Saturday, 17 October 2009

Citizen Game 2.0

The guys over at Citizen Game have been working hard on the relaunch of the site, Danny has moved to London (mere minutes away from me), and we're all working on the site very regularly, these are exciting times. Keep your eyes on Citizen Game for the imminent launch.
See you soon Citizen!

Thursday, 2 July 2009

inFAMOUS, what have you done to me?

When I sat down a few weeks ago to plan which upcoming games I would be purchasing I decided that I really wanted to play both inFAMOUS and Prototype. Despite the similarities in genre and gameplay style each had a unique quirk that prevented me from disregarding it in favour of the other. The comic book art style and general superhero shtick of inFAMOUS appealed to the comic book fan in me, and the idea of a re-imagined Hulk: Ultimate Destruction with all the ‘next-gen’ trappings of a modern action game also piqued my interest.

Despite my intentions to buy and play both games I have only purchased and played inFAMOUS. Not because I don’t have the money or because I’m having trouble finding a copy, but because playing inFAMOUS has killed any desire I previously had to play Prototype, in fact I’ve gone from being extremely excited for Prototype to actively avoiding it.

This kind of emotion is unusual to me; it is a completely irrational response, an illogical dismissal of something despite having no contact or experience with it, it is the kind of characteristic pioneered and perfected by fanboys and I’d like to think that I’m not a crazed fanboy (does a fanboy know whether he or she is a fanboy?). I’ve been struggling to figure out what has caused this and after thinking long and hard I’ve come to a conclusion, fate, yes – fate!

My opinions of inFAMOUS are about as irrational as my opinions of Prototype, although I can recognise that the game has numerous flaws; the hawkeyed sharpshooting enemies, the repetitive mission types and numerous glitches to name a few, I have fallen completely and utterly in love with inFAMOUS. I’m infatuated the point that I’m am actively enjoying aspects of the game that I would cite as cliché and contrived if it were featured in any other game. Cole’s bald headed gruff voiced character design is extremely generic, but I’ll still argue he is much cooler than Alex Mercer despite feeling deep down that I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out they were identical twins split at birth as part of a social experiment. Other than Cole’s ability to command electricity in various forms his only other skill is his familiarity with the city and his skills in ‘Urban exploration’. To me it’s a beautiful method of effortlessly moving from point to point with the finesse of a calm breeze, but to everyone else it’s that Parkour crap that everyone seems to be able to do ever since Altair showed up, jumped from a shack to a windowsill and then walked along a beam and into some hay. Sure, I know it’s Parkour but I’ll still maintain that the gameplay and feel of Cole’s particular brand of Parkour is much better than Altair’s or Alex’s, -- like I said, completely irrational.

It seems Sucker Punch has created a game that clicks with me on every level, every aspect of the game ranging from the comic book visuals to the electricity infused combat, the simple but cool characters to the typical and slightly predictable anime/comic book style storyline appeals to me. It appeals to me on a level that even lets me appreciate and enjoy the aspects of the game that are so clearly generic and uninspired. It’s almost as if Sucker Punch had a detailed psych profile of me and then created a game perfectly suited for me, a game that I was predetermine to love.

After playing inFAMOUS and looking at Prototype all I can see is a game that seems to have been rushed, an uninspired and poorly updated rehash of an old title, created with the kitchen sink approach to development and wrapped in bland, unremarkable and unappealing visuals, and I say all this having never played the game.

Yeah I know, I know what I am...

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Resi 5 Review

Phew, after powering through Resident Evil in 2 play sessions I've written up a review. Click here to read it.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Review: Flower

Say what you will about the PSN service but when it comes to original online games there is no denying that its offerings represent some of the most engrossing titles that gaming has to offer. Since its launch it has become home to an assortment of unconventional but quirky titles such as PixelJunk Eden and Flow and has cultivated an environment where developers such as Q-Games and ThatGameCompany can realise their most ‘out their’ concepts and indulge their pretentious and esoteric artistic whims, in some cases, with the backing and encouragement of big name companies such as Sony.

Flower is the latest title from outside-the-box-gaming developers ‘ThatGameCompany’; it retains the same simple and approachable gameplay style previously featured in their first PSN contribution Flow. The player takes control of an ethereal breeze on a predestined mission of rejuvenation, following in the footsteps of Amaterasu of Okami fame and the Prince of Persia the resolute gust of air must soar through six gardens in an effort to reinvigorate them by carrying the petals of other flowers throughout the gardens and in passing injecting life back into the withering life-forms.

Although the objective and gameplay are very simple playing Flower initially can feel like a bit of a struggle, this is because the game is played using the Six-Axis motion control system, although it isn’t the most robust motion control system out there it is well suited to the game, once acclimated with the manoeuvring and acceleration based mechanics of movement controlling the stream of petals becomes second nature, you’ll soon find yourself flying through the gardens with ease.

Flowers greatest accomplishment is how well it sets the mood and atmosphere of each garden, the various facets of the game work symbiotically and meld together to create and maintain immersion, the painstakingly rendered grass and foliage is dripping with vivid colours, the lighting effects compliment the colourful art style by giving the environments the tranquil feel of an idyllic Eden and the music perfectly communicates and enhances the theme and mood of the gardens. Complimenting the music is a humble rhythm game element, each flower makes a sound and together they essentially act as a supplementary botanical orchestra contributing to the overall symphony.

Although it is possible to get a sense of how the game looks from screenshots, in order to truly experience the sense of euphoria the game creates you have to play it, especially since the screenshots aren’t indicative of all the different environments Flower has to offer.

Flower is a unique game, not only in terms of concept and gameplay but also because it is the kind of game where despite how many people write reviews or impressions on it you can never truly get a grasp of what it has to offer or the what the experience is like (way to invalidate everything said so far), it’s a game which everyone should play if only to form a personal opinion on it, in my case I can safely say that the three hours I spent playing Flower were three solid hours of breathtaking gaming.

Close your eyes, go to your happy place, imagine a soothing breeze, grass calmly swaying in the wind, air whistling as it passes through the thousands of delicate blades of grass – now open your eyes, and fly.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

ResiRant Evil

Resident Evil 4 was phenomenal; few games have an impact on the industry as profound as what was felt after RE4, its legacy can still be in games released today with the likes of Dead Space, Gears of War and even Metal Gear Solid clearly drawing inspiration from it. With such grandiose achievements and the uniformly positive critical response in mind it's pretty hard to temper expectations into something realistic and attainable, it would be unfair to expect Resident Evil 5 be as innovative as Resident Evil 4 but it isn’t unreasonable to expect the game to evolve. The demo for RE5 is now available on Live and PSN and for some it serves to further suggest the differences between RE4 and RE5 will be few, sure it's good to see the series taking a step in a different direction with the inclusion of online Co-op but other than that RE5 seems to be fundamentally the same, and honestly -- I'm not complaining.

Resident Evil 4 was born from desperation, with Resident Evil 1,2 and 3 Capcom had taken their particular brand of survival horror as far as it could go on the PlayStation and then even further with the various Gamecube remakes, everything from the tank like character controls, the awkward and unaccommodating camera positioning and the predictable enemy AI had been pushed to its usage limits, they created a new and innovative formula, established genre conventions and then bled them dry to the point that it could be argued that the development team had fallen into a one track mind in relation to game design, they seemed to have turned game design and development for Resident Evil into a standardized routine, this is supported by reports stating that the first Devil May Cry game, another Capcom title that bore unmistakable resemblance to the Resident Evil games and their various quirks , originally started life as Resident Evil 4, Capcom seemed to have backed themselves into a corner, their reliance on what had been established in previous titles in the series made them complacent and to be fair they had the right to be , the formula was more than satisfactory, it was successful enough to firmly position Capcom as the king of the survival horror genre in the eyes of many a game enthusiast, but when it came to Resident Evil 4 I think it was clear they needed something beyond the stagnant formula used in its predecessors, I'm sure that everyone will agree that what it became was nothing short of revolutionary.

This practice of incrementally updating titles for sequels is certainly not something new to the video game industry and I'm not suggesting that Capcom should be condemned for adopting the practice, I am merely drawing attention to the fact that this sort of exercise is something Capcom has used in the past and suggesting that while it is fair to expect new and innovative changes to each new installment in a Capcom series this isn't something that they have a history of doing, past practices suggest that innovations and evolutions such as those seen in Resident Evil 4 are pushed to their absolute limits in terms of usage before being scrapped, with Resident Evil 5 serving as only the second incarnation of the Resident Evil 4 formula the likelihood is that Resident Evil 6 will also stay close to the formula and conventions established in Resident Evil 4 and then recycled in Resident Evil 5.

The recent confusion as to whether Chris will have the ability to shoot while moving in RE 5 has caused some controversy, while some (including myself) are happy to play the game as it has always been, clunky shooting and all, and reason that the restrictive controls contribute to the feeling of pressure and are arguably an essential element to the Resident Evil formula others haven’t taken too kindly to the realisation that former S.T.A.R.S Special Agent and current Bio-terror Assessment Group Agent Chris Redfield doesn't seemed to be trained in the art of firing a weapon while in motion. If my Red Bull fueled, wildly outrageous speculations are used to judge when Resident Evil will makes the jump into the next set of 'series innovations' it may be that the Resident Evil protagonists won't fully overcome the aforementioned inadequacies until Resident Evil 7, only time will tell, but until then we can rest safe in the knowledge that the current formula is still one of the most thrilling and enjoyable experiences video gaming has to offer.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Return fire!

OK, I admit it, I've been slacking recently, it's hard enough to get readers on a blogspot site and now my recent inactivity has condemned the blog to the darkest corner of this already overpopulated and grossly bloated blogosphere, the only way I can recover from this is to start hosting either shady software cracks with guides or you know, that stuff that 95% of web surfers actually use the internet for.............................................................. Desktop Tower Defense clones. Of course there is that other option; put some hard work in and actually post regularly again, yeah, I guess I'll do that - for the sake of integrity.

So let me provide a few reasons (read: excuses) for my recent absence, the biggest reason for my lack of posting is simply the fact that it was Christmas time and working in retail around this period is very demanding, over the past month or so I’ve had to do the most ridiculous work shifts and by the time I get home a small twitter update is about all I can squeeze out before just collapsing on my bed. Working in retail is hard around Christmas regardless of what you sell, mainly because the amount of people out shopping skyrockets and of course, 80% of those people are extremely inconsiderate and selfish troublemakers who think the world revolves around them, unfortunately for me I work in a store that sells games and consoles exclusively and it seems this year the most popular gifts are either games or consoles and peripherals, needless to say it was an exhausting few weeks.

As well as work I also had a coursework deadline to meet, this involved weeks of research followed by days of furious typing, the fact that my computer essentially had a heart attack and died the day before I started working on the coursework didn’t help much, since then I’ve been using a laptop that was kindly given to me by a family member, It’s a humble little machine that is capable of surfing the internet and running a word processor at the same time but anything more and it will buckle under the pressure.

However, now that the Christmas period is over my shifts have become far more reasonable, my coursework has been handed in and my monstrous gaming PC is nearing completion I have no excuses, so expect more from me over the coming weeks. I thought I’d ease into it by just doing a short personal update and just mentioning a few things relating to the recent happenings in the world of video gaming.

First up is UGO’s purchase of 1UP and closure of EGM, as a resident of merry old England I have to admit that my exposure to EGM has been extremely limited and confined to the last few years, as a child I read any and every gaming magazine there was, whether it was a new edition I purchased personally or an old issue that I either found in a friends house or at the library, but unfortunately I never actually got to hold a copy of EGM, it may have been possible to import the magazine but I’m sure that sort of thing was far beyond my capabilities as a child. So although I can appreciate that EGM was an institution in the world of gaming print magazines that appreciation isn’t derived from a long-standing relationship with the magazine it’s from the amazingly ridiculous things the magazine has been involved with over the years that have been catalogued on the internet, shenanigans such as the ‘Gouken’ April fools joke which has been cited as the reason the character ‘Gouki/Akuma’ was created for Street Fighter or their involvement in the creation of the Mortal Kombat character ‘ERMAC’, even though I haven’t read an EGM I can appreciate what it has done for the industry and am extremely saddened by its closure. The reasonably low level of personal damage inflicted by the closure of EGM was more than made up for by the detrimental changes made to the 1UP website. As well as offloading EGM a number of high profile 1UP staff member were also laid off, from long time senior staff members such as James Mielke and Shane Bettenhausen to fairly recent additions like Nick Suttner, Anthony and Phillip. I’m certainly going to miss the fascinating features and editiorials as well as the concise and amazingly well written reviews but what I’m going to miss the most is the podcasts. Over the past few years I’ve become quite fond of the 1UP podcasts, usually I would listen to at least one of the 1UP podcasts a day with the exception of Sunday so I guess you could say that the people and personalities featured on those podcasts are engrained into my everyday life, 1UP Yours helped me get through a number of tough revision and exam periods and helped ‘confirm’ my weekends, EGM Live was my little peek through the window into the world of Electronic Gaming Monthly and GFW Radio was my way of keeping up with PC gaming when I didn’t have the necessary equipment to play them myself, as well as expanding my horizons courtesy of evil genius Shawn Elliot and seasoned vet Jeff Greene. More recently Retronauts and 1UP FM made the long train journeys to and from work easier and getting up on Saturday mornings to watch the 1UP show with breakfast became somewhat of a ritual.

As someone who would like to work in the industry I always hoped to work with the guys at 1UP in some capacity, even if it was something small, they are some of the most talented and respected writers in the industry so like many other aspiring writers the ideal or ‘dream’ placement is at 1UP along side the likes of Shane, Nick, Anthony, Garnett and all the others, with that it mind it’s quite sad to see that I’ll never be able to achieve the dream. Lucky for me though those guys and girls are extremely resilient and almost instantly got back to work, they’ve filled the void left by all the collapsed 1UP podcasts with Rebel FM, Geekbox Radio and an eagerly anticipated new show from the ex-1UP Show lads now based at Talking Orange. You know what they say ‘with every door closed another is opened’.

Anyway, that’s enough rambling for today, until the next post why not hang out at CitizenGame, post some comments, enjoy the podcasts and jump onto the Left4Dead servers, you will be welcomed with open arms, unless you’re a zombie In which case you’ll almost certainly be shot to shit.