Monthly Archive: June 2016

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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.