Friday, 11 July 2014

PC Summer Sale Haul

The great digital summer sales have passed, and Gabe Newell returns to the depths to slumber till Christmas. So how did you do? I made off like a bandit, doing proud to the PC gamer tradition of buying dozens of games I will never find the time to play. Here are some of the goodies I nabbed:

Xenonauts lives up to the promise of being just like the original X-Com, except without an interface that is as outdated as the barbed wire tattoo. The aim is to fight off an alien invasion, building a network of bases across Earth and shooting down alien craft, then sending in the troops to salvage alien technology with the eventual goal of using it to go on the offensive. ‘The troops’ are squads of elite soldiers who fight via isometric turn-based battles. It’s worth mentioning that there are no shortage of X-Com clones, including the UFO series and the completely unrelated UFO: Extra-terrestrials which was featured in the short-lived ‘Bloggers in Video Games’ series I used to run. Regardless of the familiar ground, it’s still as fun as ever to customize a squad and name them after friends, celebrities, or pastries, only to watch them get vaporized. 

Lemon Muffin and Cinnamon Bun turn away in grief from the body
of Apple Crumble. She had gone to meet her baker.
What secrets could this
 ancient tome contain?

I am not without complaints as usual. Like in 2012’s X-Com Enemy Unknown (yes another one, I should make a chart) I still can’t alter the nationality of the characters, presumably to prevent me from reviving the British Empire. The interface could still be a little more helpful too, with the inexplicable inability to bring up the menu during an air engagement and nary a tooltip to spare. I had to look at the manual for a videogame. In 2014! What is this, medieval times? 

Nexus the Jupiter Incident follows space Captain Russell Crowe on an investigation of a space corporation’s sudden rise to power, leading to the discovery of lost space civilizations and alien space empires. Space. Russell Crowe isn’t really his name; only what I’m calling him since he happens to sound exactly like Captain Jack from Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. Good movie by the way, you should watch it instead of reading this drivel. 

The Jupiter Incident is one of those rare fleet commander games – limited number of ships mingling for some intense tactical combat. There’s a trusty old spacebar pause (not a space bar, spacebar, from the keyboard) and you’re going to need it because the difficulty curve is crazy. For a chunky portion of the game I only had a single ship, until several missions in when I was asked to command an entire fleet. Naturally I felt woefully underqualified. Maybe if they provided a workplace video (or a manual I wouldn’t read), I’d at least be able to fudge my way through.

"Hello, I'm Jean-Luc Picard, here to talk to you about the finer points of
Starship Captaining.  First challenge: selecting a trademark beverage."
"Earl Grey Tea is taken."

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Mortal Kombat: Konquest

Mortal Kombat is a controversial fighting video game series famous for spine-ripping finishers that somehow got adapted to film in 1995. I believe this is the best video game movie ever made (that’s not high praise), and one day I may speak of it more. Today though, I want to talk about the TV adaptation that arrived three years later, long after the series had left the limelight. Why? Because it’s borderline softcore porn.

What the... lady, you're in the middle of breaking out of prison and only met this guy five minutes ago!
The horror!

‘Now hold on’ you may say ‘Mortal Kombat is an 18+ series, isn't this normal?’ Well you’re right about the 18+ bit, except nothing else in the TV show even approaches mature content. The fights are bloodless, and absolutely nobody gets their face melted by acid. Try to picture me at twelve years old ready to watch some gore and instead getting bikini-clad girls climbing on-top each other for a sensual oil massage. 

Pimpmasta Quan Chi in da house!
I just came to see kung fu, but the fight sequences were always between these weird scenes. It would be like if a Cadbury’s Roses Selection Box replaced 75% of the chocolate to make room for a calendar, and on it Miss July was straddling a pile of Hazel Whirls. There’s a powerful sorcerer named Quan Chi who has his own army of firm nubile demon women walking about in spandex outfits revealing every curvaceous centimetre of their nubile bodies, and it’s heavily implied they serve Quan Chi’s sordid desires or get cut off from their magically enhanced beauty. The man is basically a pimp, drug dealer, and evil clown rolled into one. 

And incase you think I’m exaggerating about those words in bold text earlier, let me add that I started hiding the videotapes of the show under my bed as if they were dirty magazines. At one point the protagonist Kung Lao runs off into the forest (he does this a lot) to find an old witch who can brew a magic potion for his friends. Well he finds the ‘old witch’ alright, and she threatens to make him her sex slave. Also, she looks like this:

"Oh noooo, please don't do tha- ok."
Maybe I’m being na├»ve and the series is more associated with this than I thought, yet once again I point out the totally bloodless fights and pose one question – who is this for? Who is the target audience? 

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

The Elder Scrolls Online Sucks

Full disclosure: Some information may be out of date due to game updates. I was a little jaded going into this. An MMO format goes against everything the Elder Scrolls stands for. It boggles my mind why companies are STILL trying to win on a lottery ticket and replicate World of Warcraft’s 12 million subscribers, blind to the countless broken bodies of MMOs that failed before them.

The character creation screen is too dark to see any changes so I just hit all the default settings. My fresh Lizard character appears in a dingy little place, dirty bed, stained walls, kinda like the hotel room my more lewd readers wake up to every weekend. I’m about to demand first-class accomodations when a mysterious ghost tells me I’m the chosen one and must escape. 

So I break out of my cell and spot my first player, an elf with a scar across his eye. ‘Hello?’ His vacant stare is all the response I get. I run to the next room and meet my second player, a Nord with a scar across her eye. ‘Hello?’ I repeat. ‘Wasup nigga’ she so eloquently replies. ‘Fo shizzle ma nizzle’ I retort. Through the next door I end up in a large cavern filled with dozens of people, scars across their eyes, all claiming to be the chosen one. Reeling from the sheer immersion, I barely notice the rustling sound of cash accompanied by a sharp flushing noise.

For those who don’t know The Elder Scrolls is an insanely popular single-player (till now) fantasy series that thrives on allowing players to go from the highest mountain to the deepest dungeon without restriction, on providing a wealth of lore and flavour to a massive ancient continent through hundreds of in-game books (seriously), and offering welcome surprises even after hundreds of hours of play. Meanwhile The Elder Scrolls Online uses a monster’s power level to strictly control the player because MMO. The famous books of the series are back, and most people are never going to read them because MMO. There’s even a single-player plotline which doesn’t work because MMO.

And don’t forget to moisten the loaf

Not only is this a poor Elder Scrolls game, but a poor MMO too. Almost all dungeons and quests are public, so they’ll be dozens of players hanging out at the boss to offer an anticlimactic end as you get a single blow in before the big bad drops dead. Grouping with friends is a chore; the game doesn’t seem to register any action except a hit so teammates have to duplicate every tiresome activity. It feels like there’s nothing to do after a couple of weeks, or rather nothing left worth doing. One can only hope the developer has a huge backlog of content to pump out or the game is going to sink like a concrete-coated rubber duck.

Undoubtedly the deathblow for Elder Scrolls Online is the absurd entry price - £50. Plus another £10 for the Imperial Edition to unlock all the content. Plus another £10 monthly subscription fee. We’re talking roughly 120 dollars total. For that kind of money you might as well just buy your own island and hire cheap foreign workers to dress in goblin costumes.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Enjoy Game of Thrones? See a Psychiatrist

Well that’s what I took from this story; maybe you’ll come up with a different conclusion.

Try to imagine if you will, being the Dean of a Community College. You’re at your desk, wiping the remnants of a hearty meal away with a disabled student’s exam papers (doesn’t matter, in your opinion she’ll never achieve anything from a wheelchair), when a Google+ notification pops up on the corner of your computer screen from Francis. He’s a professor at your college who teaches 3D animation. He’s released a picture on his public contacts list. In it, he’s posing with an eraser and appears to have rubbed the chalk board clear from right to left until a single solitary letter remains - the first letter of your name.

An uncertain bead of sweat slides over your wrinkled forehead. Another notification pops up on the screen, Professor Francis is playing hangman. You focus intensely on this new picture for about an hour, leaning back in your chair to breathe a heavy sigh of relief after failing to divulge any hidden meaning within the photo. Your hand reaches over your personal stash of confiscated marijuana to grasp a now cold cup of coffee, but freezes mid-grab because you see something. It’s impossible, insane even, yet you see it. Out of the corner of your eye, the hanged man looks exactly like you. You turn back to face the screen and the resemblance is suddenly gone.
Where's Kurt Russell when you need him?

Another Google+ notification. Warm urine trickles down your leg when you see the next picture. The Professor’s 6 year old daughter is walking on all four limbs backwards like a human spider, wearing an oversized yellow shirt emblazoned with writing. The picture quality isn’t superb, and your eyesight still hasn’t fully returned from all the fluid you lost going over the footage from those strategically placed cameras in the college gym, but you can just barely make out the words ‘Fire and Blood.’

That’s the horror a College Dean faced recently. Only the last picture actually exists of course, the rest could charitably be called a writer’s recreation based on the eyewitness testimony of a Beagle. The thought of the Dean being a paranoid little man, unable to walk through an art gallery without pressing charges against da Vinci because the Mona Lisa threated him is a source of endless amusement for me. Though he did actually have Professor Francis dragged before a council of human resource officials who asked whether the Fire and Blood picture was a threat on the Dean’s life. 

Pictured: Department of Human Resources
The Professor was quick to enlighten the officials by explaining the quote was from popular television programme Game of Thrones, and showed them the 30 million hits on Google. Naturally he was suspended without pay and referred to a psychiatrist.

Should've demanded trial by combat.