This is the first commercial game by the Swedish developer Cactus. To be honest I was hoping it would suck, since meeting and hearing him speak at ITU two years ago, the man, sorry, dude, left me somewhat flat and sceptical.
But this is definitely a good piece of work. It’s hard not to see it as a Cactus-isation of the movie Drive, sans Gosling hotness and with a focus on the bashing of heads against surfaces instead of driving around and then bashing heads against hard surfaces.
What I’ve played so far I found surprisingly refreshing and fluid. It’s all very simple and annoyingly linear, but the game has a very solid vibe to it, creating a world that is palpable and engrossing, despite it’s pixellated simplicity and it’s functional plot-line.
I am guessing (and I hope I’m wrong) it will get repetitive pretty soon, as even after an hour of gameplay I started yawning at the prospect of breaking into yet another room and executing a pre-planned chain of events. Sometimes you fuck up, hit R and do it all over again, but the re-plays fail to be interesting. There are several ways to cut this bloody cake, but the variation is not exactly exciting.
Anyway, will give it a few more hours and report back.
Since I discovered Hero Academy my bathroom visits have become more frequent and much, much longer. Whatever I’m doing during the day I’m hoping my pocket vibrates and it’s Hero Academy calling me to it’s sweet, sweet little grid.
It’s a great little game that is fantastically polished and has some nifty little mechanics that keep it fun after two months of constant playing. It’s your classic turn based grid game with a tiny twist: you can play out your turn and, if you don’t like it erase it and do it again. It’s a simple addition but it allows for the game to cram in a bit of number crunching without making it tedious. You try out a move - if it doesn’t work, wipe and do another.
The interaction between the races is interesting but not exactly well balanced, with the dwarves dominating all others by a good stretch and council being the most challenged. You can still pull off a win with some good strategizing and a bit of luck, but it’s harder going.
Although the game does not use randomness to determine outcome, luck comes into the draw of units and cards you have available to you in any one turn. If you don’t land a healer early on, for example, you’re pretty much screwed. Not an ideal mechanic as this simple occurance can totally screw your game from early on. If it wasn’t for the over-reliance on healers it wouldn’t be so bad.
There goes my pocket again…
So it’s been pretty quite for a while - and that’s because I ve been in the lengthy process of moving to Malta, setting up a game department and… doing a whole lot of other game-related work on the island.
Will resume the gaming and blogging without trying to catch up with everything I’ve played since I stopped writing or I ll never actually start again.
I’m really trying hard to finish this game. Grudgingly. Painfully, dragging my virtual arse through the repetitive and pompous drudgery that is Max Payne 3.
The insane repetitiveness of this game baffles me.
Take a random sample of 5 minutes from any bit in the game. Place a start point at the bit where you’re dropped in the middle of a space surrounded by angry shooting men; got that? Now, fast forward to the bit where your bullets make a slo-mo mess of your last enemy in the section… found it? Ok, place an end marker there. Now loop the that sequence, changing textures and cheesy one-liners splattered across the screen with every iteration of the loop. That is Max Payne 3.
It is sad that in 2012, an elite studio like Rockstar can fail so miserably at producing an interesting game with a fat, fat budget and the mass following a franchise like Max Payne has behind it. Really sad. There seems to be a major effort invested in stripping the game of any inkling of innovation; sticking to the dullest of tried and tested cookie-cutter, cover-shooting, bullet-time-bloated shit mechanics that make the gamer inside me slit both wrists and eat his own head in frustration and boredom.
Filipe Salgado, in his Kill Screen review of the game seems to be squeezing a dead pony for milk when he claims that: “In Max Payne 3, it starts to feel like Houser is deflating the great action star himself, using Max as a metaphor for U.S. foreign policy”. Now that is a really, really long-shot at exalting a mind-numbing shoot-fest to an artifact with some cultural relevance. Let’s not kid ourselves here. The fact that the game mentions the US-Panama debacle in passing goes no distance in distracting the analytical gamer from the mechanical rote that is its gameplay. If we are to be honest critics of the medium we cannot latch on to every minor, redeeming strand of green grass in a field of dead weeds, with grand claims of cultural saviness. A line of meaningful script is utterly inconsequential when the game-mechanics that weave in and out of its narrative goodness do not support its plight for cultural/artistic/social worth.
Max Payne 3 is aggrevating because it has great aspirations, albeit ones tinged with irony, about the saviness of it’s script and visual style while making zero effort at designing game-play and environmental habitation that match those aspirations. The result is a dull, pompous and bloated failure of a game; a waste of resources and potential - yet another cookie-cutter piece of shit on the ever-increasing pile of cookie-cutter pieces of shit that is the vast majority of AAA game landscape.
Getting into the Day Z frame of mind took some time. A game which dropped you cruelly into the world, humid and wheezing, on a beach surrounded by killer players and hungry zombies pushed you to make a plan and make it quick. That plan becomes your guiding light through an endless range of possibilities. Most choices you will make in Day Z will matter. Or at least they will have consequences. In the last session I freaked out when I slipped off the stairs of the barn and used my only morphine shot. Now, because of that, if I fall or break a bone somehow and I’m close to anything hungry for my gear or flesh, I’m pretty much toast. That’s it. One little choice looms over my near future.
I don’t have that much right now, but I have enough not to have logged in since the last session. I don’t want to get clobbered in the dark, so playing at night is out of the question, and due to hunger issues I don’t want to break camp until I have enough hours to dedicate to foraging for food and water. Now that I have some tools to survive better, survival becomes more important and every action more exciting. Friends have asked to join and my initial fervour to team up has disappeared. What if they’re too noisy? What if they attract a bunch of zombies… or players? And the gear we’ll find? We’ll have to split it. They’ll be incompetent. They’ll get me killed. Screw them.
The combination of extreme openness and harshness of the environment, coupled with other players and a few demanding game rules give me players a strong sense of agency. They forge their own ways - and live with the repercussions.
To take a break from the intensity of that experience, and because I’ve been waiting the sequel to Max Payne 1 and 2 for ages, I bought the third instalment of the noir saga and sat down with it yesterday.
The contrast couldn’t have been starker.
Max Payne 3 is not a game. May Payne 3 is a collection of clichés turned into a movie which has short sequences of slo-motion shooting which the player controls to a minimal degree in order to activate the upcoming sequence. Max Payne 3 is a mediocre movie with bits of game-play sprinkled in it.
I’m about half-way into the thing and I’m bored shitless. The action it requires from you has no bearing on the unfolding narrative. This is scripted narrative through and through. You have to do what the thing tells you to do in conditions which sometimes feel rather arbitrary. It feels like someone played a game, recorded sequences of the shooty bits on Fraps and then made you play them. If you match the game-play enough you are allowed to endure a lengthy cut-scene and then continue playing Simon says.
This is not why I play games, and I’d like to think, this is not why games, virtual worlds and environments exist. It’s an insult to the possibilities of the medium.
The action is smooth, the bullet-time done well and the environments have that Rockstar signature on them which says: polished vignettes: do not touch. The graphical style is nauseating. The colours are saturated and the constant double-vision and 80s style lines are tiresome. It would be ok if this was used for a sequence somewhere, but beating the garish style through the game irks me. It has echoes of Kane and Lynch 2, stylistically. A better looking version of Kane and Lynch 2 in every sense: from environments to script to the aesthetic, but a Kane and Lynch 2 cousin, nevertheless - and that’s not exactly a compliment.
Another annoying feature of Max Payne’s visual style is the constant quoting of dialogue smattered across the screen as if every other line written was a golden nugget of literary genius.
The game so far has followed exactly this pattern:
Long cut-scene, pre-action cut-scene, slo-motion shooting from cover, slo-motion shooting while diving every which way, random men dying, slo-motion bullet to bad man’s anatomy, walk 2 metres, rinse repeat a few times, then slo-motion set-piece, long cut-scene followed by long-cut scene and so on…
The game is basically a slo-mo shooting gallery with a lame story grafted onto the end like a human ear on a tired test mouse.
I had more enjoyment, satisfaction and excitement from crawling on my belly for half an hour trying to fill a bottle of water in Day Z than the whole of my Max Payne 3 experience put together. It’s sad that big budgets are poured into such derivative drivel. Drivel dressed in shiny, shiny shoes and make-up, but drivel nevertheless. In Max Payne 3’s case the frustration is even greater since the original had managed to be mass market while remaining original, and this third instalment takes the IP straight into the marsh of generic drool that makes up the vast majority of AAA productions.
I’ll now go to bed fantasising about how great Day Z would be if just half of the money that went into Max Payne 3 would get invested in that. Ok, give me a third. A third will do.
The RPS Blood Bowl league is still rolling. I’ve been fighting for first place with Zoroaster. I was leading with 3 points over him last week following a loss from his side to a lightning fast skaven team I have yet to face (next week). I’ve managed to keep up an impressive score-line: 9 wins, 2 draws and 0 losses!
Gears of Mork vs Ultimate Maths Squad
The Mathematicians opt to receive the ball. Both teams set up and Imangul Mifsud, the orc kicker, plants the ball the ball accurately in the left wide zone, a few yards off the centre line. The ref whistles and the fungus-fuelled Gears start off with a blitz.
Hungry for a win to distance themselves from the now slightly tailing Strenous Garfighters, the Gears throw their weight in on the ball, sending Mintoff, Fred-Ugh Sant and Imangul under the ball. Mintoff fails to catch Imangul’s kick (Imangul is so fungused-up fast he managed to kick the ball and run right next to where it landed in seconds) the ball and it lands next to three orcs.
The Mathematicians manage to secure the ball but are wide open to being both blocked and blitzed. They also manage to stun two Black Orcs and KO the star BO, Bima. The human catcher, Jacob Bernoulli holds on to the ball as he gets punched about by orcs, to no avail. His team mates quickly knock down the surrounding orcs, and Bernouli jogs to the right flank and hands the ball to Gauss. Gauss and Bernoulli bring down the killer Gonzi, the only defender left in the Gears’ backfield. The orcs KO Jacobi and Hardy, but are hard pressed for a blitz on Gauss, who is a mere 4 squares from the endzone. The agile Agat-Argh Barbara, dodges away from the mid-line and attempts a blitz, but fails the last dodge to reach Gauss. Gonzi curses the Kowc for not trusting his agility crippled self with the blitz.
The Mathematicians KO Sant, the piling blitzer and score.
1-0 to the Mathematicians.
The boosted human babes shake their stuff bringing both Jacobi and Hardy back. The orc babes are vomiting Bloodweiser in the changing rooms. Both Bima and Sant are out. The Gears start the drive an orc down.
The Mathematicians, charged by their early touch-down, blitz into the Gears’ half with the catcher Bernoulli within ball recovery and TD distance. The Gears have front-loaded their deployment and the only one who can reach the ball is the thrower Zeppi Il-Hafi. The ball is, however, in the far left corner of the pitch, just by the endzone. Zeppi sprints to the ball and launches a strong-armed, accurate pass to the agile Barbara. Barbara catches the ball easily and is protected by the remaining orcs. The blodging Kazz Ahmar attempts an easy dodge away from Euclid and falls flat on his face, smashing his nose and badly hurting himself. The Gears are now two orcs down.
The Gears are surrounded by Mathematicians for a few turns. They fight them off and badly hurt Newton, who is saved by the apothecary. The assistant is called in on the next turn when an aggressive charge by the murderous Gonzi concusses him. The assistant apothecary’s skills prove ineffectual and Bernoulli is out of the game (and a softer target for games to come). Gauss also gets knocked out in the same turn.
The Mathematicians, incensed by the violence from the orcs respond by badly hurting the Black Orc Zibel.
The orcs are still at mid pitch by turn 6. The Kowc screams for them to make a play. The thrower Zeppi Il-Hafi knocks over Pythagoras, opening the way for Imangul Mifsud to jog up towards the endzone. The rest of the orcs are tied down, however and the ball-carrier, Barbara, is wide open. The mathematicians attempt to capitalize on this but Euler’s blitz is ineffective, even after a re-roll. Euclid makes up for it by KOing another Black Orc. With six orcs on the field and the ballcarrier surrounded, things look grim for the Gears.
Mintoff gets up from the ground, charges at Hardy and opens up a path for Barbara to dodge out and pass to the waiting Imangul Mifsud, 7 yards from the endzone. The pass is accurate but Imangul fumbles the catch. The Mathematicians recover the ball with Pythagoras, who sends a perfect pass to Dirichelt, scoring the second touch down.
2-0 for the Mathematicians.
The Gears babes are replaced by a squad of goblin rat-on-a-stick salesmen who manage to bring the Black Orcs back with a titillating belly dance. The orcs set up for the bash but are ineffective. The second half sees both teams set up with full squads.
The Gears receive and immediately go on the offensive with Gonzi adding another trophy to his loincloth in the shape of Daniel Bernoulli’s right hand.
R.I.P. Daniel Bernoulli.
The Mathematicians attempt to muster a defence but the Gears right flank rush catches them flat footed and the score is soon 2-1 with a touch down by the thrower Zeppi Il-Hafi.
There are still five turns left and the Gears hope for a chance to snag the ball and equalize. The Mathematicians bring down the line and Pythagoras has the ball at mid-pitch, surrounded by thinkers.
The Gears make contact with the screen in the hope of seeing a few Mathematicians trip out of their tackle zones and making a run for the ball. Bima stands firm against a block assisted by the ball carriers and responds by slamming him into the ground. The ball scatters to Ramanujan, however. Guass wishes he hadn’t called for the Apothecary on the earlier badly hurt as he suffers a fractured skull from Dead Orc Walking.
Nuffle smiles on the Mathematicians again, however, as Mintoff fails a re-rolled go for it on Ramanujan and Euler badly hurts the star Bima, this time out for the rest of the match. That combination of Nuffle eye-batting allows Ramanujan to sprint to a safe distance. Barbara and Zeppi try to blitz the run-away lineman, but Zeppi fails a dodge to get to him.
3-0 for the Maths Squad
The Mathematicians leave Jacobi and two rookies on the LOS and hide at the end of the pitch. The Gears, hungry for retribution badly hurt Jacobi but fail to do further damage in the remaining turns.
It’s going to be a hard road to the title after this…
[check out Jim’s fantastic song-report at: http://www.mediafire.com/?z84jcogr1zur3r6 and lyrics at: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/forums/showthread.php?71-RPS-Blood-Bowl-League-The-RPS-Open/page109]
The goal: survive.
-Stay away from towns and villages.
-Stick to forests and high ground.
-Raid outlying houses and barns close to tree-lines.
-Gather food, drink, bandages, chem-lights, torch, compass, map.
-Find a rifle with longer range than the pissy Makarov.
I came to sprawled on a beach under a cloudy sky. To the left a road skirted the beach and to the right I recognized the port town of Elektrozavodsk. The town would be a good place to find equipment and, possibly, weapons, but the place tends to be crowded with zombies and bandits. No sooner did I have that thought and a few shots rang out from the centre of town. I jogged up the hill in front of me and made for the treeline.
Having a look at the printed map of Chernarus I decided to head towards (and beyond) Stary Sobor after having been tipped off by some survivors that there are a number of military lookout stands that at times contain equipment and, more importantly, are on the top of wooded hills. A perfect match for my plan.
I quickly find the road leading north to the village of Pusta. Not wanting to meet any undesirable characters I stick to the hill beside the road and follow it at a distance. Half way up I notice a large building next to a solitary house, downhill from me. A few figures shamble about but it seems possible to infiltrate it without getting into too much zombie-trouble.
The way down is danger-free and there’s only two zombies at a safe distance to the left and right. Not wanting to take any risks on zeds in the barn building ahead I crawl the last metres. When I get to the door a growl comes from within. I shuffle in and have a quick peek. No zeds that I can see but there is no doubt one is scuttling in there somewhere. I climb up the stairs to the left one step at a time, handgun raised to my eye. A shambling figure turns towards me. One shot to the head. A can of food, some bandages and a chem-light. Not a bad start. I make my way out of the barn, and in the panic of a zed-growl I slip and twist my ankle. I can’t quite tell if it’s broken. I’m limping somewhat and in a panic I inject myself with morphine and sprint out of the place. A bit of an over-reaction…
I continue on my journey to Pusta. The town is crawling with infected. Keeping to the plan, I skirt around the edges cautiously. As I’m about to clear the town, a goat trots into view. Meat! I step slowly towards it, careful not to scare it away. Makarov raised, a quick check to make sure no zeds are within earshot and… headshot. Goat goes down. I jog over to its carcass and… realize I don’t have a knife to chop it/skin it with. I swear under my breath and troop on away from the village.
Deviating away from the road I try to cut across north in search of a track that would lead to the road to Staroye. On the way down the hill I do come across a track. Then my horrific sense of direction kicks in. I know I’m meant to go right frmo the track but am confused by the size of the road. On the map it’s marked as a main road, but what I’ve come across looks more like a country track. In mind I m heading towards Staroye. A reasonable hike later and I m at a town. I hide behind a tree and try to match the layout of the buildings with those shown on the map. Hmmm… not a good match.
There’s a sign on the road. The village is crawling with zeds, including the outskirts. Keeping my distance I approach the sign. It’s in cyrillic. Great. What’s worse is the starting letter is not a C (cyrillic for S) but an M. I scuttle back to my hiding place and consult the map. I went the exact opposition direction to where I had intended to go. I’m now approaching Mogilevka. Oh well.
The sky has cleared and the day is pretty warm. All that running has me parched. I’ve kept back from drinking, but there’s so much attrition a man can take. I drain my canteen and eat a can of baked beans. Thank you Heinz. The problem is I’m now out of water. Judging from the position of the sun it’s early afternoon. I definitely don’t want to be scavenging for food at night. So I’ll have to deviate from the plan and go into town to find water. Hopefully there’s a water pump in the centre of town somewhere and I can refill my canteen.
I’m not too enthusiastic about this. There’s infected all over the place. I decide to stick to the road, since it’s clear enough not to hide prone or crouching monkey-zeds. I throw myself on my belly and crawl all the way from the outskirts of town to the first buildings. Every few metres I pop up on my knees and have a look around. It seems like zombies don’t react so much to seeing you as hearing you, or hear you and see you move fast. The slower you move the less likely you are to attract attention. Bleeding in their vicinity seems to attract them more as well (although it could be my panic-stricken mind). Firing weapons is a sure way to attract them from miles away.
So I drag myself into town and then crawl around the buildings on the left. I notice a church in the distance between the buildings. I make my way towards it painfully slowly. Stopping every few metres to wait for a walker to shuffle past and sweating my arse off when I get close to being sandwiched between the paths of two of the morons.
I eventually make it to the other side of the village outskirts where it’s more zombie-light. The way from there to the church is easier going. Just as I’m about to enter the outer walls of the church, a rifle shot rings out from behind me. I freeze and then throw myself to the ground. I’m in the open so crawling around is not going to help much. Looking around is not going to help either.
Another rifle shot. It’s definitely a high calibre rifle, not a pistol - something like an M16. I get off my belly and sprint into the church walls. There’s a hole on the side which I duck through. Two more shots. This time a different report. I crouch against the inner part of the crumbling hole in the church wall and peek out. I can’t see anyone. Three more shots, and this time they’re closer. I’m pretty sure they’re not shooting at me, but I panic nevertheless. The church is an obvious place to search for supplies. If I was attracted to it, they will too. Better to make my way in and find a good spot to defend it. Indoors my Makarov is a better match against their rifles. A well placed headshot and I’m a rifle up. I sprint across the gap in the wall to minimize the chances of being spotted.
A frenzied cry from behind makes me spin around to face the church gate. A zombie sprints at me and swings. I dodge back, try to aim for the head and let out a few shots. The first one nailed him, but the panic of the moment caused me to lose control. Shit. Now they know I’m here.
I crawl out of the gate and head towards the town. Not sure what my plan was but in the haze of the moment I figured there were so many walkers about they’d have to shoot them first and then at least I’d know where they are. The survivors in town had tried to barricade it’s back road and so there was some cover.
The houses along the side of the road seemed sealed. Then I spotted one with it’s door open. There’s a monkey-zed in it’s yard and two others around it’s perimeter. Screw it, I crawled as fast as I could towards the door and avoided looking sideways not to panic. I made it through the front door and into the kitchen. Food! I gathere two cans of sardines and a Campbell’s soup.
I cross the street and look around for more houses to loot. There are increasingly more infected stumbling around as I get closer to the village proper. And then, I spot the water pump in a back yard. My heart races. There’s at least three walkers around the place and more seem to be converging on it. I crawl towards the pump and stop every few inches, waiting for what seems to be an endless stream of walkers to pass. I finally make it to the tap and fill my canteen. Ok time to get out of here.
On my way out of the yard I spot another building, possible a small police station of sorts, with it’s front door open. I got what I needed and was lucky not to get mauled or shot by possible bandits. I should leave. That’s the plan.
Ok one more building. My panic level is on the rise again and I m starting to lose my nerve with the crawling. Although I’m maknig less sound and am less visible, I m also not getting a good sense of where the zeds are around me. So I walk catiously towards the building. There’s a passage connecting two open doors, a big room on each side and a narrow stairway leading to a door in the middle. As I reach the building I hear a grunt and running feet. A zed’s spotted me and is peckish for a snack. I sprint towards the stairs and climb up towards the door. It’s locked. I turn around and get on one knee, aiming my Makarov at the foot of the stairs. The walker shuffles over but am not sure if he actually sees me. He mills at the bottom of the stairs and I’m sweating. If I shoot the building will be over-run with zeds. The area is packed.
He turns towards me and afraid he’ll charge me I let off a single shot. He drops down at the foot of the stairs. The shot was enough to awaken the neighbourhood. Walkers, monkey-crawlers and prone infected pour into the corridor sniffing for me. It’s too late to be cautious now.
I hold my breath (physically) aim and drop one zombie after another. I could survive this if I don’t let them reach me while conserving my ammo. Aside from a few shots to the chest I land every single one to the heads of the oncoming bastards.
A calm descends upon the buildings. I survived the onslaught unscathed.
I search the building quickly, throwing caution to the wind. I bag a functional torchlight, an extra (empty) canteen, crossbow bolts, pistol rounds and glo-sticks. A quick trip to the pump attracts a few zombies, but my confidence boosted I gingerly run back to the staircase and dispatch them as they round the corner, one bullet per head.
My confidence got the better of me and I decide to venture to another open house, not too far from the station. I realize that I’m getting closer to the centre of the village and here the zombies are even thicker. I grab a few more cans of food and crawl out of the place, thanking the great mushroom in the sky that my rashness was not punished.
I make my way towards the church, the north part of the village mostly clear of infected, and sprint north towards the tree-line.
From here I promise myself I’ll stay safe and focus on acquiring a gun. Outskirt buildings only.
A long hike north leads to a radio tower on a hill. I climb up it and have a look around. Two small villages in the distance, and… a wooden watch-tower close by. I hurry down and head towards the watch-tower. Well more of a watch-stand, but anyway. There are few soldier-zombies downhill from the stand but nothing to daunting to avoid. I climb up the ladder and my heart skips a beat as I see it there: scoped M14, an extra cartridge and another set of glo-sticks.
This was a good place to call it a night and set up camp in the forest.
First day of survival over.
After the tension of the previous late-night outing in Chernarus I figured I will to try and play during the day and stay alive as long as possible. At night I ll leave my avatar hiding somewhere in the woods stocked with food and drink (as your character’s hunger and thirst accumulate even when you’re off-line) to survive in the limbo between servers till I got back to controlling him.
To survive it was clear that I needed to get my bearings and keep track of where I was at all times. This meant firing up my mac next to the PC screen with a map of Chernarus on at all times. The game notifies you of the name of your starting location - and the rest is up to you.
The second decision I made before loggin in was to avoid towns as much as possible, especially the larger ones hounded by players and masses of zombies. I would instead roam from forest to forest, skirting the edge and looking out for lone barns and other standalone buildings, forage for food and hopefully come across a rifle or crossbow. Surviving with only the starting Makarov was rather challenging as the short range meant you’re always too close to other zombies when you take a shot at one that has taken a fancy to your left butt-meat.
And finally, I would avoid players as much as possible. With the bandit system removed there is no incentive not to kill others. This is made worse by the fact that you can switch servers at your leisure and thus there is a lack of a reputation system going on with players teleporting between the parallel worlds of multiple servers while keeping the same character.
The overall goal in the forthcoming session is thus to survive. And the first short-term goal in that hierarchy is: find a more suitable rifle, extra food, bandages and drink. After that is accomplished I’ll consider my options.
I finally made it through the thorny trek of install weirdness that is the Day Z install process and had a short session to get a feel of the game.
Since I’ve only spent an hour in Chernarus I ll stick to relating what happened in my first outing.
I spawned by a beach in pitch darkness. Can barely see three metres ahead of me. A maniacal growl makes me jump in my seat and I swing left to see a zombie sprinting at me from the shallow water. I let off a single shot and luckily nab him in the head. I allow myself to breathe again and take a few steps towards the body to make sure it’s dead. The shot must have alerted a nearby undead buddy and I’m being charged yet again. I sprint away for a few metres than realize I have no clue of knowing how fast these things can sprint, so I spin around, crouch, aim and let off a shot at the fast approaching zombie. Two bullets, two headshots. Not a bad start.
I try to get a sense of my surroundings but all I can make out is a railroad parallel to the sea and a hill rising steeply beyond it. I have no map, no compass and no clue what to do. So I walk up the hill in the hope of getting a better sense of my surroundings from a vantage point. I reach the top panting and realize that in this darkness I’m not going to make out much. There is, however, a radio tower nearby. I make my way towards it, throw a flare to light my climb up. Nothing of note.
I keep walking, what is in my mind straight away from the beach and reach the edge of the hill. Far off in the distance I see the red glow of a flare. I cautiously move towards it, making sure to keep a distance from its perimeter and stay in the darkness. A series of flares lead up a road but there are no survivors or bandits to be seen.
Not having much of an idea what to do, I figure I might as well follow the road in one direction till I hit something. After about ten minutes of jogging along the road I come to a lighthouse and repeat the flare, cautious skirting procedure. There’s a dead survivor at the top of the lighthouse. I scan around for zombies but the place seems empty aside from the loud buzzing of flies. He doesn’t have much but I take the lot.
Continuing further along the road I come across a sizey concrete pier and a large building close to it. I approach cautiously along the beach, but there’s a zombie frolicking in the waves ahead and another one to the left of him. After a few attempts at sneaking between them I decide to draw them away from the building one by one and take them out. I drank the last drop of water on the way here and am in desperate need for a re-fill. The building ahead is the first sign of possible supplies and I figure it’s worth the risk.
Once I dispatch these two I make my way up to the pier and spot four or so other zombies milling around the building. It seems like they are attracted to light and sound and thus I figured I d throw a flare as far as I possibly can from the safety of the pier towards the building, wait until the zombies walk towards it and then sneak around into the building.
The plan worked, but I hadn’t counted on more zombies coming from the sides of the pier. I tried to sneak past them as the others shamble towards the shiny red light ahead of the pier. One of the growling bastards notices me sneaking past and gives chase. I try to out-run him and I do gain some ground but I tire quickly and he doesnt. So I turn to face him and he’s barely a metre away. I start firing from the hip and he swipes into me, tearing a good chunk of flesh from my arm. Emptying a clip in panic I manage to take him out but I’m bleeding badly from the gash. I start bandaging myself but another zombie must have heard the shot and shambled my way. I try to aim my Makarov pistol, but my arm is spasming from the pain and shock. It takes another clip to down him. No more calm headshots.
As I bandage myself and take some painkillers I hear a groan coming from ahead. One of the zombies wasn’t quite dead and was dragging himself towards me with one arm. I took aim and killed him with a shot to the head.
Scanning the building it seems like a few of the zombies are still milling around the flare. I decide to skirt arou-
A shot rings out from behind me. I freeze and then spin around frantically. Another one hits me and I throw myself onto the sand. Two more shots miss, btu the third one finds its mark.
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Having played Paintball a few times and loved it, I was intrigued by a friends’ call to organize a game of airsoft. Airsoft is basically a team based game involving shooting people with airgun approximations of the actual thing.
When we reached the first thing that struck me was the emphasis from the airsoft owners’ side on the game being a “role-playing”, as they described it, of Counter Strike. Teams were organized into terrorists and counter-terrorists. Bombs were planted, hostages rescued and death-matches carried out in a flurry of plastic-pellet chaos. Players re-spawned at their spawn-point (ok, more COD than CS) once killed and trooped on in the ensuing grind (once again, more COD than CS).
The second thing that struck me was the cloud of thick marijuana air. The place literally reeked of pot. When one of our guys pulled out a beer during a break between rounds the owners warned them, in the most severe voice they could muster, that if they had another sip they would not be allowed to play. With the iron fist of airsoft law lain down in no uncertain terms, the organizer headed to a back room and replenished his degree of stoned-ness. That back room was clearly the source of the sticky green smell, since every time the door leading to it was opened the already heavy smell of grass got reinforced.
The game took the worst parts of most FPS games I know and mashed them together in a boring mess of a real-life game whose only consolation was the reminder that our physical bodies were alive and present when one of the pellet’s hit a part of you and welted or split your skin. The first notable casualty came from a well placed shot to an opponent’s forehead. After the round was over he tottered into the room with a stream of blood coming down his face and a confused “this never happened in Counter-Strike” look.
The space we were playing in consisted of a building divided into a number of rooms by wood and tarp along with two narrow spaces on either side. The field was largely uneven and one team got a decent upper hand in every round. The rules were often convoluted enough for non-gamers to forget most of them and screw up how the game was meant to be played. Of course the way the game was meant to be played by the organizers was not that brilliantly conceived either, having as much of a flair for game and level design as a grilled penguin.
The size of the place, the randomly placed cover and the overall layout meant that every single game was a typical counterstrike bottle neck: Four guys at a side of a door, one of them actually shooting and the others waiting their turn to take a pot-shot at the opposite guy at the door and three dudes waiting. There were a few bursts of movement and excitement, but these were few and far between. Most of the games were static affairs, resembling on rails shooters where you aim your gun and wait for an opponent to pop out from cover and hope for a shot. Rinse, repeat.
The lack of frequent sprints to cover meant that, at least for me, the usual adrenaline rush I get in such games never kicked in resulting in a less incorporating experience than, ironically, the virtual version of the game. That is, yesterday’s airsoft game felt more like a game I have critical distance to than most Counter-Strike sessions I’ve experienced.
Since the space was so small, once shot, one could jog back to spawn and back again in under a minute. This meant that the positions held by either team in the first minute or so of the game did not change much. It also meant “dying” was only a penalty in terms of the physical pain you felt when the pellet hit you, and had only marginal effects in game terms most of the time.
Unlike paintball, players do not have a physical mark of your hitting them unless you’ve done some visible skin-breaking. This meant that a lot of players were not owning up to actually being shot, either because they did not feel the shot or because they simply cheated. On top of that the speed and light colour of the pellets along with the fact most guns were somewhat erratic meant that it was not always possible to tell where your shot actually went, making it hard to call out your opponents. The majority of the times opponents only left the field when I shot them at point blank range and could see the grin on my face or when I called them out. Neither of those situations are conducive to a fluid and exciting game.
All in all a hugely disappointing experience that is poorly run and abysmally set-up.
I could just hear the conversation that lead to its inception:
“yeah mann, that would be awesome! Counterstrike with airguns!”
“yeah, so awesome!”
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