Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Viel Dinosaurier in 1916: Der Unbekannte Krieg

1916: Der Unbekannte Krieg is a free indie horror game by students of the Danish Academy of Digital Interactive Entertainment. Set during World War I, you play as a German soldier trying to escape the creatures that hunt you through the narrow, claustrophobic trenches by reaching the ladder at the opposite end of the territory. The creatures hunting you are dinosaurs, and you have no way of fighting them. You just run, using whatever tools you can find in the death-ridden trenches.

The game is ultimately fairly short and simple -- it only takes a few minutes to beat if you know what you're doing -- but odds are it'll take you several attempts before you really start to figure it out. The main criticism I have if that it takes too much trial-and-error to learn the basic mechanics of the game, which may turn people off, but once you understand how things work and what you're supposed to be doing, 1916: Der Unbekannte Krieg is a really tense, heart-pounding experience.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

You Can't Escape From Nightmare House 2

Nightmare House 2 is one of the coolest horror games I've ever played. What's even more remarkable is that it's a free source mod for Half-Life 2. A first-person shooter with a light emphasis on action and a heavy emphasis on horror, the game begins with you gaining consciousness next to a wrecked vehicle in front of an abandoned house. Which also happens to be haunted. After escaping the house, the rest of the game takes place in the Never Lose Hope Hospital, where you regain consciousness in a padded cell only to find that something else has gone terribly wrong. 

For comparison, Nightmare House 2 feels a lot like the original F.E.A.R. with hints of Condemned: Criminal Origins (both by Monolith), both in terms of quality and content, if you were to take those games and condense them down to about 2-3 hours. NH2 features some very good attempts at horror as well as some decently enjoyable puzzles and action, all tied together with an interesting story. There are a few hiccups in its design, which I'll discuss in the full article, but it's a great game that's definitely worth playing.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Team Fortress 2: Halloween 2012

I'm not a very big fan of Meat Fortress 2. I play it very infrequently, basically only coming back to it whenever there's a major, game-changing update (or whenever friends try to drag me back), and then quickly lose interest all over again. It's like an old acquaintance whom I occasionally speak to out of a sense of obligation, but I don't really enjoy doing so. But since Halloween is approaching and Valve released yet another seasonal event, I figured I'd check it out.

I never bothered with any of the previous Halloween events so I don't know how this one compares to events in the past, but this one just seems like a clusterfuck, full of rage and confusion. Speaking as someone who doesn't enjoy Steam Fortress 2 that much in the first place, the stuff in this event makes me like it even less. More of my pseudo-review of the Scream Fortress 2 Halloween 2012 event after the jump.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Slender Man is Always Right Behind You

Slender is a free indie horror game based on the mythos of the slender man, an abnormally tall, faceless man in a dark suit and tie. Occasionally spotted in the background of photographs, people reportedly go missing and disappear in his presence. He is an entity of pure fear, silently stalking people until they go mad. And then he takes them.

The premise of the game is pretty simple: you're alone in a pitch black wood with nothing but a flashlight at your disposal, tasked with collecting eight pages scattered about the woods. Who you are and why you're searching for these eight pages is never explained; it's just an arbitrary goal to give you something to do whilst being terrorized by the silent madness-inducing presence of the slender man.

My review continues after the jump.

Erie: Somewhat Eerie, Not So Scary

Erie is a free first-person horror game made by students of the University of Utah's EAE Master Games Studio Program, using the Unreal Development Kit. You play as Oliver Victor, a Red Cross investigator circa 1966, sent to search for missing workers after a nuclear power plant suffers a partial meltdown. Once in the facility, you become trapped and have to flee from the mutated horrors and escape with your life.

In terms of horror, Erie is competently designed at first, with effective (albeit somewhat crude) audio and visual effects contributing to the game's immersive atmosphere. For the first several minutes, that's basically all the game is: atmosphere. Your walk through plant provides a basic tutorial for controls, which should be perfectly familiar to anyone who's ever handled a keyboard before, while providing a few atmospheric scares to put you just a little on edge. Bats fluttering out from a vent in the ceiling, a woman crying behind a locked door, sudden noises, monsters darting past a window, and so on.

My reviews continues after the jump.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Killing Floor Halloween 2012: Hillbilly Horror

The folks at Tripwire Interactive recently launched a Halloween event for Killing Floor, their popular co-op zombie shooter. Unlike last year's Halloween event, which was sort of underwhelming because it featured entirely recycled content, this year's introduces entirely new content including completely original specimen skins, a whole new map, eight new weapons, new character skins, and new achievements. Rather than go with more traditional Halloween imagery, TWI have instead elected to poke fun at redneck culture by having you fight mutated hillbillies around a series of trashy mountain homes complete with beer can wind chimes and flame-etched cars.

After the last two weapon updates, I kind of felt like new weapons were the last thing Killing Floor needed, but these new weapons actually feel new and different -- I'm actually excited about working many of these new weapons into my regular arsenal. I'm much less excited about the new map and specimen skins, for various reasons, but the one thing that's got me somewhat annoyed is that TWI are charging money for four of the new weapons. Something they said they'd never do. More of my thoughts on the Hillbilly Horror Event in the full article.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Quick Impressions of Borderlands 2

The original Borderlands was surprisingly fun -- it held my attention for approximately 200 hours across multiple characters and playthroughs -- but it had its fair share of flaws and blemishes which hurt the overall experience. A year ago I wrote an article briefly discussing the kinds of improvements I hoped to see in Borderlands 2, and with 15 hours now clocked in the sequel, I'm pleased to say that Gearbox have taken great care to polish their product. The changes are not particularly dramatic, mind you, but Borderlands 2 offers more of the same great fun from the original with lots of subtle, crucial refinement in the formula. 

Perhaps the most important improvement I've noticed thus far is that they've put a lot more effort into the quest structure. In the first game, quests were shallow, mindless objectives simply there as a means to promote more killing and looting, which sometimes made the game a tedious chore. The quests in BL2 are a little more involved than they were in the first game, giving you more of a storyline setup (ie, a reason to care about what you're doing) and generally more interesting, varied objectives. It feels like the quests are connected to the main story (and your progression through the game world) in a more meaningful way, as well.