With Cubivore: Survival of the Fittest done and dusted, I thought I’d turn my attention to another game that’s been on my backlog for years: Singularity. Developed by Raven Software and published by Activision on June 29, 2010, it’s an alternate history first-person shooter centered on the Cold War and time manipulation. Accordingly, it has a few unique, and fun, time-based gameplay mechanics. The gunplay is solid but clearly intended for a mouse and keyboard in favor of a controller. Speaking of favors, I did myself none by playing on the hardest difficulty. Nonetheless, it lived up to my expectations and was a net-positive experience.
Who can say what sparked it, but one evening Jeff and I played the Sega 32X. It’s an add-on for the Sega Genesis that increased its power but never proved successful for a variety of reasons, namely poor timing. Its library rounds out at about forty titles which pales in comparison to the nine hundred plus that the Genesis hosted. Along with it, I also have a Sega CD which makes setup an absolute chore. There are three power bricks (although only two are needed if the Sega CD isn’t being utilized), an A/V cable connecting the Genesis and 32X, and an A/V cable connecting the monstrosity to the TV. Our session was a memorable one though, so it was worth it.
With such a limited library there aren’t a lot of options, especially when I only have a few games. The two that we spent the most time with were Virtua Racing Deluxe and Doom. As he’s not partial to racing games we barely touched VRD. That game’s primitive polygonal graphics can be off-putting at first, but I was surprised at how fast and responsive the game was; it’s definitely a worthwhile title. Therefore, we spent our time with Doom. Our session lasted a couple of hours, and we wound up making it to the final stage*.
His experience with Doom supersedes mine, having played it on PC closer to its cultural explosion. My first gameplay exposure came with the Xbox Live Arcade release. I couldn’t tell you what went through my head then, but I don’t remember being blown away, even considering the context of its release. After all, this was the most significant of the early first-person shooters and became one of the most popular, if not played, video games up to that point in time. Honestly, I wasn’t particularly jazzed about playing the 32X version but it’s hard to ignore how well-made it is, even this version.
For hours, we blasted demons with a handful of weapons and searched for keycards in order to open locked doors and progress to each level’s exit. That took place across fifteen-odd levels, with one or two focusing on a boss fight rather than exploration. On paper, this all sounds monotonous, but the gameplay was quite fun. It was a fast-paced shooter and the stages and enemy encounters never felt duplicated, despite a limited palette of either. Undoubtedly, playing with a friend and taking turns completing levels enhanced my enjoyment.
This newfound enjoyment and appreciation of Doom surprises even me, considering I really enjoyed Doom 3 – a game most others didn’t. I’m contemplating more Doom and my next steps branch two ways. The 32X version was a port of the PC original which hadn’t even fully released at the time, so I haven’t completely seen Doom (which this FAQ detailing version differences is just phenomenal). I’ll either start up the XBLA release or the version included with the Doom 3 Limited Collector’s Edition. I’ve also never played Doom II: Hell on Earth so that’s a natural progression too. Either way, I’m excited to play more Doom. I guess that’s one redeeming quality for the 32X.
* The final stage to reach the credits. If we had reached the same stage on a harder difficulty, there were actually two more stages.
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.
It doesn’t matter who you are, you have an opinion on KISS. Or more realistically, you have an opinion on Gene Simmons. The group and the man are undoubtedly rock legends, but both can come off as cheesy and/or abrasive. I’m not a big fan, but I can appreciate the work they’ve done. With the exception of KISS: Psycho Circus. From what little I’ve played, it’s a gothic first-person shooter with bad controls and little narrative direction. It’s based on the comic book series Todd McFarlane concocted with Gene Simmons. Beyond the requisite amount of time I played to check it out, I haven’t touched it. I’d like to give it a fair shake sometime down the road, but then again, maybe not.
KISS: Psycho Circus was originally developed by Third Law Interactive – a team of former Ion Storm employees – and released on the PC in North America on July 18, 2000. The Dreamcast port was handled by Tremor Entertainment and it was published on October 29, 2000 by Take-Two Interactive. Both developers seemed to flounder within a few years, neither putting out anything truly notable.
I had a handful of issues with Resistance: Fall of Man. I’d have to say many others did to, despite its release to critical acclaim. I say this because Resistance 2 rectifies every issue I had with Fall of Man and does so on a much more epic scale. Nathan Hale speaks more in the first few minutes than he did in the entirety of the first game. Even so, it’s apparent he’s not the star of the game – the locales and boss battles are. More importantly, the campaign difficulty is balanced much better. Every decision Insomniac Games made culminated in a more entertaining first-person shooter compared to the original.
While Resistance 2 picks up immediately where Fall of Man left off, most of the game takes place two years after the events of the first game. It’s 1953 and the Chimera have practically overrun the United States – the last bastion for humanity. Salvation rests in the hands of a few U.S. soldiers who were infected with the Chimeran virus during government studies. Sentinels, as they’re referred to, possess superhuman abilities and regenerative health. They’re not immune to the virus living within them though, and must take injections frequently to inhibit the spread of the virus.
The U.S. studies which created the Sentinels were carried out by Fyodor Malikov, a Russian scientist seeking a way to combat the Chimeran forces and cure the virus that transforms humans into the alien scourge. One of his failed test subjects has since become known as Daedalus. Formerly known as Jordan Shepherd, Daedalus is a hovering blob of Chimera that operates as a hive mind commanding the Chimera. The game begins with his escape from a secret base in Iceland at which point he begins putting a hurting on the remnants of America. Nathan and his new Sentinel buddies know what needs to be done and set out to kill Daedalus.
The forward momentum in Resistance 2 was always the destruction of Daedalus. However, with Malikov’s presence came much back-story and in retrospect, it seems like the game was most concerned with filling the player in than topping off the Chimeran threat for good. Whether it was in regards to the Chimera and their origin or the experiments that Malikov did, I never felt like the overarching conflict was moving towards closure with Nathan’s actions. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Most series’ seem to be trilogies nowadays so even if major story beats happen in the middle games, it usually doesn’t represent a major amount of finality for the series. I’m not too bummed because I was consistently mesmerized by the locations and set piece battles I encountered.
Nathan’s journey saw him traveling across America, through both scenic settings like redwood forests and southern swamplands and notable cities like San Francisco and California. Each level felt unique thanks to the vastly different settings and the varied enemy types. These two facets were major improvements over Fall of Man. It was the boss fights that truly shined though. These end-level nuisances were hulking mammoths, the scale of which I don’t think I’ve seen in another first-person shooter, were unbelievable to see and fun to conquer. I especially like how they were foreshadowed throughout the levels. Catching glimpses of the skyscraper-sized Leviathan in Chicago set the mood for the remainder of that level.
The stages and bosses were very cool, but thankfully the campaign difficulty was balanced so much better than the original. First off, the health system was slightly revamped. Recharging health was still in effect but instead of a tiered health bar, damage was indicated by the amount of blood splatter on the screen. I prefer this shift from the tiered health bar because it saw me getting in less binds where I had a sliver of health; I could regenerate Nathan’s health fully by taking cover instead of only up to a point. The biggest improvement in my eyes was the less stringent checkpointing. After every battle or story event, I was greeted with a checkpoint. No longer was I forced to battle dozens of enemies again if I was killed after a few minutes of progression. This was such a relief and helped me enjoy this game much more than the original.
One of the bigger gameplay changes between these two games was Nathan’s ability to carry weapons. In the original, I had access to each weapon I came across; the game adopted an old-school approach, favoring a personal armory. This game opted for the now common two weapon limit. At any point, Nathan could only carry two weapons, meaning I had to make decisions as to what I wanted. My decision was usually influenced by Insomniac’s weapon staging. Weapons were placed in key points along the linear pathway, and like the boss battles, usually foreshadowed an impending battle. I really thought they did a great job at this since it got me alternating weapons and going outside my comfort zone.
It might be cliché to say, but Resistance 2 was a roller-coaster ride. Nathan’s travels took him throughout America at a break-neck pace, and usually I didn’t quite understand why. It all seemed to be in service of exploiting the locales for interesting settings and epic boss battles. I’m cool with that though because Insomniac played with a scale unseen in first-person shooters. Best of all though, the game was actually enjoyable to play. With the revisions to campaign difficulty, this game was challenging – not brutal. For these reasons, and the shocking ending, I was jazzed for Resistance 3.
Resistance: Fall of Man is a game of banal hues. Whether I’m referring to the grayish picture it paints of Great Britain circa 1951 amidst the invasion of alien forces, the grim outlook for humanity, or the game’s stiff difficulty, it’s not in high spirits. It was a game that I had a hard time getting drawn into. Sgt. Nathan Hale, the game’s protagonist was unrelatable as he was mostly silent, uttering a handful of words throughout the four days covered. The third-person “past-tense” storytelling also didn’t help draw me in, although it was unique and fitting. Lastly, I just didn’t think the campaign was balanced well.
What’s initially distinguishing about the game is its alternate historical setting. Presumably, World War II never happened as the alien Chimera were ravaging the Soviet Union for decades. The rest of Europe was most likely wary of what was happening behind the Iron Curtain and preparing for the worst, as Great Britain had done. After overtaking Europe, the Chimera crossed the English Channel and all preparations went out the window as the country was lost in a matter of months. Afterwards, the United States sent in a large task force to seek out a secret weapon the Brits claim will save humanity; enter Nathan Hale.
For most of the introductory sequences I was under the impression that Nathan was a silent protagonist. He might well have been as he spoke, like, three times throughout the ten hour campaign. Instead, most of the story was told by Captain Rachel Parker, a British soldier who determined there was something amiss with Nathan immediately – he had been infected by the Chimera. It was of little consequence in the game ultimately, although it was always a pressing concern for her. With Nathan hardly speaking, he really wasn’t characterized, he was little more than the player’s avatar. But through Rachel’s recounting, he was given a story, at the very least.
The narrative cutscenes had Rachel talking about the game’s events in the past-tense, as though they had happened only a few days ago. As she was the one narrating the story, all references to Nathan were in the third-person. I thought these two storytelling mechanics distanced me from Nathan even more than him being a (near) silent protagonist. Nathan’s survival took him all over Britain, but I found the campaign to be relatively event-free and ultimately forgettable.
Gameplay was standard fare for a first-person shooter and it encompassed sequences common across the genre. There was a driving sequence or two including an expletive-inducing tank sequence that had me banging my head against a proverbial wall for countless attempts. What set it apart the most from other similar games was its armory, which makes sense as Insomniac earns high praise for their innovative weaponry. Many staples were present although I felt the game was at its best when I was utilizing a secondary feature or dispatching enemies with a weapon unlike anything I had used before.
Bringing down the enjoyment I had with the game was its difficulty. I’ll start with the health system. Nathan had four chunks of rechargeable health. When one was depleted, I was no longer able to regenerate it. This is highly prevalent nowadays (and it was seven years ago too (I can’t believe this generation is that old!)) but I’ve never played a game where recharging health took so long! On the other hand, the enemies are bullet sponges. I love that the M5A2 Folsom Carbine, the standard human assault rifle, has a 50 round magazine, but dumping into enemies yields a few kills before needing reloaded. Finally, the biggest offender was the checkpoints. I found them so infrequent; I’d have to do battle with dozens of enemies multiple times thanks to a single mistake. Between the three difficulty levels available to me, I chose normal but in many parts, it felt more like hard. This probably earns kudos from some hardcore shooter fans out there, but for someone just wanting to enjoy the game and have a decent amount of challenge, it was off-putting.
The game’s difficulty had me frustrated on many occasions, but I persisted and still think Resistance: Fall of Man was a solid FPS. The story and characterization did very little for me, although the alternate historical setting was plenty enough to start me off. I remember very little astonishing moments or set pieces, but the core gameplay, excluding the difficulty, was really good. I even jumped into the multiplayer for a few matches and had fun, despite a losing streak. I wasn’t exactly raring to jump into Resistance 2 after completing it, but I’d take the plunge anyways.
I’ll often times try to find a game that my friend Jeff and I can play through. I’ll look for something that’s not very long and will provide some form of entertainment. When we last hung out, I came across a copy of Fugitive Hunter: War on Terror and I knew it met these criteria. Fugitive Hunter: War on Terror was developed by Santa Monica, California based Black Ops Entertainment, and released for the PlayStation 2 on November 18, 2003 courtesy of publisher Encore.
Fugitive Hunter: War on Terror follows the exploits of one man, Jack Seaver and his travels to hunt down fugitives. Before beginning the game I thought he might’ve been a bounty hunter, but he’s actually a member of a fictional government agency whose responsibility it is to hunt down America’s most wanted fugitives. Jack travels around the world hunting fugitives who pose increasing amounts of risk to America’s safety.
Most of the game was a first-person shooter. Controlling Jack, I’d venture through straightforward levels taking care to mow down every baddie I ran into. These thugs ranged from local gang members to Al Qaeda. There was a variety of weapons and many alterative fire options, although I mostly stuck with shotguns which obliterated enemies from far away.
An interesting feature to the FPS gameplay was the ability to lock-on to enemies. By pressing the square button, my reticle would automatically hover over an on-screen enemy. Aiming and moving was a little too sensitive, so I appreciated this feature, but I did over utilize it. I refrained from manually aiming unless the lock-on feature wouldn’t target an enemy. This simplified the game and made it seem like a guided experience; linear levels coupled with intense auto aiming meant all I had to do was move and pull the trigger. It didn’t always target the “best fit” enemy. While my reticle might have been right next to an enemy, it might target someone in the corner of the screen. Instances of this happening led to a few deaths.
Besides tracking down Jack’s target, I’d also have a few secondary objectives of finding or destroying important items. These were sometimes hard to locate even though the levels were linear. I nearly gave up in the first level until I realized my objectives were represented on my radar by a white dot. I was surprised by how competent the gameplay was, with the exception of items being too nondescript. Black Ops Entertainment had a solid track record up to the game’s release; having developed the PlayStation James Bond games they had much experience with the genre.
A gameplay element that didn’t stand up to scrutiny was the fighting. Before Jack could capture the fugitives he had to wail them into submission. At this point the gameplay switched from a FPS to a fighting game. I had a limited selection of moves and the most viable way to deal damage was with combos. After I hit on the fugitive a little, his health bar would flash indicating I should do a combo. It’d take a few combos to capture a fugitive and these weren’t always guaranteed; even though they were simple combinations of two buttons, combos didn’t seem to register all the time. Plus, the final fugitives attacked ferociously and didn’t leave much time to get hits in. Regardless I beat the crap out of and CAPTURED OSAMA BIN LADEN! How many other games can lay claim to that opportunity?
There’s a lot I like about Fugitive Hunter: War on Terror, albeit ironically. The whole premise of being able to beat up and capture Osama Bin Laden is weird, maybe a little exploitative considering what America had gone through a year or two prior. Jack constantly spewed awful one-liners and when he’d fight fugitives, he’d converse back and forth with them. After he’d capture the fugitives he’d perform an unnecessary and outlandish attack on the enemy; much of the game makes it seem like it’s a ten year old’s interpretation of a bounty hunter. But, the premise is unique and the gameplay – with the exception of the fighting – is solid. Good for a couple of hours of laughs with a friend.
Released about a decade after the previous installment, Doom 3 reset the series but maintained its place as a forerunner for things to come in terms of technical specs. But it wasn’t just a technical powerhouse in its day; it has solid gameplay with many neat features.
Doom 3 was originally developed by id Software while the Xbox version was ported by Vicarious Visions. It was published by Activision on April 3, 2005, eight months after the initial PC release. Flipping through the manual I also noticed that Raven Software received a credit for additional Xbox development and that Splash Damage was credited for additional multiplayer design; many people worked on this game for sure.
Doom 3 is set on Mars in 2145. The Union Aerospace Corporation has a research facility there and they have been conducting many experiments, and a lot of things have been going wrong. Enter Councilor Elliot Swann. He has been sent in to conduct a review of the UAC, primarily the facility’s head scientist, Dr. Malcolm Betruger. The nameless marine that I played as arrived on Mars with Swann and his bodyguard, Jack Campbell, a beefed up marine. Pretty much as soon as we landed all hell broke loose, literally, and from then on I was always trying to catch up to Swann and Campbell.
As I’m sure you can imagine, Betruger has gone crazy and is behind the strange occurrences happening. He had been working on teleportation technology and in the process opened a portal to hell. After sending marines in to bring back demons to research, Betruger went in himself and lost it. With the UAC facility running wild with demons and zombies, it was up to Swann, Campbell, and me to get to Betruger and close off said portal. This was easier said than done.
I began the game separated from Swann and Campbell and spent the rest of the game playing catch up. I made my way through hallways upon hallways of linear stages attempting to reunite with them. There weren’t any open environments or differing paths to take in Doom 3. I simply followed the path and whenever I reached a locked door or something that hindered my progression, I found the key card or whatever it was I needed and kept on.
The UAC facility wasn’t empty though. I’d run into the random straggler who had somehow survived and they’d usually provide me with important information. But the most common residents of the complex were demons. There were tons of demons throughout the complex, often time hiding in what has since been termed “monster closets”.
The designs for these creatures are absolutely grotesque. The more common Imp was humanoid but had a dirty looking exterior and ten eyes. Worse of all, he could leap at me or throw fireballs. These were all over the place and not that tough, I eventually just shotgun rushed them. There were many more demons however and plenty of them took a lot to take down. I have to mention the final boss and just mention that it was epic and a fairly tough fight.
There were plenty of weapons to choose from and all the staples are accounted for: the pistol, shotgun, machine gun, etc. But the weapons I really loved (although I really loved the shotgun) were the super powerful weapons. A hallmark of the series, the BFG 9000 is present and it’s devastating. It fires a green orb that destroys pretty much everything in the same room. The chainsaw was interesting and fantastic to use against the weaker enemies. Another noteworthy weapon was the Soul Cube. A remnant from a lost civilization, it was super powerful and when used, restored my health completely. But I had to get five kills before I could use it. I do have a complaint about the weapons. I didn’t like the way they felt; it didn’t feel like I was bludgeoning a zombie with my flashlight when I hit them; perhaps this had to do with the otherwise exceptional sound design.
While I mentioned earlier that game is linear, and it is, I still got a minor sense of exploration. As I searched every nook and cranny with my flashlight, I was usually rewarded with extra ammunition or health supplies, very nice. Usually I was also rewarded with a few extra demons to fight too. One moment that sticks out in my mind: I was walking through a server room and I spotted some armor shards in a completely black corner, as I picked them up an Imp appeared in front of me and spooked me. I felt like I was getting rewarded for having a keen eye, while also getting more out of the game in the way of enemies.
Another exploration aspect of Doom 3 was the PDAs. This UAC complex was recently inhabited by many people, what’s left of them, besides zombies, are their belongings, namely their PDAs. Contained on their PDAs are emails and voice recordings filling me in on what happened before I arrived. I was always stoked to find a new PDA because I wanted to see the info it contained.
The flashlight played a major role as I made my way through the complex. As I stated before, I used it to explore every dingy corner of the complex. But usually it was necessary just to make it to the next door. If Doom 3 is remembered for any technical aspect I hope it’s its lighting effects. The lighting system in the game did a great job of creating areas that were completely dark, even in the same hallway or room that had some light in it. When demons spawned from pentagrams, the lights would dim and turn a bloody red. What I found fascinating was how well the flashlight cut through the darkness and how much of a necessity it was. There were a few instances where I had to dredge through pitch black rooms, and it was a spooky experience.
Doom 3 kept me entertained. I was interested watching the plot unfold, and even though its linearity was more apparent than it is in other games, I still enjoyed making progress. The game is very dark, definitely a horror story, but outside of its many jump scares, I didn’t find it too scary. Although playing with the right mindset and the lights out made it a tense experience. I enjoyed the gameplay, but it’s a unique FPS in that the single player is the main draw, which is okay with me. I loved the lighting system and the flashlight (even if it wasn’t attached to a weapon) and special mention should be given to the atmospheric sound design, very creepy. I’ve been to hell and back and I believe Doom 3 is a worthy game in an iconic series.