See-Saw De-Daddy-O

Illnesses. Blech. Left for two days, started to recur, culminated in headaches and phlegmy, cough-y exhaustion. Not cool.

A day off was not unwelcome, but, you know, nicer to have them not feeling like shit.

Other than the lots-of-sleeping, I’ve been doing more nostalgic gaming (I don’t know if “retro” is the right word, though I’m talking about games that max out at 11 years old.

I bought Blood II: The Chosen on GOG recently (after getting some Interplay stuff, like Earthworm Jim 3D) since it popped up on sale so soon after. A pain to get the thing working, though some kind soul made a useful .REZ (Lithtech standard file) that fixed Widescreen. Ended up having to use compatibility mode, a locked framerate (with read-only cfg), and a few other things. Mouse response is still problematic–but, I guess I’ll live. I’ve gotten a few levels in. Still hate those fucking bone leeches, and the dickishness of those, the Thieves, AND the hands–the skin-crawl-noise-face-leaping enemies in games are just pure sadism. I’ve never finished Half Life: Episode One because of them (poison headcrabs!). Assholes.

I’ve been playing Unreal Gold pretty regularly for a while now recently, and am consistently reminded of why it was perhaps the most formative of my gaming experiences. I really, really got into modding, I began to learn more about computers, about how the games were put together, about all kinds of things–and simultaneously experienced the visuals, music, sounds, functions that I still identify as the “proper” core mechanics of an FPS.

It’s very weird: I played the game without violating my then-standard approach of using cheats to play all of it. God mode for every level, allammo whenever I wanted/needed, even fly and ghost all the time. I didn’t follow the intended progression, because I refused to accept closed doors as dead-ends. I’d go places I was not yet supposed to be able to access, convinced that I was not going to have the chance to get there otherwise. It meant exploring levels end-to-end, including the places I was never supposed to explore. It meant using weapons I wasn’t supposed to have yet (ah, “summon”, which I am still able to recall regularly, alongside the rest of the console commands for the game).

It’s actually still extremely engaging: the weapons are not an escalation in power as you go up the number keys (dispersion pistol, automag, stinger, asmd, 8-ball, flak cannon, razorjack, GES biorifle, sniper rifle, minigun)–they have different uses, contexts, proper enemies. But holy cow did I not know how dangerous the mercenaries are. When you’re invincible, it’s mostly just annoying when they turn on their shields, not so dangerous. I’ve tried replaying it numerous times over the years, but hadn’t gotten back as far as I have as of today in a very long time. All the way past the Trench and into the ISV-Kran.

I’ve almost got Tron 2.0 back up and in working order, though the widescreen provided by Killer App (fan modification) is horizontally stretched in questionable fashions, which is disheartening. Still, that’s another game that reeks of atmosphere for me.

Both games are so marked by amazing soundtracks and visuals, and both are so unnoticed or forgotten–I tell people I’ve followed the Unreal series from its inception, and everyone tries to correct me from Unreal to Unreal Tournament. Which, y’know, was the first sequel, not the first game. Ah, well.

It’s a different perspective, of course–having to deal with the fragility of a vulnerable player character.

The music continues to be unbelievably amazing–I think Unreal is definitely my favourite soundtrack, bar none whatsoever. I’ve spent a lot of time on the Tron 2.0 soundtrack, since there’s not a nice equivalent to the .UMX (ah, getting the WinAmp plugin that played .umx directly…)–had to copy it myself. But of course, that’s of gaming–gaming soundtracks are other than  movie ones, obviously.

I miss the clear, four-corner construction of Unreal: even the cheat codes were to the point, not the hilariously complicated and frustrating overlong ones from Carmageddon, or the game-prefixed ones from LithTech (mpgod, mpammo, etc). Just “god” for god mode, “allammo” for all ammo, and so on. The levels have clever secrets and construction, moving parts and such, but freedom within their linearity. It worked on principles not unlike those other games were later loved for–the story is told in clips of text here and there, but moreso in the movement through levels and the game itself, and works far better at the idea of an interactive adventure than Half-Life 2, in that it has no pretenses of dialogue and interaction (not much of anyone to interact with! All the other humans are dead, and the Nali and Skaarj don’t speak English…or whatever).

I don’t know that I’d bother with recommending either (obviously not over issues of quality, just the fact that it’s my own weird taste that drives the perception of quality, and few seem to explicitly share it, even amongst those who appreciate it). I’ve wanted to drag friends through Unreal’s coop for a long time, but it has never happened, sadly. Maybe some day.


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