Leaping Lizardmen! Heading Deeper into the Underworld

Ultima Underworld

Bica, yeshor’click! Remember in my previous post how I mentioned that Ultima Underworld really holds up, despite the fact the game is over 20+ years old? I really wasn’t kidding, it holds up really well. I’ve been playing for about a week now, and I’m pretty hooked. The more I play, the more I think this game was truly ahead of it’s time.

Since I’ve been playing for a while, I have a greater grasp on the whole experience. Previously I mentioned features such as: lighting, food and hunger mechanics, platform jumping, swimming, melee and ranged combat, magic, hiding, faction-based NPCs, thieving, trading and reputation, armor and weapon degradation, sandbox style gameplay, and an in-game map with the ability to add player-created notes. All of this definitely exists. But then throw into it even more features like Minecraft style crafting (use an ear of corn over a fire, and you get popcorn; use a rock hammer on rocks to create sling stones; etc.), simple but interesting quests, and multiple large and diverse levels to explore, and I can easily see why this game took the industry by storm. 1992!

 

I’m not being that greatly challenged, though. I remember when I was younger Ultima Underworld being downright daunting, but once I followed the User’s Guide and found stuff like a resurrection mechanic, and learned the magic and advancement system a little better (the Light and Create Food spell are downright necessities), the real challenge of the game comes down to simple inventory management, as the amount you can carry around with you is very small. But then I found that items don’t disappear. If I find a random corner of a level and drop a few pieces of armor I’ve been lugging around, I can come back days later and it will still be there. So even then, inventory management isn’t the end of the world.

Ultima Underworld

Die ghost! Wait… how does that work? Die… again?

 

 

Let me give you an example of one of the interesting quests, though. Now remember, this is Ultima, so there is no such thing as a quest log. All quests are dialogue driven, and nothing will point you where you need to go. On the 3rd level, I came across a race of lizardmen. Communicating with them, though, was a little… tricky. The lizardmen have their own separate language, you see. So, when talking to them, I mostly just apologized to them that I had no idea what they were saying. If this were any newer game, I would either believe I wasn’t supposed to know what they were saying, or that I would learn some ability and magically be able to understand them. ‘Click, not here.

I came across a human prisoner behind a set of bars in the lizardmen holdings and thought “Awesome. Here is where I learn the ability to talk to these guys.” The prisoner was mute. So on one side we have a prisoner who can’t speak, and the other a language we don’t understand. However, through descriptive charades, the prisoner let us know that, indeed, he knew the lizardmen language and would teach it to me if I agreed to help release him. I had to bring the words to him, though. The process was to talk to a lizardman, and write down a whole bunch of words, then take them back to the prisoner to play charades with him and continue like that until I had a firm grasp of the language. Once I did so, I was then able to communicate with all the other lizardmen! It came out that the prisoner had stolen food and attacked one of the lizardmen, and was sentenced to be executed. He would be pardoned, though, if I gave the lizardmen a whole bunch of food. It’s left up to the character, really. I decided to free him, but I still don’t feel great about that decision. I did keep my end of the bargain, though.

Ultima Underworld, Sseetharee

I can fully understand this now. Think I can add Thepa to my CV?

 

Overall, the main quest revolves around finding the kidnapped daughter of the local Baron. However, once entering the Abyss, it’s found to be more complex than that (thankfully). Through dream communication, you learn that she was kidnapped for a more malicious purpose, and the whole of Britannia is in peril. Of course it is. From what exactly, I’m not sure yet. Sseth, you need to find the Baron’s daughter, but you also need to collect eight different artifacts strewn throughout the Abyss. Again, the why isn’t quite clear yet, but as per the Ultima ethos, these artifacts are representations of the eight Britannian virtues and they can be anywhere and be anything. It’s even quite possible I’ve stumbled on a few already and I’m hoping I didn’t discard any of them in a random corner somewhere.

I have so far collected three artifacts, though, and have completed my exploration of the 4th level. I also feel pretty powerful at this point, and not a lot can stand under the onslaught of my mace. Come at me, Abyss!

//Ocho

P.S. – It looks like Ultima Ascendant has made their Kickstarter goal! Sweet. Can’t wait to give that a shot, too. But I have to say, to top the original 20+ year old game might take a little more effort than one would think.

Daggerfall: Werewolves and Scorpions

Daggerfall

I’ve finally built a character I think I’ll like. Like my original plan, my character is focusing on Blunt Weapons, Restoration Magic, and Dodge, and lesser skills Medical, Illusion Magic, and Critical Strike. On top of that, I gave my Argonian a boost of magic points, rapid healing, and a bonus to hit humanoids and then to balance out the good stuff, forbade the use of plate armor, long blades, and axes. This seems good, and I get out of the tutorial dungeon relatively easy.

Daggerfall

Bears. Sure. Easy.

After making my way out, the tutorial post congratulated me, and then said it would contact me in 7 days and suggested I start making my way toward the town of Daggerfall. Sounds reasonable. However, opening the travel map, it says Daggerfall is *8* days out. Well, I don’t want to miss what’s going to happen, so I instead opt to travel to the closest town, Gathway Gardens, which appears to be only one pixel on the map away. Sweet. I turn south and start running.

Daggerfall

In a straight line, too.

TEN MINUTES LATER I finally arrive at the town. Ten minutes? Seriously?! I’m going to need to get around faster than this. Since my bags are brimming with loot, I find a general store and sell off a few things, and go broke buying a horse. Well, at least the horse will improve travel times significantly.

With that I auto-travel the rest of the way to Daggerfall quickly enough, and since I’m broke, start asking around for work. NPCs are really here in the game as fodder. They point you from one location to the next, dispense information, and that’s it. Ask them more than one question, and they also start giving a bit of attitude.

In the meantime, I pick up a quick delivery job. Doesn’t pay significantly, and is a simple delivery quest, but whatever. A job is a job. I’m to deliver a strapless wedding gown to this General Store’s customer in town. … it ends up being this guy.

Daggerfall

I have your strapless wedding gown for you… sir?

Gotta love procedural generation.

I pick up another job, but this one is of a little more importance. The rescuing of a shopkeeper’s young cousin. Now we’re getting somewhere. He tells me she’s being held at the Citadel of Gaersley and that it’s filled with orcs. I killed one of them in the tutorial dungeon, so no problem. This is going to be cake. I make my way there, enter the citadel, and the bastard lied to me. Orcs? ORCS?! Not an orc in sight. Werewolves and giant scorpions, though, this place has in spades and both can one shot me.

Daggerfall

Running. Running is good.

I become REALLY familiar with the Save/Load functions, but I do find enemies I can still dispatch. Burglars, thieves, archers, giant bats, they fall before me. But the giant scorpions paralyze me, which is a quick death, and the werewolves just maul me to pieces. For a brief second, I even saw an ancient lich. This is NOT a level 2 dungeon! After about 50 or 60 deaths, probably more, inexplicably, I stumble across my charge. I pick her up, and we make a beeline for the door.

Back in Daggerfall, with the whole mission taking a total of 5 days, we return to a snow filled scene on the day of a holiday. A holiday? This game has holidays, too?! Even better, each province celebrates their own holidays! So a holiday that is celebrated in the Alik’r Desert may not be celebrated in Wayrest.

It’s the day of South Wind’s Prayer, the 15th of Morning Star (January), where all religions give a prayer on the hope of a good planting season (hopefully they’re not planting in the snow, though). Not long after entering the gates, a courier approaches and delivers a note. It’s from Lady Magnessen of Daggerfall and tells me to meet her at an inn where she is staying to discuss my mission. I also get a note from Princess Morgiah of Wayrest saying she knows of this note, and to come to Wayrest to speak to her, too.

Daggerfall

An Argonian named Ocho… that should be your first clue something isn’t right.

 

Plot! Wait… what IS my mission? Oh, right, according to the log, it’s to find out why King Lysandus’s spirit is haunting Daggerfall and to find some letter sent to the Queen of Daggerfall.

So far Daggerfall is turning out to be better than I expected. Procedural generation out the wazoo but what it lacks in depth it makes up in size, like a humongous puddle… in a good way. This isn’t some remote province, this is a HUGE world and it really feels huge, too! Also, it isn’t about hand-holding either. You’re not some fortold savior like in Skyrim or Morrowind, you’re an average joe-shmoe, and boy does the game let you know that, too.

Well let’s go see what the Lady Magnessen has to say.

// Ocho

Previous Post 

 

Gabriel Knight: Snakes Everywhere

Gabriel Knight, Day 3

Previous: End of Day 2

So while I was perusing the manual, it heavily suggested that I read the included graphic novel before Day 3. Since it was not included in the GoG offering, I made sure I was backed up, my malware and virus protection were in good condition and then descended into the bowels of the internet in search of it. After a bit of search and a couple of malware scares, I found the graphic novel in clean condition.

And woah! I don’t remember this, either! So far, Gabriel Knight has been essentially following a modern-day (for 1993) story of a jerk trying to research his latest book. But this? This is deeper than I thought it was. I don’t remember any of this. Of course, the reasons why I played games when I was 12 is a little different than why I play them now. Story wasn’t that important to me then. My tastes have changed just a bit.

Gabriel Knight, Day 3

Day 3 starts off like all the others. Wake up, have some coffee, get the day’s messages from Grace. I get the phone number for an old lady I saw in a Voodoo store, so I decide to attempt stalking her. Called her a few times, but she’s not that receptive. The police are interrogating a suspect for the murders, which is interesting because I still have the Detective’s badge. A guy named Bruno keeps coming into my shop, asking to buy my father’s painting, and a Wolfgang Ritter keeps calling from Germany. After having read the graphic novel, maybe I should call him back this time. Finally there’s a lecture on “African Religions” going on at Tulane University. Lots to do.

The police suspect is named Crash, and is your stereotypical junkie, but doesn’t say anything meaningful. I DO give the Detective back his badge, though. No hard feelings.

I head back to Jackson Square and pick up the artist’s drawing of the symbols, and see a psychic in the park. I walk over, she gets up, puts her snake on the ground and starts… dancing? Wait… PUTS HER SNAKE ON THE GROUND?! This is a public park! Lady just lets a boa constrictor just wander around?! She’s not playing with a full tarot deck, it seems.

Gabriel Knight, Day 3

Well, Gabriel is REALLY into her, however (big shocker). She drops a scarf, I pick it up, and find a snake scale on it. Another snake scale? Why did it have to be snakes? I hand her back her veil, sans scale, and she thanks me by giving me a reading which starts with double entendre and ends with… demonic voices. Ooooo-kay.

Gabriel Knight, Day 3

This game has been great about the slow build-up. Foreshadow everywhere. Day 3 looks to be speeding things up a bit, though.

While walking through the cemetery Gabriel runs into Malia Gedde, and she’s kinda surprised to see me. Once more, Gabe lays it on thick, but she runs away citing traditions, and… not liking creeps, maybe?

Gabriel Knight, Day 3

I head to the university to see the lecture, and it all floods back to me. THIS I remember. I mentioned in the first part how a scene scared the wits out of me when I was 12. Well, this is that scene! Gabriel watches a very interesting lecture on African Voudoun, falls asleep, and has a nightmare of being shoved into a tiny coffin! I remember literally jumping out of my seat, and never playing the game again… until now.

Gabriel Knight, Day 3

Adult me, however, will continue playing.

// Ocho

Gabriel Knight, Laura Bow, Sierra

Gabriel Knight: Fake Detective

Gabriel Knight, Sierra

[Previous Gabriel Knight playthrough entry]

I know the game is 20 years old, but SPOILERS AHEAD!

You ever hear of a Sierra Search? If you haven’t played them or don’t remember the games, Sierra liked to make sure you really spent time trying to figure out how to progress. They never just blatantly handed you the answer, and sometimes the answer was really far from making any sense. It’s doing your adventure gaming due diligence. Click on everything, talk to everyone, and eventually, after banging your head against the wall, the way opens up.

I head to the local police station, where Detective Mosely, voiced by Mark Hamill, is working on the Voodoo Murder case, and I’m secretly assisting. He’s the one who gave me the picture of the murder victim that I keep showing to every single person I meet. Gabriel is just an awful friend to this guy. On Day 1, I photocopied evidence while he was occupied, then today I turned up the heat in his office, told him to get me a cup of coffee and then STOLE HIS BADGE! So, imitating a police officer, huh? That’s kinda a step-up from Gabriel’s normal jerk behavior. It might help me get into the Gedde mansion, though.

Gabriel Knight, Sierra

Let’s see what else is going on before I head there. I head to the cemetery where tombs have been marked with Voodoo characters, and talk to the groundskeeper. He tells me that other tombs have had offerings on them, and that Dr. John visits every day. The first couple letters of the translated tomb markings are even “DJ”… methinks Dr. John is up to no good.

I ask Grace to look up the info of an older woman I saw in the Voodoo store, and then head over to the Gedde mansion, police badge in hand. I’m right, the badge does get me past the butler. I end up speaking to Ms. Gedde in her personal library. After questioning her on all the same topics I’ve been asking everyone else, she see’s right through my charade that I’m not really a detective. After Gabriel stammers a bit, she kicks me out of the house. Not sure what I got out of the meeting, and I’m sure Gabriel looks like a fool in her eyes, but hopefully it progressed the story ahead a bit.

Gabriel Knight, Sierra

This apparently does not end the day, though. I head back to the park and see the wind blow a large piece of paper away from the guy working on architectural drawings. It lands inside of a fence that I can’t reach. Well, here I end up stuck again. I do another Sierra Search. Nothing.

Not to give up hope, before caving to a walkthrough, I flip back through the game’s manual, seeing if there’s anything I may have forgot, and there totally is! I never opened the cash register in Gabriel’s bookstore in the tutorial! I go back and find a gift certificate. The hot dog vendor is reading a book, so I head back and hand it over to him. Sure enough, he hands me back a hot dog. Progress.

Gabriel Knight, Sierra

I take the hot dog, hand it to the kid, and he’s all happy. Happy enough to fit through the bars and get me the lost page of the architect. I hand it back to the architect, and he’s grateful enough to piece together the bunch of voodoo drawings I have into one bigger drawing! He says he’ll have it for me tomorrow.

Thankfully, this is enough to end Day 2, and I didn’t even have to steal the architect’s tools.

// Ocho

P.S. – Up to 94 out of 342. I think I’m doing pretty good!

Next Post: Day 3 Beginning

Gabriel Knight: Day 2

Gabriel Knight, Day 2

Previous: Day 1 of Gabriel Knight

Day 2 of my playthrough of Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers, and maybe I’ll find more people to show that picture of a dead body to. “Are you uncomfortable? No? Have a look at this!” I’m assuming that’s the thought process, anyway.

The first stop is the Voodoo museum, where Michael Dorn, I mean Dr. John, awaits. And… I hit on him? Okay. Who am I to judge.

Gabriel Knight

After chatting Mr. Dorn up for a while, he tells me some information about the Queen of Voodoo, Marie Laveau, whose tomb I saw marked with symbols the previous day, and points me in the direction of a Voodoo practitioner. So far I’m up to 61 points out of 342.

Points are an interesting way to keep score in an adventure game, a way to make sure you check every single nook and cranny. Since they don’t give you any clue of how many you’re supposed to have at a given point, though, I guess I won’t figure out if I’m doing everything right until the end.

Well, there are two places I haven’t been yet: The Gedde mansion, where the attractive woman from the limo lives, and now this Moonbeam lady’s house. I head to check out Moonbeam.

Ms. Moonbeam has a pet snake, and so does the museum. And here I am with a snake scale in my inventory and I can’t seem to show it to anyone. Ms. Moonbeam, in all her psychic glory, does translate some of the symbols I have been finding lately, saying it’s a secret code. After talking with her a bit, it’s obvious she knows French, but refuses to translate some French phrase I picked up.

Then… she dances with her snake. Impressive? Sexy? Confusing? I do grab a snakeskin I find in the cage while this is going on, though, so it’s only slightly creepy (or does stealing while she dances make it MORE creepy?)

Gabriel Knight

After that fun, I head to check out the Gedde mansion, but I get rebuffed by the butler. Huh. I have nothing in my inventory that he needs. Ah well. I’m sure the answer is found elsewhere.

Just for fun, I stop by the park to see what’s going on today. Hot dog vendor, tap dancing kid, bands everywhere. No mimes, though. There is a guy doing architectural drawings, and I could use his tools to recreate a couple of drawings of my own. I ask nicely, but he won’t do anything. We all know what happens next: time to steal them! However, again, I come up stumped on the how. My guess is shoo away the dancing kid, buy a hot dog, and give it to the guy, but haven’t figured how to shoo away the kid.

Gabriel Knight

Alright, so we have three mysteries. How to get into Gedde mansion, how to get the tools, and what to do about my Grandfather’s clock from Day 1.

Looks like I have to start scouring areas until I find something useful. Good ol’ Sierra.

// Ocho

P.S. – Also, the way Gabriel speaks in this game is awful. Is this really Tim Curry? Does he know he does a terrible Louisiana accent? I don’t know how creepy they told him to play Gabriel, but man does he come across as a creeper. Not exactly Mr. Suave.

Next: The End of Day 2

 

Game #1: Gabriel Knight, Sins of the Fathers

Gabriel Knight, Sins of the Fathers

What better time to work on resolutions than right now?

Over the past few days I’ve made a spreadsheet of all the games I own (~360). First, organizing them by media type (Steam, GOG, CD, or downloaded as Abandonware) , then removing all the ones I’ve already beaten and all the ones I didn’t have the slightest interest in playing. Finally, I removed games that were sequels of games that I do have some intention of playing. This final list was around 125 different games.

I told my wife to pick a number between 1 and 125, and then also told a random number generator the same task. I figured out, in the list, which of those two games I preferred to play more, and then I would play it until I either beat it or got too tired of it. I will hopefully keep this up until I’ve finally played through them all, which I figure will take me the rest of my known life.

Gabriel Knight, Voodoo

Game #1

So, lucky me, the first pick was Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers! I remember playing Gabriel Knight back in the hayday of Sierra, and it being the first game that ever made me literally jump out of my seat. Released in 1993, I was 12 years old, and so have may been a little young for the more adult themes portrayed in the game, but as an adult, I am more than willing to jump back in and catch all the Voodoo goodness. All I remember are maybe a few scenes and the game being, well, good.

So I quickly downloaded the files off of GOG, set up DOSBOX’s configuration file so that it would be optimized, read up on the meager manual, and fired it up.

Gabriel Knight

The first thing I notice: Holy crap! Voice acting! Out of everything I remember, I don’t remember anybody in the game speaking a word! When did this happen?! Apparently, it happened on the CD-ROM release, also back in 1993. I must not have had that version. So then I probably had the *gasp* 11 3.5″ Floppy Disks! 11. Holy heck. I haven’t had a floppy disk drive in years! This probably took hours to install.

The game apparently came with a comic book, as referenced by the manual, to give some back story, but GOG doesn’t have that. I’ll have to eventually dig that up out of the internet somewhere. I’m sure it’s not that long, but knowing these old Sierra games, it may be important.

Gabriel Knight

My wife quickly points out that A) Gabriel sounds like a douchebag (and I agree… he’s not exactly a moral upstanding pillar of society) and B) that the character of Grace REALLY sounds like that actress from King of Queens. Now, remember, this is 1993, about 10 years before King of Queens. So, on a whim, I look it up and WHAT?!! Not only is she right and the character of Grace is Leah Remini, but Gabriel Knight is voiced by none other than Tim Freaking Curry! But wait, there’s more! Act now and you also get the voice of Gabriel’s best friend Detective Mosely played by Mark Hamill! Seriously.

So, I haven’t decided whether to do an essential text-based Let’s Play or not, and just give my reactions along the way. But, for all those playing along at home, here are some of the shenanigans I’ve made Gabriel get into so far: hitting on his assistant, stealing a priest’s shirt from a priest’s closet, having a mime be chased by a cop, try to talk with a woman who is obviously already talking with her boyfriend, trick the misogynist Detective into having a photograph taken while Gabriel photocopies evidence, asking his Grandmother a lot of really personal questions, be really attracted to a woman in a limousine, and showing a picture of a dead body to literally every person I come across. That’s just Day 1.

Gabriel Knight, mime

This is going to be fun.

// Ocho

P.S. – Oh, and Michael Dorn, too!

Next: Gabriel Knight: Day 2

Half-Life: Part 2, First Encounter of the Big Baddies [Half-Life]

Last time in Half-Life I had finally made it to the point of seeing the sky and was immediately forced underground into the facility again with the military on my heels and a target on my back. I am a wanted man, along with any living employee in the facility, too. Ventilation ducts and giant missile silos are the order of the day, tropes of pretty much any sci-fi shooter of it’s time.

Wait… missile silos? Is this Black Mesa group the backbone of some supervillain lair? Are they cutting secret agents in half with lasers in this place, too? Is this like a secret SpaceX facility? Maybe all that’s a little further in. It’s not long, maybe a few hops over some underground rivers of toxic waste (Black Mesa: Environmentally Friendly), before I hit this:

Well then. That looks… friendly.

Ahhhhhh, the first boss. I was wondering when I was going to fight one. Seemed a little long in coming, really. I like the surprise of it, though, with the fluidity this game has. Going from one point to the next without stopping there was no pause to suddenly say “Hey! Boss time!” This is a very good thing, though. I love the non-stop pace.

Anyway, I fire off some rounds at the claw monster, and it seems to have very little effect. Some squint nearby (sorry, the wife just finished a pretty big Bones marathon. Great show.) tells me I have to activate the conveniently placed rocket booster right above him. Gotcha. So, to fight the monster, I have to sneak by him and then… explore the surrounding level. Alright.

After jumping from a falling elevator above a toxic waste pool, crawling through more ventilation ducts, and beating on some aliens along the way, I activate the power generators (Where is this place’s backup generators?! You think one generator is enough for this facility?!), the fuel lines, and the oxygen lines. Hey! They got it right! Science! Usually rocket fuel is a combination of some liquid fuel, mostly a hydrocarbon and liquid hydrogen, then mixed with liquid oxygen. So they got it, at least in a basic sense. After getting all the lines primed and the power flowing there’s only one thing left to do.

Burn, Baby, Burn!

With the green-clawed baddie out of the way, I follow the tunnels he made to infiltrate the silo in the first place. After a small swim I wind up face to face with THIS guy.

Wait… is that the Smoking Man in the background  again?! What is this punk’s deal?

I take a few pot shots at the beast, but to no avail and just run around him to the surrounding tunnels, making my way up to where the Smoking Man was chilling. In here there’s a giant switch and a six-shooter. Well alright, pardner. Time to mosy on down to that big galoot and darn figure out a way to put him six feet in the ground… but that’ll just have to wait for next time.

// Ocho

Living the Half-Life [Half-Life]

I am Gordon Freeman, a recent Ph.D. graduate of MIT in theoretical physics, with an entry level position in a desert research facility owned by Black Mesa, and despite being ridiculously smart and disciplined enough to earn my Ph.D…. I am almost an hour late to work with no good reason why. Go figure.

A little over a week ago, I came out of my posting funk and hit it off with a poll of what you, my fantastic readers (You look really nice today, by the way. I love what you’ve done with your hair), think I should be playing. The reasons behind this are three-fold. One, it forces me to play something I’ve always wanted to play, but it never made the tops of my priority list. Two, it forces me to write by making me accountable to my previous decisions, thus giving me more practice at this whole writing fiasco. And Three, readers are more inclined to read an article they already have a vested interest in, such as by participating in a vote, so people will read this , and thus feel they have an interest in my blog in general, which then prompts me to write more. Consider this a social experiment and if you couldn’t tell, I’m big on the social experiments (and I hope you are, too!).

Winning by a very slim margin was, kind of a surprise to me, Half-Life, the 1998 award-winning sci-fi shooter that put the current-day behemoth Valve on the map.  And no, I wasn’t referring to Half-Life 2, I was specifically referring to the original Half-Life. I may get to 2 eventually, but I wanted to get through the story to the first game… well… first.

I started a game on Medium settings. I ain’t no hardcore, but I imagine my skill is above any easy modes, and with that, I found myself on a tram car. The tram was being taken through an underground desert facility, presented in as blocky an environment as could be. I know at the time, now 15 years ago, this was graphic intensive, but as a current-gen gamer it’s not the easiest on the eyes. However, I do hope the story could still stand the test of time. Seeing as how they have made a sequel with multiple expansions and spin-offs, my guess is it will.

After the long and intricate tram ride through the facility, I come to my stop, exit the tram car and proceed to mosey into work, pushing being almost an hour late. Man, my ego must be huge. After strolling in, having a few scientists scold me, seeing some of the guard crew to whom I am buddies with, I make my way to pick up my awesome EV suit. Being late doesn’t seem to phase me much as I stop by my locker, check out some personal effects, and finally meander my way to where I’m supposed to be.

Once locked inside the testing chamber, I’m told to head on up to the top and activate this giant machine. Cool… but odd considering it couldn’t be activated from the outside, If it’s so dangerous I need to be wearing an EV suit for it, why isn’t the ON button on the outside? No matter. I press it, watch as it bursts to life, and then am told our sample for the day, something very important, is waiting for me to clumsily push it into the path of the testing beam. We’ll just start with the entire sample. Sure, just shove it all in. No idea what it is. Are we sure these are real scientists? This does not sound like proper scientific method here. Ah well, I’m just the grunt. Who am I to argue.

And then all hell breaks loose.

An explosion rocks the facility to it’s core, a green energy burst with lightning bolts rips around the room. The world goes black. Suddenly I’m in an alien swamp. Black again, I’m chilling with some green dudes. Black again, then back to the facility where I have, miraculously, survived. Making my way out, the calm research facility is now in shambles, and escaping is the only option. I must find my way to the surface and get some help. Even if I get there, in the desert this may be easier said than done.

Running my way through the facility, I pick up what appears to be the godsend of all weapons, a grail of awesomeness, the crowbar. I know I’m wicked smart and all, but the alien face-jumpers I keep coming across, the mutated scientists, and green dudes seem to have a weakness to a good throttling with this bad boy. Brains I got in spades, but braun it shall be.

As I run through the facility, I keep spying a dude who looks awfully smug and quite satisfied with what has transpired. It has hints of X-Files, with a shadowy, suit wearing guy watching the progress of the travesty befalling the facility. Along with X-Files, Fringe, The Secret World, and many other forms of entertainment have that same suit-wearing shadowy corporate menace backing a disaster feel to them. It’s a trope that works, playing to the conspiracy parts of our minds that we are just pawns in a much larger game we aren’t aware of. Paranoia is something we all have to differing levels (except those with pronoia, of course), and when made manifest strengthens our mistrust of the huge powerful corporations. As they say, beware the power you give to the soulless.

Finally, I make my way closer to the surface, and am told the military is on their way to assist… only to find them gunning our scientists down. Welp, a crumbling facility behind me, and a gun-toting army in front of me. Looks like the only way to go is forward. I finally make it topside only to see helicopters dropping off more troops and a huge bullseye on my forehead. It looks like a higher-up gave the order to cover-up whatever is going down here, but I won’t give up without a fight.

I played a decent stretch and made it half-way through Chapter 5. I love that there doesn’t appear to be any stopping point in between levels. No loading screens, no wait, no cutscenes. This gives the game a very fluid motion, one that I am in full control of. Even during scripted events, I am still in charge, capable of running around as they talk. This leads to a very heavy immersion level. Not once has my complete control of the character been taken away. Seeing as this is 15 years old, and our immersion is still being pulled away to load screens, this feels revolutionary. I can see why it won the awards. Finding a stopping point is tricky, like having a continuous book with no chapter points, but that’s okay. What’s not okay is my inability to jump on small boxes.

Seriously, just pick up your damn feet, Freeman!

// Ocho