Tag Archives: fps

Remember when there was just one Alien?

Juggling several games at once, like I constantly do, means you have more chances of rediscovering stuff you bought (or maybe even got for free) ages ago and never played. One such game is Alien Versus Predator, one of the most famous among those featuring the Xenomorphs – and the Predators too, of course, but there are many more games about the Alien whereas the hunter creature never really got anything aside maybe from Predator: Concrete Jungle (another game currently in my waitlist). And as it usually happens with very old stuff, 18 years old in this case, what you discover is not quite the same as people saw it upon release.

The Marine campaign would be much more tense, if it weren’t almost arcade in nature.

They said it was scary. Well, people also found The Exorcist horrifying in 1973, so I guess standards do change. But even so, I was never really afraid of peeking behind a corner. Perhaps the biggest problem was, even if an Alien had been hiding there, I could just blast its face full of lead. At worst its acidic blood splurts would take out maybe 15% of my armor, top. Not so scary then, is it? Enemies respawn, which means you can never truly feel safe, but it’s also easy to predict where the developers are going to spawn an Alien, so you are always ready. Except for the face-huggers. Those things were really annoying.

The Predator campaign is a bit like playing Crysis in 1999: you get the coolest weapons, a cloaking ability, your energy recharges with time, and the graphics hurt your eyes.

This was arguably a problem with old games in general. Can’t really see people getting scared by Alone in the Dark or Resident Evil today, aside from a couple of scripted sequences – which brings me to my point: scripting. In the end, is it only possible to do horror in games by carefully constructing everything in advance? The success of Outlast, so hollywoodian in nature, would make you think so. Even earlier games like Penumbra and Amnesia, though less restrictive, still relied for the most part on scripted events. Heck, the most memorable parts of the aforementioned fathers of survival horror are still the scripted scenes, like the dog monster breaking into the house from the window in RE1, or… the dog monster breaking into the house from the window in AITD. Yeah, I can see a pattern here.

The Alien campaign sometimes reminds you of the more colorful Rayman 2.

I can’t think of many ways of doing horror without carefully setting up a specific scene for the player to stumble upon. Certain titles like Silent Hill and Forbidden Siren were a bit creepier all around, but even in those games you are on the edge of your seat precisely because you don’t know when the next scripted scare will come up. I so, however, remember the NY Tenements level in Shadow Man, where somehow I was scared all the way through, even though nothing happened. Now I know this, it’s not scary anymore, but the first time it worked well. Is it possible then, to do horror without scripting? Perhaps so, but just like scripted horror, it would lack replayability.

I don’t actually remember what I wanted to say anymore, so nevermind. As it stands, AVP1 was fun but flawed, and certtainly not that scary. From what I know, when Monolith developed AVP2, they dropped the randomized nature in favor of the Valve-esque route of scripted events. So maybe it will be more horror in nature. I’ll know soon: the game itself is not available on any download service, but I still have the disc, and it seems to work fairly well on Windows 10 too. We’ll see if a scripted scare is more effective than Aliens coming out of the goddamn walls.

Variks would be really bad at Minesweeper

It’s not a widely known fact, but I was one of those who bought Destiny at launch. Yes, the beta was good enough to convince me to preorder, something I do quite rarely. Did the full game meet my expectations? It sorta did, though for a particular reason: I had to leave for a traineeship in Spain at the end of September, so I only got to play for about three weeks. By the time I got back, I had other stuff to play.

Of course, I knew all about the grind. Who didn’t? It was the biggest story of September 2014. But then I missed all the old DLC, eventually passed over The Taken King (trivia: I got together with a random group to finish the Vault of Glass just before the Year 2 reset), and even Rise of Iron. I thought my Destiny days were over, but I eventually bought The Taken King on a while because it was really cheap. And from there, I was hooked again. Compared to what the game used to be (remember the Spinmetal runs?), there’s just so much stuff to do now.

I thought the Warden wanted me to kill this guy. Why is he sending mines for me to dismantle?

Unfortunately, matchmaking is still missing from many activities. One of these being Skolas’s Revenge. Nowadays people only want to play the highest level stuff, and this guy is old news, so good luck finding someone to play with. But he’s still a massive pain. I had to do it solo, and it took some 15 attempts. When I finally got lucky with the mines placement, the guy went down easily enough.

So I got some items which are near useless today (thanks for the free Judgment reputation though)… and this nifty emblem. This is all I ever wanted. Oh, and that’s my PSN name, I guess.

It does exemplify the basic problem with Destiny though – the lack of matchmaking in several activities can hurt badly. But hey, I’m done with this arena, I can finally let my PS+ expire with no qualms (it will expire next week).

I got Rise of Iron too, so I’m sure there’s lots of other stuff to do. Even if most of it seems to require cooperation… oh well. I don’t really feel like renewing, so I’ll do the single player stuff. Just like old days. And maybe, if I can finally get rid of this addiction, I can start taking care of my backlog again.

15 Great Games: Serious Sam – The First Encounter (2001)

Serious Sam: The First Encounter

It’s the new century! The future has arrived. The Xbox and Gamecube try to wow people, which in hindsight will be a fruitless effort. The PC, meanwhile, is enjoying its last few years before the dark ages. Arguably, some of the greatest stuff came from around this period. One such game was Serious Sam: The First Encounter.

First person shooters were in a time of transition. Half-Life, which made my list too, had effectively changed the landscape. After its success, any game attempting to be a straight shooter with no plot was going to be met with some resistance. Quake 3 and Unreal Tournament dodged that issue by simply focusing on the multiplayer, but everyone else was in a bind. There was no choice but to adapt, right? Maybe not. Croteam, a then-unknown Croatian developer, chooses the opposite direction. And in crossing the line, they create awesomeness.

So you thought Doom 2 had a lot of enemies. Turns out Doom 2 didn't have nearly enough enemies.
So you thought Doom 2 had a lot of enemies. Turns out Doom 2 didn’t have nearly enough enemies.

Serious Sam, which really should be well known at this point, is what happens if you take Doom, strip the boring parts and feed steroids to the good parts. Which means, no more looking around for keys in labyrinthine maps – don’t get me wrong, looking for stuff in labyrinthine maps can be pretty good, just look at System Shock, but it’s not what I’m looking for in a straight shooter. And to compensate for the lack of keys, you insert a lot more monsters. It works. Much better than one could have expected.

Part of that is due to the concept of “arenas”: you aren’t just killing all these monsters in corridors, often you are thrown into a large closed area and swarmed with enemies. Survival at these times requires an adrenaline rush that few other games can give you. Sam’s trademark humor might have helped a little bit too, but it wasn’t especially present in this game yet. In fact, this was a semi-straight shooter, with few jokes and merely some peculiar monsters and stage design. It certainly wasn’t as crazy as MDK, or its own sequels.

Many shooters won't give you a rocket launcher until you are relatively late into the game. This game gives you one well before one third of the way in. You'll need it too.
Many shooters won’t give you a rocket launcher until you are relatively late into the game. This game gives you one well before one third of the way in. You’ll need it too.

Despite that, it’s my favorite in the series, and I mean a series almost entirely made up of awesome games (we don’t talk about Serious Sam 2 around these parts), so that’s saying something. I should also mention the great pumping-up soundtrack and the quite attractive visuals, but in the grand scheme they don’t feel all that relevant – although props should be given to Croteam for creating an engine that managed to run well even on fairly old PCs despite the number of enemies on screen. The extensive customization options will help you obtain the best quality and framerate too. If you are looking for an entry point into the series, or even just if you are looking for a great time shooting some skeleton horses, Serious Sam: The First Encounter hasn’t been topped yet.

Playing today: now this is one widespread game. After its success, there have been several conversions, upgraded ports, remakes and all that jazz. Let’s proceed in order. First thing first: let’s say you want the original game. In that case, Steam (and GOG) have got you covered. The Classic version will run just fine, although you might have to tinker around the .ini files a bit to activate Vsync properly. Another option is to buy Serious Sam Reloaded, which is an update to the two original games, but I can’t honestly suggest it until they fix a current issue with controls latency. It might not be a big deal to many, but I’ve played this game for years and I can notice the difference imediately.

If you fancy something a bit more modern, Croteam released in 2009 an HD remake called Serious Sam HD. It’s got better graphics, extra shiny, leaderboards, and just a little bit of weird physics. They will screw you up a little in the beginning, but the game is fine. The best idea would be to buy both TSE and TFE at once, which will give you access to a “Fusion” DLC, meaning you can play all of the first game’s levels directly from the second game. There are advantages to this, such as getting a better score on the cumulative leaderboards, but maybe I’m the only one who cares about this. These games are almost always on sale, so wait a bit and you’ll grab them for peanuts.

If you are a console-only player, well, you still have a couple options. A game called simply Serious Sam was released on the Xbox, which is also backward compatible on the 360 (framerate is a bit iffier though). It’s a compilation of the first two games, which are played back to back. The game compensates for joypad controls with some generous auto-aim, and you are also given a lives system, which works quite well. Modesty aside, as an expert, I was able to finish the Xbox version on the highest difficulty with more than a hundred lives to spare.Your other option is an Xbox 360 port of Serious Sam HD. I never tried it myself, but I heard the framerate is not that good. If possible, stick to the Xbox original. Still, if that’s not an option, don’t let things stop you and get SSHD on the 360.