How Adam Sessler, Resolutiongate, and Another Impending Console Launch Has Turned Us All Into Fanboys and Ten Year Olds
When I was 10, all I wanted was a Dreamcast. It was the first system launch that I was intimately aware of, having just begun to absorb myself in the industry enough to be convinced at the time that it would be, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the absolute greatest system quite possibly in the history of ever.
However, as luck and the family finances would have it, I unfortunately did not get a Dreamcast that year, or any other. Don’t feel sorry for 10 year old me though, because the following Christmas I was gifted with a PS2, which was not only the hottest item of the year, but would go on to have a long and healthy life span full of classic all time games. It was, by all logical regards, a win.
Still a question enters my mind from time to time. If I could go back and tell 10 year old me to calm down, and not freak out about not getting a Dreamcast because it wasn’t going to last long anyway, would 10 year old me have listened? There’s a part of me that hates being wrong that believes it wouldn’t have mattered and my thoughts regarding the Dreamcast wouldn’t have changed overnight, despite the recently acquired knowledge of its eventual fate.
Pragmatically, however, that wouldn’t be the case. Had I known, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the Sega Dreamcast despite being an incredible system in its own right, would only have a viable shelf-life of just over a year, I probably would have calmed down and transferred my hype to the pending PS2 release. After all, no matter what your age you never want to spend a substantial amount of money on a product that simply won’t last, and doesn’t fit your needs. As such, at the time I would have wished, and even craved, for that person to come along.
To Buy…Or Not to Buy?
Of course, the above scenario is just fantasy theorizing that’s impossible barring the acquirement of some sort of 80′s sports car time traveling device, but it is, nonetheless, representative of a very real issue facing gamers as we approach another multiple system console launch.
Specifically its in regards to the recent incident where Adam Sessler took a stance on the “Resolutiongate” fiasco that the Xbox One found itself the center of, by saying that at this time its difficult to make the resolution of games the ultimate factor in deciding which system will be best, and that in the long run it’s ultimately meaningless when weighed against the value of good game design. Though it’s a pretty modest argument, and the only people really attacked in it are Microsoft and game developers for not making this information more well known, don’t try telling that to the hordes of people who lashed out at Adam Sessler for downplaying what is in the minds of many a very important aspect in terms of making a decision of which next gen console to invest in.
In an issue that has spun out of control as quickly and amazingly as this one has, it’s extremely important when trying to analyze it, to have the ability to step away from the melee of internet discussion boards and the like, and simply view the issue in and of itself, and really attempt to dissect just what this is and why it is happening.
Do that, and the first word you’ll probably take away from the whole thing is “fanboy.” There are many out there who are writing this off as a fanboy led argument and nothing more. While it’s true that there are certainly elements of fanboyism prevalent here, as with any discussion, fanboys in the accepted sense of the word are meaningless. Fanboys, or trolls, or whatever you want to call them are horrible creatures who live to spread madness and generally speaking make the world a worse place in any way they can. They are devoid of logic, and since logic is the thing needed most to really determine what’s at the heart of this issue, we will not factor the thoughts and actions of those groups in as much as possible.
After All, Is This a Person Whose Opinions You Want to Validate?
Instead this is really just another in a long line of incidents that show the growing resentment many people have towards gaming jounalism. Many of the people upset at this are actually perfectly rational consumers and gamers, who see this as another example of gaming journalists becoming more and more out of touch with the common gamer, and more and more comfortable with the gaming industry. Citing a prior comment Sessler once made on how 1080p should be the standard in the next generation, many of those same people are saying that his most recent stance on the subject is a hypocritical cop-out and, an indication that he is unwilling or unable to make a definitive decision on the next generation at this time.
Of course the answer to that is, no shit he isn’t able or willing. Adam Sessler is not a prophet from the future who is able to tell us what the fate of either system will be, or which one we would be better off buying. People who are expecting him to be that, however, are in fact the same 10 year old boy I once was who wants a Dreamcast at launch really, really badly and are desperate for someone to come along and give them a compelling reason to either justify those feelings, or banish them from their minds.
Buy into that, and you’ll begin to see that the problem is that the majority of the people on both sides of this issue are either otherwise perfectly rational people who have momentarily turned themselves into 10 year olds again as another system draws near, or are fanboys. Those are, of course, two groups not known for their ability to participate in a reasonable discussion on any matter without things turning messy.
Again ignoring the thoughts and whims of fanboys, and turning instead to solely address those who’ve momentarily lost their grasp of sanity in this issue, I say to you what I wish I could really go back and say to a young, fanatical, Dreamcast desiring me, which is grow up, and calm the hell down. It’s highly unlikely that you are in a situation where your life depends on purchasing an Xbox One or PS4 as quickly as possible, and its even more unlikely that it depends on you selecting the “right” one.
Read the rest of this entry »
The Infamous You Don’t Know Jack Series Is Finally Available For Steam
If you’ve never played the original “You Don’t Know Jack Games,” I pity you for having missed some of the best written, smartest, most enjoyable games ever made. It’s also difficult to blame you, however, consider the irreverent trivia series has never been available for download, and would be relegated to obscurity were it not for a couple recent console releases and a Facebook game which, while good, just do not compare to the originals.
Don’t fret though, as the series has joined the likes of “Earthbound” and “System Shock 2″ by crossing licensing hell, and becoming available for digital download. Available on Steam, you can finally snag the entire “You Don’t Know Jack” collection for either $2.99 individually, or $19.99 for the whole 10 game collection. Playable on just about any modern system, and having only gotten better with age, there is no real reason to not snag at least one of these, and experience the legendary multiplayer mode.
Oh, and if you’re a film buff, the “You Don’t Know Jack” movies edition, is my personal recommendation, and flat out one of the best movie trivia games of any kind.
The Best Zombie Games of This Generation
In a gaming generation as long and influential as this last one, it’s hard to boil things down to just a series of buzzwords and hope to possibly encapsulate even a minuscule portion of it. That being said, bring up the the word “zombie” to a dedicated gamer of this gen, and you can sit back and just wait for the conversations and memories to start pouring in.
While video games weren’t the sole contributing factor to the zombie craze that took over the pop culture world, the sheer amount of zombie games that resulted from it certainly fueled the fad and helped propel it to levels of mainstream notoriety uncommon for such a topic. While many of the early zombie games were made to capitalize off of the growing popularity of the genre, as the years wore on some of the best experiences to be found in all of gaming were zombie based.
There’s just something about the idea that brought out the creative best of game designers everywhere, and as a result the prospect of trying to determine the best the zombie genre had to offer is daunting. As always, a number of high quality titles had to be cut to make this list, but that aside here are the best zombie games of this generation.
10. Killing Floor
Originally starting out as an ambitious “Unreal Tournament 2004” mod, by the time that “Killing Floor” got a retail release, many of the things that initially distinguished it would be copied (and admittedly improved upon) by other games.
However, there are still quite a few things this game does well that the flood of zombie games that followed couldn’t quite replicate, including an extremely well developed character and class based enhancement system. Even stripped of those unique elements though, “Killing Floor” is so mechanically sound and viscerally satisfying, that its place among the best zombie games of this generation is unquestioned based on no other merit than how purely enjoyable it is.
9. I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MBIES 1N IT!!!1
For sanity’s sake, I’ll just be referring to this one as “GAM3.”
Like a few other titles on this list “GAM3” just embraces the kill em’ all element of the zombie genre. Unlike other games, however, it has a freaking sweet theme song named after the title of the game that quite honestly makes all of the difference. “GAM3” very much feels like a throwback to any number of top-down action PC games of old and, much like those old games, has the ability to suck away hours and hours of playtime off of 15 minute or less play sessions. It’s provides the kind of simple pleasure instant gratification game that needs to exist somewhere in the zombie genre, and is clearly having the time of its life doing it.
There’s a number of great indie games that fall under the “artistically beautiful” label, but I never thought that a zombie game would fit into that style. While “Deadlight” can at times feel like a greatest hits collection of the major indie games that preceded it, the end result is one of the most cinematic zombie games ever made.
The biggest draw of “Deadlight” is its silhouette art style, which not only initially turn heads its direction, but proves to have long term appeal as well once you realize just how the art style lends to a journey which feels epic and effortless in equal measure. Deadlight will only last you around five hours, but much like “Portal,” its value isn’t so much in the quantity of the experience, but rather in how it achieves everything it sets out to do in that time.
7. Dead Rising
One of the first games that really felt next-gen to many people, “Dead Rising” really kicked off the boom period of the zombie genre in gaming, and is really one of the first games to let us live out our zombie fantasies in a way that adheres to all their fallacies.
What I mean is, rather than burden you down with things like survival and morality, “Dead Rising” just throws you into a mass of zombies and lets you mow them down with ease using a variety of weapons, just like we always envision when picturing ourselves as a participant at the end of the world. It may be full of design flaws, but still provides one of the most purely enjoyable zombie game experiences out there.
6. Call of Duty Zombies
It may be popular to mock the “Call of Duty” franchise due to the insane levels of mainstream success it has achieved, but regardless of your views towards the series, you’ve still likely played and enjoyed the game’s zombie mode that started in “World at War.”
That’s because while the rest of the franchise may be getting more and more bogged down by its same old, same old releases and presumed grandeur, there is a humble pleasure in the zombie mode’s series of last stand levels that is immediately appealing regardless of your feelings towards the series. With the inaugural nazi zombie mode, “Call of Duty” may have found its gameplay calling, and is still worth purchasing the games for to this day.
5. Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare
There’s two kinds of DLC’s in this world. Those that feel like cheap money grabs, and those that actually provide a worthy follow up experience using the original game as a foundation. “Undead Nightmare” is possibly the greatest example of the later, and is also just pure heaven for fans of the Western and zombie genres.
Right from the game’s B Movie opening, it’s clear that Rockstar set out to have fun with the idea of a zombie western, and in that pursuit were simply triumphant. There’s always been elements of westerns in the average zombie film, so the way “Undead Nightmare” stylistically fully embraces the concept remains exciting through the entire playthrough, while the already near perfect mechanics of “Red Dead” carry the bulk of the game well. The concept is a stroke of brilliance, but it’s the execution of that idea that makes this so worthwhile.
4. State of Decay
When I first played “State of Decay,” I was expecting a dumbed down “Day Z.” While that holds true in a number of respects, it’s also a dangerous mentality to bring when looking at the game, as it makes it easy to miss so many of the things “Decay” does well.
“State of Decay” gives you a sandbox zombie environment and incorporates a number of strategy and survival elements that serve to enhance and prolong the more simple joy that comes with taking down zombie hordes. In order to fit everything in, many of those more advanced elements are watered down to a fundamental level, which could have been an issue, but it actually serves to enhance the overall flow of the game, as you are never overly burdened by them. The result is a game that makes a considerable effort toward incorporating all the things we associate with the typical zombie apocalypse, but in a way that never wears out its welcome, or deprives us of the essential fun factor.
3. The Walking Dead
Telltale as a company tends to be pretty hit or miss with many of their releases. It’s a track record that led to many being, rightfully, suspicious when they announced they would be adapting the beloved “Walking Dead” franchise into an episodic adventure series.
Thankfully “The Walking Dead” would not only find its way among the studios hits, but is by far their magnum opus. Unlike the show which, though quite good, can often get bogged down by set-piece moments and action scenes, “The Walking Dead” game wisely focused on the human interaction element, and the difficult choices and consequences that human element can often lead to. This puts it more in line with the spirit and plot of the comics, and is one of the greatest examples of storytelling in gaming. Aiming for, and achieving, so much more than we usually expect from a typical zombie game, “The Walking Dead” is an unrivaled emotional experience that just happens to take place in the zombie apocalypse.
The premise (combine the most tactically advance shooter on the market with the zombie genre) of “DayZ” basically guaranteed that it would never catch on with the mass gaming crowd. However. for those that are willing to invest hours and hours dying over and over, while they learn the considerable amount of lessons the game has to offer, this is perhaps the definitive realization of the zombie apocalypse, and all the gritty details that goes with it.
It’s a world where finding a can of beans is the highlight of your day, and the humans left alive are often more dangerous than any zombie. By moving the focus from shooting every zombie on Earth to just surviving and staying smart, “DayZ” stands alone amongst the shambling hordes of similar games, as something that can only be described as an apocalypse simulator. It’s not often that you get a truly unique gaming experience, especially in a pretty over-saturated genre, but “DayZ” is just that, and one of the best mods ever made to boot.
1. Left 4 Dead
“Left 4 Dead’s” place as the definitive zombie video game of all time is not only extremely difficult to argue against, but in some ways is a claim that detracts from the overall significance of its role in this generation.
Yes, the way it places you and three friends right in the thick of the zombie outbreak is the definitive digital representation of nearly everything we’ve wanted in a multiplayer zombie shooter prior to its release, but it pales in comparison to the numerous innovations it has made in the co-op shooter genre that are still being borrowed without shame to this day. There are more games than can be reasonably listed here that borrow from “Left 4 Dead” that are by and large worthy in their own right, but at the same time must bow to the master, and recognize this series as the king of the zombie genre and one of the best, and most influential multiplayer games ever made.
Posted in: Reviews
Tags: all time zombie games, best zombie games, Call of Duty Zombies, DayZ, Dead Rising, Deadlight, greatest zombie games, I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MBIES 1N IT!!!1, left 4 dead, Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare, State of Decay, The Walking Dead, Zombie games, zombie games this generation, zombie gaming
As The Xbox One Attracts More Controversy, More Importance is Placed On Titanfall
If you haven’t heard, Microsoft and the Xbox One found themselves in a bit of hot water recently, when some long rumored whispers that the Xbox One is under-performing against the PS4 when it comes to games they share were confirmed when “Battlefield 4” developers DICE revealed that the Xbox One runs at a lower resolution than the PS4, while side by side comparison gameplay videos gave us a pretty clear indication of the difference between the two machines. This was an unfortunate reveal only enhanced by the discovery that some of the footage in “Battlefield 4” Microsoft was using for promos of the Xbox One actually contains some footage of the PC version of the game.
This of course breaks up the relative peace Microsoft was enjoying following the controversy that followed shortly after E3 and the initial Xbox One reveal, when people attacked Microsoft for many of its policies regarding the Xbox One, as well as its seeming focus on being a device more interested in multimedia capabilities than actual gaming. When Microsoft retracted a number of the more controversial measures, it had seemed they could kick back, maybe hype up the pre-order numbers for the device, as well as any number of its merits, and put that past trouble behind them. That is, until this all happened.
Now the Xbox One is again the goat of the video game world, fanboys begin to wage war, PR companies summon their voodoo spin doctors, and those of us somewhere in the middle find an enjoyment in the chaos. Of course, if you stick around gaming long enough, and you eventually learn to not throw dirt on anything until you absolutely are sure it’s dead, less it come back as a zombie to take its revenge. What I mean is, don’t write off something so adamantly if there is still the off chance that it’ll come back to bite you when you want it down the line.
This is where the Respawn Entertainment developed 2014 shooter “Titanfall” comes in. See, admist all of the trouble that the Xbox One endured recently, one interesting win for the company did emerge, when it was announced that “Titanfall” will be an Xbox One and PC exclusive forever. While that doesn’t mean that future sequels of the game will remain on the Xbox One only, it does still ensure that Microsoft has the immediate rights to the best looking exclusive seen on either system, and one of the few games shown of the next generation so far, that looks like a killer app.
While of course a final “Titanfall” game that falls well short of expectations would lend a different set of problems for Microsoft, the more interesting case comes if the game turns out to be as good as footage and previews have suggested, and as lucrative as well. In that case, then by the time that more systems start to hit the shelves and the non-early adopters start considering making system purchases early next year, “Tianfall” will be in a position to move Xbox Ones similar to the way that “Halo” moved the original Xbox.
What’s interesting about that is that it will be a pretty clear case that in spite of everything that the Xbox One has gone through, it’s all irrelevant compared to the power of a single game. The industry is moving further and further away from exclusive games, and many people in the gaming community are also calling for a more unified gaming experience where all games are available to everyone. However, it does still sell systems, and should it be able to alter the Xbox Ones fate (again, in spite of everything) when the console race gets going in earnest, then it could just be enough to preserve the traditional methods of gaming exclusives, at least for the conceivable future.
What’s really interesting about that is that Microsoft clearly had a plan at one point to take console gaming in a very different path based on the original policies of the Xbox One. Even without those policies, there is clearly still a focus on incorporating the controversial multimedia features on a level not previously seen out of a console. If Microsoft really gets a hit then with “Titanfall,” do they begin to re-enact some of those policies now that they have a userbase who will remain loyal to them? Do they also see the power of games and begin to turn the public focus of the Xbox One to a game first console, or does the natural increase in multimedia use of its users who purchased the system for “Titanfall” somehow justify their seeming focus on that instead?
Nothing speaks louder than sales in the gaming world, and considering the rare beast that “Titanfall” has the potential to be (a AAA true exclusive of full merit) it’s release and subsequent fallout is one of some importance. It not only has the weight of the Xbox One at its shoulders at the moment, but given a certain level of success could well help answer several questions about what direction the industry is going. Is that a lot of weight to put on a single game? Yes, but that is exactly the role that Microsoft gave it when they pursued this as an exclusive. They have a faith in it that probably cost them a lot of money, but they spent it because they knew it had the potential to define the Xbox One and help to give the system the foothold it needs in the Western market where it’s main sales power is going to come from.
The next generation of gaming may start this month with the release of the PS4 and Xbox One, but it’s not until the major games start hitting next year will it begin in earnest. Of those games, none has more to strive for than “Titanfall,” whose success and quality may very well give us an indication of how the future of gaming will shape up, and if Microsoft will be a part of that future at all.
Posted in: News
Tags: exclusives, gaming, gaming blogs, gaming news, Titanfall, Titanfall Exclusive, Titanfall importance, Xbox One, Xbox One 720p, Xbox One controversy, Xbox One graphics, Xbox One resolution, Xbox One vs PS4 graphics
Return To 2D Consoles
Free image courtesy of zirconicusso/FreeDigitalImages.net
As gaming technology becomes more and more advanced, and graphics and gameplay become increasingly more complex, there seems to be a subterranean yearning for simpler times – when two dimensional game platforms were the norm, complete with 16 bit sound effects. As someone who grew up in an era when Mario and Bomberman were the top-of-the-line in terms of available video-games, it’s been a slow and difficult shift for some of us to adapt to the supra-realistic gaming realm of today.
The benefit of two dimensional games was the fact that they were limited by their graphics, which meant that they had to work extra hard to supplement the other facets of a quintessentially good game – namely, plot and character development. I don’t want to sound like a movie critic. But at the same time, video games have always fallen into a similar field of media, and they have been judged and lauded accordingly. Some of the best games out there, which have stood the test of time, are ones that have a deep and interesting story to tell, full of imagination and unexpected twists. Halo quickly revolutionized the FPS genre by combining not only great and unprecedented graphics, but also incorporating a fascinating storyline, which lent itself to subsequent sequels.
But in the 90’s, games had to rely on storyline a lot more if they wanted to have any lasting impact. One of the classic SNES games was Chronotrigger, that for all intents and purposes, pretty much defined the RPG genre up until the present day. It followed the temporal adventures of a kid named Chrono as he passed through various time periods, making friends from each era, and striving to uncover the secrets behind an eventual enemy named Lavos who would destroy the world some time far in the future.
But it was, like most SNES games, two dimensional. Nevertheless, the lack of ‘dimension’ was secondary to the worlds that the creators were able to portray, and the story arcs that developed (Chronotrigger was also one of the first games to introduce alternate endings, based on the decisions of the player).
Today this movement back toward two dimensional games can be seen in a number of independent companies, since they are relatively easy to develop – however, their ease of development doesn’t mean that they are any less compelling. Games like Fez (which is at face value 2D but uses a unique 3D ‘shifting’ ability to solve puzzles) and Reus (in which you take on the role of a world deity), as well as a number of other independent games, utilize the two dimensions to their utmost.
Of course, 2D isn’t restricted primarily to independent gaming companies – Sid Meier’s Civilization series is one of the longest standing world empire games, which a number of incarnations (I believe we’re on 5 already?), and many casinos and online gaming websites also employ two-dimensional interfaces into their games. However, both online casinos, independents, and commercial programmers are aware that the graphics of a game always play second fiddle to how playable and entertaining a game is to the buyer. For nostalgia hunters like me, it’s a way to reconcile some of the more vapid “high graphic” games coming out these days. I’ll take fascinating character development over realism any day.
The Top 15 Horror Icons of Gaming
As an unabashed fan of horror in all its forms, I’ve always had a special place in my heart for horror gaming. While not as prolific a genre as certain other game types, when a horror game comes along that gets it right, it manages to be more effective and plain scarier than horror films or books could hope to be. Play horror games long enough, and you’ll see some serious shit.
Much like the world of horror films, gaming’s forays into the demonic have left it with a plethora of iconic characters. While its debatable if gaming has produced a character as iconic as say Freddy or Jason, the overall quality and effectiveness of gaming’s horror icons can go toe to toe with those from any other medium, and as Halloween approaches I think its time they got some well deserved attention.
One quick note regarding these selections. A character can be scary and iconic even if it isn’t in a pure horror game, meaning that not every character on this list is from a game that is traditionally classified as horror! With that disclaimer, I present my top 15 horror icons of gaming.
15. Creeper (Minecraft)
Now you see why I highlighted that disclaimer don’t you?
Minecraft is not a strict horror game, but it does rely heavily on its survival elements, which are also vital to good horror experiences. As such, the first night you find yourself out in the wild, or trapped in a deep cavern are among the scariest moments in gaming. That’s a feeling that’s due in large part to the presence of a creeper, whose silent approach and explosive death have been the end of just about ever “Minecraft” player at some point. The only time you fear the creeper more than when it’s directly behind you, is when you aren’t seeing it at all. That’s a pretty good indication you’re a horror icon.
14. The Yeti (Ski Free)
So, it’s the early 90′s and you’re playing “Ski Free” on your fancy new Windows computer. There you are enjoying a leisure ski adventure, marveling at the game’s technical majesty, when all of a sudden a giant friggin Yeti beelines at your skier and straight up eats them.
The brilliance of The Yeti stems from the fact you’re not expecting it. It has absolutely no business existing in a casual game like Ski Free, and not only terrifies you the first time you play it, but makes you live in dread of his coming on subsequent tries. You may escape the Yeti, but you’ll never be truly rid of him
13. Wallmasters (Legend of Zelda)
I swear I’ll get to strict horror games at some point, but until then, I’ve got to give the Wallmaster its due.
Wallmaster…**** you. Not only are you the scariest creature in “Zelda” (giant dismembered hands are always scary) but you are the most frustrating as well. Whereas most servants of Ganon are satisfied merely murdering the young adventurer Link, you find your perverse pleasure in picking him up like a broken toy, and tossing him back to the beginning of a dungeon, making you something of an in-game troll as well as a giant hand. For being the cause of more high pitched screams and broken controllers than anything else in the Zelda series, I salute you.
12. Alma (F.E.A.R.)
You know what’s funny? “F.E.A.R.” isn’t really that scary of a series overall, and the whole “creepy little girl” thing was already getting kind of played out by the time Alma reared her freaky little head.
It’s the fact Alma managed to be so memorable in spite of those limitations, that gets her on this list. Remove Alma from “F.E.A.R.” and you’re left with a mostly generic shooter that would have been forgotten much sooner than it has been. With her though, you have a game that manages to keep you constantly on your toes in anticipation for the next moment that she will come and just scare the crap out of you. It’s her presence that manages to change the entire atmosphere and dynamics of the game, meaning whenever she is on screen “F.E.A.R.” goes from a semi-competent shooter, to pretty damn good horror game.
11. The Fog (Silent Hill)
You know those directors who say something along the lines of “We may have shot in New York, but the city was more like a character than a setting.”? The fog in “Silent Hill” is just like that.
Originally implemented to compensate for the Playsation’s lack of draw distance, the fog in “Silent Hill” makes the whole game about 90% scarier than it would have been otherwise. It not only conceals your enemies making you rely on vague radio signals that only loosely indicate where the danger is, but even makes moments of supposed calm uncomfortable, like the fog is slowly seeping in and strangling you. It might not actually be a monster (that’s actually debatable considering the plot) but it’s certainly an icon of horror gaming.
10. Scissorman (Clock Tower)
The “Clock Tower” series may never get the love it deserves in the world of horror gaming, but it’s high time that Scissorman was paid the proper respect.
Designed and modeled largely after the more famous creatures of film horror, Scissorman is a slasher in the pure sense of the term. He creeps, he stalks, he wields an iconic weapon, and he usually chooses the most cinematic moments to pop out and scare the living hell out of you. His design and actions make him often feel like some sort of missing character from the glory days of the 80′s slasher, and to this day seeing even a still image of him can inspire dread and a morbid curiosity regarding who he is, and where the hell he got those giant bloody scissors.
9. Necromorphs (Dead Space)
Aim for the head. If George Romero movies didn’t already get that simple message buried deep into your subconscious, the years of film and video games that preceded “Dead Space” and preached the same words probably did.
The Necromorph directly plays against that universal shooter rule, by making the limbs the weakspot. While that no doubt caused nearly every player to panic during the first few encounters, even when figuring out the trick to defeating them, their steady menacing pace and skills at playing dead never fail to cause you to shoot randomly in terror once in a while when one comes into sight. Also, unlike many horror creatures, discovering the origins and motivations of the necromorphs actually make them more terrifying. “Dead Space 1 & 2” (you heard me!) are the premiere horror games of this generation, and that’s due in large part to the terrifying contributions of the Necromorphs.
8. Deathclaw (Fallout)
Despite not technically being a horror game, “Fallout” manages to be one of the most terrifying series ever made due to the unfiltered horrific vision of the nuclear apocalypse it portrays. There are atrocities in those games without equal, and the bleak and somber tones of the world they inhabit make them all the more intimidating.
Yet none of the horrors these games can throw at you compare to the Deathclaw. While their pants wetting visual design, incredible power, and simply unfair speed certainly help their iconic status, the biggest reason they’re so memorable is due to the design of the games themselves. Because of the open nature of “Fallout” the first time you encounter a Deathclaw, you are likely in no way prepared to defeat it, and can only watch in horror as it swarms on you with blinding speed, and an almost professional level of malice. Hell, even later in the game when you’re basically a destroyer of worlds, a pack of these bad boys can still make you pause in fear.
7. Poison Head Crabs (Half-Life)
Sure headcrabs are mostly derivative of the face huggers from “Alien,” but that did absolutely to suppress the terror they inspired when making there debut in 1998′s “Half-Life,” and they’ve since arguably surpassed their terrestrial spiritual brethren in terms of notoriety.
That being said, I give the slight nod to their poisonous offshoot from “Half-Life 2.” Even though the Ravenholm section of that game was basically a detour into the horror genre, the only sections I’d really consider scary involved these little bastards, and their ability to bring the player’s health down to 1 instantly. Much like the Wallmaster, the poisonous headcrab is memorable not just because of the way it initially sends a jolt of fear through the player, but because of the way it can wreck your gaming experience.
6. Evil Otto (Berzerk)
When you’re first name is Evil, you’ve got some pretty big horror expectations to live up to.
Otto has done just that, though over a career dedicated to outmaneuvering the players of “Berzerk” and coming upon them like the specter of death itself, all while sporting a permanent grin that only goes away when its blood lust is satisfied. “Berzkerk” has claimed actual lives, and while that’s medically been attributed to heart attacks caused by the flashing lights of the game, anyone who’s ever cringed upon hearing the garbled “Intruder Alert, Intruder Alert” message that preceeds the arrival of Evil Otto know he was the more likely culprit.
5. The Cherub (Doom)
In general, when designing an effective horror character, it’s appreciated if some level of subtlety is applied either in the origins or design. With few exceptions, obvious attempts to scare are not acceptable.
Meet one of those exceptions. Is it a bit cheap from a design standpoint to just throw a deformed monster baby out there and call it a day? Perhaps. However, it’s impossible to deny that when a gang of these things come screeching at you (of course they screech) you’re first reaction is to back away towards the last known safe point while screaming your head off and firing a shotgun in every direction. For the most part, the frights in the Doom series are muted somewhat by the sheer amount of firepower available to you, but there is no weapon in the game (not even the fabled BFG) that makes you feel comfortable when surrounded by these bundles of terror.
4. The Witch (Left 4 Dead)
Ah the Witch. What else is there to say about the Witch?
The Witch is like a landmine of pure terror. Even though you’re up against an army of some of the most horrifying creatures imaginable, it’s the one that can kill you before you can put up a fight that scares you the most. Landmines might not make a noise to alert you of their presence like the Witch does, but those lamentations actually make her more frightening as the moment you hear them, you’re suddenly seized with terror and the knowledge you might soon be dead. The Witch has gotten us all at some point, and the moment you fire a shot in the wrong direction, she’ll get you again.
3. Shodan (System Shock)
Like many other horror gaming characters, Shodan borrows several characteristics from something in film (in this case “2001: A Space Odyssey’s” HAL 9000), but uses the interactive advantages of gaming to maker her own mark.
The antagonist of the “System Shock” series, Shodan’s defining moment would come in “System Shock 2” when after your character has survived an abandoned space ship full of horror, it is revealed that the lone survivor that was guiding you along is actually the evil A.I. Shodan, whose been using you for her own agenda. Long before “Bioshock” asked us “Would You Kindly,” “System Shock 2” showed us how a twist can be that much more effective when coupled with the feeling of betrayal. Only here it’s made even more effective by the presence of Shodan whose megalomaniac personality makes you feel appropriately small.
2. Nemesis (Resident Evil 3)
The argument that “Resident Evil” is the biggest franchise in horror gaming is not a hard one to make, and of all of the terrors the series has lent to our nightmares (lickers, giant spiders, those damn zombie dogs) none are more memorable than the Nemesis.
Essentially the Terminator of the franchise, the Nemesis was built for no other purpose than to hunt and kill S.T.A.R.S. members. Not bound by many of the series previously established rules (he can enter doors!), the Nemesis is like a boss character you fight the entire game, though you never know when he will appear, and as such are rarely prepared to stand up to him. With his strong aversion to dying, the only pang of regret you’ll feel when he finally goes down for good, is when you realize that the “RE” series, and horror gaming, may never see his demonic equal.
1. Pyramid Head (Silent Hill 2)
In a way it was disappointingly easy to name Pyramid Head number one.
While his iconic looks are the very embodiment of terror, and certainly make him stand out amongst the crowd, it’s not until you start learning more about the characters origins do you realize just how depraved it is. One of the more disturbing elements of the character, which is rarely seen in video games otherwise, is its underlying sexual themes, which are highly reminiscent of the terrifying cenobite demons from “Hellaraiser.” It’s an example of the many ways this character assaults your emotions on a primal level, and gets under your skin in a very real way.
I think that may just be the clearest reason Pyramid Head gets the top spot. While just about every other character on this list largely only unsettles you when you’re actually up against them in the game you’re playing, Pyramid Head is the only one that really sticks with long after, and is as terrifying when you’re merely considering him, as he is when you’re facing him in the game.
Posted in: Editorial
Tags: Alma, Berzerk, best characters in gaming horror, best video game horror characters, Clock Tower, Creeper, dead space, Deathclaw, Doom, Evil Otto, F.E.A.R., fallout, gaming horror icons, half-life, horror icons of gaming, icons of gaming, icons of horror, left 4 dead, legend of zelda, Minecraft, Necromorphs, Nemesis, Poison Head Crabs, Pyramid Head, Resident Evil 3, scariest video game characters, Scissorman, SHODAN, Silent Hill, Silent Hill 2, Silent Hill fog, Ski Free, System Shock, The Cherub, The Fog, The Witch, The Yeti, Wallmasters
As Halloween Approaches, Games Start to Get in the Spirit With Themed Updates
While the age of Halloween themed TV show specials is slowly coming to a close (we miss you TGIF!), videogames have been more than willing to pick up the slack in recent years by using the beloved horror holiday to unleash a bevy of downloadable frights on gamers everywhere. This year is no exception, and here are just a few of the recent Halloween themed additions made to some popular games.
The incredibly humorous, and appropriately intense, re-make of the 90’s FPS “Shadow Warrior” continues its in-game trend of borrowing weapons from other series, as it adds an ice axe to the game’s substantial arsenal that comes courtesy of TellTalle’s “Walking Dead” games. While its effectiveness when put up against the katana it replaces is suspect, as anyone whose played The Walking Dead can attest, when in a pinch it can really make a baddie think twice, and should fit well into the game’s selection of awesome weapons best applied with extreme predjudice.
Popular world building RPG “Terraria” gets a little more into the traditional Halloween spirit by filling it’s world with a variety of Halloween novelties. You’ll find enemies wearing costumes, random gift bags filled with in-game treats, a variety of Halloween themed items, weapons, and locations, to explore and create, and even a special new “Pumpkin Moon Event” challenge which adds a survival mode to the game, where waves of enemies all possessing increasingly better loot descend upon the player.
The best of the Halloween updates though has to go to “Minecraft,” which has just unveiled a Halloween update for the 360 version of the game that is simply mind blowing. It essentially re-skins the entire game in a way that lets you build a Halloween world of your own, not unlike that of Pumpkin Town from “A Nightmare Before Christmas.” The attention to detail here is phenomenal, and constantly provides the feeling that the developers are more excited for Halloween than anyone else. There’s too many examples of little Halloween touches to go over, but I have to give a shout out to whoever decided to turn the game’s teleporting Endermen, into the more horror appropriate Slendermen. A free update, everyone who has Minecraft on the 360 needs to experience this, as it just may be the best way to get hyped for “Halloween” available. Browsing the images of this incredible update is also highly recommended.
Of course this is just a sampling of the Halloween updates available, and the biggest annual update (The “Team Fortress 2” Halloween update) is still yet to come. Stay tuned here this week for more updates on that, as well as other horror themed articles in anticipation of Halloween.
Posted in: News
Tags: halloween, Halloween Video Game updates, Halloween video games, Minecraft Halloeen texture pack, Minecraft Halloween skins, Minecraft Halloween updates, Shadow Warrior Halloween update, Shadow Warrior Ice Axe, Shadow Warrior Walking Dead update, Terraria Halloween update, Video Game Blogs, Video game news, video game updates, Video Games, Video Games to Play on Halloween
Instant Impressions – Path of Exile
It’s not possible to talk about the recently released free to play game “Path of Exile” without mentioning its strong resemblance to “Diablo.” In fact, lets just call it like it is and say that “Path of Exile” is, for all intents and purposes, a knockoff of “Diablo.” However, I’ve never found being a knockoff a bad thing in the world of video games, so long as said knockoff follows three simple rules:
1. Make sure you’re borrowing from an already great game.
2. Improve on any structural flaws the original game had.
3. Introduce at least one unique idea that the original game did not have.
Does “Path of Exile” adhere to all of these rules? For the most part, yes.
As mentioned, it draws most of its inspiration from the “Diablo” series (fulfilling the first rule), and does it to a degree that’s worth elaborating on. Right down to visual layout of the menu, this game has the design stench of “Diablo” all over it, to the point where a glance at a screen shot of both games, could possibly cause even a fan of the fabled Blizzard series to hesitate. I don’t really resent it for lifting the “Diablo” gameplay formula (click your way through mobs of enemies while improving your character, and getting better loot) because “Diablo” not only introduced that style of gameplay, but by an large perfected it, however I will say that the sheer amount of little design elements borrowed from that series, can cause you to roll your eyes once in a while.
Fortunately any lapses in design creativity are largely negated by the admirable way “POE” honors rule number 2. The developers of “POE” recognize that when you are making this style of game, the most important thing you can do is to get the fundamentals right. That’s why extra care has been put into making things like loot drops, enemy balance, skill risk/reward, and combat variety, as sound as possible and implemented in ways that keep you from having to consider any of those elements while playing. What I mean is, the best type of ARPG’s are built in a way that quickly puts you into a zen like focus, as your brain reshapes its perspective to hone in on the gaming world, and all of its functions and rules. The moment that you, say, run into an impossible nest of enemies or wonder why the game keeps dropping the same item, are the moments when you focus out, and begin to lose interest. “POE’s” intent on making the genre fundamentals so solid ensures that these lapses back to reality are few and far between.
Does it do anything outside of the norm to satisfy rule number 3 though, and make its own mark? This is a little trickier than the first two, but I’m going to tepidly say “yes,” and cite the skill system as my justification. See, whereas most of these games work off of a simple skill tree where you choose basic branching paths to determine how you will build your character, “POE” uses a skill grid that is absolutely massive (you can’t capture it in a single screenshot), and as far as potential depth goes, leaves the old tree design in the dust. Trying to break it down entirely would be a fruitless headache, but just know that it allows you to take any of the game’s classes (which are all admirably balanced and equally useful by the way), and build them anyway you like. For example, it might not be as easy or immediately rewarding to build a barbarian character who is also adept in magic, but with the right level of dedication you can do just that, along with any other character combination you can think of.
Despite fulfilling all three rules to this style of game design, I still find myself slightly resenting “POE” for it’s lack of creativity. Though I do really enjoy the design consistency of the game’s gothic horror elements, and the bleak world they come together to form, aesthetically speaking there is really nothing here you haven’t seen quite a few times before. Similarly, outside of the improved skill system, as far as ARPG’s go, everything here from a gameplay standpoint is pretty commonplace as well. This doesn’t really deprive the game of much at first, but as your journey wears on it becomes more and more obvious that not many original thoughts made it from the brainstorming process, to the final game.
That being said, “POE’s” lack of innovation does very little to harm the overall experience, especially once you factor in the free to play aspect. Yes I know it’s not usually a good sign when the final say on a free to play game is “It’s free,so you have no reason not to play it,” but the fact that this is a free to play game in the true sense of the word (I.E. you’re never encouraged to spend money if you don’t want to) takes it from a game that only dedicated fans will probably be interested in, to something that….well…. you have no reason not to play.
Some are saying that “POE” feels like more of a successor to “Diablo 2” than “Diablo 3” did, and while that’s certainly true in the sense that it carries on so many of the things that made that game great, the lack of progressive design keeps it from achieving the full implications of that lofty goal. However, I will say that with the exception of “Torchlight 2,” this is simply the most satisfying and consistent game of this type that I have played since the seminal “Diablo 2,” and deserves to be tried by everyone reading this.
Download “Path of Exile” for Steam
Posted in: News
Tags: best Diablo knock offs, best free to play games, diablo like games, games like Diablo 2, games similar to Diablo, gaming, gaming blogs, gaming news, instant impressions, must have free video games, Path of Exile, Path of Exile review, Reviews, Video game news
Ryse: Son of Rome Developers Suffer Some Intense Backlash After Controversial Tweet
It takes a lot of combined effort to make a video game happen. I once worked for a video game company doing QA (sorry, can’t say which), and the hours upon hours of work that multiple people in a plethora of different departments had to put in just to make a game that was far from AAA quality is absolutely immense. It’s a fact of the industry you probably have considered before, but believe me when I say that its hard to really grasp the day to day scope of just how much work goes into making a game when you’re actually a part of it.
The folks behind the upcoming Xbox One game “Ryse: Son of Rome” probably figured the same, and thought it might be humorous/insightful to share some fun facts regarding the game’s development through Twitter. One of these fun facts was that the folks at Crytek have purchased over 11,500 dinners for their staff as they made it through “crunch time,” a phrase used to describe a phase of development time when everyone is putting in serious extra hours of work in order to get the game ready for release.
At the time of Tweeting it, Crytek probably thought they’d receive nothing more than a few “Wow, that’s interesting!” comments, or perhaps some bad food puns. What they got, though, was something far worse.
Minutes after the fun fact was tweeted, the developer’s Twitter page exploded with angry statements targeted towards the game developer for making their employees go through crunch time. Specifics remarks included allegations that this would tear apart families, force children into lives of crime, or even make some involved turn to suicide before it was all over. As with most things on Twitter, though, some of these statements are ultimately more serious than others.
Even still though, I feel the overall tone of the majority of these negative comments was completely uncalled for. Yes, crunch time is a tiresome and trying endurance test that inevitably leads to late nights and early mornings, or even just sleeping at work, and yes there have been incidents where crunch time sessions went way, way too far (some of the statements of former EA employees support this), but as miserable as it can get to be a developer or member of a gaming staff during this period, its also genuinely accepted that this is part of their job.
It’s true that going through such an intense work period is sure to put a strain on someone’s mental well-being and personal life, but it’s somewhat immature to act like this is a burden exclusive to the game development industry, or a horror without professional equal. There are people all over the world that have to endure way worse in both their personal and professional lives than having to work serious overtime doing what they love for a more than respectable wage and, while that doesn’t excuse the more extreme cases of overworking employees in any industry, to outright accuse anyone of something so horrific as destroying families just because they did something that is industry standard at this point, is inexcusable, and horrifying once you take in just how many people lashed out against Crytek to such a passionate extent.
Ultimately there are too many unknown factors (including the exact details of this crunch time, and the personal situations of every employee who went through it) to draw a definitive conclusion regarding how warranted these Twitter attacks were. However, just by going off what is known, its safe to say that these attacks were mostly uncalled for, and serve as another unfortunate example of the all too common trend of gamers not being able to maturely raise an issue regarding something occurring in the industry.
Instant Impressions of Camp Keepalive
The great thing about indie games is that they’re diverse enough to offer at least one game that, at least in concept, sounds like it was tailor made for you. For instance, when I saw a 80’s horror inspired strategy game called “Camp Keepalive” was in the works, I could have sworn that somehow, someone, somewhere had looked into some half thought video game idea I‘d come up with as a child, or possibly underachieving college student, and made it into a fully realized experience.
Well, as it turns out, they actually just made a visual representation of that half thought idea.
“Camp Keepalive” is a turn based strategy game that has you choose four out of a group of eight camp counselors as they watch over the campers. Complicating the menial position are a group of horror monsters roaming the woods around you, whom all seem unusually dedicated to murder as many counselors and campers as possible. Only by navigating a grid based world and bringing the kids back to the camp can you survive.
Upon initial inspection “Camp Keepalive” is a fine little strategy game. Basically there’s a variety of monsters who roam the map and each have a different method of attack and movement, (for instance, some will beeline straight for counselors, while others will choose one target to stalk endlessly) and your counselors each have unique skills to provide like the ability to go invisible, a call that brings all campers touching the square you’re on to you, or just a weapon to attack monsters head on with. The available skills and attacks are all very diverse and do a good job of not only catering to unique play styles, but immediately provide replay value as you experiment with what combinations of counselors works best for you. Outside of those skills, your only method of defense is to lay traps on grids which kill monsters upon contact.
It’s not a bad set up, but it quickly becomes apparent that the designer got that far and hit a major creative roadblock. The biggest problem with it is that it’s way too random. Sometimes games like these benefit from a healthy amount of random, but here it just breaks some already simple mechanics, by spawning both campers and monsters on random grids to the point of makes it impossible to truly think more than a move ahead. The campers are the worst part about this, as they have no incentive to move towards safety and away from danger, and usually spawn in places that are not possible to get to.
I suppose in a way the feeling of overwhelming dread and helplessness supports the horror environment, but that’s not the best place to start inserting cute references, especially when the places references are supposed to be in the game fall short of satisfying the horror element of the experience. Yes, it’s sad but the horror theme of this title turns out to be nothing more than window dressing. While the writing does a good job at making humorous pokes at horror tropes, the overall experience only incorporates the scary stuff on an aesthetic level. The basic game could be re-skinned in several different ways and be perfectly applicable, as it does almost nothing to really take advantage of the horror movies it claims to be inspired by.
Oddly enough I’d actually say this game is overall a case of failed tributes. It’s a tribute to strategy games, but pays little attention to achieving their refinement. It’s a tribute to horror movies, but uses them for so little that it might just be a tribute to horror movie covers. Finally it’s a tribute to 8 bit era games, but unfortunately doesn’t just stop at borrowing the graphics of that era, but incorporates a simple, chaotic, and troublesome design that feels like something that not only looks like a strategy game on the NES, but unfortunately plays like one as well.
Maybe it’s still the love for the concept blinding me, but as unimpressed as I am with the final game, I also find myself strangely drawn back to it at times. Overall though, I think that’s more a knee jerk reaction to those moments when the games concept matches its execution, and that doesn’t seem be near often enough to warrant a purchase. “Camp Keepalive” has a lot of things going for it which may one day make it a worthwhile experience. As it is now, though, much like a day trip to Camp Crystal Lake, just stay away.