My Top Five Computer
There’s no doubt about it; hard work has paid off for English metallers, Malefice. The Reading-based band have put out four cracking albums and fifth record, ‘Five’ is on the way, set for release at the end of April. The band have toured extensively, playing alongside the likes of Soulfly, Devildriver and God Forbid and become recognised as a premier metalcore/death metal act in the UK. Their hard work even earned them a mention on BBC gameshow, The Bubble – albeit in a good bit of sarcastic humour – when popular Peep Show actor and show host David Mitchell jokingly suggested that Malefice were his “favourite band.” Last year, the five-piece also caught the ear of former Premier League goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann, eventually recording a track (‘Omega’) with the footballer. But away from their frantic lives in music, Malefice like a good video game to wind down with. In particularly, bassist Tom Hynes is quite the seasoned gamer. In a SoundShock exclusive, he takes us through his top five video games of all time in great detail.
5/. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. (PS2)
GTA: Vice City was an extremely hard act to follow, it’d made so many big innovations and leaps forward for the GTA franchise and Rockstar as a whole, it was monumental when it was released. What we got when San Andreas was released was the same amount of innovation if not more than we were ever expecting. They raised the bar and then managed to add even more and make it fit.
The game puts you in the shoes of Carl ‘CJ’ Johnson who’d previously been away from San Andreas when he wanted to leave gang life after seeing his younger brother murdered. However, after a call from his older brother Sweet informing him that his mother has been murdered, he heads back home. He gets back into gang life and to assist this, the game adds some new and rewarding ways that compliment it, such as new mini games such as bouncing low riders in a fun yet challenging rhythm game to earn money and respect. There was also the addition of gang wars where you go from turf to turf fighting off enemy gangs to claim it for Grove Street. You had the ability to recruit extra gang members to form a full posse to confront your foes; it genuinely felt like a war.
Rockstar also introduced mini RPG elements into an already massive and packed game world but were somehow able to make them fit, feeling useful and satisfying instead of simply gimmicky and pointless. Adding skill levels with weapons and vehicles gave a whole new reason to keep pressing forward and to keep using your favourite weapons and vehicles to make CJ far more proficient in using them. There was also the addition of keeping fit and eating. You could get CJ bulked up by taking him to the gym, in turn making him fitter, able to sprint for longer and giving him a deadlier punch. Alternatively, you could take him to Burger Shot and make him gorge on burgers until moving becomes a problem for him. This was coupled with the new cosmetic changes in the game. It allowed you to go to clothes stores to get new threads, go to a tattooist and get him new ink or go to a barber’s a get a new haircut, meaning that you could nearly mould him to how ever you wanted him to look. The whole element of character building was something I felt GTA IV would’ve been a lot more satisfying to have and it was sadly overlooked by Rockstar.
One of the most impressive features of San Andreas was the city itself. The large and diverse game world catered for so many differing landscapes and activities. It was the first time I’d properly found what it meant to have a proper sandbox world where travelling in nearly any manner was available to you. There were the three main cities and in between them a large and sprawling countryside to explore, complete with small ‘hick’ towns, quarries, farms, a desert area, vast lakes and rivers with Indian reservations. There was even a snake farm and an abandoned airfield. So next the question is: how do you want to travel? The choice was quite frankly huge – from sports cars and 4x4’s to motorcycles and bicycles, speedboats and fishing boats, planes and helicopters. It really became a matter of how you wanted to travel, you could probably do it.
It received the highest praise when it was released and even now looking back at the voice actors that were also involved to help the story along, it’s not hard to see why. With everything this game had to offer already, it was amazing to hear some A-list additions to the script, with the voice talents of Samuel L Jackson, James Woods, Chris Penn and Charlie Murphy. Even Shaun Ryder and Axl Rose make appearances in it! In my honest opinion, this game still beats the hell out of GTA IV. It looks dated but it’s still worth all the time and effort as it is a truly great game and one which was a massive leap ahead of any game around back in 2004.
4/. Fable 2. (Xbox 360)
This was the first game I ever played on Xbox 360 after I finally made the decision to get one back in 2007. Having read and watched reviews of it, I decided I had to play it as it looked great and sounded like a lot of fun. When I started playing it, I wasn’t disappointed. This game puts you in control of the last of the bloodline of ancient heroes who used to live in Albion years ago. You are tasked with bringing down the evil Lord Lucien who intends to destroy Albion so he can reshape it to his will.
So, a daunting task lies ahead as it requires you fighting through an untold number of bandits, soldiers, beasts large and small and even infiltrating Lucien’s headquarters. Sound familiar? Of course it does, but what grabbed me about it was the amount of side-quests and the extra activities it gives you along the way, which made it a highly addictive adventure. Sure, you can go off and do a few side-quests for gold, loot and fame but there’s so much more. For a start, you have a permanent companion along with you on your journey: a dog who as well as helping you in battle also acts as a treasure hunter and will alert you if he smells treasure nearby. If it’s in a chest that you may have missed whilst exploring, he will notify you if he smells it buried nearby in the ground and will accordingly head to the spot where he’ll start trying to dig. All you have to do is dig in that area and unearth what he’s found.
On top of this, there’s money-making in order buy equipment, food, a few drinks in the local tavern and purchasing property. That’s right, in Fable 2 you’re given the option of purchasing properties from houses to businesses in order to earn money, although to buy decent property that’ll generate decent revenue, you need to have a lot of money. So, how do you build this up? Side-quests and killing bandits will generate a small amount, but how do you make up the rest? Well luckily businesses in towns will offer jobs such as blacksmithing, pouring pints at the tavern and chopping wood which are presented in fun mini games and the more you do, the more your money multiplier increases as you carry on making them. Though be warned, the game gets harder to do as you go on! Once you have a few businesses bought, you start to generate money every five minutes which even counts when you’re not playing the game, so you can come back to an old save game a few months after not playing it to find you’ve amassed a fortune.
The next thing that grabbed me about Fable was its morality system. As well as seeing far-reaching consequences on the world around you, areas become more prosperous or more slum-like dependant on your actions and you also see physical changes in your character. If you choose to be a good guy and fight on the side of good, this’ll be reflected in your character’s looks as they’ll look very clean, pure and will generally take on a pleasant tanned look due to this. However, if you decide to be evil, you’ll notice the skin complexion of your character will turn grey and pale the more evil you become. If you really try hard, then eventually your character will start to grow devil horns and people will actually be afraid when they see you, possibly even resulting in them fleeing in your presence.
When you level up, you have four categories in which you get experience. XP appears in the form of orbs in differing colours – strength in blue, skill in yellow, will in red and some general experience, which is in green. As you level up each of these, you’ll notice your hero’s appearance will change. If you put points into strength, you may notice your character’s muscles will grow and they’ll start looking a bit more buff. Skill will see your character gaining height and will makes glowing blue ‘will lines’ appear all over them, showing the magic coursing through their body. Furthermore, with character creation, eating and drinking plays a big role in how your character looks. All food has nutritional value in Fable 2 whereas some will make you fat, they’ll also provide you with XP for strength. Generally, the XP given for drinking beer and eating pies will be outweighed by the fact that it will make your character fat, so you have to be pretty careful if you want them to stay in shape, or do you? The choice is yours to make after all. It’s a diverse and intriguing system that allows you to shape your character in a really interesting and in-depth way.
Gameplay-wise, the combat system is easy to use. There’s one button for melee attacks, one button for ranged weapon attacks and one button for magic attacks so it’s a piece of cake to pick up and play. As you level up you’ll find more attacks and moves will be introduced to you which makes combat a little more interesting and serves well in keeping you interested and making things more challenging yet equally fun at the same time. The story is a well-told one and goes along at a good pace with the ability to take a break for side-quests and generally explore too. In fact, the plot will sometimes encourage you to do so which is a nice touch which many games don’t embrace.
The main feature that sucked me into this game and kept me replaying it was the freedom to choose between good and evil throughout. The fact that your choices have consequences for the land of Albion makes it even more engaging. This game is pretty much a fairy tale gone mad complete with debauchery, dark humour and tons of character. It had me extremely addicted.
3/. Final Fantasy VII. (PSone)
By now it’s become kind of apparent what a sucker for a decent RPG I am and games with decent RPG elements. This game was pretty much what started it all. Initially, I didn’t quite know what to think of this game when I first played it, seeing as this was the first proper RPG I’d come across. Enemies weren’t visible then suddenly you were thrust into a fight out of nowhere. The gameplay was turn-based of all things and it seemed pretty alien to me. Nevertheless, I decided to persevere and as I did, I got increasingly hooked in to the Final Fantasy world.
The graphics at the time (excluding the in-game character models) were stunning and I remember being really taken aback by them. The varied environments found in this game were well laid out and whilst challenging to negotiate if you accidentally made a wrong turn at any point, your mistake had a possibility of being rewarded by stumbling across a hidden item, which showcases how important exploring this game is. Once I was thrust outside of Midgar after the first section of the game, I was stunned at just how large the game world actually was and why it required three discs for the whole game! The fact that there were four continents to explore had me reeling at how long it was going to take to get through this game, yet at no point did I feel like it was too long. If anything, I just wanted to make the experience last longer. In order to fully complete this game and get the best weapons and magic it takes well over 100 hours to do which – on my last play through it – I easily exceeded.
The story of the game took a little while to get going. At first, Cloud seems a very one dimensional and closed-off character, yet as the story progresses and you accumulate more people into your party, you gradually start to see new sides to him. The characters you pick up along the way make it more interesting too. Red XIII is essentially a talking red panther-like creature who you find being experimented on in a laboratory, Cid is the cranky rocket ship pilot and secret character Vincent is an ex SHIN-RA special agent who joins in your fight against them.
The equipment system is a pretty interesting one too. Each character has their own individual weapons they can use which are set rigidly. Cloud can only use swords, Barrett and Vincent are the only ones who can use guns and Cid can only use guns. But beyond that, the magic system becomes quite addictive. For spells and summons, you get small orbs called Materia. As you use each of them more they accumulate ability points and level up and in the case of spells they give you access to more powerful spells and the rest just get stronger. So if you’re obsessed with levelling up and having the strongest equipment and characters, it becomes a long and addictive ordeal which I’ve been through and spent masses of time doing.
The element of this game which makes such a compelling story is the musical score that accompanies it. Seeing as there’s no voice acting and all speech is displayed in text, they had to make it good. This game wouldn’t have had the impact it had without the score. It so beautifully compliments the highs and lows of emotion through this game and creates an atmosphere for each of the various locations you come across such as vast cities, deserts, arctic villages and huge cave mazes. What it really succeeds at is heightening the emotional points throughout the plotline, of which there are a few really key heart-wrenching moments where the music really succeeds; it may even bring a tear to the eye. Yes fine, that happened to me.
Overall, this was a huge step forward back in the days of the first Playstation. It was a game that was a huge leap forward with greatly rendered CGI cut-scenes which brought the game to life, a huge game world and a deeply immersive story. All of these elements had me thoroughly immersed and I’d advise anyone who’s not played it to give it a chance and grab a piece of gaming history.
2/. Dungeon Keeper 2. (PC)
I was a huge fan of the 1st Dungeon Keeper game, so naturally when they brought out Dungeon Keeper 2 I had to give it a go seeing as it boasted upgraded graphics, new rooms, creatures and another round of being the bad guy and slaughtering some heroes. Back in the ‘90s, there were few games that I knew of that allowed you to play the bad guy and this game made it an incredible amount of fun. I still revisit it from time to time, even now.
In the campaign you’re given the task of fighting through the underworld to gather all the parts of the portal gem to allow passage to the overworld, so you can invade it in the name of evil. Sounds a simple task but in order to do so you have to fight through a large variety of scenarios against goodly heroes and rival Dungeon Keepers, attempting to attract all manner of creatures to fight for your cause and help you reach your final goal.
Why did I love this game so much? Well, I love building games as I find it pretty therapeutic to build societies and cities and watch them work and come to life. Dungeon Keeper offers that in a unique manner. Once creatures are attracted to your dungeon, you’ll see them live a day-to-day life in your dungeon which means they need a lair in order to rest and a hatchery so they can feed. Once you move onto more specialised rooms – such as a training room, library, temple, and torture chamber – that is when things get more interesting and you get a large assortment of creatures who like to perform different tasks. It will add something new to your dungeon. Be it researching spells, torturing enemy creatures, using a guard room to perform a sentry duty or perhaps drinking and gambling in a casino, you constructed it for their leisure and you’ll be treated to seeing them do all this.
Since this is technically a strategy game you view everything from overhead. However, don’t dismiss it as just that. This is game that has a nice twist and also has elements of a god game to it. Your cursor in this game is an evil hand at your control. With it, you mark out areas you want dug out and place new rooms. You can pick up and drop your creatures anywhere in territory that’s claimed as your own. If you want a creature to stop researching in the library and start training, just lift him out of the library and drop him in the training room. Or if a creature in battle needs reinforcements simply pick some extra creatures up and drop them close to the action. Also you get the option of spell-casting too, such as hurling fireballs and thunderbolts onto the battlefield. Of course, to carry on the evil theme, if you see a creature being unproductive or inefficient then simply highlight the creature, right click and administer a stern slap to them. It will put a good dose of fear into them and make them get working again pretty quickly.
The other great part of this game is the ways in which it allows you to be evil and dispose of heroes. If you’ve built a prison, then you can capture fallen enemies and have them placed there. If you’ve built yourself a torture chamber then you can take enemy heroes and creatures and throw them in there either for interrogation to divulge map information or you can heal them and elongate their suffering so that they’ll eventually convert to your cause. Of course, if neither of these options appeal to you and you happen to have a graveyard, simply wait for them to die and have their corpses dragged there. After accumulating enough corpses, you’ll have a vampire arise who are incredibly skilful warriors who gain the ability to resurrect themselves once felled on the battlefield after some training.
This game may not sound like much but if you love building games, strategy games and god games, then there’s a decent chance you’ll find this as addictive as I did. After building up a dungeon, you get the chance to level up your creatures through training and furthermore through combat. There’s a huge amount of satisfaction taking a lowly level one creature and carefully nurturing it to level 10 to make it a killing machine. It looks dated now as it was released back in ‘99 when 3D graphics were in relative infancy. But I advise looking past that and giving it a try. It’s a monumentally fun and rewarding game; the fact you get to play on the side of evil only makes it more fun.
1/. Fallout 3. (Xbox 360)
I had a hard time picking between this and Fallout: New Vegas, but this game has clinched it for the reason that it’s the game that introduced me to the Fallout games. This game has a steep learning curve to start off, which saw me nearly get so frustrated that I almost gave up on it. But then I thought to myself, ‘most games like this are often tough to begin with, but usually after a bit of perseverance, there are plenty of high level weapons and armour that make it easier.’ How correct I was and after getting to this stage I discovered that it was possibly the most fun I’d had with a game in a long time.
The aspect of this game that made it stand out and set it apart from the rest was the addition of V.A.T.S (Vault Assisted Targeting System) which – through the use of your wrist-mounted Pip Boy mini-computer – allows your character to stop time completely and target your shots to whichever parts of your targets you wish. To do this costs Ability Points (AP) and for each body part you aim at, you’re given a percentage of how likely you are to hit it, depending on your distance from the target, your skill with the equipped weapon, size of the target and a few other factors. At first, using it is tricky because in order to have a decent chance of landing a successful hit, you have to be proficient with the weapon you’re using, which means levelling up and putting skill points onto your weapon skills. The variety of weaponry is astonishing – energy weapons, explosives, small guns, big guns, melee weapons. There’s a large arsenal of weapons to be obtained and used throughout the game to suit nearly everyone, which is another part of it I fell in love with. Having a large variety of weapons is something I personally love but also it’s very much needed. Early on in the game, ammo is scarce and as a lot of guns require a lot of different ammo using a variety is essential for conservation so that you don’t run out and end up having to resort to bringing knives and fists to a gunfight, so to speak. However, if you prefer melee and unarmed weapons then with careful levelling up in the right places, you can build a close-combat powerhouse if you wish.
As I previously mentioned, early on in the game, resources like ammo is scarce but also decent healing items such as stimpaks are pretty hard to come by. It means you have to resort to scavenging and using irradiated food and drink which perfectly portrays how the odds are stacked against anyone trying to survive in this post-nuclear, apocalyptic world. Seeing as the food is irradiated too, this means that you will become irradiated and when you eat, it contributes to your radiation level. As this progresses, your character will slowly become more ill and suffer side effects of it. Eventually this will lead to death. But fear not, there are still doctors in the various settlements around the wasteland who will treat you for a fee and alternatively there are items that can be scavenged which allow you to treat yourself.
The main aspect of this game that I loved was looting and scavenging; it’s an integral part of the game, not just for getting better equipment but also for making money also. Once you’ve fought your way through some ruins filled with raiders, super mutants, ghouls or any other opponents that stand in your way, it’s important to make a habit of looting their corpses and taking anything of value off them whilst also checking the various containers scattered around. Keeping yourself topped up on ammo and meds is essential in order to survive this post-apocalyptic wasteland. Whilst this sounds like a mundane task, it can actually be a pretty rewarding one especially if you get a decent haul and make a lot of money off it. Plus, if you happen to find a skill book whilst looting and you use it, then you’ll find it will permanently boost one of your many skills so the next time you level up will be made easier and you’ll have saved spending skill points.
The other huge part of this game is exploration. There’s always something new to find in the ruins of the post-apocalyptic Washington D.C area. Seeing as there are so many weapons, pieces of armour, skill books and other various valuable pieces of loot to find, it makes it such a rewarding thing to do. Once you have acquired decent equipment, there’s no better feeling than wandering the Wastes and knowing you can deal with whatever gets thrown at you with relative ease. It’s a truly huge and immersive game and I’ve only scratched the surface on why it is so good but I urge anyone who hasn’t given it a chance to do so; it is a masterpiece.
Feature by Tom Hynes.