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Policenauts Review

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policenauts_boxPlatform: PC-9821, 3DO, Playstation, Saturn (Japan Only)
Released: 1994-1996 (depending on platform, Japan Only)
Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Digital Release? No
Price: Unavailable, game never sold in US or UK

Fred’s Take

Building off of what Kojima had started in Snatcher, I feel that Policenauts is an attempt to revise the mistakes and setbacks of that original attempt and create a spiritual successor that flows more like a game.  Technically, I guess that’s what Policenauts is, unfortunately the solution appears to be making it a point-and-click adventure and adding in more (and more frustrating) shooting sequences.  While I have to commend the efforts by having a more genuine story – although the similarities to the first two Lethal Weapon films is undeniable – that flows naturally and keeps you intrigued, this game has so many walls to break through to get to that story that it’s best read in a walkthrough or watched on YouTube.  For this reason, and the countless other reasons that prevent most of us outside of a Japanese speaking region, I can’t recommend Policenauts as a coveted loss treasure we never got.

policenauts_1This title is as 90s action as it comes with a trash-talking young detective, a near-retirement aging partner, and a whole lot of explosions and shooting.  Initially you are introduced to Jonathan Ingram, a former police astronaut (policenaut) of the first space colony Beyond Coast, that was lost in space for 25 years and has now returned to Los Angeles two and a half decades younger than everyone he left behind.  This includes is wife, who as the story begins has long abandoned him, remarried, and now has a daughter Ingram’s age, and his former partner Ed Brown who sits behind a desk as a forgotten head of the Beyond Coast PD vice squad.  The entire game is based around finding the husband of Ingram’s ex-wife Lorraine, who works as a salesmen and scientist for the Tokugawa Pharmaceutical company.  Jonathan reluctantly takes the case, heads to Beyond Coast, and attempts to solve the mystery with the help of Ed, which almost immediately transforms into Lethal Weapon.  There’s a lot more to the story, but frankly story is all this game has going for it.

policenauts_2Unlike Snatcher the shooting sequences are free form, intended for the use of a mouse as it was originally developed for the NEC PC-9821, an early Intel 386 microcomputer in Japan.  Most ports are on consoles, and although it supports mice on those consoles, mouse accessories are extremely rare and expensive these days and no light gun support except for the definitive Saturn version.  As a result, the shooting portions become your biggest roadblock to seeing this game to the end.  If you are playing in English, which most of us US/UK gamers need to, there is only one fan translation available and it’s for the Playstation.  This means that if you play on real hardware, which I attempted to, it’s going to be near impossible to find a mouse and it’ll be riddled with bugs and glitches that will randomly freeze the game on a regular basis.  Unless a Saturn translation, which does support light guns, ever sees the light of day there is no reason not play this game on an emulator with your mouse returning as the ideal input device.  Even then, you will find the shooting sequences to be frustrating tests of skill that seem counter to the type of person who will play a point-and-click adventure and resulting in frustration over lost time.  Please make use of save states like Jam and I did, there’s no reason to feel like less than a gamer at the expense of getting stuck 10 hours into a 12 hour game.  I should also take this time to point out that Kojima still doesn’t know how to split up a game because out of 7 acts, a prologue, and an epilogue, the split is 6-7 hours for Acts 1 and 2 and about 5-6 hours for the rest of the game.  These are all the obstacles you have to accept and overcome, but in doing so results in a zany tale mixed with just enough science fiction and humor to keep me hooked.

policenauts_3Much like Snatcher before it, your enjoyment of this game is directly related to your interest in the story.  If you were a fan of 90s action films or hybrid science fiction to the likes of Terminator or even Demolition Man, it’s not hard to hold your attention with this guided buddy cop drama.  While it may seem it at first, this game does not take itself seriously and thus Kojima and his team were able to have some fun with the events that unfold.  Sometimes it works, like when Jonathan eats Beyond Coast food for the first time or the discovery of what’s really going on with Tokugawa Corporation, and other times it really falls flat for me like the numerous times you’ll be grabbing boob and slapping butt.  Oh well, I guess I can chalk it up to the quirky perversions of a writer and developer that definitely thinks outside the box.  It may not be as easy to ingest as Snatcher, but there’s value hidden under Policenauts’ initial barrier to entry.

Final Score: 3 out of 5    (review policy)

Jam’s Take

Yes, that’s right, Hideo Kojima did actually make another game that wasn’t part of the ever growing Metal Gear Solid series. I originally didn’t even know Policenauts was a game, I just thought it was some anime production Kojima had a hand in. Unlike Snatcher, this game failed to capture a cult following in the west.

policenauts_4In Policenauts you play as the blue haired mullet private detective known as Jonathan who is struggling to find a case to get stuck into. Fortunately for Jonathan his ex-wife comes knocking and now Jonathan is on a mission to look for her missing husband Hanzo Kojo. What follows is story full of various twists and turns along with another set of colourful characters complete with excessive back stories. Initially I had some interest in the story there appeared to be this intriguing mystery behind what was going on. To my disappointment the story (which is the biggest draw to this game) failed to maintain my interest. Some of the twists and turns in the plot were just far too predictable especially if you have played other Kojima games. I also didn’t find the character of Jonathan particularly likeable, his drive to continue his investigation seemed questionable, at times he was far more interested in ogling random womens’ boobies than actually pushing forward. I spent most of the game thinking it would’ve been a lot more interesting to following the plot from the prospective of Jonathan’s old partner Ed, who appears to have the most interesting back story of all the characters in this game. I couldn’t help but think there was a missed opportunity for Ed to make an “I’m too old for this shit,” line but I guess we can’t have everything.

policenauts_5At this stage of the review you may be questioning why am I critiquing this game like a film. Well friend, it’s because that’s practically what Policenauts is, a nice but long twelve hour story experience. Of course there is a little more than just sitting and watching the game. For the majority of the gameplay you will be pointing and clicking on options, look at this, investigate that, show something to a character, etc. The game is a very linear experience, you will enter one area carry out an investigation and move on. If you’ve not gained the correct information from the scene you are investigating your character will inform you. This proved quite useful as it prevents the usual travelling around clicking on everything in an attempt to advance the story only to have you give up and use a walkthrough. It still doesn’t change the fact though that you will be spending a lot of time constantly clicking on various options until the story finally advances. A lot of the time you will know the solution but because your not playing the game the way it wants you to play it, it can become a rather dull experience. The game will throw the occasional puzzle at you but they are far too easy, one of which is a simple spot the difference.

Then there are the shooting segments. Basically these are point-and-shoot sections but they are incredibly loose and frustrating (unless that was the fault of the emulator I was using). Like Snatcher these segments were few and far between.  In fact, after the prologue you don’t really do any shooting until half way through the game.

If you love anime you will probably love Policenauts as the game features several fully animated cutscenes. The style reminds me of the anime series Dominion: Tank Police, which is set in the not too distant future but technology has of course advanced to the point of police flying around in space man type mechs. One thing to note on this style though is how I still can’t get over why some people in anime-inspired universes have blue hair. Do they dye it? Marge Simpson does apparently. Oh sorry, back to the game.

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The game comes complete with full Japanese voice acting. No English version currently exists so you’re gonna just have to put up with a lot of subtitles. Obviously remember this is a Kojima game so you’ll be sitting watching the game more than actually playing it, so the waffly diaolgue where a character talks about their oh so tragic back story can kind of drag at times. Also if you ever wanted to now how to say some of the most offensive words in the urban dictionary this game provides that opportunity, so consider it a learning tool I guess.  The music was actually surprisingly enjoyable, some more Snatcher inspired smooth jazz, but unlike Snatcher it really suited the setting of the world and made for a great addition to the movie like feel.

policenauts_7To conclude, Policenauts intrigued me from the start but failed to maintain my attention throughout the experience. The story felt predictable with no real surprises and the shooting segments, though very infrequent, were incredibly awkward to control. Policenauts to me is better remembered as a cameo appearance in the form of a poster on Otacon’s wall in Metal Gear Solid than a game that you need to experience. The game has its moments that will make you chuckle but I just didn’t get sucked into the story or the world. For a game where the story is the main focus that is essential in determining whether you enjoy it or not. If you like anime and like buddy cop-esque storylines, then you may enjoy this title. For some reason this game just really made me want to go back and watch Lethal Weapon instead.

Final Score: 2 out of 5

Did you know that we talked about the entire game as part of our Snatcher/Policenauts game club?  Check it out here.

Written by Fred Rojas

February 26, 2015 at 3:50 pm

The Evil Within Review

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The Evil Within is the stuff nightmares are made of.  I’m not being dramatic, almost everything in this game will cater to the popular nightmares that plague humanity – in my case that happens to be clowns – and throws them right in your face.  That’s not to say it is a scary game, because unlike other contemporaries the goal of The Evil Within is to disturb you and create tension rather than grab you with a quick jump scare (although it can’t resist the urge to do that as well at times).  Bundled altogether it creates the closest representation of a haunted house without forgetting that it’s also a video game and therefore can make death a reality for all parties involved.  This would be a fantastic reality for the definitive horror experience if it weren’t for the abundance of setbacks that range from visuals, to AI, and even creep into gameplay that no matter how big a fan you are just cannot be ignored.

 

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The first thing you will notice is that the screen resolution is narrowed.  Specifically the game has an odd resolution with full 1920 length and reduced height, which has black letterbox bars that extend to the entire screen of 1920×1080 (1080p).  This is a significant amount of real estate that surpasses traditional letterboxing and can be off-putting at first.  Whether the resolution is truly an artistic choice like Bethesda has claimed or if the game just couldn’t run at full 1080p (this is the case with all versions, including PC), I have to admit it becomes irrelevant fast because it wasn’t really noticeable once I had been playing for a few minutes.  Not only is the screen smaller, but the framerate is sub-par even by a console game’s standards, which tries to maintain 30 frames per second (fps) but dips down into the mid and even lower 20s depending on the situation.  With already flawed controls – more on that later – the inconsistency in fps might have come off as just another obstacle to success but in truth I had little problem with it.  Ironic as it seems, I never saw significant dips when a horde of enemies or sudden aggressive circumstance arrived so it really had little effect on my enjoyment.  All in all, whether it be aesthetics or lack of optimization, the biggest gripes I’ve heard about this game from screenshots were forgotten concerns a mere fifteen minutes in.

Normally I don’t talk about other games in reviews because I think that each game is a work unto its own and every work borrows from another, but the roots of The Evil Within and the couple of experiences it borrows from are too ingrained in its DNA to not draw such connections.  It is the creation of Shinji Mikami, who is best known for the creation of the Resident Evil series and is directly responsible for the decisions that led to the released versions of 1, 2, and 4, which juggle around as the fan favorites for the series.  Since the release of Resident Evil 4 Mikami has danced between a few titles and developers, but he always ends up back at his roots in horror games.  While Resident Evil decided to go more action based in its sequels, Mikami has kept the vision of the action/horror hybrid he demonstrated in alive through 2011’s Shadows of the Damned where he teamed up with Suda 51 to create what was then boasted as the potential Resident Evil 4 sequel that never was.  Both the critical and sales reception of that title proved that the quirky nature of Suda’s vision seemed to clash with the tension horror of Mikami and it was anything but the Resident Evil 4 follow up fans wanted.  That all changed when Mikami’s studio, Tango Gameworks, announced The Evil Within to be the true spiritual successor to his work and at its core you would be hard pressed to argue that this game is not a true Resident Evil 4 follow up.

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Knowing that’s where the roots to The Evil Within lie brings with it not only the great parts of the 2005 revamp, but also the dated and flawed gameplay that it represents today.  Right out of the gate this title’s flaws get revealed and never hesitate to remind you they exist.  Detective Castellanos, our lead, moves clumsily about in the rain at the game’s opening moments, which had me worried right off the bat at my ability to run, aim, and shoot with such floaty inaccurate controls.  It takes a few chapters, but when the gunplay begins to ramp up and with scarce ammo as a major liability, you can’t help but want to blame the controls for the pathetic misses at point blank range.  In fact, late in the game when you are forced into an arena atmosphere with many enemies and little ammo, it feels like a puzzle figuring out how to distribute your resources to effectively take everyone out.  It was pretty laughable as my wife watched me run around in circles like an idiot for fifteen minutes while a herd chased me, not in any danger of dying but also having no resources to handle my pursuers.  Mikami’s previous titles always had a melee option to get you out of these tough situations, especially because any enemy can drop coveted rounds, but in The Evil Within your melee deals a negligible amount of damage.  Even if you upgrade it, going to fists against any enemy leaves you doling out pointless damage while also allowing the enemy to get in a couple blows themselves with surprising strength.  In fact, most of the upgrade system in this game makes little difference in the overall experience save for the few items based on running and healing, both defensive maneuvers.  In short, ration your ammo, this is a survival horror game after all.

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Before you ever dawn a true weapon The Evil Within will introduce you to the game’s stealth mechanic.  For a majority of the game avoiding detection or methodically eliminating everyone in the room is as much an option as charging in guns blazing.  Your first encounter with this game’s twisted reality and subsequent enemies is more of an obstacle course where you can get acquainted with how to sneak up to or past foes.  It’s nothing complicated and for the most part the illusion of when enemies can and cannot see you remains consistent.  This is where The Evil Within attempts to pull off its best The Last of Us impression and it doesn’t do a good job.  Castellanos moves painfully slow in stealth mode to the point that sneaking up on an enemy, even if you mimic its moves from the moment it turns its back to you, can be a stressful encounter.  Once you get close enough the game will display an icon allowing you to perform a stealth kill, but if for some reason that prompt doesn’t show – and at times it won’t – or that enemy turns around suddenly you could be in for a world of trouble.  Thankfully it’s not instant death but the enemies have a knack for being able to pinpoint your exact location for quite some time after one of them initially sees you.  There are bottles in the environment that I figured would be helpful like they were in The Last of Us, but the mechanic almost seems broken at the onset.  Later in the game your bottle diversion is much more effective and this is most likely due to the openness of the environments early on compared to the closed tight conditions of the endgame.  Sneaking around also allows you to avoid traps and even disarm them for ammo, but again the minigame where you have to stop a needle in a small space has an odd delay that often ends with you blown to bits.  I also thought it was a huge wasted opportunity that the enemies can’t trigger the traps themselves, although you can definitely trigger them with bullets to make for environmental landmines if you see fit.  Clearly Tango checked all the boxes when trying to emulate The Last of Us but like most aspects of this game they didn’t sweat the details enough to give it that polished feel.

Despite many of this game’s weaker points, it is one hell of a ride.  Whether it’s sneaking past psychotic chainsaw-wielding butchers, disarming a booby trap connected to a meat grinder, or taking on an unnamable creature in a parking garage, this game wears its horror badge proudly.  Everything about the art direction, enemy design, and of course enough viscera to fill an ocean is meant to unease and intimidate.  While they may all initially look the same, your enemies do progress and have the same variety that Resident Evil 4 did before it, where each new section of the game had its own distinct enemy.  These standard foes will be a bit of an annoyance, but they are nothing compared the few, but impressive bosses you will encounter.  Each monstrosity that comes from The Evil Within will play upon horror tropes that are varied and create the game’s largest moments of tension.  As much as I’d like to gush about some of my favorites, I feel it’s inappropriate to give them away.  One well documented boss is The Keeper, but he’s better described under his nickname, Boxhead, due to the massive safe he wears on his head as protection.  While discovering how to take out each distinct boss may be a bit annoying, the fact that I was grinding my teeth on edge while I figured out the somewhat basic method of dispelling them to be of the best in my horror gaming.  This game is disturbing, disgusting, anxiety-filled, and I loved traversing through it.

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That said, it does wear out its welcome.  In a trend I’ve seen far too often these days,The Evil Within does feel like it was padded.  You will find inconsistencies in the levels with one action-packed chapter followed by a dull repeat of mechanics without even a boss battle to wrap things up.  That would be fine if the gameplay was diverse, but it’s during these seemingly padded chapters that The Evil Within loves to demonstrate its ability to be repetitive and boring or utterly cheap with quick “Gotcha!” deaths.  Sure, it’s cute once in a while, but after the 10th time on a part that requires memorization to best or that would have been a breeze if what to do was clear, you feel cheated, and did I mention the lengthy load times?  I’m also torn on the constant throwbacks to Mikami’s Resident Evil roots that make this game almost feel like a re-imagined hodgepodge of those initial games.  Any large fan of the series will see right through these nods but after a while it seemed to strip the unique nature expected of a new intellectual property (IP).  I mean come on, it even has an unlockable machine gun, RPG, and statues of the characters unlock upon completion.

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When you put it all together, the duality of good and bad that has remained consistent throughout this review makes it a difficult game to give a final verdict to.  The Evil Within nails the high end goal that Mikami started way back in 1987 with Sweet Home and finally made a true haunted house simulation that looks and feels every bit as twisted as it should be.  With this extreme attention to detail and tone, it’s surprising that the core of the game and the mechanics that surround it weren’t given equal effort.  It’s programmed sloppy, it plays sloppy, and it unfolds sloppy.  For fans of Mikami’s past work or anyone who’s looking for that new horror experience, I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t want to play at least the first handful of hours with this game.  Hang on to that love and fandom, though, because you are going to need to grind through to the eventual conclusion that seems just as determined at making you quit out of frustration as it does encourage you to reach the end.  After having overcome the game’s final challenge, realizing what holes in the plot remained, and reflected on the last 15-20 hours of gameplay, I came to the conclusion that The Evil Within was a blast of a ride first time through, but unlike most of Mikami’s previous work it’s many flaws prevent me from wanting to delve back into it again.

Final Score: 3 out of 5   (review policy)

This review originally appeared on All Games but was permitted to be re-posted on other sites owned by the writer.  A review copy from the publisher was not provided, it was purchased by the reviewer.  It was played for a total of approximately 20 hours and the campaign was completed in full.  The Evil Within is available on the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Xbox One, Playstation 4, and PC for $59.99 with identical content, display resolution (as opposed to native resolution), and performance (ie: framerate) on all platforms; however native resolution, visuals, and textures can differ between them.  

Written by Fred Rojas

February 22, 2015 at 11:00 am

Life is Strange Review

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Episode 1: Chrysalis

Adventure games have always been a bit of a split for me.  I was never good at them, never completed many of them, and thus I wanted to write them off as worthless but what they did for storytelling is undeniable.  TellTale somewhat switched up the definition of what goes into an adventure game, but try as they may I was hindered by either losing investment in the story or just not valuing these games any more than my current frustration with trying to beat Grim Fandango Remastered because I had never played before.  I guess the biggest problem for me was the balance is never quite there.  In a point-and-click adventure game there’s too much emphasis on puzzle solving and figuring out the developer whereas the TellTale games traditionally have too little and stand as nothing more than slightly interactive movies (that always seem to end in the same place regardless of those decisions).  Life is Strange stands out because developer Dontnod (known previously for the great action title Remember Me) acknowledges the reality that you are a player interacting with an environment, but also allows you to relate to the person on screen so distinctly that you get the best of both worlds.

The life of the high school teen...

The life of the high school teen…

I think the least said about the plot the better for a game like this, but the basic premise revolves around a just turned 18-year-old girl named Maxine (Max) Caulfield who is currently enrolled in an art academy in Oregon.  Both the academy and the town (Arcadia Bay) are significant because Max grew up in that town and when her family relocated to Seattle five years ago she apparently abandoned that life for reasons unknown at the start of the game.  Her main interest is in photography – the main draw as to why she would return to Arcadia Bay and attend a school she doesn’t seem too fond of save for her photography class – and while she does come off as a bit of a loner, I was glad to see that she is aware of most of her limited number of classmates.  Early into the game Max discovers that she has the ability to reverse time and uses it to protect someone, which later gives way to a slew of problems.  The story develops with the player being able to interact as much or as little as they please with the environment and the people in it as the story naturally progresses.  The game proves that it’s not just putting the episodic format to waste by creating branching storylines that don’t evolve much in this first iteration, foreshadowing the future, and creating an overall conflict that will no doubt take the entire five episodes to reconcile.

Interact with anything of interest, you never know what you might find

Interact with anything of interest, you never know what you might find

Life is Strange initially captures you for how effortlessly it captures the world it creates.  Those late teenage years are awkward for everyone and the way important issues are brushed off and pointless interests becomes the focus of the universe for these students reminds me of the days when I was in that same position.  There’s no beating you over the head with any specific character and the range of individuals you can get to know, or completely ignore, is placed with skill like a series of figures on a bookshelf that can be appreciated if the onlooker so chooses.  One of my biggest gripes for all adventure games is that I am being forced into difficult decisions without knowing the immediate outcome and then I have to live with them.  This may be the way real life works, but in video games it takes control away from the player and may force you down a path you never intended to take and thus don’t invest in.  Life is Strange allows you to see the immediate effects of any of the game’s handful of major binary decisions and then make your choice, but it’s clear that the consequences of these actions are tucked away to be thrown in your face later.  Now I know there are some that would sneer at this transparency, which is justified, but the the game doesn’t stop you from committing to a decision without considering the consequences and save for a few puzzles you are never forced to rewind time and consider a decision.  In short, it’s the true Choose Your Own Adventure video game, complete with the freedom read the first page of each decision.

Chloe, Max's former best friend, is an part of episode 1

Chloe, Max’s former best friend, is an integral part of episode 1

With only one episode in and a release date of March 2015 for the second, Life is Strange looks like it will take the greater part of this year to fully progress, but from this initial outing I’m invested in full.  Much like its previous title, Dontnod has taken aspects that we all appreciate from a handful of games and combined them together into a stronger cohesive whole.  Here’s hoping that the adventures of Max stay as strong through each of the five episodes as it did for the first.  My confidence is further heightened by the fact that this first episode was riddled with a lot more drama than action, meaning that there’s no need to outdo itself in the future.  As for now, it’s one hell of a pilot.

Final Score: 5 out of 5 (review policy)  – This first episode was played through twice by the reviewer.  The first time was thorough and took around 3 hours to complete, the second took under 2 hours but was streamlined.

Given that this game is episodic, this review will continue to build upon itself per episode.  Posts of each episode will go on the main page individually but this link will stand as the comprehensive review for all episodes.  Each episode will be given its own score initially, but the comprehensive review will have an overall score that will update with each episode (and may not necessarily reflect an average of the scores as this is not the method to scoring).  This game was purchased by the reviewer and played on PC, however it is available on Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC (including Steam), Xbox One, and Playstation 4 at a price of $4.99 for Episode One and $19.99 for the entire five episode run.  It is assumed that episodes will be available individually for $4.99 each.

Written by Fred Rojas

February 13, 2015 at 2:19 pm

Remember Me Review

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remember_me_boxRemember Me is not a sum of its parts.  That’s an important factor to keep in mind as you progress through this game, and frankly, is quite counter to a majority of experiences out there.  This title is trying to tell a complex story in the world of interactive fiction, which has been tried before with varying results, and manages to keep its focus on the big picture instead of being bogged down by the limitations of a video game.  As I played through it was fascinating to me how I wanted to keep note of the little gripes and problems I was seeing instead of paying attention to what was going on.  This is the one large hurdle, or caveat if you choose to view it as such, that separates whether you will enjoy Remember Me or pitch it to the wayside as a product of the end of this cycle.  Keep in mind it is by no means perfect, or even groundbreaking, but it offers a story and world that are unique and manages to maintain suitable gameplay that makes progressing the plot intriguing.

Remember Me is the pinnacle of a cyberpunk story – it takes place in 2084, memories are shared experiences in a social network, the city of Paris has been renamed to Neo-Paris – so everything will feel a bit familiar for fans of the genre.  A corporation named Memorise has established technology and networks that allow you to extract, share, and sell memories, which has gotten so popular it controls a majority of the population.  As with any cyberpunk story, whenever there’s a large controlling corporation there is always an underground group set on bringing it down, in Remember Me they are called “Errorists”.  You control female protagonist Nilin, who in the prequel chapter awakens in a Memorise facility for memory erasure.  This is not circumstantial, Nilin was a clear target given her alliance with the Errorists and the fact that she can steal and alter other people’s memories.  With the help of Errorist leader Edge, Nilin works her way through the roughest and nicest neighborhoods of Neo-Paris in an attempt to take down Memorise.  It’s good to see a story that revolves around the tangible world, which is often ignored or background in cyberpunk.  While the setup may be relatively standard, I found the overall plot and especially the final hours, to be a unique twist that rarely happens, particularly in video games.

remember_me_2Gameplay varies, switching between different styles and formats, but essentially it’s a brawler and platformer with mini-games sprinkled in from time to time.  It will be tempting to compare gameplay to several games – Remember Me is acutely aware of what was popular this generation – but contextually it shares nothing more with the titles you could reference so I don’t feel there’s a point.  Brawling is a timing-based system of combos and dodging – the unique aspect in this game being the ability to add a perk to each hit of a combo allowing you to modify battle to your play style.  In addition you receive special attacks that assist in taking down specific types or certain combinations of enemies, which is the brunt of the diversity in combat.  After an episode or two the battles flow in such a way that they are not only manageable but also satisfying displays of your abilities.  Platforming is hindered a bit by the disconnect between Nilin’s pathetic static jump and her impressive leaps when aiming for a specific ledge or platform.  Throughout the campaign you will leap gaps, shimmy across platforms, scale large exteriors, and climb about with relative ease.  Instead of the popular glowing ledge Remember Me provides contextual arrows to guide where you can go next but it’s unnecessary because Nilin will most often not allow you to jump to somewhere she can’t grab on to.  I’ve heard claims of stealth in the game, but save for a few “dodge the robot’s line of sight” instances, there’s none to speak of.  At times you will be able to remix someone’s memory, which is mostly watching a cutscene with the ability to control speed and direction of playback while searching for little areas that you can change to impact the memory.  As a result a simple fight between lovers can result in a murder or a basic medical procedure can end horribly, but only in that character’s mind because you aren’t actually changing history.  There’s only one result the game wants you to get, but I was amused that making changes to the wrong outcome still allows you to see what could potentially happen despite the game forcing you to go back and choose the correct path.  Most episodes end with a boss battle that harkens back to the days of puzzle bosses that require you to try various tactics and pattern recognition.  I personally enjoyed the boss battles and found them to be an appropriate change in scope and battle, but the final matches do end up being quite derivative.

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Developer Dontnod is an independent studio from France that includes art director Aleksi Briclot, best known for his art in Magic: The Gathering, and science fiction writer Alain Damasio (although all of his books are in French) as predominant members of the studio.  It shows.  The world created in Remember Me is vibrant with that bright neon exterior hiding a cold and heartless mechanical nucleus.  Neo-Paris has depth, a layout, neighborhoods, and a is an established world from the start.  Not only that but the graphics looked great, even on the 360, with a consistent framerate no matter what was happening.  Unlike many other 3rd person action platformers, this game is as linear as it comes with few opportunities to explore or even wonder off the beaten path.  I know this may seem like a discredit to the created city, and perhaps it is, but the direct progression of the episodes allows the story to stay on point and the player to remain focused, albeit at the expense of the hard work put in behind the scenes.  I also felt the world was a bit scant in terms of population.  You will encounter an occasional citizen or street vendor, but they don’t directly interact with you and all of the homes and apartments you find yourself in will be void of human life whether it’s the middle of the day or the middle of the night.  Sure, Dontnod threw in a bunch of random housekeeping or maintenance cyborgs as placeholders within the environment, but I found those to be as remarkable as the random furniture in the room.  The back third of the game also involves many areas that look identical and granted the plot justifies the setting but I was hoping to see more of the dazzling atmosphere that is introduced in the first half of the game.

remember_me_3Remember Me not only has a series of technical missteps but also some conscious decisions that break immersion so distinctly I’m surprised they were left in.  For starters the load times, even installed on my Xbox 360, were extremely long.  Given that most of the times I had to reload were sudden action scenes that required you to know what was coming next to react or cheap deaths because Nilin didn’t register you were leaping to a ledge instead of her simple hop, it was aggravating.  I still don’t understand why games today have those intense action scenes completely focused around twitch reactions and then force you into specific routes or curveball counterintuitive inputs, it’s annoying and reminds me I’m playing a video game.  Thankfully these sequences are few and far between here.  Since Remember Me is so linear and scripted, there were a few times in the campaign where contextual events like a door opening or ledge dropping simply didn’t happen and I was forced to reload a checkpoint.  I’m not sure how widespread this was (I played a retail copy pre-release and there were no online updates during this time), but with the long load times and general confusion it was a rare but unpleasant occurrence.  Furthermore the dialogue is somewhat lacking, with most conversations being monologues or banter between Nilin and Edge, but hidden within this dialogue are often major plot points.  If you’re not paying attention, which can be somewhat difficult while you’re running around and trying to figure out where to go next, you may miss large reveals in the story.  They continue to be reinforced, but no one likes to piece the story together contextually.

Remember Me is trying to tell a complex interactive story without sacrificing the gameplay that so often falls to the wayside in games of this type.  I can already tell that several factors are working against it: it’s a title that comes late in the generation, it’s only single player, the campaign is around 12 hours long, it’s riddled with “take it or leave it” mechanics, and it doesn’t do anything all that new.  Still, I feel that this project was handled with enough care to justify the packaging it comes in – not all single player games should be $60 but the production value appears to justify the cost.  I can see where this is going to be popular among the crowd that latches to cyberpunk or deep single player experiences, something definitely lacking in today’s gamespace, but I fear that the typical turn-and-burn gamer will find nothing compelling about it.  Still, if you want to play a game that centralizes around the story and unfolds with decent gameplay and a few eyebrow raising mechanics, Remember Me is sure to satisfy.

Final Score: 4 out of 5 (review policy)

This review was originally written on The B-Team Podcast web site but the writer retained all rights to re-publish this review.  Keep in mind that all comments are based on the first week of release.  A review copy was provided by Capcom for the Xbox 360.  Later in time the writer replayed this title on PS3 and noticed no inherit differences.

Written by Fred Rojas

February 12, 2015 at 11:00 am

Posted in PC/Mac, PS3, Reviews, Xbox 360

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Retro Game Night: Fahrenheit Indigo Prophecy Remastered

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This week we take a look (in glorious 1080p) at the remastered edition of Fahrenheit (or Indigo Prophecy).  After recently booting this up for our review, I’m not quite sure who this particular port is for.  It looks just like Fahrenheit, plays just like it too, and I could be wrong but I think the original could be pushed to 1080p on PC (where this version is currently exclusive to) so I think they just did some re-rendering of textures, glossed it up, and slapped it online.  Perhaps that was all we should expect, I don’t know.  Anyway, check it out for yourself in the video below.

Written by Fred Rojas

February 7, 2015 at 8:00 pm

Fahrenheit (Indigo Prophecy) Review

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fahrenheit_xboxindigo_prophecy_ps2Platform: Xbox, Playstation 2, PC (both the original and the just released Remastered Edition)
Released: 2005 (worldwide)
Developer: Quantic Dream
Publisher: Atari
Digital Release? Yes – Available on Xbox 360 as an Xbox Original and Remastered is on Steam ($9.99 for all versions)
Price: $8.00 (disc only), $10.99 (complete), and $46.97 (new/sealed) per Price Charting (prices are for PS2 version, Xbox/PC versions a bit lower due to re-release)

Jam’s Take

Fahrenheit (aka Indigo Prophecy in America) is one of those games that attempted to create a interactive film experience. Some excepted this concept with open arms, some people frowned on it proclaiming it technically wasn’t a game. Well several years has passed since that fateful release in 2005 so lets see if Fahrenheit is still worth investing in.

Fahrenheit’s story has you following three character Lucas Kane a 9-to-5 IT worker who has a fondness for reading Shakespeare in diners, Carla Valenti a young cop who is claustrophobic and Tyler Miles, Carla’s police partner and your typical comic relief in a cop duo but he likes basketball, which is ok in my book. Essentially New York as well as the world is starting to get cold, really cold and bizarre murders are occurring round the city where normal folk are killing innocent people then themselves. I won’t spoil the story too much as it is the games strongest draw. What I will say is the game is filled with a fair few twists and turns playing out very much like a film, if it hooks you from the beginning it is very likely you will play through to the end.

ss-fahrenheit-001Fahrenheit is a game that starts you off in one hell of a predicament. You start the story as Lucas Kane, during a brief period of possession Lucas cuts open his own wrists and then proceeds to stab the hell out of a innocent guy in the toilet. He then comes to his senses and the player takes control. This is quite something for a game as this rather tense moment is timed you can either go through a long process of hiding the body and the evidence and sneak out of the diner without anyone suspecting what you did, or you can just run out the door in a panic. The entire game is played out by the players decisions, some choices lead to death which means you have to re start the scene though there are usually multiple routes to progress through the story.

Gameplay wise you basically control your character with the left thumb stick and you then use the right thumbstick to interact with items in the world displayed on the top frame of the screen. The game then has this simon says quick time event system which plays out during the major action screens. You basically have to use both analogue sticks and move them in time with the displays on the screen. The game positions this in the centre of the screen so you can watch the action. Being the anxious gamer, I was much more concerned with getting the prompts correct than watching the scenes.

fahr2An important mechanic the game uses which I felt never seemed to have a big enough impact on the game as it should is the mood meter. Basically certain choices and decisions you make in the game will impact a small bar on the bottom right of the screen that pops up to show the mental stability of you character. Should your character get too depressed the game is over. It seemed like a great mechanic to use in the game maybe affecting how you react to other characters in the game, sadly it really doesn’t have any impact on the story unless your intentionally getting your character depressed to see the game over scene. On that note that’s one thing I admire about the game if you die or fail you get a scene that pretty much ends the story of the entire game rather than a typical game over screen. Of course you can try the scene again where you left off but this is a clever concept to close the story entirely should you not want to continue further.

Graphics for the game are standard affair. The 3D character models and environments are showing their age by today’s standard of games. If you enjoy the story the graphics will not deter you from the experience, most of your experience will be spent in snowy environments and peoples apartments though there are a few surprise locations you will not expect. This game also used motion capture on the characters so most of the animations were carried out by real life actors. The game has a nice little documentary giving a over view how the game was made like a dvd extra which is something I wish more games incorporated.

fahr3The soundtrack to the game is pretty good. This games uses music from real artists like Theory of a Deadman and Nina Simone and giving them some pretty good exposure most likely increasing their own popularity and music sales. Even if your not too fond of the music the game does a good job using it at the right scenes where it would make sense to fire off a certain song like good old ‘love TKO’ by Teddy Pendergrass during a make out scene. The games score stands head over heals as the strongest music in the game, most of the melodies just feeling so hopeless and sad, matching the mood of each scene so well like a blockbuster film. Combining both the music and score together makes a killer combination which the game also allows you to listen to at your convince in the extras menu. In case that wasn’t enough the voice acting is solid. This is pretty important for a game that is heavily story focused. Almost every character is believable in their role although occasionally you’ll come across the odd line of dialogue from a character that just makes no sense usually from the background extras.

Fahrenheit is not a long game at all. Unlike most games this game is designed for you to see it through to the end, you will probably complete it in two long gaming sessions. Should the quick time events bother you too much you can turn the difficulty down making it a lot more manageable, which is something I actually recommend in this game since it is story focused. The game has multiple endings but after completing the game the first time it is unlikely you’ll be playing through the story again straight away. This is one of those games you’ll probably play through once a year and maybe just do things a little different compared to how you remember doing them before and you will most likely see scenes play out differently each time you play through.

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Of course the big deterrent is if the story doesn’t grab you then you won’t like this game and will likely fall into the crowd of people who moan that this is a film not a game. Personally I praise designs like this but I guess a lot of that’s stems from one of the other passions in my life which is of course is watching films and this game does a fantastic job of creating a interactive story telling experience that just works. The game isn’t arcade action or FPS fragging, it’s a unique game that allows you to determine your own path through it. I recommend this game for everybody to try especially to those who are looking for a more casual experience. Plus if nothing else if your a busy gamer this is one game I can assure you most people will complete.

Final Score: 3 out of 5 (review policy)

Fred’s Take

When it comes to video games and what I like in them, I’m all over the place.  I’ve claimed to be all about story, but then tear down the very genre that helped define storytelling in video games.  At the same time I claim that Resident Evil is my favorite game of all time and it’s not particularly good at gameplay or story, so despite how annoying my taste can sound, it really just comes down to how I feel about a certain game and not typically the sum of its parts.  That’s why I’m so ambiguous about what I think about Fahrenheit – yes, as Jam stated it’s Indigo Prophecy in the States but that’s all changed with the Remastered Edition and let’s face it, Fahrenheit is the cooler and more appropriate title.

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In one regard the game evolves the story from being a simple concept, a man who awakens to find a dead body with him in a bathroom, to a truly out of this world science fiction story with the entire world at stake.  We don’t take too long to get there either, which is another enchanting part to Quantic Dream’s storytelling, and the progression is weaved in so naturally it’s like the time you accepted a shark can blow up from an air tank in Jaws.  All of this seemingly quick progression is pulled off thanks to the concept of taking control of multiple people, which is compounded by the fact that you’re playing both the criminal on the run and the cops tracking him down, and the rarely pulled off concept of the unreliable narrator.  When visions and reality start to blend with Lucas, especially when you mix those with the conceived true realities of Carla and Tyler, it makes for a quite impressive effect that you either allow yourself to get engulfed in or snub for face value.  I have to admit that in 2005, many games were trying to do what Fahrenheit does, but it’s one of the few titles that successfully pulled it off without becoming too boring or vague.

ind_proph_1Now as I said I’m torn on the value of this game and clearly I’m on board with the story, but what hitches me is both the assembly of that story and the gameplay elements that get in the way much more often than they assist in the experience.  Let’s focus on the assembly of the story that I so graciously praised.  It has you switching back and forth between Lucas, Tyler, and Carla on a regular basis, but already in the setup you can see the conflict of character development and plot dynamics: there is only one criminal and two cops.  As a result we are forced to split the detective work between Tyler and Carla at the expense of learning too much about their personal lives in what starts off as nice touches to character development and ends up in what appears to be filler levels.  The early establishing scenarios where we get to see Carla and Tyler’s home lives is useful because there’s a lot to take in visually while they are having a simple conversation on the phone.  We learn about Tyler’s relationship, both characters’ apartments, the fact that Carla seems to own the same sleeping underwear outfit that David Cage puts in every female lead he has in a game, but I feel that beyond those moments we are then led on odd wild goose chases for simple snippets of data or clues that could be best integrated into a larger scene surrounding it.  Jam felt this game was short, but the first time through probably took me around 10 hours and frankly I only felt that about six or seven of those hours (and the scenes they contained) were worthwhile.  I’ll give credit to the fact that Quantic Dream was still trying to figure out how to skate the line between movie and game – which they still haven’t figured out and no longer holds water with later titles – but many games in the mid 2000s were shorter than Fahrenheit and had more to offer as well.

ind_proph3Then we come to the “gameplay” elements, the weakest link in all Quantic Dream games.  Aside from a bit of tank-controlled point-and-click adventure shenanigans, you are mostly left to play through action sequences via quick-time event (QTE).  I’m not the biggest fan of QTEs, but not because I find them difficult or without value, and rather because they change your focus from the action going on in the game to arbitrary button prompts along the borders of the screen.  A perfect example of this is the office sequence early in the game, where Lucas has to escape from a surprise attack (I won’t spoil what), and you’re forced to ignore the relatively cool sequence of events as Lucas evades his attackers.  Did you get to see those events?  Can you revel in the interesting close calls and near misses?  Nope, because you were busy looking at the bottom of the screen for the next blue arrow or X prompt.  It begs you to do two things at once: watch the action and play the game.  Few can do this and I’m definitely not of that smaller group.  This gets even worse when the game really ramps it up in the middle and forces you to do an insane series of button prompts in Lucas’s apartment during an apparent dream where a pathetically rote series of casual visuals play the backdrop.  This portion is double-fail for me because it not only shows off how stupid the QTE element is and the frustrating nature to which it’s integrated, but also that the developers didn’t even bother to couple it with something interesting on the screen.  By the time I completed that sequence that had nearly 100 button presses and the ability to only fail 3 of them (I will admit I believe I was on hard difficulty), I was both physically exhausted and had about had enough of Fahrenheit.  Aside from investigation and QTE, there are a handful of stealth elements in an military base that prove Quantic Dream is also terrible at stealth.  Put it all together and I felt at times like the game was daring me to quit.

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As you can see, my thoughts on Fahrenheit are all over the place.  It’s like an ex-girlfriend that was so crazy I couldn’t bear to stay with her but the good times we had were so acute that I couldn’t imagine not going back.  This game always tempted me with some interesting plot points and that air of mystery right before slapping me across the face with challenges that go against everything I like about video game difficulty.  In the end I can admit that I love the over-arching plot and the ending is something worth seeing through, but that doesn’t me an I have to like the potholes I found myself in on a semi-regular basis.  I guess in short, play the game on easy.

Final Score: 3 out of 5

farrenheit_indigo_prophecy_remastered_game_coverfah_cenDid you know that Quantic Dream recently released the Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy Remastered version of this game that upgrades the visuals and adds controller support on PC?  Oh and I guess everyone’s all overjoyed that the censored sex scenes in the US version of the game are back in all it’s polygonal video game detail, for whatever that’s worth.  It’s only been out for just over a week, but against his better judgement Fred will be taking a quick look at it for this week’s Retro Game Night so watch for a video with snarky commentary to go live on Saturday.  Hell, it may just convince you to give this unique title a try.

Written by jamalais

February 5, 2015 at 11:50 am

Woah Dave! Review

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wd_logoI first experienced Woah Dave! At EGX 2014. It was being demoed on the 3DS at the time and it was one of the few games that didn’t have a crazy long que. I enjoyed what I played but like a lot of the smaller indie games at the show I just forgot about it. Fast forward to today and we are given the game for free through Playstation plus. It’s surprising that this has released on the Playstaion Network before the Nintendo eshop. [Woah Dave! was released on the eshop in the US back in October 2014 – ed.]

Woah Dave! takes its inspiration from the original arcade classics like Mario Bros and Joust. You play a small pixel man and your objective is to collect as many pennies as you can, which then act as your overall score. To find the pennies you have to defeat enemies that start out as little eggs but soon hatch into alien looking baddies. To kill these enemies you have to pick up eggs or skulls and throw them at the target. But you have to be quick as the skulls explode after a short time and the eggs hatch. If this happens while your holding it you will loose a life. If the enemy manages to reach the lava below it will evolve into a stronger enemy. Each time the enemies reach the bottom they change into a faster and more difficult enemy until they become a flying eye ball which will literally pursue your character unless you defeat it. There is a lot of risk reward with the game. You can play it safe and destroy the eggs as soon as they drop but you will receive a minimum score. But, if you wait for the enemies to get stronger, they will drop more coins. You have to collect the coins to bank them into your score, so unless you play carefully your coins could end up in the lava and be useless. There is a single powerup which resembles the power block from Mario Bros (except it says Woah on it) that occasionally falls from the heavens. Picking this up and flinging it will destroy everything on the screen in a satisfying shower of coins.

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There is absolutely no tutorial in the game and you are expected to pick it up right from the get go. I thought this was quite a nice touch as you will learn the best way to play the game is through persistence and trial and error. Your average game will only last around 5 minutes at most (if that). When you loose all 3 of your lives, which can never be increased, you start right back from the beginning. It’s a fun addictive gameplay style that will be familiar to fans of Pac Man (or games similar to this) but will not sit well with gamers looking for a deeper experience.

The pixelated graphics are colourful and well suited to the old arcade feel of the game. You really could see this game being in its own old age arcade cabinet from the eighties.

wd_2Woah Dave! starts off slow on normal difficulty but soon becomes fast and frantic with more enemies increasingly dropping, lava rising and even alien saucers appearing instantly. Should normal mode be too slow for you – and it really isn’t easy – you can play the game on “bonkers” difficulty where the game is instantly fast and frantic from the beginning. There are separate leaderboards for both difficulties should you want to boast about your score to your friends.

Overall, Woah Dave! Is a fun game for that quick gaming burst. It’s ideal for handheld consoles but I really can’t see this having a lot of interest on consoles. This game is free for plus right which makes it a no brainer to not at least add to your download list. Outside of that the game is sold for a reasonable budget price. The game lacks depth and could have done with more than one map variant, as well as adding more gameplay variants to keep people coming back. It doesn’t change the fact that it is still incredibly addictive and fun to play. This style of gameplay is what will appeal to fans of the old classic arcade games. For most of us its the game you will pull out when your waiting for that doctors appointment or bus ride to work. Something to fill that pixelated void in your life.

Final Score: 3 out of 5 (review policy)

Woah Dave! was provided free via the Playstation Plus promotion in both the US and Europe but will no longer be available as of the Playstation Store update today (so hurry if you want to take advantage).  Woah Dave! is cross buy and purchasing this game on Vita or PS4 unlocks both versions.  It is additionally available on the Nintendo eShop for 3DS, Steam, iOS, and Android for the price of $4.99 across all platforms.  

Written by jamalais

February 3, 2015 at 11:00 am

Posted in PC/Mac, PS4, Reviews, Vita, Wii U

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Resident Evil HD Remaster Under 3 Hour Speedrun

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Completing a longer game in a speedrun can be not only an accomplishment but also quite rewarding.  In the case of Resident Evil, completing the game in a speedrun is literally built into the programming with the expectation that after you’ve explored the game a couple of times you will jump right into it.  The recent Resident Evil HD Remaster came out and while I found the game quite difficult in my recent playthrough and it took me over 11 hours to complete, I dared leap into an under 3 hour speedrun (albeit with the gracious help of a guide from GameFAQs).  I also decided to capture it and offer voiceover so that you can not only enjoy watching a speedrun, but see what is done and why to somewhat bend the timeline of the game to be as short as it is.  I’ve embedded the first video below and you can see the entire playlist here.

Written by Fred Rojas

February 2, 2015 at 11:00 am

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.


Download this episode (right click and save)

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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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remake_logo

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.

remake_puzzle

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

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