Category Archives: Pulp

The best free console games

The Kotaku UK ed asked me to take a look at the best free-to-play games on console, as a way f0r people to quickly expand their game libraries if they received a new games machine for Christmas. Here’s the resulting article, which came out on Boxing Day:

The Best Free Games For Your New Console

After researching what was out there, I was surprised by the breadth and depth of the free-to-play scene on consoles. It barely existed a few years ago, but now there’s a wide variety of games, many of which are extremely professional – it’s not all match-three puzzlers.

Let It Die - wonderfully bizarre. Note the cameo from 'Uncle Death'.

Let It Die – wonderfully bizarre. Note the cameo from ‘Uncle Death’.

Warframe and SMITE are excellent and gorgeous-looking multiplayer violence ’em ups, but the newly released Let It Die from Suda51 is the most blood-soaked of them all, with layers of wonderful bizarreness to top it all off – as you’d expect from the creator of Killer7 and Lollipop Chainsaw.

But perhaps the most interesting was Neverwinter, a full-on PC style Dungeons and Dragons RPG. It had tonnes of content, and it just goes to show how the gap between the PC space and the console arena is narrowing, especially as titles start to offer crossplay between the different platforms. Whatever you think about free-to-play, it’s a fascinating time to be a gamer.

Neverwinter is proper D&D on console.

Neverwinter is proper D&D on console.

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Advertising drivel: What rhymes with Nintendo?

I love old advertisements and marketing material. They in many ways embody a time and place better than anything else around; mainly because they’re specifically designed to capture and appeal to society’s psyche en masse. In the 1990’s video games were at the cutting edge of consumer trends and so are cracking little depictions of what was ‘cool’ at the time. Nintendo’s own marketing efforts around the Game Boy are some of my favourites and are nothing short of brilliant if not cringeworthy. And of course everyone remembers the all-encompassing “Mortal Monday” marketing push behind the arrival of Mortal Kombat on home consoles.

But having looked through a metric shit-tonne of old retail advertisements for video games in the 1980’s and 1990’s, I can unequivocally say that they absolutely take the cake in a shithouse kind of way. So shithouse that it’s hard not to love them.

So what rhymes with Nintendo?

GB_1994_ad

I can imagine a marketing executive at the Grace Bros. Department store went home proud as punch on the day he thought up this little ditty. Well done, son.

On a side note: the weird-but-surprisingly-bonza Dragon’s Lair branded version of ZX Spectrum game Rollercoaster for a cool $19.95 is a right bargain!

Source: [1994 ‘Advertising.’, The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 – 1995), 7 September, p. 15, viewed 18 July, 2016]

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Tales from the race track: Formula E photo finish

The Forza Motorsport series has ballooned in terms of content over the last couple of iterations to include the likes of Formula E and NASCAR racing. Both of which I’ve ignored. This is generally because I find the idea of driving around ’round and ’round an oblong shaped track not particularly enticing. I’m sure there’s something to NASCAR: I’m just not sure someone raised watching Formula 1 and Touring cars will ever understand just what that something is.  Throw the sleep-inducing white-noise of a Formula E’s electric motor in the mix and it’s a decent way to fall asleep and not much else. Ask a women or man who loves the sound of a petrol-guzzling V8 engine what it sounds like and – if they’re like me – they’ll probably tell you it sounds like a Formula One with a serious case of laryngitis.

Not much to see here, then. Well so I thought until I was engaged in an epic 20-minute battle between two other same-spec cars on the Daytona International Speedway. There were tenths or hundredths of seconds in it with any slight mistakes in racing line or grip would see the leader forfeit first-place. Suddenly I’d never been so excited to be behind the wheel of my ABT Schaeffler Audi Sports Formula E car.

This all culminated in a swift inside overtake by the bloke in second-place at the end of the penultimate lap. Naturally, as I thumped the lounge next to me, I felt a bit like a frustrated Niki Lauda watching James Hunt sail by. As I gained my composure though – only a hair’s breadth away from the tail of first place – I realised if I pulled off the lap of my life I could take the lead back.

Rush (2013) aka one of the best films ever made.

Rush (2013) aka one of the best films ever made.

And so I drove for my virtual life. Hands gripped tightly on the controller, I’ve never felt so fixated on a video game in my life. Finger on the throttle, I steered the car to within an inch of the perfect racing line, never more than a couple of centimetres from the back of the car in front.  On the last bend I spotted my chance and veered ever so slightly to the inside, knowing that any slight loss of tyre traction would slow me down. I was gaining ever so slowly but it was largely out of my control as I kept the car at top speed hoping the metres gained on that last bend would be enough.

And it was. Just. As I took the lead just before the finish line in a photo finish.

So drained was I after the race that I called it a night and headed off to bed. It’s no secret that I love shedding tenths of seconds off of lap-times, but this epic Formula E showdown was really something else.  So while I won’t be watching NASCAR or Formula E anytime soon, I certainly won’t be shying away from their events in Forza Motorsport anymore. Here’s to trying new things.

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Why I Love Resident Evil (in one simple gif)

A couple of days ago I wrote about how it’s Resident Evil’s characters that make it so damned special; and how Resident Evil 6 is just one fantastical way to pack in as many of them from the game’s history as possible. It’s no secret that Leon and Chris have their own rather lengthy seperate campaigns in the game, but that doesn’t make the moment their paths cross over any less great. The fact that it’s the enigmatic Ada Wong that causes them to have respective guns pointed at respective heads makes it just that much more – well – fan service-y.

“Welcome to 2012”.

Now I’m all caught up with the series it’s time to look ahead to Resident Evil 7. And Only time will tell if Capcom can bring this level of exuberance and ridiculousness to its more sensible-looking sequel. It’d be a shame if they leave this legacy behind – even if it is mad as a cut snake.

Resident_Evil_6_Leon_and_Chris_Cutscene

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Dream video game soundtrack composers – Tablo

TabloFever'sEnd[타블로] If you’ve never heard of Korean artist and author Tablo, then I suggest you acquaint yourself quick-smart.  For mine he’s one of the most versatile composers around, with an incredible range that spans from out and out bass-heavy hip hop, to beautiful duets backed by melodic piano scores.  And that’s just his solo work.  His work as one-third of the hip-hop group Epik High has become increasingly diverse, with the 2012 release “99”, which plays almost like an ode to every music genre they’ve ever been inspired by in the 90’s and beyond.  The lyric driven hip-hop is still there to be sure, but it’s dominated by everything from Surf Rock ballads of “The Bad Guy”  to the heavy bass drops of “Kill This Love”.  If you played the album to someone blind, I’d be surprised if they’d pick it as the same artist, let along the same album.  It’s a mighty good album, by a mighty good group, that just happens to feature Tablo.

But for mine, the most interesting compositions from Tablo arise when he’s left to his own devices, as he was in 2011 for his first solo project.  Taking the form of two EPs, Fever’s End Parts I and II, these works are amazing demonstrations of a musician who can tell a story through his compositions.  From the first track featuring the unforgettable voice of Korean mainstay, Lee So-ra, Tablo makes his intentions clear – Fever’s End is an album that is written from the heart.  And it shows.  His solo journey starts off with the hopeless despair of “Home”, to the hopeful promise of “Try”, and to the regretful and somber “Expired”.  It is 40 minute journey through what can only be described as the human condition.  It is a work of art that works just as well as a collection of 10 songs as it does as an exploration of the emotional peaks and troughs of existence.  And then there’s “Tomorrow” featuring BigBang’s Taeyang, wedged right in the middle at the start of the second EP, which shows just how effective Tablo is as a composer of popular music.

It’s this diversity, and the perfectly paced and structured flow of the two EPs when listened in sequence, that makes Tablo a great storyteller.  Even the music itself in absence of the lyrics are so rich in emotion, that it’s something of a window into if not the soul, definitely his mind at the time.  His compositions create a thick atmosphere that surrounds you as you listen to them.  Video games, which often need no lyrical cues to accompany what appears on the screen, are the perfect medium for someone with the ability to create and convey feelings and emotions through music however understated its context or presence.

The Korean music scene is a diverse and wonderful place that surprises as much as it satisfies. If you’ve followed the career of K-pop and hip-hop stalwarts like G-Dragon or Mad Clown you’ll know exactly what I mean.  Sitting right up there though is Tablo.  For mine, Tablo is a modern musical genius, displaying versatility and range so few artists can.  His innate ability to create catchy pop songs, as well as those that linger in the mind and that force you to contemplate their meaning, is in my opinion almost unmatched across the world.  He creates a presence about his music when he needs to, but balances it out with music that works just as well as an ambient accompaniment to life as it does as something to sit down and contemplate, which makes him a significant creative force in the music world.  It also happens to be what would make him the perfect composer for an active and dynamic medium like video games.

 

 

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F1 2015 is quite the looker, ain’t she?

It was a bit sad when F1 2014 didn’t make its way to the then next-generation consoles.  Firstly because the more racing games the better, but mostly because the first Formula 1 game on any console has always been cause for  celebration often  based on graphics alone.  There are quite literally hundreds of ways you can prove your system has graphical chops, but for me, seeing  virtual representations of the top tier open-wheeled racers just cannot be topped.  From Formula One on the Playstation, right through to Formula One: Championship edition on the Playstation 3, F1 games are usually the first games to really demonstrate what the hardware can do.  So having to wait so long for Codemasters’ F1 2015 was a tad painful.

But bloody hell it was worth it.  Although perhaps not as striking as its steep competition – Microsoft’s Turn10’s own Forza Motorsport 6 also released this year – F1 2015 definitely manages to set the screen alight in motion and carry the time honoured tradition of beautiful Formula One video games forward.

And you know what, it’s not too shabby in still shots either.  That Lotus E32 Hybrid sure is a thing of beauty, isn’t it?

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32 years of brilliant video game box art – #1 (2014) Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millenium Girl

Well there you go! 32 days and 32 games later we’re up to 2014 and the last post in the series.  Thanks for joining me, I hope you’ve had as much fun as I have.  Happy November, everyone, it’s been a blast!


Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millenium Girl (2014) –
I like the Etrian Odyssey series more and more the longer it goes on, but to be honest I’ve never really much cared for the art style.  I have nothing against anime per se, but the design is that ultra anime look, the sort of dime-a-dozen look that I associate with stuff coming from Japan that I don’t care about. Disgaea too is a series that, if it weren’t so damn well brilliant, I’d have a hard time sticking with for all the gravity-defying hair and what not.  It’s the sort of art that I appreciate artistically, and don’t actively deride, but it just doesn’t do anything for me.  No dramas, I’m the kind of bloke who knows what I like, and doesn’t hate what I don’t.  So good times all around.  And so being the refined gentleman I am, I refused to judge the books by their cover, and let the games draw a map to my heart.  So to speak.

Now I don’t know what it is about the Etrian Odyssey: The Millenium Girl box art that does do it for me, whether it’s more refined or it just has an intangible quality about it that tickles my fancy, but by my reckoning it’s a bloody masterpiece.  I wish I could be more specific, but all I can come up with is that it is more, well,  elegant.

Elegant.  That’s it.  No comparing it to some classical art movement.  No mention of juxtaposition.  No pontification over colour palettes.  It is a mere undefined subjectivity and personal taste that make me appreciate the box art to this game over any of its predecessors.  It isn’t a science, it is an art.  And that’s a nice way to end the countdown because, like any good art, beauty and opinion are in the eye of the beholder.

Etrian_Odyssey_Untold_The_Millennium_Girl

Miss previous entries in the countdown?

Space Ace (1983) – Transylvania (1984) – Impossible Mission (1985)Defender of the Crown (1986) – Faery Tale Adventure (1987) – F/A – 18 Interceptor (1988) – Blood Money (1989) – King of the Zoo (1990) –Lemmings (1991) –Pinball Fantasies (1992) – The Ren & Stimpy Show: Veediots! (1993) – Super Mario Land 3: Wario Land (1994) – Primal Rage (1995) – Wipeout 2097 (1996) –  Theme Hospital (1997) – Resident Evil 2 (1998) – Formula One ’99 (1999)– Gran Turismo 2 (2000) – Soul Reaver 2 (2001) – Gitaroo Man (2002) – Project Zero 2: Crimson Butterfly (2003) – Warioware, Inc.: Mega Microgames! (2004) – DK King of Swing (2005)We Love Katamari (2006)Digital Devil Saga 2 (2007)Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3 (2008) Magna Carta 2 (2009) – Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light (2010) – Warhammer 40K: Space Marine (2011) – Darksiders II (2012) – Dragon’s Crown (2013)

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