Posts Tagged ‘ Zombies ’

Left 4 Dead 2 – Shambling Ramblings

I was lucky enough to win an early code for the Left 4 dead 2 demo from Console Monster, and the nice people even asked me to write a paragraph or two on my opinions, which as of yet has not been published. I got a little carried away and had to stop myself when I hit 700 words. You see, for a demo, there’s so much to talk about.

Over the past few days I’ve been thinking more about the demo – especially things that I did not mention before – so instead of keeping them penned up I thought I’d bore you lot with them. I’ll warn you now that these are just my opinions and it may become a bit of a rant. I want to open these topics up for discussion and see if we can get some alternate viewpoints

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Atmosphere

Remember the first time you booted up Left 4 Dead? I do. I downloaded the demo over night and jumped on to grab a few games in the morning. Being the big wuss that I am, I waited for some friends to come online as I was too scared to play it on my own. I remember my first game, it was the subway level of the No Mercy campaign and I believe it was with Hi-Scores very own, Mr Daniel Lipscombe a.k.a strybe.

My hands were sweaty, I was close to smashing the pad as I hammered RT; spraying my Uzi through Bill’s buttocks, Laying out Louie and maybe, just maybe, killing a zombie. I shot Strybe, and our friend’s, more than I shot the Zombies. The reason I shot the hell out of my friends? Because I was scared half to death. Creeping around corners in the dark to be greeted with a horde of undead was not my picnic (then at least).

You see, a friend pointed out to me, although he loves the demo, it seems to lack the atmosphere that the original captured. I kind of agree with him, the sunlight is great but it does take away the fear of the shadows and what might be lurking in them. But, on the flip side, you cant hide in the shadows any more. I felt completely open, every where you turn you can see the zombies meandering about, massing up for a charge. Valve will have some darkened creepy levels tucked away but what the demo lacked in atmosphere, it made up for in adrenaline; the new events, sunlight and wide open spaces all added up to give me, and maybe you, a new heart pounding experience.

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Versus

I am a huge fan of the originals versus mode, I’ve probably played more of it than the actual campaign mode. It’s such a different affair from your standard multiplayer FPS, requiring teamwork and co-ordination. On around my fourth play through of the demo I could not help myself from looking around at the level from a versus perspective. The major thing I noticed was the balconies along the tight streets. With no ground access these are definitely smoker perches. The daylight will add an interesting perspective as your smoker will be a lot easier to spot. Teamwork is going to be key, splitting up the survivors might be even more important in the sequel than it was in the original.

Cue the new special infected: the Spitter, Charger and Jockey. Having these new “weapons” at your disposal is going to change Versus for good. It feels like Valve have created them (almost) purely for Versus as their main purpose is splitting up and isolating the survivors, the afore-mentioned key to Versus. The Spitter can force the survivors out of the hiding spots, the Charger can pick one player up and smash him out of the group and most importantly the Jockey, who if used correctly (and with support) could be the most fun. His possibilities seem endless, whether your running survivors into ambushes, off buildings, into fire, into boomers, he will always cause chaos and disorientate the group.

The last, and most hotly debated item, is the melee weapons. How will these factor into Versus? I honestly can’t say. I trust Valve won’t have made them too powerful against infected players but who knows. If you play together and use teamwork then you should be able to deal with any situation, even chainsaw wielding humans. The more melee weapons, the less guns to shoot you.

I did warn you it was going to be a rant, but I hope some of these thoughts made sense. I for one can’t wait to get my hands on this game. Please post your own thoughts, opinions, disagreements, whatever you want to call them and I’ll reply to them all.

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Dead Nation – PSN

We tend to steer clear of any announcements on new games or ‘slim’ consoles. Just let the others get one with it and we’ll pick out the best from the rest to talk about. So while I watched the SONY press conference, I say watched – read read a live blog, I was waiting for information on new games. I don’t need a slim PS3, I already have a phat one. I was watching, Reading, for news on PSN titles.

I’ve always thought that the original games on PSN wipe the floor with XBLA (until this summer when XBLA knocked out some great games) So I was eager to see what we might be getting. Then I read the words Dead Nation and that it looked like a twin stick shooter with Zombies. Big deal, I said, we already have Burn Zombie Burn, but I still waited until the conference ended and searched for any videos I could find. I love me some Zeds.

How Effin’ amazing does that look?! Superb graphics, Left4Dead style visuals right down to a “boomer like” character, atmospheric lighting and shooting from twin sticks? Yes please!

When I first bought Burn Zombie Burn I was hoping for a twin stick shooter, but it was a mix between twin sticks and button controls. While still a great game the controls were lacklustre, Dead Nation looks to fix that whilst bringing with a more mature art style and theme. I for one seriously can’t wait for this game!

Let’s Talk With PopCap

As many people who visit Hi-Score know, I am a huge fan of PopCap and everything they do. Most recently Peggle and Plants Vs Zombies have stolen far too much of my time and I think my Wife is becoming a PopCap Widow. I’m very lucky to have a great relationship with the guys and girls over at PopCap, So I took the opportunity to conduct a little interview.
A few of your questions were asked, some were answered and some were not. Read on to find out more…..

Thanks for putting aside some time for me, first off, could you introduce yourself to our readers and tell us what you do for Popcap?

My name is Cathy Orr and I’m European PR Director at PopCap Games

Most people who have played ANY Popcap game are instantly smitten with the gameplay, what do you think is the secret of success in the popularity of your games?

In the early days, PopCap’s founders used a ‘mum test’ to gauge a games’ potential. They would sit their moms down in front of a game in Alpha or early Beta stage, and leave them there. If the moms were still playing 30 minutes later, the company co-founders knew they were headed in the right direction.
If you make games that moms find appealing, without actually building “games for moms,” you’re off to a good start.

We begin by asking: “Do WE like playing this game? Is it adversely affecting productivity because everyone in the office is playing it all the time? Good – that’s an excellent sign!”

PopCap spends a lot of time enhancing the casual game experience – prioritising a superior design process and spending about twice the time developing and polishing each game. It is expensive but results in extremely high quality games that set PopCap’s top titles apart from other casual games and make them truly special and memorable – and hopefully nearly infinitely replayable!

A lot of Popcaps games are highly addictive and playable, obviously you must playtest these titles with different demographics, What goes into that process?

As mentioned before, PopCap’s three founders started with just three Beta testers – their mothers. Today, they have a slightly larger pool of 200 employees to test the games on an ongoing basis.

In addition, we have 200+ customers who we’ve recruited as beta testers…long-standing fans of our games who’ve shown an aptitude for critiquing our games effectively after playing them thoroughly. A few months before a new game launches, we provide these beta testers with advance access to the new game, with strict confidentiality/secrecy enforced: those testers are not allowed to say anything about the upcoming game publicly, but have 24/7 access to private message boards where they provide feedback and discuss the game with other testers as well as our QA and dev staff.
As the game is refined and polished, those testers gain access to increasingly more complete/final builds of the game, until the game launches officially.

Being that most of your games are picked up by people in the “casual” market, how much has the social network era helped?
Particularly with sites like Facebook?

Social networking is one of the hot topics in the casual games space right now and we’re only really beginning conversations about how it can best serve the industry and grow the casual game player base. Sure, there is a level of organic growth that has happened with more instantaneous communications but I think there’s still a lot more to come – right now we’re seeing the tip of what could be a very large iceberg.

In terms of Facebook specifically, once again the casual opportunities here are still in the process of being revealed. As part of a grassroots experiment, PopCap launched a game called Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook
early this year. It was launched primarily for PopCap employees but has made itself a number of friends on the social networking site so it will be interesting to see what happens next.

How important is the iPhone to Popcap? Your games seem perfectly suited for handheld gaming on the fly.

PopCap makes gamers out of non-gamers. We believe that EVERYONE is potentially a player of casual games – though broken down, different audience segments will play at different times, in different places and,
therefore, on different platforms. PopCap aims to reach as many customers as possible by building game experiences that uniquely leverage the characteristics and capabilities of each platform. This multiplatform strategy means every platform – whether PC/Mac, online, mobile, iPhone, PDAs, iPod, consoles – is important as it serves to reach a different audience segment.

In terms of iPhone specifically, this platform is responsible for a lot of industry buzz as it redefines the parameters of mobile gaming and serves to open the industry to discover new and exciting ways to have fun on the go. PopCap have launched a number of titles for iPhone already – we have recently learned that Bejeweled 2 is the #4 paid for application of all time in the Apple app store! Plus our other titles, Bookworm and most recently, Peggle are getting fantastic reviews. So absolutely it’s a very exciting platform for PopCap.

I think it’s safe to say that Popcap has had plenty of success recently with Peggle, how surprised were you with it’s success and the coverage through the specialist press?

We at PopCap are delighted that Peggle has been received so well by such a broad audience, and we’re really proud of the game. Peggle’s sales have been growing steadily since release and the game continues to find new fans with its launch onto new platforms – most recently DS, iPhone and XBLA.

Peggle combines elements of pinball, pool and pachinko to create a completely different kind of casual game that plays with the casual games genre. Peggle is famed for its character and colour – this, coupled with almost limitless gameplay, will appeal to the casual game audience of ‘everyone’ – from teenagers and parents to Grandparents.
Peggle is as accessible and fun from the very start – you can be enjoying the game within fifteen seconds of launching it but, unlike other classic casual games, Peggle is very ‘deep’ and continues to surprise and amaze you even after 100 or 500 hours of playing! To that same point, a casual gamer can play Peggle in a relatively “relaxed” way, just enjoying the sights and sounds while proceeding through the relatively easy Adventure mode of the game. But “hardcore” gamers have discovered that Peggle can be played in a “serious” way, applying a healthy dose of strategy with pinpoint accuracy to accomplish all sorts of achievements in the game. It’s this ability to straddle both sides of the gaming fence that makes Peggle – and others of our games, including Zuma and Plants vs. Zombies – so broadly appealing.

Whilst we’re on the subject of Peggle, Do you have any plans to add a level editor to any
future updates or iterations of the franchise? (Asked by Sam in London)

We tend not to talk about future plans as a company policy so you’ll just have to watch this space!

Still on Peggle but also linked to other franchises, Where do you get the inspiration for the characters in your games? They have such an endearing quality. (Asked by Paul in Wickford, Essex)

We originally thought Peggle might have just one character, and use different types of pegs to represent each power up as this seemed to be the easiest approach. At the same time, we were struggling for a theme,
and it was really hard to come up with something we thought would tie the game together.
The idea of the kung-fu school metaphor came up over beers at a local pub e.g. how about a School of Peggle, with Peggle Masters as the characters teaching the player? That really fit well with the game mechanic and overall flow since you could learn a lot of strategies and hone your skills over time to become a Master yourself.
It took a while to come up with 10 characters that fit with the powers we chose. Walter Wilson painted some fabulous character portraits that were so full of life, it didn’t take long to create personas around
them. We actually ended up nixing a lot of extra back story about each character that had been written, mostly because we found it ended up interrupting the flow of the game.

This will be a tough one for you, one of our readers would like to know why there are such differences between pricing for your games?
Peggle for instance is $20 from popcap.com (PC), $10 from steam (PC), $10 on Xbox Live Arcade (360), and just $4.99 for the iPhone/iPod versions.
Then the DS version, which started at $30 dollars and is now reduced to $20. (Asked by Jason in Texas)

Pricing for PopCap games is largely left to the the discretion of our partners and PopCap can’t control pricing for our products through most distribution channels – online or retail. Therefore most casual games, sold by PopCap or other companies, will have varying prices by distributor. Similarly, support, additional game information, extras, etc. will vary by sales channel.

Moving on to your latest success, Plants vs Zombies is taking the gaming world by storm.
First off, congratulations on it’s success, It seemed like a very bold move using Zombies in such a “family friendly” genre being tower defence, was there a worry that it might not “catch on” with regular PopCap gamers?

The goal was to take the tower defense standards and simplify them down to the point that almost anyone could pick up and play. Tower defense games as a whole aren’t necessarily for everyone, but Plants vs. Zombies is. It’s easy enough for someone with no knowledge of gaming to pick up but yet, has enough strategic depth to keep a hardcore gamer thoroughly entertained.

With Peggles success, there ended up being a crossover with Half Life on steam, Will we see a cross over between Plants Vs Zombies and Left4Dead? (If not, you should, But we want
royalties, lol)

Given the casual nature of the industry, we’re all friends and ideas often grow organically out of industry friendships and, as game development should, having FUN. In the case of Peggle, we heard that Peggle was all the rage at the Valve offices. We even got a few emails and calls from Valve staffers pleading for tips on beating some of the more difficult challenges.
At the same time, we were hearing other anecdotal evidence that while there were a lot of hardcore gamers
getting into Peggle. The Peggle theme had always been tongue-in-cheek for PopCap – though obviously doesn’t come across that way to everyone.
We proposed the idea of a special free version for Steam players only, using our characters in Half-Life 2 themed backdrops. We figured no one could resist a game with a machine gun toting unicorn. Valve loved the
idea. And it grew from there.

I don’t have any confirmation on similar plans for PvZ, I’m afraid…you’ll just have to watch this space!

If I don’t ask this, I’ll get hunted down……When will we see Plants Vs Zombies on iPhone and/or DS? It seems like such an easy translation? (Asked by, Well, Everyone)

If I even hazard an uninformed guess, I will get hunted down! PopCap tend not to announce forthcoming launches as a company policy and I don’t have any confirmed plans for this at present. It’s fair to say
that the game’s tremendous initial success is very encouraging in this regard – we’re now starting to explore which platforms lend themselves to adaptations of Plants vs. Zombies – but we haven’t yet made any final
decisions.

Lastly, What’s the future for Popcap?

As you know, we at PopCap are of the opinion that that everyone is a potential player of casual games. We make games that appeal to everyone and anyone – commuters, office workers, families – as well as hardcore
gamers. To reach these diverse audiences, our overriding mission at PopCap has to be to have our games in as many different places, and on as many platforms, as possible – to make them accessible to this
audience of ‘everyone’.

I’d like to thank Cathy for taking some time to sit down and talk to us. I’m sure we’ll see PvZ launched on iPhone, So don’t be disheartened that it wasn’t confirmed.
I hope you enjoyed this interview, I hope to arrange more in the future.

Plants Vs Zombies

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Gin and Tonic, Fish and Chips and Cookies and Milk, All combinations that work very well together. When the words plants and zombies are mentioned in the same sentence you would never think that there is a possible combination that could work. However it was George Fan, Lead designer at Popcap games that thought of a great chance for these entities to be together. Four years in the making, Popcap bring you Plants vs Zombies.

Many companies have thrown zombies into their games, some for panic situations, others for comical entertainment. In Plants vs Zombies the zombies are attacking your house and it’s down to the plantlife and your greenthumbs to keep your brains in your head. That sentence alone should tell you that this game will be full of laughs and pure fun will ensue. As many people know, Popcap will always bring you a highly addictive and enjoyable game and they have succeeded here yet again.

By now you’re probably quite confused and if you’ve seen anything of Plants vs Zombies so far it will have been a bizarre viral music video and the zombie employee pictures and videos that have been circulating the internet.

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PvZ is a “garden defence” game, in reality a tower defence game that sees you fending off Zombies that are trying to break into your home and break into your skull, they’re hungry and nothing will stop them, except the plants in your garden. It seems the only route into your house is via the front or rear gardens and you must use your gardening skills to keep your home safe.
As with all tower defence games, things start off very slowly and ease you into the gameplay, giving you very tame enemies to fend off and there’s quite a variety on display.

The first type of Zombie that will amble and shuffle across your lawn will be a business man Zombie, but it won’t be long until the more unique Zombies show up. Four man bob-sled teams, undead miners and dolphin riding scuba Zeds are soon going to be gaining ground on you and your home. Each of these Zombies has a unique ability, be it speed, strength or even floating towards you on a balloon.
Each of these Zombies can be dispatched with the many plants you have to hand.

In order to plant your army you will need to harness the suns power. Small suns will fall from the sky and once you click them to collect them you will spend the solar energy on planting in your garden. Sunshine will not only fall from the sky though, it can be harvested from sunflowers and other plants throughout the game.
Each plant will be placed in the soil across the gridwork you have in your garden and with around 40 defensive plants at your disposal it’s down to you to put each one in the right places to achieve success on each chapter of the adventure mode.

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Starting with a peashooter you will steadily gain a great collection of ballistic botany. Peashooters are surpassed by threepeaters which will shoot three peas towards the Zombies and as more plants are unlocked hilarity will ensue. Huge little shop of horrors style fly traps will munch on zombies, torchwoods can be placed in front of peashooters and create fireballs and Wallnuts will create a solid wall to slow the enemy down. If any of the nefarious Zombies DO get past your defences plan B will come into action, a simple line of lawnmowers on your patio which start up and run down the line of Zeds when they get close.

The adventure mode is played out over five chapters and with each chapter the playing field will be changed somehow. Not giving away too much, but soon you’ll have water to deal with and at one point you’ll be defending your rooftops too.
During the game you will also meet your neighbour, Crazy Dave. Dave will sell you upgrades to your plants or extra slots in which to store more seeds. To pay for these upgrades you will start collecting coins from random Zombies during the levels. Crazy Dave will also help you out with tips for upcoming levels, he’s an expert, his saucepan helmet shows it.

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When you’ve polished off adventure mode, which will take quite some time, you can experience other modes on show here. During the main game you will play a few mini games like Wallnut bowling, these mini games will appear on the main menu for you to play through at a leisurely pace.
Try out some puzzles or a survival mode game and then relax in the zen garden.
Each of these brings a different slant to the hectic gameplay found in PvZ otherwise. Puzzle mode will require you to solve puzzles with your plants, survival mode is a frantic and desperate fight that speaks for itself and the zen garden allows you to tend to certain plants by keeping them fertilised and healthy.
With all these modes in tow there’s plenty to keep you playing, but the adventure mode is by far the most fun here and even if it was the only thing supplied for your money you’d be happy.

As with many tower defence games, they can be incredibly addictive and Plants vs Zombies is certainly that. If you enjoy Peggle or bejewelled then you’re certain to enjoy this too.
Plants vs Zombies reminds you why you play games in the first place, to have fun. During the first few hours of play I genuinely grinned from ear to ear. The graphics and the imagery are cute and bright, this and other aspects of the game are reminiscent of games by Rare.

There is no excuse for not picking up Plants vs Zombies, being released at retail stores and online for PC and Mac at http://www.popcap.com and online services including RealArcade, MSN Games, STEAM, Wild Games and Yahoo! Games there are many platforms to run out and buy it on.
Priced at £6.99 the value for money is unbelievable.

Yet again Popcap has delivered a slice of genius, Plants vs Zombies will keep you clicking until you fingers ache and then some. Witty and charming, another game that will appeal to all generations. Get your spade and watering can at the ready, the Zombies are approaching.
Get out there and start defending your house…..and your brains from the Zombie horde.

Hi-Score – Fun and comedic, Pretty to look at and great longevity.

Lo-Score – Another tower defence game?

Final Score – 10 out of 10

Burn Zombie Burn!

“I came here to shoot zombies and chew gum….and I’m all outta gum”
It’s quite apparent where Double6 found their inspiration for Burn Zombie Burn! With the main character Bruce fending off hordes of zombies with standard, makeshift or comedy weapons, you can tell that films like Bubba Ho-Tep and Evil Dead 2 were watched while creating this new PSN game.
Comedy is used throughout and it’s refreshing to see a game that is purely about fun and casts aside all realism.

Burn Zombie Burn! has a simple premise, As an arena based shooter, viewed from a top down perspective. You move Bruce around the closed in environment with the left stick and shoot all of the incoming zombies. The gameplay is very similar to Robotron and smash TV, However you don’t use the second stick to shoot, This is due to the melee weapons that can be used.
Shooting is done with either the X button or R1, You can lock onto Zeds with L1 and strafe with L2. The controls are simplistic and easy to pick up.

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Games like these are the “original” horde mode games. Defending yourself against oncoming waves of zombies while using weapons and power ups that are found all around you or dropped by the enemies.
The weapons in BZB range from your handgun which has infinite ammo to shotguns and sub-machineguns. There are a few melee weapons included these include chainsaws, baseball bats and lawnmowers. Yes, Lawnmowers, held outwards so the blade can spin and chop up the zombies in your way.
Lastly there are the comedy weapons, a brain gun which sucks out a zombie brain so you can shoot into a crowd and use it as bait and then there’s the dance gun which makes all the zombies stop and dance in a thriller style.
You can also pick up TNT which you drop behind you and explodes after a 2 or 3 second fuse.
All of these weapons are great to use to dispatch of your undead foe.

There are four game modes to play here;
Free play, Gives you unlimited time and your goal is to score as high as you can.
Timed, You have five minutes to kill as many Zeds as you can and keep your score up.
Defence, You have to defend Bruce’s girlfriend Daisy who is positioned in the middle of the map.
Challenge, This mode sees you given certain tasks to complete in order to move on. One challenge will see you kicking an explosive skull around the map and use it to kill the zombies.
Each of these modes are great fun and all hold a challenge. In order to score high you need to control the other big element of BZB, Fire.

You have a fire torch on the R2 button and this is used to either scare zombies or set them on fire. This is where the scoring system comes into it’s own. Any zombie that is on fire will move faster and if killed have a larger chance of dropping power ups, like speed ups or larger explosive damage. However if you let them chase you and kill the other zombies you will get a multiplier, for each zombie that is on fire it adds a +1 to your multiplier. This adds an interesting dynamic to the game and if you play out the level well with a nice balance, you can score very high.

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As you play through the game modes you can earn combos with each weapon, this is normally a certain amount of zombies killed with that weapon. If you get three combos in a row, a big red button will light up in the middle of the map. On each different map the button will do different things, from raining hard which slows down the Zeds to sending in a UFO to beam them aboard.

There isn’t only variation in weapons and gameplay, you will see many different zombies on your journey in Bruce’s world. The Zeds in BZB come in all shapes and sizes.
At first you will see the “standard zombie” they pose no real threat as they shuffle around the map. As the waves count up you’ll encounter dancing zombies in pink tutus who act like ghosts in Mario, they back away when you look at them and chase you when your backs turned. There are chargers, who charge in a straight line at you, masked, who carry dustbin lids to deflect bullets and exploders…..no explanation necessarily needed.
Towards the bigger waves you will find the super zombie, he’s the equivalent of the tank from left4dead, they do area damage by slamming their fists into the ground. They can also fart fire at you which cause pretty massive damage on you.

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It’s not all fun and games in places though. Burn Zombie Burn! is quite a tough game and it certainly isn’t a “party” game where anyone can pick up the controller and enjoy it. It takes quite a lot of practice to score big and succeed.
Another downer is the lack of online co-op, you can pick up a second controller and have a friend play through the levels with you, But unfortunately online co-op has been left out. I’m really hoping that this is added at a later point as the game will really come into it’s own with a second person.

If you’re looking for a really fun game that will pass the time in between shooters or RPG grinding, then this is an ideal game. You can play for fun or strive for Hi-Scores and achieve bragging rights.
Burn Zombie Burn! supports trophies and they all seem really fun to unlock.
With the variety in the zombies and weapons, you can come up with lots of tactics on the best way to play through each map and when it pays off you’ll be on a real high.
Well worth a download, get out there and slay some Zeds.

Hi-Score – Great fun, Addictive gameplay, funny weapons and zombies
Lo-Score – Steep difficulty curve, No online co-op

Final Score – 8 out of 10