Category Archives: Featured
Imagine the distant future of the year 2007. The second Vietnam War has ended with a scorched earth policy. America has nuked Canada to end the war, and now the cleanup has begun. The post-war economy is boom-bust. Why use a VHS when a disc can hold twice as much data? Why send a letter when an e-mail can make its way halfway across the world in less than 30 minutes? Why recruit soldiers when you can just resurrect the ones who died in the field?
At the start of April I noticed a special offer sale for Poker Night at the Inventory and its sequel, Poker Night 2. Aside from the shorter name what caught my interest are the characters who would be entertaining us during the game this time. We would have Brock Sampson (from the Venture Bros Series), Claptrap (From Borderlands 2), Ashley Williams (From The Evil Dead) and Sam (From Sam and Max), with Glados acting as the Dealer. While waiting for Poker Night 2 I decided to play as much of Poker Night at the Inventory as possible and I was pleasantly surprised. The humour was rich and interesting, the inter-changeable decks, table covers and chips added something interesting to the game, and the random occasional rewards spiced things up for my Team Fortress 2 account. I had one major issue with Poker Night at the Inventory, and that would be the surprising Hardware strain on my Laptop. I was armed with similar expectations when I finally entered Poker Night 2, and I was very pleasantly surprised.
Bioshock: Infinite is the third hit from Irrational Games, and frankly the weakest of the three. I know saying that has just ignited a lynch mob and is bound to fill the comment section with people screaming STFU, but please hear me out.
I acknowledge wholeheartedly that Irrational has created a sweeping experience that slowly carries the player from a place of ignorance to one of enlightenment. It’s a long series of carefully placed clues intertwined with a satisfying story to bring us to the story’s twist (just as there was in Bioshock). And we as players get so bent on looking for and anticipating that moment of revelation that we’re willing to forgive and forget a lot, but it has to be said that the experience Bioshock: Infinite presents is simply not as solid as its forebears.
First, I’ll sing the game’s praises and hopefully tiptoe through the explanation of its weakpoints without giving away any spoilers. So allow me to give a stream of consciousness regarding my first few moments playing.
RAGE at paid day 1 DLC. I already paid a fucking arm and leg for the game, Xbox, and TV. I’m not throwing more money out for the DLC, Xbox Live, and internet when there was no reason other than greed on earth, heaven, and in hell for this business practice—Wow, cool music video! Fuck the season pass store! Rowing, rowing, rowing, learning I’m playing as Booker Dewitt, an ex-cavalryman who served at Wounded Knee. Being talked about like I’m not there by a couple of bickering Brits. Now I’m being stranded. Now I’m reading a threatening note from a creditor that can’t possibly have been placed in such a remote area by anyone other than an inhabitant. Find religious tripe. Repeatedly. Then, oh blue fucking Jesus, a man’s been tortured to death…which I suppose is historically appropriate for religion too. Alright, stuffed into a rocket, then shot into the sky—Where I find the sublime dream of an America that never was in gold, white, and blue. Is this heaven? Crap. They’re all Christian fanatics and I’m seeing triptychs and iconography reminding me of a combination of several cults and architecture pulled from major churches of the Latter Day Saints… This won’t end well.
Columbia, the city in the sky, is a metaphor (both in the glories presented and the evils hidden) of a society governed entirely by a unified religion. It’s a metaphor for the promised land that was the American Dream, and our character is a metaphor for the lowly immigrant who ventures across dangerous waters and uncertain circumstances for the hope that the dream is a reality. It contrasts sharply with Rapture from Bioshock, a forward thinking society that had cast out all religion. The subtext of Columbia, whether implied or just plain unavoidable, is that adherence to any one creed in word and not in deed brings about the same earthly evils as any society with or without a religion. The joke whose intentions I’m still questioning is that adhering to any creed in deed will bring about horrors of a different but equally terrible nature. It maintains both capitalist and segregationist overtones while presenting its citizens in a fashion that I think qualifies as uncanny valley.
Unlike in Bioshock, where you arrive to find Rapture already in ruin and are left to piece together in your mind the splendor of yesteryear, Columbia is filled with living, breathing citizens. They say a few words as you pass by. But you can’t respond. And their mood is both so peaceful and bland (reminding me of the Eloi from The Time Machine) that you realize the entire city (with its peoples) is based on The American Adventure pavilion at Epcot Center. There’s even an homage to it with an animatronic George Washington at the floating boardwalk. That in itself could be enough of a hook to pull us in. Sadly, it doesn’t really go anywhere. They all simply disappear when the shooting starts. There are no murmurs of dissent or slowly changing popular opinion as the game progresses and the city spirals further into dystopian ruin. It’s simply a stage early in the game that’s just as easily forgotten, and to match as gripping an experience as the first Bioshock requires that each element of the story and stage of the game lock together to create a tapestry that flows and moves, each piece of the utmost important to the whole.
That doesn’t happen here. You run across segregationists and ant-segregationists, and just leave them as you found them. The same with a floating version of the Ku Klux Klan that hails John Wilkes Booth as the slayer of the Great Tyrant. You are pulled in as a sort of Anti-Christ figure in their religious mythology, but you’re never given a choice. And since one of the major themes in Bioshock: Infinite centers around the choices we make and their consequences, being railroaded throughout the game just doesn’t make any sense. You are presented with a macrocosm of ideas, possibilities, and ideologies, but have only one way of doing things.
Take for example theft. There are areas in the game where you are guilty of theft and attacked if you pick up things off the ground. In other areas it’s considered scavenging and perfectly fine. I would happily pay for the items rather than steal them, but I’m not given the option. So I’ve gotta be branded a thief and kill a bunch of people unnecessarily.
On the other hand, I have many options when it comes to using my Vigors, Columbia’s version of Rapture’s plasmids. But I only use whichever one I currently have equipped since they all pretty much do the same thing. I can fling them directly at the enemy or use them as booby traps, firing with my gun all the while.
Gameplay in Bioshock: Infinite is diminished due to a lack of strategy. Your enemies all have guns. They shoot at you. That’s it. In Rapture my enemies were armed, unarmed, acrobatic, heavily-armored, navigating a maze of ruined art deco buildings and half-flooded apartments. My ammo was limited and my plasmids at best put me on even terms with the enemy. I had to hack cameras, turrets, and other gadgets and take advantage of semi-destructible environmental items to stay a step ahead of the hordes of crazies who wanted to use my skin as a dressing gown. Here I frequent a lot of docks and loading bays and shoot a lot of people screaming prayers, which is what people tend to scream when you’re walking around shooting at random. There’s no strategy. No puzzle-solving. And no story engagement since I don’t ever identify or get to know my enemies. In Rapture I almost pitied the psychotic splicers who had been driven over the edge of sanity by their own warped science.
The only time Bioshock: Infinite breaks from this mold is when you take the skyrails, mixing high-flying rollercoasters with shooting in a fashion I think was done first in the film Zombieland. Still fun as all get out, though. I restarted several times just to play the skyrails over again.
Since Vigors are not used to their full potential, there needs to be a game-changing element here. That element, or so I thought for the first half-hour, was Elizabeth, the quasi-dimensional Tails to your silent and repetitive Sonic. This is the closest to puzzle-solving that you run across. Elizabeth can open portals to other dimensions. She brings you money, salts, and ammunition. And she can even bring into this reality objects and architecture from other realities. But why, if we’re looking at an infinite number of outrageous possibilities, does this boil down to sentry turrets and skyhooks? A year before Bioshock: Infinite was released, Irrational claimed that Elizabeth would be doing crazy things like dropping freight trains onto enemy’s heads and knocking down walls with speeding firetrucks popping out of thin air. They’re working with quantum mechanics and postulating the infinite universes theory here. They could literally pull from anything their sick, twisted little imaginations come up with, and the best they can do is sentry turrets? That’s throwing pearls before swine!
The graphics are breathtaking, and Bioshock: Infinite modulates the mood impeccably, especially when it has a nasty surprise in store, but there are thematic inconsistencies which taint what would otherwise be a satisfying experience. In Rapture, their entire society was based on casting aside their past and full steam ahead to a bright, unfettered future. That future came in the form of plasmids: a substance which could change your genetic makeup and give you unbelievable powers. Rapture’s rise, politics, economics, warring factions, and eventual downfall all revolved around plasmids. In Bioshock: Infinite, the presence of Vigors is not explained. They have no demonstrable impact on society. What’s worse, considering how hidebound and traditional Columbia’s society is, gamechanging elements such as Vigors should’ve been eschewed. Throw in quantum physics, religion, ancestor worship, capitalism, segregation, and there is, in other words, no singular lore to which Bioshock: Infinite ascribes in order to maintain a tight, cohesive world. Your storyline might move along quickly, but in order to plant the seeds of doubt in the player’s mind which anticipates the inevitable twist it sacrifices substance for glitz. Your voxophones, which are recordings you pick up that are meant to give you a greater scope of the world you find yourself in, only encompass a few main characters rather than helping to give the player a grassroots perspective of the situation.
Make no mistake; Bioshock: Infinite does many things well. The voice-overs and dialogue are toe-curlingly good. The character designs are tight. Animations flow believably. The storyline as a whole is radically different from the norm. It will be very hard for any newcomers to take the title from what’s rapidly shaping up to be game of the year. But it doesn’t top the original Bioshock.
And it makes you think in a bad way. While Bioshock made you spend a quiet afternoon pondering hidden meanings, Bioshock: Infinite will have you pounding your head against a wall trying to make sense out of pieces that don’t comfortably fit.
Lampoons our own preconceived notions of America.
|Cons:||Combat becomes repetitive. |
No unifying theme.
Elizabeth is a resource squandered.
|Game producer's website:||Irrational Games|
|Official website:||Bioshock: Infinite|
|Game available at:|
Some time ago I stumbled upon a small Steam offer for a game called Cart Life. I was hungry, at the time, for a decent Economic Simulation and when the promise was that of playing a Cart Vendor, dealing in prices, supply and production, I was sold. What sold this game for me at this early stage was the price and it’s intriguing Indie look. I do not care about graphics at all, as long as they are functional or in some way eye catching. If we were to take a Triple-A release and compare it to Cart Life nobody would most likely take it seriously. I did, and after playing just fifteen minutes of this game I knew I hit a jackpot. Cart Life is not just a game about running your own Business. It’s about life, in an almost brutal nightmarish sense. There are reasons for that and I will explain them in as much details as plausible.
Lara Croft rises from the grave more often than the undead creatures whose tombs the little British minx just can’t seem to stop raiding. And, like all reclusive near-alcoholic failing authors with paradoxical inferiority and god complexes, I took my first step to manhood with a gander at Lara’s two rather boxy protuberances at chesticular height. It’s been close to fifteen years since Sir Mixalot sang about PILFs and liking big polygons, but it’s comforting to know some things never change in Tomb Raider: you’ll die at the drop of a hat.
As a child of the late eighties and early nineties, there are a few horror franchises which stick in my mind. Though I was probably too young to be exposed to them, and hence the nightmares, I recall such villains as Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, Pinhead, and the nameless xenomorph from Aliens. Somehow, knowing the nature of the creatures made them less dangerous. I could sleep at night because the horror of these abominations had been expounded upon and defined.
Except the alien. Its sheer otherness never ceased to send chills down my spine. I suspect it’s much the same with others, accounting for the massive fanbase which the Aliens franchise has maintained since 1979. At the arcade, it was always plain to see that the dark, brooding quality of the unknown xenomorph appealed to other gamers; the line was usually three nerds deep.
Aliens: Colonial Marines was first announced in 2001. It’s been quite a wait. And now that I’ve had a chance to play it, I know the nightmares that tormented my sleep have eased their way on ichorous talons into the waking world. And not in a good way.
Story: You play as USCM member Corporal Christopher Winter, a jarhead who is thawed out of cryostasis along with your task force on the Sephora. Your story takes place following the events of Aliens 3 and is considered official Aliens universe canon. A distress signal sent by an unknown Marine on the planet LV426, late of the USCM vessel Sulaco, claims the initial Marine contingent sent to LV426 to investigate allegations of a xenomorph infestation is entirely KIA. Once you begin to board the Sulaco, you and your fellow Marines find yourselves neck deep in it when you are attacked by Weyland-Yutani PMC mercenaries for (404 error: plot point not found).
With your own task force facing heavy casualties, you, your constant smartgunner companion O’Neil, and a few other survivors (despite there being hundreds of other Marines aboard the Sephora, you never see them) do what Marines do best and work to stay alive while being heavily outgunned by PMCs and hunted by the ever-present danger of xenomorphs. The shooting eventually takes you down to the surface of LV426 where you tread where the heroes of the film Aliens once trod in a vain attempt to make some sense of the situation.
For reasons never fully understood, your task force was lured to the surface of LV426, where the Weyland-Yutani corporation has set up shop and been studying the xenomorphs for their own cruel yet unexplained purposes.
And then you fight your way back onto a ship headed offworld, where the credits roll before you ever have a sense of just what the hell happened.
Twelve years ago, this game was first conceived of. Six years ago, it went into production. You’d think someone would’ve sat down and thought about how best to portray events to galvanize players. No clear antagonist is ever established. No genuine purpose for your task force being attacked is given. It’s like you’ve just been through a thriller film and it ends before that all important moment where the hero explains the plot linking apparently unrelated events into a coherent narrative.
Repeatedly throughout the game the spirit and bravado of the Marines is called upon as the driving force for mortal men and women to face death and barrel headlong into it with a dirty grin. You spend the entire game being given orders by your CO and working to survive with O’Neil, but not once do these characters ever become more than two-dimensional archetypes. You don’t know their history. You never interact in a meaningful way. Feats of heroism and sacrifice abound, but without the depth of humanistic qualities to give it all a reason, it passes by the player without inducing a single thought or genuine emotion. Millions of dollars and countless man hours were spent on this production, and it all amounts to the death of storytelling in video games.
Gameplay: In a word: terrible. What could be a survival horror masterpiece, facing the unknown terrors of the xenomorphs and the merciless onslaught of PMCs, constantly on the back foot, running, gunning, using your head, constantly a step away from death, amounts to a one-player version of Quake.
The AI is beyond trash. Xenomorphs, those needle-toothed deathbringers that terrified us on the silver screen, are reduced to zerg rushing players. They don’t use walls or ceilings. They don’t use camoflauge. They simply charge you on sight and allow you to gun them down en-masse, making for an enemy slightly less dangerous than the old-school zombies from Doom. And that’s in cases where they don’t get hung up on the environment or blip across the screen. PMCs, your only other enemy in the game, have got about the same level of skill, either running forward to blast you at close quarters or falling over themselves trying to turtle behind cover. They would be easy to overcome if the AI of your own allies weren’t as equally abysmal.
Dungeonland is a style of game I did not play before. Not in the sense of Dungeon Crawlers, but overall style. It is colorful, funny, silly, “simple” yet at the same time it can be very complex. One look at any screenshot from the game and you realise that among the different games where dungeons were dark, mysterious and unforgiving you end up with something that follows the same idea, but looks entirely different. It was not until I played the game with John that it became apparent that the style of gameplay was similar (if not exactly the same) to what we had in The Gauntlet. Before we go into the details let me just say that in the Dungeon Crawler Genre Dungeonland certainly adds a breeze of fresh air, not only with its aesthetics, but also the Dungeon Maestro Mode. While I might be spoiling the ending for you I consider this one of the most intriguing games I have played thus far.
Filmmaker George A. Romero is credited with, while not the first zombie film, the creation of the zombie survival and horror genre with his initial work Night of the Living Dead. This has been followed up with five sequels, each featuring another stage in society’s collapse under the onslaught of zombie plague, the standards of which he established as what is now widely accepted fact. Unlike other popular horror series, the zombie genre stands out as being deep and shallow in equal measure, relying less on a sense of fear in the viewer and more on a sense of despair in the face of shambling hordes. It works to drive home the notion that fighting death is futile, and those few survivors left on this wreck of a planet are on borrowed time. There’s also brain smashing.
Perhaps then it is surprising that all this subtext is incidental in the face of Romero’s original intention. He’s gone on record multiple times stating that zombies are just another way of expressing the consumerist mindset. Having worked retail and watched as shoppers shuffle from one rack to the next, wall-eyed, pawing at shit they don’t need, soiling themselves without batting an eyelid, and attacking others who aren’t like them with the intent of bringing them down to their subhuman level, I can only add that the difference is that you’re much more inclined to crush a shopper’s skull and leave a zombie to rot in peace.
You’ll find the same in The Walking Dead Episodes 1-5.
You might be thinking, “Where did the old Guide go?”. After countless hours of battling in Avatar Conquest I decided to revise the entire Guide, to include more Hints, Tips and useful knowledge, replacing, through trial and error, my previous conclusions from Shogun 2 with something fresh and much more complex. The aim of this Guide is to look at how you can defeat a Fall of the Samurai Army, in Avatar Conquest, with the use of Core Shogun 2 units (without any DLC or additional Expansion Units). While I am aware this is a difficult task it is by no means impossible. You simple need to consider your options, and then choose the one which is most likely to work. Let’s jump head-first into Shogun 2 Tradition vs Technology Warfare.
When exploring Steam you often stumble on that one game that catches your attention. You look at it for a long while, and even though it looks interesting you think to yourself, “But there are so many other titles to look at!”. That was the case with me and Don’t Starve. It was almost like a Tango, where we would keep passing each other on the different Sales, but my wallet would order me to look elsewhere. The game was not expensive, and the fact that you got two for the price of one should had rang some bells, but it did not, not until recently. A friend gifted it to me when I showed him a Live Stream of the game, and I planned on making a shared purchase. So, Merry Christmas Everybody! Well, maybe except for poor Wilson. A few things immediately surprised me about Don’t Starve. First of all, it’s overall size. There are many different games about, when I see a game on Steam however I have to check what I will have to throw away from my Disk this time around to accommodate the new purchase. Don’t Starve took up only 240 MBs. Project Zomboid also took under 200 MBs. What is my point? Both Don’t Starve and Project Zomboid while being “Small Games” on the Disk offer gigantic worlds, with plenty of content. Another important point, they both look good. Project Zomboid in its own gruesome way, but Don’t Starve is absolutely Gorgeous. What more is there to Don’t Starve? Let’s give it a crack.
For your information, this First Impression was released in December 2012, so it does not include all the awesome new stuff that were added to the game since then (such as Winter, more objects, more characters, more monsters, and a final “Victory” objective). So, if you are under a positive impression after reading this article multiple it by either 1.5 or 2, to get a good idea of how fun Don’t Starve is. I finished writing a “Survivor’s Journal” where I write about my recent attempt at Don’t Starve.