: Hotline Miami!

Hotline Miami is a game by Dennaton Games that is about one thing: Murdering peopl- Wait, come back, dissaproving parents! It’s not what it seems, it’s not just about murdering people, at no point does the game swing the camera round to the best angle to watch a kill and then yell “PHWOAAAAR” as you finish off some poor sap in a spectacularly dramatic and gory manner (Which would be quite hard to do, seeing as the game is done in the style of an 80’s retro 8-bit style arcade game)! Instead the game is about planning your route carefully, and then executing it with pinpoint precision. Although yes, the combat is rather fast, brutal, and rather visceral. But trust me, the only time I ever react to video-game violence is to wince at the more painful deaths, I haven’t been brainwashed and been turned into a cat-strangling psychopath.

So now that I’ve danced around that issue, I’ll talk about the actual game if you don’t mind. You play as a silent, unnamed masked hitman that picks up contracts on his answer machine (No mobile phones yet, we’re talking about 1987 here). Not much is given about the seemingly emotionless protagonist, but between missions you have these little sections reminding you that even people like him lead normal lives as well. These are normally just parts where you go to pick up a pizza or have a drink at a bar after you’ve finished a job, but it makes you think about it. Another interesting aspect is that you rescue some poor woman in one of the early missions and when you wake up and listen to your answer machine at the start of the mission she’s there in your apartment, and it goes from being a messy wreck to a clean, tidy, nice place to live. However (Spoiler warning) that kind of stops when somebody breaks into your apartment and shoots you both, but how can you not see that coming? Twisted versions of you in your masks taunt you in your dreams occasionally, making you wonder what effect the hitman’s job is having on him. Now, the actual missions.

The missions are simple: They are made up of a few floors in a building which need to be cleared of enemies, which are always just people that work for the mafia etc. so you aren’t just mindlessly stabbing hordes of innocent civilians like in Grand Theft Auto. The gameplay is fast, unforgiving, and VERY challenging. Everything kills you in a single hit, but thankfully works both ways. Possibly one of the most useful things in the game are doors.  Instead of opening them like a normal person you throw them open with such force they can knock someone to the ground so that you can finish them off, take their weapon and continue your carefully thought-out rampage through the building, which is probably going to be cut short because you beat someone to death with a pipe but someone shot you while you were halfway through doing it. If you don’t think long and hard about it, you WILL DIE, but dying is half of the fun, in my opinion. This may make the game seem inaccessible for some people, but those people are probably the same people that prefer games that hold your hand throughout the experience. I won’t name any particular games, but let’s just say one of them has the abbreviation COD (Now watch as the comment section of my blog bursts out into a large, violent argument). Guns, unsurprisingly, alert almost everyone to your position, which can mean trouble if some of them are also brandishing firearms. You can also throw your weapon if need be, which can either kill or briefly incapacitate and enemy allowed for you to finish them off, preferably with a baseball bat. At the end of every mission you get scored on various things such as flexibility and boldness. The more points you unlock, the more weapons you get. Occasionally you unlock new masks that do interesting new things like faster exec

The soundtrack is absolutely amazing, and fits it’s purpose like a glove. It makes the entire experience a lot more enjoyable, because what’s the point of going through the trouble of clearing out a building full of gang members with a frying pan if your ears are bleeding by the end of it? Another interesting thing is that it can go from a funky, upbeat pulsating rhythm to a slow, queasy one for one of those story sections where your masks are taunting you etc. I would pay the full £7 just for the soundtrack, if possible (Don’t try and pin that on me).

The graphics- Well, I don’t really need to say anything here. What? You expected me to write a paragraph on the graphics of an 8-bit game? Do you know what it looks like? Here!

You see? Ugh, fine. So yeah, the bright neon colours fit very well with the nostalgic 8-bit design yadayadayada. There.

Well, that was Hotline Miami, you can pick it up on steam for the low low price of £7 or your regional equivalent and possibly sanity.

Frank

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Everybody do the dinosaur: Primal Carnage (Beta)!

 

Before we start, I just need to warn you that I may or may not be flattering this game because it has dinosaurs in it.

Primal Carnage isn’t particularly complicated: You’re a dinosaur or a human, and you have to kill the other team. Dinosaurs get special abilities such as pouncing and flight, and humans get guns along with some interesting stuff such as a net gun. Now the first problem you might think is “This game will fail! Who would want to be a stupid boring human!?” Well, humans get the aforementioned interesting stuff, such as the trapper’s net gun, which can trap small dinosaurs so you can finish them off with your knife, and stop large dinosaurs such as the Carnotaurus and T-Rex (That’s right, T-Rex) from biting.

Each team has five classes: Humans have Commando (Machine gun and grenade launcher) Pathfinder (Shotgun and flares for blinding dinosaurs) Scientist (Sniper and dart gun for confusing dinosaurs) and the trapper (Netgun for disabling dinosaurs and a revolver and desert eagle) to choose from. Teamwork is encouraged, almost essential, especially when you’re being watched by a pack of hungry Raptors or Pterodactyls. Pathfinders set down flares to blind most dinosaurs, scientists take down pterodactyls and whittle away at some of the bigger dinosaurs, pyro runs round softening up dinosaurs, commando opens fire on the T-rex and the Carnotaurs, and the Trapper runs round taking down the raptors, Dilophosaurus, and low flying Pterodactyls. Simple.

Then there’s the DINOSAURS. They can choose from Pterodactyls (They can fly round, grab humans then fly back up and drop them), Raptors (Clawing at humans and pouncing on them, which is pretty much INSTANT DEATH if you aren’t in a group), Dilophosaurus (They run round blinding people by spitting at them and wearing them down with their poisonous bite), Carnotaurus (Charging round knocking people over and sending them flying with headbutts) and finally the T-REX! You can only have one for every ten players, so you only ever get two, and they’re absolute beasts (Pun fully intended). They can instantly kill every character in the game just by biting or trampling them, they can soak up tons of bullets, and they regain health when they eat humans. They all have strengths and weakness, for example the scientist is pretty much useless at short range and the T-Rex is slow and can’t get into some area, which makes gameplay very varied and exciting.

The graphics are very pretty, the foliage and trees look beautiful and are excellent hiding places, and character models are particularly detailed, most noticeably the T-Rex (Probably because he’s so huge) It’s very colourful and vibrant, with rays of sun poking through the canopy and lighting up the jungle floor. The levels are generally quite good, but airbase makes no sense. This is because it’s AT NIGHT and IT’S RAINING so you can’t see anything.

Mechanically everything is solid as concrete and everything has it’s own little niche in the game, and my only real problem reads as: OH GOD PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD FIX THE COLLISION DETECTION ON THE T-REX BECAUSE IT GOES THROUGH WALLS LIKE CASPER! Now that’s over… So, the game is brilliant, you can preorder it on Steam (Probably buy by the time you read this, it’s out in a few days)!

Frank

Frank Judges: Dishonored!

 

 

After getting my hands on the absolutely wonderful Dishonored yesterday shortly after it’s launch, I played it for about 11-12 hours (The ENTIRE GAME, may I add) I decided to post a nice review of it right here.

Dishonored is basically what would happen if Agent 47 ate Thief: The Dark Project and then walked right into Half Life 2. You play the Empress’s ex-bodyguard Corvo, who is framed for her murder, traversing the streets of the whaling city of Dunwall and assassinating certain important people in order to restore your name, rescue the Empress’ daughter Emily and put her on the throne! Also you get betrayed again near the end of the game but how could you honestly not see that one coming?! First things first: The story!

Dishonored is a dark game. This was established from the very moment a rat plague was mentioned at the start of the game. Within a few minutes assassins stab the Empress, kidnap Emily, and then the Royal Spymaster arrives and arrests you for the murder of the Empress. You escape from prison with some help from the Loyalist Conspiracy, who seek to put Emily on the throne with your help. Bethesda have obviously put lots of effort into the story, which is a good thing because the game prides itself on  it’s immersion. Which is good, because immersion is one of the things that Dishonored does best. You can honestly tell that there’s a rat plague. Plague victims roam the streets, and there are rats EVERYWHERE. There are tiny little details that help build up the story of Dishonored. Occasionally whaling ships past, with the huge beasts lying on the deck. A diary of a woman who’s household has caught the plague lies between a few body bags. Books lying open on bedside tables detail the history of the Empire. However they did rush in a MYSTERIOUS FORCE known as the Outsider to give an excuse for Corvo being able to use magic. Now, enough of giving examples of little details in the environment for dramatic affect, on to the gameplay!

Dishonored tries to cater for EVERYONE in it’s gameplay. You can just charge through the enemy ranks with a sword and pistol, which feels VERY good but you aren’t supposed to. If you do, you’re given a high Chaos rating, which means the city gets darker and grimmer, even more rats swarm the city streets, and more plague victims (Weepers) stroll around. However, for those that like their miserable Orwellian cities to plague-free (Mostly) you can rewire turrets to fire upon enemies, sneak around rooftops occasionally dropping down to choke or stab a guard. Or you can just possess a rat, sneak through some air vents, jump out the rat, possess a fish, swim through a water pipe, then leap out of a fountain and slit your target’s throat, if you’re into that kind of thing. The climbing is solid and so is the magic, and if you be a bit creative you can uncover more of Dishonored’s rich story or just pull off an assassination in a sophisticated and complex manner. If you can call murder sophisticated. I have to say though, the power I used the most was blink, a sort of teleport, because to be honest I preferred skulking around in the rafters before leaping down behind a guard, knocking him unconscious, then blinking back up onto the roof, which is disappointing because some of them are downright awesome, for example a power that summons a swarm of rats that attack people and eat corpses. I used that ONCE to distract some guards outside the Loyalist’s base of operation, the Hound Pits Pub. However while blinking down I got shot down by a Tall-Boy (Blokes on stilts that fires you incendiary arrows at you) before re-loading after being absolutely massacred by the horde of guards and doing the normal way (Blinking onto a roof and running from there to my destination). The environments really help suit Dishonored’s mechanics. Now speaking of environments…

Game levels are very interested and complex, with SO many ways of getting into places. There’s the aforementioned possessing a rat and crawling through a vent, or sneaking in through a window or balcony, or just waltzing in the front door like you own the place. There’s always a slight flaw in security that allows you to slip past the guards. There’s also a wide range of places to explore, ranging from “bathhouses” to drawbridges and fortresses. They also really look like the streets of Half Life 2. Right, I’ve finished talking about how the way the bricks in the apartments are nicely aligned, which means it’s graphics time!

The graphics are VERY stylized, and it thankfully maintains the beautiful almost comic-book art style. The water is amazingly pretty, and water is how I judge how good games look. I only occasionally have to watch textures load, which I don’t mind, because I used to play games on a Sony Vaio laptop… So yeah, graphics are good. (This review is slowly deteriorating in terms of content, isn’t it?)

Oh yeah, and the port’s good.

So overall, Dishonored is a pretty, well designed game with some solid combat and magic, although it is short though there are plenty of opportunities to go and replay it. In fact, I have replayed the Golden Cat “bathhouse” level, and I also realized that one of my targets was in a new location, which was interesting. So you should definitely pick this up, it’s new and interesting and in my opinion this year’s best new title!

Frank

Frank Judges: XCOM: Unknown Enemy Demo!

 

XCOM: Enemy Unknown is the latest game in the XCOM series and I recently got hold of the demo and I had a little play. The game includes two levels. The first is a hand-holdy one that tells you how to play but surprisingly kills off four of your five troopers, leaving one alive. My lone survivor was an Israelite Heavy weapons specialist, which is surprising because they killed the American. The graphics are pretty good and character models, especially the aliens, was very good. My only complaint was that my support woman went and checked out a corpse. It went into cutscene mode and her eyes were awful.

The second began with just showing you little things like why height advantages are important and how to open doors quietly and then said to me “Hang on is that the time? OH GOD GO! RUN! FIGHT! KILL ALIENS!” With the urgency of orphans hiding under their beds because Madonna showed up outside with a net. The cover system was interesting, with two types of cover: Full cover such as walls, and half covers like boxes. The levels appear to be set in the land of chest-high walls, with boxes and cars everywhere. Things heat up quite quickly during the combat. Each squad member has different abilities: Snipers that can fire form long range, heavy weapons specialists with rocket launchers and machine guns etc. which gets that strategy part of my brain whirring. I breezed through the second level with only a chip on my Assault trooper’s armour.

There’s also a slightly dull micro-management base thingy going on which is basically just “DO YOU WANT MORE SCIENTISTS OR MORE MONEY” or “DO YOU WANT ALIEN WEAPONS OR ARMOUR”. So overall, the demo shows off the wonderfully designed enemies and mechanics very well, and I may look into playing and reviewing it when I comes out.

Frank

Frank Judges: Sonic Generations and DiRT Showdown!

Recently I received a brand new gaming PC, and AMD were courteous enough to send me to free games with it: Sonic Generations and DiRT Showdown! After playing a little (And I mean a little) of each, I decided to spray my opinions on the two games onto my blog. I think we’ll start with the clearly inferior game first: Sonic Generations!

My initial thoughts about Sonic Generations were “This is going to be a shameless port! Sega don’t do PC!”. For once I wish I was wrong. The very first thing the game told me to do was press start. Unless you’ve just had your annual lobotomy you should know that there is no such thing as a start button on a keyboard. So I pressed enter and the main menu magically appeared! I placed my hand on the mouse and prepared to click “New Game”, when nothing happened. I miserably bashed enter and was then sent right back to the “PRESS START” screen. I pressed enter again, and after a few minutes of rolling my face across my keyboard, I discovered that Controller A was bound to Keyboard S. With my new-found knowledge I opened up the controls menu, hoping to find a nice long list of fully rebindable keys, when a controller popped up. I think I’ve proven my point already. Now, onto the gameplay.

The entire point of the game is that you play some old-school levels as mute 2D Sonic, and then you play them again except differently laid out as annoying, thick, sell-out 3D Sonic with a mixture of old 2D platforming and relatively new 3D sections. Great, I can remember the days of playing Sonic 3 on the Gameboy Advance when I was about 3 or 4, but with annoying 3D sections which remind me of Sonic and the Secret Rings, which is a bad thing. The first level had me running round the idyllic Green Hills levels as 2D sonic, and it was fun. Then it popped into cutscene mode where it went from beautiful, 60 FPS+ 1080p graphics to outdated, 30 FPS 780p console graphics. I felt like I had been knocked over and kicked repeatedly in the teeth, they had gone through the effort of making the level graphics look nice – and nothing else! Then I got to play as 3D Sonic. Ugh…

3D Sonic’s first section opened up with a cutscene of all the random annoying little support characters in glorious low-res-o-vision. I considered watching the cutscene but skipped it, which was the right choice seeing how useful these things normally are. I held down the right arrow key as I ran into the level, only to go straight off the edge because it had forgot to tell me that the very first part was in 3D. I tried again, and got through it, but not without seeing the return of the “PRESS X WHILE IN AIR TO KILL BAD GUYS” attack system from Sonic and the Secret Rings. I managed to get through it without considering suicide and I watched all the colour return to the level on the level select screen! And then Tails appeared but I skipped that cutscene too. Sonic also has this weird thing were he slides and it reminds me of his completely obsolete attack in Sonic 3. The only time it’s used is to slide under gaps. However these pop up without warning and I repeatedly ran straight into them. He can also grind on rails while wearing trainers…

Overall Sonic Generations is a pretty mediocre game, and an abysmal port which made me seriously consider how long it took to remove every individual brain cell from my skull using a screwdriver, but instead I sat down and played a much better game…

DiRT Showdown began with a little cutscene (With the PC graphics, start taking notes, Team Sonic) of some cars racing around a circuit shaped like an 8, crashing into each other etc. when it zooms into the view of a particular purple car and it bellows “DRIVE!” at you. I tried using the WASD keys but just ended up handbraking so I had to use the keyboard. After a short little race victory was mine and I was ready to start the game! Then I came across a loading screen, and then the framerate dropped to about 2 while it saved. Not good! Also not good, no mouse controls! But at least it actually told me the keyboard controls.

So my first match was just general driving round a sumo-ring thingy causing carnage. I chose a strong, fast car painted like a police car except with pentagrams instead of police logos and “To Swerve and Deflect” written on the bonnet. I had some good fun and the announcer gave out some fun little comments which made me laugh. That was when I realized there was a thing that allowed you to view your crashes at the most optimal angle and post them to your driver’s (Fake) Youtube account! What is this witchcraft?! I also did a standard run of the mill race which wasn’t really worth mentioned apart from one bit when I went up a ramp, landed on the roof of a rival driver’s car and nearly tore it in two.

My final match was one where I had to perform tricks such as drifts and donuts before a rival driver could. I managed this (after a fair few restarts) and bought a shiny new fast car with protective bumpers wrapped around it. Overall DiRT Showdown is a fun little game with some pretty spectacular crashes. However, can we use the mouse for SOMETHING please?

Frank