Posts Tagged ‘retrospective’

Nioh brings a ballet of breathtaking violence

Nioh header

New Testaments is a new monthly column in which Amr Al-Aaser presents an overlooked modern game and explicates its best ideas.

Nioh is the kind of game that this column exists for. On release it quickly saw itself buried beneath the comparisons to Dark Souls, praised for the ways it imitated the series, and criticised for its failings in repeating From Software’s successes. But while Nioh clearly follows in the precedent set for the genre by Dark Souls, it does so in the same way something like Monolith’s BLOOD follows Doom: with a clear lineage, but with very different aims and aesthetic goals.

Nothing illustrates this difference in attitude more than the ki pulse.
Read the rest of this entry »

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed turned the mascot racer into serious competition

sonic-racing-header

New Testaments is a monthly retrospective in which Amr Al-Aaser presents an overlooked modern game and champions its best ideas.

Sonic the Hedgehog might be fast, but he’s probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of top tier arcade racers. So it might catch you by surprise to find out that Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed manages to not only build on the legacy of games like Outrun 2, Split Second and Blur, but takes the mascot racer, a genre that often aggravates players with its random elements, and turns it into a serious competitive racer. All while being an absurdly fun celebration of all things SEGA. Read the rest of this entry »

The rise and fall of Super Monday Night Combat helped make me better

torygorilla

I don’t think many will mourn the death of Super Monday Night Combat. Uber Entertainment’s free-to-play follow-up to XBLA smash Monday Night Combat was something of a hidden gem, albeit one with its die-hard fans. It still sits at the top of my Steam most-played list, and I promise this piece isn’t just an excuse for dumping over a thousand hours in a game few people bothered to look at.

The fact is, the writing was already on the wall back in 2013. Servers might have kept running for another five years, but concurrent players have struggled to break double digits in all that time. Uber Entertainment cite the recent GDPR ruling from the European Union in finally killing off SMNC, but it feels like Kirkland studio shut the door on the game a half-decade ago – and only now remembered to turn off the lights. Nobody’s mourning, because we all moved on years ago. Read the rest of this entry »

King’s Quest IV: A love letter from my 3-year-old heart

kings-quest-4-header

Like your first love, or your first hangover, you never really forget your first video game.

You know the one. The game you were first obsessed by. The game you gushed about to extremely bored friends cornered in the soft play area.

For me, one of my earliest memories is playing Sierra’s 1988 pixelated wonderland, King’s Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella. Read the rest of this entry »

Even The Ocean shows us how good people let bad things happen

eventheoceanheader

Videogames aren’t much for quiet. They trend towards spectacle, to grandiose statements of scale, and the intense catharsis of violence. And sometimes that means we won’t hear a message unless its shouted at us, unless it roars above the noise ever present in this space. We prefer meaning to be blunt and dramatic.

So it’s easy to see how Even The Ocean, the second game from the creators of Anodyne, became lost at sea. The game’s core is in the subtle ways it reinforces its story with its puzzles, without a moment of combat in sight. But being free of combat doesn’t mean it’s free of violence. Here the violence is structural, rather than physical. It’s a story about who we harm on our climb up society’s ladder, and the ways we reinforce harmful structures to support ourselves. It’s a far cry from the cheeky surrealism of Anodyne, and a more measured story from a more mature team. Read the rest of this entry »

Spark the Electric Jester is more than mere homage

2

Games often feel doomed to be defined either by the games they’re inspired by, or the games they go on to inspire. After all, this is a space where certain games loom so large that we’ve named entire genres after them. So it can be tough to sneak out of the “x meets y” framework we use to describe games.

Spark the Electric Jester wears its influences openly. By its own description it’s a platformer inspired by several games from the Mega Drive and Super Nintendo, and it’s clear there’s a love here for Sega’s high speed hedgehog. Spark’s creator, Felipe Daneluz, better known as LakeFepard, created several well known Sonic fan games, and there’s plenty of blue skies and high speed loops to hint at that history. But while retro style games are often content to imitate older titles and rely on the collective nostalgia for them, Spark the Electric Jester builds its own identity. Read the rest of this entry »

Retrospective: Darksiders II – Deathinitive Edition

Returning to Darksiders II [official site] nearly five years after I first reviewed it, for a worrying time I wondered what on Earth I’d been on about. I remember absolutely loving the game, and writing a rave review back in 2012, so why was I struggling to even want to carry on in the first hour? It turns out, it just has a really dull first hour, because ten hours in I’m so utterly engrossed, and want to rave about it all over again. Read the rest of this entry »

Saved Games: Interstate ‘76 is the game worth saving from 1997

Every game released before 2015 is being destroyed. We only have time to rescue one game from each year. Not those you’ve played to death, or the classics that the industry has already learned from. We’re going to select the games that still have more to give. These are the Saved Games.

There’s a moment just seconds into Interstate ‘76’s intro cinematic that I think neatly captures its spirit: two American hot rods are racing along a desert highway, one firing its roof-mounted machine guns perfectly in sync with the wacka-wacka funk guitar underpinning the scene, while the other weaves from side to side in front of it, also in time with the music. There are probably a total of seventy polygons onscreen, and yet the game’s stylistic vision and world of bizarre menace are communicated instantly.

Set in an alt-history southwestern USA in which the 1973 oil crisis provoked the rise of criminal gangs and a resultant vigilante uprising, Interstate ‘76 is a vehicular combat game as concerned with nailing an aesthetic as it is with the mechanics of cars shooting at one another. It’s a game that achieves remarkable harmony between its visual style, narrative and what you do as the player, and it does so in a world that’s not quite seventies pastiche or fantasy dystopia. Instead, it’s something strange and distinct in between the two. It is the game release of 1997 that should be preserved forevermore. Read the rest of this entry »

Deadly Premonition is the game worth saving from 2013

Every game released before 2015 is being destroyed. We only have time to rescue one game from each year. Not those you’ve played to death, or the classics that the industry has already learned from. We’re going to select the games that still have more to give. These are the Saved Games.

Deadly Premonition, in many respects, is one of the worst games I’ve ever played. The combat is awful, with a three-button aiming system and melee weapons that break after four swings. The sound design essentially consists of the same four or five audio clips on loop for the 25-hour story (I’d recognise that door creak anywhere). The driving is shocking, some of the acting is straight out of your local am-dram class, and the graphics wouldn’t look out of place on something released 15 years prior. To top it all off, the PC port is locked to 720p. Glorious.

So why on earth would I choose it as the game I’d save from 2013 (or 2010 if you count the game’s initial console release)? Read the rest of this entry »

Red Faction: Guerilla’s destructible scenery makes it still worth playing today

Two hostages. One building. Five government guards with reinforcements waiting in the wings. In most games, I’d try to sneak in with a silenced rifle, methodically popping enemies in the head one-by-one. But in Red Faction: Guerrilla, I don’t even have a gun in my inventory, let alone a silenced one. What I have instead are explosives. Lots of explosives.

I rig five charges at random points on the outside of the building, retreat to a safe distance, and squeeze the detonator. Glass shatters and debris flies off at all angles, a steel girder whizzing past my left ear as concrete and metal crumble down on top of the EDF soldiers, crushing them alive. But, predictably, the hostages are caught in the chaos. One is buried in the rubble, the other limping out with her health in the red.

The game tries to make me feel bad, alerting me that ‘morale’ in the local area has fallen to account for the dead guerrilla fighter. But I really don’t care. Because blowing up buildings is fun – and Red Faction: Guerrilla makes it more fun than any other game out there. Read the rest of this entry »

The remarkable community around a 27-year-old MS-DOS racing game

What does it take to keep a game alive for 27 years?

Stunts, released by Distinctive Software in 1990, is a brutally unforgiving racing game. In glorious 640×480 resolution, it boasts 3D graphics in bold primary colours, a physics engine (that will regularly destroy your car), and a track editor. Prior to the fall of the Soviet Union, it was pretty cutting edge. But what is most noteworthy about it is that it still has an active playerbase. I spoke to members of the Stunts community to find out why they’re still playing. Read the rest of this entry »

Why F.E.A.R.’s AI is still the best in first-person shooters

The shadows on the wall tell me they’re coming. Two of them, both with assault rifles swinging idly at their hips. If I’m quick enough, I’m sure I can take them both out in one go. I peek out of cover as they round the corner, and let my stake gun sing, pinning the first enemy to the wall with 10mm steel projectiles. But at the sound of gunfire the other one legs it back the way he came, hunkers down in cover, and yells for reinforcements down his radio.

This five-second episode tells you a lot about the attention to detail in F.E.A.R., a 12-year-old game with AI that puts many modern-day shooters to shame. Its army of clone soldiers feel smarter than any enemy I’ve faced in an FPS since, and remain razor-sharp to this day. Read the rest of this entry »

Meet the superfans still playing Populous: The Beginning

In 1998, Bullfrog released Populous: The Beginning, a quirky RTS sequel to the legendary Populous series of god games, to middling reviews. It ‘[wa]sn’t really Populous’ (Ron Dulin, GameSpot). It was ‘incredibly entertaining for about two weeks’ (Trent Ward, IGN). EA absorbed Bullfrog in 2001, and shut down the game’s multiplayer server in 2004. And that was that.

So how come there’s still an active group of Populous players keeping the flame alive nearly twenty years later? I got in touch with some of the community’s longest-standing members to find out. Read the rest of this entry »

Raised By Screens, chapter 17 – Planescape: Torment

Raised by screens is an intermittent autobiography, structured around the PC games I played in my youth. Most instalments are currently only available to RPS subscribers, but I shall compile them somewhere once the series reaches its eventual end.

Some spoilers for Planescape: Torment’s ending follow.

Too many games now, too many websites, too much happening each and every day. I mean only ‘too much for me personally to keep pace with’, not that this is inherently a poor state of things. I think about how I came to play Planescape: Torment, and how differently that might happen today.
Read the rest of this entry »

The RPG Scrollbars: Old Habitats Die Hard

There’s no better way to cause trouble than to talk about ‘firsts’. Say for instance that King’s Quest IV featured the first female adventure character, and you’re probably going to be drowned out by some pedant waving a copy of Infocom’s Plundered Hearts in your face. That pedant may even be me. Of course, that’s nothing compared to the folly of calling, say, Everquest the first MMO and leaving it without some very quick clarification. The extent of the first M in MMORPG, the importance of success over existence, the jump between mainframe and computer and all manner of other stuff makes it tricky to plant a flag everyone can actually agree deserves to be there.

But there aren’t many games with a better claim than Lucasarts’ Habitat, the latest classic game to get a fancy modern revival project. It definitely deserves it.

Read the rest of this entry »

Stunt Island, a vital piece of PC gaming history, is back

SWAT 4 isn’t the only golden geriatric to fetch up on GOG lately, you know. Stunt Island joined the ranks of olden wunderkinds on the Steam alternative late last year, but we were too knee-deep in festive fractiousness to cover it at the time. I don’t want to just ignore the charming and ambitious flight sim-meets-movie-making game, so let’s do this now.
Read the rest of this entry »

Prey 2006: A giant pile of ideas abandoned in a heap on the floor

2006’s original Prey came a full eleven years after 3D Realms began its production. Eventually completed by Human Head Studios, although using some of the original concepts (primarily the portal tech), it was released to rave reviews. Which is odd, because it’s a colossal pile of shit.

Read the rest of this entry »

Creeper World 3 has the best monster of any game

What’s the best video game monster? Stop and think. You’ve probably thought of something bristling with claws, which snarls as it rushes to bite you, or some skittering horror that lurks in the shadows. Perhaps it’s a shiny robot or a soldier with particularly fiendish AI. These are all understandable choices. They are, however, wrong.

The best monster is in Creeper World 3 [official site]. It is gunge. It has no weak point to exploit. It has no face. There will be no victory. There will only be gunge.

Read the rest of this entry »

Friendless Space: Why Master Of Orion 3 Is Important

Games are either good or the worst thing to ever happen. That’s just how it works. Oh, sure, there are divisive games, but once the consensus has been reached that a game is bad, that’s it. Cast it away into the pit of 1 star reviews, the lair of the Thumbdown, to be spoken of only with frothing hatred and contempt. Never to be touched. Never to be examined.

Master of Orion 3 is one of the most important 4X games ever made. There, I said it. It’s all over for me now. Follow not where I dare to tread.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Making Of Company Of Heroes

In 2001, Band of Brothers was still airing on HBO and Canadian developer Relic Entertainment was finishing up development of Impossible Creatures, its freaky animal RTS. Space and sci-fi had been its muse for years, but it found, in the increased cultural interest in World War 2, another setting and the impetus for Company of Heroes.

Relic celebrated the game’s tenth anniversary this month. It remains one of the most acclaimed RTS games of all time, lavished in 2006 with glowing reviews and heaps of awards. I’ll mostly remember it as the reason I got chewed out by a lecturer for dozing in class, after a long night of liberating Europe.

We’ve talked four of the original developers into taking a trip down a potholed, tank-lined memory lane with us.

Read the rest of this entry »