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Five random video game CDs I own.

In my many years of casually running a blog, I’ve ended up collecting a fair share of video game-related junk. Demo discs. Hot wheels cars. Even collecting bottles of Mountain Dew Game Fuel. But one I’ve gotten the most often is random video game-related music.

I have the traditional soundtrack fare of music straight from the game, but there isn’t a whole lot I could write about those. Except maybe that copy of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time that Nintendo Power was giving away to people who re-subscribed to the magazine. But I do have a fair share of stuff that’s tangentially related to video games that I think are interesting.

So here are five random video game-related CDs I own, in no particular order.

Music from the Motion Picture: Tomb Raider

This was around the time where the franchise was in a slight slump thanks to Eidos following Activision’s philosophy of pumping out a new game every year, but before the trainwreck that was Angel of Darkness. I never saw the movies based on Tomb Raider, but I heard they’re fun, popular little action flicks. Maybe that was because a certain Angelina Jolie was the titular star… (The film also features a pre-James Bond Daniel Craig!)

I honestly didn’t think the film would be filled to the brim with licensed music, but there’s a lot here, and it’s a mix of industrial (Nine Inch Nails) and electronic artists (Chemical Brothers, Moby, Fatboy Slim). A lot of it is a good example of that late ‘90s-early 2000s style of pop/industrial and hip-hop/rock sound. A lot of these are artists I’ve heard of, but the only song on here I was familiar with prior to listening was Basement Jaxx’s “Where’s Your Head At.” Which is so early 2000s it hurts.

The only thing I’m saddened by is no portions of the film’s score by Graeme Revell. That was released on a separate CD – It was common to release a soundtrack of the licensed music and a separate CD for the film’s score – but even having one or two tracks on here would’ve been a nice surprise.

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Super Jeopardy! for the NES: Just as fun as the real show!

Game show video games are still one of many genres I’m fascinated by. While Jackbox Games are still plugging away with twice-yearly Jackbox Party Packs, the competition has mostly dried up. Hell, we haven’t had a proper Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy! game since the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 era. (No, those crappy freemium mobile apps don’t count.)

So I tend to go back to the glory days, when GameTek was still around making loads of these games as probably their #1 source of income. I already covered the Game Boy and Game Gear versions of Jeopardy! in the past, and thought, might as well come back to the well once again.

Surprisingly, for the NES, there were four versions of Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune on the system. It honestly would’ve done fine with just two, but it must’ve been a huge cash cow for them to keep making. Either that or being given away as consolation prizes on the show gave them a good reason to do the equivalent of a “roster update” for those games.

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This time, I’m covering a fairly obscure one from the Jeopardy! collection: Super Jeopardy!. Released around 1991, this was based off of the fairly short-lived version that actually aired on primetime TV.

I’m going to assume my audience knows Jeopardy! the game show (here’s the Wikipedia page if you don’t), so I’ll talk about what Super Jeopardy! was.

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Super Jeopardy! was a 13-week special Tournament of Champions featuring the best players of the current version of the show at the time (plus one champion from the Art Fleming era because the first Tournament of Champions winner passed away) playing for a whopping $250,000. Instead of playing for cash, they were playing for points in the main games. Continue reading…

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.

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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…

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Music Kits Series 4: Let’s Get Radical!

I’ll admit that my interest in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive has dropped off in recent months. There not being a lot of major updates is the main reason, but also because I love when they announce new music kits. Just when I thought Valve was basically saving 2017 to be the “year of CS:GO,” they drop a bomb on us:

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A bunch of gloves that are rare as a god damn knife, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about. I’m here to talk about those darn music kit!

I know this whole project sounds silly, but I’m always interested in what musicians Valve can cajole into this project. This time, it’s all lumped into a $7 case called “The Radicals Box”, and they’re all “StatTrak” versions so any time you get an MVP in a competitive match, your teammates and enemies will know how awesome you are.

This time, we got seven more music kits. Three of them are from bands from Red Bull Records, which I covered previously, while three more are from a different record label, Hopeless Records, the band that notably had artists like Taking Back Sunday, Sum 41 and Yellowcard. Sadly those bands aren’t featured here, but instead we get the B-tier bands on their catalog. The last remaining kit is from a returning musician, and it fits with the theme of rock and metal. (Hint: It’s not Daniel Sadowski.)

Like before, I’ll link to a YouTube page and the CS:GO Stash page so you can listen along. That being said, let’s get rocking.


Beartooth, Aggressive

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DESCRIPTION: Beartooth is back for round two. This new music kit hits harder and is even more aggressive. We’ve also made the MVP anthem extra heavy so your opponents feel really bad after they’ve lost to you.

LISTEN ON: YouTube (through the official Red Bull Records YouTube channel), CS:GO Stash

Our first returning act, Beartooth has another pack based on their newest album, Aggressive. Their last music kit was one of those that took a while to warm up to, but this one’s actually damn good. All the tracks are various cuts from the album, in instrumental form. “Loser” highlights as the main menu track, and their other singles “Aggressive,” “Always Dead” and “Hated” contribute to various parts of the kit from action cues to bomb timers. But they even went for album cuts for the remaining sections, such as “Censored” being one of the round/action cue timers.

Since these are the instrumentals, they really do highlight the rocking metal feel of the tracks without someone screeching over them. This also didn’t take long for me to like it, compared to “Disgusting”, which took a while for me to warm up to.

VERDICT: Recommended. A lot less harsh than Disgusting, and is quite catchy in spots.

Blitz Kids, The Good Youth

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British Pop/Punk band Blitz Kids brings you the perfect music kit for rushing B while thinking about those night drives you had with your friends in High School. This kit is for going fast and feeling young.

LISTEN ON: YouTube (through the Red Bull Records official YouTube channel), CS:GO Stash

Another Red Bull Records contributor, Blitz Kids’ appearance here is a bit of an odd one. An alternative rock band, the music kit name and the songs are all from their second and final album, and their sole one with Red Bull Records.

Notice I said “second and final album.” Yeah, Blitz Kids disbanded in late 2015. I seriously hope that the disbanded band members are getting royalties from this kit, otherwise it’d be pretty scummy to make money off a band that’s no longer active.

The kit itself features “Run for Cover” as the main menu track, and much like the Beartooth kit above, Red Bull Records opted for lots of album cuts to round out the kit, such as “On my Own” being the bomb timer, “Sometimes” as the Choose Teamcue, and “Keep Swinging” being one of the action cues.

I like this kit because it’s got that nice alt-rock feel, with occasional synthesizer breaks and string sections, giving it a nice, grandiose feel to the music. Though, using the same song, “The Soul of a Lost Generation” as both the Win and Lose Round cues seem a bit off since they sound too similar. It’s not a deal breaker, but certainly weird.

Again, I hope Red Bull Records vetted this with the previous band members, otherwise they might be in legal trouble. It would be funny for a music kit to become “contraband” like gun skins did, though…

VERDICT: Like alternative rock? Want something a bit lighter than the harsher metal fare? This will work. Recommended.

Hundredth, Free

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DESCRIPTION: Hundredth is bringing heavy to the world with their unique take on melodic hardcore. Break free or return to Dust with this perfect soundtrack for fragging the unworthy.

LISTEN ON: YouTube (from the Hopeless Records official YouTube channel), CS:GO Stash

Our first collaborator from Hopeless Records, Hundredth is who you’d expect: Hard riffs, fast pacing, screeching vocals. If these guys were around just five years earlier, I’d see them being prime Rock Band Network candidates.

Now, at this point I’ve been lauding Red Bull Records and their PR/mixer guy using the entire album for various tracks in their music kits. I wish I could say the same about these guys.

First, no instrumentals, so these are the first music kits where we having singing and actual lyrics. Second, only three songs encompass the entire music kit, and they’re all album singles, and finally, lots and lots of awkward choices for tracks because they’re not instrumentals.

“Break Free,” “Unravel,” and “Inside Out” are the three songs used here, and they just seem so chopped together that they sound awful. It doesn’t help the “screechy heavy metal” is not my kind of genre, so this is one I have a hard time recommending to anyone, unless you’re familiar with the band itself. At least the MVP Anthem is probably enough to annoy people.

VERDICT: So lazily put together. Screeching vocals ruining good music, and using three songs to mash up into 6 minutes of music feels slapdash. Not recommended.

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Mountain Dew Game Fuel: Stand by for Mangofall edition.

I’ve come back from the dead… and what timing, as it’s that time again…

For those who just couldn’t wait.

Mountain Dew Game Fuel at this point is a standard flavor in the soda’s arsenal, alongside favorites like Code Red and Whiteout. What was once an exotic rarity that I had to hunt at stores left and right to try, is now fairly common. Despite that, I do actually anticipate these “special flavors” each year and see which big corporation threw enough of their weight (in dollars) around to get on the bottles this year.

It’s pretty much tradition on this site for me to cover these unique Game Fuel flavors. I first covered it when they did Halo 4 in 2012. I covered the special “purple drank” flavor to advertise the new Xbox One in 2013. I covered the “fizzy lemonade” special edition (which was my favorite) in 2014, and finally when they did back-to-back Call of Duty promotions with an unremarkable flavor last year.

So who’s on tap this year? Call of Duty for the third year in a row? Battlefield? An unexpected contender like Gears of War 4? Nope, It’s one I never thought I’d see.

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YO HE GOT THE MANGO SENTINEL

EA and Respawn’s Titanfall 2 is the candidate this year, and the special flavor is “a burst of Mango Heat.” Since Citrus Cherry is the de facto standard flavor that’s always available, I no longer need to cover it. But how about the special mango flavor? Does it hold up? Continue reading…

I bought stuff! Portland Retro Gaming Expo: 2016 Edition.

Hi hello. It’s been a bit since I posted, and it’s been rough for me lately to really get that drive to actually post stuff here. So this will be a fairly quick one.

I went to the Portland Retro Gaming Expo last weekend, as is custom for me. I’ve been writing about it almost every year, and it’s great as always. Nice blend of retro stuff from the Atari/NES days to even an Xbox system link section where games from Outrun 2006: Coast to Coast and Halo 2 were being played throughout the weekend.

I tagged along with my friend Weasel who writes for Hardcore Gaming 101, and a fascinating little blog called Grinding the Rumor Mill that he should get back around to updating sometime (hint, hint). Most of the time we were perusing and finding interesting things here and there with not a lot of purchases (at least for me). Despite that, we both saw cool stuff. I posted some of my pictures to the Secret Area Facebook page here.

(PS: You should go to the Facebook page and give it a like and a share. Helps a lot!)

Though, I did grab a few games, none of them I’d classify “retro” except maybe the PS2 stuff. But enough about that, let’s show my “haul”…

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TimeSplitters (PS2): $5

One of the launch titles for the PS2, and heard it was good in its own right. I already had TimeSplitters 2 and Future Perfect on the original Xbox, thought I might as well complete the trilogy.

KillSwitch (PS2): $5

Despite the $1 price tag, I actually paid $5 for this. One of the early cover shooters before Gears of War made it blow up into something big. Might be fun to mess around with.

Iron Chef America: Supreme Cuisine (Wii) and Call of Duty: Black Ops II Original Soundtrack: .50 each

This was in one of those discount “everything’s 50 cents” bin, which was actually pretty nice.

Iron Chef America was one of those schlocky licensed titles released during the heyday of the Wii’s life. Yes, it has caricatures of Mark Dacascos as The Chairman, host Alton Brown, and Iron Chefs Cat Cora, Mario Batali and Masaharu Morimoto. (Guess Bobby Flay was busy that day.) The only other reason I remember this was Kotaku doing a preview that featured Dacascos as the Chairman name-dropping Kotaku in the teaser. Sadly, that seems to be lost to time. 🙁

As for the CODBLOPS II soundtrack, it’s one of the few games that I’ve seen Jack Wall compose for that wasn’t Myst III: Exile or Mass Effect. While most Call of Duty games don’t have particularly iconic soundtracks, I couldn’t pass it up at this price.

Forza Horizon (360) and 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand (360): $15

Probably the most recent games in this pile. I liked Forza Horizon presents: Fast and Furious, and I’m always up for an arcade-like racing game experience. As for 50 Cent… well, I want fitty to jump off that big-ass ramp.


 

Hopefully I’ll get out of this funk and have more interesting stuff for you guys over the holidays. I know there’s a bunch of you that like my stuff, and I always appreciate it. It’s what keeps me going.

Wolfram: A Wolfenstein 3D remake that’s somehow not fun.

id software’s amazing run of first-person shooters in the ‘90s are in some of my top games of all time: Doom, Quake, even Quake III Arena was pretty good in spite of Unreal Tournament’s more fun, absurd nature. But one game I had a fondness for was Wolfenstein 3D.

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Wolfenstein is a fairly simplistic shooter by modern standards, but it started laying the groundwork for what made their games tick: Exploring areas, defeating enemies, and strafing around arenas like operatic ballet. What happens when you take most of that away and try to shoehorn in awkward mechanics that don’t fit? You get Wolfram.

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Already we’re off to a great start with this menu…

I have to give a shout out to the Video Game Music Preservation Foundation, which introduced me to this game. Being a fan of Wolfenstein and some of its other games, I had to see if this was the remake of Wolf3D that would be better than the original. The answer is no. Not by a long shot.

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Just like the 1992 original!

Wolfram recreates all of “Escape from Wolfenstein,” the shareware episode of Wolf3D. Levels are the same blocky shapes they were in ‘92, wall textures are a mix between remastered versions of the originals and ports presumably from other versions of Wolf3D, even the music is ripped straight from the original, but somehow sounds worse.

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Oh hey, colored lighting! This would’ve been cool in like, 1997.

So you’re probably thinking, “Hey, this sounds pretty cool! What’s your problem with it?” Well, let me explain.

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Wolfenstein 3D involves using the doors a lot to funnel enemies and dodge fire. Doors become your best friends here.

Wolfenstein 3D’s combat is fairly simple. Outside of some bosses, all the enemies are hitscan – once the enemy shows a certain frame of animation, the game determines if that was a hit or a miss, and if it hits, it calculates for how much damage you take – As you progress, you learn the better tactics of the game involves ducking inside rooms and strafing back and forth at an opened door to avoid getting hit as much. It’s fairly simple and arcade-like these days, but it worked well in the era when Wolf3D came out.

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Call of Duty and Halo Megabloks: A brick-building collection restarts.

Sometimes when you’re like me and you’re bored in a department store, you tend to wander around to other sections to find some amusement or cheap deals. In my case, I browsed the clearance section of a toy aisle. Suddenly I found these little beauties:

These were originally $8 each. Somehow they got even cheaper than this. Don’t know how, but hey, discounts are great.

They’re Mega Bloks tie-ins for Halo and Call of Duty. Since I hadn’t messed with Lego (or its derivatives) for years, it felt like the perfect time to rekindle my interest in brick-building toys. It also gives me something to do when not sleeping all day.

I used to have a lot of Lego as a kid. One of my birthdays I ended up getting about several Lego playsets, with the only non-Lego thing being a VHS copy of D3: The Mighty Ducks. Though my interest in Lego waned as I got older, we still have the bricks around somewhere, in a giant tub somewhere in the house. One of my dreams is to rebuild the old playsets, but that requires time and money I don’t really have.

So these are made by Canadian company Mega Bloks. If Lego is Coca-Cola, Mega Bloks would probably be Dr. Pepper. They’re both fairly known, but one is more iconic than the other. Mega Bloks tends to get the video game licenses more than Lego does, likely more content with making playsets off much bigger properties and telling TT Games to churn out a new Lego tie-in game every year. Any major video game franchise you can think of in the past few years has a Mega Bloks play set associated with them: In addition to Halo and Call of Duty, I’ve seen ones for Assassin’s CreedSkylanders, and probably a few others I’m missing. Mega Bloks basically has the video game brick market covered.

This box was beaten to hell. I should’ve asked if I could get a deeper discount on damaged goods. So much for resale value…

So let’s dive in. The Halo Mega Bloks features a covenant guard riding a Ghost, one of the iconic vehicles of the franchise. It’s no Master Chief in a Warthog, but it’ll do. The Covenant guard also has pieces that make them resemble Jul ‘Mdama, a character introduced in the 343 Industries era of Halo games. Alas, my only experiences with Halo is limited, and I actually had to do some research to figure out who this character was.

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Imagine the hassle I had keeping this mofo upright.

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