Saturday, 2 March 2013

Everybody Loves Lists: 5 Dog-Killing Games I Have Played In The Last Week

I love dogs. So how come videogames are forcing me to kill so many?

Hotline Miami (2012, PC)

These dogs are nasty. In a game that moves at breakneck pace, the dogs are the fastest and meanest things around. Fists won't do, you need at least a melee weapon to put one down. After your first 50 runs on a level are thwarted by one, you will start to HATE them. After the next 50, you will be actively pleased whenever you kill one. This is what Hotline Miami does to you – it moves so fast that it bypasses rational thought, where concerns over your sickening ultraviolence would reside, and goes straight to the lizard-brain, the part of us that needs to see all threats neutralised now now NOW. And I assure you, the dogs are the number one threat.

Dishonored (2012, Xbox 360/PS3/PC)

This one is a dog-hater's dream. First off, your base of of operations a pub called The Hound's Pit, which doubles as Dunwall's premier hotspot for dogfighting. Although you don't get to see any official dogfighting in the game, rest assured you will be engaging in plenty of impromptu dogfighting. The dogs that patrol with guards are sleek but vicious creatures, almost reptilian, and are notably anti-social and pro-ripping-your-throat-out. It’s interesting that in a game which gives you the option (and actively encourages you) to play non-lethally, dog kills don't count. You can merrily murder every dog you can find, and still walk away from the game with a “Clean Hands” achievement. All of which begs the question – what have dogs ever done to Arkane Studios?

Far Cry 3 (2012, Xbox 360/PS3/PC)

Jesus, the number of animals I have slaughtered in this game. I'm a one-man safari factory. There are scores of species of animals populating Rakyat island, and thanks to an essential crafting system the game encourages you to shoot every last one of them in the face. It's basically a Teddy Roosevelt simulator. As for the dogs, the game does go to great length to explain that any dogs you see are rabid, and therefore killing them is absolutely fine. I note it didn't make similar excuses for any of the endangered cassowaries I took out.

Heroes of Might & Magic 3 (1999, PC)

Well, they were Hellhounds. But Hellhounds are still hounds, I suppose. 

Mark of the Ninja (2012, Xbox 360/PC)

“Hounds Slumber” is the fancy name that Klei's excellent stealth game gives to smacking a dog in the back of the head. The thing is, if you're rubbish, you end up slashing at the dog seventeen times with your sword before it falls over. Even if this happens, the game still flashes up “Hound's Slumber”, as if you stabbing a dog repeatedly with a katana has merely made it faint dead away. “He's just sleeping”, you tell your delusional self. And on you blunder to murder more dogs. Such is the way of the ninja.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

PlayStation 4: The Re-EnPlaystationing

 Just before the start of Sony's massive press event unveiling the PS4 last night, I compiled a short list of things that, if they were announced, would make me a day-one system adopter.
  • Gitaroo Man 2
  • The return of the original PlayStation loading screen
  • New controller in the shape of a goose
  •  Backwards compatible with the PS3, PS2, PS1, N64 and Mega Drive
  • Console and controllers covered in conflict diamonds
  •  System cries like a wounded deer when turned off
  • Is crafted from Adamantium, weighs 7.4 tonnes
  • Something, anything, to suggest that The Last Guardian is still in development. ANYTHING.
  • David Cage not to be allowed to make any more public statements ever
Not only did Sony offer precisely none of these things, they summoned David Cage from whatever shadow dimension he resides in to shit on silent films for a bit. I'd have a minor rant about the ridiculous claims Cage made, but John Teti at the Gameological Society has already done a much better job of that than I ever could, so read that instead. You can imagine I wrote it, if you like.

Another thing Sony didn't offer was a look at the console they were supposedly launching. Sure, we got the new controller, which looks like a Dualshock but not quite finished yet, and we saw the Kinect-ish camera thing that will doubtless be shoehorned unnecessarily into every bloody game on the system, but we didn't get to see the PS4 itself. I realise this is probably because they haven't actually finalised the design of it yet, but is that OK? Is it really advisable to launch a console without anyone seeing it? If we don't see the hardware at work, doesn't cast some small doubt over the videos we're being assured are "PS4 gameplay"? What with the recent furore over Aliens: Colonial Marines undergoing a demake somewhere between preview video and release day, and Sony's own history with the PS3's launch promises, it seems like a lot for Sony to ask sceptical gamers to take on trust.

I don't want my concerns about not actually getting a glimpse of the PS4 to veer into tin foil hat territory - I'm sure the hardware is sorted, and it will be as powerful as ten wolves or whatever. I'm sure it will be capable of running games with all the polygons that David Cage could ever want. Where I do want to get paranoid is over Sony's idea of 'personalisation'. To simple folk like you and I, that means "making something your own through customisation". To Sony (and, lets be fair, Microsoft too), that means "burrowing into the deepest recesses of your brain to sell you things we hope you'll buy, whilst restricting your ability to make this your own through customisation". Since we didn't see the console, and Sony said “the living room is no longer the center of the PlayStation ecosystem—the gamer is", I would not be shocked if the PlayStation 4 is some kind of neural implant.

The plan is for the PS4 to pre-emptively download games it thinks you will like, so they are ready as soon as you even think their names. This troubles me, as I suspect it will recommend me an endless conveyor belt of shite, and then pout when I don't purchase it. I can see it refusing to load up other games, bringing up messages saying "PLAYSTATION DOES NOT UNDERSTAND WHY YOU WILL NOT PLAY MEDAL OF HONOR. PLAYSTATION HAS DETERMINED YOU WILL ENJOY. PLAYSTATION HAS DETERMINED YOU MUST COMPLY."

In terms of games, there wasn't a great deal that called out to me. Driveclub looked like a very pretty realistic driving game, and Killzone: Fallen Thingy looked like a standard manshoot, and neither of those things interest me that much. Knack looks to continue the hallowed trend of gearing up a 90's-style mascot platformer and sending it out to die at launch. Watchdogs looked great, and that puppet thing that Media Molecule showed looked as intriguing as it was baffling, but that was about it for me. I feel like I should like the look of Johnathan Blow's The Witness, but I've already played Myst once and didn't enjoy it.

So all in all I still feel like I'm in the dark about the PS4. There was nothing to grab me by the throat, but nothing that really kicked me in the groin either. I'm not sure how I feel about them trying to turn the PS4 into HAL 9000, but as long as it doesn't automatically purchase things for me I suppose I could live with it.


Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Great Arseholes of Gaming: The King of All Cosmos

Welcome back to Great Arseholes of Gaming, our semi-regular re-examination of videogame's most beloved and/or infamous shitehawks. Today, we turn to Namco's bizarre roll-em-up Katamari Damacy, and the vindictive blowhard that is the brightest star in it's firmament. 

Deities, eh? Who'd have 'em? Always rampaging around, drunk on their own power, messing things up for us poor mortals without a second thought. Throughout history, the tales of the many pantheons of Gods show us that even the most powerful of celestial beings were riddled with the worst neuroses and foibles of human nature, and a pretty blas̩ attitude towards the mortals that worship them. Sometimes they're lustful РZeus was constantly priapic, with a strange predilection for turning into animals and sexing unsuspecting mortal ladies. Sometimes they're violent Рjust have a gander at this list of party animals. And some, like Hera, Loki, Anansi, and the King of All Cosmos, are just arseholes.

Katamari Damacy for the PS2 (and its many sequels and updates in this hardware generation) are difficult to describe making both the games and you sound very peculiar indeed. You play the Prince, a tiny green man with a katamari – a super-adhesive ball that you roll in front of you, gathering up all in your path. You roll your katamari, stuff sticks to it, it grows, you roll up bigger things, it grows again, and before you know it you are straddling the ocean like a colossus, rolling up entire continents, and asserting the primacy of the mighty katamari over all things in this earthly domain. It is an absurd amount of fun, surprisingly challenging and very pretty to boot - the worlds you roll through are awash with chaotic colours and lively scenes. I would be remiss if I did not also mention that the Katamari games have some of the most amazing music in all of gaming. The story, at first glance, makes no sense, but in actual fact, it's just moving in a mysterious way.

The prince, your humble, dauntless character, is the son of the King of All Cosmos. The King is, particularly in the first game, the classic example of an old-school imperfect deity, a being of near-limitless power shot through with near-limitless arrogance, thoughtlessness and idiocy. In the first game, the King is the catalyst for the action: after a drunken binge, he accidentally destroys all the stars in the sky. Yes, that's right. He gets drunk and destroys every celestial body in the heavens. Thor would be proud. The King then sends his son to sort out the mess he's made, in another classic God move. Surely the King of All Cosmos could recreate the stars without his son having to traipse all over the universe rolling pencils, cows and skyscrapers up into balls of ever-increasing size? Yes, he probably could, but I imagine he find it more fun to get his son to do it.

And does your Lord and Father show gratitude, when you return unto him with the fruits of your labours? Does he shower you with praise and adulation, and invite you to sit at his right hand in his kingdom?

No. Usually, he tells you it's too small.

And that's if you manage to succeed. If you fail? DERISION. And lasers.

In We Love Katamari, the 2005 sequel, the King takes on even more Godly duties, by answering prayers. Specifically katamari-themed prayers, of course, but prayers nonetheless. Of course, the King doesn't answer the prayers directly. He sends his son to do his works for him, spreading his word and moving in the hearts of the people. All the King does is stay at home and fret worriedly about whether his popularity is waning. The Prince is the King's proxy, doing his work and receiving little credit for his part in it, suffering for an ungrateful populace and an unknowable, detached father of immense power and insecurity. I'm not sure if Namco were trying to write a Christ allegory, but they did.

Put your faith in a higher power, believers say, and you'll be rewarded. This fluffy, wacky game shows you the King's reward – to be ever at the whim of a capricious, vengeful, paranoid buffoon who blames all his problems on those who follow him, never lifts a finger himself, and takes all the credit when things go right. I'm an atheist, and Gods like the King of All Cosmos are the reason why.

Saturday, 16 February 2013


Hello again. The last few months have seen no updates at all to this cobwebbed corner of the internet, and for that I can only apologise profusely. You must have been awfully upset.

 I now have 3 things I lacked before - consistent broadband, an actual working computer, and the motivation to write further inane drivel about videogames. REJOICE.

Coming soon - why Deus Ex and riding the 58 bus in Nottingham are basically the same, the Christ allegory at the heart of Katamari Damacy, and a list of all the dogs I have killed recently.

Probabaly not coming soon - the second part of that list I started. But one day. Promise.