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Outlast 2 Review

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Outlast 2 is a truly unsettling game.  No matter what you are doing at any one moment, there is sure to be something unpleasant about the situation, even when it’s more game design than content.  The follow-up to Red Barrels’ 2013 take on the horror genre demonstrates what you want out of a sequel by taking everything up a notch.  Along your path you will be jarred, challenged, see things you wish you hadn’t, and even feel helpless.  It also improves upon the flaws of the original and provides countless visuals that I fear may have made me more desensitized to brutal violence than ever before.  If you want controversial topics, this game has it in stride from the inhuman, to unthinkable tortures, and even a strong anti-religious undertone.   Then again, making you flinch is the entire point, isn’t it?

If Outlast was a haunted house, Outlast 2 is the spook walk.  The setting changes drastically, moving away from the confines of a lowly asylum and into Arizona’s Sonoran desert, where a married couple are investigating the mysterious murder of a young pregnant woman.  Things quickly escalate when their helicopter crashes and the wife, Lynn, goes missing and you take control of husband Jacob in search of her.  Where the original Outlast tended to use confined spaces to build tension, Outlast 2 thrives in large, open environments where you could find anything among the foliage from intense danger to nothing at all.  It truly becomes more of a stealth title than anything else and dare I say reminded me more of the first half of Call of Cthulhu Dark Corners of the Earth than anything else.  Rarely do you see the same scare or scenario play out, which is a welcome change from the redundancies I experienced in the original and kept me far more in focus.  The storyline baits you to keep moving forward more than anything else and your handy camera is no longer simply night vision but also a journal that documents the plot points along the way, which can be reviewed at any time.

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Written by Fred Rojas

April 24, 2017 at 2:00 pm

The Crow’s Eye Review

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A storm rages outside, the unsettled abandoned buildings keep making noises as they groan into settlement, and I’m alone with nothing but a lighter to guide me.  I turn a corner and gasp loudly.  It’s my worst nightmare: another box puzzle.  The Crow’s Eye is a crafted puzzle experience that doesn’t just focus on keeping your problem solving skills in check, it has ulterior motives.  Despite some design choices that can dissuade you from continuing the experience, there’s no denying that the world set before you has been carefully crafted and even comes with a story to compel you forward.

You play as a young man who awakens in the abandoned Crowswood Medical University, seemingly as part of someone’s twisted experiment.  It’s been nearly twenty years since the disappearance of four students ignited a massive investigation that saw several more people go missing until eventually the facility was shut down by faculty.  Now you wonder the halls of the abandoned buildings with nothing more than a lighter and the items you find in the environment as you attempt to overcome the challenges set forth by a sadistic puppet master.  It’s honestly a heck of a setup for what could have merely been a series of puzzle rooms thrown at you in succession and instead becomes a cohesive adventure.  If you look at these screen shots you may notice the game borrows some aesthetics and HUD elements from another popular first person franchise, but aside from the look the comparison stops there.  I’m actually okay with this given that it’s a sense of familiarity that invokes the same type of mindset without having to be told.  In that game I picked up audio logs and focused on any shiny piece of paper that could offer information vital to the story, and the same is true here without having to be given so much as a hint.  The way the story unfolds in these journals, letters, and well-acted audiologs is also commendable and assists in the atmosphere that’s critical to keeping you in tune with the story.  There’s no doubt that the world of The Crow’s Eye and the story embedded within it is quality, but you won’t be calling this a “walking simulator.”  It’s a puzzle game with some adventure elements.

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Written by Fred Rojas

March 20, 2017 at 12:00 pm

River City Ransom: Underground Review

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To appreciate River City Ransom: Underground it’s probably best you know about its predecessor, River City Ransom, which is a beloved NES title with a cult following.  A Western-localized version of Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari from Japan, Technos created a long-running series known best as “Kunio-kun” titles given that the lead, Kunio, appears in every game.  River City Ransom was the only action brawler in the series to make its way to the States and fans have been pining for another game in the series since the original premiered in 1990.  Since then Technos Japan has closed, been reborn as Million, and while Japan has received consistent releases over the past two decades there’s been almost nothing to show for it in the West.  That’s when Canadian-based developer Conatus Creative decided to acquire the rights to make a River City Ransom follow-up.  The result has finally arrived with River City Ransom: Underground proving that it is possible to make a sequel to a 20-year-old game and do a great job at it.  Those who remember playing the original alone or with a friend on the couch will be in for a treat, but if you’re hoping to utilize modern online gaming, this title is still a work in progress.

river_city_ransom_underground_1From start to finish the mechanics of River City Ransom: Underground are spot on.  The game acts as a direct sequel to the original and has an appropriate prologue set on re-establishing the two leads, Alex and Ryan, as they confront and defeat Slick on the school rooftop.  It’s much akin to the Dracula fight at the beginning of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night that re-hashes the battle from the end of Rondo of Blood.  Upon jumping into the present you are greeted with four new protagonists, each one with a distinct fighting style, and off you go.  You’re either a fan of the brawler genre – namely RenegadeDouble Dragon, and of course River City Ransom – or you’re not, which only bears mentioning because Underground is cut from that cloth.  Any criticism weighed against the genre applies to Underground as well, but beyond those caveats I must admit the single player campaign really has none.  It’s an ideal follow-up.

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Written by Fred Rojas

March 6, 2017 at 11:00 am

Perspective of a Retro Gamer: Resident Evil 7

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This series is basically a review of a modern game but with the context of a retro gamer visiting the present.  As such it does not contain a review score and often speaks to concepts and franchises from the past.  This article is spoiler free outside of what is revealed in trailers and public demos, which is why the screen shots are so vague.

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Resident Evil has had a rocky journey over the last five years, up to and including the “Beginning Hour” demo for this very title.  The comparison to P.T., Hideo Kojima’s “playable trailer” for Silent Hills that has since been canceled by Konami, is unmistakable.  I don’t know about the rest of you, but I don’t want my Silent Hill getting mixed into my Resident Evil, the two should remain mutually exclusive.  Couple that with the recent missteps of Resident Evil 6, my personal distaste for Revelations 2, and whatever goal Umbrella Corps. had, it wasn’t looking good.  I for one was also a bit worried about the hodgepodge of features thrown at this title including support for 4K resolution, PS4 Pro support, Playstation VR support, and HDR support on all platforms.  To my shock and awe, every bad indicator going into the release was without merit as Resident Evil 7: Biohazard demonstrates a return to form I have not felt since the remake of the original on GameCube in 2002.

resident_evil_7_eerieSet in an old farm house in Louisiana, you play as main protagonist Ethan in search of your girlfriend Mia, who went missing years ago.  Those that played through the “Beginning Hour” demo, especially if you caught the final “midnight edition” will find the opening scenes to be familiar but clearly re-engineered.  I like this touch and I feel it was necessary for how many times Capcom made us play that thing in hopes to figuring out what was with the dummy finger and several other mysteries from the last six months.  While it’s interesting to play through – not to mention the reward you receive for completing it with the good ending and the on-edge “kitchen” demo on Playstation VR – none of this is required if you’re just jumping into the main game.  It reminds me why I’ve always appreciated the original work Capcom did on the Resident Evil series.  Whether it was “arrange mode” in the original, the way the mansion was reworked in the remake, or even the drastic differences between the shack in the demo and the main game of Resident Evil 7, you won’t be able to guess what’s coming.  After that opening sequence you will descend into a literal house of horrors and beyond that kept me on the edge of my seat and thoroughly creeped out for a majority of the game’s 8-12 hour campaign.

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Written by Fred Rojas

February 7, 2017 at 3:00 pm

Sleeping Dogs Definitive Edition Review

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2016s Game Club selection may as well be renamed “Jam’s gaming bucket list” as the vast majority of the games we have played this year are titles I’ve been wanting to play for sometime but just haven’t got around to. I could use the easy excuse where I say I’m too lazy or too busy but I choose to go with the excuse that I was on a long and arduous quest to find twelve jade statues in order to prevent the end of the world by new year. Fortunately for myself and humanity I completed that quest, surprisingly in Sleeping Dogs as well and I’m able to finish off 2016 with my review of the game. All in a days work I guess.

sleeping_dogs_definitive_edition_1Sleeping Dogs is an open world game set in Hong Kong where you play as Wei Shen an undercover cop who is attempting to take down the Triads from the inside. Of course its not that easy for Wei. He soon becomes close with the gangs leading you as the player to question who Wei is truly loyal to. While the story is certainly serviceable and well acted by the voice cast I never felt completely invested. There are some emotional moments in the plot with key characters but the ultimate pay off seemed somewhat lackluster. With the game ending open ended and setting up for a sequel, is disappointing since United Front Games has now closed and the chances of seeing this sequel are very slim.

As with most sandbox games there is a mix of various gameplay styles. Sleeping Dogs main stand out feature is the hand to hand fighting system. Wei Shen is well versed in martial arts as is every bad guy in this game who you’ll usually take on in large groups. You can attack and counter in a system very similar to the infamous Batman Arkham games, although Sleeping Dogs appears to have its own rhythm to its fighting system. I found that you had to be very careful with your button presses to begin with. Once you got the games own rhythm down, I was quite capable even with the odds stacked largely against me, once I got to this stage I felt like Bruce Lee (insert broken table). You can also grapple enemies and maneuver them to create devastating environmental kills such as impaling guys on sword fish or smashing someone’s head into a urinal which reminds me of a fond scene from the film True Lies with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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Written by jamalais

January 5, 2017 at 11:00 am

Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth Review

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I remember the first time I read Call of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft.  I had come to it thanks to the Metallica song of the same name off the Ride the Lightning album, which intrigued me because the song had no lyrics despite being based off of a work of writing.  Some had touted it as a quintessential bit of horror fiction to rival even the strongest authors of today while others made the predictable claim that it was too disjointed from contemporary times to be relevant, let alone scary. I came away feeling a bit of both.  Much of the concepts of the work are for your head to create, but that’s also what made it so horrifying, it was indescribable.  Dark Corners of the Earth tries to bring an author and storyline that has dodged popular culture, widespread film, and of course video games for so long.  It’s one of the first instances where an interactive medium has attempted to bring Lovecraft’s world to life, no easy feat.  It’s not even based off of the main story Call of Cthulhu – although Lovecraft fans are used to the co-branding for various alternative works – but rather the novella The Shadow Over Innsmouth that details a town in New England that has isolated itself from the US.  Ultimately the town is inhabited by sea creatures and ancient beings, which is now brought to life with a twist in an unreliable narrator that wavers in sanity.  While Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth bites off a bit more than it can chew in overall design, not to mention the odd breaking point in the middle where it literally shifts genres, your ability to keep pace with it results in what could be one of the strongest horror video games of all time.

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Written by Fred Rojas

October 27, 2016 at 11:00 am

Retro Game Night 10/14/2016 – Vampire the Masquerade Bloodlines

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A title with a massive cult following, Vampire the Masquerade Bloodlines was plagued with bugs thanks to rushed development. Once it was finally patched to good working order, the game didn’t seem to play nice with Win7+ operating systems until a recent final patch came along that makes the game easy to run and play. You can find that patch here if you own the game on Steam or GoG: http://www.patches-scrolls.de/patch/4647

Fred jumps in, makes a character (Nosferatu), and proceeds to play the opening missions. This is a quick look to get a feel for the game and was originally broadcast on our Twitch channel. This is to become a regular series with a different class character as Fred discovers the intricacies of this forward thinking title.

***NOTE: I know I suck at the game and I know Nosferatu is not a good starting point if you’ve never played. This was discovered after the fact but clearly hinted while we broadcast. A new series of Let’s Play videos will be coming with a new character class.***

Written by Fred Rojas

October 17, 2016 at 3:00 pm

DoDonPachi Resurrection Review

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For whatever reason, the West gave up on the scrolling shooter genre back in the 90s.  Sure, games came and went after the 32-bit generation, but for the most part series that had existed for decades like GradiusDarius, and even R-Type ceased development.  In Japan, however, the shooter – sometimes called shoot-em-up or the divisive shorthand of shmup – has evolved along with new franchises and coveted developers.  Otaku, weeaboo (foreigners obsessed with Japanese culture), and shoot-em-up fans like myself remain aware and hungry for the new and challenging titles that come from the East.  Of those modern franchises, there are few developers more notable than Cave and there are few franchises more recognizable than DoDonPachi.  The name is a pun on both the literal meaning, angry leader bee, and the fact that “don” is onomatopoeia with bullet fire in Japanese.  The story is somewhat irrelevant at this point, mostly because we never saw a release of any of the DoDonPachi series outside of limited release in arcades, but suffice to say it revolves around fighting various human fighters under the control of a large bee set on world domination.  The “don” is fitting as well because your ship will be putting out literally hundreds of bullets every second and a sea of bright pink and blue bullet-fire will be coming back at you in retort.  This sub-genre is known as danmaku (“bullet hell”), which is a fitting name given the minute-by-minute gameplay.  Why does any of this matter?  Because we’re finally getting a Western release of DoDonPachi DaiFakkatsu (aka Resurrection) on Steam that is part of an impressive resurgence of the genre for this region.  DoDonPachi Resurrection is gorgeous, brutal, and feature packed to the point that both the veteran shooter fan and newcomers can find plenty to do and enjoy every potentially frustrating second.

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Written by Fred Rojas

October 13, 2016 at 11:00 am

Podcast: Call of Cthulhu Dark Corners of the Earth Game Club

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There is no writer quite like H.P. Lovecraft and there’s definitely not a whole lot of games like Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth.  A divisive title that is seen by some a tiresome game of pointless challenges while others revere it as the quintessential horror video game.  Fred and Jam delve into the design, development, and campaign of this unique horror title.


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Written by Fred Rojas

October 12, 2016 at 11:00 am

DoDonPachi Resurrection Quick Look

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DoDonPachi Resurrection will premiere on Steam October 14, a title previously exclusive to Japan.  Here Fred takes a look at the initial stages and describes basic gameplay.  This footage was captured at 4K/UHD resolution (3840×2160) and then downsampled to 1080p.

This quick look was originally posted on The B-Team Podcast (www.thebteampodcast.com) and have partial co-ownership with this site.  This is re-posted with permission.

Written by Fred Rojas

October 6, 2016 at 3:00 pm