Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Silent Hill Origins: The Review

A mid western American town, just outside Brahms and south ashfeild, always shrouded in a veil of fog. we've all been there before, fought the horrors that lurk in that town. Silent hill. The "special place" for many horror gaming fans, myself included.
Its been 8 years since we first ventured into the forsaken town of silent hill as harry mason in the original game on the PlayStation one. yet all these years on some questions remained unanswered, most prominently, how did baby Cheryl get in the Field to be found by harry and his wife?. this is just one question that becomes answered when Travis Grady, a trucker driving though the area, almost runs over a girl in the road he enters the mythos of the town and a world of his worst nightmares.
I, like many hill fans was sceptical about this, as the same team which had been making the games for 8 years had not only turned over silent hill 5's development to a UK team, but origins was developed by the US team Climax , though also moved over to a UK team as its "original sin" format in early development was a resident evil 4 clone which wasn't in keeping with the experience we gamers had grown to love. Fortunately its turned out to be pretty faithful to the other games and almost feels like a team silent product.
The graphics are fantastic overall and for the PSP they are phenomenal, easily on par with silent hill 2, and it is done in a way that the screen and the fact it is handheld does not affect play in any way. only 2 out of in game engine cutscenes are used ,the opening and the beginning, all the others are done in game and look absolutely fantastic.
The enemies, well, unfortunately they start well but as you progress they suffer from final fantasy 12 syndrome, early bosses and enemies reoccur later, only in different sizes and with different textures on them rather than each area having unique character designs. Early creatures are quite tame, like a hairless sheep that's front half is dead and is being dragged by its back half, supposedly representing all the roadkill Travis feels guilty about from the past.Later ones are more interesting, ranging from two torsos intertwined in a copulating position, only one minus it's arms and legs to a screen filling juggernaut bent over backwards. these were pretty original and inventive and the recycled character models is only a minor gripe.
The bosses were the biggest let down of this game, there are 6 in total and to beat them all you just need to shoot, move, repeat till they die, even the ps one original had some that flew, others that burrowed and generally had variety, there is none of that here and it stands alone of this games crowning disappointment.
the combat situations are a little niggly for me, ranging from being backed into a corner by the creatures projectile attack and your half a second recoil animation means you can be repeatedly hammered by an enemy without being able to fight back, and then find that more have shambled up in the process. The weapons like in its predecessor, chronologically, not canonically, the room are destructible, whilst this adds realism, it just seems a bit futile since any enemy can just be pummeled by your fists and there own animation means you can return the favour and keep hammering at them without giving them chance to fight back.
The soundtrack is absolutely fantastic , but to long time fans its no surprise that akira yamoakas hit another home run with this. in fact the soundtrack may be better implemented in this one than others, in previous games you would need to enter an area or trigger a cutscene to change the music but in origins it can happen whenever, but its also the little things, ticking clocks, creaking open doors and splashing water all make for a much more in depth and believable experience than its predecessors in some respects. In fact the combination of graphics and sounds make this one of the more cinematicly vibed games in the series.
In size and scope however this game is slightly disappointing, you only explore a small portion of silent hill, of which some buildings are in different locations, a while the 7 year gap between then and the first game in the series may explain some of this, a large 4 story hospital is not likely to change its location easily, especially since it was still under construction and that's only if there is another normal world besides the foggy and dark otherworlds we encounter in the series. This was touched upon in the movies and it lends itself to that to add other aspects to the towns narrative.
Its a shame that with the small and simple game world, that takes you 4 hrs to complete, nothing more about the history of the cult or even the town is touched upon, only the main story of dahlia and her cult burning alessa, this i felt was sorely lacking. we find a series of deaths took place that seems to suggest a tie to an unseen, Walter Sullivan styled sub plot, possibly linking the PSP title to the up and coming silent hill 5. but other than that the whole game is the very definition of rinse and repeat. its just head to next circle on map, explore, backtrack for keys, solve a puzzle shoot a boss ,black out. repeat 4 times to finish game. and no variety from starting boss to finish, just shoot, move a little, then shoot again repeat till dead.
There are no difficulty levels to choose from and the one that is was painfully easy, and I'm a gamer that always plays on easy, but even so i NEVER died in this game, and only used 4 or 5 healing items during the course of the game. ammunition was generous and i only ever had to use it to finish the bosses, each of which using later weapons take less than one minute to complete. So needless to say this is not only a simpler silent hill, but also a much more friendly game for newcomers to the genre or even the series.
Whilst i personally can rant about this as a long time horror gamer. for people new to this its a gentle introduction that the most casual of gamer can appreciate, and isn't handheld gaming meant to be more casual? i think a little of the disappointment can be done away with when you take that into account. this was also the first silent hill game in the series, and whilst short i was never bored and found myself enjoying this more than the game it is preceding. so whilst i might wish for a longer ,slightly more difficult, game. i would gladly welcome another game in the series from climax as this game, especially for a handheld is engaging, with fantastic sound and visuals, and most of all. its great fun from start to finish.
ill recommend this for hill fans, though don't expect another silent hill 2, for PSP owners who like horror or are looking for something new. but if your a hill fan wondering if you should buy a PSP just for this installment in the series?...maybe not, like i said its great, but has some fairly predominant flaws to balance it out as slightly above average.
and as such I'm going to give it an average score of 7 and a half out of ten.

my personal view?, whilst it was a short trip it was nice to get back to the town that started my love for horror games way back in '99 and its a welcome addition to my collection. as i said its fairly cinematic and meant to touch on the 2006 movie and overall the shortness may be a factor as it plays like an interactive movie, rather than just short for the sake of being easy to produce as its obvious a lot of time went into this game. the pros and cons are all based on climax's own take on the franchise which, whilst not the best, is also not the worst so i commend them for taking on the project and having such an enthralling end result.


Sunday, 25 November 2007

Bioshock: The review

Released: August 2007
Platforms: Xbox 360 ,PC
Developer: 2k
Genre: First Person Horror shooter, with rpg elements

I am Andrew Ryan and I am here to ask you a question:

Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his own brow?

No, says the man in Washington. It belongs to the poor.
No, says the man in the Vatican. It belongs to God.
No, says the man in Moscow. It belongs to everyone.

I rejected those answers. Instead, I chose somethingdifferent. I chose the impossible. I chose…


The year is 1960, and whilst flying over the atlantic ocean your plane crashes. Whilst normally this would mean you would be stranded the protagonist, jack, has had the good luck to crash within feet of a metopolis styled lighthouse rising out of the middle of the atlantic ocean. With nowere else to go you head inside, and the door slams shut after you.
The lighthouse appears to be a surface dock for a bathysphere submersible. with nowere else to go you enter it and are taken to the bottom of the sea. you are taken to rapture.
Created by Andrew Ryan for scientists, athletes and artists to escape the growing political and religous authority over there works. Ryan created rapture to be an "Eden", this all changed with the discovery of a sea slug.
This sea slug was discovered to produce stem cells known as "ADAM" which could be used to rewrite the human genetic code. anything ,from curing baldness to instilling ablities like pyrokenesis or teleportation, was possible thanks to ADAM.
For a time rapture remained the utopia Ryan envisioned. but over time an elite class formed cuasing social boundaries and deep rooted hatreds to be created. the very things ryan created rapture to escape. A former mobster, Frank Fontaine, used this as an opportunity to start a coup for power in rapture, using ADAM to mutate his recruits beyond all recognition into "splicers" .creatures no longer considered human, with warped features and even more warped minds. the splicers , by the time you arrive ,are all thats left of the once 7000 strong population fo rapture. all need ADAM to survive and your a perfectly easy target.
At least till you get some ADAM for yourself that is.
The spiritual sucessor to 2k's pervious fps meets horror rpg "system shock". Bioshock is, first and formost, a first person shooter. but one with heart, not mindless blasting. adding to this is roleplaying elements such as collecting money from fallen enemies to buy more genetic upgrades from the "gatherers garden" machines. This blends in a very nice way and isnt as intrusive to the plot as games like oblivion, were you could trundle into an area at a low level and be killed instantly by high level creatures. here the difficulty of enemies and there number teadily increases at a fair rate that ,while making the game progessivly challenging, does not make it impossible.I use oblivion as an example as the basic controls are much alike, the left trigger is magic, or in this case, plasmid abilities. The right is weapons. Overall the controls are simple and very easy to use and dont hinder the experience any, its a shame there not very origional so they aslo dont add ot the experience either.

The enemy a.i is where this game shines. For the first time in an fps..or any game i believe enemies can know you are there, even right in front of you, and CHOOSE not to attack you. a key example is the symbiotic relationship of the big daddy's and the little sisters.
Young girls were taken and implanted with the slugs and became little walking adam factorys. of course they were an easy target for splicers. this lead to the creation fo the big daddy's.
, Lumbering golem creations of frankenstein design in eeiry diving suits that follow the little sisters around as there protectors. If you dont attack the little sister however they will not attack you. if you get to close it will ,in a bizaarely touching way, run in front of her and shove you away raising its weapon at you till you back off. other than that it will simply follow the little sister as she looks for splicer corpses to harvest ADAM from. There relashionship is touching and creepy at the same time. for example the girls will say "look, found another angel mr bubbles" and the big daddy responds in its whale call like moan. Then after you kill the immensly tough big daddys to claim ADAM from the little sister (this is the only way to get more) the girl will drop to its side weeping and screaming for it to get up. you have to remember these were all people once, and it cant help but invoke emotion in the player, and i commend 2k for doing so.
Killing the big daddy's leads to one of the moral dilemas of the game. You can save the little sister, changing her back into a normal human child. and in doing so recieve 80 ADAM. or extract the slug inside her, killing her in the process, but gaining 160 ADAM. so you get more of a reward for killing the children, the choice is up to you (i personally saved them, what can i say, im a nice guy) this is one example of the moral dilemas that arise that affect your ending and the outcome of jacks visit to rapture.
graphics wise this game is incredibly impressive all the character animation is flaweless. not a glitch can be found and the retro futuristic setting right out of metroplosis is aweinspiring. wandering the bloodstained halls whilst light throws shadows of two enemies argueing in the next room whilst "somewere beyond the sea" plays on a steriogram is fantastic. looking outside to see the eeiry ,green glowing, subterranium metropolis ,still, with a whale sailing between skyscrapers makes you appreciate the sheer effort that whent into this game.
Sound wise its in the same vien as stubbs the zombie, period songs that ,in the context of the location, can take on a much creepier atmosphere and its a sheer delight to listen to, another game like silent hill that i would recommend the soundtrack to.
So am i giving this 10/10 like so many magazines have?, well, no actually, im not.
why?, dont get me wrong i prefer bioshock to halo 3, and it is a must own 360 game. but like prey or dead rising ,towards the end its almost a different game ,and it loses the initial wonder of it .and whilst still fantastic ,its not really going to be something you can play again and again. So it suffers in replayability. even all but 1 or 2 of the achievments can be, well, achieved in one play through. its a fantastic game that i can say any horror fan HAS to try once but will it keep you coming back like silent hill 2 or resident evil 4?, maye not.
So just for the lack of replayability im going to have to lower it to 9.5 out of 10. cracking game thats easily in my top ten of horror gaming and one you will think of more as a fond memory like a favourite movie or story than simply a run and gun first person shooter. at times scary, others emotionally invoking.


Tubbypaws does "li'l hill"

Feast thine eyes on this piece of horror charm from the tubbypaws blogspot. Its a papercraft models you can print off, cut out adn with a bit of dexterous glueing youll have your own little silent hill diorama.
ive never been into this sort of thing, but im a big silent hill fan so as you can imagine this neat little finds made my day, the torch on the floor is such a good touch, they should use there talents to try a silent hill 4 one, probably one of the holes.
Still, its cute, charming and creepy at the same time, what a combo!

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

November games reveiws coming up.

Th games i am currently playing through to review for this month are Bioshock on the xbox 360, Silent hill Origins on the PSP and Shadows of memorys on the PS2.

expect reviews in about 2 weeks.

"the true fan", what a load of garbage.

So horror is something of a gameing niche', that i get. i dont get why the horror community at large is full of people who would describe themselves as "true fans". I believe some examples are in order.
On the forums, a place well known across the net for its massive troll community, and the news of capcom no longer producing exclusives had just gone up. Needless to say the playstation 3 forums exploded with threads such as "capcom have turned traitor!!1!" and others just as moronic. In said threads it was all pretty much the same "how can they take resident evil from us, were the true fans, those boxboys wont apprecieate the games like us, ill never buy another capcom game again".
Being a man who loves a good troll war i trundled in with my piece, something along the lines of "but there jsut no longer exclusive to the playstation, the games are still going onto the playstation, jsut the 360 and the wii as well". Some whent "yeah i guess so, cant really complain", but not the true fans . No these guys had to explode on me claiming that i "obviously wasnt a true fan and didnt understand the games".
This topic is just one example but you get the idea, anyone who claims to be a "true fan" ,especially in the anonimity of the net, is just taking part in the age old "mines better than yours" argument. Theres no prize for a level of fandom or commitment, yet these sorts of people seem to feel there should be. that having a more in depth knowledge of a game makes them better than you.
Its utter garbage, there is no such thing as a "true fan" phrases like that adn "die hard fan" are meaningless, you can have someone whos such a fan they are devoted to the game but a "true fan"?. Sorry but theres no such thing, you either like somethign ro you dont, theres varying degrees of like or dislike between but thats the gist of it, theres allways people just as into a game, a book, a movie or a band as you, and allways some even more so. The phrase "true fan" seems to me to be some sort of self gratification for people who crave attention.
You never hear someone calling someone a true fan do you?, they are allways the ones exclaiming it themselves.
in fact the one place on the net ive yet to see this is the silent hill forum, you have people from all walks of life who visit the site just becuase they like the games, simple as that. theres no arguments about whos a bigger fan or a "true fan" and its nice to know some places can go on without this meaningless bragging.
Your either a fan or you aint, the closest thing in real lfie terms to the internet phrase "true fan" is "obssesive" or "stalker".

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Just a small article on my own criteria

So when it comes to horror games one of the sites i frequent most is Chris' survival horror quest , Which is stricly survival horror only and includes his reasoning for why, and what he concludes is a survival horror game, following certain criteria he has come up with. Being he is a games designer and i am a film maker our ideas of "the rules of horror" are obviously going to deviate at a certain point, so i thought i would use (steal) the idea to express why ill be choosing the games i choose for this site.
On his site Chris' has stated something along the lines of not wanting to do all "horror" games in his quest to play them all and as such focused purly on survival horror. Personally im not on a quest, nor am i in any hurry as my lack of recent posts will attest, to complete a list. This is just one gameing fanatics opinions on games in the horror genre and all its subgenres therein and i will review games and post articles at my own lesiure and i am, most importantly, not aiming to play every one ever so i will just review what i can when i get a hold of it.
As such i dont need to limit myself to one subgenre, of even just videogames, and can include any game i choose as a 'horror' game. Sohow do i go about it?

1:Whilst it goes without saying that the game must have horrific themes there is a degree of leneincy to games that arent scary but fit the theme, such as the gothic rpg koudelka.
2:There is such a thing as horror comedy (ala the evil dead) and i would list some games that arent exactly serious like zombies vs ambulance or the gregory horror show as such but others are comedic to the point of sheer absurdity and for my own personal tastes i wont focus on them.
3: ive got to own it, this may sound stupid but every game i review is in my possesion, this isnt a deal were i rent it specifically for this purpose, these are games hand picked from my own collection to be used as an article within this site, this means i will "go back to" any game and replay it for a fair and up to date review.
4: I dont limit to just a 3rd person shooter like resident evil or silent hill either, text adventures, point and click, fps and rpg are a few other genres which posses horror games hat fit my criteria.
5: it has to genuinley scare me, though not allways but this immediatly qualifys i as an entry.
6:Though not allways another genuine immediate reason is if the character dies, and i dont mean falls off screen or runs out of lives i mean actually only has a life and will die for good, usually on screen, they dont come back, hence the need for survival.
7: the artisit approach, again another giveaway but the locations, lighting ,sound ect all the "mise-en-scene" of a piece is crucial evidence if it is horror or not, this is more based on my studies of film than gameing but it still applies ,especially as the bridge between the two mediums draws constantly closer.

those are the 7 rules for now, though thats easily subject to change. I m fair in all my reviews and hope to, in a year or two have this place as a comprehensive site to find reviews and articles to honestly give well gauged representations of games in the horror genre.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Silent hill origins released in the UK this friday

Being a member of the pointscard club thingy-ma-bob at GAME i get sent a catalogue every christmas about "possible gift recommendations" (AKA - buys these ,we need your money).

anyway this week i get one stating silent hill origins is released on November the 9th ,friday, this friday in fact. So any silent hill fans get 30 quid ready and get down to GAME (or my preffered gamestation, its cool, game bought them out anyway) and grab yourself a copy.