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Mini Podcast: The Pages of Myst

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For this special episode Fred flies solo to discuss Myst, it’s concept, and it’s rightful place as one of the “killer apps” for the CD-ROM format.  Logic puzzles not included.


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Written by Fred Rojas

January 23, 2015 at 11:37 pm

Posted in PC/Mac, podcast

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Resident Evil HD Remaster Review

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Fred’s Take

After long last it appears that Resident Evil, specifically the Gamecube remake from 2002, is making a widespread appearance on modern consoles complete with increased resolution, performance, and controls.  This is significant because the number of people who owned a Gamecube was relatively small and the Wii port had such a limited print run it was a bit difficult to find.  Not only that, but at 12 years old, the game itself has plenty of dated setbacks that most gamers I talk to refuse to put up with.  Thankfully this new version is digital only (no need to hunt down copies), adapted for today, and relatively inexpensive ($19.99 on all platforms).  With all the tweaks made to this game it is so close to being worth the money I can’t see any fan of horror games or the original series not wanting to pick up this new version.  Besides, it’s January, what else is coming out?

If you played the original to death – and pretty much anyone who owned the game back in 1996 did as we waited two whole years for the sequel – it’s a pretty rudimentary journey at this point.  You know where everything is, you probably know most of the tricks, you don’t need to save often, and your completion time will be somewhere in the 3-6 hour mark.  On the other hand, the limited release of this game and the cumbersome systems it can be found on means that you probably aren’t that familiar with it.  This is no graphical coat of paint over the original design, it’s a brand new experience.  The mansion’s layout has been changed, most of the puzzles are different, there are new enemies, and everything is scattered in completely different places.  That doesn’t mean that experts of the original can’t jump in and easily conquer this title from start to finish, but it’s going to take you some time.  Even more impressive is the fact that despite me completing the original at least once a year since it released, this version was able to get some tense and great jump scare moments out of me along the way.  It’s a new Resident Evil and it’s worth replaying.

Suppose you already picked up and played the Gamecube original (or the more rare Wii version), then there may be a bit less that this version has to offer.  Instead of 480p/widescreen (widescreen was only in the Wii version), you do have the benefit of 720p/1080p depending on the version you pick up.  Like many of Capcom’s Resident Evil HD versions before it, this version varies in the benefits of the new resolution from looking incredibly crisp and on par with today’s games and looking like a blurry stretched mess of an upscale.  Lighting is probably the most obvious and appreciated upgrade, Resident Evil is a better game with dynamic lighting and shadows.  Capcom was picky in what it remade and didn’t for this version and the inconsistency shows no matter how well versed you are at visuals.  That said, it’s still as gorgeous a game as it ever was and I didn’t see much of an issue – it looks much better than any other version I’ve ever played.  When you start to break down the differences between the 720p and 1080p versions, however, that’s where the lines begin to blur much more.  In short, just get the version that helps you sleep at night.  Having touched the fully upgraded PC version and compared it to the 720p PS3 version, I see little or no reason to own both, they are essentially the same game, even visually.  There is also a control option that plays a bit more like today’s shooters, but as I attempted a play with them I found myself hiding back into the hole of the classic tank controls.  This may not be the case for you, but to me it appears that Resident Evil is truly only Resident Evil with those tank style controls.  It makes sense, once we had a first person perspective mode Metal Gear Solid just didn’t seem right in The Twin Snakes, am I right?

This game is hard.  Not impossible and I’m not going to compare it in any way to a certain set of games by From Software, but if you are careless about your surroundings and enemies it will cost you.  This often comes in the form of dying after you had gone on a 30-60 minute run and had to re-start a portion all over.  Not only that, but with the new items and locations throughout this game it can be harder to figure out what you’re looking for or what to do next to progress without consulting a guide – which I admit I had to do twice during the campaign and it made me roll my eyes both times I saw the solution.  Pixel hunting and finding that item on the shelf isn’t so bad with the original because I know exactly where everything is and what to do, but that’s not the case with this one and you may be searching for like an hour to find a power cell that’s tucked away in a corner somewhere.  All of these items result in a much longer play of the game.  It appears Jam beat it in 7 hours whereas I was more around the 11 hour mark – although to be fair I only died 2 or 3 times because I was constantly backtracking and saving like a scaredy-cat.  So play however works best for you.  I also noticed that with the difficulty ramp of the Jill campaign, which is the easier of the two and my personal recommendation for you to start with, I am very eager to jump right back in and tackle the Chris campaign.  That’s not normal for me with Resident Evil on the PS1.

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In the end this is a way to bring those exclusive Nintendo titles over to mainstream consoles and share them with the masses.  I’m not sure how popular this version will be, but Capcom has made it as cheap and easy to find as it can within reason – those Wii U complainers will probably be reminded that the Wii version works on their console.  If you’ve never played this version or wish to revisit it after all these years, the price and availability makes one of my favorite games of all time come back to life.  Thank you Capcom.

Final Score: 5 out of 5 (review policy and guidelines)

If you wish to see this game in action, feel free to check out our quick look.

Jam’s Take

Once again you have stepped into the world of survival horror, good luck.

remake_jamAs you may be aware I have been a Resident Evil fan from day one. Originally I rented the Playstation original from Blockbuster, I genuinely found the experience to be quite scary and difficult. Yes, the graphics on that version haven’t exactly aged well but the game itself still holds up as a solid but difficult survival horror game. I think I warmed more to Resident Evil 2 in the earlier days because it was a lot easier. Over time though I began to appreciate Resident Evil a lot more.

Resident Evil then received a very impressive remake on the Gamecube. This for some of us was the reason we purchased a GameCube. I remember playing this game late into the night and actually falling off my chair at some of the jump scares. Since Nintendo had a deal with Capcom at the time this version of Resident Evil would remain an exclusive title to Nintendo consoles. But of course time passes and Capcom needs money especially with increased financial pressure on the company. It was no surprise that we would eventually see Resident Evil finally get a release on other consoles including the PC.

remake_4Last year a new remastered version has been released and being the Resident Evil fanboy that I am, I was’nt whiling to wait a month for the digital only release in my own territory. So I imported  a physical copy for PS3 all the way from Hong Kong. Though this version is Biohazard, (the original Japanese title of the game). This review very much represents the digital releases.

Even though I have played the Resident Evil Remake multiple times on the Gamecube and even the Wii version it still felt utterly fantastic booting this game up again and playing through. The opening cutscene remains untouched in terms of graphical quality, but, once you head into that familiar Spencer mansion I was surprised how good the graphics looked compared to the Gamecube version.  The game runs at 30fps on the last gen consoles and looks fantastic. Character models look great and the pre rendered backgrounds look even more detailed than before, it feels like there is less of a fog on the screen. Then again I am now playing the game on a flat screen TV whereas before I was still using a CRT. I found myself just wandering around appreciating the environments as a Zombie was lowly slumping toward me.

remake_1The entire Resident Evil remake campaign remains unchanged. The developers have now offered a easy mode which is available right from the beginning of the game (before I think it was only available when you died multiple times on standard difficulty). The biggest inclusion to the package is the altered controls. Don’t panic if you want to play the game in its original vanilla form with the tank controls you can still do that. To appeal to a new audience the developers have offered an alternative control scheme. Unlike before where you would have to hold down a button to run  pushing on the left analogue stick will make Jill or Chris run in whatever direction you want. These controls really simplify the experience but it kinda takes the tension away. I personally avoided this because I am so used to the original controls, it just felt right that way.

Since the Gamecube lacked online support the HD Remaster has included online leader boards so you can see how ridiculously fast other people have finished the game. You can also compare your scores to your friends. Of course with this being on next gen systems the game also has trophy/achievements included.

remake_5Resident Evil is a survival horror game. Health items and ammo are limited and it’s greatly discouraged to kill every enemy. You have limited inventory space to carry items, so you have to choose your equipment wisely. You get to chose one of two characters Jill Valentine or Chris Redfield. You are members of S.T.A.R.S (Special Tactics And Rescue Squad) hired to investigate some suspicious murders in the mountains. Of course you end up finding a mansion where hell breaks loose and your only goal to to escape. If you want an easier game you’ll pick Jill, but it is encouraged to play both campaigns as the stories play out completely different. As you explore the mansion you will come across Zombies as well as other nasty creatures. In between surviving those experiences there are also puzzles to solve some of which by failing could lead to your death. If that wasn’t enough the game throws a fair few boss battles at you. Should you enter a specific room under prepared this may also lead to a cheap death. Dying is a common place in this game the first time through, it’ll probably take you around 7 hours. Once you have memorized the correct pattern and route you will soon find yourself speeding through once you know what to expect. Nothing beats that first time experience though. You can save but it is limited to the amount of ink ribbons you have in your inventory. I came across a problem here with my copy the game took a very long time to save the game. Whether this is a problem with the import copy or my own PS3 console I’m not sure but looking at footage online it didn’t appear others were having this issue.

Unlike the original game on Playstation the remake does make a lot of changes to the game. For starters unless you get lucky and blow the head clean off a zombie the bodies don’t disappear. In fact if you don’t dispose of them properly they return again from the dead as the more threatening Crimson Heads which can kill in just a few hits. As well as that it is not uncommon for Zombies to bust down doors and follow you into other rooms practically forcing you to fight them.

My favourite part about the remake by far is how it surprises those that have even played the Playstation game to death. Certain memorable scenes will not play out the way you remember them. The puzzles in the game have also been re-worked so even though you may remember what you need to do, the solution now plays out completely different.

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All the audio has been rerecorded for the game in Japanese and English depending on your preference. Since this is the remake there are no infamous ‘Jill Sandwich,’ lines which I kinda miss from the game. The voice acting and script is actually fine in the game. The use of sound in this game is excellent. Your footsteps will change as you run from carpet to marble floor. Lightening will occasionally fire off as you run past windows and on many occasions you’ll feel like you heard something in the dark distance but will just dread investigating further.

Resident Evil HD Remaster is a great horror title. Fans of the series will find reason to buy this again despite it being the same experience on the Gamecube (and Wii). The game still looks incredible and was a joy to playthrough again even though I am very familiar with the experience. Despite the inclusion of a simple control scheme and easier mode this probably still won’t appeal to the mass gamers. If the original Resident Evil games were not your cup of tea this new update will hardly convince you to have another go. If your new to the series and love horror games this however is a must buy.

Final Score: 5 out of 5

Now lets have a moments silence for the S.T.A.R.S members we lost during this game.

Resident Evil HD Remaster will be available tomorrow, January 20, on the Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC for $19.99.  This release is digital only.  The 360/PS3 version runs at native 720p 30 frames per second (720p30fps) and the Playstation 4/XB1/PC version runs at native 1080p 60 frames per second (1080p60fps).  Content is identical in both versions.  The reviewers purchased advanced box copies from Asia, where the game released back in November, for this review.  If you’re interested in this version, visit play-asia.com.  This site and review have no ties to the Play-Asia web site.

Written by Fred Rojas

January 19, 2015 at 10:43 am

Retro Game Night: Crypt Killer and Mad Dog McCree

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This week for Retro Game Night we go all light gun shooters (yes, they can be captured and streamed).

First up is arcade 3D shooter Crypt Killer, which was horror themed and moved from arcades to Saturn and the PS1 (Saturn version shown).  Sorry about the sound on the game being much louder than my voice, it was live and no one told me.

Next up is the 1990 “classic” Mad Dog McCree, one of the first laserdisc arcade games that was almost perfectly ported to the Nintendo Wii.  Here it is in all its glory (and in 720p!)

If you want to check out Retro Game Night, we do it every Friday night at 11:30 pm est on our Twitch channel (twitch.tv/gh101).  You can also follow us for random live broadcasts and check that page for our ongoing replay of Resident Evil HD Remaster on the PS3, which comes to the US on January 20.

Written by Fred Rojas

January 10, 2015 at 12:12 pm

Podcast: Tabletops and D20s

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Oh yeah and it's Fred's birthday and listener SieOne was kind enough to send a card.

Oh yeah and it’s Fred’s birthday and listener SieOne was kind enough to send a card.

This week we ring in the new year with guest Gary Butterfield from duckfeed.tv and the Watch Out For Fireballs podcast to discuss video games based on tabletop games.  Of course the big one, Dungeons & Dragons, takes up a chunk of the conversation but there are others that make their way in.  We also track the history and progression of taking earlier stat-based games and being able to integrate them properly onto the screen.


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Written by Fred Rojas

January 7, 2015 at 11:00 am

Rock Boshers DX Director’s Cut Review

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Jam’s Take

rb_boxWith the ever increasing improvements to video games – top of the range PCs with graphics cards that are able to show realism that get closer and closer to the real thing – as a gamer you really start to question how games could get any better. Then comes along a game called Rock Boshers that shows us that the evolution in gaming of not necessarily going forward, but backwards.

Rock Boshers is very much a love letter to the ZX Spectrum gaming days. The game happily advertises that it pulls from a palette of just 15 colours and even mimics the music the old micro computers from the eighties was capable of. Rock Boshers is not the first game to give love to the old microcomputer, the ZX Spectrum still gets a lot of love to this day with homebrew games being regularly released (Retro Gamer magazine which is a popular read in the UK, discusses popular homebrew released every month). Rock Boshers is one of the few ZX Spectrum inspired games as far as I am aware that has made it to Steam and even the PS4 and PSVita (the latter being the version I’ve reviewed).

rb1If you enter into Rock Boshers and have never experienced a ZX Spectrum (if you live outside of Europe this is very likely) you would be forgiven for being rather confused. Gamers that have some familiarity to this system or are just curious about the system will find a lot to love in this game. I was sold, straight away when first booting up the game I was greeted with an old fashioned ZX Spectrum loading screen. Fortunately the game loads instantly unlike the original system but this was a great touch by the developers. Then I was greeted by the title screen and what I heard was a soundtrack clearly inspired by ZX Spectrum games like Robocop (who’s music can be heard on our recent soundtrack episode). Before even starting the game I said to myself this was already worth the price of admission (I’d buy that for a dollar).

When you begin the adventure you are introduced to one of the most bizarre but brilliant stories. You play a Young Queen Victoria whose disguised herself a top hat and travelled to Mars in search of adventure. Soon after arriving you are captured and forced to ‘bosh’ rocks in the martian mines. What follows is a daring escape and revolution, filled with plot twists and turns with a lot of humour thrown in for good measure. The humour is very British with many of the jokes referencing scones and tea. The crazy plot very much reminds me of several games programmed on the original ZX Spectrum many of which where programmed by a very small team of developers. The game throws in several pop culture references to other games and regularly pokes fun at how other games play as well as itself.

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Jumping into the gameplay Rock Boshers mostly plays out as a twin stick shooter with puzzle elements. In true retro fashion most levels are displayed on a single screen (though the ZX Spectrum did have scrolling in the majority of its games). Your character Victoria is a very small sprite. At the start of some of the levels it was difficult to find where my character was on the PS Vitas screen especially when most levels are filled with various sprites and similarly coloured objects. Most levels allow you to talk to other characters who deliver short witty lines of dialogue. The controls are very simple and its not too difficult to know where to go in the game. Your main barrier is the difficulty. While the game starts of simple enough with some basic levels to get you used to how the game plays, it quickly get challenging and failing at any point will require you to start right back at the beginning of the level. Some levels took me multiple attempts to conquer. But once I did it brought back some of that relief I used to feel when playing games from the eighties. The levels are very short each taking no more than five minutes or even less. The game regularly mixes things up and just flat out surprise you with what you will end up doing in certain levels. Out of the 24 levels you experience not one feels the same.

rb3The developers have done a fantastic job trying to replicate the feel of a ZX Spectrum game on a console, a feat which is very difficult to achieve. The colour palette is appropriately limited, the sprites are simple and the music and sound effects are identical to the limitations of the Spectrum. The developers clearly set out for that authentic old school gaming experience (minus the long loading times and cassette tapes). Of course you won’t have the elephant skin keyboard but the use of the PSVita, PS4 controller or PC keyboard should not distract you from the experience.
There will of course be gamers that will look at this game and think it looks like complete crap but you really have to remember this is deliberately designed that way.

The game isn’t very long. There are only 24 levels but you can replay any of the levels later to find all the collectables and improve your times for the online leaderboards. When I finished the game I was definately left wanting more. This is a sensation I have not felt in quite a while with a video game. There are also four arcade games to unlock which are all also re worked with classic ZX rb4Spectrum design. One game, Aqua Kitty, is available with more modern graphics on the PSN store and it was utterly brilliant to see it get the ZX Spectrum downgrade treatment. It would be fantastic to see the developers do more with this in future projects.

Rock Boshers is a game that really can only be rated in one of two ways. You will either love it or just ‘meh’ it. If you have an appreciation for the ZX Spectrum or have ever just been curious into how the games used to play (with the horribly long loading times cut out of course) you will love Rock Boshers. It is a love letter to retro and its genuinely impressive to see how far this game has come since its first appearance, as a game made in GameMaker for PC. Even if you have little nostalgia for the ZX Spectrum you may be impressed by just how different the game is from even modern indie titles today. For me Rock Boshers is fantastic, it felt like a breathe of fresh air, a wonderful trip down memory lane and a game I will be coming back to frequently to experience again. Now if you’ll excuse me I’ve got some rock boshing to do.

Final Score: 5 out of 5 (Review policy and guidelines)

Fred’s Take

rb_titleHaving not grown up in Europe like Jam has, I’m at a bit of a loss as to what distinguishes certain microcomputers from the 80s (despite a lengthy podcast about it and Jam’s consistent reminding me), but even I know what makes a ZX Spectrum game.  I have not played a lot of these games myself, but with a color palette of only 15 they are vibrant, bright, and honestly often bastardizations of the original source material (truly sorry if that line offends).  Couple that with a limited sound chip and most developers on the ZX Spectrum seemed to waste its true potential, often focusing on other ports like the Commodore 64 or even Amiga to flex, but the aforementioned Robocop and several others prove that a lot can be done with a little on this delightful machine.  Rock Boshers not only knows this, but has completely recreated a game that could have easily existed in the 1980s and would be on that long list of favorites that Jam mentions that I know nothing about.  Thankfully it came out now and on a platform I have so I can appreciate the greatest ZX Spectrum game to release this year.

From the moment you boot it up, complete with an optional 2 minute initial load time, this game is a true testament to the days of the ZX Spectrum.  I have no idea whether or not it could actually run on that computer, but the details are so precise that I would have to ask the developers to get any more insight.  The story of a mission to Mars gone awry is nothing new, but the almost empty and isolated nature of the fantastic soundtrack in ZX style presents some of the best sci-fi chiptune since Metroid.  Rock Boshers itself is your basic puzzle room game that slowly introduces more and more complex mechanics that by around level 15 (of 24) your focus aggressively shifts from what you are supposed to do to actually having the skill to pull it off.  Along with the focus comes a heavy ramp in difficulty, but that just makes the final act of the game intense and rewarding up to the game’s very self aware last fight.  Make no mistakes about it, you feel a strong sense of accomplishment as you see the simple message of the game’s completion and unlike Jam I wasn’t left wanting more, I needed a break.  That’s not to say the game was bad by any means, just that in my old age my skill was tested quite enough from Rock Boshers for 2014.

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It seems like every day there emerges a flood of indie games that want to re-capture the glory of yesteryear and the scene is definitely going through an iterative shift from the Atari 2600 through each console generation (which I’m sure begs a blog post).  Of these games, the look is easy to nail but the feel is a hairier task, and only a select few each year do a good job at capturing it.  While the indie scene is currently knee deep in the 16-bit era it’s refreshing to see a team like Tikipod jump into one of the more obscure worldwide platforms, remain blatantly British, and come out with something any gamer can enjoy.  Rock Boshers is that accomplishment and anyone who considers themselves a retro gamer needs to take a sneak peek at a generation forgotten – and the case of the US, completely removed.  I hope that the attention to detail and painstaking measures to keep the look and feel of Rock Boshers authentic is not only consistent for developers Tikipod, but that more developers looking to capture the retro style take note of this teams impressive effort.

Final Score: 5 out of 5

This was played by both reviewers on the Playstation Vita and no review codes were provided by the developer (although we didn’t request them, Jam just thought it was pretty cool).  Rock Boshers DX Directors Cut is available on PSN for PS4 and PSvita and also on PC for $6.99. If you head over to the developer’s website (Tikipod) they also have the original version of the game available for free. However, if you enjoy this game definitely support the developers by buying the game on PSN or PC.

Written by jamalais

December 30, 2014 at 11:38 am

Posted in PC/Mac, PS4, PSP, Reviews

Tagged with ,

Primal Rage Retrospective and Comparison Video

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Primal Rage was one of the more notable Mortal Kombat clones in arcades in 1994.  The popularity of this Atari Games fighter secured multiple ports to the home consoles of the time, a true cross-gen title that was on most portable, 16-bit, and 32-bit CD consoles.  GH101 looks into the history, gameplay, and home console versions of this dinosaur brawler.

Written by Fred Rojas

December 23, 2014 at 1:44 pm

Strife: Veteran Edition Review

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strife_logoThere are a handful of games out there that are almost universally loved by gamers.  Off the top of my head, two of these titles are Deus Ex and Skyrim, and the one thing they have in common is that they successfully blend the first-person perspective and elements from RPGs into a cohesive experience.  Oddly enough, when we look back at the history of gaming you rarely have anyone mention Strife: Quest for Sigil, developed by Rogue Entertainment.  It was one of the earliest games to combine these genres and it differentiated itself from many of its hybrid peers in that the game focused almost exclusively on gameplay and hid items like the map and the character’s inventory from the main HUD.  The end result was a large field of view for the player and it all looked a lot less busy than the games that came before it.  This probably had to do with the use of the Doom engine, but regardless of why this title utilizes the full screen for your adventuring or decided to rely much more heavily on combat than any other aspect is irrelevant.  Strife did it and it did it well.

strife2The basic premise of the game is that you play a mercenary in a time where a religious cult, The Order, has oppressed a society and is converting humans into cyborgs.  Macil, a leader of the rebels combating this takeover, has hired you to seek out pieces of The Sigil, an artifact that can apparently rid the world of The Order.  In the game you move about a central town hub, taking missions as you go, to continue this larger quest by going to branching levels.  It has a surprising commonality to the way open world titles work today, although it of course modern games aren’t as transparent as they were back then.  Each of these levels are diverse in terms of the look and scope of the area, but given that this title is from 1996 and confined to the limitations of the Doom engine, you will find little more than empty areas or a handful of enemies everywhere you quest.  This also creates a more binary system as to how to handle each mission – to get the items that make up each quest requires you to either kill someone or attempt to talk them into giving it over, and then usually kill them when they react by attacking you.   Your ability to speak with everyone in the game, many of them having different dialogue options, is alone a unique factor of any Doom clone of the time and I remember that it was mind blowing back then.  Sure, often times not much comes of it, but I still take solace in a title that is focusing more on the plot and characters in it rather than simply making you a floating gun with killing as your sole purpose.  Strife may not be doing a whole lot more than other shooters of the time, but it’s sure trying to hide that fact behind a lot of intriguing concepts.

strife3That said it is still confined to the limitations and tropes of the time period it released.  You will be exploring areas that have far too much real estate for the task at hand, the game will allow you to go anywhere (which includes backtracking an entire level) and waste hours searching a non-specific objective, and you can get into missions where your resources are too low and unless you have an earlier bailout save you might be stuck indefinitely.  There’s even a red herring in the beginning of the game that if you collect it your progress is halted for the rest of the campaign (see our quick look video on how to avoid that).  Some of these flaws can be a deal breaker if you’re not ready to put up with aspects that were commonplace almost two decades ago, and it’s a far stretch to say the average Skyrim fan will find a connection here.  If you want to see the building blocks of modern titles and you can set your expectations appropriately, you may very well find a gem in Strife, especially if you found the more complex Deus Ex tolerable nowadays.

Publisher Night Dive Studios has updated this title and given it digital distribution on Steam in the new Veteran Edition, but this is an updated version of the original title and not a remaster or remake in any way.  On Steam the game even lists 1996 as its release date, which is a touch that I was thankful to see.  Most of the changes made are to allow you to play Strife on modern systems with little or no issues, and my Windows 7 64-bit modern rig booted it right up without so much as a hiccup.  Now you can play the game in higher resolutions (like 1080p) and with that comes a widescreen format that does a great job of adapting the view without everything looking stretched.  Night Dive didn’t stop there, Strife: Veteran Edition now adds lighting effects, texture options, anti aliasing, a choice between DirectX and OpenGL (and V-Sync), controller support (worked with 360 controller seamlessly), and the completion of a multiplayer mode.  Don’t worry if you want to go all old school and have it look and act like the classic title, there is a classic mode that even re-introduces game bugs, so you too are covered.  For those that have ever tried to screw around with DOSbox and other solutions to play Strife, it’s great to have a version that just works like all your other Steam games, and this is a particular perk for those of us who force gamepads upon all of our PC titles.  It looks great, it runs great, and it feels great.  If you want to play this game today, this is the version to have.

Original Strife with Hi-Res Mod

Original Strife with Hi-Res Mod

Strife: Veteran Edition

Strife: Veteran Edition

Strife did not get its day in the sun and while it was a somewhat innovative product of its time, there’s no incredible reason to pick it up now unless you want to peer into the golden days of modern game design.  That’s not to say it isn’t significant, but that it skates the line of nostalgia and the ability to be appreciated by contemporary audiences.  If you give it a chance, Strife has some fun times and impressive moments both in gameplay and plot that make saving the oppressed from The Order compelling, but if you need it to forget the time it came from and rise above the hassle, this won’t be for you.  Strife: Veteran Edition makes replaying this game about as easy as it’s going to get, provided you remember that this still has the Doom engine as its platform.  I don’t think it will get more appreciation now than it did back then, but hopefully it will find an endearing experience to budding gamers and those that let it pass the first time.

Final Score: 3 out of 5  (review policy)

Strife Veteran Edition was provided to our site via a Steam code from publisher Night Dive Studios.  It was played for approximately twelve hours and the campaign can take as much as 20+ hours to complete depending on the player and whether or not you use a guide.  Strife: Veteran Edition can be purchased on Steam for a current retail price of $9.99.

Written by Fred Rojas

December 18, 2014 at 2:00 pm

Posted in PC/Mac, Reviews

Tagged with , ,

Strife: Veteran Edition Quick Look

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Today we look at the recently released Strife: Veteran Edition from Rogue Software.  This game pre-dates many of the most popular games today that utilize both FPS and RPG elements as well as mild stealth themes.  If you’re a fan of ThiefDeus Ex, or even Skyrim, you might want to check out this archaic but fun title.  This is merely the first 90 minutes or so of gameplay with running commentary from Fred, expect a full review later today.

Viewer Warning: There may be occasional adult language from commentary/gamplay and consistent graphic violence depicted in gameplay.

Written by Fred Rojas

December 18, 2014 at 11:00 am

Resident Evil HD Remaster First Look

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Sorry this is going up on Sunday night.  Normally Retro Game Night is recorded on Friday and goes up Saturday morning, but we had to delay recording a day and these HD videos take a lot longer to render and post to YouTube.  Either way, the video speaks for itself, but Fred got a retail copy of Resident Evil HD Remaster on PS3 that will be coming to the US in “early” 2015 (according to Capcom).  Well since there was another option, we grabbed it early.  Enjoy!

Written by Fred Rojas

November 30, 2014 at 6:52 pm

Review: Alan Wake

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aw_boxPlatform: Xbox 360, PC (Windows only)
Released: 2010 (360), 2012 (PC)
Developer: Remedy Entertainment
Publisher: Microsoft
Digital Release? Yes, this game is available on all released platforms digitally
Price: $8.55 (disc only), $10.00 (complete) per Price Charting

The wind howled violently outside, coupling with the darkness to generate an atmosphere of dread.  Had it been raining the scene would be complete.  On the other side of the window, a reviewer sat down and began to play a new video game in the dark.  While the gentle glow of the television provided just enough light to see around him, it was as if he were transferred to the fictional location of Bright Falls along with the game’s protagonist Alan Wake.  What unfolded over the next dozen or so hours was impressive.  This game was not unlike others he had experienced in terms of what to do or how it looked and felt, however thanks to thoughtful plot progression and deep character development the reviewer was able to let other faults go.  He was repeating the same steps over and over again, the algorithmic nature of the confrontations were drowned out by the need to proceed forward and see where the story went.  He wasn’t even sure what was going on anymore because, in truth, the plot was convoluted.  It didn’t matter, the experience was begging him to move forward.  He hoped it would not end.  This was Alan Wake.

aw_02If you have a flair for the over dramatic then you will feel right at home with Remedy’s action thriller that was recently featured in our vaporware podcast.  So little was known about what to expect from Alan Wake that when everyone finally got their hands on it there was this mixed sense of familiarity with the type of game it was, coupled with intrigue to the way it handled being a video game.  At its core Alan Wake is nothing more than a third person shooter with a so-so dodge mechanic where you use a combination of light and gunfire to absolve a haunted world of enemies.  If that were all the game had to offer, you wouldn’t be reading this review.  No, the soul of Alan Wake is the unique storytelling style that merges metaphysical realities with an unreliable protagonist and keeps you guessing over the course of the game.  While Deadly Premonition ticked all the boxes to look and act like Twin PeaksAlan Wake uses a more subtle approach to feel like Twin Peaks.  It’s much closer to being a Max Payne game than the studio would care to admit – I wouldn’t be surprised if it started life as that – but much like those original titles its barrage of enemy encounters are just varied enough that the gameplay never gets tiresome.  Barring that, there’s a larger layer of tone and aesthetic that work together to transform the world of Alan Wake from being more than just a simple video game, it’s an entertainment production.

aw_1Your first episode in the game is Alan and his wife arriving in Bright Falls, simple as that.  It’s daytime, everyone is nice, everything is peaceful, and with the bright lights and vivid scenery there’s little pause as to what danger may be lurking.  If you were fortunate enough to know nothing more about the plot, you might not even know this game is slated as a thriller or horror game above everything else, so when it takes a drastic turn you’re caught off guard.  I referred to the game as an “entertainment production”, which trust me is not an attempt to oversell it.  What I mean by that is this game is trying to blend media at an aggregate rate: the storytelling is that of a book, character development of the cast has an arc like a movie, the level progression is separated by “episodes” that even feature a “previously on” like television, each episode ends with credits and an official song that together make up a soundtrack well worth the extra money I paid for, and your traditional linear action gameplay well represents a video game.  If you’re keeping track that means Alan Wake has hints of a book, movie, television show, audio album, and video game; something I felt could only be described as an entertainment production.  It works, too, which is what I never expected.

aw_04Keep in mind this is still a video game through and through, so no matter how good the graphics are, how well the storytelling subtly foreshadows or develops, and how great the soundtrack is, you still spend a majority of your time playing a video game.  That video game, while doing nothing really new, had the right mix of level design and encounter variety to keep me wanting to come back.  If you look at a barebones list of what happens in the game or view a handful of random clips taken from it, I can see how you would deduce that everything is the same as everything else, which is probably true.  Even the collectible pages come together to give more depth to events happening, it’s all part of the plan; well, except for those Twin Peak-esque thermoses that have no value to the game whatsoever, those should go.  It’s perhaps that fact as to why the game delves so deeply into other media and styles for its soul that it took so long to come out and tweak just right.  Whatever the reason, it’s a solid mix that fascinated me back then and continues to amuse me now.  Without giving away any spoilers I can just say that Alan Wake is a full experience that will have you on edge from the creepy beginning to the frantic ending.

Extra Episodes

At the time of its release, Alan Wake didn’t quite feel finished once you beat the game.  Some of the game’s stronger plot points get reconciled, but there’s no question that the most key concept was missing in action.  This all eventually wrapped up in two supplemental episodes: The Signal and The Writer.  While these episodes take a lot of time to wrap up a relatively basic concept, the gameplay of each drastically switches up the nature of how you had played the rest of the game.  This is why I feel that the story was already complete in an earlier version of the game, but they had no good way to integrate DLC with more of a story unless they just stripped the end of the story out of the main game and used it for the plot points of the extra episodes.  I only say this because the gameplay either gets harder or has you using styles or concepts absent from the main game that while the plot feels like it was stripped from the core product, the gameplay feels anything but.  If you grab this game on PC, both extra episodes are integrated into the game and you enter into them after beating the main story, but if you grab this on Xbox 360 (disc or digital) you will want to plunk down the extra money for this DLC because the game and plot won’t feel complete without them.  Kind of a cheap tactic if you ask me, but it’s a worthwhile amount of content for the price that I’m willing to let it go.

aw_writer

American Nightmare

This download-only title released in 2012 around the time of the PC port for both PC and Xbox 360 that serves as a spin-off tale of the original.  You can ditch everything you know about the plot, the characters, and to a certain extent even the gameplay rules of the original because despite being a shorter experience, American Nightmare is its own game.  Remedy replaces the isolated New England town of Bright Falls with the isolated and desolate environment of a roadside town in the Nevada desert.  If Alan Wake was Twin PeaksAmerican Nightmare is most definitely Stephen King.  All of the different things I loved about the experience of Alan Wake‘s multimedia experience make a return, but that’s about the only thing that carries over.  Whereas the original game was about a somewhat familiar setting that involved characters you didn’t know, American Nightmare takes a character and circumstance you are intimately familiar with and gives you a setting you don’t know.  This one isn’t just shadow people, it contains larger than life creatures, foreboding abandoned warehouses, and even monsters from other worlds.  They flip the unreliable protagonist nature of Alan Wake once again, but in a new way.  I also have to commend the use of the model for Alan Wake in now real full motion video for a lot of the cutscenes, which makes it all feel more “real” while the events continue to be more “surreal”.  It ends a bit too quickly, but I get the feeling Remedy was ready to put Alan Wake to rest for a while by the end.

aw_american_nightmare

If you decide to delve down the delightful rabbit hole that is Alan Wake, provided that you get intrigued by all of the unique things it does, you are in for a treat.  By the time I was half way through the first game I wanted (and purchased) the book, the soundtrack, and watched the Bright Falls mini-series that should still be available on the Zune Marketplace video store for free.  I wanted to become immersed in Alan Wake.  Returning to the game after a few years had passed and now for this third time I am pleased to say that it’s all familiar but still delightful.  It’s still a video game and you will find yourself having moments that come with any sort of challenge or annoyance that accompanies all video games, but it’s also unique enough that you will be glad you came.  Did I mention that the fantastic soundtrack that includes the likes of Poe and Roy Orbison blew my mind when I heard them return for this game?  When we look back at the wonderful games that defined the first HD generation of consoles, Alan Wake is going to be one of those fine examples that sadly seems to be locked in time and doomed to never return.

Final Score: 5 out of 5  (Review policy)

Written by Fred Rojas

November 20, 2014 at 1:18 pm

Posted in PC/Mac, Reviews, Xbox 360

Tagged with ,

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