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Late Call Of Juarez: Bound In Blood Review

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Stats:
Played on PS3. Released 3rd July 2009. ‘Late’ly completed 2nd October 2017. Socially behind – 8 Years & 3 Months

Stats:Played on PS3. Released 3rd July 2009. ‘Late’ly completed 2nd October 2017. Socially behind – 8 Years & 3 Months

I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had momentarily played a Juarez game previously, resembling an arcade shoot-em up with cardboard cutouts, but having seen true 3D models in the screenshots, I was intrigued. So it was a nice surprise to find myself on the frontlines of the American Civil war.

The game does fantastically crack that period in American history, covering the end of the American war, American Indians, American cowboys, American farmsteads, American weapons etc. It’s a good portal for going back into seeing how things certainly looked and behaved back then in America. If a game was made of the UK back in that same time period (asides from AC: Syndicate which I imagine dramatizes the standard life an average man who spent most of their time down the mines), it couldn’t be made to be as entertaining with the lack of wars and cowboys.

The story is of two/three brothers depending on viewpoint, consisting of two playable brothers that are battle hardened, six-shooter in hand and ready to blow anyone that threatens them away. The third brother, a pacifist, preaches the word of God, and believe his brothers are falling down a slippery slope of sin, trying to rescue their morals and souls. The story covers the brothers as they escape from the civil war, going south looking for a means to make money to rebuild their lost family home. I won’t say anymore as it helps to experience the story firsthand, but I can’t go without saying that the fatherly brother does get annoying at times, and the ending (which I’m curious as to how it’s told depending on who you play as throughout the campaign) was a bit ludicrous, but then again, only in America, which doesn’t come as much of surprise.

Throughout the campaign, you can choose which of the two main brothers you can play as, the older brother Ray who specialises in six shooters or Thomas, who can reach high heights and specialises in rifles. I played as Ray for the campaign, being an older brother myself, but Ray isn’t exactly the most relatable. Having chosen a brother, AI will control the other in the campaign, with no ability in the game for co-op which seems to be an absolute missed opportunity. The third brother, William is unplayable at all, tagging along to his brothers even in the middle of gun fights with bullets flying over head, and is for the majority of the campaign the narrator of the story. I think there is supposed to be some replayability to the game by selecting the other brother in your second playthrough, but 8 hours was enough for me and I’m not the biggest fan of replaying games for practically no benefit to story or personal respite.

The game is played from a first person perspective, with your selected weapon viewable in hand in front of you, as you shoot through linear map designs of trenches, towns and mining caves. You can select a weapon from a dial wheel, either using six-shooters, rifle or sniper, bow & arrows, knifes and depending on brother, throwable dynamite or rope & lasso. With pistols, you can have one in each hand, just spraying the screen with bullets but with barely any aim, or you can just use the one handgun and now able to zoom in when shooting opponents. Rifles I found throughout the gameplay to be the most balanced for accuracy, power and rate of fire, though reloading could take quite a while. Weapons also come ranked, ranging from feeble 1 star weapons to golden 3 star weapons that have the best stats. You might find these lying around, otherwise ensure to collect enough money during levels to purchase both brothers a full arsenal of golden weapons for the end fight.

There’s plenty of ammo littering levels, so on normal difficulty, it’s easy enough to complete levels as long as you keep an eye on health and don’t let snipers take your head off. On the subject of heads, shooting enemies is either getting instant headshots or shooting body and limbs a few times to stun them momentarily. After shooting six enemies in a row, you power up a gauge to go into a Max Payne shooter mode, in which time slows down, allowing you to pass the cursor over enemies a few times, placing markers which is where you shoot all at once when you press the initiate button. Helps when a large group of enemies rush you at once. What you definitely notice is the lack of automatic weapons which is prevalent in any modern day shooter, of course due to the era we’re playing in. It means that every one of your shots counts, as you can no longer spray an area an enemy could be taking cover in, and you also have limited ammo before having to reload, which takes a long time overwise to do, so you need to take out enemies as quickly and efficiently as possible before they manage to advance too far forward to a point where they’re going to pin you down and thus kill you. It does feel that each kill achieved though is just that slightly more gratifying seeing as you’ve definitely had to work for it.

Alongside ballistics, you can also pick up props such as chairs and lamps littered around to attack with, and as in any shooters, you might also find a few explosive barrels to shoot that are conveniently situated right next to held up enemies. Controls can feel a bit sluggish, probs due to being used to the smooth and responsive sensitivity of PS4 games and controllers. What would also tend to happen is that whilst aiming, the screen would go out of focus which required having to strafe or circle your aim around. This was quite common and would get infuriating at times not being able to see anything that was happening on screen as you were shot from 5 different directions, whilst trying to line shots up. Otherwise, when it is working fine, you’re taking cover behind walls, boxes and barrels, simply by pressing up against it, shooting at not the smartest of AI as they pop their heads out, even though they’re otherwise fully capable of shooting you from the side of cover even when they’re not looking.

The graphics in the game are mediocre, straining the PS3 to render the far draw distances alongside the many props in the local vicinity. In each chapter of the game, there is a new biome introduced, either with trenches in the middle of brown farming fields, or the rich green trees within a virtually untouched valley. As the protagonists travel to different parts of America in each chapter, the developers have done a great job of only using trees unique to those areas, so great to see they hadn’t just used one tree over and over, instead creating entire forests of many different species of trees. In the first chapter, with the trenches and cannons scattering a barren countryside, the levels are mostly of a brown hue, which can make it difficult to make far off objects out due to the restricted 720p resolution, aswell as unfortunately suffering from choppy frames. Character models do look good though, and allow for a close up on props from another time to have a gander at.

Just a quick mention of the music, the soundtrack is great, with a great western setting to it. When the action does pick up, a rock’n’roll vibe drops out of nowhere which adds great emphasis to the scene.

Throughout levels, the game would freeze at times when saving or loading up the next part which wasn’t the best of experiences in a time when developers had gotten to grips with load areas, etc, but I wonder if it’s now my PS3 that’s taking a while to just load these areas due to it’s age and the fact it’s had the same hard-drive in it now since day dot. Off the top of my head, I think my PS3 is now 6 years old! so it does deserve some love and I should really get round to buying it a new hard-drive I think atleast, but it’s just being conservative with cash as my PS4 could possibly benefit from a SSD upgrade, in which I might actually throw that old HD into the PS3, but I’m now digressing, so let me get back on topic.

During levels, there were various challenges and game modes you would play in, such as either the basic traversing through levels on foot, shooting enemies, or when trying to take out an old-skool gattling gun from afar, or on horseback, having to shoot opponent riders trying to mount your stagecoach. Essentially basic now for any shooter, but it’s good to see that all this has been included. Each level finishes with a duel against the level’s boss, in which you circle around each other, waiting for that spaghettie western bell to ring once, causing both sides to draw their pistol and shoot first. Fantastically captures the tension experienced before a draw, with the sweat running down your forehead for that death-defying moment. Having said that, I did fail at it often and had to retry a few times before winning, so it’s certainly a good thing I don’t live in those times, I doubt I would have survived long.

There are also parts of the game in which the level will expand out to a large playfield, taking 10 minutes to cross on horseback, in which you have full freedom to explore and complete a couple of varied side missions such as clearing areas of enemies or hunting down wanted men. These made for a fantastic break from the conventional linear playstyle, expanding gameplay to the point which means that the game felt great to play through, experiencing all these numerous playstyles, even though you can skip if you so desire to, but I wouldn’t advise it as it’s a good opportunity to acquire money and just experience the game as a whole.

It’s unfortunate that once again I didn’t have the means to take screenshots in the game, as there are some memorable moments and scenes I would have liked to share, but I’ll find something on the Internet. In the mean time, I have finally managed to hook up my PS3 to an elgato to an old laptop, which though it can’t record video past 720p, can atleast take absolutely fine screenshots, so I now have something for these PS3 reviews from now on.

One of the little touches I have to applaud is during a certain level when running some enemies out of a local mine, there would be blasting going on somewhere in the background as regular workers carried on with their mining, which would be seen on screen and felt in the controller via vibration, which I thought was a great effect and reminded me of the one time I felt an earthquake at school due to the local limestone quarry having an especially larger than normal blast.

Online multiplayer is absolutely dead. I gave it 5 minutes in a lobby a couple of times, but nothing. In the campaign, there are also secrets that you can collect in hidden areas, which unlock real-life photos of 19th Century America and fictitious memories from the main characters which don’t really add much to the lore or story of the game, so good effort to the voice actors for hanging around in the studio to record this non-essential pieces. The achievements in the game are easy enough to acquire, apart of course the multiplayer ones, even though I still someone managed to unlock one in regards to completing an objective… The best single player achievement is High Noon, getting 4 kills between 12 – 12:15 PM local time, which I managed to get due to getting bored one day and booting up the game luckily enough at 11:55 AM without even realizing.

I’m not the biggest fan of the story, following in some way a traditional western story, with twists and turns that don’t exactly thrill me, with two brothers at times fighting over some of the most stupidest of shit, but atleast they always come together to take the rest of the world on. The voice acting is mediocre, but the story is told well enough via the characters. Compared to Red Dead Redemption, I do find Red Dead to be the better game with much better game mechanics and story, but Call Of Juarez has a charm to it, covering the wilderness of the entire American continent during the 1800s that makes it a great one to play for history buffs and fans of first person shooters.

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Overlooked RPGs that are worth playing today

Great games that didn't get enough love.

Few genres have as rich and varied a history as the noble RPG. We love a good, long, talky adventure, preferably with a nice leveling system with a little bit of crafting, alchemy and, if we're especially lucky, a lovely cloth map. But not every RPG is born equal, and games deserving of recognition and success sometimes sink into obscurity. Perhaps they came out at the same time as a blockbuster competitor, perhaps they had flaws that put players off, or just looked ugly.
To compliment our list of the best RPGs ever (which some of these games are included in), we've collected a ragtag ensemble of our favorite tales that didn't get enough love. Some are old, some are new, but all are worth installing and enjoying today. If you have any recommendations you'd like to add, share away in the comments.

Alpha Protocol

Released: 2010 | Developer: Obsidian | Steam
For all its clunkiness, Alpha Protocol is the closest we might ever come to Mission Impossible: The RPG. It's Obsidian's take on the typical BioWare adventure, only with elves replaced with Russian mafia, set in a murky world of espionage, double-crossing, and quintuple-crossing. Although you can't choose your character (you can give him a magnificent beard), you will diverge the story in many fascinating, well-written and surprising ways.

King's Bounty: The Legend

Released: 2008 | Developer: Katauri Interactive | GOG, Steam
The Heroes of Might & Magic series was in a rut by the time The Legend came along. Out of nowhere, this belated King's Bounty sequel grabbed the tactical RPG genre by the scruff of the neck and took it somewhere fresh, bizarre and exciting. While it looks like a typical HoM&M-type game on the surface, The Legend's charming world features some of the craziest, most memorable quests you'll ever embark upon.

Risen

Released: 2009 | Developer: Piranha Bytes | GOG, Steam
The series lost its way a little after this first installment, doubling down on its previously fairly subtle pirate element, but the first Risen is still a compelling exploration RPG. It's Gothic without all the orcs, essentially, boasting an open tropical island where a humiliating bird-based death is usually only around the corner. Choose a faction, and pick your way through a hostile jungle teeming with enemies and secrets.

Arx Fatalis

Released: 2002 | Developer: Arkane Studios | GOG, Steam
Arkane's spiritual sequel to Ultima Underworld dialled down on the heroism and optimism, infusing the first-person dungeon crawl with a healthy dose of gloomy atmosphere and, appropriately, the arcane. It's an immersive RPG set in a shrivelled, sunless world, where civilization has retreated under the surface. Ultima has it beat on scale, but this is a worthy, if divergent follow-up. How about a sequel, Arkane?

Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura

Released: 2001 | Developer: Troika Games | GOG, Steam
How about that for a title? Arcanum was the debut game of Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines creator Troika. The team was comprised of ex-Fallout devs, and so, unsurprisingly, Arcanum is a sort of Steampunk Fallout. It's about the struggle between magic and technology—a fantasy world in the midst of an industrial revolution. Much like Bloodlines, enjoyment of Arcanum is made easier with the help of mods and fan-made patches.

Neo Scavenger

Released: 2014 | Developer: Blue Bottle Games | GOG, Steam
A permadeath survival RPG with brutal turn-based combat. If you're not killed in a fight, you'll be killed by your wounds. And if they don't get you, a lack of clothing, shoes or food is sure to be a problem. Death isn't something to be feared, though. Each playthrough randomises parts of the map, so you're never sure what you'll find or where you'll find it. Add to that a large list of skills and you're guaranteed new rewards and dangers with each new inevitably doomed life.

Regalia: Of Men and Monarchs 

Released: 2017 | Developer: Pixelated Milk| GOG, Steam
Inheriting a kingdom sounds great, but Ascalia comes with a mountain of debt so high there's snow on top. To provide homes for its cute anime characters you go adventuring, because there's always money in wolf-murder. Dungeons in Regalia are whimsical choose-your-own-adventures where you meet zombies who don't know they're dead and people who are in love with elementals, broken up by grueling turn-based combat. While fights can be fussy and repetitive, you can knock down the difficulty or just hit the auto-win button when you get bored—and when you're in a boss fight or one where positioning matters because you're fighting in a field of fire or defending walls from samurai dwarves, you can knock the difficulty back up and get to work.
A kingdom's more than just money, though. To prove you deserve that inherited title you spend time with citizens and your new companions, ticking off the days on a calendar (that also contains looming debt-repayments) getting to know people in a warm and fuzzy friendship simulator. Regalia's a cosy RPG, the kind that has a fishing minigame and where the vampire's dark secret is that he'd really rather be a hairdresser.

LISA

Released: 2014 | Developer: Dingaling | Itch.io, Steam
This indie RPG is like playing the SNES classic Earthbound while having a bad mushroom trip. It retains the former's cooky charms but poisons all the kid-friendly stuff. In a bleak post-apocalyptic future where women don't exist, perverts have taken over. It's a bad place to be the surrogate father of a young girl, but our hero, Brad, has no choice. LISA is sometimes hilarious, sometimes gut-wrenchingly bleak, and always bizarre as hell. Its combat is too basic, and Brad's journey can sometimes feel too cruel—what with being able to permanently lose your limbs and party members—but LISA is an incredible homage with a morbid twist.

Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale

Released: 2010 | Developer: EasyGameStation | Steam
If you've ever wondered what life is like for the NPCs of a town, Recettear is for you. In it, you play as the owner of an item shop. You manage every aspect of the store, including haggling with heroes over the price of goods. It's not just management, though. Recettear lets you go off adventuring in search of rare stock—exploring randomised dungeons to liberate items from their previous owners.

Anachronox

Released: 2001 | Developer: Ion Storm | GOG, Steam
One of the quirkiest RPGs ever. Anachronox is a screwball sci-fi romp that spans six planets and stars some of the strangest party members in the genre. It wasn't considered pretty at launch, and time has been unkind to the chunky heroes, but that can't dull the wit and imagination of the universe all these years later. The turn-based JRPG-esque combat system isn't terrible either thanks to the wide array of odd alien gadgets that make up your armoury. Even if that's not to your taste, it's worth powering through to watch Boots and Stiletto fall from one madcap scenario to the next.

Toukiden 2  

Released: 2017 (2016 originally) | Developer: Koei Tecmo| Steam
Toukiden: Kiwami was a fine action game heavily inspired by Capcom's Monster Hunter series. Fun game, shame about the PC port. Happily, with Toukiden 2, developer Koei Tecmo delivered a fun, demon-dismembering action game and playable frame rates. The sequel retains the mythology-inspired monsters that distinguish Toukiden from games like Dauntless and Monster Hunter, and piles on a ton of new features and weapons that fill the gaps in the original. It's basically Oni Hunter, and it's stupid fun.

Cosmic Star Heroine

Released: 2017 | Developer: Zeboyd Games| GOG, Steam
By far the most ambitious RPG by Cthulhu Saves the World developer Zeboyd Games, Cosmic Star Heroine aims to mix Chrono Trigger's on-map battles and Phantasy Star's sci-fi vibe in a new indie concoction. It didn't get the attention it deserved when it released, but as usual Zeboyd cooked up a clever battle system that takes something from classic RPGs (like Chrono Trigger's team-up attacks) and channels it into something fast-paced and new. A JRPG that's not just nostalgic for the 16-bit days, but actively attempts to improve upon its inspirations.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel

Released: 2017 (Originally 2013) | Developer: Nihon Falcom | GOG, Steam
Developer Nihon Falcom's Legend of Heroes games are slow burns, gradually adding depth and richness to fairly cliche JRPG setups over dozens of hours. Trails of Cold Steel tells a parallel story to the older Trails in the Sky, and its more recent arrival on PC makes it an easy starting point. You play as a student in the military academy of the Erebonian Empire, and the story balances student life with the political flux of a nation ready for war. Structurally, Cold Steel borrows from the console RPG series Persona's take on daily student life. This is definitely one to play if talking to every NPC and piecing together their small stories is your favorite part of a Japanese RPG.

Avernum: Escape From the Pit 

Released: 2011 | Developer: Spiderweb Software | GOG, Steam
Spiderweb Software's Avernum: Escape From the Pit is as old-school as it gets: Hand-drawn, text-heavy, vast, and dangerous. It also provides a remarkably open-ended experience that you don't often see in big-budget RPGs. Following your banishment to the underworld, you can opt to stay there and help forge a new society, make a break for freedom on the surface, or even try to get some payback from the cruel Emperor who threw you into the pit in the first place. It's a very niche and demanding sort of experience, but if you're willing to put in the effort, Escape From the Pit (and the five Avernum sequels that have so far followed) will pay off in spades.
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Top 5 Bad Guys From Video Games

Looking back at games I’ve completed to come up with this list, I do find that most individual bad guys are usually nothing but forgettable place holders, only an obstacle to overcome as a boss at the end of the game, whilst throughout the rest of the game, they’re nowhere to be seen, not really bring anything additional to the experience. Only are there a few examples that counter this stereotype, of enemies that drag the story by its hair, forcing you to look at the cutscene as the voice actors put on some of the best performances of their life. These enemies are so harrowing and convincing, both they and the story comes off as much more realistic, alongside being much more emotional and memorable, sometimes doing a better job than the protagonist at carrying the story. What follows is my top 5 list of Bad Guys that have defined some of my most favourite gaming moments.

5. Guy sat on bog (GoldenEye)

Now bear with me here, as I’m being dead serious. The reason why I mention our Russian friend enjoying his time on the toilet is because he’s so familiar to many of us. Just the simple mention of him, and I know that we all have the same image in our heads, looking down on the guy from an open vent as he’s sat there, oblivious to being spied on as he takes care of business, whilst we’re deciding which gadget to take him out with. I’m pretty much sure this guy has suffered numerous ways of humiliation at the hands of millions of players, shooting his little cap off for him not to notice, or opening his cubicle door to karate chop him in the face. Maybe it was placing c4 around him or taking pictures with the camera on your watch.

Playing this game as a kid, I struggled for ages to complete the entire game, and even then badly. So just replaying the first few missions over and over, was pretty much my thing, exploring levels throughout hoping for secret areas etc. Torturing the guy on the toilet made up most of my time playing Goldeneye if I wasn’t otherwise playing golden gun mode on multiplayer. Whilst the overall story in both the game and movie are spot on, nothing scared me more than when the guy finally noticed me up in the vent, running into my cubicle to shoot up at me. I would retreat, consigning James Bond to nothing but a rat stuck in a vent.

4. GLaDOS (Portal 1 & 2)

The robot with a human attitude. The Aperture Science Laboratories seem to have a knack for making robots that are very bad at being robots, imitating the humans that no longer seem to populate the test center. GLaDOS is the strict headmistress of Aperture, a swivelling head that rolls on rails from room to room, in charge of conducting ongoing tests with her human test subjects whilst looking after the dilapidated laboratory. In the first Portal game, she treats you as a lab rat, pushing and poking you through her experiments with her lingual jabs and see-through promises. She eventually becomes the antagonist as your nameless character looks for a means to escape from the facility, finally getting into the hub that contains GLaDOS’ mainframe, ensuing a battle requiring portals to direct the rockets she fires, back at her.

The voice of the robot is fantastic, with Ellen McLain’s voice broken over a saw-wave frequency, allowing for a creepy, analytical effect to further emphasise GLaDOS’ homicidal phrases. In Portal 2, though she starts off as the bad guy, it soon turns around as she is forced into a mini computer powered by a potato. I absolutely laughed at this and there’s an entire story arc here, being able to discover about GLaDOS’ past and the history of Aperture. Her character is really well ingrained into the story as a whole, carrying the series brilliantly and I don’t think it could have worked out any better for the games. She’s a fantastic ‘bad guy’ and I hope to see more of her sometime in the future.

3. Dark Link (Zelda: Ocarina Of Time)

One of the greatest boss fights I’ve had the joy and frustration of experiencing. You fight against Dark Link as a middle boss in the Water Temple in Ocarina of Time. Bearing in mind that the Water Temple upto this point had been a bitch to solve, with spiders jumping on me from left, right and above, walking into a certain tranquil room, I thought I could finally get some peace. The room is beautiful to explore, walking atop a lake of shiny liquid, which is reflected along the far-reaching walls. In the centre of the room is a small island with a tree. Exploring around this doesn’t reveal anything unusual, so we advance to the door at the back of the room, only for the dark circle underneath us that has been our shadow this whole time to roam back to the tree, in which Dark Link emerges from. Now the appearance of Dark Link is fantastic, being a carbon copy of our Link, holding a Master Sword with which he’s coming right at us with.

This is a fight that you have to think on your feet for, as Dark Link is able to evade our attacks, and not only that, he can counter attack whilst standing atop our own sword. Having to time your attacks just right is critical, unless you put him in a corner and spam attack. He also has the ability to sink into the ground and reappear at any moment behind you, requiring fast reflexes to jump out of the way of his attack. The more damage you do get on him, the more he’ll come back hitting, getting faster and more agile. It’s a great sensation knowing that Dark Link is just as powerful as regular Link, maybe even more powerful seeing as he has certain additional abilities and moves, which means we have to give it our all just to be that millisecond quicker on the attack. I enjoyed my encounter with Dark Link, a boss that helped give the Water Temple its reputation. I really did consider him a commendable adversary and would have really liked to have had him appear in future games of the series as a more mainstream character, specially more so in Twilight Princess with the shadow realm, but other than a glimpse, he makes no other appearance. He does make his appearance’s in Smash Bros, so Nintendo do still acknowledge him, it’s just making him relevant to the series. Otherwise in Breath of the Wild, he’s nothing but a skin for Link which I again just think is a real shame. Will always be keeping my eye out for his return one of these days.

2. The Joker (Batman: Arkham series)

To be honest, the assigning of positions for one and two was up in the air, but seeing as The Joker from Batman does get to benefit from mountains of lore from comic books, cartoons and films, he’s already a well established character, whilst the bad guy we’ve chose for the number one spot is purely from a video game, so I think he just edged in front for his win of being the most homicidal bad guy in video games, but that’s not to say that Joker pulls his punches.

The Arkham series of Batman games has been some of the best RPGs I’ve ever had the chance to play. Setting aside the fantastic story, exploration and combat, the characters really bring the game to life, none more so than the Joker. Joker is usually 5 steps ahead with his plans, planning to the finest of details every possible scenario that can occur, so that he can throw some of the wildest ideas Gotham has seen. Being able to work off Batman’s weaknesses, the Joker will always make time for the Bats, usually trying to get into his head and question the status quo. He doesn’t think twice when torturing those loyal to him, and embellishes in wiping out his enemies. His positive attitude and laugh ensures that tense situations feel creepy as fuck, and yet still manages to scare you further when his temper flares within a flash, a not-so-happy clown any longer.

Mark Hamill so wonderfully brought this character to life, with the amazing voice acting and really deserves an award for sticking with the Joker for so long. To act as one of the most devilish characters in all of fiction for the length of time he has, I can’t believe Hamill is as cool headed as he is today in real life. Joker really is Batman’s opposite in every way, and the clash of personalities plays out fantastically in the Arkham series. Fighting against the Joker whilst he’s jacked up on roids was pretty cool in Arkham Asylum, and I was in awe of the inner battle Batman experiences throughout Arkham Knight, with the Joker tagging alongside in the darkest corners of Batman’s mind. Sadly Arkham Knight was to be Hamill’s last performance as the Joker, but who knows what the future has in store. All I do know is that I suffer from nightmares thanks to Joker’s cackling laugh.

1. Vaas Montenegro (Far Cry 3)

I’m at a loss. How do I praise the most psychotic villain we’ve ever had the pleasure of facing. How do I ensure he receives full credit for being the ultimate bad-ass. How do I put into words that after his death, I was at a loss and no longer wanted to play the rest of Far Cry 3.

A great hero is nothing without a great villain.

Jason Brody would have accumulated to nothing if it wasn’t for Vaas, mentoring him from the sidelines in how to survive the jungle and more importantly, amongst people.

The interactions we have with Vaas throughout the game, absolutely sets the tone of the game. Being captured by pirates, you find yourself and your brother tied up in a bamboo cage, watching footage of your time on the island during innocent times. Outside of your cage is Vaas, interrogating his prisoners as though they’re game show contestants, breaking up his calm demeanour with flashes of aggression, remarking that you are now his bitch. He tells you exactly how it is, facing the truth of our lifestyles seen from the sides of those on the poverty line. After daring your escape with your brother, making it to the edge of the compound, whilst discussing your next move, Vaas shows up behind you both, shooting your brother in his neck. Whilst you’re trying to stem the bleeding with your hands, Vaas walks away, leaving you to your brother dying in your hands.

Throughout the experience, you will face off against Vaas numerous times, with him capturing and trying to kill you a number of times, even being stabbed into the stomach at one point, but you manage to still escape each time and get fixed up. The speeches he gives between each encounter are worthy of being quoted throughout, and generates a menacing feeling in the game. When it comes to the final showdown between the two of you, his sister sends you out to kill him and for some stupid ass reason, you’re on a drug bender, chasing after Vaas and illusions, only for him to jump out and attack you. You manage to turn the knife around, stabbing Vaas, causing hallucinations of Vaas essentially being reborn into Jason. Do we now behave that what we tried to stop? I hated that most of this was nothing but a cut scene, with no challenge required in killing a seasoned warrior like Vaas, and considering your hallucinating most of the time, does any of it really happen? I’m really hoping that Vaas managed to escape for a big comeback, which I was hoping to be Far Cry 4, in which he would have absolutely nailed being in Min’s position, a ruler of an entire country, but it seems Ubisoft struggle at keeping a good thing going.

For dying half way into the game, Vaas had more personality than the protagonist throughout. Once he’s gone, the game becomes extremely dull to play having just hit its peak, with you now essentially doing the same things of acquiring further upgrades, taking over camps, going after other bosses, having to listen to whiny friends back at base over again. The definition of insanity.

The interesting thing is that Vaas didn’t actually exist at the beginning of Far Cry 3’s development. We all have actor Michael Mando to thank for bringing Vaas to life in every sense of the word. Now it is well documented on the Internet, but essentially Mando went to Ubisoft to audition for a different character in the game. His audition was so good, that he was called back to voice a new character that the whole game would be rewritten around because of him. Mando would not only put his voice to the character, but also his face and body image aswell as providing motion capture. At the time of release, Ubisoft also commisioned a web series starring Mando perfectly dressed up as Vaas, hunting down the film maker McLovin. Just like Walter White was a hit for Bryan Cranston, Vaas Montenegro was for Michael Mando. It’s sad to see that he was cut down in his prime, I could have continued playing against Vaas for many games to come.

On the topic of Breaking Bad, Mando is currently in the spin off show, Better Call Saul, and I have to say that he is not only carrying that show, but fucking killing it. If it wasn’t for him, the show should really be called Kim Wexler & Friends, as for Saul, he barely makes an appearance throughout the entire thing. It’s just a shame that Mando can’t go as crazy on set as he was as Vaas, but we atleast see an opposite side to the actor, with his very powerful, emotional performances.

My waffling can do this character no justice, which is why I recommend you read Jennifer Jackson’s article on Vaas, where she meticulously explains the psychology of Vaas and of the relationship between him and Jason.

It feels weird, creating a list of the best villains from video games, as we’re essentially rooting for them to win. Whilst it can be troubling to see parts of ourselves in these characters, we have to remember that these people, who are intelligent and at some point wanted better things for this world, usually suffer some trauma at a turning point in their lifetime, setting them on this course that we find them on, essentially showing how this transformation could happen to the best of us when we lose our way and that it’s important to show compassion to those that are treading a slippery slope. We’re lucky that when we play a game, we get to automatically jump into the driving seat of the hero protagonist, rather than the antagonist who has/wants to set the world on fire, as I’m sure we’d learn more about ourselves, questioning ourselves as the villain than we would ever want to.

Honourable Mentions

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So The Controller I Use Is…

And now onto a fascinating topic I’m sure everyone is dying to know, what is my favourite controller? For those that couldn’t care, than to cut this short, it’s currently the PS4 controller, preferably in black, but if you really want to know why, than read on.

As like anyone else, I’ve used a vast range of controllers over 20 years of playing games, and each generation of console has always brought a new iteration of comfort in our handheld devices that cater more and more to the ergonomics of our hands and many hours long playstyles whilst integrating bold, new features to enhance our interactions with games.

The first controller I have any memory of ever holding was the N64 controller in original grey. I remember as a child having some difficulty understanding where my hands were supposed to be positioned on the controller, so perhaps I’d handled a different controller before that and wondered why the d-pad on the N64 controller wasn’t responsive in Mario 64. Throughout the lifespan of the N64, the family picked up many more controllers for the system, including a rare Pikachu controller that was unfortunately lost (probably stolen by a cousin), and some third-party controllers. I remember the best one out of these being a massive, bright yellow controller with turbo switches for A, B and Z. I’ve since never been a fan of turbo buttons, realising that they’re an absolute pain to handle mid-game, but the responsiveness of this third-party controller was just as good as the originals. At one point, I recall having a rumble pak for the controllers, not quite believing that it required batteries to operate, seeing as they were so expensive back in the day for very little functionality and the additional size of the controller. Next was save card that slotted into the controller, again a pain in the arse deciding between either using the rumble or the save pak to play a game with. When I did discover the PS1, what a marvel to see that it was all integrated into the controller and console.

The next controller I remember handling was for the Sega Megadrive. I wasn’t really a fan of it, with upto 6 buttons on the right that became confusing to use, and a D-pad that felt squishy. Around this time, I recall having some form of Commodore, mashing buttons on the keyboard to get some response out of the game. Something that went well over my head at that age.

Next, came the Super Nintendo controller, which I fell in love with, probably due to the coloured buttons of X, Y, A, B, and later due to the R & L buttons which gave much extra functionality to games. It’s thanks to this that I was influenced to buy my SNES themed New 3DS console, and I still use a USB SNES replica controller today for retro games on the Raspberry Pie.

Some time later, I recall the Gravis controller for PC being the next one that I spent a vast amount of time with. I remember playing Big Red Racing for hours on end with my Gravis, hitting the horn button on a jump to shout “Wooohooo!”. The controller was a cross between a SNES and PS1 controller, but interesting the D-pad could be made into a makeshift joystick by screwing in a small rod into the center of the pad. Come to think of it, I remember having a small device that would magnetically attach over the top of arrow keys on a keyboard to provide some form of a joystick in PC mouse and keyboard games. Back in those days, USB was still gaining foot, so instead these controllers relied on serial ports. I remember daisy chaining something like 3 of these off a single port.

Quite a long while later, I finally got my hands on a PSone. Though I used to play on one over at a friend’s house, it took a while to get used to the configuration having played the N64 most of my life, but what followed was an introduction into how games should be played, with two analogue sticks for movement and viewing, whilst having a plethora of buttons for controlling everything else with. On the PSone, I prefered playing the RPGs, not really a fan of action games until the PS2 came along, which showcased many awesome shooters that the PS controllers excelled at.

I give credit to Playstation for keeping the shape of the controllers essentially the same over the first 3 generations, meaning that we didn’t have to break familiarity with our input device and just be able to jump straight into games on the new consoles, unlike Nintendo and Microsoft that required a few days to get used to, and even then made it feel weird going back to play on an older console after getting used to the new one.

So we get to a stage in the story where I was able to compare new generation of controllers side by side from having owned all three systems at the same time. But just before we do get to those comparisons, I just want to make a quick mention of the NES, which was around the time of the PS2 that I managed to pick one up for the first time in my life, and I have to say that I wasn’t really a fan. I get that the games at the time didn’t require a tonne of buttons, but the lack of buttons to what I was used to make me feel that I didn’t have as much control over the game. Secondly, I can’t say I liked the bleak greyness/yellowing of the controllers and lastly but most importantly, I hated the sharpness of the corners of the controller, including the corners of the D-pad that would essentially scratch up my hands.

Now back to 6th generation controllers, at some point or other, I owned all systems but the Dreamcast, which I can’t say I’m fussed about as I’ve never been a fan of Sega or their controllers, with the Dreamcast being one of the biggest I’ve handled at a friend’s house, and even then I saw it as nothing but a gimmick having to buy it accessories such as the save modules which I was glad to be rid of from the N64 era. So out of the three remaining consoles, I feel that PS2 was easily the winner, which I had most of my games for and was simple enough to play. I did enjoy the Xbox though it wasn’t until the end of its lifecycle that I finally got used to the very large, heavy controller that contained an extra two buttons over any controllers I’d seen to date, with the black and white buttons which I did actually miss on the 360 controller. Finally the Gamecube, I thought the controller design was abysmal, with buttons thrown all over the place, no real comfort whilst gripping the buttons, trigger buttons that felt like I was pulling back the bolt on a .50 Cal rifle and a c-stick that would lock into 8 positions, clicking every time I moved it to a new position rather than just smoothly sliding there as was familiar with the PS controllers. And the purple plastic did it no favours.

This ofcourse all turned around during the next generation, with the loss of wired connections, instead each console manufacturer opting for wireless controllers. Now I got my Xbox 360 many years before getting a PS3, and to be honest I took to it like bears and honey. I really did appreciate the smaller size the 360 controller was incomparison to its older brother and how the positions of the analogue sticks did feel much more natural. I guess it resembled more like having to hold an N64 controller, only referring to d-pad and function buttons as and when they were they needed. The triggers on the 360 were fantastic, actually trigger-esque with a thin profile that authenticated the experience in shooters such as COD. I liked the bumper buttons, as it says in the name, being able to just bump them to activate that particular action. I liked the feel of the Xbox button in the center, and the functionality that brought to the console, allowing us to jump between system and game in an instance. I also liked how easy it could connect to a PC using a simple wireless adapter, though I did at the time get caught out by the plug-and-play cable, but this gave the controller an entirely new lease of life. What I also liked most about the controllers, though not really officially supported, was all the third party cases you could get for the controller, having a choice of colours and button options to simply customise your controller with. The only thing I could complain about was that I felt the d-pad had gone a bit squishy. But all in all, the ergonomics of the controller was just lush, and remains my favourite of that era.

PS3 on the other hand, when I finally did acquire one, even though the design hadn’t changed, now felt cramped, with hands having to cling onto the sides of the controller rather than being able to wrap around them. The controller sticks now felt out of position having gotten to the 360 layout, and I can’t say I liked the position of the PS button, having to take most of my hand off the controller to reach it. The worst part about these controllers though was the trigger buttons R2, L2. Large buttons that felt squishy with no sense of sensitivity. They didn’t feel responsive in many games and for some reason, most games at the time still required L1 and R1 to aim and shoot, which no longer made much sense. In Dualshock 3, it did include a motion sensor in the controller, but wasn’t really used in games, and when was, usually a pain having to flap the controller around whilst holding it two handed. The Wii at the time, as we know went on to do their own thing, launching a tonne of handheld devices to be used with the system. The most popular being the Wii motion controller, the wireless lightsaber that could detect user arm movements, used for many party games alongside the nunchuck. I loved the name of the nunchuck, it just planted that idea in your head of what you were supposed to use it for. This setup worked fine for most games, with Zelda making full use of the controllers and for more serious gamers, there was pro controllers that resembled PS controllers, though felt quite plasticky for the ‘pro’ status and a pain having to plug it directly into the Wii motion controller, running the batteries down rather than being able to plug directly into the Wii, which was atleast background compatible with wired Gamecube controllers.

On to the final generation at the moment, and having purchased the PS4 first, I feel that that hasn’t actually influenced my decision in naming the PS4 controller the best one I’ve ever used. That’s not to say that it doesn’t have some flaws, but I feel that it does outperform all the overs. So the differences between my original favourite the Xbox 360 controller and the PS4, is that the sensitivity is more accurate on the PS4, picking up the most minute of movements on the sticks, which for HD+ games, really makes the difference having to move your aim just a few pixels. I think Sony took a leaf out of Microsoft’s book, and decided to finally reshape the controller to feel much more friendly in the user’s hands, expanding on the wings to allow for a good grip. There is a rechargeable battery built-in rather than having to buy a standalone kit. The PS4 controller uses a micro USB port for recharging and being able to connect it up for wired play, which then allows it to connect to a PC. Now I’ve found that I do need to have additional software installed to get it to work perfectly in all games, but other than that, it works fine for PC and PS4, plus the fact that it doubles up as a regular bluetooth controller for mobile etc. I do like the idea of the touchpad, offering some additional functionality, which can even be used as a trackpad which is probably needed in this day’n’age. The ‘options’ button, whilst I’m not a fan that it took up the place of the ‘select’ button which has more or less been moved over to the trackpad, I do like having a fast access button for saving videos and screenshots of gameplay. The thing that I like the most about the PS4 controller is just simply the light bar, especially on the newer version of the controller which contains a sliver of the light bar on the touch pad. When I’m playing on PC, I set the colour to a very dull orange, which means it doesn’t become invasive of my sight but looks really good and matches the colour scheme of my PC. On PS4, it’s functional in certain games like Rocket League, flashing in celebration when a goal’s been scored, whilst seamlessly working in tandem with Playstation VR, which I think is a great innovation of PS4, bring cheap VR to the masses. I like the inbuilt headphone port for plugging a headset in and being able to wireless send the sound of the game to your controller. It might not be the best quality, at something like 36Khz, but it’s certainly useable when doing some midnight gaming and not wanting to wake the whole house up. The only niggle that seems to have transferred over are the trigger buttons. Now they are more sensitive and not squishy at all, the only problem is that when putting the controller down, it rests on it’s trigger buttons, activating these buttons which is a pain when watching a video as it usually fast forwards through it.

The Xbox One controller on the other hand, just wasn’t the sequel the 360 controller deserved. The controller was made too bulky, reminiscent of the original Xbox controller. The triggers are wider than traditional triggers, which don’t properly sit flush any longer with the case when depressed in, leaving a horrible gap for grime and dust to get inside the controller. The analogue sticks have a stupid indent in the top of them, which doesn’t help with having grip of the sticks with the tips of our thumbs, and another place where I seem to find grime build up in. The ‘A’ button on mine feels squishy after only something like 10 hours gameplay and the d-pad is nothing to write home about. The worst part is how the plastic frame has been constructed, with seams now down the middles of the handle sections that you use to grip the controller, so now the case depresses in within itself if you squeeze too hard, making a god awful racket of plastic popping in and out-of-place. It also feels like it’s an attempt to weaken the case, so that it will definitely break if the controller is ever dropped, requiring you to buy a new one. For the owners of the original One controller, you need an adapter to be able to plug headphones up, whereas I was lucky in the sense that I got the Xbox S controller which does finally include one. I can’t say I’ve even touched the Wii U pad, with the built-in screen, but in my opinion, having played remote play on my PS Vita which was slightly laggy, I can’t imagine it would be a brilliant experience other than when the screen is used in a second screen capacity rather than as the main screen.

So, I’ve finally covered most of the mainstream controllers in mine non-exhaustive list and come out with the decision that the PS4 controller currently sits as King of the Hill. That’s not to say that at some point, it won’t be knocked off it’s perch by a new contender, maybe it’ll be the HTC Vive motion controllers when I finally get into VR, or something that only requires the powers of our thoughts to operate, who knows where we’ll be in the next 5 years of interacting with games. What I can comment on is that I think the handheld consoles that Nintendo and Sony have put out essentially utilised the features that made their controllers what they were at their peak, with the 3DS and the SNES controller-esque layout and the PS Vita having the revolutionary two analogue sticks, making for some excellent gaming experiences on something that is essentially the size of their console controller counterparts.

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Late Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed Review

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Tower 57 Heads To Steam

Tower 57 Now Available On Steam

If you have a hankering for twin-stick shooters that take influence from the Amiga you might want to check out Tower 57.

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Tower 57 is available now from Steam for £7.71. Look out for an interview with the developers in a future issue of the magazine.

Super Metroid - Depths of Tourian by Elemental79



Watch how this image was made here...
youtu.be/qyrIU_90epw

This is a remastered screenshot from the video game Super Metroid. Released in 1994 Super Metroid featured an open world where bounty hunter Samas Aran must defeat Mother Brain to keep the galaxy safe from improper use of Metroids. There are also space pirates there looking to use Metroids to gain power. I think that is right.

Super Metroid's game style has lived on in many great Castlevania games. These Metroidvania games are amoungst my favorite, but Super Metroid still stands out as the one I'd most like to see in high definition.

In order to give the screenshot a 16x9 aspect ratio this is not an actual screenshot from the game, but made up of several screenshots and sprite sets. Included in this scene is a metroid, which is not accurate to the game, but believable since there wouldn't be a logical reason that one could not wander into Mother Brain's room (And I really wanted to remake the metroid).

Follow me on Twitter @TJT64
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If you like what I do, please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks! www.patreon.com/TJT Watch how this image was made here...This is a remastered screenshot from the video game Super Metroid. Released in 1994 Super Metroid featured an open world where bounty hunter Samas Aran must defeat Mother Brain to keep the galaxy safe from improper use of Metroids. There are also space pirates there looking to use Metroids to gain power. I think that is right.Super Metroid's game style has lived on in many great Castlevania games. These Metroidvania games are amoungst my favorite, but Super Metroid still stands out as the one I'd most like to see in high definition.In order to give the screenshot a 16x9 aspect ratio this is not an actual screenshot from the game, but made up of several screenshots and sprite sets. Included in this scene is a metroid, which is not accurate to the game, but believable since there wouldn't be a logical reason that one could not wander into Mother Brain's room (And I really wanted to remake the metroid).Follow me on Twitter @TJT64

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