Thursday, 19 June 2008

So they DO exist!

Browsing the silent hill forum today i came across this.

Look familiar Survival horror fans?, it should. This is one of 250 Replicas of James Sutherland's (silent hill 2's protagonist) jacket. Its rare as hell and this is only the first time ive seen one since konamistyle stopped selling it, to be honest i was wondering if id just thought it up in a daydream but apparently no, my sound mind and reason did not imagine it, they really did sell them.
Apparently this particular one is being sold on the silent hill forum right now some people are getting a bit sniffy about the dude selling it but id never have the cash for one of these even when they weren't objects of legend.
Its just cool to show a little something like this i guess for the fans who've never heard of it.

Though to be honest i always thought James' coat was an army surplus jacket myself. 

Project Zero 2: Crimson Butterfly DIRECTORS CUT - The Review

Developer: Temco
Publisher: Temco
Realeased: April 29th, 2004
Platforms: Ps2, Xbox (backwards compatible on xbox 360)
Genre: Survival Horror

So right off the bat regulars will know im a big fatal frame fan, and today i finally finished the second game in the series "Crimson Butterfly", so my thoughts?

I bloody love it, heres why.

The game opens and introduces you to twin sisters Mio and Mayu. They are visiting a woodland they used to explore when they were children, and were mayu suffered a permanent leg injury, before the land gets flooded by the construction of an artificial dam. As they sit reminiscing about the past Mio snaps back to reality to find Mayu has wandered off. In the distance Mio can just make out Mayu following something into the deeper woods.
A crimson butterfly.
As Mayu follows her sister the sky darkens, buildings can be made out in the distance and people can be heard chanting.
And more butterfly's.
When Mio finally catches up to Mayu they are on a hill, by a shrine, overlooking a long since abandoned village, hidden for decades in the mountains of the regions.
Getting bad vibes they turn to leave, only to find the path has gone, so with no alternative route, given Mayu's bad leg, the sisters head into town. 
At first the town seems dead, and it is, but it is by no means restful as they soon find out. "All gods village" has been in the same perpetual night for decades and the mad ghosts of the people who have died there roam the streets and homes, all with ill intent to use the sisters as part of there "ritual".....

So as you can imagine the plot kept me enthralled, its a story of loss, love, the nature of siblings and there responsibilities and it just never lets up, its like a cool mountain stream. It looks quite, simple, pretty, but try as you might you cant stop its progress, its a simple but powerful narrative ill spoil no further, but the endings a good one.

Gameplay wise its very much the same kettle of fish as the first fatal frame game, albeit with everything improved. the controls are responsive, well balanced and thought out, my only gripe being that, given the fixed nature of the static cameras in the game you can run up one corridor ,then ,given a reversed angle, start running back down it again without changing the analogue stick around.
Not a big problem, but worth a grumbling mention.

The sound is of the "less is more" variety, and its masterfully done, like bells, crunching gravel or creaking boards, rotten with age and neglect, all add to the mise-en-scene of each chapter and aside form the games theme played in the credits there's little music to speak of. But that only makes what there is have that much more powerful an impact. 

Graphically its been given an upgrade for the xbox and it really shows, the characters are all memorable, there's like 50 different types of enemy in the game, which compared to resident evil or silent hill is a feat in and of itself, and overall its a great looking game, but that alone is not a note worthy thing. 
I really must express to you the art direction of this game. its aesthetic, a grainy series of browns and blacks and general dark color palettes, are juxtaposed by the rich reds in the game every now and then. This contrast is a fantastic choice of design in terms of setting a mood, and giving the game a character which makes the predecessor pale in comparison to.
The pale girls, dressed in blacks and browns, in a shadowy forest, swarmed with the titular ,phosperecent, Crimson Butterflies is a powerful and memorable image.

Overall this is not your generic survival horror, this is something very special that only comes around every so often. Its an art house styled horror game, its psychological, thought provoking and terrifying all at the same time.
This Is , in my opinion, tied with  Silent Hill 2 for the title of greatest Survival horror game in the genre.  This game is an achievement in a world of mindless shooters and sex appeal over story. 

If you are a survival horror fan you owe it to yourself to play this game.


DOOM 3: The Review

Developer: Id software
Publisher: Activision
Platforms: Xbox port
Released April 8th, 2005
Genre: Horror FPS

So another freebie here, gifted by a friend for a review, he knew id been going on about this for ages said it wouldn't come close to my expectations. 
Given the hype he was right, it was far worse.

I know, i know. Im negative form the outset, how is that for a fair review?, well, its not. Though i will validate my feelings for a game i hold in almost as low regard as army of two, e.a's pinnacle in the calibre of shit games.

The story, what little there is has you playing a generic, in every sense of the word, space marine on a base on mars. Just as hes settling in to his new digs hell literally breaks loose, and you the only one man army on hand to stop it.
Not original, but hey, i let it slide, master chiefs not exactly the most charismatic protagonist yet still comes off as a heroic figure, so why not this guy?
-ill get to it.

Gameplay wise its okay, it definitely has kinks that need ironing out, for example the set controls at the start are horrendous, back switches weapons, the triggers open menus. its just a mess, and requires serious tweaking to get playable. The game also does not save.
you heard me.
i got halfway through, died for the first time and promptly swore my ass off when i saw i was back at the beginning were i quick-saved because of the terrible controls. i mean honestly, no auto save?, is this 1991? there's just no reason not to have it, if it can quick save it should have checkpoints and auto save features, even the most lackluster budget games are capable of this.
These are small gripes but right off the bat they break you off from engaging with the subject matter, and its very hard to be scared in a game when you are seething cruses at the controller.
I think the biggest gameplay problem is it was ported straight form pc to xbox and given a very rough control system, back then it was still like the xbox was just a pc for casual gamers rather than the franchise in its own right it has become and i think they felt they had little incentive to do more than just burn it onto a dvd, slap and xbox sticker on it and wave off the delivery man.

Sound wise its quite good, luckily i was expecting "ARD CORE METTULZ!" when i played this but luckily it does use the good old adage of silence being more deafening in horror than any soundtrack, it gets you, when you can get into the game, paranoid all the time, did i just hear a moan in the shadows?, was that something around the corner walking? its nothing at all memorable, but it gives the game character and i like that.

Graphics... now heres the thing. It was praised for implementing shadows right? well it doesn't implement them into the game, they drown the game in them. Again, thats all well and good when it comes to intent to scare. But it takes away form the enjoyment of the game, and with frustration comes disassociation and the illusion of the piece is ruined and it loses the ability to scare, this gets steadily worse as it progresses, by halfway you know that the darker a corner is, the more likely a monster will be in there. There not bad, kinda the way games of the time made players look like they were made of cottage cheese but thats just aging badly.

This port does have some cool extras, the first 2 doom games on the disc, trailers the like, overall its a nice package considering it was free. But in the long-run id say this is either a poor port, or has aged incredibly badly. I feel i must finish each one to give a fair judgment, but i cannot play all the way through this because its too much like work, its not scary, its not fun, its not a game. its an interactive screensaver, its not that its a bad game, its just there's so many better outings i can recommend instead, so this has dragged its score down.

unreasonable?, maybe. but i cant in good conscience give this such a score when i know there's a better game out there, hell i had more fun playing condemned 2 and you can just read my review on an older post about my thoughts on that.

Its really hard to give this game a numerical value out of ten, it feels like a 4 out of ten, so ill say that, but really i can just say "thumbs down" and shake my head in disappointment.

If you see this in a shop, put it down, go pick up prey or condemned instead, you'll thank me for saving, not your money, but your time.


Wednesday, 18 June 2008

"Experience the fear"

So I thought it was time for a break down of fatal frame 4 from what we know.

We can get a few things 1: That the protagonist has ties to a hospital, does this mean the girls pictured on the official site are her and other patients?, or did they all live on this island the hospital has connections to? They were "rescued", but are now dying off. is this a ring style curse?, or perhaps the purpose they were born for, are they more rope shrine maidens or something more sinister. 5 for the 5 elements in japanese folklore?.

Who knows, but the reading makes interesting food for though doesn't it?

What about the name of the game? "The Mask of the Lunar Eclipse"?

what significance does that bear?  

The only reference i could find to an eclipse was the Shinto sun goddess "Amarterasu ", Who caused an eclipse by sealing a cave, from what ive read ,hurriedly, on the subject the world was saved by a sumo. which, whilst saying something for the bravery of the sumo, doesn't seem in keeping with the theme of the series.
What about masks? 
The first thing that comes to mind are Japanese Noh Theatre masks. The noh performances are based on 6 groupings, possibly it could be used for 5 girls and an eclipse as the 6th grouping? 
Although, the Noh theatre has routes in Buddhism, not shinto like i think the rest of the series is, so again. not in keeping with the vibe of its predecessors.
Honestly i dont think ill ever guess the story before i play it, but its fun to think about it and take wild guesses, and learn some folklore in the process.

Vampire The Masquerade - Bloodlines: The Review

Developers: Troika Games
Publishers: Activision
Released: November 19th, 2004
Platforms: PC

Right off the bat i was... unsure about bloodlines. 

I got it free with S.T.A.L.K.E.R: shadow of chernobyl one day and knew nothing about it, save that it was a video-game rpg made in the half life engine  based on a pen and paper/LARP (like action role play) game akin to dungeons and dragons, albeit set in a vampire controlled L.A.

Nether-the-less i gave in and tried it. since the idea of owning a horror game and not playing it, at least for a review, left me huddled in a corner, rocking back and forewords in a fetal position.

okay, not really, but still i felt like i had to give it a try.

So the game is a somewhat free roaming game, with 5 "hubs" that are a lot like a level from tony hawks underground 2 meets the early street levels of max payne. You play  as a male or female character of your choosing form one of several subclans of vampires. each with different abilities ,some magic based, others brutish savages and everything in between. 

Gameplay wise its a 3rd person horror themed action adventure with rpg elements. you have your typical wasd movement, aim with the mouse as a crosshair and either shoot in fps mode of swing a weapon in 3rd person. everything is simple to control, even though the jumping is akin to a crab performing gymnastics.  the controls are slightly self piloting. you dont pick a lock, you right click on a lock and either do or dont, its not like thief or oblivion were you actually pick it yourself. Its a little gripe, but i like my games, not just horror, but across the board, to have a little room for self expression in it. Here the gameplay, whilst enjoyable, feels like its an unfinished tech demo for a playstation game. I know the whole "self expression" thing sounds uppity and pretentious, but this IS a ROLE PLAYING game, yet it never draws you into the character, you never make it your own, you cant choose appearance, very few dialogue trees come to different final conclusions.

.....i know im going off on a tangent here but it is a fallacy rpg that appears to give to the player the freedom it promises, and in gameplay alone you can see that it would have easily worked on the consoles as a straight up 3rd person action horror game.


Storywise you can slightly affect your choices but overall its quite a linear experience in comparison to most rpgs, its rpg-lite. you are given the "embrace", become a childe of the night and are part of a clan, you are then cast out to do menial tasks for the night un-life of los angeles. during the beinnings of you getting into all these political shenanigans things start to go very awry. a ship, full of dead seamen and a sarcophagus driftsto shore, a powerful vampire suddenly becomes reclusive, and a serial killer is on the loose.  Say what you want about its shallow designs, it does have a good number of sub-plots ,seperate from the core narrative, and i like that. whilst there isn't much choice, there is a choice WHEN to do most things and these little stories actual take up more game than the core story missions, and not unlike gta you will find yourself doing these way before heading onto the next area to fight another boss.

Graphically speaking its of the time. its made in the half life engine, which means details, but also a kind of ...i dont know, feeling you in a box with buildings painted around the edges. its not sandbox gameplay, its lunchbox gameplay, a close emulation, though it lacks the true freedom of its larger, sandier counterpart.
the characters are well designed, although a lot more time is spent on the women's cleavage than buildings which is A: questionable and B: unsurprising given this is a game about vampires, natures enemy of the corset.
All in all the graphics have character, they do have a tendency to jar, with the likes of warcraft and stalker contained in the same level, but the overall design thematically works soundly.

Overall i, not a pc gamer, but part of the console playing sub race whos primary evolutionary traits are playing first person shooters and being loud, Found bloodlines to be that rare thing. -A pc game i can actually play, its witty, exciting, though never scary. The music and graphics suit the dark, comic-noir feel and most importantly i had fun. if you own a pc that can play it, as a horror fan you should play it.


Getting affiliated or "How to Whore yourself out like it's going out of style"

So here's a few websites that have listed me, so its only fair i give a little recommendation for each herein.

1: Black sanctuary - I only discovered this one recently and it doesnt appear to be as well advertised as it should be. Basically its an easy to explore directory of sites about survival horror gameing. Rnaging from general review and article sites like this one you fine readers are visting right now. To "shrines" to various characters form games, though its lamentabel the town itself from silent hill games has no such place as it was allways the most malevolent of characters in my opinion. it also includes fan fiction site and forums and is generally a good source of information when you take all of these sites, adn therefore the sizeable amount fo survival horror fans connected to it.
Very much worth adding to favourites.

2: Chris' survival horror quest - Possibly my favourite site form the ones on this list. Ive been visting for, damn, must be 5 years now maybe? I dont so much go there for articles or reviews, more for the community on the excellent forum, and to hear Chris (a videogames deisgner himself) give an intriguing insight from the other sid eof the looking glass on the current situation in the survival horror genre.
A must visit for horror fans.

3: Beyond the camera's Lens - By now you know that ,aside from my first horror passion silent hill, fatal frame is horror series i hold in the highest of regards. Not only because its still consistently terrifying to me, but it just has a style ot it thats like the game equivalent of an art house film. Evidently the Sites owners must have the same passion for these games given its Fatal frame theme.
To sum it up its bloody well designed, has genuine character to the site and its gonna be my location for fatal frame 4 news.
Not really affiliated ,but still very much worth a mention.

4: The Bitter End - Another general horror site, frequently updated with regualr news, that is a good source of information on more obscure games. The owners clearly go that extra mile by seeking out inromation, so yeah, another thumbs up.

5: The silent hill forum - been a member for going on 4 years now, great commuity with allways a new philosophical discussion going on or something. really great stuff overall.

Theres a few sites im affiliated with, or just link to because you should visit them, so scat!, go have a ganders and get off mah damn lawn!!!

Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds - The Review

Developers: Eurocom
Publishers: Vivendi
Platforms: Gamecube, Xbox, PS2
Released: August 27th, 2003
Genre: Horror themed beat-em-up/ Action adventure

Now i must admit, the time of Buffy has passed somewhat. I don't get into the reruns as much as i used to, but its always going to have some appeal for me, as Buffy the vampire slayer was one of THE key shows the springs to mind when i reminisce about my childhood viewing habits.
So i wasn't that jazzed to get into this one, but it was £2 so what the hell?, i gave it a spin.

The game opens literally dropping you into the middle of a fight. Giles' shop ," The Magic Box" is under assault from a gang of vampires. The task falls to the player to rid the store of these undead gatecrashers. Only a change has been made since the first one. Your not alone anymore.
Not only can you play as the titular Buffy summers, but now you are joined by the rest of the scooby's. You can fight using magic with Willow Rosenberg. Use vampiric strength with Spike. The Monster hunting skills of Sid the dummy. Faiths slayer strength.

and Xander harris, with the power of comic timing!

So each has different skills for you to use. Unfortunately you have no choice in which to play as, which would have added a nice multiple route ,puzzle solving aspect. Though this is because each characters location and motivations is intrinsic to the games plot.

To sum it up without spoilers, Buffys enemies are returning from the dead, alternate realities are "bleeding" into one another. Then wouldja believe its up to her to save the world?

So, game play. For the most part this is a fun, albeit flawed, beat-em-up engine. You use block, punch and kick (or in willows case energy or fire) to create combos with varying degrees of eviserating capabilities. Its fun, but its far to easy to get stuck in a combo by accident and punch yourself a path right past the enemy. then get knocked down by then and have ten bells of shit beat out of you for the transgression. Honestly, i know this was 5 years ago now, but i would have still kept this back a few more weeks to iron out some of the combat problems.
Story wise its basically a typical joss whedon creation. unique dialogue compared to most 3rd person games in the same vein. Though i must admit whedons "witty one liners" for characters, most noteably buffy and xander, have grown incredibly tired and stale since the first season of buffy.
I should point out that this is set between 2 episodes of season 5, just a while after joyce summers has died. overall the story has good dialogue, but the main plot itself seems like a straight up budget title, point being you could skip every cutscene and still play happily.
Music wise its the exact same stuff from the first game, granted i havent played it in a good few years now, but im quite sure that its the exact soundtrack that played through the first one. it still works, dont get me wrong, each scene is well set by it. it just sems cheap is all.
now i feel i should mention ,before i get to graphics, that this is a "monther" game.

What do i mean by "monther?" you ask?

a Monther is a game were you will breeze through 2 hours of gameplay and get to a point were you will be inexplicably stuck with no way of knowing how to progress, and without gamefaq's you will leave the game for months without knowing what to do.
For example, Xander had to get passed an electric fence. i saw an obviously pointed out fuse box, since its texture was a brighter hue than anything else in the room. I wasnt told this however, i was told nothing. save for the fact 20 minutes earlier a woman, ONLY IF YOU HIT HER BY MISTAKE. tells you that she hid a crossbow in the building.
I look everywere but find nothing. so the month begins, least, it would have had i had no internet connection.
Turns out you must beat open a locker, not use the same action to open doors, but beat a locker that looks eactly the same as 7 other lockers in the same room who are all indestructable boxes of scenery.
Then i shot the fuse box and climbed the fence.

This also occured in ghosthunter with the librarys poulterghiest, it doesnt ruin the gameplay really, but it just doesnt explain in any way what you need to do, and it should to some extent. not a major gripe to put me off the game, but worth ranting about.

Finally graphics, this is an odd one, character model wise theres 3 for each type of bad guy. though each model is skinned 3 different ways to streatch out the amount. thoughyou still run into the same ones in groups for some unkown reason, save the developers got a bit lazy.
xander, willow and giles look startlingly like there on screen counterparts in this videogame outing, buffy and spike however look like a generic npc from an mmo, no charcter to there appearance. just generic blocks.
the enviroments are varied enough, from a midnight churchyard to the streets of sunnyvale and beyond. there pretty cool and quite large for an origional xbox title, i was quite pleased by it. i was expecting small fable sized areas but the developers whent to town on this portion.

Overall its a game with character. Its flawed, but i dont think theres been a 3rd person action game yet that hasnt had a few glaring scratches in an otherwise stellar paintjob. Sure you can get stuck for months and the soundtack is recycled, but as a whole package it works. i had fun playing it and i think i will play it again some day instead of trading it in disspointed like i did with my last review.
If your a buffy fan its a definate purchase, though likely you have allready. For general fans of horror themed games id say give it a try, given its extreme budget pricetag its worth the miniscule dent in your wallet, but if it was brand new?, maybe not.

ill give chaos bleeds [6/10]

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Project Origin (Fear 2) footage

Just trawling the net and found this on youtube, its footage of project origin. The sequel to fps jump-em'-up F.E.A.R. The original had fantastic A.I, even if the story and scares were lackluster, but the atmosphere made it... when you were exploring yet another generic office or warehouse, NOT when you were being attacked by the guard robots from robocop. 
still im looking forward to this myself, what about you?

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Wow, this sites really been doing the round's lately

-no, really it has.

i was googling silent hill 5 for any new info and this fine, grammatical error filled, site is showing up quite a bit. I even found a site giving an rss feed of it: 

In fact comments have been picking up, even if articles haven't, and there is a reason for that.

A while back the student loan i took out for my filmmaking degree came in and i purchased a top of the range I-mac, so i could actually have the suites to create professional level pieces of work, however my new mac doesn't seem to like blogger and very often I'm having posts deleted instead of being posted.
It also doesn't like youtube. Right now there are reviews for the darkness, vampire the masquerade : bloodlines, bullet witch, fatal frame 2: crimson butterfly and s.t.a.l.k.e.r: shadow of chernobyl which still haven't been uploaded, so stay tune and hopefully ill work this out soon.

'Least its got a spell check.

Monday, 2 June 2008

Fatal Frame: a true story?

Not likely ,though apparently this is how the game was advertised outside of Japan.

See ,right now I'm playing Fatal frame 2: Crimson butterfly DIRECTORS CUT on in the Xbox 360, (expect a review, as always, when I'm done with the game) so anyway I'm online looking for a good crimson butterfly wallpaper thats suitably creepy and i look on the wikipedia were i learn that the original was indeed toted as a true story.
I remember hearing something about this a long time ago. Naturally i dismissed it but it turns out it has been doing the rounds on the net since 2002. Feeding off the fanfare from import of remakes of the time like ring there was tons of websites, not only claiming to be the true mythology of the Himuro Mansion, but also some saying, and heres an example of the worst, that someone was AT the mansion surrounded by ghosts , being forced to try and shoot themselves.
Problems with that story was the spelling and grammar was worse than my own, and i'm pretty sure guns are illegal in tokyo. 
Point is that people really thought this was real, this: was toted as pictures of the real deal, even when it says at the top, and i quote, it is "absolute crap".

But people continue to believe for the very reason survival horror is popular, because people want to believe its true, and people want to be scared. Since the release of the first game the creator has stated that Fatal Frame was actually based on two stories, an urban legend about a murdered family, and a ghost story about a hanged woman.

This isn't a stand alone case, there have been a few games in the survival horror genre being sold as a true story. Another example being these two examples for the video game forbidden siren, and
Thee are listed on wikipedia AS hoax sites but i've still found examples in forums and on sites like yahoo answers about people who are genuinely asking if its a true story about red rain turning people into monsters. Granted there are some who TRY to give it a more feasible narrative, like a chemical accident that caused psychosis in a secluded community or something, not unlike the plot of George A Romero's  "The Crazies". The story was totally false but again people WANTED to believe them, these horrifying situations were willed to be by these people fascinated with the possibility of such events being possible. 


I think its because people love to be scared, its why the genre is so popular, and why people like me have sites like this. This comes to a head in these japanese games were there isolated culture cultivated such a rich and unique folklore thats so foreign and intriguing to western folks, its in japan so its far away, it cant reach you, your safe even if it is real. 
Thats what people want, just an inkling of terror to be scared, but not real "this coudl kill you at any time terror".

Because if that was true war games would be the greatest survival horror.