Tagged: review

Some Weekend Writing about Far Cry 4.

I rarely abandon games. Mainly because of the infamous “sunk cost fallacy”: I spent money on this, thus I must play it in its entirety to get all of my money’s worth. Even for a person like me who doesn’t buy a lot of games these days, there’s that fear of wanting to not let even a game I bought on deep discount go to waste. With that thought process in mind, I would drag myself through a game that I wasn’t thoroughly invested in, just to see the ending and sit through a 30 minute long credits sequence.

This post talks about my most recent case of suffering from that sunk cost fallacy. Amusingly, it’s a sequel to a game that I’ve written about on this very blog in 2014, the year that game’s sequel came out.

One of the rare occurrences the fourth installment isn’t as good as the third.

Far Cry 4 is a game that basically pulled a bait-and-switch on me and a friend, and in many cases did things backwards compared to the previous game, which I thoroughly enjoyed. How can a sequel bungle so many things that the previous game got right? Well, let me explain why this game is a disappointment to me.

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There are a handful of games I own that fall into this category of “here to play it in co-op with friends” than to be invested in the story or the characters. This doesn’t mean I don’t care about the game’s world, but I tend to use it more as a social experience to talk with friends rather than anything to be deeply invested in.

For me, Destiny 2 is a good example: While there’s a unique, interesting world with a rather neat amount of lore to it, I honestly couldn’t care less about any of it. Thus I just roam around areas and kill enemies with friends. Most “looter shooters” fall into this format with me, but at least Bungie makes up for it with cool designs and some rather picturesque visuals.

Friend of the site Bobinator from Hardcore Gaming 101 suggested that I get Far Cry 4 way back in mid-2018 as it would fit that criteria of “playing it in co-op with friends.” It being on deep discount for $13 probably helped too. The two of us have played games like the Saints Row series entirely in co-op and we had a fun time playing through them. Far Cry has a similar free-roaming nature of causing chaos in a digital world, so I took the plunge. What could possibly go wrong?

One of the few highlights during our co-op session. Don’t ask me why he has a shovel handle stuck in his arm.

Continue reading…

A little Weekend Writing about Darksiders.

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Weekend Writing post. The last one was BioShock 2 way back in July, in fact. While I may not do it every weekend, it did inspire me to write about things I probably wouldn’t have otherwise. This one is no different, but it also spurred from a conversation a friend gave me.

Anyone who checks this site at a cursory glance may notice I often write about about action games and shooters. Hell, the last post was Rambo: The Video Game, literally a light gun shooter. I’ve written about them so much that some friends have called me a “shooter guy,” which makes me feel like I don’t write about anything else.

Today, we’re gonna change that. This ain’t about a shooter even though shooting’s in it. This is a game that’s a weird cocktail blend of everything, yet somehow it works without outright falling apart.

I’m probably not the only one who’s confused this with a handful of other games that start with the name “Dark.”

Darksiders is one of many games I’ve bought several years ago and only just now got around to. I got a free code from GameStop’s Impulse service many years ago, back when I had written about Stoneloops! of Jurassica. I never got around to it in 2012, but did end up with an extra code thanks to getting the Humble THQ Bundle, back before THQ got swallowed up by some German conglomerate and before Humble Bundle became Just Another Digital Storefront. Man, 2012 was a much different time. I eventually passed the Impulse copy to a friend since it came with a Steam key.

I played Darksiders through the more recent Warmastered Edition, which was given free to those who already owned the original, which was a nice thing on THQ Nordic’s part. Warmastered Edition is one of several times THQ Nordic gave punny subtitles to the names of their remasters of Xbox 360 and PS3-era titles. (SEE ALSO: Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition, Red Faction Guerrilla: Re-Mars-stered Edition, etc.)

I didn’t play the original, so I can’t do a compare-and-contrast, but if I had to guess, there’s likely some polished graphics and optimization improvements but otherwise is identical to the original release. Perhaps the remaster has bigger impact graphically on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, where they likely run smoother than the 360/PS3 original, but I can’t say.

Darksiders’ story is fairly simple: It involves the spirits of Heaven and Hell fighting for dominance and causing the end of days, which Our Hero, War of the Four Horsemen, trying to stop and make sense of this. Eventually he’s dragged near death, but bargains on one condition: To figure out who done this, with the goal to be freed.

So much detail for something barely seen this close.

I’m gonna be honest: Darksiders’ story is really, really dumb. It’s something a 7th grader would’ve wrote doodling on a notebook while listening to Avenged Sevenfold. The whole game is trying to be edgy and hardcore with its story, but it comes off as incredibly silly. It alludes to The Four Horsemen and uses elements of Greek mythology in bizarre ways. Hell, War broods so much that even Kratos from God of War would tell him to dial it back a bit.

Granted, I did not get this game for its deep, impactful story. I heard it was a good hack and slash game with some elements of The Legend of Zelda, and while I do come off as “the shooter guy,” I try to dabble in other genres so I don’t get burnt out as easily. So let’s dive in.

Time to wreak havoc on these fools.

Continue reading…

Games I beat in 2018: Medal of Honor, the mostly forgotten 2010 reboot.

Hey folks. Sorry that my posting is still somewhat erratic at the moment. Things have been going on in my life, and for a good while I didn’t have anything interesting to write about. I’ve amassed so many junk items over the years that they’re all strewn about in my room, hoping one day they’ll be played and/or written about.

So instead of struggling to think about something, I’m gonna do some posts about some of the games I’ve beaten throughout 2018. Surprisingly it is a small list, as I had fallen into the trap of playing the same quick pick up and play games instead: Killing Floor 2, Payday 2, Asphalt 8: Airborne, and more recently, Quake Champions.

Despite having a massive backlog, I still did finish a few games throughout the year. This was originally gonna be a post with two reviews, but this particular review got so lengthy that I had to split it up.

So let’s talk about a failed reboot of an iconic franchise, shall we?

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Mr. DudeMcLargebeard getting ready to shoot the evil people.

(Warning: Spoilers for the story of Medal of Honor 2010 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 lie within.)

Back around 2014, I had written (but oddly didn’t publish) a thing about Medal of Honor: Airborne, which I had replayed because a friend was streaming the game. It’s one of his personal favorites, and while I liked some elements of it like being able to drop anywhere on the in-game map, or even the creative weapon upgrade system, it just felt like a tired shooter going through the motions, and was going beyond the more historical angle of Medal of Honor, even having Nazi super soldiers wielding MG42s like it was nothing.

At the end I had written something to the effect “It’s not as amazing as Frontline or Allied Assault, but it’s probably better than Medal of Honor: Warfighter.” At the time, I hadn’t played the most recent Medal of Honor games, and 2018 felt like the time to tackle Medal of Honor 2010 – as I’m gonna call it from here on in, to distinguish it from the 1999 original – and I felt disappointed all the way through.

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I finished this back in January, as the very first game I beat in 2018. This was not a good start to the year.

Realizing World War II games were on their way out after a near ten-year period of them constantly coming out, EA was in a bind. Medal of Honor was considered this prestigious franchise, and they didn’t know where to take it. Their solution was to see what their competition already did three years prior and follow suit: Go modern, and see if it stuck.

The problem was that this came out right after the extremely successful Modern Warfare 2, and was out the same year as Call of Duty: Black Ops – probably in my top three favorite Call of Duty games for various reasons – so already EA was climbing a very, very steep hill. With Medal of Honor 2010, EA didn’t get to the top, but instead slipped and started rolling down the hill, giving themselves bruises and broken bones along the way.

Gameplay wise, it’s a boilerplate roller coaster of a modern military shooter. Shoot the bad guys, reload, occasionally use a grenade launcher or call in airstrikes. Right click aims, Left click shoots. Occasionally you get medals for headshots or multikills, a holdover from Medal of Honor: Airborne that doesn’t make sense here. There’s even a level where you’re in a helicopter. Occasionally soldiers go “hooah” and speaking military lingo so frequently that it’s almost self-parody.

Even something like this has been done, and done better elsewhere.

It’s clear Danger Close was glancing at what Call of Duty 4 did years prior, and tried to copy it, but didn’t understand what made Call of Duty 4 such the blockbuster success.

Continue reading…

Carol Vorderman’s Sudoku: I’d like 3 big ones…

Over the many years I’ve been collecting games, I’ve always found particularly unusual game show games. Besides the common Jellyvision/Jackbox collective, I’ve found stuff like Outburst, a board game that decided to become a poor man’s You Don’t Know Jack; Another Jack clone that was endorsed by MTV’s TRL, the list goes on. I even have Pat Sajak’s Lucky Letters, which makes me one of the 34 people who bought a physical copy, and that’s also worth talking about. But this one’s a bit different. It comes from across the pond, and features one of the most notable fads of the mid-2000s…

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I wonder if us Americans thought Carol Vorderman was like Mavis Beacon.

It’s Carol Vorderman’s Sudoku. A somewhat obscure Sudoku game, this came out courtesy of Secret Stash Games, a weird Eidos Interactive imprint. Though Empire Interactive is also credited on the box and in the game itself, which mostly published games in the UK (and were the original distributor there, presumably).

So you’re probably asking: Who the heck is Carol Vorderman, and why is she endorsing a Sudoku game? I’m going to assume the people reading this post are not from Britain and/or game show nuts, so I’ll give the skinny on who she is: Carol Vorderman is a long-standing television host, being the co-host for a British game show called Countdown.

Countdown is a fairly simple game show where players either try to come up with the longest word from a semi-random pick of letters, or solve a mathematics puzzle by hitting a target number with six randomly chosen set of numbers.

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Carol solving a particularly devious numbers round.

Vorderman was well known especially for the latter, sometimes getting solutions to the math problems that even the players couldn’t figure out. She was on the show for a very long time, from the show’s early beginnings until 2012. She’s almost like Britain’s Vanna White, but does more than touch screens and clap all day.

As for Sudoku, it’s a little more complex. A long standing game that got an unusual resurgence around the mid 2000s, the game involves placing the numbers 1 through 9 on a 9×9 grid split into 3×3 subgrids. The goal is to make it so each row, column, and subgrid have one of each number without any duplicates. It’s a nice mental puzzle that gained traction in unusual ways, and it’s one of the mini-games in Nintendo’s then-popular Brain Age games. It’s certainly more enjoyable than Jumble or Crossword puzzles, anyway.

Presumably this was made for a pittance, since this was around the time Phoenix Games were churning out sub-par budget games in the UK, so this likely got tossed in that same pile. Though in my case I only paid a few bucks for it at a gaming convention, so it’s no big loss.

So here’s the first problem I have with this game. Carol Vorderman doesn’t have the name recognition that someone like Gordon Ramsay or James Corden has outside their native England. Had I not told you who Carol Vorderman was, you would probably assume she was a fictitious entity like Mavis Beacon.

But I assure you, she’s a real person who endorsed a Sudoku game, and for some reason somebody thought it was fitting to bring it here without any context of who she is or where she’s from.

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This looks like this was made in like five minutes while the Ui designer was taking a bathroom break.

But enough about what person gets to endorse the sudoku game, let’s get back to the game itself. The version of Carol Vorderman’s Sudoku I’m playing on is the PS2 version. Though it did get a PC release, I couldn’t get it to work on Windows 10. I assume both versions are identical in terms of content, but when it comes to something like Sudoku, you can really only change so much. Continue reading…

Overkill 3: The long-awaited continuation through the Windows Store.

About a year or so back, I wrote about Modern Combat 5. I did so because I had jumped from Windows 7 to Windows 10, and never got to experience the Microsoft Store ecosystem.

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One of the games I had downloaded, Sniper Fury, weren’t really worth talking about all that much. Just felt like Modern Combat 5 but more like a rail shooter.

I was going to do a series based on Windows 8-10 apps, but I got sidetracked by other things. The other games I had installed had either gotten super grindy to make progress unless I paid, or in the case of Asphalt 8: Airborne, that they are such a daily ritual for me that I’m still grinding to get that last achievement to this day. The only other games that could be interesting to write about are too well-known like the Killer Instinct reboot.

But there was one more game I had installed, and until recently, never tried. Then I tried it, and thoroughly regretted playing it.

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STERN MILITARY FACE RETURNS

Overkill 3 is the third installment in a modestly popular franchise originally released on mobile platforms. Co-developed by Spanish developer Game Troopers and Czech developer Craneballs – props for the goofiest developer names I’ve seen yet, this is the first game available on the Windows platform.

From what I’ve seen of screenshots from the previous titles, Overkill 3 takes a mild curveball in terms of how it plays. The previous titles were first person rail shooters, and while Overkill 3 still plays like one, we actually get to move to third person, over-the-shoulder rail shooting. So it’s a bit of both a rail shooter like its predecessors and a cover shooter like other games out there. At least they’re spicing things up.

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Here’s our resident shootyguy who must kill the evil big bads from… doing the bad things. Honestly I couldn’t tell you much else.

There is a plot to the gmae, but it’s so razor-thin that there’s no reason to pay attention to it. You play as John Scully, a military soldier who goes from various places around the world fighting off big bads that vary from generic soldiers to outright mechs. There is no principal villain, just Scully going from place to place, hiding behind cover, and shooting dudes repeatedly. Scully also wins the award for the most ridiculous protagonist hairdo I’ve seen this side of Soap MacTavish, which is something.

Each mission has Scully shooting enemies, and completing certain tasks. Some are simple: Finish the mission, complete the “slide the screen” quick time events, don’t die. Others are fairly grindy, like killing x number of enemies, or staying in a stage for a period of time. Completing challenges gets a star and some cash or medals that can be used to upgrade or buy new things.

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How cute, I could get the Aliens pulse rifle if I get some more premium currency. Bet it doesn’t have the sound effects.

Overkill 3 hits this weird territory of being tonally inconsistent with the world and its plot at times. While there are human soldiers who wield real guns like an AK-47, a Desert Eagle, and a Barrett .50 cal, there’s also futuristic space guns, even ones like the pulse rifle from Aliens, and… stuff like a giant mech robot with a minigun.

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Johnny 5 is alive! …and he’s fuckin’ PISSED!

It’s like the team wasn’t sure if they wanted to stick to being a modern military game, or saw what Call of Duty was doing at the time and thought future warfare was The In Thing; so they decided to go with both. I assume the previous games were mostly grounded in reality, but since they were on iOS I can’t really confirm.

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Since this is a freemium mobile app, they’re gonna barrage you with packs for real money to get you to invest in their ecosystem. Thankfully I didn’t spend any money.

So you probably read “buy new things” and asked, “This is a freemium game, isn’t it?” You’d be right. To get certain weapons and armor, you need to have the right amount of credits and medals. Credits can be acquired by just doing missions, but medals require either leveling up, completing specific challenges, etc. Of course, you could just buy your way to victory, but I do not encourage this because this game really doesn’t deserve any money.

There was a point where every time I started playing Overkill 3, that there was a glimmer of hope, that there might be something good. As I progressed, there were missions that became so annoying and remotely unfair in spots that I must’ve tried and retried a dozen times, and that’s even when given the opportunity to revive just by watching an ad. I basically was grinding myself down in a vague attempt to make some progress, and it certainly wasn’t fun.

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I can’t tell which of these is worse, the sticker with the ableist language or the “JOIN ARMY | KILL PEOPLE” sticker…

It doesn’t help that even while in cover, Scully was still taking damage. Sitting there, not firing, having him nag at me for not doing anything, and he would still take chip damage. At one point, I had just finished off the last enemy – a mech robot shooting rockets at cover – and took just enough damage to die, thus denying me the reward for finishing the level, having to start over.

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This seems more in line with the other games in the series, just being a gun that shoots everything in front of them.

I could upgrade my armor, but I also hit that wall where I needed medals, and I didn’t have enough of those. I could get a better, more powerful gun, but those cost a lot of credits and require lots of grinding. I could upgrade my weapons or buy grenades or rocket raids, but eventually those cost medals as well. And if I use medals, I then can’t get certain weapons or armor unless I grind or spend money to get them. Lather, rinse, repeat.

There is a reason there’s a fair share of disdain among people who play these kind of free-to-play games and hit the brick wall of being stuck unless they’re willing to do the grind or give up and pay their way to make progress. For Overkill 3, the gameplay loop is so rote that it just wasn’t fun.

I was willing to put up with the paper-thin story, the wonky controls that were made more for a tablet touchscreen and not a common mouse and keyboard PC, hell, I was even willing to play the endless mode to get some extra cash. But I just got sick of it, and realized there were many other, better games I could be playing instead.

This mission in and of itself took a dozen tries, mostly because I went from full health and armor to zero in a matter of seconds. This game ramps up the difficulty unfairly.

I hate leaving games unfinished, but if the goal to completion is “grind or pay up,” I tend to abandon it without much of a second thought. Unless it’s a game I really find enjoyment in, like Asphalt 8, I can’t stick with it. I gave up roughly around the halfway mark, and feel no urge to come back to it, because I know even if I returned to it, all the elements of the grind would rear its ugly head once more, and I’d get sick of it again. So I abandoned it, and moved on to something else.

Even though this is a mobile game ported over to Windows, this is not where the legacy of Overkill 3 ends. Game Troopers moved on from the crowded mobile game market to the not-nearly-as-crowded virtual reality market. For the low low price of $20 — VR headset sold separately — you can play Overkill VR, which is this exact same game in Virtual Reality! At least it probably doesn’t have scummy microtransactions to slow down progress.

Let’s make tap to high-five the new “Press F to pay respects.”

There is one thing I do appreciate about Overkill 3, though: Sometimes Scully will ask you to do a high-five upon completing a mission. I’m not even bothered by the fourth-wall breaking moment, it’s just so goofy that I’m always amused when it happened, no matter what.

I will always appreciate games from countries you won’t expect to have a burgeoning games industry. Hell, I wrote fair praise about Chaser a few years ago, a game by a Slovakian game development studio. It’s just not a good game. If they were to release an Overkill 4, I’ll be okay with skipping that, if this game is any indication. At best, Game Troopers and Craneballs deserve a gold star for trying and not much else.

Shadowgrounds: A fun little top-down action game.

If you’re like me, you probably have a massive backlog of games. It’s not surprising, Steam sales have become the bane of our existence. In my case, I sometimes buy games and wonder why I bought them, like Chrome. I almost wrote something about that game, but I kept dying even on easy, so I bailed out of playing that one.

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. It’s a bit early in the year to write about Amnesia: The Dark Descent, stuff like The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim has been done to death, and I don’t think there’s interest in me writing about the Telltale Wallace & Gromit games…

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“Doom 3 meets Smash TV” is quite an unusual boxquote.

Here we go. Shadowgrounds, a game from Frozenbyte, a Finnish developer who’d later be known for the Trine series of games. This was one of their earlier efforts, and holds a bit of a memory for me. We have to go back to the far-flung past of 2006 to explain this story.

While Steam is an absolute juggernaut and considered the gold standard of PC digital distribution now, back in 2006 Steam was a much different beast. Besides Valve’s own titles, there wasn’t much third party support for the storefront, 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, and while it probably wasn’t a breakout hit, I remember it being one of those standout games during Steam’s early years. Considering this was during the transition period for PC gaming where games were still sold in physical boxes in stores, this was probably a better place for the game than being stuck in a bargain rack at a GameStop.

I bought this along with its sequel, Shadowgrounds: Survivor during a Steam summer sale. I was familiar with the game through a demo, but I figure the full game was probably worth a try. It being $1.24 during a Steam summer sale probably helped too, as I’m a sucker for impulse-buying games for super cheap.

You play as engineer William Tyler, who is sent to the moon Ganymede to do some routine generator repair. As expected in fiction like this, stuff goes wrong and aliens begin to invade. Armed with only a pistol, Tyler must fight loads of aliens as he fights for his life while trying to find out the mystery of this invasion. Along the way you meet people that try to help you make sense of this mess.

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Even for a top-down shooter, this game has pretty good level complexity.

Shadowgrounds is 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. The game is fairly straightforward: Shoot the aliens before they attack you and kill you.

A lot of the arsenal is fairly commonplace stuff for these kind of action games: You start with a pistol, then later get an assault rifle, shotgun, rocket launcher, stuff like that. The only unique weapons on display is a laser rifle, a longer-range railgun and an electric zapper weapon towards the end of the game.

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You can’t tell in the screenshot, but the character’s head-in-a-box has a moving mouth, but not their in-game version. Looks kinda weird to me.

Throughout the game there’s a lot of PDAs and computers that explain the shady dealings that this military base does, which is kinda cool. While this does give some Doom 3 vibes, it at least seems more interesting especially when one of the PDAs is a small gag about a chef’s love for meatballs.

Continue reading…

Die Hard Nakatomi Plaza: John McClane on a budget.

It’s the holiday season, and what better way to celebrate than playing something Christmas-related? How about a game based on one of the best damn action movies of the 80s, Die Hard?

I don't care what anyone says, this is a Christmas movie in my book.

I don’t care what anyone says, this is a Christmas movie in my book.

Okay, I may be stretching it a bit here. But it’s better than trying to find some Christmas-themed game involving Santa Claus. It’s also appropriate, considering Die Hard‘s legacy.

There have been many Die Hard games over the years. There was the top-down action game for the NES that’s been featured by the Angry Video Game Nerd and Games Done Quick, the multi-genre Die Hard Trilogy, even the Sega brawler Dynamite Deka which was rebranded as a Die Hard game when it hit stateside. But we’re gonna be talking about a little-known budget shooter that featured our old pal John McClane, Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza.

Love how they don’t try to give a Bruce Willis-like face for McClane.

This game had an interesting history. Starting out as a “Die Hard TC” for Duke Nukem 3D, it eventually made the leap from the aging Build engine to the new GoldSrc engine in 1999. Development on Nakatomi Plaza went silent in 2000 as rumors went around 20th Century Fox sent a cease and desist on the project.

Eventually the game got re-announced the following year, now with the proper Die Hard license. Since 20th Century Fox had their own games publishing arm (at the time), the game got one more engine change: the fancy new Lithtech Engine. The engine that was used in The Operative: No One Lives Forever a year prior, and would be the primary engine for Monolith Productions’ stuff for years to come. The engine was also fairly cheap to license, which meant Lithtech powered lots of budget games I’ve actually talked about before. We’re talking stuff like CTU Marine Sharpshooter, Vietnam: Black Ops and…

But enough about the engine that powered a dozen junk games. Let’s get into the game itself. Nakatomi Plaza is a loose retelling of the original Die Hard‘s story. If you’re reading this and you’ve never seen Die Hard, stop reading this and watch the film. NOW. Alternately, you could read the book the movie’s based on, Roderick Thorp’s Nothing Lasts Forever, which I heard is actually a good book. If you have seen Die Hard, then continue. Preferably read this while listening to that GuyzNite song about the Die Hard franchise.

Since this game’s hits all the famous parts of the original movie, I won’t go into a play-by-play of the game, only for what the game has changed from the film itself.

The game starts out exactly the same as the film: John McClane arrives at Nakatomi Plaza thanks to Argyle the limo driver, meets up with Mr. Takagi, Ellis and Holly Gennaro, before Hans and his terrorist buddies come in and wreck stuff, leaving John barefoot with his 9mm Beretta.

It's weird to be playing an FPS with a left-handed protagonist. What is this, Counter-Strike?

It’s weird to be playing an FPS with a left-handed protagonist. What is this, Counter-Strike?

Continue reading…

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Music Kits Series 3: A goddamn smorgasbord.

About a day or so after I finished writing the last post about Counter-Life, I took a nap. When I woke up, I found out about this:

More CS:GO music kits.

Not only more of them, but practically doubling the total number of music kits from 16 to 30. I nearly fainted after that. This time it seems we’re getting a big variety sampler pack, from returning artists to new contributions from notable film composers, to even an interesting collaboration between Valve and a record label. In addition to the new music kits, they now added “StatTrak” variants that keep track of the times you’ve become the MVP in competitive matches. It seems a bit silly, almost like a joke someone made to Valve without saying they were kidding afterwards. But if you want it, it’s there for $6.99 if you want them, or on the marketplace for cheaper.

Since I’ve written about the previous ones before, it’d be remiss of me not to continue the tradition. Like before, I’m gonna write how I felt about each one, mentioning some of my favorite tracks, and whether or not it’s worth the $5-7 to grab, with a quick verdict at the end.

Now in the last collection, I had made videos of the new kits, but this time I passed on doing that. It’s not that it wasn’t fun to make, it’s that considering my meticulous nature for making these things, I would’ve taken a month to work on something that’s already been eclipsed by other YouTubers for lesser effort. So for the sake of this, I linked to other YouTubers or CSGOStash if you wanna listen along.

So without further ado, let’s get started…

AWOLNATION, I Am

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DESCRIPTION: AWOLNATION Alternative Rocker AWOLNATION brings you a music kit for the ages. This kit is jam-packed with an eclectic selection of tunes and includes cuts from singles ‘I Am’ and multi-platinum hit ‘Sail’.

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

Over the past year or so, we’ve gotten fairly notable electronic musicians: Noisia, Feed Me, that sort of jazz. For this series of kits, Valve teamed up with Red Bull Records to bring three notable artists from their label, including AWOLNATION.

AWOLNATION (yes, in all caps) is a notable artist because of their multi-platinum award winning song “Sail.” A lot of this music kit features tracks from their recent album Run, though it’s all instrumental with the occasional shout here and there.

Alas my knowledge of the band comes from “Sail” and little else, so I had to hunt down what songs were used for each track thanks to Spotify.

The kit is named after one of the songs, “I Am.” Surprisingly, it’s not the main menu track as expected, but another track from the album, “Windows.” Other songs like “Hollow Moon (Bad Wolf)”, “Run” and “Jailbreak” are used for the Action cues, Bomb Timers and Lost Round/10 Second Timer, respectively. “I Am” shows up as one of the action cues, whereas their biggest hit “Sail”, the only song from their previous album, shows up as both an action cue and the MVP Anthem.

Yep, once you frag dudes and get the MVP, everyone will be hearing the keys along with Aaron Bruno yelling “SAIL!” at the end. It’s worth it just for that alone.

VERDICT: Recommended just on the MVP Anthem alone.

Beartooth, Disgusting!

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DESCRIPTION: Beartooth brings an agressive [sic] back-to-basics hardcore stomp that gets crowds moving and breaking stuff. A perfect soundtrack for your no-scope scout frags. Rock ’till you’re dead.

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

Here’s Valve/Red Bull Records collab number two. Beartooth is a metalcore band by Caleb Shomo of Attack Attack! fame. (Just so we’re clear: We’re talking about the Attack Attack that did that awful guitar crab-walking to a song called “Stick Stickly,” not the Attack Attack from Wales that’s the infinitely superior band.)

I’m fairly picky about my taste of music. If there’s anything I hate about metal sometimes, it’s a guy screeching incomprehensible words into the microphone. If that’s all the talent you need to be a metal singer, then I should be auditioning to be one right now. Thank god the music kit is strictly instrumental, which unearths some pretty decent metal underneath.

All the songs here come from their 2014 album Disgusting. Their single “In Between” serves as the main menu track, whereas other songs like “Keep Your American Dream” and “Body Bag” are the action/round cues. There’s some pretty okay metal on these tracks, and if you loved stuff like Skog’s Metal from the original set of nine, this is right up your alley. I’d be okay with them releasing more stuff like this.

VERDICT: Lightly recommended, get it on the Steam marketplace for cheap. Great for those who want more rocking in their CS:GO soundtracks.

Daniel Sadowski, The 8-Bit Kit

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DESCRIPTION: Daniel Sadowski creates the first ever 8-bit Music Kit for Counter-Strike complete with authentic 8-bit sounds.

LISTEN ON: YouTube (courtesy of YouTube user DeezTurbed), CS:GO Stash

Our first returning composer, and I honestly wasn’t expecting him to return for a third time. This is Sadowski’s third music kit for CS:GO. This, along with the DOTA 2 music kit he also did recently, makes me think he’s practically a official composer for Valve considering how much he contributes to their games recently. It’s great, really.

Considering the name, you can guess this aims for a chiptune approach, which is drastically different from his previous offerings (Crimson Assault and Total Domination). While we got fairly close to chiptune with an unused MVP track in Feed Me’s High Noon, this is the first music kit to actually go for the retro game music approach, and he does a fine job here.

Some of my favorites include the Start Round, Choose Team and Start Action tunes. A lot of these fit right in line with NES-era music, which I consider to be a fairly difficult thing to master.

After hearing this, I’d love to actually see notable chiptune composers have their take on chiptune game music for CS:GO, such as Rushjet1, or Danny Baranowsky. If someone like Sadowski can make a solid retro game music soundtrack, I’d love to hear someone else’s take at this.

VERDICT: Recommended. Good for those who love chiptunes that actually are chiptunes and aren’t just someone adding samples to crappy MIDIs.

Darude, Moments CSGO

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DESCRIPTION: Yield freely in the soundscapes of Finnish producer Darude’s familiar musical flavours and tones. Enriching yourself with access to a heavy fusion of progressive overtones and scores of tingling melodic structure from the sounds banks of one of dance music’s most renowned pioneers.

LISTEN ON: YouTube (courtesy of YouTube user CSGOPoetry), CS:GO Stash

Ah yes, Darude. That guy who made that “Sandstorm” song that got popular in the early 2000s. Then it got popular again because Twitch chat users thought it’d be funny to go “DUDUDUDUDUDUDU Kappa” and make “Sandstorm” jokes on DOTA2 and CS:GO matches. It seems Darude has taken this in stride, at one point DJing at The International 4 after party and pretty much trolling the entire crowd by teasing “Sandstorm” the entire night before finishing it as the encore.

I’ll mention this upfront: No, “Sandstorm” is not in this kit. The kit itself has tracks that sound like “Sandstorm,” but none of the tracks are actually “Sandstorm.” Rather, it’s a unique track made specifically for the game, though it’s titled after his most recent album. Despite being named after an existing Darude song, “Moments,” it sounds nothing like the music kit featured here. In fact, I really couldn’t find the song he used here, so it’s likely an original composition named after his most recent work.

A lot of the tracks have the same catchy beat to it, with additional instrumentation where appropriate. The first Start Round/Action has good instrumentation, and I like the slowdown touches on the Round Loss and Deathcam cues. But a lot of it sounds similar, which is slightly disappointing, but hey, this is a bigger get than when DOTA2 got deadmau5.

VERDICT: Lightly recommended, get it on the Steam marketplace on discount. It’s not Sandstorm, but Darude made a good enough substitute.

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Kiss Psycho Circus: Glam rock meets the paranormal.

I am not a fan of Kiss. I only know a few of their songs, mostly because they appeared in Rock Band. I’m aware of Gene Simmons’ mastery of marketing the band, complete with corny ’70s live-action specials, their shift to hair metal in the 80s, and of course, the infamous Kiss Kasket.

They have a couple good songs, at least. “Love Gun,” “I Was Made for Lovin’ You,” even “Strutter” is pretty solid. Kiss is a band I can appreciate and respect, but I don’t really care for them.

The late ’90s was the time for a Kiss comeback: The original line-up got back together and released an album in 1998 called Psycho Circus. With that title, and probably with a pinch of Gene Simmons’ marketing mastery, it eventually lead to a comic book series written by Spawn creator Todd MacFarlane, and of course, a video game. Prepare for the Nightmare Child.

This is one of four different covers. I guess they hoped people would buy all four in a way to recuperate the development cost?

This is one of four different covers. I guess they hoped people would buy all four in a way to recuperate the development cost?

Kiss Psycho Circus: The Nightmare Child is a video game adaption of the Psycho Circus comic book series by Image Comics and Todd MacFarlane Productions. The comic involved the band members becoming supernatural beings and saving the universe as part of the silly team moniker Four-Who-Are-One. The video game borrows elements from the comic, but has a wholly different story.

This was released on PC and Dreamcast in 2000, not long after games like Quake III Arena and Unreal Tournament were getting big. Though this being released on the Dreamcast and not the then-forthcoming PlayStation 2 is rather baffling, but maybe it’s for the best.

Instead of playing as members of Kiss, you play as members of a Kiss tribute band who get teleported to a special world ran by this gypsy named Madame Raven. She tells you about this big bad called “The Nightmare Child,” one that will destroy the world, and your band are the chosen ones to stop them.

I hope you love mystical dialog that barely makes any sense!

I hope you love mystical dialog that barely makes any sense!

Separated by the Hall of Mirrors, each band member goes through each world as they grab each of the six pieces that form the respective Elder to stop the mythical Nightmare Child. Admittedly, the story is rather nonsensical even in-game, I had to resort to the manual to understand this bizarre-ass story.

I can say with authority that this story is so god damn ridiculous that it’s not worth looking further into. Then again, with this being co-opted by a band known for wearing silly outfits and the guy who created freakin’ Spawn, I’m not expecting System Shock 2 levels of storytelling here.

Here's a goofy little easter egg: The statue is holding the logo of developer Third Law Interactive.

Here’s a silly little easter egg: The statue is holding the logo of developer Third Law Interactive.

This game was developed by Third Law Interactive, founded by one of the original members of the Daikatana development team during its first year or so when it was under the Quake engine, so already we’re off to a shaky start. They didn’t do a whole lot of notable stuff outside of this game, my brief internet search found out they worked on an Aliens vs. Predator 2 expansion and added stuff to the Game of the Year edition of No One Lives Forever.

You may have noticed that’s all Monolith/Lithtech stuff. Unsurprisingly, this game runs on Lithtech 1.5, which is an absolute pain in the ass to get working on modern devices without needing an elder god and maybe dgVoodoo2. Worst off, that this is one of those games that has the pesky disc check, and no patch or update is out to turn it off. A shame, really.

But let’s get to the meat of Kiss Psycho Circus. In the game, you choose one of the four supernatural characters and go through a set of levels, getting weapons, jumping on platforms, activating switches and killing enemies in your wake. Through the levels, you’re looking for the items make your character part of the Elder, like boots, shoulder pads, and finally the iconic Kiss masks.

This guy's ready to pull the trigger on his gun. His Love Gun, that is.

This guy’s ready to pull the trigger on his gun. His Love Gun, that is.

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Pac-Man Spinoff Games: The Card Game and Two Challenging Puzzles.

While I do like writing about video games themselves, I also like blogging about some of the more obscure, lesser-known video game products that aren’t as well known. Before I got fascinated by video games, I was really fascinated by board games. Still got a massive collection, even. So I’m gonna talk about two interesting video game board game spinoffs, featuring a notable pill-chomping hero.

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I keep saying it, and it bears repeating: I’m a writer, not a graphic designer.

Board games based on video games were once an interesting art form. People would take classic games like Super Mario Bros. or The Legend of Zelda and try to adapt them to a board game format. Most of the time they really had to stretch what kind of game they could make out of the source material. Others were designed much like old games based on TV shows, movies, or even personalities like Dr. Ruth and Lucille Ball.

Alas, that’s all disappeared in the modern age in exchange for reskins of Monopoly, Risk and Yahtzee with Pokemon or Metal Gear Solid slapped onto it. I blame USAopoly for homogenizing the licensed board games market.

Actual picture of a Monopoly section at a board game store in a mall. 90% of these looked the same, from the materials inside to the back of the box!

Actual picture I took of a Monopoly section at a board game store. 90% of these looked the same, from the materials inside to the back of the box!

Let’s go back to the past, and talk about a little pellet chomper named Pac-Man. Back when Buckner and Garcia were exclaiming they had “Pac-Man Fever,” and before this beloved character was not being slapped into crappy cartoons written by ex-Tiny Toon Adventures writers, Pac-Man was super-popular in the United States. This was mostly in part because of Midway’s very aggressive marketing, who were the rightsholders for Pac-Man in the US before Namco took back the rights.

I could cover the Pac-Man board game by Milton Bradley in 1980, but it’s been done to death. It plays much like the arcade game, where multiple Pac-Men could gobble dots for points while being avoided by the ghosts. It’s like Hungry Hungry Hippos, but with a board and actual strategy attached to it. They also made a board game for Ms. Pac-Man, but replaced the power pellets with a die roll, and had only one player take control of Ms. Pac-Man, swapping control to another player when an enemy ghost captured her. Also, the easily losable marbles were replaced with much more sensible chips.

There’s not a whole lot to say about the Pac-Man board games, they’re simple conversions of the arcade game. But the Pac-Man game train didn’t stop there. Enter Pac-Man: The Card Game, and Pac-Man: TWO CHALLENGING PUZZLES!

That’s how the packaging calls it, capital letters and all.

Released around 1980-82, both of these were released to further capitalize on the Pac-Man gravy train. I snagged both of these a long time ago, back when I was using eBay like a madman and buying things left and right. I kinda miss those days, that’s where a fair share of my games collection came from, as well as other obscure stuff I own, like a Wheel of Fortune play-along TV handheld from the late ’80s.

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