You Have Once Again Entered... The World of Survival Horror... Good Luck!

It's funny to think that the 2002 remake of the 1996 Resident Evil classic is now plenty old enough to be considered a classic in its own right. Almost thirteen years have passed since its original release, two whole generations have flown by, and the Resident Evil series has gone through some rather drastic changes throughout the years. It's safe to say that Resident Evil is barely even recognisable anymore from what it once was, and thus, we have the 2015 Remastering of the Resident REvil Remake to shine a light on the old ways of the series.

The remake is typically lauded as being one of Resident Evil's best, right alongside other popular contenders Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 4, and there's a good reason for that - many in fact! The remake is especially impressive for how it manages to recreate many of the hallmarks of the 1996 original, while still establishing its own identity. To be sure, the remake is so different (yet familiar) that it can easily stand as its own game rather than inciting a constant comparison to the original. As a remake it's undoubtedly one of the best in the entire industry, and as an old school survival horror game it's not too shabby, either.

Now I had already played the remake many times before, and while I admittedly still have much of the game memorised (though not quite as acutely as I do the very original), playing the remake still made for a welcoming return to everything I hold dear with these sorts of games. The remake looked absolutely stunning upon release, and the 1080p facelift has done wonders in allowing its graphical proficiency to grab ahold and smother you within its intoxicating atmosphere.

The Spencer Mansion has become an iconic environment over time, one Resident Evil continually attempts to replicate and imitate. Sometimes it functions as an homage, though other times it can feel akin to blatant pandering and/or a lack of creativity. Nonetheless, the 'spooky mansion' is such a classically archetypal horror setting for a reason, and the remake's is one such standout. All of my time playing the remake throughout the years has actually given the mansion a sort of comforting quality to it. Due to the game's classic survival horror design of requiring an awful lot of backtracking, it's easy to become accustomed with the many hallways and bedrooms of the building. All of the different pathways to get here or there, with many shortcuts to discover, introduces many opportunities to strategise and weigh between which route is the best one to take to get where you need to go. No other Resident Evil game has featured an environment quite as well designed or open to exploration as the Spencer Mansion.

The proceeding environments such as the Residential Building and the Umbrella Laboratory are a little more linear in how you'll progress via the dally of key items you need to continue the story, but even still the exploratory aspect of the remake still stands as one of its biggest strengths. The exploration is of course what then leads into the game's mix of puzzle solving and combat. Both of such elements aren't especially involved, however, and the older Resident Evil games instead peppered the combat and puzzle solving around to compliment the game's atmosphere. Nonetheless, while the puzzles aren't especially taxing, they require just enough brainpower to still feel satisfying to figure out and execute, while also making for a change of pace from the combat.

The combat is perhaps why the older entries of the series have become so divisive throughout the years. While the remake still carries certainly similarities to the latter day entries, specifically Resident Evil 4, with its (default) tank control settings and your inability to move & shoot, they're still wholly different games. Resident Evil 4 is of course a third-person shooter, and a damn innovative one at that. The act of shooting everything in sight and gradually increasing the power of your ever expanding armoury differs greatly from the older games of the series. The remake may also involve a lot of you shooting stuff, but that still doesn't necessarily make it a shooter.

The classic camera angles that are still in place serves to both accentuate the atmosphere and provide you with a noticeable handicap within the confines of the game's combat. However, due to the limited cache of supplies on hand, you are to thusly choose your battles wisely. The camera angles may also obfuscate your view of enemies, but, as I elaborated further in a previous write up, every enemy has a tell to let you know they're close by. You also by default have auto-aim, so even if you yourself can't see the creature, your character will be sure to let you know when there's something available to shoot in the face. The combat of the game due to the aforementioned constrictions is thusly a rather simple affair, and the crux of it all is instead centred on the player deciding whether or not it's worth actually choosing to kill whatever you find is trying to maul face off or not.

This sort of design has been the same throughout all of the mainline series up until Resident Evil 4, though it's undoubtedly at its best in the remake. Rather than simply blasting your way through everything, the openness of the Spencer Mansion goes hand-in-hand with your theoretically limited cache of ammunition to ward away the monsters. It forces you to actually think about how to proceed, about whether it's worth clearing out this longer pathway with lesser enemies, or braving the shorter one that may have more enemies to kill and/or potentially avoid. You must also weigh between whether it's worth using your handgun to kill this zombie, which will likely around 8-10 bullets, or instead choose to use the shotgun which could potentially kill it in a single shot. Or perhaps both, where you manage to knock a zombie down to the ground, and then use your handgun to finish it off... Or you could even intentionally have the zombie grab your leg whilst it's residing on the floor, inflicting a bit of damage, but also resulting in an insta-kill that shows your character destroying the zombie's head completely with their boot.

Exclusive to the remake are Self-Defence Items now, too. These are situated within their own inventory space, and with one equipped will allow you to escape the grasp of an enemy and deal some damage at the same time. This then throws in another layer of strategy at your fingertips, as you may intentionally decide to get bitten to be able to use a self-defence item to save on ammunition for your other weaponry.

Avoiding enemies is of course a valid tactic, too. Due to the tight corridors that populate the mansion, however, this may prove tricky. Nonetheless, the fan-coined ''wall hug'' is as effective as ever, and because the zombies you'll encounter are as dim-witted and sluggish as you can expect, environments that are slightly more open allow you to more easily escape from their grasp.

Due to the element of backtracking, this involves a lot of you returning to previous areas where enemies you may have avoided still reside. However the game has a decent sense of progression, as you slowly acquire more ammunition and better weaponry. Avoiding an enemy at one moment may be an easy dispatch should you return later on after locating some more ammunition. As you yourself begin ramping up your bevy of weaponry, however, so do the monsters themselves in a sense. At roughly the midway point, the zombies are replaced by the iconically terrifying 'Hunters'. These are much faster and considerably more dangerous, complete with an insta-kill attack they will liberally attempt to commit should your character's health be in the 'Caution' state or lower. The Hunters as such make for a deviously fantastic means of subduing the confidence you're likely to build as you acquire more supplies and weaponry.

Then, then there's the Crimson Heads. Perhaps one of the most ingenious inclusions the remake saw for the series, Crimson Heads are the horrifying 'revival' of the already undead corpses you'll kill. After downing a zombie, you'll notice its corpse will still reside within the area, when they would ordinarily vanish upon returning. This signifies that it's undergoing the Crimson Head transformation, and will then eventually reawaken into something much more ferocious. No longer content in slowly shambling towards you, Crimson Heads will rush at you at roughly the same speed as your own character, and now have access to claws that give them a slight increase of their range of attack. They retain the same amount of health as a regular zombie, although their aggressiveness can certainly change your tune all the same even should you have the ammo to spare. The only means to halt a Crimson Head transformation is to burn the corpse, if not manage to kill the zombie by destroying the head. You'll soon come upon the necessary tools for cremating the undead, however as you would expect the kerosene required is of a very limited quantity. The concept of Crimson Heads thusly add another angle to consider to killing the creature in front of you, and in turn can make the act of backtracking surprisingly anxious.

Even before the transition to a third-person shooter, the Resident Evil series still featured a cavalcade of grotesque boss monsters to fight. Within a design that's supposed to give you the freedom to go about combat encounters your own way, mandatory boss encounters that you're required to kill admittedly flies in the face of what those older games were about. However as such, bosses are actually rather rudimentary as far as attack patterns and tactics go. Most simply require you to shoot, run away, shoot, and so on. They exist more so for spectacle really, and as a means to force you to give up some of your ammunition that you may have otherwise been able to successfully stockpile. Even still, the spectacle allows the many boss monsters to stay with you longer after you've finished it. The undead shark--coined Neptune--encounter still resides as one of the most stressful video game moments of all time personally speaking.

For this 2015 Remastering, Capcom have implemented a few new options to make it accessible for a more modern audience. There now exists a modern day analogue control scheme to coexist alongside the classic tank controls. Results may vary, but I personally much prefer the tank controls, as they feel inline with how the game was designed. The alternate controls are plagued with the same issue that games such as the original Devil May Cry suffered from, being the mixture of camera angles and analogue control. Whereas tank controls would mean Up always meant you would move forward, the alternate control scheme could involve you switching angles and then accidentally finding yourself running in the opposite direction. The lack of animations for how your character moves within this control scheme just looks plain jerky, too. It's appreciative that they're there, and I'm sure for some they're a significant improvement, but for myself I can still play the remake with the original scheme and still manage to feel completely in control of my actions. There's a surprising fluidity to your movement that lends itself well to escaping enemy encounters and rushing past, even with the tank controls.

The other most notary addition is a 'Very Easy' mode. The remake's Easy mode I would feel is accessible enough as it is, but the Very Easy mode likely assures now that just about anyone who's interested in the game, but is put off by the combat, will be able to see it to the end.

Year of The Barry. Or at least... Q1 of The Barry

Unfortunately, and this perhaps makes for my one sole criticism, that's basically all there is that's new here. While Capcom have done their due diligence in appealing to a newer audience with the game's Very Easy mode and alternate modern control scheme additions, there's unfortunately nothing new here to celebrate for the veterans. No additional difficulty settings or anything of the sort. There is at least a new costume for both Chris and Jill, being their BSAA character models from Resident Evil 5, which is an appreciative gesture. However for veterans such as myself, the static nature of the game has thusly made it to be rather easy. I chose the highest difficulty available (which by default is only its Normal mode) as Chris Redfield, who is also home to the more difficult of playthroughs between he and fellow protagonist Jill Valentine. And still did I get through the game mostly issue-free. I still enjoyed reliving it all, and I did still admittedly die the one time, but that there's no mode that would at least rearrange the key items around, or randomise the enemy locations, is rather disappointing. Especially when you consider the number of alterations the Director's Cut and Deadly Silence saw with the very 1996 original.

The graphical upgrade the remake has seen still makes for reason enough to see it through again all the same, however. As mentioned before, the remake looked pretty damn breathtaking upon release, and to this day the original GameCube version holds up surprisingly well. The added bells & whistles thusly make an already superb looking game all the more effective. The remake is now all the more of a beautifully haunting skirmish, with exquisite detail contained within every single room. The dark, gloomy corridors and lighting-laden windows, paired with the perpetually ominous and sometimes penetrating soundtrack, do wonders in cementing the remake as a truly effective horror game.

Jump scares are abound, but not overly so to feel gimmicky or worn out. The jump scares are spread around enough to compliment the atmosphere rather than dominate and dilute it. While this element perhaps doesn't ring as true after so long, but the way the remake explicitly preyed on the expectations of fans of the original strengthened the potential for frights. The classic camera angles do an outstanding job at creating a surgically precise gallery of visages and this 2015 Remastering does a great job in reinvigorating the merit of camera angles for the benefit of atmosphere. The new widescreen option also seamlessly allows the game to better show off its graphical prowess, all at the small cost of the game occasionally having to pan up or down within certain environments.

In a weird twist, if there is one thing that I feel the original still performs better than the remake, it's the voice acting. The voice acting of the original is notorious for how impossibly and hilariously awful it is. It has lead to many a classic quote that still rings throughout video game culture in general, and while the voice acting and dialogue of the remake is still rather hammy, it's not nearly as unintentionally memorable nor as gut bursting. That the story takes itself a little more seriously also makes the many leaps in logic of certain characters all the weirder. Of course, such 'Engrish' as seen in the original can never be manufactured and has to happen via sheer serendipity, so with their superior localisation team there's nothing that Capcom have done to recreate such magic as Gerbil Sandwiches and Masters of Unlocking.

Regardless, I am positively elated that this game can exist in this format. The expansion of its accessibility, with how it's now available on just about everything, has allowed it to flourish for a completely new audience. Whether this new audience will take to this game or not is difficult to guess, however it's beneficial that more people are at least aware of one of Resident Evil's best. Could this lead into more survival horror Resident Evil? One would hope the remake may open Capcom's eyes to the reality that such a fanbase exists, though let's not get our hopes up too much. The remake remastering, and not to mention Resident Evil 4's PC version, primarily exists as a peace offering to make up for the shameful display Resident Evil flaunted back in 2012. The less beloved Resident Evil Zero is at least assured to go under a similar treatment, but whether they'll cut it short there or somehow attempt to give games such as Resident Evil 2 and Nemesis the highest of defined love is another question entirely. With Revelations 2 on the horizon, with its many The Last of Us inspirations in tow, leaving me cautiously... curious, Resident Evil looks like it may very well be on the up and up. And even should Resident Evil once again suddenly crash and burn, we can at least take solace that Capcom were able to give the REmake the honour and degree of modern day polish it deserves.

23 Comments

Remaking Resident Evil 2.

Ever since the release of the positively superb 2002 remake of the 1996 Resident Evil release, people have been clamoring for its successors amongst the PS1 generation to go under a similar such evolution. Resident Evil 2 perhaps more so than Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, though that too tends to get shuffled in alongside its more beloved predecessor for good measure.

During the years following the release of the remake such wishes were understandable. Given the incredible recreation of the original into a beautifully haunting and atmospheric horror adventure, one that was different enough to feel like its own entity while still managing to feel familiar all the same, it's only logical to then start envisioning just how that would transpire with the latter games. However as the years have gone by, the hunger for a Resident Evil 2 remake has gone on unabated. Hell, it very well might have intensified! But...

Do we really want a Resident Evil 2 remake?

Regardless of what's actually being posted, whenever a Resident Evil-anything crops up from Capcom you're bound to see a handful of comments demanding a remake of Resident Evil 2 (and sometimes Resident Evil 3). Obviously there are going to be people who do simply want a remake of Resident Evil 2 at seemingly at cost, but I feel that for most of the sort of folk who actually comment on Capcom facebook posts or whatever don't actually know what they're even asking for. Because of the sad state the series is in, people asking for Resident Evil 2 to be remade comes across as a sort of involuntary impulse; a shot in the dark as to what might somehow save the series from its own rotting demise. That, and the more appropriate reboot, self-destruct-and-start-anew idea.

However, I again have to wonder if they actually understand what they're even asking for. I would have to assume that a solid majority of RE2 remake yearners are holding on to their memories of the original remake. When they're asking for a remake of Resident Evil 2 they're asking for it to be given the same treatment that the remake underwent. But unfortunately as each year passes us by such a wish has only gotten more and more unfeasible. The idea that Resident Evil 2 could be remade with the survival horror trappings intact is certainly appealing! That it could be designed with the intent to provide a fresh experience that captures that same delicate balance of feeling like its own beast, while preying on the expectations of players who have already played the original, is something I too immediately longed for soon after I had finished the remake.

...Do Capcom want to remake Resident Evil 2?

Unfortunately times have changed, Resident Evil has changed, and perhaps most importantly Capcom have changed. The remake excelled in no small part down to Shinji Mikami's direction, which benefitted from the fact that he was the mastermind behind the very original. However he along with many of the other notable faces of Capcom--including of course RE2 director Hideki Kamiya--have moved on elsewhere.

When I try to realistically imagine what a Resident Evil 2 remake would resemble in this day and age, I think cooperative gameplay, I think over-the-shoulder shooty-shooty, I think gameplay that incentivises you to kill everything in your wake, with zombies dropping ammo and forced combat encounters. I think of what would essentially be Resident Evil 5 in Resident Evil 2 clothing. Now, that's likely what a contingent of Resident Evil 2 fans want, to be able to play the older games but with many of the modern conventions introduced. But I would have to imagine that for those that are seemingly plagued with a nervous tick of randomly screaming for a Resident Evil 2 remake, the idea of Resident Evil 2 being actioned-up inline with the likes of Resident Evil 4 and beyond would be seen as blasphemous.

And really, when you consider the state of the series, who's to say that Capcom could even successfully manage developing a more action-orientated interpretation of Resident Evil 2? Confidence in Capcom, especially when it comes to their efforts with Resident Evil, are at an alltime low. However...

They're trying.

Claire = Capcom, Zombie = 'Roots'

For the longest time, Capcom have spun the whole ''we want to take the series back to its roots'' ad nauseum. It's practically tradition at this point, a rite of passage for the next Resident Evil project to be taken hold and lead into something tangible. While such attempts like the Leon S. Kennedy campaign in Resident Evil 6 make for an especially hilarious fallacy with their supposed aim to ''getting back to their roots'', we do have games such as Resident Evil: Revelations.

Now, I personally don't consider the first Revelations to be particularly stellar, but it was appreciative to see them actually trying. Despite Revelations functioning as a limp mishmash of both styles, leaving it festering and failing to flourish as either a survival horror game or a traditional Resident Evil action-shooter, it was at least a respectable first attempt at bridging the gap - brainstorming a happy medium between the old and new. And with Revelations 2 on the horizon looking to be trying out some new things, then that proves they're willing to experiment further.

Most importantly of all is of course the Remastering of the Remake that is but mere days away from release. If what Capcom have described is true, then they've really gone the full nine yards in sprucing up what is now a classic remaking of a classic. Not only does it of course include all the Ps, but a few of what were once pre-rendered backgrounds have in fact been completely redone in polygons. That may possibly make the aesthetic of the game look a little jarring, but it's important purely for the sake of the effort they're willing to put in. When you note the addition of a more modern analogue control scheme to coexist alongside the tank controls, and it actually gives me pause as to whether a Resident Evil 2 remake could work. Just, not one that is as drastically different from the transition the original saw between 1996 and 2002.

Remaking Resident Evil 2 - The Yummylee Way!

The Ideal

THAT'S RIGHT YOUR SMGS ARE WORTH SHIT AND IT'S FUCKING GLORIOUS

Anyone who knows me shouldn't be too surprised to learn that I'm of the ilk that would most love to see Resident Evil 2 rendered with the same design philosophies as its original release. I'd want it to play with all of the hallmarks of yesteryear, with the notorious mix of camera angles and tank controls. Though that's not to say there couldn't still exist an alternative analogue control scheme like in this REcent REmastering of the REmake... I'M SO VERY SORRY OH LORD SAVE ME.

Hell, they could perhaps even include the option to move and shoot, allowing you to slowly pace backwards or forwards. While your inability to simultaneously move and shoot was pretty key to the third-person shooter design of Resident Evil 4 & 5, allowing you the courtesy for the older games wouldn't alter them too drastically I feel. Just so long as the pace of which you can move while shooting is at walking speed of course. No running 'n' gunning with a FAMAS ala Metal Gear Solid for example. They had already implemented moving & shooting within the classic design in Resident Evil: Outbreak File 2 before hand. In fact they even allowed analogue control, too!

I would also expect a few twists here and there within the gameplay much like how the remake introduced self-defence items. Crimson Heads would certainly have to carry over in particular. Further expanding on the Scenarios system, by most importantly featuring many more decisions that will reflect in the alternate B scenario, would be a must as well.

The tone of the story would still be within the realm of... well, I don't want to see Leon defying the laws of everything like during that laser hall scene in Resident Evil 4. I also wouldn't want them to take themselves too seriously, however. The extreme melodrama of RE6 could get to be a little nauseous, although while the story was needlessly convoluted, the original Revelations managed to recapture the silly spark of the older games with its goofy dialogue and seemingly intentionally strange line readings.

Though when it comes down to it, that Capcom would be willing to remake Resident Evil 2 under these guidelines seems highly unlikely unfortunately.

Survival Horror Shooter-Vania

''There's no time for resting.''

The other primary alternative is of course with the over-the-shoulder setup and having it function more as a straight shooter. However that too isn't completely without appeal in my eyes. When we consider the recent influx of shooters such as The Last of Us and The Evil Within, and maybe even Alien: Isolation to a certain extent, the 'survival horror shooter' is starting to form into a sub-genre of its own. Capcom have already been taking some obvious cues from The Last of Us with how they're steering the direction for Revelations 2. That could then perhaps work as the blueprint for this hypothetical actioned-up remake of Resident Evil 2.

However they would have to keep the exploration aspect intact. The RPD station in particular would still have to allow you to explore (mostly) at your leisure. Though to account for the higher action-focus, the open nature of the game could then lead into what would basically be a MetroidVania style of shooter. You would not only be acquiring the necessary key items to move on but also upgrades, hidden away behind all sorts of optional puzzle rooms or boss battles or what have you maybe, and they could even add a bit of randomisation to it. Not only with what sort of loot you'd find, but enemy placements, too. That would further strengthen the survival element of this 'survival horror shooter' by way of it forcing the all important aspect of improvisation into the design.

There's also the question of cooperative gameplay. Under my rule, the story would primarily stay single player. However funnily enough what I think would be interesting is if they took a cue from Resident Evil 6. Specifically the cross-campaigns connection. With the Scenarios system still intact, they could then have Leon & Claire occasionally meet up with one another, only the alternate character could potentially be another player who is playing the alternate Scenario. In the original game they never actually fought together, but for the sake of this hypothetical remake idea's higher focus on action, having them working together to best a boss or survive a noticeably tough encounter would fit in without cooperative gameplay being too overbearing.

The randomisation element would ideally promote the concept of replay value, and not to mention the typical suite of unlockables one would expect from a Capcom game, so there'd hopefully be enough people playing to successfully allow such a specific match up.

Playing It Safe

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What is the most likely route for Capcom would be what they're doing with the Remastering of the original remake. No, not the remake itself, but the remastering of the remake specifically. So while they wouldn't go to the extent of creating all these new assets and so on, they'd at least be willing to layer on a shiny new coat, while maybe adding in some additional mechanics similarly to the many upgrades Resident Evil: Deadly Silence saw. Y'know, stuff like the 180 degree turn - finally!

Like many of Capcom's games, Resident Evil 2 has seen a lot of porting throughout its time. Many of which include their own additions both big and small. Some like the N64 version featured a mode that would rearrange all of the item placements just like the Advanced mode in Resident Evil: Director's Cut, alongside some new costumes to wear and files to read. Its PC version has itself its own exclusive Hard mode setting at that, and every version from the Dualshock PS1 version (meaning not the very original) has the Extreme Battle minigame, which sort of functions as a very early prototype to the recurring Mercenaries minigame. Sort of...

In any case, if this Ultimate Edition of Resident Evil 2 could compile all of Resident Evil 2's content into one accessible package, alongside all of the other aforementioned bells & whistles, then I know I at least would be content. (pun...)

Oh! Conclusion!

I am aware that there's that unofficial Resident Evil 2 remake happening, however I can't imagine it'll last very long before ultimately being pulled down by a horde of lawyer speak. Plus it looks rather, er, bad. Hopefully it'll at least lead to some game development jobs for the team in any case. Maybe even at Capcom, to work on a particular remake...

I'm generally sort of torn when it comes to the idea of Resident Evil 2 being remade. As described above, it's clear that I would certainly love to see it get its due, but whether or not modern day Capcom could properly execute any style of interpretation without bungling it all up is tricky to ascertain. After the Resident Evil apocalypse of 2012 it's clear they're trying to make amends, and they're obviously aware of the demand. With them also re-releasing the most survival horror-est of Resident Evils in 2015, then perhaps that's a sign that they understand those classic design philosophies still hold weight for a certain subset of people. Enough that my 'Playing It Safe' hypothetical may come to pass at the very least.

Or perhaps 'Playing It Safe' would in actual fact be that they simply keep their mitts off of Resident Evil 2 and let sleeping zombie dogs lie.

Outro Mosaic

...Also Music:

15 Comments

Remaking Resident Evil 2.

Ever since the release of the positively superb 2002 remake of the 1996 Resident Evil release, people have been clamoring for its successors amongst the PS1 generation to go under a similar such evolution. Resident Evil 2 perhaps more so than Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, though that too tends to get shuffled in alongside its more beloved predecessor for good measure.

During the years following the release of the remake such wishes were understandable. Given the incredible recreation of the original into a beautifully haunting and atmospheric horror adventure, one that was different enough to feel like its own entity while still managing to feel familiar all the same, it's only logical to then start envisioning just how that would transpire with the latter games. However as the years have gone by, the hunger for a Resident Evil 2 remake has gone on unabated. Hell, it very well might have intensified! But...

Do we really want a Resident Evil 2 remake?

Regardless of what's actually being posted, whenever a Resident Evil-anything crops up from Capcom you're bound to see a handful of comments demanding a remake of Resident Evil 2 (and sometimes Resident Evil 3). Obviously there are going to be people who do simply want a remake of Resident Evil 2 at seemingly at cost, but I feel that for most of the sort of folk who actually comment on Capcom facebook posts or whatever don't actually know what they're even asking for. Because of the sad state the series is in, people asking for Resident Evil 2 to be remade comes across as a sort of involuntary impulse; a shot in the dark as to what might somehow save the series from its own rotting demise. That, and the more appropriate reboot, self-destruct-and-start-anew idea.

However, I again have to wonder if they actually understand what they're even asking for. I would have to assume that a solid majority of RE2 remake yearners are holding on to their memories of the original remake. When they're asking for a remake of Resident Evil 2 they're asking for it to be given the same treatment that the remake underwent. But unfortunately as each year passes us by such a wish has only gotten more and more unfeasible. The idea that Resident Evil 2 could be remade with the survival horror trappings intact is certainly appealing! That it could be designed with the intent to provide a fresh experience that captures that same delicate balance of feeling like its own beast, while preying on the expectations of players who have already played the original, is something I too immediately longed for soon after I had finished the remake.

...Do Capcom want to remake Resident Evil 2?

Unfortunately times have changed, Resident Evil has changed, and perhaps most importantly Capcom have changed. The remake excelled in no small part down to Shinji Mikami's direction, which benefitted from the fact that he was the mastermind behind the very original. However he along with many of the other notable faces of Capcom--including of course RE2 director Hideki Kamiya--have moved on elsewhere.

When I try to realistically imagine what a Resident Evil 2 remake would resemble in this day and age, I think cooperative gameplay, I think over-the-shoulder shooty-shooty, I think gameplay that incentivises you to kill everything in your wake, with zombies dropping ammo and forced combat encounters. I think of what would essentially be Resident Evil 5 in Resident Evil 2 clothing. Now, that's likely what a contingent of Resident Evil 2 fans want, to be able to play the older games but with many of the modern conventions introduced. But I would have to imagine that for those that are seemingly plagued with a nervous tick of randomly screaming for a Resident Evil 2 remake, the idea of Resident Evil 2 being actioned-up inline with the likes of Resident Evil 4 and beyond would be seen as blasphemous.

And really, when you consider the state of the series, who's to say that Capcom could even successfully manage developing a more action-orientated interpretation of Resident Evil 2? Confidence in Capcom, especially when it comes to their efforts with Resident Evil, are at an alltime low. However...

They're trying.

Claire = Capcom, Zombie = 'Roots'

For the longest time, Capcom have spun the whole ''we want to take the series back to its roots'' ad nauseum. It's practically tradition at this point, a rite of passage for the next Resident Evil project to be taken hold and lead into something tangible. While such attempts like the Leon S. Kennedy campaign in Resident Evil 6 make for an especially hilarious fallacy with their supposed aim to ''getting back to their roots'', we do have games such as Resident Evil: Revelations.

Now, I personally don't consider the first Revelations to be particularly stellar, but it was appreciative to see them actually trying. Despite Revelations functioning as a limp mishmash of both styles, leaving it festering and failing to flourish as either a survival horror game or a traditional Resident Evil action-shooter, it was at least a respectable first attempt at bridging the gap - brainstorming a happy medium between the old and new. And with Revelations 2 on the horizon looking to be trying out some new things, then that proves they're willing to experiment further.

Most importantly of all is of course the Remastering of the Remake that is but mere days away from release. If what Capcom have described is true, then they've really gone the full nine yards in sprucing up what is now a classic remaking of a classic. Not only does it of course include all the Ps, but a few of what were once pre-rendered backgrounds have in fact been completely redone in polygons. That may possibly make the aesthetic of the game look a little jarring, but it's important purely for the sake of the effort they're willing to put in. When you note the addition of a more modern analogue control scheme to coexist alongside the tank controls, and it actually gives me pause as to whether a Resident Evil 2 remake could work. Just, not one that is as drastically different from the transition the original saw between 1996 and 2002.

Remaking Resident Evil 2 - The Yummylee Way!

The Ideal

THAT'S RIGHT YOUR SMGS ARE WORTH SHIT AND IT'S FUCKING GLORIOUS

Anyone who knows me shouldn't be too surprised to learn that I'm of the ilk that would most love to see Resident Evil 2 rendered with the same design philosophies as its original release. I'd want it to play with all of the hallmarks of yesteryear, with the notorious mix of camera angles and tank controls. Though that's not to say there couldn't still exist an alternative analogue control scheme like in this REcent REmastering of the REmake... I'M SO VERY SORRY OH LORD SAVE ME.

Hell, they could perhaps even include the option to move and shoot, allowing you to slowly pace backwards or forwards. While your inability to simultaneously move and shoot was pretty key to the third-person shooter design of Resident Evil 4 & 5, allowing you the courtesy for the older games wouldn't alter them too drastically I feel. Just so long as the pace of which you can move while shooting is at walking speed of course. No running 'n' gunning with a FAMAS ala Metal Gear Solid for example. They had already implemented moving & shooting within the classic design in Resident Evil: Outbreak File 2 before hand. In fact they even allowed analogue control, too!

I would also expect a few twists here and there within the gameplay much like how the remake introduced self-defence items. Crimson Heads would certainly have to carry over in particular. Further expanding on the Scenarios system, by most importantly featuring many more decisions that will reflect in the alternate B scenario, would be a must as well.

The tone of the story would still be within the realm of... well, I don't want to see Leon defying the laws of everything like during that laser hall scene in Resident Evil 4. I also wouldn't want them to take themselves too seriously, however. The extreme melodrama of RE6 could get to be a little nauseous, although while the story was needlessly convoluted, the original Revelations managed to recapture the silly spark of the older games with its goofy dialogue and seemingly intentionally strange line readings.

Though when it comes down to it, that Capcom would be willing to remake Resident Evil 2 under these guidelines seems highly unlikely unfortunately.

Survival Horror Shooter-Vania

''There's no time for resting.''

The other primary alternative is of course with the over-the-shoulder setup and having it function more as a straight shooter. However that too isn't completely without appeal in my eyes. When we consider the recent influx of shooters such as The Last of Us and The Evil Within, and maybe even Alien: Isolation to a certain extent, the 'survival horror shooter' is starting to form into a sub-genre of its own. Capcom have already been taking some obvious cues from The Last of Us with how they're steering the direction for Revelations 2. That could then perhaps work as the blueprint for this hypothetical actioned-up remake of Resident Evil 2.

However they would have to keep the exploration aspect intact. The RPD station in particular would still have to allow you to explore (mostly) at your leisure. Though to account for the higher action-focus, the open nature of the game could then lead into what would basically be a MetroidVania style of shooter. You would not only be acquiring the necessary key items to move on but also upgrades, hidden away behind all sorts of optional puzzle rooms or boss battles or what have you maybe, and they could even add a bit of randomisation to it. Not only with what sort of loot you'd find, but enemy placements, too. That would further strengthen the survival element of this 'survival horror shooter' by way of it forcing the all important aspect of improvisation into the design.

There's also the question of cooperative gameplay. Under my rule, the story would primarily stay single player. However funnily enough what I think would be interesting is if they took a cue from Resident Evil 6. Specifically the cross-campaigns connection. With the Scenarios system still intact, they could then have Leon & Claire occasionally meet up with one another, only the alternate character could potentially be another player who is playing the alternate Scenario. In the original game they never actually fought together, but for the sake of this hypothetical remake idea's higher focus on action, having them working together to best a boss or survive a noticeably tough encounter would fit in without cooperative gameplay being too overbearing.

The randomisation element would ideally promote the concept of replay value, and not to mention the typical suite of unlockables one would expect from a Capcom game, so there'd hopefully be enough people playing to successfully allow such a specific match up.

Playing It Safe

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What is the most likely route for Capcom would be what they're doing with the Remastering of the original remake. No, not the remake itself, but the remastering of the remake specifically. So while they wouldn't go to the extent of creating all these new assets and so on, they'd at least be willing to layer on a shiny new coat, while maybe adding in some additional mechanics similarly to the many upgrades Resident Evil: Deadly Silence saw. Y'know, stuff like the 180 degree turn - finally!

Like many of Capcom's games, Resident Evil 2 has seen a lot of porting throughout its time. Many of which include their own additions both big and small. Some like the N64 version featured a mode that would rearrange all of the item placements just like the Advanced mode in Resident Evil: Director's Cut, alongside some new costumes to wear and files to read. Its PC version has itself its own exclusive Hard mode setting at that, and every version from the Dualshock PS1 version (meaning not the very original) has the Extreme Battle minigame, which sort of functions as a very early prototype to the recurring Mercenaries minigame. Sort of...

In any case, if this Ultimate Edition of Resident Evil 2 could compile all of Resident Evil 2's content into one accessible package, alongside all of the other aforementioned bells & whistles, then I know I at least would be content. (pun...)

Oh! Conclusion!

I am aware that there's that unofficial Resident Evil 2 remake happening, however I can't imagine it'll last very long before ultimately being pulled down by a horde of lawyer speak. Plus it looks rather, er, bad. Hopefully it'll at least lead to some game development jobs for the team in any case. Maybe even at Capcom, to work on a particular remake...

I'm generally sort of torn when it comes to the idea of Resident Evil 2 being remade. As described above, it's clear that I would certainly love to see it get its due, but whether or not modern day Capcom could properly execute any style of interpretation without bungling it all up is tricky to ascertain. After the Resident Evil apocalypse of 2012 it's clear they're trying to make amends, and they're obviously aware of the demand. With them also re-releasing the most survival horror-est of Resident Evils in 2015, then perhaps that's a sign that they understand those classic design philosophies still hold weight for a certain subset of people. Enough that my 'Playing It Safe' hypothetical may come to pass at the very least.

Or perhaps 'Playing It Safe' would in actual fact be that they simply keep their mitts off of Resident Evil 2 and let sleeping zombie dogs lie.

Outro Mosaic

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Top Something or Other Yummiest Games of 2014!

2014 is a year that happened, and is technically still happening! It's official. Stuff, things, and all other kinds of tangible happenings occurred. Videos games fit in there somewhere amidst it all, too. However much like every year I continue to be lacking in my access to the videya, with but only a PS3, 360, PS4 and 3DS to fill my daily diet with all the polygonal/pixilated nutrition I require. So, as always, there are a many number of games released in 2014 that I didn't play... though even from what I did there wasn't one clear winner for ''Oh well this is clearly going to be my most favourististsististist game of the year!'' There was no The Last of Us, no The Walking Dead, no The Dark Souls... well, I guess there actually was all three of those this year technically speaking.

Nonetheless!

2014 is a year that is filled with a great number of 'four star' experiences, least from my perspective. That's not to say I didn't enjoy my plateful of videya, just that there unfortunately wasn't any 'instant-hit' that knocked my socks off. Still, all the games listed I did indeed enjoy, and to thusly try and make this more of a celebration of video games as it should be, onto the arbitrary(water) numberings!

Because people are obviously more interested in just seeing the numberings rather than the actual reasoning behind each entry, I figured it would be beneficial to first list them out as such:

  • 10) Velvet Sundown
  • 9) Theatrhythm: Curtain Call
  • 8) The Wolf Among Us
  • 7) Tales of Symphonia HD
  • 6) The Walking Dead Season 2
  • 5) Dark Souls II
  • 4) Far Cry 4
  • 3) The Evil Within
  • 2) The Last of Us: Left Behind
  • 1) Alien Isolation

10. Velvet Sundown

The closest we currently have to getting to play as Eddie Izzard in a video game

...What a weird and wonderful little social experiment we have here. I've simply never played anything quite like it, and the act of roleplaying as a randomly assigned character, complete with their own accented text-to-audio, goes a long way in supplying much of the potential nonsense and hilarity that's bound to ensue. However, because the entire game is played by fellow real life people, that there leads into quite the gamble. I've had a number of mixed 'matches' as it were, with people who consistently break character or will succumb to lazy 'shenanigans' as being homophobic/racist/sexist and acting like the very Internet Jackass that we all tend to hear so much about.

Yet that there can almost prove to be just as entertaining, if only for how I myself will never break character. During one particular match, most of the players had left for whatever reason, leaving only three of us. One such player was getting to be annoyed by that fact, which is understandable, yet I never deterred. I would make such weird observations as to how many people seemingly have ''headaches'' or how their brains have been taken over by devices implanted by the CIA.

My continued insistence on sticking to my character annoyed the other player quite greatly it seems, resulting in all sorts of name-calling. But I held the line! I instead would then ''kill with kindness'', by creating my own little backstory for my character about how he's poor at making friends and that he just wants to look for a 'connection'. The more I wrung my fictional sob story the more this other person continued to get more irate, making my own amusement all the greater. It ultimately lead to me hanging on this boat on my own, cutting the match prematurely... But my was it entertaining all the same.

And that's not even getting into the matches that actually 'went as planned', where everybody kept to their character and we all worked together to improvise a gamut of stupid plot devices and characterisations. It all makes for such a fun diversion to involve yourself in a bit of roleplay, and because of the random nature of who you'll get matched with essentially means the gameplay is endless... Sort of.

Tastes like: Mr Sheen spray mixed with warm beer.

9. Theatrhythm: Curtain Call

...With their mouths open agape I can't help but think that they all look like a bunch of blow up dolls.

I'm not an especially avid fan of the Final Fantasy series. The only ones I've completed would be the Holy Trinity of the PS1 era, with a short foray in FFXII. I enjoyed 7, 8 and 9 well enough (especially 9), though I disliked 12 rather greatly. However for whatever reason even the times I have enjoyed with Final Fantasy have never stuck with me particularly dearly. I only completed each once, amidst an era where I would play games counting up to the umptheenth playthrough, and that was that.

Even still, if there is one aspect that I've found easy to appreciate regardless of your thoughts towards the games as a whole, it's the music. Now, there are of course a lot of Final Fantasy games by this point, most of which cover across a variety of genres. Sure, amidst certain eras they start to fall under very similar styles and can be somewhat indistinctive from one another even. But when you look at the vast array of musical songs at your disposal in Theatrhythm: Curtain Call, it's easy to see there's been quite a variety of truly superb music in this franchise.

Rhythm games is also such a genre that I've always wished I could get into, yet there's simply not very many being released anymore. Those that do are traditionally restricted to the PC as far as I can see, and by the time I even started to notice the genre at all was well past its heyday on the PS1 and PS2. As such, I've found a lot to enjoy myself with in Curtain Call. Much of the music is fantastic, and the rhythmic stylus poking and swishing does a brilliant job in giving you the feeling of functioning as a conductor (well, not really, but you get the idea). Least on Expert anywhoo; Basic is far too slow and Ultimate has seemingly been designed for robots.

I was actually surprised to discover it tries to incorporate many of the trappings of the franchise's turn-based RPG elements. A lot of it admittedly hasn't registered with me much so much; my party consists purely of characters I recognised and/or maybe like, and I rarely bother with equipping items and such. There is this Quest mode, where perhaps such mechanics may begin to factor, but as it is I'm enjoying myself all the same with just playing through my favourite tracks within.

Those Event tracks are pretty annoying, though.

Tastes like: Rainbow dust and nostalgia.

8. The Wolf Among Us

TWAU had such a superb opening episode, so much so that it managed to rank on my 2013 list of last year for that one episode alone! However while I admit it fell off the rails a little as it progressed, I was still so incredibly engrossed in the world. Even when the story kinda hit a slump, the dialogue was forever snappy, as were many of the characters always interesting to engage with. Bigby himself was a fun character to roleplay, as the game's gruff and 'hardboiled' detective who desperately tries to keep order while wrestling with his own barbaric nature.

With the way I played it I made Bigby seem like the sort of character who built a facade of someone who wanted peace, but ultimately deep down still rather enjoyed the violence, and enjoyed his job because of the power of having reasons to inflict said violence. It just felt good to be able to literally push Bigby's buttons to send him going down such directions; and to be able to enact your own bloody justice against all who attempt to wrong you and/or skirt the law. I killed/maimed everyone I could, and despite the minimalist intractability, it still gave me a surprising sense of power. The noirish stylings of it all helped it stand out over its spiritual predecessor in The Walking Dead, and the handful of action scenes peppered throughout done a pretty solid job in making QTE interactions really rather fun to pull off.

It didn't keep me constantly engaged from episode to episode, and the long waits in between certainly didn't help, yet I still really enjoyed my time existing alongside Bigby in this world of Fables. Its mix of real life struggles with fantasy myths reminds me of Joss Whedon's sort of work. A fantastical world filled with weird and peculiar characters, that are self-aware and plagued with enough relatable issues to make things seem surprisingly grounded all the while.

Suffice it to say, I'm looking forward to its inevitable Season 2.

Tastes like: A tuft of dog hair with a piece of Hubba Bubba gum stick in it.

7. Tales of Symphonia HD

There was a time in my life where the anime art style was the coolest thing... That time has passed, but Symphonia still holds up at least!

This may be cheating a little, as the original game came out roughly a decade ago, to which I also played! A lot in fact. As I mentioned earlier I never got too entrenched in Final Fantasy for whatever reason, whereas Tales of Symphonia functioned as my 'Final Fantasy 7' equivalent.

I was simply in love with this game. I enjoyed the characters, the more action-focussed gameplay, and the story--while bloody huge and as convoluted as you'd expect from a JRPG--I grew to unravel playthrough by playthrough. Many of the themes involving racism and friendship and living for others and seeing people for who they are and not what they look like are all pretty sentimental and shmalsy to be sure. Yet when returning to this game after so many years, I was surprised to find a lot of still kinda works! The voice acting is actually much better than one may expect, with Scott Menville as the simple but idealistic Lloyd giving this game his all. The logical and somewhat reserved character of Raine Sage adds a grounded perspective to act as a decent balance with the usual JRPG tropes Lloyd delves into. There's also the effortlessly badass and complicated Kratos, the surprisingly layered Zelos, the tragic Presea, the lovably doofy Collete, the insecure and brash Genis, and... Regal. Not every character stands out, but Symphona is filled with enough surprisingly memorable personalities that left me engaged in their stories and seeing how they fit into things.

The combat is unfortunately rather rudimentary, however, and the localisation for the skit conversations I would guess were handled by the D-team they're so awfully clunky and awkward. Despite that, I was happy to find that Symphonia's story in particular was able to woo me back into the warm and soothing sensibilities of this joyful Tale. It helped bring me back to my wilful ignorance of the mid-teens, where I was able to easily forget it all and lose myself throughout a 100 or so hours every so often amidst my many playthroughs.

Weirdly enough the more games in the Tales series I've played since then the more I've grown to appreciate Symphonia. The voice acting and the general writing quality is simply unmatched here when put against many of its sequels. While they all carry awfully similar plots and character archetypes, the execution of Symphonia's still helps give it a surprising likeability and charm that's hard to turn away. It's just too bad the gameplay hasn't aged quite as gracefully.

Tastes like: Marshmallows and strawberry flavoured jelly.

6. The Walking Dead: Season 2

Never has the ending to a video game made me (intentionally) feel so down by the end. TWD S2 was bookended by two fantastic episodes, and the ones in the middle weren't too bad, either. Michael Madsen turned in what is probably one of his better performances of the past decade during the second and third episodes. The introduction of Jane also added an interesting element as functioning as a role model for how you might want to play Clementine. Then, then there's Kenny. His continued arc carrying over from the first season alone had me hooked. That poor bastard...

His history with Clementine thusly gives him an edge when he characteristically comes into conflict with the new faces of the season, and the demons that are brought about via the death of his family is put to great effect. Like TWAU, the action sequences are much better directed and more engaging, even if they're again not the reason why you're here. It's the story, the characters, and the almost masochist level of misery that we've come to expect that kept me engaged from beginning to end. Clementine's circumstances as the little girl that everybody keeps underestimating has her make for a more interesting protagonist to play over Lee. Getting the opportunity to steer her into becoming a pretty callous little bitch who's only in it for herself is also devilishly fun at times. Reminds me of role playing a full Renegade Shepard in Mass Effect.

And that ending episode... Just, my God man. I'll admit that no tears were shed, unlike the finale to Season 1, however it still left me with a distinct numbness. A horrible emptiness that frankly doesn't come about very often from a video game story, again least not intentional. And for a game as oppressively bleak as TWD S2, I think that's the best sort of praise you could usher.

Tastes like: Flossing your teeth with bloodied stitches.

5. Dark Souls II

When this game arrived through my mailbox, I was astounded to find that my first sit down with it roughly equalled about 18 hours.... My overall playtime was somewhere around in the 300s at that. Is Dark Souls II inferior to its predecessor? In some ways, yes, much like how it also surpasses certain elements of the original as well. I'll admit that the original certainly feels more cohesive and flows a little better, yet its sequel nonetheless supplied me with all of the same hallmarks that I've grown to enjoy with these games, ever since I was there in the trenches amongst the first wave of people playing through Demon's Souls.

A rather safe sequel by all accounts, but there's still only so few of these sorts of games anyway that a predictable sequel still had me investing the aforementioned 300+ hours. That same allure of exploring and discovering new environments, tinkering with every mechanic and character interaction, and holding my breath as I walk through each ominous fog gate still holds an appeal. I unfortunately never got around to the much more universally beloved DLC, as the idea of returning to its PS3 version (AKA the worst version) kept me at a distance once my initial time dump had passed. However I'll certainly be interested in giving it a go whence its PS4 version is released in 2015!

Tastes like: Chewing on granite.

4. Far Cry 4

100%

I've already gone to some length as to why I've been enjoying Far Cry 4 so much over yonder. But the basic jist is the open world and you ways can interact with things in it, or not as the case may be sometimes. Hanging back all idle like and watching two AI factions duking it out (with bullets), only to then spontaneously have a rhino come charging out of nowhere is precisely the sort of moments that's made my time in Far Cry 4's Kyrat such a treat. I've actually barely been playing much of the story and have preferred to continue my streak of fucking about and seeing what nonsense I can help instigate. It's the sort of open world that reminds me precisely why I always tend to wildly salivate at the idea of the sheer potential such games hold in their hands.

I won't deny that it's perhaps derivative of Far Cry 3 to a fault, but as I played very little of that one I can't say it affected my enjoyment any.

Tastes like: A mixture of drugs and a few cups of herbal tea.

3. The Evil Within

Hey... wanna hear a secret?

It comes to little surprise that The Evil Within is somewhat divisive, as I was saying precisely that; that it would prove to be one of those love it/hate it sort of releases. Though while I don't necessarily consider The Evil Within to be as much of a ''pure'' survival horror game as Mikami repetitiously claimed, it does work as a blending of the then and now. A mixture of its horror shooter contemporaries, with certain aspects of their founding fathers such as of course ammo conservation. That one particular aspect goes to great lengths to help The Evil Within stand out, in spite of its many influences both big and small from Mikami's previous work, Resident Evil 4. The Evil Within successfully incorporates a sense of empowerment and vulnerability all in one.

The combat scenarios in The Evil Within can sometimes start to feel like puzzles... of the combat variety. While they reward steady and precise aiming like any other, your potentially limited stash of supplies means that simply managing to hit every enemy square in the head might not be enough to survive. It forces you to respect and cherish every bullet, and to curse every missed shot. It may thusly inspire you to use other means, such as luring them towards a wire trap, or attempting to knock one over, then setting him on fire whence the other is within close proximity. It also helps that the core shooting itself feels ever so gratifying; the headshots are gooey and explosive, and the extreme violence that can be inflicted towards both you and your enemies perfectly captures the rust and griminess of it all and accentuates the grindhouse aesthetic. It all sort of feels like a very 70s-era horror movie; the kind that's out to shock you with sheer gory spectacle than to have any sort of nuance, but without the fluff and tongue-in-cheekiness of the 80s.

The story is unfortunately pretty naff, but the variety of environments and psychological twists the game forces Sebastian to undergo (which typically involves him falling great heights from one environment to another) as such left me with excitement as I pressed on. I was forever interested and intrigued to see what other sorts of weirdness the game would throw my way and I ended up completing this 14 hour experience of blood and guts in just two sittings because of it.

Gun-toting zombie-like enemies continue to suck the sweatiest of balls, however.

Tastes like: A barbed wire sandwich.

2. The Last of Us: Left Behind

Let the good times roll!!!..

That my #2 spot is taken up by a short bit of DLC for a game originally released last year can be seen as two ways. On one hand it can perhaps make the overall year (from what I played) look like it came up a little short, which it... did. But on the other it's a testament to how positively superb Left Behind is. Guess you could say it's a bit of both in that regard.

Left Behind acts as a great semi-origin story for one of the best characters in recent memory, for one of the best games of its generation. It reminds you of everything that made The Last of Us so especially captivating, and then some. The characters of Ellie and Riley are brilliantly realised, which is impressive for Riley especially given how little overall time you're given to spend with her in relation to someone like Ellie. The segments following these budding best friends are mostly passive, but instead include some superb interactions between the two. Some of which functions as some more of that surprisingly natural back-and-forth dialogue Naughty Dog are known for, though sequences involving a photobooth, a fighting game, a water gun fight, and a halloween shop also help to portray a relationship that actually feels quite genuine.

Even the combat segments set during the Winter portion of the base game are given some props, with the added bonus of being able to manipulate the ravenous infected into slaughtering the human 'Hunters'. As I mentioned in my Far Cry 4 blog above, AI on AI fighting continues to be the sort of carnage that I always enjoy watching pan out. Combat is certainly the priority during this scenarios, however a small story told via audio logs involving three medical officers crash landing in the area helps strengthen the one being told between Ellie and Riley. Both segments mesh perfectly in tandem in telling a simple, well executed story of sticking by your loved ones through thick and thin.

Tastes like: A snow-covered brick doused in gravy.

1. Alien: Isolation

This can only go well

It still baffles me over the fact that this game exists. A big budget horror game, released on consoles, with a strong emphasis on survival. Survival against an enemy you can't kill, survival against an enemy that can effortlessly end your character's life as fast as before you can let out an OH SH-. Now sure, you have a revolver, but good luck in trying to even make that fucker flinch; you'd have the same amount of success in shooting it with a BB gun. The tools that you can eventually obtain and build to have an effect (such as a flamethrower) will at best ward it away from your immediate vicinity... but it'll also piss it off, so the frequency with which it plummets out of the vents will increase. Isolation is a game that will result in many an instant-death, yet I never found it to be frustrating. On the contrary, dying by the alien's hand (or... tail, rather) can be relieving. When I die, I would often instead let out a laugh; dying in Isolation was a means to expel all of that built up tension and terror. And because of the alien's dynamic AI patterns, you're never going to be stuck in the same loop of dying over and over again.

Even the more common enemies like the eerie Working Joe androids or fellow humans can prove to be a challenge at that, and witnessing a fire-engulfed Working Joe marching towards you with both the face and the pace of Michael Myers can sometimes rival the chills of the alien.

For the longest time even the idea of a game like this was mere wishful thinking. After the release of Resident Evil 4 games that actually wanted to scare you were all but extinguished. The horror of horror games simply functioned as a backdrop to provide more of the shooty-shooty we're all so accustomed to. Oh sure, actual horror games with the intention to frighten the player were reignited thanks to Amnesia, but it was all restricted to the indie scene, and also PC. Alien: Isolation on the other hand is such a game that has the budget to (probably) match many other such big releases, yet with a design that's intended to match the classic survival horror games of the 90s right alongside the contemporary horror scene.

You've heard it before and whenever a discussion comes up with this game you'll hear it again, but Alien: Isolation is a little long in the tooth. However its successes easily overshadows any gripes I may have. Isolation is legitimately terrifying, and Creative Assembly have done a superb job in replicating the initial fear that original 1979 movie inspired in us all. Those pounding footsteps, its breakneck speed, its disgusting hissing -- skirting around the alien always has me on edge. The times where I'm in the locker and the alien's sniffing me out, leading the game to prompt you to hold your breath with a button, I sometimes discovered once it had moved on that I myself was actually holding my breath... Corny, but still true! The game also looks superb, and it not only replicates the ferocity of the alien but the look of the actual Alien movie, too. Everything has that awesome retro-future look to it; green text on big, phat monitors galore!

Alien: Isolation has many of what I like to call 'hide and set-pieces', which essentially boils down to you trying to turn on and/or collect a thing, all the while the alien is forever on the hunt. Even outside of such situations, however, the alien's presence is pervasive. Even if it's not screeching at you from the end of a hallway, the alien does a good job in reminding you it's about. Now the alien isn't literally by your side throughout the entirety of the game, yet even when it isn't the experiences you have when it is on your tail will resonate beyond those encounters. It imbued a sense of paranoia, that even when the alien is shot off the ship via an escape shuttle, I couldn't help but stick to my usual routine of crouch walking everywhere. It's because that fear sticks with you. It haunts you even when it's not around, and that there sums up exactly what makes Alien: Isolation my favourite game of this year.

Tastes like: Plastic wires wrapped in sandpaper.

Oh! Conclusion!

And there we have it, another boring End of the Year blog in the bag. Well, I say another though I was too damned lazy to actually write one up last year... Regardless, thanks for reading whatever was read, and here's to what'll hopefully make for a more extravagant year of video games in 2015!

OUTRO TUNAGE

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Dragon Age: Inquisition user review - Strike Three.

Originally posted here! Though after letting some time pass I decided to post it to the forums! Bits and pieces of it have been posted elsewhere as well, though I wanted me review to sorta encapsulate my overall thoughts on the game; albeit where spoilers are kept to a minimum...

Dragon Age II was... a rather polarising game, to say the least. Its rushed development cycle lead to a lot of blatant corner cutting, with much of the many hallmarks of Dragon Age: Origins torn away with little to make up for it. Though now we have Dragon Age: Inquisition, the third entry in the series and one that's been allowed some actual legroom for BioWare to really flex their muscles and go for something bigger than either of its predecessors! Bigger doesn't necessarily equate to better, however.

Inquisition is set during the aftermath of Dragon Age II when the tensions between Mages and the Templars--the mages' oppressors--are at full swing. In an attempt to quell the calamity, both factions opt to meet at the Temple of Sacred Ashes, however a massive explosion ends up killing all within -- all except you. Who you are at first makes for a great introduction. No longer are you shackled with the mundane restriction of being human, and can now once again choose to also be a dwarf, elf, or even one of the tall, (possibly) horned Qunari -- a first for the series.

The character creator is relatively robust, though it still pales in comparison to the likes of Dragon's Dogma's. The hair selection in particular is incredibly weak, and much of the facial hair options look hideous. Beards resemble the plastic novelty variety, and stubble looks akin to someone dotting around your character's face with a felt-tip pen. The inclusion of a Qunari option perhaps by default makes this Dragon Age's best character creator thus far, but still... those are some pretty damn ugly hair options you have there. It should also be noted that you can't edit your character mid-game, either. So you better make damn sure you're happy with what you have before you press that confirm button. Unfortunately, what little niggles I have with the character creator don't even begin to measure up with what else I have problems with.

Inquisition is truly quite the looker.

Taking some very obvious cues from 2011's RPG epic Skyrim, Inquisition was stated to be BioWare's biggest game they've ever developed. They're not wrong, however much of the game's scale is put to little use beyond boring busywork. Inquisition isn't open world per se, but rather you have your homebase that functions as a HUB, where you can then unlock and travel to multiple different areas, not entirely unlike how Dragon Age: Origins functioned. The environments vary in size, but they're all much larger than most of what the series has seen to date. They all look stunning at that, and there are a number of beautiful vistas that are really rather fetching to the eye. However the open nature of the game's environments merely run skin deep.

Much of the quest design follows that of something resembling a single-player MMORPG. You'll wander around these vast expanses, picking up quests noted by the staple exclamation point we're all accustomed to, and you'll find that there is certainly a significant bevvy on content on hand. However, the majority play out as a bunch of piecemeal fetch quests that simply involve you talking to Quest Giver, heading over yonder to collect Item or kill Thing, and then returning for your Reward. What they notably lack is typically what I would assume most come to BioWare games for, and that's character interaction. There's very little actual discussion or diplomacy going on amidst these quests; you'll simply talk to person, ask what they want, then go and do it. Once you return you simply note that you've done what they asked and accept your reward. It's all rather straightforward and completely clashes with the way quests could pan out in games like the KOTOR series or, more importantly, Dragon Age: Origins.

Origins in particular often allowed you to steer many of the game's quests and character interactions in pretty drastic directions. This would typically mean you could potentially kill the quest giver, or demand more of a reward; you could blackmail, lie, persuade, or even turn away your reward for the more altruistic playthroughs. Inquisition seemingly has none of that, however. Collecting flowers, killing stray bandits, and setting landmark points are the order of the day unfortunately. The only one example I can think of that harkens back to the moral ambiguity of Origins is a quest involving your elven apostate mage companion Solas, where you will encounter a Dalish mage. Upon working with her in killing some demons in a dungeon, she collects a trinket to keep for herself. From there you're given the prompt to kill her, or could alternatively have Solas persuade her to give it to you, or you could just end the quest then and there with her keeping the trinket.

This is particularly disappointing for the slightly more involved quests, such as one that had me invade this secret dwarven carta base. As a dwarf character myself, with a history in the carta at that, that should have spelled out excitement as I perhaps use my history to... I dunno, do something other than just slaughter my way through everything? Unfortunately, no, that's all the quest entailed, as do the rest of them. Sometimes a person of importance may instead be brought to you to be judged back at homebase, but that there's zero potential for diplomacy out in the field itself is still unfortunate regardless.

Meet Korra. She enjoys being irrationally distrustful and antagonistic of Spirits... except when she isn't.

Another good example is with my alternate Qunari character after encountering a Spirit in Old Crestwood. It's all perturbed because it doesn't have the freedom of manipulation in our world as it does in the mysterious and magical dream world called The Fade. Now, I've been roleplaying my Qunari as someone that doesn't trust spirits/demons and as such even decided to cast the enigmatic sort-of-Spirit companion Coleaway -- I'd have killed him if it was possible. But for this specific quest, there's no actual option besides doing as the spirit says and heading to this dungeon and killing a Rage Demon. I could alternatively just decline the quest, but there should be a better method for being able to wrap the quest up without simply declining the quest; there should be a way for it to be ticked off and ostensibly 'completed' without bending to the quest giver's demands. With the way I've played my Qunari she would have reactively attempted to cut the spirit down if possible; even if the spirit flees or what have you or is invulnerable for whatever reason, at least give me the option. Part of what I love about Origins in particular is how you can define your character not only with the bigger decisions, but the smaller ones you're constantly having to make as well.

As I wander about the vast expanse of the game's many environments and uncover a new town and the like, I should be excited at the prospect of seeing what I could find! What stories I could uncover and take part in, but instead it's usually a sense of preempted exhaustion. When I unlock a new area I already know what's in store: collecting stuff and killing things. Attack first, ask questions maybe, make decisions never. When you do engage in conversations, most involve you and whoever just standing there, with no dynamic camera angles or anything. They are painfully flat and monotonous, and again much of the actual conversation simply involves you asking questions with few opportunities to react. It's less of a dialogue tree and more just a branch. Many of the animations for the more cinematic cutscenes are all incredibly dated, too; most I can recognise from as far back as the original Mass Effect. And on that note, given the many influences Dragon Age has been taking from Mass Effect, it's disappointing that of all things they still haven't included any sort of mid-conversation interrupts like the Paragon/Renegade prompts.

To be fair, much of the game's side content is technically optional, but when you look at the entirety of what the game offers, the junk side stuff overwhelms much of the actual story content. And even then, because the handful of story missions require that you spend 'Power' to undertake, which you accumulate by completing side content, you're going to have to engage in much of the game's ''optional'' side content to a certain degree. When playing on Hard mode at that, you'll have to complete side content to be able to keep up with the recommended levels for the story missions at that. You could possibly turn the difficulty down, although its Normal setting is far too easy.

While the majority of the side content may be something of a misfire, the story itself unfortunately doesn't fair much better. The core plot itself is pretty standard BioWare fair, involving an ancient deity who wants to make the world a-new and it's up to you to raise an army to ect. ect. The main villain of the game makes for a pretty memorable introduction, however as it continues onward he ceases to leave much of an impression. He never amounts to much and rarely feels like the sort of threatening presence the game wants him to be; he just doesn't actually do a whole lot throughout the narrative. There are no curveballs or twists of any drastic nature in a game that could have sorely done with a few, and the game ends pretty much how you would likely expect it to. Simply put much of the actual story beats are rather predictable and just plain dull even.

The actual story missions are all primarily combat focussed, which only makes the heavy focus on combat throughout much of the side content to feel even more one-note. Though there is one interesting story mission that has you attempt to play 'The Game'. An Orlesian (Fantasy French) mixture of politics, espionage, backstabbing and intrigue -- real cloak & dagger sort of shenanigans where everybody is trying to put on the fakest smile while they shove a stiletto into each other's back. It's a fascinating concept, one that has been referred to many times in the series' past. However the mission itself doesn't do the bestest job in replicating the concept's infamy. For the most part what it entails you to do is run around... collecting stuff. You must also eavesdrop on conversations and make the occasional dialogue option, but it all tends to feel rather clumsy. That there's technically a timer amidst it all only adds to the messy nature of the mission. 'The Game' is so ambitious of a concept that it feels like it would be more befitting of its very own video game, as when presented within the constraints of this action-focussed RPG, it begins to collapse under the weight of such a grandiose idea.

My issues with the story aspect of the game don't end there, however. Decision making is often seen as the lifesource of BioWare RPGs. They allow you the opportunity to build your own character and make your playthrough your own, up until a point of course. However as the years have gone by, your own input and the influence you hold continues to become more and more irrelevant. Sure, there a number of decisions you can make, but none ever seem to hold any weight. Many are of the binary variety and don't quite feel as naturally implemented as they have done in the past, but what's worse is how little consequence they hold. Many of your decisions lead to situations so similar that the decision itself frankly feels like a formality; a way to give the player the illusion that they're deciding on a course to take. I had talked with a friend of mine who had made different decisions to my own, yet was disappointed to find that we still practically got the same results each time.

The variety of armour, cosmetically speaking, is dreadfully slim.

Your companions and their approval/disapproval of your decisions was the catalyst for your morality in previous games. Making certain decisions to push away a certain character could end in their betrayal of you, if they don't simply decide to at least leave your company. However that's not the case in Inquisition. Regardless of what your party members seemingly think of you, they will never step out of line and will always be willing to share much of their own personal backstory. With my Qunari character, I strived to be as much of a right bastard as I could--especially towards certain characters as the religiously devoted Cassandra and Leliana--but not only are there so few truly earth-shattering decisions for you to make, regardless of how much of a bitch I may act towards my companions it never amounted to anything of note.

There was one instance where I made a large-scale decision tied pretty closely to one of my companions, one that I would have assumed would remove him from my party. Upon making the decision, however, rather than finally being done with my bullshit, he actually asked me if he should leave, erasing a part of the character's individuality in the process. Oh sure, he disapproved plenty, but his disapproval in the grand scheme means nothing; a mere slap on the wrist compared to the potential murder you would have to inflict in Dragon Age games of the past. Suffice it to say, Inquisition sorely lacks the flexibility that this series once held. Even Dragon Age II I would go as far as to say held more consequence for your actions.

And it's not over yet! For then there's that blasted dialogue wheel, the bane of an RPG's existence. Your Inquisitor character also of course continues to have a voice, and you can even select between two voices per gender (which is impressive given the amount of dialogue), but that isn't what I have an issue with. The dialogue wheel as first introduced in Mass Effect essentially narrows down your choices and what your character will say to the gist. On one hand it makes for a suitable method in streamlining what choices function as questions that you can wrap back around to, and what choices will actually move the conversation forward. The problem, however, is that can often create a noticeable divide between what you choose your character to say, and what will actually come out of your character's mouth. One such example involved a companion quest, one that was quite sombre in tone. As the companion sat beside a dying loved one, I opted for the dialogue choice of ''I don't know what to say'', only to then hear my character say out loud ''Well... shit''. Wasn't quite what I was going for if I'm being honest. And while it isn't doesn't happen too often, your character will sometimes speak for him/herself, further separating the link between the player and their character. Despite allowing you to once again select from a series of races for your character, the dialogue wheel continues to inhibit the amount of roleplaying potential that made Origins in particular such a standout game for its generation.

Most likely go by the notion that the core plot of BioWare games are never really the focal point of the games, and that it's the characters that deserve the attention. Fortunately Inquisition does have itself a decent selection of personalities. Iron Bull is a particular favourite of mine as the one-eyed Qunari merc; he's a bit rough-around-the-edges, but still imbued a sense of camaraderie between he and my character. The mysterious and stoic Solas is another highlight, for his unwavering dedication to knowledge concerning the magical Fade world, and his ability to always have a clever analogy on hand to throw your way should you question his beliefs. The powerful mage Vivienne and her snooty, holier-than-thou exterior will no doubt clash with some, but her more traditional views towards the controlling of mages makes for an intriguing perspective. While each companion does also have their own quest, most aren't especially interesting and pale in comparison to the Loyalty missions in Mass Effect 2 in particular. They're still perhaps some of the best content in the game, but they vary in quality per character and are often extremely short.

For an RPG to have such a strong emphasis on the combat (much more so than its predecessors), it's outright baffling as to why they would cut down your party scriptings and patterns so drastically. No longer can you customise how your party members will act and react under certain situations, instead forcing you to micromanage practically every action. You can still allow your party to use their abilities, but they rarely ever use them when it feels the most appropriate, often leaving me to then wait for the ability to finish its cooldown should I want to use it. If I for example have my crossbow-wielding companion Varric's Caltrops ability turned on, he will then often proceed to rush right into the thick of combat and throw them on the ground, even though it's supposed function as a defensive ability to allow him to escape from the very situations he's rushing into.

Flawed as it may be, the combat is at least flashy and full of spectacle

Now, the micromanagement itself can be fun at times when it feels it's earned, such as during boss battles for example or huge skirmishes involving you combating against 6 or more enemies. But to constantly tell every party member to do this or that for every single battle? It can get to be pretty damn exhausting quite frankly. That your companions can't even be intuitive enough to move out of a flaming circle of death seems like a pretty significant oversight. Trying to micromanage a dual-wielding Rogue character in particular requires you to be constantly telling them to hold position, as all melee characters regardless of their health will forever charge towards whatever enemy they can find. A Rogue of course primarily benefits from flanking attacks, however when controlled by the AI they will never actually attack as such and will just routinely rush into the fray and start stabbin'. For a class that is both melee focussed and can only typically take so few attacks before succumbing to death, the amount of micromanagement required to keep a Rogue alive is simply more busywork than should be necessary. Frankly the more I played the game the more it started to feel as if it's all one step away from having to tell them when best to wipe their own ass.

Inquisition does at least include the Tactical Camera, even on consoles now too, allowing you a more efficient, isometric view of the battlefield; however it's still not ideal. In certain situations it can sometimes leave you staring at a bunch of branches, completely obfuscating your view. Certain actions cannot be undertaken within the tactical camera, either. Telling a party member to revive another never seems to work, neither does telling my Inquisitor to close or disrupt the demon-spawning rifts you'll encounter on your travels. Abilities that can ordinarily be chained in real-time--such as a two-handed ability where you'll swing your weapon around until your stamina drains--by holding down the appointed button cannot be chained amidst the Tactical View. Whence told to use such an ability, the character simply does one strike/swing/ect. and then that'll be that, which for some abilities will then put that ability on a cooldown.

The sooner BioWare does away with that wretched Dialogue Wheel the better

The combat itself is at least enjoyable to watch, with all kinds of magical effects spraying everywhere, some superb animation work, and the sound effects are also well done at that. For a time the combat was indeed rather fun, despite the frustrating lack of party AI customisation. But because of how much combat there is in this game, it started to wear out its welcome, especially as the enemy variety isn't quite extensive enough to span a potential 100 hours. It is at least appreciative that your party members' abilities can now essentially be customised however you want; Cassandra doesn't have to be the sword & shield type of warrior and can be specced to specialise in two-handed weapons if you desire. While it at first eliminates the individuality of each party member, after a specific story event they'll unlock their own unique specialisation tree to help distinguish them from one another.

Bugs and varying levels of jank have cropped up here and there as well. Situations such as party members somehow getting stuck in the geometry are easy to giggle at, but crashes taking me back to the PS4 XMB aren't quite as hilarious. One particular bug that sometimes required me to skip through dialogue is another that is hard to forgive. In this current climate of games being released unfinished Inquisition doesn't begin to compare, but the bugs of note are still worth criticising. *Certain issues may have been rectified via the recent patch, however*

While Inquisition has attempted--and in some cases succeeded--to right all of the wrongs Dragon Age II committed, its sloppy attempts at competing with Skyrim does no favours to the ever invasive influence of Mass Effect. Inquisition is most certainly a huge game, one that can undoubtedly take you 100+ hours to witness all of its content. However a significant majority of it all feels like filler, with a pretty weak story to boot, and what few story missions there actually are can barely manage to hold the game together on their own. Dragon Age II is equally as flawed as Inquisition, if not more so. However it's easier to be a little more forgiving because of its unfortunate circumstances; that it had to be developed within such a tight schedule clearly left the developers with their hands tied. Inquisition, however, was supposed to be BioWare getting back on track, to have the time and the resources to make the game they want to make. If Inquisition truly is that game, then that's pretty damn depressing.

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A sandbox to be remembered!

You, erm, got a little something on your, er...

I've been playing an awful lot of Far Cry 4 lately -- over 20 hours now to be exact. However what may be distinctive in that regard is about 80% of my time has been spent frollicking about within its world and what it has to offer. I've actually undertaken very few of the story missions, just enough to get out of the prologue, for them to let me off the leash and go wild.

Ever since then I've just been going around making my own fun, exploring at my leisure, doing whatever stuff is available that isn't actually related to pushing the narrative forward. The story itself so far is pretty weak and doesn't get much better I'm to believe, but who cares! Far Cry 4 is a game that excels because of its open world and the mechanics within, not down to its story. I'd go as far as to say it's fair game if you simply view the story missions as another set of side content! Just another set of reasons to go blow up stuff or shank some fellows; the why behind it all doesn't really seem to matter and it's probably best you don't ask very many questions.

Disclaimer: I played very little of Far Cry 3, so... it's possible Far Cry 4 wouldn't prove to be as fun had I already gotten into a very similar rhythm with Far Cry 3 before hand. Nonetheless!

AI on AI Fighting!

Don't you just love it?! Actually killing your fellow man is all well and good (very good in fact), but part of what I've loved so much about Far Cry 4 is watching everyone and everything else kill each other.

Since the crux of the game's story is about this civil war thing, that means you've got two AI factions that are constantly duking it out with one another. You can barely cross the street without dem blues & reds going at each other's necks, completely unscripted! That on its own can be fun to witness, and also use to your advantage by then shanking all the reds in the back while they're preoccupied, but then you of course have the wildlife.

They function as a third faction that are basically out to kill every single one of us. So, not only do you have the Blue v Red, however there may also be a fucking rhino that'll come charging out of nowhere, effortlessly knocking everything aside like ragdolls. Or perhaps an eagle will swoop down from the skies, or a pack of wild dogs will start chewing at a squad of bad guy's ankles, or a single determined Honey Badger will arrive and LEAVE NOTHING IN ITS WAKE.

Hell, animals won't simply just attack us, either. Being the barbaric fuckers that they are, they can routinely be seen attacking other wildlife as well. I've seen a pack of wolves chasing after poor, defenseless boars, and have on innumerable occasions witnessed an eagle picking up pigs & goats and then dropping them to their death. Bears will aggressively bear hug (and scratch, maul, and so on) one another for funzies, vultures will start pecking at corpses, tigers will actually crouch down into the bushes to stay out of you sight while they silently sneak their way towards you, the rising undead, human sacrifices, dogs and cats living together - Mass Hysteria!

Witnessing all three factions dynamically interact with one another is eternally entertaining, and that's without any of my own meddling at that!

Making Traversal Fun

...Bless 'im for trying.

High Gliding, gyrocopters, wingsuit, cars, elephants, simply using your own two feet - getting around Kyrat is about as engaging as murdering everything within it. While it's not quite a platformer, there's a great amount of maneuverability at your fingertips and shoe soles; clambering up buildings is easy and intuitive, as is sprinting along and then sliding behind a car to keep yourself hidden. The way you'll actually poke your head out, be it above or to the side, when aiming next to a flat surface is ever appreciative, as is the easy accessibility of your wingsuit. Being able to leap off a cliff and immediately start soaring along like a bird only to then lead it into a parachute drop is simply invigorating.

The gyrocopter is easy to fly and highly maneuverable, and riding a rampaging elephant isn't as difficult as one may expect. Being able to turn around on your elephant as easily as if you're still on foot is perhaps a tad unrealistic... but regardless, everything feels like it's been designed to be immediately accessible and emphasise the sheer variety rather than realism.

Gah, and then there's all the vehicles! Leaping off of cliffs on a quadbike, sitting underwater in a car somehow immune to the predicament of drowning or getting electrocuted... It's as if the world of Kyrat is your own little box of toys. A... sandbox if you will.

Interacting With The World Around Me

Don't you just hate it when your ride decides to take off on its without you?

The world of Far Cry 4 isn't the most lifelike. Los Santos for example this is not, but the way I can interact with it all more than makes up that. The simple blending of action and stealth, as is becoming more and more popular these days, is still a brilliant mix of systems. Crouching around only before rushing and gutting a bad guy, then pulling out his sidearm and killing another two nearby is the purest of power-fantasy! Being able to leap off and gut a guy from above, or pulling a guy over a piece of cover and... gutting him thataway too! How the Hell Ajay Ghale hasn't achieved some creepy ominous nickname like 'The Butcher' amongst the Kyratians (?) I have no idea.

Far Cry 4 can be played as much of a stealth or action game as you want it to be... usually. Still, mixing the two together is what I find works. Sleuthing around, doing some more of that gutting, throwing knives from a distance, hiding corpses -- only until that one bugger you forget to tag turns around a corner and now it's time to switch to that portable grenade launcher and start throwing molotovs in every direction. Or I could start throwing down proximity mines to cover my flank while I slink back into stealth, while also perhaps tossing in some bait to keep the guards busy with a leopard or whatever else is immediately lured into the fray. Kind of ridiculous for how a wild animal will (usually) spawn immediately within the vicinity, making it seem as if you're summoning the animal with a pokeball or something, but realism ain't welcome in Kyrat!

Not the most traditional placement to set up camp, but whatever works for you man.

Obviously the outposts are what most come to to have everything blend together, though I find they're not always necessary. Simple patrols that you can spot may sometimes be enough incentive for me to start throwing molotovs while out of their sight purely to start freaking them out, if not just charging right in them and plunging my machete into one while then immediately throwing his own knife into the other. mmmmm, good stuff. I suppose the outposts do offer a more contained environment to see what kind of havoc you can unleash, though I still ultimately prefer the freedom of the open world itself. It's more satisfying to watch a group of bad blokes getting jumped by a leopard as opposed to I myself somehow making that leopard materialise into existence.

Though I do have some degree of infamy at least. The way seemingly everyone knows my name and will comment on me being the one to finally get off my ass and start taking over outposts is rather neat. If also somewhat hilarious because of how Ghale is basically The One True Savior that is an expert in virtually anything and everything, while at the same time having so little personality or character that he might as well be a silent protagonist.

There are a number of actual official dynamic events that'll occur throughout your travels, too. Clearly inspired by the sort of stuff from Red Dead Redemption and Grand Theft Auto V, they add a little structure to your open-world madness and go to great lengths to make it seem like there's always something going on around every corner. Unfortunately the actual list of events themselves is pretty slim, but because of the sheer randomness that can occur (again usually involving the surprise cameo of a rhino or what have you), they're worth checking out all the same.

Even the simple act of booting things and watching them go puff is so weirdly satisfying. I do wish Ajay would always resort to the boot rather than switching between that and his disappointingly unsatisfying machete depending on the angle (I think), but alas. The collectables too are actually well implemented purely as means to give me more reason to scour around such an expansive world. Those creepy Yalung masks in particular add an extra layer of appeal for how you have to find them by ear due to weird chanting sound that emanates from it. Plus, I really enjoy many of the caves and underwater graveyards that are filled with details left behind by this 'Goat' serial killer.

The way the NPCs themselves will react to everything happening can be entertaining in its own right, too. Believe me, they get just as freaked out by that recognisable shriek of an eagle that's preparing to skydive itself towards any unlucky prey. That the regular soldiers will actually call out to their troops what specific animal it is is kind of impressive. It's such a little detail they didn't need to implement. In fact the AI in general and how they adapt is not the worst I've seen! They'll actually coordinate with one another and try to surround you, though that very same coordination works to your own advantage as they happen to enjoy shouting very loudly every action they are about to undertake.

The Jank!

Mercy, mercy me!

'Jank' is such a strange concept, as it typically refers to a game's scripting breaking in some way, but to the benefit of the player. It's the weird sort of bullet point that technically shouldn't be praised, but sometimes it can result in so many laugh out loud scenarios that it's hard not to deny that it has its appeal. Jumping in for a ride alongside some AIs while they're at the wheel is one of the best ways to have some jank fed right down your gullet. Their driving often makes it all feel as if they're driving on ice, as they slip around all over the place while keeping the same level of acceleration. Maybe that's just how all driving looks in this game from more of a third-person perspective, however!

Some of the ordinary folk and how they will often get very confused in traffic jams, or can be found skinning a dead animal with their bare hands (no actual bear hands yet unfortunately) is another common example.

Oh! Conclusion!

I admittedly don't blog about games I actually enjoy that much, so it was a nice change of pace to write about a game I've been spending my time playing so much purely for the sake of playing it! Rather than so I can better write up an authoritative list of criticisms or something.

THOUGH ON THE NOTE THAT STORY IS AGAIN PRETTY WEAK AND MANY OF THE SIDE-CHARACTERS HAVE THIS 'LARGER THAN LIFE' QUALITY TO THEM THAT MAKES ITS ATTEMPTS AT TRYING TO IMITATE GRAND THEFT AUTO KINDA PAINFULLY OBVIOUS. LIKE THAT 'RUDE AND CRUDE' DJ GUY WHO LITERALLY SOUNDS LIKE A CHARACTER RIPPED RIGHT OUT OF LOS SANTOS. ALSO, THERE ARE LIKE THREE GENERIC NPC FACES IN THIS WHOLE DAMN GAME. MAKES ME FEEL AS IF I'M BACK IN COLUMBIA OR SOMETHING. OH, AND WHILE MUCH OF THE MUSIC IS FUCKING SUPERB AND CAN SOMETIMES CREATE A WEIRDLY SOOTHING AMBIENCE, THERE'S SIMPLY NOT ENOUGH OF IT WITHIN THE OPEN WORLD AND IT TENDS TO LOOP A LITTLE TOO OFTEN.

...Far Cry 4 is a really fun time, one that has left me taking my sweet time with just about everything. I rarely ever actually fast travel and prefer to hoof it (or... fly/glide my way there) purely because I simply enjoy inhabiting this world. I do take part in many of the side activities, but for the most part it's been very easy for me to lose the track of time by simply running around seeing what dumb stuff I can instigate. That is if don't choose to take a seat and watch as the game does it all on its own. This is all without also getting into the huge variety of actual firepower on hand -- the sidearm grenade launcher and double-barrelled shotgun being two of my personal favourites!

There is the fear that I'll perhaps burn myself out on the game before I actually reach the end, however. But for now I've got a pretty good balance of playing a story mission in between every five hours of random nonsense.

THE MUSIC FOR THE OUTRO

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I have some criticisms for Dragon Age: Inquisition.

...They certainly know how to make dragon's appear intimidating, I'll give them that!

Like many I'm sure, I've been spending an awful lot of my time in Dragon Age's land of Thedas. I was pretty pumped to return leading up to release; many of the gameplay videos, trailers, interviews and the like proved that BioWare had actually taken feedback and the many criticisms of Dragon Age II to heart.

I should preface this all by saying that I don't think Inquisition is a bad game, far from it in fact, and that I am enjoying myself... yet at the same time there are so many nagging issues in the back of my mind that I simply can't escape, no doubt akin to the very Calling that haunts the Grey Wardens............................. >_>

As far as the visuals go, I have few complaints in that regard!

...Anywhoo I haven't actually even finished the game yet, which is partly because I'm not quite as engaged as I was hoping to be. Though there's also the fact that I've already got two simultaneous playthroughs going on... That's a thing with me I'm afraid. I just can't help myself when I'm greeted with character creators or multiple classes in games, and I invariably end up playing multiple characters at once. It took me forever to actually get a single completion out of Diablo III in particular as I was playing through with every single class. I would have ideally gotten at least one playthrough before I post this, but the game is of course so damn long that I want to at least express my current thoughts before I reach the end.

In any case, while there's a lot left to be seen, I've invested more than enough hours for my problems to stick out. So, to begin with:

Single Player MMO-itis

To put it bluntly, many of the side-quests in the game are pretty dull and wholly predictable. The majority play out as a bunch of piecemeal fetch quests that involve you talking to Quest Giver, heading over yonder to collect Item or kill Thing, and then returning for your Reward. What they notably lack is typically what I would assume most come to BioWare games for, and that's character interaction. There's very little actual discussion or diplomacy going on amidst these quests; you'll simply talk to person, ask what they want, then go and do it. Once you return you simply note that you've done what they asked and accept your reward. It's all rather straightforward and completely clashes with the way quests could pan out in games like the KOTOR series or, more importantly, Dragon Age: Origins.

Origins in particular often allowed you to steer many of the game's quests and character interactions in pretty drastic directions. This would typically mean you could potentially kill the quest giver, or demand more of a reward; you could blackmail, lie, persuade, or even turn away your reward for the more altruistic playthroughs. Inquisition seemingly has none of that, however. The only one example I can think of is the quest with Solas where you meet some Dalish mage; upon working with her in killing the demons in a dungeon, she collects a trinket to keep for herself. From there you're given the prompt to kill her, or could alternatively have Solas persuade her to give it to you, or... just end the quest then and there with her keeping the trinket.

This is particularly disappointing for the slightly more involved quests, such as one that had me invade this secret dwarven carta base. As a dwarf character myself, with a history in the carta at that, that should have spelled out excitement as I perhaps use my history to... I dunno, do something other than just slaughter my way through everything? Unfortunately, no, that's all the quest entailed, as do the rest of them. Sometimes a person of importance may instead be brought to you to be judged back at homebase, but that there's zero potential for diplomacy out in the field itself is still unfortunate regardless.

Meet Korra. She enjoys being irrationally distrustful and antagonist of Spirits... except when she isn't.

Another good example is with my alternate Qunari character after encountering some spirit in Old Crestwood. It's all pissy because it doesn't have the freedom of manipulation in our world as it does in The Fade. Now, I've been roleplaying my Qunari as someone that doesn't trust spirits/demons and as such even decided to cast Cole away -- I'd have killed him if it was possible. But for this specific quest, there's no actual option besides doing as the spirit says and heading to this dungeon and killing a Rage Demon. I could alternatively just decline the quest... but there should be a better method of being able to wrap the quest up without simply declining the quest; there should be a way to be ticked off and ostensibly 'completed' without bending to the quest giver's demands. With the way I've played my Qunari she would have reactively attempted to cut the spirit down if possible; even if the spirit flees or what have you or is invulnerable for whatever reason, at least give me the option. Part of what I love about Origins in particular is how you can define your character not only with the bigger decisions, but the smaller ones you're constantly having to make as well.

As I wander about the vast expanse of the game's many environments and uncover a new town and the like, I should be excited at the prospect of seeing what I could find! What stories I could uncover and take part in, but instead it's usually a sense of preempted exhaustion. When I unlock a new area I already know what's in store: collecting stuff and killing things. Attack first, ask questions maybe. And given the many other inspirations Dragon Age has taken from Mass Effect, how did they somehow miss to incorporate the Renegade mid-scene prompts??

Now don't get me wrong, killing things is a lot of fun in this game and I'm enjoying the combat a good deal. However when that's pretty much exclusively what you can expect from anything besides the major story beats... it can feel rather one-note. It brings to mind the Deep Roads segment of Origins, as it's one, long stretch of what is essentially pure combat, with some story stuff at the end. Now I actually liked this segment a fair bit to the contrary of most, as I enjoy the combat of these games and relished the chance to explore and fight my way through this huge dungeon. However with Inquisition the 'Deep Roads' is encompassing far more of the game than even I am happy with.

Which is a shame, because the areas themselves are beautiful and indeed expansive. The Hinterlands alone feels like it's larger than the entirety of Kirkwall. And to that I do still enjoy exploring around, but it's only for the simple pleasures of taking in the environments and not for picking up new quests.

Either do exactly what I say, or don't do anything at all...?

I'm no doubt preaching to the choir on this one, but it simply baffles me as to why they would completely nerf your party scripting and AI pattern setting potential. Playing on Hard mode, it has forced a significant amount of micromanagement as leaving your party to their own devices is usually a direct path to annihilation. I have turned off near all of my party's abilities as they rarely ever use them when they're the most appropriate and often left me waiting on cooldowns to use an ability when I wanted to use it.

It also results in situations like with Vivienne's melee slash spell ability. When turned on this will mean that Vivienne will actually sometimes charge into the fray and start slashing at people... which is not where you'd perhaps want your mage to be. But with it turned off, that means that I always have to pause and then switch to her myself and mash the appointed button to use it. Varrick's poison cloud ability is another good example.

Having to constantly tell my party where to go and/or telling them to hold position can be annoying at times, too. Especially when my Qunari rogue has low health yet continues to charge right towards the flaming Rage Demon. With so much to manage I will sometimes forget to tell a party member to do so-and-so, which may invariably lead to their demise. Like, why can't I assign formations and the like?

Basically I just want to be able to have my tank choose to taunt when he's surrounded by three enemies rather than doing it myself, or allowing him to use it himself, which will inevitably lead to him using it as soon as a fight erupts regardless of how many enemies he's near. I don't mind having to essentially play complete battles from the tactical camera and meticulously pausing and unpausing... but it can at times feel like there's more busy work involved than is necessary.

That even Dragon Age II allows more party customisation just leaves me scratching my head as to why they'd water it down to such a degree for an RPG of such a larger scope.

It's the little things

I will admit that the lack of decent side quests and party scripting are my primary complaints thus far and takes up the bulk of the blog, but there's still many more such little cuts spread throughout this thing. Each one on their own isn't anything much to be dismayed by, but when viewed altogether they start to form a pretty significant gash...

The character creator isn't their best

I think I may have accidentally given my dwarf a comically large underbite after editing his mouth and jaw w/ goatee on display

I quite liked the DAII character creator. It isn't as diverse as what you would find in Dragon's Dogma for example, but it allowed me to create characters I liked to look at with surprising ease. The lack of selectable races was pretty damning, but by and large it was a character creator I enjoyed tinkering with.

Inquisition I can't say the same. For starters, the hair and beard selection isn't nearly up to the standards set by DAII, and it also looks ugly as sin at that. There's like 6 different varieties of buzzcuts, and many of the beards look like the plastic novelty kind really; stubble also looks like little coloured specs that have been dotted on as well.

That there's no way (AFAIK) for you to be able to tweak your character mid-game is insane. Even DAII allowed you the option to edit your Hawke, albeit through a preorder bonus... Letting you choose from a number of races again, including the debut of Qunari, is mighty appreciative all the same. Still, much like in Mass Effect in particular, even if the character itself may look fine in the creator, actually seeing your character in-game may perhaps tell a different story.

I'm something of a perfectionist when it comes to character creators personally and I always enjoy making the odd tweak here and there, and that you're literally stuck with your character looking the exact same for a 100 or so hours seems like a massive oversight.

Lack of cosmetic armour variety

Still on the cosmetic side of things, the armour variety has been dreadfully slim from what I've seen. Despite putting in a good 30 or so hours into my main playthrough, I've only encountered like 3 or 4 different armour styles. The most common being that hideous coat. Furthermore, these armour types seemingly carry over across different classes! As my rogue has also often been restricted to the same few armour styles, including that same damn coat and the piece of armour that's just like 60% chainmail.

I do at least like how adding in new attachments will edit your armour's look at least, but still, the bulk of the armour pieces themselves have left me wanting for so long now. Part of why I enjoy playing as warriors in these games is due to the awesome armour you're likely to find and wear, yet with no such luck so far despite hitting around level 14.

Say what I want you to say when I say it.

One of my primary issues with how BioWare design their RPGs these days is the increase in having your character talk for themselves. It was particularly egregious in Mass Effect, as Shepard became more and more of a defined character across the series. Though with a series like Dragon Age it sticks out all the more. The whole idea behind Inquisition with the multiple races should be that you are creating your own character. Hawke was essentially Dragon Age's own Shepard, but with the different races--each with their own backstory you can tailor slightly during conversation--your character is supposed to be your character.

On some occasions the game will at least allow you to choose how to respond mid-travel by pressing R3 to bring up the dialogue wheel, but more often than not your character will simply talk for themselves. It's nowhere near as prevalent as in Mass Effect 3 for example--where Shepard quite literally seems to talk for him/herself for like 40% of the dialogue--but every time it occurs it's like adding another penny to the jar.

Furthermore, and this is a problem with the dialogue wheel in general, what I choose my character to say and what will actually come out of their mouths often isn't 1-1. And I don't mean because your dialogue wheel option is typically 3-4 words whereas the dialogue is of course whole sentences, but rather the direction it may go in and the way my character delivers the line isn't always what I intended.

No more Rivalries?

One of the genuine innovations Dragon Age II brought to the series was the concept of Rivalries. These existed alongside Friendships, so as to allow you to still 'unlock' a party members dialogue despite this character potentially disagreeing with the majority of your actions. It's especially important for how it defeated the possible pressure of having to pander to characters so they'll like you, as you'll now still establish a relationship with a character... just not one that isn't entirely friendly is all!

For Inquisition however, it doesn't look like that's still a thing? Hell, I have no idea how you're supposed to track your character relationships in general. Perhaps they wanted it to feel more organic overall by not giving each party member a bar to measure their like/dislike of you? If that's the case then why in the Hell do they still pamper the screen with Approval and Disapproval notices?

Oh! Conclusion!

At least the combat is as engaging as ever! if only there wasn't 'as' much of it.

It once again need be said that first: I am still mostly enjoying my time with Inquisition, and second: I've still got many hours to go before I hit the credit scroll. I again enjoy the combat, the game's environments look stunning, many of your party members are likeable, and the story is... a BioWare story, I guess. Least as of where I am now. There's a great sense of progression as you're just constantly benefiting and building up the inquisition throughout. Also, the soundtrack's pretty grand; the campfire scene (you know the one) legitimately gave me goosebumps!

The openness of the environments also allows for a little bit of emergent gameplay. Nothing that'll rival the kings of the open world genre, but witnessing bandits fighting off wildlife helps in establishing the world around you. The more busier environments are also just that -- busy! There's often more people on screen doing whatever, and when the game wants to look cluttered, it will do so.

All the same, Inquisition still hasn't quite matched what I'd want to see out of a successor to Origins -- which only continues to look all the more impressive and ballsy by each passing year. Inquisition has certainly at the very least aspired and succeeded in remedying many of the ails brought about from DAII... But similar such issues still persist, and the Mass Effect influence is as invasive as ever.

Unfortunately what the 50 or so hours in Inquisition has told me is that Dragon Age is likely never going to match the crazy amount of flexibility that Origins offered, and that's... unfortunate, to say the least. Still, I will assuredly complete this game -- twice even most likely! Even DAII managed to wrangle two playthroughs out of me. Whether I'll actually bother to partake in more of the game's outer activities and explore many more of the open areas that are available is a little more ambiguous, however. Perhaps the side quests get a little more interesting as the game continues? While I would at least appreciate it, that there are so many huge areas full of boring junk quests is still a criticism that can't be ignored.

The one bright spot amongst all this is that I now suddenly have a real hankering for giving Origins (and maybe even DAII) another run through one day. Never did finish a playthrough with the dwarven commoner Origin.

MUSIC TO OUTRO BLOG WITH

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Resident Evil's Red Headed Stepchild: A Look Back at Dino Crisis 2.

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Here we are, the second (and what might as well be last) chapter of the mildly-famed Dino Crisis series! Following the original by only a year, Dino Crisis 2 holds very little similarity to its predecessor--beyond the inclusion of dinosaurs that is--and made a quick u-turn on the survival horror-ness of the original Dino Crisis. Though unlike the original I had already invested many an hour into Dino Crisis 2 during its heyday and loved it dearly.

Survival Horror this is most certainly not, but since both Resident Evil and Silent Hill were still covering that front at the time--and because of my lack of investment in the original--I was plenty open to letting this game's hail of bullets and heaps of dinosaur corpses wash over me.

...Which wasn't quite as unpleasant or painful as it sounds.

It's Resident Evil, but w-... No, wait, this isn't like Resident Evil at all!

You just couldn't leave well alone, could you, Theodore...

OK, it certainly includes many similarities to such ilk, but they all basically begin and end at the foundation. Sure, camera angles are still in play (with pre-rendered backgrounds instead of 3D funnily enough), and your character still moves with the grace of a wounded sloth, but... you can't walk. Like, literally. This is a game where you have one level of speed and that is GOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGO! Not only that, but ammo is never an issue, and not in the ''I've replayed Resident Evil so many times that I always have enough ammo because of knowing where it's all located'' thing, but the ''starting off with a shotgun complete with a hundred rounds'' kind. Yup, one hundred shells, at the very opening of the game! It just hands you this payload and asks you to go to work on making these dino-fucks extinct all over again. And of course, to go with the speedier nature of the game you can move and shoot, or ''run n gun'' as it's more traditionally known!

There's even an arcade element to it as well, as you rack up combos and are then awarded points upon exiting the area into the next. Bonuses for countering enemy attacks and/or getting through an area without getting hit (that is if you kill at least 6 enemies) also accentuate the score-focussed nature of the game.

Suffice it to say, Dino Crisis 2 is certainly quite the departure from its forebearers. Rather than relying on cribbing from its more successful cousin (or... stepparent) it decided to spread its wings and head in a markedly different direction. And despite the higher action-focus of the game, it still stands out even amongst the latter day Resident Evil shooter games at that.

Guns are fun! Fun Guns! Funs!

Simply listing what the game is can only count for so much, however. Fortunately, Dino Crisis 2 is indeed a fun time to this very day. The shotgun in particular feels powerful to wield and the dinosaurs themselves animate well and react accordingly to getting blasted in the mouth with some shells. The game isn't especially gory or anything--no dinosaur limbs flying through the air--but your weapons still evoke a feeling of raw power nonetheless.

Running and gunning your way along gives the game an urgency and pacing that feels right at home in a Platinum game or something. While the tank controls do feel a little inhibiting for this style of game, the combat is still basic enough that they don't get in the way too much. You have the ever reliable auto-aim for starters, and there's also a dodge maneuver you can use to try and escape from a dinosaur about ready to headbutt you across the environment.

Weirdly enough the sidestep dodge you have is not only an option, but is turned off by default. In fact I had only just discovered that this maneuver exists with this very revisit! Throughout all of my time playing this game as a wee cherub I had no such idea; simply keeping on the move and knowing when to shoot were my only defences. Though it should be said that it's not especially useful, as it's a little clunky to perform and you can't cancel animations or anything like that to initiate your sidestep. It's perfectly playable without it, and while again it's not exactly a game changer, it's still there so... might as well make use of it. Rather to have it than not I suppose; that triangle button isn't being used for anything else!

OH HAI GUYS WHAT DID I MISS

This time around you'll actually be playing as two characters throughout the story. The spunky red-headed not-Jill Valentine Regina returns, alongside newcomer Dylan Moran Morton. Though there's not really very much difference between the two beyond what weapons they have access to. Dylan opens up with the shotgun and Regina is again initially stuck with a pistol. Though don't let its small frame fool you! While it may have taken up to like 13 bullets to down a velociraptor in the original, that average has noticeably been cut down to somewhere 2-3 bullets instead.

In all honesty I think it's a tad disappointing that they didn't attempt to differentiate the two characters a little more. Maybe Regina could have been used for more puzzle-y segments, whereas Dylans is pure action. As it is, they're both practically just character skins of one another.

If there is a problem with the gameplay it's that it's... well, to put a negative spin on my aforementioned summation of it being rather ''basic'', kind of shallow. Most of the core combat simply involves you running and gunning in the hopes that you can shoot the dinosaurs before they claw or maul you. They do have more of a variety of dinosaurs this time around, but beyond the Allosauruses that require you to maneuver around and shoot them in their sides, for everything else you need only keep running n gunning. Though speaking of dinosaur variety, I do really like that they included a type that will by the very definition of the word literally attempt to dropkick you. I'd like to think that's precisely how they would actually fight off other dinosaurs all those millions of years ago, and if science were to prove me wrong, well -- FUCK YOU DROPKICKING DINOSAURS MAN DON'T RUIN THIS FOR ME.

You'll acquire a number of weapons as the game progresses, but for the most part I found myself plenty comfortable in just sticking with the defaults. There are some later game weapons that act as decent replacements, but because the enemies are all so similar and exhibit such basic AI patterns, there's not exactly much room nor need for strategy or anything like that. Furthermore, while you also have a menu for equipping a secondary weapon such as a machete or stun rod, they don't really serve much purpose. And in the machete/stun rod's case they're more beneficial for simply opening certain doors (ones that are covered in vines for example) than actually using in combat.

Nonetheless, the sheer act of shooting dinosaurs, especially mid-jump, is ever satisfying to pull off. As simple and shallow as it all may be, the core act of shooting is fun enough to reliably carry much of the game across its run time.

A set-piece driven shooter before there were set-piece driven shooters.

A bloody goldmine right here.

I might be misremembering the times, but during the year of 2000 I don't recall many games that were consistently introducing new kinds of temporary mechanics and set-pieces ala modern day games, least not to the extent of Dino Crisis 2. As I was much younger at the time and playing a significantly smaller variety of games, however, I will admit I don't exactly hold much authority to speak of such an era...

Regardless, Capcom must have understood that for as fun as the shooting is, they hafta to mix it up here and there to keep it from getting too stale. While the majority of the 6-8 hour story does involve all of the running n gunning I previously described, there's a good amount of curveballs involving two turret sequences (one's alright, the other less so), an escapade that has you driving a tank while trying to keep a T-Rex at bay, a short escort mission, and a particular standout that has you switching control between Regina and Dylan amidst an onslaught of Allosauruses. Some of those of course sound trite by today's standards, but back then it's no wonder why I was so enamoured with this game.

Funnily enough, the most memorable segment throughout the whole game actually goes to an underwater segment. Oh yes, you read that right. As Regina during the middle portion of the game, you'll hafta travel underwater in this huge, bulking diving suit. Your footsteps feel heavy and plodding, and firing your needle-gun at the underwater dinos is quite satisfying; you also have access to a jump now as well, which leads into a little bit of light platforming -- none of it is particularly taxing or anything, though, and getting to jump about can be pretty fun. You'll also eventually have access to an underwater missile launcher thing, which feels pretty powerful to shoot, if also making all combat encounters underwater a breeze. Just a shame you don't keep them upon returning to the surface.

The atmosphere is what really sells it, though. The pacing is slowed down a great bit alongside your movement, and the waviness and murky blue of the visuals actually portrays a surprisingly unsettling visage. The boss battle you'll face during this segment I also legitimately found to be kinda terrifying! Being underwater in general is pretty up there of my list of fears (beyond a fear of terrible game design that is), and witnessing this huge amphibious dinosaur slowly leer towards you from outside of your vision really gives me the goosebumps. The battle itself isn't particularly difficult, but the whole experience is still an effective one all the same. Funny that Dino Crisis 2 is actually more successful at being scary when it wants to over its predecessor.

Strange why there's so few horror games set underwater, and I don't mean even ala BioShock by having you in an underwater city, but actually underwater, within the ocean itself. It's a setting that carries a lot of similarities as to what makes space such a potentially terrifying location. You're slow and sluggish in movement, whereas your predators are the complete opposite of such, and the water itself can make it difficult to see very far beyond your own hand. The thought alone of dynamically encountering a giant fuck-off shark or something similar gives me the shivers... Open water itself is just as terrifying too; the idea of seeing nothing but water stretching as far as the eye can see, while there's an entire world beneath you. An environment that's just waiting to be exploited.

No game is perfect.

Dino Crisis 2's pacing in general is admittedly all over the place, however. Most of those set-pieces I previously mentioned are all primarily contained within your stay in the Edward City location during the final third. The whole first third of the game is pretty much just running n gunning with the occasional key hunt. There's also one particular instance where you're about to enter the 3rd Energy Facility, however you locate a file explaining that the guy lost the key for the entrance back in the opening jungle... So, for no reason whatsoever, you must then head back to the jungle, collect the keycard, and then return to the facility entrance. There's no new enemy introduced, no story event... it exists purely as busywork to pad the game a little and nothing more.

The points system is also easy to exploit. Enemies won't respawn indefinitely in an area, however switching between camera angles in an area will keep them respawning for a short time. Grinding isn't really all that necessary mind you as you'll likely have bought everything before the game finishes, but at the same time it shouldn't be too hard for anyone to rack up more points than you actually have stuff to spend them on very early into the game.

There's one particular area just after the first turret sequence where it's exceptionally easy to score about, maybe, 80K points, which counts for a lot. At this point the game will now make available for purchase an M60 machine gun for Regina; in the very next area you'll then be fighting the amphibious dinosaurs I mentioned earlier, only now while you're on land. With the M60 in hand you'll then be able to swiftly kill each and every one of them with a single shot. Not only do they offer up a significant amount of points purely for the base kill, but because you can kill them about as fast as they raise their head out of the water, it's pitifully easy to keep a combo going alongside some hefty No Damage bonuses, too.

HNNNNNG

There's another weapon-related bit of weirdness later on as Dylan. At this point the game will introduce these hard-skinned enemies that you must first try and knock over onto their back to deal serious damage, however by this point you're able to purchase an Anti-Tank Rifle for Dylan, which can kill them in three shots regardless of whether they're knocked over onto their back or not. The weapon itself is fucking awesome by the by, but still... It perhaps wouldn't matter as much if points were more difficult to accumulate, thus making the weapon less easy to acquire, but as mentioned earlier that's really not the case.

Unlockables, or the lack thereof.

ALLO ALLO, WOS ALL DIS DEN...

Overall I think what would be my one primary criticism is the lack of unlockables, or at least unlockables that are worth a damn. Upon completing the game you'll unlock Extra Crisis mode, which essentially functions as a... wave survival thing, I suppose. It has a timer of 10 minutes, though really it shouldn't take you any more than maybe 5. All you do is select a character and, if it's a human character (if?!), just run around shooting stuff for a little bit. The actual battle arena is this generic VR-esque thing and the camera is pulled back a fair bit. You'll go through all of the dinosaur types before finally facing off against a T-Rex, but there's nothing fancy or enticing about any of it. One unique quirk is you can unlock many of the dinosaurs to play as, however they unfortunately pale in comparison to playing as the humans. My first purchase was the T-Rex, because it's a T-Rex, however it's actually considerably difficult to kill anything with it. It's just too damn big to be able to efficiently attack any of the smaller dinosaurs at the beginning of the mode. As such, I've had most success simply playing as human characters (which includes Rick and Gail from the original Dino Crisis) and it's all rather boring. As Gail, I was able to get the highest rank on my first go at that, so...

There's another mode called Dino Coliseum, where you and a friend or someone you drugged and kidnapped off the street and have locked in your basement can fight each other as the dinosaurs. Both modes function more as a casual novelty than anything of worth akin to the Mercenaries minigame in any case.

Unfortunately, for a game that seems like it would be rife with reasons to replay, there's not much there. No unlockable costumes or weapons or anything like that. It tracks how many times you've cleared the game, but beyond simply playing the game again for the sake of... playing the game, there's no incentive; no NG+ equivalent, either. Back in the days of yore I still completed Dino Crisis a-plenty, but there were games of a significantly lesser quality that I also completed too many times to admit so, that's not the best barometer to measure the game's replay value by. As such, looking at it from a modern perspective is a little disappointing to find the game lacks the traditional pantheon of unlockables you'd expect from a Capcom game of this era.

Also, I think it's a little unfortunate for how Regina is delegated down to a supporting character. She's a co-protagonist in so much as you'll play as her, but the (still pretty bad and nonsensical) story is squarely focussed on Dylan. Only he gets any sort of backstory and much of the actual narrative is focussed exclusively on him; Regina for the most part is just sorta there. I mean the game explicitly opens and closes with you playing as Dylan, and I think that's a little unfair.

Oh! Conclusion!

I know I spent a good chunk there focussing on criticism, but I still quite like Dino Crisis 2. Certain aspects haven't aged as well as I would like, but it's hard to argue with gunning velicoraptors in the face with a shotgun while running at what feels like 30mph.

Alas, as I have no access to Dino Crisis 3 I'll hafta thusly cut my retrospective on this series short. I'd be more than willing to put the hours into that thing if possible! If it was backwards compatible with the 360 in particular, but no such luck.

Dino Crisis is such a weird series. First game's this survival horror Resident Evil knockoff, sequel's an arcade-inspired run n gunner, there's some light-gun game that I never even knew existed until I looked over our Dino Crisis franchise page, and then there's Dino Crisis 3... Dinosaurs are essentially the only constant tying this series together anywhoo, and it's precisely why a reboot would undoubtedly go through a little smoother than Resident Evil for example given that it's not really beholden to any particular style of gameplay. Considering that there's so few people who even remember that this series exists, there's unlikely to be much backlash at the idea, either.

Maybe one day... Though with current Capcom I feel like there are a lot of 'maybes' and 'one days' with regards to their forgotten franchises.

MUTRO OUSIC

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Some Scattered Thoughts on Umbrella Chronicles.

A while back I made a list detailing the shrinking number of Resident Evil games I haven't yet played. And while it wasn't specifically created as a bucket list of sorts, it did remind me of my blind spot in the franchise regarding the Chronicles games. Coincidentally spotting it on sale for about £5.50 recently then finally pushed me over the edge in trying out. Unfortunately, the reasons as to why I was so hesitant in the first place have come to fruition.

A Relic of the Past, But Not The Kind I Enjoy...

I dunno, caption ect. I initially didn't even plan to put in images but then decided to anyway once this became a lot longer than I thought it would. Also super long caption I know but eh wachu gonna do, this is all off the cuff, son. And on that note, flippity floppity floop.

I can't say I've ever particularly enjoyed light-gun games. I played House of the Dead 2 some at the arcades, and I did also surprisingly enjoy my time with Dead Space: Extraction, yet it's never a genre that'll have me rushing to buy any that comes available. I wanna say the only reason I played through Extraction in the first place was because it came free with all Day-1 copies of Dead Space 2 on PS3... And while again it turned out to be a pleasantly enjoyable experience, part of that was undoubtedly for its pre-Dead Space 1 story and its cast of characters, specifically Gabe.

All the same, light-gun games in general definitely feel like the sort of genre that's of a by-gone era, and these days I envision the tightly-scripted roller coaster rides of a Call of Duty campaign are perhaps the natural evolution of these styles of games. When playing one of these time capsules from a modern mindset, they can often feel a little too... inhibiting. The way the camera keeps jerking around completely out of your control is often simply annoying, and the gameplay is traditionally rather shallow and one-note. There will need to be a helluva lot going on screen to help make up for the lack of actual control, be it sheer spectacle or a decent dose of personality, and Umbrella Chronicles doesn't come very close to delivering either.

Though not only are light-gun games not exactly my thing, there's also the fact that I have no Wii, nor a PlayStation move controller for that matter... Which has also admittedly steered me clear from many (of what few there are these days) in the genre. I have also been playing Umbrella Chronicles completely single-player at that, and with all this in mind... I can't say I'm enjoying myself so much with this game.

Though while I admit I'm far from playing this game under the ideal conditions, I'm hesitant to believe that even with a Move controller in hand I don't think that would help the actual shooting feel more satisfying. It would certainly assist my aim, but the actual shooting itself would still feel as lifeless and dull as it does regardless I'd wager. I think that would have to sum up my experience overall in playing Umbrella Chronicles -- that is one of boredom. Shooting zombies simply doesn't feel as fun as it should be, and beyond critical hit head-explosions there's a surprisingly distinct lack of feedback. The gun sound effects are all rather weak at that, and given that the entire gameplay revolves around you shooting stuff, you can imagine then why it's not left me overly enthusiastic about it all.

Having to use a DS3 most definitely isn't helping things, though, as the aim somehow manages to feel both sluggish and yet weirdly squirrelly. I won't deny that part of my lack of enjoyment with this game rests on me for not playing it correctly, but... like Hell am I getting a Move controller.

Resident Evil: CliffsNotes Edition.

Barry, where's Barry?... No seriously where in the Fuck is Barry??

The stories contained within are another thing, too. Given the structure of it all I guess it makes sense to essentially boil them down to these abridged versions, but they omitted Barry Burton from the original Resident Evil retelling for starters!... In fact there's a great many liberties they make with all the main three they have in here, being Zero, the remake of the original, and Nemesis. That said, certain unique scenarios created for this do sound rather interesting, such as one following the exploits of Rebecca Chambers shortly upon arriving at the Mansion after the events of Zero and meeting up with Richard Aiken. It's too bad Zero wasn't released in an era of DLC, as I would have loved to play through such a scenario with the old-school survival horror gameplay of the series.

There's all these scenarios following Wesker's actions throughout the series too, and not to mention one that depicts the forming of the BSAA and the ultimate downfall of Umbrella. All of which inspire a feeling of disappointment for how they're restricted to this format... The whole end of Umbrella thing in particular seems important enough that you'd think it would have been handled in a different game altogether.

There's an awful lot of Files you can collect, though like the stories themselves most only seem to be repeating information that's already out in the ether, only in much more detail. I guess for the sake of anyone who doesn't want to play the older games but is still interested in the lore surrounding them it may hold some appeal, but for myself at least many of the carrots had already been caught long before I loaded the game up.

Also, the voice acting and writing is all pretty bad. Which, Resident Evil I know, but I'd say it's all potentially even worse than their original work. Or in most cases is at least more... bland. The writing has never been stellar in Resident Evil games of course, but there's often a B-Movie level of charm to it all, which Umbrella Chronicles lacks in favour of something much more altogether dull and forgettable. Rebecca's new voice actress also makes the character sound a helluva lot more Anime than she did in the regular RE0, too. Many of those weird ''Uh!'' noises and all that... You're typically bombarded with a lot more dialogue overall courtesy of the game's structure featuring two character side by side at all times, so it makes it a little harder to ignore than it would have been in their original incantations.

So much missed potential.

Though there is this weird quirk regarding Billy Coen which I thought was kind of funny. See, when I first started up the RE0 to my surprise it was Roger Craig Smith inhabiting the character! Who has been Chris Redfield's voice actor since RE5. However when you get into gameplay... the character is very clearly being voiced by someone else. Then we reach another cutscene and RCS makes his welcome return! So, at that point I figured that RCS voices Billy in the cutscenes and this other guy voices him in gameplay... Still weird, but least there's some consistency to it I guess. That is until this scene where Billy explains about his time as a marine, where he quite literally switches between the two voice actors on the fly. It's just so bloody bizarre that that alone has sort of at least partly justified my purchase...

But not completely, as I'm still not really enjoying myself with it very much. As mentioned earlier, it's all just rather boring and feels a little muted at times as well. Lot of slow panning and shit in its attempts to create a little bit of the ole tension I suppose, but none of it is effective and only threatens to obliterate the pacing. I can't say it looks very good either, and the few occasions you see the game in third-person show off some pretty awkward animation work at that. Chris' back kick after knocking off an enemy in particular just looks terrible. Oh, and the framerate will begin to chug in some instances as well... It's not common, but the fact that it'll occur is still embarrassing to witness.

Is funny to see how it's essentially an asset-smoothie made up of so many games from the series, which even includes the Outbreak games as the zombies in the Raccoon City portions hail from over yonder. Difficulty also seems a little unbalanced, with Yawn thus far being the most difficult boss fight, while the T-002 Tyrant that succeeds it in the next chapter was a complete pile of piss.

Oh! Conclusion!

I'll likely wanna see all of its content through for the sake of... seeing it all. That way I can then comfortably add it to my list I also recently done ranking the series from Best to Worst. For the sake of 'scholarly' purposes I guess I'm getting enough out of it, but... eh, suffice it to say it's not going to be ranking very high. I am at least curious to check out its rendition of RE2's 4th Survivor story, due to the praise from one @arbitrarywater. Given how there was so little to that to begin with, giving it a wee bit of added substance may actually benefit it. Though I doubt it'll be able to top the superbly haunting Outbreak intro, however.

Still, this has all left me wondering what it was about Extraction that I found to be surprisingly engaging in comparison to this. I'm both curious but also slightly worried at the prospect of giving Extraction another ride to find out in any case. However by the time I shelf this selection of Chronicles I likely won't even care one way or the other anyway. I'd likely sooner play its seemingly universally agreed upon inferior sequel...

Also, since I'm all about linking to my lists in here it seems, to Hell with it have another!

Outro Music Yeah Big Whoop Wanna Fightaboutiwqbwqddqcndxwuwnpd

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Resident Evil's Red Headed Stepchild: A Look Back at Dino Crisis.

Or... at least the first two anyway.

I'm someone that generally enjoys going to back to old games a fair bit, especially of the survival horror variety. It's often as to simply jog the noggin', maybe for the sake of working on its wiki page, or... just to better to keep my accumulated knowledge of the videya intact. Dino Crisis is a game I actually got to pretty late, I think maybe in 2009 or something, but it's one such game that I was a little disappointed by.

And for no particular reason whatsoever, I decided to head back to it again and then sloppily slap my thoughts together. That's right, even when I'm not writing about Resident Evil I'm still basically writing about Resident Evil!

It's Resident Evil, but with dinosaurs!

'ey... 'ey! No tongue on the first date, you got that, Theodore?

...is a suitable summation as any of Dino Crisis, the survival... sci-fi game once again lead by Shinji Mikami himself. Throughout much of that era of Capcom, spanning the PS1 and early-mid PS2 days, most of their games were almost something of a skin draped over what was (and to be fair still is) their biggest selling franchise. They had a foundation in place--camera angles, exploration, key hunting, puzzles, (sometimes) tank controls--and made liberal use of it to then lead the way for many other series, such as Resident Evil with dinosaurs, samurai, scissors and demon hunters.

For as apt as it may be, there are still a number of differences that help set it apart, for both better and worse. Though sticking with the similarities for now, this is indeed a survival horror game, one starring a spunky red-headed special ops lady, who controls like a tank, is crippled in the ways of moving and shooting, and is forced to undergo a significant degree of backtracking while the camera determines what you player should be focussing on.

So far so familiar!

However where it begins to diverge is, perhaps predictably so, the ''with dinosaurs'' part.

Boat Controls

Not gif'd -- the dinosaur then proceeding to shrug off your bullets like a tank and start mauling your arm off

I had touched upon this in an earlier blog of mine where I lead the defence force for survival horror controls. Don't get me wrong, I love the idea of framing dinosaurs as the terrifying bipedal meat grinders that they are -- feathers be damned. However the controls of Dino Crisis can sometimes put you at an unfair advantage, or rather even more so than, say, classic Resident Evil games. See, in the survival horror era of Resident Evil games you were actually surprisingly nimble. Tank controls aside, the animations were always fast and snappy, and once you began running you were off. That's not quite how it is in Dino Crisis, however.

For starters, there's actually a slight build-up for when you begin to run, and actually turning mid-run feels a lot more sluggish than it does in its contemporaries. Controlling REgina (OH GOD WHAT HAVE I DONNNNNE) feels more akin to steering a boat than it does a tank. Then there's of course the dinosaurs to account for as well.

Now you may not be surprised to learn this, but dinosaurs are a helluva lot faster than zombies! Not only that but they're also bigger, and so trying to maneuver around them within the game's many tight corridors is often far more tricky than wall-hugging your way past a zombie. Resident Evil does have enemies such as zombie dogs of course, but even they are often just ever so slightly slower than you, so as long as you kept on the move you could keep them from chewing out your ass.

Dinosaurs are also understandably rather sturdy, and the velociraptors you'll be facing throughout a large majority can take up to like 13 regular handgun bullets. Plus for as strong as they are, your starting pistol also has shit all for stopping power, and it's got a rather slow firing rate to boot.

As such, the opening few hours of Dino Crisis can be fucking brutal, and your pistol is so useless that you'd likely have better luck in using harsh language to ward away the dinosaurs. Your main tactic is to basically just run away from all encounters, but as mentioned earlier that can be much more difficult than in Resident Evil games. Because of the limited ammo throughout, you may have to rely on tranquiliser darts instead, which make for a great risk/reward mechanic in that while they'll instantly put a dinosaur temporarily to sleep (for varying amounts of time depending on the strength of the tranq) they are of course still alive and will eventually wake up. Oh, by the way they can also follow you into other rooms too, and certain attacks can force Regina to drop her weapon requiring you to then recollect it for use. Also, bleeding -- god fucking dammit this game is hardcore! At least, in the beginning stages.

Weirdly enough Dino Crisis actually gets much more manageable as it progresses. There's only actually three weapons in here--handgun, shotgun, and ''grenade gun''--which'll you'll instead locate upgrades to make them more effective. A certain upgrade for your handgun will allow you to use a more powerful brand of ammunition, while one for your shotgun will allow you to fire without the need pump another shell per shot. Ammo is never in enough supply that you'll ever feel truly comfortable (which is a good thing I should add!), but you'll likely find you have enough to keep most at bay as the game goes on.

It's a really strange balance that, for as manageable as the game progressively gets, it also makes the game feel a little less... interesting in spite of it.

Throughout Dino Crisis, there are number of laser fields you'll soon have the capability to turn on and off at will. What this will often mean is that you'll be able to use them to your advantage to halt the advance of the dinosaurs, or at the very least allow you to get in some easy potshots -- 'bout the only time the pistol actually feels useful. Like the tranquiliser darts, they make for a great alternative to just shooting dinosaurs in the face. During the early game in particular it makes for an intriguing gameplay device that fits in with the core component of survival horror -- the act of improvisation and using other means beyonds guns to your advantage. It can be quite a rush as you ready yourself to turn the lasers off and then attempt to sprint past any nearby dinosaurs, preferably timing it at the second when they connect with the lasers knocking them over.

However that's kinda all there is. There's one, single instance where you can press a button to spray... something from above that'll potentially stun the dinosaurs a little bit, but that's it, beyond the laser fields. Had there been more environmental interactions you could use to your advantage then this would have made for an interesting take on survival horror games, and would have at the very least helped carve a niche within a niche as a means to further separate it from its granddaddy and help it establish its own identity.

Though as mentioned before, ammo becomes a little more plentiful so you'll likely resort to plain ole shooting dinosaurs in the face as it progresses. Fortunately ammo is again typically scarce throughout (or you at least never have enough to kill every dinosaur in sight), and even with the ammo on hand the dinosaurs are so aggressive that combating them can still prove tricky.

It's Resident Evil, but without a lot of what makes Resident Evil great.

For all you vore fans out there...

Despite my misgivings with the combat of the game, however, that's not actually my primary complaint. Instead it's how the game lacks much of the personality found in Resident Evil. All of the environments in the game are made up of boring, sterile facility buildings, and the story progression simply involves you moving from one building to another. Resident Evil games on the other hand of course often feature a variety of locales, and even though they do tend to rely on gothic mansions a little too frequently, they're still a sight more interesting to explore than the drab, empty hallways of Dino Crisis.

That Dino Crisis utilises 3D backgrounds as opposed to pre-rendered doesn't help, either. Because this is of course a PS1 game, 3D backgrounds means the backgrounds are rather, well, plain. Pre-rendered on the other hand forever offered all kinds of details littered throughout every room, but without taxing the hardware nearly as much as it would if 3D backgrounds was to attempt such a feat.

One other notable nuisance is how you won't archive any of the files and memos you'll read throughout the game. I for the life of me cannot understand why they would intentionally design it this way, but... there you have it. I mean even the very original Resident Evil nicely archived all files you encountered.

On one hand, this forced me to then actually jot down notes and passcodes and the like in the manual, which elicited a surprisingly warm feeling of nostalgia of years gone by. On the other, there are certain door puzzles that have specific methods for unlocking, some of which are a little tricky to jot down in a manual. I could have gone out of my way to practically write it all down, but that would have started to turn the nostalgic note-taking into a feeling of needless busywork. It as such resulted in me encountering locked doors that I simply couldn't wholly remember how I was supposed to unlock, and I certainly couldn't remember where the specific file was to refresh my memory. So, I would occasionally use an FAQ in that regard to get me through it. Still felt a little dirty doing it... but that feels like it's the fault of the game more than anything. Again, it need be reiterated that even the very original, 1996 Resident Evil allowed you to archive files.

On the topic of the game's personality, or lack thereof, the puzzles too don't accompany the same surrealness as Resident Evil, either. I suppose because this is more sci-fi than horror it would make sense that you're having to operate machinery and find passcodes rather than inserting gems into everything, but the passcodes in particular often take precedence over anything else. And while I'm usually not too bothered by backtracking, because of the pervasive blandness of the environments it's not particularly engaging to have to run through these hallways over and over again. One particular section nearing the end of the game where you're trying to turn on this giant third-energy machine or whatever poorly telegraphs what you should be doing at that, and the size of the thing demands that you constantly keep running from one place to the next all in the service of just... turning on a machine.

K.O.!

The dinosaur variety is a little slim, too. You'll primarily encounter velociraptors throughout most of it, to where they're replaced by a stronger, though slightly slower, variety of dinosaur. There's some pterodactyls flying around in a couple of areas, but they don't really do very much. Dino Crisis obviously features a T-Rex at least, with a noticeably awesome roar behind it. Though that also brings to mind how the game doesn't have many boss battles, either. I think there's only actually two, both of which involve you simply holding off against the T-Rex for a short while.

The story's certainly of a similar caliber at least, with a lot of silly dialogue (This isn't a joke, you idiot; we were just attacked by a big-ass lizard!) and Regina has a little more pizzazz than Jill Valentine could ever hope for. Her voice actress also strangely sounds an awful lot Jennifer Hale for whatever that's worth. The way you will also sometimes have to choose between two ways to proceed--one typically involving the combat, the other a puzzle--is a neat little story device, if hilariously hamfisted with the way your squad leader Gail will quite literally ask you to ''make your choice''. It also has a rather fantastic Save Room theme at that, and it's impressive for how it essentially sounds like a sci-fi rendition of a Resident Evil save room theme.

Oh! Conclusion!

Clearly I've been laying the negativity on pretty thick here, but many of the ideas presented in this I still really like the sound of. It all on paper essentially comes across as a more hardcore version of Resident Evil, with even more of an emphasis on generally staying out of combat. It's not... a bad game by any means, least not by my standards, and I think the best way to sum it all up overall is that it's just kinda boring. Certainly not Mikami's finest way in any case. At the same time, while I drastically prefer its sequel, it's a shame that the series couldn't have refined itself a little more and have another stab at it, rather than simply dropping it all and opting for something completely different. I think it would have been interesting to witness a mix of the two--Dino Crisis & Resident Evil--even, with zombie dinosaurs and shit. It's a series I'd love to see Capcom at least attempt to revive in some way, because hey, a big fuck-off T-Rex still sounds like something that could be legitimately terrifying in the right circumstances.

While I do plan to blog about Dino Crisis 2 in the near future, as always said future is always a little hazy with me, on the account of me being a lazy twat. I've still got these damned Resident Evil retrospective blogs to do at that, and I really wouldn't mind writing up something about Alien: Isolation. And then there was that Hitman blog too, and oh remember when I said I'd shortly do a write up about the GBA CastleVania games like a decade ago????? Oh btw about that, Aria of Sorrow's pretty cool, the other two less so.

Outro Music Sure Why Not

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