Category: Budget Shooter Theater

Budget Shooter Theater was an idea where I was gonna play first-person shooters and similar genres to completion and write about them.

I did this from 2016-2017, and abandoned it after not enjoying the premise. These recaps are here for posterity’s sake.

Budget Shooter Theater #5: Serious Sam: The Second Encounter.

“Best played co-operatively.” It’s something that’s fairly obvious for some games: Left 4 Dead, Payday 2, Killing Floor, the works. These are the kind of games that are built from the ground up to be played co-op with friends or random players, but can also be played by yourself if you want to. To me, the term also applies to games that have a single player campaign, but is infinitely more fun with a few friends. Like Sven Co-op is for Half-Life. That describes Serious Sam, the chaotic shooter series, to a T.

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I wanna know who thought to give Sam this 50s chiseled-guy-in-a-pulp-comic look.

After realizing the “Decision Wheel” I made was leading to my own picks rather than unique or random ones, I abandoned the idea and replaced it with a simple queue system where friends and viewers could request games to be played on future streams. As I was asking for requests, my friend Cambertian on Twitter suggested this one for me to try, and it was quite the interesting pick.

I’ve played Serious Sam games in the past, where I tried to play through the classic games solo through the HD remasters, but I never got very far in them. I was more successful playing through them co-operatively with a few friends, where I played through The First Encounter HD, Serious Sam 2 and even part of Serious Sam 3: BFE. Sadly the group I had to play Serious Sam 2 and 3 were from separate communities, and we had a hard time matching our schedules enough so we could finish 3, since one of them was from the UK whereas the rest of us, including friend of the site Bobinator, were based in the US. One of these days I might replay 3: BFE solo, but we’re here to talk about the original games.

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Even for a 15-year-old game, it still looks pretty.

The Second Encounter is basically an expansion pack to 2001’s The First Encounter. It adds a few new enemies to its bestiary such as a pumpkinhead looking monster with a chainsaw, an Reptiloid Demon that throws homing fireballs, and even alien variants of the simpler headless foes of First Encounter. There’s a few new weapons in addition to the common arsenal of shotgun, tommy gun and rocket launchers, including the valuable sniper rifle – devastating against middle tier enemies – and the Serious Bomb, the game’s answer to the BFG.

There’s a few new locales like the jungle, some temples, even a snowy land, each area defining a certain episode of the game. These are much different than the aztec temples that are prevalent in First Encounter, and it brings a nice look to things.

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A common sight in Serious Sam: Lots and lots of enemies.

Serious Sam is part of a genre I’d call “slaughter FPSes,” as they relate to the Doom community’s “slaughter map” design of straightforward levels and lots and enemies to kill. Many of the rooms in The Second Encounter throw loads of enemies in fairly open spaces, which isn’t particularly hard.

However, once I got partway into the second episode, the game starts ramping up the difficulty in an unfair way. They loved putting loads of Kleers – the skeleton monsters – in very cramped corridors, making it difficult to push through without getting stuck and repeatedly taking damage. The flamethrower was my best friend a lot in that section, as it killed them pretty fast.

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Budget Shooter Theater #4: Christopher Brookmyre’s Bedlam: The Game

The internet is a fascinating thing. It’s really easy to somehow stumble upon something you didn’t know existed, and then get enamored into giving it a try. That’s probably the best way for me to describe my experience with playing this game, which was the fourth game featured on Budget Shooter Theater. It’s probably the most obscure, as well.

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Christopher Brookmyre’s Bedlam: The Game is a game based on a novel by Christopher Brookmyre (natch), a noted British author, whom sadly I was not aware of since I live in the United States.

I hadn’t really heard of this until I was watching Achievement Hunter-turned-Twitch streamer Ray “BrownMan” Narvaez, Jr. play this game, doing a blind run of this on Xbox One probably just to get achievements for it, something from his Achievement Hunter days that he still does. It seemed like an interesting little game, so I ended up looking for it on Steam and sure enough, there it was.

This was the third (and final) game I requested myself that I put on the “Decision Wheel,” just so I had a queue of games to play for this Budget Shooter Theater idea. The other two games were ones I had already played: The Ultimate Doom and the then-recent remaster of Turok: Dinosaur Hunter. Ultimate Doom needs no introduction. Turok was something I wanted to try to see if it held up or was strictly a nostalgia grab.

Bedlam, on the other hand, was strictly unknown to me until I watched that stream. I was going in mostly blind, and I wanted to see if it was as good as it looked when Ray played it. Turns out, it’s surprisingly better than I expected.

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Ahh, the days when games looked sharper before ugly OpenGL texture filtering…

The story involves Heather Quinn, who signed up for a new virtual reality machine that simulates video games. Little did she know, she was sucked into the world of video games instead. With the help of various people she meets in the various game worlds, she must fight her way out of Bedlam.

The moment I started playing, I was thrown into a game world not unlike Quake II. Though it goes by a generic name – Starfire – it clearly has the style and look of that mid-’90s era of PC gaming, which I thought was neat. Through my travels, I went through a WWII FPS not unlike Medal of Honor, a futuristic open arena similar to Halo or PlanetSide, a medieval world similar to games like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, even an area that resembled Pac-Man. This is Bedlam‘s world in a nutshell.

Yet, oddly, the game also name drops notable locations like Black Mesa from Half-Life, and even mentions Call of Duty, despite all the games depicted in-game being fictional. Presumably it’s okay to reference those games without having to pay legal fees, but this might all be references that are still in the book, which I haven’t read. Continue reading…

Budget Shooter Theater #3: Turok: Dinosaur Hunter: The 2015 Remaster

Budget Shooter Theater was not going well. After playing the amazing Doom, I tried to play through the dreadful PC version of James Bond 007: Nightfire. That did not go well. In the only time I ever bothered to, I rage-quitted and moved onto the next game. The Decision Wheel gave me Turok: Dinosaur Hunter.

As opposed to other games on that list — which include future entries like Serious Sam and and Christopher Brookmyre’s Bedlam, this was one chosen by me because I wanted to pad the Wheel with options until there were enough people requesting stuff that it wasn’t necessary. I also was itching to try this game for a while, so now felt like a good time as any.

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The version I played is the recent remaster on Steam, co-developed and published by Nightdive Studios. Nightdive’s been hard at work re-releasing older DOS and Windows 95-era games and making them work in modern machines (or at least putting a DOSBox wrapper with it). Most notably is reviving the long-dormant System Shock franchise, and even trying their best to bring No One Lives Forever back from the dead, among other notable revivals. Naturally it makes sense to bring back Turok.

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Of course there would be a literal maze in a game like this…

The Turok game franchise is mostly known as a console series, where the main games were on Nintendo 64. However, the first Turok as well as its sequel Seeds of Evil did get PC releases, but rather than reverse engineer the game to work on modern machines like System Shock 2 or Aliens vs. Predator Classic 2000, the game’s assets — models, maps, sounds, and music — were ported to a proprietary engine known as the “KEX” engine. The engine is the same engine that handled the Doom 64 source port known as Doom 64 EX and would basically be the engine framework for Nightdive’s games going forward. As a result, this remaster is a mix of old and new: It’s like the console game, but not an exact port of the PC game. This might piss off some purists, but not me.

Continue reading…

Budget Shooter Theater #2: 007: Nightfire’s dreadful PC version.

Since I’m more of a writer than a Twitch streamer, I’m gonna be doing recaps and info dumps of Budget Shooter Theater streams alongside regular blog posts for those who wish to keep up. Mainly so I can keep tabs on things, and have records for everything.

After playing the absolute classic The Ultimate Doom with a litany of cool GZDoom mods, I eventually pulled up the “Decision Wheel,” which was me using the site Wheel Decide to determine the next game I was going to play. It landed on 007: Nightfire, requested by Bobinator, a friend of the site.

You’re probably thinking, “Oh! I remember that game! That game was amazing!”. Yeah, it was amazing. On a Gamecube, a PS2, even an Xbox. But that’s not the version I was playing on stream. I was playing the less-than-stellar PC version, released around the same time and developed by Gearbox Software.

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In hindsight, this is quite the blandest James Bond game cover. Pierce Brosnan and one of the girls in the game. Couldn’t add a bit more excitement, EA?

Back in 2002, Gearbox Software was contracted by EA to make a PC game loosely based on 007: Nightfire. At this time, Gearbox was still a plucky fresh-faced developer, piggybacking on Valve’s Half-Life games. It wasn’t until 2005’s Brothers In Arms: Road to Hill 30 did they actually get to make something entirely original that wasn’t based on an existing license or a port of something like Halo: Combat Evolved.

Loosely inspired by the 1979 Bond film Moonraker, the plot involves Bond (portrayed by but not voiced by then-current Bond actor Pierce Brosnan) investigating the plot of a philanthropist who decommissions silos and does charitable work, when in reality he’s making missiles for Operation Nightfire, which would destroy the whole world. It’s a typical Bond story for the era. Not full of pastiches like 2001’s Agent Under Fire, but certainly not the more “serious” Bond that Daniel Craig brought to the role in 2006. Continue reading…