Monday, February 27, 2017

Nothing About Nothing

I was going to write about having finished playing KHOLAT a month ago or so, but then I got stuck.  I found I was unable to make the words string together as well as I wanted them to sound.

I then thought about starting my article about Critical Failures, but then I decided I would wait until March to finish and publish that article.

I then thought about two of the cellphone games I am playing, Fire Emblem Heroes and Final Fantasy: Brave Exvius, but my phone was stolen at the grocery store on Thursday; stolen in that I apparently left it at the register and when I went back to retrieve it a few hours later (after realizing that it was no longer in my pocket), it could not be located at the store's Lost and Found.  And I know I left it there because whomever picked it up, also turned it off because that was the last location that Google was able to trace it to.  I even have pictorial evidence courtesy of Google.

And then then I get hung up on the fact that someone stole something of mine that I had for less than two months and that thing I have to pay AT&T back for since it essentially was being paid for in monthly installments.  Also, their helpful email about how to reactivate my lost or stolen phone was not helpful at all.

Which is all why I did not have an article for you all on Friday as I was too concerned about what information I had on my phone, the cost of the phone, and not being able to use my own phone to call my parents who are going through their own things.

Oh, and on Friday, apparently something happened to our heater that caused it to now longer produce heat, which wouldn't've been so bad had the evening temperatures been above 32 degrees Fahrenheit the last three nights.  But the repairman for heater should be here between an hour and forty mintues ago and 15 minutes from now.

So this last weekend I needed some comfort gaming, which lead me back to The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, where I found one of my save game files corrupted, but it was my modded file and I was only at level 12, so not too many worries there.  I just started a new character and am enjoying the "Alternate Life" mod, along with some other graphical and AI improvement mods.  I also progressed a bit farther in The Witcher on PC, and in Chrono Trigger on the DS.  And I have already talked enough about those games and do not have anything additional to comment about.

What it boils down to is that I don't really have a cohesive article for you all for today, although I do have the workings for next month's Monthly Update (which will probably not include anything about the Nintendo Switch more than a name drop), but there will be links abound.

So apologies for taking up your time with my ramblings.


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

MIDI Week Singles: Black Mage Village - Final Fantasy IX (PSX)

"Black Mage Village" from Final Fantasy IX on the Playstation (2000)
Composer: Nobuo Uematsu
Released: Aug 30th, 2000
Developer: SquareEnix

Final Fantasy IX is very much about throwbacks to earlier games in the series.  The presence of Black Mages in the classic style is one such example.  The soundtrack is full of these callbacks as well, and I would say that 'Black Mage Village' is one of these callbacks.

There is a tradition in Final Fantasy games of songs I can only describe as 'quirky.'  Chocobo Songs, the Dancers from FF II (IV), Dwarf Village, and many more are examples.  I think Black Mage Village fits into this tradition, and I think it is very effective.  A lot of this comes from the arrangement, the choice of instruments, particularly in the background.  I also love the second part with its plodding forward momentum.  There are a few others songs I might choose from this game, but this one is my favorite.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Monthly Update for February

Okay, what kind of a month has this past one been?  

I can't really say.  I watch It Follows and I made a post about it.  Good movie.  Great movie!   A new Magic Set was released, and I once again submerged myself in all things MTG.  

I went to a prerelease for Aether Revolt, the new MTG set, and I played many games online and went to my first FNM (Friday Night Magic.)  I enjoy live events at Magic stores.  The game are in limited format, which is my favorite way to play magic.  I also went 2-1 and won two packs, which was fun.  

Jane and I started watching 'A Series of Unfortunate Events' on Netflix, which we just finished last night.  I have been enjoying it.  It's very stylishly put together and full of great actors.  It's actually quite frustrating and stressful for a children's story, but the great performances and production design helps to overcome that.  I am excited to see the next season.  I should note that I never read the books, so I don't have any kind of a nostalgic attachment to it.  I just realized that there is a similar stylistic choice in this show as to 'It Follows.'   I won't say which one, but you can read about it in this article.  Very clever writers and directors!  

I'm still slogging thorugh FFIX.  I came to realize, midway through disc 2, that i should just use a walkthrough.  I don't know what weird kind of pride thing I still have that I am reticent to use walkthroughs.  But it makes things much easier.  And really, I don't have time for a challenge from a 15 year old game.  Besides, if I had a Nintendo Power about the game, I wouldn't think twice about referring to their game article.  ahhhh... Nintendo Power.  That's some tasty nostaglia. I plan to write a follow-up review for FFIX,  or a game EXP, to talk about my experience of playing this 15 year old RPG.  There are some positive and negative elements, that is without a doubt.  

Anything else?   I got a new laptop.  it was inexpensive, but with a tiny Hard drive.  I had fun nerding out and installing a new Solid State Drive and some RAM.  I have only got to copy the operating system over to the new drive and switch the BIOS to boot from that drive, and then delete the old operating system.  This is the part that's holding me up, as I messed it up the first time.  

Actually, since originally writing the above paragraph, I messed up my computer really bad.  Like, busted, couldn't get it to boot up again.  This was related, somehow, to having two versions of windows installed on two different drives.  My computer got confused.  I removed the SSD and reinstalled Windows 10, and now I have  computer again.  Two weeks later.  So... basically, I'm back to the drawing board with this computer.  But even without a new hard drive, this computer is vastly superior to my previous one.  For this, I am thankful.  


Pak Watch: February 2017

I collect games for Pak watch at a rate far greater than I post things for said column. This is my endless challenge of this blog. Not Pak Watch, specifically, but posting things at any kind of a rate. That said, have a look at these upcoming games:

State Machine
estimated release: 2017

Terry Cavanagh of VVVVVV and Super Hexagon fame, is making an RPG! The graphics are distinctly Cavanagh, and I am thrilled. I don't know if I'll ever find the time to play said game, but I'm just happy to know he's developing it, as I love his games.

(note: I misspelled Cavanagh way back at the beginning of our blog, and have thus been misspelling it every since. I think I've fixed these instances. Apologies to Mr. Cavanagh)

Hell is other Demons
Steam Greenlight
estimated release: Q1 2017

Speaking of Cavanagh: SoulEye, the composer from VVVVVV is composing for this new game. This is a bullet hell shooter with low resolution and few colors. I think it looks pretty sweet! I'll give the soundtrack a listen at the very least.

Death Trash
estimated release: 2017 (or later)

"A Grimier, Scarier, Nastier Fallout" - Rock Paper Shotgun. Music to my ears! This game certainly looks gross and imaginative. You may remember that I shared an image from this game some years ago, however, at the time I wasn't sure it was a game and not just an image. Now we know: It is a game! Should be fun.

This was a fun bunch of games to bring to you. I should do this more often ;)


Friday, February 17, 2017

Game EXP: The Crew (PC)

Okay, so I guess the title here is The Crew: Calling All Units, but that I believe is because of the most recent DLC that was incorporated into the main game, which is something that I find rather annoying as there is no way that I have found out to not get notifications (that will come up later).  In its purest form, I would describe The Crew as an online multiplayer open world racing game.  There is, at least in the beginning of the game, an emphasis on street racing, although through the DLCs, other forms of racing including off road, drag, obstacle, and police chases have also been included.

Coming from a background of F-Zero and Mario Kart on everything from the SNES, Game Boy Advance, N64, and Game Cube, I have never had much of an interest in semi-realistic racing games the like of Gran Turismo and Need for Speed.  Well, now that I think about it, I will play Pole Position if I see that cabinet at an arcade, and I did play a few Indy/F-1 racing games on the NES, but for the most part, this genre does not immediately pique my interest.

So what about The Crew has made me sink no less than 20 hours over the last month?  Well, first off and possibly most importantly, I received the game free last year as part of Ubisoft's six month campaign to get people interested/excited about their games client Uplay.  Secondly, as stated above, the game is open world, so in order to get from one race to another, you have to drive your car there, and there is no getting out of the car, which is fine with me, if a little silly at times.  Thirdly, take a look at the map!

My path took me from Detroit -> Chicago -> St. Louis -> Las Vegas -> Yosemite -> Sacramento -> Auburn -> Seattle.
That is the lower 48 states.  Well, sort of.  The greyed out area is unexplored while the green areas are the places I have drive through, and if you look closely enough, you will notice a number of geographical irregularities.  First off, Las Vegas is not actually located in Wyoming, and upon closer examination, Oregon does not exist.  What we have here is an approximation of the United States similar in thought to the Little States in Pilotwings 64.  Not every little detail is here, but it is enough to at least have the flavor of various geographical regions; even if French and British game developers completely leave out the state you find yourself living in.  But yeah, at least Northern California is there, up near South Eastern Washington state apparently.  And the last time I was in Detroit, I believe the distance to St. Louis was something along the lines of 15 miles, as opposed to the 550 in real life.

Now, I am probably going to get some flak for saying this, but I genuinely feel that The Crew is a great racing game for casual racing gamers.  What I mean by this, is first off, you are able to purchase (with both in-game and real world currency) real world cars that you can tune to your ability's content.  And while you do acquire part upgrades to make your cars performance better, I don't think you need to actually understand those car parts in order to appreciate that your car can now break faster, accelerate faster, turn tighter, and um, car better than before.  All upgrades you receive you are able to equip right there mid drive, which actually brings me to the UI.

What appears to be happening here, is that I did something cool that allowed me to upgrade my "Breaking Bonus" by 10 points, and then this pops up on your screen while you are barreling down the rain slicked highway at upwards of 150 mph.  Now, I may not be the best driver (virtual or real world), but obscuring roughly 17% of the screen doesn't seem like the safest option especially considering the fact that you are playing online and has happened at least once, the new item may not be as good as your current equipped part.  But the point is, for a casual racing gamer such as me, simply knowing that my car now has a higher rating is really all that matters in the end.

Another reason why I call this a casual racing game, is that the in-game engine (Babel) and the physics engine (Havoc) work well for the most part, as they are very forgiving, and will frequently auto correct the car back onto its four wheels.  This is not to say that you cannot crash, because if you hit anything (other cars in particular) driving fast enough, you will wreck your car.

This was, I think, a head on crash going between 120 - 150 mph. Impact, bad.  Actual damage, not so much.
Also, any damage sustained to your car will automatically repair itself while you are driving.  I don't think it even deducts virtual money from your virtual bank account either.  And even the damage your car sustains during the game is pretty negligible.  Occasionally your rear bumper will dangle a bit from one side, but before you realized it, it will have pulled itself back up by its proverbial bootstraps and your car is none the wiser.  And like the above, I don't think you lose any money when you total your car, or when you are pulled over during a police chase (more on the police later).

Since this is essentially a multiplayer, I have come across other drivers while driving around.  Most of the time, I will just see them off in the distance, but occasionally, I might pass one on the highway or was the case the last time I played, they chased me, occasionally ramming into my car to drive it off the road for no other reason than because they wanted to.  There are frequent prompts, if you are not already partaking of a mission, to either help someone avoid capture by the police, or if you are armed with a police car, you can join in on the chase.

The police aspect, an add on from the most recent DLC and where the game gets its current name, Calling All Units is an interesting concept, considering the fact that for most of the main story you are at times avoiding police pursuit.  And at least for the first 20 hours, or until what I hoped what I turned off was DLC notifications, your in-game handler would remind you that "you have a free police car waiting!"  So naturally the first time I heard this call, I did head over and was asked if I wanted to purchase the DLC from the Ubisoft Club Store.

I didn't and I probably won't.  Because I'm cheap.

Here's another picture of me driving along 101 North towards Seattle.
One last thing I wanted to bring up was the power this game requires to run even remotely well.  If you look at the majority of the pictures here, you will see that my computer is able to run the game pretty consistently at around 24 - 30 fps.  I do have the game capped at 30 fps simply because I believe that my computer could not handle 60 fps and rather than have it try and bottom out, 30 works well for me.  What I found out in the above picture, is that if my computer is not plugged in, the game will only run between 8 - 10 fps, which is technically not unplayable, but it is pretty frustrating and annoying.  And I started getting worried before I realized that the problem was that my computer plug had come out of the wall.  And possibly because of the power requirements in the game, I have had The Crew crash on me a number of times.  One day in particular was when I was trying to leave Seattle and the game crashed around the exact same intersection three times in a row, so I quit for the day.

There are probably other things that I could have brought up in depth, such as which of the five or six camera views I prefer, my tactics on how to perform the sickest geographical drifts this side of Tokyo, why a manual transmission in-game is far superior to the sheeple who use automatic transmission, or which car offers the greatest performance the earliest in the game for the least amount of scratch.

What I will tell you, is that for a free game from Ubisoft, this is a pretty damn good game.  I don't think I would have purchased this game at retail, but I can tell you that it has piqued my interest just a bit.  If I do anything first, it might be to buy one of the DLCs if they go on sale, probably because I have already put a fair amount of time into this game that I feel like I owe somebody something.

But for now, I am enjoying driving around the Mico States exploring parts of the country that I have actually visited, and doing missions whenever I decide to fast travel back to wherever the main story currently has me kickin' it.

And By Morning We'll Be Free


One of the great things about having a nearly indestructible car, is inconceivably driving it up to the top of a mounting, then driving that thing down as fast as you can, hitting as few trees as possible.  Then, you'll end up with great events like:

I used the in-game pause/camera function to grab this shot.  I survived, in case you were wondering.
Or, if you completely forget about the fact that the west coast is right next to an ocean, you'll end up with the following scenarios:

I did not survive this.

Either way, it is pretty fun.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

MIDI Week Singles: "Underworld BGM" - Kid Icarus (NES)

"Underworld BGM" from Kid Icarus on the Nintendo Entertainment System (1986)
Album: No Official Soundtrack Release
Developer: Nintendo R&D1

This morning, I realized that we had not covered any of the music from Kid Icarus, and I can tell you it was not out of spite from being constantly turned into a fleeing eggplant with legs either.  Stupid Eggplant Wizard.

I decided on "Underworld BGM" partly because it is the first world music you hear after the intro music.  For me, when I hear the first notes at 0:03, I immediately recall playing this game at Delaños' house seeing as he owned the game although I would trade/borrow it from him from time to time.  Although, until I picked the game up on my 3DS, I don't think I often made it far enough to reach the Eggplant Wizard (who first appears in Stage 1-4), so maybe I am just recalling Delaños' frustration?

But let's talk about "Hip" Tanaka's musics for "Underworld BGM" in Kid Icarus.  When I thought about using this music, my first thought was, "Kid Icarus was Hirokazu Tanaka right?  It has that Metroid feel both in game and in music."  And although I don't think that I could tell you stylistically Hirokazu's sound differs from, say, Koji Kondo, but the tones just sound like they just belong to Mr. Tanaka.  Maybe it's that early NES, semi-arcade tone to the music?  I really don't have a developed idea on this part aside from, "Well, it sounds like something he'd write."

So this is "Underworld BGM" from the 1986 NES release of Kid Icarus.  The rest of the soundtrack (of which no official soundtrack was released, although there was a Metroid / Kid Icarus orchestral album that was released in 1987 in Japan).  If you have never played the game, I highly recommend it (even though I myself have never beaten the game; stupid Eggplant Wizard) either in its original NES format or the updated and 3Dified 3D Classics - Kid Icarus from the Nintendo eShop.


Monday, February 13, 2017

Looking At Weaponless Survival Horror Games

I have had this article on the back burner for a while and after posting the Game EXP article last Friday for Resident Evil 5, I thought that this would be a decent follow up seeing as how one of my complaints was the lack of survival horror that the series was based on.

Now, I am by no means an authority figure when it comes to survival horror games, or even survival horror games with an emphasis on stealth and weaponless gameplay.  It was my original intention to look at the origin of these games which could be classified as a subset of the survival horror genre (a genre named by the creators of the first Resident Evil back in 1996) where the player goes through the game unarmed, with their speed and wits as their only defense against whatever is pursuing them.

Once I came up with this idea for an article, I began researching surivival horror games, which lead me to the Wikipedia article for this sub-genre of action games as well as the article for horror games in general.  What I soon realized, was that there are literally dozens upon dozens of games that fit this critera that I both have not played or had never heard about.  I then knew that my intended analysis about the history of this genre would either need to wait, or would require me to stop my job, forget any chance of having a social life, acquiring a number of older out of print systems, and spending my time playing games (or at the very least watching hours upon hours of gameplay videos on Youtube; assuming that videos of all the games were uploaded) and writing what could turn out to be a doctorate level thesis.

One other thing that I realized would be more difficult that I had previously thought when it came to classifying these games, was that there were a number that had weapons in them, but the weapons were either non conventional, such as the use of the camera in the Fatal Frame series,  or were like the mattock in Penumbra: Overture and the sword/shotgun in Alone in the Dark which were functional weapons, but were often difficult to wield/aim and escaping from the attacker was often the easier of the players' two options.  Then there was the issue of point and click games (The Uninvited, Clocktower), or text based games (Schoolhouse Horror Story, Anchorhead) where you might have weapons of sorts, but were not action oriented.

I orginally began this article by putting the games in chronological order, still believing that I would be able to either find a pattern or something might stick out to me as a catalyst for this ever growing genre of video game.  I then decided to put a short classification system in order to better catogorize the games, such as no weapons, limited weapons, puzzles, stealth, speed, et cetera.  The main downside to this system of classifying games, is that I was sometimes only able to do so from descriptions, or gameplay trailers.  This lead to "no weapons?" or "limited weapons" when I was unsure if a game contained weapons that were functional, or maybe they could be only used to push back creatures which allowed the player to better make an escape.  It was by this point that I had moved far beyond my original goal of talking about games which I thought were similar to Amnesia: The Dark Descent and KHOLAT, where running and hiding was the only option.

First off, before I actually get down to the massive list that I have, um, amassed, I want to emphasize that this is in now way an exhaustive list of horror related video games where you are unable to attack the enemies, kill the enemies, run away from the enemies, or anything else.  This is a list of games that I have been able to find through the end of 2016, that I felt would be on this list if Wikipedia has a list for games that would fall under the makeshift definition that I gave in the first sentence of this paragraph.  I know that I have left off some games and that was in no way intentional.  I decided to leave the list in chronological order rather than say, in alphabetical order, mainly because I find it interesting to see when these types of games (the ones that could be remembered and recorded for later generations by the Internet) originated (earliest being 1981, unless you skip Nostromo because there might have been weapons and go straight to 1982's 3D Monster Maze, which is truly the first "run away from the monster before it kills you because you cannot even dream of killing it because weapons do not exist for you" type of game), then there being an uptick in 1995, and then just a couple of games here-and-there until 2008 when they became more popular with audiences (speculations abound).  I also hyperlinked as many games as I could to either their Steam or GOG pages where the games can be purchased, but there were a handful that I could only link to their own Wikipedia page; this is looking back at 35 years of gaming history after all.

Nostromo (no weapons?; puzzles and stealth)

3D Monster Maze (no weapons; speed)
Haunted House (no weapons; dodging, speed)

Alien (no weapons?: stealth and puzzles)

The Rats (text based)

Uninvited (limited or no weapons; point and click)

[May 6] The Lurking Horror (text based)
Jack The Ripper (text based)

[December 15] Sweet Home (some weapons; emphasis on survival; permadeath)

Alone in the Dark (difficult to use weapons; emphasis on survival; here mainly because it's Alone in the Dark)
Dark Seed (point and click)

[April 7] The 7th Guest (no weapons?; point and click, puzzle)

Dr. Hauzer (no monsters; puzzles)

[April 5] D
[August 4] Schoolhouse Horror Story (text based)
[August 24] Phantasmagoria (point and click, puzzles)
[September 14] Clock Tower (no weapons; point and click)
[October 30] Bad Day on the Midway (no weapons; puzzles)
[October 31] I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream (limited weapons, point and click)
[November 30] The 11th Guest (no weapon?; point and click, puzzle)
[November 30] Dark Seek 2 (no weapon?; point and click, puzzle)
The Dark Eye (point and click, puzzle)

[March 22] Resident Evil (lots of weapons, puzzles; here mainly because it's Resident Evil)
[November 30] Phantasmagoria: A Puzzle of Flesh (point and click, puzzles)
[December 13] Clock Tower 2 (no weapons; point and click)

[January 17] The Note (limited use weapons; puzzles)

[March 12] Clock Tower Ghost Head (Clock Tower 2: The Struggle Within) (no weapons; point and click)
[April 30] Sanitarium (point and click, puzzles)
[June 11] Hellnight (no weapons; puzzles and speed)
Anchorhead (Text based game)

[January 31] Silent Hill (limited weapon use; puzzles, stealth and speed; here for the same reasons as Resident Evil)

[April 30] Martian Gothic: Unification (limited weapons; puzzles)

[March 21] Illbleed (limited weapon)
[May 11] Necronomicon: The Dawning of Darkness (no weapons?; puzzles)
[September 5] White Day: A Labyrinth Named School (no weapons; puzzles, and stealth)
[December 13] Fatal Frame (limited weapon; puzzle)

[April] Dark Fall (no weapon; point and click)
[December 12] Clock Tower 3 (no weapon until late game; stealth primarily)

[August 7] Gregory Horror Show (no weapons?)
[November 6] Glass Rose (no weapons?; point and click)
[November 6] Siren (limited weapons; stealth emphasized)
[November 27] Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly (limited weapon: puzzles)
The Black Mirror (point and click, puzzle)

[August 5] Michigan: Report from Hell (limited weapons, stealth, puzzles)
[August 29] Dark Fall II: Lights Out (no weapons; point and click)

[April; 21] Haunting Ground (no weapons except targeting dog; stealth and speed)
[June 9] Pathologic (puzzles?)
[July 28] Fatal Frame III: The Tormented (limited weapons; puzzles)

[February 9] Siren 2 (limited weapons; stealth emphasized)
[March 8] Scratches (stealth, puzzles)
[April 26] Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth (weapons in late game; stealth, puzzles)

[January 25] Vampire Rain (limited weapons; steath emphasized)
[March 30] Penumbra: Overture (minimal weapons with emphasis on stealth)
[October 23] Imabikiso (no weapons?; visual novel)

[January 28] Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse (limited weapons; puzzles)
[February 12] Penumbra: Black Plague (no weapons; stealth only)
[July 3] Nanashi no Game (no weapons?; stealth)
[July 24] Siren: Blood Curse (limited weapons; stealth emphasized)
[August 28] Penumbra: Requiem (no monsters; only puzzles)
[September 11] Theresia (visual novel)

[March 18] The Path (no weapons; speed and stealth)
[December 8] Silent Hill: Shattered Memories (no weapons; puzzles, stealth, speed)
[December 22] LIT (no weapons; puzzles)

[April 21] Dark Fall: Lost Souls (no weapons?; point and click, puzzles)
[August 31] Kowa-Ota (no weapons; stealth, speed)
[September 8] Amnesia: The Dark Descent (no weapons; stealth only)
[October 12] Dead Space: Ignition (puzzles)

[February 8] Black Mirror II: Reigning Evil (no weapons?; point and click, puzzle)
[April 9] Black Mirror III: Final Fear (no weapons?; point and click, puzzle)
[August 2] LIMBO (no weapons; platformer, puzzles)

[January 12] Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir (limited weapons; puzzles)
[March 27] Lone Survivor (no weapons?; puzzles)
[April 15] SCP - Containment Breach (no weapons; stealth, speed)
[June 26] Slender: The Eight Pages (no weapons; stealth and stragety)
[June 28] Project Zero II: Wii Edition (limited weapons; puzzles)
[September] The Room (point and click, puzzles)
[December 7] The Cat Lady (point and click?)

[March 26] Slender: The Arrival (no weapons; stealth and speed)
[April 12] Anna: Extended Edition (no weapons; point and click, puzzles)
[May 16] The Starship Damrey (no weapons; point and click, puzzles)
[September 4] Outlast (no weapons; stealth and speed)
[September 13] Doorways: Prelude (no weapons; stealth and speed)
[September 10] Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs (no weapons; stealth)
[October 4] Knock-knock (no weapons; stealth)
[October 16] Eleusis (no weapons; point and click, puzzles)
[December 12] The Room Two (point and click, puzzles)

[May 15] DreadOut (limited weapons; puzzles)
[May 29] Among the Sleep (no weapons; stealth, puzzles)
[August 12] P.T. (no weapons; puzzles)
[August 14] Five Nights At Freddy's (no weapons; point and click)
[September 16] Neverending Nightmare (no weapons; stealth and speed)
[September 17] Doorways: The Underworld (no weapons; stealth and speed)
[September 26] Kraven Manor (no weapons; puzzles)
[September 27] Fatal Frame: Maiden of the Black Water (limited weapons; puzzles)
[October 7] Alien: Isolation (limited weapons; stealth)
[November 10] Five Nights At Freddy's 2 (no weapons; point and click)
[December 22] One Late Night: Deadline (no weapons; point and click, puzzles)

[March 2] Five Nights At Freddy's 3 (no weapons; point and click)
[March 3] White Night (no weapons; stealth)
[March 4] Tormentum - Dark Sorrow (no weapons?; point and click)
[March 13] Hektor (no weapons; stealth and speed)
[February 3] Astray (no weapons; stealth and speed)
[February 27] Belladonna (no weapons?; point and click, puzzles)
[June 5] KHOLAT (no weapons; speed and stealth)
[July 23] Five Nights At Freddy's 4 (no weapons; point and click)
[July 28] Spooky's House of Jump Scares (no weapons; stealth and speed).
[August 27] Fran Bow (no weapons?; point and click puzzle)
[September 15] Albino Lullaby (no weapons?; stealth)
[September 22] SOMA (no weapons; stealth and speed)
[October 27] The Park (no weapons? stealth)
[October 27] Statues (no weapons; stealth and speed)
[November] The Room Three (point and click, puzzles)

[January 24] Oxenfree (no weapons?; puzzles)
[February 15] Medusa's Labyrinth (no weapons; stealth, speed)
[February 16] Layers of Fear (no weapons; puzzles)
[March 10] The Guest (no weapons; puzzles?)
[March 18] Shadow's Peak (limited weapons)
[March 28] Dead Secret (no weapon; puzzles)
[March 29] NightCry (no weapons?; puzzles)
[April 26] Left Alone (no weapons; puzzles)
[June 6] The Hat Man: The Shadow Ward (no weapon; stealth and speed)
[August 8] Exisitentia (no weapons; puzzle)
[August 16] Doorways: Holy Mountains of Flesh (no weapons; stealth and speed)
[October 7] Five Nights At Freddy's: Sister Location (no weapons; point and click)
[October 13] Blameless (no weapons; point and click; puzzles)
[October 27] Through the Woods (no weapons)
[December 18] Resident Evil 7 Teaser: Beginning Hour (no weapons?; puzzles; point and click)

Currently Unreleased:
Agony (no weapons?; puzzles?)
Forgotten Memories: Alternate Realities (screenshots show knife and pipe as possible weapons?)
Outlast II (no weapons; stealth and speed)
Pathologic (remake of 2005 game of the same name)
Shadow Over Isolation (Lovecraft inspired first person perspective)

Well, hopefully if you have come upon this list, that it has served you well in some way.  Be it introducing you to a single game you were previously unaware of, or commented about a game that should be on this list, thus introduced us to a game we were unaware of.

I Ain't Got A Thing To Prove To You


Friday, February 10, 2017

Game EXP: Resident Evil 5 (PC)

As I believe I had mentioned a short while ago, I finished Resident Evil 5 after playing for roughly 27 hours on whatever the normal/medium level difficulty was.  I had no illusions of trying to beat the game on the hardest difficulty or in under five hours in order to acquire the infinite rocket launcher.  I was just there for the story so that I could continue with the rest of the series.  If you happened to miss it, I put down my first impressions just about a month ago and I will try, and probably not succeed, to not rehash everything that I talked about in that article.  And as is the case with most of our articles after we finish games here, there will probably be some kind of spoiler, so be warned.

So, let us start off with all of the negative things that I did not enjoy about Resident Evil 5, just to get that out of the way.

The AI for your partner Sheva Alomar.  This was one of my biggest complaints after just starting the game, and my frustration with how Sheva would position herself during most combat encounters and this continued through until the end (even during the final boss battle; by the way, there is a final boss battle).  Be it her standing in front of me (and doing anywhere between one and 297 180° turns) while I try to aim at whatever dozen Majini happened to be coming towards us, or standing right behind me while unloading her gun into my back.  Now, this might come across as a double standard, except as a real person I know that by shooting my "partner" in front of me, that those bullets will not hit their intended target.  The AI apparently was not programmed with that knowledge, so unless I moved, Sheva would often unload her clip into my back (thankfully taking no friendly fire damage).  As a result of Sheva typically wasting ammunition, I would have her use one of the sniper rifles and eventually the cattle prod (although the number of times that she would run up to a Majini who I was shooting with a shotgun and ended up hitting me instead was definitely up in the double digits.  But why you ask would I just not give her any weapons?  Because if Sheva did not have a way to defend herself, she would end up dying and if Sheva died, it would have the same Game Over effect as Chris dying.

Basically what it boils down to, is whomever was charged with designing and play-testing the companion AI did a horrible job allowing the partner to frequently shoot at the player, hit the player with physical attacks, heal themselves and the player with no regard to green herb conservation, and not moving the hell out of the way when walking down hallways with a hoard of enemies crawling towards the both of you.  Ugh.

And while we are on the topic of AI, I also had an issue with the intelligence of the characters, specifically during one cut scene in particular.

If Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem and Raiders of the Lost Ark taught me anything, it is that any time a panel looking object  on the floor is any shade other than the rest of the floor around it, that means it is going to spring some type of trap.  I even thought that this panel was grossly obvious, but I still did my best to walk around it so I would not trigger the damn thing.  Once I was close enough, a cut scene was triggered, and you guessed it!

The sightless bastards stepped on the damn thing like I was not looking at it for the last minute and a half.  Jesus, you would have thought that neither of them had been in any kind of ruins before, played any kind of exploration adventure video game, or watched a damn Indiana Jones movie.  So stepping on the above panel lead to the following:

That is right, having to mash the "A" button to keep ahead of the collapsing floor along with hammering the Right/Left Trigger buttons to jump over pits in the ground.  I believe I died twice during this sequence due to not expecting the jumps when they happened and probably out of sheer spite for the characters not seeing the stupid floor plate they stepped on.  Idiots.

There were also a number of level design options that I was not particularly fond of, considering how far they diverged from any type of known "survival horror" genre, of which I whole heatedly do not consider this game to be a part. One level in particular, has Chris and Sheva in a jeep driven by (I believe was Sheva's cohort Josh Stone) and firing machine guns (which have infinite ammunition but do have an overheat meter) at both Majini on motorcycles and at blockades (as pictured).  By this point, it is very obvious that Resident Evil 5 has taken a much more action approach to the universe.  Even the boss fight at the end of the stage had the player shooting from the back of the jeep as the massive Ndesu (think of El Gigante from Resident Evil 4) lumbers towards you.

The usage of massive bosses too is something that while I have come to expect from game in the Resident Evil series, but the frequency that it felt I was having to kill one of these monstrosities seemed to be all too frequent.  Maybe it was not as often as I thought, but it sure felt that at the end of each chapter I had to fight some humongous mutated creature from the pits of Umbrella's Hell.

Like this bat-scorpion-rolly-polly-bug hybrid thing that may or may not have more than two wings.  What it felt like to me was that I was going from Point A to Point B and at the end of Point B, I was introduced to some ginormous creature from out of nowhere where you kill the thing, then move on.  In the case of one particular creature later in the game, I began to wonder where these creatures were created/grown/harvested in the time that whomever decided to set them loose discovered that Chris/Sheva had entered the building.  Although, with the quickness that all of the antagonists seem to transform after injecting themselves with either the T-Virus, Plagas, or whatever variant of the virus is being hightlighted, I should probably not be surprised that such transformations take place in less than 30 seconds; otherwise those would be some long cut scenes and would eat up the animation budget.  I really feel though that some amount of horror could have been injected into this game had there been some buildup for one of the giant bosses either throughout a single stage or over the course of a couple of stages.

Lastly (I think), the thing about Resident Evil 5 that I did not like, is a combination of things that I felt were designed to make the game either more difficult or possible scary.  First, the controls felt a little sluggish, similar to how the controls felt in the first Resident Evil, but in an action oriented game, this is not something that should be striven for.  Combined with only being able to reload while stationary meant a lot of running away in order to reload and then reengaging.  And on top of that all, RE5 penchant for using massive waves of Majini, some of which were complete bullet sponges that seemed to exists for no other reason than to drain both Chris and Sheva of their rounds of ammunition.

One interesting thing introduced into RE5 that I definitely took advantage of was inventory screen organization that happened before playing the game and after each time you died.  This lead me to using this feature in a way that it probably was not designed for in that if I were killed early on, or decided that I would need new weapon load outs, I would simply quit the stage, rearrange my equipment then head back in.  Also, upgrading weapons with gold found throughout the game.  Or, you could collect gold, die and restart the stage and collect the same gold all over again.  Perhaps it was a broken system that works better in multi-player rather than a single player campaign, but that is the way I play.  One other way I liked to "subvert the system" was that I found out by upgrading your weapon's capacity, you were given a fully loaded gun, which was an easy way to reload your characters, especially when using rare ammunition weapons such as either of the magnums.  And, in two instances (both against boss fights), after losing more than a handful of times to two different bosses, I bought the rocket launcher as a one hit nearly kill the boss.  It felt a bit like a cheat, spawning to fight the boss with a rocket launcher that came out of nowhere, especially when you consider that Chris and Sheva had been trudging through a ruin for god knows long.  But hey, it was programmed in the game for this to happen, so it is not really cheating after all.

Now on to what I did like about Resident Evil 5.

Well, despite all of the complaining I made about Sheva in the first part of the article, I actually liked her as a character and her backstory, just not how the AI allowed the character to act throughout the game.  The only critique about Sheva's backstory, and nearly every one else' backstory was how it was communicated by the game, meaning that it was mainly not communicated through character actions or gameplay elements.  Instead, dossiers of a handful of characters became unlocked once you reached a certain point in the game, and then you were allowed to access the Extras menu and were able to read a (sometimes not very well written, or possibly translated) history on a particular character.  While very informative, I felt that very little of the character development from their past made their way into the way characters would react throughout the game.  But again, I liked what was written, if only as a broad outline of what could have been.

As far as the actual story goes, I thought it did a really good job of expanding on what I think Resident Evil 4 tried to do more of what Resident Evil: Code Veronica did well, being exploring more of Umbrellas reach beyond Raccoon City and into the world.  Not that exploring a fictional area of West Africa felt any larger than the area of Spain where RE4 took place, but the documents and facilities scattered throughout the game at least made the feeling of a global corporation feel much more real.  This sense of scale really came to fruition with Resident Evil: Revelations, but that was due to playing different characters in different parts of the world during the course of a year.  Maybe I am just interposing the sense of scale I received from RE:R into what information there was in RE5.

On a more superficial level, when the game was not having various colors splitting off into infinity (see the First Impressions article for a lot about that one), I thought that the game looked great.  I would not be surprised if there were a lot of complaints back in 2009 about how washed out the game looked, but considering that that was only about a quarter to a third of the game, it did not really bother me all that much, unless you count noticing the color palette as a bad thing. 

As for how I played the game, as mentioned above, I did not play the game as a multiplayer experience.  Each time I booted up the game, I made sure to turn off the online setting just in case someone somehow found me playing and decided to join in.  Now, this desire for hermit-dom may not have been the goal of the developers as I previously hypothesized that the bad AI was supposed to encourage multiplayer, but again, it was something I decided to trudge through.  

In regards to weapons, I used an upgraded (not fully because I did not have all the money nor the time in the world) M92F handgun for the majority of the game since by the time another handgun came up, I had already upgraded this one enough to make trying to catch the other handguns up a lot more expensive than replacing this gun; I also used the Dragonov rifle which I also upgraded a bit, along with the sniper rifle that I then gave Sheva.  Although I did use the H&K PSG-1 sniper rifle in one particular area where I was on a spinning platform while armed guards were shooting at me from about a hundred yards away, so a semi-super zoom, less recoil, and semi-automatic functionality was necessary; for close quarters I stuck with the first shotgun and later the local magnums (1 and 2) when I had the ammunition.  I also bought both the melee vest and bullet proof vest, later buying it for both Chris and Sheva as there was no way I think I would have survived some areas without it equipped.

You know, I think that just about does it for me and Resident Evil 5.  It definitely was a beast in some areas to get through, either because of horrendous AI on the part of my partner, or because the game just wanted to see how many enemies it could throw at me and how much of my ammunition it could devour before heading into the next area.  I am however glad that I played the game because, again, I actually thought the story was not half bad.  It was Capcom's decision to move the game into a much more action oriented role and not doing a particularly good job at it either that made the game more frustrating that ultimately fun to play through; unlike Dead Space 3 which was a more action oriented game which also started in survival horror roots that I very much enjoyed.  Would I recommend it?  Sure why not, just do not go in expecting a survival horror experience with slick controls and smart AI.  It is worth it if you have been interested in the events surrounding Umbrella and their bio-terrorist plot to take over the world.  

Just wait for it to go on sale.  Which is what I am going to do before I buy the Untold Stories Bundle since the Resident Evil 5: Gold Edition was not available on PC when I purchased the game some number of years ago.

And A Little Bit Of Raving Madness

P.S.  Apologies for the lack of great looking screenshots.  Playing the game with the 360 controller (as a keyboard/mouse set up seemed wrong for a Resident Evil game somehow) meant that I was frequently sitting back from my keyboard and I did not have time/desire to hit F12 when I thought something cool was happening and not die in the process.  I guess I should have used the Steam Controller and programmed one of the inside button/triggers to act as an F12 button, but then I would have ended up with a bunch of pictures on my hard drive that I would rarely if ever look at except on rainy days.