Backbone Prologue: Prash Tranda

The neon from the Jazz bar’s sign snagged itself on the falling sheets of rain, a red haze draped across the sidewalk engulfing every unaware stranger. Their dark formless shapes illuminated for a second in the shimmering sheet left a momentary after-image of each of those faces on my retinas; happy, lost, cunning, malicious. I pulled my raincoat closer around my neck, but my fur had already wicked the water into my shirt and barely five minutes after leaving the office I was drenched through. The cheap red tie I’d picked up at the five-and-dime would already be bleeding into the white of my shirt… my new shirt… an investment I’d made to gloss over the cracks of public opinion on private investigators. That’s two bucks I’d never see again. 

Wardrobe misery aside, I had a job to do. Somewhere in these formless shapes was my mark and I was going to find him. Tonight. I didn’t have much choice, the only reason the super hadn’t already kicked me out and changed the locks was because I didn’t have anything worth selling.  Continue reading “Backbone Prologue: Prash Tranda”

World War Z: World Left War 4 Dead Z

Saber Interactive’s recently released ‘World War Z’ game has drawn almost universal comparison to the Left4Dead games that for many epitomised the zombie game invasion of about a decade ago. Of course there’s nothing inherently wrong with a new game being similar to an older one, or in the case of Fortnite:BR copying almost feature for feature, but when I first watched the trailer I immediately identified each of the characters from the opening ‘World War Z’ as their Left4Dead counterparts. In short there is a suspicious amount of similarity here which somehow surpasses mere bandwagon jumping, especially as Left4Dead 2 had its heyday around its release in 2009. For my wife and I, this all came as a big draw; we’re L4D fans (to the point that we still have the movie style posters from the original game hanging in our lounge) and invested some long playtimes in to those first two games. My wife isn’t hugely in to competitive gaming, so many of the big FPS hits with us have been of the PvE variety where tight teams work together against AI in some predefined mission. With the comparison firmly planted in our minds, having watched the trailer, and having a pretty idle weekend to spare we decided to treat ourselves and give ‘World War Z’ a shot. Continue reading “World War Z: World Left War 4 Dead Z”

Microsoft Flight Simulator ’95: What Was I Thinking?

Strolling around the halls of Rezzed last weekend, my wife and I paused for a while to watch ‘Bus Simulator’; it’s a game where you drive a bus… around a route… and stop to pick up passengers. Aside from the odd curb clipping incident and missing a stop by a few feet (shocking!) very little happened for the few minutes that we stood and watched four different people have a go. I wandered away from the stand with two distinct thoughts: firstly, despite being touted as something super realistic, it’s clearly not because who drives a bus from a third person perspective? and secondly that this is a game I don’t understand.

… and if this is your thing then drive-on good person, drive-on! I’m not judging. I’ve played plenty of games that felt somewhere close to ‘a job’ in the past including ‘Viscera Cleanup Detail’ and ‘SpaceChem’ so I can understand that there is appeal in performing virtual-mundane tasks. 

Almost immediately after having this thought however I suddenly remembered something: Microsoft Flight Simulator ’95. Oh, how I wanted Microsoft Flight Simulator ’95. Continue reading “Microsoft Flight Simulator ’95: What Was I Thinking?”

Editorial: April – Apex Probability

April is upon us and I seem to have continued my run from last month of being a little inconsistent with blogging. I think at least some of this is because I’ve been a little all over the place with gaming recently. I started to month off by revisiting Resident Evil Code Veronica but that playthrough is currently sat at about 50% complete and I would like to settle back in to it before the end of April. My wife and I have also played through (most of) Nine Parchments; a kind of fantasy erm.. isometric shooter? It’s one part Torchlight and another part Magika and, despite being nice to look at and light entertainment, it’s nowhere near as absorbing as I would have liked; essentially it’s walk forward, shoot enemies, repeat. Most of my gaming time has been spent in Apex Legends, it’s meeting that desire for a satisfying play cycle and, despite not being very good at this latest entry in to the battle royale arena, I’m at least not terrible.

Having spent a fair slice of that time on the character select screen, and being faced with the occasional player who kick up a real fuss if you select their favourite class, I began to think about statistics & probability. Anyone who’s been reading for a while will know that I’ve been known to over-analyse games and the numbers involved in battle royale games make them a particularity good target for this as I demonstrated some time ago when I tried to work out the minimum number of players needed to keep Fortnite:BR afloat. The topic of my meandering thoughts this time are that character select screen. Continue reading “Editorial: April – Apex Probability”

Apex Legends Class Guide: Each Character’s Best Routes to Failure

Since first dropping in to the world of Apex Legends some time ago, I’ve gradually grown used to the quirks and intricacies of the game. The layout of the island is no longer a mystery and as with all good Battle Royale experiences I’ve begun to single out areas, weapons and tactics that I find to compliment my own jerky and uncoordinated style of play.

As a side note, I’ve also begun to characterise the different specific types of Apex player who joins my three-being squad each round: There is the player who rants and raves that you’ve picked ‘their’ favourite class, the Skull Town fanatic who drops there regardless of the team decision, and that one player who runs off on their own, gets killed then complains that their squad-mates are all terrible players… oh, beneath the veneer of reasonable players there is a vein of douchery running deep. 

Along with this, I’ve also gotten to know a few of the classes – after all, this is nominally a class based affair with each ingame character (of which there are now nine) having a passive, tactical, and ultimate ability. To give EA due credit, they’ve actually managed to create a reasonably diverse band of misfits that manage to pack in (albeit fairly unsubtley) some distinctive character traits for each one.

Armed with this experience I thought I’d take this opportunity to write a class guide… but not a class guide outlining good play tactics, or which character has the best hair. No, I’m going to stick to what I know and write a class guide outlining the absolute best ways to screw-up a round. Apex legends is full of opportunities to puncture your own spacehopper, but the true master of fail will be able to utilise each character’s unique abilities to snatch defeat away from the eager jaws of victory. Continue reading “Apex Legends Class Guide: Each Character’s Best Routes to Failure”

PayDay 2: In Defence of My Gaming Guilty Pleasure… or Maybe I’m Just a Terrible Person

Hey you? Yes, you! Are you a gamer?… of course you are! I’m not down with all these narrow and divisive labels because the truth is that whether you enjoy tapping away on Candy Crush, constructing new worlds in Minecraft, fighting to be the last alive in Fortnite, exploring a dreamlike narrative in Kentucky Route Zero, or just plain blasting demons in Doom then you’re a gamer. It’s also probably true to say that if you are a gamer you probably also have a guilty gaming pleasure; some title that you’re not “supposed” to enjoy, but you always have on hand for some guilty pleasure fun. Like a cheesy movie, well worn comedy series, super-happy-fun-time pop music when you only wear black, or big bowl of ice-cream, it’s a title that you fire up when you just want to enjoy something and let any sense of self-consciousness fall by the wayside … assuming that you’re in your own home.

I have at least half a dozen guilty gaming pleasures, but one of them is undoubtedly PayDay 2. Overkill Studio’s squad-based crime shooter sees players undertake a plethora of heists from breaking in to bank vaults, smash-n-grabs on jewellery stores, and (the always ill-advised) stealing great heaps of cocaine from other underworld organisations. Assuming that you armour up and go in loud (yes, you can stealth missions, but that is certainly not why this game is one of my guilty pleasures) then this descends in to some adrenaline fueled fast paced shootouts with some of the most numerous and well equipped law enforcement officials you’ll ever encounter. Continue reading “PayDay 2: In Defence of My Gaming Guilty Pleasure… or Maybe I’m Just a Terrible Person”

Sonic the Hedgehog: Let’s Talk About Springs

Some time ago I made an attempt to answer the age old question: How fast is Sonic the Hedgehog? based entirely on evidence from that spiky fiend’s first outing on Sega Mega Drive. I’ve decided to revisit the theme, but today I’m going to take the magnifying glass to the disturbingly common item in the Sonic-verse; Springs.

Anyone with even a passing knowledge of Sega’s wayward mascot will know that he can use the liberally placed springs to propel himself skyward and that in the first game (which is what we’re working from here) they came in two flavours: Yellow & Red. The latter being a turbo charged version for special occasions and the former the average spring for day-to-day bouncing. To keep everything extreme and with sufficient …erm… attitude… to do justice to the “fastest thing alive” I’ll be focusing on the red springs. Continue reading “Sonic the Hedgehog: Let’s Talk About Springs”