Archive for the ‘PS2’ Category
Now & Then is different from both a retrospective and a review. It tackles games you probably already know and is a place for gamers to discuss these games. Below is an overview of a game’s presence in the market then and now. Authors of these articles share their personal experience, so we encourage all of you to do the same in the comments.
Editor’s Note: Although I love classic games as much as the next guy, few games get to be restored as often as Resident Evil 4. Therefore, the recently released Ultimate HD Edition has the most cleaned up, 1080p native graphics to date and thanks to screenshot technology being what it is we were able to grab those assets directly from the game without any quality loss. We at GH101 have decided to feature screens from this version in the interest of clarity, despite the fact that they do not faithfully represent the graphical fidelity of the many previous versions. Hopefully purists will forgive us. – Fred Rojas
The Story of the Scrapped Versions
Whenever a game sits in development hell for too long, it has an adverse affect on everyone’s feelings for the game. The examples are too many to count but a couple quick mentions are the likes of Diakatana, Too Human, and of course Duke Nukem Forever. With a few exceptions, games that take too long to make can’t help but not live up to the hype and therefore disappoint an all-too-eager audience. One of these exceptions is Resident Evil 4. Originally announced in 1999, the concept was a Playstation 2 game with a brutally strong protagonist that was more action focused per the ongoing desires of Shinji Mikami (series creator that has been trying to go more action oriented since Resident Evil 2). This new iteration was appropriately tasked to Hideki Kamiya, notable for his director work on Resident Evil 2, and in connection with Noboru Sugimura, writer of Resident Evil 2. After a European trip that netted a Gothic art style and given the goals of the game it was decided that the camera would have to be dynamic and movable (much like Capcom had started in Dino Crisis) and thus ditch the traditional pre-rendered background in exchange for a fully rendered world. Much of the development style, tone, and even Kamiya’s direction involved a what was described as a “cool” world and eventually it got so far removed from the roots of both the survival horror genre and Resident Evil series and instead integrated demons and a new protagonist, Dante. A small fraction of the Capcom Production Studio 4, named Little Devils, converted this new concept with the juggling bug this team had seen in Onimusha: Warlords and eventually renamed the project to Devil May Cry in November 2000. While it spun off to a good game and an ongoing franchise that still lives today, Devil May Cry left Resident Evil 4 in a rut without a dev team (and some hardcore RE fans still refer to the game as Resident Evil 3.5 since the core concepts remained intact).
It wasn’t until nearly a year later, late 2001, that the large scale Capcom Production Studio 4 team regrouped to begin development on Resident Evil 4. Sugimura was still involved at this time and his scenario company Flagship and the original concept was Leon Kennedy breaking into Umbrella’s European headquarters to save a girl (who’s identity has never been revealed) while fighting various types of zombies and other creatures a la the original game. At this time the third person view was already the gameplay style although Leon was overcome by the Progenitor Virus, thus giving his left hand special abilities, and included first person action sequences like we saw hints of in previous games.
As time went on the concept developed into the demo that was shown at E3 2003 known as Maboroshi no Biohazard 4 (Hallucination Biohazard 4 in English), but it has been come to be nicknamed Resident Evil 4: Hook Man Version by those that talk about it in the RE circles (FYI: Resident Evil is Biohazard in Japan but not here due to the metal band’s trademark). Development of this version began when Flagship’s original scenario was dropped and Mikami brought in Yasuhisa Kawamura, scenario writer for Resident Evil 3, to make a scarier game. At first the movie Lost Souls was the template and it featured an unnamed female protagonist that found herself in an abandoned building with a killer on the loose. An in-between version re-introduced Leon as the lead, had him working with a mutated dog as a sidekick, and eventually making his way through Umbrella creator Spencer’s Castle to rescue a girl and fight his way out (with Hook Man as the killer and a newer version of the Nemesis character). Eventually this was adapted into a final version that would become the demo. In this version Leon was traversing a haunted castle, infected with a virus, and it was causing a mix of various jarring camera effects and hallucinations. To help with the goal of a scary atmosphere and merge the perspective of the player with Leon, an over-the-shoulder camera, laser sight, and quick time events (QTEs) were integrated, some of the more notable attributes of the final game. Enemies in the demo ranged from suits of armor that came to life and eventually a the Hook Man, a ghostlike zombie with a torn hook for a left hand, as a final enemy for the demo. You can find a 5 minute video of this build on YouTube (pardon if the link isn’t valid over time) that was found in the Biohazard 4 Secret DVD that came as a pre-order bonus for Resident Evil 4 on GameCube in 2005. Cost of development and technical obstacles forced Mikami to step in and assist in scenario writing and development, something Kawamura has gone on record saying he’s ashamed of, and completely scrapped the game. It was 2004 and Resident Evil 4 was back to square one. Fortunately you can find most parts of this version (aside from the demo video) in other Capcom games: many of these assets ended up in the PS2 game Haunting Ground, the Progenitor Virus concept was the base for Resident Evil 5, and of course the Spencer Estate concept was revitalized in the RE5 DLC Lost in Nightmares.
The Deal With Nintendo
In November 2002, Capcom announced a 5 game deal with Nintendo that would see five of the titles coming to the GameCube, known as the Capcom Five, and among those (despite some miscommunication) only Resident Evil 4 was to remain console exclusive. After rumors suggested that users and investors were adding pressure to move the game to the much more successful Playstation 2, Mikami even came out and claimed he would “cut his head off” if RE4 ever made its way to another console. In late 2003 Shinji Mikami took over directional duties and had a large part in scenario and writing duties to completely re-invent the series. He spread a massive campaign in interviews and told the Capcom Production 4 Team that the focus was to be on action and not horror. To assist with this he dropped the Umbrella involvement completely, created the Ganados concept, and clearly borrowed from many earlier versions of the game, including the new Dante-like look and personality for Leon. By E3 2004 Capcom locked down a January 2005 release for Gamecube and then to everyone’s shock an awe a Halloween 2004 announcement for 3 new Resident Evil PS2 titles revealed that a port of Resident Evil 4 with expanded content would be hitting the PS2 later in 2005. This made Gamecube fans livid, some of which admitted to purchasing the nearly dead console purely for the now three year prospect of finding the game only on Nintendo’s console. For the record, Mikami did not cut off his own head and the PS2 version did come out. I have never been able to find out if there was any action from Nintendo for breaking the exclusivity, although in those days it wasn’t always a paid or contractual deal so perhaps Nintendo had no leg to stand on.
After all that hype and pressure, it’s a miracle that Resident Evil 4 is as wonderful as it turned out to be. If you’ve never played it, the genius of Resident Evil 4 is that it sticks to the basics of game design while also offering a look and feel that is fresh. Easily one of the most gorgeous games from that generation, I still contest that the Gamecube version is the best looking from that time period, so if you have a choice that game really was developed for that console. Additionally the game was long, like 15-20 hours long, and didn’t feel as such. Each of the five chapters feel like complete games in and of themselves and while enemy types and bosses do reappear from time to time, the environments and scenarios are unique for the most part. Even more striking is the way that game develops alongside the player as a whole.
In the first act you are traversing the woods of Spain as Leon, completely unaware of what’s to come but you know it’s not going to be good. Eventually you get introduced the Ganados, who at this point are townsfolk that have established farming villages along the countryside, but of course they are violent toward you. After killing off a pair of cops that accompany you, the Ganados turn full attention on you and with the different ways they attack based on where you shoot them and how close you are too them, it’s clear that these are no zombies. Ganados will throw weapons at you (that yes, you can shoot out of the air), duck under your laser sight, run around you, and overall give you that sinking feeling of being entirely alone against the world. Not only that, but the world is quite jarring for the time, with the over-the-shoulder camera and focus with the laser sight on where to shoot everyone, it’s a steep learning curve. That’s why the first main area, a central town, is so pivotal and one hell of a demo. You enter into this town that is fully populated by Ganados that all give chase upon your arrival. You can go in and out of houses, down different paths, jump out of windows, and navigate a small space where you have almost no idea where to go next. Since your perspective only allows for what’s directly in front of you, a somewhat accurate interpretation of what being in that situation in real life is like, it’s dangerous to take a corner without knowing what’s going on and you always take a risk of being jumped when you dare look behind you. Sure it’s seen as somewhat tanklike controls today, but back then it was about as good as you were going to get out of Capcom. Then the chainsaw guy arrives, a larger sized villager with a potato sack on his head and eye holes cut out, and he begins to chase you at a much faster pace than the others. This doesn’t meant that the horde of Ganados back off either, you’re now thrown in the mix with all of them. No matter how many times you shoot Chainsaw Guy he won’t die for good and you have limited ammo at this point and most people will probably get caught by him at least once, which triggers and instant death where Leon’s torso is sawed diagonally across the sternum. It’s freaky and it demonstrates the biggest change in Resident Evil 4: you won’t be scared, you’ll just feel immense tension, which triggers a different kind of fear. When those church bells ring after a certain period of time and clear the town of danger, I had to literally take a break and step away from the game. My thoughts at the time were, “damn, that was close.” It was a great rush.
From there the game digresses into a somewhat interesting storyline that contains a mass of interesting and tactical scenarios. Whether it’s fighting the sea creature in the lake, tackling El Gigante for the first time, eventually meeting and dealing with Salazar, knife-fighting Krauser, and eventually unraveling the mystery of Las Plagas, Resident Evil 4 is a thrill ride. Each new area of the game will challenge the skills you had previously learned and try to force you to use them in new ways to the point that your cumulative skills make the initial Ganados fight seem like a walk in the park. When I completed the game for the first time after getting the game for my birthday in 2005 (I had a Gamecube for the few other Resident Evil games on the platform) and again that Christmas on PS2, it was fantastic and I couldn’t offer it up to enough people to experience. Capcom and Mikami had gambled big – the series was to be discontinued if a failure – and they had succeeded admirably. For better or worse, Resident Evil would never be the same.
It sold well. 1.6 million units on Gamecube and more than 2 million on PS2, not to mention eventual ports to the PC (terrible initial attempt) and Wii before receiving HD remakes on 360/PS3 recently and eventually the Ultimate HD Version on PC this year. I think the reason it keeps being remade is that Resident Evil 4 still looks amazing today, now with updated assets and filters, and the gameplay, while seemingly dated, is still that perfect mix of locked in time and tolerable to a modern audience. If you have yet to experience this game and are even somewhat of a fan of Resident Evil, you should pick this game up and give it a go. It was a steal at $50 back in 2005 and today it’s a reminder that not all re-invented games in development hell end up being underwhelming, dated messes.
This week, for no particular reason, we decided to tackle Jaws games. There were three, but given time constraints we only tackled two: Jaws for the NES and Jaws Unleashed for the PS2. There may be a follow-up for Jaws: Ultimate Predator on the Wii.
This week we are an ensemble cast with Andy from 42 Level One and Agents of Shieldcast as well as Eli from Knuckleballer Radio joining to discuss the main PS2 iterations of the Final Fantasy Series: X, X-2, and XII. As with all our FF eps, it’s a broad overview, but the discussion will help you understand what to expect from each iteration and what development changes were made. With the recent HD remakes of the X titles, you may just be tempted to give these titles a second glance.
Console: Playstation 2
Digital Release? No
Price: $6.99 (disc only), $20.00 (complete), $34.03 (sealed) – all prices according to Price Charting
I remember picking up Shadow of Rome in some pretty gloomy pawn shop a couple of years ago. It was a blind purchase, I knew nothing about the game, just read the blurb on the back thought it looked cool and saw Capcom made it which intrigued me. I started the game but soon after studies took priority and I just had to leave it to the side to return to later. Later become several years but I guess I got there in the end thanks to it being the latest entry in Gaming History 101’s Game Club series. So, lets see if Shadow of Rome is Capcom gold or an IP that should remain forgotten.
Shadow Of Rome, as the cover implies, is set in Rome. Julius Caesar has been murdered sending all of Rome into turmoil. You play as two characters – Agrippa the Roman Centurion and Octavianus, who looks very similar to another long blonde haired character in a infamous Metal Gear game. It’s up to these two characters to get to the bottom of this conspiracy. The setting is actually really well thought out, I genuinely wanted to go look up Roman history after playing this game. Despite the story of the game being a work of fiction, facts about the history of Rome are presented during loading screens. Names of characters in the game like Antonius and Pompey are also based on real characters in history. The game’s story loosely mirrors the actual fate of these characters in history as well. If nothing else Shadow of Rome will make you want to learn more about the Romans and maybe even go to a museum.
Graphics are very impressive. This was a late PS2 game and developers really put a lot of thought into the level environments to try re-create a believable Rome experience. The character models have a cell shaded feel to them at times, which seems to heavily clash with the game’s environments, which is quite a small flaw. The music of the game is suited to the setting though you’ll only really remember the epic tunes from the arena battles. In true Capcom fashion there is terrible voice acting in this game, but it does add to the charm if you share a nostalgic history with the company. To everyone else, it might make you cringe at times just how bad the one dialogue can be.
Shadow Of Rome very much tries to mix different gameplay mechanics in one game. When you play as Agrippa the focus is on fighting and action, the gameplay is fast paced and enjoyable. Most of the time you play as Agrippa you will be in the gladiator arena. Each battle will present you with different mission objectives most of which will be to totally obliterate the opposition. You will also be presented with team battles where you have to destroy the other teams statues, rescue missions where you have to rescue a prisoner with awful AI. Mission variations are more frustrating than enjoyable as the best moments in the arena are by far when you just have to eliminate everyone else. There is one section where you will also get to have fun in the chariot races in Circus Maximus, which are a welcome change to the gameplay but only take up a small section of the overall experience.
There are a variety of weapons to use in Agrippas sections from swords, spears, bows and arrows to giant maces. In the arena fights you have Salvo points which are given based on how much you please the crowd. Performing certain actions like throwing a rose at a enemy will unlock a specific Salvos, which is like unlocking a achievement as it’s also named. A small bar on the bottom right of the screen will also fill up the more killing you do. Then once it’s at its peak you can cheer to the crowd and it will usually reward you with some awesome weapon to use. All weapons break after a short period so your regularly hunting around for new weapons forcing you to mix up your tactics on the fly. Shadow of Rome shows its true gory site in the arena fights as you are able to dismember body parts from foes, then pick up there remaining limbs and continue to humiliate them with it while they fight with one or in some cases no arms. There are also a plentiful amount of boss fights especially towards the end of the game. The key to all of these seemed to be patience. To defeat each boss you usually need to use a specific strategy as running in head first will lead to swift defeat.
Then you play as Octavianus and the gameplay slows right down and becomes all about stealth. If you hate stealth games with a passion, it is quite likely where you will quit this game because you have to be very patient and take you time as one hit from a enemy will kill you. You can be spotted and run away to avoid detection but sometimes it’s just easier to restart the section. These sections generally are pretty simple and lack depth, usually there is only one way to reach the area you need to get through. This could be wearing a disguise or using items to incapacitate guards or distract them. To the credit of the game there as some unique elements added to the stealth sections. For starters wearing a disguise still makes guards suspicious, they will usually ask you what you are doing. Running away leads to instant detection and pursuit from the guard. If you wait they will ask you a question which is usually who you are or what you are doing. You are then given multiple answers to choose from. Choosing the correct answer means they will no longer be suspicious, one answer makes them suspicious but they will leave you alone and the last one makes them instantly detect and attack you. It is a nice unexpected surprise the first time it happens adding to the tension of getting caught. Another useful feature is you can view the map where enemies are located and end watch where they move in real time to plan your approach (similar to the Hitman series).
Shadow of Rome is also a very long game. Your first trip and probably your only trip will take up twenty plus hours of playtime. This is not a game you will burn through and it’s likely only the most determined gamer will even see this game to completion. You’ll be halted on several occasion’s by frustrating sections to the extent you may just want to throw your controller and even your poor PS2 out of the window. The best way to approach this game is with small play sessions over a year. It has to be said though once you do reach the end it is one of the most satisfying experiences in gaming. Should you want to replay the game you can re start your playthrough on the same or increased difficulty with everything you unlocked on the previous playthrough.
Overall, Shadow of Rome is a great game to play. The combat is fun and the stealth sections are tolerable and the graphics and setting of the game are unlike most games out there even today. However, once the difficulty starts to ramp up and the stealth sections start to drag and arena sections become increasingly more frustrating you may question if it is worth continuing the rest of your playthrough. But should you see this game right to the end you deserve a place in the hall of gamers with Caesars finest right next to statues of TreesLounge, Spydersvenom, and myself.
Final Score: 3 out of 5 (Review Score Policy)
Between Mega Man games Inafune and a team from Capcom made a hybrid action/stealth title for the PS2 that re-created solving the murder of Julius Caesar. It released in February 2005, just one month before God of War, and provided one of the funniest, craziest, and most challenging game clubs we’ve tackled to date. Join Fred, Jam, and special guest Trees from EZMU as they conquer Shadow of Rome.
This week we are tackling quite possibly the two most popular titles of survival horror: Resident Evil 2 and Silent Hill 2. Resident Evil 2 was scrapped only a few months before completion and completely redone, resulting in many of the staples that carried the franchise forward and stands as a fan favorite. Meanwhile Silent Hill 2 waited until the Playstation 2 hit the market and with one of the creepiest atmospheres of all times redefined what horror gaming could be. We openly discuss the notable aspects of both.
Yakuza is a series that has always been semi-labeled the “GTA of the East”, which even before we played it we knew wasn’t accurate. In fact, this hidden gem is an action-heavy brawler with great cinematic effect and detailed nuance to things like body language and facial features. We tackle the original PS2 title from Sega that spawned one of the most successful series for the company.
So after already saving the world in the first Buffy game on the Original Xbox, I was curious when the apocalypse beeped me for the sequel. My main interest was to see how the creators did and if they were able to improve on the issues of the first game. Developed by Eurocom, these guys had their work cut out for them as not only was this game released just a year after the Xbox exclusive, it was also multiplatform released on PS2, Gamecube and Xbox in 2003. Lets cut to the chase and find out if this game was doomed to the hellmouth or was it everything Buffy fans wanted?
Chaos Bleeds is set during season 5 of the TV series and is actually believed to be based on a lost episode of the show. This time the big bad is “The First” – anyone familiar with the TV show will know this nasty. The basic storyline is: The First has a bet with Ethan Rayne (another popular bad guy-who worships chaos) and they must each summon five heroes or villains to fight it out. The winner of the bet gets the ultimate prize of a nice little condo overlooking the sea. Naturally Ethan goes for Buffy and her Scooby gang, except they want to find a way to destroy The First so at present no one can win the bet. Once again the story is engaging and certainly feels like it could exist in the same universe as the TV show. It’s just a shame that much of the plot is ruined by some bad voice acting, but we’ll come onto that later.
As well as playing fan favorite Buffy, this time you control a whopping six characters throughout the campaign: Willow, Xander, Faith, Spike and Sid the dummy – who incidentally was only in season one for a single episode, but sure why not. While it was a nice idea to have you playing as other protagonists, there is little variation in the way each one controls. It really takes you out of the experience when Xander is just as strong as Buffy, but combat is switched up with Willow casting spells and Sid the dummy being small but not very combat savvy. There was an opportunity here to create a more unique experience for each character, such as a stealthier approach for Xander, but sadly that’s not the case.
The graphical style in some ways feels improved, the death animations of the vampires look really good this time around with added extra bones, however in another more prominent way the graphics also fail to hold up. A lot of the models for key characters appear off and don’t resemble a believable likeness to the actors. The game once again features areas from the TV series, but they just don’t seem quite right in comparison to the show. One little gesture of credit has to go to the developers who thought to put posters of films Josh Whedon had written like Alien Resurrection and Titan A.E in the Sunnydale cinema. This was possibly my favorite part of the game and a great bonus.
To the games credit they trim the awful platforming segments from the original game down to two segments. Instead, we get these small puzzle sections where you’ll quite often find yourself backtracking through levels to find certain items to complete. Along the way you will also have to check everything, as it’s never clear what can and cannot be interacted with. While doing your backtracking enemies will infinitely respawn making each segment more frustrating and an added obstacle this title could have easily done without. One major improvement is the game features checkpoints during levels which are reasonable and not too far apart.
Combat seems to be a lot easier than the original, but also similar in that you just beat up the bad guys a bit and stake them. Staking the bad guys has also been made a lot easier with the use of a single button. Even if you have another weapon equipped a press of L1 (left trigger on Xbox) will automatically switch to the stake and go for the heart. A lot of the times it will look like your character stakes the enemy somewhere else like the leg, but it still seems to kill them – kinda weird but apparently gets the job done. This even works for any other enemy, whereas before you’d just punch them till they died. Instead of throwing a few enemies at you, the game decides to just bombard you with enemies back to back. This makes it comes across as very cluttered especially when vampires, werewolves, demons and zombies seem to be teaming up to take you down. It gets boring pretty quickly and only suits to prolong the game experience; in this case the term “less is more” feels appropriate.
Chaos Bleeds also features a generous amount of boss battles and all the boss characters are infamous villains from the TV show. Most are pretty decent and require a little thought to conquer, however some go for the whole “lets throw tons of enemies at you while you are trying to do something important.” This leads to cheap deaths and game rage. Bizarrely, I found the final boss encounter in the game to be way too easy and possibly the easiest fight in the whole game. It’s almost as if the developers just gave up at the end. Even the end cut scene itself seemed pretty anti climatic, especially when you look back at the original.
The voice acting is a mixed bag. Giselle Loren once again fills in for Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy and a lot of the actual TV cast also lend their voice talent to the game. One huge mistake is the voice actor for Willow: Kari Wahlgren. I guess she tries to catch that nervous Willow feel from the show but instead comes across as really irritating and oddly sexually charged. If Willow didn’t talk much it would be easy to ignore but for some reason she is given a lot of dialogue and it just doesn’t work. This probably wouldn’t sit well with fans of the character in the TV show, especially since the Willow in series five has come into her own. The writers made the right move in reducing the repetitive puns from the first game but instead replace it with dialogue that occasionally just doesn’t fit to the scene.
Music is pretty forgettable in the game. The infamous theme is featured in the main menu but you aren’t treated to an awesome montage this time around. Occasionally through the game you would hear memorable scores from the TV show but not much else. The sound effects are ok, but the best part is still staking the vampires which gives the familiar death scream from the show.
The single player game will probably keep you busy for just over ten hours of game time and there’s only one difficulty setting. It’s not too difficult, though I recommend playing this in short gaming bursts due to the areas of frustration mentioned earlier. Once you’re done you probably won’t ever play this again unless you want to go back and search for every secret. There is also a multiplayer for up to four people and a couple of game modes like survival and bunny catcher, but I really didn’t give much time to this. What modes I did play came across as random and maybe something you would bring out at a gaming party for a bit of fun, somewhat similar to bringing out a bad film to watch with friends just to laugh at it.
Overall, I guess Eurocom did an impressive job making three ports of the game in a very short period of time. The sad part is the game feels like it could be something so much more with polish and a bit more time. What we have instead though, is a game with a decent story but cringe worthy voice acting. Gamplay elements have been improved from the original but have been substituted for many more problems which is a shame. Hardcore Buffy fans will look through the errors and play this game anyway for everyone else, this game just doesn’t seem to hold up not even in a guilty pleasure way.
Now-what is left to say but…Grrr-Aaarrg.
Final Score: 2 out of 5 stars
As I was looking into doing a history on this fantastic studio I came upon an excellent reference that was so good there’s no point in me doing one. While it’s easy to rag on big media conglomerates, IGN’s Mitch Dyer did a fantastic story of the origins of Ubisoft Montreal that includes stories of Splinter Cell‘s origin, the reinvention of Prince of Persia, and the visual treat that is Far Cry. It’s a fascinating story that documents the major franchises you can thank that studio for and a must read for gaming history buffs like ourselves. Head on over and check out House of Dreams: The Ubisoft Montreal Story when you can.