Saturday, 28 April 2012

Roadrunner Office shut-down thoughts

Just a quick post after reading this from Braveworld's site - link below
Essentially, Angela Gossow (lead vocalist of Arch Enemy,for those non the wiser) commenting on heavy music label Roadrunner shutting down it's European offices. Her comments are on the site above, but I'll re-post below anyway-;

"Metal fans stop buying music, they download it "for free". Labels don't make money with selling metal music anymore. Labels first cut down their offices and staff, 
they will drop all the artists who don't sell CDs anymore. Metal bands are the first to go. It's a small niche compared to mainstream music.

Bands have no label support anymore, thus won't get any tour support, so they cannot go out and build a live profile / make a name as a good live band anymore. The only real income for a band these days.
This results in lack of touring offers in general.
Many bands cannot survive on touring income anymore as they won't get any good offers. Especially the newer acts. Bands will stop touring, you will only be seeing the same old, big bands coming round (Metallica, Iron Maiden, etc.) but none of your fave smaller/underground acts or new acts, as they simply can not afford it.
If bands can neither release their music nor go out and play live, they'll disband sooner or later due to lack of motivation and any sort of reward.
The metal scene will lose a lot of innovative, exciting and diverse bands and many fans will never get to see their fave bands live. What a boring, corporate, streamlined future to look forward to.
And it's all in your hands. Every time you rip music for free, you tick the "I don't care if my fave band will die" box in a way.

Think about it. Twice."

It's interesting that in this instance it's actually an artist not directly connected (Arch Enemy been signed to Century Media in this instance), but smacks more of a call to arms from Gossow, than anything else, which is understandable.The vibe I get from this is basically "If you like something enough that you want a copy for yourself, pay for it", which again, a stance you can get behind, if not for the obvious reasons. It's a shame Roadrunner are making the move to do so, as this is only going to make it harder for European bands to get support for albums and tours in the traditional mindset, and it always sucks to hear of More lay-offs in a time where many people are struggling to find work and make ends meet as it is. 
Okay, admittedly it may be weird to hear the oft-used Piracy argument been behind this, but at the same time, it must have been a factor behind the powers that be pulling the plug. I won't claim to know how Roadrunner Europe worked, how well their distribution throughout the continent was and such-like, especially considering Roadrunner started in the Netherlands to begin with. Far be it for me to speculate, but since WMG's acquisition of Roadrunner, the trend has not so much been of struggling on in hard time as is has been of "sell off for scrap, it's a niche genre so we can get away with it", so there is a definite ambiguity about the label's future, as well as those of the artists signed on. Hopefully such steps will mean a turn-around in Roadrunner's fortunes, but at the same time, I'm cautious. It wasn't so long ago that, to my knowledge, they were riding high, and now look at them. WMG have some serious questions to answer, regardless of common-sense calls of those like Gossow.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Serious Sam 3: BFE Review

First of all, my apologies for not uploading anything for a while onto this - I had a plan for the week's work and Completely forgot about it... Whoops. Still getting used to this, people. So here's a ridiculously badly timed review of a shooter that was released in December that's only marginally relevant because it's on sale on Steam until April 30th - yay Transparency, I guess. Non-gamer fans, feel free to close your eyes and pretend I'm reviewing 'What I did on my Vacation' or something, whatever that new Mel Gibson film's called, but I digress.

Now, to the uninitiated, Serious Sam as a character - or what's left of him - is a graduate of the John Mclane school of action heroes - jeans, vest, and tendency to speak in one-liners et al, despite the fact said hero is typically a rather high up member of a police force or military force where uniform and discipline are usually pretty sternly enforced, but we'll let that slide, and a lot of the game-play comes from the 1980's and 90's as well, been in the traditional mould of "Health - okay, gun - big, ammo - lots. Now, here's an angry mob to fend off. Have fun" that a lot of FPS games used to run with before the current trend of realistic shooters insisted playing Baghdad Duck-shoot behind chest-high-walls was a better way to go, for better or for worse. Well, that's my opinion of the trend given away in a sentence, but stick with me, there's more to this.

Having explained the character and game-play, you're expecting me to explain the story in order to avoid having to come up with actual thoughts on the game. Well, from what little story there is, here's a sum-up. Humanity's in a desperate losing battle against generic alien monstrosities Alpha-numer - sorry, 'Mental', and you're dropped into war-torn Cairo to find some chap capable of translating ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, which ultimately leads you to traipsing through ancient Egyptian ruins to find a time-machine to hopefully kill the hordes off in the past, thus saving humanity and Really buggering up the time-line and logic to go with. It's hardly Citizen Kane, I know, but when most people buying into this aren't there for the story, it's enough to keep things going and justify the change of environments. Oh, and the BFE bit apparently means "Before First Encounter", so this is a prequel instalment, but it's neatly rounded on its own, in it's own simple but effective way.

Now, a word here about the looks of the game - it's powered by an engine developed by the dev team themselves, and for a AA quality indie game, it's Very damned pretty - better looking than Modern Warfare 3, at any rate, in my opinion, and for PC gamers used to console ports that don't let you fiddle with options too much, there's almost Too much to mess with here, including a gore option for how the blood + giblets are shown - a good source of comedy's to be had here, if only to undermine the of-straight-faced presentation of the violence by noticing some of the enemies turn into Carrots and Pumpkins. Yes, you heard that correctly, and it's a hoot, like how in 2D shooter spin-off Serious Sam DD have an option to turn the blood into Doughnuts - there's a definite sense of humour with this game, and it's a relief to see it shine through.

In fact, the game-play as a whole's a right laugh to play through - even the basic pistol, sledge-hammer and shotgun are fun to use and feel powerful, and things get sillier and more destructive the further you go through, even if Croteam's eternal flaw of bad pacing Really raises its head in the latter parts of the game and sadly reduces the final level in particular to a grind that does a surprisingly good job of wearing the player down. There's thankfully enough monster variety to keep you busy throughout, even if you wish they mixed up the variety of the hordes at you at times rather than just throwing another 100 of the same dudes. 

Furthermore, with an old-school style of game, you'd be expecting the boss fights to be up to scratch, and for the most part, they are - many are more mini-bosses, introducing you to the heavier monsters earlier in the game in a manner I strangely remember Doom 3 attempting, and there's thankfully enough of those to keep the corridor-arena-horde action format a little fresher. Another word on old-school trends - once you get past Tourist and Easy, this game is Very punishing in terms of difficulty - expect to have a few swearing episodes while wrestling with the single-player campaign, which gives you about 10-20 hours, depending on own individual ability, insistence on hoovering up every weapon/health/armour pickups, that sorta thing.

In terms of Multiplayer, I can't really say that much, apart from the few times I've checked for servers, there's not been a great many players, the death-match maps are uninspired, although some of the modes are like, like a team-based co-op mode where every now and then you're allowed to mess with the opposing team. The focus in this game it seems is definitely on single-player, and it's got real replay value, even if it's just playing again on a higher difficulty.
All in all, is it worth it? On sale, Definitely pick it up if you're into shooters or more traditional styles of games, or just fancy a challenge, I'd make the same recommendation full-price.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

First Impressions - Hydrophobia: Prophecy

Okay, I'm aware this was released some time ago (May the Ninth 2011, if Steam's records are anything to go by), and the reason I bought this? Because it was on sale for £1, and I figured I'd get my money's worth whatever happens - the same logic also explains why Duke Forever sits in my library (£3.74) amongst other potential horrors, but that's enough about that.
I'll admit I played it for about an hour before starting to write this out, which while not fantastic, is enough for a first impressions (And was also the point at which I got fed up of it), so here we go.
First off, the graphics engine has been developed in-house, which is interesting to see from an indie developer, only other example of such a display is Croteam's various Serious engines, so these guys know what they're doing at least. And it's an impressive piece of kit - the physics have a neat ragdoll feel to them, water effects are really nice, which probably explains the "Hydro Engine" name, and it's a nice looking game, so credit where it's due.
Now a quick warning before you start - this is a Loud game, so back the volumes down in the options menu before you get started. Speaking of options, this is my second issue with the game, in that there aren't that many - you configure the video options before you start, so if it's giving your PC frame-rate issues, you can't fix it without having to quit out + start again, which isn't ideal, and makes me suspect the PC port wasn't given the time and thought it really needed, which does hamper the gameplay. The keys are re-bindable, though, which is one thing I can give in its favour.
And another warning I can give out for those of you buying on Steam - you know how sometimes with third-party games it downloads what it thinks is everything, then after some casual prodding to check it suddenly realises "Holy shit, this car as no Wheels!" and has to download the rest of the game files? This may be a personal recurring problem I've had with Steam, but this is Definitely a game to make sure it's up-to-date on. The first puzzle of the second act, half the structures were missing which made it impossible to progress.
From the hour or so I've put in, the story-line is interesting, if nothing new - you're on a city-ship (Think Titanic meets Red Dwarf in terms of size) due to some kind of global-warming-related catastrophe in which the lands are no longer habitable (And yet, there are still oceans... For once, I'd like to see a futuristic game in which everything's Perfectly fine and global warming turned out to be BS, if only for the humour of it, but I digress), and everyone's favourite type of armed madmen, the evangelical terrorist has attacked + turned life a bit more exciting and dangerous. You play a security engineer called Kate who has Hydrophobia - hence the title, I'm sure you're all guessing, who winds up in the middle of all this and decides to raise hell, John Mclane from Die-Hard style. The phobia aspects of her character are well expressed through game-play, in the way that when she takes damage or is running out of breath while under-water, the audio subtlety changes to a flash-back almost to the incident which first induces this fear upon her.
The rarely played "Female Protagonist" card in this case does initially show some potential, but I personally found her too reliant upon her male colleague, and to me, there's a feeling of a missed opportunity to actually create a strong female character with the added suspense of having to confront her fears in order to survive, particularly in the first act in which I honestly felt led by the nose by that same voice of encouragement. The relationship between them is a strength the game does use well, though - in a rarity for game voice acting, you can pick up a definite sense of warmth and friendship between their conversation, even while he's berating the player-character for doing something he feels is a stupid idea.
Which leads me on to the game-play itself. Now, this is a 360 port, which sadly does mean some confusing and clunky controls, (Such as crow-barring in Q as a climb down function when using WASD by default), and the radial weapons selector screams of games controller, but it's not So bad, thankfully it's perfectly playable via mouse-and-keyboard, but you just get the nagging feeling of the game forcing you to wear gloves to cover up a lack of precision on it's own part. The hacking mini-game is interesting and thankfully not taxing at all once you learn what you're meant to be doing, and they've managed to find a new way around key-card puzzles as well, so again, credit where it's due.
All in all, there are some interesting idea, some dodgy execution, leaving the game with a definite feeling of "Slightly above average, but not by a lot", sort of 55% or 5/6 our of 10 region, if you'll forgive me using numbered ratings for the moment, and if you fancy a gamble for £4, then by all means, go for it. I've sunk two hours thus far, and will estimate the story mode's about Portal I length, which would be fine. Also, you'll probably wind up paying a lot more for weaker action/adventure experiences in the coming months, so this gets a cautious recommendation from a cheapskate gamer.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Prologue and welcomes

Greetings, everyone, and welcome. For those of you unsure where the smeg you are, welcome to the first post of the Spanish InChrisition, please excuse the pun. I'll explain what this is all for in due course, but for now, make yourselves at home. This is going to be the harshest example of "Someone with a lot of interest and naivety to match, without any budget whatsoever", as I have literally zero experience of such a field and the skills required, even such as basic HTML design of a page like this, but I'll learn as best I can as I go. However, to bring this back on track,  this is what I intend to try and accomplish (Primary objectives first)-;

Firstly, I'm aiming to get some PC gaming commentary - news, demos, let's plays of the few games I can get hold of would be the best case scenario, although these are by no means a certainty.
Secondly, I'm hoping to do the same with music - name rock, metal and punk, although there will be some commentary on general news + charts as the feeling takes me (I remember listening to the UK top 40 on Easter Sunday and wondering how they could repeat 2 songs 19 times apiece, but that's a matter of personal bais)
Thirdly, I hope to cover aspects of Football, both in England (I am a Newcastle United supporter since childhood, although there are quite a few other clubs I have grown fond of other the years for one reason or another, so any English and UEFA competition coverage will be a more comprehensive than in a simple "Ooh, let's look how Chelsea are doing" context), and if my attention span lasts long enough, covering Major League Soccer in the US, where I've grown an initial liking to the Chivas USA outfit, otherwise known I suspect as Los Angeles' Second team. Yes, those of you with an understanding of MLS can stop laughing now, winning all the time gets boring after a while, just ask FC Barcelona.
And finally, another one of my regular hobbies and passions is motor sport, particularly Formula One, although Moto GP is another interest of mine, so as often as I can, I will try to do updates following each race and as well as covering news developments, in the same fashion that I have referred to in the other three instances.

Of course, these are basic plans and ambitions of what I hope to achieve and work towards, so take these as loose guidelines rather than a hard-and-fast rule of what content will be brought into the wilds of the internet. When new content is up on here, or on other sites, I will be using my twitter account of @ParasitePostill for the main source of promotion and spare but general titter-tatter, the name of such which is also coincidentally the name of my Youtube account.