Archive for the ‘PS2’ Category
Traditionally horror and comedy are entwined, faithfully representing a laughable moment of relief to accompany the graphic depictions of death that follow. Although more rare, there is also room for comedy with horror elements and this week Fred and Jam are celebrating the games that get it right. From some of LucasArts classic hybrids to bikini clad samurai warriors, there’s no lack of hilarity in gaming for those not looking for a scare.
Console: Playstation 2, Xbox
Digital Release? Yes, PSN version compatible with PS3 for $9.99
Price: $15.65 (disc only), $23.99 (complete), $24.25 (sealed) per Price Charting
Project Zero (or Fatal Frame in America) is one of those horror series that has a small but dedicated fan base. It’s a horror game where you take pictures of ghosts to exorcise them. On paper, the game ticks all the boxes for a fresh and new design, but does it live up to its expectations?
The story entails a pretty typical horror cliché. You play a young girl (of course) named Miku Hinasaki heading into a dark scary mansion alone (as you do) looking for your brother Mafuyu who has gone missing. Of course the mansion is filled with a plentiful amount of disturbed souls and the only way to force them to rest in peace is to take pictures of them with an old antique camera called the “Camera Obscura.” As you venture through the mansion you discover more of the background story as to what is going on in this creepy place and there are various cutscenes regarding this. But the in-depth details to the tale are found in notes and diaries scattered around the game, which you can read at your leisure. Overall the story seemed hard to follow until the very end of the game where they tie up all of the loose ends – which is no pun intended should you be familiar with how this game concludes. Project Zero shares a similar tone to popular horror films like The Ring (Ringu) and The Grudge (Ju-On) especially with its use of girls with creepy long hair that covers their eyes. The game does seem to go for the obligatory jump scare a little too often to the extent it starts to become predictable (ex: “Oh I wonder if there is a ghost hiding behind this door, of course there is, but it’s okay it just wants me to take a picture”).
The game plays like most survival horror games in 3rd person perspective. You have the turret-like controls for your movement with the left analogue stick or d-pad and the right stick controls your flash light, which you can aim pretty much anywhere you want. Although this seems like a cool feature I rarely used it, unless it was just to mess about. The lighting effects from the torch (flashlight) though are great and deserve a mention. The main feature which makes this game stand out from the crowd is the antique camera. When a spook comes along you aim with the camera in a first person view by pressing O. In this view the idea is to keep the ghost in the frame while the camera charges up, pressing the X or R1 button takes an image and if taken properly causes damage to the ghost. The health of the ghoul is displayed in the top left corner of the first person screen. The game does a good job of introducing you to the mechanics of how the camera works – the jist of it seems to be wait for just the right moment, which is usually when the spirit pounces for you, to take the picture to deal the most damage. A meter on the camera will glow red for a split second when this opportunity arises, pulling off this “zero shot” will not only cause maximum damage but will push the ghoulie back. What you can do instead is shoot away gradually wearing the ghosts health down, the problem is this uses up your camera film which is in limited supply so timing the right moment is the key. You can swap out types of film into the camera which have better exorcism powers; think of it like a stronger weapon. These films are scattered around the mansion and are very limited. You can also upgrade the camera and use special abilities. To do this you need to use spirit orbs which you find in the mansion and at exorcism points that you accumulate by taking down the spooks.
Taking pictures and the ghost encounters are by far the most enjoyable part of the game. When you encounter a ghost, the majority of the time it will only be the one but the photo shoot will take some time. In the grand scheme of the game there really aren’t a lot of ghosts, either. However, game does a really good job of making every ghost encounter feel significant so it’s not as noticeable. You are encouraged to deal with every ghost you encounter and running away is not generally advised. Even though taking photos of the ghosts is the main highlight of the game, some encounters are incredibly challenging. If you don’t snap a picture of the ghosts correctly they will grab you (despite being a poltergeist), draining a large portion of your health. If the ghosts gets too close this usually throws you off and you have to run away, refocus the camera and try again. This process may repeat several times becoming very tedious. You are able to make very small movements with your character while in the first person perspective should you need to make fine adjustments, but these are not enough to flee. It is not uncommon for the game to present you with split second ghost attacks, which you have very little time to react to if you don’t see them coming. This type of design comes across as somewhat unfair, especially when you are already terrified enough by the setting of this game. Even on the standard difficulty the spirits do a ridiculous amount of damage and although health items are present in the game, like with the camera film they are in limited supply. Another interesting feature is the save rooms. Unlike in most survival horror games where the save area is considered a safe zone from enemies, in Project Zero ghosts can invade these areas and prevent you from saving unless you defeat them. It gives the impression that absolutely no where is safe in this game.
As well as snapping the spirits you will do quite a few puzzles in the game and this brings mixed results. Generally the puzzles in the game are not hard but its the frustration of knowing where to go to complete them. The most common type of puzzle in the game will require you to photograph a scene in the mansion to unlock a door. Sometimes you have to do a ridiculous amount of searching just to locate the image, which can become a pain. During this time you will probably be harassed by random ghost encounters on a consistent basis. It’s not always clear where you are supposed to go next in the game despite a map being available in your inventory, and sometimes backtracking through areas you just visited will fire off a cutscene to move the plot forward. All this wandering around makes the game feel slow and pretty boring.
Your trip through the mansion will be around eight hours the first time through, but this will sharply drop with multiple playthroughs once you have figured out where to go. You unlock a few additional features like extra costumes and harder difficulty modes, as well as those you gathered in your initial playthough if you want to go back in. What is interesting is there are not a lot of areas to explore in the game, but it seems to do a clever job of getting you to walk through the same areas again and again with different goals and puzzles. The graphics are top notch and the designers nail the setting of a creepy abandoned mansion. Ghost enemies are also particularly unnerving and certainly represent tortured souls (for example people that have been hung or a floating severed head) and although the game isn’t particularly gory there are quite a few scenes that will put some people on edge. The use of sound is a great horror experience. You will hear noises down the hall and your own footsteps on the floor board. Playing this game at night with headphones can be quite an uncomfortable experience, but it really adds to the immersion. Despite not a lot of music in the game, I have to give credit to the opening theme at the title screen, which stands out as a memorable piece.
Overall, I really had to let the game digest for a few days before I came up with a final review score. The picture taking is great fun, however the game can be hard and unforgiving at times. Certain ghosts prove particularly troublesome which may lead to some angry moments for the player and puzzles can also be incredible irritating as it has that “look at everything” approach. This game will certainly appeal to a very small niche audience and those who don’t like scary games will discard this game straight away. It will also not suit all survival horror fans, some including myself may even class this more as a horror game as opposed to survival horror. To the game’s credit it is very unique in design and ticks all the right boxes for a horror atmosphere and setting, which may explain why this series has a bigger fan following in Japan than over in the West. I personally found there was enough draw here to explore the games sequels but this is definitely not for everyone.
One thing is for sure, though, Project Zero, upon completion, is now plain Zero.
Final Score: 3 out of 5 (Review Policy)
This week Fred and Jam are discussing the Capcom series Ghosts’N Goblins (or Makaimura if you prefer). Easily one of the most punishing franchises ever created, the boys tackle the trials and tribulations of Sir Arthur on a never ending quest to save his girlfriend. Along the path he will traverse to various worlds, see terrible beings, and of course battle the many derivatives of the Devil.
And just for fun, have a video of me cussing out the original for two hours:
This week Fred and Jam feature special guest Vos5 to discuss the third installment of both the Resident Evil and the Silent Hill series. Where RE3 was more of a side story to try out new mechanics, Silent Hill 3 returned to its roots to be the official sequel for the original and maintained most of the gameplay mechanics. Both have high regards with the fans but are also shadowed by the more popular predecessors.
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.