My Gaming History Archive

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June 13, 2016
Written by , Posted in My Gaming History

My Gaming History ‘Part 19’

With the announcement of Fallout 4 on the latest generation consoles, my ears perked up because Bethesda certainly know what they are doing when it comes to creating a video game. Fallout 3, unbeknown to me, would become one of my top 5 games of all time. Upon its release in 2008, I was too busy playing GTA IV to even acknowledge anything else.

A friend of mine who is a veteran gamer like myself, called me at work excitedly and explained that there is a new generation of RPG on the horizon. Bethesda studios had created a 3D version of a post-apocalyptic world, in which you can chose from multiple different scenarios, play them out how you want, wearing what you want, using want you like. It sounded too good to be true, the marrying of RPG and first person adventure in the past had been very hit and miss, but from screen shots the game looked innovative and detailed, the conceptual art work also looked amazing. This was all thanks to late, great Adam Adamowicz. A hugely passionate man who loved to sketch EVERYTHING out, often without the aide of a computer.

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Adam Adamowicz 1968 – 2012

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I decided to buy the game without reading too much into it, I didn’t know what to expect. As I sat there installing and waiting, I imagined how my character would play out. I imagined how I may emerge from the vault. Wearing some ‘borrowed’ civilian clothes, a welders mask and an apron, wielding some kind of cleaving weapon I found in the canteen. Or maybe I’d just run around stark bollock naked and run after people waving a broom handle…the game was ready to roll, I cracked open a beer and began my survival journey, all three hundred and twelve hours of it.

One of the greatest aspects of the Fallout world is that something you may discover or decide, could affect you later in the game, hours, days, weeks even…before the ‘fallout’ of said situation comes to fruition (depending on how long your sessions are obviously). You have to watch what you say and do, or else you’ll make many enemies and receive bad ‘karma’. Providing a game with these kinds of situations and logic means that you can play to suit your real life persona, or completely out of character, making the experience even more immersive.

Unlike in real life when you make enemies, make bad decisions, ruin people’s lives and emotionally scar them, or that you have been wronged yourself. Instead of undergoing counselling, therapy or medication, you are surviving in a world with no law enforcement and little structure. So, providing you have the right weapon, you can become your own judge, jury and executioner all rolled into one. Probably the appeal of the current library of games being released right now is that games allow deeper decision making, but one of the choices is to sort out your day to day problems, fulfilling ones fantasy to either diplomatically end confrontation using a brief exchange of words, or go ape shit and bludgeon said problem with a sledgehammer.

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Problem solvers

Starting life in the vault is fairly linear, there isn’t a lot of freedom but you have created a character that will be under your control for the duration, so the connection begins here. The shit hits the fan fairly early on and people start throwing their morals out like they were old Rolf Harris records. You have to exit the underground vault pretty sharpish. You were born here, you grew up here and now you’ve become a young adult. The first time you emerge from the darkened vault, your eyes are full of sun glare and the unforgettable score of music begins. Armed with only a pistol, a lead pipe and wearing a welders mask (my dream came true!), I had no idea what the wastelands had in store for me, but I was ready…or so I thought.

I decided to play from here on in, as cautiously and thoughtfully as if I were in the situation myself. Full immersion, and why not, this was defiantly a defining moment in gaming history. I’m not going to bore you with a blow by blow account of the entire game, what I will say is that the difference playing Fallout stoned compared to when sober was hilarious. If I had got baked one night during a couple hours session, I’d reload the game the next day and find myself trying desperately to remember where and when I collected all of these random items in my inventory. Fallout is like a kleptomaniac’s dream, when stoned this game satisfies my OCD…a lot of items in Fallout are simply junk, somethings rare, others can be fashioned into weaponry. At one point after many of the story line missions completed, I retraced my steps and hunted out as many Nuka Cola trucks as I could, storing them in the spare room of my house…the reason? None really, other than satisfaction and to show off to my best friend, who would then proceed to show me what he had collected, in a kind of ‘junk off’.

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Ta Da!

Until this time, one of my favourite first person shooters had been the Call of Duty series. COD as it is now referred to, is the classic pro American war tribute game, where by you play one man who singlehandedly achieves a kill count even Arnie would be jealous of. Nevertheless, the game series has been entertaining from the offset, it’s a damn sight better than actually cowering in trenches in the cold for hours on end, crying for mummy and wiping snot from your face, as tanks roll over your head.

As ridiculous as an American love for a power lifting Austrian death machine is, COD is simply ridiculous but then that’s also the beauty of it. As a video game war hero you have the ability to carry and reload an infinite amount of times, take hits from high calibre rounds and regenerate health, drive any vehicle and kill as many enemies as you can with no lawful repercussions.

Strangely COD has been on the tip of many news anchor’s lips due to its controversial content, even though nearly all of the titles so far have simply been based loosely on real life events, like a book or a movie. COD in Its infancy was never a problem in society, earlier COD titles were about World wars of the past…killing Germans in their thousands and throwing in a bunch of Russians for good measure, is not considered controversial.

With a side of Hoorah

Making a video game based on the ongoing American occupation in Arab lands however is deemed to be a problem for the young audience of today. In my experience, stupidity is cause for concern and simply confusing a virtual computer generated world and real ‘warfare’ is today’s issue.

Since the days of Wolfenstein 3D, killing Nazi’s is a little favourite past time of mine. There’s something quite therapeutic about ruining their snazzy little outfits with a machine gun or a few ‘nades. In more recent times Activision have combined two demographics into one spin off game, Nazi Zombies. It’s a satisfying little number in which you fend off hordes of the undead third Reich, simply two things humanity doesn’t care for.

Killing so good, you kill them again

Because killing Nazi’s once isn’t good enough

Prayers were answered with the release of another now established title, Battlefield Bad Company. There wasn’t a lot wrong with COD but after a while it had become a little tedious, not being able to destroy enemy hideouts and other scenery. DICE debuted their Frostbite engine which has now catapulted the games popularity to great heights. Now it was a lot harder to simply ‘camp’ out and snipe people from a far, your ass could be targeted with heavy weaponry and your cosy hideout would become Swiss cheese in an instant.

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Suddenly I was a lot more interested in multiplayer online action. Myself and four friends managed to obtain copies and get together online. Hilarity ensued. Playing with your friends in a war zone is entertaining…it’s not the simulated violence or depictions of war, it’s more to do with the fact your character has a voice and in the midst of battle, the confusion, fear and laughter comes thick and fast. Sure, it’s not a patch on real warfare but I’ve been paintballing and this is the closest you’ll get to watching your friends run for their lives under ‘live’ fire.

One such incident stuck in my mind in which myself and my best friend met up with a good friend of ours in a battle that was almost over. This was playing in the Vietnam expansion of the Battlefield titles and this meant, flamethrowers.

Our friend takes Battlefield extremely seriously and in this scenario we were instructed to join the opposing team. To obtain a certain ‘medal’ for taking the lives of four enemy soldiers with only the knife, we were going to have to stand still and be stabbed by our friend for him to obtain it. The last few soldiers were fighting their battle in this game, meanwhile my best friend and I were instructed to stand in a stream, hidden in a ravine, waiting for him to come and stab us.

My best friend is easily bored and so whilst waiting he decided to make him work for this medal and “Make him run the gauntlet!” he said…I didn’t know what he meant at first but then he started throwing grenades down the ravine in the direction our friend would be coming. I followed suit, obviously. Jumping, weaving and dodging he came through the narrow gap towards us and somehow managed to evade the random explosions, whilst shouting obscenities over the headset.

Weeeee!

Weeeee!

 

Eventually after a lot of antagonising we had successfully stabbed him enough times to acquire our medals. There was only his left. We had to relocate and spawn elsewhere as the rest of the players had cottoned on to the fact we were using the game merely to increase our score. We found a small village on the other side of the map, both me and my best mate found ourselves in the same hut…we couldn’t see our companion until we looked out the window. We could see him, several hundred metres away in another hut, looking for us.

We stayed hidden from view but communicated to him to give him our location. He made a run for it across hostile territory, as he entered the hut, my friend turned him into a human torch with his flame thrower…the body fell to the ground in front of us, followed the screams and bad language.

TOASTY!

TOASTY!

So there we have it, my first foray into online console gaming. This was defiantly a step in the right direction.

Next in the gaming history will be a look at 2009-2010, where I play some of the best and worst console games of all time.

CLICK HERE FOR PART 18!

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June 03, 2016
Written by , Posted in My Gaming History

My Gaming History ‘Part 18’

Back in 2013 I decided to start a fortnightly gaming club with my best friends, l called it ‘Game Over’ because we play video games, when they come over my place…fucking clever huh?

It’s been a breath of fresh air from all of the time spent online, alone, without people to really laugh and interact with. Over the years we’ve lost something very special in gaming and that is the real interaction between friends, sat around a screen. Sure, we’re all older now, some of us have children, wives, mortgages and other impediments in life but once a fortnight, we get together and have a bash at new and retro games.

Gaming is what you make it, it doesn’t matter if the game is a simple platformer or a complex RPG, the rules can be bent and the challenges can be made up on the spot. We have a number of games that we have played since the beginning of our fortnightly meet. EA’s Sports boxing master piece, Fight Night Champion, being one of them. EA have since shelved the boxing series in favour of the no necked, grunty, sweaty, crotch grappling world of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

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The UFC used to be pretty extreme and could certainly be classed as the ‘ultimate’, but now in favour of saving careers and ensuring a rounded entertainment experience, the Americans have developed a more controlled environment. Perhaps now they could change the name of the tournament to the CFU, or Controlled Fighting Union.

A real ‘ultimate’ fighting championship would be to pitch two angered men against each other and then perhaps throw in one or two predatory mammals. Add to that a table upon entry with a selection of weapons to choose from. Ring the bell and watch the sparks fly. You can’t really claim the word ‘ultimate’ unless you have something like a four on one mega match where three average size men have to take on a ‘man mountain’ on ‘roids.

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“If he cries, he cries”

For those who don’t know, EA developed a decent ‘Game Face’ program for Fight Night, which takes a photo of your face and generates a 3D model of it, you then use the character builder to create your boxer.

Obviously as with any character creation software that is online, it only takes a number of weeks before you see the likes of Hitler, 2-Pac and Ghandi uploaded to the roster.

The six of us are now all modelled as accurately as we could, forever immortalised in a boxing game. By adding small details to the overall look, my best friend and I sorted the back stories and the end result was surprisingly good. We started a boxing tournament, complete with tournament board, weigh-ins and a trophy for the overall winner. We always play Fight Night last, so the rest of the games prior to it are like the warm up to the big fight. The tournaments take a long time because one fight happens every fortnight. Sometimes one of us won’t show up, so the ‘in’ jokes started there. After a while I started making highlight reels, which in time turned into a complete storyline. It’s been around two years now, there’s a lot of history, great competition and laughs. Check out one of the videos here…

In 2006 I had bought myself another Xbox 360, I picked up the latest Need For Speed, as I always have and several other titles. I felt like I was starting again, I do regret selling on my past machines but I knew that in time I would be able to play all the old titles again, even though I didn’t have the hardware. But there is something even more nostalgic than the games themselves, it’s the magazines of the era, the games cases and the instruction manuals with the ‘note’ pages in the back, that no one ever used. When you can see and touch these, it adds a very deep layer of sentimental value, along with the visual references of course. I can remember where I was and what was happening at the time in my life to, It’s like your own little memory cues to the past.

It took me awhile to warm to some of the new titles being released, I didn’t want to play Gears of War, I’m not entirely sure why….I just didn’t like the art work and the conceptual designs, I thought the combat was pretty innovative but overall the fat necked protagonists and gargoyle enemies, didn’t do much for me.

A friend suggested I have a go at God of War, he explained that “It’s like Devil May Cry, with swords on chains”. I personally loved the DMC series because of the hilarity of the Japanese translated voice acting and the over the top innovative fighting system, which made everything look fucking cool.

In the story of God of War, which is loosely based on Greek mythology (and when I say loose, I mean it’s like saying Jurassic Park is a documentary) you play the role of Kratos, a man, a Spartan warrior, who is tasked to kill Ares, the god of war. Ares had tricked Kratos into killing his own wife and child, which, if that wasn’t enough, Kratos is then plagued by relentless nightmares and his skin is turned white  when the oracle of the village bonds his families ashes to him, earning him the name ‘Ghost of Sparta’.

Yoink!

Yoink!

I seem to remember within the first fifteen minutes of the game, you are thrown into a battle, flailing wildly with two swords, which are permanently chained to Kratos’s arms by Ares. After killing around two hundred beings aboard a ship, you find two naked maidens below deck, on a bed, which you can ‘pleasure’ in order to gain more power points. Already leagues above the depressing world of Sausage fest, Gears of War.

God of War is yet another reminder that the best parts of human ‘history’ never happened, but certain stories become some of the best things to fuel an imagination and subsequently create a damn good video game. From beginning to end God of War impressed me with its attention to detail, level design and boss fights. You feel like you are actually beating a game down, taking the AI through its paces and finishing on a high, even though Kratos never really finds his inner peace (partly to do with the fact they could squeeze a sequel or two out).

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Go Go Gadget bludgeoning arm!!

2007 was a pretty slow year for gaming, well for me anyway, as I have said previously I’m incredibly picky nowadays when It comes to games and if I think a title is being made well, I’ll follow it. We were pleasantly surprised by the following twelve months, when several titles appeared on the shelves that would change the landscape of the console market forever.

Every virtual maniacs dream, Grand Theft Auto, returned again after the huge success of San Andreas. GTA IV was debated amongst gamers the world over for months before its release, ranging from the fairly standard requests and rumours, to the completely absurd. In the end what we were given was a very solid game, with an equally strong story line and with an excellent new engine. The only thing that fans of the earlier titles were disappointed with, was the lack of ‘mayhem and fun’. Sure, there was the usual dry wit & humour throughout the game, the violence was as controversial as always but the entertainment value lacked a little slapstick, which we had been treated to in the bucket load in San Andreas.

The Eastern European main protagonist certainly made previous titles appear plain comical but anyone who stuck it out witnessed some very cleverly woven storylines with a gripping plot and memorable finale.

I would probably say this was the quiet before the storm, the online storm that is. It was about this time I got my ass into gear and started playing with players all over the world. To my surprise I found it to be far more entertaining than first thought.

In the next instalment of the gaming history, I sit down for the equivalent of twelve days playing what I consider is one of the greatest video games ever created. I play, with my best friends in one of the most engaging first person shooters of all time.

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May 31, 2016
Written by , Posted in My Gaming History

My Gaming History ‘Part 17′

I haven’t written for the blog in some time now and it’s mainly because I don’t play video games as much as I used to and because I’ve hit 30 (Now 32) and in life I often feel like a marble in a game Kerplunk. Precariously balancing upon the fine strands of existence, watching other marbles also try staying on top of the game, whilst unknown forces quickly swipe away at what gives you a great perspective, sending you and other marbles tumbling down into the void of nothingness. I didn’t expect to come back here and use a 1980’s table top strategy based family game as a means to explain hardship in life but if there’s one thing video games has taught me and that is that we live a number of lives in our existence and if you accept your fate and fall constantly into the darkness, then you’ll never adorn level 10 armour, make new friends, slay your enemies and save the princess to watch the credits roll to the cool music.

When picking out a game to play at length recently I have become incredibly picky, due to time constraints. The last game I completed 100% was Tomb Raider and the last new online game I had a crack at was RUST.

RUST is constantly being developed as time goes by, when I started playing it, it didn’t look much and it was about as glitchy as a dream NEO would have if you’d spilt coffee on him whilst plugged into the Matrix. Improvements happen every month but the game is really about what you make it. RUST is effectively a survival game in a huge sandbox environment, in which you craft items out of stuff to last as long as you can. Invariably life is tough in the RUST world, you’ll be stalked, maimed, taunted, robbed and eventually killed…usually by Russian ‘hackers’ unless you find a decent server. My first play through of RUST ended in the usual way of attempting to beat another man to death with a large rock.

Bare grills

Bare grills

You spawn into the world as a ‘naked’ this term is used for two reasons, one because you are a ‘N00b’ and two, you’re naked (apart from a white pair of briefs) There’s no story line, so that’s all left to your imagination and the other inhabitants of the world and trust me, you’ll soon find yourself in some kind of ordeal whether you like it or not. Armed with just a large rock, you must forage for life’s most basic needs…food and shelter.

Hiding under a rock in the rain doesn’t sound like a fun game but when you’re running from a naked man who is trying to beat you to death with stone, you’ll find your heart racing listening out for footsteps and voices in the distance. A new addition to my world of gaming is the advancement in communication, I use a set of headphones with built in mic to converse with other players, the sound travels as it would in reality now so people can shout over to you and it’ll be fainter, the further away they are. This is pretty unnerving when you hear people screaming or trying to make friends with you in an accent you can’t place…do you trust him? Or do you try beating him with your rock?

Defiantly not Center Parcs

Defiantly not Center Parcs

When night falls in RUST, it’s dark, if you haven’t found yourself a torch or built a fire, you’re going to be cold, hungry and blind. I often found myself sleeping on a cliff face in the rain waiting for death to arrive, sometimes you didn’t mind being put out of your misery by someone who found an axe, so you can start again and try to at least build yourself a shed.

I decided to end the solo missions and  acquire a companion, after some tales of naked adventure, my best mate decided to download and plug in.

I’ve known my best mate for around seventeen years and within that time we’ve completed more games than I care to remember, this was going to be different as the game is an online survival, different was certainly a name for it.

The session began as usual with you and your friend trying your hardest to locate each other. The baron lands of RUST give little away in terms of landmarks so, sat there one Saturday morning in my dressing gown…two thirty year old men attempt to find each other, naked. Over the ‘radio’ chatter provides a lot of the entertainment as you describe what is either trying to kill you or talk to you as you do your best to avoid getting killed. It’s like two plane crash survivors trying to cheer each other up as you slowly starve, being chased by wolves and angry natives.

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Refugee simulator 2016

The contrast in feelings when you finally see each other and run towards your friend, tired and hungry is probably one fifth of what real crash survivors feel but nonetheless, it’s one of the reasons why this genre of game has taken off. So together we roamed, looking for supplies and potential allies to build a ‘base’ or to share some kit with…it wasn’t long before my friend and I were caught up in a surreal exchange, starting with the discovery of a fort.

As I approached the structure, we were aware there were shots being fired and people running through the forest, I was keen to get in cover and the fort looked like it was uninhabited. I found a ramp to one side of the fort which brought me to the top surrounding a courtyard down below. My friend decided to stay down on ground level and search around the perimeter for anything worth taking. As light was falling I decided to explore a little further but by doing so I fell off the edge of the walkway down into the courtyard…in my panic I spotted a door in the centre of the structure that looked like the main building. In RUST once you have your home build you can add a door, once the door is added you assign it a four digit code to enter, so you can allow others to come in and out.

I tried door several times but it was locked, this is when I discovered the fort wasn’t uninhabited.

I saw a name hovering above the character behind the door, it was Mr Wiggles…Mr Wiggles had a gun and I knew this because when he came to the door the graphics allowed the rifle to poke through when he got close. I turned and ran, I ran into the courtyard which was a square with a walkway around a recessed area, from what I could make out it was a shallow ‘pit’ of grass.

I ran all the way around to another door, I took a deep breath and tried the door to the outside, it was locked as well. Mr Wiggles hadn’t actually followed and so I hid myself in the darkened corner of the fort. I was talking one to one with my friend who was outside the fort trying to survive, mad men, wild dogs and bears are a few of the things you’re hiding from. Now it was really dark, Mr Wiggles exited the forts main building, he had a torch in hand and a shotgun.

As I looked over the courtyard to where he was, the torch illuminated the grassy area in the centre, which revealed two dead naked bodies. There was nowhere to run, surely I was going to be shot to death and would join the other two victims in this fort flytrap. Mr Wiggles ran over to me and it was at this point I realised he was addressing me publicly via the chat function. “What do you want?” He said, “I just want to leave, but the doors are locked” I replied, but he kept repeating his first question, until after about the third or fourth time he said “Tell me a joke”.

At this point my friend is laughing hysterically at my predicament, I had to come up with something fast, my go to joke at the time was one of my own, I made it up whilst shopping at the supermarket a few days before…I had nothing to lose.

“What do you call a potato that can do martial arts?”…Mr Wiggles had the gun trained on me the whole time, other people were trying to join the conversation but this was between me and him. “What?” He replied. “Jacket Chan”. There was no other way to deliver it over a text conversation, all I could do now, was wait.

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My inspiration for the joke

Mr Wiggles came forward with his gun still aimed in my direction, wearing ragged trousers and some kind of makeshift footwear, he appeared to me like man on a mission…you soon realise in RUST that if you meet someone with some clothes and a gun, they mean business. To my surprise he ran straight past me and unlocked the exit door behind. My life had been sparred by using a cheap potato gag but I wasn’t going to hang around for an encore. I bolted for the door as quickly as when I arrived, Mr Wiggles let off a warning shot in my direction…I didn’t need to be reminded, I knew my place, I was a naked, I needed to run.

For those who had followed the Gaming history up until now may remember that the original Xbox was soon to be replaced by the 360, I had my modified Xbox now with more games than you could shake your dick at. I had moved into a new place, no longer with a house mate but just my partner. My apartment was a new build, fast broadband built in and my new gaming setup was perfect. So perfect in fact I enjoyed nothing more than sitting on my new huge beanbag, getting baked and playing whatever I fancied from my extensive library. I had finished pretty much every game I was interested in for this platform but one…I had been recommended the game by a friend and because I knew nothing about it, I had left it until now. I had a day off, my lady friend was working and I was left to my own devises…breakfast, bong and games…bliss. I decided to take a look at Fahrenheit. The game certainly wasn’t the prettiest but what it lacked in visual loveliness, it made up for in all other areas. The game has a slightly unorthodox method of play, so the game begins with a tutorial hosted by the writer/director, so you don’t end up making mistakes and in this game, that could cost you dearly.maxresdefault

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Fahrenheit is a cinematic, interactive drama action-adventure which has been awarded several times since its release, selling around 700,000 units in its life time. It has just been released on PC in a remastered state and I’d urge you to take a look. You play as one of the several main characters in this story of supernatural events and murder. You begin the game playing as Lucas after a graphic, yet well choreographed intro FMV sequence where by your character has killed a man with a knife but appears to be possessed…when Lucas comes around he doesn’t know why or how the man has died but can only assume he did it (noticing the blood all over his hands).

The chilling atmosphere is present from the word go, and as you progress you can’t help but get sucked in by the very authentic voice acting, coupled with great motion capture. Controls are basic yet intuitive and game play flows very well to help with the immersion. In the opening scene when controlling Lucas, I neglected to pick up and discard any evidence of the murder, as I was keen to get out of the diner, a school boy error…later you will control Carla Valenti and or Tyler Miles, two LAPD detectives who, as a pair are like chalk and cheese but the satire keeps things entertaining as they try to uncover the mysterious murders occurring.

Instead of health bars and inventory your character carries a level of stress and anxiety which you can ease by completing certain tasks or simply having something to eat or drink. During one scene where you play female detective Carla Valenti, you explore her apartment after a shift, it is here that you spend sometime in the personal space of a character of the story where there isn’t any action…you can grab a slice of pizza and switch on some music, it was here I was introduced to the beautifully haunting track by Martina Topley-Bird – Sandpaper kisses. If you haven’t fallen for the game by this time, the game isn’t for you. Don’t be fooled by the calmness though because later on you’ll find the characters weave in and out of each other’s lives, which brings them closer to the threat that surrounds them all. A gripping story line and well a crafted environment lead me to believe this title was truly one of the gems on this now otherwise forgotten platform.

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The original Xbox bowed out gracefully but still continued to provide entertainment through its new ability to play retro 16 bit titles. The Xbox 360 came out with a bang and was quickly removed from the shelves, so fast in fact Microsoft blamed the faulty and often glitchy consoles on the fact they had sped up production. Gone are the days when you could accidently trip over your Mega Drive control pad cable, sending it crashing to floor and simply resetting it would bring it back to life. Whatever the problems, both the PlayStation 3 and the 360 battled this release head to head…each with their faults but to the diehard fans, they could see the potential here if these niggles were ironed out.

I think I knew deep down that supporting the cold, calculated army of Bill’s Microsoft empire would bring gaming some unwanted attention, but they had done well, they marketed a high spec machine with a good selection of games from some of the best publishing houses in the world, packaged up as a multimedia, online community based games unit.

It took me a long time to partake in the online experience as I’ve always been a bit of a solo gamer. I rapidly finished off any games I liked the look of on the system, including the highly anticipated Need For Speed Most Wanted. I’m not entirely sure what happened at this point, I think it had something to do with burning the candle at both ends, working too hard and or problems in my relationship…becoming an adult was tough and unwanted at times, I went through a lot of change and it was at this moment, I decided to give up gaming for awhile.

CLICK HERE FOR PART 18!

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July 30, 2014
Written by , Posted in My Gaming History

My Gaming History ‘Part 16’

The gaming industry at this point in time was pretty much perfect. Like one of those easy girls at secondary school, who at the time was too naive to recognise her power over the boys. It would be only a matter of time before she grew boobs, lost her brace (retainer) and wore less clothes. Gaming would then become a high maintenance, unreliable money pit with no intention of staying loyal whatsoever.

It was in the later stages of this generation that the second hand market became very strong, the gaming content was always improving and decent titles were coming from all directions. My generation had seen the previous second hand market blend seamlessly into this generation. You could still pick up old cartridge titles side by side with the new breed at your local games store, this was a good time to get your hands on any of the last generations hardware and software as prices we slashed and demand was relitively low. I toyed with the idea of a 32X for the Mega Drive or the Mega CD but to bother with that purely to play DOOM on the 32x and the often horrendous titles on the Mega CD, didn’t seem worth it.

Now with loading times!

Now with loading times!

There were reasons I kept both current consoles, on the PS2 I enjoyed Devil May Cry, Ace Combat and Armoured Core. While the Xbox had Far Cry, Hitman and the Need For Speed series. But I did at times miss the days of Streets Of Rage, Pit Fighter and Rock N Roll Racing. It hadn’t been that long since we stopped blowing the dust out of the black bricks of joy, I needed my fix.

My prayers were answered by one man, who I can’t name for legal reasons and for the fact that he probably sits on countless terabytes of pirated software and a mountain of hardware. He discovered a way in which he could use a save game file from the game Splinter Cell and flash my Xbox allowing him to install a front end to the console so I could store any retro game, any video and store game which I had bought, by ripping onto a hard drive. In short it was a software exploit that allowed you to run unsigned code, you would copy a program masquerading as a save file for either Mech Warrior or Splinter Sell to memory card, load it up and it would break the game load, the unsigned code which would replace the dash board and let you do what you want with it.

ROMS Ah hoy!

ROMS Ah hoy!

Being that little bit older had it benefits, when I was in school I remember some slightly older guys printing out sheets of A4 with lists of PS1 games on, if you had a flashed PlayStation, you could simply have them copy a game and then sell you the copy for a fraction of the price. I had missed the boat there but now it seemed I could finally become a pirate like them. Being a pirate meant you had to do pirate things and it was towards the end of the life of the original Xbox that I embarked on a quest to obtain free games.

At this time the GAME stores in my town had a policy of a fourteen day bring back guarantee, if you weren’t happy with the game or you simply completed it, you could bring it back and exchange it for cash or more games. Once my new, bigger hard drive had been installed, I strolled into town and started my collection. At first it was £20 of used games, then £50, then £60 and more, until I had pretty much caught up with every game I had missed so far on the box, I had completed what I could before the next gen would arrive.

It was a sunny Saturday afternoon and I was decidedly stoned. I decided to go all out and collect several new and second hand games at the same time. To mix it up and to avoid arousing suspicion, I planned to go to one GAME store at one end of town and then take the games back later that day to the second store, ten minutes from the first.

I took my time and decided on a bunch of games including the new Hitman title, Predator: Concrete Jungle and the latest COD, to name but a few. My stack came to around £100 and with every confidence I’d be receiving that money back into my account, I went to the counter and handed them over. As the guy was scanning the items into the system, he dropped the 3rd or 4th game into the bag, picked up the next game and with a shit eating grin informed me that the 14 day no quibble bring back system had stopped. In my blazed haze of that mornings toke, I tried my best not to look phased “Oh yeah…that’s….that’s no problem at all!”. Shit, fuck.

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Probably how you look to the anti piracy board

I had a mixed bag, some were factory sealed, some simply had the GAME store sticker on the opening, that once broken identified it as a ‘used’ game. Though for whatever reason I decided in my focused state that I was not to be out done by this, and decided on two things. I would have all of these games on my hard drive within the hour and two, I would be returning these games the same day.

I had the flat to myself, I cleared the coffee table of the mess, laid out the games and took a good look at the manufacturers seals and the GAME sticker seals. Next I needed the right tools for the job. I decided on the following, a Pritt Stick, selotape, scissors, scalpel and of course a spliff.

The GAME stickers were simply folded over the opening of the box, so they would know if you had played it, which meant you could not return them. The stickers were thick and very sticky, this meant you could not simply peel off and stick them back on. Before I went ahead and split the perforation, I tried something, it came to me like a flash of genius. I cracked each end of the game case open, leaving the sticker intact, then using a butter knife, I slid the knife through the opening at the top and with one hand I pushed the disc up, creating a gap. The knife sat behind the disc and with a slight twist of the blade the game came off the spindle and dropped out of the case. The sticker was left intact, EINSTIEN!!. I proceeded to rip the first game to the drive. Obviously feeling quite smug now that I had foiled the sticker, I felt the confidence brew, I was ready for level 2.

The manufacturers seal was obviously going to be more difficult, tightly sealed in a cellophane ‘bag’ which had been perfectly machine wrapped, you then have the factory box seal, which spans across the finger holes. This was not only wafer thin but also carried an official Microsoft hologram. In this case it was only the secondary seal that remained. Carefully with the scalpel I slid the blunt edge of the blade along the top of the cellophane, separating the glue…the wrap is very similar to a pack of cigarettes only much smaller in its folds. Carefully holding the bottom of the wrap, I turned the game box upside down and slid the case out.

This is factory seal but you can just see the folds of the othe seal underneath

This is factory seal but you can just see the folds of the other seal underneath

Using only the one corner of the box I prised the game open, much like the GAME style sealed cases. The perforation split instantly, bugger, there was no turning back now but at least the cellophane wrapper was intact. The operation took some time but eventually I had all games ripped onto the system and they worked perfectly. The easy bit was complete, now it was time for the reseal.

During one of the butter knife methods one of the GAME seals had split, I decided this would be a good place to start my work. Taking the roll of selotape I peeled a strip off about the length required. I cut the strip lengthways using the scissors making it half the width and then removed one side of the broken sticker. I carefully laid the sticker down, sticky side up, I then lined up the perforation as well as I could to the opposite side. Using the scalpel and scissors I was able to lay the thin strip of selotape along the seal line. I simply pulled the sticker back over the case and voila!

In my mind

In my mind

It looked good enough, so it was onto the boss level. I turned the cellophane onto its sealed base and proceeded to drop the case inside, not much bother, the air escaped and it sat in there well. To seal the top I would have to reverse the process of opening but glue the top folds again. I put my confidence in the legendary Pritt Stick, using just my finger I ran it along the top of the stick and then I applied that glue onto the seal. Used sparingly the glue is almost transparent, I pressed down on the top of the wrap and then laid it down against the wall, to set.

The entire operation took around an hour but I had done it, I looked over the boxes again and again before dropping them in the bag along with the receipt. Considerably blazed from that afternoons shenanigans, I admit I had butterflies in my stomach on route to the shop. When I got there two people were serving, I tried my best to time it right so I was served by the young emo kid in the generic store uniform but just as I got to the desk to hand over the bag, INTERCEPTION! The assistant manager in his clean white shirt and skinny black tie welcomed me with a smile. Shite.

I had to go through with it anyway, I was confident enough in my work, or was I? The creeping doubt loomed over head. Was my handy work like that of a german watch maker, or more akin to something from an autistic chimp? Maybe they knew i was coming…shut up Mikey.

My reasoning was sound enough, I had bought various Xbox titles for my cousin but he in fact had a PS2. The manager took the bag willingly and took out the games, it was probably the longest twenty or so seconds of my life. He put the last game down and started scanning them back into the system. The wave of relief washed over me, I had done it.

Desperate to leave there pronto I tried to avoid conversation but being one the of the older customers in there, this guy wanted to chat. I did relax once we engaged in a conversation, but as the flow turned to gaming I suddenly realised that my adequate knowledge of games and releases could have blown my cover of naive family member and he would have wanted over £100 back.

The transaction was complete and my only guilty feeling was now one for the unfortunate gamer who opens those boxes to a mess of sellotape and glue, which if I’m honest wasn’t a mess at all, it was great work. To most people it wouldn’t be at all out of place but the satisfying noise of factory wrap being worked into, had been lost.

fighting-pirates-victory-200x150

The victory walk home was a satisfying one and I had a few weeks worth of games to plough through. It also wasn’t all that long until the next gen was to be announced by the industry.

Coming next in my gaming history, the next gen is announced. I make my decision and then after a short spell of gaming with the new console, I take a 6 month break from gaming. The only time in my life I’d been without a games console.

 

Mortal Mikey

NONE OF THE EVENTS IN THIS STORY ARE TRUE OBVIOUSLY

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May 19, 2014
Written by , Posted in My Gaming History

My Gaming History ‘Part 15’

When I heard on the grape vine Microsoft were going to compete for top spot against the mighty PlayStation 2, I just shrugged. I had spent time with a PC and although I enjoyed the experiences, there was nothing like switching on your console with your foot, picking up a pad, throwing one at your friend and having a split screen session. Despite all the efforts of PC purists steering me towards a console free existence in the past, they failed because unlike consoles PC’s have to deal with a great deal of shit, anything from the internet, retarded users, to foreign berks with a passion for leaving the equivalent of shit stains in your computer. A PC is forever in conflict with you, itself and other bellends thousands of miles from where you’re sitting.

What a pro hacker looks like

Invariably they fall down, computers usually, through no fault of their own, decide that it no longer likes playing your favourite game and instead hands you various screens of errors and colours which are as much fun as a kick in the groin.

Thinking of Microsoft stepping up to the plate against Sony was like finding out your granddad was going to enter sports day. No doubt he’d give it a good go, his egg and spoon technique may still be something special but his enthusiasm to keep up with the kids would be short lived as he falls to his knees during the sack race coughing and spitting, whilst the kids ride on his back like a wheezy old donkey.

The Xbox surprisingly turned out to be a great gaming companion. A friend of mine came over to my place shortly after launch, with the his new Xbox to show me a couple of games. Unfortunately for him I lived in a third story apartment and from his description over the phone, we would have to construct some sort of winch from the ground floor as the machine sounded gargantuan.

I told him to stop being such a wimp and when he arrived I buzzed him into the building. The heavy breathing and stomping of feet should have been my signal to go meet him half way and help him out but I think my curious nature got the better of me and would rather watch on, as he rounded the corner of the stairs to my front door, all red in the face.

What a cruel joke Microsoft had played, it was almost as though they purposefully designed the Xbox to be this large, so that once installed, it became a permanent fixture in the home. If you thought the 16bit machines like the Megadrive were pretty robust, the Xbox could have been used to keep bailiffs out of your home by simply placing it behind your front door, tying a rope to it and abseiling from a window.

How i imagined the Xbox came to Europe

It happened to be bit of a ‘frankenbox’ constructed by some bored engineers at Microsoft from some old Dell machines *shudder*. Nevertheless, these tech’s knew what they were doing and shortly after the release of the Playstation 2, Microsoft hit Europe hard. The Japanese didn’t take to Bill Gates gaming box as well as us, but it certainly did enough for everyone to take notice.

I’ve never really been loyal to any brand that had launched consoles, but over the years Sega had served me well in the past. Games selection is generally what draws me to a console and the Playstation had held my interest since launch, games were slightly more focused and less gimmicky and the sound was also impressive when wired through my Hi-Fi.

On paper the Xbox was packing heat, clocked at 733MHz from its proven Intel chip and with more RAM than the PS2, word on the street was that the FPS was overall better. The name was derived from the developers use of the Direct X graphics system being ran on an impressive Nvidia card. It was going to come down to the games selection in the end and if I could afford it or not.

What really did grab my interest was seeing Need For Speed Hot Pursuit 2 running on the Xbox, I knew the game very well being that it was one of my favourite titles on the PS2. The game just ran better. Before the enthusiastic team at EA ruined the series by installing every high performance vehicle with nitrous, NFS was a very original, realistic-enuff racer with great tracks and innovation. I wasn’t all that fussed by the Underground series starting the boost craze because that is exactly what that scene is about, but I find that NOS element has hung around the more recent instalments like a fart under a blanket.

 

Get to the shops before they close

The original Xbox controller felt like you were holding a massive black Cornish pasty and probably made about as much sense to a Japanese person as a Cornish pasty, because of its size in proportion to their hands.

If you can hold a burger you can hold a controller. Sayōnara!

The staggered analogue sticks didn’t make much sense at first either. The slimmer more hand held shaped PlayStation controller did feel easier to use but one feature for me stood above the rest of all controllers thus far, the triggers. The Microsoft triggers just felt right, whether you were using them to accelerate into a crowd, or empty a magazine into a boss, the triggers gave you more precision and any gamer worth their salt would know that this counts for a lot.

Not so long after buying the box, Microsoft revised the UFO shaped peripheral for a smaller, more human proportioned version with a slight alteration in button layout. These weren’t cheap and so more often than not you’d visit a friend and be handed the big pasty because buying two new slimmer controllers was difficult. The black and white buttons were useful but I don’t think I ever quite got used to the layout of them, nevertheless this was another step in the right direction of the future of gaming precision.

Halo Combat Evolved really lead the way for Microsoft and it’s Xbox, it was certainly built for the machine and no doubt the controller design was in mind when in development. My first hands on experience of Halo was when I had eventually saved enough to allow me to buy an Xbox outright and therefore keep the PS2, as the on-going battle for ‘exclusive’ games did have a hold on me.

You play the game as a kind of cybernetically enhanced ‘Space Rambo’ who has to fight members of the Covenant, a bunch of alien creatures allied by belief in a common religion. When the humans try to run from a mad bombardment of aliens, they run into what looks like a huge doughnut in space, being American they couldn’t pass the opportunity to see if it was indeed the largest doughnut ever discovered and so they landed on the thing, also using it to try and escape their pursuers. It doesn’t work and so you have to almost single handily kill them all and escape the doughnut.

How the Halo may have looked when they first discovered it

If one things for sure, pistol whipping, executing and blowing up an alien race has become a very popular genre of game, Halo sold over five million copies worldwide and has had almost as many sequels as American Pie. Over time my enthusiasm has waned for the Halo series, I really enjoyed the original, the multitude of weaponry both human and alien, the varied vehicles and the enemy AI traits made for a very satisfying shooter. The smoothness of the controls, aided by the presence of a more forgiving gravity to our own, meant that some real precision could be achieved when in combat. The look and feel of the game inspired most FPS from there on. Personally though I can’t stand shooting aliens that bleed green goo. Laser weapons and plasma pistols are just not my cup of tea, I prefer hardened shooters, I come from the era of DOOM, Duke Nukem, Quake and Soldier of Fortune, so I like my shooters with some metal.

Master Chief this

Like a combination of Rambo, Matrix and Die Hard, Black was one of the most critically acclaimed shooters on the PS2 and Xbox. As a tactical espionage operative, you are fed information via the company network and sent to carry out top secret missions to ensure global security. This usually meant going to any given location, setting your weapon to fully auto and then decimating everything and everyone that stands in your way. The game play and world physics were phenomenal, gamers have since begged for a second installment but without much joy.

Back in the 90’s my best friend and I used to go behind the scenes of the Duke Nukem 3D files and replace the audio files of the weapons with our own recorded sounds. You don’t realise how important sound is in a game until you hear a 9mm pistol go “Blam” in your own dull monotone voice, or a machine gun go ‘DAH DA DAHDADAHDA!’. As hilarious as that was, it was such a relief to be able to revert back to the originals and makes you appreciate how much work is involved in getting it right.

Black sounded brilliant through a decent set of speakers, Criterions team wanted the game to sound reminiscent of a Hollywood blockbuster, the score of music and the weapons were all tailored to blend with each other when the shit went down. Sound engineers based weapon sounds from action movies like Die Hard and True lies to give each weapon its own ‘voice’ the effect was best experienced when in a gun battle between multiple enemies, the weapons literally harmonised with each other, creating a satisfying composition. Black received the ‘Best sound’ award at the 2006 BAFTA’s video games awards and so there was always a call for a sequel. Due to differences between Criterion and EA, it never happened. If you’re interested, the spiritual successor of Black was called Body Count and can be found on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, it was never quite what the publishers/designers had hoped and sadly it meant that the Guildford branch of Codemasters shut down.

That’s it for this part, this was introduction of the original Xbox and I’ll go over some of the highlights for me in the next part. Also I’ll talk about how I became a criminal mastermind whilst stoned and how my friend unlocked a haven for nostalgia with a Splinter Cell save game file.

 

Mortal Mikey

CLICK HERE FOR PART 16!

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March 12, 2014
Written by , Posted in My Gaming History

My Gaming History ‘Part 14’

As with anyone who has a real interest in video games, I have dabbled in my fair share of PC gaming as well as the much loved console environment. As much as consoles make gaming easy and fun, the PC offers the gamer an entire universe of weird and wonderful games that would never be seen on a mainstream piece of hardware. If you want to farm crops in real time, it’s got your back. Want operate a train for nine hours straight? Fill your boots, or if you just want to run around naked in the game of your choice, you could probably do that too.

Nudey bear riding simulator 2014

Nudey bear riding simulator 2014

Half Life was a big deal for me when I first booted that up on my ‘Dad’s’ new computer. Not only did it shit all over any console in terms of its graphics engine but the story was so well crafted for an FPS game you really felt like you’d accomplished something more than a huge pile of bodies.

You play as Gordon ‘Butterfingers’ Freeman, an unlucky scientist who almost destroys humanity due to his cack-handedness. On this particular day you enter Black Mesa for another day at the office, put on your overalls and go to run a few tests, in what looks like a huge microwave oven. Gordon is helping move some equipment around the test area but at one point appears to trip and pushes a trolley into the beam of energy…queue random strange events, portals, and aliens, which then leads to Gordon having to attack extra-terrestrials with a crowbar and eventually warp through space and time to rain fire on natives in another dimension. It’s no wonder the game become one of the best loved PC titles ever made.

Stop resisting!

Stop resisting!

As a teen I could never afford a monster spec machine myself, so had to rely on making my dad aware of just how important graphics were if I was to efficiently carry out manslaughter in a first person perspective. The seemingly endless argument still continues on the subject of violent video games and their apparent effects on young people’s minds, but from memory the righteous PC gamers have had it easy. Men and women in game developing studios around the globe have spent many hundreds of hours meticulously creating a virtual world for gamers of all ages to explore, in which they maim or kill terrestrial and extra-terrestrial beings with all manner of weaponry. The adults here are not to blame as they are no longer children, although the video game they created is. The sad thing is that while these ‘responsible’ adults are arguing the toss over console games that I consider to be satire and often plain comical. If your son or daughter has been using your electricity, sitting on your furniture, playing a game which you bought with your money which is for adults only, then that is YOUR choice, not theirs.

Some of the games created by independent programmers back in the late 90’s on the PC would make Grand Theft Auto look like Sesame Street. I remember trying to get hold of one game on the PC which was based in a crude virtual American suburb created using photos, which were then turned into sprites for you to kill at your leisure. From memory you could tie people up, gag them and then use a Stanley knife to draw things on them. I think you could also put a bag over their head and hit them with a hammer. I’m sure this game appeared in a games magazine before being banned but no one talks about the small fry, only the ones that sell, which makes you think. Doesn’t it?

Except in video games

Except in video games

James Bond is a clear example of how on screen simulated sex and violence, when produced and distributed by the right people, will never receive a mention when news of a human between the ages of twelve and eighteen decides he wants to end the lives of a number of people.

In fact most actors who have play the quintessential British lunatic in a tux receive knight hoods, from the British Monarchy. Roger Moore, made famous by globetrotting, karate chopping people and getting Russian girls to eat his dick as a top secret agent, is herald as a social icon. Roger nowadays attends all manner of parties and award ceremonies for depicting a man who drives weaponised vehicles, fucks foreign women and shoots numerous people on screen for around 120 minutes. Not only did Roger serve in the British army but he became a captain at one point and If I’m not mistaken you don’t become captain because you can polish your shoes to a mirror finish.

"Fuck you and die" - Roger Moore

“Fuck you and die” – Roger Moore

Before I left home and spent all my hard-earned on games consoles, my time with PC’s was spent well, titles like Soldier of Fortune 2 was another reason to upgrade your machine. An FPS with a multitude of hit locations, enter and exit wounds, realistic sounds and weapons plus a great online community required some decent hardware. The game was so violent in parts that It was banned in several countries and in terms of gore, it has perhaps never been matched in any titles since.

It wasn’t just highly rated for its graphic content, the online community was dedicated, servers were packed with all kinds of different gangs and clans. My best friend managed to gain entry to a group whose rules were simple. They were a ninja clan who never used guns, only knives, if you managed to kill every gang member once in a session with throwing knives only, you would be eligible for entry.

SOF 2, makes Rambo look like Mary Poppins

SOF 2, makes Rambo look like Mary Poppins

But it wasn’t all guns, gore and ammo. As a fan of aviation I did spend a lot of time playing flight sims. I bought a Thrustmaster multi axis joystick with throttle and yaw controls and bought some budget titles to get flying. The A10 Thunderbolt was one of my favourite planes for the simple fact it is essentially a flying cannon. America for all their enthusiasm for things bad for the world, have produced some of the greatest marvels in the engineering world and the A10 is just fascinating.

The ‘cannon’ or GUA-8 Avenger, is not something you’d want to be on the receiving end of. Typically mounted to a battleship, American aerospace manufacturer Fairchild-Republic thought it would be an excellent idea to build a plane around it. The gun is a 30mm hydraulically driven seven-barrel Gatling-type cannon, it’s 19ft long and weighs around two tons. It fires anti everything rounds which are made of an aluminium shell with a depleted uranium core. This makes it not all too hard to tell who has been up to no good on an international scale, when a country fires projectiles at you made from the by-product of nuclear weapons manufacture.

At an air show that I attended around five years ago, I met an American pilot of the flying tank who let me in on some lesser known facts; You can’t fire the weapon very long for two reasons, one, the gun would melt and two, the fire power of the weapon slows the aircraft down so much so that you have be careful it doesn’t fall out of the sky.

The gun next to the VW Hitler

The gun next to the VW Hitler

The game in question was A10 Cuba!. I remember buying the game in a pack of other flight sims made by Activision. The difference between the console flight games and sims on the PC is that you could plug in all sorts of peripherals to further the simulation experience. The cockpit is pretty daunting when you first load up the game, I think it took me about fifteen minutes of studying the booklet and controls to figure out how to start the plane and take off. Once in the air you are told to head towards a destination shown on the map or radar, presumably where you would annihilate a target. I can’t remember if I got there or not, most of the time was spent looking at the controls, while the aircrafts engines fade to be replaced with alarms and beeping noises. I got pretty good at emergency landings in residential areas though.

Like flying a scientific calculator

Like flying a scientific calculator

That warning light means land now

That warning light means, land now

Activision made a number of hit titles on the PC at the time, that didn’t help me out when it came to homework. The mid to late nineties was a memorable time on the PC platform, one of my all-time favourites was Activisions Interstate 76.

I bought the game during a sale when many titles of the same age we price slashed as the next generation emerged. The front box art was big, bold and original. It stood out from the crowd and to be honest it still does. As games fall more and more into line with hugely commercial movie blockbusters and TV, box art has become a generic, tick all the aesthetics boxes, clichéd mess. Interstate 76 is a solid cult classic, at the time I had no idea just how influential the game would be until a little while later.

Now that's art work

Now that’s art work

The game could be said to have taken inspiration from Carmageddon, Mad Max and Twisted Metal but in reality there was a wealth of original content loosely based around familiar scenes from retro movies and video games. I used to play Interstate with the Thrustmaster, it actually worked pretty well. The forward movement of the joystick was used for throttle and back was obviously for braking, this was perfect for cruising at speed around the large landscapes in the game. Using the controls on top, I could look around the cockpit of the car, fire the multitude of weapons using the triggers and enjoy a wide, controlled range of steering.

The VW Hitler is back for more

The VW Hitler is back for more

The game is based around the gas guzzling 70’s but in an alternate reality where the oil crisis was very much prolonged and the world became even more dangerous as a result. Using armoured, weaponised vehicles (much like international terrorist James Bond), gangs formed to try and take control of the precious black gold. Any car fan was suitably catered for as many vehicles from the time period were at your disposal to modify with armour and weapons.

Quite cleverly the main protagonist is told early on that he should never get out of his car, in the event something bad happens. You could only play from the vehicle perspective, whilst the cut scenes were the only time you’d see characters, you couldn’t blame them really, this was already an impressive environment, so to have free roam out of the vehicle would be pushing it. The large simple polygons of the game environment and characters worked exceptionally with the art work, producing a very distinctive feel and look. To add to this the script was pretty engaging too, whilst roaming and I mean roaming because the game world was large enough that you got to enjoy the rumble of your V8 and the rolling hills and peaks that surrounded you in the deserts of the USA.

Cooler than a pensioner at christmas

Cooler than a pensioner at christmas

The games soundtrack was also a little bit special as it had been perfectly crafted for the game by Arion Salazar, who later formed the group Third Eye Blind. An excellent keyboardist by the name of Tom Coster and Bryan Mantia who had previously played with Primus and Guns and Roses. It had an authentic 70’s feel to it and so it was a great accompaniment to the games missions. You cruised the desert being fed information by Taurus. Taurus isn’t his real name, it’s what people call him. He lived as a poet in New England with a wife and daughter, who were killed by criminals. He helps Groove to adjust to being a vigilante, guiding him along his quest. His poetry could be sampled by pressing the ‘C’ key while in driving mode.

Click to listen

If you’ve never played the game you might not be bowled over simply by reading Taurus’s poems. But in the game, when you’re rolling on the black top, somewhere alone in the desert, Greg Eagle’s voice settled your mind as you embarked on another dangerous mission against the autovillians, or creepers as they were known.

In the next couple of years, the internet became fast enough for a little online gaming, depending on your location I guess. I remember struggling to get connected at first but eventually worked out some bugs to play Interstate online. The only memory I had of this was appearing in the game environment in my standard car and a dragster (not a car included in the original game) fired some kind of tomahawk missile at my car which blew it to smithereens. I was out of my depth, I had no idea about modding at this time or add ons, I spectated for a bit but decided this wasn’t my time, especially with a dial up connection I was going to have my ass handed to me.

Taking pot shots at choppers long before GTA

Taking pot shots at choppers long before GTA

I could go on and on about PC gaming during this time, there were a great many titles and the detail of which just wasn’t matched on the consoles. When I moved out of my parents place at twenty one years of age, I lost touch completely with PC gaming as I could never afford a rig. It’s only now, almost a decade later that I have been able to purchase my first powerful PC. I now have access to every game since gaming began, a super-fast internet connection and a salary. Multiplayer games are common place and so I now find myself downloading retro games and watch my computer laugh it’s circuits off as it tries to slow itself down to play these almost three dimensional games.

If you have enjoyed this part of the gaming history, why not make a suggestion for a particular game, platform or era that you’ve enjoyed and I’ll let you know my views.

 

Mortal Mikey

CLICK HERE FOR PART 15!

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February 25, 2014
Written by , Posted in My Gaming History

My gaming history ‘Part 13’

“он здесь!”

“Bitte nicht schießen!”

“Non, s’il vous plaît, non!”

Who says you don’t learn anything playing video games? I remember all sorts of phrases from non-English speaking countries…albeit due to the fact terrorists and civilians alike are peppered with rounds from my over cautious, mainly inaccurate use of heavily modified weaponry.

Much like life itself, when video games were in their infancy, things were much easier to process and much less thought was required. Red was the enemy, green was the good guys, the blue bit was safe the yellow part wasn’t. Today games are ask you all sorts of deep and meaningful questions like, do you want to save your mum or the cat, or do you leave your partner under fire to save the hot girl in a mini skirt? Games now involve all kinds of interrogation about your personal character and can even give you a brief psychoanalysis at the end. Will you or won’t you destroy the town…or does this homeless guy deserve water or a bullet?. If you play video games daily you are asked these philosophical questions regularly, I’m surprised big developers haven’t tied this in already with their ludicrous micro transactions.

Micro Transactions explained

Perhaps they will develop a game in which you begin as just a law abiding citizen going about his/her day, a little like GTA but without the movie style script and screen play. You get up, have breakfast and go to the bank to find you have no money, your living arrangements are in jeopardy and the bailiffs are on their way, so you need to go to work.

You then have a choice, commute to work using public transport with the shrapnel you have in your pocket, or alternatively apply for a loan from said game publisher. You are then free to take the money and spend it on whatever you deem necessary to sort out these pressing issues. I can bet that nine times out of if the option was there, you’d spend the money on a 12 gauge Remington and as many shells as you could carry. The bailiffs would meet their maker on the doorstep of your home, which would ultimately lead to your capture or execution after a lengthy police chase, involving stealing your neighbours car and mounting pavements, hanging out of the window taking pot shots at pedestrians.

Everything starts off small, right now we just pay for extra clothes or weapons in a game, but give it time…

The PS2 in many gamers opinions still remains the ‘golden era’ of gaming. In short, there were many quality games, the hardware was sound and there were still no hidden costs. Before the big wigs came up with a battle plan to rape gamers wallets, the humble compact disc provided us with a wealth of gaming, out of the box.

Kazunori Yamauchi is the man behind the infamous Gran Turismo racing series, which has become a must have title in a game stack of anyone who calls themselves a console gamer. He could be considered the Steve Jobs of the virtual racing world as he has pioneered a breath-taking content rich product by setting insanely high standards for a small development team but thankfully without the misuse of foreign labour. Being a racing driver himself, it had always been his dream to create a racing game where you begin your career in a bog standard Honda shit box and after 140 hours of gruelling circuit racing, become the loneliest driver on the racetrack with a 1000BHP supercar that no computer driven vehicle could match.

The personal development in the game was its trick card. By beginning your career with a car that had as much power as an AIWA tape deck, when you can finally could afford a Toyota Supra you will have a learned the tracks inside and out and then the racing became all the more satisfying. All jokes aside, Yamauchi himself is not work shy. The first game started development in 1992 and wasn’t complete until 5 years later. When asked how difficult it was to create Gran Turismo, Yamauchi remarked:

“It took five years. In those five years, we could not see the end. I would wake up at work, go to sleep at work. It was getting cold, so I knew it must be winter. I estimate I was home only four days a year.”

Once the benchmark had been set, Yamauchi has strived for perfection ever since. By the time the PS2 had approached the end of its life, the fruits of his labour had come to being. Gran Turismo 4 was simply staggering on the PS2, there really couldn’t have been much more room for content or improvement on the old girl.

Forcing the PS2 to perform GT4 at 480p/1080i resolution, must have been like asking the remaining veterans of WWII to recreate the D-day landing in inflatable rafts, armed with Nerf guns, on a beach full of machine gun posts manned by Neo Nazi’s. It was said that GT4 was the cause of many deaths of PS2’s as the laser and hardware were pushed to the limit, it sometimes didn’t run at all on the slim version.

Even so, as the PS2 took its final bow, GT had become revered by gamers the world over, becoming one of the biggest selling video games ever, as well as receiving scores over 8.5 and nearing 10 from many game reviewers. For any gamer of my generation we understand just how important GT is, not to mention what we had endured in the past which will  just how much hard work had been put into it.

Who reading this remembers Lotus Espirit Challenge on the MegaDrive? It wasn’t all that long ago we were controlling 2D car sprites with only a handful of animations on what effectively was a rolling horizon of a track. Cars would often sound like a man humming noises through a paper bag and tyre screeches were just a repeated time stretched sample of a squeaky shoe. We’ve come a long way and we all owe a lot to Mr Yamauchi and his team, you can nit-pick all you want about the crash damage, the sometimes overly electronic engine sounds and the AI, but GT is a well-polished game that delivers a satisfying driving experience of cars you will never be able to afford.

Lotus Espirit Challenge could simulate rain, something Forza hasn’t done yet.

 

When the Crystal Maze ended back in the late nineties Richard O’Brian appeared as a ruthless contract killer, in the video game Hitman. Obviously bored of watching dozens of contestants fail at basic physical and mental challenges, he set about ridding the world of its mortals. I digress, but indeed Agent 47 looks like the eccentric 90s TV presenter but it has been very much confirmed that the game character was never based on Richard, post-game show appearance.

Times up bitch

“Agent 47 is in fact a clone, created in an asylum to develop into an adult and become an assassin. 47 meets his handler, Diana Burnwood. She assigns him to kill four criminal masterminds and then a doctor who is revealed to be the one who treated 47 at the asylum. The four criminal masterminds that 47 killed were part of the cloning experiment and that their deaths were ordered by Professor Wolfgang Ort-Meyer, the one behind the entire cloning process. Ort-Meyer planned 47’s escape, so he could have 47 kill the other four associates and use 47 for his own purposes. 47, with the help of a CIA agent named Smith, returns to the asylum and plans to kill his creator. Ort-Meyer, having prepared for 47’s return, sends his group of “Mr 48s” to kill 47. The 48s fail their duties and 47 confronts Ort-Meyer. 47 shoots Ort-Meyer, then snaps his neck, killing him.”

In short, 47 is one bad bald motherfucker and with the right person behind the controls, the game has the ability to look slick, professional and altogether satisfying. It is also one of those games which can only be played by people with a little more patience than your average COD player. Watching some people play Hitman is like watching a blind man swat bee’s, it usually ends up in a short flurry of excitement before an abrupt silence.

Rarely are games so satisfying in their results that the environments deserve patience but in the world of Hitman, you’re in control and as the game allows you to dictate the eventual outcome (which is often someone dying quickly and quietly) you don’t mind waiting. That isn’t to say that I enjoy garrotting drug lords with fiber wire in real life, but the way the story plays out like something from a comic book, you can’t help but enjoy the fact your character is both deadly but often subtle. So subtle in fact, there are opportunities in the game to swiftly and easily drop a poison tablet in a drink and walk out of the game environment wearing a chef’s outfit you found in a locker room. This will obtain you a professional rating, something that becomes increasingly difficult as you progress through the game and the reason I have devoted so much time to the series since release.

Not always sutble

First person shooters were abundant on the PS2 and there was something for everyone. From serious campaign war type sims to cartoon style romps. In terms of split screen, some of the Co-op fps titles were my favourite to date. The hardware was capable of having you and friend run riot without a much of glitch. Activision and EA battled it out with Call Of Duty and Medal Of Honour titles. A lot of the debate came down to personal preference though and still rolls on today. Weapon styles and load outs, game play physics and maps. It’s a hard thing to balance but Activision got it right many times with their WWII series of games, the flow of the game play meant that you could soon fall into the action and get into the zone, achieving that perfect kill ratio. But World War games have been around long before Sony introduced the PlayStation, the PC had dabbled in a few different FPS genres, it wasn’t long before developers started modernising the game environments in a bold move that has led the way of shooters for a number of years.

I’ve been enjoying laying down some history about the PS2, expect more of this in the next installment of the gaming history plus a part where I’ll talk about my time spent with PC gaming. Hope you enjoyed this, if you did, please share!!

 

Mortal Mikey

CLICK HERE FOR PART 14

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January 27, 2014
Written by , Posted in My Gaming History

My Gaming History ‘Part 12’

This part of my gaming history, the transition from PSX to PS2 will no doubt have to be spread over two parts. The PlayStation was and still is one of the most popular gaming systems ever made and I did enjoy my time with it. I will try to cram as much as I can into these two parts but I imagine it’ll be like trying to fit my fist in my ear.

Moving out from the home of the humans that spawn you is definitely one of the most exciting, character building although altogether frightening experiences you’ll ever face whether they love you or hate you. Within the first year of moving out I became the owner of two lizards, hosted African dancehall parties (complete with Africans), I was threatened with a bread knife at a house party and I almost drowned at Glastonbury.

The building was a three storey apartment block attached to a large furniture shop, so as their opening times were 9-5pm weekdays, we could blast out music all through the night if we wanted to. I lived with a recently acquired male friend and my girlfriend at the time. When we had become acquainted with the neighbours downstairs, we occasionally had open door ‘block parties’ with a sound system in each flat playing different styles of music, where guests could come and go as they please. The third flat was occupied by a young professional couple, I say professional because I’d see them leave the flat shouting at each other wearing suits. We never really spoke because I don’t do shouting and so we never discussed invitations.

This level of fun and mayhem can and will eventually attract the wrong type of people for a party and I remember several times having to ‘hold the fort’ against druggies, chavs and occasionally the police. At one particular gathering, music was at full chat and amongst the carnage, a lone chav (A mentally challenged youth in sports gear) managed to infiltrate the defences and for whatever reason headed straight for the kitchen and picked out a breadknife of all things. If you enter a house party with the intention to grab a knife from the drawer, why the breadknife? In hindsight when you think of the weaponry usually housed in the drawers of a kitchen, surely the most stabby type blade would be better than a serrated option, then again maybe he had the intention to saw someone like a loaf of bread but I doubt it.

Uninterested in making sandwiches for us, the youth starts waving it at guests in a threatening manner. Too drunk to consider any kind of attack based on any of my martial arts experience, I opted for plan B. Plan B consisted of 6ft 3 inches of man mountain called Jim. Jim was as soft as Dads who shop at Waitrose but he looked rather like Vinnie Jones. I felt like I was asking the older brother I never had for some assistance, tugging at his T-shirt and pointing in the direction of the problem. After I briefed him on the situation he stomped down the corridor with me closely following behind sipping a can of lager, eager to witness Jim confront the twat with a breadknife. He walked in and immediately grabbed the guy by the back of the neck, removed said knife with his free hand and literally dragged him by the collar, down the stairs to the front door and shooed him outside like a beggar found in Harrods.

My flat mate, who for privacy reasons we’ll call Jay, is an avid reader. The kind of guy who has read and experienced so much in his existence that his mind was full of fuck. That’s the trouble with reading, if you fill your head too much with fantasy stories throughout time, you end up over thinking most things and blurring the lines between reality and the book world. I could be wrong, it could be the drugs or the drink, or both but I guess the same could be said for video games…if you’ve ever experienced gaming whilst on mushrooms for example, you’ll understand it’s not all that strange to hide in a cardboard box playing Metal Gear Solid for 15 minutes, musing to yourself about existence in a box within a box within a box…

Cheapest Cosplay ever

It was in the year 2000 that I decided as TV had officially died (Due to the disappearance of Knight Rider, A-Team, TMNT, Air Wolf, Transformers, Jayce & the wheeled warriors…the list goes on) I would disconnect the aerial from the light box and forget about TV all together. And I was right to do so (Over 10 years and counting) as I am part of the ever decreasing percentage of the population who are the able bodied, sound minded individuals choosing to no longer pay for mind wank television full of insecure jazz handed, ex drama school nonces, interspersed with advertisements about how inferior your hair looks and what you can’t afford at the moment. Sure, I use the modern catch up programs to enjoy some recorded broadcasts but if I see advertisements now It only builds contempt for the society I live in.

Fuck you Jack

Being an Sony fan boy meant that on the release of the PS2 in the year 2000 I was keen to get my hands on it. Gamers were looking for another vision of the future from Sony and for console fans we weren’t disappointed. Boasting now a 64bit CPU clocked at around 300Mhz, it was DVD/CD with SCART, RGB output and with a range of larger storage capacities as the games grew larger. To show off the raw power of this new vertical standing home console, Sony wheeled out more Tekken, Gran Turismo and Metal Gear Solid which did nothing but impress the fans. Controller wise, the ergonomically near perfect pad of the PS1 had been superseded by an even more comfortable device, the Dual Shock 2.

On release Sony could have issued the statement ‘Don’t bring a fart to shit fight’ as the console could have funded a small war in the first couple of days. In the market place the SEGA Dreamcast was pummelled in terms of figures even though there was never a bad word said about SEGA’s swan song, which did offer a varied selection of titles, internet connection and an array of peripherals.

My limited time playing a Dreamcast introduced me to some brilliant titles including the eye watering Marvel VS Capcom, the gore fest that was House of the Dead and the awesomely strange Shenmue.

Set in the 80’s in a Yakuza area of Japan, Shenmue was the story of Ryo Hazuki. Ryo’s father is killed in the first five minutes of the game and from what I remember I had to then stay with a bloke who occasionally gave me pocket money. Your aim was to then explore the outside world for clues to your father’s death. After investigating the town for over an hour I was beaten and mugged trying to help someone out and had to go home for a Coca Cola and a sit down. I didn’t play the game an awful lot as you can tell from my muddled description but from what I remember the game had a very humble appearance and a satisfying flow to the gameplay. The concepts and content have remained a much praised part of video game history.

By 2002 the Sony PS2 had steamrolled the competition and it wasn’t all about specs. It may not have been the most powerful on paper but it’s adaptability and versatility propelled sales to a monumental scale. I had brief encounters with the competition up until that time, such as the much loved Nintendo GameCube, the Dreamcast and eventually the Microsoft X’tremly large box. On a side note. By 31st March 2012 the PS2 has sold an estimated 155 million units worldwide, in all the colours of the rainbow, with the support of pretty much every game developer under the sun.

The old Xbox has many uses, even after death

Still some of my best loved titles were released on the PS2 and the continuation of certain titles ensured I stayed loyal. Ace Combat was a particularly challenging game early on but the basic control system and in flight physics made it one of the best flight games seen on a console to date. Gran Turismo still retained a top spot for most PS2 owners game stacks and for those who took interest, Tourist Trophy as a motorcycle racing sim was not a disappointment but sadly has not seen a sequel on next gen. New titles like Armoured core was another welcome addition to the roster, a well-crafted Japanese robot shooter is always going to draw the crowds, although the often complex menu systems and gameplay intimidated less experienced pad grabbers.

Racing games came out in force on the PS2, there are far too many titles to mention but it was planes, trains and automobiles for the most part and sometimes obscure racers from developers you’d never heard of and for good reason, as usually controlling said vehicles was much like steering an F1 car on a frozen lake. In fact most genres were tried and tested on the PlayStation, perhaps because of this huge proving ground it’s the reason why we’ve now thinned out the crap and retained some of the best concepts until the present. If you look through the list of PS2 releases on Wikipedia you’ll find more than a few titles you can’t pronounce yet alone recognise.

Glad i didn’t play this on mushrooms

Like on Facebook and stay tuned for much more on the PS2 and maybe some more irrelevant ramblings from yours truly.

Mortal Mikey.

CLICK HERE FOR PART 13!

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September 25, 2013
Written by , Posted in My Gaming History

My Gaming History ‘Part 11’

It has to be said that the late 90s was pretty epic all round for a guy at my age. I was soon to be leaving school, I was also soon to become a legal adult…which meant nothing really apart from the fact that everything I had been doing illegally was soon to be legal and therefore ok in the eyes of the law. We hadn’t had much more controversy over video games since the 16bit era, people had come to realise that video games were now emulating real and fantasy world violence but it was to be Grand Theft Auto that stood apart from the rest of the crowd with a big blood stained knife in one hand and a sign in the other that said “Look at me!!”. Looking back at the first installment of GTA makes you really question what all the fuss was about (No offense guys!). It really goes to show how little the media scum and civilian do-gooders have going on in their lives, when a small, pixelated world of top down criminal activity can become a focal point of a society.

 

Which pixel caused controversy?

Which pixel caused controversy?

Ultimately what you take from a game like GTA is the most important part. Was it that you took someone’s life during a robbery and then were abruptly run over by over zealous local authority? Or do you now think that yes, selling cocaine on the streets, although lucrative, is in fact living your life on a knife edge between becoming Scarface or a shit stabber behind bars.

The minority who complained about the game were often the ones who have never played it and it was the fine upstanding role model, Max Clifford who got the controversy ball rolling. Your background and circumstances obviously play a big part in your early development, not some crooked graphical representation of a city from the view of a pigeon. Before shoddy looking violent video games, the previous generation had been subjected to beautifully composed and well animated cartoons. Young people witnessed a man with a passion for spinach, solve all of his day to day tribulations with simple brutality. Punching and kicking anything that stood in his way, often all for the love of a gawky looking woman. I don’t remember the public outcry to ban Popeye, core values and morals in life are something you may or may not follow depending on your wiring and upbringing. If you are influenced enough by video games to commit heinous acts, the games aren’t the problem. Boredom is a scary thing, never let humans, adults or children, become bored, it leads to awful things…I believe computer games combat this. 

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I remember entering Curry’s in 1998, which for those of you who do not reside in the UK, it is in fact an electrical store, not a food outlet. GTA had just hit the shelves and I went in to shoplift…I mean purchase the game. I had read the reviews, scanned the screenshots and so, I was looking forward to playing the game as it sounded like a riot. For whatever reason though this game received an 18 rating and because of this, the young man behind the counter couldn’t serve me. Saddened by my inability to crack on and sell virtual crack, I politely asked my Dad if he would go in and buy it for me. My Dad had spent many an hour sat with me, hand drawing the maps of DOOM for me as we ran around level after level mercilessly gunning down anything sprite that moved…he knows it’s just a game and he doesn’t give a flying fuck what you do in a game as long as you’re not stupid enough to carry out ‘missions’ in real life. You join to army to kill legally, and carry out missions all in the name of drugs and or resources. I’m far too lazy for that kind of thing and that’s why I play video games.

 

"With this drone it'll be like in a video game, you can bomb natives and keep your little beret on!"

“With this drone it’ll be like in a video game, you can bomb natives and keep your little beret on!”

 

If Wipeout and Gran Turismo raised the bar for technical and content excellence in a racing game. GTA took RPG/Action/shooter/driver, to a whole new level. Real stereo audio tracks boomed over sounds of a bustling city, as you joy ride to victory doing favours for local drug dealers and pimps. Originally penciled to be a simple cops vs robbers chase game, the small team of programmers and enthusiasts pooled ideas from their favourite films and TV shows to come up with a totally original idea. The big cheeses funding the operation didn’t want it, at times the programmers couldn’t meet the concepts, It was almost canned at every corner but for some reason, it was destined to be brought to life and beamed into our brains to turn us into violent drug pushing thugs.

The PS1 was now on fire (not literally due to becoming violent) with so much great content, Sony were an unstoppable force at this point. GTA along with other great titles secured PS1’s place as top dog.

After well over fifty hours playtime I can’t say I was any closer to stealing my neighbours car and going on a knife rampage, I had a teenage temperament already, which meant I was naturally either hot, cold or horny or all of the above. Drugs had come long before GTA ever did to. I remember it like yesterday (going against any so called ‘reports’ of cannabis leading to memory loss) my friend and I stood under his porch in the back garden, listening to the heavy rain on the plastic corrugated roof, hunched over trying to ignore the cold. He produced from his coat pocket what I saw him roll earlier and said “Try it, it’s like cigarettes only different’.

Exactly

Exactly

Different indeed, I don’t think we stopped laughing for three hours, laughed at the rain, laughed at each other and  laughed some more. We went back upstairs and stuck on the Playstation and a beautiful friendship came to being. I didn’t realise at the time that this was illegal, I guess people can only have fun as long as there is a limit to it, enforced by government.

I was no stranger to physical violence either with over seven years of traditional Karate behind me, long before GTA being released. Karate is an age old Japanese method of practicing how to effectively use ones foot to make an opponent’s eyes pop out of their ears. You enter a room full of strangers and quite often you’ll find yourself punching and kicking each other, occasionally being whipped by a teachers belt if and when you made mistakes. Had I used these techniques in anger? Not really, but I had been able to defend myself once or twice, usually resulting with me trying to put someone’s foot up their own ass.

I’ve seen monks from Asia smash pots on their heads and take kicks to the groin from a man twice their size…those bald fella’s haven’t even got a TV so whatever influences them to practice the arts of inflicting pain is anyone’s guess. I’d say boredom.

Level 10 boredom

Level 10 boredom

 

Smoking plants and playing video games was now what happened between school and eating. It could not have come at a better time as titles that have earned their place in the video game hall of fame, were released within two years of each other. Who can forget the four player split screen romp that was 007 Golden Eye on the N64, running around as Nick Nac while your friend fruitlessly attempts to karate chop you to death with Jaws had me in tears of laughter, not to mention the hilarious animation. Resident Evil 2 stoned was another level of frightening too, with curtains drawn, walking around as a cop who can only move like a cheap educational robot, HI-FI turned up to 11 and the lights off, it certainly tested your nerves.

For me this was a highlight in my gaming history so far. The days when I’d sit with a mate in my school uniform for hours until it was time for me to go, I could take the game home if they let me borrow it and the disc contained the full game.

I still had my Megadrive, I don’t recall when I sold the old girl but I do remember on the odd occasion, slamming in a cartridge for one final blast on California Games, Streets of Rage or James Pond. The sounds, the gameplay and the pad brought on feelings on nostalgia even at such a young age. When I play these games now on emulators, it’s never the same, similar to the thoughts of child hood, it reminds me of how easy going things were back then when compared to the ever maddening, shameless, money grabbing, product placing, non supportive, underhanded, identity stealing, slutty industry it is today.

There are just too many games to mention here, the step into the 3D polygon world of Sony’s powerhouse was only the beginning, but for a lot of us, we were playing reinvented titles of the originals. The Strike games continued with Soviet and Nuclear Strike. We had Micromachines V3 which surprised many as it was just as additive and frustrating as the original. Mortal Kombat was given more content and fighters with the Trilogy, with strong competition in the genre from 3D titles like Tekken and Soul Blade, there were no complaints. The PlayStation, was the first video game console to ship 100 million units, 9 years and 6 months after its initial launch. Gaming was becoming seen as a worthwhile past time and not just the hobby of spotty kids with high scores and corduroy trousers.

In the year 2000, we were going to see what would become the bestselling home console of all time, the aptly named, Playstation 2. It was also the year I left home, had my first house mate and so, the battles continued.

CLICK HERE FOR PART 12

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March 01, 2013
Written by , Posted in My Gaming History

My Gaming History ‘Part 10’

This post is taking a bit of a detour from my gaming history as I’d like to mention something we, as gamers have had to face throughout the days spent tackling these virtual marvels. They are, glitches. I think they deserve a mention during this retrospective journey, as without them, games would never have the character or quirks we remember so fondly.

Whether it was the new uncharted polygon worlds of Sony or the copious amounts of cannabis consumed during the evolution of the Playstation but my new found skill in gaming was the ability to glitch any given title into oblivion. More often than not, I’d pop over to a friend’s house and pick up a controller to play their latest purchase. In the first five minutes I’d made the character or vehicle bend time and space and appear in a geographic location unknown to the game itself, ruining the apparent game environment, whilst making a noise like a dog trapped in a burning bin.

BIN

Just in the past month my friend, who writes for a an online technology magazine, handed me a brand new powerful smartphone from Motorola. As I flicked through the phone, he explained to me that the phone has a Pentium chip, has incredible RAM specs and so on. He fired up the new Batman game on the android system, quickly briefed me on the controls and off I went, to attempt to save Gotham City. I was impressed by the frame rate and the controls, perhaps now we’ve achieved a ‘oneness’ with this software programming stuff, this just looks too slick to fuck up.

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The first two bad guys in this sandbox environment met their doom by means of the bat belt, I think I used the “Bat’arang” on the one guy and simply punched the other henchman to death, Bruce Wayne style.

So I decided it was time for a little exploring. Using the cape for the first time I launched Bat Wayne from a tall building, swooping down to meet two unsuspecting thugs on the street below. Unfortunately the Bat met an untimely fate when I strayed off course slightly and panicked, only to witness the caped crusader disappear through the bricks of a roof top Gotham city outbuilding, which was about 10x10ft square. I tried and tried to recreate the same graphic anomaly but failed miserably. It was quite depressing really, watching batman running and jumping wildly inside this small brick tomb, bumping into the four walls…thinking about it, there isn’t much batman could do in this instance. I used every conceivable means to escape and used every gadget the game provided, but in the end, Bruce man is just a lonely bloke in a gimp suit with ears and can’t kick or punch his way out of bricks and mortar.

Bat-fucked

Bat-fucked

Glitches have come a long way since the early days of polygon technology, now with simulated earth, wind, fire and water elements at developers disposal, all manner of madness can happen to your character or vehicle that previously had never been dreamed of. I believe with someone like me at the front line of games testing a lot of these issues could have been resolved a long time ago.

Helpful glitches have also appeared throughout games history, whether It be a crafty glitch that allows you to kill an end level boss without being killed, or an inventory glitch that gives you endless money or ammo. My most recent glitch discovery would have been whilst attempting to play the clumsy, unsatisfying Dark Souls, in which you, the victim, fumble around a grimy old ruin with a broken knife, frequently being destroyed by an array of crazed enemies. You often end up looking like a pensioner being kicked to death by chavs on PCP.

Upon meeting the first boss, which happens to be an over-sized, over animated ‘Asylum troll’, I quickly discovered a weakness using my experience of these kinds of situations and positioned myself at the rear of the monster, trying to learn it’s repetitive movements, with a large kitchen knife in hand. After regularly meeting an untimely fate previously to booby traps and awkward controls, I laughed manically as I repeatedly stabbed the fat troll in the arse until I killed it to death.

Stab the arse to win

Stab the arse to win

Flashback was a much loved title for me on the Sega Megadrive. It solidifies my argument that my generation have had it hard when faced with other big responsibilities in life, like washing or school. My parents were forever arguing the toss about how I should do my homework because back in their day, the cain was used as punishment for not putting in the hard labour. As well as physical punishment for not learning your sixty four times table, they’d recall games they used to play. Games like, roll the wheel with a stick, throw rocks at trains and hop scotch.

How is there any expectation for children to learn a government based education today? When I was a kid, of course I had homework, but I also had a powerful games console in my bedroom which could throw me into a situation in seconds whereby I play the role of a slick, agile motherfucker in a tan brown leather jacket, pale blue jeans, in a pair of Nikes, wielding a large handgun…IN SPACE. Choosing to spend time playing Flashback or writing an essay on how long it takes for water to erode rocks. I chose Nikes, handguns and space aliens, every. fucking. time.

flashbackflashback-megadrive-031

Delphine software, who are sadly no longer with us, released Flashback in 1992 and the following was huge. In a nutshell, you play Conrad B. Hart, who wakes up on a distant alien jungle planet ‘Titan’. You wake up with no memory of what happened but soon discover it wasn’t the result of a good night out but instead, you erased your own memory. Conrad previously recorded his memory on a Holocube because you work for the Galaxia Bureau of Investigation, and during one of Conrad’s investigations he discovered a plot to destroy the earth by shape shifting aliens that have disguised themselves as government officials.

After the first three hours or so on the game, I became unbelievably stuck and had to read through many magazines before stumbling upon a way to progress. By running away from a door, then quickly turning to run the other way holding down A, Conrad magically runs through the door into the next scene. This was pretty uncommon for a glitch to actually help you out, if you ever found a door or wall you could pass into in a game, you should expect the worst.

Look out for my top five gaming intro’s of all time, coming soon. I’ll explain more about one of my favourite games ‘Flashback’ and discuss how a masterpiece is made.

If you aren’t familiar with the term ‘glitch’ or not sure of the effects caused by glitches, take a look at this short video.

Mortal Mikey

CLICK HERE FOR PART 11