Archive for February, 2010

Bioshock

February 18, 2010

Bioshock

 Release Date: 2007 (Xbox 360, PS3, PC)

 Developer: 2K Games

“Look, Mr. Bubbles. It’s an angel! I can see light coming from his belly. Wait a minute… he’s still breathing. It’s alright. I know he’ll be an angel soon.”

When I heard these words, I knew I was going to finish this game. This one sentence from a simple conversation between a brainwashed child and her protector was all it took.

Until I heard these words though there had been no hype for me to play Bioshock, having never played the System Shock games before it I had no basis for comparison.  Now don’t get me wrong, I knew that Bioshock had pedigree behind it, the System Shock games are stuff of legend. So when I realised Bioshock was from the same development stables I at least kept an eye on its progress.

When the demo came out, I intended to use it as a mere benchmark for my (at the time) newly built PC, the graphics looked good, actually no, the graphics were AMAZING! As I looked deeper there was something more. Looking beyond the great visual the ‘something’ came in the form of character, a concept some developers can only dream about capturing in code. However Bioshock had a great feel to it, a sense of creation. Rapture, the city built under the ocean is a vast and detailed world, a real world captured in digital form. In many senses it’s not a game it’s a place to visit.

“It was not impossible to build Rapture at the bottom of the sea, it was impossible to build it anywhere else” – Andrew Ryan

When I started to write this review that (even though the game is approaching 3 years old) there is a small chance someone who has not played the game will want to read this and be inspired to play. So I am not going to touch plot points particularly, I will however promise you, if you give this game some time, it will reward you with some of the best story and best voice acting you’ll see outside of Hollywood.

The game play has an interesting mechanic; you have special powers in the form of Plasmids. The Plasmids are injected and provide your character with new abilities such as fire, lightning bolts and telekinesis. The Plasmids themselves were once a legal mainstream narcotic. A bit clichéd perhaps but the way they are delivered to you and introduced has plenty of charm and clever timing that will let you forgive the developers for sticking to some relatively safe options.

The game progresses organically, I never felt I was waiting for my next new plasmid, or something to keep me playing. The story and surroundings did most of the work to move the game along, while the RPG elements keep you wanting to work on your character powers.

There is nothing particularly new to Bioshock in the way of ideas. What it does do, is take the FPS formula, dial down the combat elements and use it effectively as a story telling medium with some incredible panache, and keeps the player engaged right to the end, including a now famous plot twist that I genuinely didn’t see coming.

I have finished this game twice, and for a game that doesn’t have many new elements to it says a lot about how well put together it is. If you feel this review is hollow, it is, I couldn’t possibly do justice the amount of entertainment this game offers. There are rumours of a film, and as much as I hope it happens, condensing the 8 to 10 hours of entertainment this game provides, down into a 2 hour movie is in my book a big task. With Bioshock 2 I want to know more about the character, I want more of this world, this fictitious place in history. I cannot wait for more Rapture.

“Plasmids changed everything. They destroyed our bodies, our minds; we couldn’t handle it. Best friends butchering one another, babies strangled in cribs… the whole city went to Hell.”

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Amiga Classic Review: Chase HQ

February 7, 2010

Chase HQ

Published: Taito (1988) Ocean (1989)

Genre: Racing/chase

Conversion: Amiga 500

Racing games in all honesty are not my genre of choice, retro gaming or modern. Odd considering one of my favourite game series on the Amiga is Lotus Turbo Challenge. Still, after playing Chase H.Q for awhile I realised I am just as bad at it as I was when I first played it on my Amiga. Chase H.Q is originally an arcade racing game (one of those cool looking cabinets where you get to sit down at a steering wheel) released by Taito in 1988. The game was converted to the usual array of popular home computers and consoles at this time by Ocean and was released for the Amiga in 1989.

You play as a police officer who works within the special chase department of the police force. At the start of each stage you are given instructions from “Nancy at Chase H.Q” via your police radio on which criminal you’ll be pursuing next. You’ll start a certain distance away from them and only have a certain amount of time to catch up. There will also be a fork in the road early on and an arrow letting you know which way to take, the other direction usually means a longer chase. Once you’ve caught up to the criminal your time limit is extended and you must ram into their car a number of times until they are forced to stop so you can arrest them.

My initial reaction was pretty good on loading this up; I had no preconceived ideas of what to expect having never played the original arcade version. The funky intro music was nice and I loved the police radio setup to give you your mission. Unfortunately it quickly went downhill; firstly the fact I couldn’t play with the music on and have sound effects. After playing with one or the other I actually decided the sound effects made the game experience a lot nicer; nothing like the sound of overtaking people at high speeds and ramming into the criminals car.

The graphics (from what I’ve seen of other conversions) didn’t seem to live up to any of them, the scenery was lacking in any style or colour and sometimes it was difficult to tell the difference between trees and buildings on the side of the road, the whole experience felt very shaky. It’s safe to say that beyond the intro music and mission briefing I didn’t like much else about this game, least of all the actual game play. For a relatively short game at 5 stages it wasn’t that easy to complete (not for yours truly anyway). I managed to get to Stage 5 but found the control system so irritating and slow to react I switched it off. You know, toys, pram etc.

To add insult to injury you only get the one chance on the final stage to catch the criminal, on the other stages you are given 3 credits or chances to do this, credits I desperately needed. Despite my admittedly biased opinion towards racing games I have tried to remain on the fence with regards to this review, but I can’t help but feel this isn’t as good as it could have been. It is still highly playable, if not short and a little hard in places, and this shouldn’t detract from the fact I can’t complete the damn game. The graphics seem to be lacking and the controls make game play and reaction times slow, in a game in which you need to go fast you inevitably end up spinning out of control through no fault of your own and begin to panic as you re-start in what appears to be slow motion.

I’m inspired to play other conversions of Chase H.Q and do a little comparison, but I don’t think I’ll be replaying this particular one anytime soon.

Check out a few other opinions back in the day!

Nice little review from CU Amiga 64 (Jan 1990)

Average stuff from Amiga Format 7 (Feb 1990) and a particularly scathing review from Amiga Power 9 (Jan 1992)