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The Thumbs Ups of 2011

In a bid to cover off all those things I didn’t find the time to write about this last year (and to actually get a post in for the month of December) I present my inaugural ‘Thumbs Up & Thumbs Down’ lists for 2011. These are the things that either surprised me by being better than they deserved to be or against-all-odds-style fuck ups. Wouldn’t you know it, but both the best and the worst things to happen to me this year involve dragons and Skyrim isn’t even on this list.

Starting small and moving up, I have to say the first thumbs up of 2011 has to go to Breaking Bad. Why? For someone who doesn’t give a damn about any of the things the show is ostensibly about – drug dealing, family drama etc etc – to sit down and plough through 4 seasons in a week it means it’s got to be doing something right.

While Breaking Bad took about 3 years’ worth of nagging from everyone I’ve ever known to try the show, The Walking Dead only took about six months before I got the hint. Now I do like my zombies, despite how they’ve become the most ubiquitous thing under the sun this year, but TWD is something I can recommend to regular folk and be reasonably certain they’ll enjoy it as well.

Could say the same thing about Warhammer 40K: Space Marine too. Here I was thinking you’d need to be a Warhammer fan to enjoy it (which, incidentally, I am not) but it ended up being every bit the game Gears of War is, albeit a little more light-hearted, and despite a campaign that falters at the final act. It is with genuine sadness that I say the DLC took too long for this game – its latest Chaos-themed update and a teased Dreadnought mode in January will go mostly unnoticed due to the neglect it saw for a long time post launch. And that is not something I often say about DLC.

The guys at Relic have a strong pedigree however and it was never likely they’d release Space Marine as a complete dud. I was less sure the newly minted ‘Netherrealm Studios’ could deliver on their simply titled Mortal Kombat reboot however. As an MK fan from the early ’90s I feel perfectly justified in saying that everything the team has turned out post-John Tobias has been garbage. While MK 2010 doesn’t hit all the notes I felt it could have, it certainly hit a shitload more than I was expecting it to. And although I have no idea where they go from here, this solid release has done the unthinkable for myself and many others- returned the MK name to some semblance of respectability. If only Sega could turn the same trick with Sonic.

Saving the best for last, I give an extremely well deserved double-thumbs up to every nerd this side of Kentucky’s new favourite thing in the world, Game of Thrones. No I hadn’t read the books. Nor did I really read at all. That changed, though, and the show would deserve my props of that basis alone. That’s not the only thing it’s changed either. For example, I rarely buy BD-ROMs and have never pre-ordered them. Until now. And never have I anticipated a second season of a show anywhere near as much as I am longing for April 2012. Anything else I could say about the show I’ve already said so let’s just leave it as 2011′s overall highlight and leave it at that.

So this article ended up a bit tame. But coming up next is my Thumbs Down list, and man, some things have really pissed me off this year. Check that out when it goes up, hopefully before the clock strikes 12 if I get ’round to it. It’ll have sharper teeth, I’m sure.

And as one final thumbs up before I kiss this stinkin’ year goodbye I’d like to thank Yurik86 at Deviantart for the sweet wallpaper I used for the title image of this post.


Alien Anthology and Excessive Box Sets

Alien Anthology: Egg Edition

In 2003 the Alien franchise saw what many, myself included, considered the best DVD compilation in film history in the form of the Alien Quadrilogy set. The behemoth was 9 discs long, had two cuts of each of the four existing films and a wealth of extra content included ‘just in case’. Some question whether the series is worthy of such excessive treatment- they can get fucked for all I care.

Now, with that annoying Blu Ray technology that’s all the rage, the Alien series is getting another excessive collectors’ box, with just as many cuts, 40 hours more footage and 3 less discs. Is this new ‘Alien Anthology’ set worth an upgrade?

You can visit any of those videophile review sites to get the long winded version, but let me cut down the answer for you. Video transfers into 1080P are great. Alien gets the best treatment, followed by Aliens, and who really cares about the last two? Audio mixes are all new and actors were even called in to redo lines that were drowned out in Alien 3. All of the Quadrilogy content is there, plus a whole lot more, with the notable addition of an unedited version of Alien 3′s ‘making of’ which shows David Fincher mouthing off on set and taking the name of Fox in vain.

Are those things worth an upgrade on their own? Maybe. Oh, who am I kidding? I’ll be buying this and if I’m lucky might just snatch up the limited ‘egg’ edition too. Lucky and bloated with cash, that is.

Oh and the discs are all region free in case anyone down under wanted to save a heap buying off Amazon instead of paying JB HiFi’s inflated local prices. Also to just to clarify what I mean by ‘excessive’, this is what I mean.


Steam Recommendations: Black Ops & New Vegas

Call of Duty: Black Ops and Fallout: New Vegas

Steam, that digital delivery system for games from Valve that I have this curious love / hate relationship with, rolled out a new feature overnight – recommendations. Now you, and the rest of the defenceless internet, are set to be subjected to my unadulterated thoughts on games new & old and potentially in such a barrage that you’d think I was on Valve’s payroll. And hey, wouldn’t that be nice?

What I like about this system is that there is a character limit of about a 1000, which demands brevity. It also allows me to be shit lazy and not bother writing real reviews. If you’re a glutton for more punishment visit My Recommendations Page. I’ve decided to start off with two new games Steam prompted me with

Black Ops is an odd beast in that it takes steps forward and steps back from last year’s Call of Duty: Modern Warefare 2, all with the haughty confidence of a title guaranteed to ship 5 million or more without much effort. However when you have half the internet playing something online how can you pass it up?
The campaign still provides a high you just don’t get from other shooters. The story is ambitiously different, but I’m still deciding whether that difference paid off in the end. Technology wise, the game used 2008′s CoD: World at War as a codebase instead of the more recent MW2. Odd choice. It looks good, but not great.
Multiplayer is a winner for one reason: Dedicated Servers. 20-50ms pings instead of 60, 70, 80 upto 200 or so in MW2? Hell yes. So far weapons aren’t memorable like those in WaW and MW2, but we’re still in early days.
Sad that I have to mention this but hardware performance on PC is not fantastic. In fact it was practically unplayable at launch. Black Ops is too CPU intensive and if you’re not packing a Core i5 or i7, expect 2-5 second stutters, and a generally frustrating experience ahead.

 

Not as good as Fallout 3. That out of the way, buy this game. Fallout: New Vegas is probably the world’s most bloated expansion pack – most every asset here is recycled from its predecessor. Not to say it doesn’t excel in any areas- gunplay, writing and party interaction are all done better here. At the same time VATS, Special and general balancing are done worse.
If it weren’t for all the bugs in the game this would be easier to recommend as a follow up to 2008′s masterpiece. As it stands the game is a lot of fun, but a lot of patching is in order.
Of course if you haven’t played FO3 yet, get the GOTY of that before you try New Vegas. More content, less bugs… is there really much of a choice to make?


Nulreview: Fallout New Vegas

Fallout: New Vegas

Obsidian Entertainment is well known for making the sequels to high profile RPGs. However unlike Neverwinter Nights 2 or Knights of the Old Republic 2, Fallout: New Vegas is not the sequel to somebody else’s game. Obsidian started the Fallout series, back when they worked at Black Isle Studios, so this is essentially a dev retaking the reigns of the franchise they created. Question is; how did they do?

Fallout: New Vegas is simultaneously one of the best RPGs I’ve ever played while also being one of the buggiest and worst presented products I’ve ever had the misfortune of experiencing. This is the dichotomy presented in most reviews; the game does not disappoint the lofty expectations of Fallout 3 fans and is in many ways better than that game, but also brings along for the ride Gamebryo Engine bugginess many times worse than what we saw in FO3 or even Oblivion.

So it’s ultimately a mixed bag. On the one hand I love this game to bits, but find it hard to recommend due to the sheer disregard for the player with which it has been released. Did anyone test this mess? Is there a QA department at Bethesda Softworks at all? No doubt this will be polished to a fine sheen many patches and DLC packs down the track, but even then why should anyone buy it now if they can get a more complete and more stable version in the inevitable GOTY edition a year or so from now?

Me? I caved and bought it. Obviously.

 

But if you suspend your disbelief and ignore the game’s technical shortcomings, New Vegas is still full of stand-out moments. Discovering the Brotherhood Of Steel’s underground hideout and getting embroiled in the sinister political inner-workings of their organisation is a quest on a par with Fallout 3′s best, with dozens of potential outcomes. – T3

Like Obsidian’s other big-name sequel – KOTOR 2 – Fallout: New Vegas is a divisive game. So much remains of what made Fallout 3 special, from the ridiculous cast to the joy of exploration, that there will be many willing to overlook all the bugs and glitches in favour of the weight of content that lies beneath. Those who were hoping for more than a mission pack to a 2008 game built on a busted 2006 engine, however, may find new Vegas to be quite literally a wasteland. – Kotaku

It doesn’t look as good as Fallout 3 did, and perhaps that’s down to internal support at Bethesda knowing the engine better than their outsourced pals, but it shows, and doesn’t help when Obsidian are known for lacking in the polish department. I was lucky enough to avoid any full crashes (though my house-mates have suffered these), but dodgy texture load-ins, massive frame-rate drops, out of sync voice work and alarmingly close pop-up have actually marred the experience for me. It is a detriment when you invest so much into the world, lore and characters and I’m hoping some serious patch work is released as soon as possible. – Ausgamers

If New Vegas were being reviewed as a piece of software, as a technical product, the judgement would be absolutely appalling. These are games, however, and deserve to be reviewed for the experiences they provide. The experience of New Vegas is sublime and so incredibly big that the ratio between getting annoyed by freezes and getting excited by the game’s wonderfully engaging world firmly favors a positive outlook. Very few games could be good enough to make up for serious technical errors. In fact, I could count them on one hand. – Destructoid

Fallout: New Vegas is still a fantastic game, only slightly held back by its increasingly outdated tech. Obsidian has created a totally compelling world and its frustrations pale into insignificance compared to the immersive, obsessive experience on offer. Just like the scorched scenery that provides its epic backdrop, New Vegas is huge and sprawling, sometimes gaudy, even downright ugly at times – but always effortlessly, shamelessly entertaining. – Eurogamer


Preview: Path of Exile

Path of Exile

Path of Exile has put a smile on my face. With all the post-Blizzcon chatter about Diablo III I got to thinking ‘where did all these Diablo-clones come from?’ In what was just a few years ago an almost extinct genre, it seems like a flood of wannabes has appeared out of nowhere following the announcement of Blizzard’s highly anticipated sequel. Path of Exile is a Diablo clone, but in this exception to the rule, I intend it as a complement. Developed by New Zealand’s Grinding Gear Games, it looks to not only aspire to Diablo, but to surpass it. The game will be online-only. It will free to play. And it also seems to be Diablo on steroids in every way imaginable.

Although a closed beta is planned for early 2011, Path of Exile will ship later that year with 6 classes. Two have been revealed to date; the Marauder and Ranger. Each fits one of the now well known ARPG archetypes, but not quite. They have their own spin on the class and so this makes predicting what has yet to be announced somewhat difficult. You can’t discount the tank, since the Marauder is not quite a tank. The Ranger is not quite typical ranged DPS either… why? I’ll get to that in a moment. Grinding Gear has promised against purely support classes, like Priests or Monks, but I’m more interested in what unique classes could arise from Path of Exile’s unique underlying mechanics than simple direct-damage dealers.

poe4     poe9

I say that because combat in Path of Exile belies a secret depth. Frost novas, firebolts and trademark ‘Barbarian’ skills like leap seem to have made it in. So have the enemies- there’s everything from humanoids, wild beasts and the prerequisite undead shamblers in what has been revealed so far. What makes the system unique, and isn’t immediately apparent, is that magic isn’t learnt or part of a class’ skill tree. No, all skills are granted by ‘materia-like’ gems socketed into armour. One gem might grant a firebolt, for example. However that gem, combined with another in a neighbouring socket might change that one bolt per cast into three. Or make it bigger. Or add armour-penetrating properties. And they can be used by any class. Let that sink in for a second. I’ve maligned the freedom in character-building that was lost between Diablo I and II; this game not only restores that level of customisation but goes a step further too.

    

Customisability doesn’t end there either; loot plays as important a role as ever in Path of Exile. Randomised drops, dungeons and bosses, supported by a persistent online world with a persistent in-game economy, all promise the obsessive gear-collecting fondly remembered and now expected of action RPGs.

Environments are suitably varied. Ruins, forests and so forth are standard fair, but Path of Exile seems to avoid Diablo II’s trap of an ever-brightening colour palate in diversifying locales. Even the sunsoaked coastline in the trailer manages to feel as hostile and forbidding as any dungeon in the game. This in particular is a noteworthy feat given the ongoing controversy surrounding the art direction of Diablo III. And, of course, it’s all random.

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The online world is hard to fathom so far before launch but the staples; PvP and the aforementioned item economy are promised features. All will be facilitated by the fact that Path of Exile runs entirely on the developers’ servers. While the game will be free to play, it will not be dominated by microtransaction-based advancement. Developers have gone to lengths to emphasise purchasable items will be cosmetic only and will not provide any advantage to players with deeper pockets. This is always the way to go, but unfortunately an area in which all too many online games stumble. Here’s hoping Grinding Gear can stick to their convictions on this point.

All in all Path of Exile shows genuine promise, especially for a game that will be free to play. What the team has assembled stands as one of the most impressive entrees in what is rapidly becoming an overpopulated genre. I can only hope the title doesn’t lose any of its lustre between now and its live date sometime next year. Meanwhile, I’ll cross my fingers for a beta key and eagerly await the chance to take a closer look at this little gem. Until then, take a look at some of the impressive gameplay trailers released so far;

 

 

 

 

Just a disclaimer; as much as I wish they would, Grinding Gear Games has not invited me to formally preview this game. My views here are formed entirely from their public trailers and the write ups at Incgamers, PCGamer & Joystiq.


Sonic Fan Remix Video Walkthrough

Sonic Fan Remix 

Recently, I blogged about pelikan13x’s Sonic Fan Remix – a 2.5D, HD remake of classic Sonic the Hedgehog. The video released at that time whet our collective appetites for a playable version and now one has now been delivered. It’s a celebration! A tip of the hat to pelikan13x, and let’s pray this fan project goes on to achieve great things. If the quality of the demo is any indication, there’s no doubt of that.

Download | Mirror 1

This build, featuring 3 acts based on Sonic 2’s Emerald Hill Zone, was released today and I have graciously put the recently-unlocked Fallout: New Vegas on hold to bring you a 720p clip of them all. First and third acts layouts were inspired by the originals while the second act is something new. Enjoy.

 

Thanks to Sonic Retro for the headsup, and, as you guys noticed, Destructoid was all over it in no time flat.


The Beta Zones of Sonic 2: Hidden Palace Zone

hiddenpalacezoneact1 Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is one of those games that a notorious pre-release version floating around. People have probed it ad naseum and wondered where all the zones listed in its Level Select went. Did they become other zones? Did they get cut? As if this hasn’t all been documented across the net enough, this series is a look at content missing from the final version of Sonic 2.

Hidden Palace Zone appeared in Sonic 3 & Knuckles as a secret underground area significant to Chaos Emeralds. This concept was actually recycled from an unfinished Sonic 2 zone of the same name that would appear somewhere toward the game’s end. Of all the various incomplete zones in the S2Beta, Hidden Palace is the only one to have distinct code fragments in every known build of the game. In other words, this zone was the closest to being done and it is unknown why it never made the cut.

Like its later incarnation, HPZ in Sonic 2 included Chaos Emeralds. A destructible emerald doodad appears blocking progression through the zone in most versions- this is remedied in the Sonic 2 Long Version ROM hack by Esrael. The zone has one unique badnik- a Tyrannosaur robot that appears nowhere else in the game, but whose data still remains.


Nulreview: Medal of Honor

Medal of Honor

Medal of Honor (2010) always had a bad ring to it. This game was so clearly a knee-jerk reaction to the snowballing success of Call of Duty that it made you wonder: how does one knock down a rival that has hit its stride with 3 consecutive super-successful titles, which commands an incredible following across all platforms and whose most recent entry is the best selling game of all time? Also, why would you even try?

EA has its own Battlefield series that fills a separate niche to CoD. A bit larger in scale and a bit more tactical, BF is about different things to the twitch shooting carnage of Activision’s series. And it is good because it is different. The real tragedy is that it seems the publisher, scrambling for the scraps of Modern Warfare 2, railroaded its otherwise respectable studio, DICE, into stalling its upcoming Battlefield 3 to match the competitor on its own terms with a pale CoD-wannabe. And it shows in Medal of Honor.

Reviews are in, and EA share price dropped 6% because of them. The single player is passable, but buggy, and its poor AI is propped up by an overuse of scripted sequences. Its multiplayer is flat in every way and fails to live up to the progression-whoring and prestige-enticing MW2. While its clear that money was sunk into this, the only take out from what I’m seeing is that it was money better spent elsewhere.

Have a gander below.

In any other genre, a stellar single player experience would be enough to garner a whole-hearted recommendation. But it’s impossible to ignore the importance of multiplayer, especially when Medal of Honor’s primary competitor tends to excel at both. Medal of Honor’s campaign is an exceptional experience, but the total package simply doesn’t beat Call of Duty. – Joystiq (4/5)

Medal of Honor has some strong moments, but overall it feels like a game that could have been a lot better. Most of the issues I experienced while playing feel like things that could have–and should have–been avoided. But all of those scripting bugs and boring unlockables quickly add up, death-of-a-thousand-cuts style. In the absolutely ruthless world of online shooters, there’s little room for weakness. Medal of Honor alternates between its derivative style and its annoying technical glitches way too frequently to rise above the crowd. – Giant Bomb (3/5)

As a game about the Afghanistan war that does its absolute utmost to avoid being about the Afghanistan war, Medal of Honor is arguably just a shooting gallery spliced with a fairground ride and a solid multiplayer accessory which owes a lot to Bad Company 2. It certainly does little to advance the theory that videogames are responsible enough to tell stories within sensitive contexts. – Eurogamer (8/10)

Medal of Honor fails in making an honourable return to the frontline. It’s an inconsistent package that doesn’t fully deliver on the single-player, nor distinguish itself enough in multiplayer to make it an Xbox Live contender. A real shame. – OXM UK (7/10)

MOH is a robust, if seldom surprising, rebuttal to MW2’s dominance, and its measured tone and diligent observation of military patter make it a marginally more meaningful representation of modern warfare itself. It’s an idealised one – going by the book, telling only part of the story. But it’s only because MOH makes a brave move away from the ludicrous extremes of other shooter fantasies that its failure to seize reality entirely becomes so palpable. – Edge Magazine (7/10)


Exploring WoW Alpha: Stratholme and Northeron

Ruins of Stratholme City

Much of the old world in World of Warcraft changed a lot between alpha, beta and final retail builds of the game. In this series I’ll explore zones that differ substantially from their pre-release versions.

Here’s a tour of the alpha uninstanced Ruins of Stratholme. This is the present version of the city; not the one set during the Culling. Note the untextured Necropolis in the sky that would later become to dread Naxxramas.

A common thing in early versions of World of Warcraft is an uninstanced zone on the world map that would later go on to become an instanced dungeon or raid. Troll cities Zul’Gurub and Zul’Farrak are examples, along with Blackwing Lair, Mount Hyjal and the previously touched upon Ahn’Qiraj. It’s impossible to know which, if any of these, were originally conceived as outdoor zones and later reduced to instances as we saw with Azjol Nerub in Wrath of the Lich King. However I believe the city of Stratholme was once one such zone.

NortheronZonePeople have always speculated on the above zone on the world map. Stratholme sits above the zone below it, the Eastern Plaguelands, although currently in an instance off the main world map. If it is added to the main landmass in Cataclysm to enable flying it will most assuredly sit in this currently unused zone. There had been suggestions that this zone comprised ‘Northeron’, an area mentioned in an obscure manual reference to Wildhammer Dwarves and Gryphon Riders. Why such an insignificant zone would be kept on the map while key lore nations like Kul’Tiras are brazenly absent makes no sense though.


The Beta Zones of Sonic 2: Wood Zone

Wood Zone

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is one of those games that a notorious pre-release version floating around. People have probed it ad naseum and wondered where all the zones listed in its Level Select went. Did they become other zones? Did they get cut? As if this hasn’t all been documented across the net enough, this series is a look at content missing from the final version of Sonic 2.

When people talk about the ‘Sonic 2 beta’ they are most likely referring to what is called the Simon Wai prototype. It is a cart that was apparently stolen and later redistributed and is a snapshot of the game’s development circa 1992. Four zones are available, with several others listed in the in the cart’s Level Select screen and not present in the final game.

This protoype ROM contains a very small portion of a ‘Wood Zone’ that shares BGM and doodads with Metropolis Zone in the final retail build. These coincidences lent weight to theories that, during development, Sonic 2 was to feature a time-travel mechanic similar to Sonic CD’s. Ostensibly Wood Zone would be the past, while Metropolis the ‘bad’ future where Eggman had industrialised the area. No badniks are present in the beta data for the Zone. While data still remains in the final ROM image referencing Wood Zone, none of the graphics are still there.

 

 

A ROM hack, ‘Sonic 2 Long Version’ by Esrael, was used to produce this video. It assembled a playable zone beyond the first small area using the assets from the Simon Wai prototype. For more information on the storied development of Sonic 2, be sure to check SonicRetro’s article on the beta.

Exploring WoW Alpha: Deadwind Pass and Old Karazhan

Deadwind Pass

Much of the old world in World of Warcraft changed a lot between alpha, beta and final retail builds of the game. In this series I’ll explore zones that differ substantially from their pre-release versions.

To revisit another Alpha zone of World of Warcraft, Deadwind Pass and the tower Karazhan have also seen significant changes during development. Karazhan was again overhauled with The Burning Crusade to accommodate its new 10-man raid instance. Here’s a look at the zone and the tower before all that.

 

As you can see below, little of this remains. The look of the old tower was much more imposing than what we currently have- pity that the design had to be revised to suit Blizzard’s new purpose for the area.

The Map of Deadwind Pass.New Karazhan.

One last point of trivia is that there is also a mysterious crypt in Deadwind Pass which most people know about by now. I might take my under-levelled Shaman and see if I can’t Far Sight my way in there some time.


The Zones of Sonic 4 [Spoilers]

Sonic 4 Level Select Screen

Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I hit the App Store yesterday. Ahead of a full review of the game following the console version’s release, here’s a tour of the 5 zones in Episode 1, with pictures. Except for the last one, each has 3 unique Acts followed by a Boss Stage. They’re all recreations of classic zones from Sonic 1 & 2 and while the nostalgia rises high I’m left hoping for some more original offerings in Episode 2. Which can’t come soon enough, by the way. Also please note that all screenshots are from the iPhone version.

 

Splash Hill Zone

Splash Hill Zone

Splash Hill Zone a faithful reproduction of the classic Green Hill Zone from Sonic 1 even down to the badniks. The orange hue taking over the Zone in the later Acts is reminiscent of Angel Island Zone in Sonic 3. Eggman’s boss stage mirrors GHZ’s for the first part of the fight and adopts a new slamming attack afterward.

IMG_0457IMG_0459IMG_0422  IMG_0424IMG_0427IMG_0418

 

Lost Labyrinth Zone

Lost Labyrinth Zone

Another straight translation from Sonic 1, Lost Labyrinth Zone was simply called Labyrinth Zone in that game. In Act 1 there is a lot of balancing on large balls. Act 2 is based around a minecart minigame and Act 3 around underwater areas. The boss stage’s first part mirrors that in Labyrinth- you must travel upward while negotiating traps and avoiding the rising water level to pursue Eggman. The second stage is column-dodging fight that crosses Sonic 1’s Final Zone with Knuckles’ Marble Garden Zone boss in Sonic 3.

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Casino Street Zone

Casino Street Zone

This time we have an homage to a Sonic 2 Zone. Casino Street replicates the old Casino Night Zone in every detail while adding a few doodad elements from Sonic 3’s Carnival Night most notably the bat badnik. Interestingly, the second Act is based around scoring a quota of points in the slot machines in order to complete the stage. The boss encounter is exactly as Casino Night’s was with the addition of spikes along the bottom of the stage and a new spinning attack.

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Mad Gear Zone

Mad Gear Zone

Mad Gear Zone may as well have been named Metropolis Zone. It shares the closest resemblance to the Sonic 2 stage out of all the Zones in the game. Teleporting pipes, gears, pistons and those relentlessly annoying mantis badniks are back. The final Act borrows a mechanic – the sliding wall – from Sonic 3’s Hydrocity Zone. Avoiding being crushed by it adds an urgency throughout the Act where this trick was only used very briefly in the 3rd game. Mad Gear’s boss stage starts of as Metropolis’, which I believe was one of the best bosses in Sonic history. Note that the Eggman bubbles hurt this time! – you used to be able to hit them to pop them. The fight’s second phase involves chasing the Eggmobile to the right ala the final chase in the Sonic & Knuckles incarnation of Death Egg Zone.

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E.G.G Station Zone

E.G.G. Station Zone

To be fair, you can’t get away with calling something ‘Death Egg’ Zone in this day and age. I’m surprised Sega was able to in the past. Essentially that’s what the single-Act EGG Station is though; Sonic 2’s DEZ with the Metal Sonic fight removed and all previous Sonic 4 bosses recycled in its place. As in the original, the final fight is against Eggman in his Egg Mobile suit. The only change here is that he goes berserk after taking enough hits and then bounds around in a manner Sonic 2’s crawling behemoth count not.

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In all, the Zones of Sonic 4 are well-crafted and of suitable length; 3-acts up from the standard 2 and all of which are slightly longer than the series average. Completing the game offers a hint as to a new character in Episode II but, really, we have Sonic. He’s good enough. Bring on news of the new Zones! And if they’re not going for original concepts this time at least resurrect some ideas from Sonic 3- Icecap Zone, anyone? Sandopolis? Lava Reef?


Exploring WoW Alpha: The Kingdom of ‘Ahn’Quiraj’

Inside the Temple of Ahn'Quiraj

Much of the old world in World of Warcraft changed a lot between alpha, beta and final retail builds of the game. In this series I’ll explore zones that differ substantially from their pre-release versions.

This is an early look at the zone ‘Ahn’Quiraj’, long before the zone itself became ‘Silithus’ and Ahn’Quiraj was relegated to raid instances in it. A lot of the geometry and doodads remained but a lot were also cut. The Temple itself remains almost identical however. Take a gander below. Guess it’s coming full circle now that this is all becoming an outdoor zone again in Cataclysm.

 

 

And just to note, I’m calling it ‘Ahn’Quiraj’ because that’s how it was originally spelt as per original WoW maps. Funny, huh? Suppose they figured the Qiraji can spell however they like without worrying about pesky English conventions. Old Silithus

I’m going to attempt a couple more of these in the next little while. I think the old versions of Karazhan in Deadwind Pass and Strathholme in the Plaguelands would be fun to look at next.


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