30 years on this Earth!

It's my birthday, 30 years old. So wish me happy birthday or something.

Been playing games for a while now and i've been reflecting on the past 25 or so years of gaming and thought i could share these thoughts with you guys but then i remembered i'm a terrible writer so screw that. Instead let's talk about more recent stuff. Like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.

I spent a good chunk of my weekend watching the ESEA finals on twitch.tv. Now i haven't really played the game itself, in fact since i bought it on day one i played a grand total of 5 hours, 3 or 4 of which against bots. Counter-Strike Source is probably my second most played game of all time in total playtime however and watching these finals was thrilling. Those Team Dynamic vs Quantic Gaming matches were something else. Triple and Double overtimes in succession isn't something you see every day. I'm way too old to ever have any shot at playing anywhere near that level but i do love me some competition and reinstalled the game as a result. That's the first step in falling down that rabbit hole again.

I also reinstalled Path of Exile this weekend. Again i hadn't played a whole lot of the game but distinctly remember hating how it plays but liking a lot of the systems. It's nothing groundbreaking but it's a nice change from Diablo 3. It wouldn't be the first time i end up liking a game after initially writing it off so who knows. Besides the game is free.

Speaking of Diablo 3, it will have taken Blizzard a whole year but they finally turned it into a decent game. The crafting is finally worthwhile. Wearing 4 different pieces of your own creation is a step in the right direction. Now if they could make the gear interesting that would be super. I mean and Amulet with 195 str, 220 vit, 62% CD and 6.5% CC is good but it's also super boring. So yeah, the game is still far from perfect but it remains leaps and bounds ahead of any other ARPG out there in the gameplay category and if anything it is in fact Diablo 3 unlike all those Diablo 2.5 that every other developers are trying to do. Diablo 2 is a mighty fine game but i'm also really tired of it.

Other than that i've been playing Uncharted 2: Among Thieves again. I believe this to be my fifth playthough. It will also be the last. I'm at the half-way point in the game and something unfortunate is happening. Having played that game so often i fine myself now seeing only the problems it has and not the good stuff anymore. It speaks for the quality of the game that it took this long until finally seeing more flaws than qualities in its design. The game is basically on-rails from start to finish and step off those rails even for a second and everything falls apart and the spectacle makes way to frustrations. I say it will be the last playthrough because i'd rather preserve the memories of this awesome game instead of ruining it by playing it too often. Up until now when asked the question of what is my favorite game this generation, Uncharted 2 and Portal 2 have usually been it. I suppose now Portal 2 is taking first place in that all important ranking.

What is happening with Uncharted 2 is not unlike how i felt the last time i played through Half-Life 2. The game is a masterpiece but somewhere around its sixth or seventh birthday it finally dawned on me that most of the things that game did that made it better than other action games of its time haven't aged particularly well and those same things are now making the experience a pain in the butt. That physic was super impressive for the time and used for combat and puzzle solving in a way never before seen but that physic is also crap by today's standards and really gets in the way in a lot of situation. The way the game gives you allies and a simple and non-intrusive way to order them around and without forcing you to take care of them in any way was great at the time. Now all i see is a game that throw me a bunch of resistance fighters following me while navigating tight corridors in an apartment complex. Get out of the way! It's those little things that are starting to cast some shadows on what remains one of the all time greats of gaming.

In a way this is strange. Of course one should always judge a game by the standards of its time and this is usually what i do and in the case of Half-Life 2 it isn't hard since i played the game for the first time while it was still new and current. But give it enough time and i can no longer do that and unfortunately what was once new and exciting is now old and frustrating.

Speaking of old games... Super Metroid you guys, it's pretty awesome. I think i'll play that today. That and listen to the Hotline Miami Soundtrack i bought on Steam at this very moment. This should be enough to make it a fine birthday. It's not as sad as it sounds, celebrations were yesterday!

And... that's all i got duders.

4 Comments

The Door to Safety is Shut. There is No Turning Back...

A couple weeks ago I set out to play through the entire Resident Evil saga in story order. Why? I don't know, probably because I like Resident Evil and never played some of the games or maybe because I'm crazy. Who knows such things.

I discovered the series with Resident Evil 2 and it was magical. The graphics, the music, the atmosphere, the gore. All of it struck a chord in me like few other games did before. But what about the controls, the terrible gameplay? Well the first time i picked up the controller to play it, I hadn't read the instructions, no one told me how to play, the game doesn't have tutorials, I just played and it instantly made sense how everything worked.

My interest for the series would maintain itself for years. Sure I didn't like Resident Evil: Code Veronica quite as much, nor did I have a GameCube to play Resident Evil Zero and the remake of the first game. Even when Resident Evil 4 took the series in a new direction I was still thrilled for a new game, especially after such a long break in between games having skipped over the GameCube ones.

And then my interest declined. Resident Evil 5 just didn't reached the same heights that its predecessor did and I was no longer convinced I liked the new, more action oriented direction the series took with the fourth installment and I certainly was no fan of the Co-op focused gameplay. But this is a story for another time. For now let's go back to where it all began. July 1998, Arklay Mountains, Racoon City.

What better way to start this year long endeavour than to go back to classic Resident Evil gameplay in one of the games I never played? Well one that was good would have been better. Ok it may be a bit unfair. It's never easy going back and discover a decade old game for the first time with no nostalgia attached to it and trying not to judge it by today's standards. I feel that it's when judging that game by the standards of its time and those set by its predecessors that Resident Evil Zero stumbles. But for now let's start with the goof stuff.

This is a truly beautiful game

The bad story and dialogues, the ridiculous antagonist, the dumb puzzles, tank controls. Yep, that game has them all and it's for the best. This is a Resident Evil game in the truest sense.

“Rebecca! You're safe, let's get out of here.” says Enrico, “No, i can't!” to retort Rebecca. “Ok, be safe Rebecca.” And with that shrug the commanding officer of the squad was on his way out of the game. But better yet, let's have Marcus laugh maniacally as he tells you that he will have his revenge! Truly some award winning storytelling and i wouldn't have it any other way.

Dialogues and story are one thing but what about the puzzles? There's the obligatory “insert 3 tablets into X to get to Y” or how about you find some chemicals and mix them to create some makeshift battery acid? Yep it got that too. But all this is nothing compared to the game having you use a hookshot to get to the roof of a train car. I mean, ok the ladder is broken and out of reach, let's improvise and find a way up there. Hey a hookshot, I can use that! But that would be too logic for a Resident Evil game. When you get said hookshot you also find a manual detailing official instructions to the train personnel on how to use the hookshot to reach the roof of the train. I shit you not, this is standard operating procedures aboard that train!

That's the good stuff. Where the game stumbles and goes to shit for the whole duration of the adventure is in the atrocious inventory system. No more magic item box. You now drop your items on the ground and come back to retrieve them as needed. Why? For an increased sense of realism? Get that crap out of my Resident Evil! These games have always been plagued to a certain extent by a non-negligible amount of backtracking and that system amplify it ten folds. Add to it the limited size of each character's inventory and weapons such as the shotgun and grenade launcher taking two spaces each and you quickly understand that you're never going to use those weapons and that you'll constantly be making trips back and forth between the main areas as you transfer all your stuff as you progress to the next major section of the game. This is both tedious and limiting in a franchise that is already clunky in a lot of ways. It didn't need to be more than it already is.

In a way the game makes up for it by having a much more limited number of enemies to fight and never requires you to carry the big and fun weapons to take care of them but this is hardly a solution, this is a boring way around a problem. As a rule of thumb, if a game gives me a grenade launcher i want to use it. This is a real shame too because it is the only real problem i had but it is a problem that plagues the whole thing and heavily influences every other aspects of the game, all for the worst.

That left me in a tough spot. I really wanted to enjoy it and in short bursts I did. Unfortunately every time I made it to a new major area, or every time I was stuck not being able to pick up some much needed supplies or an essential puzzle item or the times I had to face one of the few more powerful enemies where a shotgun or napalm grenades would really have been handy I was reminded how fundamentaly broken the game is because of its inventory system.

And so for most of the playthrough i was trudging tediously through the game hoping to quickly reach the end and be done with it. And then... faith restored!

It may not seem like much but this copy paste of the factory in Resident Evil 2 really hit the spot. The second game is easily my favorite in the series and this is one of my favorite area of the game and revisiting this place, for as short as it was brought back some great memories and reminded me just how much fun the later games are.

I also want to put in a quick words about the visuals. This game looks stunning. Or rather looked stunning in 2002. Going back to pre-rendered backgrounds and breathing new life in them with dynamic lightings and shadows, moving vegetation and realistic looking water, the game made me pause quite a few times to try and imagine just how amazing a Resident Evil game could look on the current or next generation platforms if they were to go back to that visual style.

As you can tell I did not exactly enjoy my time with the game and I feel like I don't have all that much to say about it. Perhaps it's because there is less to it. It is certainly lighter on story and characters and if it wasn't for all the backtracking it would probably be the shortest entry in the series. It certainly feels that way. So I didn't like it but I didn't hate it either. I don't regret playing it. It was good to go back to good old tank controls and soothing music when you enter a save room. Besides, this is just a prologue that leads to great things.

REmake is next and is another one I haven't played. I did play the original PlayStation game mulitple time but have yet to see this particular version and all the additional content it came with.

I will see you next time, in a new mansion and boy, what a mansion!

Duder, it's over

22 Comments