Monday, 25 July 2011

We don't go to Ravenholm...

Half-Life 2 (PC, XBOX, PS3)
I finally completed Half-Life 2, after approximately 2 weeks of obsessive, addictive gameplay. The only obvious thing I could do was write a review! Read on...
In those 2 weeks I honestly couldn't stop thinking and even dreaming about this game; I constantly wanted to play it! It was more an experience for me than a fully-fledged game; I felt like I was really there, I really was Dr Freeman, I really was fighting the Combines, and there really was something spectacular going on--a rebellion, a war.
Half-Life 2 is a game by VALVE (the company that brought you Left For Dead 2, Portal, Team Fortress 2), and was released in 2004 on PC, and was also released on other platforms.
 It's a linear game, but trust me; it hardly seems linear, although if you analysed the levels you could tell. Being led to different areas by the different characters seems natural--a natural flow into the next area of the game. Sometimes certain games really feel linear, but this one didn't, and was engaging enough to carry on.
The beginning of an odyssey                             "You're waiting for a train...a train that'll take you far away..."
"Welcome to the world of Half-Life 2--here your journey begins" says the images before you as the game starts.  And what a world it is.
You're thrown right into the storyline as soon as you load the game up, and the storyline takes no time to get in to. The immersion in the beginning chapter foretells the immersion in the other chapters; you get completely sucked into the game and the lives of those around you in-game, and strive to help the world become a better place.
The thing I love most about this game is it doesn't use any clever tricks or ultra-stylized graphics to lure consumers into thinking it's a good game. Half-Life 2 needs nothing like that. Half-Life 2 is no show-off, that's for sure. Everything in the game is there for a reason, and nothing feels shoehorned in.  No weapon is there to take just because you can--each different weapon/piece of equipment serves you well in the future, and that's how it should be. This game really does set itself apart from all other shooters (so much so that it's strange even calling Half-Life 2 a shooter)--adding in a completely understandable and interesting storyline, and also real-time cutscenes. This adds to the atmosphere quite a lot, not having to switch from gameplay to HD cutscene, and back again.
The gameplay feels fast, smooth and overall, clever. The keys 12345 and 6 are for your weapons/equipment, and is extremely easy to switch between each weapon. I never got any lag between switching my weapons. Left click is for shooting, right click is for rolling grenades (this will be useful when you get further into the game) and using a certain piece of equipment, and the scroll button is used to scroll through your weapons instead of pressing numbers on your keyboard. Space is for jump, WASD to move, ctrl to crouch, and that's it. The controls are simple enough and makes the game alot easier. 
I'll try not to go into a full-scale review, as I'm sure most people have already read a few reviews on Half-Life 2--this game wasn't released recently, of course, but I'll be trying to write about all the different games I play.
Audio: 8   If you think you're going to get epic ditties as found in Super Mario Galaxy, you'll be mistaken--there are no full-scale OSTs in this game, as far as I can tell, although sometimes you'll hear a bit of music in certain situations. In a different sense, however, the audio is very good, in terms of things you can hear around you; the lone growl of your car, the wind tearing through the terrain, and the ear-splitting shriek from crazed zombies. It all adds to the atmosphere, and I love it.
Gameplay: 9   With the gunplay, driving etc., the gameplay is exciting, and seeing as you're in full control of your character throughout every second of the game, it's a great experience.
Graphics: 9  I think it's probably the best looking game I've played in a while, seeing as most of the games I play are pixellated (on purpose!) or look their age. Half-Life 2 definitely doesn't seem as old as it does, and all the graphics look smooth.
Plot: 9  Very immersing and a joy to follow, the plot really does make this game fun to play--if you're ever stuck on a part of the game, or you're left alone with zombies surrounding you, you're constantly wishing for someone from the storyline to come and help you out of whatever mess you're in, and if there's a part you're not doing so well, you push yourself further to get past it and on to the next chapter.
Overall score:  9/10  An exciting game, and one that will be one of my favourites for a long time to come. If you haven't played it already, what are you waiting for?

I've got the 21st Century breathing down my neck...

It's a question I've never really thought about until now; what makes you a gamer?
The world is split into two types of people:
Those who play games, and those who don't.*
What makes you, personally, a gamer? Is it the rush you get after finally completing that part of the level you were stuck on? The excited, proud feeling you get when you get the achievement you've been trying to get for a while? Those moments where you feel at ease when you're at a memorable part of the game, or replaying a game full of nostalgia?
There are many things that make a gamer, and here are my thoughts.
-An enthusiasm for games and the industry
This might be an obvious one, but having an interest in the gaming industry and all games in general is something that makes a gamer.
When you read up on games, you know you've become trapped in the web of gaming. When you read up on games you don't even have, and maybe aren't planning to buy? This just shows your dedication to the gaming industry, and everything about games. By looking into all these different games, you're gaining knowledge of what makes or breaks a game, and expanding your views every time you read about a new game or a new way of playing games.
-Discussing games
Playing a game is one thing, but discussing them is something entirely different. By doing this, you're showing your love of video games, and are giving people a chance to hear your ideas on what's good/bad about a game you've played.
Going on forums to talk about games is also something gamers do, of course. Gaming is a hobby, but also an interest that is a very important thing in most gamers' lives, and has shaped some people to how they are now--whether it be more literate, more intelligent or more of an all-round awesome person.
-Being hyped about an upcoming game
Anyone who isn't into gaming basically facepalms when you talk about a game, and if you're excited for one that's upcoming, they facepalm even more. When you're excited about an upcoming game, you look out for the adverts on TV, you look out for posters around shops with the release date on, and you read up on the game. You might even watch the trailers over and over. No? Just me then...
This shows that you really show an interest in games, it's obvious, and is a great thing about gamers. One thing I've noticed is that those that don't play games generally aren't, well... easily pleased about things, whether it be films, music or books, and games especially. Gamers are truly the only type of person I've found to be enthusiastic about most things they're faced with, and that's why I'm proud to say that I'm a gamer.
*Even though, it isn't so simple--there are casual gamers, hardcore gamers, and just, well, gamers. Everyone has played at least 1 game in their lifetime, whether it be on a mobile, DS or even a game in an arcade, so quite a few people are gamers to an extent, even if they don't realize it!

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Terraria, my favourite indie game so far

"Minecraft in 2D"...but it isn't like that at all, except for the way you dig for materials (such as rock, iron, silver, obsidian and even meteorite), the pixellated look, and the overall idea.
Terraria: this game you really shouldn't miss out on. It's currently £5.99 on Steam, and is an epic game that will make you want to keep playing. So far I've clocked up to 57 hours on it, and I haven't even beaten the "end"* boss.
Don't be repulsed by the pixel art style, as you'd be missing out on a massive game if you didn't buy it because of the graphics. Just like Minecraft, Terraria flaunts its pixellated goodness in a modern way, without being too "in your face" and downright annoying. You're armed with a pick, axe, shortsword, some money, a hammer, and left to get on with it--you don't even have to read any of the tips the Guide gives you as soon as you spawn. This is a game where you look for the excitement yourself, or it finds you...
*There really isn't an end to the game--you can keep playing for as long as you want. And with new patches being released quite frequently (adding in new bosses, items and changes to the system), the Terraria devs make sure this game has lots of re playability.

In this game, your aim isn't to create (á la Minecraft), but to explore. Find as much as you can--there's a hell of a lot to be found, that's for sure. If you're very creative, however, you can create massive buildings and structures, but in my opinion, Minecraft would be better suited for those that want to build freely, with as much open space as they need.
But I'm getting way ahead of myself--let's go back to the beginning...
First off, character creation.
The first thing you do, is create a new character, and the character creation is...well, alright, at best. You choose which colours you want for your shirt, undershirt, trousers, hair, and shoes...then you can choose your hairstyle, and that's about it. To choose what colour you want, you don't get to pick from a palette--you have to click + or - to increase different colour areas, e.g. Green, 230. It's confusing, and I think it could be an area to improve on, but after all, this is an indie game, and your initial colour of clothes aren't something to stress over, as soon enough you'll make yourself armor.
Next: Choosing your world size.
This'll affect your game alot, and the load time--I created a small world when I first started off, and it was fairly big, especially for a new player. It loaded quickly. But when I created a big world, the load time was longer (which is understandable), but then you're allowed to have much more content, and a larger area to explore (as if that wasn't obvious!).
Another choice you have as you start the game, is whether you want to be 'hardcore'. Yes... well. This option makes you lose everything when you die (á la Minecraft, again). You should definitely stay away from this if you're a newbie.
That's basically it for the character creation.
The next thing is, obviously, gameplay!
This game is very easy to get started with, tools already given to you--but with night-time drawing closer by the second, you have to quickly make yourself a house for shelter from...zombies, flying eyes and all sorts of other enemies. This'll be your safe haven, a place to hide, and a place to store your loot.
There are many different types of houses you can make, from all sorts of materials, from dirt to hellstone, wood to golden bricks, or even pink bricks from a dungeon.
Using the WASD keys and the space bar for jump, it's easy to move around on the game, but at times it's a little laggy, and gameplay slows down. This isn't a problem most of the time, but hopefully will be fixed later on via a patch.

To attack an enemy, you left click. Depending on what weapon you have, you can aim at your enemy--for example, if there is a flying enemy (such as Eye of Cthulhu to the left), and you have a bow and arrow, you aim and shoot at it. Simple as!
 Although there isn't a complex battle system, it's still fun to fight enemies, and the sounds a zombie makes when you hit it with an oversized weapon? ...Weirdly satisfying--just like the 'clink' minerals make when you hit them with a pickaxe.
Terraria features many weapons, all for you to find underground. From jungle blades to star-firing swords(which uses up mana, just like it would in any other game), shurikens to enchanted boomerangs...there's alot to be found. If you don't want a weapon you find, you can sell it to an NPC (more on that later), or give it to your friend.
Most of the exciting things happen underground. You can find jungles, caves filled with treasure chests, crystal hearts you break to add +20 to your life (in a Legend of Zelda way), new, difficult enemies--and you can even enter the underworld...
Is there multiplayer?
Yes! You can play with your friends--download Hamachi (a free tool that gives your friends an IP address to connect to your games, and vice versa), put in the code located on Hamachi onto Terraria, then play. However, the person that is hosting the game for others to join has to open up two Terraria boxes--one for their friends to connect, and one for themselves to play on. It might be confusing at first, but you'll soon get used to it--and, if I'm not mistaken, the Terraria devs have added a feature that saves the last worlds you've been to, and you can just click the code, and you log on to their world (if they're hosting). This system is ideal, as it doesn't let spammers/thieves into your world--if just anyone was allowed in to your world, items from chests could be stolen, and this would make people not want to play any more. By choosing carefully who you give your code to, it makes it your own experience in every way.
Overall, I think this is a really fun indie game that has alot of potential--new patches mean new content, and new content means the game is still getting better. Alot of people have bought this game, and if you haven't already, you're missing out!
Audio: 8   Although it gets a little repetitive, it's still fun to hear the chirpy music.
Gameplay: 9  There's alot of fun to be had here, and is the highest point of the game.
Graphics: 8  It's pixellated, and looks great--the art style is unique and quirky.
Overall score: 8/10  This game will get even better, and I'm basing the review on how much I've seen so far. A joy to play, and I strongly recommend it to anyone looking for a new experience via PC gaming.