VIDEO GAME REVIEW: FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE GAME

Friday the 13th: The Game
Friday the 13th: The Game

By Nick Durham

After what felt like an eternity of waiting, the eagerly anticipated Friday the 13th: The Game has finally been unleashed upon the masses. Developed by Illfonic and published by Gun Media, Friday the 13th: The Game was originally being developed as an independent title called Slasher Vol. 1: Summer Camp before Gun Media managed to acquire the Friday the 13th license and have a successful Kickstarter campaign as well. After seeing numerous screenshots, test footage, and hearing tons upon tons of hype; does the game deliver the goods and manage to be as entertaining and visceral as we’ve all collectively hoped it would be? Well quite frankly, yes and no. 

Played through a third person perspective, Friday the 13th: The Game is a survival horror, multiplayer scramble to hide, survive, and escape Camp Crystal Lake from our favorite hockey-mask wearing slasher. If playing as one of the camp counselors, it’s up to you to run and hide, and be resourceful as well. This ranges from setting traps for Jason, finding weapons to combat him (and run), repair the cabin phone to call the police, as well as repair a car and boat in order to escape. If you play as Jason however, your sole mission is to kill all the horny, dope smoking teenagers you come across. Jason has special abilities, including stalking, shifting (AKA, managing to appear out of nowhere), and sensing out where the counselors are hiding. 

I will say first and foremost that after being able to spend enough time playing as both the various counselors (who thus far all seem to control and play the same) and as Jason Voorhees, I can honestly say that I’ve had more fun playing as the counselors believe it or not. Surviving and managing your resources is much more enjoyable than playing as Jason, which is a major disappointment. The first few times I played as him, I realized how much of an absolute fucking chore it can be in terms of the way Jason controls and stalks around. Maybe I need some more time with him to fully grasp it, but after a variety of sessions playing as him, I can safely say I’m not impressed.

Now as for the rest of Friday the 13th: The Game, it manages to be both pretty fun and insanely frustrating. I downloaded it at launch for my PS4, and saying it took forever to actually be able to get on to the servers and play a match is saying it lightly. This wasn’t much of a surprise considering video games are meant to be defective at launch it seems these days, but the fact that this continued for a while afterwards is almost inexcusable. Not to mention the fact the game itself is loaded with glitches, bugs, and lag time across the board. Although there is plenty of fan service thrown into this game (the various Jason looks, Thom Matthews as Tommy Jarvis, Kane Hodder providing motion capture work), too much of this game just feels flat out incomplete to justify laying down 40 fucking dollars for it.

Apparently eventually there is going to be a single player mode of Friday the 13th: The Game to be released at some point, which would be nice considering that the multiplayer-only aspect of the game thus far only has so much lasting appeal, and like I said, it isn’t really worth laying down 40 bucks for that alone. With that being said, maybe when that mode gets added, and maybe if some other aspects get tuned up, this game could be something really, really special. Until then, it sadly isn’t. Still, it has enough fun elements to be worth checking out, just don’t expect anything spectacular out of it.

Rating: 3/5

VIDEO GAME REVIEW: SLAIN: BACK FROM HELL

By Nick Durham

Do you like metal? Do you like gothic-themed gorefests? Do you like being frustrated to the point where you will throw your controller against the wall and literally shit your pants in defiance of the fucking difficult atrocity before you? If you answered yes to any of the above, than Slain: Back From Hell is the game for you. A 2-D side-scrolling romp where you take down hordes of monsters and undead, Slain: Back From Hell has an interesting history behind it. Originally released simply as Slain!, the game was hideously buggy and lackluster to say it lightly. Developer Wolf Brew Games ended up pulling the downloadable game away, and the whole thing was overhauled and relaunched as what you see before you. Did any of the so-called improvements end up making any kind of difference? Well yes they did, but not nearly enough in some of the departments where the game really needed them.

Slain: Back From Hell puts you in the shoes of Bathoryn, a sword-wielding warrior. Your mission is to take down waves of monstrous beasts and some fairly massive bosses here and there as well. There’s some magic elements as well in addition to the sword slashing combat, as well as some typical platforming elements as well, akin to classic Castlevania games of yesterday. There’s basically nothing featured here you haven’t seen plenty of times before in games like this, but holy shit at least it looks very, very pretty. There’s some really neat graphical effects here done with the game’s pixel art, and it’s quite the sight to behold. I should also mention that the game’s metal-tinged music is worth the price of admission here alone. Composed by former Celtic Frost bassist Curt Victor Bryant, this music is fucking phenomenal. 

The biggest drawback of Slain: Back From Hell is that the game is unforgivably difficult. Like seriously, this game is so fucking hard it’ll drive you mad. Now normally I don’t mind hard retro-themed games like this because I’m a professional and grew up on this kind of shit, but Slain: Back From Hell is just plain fucking unfair. There’s so many cheap deaths and the game’s checkpoint system is practically a joke. Not to mention the fact that the game’s combat controls feel like there should have been more in terms of dodging enemy attacks and the like. The unrefined controls combined with the unfair difficulty really make this game much more of a chore than it has to be, and that is a damn shame considering the rest of the package is so close to being flat out brilliance.

All in all, Slain: Back From Hell is a disappointing horror-themed side scroller that looks great and features a beautiful metal soundtrack. It’s worth checking out if you can download it at a good price, just go into it expecting an infuriating experience that will probably leave you broken inside, and with a broken controller. It’s available on the Playstation 4 (which is the version I’ve played), Xbox One, PC, and now the Playstation Vita as well, though I’ve heard that version of the game features an extremely choppy frame-rate and a few other glitches to boot. My advice is to stick with either console version or the PC version instead.

Rating: 3/5

HORROR GAME VAULT: ALIEN: RESURRECTION

By Nick Durham

 Alien: Resurrection is the fourth installment in the beloved Alien franchise, and often becomes the subject of debate with fans whether it’s the worst installment of the series. Released in 1997, the film manages to have its share of fans, despite the fact that it’s an awful mess. Alien: Resurrection the video game, released in 2000 after being stuck in video game development hell for three years, more or less follows the formula of the film: it’s an absolute mess, but has its share of fans regardless. 

Like Alien Trilogy before it, Alien: Resurrection is a first person shooter with some minor survival horror elements thrown in. A majority of the game takes place on the USM Augria which is overrun with Xenomorphs, and you play as Ripley once again (albeit a cloned Ripley with some very minor implementations of Xeno-powers). There are times in the gameplay when you’ll get to play as other characters such as Call (Winona Ryder’s character in the film), Christie, or DiStephano; and there’s an assortment of different weapons and equipment at your disposal. You’ll face off against the usual assortment of Xenomorph warriors, as well as facehuggers (that can actually implant you and give you a limited amount of time to find a device to remove the embryo before it births and kills you) and even enemy human soldiers as well. 

While the game’s concepts and gameplay sound good on paper, actually playing it is a mess. Alien: Resurrection looked like shit back in 2000, and it doesn’t look much better these days. 32-bit 3D graphics never tend to age well, and the game looks like a flat out muddy and blocky mess. Despite that though there manages to be some pretty good atmosphere, and the ship’s stages are fairly well designed. It should also be noted that many consider this game to be the first to properly utilize analog sticks for console first person shooters. The left and right sticks are used exclusively for movement, which in the years since has become the standard control scheme for every single console FPS. That alone really helps Alien: Resurrection preserve a legacy on its own, but it doesn’t make it any better of a game in my eyes at least.

What’s really most interesting about Alien: Resurrection is that the game spent practically three years stuck in video game development hell. The game was originally fashioned to be a third-person survival horror game in the realm of the original Resident Evil; featuring multiple playable characters and more standard survival horror-esque gameplay. Originally planned to be released on the Playstation, Sega Saturn, and Nintendo 64; developer Argonaut Games scrapped what they’d been working on after the film was released in theaters, and started over from the ground up, eventually creating this FPS. In October of 2000, the game was finally released on the Playstation to negative reviews and sales, which led to ports on the Sega Dreamcast and PC being cancelled. Despite its negative feedback, the game managed to find an audience and still has fans to this day surprisingly.

All in all, Alien: Resurrection is a disappointing game in the sea of Alien-centric games, though for its control innovations of the time, it deserves some kind of praise. If you’ve never played it before, I suggest playing the previous Alien Trilogy first before diving into this. Despite its flaws though, there’s still some stuff here to admire that makes it worth checking out if you’ve never played it before though, so at least there’s that.

HORROR GAME VAULT: ALIEN TRILOGY

By Nick Durham

Besides a whole film franchise, the Alien series has spawned a whole multimedia brand that includes numerous comic books, toys, and naturally video games as well. All together, there are a fuck-ton of Alien-themed video games, ranging from side-scrolling action/platformers, stealth-based adventures, arcade beat ’em ups, and first person shooters as well. There’s good games and bad games alike, but I want to take a look at one of my personal favorite games that the franchise birthed. Published by Acclaim Entertainment (who released a slew of licensed video games in the 90s) and developed by Probe, the game was released in 1996 for the original Playstation, Sega Saturn, and even DOS (yes, fucking DOS). Alien Trilogy is a first person shooter that despite not aging all that well over the decades, is still a lot of fun, and manages to do a number of things quite well that do justice to the franchise. 

Even though the title implies Alien Trilogy encompasses the events of the first three films, what it really does is feature is the locations based on the films instead. The story of the game is more like the universe of Alien in an alternate reality almost, as you play as Ellen Ripley (who is somehow a Colonial Marine here) and travel to LV426 to find out why contact was lost with the colony there. This leads you through the infested colony, prison facilities, and eventually the actual crashed Space-Jockey ship as well (I don’t care if they’re called Engineers now, they’ll always be Space-Jockey’s to me). There are about 30 levels that feature the usual assortment of facehuggers, chestbursters, Xenomorph warriors, dog Xenomorphs, and a handful of Queens thrown in as well that serve as the game’s bosses. 

Gameplay-wise, Alien Trilogy appears to be a basic mid-90s Doom clone. It features all of the usual FPS elements of the time such as strafing and a multitude of weapons at your disposal, including the Pulse Rifle from Aliens and a flamethrower. There’s even a shoulder lamp and motion tracker to use as well, so the game actually manages to utilize these elements well. The game’s environments are creepy and almost claustrophobic, and the various monstrous enemies you’ll encounter are well designed and animated for their time. There’s CGI cut scenes peppered throughout the game, which are kind of funny to watch here because the characters almost look kind of like marionettes in motion.

The graphics during gameplay can be fairly blurry, but that’s mostly because playing this game on an HD TV today isn’t exactly ideal. Not to mention the fact that for being a console FPS game from the mid-90s, the controls haven’t aged well either. Modern console FPS gamers don’t know how lucky they are to be able to play first person shooters with controllers that have two analog sticks. Back in 1996 when this was released, we had a D-pad and face buttons, and had to make the most out of them in terms of moving around smoothly (Jesus fucking Christ I sound old). The game boasts some super eerie sound effects and has a pretty good atmosphere as well, so it still delivers the goods in terms of action and fright elements.

All in all, if you can find Alien Trilogy for cheap (which is more than likely, the PS1 version is fairly common), it’s definitely worth picking up. For a mid-90s Doom clone, it does things pretty well and captures enough elements of the Alien films to make fans happy. If you remember playing this 20 years ago and enjoyed it, I’d recommend going back to it if possible. If you never got to experience it back then, I say check it out. You can do a lot worse with first person shooters based on the Alien franchise, such as the next game we’ll focus on in the next installment of the Horror Game Vault…Alien: Resurrection.

VIDEO GAME REVIEW: RESIDENT EVIL: REVELATIONS 2

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By Nick Durham

I’ve always had somewhat of a love/hate relationship with the Resident Evil franchise. In the mid-90s when the very first game for the series was released on the original Playstation, I was hooked from the get-go. Over the years that followed, the franchise would evolve with each passing sequel and even a couple spin-offs here and there, although by the early 2000s, the formula was getting kind of stale. That’s why so many look at Resident Evil 4 as being the landmark achievement of the series, because it added a shit load of fresh elements that the series so desperately needed. Sadly though, nearly every main installment of the series to follow hasn’t been all that good. What has been good however are the Resident Evil: Revelations games. The first game was a breath of fresh air and mixed the best elements of the older and newer games together; resulting in an action/horror hybrid that played quite well. This game, Resident Evil: Revelations 2 is no different, and offers up plenty of enjoyable moments.

 

The game’s story follows two distinct plotlines, one of which involving Claire Redfield and new character Moira (daughter of Barry) Burton; both of whom are trying to escape an island facility housing monstrous mutated beasts. The other plotline revolves around Barry trying to save Claire and Moira, which doesn’t really go so well. The game was originally released as four different episodes, but here on its various console formats is collected into one single game. There’s some really nice and effective cliffhangers sprinkled throughout here and there that will keep you glued to the controller playing. I actually kind of like this format a lot more than I thought I would.

 

Gameplay wise, Resident Evil: Revelations 2 is a tried and true style that most of the previous Resident Evil games have been: over the shoulder gun toting action. There’s a lot of suspenseful and seat-jumping moments as well, although I think the first Resident Evil: Revelations game was much better in that regard. Despite that though, there’s a lot to admire here, and the game offers enough of both action and horror elements to keep you happy. The game looks pretty good (and I played it on a PS3, I can only imagine how much better it looks on more powerful hardware) and controls decently enough, and there’s a couple different endings as well, so it offers a decent amount of replayability.

 

All in all, Resident Evil: Revelations 2 is a fun diversion, and will hopefully keep you sated enough until Capcom gets around to releasing Resident Evil 7 further on down the road. Or, in my case, until Capcom finally decides to get the ball rolling on that eagerly anticipated HD remake of Resident Evil 2. Resident Evil: Revelations 2 is available on just about every console you can think of: the PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, the PSVita, and even the PC. Check it out.

 

Rating: 4/5

VIDEO GAME REVIEW: DOOM (PC, PS4, XBOX ONE)

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By Nick Durham

I don’t play many first person shooters. I know they’ve been all the rage for the past decade or so, but it’s a genre I grew out of as I left my teenage years behind. In my youth, I played the shit out of classic FPS games like Wolfenstein 3D, Duke Nukem 3D, Quake, and of course, Doom. Doom more than any FPS franchise holds a special place in my heart, mostly because it was the first game of its type that I actually played to completion. I thought it was so awesome back then; the moody graphics and music, the demonic enemies, and the fact that you were literally descending into Hell itself. What was there not to love about it?

 

As the years (and decades) followed, we’d get some sequels and expansions here and there, all of which were quite enjoyable in their own right. But now here we are in 2016, and that big mother fucker of FPS games is back. The new Doom is a wonderful experience, and that’s saying it lightly. Mixing original Doom elements with some rebooted aspects, the story of Doom revolves around the standard research facility on Mars being overrun by demons from Hell. Our nameless hero (always referred to by gamers as Doomguy, but here’s he’s the Doom Slayer…that’s metal as fuck) is put back in action to combat them, and holy fucking hell does he. The combat and shooting elements are so chaotic and nerve-wracking I can’t really put it into words. Mowing down the denizens of Hell is so fun and satisfying, and combined with the rollicking heavy metal soundtrack, you’re going to have a great time.

 

Graphically speaking the game looks amazing. The level of detail on the grotesque beasts you’ll face is a work of art. The game controls tight and the classic weapons you remember have received various upgrades and are an extreme delight to use. The game’s environments are dark and combined with the monstrous enemies can be downright terrifying to navigate through. There’s a healthy amount of upgrades as well, so the gameplay always feels rewarding as you keep moving on through the game.

 

If there’s any drawbacks to Doom, it’s that the game’s multiplayer modes leave a little bit to be desired. Now like I said, I don’t play FPS games too much these days, but these kind of games rely on their multiplayer for replayability. While there is a decent selection of modes and such, it doesn’t feel quite as impactful as the game’s single-player campaign. That being said, some of the single-player’s mission objectives get repetitive. That isn’t really that much of a drawback, considering in every Doom game to come out before you were always pulling switches and finding keys for locked doors, etc. One really cool thing featured here is a Snap Map, which is pretty much a tool to edit and create your own maps to play and share with other players. This adds a lot to the overall package.

 

To wrap things up, Doom is truly a great time. It isn’t perfect and you may not love it as much as I do, but then again, I’m a Doom guy through and through. It’s available now for PC, Playstation 4, and Xbox One; and it deserves your time and attention. Now stop reading this, pick this up, and go straight to Hell.

 

Rating: 4.5/5