Game Review: StarCraft (PC, 1998)

https://takeaimandgame.blogspot.com/2013/03/game-review-starcraft-pc-1998.html

StarCraft is a genre-defining game, it’s effectively the national sport of South Korea, and it was the beginning of a phenomenon unlike any other. Although it was released nearly 15 years ago, the upcoming expansion to its sequel prompted me to revisit its roots. What followed was a 14-hour journey through one of my childhood favorites.

For the record, I don’t think it’s worth reviewing games given their contemporary world, instead opting to review a game based on my thoughts as I play it – in the case of this StarCraft review, that means I’ll be looking at it through the eyes of a gamer in 2013 instead of 1998. Sure, this approach means that my reviews will lose something over time, as “timeless” features may become obsolete and nostalgia fluctuations may give classics different spins, but I think it’s a more honest approach. I can’t accurately convey the excitement of engaging the Zerg swarms for the first time in the late nineties, and no gamer will be able to experience that rush again given the evolution of the industry in the last decade-and-a-half.

So, for better or worse, fair or not, here are my thoughts on the original StarCraft on the eve of the release of Heart of the Swarm:

First the basics: StarCraft puts you in control of a military outpost and tasks you with harvesting raw materials, developing technology, and raising an army to crush your foes. It’s a real-time strategy (RTS) game, meaning quick decisions and quicker reflexes are necessary to outsmart and outmaneuver the opposition.

Through the campaign, you’ll control one of three species – the cunning humans (the Terrans), the viscous swarms of the Zerg, or the technologically superior Protoss. Each race has its own strengths and weaknesses, giving different experiences and requiring different strategies.

The single-player mode is divided into three parts, with one 10-mission campaign for each of the races. Starting with the Terrans, you’ll learn the basics of each race and get a chance to deal with each possible matchup. Although the story of three campaigns are chronologically ordered, you do have the option of jumping to the race you want to play and skipping the other campaigns, if you want, which is definitely a nice feature.

These days, the StarCraft mythos is pretty complex, but only a portion of that complexity is available in the original game. We see examples of political intrigue and bitter enemies, but the majority of the game’s exposition happens in the first act (the Terran campaign). There are details about harsh political struggles within the Terran Dominion and how the Terran leaders are dealing with the sudden arrival of two sentient (and hostile) alien species, and we learn a lot about the StarCraft universe in those first 10 missions.

In the other two campaigns, there’s a lot less detail and a lot more repetition. We don’t learn as much about the internal workings of the Protoss civilization or the Zerg hierarchy, and what little we do hear happens several times. To make matters worse, there are hints at some awesome backstory that is never explored. The lack of detail in what are arguably the more interesting campaigns is disappointing.

On the other hand, each of the campaigns has a self-contained story arc. The later campaigns build on the earlier ones, using the other campaigns’ events as a backdrop for a new conflict, but each campaign focuses on a particular struggle and follows it to its conclusion. It’s great to be able to see the StarCraft universe from three different perspectives, each with its own biases and goals, and the end result is some knowledge of the inner workings of each of the races.

While the voice acting is pretty darned good (the script isn’t always stellar, but it’s never really cringe-worthy, either), and some of the sound effects are iconic, the graphical style hasn’t aged very well. Pre-rendered cutscenes are obviously very dated, and although they’re not terrible, they’re not quite as good at conveying the tone as they could be. In-game graphics are similarly old-school, using blocky sprites and jagged animations, but the graphical quality never affects the gameplay itself, so it’s not a serious problem.

While the old graphical presentation may be the most obvious flaw in the modern market, the most disappointing part of replaying a classic like StarCraft is the dated gameplay. While the basic mechanics are the same as any good RTS game these days (even better than some), there are small features that really stick out as frustrating in the modern gaming world.

First is the fact that you can only select 12 units at a time. In many cases, you’ll need to control 20 units or more simultaneously, which means that you’ll need to issue many commands, quickly switching between small groups of units, as opposed to a single command to one group as in modern RTS games. This system presents an awfully high mechanical barrier for new players to overcome, encouraging strong defensive tactics until you can build an army of your race’s most powerful unit instead of making full use of the technology tree. It’s frustrating to feel like the game’s control scheme is getting in the way, and that definitely happens in StarCraft on occasion.

Second, the unit AI is downright silly at times. Pathing is generally terrible, such that units will follow long, winding paths to reach their destinations instead of the most direct route, and they will interact with each other in complicated (and almost always sub-optimal) ways, like pacing back and forth behind other units instead of moving around them to go forward. It can be a huge pain to deal with these weird dances, particularly when one well-placed unit could mean the difference between a successful battle and a humiliating defeat.

Interestingly, these control flaws have proven useful for StarCraft as a really competitive game. Truly skilled players can separate themselves from the rest by expertly overcoming these control hurdles, making for an exciting spectator sport, but it’s never good to alienate new players with clunky control schemes.

StarCraft also features an expansive custom game system, allowing you to play deathmatches against computer-controlled opponents, to challenge your friends online, or to play some silly user-made maps with custom triggers. The map editor comes with the game, giving creative gamers a chance to develop something fun for others to enjoy. It’s a really cool system, and the multiplayer gives the game a huge number of additional options, but the online community is ever-dwindling as StarCraft loyalists move into StarCraft II. Even so, the custom map features are exceptional even by today’s standards.

StarCraft is one of the respectable elders of the gaming world. The ideas contained within it have spawned numerous imitators, so much so that its name is almost synonymous with “real-time strategy game.” Even though it’s growing ever closer to the age of consent, it’s still a fun, challenging game with lots of options. Its flaws may deter new players, though, so if you’re not already a fan of the RTS genre or the StarCraft series specifically, you probably want to start with a different title.

Final Fantasy X/BlueHighwind

https://finalfantasy.fandom.com/wiki/Walkthrough:Final_Fantasy_X/BlueHighwind

Welcome Space Monkies, to the near future. I am the one you all certainly know and love by now, BlueHighwind. In order of being started, this Walkthrough is the fourth one and the very first even numbered game I’ve guided you through. FFX is not an amazing game. Don’t get me wrong, its not a bad game by any means. Its just not great. Its well down there, right in the middle. A mediocre Final Fantasy at best. Most of the characters are unlikable, poorly acted and even more poorly dressed. The first 90% of the game is walking forward in a straight line, and Blitzball is truly terrible. But the graphics are spot on, the music is good, and though most of the voice acting is lousy, it was still a very good idea. What few good voice actors there are well make up for the weaknesses of the others. Hey, the storyline isn’t bad either. Certainly a game that could be missed, but nothing that you’ll regret playing.

I am not concerned with such trivial matters such as spelling or grammar, so if it really bothers you edit to your heart’s desire but do not change the fundamental idea of what I have said, for it is sacred text. If you do not like foul language than you better get the fuck used to it, because I enjoy cursing.

Also be sure to note that I’m using the original American version of the game. So that means no Dark Aeons or Penance. Even if they were in my game, I’m not crazy enough to fight bosses that ridiculously over-powered. The Emerald WEAPON is where I draw the line.

If you despise me and how I do things, see Crazyswords’s Walkthrough: here.

How to Play Final Fantasy X

Before you even think of playing Final Fantasy X, there are some minor physical limitations. First of all you need at least one working human hand, the ability to take visible Electromagnetic Radiation through organs called ‘eyes’ in a process called ‘seeing’, and a central nervous system to take in this information and interpret it in a meaningful way. Hearing is optional, but the game is much better if you can actually listen to the brilliant score. Plus you’re going to have to know how to read. (If you can’t read, then how the hell are you even understanding this?).

Now for the technological limitations. You’re going to need a power source, preferably electrical to drive the machinery you are going to need in order to play this game. First you are going to need a TV made sometime in the Nineties or later, hopefully its in color. Second you’re going to need either a PlayStation 2 or 3, the PS1 cannot play this game. Finally you’re going to need a copy of the actual game. Which can be procured in your local video game retailer’s Bargain Bin. Or much more easily on eBay.

Insert the disc into the disc tray. If you cannot perform this simple task than you either lack the physical ability to play this game (if that’s the case then I feel for you man, life really dumped a lot of shit on you) or are just a complete fucking retard, in which case you get no sympathy from me. Seriously if you can’t even do that, then you’ve shown a greater degree of stupidity, and incompetence than an Italian Tank Division charge. Congratulations!

Basic Controls

If you’ve ever played a Final Fantasy and have even the slightest amount of intelligence you can skip this section and the next. If you’re a total idiot who cannot grasp even the slightest concepts (I know at least one is reading this), feel free to read to your heart’s content.

This game uses the American scheme of buttons. The X-button.png button is the select button, and the Circle-button.png button is the cancel. The Triangle-button.png is the menu button, and the Square-button.png doesn’t seem to have any function unless specifically mentioned in a mini-game. You use the L1 button to switch your characters in and out in battle. You use the left analog stick to move your character around and select from menus. The right doesn’t have any purpose. Since the camera is on rails you can’t move your line of sight, which can get annoying sometimes.

Battle system

I don’t really need to go over this portion of the game, since FFX holds your hand like no game before. However since I must walkthrough everything, I’ll go over it right now. The old ATB system from the last three games is gone, in exchange for a turn based system. This was quite a surprise for me a few years ago, when I found that my enemies will wait until the end of time for me to choose between a “Fire” or “Ice” spell. I don’t really consider this change an improvement but its not that big of a difference anyway. One of the cooler features of this system is that you can switch characters mid-battle. Say you’re fighting an enemy weak to magic, but all you got are physical attackers. Simple: switch out your swordsmen and throw in a Mage. You can’t switch out KOed characters, or characters that have been knocked out of battle.

Now for the significant changes. Levels are gone in exchange for a Sphere Grid system. The Sphere Grid is a giant board on which your characters move when they receive a Sphere from battles. The Grid contains all of the stat boost and new abilities that your character will learn during the course of the game. Each of your character starts in a different section of the Grid that corresponds to their own special class. Later on in the game you can break out of this little area and move onto the entirety of the Sphere Grid. Basically its more of an annoyance than anything else. Now you have to manually move each character up the Grid after every battle, it gets tedious really fast. I’d just like a Level Up with automatic stat boosts.

Another fun feature is the Overdrive System. These Limit Breaks are pretty much the same as FFVII’s. You build up your Overdrive Meter, and then when its fully filled, you can use a powerful attack called an Overdrive. This time, you can set your Overdrive Modes. So it can build up by your character losing HP, your character gaining HP, your character dealing damage, whatever you like.

Weapons and Armor can be Customized at any point of the game using special items you find. New weapons and Armor are not necessarily any more powerful then the last one you find. They just grant different abilities, like immunity to Stone or whatever. I never really bothered too much in this system because I’m on the lazy side.

Oh, and Summons in this game are out of their freakin’ mind! These monsters act as normal party members, when they’re summoned you have full control but they replace your three current party members. However, Summons are so strong you can live with it, especially those that can heal themselves. They have Overdrives as well, and they are very powerful. These creatures beat pretty much everything. They kick total ass. I’m sorry that nothing like them has ever come back in any of the newer Final Fantasy games.

Not my favorite battle system, but at least its better than FFVIII. And we can all be thankful for that.

Omar Khayyam – New World Encyclopedia

https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Omar_Khayyam

Omar Khayyám (Persian عمر خیام; May 18, 1048 – December 4, 1131) was a Persian poet, mathematician, and astronomer. During his own life he was primarily known for his ingenious work as a scientist; Khayyám contributed a number of insights to the development of geometry, algebra, and other fields of mathematics. He also revolutionized the field of astronomy by proving that the earth-centric theory of the cosmos was fundamentally flawed. Almost all of Khayyám’s contributions to science would eventually find their way into the Western hemisphere.

Today, however, Khayyám is primarily known as a poet, and particularly for the volume The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyám, famously translated by the nineteenth-century English poet Edward Fitzgerald. Khayyám’s poetry, written in rubaiyat, or quatrains, which tend to rhyme in an “aaba” rhyme scheme, is memorable not only for the beauty of its language and the concise gracefulness of the rubaiyat form, but also because the poems give the reader a glimpse at a mind of profound complexity and intelligence addressing fundamental issues of faith, doubt, and morality.

As a brilliant scientist and devout Muslim, Khayyám struggled to find the balance between rationality and religion, a struggle which forms the principle topic of Khayyám’s poetry. Although he was virtually unknown to Western audiences until nearly a millenium after his death, Khayyám is now universally acknowledged as one of the most profound and important poets of the Middle East.

Early life

Khayyám is thought to have been born into a family of artisans in the city of Nishapur. He spent his childhood in the town of Balhi, studying there under the tutelage of Sheik Muhammad Mansuri, one of the most well-known scholars of the time. Later, Khayyám studied under Imam Mowaffak of Nishapur, who was considered one of the greatest teachers of the region. Two other exceptional students began studying under the same teacher at about the same time. One of these was Nizam-ul-Mulk, who went on to become the Vizier to two rulers of the Persian Empire. The other was Hassan-i-Sabah, who went on to become the leader of the Hashshashin.

It was commonly believed that any young man who studied under that eminent Imam would attain honor and happiness. These three students, who became friends, each pledged to one another that whichever of them received fortune, he would share it equally with the other two. After Nizam-ul-Mulk became Vizier, Hassan-i-Sabah and Omar Khayyám each went to him, and asked to share in his good fortune.

Khayyám made a very modest request, asking not for an office or fame, but simply a place to live, study science, and pray. He was granted a yearly pension of 1,200 mithkals of gold from the treasury of Nishapur. He lived on this pension for the rest of his life.

Mathematician

Khayyám was famous during his lifetime as a mathematician, well known for inventing the method of solving cubic equations by intersecting a parabola with a circle. Although this approach had earlier been attempted by Menaechmus and others, Khayyám provided a generalization extending it to all cubics. In addition he discovered the binomial expansion, and authored criticisms of Euclid’s theories of parallels which made their way to Europe, where they contributed to the eventual development of non-Euclidean geometry.

In 1070 C.E. he wrote his great work on algebra. In it he classified equations according to their degree, giving rules for solving quadratic equations which are very similar to the ones we use today, and a geometric method for solving cubic equations with real roots. He also wrote on the triangular array of binomial coefficients known as Pascal’s triangle. In 1077 Khayyám wrote Sharh ma ashkala min musadarat kitab Uqlidis (Explanations of the Difficulties in the Postulates of Euclid). An important part of the book is concerned with Euclid’s famous parallel postulate, which had also attracted the interest of Thabit ibn Qurra. Khayyám’s attempt at proving this difficult postulate was a distinct advance over those of his contemporaries. Khayyám also did other notable work in geometry, specifically on the theory of proportions.

Astronomer

Khayyám was also famous as an astronomer. In 1073 the Malik-Shah, sultan of the Seljuk dynasty, invited Khayyám, along with various other distinguished scientists, to build an observatory. Eventually, Khayyám measured the length of the year with extraordinary accuracy as 365.24219858156 days. This calendar measurement has only a 1 day error in every five thousand years, whereas the Gregorian calendar used today, has a one day error in every 3,330 years.

Khayyám also estimated and proved to an audience that the universe is not moving around earth as was believed by all at that time. By constructing a revolving platform and simple arrangement of the star charts lit by candles around the circular walls of the room, he demonstrated that earth revolves on its axis, bringing into view different constellations throughout the night and day. He also elaborated that stars are stationary objects in space which if moving around earth would have been burnt to cinders due to their large mass. All these theories were adopted centuries later adopted by Christian astronomers.

Poetry

Khayyám is famous today not only for his scientific accomplishments, but also for his literary works. He is believed to have written about one thousand four-line verses. In the English-speaking world, he is best known for The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám in the English translations by Edward Fitzgerald (1809-1883). Perhaps the most famous of Fitzgerald’s translations is this one, Rubaiyat XI:

Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse – and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness –
And Wilderness is Paradise enow.

As a work of English literature Fitzgerald’s poetic version is a high point of the nineteenth century. As a line-by-line translation of Khayyám’s quatrains, it is noted more for its freedom than for its fidelity. Many of the verses are paraphrased, and some of them cannot be confidently traced to any one of Khayyám’s quatrains at all. Fitzgerald indisputably distorted the eleventh-century original by adding his own nineteenth-century Romantic sentiments, and some more recent translations of Khayyám’s poetry are not nearly as sentimental or overwrought as Fitzgerald’s version, revealing a poet of stark intelligence and concise language. Nonetheless, Fitzgerald’s version remains the most familiar (and most widely imitated) of Khayyám translations.

Some critics jokingly refer to the Fitzgerald’s English versions as “The Rubaiyat of FitzOmar,” a practice that both recognizes the liberties Fitzgerald took with his source but also the credit Fitzgerald deserves for the considerable portion of the “translation” that is his own creation. In fact, Fitzgerald himself referred to his work as “transmogrification.” Some people find this quite unfortunate, while others see Fitzgerald’s translation of the work as close enough to the true spirit of the poems to warrant the liberties taken.

One of Fitzgerald’s most important (and, according to some, controversial) innovations was his choice to organize Khayyám’s rubaiyat into coherent sequences. It is almost certain that Khayyám wrote each of his rubaiyat as a poem unto itself, and although he often returned again and again to the same images and issues, there is no textual evidence to suggest in what order (if any) he wanted his poems to be read. By linking a number of rubaiyat together, as in the following famous sequence on religious doubt, Fitzgerald was able to turn Khayyám’s small, brilliant poems into lengthy meditations on deeper, philosophical themes:

And, as the Cock crew, those who stood before
The Tavern shouted – “Open then the Door!
You know how little time we have to stay,
And once departed, may return no more.”

Alike for those who for TO-DAY prepare,
And that after a TO-MORROW stare,
A Muezzin from the Tower of Darkness cries
“Fools! your reward is neither Here nor There!”

Why, all the Saints and Sages who discuss’d
Of the Two Worlds so learnedly, are thrust
Like foolish Prophets forth; their Words to Scorn
Are scatter’d, and their mouths are stopt with Dust.

Oh, come with old Khayyám, and leave the Wise
To talk; one thing is certain, that Life flies;
One thing is certain, and the Rest is Lies;
The Flower that once has blown for ever dies.

Myself when young did eagerly frequent
Doctor and Saint, and heard great Argument
About it and about: but evermore
Came out of the same Door as in I went.

With them the Seed of Wisdom did I sow,
And with my own hand labour’d it to grow:
And this was all the Harvest that I reap’d –
“I came like Water, and like Wind I go.”

Into this Universe, and why not knowing,
Nor whence, like Water willy-nilly flowing:
And out of it, as Wind along the Waste,
I know not whither, willy-nilly blowing.

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

And that inverted Bowl we call The Sky,
Whereunder crawling coop’t we live and die,
Lift not thy hands to It for help – for It
Rolls impotently on as Thou or I.

Putin signs Russian internet censorship bills into law

https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2019/03/22/inte-m22.html

On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law two bills that dramatically escalate the government’s censorship of the internet and crackdown on free speech. The first bill provides for the removal of and ban on sites and blogs that allegedly spread “fake news”, and the fining of their authors. The second outlaws the alleged disparaging of state symbols and the government, and the inciting of society to “hooliganism”.

Individuals accused of spreading “unreliable information” on “socially significant” issues that could cause harm to individuals or social disorder, can be fined 30,000-100,000 rubles (US$ 466-1,553) for their first violation of the law – an amount that surpasses what a sizable portion of the population make in a month – and up to 400,000 rubles (US$ 6,211) for repeated offenses. Legal entities can be charged up to 1,5 million rubles (US$ 23,292).

What constitutes “unreliable information” is nowhere defined and will be decided by the General Prosecutor’s office, which will be overseeing the implementation of the law, as well as the state agency Roskomnadzor (Russian Communication Oversight), the main agency responsible for the surveillance and censorship of the internet in Russia.

The two laws are part of an international campaign by the ruling class to crack down on the internet, which has become the main platform for the dissemination and discussion of news and opinions that run counter to the official bourgeois mainstream media, as well as for the organization of demonstrations and strikes.

The bill had been approved in a first and second reading by the Russian parliament earlier this year, amid a strike of some 12,000 truckers in southern Russia. The signing of the bills by Putin occurred on the same day as medical personnel at several hospitals in Novosibirsk launched a work-to-rule action to protest against their miserable salaries (about 20,000 rubles monthly or US$ 314 with overtime) and the ongoing cuts in the health care sector.

If the US political establishment and corporate media have based their campaign of internet censorship ideologically on the fight against alleged “fake news” with reference to the “Russian meddling” in the election, the Russian government and state media have justified Moscow’s own clamping down on free speech on the internet by citing the international campaign against “fake news” as well as the Ukraine conflict and the overt propaganda by the Western bourgeois media.

Amid escalating tensions with the US and European imperialist powers, and rising levels of social inequality, the Russian government in recent years has worked to set up what is now a comprehensive framework for the surveillance of the internet and individual users. It has banned the use of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) that hide users’ actual internet IP, allowing them to surf on the internet without being automatically identifiable; public WiFis require personal identification for usage and the government has also obliged corporations running social media platforms to store their information about users on Russian servers and make them available upon request to the secret service. Meanwhile, a 2018 attempt to ban the popular messaging app Telegram, which enables encrypted communication, has largely failed.

In addition to these two new censorship laws, the Russian government is also actively preparing to create a Russian internet that would be separate from the World Wide Web. In February, the Russian parliament approved the first reading of a such a bill. The Kremlin has presented the law as a response to the US national cybersecurity strategy that was passed in 2018, and Putin has defended the law as necessary to guarantee the “security” of Russian citizens.

While there is no question that the open war preparations by the United States and NATO against Russia are a major motivation for the efforts to create a separate Russian internet, at least as important a factor is the fear of the Russian oligarchy that the internet can be used by Russian workers and youth to access information about and link up their struggles with the growing struggles of the working class all over the world. Russia is the most unequal large economy in the world, with the top 1 percent owning as much as one-third of the country’s net wealth and the bottom 50 percent of the population owning less than 5 percent.

The yellow vest protests in France, as well as the strikes by Iranian workers and, most recently, the mass protests and strikes in Algeria have been closely followed in Russia, where over 90 percent of the population has expressed opposition to the raising of the retirement age by five years, which was rammed through in the summer and fall of last year.

The US media coverage of the new censorship laws in Russia, feigning outrage over the Kremlin’s crackdown, has been entirely hypocritical. Thus, the editorial board of the Washington Post denounced as an “authoritarian assault” on the “potential value of the Internet, and its very freedom”.

The same Washington Post has been fully complicit in the internet censorship campaign in the US. It has been one of most vociferous proponents of a campaign against “fake news”, and, in November 2016, it published a “black list” of anti-war and left-wing web sites, many of which, including the World Socialist Web Site, were subsequently demoted by Google in search results, and purged by Facebook.

Halo 2 – XB – Review | GameZone

https://www.gamezone.com/reviews/halo_2_xb_review/

The most anticipated. The most talked about. The most pre-ordered. The fastest selling. Halo 2 has become the game that everyone wanted it to be: the most important reason to ignore reality and escape to a world that’s 100% better than your own.

Everyone waited for Halo 2 because of its multiplayer gameplay. That’s the reason why it has a chance at becoming the most played game of this console generation. Based on my personal experiences, it seems that no less than three people are playing Halo 2 for every copy sold. If it sells as many copies as the first game (over five million), it’ll reach at least 15 million players.

When your friends aren’t around, you can log into Xbox Live and play it against thousands of gamers from virtually anywhere in the world.

There are times when you’ll end up playing the game alone, and in Halo 2’s case it will be by choice. The new single-player and co-op campaign is an ultra-fun, out-of-this-world, non-stop action-fest. What Metal Gear Sold did for espionage Halo 2 does for action. I literally felt like I was inside of an action movie, shooting my way through a legion of ferocious enemies that want to take over the world. (The whole galaxy is in their long-term plans, but they’ll settle for one planet at a time).

The action is backed by Halo’s award-winning controls and a new set of levels that are better than any featured in the original. You heard right – better than any level featured in the original Halo’s single-player campaign. Halo 2 is bigger, badder, and a whole lot better in every conceivable way. From tiny things like mounted weaponry, to the more major improvements like vehicle controls and the intense battle sequences (which you’re a part of!), Halo 2 is nothing short of an amazing experience.

Halo 2 has a lot of new gameplay features: new weapons, faster shield repair, the ability to use two weapons simultaneously, etc. Those are great, but my favorite is the ability to steal vehicles. Halo 2 gives you the power to chase opponents, kick ’em out of the vehicle, hop in the driver’s seat and take over. You have no idea how much fun this is to perform (unless you’ve played the game already. Then you know it’s the coolest and most brilliant addition Bungie has given us).

This is an especially cool treat for multiplayer games. Your friends will get so mad when they’re battling someone with a Ghost, only to lose it when you snatch it from them. The best part is when you’re playing Juggernaut (one of the many multiplayer games). In Juggernaut, only one enemy exists: the Juggernaut. Only the Juggernaut can score points by killing other players. Killing the Juggernaut turns you into the Juggernaut; killing anyone else will deduct points from your score.

The Juggernaut will likely search for a vehicle, thinking it’ll give him/her the upper hand. It might for a while…until the Juggernaut becomes distracted. That’s when I run in, steal the vehicle, kill the Juggernaut, and destroy the players I once called teammates. They hate it when that happens, which is precisely why I love it so very much.

Halo 2 has the expected multiplayer modes: Slayer (kill the most opponents to win), Capture the Flag, and King of the Hill. It also has a mode called Assault where you gain points by carrying, arming and dropping your team’s bomb in the other team’s base. Oddball is like Capture the Flag with constant movement: find the ball and hold onto it the longest. In Territories, players must control various areas on the map for as long as possible.

Halo 2’s weapon selection is the best of any console FPS. You can find pistols, shotguns and sniper rifles in any FPS, but they’re all better in Halo. The new dual wield system might take some getting used since each weapon is controlled by a different trigger. To fire both weapons at the same time you must hold down both triggers. This felt a little awkward at first since I tend to hold the Xbox controller very loosely. The awkward feeling began to fade as soon as I realized how much quicker enemies die when wielding two weapons. This greatly improved my chances for success in multiplayer, a mode I do not yet dominate (but will dominate very soon. Mu-ha-ha-ha!).

The vehicles, old and new, are undeniably cool, and undeniably Halo. Controlling the enemy’s vehicles is the best part, whether you’re the good guys or…do you really want me to spill the beans? If you haven’t heard by now, you’re best discovering this little secret on your own.

The Ghost is the vehicle you see everyone stealing, and the Banshee is the awesome aircraft that takes Halo to new heights, both in multiplayer and during the single-player campaign. The M808B Scorpion MBT (a near-indestructible tank) has the power to crush almost anything. It can drive over rugged terrain, take out enemy aircrafts, and cruise through a Ghost like it wasn’t even there.

Like every Halo vehicle, the Banshee doesn’t fly like a typical aircraft. The right trigger handles the Banshee’s powerful plasma cannons; the left trigger increases your speed. This aircraft moves in the direction of your crosshairs, so if you have them pointed at a ground-based enemy, you can be certain you’re losing altitude.

The new weapons and gameplay features would be useless without great multiplayer maps. Halo 2 has several. The cat’s out of the bag, so I’m sure most everyone knows that Coagulation is the Blood Gulch map, revived and revised for Halo 2. The other maps are extremely rewarding. Ivory Tower is an instant classic, featuring lots of areas to climb and a central dome-like area for all-out battles. Waterworks is perfect for the happy camper who likes to grab a tank and sit and wait for opponents to come.

If the vehicles don’t appease you, go to the options menu and change them. Same goes for the weapons. Halo 2 has a huge list of options that can be tweaked. The only thing I haven’t been able to do is eliminate ALL vehicles from a map. It’s not something I would normally do (the vehicles are one of the best things about Halo), but there were times when me and my friends wanted a game where our only line of defense was sniper rifle. The temptation of having a vehicle on the map is too great to resist. Eventually someone would cave and grab one, then we’d all cave and start using ’em.

As if there was ever any doubt, Halo 2 is the best Xbox game ever made. This means that it’s better than the first Halo. It’s better than Splinter Cell, Ninja Gaiden, Knights of the Old Republic, The Chronicles of Riddick, RalliSport Challenge 2, and every other Xbox game that, at one time or another, stole our hearts as the best game available. Halo 2 won’t be topped until the day Bungie releases Halo 3. Join the revolution now and buy the game that no one can stop talking about.

Review Scoring Details for Halo 2

Gameplay: 10
Everything you loved about the first Halo times two. Twice the addiction, twice the replay value, more than twice the number of gameplay features, and more than twice as many multiplayer options. Everyone who’s played it will tell you the same thing: this is the game makes you glad you bought an Xbox.

Graphics: 9.2
Some of the best visuals the world has ever seen. Take a look at the water, the textures, the destructible environments. Almost every moment is breathtaking. I was especially impressed by the effect the game demonstrates when using a sniper rifle or some other type of scope. The backgrounds gain detail as you zoom in, just as they would in real life.

A couple of things keep the game from receiving a perfect score in this category. (1) Graphics are always improving, so no game truly looks perfect. (2) The game seemed to slow down every once in a while during co-op. What gives? (3) Some of the movie sequences have clipping. Halo 2 looks gorgeous, then you watch a real-time sequence and see the game clip. The gameplay is good enough for us to forget that this happened, but why did it have to occur at all? They had three years development time. Was that not enough time to make it look as good as it played? I’ve seen EA work wonders in just 12 months.

Sound: 9
Good voice acting, but the music is split 50/50. I love the orchestral score – those songs are awesome. The rock-oriented tracks are good, but completely out of place. I know why Microsoft wanted to include them, but they’re not Halo’s style. Halo 2 is an epic game. The soundtrack should reflect that throughout the journey.

Difficulty: Medium

Concept: 8.9
Surprised by the imperfect score? Halo 2 is not entirely innovative. Bungie created innovation with the first game. Halo 2 improves on what they already made. The developers somehow managed to make the gameplay, which already seemed perfect, even better.

Multiplayer: 10
If you expected the multiplayer to live up to the original, you might be disappointed. Bungie didn’t want to make a game that played as good as the original. They wanted to make one that played better. I know it’s hard to deal with, but you’ll find a way to go on. We all will.

Overall: 9.7
What do you mean you want an overall score? Doesn’t my review say enough? Kids these days. Back in my day, it didn’t take a review to get us gamers to go out and spend money. We flew to the store whenever a game like Halo came out, regardless of the cost.

Back then we didn’t have a game like Halo. We had the Marios and the Street Fighters, but not until Bungie came along did we get a game like this. A game that brings people together in a way that no other has. Halo 2 is the Xbox revolution you’ve been waiting for. Not just you – but all of us.

REVIEW: Silent Hill (1999) – JumpCut Online

https://jumpcutonline.co.uk/2019/01/24/review-silent-hill-1999/

The bubbling crucible of horror video games has brewed some underwear-dampening gameplay over the last two decades. Heart-stoppers such as Outlast and Amnesia: The Dark Descent leave their mark on the psyche of gamers brave enough to endure their scares, but one game has been the muse to up the ante in current survival entertainment and JumpCut wanted to commemorate its twentieth birthday.

Konami’s 1999 survival horror for Playstation has remained timeless amongst retro gamers. Remaining visible in the media’s eye, various adaptations on multiple platforms have invited non-gamers into Silent Hill, including a visual novel, feature film and seven sequels to the original game (The most recent being Downpour in 2012). These adaptations have spread the myth of this pastime to all niches of civilization, ensuring we all receive a dream from Pyramid Head.

Harry Mason is the protagonist in the foggy American town as he searches for his missing daughter and consequently interferes with a cult’s ritual to birth the deity they worship. With a combination of third-person combat, exploration of real-time 3D environments and crucial puzzle-solving, the quivering player must learn the true origin of this town’s evil and beat the game that – depending on your choices – offers five different conclusions.

Director Keiichiro Toyama lacked in horror culture, but his interest in UFOs, the occult and David Lynch movies influenced and encouraged the game’s development. Though Silent Hill was compared to Resident Evil, it established a distinct approach to prompt fear by creating a disturbing atmosphere for the player, in contrast to Capcom’s action-oriented base. A combination of thick fog, darkness and vintage technical grain aided Silent Hill’s scare-o-meter, combined with composer Akira Yamaoka’s jarring industrial score, who had to explain to Team Silent that the noises they heard in his music were not glitches.

Toyama guided the design and narrative of Silent Hill away from a B movie format and towards psychological horror that had a lasting effect on gamers and provided a gateway to the silver screen. Its plot and nightmarish images caught the eye of Christophe Gans when he directed his 2006 cinematic adaptation, replacing Harry Mason with female lead Rose Da Silva (Radha Mitchell) because Gans saw feminine qualities in Mason. Mitchell’s emotionally-driven Rose offered a new dynamic for the franchise and Gans gifted us with a graphic look at the bubble-head nurse, for which, we thanked him for.

Silent Hill is a horror aficionados paradise and an Ori and the Blind Forest player’s biggest NOPE. This nineties classic was transformative for gaming on the gore scene, updated for modern platforms thanks to Konami’s release of the Silent Hill 2 & 3 HD Collection. Whether you play alone, in a group of namby-pambies, or with your mama, this sublimely atmospheric godfather of horror games has to be experienced at 2 AM in complete darkness and don’t forget your pocket radio.