Thursday, 9 November 2017

The Past and Times of Yore - Doom 64: The horrifiying last chapter of the original Doom series

Release date: December 2, 1997
Genre: First-person shooter
Publisher: Midway Games
Developer: Midway Games
Engine: id Tech 1
Platforms: Nintendo 64
Modes: Single-player

Yes I know what you’re thinking, another Doom game review? I understand your concern as I have been playing a lot of Doom lately, the reason for this is that I have decided to play through all of the Doom Games first (Including Doom 3 before starting on the latest Doom (2016) though I have already tried out the multiplayer for that one.

Hell is glorious is it not?
I didn’t know there was a Doom 64 until recently, at first I thought it was just a port of Ultimate Doom or Doom 1 or 2 on their own. I gained a lot more interest in finding out that it was actually a new game created by Midway Games (who actually created some of the Mortal Kombat games on the SNES) with supervision from id Software, the game runs on a modified version of the Doom engine which brought a wealth of new features. These features included new sprites, textures, scrolling skies, limited room-over-room architecture, Scripted events, Tripwire booby traps, from poison darts to homing fireballs and more advanced atmospheric colored lighting and effects, such as parallaxing skies, fog, and lightning. The enemies received a makeover with most looking and acting different with rendered 3D modelling being used, most of the monsters from the previous games made a return with the exception of commandos, arch-viles, Spider MasterMind and revenants which were cut due to the limited storage capacity of Nintendo 64 cartridges.


The "Terror Core" level which is a good view into Doom 64

There were only two new monsters which were the Nightmare imp which was a faster version of the regular imp and was also translucent similar to the Spectre and the Mother Demon which is the mysterious final boss of the game meant to replace the Icon of Sin. All weapons from Doom II are present (albeit redrawn), along with a new demonic weapon made of demon bones known as the Unmaker  which according to the Doom Bible is  a “Demon-tech weapon that hurts pure demons a lot, demon-humans very little and tech demons some”. There is also sequences which dramatically transform areas, tripwire booby traps such as darts and homing fireball launchers, and enemies that appear out of thin air, man I seriously couldn’t work out where the projectiles were coming from when I first encountered them.

Nightmare Imps are damn fast
Doom 64 has a more horror-based atmosphere than the science fiction-oriented one seen in earlier games, including darker and more foreboding color schemes used to increase a sense of fear in the player. Indeed this version of Doom was much scarier than the previous games, the new soundtrack was darker and scarier and the satanic imagery was more extensively used. Traditionally the Doom series has started in technological areas such as space stations and planetary bases before going into Hell itself but this time everything seemed scarier, the music was a far cry to the dull midi-techno-boppey tunes of the first levels of Doom and Doom 2 and looking at those again they just look comical compared to the horror that is Doom 64.


I had a lot of fun with this level, there's a lot of noise and shooting going on but the echoing sounds effects and ghastly soundtrakc are unbelievable. Also I think I missed the last enemy there but meh.

The story of Doom 64 is nothing new with the forces of Hell trying to invade Earth once again but this time you don’t fight on Earth just the old Deimos and Phobos bases and Hell itself but this times SPOILERS the ending text states that the Marine accepts his fate of eternal confrontation with demons and decides to close the gateway between Hell and our universe from inside, thereby staying in Hell forever to prevent any further invasions once and for all. Which actually created some speculation that the protagonist from the Doom 2016 reboot is the same marine as he is described in the game as an ancient/superhuman warrior that was either banished to hell or chose to stay there and was captured by Hell's forces and sealed in a tomb. There’s no evidence to support this but I like to think this was the case as it makes a lot of sense though Doom 3 will still be next in my list before I can finally play the latest one.

Time to fist some Demons
I must admit I did not play the game on the Nintendo 64 not having the cartridge myself.  I played on PC using the Doom64EX modification which allowed you to play Doom 64 on PC with newer control methods like mouse look, high resolutions and color depth using the original .ROM file. This is somewhat similar to the Skulltag Mod for the original Doom and the DarkXL mod for Star Wars Dark Forces. Though after playing through a few levels I actually found out that the infamous Sergeant Mark IV had created Brutal Doom 64 which had all the goodness from the original Brutal Doom mod and brought it into Doom 64. Changes included the usual overhauling the graphics also adding much more detailed gore effects of course and also new weapons were added including the assault rifle and grenade launcher.

Ah the trusty assault rifle, much better then that useless pistol.
One of the main changes was the addition of all of the content cut from the original game due to the Nintendo 64’s limited Cartridge space, this included the Revenant, Chaingunguy and Spider Mastermind enemies. There was also a new enemy called the Hellhound which is a sort of two-headed dog beast similar to Cerberus of Greek mythology though Cerberus had three heads, the Hellhound is quite fast and shoots fireballs so it’s a formidable foe. The levels have been revamped featuring new decorations, lightning system, fog, light shafts, etc, techbase levels were optimised to have better navigation, new ambient sounds, more security cameras to remove the need of "switch hunting", and having some parts of the levels remade to look like a more plausible place. The Hell levels were also upgraded with new ambient sounds, and more disturbing imagery. 

The Hellhound spewing fireballs from his two maws
As before you can choose to play with the classic old school gameplay or the tactical gameplay that has an assault rifle and all the weapons deal more damage but need to be reloaded, the tactical gameplay mode also has a ‘fatigue’ number that limits your sprinting which is annoying but makes it a bit more realistic I guess. The chainsaw in Doom 64 is now twin bladed and for some reason in the Brutal Doom 64 it now has “ammo” which I guess is “fuel” or maybe replacement chains I don’t know, I really had no idea even when finishing the game how I picked up more ammo for it, but anyway I think it packed more power than the original chainsaw, it was also useful for the nightmare imps and spectres as they were so goddamn fast you just waited around a corner for them to get close then let er rip. 


I tear it up then get confused by switches in The Lair, one of the secret levels

And so I started the game again with much better visuals and gameplay, this time I don’t think I even bothered trying it without godmode on as it just takes ages and gets too hard. I made sure I checked out all of the secret levels and managed to both get to them and  do most of them without needing to use IDCLIP though the first secret level MAP29: Outpost Omega was kind of complicated the way it worked but I managed to get through them all and collected the Demon Keys which upgrade the Unmaker. This new weapon is also found in the secret levels and man after being ‘fully upgraded’ this thing does some damage, you can take down Hell knights and Cyberdemons with ease, best new weapon in the game.

The Unmaker, now that's what I call being "Unmade"
As I mentioned before compared with the other Doom games, Doom 64 is hella scary which is odd because the Nintendo 64 was regarded as a kids console. The level design, the sights, the sounds and especially the music is dark, foreboding and to be honest makes the game pretty depressing to play, there’s quite a lot of satanic imagery around as well as dead marine bodies though it’s not quite as horrific as the Hell on Earth Starter Pack it was still pretty bad. The Brutal mod for the Doom 64 version is bit more subdued as it does not include fatalities and executions, Sergeant Mark IV addressed this himself saying that unlike the original Brutal Doom, this version is focused on making it as much as disturbing, horror and survival-oriented possible with a much more serious tone, So there won't be such over-the-top stuff. This was good as Doom 64 works well as this kind of game compared to the basic violence of the original Doom and over-the-top gore of the Brutal Doom mod.

This was an area where I first experienced an environmental trap, the blocks in the sky periodically unleash homing fireballs at you, amn I weas so confused the first time, also wow look at those braziers.
There is a very small storyline to the game, from the very vague introduction in the manual you can glean that after the events of Doom II the old Phobos and Deimos bases have been sealed off due to apocalyptic levels of radiation though the UAC is still monitoring the stations from earth when the receive a very disturbing last message, apparently the hordes of Hell have been revived by the Mother Demon. Doom 64 has 32 maps in total as per usual for Megawad The start of the game is indeed in the planetary tech bases but that is only for the first 9 levels and the rest are set in Hell itself yet again. And Hell has never looked scarier especially with the better resolution, sharper textures and enhanced lighting effects plus a killer soundtrack what’s not to like?
Ahh good old Brutal Doom, this is on the lowest gore setting "realistic" by the way
I never though Doom 64 would be like this, as I said before I wasn’t aware there was a Doom game for the Nintendo 64 and when I found out about it I thought it would just be a port of the older games not this amazing scary great looking whole new thing. The level design isn’t too much of a deviation from the original games though some of the secret levels and ways of getting there were overly complicated, I was glad the was a Brutal version made for the game that included all of the cut content as playing Doom without monsters like the Spider Mastermind and the Revenant and I highly recommend you play it on PC with the mod. Doom 64 was Doom done right and I’m glad that I have finally experienced it, even if it’s wasn’t on the Nintendo 64 itself.

JD

Another secret level, MAP31: The Void, and it was indeed, a level with nothing underneath, and a confusing one at that.

Things I liked:

Great atmosphere, darker and scarier then the original

Good looking improved graphics including monster and weapon models

Includes new enemies

Things I didn’t like:

Finding Secret levels and the Demon keys inside them were often overly complicated.

Unless playing on PC with the Brutal Doom mod the game does not include several enemies die to N64 cartridge space limitations

The Brutal Doom 64 v1 Trailer

Hell hath never been this scary

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

My Usual Spiel - Minecraft Story Mode Season 1: More fun then a point and click adventure

Release date: October 13, 2015
Genre: Graphic adventure
Publisher: Telltale Games, Mojang
Developer: Telltale Games, Mojang
Platforms: Windows, macOS, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Modes: Singleplayer Only

I for one, have been playing Minecraft for a long time, almost since the start actually, if I can recall it was the Alpha 1.2.3_04 version from late 2010 and in case you’ve been living under a rock it’s gotten bigger and more popular than ever becoming a franchise with apparel/toys/home and office supplies and gadgets and other merchandise. It’s become so big in fact that the franchise has now qualified for a Telltale game. For those of your who don’t know Telltale Games  are a game design company that focuses on episodic gaming and digital distribution and is well known for their game series’ that are based on TV shows such as The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, they have also brought their own style of game to other game worlds such as Tales from the Borderlands which is based in the Borderlands universe. As you can probably guess Telltale game focus heavily on storytelling with most of the player interaction comes from Quick Time Events and Dialogue wheels though simple movement like walking around and investigating an area is still allowed albeit with limited control and within a small area. This type of gameplay is often referred to as Interactive movies, the Dreamcast game Shenmue one of the first game to feature this type of gameplay and also Heavy Rain which was a launch title for the PS3.

The main menu, it all looks very clean.
When Telltale released Minecraft Story Mode on Steam I was at first not very interested as it seemed like it was for kids, then a bit later I looked at a playthrough of its and was impressed at the design but scoffed at its limited playability, then I decided in the end I might actually give it a go partially because it was on sale and partially because anything Minecraft I’ll try out. So I did, and I was pleasantly entertained, the visuals were great, who knew they could make a game with blocks look so good and not specifically the graphics just the designs they created in the game itself there was lots of thought put into every scene and it looked amazing. I found myself constantly thinking of how long each area would take to build in the original game though of course with mods like Worldbuilder large-scale projects are made much easier. I purchased the base game and also the Adventure Pass so I could access all 8 chapters of the story though though technically the first four episodes are one story the next 4 are a different story though with the same characters and setting. Most of the lore and the areas used are based on the main game, you even explore areas such as the Far Lands which is a name given to the supposed “edge” of the Minecraft worlds, though there are no traditional Villages all of the people, houses, towns and communities are created new for the series.

The Temple of the Order of the Stone
So we’ll start at the beginning, Minecraft Story Mode tells the story of the The Order of the Stone which is also the name of the first episode, the 4 members are Gabriel the Warrior, Ellegaard the Redstone Engineer, Magnus the Rogue, and Soren the Architect. The order were famous for defeating the infamous Ender Dragon and then faded into legend. You then get to create your character with limited options, I just went with the default white male character as it didn’t really matter to me, you also had options to different skin colours or a female character. You are then introduced to Jesse, a fan of Gabriel the Warrior and a poster collector who is preparing for the EnderCon Building Competition alongside their friends, Axel, a griefer, and Olivia, a redstonist, and Jesse’s pig Reuben. First off there is a brief scene in the friends treehouse where you are introduced to the characters and the dialogue wheel which is actually kind of stressful as you have a limited amount of time to reply and if you don’t someone takes it upon themselves to answer for you, in contrast to The Old Republic where you could stand around for hours staring at each other before needing to press anything and even press escape to re-do the conversation if you didn’t like how it turned out. 

You can view all of the episodes from the start, this is the screen from the first one showing most of the main characters including (from left to right) Lukas, Jesse, Olivia, Axel, Reuben and Petra
 You were then able to freely walk around and look and interact with things inside the treehouse, yes that’s pretty much the degree of control you have, walking around and looking at things in a smallish area. throughout the game you can interact with other characters while doing this of course and there are also parts of the game where you can look around multiple areas and rooms. ‘Jesse’ also has an inventory where you can place various items beginning with a humble wooden sword but can be a variety of things from old favourites from the base game like Flint and Steel to new special items acquired on the journey like the Eversource Crown. Unlike the original game you cannot ‘equip’ these items or use them at any time, they require a special circumstances often involving a quick decision and a bit of fumbling around trying to find the inventory key.


The scene is from episode five where the group are investigating Sky City , you can see the quicktime keypress prompts and the scene where you can control Jesse and walk around investigating.

Jesse and his friends then get caught up with a scheme by the (then) bad guy Ivor who creates a Wither with an intent to control it but it soon gets out of control becoming the Wither Storm and sucks up Gabriel along with hundreds of other blocks and becomes gigantic and the gang adventure to the Nether in order to find the Temple of the Order of the Stone. After this it was time for Episode 2: "Assembly Required" the main focus of the story goes to finding the remaining members of the Order of the Stone where you meet Magnus the Rogue and Ellegaard the Redstone Engineer, you had a choice during this episode to either go to Redstonia to find Ellegaard or Boom Town to find Magnus, I’m kind of regretting going to Redstonia though now found that the choices you make determine even what content you will see as well as changes in the story which was both cool and annoying as it means I might have to play it again sometime hah.

The Wither Storm split into 3
Now I’m not going to go through the whole story but basically you find Soren the Architect who is doing experiments with Endermen in Episode 3: The Last Place You Look and then set out to stop the Wither storm in Episode 4: A Block and a Hard Place and I gotta admit the last episode in that storyline was pretty epic. The next 4 episodes revolve around Jesse and his friends Petra, Lukas and the now semi- good-guy Ivor exploring an ancient temple then getting lost in a hallway of portals and needing to find the way home. This series was especially good as it focused on Minecraft culture and themes, Episode 5: "Order Up!" focused on the Skyblock mod for Minecraft where the gang is trapped on an island in the sky and discover a city with limited resources and where building is illegal. Episode 6: "A Portal to Mystery" is based on  a murder/mystery movie and features cameos from various Minecraft Youtube personalities including CaptainSparklez, LDShadowLady, Stampy Cat, Stacy Plays and DanTDM. Episode 7: "Access Denied" is mostly about Redstone engineering and malevolent ai, and the final episode, Episode 8: "A Journey's End?" features Spleef and is where they discover The Old Builders.

PAMA from the Access Denied episode
The end of the "A Portal to Mystery" Episode with youtubers DanTDM and Stampy Cat
What can I say about the graphics well they are probably the best part of the game, the scenery, the characters and the shading effects. I only recently started using shaders with Minecraft but it’s amazing what they can do, they just make the world much more realistic and atmospheric, you can really tell the time of day and what the weather is like. I spent most of my time marveling at the creations inside the game stuff that would take me months to do though technically even with just another 2 people it speeds things up greatly. Looking at the things I’ve seen on the culture section from minecraft.net and from the many servers I’ve visited I can come to the conclusion that more people = more epic things and besides someone developed the whole of Skyrim and other games of equal epic scope didn’t they? and that wasn’t made of blocks. So It’s simply the more people working at it the easier it is, I think it’s because I just keep thinking of how long it would take me on my own to build. The game isn’t completely true to Minecraft obviously and there are a few creative liberties taken especially with the characters which you would expect.

There were some pretty epic shots in the game.
As we all know your character in the original Minecraft has very limited body movement swinging his (or her) arms and legs apparently without any elbows or knees (or feet for that matter) and has no facial expressions whatsoever, so it’s obvious there would need to be a change. The character models have been modified to have working facial features including eyebrows eyes, and mouth which is no longer a flat surface and elbow and knee joints. The characters still looked pretty funny when moving but this was all part of the game.The soundtrack was pretty damn good there was a mix of ambient music similar to the original Minecraft music then there is the orchestral soundtrack plus a bit of custom intro music it was overall pretty good, I didn’t concentrate too hard on which music was already in Minecraft and which music wasn’t and also which sounds were new etc, it all sounded good with nothing out of the ordinary thrown in, not much else to say hah


I like this intro, the scene and music work well, you can also see how the characters move and speak.

It’s easy to tell the game is made primarily for kids, whole story and interactions never include any type of adult themes, nope no violence, sex or drug use here though it’s been done already in the base game thanks to zealous modders. You can almost play the entire game with one hand (cue wank jokes) and I admit I got a bit bored just watching the cutscenes and there were quite a lot of cringeworthy scenes. I felt compelled to interact with everything I could though this meant longer gameplay time. I found after a while I was counting down the episode till I finished but this was ok, the conversation choices were fun the quicktime events were easy as usual and failing in any way put you right back to the last decision or failed keypress. This is probably the advice for all Telltale games if you like good storyline and don’t mind dialogue wheels and quicktime events then this game is fine. Almost every biome, creature, item and block makes an appearance in Story mode and it’s great to see that Telltale and the Mojang team that worked with them have made this possible. I heartily enjoyed Minecraft story mode which was my first telltale game and will be back for the second season, I may even think about watching it again.



Had to include this awesome scene of the gang riding through the nether in minecarts

JD

Things I liked:
  • Great graphics, smooth overall design
  • Entertaining story
  • Knowledge of subject area, items, lore etc

Things I didn’t like:
  • Some cringeworthy dialogue and scenes.
  • Needed more combat with other weapons, bows etc

8/10


That's right, here is all of the trailers for episode 1-7

RIP Reuben

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

The Past and Times of Yore - Saints Row 2 (PC): A mediocre console port made better by the modding community

Release date: October 10, 2008 (Console)
February 3, 2009 (Windows) 
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Publisher: THQ
Developer: Volition Inc, CD Projekt (Windows)
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Modes: Singleplayer Only

Saints Row, I cannot seem to get enough of it, it was a a while ago now that I saw the whole series on Steam sale and thought “Why not”? I enjoyed the Third installment, why not play the 4th and the rest of them legit? and so I did, albeit out of order. After playing the excellent Saints Row The Third and the insane Saints Row IV I was ready for more Saints Row but instead of going to Gat out of Hell I thought I would go back to the beginning. Though technically I couldn’t exactly go directly back to the beginning, the original Saints Row was on Xbox only, and although I do have access to an Xbox I really couldn’t be bothered buying the disc. So I decided to play Saints Row 2 which was apparently supposed to be the best one of the series and I admit I wasn’t disappointed but I wasn’t at all blown away either.

Just runnin' down the hood with my shotty
The first thing I noticed about the game as it was similar to Saints Row 3, creating your character in Saints Row 2 was supposed to be better than 3 but it wasn’t really there was about the same level of customization, I made my character pretty basic as usual, I don’t go all crazy as it looks ridiculous and having a fitting protagonist works much better then someone dressed as Ronald Mcdonald. Saints Row 3 had 4 different male voices for the protagonist, a white, black, hispanic and of course Nolan North with his cockney British accent, He is the only one named for some reason possibly because he’s a famous voice actor who has portrayed characters such as Nathan Drake from the Uncharted series, Desmond Miles from the Assassin's Creed series, in Saints Row 3 he put on a cockney British accent not that I played the whole game with it I used the base white male voice which had an American accent which I think suited much better. Saints Row 2 had only Nolan North as the supposed white male voice actor so I couldn’t have the voice I had for Saints Row 3 and 4, though this wasn’t too bad as it was fun to hear ‘Nolan’ cockney mouth his way through the film.

"The Siege" mission where you take down the brotherhood

The picks up a few years after the original Saints Row left off, During this time, the 3rd Street Saints disband, and their legacy is soon forgotten.[2] With Julius missing and the Saints gone, a power vacuum in Stilwater allowed three new gangs to take over: The Brotherhood, The Sons of Samedi, and The Ronin. You the protagonist and the exiled leader of the Saints are in prison in a coma in the fictional city of Stilwater after being blown off a yacht at the finale of the first game. Together with the wannabe gangster Carlos Mendoza you break out of prison and head for the mainland and shack up in this ratty old basement of the Red Light district and man it is bad, of course you do have the option of sprucing it up a bit which is pretty cool. There are various Cribs in the game similar to Saints Row 3 and these can all be upgraded, your first crib has 3 overall styles ‘cheap’, ‘classy’ and ‘pimp’ which gives each crib a makeover, The classy style was nice for the time being having turned the basement into the best thing it could be for a basement with carpet and painted walls and pictures to make the place look nice and homely.

My first crib, the Red Light Loft, looking better then before
Second Crib the Penthouse Loft, oh yehhh
When out looking for clothes I went pretty basic dressing up in normal jeans and sneakers with a basic tee and a basketball jersey over the top with a 13 on the back, nice and practical, I also added a bandana and a gold necklace for some flair as well as some rings and a knuckle duster and a watch. All of the clothes apart from the jeans and jewelry were coloured purple of course, I was pretty happy with the result.

You talking to me?
 After rescuing the infamous Johnny Gat from custody you all then start rebuilding the 3rd Street Saints gang gaining members and fining a new hideout. The Saints new hideout is an interesting place being an abandoned hotel in an underground area of the city called Old Stilwater only accessible by going down into the basement, Johnny explains that an earthquake destroyed part of the city, and that the wreckage was built over so there’s a whole section of street with shops and traffic lights and a rail car from the time the earthquake hit in the 50’s. This is pretty cool and looks awesome though the area is overrun with bums and Samedi gang Members and you basically just slaughter everyone and claim the place to yourself. You then recruit old (or new) faces such as Pierce, and Shaundi and then basically the progression and gameplay turns into the Saints Row 3 and 4 style where you have the option of doing main missions and side missions and other activities slowly taking over the city.

The "Good D" mission from the Ronin where they attack the Saints underground hideout.

I wasn’t exactly sure which mob to start with so I started with the Ronin Missions. The Ronin were basically were a Yakuza-style gang, as it seems all gangs have a particular colour, this gang’s colour is yellow. I’m not going to spoil the story but this one had a fairly significant event in Johnny Gat’s life that you replay in Saints Row 4 and boy did I love the Katana battles, there’s a few of them in there too and interestingly you side with a Chinese ally. I then battled the Sons of Samedi which are a bunch of African Voodoo dudes who sell drugs, who you choose Shaundi to investigate as per her drug addictions and knowledge of her ex, the DJ Veteran child who is working with the Samedi. Then finally you take on the The Brotherhood‎ where you get very personal with their Leader Maero. The last part of the story revolves around the Ultor Corporation and the young executive Dane Vogel who becomes the game’s final antagonist, by defeating him and forming an alliance with Ultor the Saints become the prominent power in Stilwater hence the references in Saints Row the Third.

The Ronin "Kanto Connection" mission, I get my Samurai on. I like that shot at the start as I realise Pierce also wears a 13 on his shirt.

The activities were pretty usual of the series you had Heli Assault and Insurance Fraud and Escort that I’ve seen before but there was also new ones such as Crowd Control where you are a bodyguard to celebrity and protect them from crazy fans and Septic Avenger where you devalue real estate by driving around in a waste truck and spraying shit on everything, I enjoyed doing the Snatch mission again where you steal hookers from abusive pimps and escort then back to supposedly a better life. A new one I really liked was the FUZZ missions which was like some sensationalistic version of the Cops TV series where you bashed and murdered random criminals from drug addicts to prostitutes and were encouraged to use increasingly brutal weapons such as the chainsaw, as you can probably guess the game had its flair even back then. There were races as well which were fun but overall the extra activities were pretty much like the other games. By doing these activities you can gain more unlockables which include abilities, weapons, homies, discounts and vehicles, I was happy with gaining them as I went along doing missions but as I went on I soon looked at getting particular abilities such as more health or infinite ammo for certain guns and maybe even a certain vehicle I wanted, though there were always lots of vehicles around.\

The FUZZ where you play as a Cop on a  TV show, it's as ridiculous as it looks if the NSW Police weren't happy about the Police Mod then they certainly wouldn't like this.

Speaking of vehicles It was good to get to use them again after playing Saints Row IV for the second time around, for those of you who don’t know there is basically no point in driving vehicles in Saints Row IV. I used my fair share of them and even found a nice Harley-Style bike called the Melbourne and I also added a (Motorcycle) chopper and a Coupe which I thought was pretty cool and I painted them in the gang colours of course. Once you open up the main underground Saints Row crib you can customize what style of clothing your crew wears and also what cars they drive which was fun as you can choose pretty ludicrous things my current setup includes a saints Halberd, Attrazione and Compton all of which are automatically pimped to the saints colours. As you go through the missions you gain vehicles and outfits for both your crew and yourself and other unlockables, specifically when you finish all the missions for a particular gang i.e. the Ronin you get access to their vehicles like the Kaneda for your Garage and the Ninja style gang customization.

The Saints Gang Car version of the Halberd, looks pretty cool heh
Of course as being an open-world game there are dozens of other things you can do apart from the main missions and activities, most of which I didn’t really touch. You can do stunt jumps, you can collect CD’s?, you can fly planes through tight spaces, you can do the classic Taxi, Ho-ing missions and Tow truck missions, you play mini-games like Blackjack and also rob stores and mug people or even play an entertaining zombie uprising minigame, it’s up to you, I actually just did the races if I can remember correctly. There’s also this thing called Respect and Style, respect you gain from killing gang members, completing missions, doing dangerous stunts such as wheelies and driving on the wrong side of the road, there is just so many ways to get it, you pretty much just do anything. Style affects how much respect you get when you gain Respect for example better clothes, upgrading your cars and owning more cribs grants you more style.

Drug Trafficking mission complete, with the respect gained and style bonus
Gameplay is basically the same as in Saints Row the Third but nowhere near as refined, from early on I could smell a console port as there was no mouse support for the main menu so I quickly knew this was going to be a bit wonky for the PC, and wonky it was, it was badly optimized with poor frame rates and jerky movement, it really didn’t play very well. The cars handled awfully and were very hard to control at first, I was wondering why I had such a sore thumb then I realized it was because almost whenever I turned a corner I used spacebar for the handbrake because it worked all the time no matter how fast you were going. I remember I went back to play GTA5 online at one point and tried to drive the same way and boy it did not work at all heh. The controls were simple enough and I managed fine as the movement and shooting was bearable.

Yes that is Shaundi and Carlos hanging from the helicopter landing legs.
Everything is very arcade-like as in the other Saints Row games I’ve played, even the helicopters were easy as you just had buttons for up and down then you pointed them in the direction you wanted to go. The heli assault missions were pretty nuts, you had to blow up enemy vans so your homies could do drug deals. What more was that they could run out of gas then you had to pick them up which was incredibly difficult so I was glad the chopper controls were relatively simple I spent a lot of my time in motorcycles then finished with The General’s Bulldog which is customized with a gun turret on the top which you can freely control, this made doing missions much easier as you were always being chased by an endless supply of gang cars and having the turret there helped immensely as you didn’t have to lean out of the car to shoot all of the time. Of course there were some limitations, the thing was huge and it had a terrible turning circle and wasn’t that fast, but was a choice vehicle for pretty much anything towards the end of the game where you were fighting huge amounts of heavily armed enemies so the durability really came in handy.

Customizing and driving the Military Bulldog, this thing was a beast.

The graphics for this game were not that remarkable and worse than the previous Saints Row games I have played but of course this is an earlier game from 2008 so what do you expect? Yeh some parts looked pretty bad, the terrain in the off-road areas particularly as it seemed like they were just a bunch of brown mush, the character models weren’t too good, some of the cars and explosion effects looked weird. But of course it doesn’t really matter, you don’t play a game like Saints Row to go “AWR LOOKIT DEM GREPHICS!” you play it for the gameplay and the general craziness, Saints Row isn’t exactly famous for its graphics compared to the likes of say Far Cry. As far as music and sound goes it’s got the same radio station setup as Saints Row 3, in fact I think all of the games have the same setup of radio stations for a number of different genres from techno to classical same as Saints Row 3 and 4, I far as music I love the games original soundtrack with its banging hiphop beats you can’t beat the Saints for epic rap, I just don’t know how to explain it, it’s like a blockbuster movie style the whole intro to the game and in the main menu and it sounds great.

On the whole graphics weren't the best but it was the soundtrack that made it
Ultimately if you liked Saints Row 3 then you will like 2, if you liked 2 then you’ll like 1 etc. My only regret was that I played it without realizing there was one particularly huge mod that was made for the PC game titled Gentleman of the Row. This mod added a ton of new features to the game mostly clothes, vehicles, cribs and customization options similar to a Skyrim mod, though it also added new walking animations and taunts. Not only that it added and optional first person mode, increased FOV and an option to remove the HUD for screenshots. I was kinda annoyed that I didn’t play it with this mod but meh it was still good anyway and I had fun with it, next up in the Saints Row agenda is Gat out of Hell which I may play with a friend as it has CO-OP.

I like this shot, it's got all the main players in it except for Johnny Gat
 I’ve found I’ve forgotten to do the score and the “things I like and didn’t like” for the games I review so I’ll start that again now.

Things I liked:
  • General Saints Row craziness
  • Always Entertaining story
  • Vehicle design and customization
  • Character customization
  • Entertaining side activities

Things I didn’t like:
  • Poorly developed console port
  • Poorly optimized gameplay and graphics with jerky movement
  • Odd handling on vehicles jerky movement

7/10

JD

Saints Row 2 Game Trailer

If this were a TV show I’d watch it

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

My Usual Spiel - Verdun, Finally some proper trench warfare

Release date: April 28, 2015
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Publisher: M2H, Blackmill Games
Developer: M2H, Blackmill Games
Engine: Unity
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Modes: Multiplayer Only

Verdun, one of the bloodiest battles of The Great War and an appropriate name for the most realistic WW1 shooter out today. It was my housemate Brok that first introduced me to it, the game was curiously released in the shadow of Battlefield 1 yes even a year before it came out there was a lot of talk about the new Battlefield game would be going to the World War 1 front. When I first saw game known as Verdun I realized that this was actually a much more realistic first person shooter then Battlefield will ever be and decided to give it a go.

The treacherous Front lines
Verdun is set in the midst of the First World War and as the title says specifically the western front from 1914 to 1918, it features many of the famous battlegrounds of the time including Battle of Champagne, The Meuse-Argonne Offensive and Fort Douaumont itself. The game has a heavy squad focus rewarding you for teamwork and especially rewarding players who play in the same squad regularly, it features Realistic World War 1 gameplay: Authentic weaponry with realistic bullet physics, skill based weapon handling, gore, poisonous gas with a claustrophobic gas mask experience, realistic gore and artillery barrages. The “Frontlines” game mode is true trench warfare that forces you to attack or defend in tandem with the enemy. Each side fights over a turn-based frontline map that consists of multiple sectors that can be captured by either side. Staying true to the typical attrition warfare of that time, both sides attack and counter-attack each other in turn, so you will be forced to defend each captured sector of trenches. The goal is to capture the enemy‘s HQ sector in order to win the game.

The trenches of Argonne, I think I had HDR on at that point.
Verdun it looks the part too right when you load the game you’re in a trench with some classic WW1-era music playing on the stereo and the whole setting feels very true to the era. Though the menu is a bit confusing in the way you choose your gamemode first i.e. the most prominent mode: Frontlines. You need to join a squad first and then it loads you into whatever map that squad is in, and then you also have the option of “Playing Now” which is bloody annoying cause I keep accidentally pressing it twice and it jumps into the first available squad which wouldn’t be a problem apart from the times it dumps you into servers with no players. There are various other modes including: Attrition which is basically team deathmatch with a ticket bleed and Rifle Deathmatch which is pretty self explanatory. The only offline mode is “Squad defense” which pits you against waves of NPC opponents that are pretty damn stupid, they often run right past you then all crowd at the objective and whoever was lucky enough to go the machinegunner class gets to mow them all down, it was all quite ludicrous but anyway we didn’t play that mode much.

The Game mode screen with the map of the western front
In Verdun the main game is Frontlines, and you join a squad in either the Western Powers or the Entente, you have a role within the squads themselves which are in the nation’s language so are often hard to decipher. The squad roles are called various different things depending on which military you are fighting for but usually encompass a Sharpshooter who has access to Sniper Rifles, a Bombardier who has access to grenades, traps and other explosive devices, a Machinegunner and an Officer. The officer is different as he usually only carries a pistol but has various abilities including being able to issue attack and defend commands and the ability to be a forward spawn point for the team. Officers also have special abilities such as the ability launch artillery strikes, mustard gas and recon planes to reveal enemy locations. Playing Frontlines restricts the areas that you can move around as when you are defending you are forbidden from running forward of the trench area and when you are attacking and there are obviously edges of the map you cannot go like every other game. In all of the maps there are capture points and capturing these within a certain time allows you to move forward and eventually capture the enemies main base and in turn the enemy can “gain a foothold” and capture the area back if they have enough soldiers in the area similar to  the tug of war trench warfare of WW1 with a shifting frontline.

A basic display of how the Frontlines mode works, one side attacks, the other defends and the rest is hotsory :D

Verdun seems to focus a lot on Squads which are based on historical units such as the British Tommies and the German StoƟtrupp, the squad levelling system is quite confusing as you can only level up the type of squad you are in. So for example the Canadians are an Assault type squad therefore have more assault type weapons and the officers can launch gas attacks at the enemy whereas the French Chasseur Alpins are a Recon type squad with sniper rifles and espionage abilities and officers have the recon plane ability. Additionally to this the squads have Abilities and Progression trees which are sort of like a tech tree in a game like Age of Empires, as you level up you gain additional abilities such as better sprint time, reload times, spawn times, weapon efficiency etc and also the officer abilities are upgraded from more lethal types of gas to bigger artillery rounds. Playing the same type of squad regularly with the same people is the best way to level your squad abilities but sadly if you play on your own this is almost impossible as there are 7 types of squads and you’re always playing with different people.

The Squad Ability Tree
Confused yet? So now we get to your personal progression system. In the past you obtained new weapons and equipment by levelling up your specified squad role in order to obtain more equipment i.e. rifleman role would unlock the scoped rifles. But now as per this post by the developers , everything is done through the ‘Career system’ In this mode you have a personal career level with 77 as the max level and you obtain 2 career points per level so as per the diagram below you can use your career points to open up the different types of loadouts for your squad role. These new unlocks are not inherently better (i.e. tier 3 may not be better then tier 2) they just give more options of equipment for your role.

Picking your squad Specialisation
Once you have all this stuff worked out it’s time to actually play the game! It’s pretty self-intuitive, it’s your regular WASD keys to move and you can also crouch, prone and sprint, and the shift key also allows you to hold your breath when aiming which is quite useful when trying to shoot enemies from afar and I keep forgetting to do it. There is also keys for grenades and your gas mask, and yes you can jump. When playing the game it’s very important to play the objective and help your squad by performing your squad role correctly, the abilities of your class may give you the chance to earn additional points. For example the machinegunner will get more points for assists and the sniper more points for longshots and of course running ahead in a gung-ho approach really does not work. When attacking yes you have to move forward but your best tactic is to conserve your sprint power and run between cover and shell holes and inch your way to the front, this is especially true with the Officer class as you can act as a forward spawn point right near the capture point.

Playing as an Officer and Machinegunner on Artois with my friends Brok (Ya Gramps) and Tyler (The Barron) towards the end we encounter mustard gas unfortuantely.

The fighting in this game true to real life is brutal, almost every rifle and machinegun in the game can kill a player with one shot to the chest or head, so everyone is running around with the itchiest trigger fingers ever. A split second could be the difference between you seeing and shooting your opponent to them doing the same and damn is it alternately gratifiying and infuriating if you make the shot or fall face first into the mud and fall you will, successfully getting a bullet into someone while they run through the dirt and watching their body slump onto the ground is one of the most satisfying sights ever in contrast to the Battlefield series where you have to riddle them with bullets or get a headshot before they go down. What makes things worse is that all of the colours blend into each other with the gritty realistic scheme and environment and the character models look very similar so often you don’t know it’s an enemy until it’s too late especially when you are changing factions with different uniforms all of the time so thank god for friendly fire being off as more than once I’ve fired at a random shadow in the darkness then realizing it was a teammate. Some of the best moments I’ve had are as the machinegunner and racking up lots of kills with the rapid fire.

I try out sharpshooting on the Picardie map, I swear I had a scope on but the movie oddly doesn't show it.

The environment and setting of Verdun are all top-notch, all the locations have that gritty WW1 feel and the attention to detail is incredible. I actually only realized after a while that I had the gore turned off by default, and when I turned it on boy was there a change, there were body parts being blown off and soldiers screaming and writhing on the ground and oh that was more like it. The various historical maps looked great too, from the barren trench laden Argonne to the heavily wooden Aisne. Some of my favourites included Vosges which was set in a sparse rocky pinewood forest and Champagne which was the only night map and prime example of heavily entrenched forces, with that map you had two choices, run through the deep trenches as they wind around or risk running along the top where there is a high chance of being shot or getting tangled in the barbed wire and boy is there a lot of it. Flanders  is probably one of the hardest maps to move forward as it’s caked in mud and water and there is barely any cover. Moving through these environments feels great and you really feel like you are part of something compared with other FPS games where you are in a team but it’s still every man for himself.

Playing the night map 'Champagne' with my friend Brok, there were only a few players in this game.

The graphics in Verdun are very crisp and realistic looking, there is so much detail in the player models and the maps, the trees the branches the leaves the rough terrain, everything is modelled true to the era, I can run the game at ultra setting with no problem so it’s very optimized as well, even when it’s raining. I play everything on Ultra but leave off the fancy features such as “High dynamic range” “Depth of Field” “Ambient Occlusion” and all that stuff that’s supposed to make the game look better but just downs your FPS, High Dynamic range actually look pretty cool but it makes the sky to bright and the dark bits too dark, I still leave anti-aliasing on though I know have a 1440p monitor now. The sounds are good, rifle shots sound great and so do the explosions and the whistles from the officers, there isn’t really any music apart from the excellent authentic tunes coming from the radio In the menu screen and the squad intro music when you join a squad depending on which type of army you are in .

I try out Sniping in the Wooded Vosges map
 If you were to ask me which game I enjoy better between Verdun and Battlefield 1 it’d be a hard choice, Battlefield 1 has many more features and classes and of course vehicles but that’s not what this game is about, It would be nice to be able to be a medic in the game though. Of course BF1 is a bit arcade or generic FPS and has arguably been the same game since Battlefield 3 just with a different skin. Verdun you can tell has been made specifically to be as accurate as possible to the trench warfare of WW1, the kills are so much more satisfying then BF1 and you congratulate yourself on each one. Playing Verdun with friends is great especially if you play regularly, there is enough content in there including maps, weapons and classes to keep you busy for a while. Verdun is the best modern WW1 game out there that I know of and fills a void that is missing from Battlefield 1 which glosses over trench warfare in its entirety and If you’re a fan of first person shooters at all then you should give it a go at least once. When I’m sick of all the constant explosions and planes and tanks rumbling all over the place I know where to go to

JD

Verdun official trailer

I’m happy in my hole.