My top five games (in no particular order): Commandos 2, X-COM UFO Defence, Deus Ex, Dungeons of Dredmor, Vice City.
The following is a creative piece I wrote for an externally assessed folio/study last year on my chosen text, Alexander Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. Written as a sort of prequel, I wanted to detail a possible account of the events leading to Shukhov's imprisonment. I decided to post this piece online for two reasons, the first being that I'm oddly proud of the piece and the second being that I'd like to share it with more people than just the undoubtedly ageing old bitties that marked the piece. Enjoy.
Frozen hearts, frozen minds – the soldiers lumbered on through the forest. Every bit as stiff as the unflinching oak trees that surrounded the group, they held their rifles steadily as their eyes scanned the wintry horizon for silhouettes. This act was a ruse, a reassurance for their trembling minds. The only protection the rifles offered the group was a false sense of security – their ammunition had long since run out, along with their rations. In desperation some of the group had even begun scraping the hooves off dead horses; once boiled, they offered protein devoid of pleasure. Ivan Denisovich Shukhov had learnt to accept the reality of living in two worlds, one of hopes and dreams and the other, of brutal honesty.
In Shukhov’s war, it was often the world of stark truth that prevailed. “They will send supply planes,” hope would tell him. “Nonsense!” declared reality, “They have no planes to send.” But Shukhov knew that for him to survive the desperation of his situation he must kindle his spirits by distracting himself with dreams, to take pleasure in the thought of better times. His mind began to drift him away from the tense, sullen forest to more pleasant times. His imagination toiled with the thought of embracing his wife as his grip loosened on his rifle. A thousand miles away in a quiet village Shukhov was living in his dream world and while he existed in this place it seemed that nothing could harm him. As Shukhov's mind wandered through the halls of his home, his body wandered through the silent tundra – surrounded by desperate men, many of whom had forgotten to keep hope alive and lived solely in the present. Reality's terrifying grasp tightened the noose around their necks with thoughts of reason and truth. Ultimately these thoughts were the death of such men. They were not fools to reside in such a place, the real world rarely disappointed.
The first gun shots shattered the icy sheet of serenity in Shukhov's mind and brought him crashing into freezing waters of reality. The soldiers were surrounded, out of ammunition, food, and out of their minds. Their fear told them to cling onto their lives and so they submitted. Rifles fell into the powdery snow at their feet, as useful now, as they were minutes ago. Shukhov felt the cold steel of a German rifle barrel prodding his lower back as his group of soldiers was led through the forest, surrounded by the trees that now watched over the men, silent witnesses to their misfortune.
Two nights had passed in German captivity and Shukhov once again found himself wandering through a forest. This time, however, Shukhov was not sheepishly plodding along with a combat patrol, dreaming of better times to keep himself going, in order to avoid sinking under the harshness of the deprivation of freedom, food and human dignity that he had experienced in the under-supplied Red Army. This time Shukhov held no rifle and oddly felt a sense of security that no firearm could provide. He had done it, he and four other men who shared the same drive, the same spirit to push on and overcome adversity. Instead of accepting their fate and grovelling at their captors' feet like animals desperate for a feed, the five chose to take action and escape. Silently overpowering one of the few guards whom the Germans had decided could be spared to watch over such a pathetic group of malnourished, defeated men, the group made its escape. Shukhov could not forget the look on the German's face as the group struggled to choke the last breath of air from his lungs. It was not a look of pure terror as one might expect, but one of utter disbelief. It was as though he could not comprehend why any Russian would actually want to return to their situation of suffering, to a situation so dire that Shukhov's army didn't even have the materials to wage war, let alone feed its troops. The German side didn't have it any easier. They had rations and ammunition but the clothing was inadequate for the cold Russian winter and fighting on several different fronts was beginning to take its toll on the German supplies. With the German camp's flood lights long faded into the white mist of a wintry night, Shukhov began to think the whole situation of this war to be a little odd. Shukhov could still remember when the Soviet officials of his village talked of Germany as an ally; now a few years later, they spoke of the German people as fascist swine who did terrible things to the Russian people.
His mind settled slowly as the early morning chirping of birds began to cascade down from the bare branches of oak trees. The simple pleasure it gave Shukhov reminded him that the war may have taken away his personal freedom, but it had not taken away the freedom to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. In this place, listening to the soothing ambience of the forest, it seemed like nothing in the world could stop him from returning home to his wife and surviving this unfortunate situation he had been forced into. Despite his grumblings of discontent towards Red Army life, he had risked all to escape and re-join it. Although the German sentry would have undoubtedly have called him insane, had he not been throttled, his decision made perfect sense.
He had chosen to return to the sufferings of deprivation rather than a less complicated POW camp life because he needed that familiarity of suffering to fight against, to overcome through the power of his spirit. Shukhov was terrified that if he accepted the easier path, his dreams and hopes of returning to his wife would cease. He feared that he would have nothing to fight against to remind him just exactly what it was he was fighting for. In his army, every day was a fight for survival, but with each new day he forced himself to find pleasure in life, to dream and to find hope from those dreams, to fight for his integrity by not lowering himself to the level of those who scrape horses' hooves.
He had actually embraced the life of hardship, because when this war was over, he would have survived because of his ability to keep his spirit alight in the frozen wastes of hardship. He would no longer have to live in two worlds; his dreams would become reality. That was his dream anyway; the greeting machine-gun fire of an over zealous Russian Tommy gunner served as reality's rebuttal to such thoughts.
©2012 ~ Sierra-93
Let me set a scene.
It's the final level of Crysis. I'm battling my way through flooded chambers on my return journey from the reactor core. As I happily blast away with my shotgun at the small flying aliens a random thought pops into my head, “If the aliens predate humanity by roughly two million years on earth, are they actually aliens?”
This got me pondering. Obviously they are alien in the sense that they are not of earthly descent, however they are less 'alien' to earth, for example, than humans having inhabited earth two million years prior to humanity. Furthermore the legal definition of an alien is, 'a person who is not a citizen of the country.' Surely having some form of civilisation on the island (and suggested elsewhere) counts as settlement? Logically the aliens could not be more alien to that area than Europeans are to Australia, Yet as Australians we don't call ourselves alien to the land, having settled the land we are not originally from. Certainly they are extraterrestrial, but following this logic are they actually aliens?
I think it's an interesting question and one I'd like to hear other opinions on.
The following [which is sure to be a few meaty paragraphs by the time I've stopped madly tapping away at the keyboard and cleaving off any unwanted mind dribbles and grammatical mistakes (well *some* of them...)] is my thoughts on games that play like 80's action movies along with 80's action movies themselves…
80's action movies, like most things you either love them or you hate them. Granted I'm not talking about every 80's action movie, only the greats (at least in my mind!) such as Predator, Terminator, Alien (not 80's but close enough '79) and The Thing. I love these movies because well... they suck. But they suck in a good way (sounds dirty now that I've typed it down but it wasn’t intended to so lets move on…) you’re probably thinking, "What is this kid smoking?" Nothing, I can tell you that much. I will also tell you why I think they suck (in a good way!). They suck because they almost always feature the stereotypical archetypal heroes such as the macho man who blows away bad guys and women’s bras. A guy who is eight feet tall, ripped to the bone and unlike most of us lads he has abs - instead of ab. This doesn't make a movie suck, but once you place the said character in a situation, surrounded by your stereotypical characters, bad guys and environment. Who all proceed to spit out stereotypical lines, blasting thousands of bullets into said bad guys without reloading; all the while huge explosions go off around them it kind of does. The bad guys fire happily away at our hero, who is standing out in the open not too fussed about the obscenities and 50 caliber bullets coming at him. This all makes for great fun to watch if you do it in the right mood, but definitely not the greatest film experience. For example the first time I watched predator, I watched it with my cousin. He hated the film because he watched it as a serious movie; I loved it because I laughed at its faults as though it was in good humour. At the one liners like, "If it bleeds, we can kill it. " I loved the over the top final fight scene and the nuclear explosion that our hero endured and seemingly shrugged off only to ride off into the horizon.
In the case of Alien, Ripley is kind of a macho woman (she probably had abs...) but also a strong feminine character/leader type. Alien is a serious movie that has great tension and some genuinely scary scenes - but at the same time, the gore, the situation and the monster are over the top and fantastically so. Who doesn't love a huge, strong creature with razor sharp pointy teeth, a deadly whip-like tail and acid for blood? In the Thing, the creatures showcased are incredible. They are gory, have dodgy special effects and make crazy noises. Too bad their human counter parts are stereotypical like the strong leader, the coward, the drunkard, the soldier who all say the standard Hollywood(y) things in an over the top situation. Before I ramble on for another paragraph I'd like to get to my point. Games that offer either over the top gameplay, larger than life characters and ginormous guns and monsters are memorable and a real treat to play if you play them in the right mood. Old games like Duke Nukem 3D, Unreal Tournament, Serious Sam and Abe’s Exodus are examples from my childhood memories of fun games that play like 80's action movies (Abe’s not so much, but it kind of has that 'Alien' intrigue to it, its danger and genius). They are memorable because, unlike games that take themselves seriously (which I love in their own right, don’t get me wrong) the characters, the world they live in and the ridiculous action that surrounds them is so over the top its good fun to play.
These kinds of games and movies are brilliant to play and watch when you just want to relax after a long day at work/school. They offer to a certain degree mindless entertainment, which stays in your thoughts long after your done with them. Its these kind of movies and games that most people know of because they are the most memorable. Seriously who do you know who games and hasn't seen The Terminator and Predator, who hasn't played unreal tournament and Duke Nukem 3D (who were alive and gaming within a few years of its release!). Few people I suspect. Who could forget such vulgar creatures such as the Thing, the Face Hugger and Arnold Schwarzenegger! Hopefully this blog/rant has made you want to revisit some of those movies and games, like it has for me. On a final note, I say bring on more games that play like 80's action movies, we have enough serious games to occupy us in the mean time!
My Fellow pentagon/nazi zombie-acan's,
Nazi zombies - or pentagon zombies - or whatever you fancy to put in front of zombies, zombies is a concept I really think should be explored in its own standalone game or through a mod. Not just because of its gameplay (however frantic or fun it may be) but because of the number of scenarios available when opening the game up to historical re-imaginings. I think killing zombies as a historical figure such as John F Kennedy is the best concept ever! I love the teamplay and frantic gameplay of zombies and the witty comments of JFK and others and really think it could be expanded on in its own game. Just think of all the time periods and historical figures they could cover for different maps. I’ve written down some ideas for maps and historical periods as wishful thinking you might enjoy.
Imagine playing as Julius Caesar, Brutus, Antony and the soothsayer in the Roman senate, holding off the zombie senators during the "Idese of March". Or how bout re-enacting the Alamo, where instead of hundreds of angry Mexicans, you fight hundreds of undead Mexicans? Maybe you would prefer the battle of waterloo, where Napoleon and the Duke of Wellington put aside their grievances and fight the fallen soldiers of the battlefield. Custers last stand anybody? Or how about, a re-imagining of the 300 Spartans, playing as Leonidas fighting of the undead Persian Army? The possibilities are endless.
Am I the only one in the world who thinks this is a brilliant idea, if only for the comic value? This concept of historical figures in their zombie gametype truly needs to be expanded upon and hopefully Treyarch does expand upon. Until then, I can only dream of such thoughts as re-enacting the Alamo with zombies. Maybe one day I will be able to, but I sense probably not.
Is there anything in the gaming world more awe-inspiring than the amazingly rendered, DX10 world of Crysis? One of the things I really love about the game is the way the open world nature of the maps complimented with your nanosuit abilities, give you multiple paths ensuring you don’t really feel like you are on a gamers conveyor belt and experiencing the same exact experience over and over again. Having several intertwining paths to an objective really lets you strategise effectively and doesn’t force you into the same old experience that the developers wanted to create, which is not after a play through or two what you want to experience. Here is an example of my in game experience of this...
As I sidestep a North Korean patrol, giving them the slip as Shaun in SOTD would say, the internal voice of the nanosuit sang out, "maximum stealth". Just as successfully as Shaun I managed to give them the slip, and for a short while a lay prone in some rustling bushes watching the waves crashing on the picturess beach, before I heard the familiar Korean noises been yelled at me. With a quick MMB click and swish of the mouse "maximum armour" sang out. The bullets were flying and tree limbs falling as my silenced scar zeroed in on their craniums. "Peuw," one Korean fell to the ground his cap flailing through the air, "peuw" another hit the dirt. My iron sight blurred in my vision building the tension as enemy bullets slapped into my nanosuit’s thighs. "Peuw," I missed! The crafty bugger dodged my shot, "peuw - peuw - peuw," my shots became more desperate and a lot less accurate. "S**w it!" I said to myself as I whipped out the nade launcher I lovingly dubbed 'Chee-unk' on account of the sound the nade makes as it is propelled through the barrel. "Boom" said the nade as it exploded, "Bleurgh," said the korean as he flew through the air and "woosh," said the bushes and trees in the blast zone as the games physics engine swung them like a crazed child trying to dislodge his terrified cat from the top branches.
As the silence settled on the beautiful tropical environment, and by silence I mean the regular ambient sounds of waves crashing, birds squawking and hermit crabs making whatever sound they make when I’m not picking them up and throwing them at North Koreans. A quick glance at my map showed that I had several options of attack. I could swim to the targeted town, avoiding the patrols that were sure to be in the jungle. Or I could trek through the said jungle introducing my fist to the said patrols. Another option I could use could be using my strength mode and some objects that I could pile on top of one and other, get onto some of the nearby cliffs and snipe the little propaganda spreading bastards between the eyes. All of which would offer completely different gameplay and experiences. Unable to decide I compromised. I decided I would go for a quick dip in the ocean where I would snatch myself a Hermit crab. Then race to the nearest cliff face; grab nearby objects like cars and boxes pile them on top of one and other jump up onto the cliff. Where I would snipe Charlie and throw my hermit crab at him then continue on to the objective through the jungle canopy. Barring slight alterations to the plan caused by the accidental loss of my hermit crab on the jungle floor as I dropped him to build my jump platform to reach the cliff top, returning to him but realising he had legs to scuttle away with. And the creative use of a rock instead to an enemies face, things went to plan.
It is this kind of 'mess about' attitude that open world games create that makes them so memorable to me. I love how Crysis can be taken seriously and un-seriously depending on what mood you are in. The ability to do stuff like shoot apart a tree, then pick up a piece of the said tree to throw or bludgeon an enemy to death with is good fun. Everyone remembers moments of creative madness in games like GTA. Another good example of creative madness in a game is while playing Joint Operations at a LAN with friends my team abused the fact that the physics engine is a bit 'suspect' and managed to get HMMWV’s on top of attack little birds and preceded to terrorise the enemy faction. There is nothing quite like a game that encourages players to go a little off the reservation and games that do deserve to be lovingly replayed. I can only hope Crytech has managed to keep the multiple path, crazy gameplay and interesting features of Crysis and implanted them into the open world environment of New York City. Imagine leaping from rooftop to rooftop, stalking your prey with your trusty scar only to decide at the last minute to forgo sniping in exchange for throwing the nearby air vent at your enemy. In the mean time I have hermit crabs to bash the enemy with and cliffs to scale, so I am content for now.