Cardboard Children – Specter Ops

Hello youse.

As we run up towards the release of what will probably be the greatest video game of all time, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, I thought we should maybe take a look at a recent release that tries to capture that MGS feel. It’s a game called Specter Ops, and it’s about an agent sneaking into a facility to complete some objectives while avoiding a group of bad guy weirdos. Sounds about right, yeah? But is it?

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Wot I Think: Planetary Annihilation – Titans

Announced and released today, Planetary Annihilation: Titans [official site] is an expandalone version of Uber Entertainment’s Planetary Annihilation. The original game, Kickstarted and released last year, was trapped in the orbit of two RTS giants – Total Annihilation and Supreme Commander. Staff at Uber had worked on both games and their new venture was seen as a spiritual successor of sorts, pitting enormous robotic armies against one another, backed up by Commander units, supply-and-demand resource management, and base-building.

Titans adds, tweaks and modifies but does it do enough to make Planetary Annihilation worthy of a second look? I’ve been playing since late last week and here’s wot I think.

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Englishness

Warning: in this piece I’m primarily talking about Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture, which isn’t out on PC as yet, though I’ll willingly devour at least one item of clothing if it doesn’t walk this way eventually. Anyway, I talk about STALKER and Dear Esther too, so everything’s OK.

Playing The Chinese Room’s new game, Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture, what strikes me almost immediately is not the mystery, the science fiction trappings or even the extreme prettiness. It’s that I’m in England. A very particular England.
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Have You Played… Major Stryker?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every weekday of the year, perhaps for all time.

Truth be told, I don’t know which of my muddled memories are of Major Stryker and which are the many other gloriously over-the-top shmups of the late DOS era. I just know that, for a time, I loved them more than anything: the action, the explosions, the really big guns you got if you collected enough orbs, the fact they weren’t particularly difficult (which made bullet hell games such as Ikaruga a nasty shock when I tried ‘em years later), the way you could blow up things on the ground for no reason other than DESTRUCTION. They were everything games needed to be.
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American Psychological Association Continues Bad Science Relating To Video Game Violence

Edit: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the open letter was in response to the APA’s latest publication. It has been updated to be more accurate.

Despite a coherent effort by academics to stand up to the bad science about video games being spread by the American Pyschological Association, they have released another study making all the same mistakes. Unfortunately, the APA has a history of taking a deeply skewed and unscientific approach when it comes to data on this subject, as we reported in 2011. In 2013, 230 academics and scientists signed an open letter stating their objection to the claims being made by the APA, calling them “misleading and alarmist”. It didn’t seem to make a difference.

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Wot I Think: Volume

Volume [official site] is a third-person, sci-fi stealth game, in which you direct a little dude around VR-styled, maze-like levels, dodging guards with wits and with gadgetry, with the aim of grabbing all the loot and getting out again. It’s out now.

I hope Mike ‘Thomas Was Alone’ Bithell’s new game wasn’t hoping to pre-empt any ‘turn down the…’ gags by hiring a celebrity voice cast, because sadly it wasn’t long before I started muting things.
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Premature Evaluation: Crest

Crest seeks to explore the way religions evolve, say the devs - although “devolve” might be more accurate here, your various edicts warping with the strange whims of your followers. There is certainly precedent for that, in the long and bloody history of religious misinterpretation. One of the most famous instances of such semiotic slippage in Christianity occurs when St Jerome - the patron saint of translators, no less - attempts to produce a new Latin translation of the bible from the original Hebrew, rather than from the Greek which had been the basis for the Latin translation hitherto. And in so doing, he unwittingly creates a pervading racist slur that plagues an entire people to this day.

Each week Marsh Davies brings a rain of fire upon the Sodom ‘n’ Gomorrah that is Early Access and comes back with any stories he can find and/or succumbs to the sordid pleasures therein. This week he fixes a puritanical eye upon the hapless hedonists of Crest, a god game in which your only interaction is to set a list of commandments and hope the humans heed your Word.

The god of Godus was less Jupiter than janitor, a god whose entire divine being was dedicated not to righteousness but to relentless menial labour. Crest’s god, by contrast, has a bit more responsibility, being required to describe an entire moral framework with a few judicious instructions. Though, that’s not to say your chosen people won’t find your religious writs open to some degree of interpretation. 180 degrees, in fact. Tell them to seek food and look after the elderly and, a few generations later, the tribe is waging a xenocide on gazelles and dancing until they drop dead.

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Walking, Driving, Flying, Seeing, Looking, Watching: Tourist Simulators

I’ve been on holiday, which means I’ve spent more energy walking around and looking at things, than I do when I’m at work. It’s a tricky thing, this holiday business. How am I supposed to enjoy the majesty of nature (and the cold pint in a country pub that waits at the end of nature) when my muscles are aching, the sweat is like an oil slick on my brow, and I’ve fallen into the habit of checking my maps every fifteen minutes because I’m convinced I’m walking in the wrong direction.

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Have You Played… Darksiders II

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Ooh, I like me some Darksiders II [official site]. Yet another tragic victim of the collapse of THQ, the prospects of a third game in the series seem ever-far away, with current owners Nordic Games still saying such a thing is yet to start. But with a remake of the game coming up later this year, now couldn’t possibly be a worse time to recommend it to you.

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The RPG Scrollbars: The Long Night Of Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines (With Clan Quests)

They say the definition of madness is repeatedly trying the same thing and expecting different results. But hey, the Malkavians of Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines have lucked into stranger things, so I figure there’s at least a chance that one day I’ll fire it up and find a whole new adventure waiting. Today was not that day. Tomorrow isn’t looking too likely. Yet still it feels like it’s our best chance, until someone else finally figures out that urban fantasy is a painfully untapped genre for RPG awesomeness. (Looking at you, Hairbrained Schemes. Still time to ditch that boring Battletech license!*)

Still, while waiting for Shadowrun: Hong Kong this week, I felt that urge to head back to Santa Monica and check out some old haunts. The timing seemed fitting, especially with the launch of a new version of the Clan Quest mod the other week – one of several projects attempting to keep Bloodlines healthy over ten years after launch.

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The RPS Bargain Bucket: Flu Faced

I’m pretty sure back-to-back conventions were the Grim Reaper’s finest invention. I feel like death. I feel like death gently warmed over, to be fair, rather than death squirming with maggots. So it could be worse. But it isn’t an amazing day. (P.S: Sorry for this being an out-of-season Bargain Bucket. I was squished by meetings last night. Boo.) While I endeavor to make myself into a coherent human being again, enjoy this bucket of bargains. This very strange plushie is from Ross. (And apologies for a very short Bargain Bucket. I’m wilting from bacteria.)

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The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for family to visit and probably to sneak in a game or two from the new football season. Not before we’ve round up the week’s best games writing, though.

  • Dungeon Hacks is a book by David L. Craddock about the making of seminal roguelikes including Hack, Angband and Rogue itself. Gamasutra recently ran an excerpt from chapter 5, which is as much about early computing and some forward thinking teachers as it is game creation. A great read:
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What Are We All Playing This Weekend?

Alice is on holiday, leaving it to me to ask us and you that timeless question: whatcha playin’ there buddy?

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