Friday, October 31, 2014

EVIL WITHIN

TRULY COULDN'T DESCRIBE IT BETTER...



Alright, where should I start?

...Probably with the hardest and most fundamental statement about this game: It is bad! It's not just bad, it's worse. It's a joke, an insult to all who really hoped for something good. - If you feel offended already, please leave now and don't continue on reading. It's most likely not going to get better...

I didn't like it - even beyond admitting the possibility of deeply misguided expectations and their natural and utterly painful strokes of disappointment, there's is nothing - absolutely nothing - that makes this game only a bit acceptable to me.

Phew! - Sorry, but that had to get out!

 ... and HAPPY HALLOWEEN, before I forget.


Why? How can this be the result everybody was praising and glorifying as "The Resident Evil that we have all been waiting for"? What is the difference to the late abominations of the Resident Evil franchise? - Nothing! Let me tell you now already and with all distinctness: Evil Within has everything we (reasonable Resident Evil fans) HATED on the last parts of the franchise and in some points does it even worse! Don't expect something different, please don't! We have action above all, although the game seems to want you believe it is some sort of stealth game, don't fall for it... It's a trap! Sneaking is completely impossible in this game, because the engine - and yes, of course we are talking about the new age Resident Evil engine (first introduced in Resident Evil 4) that btw. brought the franchise to its knees - is not made for stealth gameplay: With a 3rd-Person-Behind-Shoulders camera and a player character mostly filling half of the screen or more, sneaking or rather watching the environment becomes an impossible task. This game is meant for action and shooting... which already leads to the next thing we got, although hated in late Resident Evil games: There are hordes of enemies! - Remember those rooms in Resident Evil 4-6 where you had to hold the position and seemingly endless zombies attacked you... such rooms also exist in Evil Within! Next up: We have zombies with - hold your horses - machine guns, sniper rifles, rocket launchers, dynamite that they throw at you and so on! - Who does this?

Seriously, I ask you: Who, where and when in videogames did first have this glorious idea of giving weapons to zombies?

Do you see cops in pink leather costumes with magic wands running in the streets? Or cats walking around in boots? It's not supposed to be that way! Please don't give weapons to zombies... or cats for that matter? - Remember a good Survival-Horror game, like the original Resident Evil from 1996! Did the zombies there have fucking guns, or the hunters... did you encounter sharks with rocket launchers?


So, we have an action shooter... deal with it. - NO! Because the worst thing about this game is that it doesn't even give you the ammo to shoot with! Play it, trust me: "Yes! Finally a pack of revolver bullets!" - WITH ONE SINGLE BULLET IN IT! And there are enemies, enemies and enemies. I completed the game in 16 hours and I died 123 times! - That's a word with 18 letters ("onehundredandthree") and comes down to an average of dying every 8 minutes, which in turn is NOT even slightly entertaining. In this game almost everything kills you with one hit and similar to the ammunition problem, there are also almost no health shots to find. And I didn't even start talking about the bosses in this game: First of all, most bosses you can't just kill by shooting. - The designers are surely laughing their asses of, because some you have to just shoot to death though. So be prepared for multiple reloads just to find out which of the bosses you have to shoot, which are to be disposed by other means and from which you simply have to run. The ones you need to shoot always consume all of your anyway low ammo so that afterwards every single enemy is again a deadly threat. And the ones that you must kill by using the environment for example or simply run from are even more of a joke; imagine a confusing room where a fast and instantly killing boss crawls around. While avoiding and constantly running from this boos, you have to be careful of fire traps, explosive traps and you have to find and shoot well hidden valves to redirect the fire. - Excitement pure, let me tell you.


HEREIN LIES THE EVIL


You know what the major problem with this game is? Not that I am a "bad" gamer, not that the game couldn't be fun and if you accept its nature as action game, and not as "survival horror", could in fact have nice mechanics... the real evil is located within the balancing! Because this game is obviously conceived to be played through multiple times. Every time you start a new game you take over all the experience and upgrades from the last game. So yeah... also similar to Resident Evil 4-6... the first run is the hardest, from then on (after upgrading the weapons and so on) the game is supposed to become a cakewalk and a lot of enemies are appreciated. - Well, I guess it's just bad luck for the game then that I have had it already with the first playthrough. If you could only trade your precious brain-pea soup for ammunition... Some games that are based on that principle realized this and did it well: For example Dead Space 2. But Evil Within has made me come up with so many up-to-date, non-existing combinations of curse words, probably caused me a gastric ulcer and almost made me destroy my precious and new Xbox One controller, that I not even dare to think about playing this game a second time! Damn, I don't even want to see it in my shelf anymore.

If there is one thing that can be seen positive about this game it is the story and the atmosphere, which I would best describe as somewhere between Resident Evil 4 and Silent Hill. Sometimes it is too needlessly detestably but overall it is a nice and coherent setting. But that's it! The characters... sorry, I didn't like one and I didn't think even one of them - except maybe the main character - was believable. Isn't it always funny how only the main character gets a good voice - or in other words an expensive voice actor - and all others seem synchronized by local primary school students. Yeah, btw. synchronization, localization... forget it! Of course in my region there is only one version available and although it features A TOTAL OF FIVE languages and voices, ENGLISH IS NOT ONE OF THEM! But hey, if I wanted to, I could play the game in Spanish, Italian or French aside to German! By the love of all cats enjoying their boots, this localization bullshit that is going on - especially with Xbox One, Microsoft and games of certain publishers (post is pending) - is making me really, really angry!!

In conclusion: You liked Resident Evil 4? You like action / 3rd-Person shooting games? You like disturbing images and a story that is based on brain science, lunatic asylums and lobotomy? You like a game that (on normal) is already so "challenging" that it seems like it's throwing feces at you and makes you want to destroy your TV or your controller? - Please... go, pick this one up and "enjoy" the hell out of it. Just don't expect something much better than Resident Evil 6, except the absence of quick-time events and the fact that Evil Within wants to take itself way more serious. This is no improvement. It's yet again two steps back to a different form of a Resident Evil 4, which was controversially either the best Resident Evil ever made, or the end of an era of good Resident Evil games.

Play more! Bethink more!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

1ST ANNIVERSARY

CELEBRATE AND PLAY, PLAY AND CELEBRATE!


So, in case you haven't noticed, sIPXgames had some branding design changes. Not only that the new flat&simple look is far more eye-catching - to me at least, this didn't happen without another good reason:

It's time to celebrate! - Actually, I missed it for more than a month, but let's pretend that didn't happen and now officially enjoy the first anniversary of sIPXgames together with the new logo and design stuff for g+ and twitter!

A lot has happened and I am really happy for going public, talking about games, rekindling the flame and starting my own project again and above all finding so many great people and friends. A year ago I would have probably bet my own cat that I won't be "sucked" into this social networking mambo-jambo and luckily I didn't. Because I am in now and actually I like it a lot. Google+, Twitter and others have become everyday companions and if I don't post at least I can read a lot of stuff that interests me.

Contrary to my believes (before starting to learn the network-tango) this didn't change my life or my habbits in any negative way. I don't feel forced to read or do anything. I don't see my friends less often than before. I don't spend all the time staring at my monitor or my phone... not particularly more than before, but now I really enjoy it. If anything this whole thing enriched my life.


So, without further delay, let me tell my gratitude to all of you nice, happy, nerdy, game-loving, game-making, posting and hosting, showing and sharing, interesting and great personalities that think I am worthy to be part of your circles, list and feeds!

Thank you soo much for your support, +1s, comments, reshares and epsecially for all the awesome, useful and inspiring stuff you post and do yourself!!


Play more! Celebrate more!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

PHI - ARTWORK

"ALONE IN THE DARK"




Yes, it can get quite lonely in the confusing and dangerous labyrinth beneath the great pyramid.
- Is there a way out? Will Daniel ever see the daylight again?

Play more! Draw more!

Torches inspired by Courier of the Crypts for "Lucky is he, whose flame is on" :)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

THE FOREST

ONLY THE STONGEST LUMBERJACK CAN SURVIVE


Well,… first of all I have been dealing with a game that was still in development but could nevertheless be played already due to modern early-access programs on Steam. The game is already done by now but before I go more into detail about the game, I want to spend a few words on this "get to play games that are still in development" issue. This is not the first game I purchased that way. The advantages are obvious - early access, cheaper than the release version and so on.

But,... there are also a lot of disadvantages that I unfortunately encountered every single time and that can be summarized with just a few words: The games are unfinished! Yes, I know what to expect but I somehow feel like always running into the same trap. In short: It is plain annoying to have a game that is full of bugs, that get’s reset periodically, that feels incomplete and that basically sucks up all the fun way before enjoying the whole picture. - I have never played a single indie game that I had early access to again after it got finally released, because I - or it - simply took out the juice from the unfinished version after some days and no matter what was promised to be available in the final game, it never made the cut. - The same is the case for The Forest, I knew there was a lot more to come, but I already had enough. I think that is very sad for a lot of ambitious games. I understand the need of programs like Early Access & Co. I am on the developer’s side and I fully understand why most of them choose to sell their game already during development, but I just have to say that there are certain downsides for both the creators and the players.

The game itself is based on some good ideas and sound principles and offers a great atmosphere, not lastly because of its good graphics. In this game it’s just you alone; you find yourself in the middle of a forest after surviving an airplane crash. You have no idea where you are and no clue where to go. Just one thing is sure: You can’t sit it out and simply wait for rescue, because that might even take weeks and above all the locals don’t like your presence here at all. Actually they would rather like to eat you for dinner (which is my imagination talking) or at least slaughter you and build a totem out of your body parts because you disturbed their sacred grounds or something like that.


In order to survive (on top of finding food and other useful stuff) you have to build a lot of things by yourself. That includes: Shelters, fireplaces, traps and even big wooden structures that will protect you from the weather as well as the local naked farmboys... and girls. Sounds pretty nice, or not? Well, to be honest after probably three hours of playing it gets a bit boring and the game starts to look more like wood-chopping simulation than a frightening survival game. In addition the chopping simulation part, The Forest lacks of any goal other than exploring the woods and picking up stones, sticks or chopped wood - which are btw. basically all the resources the game offers you . I am not too sure about what the actual goal of the game is, if it will ever be explained and in the end we can speak at least of some sort of story behind everything, because… at least at the time I played it, it was not finished. I know I am usually stating it is better to let the player’s imagination flourish and not to explain everything but you know… please give us something or else there’s really not much room to see this game any different than a simulation for lumberjacks.

So, to wrap this up: If survival games are your thing, if you like to be frightened, if you like to explore and above all if you like simulations and you want to build something, this game is for you! If there are no radical changes regarding the game’s depth in terms of story and diversity I wouldn't even recommend getting the cheaper, “in-development” version, which is - as above mentioned - anyway not possible anymore. Did you play the full version of the game? Is there some sort of plot or specific goals to it now? I would love to hear something from you because only that way I think I would give the game another try.

Play more! Chop more!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

ALIEN ISOLATION

A MONUMENT FOR VIDEOGAME HISTORY



Alright! What have we been waiting for that game? I actually got my hands on it before release but I didn't have the time to get into it until recently. Be warned! - This is probably going to be a rather extensive review,... because - honestly - I really love this game a lot and there is a ton of stuff I don't have a clue yet on how to put it into words! You know I am rather critical when it comes to games and looking back on the past years, Newt from the movie Aliens would probably put it like that: "They mostly come as disappointments... mostly."

For me there were only very few really exceptional AAA-titles including for example the new Tomb Raider, Batman: Arkham Asylum and XCOM, but I am happy that I can now easily count Alien Isolation to those games as well.

Creative Assembly, thank you very much for making this happen!


I think the most important and absolute perfectly executed thing in this game is atmosphere and immersion. Maybe it is because I am a big Alien fan, but even if you are not and you haven't seen a single movie of the franchise, the first thing that has to get to you is the astonishing, highly polished, Alien-realistic and diverse environment of the game. It is not only completely true to the Alien universe and takes the visions of the creators of the original movie to the next level, but it is done with a love for detail I have probably never seen in any videogame so far! What is fascinating me the most is that in this game there is soo much originality. Seriously, ever single location in this game is completely original and more brilliant than the last. The reuse of props and textures is so well done that it actually seems they haven't reused them at all and really made every single section independently.

But the optics aren't everything. If you are playing Alien Isolation you will be enjoying some of the best sounds you have ever heard. The music is very well done. It uses melodies and instrumentation just like in the movie and aside from the known melodic parts it will keep your nerves on the edge all the time. - The same goes for the sound effects! Remember that furious and nerve-racking alarm at the end of the movie, when Ripley activated the self-destruction? Every single sound in this game (for example even just the opening sounds of the doors) is perfect and either comes directly from - or perfectly fits - the Alien universe. And wait until you hear the Alien crawling in the vents above you!

Story and ties to the story of the movie... just one word: Ingenious!


THE HUNT BEGINS


Similar to the aspects of sound, graphics and plot, regarding gameplay the creators also did everything right here. As a survival and sneak game, Alien Isolation doesn't come short on shocks to the bone, playing hide and seek, exploration and a lot of unexpected death. The feeling of isolation is present from the start and almost everything on Sevastopol - the space station the game takes place - is out to kill you. While the game's progress is story driven and for that matter fairly linear it still doesn't miss out on plenty of freedom to explore and offers a variety of different approaches and paths towards your targets combined with the classical technique of backtracking to previous locations and finding more useful upgrades. Like I said, almost everything on this space station isn't too friendly towards you - the alien hunting you, is just one of the hazards. Alien Isolation constantly confronts you with the choice between exploring and finding useful items and/or crafting materials or reaching your goal on the shortest route possible. Naturally the second option will drain your resources very fast but it also doesn't expose you as target all the time. One thing is clear: Exploring too much and too thoroughly, takes time... time, in which a ton of things can go wrong! Ripley has a variety of tools at her disposal: The famous motion tracker, a hacking device and a plasma torch being just a few. Besides those necessary items, Ripley can also craft a lot of useable items like medipacks, smoke grenades and noise makers herself... and given the survival nature of the game this is utmost important.


"IT HAPPENS, MY DEAR, CAUSE THAT'S WHAT THE COMPANY WANTS TO HAPPEN"


What is wrong with the game? Well, if you ask me: Absolutely nothing. However, I am aware of ongoing debates and opinions on the net regarding some "issues". One of those issues being the save feature of the game. If you haven't played it yet, be ready for a really classical approach here as well: There are no checkpoints (or just, very few after missions and some sequences)! There is no saving whenever you feel like it. Alien Isolation allows you to save only at dedicated save terminals in the game. While you can save as often as you want, it can be quite the task to find and/or reach the next save station. The game's regions are for the most part designed with a save station at the begin of an area and at the end. The advantages and disadvantages are obvious: Given large areas, an abundance of rooms to explore and random instant deaths, it can be quite frustrating to play a whole section over and over and lose a lot of precious time. On the other hand restricting saving in that manner makes everything in the game really frightening! Death should feel "real" and players should proceed with caution. And besides... that is soo classic! - I feel like I am playing a game from the 90s, where not everything was a cakewalk. Combined with the unique atmosphere and realism this is hardcore stress to your body and an experience surely not for everyone. Again, I understand frustration and I agree that especially in this case - cause trust me, you are sometimes really nothing more than a victim of sheer randomness - the line between challenge and hard is completely blurred. Then again, there's not really much else the developers could have done. Because let's face it; it's either hard or you get auto checkpoints, auto-health regeneration and HUD-based directional markers that guide you through the game without the requirement of you thinking or taking a risk. Although REALLY frustrating - from time to time - I absolutely prefer the first option and must congratulate the developers once again for showing balls and making a game like in the 90s in 2014!

Another "issue" that is mentioned a lot and pretty much goes along with the previous words is the randomness of the deaths - the alien instantly killing you. Seriously, the alien has no special pattern and although - I think - it gets more intelligent along the way (knowing where you prefer to hide, realizing that fire isn't too deadly for it), it is sometimes pure luck from which vent it comes out and whether it will find and kill you or not. Again, I can see beyond that, and I think it is the better alternative to a game that is supposed to be frightening but in the end lets you walk through without any worries. A few people also think that the alien should be hunting you all the time instead of only during some parts of the game, but honestly I find it perfectly balanced. It would seriously piss me off being a slave to randomness during the whole game. First there are numerous things that are dangerous to you and there is by no means any time where you can rest or celebrate a party, and secondly for this "constant on the edge"-feeling, the game features a real "Survival Mode" where you can be slaughtered by the alien as much as you want.

Lastly there is the "issue" of "bad" voice acting which I don't want to comment in detail. Let's just say that it is not that bad! Really, I've heard much worse. - And I don't believe what I am about to say, but that even goes for the German synchronization! It is good. And having also the original voices from the movie in the game is even more worthy to mention.


"HERE KITTY, KITTY, KITTY. HERE JONESY"


I honestly don't know what else to tell while preventing to spoiler you everything, so let's wrap it up:
This game is awesome! It has something for everyone. Certainly for Alien fans and certainly not for people with heart problems or kids. Usually I am not that strict with age ratings, but I wouldn't let my children play this game... Jesus Christ Circulatory Collapse... if I want to continue playing games like this, I think I really have to quit cigarettes and should probably get another cat instead...

People copy&pasting statements like "There will never be a perfect alien game" obviously don't know what they are talking about or have completely different perspectives, because here you got it: Not only the best Alien game I have ever played and waited for all my life (so far), but an overall masterpiece of a modern, high-class game using classic principles and making you feel like you are really part of something big and nostalgic! Period!

What do you think about the game? I would love to know your opinion and get some discussion going. - Watch out! I expect spoilers in the discussion, so don't read too much if you haven't played the game!

Play more! Hide more!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

PHI - ARTWORK

"THE ADVENTURE AHEAD"





Daniel looking at his destiny...

(Sorry for the mediocre coloring and some missing details but I really don't want spend much more time on this one drawing, there are too many more impressions that I want to get to paper as well.)

Play more! Draw more!

Friday, October 3, 2014

PHI - CONCEPTION

DESIGN PHILOSOPHY



So, what is my game and how will it be designed?

"Phi" (as you know, working title) is primarily a game about exploration. That is very important for me! As you might know, I am one of those gamers who grew up with games like The Legend of Zelda (NES). Fortunately that means I still have a great deal of imagination left compared to nowadays kids who in my opinion are getting a bit too pampered with explaining and showing everything, while they are kept addicted and interested by providing them with rather easy tasks leading to a purposely fast and deeply psychological sense of (false) accomplishment.


I can immerse in an environment even if it is not in ultra-high resolution. I don't care if I play a game with 30 FPS or 120. I am annoyed and actually almost disgusted by games that promise unlimited freedom, which then turns out to be an unlimited struggle of completing the same boring quests/tasks over and over again for maybe even up to 300 hours of my life. I enjoy a good story - better yet - a story that is not fed to me in the cheapest way possible, like for example by constantly finding new extensive emails in the game. I prefer a really basic setup that allows for my imagination to kick in and construct the wildest theories far beyond what any progressive storyline could tell. Furthermore I like challenges, using my brain and I like games that will not take up the next three months of my free time but instead can be completed in several hours while providing an intensive replay value. Here is the quick summation of my basic design philosophy for Phi or rather any good modern game in general:

  • Make a simple game based on classic and proven principles (if you haven't the absolute new and innovative idea that was never there before)
  • Keep the presentation at least contemporary, better: special, unique and interesting
  • Make a truly challenging game that requires both skill and thinking
  • Make a game with a beginning and a manageable end but high replay value due to proven principles like multiple endings and a lot of secrets and unlockables
  • Make an atmospheric game that puts the player in a fantastic place, outline only the basics of a seemingly amazing story so that in truth most of it will be written inadvertently by the individual player's own imagination along the way


GENRE AND CATEGORIZATION


Let's get on step further and talk about genres: As I said Phi will be a game deeply focused on exploration. However that alone doesn't help since that would describe Zelda as well as Minecraft and they are rather different games after all. So, in order to make you understand Phi here is a genre description that I think fits best: 2½D Fusion-Adventure!

I know “Fusion” is not a common categorization but ultimately hitting the nail on the head because Phi will inherit and or fit/make use of and combine the following mechanics, genres and descriptions:

2½D - Platformer, Jump&Run, Shooter, Adventure, Survival, Point&Click, ...

I know, for you as gamer, that still doesn’t help too much because in order to get a response it is necessary to create in image in your head. - And since I can’t show you something yet, I would like to do that by description one last time:

Imagine a game like Super Metroid in "almost"-3D. You control the hero and have to find your way through an ancient labyrinth, structured in several connected but distinct areas, which are constantly expanding by revealing new paths depending on your skill and equipment. All you start with is your backpack, a flashlight, a lighter, your phone (which is not working inside the massive stonewalls), the diary of Dr. Connelly and your prototype scanning device (details to follow). Your journey is naturally linear but still provides limited freedom of choice in terms of what you would have to do next and what you can leave out completely. Ideally you will find many useful items such as a pistol and powerful ancient artifacts that will help you, because on your journey into the darkness you will of course encounter several obstacles to overcome. Obstacles can range from simple, closed doors, partially mathematical puzzles, frequent and deadly traps to fierce enemies in form of animals or mysterious and frightening creatures. How you will overcome these obstacles should be up to you and the game will provide you with a variety of options (Multiple Solution Approach). Your initial goal of simply finding a way out of the Khufu's pyramid will become more and more blurry as you progress further. Down the rabbit hole you will uncover ancient mysteries, wake something better left sleeping and ultimately be the hero to save the world!

Play more! Concept more!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

PHI - STORY

SETTING THE MOOD




"What a fascinating place. A strange sensation always crawls up my spine when I enter this magnificent relic from the past. The air is electric and the scent of ancient mysteries keeps my eyes open and my senses focused...

What was really going on here?
What is the purpose of all this?"



Deprecatingly shaking his head, Daniel puts down his father's journal and takes a deep breath. He turns his head and looks out of the window of the airplane taking him from London to Cairo. Although the past decade he barely had contact with his father, he can't help but feel remorse. He asks himself if the arguments were really necessary, if they shouldn't have forgotten all their difficulties and at least tried to get along. Now he is carrying his father's ashes in his backpack and any chance of indemnification is lost. All gone in the mists of time and seemingly insignificant stubbornness. The only thing that might grant at least some sort of redemption was his current task - the last wish of the famous and praised Dr. Phillip Connelly: To spread his cremated remains in the one place he always put before everything else - the Chamber of the King, in the great pyramid of Khufu.

Daniel sighs but after a few seconds his eyes grow big. While the plane is already in descent and excitement spreads across the cabin like a wildfire, passengers are anxiously trying to get a glimpse out the windows. Shortly after noticing that also the guy in the seat to his right is moving his head closer and closer to the small window next to Daniel, he freezes. His hands tighten their grip and his eyes become focused, locked on probably the most impressive buildings he has ever seen: The Great Pyramids of Giza! - His target, his way of saying goodbye, his destiny...

Play more! Read more!