just single character control into the plot. It isn't difficult to survive on normal setting, but in the style of survival horror, you have to locate items and often avoid just shooting your way out, to reserve ammo for a later encounter that could prove to be more difficult to run away from. (I've made the mistake often of just shooting wildly, only to be left short at key points in this type of game). If you really want to be in a nail biting, hair pulling, survival mode (without the use of stocking's and a whip), then it is best to knock the difficulty up a notch or two.
The game gives room to either absorb it like a movie, enjoying the cutscenes as a breather in between the odd killing, plus surprise or two or to really get involved in a fight to the death as you make every decision count. This is another reason that Resident Evil in general is a classic survival horror. There are often moments when items will become scarce, health will become low, leaving every room that you enter a hope that you can locate what you need in order to feel safe momentarily.

  
The scenery is fresh and still crisp looking today (3d rendered, they tend to stay this way), with sight after sight that delights the eye, whilst the characters although square looking, at the time where a vast improvement on the first game, look outdated today. On the downside, at times your character's hand or foot may disappear into the environment as you are interacting with it. The voice acting is as cheesy as ever, but to be fair it adds to the style in which a lot of early zombie films were made. The music is brilliant and sound effects comical if not sounding realistic. I just love this game throughout and it is hard to fault it, unlike some of the titles that have come afterwards. 

The mutations this time around are brilliant. Cue licker....

Which you see for the first time shortly after arriving at the station. 
 As if having normal zombies wasn't enough (T virus), some of the strands of the virus responsible for the outbreak in Raccoon City have the ability to mutate the host and the mutations can be anything from flesh dropping off, to more arms and eye's than a Hindu God. There are plenty of challenges as far as big bosses are concerned and the puzzles as always can sometimes be testing, but never too complicated; if I am honest though very samey as Resident Evil, a theme that continued throughout the first few titles.

Looking back, the controls were simple and I like to keep it simple when it comes to gaming controls. (I cannot stand shiz like Street Fighter and the like, battering buttons).
The movement of Leon and Claire, still has that slow paced look about it that was present with Jill and Chris in Resident Evil and the camera is very static. In recent years we have been spoilt with 360 degree movement and the freedom to go almost anywhere in our chosen fantasy worlds; but back then it was often the case that you had to follow the script as it was scripted. Having said that though, the script was pretty awesome for Resident Evil 2 and I didn't mind going where it ended up taking me. The hope of a remake would be that it included updated camera and character movement as well as a HD overhaul; plus I might add, no effing loading every time that you open a door. The one thing that I always didn't like about those early days. (Open a door walk through. Step onto stairs, walk up). The only pleasing break from this type of screen loading, is the beat of a heart that sometimes accompanies the process, indicating that you may be about to encounter a fate worse than death.

Overall there is much too keep you entertained. Hours of sleepless night's and possible sick days.


So to close the door on this review, which I will come back and add to as I revisit the game in the near future, adding a separate review for the updated game if it reaches completion, I will say this. 'If you haven't played this game yet, for one reason or another, go play it.'
The fact that a demo was enough to have me playing a short version on repeat speaks volumes in itself. It plays like a zombie movie. Better than the Resident Evil films. Period. I have played it on a number of consoles and I am excited beyond belief that there is a remake in the pipeline. Let's hope that it isn't just a pipe dream.
Resident Evil 2 scores an 8 out of 10. 
Score based purely on the game's playability and appeal that it still has today.  


Fan of Resident Evil 2? Let me know in the comments your memories of this game.


Saturday, 24 October 2015

Silent Hill Homecoming/ Xbox 360



I am stuck on where to begin...momentarily.
I remember around the age of 6, I had a very vivid nightmare, so real, that I woke up after what appeared to be a very long period of time, sweating, and absolutely terrified. I had dreamt that I was trapped in my family home, with my parents, whilst a crazed man tried to capture us. I distinctly remember that when we ran into the back garden, that there was no way to get out.
Many years after that horrible night, I have partly manifested that dream as a reality.
That nightmare is the game Silent Hill: Homecoming.


Before Silent Hill, it was Resident Evil, which was and still can be a pretty jumpy game at times to play. After Silent Hill, I was never quite the same again. What Konami managed to do that is lacking (take nothing away though), in Capcom's Resident Evil, is to continuously play on the mind in such a manner that you feel as though it may not be a good idea to ever go to sleep again or hang around in the fog or depend on a torch to light the way or listen to the radio for fear that it might pick up static, indicating that something not even Wes Craven could conjure up, is about to start chasing you down. 'You can see where I am going with this.'
The first one did me in. I couldn't bring myself to play 2 and 3, preferring the lighter mood of shooting more and more zombies. I came back for 'The Room', feeling a little fragile after about the first hour of playing, then pretty much left it alone until now. 

Somehow I thought that maybe the times had changed and that I may now be stronger in mind to handle opening that case once more. What I experienced this time around was nothing short of my expectations. I didn't go back to where I had left off, it was much worse than the last time around. 

'Holy shit!'
'The bogey man.'
He may not of appeared as a boss, but the threat of his appearance as a boss was more than enough to have me thinking please, please not now, every time that he briefly came into sight, finally slicing Alex's father in half and putting me into high alert mode that this must finally be it. But it wasn't to be and my breathing returned to that of a practised yogi after about 10 minutes of oxygen starvation. 
(There are yogi's that believe that prana is the life force and not oxygen, so no harm done).


What I love about Silent Hill, is that although the setting may stay relatively the same, the plot and the characters are ever changing. There may be the odd reference to interlink some of the stories, but there isn't the reliance on bringing the same characters back time and time again (Eastenders script writers are you reading)?



 I don't like change though, I like comfort. So with this in mind, I feel that I am constantly being pushed in a direction that I'd rather not go. In fact I played a Resident Evil title at the same time just to help me to stay grounded in familiarity. I'll review that game also at some point.

Plot

After waking from a nightmare about his younger brother Josh, main character, Alex Shepherd, is dropped off in his hometown, Shepherd's Glen, by a guy who just happened to be in the game Silent Hill: Origins. If that wasn't enough to get the mind racing, he finds his hometown covered in a thick fog and eventually his mother making less sense than a drunken Scot. After his mother mumbling on about people disappearing, Alex decides to go on a hunt for his younger brother who has...well disappeared. On his way to finding out the truth of why his mother is in such a state, Alex becomes involved in the nightmare that is Silent Hill, meeting and speaking with a host of characters along the way who are equally as foggy as the fog itself.


Gameplay

Graphically it looks as you would expect an Xbox 360 title to look. I feel that maybe it was kept back until the full powers of the latest generations of consoles (at the time) had began reaching their peak in what was possible to be done in terms of game development. Having done a little research, I found that it had originally been talked about way back in 2004.
 Most of the old haunts are here in Silent Hill: Homecoming. Thing's that you'd expect from such a game as this one:
1) Graveyard, check.
2) House you can't get out of, check.
3) Abandoned building's that you expect to be haunted, check.
4) Fiery pits of hell, check.
5) Crazed monsters and humans trying to torture and/or kill you, check.
 Plus a whole host of other psychological scenarios that mess with the mind in what appears as a much better game to look at than the previous adventures....nightmares. Add this to the fog that you cannot see in, the darkness that you cannot see in and the radio that is so loud that you do not wish to switch it on, but know that if you do not you are in deep shit quicker than you can sink in quicksand, then it all adds up into something that quite frankly you wouldn't want give to your best mate for his crimbo box, not wanting to be responsible for poor Timmy's admittance into hospital on Boxing Day. 'It's not that it's overly gruesome, it's just somehow very believable.' 
Overall it appeals to the senses. The blood is blood like, the creatures of the night are not as square looking as they once were; they even take on more realistic slash marks as you try to hold them back before running (sometimes) away.

It moves a lot better too. Walking, changing the camera angles are all improved massively. The combat controls are better to handle, also making fighting a little more... fight like and less just whacking about in the dark like a blindfolded Mexican attempting to locate a pinata. As per usual there are less guns and ammunition than there are smashing, slashing weapons (just), but all are equally easy to aim and to use. One other quite handy addition is that the main character Alex, will turn his head to look at points of interest, helping you at times to locate ammunition, health, clues and at others, I feel, just because he has noticed a stain on the carpet or just to wind you up that something is there, when it isn't. Overall it is easy to control Alex and to interact with the environment; not too much in the way of tapping combinations of buttons.



'The game itself.' 
On the plus side it plays with continuity throughout. It isn't overly complicated in storyline and doesn't take much of an effort to figure out what you think may be going on (Child sacrifice still came as a bit of a shock though). If you've played previous titles you know that at some point the siren will go off and that your pants may feel a little less dry than they did when you were just walking around in the fog. There are plenty of scarey locations to wander and plenty of monsters to keep walking at a slow pace, until the radio starts doing it's nut. Then usually it's time to speed up a little or wait for the inevitable to happen. Save points are fairly close together and the main bosses are a challenge, but not ridiculously hard to defeat. Fighting the main bosses, although a little easy at times, requires more of a tactical stance. Rather than just pumping bullets one after another, you actually have to fight, which although frighteningly too close for comfort, I actually enjoyed. The same can be said of fighting with monsters and humans alike throughout the main game play. There are also the familiar characters the nurses. If you ignore the face and the huge blade, they are quite appealing to the eye. Maybe they were made in this manner, as to encourage you not to turn off your torch, which happens to be the nurses main attraction to you? 'Cunning.'
Definitely something that my twisted mind would think of as too how can we subtly lure gamers to an erotic death? Some of the locations in the game are terrific. My favorites:
1) Crapping myself in the graveyard.
2) Crapping myself in the hotel.
3) Crapping myself in the basement of the parental home and then having a crap in loft of that same home as the schism creeped out of the shadows to terrorize me.   



 It's not overly gory. It is horrific in places. Especially when Alex ends up with the pointy end of a drill in his thigh. It's simply just terrifying to the mind. Composer Akira Yamaoka, (who came back for this game) adds to this with atmospheric music and chilling sounds that heighten at the right moments, adding to the intensity of being stalked or surrounded by monsters or there's something lurking in the fog. I like it a lot and completed it fairly quickly, without having to stay up to the early hours of the morning or call in sick to work. But to make this a fair review, I must also add to it what I didn't like about the game.

There wasn't much that I didn't like. I am going to be picky. Even though I know that perfection doesn't exist in an ever changing universe, if I was to point out anything then it would be that the puzzles in this version of Silent Hill are pants; far too easy to complete, unlike previous Silent Hill games. And that's it. The rest in my opinion made for an enjoyably, frightening experience. I've read some reviews that pulled apart the survival horror aspects of this title. Personally, I was shitting myself throughout this game. That to me is survival horror. 

So my first review comes to an end. To sum up. If you like/love Silent Hill and are yet to play Homecoming, what you can expect from this title, is a lot of what you'd expect to get from a Silent Hill game, with a new storyline, new characters, fresh appearance and lots of moments where you may cross your legs and hope that you can conjure up the bravery to go to the toilet.
Silent Hill: Homecoming score a  7 out of 10.
 Find food @justeat crack open a Dr Pepper and begin play.

Fan of Silent Hill: Homecoming? Let me know your scariest moments playing and your likes/dislikes in the comments.




Friday, 23 October 2015

Introduction. Why computer games?

'Well, hello world of gamers....'

Before I begin to blog about one of my favourite pass times, I would like to begin with a brief history of who, what, why, where and when.



It was sometime in the 1980's, the above console may or may not of been the one that first hooked me and has forever influenced my mind and my actions since. I was born in 82 and the Atari 5200 was out in this year. All I remember is plugging cartridges in and shooting centipedes, madly pulling the joystick from left to right, then later on, completely off on more than one occasion. By that time though it was the C64 joystick that I was tugging away on.



Like a future drug addict, the damage was done once the gateway had been opened. I progressed quickly from one console (sometimes home computer or handheld) to the next, until finally I couldn't get out of bed without switching the PS2 on first. I was burnt out by the age of 25 and went into a period of computer detox at the age of 28, vowing to never return to my filthy habits..... It was never going to be that simple.

Cue PS4, my now 11 year old son, his desire to have one for Christmas and his wish to keep it at my home so that he has something to play on when he stays over at the weekend. Then after a summer holiday swap, my son taking his PS4 home for 6 weeks and leaving his Xbox 360 at my home, I decided that it was time to get fully back on it and reinvest in another 360 once the swap had come to it's end.
'Some may say that I set myself up to fail.' 

I now also have another Nintendo GameCube with all the Resident Evil titles released to it, an original Xbox and a PS2.

'Currently I own a PS4, PS2, PSP, GameCube, Sega Saturn, Sega Dreamcast, Xbox and an Xbox 360.'

Present day 

As many gaming heads like myself have no doubt thought before, it has often crossed my mind that I would like to be paid for having some involvement in what for me is more than just a casual thing to do.

'I am currently flirting with the idea of becoming a video game artist.'

Being paid to play computer games, ideal; the reality of such a thing, pretty shitty. (I did a little rhyme). Instead as I have sat reinvesting time in playing what is becoming a mountain of games for both the PS4 and Xbox 360, as well as living a life outside the closed door of my home (it is possible), I have conjured up a plan that for now should give a little added satisfaction to two of my passions in life; writing and gaming. That plan is to review games I play, games I have played, even consoles, gaming companies and who knows what else my warped little mind may let loose with once the tip tapping of the keyboard keys takes place.

'I attempted YouTube and gave up before I had even started.'

I have loved and probably always will love the survival horror genre of games, of which I have invested huge amounts of time in, really going at it from the moment that I put in Resident Evil on the PS1. Days and nights since have blurred into one. I will pretty much play anything if it appeals to the eye at first. I love RPG's, action adventure, point and click games and anything with the word Fallout in the title (you know that I am counting the days until the call that my pre-ordered Fallout 4 has arrived).

'What a let down Fallout 4 has been. See the review.'

So why do I love to play video games? Well...They are more entertaining than board games and I am a total fantasist. A dreamer. An artist. A creator. I love to let my mind go wild with stories. Even more so in setting after setting that allows this wildness to spin out of control. Books as a child could only quench this thirst for so long. I spent a large percentage of my waking day dreaming and slept often to indulge in dreaming (apparently a shamanic practise from long ago). The more powerful consoles have become, the better the games have become at allowing for this same type of indulgence to continue.

So that's pretty much it for the moment. As the weekend approaches I will begin on my first review of the recently completed Silent Hill: Home Coming. As I have stated, I will review not just the latest games, but also title's that I have played in the past or games that I am re-visiting. If you happen to stop by and fancy interacting with my blog, then feel free to do so and aim to keep it friendly and cleanish; I like a laugh and I am friendly. I will also link other accounts, so that I can interact with other gaming heads, who I am sure can enlighten me as to thing's I have not yet discovered; the likes of Twitter, Pinterest, etc.

For now I must venture out into the working world, before returning with son for some multiplayer madness on Left for Dead. One day I am sure all of this zombie killing knowledge will come in handy. Teach them early, you never know what's around the corner.