Monday, December 1, 2014

Mercenary Kings Review

Continuing on the update train.  Over the summer and up til now, I've been apart of a YouTube channel that debuted called WinLoseTie.  The updates have come twice a week, and our first major playthrough has been a Randomized race of Pokemon FireRed.  We plan to add more randomization to each race we do in the Pokemon series, so by the time we hit Gen V, things are going to be wonky.

In addition to that, I've had my own channel.  Over there, I spend time playing games like Doom, Hearthstone, Just Cause 2, Diablo 2, and a few other games, including practicing speed running Pokemon Red.

Streaming is an interesting experience.  I never get (m)any viewers, but it's always a joy to have someone in the chat to converse with.

A quick "programming" note.  For my personal writing, I'm going to try something new.  If you see an image or video embedded in the post, they'll be my own content, open sourced, or properly sourced (like the sprites from my Doom post).  I'll grab my own screen shots, and my own videos.  Granted, this may go up in smoke in a matter of posts, but it's an experiment I'm interested in trying.

Onto the task at hand.

The Game

Platforms - PC/Mac/PS4 (PC Played)
Developer - Tribute Games
Genre(s) - 2D Shooter/Platformer
Players - 1 - 4 Local and Online Co-Op

Elevator Pitch

"Picture 2D gameplay inspired by Contra mixed with the crazy guns of Borderlands."


So, we got the basics of the game down, let's flesh it out a bit.  I feel the Contra comparison is apt in terms of how the game plays, but not quite how the game feels, and that might come down to level design.  In Mercenary Kings, you may revisit the same levels over and over (and over and over), but each time the objectives will change.  The primary levels include a Jungle, War Torn City, Power Plant, Chemical Plant, and an ancient Temple.  There are a few variants for some of these (I know there are two different Jungles, and Power Plant-like maps, for example), which can help keep some of the monotony at bay.  Continuing along the lines of "different from Contra", you don't find guns in capsules or as random drops.  Instead, you use materials you find throughout the levels to craft your weapons.  You don't just build the weapons whole either, oh no.  You make monstrous creations of different parts to craft the gun that suits your desires.

Late Game Character With Lots of Parts

So, what are we looking at here?  Well, it's my pistol Sniper with a Machine Gun stock.  You have a lot of stats to consider when building your gun, as changing something as simple as your magazine can affect more than your capacity and reload speed.  Some guns don't play nice with other parts, and as a general rule, the more bullets you carry, the less damage you do per shot.  The main gun stats here are

POW - Power - Determined by Receiver (type of gun you're using), Barrel, Magazine, and Ammo
RNG - Your Range.  Primarily Dictated by Barrel type
SPD - How many Rounds Per Second you fire.  A line of "--" means semi-automatic.
RLD - How long it takes to reload, if you don't try for the reload timer (more on that later).
CAP - Capacity, how many rounds you can fire before reloading.
ACC - Accuracy.  100% means you fire in a straight line, lower accuracy has more spread.
WT - Weight.  Determines your movement speed.

That's just the base stats.  As you can see, there's two more stat blocks we need to talk about. First though, I want to expand on the Reload Timer.

Early Game Character with poor Reload Speed.

Your reload time is how long it takes for the needle to travel the length of the whole bar.  If you have say a 6 second reload gun, that can take forever.  See those two colored zones though?  If you hit the reload button again in the yellow space, you reload right then, instead of waiting the remainder of the timer.  If you can hit it in the green though, not only do you reload now, but some of your next shots will be powered up, dealing more damage.  This is incredibly useful for reloading long reload speed guns, because you can avoid having to wait without your weapon.  If you hit the reload button at any other point in the bar though, you effectively jam your gun.  This means you can't fire your firearm for roughly twice the length of your normal reload time.

Back to the top image, looking at the second box on the left, we have our elemental damage.  Going clockwise from top left, we have Incendiary, Cryogenic, Electric, and Caustic.  Elemental damage is done on top of your base damage of the weapon, so my gun above does, roughly, 65 Cryogenic damage on a shot.  Breaking down the elements quickly looks like this...

Incendiary - Strong against human/plant enemies.
Cryogenic - Has a chance to freeze enemies solid for a few seconds.
Electric - Good against robotics.
Caustic - Good against enemies with heavy armor (my favorite element).

Caustic can allow you to deal damage to non-boss enemies who have shields, or other invulnerable states.  There are basic troops that carry a riot shield, so they reflect most bullets.  Caustic though, deals however much Caustic Damage your weapon deals, so you can deal a sort of chip damage to him.  Caustic has a secondary effect though: it can dissolve those shields, which makes the dude panic, and fire six shots in a row, and then reload for awhile.  When I first found this out, I laughted to myself, because it was such a neat touch.

The final box on the left is the really interesting one.  These are your weapon's ammo proficiency.  Get your weapon up to 100% in an ammo type, and you can equip it.  So, now for the ammo type breakdowns, starting from the top left, going clockwise...

Armor Piercing - Travels through walls and enemies.
Magnum (What I call it) - Larger rounds and deals more damage.
Spread - Shotgun ammo.
Missiles - Missiles with a homing property, no explosions on contact.
Shrapnel - Projectile that when it hits an enemy, wall, floor, or ceiling explodes into tiny shrapnel that travels in 8 directions.
Ball - Ammo that travels in an arc, and bounces upon contact with walls and floors.

During first few ranks of the game, you'll be mainly using default ammo with maybe different elemental properties, an ammo type that all weapons can use, but once you get about 2/3 through the game, you'll start to see ammo that combines two ammo types to make some hilarious combinations.  For example, the weapon in the first picture has Shrapnel/Ball ice ammo.  It travels, hits the wall or enemy, then shoots off 8 bouncing balls that can deal extra damage (both regular and ice) in addition to the impact damage.  One weapon I built uses what are called Sniper Missiles, missiles that have the Armor Piercing property.  Oh, and it was fired out of a machine gun.  So I was rapidly firing missiles that would find enemies through walls with a light homing capability.  Accuracy was truly overrated.  

Shrapnel Ball Ammo Bouncing Around.

If it feels like I spent too much time talking about the weapons, well, that's kind of the main draw of the game.  You spend a good portion of the game busting open item chests, picking up spoils, and taking on extra, hidden objectives on missions in order to earn more supplies to craft your weapons and armor (increases your health).  Late game can get repetitive because you need to fight bosses repeatedly to get the items you need.  

Repetition is a factor with this game.  You will be seeing the same level repeatedly, and you will be fighting pallet swap enemies.  This includes some of the bosses as well.  There is the Steel Soldier, which is a big walking knife/sword robot that's only vulnerable when you dodge his attacks or from behind, and 4 variants of him for starters (one for each element).  This goes on for quite a lot of the bosses actually.  The only really unique bossfights are the Violence Kings (Two sword fighters that work in tandem), the three different dog bosses (I'm drawing a blank on all of their names), and the Final Boss.  If enemy variety is something you crave from your games, you may want to pass this one over, unless the other factors draw you in.


The art style is very reminescant of the Scott Pilgrim vs The World game, which may be due to the fact that the same team worked on both games.  I enjoy the almost caricature style portraits and sprites.  I'm a huge fan of aesthetics over fidelity, and this game has a style that I really dig.  

Music-wise, we get some chiptune styled tracks that vary from merely OK to pretty-toe-tappin'.  

Props to jhparktc for the upload.
That's more-or-less what you're going to get from the game audio wise.  
Sorry, what can I say, I'm not great when it comes to talking about graphics and music unless I absolutely love or hate them.  
I've enjoyed the game, as is apparent 40 hours I've put into it.  It's a fun little romp that's great with friends, but awfully grindy.  It's a fun enough game where you can turn off your brain and gun through things, and then experiment for 25 minutes on different gun combinations.  It's got a $20 price point, which some may think is too high for an indie game.  Personally, I feel like I've gotten good value from it, but I can understand how some would rather be more frugal.  
Get it here: Steam - Playstation Store

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Update and A Review (Doom)

Hoo, boy, it's been awhile.  I think we need to hit up a quick roundup of what I've been doing since I last posted here.

I stream sometimes on Twitch, mainly random Doom playthroughs, sometimes some Pokemon Red speedruns as I race early parts of the game, and occasionally other stuff.  Depends on the whim.

Beat Mega Man Battle Network last night,  Game was... alright?  Really up and down?  Something like that.  The ending was very "What the fuck" and "Well, that was anti-climactic".

BattleBlock Theater, Divinity: Original Sin, Broforce, Nidhogg are other games I've played.  Those last two, maybe in addition to BBT might get a review.  Haven't played enough Divinity.

So, we caught up?  For the most part, at least.

Alright, time to talk some motherfucking Doom.

I never grew up on PC games, so the Doom/Duke Nukem/Quake era sort of passed me by.  While id and 3DRealms were having their blowstuffupathon, I was playing Mario and Sonic games.

Quite different from the market they created, no?

Anyways, I started getting into Doom about 4 years ago, when I realized that I'm awful at first person shooters, but had always heard bits and pieces about the Doom series.  So I picked up a source port and started poking around.

First impressions were along the lines of "OK, this is easy enough" which turned into "Oh my god, what the hell is going on here??".  The lack of mouse look, which I'm sure was a technical limitation at the time, makes for an interesting experience.  The vertical auto aim certainly is a godsend in that regard.  Seriously, if you released a shooter now-a-days without mouse look, and with this much auto-aim, they'd get crucified.

Now, let's look at how I view Doom now: I fucking love Doom.  If you're reading this, and trying to decide for some reason that you want to know more about the game, I am going to try to keep my enthusiasm in check a little, but just be warned.

So, what makes Doom so enjoyable for me?  It's fast paced, it's got good weapon design, and it's got good enemy design.

Let's start at the top.


Doom is very fast.  DoomGuy runs at an insane speed, and even his base walking speed is nuts compared to modern FPS games.  What this leads to is some crazy fire fights between you and the enemy.  At any given moment, you are dodging between projectiles, trying to outrun others, and circle-strafing a big demon while you're health is at 10%..  All this creates a sort of fluid exhilaration.  Almost a sense of ordered chaos.

Some key elements you'll notice when you play Doom, Doom 2 or either Final Doom chapter

- No health regeneration
- No cover system
- No aiming down sights, and by that token, no headshots
- Only autosaves are at the start of a level
- Lots of auto aim
- Movement is paramount.  Speed is your friend.
- The games are from the mid-90s, so, don't expect high fidelity.
- Monster Infighting.

So, if any of those elements do not appeal to you, this may not be a game for you.  If you're not put off by them, let's continue.

You play as DoomGuy, an unnamed, silent protagonist, and the grandfather of all future Space Marines-as-player-characters.  You're tasked with stopping a hellish invasion of ...

OK, I'm going to level with you.  Doom games, at least Doom, Doom 2, and Final Doom, have next to nothing for story.  It's presented as walls of text every handful of levels or so.  The short version is Demons invading X, let's go kill them.

And who exactly will we be killing?  Well, I'm glad you asked.


All sprites below courtesy of Spriter's Resource.  Also note, characters not to scale.

Left to right: Zombieman, Sergeant, and Chaingunner

 These, along with the Imp (later) are the bread and butter enemies of the game.  They are all hitscan enemies, meaning that their bullets travel instantaneously.  The Zombieman uses the equivalent of your pistol, the Sergeant has a shotgun, and the Chaingunner, well, a chaingun.  These enemies have relatively low Health, but if left alive, they can deal out a surprising amount of damage.  Except the Zombieman.  Him, not so much.  Sergeants can be annoying, if you don't have a way to quickly deal with them, because shotguns at close range will hit you with more pellets.  More pellets equals more damage.  As you get further away though, they become less of a threat, due to the pellets spreading apart.  Chaingunners, on the other hand, have the uncanny ability to take off huge swaths of your Health, especially if you don't see them before they start shooting.  A single round from them is no problem, but factor in the hard-to-dodge aspect of hitscan weapons, and their insane rate of fire, and they can quickly turn from nuisance to threat.  A handful of these guys can take you from 100% to dead in a matter of seconds. 

The Zombieman and Sergeant were introduced in Doom, and the Chaingunner debuted in Doom 2.

Left to Right: Imp, Demon, Hell Knight, Baron of Hell, Arachnotron

Here's where we start to get interesting.  After the first few levels, the imp becomes the primary fodder enemy.  It's tougher than a Zombieman (and a Sergeant for that matter), and can dish out more hurt than both of them. They can attack from both melee range, and they have a ranged fireball attack.  The fireball, in most cases, is your first exposure to non-hitscan enemies in Doom.  Their projectiles are fairly slow, and they're large enough to see from a distance, so you have reaction time.  Like most things in Doom, alone, these guys are a piece of cake once you get the Shotgun.  Get a group of them together, and you have the makings for a minor bullet-hell from the first person perspective.  The Demons are your basic melee ranged enemy.  With no ranged attack, they run right up to you, nary a care in the world.  This also makes them easy to turn into pseudo-allies through Monster Infighting.  

Monster Infighting is exactly what it says on the tin.  If one monster hits another monster with an attack, the struck monster may go after the offending attacker.  Because Demons run in pretty much a straight line at you, luring them into a fireball isn't difficult.  From there, the Demon may ignore you, and go after the Imp that attacked him.  Note this alwo works with Hitscan enemies as well.  If you position yourself properly, the hitscan enemies will still fire, and you can send other enemies after them.  

The Hell Knight is an interesting monster, and probably the laziest design of the whole list.  Debuting in Doom 2, the Hell Knight is a near carbon copy of the Baron of Hell, except with half as many HP.  Apart from that, the stat block for these two are similar.  Especially dangerous at melee, these guys are capable of knocking off 80% of your Health with some luck, due to damage ranges.  Like the Imp, they also have a projectile.  Their projectiles are quicker and more damaging than an Imp's fireball.  Hell Knights do have a use though.  They can be used more frequently than a Baron of Hell, due to lower health, and thus, the player spending less ammo, but they remain just as deadly to the careless player.  The Baron of Hell is an incredibly tough monster, who's hit points are only outclassed by the two bosses.

Arachnotrons are less annoying versions of a boss monster.  They die fairly quickly, if you can place two rockets well, and their attacks aren't awful.  They fire a rapid succession of plasma bolts at you, similar to the Plasma Rifle the player uses.

Imps, Demons, and Barons of Hell made their debut in Doom.  Hell Knights and Arachnotrons in Doom 2.

And now the start of the Asshole Brigade

 Mancubus, Pain Elemental, Lost Soul, Revenant, Cacodemon, and Archvile

Here is where the game starts to go into "fuck you" mode.  Mancubi (Mancubuses?)  aren't too bad.  They shoot out two projectiles at a time, one from each cannon arm, in sets of 3.  They're spaced, so if you're talented, you can duck between them, but avoiding them to the outside is probably best.  Their projectiles travel pretty fast, so be wary of that.  Pain Elementals and Lost Souls go together here.  Lost Souls, once they start their attack, will fly in a straight line.  It's easy to play bullfighter with one or two in order to get a better shot.  Also, they will in-fight when other Lost Souls, which is handy.  Pain Elementals, on the other hand, are goddamned bastards.  Pain Elementals spit out Lost Souls at you.  If you can't find them, or can't access where they've been spawned and/or activated, they can quickly fill a room with Lost Souls.  In addition, when Pain Elementals die, they explode into 2-3 Lost Souls that immediately try to attack you.  Pain Elementals can be hard to find for two reasons: they fly/hover, and they can blend in with the background at a glance.  With no vertical mouse-look, you can't see them if they're above you.  Revenants are kinda sorta glass cannons.  Less Health than a Hell Knight, these skeletal foes aren't too hard to kill.  The problem with them though, is that they shoot fireballs that can home in on you.  If you're not careful, you could find yourself getting hit in the side or the back by a fireball you thought you dodged.  Cacodemons aren't too bad.  Flying, less asshole-y versions of Pain Elementals.  They shoot slowish fireballs at you.  Their ability to go vertical can hide them from your view easily.

Then that jerk.  The Archvile.  He is a high priority target.  The Archvile has two attacks, a claw and an ignite/explosion combo.  If he has line of sight on you, he starts to set you on fire.  If you're still in the fire when the 'timer' runs out, it explodes, dealing massive damage, and sending you flying.  Two attacks like this will kill you from 100% Health and 100% Armor.  The way around this is to use corners and pillars to break line of sight.  That's not what makes them a nightmare though.  Archviles can revive killed enemies in the area.  That is why they're priority one.  There are some exceptions of course, but that alone is enough to warrant focus-firing on them first.  Factor in that they're one of the fastest monsters in the game, and they've got the fourth highest health totals (behind the two bosses, and Barons of Hell), and you have an enemy that should have a target firmly drawn on it's back.

Cacodemons and Lost Souls debuted in Doom, The rest rear their heads in Doom 2.

The Bosses: Spiderdemon and Cyberdemon

These are the big boys.  Both debuting in Doom one, these are the icons on the series.  The Cyberdemon inspired one of the original Protips that reads "To defeat the Cyberdemon, shoot at it until it dies."  The Cyberdemon packs a punch, being able to kill a player who's at 100% Health in a single shot without fail.  The rockets they fire travel as fast as Mancubi fireballs, and they also fire in bursts, except the Cyberdemon's rockets do splash damage near the impact point.  Even if you're at 100% Health, and 100% Armor, you still fall within the damage range of a one-hit-KO from a direct rocket hit.  With four times the Health of a Baron of Hell, with a smaller chance to stun it out of an attack, Cyberdemons are a destructive force to face.

Spiderdemons (also known as Spider Masterminds), are a hitscan enemy.  That's right, this boss monster with the huge chaingun on his frame can hit you at range instantly. This isn't any chaingun though, no sir.  This is a SUPER Chaingun, one that fires 3 shots at a time.  The normal chaingun shot does between 3-15 damage to the player.  If you get hit by all three shells from the Spiderdemon, you're soaking up between 9 and 45 damage.  That's from a single, fraction of a second burst.  If you're unlucky enough to get caught in the open with no cover nearby, well, suffice to say, you're going to have a hard time surviving your encounter.  These guys are capable of shredding health in a hurry.  They are more fragile than a Cyberdemon though, so hey, we got that going for us.

You may ask, "why did you go into such detail about the enemies in a shooter?"  My response is simple: each of these enemies makes the game different from other FPS games I've played.  The combination of hitscan enemies and dodgeable projectiles, coupled with the high movement speed of DoomGuy means that the game is a frantic game of resource management (remember, no regenerating health, and ammo is finite) mixed with a fast paced dance of shooting and dodging.  When I mentioned that fighting a swarm of Imps is like a minor bullet hell, well when you throw in the game's larger encounters with a mix of all these enemies, you get a really tense game.

Let's Wrap This Up

Alright, so before you get the impression that I think Doom, Doom 2, and Final Doom are perfect, I need to say this.  The level design in some places is really bad.  At times, it's overly labyrinthine, and needlessly confusing.  The music for the game is a mixed bag, varying from merely OK to downright awesome.  The problem though, lies in the fact that the songs are short midi clips.  Don't be surprised if you here a midi-fied "Them Bones" (by Alice in Chains) a dozen or more times over the course of one level.  The sound effects for the game are really good, with the Super Shotgun and the BFG9000 deserving special mention.  The Super Shotgun's sound design, paired with it's animation, and actual damage output, makes firing it feel impactful.  When you kill a Demon in one shot with it, it feels like that's what it should do.  The BFG9000 has a very satisfying shooting and impact effect ,both audibly and visually.  The crackle of energy as it charges for a half-second before firing gives it some weight of impact as well.

The first three Doom games have consumed a decent portion of my free time over the last year or so, with me recently finishing TNT Evilution, and working on The Plutonia Experiment of late.  As a person who's terrible at modern FPS, I feel somewhat competent playing this game due to the heavy focus on movement, instead of twitchy aiming, often found in games like Quake or Unreal Tournament.  If I had to pick a definitive Doom Experience (tm), I'd cheat and say Doom 2 and TNT Evilution.  Doom 2 is pretty much Doom 1 but More, featuring a new weapon (The Super Shotgun is a game-changer), new enemies (see wall of text above at who's new), and a more enjoyable experience overall.  TNT Evilution is a nice escalation from Doom 2 in difficulty, with some pretty good map design, and a few new assets (graphics, music).  Plutonia is extremely difficult in comparison to Doom 2.  Plutonia is harder than TNT Evilution as well.  While I'm playing through Plutonia now, I'm having less fun with it than I had with TNT.  Here's the main reason why:  They ramp up the amount of annoying monsters by a lot.  Plutonia contains almost twice as many Archviles as TNT and Doom 2 COMBINED.  It has more Cyberdemons, more Mancubi (On the lowest difficulty, TNT + Doom 2 contain 36.  Plutonia has 92.  On EASY!), and other enemies in general.  Mo' monstahs, mo' problems.

That's all I've got for you, for now.  I'll be happy to answer any questions you may have.  Just leave a comment, and I'll try to help as best I can.

If you want to see quality Doom gameplay though, check out KingDime on Twitch.  Dude's a very skilled speedrunner, and he's pretty good at answering any questions you may have about his run or Doom in general.

P.S. Special shout out to Pirate Doom, which may get it's own post in the future.

Monday, October 27, 2014

"Ada! Wait!"

The year is 1998. Fans are eagerly awaiting for the sequel to Resident Evil. Capcom held fans at bay with Resident Evil: Director's Cut, which offered new modes, new costumes, music, and a mostly uncensored intro sequence while Resident Evil 2 was nearing completion. Hopes were incredibly high, especially after screenshots were released, showing a more modern, urban setting. Zombies were now in the streets of Raccoon City, and more dangerous than ever.

Yeah... until it got scrapped.

Resident Evil 2 was almost ready to hit shelves, when Capcom said, "Fuck this game. This is garbage, and this isn't what we wanted. Let's fucking re-do the whole thing." And they did. In less than a year, Capcom completely overhauled Resident Evil 2 into something spectacular.

Resident Evil 2 - PlayStation/Nintendo 64 - 1998 - Not Just Another Zombie Game!

Resident Evil 2 is so fucking good, that fans have been hounding Capcom to remake it in HD, like the Gamecube release of Resident Evil. It's no wonder why either! Resident Evil 2 not only boasted higher production values in every single department, it absolutely eclipsed the original is every single fucking category.
Well, mostly. The voice acting is still sub-par, but it's much better than the original. The story this time around is much better as well, introducing us to some memorable characters like Leon S. Kennedy and Claire Redfield, sister to Chris Redfield from the first game. Umbrella is shown in a much more sinister way this time around, and have much more involvement in the events that unfold. They're still up to no good, but now they've infected the entire city with the new G-Virus. Talk about going from bad to fucking bat shit crazy. It wouldn't be as bad if they, you know, didn't own everything. Think of Umbrella as the Wal-Mart of the gaming world. You go to them for literally everything; medicines, clothing, even the fucking bullets you'll be blasting zombies with.

What sets this apart from its predecessor is the Hollywood production. Resident Evil 2 feels more like a big budget movie. There's a lot of action, a lot of drama, and a lot of fuckery going on. The set pieces are great, and the game moves at a rapid pace. A lot of things happen in Resident Evil 2, and they're all pretty important and make Raccoon City feel like a real place, and THAT is scary. Could you imagine an outbreak like that happening in the U.S.? A real one I mean... not this Ebola shit.

Did you know there's a cure now? That's a whole other argument though...
Right then... let's get to the cast:

Leon S. Kennedy - "ADA! FUCKING WAIT!!!"

Leon is rather unlucky. He had to show up for an outbreak on his first day on the job. Poor guy probably didn't even get to eat his first donut yet. He's quite the badass though... taking bullets for bitches and shit...

Claire Redfield - The best step mom ever.

Oh Claire... I wonder if Chris played a prank on you since, you know, he's not in a city infested with zombies. Claire takes care of business. I bet she's great in bed too. She seems to connect with Sherry.

Sherry Birkin - Her parents fucking suck.

Poor Sherry. Her father created the G-Virus and turned everyone into monsters, and her mother is too preoccupied with shooting people, looking for William, and dying. Someone call Child Protective Services. Despite all the chaos, Sherry is quite brave. She also has the G-Virus sample everyone is after, and doesn't even know it. Ba-zinga!

William Birkin - THE MAN WHO SEES ALL.

That's a terrible joke. The creator of the G-Virus, and overall dipshit. After being shot to near death, he injects himself with the G-Virus, and tries to kill everyone. If only he didn't knock that container over...

Annette Birkin - Not so devoted mother.

For real. She cares more about William than she does Sherry. William is a fucking monster now. Get your shit together, you have a daughter to protect. She makes things really hard for everyone along the way. She's just a huge bitch in general.

Ada Wong - The best fake death you've ever seen.

If you go with the canon, she dies a horrific death. If you don't, she still dies a horrific death. How the fuck she lived to see Resident Evil 4 is beyond me. She falls in love with Leon, or maybe that's just another trick. Women are good at that one.
Brian Irons - Crooked cop extraordinaire.

The chief of the Raccoon Police Department, who's in cahoots with Umbrella. Pretty sinister guy he is, until William plants an embryo inside him and it escapes in the goriest way possible. Guess you get what you deserve, dick.

Ben - The pen is extremely inferior to the sword.

Ben is a reporter, who finds out about Umbrella's secrets and is on his way to expose them. You know, until the whole city decides to be turned into zombies. He hides in a jail cell because that's always fucking safe right? Suffers the same fate as Irons.

Kendo Gun Shop Owner - "I ain't got no clue darlin!"

Is it ironic that the owner of a gun shop doesn't kill a single fucking zombie? He doesn't know why the city is infested with zombies, and apparently can't see them breaking through the front window. He leaves a shotgun behind for Leon, or the pathetic bow gun for Claire.

Marvin gives us our first keycard of the game, and then turns into a zombie right in front of your face. Blow his head off. He seemed like a cool guy too...
Hunk - The 4th Survivor

Somehow survives William's fury in the sewers. He's there to take the G-Virus back to Umbrella. He's playable through a bonus scenario, and it's fucking hard.

Truck Driver - "GUY'S A MANIAC! WHY'D HE BITE ME?!"

Apparently doesn't recognize a crazed zombie in front of his face. Gets bitten, turns into a zombie, crashes his truck, and separates Claire and Leon. That bastard.

As you can see, Resident Evil 2 has quite the colorful cast. My favorite is Leon, because like Barry Burton in the first game, he has a certain stupid charm. He's overly serious, and for the right reasons. I mean, there's only a viral outbreak going on after all. He tells Ada to wait so many times that it borders on hilarity. She probably faked her death to get away from him.

Just like the first game, we also have our selection of targets to shoot up:

Zombies - A household name!

Still deadly, but more common place. At this point it would be weird to not have zombies in the world. They still love flesh, and they're still dead.
Zombie Dogs - All bark and no bite.

There's like 6 dogs in the game. Still a pain in the ass, but easily out ran. Someone fill the dog dish up and spare the humans for Christ's sake.
Lickers - One hell of an ice cream eater.

Boasting quite a large tongue, these fuckers are deadly. Thought the Hunters from the first game were hard? These things mutate later on in the game, and get much stronger. They can lob your head off with one strike as well. Could probably eat a lollipop like a champ.

B.O.W.s - Not your average crop killer.

Seen later in the game, these guys like to spit poison and slap you around with their tentacles. Like any plant though, they don't stand a chance against flames. Light em up with flame rounds, or pop em with the magnum. Or go for the can of Raid.
William Offspring Monster - Because what else can you call it?

Started as an embryo, and ended up as a hulking monster. Likes to puke up baby offspring monsters that crawl on you.
Giant Alligator - Nuff said.

How this thing lives in the raccoon city sewers is beyond me... Can eat the player whole if you're not careful. He loves to eat canisters, so shoot it when he gobbles it down and his head will turn to mush.
Mr. X - Tyrant in a fucking trench coat.

Remember the Tyrant you killed in the first game? Yeah, Umbrella made a few more and sent them after you. These guys are strong. Thank God you only have to face one of them. Sports TWO giant mutated claws at the end, and is MUCH faster than the first Tyrant. He still hates rocket launchers though.

Resident Evil 2 is vastly different from the first game in numerous ways. The best change is the scenario system. For example, if you beat the game with Leon, you can load it up after and play Claire's B scenario. The events of the game unfold in a totally different way. This led fans to figure out which pair of scenarios are canon, and as it turns out, Leon B and Claire A are the canon scenarios. Either way you go though, the game is quite entertaining. You're still solving absurd puzzles and killing monsters. There's a lot of dramatic scenes, and a lot of intense action sequences.

One of the other awesome additions are the weapons. Like the first game, Claire and Leon both get their own weapons to use, with slightly better results. Leon can collect custom parts to upgrade his shotgun and magnum, while Claire has the grenade launcher with 3 different ammo types to use, each being more effective depending on the type of enemy. B.O.W.s are weak against flame, while zombies and lickers are weak against acid type rounds. Leon's weapons get insanely powerful, and this time around, ammo is much more plentiful. You can live off the magnum near the end of the game, and you can use the shotty as soon as you get it. The pistol becomes useless after getting it. Claire isn't so lucky however. Sure she gets the grenade launcher, and you'll be using it the whole game pretty much, but her alternative is the shitty bow gun. It shoots in a spread pattern, does pitiful damage, and the ammo is fucking scarce. Claire can get the submachine gun, and the spark gun, but both are very limited in use, and subtract points from your overall rank.

Yes, the ranking system is back, and it's even more strict. If you want an A rank, you better avoid the submachine gun AND the spark gun. This makes Claire's scenarios kind of shallow, since Leon can upgrade both of his better weapons without penalty, but that just means Claire's scenarios are much harder to complete. Not that the game is very hard, seeing as how it throws ludicrous amounts of healing herbs at you, but you still get penalized for healing too much.

The graphics this time around are a touch better. The presentation is slick, and the FMVs are awesome, especially this one. The voice acting is much better, but is still laughable at times, namely Leon's interactions with Ada. He's such a ham. The soundtrack is also famous in its own right. It's excellent, and filled with hauntingly catchy tunes. The save room music is enough to get you into it. Then there's Ada's Theme. It's absolutely beautiful. It fits so perfectly with Ada and Leon's relationship in the game.

Along with the scenario system, you also get two bonus scenarios you can unlock. There's The 4th Survivor, which shows Hunk's side after retrieving the G-Virus. It's fucking hard as shit to complete, due to having no items to pick up. What he has in his inventory is what you get. It's fun, but goddamn is it hard. However, it has nothing on the Tofu scenario.

Silly? Yes. Hard? You bet your fucking ass it is.
Tofu is a concept character Capcom created to test hitboxes in Resident Evil 2. But did they leave him out of the game? Nooooooooooooooo.... He's playable after you beat each scenario 3 times. Why is Tofu's scenario so hard? He doesn't get anything. He doesn't get a single healing item. He doesn't even start off with a fucking gun. He gets the knife, and that's it. It's the ultimate challenge for players, and it doesn't get any harder than this. If you can beat this you deserve a fucking medal.

On top of those two modes, if you're playing the Dual Shock version, you can also unlock Extreme Battle mode. Jesus how many fucking extras did they cram into this game? It's a cool mode though. Various locales from the game act as levels, and you just have to survive. Ada, and even Chris Redfield is playable in this mode. Chris is cool because he sports his outfit from the first game, and even the same weapons. However, he's the hardest person to use due to his low damage tolerance. It's still a really cool extra though.

All in all, Resident Evil 2 is the ultimate package. Not only is the story excellent AND with great pacing, but all the features it added, the soundtrack, the better graphics... it's just gaming at its finest. The replay value this game offers is incredible, so you won't be bored anytime soon with it. It's so shocking too. I wonder how the scrapped project would have been if it had actually been finished and released. Apparently, copies of it exist on the internet, and can be played with an emulator, but I haven't tried it myself. Maybe one day I'll try it. For now, anyone who is a fan of the RE series and hasn't played this... FUCKING PLAY IT. It's great. It's fantastic. It's so good that fans are remaking it ON THEIR OWN.

And now, without further adieu, I leave you with this:

Next post, I look at Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, and we discuss one of the most menacing enemies ever made! Stay tuned!

Friday, October 24, 2014

"I hope this is not Chris' blood!"

Welcome! I've been wanting to open up with that quote for sooooo long. It's perfect for this post. Halloween is right around the corner, and gaming has been good to us over the years, blessing us with some great horror games that we've all come to love.

If you haven't figured it out yet, we're going to be talking about one of my favorite gaming series ever. EVER. still don't know what I'm talking about?

"Just a moment! Just take, a look, at this!"

That's Barry there... he's going to be helping me through this. We're going to talk about one of the best series in the survival horror genre. It paved the way for Silent Hill and other survival horror games, and it did it in an incredibly cheesy way.

Resident Evil is one of the most famous franchises ever made. Not only are there tons of games on multiple platforms, there's movies, action figures.... you name it. I actually used to have a S.T.A.R.S airsoft pistol, which looked exactly like the Beretta from RE3. Resident Evil is huge today, and not just here in the states. I really wanted to talk about the first three games for a while, because they are my favorite, and were made when Capcom wasn't entirely set on milking it for money. Without further adieu, let's tackle the first game in the series.

Resident Evil (Director's Cut) - A.K.A., the game with hilarious voice acting!

"What?! What is this?"

Indeed Barry, what is this? It's only the first installment of the entire series! Released in 1996 on the ancient Play-Station, it was one of the first games of its kind. While Alone In The Dark came first, Resident Evil came along and did it much better, and offered gamers one of the best horror experiences.

Save for the voice acting, which was heavily criticized at the time of its release. It's funny though, because these days the voice acting is held in high regard, specifically for how terrible it is, and the dialogue is quoted left and right in various jokes and on various forums. Hell, I've already quoted Barry twice, making him the obvious winner of the Shittiest Dialogue award. It's so unbelievably bad that it's funny. I blame it on the budget this game had at the time. I'm going by the FMV sequences to base this. The costumes the actors wear are something out of a high school play or shitty B movie. The whole GAME feels like a B movie. However, at the time of its release, I doubt anybody cared after actually playing the game.

For one, the game makes use of some classic horror settings, and does it really well. You'll be exploring an empty mansion (or is it?!!) for most of the game, and it's fucking creepy. The graphics are crude today, but at the time they were amazing. Using static camera angles, the game does its best to instill fear in you. The mansion is believable, and really gives off a certain atmosphere. It's the classic haunted house type after all! Hearing zombies creeping closer, or seeing them at the end of corridors is unnerving as all hell. The sound design is great. You'll hear zombies groaning faintly in the distance. Hunters screech loud, and every chomp a zombie takes is heard. The weapons sound like they should, and ambient sounds like a clock ticking in the background, or the music itself, create a very satisfying atmosphere.

Unfortunately, you'll be dodging a lot of zombies. Ammo is scarce, hence the term survival horror. It's just you and your pistol (or knife) for a long time. The game does have other weapons you can acquire, but the ammo is even more scarce. This requires players to run away sometimes, instead of blasting everything you see. It adds to the tension this game creates. When you have 5 bullets left and you know there's a monster around the corner, you're going to start panicking. Who wouldn't?

Let's introduce the characters:

Chris Redfield - Resident dipshit.

Chris is one of the playable characters, and he's right up there with Barry with stupid quotes. Don't let that mug fool you... he's pretty damn dense. He can't read music, and he can't do basic chemistry. His IQ is probably lower than 100.
Jill Valentine - The fucking master of unlocking.

Jill is awesome. She starts with the Beretta for one thing, and she gets the lockpick immediately after. Her side of the story is much more interesting with crazy Barry, and she can read music and mix chemicals. Ignore this derp face... she got pretty good looking later on, especially in the Apocalypse movie. God damn!

Barry Motherfucking Burton - "I have this!"

Barry is the man. Full of fucking terrible quotes, but all hilarious. Even in his simplest dialogue, he will warrant a chuckle or two. He also gets an award for stating the fucking obvious: "It's a weapon! It's really powerful! Especially against living things!"
Yeah... thanks for the clarification you old bastard you...

Rebecca Chambers - Resident pain in the ass.

Rebecca is utterly useless. She only appears in Chris' scenario to help play music for him, and start the self-destruct sequence. She gets in the way and has to be saved to get the best ending, because medics can't protect themselves apparently. Her voice is fucking annoying too.
Albert Wesker - Resident BADASS TRAITOR.

Wesker is the captain of the S.T.A.R.S. team. He's an all around character. His voice actor is horrible, he has humorous quotes, and he's secretly working for Umbrella, which is painfully obvious from the get go. He has cool sunglasses, and slicked hair. He's too cool for S.T.A.R.S.


You literally see him for a minute until dogs eat him alive. He obviously skipped training.
Kenneth - The dude with no head.

Quite literally. He's the first corpse you happen upon. His only purpose is to introduce the first zombie, and to give you two clips for your trusty Beretta.

Forest - A.K.A. crow food.

Forest is having a bad day. He's been pecked to death by crows, which is extremely convenient since he leaves behind a bazooka.

Richard is great. He gives you a radio, he leaves ammo, and he warns you about a giant snake. His voice actor is incredibly bad, so it's a great thing he dies so quick.
Enrico - "Traitor!!!"

Yeah, that's all Enrico is. He tells you there's a traitor among the S.T.A.R.S. members, which by this point in the game, you know already. Thanks anyway.

Resident Evil also has quite the variety of baddies to kill, or be killed by:

Mr. Zombie - Generic, but still dangerous.

Zombies are everywhere in Resident Evil. They're the main focal point of the entire series. You've seen these guys before. Interests include human flesh, dimly lit hallways, and scaring the shit out of people. They hate anything that can't be eaten, except for bullets of course.
Zombie Dogs - This ain't Old Yeller.

Damn straight. Fast and powerful. Out run them or stand over them and shoot them dead. I doubt milk bones work against them.
Crows - Threat undetected.

For real. Don't worry about these guys. They do minimal damage, can be out run, and don't deserve a taste of your knife, let alone your precious bullets.
Giant Spiders - Initiate arachnophobia.

Quite large, but still not quite deadly. Ignore them to live. Shoot them, and suffer the wrath of baby spiders that will drain your health down. Oh, and they can poison you.
Hunters - Fuck these guys.

Hunters are the deadliest enemy you will encounter in this game. Your Beretta is insanely weak against them, they have weird invincibility frames, and they can lob your head off any fucking time they want. There are a lot of them too. Run away from these fuckers.
Chimera - Fuck these guys too.

Not as bad as hunters, but they are still just as deadly. They crawl on the ceiling and try to cut your head off. Just dodge em and run.
Yawn Snake - Abssstthhholute trouble.

The first boss you encounter, and a hard motherfucker at that. He guards a crest you need, so fill him full of shotgun shells. Oh, and don't get bit. He's full of poison. 

 Plant 42 - Break out the weed wacker.

 Shotguns work just as well.
Even Bigger Spider - Protector of doors.

Guards a door to Umbrella's laboratory. Burn him to death with the flamethrower or blow him up with the bazooka. He's a chump.

The Tyrant - The ultimate failure.

The last boss, and the hardest hitting. Tyrant sports a rather unpleasant mutated claw that he likes to swing at you. He takes a lot of damage and he's really fast. He doesn't care for rocket launchers much.

Okay, glad we established everybody.

Resident Evil doesn't have the greatest plot... it's one big conspiracy! Basically, the S.T.A.R.S. team is dispatched to the Arklay Mountains, just outside of Raccoon City, to investigate bizarre murders and occurrences in the Spencer Mansion. There's traitors, double agents, and major fuckery going down around these parts, and it's all thanks to Umbrella, the biggest corporation in America. Biological experiments that went wrong are now being unleashed, thanks to the T-Virus being spread. It's your job as Jill or that lunkhead Chris to figure it out and put a stop to it all!

The main focus is the gameplay. Resident Evil uses static camera angles, so your only option for movement is tank controls. That means holding up moves the character up no matter what, and left and right turn them in their respective directions. It feels like you're controlling a tank. Holding square runs, and you will use it the entire game. Walking is just too slow.

 "Look out! He's insane!"

You might be. The mansion is intimidating with all its monsters, but thankfully you have an adequate arsenal to contend with. Holding R1 will ready your weapon, and pressing X after will shoot. It's slow, and you can only aim totally up, totally down, or totally straight. Resident Evil offers a nice balanced arsenal. You have the Beretta, which acts as your zombie and dog repellent. The Shotgun is your main weapon later in the game, and is quite effective against bosses, hunters, and spiders. Aiming up at zombies will let you blow their heads off, so that's a nice feature. The ammo is plentiful for it as well. Chris will get the Colt Python later on. It's a powerful magnum that Barry up there similarly uses. The ammo is extremely scarce for it, so its only recommended use is on Tyrant, a few hunters, and chimera if they give you a hard time. It kills everything in one shot, save for the bosses. Jill will get the Bazooka fairly early, and its the best weapon in the game. Not only does it pack a fucking wallop, it has three different ammo types: the flame rounds, acid rounds, and the regular old fashioned grenade rounds. Even if you have to fight Forest to get it, it's still better than backtracking and solving a puzzle to get Chris' Colt Python. Just the fact that you get it so early makes it better.

On top of the weaponry, you also have a health meter and inventory to account for. The game can be saved by finding Ink Ribbons for typewriters. An EKG tracks your health in three states: Fine, Caution, and Danger! You can restore it by using first aid sprays or by using herbs. The herbs are neat because they can be combined to restore more health, and even cure poison effects. Besides watching your health, you have to keep track of your inventory, as it is severely limited! Playing as Chris grants only 6 inventory slots, while Jill gets 8. That means you need to manage what you collect. Thankfully, the game places save rooms all over that hold storage chests. These things are some how universally linked, so you can leave anything in one chest and it will appear in another. These are crucial to surviving.

Resident Evil is also notable for its puzzle based gameplay. Throughout the game, you'll be collecting keys to open doors, and items that either unlock areas, or allow you to get past a certain part. For example, to get out of the mansion, the player will need to find four crests by searching around and solving puzzles. A lot of items will be collected and used, sometimes more than once. Figuring these puzzles out is half the battle.

The game keeps track of your efforts with a rank system. Depending on how fast you beat it, how many times you save and heal, and what conditions you meet, you can unlock secret costumes and weapons! And even if you get bored with the main scenario, there's the Arrange option in the Director's Cut edition. It puts every item in the game in totally different areas. With multiple endings, and two characters to play as, Resident Evil offers a lot of replay value.

 "That was too close! You were almost a Jill Sandwich!"

All in all, Resident Evil is a great game. It's cheesy as all hell, but it has a certain charm to it. The characters are great in unintentional ways, and the monsters are scary. Playing this back in 1997 when my uncle sold it to me still sticks with me to this day. It truly terrified me, and was the first game to do so. It's a blast to play through. It's great for speed running as well, and to this day I still play through it every so often, just to laugh at the horrible dialogue. It really is funny.

Here's a small taste of it, if you don't believe me:

"Whoops! Now I've done it!" Stay tuned for part 2 where I'll tackle the superior Resident Evil 2!