Fodders Favourite: Survival Horror Game

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Survival horror, as I understand it, is typically (but not always) a sub-genre of action-adventure. It’s also a very popular game type in it’s own right – one that some say has lost it’s way over the years. The trouble with this genre for me is, I happen to be a massive pussy. Some of gamings greatest games fall into this genre, many of which I’ve played, but very few of which I have completed (due to the whole being a pussy thing).

As I don’t really feel it’s fair to choose a title that I’ve not played all the way through, this instantly culls some of genres biggest names. The list is pretty shameful as it starts right from the original Resident Evil game, through to more recent hits like the Last of Us and ZombiU. I always start them and usually appreciate them, but as time goes on, they tend to leave me feeling lonely and depressed – which isn’t really a sensation I look for in a game.

This left me little to chose from, so I was going to go with Dino Crisis 2 – who’s survival horror credibility is questionable over the original game – but then I remembered (Google searched) S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Shadow of Chernobyl. Most sites list this game as simply a “FPS”, but as the gameplay is all about survival and scary shit (horror), then I think it counts.

The Oil of Olay clearly wasn't working

The Oil of Olay clearly wasn’t working

What S.T.A.L.K.E.R excels at is creating a truly foreboding atmosphere. The sense of danger never really leaves you, despite the fact that enemy encounters are actually quite rare, when compared to other games. The way the game seems to achieve this is by making the dangers much more elusive than what you usually expect. Radiation is all around you, presenting a threat you know is there, but cannot see. The warning only comes after you’ve blindly stumbled into a deadly pocket of it and your geiger counter springs franticly to life. Similarly, you can also find yourself unexpectedly caught in the midst of one of the many random and potentially deadly anomalies that litter the zone alienation.

The games more tangible enemies can be just as problematic though. To name but a few; Snorks leap out at you, psy-dogs create waves of illusionary copies of themselves that are able to attack you, bloodsuckers are almost invisible to the naked eye and controllers can take over your mind! Other than possibly the human enemies, it’s like everything in this game is setup to put you off balance. This means that when the shit inevitably hits the fan, it does so in a big and confusing way. You’ll find yourself in desperate retreat, spraying the walls with bullets as you try and get a grip on the situation, only to have your gun jam up on you.

It can be a seriously nerve racking experience, even more so at night and all intensified by the games excellent use of sound. The constant use of background noise helps to augment the effects of the hidden dangers. Much of the time you’ll hear far off noises that never actually materialise into anything, but serve to remind you of the danger that is out there and keep you on the edge of your seat.

New pants please

New pants please

As a self proclaimed pussy, this is all sounds like the thing of nightmares. However, and the reason I think I can tolerate this game, the zone also has a few safe havens dotted around. In these areas there are people you can chat to, trade with, often get missions off and even have a sing-a-long around a camp fire with. It helps break up the intensity and loneliness, when I’d otherwise be reaching for the eject button.

Given my personal feelings on the genre, any endorsement by me could inadvertently discredit a game as a decent survival horror. In the case of S.T.A.L.K.E.R though, I really don’t think you can lose out either way.

Fodders Favourite: Sports Game

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When it comes to playing or watching sport in real life, I can’t say I really do either in abundance. In the past, booze was always the common denominator, as opposed to a particular sport. We’d go and get pissed whilst watching the rugby or we’d go and get pissed whilst watching the cricket. Thinking about it now, this could be why I never really got into football; you can’t go and get pissed whilst watching it, as apparently football fans can’t be trusted with booze.

This attitude seems to have crossed the divide into video games as well, as it’s not a genre I’ve spend much time with. The trouble with all this is, it gave me a short-list that only consisted of  NHL14, California Games on the Master System and Mutant League Football on the Mega Drive. All worthy choices actually, but none that I really wanted to go with.

However, I then remembered that extreme sport was a thing and I happen to be a big fan of that, both in real life and in gaming. My particular flavour of extreme sport is aggressive inline, but the video game equivalent (of the same name actually) doesn’t really stir anything emotionally inside me. It was an enjoyable enough game, but it didn’t dethrone  – and thus was always over shadowed by – the game I’m going to pick: Tony Hawks Pro Skater (3).

Pads are for pussies, Tony

Pads are for pussies, Tony

I’ve put the 3 in brackets as, truth me told, I’ve put so much time into that series that it’s hard to single out a particular game. They’re kind of like this massive, gnarly, gaming-combo that takes place in my mind; it’s hard to tell where one ends and the next begins. I do seem to recall 3 being the pinnacle of the series (for me) though, before it started to plateau and then eventually drop off.

Given that I’ve already admitted to being a fan, it puts me in poor standing for my next statement, but I feel that Tony Hawks is a game that’s entertaining even if you’ve little interest in the subject. Whereas something like Skate 3 is more a reflection of the sport, Tony Hawks focuses more on game side of things. What this means is, radical in the place of realism. Sure, you might be riding a skateboard, but you’ll be doing it on a cruise ship or in a steel works or around an airport. Pulling off tricks is also a key part, but the emphasis here is more about the score that’s generated from the impossible, endless stream of moves, than the actual trick itself. You’ll also find yourself tasked with completing all manner of challenges that really have no bearing on the sport at all. It’s all pure game mechanics.

Leaked imagges of Titanic's deleted scenes

Leaked images of Titanic’s deleted scenes

That’s all there is to it really. I could go on about the soundtrack that complemented the game so well, the awesome skate videos you could unlock or the diverse customisation options, but the real magic here was all about Neversoft’s ability to produce such brilliant gameplay through the medium of skateboarding. I’ve said this before in a previous post, but I feel that Tony Hawks is one of the greatest series in video games history.

Fodders Favourite: Beat ’em up

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I heard a rumour that this genre is commonly referred to as “brawlers” now. Why? Why would you do that? I blame the hipsters. My mind is already conjuring up images of some zany hipster, in his rainbow pattern leggings and crop-top combo, ranting on about how we need to “diversify words”, or some such bullshit. Fucking hipsers man… *shudders*, second only to clowns.

It’s not that I don’t like change (it is), change is fine – often good – but remember the golden rule: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Speaking of “golden”, that brings me nicely on to my pick for favourite beat ’em up: Golden Axe on the Mega Drive.

 

Budgie smugglers

Budgie smugglers

Golden Axe was just one of a string of very similar games at and around the time. Double Dragon, Final Fight, Streets of rage and I seem to recall a great ninja turtles game; they all fill me with a sense of nostalgia, but Golden Axe hacks its way to the front.

As I say, nostalgia plays an important role and is especially prevalent in this game, but I think there are some more tangible reasons backing up this choice as well. Sharpening Golden Axes edge were some nice little touches that didn’t really innovate the genre, but did add subtle depth and variety. Firstly, each of the games three controllable characters were different in more than just appearance. The most obvious was their magical abilities/levels, but there were also slight differences in their attack range. As for the magic powers, to use them you needed to gather pots of magic. This was done by chasing after, and beating up little treasure goblin dudes – making them drop their potions. A something and nothing moment really, but it added a frantic, almost comical aspect to the game.

The ability, granted to both the player and the enemy, to mount a number of different steeds, added another layer to the gameplay. They each had a different attack and were a real asset on the battlefield. This often led to battles within the battle, as you fought with enemies over control of these mounts, until the animal would finally have enough and bugger off altogether. There was nothing worse than being kicked from one of these creatures and then have it’s power turned against you.

Must of been something I ate

Must of been something I ate

Another little aspect I really liked was how the game told the story between levels, drawing your progress on a map. It’s these subtle little details that really add up, bumping the overall presentation of the game and helping it stand out.

To prove to myself that it isn’t just nostalgia, I recently played Dragons Crown. This game could be classed as a modern take on the classic beat ’em up, and it actually reminded me a little of Golden Axe. It may look better, support more players and have a bit more depth, but the actual gameplay is a complete cluster fuck. There’s too much going on in too small a space, breaking the ability to have balanced gameplay. What this tells me is that; things may well be constantly moving forward, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are moving up.

Fodders Favourite: Action-adventure Game

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If there is a broader sweeping genre-mop than action-adventure, I can’t name it. This genre covers everything from The Ocarina of time, through to Ecco the Dolphin. You may think such a diverse genre would require an age of time spent in consideration, as you ponder the massive list of games scooped up by its indiscriminate jaws. You’d be wrong. The correct way to do it is to close your eyes, pick one and then run blindly through the walls of nay-sayers, with fingers in your ears, shouting “Fuck you, this is my blog”. The alternative is a path that leads you to a bad place. A place where you sit in the corner of a room, dribbling, whilst gently rocking back and forth, mumbling the names of an endless list of games.

Mentioned already are such greats as The Ocarina of Time, a game to feature at the top spot of many “Top Ten” lists. Uncharted, The last of Us, Tomb Raider; All amazing, ground breaking games. My choice is somewhat simpler however and features an egg: Fantasy World Dizzy.

some how this shit worked

somehow this shit worked

It’s not the first in the Dizzy series and I’m not sure if it’s considered the best either, but it’s certainly my most-loved. Taking classic platforming action – which was once my favourite genre – and combining it with the depth of adventure games, Fantasy world Dizzy tested you both physically and mentally. The games numerous puzzles would halt your progress and an ill-timed jump could send you tumbling (well, rolling) to your death. It’s worth mentioning that this was back in the 80’s when games were much less forgiving. There was no checkpoint system and no Game FAQs to check for the answer, which meant there was a lot more consequence to getting things wrong.

It’s the point around lack of Game FAQs that really, I think, makes this game stand out for me. Ocarina of time, I’m ashamed to say, was only completed due to the help of a game guide. No such luxury was available during the time of Dizzy, and that led to a sense of accomplishment that really is hard to create in today’s “Google it” world. When I beat this game, I really felt like I beat the game. I figured out those puzzles on my own. It was my dab hand reflexes that guided the fragile little egg person past the games numerous pitfalls unbroken. It was all me! And it felt all the better because of it.

Eat a dick, Skyrim

Eat a dick, Skyrim

It’s also, of course, a really good game. Whether you’re playing on the 8 or 16 bit version, its game world is constructed of beautiful, varied locations that use a splendid mix of vibrant colours. It featured a memorable cast of quirky characters and had catchy music that was sure to get stuck in your head.  Whereas games like Uncharted and The Last of Us – that look amazing today – are sure to diminish over time, the magic of Fantasy World Dizzy will live on forever.

Fodders Favourite: Driving Game

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This has easily been the hardest choice so far. See, I really like cars. I really really like cars. To put this into perspective; the other day I was sitting on the sofa, bashing one out to Babestation, as you do. At some point I’d accidentally lent on the controller and it had turned over to Top Gear. I didn’t even realise this had happened until after I’d blown my load. That’s how much I like cars (or possibly middle aged men).

The upshot of this is that over the years I’ve played an absolute wealth of driving games and I’ve really enjoyed them all, usually for different reasons. As I’m trying to stay away from any kind of objectivity in picking my favourites and just going with my gut feelings, this makes deciding on one game especially difficult. As I rack my brain, thinking over each game in turn and hoping one will push it’s way to the front, I have seen a pattern arise.  My logical side keeps coming back to the Forza series, and my more nostalgic side keeps reminiscing about an absolute classic. As great as logic is, it’s not always as interesting or entertaining. So, with that in mind, I think I’ll go with the classic; Driver for the the PS1.

Re-enact the movies

Re-enact the movies

What could be more apt really? We’re talking favourite driving games and this one is simply entitled “Driver”. The choice may have been a tricky one, but the reasoning isn’t. Driver was SO MUCH FUN to play. That might sound pretty simplistic, but it’s not a feat many games actually manage. I’m not talking storylines, impressive graphics or fancy set pieces (all of which were great by the way), I’m talking gameplay that could carry the game on it’s own. Much of the time I’d just hit “take a ride” – the games sandbox freeride mode – and blast around the city, launching off ramps and making the police chase me.

One of the main benefits of the story for me, other than it being both fitting and good (you played the role of an undercover cop that becomes a wheel-man to infiltrate the mob), was it unlocked new freeride locations to burn about in. Each one was a recreated real world city, like San Francisco, Miama and New York. It wasn’t just that hammering around these beautifully (for the time) crafted cities – weaving in and out of traffic whilst racing away from cops – looked good; it was that it felt good. It was fast and fluid, with the controls nailing that sweet spot right between sim-like realism and arcade controllability.

The best way to sum it up is; Reflections Interactive captured the essence of 1968’s Bullitt and injected it into their game, putting you behind the wheel. For those of you that haven’t seen that movie (go do so), we’re talking american muscle, massive burn outs, screeching tyres and  arse-out action round every corner, as hub caps fly off in all directions. It’s all there in it’s rawest, purest form and when it comes to driving, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Fodders Favourite: Stealth Game

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Ah, good old stealth ’em ups. Having never played one before (at the time), I remember the concept sounded rather strange at first, but then I played a demo that changed everything (more on that later)!

There could only ever be one winner here. My brain did toy with the idea of Deus Ex: Human revolution. However, it being a game where stealth is optional, as opposed to the entire premise, it felt like it wasn’t the best fit. Splinter Cell is obviously an excellent stealth game, but in my opinion lacks character. Mark of the ninja is also worth a mention, as not only is it the only 2D stealth game I think I’ve ever played, but it’s also amazing in its execution.

As I say though, this was only ever really a one horse race, thanks in part to the fore mentioned demo. It was for Metal Gear Solid and probably still stands as my most played freebie, ever to grace the front of a gaming magazine. If the purpose of a demo is to whet your appetite for the full product, than this one honed mine to the point where it could cut diamond. I’m not sure I’ve ever wanted a game more and needless to say, I picked it up at launch without ever looking back.

I still have the demo disc as well

I still have the demo disc as well

Metal gear solid is a ridiculous game. Ridiculously well thought out, with a ridiculous attention to detail. Ridiculously good fun to play, when you’re not busy watching the ridiculously long cut scenes, featuring the games ridiculous characters or listening to a ridiculous codec conversation. Ridiculously ridiculous. I consider myself a fan of the series and when it comes to the story, I’d still be hard pushed to explain to you what the fuck is really going on. It may actually be the only game I’ve played, where I enjoy a story that I don’t even understand. That in itself is quite a ridiculous achievement.

Metal Gear Solid defied gamer logic. Where guards were usually objects to be dispatched via the medium of bullets to the face, feathering with arrows or jumps to the head, Metal Gear flipped the switch, making them the hunter and you the prey. Brains needed to replace brawn, as you crept around the levels, avoiding detection at all cost.

Slower paced action, but just as intense

Slower paced action, but just as intense

It wasn’t simply that Metal Gear used stealth as a mechanic, it was the flawless way it implemented it and the numerous little details that came together to create such a clever experience. Your primary concern was staying out of sight, but that wasn’t all you needed to worry about. Guards could be alerted to your presence by any noise you made, or even the footprints you left behind. This made the guards seem much more intelligent, much more life-like, to the point you could even use it to your advantage, using sound to lure them in one direction, as you snuck past in another.

Getting through the levels undetected was such a rewarding process. You’d need to watch the guards, learn their patrol patterns and find weaknesses. You needed to scan the environment, looking out for search lights and security cameras. You could also use the environment to your advantage, climbing under trucks and other obstacles to stay out of sight. This is also the game that turned hiding in a cardboard box and comically creeping around, into an iconic act.

Become a master of disguise

Become a master of disguise (Ok…a dude in a box) 

Should you be seen, your best choice was to run away and hide whilst the guards searched for you. It may seem ludicrous that, after a given amount of time, the guards simply gave the all clear and returned to their patrols, but it added a real sense of tension as you hid in the shadows, hoping they wouldn’t come your way, waiting for the timer to count down.

When it comes to the series as a whole, it could be said that Metal Gear Solid 3 is the cream of the crop. However, upon playing Metal Gear Solid 4 – with it’s flashback to Metal Gear Solids intro level – it confirmed to me that the original game is still my firm favourite.

Maturely immature and seriously stupid, Metal Gear Solid is a ridiculous master piece that everyone should play.

Fodders Favourite: Fighting Game

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Much like the games themselves, there are two contenders that have taken to the stage, standing on opposing sides and  battling it out to become the champion, claiming the title of “Fodders Favourite Fighting game”. Those games are Capcom’s Street Fighter 2 and Midway’s Mortal Kombat.

Both are so evenly matched that it really is almost impossible to call. Gameplay between the two is largely identical, with the same 1 vs 1 close-quarters combat, of best out of 3 battles, that take place from the same 2D side on perspective. Both feature a line-up of over the top characters, each with their own list of special moves that serve to differentiate themselves from one another. Both are immensely fun to play, either against friends or on your own against the computer.

The thing that clinches it for me and delivers the decisive shoryuken to competition is, somewhat strangely for a fighting game, the music. With the core gameplay being so tight between them, it’s Streetfighter 2’s musical score that I feel edges it into the top spot. Whilst Mortal Kombats music may have been fitting enough, it was also largely forgettable. Street Fighter on the other hand, was accompanied by a soundtrack that complemented it so well, it lifted it to legendary status.

Even the box art was amazing

Even the box art was amazing

From the title screen, through to each stage; every part of the game was coupled to a fabulous track that somehow managed to lend individual character, yet also gel together well as a whole. Music is usually something that, on the surface, I tend to over look and yet in Street fighter it really helped energised the game to the point of staying with me long after I’d finished playing.

Moving away from the music, and onto a personal level; despite being the ideal game for playing against your mates, one of my fondest memories is playing it alongside my mates, almost as a co-op experience. It could just be that we were rubbish, but I distinctly remember the game being really hard to beat, so me and my mates would each take turns trying to beat the tougher opponents – eventually completing the game with every character. I don’t think it was so much as winner stays on or turn based, but more a case of rather than throwing the controller at the screen, you simply handed it over to your mate as you allowed your built up stress to return back to safe levels. There are only so many times you can battle in despair against M. Bison’s endless stream of seemingly impossible moves, before you want to break something.

M. Bison: Complete dickhead

M. Bison: Complete dickhead

Finally, on playing the game recently, after all these years, I was pleasantly surprised to find it’s just as good now as it was back then. There may have been many iterations since it’s release, but Street Fighter 2 is still the best!

Fodders Favourite: Real Time Strategy

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RTS! None of this fake time/hammer time bullshit – we’re talking real time mother fucker! And who’s the realist of the real in this highly contended gaming genre? A game that totally annihilates the competition: Cavedogs Total Annihilation!

Command and conquer may hold a special place in my heart for being my first, Warcarft 3 may have altered the genre and supreme commander may have gone bigger, but none, in my opinion, have ever gone better. Total Annihilation didn’t so much raise the bar, as it did grab it and launch it into fucking orbit – to this day there are still game developers out searching for it.

Never has a games name been more apt

Never has a games name been more apt

The list of innovations this game delivered is so vast and fundamentally awesome that they continue to be used as the foundation of genre even today; well over a decade since the game was released. The game took RTS from 2D sprites to 3D models, introduced command stacking for issuing a chain of orders, build queues, resource streaming,  increased unit diversity and totals by an order of magnitude, physical unit wreckage, map scale and topography, destructible environments, gameplay driven audio synchronism and most importantly, next level uber-fun-cakez 2.0!

See, the net result of all those elements was some of the most intense battles and versatile gameplay the genre has ever seen, coupled to an interface that allowed for deep complexity, but never at the expense of simplicity. Through a combination of easy to use short-cut keys, hot-keys and mouse clicks, you could orchestrate multi-faceted attacks of land, sea and air units, watching in glee as the carnage unfolds and your enemies are devastated before your eyes.

These battles all take place on maps that range from big, through to humongous and all offer a variety of terrain types that ensure no two play alike. Winning in Total Annihilation is rarely a simple numbers game. Deploying the correct strategy that takes into account the lay the land, the resource locations and the correct units for the job is all paramount to victory. The games intelligent enemy AI will of course be trying to block you at every turn, leading to epic battles that are never measured in anything less than hours.

The best testament to the brilliance of this game is how, over the years, I constantly find myself coming back to it. Simply put, Total Annihilation is a blast to play and probably always will be.

 

Fodders Favourite: Role Playing Game

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“Role playing game” – what a name for a genre! As opposed to what? A game were you don’t have a fucking role? A game where you’re merely a causal observer to the events that are unfolding? A game like Metal gear solid four? Oh…. anyway, I digress.

As much as I really really want to say The Witcher, the true answer has to be, almost begrudgingly,  The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. See I’m not convinced that Oblivion is the best RPG game out there. I’m not even convinced it’s the best Elder scroll game. However, it was the first game I’ve played that achieved what I believe is the key to RPG success; it thrust me head first into another world.

Sure, there are other games out there that had kind of done this before, and there has certainly been games that have done it since, but Oblivion, for me, genuinely made the experience feel real. After a great intro that serves to both set-up the games story and act as a tutorial level, you emerge from the sewers of the Imperial city like a child born; greeted by the endless possibility and wonder of the expansive land of Cyrodiil that lays before you.

Not only has Bethesda managed to create a vivid living/breathing world of almost unprecedented scale, but they have you experience it all from the first person perspective, as if through your own eyes. This really serves to enhance the feeling of immersion, truly putting you in the shoes of the character within the games world. You aren’t simply controlling the character, you are the character.

Escape to another world

Escape to another world

The icing on the cake to all this and the way the game really stands out in the role-playing genre, is that it allows you the freedom to pick your own role. Whilst it’s true the game has a fairly pressing story, it’s completely up to you if you decide to stick two fingers up to it and fuck off in the opposite direction. Yeah, you can become the saviour of all of Tamriel if you want, closing the gates of Oblivion forever; or you could just bugger off into the woods and become a hermit, trading in rare mushrooms to the denizens of the province; it’s totally up to you.

It’s during, or should I say through this freedom that you tend to really experience the magic that the game has to offer (Literally magic, if you happen to stumble into the mages guild). As you discover new locations and speak to new people, all manner of different paths open up before you, creating the fore mentioned endless possibly the game has to offer. No matter how far you walk, how many people you speak to or how many quests you complete, you will never truly feel like you can say you’ve finished the game.

Oblivion is more than simply a game to me, it is a gateway to another life.

Fodders Favourites

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In this series of posts I’m going to be looking at and picking my favourite games of all time, one per genre. Such choices and lists are always a bit wanky, as not only does the victor of the internal conflict change like the weather, but also, just when you think you’ve nailed down a winner, a new game can be released that comes along and shits in your salad.  I’m not about to let such a fundamental flaw stop me though. #ThugLife

Contents

First Person Shooter

Role Playing Game

Real Time Stratergy

Fighting Game

Stealth Game

Driving Game

Action-adventure Game

Beat ’em up

Sports Game

Survival Horror Game

Spin-off Series

Ending

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