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Friday, 30 April 2010

Back in the saddle...

I haven't posted since Tuesday the 20th... jesus. But I thought I'd say I am back in the saddle as I have just brought a game for the first time in weeks. FIFA World Cup 2010. I haven't played it yet, but I shall definately review it in a few days.

I was always a FIFA fan, from the original game up until about 2003, when I jumped aboard the good ship Pro Evo for a few years. Then that series seemed to stagnate and by FIFA 09 it was clear EA had beaten Seabass and Konami to reclaim the footballing game crown.

My favourite football game of all time is the World Cup 98 version, which I used to own on the Nintendo 64. Tournament specific games have sought of lost their luster since then, but I am really hoping for a nostalgia rush from this latest one. I also hope it will build up my excitement for this summer's main event in South Africa.

I have put the disc in and the menus look terrific, with a brilliant world map where you can select one of 199 natioal sides and bring up stats and current news concerning each country! I love that sort of thing.

Anyway, I'm going to play the game now. How sad that I'd rather write about preparing to play the game rather than getting stuck right in?

Oh well. Here goes...

Monday, 26 April 2010

Jonesing for Splinter Cell

I haven't posted anything in a while, I thought the next thing I would put up was my review of Darksiders for the 360. It has taken me much longer than anticipated to complete though so for that you will all have to wait!

As I have previously expressed on here I am a ma-husive fan of couch co-op. Even the most terrible games can be epic fun when your playing in the same room and on the same screen as a buddy; so when a really good one comes along it’s worth talking about, even just for a little bit.

Splinter Cell: Conviction is that really good game. I haven’t played anymore of the single player campaign than the initial interrogation because that is where the demo starts, and for me; where it ended. I took no joy in smashing a man’s head into a sink or through an occupied toilet’s door. It was altogether wrong and didn’t seem to fit with what I loved about the first Splinter Cell game – super stealth. Sam Fisher’s (Splinter Cell's lead character) Jason Bourne style makeover had already made me dubious about how seriously this game was going to take it’s stealth origins so this start to the demo was enough to push this game right to back of my list of things to play. Behind Russian Roulette even. That was until a mysterious man (my mate Sam) invited me to play the game on co-op in realistic mode. Not one to refuse a challenge and always up for double teaming AI I accepted and I spent the next two nights thoroughly wrapped up in a world of Sonar vision and co-operative executions.

The co-operative mode only consists of four campaigns of which I have completed the first three and each of which took at least four hours to do. Sixteen hours of co-operative content, not bad at all. Best of all though is that while playing co-operatively your character is independent of your buddy’s. There are few points on each level where both players are needed – each level ends with a door so with a lock so mighty that a single crow bar isn’t enough – your combined force is just enough and throws you into a fire fight, which in this game is a terrifying concept but it is a nice way to break up the play between pulling people off ledges and slide tackling them down stairs. But just because the game isn’t forcing you to work together doesn’t mean that you can’t and the game is cleverly engineered to reward you for doing so. For example: the game has this feature called executions, this enables you to mark targets with the shoulder button (up to three) and then kill them all with a single press of Y. If you do this with a buddy though you share targets, so if there are two dudes I can mark them both up and hit Y, on my buddy’s screen it flashes up to tell him what I’m doing and he can hit Y too meaning both targets will go down at exactly the same time as oppose to the first come first served basis you are restricted to on your own. Playing co-operatively in this game is a clear advantage, your buddy isn’t a burden as in Army Of Two or Fable II, it’s because of this independence that the game is so fun to play with a friend because it is totally up to us how we help each other out. You go along the pipe and I’ll shoot the lights as you go  or I’ll run past this guy so he looks at me then you grab him from behind leaving me free to hack the terminal etc.

I find myself longing to play the final part, and if you haven’t played any parts than what are your parting at?!?

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Lorne Lanning's Oddworld Series

I was on PSN yesterday and saw that the first entry in the Oddworld series of games (Abe's Oddysee) was available for download (£3.99). Obviously I brought it on the spot. I love this series. The first two games (Abe's Oddysee and Abe's Exodus) were released on the PS1 (1997/99) and the gameplay was largely like that of games like Flashback or Another World. You got from static screen to static screen solving puzzles and avoiding enemies. They were difficult and funny and became famous for their great cutscenes. The last two games in the main Oddworld series (there are also three rubbish gameboy games) came out on X-Box.

Munch's Oddysee (2001) changed the gameplay into a 3D action-adventure, but with all the familiar Oddworld elements. It was full of puzzles, humour and attention to detail. It also boasted a new character (Munch) who added a whole new batch of skills into the mix, such as swimming. Finally, perhaps the best of the lot was Stranger's Wrath, which came out in 2005 to universal critical acclaim, but sold poorly. It saw you take control of "the Stranger", a Clint Eastwood cowboy figure who used local creatures to take out his enemies in various ingenius ways. This was the only game not to feature Abe and it makes no referance to the rest of the series. In terms of gameplay, it was more of a shooter with some open world elements.

Hopefully all the games will be given the same treatment as the first and might soon be readily available in some form again. If so, check them all out! Here are the opening intros of all four games, so you can get a sense of what these games are about (usually evil corporations trying to exploit and often eat their workers):

Abe's Oddysee intro

Abe's Exodus intro

Munch's Oddysee intro

Stranger's Wrath intro

Monday, 12 April 2010

Gaming's biggest bastards!

The above video pretty much nails my thoughts on Kratos, the star of the God of War series. Kratos is totally unsympathetic douchebag and, as "Yahtzee" points out: "it seems like the heroic thing to do would be to stop playing before Kratos completely fucks everything up!" About 3.45 in to this clip from 'Charlie Brooker's Gameswipe' you can see 'Father Ted' and 'IT Crowd' writer, Graham Linehan, talking about why he finds the characters in Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood to be among these great gaming arseholes:

Personally, I really can't stand everything about the atmosphere of Gears of War, as showcased in this clip that someone of YouTube has named "Funny Scene":

Yes, in Gears of War everyone is a giant jerk. When you're not chain-sawing people's faces off and curb-stoping their skulls with your abnormally huge boots, then you're threatening to kill harmless drunks. The distain shown for all non-military characters in both Gears of War games is utter. The game is set of a human colony where an evil-alien-raceTM has killed more or less everyone and left civilization in ruins. The human survivors you meet are referred to as stranded and are generally seen unfavorably by this black hearted game. The stranded are shown eating rats and living in filth, but this is shown completely unsympathetically with the tone being "look at these losers!" in a way that is disturbingly reminiscent of real life American attitudes to poverty and people on welfare (note the drunk in the video has the voice of a stereotypical Southern hick). It's actually making me a little angry. I guess I'll have to chainsaw something...

When I were a lad, I found the pc adventure game Simon the Sorcerer (voice by Red Dwarf's Chris Barrie) hilarious. There was a bit where you turned up at a lonely creature’s house, told him how ugly he was and ruined his birthday and the sarcastic, spiteful Wizard seemed really funny to me at that age. However, playing the game back a few years ago it occurred to me that he really is just a horrible little shit of a video game character. I think these sorts of character types are deployed in games because games are still aimed at children. Yes Gears of War and God of War are both '18'-rated by the BBFC, but they still have juvenile attitudes and are popular with young people (the only people who really find this sort of thing cool) and older people who still like WWE, for whatever reason.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Dr Who graphic adventure game due soon?

Now, my love of point and click adventure games is well documented here. So I am delighted to have read a story on the BBC news site that links Broken Sword creator Charles Cecil with a series of episodic adventure games based on Dr Who. I don't really like Dr Who, but I am happy to see that Cecil has a new game on the way and I await the results with interest. They are titled Dr Who: The Adventure Games (imaginatively) and are being developed by the UK team Sumo Digital who usually work for SEGA porting games like Virtua Tennis to consoles and, most recently, making Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing (which I liked very much).

Anyway... just thought I'd share that. With a new game from Frédérick Raynal also in the pipeline, this is shaping up to be an exciting year.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Still no longer. The age of Motion is upon us.

stab Not long ago the majority of people were seemingly convinced that computer games were for children, geeks or psychopaths. A fact the game industry made little effort to change. Why bother? Psychopath money is money too right? In 2006 a dwindling corner stone of the once elitist games industry released the most widely used and heard of motion controller there is – that company was Nintendo and the motion control was the Wii Remote. Along with the control, the company also released a console (obviously!) but the console was nothing new, it was the GameCube in a much whiter box. According to a certain Shigeru Miyamoto (Game Designer and General Manager at Nintendo) the plans for said motion control were in the pipes as early as 2001. That’s five years to develop a control pad for those who are keeping score.

Lets fast forward a bit now to the present day where it is more likely that the chick on the bus to your left right now, has played games too, and her call sign is ‘TheCamelToe86’. Times have changed; the market has broadened. For that reason the big boys of the games industry are salivating, it’s not just for the psychos anymore. Now, it's not hard to see that Nintendo opened the door to rest of the population with it’s super ‘casual’ approach that it had been honing so well with its handheld console, the Nintendo DS (and friends, DSi and DS XL and the newly rumoured DS3D). Microsoft and Sony (the aforementioned big boys) are too comfortable to take that casual line too seriously right now so in the coming years they will seek to steal that audience directly from Nintendo. How? Motion controllers of their own of course!

2010 will see the release of these new motion controllers and you will no longer be restricted to Wii-ing – you will be able to Move and Natal too. Considering what we know it would be safe to assume that the big boys will at bare minimum copy Nintendo wouldn’t it? Then games could be ported with ease and players of the Wii would find the cross over less distressing. So let’s take the Wii remote as the master motion controller and Move from there.

Nintendo and The Wii Remote


The control detects movement in three dimensions, it is important to note though that this means the Wii can only ever know how the remote has travelled it has no clue where it started or ended said movement.

It also has some buttons and is expandable through a port at the bottom to accommodate more motion controlling power or even just more buttons. Last but not least and quite separate from the rest of it. The control also acts like a pointer with its infrared receiver on top, what is it receiving? The two infrared lights (the Wii Sensor Bar) that you have to fit a top (or bottom) of your TV in order to for the remote to function as a pointer.

Sony and The Move


The move works in much the same way as the Wii remote with a few subtle differences and one major one. That major one being that it works in conjunction with (and only in conjunction with) an EyeToy (Sony’s official webcam). This takes the two dimensional pointer aspect of the Wii to the next dimension with the camera acting as the receiver and a pretty glowing ball on the end of your control pad replacing the lights on the your TV. Sony have flipped ya Nintendo, they flipped ya real good.


Microsoft and Natal

project-natal2I lied I suppose. Strictly speaking Microsoft will not be releasing a controller, rather a new control method that requires an extra peripheral (Microsoft stock holders can breath a sigh of relief). It’s two cameras and the controller, if you like – is you. Like Sony, Microsoft have tried to stick with the ever popular 3D bandwagon and by having two cameras they have achieved just that. The Natal works much the same way as your eyes do and here in lies its biggest flaw. Just like your eyes, the images these cameras receive are raw and meaningless. it takes the processing power of the Xbox to interpret those images into gestures. Roughly 30% of it!

So the Move is a Wii remote with a camera and Natal is just a camera? A camera with a burden at that! Have Sony put too much effort in here and Microsoft too little? Or perhaps it is quite the reverse. What do you think?

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Well hi, do I know you?

Who am I? I am Christopher Beames, the younger brother of this blogs founder; Robert Beames, whose busy schedule is preventing him from updating this as much as would be awesome so I have been asked to step in. Sorry.

To kick things off I thought I would fix Robert’s "last post about games to look forward to in 2010" as that list paints a dim picture for those of us that don't recreationally flail our limbs around in the lounge. Why? Well, two of the games on that list are Wii games. Are you mental? What is your problem? And the two 360/PS3 titles that are mentioned are both new themes on old fairly recent games. “Alpha Protocol” – “Mass Effect”. “Red Dead Redemption” – “Brokeback Mountain – The Game”. So I have decided to try and fix that, here goes:

Lost Planet 2

While I never played much of the first one, it definitely touched a nerve with some people and the second looks to go above and beyond anything Capcom dreamt of achieving with the first. Lost Planet 2 looks to draw a new line in the sand as far as co-op gaming goes with four player story mode; being a massive couch co-op fan, I just can't wait.

Lost Planet 2

Fable III

Lionhead are absolutely fantastic at winding up expectations and failing miserably to deliver on them, but every time they get back up and dare to dream all over again. Bless ‘em. And every time I'm there to offer my £40. Maybe I’m a sucker but when Pete says to me (yeah you read that right, to me) that in ‘Fable III’ you can “touch” I don’t say “oh yeah Pete? you mean press Y to interact?” I say: Wow! Why? Because at least it seems like he is trying to achieve something greater than more frames per second. Is he just an excitable salesman? Maybe. But I’m sold.

Look at him... Aww.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

A new contributor emerges...

My brother, Chris, has happily agreed to start providing "content" for this video games blog as of now. Lately I haven't had time to provide too much for this blog, mainly due to a heavy workload and the fact that my priority is writing film reviews and articles for Beames on Film. I wasn't able to complete Final Fantasy 13 (or even play it for more than an hour)last month, and it took me ages to get my Dragon Age: Awakening review up aswell. Chris plays more games than I do and has some strong opinions on games industry related things, so his posts are sure to be a treat!

Come back soon for some all-new opinions from an all-new contributor.