Month: October 2015

Great, a Chainsaw: A History of Horror Games

Great, a Chainsaw: A History of Horror Games

Horror video games have been scaring people for several decades now, dating back to the late 1980s. And the genre has produced some of the best and most influential games ever made; titles like Resident Evil, Silent Hill, and Dead Space.

Horror lends itself well to the interactive nature of games. Playing a horror video game feels completely different to watching a horror film, as you inevitably feel intimately closer to whatever frightening thing that’s happening in front of you. You’re the character, and you’re responsible for keeping yourself alive and escaping the grasp of some truly demented creatures and serial killers. Even though, just like with the stealth genre, developers haven’t been able to consistently deliver quality horror games for a few years now, this genre still has quite a legacy that’s replete with some iconic moments, villains, stories, and settings.

horrorhistoryinsert1In 1989, Capcom’s psychological horror role-playing video game Sweet Home was released for the Nintendo Entertainment System. It is based on the Japanese film of the same name from legendary director Kiyoshi Kurosawa. It’s widely regarded as the forerunner of the survival horror genre, mainly because of the many gameplay mechanics it first introduced that are still present in many horror games today. It has an item inventory management system that players constantly have to take care of due to the limited amount of items they can carry. It has a bunch of clever visual puzzles and it puts an emphasis on backtracking in order to access certain areas you couldn’t before to solve puzzles later on. It contains save rooms in which the player can save their progress and store their items. There are scattered notes and diary entries throughout the environments which the player can find and learn more about the game’s plot. It’s also one of the first games to employ graphic death animations.

Even though Sweet Home largely plays as a traditional role-playing game with random encounters, it still served as a major influence for Resident Evil. The latter game was initially supposed to be a straight remake of Sweet Home, and you can definitely see the similarities between the two. Sweet Home even has a mansion setting, dual character paths, and the door loading screen, just like the first few Resident Evil games.

horrorhistoryinsert5Resident Evil released in 1996 on the Sony PlayStation, but was then later ported to the Sega Saturn. It took all of those initial narrative and gameplay ideas that Sweet Home introduced and set about improving upon them. The Spencer Mansion is still one of the most iconic video game settings, and moments like the first zombie appearance are among the most well-known scenes in pop culture. It features two playable characters—Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine—and each of their playthroughs feel totally different as they contain different scenes, weapons, and enemy encounters.

Though a few horror games did come out before Resident Evil, it was the one that catapulted the genre into commercial and critical relevance. The game has sold over 5 million copies, and birthed one of the most well-known intellectual properties in the genre. Resident Evil now has 6 main entries and a ton of spin-offs. Resident Evil 4 in particular, which first released in 2005 for the GameCube, was just as revolutionary for the horror genre as the first game was, mainly because of its over-the-shoulder, third-person action gameplay.

Alone in the Dark
Alone in the Dark

Series creator Shinji Mikami, who has recently released his own new horror game, The Evil Within, took a few gameplay cues and ideas for Resident Evil from 1992’s Alone in the Dark. Developer Infogrames’ survival horror title actually holds the Guinness World Record for being the “First Ever 3D Survival Horror Game.” Yes, even though Sweet Home was the game that introduced a ton of mainstay gameplay mechanics, Alone in the Dark was the first one to execute them in 3D. It served as a great blueprint for Mikami, who ultimately went on to create some of the best games in the horror genre.

In 1999, Konami opted to go a slightly different route with Silent Hill. Where Resident Evil provides the player the ability to actually fight back, Silent Hill forces you to find a way to escape and run for your life. Protagonist Harry Mason, who ventures into the fictional American town Silent Hill to look for his adopted daughter, is just some regular guy who needs to use his flashlight a lot. Yes, he does wield weapons, like a steel pipe and shotgun, but there’s very little ammo and Mason barely deals any damage to the many twisted creatures he encounters. Instead, Silent Hill is more about its fascinating story and psychological horror. Silent Hill 2, which released in 2001, is considered by many to be the better game because of its much improved mechanics and captivating story. Nowadays, Silent Hill has fallen from grace, with the promised reboot from the likes of Hideo Kojima and Guillermo del Toro being all but cancelled.

F.E.A.R.
F.E.A.R.

Throughout the 2000s and 2010s we had games like Fatal Frame, F.E.A.R, Condemned, and Penumbra, which all heavily borrow from Silent Hill and Resident Evil. In 2008, however, another horror game took the world by storm. EA and Visceral Games’ Dead Space released to great acclaim. It follows an engineer named Isaac Clarke who battles Necromorphs aboard an interstellar mining ship called the USG Ishimura. The game borrowed heavily from Resident Evil 4 in terms of gameplay. It’s a third-person, over-the-shoulder shooter that finds a great balance between making the player feel powerful while still fearing for their life. This fine balance is really the reason why the game is so highly regarded, as many titles before and after it (even its own sequels) have failed to maintain tension. A horror game in the same ilk is usually too action-oriented, failing to actually scare the player or leave them feeling frightened and weak at times. Dead Space 2 released in 2011, and Dead Space 3 released in 2013, and both failed to recapture the same horror essence of the first entry.

This year, we’ve had a few great horror titles, namely Until Dawn and SOMA. Both games introduce something new to the genre. Until Dawn is an interactive adventure that focusses on player choice and great storytelling, combining the best aspects of Resident Evil and Heavy Rain, while SOMA removes the ability to fight and instead opts to frighten players psychologically. Stil, l though, the horror genre has seen a slight decline over recent years, especially when it comes consistency. Nowadays, we only ever get a handful of great horror games, which is a far cry from the 90s and early 2000s. However, there are encouraging signs, and it’s always a good thing when Shinji Mikami is still very interested in continuing to make games for the horror genre.

 

Might and Magic Heroes VII (PC) Review

Might and Magic Heroes VII (PC) Review

As a game critic, I typically try to distance my emotions from my ability to judge a game; I think I do a pretty good job. However, once in a while a game comes along that I truly wish was better. In the case of Might and Magic Heroes, it’s a series I’ve been playing off and on for years. I’ll never forget the first time I experienced the franchise. I got a copy of Heroes of Might and Magic III at a garage sale almost entirely because of the epic box art.

At the time, I was primarily a console gamer, so strategy games involving turn-based tactics, resource management, and ruling over armies was entirely foreign to me. I ended up playing for several hours in one sitting and was hooked.

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In the years since, the game from my childhood has been re-released in HD with mixed results, and the next four games in the series have all been either loved or hated. It’s a long-running series that’s changed developers and publishers more than once, yet they continue to churn out new games every few years. And time after time, the HoMM games are released before they are ready.

It’s a reality of the games industry nowadays that if you buy a new game from a AAA publisher, there will be bugs. There are lots of reasons for this, including the sheer size and scope of modern games making it impossible to find every issue, and the fact that in many cases, publishers would rather release an unfinished project than miss their launch window and delay things further. In the case of HoMM VII, it desperately needed more time.

For starters, the lack of stability was unbearable. It crashed on me numerous times during each play session. Everything from clicking something in the UI, to the loading screen, and even just leaving the game on without doing anything would cause it to crash. It became like a game-within-the-game just to see how much continuous play-time I could get in before running into an issue.

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Beyond the technical issues, there were plenty of other little bugs as well. Weird graphical glitches, audio skipping, screen tearing, and the abomination known as UPlay, all pulled down the experience even further. When you have to go into a game immediately struggling to find something positive or enjoyable, that’s really not a good sign.

If you’re lucky enough to actually get into the game, things aren’t much closer to expectations, but still a step back from HoMM VI. There is such an abhorrent lack of regard for the player’s experience that it borders on insulting. I’ve never felt so confused by an interface in my life and this is a series I grew up with. Then the campaign itself is a watered-down version of what we’ve seen in the past. It feels more like loosely strung together short missions that lack cohesion and consistency.

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Even a game like this, though, still has positive aspects. First of all, it shows that Ubisoft hasn’t forgotten about the franchise, which means that maybe next time they can do a better job. The maps themselves are visually interesting and well laid-out. The skill selections for heroes make sense and feel useful, at least more so than in VII. But all of that is essentially meaningless when the AI itself lacks the ability to put up an intelligent fight.

While playing Heroes of Might and Magic VII, I was struck with an overwhelming wave of disappointment like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. I truly wanted this game to recapture the magic that the series has been lacking for so many years, but it’s not even close. If you’re interested in seeing what these games are about, then I insist you try HoMM V instead for single player, or HoMM VI for multiplayer since V is no longer supported.

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As a reviewer, I was bored, as a gamer I was confused, and as a fan, I was disappointed. Ubisoft’s indifference for a long-running and beloved series is a problem, and I hope they realize that.

Ranking The Halloween Franchise 12

Ranking The Halloween Film Franchise

Halloween is a time for revisiting horror franchises. After all, it’s the one time of year when it’s not only socially acceptable to power through marathon horror movie sessions but actually encouraged. Yet, while the Nightmare On Elm Streets, Friday The 13ths, Hellraisers, and Child’s Plays of the world have their place in obsessive October screenings, only one franchise has the spookiest of all holidays built right into the title. Of course, I’m speaking of Halloween. You know, that tale of the other Michael Myers who has a tendency to do horrible things to babysitters.

Back in 1978, a young whippersnapper version of John Carpenter and his movie-making buddies took on Halloween as an indie genre assignment. They were passionate about it, of course, but never dreamed that they’d end up creating the slasher genre as well as an iconic monster movie. But it happened and in addition to a decade worth of Halloween knock-offs, the little flick that could also spawned a franchise that’s ten titles strong and counting (an 11th Halloween flick is in production as we speak, dating this list before it’s even published).

So in celebration of my favourite holiday, the time has come to rank the Halloween movies from best to worst. Regardless of your personal opinions, this shall be the official ranking of the Halloween franchise from now until the release of the last chapter. Sorry. This is it. Plan your Halloween movie marathons accordingly.  

Halloween (1978)
Halloween (1978)

1)   Halloween (1978)

The best title in this particular series is a no brainer. John Carpenter’s ground-breaking and influential masterpiece is one of the greatest horror movies ever made, full stop. Though it served as a foundation for all slashers to follow, this fairly bloodless affair is more of an exercise in masterful atmosphere and suspense than gratuitous T&A and gore (not that there’s anything wrong with those simple pleasures). From the first frame to the last, Carpenter is in absolute command of viewers, creeping his cameras through corridors, transforming suburban idealism into a land of nightmares, and creating one of the great movie monsters in Michael Myers. It’s like a cinematic haunted house designed to make you leap on cue and fling popcorn everywhere that still works brilliantly all these years later because the tricks and scares are so perfectly conceived. Then there’s the score, which is deceptively simple and bone-chillingly effective. It’s probably the greatest horror theme ever conceived and the creepy icing on the cake of this masterpiece of terror.

Halloween II (1981)
Halloween II (1981)

2)   Halloween II (1981)

Released a few short years after the original film became an unexpected cultural phenomenon and essentially made against Carpenter’s wishes despite his direct participation, Halloween II is undeniably a step down from the original, but by no means a failure. Picking up seconds after the end of the original film, the sequel continues Laurie Strode’s (Jamie Lee Cutis) horrible night with Michael Myers along with an added familial twist. The movie is undeniably hokier than Halloween, yet it has a certain charm and energy that’s impossible to deny. Beyond that, the sequel is underrated for helping found pretty well every other slasher convention that the classy original didn’t feature (more blood, more boobs, more elaborate kills, an even more supernaturally unstoppable killer, etc.). Arriving on screens only weeks after Friday The 13th Part 2 introduced Jason, the success of Halloween II helped confirm that the slasher genre was here to stay, for better or worse. Most people dismiss this sequel simply because it’s not as good as the original. That’s a mistake. Halloween II is a damn good time and thanks to some last minute reshoots by the man himself, it’s the only sequel that feels like a John Carpenter joint. So, that’s something.

Halloween III: Season Of The Witch (1982)
Halloween III: Season Of The Witch (1982)

3)   Halloween III: Season Of The Witch (1982)

For years, Halloween III was dismissed purely because it was the sequel that didn’t feature Michael Myers. John Carpenter hoped to continue the franchise as an annual anthology series linked only by the holiday. Audiences were confused, so the threequel bombed and the franchise disappeared for 6 years. However, in recent years, viewers have finally come around to accept the flick for the wild, ridiculous, and fun ride that it is. Directed by Carpenter’s longtime collaborator Tommy Lee Wallace (who later made It), this bizarre film about a maniac toymaker attempting to kill all of the children in America with deadly rubber masks and an annoying commercial is far more entertaining than it has any right to be. Bouncing between some genuinely horrifying sequences and hysterically campy insanity, Season Of The Witch is the perfect Halloween movie to watch with a gang of friends, a gallon of booze, and endless laughter. Led by a an amazingly sleazy/charming performance by cult icon/moustache perfectionist Tom Atkins and featuring a downright amazing techno score from Carpenter, Season Of The Witch has been disrespected for far too long. This insane movie is a cult classic in it’s own right and should never be considered a lesser entry in the franchise again.

Halloween II (2009)
Halloween II (2009)

4)   Halloween II (2009)

Generally speaking, the 2000s horror movie remake craze was a lazy slap in the face to genre fans; however, there were a handful of exceptions to that rule, and Rob Zombie’s wacko take on the Halloween franchise was the highlight. As good as Zombie’s remake was, his sequel/remake was even better. A surreal, nightmarish, darkly comedic and wild tale examining Laurie Strode’s (Scout Taylor-Compton) psychological damage following her first encounter with Michael Myers, this is a Halloween movie on acid in the best sense. Sure, there are some silly moments that Zombie pushes too far (especially the excessive horse symbolism), but Zombie has delivered without a doubt the finest Halloween movie since the 80s and one that worked so well it’s kind of a shame that he never expanded the series into a trilogy.

Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers (1988)
Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers (1988)

5)   Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers (1988)

Halloween III may have ended John Carpenter’s involvement in the franchise, but with Freddy and Jason making too much money at the box office throughout the 80s, there was no way that Michael Myers could die. Halloween 4 was created under the most cynically commercial circumstances imaginable and yet somehow turned out far better than anyone could have expected. Obviously it helped that Donald Pleasence returned with all of his ranting n’ raving charms. Director Dwight H. Little knew his way around crafting a suspense sequence and showed welcome restraint from gore to deliver a classier horror sequel than most. Then there was the clever plot involving the talented Danielle Harris as a little moppet in danger without a hint of precociousness and a fantastically creepy ending. Halloween 4 is no masterpiece, but it is a thoroughly entertaining romp that brought Michael Myers back in style…and then allowed the icon to be destroyed through a variety of more predictably crappy sequels.

Halloween (2007)
Halloween (2007)

6)   Halloween (2007)

Horror fans cried foul when it was announced that Halloween would get the remake treatment and many dismissed Rob Zombie’s personal take on the series when it appeared. However, the film has held up remarkably well over the years. It’s somewhat awkward structure dedicates the first half to Michael’s disturbed childhood before transforming into a delightful scene-by-scene retelling of the original Carpenter classic with a grungy 70s Rob Zombie makeover. As long as you can get over the fact that it’s not the original Halloween, there’s tremendous fun to be had. It’s a remake by a genuine fan with real talent who is unafraid to make the material his own while still honouring what everyone loves about the original. Underrated and underappreciated.

Halloween H20 (1998)
Halloween H20 (1998)

7)   Halloween H20 (1998)

The last decent entry in the series is a bit of an odd one. Made after the massive success of Scream under the eye and influence of Kevin Williamson, H20 brought Jamie Lee Curtis back to the franchise for a sequel as influence by the wisecracking Ghostface series as the original Halloween. Filled with one-liners, references, and self-conscious humor, it’s an aggressively 90s entry in the Halloween cannon that makes for a nice nostalgic viewing, if you have a fondness for the era. Friday The 13th 2 and 3 director Steve Miner knows his way around crafting a scare, so the jumps work and Curtis was surprisingly game to dive back into the series that launched her career. Sure, LL Cool J’s appearance is distracting and the Michael Myers mask is horrible, but at least H20 is fun and respects the franchise. The same thing certainly can’t be said about the rest of the turkeys on this list.

Halloween: The Curse Of Michael Myers (1995)
Halloween: The Curse Of Michael Myers (1995)

8)   Halloween: The Curse Of Michael Myers (1995)

Of the three completely crappy Halloween sequels, The Curse Of Michael Myers is at least the most watchable. The stupid cult-based plot doesn’t make a lick of sense, but it features Donald Pleasence’s final performance as Dr. Loomis, some amusingly gory kill scenes, and a hysterically bad lead performance from a young Paul Rudd. Other than that, it’s a messy, stupid, and confusing movie that was re-edited within an inch of its life before release. Last year, a long lost “Producer’s Cut” of The Curse Of Michael Myers emerged after years of rumour, so now you can at least watch a version of Halloween 6 that kind of makes sense. It’s still a big stinking pile of Michael Myers garbage, but at least you can follow it. So that’s something.

halloween_5
Halloween 5: The Revenge Of Michael Myers (1989)

9)   Halloween 5: The Revenge Of Michael Myers (1989)

Following the surprise success of Halloween 4, the producers raced to get another sequel on screens within a year and managed to completely destroy the franchise that they just resurrected. Sure, Danielle Harris returned with her character’s new mythology, but this time she was stuck in an idiotic plot involving a psychic connection between herself and Myers. I suppose it at least provides justification for all of the Myers POV shots, but other than that, the flick is laughably stupid and even boring. Then there’s the introduction of the “Man In The Black Hat” character who is supposed to be responsible for Michael Myers or something? It’s hard to say; the movie is a complete mess that almost destroys the unexpected fun of Part 4. It does have a pretty sweet Jack O’Lantern open credits sequence though. So that’s something. You know what? Just watch that opening credits sequence. There’s no need to suffer through anything else.

Halloween: Resurrection (2002)
Halloween: Resurrection (2002)

10) Halloween: Resurrection (2002)

Finally, we come to the worst of the worst. An absolutely pathetic excuse for a movie that was made purely because H20 was successful. After an awful opening that undid the finale of H20 and killed of Jamie Lee Curtis, Halloween: Resurrection turns into a grade D horror film about a reality television series that gets an accidental celebrity cameo from Michael Myers. Nothing in the movie works. At the time, producers tried to make it sound like they were honouring the series by bringing back Halloween II director Rick Rosenthal, completely forgetting that his first cut of that classic required substantial John Carpenter helmed reshoots before release. The only thing worth watching in Resurrection is the interaction between Busta Rhymes and Michael Myers purely for the insanity and accidental hilarity of that meeting of titans. Just check that bit on YouTube, though. No one deserves sitting through this idiocy in its entirety. Watching Halloween: Resurrection would be an effective form of torture, but it’s certainly not an acceptable form of entertainment.

The Park (PC) Review 4

The Park (PC) Review

Near the beginning of The Park, protagonist Lorraine remarks that entering an amusement park involves moving between the realms of reality and imagination. This is true, especially for a game whose focus moves from domestic drama to waking nightmare in the time it takes to pass through a theme park’s gates. But, it also simplifies The Park’s main conceit: that our real lives inform the shape of our imagination. Those two sides aren’t separate. As the game proves through a horror story based on its main character’s darkest thoughts, our fantasies are clearly coloured by our personal experience.   

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The Park – 2015 Funcom

Though The Park is loosely connected to Funcom’s online RPG, The Secret World, it’s also a self-contained story that doesn’t require any foreknowledge. It begins with Lorraine’s young son Callum going missing inside Atlantic Island Park. Though the amusement park is closed for the night and the sun has set, Lorraine is allowed back inside so she can search the grounds for her child. The player assumes her role, following Callum’s faint voice through deserted pathways and onto attractions like roller coasters and ferris wheels.

The Park is a story-focused exploration game, concerned with narrative and establishing its eerie atmosphere above anything else. The plot is delivered through Lorraine’s inner monologue and the (overly familiar) convention of notes scattered throughout the environment. These are written by the park’s creator, employees, and, most tellingly, through police and psychiatrist reports. Some of this writing is overwrought—mostly in moments where Lorraine’s musing turns to abstract concepts or park workers pen reports in the style of budding suspense novelists—but it’s largely effective in communicating a story concerned with grief and the unspoken taboos of post-partum depression.

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The Park – 2015 Funcom

The central mystery—where Callum has disappeared—is effective at investing the player in the game, which is good, considering that The Park’s plot remains almost entirely opaque until its final scenes. As Lorraine combs the environment, she describes the experience of being a single mother. The player slowly comes to understand her background and family history as the story unfolds, but, as interesting as the process of discovery is, too many details are held back. This approach is obviously meant to make the game’s ending more surprising. But despite how the conclusion stands out as both horrifying and emotionally resonant, the plot suffers in a lead-up that can feel a bit aimless.

Fortunately, The Park’s visual design helps pick up some of the slack in moments when the story lags. Though the player is often free to explore on their path through the game, the developer has cleverly constructed certain parts of the environment in order to directly frame their scenes. These are The Park’s most effective moments. Approaching a ferris wheel, the field of view is bordered by shadowy, fog-shrouded pines, and the spokes and seats of the ride loom above the player like an ominous giant. As Lorraine enters the house of horrors that serves as the conclusion’s setting, the player’s sense of freedom is constrained in narrow hallways and small rooms. In these moments, The Park’s environments become either appropriately grandiose or nightmarishly claustrophobic, which does a fantastic job of making the experience itself reflect Lorraine’s increasingly tortured thoughts.

The Park - 2015 Funcom
The Park – 2015 Funcom

If Funcom had been able to maintain this level of control over the game’s entire one to two hour runtime it may have helped focus the experience. As it is, The Park is a bit of a flawed gem—fascinating in its intent even as it’s let down in its execution. The game has a great, haunting story to tell, but it stumbles a bit too often in conveying its narrative to fully capitalize on the concept. There are plenty of reasons to admire what The Park gets right—and much to laud in its attempt to blend the real and imaginary in such a seamless, horrifying way. It’s diminished, though, by uneven pacing and a desire to increase the impact of an ending that would have been just as strong if the preceding scenes were more clearly told.

GWAZY Ltd’s Trading Platform Now Offered by HiWayFx

LIMASSOL, Cyprus, Oct. 30, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — via PRWEB – Forex broker HiWayFX has recently announced their cooperation with GWAZY Ltd. HiWayFX is now offering demo and live accounts with the innovative GWAZY trading method and platform.

The GWAZY platform can be mastered in less than 10 minutes, regardless of the background of traders. GWAZY was created to provide traders with all the benefits of margin trading but without the complications, by incorporating various trading principles into one fast and robust trading method, making trading easier than ever.

To trade on GWAZY, all traders need to do is select instrument, the return percentage which varies between 25%, 50%, 100% or even 200% depending on the risk appetite, the amount of investment starting from $10 up to $250 and the direction of the market – up or down.

One of the main advantages of GWAZY trading is that risk and return levels are predetermined therefore all information is crystal clear to traders at all times. Traders can also try a free demo of the GWAZY platform and join contests free on the GWAZY League.

“The exciting gaming environment offered by the GWAZY platform opens new doors to brokers, giving them the opportunity to capture different market segments as most trading platforms that are currently available in the market reflect more ‘traditional’ trading methods. We would like to welcome HiWayFX on board and look forward to more brokers joining us” said Martin, Head of Development at GWAZY Ltd.

More information on the GWAZY White Label can be found here.

About GWAZY Ltd.

GWAZY Limited (Ltd) is the technology provider, developer of the GWAZY Trading Platform, the GWAZY Trading Method and the GWAZY League.

About HiWayFX

HiWayFX is an online Forex broker offering trading services internationally. Their aim is to provide clients with the highest quality services and innovative solutions for Online Trading.
They offer many beneficial options for successful trading.

This article was originally distributed on PRWeb. For the original version including any supplementary images or video, visit http://www.prweb.com/releases/2015/11/prweb13054125.htm

CONTACT: Gwazy Ltd.
         Graham Moss
         [email protected]
         +44 207 117 2081


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