Tuesday 9 December 2008

Fallout 3

(Brace yourselves, I've been playing a Bethesda game).

As of late, a lot of my entries have opened by immediately picking on a developer or publisher in order to adequately pad out my reviews and look slightly more intelligent and professional – or at the best get a cheap laugh or two. Whether it’s been working or not is entirely up to you, but nethertheless; puppies. Puppies are a perfect way to decide how much of a miserable bastard someone is by asking them if puppies are cute, adorable and generally some of the nicest things in the known universe (considering for a moment that caramel doesn’t exist), or if they realise that as cute as they may be, they’ll still piss and shit all over your favourite material possessions and inevitably grow up to be vicious figures of teeth and muscle.

Should you have read any of my previous work ever, you’ll know I’m the latter, which is why I know what Bethesda Games Studios is, and that getting my hopes up for anything they’ve ever played part in is about as wise as calling a grizzly bear a great big, lazy, two-bit puff. Take Star Trek Legacy; then place it carefully in the middle of a busy road and wait until someone eventually runs it over, because as pretty as everything looks, that’s all it’s really good for. Then there’s Oblivion, which you can use to test belt-sanders with in order to indulge in the delicious irony of teaching it how things really get damaged when you rub them together.

I’ll admit, I nearly did call a big furry killing machine gay in a manner of speaking by initially thinking that Fallout 3 could be one of the best games of the year, overlooking the fact that it was being made by people who don’t know what “fun” means. Eventually I saw the light before launch, spotting the Oblivion engine a mile off and decided Fallout 3 could disappear down a toilet somewhere along with Bethesda and go fuck itself. After a lot of badgering I decided the best thing I could do was play some games I was still actually looking forward to and then burn some money on an almost completely unnecessary RAM upgrade.

My world didn’t get turned completely on its head until I watched the Fallout 3 Zero Punctuation video. Surely Fallout 3 must be worth my attention if the only other person on Earth who knows what’s wrong with Oblivion likes it? I swallowed my pride, did a wee bit of research and decided to try justifying my shiny new computer.

Something I should say about the original Fallout is that it’s an idea that interests me immensely for some reason and also that anyone who complained about the difficulty curve of Dead Rising is a great big sissy and would literally die if they ever came into contact with a copy of Fallout 1. Sure, I was murdered time and time again and never actually got anywhere because I was continually stalked by giant scorpions and Lady Luck, but that’s ok because I fear I wouldn’t survive longer than 3 breaths in a post-nuclear apocalyptic wasteland before splitting into two separate and very physical personalities and redefining the words “killing oneself”.

From my understanding, Fallout 3 shouldn’t really have the “3” at all, considering I’m pretty certain it’s basically a remake of the original but apparently no one else gives a shit.

Research ends, review begins; God help me.

I give immediate credit to Fallout 3 for having probably one of the weirdest openings to a game ever (and I’ve played Rez) in which you start the game literally straight after you’ve been born. So instantaneously in fact, that no one’s actually managed to clean the afterbirth off you yet. And I must also say that for once I believe the NPCs who say I’m destined for great things on the basis that my character seems to have been born with a higher IQ then his father resulting in him picking his own gender, name and future physical appearance. Well, after dicking around with the appearance options for a while, I realised I was pretty limited to more or less the same very tired looking drifter with different styles of hair. And that’s about it, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing considering I’m sick of having to build my own character from scratch in every motherfucking game I’ve played for the last 2 years. You see, this is why I like Fable 2 so much: you can pick your wife and your clothes but you can’t pick your nose. Some divine force picks your nose for you depending on how much you eat, who you rob and who you kill, leaving you with just your hair and hair colour at your disposal.

Having decided that Oblivion was the most unforgiving, stuck up pile of wank I’ve ever wasted time on, I decided that with Fallout I was going to turn my back on the gallant hero for once and play my first playthrough of a game as the coldest and most badass bastard a possible. I was impressed at how often Fallout presented me with the opportunity to insult, threaten and swear at NPCs, then allow me to rip their faces off with a plank of wood full of rusty, irradiated nails. As such, I decided to do all of the aforementioned to anyone who met the following criteria:

- they weren’t going to fuck up the story if they died
- they didn’t have bigger weapons than me

Having run my character’s evil arse down to the point of exhaustion from all the murdering and bullying, I decided it was time to grow up and play the game properly. Or at least commit genocide properly. After wandering into the town of Megaton, I cocked an eyebrow to the thought that this being a post-apocalyptic nuclear wasteland, there was surely an obvious reason for it. Of course, I was right and did everything I could to rig the big bastard nuclear bomb to explode – completely ignoring the reasoning of the guy who gave me the tools to do it, instead following my own reason: I wanted to blow shit up. After much hard work and procrastination, I found my way to a safe distance, detonated the bomb and watched the most awesome explosion I’ve ever seen.

It was probably because I’d just annihilated one of the larger cities in Fallout that resulted in me spending the rest of my time with the game scrounging around for ammo and having my pure evil arse used as a gun rack for super mutants. Whatever the reason, I struggled to survive in the Fallout world yet again, but at least it was for a reason that allowed me to forget Bethesda had anything to do with it and it left me getting sucked in and appropriately neglect my friends who wanted me to join them in Team Fortress 2.

I guess what I’m trying to do is cause a quantum singularity that will destroy the universe by saying Fallout 3 is a good game and each line of the conversations was recorded in the same day, as opposed to in Oblivion, in which I’m pretty certain the voice actors had a habit of dying after each line. Laser guns are fun, and any game that allows me to fire a mini nuke deserves merit. Then there’s the fact that when you’re getting your arse handed to you, you can usually use the VATS system to pause time and drop a grenade directly under your aggressor’s testicles bouncing-betty style.

Wednesday 3 December 2008

Left 4 Dead

Yes Valve, we see what you did with the name, very clever. Should you muster up the strength to see past lethal pun / text-speak jammed in the middle of the title, you’ll find that this is Valve’s latest game and pretty much designed to be played with four people so you can all gang up on helpless zombies and reduce waves of the flesh eating bastards to a cloud of blood and a splattered mass of rotting meat. Unless you ditch your friends, in which case you’ll get eaten.

Left 4 Dead has one massive hurdle to overcome before any zombies can be murdered and that is that gamers are amongst the most antisocial beings on the planet, second only to that particular branch of gamers that play first person shooters to an obsessive degree. Actually, that’s a blatant lie; the most antisocial beings on the planet are people who write about games. Anyway, as such, an FPS that forces players to stay together and co-operate is either so over-ambitious that it causes Peter Molyneux to go “pfft”, or completely fucked.

I decided to grit my teeth, shovel dangerous levels of Paracetamol down my throat and bare socialising with something other than a series of webcomics and bring you the review that no-one will ever actually read. It is possible to play Left 4 Dead on your own, leaving you with 3 bots to save your dopey arse and if the original Halo was anything to go by, it probably wouldn’t be long until one of those bastards decided that the best place to store their Molotov cocktails was up said dopey arse. Also, in the interests of science, I had to discover if Left 4 Dead could change real people, or just have them act uncomfortably similar to every other bot I’ve ever encountered.

I can report that while the majority of the time I wasn’t on fire, there are still a lot of people who can’t be arsed talking online anymore and there are also quite a lot of people who don’t quite understand that a long narrow corridor is probably the worst thing to ignite when you’re supposed to be co-operating. I may be one of these people, I’ll have you know.

After being burnt, shot and pillaged by my dear team-mates several million times, I eventually got matched in a party in which I was consistently the worst offender for friendly fire (a feat, by the way, I am equally proud and ashamed of) and things started to get awesome. I honestly can’t think of anything more awesome than standing in a corner, laughing with a team-mate while firing into a vast blinding blaze, full in the knowledge that lots of zombies are dying (again).

Having decided to take advantage of the “versus” option, I decided to see exactly how much fun the zombies were having. The answer is “not much”. It was an interesting idea, the likes of which I haven’t really seen since Turok 2 let you munch on your friends as a Raptor… or when they took the piss out of it on Conker’s Bad Fur Day, but shut up. Anyway, as a Zombie, you get to die a lot but that’s ok because you respawn every 20 seconds, but I can assure you that catching the bullet express to spectatorship gets very old after it happens a few hundred times in one game.

Screw it though, the main idea of you plus 3 people against a horde of easily killed zombies is so much fun you can easily gloss over the option to play as one of the unfortunate walking targets. The more nerdy of you will be dying to wondering how well “The Director” works. I honestly don’t know, all I can guess is that’s the reason why I could never find ammo when I went out looking for it while my team-mates were usually tripping over the stuff. What I can say is that the scripted dialogue is pretty good, should it not get completely and utterly on your tits after the unavoidable repetition and at least if you’re playing with more sociable people, you can have a laugh at it – a key example being the “Left 4 Bed” video.

There’s not really much else to be said; Left 4 Dead uses the Source engine which is both pretty and silky smooth, killing zombies is always fun and the story has been pretty much fired out of a canon into the centre of a very bright star with the only remnants are “get from A to B, kill everything in the way”. If you’ve played Portal, you’ll also be expecting some very clever hidden jokes and you wont be disappointed so long as you look hard enough, and if you haven’t played Portal then what the fuck do you think you’re doing reading my blog?