Wednesday, 29 April 2015

The History of Wolfenstein.

By Sam Coles:
The Wolfenstein franchise is the game that is notable for creating the First Person Shooter, but however it's been going on longer than most of us think the series goes further than 1992, so let me take you on a historic journey about the Castle Wolfenstein series in celebration of Wolfenstein The Old Blood expansion that is out next month.
Castle Wolfenstein (1981):
Castle Wolfenstein was originally created by a small independent company called Muse Software which established in 1978, this company was founded by Silas Warner who was a coder for a long time and was known as the gentle giant. They worked on other projects such as The Voice which for the first time with computers you could record your voice and have the computer it say back to you which was a revolution back the early 80's. Warner wanted to make a top down game in the same vein as Berserk, but at the time he said the whole science fiction genre was over saturated and wasn't until he watched the classic war movie "Guns of Navorone" one night that he got the idea to set in World War II. Castle Wolfenstein is a top down stealth game and this game is considered as the spear head of the stealth genre 6 years before Metal Gear did it. You start out with a pistol with limited ammo from your dead cell mate and must escape the dungeon, by silently killing guards and utilising disguises to get past checkpoints, it was a revolution and a breath of fresh air for those who had an Apple II. Later it would be ported to DOS, Commodore 64 and Atari 400/800 computers.
There was a sequel to it called Beyond Castle Wolfenstein with the same fundamental gameplay with added extras such as being able to move bodies, but however it did not sell very well and in 1987 Muse Software went bankrupt and closed.
We wouldn't see a Wolfenstein game for a while and the resurfacing for the series would be done by a small developer based in Austin Texas. id Software wanted to make a new game from the first person perspective, because wolfenstein wouldn't be the first time that they did a first person game their first game was Hover Tank 3D and then Catacomb 3D done from the first person. They were huge fans of Castle Wolfenstein as John Romero and John Carmack grew up with the Apple II computers so they wanted to do a remake.
Wolfenstein 3D (1992): 
Wolfenstein 3D broke new ground when it was released because it laid down the foundations of what we know today as the First Person Shooter. It had maze like levels you had navigate through and you picked up new and more powerful weapons coupled with finding keys to unlock doors. This game was also controversial due to over use of Nazi imagery, the inclusion of Adolf Hitler and the use of excessive violence for the time. John Romero said that they had no intentions of stirring controversy they just wanted to remake a classic from their childhood. The game was a complete success fuelling the team to build upon it with their next project Doom.
We wouldn’t see another Wolfenstein game for almost a decade and this time it wouldn’t be handled by id but by a third party instead.
Return to Castle Wolfenstein (2001):
Return to Castle Wolfenstein was the first game in the series not to be developed by id Software although they did supervise the project, this game was developed by Gray Matter later on to be known as Treyarch who make Call of Duty games. There previous game Kingpin Life of Crime was a first person shooter so they had some experience making them as well as using id tech. This game focused on the Nazi’s fascination with occult and they are trying to resurrect a dead Anglo Saxon warrior. You once again play as B.J blazkowicz and you must kill every Nazi that gets in your way to stop them from raising an undead army. This game also had a successful multiplayer which was developed by Splash Damage who would make Quake Wars and the not so good Brink, it had varied modes that kept players invested for years.
Wolfenstein would take another hiatus and we wouldn’t see another major title until 2009, but this time it would focus less on PC and more on the 7th generation of consoles.
Wolfenstein (2009):
In 2009 Wolfenstein was released on the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC and was developed by Raven Software these guys have been working alongside id software since the 90's and using their engines to make their own games such Hexen and Heretic. This game was intended to be an open world game in its conception but they found it strayed too far away from the experience of Wolfenstein, but how ever some of the open world elements do show with the town hub area where you can explore and get into skirmishes with Nazi patrols. Wolfenstein was received positively by critics but they said it wasn't an experience that will blow your mind, but it was entertaining. Unfortunately the game didn't sell very well despite the positive feedback and we wouldn't see another Wolfenstein game until 2014.
Wolfenstein The New Order (2014):
Newly founded Swedish developer Machine Games consisted of ex members of Starbreeze who worked on games such as The Darkness and Payday so they had experience making FPS's. They kept on pitching game after game to Bethesda but they were not biting, however Bethesda offered them to work on an id game and they asked if anyone was working on a Wolfenstein game and they said no so the project began. Wolfenstein The New Order was released in May 2014 and what gamers and critics liked about this game what they didn't expect was the story because it added a human touch to B.J was a flawed character who is tired of fighting. This game takes place in an alternate history where the Nazis won World War 2 and have taken over the world, you find yourself in 1960 trying fight back for a free world. The New Order takes a step in different direction by ditching regenerating health and you can pretty much use any weapon akimbo. The game was a total success all gamers and critics loved it and was nominated for many game of the year awards.
Now we have the stand alone expansion for The New Order called The Old Blood releasing on Xbox One, PS4 and PC next week let’s see what lies ahead for the future of the Wolfenstein series.


Sunday, 12 April 2015

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask (3DS) Review - Recreating a Classic.

By Sam Coles:
Me and a select majority are the only gamers that seem to think that The Legend of Zelda Majora’s Mask is better than Ocarina of Time and I and those select few seem to get lambasted by comments saying “No it’s not Ocarina of Time is the best game ever”! The reason why I love Majora’s Mask because it strayed away from the standard Zelda formula where you have an adventure with no Ganon or Zelda, well she’s in it for a few seconds to remind you the Song of Time.
Story takes place after of the events of Ocarina of Time where you see Link riding Epona through the forest as he is in search of his fairy friend Navi, but he is then ambushed by Skull Kid who has been possessed by Majora’s Mask where he steals Link’s horse and Ocarina then turns him into a Deku Scrub. He finds himself in the world of Termina which is a parallel world to Hyrule which has the same citizens as Hyrule but they have different roles and they don’t know who Link is. In the small hub Clock Town you find that Skull Kid has summoned an evil moon to crush the world in three days and you must summon the four giants to stop him.
You’ll trudge through Termina disguised as a Deku Scrub, Goron and a Zora, what I like about this is that no one really registers Link’s presence rather they register the spirit that he has transformed into such as the King of the Gorons or the guitarist for that bizarre rock band in the Zora domain. This philosophical approach is great because you can work your little elven legs, but it is no use because the land is doomed, because when you revert the time back to the first day everything becomes gloomy and depressing again when you have saved the swamps from the poison water or melted the ice from the Goron’s homeland it reverts back to its problematic situation. 
The gameplay is identical to Ocarina of Time with a few minor tweaks and changes; for starters Link is more robust and flexible with his movements with the subtle addition of flips when he jumps rather than a simple jump animation. The main gameplay mechanic in this game is the three day time loop where you have those days to get what you need to get done before the moon smashes into the world. Your Ocarina is your main tool in this game where you can reverse time back to the first day which in the original game was one of the only ways to save the game, but it does work like that in this one I’ll get into that later. Other ways you can alter time are you can play the Song of Time backwards so you can slow the passage of time (which is very helpful) or the song of double time where you can fast forward time.
Features that they’ve added and tweak are great such as the save system which makes the game more accessible compared to before because as I said before you can no longer save the game when you revert back to the first day, however there are more save points around and you don’t have to quit the game like you did in the old version. The bombers note book has been fine tuned and you get it when you meet the Happy Mask salesman rather from the Bombers and everything is better laid out compared to before.
The graphics and presentation have been given a massive boost compared to its N64 counterpart with textures that have been smoothed out in every way by making the colours vibrant to the new design to the moon which looks scarier coupled with more detail to Clock Town with the added posters that the N64 couldn’t render. The main thing that I’m thankful for is the frame rate runs at 30 frames per second and I don’t think it drops at any point, Majora’s Mask had very bad frame rate issues on the Gamecube and N64 which would drop to 15 fps which is unplayable, but they have fixed this in this remaster.
Overall The Legend of Zelda Majora’s Mask is just as good as I remember it and this remaster is another case of how it should be done with updated visuals and gameplay tweaks to suit the portable system. So if you haven’t played Majora’s Mask before then pick up this version of the game, but play it on the “new” 3DS for the better control scheme.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

The History of Mortal Kombat.

By Sam Coles:
Mortal Kombat X is out soon so I thought I would go over the 22 year history of the series and how far the series has come over the couple of decades.
The team that gave birth to this gory figher consisted of four people two programmers, an artist and sound designer at first. Their first idea was to do a movie tie in with the John Claud Van Dame based on the film Bloodsport, but due to Van Dame’s busy schedule they couldn’t get him to commit. So they decided to make a new game, but they had a character that was a spoof of Van Dame in the form of Johnny Cage.
Mortal Kombat (1992):
In 1992 Mortal Kombat hit arcades in North America and ported to 16 bit consoles a year later. The game had digitised sprites which involved getting real actors/martial artists and film their movements and put them in game which added a realistic look to it. It wasn’t a new concept because games such as Pit Fighter used the same technique. The stand out for this title was the blood when you hit someone and was one of the most violent games at the time, also a person with experience could pull off a finisher known as “Fatalities”. This game stirred up a lot of controversy in US because at that time they didn’t have an official age rating bored for video games, so the ESRB (Entertainment Software Ratings Board) which gave game developers more leniency to have adult themes in games was born.
Mortal Kombat II (1993):
The idea for the sequel was to make everything bigger and better and they’d delivered, by having more characters, more fatalities and more stages. Each character this time round had two fatalities and they added stage fatalities where you could use the environment to butcher your opponent. They added more characters to the roster such as Reptile being a playable character rather than a secret fighter as he was in the first game; they also slipped in secret characters such as Jade, Smoke and Noob Siabot which is the surnames of the creators Ed Boon and John Tobias backwards. Mortal Kombat II was everything that a sequel should be bigger and better, but it would be another two years before we see the next instalment.
Ultimate/Mortal Kombat 3 (1995):
Mortal Kombat 3 when it first came out was missing some major characters such as Scorpion and Reptile and was the only game in the series not to feature the Thunder God Raiden. They made an updated version of the game in the form of Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 which included more characters and for the first time you could fight as Jade and the made up Ninja ( at the time) Ermac were made available for this game. Fans of the series had a love and hate relationship with this game because they were not a huge fan of the run button and combo mechanics because in the past there wasn’t really a combo system in MK games. But is it a bad game? No! It changes up the formula by adding the combo system and it gave it some strategy of what combo to use and when to use it. This would be the last Mortal Kombat game to be in 2D.
Mortal Kombat 4 (1997):
Mortal Kombat 4 was the first game in the series to be fully 3D with its character models and environments so the fatalities could be as graphic as never seen before and was the goriest fighting game for the time. This again stirred up public outcry because this game was still had a release in the arcades, which made them think that this should be the last one in the arcade so they can focus on home consoles. The gameplay of Mortal Kombat 4 is like Mortal Kombat 3 but in 3D with additions like being able to draw a weapon mid fight or throw objects at your opponent that are scattered throughout the arena.
The guys at Midway took a break from the one on one fighter for a bit as we wouldn’t see another proper Mortal Kombat game until 2002. They decided to take a stab at a couple of adventure games one called Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub Zero and Special Forces. These games are regarded as the worst Mortal Kombat games in the series because of their terrible controls and horrible graphics and just bad gameplay in general so we wouldn’t another adventure game from them until 2005.
Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance (2002):
They returned with a new game in the franchise in the new millennia with Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance which was released on PS2, Xbox and Gamecube. This game was great a game improving on the 3D elements and getting to grips with the current gen systems of the time. They decided to scale back to just one fatality these fatalities were gruesome and showed off what the systems were capable of rendering at the time with broken limbs severed heads the list goes on. There was a greater focus on story this time round with added cutscenes and a dedicated konquest mode where you go through the story and try and stop the Deadly Alliance which consists of Quan Chi and Shang Tsung. Each character this time round had a two sets of martial arts they could switch on the fly in mid fight which was a cool addition because you could combine the two in combos as well as your weapons.
Mortal Kombat: Deception (2004):
Mortal Kombat: Deception ran on the same engine as Deadly Alliance but with some graphical improvements and added characters with some returning old faces such as Baraka and Liu Kang but in zombie form. They improved Konquest Mode because this time you could fully explore all the realms that you only read about in the bios of characters, you could also interact with the locals and characters from the series. It was my favourite Mortal Kombat game out of the PS2, Xbox and Gamecube generation with its crisp graphics, excellent character roster and the fact the game had two fatalities. A added element to this game were Hara-kiri’s which gave you the chance to finish yourself instead of the victor which gave you the ultimate victory.
Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks (2005):
The guys at Midway took another stab at the action adventure genre and this time they got it right. Think of this game as God of War set in the MK universe but you have the two player co-op and you can perform the iconic fatalities, brutalities and multalities where you can kill multiple characters at once. The games story takes place during the events of Mortal Kombat II so you’ll be traversing Outworld to fight your way to Shao Kahn, this game is very difficult like God of War and is not for the faint of heart.
Mortal Kombat: Armageddon (2006):
After a year of the launch of the Xbox 360 we were expecting an Mortal Kombat game on it, but Midway wanted one more throw down on the PS2 and Xbox (No Gamecube this time) so they decided to bundle every single Mortal Kombat for the final battle to stop Armageddon. Due to the over whelming amount of characters in this game they no longer had unique finishers, this time you had to create your own fatality and decide your opponent’s fate. This game had a ton of content with the returning Konquest mode which was in the style of a decent 3D beat’em up, a fun but bizarre go karting game, Kreate a fighter and online play. After this game we wouldn’t see a proper Mortal Kombat title until 2011 and yes I’m not counting Mortal Kombat Vs DC get over it.

Mortal Kombat (2011):
After the somewhat disappointment that was Mortal Kombat Vs DC Universe with its child friendly approach, well as child friend you can get with the series, Netherrealms the new and improved studio made up of the original members who worked at Midway decided to give the series a re-boot on the Xbox 360 and PS3 with the game just titled Mortal Kombat. It brought back the classic style of 2D fighters with tight controls and gorier than ever fatalities. With its reputation it was banned in Australia, Germany and South Korea so the gore was turned up to 11. Unlike most fighting games on the scene for the time Mortal Kombat actually bothered to include a fully-fledged story mode rather than having ending cutscenes in arcade mode. The story takes place during the first three games in the MK universe because Raiden reverses time when the world is at the brink of Armageddon, so this was a great plot to show that the series has re-booted itself.
Mortal Kombat X(2015):
So here we are with Mortal Kombat X which is out in a few weeks on the 8th generation of consoles with its story mode continuing 25 years after the events of the last game. The game has up the ante with its violence, gore and x-ray moves by taking advantage of the PS4 and Xbox One. The game seems to have a great focus with its story and online mode with a online war where you join different factions and it determines who is victorious by the amount of fights players have won within that faction. Mortal Kombat X will be released on the 14th of April 2015.