RetroView: Resident Evil (Biohazard) 4 (PS2) [2005]

PS2_Resi4_Sleeve I’ll admit to you now that I’m getting rather long in the tooth these days. I was an early adopter of the PS1 and bought the first Resident Evil when it was released in 1996. Whatever possessed me to buy it in the first place eludes me now, though I suspect it was because I was a teenager and they were marketed as “adult” games before we took that for granted.

Even then, I was appalled at how cheesy the live-action intro was, and I’m glad that it bit the dust and wasn’t included in the remake. It was a Necessary Evil bearing in mind the capabilities of the hardware at the time (sorry for that pun, I’m lazy).

A few years back a friend let me borrow the GameCube version  of Resi 4 but it went neglected in favour of PC gaming. I found the changes to the basic control system difficult to get to grips with and the 360 degree over-the-shoulder camera view threw me totally. The old timer was having a tough time growing up with the game.

Spin on to 2013 and for some inexplicable reason I became compelled to give the PS2 version of Resi 4 a go. And after playing it for the last fortnight, I’ve experienced suffering on an almost unprecedented scale. Died 60-plus times. Reloaded the game hundreds of times. Even did the unthinkable and resorted to all-out cheating. Even in normal, it’s a very challenging game the first time around. But did I enjoy it? Yes, yes, yes.

PS2_Resi4_Title

Once the issues with the controls were ironed out (which took a few hours), I found myself engrossed with the setpieces, more-so than the mansion or the police station. While the earlier chapters set in the village and the countryside were a departure in both tone and shocking content (the body of the burning policeman was a particularly gruesome visual that had me thinking of The Hills Have Eyes), I had to accept that the series had to move away from the static camera angles, slow-witted groaning zombies and unintentionally dated visuals of the previous instalments. Fighting my way round a village or shooting gems from a rope-bridge to make a few quid was not the Resident Evil I knew anyway. After I battled my way through the graveyard and met the first of the Los Illuminados, I started to feel like I was in more familiar territory: creepy gothic visuals, unsettling noises, surprises from all angles…

Ultimately, the biggest thing to get used to was the fact that this game didn’t feel survival horror any more, but more evolved. There are few scares in Resi 4, unlike Silent Hill 2 which still has the power to frighten the hell out of me, simply because there is no time to be scared. Limited ammo and console processing power meant that you were rarely fighting more than a handful of zombs back in the PS1 days, but when you’re faced with six-plus bloodthirsty villagers with raised scythes and a stack of ammo in your back pocket, you get trigger happy. There’s a definite shift from the empty corridor with a clock puzzle to both barrels blazing at a bunch of cultists. The corpses soon turn to sticky bubbles and you need to keep buying bigger briefcases for all the ammo they drop (as an aside, this is corrected somewhat in Resi 5 where you are limited to 9 active items that makes things a lot harder – I’ll cover that game in a later feature). It also makes you wonder why people infected with Las Plagas are walking around with undigested live ammunition in their stomachs.

PS2_Resi4_Cults

What are the irks? The only one I can think of right now: Ashley. Yes, she may be the reason why you’re playing the game in the first place, but her character is dashed by nailsdownblackboard voice-acting and Super Ham dialogue. Overtime. OVERTIME?!? Kill me now. I wasn’t sure exactly why I needed to switch to her character from time to time as it didn’t feel to me like it was moving the narrative forward. I did like the Harry Potter knights that come swinging at you with huge axes though.

Oh shi-That said, the move away from the zombies and tyrants that we’re all familiar with is a breath of fresh air. The Marilyn Manson-like creepy cultists are high on my list of favourites, the El Gigantes were intimidating and tough to bring down, but my personal fave was the Iron Maiden, not just because they’re named after the first band I ever saw live, but because I couldn’t wait to get the hell out of the room as they slunk towards me. Brown trousers time for the gamer because of its awesome defence mechanism (and the hentai heavy breathing). Lining up those shots with the thermal sight was a real challenge, and it was also the first time in the game where I ran out of ammo and had to bolt out of the room and miss out on the pickups.

Where I found myself struggling most was during the quick-on-the-button ‘dodge the croc’ moments which had me hitting continue so much the bloody controller was smoking. Perhaps old age has made me slow on the draw. I was always a fraction of a second off and so met a grisly demise. This possibly explains why I’ve never played Guitar Hero or Parapa the Rapper. Perhaps I should.

The HD version of Resi 4 is now available on the PS3, along with ports to iOS and mobile devices. For a game that nearly brought an end to the franchise and had four false starts, it was instrumental in giving the series a kick up the arse and introducing mechanics we take for granted in third-person shooters these days. Perhaps not revolutionary, but certainly a great example of evolution in a series.

Next up: Resident Evil 5 (or Biohazard 5 Alternative Edition, as I’m playing the Japanese version!)

Out In The Borderlands [Part 2] (Or: Avoiding Sunlight To Get To Level 50)

Well, shit.

Last night, I finally hit LV50 on Borderlands 2 after much grinding, farming, killing, looting and shooting. And do I feel satisfied?

Do I balls.

It’s taken about 70 hours to finally get to this landmark (unlike these guys who shunned all form of social contact despite sitting in the same room together for 43 hours… think of the BO smell), and along the way I’ve been relatively fortunate to not meet many dicks online playing it. There have been a few. Those who join the server, try to change the mission to something they want to do, and when you change it back to what it was originally, get in the huff and quit. Then there are The Hoovers, the sort of player who joins your game just as you’re polishing off a difficult enemy to rush at the loot pressing their E key frantically as they hoover up all the decent guns. Then they log off. Dicks.

The more astute readers of this blog may have noticed that the guy I’m playing with in that pic, Joker, was about to die just as I was enjoying my moment of triumph and may find it a bit ironic I’m talking about dicks in BL2 when I wasn’t reviving him. WELL, EXCUUUUUUSE ME. He’s one of guys I regularly play with, and he was down below getting hammered by Goliaths while I was up top killing easier foes. He made LV50 about an hour later, so I think he’s fine.

Borderlands 2 is a game that involves shooting guns and overcoming “objectives”.

Later in this session, a player joined who’d already completed all the main quests and had been repeatedly killing Terramorphous the Invincible (that’s a lie, btw) to farm Legendary Weapons, threw us a couple of bones. And when I say bones, I mean Legendary Weapons. I’d not actually seen a single orange weapon in 70+ hours of playthrough, and it was great to meet someone who was happy to give us a couple for nothing. He was sitting on a huge stash of them in the bank, so it was no big deal for him.

We gave Terra a run for his money shortly after, and I found him to be less of a pain in the arse than Crawmerax in BL1. Without a hacked gun, Craw could take 20 minutes to kill legit if you were just running around him firing aimlessly and blasting his spawn. Some of his loot is rather good though – all LV50, and plenty of purple and blue drops. Still, I didn’t see an orange in the wild – it’s likely one of the other three players hoovered it in the first few seconds when the body hadn’t even hit the ground.

Now the ceiling has been hit and the big bad vanquished, what’s left? 25 side missions, and the final boss again. And, lucky for me (but not my social life), the new DLC is due this week. Saddle up, Apone.

Out In The Borderlands [Part 1]

I’ve been (literally) having a blast playing Borderlands 2 lately. Released on 21st September in the UK, it’s been getting universally good reviews from everyone who’s played it. The first game sailed by without much notice. I’m not sure why I picked it up through Steam in the first place, but it was probably through one of their wallet-raping sales that you’re informed about on a nigh-weekly basis. That’s not a complaint by the way. Steam, which if you’re a thick twat who’s never done any PC gaming before, is basically iTunes for video games. Real video games. Not the ones you play on your electronic twatbox while waiting for the 19:06 to Brighton.

The worrying thing about BL2 is how damn addictive it is. One friend on my Steam list has clocked up over 120 hours already. In three weeks. It helps not having a girlfriend, but surely this kid should be in school. Whereas my previous crack was Valve’s Left 4 Dead 2, which I put a ridiculous 442 hours into (over two years, I’d like to add), I’m already worried that I’m getting sucked into something else entirely.

Lucky bastard.

While the looting was something fun and almost peripheral in the first game, Gearbox have made (ultra rare) orange loot even impossible to find. I’ve finished the game once, and haven’t seen a single orange item dropped. The co-op has been vastly improved too. Joining a random game through matchmaking drops you into your current story mission just before the XP has been farmed, meaning you aren’t getting screwed like you did in the first game. Often was the case you’d join a co-op match and find that the other players were levels ahead of you, your bullets were doing no damage to the Psychos, and you were screwing up your mission list by blocking side-missions because you add the host’s mission list to your own. It was enough to drive a sane man fucking mental. In BL2, you leave a host, and your list is back to normal. What makes it so great is that you really have the power to choose whether you want other people helping you out or not. I know some players who really like to get their teeth into a game in SP, then perhaps play for a bit with other players. In BL2, the experience is completely transformed by the other players being there. The bad guys get harder. The loot is better. The fun increases exponentially. You really are missing out by not making your game open to three more players.

Some players I’ve been on servers with have complained that the story mode is too short. I beg to differ. It took three solid days of non-stop playing to finish it and get Zero up to level 30. Thats three days without social contact, shopping trips or wearing any nice hats outdoors. If you’re playing BL2 casually, you’ll get a good couple of weeks of solid gameplay on the main missions alone.

The optional missions are great. Less of those ‘go get me this, bring it back here’ type yawnfests that are in too many RPGs. The rewards are sweeter and they enhance the overall story and develop the world you’re living (and killing) in.

*cough*

Most noticeably, the writers have pumped more humour into the game. There are no implications when main baddie Handsome Jack accuses Moxxi (the large breasted Underdome owner from the first game) of having sucked on quite a few penises in her time. There’s the double rainbow bit. And the Minecraft easter egg/cave/skins. And they’re just the ones I’ve found so far. I don’t think I’ve actually tried to find any secrets because I’ve always been caught up in the missions and the co-op play. In short, there’s plenty to go back for if you want to.

to be continued…

Gaming Preview: Metro 2033

This article originally appeared on totalscifi.com. I was invited to the games launch at Centrepoint, which was a bit confusing as I thought that place was only for bums.

Metro 2033: Game Preview

Publisher: THQ

Format: XBOX 360/PC


With 2012 around the corner, Iran announcing details of their nuclear program, a new Cold War between the East and West splashed on the front pages of the papers and North Korea firing off warheads left, right and centre, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the apocalypse looms large in the minds of those who actually want to survive long enough to see London’s Olympics. Russian-based author and journalist Dmitry Glukhovsky is well aware of the geopolitical climate and, in his online novel Metro 2033, realised the world’s grim future as a mutant-infested scorched ruin, where survivors of an undisclosed nuclear fallout have taken to the depths of the Moscow metro system to eek out their final days. A
surprise hit with readers, the story developed over a period of years and incorporated the feedback of the online community, eventually going on to sell over 500,000 copies in Glukhovsky’s homeland and spawning a series of spin-off novels that expand the Metro
universe.

The unprecedented success led to the story’s emergence as a video game – in short, a hybrid of Call of Duty and Silent Hill – a brutal FPS that stands apart from its peers thanks to an immersive storyline and intimidating atmospherics. Developed by the studio that produced the successful S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series, you’re thrown headfirst into the Moscow underworld to learn the ropes over the course of two short tutorial levels.

The controls are initially a little awkward to get used to (as with most first-person console games) but once you’ve acclimatised, quick responses are required when you have creatures bursting from vents or rushing at you from across desolate wastelands hungry to tear your flesh. Players will also need to slip on gas masks when venturing out into the irradiated overground that smacks of Tarkovsky’s futuristic vision of Mother Russia. Every set piece is loaded with detail, and the numerous NPCs help bring the visceral experience to life.

While bleak in tone, the intense fighting and crisp visuals do not disappoint, and the author himself admits that the spirit of the original story is very much in the game. A UK edition of the Metro 2033 novel is published by Orion on 18th March to tie into the game’s release, and there are already studios chasing for the movie rights – the future may not be so bleak after all.