Thursday, October 23, 2014

Thief Gold and I Am Alive Reviews

Game: I Am Alive
Year (s): 2012
Company: dev. Darkworks, Ubisoft
pub. Ubisoft
Engine: modified Unreal Engine 2.5 w/ Havok Physics
Type: Survival Climber

The Game
I bought this game with a gift card, largely because it has a great title. It was also post-apocalyptic (earthquakes and sandstorms, in this case) and looked like it might be a shooter of shorts. The playable character has been walking for months to be reunited with his family after taking a business trip across the country.

I didn't get too far into it. Gameplay is mostly climbing on stuff. Combat was basic and always came with prompts to make sure you did it right. Bullets were quite rare, and if you climbed too much at once you'd lose your grip and die. So, it's definetely survival, and somewhat of a crappy shooter.

The plot interested me well enough, but I couldn't find the objective on one of the early levels (climbing up a mall). Maybe they could have made it glow. Maybe I missed a prompt on part of the screen I wasn't looking at. I'll never really know. After spending about 2 hours climbing (and sometimes dying from climbing) around the same area, I gave up. This is not a worthwhile game.

Game: Thief Gold
Year (s): 1999
Company: dev. Looking Glass Studios
pub. Eidos
Engine: Dark Engine
Type: Game: Stealth

The Game
This was one of the many games I bought on the cheap, largely to see why it was so popular at the time. It was one of the first games that utilized stealth. You're a thief, and you're going to steal things. Or you can just kill people. You have the option, at least in the little bit I played.

While the gameplay may have been revolutionary at the time, the controls do not translate well to today's gamers. If you remember Duke Nukem or Hexen, there were buttons all over the keyboard to access inventory, use specific items, et cetera. Controls for Thief Gold are a mangled combination of WADS, mouse, and the aforementioned controls of games of latter years.

There were too many buttons to manage easily, and too many to rebind rationally. This is one of those games that I would have liked when it came out, but now I'd be happier to just play Dishonored.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Contagion Review

Game: Contagion
Year (s): 2013
Company: dev. Monochrome LLC
pub. Monochrome LLC
Engine: Source
Type: Survival Shooter, Multiplayer, Co-op
Viewpoint: First-Person
Metacritic Score: 62
My Score: 62

Price (as of October 4, 2014)

Regular list price on Steam: $19.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay: $11 (Steam key)

Obligatory Trailer:

Zombies! Contagion is a spiritual sequel to Zombie Panic! Source, a game I have never played.


It's the good-ol' reliable Source engine. You know what to expect.

Save System: None

One of Contagions big selling points is that it plays a little differently each time. Locations of weapons, ammo, and necessary items, are not fixed. The path to get from A to B changes. One time a hallway might be blocked so you have to use the stairs. Another time the stairs might be blocked and you have to crawl through ventilation. Level areas are pretty big, so this leaves even a moderately familiar player wandering around not knowing quite where to go. Enemies respawn on a timed basis, but ammo remains scarce.

Combat and Gameplay
There are a few different game types, and I'm going to discuss them one at a time. In Escape, you complete objectives in an effort to be evacuated. The levels are enormous, and they aren't broken into parts as in Left 4 Dead.

Hunted is a survive-as-long-as-you-can game mode in an enclosed area. It is pretty mindless but might be fun with others.

Extraction is the only game type I really enjoyed. Find survivors and escort them to safety, rinse, repeat.

I had two big problems when it came to asking others to try Contagion. First, there are only a few maps for any game type. The randomization concept, which at first sounds like a good idea, is ultimately frustrating in the execution. In some game modes, if you die you come back as a zombie. If you are a zombie, you suck. Even if you manage to shamble up to somebody, you might land a few lame punches and then just get shot in the head. Mostly you just get shot in the head, and have no indication of which direction to go in (if you're a human, your cell phone won't show you a path but will at least point you in the right direction).

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

Final Thoughts

I tried Contagion on a free weekend, and played it for several hours to determine if I wanted to pick it up while it was on sale. The answer: no. The maps are very limited, the zombie gameplay is awful, and the randomization premise didn't do it for me. While this looks like a Left 4 Dead knockoff, you're better off just playing that instead.