Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Tomb Raider - A Fan's Perspective

Tomb Raider – A Fan’s Perspective

  Sometime ago in the mid-nineties, I found myself in the middle of a new generation of gamers. Some of us were moving towards 3D gaming, with a 360 perspective and all sorts of new ideas. I come from the 2D classic gaming era, the usual platformer, or catchy tune that plays in every level. Little did I know, I was part of something bigger, something evolving before our very eyes.

  It was the summer of 1996, the PSX was just narrowly overtaking the Nintendo 64. I recall this pretty well because it was advertised in every toy shop from KB’s to Toys R’ US. Oddly enough everyone’s reaction was different, maybe it was just the job they had, or it was just some way to keep themselves afloat. Even with times changing I hadn’t saved up for a console in years. And just that upcoming crazy season, did a friend offer to let me hangout and play a few Playstation games with them.

  Within their gaming library was a mix of role playing, to action titles. There were a few sparse games, I think they had close to 20 at the time. They were doing a few summer jobs, which I was also keeping myself busy. But during the weekends, it was just our game time. Come the fall, then winter a bunch more games were hitting shelves. As it turns out my friend was hyped about this new platformer called Tomb Raider. I thought at first, maybe it’s because my friend is a woman its why she looks up to characters like this. Then it made me think back to Metroid, where Samus Aran turned heads…

  So with money saved, we put our cash together and voila. Except the fact that she had plans to visit family elsewhere, so it would be a little while longer till we indulged this crazy adventure. So I kept my mind off of the game for awhile, till I stumbled upon a kiosk in one of the local stores. Turns out Tower Records actually had a competition for the best time trials in the first stage demo. I tried out, and found my way around the level, even winding up getting over a bunch of pitfalls. And sadly not getting past a few key areas, without screwing up and, seeing the poor character fall many times. I phoned my friend to let her know about this contest, she got a bit jealous but wished me luck. I braved the level various times to pinpoint where the hazards were till I finally got adjusted to the unique setup. Although I didn’t win, I learned that this game would not be a cakewalk.

  Metroid, taught me a lesson of patience (it was actually this same female friend that told me about it). Then I turned things around, to find out Samus was all along a lady fighting a horde of space pirates. Still to this day, its something I can never forget, and the look on her face when we took turns going through every pitfall, and how many screams of glee or terror whenever we hit a snag.

  I have to be honest faithful reader, this is actually the first time I’m writing about my misadventures in gaming. So let’s press on shall we?

  Back to Tomb Raider, it contained tons of chills, spills, and narrow platforms that would make Mario, Sonic, and Samus blush. Even though the graphics at the time were the best they could deliver. That PSX pushed itself so much, it was crisp, and the atmosphere truly felt alive. Just getting past every obstacle was a feat of itself, and every time you missed something it was totally your fault. (and I learned the hard way along with my friend as we went through every peril together, and I got hit with pillows every time!) Each and every level contained unique levels of difficulty. The further you explored, the tougher it would get. But the main headache to overcome was the loading screens. Oh the nightmares! Just for one mis-step that made you Swiss cheese over spikes, or a pancake thanks to a boulder. Loading screens in TR were such a pain, but getting over that it was a joy to get back into spelunking.

  Looking back to those days of the first TR was a blast. And I was thankful I wasn’t alone in the journey. And now, Tomb Raider is undergoing a rebirth, thanks to the team that worked on the original game. (Along with another friends’ guiding wing) It’s going to be a fantastic chapter, every Lara Croft fan will want to play and share with others.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Resident Evil NET

I remember reading a few comments from Capcom’s staff within the forums about networking games in the possible future. Sure many companies have forums, or use social networks. But never pushing it this far, in the past Sega and Nintendo tried their own outsourcing. SegaNet was Sega’s intended brainchild to outsource their Dreamcast’s internet gaming all over the world. With Nintendo, it was branched out via arcade cabinets, and some of their classic gaming systems like the SNES (in certain countries there were internet capable consoles).

Years later, we’re back to this idea again. How do we branch out gaming in a whole new way? Turns out, it can be done. And its not just the consumers using it, but the world 24/7. It’s a scary idea at first, because there are so many people that turn on their consoles, login, and get their gaming sessions on.

After renting RE6, and watching the credits. I dug online to find out just what this project has been up to. Actually it was a fun idea back when the first RE film came out. Sure it was labeled as an Umbrella ISP for fun, but in reality it was a fully functional system that could be made. Only thing was, console gamers weren’t quite ready. PC gamers have founded networking since day one, and for console users they usually just plugin their Ethernet cord to the back and voila. I never envied friends who were PC gamers, I sometimes sat back and watched them go nuts with Red Bulls and a few Twizzlers nearby. Oh, and Counter Strike or Rainbow Six was the catch of the day.

I never quite got the jist of some gathered together. Till I realized what we console gamers actually had all along. When arcades were alive, we were gathered together watching two people insert quarters, and enjoy a good 3 set match and there was the fun. For PC gamers, it was strategy, or team work catching a flag, or tag teaming how many of the opposing team they can knock out of the match. In the beginning Resident Evil was simple, it was built on horror, suspense, and storytelling.

Evolving a franchise like this is risky, even the films based off the series have detoured into popcorn action flicks. And the odd thing about it, is that people love it no matter the format. Sure critics may bitch and moan, but that’s what makes an underdog stand up to prove that it has something to deliver. Its entertaining, and won’t back away from being unique. Same goes with each recent chapter of Resident Evil. As I’ve read reviews about RE5, it mended various fences yet upped the level of action, and it still carried some moments to give players the chills.

RE5 however broke the mold, no longer did the game move clunky or slow. It was sped up just like the films based upon its foundations. Players actually had to use more or their environment, cover, defense, offense, and using enemies as shields given bad circumstances. And the heroes in the story were familiar faces from the series past pushed into some newer challenges that players weren’t quite ready for.

RE6 on its own feels like a remixed chapter of the series combined. Its something I didn’t quite expect at first. Because I remember playing the series on a friend’s PSX some years ago. I never was a fan of the clunky movement, or the fact that anything could take down your character in a second. Most games I remember had a hero that leaped and dashed all obstacles (a plumber or a hedgehog). But to actually play as a human being stuck in the middle of the worst situation, it gave it more ground that anyone could come up with. So the same formula that made the series work from the start is back in full force. But the best part is that you’re not alone (RE 0, was another chapter that was lead by a team of two characters. One an ex STARS member, and the other a former military officer. Just those two alone, and against some crazy odds find themselves running into a few more friends that gets the ball rolling.

Move several years forward, RE6 is built on a network that relies on the gaming community that plays it. Its not just a simple update, or extra, its founded on the fact that its people actually use the system. I give the team credit for going all out on a project that wasn’t possible years ago. It makes me humble that the team that comprised such a series, actually thinks up ways on how to include the people that are connected to a part of who they are.

I really look forward to what its capable of, and that is so many things. Not just a community website, but people actually communicating, sharing, and forming teams with other players. And the points system seems to deliver some neat rewards when certain conditions are met. Aside from the fact that Capcom has been known to push too much downloadable content on consumers. Its fresh for a change, that they want to get out of such a rut, and allow users to actually obtain stuff via its social network within the very game itself. I can’t wait to see what they’ll do with this system next.

Btw it still has a few kinks that are being worked out. But check it out if you're interested.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

RE 6 Backup Doc File

RE6 Backup Doc

This is a file I personally want to share about how Capcom wants to change the way they’ve been given bad press. Most of us known for years they have had a bad wrap about PR stunts. With a majority of their titles being re-released with too many revisions. RE6 I believe finally breaks the mold. Looking the data over, it says they saved game data is worth 7.7 GB (RE5 I read somewhere only scraped 6GB) Normally DVD or GD types contain up to 7 if maxed out. Could be a sign that the developers for this entry want to push a game disc to its limits (which makes me wonder if the Blu-Ray version may actually have met its match in storage).

Second, this game for once isn’t focused on online play. The campaign is the main event (thank goodness, because I am not a fan of a skimmed story just for the sake of online gameplay). According to the achievements given so far, there are a few secret hidden awards. However, DLC could be added later pushing a few more to the list. But these awards only forward to the in-game campaign, which are pretty challenging the further you play in other modes.

**Actually there are in-game rewards, depending on accomplishments delivers more goodies. So there is a significant amount of extra content. Haha! Take that MVC3!

Btw for those that have kept up with RE since the beginning. I cannot say enough about how many rewards are in this game. Even a few you might not expect…

Closed quarters, there are several moments where you ar e boxed in. It may feel like you have plenty of room, try in normal and above. (see what happens)

Herbal remedy – As I played normal, I learned the hard way that the herbs come across very rarely. In fact there is a hidden skill you can obtain, and upgrade to snag more goodies not matter what mode you play. Definitely add this to your skill play list.

Mad Skillz – This achievement is not kidding, there are in fact tons of skills to obtain and use. Don’t let that skill list fool you, it can be opened to a various amounts of options. From what I gather, there are over 10+ skill list setups. A majority of the obtainable skills can be bought through game play. But some are limited to what level of difficulty. (and some via online modes, it’s a bit unfair, but it could be worse)

Options – Although I didn’t get the chance to play as Helena in Leon’s campaign. I get the feeling that her story takes place sometime before they meet while trying to rescue a specific person at the beginning of the game. Given how much depth her story was to begin with (be sure to read her bio via the collectibles option in Special Features)  I am sure that follows for Sherry, and the newcomer in Chris’s campaign.

What bugs me is that the loading screens given some specific details. But they seem to fly by, including some of the helpful standbys. I remember most of us old school fans never were fans of loading screens with our past consoles.  But it did give us some time to take a breath, or drink some water. Now blink and you might miss something important.

Resident Evil 6 review

Resident Evil 6
Capcom R&D Production with BioHazard Studios

Leon – The game begins with Leon & Helena (who turns out to be a secret service agent). As they try to escape the madness of the city being pulled apart by a mysterious force causing all sorts of chaos. In the short run, the player is introduced to the game via QTE (quick time events) that test a player’s reaction time. Once you’re in motion, the running begins.

Game thus far –
At the start you are able to select three levels of play. Amateur (easy) / Professional (normal) / Veteran (hard) . Plus Mercenaries is back in play, and you’re able to take on it in multiplayer online. And you’re able to obtain skills the more you play offline or online. And your points converge from game play in campaign or Mercs.

Leon: Working along Helena, its more of an escape and survive mission.
Chris: Recovery and reconnaissance
Jake: Run and Gun with Sherry (and pick up a few pieces)

Extras menu: Collections and Cutscenes. Collections consist of bonus goodies obtained by shooting out of play discs that consist of snakes wrapped around one another. If they don’t belong there, shoot em!

RE6 feels like a title that wants to push the series a bit more closer to an action / suspense thriller. In the past it relied on being a bit slower in the action scene, and more built into the suspense direction. Now this entry feels like a Hollywood blockbuster (hmm, a lot like the RE films, who would have thought it could go there).

I honestly don’t mind the push to make the game move faster. It actually feels a bit more oriented around the player, and keeping them in the moment. Some RE fans may not like the change, but RE4 and RE5 also had the same energy, it wasn’t the same high octane level. Yet the past two titles delivered some fun chills on a level vastly different from one another.

On the plus side, the game gives a short tutorial on how to get going. And of course offers a nice helping of baddies to take down. In addition, you can also change the settings to what you prefer.

Picking your path – From what I gather, after getting past a checkpoint it is possible to select other character storylines. And you can choose to play a variety of two familiar names. Leon (from RE2 and 4), Chris (from RE1 and 5) but this newcomer.. doesn’t ring a bell. (*What I gather from teaser trailers is that Jake is actually Wesker’s legitimate son.) Anyway, these are branching storylines, and each has a part to play in this chapter of the long running series.

Working together – Another feature they brought back was the co-op playability. It comes in handy to know that you’re not alone in this mission. Plus you’re given the ability to also help your knocked down partner. Just be careful it does throw the character you’re currently playing in defense mode. It gets a bit tricky when it comes to a horde of enemies all at once. But with enough patience, anyone can juggle multi-tasking a dozen baddies.

In addition, healing items are brought back. Plus you’re able to create mixtures on the fly, an enable them via your equipment inventory. But be resourceful, once you’ve mixed those herbs, they are gone. Plus they can be hard to find if you’re in a pinch. And if need be, your ally will give you a shot of adrenaline.

Keep your eyes on me – On the flipside, your health bar also contains an adrenaline gauge. If you lose energy, take an herb to get a bit of a push. Or you might find yourself totally drained, and unable to fight. Which I admit is pretty daunting; especially with some of the enemies seem to find that one weak point to knock you down.

So here are the pros and cons about the game
Pros =
Excellent action, chills and thrills
Having the ability to run n’ gun actually works great here! (nay sayers may cry)
Keeps players motivated to see what’s around the corner. Or watch it get obliterated, and make a stand.
Catching up with familiar faces (and some enemies)
New enemies assemble Neo-Umbrella (and it’s not what some may think)
Plus you’re able to see different points of view from various playable characters

QTE makes a compromise in some segments, sometimes reliable and others  a coin flip
“You Are Dead” may haunt you in your dreams again
Some chapters in each campaign are on the short side, depending on difficulty level.
(Only take on Professional and Veteran if you’ve obtained adequate skills!)
The price tag for the full version of the game $60.00 (and DLC content = madness!)

Afterthoughts: I humbly recommend RE6 to any action / horror fan. For the newbies, the game does hone its memories back to Raccoon City quite a bit, but this new chapter is still engaging enough for everyone. For the long runners, you won’t be disappointed. Sure the QTE’s may get in the way, but it still keeps you on the edge of your seat. Even more fun is the ability to take on Co-Op (which is becoming more of the norm with games lately, but be advised with more features comes DLC).

(Oh, and there’s plenty of easter eggs to be found, (example: with the voice acting and dialog just listen to conversations between characters carefully during certain moments in the game) And there is a ton of stuff to unlock! (boo-yah!)