I’ll be perfectly honest, this week I’ve paid absolutely no attention to the gaming news, so I’m going to go out on a limb and say that three things have definitely happened.
Firstly, a game featuring a gruff man carrying a large gun has been announced. The cover image is probably blue and yellow and there’s a colon in the title.
Secondly, another game everyone’s been excited about has sadly been delayed. The developers have said it’s definitely not been cancelled.
Thirdly, that Kickstarter you’ve been really excited about still hasn’t been completed yet. The developers were last seen driving very expensive cars and not updating the progress page on their website.
So now that we’re all caught up, what have we been playing this week?
I thought I was so lucky, finding an unlocked warehouse so early during my Project Zomboid playthrough. What a warehouse it was – within a minute of diligently digging through wooden crates, I’d acquired myself both a screwdriver and hammer, promising a long future in a secure and well-maintained shelter, safe and sound from the undead hordes. Even better than that, I’d also found the true jackpot of a hefty sledgehammer.
However, with only a few more crates to look through, suddenly the door behind me broke inwards and a pair of lurching zombies lunged inwards.
Standing confidently with my powerful sledgehammer gripped firmly between my hands, I prepared to fight. This was my warehouse and I was damned if I was going to let a couple of dead zombies take it from me. As I swung my mighty hammer against them, two more zombies shuffled in through the door, followed by several more moments later.
Since then, I’ve changed my opinions entirely on the undead. They’re not all that bad really – they just want to do their own thing, shuffling slowly from place to place, endlessly searching for the next meal.
Sorry, did I say they? I meant we.
I too have been braving the world of Project Zomboid to even less success than Nick, and he’s now a Zombie…..
Spawn in a small house and have a rummage. Find a hammer. Huzzah! Decide to close the curtains to stop being spotted by the undead. Character smashes window instead. I’m a zombie one minute later.
Having learned the important curtain-glassy-smashy lesson, I confidently loot the house I spawn in and move into the neighbourhood looking for a house that has two floors, so I can make it Zombie-proof. After about ten mins of careful searching I find one, and you know what? Luck was on my side as the door wasn’t locked. It was less on my side when the alarm went off.
I was zombie food 2 minutes later.
Find a car. Find keys next to a car. Ok… this could be the run. I check the car- it’s condition is 85% and it has a tank full of petrol (gas to our US cousins… despite it being a liquid). Once ‘safe’ I diligently start looting the area and killing lone Zombies around the car. The one big horde I find I lead away and lose around a housing estate. I then spend 30-40 mins loading the car from the nearby shops. I find crafting tools, loads of food, weapons, construction materials, seeds and two FULL additional petrol cans. Nice. It starts getting dark so I high-tail it back to my spawning house and spend the night.
I get back to the Car the next day to find it SURROUNDED by Zombies. No matter- I can just run to the car- start it and drive off, I imagine, flipping the ‘V’ over my shoulder. I dodge the hordes- kill one Zed who was slightly too close and jump in. The car doesn’t turn-over. I try again. no joy. No matter, I’ve read it can take a few goes at starting a car in Project Zomboid. Third and fourth times don’t end in the car starting either. I’m getting nervous as by now the Zed’s I’d temporarily eluded were closing in, with friends attracted by the noise of a car, stubbornly, refusing to start.
Attempts at starting the car numbers 5-12 are somewhat hampered by the horde banging on the glass and surrounding said car.
I’m killed seconds later.
I accidentally drink bleach.
So yeah……. Project Zomboid folks.
I haven’t actually done a lot of gaming in the past week or so, but I did manage to revisit an old classic: XIII. Here’s a bit of what I wrote about it!
Before The Dark Knight (2008) changed the way we thought about comic book movies, and before Marvel totally redefined the business of cinema with its stable of costumed heroes, there was Ang Lee’s Hulk (2003). Whilst it’s a film I respect (even like!), its stylistic approach to the subject matter is very much superficial formalism. It superimposes panels on the screen and tries to move between scenes in a way that I suppose Lee imagined replicated the pacing of a comic book page.
This, I think, is to just not “get” comics. It’s a line of thought that condescendingly thinks there’s not much more to the funny books than pop, bang, whiz and what not, ultimately leading to a product that’s at war with what it’s trying to be.
Ubisoft’s XIII is a similar product, although it’s less embarrassed by what it’s adapting than Lee’s Hulk. XIII takes its comic book roots literally, transposing panels and their accompanying lettering into the action. For instance, if you kill a baddie in a certain way then you’ll get maybe a trio of panels in the top left-hand corner where they fall from a building or a crossbow dart punctures their cranium. And certain sounds, like explosions or clicks, come with an onomatopoeic representation onscreen.
Like Hulk it is formally interesting but mostly unnecessary; indeed, in a game like this all it does is obscure the screen, distract from the action, and potentially lead to a fatal encounter for the player.
Ironically, XIII’s approach to the source material is actually at odds with Jean Van Hamme and William Vance’s original series, of which the game is a very loose adaptation. Ubisoft’s XIII is an interpretation of comic book form, not its substance—and certainly not the substance of Hamme and Vance’s dark and layered conspiracy drama. It even casts Adam West, Batman from the campy 60’s show, as General Carrington, which kind of signals where the developers are with the material (West is nonetheless great in the role.)
It’s set to be remembered for its cel-shaded visuals, which seems about right. It’s a stylish and attractive game, with some memorable and striking locations that are of a piece with the story’s themes of globe-trotting espionage. Even today XIII looks gorgeous.
As for how it plays, well, there’s less to say there. It’s standard FPS fare, and you won’t do much other than shoot some stilted and wooden enemies. The combat is competent and fluid enough that you won’t care, at least; XIII has a short run-time of about six hours, so it’s just efficient enough to keep you entertained.
And prepare yourself for a killer cliffhanger. Having recently been disastrously remade, XIII’s video-game future is once again very likely dead. But if you want to know what happens ‘next’, or experience how it was originally conceived, then I’d say check out the comic: it’s really good.