Let’s Play Alien: Isolation Last Survivor

Let's Play Alien: Isolation Last Survivor

Explore the uncanny version of the Nostromo as Wayne takes control of Ellen Ripley trying to make her escape from the ship. Wayne must act out the final scene from the movie as the Alien tries to ensure no one escapes the ship alive. Sit back, relax and get ready for a tense gameplay experience that is like no other!

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CGMPodcast Episode 128 – Firmware And Aliens

CGMPodcast Episode 128 -  Firmware And Aliens

On this week’s CGM podcast, the PS4 firmware update is nigh, bringing colours, themes and the ability to play music from a USB stick. Phil watches The Guest, and it’s one of the best hybrid horror movies of the year. Finally, Alien: Isolation is out, and all the fear and anxiety can finally be put to the rest; not only is the game actually good, it’s scary.

You’re Playing It Wrong: How You Should Play Horror Games

You're Playing It Wrong: How You Should Play Horror Games

This week Wayne sounds off about play styles and how some people are playing survival horror games the wrong way. How do you think horror games should be played? Sound off in the comments below!

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Loud Bass ≠ Good Audio

Loud Bass ≠ Good Audio

Over the last couple of weeks, CGM has been going through something of a mad dash in reviewing headsets, something obvious to anyone that checks out our hardware review section. As might be expected by having to spend so much time evaluating sound, it means that a lot of thought has also been devoted to what exactly good sound is. It’s one of those things that separates audiophiles from normal music fans or enthusiasts, in the same way that there’s a clear separation between a hardcore gamer and a casual one. In the world of audio, people care not just about what they’re listening to, but how it sounds, much like an FPS aficionado knows that there’s more to the genre than just killstreaks in competitive multiplayer. And in the same way that casual players often mistake Call of Duty’s multiplayer as the sole reason an FPS is any good, many people that listen to movies and games judge their audio experience by only one thing; how strong the bass is.

In part this is probably the fault of both Hollywood, and big publishers with big budgets such as Activision and Electronic Arts. There’s an understanding that subwoofers, in all their bass-y glory, exist for a reason, and often that reason is to impress owners (or theater attendees) with something so powerful they can literally feel walls and furniture shake. But while it’s nice to know that at least one component of a sound system is earning its keep, it’s a mistake to think that excessive bass means the audio portion of a game or movie must therefore be good.

The SteelSeries H, a headset recently reviewed at the website is a good example of this. It takes a relatively balanced approach to sound, and therefore doesn’t emphasize the bass as much as other headsets. That doesn’t mean it’s bad for gaming (although it can be for music) especially when you consider the other things it offers. It is, bar none, probably the best wireless headset on the market for one genre in particular; horror games. Audio is an absolutely crucial element of a good horror game, there’s not a single horror game on the market that doesn’t have great music, great sound effects or, more often than not, a combination of both. Despite the fact that audio is so important to one of the most memorable experiences in gaming (that is, being terrified) horror games rarely focus on loud explosions that shake the house or your skull with throbbing, nonstop bass. If a horror game were constantly exploding, it would no longer be scary, just irritating.

What makes horror games so effective—and incidentally what makes them the best candidate for playing with good headphones—is the subtle, directional use of sound. When playing a game like Dead Space or Outlast, the shrieking strings and brass instruments will certainly reinforce a good jump scare when it happens. However, the tension that constantly puts the player ill at ease comes from hearing all the other discomfiting sounds constantly playing in the background. Alien: Isolation, which was playable at this year’s E3 is a good example of this. Creative Assembly provided headphones to ensure a decent audio experience and it contributed to the experience immensely. Walking through the halls and hearing the alien scuttling through the ventilation somewhere above was the definition of nerve wracking. Hearing its footsteps in the distance was terrifying even though the sounds weren’t loud at all. And hearing the breathing of Amanda Ripley quicken as the alien stood inches away, separate only by a locker door, ratcheted the stress by orders of magnitude.

In each case, Alien: Isolation didn’t rely on being loud. Instead, it exploited the prey-like role of the player; in the game, you know you are being hunted, and you can even hear your hunter, even if you’re not exactly sure where it is. That is a far more effective use of sound than just making sure a subwoofer is shaking down the house. And it’s an experience that will stay with a gamer long after the novelty of endless explosions has worn off and become white noise that isn’t even noticed anymore.

E3 2014 Was More Relief Than Surprise

E3 2014 Was More Relief Than Surprise

2014 is something of an unusual year as far as E3 goes. We’ve had a lot of game delay announcements and even the games that weren’t delayed were still victims of a protracted development cycle. It’s meant that a lot of games that first appeared at E3 a year ago were still making their appearances this year. It’s also meant that a lot of time has built up for speculation, skepticism and even cynicism, but in some ways, a lot of the doubt was addressed by this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo.

There were a few surprises here and there, such as the unexpected debut of Splatoon or sudden announcement of Grim Fandango coming to the PS4, but by and large, the biggest announcements were the ones we were expecting. Destiny. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Assassin’s Creed Unity. Dragon Age: Inquisition. These are all known quantities, established franchises that people are familiar with. What many didn’t know was whether these games were going to please or disappoint their respective audiences. For the most part, this year’s E3 outing is one of confirmation; these games aren’t likely to suck.

Alien: Isolation for example, is a new kid on the block, but it has a lot of make up for thanks to the disappointing release of Aliens: Colonial Marines last year. For better or worse, Colonial Marines continued the sad tradition of movie-based games in general—and Alien games in particular—failing to capture what makes the franchise so special. For Creative Assembly (a studio better known for strategy games than horror) to pivot on a first person survival horror seems like a foolhardy move. But E3 2014 has come and gone, and with it, a lot of people got a chance to sit down and play the game. The result? Don’t immediately write this game off just yet. Unlike its predecessor, Isolation has tension by the bucket load thanks to a dangerous, frightening, single alien that is every bit the unstoppable killing machine it was in Ridley Scott’s 1979 SF/Horror classic. Skepticism is probably still a healthy thing to have at this stage, but after playing the game, it’s immediate to anyone that Alien: Isolation doesn’t have “instant fail” written all over it as many suspected.

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The same is true of Dragon Age: Inquisition. After the surprise disappointment of Dragon Age II, many thought BioWare had lost its way, and was on a decline similar to what Pixar is now experiencing. After all, no company can be amazing forever, right? Rather than call it Dragon Age III, BioWare is back with a game that needs to unravel that bad taste DAII left in the mouths of RPG fans everywhere. A comprehensive demonstration of Inquisition shows that the game is on the right track. Not only was the world vast, it happily avoided repeating the same dungeon endlessly, something DAII was particularly bad at. Even the more strategic combat of the original Dragon Age has made a return, this time even to consoles like PS4 and Xbox One. In other words, this game is the one that the fans wanted; less Dragon Age II and more Dragon Age: Origins. BioWare has to be credited with at least being willing to experiment with their series, but it’s just as important that they recognize when experiments fail, and it’s time to get back to basics.

Finally, there’s Destiny. Shown off at E3 last year, this is the first non-Halo, multiplatform game from Bungie in years. People were starting to wonder if Bungie was a one trick Master Chief pony, and the strong visual and aural resemblance to Halo made a bad first impression for Destiny. However, it’s an entirely different animal, and after allowing people to play the game and get a taste of the its “shared world shooter” concept, it’s becoming clear that even if this game doesn’t sell Call of Duty numbers, it’s actually trying something different. The idea of wandering around in a world and seamlessly encountering other players has already been experimented with both in friendly terms with Journey and not-so-friendly terms with Demon’s Souls. This is the first time a AAA shooter with a massive budget has gotten the treatment. There’s something very different about wandering the lonely wastes of a ruined, Russian Cosmodrome, only to hear shooting in the distance and realize that that’s another player, caught in a fire-fight, with the choice completely up to you to provide help, or continue on your own quest.

Even if E3 2014 didn’t have as many surprises and “megatons” as past shows, it still did its job. It informed the journalists and industry, and provided a welcome sense of relief that many of the game coming in 2014 might actually be worth their high asking price.

Wayne’s Best of E3 2014

Wayne’s Best of E3 2014

The sharp tang of nerd sweat is slowly fading from the halls of the Los Angeles Convention Centre, but the end of E3 really just means the beginning of the 2014 gaming season. Unlike many past E3s, there were a LOT of known quantities going into 2014, a side-effect of longer development times and many delayed releases. That doesn’t mean there were no surprises, and it’s those unexpected titles that still managed to stand apart from the crowd at this year’s latest Electronic Entertainment Expo.

Alien: Isolation

This is the title that is going to firmly divide a lot of gamers down the line of taste and preferences. Gearbox’s ill-fated Aliens: Colonial Marines tried to be everything to all gamers; an Aliens recreation, a twitchy first person shooter, and a unique competitive multiplayer experience. It failed at its first two ambitions, and just barely rose to the occasion for its third. Alien: Isolation is an entirely different beast, and the keyword here really is “beast” singular. It’s still a first person perspective experience, but now it’s a survival horror game. This means little in the way of weapons, and a profound sense of danger and helplessness. As Amanda Ripley, daughter of the famous Ellen Ripley played by Sigourney Weaver, you negotiate the devastated trading station of Sevastopol, playing a game of cat and mouse against a single, lethal alien as portrayed in the original 1979 film. There’s no running and gunning here, no power fantasies of big guns and bigger explosions. Instead, players must hide and evade, trying to stay one step ahead of a nearly unstoppable predator that has its own lethal artificial intelligence. This alien doesn’t follow any set, repeating patrol paths, and actively hunts by sound or any other disturbance.

This didn’t sit well with some players who prefer a straight up gun fight, but for those that miss the days when the alien was a thing to be feared, instead of just insectile cannon fodder, it was a breath of fresh air. It remains to be seen whether running and hiding can be sustained for the length of a full game, but Creative Assembly has nailed the atmosphere and authenticity of the first Alien film perfectly. There are still other surprises waiting in the wings, like other human survivors on the station as well as the expected not-very-cooperative androids running about.

 

Dragon Age: Inquisition

BioWare is kind’a, sort’a going open world with the latest Dragon Age game, and that means one thing for E3; no chance to actually play it whatsoever. However, that also means a 36 minute, strictly hands off demonstration by none other than Mark Darrah, the executive producer on the game. In the lengthy demo, Darrah showed off a lot of the key features for the Dragon Age: Inquisition, including the introduction of mounts, the vast and richly detailed environments, and the combat. There was more of an emphasis on console friendly, real-time combat, with the player having the ability to jump from one character to another at the touch of a button, but strategic combat was given a tip of the hat so as not to alarm tacticians. It’s there, it’s just obviously not as sexy to look at as the more visceral real time controls with meaty axe hits and powerful spells exploding everywhere.

This was also the first time BioWare unveiled a bit of a surprise for hardcore DA fans; the main character created for the purposes of the demo was a female Qunari mage. In real world terms, this is similar to finding out your roommate is actually Sasquatch; there were rumors, of course, but you never thought you’d actually run into one. The game is looking quite impressive visually, although it still doesn’t have the insane realism of The Order: 1886. The important thing is it’s a literal huge step up from the size and scale of Dragon Age II. The one thing BioWare was painfully aware of going into this year’s E3 was the disappointment of fans with the previous game. They had to prove they’d learned from past failures, and while a 36 minute demo is not a definitive statement of lessons taken to heart, at the very least, it’s a reassuring hint that things really will be different this October. It feels more Origins and less DAII, and that’s what fans are hoping for.

 

Splatoon

I’ve saved the best for last. This is, bar none, the biggest and most pleasant surprise of E3 2014. The most fun, unexpected, original competitive multiplayer shooter of E3 is… a Wii U exclusive. My head still reels every time I consider that. Splatoon is the definition of a “didn’t see that one coming” game. Players control a cartoony squid that transforms into a human armed with a super soaker rifle filled with paint. Two teams are unleashed on a sizable level with the goal of literally painting the floor. The team that paints the most floor by the end of the round wins. This is one of those concepts that falls in the classic easy-to-learn-difficult-to-master category that the best games exemplify. Painting the floor allows players to move at normal speed while human, and move extremely fast when transformed into a squid. Walking over opposing color paint slows players down to a crawl, so there’s an element of strategy and tactics to the painting.

It’s this unexpected presence of strategy that wends its way through all the seemingly comical features of the game. Running out of paint requires refilling by simply sinking into any piece of floor painted in team colors, but this also has stealth options, allowing players to hide in the paint and ambush others when they go walking by. Shooting paint from a rifle is just as obvious as shooting tracer fire in a normal combat game, so whenever that rifle is fired, observant players will immediately know the source. Finally, the squid form, rather than just being odd and funny is all about speed and mobility, with the best players quickly taking advantage of both forms play intelligently and aggressively.

There’s an enormous amount of depth and a surprising amount of fun in Splatoon. It’s a must own title for shooter fans looking for something enjoyable, tactical and different. But you’re going to have to get a Wii U for this gem. To be honest though, even at this early stage, it looks exciting enough to justify it. The Wii U just got its first non-Mario related killer app.