A Fantastic Finale to a (Somewhat) Fantastic Series.

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Note: Spoilers, spoilers, and more spoilers below!

For such a wholly iconic franchise throughout videogamedom, it's funny to consider how there's only really the one entry that set the world afire with a contagious level of joy and happiness. I'm sure I don't even need to specify which one it's such a prevalently held opinion that it's the best - and by a significant margin. Sure, Uncharted 3 has its fans, but it's disingenuous to claim otherwise that it has about as many detractors as it does supporters. And Drake's Fortune can unfortunately only be recognised as a time capsule of the early years of the PS3. It had its moment of fame no doubt about it--I certainly invested a lot of positive emotions to my time playing it--but that it hasn't aged very well is putting it mildly. There's also Golden Abyss, to which I haven't played myself (along with the majority of Uncharted fans I'm sure) due to its stubborn exclusivity on the Vita. However that too didn't attract a lot of gracious buzz--least not to my knowledge--and is barely brought up whenever it comes time for the other three titles to butt heads in order to take the crown.

Psst, it's Uncharted 2. Uncharted 2 has the crown, and it's one that it's held on to rather assuredly for the past seven (!!!) years. And yet, here we are with Uncharted 4, and now suddenly Uncharted 2's crown doesn't seem as safe as it once was. To put it bluntly, Uncharted 4: A Thief's End is bladdy awesome.

Leading up to release, there was a lot of speculation as to what sort of shape Nathan Drake's finale would form. Uncharted 4 is birthed into a post-The Last of Us world, and Naughty Dog and what they represent has perhaps shifted gears a little. Would Uncharted 4 be more darker? Moodier? Quieter? ''Harrowing''? As it turns out, not really. Don't get me wrong, The Last of Us has certainly left its mark, but what I was rather surprised to discover was that Uncharted 4 is an Uncharted game through and through. This isn't Uncharted: The Last of Us edition, this is an Uncharted game complete with many of the improvements and lessons learned from its distant cousin, and what this has resulted in is an Uncharted that is recognisable, yet at the same time not. It perhaps takes a little adjusting to try and notice the similarities - you need to look past the heavier-set, slightly more sombre expression on display to notice the traditional swashbuckling, high-octane action. But oh is it there!

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Uncharted 4 positions itself as Nathan Drake's final farewell and what a farewell it is. Though while the game is great enough that it can stand on its own as well as any other Uncharted release, the nods and references to Nate's prior video game adventures made my heart sing. Chapter 4 in particular and the trip down memory lane via all of his mementos was wonderful to reflect back on - even if it hasn't actually been that long that I played these games courtesy of the Nathan Drake Collection. That Uncharted 4 is a little more 'grown up' than the previous games becomes apparent pretty quickly when we get to witness Nate living his life in a much different environment. That of the average family man, sitting at his work desk finishing paperwork, with a loving wife to share in his mundane, everyday escapades. With most video game action heroes picturing the male lead in a standard domestic lifestyle can seem difficult to fathom. The classic discussion involving the staff trying to envision how Marcus Fenix would spend his days outside of a war against rock monsters immediately comes to mind. Fortunately Nathan Drake is such a character that even in the face of the typical video game discrepancies characters such as he face--most importantly being his overall kill list and how his clambering/platforming abilities are that of a superhero--he still manages to appear like a relatable and most importantly real person. Seeing Nate at a desk or exploring his own home doesn't feel out of place, and helps to portray him with that much more humanity. He's not just a thrill-seeking, quip-spewing murder machine anymore. Now he's a thrill-seeking, quip-spewing murder machine with a desk job!

The aforementioned wife also naturally continues to be Elena Fisher, and the relationship between Nate & Elena as portrayed throughout the game is perhaps one of the overall highlights of the story. The Uncharted games have always been character driven, was was The Last of Us that followed, though Uncharted 4 is the first that attempts something else beyond the typical puckish rogue qualities of Drake and co. There's still plenty of that to enjoy, but there are also a number of interactions between the main cast that evoke the quiet intensity and drama that was expressed between Joel & Ellie before them. Getting to see Drake and... Elena Drake (seems so weird to call her that, though we also never hear her full name; maybe she's Elena Drake Fisher??) in the sort of environment to where they're shown eating on the couch before playing a modified version of Crash Bandicoot (wot) helps ground and mould their relationship into something approaching relatability. The performances of both Nolan North and Emily Rose, paired alongside the bewilderingly impressive facial capture, really sells these two characters and their emotions they direct at one another. They've both worked together across so many games at this point that it's impossible not for their interactions to feel so effortlessly natural. Drake loves Elena, and Elena loves Drake.

However Drake perhaps loves Elena too much - to the point where he condescendingly tries to shield his obvious desire to possibly return to his life of old. Elena professes that she doesn't want to stand in the way of his happiness and wishes for him to take on the job that's being offered to him by a friend, but the promise Drake had made in between Uncharted 3 & 4 is too much for him to openly break. He would rather go behind her back than admit his own weakness. Drake is a flawed human being, but it was only Uncharted 3 to where his obsession with treasure hunting was acknowledged and brought to the forefront. And in Uncharted 4 it almost comes to a head. But to be fair to him, he at least has a pretty good reason to be getting back into the game. That he very clearly happens to be enjoying himself is a fortunate bonus to the outcome.

Such wasted potential
Such wasted potential

Enter Sam Drake, the other core character of Uncharted 4. Sam was very clearly conceived during the brainstorming of Uncharted 4, but I think Naughty Dog (mostly) do a pretty good job in fitting him into the overall timeline. That Nate thought he was dead and gone gave no reason for him to be brought up - he represented a level of guilt that he didn't want to reflect back on, as he believes it's because of him that Sam 'died' amidst a firefight. Although his absence during the previous flashback of Nate's adolescent years in Uncharted 3 is rather peculiar. It'd be funny if ND decided to George Lucas a special edition with Sam occasionally appearing in the background somewhere. In any case, it's no surprise that Nate & Sam bounce well off of each other, what with them each being voiced by the two top voice acting heavy weights of video games. As with Elena, Nate naturally jives with Sam like two best buds trying to out quip one another. Part of this is perhaps because of incredibly similar they are - Sam essentially came across to me as Nate-pre Uncharted 4, or more specifically the selfish and foolhardy Nathan Drake of Uncharted 3, who kept putting everything on the line for the sake of his own adrenaline. In terms of personality, they both feel very in tune with one another. Which is perhaps intentional, given how Troy Baker essentially took to playing all of the roles Nolan North would perhaps voice. Despite this striking similarity, I thought Sam was a likeable guy, though the plot twist concerning his prison breakout (a bloody class action sequence by the by) was wholly predictable. That Sam had made up a debt he owed purely to rope Nate back into his life--consequences to his family life be damned--was screaming at me throughout the game. Sam's sly little laughs at whenever Nate would bring up the debt clued me really hard.

To be honest said twist was honestly a bit disappointing, because the crime lord guy was actually awfully intimidating. Robin Atkin Downes (who has been in every Uncharted as a different character) perfectly portrays the classical archetype of a criminal kingpin - as friendly and welcoming as can be at one moment, then completely cut-throat and terrifying the next. No better is this shown than when he hands Sam the water, only to snatch it away when he realises he's not exactly getting all of what he wants. Then when things go his way again, he picks Sam up with a jovial smile on his face, as if he's completely ignorant of the fact that he was the one that put him on the ground in the first place. Alas, that entire sequence was but a bit of creative writing courtesy of Sam's imagination...

Iain Glen?
Iain Glen?

Speaking of which, the effectiveness of the foils & villains of Uncharted games have always proven to be rather inconsistent, and sadly Uncharted 4 is no different even when disregarding scary druglord man. It does at least have a pretty memorable bad guy in the form of Rafe Adler, who comes across as the bastard child of Harry Flynn and Gabriel Roman. As with every other performance in this game, Warren Kole deserves his due praise for bringing his role that of an insecure little psychopath to life. My favourite scene of his would have to be set during the auction. We have everybody gussied up and dressed to impress, as Sully attempts to get a lay of the land by using his natural charms to talk his way whatever info he can concerning Rafe and his hired Mercenary leader Nadine's goals. Only for Rafe to just smack Sully's drink out of his hand in the middle of the crowd. It made Rafe seem impatient, and most importantly intimidating; here's a guy who doesn't give a single shit about making a scene, and lying underneath his well kept demeanor is somebody dangerously vicious. The bait and switch as the prison guard Vargas grabs his arms and threatens him, only to get stabbed in the neck by Rafe--with zero hesitation--before he's barely able to get a word out was another fantastic scene. This was during the prison flashback sequence of course, so Rafe hadn't yet become an antagonist and is technically an ally at this point funnily enough. But even if you weren't already aware that he was to be one of the villains, the scene with Vargas's death gives you a pretty good inkling that Rafe will bring about violent conflict as the story progresses.

Not that it was difficult to surpass given the history, but Uncharted 4 without a doubt features the series' best end boss fight.
Not that it was difficult to surpass given the history, but Uncharted 4 without a doubt features the series' best end boss fight.

His partner, Nadine Ross, doesn't fair as well. Which is supremely disappointing, because she has a Helluva intro with her kicking Nate's ass. Problem is beyond a couple of fantastic encounters--both of which involving her beating up the brothers Drake--she doesn't really... do anything during the story. The same can actually be said for Rafe to a lesser degree. Neither character makes very many appearances throughout the game. This can be said for the villains in previous games, but each one had a constant menace to be wary of. Drake's Fortune had the trash talking Eddy Raja, Uncharted 2 featured the smarmy wankery of Harry Flynn, and Uncharted 3 has a solid helping of antagonism via Talbot. All of three games featured three villains in total as well, but Uncharted 4 only has the two and both come across as feeling underused - again Nadine especially. Given the stronger focus towards the characters and their relationships with one another, it's a shame the villains couldn't have received a similar treatment. I think Rafe is a solid antagonist, but he's also essentially just a one-dimensional evil guy. And Nadine is literally just a hired thug who happens to be really good with her fists (and feet) and doesn't leave much of an impression otherwise. I was expecting Nadine to perhaps turn to the other side, and there are references throughout that hint at such an outcome. Though while she does of course turn her back on Rafe, it's at the very end, and it's only so as to let Nate & Rafe battle it out with cutlasses - which I considered to be a pretty solid ending boss for the record. And on a semi-related note, her facial expression to when Rafe slapped her was fucking golden. A very ''oh u dun fucked up big time son'' sort of reaction.

The story eventually comes full circle with Elena's return, once again just in the nick of time to save Nate's ass after the previously mentioned, and again predictable, twist concerning Sam. That the game sorta saves Elena in the holster until the final few chapters feel intentional - getting to once again listen to these two charmers back and forthing with one another is like a reward in and of itself. All the better given that they're a married couple, and so in between all of the wisecracks they'll get srsn bsn and try to mend their relationship after Drake's deceit. With both of them now side-by-side again, it's up to them to save Sam. Rescuing Sam feels as if both Nate & Elena are trying to rescue a part of themselves so to speak. As said before Sam is essentially Nate but without the family attachments, and both Nate & even Elena come to admit that they still enjoy the thrill of adventure. However their means to which they force such desires deep within is what lead to their relationship combusting, and so their saving of Sam to me is like they're 'recapturing' their thrill of the life, together as a couple. Which in Elena's case basically goes against her character progression in Uncharted 3, to which she really did seem like she was done with it all. In all honesty there are aspects of Uncharted 4 that appear desperate to pretend that Uncharted 3 never happened. That's obviously not the case, but I did get the impression in places...

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I'm sure I'm likely in the minority in this one, but I was a little disappointed that there was no end game supernatural twist. It always manages to add a bit of extra colour and personality to the overall package; they give an extra allure of mystique to these already mysterious and illusive lost cities and artifacts they're hunting for. They typically serve as warnings that something so incredibly valuable naturally has an equally high price. Adding in zombie pirates or.. pirate ghosts or... man eating pirate ships or what have you wouldn't exactly have detracted from the tone of the game, either. Sure, there's a heavier helping of more personal moments on display, but Nate is still also 'self-defencing' his way through a horde of mercenaries and landing jumps and surviving falls that would kill any ordinary man. Uncharted isn't real life, and for the most part it doesn't try to be, so the lack of any supernatural shenanigans was frankly a bit of a letdown. Comon, who wouldn't have loved for Nate to stumble upon the eternal spirits of Sam Avery and Thomas Tew fighting a battle they're condemned to fight for all eternity?! Probably a few of you, but I think it would have been cool.

Action Bombast meets Walking Simulator

The playing of Uncharted 4 and what you do is treated to what is perhaps the biggest holdover from The Last of Us. A lot of the formula remains the same, with bombastic action and cover-based shooting, but there are also a lot of segments to where your aim is to simply wander around and enjoy the dialogue between Nate and his cohort. There's often a number of things you can press triangle on and then listen to Nate commentate on whatever it is, which can sometimes lead to some rather memorable character moments.Not the least of which being Nate & Sam pondering a life outside their treasure hunting inside the bar of a mythical, long-lost society. The second sequence where you follow the brothers Drake as kids feels very reminiscent of Left Behind in particular, complete with hats to put on and even a photograph to take. The 'exploring' aspects of this series have certainly come a long way from the days of that one sequence in 2 where you can explore a tibetan village. Honestly I quite liked these segments, too. Uncharted 4 is surprisingly lengthy, and so is able to compact all of the typical gung ho action alongside these quieter, slower paced sections. The reward isn't so much besting a combat encounter or nailing a jump, but to simply be wooed by the dialogue that's exchanged between such a likeable cast of characters.

Though the shooting is still here of course, and it's actually pretty damn good. I'm someone that considers Uncharted 2 to be a legitimately OK shooter - it's hardly the best in the business, but it works well within the overall framework. Uncharted 4's shooting however is a significant notch above all of the previous games. The controls are silky smooth and everything about transitioning from one action to the next feels effortless and fluid. It can now thusly stand firm and perform toe-to-toe with the shooting of the Tomb Raider reboot, and (for my money) has overall put those games back in their place as the also rans they are... I kid, I actually still really like Rise of the Tomb Raider in particular, but my heart most certainly aligns with Uncharted 4 between the two. In any case, the shooting in Uncharted 4 is a lot of fun. The immediate reaction I had to sum it up was that it's fast and furious. This may be a cover-based shooter, but cover is seemingly always highly destructible, forcing you to quickly look elsewhere to hunker down for a few more seconds before that inevitably crumbles. The feedback of the shooting is extremely satisfying also, and unlike the bullet sponges of Uncharted 3 enemies go down pretty swiftly - even the armoured enemies can't withstand too much punishment, much like how they were in Uncharted 2.

The stealth has been given a slightly keener focus also, which I appreciate. The ability to tag enemies is a particularly wondrous addition that just about every shooter of this type should include. That there's also a cone that quickly fills up above a guard to signify how close they are at spotting is another smart addition. Now for as often as you can hide in knee high bushes, Uncharted 4 isn't really a stealth game. The stealth instead exists as a means to thin the herd before chaos erupts - and chances are high it will. That's not to say you can't stealth your way through encounters completely--I can attest to this personally--but relying exclusively on stealth can get to be a little boring. For all of the necks I'll gleefully snap in silence, sometimes I'll instigate a shootout just to mix things up a little. It's a solid mix of action & stealth akin to the Far Cry games, and the much more expansive arenas gives you a lot of leeway in how you want to proceed. Uncharted has always flirted with the idea of including stealth from the very first one, but it's here that it's undoubtedly the most realised. I'm sure some would also point out the fact that enemies can now lose your trail and you can retreat back into stealth. To which I rambunctiously and outrageously must correct you! As you may be surprised to learn that such AI patterns have existed since Uncharted 2!

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What's more is the inclusion of a grappling hook, which works to the game's favour both in and out of combat. The environments in general are now much more spacious, which means you can potentially use your grappling hook to flank an entire section of the map - either to escape back into stealth or to simply move to a more advantageous position. Outside of combat the grappling hook fits in alongside Nate's other bag of traversal tricks. As always the traversal and platforming is pretty simple and not especially complicated, but it still manages to be fun all the same, not the least of which when swinging to and fro with your hook. It's an exhilarating thrill to be leaping off of cliffs, only to then effortlessly grapple onto a wooden beam and then soar through the sky and finally stick the landing.

Then there are the action set-pieces, some of which prove to be the series very best. Uncharted 4's own convoy sequence (of which featured in both 2 & 3 before it) is probably my favourite part of the whole game. Unfortunately for some this was a set-piece they revealed in a trailer, to which I luckily decided to skip. Seeing and playing it myself in person suddenly reveals what all the fuss was about when it was in its non-interactive form. It combines the traversal (including the grappling hook) alongside the gunplay perfectly, with you first being dragged through the mud, slowly climbing your way to the truck, only to then engage in a pure adrenaline-fueled game of hopscotch as you leap from truck to jeep to truck, all in the hopes of catching up with Sam. Another particular highlight goes to the clock tower - you climb up this huge and elaborate structure, and once you reach the top and must ring the bell, the entire thing predictably collapses and crumbles beneath you. It was all so beautifully absurd to witness that I couldn't help but laugh out loud amidst it all. There may be a lot of smaller, slower-paced moments than any other previous Uncharted, but when Uncharted 4 decides to go big, it goes ginormous.

I hate to use such hyperbolic language, but some of the locations in Uncharted 4 are downright jaw dropping in their beauty. The compression doesn't do it justice.
I hate to use such hyperbolic language, but some of the locations in Uncharted 4 are downright jaw dropping in their beauty. The compression doesn't do it justice.

The vehicle segments made for a pleasant surprise also, for the most part. The section that has you driving throughout Madagascar really sold me on the concept of a ND-developed open world game, but at the same time while I relished the chance to explore such a vast location, there isn't really much reason to beyond some collectables. Furthermore, the lack of any kind of map really decentives you to actually explore in the first place. Nonetheless, the driving handling and physics are well done, and I enjoyed listening to the conversations between the three leading lads of Nate, Sam, and Sully. Should you leave the jeep mid-conversation, that they'll all then pick up right where they left off complete with the storyteller first trying to naturally remember their place was rather impressive also.

What is undoubtedly Uncharted 4's greatest achievement goes to the overall production. Uncharted 4, in case it wasn't already obvious, is a visually stunning video game. I always balk at the notion of jokingly referring to Naughty Dog as Wizards... but for a game to look like this, running at a solid framerate, on a console like the PS4? Nothing short of magic. The environments are all so painfully and meticulously detailed, and I feel like you barely go five minutes before there's another wondrous vista that's just asking for you to take a screenshot. The attention to detail concerning Nate is just as regaling, as he naturally acquires mud and dirt all over his clothes, and the animation work perfectly portrays a level of weight and groundedness to Nate's movements that is unlike the previous games. And man, Uncharted 4 probably has some of the best looking grenade explosions I've ever seen.

The voice acting is also of course top notch, with everybody bringing their A-game. From the classic cast members to new arrivals, everybody is on point with their character, and the astonishingly well done facial expressions pair with the voice work to enhance the performances even further than any of ND's previous catalogue. It's simply put a tour de force for the eyes (and ears) and, much like how Drake's Fortune still looks rather fetching to this day, will be able to stand the test of time for years to come.

Officially The Happiest Ending Ever

Uncharted 4 helping to remind the world at large how awful the original Crash Bandicoot's controls are
Uncharted 4 helping to remind the world at large how awful the original Crash Bandicoot's controls are

The marketing for this game was... odd. They were clearly trying to set up the idea that tragedy was inbound. The darker motif, Nate lookin' all worrisome and sad on the front cover, ''a thief's end'', and there's even a dynamic theme that's advertised within the Uncharted 4 PSN page that depicts Nate surrounded by fire and treasure, called ''Was it worth it?''. A certain message was being sent to potential players, one that spelt a possible loss - Elena, Sully, Sam? Maybe Nate would become crippled, thus forcing his retirement from treasure hunting. Maybe Nate & Sam would end up at each other's throats and the treasure would tear them apart similar to the outcome with the pirates they're both trailing Sam Avery and Thomas Tew?

...Nah, Nate & Elena actually come away with some treasure for once (well, disregarding that haul from Drake's Fortune that seemed to have been expended awfully quickly), enough to start funding their own legitimate expeditions. Also they have a house on the beach, a daughter (exploring an empty house as a blonde child seemed so eerily familiar, but maybe that's just me), a dog, and despite being set 12 or so years post-Uncharted 4 Nate's father figure is still alive?? Now, I should add that I don't have a problem with this, because this an Uncharted game. Nate deserves a happy ending, and I'm glad he got one! But at the same time, why all of the doom and gloom? Is it because they wanted to really put forth the idea that this is a more 'mature' Uncharted? Because nothing equates to seriousness quite like misery!.. I don't say that to mock certain proclamations about Uncharted's tone - this is indeed a slightly more sombre story with character motivations and interactions beyond ''TREASUUUUREEE!''. But at the same time, this is an Uncharted game through and through, and the story--for as great as it is--is still within the same realms of simplicity of the previous games. Uncharted 3 attempted to do a little more with its storytelling, to which fell flat on its on face, but fortunately Uncharted 4 nails the landing perfectly. This is a game that truly does get to have its cake and eat it, too. It features all of the same hallmarks of an Uncharted game, while also including a few added sprinkles of relatable drama and emotion. The quips go hand-in-hand with the tears and mournful glances, and even though i think people are building the tone of the game up a bit too much (which feels born from the desperate desires for video games to be taken as seriously as other mediums), it's still a brilliantly engaging story that kept me glued to the screen.

Oh! Conclusion!

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For years I considered Uncharted 3 to be one of the most disappointing games of its generation. And although I may have warmed up to it a skosh, I'm glad Uncharted 4 was able to come along and provide the finale Uncharted deserved. Or... in another way of putting it, to provide the sequel Uncharted 2 deserved.

This is assuredly Nathan Drake's final adventure, but is it the final Uncharted? ND left themselves a pretty glaring opening to potentially continue on with the escapades of Sam & Sully. Although frankly I don't want to spend too much time pondering the future of Uncharted just yet. For the time being I just want to continue to revel and stew in Uncharted 4's greatness. It feels only appropriate given how long the game is - its lengthy escapades consisting of nothing but walking around listening to the characters talk incentivises you to stop and really take a look at your surrounding; to immerse yourself in the adventure, and despite completing the game I don't want to move on just yet. I want to think back on all of the moments that'll morph into memories and ultimately nostalgia. I want to look back on the entire series--both the ups & downs--and remember where I was when playing each individual adventure. And when all that's done, I'll probably wanna give it another playthrough.

...That or play Doom.

Additional Miscellaneous Thoughts

  • Young Sam looks and sounds like some sort of greaser from Brooklyn.
  • I also really like how Sam calls Nate 'Nathan'. I myself have a younger brother called Bradley, to whom I refer to as such rather than Brad.
  • If there's one particular TLoU influence I could have done without it's the amount of lugging conveniently located crates around. Though it was funny during that one moment when you're split up and can (I assume) wait for Sam to drop a crate, or can use an alternate route to reach him complete with his surprise upon your arrival.
  • Certain pieces of the music that erupts during combat distinctly sounds like something from Pirates of The Caribbean. Fitting considering the overtly piratical themes of the game.
  • Elena looks real badass in her crimson tank top, hafta admit.
  • Pretty disappointed Cutter didn't factor anywhere beyond a single reference. Still sore about his premature departure during Uncharted 3.
  • Why the Hell does Elena own an original PS1?? It's not even a slim! You can play PS1 games on your PS3 y'know!
  • Uncharted 4 without a doubt features the best puzzling of the series. I genuinely quite enjoyed solving the painting puzzle, as well as the one nearing the end where you have to make your way across the grids without exploding.

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Resident Evil Zero - AKA - The Third Worst Game in The Series.

Always Be Controlling... Like Tank
Always Be Controlling... Like Tank

Of the mainline entries in the long-running Resident Evil series, Zero is perhaps the most obscure. You could chalk part of that up to originally being a Nintendo platform exclusive, with its original release dated all the way back in 2002 on the GameCube, before eventually receiving a lackluster Wii port in 2009. However the lauded remake of the original 1996 Resident Evil, often coined the 'REmake', is without a doubt one of the most celebrated games in the series despite also for the longest time existing as a GameCube and Wii exclusive.

That people don't tend to bring RE0 up very much in RE discussions is thusly less to do with its limited playerbase and simply down to how it's... just not all that great. While it's not quite bumping elbows with such bottom feeders as Resident Evil 6 (which is still in a league of its own as far as bad RE games go; Code Veronica makes for the second worst by the by), within the pantheon of the core releases at least it's really not that far off.

So, what is it exactly that buries RE0 so far down into the dirt? Well for starters, you have the very component that sets it apart from the likes of every other survival horror entry of the franchise, being its two character setup. Most RE games tend to give you a choice between two characters to play as, though RE0 was the first to feature two characters operating simultaneously. It's certainly an interesting idea in theory, and it seems like it was inevitable given how even the original Resident Evil was at a time designed with two characters coexisting together. Unfortunately there's really not very much benefit to the dual-protagonist setup, and in most cases actually hinders and pulls the game down to new disastrous depths that could have been avoided. For one thing you have your playable leads, Rebecca Chambers and Billy Coen.

Combat for Two

From a story perspective they're perfectly fine, but Capcom's meager attempts to mechanically separate the two results in a few silly contrivances even by RE standards. Like, for one example, how they've made it so only Rebecca can mix herbs--healing poultices--together. In a vacuum wherein no other RE game exists, sure, it makes sense given that she's been specially trained as a medic and all. But there's been a lot of RE before then, and it's already been established that seemingly every citizen of Raccoon City knows how to mix some leaves together. As a result Billy is (and continues to be this many years onward) quite literally the only character in the entire video game franchise that can't mix herbs together. It's absurd!

The only other most notary difference between the two is how much damage they can withstand. Billy is a bloody tank and can take a rather copious amount of damage. More so than your average RE protagonist even far as the survival horror entries are concerned. Rebecca by comparison is a porcelain vase, which is fair given that he's a marine and she's still only an eighteen year old girl that specialises in the medical field. However what this results in is Rebecca often times feeling like a liability. If you're to play this game how Capcom (most likely) intended, then you'll have both Rebecca and Billy rollin' together. What this then leads to is Billy leading the charge, while Rebecca just sorta stands beside him, maybe occasionally chipping in if you set her behaviour to attack. If you're to attempt to flee or avoid enemies instead of taking them on, having two characters doing so simultaneously can lead to a few complications. For one most of the game's environments are as closed in and claustrophobic as you'd expect, especially in the Train and Training Facility sections. It can be hard enough to maneuver through a horde with one character, let alone when you have another that's just as vulnerable as you trailing behind or to your side.

The character differences simply aren't drastic enough to give either character their own role beyond Billy = Leader and Rebecca = ...? Rebecca for example has a medicine case as her personal item, but it's only used on two separate occasions to solve a puzzle, reducing it to nothing but an extra inventory slot you probably wish could house something else. I would have hoped that it could have been used to reverse the effects of healing items, exactly like what George could do in the RE: Outbreak series. Meaning you could add a blue herb into the mix so it can instead heal you, rather than simply curing you of poison. Billy's the same way, again with his one major benefit being that he can take more damage. As such they fall into very restrictive roles, with Billy again clearly operating as the leader who handles most of the combat, while Rebecca basically functions as a pack mule to carry more stuff.

Thanks to the two-character setup the combat is also kind of a mess. You do have a couple of basic AI guidelines that determines whether your partner will attack or not, and whether s/he follow or stay on the spot. But in the heat of you fighting for your character's life the AI is merely a handicap; an additional health bar you have to watch to keep the 'You Are Dead' screen at bay. When standing by your side, even with attack mode on, their rate of fire is pretty slow, meaning they don't really contribute much to the fight. And considering that they still of course use up whatever ammo they have in the process, it's preferable in most cases that they don't attack. If you try to run away, with attack on or off, they'll follow you without any concern of any enemies in their path, sometimes resulting in them taking damage. Given that combat can oftentimes result in a lot of shooting, running to a safer area, and then shooting some more, the AI lacks the intuitiveness to really keep up. You can at least use the right analogue stick to move the AI manually, but in the midst of all that may be happening it gets to be a hassle that I really wish I didn't have to deal with. Especially since you may accidentally move them outside of the camera angle you're in. So, what's the alternative? You basically explore as a single character, and must then potentially kill any enemies on your way to provide a safe path for your other character, or you attempt to avoid enemies with one character at a time. When you consider the first option... well, what's the bloody point of having a secondary character? And when you're avoiding combat you're still having to do so twice, with one also essentially having half the health of another.

Then there's the inventory, which honestly feels like another contrivance to justify having two simultaneous characters. Both Rebecca and Billy have but only six slots (which at least makes sense for Rebecca since that's how many she in the first RE), and most weapons that aren't handguns require two slots to carry. This thusly makes trying to eke out on your own a doomed affair, which is only compounded further by the lack of item boxes... Yup! No item boxes! You can at least drop items on the ground, but whereas with item boxes you could always store stuff knowing you can recollect it later on, once you've dropped an item in RE0 it's staying put unless you decide to return and pick it back up.

RE Zero forces you to detour through a couple of environments lifted right from RE2. A prelude of things to come you could say.
RE Zero forces you to detour through a couple of environments lifted right from RE2. A prelude of things to come you could say.

However there are quite a number of segments spread throughout the game will split the not-so-dynamic duo up. On two occasions you're forced to only play as one character, though for the most part such occasions typically involves one character having to use a hookshot to reach a different level of the area. From that point they each explore different segments of the location, sending items to and fro via a dumbwaiter if need be. On one hand this actually makes smart use of the two characters, better than any occasion where they're together. But on the other this then also brings me back to the inventory. When you've got both characters with 12 slots altogether, even if they're still split between two characters, it's reasonable enough as to not get in the way too much. But when you're forced to split up, while also having to account for weapons (and the hookshot too for that matter) that take up two slots, the level of inventory management can take its toll. The game isat least generous enough to allow you to use items immediately upon deciding whether to pick it up or not. Though besides healing items that's only if you have a spare slot available. So, say you want to make a molotov? You have the empty bottles but can't carry the gascan; rather than being able to combine them right there, you must first drop something onto the ground, then pick up the gascan, combine then together, and then pick up whatever it is you dropped. That is if you can find it, since items can sometimes overlap one another and certain camera angles can completely obfuscate just where the Hell the game placed them.

Then there's the issue of understanding which weapons to give each character. Without foreknowledge of what's to come, you're basically making a guess over which character may need the grenade launcher more for example. And such weapons are too big to trade via the dumbwaiter as well, so one character will likely have to be stuck with inferior weaponry. Separate saves are a necessity to say the least.

Even after saying all that, what is probably the best part of the whole game is actually when the game forces you to play as Rebecca on her lonesome. This is funnily enough the best outcome of the two character setup, for how it first lulls you into a sense of comfort from having played as Billy for so long, only to then be forced to play as the weaker of the game's two protagonists. It's a pretty great 'pulling the rug from beneath you' sort of moment.

Unfortunately the inventory issue plagues even this. Because there's no actual warning to when the event occurs that leaves Rebecca on her own, you could potentially find yourself ill equipped to temporarily continue on as Rebecca. If you're playing it the way you probably should, she ordinarily exists to carry all the healing and key items. The only weapons she'd have are ones that are out of ammunition. And then there's still the problem of her only having 6 slots at that. In fact for my own latest playthrough, even though I knew when it was coming, I decided to still leave her with the grenade launcher thinking there'd be ammo to collect for it down the line. There wasn't, and due to also carrying the handgun w/ ammunition, and then soon procuring the magnum w/ ammunition, I kept having to drop the grenade launcher, pick up key item, use key item, and then recollect the grenade launcher. In fact one time during this process I actually lost it completely! Shortly before you face the Proto-Tyrant, you need to collect a key to start the elevator. I thusly left the grenade launcher on the turntable I used to get there in the first place. However the boss battle brings a shutter down, halting any potential backtracking to the area. Even though you can make your way back to where you first took the turntable down, it can't be brought back up. The grenade launcher was thusly lost for good. Until I reloaded my last save, meaning that I had to face the Tyrant again but now at least with the knowledge of where not to drop... anything. So, that happened.

There are terrible demons... Ouch!

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While Billy is a perfectly fine RE protagonist, in that he's not exceptionally annoying and has just enough personality to set him apart from the likes of Chris and Leon, since the years have passed I've often begun to ponder a particular 'what-if' scenario within the RE0 canon. One wherein he was replaced by fellow STARS member and eventual giant snake chow Richard Aiken. Rebecca and Richard had already been established via the game manuals as being somewhat close, with Richard taking it upon himself to try and make the rookie of the team feel a little more confident in her incredibly stressful position as a police officer. A buddy, of the cop nature, if you will. In the original RE it's also possible for you to meet Rebecca looking after Richard and his ugly snake bite, whereas in the REmake that's actually the only method to meeting Rebecca for the first time. They're the only Bravo members in the whole game (the first RE is) that are seen to interact, hinting towards a friendship that may have been important amidst the goings on of everybody somehow splitting up and becoming zombie (and crow, snake, dog ect.) fodder. Furthermore, in Umbrella Chronicles, there exists an unlockable campaign that stars Rebecca and Richard exploring the Spencer Mansion leading up to Richard's inevitable injury. That may have been released in 2007, but it still adds to my disappointment of envisioning RE0 instead featuring Richard as the leading lad rather than Billy.

Billy is again plenty suitable for the game, but he hasn't been seen or even mentioned since. I'm sure they're probably gearing him up to reappear amidst their current battle plan of ''PANDER TO YOUR HEARTS CONTENT'', but nonetheless it's hard not to imagine a slightly more tragic relationship centred on you playing as Richard, all the while knowing his ultimate fate in the next chronological game to follow. With Richard in the role instead, there'd also be no pressure for Capcom to reintroduce another long-forgotten character later in the series, as that character 'arc' would have long since been wrapped up as it were, too.

And speaking of the characters, the dissonance that is now created concerning Rebecca is hard to ignore. In RE0 she's one of the leads, and while you can (and should) largely play most of the game when possible as Billy, there are sections where you have to brave the monsters as Rebecca. Hell, she manages to (temporarily) take down a Tyrant! Point is RE0 puts Rebecca forward as being a pretty capable young woman... only the original Resident Evil portrays her as somebody who can't even hold her own against a single Hunter. It's not like she's merely a damsel in distress, and must even save Chris on up to two separate occasions, but given that she technically has an awful lot more experience with this stuff before the Alpha team have even arrived, you'd think she'd be the one leading the charge. As opposed to primarily hunkering inside medical rooms. Though they do at least make a cute reference to her inability to play the piano perfectly.

The story itself is serviceable, and Rebecca and Billy mesh pretty well together as a team. Though their lack of interaction beyond cutscenes is pretty noticeable, which creates this huge gaps of the two not saying a whole lot until the next cutscene. A different time of course, but considering how chatty the characters all are in Revelations 2 of last year, going back to RE0 has only highlighted the lack of dialogue between the two.

I quite like the premise of Billy's marine backstory, but they unfortunately do very little with it. It honestly feels as if there's some serious material at play here, concerning his unit that decides to just lay waste to an innocent village. But then given Capcom's level of storytelling it was probably for the best they didn't indulge much further.

Monkeys, bats, and leeches - oh fuck!

Pictured: Rebecca's ''Oh Fuck! '' facial expression
Pictured: Rebecca's ''Oh Fuck! '' facial expression

This may seem like a given to most, but RE0's controls are a little stodgy. Now yes yes tank controls blaarg, but I'm talking even amidst the series own standards. The remake is a prime comparison of how much more fluid the controls feel even with the tank control restrictions. For Zero however, it's as if everything has a few extra frames to it. Everything just seems to take a little longer than it would in other RE games. And no more is this a pain than against a few particular enemy types:

Annihilator

A pretty generic (if appropriate) term for them, but they fit right alongside the likes of Hunters and Lickers. These furry little fuckers are introduced before you've even put the main HUB area behind you. And while they look like they might resemble the Hunter equivalent of a faster, more ferocious enemy type, Hunters are in fact in RE0. And they got nothin' on Annihilators.

For one thing they're pretty damn small, while also being much faster and more aggressive than any Hunter. They have a similar assortment of attacks and are probably just as powerful - speaking for both their offense and defence capabilities. The worst part of it all is when there's multiple of them (so, always), because even if you keep one at a bay there's bound to be another that leaps right at you. And once they're close enough, they will just keep on slashin' at your heels as if they're peeling an onion. Their attacks are also so fast that the simple animation of aiming your weapon down to get a shot at them is too slow. Before you can even pull the trigger chances are you receive another slash and will flinch as a result. When you've got two or three all around you doing this you're essentially stunlocked until death. It's fucking maddening.

Giant Bat

This is a boss battle as opposed to an enemy type, thank god. Still, it's probably one of the series' worst I'd go as far as to say. Since it can fly, you thusly have to aim upwards to get a shot at it. Problem is the angle isn't the most sufficient to really see just where it's hovering and where you should shoot. Fortunately the game has auto-aim! Oh, but what's that? Now it's decided to spawn a bunch of smaller bats thereby giving you a dozen more enemies for your auto-aim to track? Well ain't that swell! The most suitable weapon is the shotgun given its trademark spread, but if you don't have enough ammo and have to fall to a different weapon, then know that I emphasise with your plight.

Marcus Mimics

Theeese antagonising shits. These Marcus Mimicking motherfucks! Seriously, for all of the fear and anguish that was spawned surrounding the Crimson Head zombies in the remake, they're mere rotten flesh waiting to be redeaded compared to the Leech zombies of RE0. Hell, Nemesis feels like he's more of a pushover than these guys!

God, where to begin? Well for starters they're extremely durable, as you may expect. They can withstand more damage than most bosses in this series. And you'll encounter multiple throughout the game. They're not mandatory to kill, but in some cases might as well be since they're likely patrolling areas you'll want to backtrack to. Also, for as durable as they are, if you don't kill them with fire, then before they die what remains of them will then begin to convulse and bubble up before exploding - which can often times kill you if not at least deal a significant amount of damage should you be caught in its range.

Their offensive capabilities are just as terrifying, too. Their main attack involves a gooey pimp slap, which has a lot of reach and can be pretty damn difficult to avoid. Though what's even worse is that slap of theirs often also brings them in close, giving them ample opportunity to do a bite, making for its one-two punch (and bite) equivalent. If you're playing as Rebecca you're likely being taken down to half health if caught within their leechy web. They're real fast too, course, and since you often encounter them in corridors and such they can be almost impossible to avoid without taking some damage in the process.

As said before fire works best against them. Though your only means of fire is incendiary rounds for the grenade launcher, which are pretty rare to find, and molotov cocktails, which are far more plentiful. The problem is the actual animation of you throwing a molotov has a windup; when viewed outside of any combat it seems hasty enough, but in the heat (hur) of combat with one of those things on your ass? forgettabouiiiiiit Similar to the situation with the annihilators, their attacks are so damn fast that they can often cancel out the animation of you trying to light up some leeches. They're an absolute pain and one of the most infuriating enemies throughout the whole series, right alongside a similarly stretchy enemy type by the name of Bandersnatchers. Which also happen to be from Code: Veronica, FYI. Follow the mo- bad video game design.

So... how is it as a port?

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It's pretty solid, as to be expected. It's received practically all of the same polish and spit-shine as the remake saw a year before (jeez, how time flies...), with an alternate analogue control and widescreen options to boot. Though I can't say I approve of the added eyeliner they draped over Rebecca; that and her eyes in general look like marbles they're so weirdly reflective and shiny.

What's probably the biggest addition to the port is Wesker Mode, which you unlock upon completing the game. Though while it seems pretty zany at face value it's unfortunately rather bland. All it does is switch Billy for renowned series antagonist Albert Wesker, dressed in his RE5 attire as opposed to his STARS uniform I'm disappointed to say. He does have a couple of unique abilities, being a hilariously janky looking sprint and this weird Optic-Blast thing - an ability he's never exhibited in any other game in the series. Wesker is thusly extremely overpowered, making it a literal breeze to rush past enemies if you don't instead decide to make all of their heads immediately go pop. Oh, and Rebecca's still there, too. Sporting some admittedly awesome new digs that make her resemble a sort of Weskerette. But this mode honestly only makes Rebecca even less ancillary, as she herself doesn't gain any new abilities. It's fun for maybe the first hour, but really you're just playing through the main game again only now with the removal of any challenge whatsoever.

It is kind of funny to have it essentially make a complete mockery of what is otherwise the hardest entry in the survival horror era of games, but it's hardly interesting enough to still justify another playthrough. That it's still Billy's voice coming out of him in the cutscenes is kinda goofy, though. It would have been pretty incredible if D.C. Douglas could have just recorded all of Billy's dialogue (if not some new stuff) with Wesker's trademark inflections! But as is he only provides a few lines of dialogue when you tell your partner to follow or stay put. Again, it's kinda meh and the novelty is very short lived. Still probably a better alternative to playing the Leech Hunter minigame at least.

Honestly the best thing about this whole port is how you can change between your costumes on the fly in your inventory! The game's default costumes are unlocked from the start as well, however all of those new ones I've been hyping are all either preorder bonuses or DLC... I totally put down the £2 to get those alternate STARS outfits for Rebecca.

Oh! Conclusion

To put it simply virtually everything that RE0 still manages to do right has already been performed better in other RE games, and everything else it has to offer for it to stand out ironically enough has only made it worse. At its best it's still generally pretty average, but it fails to keep to even that level of quality in large part due to its attempts to strike out and carve its own path. While it deserves the kudos for at least trying something different, a failed experiment still amounts to a failure. And there's ultimately nothing in RE0 that you couldn't get out of the far superior REmake, to the point where RE0 kinda feels borderline obsolete within the series as a whole.

It sure does look pretty, though.

21 Comments

Don't Starve: Lara Croft Edition - Endurance Mode Is Out and It's Unfortunately Not Great!

Hey, GOTY and all that I know, but there's this here Tomb Raider DLC I wanna talk about, so -

The first (of three) DLC releases for one of this year's irrevocable best is out! Only... it's not that great. The concept is that it narrows the game down to the survivalist elements that this new Tomb Raider series has repeatedly flirted with to a slight degree.

Fittingly called Endurance Mode (but not for the reasons it intended), it drops you in a huge, procedurally generated Siberian Wilderness (far as I can tell that's the only environment available), and then tasks you to survive for as long as you can - while also collecting any artifacts along the way. You have a food and warmth meter that you have to keep an eye on, supplies are (at first) pretty scarce, your health doesn't regenerate, and campfires only last a few minutes before the harsh cold extinguishes them. It all sounds pretty brutal, and for a time it is! Especially if you're jumping in under the default settings without any of the card modifiers. As is you'll have nothing to your name besides the recurve bow, and will have to level up all your stats , too. Though again you can potentially choose to start off with more weaponry, as well as with some skills already unlocked (if not all of them), but given the nature of the mode I find it more fitting for you to jump in naked - ability speaking anywhoo.

Your first playthrough of Endurance Mode is to likely feel as if you're leaping into the deep end of the ocean, with nothing but a deflated duck float for comfort. During the period of when you're getting your bearings and figuring how things work, it's really pretty tough. I was elated when i discovered my first little encampment of huts, filled with all sorts of ammo and resources that I generally took for granted in the base game. Unfortunately, the longer you manage to survive the easier it gets. Without any backup of the cards, the opening minutes will be pretty grueling. All you have is the stock recurve bow to which, while it can soundly do its thing against the smaller animals, even deer are able to soundly shrug the arrows off while giving you the middle hoof. As such, scouring for food can at first be a little tricky and you'll most likely rely on the berries you'll frequently encounter, which only fill you up a skosh in relation to raw meat as you would expect. Furthermore, without any of the available skills or other weapons, combat can be a dicey affair, too. Though they do at least scale things to how long you've survived; meaning you'll only first face against the odd pack of Trinity goons with lesser weaponry with minimal armour. The longer you survive, the pack of said goons will gradually increase in size and will have better gear. Eventually even the Deathless will start patrolling the place.

The problem is that as you accumulate more stuff, you'll quickly manage to turn things around and start to resemble the unstoppable murder machine that is story mode Lara. Animals will prove little problem once you acquire better weaponry, meaning your hunger stat won't be too much of an issue. The fear of running out of warmth doesn't carry a lot of weight either, since wood is perhaps the most common resource you'll find out in the wild and it only requires five pieces to start a campfire. Sure, the fire will run out all in due time, but resources respawn to such a degree that you're likely to never be wanting for wood. Ammunition for your firearms is admittedly pretty scarce for a fair bit of time, though once the deathless arrive--to which always happen to be carrying an entire armoury on their person--the amount of ammo each one drops means that any worry over ammo soon starts to be less of a concern.

Which is a shame because it initially starts off really engaging for how harsh and brutal the world you're dropped into is. The frosty forest you're stranded in is huge, with plenty of opportunities to find yourself getting lost and scrounging around for a bush of berries. The warmth meter is interesting as well for how you don't necessarily need to light a fire to keep warm, and can alternatively use your own fire arrows. Just shoot one on the ground, run through it without accidentally immolating yourself, and that'll heat you up some. It's a great last-resort method that adds to the desperation the mode is trying to entail. What's especially funny is there's a card you can use that'll make it so all enemies are immune to fire damage, but are themselves also completely engulfed in flames. So when you initiate a stealth attack, the proximity of you to your fiery frenemy means you'll actually be acquiring heat during the animation... while still also taking some minor damage in the process. There's barrels that are lit on fire you can use, and even the small lamps you would ordinarily use as a sort of fire grenade can provide some small doses of warmth. The tombs you can raid are pretty enticing as well, as with their procedural nature means the traps may spring on you unexpectedly even should you happen to resemble the layout.

The progressive ease goes hand-in-hand with how there's simply not enough variety. The world you're in soon all starts to look the same, and there's not enough diversity speaking for both the wildlife and humanoid enemies to carry it for very long. It quickly gets to the point where it starts to fall into a rather repetitious cycle, only with each spin you yourself are getting more and more efficient at everything while the world struggles to keep up. There's only so many times you encounter a bear, or discover a tomb to search for relics before it loses the impact. The furthest I've gotten was seven days, though I decided to get extracted--which you can choose at will via a signal fire so long as you have the small sum of resources to light it--not because I didn't think I couldn't survive any longer, but because I was already bored of everything that existed within this world. All of what its world had to throw at me ceased to pose a threat.

That said, I'd really like to see them potentially expand on these concepts in the future, if not for some sort of weird TR spin-off then certainly for the next mainline entry. Survivalist mechanics in games has proven to be really popular over the years, and so you mix such concepts with the fantastic gameplay of TR and you have a winner on your hands! The foundation that was set with the base game isn't enough to sustain a mode exclusively dedicated to surviving the wilderness, however. As said before there are just too few variables to account for for it to stay engaging after so long. The 'endurance' part of this mode eventually starts to represent an endurance of boredom more so than it does surviving the elements.

That it's being sold £8 (AKA $12?) makes it even more difficult to recommend. You do at least get a snazzy new outfit Lara, one that actually allows her to wear some headgear for once!

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This is also still only the first batch of DLC, and the latter two look like they could prove to be a bit more promising. The next in line looks to actually be some rather substantial story focussed DLC, and the third sounds akin to what is essentially a sort of horde mode. Only with some new types of enemies? Both could prove to be as much of a bust as Endurance Mode, but their somewhat smaller ambitions means there's more chance they'll be able to successfully execute what they're trying for.

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An Uncharted Retrospective Courtesy of The Nathan Drake Collection - Part One: Drake's Fortune!

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So apparently around 80% of PlayStation 4 owners haven't played the Uncharted series. If I had to guess that's down to how Sony have retaken the lead over Microsoft, after the Xbox 360 (deservedly) controlled much of the console audience last generation. Nonetheless, I am amongst the 20% that has played the Uncharted series, one such honour that I'm sure I share with many on these forums, and would definitely say I'm a fan. Enough so that getting to play such a generation-defining trilogy in 1080p60 was tough to resist - and the early Uncharted 4 multiplayer beta access certainly helps, too.

I don't think it's a particularly controversial opinion to state that the PlayStation 3 is Sony's worst console, and this is coming from someone who spent all of his gaming time on such a console for the last generation. The first couple of years of its lifespan in particular were utterly brutal. I mean, consider this:

  • It didn't have any sort of achievements equivalent.
  • There was no cross-game party system (nor has there ever been in fact).
  • First-party offerings were rather slim, and what was there consisted of a lot of mediocrity. (Resistance: FoM was alright at least)
  • A striking majority of multi-platform games were inferior to their 360 counterparts - sometimes drastically so.
  • Download speeds were a travesty.
  • A number of DLC exclusivity deals that left the PS3 out of the loop.
  • No rumble function, and the controller itself isn't PlayStation's finest even with it.
  • No ability to change your username, which has even carried over to the PS4 for whatever reason!
  • Absurdly over-priced.

Honestly it's a miracle Sony managed to regain a foothold in the later years when you consider how dire things currently were with their console! Though in spite of it all, there still existed a glimmer of hope, released in 2007. It was the next-generation debut of famed Crash Bandicoot and Jak & Daxter game developers Naughty Dog, titled Uncharted: Drake's Fortune.

I myself as hinted before opted for the PlayStation 3 over the Xbox 360 during such years because, well, I stuck with what was familiar. I didn't really follow the industry like I do nowadays, and so I was essentially something of a Sony fanboy at the time. My decision was lead by the memories and 'loyalty' to the PlayStation brand that had been accrued throughout my life.

As such, I skipped over a pretty important little game by the title of Gears of War. It's important to note because Drake's Fortune was thusly my introduction to third-person cover-based shooting. OK, I had actually played KillSwitch, but it hadn't quite fully realised the cover-taking concept by that point, so I think it's fair to say that Uncharted was my first 'proper' cover-based shooter. I had a rather distinct blind spot in any case, and at least part of my budding adoration of Drake's Fortune undoubtedly stemmed from the fact that I didn't know any better. I didn't know what else existed out there, which still wasn't much by this point, but Gears of War is a whole different level of quality to the shooting found within Drake's Fortune.

Upon release I completed Drake's Fortune maybe around eight times in total? I never bothered to collect all the treasures, but I did at least complete the bastard on its ball-bustingly difficult and appropriately titled Crushing setting. One of my playthroughs also involved a number of the unlockable doodads that are available - it specifically entailed me playing through the entire thing wearing the Eddy Raja skin, equipped with Eddy's Golden Gun (naturally), with infinite ammo, set on Hard Mode, while all playing out in slow-motion. Suffice to say, I certainly got my money's worth and was really rather smitten with the debut swashbuckling adventures of Nate and Co.

However, long before this compilation came to pass, the perception of Drake's Fortune began to sour a little, and for good reason. I myself played through Drake's Fortune again before and after the release of Drake's Deception, and was somewhat heartbroken to realise that... the shooting kinda stinks. It has a few noteworthy qualities that can still appeal, but time ultimately hasn't been kind to Drake's original adventure.

And yet...

Upon playing through Drake's Fortune once again on the PS4 running at that sweet 1080p60, I ended up completing it within one single 7-hour sitting, and am currently nearing the final third of a Hard mode playthrough, too. There's still plenty to bemoan Drake's Fortune for, but the visual touches and minor gameplay refinements have done enough to where I can come away enjoying myself with what is still possibly the worst Uncharted game. Bluepoint Games truly deserve all the kudos for this one, considering how not every remaster can often manage to run at 60fps, nor do the developers even try in some cases. Yes, these consoles are already out of date and underpowered, but they surely have enough juice to be able to run any game from pre-2014 at 1080p60. The Uncharted games already looked rather stunning to begin with, and all of those additional p's have given them the legroom to present a game from way back in 2007 still looking rather impressive. There's a mesmerising amount of colour on display (beyond some painfully drab interiors) that makes the mere act of existing within this world tantalising.

ATMOSPHERE
ATMOSPHERE

The production values in general is what carries most of the game. The graphics are one thing, but the soundtrack too is highly evocative, abley contributing to the mystique and exoticness of your surroundings. The chemistry of the core trio of Nathan Drake, his shady mentor Victor 'Sully' Sullivan, and the level-headed love interest Elena Fisher can reliably fall back on a series of spot-on performances to bring their characters to life. He had done other stuff before, most notably a fantastically corny soap-opera, though it was his debut as the affable adrenaline junkie that lead to Nolan North becoming a household name in the video game industry.

Greatness from Small Beginnings...?

The character of Nate has sort of lost a little of his charm over time, however. It's not necessarily the character's fault, but for how the game industry took to him. Nate was hardly an original character to begin with, though the combination of Nolan's performance with this quip-happy rogue-ish figure set ablaze throughout the industry with an all-manner of also rans, some of which included Nolan himself like Dark Void and the 2008 Prince of Persia. Characters akin to Nate are a dime a dozen these days, and while he can still suitably stand above the crowd, that particular style of archetype is starting to wear thin.

Though what's always sucked about game's story are the primary villains. Both Gabriel Roman and Atoq Navarro barely factor in the game at all and never feel like much of a threat. Dear ol Gabe at least makes a decent first impression, as he shoots Sully shortly upon his introduction, but from that point onward he ceases to really matter. Then by the end of it all he's betrayed by Navarro, who is even more forgettable than Roman and exists as nothing more than a generic henchman until his unforeseen betrayal. I say unforeseen, but that's only because he's so devoid of any character that considering the possibility of him betraying his boss was more thought than I ever would have put towards him. That they situate the final chapter as a ''Showdown'' between Nate & Navarro feels completely unearned, as of all the game's villains he is without the doubt the least involved. Each of the dastardly duo are voiced by some Grade-A talent too, with Roman making for a particular disappointment due to him being voiced by Simon Templeman of all people! Robin Atkin Downes, another heavy hitter, voices Navarro, though he eventually gets his time to shine in Uncharted 3 at least.

Fortunately there's the secondary villain, Edward 'Eddy' Raja to balance things out a little. He's still not the series best, but he more frequently comes into contact with Nate directly. He fits in well as the villain who is sort of incompetent and too hot-headed, often always trailing a few steps behind Nate and Co. Though he too perhaps doesn't get as much screentime as I'd have liked, his previous relationship as an ''associate'' is still able to shine through with what dialogue there is. The stand-off that forces Nate and Eddy to survive against the Spanish zombies was well done, too. It helped establish that not everything they share between them is filled with animosity, and it also emphasises just how dangerous of a foe the race of Spanish Smeagols truly are to bring these two together. I admittedly always wished Eddy could have gotten a better send-off, though. While it's fitting that he essentially falls demise to his own temper and bravado, a quick plunge into a bottomless nothing with a newly acquired zombie knapsack is a bit anti-climatic.

There's much less to be said about the actual story. It's all really simple stuff, primarily utilising its structure of Handsome Hero Man hunts treasure while Evil Men oppose him to serve the characters themselves, with the requisite supernatural twist during the end stretch to add some message about how somethings are too good to be true and to quit while you're ahead ect... Only to then finally end it with Sully arriving with a boatload of non-cursed treasure...

Still, despite the overall sucky selection of villains, the story makes for a fun little romp. It's lighthearted and jovial, with a solid set of performances that mesh well together and make for some engaging viewing.

However...

No Caption Provided

OK, the header admittedly makes it sound a little more dire than it is. I mean, as mentioned above the actual playing of the game is really not all that bad. It's perhaps not the reason you're coming to Drake's Fortune, but on Normal mode certainly it's all generally breezy enough to not get in the way too much.

The shooting has definitely been touched up a skosh for sure and is a little snappier. The cover system, however, is still a bit too sticky for its own good, and transitioning in, out and between different pieces of cover isn't nearly as smooth as one would want. That Nate often always tends to transition into taking cover with a roll, regardless of how close you are to the cover in question, gives off a certain clumsiness to it. Grenades too are still as unwieldy as ever, and the way Drake will first pop out to blind-throw a grenade adds enough of a delay that discourages their use. That, and they always just seem to be wholly inaccurate.

The people you'll be shooting can go down relatively easily, though the way they dart around in an attempt to avoid your reticule (not bullets, simply aiming at them triggers them to start doing the Jay & Silent Bob neck thing) looks pretty ridiculous in motion. Headshots can still be surprisingly easy to nail under most circumstances, however. The variety of enemies is a little thin, as they're mostly dictated by the rather small weapon selection. Most common enemies are equipped with pistols or AKs and they operate the same. Shotguns are wielded by heavier set folk who can take a little more punishment, though a headshot will still immediately drop them to the ground like a sack of bricks. You'll have guys with grenade launchers too, and infinite ammo at that annoyingly enough, that are forever your first priority should one be within a horde of pirates. It's all pretty standard stuff really, though their AI is aggressive enough that you can't always rely on just hunkering behind cover. Shotgunner's will often advance towards your position, and there's usually someone ready to also start throw grenades of their own to flush you out. Certain pieces of cover is destructible as well, which further forces you to adapt. Your dwindling cache of ammo is perhaps the best motivator to keep you on the move, as while individual enemies don't take too many bullets, the sheer number means that it won't take too long before you'll start shooting thin air.

The first half has you combating against Eddy's pirates, while the second introduces Navarro's legion, which are all tougher to kill and have more advanced weaponry. Though they're primarily just slightly more powerful versions of the guns you'd previously used - the M4 replaces the AK, the SPAS replaces the MOSS ect. Though this section of the game does also introduce enemies with laser-sighted Desert Eagles, which require you to periodically roll to avoid dying immediately. They help to freshen things up a bit and are often spawned in while you're heading towards something and are thusly in the open away from cover, making their presence a mildly intimidating one.

The cover-system can certainly at times inspire the feeling of being trapped...
The cover-system can certainly at times inspire the feeling of being trapped...

Besides riddling your enemies with bullets, you can also engage in some simple and slightly clunky melee. From my experience what the melee primarily serves is to finish a guy with a single hit after he's already been softened up with gunfire. The actual melee itself is... fine. You can mash the square button, which will get the job done but takes a few seconds, or perform a 'brutal' melee combat, which requires you to properly time a square, triangle, square input to Drake's animations. It's good enough to serve the combat overall, though isn't particularly involved. Some of the animations are sorta cool, though. There's also, technically, a stealth element, though it's halfbaked to the point where it feels unfinished. This would eventually be refined in the later games, though in Drake's Fortune it feels like it exists as a mandatory formality. There'll occasionally be a guard with his back to you, specifically design to allow you to snap his neck or whatever, but his pirating fellows have outstandingly good peripheral vision and it doesn't take long before you're spotted. Even simply taking cover near one will somehow alert them to your presence. Once you're spotted it's impossible to lose their sight at that, so again, it's barely even a feature.

In the final stretch of the game are the aforementioned zombies then thrown into the fray, though they're wholly uninteresting unfortunately. Despite their supposed tenacity as portrayed in the cutscenes, they're actually really rather easy to dispatch - constant blindfire does the trick, and it's actively encouraged in fact as aiming down your sights leaves you highly exposed to attacks at your periphery and tends to result in a quick death. They do at least lead into some occasional bit of AI on AI violence, as Navarro's men tries to defend themselves from the very same zombies. However you often tend to take priority even still, so should you be spotted then it's common for the braindead fucks to start gunning for you instead, completely ignoring the ravenous mole people that are trying to gnaw their face off. But then there is perhaps a smugness about Nate that's enough where I could see why someone who really want to shoot him at all costs... If you're going to make habit of casually quipping for every person you kill then it's only natural that they're thusly going to want to kill you that much more!

Yes, The Jet Ski Segments are Still a Drag

Drake's Fortune doesn't wholly consist of third-person shooter arenas, though it definitely takes the focus. Still, when you're not entering into areas conspicuously filled with waist-high cover, there's first a pretty decent turret sequence that has you manning the gun of a jeep while Elena drives. You're bombarded with a whole convoy of quads and lorries to explode into fire, complete with Nate's somewhat psychopathic cries of elation per kill. The turret feels powerful to utilise and the vehicles explode awfully nicely, and explosions in general look really attractive overall. The gust of dust that soars into the sky from a grenade launcher shot in particular really sells its power.

What's perhaps most memorable, and not entirely for the best of reasons, is the two jet ski segments. Both technically have you control Nate & Elena together, with Nate driving and Elena shooting. The first has her equipped with an infinite ammo grenade launcher that doesn't even need to be reloaded!.. Pretty silly, but whatever. The second then for some reason restricts her to the 92FS pistol. Regardless of your weapon, both segments primarily play out the same, which is gunning down goons and... red barrels. For starters, the enemies can actually be difficult to spot at times as they sometimes blend into the environment, leaving you frustrated as you keep spinning the camera around in trying to find the fucker while he gleefully keeps shooting you with near-perfect accuracy. And secondly, having a bunch of red barrels dumped into the water is such an incredibly video game-y, but most importantly lazy, attempt to ramp up the difficulty. It isn't too bad for the first segment, but the second has you riding upstream - a cool concept if it weren't for the infinite number of red barrels that keep floating your way. You will eventually encounter the twat who's dumping all the barrels, though that only makes it seem even more ridiculous! I mean, this is actually supposed to be a tactic they're employing? How did they know I was even coming?? Where did they get all these barrels from?? Riding upstream while avoiding a supply of explosive barrels feels like something that'd be more at home in a Crash Bandicoot game than something that is trying to be semi-realistic.

The jet ski segments basically act as an antithesis to what is supposedly fun about riding jet skis, which is the sense of speed. They're like motorbikes for the water. Only in Drake's Fortune you're to instead slowly inch your way forward, keeping an eye on any goons with guns or for the next red barrel to show up. It's just dumb.

Ah Yes, Puzzles. We Have Dismissed That Claim

So, there are technically puzzles, but are they really puzzles when the solution is to just open up Nate's Journal and have it tell you the exact solution? The way Nate will question the 'importance' of 'numbers' and what have you honestly feels rather patronising at times, as if Nate somehow being stumped by what is a plainly obvious obstacle is supposed to then make us feel smart once we put the pieces in place. The worst of it all is when you uncover this large, labyrinthine-esque maze. Though the actual 'maze' part of it all is skin-deep. Nate explicitly refers to it as ''a really elaborate way to hide the treasure'', which couldn't be further from the truth - despite first appearances it's actually really straightforward. You have a map that has three Roman numerals written on, which is to signify which paths to take, however even without the hint it'd be blatantly obvious where you're supposed to go anyway as every numeral that isn't one of the ones marked on the map is a dead end.

Another also requires that you simply turn two dials the other way around. That's it. Just press triangle next to the two things and woolah - now watch as the whole world marvels at your ginormous brain and exclaims with Holy shit are you a wizard by gawd?!! I suppose they break up the pace from the sometimes exhausting stream of combat arenas, but it'd be nice if they broke up the pace by then giving you something to think about. As is they simply exist as something else to do aside from shooting people.

No Caption Provided

Then there's of course the traversal mechanics, which like most of the game is resoundingly simple. Where you need to go is often telegraphed, and any attempt at going off the beaten path, even if it looks like something that you should be able to grapple onto, results in death. In some cases pressing the X button over and over will get you where you need to go it's that simple. That's not to say it's unengaging, as the animations are well done and it can feel surprisingly satisfying in jumping and clambering along, even if certain segments like climbing across the fort is more video gamey than most with its array of conveniently placed grapple points.

Oh! Conclusion!

Suffice it to say, Drake's Fortune is game comprised of widespread simplicity. The shooting is serviceable, if still unremarkable; the traversal is largely automated in a lot of cases; the puzzles practically spell it out for you; and the story is paper-thin. What it primarily attempted to accomplish is to use these elements to deliver on what was a well told character-driven tale that was of a quality to where it could stand out amongst the crowd, while you get to 'ooh' and 'ahh' at the pretty eye-candy along the way. In that sense Naughty Dog have succeeded, as 8 years later and Drake's Fortune is still home to an enjoyable story--in spite of its simplicity--with an art style that can compete against most of what comes out to this day. Drake's Fortune doesn't look great for a game 8 years old, it just looks great - full stop.

Now the gameplay may be average, but it's not terrible or anything. It's just good enough to keep you playing to see (and listen to) everything the game has to offer. As mentioned already I've completed it once and I'm currently in the midst of another playthrough on Hard. I doubt I'll then try my hand at its Crushing difficulty, as I've already completed such a feat on its PS3 version and certainly don't wish to put myself through that again. Though that it could still see me to the end the one time, let alone two, speaks to the level of seduction it has. I've perhaps completed Drake's Fortune more than any other Uncharted, and most of the game is thusly wired into my brain. I could already remember like 90% of the dialogue before it was said. I could remember where enemies would spawn and what would transpire when. I could even solve some of the puzzles from memory without needing a refresher from the journal. Drake's Fortune definitely holds a special place in my heart, and I was lucky to have already had most of my memory shattered years before. It helped me head back into its PS4 remastering knowing what I was getting into; it helped me understand its strengths and weaknesses, and to focus on the strengths in order to mine what nostalgia remained.

Drake's Fortune isn't a great game, and it isn't a game I'm quick to defend, but it's a game with enough going for it that I'm not opposed to giving it a recommendation. If only so people can witness the foundation, to spend some time with these characters before they then go on to embark on a significantly more entertaining adventure that would come about just two years later.

Some Music, cuz

...Props to anyone who gets the relevance!

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A reasonable half-step towards making Zombi(U)s feel threatening again.

I would LOVE to watch a British zombie film starring a shotgun-packing 24 year old caucasian Eloise GREEN - Lady Pimp and Zombie Killing Extraordinaire.
I would LOVE to watch a British zombie film starring a shotgun-packing 24 year old caucasian Eloise GREEN - Lady Pimp and Zombie Killing Extraordinaire.

For the past few years horror games have been on the up and up. Though even whence Amnesia reinvigorated the gaming landscape, such horror games were largely of the 'passive' variety. Horror games that primarily entailed you to run away and hide pretty much exclusively with no tangible means of defending yourself. That's certainly all well and good, though I personally do tend to prefer my horror games that let me have some form of defence. 'Survival Horror' is perhaps the most fitting brand for such games, usually, though as time has gone on it's morphed into a rather nebulous term; a catch-all bit of shorthand most video game critics in particular use to describe seemingly any and every horror game.

I don't want to suddenly morph this thing into an all-out genre definitions war, but I at the very least view survival horror as the sort of subgenre that rides an extremely delicate balance. In some cases you're generally pressured to avoid combat when possible, but at the same time should it come to it you'll have an assortment of weaponry to fight the tides of whatever it is that's hounding you. In other cases you're often bound to kill everything in your path to proceed, and the tension comes from utilising your generally limited supply of stuff to make the best of things. Games such as The Evil Within and The Last of Us in particular really accentuate this new sub-subgenre that I generally refer to as ''survival horror shooter''. They work within a particular frame of 'combat puzzle' and are dictated by your limited supplies that, while not wholly reminiscent of the survival horror games of the '90s, have taken certain philosophies and modernised them into something a little more contemporary and accessible. Though not wholly accessible, considering the somewhat divisive reception to The Evil Within and The Last of Us's combat.

Zombi, originally released in 2012 as a Wii U exclusive called ZombiU, is another such modern day survival horror game that tries ever so hard to have players relive the classic design hallmarks of such games as the pre-RE4 Resident Evil entries. In some regards it successfully manages to capture many of what made survival horror games so captivating... but there's a few caveats all the while that stop it just short from achieving its full potential.

I've been excited all this time for a game I basically knew nothing about!

Despite always wanting to play ZombiU for myself for the longest time, I was admittedly ignorant to much of what the game is beyond a few key elements - zombies, London, cricket bat. Was it open-world? Did you explore a single, contained environment? Could I save inside big, red phone boxes? Could I fast-travel via black cabs? Was there a dedicated button for me to call a zombie a 'fakkin' mug'?

I would pay up some cold, hard GBPs if there was to be DLC that made all the zombies resemble and sound like Danny Dyer.
I would pay up some cold, hard GBPs if there was to be DLC that made all the zombies resemble and sound like Danny Dyer.

All I knew upfront is that it was often looked upon as resembling a genuine modern day survival horror throwback, and that's pretty much all I needed to know to result in a burning desire to give this a go... Eventually. And go I have now given it!..

To my surprise it operates around a safe house HUB, with multiple individual locations of London to fast-travel to via manholes - not quite black cabs then, but probably just as seedy. At first glance you'd perhaps think it was functioning within a 'Metroidvania' sort of design, though such assumptions would be unfortunately wrong. The game is largely pretty linear, despite allowing you at any time to backtrack to previous environments at will. You'll obtain new pieces of gear to help you clear away obstacles you couldn't before hand, again adding to the image of this being a 3D bit of metroidvania'ing. But with each bit of gear you acquire you're then actually supposed to backtrack to new areas to then clear away the aforementioned obstacles to proceed. That's not to say there's no additional goodies to acquire should you go the extra length to scrounge around in bins and what have you, but despite looking like the sort of game that'd have a wealth of reasons for you to return to previous areas, locate some new stuff making you feel all clever and independent for doing something the game didn't explicitly tell you to do, the reality is a bit more mundane. Zombi also features a Missions tab, though there's primarily only the one mission set to follow, with an additional mandatory mission added to the pot. The second mission requires you to eventually start scouring around for a set of items needed to progress, though you won't be able to collect them all until you've most definitely accumulated all of the additional gear. Yet despite that they actually present the mission at about the halfway point, making it seem as if you can optionally scour around during your free, non-main mission time.

Nonetheless, the environments you'll explore are pretty varied and are generally well designed. They're not quite Deus Ex-levels of player choice, but they're wide enough with another alleyways and alternate paths to give you a sense of satisfaction as you examine your surroundings to make the best of the situation. One particular example involves a garden full of mines that you can choose to maneuver around, or you could instead use them to your advantage to lure the zombies to their explodey demise. That, and again the environments are just open enough to were going the extra effort to explore every nook & cranny will find you rewarded with firearm upgrades, if not just more supplies.

The environments themselves allow you to explore a number of London hallmarks, such as the Tower of London and even the Buckingham Palace's underground bunker. Even as someone that's not actually ever been to London, getting to explore environments that are distinctly English still feels surprisingly novel amidst a sea of video game Californias and New Yorks. This identity even progresses to the zombies themselves, as certain zombies will be shown wearing English police uniforms; the cricket variety of bat as well is another key feature that does wonders in setting itself apart from my American neighbours.

A pinch of survival and a sprinkle of horror

Creepy, but nothing has yet managed to top the bathtub jump scare from Eternal Darkness
Creepy, but nothing has yet managed to top the bathtub jump scare from Eternal Darkness

Zombies! Limited inventory space! Item box! A save point! Hell, you can even perform an instantaneous 180 degree turn! All of such aspects of Zombi in particular do a sound job in bringing about a familiarity to the ways of yore amidst my exploration of the Spencer Mansions, Raccoon City Police Departments, and... the Antarcticas. It is these specific gameplay tropes that serve as the foundation for a brilliant, modern day survival horror release.

Zombies nowadays are often seen as a punchline; an easy obstacle to place in front of the player so as to reward them with ample gore. They're easy to code for one thing far as AI is concerned, since zombies are generally recognised for being nothing but a bunch of lumbering sacks of meat just waiting to turn into mists of blood. That's where Zombi comes in. One of its prevailing ideas was to try and make the living dead actually feel threatening again. Now this sort of concept has also been realised in the recent Dying Light (to which I admittedly haven't played yet) for how night time turns the ordinarily dim-witted dead morph into the marathon running variety of zombies, but to be fair Zombi did originally release three years before.

Nonetheless, Zombi doesn't quite take its relatively fresh concept to the extent I was hoping, and this is primarily the fault of one of its most iconics features: the cricket bat. Your trusty cricket bat is, quite frankly, a little too trusty. It's the first weapon you'll acquire and will serve you well to the end... too well. It's effective, but a bit too effective. It can carry you throughout much of the game... too much of the game. It does what it needs to do, just it's a - OK, I'm sure you get the idea!

It initially requires some get using to, as it only has the one primary attack and there's a specific timing you'll need to master to get the most out of your undead brain demolishing. But once you successfully understand the timing and can accurately judge the length of your swing, which shouldn't take you too long, the cricket bat quickly becomes an overpowered weapon of mass destruction - most zombies can often be killed with a single swing in fact. Part of that is down to two key blemishes. For starters, the cricket bat is indestructible. It'll never break, no matter the number of craniums you proceed to pummel into a sticky neck stump. It contradicts much of the overall design philosophy of the game, as of course ammo is plenty scarce, your flashlight slowly but surely runs out of juice, your health doesn't regenerate, and even the gun turrets you can find have a limited amount of ammunition at your disposal. A melee weapon that can stand the test of forever seems contradictory to basically everything else in the game.

The other is that there's often too few zombies to contend with. There are some sparse occasions that involves you trying to defend against a genuine horde, but more often than not you're often put up against a gaggle of two, if not just the one, which are pretty easy to contend with solely with your cricket bat. Also, unrelated, but gaggle is a great word that should be used more often.

Smart move - if your head's clipped into the wall then I can't bludgeon it!
Smart move - if your head's clipped into the wall then I can't bludgeon it!

If you were more commonly encountering actual packs of the things, then that would then pressure you to start relying on other means of defence, if not actually choosing to run the Hell away. Or if your bat would at least degrade, eventually requiring you to repair it at the safehouse or something, that would then force you to consider what enemies to use it on while also incentivising you to actually take notice of all of the goodies you have in your backpack. The guns of the game are functional but somewhat unwieldy, requiring you to take careful aim to hit your target. For some that likely spells out the shooting as being bad, and while it's obviously not nearly as accessible as your average FPS, Zombi of course isn't necessarily an FPS, so the shooting being as difficult as it can be fits in with the design scheme of the game. Or it would if you couldn't so easily fall back on your cricket bat.

Though again, there are a number occasions that have often forced my hand in rummaging in my backpack to find something a little more suitable - to equip myself with a flare to throw, bundling them all together as they chase after the pretty lights before then dousing them all a similar pretty light made up of FIRE AND SWEET, SWEET DECAY. Or in some cases to just outright run while keeping them at bay with my fledgling supply of shotgun rounds.

Unfortunately, such instances are scripted and so most of the game as is tends to result in a lot more of this:

And far too little of this:

Despite all that, the bat is at least surprisingly fun to wield. Even though it only has the one basic attack, beyond a shove you can enact to try and create a little space between you and the British brain munchers, the animations and the resulting damage you inflict feels pretty satisfying to perform. You yourself are also still rather fragile, requiring your full and immediate attention for pretty much all combat encounters. In fact what I particularly like about your fragility is that it'll only take a single bite from a zombie to kill you - however they will often primarily resort to regular slashes and such. You'll eventually be able to acquire a substance you can use to defend yourself mid-grab, but you can only carry one dose at a time and it can only be refilled from certain zombie corpses. As such, whenever a zombie attempts to go in for the love bite can sometimes be rather panic-inducing.

If there's one thing you can't fault Zombi for, it's the atmosphere. Most of the game looks as if you're viewing it through dimly lit CCTV footage
If there's one thing you can't fault Zombi for, it's the atmosphere. Most of the game looks as if you're viewing it through dimly lit CCTV footage

There are of course a number of 'special' zombie types as well, including the requisite 'spitter' as well as certain zombies that are more heavily armoured, requiring a little extra punishment to kill. The most notable variety is one that is seemingly embroiled with electricity, as it'll sporadically chase you before then potentially vanishing. Its proximity also breaks your minimap, taking away a rather vital part of your survival kit. The most memorable encounter with one of these banshees is in the game's one sequence that was actually quite frightening set in a nursery. It opens up with the cliche' of creepy children laughter ect., but the point from when you fall through the floorboards into the grunge below made for some good old fashioned MUMMY SAVE ME FROM THE MONSTERS.

Even besides the strangely electricity-inclined zombies, the other types will force your hand to rely on your guns a little more often. Especially the ones that will explode on impact even from your cricket bat, outright requiring you to take it out from a distance.

However that I not once felt the need to ever board up a door to halt the advance of a horde speaks volumes of how Zombi falters in what I was explicitly coming to this game for. I did indeed die a handful of times, though four (out of six) of which were from explosions, and one was down to me underestimating the explosive radius of a landmine at that. Suffice it to say, despite what I had been lead to believe Zombi made for a surprisingly easy horror game experience. The tragic thing of it all is it could have been rectified so easily! The lack of zombies on screen is perhaps a technical limitation due to its origins as a Wii U game, but making it so your bat is basically as vulnerable as your character would have made for a legitimate game changer.

Oh! Conclusion!

Zombi can easily be summarised as a game I like that with enough tweaks could have resulted in a game I love. It has all of the ingredients to provide a stand-out survival horror experience, to which even amongst the horror game boon we're undergoing is still rather slim. Even in the face of its somewhat muted exploratory aspects and a woefully overpowered melee weapon, the roughly eight hours I spent playing Zombi were made of multiple occasions to where it was genuinely difficult to put down.

The melee combat is surprisingly engaging despite its undoubtedly divisive simplicity, and the few occasions that had me running for my player character's extremely vulnerable life, frantically making do with whatever weapons and gadgets I have to slow the horde, will stick with me as some of the most intense gaming experiences of the year. I applaud Ubisoft for certainly trying, as it's clear what their ambition was. This isn't some modern day Resident Evil release to where Capcom continually profess their desire to ''go back to their roots'' while still all the while developing a shooter. Zombi comes across as a genuine attempt at recapturing the elements of what made survival horror so engrossing during its heyday. Still, as of now Alien: Isolation continues to be the most fully-realised modernisation of the sort of survival horror I'd like to see more of. But Zombi still got awfully close to matching it, and even when taking my grievances into account deserves its due praise!

Outro Music innit, blud

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9 years later & Gears of War still proves to be a bloody good time

Gears of War: Ultimate Edition arrived on thursday and I then proceeded to complete it in one single sitting, with the occasional break for me to grab another can of pepsi max or to fuel me up with a quick bowl of cereal.

I played it in coop on Hardcore mode with fellow GB user @gunstarred and to put it simply I had an awful lot of fun. Gears of War as a series is always effective at providing some really engaging cooperative experiences, and the original is no different. While the original Gears is much less set-piece-y than its successors, the core gameplay in itself still makes the simple act of being dropped into a wide open environment with waist-high stacks of cover to maneuver around with creepy snake/lizard/rock monsters to kill incredibly fun. Plus, it's not like it doesn't mix it up here and there, either. The part where you have to travel throughout the krill-infested streets, carefully sticking to the light to avoid an instantaneous devouring from a murder of demon crows, can get to be rather nerve-wracking and makes for a great change of pace to the rest of the game. The part where you're huddled inside a minecart while trying to kill the lambent wretches before they drop on to you like an explosive rock makes for another highlight, too. But truth be told most of the game does involve the somewhat 'mundane' act of the aforementioned combat arenas. And yet that never got in the way of how fantastic the gameplay is and only serves to prove how well put together it all is to be able to carry so much of the game. The weapons feel powerful to wield, from the awesome feedback of turning a locust into ''nothing but bits'' with a boomshot, to chainsawing another in half with the Lancer's chainsaw. Gears of War also undoubtedly has some of the most gruesomely satisfying headshots in all of gaming. The enemy AI is pretty dumb, but they get by with sheer aggression and force of numbers, which in some certain scenarios resulted in me and my coop partner having to put our heads together to strategise and work things out. Getting through that opera house combat arena after taking what was maybe like 15 attempts made for an incredibly satisfying victory.

The 'Ultimate Edition' re-release has made a few adjustments to allow it to more closely resemble the latter Gears games, though they admittedly didn't take it quite far enough. While moving about still feels intuitive, there's most definitely a certain degree of clunk to it all. Getting around cover can sometimes prove to be a little more cumbersome than it should, especially in relation to the buttery smooth controls of Gears 3. Little things like not being able to vault over cover to stun an enemy should one be on the other side stand out as well. Spotting enemies even in the campaign and being able to switch weapons mid roadie run is certainly welcome, but why must you still run out of breath after roadie running for so long? Why can't I stick grenades onto surfaces to act as proximity mines? There's no denying that more could have been done, though despite my misgivings in that regard I still came away immensely enjoying my time with Gears of War, even when put against multiple past completions throughout the years.

Graphically it's not quite to the standards of new games being released in 2015, but it's still a vast improvement from how it originally looked. The character models in particular look much more human this time around, with the new and improved textures of certain characters like Cole and Baird in particular finally elevating them from resembling a pair of mutant corpses. The environments too carry a lot of atmosphere to them, most importantly the segments set during night time like the krill-infested streets and the abandoned factory that's drenched in rain. Though to be fair rain at night makes most of everything look evocative and moody, but it works all the same! The cutscenes are what was clearly given the most attention, as they all look stunning to watch in motion, with really solid animation, facial expressions, and lip syncing.

I do really wish they could have added a Horde mode or something, though. With only the multiplayer left once the campaign's done and dusted, it's a little tougher to find reasons to stick in. I've most definitely had much higher success with this MP offering than I ever did with, say, Gears 3, but it still involves a lot of frustration as I'm shotgunned from side to side like an ever gibbing ragdoll by players that have clearly been playing the MP of these games for a really long time. Even the 'social' modes don't fair that much better, despite their intended function of pairing you with other, more casual-minded players. Unfortunately as is expected what it's clearly resulted in is top-level players using it as an opportunity to thrash newer players for the sake of their ego. There is the occasional match where I end up at the top of the match results, but still, it's ever so demoralising to have most matches result in the exact same Gnasher shotgun duels with so many other weapons being virtually ignored in relation. The Lancer in particular simply takes far too many bullets to down an enemy player and it's no wonder most tend to rely on the pistol instead as a result.

Nonetheless! I shan't let all of that get in the way of the awesome time I had blasting through the campaign. I'll likely want to give it another run eventually on Insane mode, if not just for the sake of playing through it again. It still makes for a really fun time, especially in coop - which is honestly the way to play if I'm being honest. You don't get very many shooters quite like this anymore - shooters that are confident enough in their gameplay that moving you from combat arena to the next is enough to suffice the majority of your game. It often feels as if big budget always have to try and wow you with epic, high-octane action constantly filling the screen, and it's a welcome change of pace to play a game that primarily rests on the laurels of its gameplay to keep you playing to the end. RAAM is still a pitifully easy end boss fight, though, but then he's still more fun to fight than Queen Myra in Gears 3!

11 Comments

Resident Evil 2 Remake Wishlist!

EDIT: Already posted the trailer in this other thread, but no harm in sticking it in here too just for the sake of a Resident Evil 2 remake is actually happening?!?

WE DO IT?? WE DO IT! Fucking Hell is this surreal... they're actually going through with it. Literally nothing to go on as of yet besides that it exists... but it exists. And they didn't even formally announce it at a tradeshow or anything? Really bizarre for how Capcom have been handling things lately.

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Well by Golly here's a first! Me doing a Resident Evil blog?? A Resident Evil 2 blog no less! Why I've only already done one of those... which isn't quite enough to nail the joke of me continually writing specifically about RE2, but you get the idea. Though yes, I did fairly recently write up a blog related to the concept of remaking Resident Evil 2, and have also linked to it on innumerable occasions in the past. I've linked to it like five times just in this blog alone.... Six now.

However said blog was primarily related to the whys and ifs and the butts about the concept of remaking RE2. I did list a short flurry of ideas pertaining to how I'd like to see RE2 remade, though I didn't get into as much detail as I'd like.

For reference, I'll copy/paste my original ideas over yonder.

Also, if you can, try your best to read it with every last word of each sentence echoing... you know, to add to the idea that you're reading something from the past.

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Remaking Resident Evil 2 - The Yummylee Way!

The Ideal

THAT'S RIGHT YOUR SMGS ARE WORTH SHIT AND IT'S FUCKING GLORIOUS
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.''
''There's no time for resting.''

The other primary alternative is of course with the over-the-shoulder set up 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 matchup.

Playing It Safe

480p60
480p60

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...)

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So, ya get all that? No...? Well to shit with it then I'm going on without you!

And comon, how come nobody praised me for that superb caption for the Richter image?? Like, really! #TootinOnesHorn

Remaking Resident Evil 2 - The Yummylee Way 2.0!

Overview & Controls

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Now this'll primarily be operating under the assumption that RE2 is being remade within the confines of the classic survival horror REs. So, camera angles and tank controls and all of that sweet, heavily divisive yogurt. Though much like I mentioned in my original copy/pasted post, that's not to say that RE2 must control with the exact same limitations as it always has - far from it in fact. For starters, there should absolutely be an alternate control option that utilises a more modern, analogue control scheme as seen in the remake remastering and the eventual release of RE0's similarly remastered state. I myself would once again continue to ignore such a control method, but for the sake of appealing to a wider audience (without sacrificing the 'niche' aspects of the games), it really wouldn't hurt to have it in there.

Though even amongst the latter classic entries of Resident Evil are there a number of refinements that could be implemented from later games within the old school survival horror philosophy. Like, say, the 180 degree turn! This was first introduced in Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, to which despite being such a simple mechanic managed to greatly improve upon your available maneuverability. It gave you a better method for escaping danger and simply made it easier to move around. Next is actually allowing you to move and shoot. As said before, being perched to the spot made sense for RE4 and RE5, for they're a pair of distinctively methodical and generally slow-paced shooters that were designed around such a restriction. Giving you the ability to move & shoot thusly turns the games into, well, Revelations 2. That's not meant to be a swipe at Rev 2 either, but regardless of your opinions towards it (which mostly seem to be lukewarm from my observations) it's undoubtedly a faster and more traditional style of shooter because of its increased player maneuverability.

For the classic games, letting you move & shoot wouldn't really mess with the formula all that drastically, so long as they keep the moving part of this new spangled moving & shooting equation to walking speed. If anything they could also maybe use this to implement one such character ability from the Outbreak series. Two of the eight characters, being Kevin Ryman (AKA STARS wannabe and Tom Cruise lookalike) and Alyssa Ashcroft (AKA hard-nosed reporter lady, mistress of unlocking, and Nicole Kidman doppelganger) can better line up their shots when stood still while aiming a handgun. In the original Outbreak you couldn't move & shoot, but in the sequel you could, thereby introducing the idea of players taking the risk of staying on the spot to better line up their shots for higher damage output. It's the sort of thing that would work well in a new classic RE game, to then simultaneously allow you to (slowly) move & shoot while also introducing an incentive to keep your feet perched to the ground all the same.

Being able to move & shoot counts for nothing anyway when you're backed into a corner
Being able to move & shoot counts for nothing anyway when you're backed into a corner

Further hypothetical gameplay refinements include letting you reload mid-game as opposed to either running out of ammo in your weapon, forcing you to reload, or instead prematurely reloading in the inventory menu. It's a small improvement, but all of those saved seconds from going into the inventory could count for just enough to matter. One of the most innovative additions that the DS sort-of-remake Resident Evil saw was how they retooled your knife. Basically they made it so it functioned exactly as it did in Resident Evil 4. Rather than merely being dumped in the item box to be forgotten amidst a choir of ink ribbons, the knife being made into a permanent fixture of your character helped give it some actual purpose - that is beyond knife-only speedruns for the crazies more dedicated players than I. It still wouldn't be especially effective--though being able to move &... swipe may change that--but simply knowing that you have it available at all times is a comforting thought. Because of how unreliable it generally is, least without a lot of practise and even more determination, it always felt like carrying it with you was a waste of an inventory slot; a slot that would be better served with more ammo or a healing supply. Honestly I think it was a real disappointment that they never continued this idea for the remake remastering.

Another such improvement that was also sorely missing and could do with its belated introduction via RE2 remake: ''small key'' stacking! A recurring item in the series, perhaps most recognisable for Chris Redfield playthroughs from the original. Rather than having some fancy Master of Unlocking degree hanging from their wall, small keys had to be collected by certain characters instead to rummage the insides of an all manner of drawers and lockers for some additional goodies. However that each of these supposedly small keys took up an entire inventory slot is luuudicrous! So instead, they should stack. Or perhaps you could at least potentially find a key ring item so you can swing them all together as one like a late night security guard.

Difficulty Settings

One of my main problems with Resident Evil 2 is that it's really pretty easy. Part of that is down to my own incessant playing of these games in my youth, resulting in any new playthroughs resembling what is sort of like an auto-pilot mentality. But even besides that RE2 is undoubtedly much more accessible than its forebearers and successors. As such, not only should the difficulty be tweaked, but it should feature a Hard mode. Technically it did in fact for its PC version, though I have unfortunately never laid my hands on said version.

Furthermore--and this too already exists in another, equally obscure port--should they add an ''Arrange Mode''. As the name implies, this would mix up the item placements throughout the game. For a series that (once) hindered on item placement to determine where you need to go, such a tweak really goes a long way in making a key aspect of the game feel surprisingly fresh. That, and it eliminates the idea of a player more easily being able to acquire ammunition & healing supplies for following playthroughs. Or at least one anyway. This sort of design was actually incorporated into Resident Evil 3: Nemesis to a certain extent. It didn't get its own mode, but instead would exist more naturally with a certain degree of randomisation for an all manner of of aspects. This included what weapons you'd find where, and even for when you were to (sometimes) receive an unwelcome surprise from dear Nemesis T. Huxterbald.

It's just a really simple method for giving a game that is otherwise notoriously static an additional dose of life. If they could actually implement the RE3 way of doing things instead, with each playthrough featuring its own degree of randomisation, then that'd be pretty swell, too!

The A & B Scenarios

Leon in the front, Claire in the rear... Wait no that's not how that goes.
Leon in the front, Claire in the rear... Wait no that's not how that goes.

Now this, this right here is the goldmine. Even after so many sequels and spin-offs, the Scenarios system is still a distinctly Resident Evil 2 feature, and as such just about any sort of RE2 remake simply couldn't go forward without it. And going by the idea that RE2 will be expanded similarly to the original remake, then there's a great deal of promise for where they could take it.

There's a lot of room for improvement, too. The Scenarios system was a great idea in theory, but for all it done right there was just as much that felt a little iffy. Like, while Leon & Claire each travel to different portions of the RPD, they must each still solve a number of the same puzzles, locate the same keys, and so forth. It seems at odds with the idea that both characters are actually exploring throughout this place at the same time. Obviously it requires a fair bit of suspension of disbelief even at its most effective, but the idea that you're to repeat a number of tasks with each character only makes it all the more difficult to keep your disbelief... suspended.

As such, I think it'd be an interesting challenge should they use this as an opportunity to more individually craft Leon and Claire's own separate adventures. The RPD station could be expanded, with whole new areas to wallhug through, much like what the Spencer Mansion was treated to for its 2002 remaking. New areas means there's more room for each character to forge their own path, to give them both enough room to allow them to have their own distinct story.

Plus, there would be a lot more crossover between what you do in one scenario that'll then reflect in the other. In the original RE2 there weren't very many occurrences to where they would connect with one another, where you'd actually get the sense that both Leon & Claire's stories are indeed happening concurrently. It basically boiled down to a locker with a submachine gun & minipack, to which you could either take as one character or leave it for the other, and the handprint scanning device that required both characters handprints to open for the B Scenario character. Since within my imagined reality both Leon & Claire's adventures would take in largely different locations of the station, then whenever they do happen to retread the other's steps, any supplies that were taken as one character should then stay taken. There could also be some RE4 Sideways-esque sort of mingling, too. To where actions as one character may hinder/benefit the other, though of course for your first playthrough you wouldn't realise it at the time.

In short, the scenarios system could really do with some steps taken to help them feel more naturally concurrent, to paint a picture for the player of Leon & Claire actually traversing this enormous Gothic police precinct that's big enough to hold two largely separate, yet also tethered, tales.

Playable Characters - AKA - Resident Evil 2: Nemesis

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This may be more of an undertaking than is reasonable... but an idea I had when considering this remake was the possibility of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis also being remade, but as apart of Resident Evil 2. They're both largely similar to begin with, sharing the odd number of assets, and Jill must even briefly explore through a select segment of the RPD. Though while RE3 does still have a lot to help it stand on its own, both RE2 & RE3 are similar enough to where they feel like sibling releases - somewhat akin to the original remake and RE0. So, the idea of actually including Jill's story alongside Leon & Claire would be a really awesome way to compact the entire events of the Raccoon City story, right from the beginning until its destruction. They could also try to come up with a slightly more believable reason for why Jill can only explore certain parts of the station beyond ''somebody boarded up all these doors??''. Since Jill arrives at the station before RE2 even begins, they could simply have all the doors that she isn't meant to access locked, with a pretty singular path that takes her to where she needs to go and collect her lockpick.

Certain mechanics of RE3 I think should stay within RE3, however. The dodge maneuver should continue to only exist in RE3, with the justification that Jill is a more capable and hardened character than Leon/Claire due to her previous experience with the zombies and the tyrants and ects. And also not to mention her being a STARS member at that. Ammo creation would also stay locked within the confines of RE3, as would the live-selection choices. Jill's story would thusly perhaps receive a slightly less dramatic overhaul over RE2, due to it being a comparatively more simple game with only the one character and all. Though again this would also allow the randomisation elements of RE3 to more naturally co-exist in both remakes, too.

This also brings me back to the Scenarios system. If RE3 was to barge itself in to share the limelight with RE2, then that may come at the cost of cutting down one half of the scenarios. It's long been established that Claire A/Leon B is the canon ordering, to which would of course carry over in RE2. Though since the scenarios are to be deviated from one another a fair bit more than what was originally shown, that may then make it more difficult to actually incorporate the non-canon Leon A/Claire B telling.

They kept both Chris and Jill's playthroughs for the original remake, rather than trying to instead settle on a single, canon take that combines elements of both them. But then the differences between Chris & Jill's stories is more minimal in relation to how Leon & Claire's would differ between one another. I think I at least would be fine if they instead 'narrowed' the Scenarios system to the one scenario per character in any case.

Enemies

They don't need to go too overboard here. There's already a decent selection of nasties for them to throw your way, and under my idea of RE2 & RE3 existing as one game, they could then criss-cross certain enemies between the two. Such as having Hunters in RE2 and Lickers in RE3 just as an example. The ability for zombies to rush into a quick sprint from RE3 would do well to carry over into RE2 at that.

Though what's most important to consider is the inclusion of a Crimson Head equivalent. Crimson Heads in the original remake was a positively genius idea; it made the necessary backtracking much more nerve-wracking, even should you fully well know that you've bested any potential monsters - if not more so because of that, what with Crimson Heads functioning as a faster, meaner revival of a standard, sluggish zombie. They helped to establish a decent sense of progression to the game - as you accumulate bigger weapons and bigger caches of ammunition, it's up to the game to respond in kind by upping the ferocity of the enemies you're to defend yourself against.

Looks like you got some Silent Hill in my Resident Evil there you do!
Looks like you got some Silent Hill in my Resident Evil there you do!

However, it's not Crimson Heads themselves that I'd want to see in my remake. Instead, I think it'd be real interesting for them to reintroduce one of the more obscurer enemies - the Regis Licker. It's not actually an enemy type but a boss battle, only seen in the first Outbreak game - and even then only in one of five scenarios. Because Lickers are in actual fact the extended mutation of zombies--to which I imagine Crimson Heads function in the middle somewhere--having zombies slowly transform into Regis Lickers would be an especially creepy way of handling the undead getting even more undeader. Though that wouldn't exclusively have to be the case. I don't know the exact specifics, but I don't think a zombie has to die to undergo the process of becoming a Licker. So, you could then instead simply have zombies that are already in the Regis state, if not slowly becoming one should they be left 'alive', roaming around the station for too long.

In fact saying that, you could have both Crimson Heads and Regis Lickers featured in the game. It'd create a really unsettling risk/risk system to where if you kill a zombie, it may turn into a Crimson Head... but if you leave it alive, it may then instead turn into a Regis Licker. This would work especially well within the Scenarios system, to where enemies killed/left alive as one character may then be encountered in their transformed state as the alternate character.

I AM A BLADDY GENIUS - SOMEONE GIVE ME A GRANT.

Boss Battles

Oh dip, he's right behind me isn't he.
Oh dip, he's right behind me isn't he.

Not too much to say in this front, other than like in the remake some boss designs could do with the odd tweak here and there. I'd like to see the giant alligator receive something of an overhaul in particular, due to the fact that if they kept it the same as how it was originally designed, then veteran players already know to just wait for it to wrassle the conveniently placed explosive canister into its mouth first before watching its entire upper half of its head go kablooey.

I'd also love the idea of the Mr X Tyrant becoming an even more nefarious foe. Until he undergoes the requisite Tyrant mutation at the end, he's kind of a pushover. He'll only walk towards you, completely blocking your path forcing you to unload into him, meaning that the game designed him to be beaten pretty easily on the account that it's the only option you have. Plus, the wierdly generous bastard even drops some ammunition upon flopping to the floor. His primary function was to basically serve up a few (well executed) jump scares by way of elbowing his way through the wall like Homer Simpson in that episode when they go to Japan.

OH CHEESUS, MARGARINE AND JELLY MY HEART THAT JUMP SCARE GOT ME GOOD
OH CHEESUS, MARGARINE AND JELLY MY HEART THAT JUMP SCARE GOT ME GOOD

Now in my eyes he should most definitely continue the slow, steady walk. It's an iconic pace for horror villains in general, for how they always managed to catch up to you despite rarely ever going beyond the speed of a brisk pace. Though he should be slightly easier to get around - and by slightly easier I mean it should actually be a possibility. The one defining difference here is that he'd be virtually unkillable. You can try to take him down, but the ammo it would require would make it a foolhardy task. He should also of course be able to follow you through rooms - all the while continuing his same, confident walk-with-purpose.

After enough dillydallying he'll eventually give up the chase similar to Nemesis, but he should stay on your trail just long enough to still keep the player ill at ease. Nemesis can run like a damned athlete, therefore keeping you on your toes as you try to escape. The Tyrant however would again continue to walk, making him a much easier stalker to get out of reach of - therefore making it so that his greater persistence of staying on your trail than Nemesis would balance it out some. It wouldn't function to the point where he's literally glued to your ass in every location, it would definitely have to allow you some breathing room in between areas, but again the idea of wondering when he's going to arrive is what would really build up some satisfactory tension.

Unlockables

Mercenaries

Since we're going with the idea that RE3 is packed into RE2, Mercenaries also making its return seems par for the course. Though with the inclusion of RE2 stuffs, it could actually feature different stages instead of the single one that takes you from the tram to the warehouse saveroom at the beginning of RE3. It would feature the same core Mercs cast, alongside some new RE2 editions. I think it'd be swell if they also once again had Chris Redfield as an unlockable character like his appearance in RE2's Extreme Battle mode, complete with his higher capabilities allowing him to more steadily handle the recoil of the shotgun in relation to Leon.

The design of the mode would still hold true to how it was originally. A timer ticking down, combo kills, ''hostages'' to save, and so on. It had always proved to be an absolutely superb method for anteing up on the action while still keeping the ammo conservation an extremely important factor of the gameplay. You are actively incentivised to blow apart everything in your wake... but you most certainly can't kill everything, and if you decided early on to start blasting fools left and right, then you may find yourself in dire straits later on where you're facing against enemies you have little left to defend yourself against.

HUNK: The 4th Survivor

I've lost my favourite pipe, can somebody please help me find my favourite pipe??
I've lost my favourite pipe, can somebody please help me find my favourite pipe??

Much like Mercenaries, this too could still function pretty well by largely replicating what it originally entailed. Not to the letter of course, but it needn't have anything especially fancy done to it. Though they could perhaps rename it to the 5th Survivor now, on the account that Ada has long since been confirmed to survive the ordeals of RE2 alongside Leon, Claire, and Sherry.

One such improvement I'd like to see is that of random enemy locations, or at least different difficulty settings with each one featuring different placements akin to how it was in Extreme Battle. Never Not Randomising is undoubtedly one of the key themes here.

Tofu Survivor

...said example of utter lunacy. Trust Wesker to still be wearing those damned shades under a mask.
...said example of utter lunacy. Trust Wesker to still be wearing those damned shades under a mask.

...For reals, there's just no way they could pass this up. It's perhaps one of the most ridiculously iconic features of RE2, one that has never been replicated in any other Resident Evil game since. Though I would like if they were to give it a little more attention to allow it to move on from simply being the HUNK mode, only you're now a sentient lump of bean curd. Really go the extra mile in making this mode to just exude utter lunacy.

Story

The story of RE2 is some wonderfully melodramatic flair and doesn't actually need to be altered all too much. It has enough going on in there--with Brian Irons, the Birkin family, G-Virus, and not to mention the budding frenemy relationship between Leon & Ada--that the story could largely stay as is really. It's a fun tale that's probably one of Resident Evil's most engaging.

I'd especially like to see a better realised, more modern interpretation of Brian Irons. Really dial the creep-factor up a few more notches
I'd especially like to see a better realised, more modern interpretation of Brian Irons. Really dial the creep-factor up a few more notches

Naturally there'd be a new script and voice acting, and if Revelations 2 is anything to go by then hopefully the dialogue will actually rise to a quality where it'll sound a little more natural. Most people associate voice acting in Resident Evil with the original, though the improvements seen in RE2 were pretty significant. It's not great of course, but it's not nearly as impossibly awful as what the original saw. So, for them to try and redo it all, but with a much better localisation team I'd have to guess, wouldn't necessarily take away from the ham and melodrama that permeated so much of RE2's original work.

I think what is really important is the tone. Whenever RE2 is looked back on in other games, such as Darkside Chronicles in particular, it's usually with Leon & Claire carrying the same bravado and over-confidence that they'd see in later games - complete with all of their skills ninjutsu already honed as well . Though while it makes sense in later games, on the account that a BOW outbreak occurs seemingly every day just before brunch, this is their first encounter with the walking dead. That's not to say they should be a pair of shivering wrecks with their mental instability slowly cracking away with each new horrific image they stumble upon, but... no one-liners, not until it really fits like against the mutated Tyrant at the end. Both characters should be depicted as being sure of themselves, for the most part, but with enough vulnerability to recognise that the things that are hounding them are more than capable in tearing the life out of them by their own intestines.

Your time will come, Token Minority Man. Your time will come.
Your time will come, Token Minority Man. Your time will come.

That's not all to say the story would have to be a complete mimic - 1998 Psycho style. Like the original remake, some minor adjustments here and there would be welcome. They would do well in leaving veteran players on their toes, wondering just what else has changed from how they remember, while still keeping the core plot intact. It'd if be nice if Marvin Branagh could perhaps receive a longer lifespan for example, akin to Richard Aiken from the original.

Same all also goes for RE3 if it actually made it in there too. I'd really like to see Mikhail get a little more screen time for starters, and to also actually better implement the idea that Nicholai is as much an Evil Russian archetype as he first hinted at. When Carlos encounters Nicholai in the hospital his true motives are revealed, though Carlos then brings such information to Jill as if Nicholai being this greedy good-for-nothing was already established for both characters. Jill had no reason until then to believe Nicholai was a bad guy; a grumpy bugger perhaps, but someone who seemingly shared the same interests as the rest of the cast.

Also, Michael Mcconnohie would most certainly have to reprise his role as Barry for the ending where he saves the day and scoops up our heroine and her multi-accented ally, Carlos Oliveira.

Oh! Conclusion!

There you have it anywhoo, my breakdown on a number of aspects of Resident Evil 2 and how I'd like to see them improved, altered, and adjusted for this inevitable Resident Evil 2 Resomething that's undeniably in the works. Though don't get this to mean I actually believe much of what I've written will come to pass; some of it is easier to envision than others, with my idea of RE3 actually inhabiting the RE2 remake as its own 'scenario' being the sort of wishful thinking that'd make my tenor at Capcom pretty brief. But for the sake of dreaming big and taking an equally big munch out of that pie in the sky, I went all out in what I'd like to see RE2 remastered into, while also trying my best to keep it all within a realm of possibility. Though whether that realm is the same one we exist in is the question that will hopefully be answered in due time.

OUTRO MOOSAK

28 Comments

How do you feel about Gears 4's reduced campaign player count from 4 back to 2?

No Caption Provided

In a sea of incredibly interesting, surprising, and in some cases mind boggling announcements, I'm not surprised Gears 4 has been somewhat lost in the shuffle. To the untrained eye it basically looks like more Gears... and... well, even to those familiar with these games it looks awfully akin to what these games are known for. That's not to say what they've shown thus far is a carbon copy of Gears past. The atmosphere looks like it's trying to recapture the somewhat horror-orientated aesthetic of the original Gears, the enemies they encountered were much more animalistic than the gung-ho Locust (though I'm sure Gears 4 will still feature Locust surrogates, AKA bullet-sponges with guns), but what's perhaps most striking is that the cast of playable characters looks to have been reduced to two.

That may not be the case for the entire game, or perhaps there'll be a separate campaign that continues the same four player freedom, but they're at the least selling their game with the idea that we're back to square... two. That's not necessarily a bad thing, though! Whereas for games such as this it often falls to the rule that 'the more players the better', I can understand that for the sake of what may include some slower goings on, they'd want to brings things down a notch, or two, without sacrificing the cooperative element that is so key to these games. There's also the idea to consider that with us back to having two protagonists now, this'll allow them to bring back the intimacy of Gears 1 & 2. Even for all of their cheesy writing and hole-stricken plots, the relationship between Marcus & Dom was factored enough for it to slowly grow to mean something. They're not especially great characters in themselves, but their relationship and camaraderie felt believable enough for me to grow an attachment, not necessarily to the individual characters, but their relationship. Gears 3 with its constant switch-up of characters served its purpose for the sake of the story, and also from a gameplay standpoint as well most certainly, but it also lacked the first two's sense of companionship. Sure, you're travelling with other characters beyond Marcus & Dom in both of the first two Gears games, but there's plenty of time where it's just the two of 'em back-to-back, with nobody else to lean on but the other.

Even if nobody's going to hold up Gears 3 as one of gaming's greatest tales, it at least proved that they're improving, with each Gears game featuring higher quality writing and storytelling from the last. Well, er, that is except that other Gears game. So, the idea that they theoretically take what has been learnt from previous games and then administer that to the series' classic two-man show (or rather one man, one woman show!) gives me hope.

Though that the main dude currently looks to be the poster-boy for Generic 30s Something Action Mens everywhere is somewhat disheartening. But Laura Bailey, though! That's at least something, as she fits the tough-as-nails soldier lady rather well (as already proven in that RAAM DLC for Gears 3; also, unrelated, but funny to consider that she actually fell to the trope of 'tough latino soldier lady biting it'...), much more so than her anime/JRPG stuff, to which even she can't seem to escape from sounding like a squealing sack of cats and is generally just as annoying. If it's one thing the Gears games has always done well by weirdly enough it's the voice acting, with their all-star voice casts bringing the goods, and hopefully Gears 4 will stick to such a hallmark of quality.

I do hope that the duo won't inevitably lead to some sort of actual romance, however. Not only is it simply a tougher relationship to execute, but there's really just so few character dynamics out there in media in general between a man and a woman that doesn't inevitably end in each puppydog eyeing the other. That's not to say they shouldn't hint at a romantic relationship, as such a thing seems natural within the circumstances of withstanding such harrowing combat experiences, but hopefully it won't be at the forefront. The blossoming love between Marcus & Anya I actually rather liked because of how far back it was hidden in the shadows; and the resulting scene that shows Anya resting on a solum Marcus, looking like a very sad giant, was to me made all the more heartwarming. It reflected on the fact that the war was over, that they finally had the chance to (literally) peel off their armour and potentially consider a relationship. Yes Otacon, love can bloom on a battlefield, but you're also on (what may be a literal) bloody battlefield for christ sake! So, yanno, keep the lovey dovey stuff at home and focus on what's in front of you in the here and now, which in a Gears game's case is undoubtedly going to be stuff to shoot in the face.

Also, Horde mode will assuredly provide all of the cooperative small squadron gameplay happenings.

So... I didn't actually plan for this to go on so long, but there you have it. Hell, it might as well function as a blog, as I can also thattaway create a title more than 60 CHARACTERS FFS GIANT BOMB WHY HAST THIS NOT BEEN SEEN TO STILL GOD FAKKIN DAMNIT.

TL;DR; I AM IN FAVOUR OF IT BUT HOWS ABOUT YA'LL?????

49 Comments

The Executioner soundly wraps up The Evil Within's DLC trifecta.

#YearofTheMansion
#YearofTheMansion

As if the Juli Kidman-lead DLC double-pack, The Assignment and The Consequence, weren't enough of a departure! The Executioner, the third and unfortunately final bloodied slab of DLC for The Evil Within, practically rewrites the base game's entire gameplay scheme. And for as PR press release-y as that sounds, it's really not that far from the truth.

While the Kidman DLC had a starkly different pacing and set of mechanics, it was still very much within the realm of what was seen in the game proper. The Kidman DLC is akin to making a few tweaks and adjustments here and there to get the result they were after, whereas The Executioner has practically had a whole new set of rules built in from the ground up.

First-Person Face Demolishing

*posts header about first-person view; immediately adds screenshot of a rare third-person occurrence* Herp
*posts header about first-person view; immediately adds screenshot of a rare third-person occurrence* Herp

OK, so what's different? Well for starters your perspective has now shifted to first-person as opposed to third, and keep in mind that Tango are in fact a Japanese developer! That in itself is quite the literal game changer. But then you have to take into account how instead of the shootery you now have melee...ry. Because you're taking up the role of a 'Keeper', AKA eerie Safehead Butcher Man, guns aren't apart of your repertoire. Instead you'll primarily be utilising his trusty hammer to clobber and wail on the Haunted making them bounce about like waving tube men.

That's also what makes The Executioner a pleasant surprise. Not only is the mere concept such an impressively strange left turn for such a little DLC add-on, but it actually kinda works. Now don't get me wrong, it's not the most involved nor nuanced first-person melee combat you're likely to encounter, but it's just entertaining enough to carry its roughly 60-90 minute runtime. With your brutish and painful looking hammer in hand, you can enact a simple three-hit combo. If you look downward you can then perform a slam on the ground, and initiating an attack while sprinting will result in a sort of short-range lunge. As I said it's pretty simple stuff, but the ludicrous gore effects help amplify the feeling of strength behind each hammer swing very well. As inferred above you can also sprint, and funnily enough even have access to a dodge maneuver that allows you to hop to one side, if not backward. A bit odd to consider how such a lumbering mass of nightmares, with a big ole safe for a head, is actually more agile than Sebastian who has no such kind of dodge, but oh well.

The more intimate FP perspective really helps to highlight the game's wonderful art direction
The more intimate FP perspective really helps to highlight the game's wonderful art direction

The Keeper overall controls surprisingly well, like any other modern game with a first-person perspective really sans guns. Though even with his superior agility to Sebastian he's still not exactly a ninja or anything. Moving about felt reminiscent of playing as Delta in BioShock 2 in fact; the sense of weight is accurately portrayed through your movement, but without hindering you to such a degree that playing as The Keeper is a slog. It also helps that the Haunted aren't quite as inclined to rush towards you and are generally much less aggressive than they are in the main game. From an observer's point of view I'm sure it all looks a little clumsy, but when you're in control it feels surprisingly natural and intuitive.

What is even happening here? Probably something painful
What is even happening here? Probably something painful

The structure of The Executioner largely functions akin to a boss rush mode or something. You'll be exploring the Victoriano Mansion from the base game's Chapter 10, but you're mostly streamlined to investigating one hallway at a time. Right, because... I guess there's some small semblance of a story in here, too. You're trying to find your daughter, who due to the effects of STEM is slowly losing her memory, after willingly subjecting yourself to STEM via Mobius. To help your daughter stay in control you're to follow her tracks and kill many of the bosses from the main game, which somehow seems to weaken the link between her mind and the degenerating effects of STEM... Somehow. This thusly requires you to face off against certain bosses and minibosses such as the Sadist (chainsaw guy), Amalgam Alpha (Chapter 10 parking lot boss), and even Joseph Oda (Japanese-Canadian detective who continues to exist as the game's punching/gutting/stabbing/pummelling bag).

As one would hope, each boss is designed a little differently from one another; the Sadist largely requires you to stay on the offensive, whereas Neun (one of the giant, deformed twins) requires you to utilise the turrets located throughout the environment, as any attempt at regular combat will end very badly for you. Though again, nobodies going to hold up the combat of The Executioner as a masterclass design of action, but it's still impressive that Tango were able to craft something that's at the very least decent. The same can't be said for the story, which while it certainly starts off intriguing enough (especially as it's established as being set after the main game) it unfortunately doesn't really amount to much in the end. It is at least somewhat interesting to get to read the ramblings of the boss monsters whilst they were in their human form, and any additional clarification about how the STEM works is more than welcome.

Where Does He Get Those Wonderful Toys

Performing a classic three-hit combo with your hammer isn't your only means of bloodying the carpet with each new corpse you create. You can also pick up chairs and throw 'em with reckless abandon, or you could even pick up a Haunted and throw him should you happen to stun it after a few good smacks to the face. There's the occasional environmental hazard you can chuck the poor bugger into as well, though they're typically far and few between. You're largely restricted to the occasional wall of spikes really, and one of my main complaints overall would be that there's not quite enough interaction with the world around you. The idea of using the environment to your advantage brings to mind something like Mad World or Bulletstorm, as you try to kill your enemies in as many ridiculous, painful, and most importantly creative ways possible. Alas, beyond the occasional vase you can break to collect Keeper Coins, the environments you'll explore are dreadfully static. If you're interested in undergoing a genocidal crusade against chairs, however, then The Executioner has you covered.

I continue to adore the crazy thick, jelly-like gore effects of The Evil Within
I continue to adore the crazy thick, jelly-like gore effects of The Evil Within

There's also fittingly enough executions you can perform, too. Once an enemy's stunned, your other option besides hurling him across the room is to initiate a short cutscene showing the Keeper, in third-person, utterly destroy your foe's facial region. They're even contextual, sort of. If an enemy's on the floor then the Keeper will stomp his face in (complete with a brief glimpse of the eyes popping), and should it be close enough to the wall will then find its face forcibly colliding with it. Just... an awful lot of face smushing going on in The Executioner. The idea of giving you some goriful imagery to feast your desensitised eyes on fits in perfectly with the add-on, but much like with the environmental hazards there's simply not very many of 'em. There's only the one stomp/wall smash animation, and I think there's only maybe three regular executions when they're standing up right. As such even within its short running time they tend to get just a little old.

That said, considering the small scale of the add-on it admittedly feels a little harsh to critique a lack of executions or environmental interactions. As mentioned already it's frankly impressive enough as it is that there's this many new ideas that were cooked up for a DLC add-on. I don't know what the pack goes for on its own, but the Season Pass was relatively cheap (£15) so I can't imagine they're asking for much.

He was this battered & bloodied long before I arrived on the scene! Probably doing him a favour really
He was this battered & bloodied long before I arrived on the scene! Probably doing him a favour really

Another welcome surprise is that there's quite the bevy of equipment to attain and improve. You'll start with your trusty hammer, but it isn't long before you'll acquire a chainsaw, molotovs, dynamite, and you even have access to those damned barbed wire mines he would so liberally place when fought in the main game. All of which can be upgraded via coins you'll acquire. Your additional melee weapons don't act as a replacement for the hammer, however, as they have some form of durability to account for. Your chainsaw will eventually run out of fuel, and the sword will get knicked. With all of these weapons of bloody murder at your fingertips, you really start to see the potential should they decide to pursue these concepts further, especially when they're utilised in the optional combat arenas you can partake in. There's also a list of in-game achievements to tick off, which all primarily revolve around you killing enemies with certain combinations of weapons/hazards. Such as for example capturing an enemy with a barbed wire mine and then roasting him with a molotov. This then helps incentivise you to mix up your tactics, even though The Executioner is overall rather easy for the most part and you could probably handle most obstacles by exclusively relying on your hammer.

Furthermore, there's even the odd unlockable. You need to beat the game to unlock the sword for starters, though there's also an additional boss battle to face as well an extra arena, both of which provide a rather hefty challenge. The boss... well, I think I should spoiler this for the sake of the surprise:

The boss is in fact Sebastian Castellanos himself, and by God is he a bastard! He's packing his magnum and the crossbow, as well as a series of creepy sneers and grunts. His magnum as you'd expect does enough damage to be alarming, but it also stops you in your tracks - and of course he has infinite ammo to boot. His crossbow isn't as intimidating as he only utilises the proximity mines, but because that too has infinite ammo then the possibility is always there for the entire arena to be covered with a bunch of shiny, explosive zits. What's rather hilarious is how his melee attack, the very same one from the main game that barely done shit, will not only do a sizeable amount of damage but will also knock you to the ground. It must be reminded that you're playing as The Keeper amidst this as well. I guess narratively since this isn't the real Sebastian but an echo of sorts, you could say that he's much more powerful due to the effects of STEM or whatever. Regardless, it's a fun twist to have Sebastian as the hunter, forcing you to hide and to utilise attack and flee tactics. I do wish we could have gotten some sort of arena mode as Sebastian, with Kidman and Oda as unlockable characters or something.

The unlockable extra-tough arena is pretty much the DLC's entire concept fully realised. You're pretty much always being swarmed by a horde of Haunted; they may still be doped up on prozac or whatever making their AI patterns much more docile, but when there's enough of 'em roaming about you're sure to feel the heat all the same. It'll even start spawning in the bosses, before it then ultimately brings in both Joseph Oda and Sebastian Castellanos. Sebastian was hard enough on his own, never mind when he's got his significantly better voiced detective partner in tow. During my attempt I found myself practically using every item amongst my repertoire, which resulted in an awful lot of fun as I try to cook up strategies on the move. Though I say attempt because I didn't actually finish the arena; Sebastian and Oda got the better of me almost as soon as they arrive, and getting back to that point could take so long that the idea of starting over wasn't especially appealing. Plus, I felt like I had had my fill with what The Executioner was flaunting by that time.

Oh! Conclusion!

I've pretty much ended each of these blogs with the same sentiments, being that it's respectable for Tango to break out and tear up their own rule book for their DLC projects; that I wish we could have gotten some DLC that was essentially more of the base game; and that because of how drastically different the DLC is I think it'd be beneficial if they were released as stand-alone products. All of that is still on point, except maybe the last one about being release on its own. The Assignment & The Consequence could definitely benefit from being accessible to those who want a more straight horror experience without having to buy the main game, but I don't think The Executioner would be able to stand on its own quite as well. It feels more like a bonus to the gory shenanigans of the base game, even with all of its unique features. That's not to say I didn't enjoy The Executioner, to which I hope what I've written above helps illuminate that matter, but for of its ambition I don't think it's quite as well put together as the Kidman escapades.

DLC is definitely a much safer route for developers to experiment with new ideas, as it doesn't carry the same pressure as a new big budget release would. There's less on the line, and who you're selling to is the folks that have already bought the game anyway as opposed to trying to rope in new customers. As such, it's tricky to ascertain whether or not the DLC will reflect as to where this series will lead. I'd like to think they'll incorporate much of what has been learnt from the Kidman DLC into the next Evil Within outing. And as for The Executioner, I think they have an interesting foundation at hand that'll hopefully sprout into something bigger. It doesn't even have to be The Evil Within-related, just so long as they expand upon their melee combat code and try to come up with more means of expelling the blood and guts from your enemies.

Thus wraps up my time with The Evil Within anywhoo, and Tango Gameworks gets a well deserved standing ovation from myself at least. I know the game wasn't everyone's cup of tea, and barely anybody seems fussed about the DLC, but know that I'm certainly keeping my eyes and ears alert for whatever they have planned next. Maybe now they could get around to that two-player vampire thing.

11 Comments

The Consequence is also a great piece of DLC.

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Thar be all the spoilers!
Thar be all the spoilers!

I'm a wee bit late for this one, a whole month even, but chalk my tardiness up to this little indie thing that recently took the gaming world by storm. Bloodbourne, I think? Yet another crack at trying to gamify Jason Bourne with his long lost amnesiac nephew, Bloodifer (Blood for short) Bourne. Also yes, that's right, it's somehow both a licensed release and an indie title.

...In any case, despite the number of qualms I may have with it, Bloodborne has been awfully clingy over the past few weeks and hasn't let me play many other games. That is besides a few flings with its distant nephew, Dark Souls II: Scholar of The First Sin. Even now as I theoretically attempt to talk about the most recent The Evil Within DLC do I then inadvertently lead into a paragraph about Bloodborne! Such is the hold this game has over me, the harlot.

Insight

That people for the longest time were feveriously trying to -- NO STOP IT, STOP IT. NO MEANS NO, BLOODIFER.

THE ASSIGNMENT WAS VERY GOOD

Still a lot of wonderful weirdness to feast your eyes on... as it then feasts its eyes right back on you
Still a lot of wonderful weirdness to feast your eyes on... as it then feasts its eyes right back on you

For as long as it took me to actually get around to The Consequence, I was left feeling rather optimistic and enthusiastic once the original DLC The Assignment wrapped up from its modest runtime. That it actually decided to turn the whole thing on its head and deviously shed you of all your precious firearms in favour of a torch and (occasionally) an empty glass bottle was quite the twist. It emphasised the horror of what is supposedly a survival horror game all the more so, forcing you to instead stay clear of enemy encounters and to try and maneuver about via vents and such. Though the one downside to this wholly new design philosophy was that the actual gameplay mechanics were rather barebones. You could take cover and peek around corners with the best of 'em, but the environments were highly contained and didn't allow for much in the way of experimentation. There was usually only the one method for getting through each encounter.

I found that The Assignment still left an impression all the same thanks to its utterly suffocating atmosphere and how it even managed to elicit the odd fright here and there. Which is in complete contrast to the main game. In any case, I've already talked enough about The Assignment, which makes for another stepping stone to finally getting to the point of all this...

AND SO IS THE CONSEQUENCE

Fear the Old Blood... Also Ceiling Spewing Blood.
Fear the Old Blood... Also Ceiling Spewing Blood.

Continuing with the misadventures of newly appointed Secret Society Agent With a Heart O' Gold Juli Kidman, The Consequences sticks to much of the blueprint established in the prior DLC... to a point. Much like the initial teaser suggested, The Consequence isn't quite as honed in on the mostly-pacifist approach that The Assignment touted. Don't take that as a derogative or anything, as while it falls in a little short in a few key areas, I think The Consequence overall made for a more memorable experience.

Part of that is down to variety. Yes, the game's combat resurfaces its head, but only briefly before said metaphorical head pops like a melon into a gory puddle of face chunks and recedes its remains. The Consequence still features Kidman dearly relying on her torch throughout a fair bit of the DLC, and puzzles and story intrigue function as the focal point for much of the roughly three hour long runtime it took me. The story in particular feels like the core of the whole thing, which is surprising considering how poorly put together the plot of the base game was. That's not to say the story is the most well told or acted, far from it, but in relation to the main game I was significantly more engaged in uncovering the many secrets and having specks of the nonsense in the main game cleared up. Kidman also once again makes for a much better protagonist; Jennifer Carpenter's performance varies from OK to passable, with some forays into ''How in the Hell have you had an acting career for this long?'', but what's important to note is that she at least puts in some modicum of effort, which is more than could be said for Anson Mount. There's also an unintentionally funny audio log involving an interview between Kidman and a Mobius agent, where Carpenter gets the chance to harness her time playing Debra Morgan from Dexter, with every sentence featuring a ''fuck'' in there somewhere.

The Consequence goes to great lengths to try and give Kidman's motivations some consistency. In the main game her role and whether or not she's a villain or not was foggy at best, intentionally so most likely, but her perspective during the DLC helps give her a little depth. She's trying to stop Ruvik from escaping the STEM thing via Leslie, while also eluding her creepy G-Man knockoff superior, but amidst all of the confusion she invariably comes into conflict with Sebastian as everybody is left perplexed as who is what and why and then wait a minute what? That they shown her actually saving Sebastian from the Haunted transformation--when in the main game it looked as if she shot him--was a welcome twist, as was the scene when she plans to shoot Leslie. Knowing that Ruvik's hold on him is growing stronger, she feels it necessary to kill him to stop Ruvik from evolving from his status as an evil Futurama brain into an I Am Sam reject. That much was obvious to begin with in the main game mind, though her many attempts in thwarting Ruvik's control and her safeguarding of Leslie before hand gave her decision a little more weight.

You want STARS, I'll give you STARS...
You want STARS, I'll give you STARS...

Many of the game's audio logs also help expand on other such character motivations and backgrounds, particularly Ruvik. So much so that frankly it's almost a little insulting that such relevant information is left to DLC. This isn't quite ''selling the ending'' bad, but it gets pretty close. Together the DLC helps to explain the whole STEM thing, a rather vital bit of information I'd say, and even notes just how the Hell Sebastian and Co. are somehow forced into the STEM in the first place. Turns out it's basically thanks to Wi-Fi. The STEM has its very own 'signal' that once rung will then pull in everybody who hears it, which in Sebastian's case was on the radio in the beginning while they're on the way to the hospital. Though how they all manage to end up in their own personal bathtub full of jizz is still left unexplained... Ruvik's overall goal in trying to bring his sister back--who may be remembered as the bloodied Spider-Woman cosplaying insta-kill enthusiast Laura--also feels real haphazard, like some sort of last ditch attempt at giving the character something beyond 'Jackie Haley stock character'.

One of the DLC's best highlights goes to The Administrator, who manages to claw his way up past the low, low standards of The Evil Within's cast and come about as a genuinely memorable antagonist. As mentioned before he tends to come across as a very archetypal Faceless Government Man--the faceless part is literal at that as his face is obscured until the very end--but the voice performance helps elevate him into a surprisingly effective villain. He exudes arrogance and authority, as he continually belittles Kidman akin to some sort of abusive father figure. He preys on her past as a delinquent (which still feels a little hard to believe), posing the question of what sort of life she has to go back to should she abandon Mobius. Considering all of the visceral villains in the base game, it's welcome to have someone actually trying to mentally beat the character down rather than literally so.

I Shot You down, Bang (reload) Bang

No Caption Provided

He also makes for one Helluva final boss fight! The Evil Within proper's cavalcade of bosses ran the gamut of quality; some were great (Keeper), others anti-climatic (Ruvik), and one in particular was utterly infuriating (Laura bout 2). As such if I was to say that The Administrator is one of the game's best it might not carry very far, but simply as a means to end a story it was both satisfying and just kinda cool. The aesthetic sort of reminded me of the VR missions from Metal Gear Solid, and the boss design itself made sound use of the DLC's emphasis on darkness. It first starts off with you trying to defend yourself against two evil, corrupted Juli Kidmans... Juli Kidmen? They twitch about like they've been plucked straight out of Jacob's Ladder, and seeing one of those creepy little doppelgangers rapidly twitching their way towards you from the darkness is prime time for the odd fright. Afterwards you eventually start battling against the big cheese himself, who like in The Assignment makes use of shadow manipulation to govern his attacks. The battle itself isn't particularly difficult, but it gets by with sheer spectacle, and unlike the ending boss in the base game doesn't bog itself down with one-hit kills.

The playing of the DLC is home to a lot more variety in general. It includes more of the same slow-paced stealth as you're lead by the limited shine of your torch, but it also includes a couple of neat chase sequences (one of which of course involving The Administrator. He's like a good luck charm; whenever he shows up you know things 'bout to get guuud), some more of those Safe Head puzzles, and again some actual full-on gun-toting combat. There's a couple of notable stealth sequences that actually allow you to figure out the best path for yourself, as you try to maneuver through an environment in order to set fire to these sentient Ruvik paintings. It's not quite Arkham Asylum levels of flexibility, but it's nice to actually have a little leeway in figuring things out as opposed to being primarily shoehorned into a single vent to sneak past an encounter.

The short period where Kidman's torch breaks and she must then resort to using glow sticks or whatever to light the way instead unfortunately felt rather undeveloped. For starters you have an infinite supply of the things, which seems a little preposterous as you continually keep hurling them across the area. You can only have three illuminated at one time, but it's nonetheless a little silly. The idea behind them is that since you're having to throw them in front of you to light the way to see where you're going, you may potentially hit an enemy alerting them to your presence. It's a neat idea in theory, but frankly never lead to anything beyond me transfixing on the idea that Kidman has an infinite supply of rave rods. I actually never knew that you could only have three sticks active at once or that they could hit an enemy, and only discovered such information from the tooltips. I otherwise wouldn't have realised as I didn't encounter any downside to the sticks beyond being mildly annoying with how I had to keep throwing them to find my way. The lighting does look rather stunning at least!

Bizarrely enough despite the DLC's heavy story focus, it still seemingly lacks the confidence to refrain from immediately making you aware of how to skip it all...
Bizarrely enough despite the DLC's heavy story focus, it still seemingly lacks the confidence to refrain from immediately making you aware of how to skip it all...

The biggest differentiator from The Assignment is the combat, which I feel as if I've been holding off in writing about... Which is weird because funnily enough the one thing The Consequence's combat brought to mind was how much I really enjoy The Evil Within's combat. It reintroduced me to the pleasure of witnessing (and listening) to the sloshy, oozing gore that erupts with every shot, to having to keep a close eye on the extremely limited cache of bullets I have available. Even when the game allows you the opportunity to go guns-a-blazin' (which only counts for, say, a third of the DLC), it still manages to evoke the distinct feeling of vulnerability so key to survival horror even more so than The Evil Within. There are two sections that are combat-focussed. The first has you equipped with Kidman's own pistol, however she can only carry ten spare bullets alongside the seven she can fit in the magazine; she herself can die from two hits at most; she has the stamina of an overweight smoker in her 90s; and the Haunted still retain their love of bumrushing right towards your face.

The second segment introduces a whole new weapon even, being one of those sawn-off shotguns you see the Haunted liberally make use of. However even though you're packing more firepower, the shotgun can only store one bullet before it needs to be reloaded, and like the pistol you can only carry so many bullets -- in this case six in total. The shotgun will basically always kill one of the fuckers with a single shot, but oh by the way they'll also infinitely respawn... Ordinarily this is often a pain in the ass, but for The Consequence it wonderfully amplified the nature of forcing you to be on the defensive even when it's time for you to theoretically be taking the offensive. You're shooting your way through the small horde of crazies not to improve your score, but to simply survive as you try to make your way to your destination. The combat as such is incredibly thrilling and is peppered throughout the DLC just at the right amount so as not to overwhelm the whole package. There's also of course the brilliant all-combat boss I briefed before, though the other that has you put an end to the latest in horror game's string of ''replace head with X'' monsters is also not too shabby, either. It functions very much like the hide-and-seek design of your first major encounter with it back in The Assignment, only the game has changed to hide-and-seek-shoot-then-hide-again. It can still kill you in one hit, and when you're caught within its literal searchlight your movement is drastically slowed down and you can't shoot; as such, the boss manages to keep ahold of its intimidating presence while still ultimately having to die by your hand.

Weirdly enough by the end of it all I was then left disappointed by the fact that The Evil Within isn't to receive any sort of pure combat-focussed DLC ala something akin to Mercenaries from Resident Evil. Would love the opportunity to make heads go pop some more with Kidman in particular. I really like the way she holds her pistol...

The one primary downside to The Consequence is it isn't nearly as frightening as The Assignment before it. That's not even necessarily due to the inclusion of the combat, but simply because the environments you'll be exploring lack the foreboding of such places as the office from the first DLC. When it takes you to the crumbling city streets then practically all semblance of horror is evaporated, just like in the main game. The general vibe of the atmosphere carries the same thickness to it at least. The air still manages to look as if you could physically grab a hold of it, and while it caused such controversy upon release, I still find that the letterboxing helps establish an effectively claustrophobic element to the game.

Oh! Conclusion!

Feels good to be finishing a blog with my tried & true header. I opted for something a little different for my Bloodborne one because I couldn't resist a little Bloodborne-related wordplay.

In any case, I came away from The Consequence rather satisfied. It soundly wrapped up Kidman's involvement in the main game while also offering a look see into where the series may hopefully lead to. DLC such as this seems like the perfect opportunity to experiment a little, poke and prod at the systems to see what works. It in fact brings to mind Resident Evil 5's Lost in Nightmares, but on a much grander scale. For as much as I do still really enjoy the game's combat, however, it would be great if they could try to implement and improve upon the stealth elements from Kidman's story. It seemed as if this is what they intended during development, but couldn't quite hit the finish and instead doubled down on combat? The stealth was always there after all in some form, but frankly felt unfinished and barely worth utilising.

I just really appreciate that Tango were willing to basically toss their own table over and go in such divergent directions with the DLC. Even the combat-focussed Executioner DLC looks to be its own beast with its melee-centric, first-person view serial killer simulation. The Kidman DLC is also so different from the base game that, like I said at the end of The Assignment blog, I think it would be beneficial if it were to actually be released as its own standalone release. I'm sure there's an audience out there that would find the escapades of Kidman more appealing than the gun-happy adventures of Sebastian Castellanos.

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