Monday, 28 October 2013

My Top Five "Horror" Gaming Moments

Halloween. For many people it's their favourite day of the year - a chance to dress up as scarily as possible (or at least show a scary lack of imagination) or watch movies that make them jump out of their skin. For me, personally, as much as I like Halloween I'm not a huge fan of "horror" movies or such. Despite this, as a gamer I have found myself being scared, creeped out or simply unsettled by what I am playing. So, in celebration of Halloween I am going to recount my top five gaming "horror" moments.

Now, first of all this is a personal list and thus you may disagree that some of these even count as "scary". Second of all, as I mentioned I'm not a huge fan of horror so most of these are from non-horror games - as such, they are probably scarier for me within the context of the game. Now, without further adieu, let the horror commence!

There will be spoilers...

5) Spider-Man - Monster-Ock

Picture this, you've just defeated Doc Ock and Carnage back-to-back. Spider-Man poses heroically as he begins his "it's all over" monologue when suddenly... 

The result of Carnage's symbiote attaching itself to Doc Ock, turning him into Monster Ock. However, instead of fighting you have to run away from him as Ock's lab starts exploding. What follows is a very tense run (and swing) for your life, as Monster Ock chases you screaming such lovely things as "DIEEEEEEE". A part of the scariness of this boss is being constantly chased and knowing that if Ock catches up - you're dead. Although this section did go on slightly too long, it was for the most part a thrilling way to end one of Spider-Man's greatest video game adventures.

4) Heavy Rain - The Lizard

Heavy Rain revolved around the story of Ethan Mars and how far he would go to save his son. Many of his tasks involve a little sacrifice or risk of death. The Lizard, however, is the one everyone who plays it will remember. You're asked by the origami killer to cut off the top section of one of your fingers, on camera, in order to get the next clue to your son's location. You're given a wide variety of tools to help you do it... 

It's one of the hardest to watch scenes in gaming history. It's made worse by the fact that you have to do it yourself (or at least, move the analogue stick to perform the action). It's not "horror" in the traditional sense but there are very few scenes in video games that are more unsettling.

3) Resident Evil 2 - Start of the Game

I'll be honest, I've not played a lot of RE2. Despite this, I still remember the very start of the game and how tense that was. After the opening cinematic, you're left to fend for yourself. The game isn't saved, you have no healing items and very little ammo. You have to run from most of the zombies, but they are relentless.

Through narrow alleyways, buildings and even an abandoned bus you will have to decide whether to fight or flee the hoarde of zombies. Try to fight them all you'll run out of ammo. Run away from them all and you might miss some useful items. Nowhere is safe until you reach the police station and with it, the first save point of the game. Horror games love to remind you how powerless you are at the beginning of the game, but RE 2 did it better than any other.
2) Metal Gear Solid 2 - Arsenal Gear

This one is definitely a personal moment. I was eleven years old when I first played Metal Gear Solid 2 and I was loving it. It was my first entryway into the Metal Gear series and it was quickly becoming one of my all time favourites. Then I got to Arsenal Gear. Running around as a naked Raiden was funny at first but then I started getting codec (MGS' version of the radio) calls like this: 

Being a rather idiotic eleven year old who did not quite understand the whole "fourth-wall" thing, I did. Embarrassingly, I then had nightmares about this - though the specifics of them I do not remember. Young me simply was not ready for crazy Colonel Campbell and when I did find the courage to play on it didn't get any easier until, as always, Solid Snake showed up to save the day. Even today, I am a little unsettled at this whole section as an aftermath of the effect this had on eleven-year-old me. But ten years on I am a braver man now and I'm not gonna let some silly video game scare me int... 


1) Alan Wake

This one is a bit odd because it's not a particular moment that was the scariest. You see, the main gimmick of Alan Wake was that the darkness is unsafe. Enemies are essentially shadows until you shine your torch on them and make then vulnerable to death. The only times you are safe is when you're in light. So, the reason this is number one is due to the psychological effect this game had on me every time I stopped playing. I tend to play games at the dead of night, just before going to bed. I played Alan Wake every night for a week. I would then go to bed. In the dark. After spending a couple of hours training my brain to fear the dark, it would take me a while to switch back to reality.

Alan Wake is a really good game, but isn't that scary. The game itself calls itself a "Psychological Action Thriller" which is a fair description. However it does a brilliant job in conditioning your brain into fearing the dark and that is why it's my number one "horror" gaming moments - because the rest of the list may have been scary within the context of the game, Alan Wake was the only one (bar MGS 2, which can be explained by me being a child when I played it) that truly affected me out of the game. Kudos, Remedy.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

In Defense of: Wonder Trading (Pokémon X/Y)

The new Pokémon games are bloody fantastic, in my opinion the best since Gold/Silver. However, one of my personal favourite features is also one of the stupidest, silliest and easily-exploitable things in the game. I am, of course talking about the wonderful world of Wonder Trading.

For those who have yet to play it, Wonder Trade is when you put up a Pokémon up for trade and the game will find a random trainer to trade with you. You don't know what you're going to get until you get it. You can probably already see why this would potentially be terrible - there is nothing to stop people from putting in their level 2 scrubs in the hopes of getting something awesome. Most of the time they will get...a level 2 scrub right back (though I've found that I actually get a fairly small amount of low level Bunnelby's and the like).

Wonder Trade can, however, be exploited very easily - there's no limit on how much you can Wonder Trade and this means that if you get something you already have? You can immediately trade it away again in the hopes of something new. If you are patient enough, you will get something decent - or at the very least, something new you've not got yet. It's perfect for collectionists such as myself - but if you're looking for good, strong Pokémon, then perhaps it's not for you (saying that, I've got a few that were around level 50, so it can happen). Chances are you will end up with a fair amount of just hatched out of the egg, level 1 Pokémon, but even these can be beautiful sometimes - I've had a level 1 Bulbasaur and two Charmanders - the second of which I traded for a Froakie - but this isn't really a problem with the Exp Share, you can easily level up your critters without needing to stick them into battle.

The point is, Wonder Trade is a wonderful tool if you want to fill out your Pokédex. If you dislike the randomness of it all, there's always the GTS or even your own friend. It even gives you an insane amount of Poké Miles, which you can use to buy items from a man in the Poké Centre in South Lumiose City - which basically means it's a way to get almost unlimited Ultra Balls and certain other items. It breaks the game if used to it's fullest potential - and that's why I love it! Because it's completely ridiculous in every way possible, yet it's completely optional. It does, however, take away the satisfaction of catching your own Pokémon, especially if you get something from an area beyond where you are. Thus I'm going to stop myself from using it until the end-game and I'm ready to complete my Pokédex. So yeah, Wonder Trading is a completely broken thing, but with enough patience it can be YOUR completely broken thing.  

It's also weirdly funny to send random people Slowpoke's with supremely Scottish names. I wonder how Hamish is doing in Japan?

Friday, 4 October 2013

GTA Online - My Diary

1st of October 2013

I woke up at nine in the morning. It wasn't noon yet, so I went back to bed. The next time I woke it was 1 in the afternoon. It was past noon now, so I got up. I turned on my Playstation 3 so it could update, but I had to get some shopping. It was around two o'clock when I got back to my flat - I turned on the PS3 and it told me that it had updated Grand Theft Auto V. Finally, over a week after finishing the story mode, I could sink my teeth into Online. I'll be honest, I wasn't really expecting to be able to get on, not right away, but what harm is there in trying?

Well, I've tried multiple times now, but still no dice. That's okay, I just bought Kingdom Hearts HD so really, not being able to get onto GTA Online really did me a favour. Time to revisit one of my favourite games from my early teen years!

I'm sure once I'm out of Wonderland Kingdom Hearts gets good, right? Anyway, I have university tomorrow, so I better go to sleep.

2nd of October 2013

I got somewhere! After creating my fourth character, I finally got into Online sort of! At least I got to see the intro cutscene! That's progress! And hey, there's Lamar, I love that guy! Granted, it kicked me out as soon as I tried to play the first race, but surely this is a sign that I'm close!
Okay, this isn't working. Perhaps I just need to go away and come back later and maybe I will finally get on!
 Huh, it still didn't save my character. But why? I got into the intro cutscene! Now I have to create ANOTHER character. And by create, I mean spam the "Random" button until I get a character who looks less like he's just snorted his body weight in cocaine. 
Well, another day, another failure to connect. But hey, I wanted to play more Kingdom Hearts anyway, I'm sure tomorrow will be the day I finally get in!
I'm sure once I'm out of Tarzan's Jungle, Kingdom Hearts gets good, right?

3rd of October 2013

This is the day! I feel it in my bones! I will finally get into GTA Online! I can't wait to do all the stuff I can do in singleplayer, but online! Today will be a good day!

The internet is off in this building. I don't know what to do. How did people cope before the internet age? Help me. I suppose I could go outside? But it's so...outsidey out there! I might get assaulted! I might catch the sniffles! I might get carjacked! I mean, I don't drive - I don't even have a car - but it could still happen! I think I'll just stay inside and stare at the wall until the internet is back up. It'll only take a half hour, surely?

 It's back up! Time to try again! Clearly my time is now! Yes? Yes!

No. I'm still being denied my GTA Online. I've seen the intro cutscene three times now. Lamar's still cool, I guess. I guess I should just be patient, this is the first time Rockstar have done an Online launch of this magnitude. I'll try one more time, and if it doesn't work, then oh well, I won't be angry.

I'm not sure what happened there, but I apologise. I'm sure once Rockstar release their patch tomorrow it will all be okay. I guess I could go back to Kingdom Hearts and try again tomorrow.

I'm sure once I'm finished with Kingdom Hearts, Kingdom Hearts gets good, right?
4th of October 2013
The patch is downloaded! This should fix it! I forgive Rockstar, it's clearly not their fault - there was just too many people trying to get on. But now that's settled a bit and the patch is live, surely it's time for me, no?

Really? Another bloody character? Why won't it save the ones I've made. This stupid cutscene AGAIN. SHUT THE FUCK UP LAMAR, YOU FUCKING SUCK AND I HATE YOU AND I HOPE YOU DIE.

Failed to join activity. Please return to GTA Online. There has been an error joining a session, please return to Grand Theft Auto V. Could not play Grand Theft Auto V, please return to reality. There has been an error joining reality, please return to your own fractured subconscious. Waiting for other players......................................
Failed to join your own fractured subconscious, please return to GTA Online.

I'll try one more time.......Nope.
I'll try one more time.......Nope.
I'll try one more time.......Nope.
I'll try one more time.......Nope.

It's just a game, they tell me. Just a game. That's all it is. A game. A GAME! But it won't let me play. And no play means no game. And if there's no game, then what is it? What is real and what is fantasy? Maybe this is a dream and when I go to sleep is when I live my real life. Woah, I've just figured out life! Since this is a dream, there is no consequences, because I'd just wake up and it will all have happened in my head. Yeah, I can do anything! So, what will I do now that I live a life without consequences? Hmm...

I'll try one more time.......Nope.