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It’s a common theme, the world is in danger of being overrun by mindless zombies. The outbreak is held at bay by a quarantine trapping both “biters” and survivors alike. The survivors band together into two groups, Runners and Bandits. And so it goes, the conflict between the living and dead as well as between the living and the living.
You play as Crane, an agent of the Global Relief Effort (GRE) dropped into to the writhing hell hole that is the Harran ona mission to secure a file from the leader of the Bandits, Rais. Early on in your campaign you’re befriended by members of the Runners faction that are lead by Brecken, a parkour instructor who’s trained his followers the art of fancy jumping and climbing to keep them one step ahead of the zombies while they scrounge the city for supplies. You’re almost immediately welcomed into the fold by the runners after coming to the rescue of one of their members. Soon you’re asked to go on missions, after a bit of fancy running and jumping about training, which are comprised mostly of fetch quests and dungeon crawls. Being a typical modern city though the dungeons of Harran are comprised of sewer tunnels and the corridors of high-rise apartment buildings. Eventually the Runners need antizen, a drug that’s used to prevent infected survivors turning into flesh eating monsters, from the Bandits and you’re volunteered to broker a deal. Of course the bandit leader is a charismatic psychopath who’s against any deals that have a potential to be fair. Rais orders you to run errands for him, reneges on his deal and a recipe for conflict is concocted. Through the course of the story you grow attached to some of the Runners and their wellbeing soon becomes your primary concern. Personally I found the story formulaic and the NPCs do what they always do, ask you to do favors for them. There are plenty of side missions available but I spent 19 of my play hours focused on the story missions alone.
The open world first-person gameplay of Dying Light is like something Dr. Frankenstein would have dreamt up. The developer essentially spliced together elements from several triple-A titles. Movement is reminiscent of Mirror’s Edge, your ability to run and jump and climb is indispispensible in traversing the city. Dungeon exploration right down to the lock picking mechanic is highjacked from Skyrim. There are several locations in the open world map that can be cleared and made into safe houses similar to Far Cry(unfortunately there are no zombie elephants). There are a lot of other features of Dying Light that are cherry picked from other games but overall they are implemented rather well. Your weapon load out can run the gamut from water pipes to hatchets to rifles. All the weapons can be upgraded to enhance their effectiveness and all behave rather different. Blunt objects will crunch and rebound as you’d expect and slicing weapons will cleave ever sosatisfyingly when upgraded properly. The gun play is a hot mess, right clicking R3 will allow you to aim down the sight but if your hungry opponents get too close you’re better off switching to a scythe and decapitate them before you’re overrun. Besides the mindless zombie drones there are some more deadly variations. Some are faster, some are stronger, some explode with little notice and others will spew green toxins at you from several yards away. In some cases it’s well advised to stick to the roof tops when running from place to place. It’s the best way to navigate the open world while the undead try their best to gnaw on your heels . When you get to the dungeon sections avoidance is less of an option but it still pays to be cautious. Melee fighting drains stamina so having a quick route of retreat to catch your breath is good practice (a la Skyrim).
The sound design and graphics are very well done. Besides a bit of open world jank this is where the game shines. I played about a third of the game with headphones on.The sounds of screams, moaning, feet shuffling and the horror music is nerve racking when you’re playing at night, in the dark, with a bit too much rum in your system. There are jump scares in the game but they are fairly well spread out so when they do happen they are effective. Also when they don’t happen you feel kind of foolish. The city of Harran really looks like an outbreak has taken place. Besides the fidelity of it all, abandoned vehicles, buildings and lunches all appeared to have been turned upside down right in the middle of life. The architecture of the city proper and the “old” city are well varied and provide a beautiful landscape from a distance when your zipping down a zip-line. Walls with blood streamed hand prints, boarded up doors, improvised booby traps and graffiti messages to other survivors depict the the gruesome struggle between living and dead. It’s a beautiful mix of metal, concrete and organic matter that you wish you had more time to explore if you weren’t being hounded awful day and gruesome night. Oh the night! When the sun goes down, you can’t see more than a foot in front of you and ultra violent zombies come out to shred you to pieces. You do get a stat boost for operating in the dark but unless you’ve leveled your weapons and character you might not make it to the morning in one piece. Furthermore, while this might sound morbid but I was very impressed with the level of detail that went into rendering severed body parts. Under close inspection you can see clearly the sinew, bone and marrow of the recently re-deceased. Anatomically, I’ve never seen another game that is its match. It may be something that goes unnoticed by most but if you do play this game, examine your slain, it’s awesome.
To reiterate, it took me about 19 hours to complete the story and there was still a lot of side missions that I didn’t get to and miles of landscape of hidden treasures that I didn’t fully explore. This game is a loot and leveling junky’s wet dream. There’s a lot of real estate to mine for swag to upgrade weapons and endless fodder to max out your character. While obviously not necessary to complete the story, if you’re into collecting this game has extra value. If you’re looking for an intense and deep story with revolutionary gameplay mechanics you should probably look elsewhere.
In the week or so The hunting of Hill House been out it has garnered a lot of praise, as well as caused some insomnia nightmares and panic attacks. it is every bit achievement in family grief psychology as it is terrifying, and it is by far one of the best things I’ve ever seen on Netflix. The Haunting Of Hill House centers around a family’s loss and how it connects to their experience in the past with the eponymous Hill house and its ghosts. It plays very well with they tried and true concept of a family moving into a haunted house. But where it shines is portraying how grief, trauma and guilt are every bit as haunting as the ghosts that haunt Hill house. It’s almost as if character in it represents a stage of grief to me.
What I love about it is the it gets incredibly creepy throughout each episode. Mike Flanagan does such a superb job of setting tone and building tension that he doesn’t require jump scares. I’m serious !! There’s I think like 3 jump scares in the whole season. Flanagan builds tension every second, to the point that things that shouldn’t be scary become spine tingling. The way Flanagan sets a creepy scene just by the color of the walls in the background or a deteriorating doorway or a facial reflection off to the side, is the icing on this ghastly cake.
One of my favorite aspects of this show is the casting. All of the kids in the flashbacks look related to each other. And the older versions of the characters are acted really well. All the female characters look like they could be Carla Cugino’s relatives. Timothy Hutton is great in it it took five episodes to have for him to say a full sentence but every time he was in it while he was silent was a performance full of gravitas. If I had more time I could break down all the cast and their contributions but you might have to tune in to Fantastic Forum for that.
A little foot note for you before you watch it; there’s ghosts everywhere so keep your eyes peeled.
The Haunting of Hill House is out now on Netflix
Introduction to SOMA Video Game
SOMA by Frictional Games can be described as a combination adventure puzzle search and find role playing video game. In my opinion SOMA is a video game that has to grow on you. In other words, when you start playing SOMA, you may think there is nothing unique or different about it. These were my initial thoughts; however, I decided to give SOMA the benefit of the doubt. As I got further into the video game play, I got the impression Frictional Games was attempting to provide a different type video game playing experience from the usual type video games I’ve played before. By the way, I played SOMA on my Alienware PC.
As a summary of SOMA, the main protagonist, Simon Jarrett, experiences adventures not of his own choosing as a result of a brain scan that seemed to have gone haywire -- to the point where he is transported to all types of environments while facing various dangerous situations.
Positives of SOMA Video Game
SOMA, in my opinion, has excellent voice acting including that of the main video game protagonist in the game, Simon Jarrett. As you venture through the SOMA video game environment, additional, expert voice actors are added to the cast for video game characters such as Amy, Carl and others.
I think SOMA has good sound effects. When you hear the stomping steps of the robot villain as it approaches near, you get the feeling that it is right there with you, wherever you are playing the video game. As the robot villain gets closer, the stomps become increasingly louder. As it moves away, the sounds become fainter which gives you the impression that it is safe to either start or keep moving around the SOMA environment.
I liked the puzzles within the video game play with problems you had to solve. For example, in this game you are faced with having to log into a computer; however, the challenge is you do not have the i.d. number to access the system. You have to not only figure out how and where to get the i.d. number, but you must also try to stay away from the robot villain as well. To add to the challenge, you must remember how to get back to the location of the computer, once you have found the i.d. number.
SOMA gives you lots of missions to complete which are necessary to advance through the video game. Sometimes you get your missions directly from a computer within the video game itself. For example, during the initial part of the game, you must locate the communication center which is a room with a domed ceiling. This, of course is easier said than done, because in trying to do so, you must not only remember where the communication center is once you get this mission -- but you must also try to locate it in what seems to be a gigantic, partially dilapidated mechanical plant that is not the safest place to be.
Some of the puzzles involve opening locked doors, which may sound simple, until you find out you have to roam around the massive plant to locate a special type tool to do so. Once found, the tool is added to your inventory. I liked that you can retrieve your tool as well as other items added to your inventory as needed by just the simple push of the tab key -- if you are playing SOMA using your PC. Bonuses are also added to your inventory during gameplay as well. For instance, during the early part of SOMA video game play, I earned a special trading car as my bonus.
I think SOMA has detailed, realistic-like graphics that complement the sound effects. In the scene where I was trying to get away from the robot villain, the mechanical plant was so realistically illustrated, I got the feeling I was actually fleeing down the winding metal stairs, rushing to get safely away from it.
If you like exploring environments and real worlds in video games, SOMA may be your type of video game. You can spend quite a lot of time roaming the areas within the context of either escaping villains, locating items, going to and from different locations or other travels depending on the missions or challenges.
Additionally SOMA video game play provides a level of suspense of not knowing exactly what is going to happen next. In a way, SOMA plays like a mystery novel where as you turn the pages, you can delve more into the various actions taking place. The difference, of course is as the video game player, you are the one who must guide the character in order to solve the mystery. From the SOMA video game play, the mystery appears to involve some type of devious underhanded actions going on that are revealed the longer you play SOMA. You, as well as the main protagonist, Simon Jarrett, are learning more about what is happening to him as you advance through the video game.
Some of the puzzles in SOMA, in my opinion, were creative. For example, once you located a computer, there is a section of the video game, where instead of inputting an i.d. number to log in, you had to realign vertical and horizontal lines within the computer screen so an emblem on the screen defragmented just right for a connection to take place.
Another positive of SOMA was the checkpoints. I liked that if for some reason you were destroyed during the video game play, the checkpoint started at a logical place -- so time was not wasted repeating video game play that had already been completed.
Negatives of SOMA Video Game
I mentioned previously that exploring the SOMA environment was one of the positive attributes; however, there is a not so fun side of this exploration. Even though there was a map of the mechanical plant on a computer within the video game -- SOMA did not provide a map to help you navigate through different environments. Many times, instead of following a map on the screen, you had to try to remember locations based on either the layout of the building or signs posted in the plant.
Since there is not a SOMA map, you will probably end up retracing your steps or going in circles until you determine the correct way to go. This happened to me quite a lot during the SOMA video game play, with me sometimes opting to check out either the hints or a youtube video of SOMA game play to find out where the character should go next and to avoid circling the environment over and over again.
A hint given during the underwater scene was to follow the lights, which was not helpful since there were a myriad of lights in the hazy darkness of the environment. To me it was a waste of time for the character to follow lights that sometimes took him back where his travels began in the first place.
Regarding the robot villain in the early part of the game -- you are not able to fight or defend yourself against it. If you do not get a chance to hide before it spots you -- it will destroy you. Your defenses are to hide until it’s out of sight or to run away from it and hide somewhere else. The plus side is the robot villain moves very slowly which gives you a chance to get away.
SOMA gives you the option of moving items within the environment around, similar to other similar type video games. However, in my opinion, there was no need to be able to move some items that did not serve to advance the story along or help solve puzzles. For example, I was able to move boxes and some other items around for no other reason except that I could do so. Initially when I played this video game, I was under the impression I was moving around items for a specific reason -- but this was not the case.
I know video games do not depict real-life situations because after all -- they are video games. However, I think the developers may have been stretching this a little too far when after Simon Jarrett experienced lots of perils, he reaches a computer and Amy, the person he is talking to on the computer, asks him what is going on. I agreed with Simon Jarrett when he indicated he had no idea and thought that she (Amy) knew. My thought was unless Amy had Simon under surveillance during his earlier adventures, how would she have known what had been happening to him which could have led her to ask such a question.
Even though I did not mind playing this video game as the male character Simon Jarrett, I think it would have been a plus if I was given the option to play as either a male or a female. Additionally, I understand SOMA is rated M for Mature, but personally, I did not like the video game dialogue that was sometimes laced with profanity.
The above being said, overall, I think SOMA has an interesting storyline and challenges. The major minus for me was the lack of on screen map or hints or options in the video game. In my opinion, some of the long stretches of travel during the game where you are simply moving the character along from place to place, would have been ok, if there was a simple diagram to show where you should go next. Even if a map was not used, visual hints could have been displayed to help move Simon Jarrett to his next missions quicker-- which would have eliminated wasted time moving the character around needlessly, sometimes in the wrong directions while playing this video game.
Rating of SOMA Video Game
Initially I was going to rate this video game lower because of the tendency for repetitive game play due to non-defense capability of the main protagonist as well as the lack of maps or helpful hints. However, I reconsidered my rating taking into account the attention to detail of the video game graphics, the creative storyline as well as the good sound effects and voice acting.
On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the lowest score and 10 being the highest, I give SOMA a rating of 7.
Availability of SOMA Video Game
SOMA is rated M for Mature and is available for purchase on Steam, the PlayStation 4 store, GOG.com and the Humble Store.
Pathologic Classic HD is a remastered version of the cult classic first person survival game where you search an open world to find clues, items, and of course a lot of stopping random people and children to talk and barter items. Not a lot of action in this game, and after awhile it can get a bit dull doing the same things over and over. You live out the story of 3 people in this game and it may leave you scratching your head wondering what is going on and why.
The graphics are reminiscent of Day Z and H1Z1. The overall animations of the characters are fairly basic, as the people you 'talk' to look at you with various facial expressions. You’ll have to "talk" to a lot of people in the form of reading text on a screen..lots of reading text on the screen...lots!
With this game you should be able to use either joystick or keyboard/mouse, but my joystick never worked on this game. I’m not the best keyboard game player and the learning curve is small but it does take awhile to get used to. The overall motions are smooth once you get used to the controls. The quick loading times are a plus when going in and out of buildings. With such a huge map, there are a lot of houses to go into and places to buy stuff. Although sometimes you wonder why there is so little to choose from in some shops.
This is a very slow game in my opinion. After a few hours of walking and reading text with no real action, I lit up when I was slapped in the face by someone who I had spoken too. On another occasion I was getting punched in the face for doing talking to someone else. That led me to believe that there was going to be a battle, but no, just run out the door and the fight is over. Your reputation is very important in this game, so be careful how you treat the people you are talking to. But there are times where the actual audio of the person has nothing to do with the task at hand and sometimes the choices you get for communicating are to either saying something mean or saying something even worse.
THE FINAL WORDS
This is the kind of game that is an acquired taste for sure, if you like a game where you do a lot of walking and reading text, finding random items and seeing some things that just are simply strange, then you may enjoy Pathologic HD. Not much shooting or fighting in this one. Be prepared to play for hours trying to figure out what is exactly happening in this game. It seems to be aimed at the more cerebral gamer that steers clear of twitch action titles.