Meet your Doom! Doom 3 that is…

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As some of you may know I have always been a huge fan of the original Quake game released way back in the 90’s (on the N64 in my case) so much so that I did a Halloween tribute to it a few years back and the beginnings of a Let’s Play! On Youtube (links to both at the end of this post.)

It seems hard to discuss Quake without people inevitably making comparisons to the Doom franchise. Therefore I have always avoided playing Doom, possibly feeling that it would be some sort of slur on Quake to do so, but most likely it was more a case of not seeing how it could ever live up. However, when I came across the special edition of Doom 3 for a few pounds in a second hand shop I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to find out what the franchise is like to play.

To be honest, my expectations of this game were quite high (Quake prejudice notwithstanding) as it regularly makes appearances in people’s lists of the scariest video games. Happily, I have not been disappointed. As a horror game, it’s a very competent effort indeed, and manages to create a wonderfully creepy gaming experience. The opening level sees you on a Martian outpost of a sinisterly powerful corporation tasked with exploring space and conducting scientific research. From the get-go there is a feeling about this place is not quite right. Whether it’s the oddly overly sterile environment, the egotistical overseer/manager of the facility or the disembodied android voices echoing down the corridors, the place just feels like a disaster waiting to happen.

Sure enough within minutes of your arrival everything starts to go horribly wrong and you find yourself tasked with hunting down some employees who have gone missing. The horror and suspense is built up well as you being to explore some of the abandoned sections of the base with only a flashlight and some of the terrified maintenance personnel for company. Naturally when you find the missing staff everything kicks off, with the creepy devil’s heads appearing out of the walls and possessing the hapless scientists and turning the marines into mindless zombies. This doesn’t sound particularly original, and it isn’t, but it is done with polish enough to make it seem both frightening and refreshing.

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It’s quite hard to pin down what makes this game so frightening but here are just a few of the factors which combine to make the overall effect. This game manages to create a perfect sense of isolation; you very rarely run into anyone who hasn’t succumbed to the possessing force which has ravaged the base, and the few who have mostly die pretty quickly. The lighting and level design is used to great effect to further emphasise this sense of loneliness and isolation; the claustrophobic corridors, ventilation shafts and access tunnels lend themselves well to creating an overall sense of dread and impending doom. You also begin the game with very little actual information about your surroundings and narrative; most information in the game is gained through finding personnel PDA’s which hold a variety of voice memo and staff e-mails which shed light on what has been happening in the research facility. The audio effects and monster design in the game are also top notch, managing to be both crisp and yet retaining an almost retro sort of feel; you can see the care and attention which has gone into bringing out the canon in this game.

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Overall, this is a great horror experience. My only real criticism is that the lack of overall narrative and character interaction can sometimes seem stifling at times; but mostly this is a great game and well worth a play through. Does it compare to Quake though? I can’t really answer that as I have not played any of the more recent entries into the series for a fair comparison. I did enjoy playing the original Quake more, but that is not a particular criticism of Doom and may have as much to do with nostalgia as anything else. The Doom 3 BFG edition also comes with the original versions of Doom and Doom 2 so perhaps a more direct comparison would be more appropriate there.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xcfxPkKwh5I

https://theinverselook.wordpress.com/2013/11/07/halloween-quake-revisited/

Top ten mega evolutions!

Sometimes you just need a good top ten and this is one of those times! Just to be clear, this is based purely on aesthetics rather than competitive viability, as some of these Pokemon really are not cut out for competitive play.

  1. Aggron

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Looking like a tank which decided to have a baby with a rhino, Aggron looks like one of those Pokemon which, if real, would be far too dangerous to be allowed to live. All blades, all edges and titanic size, this is somewhat reminiscent of a Dark Souls boss….to be feared.

  1. Houndoom

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Cujo much? Houndoom has a good design anyway and is only improved by becoming mega. The black, white and red colour scheme, coupled with the huge ram horns and pointy tail give more than a vague impression of devilishness. Way cooler than Mega Absol’s emo fringe look…

  1. Steelix

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There is something hypnotic about the tiny shards of metal orbiting Steelix’s face, endlessly moving and supported by seemingly nothing at all. That coupled with Steelix’s serpentine shape and vaguely unsettling grin combine to make this a pretty awesome visual spectacle.

  1. Ampharos

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Because you’re worth it too! Mega Ampharos really does look like an advert for Pantenne or Herbal Esseences with that wavy, majestic hair and ‘I’m so much more awesome than you look.’ Pretty cool, in other words.

  1. Banette

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This Pokemon could quite easily be something fished out of the Warren’s basement or straight out of the mind of Tim Burton. Childhood fear mixed with the everyday made terrifying doesn’t even come close to describing the horror that would be if this Pokemon were actually to exist.

  1. Blastoise

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Huge reptile with a howitzer sized cannon on its back? Enough said.

  1. Altaria

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IT’S SO FLUFFY I’M GOING TO DIE!

  1. Beedrill

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All menace, all pointy, all badass! I have always liked the design of this Pokemon, and going mega has only made me like it more edgy.

  1. Charizard X

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I love the colour scheme; the blue balefire streaming out of the mouth makes this design seem to be a little ethereal.

  1. Gengar

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Gengar is one of my most favourite Pokemon designs, so I really couldn’t see how it could be improved upon. The hellish underglow lighting up the Gengar as if it was emerging from the pits of the underworld managed to do it though.

Agree or disagree? Did I miss anything off my list? Let me know in the comments!

119 Minutes at Freddy’s

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A while back I noticed this little known game on Steam which showed a lot of promise, so I mentally added it to my to-do list and then promptly forgot about it.

I apparently then blinked and this small game became hugely popular and spawned two sequels and engrossing questions regarding the mysterious identity of the puppet and purple man. I am referring to, of course, Five Nights at Freddy’s.

Despite being, apparently, the last person in the whole world to play this game, it was with some excitement that I made the modest investment to download this game. I was a little worried that the game would not live up to the hype that I had heard previously before downloading, but happily this turned out not to be the case.

From the moment the ominous main menu flashes up with its pervasive, fear inducing music and grainy, flickering visuals, I was pretty sure that this game was going to be on to a good thing. For those of you who are not familiar with the premise of the game, I’ll give a brief overview.

You play a security guard taking up a new position as the night watchman at the mysterious Freddy’s restaurant, keeping watch from midnight to 6am five nights a week. Within moments of starting your first shift, a phone call from your predecessor informs you that this job is already more than you might have bargained for. At night, the animatronics which usually entertain the children during the day become more active, wandering around the restaurant. This doesn’t sound so frightening until the phone man informs you that if they find anyone during the night, they will assume that it is a rogue animatronic and will stuff you into an empty robot body full of razor sharp metal and wires, particularly in the face area. As you can imagine, this is invariably fatal.

As the protagonist, you cannot move or interact with the environment at all. All you have available to combat the psychotic animatronic Freddy and his cohorts is a CCTV system of seven cameras located throughout the restaurant and two doors which can be closed electronically. Some of the animatronics move around less when viewed on the cameras, some more so. You also have limited power for the whole night (apparently the company is incredibly cheap indeed, hence the deadly robots), using the cameras and the doors and lights drains the power more quickly. If the power runs out, it’s game over, Freddy is going to kill you.

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Essentially, this is a strategy game full of creepy music and chills, not to mention outrageous jump scares when the animatronic that you thought you knew the location of suddenly leaps out of the shadows with teeth bared going straight for the throat. Despite the fact that you know this is likely to happen, it is guaranteed to make you jump every time.

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Despite the tame sounding nature of the action, this game is actually fantastic, full of tension and strategy; do you use more power and keep tabs on the CCTV or do you conserve power and hope for the best? I can guarantee that at some point in this game you will be staring at the clock which seems stuck at 4am, just praying that the power will last for a few more hours so that you will survive the night, all the while knowing at the back of your mind that you will be repeating it all again the next night. Not to mention the fact that the difficulty ramps up noticeably with each passing night.

If you haven’t played this game, I would highly recommend as the price is a very modest £3.99 and is definitely well worth the price. Good luck.

A Resident Evil Revelation

If any of you have read any of my posts before you will know that the Resident Evil franchise is one my most beloved video game franchises of all time. Resident Evil Zero, Re-make and Resident Evil 4 (alongside some decent Wii efforts in the form of Umbrella Chronicles and Darkside Chronicles) are well up there in my list of all-time great games. Re-make in particular has the perfect blend of horror, stunning visuals and an amazing array of scores and sound effects.

Bearing this in mind, I decided to give the previously ignored Resident Evil: Revelations on the 3DS a go. Why I hadn’t tried it out already I can’t quite explain; perhaps the notion of trying to play a Resi game on a handheld device had just seemed mildly unappealing. Suffice to say, my expectations going into the game were not that high.

Happily, Revelations turned out to be a somewhat pleasant surprise which not only exceeded my expectations but actually holds its own as a good game in its own right. Without giving too much away about the story, the game centres around Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield as they work on behalf of the BSAA combating bio-organic weapon threats across the globe in the aftermath of the collapse of Umbrella. Set one year on from a BOW terrorist attack by a terrorist organisation known only as Veltro, our heroes are tasked with investigating possible signs of a Veltro resurrection in the form of dead BOW’s washed up on a beach in the United States. The investigation leads Jill to an abandoned super tanker adrift in the Mediterranean Sea where all is not as it seems….

The setting of the game is one of the major plus points in its favour; the cramped, claustrophobic air of the abandoned vessel serves only to increase the sense of isolation and horror that you feel on exploring your way through the ship which is, of course, crawling with a new type of BOW. The storyline is also rather good in this game; don’t get me wrong, it’s no Lord of the Rings but there is enough of a decent narrative to hold your interest all the way through the game, including some nice misdirects and surprise revelations (hence the name I guess.)

Unsurprisingly, like other Resident Evil games before it, Revelations looks great, even on the oldest, smallest 3DS. I was actually quite impressed with the level of graphical quality and detail that the developers had managed to squeeze out of the 3DS’s hardware. Throw into the mix a fantastic musical score and creepy sound effects (particularly the new BOWs, they sound terrifying) and you get a very polished, competent feeling game which is highly successful in creating an atmosphere of fear and horror.

There are, of course, some drawbacks to this game, however. First of all, it’s too short. I count myself as being a pretty competent Resident Evil veteran, but even so the game only took me 11 hours to complete, which is too short no matter how good at the game you might be. This may also, in part, be down to the difficulty level, which is not set very high. The game also seems to have not quite found the right balance between combat and puzzle-solving/survival elements, swinging too far towards the combat side of things. Perhaps this is not a fair criticism of Revelations in particular though, but more of the series in general. I favour a move back towards gameplay more similar to that seen in Re-make, but I recognise that I might be in a minority in this regard.

Apart from those two factors however, only the sometimes painfully annoying supporting cast and occasionally cheeses dialogue mar what is otherwise a great game, particularly when you consider that this was one of the first games to come out on the 3DS. I would recommend picking this up from somewhere and giving it a go; it only costs around £10 from Amazon and is therefore incredibly good value for a decent game.

If you are familiar with the Resident Evil franchise, I would love to hear your comments on where you think the series should go next; back towards a re-make style game, or nearer to the gameplay found in 4? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Zombie aPokelypse!

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I apologise for the terrible attempt at a pun. I felt quite literally ashamed of myself for thinking of it, but after half an hour of further thought resulting in zero better ideas I decided to just go with it.
First, lets just set the scene. After a day’s exhausting shopping in the Celadon department store you emerge into the fading light of dusk. You are immediately surrounded by other members of your fellow citizenry. On closer inspection, they do in fact appear to be undead monsters intent on hunting you down and eating your face. Time to panic, right? Wrong! With the right team of Pokemon the zombie apocalypse can be reduced from a stomach churning, gory nightmare to a mild annoyance.
From the outset, having Pokemon over human companions has several advantages. Pokemon won’t go berserk with cabin fever and try to kill you; they won’t steal your food and they won’t be an endless burden to you on your quest for survival. Obviously some company is fine, but Pokemon do have their advantages. But what team to have? No legendaries, of course. They may well just decide to leave you to your fate and watch all aloof as you helplessly get torn to pieces by ravenous monsters.

1. Charizard

Obviously Charizard. It’s big, it can fly, and its fire breath can disintegrate zombies en masse with little to no effort. Even when surrounded on all sides you can laugh in the face of danger as your faithful companion reduces zombies in the immediate area to ash. In the unlikely event that there are too many to handle, Charizard is big and strong enough to simply fly you away to a safer location. On cold winter days, lighting a fire will be no problem at all, greatly increasing your changes of survival.

2. Greninja

The Pokedex description for Greninja states that the water shuriken stars that it compresses and throws are powerful enough to split metal in half. Let that sink in for a moment. If it can do that to metal we are talking about some serious damage to zombie flesh. The speed and accuracy of Greninja’s ninja skills means that zombies can be decapitated with murderous force at an incredible rate. And, if by chance one makes it past and heads for you, that tongue it uses as a scarf can stop it lasso style leaving it completely open to a shuriken throw. But defense is not the only consideration. In a zombie apocalypse scenario, provisions are equally important. Fresh water is hard to come by in many areas. Not for you it isn’t. One rain dance whenever the thirst takes you and you’re laughing.

3. Trevenant

Similarly, food can be scarce; enter Trevenant. Not only can this Pokemon create perfect growing condition for crops or natural food sources, but it has the ability to endlessly recreate berries and similar foods in sunny weather. If you’re feeling a bit peckish after your drink of water, a sunny day to create more berries is just what the doctor ordered. Also, look at Trevenant. It’s pretty strong looking, and can easily camouflage itself in a woodland setting, offering interesting ambush opportunities.

4. Steelix

Are your other Pokemon exhausted and in no condition to fight with zombies closing in? No matter, just deploy Steelix. This Pokemon is huge and made out of steel. All it has to do is curl up in a ball and you can sleep safely in the middle surrounded by a wall of impenetrable steel as zombies frantically claw at its body unable to make even a scratch. Once your other Pokemon are rested you’re back in business. And, of course, its pretty huge and could probably just squash most zombies anyway. Win win.

5. Alakazam

I’ve picked Alakazam but really any psychic Pokemon will do. If the TV series is anything to go by, all psychic types can use psychic to physically manipulate objects and move them around. This will make you very safe, and could potentially be very entertaining. If the oddly hilarious blasting of bears off a cliff using your voice in Skyrim is anything to judge by then some psychic based zombie killing shenanigans could provide some light relief in a world gone mad.

6. Pikachu

Well, its cute and even in a zombie apocalypse a sweet pet would be nice. Its electric attacks would be pretty useless in combat though.

So there you have it, a team capable of maximising your chances of survival in a world ravaged by zombies. One thing that has become apparent from thinking about this is that they way Pokemon are described in the games and cards makes them sound dangerous and terrifying. Lets just hope they wouldn’t use a zombie attack as an opportunity to make a break for freedom….

Picture taken from kotaku.com

The Evil Within: The New Resident Evil?

ImageContinuing on from my last halloween inspired horror-related post I will now move from past horror to future horror in the form of a game due to be released in 2014 but which, frankly, can’t come soon enough. For those, like me, who have been desperate for the Resident Evil franchise to return to its zombie infested survival horror roots then our prayers may have been answered in the form of The Evil Within. Obviously, this is not a Resident Evil game. It is however, shaping up to be a great looking survival horror game. Trailers and game-play videos seem to suggest that this game possesses all the necessary attributes to make us fall in love with the survival horror genre all over again. It seems to combine many qualities from Resident Evil 1 and 4: including over the shoulder action viewpoint, various quick time event actions, limited weapons and ammo and that overwhelming feeling that it is just you, alone, against a terrible and nameless enemy. Comparisons to Resident Evil 4 does no disservice to the game, after all it is one of the best video games of the last 10 years. The game opens with the wounded protagonist trying to escape from a grisly and macabre looking asylum or hospital chased by an enormous figure wielding a chainsaw. The tense run through the level, being chased by a seemingly unbeatable foe, immediately put me in mind of the tense moments of trying to escape Salazar’s right hand or the Nemesis through the chaos of Raccoon City. So far so good. The character design in the game looks stunning, particularly the various bosses which have been revealed so far. The game apparently draws from many horror tropes found in other horror games and films so horror fans should find plenty of things to enjoy in the game. The audio effects and music of the game seem to be first rate and fully capable of creating an atmosphere of crippling fear within moments of the opening sequence. Unfortunately the videos released so far predominantly feature FMV sequences so it is unclear to see how smooth the game-play will be with any degree of certainty. However, survival horror fans should be hopeful that another first class title may be being released in the not so distant future. The Evil Within definitely seems to have promise, particularly seeing as though Shinji Mikami, the driving force behind Resident Evil 1 and 2 is at the helm.

Check out the video below to get an idea of the game-play and visuals!

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H1POefYUgkw

 

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Halloween: Quake Revisited

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So, another halloween has come and gone without any particular significance. One thing I did gain from Halloween was a perfect excuse to revisit the very first game I ever played: the original Quake. This game came with the first computer we ever had (an old Packard Bell) alongside other such classics as Swiv 3D, MDK: Mission Laguna Beach and Adiboo. If you don’t know what this game is then no words can possibly describe this game to you (try google or youtube.) First of all lets get one thing clear; I have no idea what my parents were doing letting me play Quake when I was six years old. To me this smacks of irresponsible parenting. Apparently, they were fine letting a six year old blast his way through various undead minions, wading through a bucket of gore. And oh yes, there is gore. Massively pixallated gore. There are some games which age beautifully over time. This is not one of those games. The visuals look bad even compared to other games of the same time period. Does this detract from the terror and fun of the game? Not at all. If anything its hilarious to watch your enemies explode into pixallated globs of red blocks. None of this realistic death stuff, they really explode. Which, thanks to the graphics, is funny rather than nauseating. In addition to this the visuals actually can add to the tension of the game. The enemies can almost appear out of nowhere with barely any warning whatsoever. The game-play still holds up rather well, with pretty decent level design and plenty of interesting minions to destroy. So the game is still fun, but is it scary? Actually, yes. For me this is down to the audio in the game. The music in some parts of the game is haunting to say the least. Perhaps even more terrifying however, are the moments of silence. This reveals the sound of nearby enemies moaning, screaming or grunting; present but unseen as you creep carefully forward to spring their trap. There really is a small surge of fear as an enemy unexpectedly flies out at you screaming and attempting to dig a chainsaw or foot long talons into your face. The noise of water dripping off walls, sepulchral chanting and distant zombies moaning really does create an excellent atmosphere. The weapons all feel suitably satisfying to use, from the classic double-barrelled shotgun to the not-so-classic quadruple-barrelled nail gun. The game is a pretty decent length and offers a fair amount in the way of replay value as each level contains secrets and hidden chambers which reward careful replaying of levels. On the higher levels of difficulty the game really does offer a challenge. To those thinking of giving the game a go, if you want slightly sharper graphics, go for the PC version rather than the console version. Either way, the game is well worth playing. With the lights turned off and the sound cranked up this game definitely can still provide some great scares. Check out the awesome trailer below and tell me that you aren’t tempted!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5WzyVjx-SXMImage

Survival of the fittest

With the most inconvenient timing imaginable, during the longest period of bright sunshine to have graced the UK, my desire for gaming horror has once again risen to the fore. So, naturally, I dug out my copy of Resident Evil, made it as dark as possible (not very as it turned out) and plunged once more into the mission that turned into a nightmare; to be reminded once more of what an amazing example of survival horror that it truly is. The fixed position camera angles create an extremely restrictive view point which only serves to ratchet up the tension; never truly allowing you to see around corners or across full rooms or corridors. This is incredibly effective as a fear inducing tool as often you can hear enemies before you see them, but can never be quite sure how close they are to you or exactly where they are without taking the plunge and moving forward into the unknown. The audio team for this game did a superb job, perfectly weaving a net of strange sounds, suspicious noises, zombie shuffling and flashes of spine tingling music as you explore your way through the mansion. Visually, the game still looks good today. With detailed rooms and excellent enemy animation, the game looks real enough to create scares. The most successful thing this game does however, is that it really manages to evoke the emotions of a true survival horror. You truly do feel alone and isolated and completely defenceless as you explore ever deeper into the mansion’s secrets. With little health and ammunition, and flight being the only real option for survival, the game really does emphasise survival over action. If you have not played this game I urge you to do so; turn off the lights and crank up the volume and enjoy. I realised however, that for me the scares have been dulled somewhat by over familiarity, so I decided to explore a genre that I have always somewhat neglected. Rather than reach for Resident Evil 5 or 6, which have lost all feeling of survival horror and have moved fully into the action/combat genre, I promptly bought Silent Hill 2 and 3 and I’m eagerly waiting for them to arrive. I have also discovered some classic horror games which look like absolute gems despite their age. Indeed, the lack of graphic power does seem to have forced the designers of some of these games to use real ingenuity and creativity to create an atmosphere of terror. Below is a link to a video which contains many of the horror games that I think look like excellent examples of the survival horror genre. I hope the video inspires you as much as it has inspired me, also please feel free to let me know of any games that may have been missed of the list. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qxPK308ZMwIImage