Serious Sam 2
Bionic Commando 2010
Beyond Good & Evil
The Call of Cthulu is a board game based off of the H.P. Lovecraft “Cthulu Mythos. The Call of Cthulu: Dark Corners of the Earth is a videogame that is based off of a combination of the boardgame and the H.P. Lovecraft novel “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”. It was released for the XBox in 2005 and PC in 2006. It is also playable on the XBox 360 with the latest system patches.
The result of this combination of worlds is a first-person survival horror game that has equal emphasis on combat, exploration and running like hell. The game takes place in the 1920's, and you fill the shoes of Jack Walters, a private detective. Jack's a little more than just an average dick, however. It's up to you to found out how and why.
Dark Corners also eliminates the Heads-Up-Display, or HUD. In most first-person games, this would be your finger on the pulse that is inventory, health and ammo management. This has been removed for a more realistic feel; you'll never know how many shots you have left unless you check your inventory screen – and this will also give you your vitals as well. That isn't to say that you won't know when you're injured or experiencing the effects of psychological trauma, because these are made apparent with both visual and audio cues such as affected vision, different breathing patterns and a change in Jack's heartbeat.
Furthermore, the effects of either physical or mental “damage” can affect your movement in terms of speed, accuracy and controller sensitivity. The visual and audio cues will also have an affect on gameplay. This adds greatly to the tension and atmosphere, but it's very unwelcome when you're trying to navigate an area that requires platforming or get a bead on an enemy. There are actually a lot of effects that have been incorporated into the gameplay to give the game a more realistic feel. For instance, medkits are broken down into components, and these components are used to heal specific ailments per body part. If your legs are broken, you move slower. If your arms are broken, you can't aim very well. Fatigue has also been incorporated; you can't aim a gun forever. After a few seconds, your arms will start to waver. Furthermore, all weapons must be manually reloaded; no automated reloads.
Bland combat is not the only issue I've seen so far. The game is unpolished, and this affects many aspects. Enemies not taking melée damage when you're right up to them, lock-ups – there's even a glitch that prevents you from finishing a level. In order to do so, you have to clear your system cache and reload from a checkpoint that's about 10 minutes away from the end of the level where you experience the glitch.
Finally, the game relies on a save system that's a combination of automatic save checkpoints and save points scattered around the game world. Admittedly, Call of Cthulu mostly actually gets this one right. It's still not fun losing more than a few minutes of progress when you get killed. Or go crazy and kill yourself. To an extent, this adds to the tension, and while tension is a good thing in survival horror games, the stress of half-baked design shouldn't count into that. Especially when trial-and-error practice comes into play both very early and very late into the game.
Visually, Dark Corners actually looks really good for its time. It looks even better on the XBox 360. The game is exactly what it should be – dark and gritty, and the textures don't show as much as age as they could. Furthermore, the visual affects of injury or insanity are actually really well done – regardless of whether or not they impact gameplay (and they do, for better or worse).
The muted colours also really add to the atmosphere, and there are still a couple events that make you go “wow”. Enemy models actually look pretty good for the hardware generation, and the weapon models look good, too. In fact, I'd say that there was a lot more effort put into the creatures than the human characters. That's not really a bad thing, considering they're the star of the show, but I think some more effort could have been put into Jack, considering he looks as bad as a Morrowind character.
Beyond that, the visual effects and artistic design let you know that this is not a world for children. It's gruesome, violent and shocking.
On the original Xbox, it's there. The music exists as a subtle mood enhancer. It actually sounds like it's from a 1950's horror movie, and it's very effective.
There are a few moments near the end of the game where the audio stutters, and this happens more frequently on the XBox 360 than the XBox.
Also, none of the intro animations that come up as the game is loading have any audio when it is played on the XBox 360.
The controls of the game are pretty good, but they take some getting used to. Jack doesn't walk or run all that fast, but he can turn on a dime. Funny how that works. However, there are still some issues. For instance, if you aim, release the aim button and then immediately press it again, you need to wait until your weapon arm is at rest before you can try it again, and you might have to press it a couple times again after that.
I also found that I sometimes had to press the A button several times to interact with the environment even though I was right where I need to be. This can be a real hassle, especially in parts where you need to be precise – or die. That this was not addressed before the game was released is just plain lazy.
Other than that, everything else worked well, and the control changes when you were physically injured added more depth to the feel of the game. Furthermore, the default controller layout is fairly intuitive, although it works best with either a duke controller or an aftermarket S controller with the white and black buttons moved to the shoulders. This is because the white and black buttons are fairly crucial and their placement on the standard S controller is, frankly, terrible. That said, the absolute best controller to use would be the 360 controller due to its streamlined ergonomics.
How Do I Feel About it?
Call of Cthulu: Dark Corners of the Earth is not a bad game. I may be ragging on it, but it's also my responsibility to point out its flaws as much as its strengths. That said, the game has a strong story despite the bad voice acting. As a survival horror game, it oozes tension and atmosphere better than most. This is due to both the visual and sound design as well as its pacing, which is fairly unique.
It starts out with the slow mystery that you might encounter in Silent Hill and then changes about one quarter of the way in to a much more intense pacing similar to The Suffering, where the pacing is constantly surging and dipping.
Another aspect that Dark Corners excels at is the boss fights. While they're very easy after you've figured things out, they won't be until you do. In fact, they'll be downright impossible. And that's the way it should be when you're going up against opponents that are essentially gods.
Despite the fact that it's not primarily a First-Person Shooter (and it does show), the combat is competent. It's just not stellar. In fact, most of the gameplay components on their own are just that; the environmental interaction is not always responsive (and occasionally glitchy), the stealth, while competent, is very basic. In fact, I would say that Goldeneye 64 had better stealth mechanics. Exploration for the mostpart was actually done well, but it's still hampered by the issues caused by glitches in the game's environment.
As a survival-horror game, it does deliver a genuinely tense, creepy experience that rivals the best of what's out there even now, and its approach to realism – like it or not – adds more to this experience.
What's to like?
-Creepy as all hell
-Great environmental effects
-Graphics have aged well.
-Controls are easy to get used to
What not to like?
-Game engine bugs
Title: Winback: Covert Operations
System: Nintendo 64
Time to stop the Prying Lions. Er, Crying Lions.
Despite the ability to roll, crouch and carry a stealth weapon, stealth sequences are few, but there are a couple and they aren't brutal by any stretch of the imagination.
The game contains a total of 31 levels and a story that changes based on how long you take to go through the game. Every few levels, you have a boss battle, and these aren't just different because bosses have more health; they also often have weapons that the regular opponents don't, so this really mixes things up. The boss battles are difficult and get harder as you go along, but the last two are downright cheap. The problem is not so much that the enemies are super-strong, but that you have to overcome some obstacles that don't lend themselves very well to the game's control scheme – let alone the N64 controller, so I would say that this is a lazy way to make a game harder. However, this is one of the few cases of questionable design that I've come across. It shouldn't come as a surprise that the game will become harder as you progress to the end, and this aspect keeps the final acts of the game both fresh and satsifying.
Despite the blurriness and fog – which is pretty much trademark N64 – I can actually spot quite a bit of detail on some of the character and weapon models (for the time). Animations are generally smooth, and I like how the game has an arcadey look and feel, whether it be the effects from hitting an opponent to the scoring screen at the end of the level.
While the enemy grunts are basically all Guy X, Y and Z, the bosses all look unique and their level of detail is also fairly good.
I was really disappointed with Winback's level soundtrack as there isn't really much variation; one track per act. I think there's maybe four or five songs, and most are not anything to write home about. Its one strength is that the soundtrack has some dynamism to it; as you lose health, the music changes to one of the few excellent pieces and the tempo and intensity change, too.
That said, the sound effects are very good. The weapon sounds, the enemies alerting each other, explosions, that's all pretty good for a game of this period, especially a game that's trying to be fairly realistic as far as audio goes. Unfortunately, while the enemies yell out when the see you, all of the core dialogue is text. There's no voice-over work for any of the core characters, which is inexcusable in the year of 1999 as many games on both consoles and home computers were already including this amenity.
It's no lie that the N64 controller is neither the most practical or ergonomic controller ideas. While not the worst, its design can actually cause more frustration due to the position of the centre analog stick.
However, the game has ways of correcting itself to help players work around these inherent issues, and fairly gracefully, too. Unfortunately, what lack of control over manual aim exists caused by the N64's controller's design is exploited by the developers to make the game more difficult at times. There are puzzles and even a boss that requires proper use of manual aim, and the design of the N64 controller does not accommodate this with any ease. Luckily, I can count these things on one hand, but they do exist. For everything else, though, there's auto-aim. As opposed to, say, a certain credit card brand (which couldn't help you here if you had a Game Genie).
While it's fairly unconventional for a game to pick up most of a player's slack, it's really welcome here. It doesn't hurt that the rest of the functions work very well, especially rolling (provided your analog stick hasn't lost sensitivity), cover and general combat.
How Do I Feel About it?
Overall, I like Winback. It's a good game, but it also has some serious design flaws. They're few, but they're memorable. The parts of the game where the difficulty becomes extreme are not because of enemy AI or tricky platforming (the latter is non-existent), but because the developers ran out of ideas and decided to exploit the weaknesses of the N64 peripheral hardware. That's downright dirty and lazy.
The story is fairly standard fair mixed with the usual melodramatic spicing you might find in a Japanese game translated to a North American audience. If you like that sort of thing, you'll be in for a lot of intrigue, backstory and bad people giving worse excuses for the crap they pull. Or, you can forget it, press Start and jump back into the fray without having to worry about what kind of crap you might be forced to sit through.
I like the game's visual style, but the N64 fog is...well, an N64 thing. Unfortunately, it sometimes makes targeting far-away enemies a pain because I can't tell if I'm aiming at Terrorist #356 or Fencepost #1002. That aside, character models look fairly good, and weapons are fairly detailed for an N64 game.
The sound is the greatest weakness because the soundtrack isn't very diverse and there's no story voice-over work when there could have been. Furthermore, other than one track, the soundtrack is nothing to write home about. You don't need a lot of tracks, you just need to make sure that all of them are good. Despite the excellent sound effects, these things really drag it down.
Luckily, it does all work. The N64 controller weaknesses are (mostly) compensated for – which I applaud Omega Force for pulling off so well – and the overall gameplay style is a refreshing treat compared to the average run-and-gun game. This game will make you think, at least a little. And despite its archaic design, the cover system (mostly) works brilliantly. Few games that prototype a major gameplay innovation tend to pull it off so well. I also like the sort of arcadey feel of it; to a certain extent, it almost gives Winback a Time Crisis vibe, but without the ridiculous timer. Despite the mostly blasé soundtrack and lack of voice work, the sound effects are very good, and despite the N64 fog, the visuals don't suck. Added replay due to alternate endings doesn't hurt either – despite the fact that the end result is superficial, but getting there will really make you hone your skills.
All in all, we wound up with a very competent game here.
What's to like?
- Great cover mechanics
- Gameplay has aged well
- Slower, more deliberate pacing helps build tension
- Innovative multiplayer concept
- Good model detail
What not to like?
- Cheap abuse of N64 controller weaknesses
- Huge audio shortfall
- Squandered multiplayer potential
Winback is an N64 game that is very much ahead of its time because of the gameplay mechanics that it employs. Despite audio issues, N64 hardware limitations and some lazy/questionable design choices, Winback: Covert Operations is a very solid shooter, especially if you're looking for something new, fresh for the time and still holds up well against its contemporaries.
Title: Serious Sam 2
Tagline: Double The Serious
The premise is that Sam must stop the evil Dr. Mental from taking over the universe, and he'll traverse a huge variety of themes ranging from jungles, cities, swamps, military installations and more to get it done.
Along the way, you'll encounter mutants, guns and cheesy humour. And a monkey-roast. Don't ask, it's better that way.
The problem with the enemies in Serious Sam 2 is that they're a challenge because there's a lot of them, they're very resilient, and almost anything with a gun can either accurately lead you or it will fire seeking projectiles. While you are able to shoot projectiles down in mid-air, it no longer takes a single shot like it did in the original Serious Sam, and most enemy projectile types travel faster even than yours of the same type.
There are also several enemies that are little more than reskins with new audio. This is just lazy. While there are many new enemies altogether, there are also a lot of enemies that are new skins of old creatures. Why not leave the old ones alone?
To solidify the fact that the enemies are tougher, the weapons don't feel powerful. Enemies take more shotgun shells than in the previous games, but it fires at the same rate as the original shotgun. All of the automatics have had their fire rates reduced, and even explosives don't feel as powerful, like their blast radii have been drastically altered.
The issues that I found with level design have more to do with monsters than anything else. This all comes back to the core of Serious Sam: Enormous kill counts. I can appreciate this, but a lot of the fights actually seem far more long-winded than they should be. It isn't that too many enemies spawn at once so much that they keep spawning for much longer than they should. Maybe their should have been more creatures spawned and fewer spawn waves? That would have made the game much more intense and it would have shortened the battles, too.
Now, anyone familiar with Serious Sam knows that death isn't necessarily the end. You get killed, dust yourself off and then you come back into the fray. In the original Serious Sam, you respawn where you die and continue on fighting. In Serious Sam 2, you respawn from a pre-saved checkpoint, so all progress after that point is lost. Even worse, you don' respawn with the ammo you had at that save point, you respawn with a set amount based on the weapons you currently have. The combination of cheap opponents who can take a heavy beating, battles that run unnecessarily long and sometimes losing an armory's worth of ammunition becomes almost unbearable on higher difficulties.
A final point which I really enjoyed was the ability to interact with more of the environment than a few switches. You could pick things up and throw them, stack them to reach secret areas, or just destroy them. There are also more ways to fight enemies than just the million guns hidden in your back pocket. You can use vehicles and turrets armed with destructive firepower – at least as destructive as Croteam was willing to give you.
Other than the vehicles, these things weren't really necessary to make a good game, and they certainly add more depth than there otherwise would have been.
Unfortunately, these points don't overshadow the crucial components that were left to neglect. They can't because weapons, enemies and level design are the most important parts of a first-person shooter's design.
Serious Sam 2 really shines in the graphics department – often literally. There are great lighting effects to be found, and many surfaces are very shiny. Water looks great, too.
While all of the characters have a cartoony look, this is trademark for Serious Sam. Despite this, all of the main characters are fairly well detailed. And as watered down as the weapons are, the do look awesome.
The only characters that don't really look all that great at the villagers you're often protecting; there's often lots of them and many look too similar.
Where the game suffers in the gameplay department, it clearly makes up for it in visuals, although that isn't saying much.
The audio in Serious Sam 2 is a mixed bag. It's pretty high quality, and the surround is very accurate.
Monster sounds are great, but some of their weapons – and most of yours – could use better effects. For instance, the helicopter machine gun sounds very quiet.
There is some voice work, and it's kind of all over the place, but often in a good way. The variety of pitches and accents lends to the charm and humour of many of the characters, and I also find much of this to be a high point.
While the audio quality is excellent, the actual effects and music are mostly unremarkable, and this hurts the experience.
The controls in Serious Sam 2 are also a mixed bag. Analog is great – when it works.
I noticed that this usually only happened in large spaces that were flooded with enemies – and it improved as you killed them off. Clearly, this is something that wasn't optimised from the get-go, and it really hurts the gameplay because it's already easy enough to get killed on a difficulty level higher than Easy.
This is an issue that should have been spotted and fixed from the get-go.
How Do I Feel About it?
Despite its flaws, I mostly enjoyed the experience. When not on a difficulty higher than Easy. This is because all of the flaws become ghastly apparent and the game becomes dislikable. I really like the interactivity despite it being almost completely unnecessary for play, I really like the addition of the vehicles, and the game oozes charm despite the M-Rating. You can thank the goofy humour for that. This is one pof few areas where Serious Sam 2 is better than the original; it pokes fun at just about everything, from gaming mechanics to movies and popular culture. Some of it is a little hypocritical, but it's hard to take a game seriously when it wasn't designed to be.
But it makes me very angry that Croteam thought it more important to showcase the graphics and physics above everything else – especially the gameplay that made the series in the first place. It's unforgivable because it tells me they'd rather sell their engine than their game. It shows they forgot that the game sells the engine, not the other way around. Despite all of that, I still like it. I love games where the goal is to slaughter mobs of opponents, even if the game sometimes takes it a little too far, like Serious Sam 2 did.
And yet I like the game. I've beaten it three times, and other than that first playthrough on Normal, I look back on it with a degree of fondness. And while I've never played it online, I still can because the game supports system link,so I can use a tunnel service like XBC or XLink Kai to play online.
Serious Sam 2 is an ultraviolent game that, despite its flaws, has a lot of heart and soul – even with the attempt at a sellout. The devs just seem to have lost track of their priorities. Unfortunately, we gamers ultimately pay the price for this, but the game we got wasn't outright horrible, either.
What's to like?
-Great sense of humour
-Good level design
-A lot of “little things”
What not to like?
-Cheaper player respawn
-Not properly optimised
-Questionable choices made in level design
Serious Sam 2 is a guilty pleasure. It's a good game with a lot of flaws – a lot of major flaws. And this says a lot. Despite these flaws, the gameplay is still addictive. Despite these flaws, the gameplay has been enhanced by all sorts of neat little goodies that didn't have to be there. Despite the pithy attempt at selling out, the game never lost its soul and while its a shadow of its former self, its still a big shadow that you might want to get lost in anyway.
Title: Bionic Commando
System: XBox 360
Swingers needed, apply within
Bionic Commando is a sequel to the 1988 NES game of the same name. In it, you fill the boots (and what sturdy boots they are!) of Nathan Spencer, an elite soldier with a bionic arm that allows him to climb, swing and cause all sorts of havoc. Your objective is to investigate a nuclear blast and then find and kill the culprits, and you'll need to use every trick up your bionic sleeve to get it done.
Traversing the environment is, too. The grappling arm makes this game a more enjoyable platformer. It takes some getting used to the timing and distances, but the game gives you visual cues to let you know what you can grapple to and whether or not you're close enough. The game also provides you with a tutorial to learn this, as well as the other skills at your disposal.
Unfortunately, this tutorial is a flashback that occurs in the middle of the first level. On one hand, it teaches you how to use the grappling hook, but on the other, it completely pulls you out of the story. Luckily, it's right at the start when there's nothing going on. The remainder of the tutorials are in-game, and no less informative, so this was definitely unnecessary.
This isn't the only problem with level design. The game essentially plays along a corridor; the developers use lethal radiation zones to keep you moving down a specific path, so there's very little room for exploration. While that's not necessarily a bad thing, it would have been a lot of fun to just freely explore and see what kind of stuff you can get into with the grappling hook. Unfortunately, you sometimes won't know where the radiation zones are, and you may find yourself swinging into one while trying to evade enemy fire to heal, only to be killed because it causes too much damage to escape even with full health.
Furthermore, the bionic arm often factors into boss fights for both attack and defense purposes. I usually enjoyed these fights just because of this, and found myself rarely getting frustrated. While the boss fights are not extremely difficult, they're not a cake-walk either and they do not lend themselves well to stonewalling.
Bionic Commando also features competitive multiplayer modes. It only has the standard three, however; Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag. Unfortunately, I never got the opportunity to play these as I could never find anyone online. In these modes, you are still able to use your bionic arm and the single-player weapons still apply, too. However, some abilities are not present.
The audio in Bionic Commando is great; the voice work is good, the sound effects are awesome and the soundtrack is incredible.
The only downside is that the game's script is mediocre like a bad soap opera, and the dialogue can sometimes be a little intrusive. Mostly because it's just bad, and the main character loves the f-bomb a little too much for the theme and tone of the game. More than just a smidge of “baditude” here.
The weapon sounds, explosions and enemy sounds are great. I really like the sounds that the mechanized enemies make; it lets you know that they're there and they're formidable.
The soundtrack is something that you just have to experience. It's great sound quality, and it really gets you pumping.
The controls in Bionic Commando are usually very responsive. They make navigating the world with your bionic arm easy and seamless and aiming and dodging are a breeze.
Unfortunately, your bionic arm will sometimes over- or under-shoot and sometimes the game won't initiate whatever you're trying to do right away, such as launching an object into the air to throw it.
I also noticed that there were a few times when I got stuck on a step. This usually happened in the middle of battle, and only seemed to be in the later stages of the game which tells me that it's not quite as polished on the outset as it should be.
How Do I Feel About it?
I like Bionic Commando quite a bit. Despite a few control issues, a story that takes forever to get off of the ground and with bad dialogue to go with it, it's a very fun title. I love using the bionic arm; it's a do-all piece of gear that spices up movement and combat and despite the levels that are essentially on rails.
The game also has a lot of ads riddled throughout; NVidia signs, Pepsi machines that you can't even throw, etc. I don't have a problem with in-game ads if they fit the game – the Pepsi machines most certainly do – but NVidia signs on the highways...not so much.
The boss battles are also some of the most enjoyable that I've actually experienced from this generation of consoles, and I generally loved the game's combat, bionic arm or no.
Unfortunately, the game has a consistently bad story and it doesn't get better at the end. Well, maybe a little more interesting, but not actually better. The added badness of the main character is annoying and given the tone of the game, it turns him into a caricature. He's ambivalent and almost emotionally immature, which is made obvious through his dialogue with his handler.
Despite this, the journey to get there has so far been one of my favourites, and I'd happily do it again. The bionic arm might be a schtick, but it's a great one. And of course, I can't stop gushing about the aesthetics. The levels look amazing and I really wish I could have explored them more. Hopefully this will be addressed if a sequel is made.
What's to like?
-Great audio overall
What not to like?
-Worse voice acting
-Levels don't allow for much exploration
-First tutorial is very intrusive
-Grapple combat controls could have been tightened
-Weird control issues in a couple of the later levels
In Hell, everyone will hear your chainsaw
Doom was released in 1993 by iD Software, and despite the fact that MS-DOS has gone the way of obscurity, it is still playable by means of source port modifications. These can allow you to play the game on DOS, Windows and Linux, so you don't need to be a fan of Bill Gates to play it.
The premise of Doom is that you are the lone survior of an attack on Mars by the denizens of Hell. Your only real goal is to get out of there alive. The game is presented in an episodic fashion, where you can choose which chapter you want to play. When that chapter ends, you move onto the next – or whichever one you want – starting from scratch. There are two versions of Doom; Doom, which has three episodes and was originally on several 3.5” floppy diskettes, and Ultimate Doom which is exclusively on CD (or was at the time of release) and includes a fourth episode called Thy Flesh Consumed.
Doom is considered to be the grand-daddy of the first person shooter. It defined a whole new standard of PC gaming in general, from its network play to its level design, creature and weapon balance, and finally, modability. With tools that were either free, shareware or purchased, you could create your own content for the game. Its fan base is still large and people continue to make new levels, creatures and weapons for the game today.
Doom's gameplay is considered archaic by today's standards. You run, you shoot, you solve puzzles by activating switches and finding keys. Which many shooters today do. Some don't even do all of that. So what's this about archaic?
Doom's pace is very different from not only current games, but games from its own time as well. It's fast. Very, very fast. For a game without locational damage, deathmatch is surprisingly fast and brutal.
This is partly because you're vulnerable – as are many of the monsters you fight. But you also run like a prized race horse on meth. This gives the game a sense of chaos that you don't normally experience, even in war shooters.
Because of the variety of weapons and available tactics no battle will ever play out exactly the same way twice, and this really gives Doom a level of replayability that's rare for a game where nothing is randomised.
Even by today's standards, Doom's gameplay holds up incredibly well. There was nothing exactly like it when it came out, and there's still nothing exactly like it today.
The decorations also look very good, from corpses to tortured people. These fit the game's environments well, and iD made excellent use of them; you'll rarely find anything that actually looks out of place.
The wall and floor graphics (called textures and flats respectively) also look very good, and they're very appropriate for chronicling a journey from the moons of Mars to Hell.
The weapons also look good – still look good, actually. Especially the chainsaw, shotgun and plasma rifle.
Doom's sound design is good. The monster sound effects are excellent and the music is of the same standards. I'm kind of mixed on the weapon sounds, though. The chainsaw sounds off, and I was never a huge fan of the pistol/chaingun sound.
Most of the monsters have unique sounds and some are down right menacing, especially the boss monsters. Many of their attack sounds also sound excellent, which is why I'm surprised at the inconsistent quality of the sounds of the player weapons. The first is that the pistol and machine gun share the same sound. Second is that the chainsaw's attack sound seems very tinny. However, once the chainsaw actually has a hold on an opponent, it sounds awesome.
The music, composed by Robert Prince, is still some of the best I've heard in any game. It's a mix of metal and industrial, and it fits the game exceptionally well. You'll hear influences ranging from Judas Priest to Slayer, and you won't be disappointed.
As far as controls go, it depends on what you use. If you strictly use the keyboard, Doom can be very clunky. If you use both the keyboard and mouse, the controls are excellent. Par for the course, actually; I've never played a game created by iD Software that had bad controls.
The mouse action is very smooth, and like many PC games, is completely customisable. Both keyboard and mouse buttons could be configured to make moving, shooting and interacting more streamlined to provide the optimum shooter experience.
How Do I Feel About it?
I was introduced to Doom in 1995 when my mom's boarder, Mark, got the shareware version and installed it on a friend's computer. And yes, my first time with it was in the dark. It was wild, it was freaky and it tense in a way that few games have ever been for me. I don't think I've had a gaming experience that memorable since I first played Duck Hunt at the Georgian Mall here in Barrie when I was maybe 3 or 4.
Doom was nothing like I'd ever experienced up until that time. It was the most fully-realised virtual world I'd ever been in (for the time), and I'd never been in one so hostile. It was the first first-person shooter that had multiple height levels. The levels weren't mazes composed of 90 degree turns. The weapons ranged from the common to the insane (BFG 9000, anyone?). The game even introduced rocket-jumping, despite the point not being advertised until Quake. And not only did the levels have dangerous creatures, they were dangerous themselves. Platformers like Super Mario and Sonic weren't the only genre to have floors that could hurt or kill you, or crushing platforms.
And you could modify the game. You could make new parts for it, even! New levels, new weapons, new sounds, new creatures!
I even made some gameplay and weapon modifications. That didn't matter, though; the game doesn't need gameplay modifications. It's amazing in its own right.
While I've beaten Doom so many times that it offers me few surprises, few games get my blood pumping like Doom does. It's not just the nostalgia. It's the speed and the intensity. It's the weapons and the sheer brutality. It's the thrill of making a room full of monsters fight amongst themselves and then cleaning up with a boomstick.
What's to like?
-Epic fights that never play out the same way twice
-Arsenal that's as big as it's balanced
-Diverse range of enemies
-Levels are designed to take advantage of enemies and monsters
-Excellent sound track
-Awesome monster sound effects
What's not to like?
-Very dated visuals
-Sound effect shared by two different weapons
-Sound effect for iconic weapon is mediocre
Doom isn't just an “oldie but a goody”. It still turns first-person shooting on its ear with its creepy atmosphere, big guns and often insane battles. With solid controls and a great soundtrack to boot, the dated visuals will only make the most ignorant of gamers turn away from this fantastic title because there was nothing like it, and there's still nothing like it.
Title: Beyond Good & Evil
Camera? Check! Bo staff? Check! Lucky pig? Hmm...must be in my other Bag of Infinite Holding.
Beyond Good and Evil is an action-adventure game with some light puzzle solving, and there's equal emphasis on discovery, combat and puzzles. The game is played either in a city or dungeon on-foot or “out in the world”, where you are piloting a hovercraft. Combat consists of either melee with a bo staff or ranged combat with a disc-firing gauntlet. Jade can perform simple combos with her staff or charge up for a power attack, and discs are fired from a first-person viewpoint. While piloting the hovercraft, you can attack enemies using its top-mounted cannon.
Combat also serves a greater purpose than killin' things; it's also another way you're able to interact with the environment – either to clear obstacles, earn extra money or even solve puzzles. I'm not sure how much I enjoy the game's combat, however. It's very simple – jam on one button, dodge as needed, perform simple combo or charge up a power attack, and it's as basic as it can be. However, it's a lot more functional as the camera control is usually a lot more intuitive than similar games, and is often adjustable when your viewpoint just doesn't seem to be cutting it.
Like many adventure games, acquiring items is part of the game's core – either healing items, power-ups, money or puzzle items. You can also get items that improve Jade's health or abilities, items that upgrade your hovercraft . Upgrading your hovercraft with items is kind of interesting, because eventually, you'll need to buy items that don't so much make the hovercraft better as allow to simply progress in the game. While durability and attack upgrades for the hovercraft can be bought with money, a special items called DomZ pearls must be found to acquire items that will be needed to progress through the game.
For a good portion of the game, you are accompanied by Pey'J, Jade's sidekick and guardian. Pey'J is different than sidekicks in more action adventure games because while he isn't useless like, say, Nav'i from Ocarina of Time, he is mortal and does require some babysitting. However, Pey'J is fairly hardy and he can hold his own, so you may just miss him when he's gone.
One of the things I really enjoy about action-adventure games is the level of interactivity with the environment, and BG&E holds plenty of this. Whether you're interacting with people, the environment, solving puzzles, BG&E has it and does it well. Another thing I really enjoy is that Jade's hovercraft isn't just for getting around. You can also pilot it in races to win money and DomZ pearls. Unfortunately, the sections where you're navigating between goals are often very quiet and uneventful after you've eliminated the bad guys.
Beyond Good & Evil does not have a multiplayer component, and I wouldn't necessarily say that this is a bad thing. While there have been some successful co-op games based on leveraging the abilities of multiple characters (I believe Lost Vikings 2 would be the quintessential release where this is concerned), the second player would probably feel more like second-banana than an equal partner in this title.
Despite the fact that the combat could probably be a little more than it is, as it did feel dated even in 2003, the gameplay has aged well, simply because many facets of the game have more than just a single purpose. Games like this are few and far between.
Beyond Good & Evil has and excellent soundtrack, excellent voicework and good sound effects. The soundtrack is actually fairly eclectic and has a worldly sound to it. The voicework is Saturday morning cartoon quality – the good kind. The voices are clear, don't seem phoned in and the emotions aren't embellished too much, which is good because there's a lot of dialogue. The only complaint I have is that two thirds of the script is in text, although I'm not going to count it against the game because frankly, I prefer text to voice; I read a lot faster than most people speak.
The sound effects are also pretty good, especially some of the effects for combat or combat-related puzzles. My only gripe is that explosions sound very flat, even with increased subwoofer volume. Not really sure how things turned out that way, considering Ubisoft normally has pretty competent sound guys.
Beyond Good & Evil's controls are very good, even with the occasionally limited camera. Targeting, when available, is quick, smooth and accurate. The camera is easy to manipulate when you can manipulate it, and it isn't all that ready to snap back unless you press the button to centre the camera. Combat is also nice and fluid; you won't need to mash on any buttons to get something done.
My only gripe is that you have no manual targeting in the hovercraft; you can steer to aim the weapon, but only horizontally. Aside from the fact that this is ancient design philosophy, it also makes a 3D world feel significantly less so.
How Do I Feel About it?
When I first played Beyond Good & Evil, I couldn't put it down. I had so much fun with it. The dark story, the unique visuals, the inspired world and quirky characters completely sucked me in.
However. Or “But”, if you like. After beating it, I find it boring to come back to. I don't know why. I haven't done everything and I absolute love the game, so there should be something for me to come back to, right?
Admittedly, coming back to it, I can see all the things that I sort of “forgot” about playing it, like the very basic melee and ranged combat and seemingly pointless vehicle navigation. The problem with the vehicle components is that there's rarely any combat in the core sections, and once you have had your battles, you're just chugging between point A and point B; fast travel would have been a smart option here.
However, the story is pretty decent – even toward the end when it kind of nose-dives – the visuals are quite memorable, and the soundtrack is nothing short of cool. Plus the photojournalism thing is actually pretty fun, and it made a mini-game that could have been pointless money-making into a very fun core game mechanic; as a matter of fact, it's one of the things that I really enjoy when coming back to it. And the one thing I remember was, once I was in, I couldn't set it down. My respect for this game has little to do with nostalgia and everything to do with the fact that it is well-conceived, well-made and great fun to play through.
It's not overly difficult and the puzzles won't have you beating your head against the wall, but it's also not 5 or 6 hours long, either – there's actually a fairly lengthy game here; roughly 12 – 15 hours.
What's to like?
-Really unique visuals
-Puzzles! - That don't suck!
-The minigames that actually help lead to the end are a nice departure from the core game
What not to like?
-Monotonous combat – both ranged and close-up
-Vehicle portions are too uneventful for a primary gameplay component
Beyond Good & Evil is a very good adventure game that has actually stood the test of time fairly well, considering that it's almost 8 years old. Despite combat and navigation monotony, the gameplay is also pretty damned good and rock solid. While there's pretty much a snowball's chance of finding it new, there are plenty of pre-owned copies around, and you'd be doing yourself a disservice to not get it – especially if you've never owned a Gamecube. Why? Because it's one of the few action adventure games in a similar vein as Zelda, which is a genre that should not be missed.
System: Nintendo Entertainment System
Do you feel asleep?
Metal Gear is a stealth action game that was released on the NES in North America in 1988. The legendary character Solid Snake gets his debut here. Metal Gear is unique in that it's one of very few games of this type during the 8-bit gaming days. It has spawned many sequels, including Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake on the MSX2, Snake's Revenge on the NES and more recently, the Metal Gear Solid series which has appeared on Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo systems and the gameplay has influenced many stealth games from Thief to Splinter Cell.
Furthermore, the English localisation is terrible. So terrible in fact, that memes exist based solely on quotes from the game, such as “I feel asleep!!”
and this filters beyond the dialogue; you need to rely on a radio that gives information by text. Because your radio is essential to beat the game, you have to put up with this. Furthermore, the interface was archaic and difficult to navigate. The menus just downright suck because you couldn't go back; you could enter an option, but after that, you had to exit the menu and start from scratch to change the things you needed to.
For an 8-bit game, the sound effects are fairly good. The weapons all have different sounds and silenced weapons have their own sound effect. Furthermore, while the soundtrack is fairly limited to maybe four or five tracks, it's quite memorable. I especially like the music when you're inside a base. It reminds me of the Mission Impossible theme, and it's quite fitting. However, the sound and music does not emulate at its best on aftermarket NES systems such as the FC-Twin, but at least it's playable.
The controls are excellent for an NES game, although there's not really a need for super-refined controls like Super Mario Bros. due to there being no need for twitchy platforming. However, if you're playing on an FC Twin, the controls are kind of touch and go, and if you don't have an SNES controller, this will definitely be a point of frustration.
How Do I Feel About it?
What's to like?
-A neat glimpse into what drives stealth games
-Stealth that works
-Very deep gameplay for its age
What not to like?
-Puzzles seem pulled out of the designers' behinds
-Console emulation not as good as playing it on an NES
Summary: Metal Gear has aged well due to the depth of its gameplay. The game has aged fairly well, even with its questionable design choices. If you get pas tthese, there's more than just rich gameplay to be found here; there's even a decent story. Metal Gear is an essential play for any gamer, especially if you're into gaming history or just stealth games in general.