Wednesday, 28 September 2011

ITV Exposure FAIL

ITV – Exposure Program Uses Video Game Footage to show the threat in the 80’s from the IRA…
Come on now…seriously? ITV bosses apologised after they were found out to have just badly thrown together some footage from the video game Arma II, to make it look as though it was authentic footage of the IRA from 1988…

They actually did this. How can anybody be so stupid, as to put in footage from a computer game, and really think that nobody would notice? It really does defy belief, but it has spawned some funny piss-take videos on the tube of you. But for the actual footage, please look no further than this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSPy431Zz7U

An ITV spokesman said, “The events featured in Exposure: Gaddafi and the IRA were genuine but it would appear that during the editing process the correct clip of the 1988 incident was not selected and other footage was mistakenly included in the film by producers. This was an unfortunate case of human error for which we apologise.” Human error? Human error to think that a computer game was real life?

The media lately have jumped onto this bandwagon that a lot or all gamers cannot differentiate between the Virtual and Real worlds. However, maybe they should look closer to home when they cannot themselves differentiate, but it was – surprise, surprise – gamers, who noticed the glaring error and proceeded to tell the world.

One particular part of the ITV documentary particularly made me chuckle, the serious, almost somber sounding narrator of the video, says “It was possible to shoot down a helicopter, as the terrorists own footage from 1988 shows. This was what the security forces feared most. It may have been a lucky hit, but for the army and crew – once was enough. No one died in this attack, but there were many other deadly arms to fear.” There is so much to lampoon from that little excerpt – I won’t go for the obvious “Terrorists own footage” comment, since we all know that it isn’t. Instead let’s look at this little line: “This was what the security forces feared most.”

Apparently there were other fearsome foes in the battles in Northern Ireland – not as fearsome as the pixelated helicopter destroyers that the ITV believes are real. The following genuine IRA footage from 1988, is quite harrowing, and shows 4 young British Army soldiers, one by one, being chased and ultimately eaten by the ghostly IRA soldiers. Please do not watch if you are of a nervous disposition.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XREIeS8WqJM

…I am ever so sorry. I have just been informed by the research elves in my mind here at MonkeyBoxGaming, that the above footage is actually footage from the computer game Pac Man. Not actual footage from the IRA, from 1988.

“No one died in this attack.” No shit Sherlock. It might also rest some minds out there if you were told some other home truths. Space Invaders, is just a game. Aliens didn’t really slowly lower themselves from space, whilst moving from side to side in an attempt to conquer the planet. Also plumbers don’t ever lower themselves down pipes, and eat mushrooms to grow twice their size, as much as you might want to believe after watching footage from Super Mario Bros. It might also please a lot of people out there to know that there isn’t an epidemic of people who are invisible, have the squits or even bloaty head – it all comes from yet another game called Theme Hospital.

I just felt that if ITV felt the need to let people know that nobody died during a piece of computer game footage, I should also let these poor people know the truth surrounding other games.

But there you have it. ITV thinks that computer games are real life. Even though they, and most other media outlets try to convince you that it’s you, yeah you, sat there on your arse reading this, or your kids, or your siblings who play computer games, that cannot possibly tell the difference between real life, and what happens on screen.


Bastards.

Toolbox24

Thursday, 22 September 2011

“I’LL DO A GRAND THEFT AUTO MASSACRE”



Fateful words apparently said by Able Seaman (AS) Ryan Donovan, apparently shortly before he killed Lieutenant Commander (Lt Cdr) Ian Molyneux, and shot at Petty Officer (PO) Christopher Brown and Chief Petty Officer (CPO) David McCoy. Not just words spouted by a member of the Armed Forces who liked to play video games, went to school with Tinie Tempah, had a history of disobeying orders, thought of himself as a bit of a “gangstah” and, oh yeah, got absolutely rat arsed the night before he went on his rampage – but these words that adorn the title of this blog (for ironic purposes) was the headline I was greeted to this morning as I picked up my usual daily newspaper – The Mirror.

Now I like reading The Mirror, it’s easy reading, and they hate the Tories. So yeah they usually have my seal of approval. They haven’t always been the best newspaper (especially going back around 10 years to the incident in a Leeds nightclub involving Jonathan Woodgate and Lee Bowyer), but on the whole they’re pretty good.

Not anymore. I don’t feel as an avid computer gamer, who works with the Armed Forces in my real job, that I can ever take their reporting seriously anymore. The family and friends of Lt Cdr Molyneux, don’t deserve this speculation. All they deserve are the facts, which is what they’ll be listening to in court, they don’t deserve to see a picture of the killer on the front of a national tabloid, with the headline “I’LL DO A GRAND THEFT AUTO MASSACRE” with the following sub-heading of “Submarine killer inspired by computer game”.

Absolute rubbish, the guy was clearly just a fucking nut-job. As I mentioned in my previous article about Doom being released in Germany, some “experts” after the Columbine High School Massacre tried to point at “SHOCK HORROR” in their little den, there was a copy of Doom!!! That’s why they shot dead 13 people, injured around 50 people, and attempted to then blow the school up with home-made bombs. Of course.

Same goes for this guy. If someone has it in them to do one of the most heinous things in the world, by taking the life of another in cold blood – then there is something wrong with that person. When someone kills because they think it will be cool, or because they want to inflict pain on someone, or because they want to imitate someone or something, then that person is clearly disturbed. I must stress that I do not include soldiers, or those who are protecting their families in this bracket – soldiers go to war to protect their nation (and by extension the people of their nation) from threats or invaders, killing someone to a soldier only occurs when it is absolutely necessary, and when it is the last resort. Vincent Cooke, who killed an armed burglar in his house recently, did exactly what I would do – kill anyone who I felt was an immediate threat to my family. I would not think twice about killing an intruder in my house who threatened to harm any of my nearest and dearest, and I’m sure the majority of anyone with a family would think the same way.

I’m getting slightly off track. The Mirror, and other newspapers tried to lambast Grand Theft Auto – again – and blame it for this terrible incident. Again the media trying to make video games out to be these nasty horrible things that make people do things they wouldn’t normally do. “You see that John Smith from down the road, he raped his cat, set fire to his car, threw his wife out of the window and immolated himself…I bet it’s because he got an Xbox Kinect.” That kind of thing. I don’t read the Daily Mail, but I would have thought they would have jumped on this as well, maybe not just blaming GTA:IV but GTA:San Andreas – mainly because the lead character is black, and as all Daily Mail readers know, it’s the blacks and gays and immigrants that cause all of the problems in the whole wide world because they’re black, gay or not from Britain. I mean, they must hate Barrack Obama, 2 of the 3 boxes ticked…

Again I digress, this all stems from this reported in the Daily Mirror – “Shortly before the shootings, wannabe gangsta rapper Donovan, who called himself Reggie Moondogg, had told friends that he was planning a massacre in the style of Grand Theft Auto.” He was planning a GTA style massacre. Right so basically, he told friends he wanted to kill a lot of people, and he said he wanted to do it in like he would in GTA. That doesn’t mean that one day he was playing GTA, and suddenly he thought “HEY!!!!! This massacring people is good fun, I must grab a gun and shoot as many people as I can, just like Niko Bellic.” What if he had said, he wanted to kill a lot of people, and do it in the style of say Kill Bill, grab a samurai sword and start hacking at people right, left and centre? Would the headline then be “I’LL DO A KILL BILL STYLE MASSACRE”? Well knowing the way the warped, blame culture, of the media goes, probably yes. It seems that they cannot just accept that the guy wanted to kill people, and just used GTA as an example.

What you then go on to read is this in the article “He had gone on a booze bender the night before the attack, and volunteered for guard duty while drunk. He was handed an SA80 rifle with 30 rounds the next day after passing a test to see if he was sober.” So the Navy felt, that after a night of drinking, that he was sober enough to handle a weapon? How come when that would appear to be more of a thing to actually lay some real blame down, it is only touched upon in 1 paragraph? After this revelation, they go back to blaming computer games, and I would love to meet the prosecutor, who obviously has some hidden agenda regarding video games. The article goes on to read – “Donovan…told PO Andrew Love he was planning a Grand Theft Auto Massacre. Mr Lickey (prosecuting lawyer) added “The defendant just giggled and said he was thinking how to start a massacre. He started talking about Grand Theft Auto, where you start a massacre and rack up points by killing.””

When an educated man, such as a lawyer, spouts such rubbish as that last line, “start a massacre, and rack up points by killing” you think, that really, apart from those who play them regularly, and those who study their workings, not many people know about computer games, and most of those people who haven’t got a clue, look at them like people used to look at electric lightbulbs or televisions. For those who don’t know, and to reaffirm the belief of those who do, you do not “rack up points” by killing people in GTA. That implies that the game is just a glorified Pac-Man or Space Invaders, and the sole point of the game is to rack up points to get on a score board. When actually the GTA games are very intelligent, very well written works, that deserve the same critiques as books and films. Yes, they have their share of violence, and it is an open world game, which means that in between doing various missions, you do what you want – be it driving around; racing; buying new clothes; looking for secrets (such as the Heart of Liberty City or the infamous Ratman of the subway); or seeing how long you can run from the cops after getting their attention. That’s just a mechanic of the game, you can choose to be good or bad (to a point).

Take Stanley Kubrick. Well regarded as one of the most influential and highly respected directors of all time. Directing 2001: A Space Odyssey, Spartacus, Dr Strangelove, Full Metal Jacket, The Shining and others, but also directing A Clockwork Orange – which depicts absolutely horrific gang violence and rape, and was again blamed for inciting people to do what was done in the film. If someone has it in them to do something like that in the first place, they were going to do it regardless of what films they watched or what games they play. But doesn’t it stand to reason, that if someone has a depraved interest in something wrong, like the thought of murdering another, that they would read up about it, read about various murderers or serial killers, or play out their depraved fantasy in a virtual environment – such as the open world gameplay of GTA? Of course they would! That doesn’t mean that everyone who plays GTA has a vested interest in murder, just like not everyone who plays say FIFA games actually have an interest in football. I play WWE games, but I cannot stand watching it on the TV. I play GTA, but I haven’t yet carjacked someone, picked up a prostitute, then killed her to take her money. I play GTA but I haven’t actually killed a load of people then gone on a World’s Deadliest Criminals style car chase from the police. Although I have in GTA. That doesn’t make me a monster. That doesn’t mean the game is inciting me to do this, or that I think of GTA as a “killing simulator” which it was also described as in The Mirror. Killing simulator…ha. If GTA is a killing simulator, then it’s a shit killing simulator. Where are the pitchforks? Nooses? Axes? Steam-Rollers and various other killing implements? Where are these extra points for killing people? How do they benefit my game? How? How? How? Please tell me how.

Fucking media outlets, to be honest, I’m fucking incensed by their na├»ve, Mary Whitehouse style, age old view of computer games as these tools that turn normal average people into fucking murdering bastards who wouldn’t have done what they did, were it not for the pixellated little twat on the screen that is being controlled by these normal average people, within whose mouth butter wouldn’t melt.

Did Bonnie and Clyde need computer games to kill people? NO! Did Vlad the Impaler need pixelled inspiration to drive him to murdrer countless hordes of innocents and display their heads on pikes? NO! Did Fred West kill those poor kids because he played a violent computer game? NO! Why? Because even if they had played violent games, they would have done the same as they did anyway, because that is just how their brains were wired. Some people are wired for good deeds, some people are wired for nastiness and some people – like Cliff Richard – are wired for sound. Sorry had to be done.

I apologise for going somewhat off-topic in parts, and rambling for some parts, but I think I got my point across – yet again computer games are pointed at for causing someone to commit murder, I think it’s wrong, and a very backwards view on the whole situation. Like blaming witches for a bad crop, the media try to burn computer games at the stake, and no matter how many times they do it, eventually they will come to their senses over the whole affair. Until that time comes, they will be pointed at, sneered at, and blamed for things that they – like “witches” – had no involvement in.



Toolbox24 - Written 20/09/11

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Toolbox 24's Top Ten Games from 2000

2000 – The first year of the new Millenium and a pretty good year for games. If this Top Ten is anything to go by, it was apparently the year of the Sequel, with 4 of my titles being affixed with either a 2 or a II.
This list is merely my opinion, and not to be taken anything other than. There might be a couple of games missing from the list that you would be quite :O’ed by, but these are my personal top ten games of the year 2000. These are based on things such as playability, and how long they managed to keep me entertained – and some of them are still in my games library being played.

So here we go…


10 – WWF: Smackdown! 2 Know Your Role – THQ – PS1


The first of 5 sequels, WWF: SD2KYR was at the time for me wrestling gaming perfection. THQ had bolstered the creation mode of the game from their previous game – WWF: Smackdown! – and had also updated quite a few little bits and pieces here and there. Yes the game was riddled with glitches and long loading times, and also had a couple of wrestlers kinda ghosting in the game – WWF told THQ to remove Ken Shamrock and Big Show, which they almost did, because although you couldn’t play as them, or use their music or anything, they still appeared in a couple of game modes – but this game for me at the time was as close to being a wrestler as I could get without actually wrestling and hurting myself…ahem. Yes since then, THQ has made a lot of better WWF/WWE games, but for 2000 –this was the one for me.

9 – Perfect Dark – Rare – N64


This could make the Top Ten List of 2000 for 1 main reason – it is essentially the spiritual successor to the amazing Rare FPS game – Goldeneye 007. It shares many of the same features (if it ain’t broke…) as Goldeneye 007, with obvious enhanced graphics and sound. The storyline involves secret organisations, secret aliens, obvious aliens, AI and is all based 12 years from now (based in 2023). The gameplay offers some nice little features, such as unlocking “classic” weapons, which are all renamed Goldeneye weapons, and also being able to go at missions in 2 ways (which seems so common-place now) but at the time was still a good approach to FPS gaming – Gung Ho vs Stealth. Not wanting to go on too much about this, I’ll move onto Number 8, as I feel as if someone has crawled into my head and told me to move on…


8 – Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 – Westwood Studios – PC


Yuri. Quite a centrepiece of the Red Alert games…especially in the add-on pack…Yuri’s Revenge. But he was again the main antagonist in this game, that took the original C&C games, and gave it a graphical overhaul. And didn’t overly mess with the gameplay that made the original games so amazing. C&C:RA2 took the premise that “THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING!!!” and had them not only coming over, but they were already here…that is if here was the USA. Ivan had invaded the USA and was storming across California and into heartland America. There was only 1 person who could change the tide of the war, and that person was you. Of and if you’re keeping count, that was sequel No. 2.


7 – Solider of Fortune – Raven Software – PC




Such an amazing game, and a storyline straight out of an 80’s Action Movie! Main baddy, Sergei Dekker is the leader of this neo-Nazi group who has stolen some Nukes and plans to sell them to various bidders around the world – naughty bidders no less. Built on the a modified Quake II Engine, the game runs on what is called the GHOUL Engine…Shoot a guy in the foot, he hops around because his foot was blown off, shoot him in the neck, he’ll gasp for air whilst blood is shooting from the hole in his throat, and of course there are various other bits to shoot off to great grizzly effect!! This is a pure out ‘n’ out shooter, with gruesome graphics, a cheesy 80’s action movie plot, and a German Nazi Bad Guy. This game is pure fun with a capital F.

6 – Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn – BioWare – PC


Yes, it’s the third sequel on the list, and it’s by everyone’s favourite RPG creators – BioWare. Before they were an even longer than a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, before they were slaying Dragons and before they showed us the Reaper threat, BioWare were busy creating awesome games even in the dark ages of the turn of the millennium. Baldur’s Gate II: SoA is an epic RPG with the staples of BioWare games of today embedded in it. Great story, great gameplay and the real-time, but pausable combat. And as is another staple of BioWare’s greatness, is that your decisions in the game effect what is going to happen later on. The story on Baldur’s Gate is as epic as their latest adventure with Commander Shepard in Mass Effect. Baldur’s Gate also has a huge cult following, with hundreds of unofficial add-ons, totalling hours and hours of gameplay to advance the story on – faithfully replicating the greatness of the originals. I could go on, but there’s the top 5 to go through…


5 - Championship Manager Season 00/01 – Sports Interactive – PC


To those who know me, you should know that when I’m not shopping at my favourite store on the Citadel, or shooting zombies, or basking in the coolness of an eastern European trying to make it in Liberty City, I’m most likely managing some team to greatness in the Football Manager games. I play Football Manager now, because since Eidos and Sports Interactive (SI) split, Eidos kept the name, and SI kept the game mechanics, and changed their title to a lesser known early 80’s game – Football Manager. But once upon a time, Eidos and SI worked together as a momentous front pairing, like Owen and Shearer, devastating defenceless imitations like LMA Manager, FIFA Manager or Premier Manager. SI have moved on to be an awesome lone striker, with a supporting forward in Sega, but Eidos are always cowering in their shadows…anyways onto the game!! This game must hit my top 5 because as with all the SI games, this is immensely immersive, addictive and so playable it should be illegalised. Yeah it still had the old fashioned text for matches, but it had everything you could want, and also Leeds were a force to be reckoned with in the Premiership!!! Always a winner. Go out and grab a copy, so you can see what Football could have been like without Roman’s Rubles at Chelscum, before Fabregas could even shave let alone broker a deal to Barcelona, and of course, before the Golden Generation of England players turned into a wee bit of a flop. As addictive as ever, and also look into a world of Football where teams who overreach like someone on a ladder who’s “been doing this for years” and bomb aren’t described (with shame in my tone) as “doing a Leeds”.


4 - Tony Hawks Pro Skater 2 – Neversoft – PS1




Massively addictive, and so many days spent with Jollyoaks trying to get that little bit further, trying to do that one extra rail slide to get the extra points to win the round, get more cash, buy more skill upgrades or “Tekkers” as the kids say these days, and what you have is a hugely addictive game that never failed to surprise. I’ve played other THPS games since, and number 2 (hahahaha) is the best by far. It’s simple gameplay, makes it a dream to play, and also if you’re impatient, it’s learning curve is tiny! Various different courses to explore and develop your skills on, and more and more little hidden gems than you could shake a shitty stick at. Worth more than just a quick once over, worth spending whole days playing while the world does what it has to do in your absence.


3 - The Sims – Maxis – PC 



If you haven’t heard of The Sims then it’s kinda like saying you’ve not heard of The Godfather, or Iron Maiden, or Friends. It’s like saying that you’ve not heard of McDonalds, that you don’t know what a pencil is, or that you think that Posh Spice is a female version of Old Spice for the ladies. The basic premise for The Sims is simple, and not what you would expect from a game that has 2 sequels and has sold millions of copies around the world: play as a normal guy or gal, and live their lives. But surely there’s a storyline? Or the person you are has like super powers? No? So you have to get them a job? And clean their house? And buy stuff like dining tables and lights? When you look at it all like this, it makes you wonder how this ever became the mega massive ultra-high ranking addictive game that it actually is. But it works. All of it works, and it’s one of the most addictive game franchises of all time. Live your life through a Sim. Wanna be a policeman? Do it! Wanna buy a new fridge? Save for a couple of days and buy one! Wanna child? Sure just knock up your girlfriend and after a few days you got one! The simple things in life become the big things in the game. Hurrah, your Sim just made dinner that didn’t burn the house down, or your Sim didn’t block the toilet after going to “make”. Another great addition, is the inclusion of all the extra packs you could get to outfit your Sim or their home with a myriad of extras. A purely addictive computer game that still keeps people glued to their screens more than 10 years later.

2 - Deus Ex – Ion Storm Inc. – PC


Deus Ex is by far not just one of the greatest games of the year 2000, but one of the greatest games ever made. With a storyline that draws you in, and offers you several different conclusions at the end, with twists and turns and one of the first games to offer you an almost open-world gameplay. Not to the extent of the GTA games, but awesome nonetheless for the time of the game, and the good graphics for the time. Set in a not too distant future where terrorists are the order of the day, and the world falling ever quicker into turmoil. You are JC Denton, a novice UN Anti-Terrorist Coalition agent, who – as the game unfolds – discovers that he has stumbled upon an ancient conspiracy involving the Illuminati, the Hong Kong Triads and sophisticated AI to name but a few. The style of game for this FPS/RPG means that you can either be a bit of a badass shooting first and taking names later, or you can find other means to reach your goal and complete your mission. Worldwide acclaim and high scores from pretty much every source shows that it isn’t just a select few who think of this game as world-class, but pretty much everyone who has ever stepped into Denton’s shoes thinks of this game in their own personal top 10.



1 - Counter-Strike – Valve – PC



I suppose before I start, I should really point out 2 things. Valve didn’t come up with Counter-Strike (CS). All credit must go to Minh “Gooseman” Le and Jess “Cliffe” Cliffe. A year previous in 1999, these 2 modified Half Life to create a basic team deathmatch mod, which they called Counter-Strike. This caught on, and became so immensely popular, that by the 4th beta version of the mod, Valve stepped in to help the modders, and even employed Gooseman into their ranks. The official retail version wasn’t released until Nov 2000, and Valve never looked back. Without this mod, and new game, it’s arguable that Valve wouldn’t have reached the heights that they have since hit, with Half Life 2, Steam, and of course Left 4 Dead. Enough of this though. CS is still one of the most popular online games on the internet, and possibly could only claim second place in the all time league to World of Warcraft, for the amount of players who have spent countless hours playing this game. Professional gamers earn a living playing this game in professional leagues, which are sometimes televised in the US and Canada, at the time of writing (2045GMT, Sun 4th Sep 2011) Steam currently shows that just under 60,000 people are playing Counter-Strike, compared with under 35,000 people currently playing the new Deus-Ex game, oh and that little CoD game that “gamers” seem to like to much, the total players of Modern Warfare 2 and Black-Ops only slightly top the amount of people playing a real FPS. Don’t get me wrong I like the CoD games, but I don’t prematurely ejaculate at the thought of playing it like some people do. The gameplay is smooth, especially now that hardware and software have moved on, but even in it’s day, it was a smooth and thoroughly fun game to play. Simple premise – 2 teams, terrorists and counter terrorists, fight and try to win. Simple? You bet it’s simple, not just that, but it’s so addictive and so easy to get lost in for hours, it’s what makes games great. Some people can get lost in a good book, or be brought to tears by an emotional film, and others can’t get by easily without their fix of Eastenders - some people lose themselves in games like this. If you’ve got a bit of time, play this game, and immerse yourself into some real team playing CS fun. An easily chosen Number 1 for the year 2000, and if you go by player numbers on a year on year basis, would be in at least the top 5 every year since.

Toolbox24

Germany Finally Accepts Doom...Well Kinda






Back in 1994, when I was just a lil 7 year old gamer (playing Super Mario mostly), I used to sit by my brother or sister, while they played the graphical, gameplaying marvel that is Doom (and of Course Doom II – Hell on Earth). Such was my innocence, that I actually confused a couple of very different words…”Oh no Lisa” for my Sister’s name is Lisa, “Oh no, look out for that lesbian!”

That’s right, I confused Lesbians and Zombies. I’m not saying that I still get confused with flesh and brain eating, undead corpses and ladies who are all about the clunge, that’s just not my style baby. That’s not how I roll.

Anyway, what you may or may not have realised, is that in Germany, the game by iD was put on an index of controlled titles back on release, and was only allowed to be sold in adult only stores. You can just picture it now, some square jawed Dieter walking into a dingy little shop in downtown Hamburg, walking through the beaded curtain towards the back of the store, and asking some tattooed hulk of a man “Ja, haff you got any of ze good stuff? I’m looking for ze shooty game wiz ze imps unt der lesbians” You get the jist.

This was because at the time in post-Cold War Germany, they felt that the game was too violent for teenagers and youths of the country, and that it was actually “deemed likely to harm youth.”

I suppose some cynics out there would argue that they had a slight point, the school shootings at Columbine High School in the US of A, many pointed at Doom and Marilyn Manson as 2 of the main reasons that those 2 lads went in and shot up a load of people. When of course, it couldn’t possibly be that they were just 2 psychos? I’m sure that if a game like GTA was out when Bonnie and Clyde were plying their trade across America, that it would have been pointed out as the main and only reason why 2 people would do what they did too. But of course, back then they didn’t have computer games to chastise whenever someone did something horrible. Probably blamed electric lightbulbs or something. “It’s that artificial electric light, it’s the light from Satan’s hell fires!!!”

The ban itself was put in place until 31st August 2011, with no chance of appeal until then. However, since the original on the PC was banned, it has not only been almost freely available on the internet to anyone with a spare 30mb of hard disk space, but also was available in Germany on other formats such as the Game Boy Advance and SNES.

If it does start to sell in shops, it would only be available to over-16’s, which again is a tad anomalous since I would happily let my 10 year old boy play this, in fact, he’d probably scare the game more than the other way around.

However, there is still a ban on the American version of the game, which includes 2 bonus levels of Wolfenstein 3D (the mother of all FPS games) which depicts Nazis and Swastikas. Fair one I suppose, they’re a little sensitive about all that silly World War 2 business!

Well there you have it. If you find yourself in Germany with your laptop and a bit of spare time to play some games, (and as long as you’re over 16) make your way to a game store, and pick up a German copy of Doom, newly out, 17 years after originally being published. That or I would imagine that you can download a copy for a lot less time and money that it would take for you to find a game store in Germany. And it would be an English/American version with all those tasty Nazis to blow up with your Rocket Launcher or BFG 3000.

Have fun out there.

Toolbox24

Saturday, 9 July 2011

The Long Awaited - Super Mario Kart (SNES) Review


The opening screen - even this is fun.
Super Mario Kart
SNES (Super Nintendo Entertainment System)
Racer
Released Jan 1993 (Europe)
Richard Talbot-Ashby – Toolbox24
Super Mario Kart. Simply amazing. Simply some of the most fun you can ever have. Just so great, that I might not even continue this review. Just so absolutely mind-numbingly good, that to not bask in its greatness, would be like visiting the Grand Canyon, and be more interested in getting 3 stars on your latest level of Angry Birds or watching Family Guy and not laughing once. And I know you people are out there. Bastards.



Super Mario Kart is one of the all-time great computer games for so many reasons, but one of these reasons is its simplicity. I was a wee baby of 5 years old when this game came out, and was addicted from the start – yes at first I kept steering my Koopa all over the show, but once I got the hang of press left on the D-Pad for left, right for right, I was away. And I still love playing the game now, almost 20 years on.

Yes it is simple gameplay, because back in the day it was the simple controls of accelerate, brake, hop, turn left, turn right and fire/use item. It was the character of the game, the fact that the controls are so easy, that you spend a minimal amount of time learning, the rest of your time enjoying! How many times have you picked up a new game, spent ages trying to figure it out, and given up or disliked it because it takes so long to work out how to play, that the game just passes you by?

The aim of the game is again simple – have fun! Yeah winning is great, and by winning on the Grand Prix’s on higher cc’s you gain access to the Special Cup – more on that later – but the main aim, as with most Mario games is to enjoy yourself, to immerse yourself in this weird and wonderful universe where you can get attacked by turtles or their shells, you can eat mushrooms to go fast or grow fast and you can leap into lava and be picked out of it. Someone in Nintendo HQ is either permanently hallucinating or just a maniacal evil genius, because only someone who is pure evil can create something that is so good – don’t ask me where I get my warped and twisted logic from, it might hurt me while I sleep. Koopa is a cocky winner. I should know, it's usually me. Anyways, that seems like a long enough introduction, and I’m not being paid by the word…in fact I’m not even getting paid at all. Bollocks to this. I’m off.

Not really of course, I need to let people who only know of the more recent incarnations of SMK that they are pale imitations to the original and best – by the way, I don’t hold the thought that originals are better than any sequels or re-doings of games or films or songs, but in this case, I’ve never playing a SMK since the original that captured me like the original from 1993.

Keeping in line with the simplicity of the game, we move onto the modes of play. 4 Modes, in either 1 or 2 player. The 1 player modes are simply Grand Prix and Time Trial, the 2 player modes are Grand Prix again, VS and Battle Mode.

Each of these game modes are extremely fun and can become quite addictive. The GP mode puts you against all the other racers, spanning 5 circuits, 5 laps each. The top 4 places give you 1, 3, 6 or 9 points, and the bottom 4 result in you needing to restart the race. If you fail enough times, that’s Game Over. So although the game is simpler, it also has this feature which adds some hardness to the gameplay that the newer versions don’t have. I’ll mention the circuits involved later on. The 2 player version of this splits the screen so player 1 is above player 2, and you can have some serious slagging matches whilst playing! Double fun!

Time Trial is simply what it says, a time trial. Pick you’re racer pick your circuit and go. Try to get the fastest time on the track overall and the fastest lap time. Very good fun, and also despite the simplicity of the game, some racers definitely favour some tracks, instead of it being across the board top times for Mario, some of the tracks could be better suited to Princess, Toad or Donkey Kong. This means 2 things, 1: the programming on the game must have been absolutely exquisite, and 2: it expands the game even more, by trying to beat the top time you set with Yoshi with other racers and finding out that Luigi kicks some serious arse on that particular race!

The VS mode in 2 player is much like the Time Trial, except the game doesn’t store your times, it is just about 1-on-1 racing. With banana skins. And red shells. And the occasional feather. You can compete for ages on this, especially if you have a crowd of you playing, and you can create your own little tournaments.

Battle Mode pits you 1-on-1 again with a second player. However you don’t race on a track, but in a BATTLE CIRCUIT! These circuits can only be played in battle mode, and are about 1 thing, and that is to destroy your opponents 3 balloons before they do the same to you. Utter carnage as green shells start bouncing around the place, banana skins are left everywhere and more item squares are diminished. Panic as your opponent gets a star or a red shell, and cunning as you hold a feather to pounce over your opponents incoming shell and you preserve your balloons…for now. Again amazing 2 player fun, and can easily be turned into a little tourney if you have enough players. Just don’t invite me to either tournament. I’ll win. No seriously, I’d win.


Toad was starting to wish he'd stayed at home. While touching on this, you also get a unique item in 2P mode, the Ghost. Which a: steals whatever your opponent is holding, and b: makes you invisible for a short while. Awesome.

There are 4 types of Grand Prix to go through, each with 5 circuits, so a total of 20 races, although it doesn’t seem like it, it seems like there are so many more! A testament truly to the fact that the game is quite amazing. You go through the 4 cups of Mushroom, Flower, Star and once they’ve been completed – the Special Cup. You go through different types of track, like Mario Circuits which are like proper racing circuits; Koopa Islands, which are tropical looking islands in the middle of the blue sea; Bowsers Castles, which are stone-clad circuits surrounded by lava; Choco Islands, which are basically chocolate tracks and Ghost Valleys which are creaky old wooden tracks surrounded by nothing but darkness and ghosts in the distance. There are other types of track, but this was just to give you a taster!!

Certain tracks have certain obstacles and features to make that race unique, like the Mario Circuits have the iconic green pipes sticking out of the ground to make you manoeuvre differently around corners, or some of the Donut Plains tracks have these little annoying gopher bastards that jump out at you and stick to you slowing you down for half a lap.

The best and hardest track however is the unique and individual Rainbow Road – a track that has featured in each of the other incarnations of Mario Kart. It’s flat yes, however, like Ghost Valley it is surrounded by nothing, so if you leave the circuit you fall and have to be helped by Lakitu (the apparent owner and referee of SMK) to be put back on track. Fair enough, but also the track itself is flashing with all the colours of the BOW man!!! This can be an off-putting and migraine inducing distraction, it means that it’s harder to see the boxes to pick up your banana skin or red shell. And the yet another feature of this track is the Stone Thwomps that also appear in Bowsers Castle – these lovely guys hang in the air and slam down, either blocking you or squishing you depending on where you are when it lands. Oh yeah in Bowsers Castle that’s all they do, in Rainbow Road they also are constantly high on Super Stars, so are also flashing and if you happen to graze one, you’ll spin out, sometimes off the track. Lakitu earns his coins in this race.

Speaking of Lakitu, he’s the only character in the game who is non-playable but always there. He starts you off by holding the start lights on a fishing rod out of his floaty cloud, he waves the chequered flag when you finish, tells you which lap you're on, tells you to turn around when you’d going the wrong way, and will fish you out of trouble if you fall into deep water, lava or into a bottomless black pit. Apparently these circuits are his, and he appears in every game afterwards to show that he is more than a match for that little cock-end Bernie Eccles Cakes or whatever he’s called.

Obviously as well you have Mario and Luigi, who’s signature weapon is the Star; Princess and Yoshi, who own unique cupcakes and eggs respectively (which cannot be used by the player, even if playing as Princess or Yoshi), the cupcake shrinks you down, the egg is like a banana skin which just spins you out; you also have Toad and Koopa Trooper, Toad uses the cupcakes again, and Koopa uses red and green shells and finally you have Bowser and Donkey Kong, Donkey uses banana skins, and Bowser uses unique fire balls which wobble from side to side making them harder to avoid.

Bowser and DK are your “heavies” they start slow, sound rough and deep, but once they get going are faster than any of the others…just don’t stop, otherwise you’ll have to start from scratch again, and they are the slowest at accelerating.

Toad and Koopa are the lightweights, and are pretty quick, with pretty quick acceleration. They’re easily barged out of the way by everyone else.

Princess and Yoshi are the quickest off the mark, speeding away from the start/finish line, but are the slowest once they get going.

Mario and Luigi are obviously tuned to be the best option, they are hardy enough to withstand bumps from other karts, pretty speedy at their quickest, and no slouches from the get go. But the sound of their karts does my nut in.

The game also has these nice little foibles, like if you drive past a banana skin your character instinctively looks over their shoulder to look at what they almost hit. Another thing is when an opponent is behind you and about to use an item, your rear-view mirror kicks in to check out the opposition.

The sound and music in this game are very catchy and easy to listen to, with each track type having their own music played through, and each track getting that sense of urgency on the last lap, when it’s sped up! The karts all sound different, as I said, with the heavies sounding deep and more growly, the Mario Bros sounding annoying like a crappy moped, Koopa and Toad sounding quite normal and quiet, and finally Princess and Yoshi sounding the smoothest.

Sounds on the game are spot on with impacts, and you know if someone coming up behind you has a star because you hear them…I suppose blinkering is the best way to describe it. Whenever you throw something like a shell you get this lovely satisfying “wheeee” as it leaves your kart and when you use a feather to jump really high, you get another satisfying “boi-oi-oi-oi-oing”. Koopa Trooper was regretting his binge on the Newcastle Brown Ale.
As I near the end of this review, I must mention some of the historical stats and figures surrounding this game. SMK is the joint 2nd best selling game of the SNES with Donkey Kong Country, selling a whopping 8million unit, only for both to be beaten by the immaculate Super Mario World selling over 20million units. To put that in perspective, here are some other games that have sold less copies - Pac-Man (Atari), Halo: Combat Evolved (XBOX), Star Wars KotoR (XBOX), GTA 4 (XBOX 360), CoD Mondern Warfare 1+2 (XBOX 360), Metal Gear Solid (PS1), GTAIII (PS2), and what’s more remarkable - ANY PS3 GAME (to date).

On GameRankings.com (a site that pools together the aggregate scores of games from various sources such as IGN, Gamespot, Game Informer and GameSpy) it has a total aggregate score of an almost perfect 94%. That’s an average baby! How good is that???

SMK has spawned many newer incarnations. None of which comes close to emulating the sheer awesomeness that is Super Mario Kart on the SNES. All others simply crash out after spinning on the originals 2D banana skin.

It’s a game that I’ve been playing for almost 20 years, and could happily play for another 40.

This game deserves a perfect 5/5.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Mass Effect 3 – Opinionated Arseholes Who Want to Ruin it for Everyone



(Spoilers galore for those of you who haven’t played ME1 or 2)

Bioware have recently released a load of gameplay footage and new trailers for the highly anticipated Mass Effect 3 – the third and final instalment in Commander Shepherd story to defend the Galaxy from an invading horde of giant alien machines known only as Reapers…

The gameplay footage has been nothing short of amazing, showing snippets of combat with the new Omni-Blade and the re-instated grenade, to a KotoR style workbench for weapons upgrades. They show the emotional side of things – scared kid hiding from the Reapers and female krogan being heralded as the possible saviour of her species.

They also show off the amazing environments that they have painstakingly created, Earth’s gameplay looks to be absolutely stunning, showing their vision of Earth circa. 2180’s with the enormous Reapers touching down and creating Hell on Earth. We also get to see some of the Salarian homeworld of Sur’Kesh, which from the looks of the gameplay looks a bit tropical, and the buildings look like hotels you’d get on the sea front at the Costa Del Sol – well, a bit.

However the thing that has disappointed me the most about these trailers and gameplay videos is the reaction to them.

On so many message boards and comments after articles or videos, there have been so many people saying stuff like “omg this is just turning out to be another Gears of War/Halo/CoD” or “omg this just has too much action”. I have seen a lot of hate online for the trailers shown, and I can’t for the life of me start to imagine why. And as for the action? It’s the beginning of a fucking invasion of the galaxy by giant, seemingly unstoppable machines who don’t negotiate, who only kill, indoctrinate and mulch it’s enemies/victims into new Reapers. This game needs to have a lot of action in it, because the first 2 chapters in the ME trilogy have been leading to the massive fight between the races of the galaxy and the Reapers, to skimp on the action in this 3rd instalment would be a massive “fuck you” to all the fans who played through ME1+2. Like myself.

However, a lot of Bioware fans were bitterly disappointed that DA2 turned out to be a pile of shit – apparently, I’m still trudging through DA1 let alone DA2. And for some unknown reason a lot of people thought that ME2 storyline was terrible in comparison to ME1. I don’t get that, ME1 – test run best starship in galaxy, stumble into fight, find out Saren is a traitor, go to 3 places suggested to hunt for clues (Feros, Noveria and Artemis Tau), go to 4th place for clues (Virmire), go to citadel, escape citadel, go to Ilos, use conduit, save day. ME2 – die, be brought back, work for ethically sketchy possible terrorists in Cerberus, build a crew, fight collectors, gain loyalty of crew, find dying reaper, go through unexplored relay, kick collectors ass. And if you got the DLC then add to the storyline with Lair of the Shadow Broker, where Liara becomes the new Shadow Broker and Arrival where you end up killing around 300,000 batarians – which is the direct lead in to ME3. However add the DLC to ME1 and you get Pinnacle Station and Bring Down the Sky – decent side missions, but a bit chuff in comparison to ME2 DLC.

Sorry but ME2 kicks arse. Just because the gameplay in the fighting is more fluid and enjoyable doesn’t mean that it’s Bioware drifting from RPG to TPS. They said from the beginning before ME1 that the series – always a planned trilogy – was always part action, part RPG. A lot of people bemoan the “fact” that your decisions don’t make a lot of impact apart from the big ones like Ashley/Kaiden on Virmire, Wrex on Virmire and the Council at the end. But Casey Hudson and Ray Muzyka have said on so many occasions that the decisions you make ultimately will decide the end of the story in ME3.

I don’t know why people are moaning about the decision making part of the game, it’s certainly more decision making than a lot of games. And yes it does usually produce the same outcome at the time – for example, it doesn’t matter if you choose renegade or paragon options when talking to the Council after missions in ME1 – they wont believe that the Reaper threat is real until it’s sat on top of them in the Citadel. After then it doesn’t matter if you chose to save the Council or let them die – ME2 still follows the storyline that the Reaper threat was just an elaborate game played by Saren to get the geth working for him. However it’s these decisions that will turn around and have an effect come ME3.

So I have a basic response to anyone who has already slated ME3 as the worst game of all time or another “Gear of Halo Duty”, and that it is lurching aimlessly away from its “RPG roots” – are you completely blind to what is in front of you?

The game is being made by some of the most talented individuals in the gaming industry. To create a trilogy of games that all link in not just through some lines of dialogue like in other games, but in the sense that what you do and how you do things in each game will impact the final outcome in one way or another is nothing short of a feat of absolute genius in game making.

Its RPG creamy goodness is plainly there for all to see, oh yeah you can’t upgrade your strength and dexterity in this game? You can’t mix different plants and herbs to create a healing potion? So fucking what? It’s a Futuristic Sci-Fi game, and they have nailed the RPG elements in both games.

You have dialogue options, some customisations (different in both games, finally looks nailed on in ME3 from the look of one of the trailers) and a solid storyline to see through from start to finish. The Mass Effect Trilogy is this generation’s Star Wars (before the fruity prequel trilogy). I personally cannot wait to see how MY story ends and when I have, I can’t wait to see how my other stories end. This is an epic gaming experience unlike any other, and I would encourage all those who haven’t yet, to jump on the Mass Effect bandwagon now, and enjoy the best games series for years in the next 9 months before ME3 arrives so you can dive into the action knowing the amazing back-story for what it is.

As a final note, people have been heralding games like LA Noire, Portal 2, GTA:IV and Heavy Rain in recent months and years for their amazing storytelling and how they are absolute credits to the gaming industry. This is all true. People have been saying that finally computer games look to be a more creative and popular entertainment medium that films – something that I think deep down we all knew was going to happen at one point or another. I mean what would you rather do - sit for 2 hours watching a film which to be honest is probably absolute chuff; poor film versions of comic books; poor remakes of decent older films or the occasional actually watchable film? OR immerse yourself into an entertainment experience that wont be over in a couple of hours, are usually massively replayable and in a lot more cases the decisions YOU make decide plot twists and outcomes at the end of the game? Well the above mentioned games allow you to do just that, but I don’t think there is another game or games series on the planet (as of yet) which can match Mass Effect for how much the storyline sucks you in, how involved you feel whilst playing and how much the decisions you make change the outcome in the way these games do. As time goes on, computer games will only improve, not just graphically, but in the way they convey a story, and the way they involve the player. I fully believe that Mass Effect will be looked at in years to come as one of the most influential computer games of all time, helping to push computer games into being more popular than it’s cinema rivals.

So to all those who feel that Mass Effect 3 will fail - go back to playing pre-Xbox360/PS3 games that were great, but a lot more simple than the multi genre games you can get nowadays. Because quite clearly, having a multi-genre game is too much for your tiny mind. Cretin.





Toolbox24

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Apologies

A thousand apologies to you. I didn't write the Super Mario Kart review for your eyes to relish. And it's been over 5 months since the last entry.

And I've neglected you all. But worst of all, I've neglected the Monkeybox.

Oh well, life goes on, and so will this blogging site. I have found a new lease of life recently, and aim to make this site the fuckest-uppest games site on...blogger anyway.

A Super Mario Kart RetroReview will be coming very soon, also plans for the future include an article on the wonder of Steam; which computer game(s) is the greatest story ever told in this medium; top games to look forward to over the next 12 months and a best of list, including some of my favourite games ever.

Untill we meet again...

Toolbox24