2003 REDUX – Time Crisis 3

Time Crisis 3

time-crisis-3
Developer(s) Nex Entertainment (as Nextech) [1]
Publisher(s) Namco
Designer(s) Hajime Nakatani (producer), Takashi Satsukawa (director)
Platform(s) Arcade, PlayStation 2, Mobile phone, iOS
Release date(s) PlayStation 2–  October 31, 2003
Genre(s) Rail shooter
Mode(s) Single-player, Multiplayer
Arcade system Namco System 246

 

Joel: What a game, what a series! Any arcade with a Time Crisis machine is a decent arcade in my books. I’d prefer TC2, but 3 is damned good too. I think it’s fair to say I have spent more coins on playing Time Crisis games in the arcade than any other.

So, as you’ll know, this is the replacement for 2003, given the dismal reception we got with Simpsons Hit n Run. I can’t really argue either; this is simply a better game, sorry Mr. Groening.

The Time Crisis games are largely similar to one another, but it’s a great formula so why not? You and your (either AI or real) buddy are enforcers of all things good and wholesome, charged with taking down legions of baddies for whatever reason is relevant to the story. In the case of TC 3, they have occupied the fictional island of Astigos. In this third instalment, your rather mundane pistol is supplemented by a veritable arsenal of weapons comprising a shotgun, machine gun and grenade launcher. Which is great news! The premise is simple enough. Shoot. Don’t get shot.

As some of you may be aware, special arrangements had to be made for this game. As it uses light guns (yup, I have a pukka, beautiful condition pair of G-CON guns) we are forced to use an old-style CRT television to play this game, just to add to the logistical nightmare Rachael will have to deal with on the night. It also meant I had to lug a CRT television all the way across town on the damn bus, which was just awesome.

On the night, we’ll be playing this on a television kindly donated by my parents (though I can’t help but think it was just an excuse for my dad to buy a TFT:)) It will be a bit smaller than what we’re used to but totally worth it.

I’m very fortunate to live walking distance from not one but two arcades with Time Crisis machines so I play this game a lot. I think I’m going to win this one, assuming I retain enough strength to hold the gun that is.

Liam:  So poor old Simpsons: Hit and Run has been the victim of a coup d’état. It’s our fault really. When we started the process we put a prototype list together which was mainly full of placeholders. Simpsons Hit and Run was one of these placeholders that seemed to slip through the net and get into the main list. It was a good game but the multiplayer was very limited and on reflection we agreed that something better could have taken its place.

We had a few great ideas to replace it with (SSX and Mortal Kombat being the main two – although I did try very hard to sneak Tiger Woods Golf in) but we thought that as the proposed games were sequels or similar to games we already had on the list – that we were not 100% confident with any of them being in. We needed something fresh, something that was truly enjoyable and if we were going to make a change then that new game would have to be undeniably excellent. Then we came up with the idea of Time Crisis.

Along with the House of the Dead franchise Time Crisis is the de-facto arcade game of our generation, especially for me as someone who dislikes racing games. Players shoot the screen with a plastic gun to dispatch enemies which controlling the ‘cover mechanism’ with a foot pedal. Many hours of my life were spent in smoky, run down arcades pumping my modest pocket money into a Time Crisis machine so I could hop around in front of a screen with a bright pink plastic gun – the best part being that all the arcade machines had two player ‘link play’ where you and a friend could team up against the nefarious Zagorias Federation – ultimately causing arguments when one of you dies and leaves the other with screen after screen of bad guys.

Sadly the old light gun games that run on home consoles have been made obsolete by advancements in television technology. New LED, LCD and Plasma screens render the traditional light gun ineffective – a huge pain for someone trying to organise a charity game marathon with the additional stress of sourcing an old style CRT monitor required to play this game. Also Rachael will have to pick up the logistical nightmare of swapping TV screens forward and backwards at 3am.

Time Crisis 3 is perhaps unsurprisingly the third in a line of very successful rail shooter from Japan. I’m not 100% sure I have played this version before which should be a nice surprise for me. I did own the original on my PSX so I am pretty familiar with the concept. Really glad this game has forced its way onto the list and I think it will be a very enjoyable hour.

Advertisements

2005 – Need for Speed: Most Wanted

 

Need for Speed: Most Wanted

nfs

Developer(s) EA Black Box
Publisher(s) Electronic Arts
Composer(s) Paul Linford
Series Need for Speed
Engine EAGL 3
Platform(s) Nintendo DS,Microsoft Windows,PlayStation 2,PlayStation PortableXbox,GameCube,Game Boy Advance,Xbox 360PlayStation 3
Release date(s) November 25, 2005
Genre(s) Racingopen world
Mode(s) Single-playerMultiplayer
Distribution CD, DVD, GameCube Game DiscGame Boy Advance cartridge, Nintendo DS Game Card

 

Joel:  Awesome – we’re back on the racing games! I especially like them because Liam’s rubbish at them so they are almost guaranteed wins, though after 22 hours that might not be the case… What’s to say about NFS:MW? Well, according to Wikipedia it’s the ninth release in the franchise, which sounds about right.  I’ve had a bit of a love-hate relationship with this series – I played a few of the really old ones on PC through and they were alright, if a little arcade-y. The series got a massive overhaul with NFS:Underground which was awesome and horrible at the same time. Pros included Lots of cool cars, lots of customisation options, a pretty large city to roam about and I think it was the first game I played with a decent implementation of a drag race system, where winning was based on decent gear changes and well-timed use of nitrous. The cons however were that you were forced to bolt ridiculous neons and hilariously large spoilers to your car in order to progress, not to mention hideous car paint. The physics were at times infuriating, often resulting in you getting what became affectionately called “nubbed” – this was where your car might clip a tiny nub of scenery and come to a dramatic screeching halt, or flip over or something else equally ridiculous. Anyway, I seem to be talking a lot about the wrong game. The follow-up, NFS:UG2 was basically the same game. I quickly grew to hate it. Then, however, came this, NFS: Most wanted.

After a pretty decent graphical overhaul, a soundtrack featuring rock giants such as Avenged Sevenfold, Disturbed, Killswitch Engage and Mastodon and the removal of Drift mode (I hate drift racing in games… so much) and some physics upgrades we were given a pretty decent game. The premise is reasonably simple: escape the five-o in progressively faster cars whilst they become smarter and more aggressive. There is of course a “story” featuring some melodrama and a little deceitful twist at the end, but as with most of the NFS games, the plot is paper thin and largely irrelevant. Major publications gave this game very decent reviews and rightly so – it is indeed pretty decent.

So I think I’ve got a pretty good chance of coming out on top here. But the pressure will be on as we’re quickly running out of games and if Liams predications are correct, I’ll be a bit behind overall here. Still, we’ll have MarioKart Wii in a couple hours so that should be OK.

 

Liam:  Shockingly I actually quite like this game, although if you have been reading my reviews on the previous driving games you can probably understand why. To me, games like Forza and Grand Turismo are for driving enthusiasts… purists who really care about weight to power ratios and torque. If these games are the anoraks wet dream The Need for speed series (not all of the games in the series, but generally) is more like Top Gear. In fact I am waiting for my caravan destruction mini-game.

NFS:MW is pretty indicative for the series and includes the high octane arcade thrill that fans of the series will recognise. This game was also a launch title for the xbox360 (and I used to own a copy some time ago) and has been recently rebuilt and released. The games plot is awful. Some guff about beating a series of other street racers to win back the BMW you lose in the opening few minutes of the game.

In my not so humble opinion there are two reasons why this far superior to many other driving games:-

1, Visuals. The game looks stunning. We will be playing the PS2 version which is graphically less impressive than the xbox360 version which was a launch title for the console but is still a massive leap forward. The game is slick, colourful and most importantly fast. Neon signs whirl past your screen, reflecting off your paintwork as you whip through checkpoints at breakneck speeds. When you brake, you don’t ease onto the break pedal before slowly pulling away. You use your handbrake, going sideways round the corner revealing the shiny broadside of your suped up motor – complete with lurid graphics and neon under-lights. This all happens subconsciously as you concentrate on getting round the tracks but this bombardment of stimuli (aided by a pumping soundtrack) really keeps you on your toes.

2, Pursuits. One of the main mechanics of the game, as you would expect from a street racing game, is that the fuzz occasional get a bit peeved with you dicking about on the public highways and decide to try and stop you. This leads to a Smokey and the Bandit style cat and mouse chase complete with destructible scenery to smash up following police cars. Massive fun!

I think in a straight point to point race I will probably struggle. I am a dab hand at the more creative games though. Speedtrap being my favourite where you set aggregate speed records at various traffic cameras. We don’t know exactly what we are doing with this game yet but I really hope we get a bash at this.

 

2004 – Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel

Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel

Combat in Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel
Developer(s) Interplay
Publisher(s) Interplay
Series Fallout
Engine Dark Alliance Engine
Platform(s) PlayStation 2Xbox
Release date(s)
  • NA January 14, 2004
  • EU April 2, 2004
  • JP April 28, 2005
Genre(s) Action role-playing game
Mode(s) Single playerMultiplayer
Distribution DVD

Liam: As we have both lamented in previous articles, the decision to cut both single player and PC games from the line up was unavoidable. Sadly this meant the loss of many great games that mean a good deal to me. Fallout Brotherhood of Steel may not be the biggest game, or important in the grand scheme of things but it allows me to bring a little Fallout to the marathon.

I started playing Fallout one in the late nineties after reading a preview in PC Zone and was not disappointed. As well has having a very detailed RPG system with varied playmates promoted by the SPECIAL system allowing players to take various approaches to playing the game. You can go through the game as an evil gun-slinger, dispatching all in your path, a sneaky assassin hiding in the shadows waiting for the perfect opportunity or a silver tongued diplomat. The game itself does force you into combat situations but many aspects of the game can be solved by speech or investing heavily in one of the multiple non-combat skills. Some of the most fun to have in the game is to have a low intelligence play through where the dialogue spoken by your character pays a light-hearted homage to Lenny from Steinbeck’s ‘Of Mice and Men’. Hilarious when running around one-shotting people in the groin with an electric sledgehammer.

Fallout is set in the aftermath of a massive nuclear war sometime after World War Two. The detailed world created in the game series balances the ‘apple pie’ 1950’s Americana that the world is somehow stuck in, with a bleak, desperate and often quite savage depiction of the post war landscape shadowing the paranoid cold war attitudes at the time. The initial attraction I had to the game was centred around the mature content. Drugs were a vital part of the game, both as a game mechanic improving various statistics and as a social commentary. Drug addiction, manufacture and the organised crime it supports being used as multiple plot devices. Sex and prostitution (homosexual and heterosexual) were rife in the game and it even touches on a false rape allegation. Slavery, torture, kidnapping, extortion, the Mafia, gambling, alcohol abuse… they all had a part to play in the Fallout world, sometimes with an element of humour but always with that desolate feeling bubbling underneath.

After Fallouts massive success a sequel was developed by Interplay and Black Isle imaginatively named Fallout 2 – considered by many including myself to be the best in the series. Interplay continued to develop two spin offs, this game and Fallout Tactics before the IP was acrimoniously acquired by Bethesda who took the franchise away from it’s isometric, turn based roots with the still very excellent Fallout 3 a decade after the original. Fallout New Vegas was released two years later developed by Obsidian Entertainment, staffed by many original Black Isle developers.

I have a feeling that playing this game for one hour is not going to do it justice. I’m hoping that my knowledge of the series (although I have not played this game) will help me a great deal.

 

Joel: This is a bit of an odd one – Despite being a fan of the Fallout franchise, I’d somehow managed to go about my life without even knowing this existed until Liam suggested playing it when we were deciding on the list. I’ve put a lot of time into Fallout 1 and 2 and recently gave Fallout 3 a go – I’d owned it for years but knowing it would likely consume a serious portion of my life I’d put off starting it – within 3 hours of starting it, my PS3 died. My second PS3 died, more specifically. So because I’m superstitious, that’s gone back on the shelf, where it will probably stay until you can buy a PS3 for less than £50. Which is a shame, I was enjoying it as much as I thought I would. But we’re not here to talk about that.

So with Liam not having played it either, it seemed prudent to have a go on it, get a feel and come up with some reasonable challenges for the night. Rachael kindly jumped in to be my player two and we set to it. It’s actually pretty good, once you get used to the weird third person, top down viewpoint. It’s quite similar to the previous iterations, you interact with NPCs, achieve objectives, develop your character’s stats and all that good stuff. The only real differences are the viewpoint and the combat not being turn based, though you can opt to do that once combat has started, but honestly it made the game quite slow and clunky.

Two player mode is exactly the same as single player except for the fact that there are two of you. As you would expect from a Fallout game, there is a lot of story and the progression is fairly slow, at least to begin with. The time we’ll have to play this will really only allow for the completion of the first main objective – clearing a large warehouse of radscorpions and giant rats, but it’s good fun, presents a reasonable number of potential metrics for measuring a “winner” and has the added bonus of the boss fight music being a Killswitch Engage track – I’ve got a lot of time for that! We’ll have to press pretty hard and skip a lot of the cutscenes to achieve it within the hour. This, however, is not the end of the world as it means avoiding interactions with possibly the most annoying NPC I’ve ever “met” – the delightfully named “Armpit the bartender.” John Mariano has a lot to answer for. He makes Navi from Zelda seem like a pleasure.

This is going to be one of the less heated games in our list. Although we will be competing in some ways, friendly fire is ineffective and we can only complete our main objective by working together. We Haven’t fully decided on the challenges – it may be XP/level based, kills based, item based – we just don’t know yet. I wouldn’t like to call a winner ahead of time here as we are both pretty green on this one. Definitely looking forward to it though and to playing it properly after the marathon as it really does seem pretty good.

2002 – WWE Smackdown! Shut Your Mouth

WWE SmackDown! Shut Your Mouth

WWE

Developer(s) Yuke’s
Publisher(s) THQ (WWE SmackDown! Shut Your Mouth),  Yuke’s (Exciting Pro Wrestling 4)
Series SmackDown!
Platform(s) PlayStation 2
Release date(s)  November 15, 2002
Genre(s) Professional wrestling, Fighting
Mode(s) Single-player, Multiplayer
Distribution DVD

Joel: I think… it was quite a long time ago now.. that this was one of the games I bought at the same time as my PS2. I should really say “our” PS2 as Rachael and I went halves on it at a second hand store in Portsmouth – IIRC it cost a hundred and twenty English pounds, which was a fair amount for a couple of teenagers on minimum-ish wage. But that said, it still runs today, unlike the two PS3’s I’ve killed in 4 years. I digress…

Because of making the generation-jump from a PS1 to 2, whatever I played first was likely to impress me and this surely left a lasting impression. The character creation tool had a previously unheard of level of detail, the levels were huge, in some modes you can end up in the street outside the arena even! A great variety of match configurations were available, from the standard 1v1 to cage matches, King of the Ring, Royal Rumble and all the other big Pay-per-view events you can think of! The outstanding graphics and a great commentary track from Jerry “The King” Lawler and the other chap whose name escapes me, Jim Ross I think, really gave you the feeling you were watching a real match. I played a lot of this back in the day, despite not being a massive fan of the WWE franchise and got pretty good at it, as did Liam. Evidently, I’m not as good as I used to be though – when I broke this out for testing, I was delighted to find that I still had my old save with all my custom characters and records etc. Because it’s one of the most fun things I’ve done in a video game, I went straight to the Royal Rumble, picked my favourite custom character and the match began. I was subsequently eliminated after less than 4 minutes. Not quite what I had in mind, as I had won the thing countless times in the past. Must’ve been a fluke, I tell myself as I reset the match for another go. I haven’t played this for years and have forgotten most of the controls. So the second match kicks off and I’m off to a flying start. After a few minutes I’ve eliminated a number of competitors and things are looking rosy. Felling quite pleased with myself, I merrily bound about the ring, spearing this guy, kicking that guy over the ropes, when all of a sudden a punch from Brock Lesnar sends me backflipping over the ropes and out of the game. Again. Something’s wrong here… I poke about and eventually end up in the options menu and that’s when I see it – I’d had the difficulty set to maximum. Well that explains it. I’m clearly not as good at this as I used to be. So I set it down to medium and sure enough, victory was mine. At least, that’s how I choose to remember what happened.

So this should be a match for the ages. We’re planning on doing a Rumble and then filling out the rest of the time with other modes. We haven’t chosen our characters yet, but I’m hoping to bag Shawn Michaels or Hulk Hogan, both were favourites of mine as a kid. I’ve no idea who Liam’s going to choose, but it doesn’t matter really – I’ll ruin him whoever he picks 😉

Liam: Hurrah the racing games have finished for the time being and I get to take out my anger and boredom with some violence! For those that may not be aware WWE (formerly named WWF until they lost a fight with a panda) is a multi-million dollar sports entertainment franchise. Which is a funny way of saying that lots of people, all over the world, pay them a great deal of money to watch fat guys in lycra playfighting.

Although it is well known that wrestling is entirely scripted (I like to think of it as a sweaty soap opera) as acting wise WWE ranks just above pantomime, with a plot so exaggerated it becomes farcical at times, but this does not diminish the physicality of the show with serious injuries all part and parcel as the athletes perform acrobatic and high impact moves. In the process they have spawned numerous household names over the years such as Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, The Undertaker and Brett ‘The Hitman’ Hart.

Yuke’s have been running the premier wrestling franchise in computer gaming for many years now and even though this game was relatively early on in the series, it still has a very high level of polish. It has a large roster of playable fighters and a wide array of match types including standard fights and tag teams fights, the major pay per view crowd pleasers such as the royal rumble and king of the ring, the more ludicrous offerings of Sloberknocker (endless waves of enemies), TLC (tables, ladders and chairs) and my personal favourite the steel cage match. It’s a highly enjoyable game for any wrestling fan – which at the time I was. Hey don’t judge me.

I’m kinda looking forward to playing this. I feel it will be a regression to my college days where I spent a good many hours taking my create-a-fighter to the WWE heavyweight championship. I was undefeated as well until the undertaker beat me up behind the scenes and stole my belt – which unbelievably counted as a loss. I used to be much better than Joel at this game; it’s been a long while though and I am expecting a good, clean fight.

1998 – Gran Turismo

Gran Turismo

Screenshot of gameplay using a Mitsubishi FTO ...

Developer(s) Sony Computer Entertainment
Cyberhead
Publisher(s) Sony Computer Entertainment
Designer(s) Kazunori Yamauchi
Series Gran Turismo
Engine Custom
Platform(s) PlayStation
Release date(s) May 8, 1998
Genre(s) Racing simulator
Mode(s) Single player, multiplayer

 

Liam:  Well I still don’t like racing games and the Gran Turismo series is very easily my least favourite of all driving games.

Gran Turismo is a pretty run of the mill racing game by modern standards but set the tone for a lot of the games that came after. Before the Playstation came along, there were fewer simulation based diving games on the market with the majority of games release being more arcade based. With the 5th Generation Consoles, for the first time a consoles had the required power and graphical capability to perform at the required level for these games as first displayed with Namcos Ridge Racer. Now GT and it’s 10 sequels and spin-offs and the roughly equivalent Forza series on the Xbox are massive franchises and are the ‘go to’ games for driving purists. No other genre shows the gulf in class between the 4th and 5th generation consoles than racing games and despite my disdain for these games, it deserves its place on our list.

My main problem with the GT series (and most driving games) is that it’s just so bloody dull. Round and round a track with nothing really happening. There is just nothing compelling to love the about it,  no split second checkpoint scrapes, no epic 1v1 battles with a similar vehicle, no eye-popping neon blur of undercar lights against an urban backdrop – not even a police car. I don’t want a driving simulator; I have a £3000 driving simulator sat on my driveway… I want a ludicrous and thrilling experience unlike anything in the real world. That’s the point of video games!

I believe this game would be infinitely improved by allowing weapons onto the track. Anything that makes you more likely to explode into a fiery ball of metal and glass gets my vote. I think having ticked over midnight I’m going to be feeling pretty tired by this point and ready to collapse into a heap and start sleeping. The only thing that is going to get me through an hour of playing this rubbish is the knowledge that there will be two very very good games coming up in the next two hours.

 

Joel: This was the beginning of the end for me really. I was never quite the same after playing this for the first time. As driving sims went, GT left everything else in its dust. The graphics, the physics, the range of vehicles, the AI, the format of it all… Sublime. The game took, according to its lead designer, five years to develop and for its time, you really can see why. This, as far as I know anyway, was the first game to allow the payer to compete in so-called endurance events – and that they were… some of the individual races would take over an hour and really test your patience and skills. Between this and its followup – the creatively named Gran Turismo 2, I became practically nocturnal for a few years.

I have to admit, we had to re-buy this one for the challenge as a lot of my PS1 games have disappeared over the years but, when testing, I was delighted to find that I was still pretty good at it and although the graphics have dated a bit, the physics are still pretty decent and the cars behave more like individual cars with their own personalities rather than generic arrangements of pixels, as in our earlier racers. This is true to some extent generically of most racers of the period – as I said at the start, the physics are a large part of what made this better than everything else at the time.

I’m really stoked we get to play this game for a number of reasons. Mostly because I just love racing sims – I’ve been replaying NFS: Shift over the long weekend with the boy, who’s just started his own career and is doing really nicely – but also because I could probably beat Liam with the controller upside down. I’ll probably be falling a bit behind on the rankings by this point having had FIFA, Worms, Cricket and Goldeneye in the run up, so I will be relieved to have an easy win.  Money where my mouth is you say? Bring it! I’ll do you an upside-down-controller-handicap race special event if you like.

So yeah – with the exception of Brian Lara Cricket, for which I will keep an open mind, the 90’s range is by far going to be my favourite part of the marathon, with 5 games on my favourite console, the Mega Drive, I will be truly in my element. Bring on Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater – this is going to be the most hotly contested game of the whole thing. I CAN’T WAIT!