Tue - September 26, 2006

Destroy All Humans! 2: Make War Not Love

Destroy all Humans! 2 is coming out in three weeks? And it's going to be set in the sixties? And it features hippies, the Avengers, and giant Japanese monsters?

How did I not know about this until today?

Posted at 11:15 PM        

Tue - August 22, 2006

A Brief History of Transvestite Gaming

A couple weeks ago my friend Freeman managed to get himself quoted in an AP article about people who play MMORPGs as characters of a sex other than than the one they happen to be.

The main thing I got from this article is that I will now always think of Freeman as "Freeman, poster child of cybertrannies." But beyond this the idea of fake online or gaming genders is such a non-issue that I've barely thought about it for years. Not since the old days of MUCKs, really.

But now that I am thinking about it, I present:

A Brief History of Transvestite Gaming

Ms. Pac-Man, 1981 - I'm not really sure what Pac-Man was, so I'm not clear on how there can be female version of it. But whatever Pac-Man was, sexual dimorphism in Pac-Species appears to be quite drastic, with the females sporting eyes.

Metroid, 1987 - At the end of this NES game you found that Samus, the armored character you controlled, was a woman. Or the lead singer of Poison, it was a little hard to tell with those graphics.

Leisure Suit Larry 3: Passionate Patti in Pursuit of the Pulsating Pectorals, 1989 - For half of this game, from a series devoted to sex jokes that are really funny to 10-year olds, you play as Patti. Feminism is set back ten years.

Tomb Raider, 1996 - Somehow Lara Croft became a sex symbol, despite having all the detail of a Lego figure.

Resident Evil, 1996 - At the beginning of the game you can choose to play this survival horror game as either Jill Valentine or Chris Redfield. No one --no one-- ever played through this game the first time as Chris.

Every Game Not Mentioned Above - If you happen to be a woman, then you played nearly every other game ever released as character of the opposite sex. Freak.

Posted at 11:24 PM        

Sun - July 9, 2006

World of Warcraft: What's Your Fantasy?

I'm one week and some change into ownership of World of Warcraft, and it hasn't taken over my life yet, despite many warning from friends, strangers, and even the guy who sold me the game. I'm just not that obsessive over video games. I can play for a half hour, finish one quest, and sign off happy.
I do enjoy the exploration aspect of the game. The world Blizzard has built is very impressive, with many interesting details. Filling in the maps is probably my favorite part of the game.
As with any RPG there is a element of improving your character with weapons, experience, and skills. I'm not as interested in this part of the game, except that leveling up is obviously a requirement to get to (and survive in) new lands.
You can also choose two of what the game calls "skills," but what are really more like occupations. For example, mining, leatherworking, or blacksmithing,
However, only one occupation really applies to the way I play World of Warcraft.

"Hey sailor, want to go in this crypt with me and get some experience?"
That's right, World of Warcraft has made me into a whore. To finish certain quests you really have to team up with people, and the only way I've found to team up with people is to hang out near the objective and just randomly ask passersby to join me, hoping that I find someone on the same quest I am. I'm sure at some point I'll get used to hanging around remote areas soliciting strangers, but for right now it makes me feel dirty.

Posted at 09:36 PM        

Mon - June 26, 2006

"My Night Elf is Mining!"

I decided to take the plunge and try World of Warcraft, especially since the price of the game has dropped to $30. My character is named Scopi on the Aerie Peak server, and he’s an Undead warrior. In other words, he looks like a slightly retarded Cenobite.

I probably haven’t played the game for an hour, but so far it seems to be pretty impressive. I am having some little problems with the camera, but I assume I’ll figure that out as I go along.

Posted at 10:10 PM        

Thu - May 18, 2006

Putting quarters in a machine? How Quaint!

E3 ended last week, and it’s time for me to assess where I stand on the next generation consoles.

The big news from Sony this year was the date November 17 (the PS3 gets released in the U.S.) and


That’s the price of the PS3. Sony also announced a $500 configuration, but like the $300 configuration of the Xbox 360, it is crippled in some important ways and not worth buying. I have to hand it to Sony’s publicity department, they did a good job hiding that fact and most mainstream media coverage made it sound like the only difference between the two versions is the size of the hard drive.

There no way I’m going to spend $600 for a game console. Heck, I balk at the $400 price tag the Xbox 360 has right now. And in terms of graphics, they look about the same.

Here's the PlayStation 3!

And here's what you'll need to sell to afford one!

A month ago I wrote a pretty pessimistic assessment of the PS3 chances in the market, and E3 didn’t do much to change my mind. The $600 price tag is widely perceived as ridiculous. In Sony’s defense, the console is probably physically worth that. It includes a Blu-ray DVD player standard. For their part Microsoft is going to offer a HD DVD player as a peripheral and the best information suggests it will cost $200, thereby making a similarly equipped Xbox cost the same as the PS3. The problem with Sony making the drive standard is that a format war is coming up between Blu-ray and HD DVD, and if Blu-ray loses the PS3 will have $200 worth of pointless boondoggle built in. I might be less worried about that happening if Sony’s history wasn’t littered with marginalized formats, like Betamax, miniDisc, and ATRAC.

I wasn’t exactly blown away by the PS3 games Sony was showing at E3. Despite being six months from launch there was very little gameplay on display. In fact, I can only think of two games that we actually saw being played. The first was Warhawk, a redo of an old PS1 game I have a lot of affection for. The other was a fighter called Heavenly Sword. Neither made me want to run out to buy a PS3. There were also trailers for Metal Gear Solid 4 and Final Fantasy XIII, but not a single frame of in-game footage from either.

Warhawk before...

...and after.

And speaking of, remember the controversy of last E3? Sony showed a trailer to a new Killzone game for the PS3, and hardly anyone could believe it was real in-game footage. You can see a low-res copy here, but the full-res version was incredible. Sony execs swore up and down that what we were seeing was what a game would actually look like on the PS3. Watching G4TV I saw Morgan Webb flat out ask one of Sony’s people, “A year from now [Ha! - me], I’m sitting down in front of my PS3, this is what I’m playing?” “Yes,” replied the exec, and Webb quipped “Okay…” with that perfect combination of skepticism and TV host perkiness.

So if Sony had in-game footage from Killzone last year, certainly it must be ready to play this at year’s E3, right? Nope. In fact, I don’t think I saw single reference to Killzone for the PS3. I wonder what happened to it. It certainly smells like a bait-and-switch.

I have come out of this E3 week more convinced than ever that I want to buy a Wii. It’s still a stupid name, but Nintendo had a couple dozen games available to play on the show floor. Most of them looked like fun, especially Super Mario Galaxy and the new Metroid Prime. There was also a strange new game called Elebits where you shoot little creatures hiding in domestic environments. Looks odd enough to be a hit.

Posted at 10:21 PM        

Thu - April 27, 2006

Wii... are not amused

So Nintendo revealed the name of their new console today, formerly the Revolution, and it's Wii. You can read a Nintendo executive preemptively apologize for the stupid name here.

I really wonder what they were thinking. When I searched for "Wii" on Google earlier today it suggested that perhaps I was looking for WWII... Oops. And is really good to name your console with a homonym for "small" and "urinate"?

This is kind of retro move Nintendo. Ever heard the story about how the people handling Nintendo's arcade business in America reacted back in 1981 when Nintendo told them that they would have to sell a game called "Donkey Kong"? It was pretty similar to the executive's reaction today.

Posted at 10:08 PM        

Wed - April 19, 2006

Feet cold... Hell possibly freezing over

I hate to say this, but I’m thinking about getting an X-Box 360. Not soon or anything, but just as a general concept I’m starting to think about it. I have a general distaste for Microsoft products and I really enjoy my PS2, but I’m getting pessimistic about the prospects for the PS3.

Maybe I’m overreacting, but everything I hear about the PS3 suggests it will not be a hit. To summarize:

- The price tag may be over $500. At the moment we don’t have any information from Sony at all about pricing, but people have done rough estimates based the components that will make the console up, and they tend to be north of $700.00. Even with the fairly standard practice among console makers of losing $100 per unit sold the PS3 is looking to be a very expensive console.

- Sony is promising a November launch simultaneously in Japan, Europe and America. It seems unlikely that even Sony has the manufacturing capacity to produce enough machines to supply all three markets at once. (Traditionally consoles roll out in one area first, then later in the others.) That could mean shortages. Sure, the X-Box 360 has had shortages, but they’re first to market in this console cycle. You can get away with it if you’re first. If you’re second (or third) to get to market during a console cycle then shortages mean sales for your competitors.

- Sony says the final developer kits won’t be ready until June or July. Developer kits are what software companies need to program games for the console. So far developers have been using temp kits from Sony, which have allowed them to get started, but the final kits are needed to really take advantage of the PS3’s hardware. (In fact, until the final kits are out no one is sure what the final hardware even is!) Waiting until June to get them out all but guarantees that the launch titles for the PS3 will be souped-up PS2 games.

Maybe I’m wrong and things will work out in the end for Sony, but I’m getting used to the idea that most of the games I want to play may be on X-Box two years from now.

Posted at 10:56 PM        

Tue - February 7, 2006

Getting to a Higher Level... of Obsession

I think the Japanese have won. Sure, we defeated them in WWII, but thanks to the PlayStation 2, they've won.

How did I come to this revelation? My girlfriend is currently trying to collect a million roses in a level of We Love Katamari. There's no real point to it. They give you a small area to roll around in, and the roses slowly respawn, and you have to collect a million of them. ONE MILLION. There's no skill or challenge involved, beyond the mind-numbing tedium of the task. If we assume Amy can pick up one rose a second on average (a real rough estimate to make the math easier; she probably does a bit better than that), then she will have to play for 278 hours to get a million roses, or 11.5 full days. And she'll do it, too. Just because the King of All Cosmos told her to.

Somewhere there is a Japanese programmer laughing his ass off.

She may be dressed as the Prince, but even she isn't as obsessed as my girlfriend.

Posted at 11:17 PM        

Mon - December 12, 2005

Online Gaming -- Is that like an Etch-A-Sketch?

I’m not likely to buy an X-Box 360. First of all, I haven’t bought any of the 359 previous models. But mostly I’m not interested because of the high price ($400 for the only version that really counts), my general mistrust of Microsoft products, and the kind of games the X-Box has specialized in.

The one thing I find interesting about the system is the online component, called X-Box Live. It’s obvious Microsoft is banking on the network features to drive sales of a very expensive piece of hardware. They’ve set up the beginnings of an online community and hyped the network features incessantly.

I’ve never been able to get into network gaming. The sad fact is that 99.99% of all the other people gaming online are so much better than me that I’m often mistaken for an arthritic monkey that escaped from the helper monkey retirement farm and has somehow got his paws on a computer. If I wanted to have my ass whipped by 11-year-old Korean boys on a regular basis, I’d go to the seedier parts of New York City and pay for it straight up, rather than having it done vicariously using thousands of dollars in technology. It is true that X-Box Live includes support for private game sessions and a ranking system for finding people who play at your level, but execution of these elements appears to be very sketchy. For example the only X-Box 360 game out so far that I might want to play, Call of Duty 2, doesn’t support those features.

Starcraft: The online game so good people die while playing it.

One part of X-Box Live is the ability to buy small games online, like old arcade titles like Joust or flash fames like Bejeweled, and keep them on the X-Box 360’s hard drive. That is a neat concept, but not neat enough to overcome the price tag. I can buy huge compilations of arcade games for my PS2, and I have. Heck, I can practically recreate any neighborhood arcade circa 1983 on my TV, though without the screen burn and messed up input devices. Sometimes I play with my PS2 controller upside down just recapture the nostalgia.

It sounds like both the Nintendo Revolution and PS3 will also include lots of network features, though extensive communities don’t seem to be in their plans. There’s a good chance I’ll be getting those two consoles, but I’m not sure how much I’ll be using them online, unless connecting is real easy. Will they be able to use the wireless network from my computer to do that?

The creation of online communities for gamers reminds me of Massively Multi-Player Online Role-Playing Games, or MMORPGs. Perhaps most importantly, we desperately need a better name and acronym for them. Beyond that, I only tried one once, and I found it a very frustrating experience. This was a long time ago, so long ago that whatever game I tried was 2-D. (The earliest version of EverQuest or Dungeon Siege, maybe?) I couldn’t tell what I was supposed to do to get started, and I tired to hang around inside a town until I could figure it out. Some guy kept trying to talk to me, and when I couldn’t figure out how to reply he began attacking me. He couldn’t hurt me, but he followed me around like that for a few minutes. You couldn’t hurt other characters in town, so it was more annoying than anything else, but I signed off and never signed back on. I know that MMORPGs have gotten far more sophisticated since then, but that experience showed why I’ll probably never be into online gaming. I play games to avoid jerks in the real world, and online gaming is inviting a different set of jerks into my home.

Posted at 10:58 PM        

Sun - December 4, 2005

King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie

I rented King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie last week, just to see if it lived up to the hype. I can’t see buying this game at full price, but I may wait until it’s cheap.

Kong smash puny bats!

The makers of the game have made a big deal about how the game has no life gauges or ammo indicators on screen. It is supposed to be more immersive, you see what your character would see. I’m not sure I buy that. I found Resident Evil 4 much more immersive than this game, and that’s third person and has big old gauges.

In King Kong you play as Jack Driscoll, the Adrian Brody character. The game starts with the film crew rowing from the Venture to the island in the middle of a storm. Once ashore you follow Carl Denham (Jack Black), Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts), and Hayes (the first mate of the ship) around. Eventually you’re attacked by some giant crabs. You kill them, and move on to the village, where you are captured by the islanders. You see Ann get taken by Kong and follow into the jungle. You meet back up with Carl, and from there it’s a mad dash through the jungle full of giant insects and dinosaurs. Sometimes you’re supposed to be following Carl, but other times you’re on your own and you’re trying to get back to the other characters. There are a few parts where you have to use a sniper rifle to keep another character alive on the other side of a ravine.

If only I had Sam Jackson to distract them...

In most situations you have the choice of either killing or distracting the various nasty island critters. I really can’t get the hang of where to throw potential food to keep toothy things from attacking me, so I just take option A. The game does seem to punish you for relying too heavily on your guns. There isn’t an overabundance ammo lying around (it’s being dropped from a sea plane), and the raptor dinosaurs can be surprisingly hard to kill. You can also pick up spears and bones to use as weapons, but they aren’t as effective.

When you’re not killing members of unique endangered species you have to engage is some simple if annoying puzzle solving to advance. Mostly this involves opening doors. These doors are built so that two people have to turn the tree trunks set in the ground at the same time, and you need to have handles to turn the trunks. Never mind that  looks like any old spear or bone you pick up would fit in the split trunks and let you turn them, you have to find these specific handles. Mostly this involves finding fire and burning down thickets of brambles that can block your way. Sometimes there’s a waterfall you have to pass through, so you have to find some way to get your fire past it. The overall effect is that you’re trapped in an episode of Survivor: Skull Island.

There are also a few portions of the game where you play as Kong and fight dinosaurs. These sequences are in third person and are quite fun, though I found the “cinematic” camera behavior annoying. Just as I’d close in on a monster the camera would switch to some other angle, making it tough for me to judge distance.

Why don't they just get it over with and give me an actual pea-shooter?

Where the game excels is the visuals. Skull Island is an interesting place to visit, with huge trees and chasms and waterfalls. It’s all rendered very well. The creatures are impressive as well, especially the larger ones. There is one sequence where you traverse a canyon wall as Brontosaurus run by that's nearly breathtaking. There are also some nice cinematic touches. For example, Jeff Probst... excuse, me, Hayes sends you into a Brontosaurus herd to find fire. As you dodge the sauropods raptors attack, but if you shoot them right you can knock the raptors down in the path of the Bontos, and they will get stepped on. That's pretty darned neat.

Posted at 10:29 PM        

Sun - October 16, 2005

We Love Katamari

If you’re going to give a game a name as egotistical as We Love Katamari you’d better have the goods to back it up, and this one does. Last year’s Katamari Damacy was a sleeper hit, and the first game I bought when I got a PS2. The concept of Katamari Damacy was simple, if exceedingly weird. You’re the prince of the universe, and you have to roll stuff up using a sticky ball (the katamari) in order to make stars. You start out rolling little things off the floor of an apartment, but as the game goes on you get to roll through town picking up cars and people and later still buildings and islands. The graphics were simple yet cute, and every level was backed by a different horrible-yet-catchy J-pop song. In other words, it was brilliant.

We Love Katamari doesn’t mess with success. The game play when you’re rolling around is largely the same, but there are improvements. The level of graphical detail on all the objects have been upped a smidge. There are some realistic physics that result in things getting knocked over or rolling away from your katamari. The camera now cuts a hole through obstructions so you can always see where you are. But best of all, there are many more environments for you roll around. The previous game really only had three (“Around the House,” Around Town,” “Around the World”), but We Love Katamari has more than I can easily count from memory. Some are quite small, like a kid’s bedroom or a few rooms of a school, while others are gigantic, like the full town or the obligatory world. The new game uses a trick, however, to make the largest worlds. The game actually stops you at certain points to load new parts of the area as you get larger, which didn’t happen in the first game.

Where We Love Katamari really excels is the art design. Everything about this game is gorgeous. The first Katamari Damacy was cute, put it looks shabby compared to We Love Katamari. Rather than any kind of menu system you select objects while directing the Prince around a cartoony field. Different objects represent options, while people spread around the field represent different levels. People trying to get your attention represent levels you haven’t finished. You can run up into a sky to see a colorful solar system that represents the levels you have finished. There are also theme based levels that are incredibly gorgeous, particularly one level where you have to roll around a fairyland sweeping up flowers and another where you roll up fireflies at dusk. Even the instruction manual takes the form of an amusingly illustrated children's book.

Posted at 10:31 PM        

Thu - October 6, 2005

Demo for Star Wars Battlefront II

The new Official PlayStation Magazine, winner of the Never Been Kissed Award for the Ugliest Layout, has a disc with a demo for Star Wars Battlefront II. I liked the first Battlefront a lot, even if the surprisingly good AI of the enemies scared me a bit. When characters in a video game outsmart me on an open playing field I begin to have that same sinking feeling Dave no doubt had trying to get those damn pod bay doors open.

The new Battlefront has somewhat upgraded graphics, with the characters and environments being more detailed than before, but that results in making things look less distinct in the distance. The animation of both characters and projectiles seems much jerkier. Hopefully both these problems are because this is a demo, and the final game will be optimized for the PS2.

There appear to be three major changes to the gameplay. First, rather than just being a capture the flag type situation there are more distinct objectives you complete in order. For example, in the Utapa level you have to capture a series of checkpoints, then kill General Grievous. Secondly there are certain circumstances where you can spawn as a hero (usually a Jedi), complete with special powers. And thirdly there is much more emphasis on spaceship combat, something I completely ignored in the original game because I found it wonky, especially compared to the Rogue Squadron series of games..

Posted at 11:00 PM        

Mon - July 18, 2005

Robotech: Invasion for the PS2

I’m big Robotech fan, so it’s really disappointing to me that the game Robotech: Invasion on the PS2 sucks so badly. The previous Robotech game, Robotech: Battlecry, had its problems but at its best moments you felt like you were engaging in graceful mecha combat. Robotech: Invasion is ugly and clumsy.

"If you can't see me, you can't shoot me" The rare Peek-A-Boo Invid.

Essentially it’s a first person shooter. You play Locke, an amnesiac soldier who was part of the initial assault on Reflex Point at the beginning of the third generation portion of Robotech. Something happens to Locke during the assault, and he wakes up years later. He joins up with a band of other surviving soldiers to try to free Earth from the Invid horde. Your primary weapon is the transforming Cyclone motorcycle. Don’t expect any action in an Alpha or Beta fighter, I don’t think this game has any. Every now and then you get to man a turret, but that really isn’t much of a substitute.

The enemies are the expected mix of human scavengers and Invid soldiers. Oddly enough, the scavengers are all midgets. If you're standing right next to one you have to shoot down to hit him. Pretty much every kind of Invid war machine is represented, though most of the time you're just fighting scouts and soldiers, and an annoying human sized Invid. In theory the Invid are vulnerable to being shot in the eye, but the aiming isn't precise enough to really hit it. You can lock on to them and "goose" your aim, but the vast majority of time I don't want to get close enough to aim that precisely. The fact that the cyclone has melee weapons suggest that you're supposed to fight in close quarters, but when I tried that the screen became a mess of polygons.

Yep, shoulder pads will come back in style.

I'm ashamed to admit this, but I had probably been playing a couple hours before I realized that every gameplay element of Invasion was ripped off from Metroid Prime. The lock on targeting, the strafing, the double jumping, and instead of rolling into a ball you transform into a motorcycle. Playing Invasion just reminded me of how careful design can be the difference between a good game and a bad one. Metroid was exciting, and you had a great variety and weapons to use against a huge variety of enemies; in Invasion yuo're just blasting away at the same three enemies again and again. There are some other weapons besides the default machine gun, but they don't seem to do much.

And perhaps the biggest insult to Robotech fans is that the story sucks. The opening is pretty neat as your ship plunges into Reflex Point, but after that Locke stops talking and his amnesia results in you randomly remembering the dialogue from the opening while your vision goes blurry. Occasionally characters are introduced with no introduction (suddenly people start talking about Scott and Lancer, but I couldn't tell why), and interesting angles (like a mad scientist who has built a superweapon) are just dropped without explanation.

Posted at 09:56 PM        

Sun - June 19, 2005

Destroy All Humans!

Destroy All Humans! is a B-movie fan's dream come true. You get to play as an alien invading Earth, complete with flying saucers and anal probes. It's set in a retro-1950's version of America, with some of the more recent developments in the UFO myth thrown in.

"Take me to Tom Cruise!"

You play Crypto, an little grey (don't call him green!) alien who is heavily armed, violently inclined, hates all humans, and talks like Jack Nicholson. Come to think of it that whole description could come from a Jack Nicholson simulator. In any case, Cryto is assigned to invade Earth because humans contain DNA the aliens need to reproduce. In order to complete the various missions Crypto has a bewildering range of powers and weapons, all mapped to about 6 keys. Crypto has psi powers that let him pick stuff up and throw it, disguise himself as a human, hypnotize humans, read humans' minds, and make people's brains explode so he can collect their brains. He carries a lighting gun that can chain blast form person to person, an anal probe gun that can make humans run or kill them outright, and a disintegrator cannon for blowing up cars and setting nearby humans on fire. More guns are available later on. Pretty much everything Cryto can do is crazy fun.

The gameplay is roughly equivalent to the recent LucasArts games Star Wars: Battlefront and Mercenaries. It's third person, with you using the left analog stick to move around and the right analog stick to move your target reticle and to look. Like those two games there is a certain element of auto-aiming. If you start moving left or right while your reticle is on a human you automatically strafe in a circle around them. This makes attacking moving targets much less frustrating than some other games.

"Humans haven't developed flying cars yet? Let me help!"

A radar shows you where you need to go. It's up to you to decide what strategy to take. At least on early levels it's possible to simply barge through town killing any police or soldiers who show up on your way to objectives, but I suspect later on your enemies get better firepower. Luckily Crypto can scan humans and become carbon copies of them. To keep the disguise up you have keep reading the minds of the people in order to boost your brain power. While disguised you can't shoot your guns, but you can hypnotize people. (An important point -- if I had realized it sooner I could have avoided some... unpleasantness.)

Missions include predictably B-movieish activities as impersonating politicians, killing scientists who are creating irradiated zombie cows (Why? It's science.), getting into extended gun battles with the police, and messing with people's TV antennas. At the end of every round of foot missions you're rewarded with an excuse to get in your flying saucer and destroy buildings with a death ray. Cool!

The graphics are good, though the insistence on a cheery 1950's setting precludes the kind of fog and mist that most games of this type use to obscure pop-up. The voice acting is fun and the movies b-movie credentials are impeccable. Look at the opening sequence, where a guy in a bow-tie explains that we should welcome aliens to our planet. Clearly based on Criswell's opening monologue from Plan 9 from Outer Space (1958), and the behind-the-scenes material on the disc shows the "animatic" for the scenes was actually just the footage from Plan 9 with the new dialogue dubbed over.

Posted at 11:17 PM        

Thu - February 24, 2005

Resident Evil 4

I rented Resident Evil 4 last week, and it’s awesome. This will definitely be a game to buy, even at full price. RE4 is to the old Resident Evil games what Metroid Prime was to the original Metroid, and probably more fun to boot. The concept is the same as the previous games in the series (you’re playing a horror movie), but the execution is completely new.

"Creepy tumble-down house, crow flying over... What could possibly go wrong?"

The first you’ll notice in RE4 is the difference in perspective. The previous Resident Evil games all featured 3-D rendered characters moving around 2-D rendered environments. This worked because the camera for each “room” was static, stuck wherever it was no matter what you did. The camera in this game floats somewhere over your character’s right shoulder, subtly moving in and out depending on the size of the area you’re in. When you aim a gun it movies in closer, as if you are sighting down the barrel. The effect is very natural, almost unnoticeable. Your character still controls like a tank (at any given time you can either move or turn but not both, and you can’t shoot and move at the same time either), but clever level design never makes that feel restrictive or unfair. Add in top of the line sound and graphics and you have a game that is simply fantastic.

"I'm from the government, I'm here to help."

Six years after the unpleasantness that was Raccoon City, Leon Kennedy (the rookie cop from Resident Evil 2) just started working protection for the President of the United States’ family. Somehow the President’s daughter Ashley has been kidnapped, and Leon has been dispatched alone to a rural part of Spain to look for her. If I were Leon, I’d be thinking “snipe hunt,” but as it turns out the ramshackle farming village Leon comes across is populated entirely by homicidal Spanish hillbillies. Something is clearly amiss. Not only do the hillbillies want to kill Leon for no obvious reason, but they attack without any regard for their own safety and dissolve into puddles of goo when they die!

After meeting up with a mysterious Spanish guy named Luis, Leon is captured and infected with whatever is making the hillbillies act so loco, though it doesn’t appear to be affecting him yet. Leon discovers that Ashley is being held in a church just beyond town. Finding the church is easy, but in the grand Resident Evil tradition to get the only key that will open the door you have to trudge all the way through a snake and booby-trap infested swamp, then cross a lake inhabited by a salamander the size of a frigate. By the time you get the key night has fallen and Leon is faced with a new problem. Now when some of the villagers are killed they sprout a parasitic creature from where their heads were. The parasites, especially the “eyes and bladed tentacle” version Leon first meets, looks so much like something from Hitoshi Iwaaki's manga Parasyte I wondered if they licensed it.

"I'm going to need a bigger boat!"

Leon fights his way back to the church and finds Ashley. Now he has to fight his way out of the hillbilly compound with Ashley in tow, because the extraction helicopter can’t land anywhere near his present location. Why? Because otherwise it would be too easy.

If you’ve played a Resident Evil game before you know that any plan the main characters make is doomed to be a laughable failure, so the helicopter crashes before Leon can get to it, and he makes the wonderful decision to “take cover” in a large castle that just happens to be nearby. The castle is the headquarters of a local Lovecraftian cult, whose members are planning to take over the world with the parasites, or something like. In league with the cult is the local castellan Salazar, who looks like a child dressed up in 18th century clothes, an image that brings to mind the evil child from Hammer’s Lost Continent (1968). The point is that now Leon has to search the elegantly appointed castle (another callback to the original Resident Evil), solving simple puzzles and shooting scores of parasite-infected monks.


That’s about as far as I’ve gotten in Resident Evil 4. The game is an absolute blast. I've spent my time playing equally split between yelling at the screen (Actual transcript: “[Expletive Deleted]! A giant insect! Die! Dammit, it turns invisible?! Where did it go? [Expletive Deleted]! On the ceiling! [Expletive Deleted]!”) and just marveling at how cool whatever it is I just did was. Bring on Resident Evil 5!

Posted at 11:14 PM