Tag Archives: 1998

Half-Life [PlayStation 2] – Review

Half-Life - PlayStation 2 - North American Box Art

Half-Life is a game I’ve probably started a half-dozen times, yet never completed. It was one of the first video games I owned for a computer and I can still recall, quite vividly, when my mom bought it for me at a garage sale. Around this time – middle school – I had a burgeoning interest in video games, just as my enthusiasm for soccer waned. I had never heard of the game before but upon seeing the acclaim advertised on the big box Game of the Year Edition, I decided I needed to know about it.

Following an awkward period acquainting myself with mouse and keyboard controls, I assumed the role of Dr. Gordon Freeman and did my best to escape Black Mesa. At some point, struggling to overcome the odds, I burned out. Every now and then, as the years passed, I’d revisit the game, start a new save file, and proceed down the same path. Despite my inability to get very far, it’s remained on my to-do list ever since, especially considering its heralded status as a first-person shooter. Well, like I’ve done with many other games this year, I can finally mark it complete. Continue reading Half-Life [PlayStation 2] – Review

Advertisements

Metal Gear Solid [PlayStation] – Review

Metal Gear Solid - Title Card

The hype and critical acclaim surrounding Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain got to me (it started last year with this). With my tendencies though, I’ve opted to ignore that title for now and jump in at the beginning: Metal Gear Solid. Technically Metal Gear would be the beginning, but whatever. My usual cohort is following suit and he’s postponing his time with MGSV until we make it through the core series. If there were any gaming series that would benefit from this way of playing, this would be the one. These games are dense with dialogue and exposition and understanding or linking them together coherently may come easier after freshly experiencing them. To assist, I’m going to be doing intense note-taking in the hopes that I’ll understand the narrative and characters even better.

He doesn't know what's coming.
He doesn’t know what’s coming.

Before ever controlling Solid Snake we went through about twenty or thirty minutes of backstory. Most of which was done through (optional) barely animated briefings and through these, the inspiration of Escape from New York was apparent. The characterizing aspects of Solid Snake and his initial mission mimicked Snake Plissken’s so closely I’m surprised there wasn’t legal action! We were also treated to a few Codec conversations and cinematic cutscenes illustrating Snake’s infiltration of Shadow Moses Island. The latter highlighted why it was, and still remains, so highly regarded. Hideo Kojima and Konami revived a classic series in the guise of a big-budget action movie and defined the modern era of storytelling in video games.

The story that unfolded over the next dozen hours centered on Snake’s stealth mission to recover two kidnapped figureheads associated with the U.S. Dept. of Defense and prevent the terrorist group responsible from using a bipedal nuclear equipped robot: Metal Gear Rex. The group responsible is actually the black ops Army unit that Snake once belonged to: FOX-HOUND. The current members have gone rogue, calling themselves the Sons of Big Boss, and are requesting the remains of Big Boss (the unit’s founder). They want access to his genes, which in the wake of the Human Genome Project the U.S. has been secretly isolating “soldier genes” and injecting them into soldiers, creating a “genome army” with skills more proficient than the average warrior. Big Boss was “The Greatest Warrior of the 20th Century” after all.

Just another classic scene.
Just another classic scene.

The story gets way more convoluted from there and at times, it felt like a break was needed to understand the events or conversations that just happened. I did strive to take comprehensive notes and playing with another person also helped to soak in the data and translate it into information. Once we’re done with the series, I’m going to try and understand everything as best I can and that’ll probably involve writing a synopsis of each game. The series, and this game in particular, doesn’t require in-depth note-taking to find enjoyment or some understanding but the lore is so rich that I feel like it’ll be rewarding and enlightening in the end.

For the most part, the events that take place seem plausible and with a little imagination, realistic. Maybe the thought that a bipedal nuclear equipped tank of sorts would be the ultimate weapon is a little farfetched, but this is a game whose inspirations also include mecha anime. The characters that make up the cast on the other hand, specifically FOX-HOUND, well, they’re less believable. They are, however, a rogues’ gallery of fascinating villains. The standout is of course Psycho Mantis, whose psychic abilities included reading the files on the memory card, predicting the player’s actions (forcing the player to plug the controller into the second controller port), and a few other “breaks” in the fourth wall.

One of the most memorable boss fights of all time.
One of the most memorable boss fights of all time.

The battle with him will remain one of the most memorable video game boss fights for a long time to come, but they all weren’t as great. The majority of them are very memorable, if only for the fact that the fights themselves were generally bookended with much conversation and featured the distinctly unique members of FOX-HOUND. Others will remain memorable to us specifically because of their difficulty. Whether it was the uphill battle we were in for because of Solid Snake’s limited health or the challenging situations we’d just gone through beforehand, I’d say a quarter of the fights took a half-dozen attempts each. One thing’s for sure, like the members of FOX-HOUND, each boss fight was unique and required different weaponry or tactics.

While the battles could be frustrating depending on the circumstances, the typical sneaking gameplay wasn’t so hard. Honestly, it didn’t make up a lot of the game in retrospect. The memories of my original playthrough ten years ago are filled with the feeling of helplessness after getting caught and just giving in to the enemy’s weapon fire in order to quickly restart. That didn’t occur to us often on this playthrough. We did get caught every now and then, but we were able to successfully evade capture or quickly eliminate a soldier or two before it escalated to total despair. I imagine we’re just playing smarter than high school me.

The showdown with Metal Gear Rex, like a few other boss fights, was no walk in the park.
The showdown with Metal Gear Rex, like a few other boss fights, was no walk in the park.

It’s been seventeen years since this game was originally released and I think playing it is still as vital to one’s gaming résumé as it was then. This is a cinematic game that was unlike any other at the time of its release and one that still stands out today. With a complex narrative, feature film presentation, and audio/visual qualities that were remarkable for their time (and still respectable today), Metal Gear Solid is a must-play game. I didn’t find playing it as enjoyable as watching it and trying to follow along with the intricacies of the plot could be difficult, but there were some brilliant sections and set pieces nonetheless. The stealth aspects remain a challenging and enduring appeal for me, but the negative experiences we had with a few of the boss fights outweighed the positives. It’s a landmark video game, all in all. On to Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty!

Random Game #39 – Arcade Hits Pack: Gunblade NY and L.A. Machineguns [Wii]

Arcade Hits Pack

When you have a video game collection like mine, it can be hard to play all of the games. This is especially true when additions are made on an almost weekly basis. Still, I appreciate nearly every game I’ve accumulated for this reason or that. In the hopes of improving my writing through continuous effort and promoting ongoing learning of these games, I’m going to compose brief, descriptive articles.

This is a surprise recent acquisition of mine. Having gone through a period seeking out arcade compilations on home consoles, this game was of course on my radar. But, I never found a copy in the price range I was expecting to pay. Just a few weeks ago, Jenny and I made a trip to the mall to get a filter for our fridge, and I felt like popping into GameStop. They had a display of heavily discounted Wii games along with loose GameCube and PS2 games. This was in the bunch, complete for a few dollars. Eureka, my search had ended! I also picked up Sin & Punishment: Star Successor for a few dollars as well; complete no less.

Both games hail from your movie theater lobby, circa 1999. Actually, Gunblade NY was released in 1995 while L.A. Machineguns followed in 1998, but you get my point. Sega was responsible for both, and since I haven’t played this compilation yet I can’t say with certainty, but I believe they were developed by Sega AM3. This compilation was originally released for the Wii in Australia on August 26, 2010, with releases following in Europe and North America on the 27th and 30th, respectively. After enjoying Ghost Squad, I’m looking forward to these. Plus, they’ll take around twenty or thirty minutes to beat and should provide a fun co-op experience.

Tiger Casino – Review

Don’t believe Tiger Casino gas six games! It counts two different slot machines as individual games.

Tiger Casino collects five casino-style games for the less than adequate handheld game system. The variety is appreciated although I have qualms with the slow pace of the game, not to mention the negatives associated with the system itself.

Included in Tiger Casino are poker, blackjack, hi-low (I know it as war), roulette, and slot machines. Winning it big is the objective and betting a lot is the way to do it, but max bets are 5 and with a beginning balance of 500, players will never go bust.

The touch screen is the sole method of input and it works well for selecting the cards to hold or fold, placing bets, and navigating menus. My main beef with the game is the stilted flow of animations. These slow down the pace of the game whereas I’m looking for something that I can quickly place bets and make moves.

Of the games Tiger Casino collects together, I do like four of the five, but because of the betting restrictions and the slow pace of the game, it’s not recommendable.

Fighters Megamix (Game.com) – Review

Fighters Megamix is a mashup mixing together two of Sega’s fighting games as well as some bonus characters.

That Sega would allow some of its series to appear on Tiger’s Game.com is unfortunate; as unfortunate as Nintendo similarly allowing some of it series to appear on the Phillips CD-i. Fighters Megamix was one of those games, and I know that you’re probably thinking “I’ve never heard of that game before so what do I care?” Well fine. The “actual” Fighters Megamix appeared on the Sega Saturn and was a mashup of Virtua Fighter 2 and Fighting Vipers, plus a few characters from other Sega games.

Fighters Megamix on the Game.com is a total bore. It has a character roster of eight from the get-go, with an additional four unlockable special fighters. The few characters I played as did seem slightly distinct, but the horrendous blurring caused just by moving was hard to get over. Not to mention the game’s attempts at duplicating 3D by “scrolling” stages.

Fighters Megamix is a poor game that I can’t find any motivation to play. With “barebones” fighting games such as this one, the best incentive to repeatedly play it is the multiplayer mode. While Fighters Megamix does have multiplayer (!), I also believe that continued play of fighting games requires an appreciation for learning it, and this game isn’t worth learning.