Thursday, 8 November 2012
I got given Doom 3 just after it was released, when I say given you should read made my GF buy it for me when I was pulling a sickie from work. I didn't last long playing it, for some reason I turn to water when playing scary video games, and for me Doom 3 is up there as one of the most terrifying games I have ever played. Now, I know some people will laugh out loud at that one, but its true.
In 2004, I had a fairly powerful PC so was able to play it at almost the max when it came to graphical settings. I also had surround sound, which made it even scarier for me. Playing it again, just eight years after its release has made me very aware of how much the FPS genre has moved on. I quickly found myself trying to do things that are found in more modern games, getting down on the weapon sight for a more accurate shot or pressing a button for a grenade etc, even alternate fire modes are missing. But does this detract from a game when it is good? Well, when I first started playing it, I felt that it wasn't standing up to the test of time, however Doom 3 had an ace in the hole when it comes to me - I never completed it the first time round without cheating.
One of the good things about console games these days is the inability to cheat. When it comes to PC games I am pretty weak, if I get to a point where I find the level too tough, I will Google for cheats. You dont seem to be able to cheat (as much) on console games - which is a good thing because it made me appreciate Doom 3 for the great game that it actually is.
A lot of people say that ID make games that are awesome to look at, that are wonderful technical achievements and this is true. Doom 3 uses the Tech 4 engine which has only recently been superseded by the Tech 5 engine used in Rage. The lighting effects are amazing, I didn't really appreciate them enough the first time round, but this time on a 50" TV in 3D, I definitely did. The level design is a little old fashioned by today's standards, a lot of traversing one area only to have to go back to the beginning etc as well as a lot of button pressing and searching for security keys and PDA's. Initially I thought this was a bit daft, but then I started to think back to the original Doom, you had to do the same thing there pretty much.
I think we have been spoiled a little bit when it comes to FPS games these days, take the Call of Duty franchise, it relies a lot on set pieces cinematic battles etc. Doom 3 doesn't really have this, sure there are cut scenes and some cinematic elements to keep the story going but on the whole, the player is left to their own devices when it comes to playing out the levels. This is something the common console gamer just wont be used to. Some concessions have been made for the console generation, there are very limited graphical options when compared to the PC original, plus there are elements like a body mounted flash light that were not in the first release. For me, this was a god send, the first time round you couldn't use the torch and a gun at the same time, this made the game a hell of a lot scarier but also frustrated me a lot. Doom 3 often presents you with about 100 shades of black in some levels and with the default settings, the screen is often dark in the brightest of levels. This means you can be bounced around by the weakest of enemies as you search for them.
I also thought I could clear the game in a few hours, which was wrong. Overall I think I took just over ten hours to complete it - after the first three I was completely engrossed in the story and the game play. It was just as scary as the first time round and for me, completing it after so many years gave me an extreme sense of satisfaction. It also got me thinking about other scary games I have played, or more accurately games that I have played that scared me. Looking at Doom 3 again has made me appreciate just how it has influenced so many newer games. Without Doom 3, I wonder if there would have been a Dead Space? Or perhaps, would BioShock been a little more innocent in its level design?
At the same time, you can also see how other games have influenced the design of Doom 3. If any of you have been lucky enough to play System Shock 2, you will kind of see how the narrative of the game, through its logs and misdirection have influenced its design. I also feel that the Thief series have also made a massive impact on the lighting in the game itself, which is truly amazing.
When the original Doom was released, it was a horror game full of zombies, demons and devils. You searched huge levels looking for keys and the exit whilst being confronted by hoards of nasty things. I remember at the time it got a lot of media attention for its content. Doom 3 didn't get the same level of attention, these days we are used to games having adult content, but it is still a Doom game. You still search for keys and still battle wave after wave of hell spawn and still get scared (well, if you are me you do).
Now, having just completed it, I cannot wait for Doom 4...
Wednesday, 2 May 2012
Wednesday, 8 February 2012
Just picked up a copy of Sonic CD for Android. This is an essential purchase for any retro game collector. Given the recent hype surrounding the classic incarnations of Sonic it is no surprise that this fogotten gem has made it on to nearly all the casual gaming platforms going. I was lucky enough to have a copy of this back in the day, but I had no problem picking this up for a few quid.
Nearly every version I have for this game uses the North American sound track. This is a massive shame as the original Japanese soundtrack is gorgeous. Thankfully, the recently released version comes with the Japanese soundtrack as standard.
The touch screen controls are good, if a little hit and miss, so you may want to play this with the keyboard, should your device support one. I am lucky to have a keyboard on both my Android devices, the controls are a standard WASD for direction, with L for action (you only get one button for every action, you dont need any more.).
This version also has a few other refinments, firstly, you can alter the depiction of the spin dash attack. You can choose to use the original spin animation or the version used from Sonic 2 onwards. You also get to choose Tails as a playable character, but unfortunately you are not able to get a Super Tails with all the chaos emeralds.
For the best part of four quid, this is an unbelievably good bargain. A slice of Sonic heritage that is so often missing from Sega collections. I reccomend that you get this game if you have the chance.
This week I picked up the UK folio case for my new Lenovo Tablet along with the stylus. The folio case pretty much transforms the ThinkPad tablet into a fully fledged Android latptop. The built in keyboard and optical mouse respond very well indeed.
On its own, the stylus allows you to have precise pen input, the built in handwriting recognition performs a lot better when used with the N-Trig device than your finger alone. Note taking is improved and you can rest your palm on the screen - something that using your finger wouldnt let you do.
The folio case is in an attractive black leather with all the signature colours you would expect from a Lenovo device. The only thing missing is the inclusion of the keyboard light, something that appears on a lot of Lenovo devices.
Access to all the connectors is provided, however the memory card slot door and full sized USB port are covered. This case uses the USB port for attaching the keyboard and optical mouse, so you wont be able to attache your HDD whilst this is in use. Unfortunately, the case doesnt allow for easy use or acces of it either, which is a shame.
The case also obscures the memory card slot door, if only partially. Which means you wont be hot swapping memory cards whilst in use. This is a bit of a pain, but nothing major. Access to the docking connector, power connector, headphone/mic connector and pen storage is catered for.
The mouse works well, another Lenovo signature addition, instead of a trackpad - which would have extended the keyboard further and thus ruin the design, you have an optical mouse in place of the traditional Lenovo nipple/nub (dont know the official name for this). It works as well as you would expect it, the only negative comment I have about it is that the pointer icon itself seems to be a little on the small size.
In my personal opinion, if you have a Lenovo ThinkPad tablet, then getting both the folio case and the stylus is a must. Whilst the screen keyboard on this tablet is easy to use, it does take up a lot of screen real estate, the folio keyboard reclaims this resulting in an end product that is highly adaptable to pretty much all situations you may need a laptop replacement.
Tuesday, 24 January 2012
Monday, 23 January 2012
A couple of months back, I took delivery of my latest console - the PC Engine FX. As far as I know, this was a 32Bit console that was only ever released in Japan, some how, a brand new boxed example managed to end up in Cornwall, thank God. Buying one of these from Japan costs a lot in shipping.
The device itself is a odd one. It is CD only, which isn't surprising, and it is designed in the style of a small tower PC. For some reason though, there a whole bunch of little secret compartments in the main body, I guess that NEC saw this a being a runaway success, so decided to make it extensible (even though by this time, manufacturers should have realised that upgrades like this didn't sell so well). I don't have any games for it yet, a lot of them seem to be JRPG's and my Japanese is non-existent. Once I find a good example of a Shmup or a brawler, I will fire it up and see how its years in deepest darkest Cornwall have gone down.
As far as I know though, this console wasn't even big in Japan... which I think is a bit of a shame really as it quite a charming little device. The joypads feel a bit cheap, but a substantial - and has six buttons, a staple for new consoles in the mid 90's.
I guess I just need to hit YouTube to get some vids of some of the games available for it, then hit eBay. I really must get around to recording some footage of these devices and upload them. I am not very sure how many other people are interested in things like this to be honest, but given the surge in interest in retro gaming recently, it may be good to talk about the 'also rans'.
A friend of mine recently gave me a new Android tablet, I have had an Android phone for about a year now and have been nothing but impressed with it. That I like Android as a smartphone OS is a big deal for me - I am a reformed Nokia fan. Personally, I think Android turned up just in time, Nokia lost the plot a bit when it came to smartphones and let the iPhone steal a lead. Granted, Nokia had been trying to get tablet computing off the ground for a while (the N710 etc), but like its phone offerings, they seemed to lose touch with their consumer base (note to self, get on eBay to pick up an old Nokia tablet).
As you will see from my blog in previous posts, I love old tech and how it has influenced today's products. For example, the tablet I am currently using to write this post. It uses am Arm CPU, as do a lot of things these days, which of course is related to one of my favourite old school computers - the A7000+. It also uses a touch screen interface, which is normal on every device these days, but this tablet offers stylus input - this is unique I the days of multi touch capacitive screens. It almost seems old fashioned, years back we use to have to make do with a stylus on a resitive screen to have any form of input. These days it almost seems like a backward step to include something like that on a new design. Think Psion Series 7, this tablet I am using, a Lenovo ThinkPad, can use a stylus (unfortunately one doesn't come with it in the box), it can be usedfor regular operations or for handwriting recoginition. Thankfully though, you can also make do with your finger for this - doesn't work so well with my blunt digits though!
Connectivity is wonderful to. I have WiFi and Bluetooth of course, however I also have a mini HDMI out, a full sized SD card slot and a SIM slot (although my model doesn't have a WWAN card - something I plant to remedy soon). Added to this, I also have a full sized USB port. This is primarily used for storage, which is pretty amazing on its own. I hooked up my 1TB USB drive with no problems. However, when I tried this with a wireless USB keyboard it did not work.
One thing I did find annoying was the inability of the Netflix app to work. It consistently complains of no network connectivity even though I have a good WiFi connection. Same goes for the Virgin Media app - a hold over from phone apps maybe? The BBC I player worked wonderfully though, and I was able to install all of my previously purchased apps as well.
One thing I am very keen to explore is the gaming potential of this device. At the end of last year two rather wonderful games were released for Android - Sonic CD and GTA3. I have Sonic CD installed at the moment and I love it. It is one of the games I keep telling myself to pick up for my Mega CD, but never do. With the release of the Wii U later this year, I can finally see why people are making a big fuss about tablet gaming.
Whilst I know this device will improve my productivity, I also know I will use it a lot in my down time. I have some films stacked up on now to watch on the journey to work. Hopefully I will also be able to find a Bluetooth gamepad so I can indulge in some Retro gaming :-)