Category Archives: GAMER SHIZZ

CULT GEMS – “WING COMMANDER 3&4”

 

Back in the early days of CGI, basically the hey day of the 90s, when pogs were actually a thing, there was sub-genre of video games which utilized long form CGI sequences and mouse-click room navigation intercut with action/battle simulators. It was a relatively forgettable and not entirely dissimilar from the engines that drove classic such as MYST and FANTASMAGORIA. From the long-forgotten deck of the digital past comes an oft-forgotten gem known as Wing Commander. The series began as a straight space battle sim, then by the third entry had started to include the aforementioned CGI sequences. What also began with Wing Commander 3(1994) was the inclusion of a coherent storyline as well as some star power to back it up. Mark Hamill, John Rhys-Davies, Malcolm McDowell and Tom Wilson(better known to most as Biff Tannen the Back to the Future trilogy) all joined up and the result was a great little sci-fi story with some fun, if repetitive, battle sims. Wing Commander 4(1996) would come out soon after with Hamill, McDowell and Wilson reprising their roles(and hamming it the f*** up), as well as several newcomers like cult favs Mark Dacascos(Brotherhood of the Wolf), Casper Van Dien(Starship Troopers) and Robert Russler(Nightmare On Elm Street 2 & Weird Science) to say nothing of soon-to-be Emmy-winner John Spencer(Leo McGarry from Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing). The story is much improved over part 3, and Russler makes a compelling foil to Hamill’s cocky sky-jocky. It’s worth finding playthroughs on youtube just to watch Hamill trade barbs with Wilson and match wits with Spencer, Russler and McDowell. Its pure cheese mostly and not entirely dissimilar from a Sci-Fi Channel film of the mid-90s, especially with it’s lackluster, hokey VFX. STILL, highly recommended by our staff for the retro game enthusiast of the 90’s, sci-fi deep cut needs, or if you just have amaze-balls cult creedo.

KEEP IT CULT.

TRUE HORROR

Fear doesn’t come easy these days.

Lost in the cacophony of direct-to-video dreck and exploitative and derivative muck that fills the horror landscape these days are the rare moments when true horror can be seen. Gore is not horror. Jump scares are not horror. Horror, at it’s base level, challenges our sense of security, not by appealing to our internal revulsion or ability to be startled, but rather from forcing us to confront ideas, visuals and moments that threaten us at the most core level. Fear is subjective, and almost impossible to quantify. The classic film, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE was, especially for the time, a groundbreaking assault on the audience. Shocking images and jump scares were employed but not depended upon the way modern horror does. It made us question the creepy gas station attendant, the friendly hitchkiker, the road trip, the good ol’ country home. Much like the works of Stephen King, pure horror is often achieved by subverting the things we feel safe with, turning them away from the iconography of our happiness and security, and forcing them into the areas of our subconscious that we have saved for those creeping terrors that activate our basic need to survive. Fight or flight.

But this is a dying art. Modern “Torture Porn”(i.e. SAW, HOUSE OF 1,000 CORPSES, etc.) along with the proliferation of the jump scare, has led a largely jaded and cynical movie-going public into the incorrect belief that revulsion and panic are synonymous with fear. While they can certainly function as corollaries to fear, unskilled directors and horror producers use these techniques to a fault, missing the essence of what was truly great about this genre to begin with. To know too much of what’s happening in a story as an audience is to diffuse questions we have that accent the fear that creeps to us from the silver screen. Michael Myers wasn’t scary because he had a big knife or a scary mask. It was because we didn’t understand him. Fear is usually born from ignorance, and horror masters of the past knew how to exploit this to great effect. Michael Myer’s was scary because e didn’t understand him, didn’t know where he would come from next, and never knew if he was really done coming for us. This was further enhanced by subverting our sense of safety, in this case, small town living, or of being safe under the care of a guardian.

True horror is rare these days. But every once in while, the essence of horror and what drives us to it can be found in all it’s glory, hiding in the tall grass, just waiting to surprise us from the most unlikely of sources. Which brings us to Resident Evil. A staple of the survival horror genre, the series has arguably been slipping further and further from the classification “survival horror” immediately following the original. Which still great, Resident Evil 2 was a departure from horror and focused more on action and puzzles to entertain. Resident Evil 4 moved the series even further away, using the horror elements simply to facilitate the action of the game. “Resi 5”, as fans are want to call it, was barely survival horror and “Resi 6” was just……well, not that great and seemed to mark a low point in the series.

Which is what makes the fact that Resident Evil 7 is, by all accounts, the most frightening piece of horror media to come out in the last decade, so surprising. Taking cues from such genre classics as TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, THE RING, MOTEL HELL and NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD(just to name a few), this game has everything we want from horror, employing tropes such as the disturbed family, the lost loved one and even “found footage” to maximum effect. We don’t spoil or discuss the plot specifics of games on this site, but we can say, you play as Ethan, a man looking for his lost wife in the backwood swaps of Louisiana at the infamous Baker estate, known for it’s bloody and mysterious past. Done in first-person, this game throws you right into the chaos from the outset, and manages to consistently ratchet up the intensity and difficulty, keeping you in a perpetual state of tension and fear. Resources are scarce, the imagery disturbing without being overtly gory, and the pacing is pure rollercoaster. It never let’s up. Look for a full spoiler review in the coming months. But for now, just get your ass to the local Gamestop and get a copy NOW.

And KEEP IT CULT

SAVING FRAMES AND KILLING ANIMALS

Every year, Games Done Quick, in conjunction with Twitch TV, sponsor two events which showcase the current record holding runs by competitive speed-run enthusiasts. Translation, twice a year we get a chance to watch our favorite old games get glitched up, bugged out and utterly demolished by speed runners, guys who try to make it to the end of the game in the least amount of time. Retro classics have programming bugs and skips the developers never intended which the runners exploit to ensure the shortest time possible. Running Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time in less than half an hour? No PROBLEM!! These guys measure frame loss, which is to say they worry about losing time in terms of 1/24ths of a second. That’s pretty hardcore even for a gamer. Over the period of a week, Twitch TV, a live streaming site for speed runnners and their rabid fan base(yes indeed, and they are legion), works with various other sponsors to raise money for a just cause, Doctors Without Borders and Prevent Cancer for example. During this week, people donate for various prizes and to have the speed runners try to hit certain criteria during runs. Maybe have the filename be the name of your just born baby girl? The most common donation relates to the Super Metroid speedrun that is a staple of the events, where at the end of the game the runner can choose to either save or, for the sake of saving time, let the animals die. People spend anywhere between $25,000 and $50,00 in total to sway the outcome of this vote. Sometimes the money causes the anmals doom, sometimes they are spared. Nerdy as f***, yes, but the money goes to a good cause and people have a blast.

Sporting different titles, Awesome Games Done Quick, or AGDQ is generally held in January of each year and Summer Games Done Quick, or SGDQ is held in July. For nerds, it’s like the NBA Finals of competitive video gaming, while admittedly more of an exhibition. Not always, as is the case when four runners try to race to the finish from the start screen of Megaman 2 on NES. It is shockingly more fun and watchable than one might expect. And it’s happening right now!! Livestreams are available at Twitch TV and on YouTube. You’ll either move right on or be hooked in an instant, depending on how much nostalgia you have for retro gaming. For us at Facecon.org, we are currently glued to the livestream and will come up for air on Sunday when the event is finished. Gotta go watch someone run Silent Hill 4!

Stepping INSIDE…

I’m at a point in my life where it’s difficult to find a game that will get its hooks in me.  I can’t seem to get into overly complex 100+ hour epic adventures. If it’s not a simple formula with match-based gameplay that’s easy to drop in and out, I seem to need short unique experiences.  When I saw the trailer for this game, it caught me off guard. Playdead, developers of one of last generations best short unique experiences, LIMBO, was working on a new game that had flew under the radar for me.  They created a follow-up to one of the most intriguing, thought provoking games of the past 8 years.  And while I don’t have an Xbox ONE, the decision to throw $20 at Steam for another such experience was no difficult decision.

 

INSIDE becomes one of those games that would give a 90’s kid nostalgic feelings.  There’s no narration, spoken word, or text dialog.  Old school Nintendo games would force you to use your observation and imagination to figure out what was going on.  The game loads and drops you in with only one thing to do, move forward.  Even the menu is overly simple.  As you progress, the environments and activity that occurs begin to tell you a story.  The story is vague, but also so carefully done creates a sense of intrigue that I haven’t experiences since Journey.  For me personally, I love stories that keep mystique by giving only a small perspective into what is obviously great events.  Comparisons that come to mind are The Mist, Jericho, Cloverfield, and Half Life.

 

There’s not a lot I can tell you about the game mechanics.  On the surface, this is a puzzle-platformer; you run, jump, and interact with objects like crates and door latches to complete puzzles to advance through the game.  People who have played LIMBO will find this very similar but with easier difficulty.  I don’t know if that was by design or because of better design but I remember getting stuck in LIMBO (no pun intended) frequently in the final 3rd of the game either because the puzzle was difficult or once the solution was found it was just difficult to execute the platforming.  I never felt this way with INSIDE, which created a real urgency for me to press on and see more.  LIMBO was as beautiful of a game as you can create with a blackand white color palate.  INSIDE adds to the color palate as well as dimension.  This gives a more opportunity for scenes to create tension as well as adds a sense of scale that helps create mystery.

 

This review is short.  There’s tons that I want to talk about.  But more important than you finding out from me, is that you experience it for yourself. Play.  This.  Game.  There’s not much excuse not to, it’s a compact, simple, fun, mysterious journey. Borrow an Xbox or get it on Steam.  The controls are so simple you could play the entire thing on a keyboard.  Such a powerful 3.5 hour experience, this game will have you thinking about it when you’re done.  Not in the way you started seeing skateboarding lines because of Tony Hawk or started grabbing bobby pins because of Fallout or started running to work with a knife because it got you there quicker due to Counter-Strike.  INSIDE will leave you wondering, “What the hell just happened?”

ROCKET LEAGUE REVIEW

THIS ARTICLE WAS SUBMITTED BY OUR OWN BADASS GAME CRITIC, TRAVIS M.

Rocket League is the successor or sequel to a last gen game so horribly named Super-Sonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle Cars. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this based on the title and the tutorial was so slow moving that I never even reached the gameplay before I gave up on it. Thank goodness I didn’t make that mistake with Rocket League. Rocket League was a free game for the month of July for Playstation Plus members. Deciding that I had enough of the tutorial from the previous game, I jumped right in. I would recommend the same approach to anyone picking up this game for the first time because if you’ve played ANY racer, you have enough of a handle on how to control your RC-type vehicle in Rocket League to jump into your first match. R2 to accelerate and left stick to steer. This is all you need to be hooked from the first go. There is are obviously more to it, but that’s the beauty. Rocket League nails so many video game formulas right on the head that it can become hours of endless matches. The first formula being easy to access, difficult to master.

In a shell, Rocket League is a soccer game with an oversized ball and undersized RC cars to put said ball into the opponent’s goal. The arenas are set up in a way that the action only stops in the event of a score, with recessed goals and quarter pipe sidelines and baselines the ball is always in play. You have various moves to help you navigate the ball from front flips to barrel rolls and even bicycle hits. The physics of Rocket League, with the help of the Unreal Engine, are so finely tuned that executing a perfect hit on the ball is not all that difficult, yet rewarding. Get reckless, and you can miss the ball entirely. It quickly becomes a game of angles and physics which makes me think of why I enjoy billiards, Peggle, and Portal so much.

Visuals in the game are excellent. The arenas are vast and stunning. The grass moves like each individual blade was placed in a specific spot. There are visual aids that not only look good but serve purpose. The ball will move with tracers indicating not only direction, but rotation, speed and which team applied the hit. Push the ball through the plain of the goal and the portion inside looks like it’s being absorbed by white noise in a TV. Once all the way through, the ball will explode, sending nearby cars careening back toward mid-field. This is followed by a replay which takes great angles, smartly includes assists if applicable and slow-mo’s for the shot on goal.

Speaking of shot on goal, any shot on goal if missed will net you some XP. You’ll earn XP most obviously for goals but another way that Rocket League make you feel rewarded is for showing you XP earned for things like saves, clearing the ball from in front of you goal, assists, centering the ball in front of your opponents goal, and even pulling cool maneuvers such as bicycle hits and aerial hits. XP is only used to unlock visual upgrades to make your car uniquely yours. There are no tangible advantages such as speed, boost, jump height, which can be upgraded. The physics of every car you can choose which range from a lambo to Sweetooth’s ice cream truck all behave the same. This makes the game very much about my skill vs your skill with nothing regarding the time you put in equating to a “stats” based advantage. This also lends to the first formula, in keeping online matches fun for beginners.

Matches can be 1v1, 2v2, 3v3, or 4v4. 4v4 being most appropriately named “CHAOS”. Online bugs have been mostly worked out with the use of dedicated servers. Rocket League is also cross-platform/cross-online with PC via PSYNET. This helps to keep the servers full and matches going. 16 quick access statements help you communicate with your team, or both teams on the fly. From “I got it” to “#@!$”, you can tell your team or the opponent “Nice shot” or “Great Pass”. Bots will drop in seamlessly when a player leaves if another player is not immediately found, which you should pay attention to. You can play online aggressively or conservatively, but the best strategy is to assess your opponent’s skill level first keeping an eye on the tactics the employ and/or their accuracy. From there you can guard like hell or play with reckless abandon, but once bots drop in, keep in mind that robot’s methods may vary but they are always are accurate.

Easy to pick up, difficult to master, awesome visuals, rewarding system and gameplay, responsive controls and physics, and functional online all make Rocket League an enjoyable time that’s tough to put down.