June 29, 2008 § 2 Comments
Once again, I’m a little late to the party.
It seems everyone with half an internet connection and a copy of the Orange Box is raving about how Portal is the greatest gift ever bestowed upon humanity by the demi-god that is Gabe Newell. I have noticed that after the recent Portal 2 casting call, people have been flinging their retarded theories about like postulating monkeys, and the ears of sensible people are being assaulted with idiotic ideas like Portal 2 going to Xen, or Gordon somehow getting his grubby mitts on the Portal Gun.
Never one to be left out of the loop, I have spent the last five minutes TWO DAYS coming up with my own list of things both most and least likely to appear in Portal 2. I’m not putting them in any kind of order, though. You should be able to decide for yourself by now, god damn.
Some people think that some kind of interaction with Gordon Freeman is in any way likely. This is bollocks. Aside from the fact that he is lacking in a set of vocal chords, it would shatter the illusion that you and Gordon are the same person, and Valve clearly value that above all else, because it gives them the edge over much more high-tech games. They just about pulled it off in Opposing Force, but I don’t think they’d try it again. Believe it if you want, but you’re stupid if you do.
No. I don’t care how funny it would be, the Source engine cannot handle NPCs (non player characters) in portals. Anyone who has played Garry’s Mod for five minutes knows that NPCs assigned to ragdoll models are not physics-enabled save for a simple hitbox. So turrets and rollermines go through portals fine, soldiers and antlions not so much. If that’s not excuse enough for you, I reckon that there’s another reason Chell never fights the combine. The point of Opposing Force and Blue Shift was to give you another point of view on the events in Half-Life 1. When you look at it this way, and consider the predator-prey nature of Portal’s story, it seems likely that Portal 2 will take place during, or leading up to, the 7-hour war; it being the only blank space in the Half-Life story. So, possibly running from the combine, but no fighting.
3)More Portal Tomfoolery
I’ve been thinking about this kind of thing for a while. We’ve fucked about with the principles of gravity and momentum, so where can Portal go from here? Assuming Valve can bring some new ideas to the table there should be no complaints. I thought it would be cool to have different-sized portals, so you go into the big one and emerge in a world where you’re tiny, or vice versa. Also multiple portal sets please.
No no no no no no no no no no it would not work. The capacity for griefing is ridiculous, and the numerous different portal renderings would eat up fps like there’s no tomorrow. Also it would distract from Team Fortress 2. Also it wouldn’t be fun. Stop asking.
See http://www.exitemod.com if you’re desperate (Note: it’s dead now, but the links are still up).
I honestly am still on the fence about this. I reckon maybe you could catch a glimpse of him at points, but I don’t think he’d take an interest in Chell at all. She doesn’t seem to be the empire-toppling type. I do think he would be after the portal gun though. My brother has a pretty good theory-type-thing that the Gman’s power revolves around teleportation, since they seem to be the only times he can interfere. That’s why I reckon he’d want the portal gun, either to use it or destroy it to prevent competition.
I only have time to do a small bit on Team Fortress 2, so I’ll talk about something which has caused a great amount of ire in the community lately. I don’t know why, but ever since the unlockables for the pyro came out, I haven’t been playing as much. I think maybe because the pyro was my favourite class before, and I would often be the only one on the team. This gave me an edge because the pyro’s main weakness is other pyros. Now that there’s so many, it gets frustrating not being able to have an impact.
Another problem is the number of servers with instant respawns active. I understand it can be annoying when you have to wait 15 seconds to get back to playing again, but Valve put the 15 seconds in for three good reasons:
1)Time to Think
When you rush out and get yourself killed for no reason, you are given time to stop and figure out what your mistakes were. That way, when you come back to life, you have some idea of what you want to do now. You also have time to consider what class you should be playing as, and which will help your team more.
2)Time to Breathe
When you finally infiltrate the enemy base and get ready to make an impact, you don’t want to see the guy you just backstabbed come running out straight away to reveal your position. You also don’t want the engineer you just blew up to instantly run back to his sentry with a full tank of metal, ready to undo everything you’ve achieved. You especially don’t want to see the two heavies you just desperately managed to burn to death to rush back out and fill you with hot angry lead. These people need to stay dead, or you get a ridiculous meatgrinding stalemate; especially on symmetrical maps like 2Fort.
3)Time to Talk
The importance of teamwork in this game is constantly misinterpreted. You don’t need to coordinate and perfectly time your actions, but you can’t expect to win the game as an unruly rabble. When you die and stay dead, you can decide who you’re going to keep an eye on in the next round, for example, a medic could heal a heavy, while a pyro gives him cover from spies and snipers by spraying fire everywhere. Likewise, a demoman could team up with a spy to destroy sentries while they’re being sapped, so he doesn’t just get pasted against the back wall by the little bastards.
Well, that didn’t really constitute a review of anything, but those are my thoughts.
Have a nice day.
June 18, 2008 § 4 Comments
Disclaimer: Prepare to bear witness to some spoilers, like…big ones. You have been warned.
Half Life 2: The Orange Box is perhaps the best example of forward thinking displayed by a company in a very long time. It was released last year by Valve, who everyone should immediately recognise and the insanely talented developers of the Half Life series. We’re talking here about the people who introduced Gordan Freeman and perhaps reinvented the first-person shooter in the age of extremely fast paced multiplayer focussed shooters of the late nineties. Both the original Half Life released in 1998 and its sequel in 2004 were critically acclaimed best-sellers, winning the hearts of gamers world over.
It should come as not surprise then that when Valve first announced Episode 2, the continuation of the series, most expected the game to be released as a stand alone product, but Valve went against this speculation with the news that Episode 2 would not only ship with the original Half Life 2 and Episode 1, but also with two other games; the long awaited Team Fortress 2 and Portal. This move goes against every rule followed by major videogame companies today. They were not only going to include 3 entirely new games together, but they would also pack in the other games in the series. By doing this Valve effectively threw a net over the entire videogaming community; veterans to the Half Life series would get the next chapter in Gordan Freeman’s adventures as well as two seperate game, and newbies would get a handy catch up guide. It was hard for anyone to resist and the sales reflected this with an average score of 96% on Metacritic.
Today’s article is not focussed on Portal or Team Fortress 2, rather it is focussed on Episode 2, which although amazing in both scale and quality, was overshadowed by it’s two rival siblings. It is a game which is very hard to describe in an introductory sentence; the game is in many ways a continuation of the goal of escape presented in Episode 1 but also marks a turning point when the resistance finally makes a stand against the Combine forces and needless to say, wins.
The game starts, just as its predecessor did, at precisely the point the previous game ended. You’re in the wreckage of a recently destroyed train, blown off the tracks by the massive explosion resulting from the collapse of City 17’s reactor. Immediately the game shows you the peril you’re in when you suddenly see Combine forces swarming by on a nearby road, and it soon becomes clear to you that escape is essential. You need to reach the resistance headquarters and deliver a transmission packet of supreme importance to Dr. Kleiner in order to shut down the super portal opened by the Combine to their home world.
You may have noticed that I referred to “you” in the second person last paragraph in stark contrast to the usual third person “Gordan” or “the main protagonist” I usually use when describing a game’s plot. This is almost certainly due to the fact that Half Life is almost unique in it’s methods of storytelling. You, in effect, are Gordan Freeman. You’re experiences have been kept the same right from the beginning of Half Life 1, and it’s very hard not to become the character you’re playing. At no point in the game do you see Gordan from the third person, at no point do you look in the mirror and see his ginger goatee staring back at you. In fact, apart from the game’s box art, we have no idea who Gordan Freeman actually looks like, and this all adds to the illusion that he’s almost not a real person at all, merely an extension of your own being. When Alyx is seriously injured near the beginning of the game you feel a loss, because that’s your relationship with her that was damaged, not a two-dimensional plot device shoehorned in by the developer. This is not the story of how Gordan Freeman saved the world, but yours.
You’re on the run. At every point in the game you feel outnumbered and it’s made very clear to you, at least in its narrative, that you can’t stay anywhere for very long for fear of discovery by the masses. For the entirety of the game you’re rushing from place to place, using what you can before moving on in your turbo charged buggy. It should come as no surprise then that when you finally reach White Forest you feel safe for the first time in ages, you finally feel, dare I say it, at home. And yet it doesn’t last, but of course you knew that already, because this is Half Life, and things never go your way, and this brings us to the single most awesome event in the Half Life games to date, the stand off against the invading Striders.
You’ve faced them before, in the linear confined of City 17 but this time it’s different, you no longer have your trusty rocket launcher with which to take them down systematically one by one but instead you’re forced once again to turn to the Gravity Gun to attach sticky bombs to the rapidly approaching Striders, taking them out whilst trying in vain to protect White Forest. This set piece is not only unique because of it’s epic scale, but also because it marks a real turning point in the series. You’ve finally stopped running away from the Combine and you’re ready to take their full force on. This can be best described as an evolution of your character, transforming you from the scared cowardly (ish) scientist into the hardened warrior you must become if you’re going to deal with these invading forces permanently.
Episode 2 is not simply a great game because of it’s graphics, enemies or gameplay. Episode 2 is a great game because it is a true evolution of the series. When you reach the end credits you really feel as if you’ve covered some distance emotionally rather than being the exactly the same person you were six hours ago. It also manages to really make you empathise with your character, you feel his pain, his anger, his fear, and it truly manages to immerse you in this world, and make you lust for more after its concluding chapter.
At some point in the future hopefully Trolleydude will step in the write part 2 of this article, focussing on the likes of Team Fortress 2 and Portal. Stay tuned for that in the future! As for me, anyone who’s been reading this blog for any length of time should know that I’m a huge Metal Gear fan so it should come as no surprise to you that I’ve been playing the hell out of MGS4. I plan to write up a detailed review of the game in the near future, however it won’t be a review in the traditional sense, containing huge plot spoilers much as this article has. Until next time.
June 15, 2008 § Leave a comment
Trolleydude here, just a short post to mention that some dastardly fellows seem to have got their grubby mitts on the Spore Creature Editor 3 days early. I know Hailogon wouldn’t be happy if I provided a link, but if you went to visit Jackie Chan, you’d be heading in the right direction.
The problem with user-created content and the internet is that there will always be people who want to show you their penis house or their race of intelligent penises or their rally car shaped like a penis or their penis-themed superhero or…well, you get the idea.
Since everyone on earth is going to buy spore then it should be near-impossible for Maxis to filter out the inevitable penis horde, and I can only hope that they come up with some solution. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a family of…things to raise.
June 3, 2008 § 6 Comments
i think halo is a pretty cool guy. eh kills aleins and doesn’t afraid of anything
Seriously, though – let’s all take a trip back seven years. Half-life has come and gone, Duke Nukem Forever is still delayed, and there has been nothing but an empty void for a good long while now. Suddenly, bursting out of the ether, comes the, for better or worse, most talked-about game of the decade.
Yes, Microsoft really needed Halo to succeed. This was their maiden voyage into console gaming, and they’d accidentally hyped it more than Transformers (which was awesome, by the way), building up expectations which were difficult to satisfy, and skepticism which was hard to shrug off. When it arrived, people knew they had found an instant classic.
Okay, people are going to hate me for this, but Halo was fucking brilliant. Every last detail was filed down to a shiny point; from the ace co-op vehicle sections to only having two weapons at once; punching someone in the back for an instant kill; the cheesy story that was told so well; split-screen deathmatch: I could go on, and I will. From the disorientating beginning, through the campaign chock-full with brilliant action setpieces, to the edge-of your-seat balls-retractingly fantastic car chase finale. Everything the game did, it did perfectly. The visuals were ahead of the pack, the controls were fluid and customisable, and the AI was a cut above. Halo was the first game I ever saw from beginning to end in co-op. Halo was the only game I ever played with fifteen other guys in the same room. Halo was the game that taught me how to game, and I loved it for that.
Then came Halo 2.
Picture this: you’ve just made one of the most successful games of all time. Your first move?
Make a sequel. BZZT. Wrong answer. Now you’re Bungie and you’ve lost half your fanbase.
The answer Bungie failed to come up with was the answer Valve invented. You don’t make a sequel. You make a new game. You sit and listen to your fans, the intelligent ones, and figure out what made your last game good. Not successful. Good. What made it interesting? What made it innovative? What made it fun? One of their critical failures was not answering that last question.
What made Halo fun was the feeling that you were having an adventure. Not, and I quote every single game designer of the last five years (not Valve) “fighting for your life in a realistic gritty urban environment”. Halo 2 tried to be grim. It tried to be serious. It tried to have characters you give two shits about. The entire game was based around this. THIS IS NOT WHAT CONSOLES ARE FOR.
Leave epic single player games to the PC. Please. There’s a reason for this that I’ll go into next time, but trust me when I say that they don’t work on consoles.
The best parts of Halo (hell, the best parts of any game) were when you’d be fighting off a horde of angry aliens, watching your marine buddies get slaughtered until you were the last man standing, then cheering as your co-op partner drove a jeep full of soldiers over a ridge, swung by just long enough for you to jump in, then sailed away into the sunset.
Obviously that’s paraphrased, but the point stands. Action games should play like action movies. Every second should either thrill you or kill you, and if you get bored then they’re doing it wrong. In Halo 2 every fight takes place in a dilapidated building full of corridors, as you move from room to room pulling triggers. In Halo 3 every other fight takes place in a really detailed alien structure full of corridors. I think a lot of people would call it bad level design. Me too.
Halo 3 did have one or two really exciting moments, like when you’re plummeting down a mountainside on a quad bike with your obligatory co-op sidekick dodging rockets, weaving in and out of craters and pitfalls, until you reach the bottom and take a giant jump onto the back of a huge mechanical spider crawling with pissed off aliens, whom you frantically fight off as your partner runs to the back to blow up the engine, causing the spider to go into meltdown and the pair of you to jump to the ground and take cover inside a bubble shield that you dropped just in time to save yourself from an explosion brighter than the fucking sun. See, I’m waxing lyrical about this section, because it was fun. If Halo 3 had featured more setpieces like this, people would be remembering it much more fondly. That’s the problem. You can tell that there was one person on the dev team who knew what they were talking about, because the scenes they had a hand in engage with a sudden clunk, before something really awesome happens.
I’ve gone on far too long, so I’ll finish with this:
What makes a game good is the feeling that you really are having an adventure. Whether you’re fighting aliens in Halo, fighting aliens in Half-Life, or fighting aliens in Crysis; what matters is the impression that you decide what’s going to happen next. You’re supposed to feel like you’re in control, but at the same time you’re being swept up in this fantastic story, and you follow it because you want to, not because it’s the only way to open this door or get across this room. I guess what I mean to say is; a good game should make you feel like you’re there. Like you don’t have two seconds to press A to get in cover, you have two seconds to get in cover before your brains are decorating the wall behind you. Despite all I’ve said, the Halo series did do this. The trouble is, it didn’t do it enough.
And that, gentlemen, is my two cents.