First Look: Skyhill

We take a first look at Skyhill where your goal is to stay alive and make your way out of a hotel infested with horrible mutants and terrible creatures created after a biological attack. Find weapons, food and medical supplies and create new items and upgrade existing ones to survive if you want to make it all the way down the 100 floors.

In this first look we take you through the beginning stages of the game and show you how the basics of the game works including the combat mechanics and the crafting system.

Name: Skyhill
Genre: Rogue-like/ Survival
Release: October 6th, 2015
Price: $14.99 USD

Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
Developer: Mandragora
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment

Steam Greenlight

Martian Gothic: Unification

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Martian Gothic: Unification

Survival horror titles tend to be less scary the older they get – they still retain some impact, but the ageing graphics can sometimes have a direct impact on how immersed you become in the game’s world.

Martian Gothic: Unification doesn’t suffer as much as you’d expect in this regard though, mainly due to the game’s slower paced nature.

It starts off with a fairly long opening cutscene, which sees a three person rescue team being sent into a Mars space base to investigate why nothing has been heard by its crew for ten months.

Martian Gothic - Unification - PlayStation

It’s a predicable set-up, but that doesn’t make the amount of effort that’s gone into the game’s presentation any less impressive.

The music is dripping with dread, and the opening voiceover sets the dark and foreboding tone rather well.

You’re then thrown into the game proper, and you have a choice of three characters to swap between – Kenzo, Matlock and Karne.

Martian Gothic - Unification - PlayStation

Each character has entered the base at different doors, mainly due to their instructions to ‘stay alone – stay alive.’ Yes, that’s possibly the worst reason ever to have characters split up, but it does mark the game out as being a little bit different.

This is mainly as you can only progress to certain areas by co-operating with your colleagues by, for example, sending each other relevant items using delivery tubes (or ‘vac-tubes’) and opening doors for the others by using computers in your section.

Martian Gothic - Unification - PlayStation
You won’t get anywhere by screaming like that…

 

The game is also aided a great deal by the decent voiceover work and a solid script that helps maintain your interest – although there are exceptions to this.

Kenzo talks like he’s on dope for example (just listen to entries 42 and 13 on this Youtube list for a sample), and he does ruin the atmosphere a little as a result – the way he calmly reports seeing a floating reanimated corpse is ridiculous.

Martian Gothic - Unification - PlayStation

But by and large, the script is well crafted, and you’ll be surprised at how much work that’s gone into it. There are several audio logs from members of the now departed crew, and each character has realms of voiced dialogue.

The game doesn’t even look too bad nowadays, mainly due to its Resident Evil style rendered backdrops with fixed perspectives.

There’s very little movement in each screen – but that actually works in the game’s favour, as it’s even scarier when the infected humans drag themselves into view.

Martian Gothic - Unification - PlayStation

Despite the game’s admirable qualities – of which it has several – it’s a little too frustrating to be enjoyable though (perhaps being enjoyable isn’t the aim of a survival horror title, but you get the point).

One minor problem are the awkward rotate and move controls which can make avoiding the re-possessed humans and various beasts a struggle (the constantly changing perspectives when you’re going from place to place doesn’t help), but more problematic is the occasionally confusing design.

With three characters the possibility to miss something vital is tripled, and the unhelpful map doesn’t help matters.

Martian Gothic - Unification - PlayStation

Some of the puzzles also have overly vague solutions, and you can often be wandering aimlessly looking for the right item or clue – this isn’t ideal when enemies re-spawn constantly. The fact there are very few complete guides to the game tells its own story.

As a result, there are probably very few people who will enjoy Martian Gothic: Unification nowadays – but if you have the patience of a saint you may be able to savour the game’s finer qualities, namely its plot and script.

 

Resident Evil Gaiden

Resident Evil -Gaiden
While Capcom canned the Gameboy Color remake of the the original game, that didn’t stop them from developing on the system completely. They made a “kiddie” version of Resident Evil for the GBC near the end of it’s lifespan.
Resident Evil -Gaiden
The game starred Leon Kennedy from Resident Evil 2, and Barry Burton who was a side character in RE1 and RE3.

Resident Evil -Gaiden

The game was pretty true to the series in a couple of ways. The trademark ammo was there.

Resident Evil -Gaiden

So was your healing items.

Resident Evil -Gaiden

And of course your arsenal.

Resident Evil -Gaiden

The plot of the game had you stuck on a cruise ship full of zombies. Someone has got to fire that travel agent who books things like that. What’s next? Snakes on an airline flight?

Resident Evil -Gaiden

So the rest of the game was kinda like Metal Gear on NES.

Resident Evil -Gaiden

Except battles went first person once you encountered a zombie. Except crow-bar equipped zombies with ketchup on them doesn’t scare me much.

Resident Evil 3: Nemesis

Resident Evil 3 - Nemesis

Price: $5.99

Original release date: September 22nd 1999

Release date on PSN: December 3rd, 2009

Resident Evil 3: Nemesis

Story

This episode of the Resident Evil chronicles follows Jill Valentine who was in the original game in the series and you are in control of her for most of the game. Once again you’re stuck in Raccoon City, and of course it’s full of zombies and yes you have to escape.

Resident Evil 3 - Nemesis

The problem with this story is that it doesn’t compare to that of RE2, in the previous game you get two characters to play as, and even though you play through a lot of similar areas the storyline is so much more interesting. As well the characters actually have motivations I can understand, the story in RE3 on the other hand, feels thrown together, and I don’t find myself caring for anyone in this game, nearly as much as I did in the former.

Gameplay

The gameplay is mostly the same as the other two, except you get a nice 90 degree turn move by pushing down and then the run button which really makes the game a lot easier. It’s still clunky by today’s standards though, and having played through the first three games back to back to back it’s really starting to grate on me. If you’re familiar with the other two in the series though, you’ll be at home with this.

Resident Evil 3 - Nemesis

As I said before, you’re only in control of one character in this game, and the campaign is quite a bit shorter than RE2 (like half as short). Now to be fair most of the last game was back-tracking, but because of the story that drove me through it I didn’t mind. This iteration though, re-uses a lot of locations from RE2, and I was really looking forward to some new environments, but it all looked the same, nothing new to see here, sadly.

Resident Evil 3 - Nemesis

If you notice the Nemesis in the title you’ll wonder what that is, Nemesis is another bio-weapon from Umbrella corp. that chases you around trying to wipe out the last members of S.T.A.R.S. of which your character is the final one remaining. We already had something like this in RE2 again, and if feels just like a recycling of the last game. The difference is in RE3 you get two options each time he appears, usually between fight or flee. Depending on which one you choose you’ll see a few different areas of the game, but make no mistake this is linear progression, and Nemesis is there to get you to hurry up. But because most encounters with him let you press a button and escape, he doesn’t feel like much of a threat.

Graphics

Resident Evil 3 - Nemesis

They are once again very much the same from RE2, some of the environments were recycled as well, and it does sort of seem like it was thrown together with spare parts. One thing that stands out in this one is the pre-rendered cut scenes. Characters during these scenes display believable emotions, and that’s a huge step up from the last game. Other than that, it’s a cookie cutter cut and paste of RE2’s graphics.

How it holds up today

I must say after RE2 I was really interested on where this series was going, but I found myself disappointed with how this game turned out. There’s a lot of action to be sure, but after the other two games I don’t feel there’s much of a threat to the same slowly moving zombies, and blowing there heads off, while still enjoyable, started to lose its charm…

Resident Evil 3 - Nemesis

I’m happy that I finally finished the trilogy, and plan to play the rest of the series because it’s so influential in gaming, but this one dragged on for me, it didn’t have me glued to my console like the last one did (and took me a few weeks to complete compared to the week or so the last one took). Also I completed the campaign in a measly 6 hours, while the other two games in the series were much longer.

If you have the choice between all three RE games, go for the second, it has the best story, epic bosses, and is a real heart pumping experience. This latest one was still enjoyable, but not up to expectations. Perhaps RE: Code Veronica on my Dreamcast will treat me better.

7/10

Resident Evil Code: Veronica

Resident Evil Code: Veronica

Format: Dreamcast Genre: Survival Horror Released: 2000 Developer: Capcom/Nextech

Resident Evil - Code Veronica

I have a love/hate relationship with this game. Love because it’s one of the best Resident Evil games out there, with some of the most memorable characters and story-lines of the series. Hate because some IDIOTIC PUZZLE with an EMPTY FIRE EXTINGUISHER meant that I WAS UNABLE TO FINISH THE F**KING GAME. The memory still haunts me now, hence the extravagant use of capitals and self-censored swearing. I’ll explain…

Resident Evil - Code Veronica

In our student house at uni we’d often play through games together, or we’d play the same game but using different saves. Not long after I started playing Code Veronica, Paul, my housemate, began playing through it too. We’d swap stories about good bits in the game, and I’d drop excited hints about what was coming up next. All was fine and dandy until right near the end of the game, when I inadvertently uncovered a bug that made finishing the game all but impossible.

Resident Evil - Code Veronica

Earlier in the game, Claire uses a fire extinguisher to retrieve a briefcase that’s stuck inside a flaming room, but for some reason she keeps hold of the empty extinguisher. This either means that Claire is a compulsive hoarder, or the game is subtly trying to tell you that there may just possibly be a puzzle later on that might – just might – require an empty fire extinguisher. Seeing as Claire generally isn’t the type to push around a shopping trolley filled to the brim with carrier bags full of knick knacks and shiny things she finds in the street, I placed my bets on the latter option, and kept the extinguisher to hand.

Resident Evil - Code Veronica

A bit later on, Claire and her hapless companion Steve come across the chap in the pic above, who goes by the name of Nosferatu. History doesn’t relate how he came to bear this moniker – I’m imagining the label was thrust upon him after his unfortunate transformation, before which he was probably called Alan or Dave or Alfonse. Anyway, Claire makes no bones about swiftly dispatching poor Alan (or Dave or Alfonse) and we’re treated to a cut scene in which Alexia, the sister of antagonist Alfred Ashford, awakes from her long hibernation and unleashes the full force of the T-Veronica virus on Steve and Claire’s smiling, unknowing faces – the truck they’re driving is destroyed by one of Alexia’s handy new tentacles, and control switches to Chris, who’s just pitched up in Antarctica on the hunt for Claire.

Resident Evil - Code Veronica

I just want to jump in here for a second to say what a fantastic character Alfred is – definitely my favorite character of the series. Wesker is always held up as the series’ ultimate villain, but he’s so incredibly one-dimensional – there’s nothing really beneath the implausible hair and the Johnny Cash sunglasses. Alfred, on the other hand, has an interesting back-story, which the game goes to great pains to relate – from his possibly incestuous relationship with his twin sister to his penchant for dressing up in women’s clothing. You almost end up feeling sorry for him in a way – through no fault of his own he was born into an incredibly screwed-up family, was ruthlessly used by Umbrella and then ended up losing his mind. Having said that, I’d have a lot more sympathy for him if he stopped trying to kill me all the time.

Resident Evil - Code Veronica

OK, back to the story. After the fight with Alan*, control switches to Chris, and the difficulty steps up a notch. The Antarctic facility is infested with various horrors, including a giant spider that has somehow managed to survive the freezing temperatures, and these fiends quickly take their toll on Chris’s ammo supply. As I limped to the final showdown with Alexia, I was down to just a few assault rifle rounds and a couple of clips for my handgun, but I was finding plenty of ammo for the magnum. So where could the magnum itself be hiding? Wait, there it is, behind that wall of flame. No problem, I’ll just fill up my empty fire extinguisher with that handy extinguisher refill device nearby… Hold on, the extinguisher isn’t in the space/time defying inventory box. Wait a sec, didn’t Claire have it in her personal inventory when she got whacked by that tentacle?

Resident Evil - Code Veronica

 

With no access to fresh weaponry, it was impossible for me to defeat the final boss, and instead I watched impotently as Paul went on to finish the game. I suppose I could have used one of his save games to go and fight the final boss for myself, but by that point I was so rankled by the whole fire extinguisher thing that I couldn’t bring myself to do it. And anyway, I would have been finishing his game, not mine.

Resident Evil - Code Veronica

Yet, like a middle-aged man trapped in a loving but turbulent marriage, I still have a soft spot for Code Veronica, despite all of the seething resentment bubbling below the surface. It was denied the suffix ’4′ by its creators, but in my mind the game stands proudly with its numbered brethren, and possibly slightly above them.

*I’ve just found out that Nosferatu was actually Alfred’s father, who went by the name of Alexander, not Alan (or Dave or Alfonse). This is slightly disappointing in some ways (I would have preferred Alan), although I’d forgotten just how convoluted the back-story to Code Veronica is, particularly the history of the Ashfords. You can read about Alfred Ashford’s creepy upbringing here: http://residentevil.wikia.com/Alfred_Ashford.

Blue Stinger

Blue Stinger - Sega Dreamcast

Blue Stinger (1999)
By: Climax Graphics / Activision  Genre: Survival Horror  Players:  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega Dreamcast  
Also Available For: Nothing

As game systems get more and more powerful over the years it’s only natural that the games played on them will evolve to make better use of them too, and occasionally new genres appear. One such genre was arguably started by Alone in the Dark which appeared in 1992 for the PC but I don’t think anyone would deny it was the arrival of Capcom’s Resident Evil series which really saw it take off. This genre came to be known, of course, as survival horror, but it’s one that’s never really taken a hold of me. Despite this, I bought Blue Stinger at the Dreamcast’s launch and looked forward to exploring its world. Is that because it promised something more than existing survival horror games, or would I once again fail to be ensnared by this burgeoning genre?

Blue Stinger - Sega Dreamcast

In all honesty it was probably just excitement over the Dreamcast’s arrival which prompted the purchase of this game, but it does have a few differences to earlier games of its type. It’s set in the Gulf of Mexico in the vicinity of the Yacutan Peninsula. As we’re shown in the fairly decent intro sequence, this was the site of the immense meteor strike which brought to an end the age of the dinosaur. Fast forward to the year 2000 and a mysterious island is all that remains after a huge earthquake hits the presumed site of the meteor impact, and it becomes known as Dinosaur Island. It isn’t long before the island is occupied by a shady biotech corporation called Kimra. Nearly twenty years later, ESER (Emergency Sea Evacuation and Rescue) member, Eliot Ballade, is fishing in the area while on vacation with a friend when something falls from the sky, heading towards the island.
Blue Stinger - Sega Dreamcast

Soon after the island is struck by what appears to be a meteor, an energy barrier appears around it which traps Eliot’s friend, and almost capsizes their boat in the process. Needless to say, Eliot awakens on the island with only a blue, floaty creature called Nephilim for company. Urging Eliot to follow her, it’s at this point your adventure begins. To begin with you’ll just have Eliot to control but before long you’ll meet some friendly characters – Janine King, a member of the security force on the island who most of your contact with is via computer/viewscreen, and Dogs Bower, a resident of the island. From this point on you can select either Eliot or Dogs to explore the mysterious island with. Eliot is faster and more agile, Dogs is stronger and can take more damage. But damage from what, I hear you ask? The majority of Blue Stinger is a adventure game – explore the various buildings and other areas, solve simple puzzles or find items to progress, etc, but there are also some less-than-friendly creatures on the loose.
Blue Stinger - Sega Dreamcast

As you might expect from a survival horror game, the island is occupied by some horrifying creatures as well. Many of these used to be human by the looks of it, but I don’t think they’re zombies. Whatever they are, they waste little time in tearing chunks out of Eliot and Dogs if they get the chance. To begin with, your only means of fending them off is your fists but it isn’t long before you’ll start finding some more effective weapons. These come in two groups. Short-range weapons include the trusty baseball bat (do these things actually get used for playing baseball?), axe, even a light-sabre type device. Far more effective (and safer), but with finite ammunition, are the long-range weapons. These include the standard handgun and shotgun, a couple of more originals ones in the acid gun and plasma gun, and the supremely satisfying bazooka!
Blue Stinger - Sega Dreamcast

Some of these weapons can be found surreptitiously laying around, but they can also be bought at one of the various (automated) shops you’ll come across. It’s the same for ammunition, although this can also be found on some of the dead bodies you’ll periodically encounter. Eeek! Dinosaur Island is a fairly extensive place too. As well as the expected areas like the docks (which is where you start), warehouses, and research facilities, there’s also shops, banks, and all sorts of other places. It’s more like a town than a corporate headquarters – they even have their own currency – the Kimra dollar. This can be found in several places but your first source of it is a dangerous one – the terrifying monsters themselves!
Blue Stinger - Sega Dreamcast

Predictably enough, the hideous creatures increase in both strength and numbers as you progress through the game but it’s worth taking them on rather than running as each will explode in a shower of coins upon defeat! Whilst this does break the illusion a little, they are nonetheless invaluable sources of money which is needed to make decent progress. Money can also be found in a few other places, as can numerous other items. Some of them are useful but not very exciting such as keys, bank and ID cards, stamps, etc. Others are a bit more interesting but less useful such as an array of new t-shirts! Various foods and ‘Hassy’ drinks can also be found or bought which replenish your energy level to a varying degree depending on what you consume.
Blue Stinger - Sega Dreamcast

One of the biggest attractions of games like this is their realism which is probably why they, as a genre, were born relatively recently as a result of the ever-increasing power of home systems. After all, only so much realism could be achieved on the older and more limited cartridge and disc-based machines! Accordingly, considering it was one of the first Dreamcast games, Blue Stinger is a fantastic-looking game. The intro and cut-scenes are great (although the lip-syncing is a little ropey) and this was one of the first games on any system to feature a fully-3D game environment. The scale and atmosphere this helps to convey is pretty darn good and all the characters, especially the gruesome monsters, look superb. Some of the boss monsters are enormous and mightily impressive!
Blue Stinger - Sega Dreamcast

The various areas of the game have been well thought-out too and the attention to detail is top-notch. For example, the game apparently takes place near Christmas as there are decorations and jingly music around the shopping area! The voice-acting, whilst not cringe-inducing, is a little below-par but the rest of the music is of a high standard too. Some of it’s creepy as you would expect, but that Christmas tune is brilliant. There’s something very surreal about shooting the crap out of disgusting, mutated creatures while music as happy and jolly as that is playing! A vast majority of the game is viewed from a third-person perspective and, mercifully in my opinion, control over Eliot/Dogs is more akin to Tomb Raider than Resident Evil which gives the game a lot more immediacy and is greatly beneficial to the enjoyment of the game.

Blue Stinger - Sega Dreamcast
And enjoyable it is too. The graphics, sound, presentation, etc are all about as good as you could expect for a Dreamcast launch title and they still impress today but for one problem – the camera. Yep, it was a familiar story in the late 90’s. The view of the action is very good until you find yourself in a cramped corner or something similar, at which point it doesn’t seem to know where to go! That said, it’s not a game-ruining problem and it shouldn’t dissuade you from playing Blue Stinger. The story is engrossing and the interaction between the characters is superb with some amusing banter between them all. The shady Dogs rarely seems at ease with Eliot and even less so when Janine’s around (I suspect he’d be ever more incensed if he knew about the revealing pics Sega hid away of her on the game disc!).

Blue Stinger - Sega Dreamcast

Aside from the camera problem there really isn’t and bad points to this game. There’s a genuine urge to unravel the mystery and see how things end and there’s a good 10-15 hours of tense and atmospheric gameplay before you’ll get to find that out. There’s also enough secrets and small side-quests to encourage multiple play-throughs and it’s enjoyable each time. A survival horror beginner I may be, but I’d like to think I know a good game when I see one, and this is certainly that.

RKS Score: 8/10

The Walking Dead: Episodes 1-5

The Walking Dead

I’ve never been a big fan of Telltale Games.  While I certainly enjoyed their official Back to the Future sequel, I never felt the need to actually finish it.  I only made it through about ten minutes of Jurassic Park before I decided I just couldn’t get into their point and click adventure titles.  (I had a similar experience with Escape From Monkey Island, which is a LucasArts,so it’s probably my aversion to the genre, not the quality of the games themselves).  I’d made peace with this realization.

The Walking Dead

Then, something unexpected happened.  I started to hear people proclaiming The Walking Dead as not only a phenomenal title, but to some credible sources (and also Spike TV) it’s been named a contender for . . .  (trumpet fanfare) Game of the Year.  A point and click adventure title beating out such powerhouses as Far Cry 3, Borderlands 2, Mass Effect 3, and Dishonored?  Could it really be that good?

The Walking Dead

Yes it could.  For one thing, it’s very difficult to bring genuine emotional resonance into the world of a video game, but The Walking Dead succeeds at doing just that.  I’ll bypass all spoilers but provide a little exposition to explain how. From the outset of the story, you are partnered with an eight-year-old girl named Clementine.  How you decide to protect her is entirely up to you, but I promise you will have an immense emotional attachment to her before the final episode one credits roll. Clementine provides but one example of the care and consideration taken with all the characters; none of them feel generic or written simply to serve as plot devices.  Each other character you encounter has unique motivations besides survival—some you will love, and some you will loathe, but they all feel like real people and not typical video game characters.  Choosing who lives or dies is never an easy task, and there are always looming ramifications for each difficult decision you make.  You’ll feel empathy for the characters far more than you might in a typical game, a true testament to the amazing storytelling and attention to detail that absolutely gushes from the well-polished narrative.

The Walking Dead

Lee Everett, the main protagonist, is one of the most developed characters I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing. His journey is not some obligatory quest to bash some zombie skulls with a wrench.  Lee casts a real shadow on the player; I genuinely cared about him.  If there is an award given for voice acting, David Fennoy deserves to win it hands down, as he delivers each line of dialogue perfectly.

The Walking Dead

Finally, as a former native of Georgia, each of the locations represented was recreated perfectly, from the opening scene on Interstate 85 to the eventual journey to River Street in Savannah, I actually felt like I was back home in the peach state.

The Walking Dead

Much like previous Telltale Games, you use a four tied conversation tree that corresponds with each direction of your control pad.  Unlike previous titles, however, in The Walking Dead all of your choices are timed (and some you only have mere seconds to make).  There is absolutely zero backtracking to see different options or outcomes.  This gives each of the choices a weight that just didn’t exist in similar point and click adventure games; once you make a decision, you are stuck with it unless you restart the entire chapter.  On top of that, your choices directly affect how other characters react to you and behave in the narrative overall.  This minor tweak to the familiar formula makes all of the difference; it turns what some might describe as an interactive movie into one of the best titles I’ve played in a long time.  This is a game you are going to enjoy multiple times just so you can see the outcome of different choices.

Even if you’ve never enjoyed a point and click adventure before, I’m certain this will be the exception.

Resident Evil 4


Resident Evil 4 - PC Review - Gameplay Screenshot

Resident Evil 4 on the Nintendo GameCube is a uniquely sublime game, sporting some excellent eye-candy, an above average plot and moments of sheer horror followed by extended, yet relaxing, periods of violently shooting stuff. It also is an obvious, major even, evolution of the whole Resident Evil series and the first RE game to do away with zombies and go for the rather more nimble possessed peasantvariety of baddies. Oh, and it’s in glorious real-time 3D.

What’s more, RE 4 has also been made available for the mainstream PS2, which, despite the underpowered hardware, got a pretty impressive port, only slightly lacking in the looks department and more than making up for this drawback by offering a few extra gameplay hours. Kudos to Capcom for successfully pushing the PS2 hardware, then.

Resident Evil 4 - PC Review - Gameplay Screenshot

So, what happens when Resident Evil 4, the same president’s daughter saving supernatural survival horror video game that amazed the console crowds, hits the PC? Tragedy, that’s what. Or to be more precise, what happens, is a tragedy of such epic proportions Sophocles might consider producing it, for Capcom has somehow ignored the hardware muscle of the PC, the fact that the mouse is now (for this deceivingly 10 year long decade, at least) considered a pretty standard piece of high-tech equipment, that contemporary gamers like to have a proper save (let alone quicksave) function and that PC gamers aren’t as game-starved as in the very early eighties, and went on to promptly produce the shoddiest Resi 4 port imaginable.

The game, cunningly avoiding to offer mouse control as an option, is virtually unplayable without a gamepad (even though being prompted to press buttons 1, 2, 3 or 4 can still be baffling) as the keyboard-only control method is frankly shocking (WASD to aim?). Even if, and this will be a very ill-conceived if, you do decide to give RE4 a try just to experience the story and visuals, think again.

Resident Evil 4 - PC Review - Gameplay Screenshot

The thing not only plays but looks decidedly shite and doesn’t even bother to provide a way to exit the game without going for the ol’ ctrl-alt-del trick.The graphics themselves are a travesty, which could a) have been easily avoided b) really wouldn’t be so important if they hadn’t removed daylight, night and fog effects in a brilliant attempt to strip away any sense of atmosphere. Then again, instantly disappearing characters have been added, thus succesfuly adding to the hilarity of the whole affair. Obviously anti-aliasing, anisotropic filtering and modern soundcard technology have seemed to evade Capcom‘s attention all together. And still, the bloody thing will eat up almost 5 Gigas of your hard drive. For what? I really can’t imagine. Probably just to irritate you.

Warning, obvious conclusion: Avoid Resident Evil 4 PC like the plague. In fact, given a choice, go for the rotting away to death fetish, and if you really desperately need to play Resident Evil 4 -which you do- you’re better off buying a GameCube and the original version. Or a Wii and waiting a bit. Or, why not, a PS2. Heck, you’ll probably enjoy playing the offending Atari 2600 version of Pac-Man more. Oh, and to remind you… THERE’S NO MOUSE SUPPORT. Tsk, tsk.


Alan Wake

Alan Wake logo
Alan Wake logo

A new series here at Obsolete Gamer where we hope to spark comments and debate on a wide arrange of topics. Various writers from Obsolete Gamer will give you their take (opinion) on a subject and we hope you will weigh in even if you completely disagree with us.

Alan Wake is a survival horror game that attempts to mix in more of the serialized television feel to its game. What this means is the game also plays like episodic television in which each level beings an episode.  Besides the action or important parts of the game you will also have some areas where you just walk around doing mundane tasks and it does add to the “show” feel more than if they were just cut-scenes.

You play as Alan Wake a famous writer that while on vacation in a small-town called Bright Falls is thrown into a mystery and a horror story involving his wife, his past and present works and a creepy town history that can give Silent Hill a run for its money.

The game itself has the feel of a Silent Hill as you are just a normal guy who all of a sudden has to go all Alone in the Dark, carrying a flashlight to fight of shadow monsters called “Taken” you also become proficient in hand guns, shotguns, hunting rifles, flash bangs, flares, flare guns and the use of batteries.

Now there have been tons of reviews on the game so I won’t go to much deeper into that aspect. Here is my take and there may be some spoilers so you are forewarned.

J.A.’s Take:

The game is well done, let me start with that. Sure, there are some clipping issues sometimes and the camera can spin you in an awkward direction and there are a few other tidbits, but I can deal with that. One of the problems I had was the game was too easy in one respect and then difficult in another. If you have ever played any third person game like a Silent Hill or Resident Evil then the normal difficulty with be a joke. Pretty much you will never run out of ammo except one very small part of the game and you can kill almost anything with the handgun alone.

Speaking of ammo, one thing that pissed me off about Alan Wake is the need to always find a way to make you lose your weapons and gear. Again, in the normal difficulty you will always have enough weapons and batteries, but almost every time you finish an “action” area you fall or trip or donate your weapons to Toys for Tots and you start the next “action” area with almost nothing.

If you play like me, in a survival horror game some of the keys to winning is to conserve ammo and run from a good number of your enemies, but in Alan Wake if you conserve ammo you just end up wasting it. As for running from enemies, unless you are near a strong light source it is a waste of time because many enemies can just appear behind you or they run super-fast and as a writer you have never hit the gym so you can’t sprint very long.

Speaking of running, let’s take a break and talk about puppies. What, you don’t want to talk about puppies in the middle of an Alan Wake rant? Too bad because my puppy rant might contain useful information about Alan Wake, but you have to listen for up to ten minutes or no achievement for you.

In a nutshell that is how I view the watching of the Night Springs television show that you can watch in game. Night Springs is a Twilight Zone rip-off show that you can watch on many of the televisions in game. The problem is twofold. One, for the most part you don’t need to watch the Night Sprints shows for anything other than an achievement.  Two, when you are being chased down and are in the middle of intense action it makes no sense to spend up to ten minutes watching a badly made in game show that does nothing for you. The same applies for the radio. Sure, the radio show gives you some current information and town info, but again, it is long and doesn’t really help you in the game and takes you out of the moment.

Another take you out of the moment comes from chasing down manuscript pages. Now to be fair, this is part of the story and the more you collect the more you understand about what is happening to you and even what will happen. The problem is in most of the action sequences you need to keep moving. When you are being chased by the cops and the taken at the same time it is just silly to stop and search that mountain in the distance for a book page. Also, if you miss some pages it can be really hard to understand what you are reading and it doesn’t help you that much really.

How about some coffee? Writers love coffee and there are 100 coffee thermos’s throughout the game you find just for an achievement, but again, it takes you out of the action and does nothing for you. I will admit sometimes it was cool to grab some coffee while shooting a taken in the face, but when you need to run and gun it just kills the mood to go foraging for your Starbucks coffee carrying device.

As for the story, you will either love it or hate it and don’t expect the ending to wrap everything up nicely. In the age of downloadable content the idea is to extend the story by making you shell out points (money) to buy more episodes until Alan Wake 2 comes out.

Alan Wake the signal
Alan Wake the signal

Bottom Line

I would not have purchased this game personally, this is a rental. I could have beaten this game in a day and playing on nightmare mode is only for achievements. If you play on Normal and have ever played any shooting or survival horror game you will be bored as the monsters are easy to kill, you have to much ammo and the only way they can even hit you is to sneak up on you from behind and try to surround you gangbang style.

The story was meh and I am not paying for your DLC to finish a story you should have in the first place. I care about story and history and this and that, but in a run and gun game I don’t want to watch television shows, listen to down home radio or read about how the great red oak tree was hit by lighting in 1834.

Alan Wake is like playing an Outer Limits episode, but not a very good one. Take Silent Hill, Alone in the Dark and that Darkness game put it together and you still have a game that will put you to sleep not keep you A.Wake.

So that’s my take, what’s yours?

Resident Evil: Revelations – Teaser Trailer

Resident Evil Revelations
Resident Evil Revelations

Resident Evil Revelations is an original look inside the RE world taking place between RE4 and RE5. Revelations allows you to experience the events after the counter-terrorism group called the Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance or BSAA for short, was joined by new team members Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine.

The trailer gives you a few shots of Chris and Jill in various places including a huge ship and another mansion. RER promises to return the game to its survival horror and puzzle solving roots. The game will use the MT Framework engine used in RE5 and will be released for the Nintendo 3DS.

POD: Parasite Eve

Parasite Eve logo
Parasite Eve logo

Making a few changes to the picture of the day and focusing on games that are a little bit more classic. Today we bring you pictures, screenshots, wallpapers and artwork from one of my favorite games, Parasite Eve. It was developed and published in 1998 by Square Enix and follows the story of Aya Brea a New York cop that witnesses an entire opera house spontaneously combust. It is up to her to find out not only why it happened, but why she wasn’t affected.

And as a bonus here is the trailer for Parasite Eve: The Third Birthday

Demon’s Souls

Demon’s Soul box
Demon’s Soul box

Demon’s Souls

If the hype surrounding the PS3 exclusive Demon’s Souls was to be believed, I was looking forward to a game with a brutal difficulty not seen since the heyday of Rygar and Battletoads; one that had a more terrifying atmosphere than Silent Hill; and with more varied and gruesome ways to die than Dragon’s Lair combined with Space Quest. In short, the ultimate challenge for the hard-core. With the bar set so high, it seemed likely to disappoint in at least some respects. What I found was a flawed but thoroughly enjoyable third person hack and slash/dungeon crawler that threatened to send me to a video game addiction clinic before I finally managed to best it.

The basic mechanics of the game can be summed up as follows: “Kill Demons, Get Souls”. Souls are released by killing enemies and they can also be found on the corpses of deceased adventurers. Souls are effectively the unit of currency in this game and can be used to buy items, repair or upgrade equipment, learn miracles and magic, and even upgrade your character’s stats. If you die, you start back at the beginning of the level as a spirit and with all of your souls gone. There will be blue-glowing bloodstain at approximately where the game determined you messed up (if you fell down a well, for instance, it will be just before you left the ground), and if you can reach it before dying again, you can get your souls back.

Demon's Soul character
Demon’s Soul character

Combat is action-packed and extremely unforgiving. Button mashers won’t make it very far, as many of the enemies have good shields and are only vulnerable after they attack. Defensive players can turn a fight their way with a perfectly timed parry/riposte combo or open themselves up for a flurry of blows. Almost anything can kill you, so situational awareness is a must-have to survive. The game’s wide variety of weaponry and shields can be equipped in either hand and there are spells and items that can be used to enchant them. Demon’s Souls has an item upgrade system where blacksmiths can fortify your equipment in exchange for various types of ore. Some of the benefits include adding poison, bleeding, or fire damage; health or mana regeneration; and bonuses to critical hits, to name a few.

Demon's Soul
Demon’s Soul

Player characters are customizable down to the bone structure of the face and there are several “classes” to choose from that ultimately only effect your initial equipment and stats. One is free to upgrade their combat skills as they see fit and pursue different avenues of magic or types of weaponry. It may take a considerable amount of stat upgrading to do so, but it is very possible to turn a robe-clad magician into a full-plate wearing berserker with a sword nearly twice his size.

The game consists of a central hub called the Nexus that serves as your home base and has passageways to the five worlds. Each has its own distinctive art style and feel including a European castle with all the requisite archers, pikemen, and a couple of fire-breathing dragons; a shantytown filled with plague-rats, mosquitoes, and leeches, all surrounded by some of the most disgusting swampland imaginable; a temple full of samurai skeletons and flying manta-rays; and a mine that seems to go the depths of capital H hell. Each world has three or four stages each with a boss Demon that must be defeated. The souls of the boss Demons can be traded to different NPCs in exchange for spells and miracles, and in some cases, can be used to create powerful weapons.

Demon's Soul nexus
Demon’s Soul nexus

One of the innovative features in Demon’s Souls is the world tendency system. Tendency ranges in a continuum from pure white to pure black and can affect many aspects of the game. The player’s health in soul form is higher in a white world tendency and lower in the black. The amount and difficulty of enemies ramps up the blacker you get, and the type of loot dropped is also a factor. Some NPCs will only appear in pure tendencies, and there are even portions of the levels that are otherwise inaccessible until a certain world tendency has been reached. There is a system in place for keeping track of character tendency as well but it has a less dramatic effect on the game except in a few select situations.

Demon's Soul nexus
Demon’s Soul nexus

Players navigate through the game’s areas while either alive or dead. In corporeal form, the player has more health and the ability to summon up to two Blue Phantoms (spirit form players) to help him defeat the stage’s Boss Demon. Being alive has its drawbacks: dying in a level will shift the game’s world tendency towards black. There also exists the threat of being invaded and killed by a soul-hungry Black Phantom player. Spirits gain bodily form by defeating a boss Demon or assisting a player as a Blue Phantom (both of which will shift world  tendency), successfully invading and killing a host player as a Black Phantom (world and character shifted to black), or by using a magical item.

Demon's Soul shrine
Demon’s Soul shrine

In addition to the relatively seamless co-op and PVP experience, players are able to see ghostly images of other adventurers in the same areas, as well as the ability to give them hints or lure them to their doom. One of the first things you’ll notice while playing online are pools of blood scattered around. These are grisly remainders of other players that have died. By touching a bloodstains, you are able to see the last four or five seconds leading up to that player’s demise. This can be a great way to spot traps and ambushes that would otherwise give little to no warning. Another way that players can interact is by leaving messages, which can be entered through a Madlibs-style system using a library of the game’s terminology. Players can vote up useful messages and this will reward their creators with health. There is no way to down-vote messages that are misleading, false, or simply situated in places that will kill you if you try to read them, unfortunately, but there are a couple of messages (“beware false messages”, “liar!”, etc.) that can be left as tip-offs.

Demon's Soul shrine
Demon’s Soul shrine

For players that manage to finish the game’s main quest, a NG+ is available to start at the beginning with a character’s weaponry and stats intact to fight through an even more sadistic challenge. The game’s difficulty increases the more times you beat it (up to NG+8, at least!).  There is an in-game hall of fame called the Pantheon to show off the players that have the highest number of souls, most trophies achieved, etc. and this can be helpful to see what sort of equipment is favored by the best.

I had been following this game for a while, back before it was announced that there was even going to be a North American version and many people were importing Demon’s Souls from Japan. Gaming forums were full of people trading war stories about how many different ways they died before beating the first level, and I think the average was about twenty. Import sales continued to rise to the point where Demon’s Souls was released stateside. I snagged a copy from Amazon but it languished on my shelf for a couple of months before I decided to break the plastic and possibly my spirit by playing it for myself.

Demon's Soul shrine
Demon’s Soul shrine

When I finally worked up the courage to pop this game into my PS3, I was immediately grabbed by its atmospheric soundtrack and the bleakness of the art direction. The tutorial level showed me the basics of the game mechanics and drove home the message that a scrawny demon with a broken sword and no shield could easily take me down if I didn’t watch myself in combat. More and stronger baddies are introduced including the dreaded blue-eye knights with the ability to bash your shield out of your hands, chain three or four attacks together, and heal themselves if somebody did manage to wound them. More advanced combat tactics were required, such as the parry/riposte combo. I eventually found out that if I could get behind an enemy, there is a brutal backstab attack that would make the TF2 spy blush. Past the knight was an even bigger foe: the morbidly obese Vanguard demon that swings a battle axe twice the size of your character. I was under the impression that this was an unwinnable fight to utterly demoralize new players since the tutorial level invariably ends with your death, but I’ve read that it is possible to beat Vanguard here, even with the newbie equipment.

Demon's Soul valley
Demon’s Soul valley

The next couple of hours were a blur of gristly deaths. I would get past one obstacle and find myself stabbed, ambushed, crushed by a trap, toasted by a dragon, stabbed again, filled with crossbow bolts, and impaled by the blue-eye’s tougher counterpart: the red-eye knight. I was nearly at the home stretch but missed a step going down a spiral staircase and found myself plummeting to my doom, landing right on the switch that opened the gate to the end-boss. Obsolete Gamer cohort Stirge dubbed this game “You Can’t Win” around this point, which I think has a nicer ring than my nickname: “Kill Yourself Dungeon 3000”.

Demon's Soul tunnel
Demon’s Soul tunnel

There are few things that I didn’t like about this game and I don’t want them drowned out in a flood of praise for the stuff that was done right.

  • The targeting system stinks; when locked on to an enemy, it changes the controls so that moving side to side will strafe around a target rather than turn. This is usually a good thing when fighting one-on-one, but throw two or three extra combatants into the mix, and I’ll find myself dodging right into someone else’s attack or even off of a cliff. Also, if an enemy is out of range to be targeted, it will reset the camera, usually to face the wrong direction.
  • The camera is your biggest enemy. Demon’s Souls has a pretty good third-person camera system assuming you’re in an open area without a lot of debris. The camera fails miserably when in underground catacombs, some of which can be quite twisty and hard to maneuver even when you can see where you’re going.
  • When logging into the server, the world tendency will be reset to the average of all players, which can make it very hard to get to pure black or pure white. There are some occasions where the tendency will be set to pure white or pure black, such as holidays or announcements from the developers, but aside from special server events, logging in shouldn’t affect anything.
  • You can get booted back to the main menu if your internet connection becomes broken while playing online. I’ve found it better to play offline than have to gamble with the PS Network logging me out.
  • Contra-lag. The game can slow down if there’s too much stuff on the screen, like in the old-school space shooters. In some games, this bug ends up like a feature; a free bullet-time mode when things got hectic. This is unacceptable in a next-gen title.
  • This one is a minor gripe, but there is no way to sell items to merchants, so the only way to get any currency is by slaying demons or eating soul items.
Demon's Soul tunnel
Demon’s Soul tunnel

Every time you die, you start back at the beginning of the level, where you will have to fight past the legions of demonic assholes that you barely survived fighting in the first place, just to get back to your bloodstain. Many times, I’d find myself trying to rush through the beginning wave of enemies only to find myself mercilessly swordraped by some of the weakest dudes in the game.

There is a good variety to the Boss Demons. Some are relatively human-sized, others stand two-stories tall; most can kill you with a single attack, even if blocked with a good shield. The Dragon God from World 2 (Stonefang Mine) almost seems to have been borrowed from the Scarecrow sequences in Batman: Arhkam Asylum, as keeping out of the Dragon’s line of sight is the only way to survive.

Demon's Soul tunnel
Demon’s Soul tunnel

The Tower of Latria wins my award as having some of the game’s most freaky moments. You start near the top floor of a prison in a medieval castle and have to go through all five stories of it to find the keys that will let you out. There are narrow walkways and breaks in the floor that can drop you to your death if you’re not paying attention. Through the bars of the cells, you can see the emaciated forms of the prisoners, some of which will drop to their knees when you go by, as if they’re begging to be put out of their misery, others will hide in the shadows and try and shank you to death. Several lantern-carrying guards walk slowly up and down the corridors, and the only sound aside from the gibbering and shrieking of the prisoners is the eerie tolling of a bell that gets louder as the guards get closer. It somehow manages to get more disturbing once you get out of the prison and into the cathedral but I won’t spoil all the surprises. I also wouldn’t recommend playing this part right before bedtime.

Demon's Soul valley
Demon’s Soul valley

I would have to give high marks for nearly every aspect of the game’s presentation. The quality of the in-game graphics are pretty good, but perhaps a bit lacking when compared to some of the cinematic cut-scenes that introduce some of the bosses and locations. The levels are well designed and nuanced for the most part. The sound design pops; there are tons of great weapon clashes, monster growls and squeals, and magic effects. There isn’t a whole lot of voice acting in this game, but what little there is benefits from a diverse cast of expressive voices. The music ranges from epic symphonic scores to stuff that would fit right in to a 1970’s horror movie, but what I found interesting was the way that music cues are held back for boss fights or other major plot developments; for most of your time exploring the five worlds, you will be enveloped in ambient sound. This, along with the ghostly images of other players’ phantoms, helps heighten feelings of isolation and strangeness unique to Demon’s Souls.

Demon's Soul warning
Demon’s Soul warning

Playing online can be a blast if you don’t mind the occasional PVP encounter, as Black Phantom players can and will jump in on your game if you’re in body form and attempt to murder you at the most inopportune times. I’ve been able to recruit a couple of Blue Phantom players the last time that happened, and it ended up turning into a huge brawl. Summoning Blue Phantoms can be a double-edged sword, as the bosses get much harder the more players there are.

I think it was on the second or third night of my Demon’s Souls addiction, after a three hour soul-farming bender, that I left a cautionary sticky-note on the inside of the game’s case; a warning to future-me to think about what I was getting into. Of course, I didn’t pay it any heed; this game is too challenging and deep to blow off just because it’s aggravatingly hard. Also, this is one of the only games in recent memory to give me adrenaline rushes when the action gets furious. In closing, Demon’s Souls is a cruel mistress and if you like to wear nipple clamps or enjoy a good flogging, this one is for you. I’d like to leave you with some survival strategies I’ve picked up from my time with the game.

  • Watch your equipment encumbrance weight. You can load up to your maximum with a suit of plate armor and a comically large battle-axe, but this comes at the price of maneuverability. One the things that will save your skin is the rolling dodge, and if your endurance is too low for that amount of gear, you will end up on the ground for a few seconds in a very vulnerable way. The magic number to stay under is half of your maximum equipment weight.
  • Weapon upgrades. There are a limited number of Crystal Lizards that will spawn in each world, some of which are the only source for the various rare ores needed to upgrade your weapons. If you’re trying to trophy-whore this game, I recommend looking up a guide to finding out where the spawns are in advance.
  • On Royalty and magic. When I found out that the Royal class started out with a magic ring that can regenerate MP, I dumped my Temple Knight build and started the game anew. Talk about easy mode! Royals have practically no starting armor or weaponry to write home about, but the Fragrant ring is a great item for a caster, not to mention the fact that they also come equipped with Soul Arrow, the magic missile equivalent in Demon’s Souls. Having a pure caster almost breaks the game, however, as I was able to storm through most of the worlds blasting everything that moved with my pea shooter spell and effectively unlimited ammo, given a book or a magazine to read while it replenishes. I cheesed out some of the major bosses by nuking them from a distance or even by casting poison and running away. I beat the game but I feel like I’ve cheated myself in the process. Now I’m in the process of playing through as a fighter and the game is so much more challenging.
  • Common sense. A lot of this game seems like trial and error, but your biggest defense is not being dumb: keep your shield ready, peek around corners, listen for footsteps, etc. If you see a pile of freshly incinerated corpses, keep it in the back of your mind that whatever caused that will probably like to do the same thing to you.

Obsolete Intros: Parasite Eve

[youtube id=”W9stRzyyuMQ” width=”633″ height=”356″]

Obsolete Intros: Parasite Eve

Aya Brea - Parasite Eve

Parasite Eve is one of my favorite RPG/Action games. It was developed and published in 1998 by Square Enix and follows the story of Aya Brea a New York cop that witnesses an entire opera house spontaneously combust. It is up to her to find out not only why it happened, but why she wasn’t affected.