My gaming history ‘Part 13’
“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.
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.
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.
“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.
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!!