Archive for April, 2011

System Shock 2

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on April 15, 2011 by Griff

 

us gamers tend to have a serious problem, we have a serious problem of what’s called “nostalgia goggles” (or rose colored glasses) where we lionize an older game as being better than any of it’s successors or better than it actually is, there’s plenty of games that may have been great in their day but have not aged well and the only real way to enjoy them is by the nostalgia they produce, now there is absolutely nothing wrong with playing a game for nostalgia, but you should also keep a subjective mind and realize that a lot of games tend to age pretty poorly (games that age well are the exception, not the rule) and that instantly having the mindset that everything older is instantly better is not really true

games are a funny medium because they age differently than any art form, paintings don’t age, books don’t age, classic paintings and books are timeless no matter what year it is, people will still be reading Charles Dickens centuries from now for example and with movies, the only thing that really ages are special effects, but even so there are countless movies that are timeless (The Wizard of Oz being one example)

but games are unique because the technology changes so quickly and so drastically, what was once cutting edge can become flat out old school very quickly

so I find it absurd how so many gamers lionize older games that have certainly aged and turn their noses up at newer stuff, I mean there’s plenty of games that have aged well and while there’s certianly things about the modern gaming world I dislike and things that I miss (but that’s another subject), I wouldn’t say gaming is “dead”

one example of this mindset is the Fallout series, the first one I played was Fallout 3 and I loved it, last year in preparation for New Vegas I went back and played the original Fallout 1 and 2 and while they were good games (but very old school) and I enjoyed them, the fact that so many gamers said that they blew away Fallout 3 is laughable

so this brings me finally to the subject of this review, it’s a cult classic game that has a very die hard following that insist it’s one of the best games of all time, I’m talking about System Shock 2

Bioshock is one of my favorite games of this entire generation, few games have such a fiercely creative setting and thought provoking story, but there were a lot of gamers who insisted that Bioshock’s spiritual predecessor System Shock 2 was DRASTICALLY better (Zero Punctuation being one example)

so after years of planning on it, I finally got around to playing System Shock 2, eager to see the origins of Ken Levine and Irrational games and expecting something really awesome

and it’s time for me to make a controversial statement, I thought System Shock 2 is way overrated and that Bioshock is far and away the superior game

I’m honestly confounded why this is seen as being so much better than Bioshock, now keep in mind I’m not saying System Shock 2 is a bad game per se, I just think that everything it does Bioshock does better

the cyberpunk style plot and setting of System Shock 2 are ok, but pale in comparison to Bioshock’s and I’ve also heard that System Shock 2 is one of the scariest games of all time, it has it’s moments, but the original Silent Hill which came out the same year blows it away in terms of horror

the first thing I noticed is how similar the games are, other than the setting and story differences obviously the key difference is that System Shock 2 is 100% more complex than Bioshock

some will say Bioshock is just “dumbed down”, I would call it streamlined, more user friendly and a lot more fun, System Shock 2 is a perfect example of a game that’s complex just for the sake of being complex, overly so

everything in System Shock 2 is a pain in the ass, upgrading your stats, your skills, finding ammo, maintaining your weapons, repairing your weapons, the limited inventory, the whole game is designed to be as complex as possible and even after beating the game I didn’t fully understand, there is a difference between a game like Deus Ex, which is complex but not overly so and this

the result is that I could never fully get into the game, the more I played the more it felt like a chore, there were fun moments but they were few and far between

oh and the backtracking, good lord the backtracking, there was certainly some backtracking in Bioshock, but nowhere near as much as in this game, most of the game is spent wandering around the same environments and seeing the same stuff over and over, it gets old

so yeah, how dare this mother fucker slander the timeless classic that is System Shock 2? why I must be a dumbed down casual gamer who only likes Call of Duty and Guitar Hero! not quite, I’m not saying this is a bad game, I’m sure for 1999 it was impressive and I’m very happy I finally got to play the game, all I’m saying is that I think Bioshock was an improvement, not a de-evolution, that’s all

on a side note, here’s looking forward to Bioshock Infinite!

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Funland by Richard Laymon

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on April 10, 2011 by Griff

well unfortunately it looks like Leisure Books has given up on Richard Laymon, all of his books have mysteriously disappeared from bookstores, his website has disappeared and Funland, which was supposed to be published in paperback last year only got an Ebook release

I have no idea what happened, it’s bizarre, maybe some sort of contract expired and his books didn’t sell well enough so they decided not to renew it or something? I can’t find any info about it at all on anywhere on the internet, either way it looks like the only place to find Laymon’s books now is either in used stores or Ebooks, which is a shame, especially since they’re are still quite a few books that never got re-published, I guess it’s lights out people, the party’s over

it’s a shame, but there’s still plenty of books that I haven’t read yet that I can as Ebooks if I want to

anyway I was really intrigued by Funland so I decided to borrow my mom’s Kindle and read it that way, making this the first Ebook I’ve ever read

let me be straight with you guys, Laymon is far from high art, his books are unashamedly pulpy, the best way to describe them is they’re like 80’s horror movies in book form, I read for fun so this doesn’t bother me, but it may not be everyone’s cup of tea

so Funland tells the story of the titular boardwalk amusement park in the fictional Boleta Bay California, this park has a serious problem, it’s plagued by creepy homeless people (called “trolls” by the locals) who constantly bother people asking for change, especially at night

fed up with this is a group of teenagers led by a beautiful and blond (of course) lifeguard calling themselves the “great Billy Goat’s Gruff” who stalk the park at night and wait for a “troll” to ask them for change and then proceed to beat up and humiliate the troll in question as a way of hopefully scaring off the others, however what they don’t realize is that the park contains a dark secret related to the supposedly abandoned funhouse and it’s quite scary indeed

the book has a large cast of characters for a Laymon book, probably the largest out of all the ones I’ve read, the best of which is a young woman named Robin who’s a drifter that plays the banjo for money who wanders into the town (bad idea of course)

to be honest, there’s some stuff that I found kind of offensive in this one, it’s glaringly obvious that Laymon hates the homeless, like wants to stuff them all in a rocket ship and blast them to the moon hate, almost all the villains are the seemingly endless group of homeless that live in the town and almost all the horror stems from everyone’s inherit fear of them and their craziness and nastiness, none of the homeless are portrayed as sympathetic, the closest would be the drifter Robin, but it’s pretty quickly established that she’s not like “one of them” and the one character that does sympathize with them is a cartoonish stereotype of the “bleeding heart liberal” (which confirms what I’ve suspected for a while, that Laymon was a conservative, which is strange because I thought conservatives didn’t really approve of horror and gore and the like)

it’s pretty damn effective yeah, this is actually one of the scariest books that I’ve read by him, there’s plenty legitimately scary imagery and moments (like for example the fact that most of the homeless live under the board walk in the shadows and hiding, yeah, that’s creepy), but ya know it just seems a bit harsh to me, most homeless people are either mentally ill or drug addicts or people just plain down on their luck, yeah they might not all be lovable Boxcar Willie types, but still

but whatever, regardless of the books questionable morals it’s still trademark Laymon and one of his scariest, so I had a good time reading it