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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
CLICK HERE FOR PART 16!
“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!!
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…
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.
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.
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.
Like on Facebook and stay tuned for much more on the PS2 and maybe some more irrelevant ramblings from yours truly.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I don’t read the tabloids, also about ten years ago today when I moved out from my parents place, I decided to never watch TV again and disconnected the aerial. Sure, I miss some entertainment, friends often talk about these new shows that are talent contests and tell me how well a young person sang an old persons song in front of judges and cried. Or American series like ‘Twilight’ from which all I know is that it sounds like Dawson’s Creek with teeth?
Just reading a little more on IMDB now, I learned some interesting trivia about the series;
“Taylor Lautner had to wear a wig for his role as Jacob Black.”
As brilliant as watching a man with false teeth in a wig, wooing a lady sounds, TV will have to do better than that to pull me away from playing Forza Motorsport 4 on Xbox live with two of my best friends.
In my friends initiation into the club we’ve created, we asked him to choose a Ford shit box, whilst we chased him in two heavily modified Range Rovers dressed in full ‘Thames Valley Police’ colours. We pretend he’s a runner and set him off with a five second head start, on the famous Nurburgring in Germany. His confusion and panic was understandable, we could have informed him it was an initiation and that we had modified our 4×4’s but watching his Ford Escort swerve left and right, billowing out smoke from our relentless attempts at putting him into a hedge, was simply too much fun to spoil the surprise.
I browse the internet sometimes to seek out technology news and pictures of cats but sometimes I see stories that are just too hard to miss. One that caught my eye today was about the man who set himself on fire amidst the court proceedings for the oxygen stealer, Anders Breivik. I had read previously that Breivik had stated that he used computer games, specifically Call of Duty, to simulate the kind of situation he’d hope to be in when he shot and killed 69 innocent people.
Sure, there has again been uproar about this kind of game as they say it may affect young people in similar ways, although as you already know, I like to think of it as games make people killers like spoons make you fat.
I mean what kind of game was the chap playing that set himself on fire outside court, Burned on Duty 4? A simple game which only involves one level, whereby you take a walk to a petrol station, fill up a petrol can, go to the desired location, douse yourself in fuel and strike a match. No, you have to be a sick kind of mental to think shooting children on an island is worth anything, even more deranged to become a human torch
Sadly, unlike Call of Duty where you die quite often in a short space of time, Anders Breivik is still alive…and if that’s taught anyone anything that is, unlike computer games, if you massacre people in cold blood, you’ll be kept alive so we can hear all the interesting anecdotes about bad times in your life and how many people you had hoped to kill. I’m not an advocate of real violence, it’s too tiring, in Breiviks case however, I think if I was one of the armed officers who approached him, id make out I tripped over a log and accidentally let off twenty-five rounds which all happened to hit Anders in his legs and the only way to help him out was to try to keep him conscious by repeatedly hitting in the face with the butt of my rifle.
Anyways, I’m moving off point, I was meant to be explaining how I stepped out of the 16bit generation of machines and entered the 32bit realm of enjoyment.
Although the Megadrive still had some life in it, there was a lot of temptation on the horizon and I wanted in. The new breed of consoles were emerging and with it, some new innovations in games. A lot of the heavyweights in Sega’s reign had their run of sequels and it’s fair share of turkeys.
One game that stands out as a ‘Mega failure’ was Rise Of The Robots. During the build up to its release everything looked promising. The characters were to be CGI sprites instead of the pixellated art from Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, the inspirations looked to be from robots seen in Hollywood films too. Rumour had it that Brian May from Queen was to produce a full soundtrack for the game and all of this came on the usual 16BIT cartridge.
After some delays, the game was released, without May’s soundtrack and with all the excitement of a ham sandwich. Playability wasn’t an issue really, it was easy to play but this was probably due to the fact each character had around five or six moves. Even at eleven years old, me and my best friend exchanged looks of horror and astonishment at what had been such an eagerly awaited title. The characters moved like two wheel chair bound people attacking each other with brooms, it was laughably clumsy and so it soon became clear that this was a classic case of ‘all the gear and no idea’.
If you had the money at this time, you would have had either the Sega MegaDrive or SNES and if you were feeling really flush, you would go all out and have the in-house arcade feel of the Neo-Geo.
For me, I had to make do with the Mega Drive alone because at twelve years old I didn’t have around £600 to spank on something that would mean I saw even less of the outside world. The Neo-Geo was the all out king of 2D gaming straight from the arcades, mainly focused around Japanese fighting games. The machine and the games had premium prices, titles in the US started at around $200, so only a niche market was hit. Even so, the console has outlived the MegaDrive and all other 2D competitors due to its hardware compatibility, it was released in 1990 and had its final official title released in 2004, ‘Samurai Showdown V Special’. It has been said that since the introduction of the Internet, SNK, the makers of this wonder box, decided to call it a day with the explosion of the piracy of games that are cartridge based.
In 1995 my attention was drawn to the stirrings from Sony and their talk of a CD based games machine, boasting massive power combined with a huge following of games developers, to give it the largest games library yet. At the time I had some brief playing time on the Atari Jaguar and the eagerly awaited following up console, the Sega Saturn. The Saturn did indeed look the part, it was quite mind blowing to see full polygonal games flowing at smooth frame rates but with the European prices, making the right choice of console was important.
I haven’t got much to say about the Jaguar, from what I remember, being twelve at the time, was wondering into Comet (an electrical store) and being offered to play on it. I don’t remember the game specifically but I remember being overwhelmed by the size of the controller and the fact it had more buttons on it than the cockpit of a Boeing 747. I wasn’t overly impressed with the machine, some of the titles looked promising but the word on the street was, Sony had all of this and more.
A quote from Wikipedia;“PlayStation was the brainchild of Ken Kutaragi, a Sony executive who had just come out of his hardware engineering division at that time and would later be dubbed as “The Father of the PlayStation”
The console’s origins date back to 1988 where it was originally a joint project between Nintendo and Sony to create a CD-ROM for the Super Nintendo.
The PlayStation made its debut at the Consumer Electronics Show in June 1991 when Sony revealed its console, a Super Famicom/SNES with a built-in CD-ROM drive (that incorporated Green Book technology or CDi). However, a day after the announcement at CES, Nintendo announced that it would be breaking its partnership with Sony, opting to go with Philips instead but using the same technology.
The deal was broken by Nintendo after they were unable to come to an agreement on how revenue would be split between the two companies. The breaking of the partnership infuriated Sony President Norio Ohga, who responded by appointing Kutaragi with the responsibility of developing of the PlayStation project to rival Nintendo.”
I decided after studying the news on each console, the options were the Saturn or the PlayStation. With SEGA’s unconventional hardware and programming engine, developers were losing patience with Sega early on and this was apparent at release in the summer of 1995, as there were only six titles to chose from here in the UK. Although the quadrilateral rendering of the Saturn was in some ways better looking than that of the PlayStations industry standard triangular form of rendering (See Lara Crofts triangular tits in the first Tomb Raider), for the majority of developers the Saturn was hard to play with. In the early days the PlayStation did suffer with some polygonal distortion but overall, the performance of these games outshone the efforts of developers for SEGA.
After some shit flinging in the American market and some more grumbles from developers worldwide, SEGA were going to have to pull out all the stops. In September 1995 the PlayStation was released and it’s launch weekend Sony flogged 100,000 units, more than 20,000 than the total sales of the Saturn which was released six weeks before.
The choice was obvious. I clubbed together anything I had begged, borrowed and stolen, combined with the bank of mum and dad. I chose my bundle and setup my PlayStation and switched it on to hear this unforgettable sound…