What We’re Playing: The Games of Summer. Ish.

August 16, 2011

The great British summer seems to be coming and going as it pleases, which kind of works out as rain is a great excuse for staying in and playing video games. And so we come to an all-new instalment of What We’re Playing, where we take a quick look at the games eating up the spare time of the Splash Damage boys and girls.

We’ve actually got two new faces in this edition, with Lead FX Artist Niel Venter and Character Artist Vincent ‘vahl’ Joyau joining us with their game-thoughts. Incidentally, Niel seems to be lacking a nickname at the moment, so if you’ve got any work-safe suggestions, please leave them in the comments (along with what you’ve been playing recently, of course!)

And begin:

Neil ‘Exedore’ Alphonso (Lead Designer):
Aside from playing some game that has had some free DLC released recently, I’ve finally gotten around to playing Red Dead Redemption. It’s an interesting change of pace, but I miss being able to change radio stations on my horse. It’s an absolutely stunning display of gaming technology, though. I also finished X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and found it a pleasant surprise, as movie tie-ins tend to have a pretty dire reputation.

In other gaming developments, I got an iPad finally, so I’m being introduced to a whole new world of things such as Infinity Blade and Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor. In all honesty, long overdue, and I can use some more recommendations!

Phil ‘pipster’ Barnell (Production Tester):
Army of Darkness is a free-to-play mobile phone game, and I will say only this; it’s the most awesome slice of freeness I have ever tasted (bar counter-strike). The animations are slick, gameplay excellent, sound tremendous and addictivity levels reach at least 120%. Its basically tower defence, but fun+! Try today, or die! (somehow).

LA Noire is a gritty detective-based thriller set after World War 2, with you playing the part of a grizzled and disaffected war ‘hero’ (you’ll need to play the game to work out use of ‘’s!), who has recently joined the LAPD. The motion capture is the best I’ve ever seen in a game, and voice-acting is superb through-out. The city is also beautifully created, and the atmosphere will keep you enraptured through-out. My one slight jibe; the game is slightly too long (spanning an epic 3 discs) and could have done being about a 1/3 shorter. Still, great stuff!

Demon’s Souls

Stephen ‘Crispy’ Etheridge (Lead Tester):
Recently completed Demon Souls and loved every second. Fun combat, interesting and varied environments and some really interesting multiplayer elements. In the end I completed one of the final bosses after summoning another player into my game to help out, and protect me from other players who were invading my game, trying to reclaim their human form! Can’t wait for the co-op in the forthcoming Dark Souls, it will truly be epic.

Steam Sale pickup Blood Bowl has also been very absorbing. I’ve saved my star player and scorer of 40 of my 55 touchdowns, Snesnik the Goblin, twice from death with a lucky apothecary roll. And crucially so, since the rest of my Orc team are so hell bent on pummeling the other side they don’t really know what a ball is, or certainly how to pick one up without instinctively making a fist and fumbling it! Never mind, they’re always good for smashing Elven catchers, with their throwing and their running and their scoring.

Very much looking forward to Tribes: Ascend, Firefall, Battlefield 3 and Dark Souls.

Vincent ‘vahl’ Joyau (Character Artist):
I play Mount and Blade: Warband at lunch with the guys – mindless fun and epic battles is all you need for awesome lunch games.

At home, being a sucker for indie games, I’ve recently been playing Ninja Senki, a free, cute NES-style 2d platformer made by pixeltao. It’s pretty hard and gets me to curse a lot, but that’s where the fun in those games is. 🙂 Gotta love to suffer to enjoy the accomplishment.

More recently I’ve played EYE: Divine Cybermancy, which is a French, Source-based indie game by Streumon Studios. I just started it but love the RPG/precise FPS side of it so far, and the music is fantastic aswell.

I also always go back to the good old Street Fighter 3 Third Strike and will obviously buy it (again – I’ve bought Street fighter 2 4 times so far and SFIV twice :p) when it’s released on Xbox Live Arcade.

I’m eagerly looking forward to play Deus Ex: Human Revolution too. 🙂

Niel Venter (Lead FX Artist):
I am playing LA Noire at the moment, and I love it. The sense of the place and time is spot on, and faithfully reproduces the spirit of the Film Noir genre, which I have been a fan of for a long time. It does feel like I have stepped into the a Raymond Chandler novel; in fact there is so many nods at the iconic works like ‘The Big Sleep’ or the ‘The Set-Up’ that I have quite a bit of fun just looking for easter-eggs and references. Of course, I wish I could have been a proper ‘gum shoe detective’ like Phillip Marlowe instead of playing a straight laced copper, since the fundamentally flawed yet ultimately redeemed characters makes the genre so interesting.

From a game developer point of view, I am in awe of the sheer amount of work that must have gone into this title. As for the new facial animation technology, this is the best possible game to debut it, and already I am sold on the subtlety and potential for this to help us get clear of the old uncanny valley syndrome. I see it as the first iteration of something that might very well become ubiquitous, especially if we, like movies, want to draw on the star-power of live celebrities, and think that all movie tie-in games should sit up and take note. I am keen to see where this will lead in the years to come.

L.A. Noire

Ed ‘BongoBoy’ Stern (Lead Writer):
Like a buffoon, I only caught this once it was on Steam. It’s a hell of a thing. Literally. It’s a 2D nursery rhyme horror side-scroller where you control a little boy, in neat shorts, seeking his sister. And it has an amazing array of ways to kill you. The thing that worked last time will kill you next time. It’s a gleefully sadistic game. There’s no way of anticipating the danger, you’ll die the first time you encounter something, and probably die a few more times solving the problem, and then get killed by the next thing just as you’re congratulating yourself for having solved the first thing.

Limbo is the most wonderfully precise game. It’s just one very particular, focused aesthetic and player experience, perfectly implemented, and extravagantly ornamented. Like all platformers, it requires fairly precise controls but the controls are fairly forgiving, even if the environment and antagonists are not. The physics seem perfect; every floating box bobs and re-balances just right, with lots of lovely secondary touches like little puffs of dust when you skid to a halt and splashes as something fill with water or falls into it. And the death animations are gruesome and varied, and they need to be because you end up seeing them a lot. Limbo is beautiful, and wonderfully atmospheric, in a film-grainy German Expressionist meets Edward Gorey via Tove Jansson sort of way.

All in all, this is one of the most perfectly implemented game worlds I’ve seen. Even if you’re not wild about the masochism required to progress, it’s well worth checking out.

Steve ‘badman’ Hessel (Community Relations Manager):
I’m pretty sure Red Faction Armageddon‘s Magnet Gun is one of the most fun game weapons I’ve used to date. It’s pretty simple actually – tag a target, pick a destination, and off it goes. You can pull anything with it, ranging from critters to full-blown buildings (which, as an added bonus, fall apart into copious amounts of debris as they’re pulled along). For maximum hilarity, create your own physics-driven combos by combining stuff. Mutants and walls don’t get along so well, it turns out. Oh, there’s coop, too!

In somewhat more peaceful matters, I’ve been guiding an ancient tribe through surprisingly brutal environments in the brilliant From Dust. If you haven’t checked it out, do so immediatey. You’ll be pleasanty surprised. Elsewhere, the excruitating wait for Diablo III was somewhat eased by Dungeon Siege III, which turned out to be a really fun coop game. I actually played through it twice as different characters, which is an utter rarity for me. Second-to-lastly, considering myself a hardcore gamer, it’s slightly weird for me to admit that I’m having a great time playing Empires & Allies on the Book of Faces. It’s a great fix for when you’ve got five minutes to spare and it’s pretty easy to get into, as well.

Lastly, I’ve got to give a shout out to my pal Civilization V – early Sunday mornings would be weird without you.


Terry ‘Salteh’ Seidler (Splash Damage Mascot):
World of Tanks is one of the games I’ve been playing for the past few weeks. Especially now that time is getting more and more precious, I prefer games that I can play for 15-30 minutes at a time and WoT fits this need perfectly. Well that and it’s simply a lot of fun driving around in your light/medium/heavy tank while talking to friends on Skype.

Splinter Cell: Conviction is a game that had been on my ‘yet to play’ list for a while and this month I finally got to play it. The Splinter Cell games have never disapponted me and Conviction is no exception. I spent a considerable amount of time hiding in the shadows and sneaking past guards.. a skill that could prove to be quite useful with all the rioting going around in the country this week!

Richard ‘Fluffy_gIMp’ Jolly (Media Director):
The re-release of Pirates! on the iPad retains a lot of the game’s original charm and I have already plowed a good 12 hours of solid gaming into it. I’m at the point in the game now where, just like in the real-world, I’ve reached my 30’s and am starting to get progressively worse at holding my own in a swordfight. Instead, I’m needing to pay over the odds from my ever-depleting stash of booty to the shifty looking guy sitting in the back of the tavern to equip me with the swashbuckling +4 sash of awesomeness. I digress – if like me you were a massive fan of any of the earlier Pirates games and haven’t played them for a good few years, it is a refreshing walk down nostalgia lane.

There’s been a fairly large office populus dipping their toes into the realm of Terraria and over the past month or so there have been countless persistent questing servers we’ll all jump on for a good party session over lunch. Sure, it is heavily inspired by Minecraft, but compressing it down to 2 dimensions helps it retain a retro charm that keeps me coming back for more. It reminds me of the Lemmings coop days on the Amiga when my brother and I would tunnel underground to build these massive networks – Terraria is much like that but on steroids. If you’re a fan of any of the above, I would highly recommend picking it up on Steam.

Finally, I’m patiently waiting for the fault on my home internet line to be fixed, so I can get my teeth stuck into playing some Brink DLC sessions.