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Suicide Squad: Special Ops: Another dang licensed game.

I’ve been writing a lot about various tie-in games over the past few years. Hollywood Hellfire, Expendabros, Duty Calls, that sort of stuff. A fair share of these are usually just stuff made in flash on a shoestring budget and will likely be forgotten unless people are smart to preserve these artifacts.

Sometimes, albeit rarely, these games actually have installers and can be played from a PC, which surprises me these days. That’s something from the old Shockwave days when you could play miniature games based on Nickelodeon movies and TV shows. (I gotta find those someday…) But this recent one, based on a big comic book movie, was one I wasn’t expecting.

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I have to give props to the blog “I’m Reloading” for bringing this to my attention. It’s one of my favorite blogs because reload animations are solely unappreciated in video games, and somebody’s gotta highlight them. They showed a recent animation to some Suicide Squad game, and they mentioned “It’s on PC.” Cue me scrambling right to the website to give it a download.

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Sonic & Knuckles Collection: Back when Sega published PC games.

Back in the mid ’90s, when Sega slowly was losing its competitive edge against veteran Nintendo and newcomer Sony, they were also publishing a fair share of their games on Windows PCs. This isn’t as well known as their other stuff, considering most of them were ports of existing Genesis and Saturn games.

Most of their games was ports of stuff like Comix Zone and Tomcat Alley. But then a certain blue hedgehog burst onto the PC scene, and I don’t mean by strange fan games made in Klik’n’Play….

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Sonic & Knuckles Collection was released in 1997, and was the second Sonic game to reach PC, the first being two different ports of Sonic CD. It was smart for Sega to port The Best Sonic Game* to Windows machines, for people like me.

I was strictly a Nintendo kid pretty much until the late ’90s, when I got my first PC, and later getting a Dreamcast in 2000. Because of that, the Genesis is a system that I owned but didn’t really experience properly, thus I never got to play Sonic 3 & Knuckles until this PC release.

…Well, that and the water levels in Sonic 2 scared me so bad that when I got Sonic 3 and got to Hydrocity Zone, I got so scared that I asked to take the game back. Damn you Yukifumi Makino and your scary-as-fuck drowning music!

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Nooo don’t send me down there

I have not one, not two, but three copies of this game. The first one I got was part of a Jack in the Box promotion, which had a few other Sega PC games like Sonic 3D Blast and Ecco the Dolphin. The others were a complete-in-box copy and a CD jewel case copy that came in a Sonic three pack with Sonic CD and Sonic R. That’s probably more copies than I need of this game, but hey.

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Let’s go to the target range with NRA Gun Club!

 

1024px-National_Rifle_Association.svgAhh, the NRA. A wonderful organization based in the United States that helps gun manufacturers with guns and trying to advocate gun safety… while blaming things like Mortal Kombat and American Psycho (?!) for causing violent shootings instead of guns themselves. Color me surprised when I found out they made a video game. Well, rather, they gave endorsement for a video game.

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This is NRA Gun Club. A first-person shooter published by Crave (RIP) and developed by our good friends at Jarhead Games. I’ve covered Jarhead’s stuff in the past, with such thrilling hits as CTU Marine Sharpshooter. (I wrote about that before, check it out here.) As far as I know, this game would be their swan song, not living long enough to make it to the 360 generation. This would also be the sole game they made on the PlayStation 2, and it shows.

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After being introduced to the bland title screen, I am asked to make a profile name. Since this is based on the NRA, I’d thought it’d be nice to name my profile after Wayne LaPierre, the NRA president and mirror-universe-Stephen-King.

 

 

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Or at least his first name, this game has a six character name limit.

The only mode with any sort of progression is Certification Mode. Here, there are four courses, each one unlocked after completing the previous one, with certain requirements needed to pass. There’s Plinking, Bullseye, Trap/Skeet and “Practical Shooting.” I’ll get into each one the best that I can.

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The “Plinking” challenge involves rapid-fire scoring for points. It’s damn simple: Choose a weapon, shoot at targets, score points, repeat until time runs out. Most targets give 5 points, but some such as the cans give 10. Each of these are done in “Strings,” where the board is reset each time, and then the final score is averaged out of the best runs. If the average meets the minimum number, it’s considered a passing grade.

Once you qualify in each of the pistol, long-range rifle, and shotgun challenges, you do the “Multi” course which makes you go through all three. Qualify that and you’re certified in the Plinking challenge.

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Shadowgrounds: A fun little action game.

If you’re like me, you probably have a massive backlog. I can’t blame you, Steam sales are the bane of our existences. This means you’ll sometimes buy games and wonder why you got them, like Chrome. I almost wrote something about that but I couldn’t stomach it after two levels.

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This is just a small excerpt of some of the games I’ve bought on countless Steam sales and never played or finished.

So let’s see what else I got. Alan Wake is too well-known, writing something about the six Star Wars games I own would be a bit too popular, I don’t think there’s anyone interested in me talking about the Wallace & Gromit Telltale series…

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A-ha, here we go. A game from a Finnish developer who’d later be known for the fun Trine series of games: Shadowgrounds.

This game holds a bit of a memory because of how Steam was ten years ago. See, Steam was a different beast back then. There wasn’t much outside support outside of a few indie games, like the wonderful Darwinia and the one-note, forgettable Rag Doll Kung Fu. Frozenbyte’s Shadowgrounds was one of those early adopters of Valve’s content delivery service, though this was during that period where games like these were still sold in physical boxes in stores. Though it would likely be shoved into the bottom of a GameStop bargain bin these days before being thrown out.

(Story spoilers within! If you wish to play it yourself spoiler-free, it’s on Steam for the low price of $6.99, or $12.99 for this and its sequel Shadowgrounds: Survivor!)

Set on the moon Ganymede, you play as engineer William Tyler, who’s sent out on a mission to repair some generators with some colleagues. Until stuff goes wrong. Armed with only a pistol, you fight loads of aliens as you solve the mystery and see what happens. Along the way you meet allies, and try to make sense of this mess.

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This a top-down shooter. It reminds me of Valve’s Alien Swarm, though European readers may liken this more to Team17’s Alien Breed series of games. You have a crosshair that aims in the general direction of enemy targets, and it plays fairly straightforward: Shoot the aliens before they attack you and kill you.

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I bought stuff! 4/18/16: Finding leaks and filling in the cracks.

Sometimes you get bored and lack motivation to do something. What do you do when you’re me, a guy who writes silly things on the internet and looking for dumb stuff to write about.

That’s right, time for some thrift store shopping~

I will admit that most of the items I found are random curiosities more than anything. There are some fairly common and interesting things in here, however, and may be something to write about in a future blog post. If all else fails, it’s a good document of all the junk I get and how I got it.

I roamed around the Oak Grove/Oregon City area for this, checking two chain thrift stores and a Goodwill, plus a special hobby shop on the edge of Oregon City. So let’s rock.

Four CDs (99 cents each)

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There’s a post-it over Quake III Team Arena because the CD key would otherwise be visible. Granted, it probably doesn’t mean much these days…

My first hit was a local chain thrift store. I thought I was gonna strike out, but the CDs I got have some interest.

I had Quake Mission Pack 1: Scourge of Armagon, but not the second expansion, Dissolution of Eternity. Now I do. I remember not hearing too many great things, but hey, might as well get it to complete my Quake collection.

I also snagged Quake III Team Arena, aka the “holy shit Unreal Tournament is SUPER POPULAR let’s make this hasty expansion” game. Again, mostly to complete the collection. Nowadays Quake Live pretty much fills the Quake III/Team Arena void, so this are more for collection’s sake.

The third and final game is Shellshock Nam ’67, one of the many Vietnam War games that came out in the early to mid 2000s. This game is notable for being made by Guerrilla Games, the guys who’d be later known for the semi-popular Killzone series. This was the sole game they made independently before Sony bought them around 2004. I don’t know if this game’s any good, but it can’t be that bad, can it?

Then there’s the last one: A Cheetah Girls Karaoke CD. This is probably the weirdest of the lot, but I bought it because it’s a Karaoke CD that supports the CD+G format for Karaoke machines (and related devices, such as the Sega CD and 3DO). I wrote about it briefly a few years ago, you can check that out here.

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Rage and the Art of Reloading.

Alright kids, time for me to get a bit “technical,” as it were. This is one of these posts where I’m gonna talk briefly about a game mechanic and how it actually benefits the player subtly. For those who came here for other stuff, come back in a few days.

One of the more entertaining parts of the whole game. A shame it's underutilized.

One of the more entertaining parts of the whole game. A shame it’s underutilized.

I recently beat id Software’s Rage, a solid first-person shooter/driving game hybrid. I was looking to play something after trying to beat Modern Combat 5, and this seemed like a prime candidate. Earlier in the year, I had ran through Doom 3 again, just to see if it was bad as I remembered it. It actually wasn’t awful, and is a pretty good game. Hasn’t aged gracefully in the graphics department, but what has?

Anyway, Rage has two mechanics that aren’t mentioned, but really help out the player. Most first-person shooters have it so when you reload, you can’t cancel out of the reload, leaving you vulnerable to attack. Secondly, the reload animation has to play out fully before you can fire again. Again, putting you at risk of taking damage, and in a fast-paced shooter, it can be frustrating to have to wait for your dude to slowly slap a magazine into their assault rifle and pull the charging handle before shooting again.

Rage doesn’t do either of these. If you start reloading mid-magazine and hold down the fire button, the reload is immediately canceled so you can expend the rest of the magazine. Secondly, if you’re reloading from an empty magazine, you can skip the rest of the reload and get back to shooting quickly. You can see this in the video I shot from one of the Sewer levels, and is more noticeable if you skip ahead to 1:53.

It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a huge help. Rage has you fighting between the quick and melee-heavy mutants, common grunts, and big boss monsters. The last thing you want is to have to watch a painstaking long reload sequence and die because of it.

Imagine having to wait for your dude to slap the magazine into his pseudo-AK while this monster blows you to bits. Hardly fun, right?

Imagine having to wait for your dude to slap the magazine into his pseudo-AK while this monster blows you to bits. Hardly fun, right?

Honestly, I think reload canceling and skipping long reloads need to start being a thing that’s not reserved as some kind of skill or perk. A lot of FPS games take a simple concept – reloading a firearm – and don’t do much with it. Outside of games like Receiver, which take the concept of firearms and expand on it, most games just take reloading for granted. Think of many other games that were released in the same year as Rage, such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Battlefield 3, Bulletstorm, and Homefront (ugh). None of these don’t give you this same advantage. At most, tweaking a reload involves an exploit such as a melee attack, and in most cases just restarts the reload sequence, taking you much longer to get back in the fight, leading to some frustrating deaths online and off.

Is Rage’s way of handling reloads unrealistic? Yeah. Is it some revelatory thing? Not really. But I think had id not done this, Rage would’ve been a more aggravating experience. Their last major game, Doom 3, had lengthy reload times, but that game has a slower pace to it. Imagine that slower reload on Rage, it would’ve been an absolute mess.

As for Rage itself, it’s worth playing. The wasteland concept is a bit played out – especially since this game came out two years after Borderlands was a hit – but the action and driving’s pretty good. Not only that, you get to take missions from John Goodman and Steve Motherfuckin’ Blum. Can’t get any better than that, can it?

Oh, and this guy, who's voiced by Paul Eiding. Better known as Colonel Campbell. I'll give someone credit for going for notable VOs as opposed to famous people all the time.

Oh, and this guy, who’s voiced by Paul Eiding. Better known as Colonel Campbell. I’ll give someone credit for going for notable VOs as opposed to just getting Hollywood actors for everything.

Diving into the Windows Marketplace with Modern Combat 5: Blackout.

For a while, I wasn’t going to upgrade to Windows 10. But then a friend convinced me of a few cool features, and I decided to finally take the plunge since it’s free as of this writing. Since my current PC was on Windows 7, I missed out on all the cool apps that came out during the Windows 8 era. After perusing the store, I found a few interesting games. Boy, I wasn’t expecting this…

It's time for STERN MILITARY SOLDIER POSE

It’s time for STERN MILITARY SOLDIER POSE

Modern Combat 5: Blackout is probably the most generic title for a game ever. This is the product of Gameloft, a French-based development studio known famously for their mobile phone and handheld games. Naturally, this is a “port” from iOS/Android devices, supporting cumbersome touch screen controls.

While I haven’t played the previous entries in the Modern Combat franchise, I am familiar with it. One of the games, Modern Combat: Domination, made it to consoles and I remember Giant Bomb covering it once. At the time, it looked like a mish-mash of Call of Duty 4 with a pinch of Counter-Strike‘s elements. By default, I go into any new game I play with mild skepticism and low expectations just so I don’t hype myself up for disappointment, so I wasn’t expecting much here.

This is a hell of a way to start a game...

This is a hell of a way to start a game…

You play as Phoenix, a mercenary for works for some corporation. With the help of a bald marine named Bull, you two storm through San Marco, escaping from evil terrorists, and eventually escaping a helicopter in a boat chase sequence. Pretty exciting for the beginning of a Call of Duty clone.

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Afterwards, Phoenix wakes up in Japan, taken over by raiders during some terrorist attack or something. I’ll admit, I barely remember the story of this game, and that’s coming from a guy who played through Battlefield 3 and 4, which had really unremarkable generic campaigns. But from what I gleaned from a wiki for the series, it’s basically double-crossing between various factions, and a surprise plot twist that the CEO of the Gilman corporation is also a mercenary soldier who caused the double-crossing. Hardly oscar-caliber story writing, but I got what I paid for. (Nothing.)

One of the many classes you can choose from. You get Recon to start, and the rest require you to either grind or pay up.

One of the many classes you can choose from. You get Recon to start, and the rest require you to either grind levels or pay up to unlock.

Modern Combat 5 has a leveling system, and unlockables. There’s a create-a-class option, weapons can be upgraded by using them in the game to unlock attachments and better weapons, and each class has special skills that are upgraded using SP. SP is gained between some missions, leveling up, and between events Gameloft put up. One thing I liked is how the rankings persist between both single player and multiplayer, which I wish more games did.

Multiplayer is typical military FPS in a post-Call of Duty 4 world: You have perks, you have a powerup you can use, there’s killstreaks like recon drones and EMP strikes, and you get XP for kills. There’s the common FPS gamemodes: Free-for-All, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, and an unusual TDM variant called VIP where the VIP is always visible on the minimap and killing them rewards more points than killing other players. Fun, but a VIP kill is 5 points and the scorelimit is 50, making the matches go by faster than expected.

Huh, I guess my dad was right about combat drones. Never thought they'd look like this, though...

Huh, I guess my dad was right about combat drones. Never thought they’d look like this, though…

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Aftershock for Quake: Most terrible pun name ever?

PC gaming in the ’90s was a real wild west affair. When games like Doom took off, everybody started making shovelware compilations of anywhere from hundreds to thousands of levels. Most of them were downloaded off BBSes without crediting people, which is pretty scummy in itself. But if you had no internet connection, this was a way to get levels with ease.

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After a few years of this, publishers like WizardWorks started making their own unofficial expansions for games like Quake, Descent and Warcraft II. While this was an improvement – level designers could actually license their stuff for commercial use – the internet was really starting to bloom in the late ’90s, making these unofficial “expansions” obsolete.

Today, I’m gonna look at one of these unofficial expansions for a little game called Quake

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This looks like something I’d see as a background of some pick up artist’s vlog channel.

Aftershock for Quake is a terrible pun, but one of several expansions made to capitalize on Quake‘s success. Published by Head Games, this featured “advanced levels”, adding three episodes and a bevy of deathmatch maps.

Unlike the official expansions – Scourge of Armagon and Dissolution of Eternity – these have no new monsters, powerups or weapons. These are vanilla Quake levels, designed to run with a registered copy of the original Quake. The episodes are drastically shorter than vanilla Quake, only having five levels for each episode.

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There isn’t much of a story to these maps. Hell, with the exception of episode three, there aren’t any credits to who made this. It’s unfortunate, because I was hoping to find a “before they were stars” moments with this expansion.

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Mods and Maps: Classic Doom for Doom 3. You got original Doom in my Doom 3!

Doom 3 was a pretty cool game for 2004. I replayed it recently since it had been several years and I was initially down on it, but after replaying it, I have some newfound respect for it. While not as groundbreaking as Half-Life 2, it was still a good game. Though it’s hardly a “masterpiece of the art form” as the box quote says.

I even have that PC Gamer issue, they were actually serious with that quote!

I even have that PC Gamer issue, they were actually serious with that quote!

Alas, from what I gathered, the Doom 3 modding community was sparse compared to classic Doom, even compared to its competitors like Half-Life 2. But one particular mod stood out, and it’s not surprising it exists considering id Software’s legacy:

It feels like 1993 and 2004 combined into some freakshow.

It feels like 1993 and 2004 combined into some freakshow.

Classic Doom for Doom 3 was one of those hyped mods in its heyday. Boasting a small team of developers at Flaming Sheep Software, these guys aimed to remake the 1993 classic on a modern engine. Of course, what better way to show off the modding skills of Doom 3‘s engine than with a remake of the original Doom?

So much for doing a UV-Max run...

So much for doing a UV-Max run…

There’s only four difficulty levels in this one, similar to Doom 3‘s skill levels. Alas no Ultra-Violence, but I’ll play on Hey Not Too Rough, the equivalent of “Normal” difficulty.

Surprisingly the development team made an intro to explain why you’re going in. It’s so corny, filled with amateur voice acting and really jerky animation. Basically they give a reason for Doomguy to enter Mars and kill demons, eventually fending for yourself. Granted, the intro can be skipped, but it’s fascinating to put a story on why things went to hell. It’s a sight to behold.

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Then you’re thrusted into E1M1: Hangar, with just a pistol. A remix of At Doom’s Gate starts blasting through your speakers. It’s time to kill some demons!

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Invaded by the January 2016 Loot Crate.

Hey kids, what time is it? No, not Howdy Doody time, but something better:

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Yep, it’s Loot Crate time! For January 2016, they went with an Invasion theme, full of sci-fi and other assorted goodies.
They also seemed to change the shape of the crate again from last month, presumably to keep it in line with the non-shirt versions. It makes it more difficult to keep neat and even, but as long as they can stack, I’m not bothered.
Let’s open our space rock of a crate and see what’s inside…


 

The Fifth Element replica multi pass

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This is a replica of the ID card from The Fifth Element, complete with a fake ID for Milla Jovovich’s character Leeloo. (That seriously sounds like a name I’d hear in a comedy film like Kung Pow: Enter the Fist.)
I will shamefully admit The Fifth Element is another one of those movies I’ve never seen. Maybe it was because it was critically panned upon release, but also because most sci-fi doesn’t do much for me unless it involves time travel. Though this replica item is a nice treat for fans of the movie. I’ll throw this movie on the “to watch” pile…


Alien Facehugger plush

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Aww, how cute. It’s an Alien Facehugger plush. Alien is another one of those movies I’ve never seen in their entirety. I’m familiar with its legacy, from the movies, to that weird ’90s toy line with the screeching “ALIIIIIIENS” commercials, to the video games. I still need to finish Aliens vs. Predator.

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