The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Games

Race the Sun: iOS Game Review and Reflection

“Who dares, wins” —David Stirling

Not to be confused with the 1996 movie, Race the Sun is a procedurally-generated endless-runner game where the player controls a solar-powered craft. The objective is simple enough: to maneuver around an eternal landscape of abstract obstacles and stay in the daylight for as long as possible as the sun is setting. As players make progress, unlocks that confer performance and cosmetic customisations become available, allowing players to fine-tune their craft to fit their play-style. To increase survivability and scoring, different power-ups can be collected as one is flying through a region: beyond the scoring multipliers, some give a speed boost, jumps and even a shield that saves a player from head-on collisions. The presence of power-ups, slightly more forgiving collision mechanics and the added challenge of having to outmaneuver the sun means that Race the Sun definitely has enough additions to make it stand out from the classic Flash game Cubefield, which similarly featured a craft being flown through an endless field of cubes. In comparison to the simplistic Cubefield, Race the Sun is remarkably entertaining and compels players to return, unlocking all twenty-five levels and vie for scoring supremacy in a world deadly, monochromatic obstacles.

  • I was inspired to pick up Race the Sun after watching a Rage Quit video of it, and the page quote is directly inspired by said video. In my first few hours, I was not used to the controls on iOS: touching the screen is what’s needed to turn the craft, and one must touch the bottom to utilise a jump power-up (on PC, the controls are arrow keys and spacebar, which are more intuitive), but I’m more comfortable with the game now.

  • After completing all of the objectives and reaching level 25, the name of the game is simply to last as long as possible using the vehicle configuration of one’s choice. While the “recommended” setup is magnet (for increased item pickup range), jumps (to store more jumps) and improved turning to decrease turn radius, the ship can be configured differently to simplify the completion of some objectives.

  • Having all three slots available for power-ups makes Race the Sun somewhat easier than it was as seen in Rage Quit. Contrasting games like Cubefield, where collisions immediately result in death, Race the Sun is a little more lenient: only direct collisions cause death, while glancing collisions merely detract from one’s multiplier.

  • The void is one of my favourite aspects of Race the Sun, being a space-like environment filled with multiplier-increasing pick-ups. It’s definitely more enjoyable than Cubefield owing to all of the different nuances.

  • I read one review that cleverly stated Race the Sun to act as a metaphor for life itself. Paraphrased, it suggests that the spacecraft represent people as they pursue their dreams, which are fleeting and must be chased. Like how the space craft slows down in the absence of light, shadows of out own doubt slow us down, and numerous obstacles in the environment, some being obvious and others coming out of nowhere can stop one’s pursuit. Said review goes on to encourage users to get back up and keep trying, just like in real life. It’s not often I read reviews that are insightful, but there are exceptions. With the pair of iOS game reviews now done as promised, I’ll see if I can do a talk on Alto’s Adventure in the near future.

I picked up Race the Sun for iOS and have spent around six hours in-game. There are no tilt controls: touching the left and right sections of the screen allow one to steer their craft, and tapping the bottom of the screen when a jump is picked up will activate the jump. The simple controls work well enough for their part, but in my first few hours of gameplay, I had minor difficulties in making sharp enough turns to dodge close-up obstacles. However, once the steering mechanics were mastered, it was quite fun to complete the objectives and level up (ranging from simple ones that involve collecting a certain number of points or using a power-up a fixed number of times, to insanely difficult ones that require players make only left turns through three regions in a single run, or perform twenty barrel-rolls in one life). Over time, I reached Race the Sun‘s level cap, and the game at level twenty five even more enjoyable than it was while completing the objectives. Frustrations encountered earlier, such as the magnet’s range, numbers of jumps stored or turn radius disappear, allowing players to focus solely on getting the high score. Different game modes are also unlocked, with the diabolical Apocalypse mode and top-view maze runner, providing a different style of play for those looking for something a little different. Its near-infinite replay value, coupled with a refreshing, minimalistic appearance and simple mechanics means that Race the Sun is an excellent iOS game, well worth the 5.79 CAD.

Leo’s Fortune: iOS Game Review and Reflection

“The love of family and the admiration of friends is much more important than wealth and privilege.” —Charles Kuralt

Leo’s Fortune is one of the better-known games on the App Store for its beautifully crafted world, wonderful voice acting and relaxing soundtrack. Following Leo, a fluffy roly-poly, on his quest to reclaim his lost treasure in the form of gold coins, Leo’s Fortune is a stunning platformer that has a surprisingly heart-warming plot that is unveiled as Leo makes his way through a plethora of worlds. Speaking in a thick Eastern European accent, Leo himself is a highly sympathetic character whose inner thoughts are visible to the player. Entangled in the mystery of who the thief was, players are compelled to follow Leo’s Fortune to the end to figure out the culprit’s identity. From a mechanical perspective, Leo’s Fortune promotes clever gameplay, making use of the in-game physics to solve puzzles and advance to the next region. The star system also encourages players to go back and complete missions with a single life, obtain all the coins and finish levels under a time limit: these stars unlock bonus missions in a region, and together, Leo’s Fortune handles exceptionally smoothly, allowing players to immerse themselves in a fantastical world where not everything is what it seems.

  • Conceptually, Leo’s Fortune is a simple game, but its immersive factor comes from the polish in the level design, artwork and voice acting. The first region is set in a gentle, lush forest, but later regions feature a variety of more lethal-looking environments.

  • A unique feature in Leo’s Adventure is the movement system. While players can intuitively move Leo around using the left thumb, Leo doesn’t actually jump or crouch. Instead, moving the right thumb up causes Leo to inflate and gain buoyancy, making it possible for him to float over wide precipices, and moving the thumb down causes Leo to drop, which is great for dropping quickly. A combination of both will be required to beat the puzzles scattered in the game.

  • The soundtrack in Leo’s Fortune has a medieval, children’s feel to it, reminiscent of the music seen in fairy tales and fables. It’s well-suited for the game, as are the visuals. While the landscapes are highly detailed, they do not obscure gameplay in any way.

  • Players have unlimited lives with which to push through the different levels, although players must beat levels under a time limit, without losing a specified number of lives, while collecting all the coins, to unlock all of the bonus features available in the game.

  • I understand that this last screenshot and the page quote might spoil the plot, but there’s not enough context for that to occur. According to the site’s archives, it’s been quite some time since I’ve done an iOS game review for a title that did not have the phrase “Deer Hunter” in it (Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy is the aforementioned review).

It was during the coldest depths of Winter 2015 when I picked up Leo’s Fortune during an iTunes sale, and I absolutely loved the experience. Beyond intriguing worlds to explore and solve puzzles in, each world (or set of levels) have their own surprises, such as wind storms, underwater segments and puzzles that demand precision from the player. Thus, when players reach the end and learn of the true culprit, it feels like a rewarding, well-deserved ending to the game. I myself was surprised at the turn of events, and the lessons learnt here are remarkably relevant in contemporary society, forcing players to question what it is they truly value in their lives. Things like fortunes and wealth can be amassed, but one must wonder if these things are the key to fulfilment. Consequently, it’s easy for me to recommend Leo’s Fortune for the experience, and for individuals lacking an iOS device, Leo’s Fortune (as of September 8, 2015) was also released for Mac and PC, being available on the Steam Store as an HD remake.

Metro 2033: Redux Review

“Humans had always been better at killing than any other living thing.” —Dmitry Glukhovsky, Metro 2033

While it may come across as somewhat strange, I played Metro: Last Light back during 2013, well before I played Metro 2033. This was because of a promotion that granted me a free copy of Metro: Last Light with my then-new GPU. I completed Metro: Last Light twice, once as a blind run and the second time to collect screenshots for my review. Then, during the 2015 Steam Summer Sale, the entire Metro franchise went on sale, and I decided to pick up Metro 2033: Redux to experience a remastered version of the story that started everything. In 2013, a nuclear war devastated Russia, forcing survivors in Moscow underground into the metro stations. Twenty years later, Artyom is sent to seek help from the Rangers when the Dark Ones attack their station. Fighting his way across the surface, and the territories of different factions, Artyom succeeds in reaching Polis, where Ranger Miller agrees to help him defeat the Dark Ones. Together with the Rangers, they activate the D6 missile silo and install a laser-guidance system at the top of a radio tower, destroying the Dark Ones. I went through the story on Spartan mode, so Metro 2033: Redux played quite similarly to Metro: Last Light. I beat the campaign in roughly eight hours, focusing on completion rather than exploration, and during the course of the game, there were numerous environments to explore and fight through. Consequently, I unlocked the standard, rather than good ending, and at some point in the future, I will return and play through again to see if I can unlock the good ending.

The original Metro 2033 was billed for its horror environment, and Spartan mode in Metro 2033: Redux was intended to lessen this atmosphere with an increased availability of supplies. However, even armed with more ammunition and supplies, Metro 2033: Redux still manages to be unsettling in some places. Audio cues, such as the shrieks and roars of distant mutants, or the distant voices of Fourth Reich soldiers, add to the suspense as Artyom makes his way through different areas. The unpredictability of some enemies, such as the librarians and demons, also serve to elevate the surprise that players encounter moving through the game. Coupled with the level design and choice of lighting in the different environments, there’s the sense that one can never be too certain of what’s lurking around the corner. Despite a reasonably impressive arsenal of weapons, the weapons’ efficacy against the demons vary, further contributing to the players’ sense of vulnerability. Conversely, in the populated areas, players would feel completely at ease, taking the time to explore and listen to some of the stories that the metro’s inhabitants have to say. Taken together, Metro 2033: Redux is able to convey the environment’s atmosphere to the player, and this contributes substantially to sense of immersion in the game.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • In keeping with the standards set by the Metro: Last Light review, this talk will also feature thirty screenshots. Metro 2033: Redux starts off in media res, giving Artyom a Kalash 2012 with a laser sight and reflex sight as the heads with Miller to the surface. A herd of watchers ambush them, and the game steps back eight days earlier, when Artyom was asked to travel to Polis to inform the Rangers of the Dark Ones’ presence.

  • The word “redux” is to “bring back” or “revive”, which is exactly what this version of Metro 2033 does. While it might have not been the best justification for picking up this title, I admit that I did wish to play Metro 2033: Redux so I could lay claim to being a blog that used the terms “Otafest” and “Redux” at least somewhere. A friend of mine created a detailed summary of his Otafest experiences last year and named the updated incarnation as Otafest Debriefings Redux, which sparked my intrigue in using the word here at least once.

  • The voice acting is similar to that of Metro: Last Light, and it is always a joy to explore well-populated areas, which are littered with signs of habitation. Details in the environment, whether it be merchants selling gun parts, vendors selling food and people conversing all around, it’s clear that people have adapted to life in the subway tunnels.

  • Unlike Metro: Last Light, the ghosts of Metro 2033 are best seen by directly shining a flashlight at them, whereas in the former, they’re best seen in the peripheries, and like Metro: Last Light cannot cause direct harm to the player. They are quite unnerving to behold, and resemble the blast-shadows leftover following a nuclear explosion, during which the intense light burns a person’s outline into a surface.

  • For the most part, the underground tunnels are quiet and disturbingly so, with faint growls from far-distant mutants. However, when they do make an appearance, the mutants themselves sometimes telegraph their presence, turning a suspenseful encounter into a firefight where a quick trigger finger and sharp wit will quickly decide the outcome of said encounter.

  • Numerous weapons in Metro 2033 made a return in Metro: Last Light, and it’s comforting to learn that reliable weapons, like the Shambler, are present in the former. Still deadly at close ranges and still with a long reload time, I kept the Shambler throughout my run as my primary close-quarters weapon, meant to take out any mutants.

  • The Bastard is an automatic weapon that fires assault rifle rounds, and despite being chambered for the same 5.45 x 39mm rounds of the Kalash, but I find it to be woefully under-powered compared to other rifles, even though it’s got a high rate of fire. Thus, as I did in Metro: Last Light, I traded in the Bastard on first opportunity and did not bother upgrading it.

  • My favourite segments of the Metro games happen at the surface: even though there’s a constant need to find replacement filters, there is a strange beauty about the cityscape abandoned by man. The extent of structural decay following the migration into the metro is consistent with what is outlined in Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us: buildings crumble, and even in a place with Moscow’s climate vegetation begins reclaiming the pavement.

  • Khan is introduced in the Ghosts level (that’s not a typographical mistake: there is a level called “Ghosts” in Metro 2033!) as a philosopher who occasionally associates with the Rangers. His knowledge about the paranormal phenomenon in the tunnels of the metro, enough to convince the ghosts to part and avoid anomalies. Consequently, even though Artyom might be traversing some of the spookier sections in Metro 2033: Redux, having Khan’s reassuring presence around eases tensions.

  • I recall spending a fair bit of time trapped in this area after detonating the explosives to seal an open tunnel that was allowing watchmen to enter. It turns out that there are stairwells off to the sides that lead to the next objective. The lack of a minimap, coupled with only a compass for guidance and dark maps means that a fair bit of time in Metro 2033: Redux is spent exploring, trying to figure out where to go.

  • Perhaps because of my innate familiarity with shooters, or perhaps because I’m uncommonly lucky, I was able to find my way about without too much difficulty. Here, I’ve acquired the Kalash (AK-74M), the mainstay assault rifle of both Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light. Highly versatile, it has a lower firing rate and high damage, making it an excellent mid-to-long range weapon. I’ve equipped mine with an IRNV scope and laser sight here, making it useful for combat in the tunnels against the Fourth Reich.

  • Though I tried my absolute best to maintain a stealthy profile and sneak through the area, I was eventually detected and forced to engage the few enemies that were left. I’ve always found that the weapons in Metro were superbly against human opponents, even though they’re inferior in quality to pre-war weapons; against most mutants, it would take an inordinate amount of ammunition to put them down for good.

  • Here, I help a small child return to his mother and politely decline her reward to earn a moral point. Despite my efforts to earn moral points where possible, it is likely that I did not earn enough to offset the fact that I frequently resorted to the Rambo-approach for extricating myself out of difficult situations.

  • The moon (or maybe a really faint sun) in this screenshot reminds me of the blood moon eclipse that I was fortunate enough to glimpse yesterday evening, which coincided with the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival. After a dinner of roast duck, chicken and prawns, I savoured a slice of mooncake as cloud cover rolled in to cover the moon. While my area missed totality, I was able to see the partial eclipse, as the clouds covering the moon finally moved on, illuminating the landscape in moonlight. As an added bonus, the weather this year has been very nice, and we were fortunate in that, unlike last year, there was no snowvember-type event.

  • Consequently, I still saw enough of the eclipse to avoid missing out on an event that won’t occur again until…wait for it…2033. The weather remained pleasantly cool during the evening, so I could stand outside without discomfort. Demons are amongst the toughest enemies in Metro and require up to three entire magazines from the Kalash to down. Consequently, it makes more sense to make use of cover and avoid them.

  • I typically don’t equip a 4x scope on my weapons, given that Metro has always felt more to be a close-quarters shooter. However, for segments of the game set outdoors, sometimes, it is useful to hold onto a good ranged weapon. I’ve picked up a Kalash with the 4x sight here, but previously, I was rocking an IRNV-equipped Tihar pneumatic rifle as a stealth weapon, and decided to accept the suppressed VSV VSK-94 for subsequent sections of the game.

  • The abandoned streets of Moscow remind me of images of Pripyat by winter following the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. From the documentation I’ve read, citizens of Pripyat were hastily evacuated and told they would be allowed to return in a few days, hence the presence of possessions in the apartment blocks. However, documentation for the various haikyo in Japan is virtually nonexistent, leading the inquisitive mind to wonder what circumstances led the buildings’ inhabitants to desert them with such haste.

  • Returning from Metro: Last Light is the awesome ability to torch spider webs using Artyom’s lighter. The spiders inhabiting the webs are harmless, but the webs do slow Artyom down: burning them will remove them as impediments and also yields a cool, realistic looking fire effect.

  • After meeting up with the Rangers, Artyom follows a small task force assigned with finding a folder containing the location of D6. Given this cryptonymn (Д-6) by the KGB, D6 is allegedly a secret subway system with a depth of between 50 and 200 meters. Its exact function is not known, but it’s been speculated to be for emergency use by government officials. Finding this one folder in the massive library complex feels like finding a needle in a haystack, since no one knows where the folder itself is.

  • After one of his party becomes injured, Artyom must continue the trek into the library alone. Here, I stare down a librarian, one of Metro 2033‘s toughest opponents. The best way to deal with them is to remain still, around one to three meters away, and stare them down, after which the librarian will treat Artyom as non-hostile. This is quite effective, except for the rare black librarians in the library’s basement and is the preferred way of handling them. The first time I encountered a librarian, I expended half my ammunition fighting it owing to its remarkable resilience.

  • Radioactive mushrooms illuminate a forgotten corridor at a point in the game I cannot quite remember. While not dangerous per se, these mushrooms do indicate regions where there is poisonous gas, making it prudent to reequip the gas mash. At some point earlier in the game, I found a pair of night vision goggles, which made it much easier to move through the darker sections of the game without being spotted. Their usage is balanced by the fact that lights will overwhelm the player, forcing them to remove the goggles.

  • The flamethrower is a highly effective weapon that easily makes short work of the mutants. I regret not carrying one into the last level, since ammunition for it is relatively common in comparison to shotgun and assault rifle ammunition. Users must be mindful of the air pressure and fuel remaining, and is most useful at close quarters. On any subsequent play-throughs, I’ll definitely carry a flamethrower with me into D6 to deal with the hordes of mutants.

  • I suddenly realise that I’ve no pictures of the Abzats, an automatic shotgun that is quite possibly one of the best weapons in Metro 2033: Redux at close quarters. Belt fed, it has a 20 round capacity and high rate of fire, allowing it to tear through opponents, but is hampered by a long reload time. Here, I’m wielding the Kalash 2012, an assault rifle that has a slightly higher rate of fire and lower damage than the Kalash. Its larger magazine is an asset for medium range combat.

  • One of the coolest weapons of Metro 2033: Redux is the Hellbreath, a weapon that makes use of an electromagnetic accelerator to fire metal projectiles at extremely high velocities, like a railgun. It is extremely powerful and has better endurance than the Tihar, but is not as accurate or stealthy. Owing to the sheer number of mutants encountered, by the time I reached the train station, I was out of ammunition for my Abzats and Kalash 2012, forcing me to use the Hellbreath in close quarters.

  • Consequently, Metro 2033: Redux‘s final sections were quite intimidating, as I felt ill-equipped to take on the giant amoeba, gelatinous balls of sludge that rush the player and miller. These balls can be destroyed using a single shot. The pores they spawn from do not need to be killed, since they only only produce one amoeba. In Metro 2033, the amoeba were much more frustrating as enemies, since the pores could produce multiple amoeba until they are killed.

  • One of the most disgusting things I’ve seen in Metro has to be the biomass, a pustulating mass of flesh that covers the reactor. It cannot be killed by conventional means and assaults victims with psychokinetic attacks, compelling them to walk into the biomass and become consumed. The entire area under the biomass is dripping with slimy organic substances and filled with amoeba, and when making use of the crane to open the valves, the biomass will try to destroy the crane, suggesting that it may have a limited degree of awareness.

  • It feels good to be back out in the open air, and back to where Metro 2033 first began: with D6 located, the time has come to climb the Ostankino Radio Tower. With a height of 540 metres, it was completed in 1967, and was the tallest building in the world until the CN Tower was completed in 1976. The tower suffered a fire in 2000 and knocked out television broadcasts to the Moscow area, but this was repaired.

  • A demon attempts to consume Miller before Artyom intervenes. The only weapon with any ammunition left, I emptied the Hellbreath’s entire magazine into it to kill the demon. There are several demons at this point in the game, and the documentation suggests that some of them are invincible, meant to be part of scripted sequences.

  • The view from the top of the Ostankino Radio Tower is phenomenal, and the effect is brought out to the fullest in Metro 2033: Redux. The developers used satellite images to generate the textures, resulting in reasonably accurate layout of Moscow. The extent of the nuclear war’s devastation can be seen: although the tower itself appears to have survived the detonation, a crater can be seen below.

  • The last portion of Metro 2033 after placing down the SOFLAM is to experience a trance of some sort. It’s one of the more surreal sections in the game, and once the end of this space is reached, the ending begins to play. This time, there was no flood as I progressed through the different levels, and with Metro 2033: Redux finished, I’m going to divide my time between Sakura Angels and Call of Duty: Black Ops (the former is from the 2015 Summer Sale latter and the latter, I picked up on a sale out of a desire to experience a story that could have occurred concurrently with the events of Higurashi).With my posting quota for September reached, I’ll return in October to blog about Gochuumon wa Usage Desu ka?? and some other topics as they come to mind.

Having completed Metro 2033: Redux, I can say that this was a highly entertaining title, and now, I’m inclined to read the novel for myself. Whereas Metro: Last Light dealt with Artyom’s experiences a year after Metro 2033, the Ranger’s occupation of D6 and the different factions coveting D6; the story in Metro 2033 is simpler, following Artyom’s journey to Polis and discovery of D6. As such, it might be seen as a coming-of-age story for Artyom. Consequently, Metro: Last Light really allows for Metro 2033 to shine, as it depicts Artyom’s fate following the events of Metro 2033, and now that this is done, I’ve fully experienced the story of Metro. As far as replay value goes, I’ll definitely go back and try the game out for the good ending, perhaps even capitalising on the fact that Metro 2033: Redux comes with Ranger mode, which completely dispenses with the HUD for a truly immersive experience. While this was not included in the standard edition of Metro: Last Light (much to the chagrin of many), it is nice that Metro 2033: Redux comes with all the bells and whistles. Those who’ve played both Metro 2033 and Metro 2033: Redux have varying opinions about whether or not the graphics update was worthwhile, but there are new features that make Metro 2033: Redux handle and play more smoothly, and ultimately, the improvement to the visuals means that the game’s strongest point (its atmospherics) succeed in conveying the mood in and around a post-apocalyptic Moscow even more effectively than the original.

Wolfenstein: The New Order- The Lunar Base mission as an example of good set piece design

“I’m on the motherfucking moon” —Blazkowicz

Each of Wolfenstein: The New Order‘s missions stand out in their own right owing to their unique level designs and settings, allowing the game to continually impress and surprise the player. In a title where each mission is memorable, the Lunar Base mission stands out for its boldness, taking Blazkowicz to a Nazi facility set on the lunar surface. In-game, it’s shown that the lunar base is a cutting-edge research facility, and its remote location makes it ideally suited for storing the nuclear launch codes: this ties in seamlessly with the story and simultaneously provides an excuse to set a mission on the moon itself. Coupled with the appropriate arsenal (read “cool space guns”), the Lunar Base truly evokes a diesel-punk feeling, incorporating high tech gimmicks with technology from the sixties and offers a full environment to explore. As I fight through the facility and down enemies with a small array of laser weapons, glimpses of the lunar surface can be caught; it hits me that this is how space missions ought to be designed. Combat and exploration in a well-organised, well-constructed space environment can effectively convey the sense that one is in space without the need to introduce the disorienting effects of zero-G and conflicting choices in the sound department (specifically, picking one of realism or theatrics).

  • I mentioned back in my Wolfenstein: The New Order final reflections post that I would be returning to do a talk on the Lunar Base mission, and so, here I am at present. This is a shorter talk with fewer images, but I emphasise that this mission is without equal and is perhaps the strongest mission in the entire game. Here, I am equipped with the AR Marksman, which can only be used in automatic plasma mode while on the moon.

  • Last year at around this time of year, I was going through the Battlefield 4 campaign and had just beaten the first mission after a brunch at the Chinook Restaurant at the Banff Park Lodge. It’s become somewhat of a yearly family tradition now, as are my own propensities towards obtaining a breakfast omelette of ham, cheese, tomato, peppers, mushrooms and salsa plus typical fare for a English Breakfast for my first plate, followed by roast beef, scalloped potatoes, honeyed ribs, seasonal vegetables, fried basa, citrus-seasoned cod and grilled chicken on round two.

  • The Chinook Restaurant’s snow crab this year was as fantastic as I remember, and to round things off, I had a pear pie, chocolate mousse, cheesecake and chocolate fondue for desert. A stroll along the Bow River followed, under cool but sunny skies. While I’ve mentioned before that the AR Marksman was not particularly useful when dual-wielded in rifle mode, in plasma mode, the weapon becomes a powerful short to mid-range alternative that can decimate enemies at close quarters.

  • The AR Marksman’s only limitation in plasma mode is that it needs to be periodically charged, but most of the enemies drop battery units that can refill the energy in small increments. By limiting players to only a pistol as having ammunition pickups, the Lunar Base mission encourages players to explore their environments to figure out where charging stations are before charging into a firefight.

  • Blazkowicz dons a space suit to move between different sections of the facility, and here, the Earth can be seen. This past weekend has been quite busy, as I’ve been implementing a simplified version of my Unreal simulation for testing with MiddleVR. I also picked up a 2.5-inch SATA III hard drive enclosure so I could remove the hard disk from an older laptop, and a gamepad so I could test my simulations more thoroughly. While the gamepad’s an older one that does not support XInput (it only supports DirectInput), I’ve gotten XInput emulation working, so it should at least work where required.

  • The interior design at the Lunar Base is varied and distinct enough for players to differentiate the areas: Blazkowicz fights through the living quarters, research labs and as seen in the previous screenshot, even traverses a short section of the moon. On the Lunar Base, commanders wear noticeable red uniforms that give them an appearance not too different from the costume of Street Fighter II‘s M. Bison.

  • Tape reels can be seen here: while the moon base is quite futuristic, the inclusion of an iconic element from an older age clearly illustrates the divergence of technological advancement from our own world. It is subtle details such as these that set The New Order apart from other shooters, and while The Old Blood was very entertaining, atmospherically, The New Order still surpasses The Old Blood. I remember one person from AnimeSuki remarking that they were “always game for alternate history” in the Wolfenstein thread, and while I never had a chance to reply (on account of their being permanently banned), I would recommend this game to them and anyone else who loves alternate history.

  • The Laserkraftwerk is perhaps the best weapon during this mission against multiple targets and Superstadten: armed with a scope, the weapon does a ridiculous amount of damage and blows enemies apart when fully charged. Back at AnimeSuki, discussion on the game and its successor, The Old Blood has dried up. At least one person cites the game’s “advanced” requirements as a deterrent, but armed with my still-powerful PC, I contend that this is a title that is definitely worth trying (it’s worth buying a GTX 760 or 960 just for this game). In fact, my decision to pick up The New Order was primarily because of the Lunar Base mission.

  • Blazkowicz is riding a tram between facilities here, and more of the lunar surface is visible: the Lunar Base is built in an impact crater, hence the presence of cliff-like walls. The Apollo missions yielded photographs that presented the lunar surface as being quite flat with rolling hills, but lacking an atmosphere to provide erosion and reduce impact force, collisions with other solar bodies result in craters that are well-preserved.

  • Pools of blood and meat chunks are the result after Blazkowicz fights his way back to the transport bound for Earth. A pair of Suprestadten show up, but they can be dealt with quickly enough. I’ll be returning to regular programming this week: Non Non Biyori‘s halfway point will be discussed, along with the whole of the Sabagebu! and Shirobako OVAs.

In choosing to keep the gameplay consistent with the remainder of Wolfenstein: The New Order, but setting the mission in a completely foreign environment, the Lunar Base offers the developers to construct a completely different environment that can tell a very rich story about how different the universe in The New Order is relative to ours. The amalgamation of the decidedly futuristic aspects of a fully operational moon base with old-school computers and tape reels illustrate just how technology has advanced in their world. The choices in level design result in a mission that serves as one of the most enjoyable set pieces in the game, without sacrificing any exploration or player freedom. In comparison to the space missions of 007 Nightfire and Call of Duty: Ghosts, The New Order offers a familiar gameplay experience that accommodates for exploration: there’s no punishment for taking time to explore the level and really marvel at just how different the Lunar Base is from the other missions, and the weapon selection has been diversified to include plasma and laser weapons that are iconic with space fiction from an older age.

Wolfenstein: The Old Blood Review and Reflection

“I’ve got a plan: break into the keep, kill every Nazi in there.” —William Blazkowicz

The last game I went through during its release year was Metro: Last Light back in 2013. This year, my interest in playing through Wolfenstein: The New Order led me to pick up a special package on discount. It was 50 CAD for both The New Order and The Old Blood, while The New Order on its own was 67 CAD. I was quite excited to hear about The Old Blood; a B-movie style trailer showcasing new secrets, guns and enemies convinced me that this standalone game might be worth checking out. After seven hours, I’ve finally beaten my way through Castle Wolfenstein, fought off a mecha-Jaeger with nothing more than a pipe, stormed my way through a zombie-infested town and killed the eldritch abomination that acts as the game’s final boss. This journey, though short, perhaps succeeds in evoking the old-school Wolfenstein feel more effectively than The New Order: whereas The New Order was a fantastic alternate history, The Old Blood really brought back elements from classic Wolfenstein titles through its hidden areas, which included full-on levels from the original Wolfenstein 3D. However, The Old Blood doesn’t stop there; there’s a full-fledged story in The Old Blood that ties in with The New Order, dealing with Blazkowicz’s efforts to secure a folder containing the location of Deathshead’s compound.

The Old Blood paints a much more complete picture of how The New Order began; players know roughly the end result, so the main challenge in The Old Blood was to provide a compelling narrative about how the events of The New Order were reached. How the Allied forces’ assault came to fruition was actually the consequence of Blazkowicz’s efforts to secure the folder against all odds. The mission to retrieve it began simply enough, but things rapidly deteriorate. Blazkowic heroically tries to save Agent One and continue with the mission, realising the significance of this folder, adding new weight and dimensions to The New Order‘s opening raid. The fact that such an effort was made towards ending the war and the Allies’ eventual failure at Deathshead’s compound adds to the poignancy in The New Order. A secondary theme with Helga deals with the oft-explored topic of dangerous knowledge, culminating Helga’s not-so-subtle death when an abomination she summons destroys her. As with The New Order, The Old Blood succeeds in painting a narrative for this Wolfenstein universe, which, coupled with the highly responsive shooting mechanics, makes for a superbly entertaining shooter.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The twenty screenshots I’ve got here only represent ten percent of all the screenshots I took throughout the game. The first section to The Old Blood is sneaking through Castle Wolfenstein’s dungeons, which are patrolled by prototype Supersoldaten, hulking monstrosities that can soak up and deal vast amounts of damage. Fortunately, these prototypes are constrained by their power supply: shutting down a generator allows Blazkowicz to use his pipe to pull out the power cable and disable them.

  • Gratuitous violence makes a welcome return in The Old Blood: on occasion, rounds from Blazkowicz’s arsenal will blow heads and limbs off, while more powerful effects from explosions will rend bodies. With this unsubtle an indicator, there’s no need for hit markers at all.

  • The Old Blood might be a serious game, but humour is quite common. Blazkowicz himself frequently makes hilarious remarks off hand, and the Nazi soldiers share some interesting conversations, with one of the more notable being one soldier correcting another about having ‘lying in bed’ as opposed to ‘laying in bed’. Blazkowicz has no patience for what a literal grammar Nazi and quickly wipes both out with the pipes.

  • As The Old Blood progresses, there’s a decreasing need to use the pipe as a primary weapon, although their usefulness in climbing walls, opening doors and performing hilariously violent take downs means that they remain fun to use even when more powerful weapons are available.

  • The 1946 assault rifle is an excellent all-around weapon and now can be fired in burst mode. Ammunition for the weapon is very common, so this weapon can be relied upon in almost every situation. Here, I fight my way through a kitchen, with large racks of meat being visible. The Calgary Stampede is on, and over the past few days, I had the opportunity to attend. This year, I was there mainly for the midway fare: the lobster corndog proved to be a surprise. Though smaller than a conventional corndog, the lobster conferred a sweeter flavour that complemented the corndog’s savouriness.

  • The Kampfpistol behaves similar to a flare gun and fulfils the role of an under-barrel grenade launcher. Capable of taking down fire troopers in a single shot and yielding a large blast radius, this weapon is excellent against tougher enemies or large crowds. Callbacks to Bethseda’s Elder Scrolls: Skyrim and even DOOM are present- up here, I found a Cacodemon plushie in one of the rooms.

  • The Old Blood‘s graphical requirements are steeper than that of The New Order‘s: the former makes use of volumetric lighting to give the sense of age in Castle Wolfenstein, and while not every ledge or balcony can be explored, The Old Blood‘s level designers do a fantastic job of capturing how large Castle Wolfenstein is. Here, I’m wielding the Bombenschuss, a bolt action rifle that is excellent for long-range engagements. This weapon is quite fun to use and can destroy fire-troopers with a single well-placed shot to their fuel tanks.

  • The Schockhammer is an automatic shotgun that excels at close-quarters combat, and when dual-wielded, can decimate the enemy ranks. I absolutely love the mood and lighting in the castle; this feels like a fitting place for a party of sorts, and despite its medieval appearance, the dining hall feels quite fitting for a grand banquet. At the Stampede, I also had the chance to try out a Montreal smoked meat poutine. It was absolutely delicious, warding off the cold winds that picked up later in the evening.

  • While there’s nothing wrong with a good firefight, stealth is a viable and surprisingly satisfying option. Unlike The New Order, commanders in The Old Blood were a little trickier to find, so I ended up getting into numerous firefights and did not get around to unlocking the perk that comes from stealth-killing commanders, which would’ve made it easier to find secrets and gold pieces. The library is a very ornate place and gives a welcoming sense: for high-ranking officers, it must be quite nice to have come from a hearty dinner in the dining hall and settle down here for a good book before retiring for the evening.

  • Blazkowicz is captured by Rudi Jäger and interrogated, but manages to break free and kill his favourite dog. Unfortunately, Wesley can’t be saved, and Blazkowic is forced to continue the mission alone. It is here that Blazkowicz learns from Wesley his trick for keeping cool against difficult situations: “Count to four, inhale. Count to four, exhale”. Some of Blazkowic’s remarks show a sensitive side, others are nonsensical: together, they portray Blazkowicz as a human being, rather than a killing machine.

  • The Bombenshuss is perhaps one of the most useful weapons in The Old Blood, allowing for long distance engagements. The weapon is only ineffective against the Supersoldaten, and unlike the Marksman rifle of The Old Blood, ammunition is quite common. The trams taking Blazkowicz between the town and castle do much to remind me of the last part of 007 Nightfire‘s The Exchange, where James Bond escapes Drake’s castle on a tram, as well.

  • The town adjacent to Castle Wolfenstein is not actually Wulfberg. It is here that Blazkowicz meets Kessler and Annette for the first time, and the architecture of this town is quite similar to the town of Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka; however, Blazkowicz is unlikely to find Rabbit House or any coffee shops here. Instead, this mission marks the end of the first act: Blazkowicz must take down a raging Jäger, who’s got a suit of powered armour rocking dual chain guns.

  • In homage to Wolfenstein 3D, Jäger will shout “mein leben!” (lit. “my life”) when defeated. His dialogue lamenting the loss of his favourite dog was downright hilarious, and on my first encounter with him, I was laughing to much to aim straight, resulting in my death. On my second attempt, I made use of the Schockhammer to blow out Jäger’s capacitors and peel of his armour plating. This boss fight hails back to an older style of gameplay and was hugely entertaining, solidly wrapping up the first half of The Old Blood.

  • Wulfberg is not the same town visible from Castle Wolfenstein: it’s a different town elsewhere, but it’s clear that many graphical assets were reused from that area. The area is patrolled quite heavily by the Nazis, but stealth options make them fairly straight forwards to take down.

  • I’ve jumped ahead a ways to after Helga interrogates Blazkowicz, and a mysterious alchemical force transforms the Nazis into zombies. Called “shamblers” in game, they have nothing to do with one of the shotguns from Metro: Last Light and are yet another instance of Nazi zombies. Despite their demonic nature, they’re actually quite dull as opponents, and care be taken out without too much difficulty.

  • Owing to the turn I took, I got the Annette route in The Old Blood. Here, my HUD shows a feature that would have been quite nice to have had in The New Order (apparently, I never discovered it): the ability to overcharge armour in a similar fashion as health.

  • The only thing cooler than fighting Nazi zombies is fighting Nazi zombies in a powerful mecha that explodes enemies with its powerful claws. Enemies that get too close are able to board, but Blazkowicz is able to pilot the craft with one arm, using his free arm to wield a weapon.

  • The atmospherics here are reminiscent of Hallow’s Eve, intended to raise the supernatural air surrounding the game’s second half. However, the official documentation suggest that the zombies themselves have scientific origins, with the chemical gas being a Da’at Yichud creation.

  • Which other title do I have that starts out in a zombie-infested town, then enters a cemetery of sorts and descends underground? That would have to be Half-Life 2‘s Ravenholm mission. Despite being familiar, The Old Blood manages to introduce a new spin on things, and although not quite as riveting as Ravenholm and its poison headcrabs, The Old Blood nonetheless does a fine job with the atmosphere.

  • This monstrosity is supposedly created by King Otto I, making use of ancient Da’at Yichud genetic technologies. After destroying Helga, it’s up to Blazkowicz to defeat it. The process is somewhat tedious: the trick is to iterate through shooting it in the mouth, escaping its arms, and using it to kill off the hordes of Nazis and Nazi-zombies in that order until it’s dead. After the monster is defeated, the cutscene depicting Blazkowicz’s next mission to take Deathshead’s Compound, plays, ending the game.

The Old Blood doesn’t disappoint from a gameplay perspective; movement and shooting is tactile and highly intuitive. The first half of the game is set in Castle Wolfenstein itself, reminiscent of 007 Nightfire‘s The Exchange mission, where 007 is tasked with infiltrating Raphael Drake’s castle in the Alps when MI6 suspects that a party is meant to be a cover for a missile guidance chip’s exchange. I absolutely loved the winter feel of that mission, for it felt very much like the annual Christmas parties at my cousin’s house (during which we spent playing team deathmatch in 007: Agent Under Fire). I always wondered what it would have been like to revisit Drake’s castle during the day, although the plot progression meant that was simply not happening. On the other hand, The Old Blood presents just that: a Germanic castle to explore by day. Shooting through the corridors, kitchens, staff quarters and even a library, as well as finding hidden-away secrets, were a blast. The second half of The Old Blood, though interesting, is modestly reminiscent of Half Life 2‘s Ravenholm. Despite being a familiar experience, it was nonetheless entertaining. Taken together, The Old Blood is a satisfying, worthy prequel to The New Order, although the focus on World War II-era weapons and equipment means that with both games out, it would be more logical to play through The Old Blood prior to starting The New Order.