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Rear View Mirror: Just Cause

Just Cause Xbox 360

The most fun you can have on San Esperito

Avalanche may have created the largest and most beautiful open world game
with Just Cause 2, but  this wasn’t their first go at realizing this vision. It was in 2006 that they first created a game that gave you an entire tropical island and an equally over the top toolkit to play with, but back then they were criticized for letting ambition overtake their abilities. Now that the sequel has demonstrated the scope of what they were trying to achieve how does the original compare? Read more…

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Retro Review – Silent Hill 3

February 21, 2010 Leave a comment

This is the first in an irregular series where we review an old game and see whether it’s still worth playing today. Because these are old games we will include potential plot spoilers in the review, but hopefully nothing that gives away the endings or major plot elements. We also won’t be scoring these games as it’s difficult to give a score when comparing to modern games.

I kick this off then with Silent Hill 3, which was originally released on PlayStation 2 in May 2003 and latterly for the PC. I am playing it emulated on a Playstation 3 where it runs fine with a full 4:3 aspect ratio if you opt for 60Hz mode.

This entry is a direct sequel to the original Silent Hill game and does not follow on from Silent Hill 2, which followed the story of a different set of characters and their interaction with Silent Hill.

You play the part of a young woman named Heather in the game and it kicks off in a fairground in the otherworld, i.e. it is full of blood and the mutated beasts Silent Hill is famous for. This introduction it turns out is just a dream Heather is having whilst catching a nap at a cafe. However, it is obvious that those events may not merely be a dream, when the whole shopping mall similarly reverts to a nightmarish vision.

Heather

You play the part of Heather who is confused about what is going on

From that point on you try to piece together why this is happening to Heather and what this means as she just tries to get home. The problem with this as a plot device is you spend about half of the 6-8 hours of the game on that journey with almost no dialogue or story to drive you forwards. Once you do make it home though, which involves some gruesome discoveries in your apartment, the game literally puts you on a rollercoaster as it tries to its story in the remaining few hours.

This leads to a rather truncated delivery and as you might expect from a Silent Hill game, it’s a little hard to follow. Basically though it involves seeking revenge against a woman named Claudia, who was in the original game. Claudia believes that Heather is a reincarnation of her daughter and is also carrying an unborn god who will deliver the world to “paradise”. In game, this then translates to clunky combat, horrible creatures and bosses and a few puzzles.

The puzzles in the game rely on using the right item with the correct object, but for some reason on more than a few occasions the solution is hampered more by difficulties understanding the inventory system than figuring out the solution. An example of this is when you’re confronted with a locked gate and nearby is a revolving carousel. As I was holding a chain it seemed obvious to attach the chain to both gate and carousel and eventually the chain would wrap round the ride and pull the gate from its hinges. Once you attach the chain to the ride you then see the chain on the floor and can’t seem to interact with it, i.e. attach it to the gate. The solution was that even though you could see the chain on the floor it was still in the inventory and so you had to approach the gate and use the chain again. There are a few examples of this, which reflects negatively on the rest of the puzzle elements. This is also something that wasn’t a problem in the previous game.

The graphics are still good, but the camera seems to hinder you at every step, which seems unnecessary, given that it’s not fixed and can be modified by holding L2. Why then it always presents the least usable angle is a puzzle.

Not Pretty

Silent Hill 3 monsters

The controls are those of all survival horror games before the modern era, i.e. you use the digital pad to “drive” forward and steer with left and right, so that up on the d-pad always moves Heather forward without context. Even at the time, this made the games difficult to control, but arguably added tension. Today this is just frustrating and coupled with the poor camera makes navigating dangerous areas overly difficult. Similarly, combat is without skill or finesse for the most part relying on you just shooting and healing or avoiding combat if you can. The weapons in the game are limited to just 3 different firearms and 3 melee weapons; although you will probably stick with the katana once you find it. Choice of weapon in this type of game isn’t a problem, but you will always be lower on ammo than is comfortable, but fans wouldn’t have it any other way.

What usually carry these games are the atmosphere, tension and story. Silent Hill 3 still delivers on the atmosphere and in some respects tension, but the plot seems much weaker than the second game.

For those of you that are fans of the series, it is worth going back to play this game, especially as it’s prequel has been remade as Shattered Memories and  is due to ship at the end of this month. For others, you will probably just find the controls and presentation just too dated to make your stay in Silent Hill a pleasant one.

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Replacing my Dreamcast Battery

February 16, 2010 Leave a comment

For some reason I was thinking about Soul Reaver last night, which is an old Dreamcast game. I then remembered that the battery on my Dreamcast motherboard had died. No great problem, but it does ask me to enter the date and time every time I switch it on.

Today was the day when I decided that it was probably replaceable, so that’s exactly what I did. Not being brave enough to just take the cover off and start meddling, I looked at this You Tube video which although not great did at least reassure me that it wasn’t rocket science.

Something that the guy doesn’t mention until late into the video is that you’ll need a rechargable CR2032 battery. I’d already levered the battery off the connections before I realised that, but they are fairly readily available from Ebay. I’d also like to say that you should probably use a soldering iron to remove the old battery or you will end up with bent connectors like I did. Anyway, it works and it doesn’t ask me the date anymore, but then I probably won’t switch it on again for another 10 years and I’ll need to do this again.

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