Unfortunately for the Great Backlog Project, I didn’t play many video games for the last couple of months while I was in Japan. Even worse for aforementioned Great Backlog Project, I did buy quite a few.
However, I have been back in the US for a couple of weeks and I’ve managed to put in a few hours, controller-in-hand, to do something about this situation.
I say “controller in hand”, even though I’ve only been playing KBAM PC games. It’s still a good turn of phrase, and makes a hell of a lot more sense than “keyboard in hand”.
Anyway, I haven’t been restricting myself exclusively to decade-old cult RPGs. That would be silly. I’ve also been playing decade-old 3rd-person beat-em-up games, 7-year-old science-fiction first-person shooters, and, yes, nine-year-old games involving shooting Nazis and zombies, which I believe I’ve previously described as the perfect video game enemies inasmuch as nobody minds when you kill them.
Or re-kill them, in the case of zombies.
Anyway, to take those in order, the first would be Bungie’s “Oni”. I’m not sure, but I think Oni may have been the first major US title to really try to imitate a Japanese anime style. It certainly stood out on store shelves, at any rate.
Sadly, apart from the main character’s design, there’s not a lot to recommend it. The studio famously employed actual architects to design the in-game buildings and environments you run through, which makes it even more of a shame that they’re so hopelessly drab. I made it through three or four levels of warehouses and office buildings hunting down consoles and unlocking doors and occasionally enjoying some rather well-done hand-to-hand combat and some atrocious – I mean, ATROCIOUS – ranged combat.
Environments and ranged combat aside, I was enjoying things until I ran into what I’m going to describe as Oni’s REAL problem: It’s not an especially easy game, you can’t save when you want to, and the occasional mid-level checkpoints are really quite far apart.
Hence, after I ran into a particularly nasty combat bit, beat my head off it 5 or 6 times, finally got past it, got rather a bit further into the level, died, and respawned back at the particularly nasty combat bit… I popped the disc out and called it quits.
The online community does get credit, by the way, for developing a patch to fix the problem of the game not working at all on modern video cards. I was initially quite chuffed with the game because it would play the intro movie and then summarily crash before showing the main menu.
Anyway, after Oni, I gave Chrome a try. Chrome was one of the titles in the Steam Summer Sale, and was a mere $1.99 – and that packaged with its own sequel, to boot. Put simply, it was a heck of a deal.
I think I even got $1.99 worth of entertainment out of the game, if for no other reason than that the developers actually had the chutzpah to name their main character “Bolt Logan”
Seriously, you can’t get much more manly than that.
Unfortunately, the game really failed to grab me. I played through the first level, suffered my partner’s inevitable betrayal and met the Mysterious Woman featured prominently on the game’s main menu, and really felt no great compulsion to avenge myself or to explore her Secret Past and uncover the Grand Conspiracy.
Oh, well, it was only a couple of bucks.
By now, you’re asking yourself if I am actually capable of finding enjoyment in ANY game.
Well, actually, by now most of you have probably given up, because this has already become a wall of text. If you’re still reading, it’s probably only out of curiosity as to what the heck the title was all about and when I’m going to get to the Nazis and zombies.
Should get to that, shouldn’t I?
Nazis and zombies are the primary antagonists of Return to Castle Wolfenstein, a sequel/remake to the game that was, if not the first first-person-shooter, certainly the one that initially defined the genre and which was in itself a complete re-envisioning of an Apple II game from the 1980s.
So it had a bit of a pedigree, and has itself spawned a recent sequel.
I’d been curious about RTCW for a while, but it’s not something you can find in software stores any more, and for some reason it’s not sold individually on Steam – it’s only available in bundles with older Wolfenstein games, and I didn’t really want to pay money for copies of Wolf3D and Spear of Destiny.
Fortunately, I stumbled across a copy in our local Goodwill a few days before leaving for Japan, and though I didn’t play it before leaving, it was very much on my want-to-play-this list for when I returned.
Now, this game DID grab my attention. It’s very dated in some ways, particularly graphically.
Fortunately, it doesn’t take modern graphics to convey atmosphere, and the enemy AI is just good enough to be annoying-in-a-good-way, so I had a lot of fun playing through it.
And yes, it’s full of Nazis and zombies, who are pretty much always fun to shoot.
AND it has a couple of enforced-stealth missions that Don’t Suck, which is borderline amazing.
It’s also quite short, which may have been a bit off-putting in 2001, but which is a major selling point for me these days. 🙂 I’m given to understand that it was primarily a multiplayer title in its heyday, and for all I know may still have a vibrant online community, but that’s not exactly my focus.
Oh, much like Oni, Wolfenstein did have a nasty habit of crashing before getting to the main menu. That took a patch and a driver update to resolve, so a bit of a fail on technical merits. Flipside, it was easy to tweak the game into running at 1920×1200 with a proper widescreen FOV, so extra points there.
Anyway, I’m not sure why Steam won’t break it off for individual purchase, but I’m glad to have finally tracked it down and played it.