Archive for the My Gaming History Category

My Gaming History ‘Part 11’

Posted in My Gaming History with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 25, 2013 by Mortal Mikey

It has to be said that the late 90s was pretty epic all round for a guy at my age. I was soon to be leaving school, I was also soon to become a legal adult…which meant nothing really apart from the fact that everything I had been doing illegally was soon to be legal and therefore ok in the eyes of the law. We hadn’t had much more controversy over video games since the 16bit era, people had come to realise that video games were now emulating real and fantasy world violence but it was to be Grand Theft Auto that stood apart from the rest of the crowd with a big blood stained knife in one hand and a sign in the other that said “Look at me!!”. Looking back at the first installment of GTA makes you really question what all the fuss was about (No offense guys!). It really goes to show how little the media scum and civilian do-gooders have going on in their lives, when a small, pixelated world of top down criminal activity can become a focal point of a society.

 

Which pixel caused controversy?

Which pixel caused controversy?

Ultimately what you take from a game like GTA is the most important part. Was it that you took someone’s life during a robbery and then were abruptly run over by over zealous local authority? Or do you now think that yes, selling cocaine on the streets, although lucrative, is in fact living your life on a knife edge between becoming Scarface or a shit stabber behind bars.

The minority who complained about the game were often the ones who have never played it and it was the fine upstanding role model, Max Clifford who got the controversy ball rolling. Your background and circumstances obviously play a big part in your early development, not some crooked graphical representation of a city from the view of a pigeon. Before shoddy looking violent video games, the previous generation had been subjected to beautifully composed and well animated cartoons. Young people witnessed a man with a passion for spinach, solve all of his day to day tribulations with simple brutality. Punching and kicking anything that stood in his way, often all for the love of a gawky looking woman. I don’t remember the public outcry to ban Popeye, core values and morals in life are something you may or may not follow depending on your wiring and upbringing. If you are influenced enough by video games to commit heinous acts, the games aren’t the problem. Boredom is a scary thing, never let humans, adults or children, become bored, it leads to awful things…I believe computer games combat this. 

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I remember entering Curry’s in 1998, which for those of you who do not reside in the UK, it is in fact an electrical store, not a food outlet. GTA had just hit the shelves and I went in to shoplift…I mean purchase the game. I had read the reviews, scanned the screenshots and so, I was looking forward to playing the game as it sounded like a riot. For whatever reason though this game received an 18 rating and because of this, the young man behind the counter couldn’t serve me. Saddened by my inability to crack on and sell virtual crack, I politely asked my Dad if he would go in and buy it for me. My Dad had spent many an hour sat with me, hand drawing the maps of DOOM for me as we ran around level after level mercilessly gunning down anything sprite that moved…he knows it’s just a game and he doesn’t give a flying fuck what you do in a game as long as you’re not stupid enough to carry out ‘missions’ in real life. You join to army to kill legally, and carry out missions all in the name of drugs and or resources. I’m far too lazy for that kind of thing and that’s why I play video games.

 

"With this drone it'll be like in a video game, you can bomb natives and keep your little beret on!"

“With this drone it’ll be like in a video game, you can bomb natives and keep your little beret on!”

If Wipeout and Gran Turismo raised the bar for technical and content excellence in a racing game. GTA took RPG/Action/shooter/driver, to a whole new level. Real stereo audio tracks boomed over sounds of a bustling city, as you joy ride to victory doing favours for local drug dealers and pimps. Originally penciled to be a simple cops vs robbers chase game, the small team of programmers and enthusiasts pooled ideas from their favourite films and TV shows to come up with a totally original idea. The big cheeses funding the operation didn’t want it, at times the programmers couldn’t meet the concepts, It was almost canned at every corner but for some reason, it was destined to be brought to life and beamed into our brains to turn us into violent drug pushing thugs.

The PS1 was now on fire (not literally due to becoming violent) with so much great content, Sony were an unstoppable force at this point. GTA along with other great titles secured PS1’s place as top dog.

After well over fifty hours playtime I can’t say I was any closer to stealing my neighbours car and going on a knife rampage, I had a teenage temperament already, which meant I was naturally either hot, cold or horny or all of the above. Drugs had come long before GTA ever did to. I remember it like yesterday (going against any so called ‘reports’ of cannabis leading to memory loss) my friend and I stood under his porch in the back garden, listening to the heavy rain on the plastic corrugated roof, hunched over trying to ignore the cold. He produced from his coat pocket what I saw him roll earlier and said “Try it, it’s like cigarettes only different’.

Exactly

Exactly

Different indeed, I don’t think we stopped laughing for three hours, laughed at the rain, laughed at each other and  laughed some more. We went back upstairs and stuck on the Playstation and a beautiful friendship came to being. I didn’t realise at the time that this was illegal, I guess people can only have fun as long as there is a limit to it, enforced by government.

I was no stranger to physical violence either with over seven years of traditional Karate behind me, long before GTA being released. Karate is an age old Japanese method of practicing how to effectively use ones foot to make an opponent’s eyes pop out of their ears. You enter a room full of strangers and quite often you’ll find yourself punching and kicking each other, occasionally being whipped by a teachers belt if and when you made mistakes. Had I used these techniques in anger? Not really, but I had been able to defend myself once or twice, usually resulting with me trying to put someone’s foot up their own ass.

I’ve seen monks from Asia smash pots on their heads and take kicks to the groin from a man twice their size…those bald fella’s haven’t even got a TV so whatever influences them to practice the arts of inflicting pain is anyone’s guess. I’d say boredom.

Level 10 boredom

Level 10 boredom

 

Smoking plants and playing video games was now what happened between school and eating. It could not have come at a better time as titles that have earned their place in the video game hall of fame, were released within two years of each other. Who can forget the four player split screen romp that was 007 Golden Eye on the N64, running around as Nick Nac while your friend fruitlessly attempts to karate chop you to death with Jaws had me in tears of laughter, not to mention the hilarious animation. Resident Evil 2 stoned was another level of frightening too, with curtains drawn, walking around as a cop who can only move like a cheap educational robot, HI-FI turned up to 11 and the lights off, it certainly tested your nerves.

For me this was a highlight in my gaming history so far. The days when I’d sit with a mate in my school uniform for hours until it was time for me to go, I could take the game home if they let me borrow it and the disc contained the full game.

I still had my Megadrive, I don’t recall when I sold the old girl but I do remember on the odd occasion, slamming in a cartridge for one final blast on California Games, Streets of Rage or James Pond. The sounds, the gameplay and the pad brought on feelings on nostalgia even at such a young age. When I play these games now on emulators, it’s never the same, similar to the thoughts of child hood, it reminds me of how easy going things were back then when compared to the ever maddening, shameless, money grabbing, product placing, non supportive, underhanded, identity stealing, slutty industry it is today.

There are just too many games to mention here, the step into the 3D polygon world of Sony’s powerhouse was only the beginning, but for a lot of us, we were playing reinvented titles of the originals. The Strike games continued with Soviet and Nuclear Strike. We had Micromachines V3 which surprised many as it was just as additive and frustrating as the original. Mortal Kombat was given more content and fighters with the Trilogy, with strong competition in the genre from 3D titles like Tekken and Soul Blade, there were no complaints. The PlayStation, was the first video game console to ship 100 million units, 9 years and 6 months after its initial launch. Gaming was becoming seen as a worthwhile past time and not just the hobby of spotty kids with high scores and corduroy trousers.

In the year 2000, we were going to see what would become the bestselling home console of all time, the aptly named, Playstation 2. It was also the year I left home, had my first house mate and so, the battles continued.

My Gaming History ‘Part 10’

Posted in My Gaming History with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 1, 2013 by Mortal Mikey

This post is taking a bit of a detour from my gaming history as I’d like to mention something we, as gamers have had to face throughout the days spent tackling these virtual marvels. They are, glitches. I think they deserve a mention during this retrospective journey, as without them, games would never have the character or quirks we remember so fondly.

Whether it was the new uncharted polygon worlds of Sony or the copious amounts of cannabis consumed during the evolution of the Playstation but my new found skill in gaming was the ability to glitch any given title into oblivion. More often than not, I’d pop over to a friend’s house and pick up a controller to play their latest purchase. In the first five minutes I’d made the character or vehicle bend time and space and appear in a geographic location unknown to the game itself, ruining the apparent game environment, whilst making a noise like a dog trapped in a burning bin.

BIN

Just in the past month my friend, who writes for a an online technology magazine, handed me a brand new powerful smartphone from Motorola. As I flicked through the phone, he explained to me that the phone has a Pentium chip, has incredible RAM specs and so on. He fired up the new Batman game on the android system, quickly briefed me on the controls and off I went, to attempt to save Gotham City. I was impressed by the frame rate and the controls, perhaps now we’ve achieved a ‘oneness’ with this software programming stuff, this just looks too slick to fuck up.

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The first two bad guys in this sandbox environment met their doom by means of the bat belt, I think I used the “Bat’arang” on the one guy and simply punched the other henchman to death, Bruce Wayne style.

So I decided it was time for a little exploring. Using the cape for the first time I launched Bat Wayne from a tall building, swooping down to meet two unsuspecting thugs on the street below. Unfortunately the Bat met an untimely fate when I strayed off course slightly and panicked, only to witness the caped crusader disappear through the bricks of a roof top Gotham city outbuilding, which was about 10x10ft square. I tried and tried to recreate the same graphic anomaly but failed miserably. It was quite depressing really, watching batman running and jumping wildly inside this small brick tomb, bumping into the four walls…thinking about it, there isn’t much batman could do in this instance. I used every conceivable means to escape and used every gadget the game provided, but in the end, Bruce man is just a lonely bloke in a gimp suit with ears and can’t kick or punch his way out of bricks and mortar.

Bat-fucked

Bat-fucked

Glitches have come a long way since the early days of polygon technology, now with simulated earth, wind, fire and water elements at developers disposal, all manner of madness can happen to your character or vehicle that previously had never been dreamed of. I believe with someone like me at the front line of games testing a lot of these issues could have been resolved a long time ago.

Helpful glitches have also appeared throughout games history, whether It be a crafty glitch that allows you to kill an end level boss without being killed, or an inventory glitch that gives you endless money or ammo. My most recent glitch discovery would have been whilst attempting to play the clumsy, unsatisfying Dark Souls, in which you, the victim, fumble around a grimy old ruin with a broken knife, frequently being destroyed by an array of crazed enemies. You often end up looking like a pensioner being kicked to death by chavs on PCP.

Upon meeting the first boss, which happens to be an over-sized, over animated ‘Asylum troll’, I quickly discovered a weakness using my experience of these kinds of situations and positioned myself at the rear of the monster, trying to learn it’s repetitive movements, with a large kitchen knife in hand. After regularly meeting an untimely fate previously to booby traps and awkward controls, I laughed manically as I repeatedly stabbed the fat troll in the arse until I killed it to death.

Stab the arse to win

Stab the arse to win

Flashback was a much loved title for me on the Sega Megadrive. It solidifies my argument that my generation have had it hard when faced with other big responsibilities in life, like washing or school. My parents were forever arguing the toss about how I should do my homework because back in their day, the cain was used as punishment for not putting in the hard labour. As well as physical punishment for not learning your sixty four times table, they’d recall games they used to play. Games like, roll the wheel with a stick, throw rocks at trains and hop scotch.

How is there any expectation for children to learn a government based education today? When I was a kid, of course I had homework, but I also had a powerful games console in my bedroom which could throw me into a situation in seconds whereby I play the role of a slick, agile motherfucker in a tan brown leather jacket, pale blue jeans, in a pair of Nikes, wielding a large handgun…IN SPACE. Choosing to spend time playing Flashback or writing an essay on how long it takes for water to erode rocks. I chose Nikes, handguns and space aliens, every. fucking. time.

flashbackflashback-megadrive-031

Delphine software, who are sadly no longer with us, released Flashback in 1992 and the following was huge. In a nutshell, you play Conrad B. Hart, who wakes up on a distant alien jungle planet ‘Titan’. You wake up with no memory of what happened but soon discover it wasn’t the result of a good night out but instead, you erased your own memory. Conrad previously recorded his memory on a Holocube because you work for the Galaxia Bureau of Investigation, and during one of Conrad’s investigations he discovered a plot to destroy the earth by shape shifting aliens that have disguised themselves as government officials.

After the first three hours or so on the game, I became unbelievably stuck and had to read through many magazines before stumbling upon a way to progress. By running away from a door, then quickly turning to run the other way holding down A, Conrad magically runs through the door into the next scene. This was pretty uncommon for a glitch to actually help you out, if you ever found a door or wall you could pass into in a game, you should expect the worst.

Look out for my top five gaming intro’s of all time, coming soon. I’ll explain more about one of my favourite games ‘Flashback’ and discuss how a masterpiece is made.

If you aren’t familiar with the term ‘glitch’ or not sure of the effects caused by glitches, take a look at this short video.

Mortal Mikey

 

My Gaming History ‘Part 9’

Posted in My Gaming History with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 1, 2013 by Mortal Mikey

Firstly, for anyone who has been enjoying these entries about my gaming history, I’d like to apologise for the lack of posts since part 8. Life moves pretty fast when you get older, either that or Alzheimer’s is creeping in steadily and actually I have no idea how much I’m not doing.

If you aren’t really that old yet, i.e. you are cruising through life at around 18 years old, eating packet pasta, walking around in flip flops and scarfs, studying for a job that appeared yesterday….

HipsterFlipFlops

It might be difficult to envisage how this feels or works, using the power of the metaphor, I’ll try and explain this to you.

Imagine for a moment you have a small wicker basket, this represents your life, you can hold this basket in one hand…in said wicker basket are a number of small rubber bouncy balls, of various sizes. Each ball represents certain aspects of your life and their size is determined by the importance of each aspect. This could include, goals, aspirations, hopes, dreams, caring for your dog, browsing mortal-mikey, looking after yourself, learning a new language, remembering important birthdays, passing that exam, revision for said exam…you get the idea. What I’m trying to convey here that your small wicker basket is in no way large enough to easily contain all of these bouncy balls but you will do your best to stack them, which sometimes believe it or not, actually works. Albeit for a brief, insignificant amount of time.

Then imagine that the world around you is a gypsy fun house, you know, the funny looking, rickety old wooden ‘house’ you find at the fair, containing all manner of dangerous mechanisms and illusions that have you falling over yourself, bumping into things, whilst being bombarded with strobe lights, loud horns and blasts of compressed air.

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Life in adulthood is like trying to navigate through one of these, whilst being followed by several large doormen (or bouncers), holding on to your little wicker basket of balls as you do. The doorman all have names too, in this case we’ll call them, debt, work and time. Anytime you knock one of these bouncy balls out of the basket due to the mayhem that occurs around you, you’ll desperately scramble around on the floor, using your only free hand, as the three of them give you a little shove here and there to move you along, which invariably means you’ll lose sight of one or two of the balls, sometimes for a moment, sometimes forever. If God were to play any part in this analogy, he would be the fat bearded chap sitting in the dirty, food stained ticket booth. Granted, to enter life (or the ‘fun house’ as he’d like to call it) it doesn’t cost fuck all, but your journey through it is going to be all on show for the omnipresent spectator to cackle at.

If reincarnation does actually exist, which I believe is probably much like a character select screen, just ask if you can enter spectator mode yourself and kick back with a beer and a selection of your favourite snacks.

Spectator mode

“Who writes this shit?”

 

 

The PlayStation was the last console I mentioned in my gaming history. I must admit I had only briefly mentioned just how ground breaking everything was when it came to the PSX. The control pad was very impressive for a start. It really felt like a another leap forward in the ergonomics theory and the way that the designers now connected with gamers. Control pads of the past were built as if every child had hands shaped like Lego which required no real dexterity to play.

SegaMasterSystemControlPad3020v1_z1

The Sony PlayStation controller was built at the perfect size and shape for human hands and the button layout was perfect for present and future games. The construction was solid and each button was sat perfectly in the plastic casing, all rubber mounted to the circuit board which gave the buttons a nice consistent feel with minimal travel. This could only be found on an original Sony built controller, all third party copies creaked and cracked like pensioner with no heating at Christmas.

Coming from a long history of controllers with buttons labelled A,B,C,X,Y,Z meant that at first it was a little confusing with Sony’s new approach to button configuration. Square, X, Circle and Triangle replaced the familiar layout from the SNES and added to this were four shoulder buttons. L1, L2, R1 and R2. Developers wasted no time and threw us all in the deep end, new titles sprang up every five minutes and with that, new button configurations and patterns had to be learned, which meant at first some games were like baptising a cat.

Love handles

Love handles

Sony’s design became the preferred method of play globally, from that time, right up until the introduction of the first Xbox.

The ability to save games also became much easier on the console with the introduction of Sony’s memory cards, which from my hazy memory, had 8Mb storage, which in today’s world is about 3 digital photographs. Games data could be taken from your home to a friend’s place who could quickly and easily copy data from your card to theirs with Sony’s front end system. Being that it was also a CD Rom drive meant that users could pop in a music CD and play tunes through your setup, which could be controlled entirely by the control pad, all backed by mad 3D rendered psychedelic visuals that would have given your dad an acid flashback. The beginnings of a home console becoming a multimedia platform were taking shape and it felt good that the functionality was for there for us.

8mb card

With more power obviously meant more exciting titles. The PlayStation will forever be remembered for bringing us a new plethora of fighting games and of course light gun games. Games from the arcades were coming to the home once again with titles like Lethal Enforcers, Time Crisis and Point Blank.

Light gun games were pretty poor on the 8-Bit systems, with few exceptions. Both Sega and Nintendo had their own light gun systems on the Megadrive and the SNES which only really served as a novelty in my opinion. The initial expense of the ‘Menacer’ on the Megadrive system was pretty steep and the games pack that came with the gun were short lived titles.

Turn off the lights, turn up the sound and sit back with your best mate with a copy of Lethal Enforcers on the PS1 and you were in for some wholesome criminal killing. So the graphics weren’t exactly show stopping but the real gun sound effects, real digitised characters on photographed backgrounds had appeal. Sure, every time you pull the trigger the screen flashed bright white, which happened several thousand times a minute and no doubt induced many seizures in bedrooms around the globe, but perhaps the danger element added to the excitement.

Complete with his and her's Colt .44 Magnum

Complete with his and hers Colt .44 Magnum

We certainly got a bang for our buck with Die Hard Trilogy. Looking back at the game now it’s hard to imagine why we were so excited, as most of the game, by todays standards, looked like it was constructed by primary school children locked in a dark room full of computers, with a basic knowledge of programming and the Die Hard films being played on big screens 24 hours a day.

The gameplay was a completely different story, there were three different game types, and if I’m honest, the gameplay and sound certainly was impressive at the time. Each Die hard had a different style of play which up until that point hadn’t really been seen before and since then hasn’t been replicated. Die Hard was set in the skyscraper and in this section of the game you ran around as John McLane in a third person perspective and gunned down anyone who stands between you and the hostages. There wasn’t much in the way of strategy in this chapter, John ran with his gun constantly at arm’s length, in his vest and simply shot things until they stopped moving. It was the little things added to the game that entertained, John would occasionally say one liners when you shot enemies or picked up health and ammo. A majority of the surrounding furniture of the game was destructible too, such as windows, table objects, roof tiles etc. The bigger the weapon, the more damage, and it isn’t long before you get into the flow and have enemies bouncing off the office walls using well placed grenades.

diehard

Scores take priority over exploding Ambulance?

Scores take priority over exploding Ambulance?

Die Hard 2 was set in the airport obviously and this is where you could use the light gun. The game controlled your character through the scenes and just allowed you to shoot. The characters in Die Hard Trilogy at first looked a little awkward, but soon it was evident that quite a lot of work had gone into them. There were some early examples of ‘ragdoll’ physics here in a 3D environment, this also meant that enemies and civilians didn’t always take exactly the same path with every play through.

Take that Hans!

Take that Hans!

Die Hard Trilogy was produced by Probe entertainment here in the UK, which could account for the crude German accents that appear throughout the game and could also account for the call to ban the game in Germany. This was one of the first times I had seen photos rendered onto polygons, if you looked closely, on some of the characters had the faces of the development team. Although the game was extremely buggy at times, the subtle comedic effect of the sounds and the mayhem that could be unleashed with the light and grenades meant that a lot of homework was never done.

Die harder

Finally Die Hard with Vengeance was again completely different in terms of game play due to the fact it was purely driving. You start out in the yellow New York taxi and acquire several missions along the way which require you to drive other vehicles. This was undoubtedly the least realistic of the three games but was often the most fun. The missions usually involved simply ramming the shit out of the target vehicle or ramming a dustbin containing a bomb, but instead of crashing and immobilising the enemy car or getting out and disarming the bomb, targets would explode like a small nuke with no regard for civilians.

diehardest

Even changing into a new vehicle for a mission required you to smash into it, creating yet another explosion as you drive off. Polygon civilians would run for their lives as you sped through the city, if you mounted the pavement GTA style, the screen would be splattered with blood making the wipers work.

_-Die-Hard-Trilogy-PlayStation-_2 _-Die-Hard-Trilogy-PlayStation-_

Thats it for this part, I promise in 2013 I’ll be keeping up a reasonable pace with this series, right up until present day.

Happy new year!

Mortal Mikey on Facebook

My Gaming History ‘Part 8’

Posted in My Gaming History with tags , , , , , , on June 21, 2012 by Mortal Mikey

The Playstation emerged triumphant, boasting a wealth of games and a control pad that actually fitted in your hands rather than feeling like you playing on your console using a shoe.

With my package I received a demo disc ‘d1 version’ and a copy of Wipeout 2097. Combined with several PS1 magazine issues which contained demo discs, I had a fair few hours of playing time to enjoy. There is nothing like opening a new box of hardware from a games console manufacturer…the look, the feel and the smell of everything new inside all of the fiddley wrapping, who knows, this could be better than your cat.

In the future we will laugh and tell stories about wires.

The Sony demo disc not only had several games to play on but also some tech demos from Sony that really were jaw dropping at the time. Many of you will remember the T-Rex that walked onto screen which you could control with your pad. It was really impressive to see first hand, the leap from the 16 to 32bit hardware. I think, unfortunately, the first time we actually saw a T-rex in a published game for the PS1 was in Tomb Raider but it didn’t look quite as polished as the d1 demo version but more like something your nephew put together using dry pasta and glue.

No one knows what colour a T rex was, so in this game he was cucumber.

Wipeout 2097 was a ground breaking and very addictive title for the PS1, it was a must have game for the Playstation. The first thing to notice when I popped the disc in and setup the game through the menus, was the music. Real, stereo, music!

The game was set in the future (according to the title ‘Wipeout 2097’ it was set in the year 2097). You compete for money in a dangerous race using vehicles, powered by some kind of free energy which enabled your craft to hover above the ground. Using a combination of thrust and directional air braking, you guided yourself in between the track walls to the unmistakable sounds of The Prodigy, Underworld, Daft Punk and Orbital. Throughout the race you were able to pick up ‘power ups’ to use, including missiles, bombs, shields and speed boosts to ensure yourself the win. With the option to race split screen the game was a massive hit and really put together what Sony were out to achieve. A multi media, powerful entertainment system that was not just a flash in the pan.

Some gameplay with Prodigy soundtrack

The game that got me totally hooked on this console was Need For Speed. A game released only for PC, 3DO and PS1 when launched, little did anyone know how big this series was going to be. In recent times the games design has been altered to cater for a wider audience, compared with the early, quite serious take on road racing.

NFS has been tossed like a Spaniard in a bull ring around several studios in its time, sometimes hitting the mark and other times it…well…just hasn’t.

Before fun cost money

The first NFS was something of a landmark in racing games for the gaming community, first released on the Panasonic 3DO, the hardware’s exoticism matched the exclusiveness of the software. It had a certain mature quality that made you think you were experiencing something quite premium, like eating Ferrero Rocher on a jet plane, or wiping your arse with a tenner.

All of the cars included in the game had full specifications, listed and narrated by one of the team at Road & Track, who have been helping out games designers in racing games for many years.

You could view videos of each of the cars each with their own incredibly soft rock track over the top. The kind of rock you’d hear over the final action sequence in Saved By The Bell, in an episode where Zack Morris finds a passion for amateur basketball and is aided by his friends in defeating his confidence gremlins, with provocative suggestions from females and high fives from the guys. The climax of the show would be the failed look upon the opponents faces after the final shot from Zack and the look of approval and admiration from Mr Belding, who previously thought Basketball was not to be taken as seriously as one of the more academic studies that semester.

Watch a Need for Speed video from the 90’s!

“Wow c-c-ake…i mean Kelly”

It was the first time I had been impressed by the attention to detail of the cars and the way they handled in the game. The Canadian based company ‘Distinctive Software’, which became known as ‘EA Canada’ really went to town with the detail which has been seen in the entire series. As well as a solid choice of vehicles in the game, gamers were also treated to an impressive cockpit view of the car, detailing all of the real world dials and gauges, this was somewhat revolutionary when put against other racing titles at the time, including ‘Distinctive Software’s’ Test Drive and Test Drive II.

250 miles an hour, with no hands.

I’ve always been of the opinion that Need For Speed’s attention to detail and the track design has been something really worth mentioning right from the get go. The first game treated you to some great open roads, the point to point races were defiantly a highlight in the game, a step away from the usual perfecting of lap times on a track you were made to do in other racing titles, like the rather clinical Gran Turismo series. Alpine courses, coastal runs and city freeways kept things interesting as well as good-looking.

It was nice just to be able to take one of the exotic cars out for a razz on the open roads, hand brake turning every now and then, infuriating the local police force. NFS currently sits top dog as cop-chase-racer, in its humble beginnings cops were present but not the main focus of the game, perhaps it was just a simple reminder that in real life, if you found yourself travelling at 180mph through an Alpine road in your Lamborghini, you could wind up with a ticket.

As well as visually pleasing the NFS series also set the standard for in-game audio. Occasionally I’d find myself causally driving along the roads looking for viewpoints and locations listening to the environmental sounds of birds, planes, trains, rivers and tractors…all of which were in the game but usually overlooked due to the fact you’d be passing these locations at breakneck speed.

You could tell, as a keen car enthusiast, that time had been taken to digitally reproduce the real sounds of each of the cars, down to the clunk of the gear change in the inside view. From the deep growl of the Dodge Vipers V10, to the high-end buzz of the Ferrari Testarossa it was all part of the series strong points which are still seen very much today.

In my opinion Need for Speed II (1997) has been one of the best in the series. Again, track design was superb, it wiped the floor with Nintendo’s N64 titles at the time, it was slicker than the Test Drive title at the time and more fun than Tokyo Highway battle (a personal favourite of mine).

The car selection was defiantly aimed at the enthusiast. The featured eight supercars: the Ferrari F50, Lotus GT1, Jaguar XJ220, Ford GT90, Lotus Esprit V8, McLarren F1, Italdesign Cala, and the Isdera Commendatore 112I. And tracks were set in locations such as Canada, Norway, Australia, Northern Europe, and Nepal.

If and when you become bored with the myriad of supercars and exotic locations, there were some inbuilt cheat codes in the game which allowed you to drive any of the civilian vehicles (and some scenery props) you see during the races. Much fun was had chasing a friend in a school bus whilst he tried desperately to outrun you in a Citron 2CV along a narrow mountain pass. Or go all out and unlock the large green T-rex and the wooden outhouse. What other racing game provided you with an opportunity to overtake a dinosaur with a fucking toilet? Stick that in your Gran Turismo pipe and smoke it.

Need for Speed III ‘Hot Pursuit’ really was the full introduction of cat and mouse, cop VS racer hot pursuit. The graphics had been pushed to the limit on the 32 bit machines, the car selection was as exclusive as ever but this time you could take the role as the cop. The hot pursuit mode included many things that you will recognise in today’s NFS. Cops had to slow or stop racers along the several miles of road, using spike strips or road blocks where available.

The music was as solid as always within this series, you could choose from rock or techno as your preferred genre to race to. The tracks were composed and produced mainly by Saki Kaskas, exclusively for need for speed (NFS 1-5). EA had opted to use these tracks instead of using a collection of commercial tracks, as each track was specifically designed for each race track, it really brought the whole racing experience to a new level. Furthermore they had improved on the interactive music from Need For Speed II…the music would break down during a crash, change pace when in the lead, or if you were lagging behind.

One final video from the Speed Series…

The PlayStation was really living up to its hype and was without doubt ‘Next gen’ gaming. If the initial innovative releases weren’t enough, one virtual woman gave gamers two big reasons for paying more attention to Sony’s fun box. Lara Croft, a household name today and since being played by brown baby snatcher, Angelina Jolie…Lara has gained herself international recognition.

Armed with gun holsters/suspenders, short shorts, army boots and a blue skin-tight top, the initial art work and advertising had young gamers by their little hairless balls. This title, as well as the varied mix of new game concepts, also captivated an older audience who saw that shit had just got serious in the design and attention to detail of the games on this platform.

Lara Croft as far as I could tell, is an intelligent, British born woman who’s parents sadly had passed away in a tragic accident, leaving her a huge mansion, one outfit and a butler. She has an assault course in her garden that you could mess about on to hone your skills for when you were out adventuring.

The camera was situated behind Lara and intelligent enough that it was possible to look over her shoulder when needed. She could run, jump, grab, shimmy, dive and crawl…you would need all of these skills for when exploring caves and buildings, occasionally avoiding booby traps and enemies. To everyone’s surprise the game wasn’t just a pair of tits, it played very well and being able to jump whilst shooting henchmen and wolves in the face was something we had not seen before. The game was a nice mix of puzzles, shooting and survival with a story line that was quite original. Lara’s looks, coupled with her dry wit and gun play was an instant classic, there have been a number of releases since that time, some of which haven’t matched the subtle qualities of the original.

So with its powerful bespoke hardware on board, including the successful MIPS R3000A 32bit chip and the capability of running CD ROMs, the output of 360,000 polygons a second and 180,000 texture mapped and light-sourced polygons per second, kicked out impressive visuals and sound. Granted, now we look back at the triangular wobbly polygon worlds of the PlayStation and wonder how our eyes coped with it. I’ve played an early Ridge Racer game recently and aside from the dire sound effects of engines and tyre screeching, the track looked like I had poured myself a pre race cup of magic mushrooms and all the colours were trying to kill me.

Again with each and every console that has been released, there are always the instant classics and the birth of new ideas and game series.

Here is Angelina Jolie, summing up everything about Tomb Raider. Tune: Fluke – Atom Bomb

I hope you’ve been enjoying the posts, if you have then please spread the word on Facebook and Twitter.

Part 9 coming soon!

My Gaming History ‘Part 7’

Posted in My Gaming History with tags , , , , , , , on May 24, 2012 by Mortal Mikey

I don’t read the tabloids, also about ten years ago today when I moved out from my parents place, I decided to never watch TV again and disconnected the aerial. Sure, I miss some entertainment, friends often talk about these new shows that are talent contests and tell me how well a young person sang an old persons song in front of judges and cried. Or American series like ‘Twilight’ from which all I know is that it sounds like Dawson’s Creek with teeth?

Just reading a little more on IMDB now, I learned some interesting trivia about the series;

“Taylor Lautner had to wear a wig for his role as Jacob Black.”

This is my therious face guys

As brilliant as watching a man with false teeth in a wig, wooing a lady sounds, TV will have to do better than that to pull me away from playing Forza Motorsport 4 on Xbox live with two of my best friends.

In my friends initiation into the club we’ve created, we asked him to choose a Ford shit box, whilst we chased him in two heavily modified Range Rovers dressed in full ‘Thames Valley Police’ colours. We pretend he’s a runner and set him off with a five second head start, on the famous Nurburgring in Germany. His confusion and panic was understandable, we could have informed him it was an initiation and that we had modified our 4×4’s but watching his Ford Escort swerve left and right, billowing out smoke from our relentless attempts at putting him into a hedge, was simply too much fun to spoil the surprise.

 

I browse the internet sometimes to seek out technology news and pictures of cats but sometimes I see stories that are just too hard to miss. One that caught my eye today was about the man who set himself on fire amidst the court proceedings for the oxygen stealer, Anders Breivik. I had read previously that Breivik had stated that he used computer games, specifically Call of Duty, to simulate the kind of situation he’d hope to be in when he shot and killed 69 innocent people.

Sure, there has again been uproar about this kind of game as they say it may affect young people in similar ways, although as you already know, I like to think of it as games make people killers like spoons make you fat.

He’s gonna brow!

I mean what kind of game was the chap playing that set himself on fire outside court, Burned on Duty 4?  A simple game which only involves one level, whereby you take a walk to a petrol station, fill up a petrol can, go to the desired location, douse yourself in fuel and strike a match. No, you have to be a sick kind of mental to think shooting children on an island is worth anything, even more deranged to become a human torch

Wooo…flames…yeah

Sadly, unlike Call of Duty where you die quite often in a short space of time, Anders Breivik is still alive…and if that’s taught anyone anything that is, unlike computer games, if you massacre people in cold blood, you’ll be kept alive so we can hear all the interesting anecdotes about bad times in your life and how many people you had hoped to kill. I’m not an advocate of real violence, it’s too tiring, in Breiviks case however, I think if I was one of the armed officers who approached him, id make out I tripped over a log and accidentally let off twenty-five rounds which all happened to hit Anders in his legs and the only way to help him out was to try to keep him conscious by repeatedly hitting in the face with the butt of my rifle.

Anyways, I’m moving off point, I was meant to be explaining how I stepped out of the 16bit generation of machines and entered the 32bit realm of enjoyment.

Although the Megadrive still had some life in it, there was a lot of temptation on the horizon and I wanted in. The new breed of consoles were emerging and with it, some new innovations in games. A lot of the heavyweights in Sega’s reign had their run of sequels and it’s fair share of turkeys.

One game that stands out as a ‘Mega failure’ was Rise Of The Robots. During the build up to its release everything looked promising. The characters were to be CGI sprites instead of the pixellated art from Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, the inspirations looked to be from robots seen in Hollywood films too. Rumour had it that Brian May from Queen was to produce a full soundtrack for the game and all of this came on the usual 16BIT cartridge.

After some delays, the game was released, without May’s soundtrack and with all the excitement of a ham sandwich. Playability wasn’t an issue really, it was easy to play but this was probably due to the fact each character had around five or six moves. Even at eleven years old, me and my best friend exchanged looks of horror and astonishment at what had been such an eagerly awaited title. The characters moved like two wheel chair bound people attacking each other with brooms, it was laughably clumsy and so it soon became clear that this was a classic case of ‘all the gear and no idea’.

Press A to win

If you had the money at this time, you would have had either the Sega MegaDrive or SNES and if you were feeling really flush, you would go all out and have the in-house arcade feel of the Neo-Geo.

For me, I had to make do with the Mega Drive alone because at twelve years old I didn’t have around £600 to spank on something that would mean I saw even less of the outside world. The Neo-Geo was the all out king of 2D gaming straight from the arcades, mainly focused around Japanese fighting games. The machine and the games had premium prices, titles in the US started at around $200, so only a niche market was hit. Even so, the console has outlived the MegaDrive and all other 2D competitors due to its hardware compatibility, it was released in 1990 and had its final official title released in 2004, ‘Samurai Showdown V Special’. It has been said that since the introduction of the Internet, SNK, the makers of this wonder box, decided to call it a day with the explosion of the piracy of games that are cartridge based.

In 1995 my attention was drawn to the stirrings from Sony and their talk of a CD based games machine, boasting massive power combined with a huge following of games developers, to give it the largest games library yet. At the time I had some brief playing time on the Atari Jaguar and the eagerly awaited following up console, the Sega Saturn. The Saturn did indeed look the part, it was quite mind blowing to see full polygonal games flowing at smooth frame rates but with the European prices, making the right choice of console was important.

A tidy looking machine

I haven’t got much to say about the Jaguar, from what I remember, being twelve at the time, was wondering into Comet (an electrical store) and being offered to play on it. I don’t remember the game specifically but I remember being overwhelmed by the size of the controller and the fact it had more buttons on it than the cockpit of a Boeing 747. I wasn’t overly impressed with the machine, some of the titles looked promising but the word on the street was, Sony had all of this and more.

A quote from Wikipedia;“PlayStation was the brainchild of Ken Kutaragi, a Sony executive who had just come out of his hardware engineering division at that time and would later be dubbed as “The Father of the PlayStation”

The console’s origins date back to 1988 where it was originally a joint project between Nintendo and Sony to create a CD-ROM for the Super Nintendo.

The PlayStation made its debut at the Consumer Electronics Show in June 1991 when Sony revealed its console, a Super Famicom/SNES with a built-in CD-ROM drive (that incorporated Green Book technology or CDi). However, a day after the announcement at CES, Nintendo announced that it would be breaking its partnership with Sony, opting to go with Philips instead but using the same technology.

The deal was broken by Nintendo after they were unable to come to an agreement on how revenue would be split between the two companies. The breaking of the partnership infuriated Sony President Norio Ohga, who responded by appointing Kutaragi with the responsibility of developing of the PlayStation project to rival Nintendo.”

I decided after studying the news on each console, the options were the Saturn or the PlayStation. With SEGA’s unconventional hardware and programming engine, developers were losing patience with Sega early on and this was apparent at release in the summer of 1995, as there were only six titles to chose from here in the UK. Although the quadrilateral rendering of the Saturn was in some ways better looking than that of the PlayStations industry standard triangular form of rendering (See Lara Crofts triangular tits in the first Tomb Raider), for the majority of developers the Saturn was hard to play with. In the early days the PlayStation did suffer with some polygonal distortion but overall, the performance of these games outshone the efforts of developers for SEGA.

Lara was more than just a pair of guns

After some shit flinging in the American market and some more grumbles from developers worldwide, SEGA were going to have to pull out all the stops. In September 1995 the PlayStation was released and it’s launch weekend Sony flogged 100,000 units, more than 20,000 than the total sales of the Saturn which was released six weeks before.

The choice was obvious. I clubbed together anything I had begged, borrowed and stolen, combined with the bank of mum and dad. I chose my bundle and setup my PlayStation and switched it on to hear this unforgettable sound…


My Gaming History ‘Part 6’

Posted in My Gaming History with tags , , , , , , , , on April 29, 2012 by Mortal Mikey

Picture the scene…

you’re an imperial born man, gone rouge, after escaping death because a fire breathing dragon interrupted your public execution for crimes you did not commit. After fleeing with a bloke who shows you the way out, you’re free to explore a huge landscape full of myth and magic, barbarians and thieves, trying to understand the motives of the people and fight for your survival.

You’ve just spent the last 53 minutes dispatching ancient Nord un-dead in a huge burial tomb, armed with a battle axe in one hand and a banded iron shield in the other…your companion, Jenessa…a dark Elf woman with a sexy British accent, who lives out her life as a mercenary for anyone with enough coin. You find her drinking in a pub on her own in a pleasant town, she doesn’t speak much but her huge great sword does the talking, carving the un-dead into pieces as they break free from their restless death to attack you. You emerge from the caves exhausted and over cumbered with riches you stole from the dead, who you just killed, again. As you make your way to the nearest village with thoughts of a belly full of mead and a good night sleep, you spot a lonely chicken on the outskirts of the settlement. With the newly learned spell you found inside the caves, you are too eager to wait for a more opportune moment and test it out on the poultry target.

The chicken bursts into flames as Jenessa watches on with the same blank expression she carries whilst driving forged steel into the foreheads of unlucky foe’s. At this moment you realise your mistake, you’ve just spent an hour in that dark tomb without auto save on and there’s no option to turn back time. The guards of the village of which you’ve destroyed a chicken, come for you but they aren’t here for a bribe this time…instead they attack you with no mercy for the crimes you’ve committed, in the confusion you have no choice but to reply with your axe and new found magic.

Jenessa, ever the quick thinker, attacks with you, with no regard for the lives of many in the village…she uses her god given magic to resurrect the chicken. In the flurry of blades and fire you catch a glimpse of what has become of your actions, as the chicken jumps furiously at the innocent people of this once quiet place, pecking at them like a crazed woodpecker. The orchestral battle music finally fades out and you’re left to look on at the smouldering remains of villagers and guards with only blood on your hands as your mercenary and new feathered recruit look at you for the next orders.

If you’re unsure what this is about, I’m talking about the latest RPG from Bethesda studios, Elder scrolls, Skyrim.

"Get back...your breath stinks!"

I learnt a valuable lesson that day, auto save is priceless with the kind of memory I have and that in modern games, you have to be mindful of your actions.

So far I’ve spent a solid 90+ hours in Skyrim and if you think the above sounds like a crazy tale, you should watch me attacking a bandit camp, dressed in a blacksmith apron, with only a wood cutters axe, magically enchanted to electrocute people as it strikes.

Often games in the old school category are usually based around the most simple of story lines, to save tricky programming with limited technology.

Take one of my all time favourite games on any platform, Streets of Rage.

Streets of Rage, or ‘Bare knuckle’ as it was known outside of the UK, was a scrolling beat’em up that I probably spent too much time playing. The story involved a gang of hero’s who sought to stop the evil Mr.x controlling the city and letting it spiral into chaos. Conveniently this meant civilians didn’t venture out onto the streets at night, leaving only thugs and lunatics to roam freely, a programmers dream.

The second instalment of this series was my favourite, combining a great original old school dance soundtrack with smooth graphics and slick game play. You choose anyone of the four playable characters and then begin your journey through 8 stages of smacking punks, surviving on apples and whole chickens.

How nice of someone to leave it on a plate

Axel Stone

The main dude and ‘leader’ of the gang was Axel, not to be confused with the automotive component or the loud fella from Guns and Roses. He wore a pair of light blue denim jeans, some cool trainers and a vest, topped off with a typically 80’s headband. He was quick, nimble and his wide variety of moves made him a favourite. Axel could be found in all 3 versions of Streets of Rage, he led the gang through the story, offering a backhand to anyone who crossed him.

Skate

Skate was a very different character to your usual band of muscle men and women, as he was a child. Obviously brought up tough enough, he fights alongside the other three characters in search for his dad Adam from the first game, who was kidnapped by Mr.x. His name, I’m guessing, comes from the fact he wears roller skates all of the time which in a fighting situation seems like a pretty daft idea but it does allow him to pull off some moves involving a flying kick utilising the underside of the skates and a special move which was a break dancing move flailing his legs at the enemy. Not one of my favourite characters to play with as when faced with a boss who was usually several times the size of the kid, it was near on impossible to avoid being murdered.

Blaze Fielding

Blaze was the female of the bunch, armed with stiletto heels and martial arts, enemies were met with speed and technique reminiscent of Street Fighters, Chun Li. Teamed up with one of the stronger males in the gang you and a friend could plough through enemies like a tractor through a crowd at a Justin Beiber concert.

Max System

Perhaps not as well remembered as Haggard from Final Fight, Max acted less like a street fighter and more like a bull in hall of mirrors. If you ever got into a spot of bother as one of the other three characters Max could wade in, pick up the nearest punk and throw his sorry looking Mohawk through the pavement. Whilst it was always satisfying to complete the game with Axel or another less powerful character, it was a great stress reliever to enter the streets as Max and throw criminals around for an hour finally meeting Mr.x and putting that gun up his fucking arse.

Z is about to have a bad day

A lot of time and effort went into this series, if you compared it to other side scrolling beat’em ups of the time, they usually fell short in terms of level design, music and character content. One example of this was that some characters, due to their size, could not swing or throw certain objects as they were too big, or the clever fight system in which you could use each other to ‘double team’ opponents.

The control system was superb, combining techniques from the popular 2D fighters from the likes of Street Fighter and Fatal Fury, extra grappling moves were included to make the street fighting more realistic and varied.

I think I hold the game in high regard still as it contains many of the aspects of game play and visuals that made this era of gaming what it was.

It was all about simple straight forward action at this time, it didn’t matter that it was wildly inaccurate and always with a slightly biased view of the states. So it was always nice when something completely new and completely original was found in the shops.

At around the same time as the SOR games were released, EA, or Electronic Arts, published a game that would shift gaming into a higher gear and set new levels of innovation once again with the Strike series.

Desert Strike: Return to The Gulf, was essentially chop lifter in 3D. A quote from Wikipedia…

The lead designer, Mike Posehn, had no video game experience prior to developing Desert Strike. Inspired by Choplifter, he aimed to create a nonlinear game with smoothly animated vehicles. Posehn, a PhD in Mechanical Engineering, developed a camera system with momentum to mimic realistic helicopter movements. Three-dimensional (3D) modeling was used to generate the vehicle sprites, which were later touched up on the pixel level with color.

This was a near perfect game in my opinion and still, with its innovative game play and physics, it can still be enjoyable today.

Set in the Gulf not so long after America had what it needed, you’re sent into one of the world’s most dangerous environments, in a single helicopter, to irradiate some lunatic with a huge moustache and a beret, much like the late Saddam Hussein. You were fed information and locations through a tactical menu and you went about your day saving prisoners of war, blowing up all of the bad guys whilst picking up fuel and ammunition as you did so.

Critics obviously had a field day with this title, claiming it was a little insensitive so soon after our governments had sent our young men and women out there with shoddy weapons and a slim chance of survival.

Looking back I don’t see how it was so offensive, you got to fly a single helicopter with a control pad around in a virtual desert land for thirty quid, completing tasks and usually surviving the ordeal. I thought they’d have more of an issue with several billions of dollars wasted, lots of dead brown people and a cushy re-armament plan for one mad Arab but then again we wouldn’t have the idea for the game without that.

"Yeah yeah yeah, with extra cheese.."

In fact, every single game ever created on a computer is a just a poor graphical representation of something that has ACTUALLY already happened, whether it was yesterday, last month or several centuries ago. With the only exceptions being the very weird and surreal games like TOKI on the Mega Drive, where you roam around a fantasy land as an ape with a huge head, spitting at enemies and attacking a submarine with a chimps face on it.

Games magazines (Because this was before the internet, kids) gave Desert strike 90% and above in reviews. It was just so playable, innovative and fun. The visuals in the game were inspired by Mike Posehn’s love for matchbox vehicles as a kid, so he wanted to make the game seem like it was just a bunch of war toys going at it, instead of the serious simulator type game you’d find on the PC’s or home computers.

Due to its success the Strike franchise lived and produced not one but four more games, each with its own unique theme. The exceptionally well crafted physics model and camera movements were evolved each time and the non-linear mission elements that made the game so great, were kept.

When Soviet Strike came out on the Playstation in the first generation of CD consoles, we were not only witness to a new and improved polygon engine but slick video cut scenes with real actors and sets, in high quality sound.

The final installment was released for eager Strike fans in 1997 as ‘Nuclear Strike’ and although it wasn’t as popular as the older titles it was still very much a well presented game. Once you had dealt with the last mission, the credits rolled before a short cut scene involving a computer animated Mech robot was seen, as a taste of what was to come. Sadly for whatever reason, this was never the Strike game it could have been and instead was released as Future cop: LAPD, which was about as much fun as throwing stones down a drain.

I leave you with this, for anyone who never experienced Strike games.

My Gaming History ‘Part 5’

Posted in My Gaming History with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 19, 2012 by Mortal Mikey

It was bank holiday Monday last week and so that meant wind and rain here, in the UK. A good friend of mine insisted we go to the local Racecourse (a place where small people smack horses and race them around a track) to see a stunt show.

The poster was defiantly eye catching, anyone from my generation knows how cool a Monster truck is from when we first caught a glimpse of American motor sport on SKY television back in the 80’s.

Well, they weren’t going to call it ‘Tree planter’

Obviously I was keen to see a real monster truck again, in a nation full of people obsessed with football and running…a fire breathing, 1000+ horse power, car crushing truck is hard to come by and even then you’re promptly disappointed due to our health and safety regulations requiring a noise reduction, no jumps that are too high and the crowd must be half a mile away wearing fire proof suits and ear plugs.

Quoted as ‘The greatest show on wheels’ I stuck on my all weather gear and met my friend at the show. The gravelly, uneven tarmac car park was the ‘arena’, surrounded by metal temporary fencing and the stunt crews caravans and trucks. The wind was blustery and unpredictable, the cold, biting, and the rain was the familiar British drizzle which is much like being stroked by a wet piece of ham. The commentator did his best throughout the show to rally some enthusiasm but trying to bring British spectators to clap and cheer in these conditions is like trying to teach a dog Spanish, whilst wearing a bacon jacket.

Before the big finale involving the monster truck trundling around the car park, crushing three already mangled vehicles, you were witness to the ‘greatest show on wheels’…a Ford Mondeo estate was one of the first highlights to perform a stunt. It was more of a crash really, with a set of ramps positioned in front of a smashed car that stood vertically. The exhausted Ford reached the ramps at about 30mph and pretty much fell into the target car, all topped off with some pyro effect which I suspect was a shotgun shell rigged onto a make-shift fuse. Watch a clip of the specticale here…

Why am I telling you all of this? Well, simply because without standing outside in the cold and rain, watching people hurl themselves at burning wood strapped the front of a clapped out Ford…you can experience all sorts of dangerous looking activities from the comfort of your own warm, dry home. 

After the plethora of 2D fighting games and the new breed of racing dynamics, came the next generation of shooters.

Now for anyone unfamiliar with what is now the biggest selling gaming genre right now, it’s quite simple to explain. FPS games or ‘First person shooters’ involve you looking through the eyes of the character, pointing a weapon at things. Boys and girls the world over had enjoyed playing bubble popping, coin collecting, secret finding, spinning jumping, colourfully musical delights but the games we enjoy more than anything else involves running around virtual worlds, brandishing anything that can wound, maim or kill.

Don't mock Mario's plumbing abilties

My first experience of this new age of shooter was sat with an older friend of mine, who had acquired a copy of Wolfenstien on the PC. Looking through the first person perspective literally gave me Goosebumps, I didn’t even know what a Nazi was at the time. When I finally witnessed the showdown between my friend and an 8ft Hitler in a robotic suit with mini guns as arms, I was terrified and also quite surprised when later I came to know him in school as the evil German guy who wanted anyone who wore a star badge to die in an oven. 

I had to get myself some of this terrifying action, thankfully at the time my old man required a PC for his personal use. With a little bit of my input we had a gaming rig for doing his word processing…handy for when you need to play Doom.

In the Playstation version you could shoot with one hand and cheer yourself on with the other

Doom was similar to Wolfenstien in many ways. The controls were simple, you could not look up or down, there was no jump, you simply looked at what you wanted to kill, select the appropriate weapon and shoot it until it stops moving. Doom was an instant classic, it is another game where references have been used in film, music and books since its creation.

Both Wolfenstien and Doom were created by ID software who had no problem in letting people share the games freely and this has resulted in the franchise having a long and prosperous life. There have been changes made to both games over the years, such as gore content, obvious references to shooting Germans in the face and having maps shaped like Swastikas.

In late 1995, Doom was estimated to be installed on more computers worldwide than Microsoft’s new operating system Windows 95, the ‘Doom style’ clones since the release have been relentless and a truck load of these games were complete pap.

It set the standard for the genre by including great game play, crazy satanic art work, totally immersive sound and hard hitting weapons. There is little more satisfying than the boom, click, click, of the pump action shotgun as a monster gargled it’s last breath.

The fantasy element in recent years has been seen less and less and replaced with total realism of combat, it can often feel like you’re training yourself mentally for some weird military recruitment frenzy in the near future where you have to fight the entire middle east with your five best friends. Typically all of the Doom style games from the past were based around the complete iraddication of everything in the level but as time progressed, so did the programming and the (Artificial Intelligence) AI. This opened up new opportunities for games designers to improve combat but it wasn’t without it’s turkeys.

You can pick up a copy of one of the many attempts at creating a ‘next gen’ shooter with basic AI in any PC retailer in a bargain basket, the consoles have also seen their fair share. It’s the simplest things, from how an enemy is alerted to your presence or how accurate they can be with a weapon. Games are so advanced now that a programmed AI can’t detect you through some foliage or in darkend corners…young gamers today never had to endure sniping levels were an enemy could spot you half a mile away hiding behind a bush and shoot you between the eyes with a pistol. Neither have they been pinned down by a dozen enemies who can shoot a single pologon of your character as you cautiously peek around a corner in a vain attempt to ambush them. 

Not all games were as bloody and gore ridden as Doom, some games rolling out of the shops at this time were as dark as the Care Bears…the simplicity of gaming can always be sought out if need be, which is why I find the arguments against gaming / violence ridiculous.

There is something strangely satisfying and relaxing about dispatching hundreds monsters with a sawn off shotgun, if I could think of one game responsible for some anger issues as a kid, it would have been Code Masters, Micro machines.

Based on the tiny over priced toy vehicles, you raced from a top down perspective against the computer, or your friends around a race track. Friendships were pushed to their limits as your opponents were able to bump you off the track to meet certain doom, sometimes accidently, often intentionally.

Being constrained to a top down view and a single screen, did limit how much you could win or lose by, as the camera could only zoom out so much. Tracks were set in garages, gardens, kitchen tables, pool tables and bathrooms, each presenting their own dangers like moving platforms, sweets, holes in the ground and puddles. Circuits could be mastered by remembering every single object, turn and jump of the track, as it raced towards you from any direction but more often than not you are simple flying blind, knocking into things, occasionally shouting something vulgar at the TV.

Codemasters later introduced two extra controller ports on the cartridge, so three of you could pick on the kid you liked least.

The experts indeed have it all wrong. I would literally have to take myself outside and go play with some matches for awhile in the garden, all because of certain levels I was trying to complete, with curtains drawn and strict instructions to my mum that she better have a good excuse to enter my room.

In a similar vein, Disney’s Aladdin was a beautifully crafted film, with a star studded voice over cast and slick animation, it should have a place in anyone’s collection if you like that sort of thing. So in 1993 when a game was released on the Megadrive, my parents bought me the game as a birthday present as I enjoyed the film so much. The game played rather well, so well in fact it was pretty addictive and so I spent a few hours jumping around, throwing apples at beggars and slashing enemies with a scimitar. As platformers go Aladdin was good fun, with a dose of Disney’s very own humour and animation thrown in for good measure.

I was keen to complete the game as it was so good, to do this however you had to endure a level so infuriating, at one point I think I almost considered putting the cartridge in the gap between the edge of a door and the hinge to crush it into pieces. With no capacity to save the game you had to get this right and you quickly learnt that either these game developers are fucking with you, or they are just horrible people.

The flying carpet level begins with Aladdin flying through a cave slowly, you have a few seconds or less to figure out all of the controls because the carpet is speeding up and you need to avoid rocks. Behind you is a wave of lava in case you weren’t panicked enough. As a platformer your perspective was limited on a twenty something inch television, in reality, to avoid the obstacles and the tidal wave of molten lava, you had to rely on your psychic abilities or pure luck. With a finite amount of lives and a fair number of levels left to get through in the game, getting this right took patience and good memory skill. One technique used to complete this level was the use of the start, or pause button. Used continuously you could gauge how much you need to move up or down on the carpet, this required the concentration of a bomb disposal expert with Parkinson’s and a pillow to bite in case you fucked this up too.

I do apologise that every time I mention in a previous ‘Gaming history’ post, that I’m going to talk about a certain game, more often than not, I don’t. There is a lot of games to get through and hopefully I’ll get to mention the best ones.

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