What happened to Silent Hill?

I can't even remember why I fell in love with Silent Hill, I just know why I love it now. It's strange because I'm a bit of a baby when it comes to scary games, and lord knows I can only barely physically survive spending time with Konami's horror franchise. Or... practically any other to be honest, but few compell me to do so regardless the way Silent Hill does.
 
I could gush on about what's so good about Silent Hill, but I reckon if there's clicking on this topic it's by people who already know that, so let's look at what was always a bit off instead. There's an ever running debate over whether clunky controls amp up anxiety in horror games, and I'll admit I'm partially in the corner of yes that's true, but it's an irrefutable fact that the combat mechanics of Silent Hill have always been the subject of some criticism. Especially, perhaps, looking back on it. That's why, by and large, The Room was considered such a failure in gameplay terms with a bizarre emphasis on the most problematic aspect of the series and moving away from the puzzles - which I at least consider its foremost strength purely from a gameplay standpoint.
 
So in effect there are two games that are generally viewed as the stride of the Silent Hill series; 2 and 3. These hit the graphics marks splendidly, contained great stories (the greatest of which is also an ongoing debate) and hadn't messed with the puzzles/combat ratio. The Room marked the beginning of a decline in the Silent Hill series, chalked up to the mishandling of it by a different team when - aside from playing down the puzzles and up the combat - things essentially remained the same.
 
Origins re-intergrated the puzzles and along with Homecoming reviewed fairly well , and yet they're almost shunned by confessed Silent Hill lovers. I've played neither personally so I'm not fit to talk about them at great length, but I've heard people whisper that hey, Homecoming is pretty neat, and Origins is a cool portable Silent Hill experience.  So what actually happened?
 
Some people cite the handing the series over to other development teams as the reason for them "sucking", but the consequences of this aren't immediately recognizable. Homecoming cleaned up its controls act and in the process became a more reliable experience removing the vulnerability of the player, but going back to Silent Hill 2, dying - or even being in real danger - was rarely even part of that game in the first place and yet you were scared out of your mind. Origins - save for its dimension jumping antics - is more or less identical to a classic Silent Hill experience. Neither of these games, on paper, commit vices big enough to be outright dimissed the way they seem to be.
 
I really don't have any answers here, and I hope the responses will enlighten me. The way I see it, diminishing returns is a factor for any returning series, so couldn't it just be that Silent Hill, by iterating on itself, has played out regardless of developer? Maybe effectively turning nurses into a Goomba like "of course they're in there" element was always going to amount to games where familiarity is absolutely detrimental because the opposite was once its strength?
 
What would a new Silent Hill actually need to do to revitalise the series, and in what ways were Homecoming and Origins off the mark? OR... were they?

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Whothewhatnow VS Capcom!! (rant warning)

Global market global market global market. Yeah I get it japan has to appeal to the global market now, they have to make gritty bloody tit-romps that us degenerates in the west like. It's either that or emulating Marcus Fenix in a Yours of War. I pretty much hate the whole concept of creating games with some kind of all-encompassing, none-offending mindset (okay a healthy amount of the latter is probably preferable) and I wish I could just make this whole exploding costs of development thing go away as a factor.
 
But with all that said,Tatsunoko VS Capcom is probably the most bafflingly un-appealing half of a game I've ever witnessed. If you reckon it looks awesome you're probably the kind of person that just think the general beingness and japaneseness of it is awesome, much rather than FINALLY GETTING TO PLAY AS THAT HUGE... BLOCKY ROBOT THING that you've wanted all your life.
 
Now I get it really, I do. The game is finished, it's a product, people wanna play it so they're bringing it over. Lord knows Wii people wanna play it because it is a game where you hurt your mates and it's the one without the Mario guys in it. Thing is though, looking at it I can't help but feel utterly robbed of that OTHER game that DOESN'T exist. You know the one where one half of the roster, the Tatsunoku half, is replaced with Dudesthatrocku. Particularly heartbreaking is that at one point they messed around with the idea of having Phoenix Wright in it.. How awesome would that be? Or "Rad" Spencer? Or guy X from game X that we actually recognize!
 
VS games are all about awesome matchups. I wonder if Megaman could beat Viewtiful Joe, I wonder if Frank West could beat Morrigan, I wonder if  Alex could beat 
Polimar.... No I don't! I don't even ever think about Polimar!
 
I watch a trailer and all I can see is the game I would rather have it be.
 
I know I'm whining here and deep down I totally know why this is coming out and why everything I say right now is nonsense, but yeah. Way to blast my "anti global thinking" to bits.

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Burnout Paradise - Paradisier than previously appraised...

I gotta admit Burnout games kinda started ringing in my ears with, and after, Burnout Takedown. Burnout combos with their addictive arcadey multipliers and score system was wonderfully satisfying to me, and to have that ripped away and replaced with Mario Kart style takedown stupidity had me fairly enraged. No longer was the ability to avoid crashing as played up as boost would almost immediately refill, nor was clean, daring racing in any way encouraged, with obliterating competitors giving the biggest boost.. er.. boost of all.
 
So yeah, I zoned out a bit, and the MTV top 10 music listing certainly didn't help me pay attention either. I still gave each entry due time to present its case and I did find Revenge's core racing more rewarding and less frustrating than Takedown's simply because you could check traffic which made the speed increase slightly less unforgiving, aswell as the Revenge system that actually lended the chaos some reason and strategy. Even then, the progression system for the career mode itself in Burnout Revenge was borked beyond repair, and forcing the now bloated crash mode down your throat to even proceed was even more insulting to someone who still mainly got a racing game to.. you know.. race.
 
So when Burnout Paradise came out in a climate where open world seemed like the most canned thing you could possibly do - and with EA already applying that to their Need For Speed: Most Wanted - it just seemed like Criterion were more confused and hopelessly lost as to what to do with the franchise than ever. I played the demo briefly - and in retrospect it really isn't the kind of game that demos well - and I pretty much dismissed it outright.
 
Enter bargain bins a year and a half later though and it was difficult to not just grab it already, along with Pure and Samba de Amigo, incidentally. It sat on my shelf for yonks but eventually I was running out of low investment games to play in the run up to SEPTEMBER OF EFFING DOOM, and Burnout Paradise kind of became a viable choice. I popped it in and here I am pretty much loving the damn thing.
 
 
It's really not Burnout 2 anymore, I wager it never will be - with Dominator being the closest to it and mostly just proving that nah, it's never going to be - but it's something new, something else, something that for me gels for the first time because it marries ideas from all over the course of Burnout history in a surprisingly successful way. The Burnout combos are back from 2, the Boost system from Burnout 1 and 2 is implemented in the "speed" boost type cars, there are remixes of old Burnout music, the intersections and different areas of the city are more reasonably laid out and more reminicent of 2 than the absolutely rediculously crowded streets and evil sharp, narrow corners of Takedown. It flows incredibly well, allowing for your own personal pace and preference in what you wanna do in what order, and it shoves the crash mode back into being a neat fun distraction - the way it should be.
 
So yeah, I'm really loving Paradise, and if you can identify with my reluctance to play anything following Burnout 2, I suggest you pick it up cheap and give it an honest chance because while it's not all of what you used to love, it borrows elements of old, blends them with far greater success than either Takedown or Revenge, and becomes something confidently new and great in its own right.

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Mode-7 - Watching the bitmap skies since 2003!!

This is insane, it's.. Well it's kinda... I guess weird really. It's not intense enough to be insane, nor is it logical enough to be rational.
 
I have a games blog, bordering on a site, where posting this stuff is entirely possible. Despite this I'm spending time typing something up somewhere else. Oh well, I guess that's keeping businessy type pleasure and straight up pleasure separate for you. Here I can be my normal, long-story-longer kind of a nonsense spouting person. But really, the reason I'm even writing this in the first place is because of that other place -- which we've now updated to the point where it resembles a real site, and is something I think we both feel really proud of. "We" meaning me and my good mate Domstercool.
 
I'm talking about Mode-7, which was originally concieved back in 2003 as a webcomic, borrowing heavily from Penny Arcade but being decidedly british about its humour and unmistakably PAL-y about its game coverage. Me and then web venture partner ModoX had a good run, creating around 150 comics for about 1½ years before parting ways as friends and colleagues and M7 came to a close. About a year ago however the idea started appealing to me again, to get to comment on the games market at my whim, and to work on comics in an environment that functioned more like a proper games site. Domstercool was the obvious choice for a partner in crime, and in may this year we cracked our blog open.
 
It's not particularly big, not particularly fancy. Our web know-how barely has things being readable and pictures being watchable, but there's real passion behind it. A desire to have fun playing games, making sure others find the games that they could potentially find awesome, and bringing the simple pure joy of being a gamer back, cutting through all the stupid politics and system war bullshit. We'll try our best to do this, hopefully with some measure of success to boot. :P

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Haloooo Wars-vrybody!

Okay so I've not posted any blogs yet and that usually chucks me into a vicious cycle of not posting unless I can think of something of supreme relevance, and that's never going to happen. So yeah I'll just do it this way instead. For starters; hi, I'm Simon.

Ahh, done away with the formalities.

Right, yes, I've been sinking some time into Ensemble's swan song Halo Wars - 15 hours and 8 minutes to be exact - and I finished it up earlier today. It's pretty nice. I don't normally play RTS games because my computer frowns at anything resembling games and I'm not big on the whole office space gaming thing in general. In fact, if I were to delve into a modern RTS on the PC today I would feel completely and utterly stupid. You know how these things keep getting more advanced without you and when you attempt re-entry you're greeted by blank stares of unmistakable  "you're supposed to know these things already"-ness.

Being a gigantic Halo fan who actually reckons the campaigns in those games are phenomenal (with Halo 2 being a slight dip in quality) I gladly charge into anything supposedly "canon" regardless of genre. Since I've basically reverted back to an RTS noob whose last encounter with the genre was KKND, I'm pretty much Ensemble/Microsoft's favourite consumer in regards to Halo Wars.

Because Halo Wars is kinda simple. It's not stupid, shallow or unrewarding, it's just very streamlined and consoley and graspable in more ways than one. The controls take some getting used to and you have to unlearn some fundamental unit management philosophies if you step out of a PC RTS and into this one. You pretty much select a bunch of units and then you press RT to cycle through them and use each unit type to counter whatever they're good against. You've got building killers, infantry killers, air unit killers, etc. Each unit also has a unique ability that you can add once your tech level is advanced enough, and that's used manually by pressing the Y button. Warthogs run over infantry units, Wolverines fire a barrage of rockets useful for overwhelming larger vehicles, and so forth. All of these take some time to charge back up after use aswell, but the immediacy of those kinds of elements require you to be *in* the battle, not necessarily just send a bunch of dudes to a location and then zoom off across the map. As such, the game feels fairly action based and arcadey, and it forgives the rather limited and linear base building component. Missions also offer enough variety in objectives to keep things from growing stale.

I haven't touched the multiplayer modes yet but will do so later this week. At this point I'm pretty satisfied with how the game turned out, although far from ecstatic. The campaign - even at a respectable 10ish hours (15 for me because I'm anal about secondary objectives) - comes off as quite short, and even though they clearly insist that you replay it on different difficulties ("Halo" style I suppose) with a scoring system in place and secret "Skulls" and "Black boxes" littered around the place, you're left with a distinct want for just.. more missions and scenarios. I guess it could be just right for the console gamer RTS virgin, and it's certainly not a criticism that you wanna play more of it, but with Ensemble's closing leaving sequels uncertain, it's a bit disappointing that the experience for a solo player couldn't be more substantial.

But really, I could change my mind completely when I try out the co-op component and higher difficulty settings, not to mention the proper versus stuff. I'll keep you posted. In fact, I'll probably write some sort of hamfisted review of it at some point later this week.

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