Archive for soviet strike

Top Five Video Game Intros

Posted in The Pit with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 11, 2013 by Mortal Mikey

Putting together this top five compilation has been harder than Jimmy Saville in a school for the blind. Today’s video games begin much like a big Hollywood blockbuster, with running commentary from the main protagonist, several people being strangled and shot, all mixed to a track from this week’s electronic Beethoven. The new game worlds and game engines enable developers to go full Michael Bay and deafen you with cinematic bass, whilst blinding you with strobe effects.

In the past however, there was a time where  a more humble approach was taken to video game intros, where original ideas and artistic personalisation were showcased, to convey the right message and immerse the player, given the constraints on hardware and software. They left more to the imagination and in someway become more like reading a novel, unlike modern titles which are much like watching a movie in a cinema, pressing a button when you wish the main character to perform something.

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been roaming my shoddy memory banks of the hundreds of titles I’ve played and completed, to make a list of my personal top five game intros and why.

#5 – Soviet Strike

Platform: PSX

Year:1996

Stop the war before it happens

Stop the war before it happens

Almost six years after I played my first Strike game on the Megadrive, Soviet Strike, the fourth installment was released on the brand new 32bit PlayStation.

If you never played the series, you’ve missed one of the greatest series of games ever to appear on computer. In 1992 Electronic Arts released Desert Strike, Return to the Gulf. A controversial title that became a talking point for using recent real world war situations to create a game. But Mike Posehn, lead designer, pulled this off perfectly with new slick gameplay mechanics, with visually pleasing graphics and a new era of SFX.

“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) modelling was used to generate the vehicle sprites, which were later touched up on the pixel level with color.”

When the most inspiring video game era began in the late nineties, everyone was eager to lay eyes on the new tech and the next generation of titles. Soviet Strike was one title I would have eaten through a crowd of people to get. It did not disappoint. Utilising more space on CD ROM, the intro video to this game set the new pace, and this was sprinting. The audio and visuals were ramped up to real footage, whilst graphics were used to create a very futuristic look and feel.

[youtube.com/watch?v=A7SB79Z_0eI] Stop the war before it happens

#4 – Grand Theft Auto III

Platform: PS2

Year:2001

Stealy Drivey Shooty

Stealy Drivey Shooty

When Grand Theft Auto appeared as a 2D bird’s eye view driving based, one man crime spree, I was impressed by Rockstars new ideas for the free roaming elements and wasn’t overly fussed that graphically it was lacking in parts. What really made GTA stand out from the crowd was the attention to detail, the influential soundtrack and solid sound effects. The media however, saw it another way. It was to be sat on the naughty step in the middle of yet another media shit storm, backed by bored middle aged keyboard warriors, who demonised the game because crime isn’t for fun, it’s only for real life. If anything, GTA taught young people that if you kick someone out of their car and drive at triple figures in the wrong direction, when you collide with another vehicle, it should explode.

You would have hoped that they learned from the game Carmageddon, that it didn’t spawn a generation of boys and girls who enjoy mounting the pavements ploughing through dozens of innocent people. Nevertheless, GTA made its mark in more ways than one. In 2001 when it was announced Rockstar had developed a 3D GTA for the Playstation, I would have broken the law to get my hands on a copy. If I could have grown a beard at the time, I would have emerged from my bedroom looking like Bin Laden.

[youtube.com/watch?v=RoQStKto_n4]

#3 – Flashback

Platform: Megadrive

Year:1992

Where am i?

Where am i?

I mentioned my love for this game in part 10 of my gaming history. Flashback was pretty incredible for the time, with ultra-realistic character movements, an original story line and setting. From the beginning you know you are participating in a great piece of work. The SEGA Megadrive by today’s standards is about as powerful as a musical birthday card, so anything visually impressive meant that a lot of hard work and dedication went into the making of the game.

The intro wastes no time getting going and shortly after the very cool Delphine Software logo appears accompanied by some moody synths, you’re thrown into the action. The main character, so it seems, is being chased, by who we don’t know but you do see lasers weapons, you do see this guy escape on a flying motorbike in space, when sadly he is shot down by his pursuers and left for dead. If that isn’t enough to keep the pad in your hand, then nothing is.

The main menu appears, again with an unforgettable intro track, you then begin your journey as Conrad B Hart, a lone man on a mission to retrace his steps before he purposely erased his memory. It’s blade runner, terminator and total recall all rolled into one, that’s like eating only the marshmallow pieces from Lucky Charms.

#3 – Half Life

Platform: PC

Year:1998

Gordon fucking Freeman

Gordon fucking Freeman

If you had access to a PC capable of playing Half Life when it came out and didn’t, you should have been dragged outside and trampled by the North Korean army. The Valve Corporation combined everything you’d ever enjoyed about first person shooters and squashed it all into one disc, it gained a cult following and for good reason. Quite simply one of the best concepts and game designs to date along with it’s equally satisfying sequel. To top it off, one of the most memorable intro’s into a game.It was ground breaking in all areas, graphics, sound and gameplay, the sense of immersion was incredible once you stepped off the train at Black Mesa.

In a nutshell Gordon Freeman, the main character, saves the world with a crowbar. It’s a little hard to explain the full plot here but there’s a lot more to it than bludgeoning things. Black Mesa is the facility where you work and well, your normal working day is about to get very not normal.

[youtube.com/watch?v=qUDNiyOf92o]

#1 – Fallout 3

Platform: Various

Year:2008

War...war never changes

War…war never changes

I must admit, i hadn’t played any other Fallout before No3 and that was probably partly to do with my obsession with motorbikes and no funding for a PC from the bank of mum and dad anymore. A good friend of mine explained Fallout 3 and it sounded like a fantasy come true, in post apocalyptic landscape, you emerge as a lone wanderer with no real objective only that to explore the land. The intro was voiced by Ron Perlman and your father is non other than Liam Neeson. For anyone who played Fallout will know how it felt when you first stepped out of that vault and into the sun. I think at the time i was wearing a vault jumpsuit and a welders mask for protection. Stoned off my tree I took the long walk into the wastelands, peeking over rocks, armed with only an air rifle and a police baton i found on a corpse. Over two hundred hours well spent.

[youtube.com/watch?v=5QUjGxgbC68]
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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.