Thursday, 19 October 2017

Dishonored: Death of the Outsider - A clunky stealth experience.


By Sam Coles:

Dishonored was a surprise stealth game when it first emerged on the Xbox 360 and PS3 back in 2012, as it took influence from games such as the 1998 game Thief, which doesn’t shock me as there were people who worked on Thief developing the project. Fast forward to 2016 we got a sequel which was pretty good, but it was hindered with technical issues at release pulling down the overall experience, but Arkane are not done yet as we now have a standalone expansion for Dishonored 2 called Death of the Outsider. Does it fix the issues I have with the series? No it doesn’t, but it does have a few high points.

You play as Billie lurk an expert assassin, which seems to be the case in the world of Dishonored if characters are not royalty they’re seem to be blood hungry assassin’s. She first has to rescue her friend Daud, who is being tortured but the gang called “The Eyeless”, once rescued he tasked you with killing The Outsider. The Outsider is a god like being who can bestow powers upon those he wants to use for his own gains, if you’ve played the first game you would know The Outsider gave Corvo the original protagonist his powers. The story is interesting enough to get you through this four hour game, yes it is four hours as this is more of an expansion rather than a full game.

Dishonored strives to be a stealth game, which in my opinion fails in a lot of departments with some questionable design choices. The game is in a first person perspective which is fine as I have played plenty of stealth games in first person, but it is the execution in this game that doesn’t quite hit the mark. Let’s talk about the A.I they have stupidly good eye sight, now I’m not saying they’re clever, but they can see a coat tail and spot you immediately and the sight meter fills up really quickly however you can exploit them. The combat is good, which you can just engage in combat and clear an area instead of sneaking through. However most of the time you’ll be surrounded and die in seconds as you’re as fragile as wet cardboard.  
 
Visually the game looks great, with an oil painting art style, which will stand the test of time as the game does not shoot for a realistic aesthetic. The environments look great with a lot of detail with beautiful water affects and rich and vibrant streets. Character models have an exaggerate look to them that fit this art style, with big chins and broad shoulders that look almost inhuman.

The major issue I have is that you have no idea where the enemies are when you’re sneaking around as you have no mini map. This is also hampered with an extremely narrow field of view on console as I played this on Xbox One; most of the screen is taken up by the comically large hand and weapon models as well as wall textures. I just feel that this game does not do enough to justify a purchase, now I know this is a standalone expansion but Dishonored 2 did not do much to deter itself from the original.


Dishonored Death of the Outsider is a frustrating game, it has a beautiful art style, but the gameplay is clunky. Just because you add a crouch button in a first person game you can’t label it as a stealth game. The AI has inconsistent eye sight, as they can spot you from a mile off or don’t see you at all when they are standing in front of you.  The game can be trial and error, I can’t recommend this game this is coming from someone who has a fondness of stealth games. 

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Resident Evil 2 Review - Still a classic despite its age.


By Sam Coles:

The Resident Evil series has had its ups and downs over the years, but fortunately Capcom have got their act together and realise that people still want a good survival horror game with the example of the excellent Resident Evil 7 that was released this year. However Resident Evil 2 still stands as my favourite game in the series as it did what the first game tried to do but better, yes it had more action but it had some terrifying moments coupled with some good puzzles. Is it still a good game? Yes.

Resident Evil 2 takes place after the first game (obviously) where the T-virus has spread to the fictional Racoon City. You either play as Leon S. Kennedy who is a rookie police officer, or as Claire Redfield who is looking for her brother Chris. They are introduced when Leon saves Claire from a zombie with a swift bullet to the head, where they are separated after a car crash caused by a zombified truck driver. They then have to find the police station in a city filled with the undead and horrifying monsters.   

The game is a survival horror title if that wasn’t obvious enough, with combat that has been tweaked compared to the original as it feels less awkward, yes it still has the tank controls but feels less like trying to manoeuvre a wheel barrow in a one by one space. The aiming feels tighter and less stiff compared to the first with satisfying feedback as you see the zombies bleed heavily as they recoil heavily like an inflatable tube man.  It’s not just action though as puzzles do still have a huge part in the game, but they are not as cryptic as they were in the first game, I’m not saying they are completely obvious and spell it out for you but they are easier to solve and don’t get in the way of the tension of the game.

Like most survival horror titles you’re not an unstoppable killing machine, you’re a normal person with the accuracy of an old age pensioner trying to count their change. You take a lot of damage from a single hit and barely have any ammo to get you through a situation; this is why you have to manage your inventory from your ammo, healing items and ink ribbons to help you save. Yes you have limited saves which adds to the tension to the game as you can be fresh out of these things and your last save may have been 2 hours ago.

The atmosphere of the game is fantastic, it starts of chaotic with the introduction where everything is on fire and you have zombies swarming you, but once you get to the police station the game switches gears and becomes slower paced in a good way. Once at the police station you’re introduced to one of the first creatures known as the Licker and its introduction is fantastic. When you’re in the first save room you see something run past the window which you might miss if you blink, but then it slowly approaches when you leave the room. This is one of the many examples of how Resident Evil 2 builds tension, with the monsters and soundtrack, or lack of a soundtrack in some aspects because like the first there are rooms with no music, all you hear are your footsteps and the distant moans of monsters.

Visually the game is not bad, yes the character models are somewhat blocky but they are pretty good for PS1 quality coupled with the pre-rendered backgrounds which are great for the limited hardware. This was the period of pre-rendered backgrounds due to the limited 3D hardware of the time so they had to make do with these, games like the Oddworld series did a similar thing. The monster designs are fantastic and they added in more zombie variety instead of the two stock ones they had from the first two, yes they do repeat but it’s nice they added in more.  


Resident Evil 2 is still a fantastic horror experience with excellent action, great tension and some decent puzzles. If you can pick up a copy on the PS1, but you can get it on the N64 (yes seriously), Dreamcast and GameCube. 

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Turok (2008) Review - Aliens with dinosaurs.


By Sam Coles:

Turok is a game franchise that has been dormant for almost a decade, sure we had updated versions of Turok Dinosaur Hunter and Turok 2 on the PC, but we haven’t got a dedicated sequel/reboot since 2008. Turok was a reboot of the series that was released on the Xbox 360 and PS3 back in 2008, this game gets a lot of negative attention, but I really like this game as it did a lot of unique things that other shooters were not doing at the time. Is the game flawless? No of course not but what game is. Let’s get into it.

Turok is about a band of space marines traveling to another planet to track down a war criminal named Roland Kane who is the leader of Wolf Pack. Wolf Pack’s original intent was a rogue unit within the military which consisted of soldiers who disobeyed orders, but instead of exiling them they used their untraditional skills for suicide missions where they are not expected to come back. However Kane goes insane, and they become the most wanted organisation in the galaxy. You play as Turok a former member of Wolf Pack and he is brought in as an expert, this creates tension between him and the other crew members where he is shunted at first which he then proves himself and earns the respect of his fellow crew members.

The game is a first person shooter, coupled with stealth elements it’s one of the first instances of play it your way where you can sneak through or go in all guns blazing. Areas are generally big and wide open which can be traversed however you choose, with different nooks and crannies you can sneak or shoot through. You mainly fight Kane’s soldiers, but humans are not the only occupants on this planet; you have dinosaurs roaming the jungle which kill and eat anyone that gets in their way. The A.I is dynamic in this regard as dinosaurs can randomly pop out and kill you or the enemies, this can be used to your advantage as you can wait it out and let them kill each other off. 

You have a vast array of weapons to suit each situation, for stealth kills you’re going to be mainly using the bow which is a lot of fun as it can pin enemies to walls and it has an alternate fire mode with explosive arrows. Most weapons can be duel wielded except for the weapons that need two hands to use such as the minigun and plasma rifle, I found that the duel pistols broke the game a bit as they are extremely powerful against most of the enemy soldiers.

Presentation wise for a game that was a released in 2008 with consoles in mind it still looks surprisingly good, with stunning environments which reflect back on to you, I could feel the humidity of the jungle as I slogged through it. Dinosaur models look fantastic with excellent animation when they are roaming around or trying to rip your throat out. Character models of the humans have not fared as well as they look rather blocky, but sometimes they can look good with a decent use of depth of field during some cutscenes when they are interacting with each other.

Are there any issues with this game? Yes, first off is the aim sensitivity is ridiculous you have to be very gentle with it or otherwise you’ll find yourself doing a 180 every time you nudge the right stick slightly. The other issue is that the game is really bad about telling when you’re about the die because the visual ques on screen are so subtle that you’re not sure how far away you are from death.


Overall Turok is not a bad game, I don’t understand the negative attention surrounding it, yes it has its flaws but overall it is an enjoyable first person shooter. You can pick the game up for relatively cheap these days on the Xbox 360 and PS3 so give it a go. 

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Video Games Helping With Sadness.

By Sam Coles:

Video games have a great outlet for various emotions, such as anger, happiness and of course sadness. I have gone through a lot of dark times throughout my life and there are a select few games that I like to go to when I’m in the shadow of sadness oppressing me. They take me away from the darkness and take me on an adventure which can cheer me up or give me a new outlook on a narrative.

The types of games that I generally play when I’m feeling low are RPG’s which the top ones I liked to play are Oblivion, Dragon Age and The Witcher 2. The reason why I like to play these games when I’m feeling low is because they are mystical worlds I can visit and make an impact in, where when I switch off the console those worlds are still moving even when I have left them. Oblivion is the main game I go to when I feel the weight of sadness burdening me, as it has a beautiful world to explore, with awe inspiring landscapes and architecture coupled with the relaxing musical score by the music genius that is Jeremy Soule. This world feels like a home town, but in video game form where I know all the locals whether they are friend or foe, I can drink with them, talk to them or buy goods from them, Oblivion never fails to make me smile when I’m in that dark place.

2013 was when I first experienced pain with a close family member, who was going through mental illness, which had an impact on me as I spent a lot of time with said member. The game at the time that helped me was The Witcher 2 as it was somewhat fresh on the Xbox 360, being able to step into the shoes of Geralt of Riva slaying monsters made me feel important as if I were helping people. The Witcher 2 at the time got me back into reading books, which helped me escape and expand my knowledge about the Northern Realms and the Empire of Nilfguard. The Witcher 2 gave me a lot of confidence and encouraged me to help others that are in need so I helped my family member by taking him to the doctor alongside his friend.

Back in 2014 before I even created this blog, I was reviewing for a website at the time I was reviewing the Thief reboot on the 360. I was playing it one night with my laptop open and I heard a faint ping from my Facebook, it was a message from my friend giving the bad news that a close friend of mine had passed away. I dropped the controller in shock before a tear could even be shed, until the uncontrollable shower of tears rain down from my ducts. The next day I attended the funeral and was very quiet and isolated for about a week or two, there was a certain game that I played which I got a better understanding for the character’s pain and that game was none other than Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater.

Now I know what you’re probably thinking, MGS 3? That’s a light hearted game to a certain extent and yes that is true in some parts but it has some hard hitting moments such as the betrayal and the death of The Boss. The death of The Boss was the moment that hit me hard after my friend’s passing as I could really feel for Big Boss’s loss at the end as he morns the loss of his close friend and mentor. The end of the game as he stands over her tomb stone is extremely powerful and that made me cry all over again. This isn’t a bad thing, as I can relate with the character more as I have gone through a similar situation.


I just wanted to do a small post about this because I know you can go through dark times in your life, but video games can really help, but don’t substitute them for help from friends and family members as they come first before anything.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles Review - The cliff notes for Resident Evil 2 and Code Veronica.


By Sam Coles:

The Wii often gets regarded as a system for children; however publishers like Capcom and Sega produced some games that were for more mature audiences such as Madworld. Capcom produced a few re-releases of Resident Evil Remake, 0 and 4, but it’s the Chronicles games that are the stand outs. The rail shooter fits the Wii perfectly and filled the void due to the fact that light guns don’t work on modern televisions. Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles is a fantastic game and pushes the Wii hardware to its limits. Let’s get into it.

Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles takes place in between Resident Evil 3 and 4 where you see Leon and Claire talk about past endeavours, from Resident Evil 2 and Code Veronica. It switches from the present day to the past and it’s what I like to call the cliff notes of the story of Resident Evil 2 and Code Veronica for those who can’t be bothered to slog through those games. The cutscenes look great with decent animations and great character models, but the dialogue in typical Resident Evil fashion is awkwardly delivered, with segments where they try to be funny and it makes me want to slice my ears off.

Gameplay is a first person on rails shooter evoking the old school games that were the craze in the arcade back in the 90’s and mid 2000’s. You go through levels taking down waves of the undead and other biological weapons of mass destruction, with difficulty slowly ramping in each level. This game can get rather challenging as you have to time your shots when enemies attack you because if you hit the sweet spot you can parry their attacks. This can get frustrating in some sections as the camera shakes all over the place like a drunk on Park Street in the centre of Bristol on Saturday night. I expect that this is intentional to give a sense of urgency and panic from the main characters as they are battling these disgusting monstrosities.

You can use a wide array of weapons, where you start off with a pistol that has infinite ammo, this gun is generally for dealing with the standard cannon fodder zombies you encounter. You have an Uzi great for dealing with small creatures that litter the floor, a shotgun that is great for dealing with bigger enemies and more exotic weapons like the magnum. All the weapons suit different situations and it encourages you to think on your toes because if you keep using the infinite ammo pistol you’re going to die a lot as it does not do a lot of damage.

Similar to Resident Evil 5 after every chapter you can customise what weapons you want to take into the field, and organise your inventory. This is also a good time to spend your gold you have earned which can help upgrade your weapons, this is the standard increase magazine size, damage and reload speed nothing particularly remarkable.

The presentation surprised me because the Nintendo Wii is not known as a graphical powerhouse because it is a slightly beefy GameCube with standard definition resolution. The monsters look amazing with decaying flesh, coupled with the updated models of the monsters and bosses give it a fresh coat of paint. The only issue is that the frame rate drops to unplayable levels when it gets busy in certain sections.


Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles is a fantastic rail shooter, with great action and beautiful visuals for the Nintendo Wii. Pick this game up on the Wii if you have to chance as it’s rather cheap these days, or if you have a PS3 with a set of move controllers you can pick it up on that. 

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Gears of War (Xbox 360) Review - A surprisingly tense horror atmosphere.


By Sam Coles:

I know what you’re thinking “Sam why are you reviewing Gears of War as a horror title”? Which I would respond to you with, it is actually a hybrid of action and horror as that is what it set out to do originally before it got over the top. The original Gears of War, was a war shooter, but it had a lot of horror elements and in a lot of sections it switched gears and toned down the over the top gunfights and replaces them with tight and dark corridors with unseen horrors ahead.

Gears of War takes place on the fictional planet Sierra where there is a war between the human faction known as the COG and the underground creatures known as the Locust Horde. They have been at a war for years since emergence day, where the Locust first emerged from underground trying to claim the surface. You play as Marcus Fexix who has been thrown in prison for treason, until he is pardoned and his friend Dominic Santiago breaks him out of jail. To begin with the game’s story is your standard military narrative, but once you get past the first act the game switches gears and takes on a horror vibe and becomes a quieter game with nothing but the shadows and horrors that reside within.

Gameplay is a third person cover based shooter, this is what started off the trend during the 7th generation of consoles where we had many games trying to cash in on Gears of Wars popularity with varying degrees of success. Most of the time you’ll presented with a situation where you can take many approaches, as there will be many flanking positions where you can get the drop on your enemies and chainsaw them in half. Ah yes the big selling point of Gears of War is the Lancer, which is an assault rifle with a chainsaw bayonet, Epic Games had a lot of resistance from Microsoft with this feature as they didn’t want it in the game.

Where does the horror element come into play? I hear you cry, well after the first few chapters of the game Gears of War switches gears (no pun intended) when the Krill are introduced. The atmosphere becomes tense where you are shrouded in darkness where unseen forces can kill you in an instant. After that you find an abandoned fuel station where glowing creatures hide in the shadows letting off distant shrieks to warn you of their presence. It’s these parts of the game where it catches you off guard, as you’re expecting a bombastic over the top shooter, where it then throws into a tense and vulnerable situation with enemies you’re not familiar with.

Considering that this game came out 11 years ago it looks really good, they have nailed a world that has been torn apart by war with burnt out cars, collapsed walls and corpses savagely mangled where they have been smeared against the walls on the streets of Sierra.

The only issues I have with Gears of War is the frame rate has habit of skipping during some of the busier sections, but it doesn’t happen too often, I noticed it mostly at the start of the game.


Gears of War is a great game and has a surprisingly tense horror atmosphere, which when I first played it back in 2006 I was not expecting. You can pick the game up on 360 for an insanely cheap price these days, or if you want a nicer looking version you can pick the remake up on the Xbox One. 

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Doom 3 Review - A different direction for the series.


By Sam Coles:

Doom is a title that is influential in the gaming industry as it has shaped how first person shooters are made; you can still feel Doom’s influence today with FPS design. In 2004 gamers finally received the third in instalment of the series in the form of Doom 3, it split the community as a lot of people liked it for its tense atmosphere and others did not like the new direction as it strayed far away from the franchise’s original vision.  What do I think of Doom 3? In short I think it is a solid first person horror shooter.

Doom 3 takes place on Mars (obviously) where you are a fresh faced marine transferred there for standard guard duty. There seems to be a struggle between the scientists as the council of the UAC have sent inspectors to see what’s going on and they do not like what they see. It’s not long until the something goes wrong and the portal of hell is opened and all the scientists are turned into strange creatures and zombies. The story is a basic plot setting up the environment that you’re going to be slowly walking and shooting through for the next 15 hours.  The opening is similar to Half-life where it is a normal day and everyone is going about their business, it’s a great way to humanise the situation to make the disaster more believable as it is a work place and things can go wrong.

Doom 3’s gameplay is a first person shooter, but unlike the first two games it dials things back in terms of speed so you can no longer run like a doped up cheetah, instead you have a steady pace as the environments are enclosed with a thick layer of dread. You start off with a pathetic excuse of a pistol, but it’s not long until you find a machine gun and shotgun, which makes the pistol obsolete. You explore environments looking for keys to unlock doors, as well as optional audio logs which give you an extra layer to the story of what happened to certain staff members during the disaster. The audio logs add an extra layer of depth to the story and it is there if people want more story, but like most games of the time you can choose your level of immersion, as the game doesn’t shove the story down your throat.

The most controversial aspect of this game is the lighting or should I say lack of lighting, this is remedied with the use of a torch, but this comes at a cost as you can’t use your gun and torch at the same time. I for one like this as it makes you feel vulnerable adding to the tense situation, PC gamers did mod it so you can use a gun and torch at the same time and it was added in the BFG edition of the game. I think this ruins the horror experience as the dodgy lighting was a part of the game and you feel less dread when you can use a torch and gun at the same time.

Alongside the original Far Cry, Doom 3 was known to the push PC hardware to its limits and a lot of people had to upgrade their PC’s during this period. The game looks stunning even today with some great dynamic lighting, you just don’t see dynamic lighting in games any more that look as good as Doom 3’s it’s a shame because it looks great. The blood soaked environments look disgusting in a good way; it looks as if a demon came through and tore everything that was in its way apart.  Doom 3’s soundtrack is good, it’s not memorable by any means as it tends to go for ambient drone similar to the 1995 PS1 version of Ultimate Doom, the drones and chants you hear are spine chillingly creepy.


Doom 3 is a solid horror shooter experience, is it the follow up to Doom II that everyone wanted? No, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it is a solid game and is a great game to play today.