The Dark Side of Dota

DISCLAIMER: I wrote this piece for a website I have been writing voluntarily for for about 6 months now. Obviously, due to Giant Bomb's rules I am unable to advertise or post the website but I felt that this article was important and wanted to get it out there so I decided to just copy paste it here. Anyway, I hope you guys enjoy it and it may just resonate with some of you. If it helps, I would encourage you to push it to people that maybe it would affect. Anyway, enough with that! Enjoy my fellow bombers.

Dota 2 is an incredible game. From the complexity and experience you need to learn and implement, to the taste of a crushing victory or defeat; there is simply no matching the sheer amount of accomplishment you can feel after a great game of Dota. It goes both ways, the utter embarrassing games all players face can be downright infuriating and demoralizing, however this is one constant that stays true and that is the “hey, there is always next game.” The idea of simply “one more game” is the reason I stopped playing Dota 2, it was starting to consume my life in a most damaging way.

I am an avid game player, that must be obvious considering where this is being posted. Playing games for long stretches is no stranger to me, sometimes sitting down to a game for two or three hours is exactly what I need after a long day at work or college. Hell, when Skyrim was just released, it was common for me to sink up to six hours into Bethsteda’s immersive world. I like to get lost in these places, it’s a sense of peace for me, an escape from the rough, stressful world we all live in. Some people pick books or comics, for me it’s video games. Dota 2 was different. Dota 2 brought out this desire and passion for games to the nth degree, to a point where I couldn’t stop.

The first time I received my beta key roughly three years ago I messaged the gifter a quick thanks then proceeded to never install it. I had heard all the disgusting behavior that took place in these types of games. Enough so that I never even considered pressing that download button, why would I want to put up with that shit? It sounded the exact opposite of what I play games for, rather than escaping the stress I would have to endure the bile and pure hatred of people across the world just because I was learning the ropes of a new game.

Things change though, after getting some inspiration from a source I truly admire, I finally clicked on Dota 2 in my steam list and started to download the game. As expected, the first few times I played were an utter atrocity of mannerisms and slurs, many aimed directly at me. I pushed forward, I began to meet and befriend a few players who were actually decent people, providing encouraging and constructive criticism that made me better and switched my casual play to a somewhat more serious one. Things took off from here, much quicker than I ever expected, digging me into a place I never wanted to be. For those who are unaware and reading this, on average a single Dota 2 match ranges between 30 to 50 minutes. Exceptions are always made, some games barely got to 20, others to 60, the longest match according to my dotabuff profile (a website that compiles all your Dota stats) was 82 minutes long.

When playing Dota it was always an uphill battle to exit the game, if my team lost I wanted to avenge it and get the bitter taste of defeat out of my mouth; if we won I wanted to keep the streak going, winning was intoxicating and you can’t just stop, at least I couldn’t.I got into Dota 2 last summer, May to be specific. In August my senior year of college started, I am a Biology major meaning my classes are no slouch and require a large time commitment but so did Dota. I started to push the limits of when I could go to class, at best I would finish a game of Dota to run out the door and show up just in time before my lectures started. Sometimes I wouldn’t go, I couldn’t take an abandon, I didn’t want to be punished and not be able to get my optimal experience whenever I wanted. When I did go to class I hardly listened, instead I made sure I was up to date on any new Dota news that was announced; if there was none I spent time on the Dota wiki, studying heroes and what their strengths and counters are.

What the best ways to become a threat and when each hero was in their best phase of the game. My grades decreased but not to a large extent, I was able to balance school and Dota, being an average student at the time seemed just fine to me. Work became simply a tedious waste of time that I eventually started going to less and less. It was more of a paid internship really, I could come when I wanted because my school schedule was known so I was given very flexible shifts. Most people would be grateful for such a movable schedule, for me I decided it was better not to go most of the time.

Perhaps the hardest thing for me to accept is the way the game affected my relationship. I have been in a relationship for five years, four of those years has been semi-long distance. Every other weekend I could go see my girlfriend, a two hour drive away. A long distance relationship started to seem not so bad, I got a weekend with no excuse, no reason not to sit down for two days and play Dota. Even that started to not be enough, since I didn’t have a laptop that could run Dota, I began to drag my whole PC with me to play. This sometimes caused me to spend less time with my significant other, or to put it more bluntly, lie to play more Dota. When I was away our communication dropped incredibly, not texting for hours despite me receiving two messages wondering if I was all right. No, Dota didn’t put a big stress on my relationship, mainly because my other half hardly knew about it.

There is a happy ending to this and funny enough it comes in the form of more games, yup, it sounds crazy but it could not be more true. My last game of Dota 2 was November 14th, the day before the Sony’s new console released. Despite my obsession with Dota, I was still very excited about the next generation of consoles. I got my PS4 on day one and was the first day in many months that the need to play Dota felt subdued. Days became weeks and while the idea of playing Dota was more prominent, I still didn’t play. It has been nearly five months since I have played Dotaand I will most likely never go back again, I can’t. I still enjoy watching the game being played, watching a match or two is enjoyable and it still somewhat keeps me in the loop of things, but not the extend it was before.

This article is in no way a reflection of Dota 2, Valve, or the people who play the game. As I mentioned, the game is wonderful and I have met some people that I can truly call friends. This is a reflection on me and what I did to myself and in that way it is somewhat of a victory. I didn’t truly notice the destructive nature Dota 2 had on me until I looked backed back and really thought about it. It’s something I have to consider for the future and something I hope to never put on myself or others again.


Battlefield 4: Naval Strike Hands-On Impressions (PS4) – Water Warfare

At its best, Battlefield 4′s fourth DLC is the cream of the crop as far as map packs go, including an intense, strategic new game mode that provokes massive shootouts among forces of land, sea and air. At its worse, Naval Strike is horrendously hampered by atrocious stuttering and latency, making it difficult to even play on the new, fantastically produced maps. This doesn’t come as a surprise sadly, considering the vast history of difficulties and issues that have piled on top of Battlefield 4 since its release, but I can confidently say that despite what seems to be server issues, this is the best content to be bolted onto the newest installment of the Battlefield franchise.

The most notable addition and main crux of Naval Strike is the carrier assault gamemode, inspired by Titan mode, originally featured in Battlefield 2142. Taking place only on the four new maps included, Carrier Assault starts out familiar enough, providing players with the objective of snatching up four or five flag positions to decrease the ticket counter from 100, much like Conquest mode. The similarities stop here, each team is now provided a stunningly rendered, massive aircraft carrier that is to be protected at all cost.

Impenetrable at first, the tickets now represent the health of each carrier, each flag now representing a ballistic missile launcher, determined to punch a hole through the thick iron sheets of each enemy carrier. After the ticket number of one team has dropped substantially (around 40) a missile will tear a massive hole in the ship, leaving it vulnerable to be boarded by the other team. Two m-com stations appear on board the ship much like Battlefield 4′s other mode, rush. After one charge is blown, the engine doors open and the assault continues onboard the carrier as players try to reach the last m-com through a number of small hallways and corridors. Fights are chaotic and intense inside the carrier, being in such close quarters means the visceral nature of the firefights only intensify, leaving chances of you retreating slim to none. After the last m-com is blown or the ticket counter reaches zero, the game is over and the other team is provided the sweet satisfaction of victory.

The new mode mixed with the largely amphibious maps create a fabulously intertwined and compelling battleground for you to take part in. Rather than having a static objective that most of us are accustomed to seeing in modern shooters, carrier assault emphasizes the impact of an ever changing fight. There is a constant sense of urgency, one moment you may be entering the enemies carrier to deliver the final blow and all of a sudden your ship adopts a giant hole of its own, welcoming both friend and foe inside. Do you defend your carrier from the non-stop assault or do you think you are more needed on the offensive front, pushing through the hostile decks to reach the engine room? Perhaps, it is best to take the passive approach, hold all the flags and slowly pluck away the enemies tickets to zero causing an instant win, bombs planted or not. There is so much to consider when playing carrier assault that amps up the tension vanilla Battlefield is already so good at creating.

Naturally, with so much to think about, having strong teamwork is unquestionably vital to the success of your side. Battlefield has always been on the much slower, more meticulous side of the gameplay spectrum. Running mindlessly into the jungle or driving the new amphibious hovercraft into unknown territory is sure to end up backfiring in the best possible way imaginable. You always need a plan and contingency plan on top of that to be successful, but sometimes jumping into a helicopter only to have it crash right away on the deck of your ship is one of the many things that makes Battlefield so special. The coined term, “Battlefield moments” are not in short supply on the new maps, which can also be played with all the other game modes.

Still, it is rather heart breaking to say that half of my experience has been destroyed by the incredible lag on the version I played. During peak hours you’ll be hard pressed to find a smooth running carrier assault mode and be left with a stuttering mess of a game. Finding the silver lining in all of this, the DLC seems relatively stable and during off hours runs perfectly fine. Its been a rough few months for Battlefield, but Dice seems to have found their footing and disregarding server issues, there aren’t any game breaking issues with this update as of yet.

If you aren’t a premium member and want some new content for Battlefield, I would hands down recommend Naval Strike, latency issues notwithstanding. It offers four expertly designed maps that capture all the classic action of Battlefield while tossing in carrier assault, a familiar gamemode that is easily the shining star of the show. To simply put it, it sucks that server issues plague the fourth piece of content for Battlefield 4, but the disappointment really stems from the fact that Naval Strike is just that damn fun.

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Why Alien Isolation is the Alien game we have waited for

The stale stench of disappointment lies all around the Alien franchise when it comes to video games. Teased ever so slightly by the fantastic Alien vs. Predator 2 in the early 2000′s, the full potential of an Alien game has all but been squandered by the past few releases. Hope still seemed to be present, laid on the shoulders of our savior,Aliens: Colonial Marines. The initial tid bits of chum thrown out at fans was enough to spark the ember that had all but faded in the futile hopes of a good Alien video game. There was something there, it seemed to be faithful and authentic to the initial films predecessor. Oh the sound of that pulse rifle, enough to make any fan salivate at the mouth uncontrollably.

The story ends sour however, Aliens: Colonial Marines was not only boring and generic, it turned the most terrifying creature in the galaxy into a mindless nuisance that ran head first into gunfire. If there is one thing that destroys any other authenticity sprinkled through out the game, it is this. From its humble beginnings, we are told this thing, this Xenomorph, is a force to be reckoned with. It is smart, it is cunning, it is deadly. If we are to scavenge any sort of silver lining from Gearbox’s shot at the franchise most of us would point at one section, the stealth section. Without weapons and the stupid hordes of Xenomorph, we start to feel that uneasy feeling that most horror aficionados would call tension. This along with many other reasons is why Alien: Isolation will not only reach our expectations but put out the fires so many other titles have started.

It all begins with one word and that is confidence. Since its somewhat startling announcement by its developer, Creative Assembly, there has been a glowing aura of confidence. Appearing at multiple game shows being fully playable along with the relatively steady stream of information, CA seems to have nothing to hide when it comes to Isolation. In fact, you just might say they are chomping at the bit to get the game into our hands. This is not normal, this is the display of pride, this is true passion for your work that we are seeing. Sure, these fine gentlemen have bags under their eyes, enduring countless sleepless nights to reach the ever encroaching release date that is but a few months off. The love and passion for the Alien franchise radiates brightly even through the tough times of development the whole team is certainly going through. They believe this is the game we have all been waiting for and they want us to believe the same.

The next divergence Isolation has taken compared to previous games is its choice of film inspiration. It is a no brainer that Aliens is (theoretically) a gold mine because of its source material, adrenaline-fueled action. Arcade games along with the Marines campaign in the AVP games have stanchly taken inspiration from Aliens. Creative Assembly is the first the delve into the rich content from the first breakthrough in the saga, Ridley Scott’s Alien. Without question inspired by Amnesia, a first person horror game that in a way re-imagined the idea of survival horror, Creative Assembly has seemed to have found a match made in heaven.

While games for the most part largely empower the player with impossible strengths or an excessive arsenal of weapon; Alien: Isolation looks to keep you as hopeless and timid as possible. Armed with a clunky, fat motion tracker that hardly works and your feeble feet, you’re tossed in the ring with a Xenomorph on a massive ship that largely resembles the Nostromo. We have seen a few other tools come into play here but nothing close to any sort of self defense weapon. Now, when I say this ship looks like the one from the first film I mean it, the look of the ship from what we’ve seen is beautiful, authentic and terrifying. The term lo-fi sci-fi could not encapsulate the feeling better, filled with large blinking buttons, CRT monitors and heavy metal doors. It is a sight to behold and something I am truly looking forward to exploring.

There is a single entity that ties this all together, that if done poorly would void all other incredible strides to encompass you in the Alien world. That is the Xenomorph itself. The monster is still iconic for a reason, from its incredibly vile figure to the notion of it being the perfect predator, this needs to hit. The Alien must feel like impending doom, creeping, pressuring the player to make decisions. It needs to make the player feel vulnerable, oppressed, powerless. While this is truly yet to be seen, the ambition from Creative Assembly is apparent and beautiful. Amnesia relied mainly on crescendo moments to spook the hell out of players, Isolation is looking to create a true hunter. Implementing sight, sound and smell into its A.I, they are trying to make the beast we all feared so much in the movies come to life. I can almost guarantee you that we will see some of these scripted scenes which is fine, but I am incited so much more by the idea of a dynamic being. I want to feel hunted, seeing what looks like a tail curl up from a vent, the crisp clanking of claws on the metal surfaces of vents as it stalks me, its pitiful prey. Hearing the hiss of the Xenomorph and seeing the dripping goo from its dual mouth in the films evokes a certain emotion when I watch the classic film, if this is nailed correctly I know this feeling will be tenfold when the game launches.

There is still a lot to be proven when it comes to Alien: Isolation, saying it is an uphill battle to bring this franchise to its former glory is a drastic understatement. Creative Assembly is saying all the things I want to hear when it comes to creating a true horrorAlien experience. Everything shown seeps with succulent detail and dread, making you question what lies in the shadows beyond your eyesight. You may call me living on the edge putting faith into yet another Alien game and maybe I am a bit. I just feel something different here, something that screams “This is the game you’ve been waiting for.” We’ve already seen a redemption in South Park games with the excellentStick of Truth, I can only hope we see the same for the Alien saga

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Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes (PS4) Review: A Taste of What’s to Come

It was raining, amidst a massive hurricane I sprinted across the pavement in Camp Omega to reach one of the many extraction zones across base to get myself to safety. I was sloppy though, trying to escort an injured prisoner I forgot to check all my corners and was discovered, the entire encampment started to bear down on me like a colony of ants to a sugar cube. Luckily, a seasoned veteran like Big Boss always has a contingency plan in case things go downhill. Before heading to the prisoner’s location I took advantage of the vast world and covered my ass, setting C4 charges on all the anti-air cannons just in case I had to get out fast and hot. Realizing I wouldn’t be able to get to the outskirts of the camp for a safe departure I detonated the charges I had planted initially and secured the landing zone dead center among the chaotic camp. With hot lead and determination I made a beeline to the chopper, prisoner on my back holding on for dear life. Quickly climbing up the ramp I laid down cover fire as the chopper rose through the sky, only just escaping the cruel grasp of death. Clocking in at about 90 minutes, the story aspect of Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroesis short but sweet, boasting tons of replayability and telling a decent prologue with wonderfully crafted cutscenes, music, and voice acting.

Ground Zeroes picks up its story somewhere in between Peace Walker and the upcoming Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Big Boss is dispatched from mother base to a rundown prison camp known as Camp Omega to rescue some old friends who have been captured by the nefarious baddie known as Skull Face. Compared to the other stories told in the fiction, Ground Zeros leans heavily on darker overtones and shock value, especially the final minutes of the campaign. It also strives to center much more in reality rather than semi-supernatural like the other titles have dabbled with in the past, a notion I was happy to see. The game clearly exists for setting the stage for its upcoming successor but it deserves credit for telling a cohesive plot in its short runtime. Starting with standard array gear like a dart gun and silenced SMG, you are released to tackle the objective however you see fit. Whether that be exploring the sandbox given too you head on or sneaking around the back where the fence line ends, you have a large amount of freedom never presented in the series before.

A lot has changed since we last saw Metal Gear Solid on the Playstation 3, the stealth and controls have seen a massive overhaul for the better, making the world feel more dangerous and dynamic than ever. While the option to keep controls faithful to previous iterations are present, there is a layout that is straight up mimicking what you would see in modern day shooters like Battlefield or Call of Duty. Both work fine but the refined shooter controls just feel more grounded to what we have gotten used to in the past few years and naturally feel much tighter than anything else offered in the game. Guards seem to be more capable than before, dynamically shifting based on every mistake and move you make as you rummage your way around the base. If you leave a guard that you killed out in the open or shoot a camera in fear of being seen, be prepared to face the consequences as guards will quickly react and adapt to the situation. If you catch a guard’s attention and take him out before he can check back in with his commanding officer, more guards will be dispatched to figure out what happened to their missing comrade. There is certainly the idea of everything going back to normal once you are out of sight for a substantial amount of time, but in general it seems the guards in Ground Zeroes have a much longer memory span than most guards in other stealth titles.

Snake has also learned some new tricks himself, being able to sprint and use a quick dive to escape detection at the last second makes gameplay move along quicker and more efficiently. Building on what MGS 4 experimented with, the basic shooting has been improved even more making a complete action playthrough perfectly viable rather than the standard sneaky approach. Obviously, stealth is still the way to play and due to the open nature there is a lot of stuff to find and explore. Want to find extra ammunition for your guns or narrow down your search for your objective? Hang back and eavesdrop on chatty guards or sneak up on one and interrogate him to see what he knows. The action game is there for folks want it but the rewards are much more bountiful to those who wait and play it slow. The new additions along with the refined original mechanics meld together well, making a great playing, cohesive stealth experience that truly lets you play how you wish.

The initial shock factor of paying $30 for a 90 minute game may seem like slap in the face, but there is plenty to do after the credits roll to more than justify the price tag. Once you play through the entire story, new missions known as side ops open up and take place on the same battlefield the main story does. These vary from assassinating two specific guards deep within the compounds walls or interrogating a high ranking officer and slipping out unnoticed with the information. The really exciting and fascinating structures behind a few of these missions are the problem solving aspects of each one. At one point in the story you are presented with a tape filled with sound cues that will lead you to your target objective. Once the tape is over that’s it, there is no mission pointer or icon, it is up to you and your intuition to discover the origin of the noises and lead yourself into the correct location. Similarly are the side missions where you need to find specific targets, rather than providing you with simple mini-map icon up front, you need to identify each person by face via the photos you receive before you can mark them on your handy map. It’s the little things like this that really amp up the feeling you get while sneaking around, making you feel like the spy Big Boss is built up to be.

After each mission is completed you are presented with your performance based on a variety of things like how many times you were spotted to the amount of lives you silently ended. The game tallies all of these stats up and dishes out a letter grade which in turn opens up other unlockables such as new items or weapons at the start of every mission. In-mission challenges also appear and range from practical things like your longest headshot to more obscure, silly ones like your longest time driving with two wheels off of the ground. These upload to a leaderboard so you can compete with your friends in all the wild challenges Ground Zeros has to offer.

Capping off the game is the wonderful production values presented in Ground Zeroes. For years, Kojima has strived to make Metal Gear as theatrical as possible despite the obvious limitations in technology. With the Xbox One and Playstation 4 you can finally see this vision slowly come to pass with the incredible animation displayed throughout the game; whether it be Snake smirking as he violently chokes a guard out or sprinting headlong to the rendezvous zone, it all looks natural and fluid. The game graphically shines all around but looks noticeably better during the night mission as the rain pours down with the beautiful lighting effects bouncing off every surface and raindrop. Day missions pale in comparison, looking a bit more bland and washed out than their counterparts. Surprisingly, the game is not littered with the long, drawn out cutscenes most fans are accustomed too. Instead there are two decently length in-engine cutscenes that open and close the story and really push the boundaries of what games are capable of doing in the cinematography category; other than that the story is told through cassette tapes you find and as you move through the hostile camp. The soothing yet somewhat sinister soundtrack wraps it all into one beautiful package making it a tour de force in the presentation department.

The only sore spot is the voice acting or lack thereof. Most guards within the game hardly say more than five words despite being able to interrogate every single one of them for information. Kiefer Sutherland does a decent job of making Big Boss his own even though the total dialogue expressed couldn’t be longer than ten minutes. The main voice of the game is Kaz, the man on the radio constantly feeding you status updates about the mission. His lines are hit or miss throughout the game and are hardly more than background noise to the otherwise top notch sound design. It is a weird thing to lack this considering the pedigree but hardly dampens the overall experience.

Looking at what the game has to offer at face value, the 90 minute story may seem like a hard sell at 30 dollars (20 downloadable on last gen consoles), but with the addition of all the challenges and side ops missions that are presented later, it quickly becomes an adventure well worth taking. Expanding the Metal Gear gameplay to a more open environment has now proven its worth and can only raise expectations of what The Phantom Pain is going to offer when it releases. Along with the improved dynamics and controls, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is not only a great game that will satisfy any fan of the series or stealth genre, but a wonderful proof of concept that only makes the wait for Snake’s next adventure that much harder and more painful.

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My preview of Titanfall for the Xbox One

Movement. It is a simple idea that is the core of nearly all video games we play, even from the very beginning. Whether you’re moving the legs of Commander Shepard or the paddle in pong, it has been there, the engine that allows us to move through the game world we are immersed in. What’s different about Titanfall is it takes the simple idea of movement and makes it the centerpiece, even before the titans themselves, creating an intuitive and remarkably smooth first person experience that we have yet to see in a shooter. The beta for Respawn’s flagship shooter gives just a taste of what’s to offer for the full release and the taste hardly satisfies the hunger it stirs up, leaving you wanting more and more.

After playing the opening tutorial consisting of about 14-16 small objectives, I was able to dig into the two maps given and the small vertical slice of the reward and XP system as well as just a few game modes including team deathmatch and a domination mode. While the sliver of gamemodes given aren’t groundbreaking, the way you play them is. From the moment you start you feel like you are in absolute control of your character, making your legs your most valuable weapon.

As I mentioned before, the most incredible thing about the game is how you move. Your character is extremely mobile, being able to double jump, run across walls and even grab onto both friendly and enemy titans. The parkour aspect is not something unique to the genre ala Mirrors Edge, but the way moves chain together is nothing short of groundbreaking. Double jumping into a wallrun then into a window and out the other window to land on an enemy titan may sound like a purely single player scripted event, but this is standard fare while playing Titanfall. You never feel incapable or chained down while playing as a soldier; you movements are only limited by your reaction time and problem solving. Even the simple act of running through a building and jump out the window where your titan is, catching you and bringing you inside feels so fluid and intuitive; the action is constant due to your mobility.

Titans are the more obvious variation to the other slew of shooters out there. These hulking mechs change the battlefield immensely once they arrive on the ground, whether you’re piloting them or not. Titans control very similar to their human counterpart, the jump is replaced with a dash move, at least in the one type of titan provided in the beta. Every titan contains certain abilities of your choosing, whether it be blowing up in grand fashion, damaging enemies too close or cloaking you as you desperately try to eject your doomed mech. There are consistencies between titans though, each one comes with both shield and health bar, acting much like the system in the first Halo, shields will recharge but health does not, making you constantly aware of the status of your titan.

However, these aren't just traditional vehicles that need a pilot at all times, they have their own A.I system as well; setting a titan to guard mode will hunker it down in a certain area while follow mode keeps the titan in relative proximity to you. They are capable machines, making smart and logical decisions in battle and moving about the map even when you’re not in the driver’s seats. It worked better than expected and in my playtime, having my titan rescue me from death by turning the corner at the last possible moment is an awesome, adrenaline rushing experience.

The game is also extremely rewarding, giving you points constantly for acts you do. You gain the most points killing other players either on the ground or in their titan, but you can also flourish by killing the many A.I units on the enemy team, which act more to take up space than actually be a threat. Sure they can do damage if you ignore them but they are mostly cannon fodder you can use to gain awards like reducing the cooldown timer for your titan or earning burn cards. These burn cards act as small boosters you can use for a single life and range from a huge variety of different buffs. You can take between one to three cards into a match (given you’re the correct level) that can drastically affect how you play. They can be smaller things like giving you a reduced cooldown on your damage core for your titan, giving you enhanced damage, all the way to nearly gamechanging standards like being able to spawn a titan at the very beginning of a round. Customization is close to what you’d expect, providing you with three premade classes you quickly gain the option to make your own.

You can pick from a variety of weapons such as the smart pistol, which given a few seconds, locks onto enemies (both A.I and human) and if they stay in view long enough can be killed by a single pull of the trigger. There are also a variety of perks such as a cloak or the option to enhance your ability to jump and wallrun. Titans have a similar style of customization, varying between weapons and different sets of abilities as I mentioned earlier.While I've only seen a glimpse of what the full game will offer, there is no reason to doubt that Titanfall is going to be fantastic multiplayer experience. A lot of details are still sparse about the campaign multiplayer, but based on the few hours I’ve delved into the stand alone multiplayer only portion, it is clear that the game is looking to make a huge splash when it releases. From the titans themselves to the absolute fluidity and intuitive nature of the movement, Titanfall seems to be living up to the hype it has been building up for a long time now.

Thanks for reading guys!

Tried to post it in the Titanfall section but due to the shaky state Giant Bomb is in right now I could not. Sorry about that!


Alone: Surviving the apocalypse in Lone Survivor

It's been awhile since I've been able to sit down and throw my thoughts of a game on Giant Bomb. Between school and work, its been a hell of a year but the time is now for the return of my famous (not really) blog! I should warn you that if you have not completed Lone Survivor and expect to play it there will definitely be spoilers. If you have played it or don't mind spoilers I hope you enjoy!

I recently picked up on sale Lone Survivor and proceeded to finish the game in a mere 3 nights. It has been quite a while since I have felt truly impacted by a game; it seamlessly blends tension and horror with bits of humor due to the clever dialogue and characters. I've played plenty of survival horror games but none have truly captured the feeling of being alone as much as Lone Survivor. Not only do you feel completely removed from any sort of society, you can feel the sanity of "You", the nameless main character, slipping away every minute you spend in that apartment hell hole. There are some very apparent things that make you question the psyche of "You", mainly the pills you can take just before you go to sleep. A green pill sends "You" to a man with a box on his head, apropriotely named "Man who wears a box on his head". A blue pill sends you to a nameless man in a room that closely resembles a therapy office. You also constantly see a black haired woman, usually in distress. It doesn't take a genius to know there is a bond between "You" and this girl only known as "Her". This obviously tips you off that something isn't right but it's the little things that really set off that alarm in your head, ringing and saying "Hey, do you realize what just happened? You had no more batteries a second ago but there you are, putting more into your flashlight." I just went to bed starving only to wake up and have food in my inventory. This door was locked but now it's open; and the most brilliant part of this is you don't question it as much as you should due to the harsh atmosphere. The fuck if I care the door is suddenly unlocked, there could be food in there, a can opener so I can actually consume all these supplies just sitting in my inventory, a gas tank to heat up food and make it more appetizing.

Yeah... this is weird

The strength of the setting plays throughout the whole game and is only made stronger by the vagueness of it all. What is this infection? How long has it been since the initial outbreak? Is the whole world gone or just this town? You simply don't know and just have to deal with the results of it all. The apartment building you are seemingly trapped within is disturbing to say the least; as you go to the lower levels the walls and rooms become more organic and disgusting. In one room you must cut a hole in the wall that is made out of skin with something clearly moving behind it. It took me a few minutes to gather enough courage to go through with it. The creatures have the same effect, they raise much more questions than answers. It seems to be implied that at least the thinmen are a result of this infection but there are a few large creatures that are most definitely not of human origin.

Many settings are truly disturbing and terrifyingI think the thing that stuck with me the most though was the writing. It was clever and humorous and went perfectly with the tone of the entire game. "You" is trying to stay sane. He is trying to have a clear mind and stay focused of that task on hand which is to escape the quarantined apartment building. The excitement from him when he drinks a rare soda he finds is intoxicating or when he finds a canned fruit salad and mentions hes been saving that for last because it's his favorite thing, like a child would with his dessert. You constantly run into a man simply known as "The Director", is he real? Is he an imagination of "You"? It's up for you to decide, but what's certain is he is helpful. At one point he gives "You" a Gamejoy (which looks shockingly similar to a gameboy of course). This brought me to one of my favorite parts of the game. When you get the gamejoy you can go back to your room, sit on the couch, and play. That's it, you watch "You" grasps onto any possible joy he can. Using up his batteries to play and hold onto his humanity as long as he can. Its both wonderful and heart-wrenching to watch at the same time. Similar feelings pop up when you run into a cat that you can feed, the simple need for some kind of contact with a real creature bursts through the game and as the player, you feel that and want to get that contact.

The sound design and music seal the deal for the feeling of the game. It is simply phenomenal across the board, from the ear cringing noises the creatures make, to the music that lets you know you are back home. It's both beautiful and disturbing, calming and unsettling all at once.

One of few beautiful scenes

So we have reached the end of the game. To my knowledge there are three endings, I received the blue ending. However, I think the initial part of the ending is the same, "You" enters a hospital which he claims he has never been too, of course to his surprise he finds a clipboard with his name (which it does not show) and a room assigned to him. When "you" enters this room there is simply a blue pill and a bed and brings everything to a satisfying end. Now to be clear, it seems like these endings can have their own interpretations so you may not agree with my interpretation of the blue ending and that's fine.

After you take the blue pill, you are in a dream state and run into this mystery man you always run into after taking these pills. "You" being on the edge and enraged after the death of the director demands for this mystery mans name. When he refuses, "You" shoots him in the chest with a clear intention of killing him. But, as the player, we know its not that simple and the mystery man taunts "You" and we see the bullet hole disappear as well as the mask "you" has been wearing the entire game revealing a brief glimpse of his face that matches the mystery mans exactly. We then see a quick glimpse of a previous dream with "her" only instead of a green hill and being young, they are both old and the hill is dirt and overlooking a ruined city. The ending is very vague but in the best way possible and lets you decide exactly what happened. Did any of this happen or was it all in the main characters head?

For me personally this is how I saw it. From small clues hidden around the environment from drawings on the wall and small notes you find, I believe the city "you" lived in was attacked or bombed. In this bombing, his wife or girlfriend ("Her") was killed and he simply couldn't live without her and he felt alone. He was then hospitalized and created this horror world in which he is alone, because this is how he felt without his significant other. Every time you take the blue pill, "you" is taking prescribed medication to help him realize reality and is actively trying to deny it. At the end of the game, "you" is on the cusp of both his fantasy world and reality and then kills himself (not necessarily by gunshot as it does disappear on the mystery mans chest). He is then reunited with "her" and they go back to their old spot, before all this happened.

I could see how the ending could be seen in many different ways and I think that is totally viable and cool that "Lone Survivor" leaves so much up to the player to piece together. At the end of the game, you also receive that stats screen and in a way it makes you feel just as crazy as the character. Why did I constantly check the radio? I drank sour milk 3 separate times hoping it would help my hunger when instead it hurt me every single time. It was truly a fantastic ending that simply sticks with you days after you beat it, and this goes for the whole game. This is one of the best horror experiences I have had in a long time and I wish I would have played it earlier.

What solid snake actually looks like under his box

Well thank you guys for reading through this and I hope it wasn't filled with grammar mistakes due to the time I am writing this. Thanks again for reading

EDIT: I forgot to add the great run-ins with the man only known as "White faced man" When you first meet him he has nothing to say to you except for, "We will have something to talk about the 3rd time we meet". This 3rd meeting never comes. I couldn't tell you what it means but I was waiting for that 3rd encounter to happen and it never did, another element of the game playing with your mind. I just wanted to add this and see if anyone had any ideas on what the means.


Wei Shen is a dangerous man. The first 10 hours of Sleeping Dogs.


Karaoke and air guitar confirmed 
     Sleeping Dogs has come a long long way. From Black Lotus to True Crime and even to cancellation. However, by some miracle, the newly titled Sleeping Dogs has released and its actually a pretty damn good game. I can understand some peoples uncertainty towards it, even after the generally favorable reviews, so I just wanted to inform the people on the edge about the game and help you make your decision.  First off, I am playing the PC version on all high settings, running at a pretty constant 60 fps.   
I tried to hit the gas tank but failed horribly 
   Sleeping Dogs is an open world crime game and it's near impossible to not bring up the name Grand Theft Auto while talking about it.  You drive, you shoot and you fight your way through the game just as you do in GTA, but the game feels like its own product. It embraces its setting and "Hard Boiled" inspiration to great effect. You can jump out of your car and onto someone elses, jump out of your car in slow motion while firing your gun at endless goons in mid air, it's just plain fun. The story keeps it rather serious from where I'm at but there is definitely humor in some random citizen dialogue such as the parking garage attendant wishing he could live your life.... but only for one day. 
    Gameplay wise, Sleeping Dogs is well rounded and does some things better than others.  The driving (I think) is rather good and satisfying but from what I've read this changes based on the player. It's a much more arcady feel where the cars can turn better than they should and the hand brake is the ONLY brake you should be using.  The driving is made for you to maneuver through each turn whether it be an open highway or tight alleyway.  There is even an "attack button" for the vehicles.  By the simple press of a button your car will jerk in a certain direction to slam into a cop car or an unfortunate pedestrian minding their own business. Like I said, it embraces its cinema setting.  Shooting..... well to be honest I haven't done much shooting in my 10 hours with the game except for a few side missions. From what I've played the shooting seems fine, nothing wrong with it and nothing amazing. The guns sound decent but they look a little too large in proportion to Wei which makes it look a little funky. A cool mechanic you can mix with the traversal (more on that later) is you can slide across benches in slow mo while picking off bad guys which is always fun.  
This time I must have hit the gas tank 
   Where the gameplay really shines is the hand to hand combat. This is without a doubt the best hand to hand combat in an open world game. It's bloody, brutal and just a ton of fun. It takes the base idea of  Batman: Arkham City's hand to hand combat and establishes it in a more...grounded reality lets say.  Wei Shen doesn't back flip to his next target, he doesn't glide across the floor for a counter, he is a man trained in martial arts, not  a super-hero.  He may not be a super hero but he still can kick some major ass, every punch packs an brutal feeling and some of the moves, like the leg break are grotesque and fantastic at the same time. It's based on a counter system, an enemy will outline in red and Wei can counter and in some cases disarm an opponent. Instead of gliding to counter though, if you are too far Wei actually grounds himself, preparing for the hit and if you time it wrong you'll pay for it. Probably the biggest thing though is grabbing enemies. Once you grab hold, you have a few options at your disposal like running a dude into the closest wall or pushing their head into an air conditioner (which ends with a bloody mess). You can even just flip the enemy over with a powerful takedown or charge your enemies and tackle them to the ground. Different enemy types vary how you fight. Larger enemies can't be grabbed but can't block either, some enemies are block heavy but are very open to grabs. There is a lot of options and variety in the hand to hand, and so far I have loved every bit of it. 
Another highligh is the traversal of the city. Wei Shen is a very mobile character.  He can climb large walls, slide across tables and car hoods,  dodge people in a crowd and like I said before, jump from car to car to get what he needs.  The system gets a little wonky sometimes but overall it works very well and just the act of chasing someone is a rush.   
   To add to the depth, there are not one, not two, not even three but four separate upgrade paths. You have the Cop path (which you gain doing drug busts and being "nice" during missions... like not running into property or people), this tends to upgrade things with your guns and cars.  There is the Traid path, which you gain points for just beating the living shit out of your enemies (throwing is ALWAYS encouraged). This you might have guessed, adds to your hand to hand combat. You have a face upgrade path that are just basic power ups. There is only one path to this however (compared to the others which have 2). These include things like people bringing you your car or being able to get discounts on items.  Lastly you have the martial arts skill path. You don't really gain points for this one, you find statues during missions and for each one you find you get to learn a new move for your old martial arts master. So if you want, there is a ton to unlock in Sleeping Dogs.
 As far as missions go and the general world, there is a decent variety with some repetitive instances.  The main mission as well as multi part side missions have so far been really varied and exciting. This helps thanks to the already interesting story and really well written characters. Then there are the side missions which have so far come in a few varieties. One of which is a series of drug busts throughout the city in which you do the same thing over and over. It does get a bit repetitive but the combat is so fun that it helps fight off the repetitiveness.  On top of this, it feeds into one of you 4 upgrades areas. The second set of side missions are very quick minute long sessions that deal with petty things like chasing a thief. Again, it gets a bit annonying but it helps you upgrade and chasing a thief as I said earlier is just a joy to do.  There are other things you can do in the city like buy clothes which contain bonuses if you match certain pieces, buy cars to keep in your garage, and buy food and drinks which act as power ups in combat.  The world is also very dense with people and cars during the day but are barren late at night and stormy. The city feels ALIVE in Sleeping Dogs and along with its already unique setting it creates a wonderful atmosphere to be in. 
  Voice acting so far is excellent, every character has his or her own personality and it shows well. It helps create emotion in the story which I haven't dug too much into but I'm already invested. The basic story revolves around Wei Shen who is an under-cover cop trying to infiltrate the Triads. That's all I'll say about the story, if you wanna know more you'll just have to play it!  To go along with this, the PC version of the game look FANTASTIC! The lights of the city, movement in combat and reflections off cars look absolutely great. The characters are pretty good but there are some weird animations that hurt them just a tad. I'll add some screens I took below but know this. This is a GREAT PC game, tons of graphical options and with it all turned up it is one of the best looking open world games out there. 
You can't see it but Wei actually bobs his head to the music 
 Sleeping Dogs is easily the most surprising game I've played this year. While it doesn't do anything groundbreaking it is a hell of a game to just play.  I'm 10 hours in and have barely touched the story so I know I have a lot more ahead of me and can't wait to see it.  I hope this helped some of you on the edge and if you have any questions feel free to ask and I will answer the best I can. Thanks for reading! 
This game looks excellent, in case I forgot to mention that . Click on pcs for best resolution
Sorry, Im gonna add a few more pictures because I just love how the game looks haha 
 Busted my nice ride =(

This is a GREAT hospital hallway 

Dr. Shen 


Chewin Through my Summer Sale list. Its all Alan Estacados fault.

   It has been a solid 8 years since I've had a good pc to play games on. Yes, my EVGA 9600 gt had a great run but the time had come, and I finally pulled the trigger on a new PC. Either I have the most amazing or worst timing ever because the day after I built it is when the Amazon sale started and a few weeks later so did the Steam sale.This is my first time contributing to a summer sale because 8 years ago I was too young to have plastic money and my parents were a bit anal during that time using the credit card online. But alas! At the end of this sale I came away with about 28 games that I've never played or had fond memories of. I just wanted to share what I've been playing and maybe post my idea on what to play next! I'm gonna do my best to post these in the order I played them.  
I will avoid spoilers but if I must, never fear I will use a spoiler bar.

You're right, it is my fault. I'm gonna go now. 
 1. Spec Ops: The Line 
    What can I say about Spec Ops that hasn't already been said? It is a game built from the ground up to make you, the player, feel like an absolute shit-hole. For the most part it succeeds in doing that.  It is a game where not only the characters in the game slowly unravel, but you unravel with them. There is a lot to like in Spec Ops: The Line, the story is solid and constantly throwing strange questions at you. The characters are believable and truly change before your eyes without overdoing it and most of all it shows that sometimes you don't have as much control as you think you do, something many games let you have. Of course, this doesn't come without its fair share of issues, as Jeff has already said, the game does take a bit of time to get going and while the sand mechanic in battle is neat, there just isn't enough use of it to really make an impact. However, while I can totally see and understand why people criticize it for the generic "third person" gameplay, I actually enjoyed it more than most and it has to do with one major fact. Power. Your weapons are deadly, 3 shots (4 at the very most) can down most enemies and for me that is a big plus. These weapons felt like real killing machines and as time went on, it was scary to see the joy Walker got out of this power.  I'm not gonna say this saves the game for everyone, it is a mostly standard 3rd person shooter with some added sand effects and some basic squad controls. However, with a pretty compelling story and some truly unique character arc's, I really enjoyed Spec Ops, probably more than it deserves. I should say I didn't even touch the multiplayer but it doesn't sound like I'm missing much, I also did play the campaign on hard which to me really stirred up the intensity of the game.
I give Spec Ops  4/5

You play as the daring hero, Miles Kilo (aka Miles Kilometer)
 2. Syndicate 
   Man, I have to say I was a bit disappointed by Syndicate. While I did enjoy my time with it, I guess I just didn't connect to it as much as Jeff did.  I really liked the world they created and just the overall distinct cyber future, overpowered corporation tone, however, I just didn't find most of the story that interesting and the 2 twist they throw in I saw coming from miles upon miles away. I just felt like I was moving through an interesting world without an interesting story to keep me connected and that really hurt the experience. Gameplay wise, I thought it was pretty good, I really REALLY liked how the guns moved around obstacles naturally (well for the most part) and the sprint while holding a pistol out is just incredible! On the other hand, the 3 chip powers you receive were ok but I just don't think they were very interesting to use. The one I used the most was backfire, which as it sounds makes enemies guns backfire, knocking them on their asses and easy to pick off. The other two powers consist of an enemy pulling a grenade out to blow himself and anyone else around up, and an enemy straight up switching to your side to mow down other enemies only to finish himself off at the end. I found the suicide power pretty hard to use, it's obviously made to take out groups of enemies but there was really never a time where it would kill more than two baddies. The persuasion power was fun to use but more as a distraction rather than taking out enemies (which is in itself useful I guess.) Boss fights weren't bad but I didn't find them overly exciting and just wanted to beat them as fast as possible to move on.  However, I did enjoy the look of the game, it had a weird cleanliness to it that I thought fit with the background story they made and of course lens flare is the best.(?).  Syndicate is a fun game but I couldn't help but feel a bit disappointed once it was over. While the gameplay is fun for the most part, there was just nothing else drawing me into the game and made feel connected. For what its worth, the co op was pretty exciting and fun but only for so long.
Syndicate 3/5 

Wake is sure to remind you he is a writer at least 3 times  throughout the game
 3. Alan Wake 
   Alan Wake is a great game! I really enjoyed my time with Alan Wake, from the weird story mixed with Remedy's goofy charm and flowy writing made for a world I wanted to know more about and explore. The game is absolutely beautiful on PC and combat (I thought) was fun and exciting. The story of Alan Wake is a twisted tale of a small town called Bright Falls. On the surface what seems like an innocent town turns out to have a dark secret and the game feeds you information at a near perfect click to keep you interested all the way until the credits roll. Alan Wake is an extremely likable and believable character, he is a man with good intentions but has flaws, and he knows it. The supporting cast is also excellent, most of the characters you meet are interesting to listen to and can put a smile on your face ( Barry that knuckle head!). As I said before the gameplay I think is really fun. The dodge move Wake has is extremely satisfying just with its excellent animation and well timed slo mo shots. It's a balancing act of crowd control as well as power control with your flashlight. On top of this you have things like flares that can get you out of a rough patch.  Should I use this flare to weaken my enemies, or use it to help me run to the next safe zone?  This keeps the intensity up at 100% all the time and while there are a few hard parts because of the mechanics, in the end it works really well.  Of course, to add on even further to this excellent game, the atmosphere is just perfect. From the small town feeling to the quirking writing and brilliantly done "Night Springs" you just feel absolutely connected to Alan Wakes fantasy. As I said before, the game is gorgeous. Trees naturally sway in the wind, and light look amazing bouncing off different surfaces and into your eyes.  This is a game you need to play and experience for yourself. What an awesome adventure, and with the added DLCs in the pc version, you get a lot of bang for your buck. Also if you are a Max Payne fan there are a lot of little easter eggs for you to enjoy that sure brought a smile to my face!
Alan Wake 5/5 

Jensen never asked to get his ass kicked 
  4. Deus Ex: The Missing Link  
   I loved Deus Ex: HR. I never played the originals but man I wish I did now. DE:HR did such a great job of sucking you into its amazing world that also paired with a great story and gameplay. While the gunplay isn't the strongest, the stealth and exploration is and man is it fun to find that hidden vent and bypass security like nobodies business. It was one of my favorite games last year and I'm really glad I picked up this DLC. There isn't much to say other than its more Deus Ex with a pretty good, self contained story that is dark and intense.  The gameplay is just as good as before, but things are a bit more cramped and thus there is less to explore which is a shame. It's also a shame that you start bare, with no augments at your disposal, yes you do get upgrade points faster than the normal game but it would have been nice to have implemented what you had in your main save to this. It's a nice chunk of content (running around 5 hours for me) and if you enjoyed Deus Ex: HR there is no reason you should skip on this. 
Deus Ex: The Missing Link  4/5  

 5. The Darkness 2 
   This game is so god damn fun! At the end of the day, video games are supposed to be fun (who knew?) and that is exactly what The Darkness 2 is. The gameplay is incredibly fast and fun and makes killing the last guy just as amazing as the first.  You again take the role as Jackie, a tormented soul who has trapped the darkness deep down for 2 long years after the previous game. However, one thing leads to another and Jackie must call the darkness out for help again. It's a good, dark tale that throws in some great twists for good measure that second guesses your sanity as you play.The story is a decent one but you come to The Darkness 2 for its gameplay. The gameplay is fast, intense, brutal and exciting! You have tons of weapons at hand plus the darkness tentacles that are always by your side (unless light is in your way). Unlike the first game, the darkness is a far better weapon to use, you can slash enemies in half, impale them with poles and throw car doors at them, slicing their head clean off. Also there are execution moves (as seen above) that are just so gory and over the top that you can't help but smile. One of these moves includes the darkness pulling a dudes spine out........OF HIS ASS! I mean holy shit, I don't think anyone deserves that kind of punishment! However, at the end of the game, there are a lot more enemies and they seem to be more resilient to your attacks, this doesn't make it more excitingly challenging, it just makes it more annoying and kinda hurt the game a bit for me.  The Darkness 2 is just a fun game to play, it has a story that keeps you mostly interested but if its not your style don't worry, everyone enjoys an ole spine out of the ass mutilation.  As of right now I haven't touched the co op mode but I don't think you need to to get the full excitement out of the game. 
The Darkness 2   4/5 

Alan Wake likes plaid but only in... Night Springs
  6. Alan Wake's American Nightmare 
   I think Patrick was mostly spot on with this nice little piece of content. It is an absolutely wonderful idea that plays to all the things I loved about the original Alan Wake. Night Springs was awesome, and getting a chance to be in an episode was super cool and exciting. Unfortunately, the game just barely overstays its welcome and kind of dampers the whole experience in the process. Don't get me wrong, if you liked Alan Wake you should really pick this game up but set your expectations correctly. Anyway, like I said it takes place in the fictional world of Night Springs, which happens to be somewhere in Arizona. The Desert setting is a great detour from the forest setting in the original and the plot revolving around Wake's arch nemesis, Mr. Scratch, is fun to watch play out. The FMV in the game is so well done that I didn't mind standing around and watching them all play out. The characters are again quirky and good to listen too and the atmosphere, while different, is still perfectly made and looks beautiful in each of the three distinct environments. They also added some new enemies that add to the challenge like a taken who splits when you shine your light on it and spiders who..... I actually just think they are big spiders. But like I said, the games main twist on things is really neat but it happens just one too many times and near the end I found myself running past things just to finish it up. Overall, American Nightmare is a good experience for fans of the original game but even fans might be just a bit disappointed by the lack of variety in the games landscape. 
Alan Wake's American Nightmare  3/5 
  So those are all the games I've gone through from the summer sale so far! Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed it. Right now Im currently trying to decide what game to play next, Im trying to get through the shorter ones before I start my big RPG's like The Witcher 2. 
I am currently considering now: 
 Mafia 2 
Hard Reset 
Stalker: SOC 
I may also just get through Dear Esther since its supposed to be like 2 hours tops but right now Im stuck on deciding between these 3. Your insight would be greatly appreciated!  Thanks again for reading! This is Sackmanjones, signing off.

I need a vacation (A trip through the Silent Hill series) Part 3

   Welcome back fellow bombers to "I need a vacation". If you missed part 1 and part 2, I will link them for your convenience! So my journey is coming to a quick close and I've had great time with these games. Currently I'm near the beginning of Downpour so from now on these will be more of "updates" rather than write ups. Anyway not much else to add so lets get to it! 


                                                                                  Homecoming has some of the best music in the series (play for full effect)

   Silent Hill: Homecoming is not a scary game. As I said in my earlier posts, the Silent Hill games have been the scariest games I have ever played and this one just does not fit into that category. The game still has excellent atmosphere and looks really pretty. I love the look of the transitions to the otherworld (the one they stole from the film, like many things) I think that looks really sharp. The problem is they never catch the tension the others had, they never let your mind do the work. Now this is the first console release that didn't have team silent attached to it (unless shattered memories came first). This really does show, but this does not mean I disliked the game. For what it was, I generally had a decent time playing it.....well at least half of it.  The biggest problem is the game never picks up until the end and that REALLY REALLY hurt it for me.  I never really got the combat till about half way through and they story basically stands still until you hit that middle point, this is where things get really interesting.  I see what they were trying to do with combat and yes they did succeed in some way of making it more fun to fight but this only goes so far. In my personal opinion, I believe they aimed for the "Resident Evil 4" approach. "Lets make the game more action oriented but still try to keep the scares". Unfortunately, things didn't turn out as great as it did for RE4. Anyway, I didn't mean to "review" the game, I just wanted to lay out some thoughts before I go on. 
Alex Shepard
   In Silent Hill 3 I never really got attached to Heather until maybe the last few hours of the game, but in Homecoming Alex Shepard was instantly a better character as well as most of the supporting cast. Alex is much more than a one dimensional character and it shows right off the bat of the game. While I did say the beginning of the game was slow and rather uninspired, I will say the opening sequence is excellent. We witness a very disoriented Alex being wheeled in what I can only describe is a hospital suited for the devil himself. We get to see short glimpses of torture, blood splattering out across the floor and wall, its truly a very grim opening and perfect for a Silent Hill game.  Once we reach our destination, the lovely doctor who wheeled the stretcher in goes outside only to be sliced to bits by the iconic Pyramid head. Now whats great is they don't show pyramid head, but fans who played 2 would recognize the sound of his blade scrapping the ground below him anywhere. Alex is then forced to struggle with the straps on his arms and legs only to escape and this is when I knew I'd like him.  Unlike Heather and even James, Alex recognizes instantly that things are extremely fucked up. He's muttering to himself, when he is trying to escape his straps he is struggling and grunting and you can tell fear is running through his body. 
 Guess who's back
  Finally free from his death bed the only thing going through my mind is, find a weapon and get the hell outta here.   As we search the hospital we run into Alex's brother Joshua, the main driving force of the story. Of course, things aren't that simple and Josh is locked behind a door and won't let us in until we find his rabbit (you know the ones that littered the amusement park of Silent Hill 3, lovely toys).  As we search we run into a familiar face, a creepy nurse who has taken on the form of the nurses from the film. I'm actually a fan of the movement of these monsters so I was OK with how they looked.  This is also the first chance to try the new combat.  The combat in Silent Hill: Homecoming is based off of a very strategic counter system. First off, you need to decide how to take a foe down and when to counter. One on one the combat works great, but when I first ran into 3 or 4 nurses I died instantly...about 3 times in a row.  To say the least this was rather annoying and figured out you can slowly sneak by the nurses by turning your light off (again from the movie but a cool addition) . So again we find Josh only to have him run off and for me to chase after him onto an elevator.  Things aren't that simple, you can faintly hear that blade scrapping the ground. Pyramid head was on his way and before I knew it the blade went right through the door and into Alex's chest. 
The atmosphere is still excellent
  Luckily, this was all a dream and we see Alex has hitched a ride back to his town that was named after his family, Shepards Glenn.  We learn that Alex is actually a former U.S solider and was recently wounded by some means.  However, when Alex arrives things don't look exactly great for the town, its covered in fog and the town seems to be deserted.  We eventually run into Judge Holloway who doesn't seem to have an issue with how the town looks and advises Alex to head home.  I gotta say the entrance to the house is great, the music sets the tone perfectly as you wander around only to find nobody home.  After scavenging around the house we get to see Alex's mom, and she looks like she is having a rough week.  We soon find out that Josh is in fact missing and its now Alex's issue to find out where he went.  
  After about 20 minutes I totally lost interest in the story and events of the game. A few memorable things happened such as the strange lady in the apartment and the startling doctor's office. However, this is about it for what I truly find memorable. I actually really enjoyed the boss fight with the mannequin looking creature.  It has a very scary look to it and the entrance was one of the more terrifying parts of the game.  Surprisingly, the boss fight was pretty fun too, breaking the plastic mold on the creature only to make it hop around like a spider.  It was extremely unsettling and I was very happy to see it dead.  This goes for many of the boss fights, they are definitely the highlights of the game for me (except the first and last one). 
   I'm going to skip really far ahead, the first half of the game has a few interesting (but too familiar) enemies and we are introduced to the judges daughter Elle (who clearly has a thing for Alex, or once did) and deputy Wheeler. It's really a shame that half of the game is really uninteresting and filled with some backtracking. We do get to meet Curtis, a gunsmith who.... uh.... doesn't seem too right in the head.
 Down boy! Down!

Things start to get interesting once we return to the Shepard's house.  We soon find out that Alex's dad has headed to Silent Hill to do something but we don't know what exactly.  Time to get mom talking and find out just exactly what the hell is going on in this town, but as soon as we get talking Alex is attacked by men wearing mining uniforms and they kidnap is mother in the process.  Now we get to see the house switch to the other world and its really a site to see, everything gets pretty damn gross.  These puzzles aren't too hard but they are rather interesting and provide a bit of foreshadowing in the later parts of the game. 
Once we escape, its time to take a trip to Silent Hill with Elle and Wheeler tagging along. Things are never simple of course and the boat is attacked, leaving everyone totally separated and disoriented.  It's now up to Shepard to find out what the hell is happening, but we soon get a call from Wheeler saying they are stuck inside of the prison which Alex sure has a hard time getting into.  Homecoming captures the atmosphere and a bit of the tension the previous games do when you enter Silent Hill. It also helps the story has picked up since we know the cult is involved but we don't exactly know what they are up too. Mystery's are some of the most interesting parts of the Silent Hill games and I got much more invested in the story because of it.   
 The monster design is well done for the most part
  Finally, we reach the prison and this is probably the scariest part of the game.  There is a good amount of combat but not too much to overdo it and the setting is very dark and grimy just like the previous games were.  I definitely got tensed up one or two times during this section, squeezing through small cracks hoping nothing is waiting for me on the other end. Also we get introduced to the first morale dilemma, Alex's mom is strapped to some horrible torture contraption that is stretching her in half.  She asks Alex to end it quickly but its up to me to decide her fate.  I honestly had to think about this for a minute. I knew she had been through a lot and I felt connected to her and it was a hard decision, but I eventually decided to end it quick for her because I can only imagine the pain of being stretched to death.  I was quite surprised on how effective this choice was on me and was curious to see more. But just like that this section is over and leads into a clever puzzle featuring a few riddles and a nasty looking structure which Alex has to stick his hand into.  After this we are then led to another grotesque boss and quickly learn the mayor of Shepards Glenn is in with "The Order" of Silent Hill. 
  Once we take care of the monster ( which took Wheeler somewhere) we enter the church.  Again, this is a moody area filled with puzzles and a bit of combat.  At this point the combat is nothing to me, Alex is a badass and tears every monster a see a new one which in a way makes the game even less scary.  Anyway, we run into a very familiar scene of a man inside a confessional (Silent Hill 3?) I pretty much know this is about Alex's dad and I think he does too and decide to forgive the man for what he has done. 
When all the puzzles are set up we finally get to see Alex's dad in person, and the conversation following is not pretty.  We soon find out that Alex was in fact in a hospital but not because he was shot, he has been in a mental hospital for years ever since the "accident" happened. I love how the whole story isn't spread out right away, what accident is he talking about? Maybe his dad is the one who is truly crazy? These questions don't change the fact the pyramid head then comes to slice his dad right in half and then leaves for you to follow. 
There are many familiar faces...but not exactly faces
  We quickly get into a miners uniform and head over to the elevator to be greeted by nonother than Curtis himself.  For some reason Alex's uniform clearly shows off his dog tags which voids his entire disguise and Curtis takes advantage of this by knocking him out.  We wake up in a strapped down to a chair and a very angry Judge Holloway who lays out the rest of the story to us. Apparently to protect Shepards Glenn, the people of the town must kill one of their children to keep the hellish things of Silent Hill away. Thanks to one of the Shepard boys not being killed, things have started to happen to Shepards Glenn and the only way to fix is to kill Alex and her own daughter Elle.  She proceeds to shove a damn powerdrill into Alex's leg which looks damn painful but once again he breaks free and has a tussle with the judge herself.  Finally, after some button mashing we shove the drill right into her face and boy that was satisfying.  
    We then have to search around to find Elle before Curtis saws her in half and just in the knick of time we do and Alex puts at least 10 rounds into Curtis before the bastard finally goes down.  On the homestretch, we reach our final  dilemma as we see Wheeler barely alive with knives in his chest.  We can either give him a medpack or go without him and I decided to do the latter. In doing this, Elle stays behind to help him and Alex continues to the final few rooms.  We reach our last puzzle and after we enter to what looks like a sacrifice chamber.  After investigating both the doctor and judges alter we reach the Shepards alter and soon realize the last revelation.  Alex is the one that his father picked to be sacrificed, but why didn't this happen? A brief flashback answers this question; Alex remembers that he and his brother went out on the lake one night and the "accident" happened.  After Josh shows Alex what his father gave him (the family ring) Alex tries to tug it away from Josh which ends up in Josh losing his balance on the boat and falling, breaking his neck in the process.  Due to Josh dying when it was supposed to be Alex, the entire balance was thrown off thus leading to all the horrible things happening in Shepards Glenn.  I thought all of this was an excellent twist in the story and really brought the story together, if only it would have been this interesting throughout the whole game. 
This is never a good situation to wake up too. 
  After the last boss is defeated we see an incarnation of Josh come out of it and Alex come to terms about what happened and what he did.  This leads up to the ending, and the one I got was the "good ending". Alex catches up with Elle and he tells her that he sees clearly what happened and comes to terms with it.  While I thought this ending was good, I read the other endings and I thought they were WAY BETTER! I really enjoyed that two of the endings totally nullify that any of this happened, in one we see Alex wake up in the hospital getting shock therapy as he frantically yells out if what just happened was real (and the answer is a stern no).  The other one finds Alex tied up in the bathtub as his father decides to drown him as the sacrifice.  I love a good bad ending and would have much rather gotten one of these two.  The final one other than the normal UFO ending is the boogeyman ending; this is where Alex is actually turned into a pyramid head, kinda goofy but still pretty damn neat!  I will embed the endings if you guys wanna take a look.    
   Silent Hill: Homecoming isn't a bad game, but it's a disappointing one.  I was rarely ever scared and while the atmosphere was done pretty well I never got that horrible tension like the prior games.  The combat was like an experiment in the series, it succeed in a few areas but failed in more.  I enjoyed most of my time with the game but this is definitely my least favorite so far by a long shot. Without Alex as a great character and and decent story near the end, this game would have been a much bigger failure. 


 Thanks for reading again! If you having any questions or improvements feel free to leave them in the comments section. Like I said above, the next few posts will be more of updates about my progress through Downpour rather than recaps.  So far I am really enjoying the hell out of Downpour and it's a great return to the horror. Thanks again for reading!

I need a vacation (A trip through the Silent Hill series) Part 2.

  Welcome back fellow bombers to "I need a vacation". If you missed part 1 I will link it here for your convenience!  In part 2 I will be talking about my experiences with Silent Hill 3, but first I'd like to give an update on where I'm at in the series. So since Silent Hill 4 was not included (for some crazy reason) in the HD collection, I moved straight to "Silent Hill Homecoming".  In fact, I just finished up the game last night and I was a bit surprised. I started out pretty cold on the game, the combat was hit or miss and the story was just meh at best. However, about 1/2 way in the story started to pick up and I was starting to get the combat. Overall, I ended up enjoying the game much more than I thought, but thats for part 3 =)  
I will be starting Downpour tonight.
So, without further ado lets jump into:   


                                                                                                                               Once again, music for effect
     Silent Hill 3 had high expectations to live up too, following up to the excellent Silent Hill 2 is no easy task. I was extremely glad to find out that not only did it live up to those expectations, but in many ways is better than 2 (in my opinion). I enjoyed the insane story of Heather and the twisted cult behind Silent Hill. On the topic of horror, I'd have to say overall, Silent Hill 2 is scarier, although there are many moments in Silent Hill 3 that surpass anything Silent Hill 2 dishes out. So again, Im gonna be jumping around in points that really stood out to me during my playthrough. 
Heather Mason 
     We start out in some damned amusement park, its dark, the walls and floors are caked with blood and worst of all... dead mascots.  I already have a thing for people in giant costumes whether it be Mickey Mouse or a cute bear. Now when you add an already creepy looking rabbit and cover it with blood is just downright cruel. Walking through this nasty park with little to no context makes everything that much worse. What should I be doing? Where do I go, and what the fuck is that noise that has been following me since I started. The game starts you with so many questions and absolutely no answers, and it was awesome. Making my way further into the park I ran into the first creautures, the double headed dogs and closers. I noticed how truly disturbing and unique each sound the creatures made, which is a taunting way of telling you what is coming to feed on your bones. I got to a point where I met the pendulums, which made such a horrifying first sound I believe I ran around in circles for a few minutes trying to avoid them before I found the entrance to the roller coaster. I thought this would end up in a load screen, and it didn't which made me continue to run until I couldn't anymore and lead me to being run over by a roller coaster. 
Thank god, we see Heather wake up and get some plot and character development happen. It then hits me that I'm probably not going to like Heather as a character, and it turns out I was right. I just never really felt the same connection I did with James and many times she just got on my nerves. I will say Heather does turn out better towards the end and some of the inside jokes (like the toilet gag) did put a nice smile on my face. Unfortunately, this is kinda how I felt for most of the characters in the game. I was truly interested in every person I met during Silent Hill 2 and wanted to know what made them tick. While I thought a few characters did shine (and maybe some monsters) I'd have to say the cast of characters was much weaker in 3. Anyway, during this scene we meet detective Cartland, a man hired to find Heather ( and eventually admits to being hired by Claudia, but we aren't there yet)
   Moving forward, we end up quickly getting caught up inside the other world at the Central Square Shopping Mall. Man, monsters are EVERYWHERE and I finally got to meet the numb bodies. I'm not sure whether it was their grotesque shape, or horrible humming noise they made, but I was always nervous to run into them. Again, I cant stress enough how well the sound design works to the games advantage of trying to tense you up and scare the shit out of you. This is also thanks to the always excellent music done by Akira Yamaoka. To be honest, other than those numb bodies, this was probably the least scariest part in the game. We are then introduced to Claudia Wolf, who is obviously a part of the cult that has been deeply rooted into Silent Hill's past. We don't find out much about her but she is definitely a rather menacing presence.  
 I never killed any of these because I was too scared of the sound they made
    Heading down to the Subway Station brings back the terror that I have gotten to know from the series.  The incredible restraint the developers show in this section is phenomenal and definitely reminded me just how scary these games are. For about 20 minutes there is nothing but you walking, and the sound of your footsteps. No music, no enemies, nothing. This plays terrible tricks on your mind and lets YOUR own brain turn against you. Finally, we end up at the bottom of the subways station and finally encounter our first enemies that are accompanied by the most ear piercing noise I've ever heard. If you remember this section of the game you know what I mean, the best I can describe it is if someone blew high pitched whistle in your ear and didn't stop. To be honest, I ran out of there as fast as I could and waited until I was prepared to return, which wasn't for awhile. 
    So I decided "Hey lets check the other platform just across here!" To my surprise there was nothing there so I continued forward and I was introduced into a cutscene. It was in first person of someone or something breathing extremely heavily and slowly walking behind Heather and eventually pushes her onto the tracks. Naturally, I was yelling at Heather to turn around and she didn't listen so I needed to scramble quickly to get back on the platform. Directly after that I read an article about the same thing happening to another passenger waiting for a train. This really stood out to me because it makes you feel like this isn't just RANDOMLY happening to the person your playing as, its been happening to people as long as the town has been there. We eventually get on board the train and I expected yet again to go into a cutscene but there was none. I had to walk through this damn train with no choice but to move forward which really made me claustrophobic and a bit worried combat wise.   In Silent Hill 2, while still a survival horror game never really restrained you with ammo.  In 3, they strike a great balance between health items, melee items, and ammo. You always tend to have ammo, but just enough that you don't want to use it unless absolutely necessary. 
 This is just lovely
   Before we jump to the Hilltop Center I would like to note that YET AGAIN, during the construction site we see that restraint of having no enemies and letting your mind do the work for the developers. While it was shorter than the subway, it was just as effective and was a great lead up to the Hilltop Center.  Let me tell you a thing or two about the Hilltop Center, this is the scariest part of either games. There is one scene, just one that beats out almost anything in any game or movie ever ever ever. As I move around the Hilltop Center I am in desperate need of supplies and I'm in luck to find a small room open that may have some. 
I have trouble looking at this picture... 
  Turns out this room is filled with a bunch of mannequins (anyone know where I'm leading too). Anyway, Im no fool, I know as many do that mannequins are trouble, always have been. While most of the room is filled with a mannequin pieces, there is one that has a torso, arms and a head (as seen to the right). I really really tried to draw this out, I went to one side of the room, I went right up to the mannequin and pressed X, I went out of the room and back in... nothin. Feeling a little better I went to grab the two health drinks. At this point a horrifying scream filled the room, the lights flickered and I just about pissed my pants. Of course being the curious man I am, I go to see whats up and notice half of the mannequins head gone and in a pool of blood. Writing it out like this makes me feel kinda stupid but when it happened it was fucking terrifying. I stopped playing the game for 2 days, 2 DAYS until I could return to the game. The worst part of it all was I had to relive it again because I didn't save, genius. Oh but this isn't the end for this hell hole, no its got more tricks up its sleeve once we enter the other world. 
    Of course, the first thing I do is head to the 1st floor and what happens to be there? A massive monster blocking the exit that is just stained with blood.  Naturally, the right thing to do is to get back on the elevator and for the love of god avoid the 1st floor at all cost! We also get to meet Vincent Smith here, which is one of my favorite characters in the game. He is a sly snake who tries to control all the angles he possibly can, and for the most part he does an excellent job. As I keep moving forward, I stumble into a room that is basically a giant mirror. This is a sign things are about to go terrible. Red vines start to creep on the walls, but only in the mirror and start to stalk Heather as I frantically run around to avoid it. We then get to see a bit of foreshadowing as we see something disgusting happen in the mirror version of Heather. 
Boy I hate waking up to this 
    Luckily, we escape and head over to our apartment where Claudia shows up again, and sadly see a dead Harry Manson.  This is kinda where I start to sympathize with Heather and turns from the bratty 18 year old to a more mature character. After we kinda get some more interesting insight that Heather probably isn't who she thinks she is, we begin the journey to Silent Hill. WOW, the drive up with Cartland was a huge info dump and turned the story of this game upside-down. I'm still not sure if I got it straight but from what we know as of now: Heather is actually Alessa who was killed in the first one but gets reborn as a baby and is given to herself before she again dies in her adult form? Ya, it turned for the crazy, but in a good mind-bending way.  
   We have now arrived at Silent Hill, and thanks(?) to Vincent we have a lead on a man named Leonard Wolf.  We don't know much but its our only option to find him in the hospital.  We say goodbye to ole'Cartland and head on our journey.  This is where familiarity kind of hurt the horror for me.  While I know the hospital could be slightly different (different unlocked doors and such) I knew what to expect and it kinda suppressed the scare factor. I have to say though, all the small notes and an insane phone call from one Stanley Coleman really did make me worried about moving forward; expecting to run into this psycho at any corner. Again, the anticipation of this meeting really did a number on me and we never get to meet this strange character.  However, we do get to have a number of interesting conversations with Leonard himself. He seems like someone we can trust, which made the fact that he was some creature that much more impactful, as well has him being Claudia's father.  
   Once we dispose of him and take his medallion we get to go to my favorite place... the damned amusement park again! It is nearly exactly the same, which isn't good since the place is crawling with monsters and is all around a horrible place to be. Once I enter the souvenir shop things start to change from the dream, we find a key to the roller coaster. This should come in handy so I don't get run over yet again. After we dodge the roller coaster (because the key didn't work??), we get led to the Haunted Mansion (which was so awesome). If they were trying to mimic Disneyland's Haunted Mansion, then bravo Silent Hill 3, bravo. They do an impeccable job of  making it seem a bit cute and cartoony and then when you least expect it a brilliantly laid jump scare. It was the first time in my life I was laughing while also being scared shitless. 
oh hey there!
    The last thing we do is is fight...well ourselves, well to be more descriptive, Alessa. A strange fight, but fitting with the twisty story of Silent Hill. After, we find Cartland in a rough spot and decide to leave him be and finish this without him.
    We are on the homestretch now and have reached the church. We now know that "god" is impregnated inside of Heather/Alessa and is feeding off her anger for Claudia. We also figure out that Vincent (that sly sly man) has basically used us to eventually kill Claudia, and he throws in this line that really got me thinking. "Is that what they look like to you?! Monsters?" Now I realize he says he's joking directly after this but was he really? Has Heather been killing innocent people, has the "god" inside her driven her insane? It's something that is never answered but I'm still asking this even now, a week out from the game. To add further to the mystery, we find a confession box, with someone in it and Heather goes to talk on the other side. Its obviously a person is great distress, but who is it? Why are they here and how long have they been here? Mysterious are never in short supply in the town of Silent Hill. Oh, in case anyone is curious, I did forgive the woman inside.
    Its finally time, we have caught up to Claudia and have witnessed her murdering Vincent. Heather quickly becomes incapacitated as the "gods" birth is near. Thank goodness Harry has prepared us with a red powder get rid of that nasty evil soul inside of Heather.  She actually throws up the fetus of the "god", which is gross alone but is then followed by Claudia swallowing it (fantastic). The last boss fight was a struggle. I had low health and nearly no ammo, while I can appreciate how disgusting they made "the god" look (which is what Claudia visioned it to be) but I really really hated this fight. After a few attempts we kill the "god" and save the world from being consumed by the paradise (which the other world, and that is most definitely not a paradise) and head out of the church. 
    I got the ending where Heather (now going by Cheryl) plays a quick joke on Cartland and they ride off into the sunset. While I felt ok with this ending, the possessed one really sounded kinda interesting and made me further think about what Vincent said earlier in the game.  I really really liked Silent Hill 3, I think I may even prefer it over 2. It's insane story is just what I expected from Silent Hill times 10 and I really enjoyed it. While no characters nearly matched James or Eddie, they did just enough and developed enough for me to warm up to them. This is a SCARY GAME, it took me much longer to beat this than 2 thanks to the massive peaks the game had. I still stand that overall 2 is more scary but the highs of 3 are just unmatched by any game. 


Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoy and if you have any questions or improvements just let me know in the comments. Well I'm off to start Downpour, wish me luck... 
Sackman Jones 
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