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Archive for Joe Martin

Free Games I Like: Stranded 2

Posted on 25th May 2010 at 11:15 by Joe Martin with 17 comments

Joe Martin
Stranded 2 is a member of one of the rarest genres in the entire games industry - and it’s not a bad entry into it either. It’s a survival game. Not one in the sense of fending off waves of enemies, but in terms of man versus the environment. It puts you on a desert island and sees how long you can survive.

There are other survival games which are better known, such as Deus and the Lost in Blue series, but the genre is still horribly undernourished for those of us that actually like the idea of being stuck away from civilisation for an extended period. It gets even worse when you realise that Robinson’s Requiem is near unplayable and that the Lost in Blue games always decay into block-puzzles half-way through.

All that’s left is Stranded 2 – and even that isn’t perfect.

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Games I Own: Carnivores

Posted on 21st May 2010 at 12:03 by Joe Martin with 8 comments

Joe Martin
Nearly all the games I own are story-focused titles with a strong singleplayer campaign, because that’s very much the type of game that I prefer. There are a few exceptions though and Carnivores is probably the oddest one because it’s a genre I otherwise have almost no interest in; it’s a hunting game.

It’s a fictional one admittedly – you’re hunting dinosaurs using modern weaponry – but it’s still a hunting game. You have to do stuff like gauge the wind, aim only for vital organs and cover your scent. Plus, you only get one weapon and about six shots.

Or, you would if you played Carnivores in the way it was supposed to be played, which I never did.

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Free Games I Like: Air Pressure

Posted on 18th May 2010 at 12:39 by Joe Martin with 29 comments

Joe Martin
There are very few games which explicitly try to tackle the topic of romance because, as has been proved again and again by the games industry, it’s far easier to destroy something than it is to create something. It’s far easier to make a game about blowing up a car than building a marriage.

Air Pressure however has struck upon the idea of combining the two; it’s a game about destroying a relationship.

So, as the game starts, you are cast as a young man who is thinking about leaving his girlfriend of many years and, as the game unfolds through a simple multiple choice structure that’s borrowed from Japanese visual novels, you decide how you want the romance to end. Nice and amicably? Guiltily? You can even push it as far as attempted suicide, if you want.

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Free Games I Like: War and Peace

Posted on 14th May 2010 at 08:20 by Joe Martin with 15 comments

Joe Martin
For a long time there’s been talk among the more ambitious and feather-brained developers and players of games about a hypothetical artistic pinnacle of gaming – "the Citizen Kane of videogames". From the title of War and Peace you might expect this game attempts to reach that aim, perhaps by attempting to adapt the infamous Russian novel into game form.

But you’d be wrong, because War and Peace doesn’t have anything in common with Tolstoy’s colossal opus. Instead, it’s a de-make of perhaps the most-loved PC game of all time and the one title which could definitely hope to rival Tolstoy’s novel in depth. Well, if you’re feeling a bit hyperbolic anyway.

War and Peace is best explained as Civilization with only one button – a toggle which flips you between conflict and compromise.

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Thoughts on Cutscenes

Posted on 12th May 2010 at 12:40 by Joe Martin with 48 comments

Joe Martin
I’m playing No One Lives Forever at the moment and, while it’s an undeniably great game and one that I’ve played many times, I’ve found myself getting increasingly infuriated with it for one simple reason. The cutscenes are far too long. They break up the flow of the game far too much and the mission briefings are often so padded out with needless dialog that it’s impossible not to get distracted.

What makes it all so much worse is the fact that much of the information you’re being bombarded with is repetitive, as well as flabby. You spend ten minutes listening to Cate Archer being berated for being an incompetent woman in the male dominated spy industry of the 1960s before the supposed mission briefing even tells you what you’ll be doing in the next mission. Then, when the cutscene is all over, it’s all summed up for you in a objectives and story screen anyway. It’s a massive flaw in an otherwise striking and superb title.

Length isn’t the only issue with NOLF’s cutscenes though – they are also rendered dull by how static they are with just three characters standing and talking, unmoving. Monolith obviously tried to liven things up by throwing in some interactive bits where you can choose how Cate responds to her superiors, but it’s too little and too late.

What really bothers me though is that No One Lives Forever isn’t by any means an exception. Almost every game imaginable has problems with cutscenes – it’s a well documented theory that Valve shot itself in the foot by deciding to always have Half-Life told from a silent first person perspective. In the short term it definitely increases the immersion, but with the story that Valve is telling it’s unbelievable that Gordon should be so stoic and static.

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Bit-Tech Reader Releases JRPG

Posted on 10th May 2010 at 14:47 by Joe Martin with 26 comments

Joe Martin
A long-time member of the bit-tech forums, KayinBlack, sent me a message the other day with a very special announcement in it that I thought I’d share with you. He’s released a game.

Well, kind of. The game is still in the midst of development and Kayin is hard at work on the later stages, but he’s finally got to a stage where he’s confident enough to release a playable, fully featured demo of his creation – a SNES-style JRPG called Fatal Optimisation.

Fatal Optimisation’s story is, as you’d expect of a Japanese RPG, a long and complicated one which isn’t easily summed up in a few lines in a blog post – all of which makes it a good thing that Kayin has been developing the story over on the game's official site. He’s plotted it out in great detail, posting snippets and chapters on his blog in a way which will give you a glimpse into what’s still to come.

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Games I Own: Postal 2

Posted on 8th May 2010 at 12:59 by Joe Martin with 30 comments

Joe Martin
In many ways Postal 2 is the game I’m most ashamed to own. It’s crass, deliberately offensive and gross, it’s shallow and dull and it’s sold mainly on the basis that these things appeal to immature gamers. At the same time though, Postal 2 is a game I’ve frequently found myself defending and, despite my shame and embarrassment, I’ve never been able to throw it away.

The important thing to stress about Postal 2 is that I’m not kidding around when I say that it’s deliberately offensive. This isn’t a case of just a handful of swears or politically incorrect terms – it even goes far beyond the likes of 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand. It’s filled with gore, racial stereotypes and features which push the boundaries. You have anthrax-filled cow heads for weapons, use live kittens as silencers and can taser people until they wet themselves – and those are tame examples.

What really pushes Postal 2 beyond the realms of good taste though is the way it encourages you to use the violence against passers by. Set in a small Arizona town over the course of a week, your objectives each day are banal things like “Get milk” and “Go to work”. You don’t need to get violent, but the fact that everyone in the town is a foul-mouthed, gun-toting, identi-kit bot means there’s little to stop you – and at least once a day you’ll be forced to defend yourself. It’s not long before you start shooting the place up just to relieve the boredom.

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Free Games I Like: The Wastes

Posted on 6th May 2010 at 15:28 by Joe Martin with 8 comments

Joe Martin
The Wastes is a mod for the original Half-Life that struggled for a long time to stand out amongst the hundreds of other HL mods, but which never really managed to gather the sizable audience that multiplayer mods really need. Half-Life’s mod scene was just so big that The Wastes got lost in the shuffle.

That's not surprising because when it comes to the concept there isn’t really much that makes The Wastes stand out. It was a straight up deathmatch game with a post-apocalypse setting that mixed scavenged firearms with home-made weapons. Spears and sniper rifles, basically. What I really liked about it though was simply that the level design and balance made it great for playing in small groups, which is exactly how I chose to play it - 1v1.

The Wastes became a tradition for me in the weeks when I was home from university and every night I’d start it up and play a few quick LAN games with members of my family. We had two ailing, ancient PCs back then, plus my own slightly better machine, so when I made the out-of-the-blue suggestion of playing deathmatch with my non-gaming family then Half-Life was an obvious choice. It didn’t require much in terms of hardware, but the basics of the game were easy to pick up – and the mod community meant I had a way to customise it. I chose The Wastes at random, accidentally falling upon a game that would keep me entertained on and off for about three years.

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Thoughts on Cheats and Walkthroughs

Posted on 5th May 2010 at 10:33 by Joe Martin with 78 comments

Joe Martin
I don’t often cheat in games, but nor is it something that’s completely unknown. It’s usually just a last resort, because I’ve hit a brick wall or I can’t find a way out of a level and need to look at a walkthrough to get a bit of direction. I should point out that I never cheat in online games because, well, what’s the point? I’ve also only ever cheated in one game that I was reviewing – an adventure game where I got stuck for three hours on an early puzzle and which sent me back to the developer asking for help.

Outside of the review process, I honestly don’t usually see a big problem with cheating in games as a whole as long as it exists within certain parameters. In my opinion for example, you should never just sit down and cheat straight away – you should try and play the game properly first because you need a proper sense of risk to feel the reward. At the same time though, if you reach a point in a game where the fun is being bled out of it then why wouldn’t you use an exploit to get around it?

There’s always going to be a fraction of gamers that disagree with that last point and who think that games should be incredibly challenging, but I’ve had the enjoyment sucked out of far too many titles that way to possibly agree with them. Some of my absolute favourite games have been almost totally ruined by moments of excessive difficulty. I’ll confess that the last boss in Beyond Good and Evil sent me scrabbling for a cheat list after the eighth try and, when it turned out there wasn’t one, I was very put off. The game was saved from my hatred purely by the fact that I knew it was the last boss and that I wouldn’t have to repeat the experience. If the game had threatened to go on beyond that point or if the experience up to that point hadn’t been so brilliant then I’m pretty sure I would have just thrown it away. I’ve done it with other games.

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Free Games I Like: They Hunger

Posted on 29th Apr 2010 at 13:54 by Joe Martin with 8 comments

Joe Martin
I've always loved zombies and I’ve got piles of comics and books and games about them at home. The fascination probably comes from the fact that an apocalypse filled with slow-moving already dead things is likely the only type of survival situation I’d stand a chance in, though there are forum members who might disagree with me.

And as zombie games go, They Hunger is one of the best. Well, to start with anyway; the series was spread over three separate mods and, as time went on, they got increasingly ambitious.

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Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 Review

Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 Review

Nvidia has finally released an enthusiast Maxwell GPU - does it dominate...
Planetary Annihilation Review

Planetary Annihilation Review

Rick discovers smashing planets together makes for jolly good fun.

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