Sparkmouth


Great Ones

I was speaking with a bud the other day about video games.  I only recently turned him onto the joys of wondrous gaming, so his “education” started with Call of Duty 4.  I attempted to show him some older classics – COD2 and some others like Halo, but I seemed to have made a mistake.

By introducing him to a fairly perfected game like COD4, his first experience was too good.  He didn’t get to see the past errors or limitation from the previous titles that it took to make it what it is now.  Not to mention all the customization, map balance, AI boost, etc., etc.  For those who started with the first Call of Duty, each game is still a CLASSIC experience for us.

Trying to put Charlie (that’s my buddy) through those earlier versions must feel like torture.  BUT, in spite of that, I still find myself hoping that he and others are not missing out on some really awesome moments.  COD2, although a few years old, heralded some classic multi-player as well as solid FPS campaigning.  It’s the 360 launch title and still has a decent following on Live.

The same thing with Halo.  I started with the first in the trilogy and bled through the wait for each consecutive Halo.  There is not one second of that game play I would give up for anything.  I STILL throw in Halo CE to this day.  The experience is legendary.  Especially on Legendary.

Another friend of mine is a Halo 3 fanatic.  It’s his first Halo experience.  He knows everything about the game.  But he has no Halo lore or back story behind it.  He did play Halo 2, but it was co-oped with myself and he missed the story line completely.  He’s never tackled the first Halo.

I started thinking about this and it got me a little frustrated.  These games can’t just fall through the cracks to newer generations of gamers.  I showed another friend Halo and his response was less then enthusiastic.

“You can’t duel wield?” He sighs.

“No, that came out in Halo 2.  But look at this!  This is so freaky, the Flood is about to burst right through these doors!!!  Oh man, get ready, this is gonna blow your fucking mind!”

*Enter Flood*

“What is that?”

“It’s the Flood!  When this I first played this, I was out of my mind!  Isn’t it intense?”

“They look like white balloons.  Are the supposed to be scary or funny?”

“It’s an old game.  You have to use your imagination.”  *Blood pressure rising*

“So….why can’t I duel wield again?” He is clearly freaked out by this gaming experience.

“Let’s just watch TV.” *choking back tears*

Now, don’t misinterpret this – I’m not one of those stuck in the past, angry, miserable assholes who feel like making a sequel is blasphemy.  You know those crusty bastards.   The “Prince of Persia was only great game ever and anything since then sucks, but I decide that before I even try new games”.  Ulgh – kill yourself.

I spend more time playing new releases then any other games.  I feel like the gaming industry is only getting stronger as each year goes by.  With new co-op methods, console updates and more and more titles expanding their respective storylines, I’m quite happy with the current gaming industry.

I just want others to experience these classic moments as I had.  They’re priceless.

So, to feed my narcissism and need for nostalgia, I’m making a list.  And in that list, I shall place those moments that I hold dear.  The unforgettable moments.

This is my list, based on my experiences.  There are undoubtedly some games that I haven’t played that should be on a list like this, but until I play them, I can’t list ’em.

Drum roll please…..

Halo CE – The Flood

As mentioned above, this is a moment of terror and a completely unexpected plot turn that made the Halo plot more serious and solid by introducing a third enemy.  Not only are you fighting the Halo ring itself, and the Covenant, but now you’re blindsided with a zombie infection/super alien pile of ass-rape.

The moment of it’s entry is a buildup during  the entire level.  Something has obviously gone wrong and the Master Chief  is sent down to figure it out.  This is the level 343 Guilty Spark.

As your fighting your way down to rescue the Captain, you keep running into clues of absolute destruction and something able to rip the covenant to pieces.  I was thinking it may have been the super weapon mentioned earlier and I was getting excited.

When you finally hit the bottom, you enter a room full of slaughtered marines and you watch a rather revealing helmet cam depicted a Flood attack on the Captain and company.

Upon completion, the Flood burts through the doors, ceilings, and windows to devour your metal coated ass.

That and the ensuing escape/slaughter fest are truly a master blending of pacing and genius level design.

Half-Life – There are no good guys?

This classic moment from the first Half-Life blew me away.  After crawling through the wreckage of the Black Mesa Facility, you finally make it to the out side.

Earlier on, scientists in the building scream that soldiers are here to save us and that we just need to make it out to the top.

As you exit the building, one of the scientists begins to run toward a soldier for rescue.  The soldier quickly turns his gun onto the scientist and lets him have it.

You realize that this is is no rescue party, it’s a containment mission.  And you realize that your problems are just getting a hell of a lot worse.

Bioshock – Entering Rapture

Bioshock is fucking packed with moments that could fit on this list.  I hope that I can do this moment justice.

As you descend in the bathysphere into Rapture, a welcome video is played where Andrew Ryan explains his reasoning behind this underwater city.  This is the famous “I chose Rapture!” speech.  As you crest a “hill”, Rapture unfolds before you.  The city appears wondrous and the glow of lights and signs bring this seemingly pleasant city to life.

You get a first glance at a Big Daddy fixing a piece of a structure as your ride pulls into it’s destination.  Although nothing has occurred yet, there is a little tickle in the back of your neck…

As you pull into your destination – a kind of train station – your are met with a scene much different then you may expect.

After watching a man torn to pieces by what you’ll found out is a Spider Splicer – the bitch wrecks your ride and takes off.

And now, here is the moment I wish to describe.  While taking directions from Atlas, you get a moment to get your bearings and look around at the huge set pieces and scenery.

Rapture is something you could never imagine.  An intimate juxtaposition of the tidy and the unspeakable.  A beautiful city turned into something purely sinister and hideous.

Welcome to Rapture.  You will now spend the next 20 or so hours in a state of painful terror and cautiousness like no game you have ever experienced.

And just wait for the Hospital level…

Half-Life 2 – We Don’t Go To Ravenholm

There are a few moments in the this level where you just wish Alex would come out and give you a hug.

There is a town near City 17 where we just don’t go.  A tiny little berg called Ravenholm.  They have some houses up for sale.  Bet you’ll get a sweet deal.

Welcome! The entire population of Ravenholm?  2 people – and one of them is you.  The rest – zombies, head-crabs, zombies, fast zombies, zombies, poison head crabs and couple more zombies.

It’s also filled with puzzles, tight rope walking, and things jumping from corners almost regularly.  It is, however, one of the best levels for honing your gravity gun skills.  Saw blades aplenty as you travel through the town and even more slow zombie to veggie chop up with them.

As you progress, you’re cheered on by the the shotgun toting priest, Father Gregori.  Even his company is welcome after wandering through streets and abandoned houses all alone at first.

This level is the definition of terror in terms of it’s unpredictability.

Scariest moment – howling fast zombies leaping across buildings at you.  From behind.

Truly an unmissable experience.

Medal of Honor:Allied Assault – D-Day

After having recently watched Saving Private Ryan, it was my personal fantasy to “storm the beaches” like that movies.  Hands down one of the best visuals in modern film making.

My grandfather served in the armed forces on D-Day and the subject has been a personal obsession.

Playing it in a video game is not even a close second to the real thing, I’m sure.  I know it’s not the only game to have a Normandy level, and not the best one by far, but it was the first one that I played.

The level does it’s best to capture that hopelessness that must have been sheer hell for anyone that lived through it.  Stick your head out from behind those hedgehogs and you’re wrecked.

It took my quite a while to get through this level.  You are given no quarter.  The beaches are covered with German MGs, mortars rain death down into the only access points to the inner beach.  The only relief are helpful medics dealing out health – if your near it.

After you finally crawl your way up the beach, creeping from cover to cover finally you make it to the seawall, knock it out with Bangalores and move up to return the favor.

The greatest moment – when you finally make through the bunkers to the MG nests where you get to meet the gunner who had you pinned down on your ass for the last half hour.  I reserved a pistol for him and proceeded to beat his skull in for the trouble.

Call of Duty 4:Modern Warfare – .50 Cal

This one is simple.  After creeping around on your belly for a while dressed up like a weed, you will enjoy one of lifes greater pleasures.

That happy little moment where you stick your eye into the sights of a Barrett .50 Caliber sniper rifle.  And then point that beast at a bald and wrinkly terrorist.

One word – dismemberment.  And at a clean 60fps, no doubt.

Halo 2 – Hello Energy Sword

Remember the first time you see that energy sword in Halo 1?  It looks a bit like a blue-raspberry popcicle.

And then you rush to kill it’s owner and pick it up for all your dicing needs…wait…wait a minute!  It (much like a popcicle!) just melted into the god damned floor!

Sadly, this sword appears in Halo, but is unusable to us lesser beings.

Enter Halo 2.  For starters, the duel wielding…not really as exciting as we all hoped.  Although, a pair of SMGs in your mits sure makes for some serious gore in close quarters, the real winner in Halo 2 was the use of the energy sword.  The first time I swung this baby in the campaign,  I nearly shat myself with glee.  All those Halo 3 newbies take it for granted, but I felt like that energy swords was slaved over in forums and message boards and I’m thankful for the sacrifices made to bring that baby to me.

Truly the greatest anti-Flood weapon in the game.

The only down side is the multi-player side.  It’s battery never dies, so being on the business end of someone with the energy sword can become tiresome.  Just take a few steps back and open up the BR.  That ought to calm things down.

Team Fortress 2 – Catching a Spy

So there I am.  A Sniper.  It’s my second or third time playing.  I’m BLU and I joined in on a match already started.  I believe a Pyro spawned at the same time as me and I remember his gamer tag vaguely.  Something something “PWNED” or something.

My plan was to head out and up on the balcony to camp the objective spot with sniper fire.  The Pyro went out the left door and just as he dissapeared, I noticed there was another Pyro walking up behind an Engineer.  Nothing too unusual, except his gamertag got my eye.  Same as the guy that just walked out…

This is my first run in with a Spy and I wasn’t sure what kind of wizardry was abound here.  Not pausing to think it over, I whipped out a machete and moved in for the hack-and-slash.

My instincts were dead on.  I out-spied the Spy.   He slid to the ground like the slimey bastard he was. And I saved our turrets from some embarrassing Sappage.

Team Fortress 2 is, in general some of the greatest visual eye candy in a game yet.  To also have solid game play as part of the action just makes it that much better.

Resident Evil – First Zombie

I played this game in a co-op manner with a few friends hunkered around the Playstation.  The opening scene, running into the mansion from the zombie dogs was freaky.  The rest of the game was a nightmare.

After some opening tom-foolery, you start down a hallway.  The camera work in this game is genius adding more than a little suspense by hanging it at strange and distorted angles.  It plays just like a horror movie.

The moment arrives at the end of the hallway. In a cut scene, we witness an infected zombie feasting on the remains of some guy as we walk in the room.  You know the cover to the game – that over the shoulder stare at you with the yellow eyes.  That’s where it’s from.  Absolutely unforgettable.

This is followed by a weaponless back pedal as the zombie lumbers after you in the hallway and a few knife slashes and you move on.

But a great sequence, nonetheless.

Doom – Cyberdemon

By far, one of the greatest boss battles in gaming history.

The moment is right when you’ve entered the Tower of Babel and you can hear those cloven feet thundering above you.

Oh, the horror!

Mortal Kombat – Finishing Moves

Anyone growing up in the early nineties played this fighter.

And most of us have been at the receiving end, or at the delivering end of signature finishes.   Kisses of death, hearts being ripped from chests or decapitation by reptilian ingestion…

And every time it’s your carcass… you die a little inside.

N00b.

Portal – The Whole Cake

Portal is a game.  It is made of win and cake.

If you have not played this game yet, there is nothing that I can say.

Play it.

Xbox Live.  You can down load it.  Or get the Orange Box.  This is something you CANNOT miss out on playing.

And the winner is…

The most unforgettable moment in my personal gaming history involves a game that not too many people remember.  It’s an NES title and to honest I barely played the game at all.  My experience is watching my older brother sit in front of this game for hours.

Solomon’s Key.  Come on.  Absolutely one of the toughest and most chalenging puzzler games I’ve ever seen.  I couldn’t even keep up with what Jason was doing on that thing.

The mechanics of the game are idiot simple.  Break blocks and make blocks to trap things and navigate through walkways to get the key, catch some fairies and get through the door.

When I sat down and played I just got to flustered.  Watching Jason work over these puzzles was like poetry in motion.  I have a vivid recollection of the whole family watching Jason play along, trying to help him out with different parts of the game – mostly just annoying him.

For god knows what reason, that was my first video game addiction.

What really got me was that we never finished the final level.  That still bugs me to this day.

I bet this thing is out for the Wii Virtual Console.

If it is, I’m all over that.

Now to fly my brother out here so I can just watch…

Closing Arguments

I get it, I get it.  I probable left out a ton.  There are hardly any RPGs on it.  That’s because I don’t play them.  This isn’t a judgement, it’s a personal opnion.

There are many other great games.  Unreal Tournament,

I hope there is at least one or two of those things that you can pick up and roll with.  There are so many experiences to be had, if you just approach it openly.  And when you step into the game, just let your fucking mind go.

Leave behind the mundane.  Close your blinds.  Kiss the sun good bye.

Take a deep breath…

And Skype!

Wait, WTF?


Pwn Them Softly?

Last night, in a rather off beat conversation with my wife, I brought up upcoming game, Left4Dead.

Megan is not, not, not interested in video games.

Although I wish I had avoided the whole subject, it did get my mind going.  And it ended up being a worthwhile discussion – at least for my mental obsession.

Meg didn’t get why anyone would want to play a video game where you kill things.  I assume this is most of what she sees me play.   Gears, Halo, Half-Life, Resistance, COD, etc., etc.  In fact, the vast majority of games, movies and even books and television that we watch are focused around the same ideals.  Find whats doing bad things, kill it, arrest it, burn it with fire or exercise the demons from it.  That is pretty much entertainment in a nutshell. Oh, that and the scare factor.

You’d think having it explained in painful detail how horrible it is that people would be entertained by this stuff would turn you off from it.

It doesn’t.

Why?

Well, jesus, it’s being misinterpreted as real.  Thanks to assholes like Jack Thompson, it’s been pushed that the human mind is a god damned Simon Says game that just repeats back anything that it sees.

I believe that it is human nature to play games.  To strive to be a part of something much bigger then themselves.   Feeling something that is unusual, experiencing something so far out there (aliens, shock-horror, fantasy) – it’s just an escape.  A momentary respite from the mundane.

Why it is that fake killing and the like are where we turn to for satisfaction I haven’t fully wrapped my mind around.

There is most certainly a darker side to human nature.  Every civilization was founded on the blood and guts of it’s previous occupier.  Human history is filled with some of the most terrible things you could imagine.  Man has never been too kind to man.

Today, this may not be as evident, but it only takes a quick look to see that part of man still in full force.

What I’m getting at is that it is a part of human nature.  And taking our frustration on a video game by pwning for a few hours, sure as hell beats alternatives.

Look, this whole idea has already been statistically pwned.  Stats show that kids playing violent video games are not influenced the way people think they are.

In fact, IQs on gamers have been shown to be higher on average then those who shun them.

People always fall back on the Columbine Shooting.  No one mentions their dipshit parents.  We just hear about Doom or Marilyn Manson being the cause.  They say Doom because of how they executed the killings.  With guns.  That’s like saying that watching cooking shows is bad because someone kills a guy with a kitchen knife.

The way to settle this is simple.  They say these kinds of things didn’t happen before TV and video games.

WRONG!

1927, Bath School Disaster.  Andrew Kehoe blew up a whole god damned school.  Then, while rescue workers were digging through the wreckage, he drove up in a truck and detonated a shrapnel filled bomb, killing himself and many others.  The only game available was fucking stick ball. The greatest school killing in the history of the world!  45 DEAD and 50 injured.  How the hell can you explain that.  Too much crazy jazz music in his youth?

No, he was fucking nuts.  There are always crazy people.  It hasn’t gotten any worse as of late.

Take the V-Tech Massacre.  Horrible, horrible tragedy.  32 dead.  The press leaps all over this guy to find out what video game he thought he was playing.  Oh, oh, oh wait!  He hates video games.  He played Sonic The Hedgehog when he was a kid.  Too bad for that electrified story.

What I realized with Megan is that she just gets the pictures from what shows on the TV.  I usually play with head phones and she misses out on the whole back story and problem solving aspect.  She just gets the bloods carcasses being tossed around the screen.

In competitive mutliplayer, there is so much going on that you don’t have time to get influenced.  The timing of everything you do has to be correct.  There are obstacles to overcome that require teamwork, cooperation and efficiency.  In newer games (R2, COD:WAW, Gears2) healing teammates becomes a huge part of the game (compassion anyone?).

And these are not just AI spawned bots your working against.  Another dude, in another state is in there with you.  It’s a battle of wits and reflexes.  Sure it’s all on a TV, and there’s no physical interaction.  So what, imagine how much of a mess it would make if you had to go act this stuff out.

Okay, okay, okay.

After going through this with Megan, she sort of got what I was saying.

Then she said “I still don’t understand why though.”.

I finally fell back on my favorite:

“I just want to be ready for the zombie apocalypse.”

*facepalm*


Still Lucid

While Trailfoot goes on hold for the winter-slash-rain, I’m bringing this new blog up to fill in some gaps.  Mostly the ones in my head.

It’s too full up there.  I’m cluttered with errant thought.

As an example – yesterday, in an epic journey across my living room to get my phone charger,  I found myself wandering.  Somehow, in those few steps, I started on an entire thought process about something.  Something so deep, so interesting, that I forgot where I was going, what I was doing.  During this train of thought-I swear it was something about video games-I ended up in the kitchen.  I picked up a hat on the counter, walked all the way back to living room, and stood there looking at the hat wondering why it was in my hand.

This is a constant problem.  Especially when it comes to Megan asking for me to grab something over there or pick up something and do something with another something.  I hear it.  I set out to do it.  And then, when the moment is right – I get struck by mind lighting!  BOOM! Complete concious melt-down.

I swear there must be hundreds of these ideas and stories and, well I guess fantasies, that just swarm me.

When I was blogging Trailfoot it went on hold.  Perhaps the Fornit up there has grown tired of waiting and has started to gnaw his way back out for more.

Or maybe I just enjoy it.  Damn it, why the hell not.

Many of the good ones may be buried again.  I’ll tell you, there were some real cookers. I just hope pulling them out won’t have the worm effect and split those gems in half from too hard a tug.

I’ll do my best.