Sunday, January 20, 2008

Hitman: Codename 47

Ah, going back to the beginning of a series. The Hitman franchise has been around for some time for some time though my introduction came only a few months ago with Blood Money. Which was awesome.

Given that awesomeness, I figured I should investigate the rest of the series. And what better place to start than the beginning? Hitman: Codename 47, released in 2000 by Eidos Interactive.

This one opens in some sort of creepy basement with a voice yelling out directions over a loudspeaker (and I begin to suspect Rockstar's Manhunt borrowed heavily from this game...)

Basically, it's a tutorial, you learn how to move and open doors. Then in one room you find your first weapons and learn how to stab dummies or strangle them with piano wire. Then on to another room for standard gun training followed by an outdoor area where you learn to move around in an environment. Pretty boring, but useful to me since I played Blood Money on the PS2 and have no idea how the controls are going to work on a PC.

Finally, you get to some guards and have to make your first real kill. Feeling old school, I dispatch the first one with the piano wire. Then take his outfit. Then realize something is missing. There's a locker right beside him, but the game won't let me stuff his body inside...blah. This was so easy to do in Blood Money. Fortunately, no one seems to find the body and I escape undetected.

First mission - Hong Kong

The game fast-forwards to a year later in Hong Kong. The assignment is to kill a Triad leader...but can't get at him right away. Instead, the International Contract Agency informs me that they have a plan to weaken his power. First move is to take out a negotiator.

I select my equipment and start the mission. It begins on the streets of Hong Kong. Wandering around, I find an elevator that'll take me to the roof of a building...and I know full well there's usually a reason the Hitman games give you access to a rooftop. Get to the top, unpack the sniper rifle...and wait. After a few minutes, my target arrives by limo. He's easy enough to spot since he's a different colour from everyone else.

Look through the scope...take aim...steady the rifle and BOOM! HEADSHOT! My target is down...but there's a problem. A big one, in fact. An armed helicopter is heading right for me. I'm spotted immediately and gunned down. Shit.

Go through this a few times until I realize that skipping cut scenes in this game doesn't speed up time. What's happening in the cut scene still happens. So by skipping the little movie of the helicopter heading for the building, I manage to buy enough time to pack up the rifle and get off the roof. Woo!

Second Mission

Next mission is still Hong Kong. This time the target is another negotiator and a bunch of triads. But I get equipped with a car bomb at the very beginning, so this should simplify things.

Wait for the target's limo to come into view and chase it to a restaurant. First problem though. The second I get close to it, one of the nearby gang members tells me to stay away from the car. Clearly I'll need a disguise...and the limo driver seems to be walking away. I follow him through an alley and check my equipment...and am disappointed.

See, in Blood Money if someone needed to be neutralized for the purpose of borrowing their clothes, so there were ways to do it without killing them. You could stab then with a sedative-filled syringe. You could tase them in one mission. Or if all else failed, you could just head-butt them. But in Codename 47, it seems killing them is the only option.

So once the limo driver stops to uh, relieve himself against a wall, I pull a silenced pistol and double-tap him in the chest. And watch him fall into an open sewer. Shit.

I start over the mission and go through it again and strangle the driver with piano wire this time. Get his clothes, dump body in sewer (which is rather difficult in this one...I miss just being able to click "Dispose body" in Blood Money.) Then go plant the bomb. Wait for triads to get in and detonate. Of course, the first time, I detonated it too soon and didn't take out everyone who supposed to be blown up. Blah. Replay until I get it right....


I think this is one of those cases where I'd have loved this game if I'd played it when it came out but going back after having all the glorious features of Blood Money makes a good deal of the game play seem like a chore.

The Grand Theft Auto series is pretty bad for this, with each new game adding features that SHOULD have been in the previous ones. I mean, really, after San Andreas I can't bring myself to play the earlier installments since they don't have the nifty feature where I can manually tag a location on the radar to get to it.

In the case of Codename 47, I'm missing many of the interesting methods of eliminating targets, the means of hiding bodies (come on, there's an open dumpster RIGHT THERE, WHY CAN'T I PUT THIS GUY IN IT?!?) Oh, and weapon upgrades. Being able to customize my weapons was one of the coolest parts of Blood Money.

So, will I keep playing? I really don't know. So far I've had to re-do each mission close to five times each before I got it right, which makes it pretty frustrating. I'd have probably loved this game in 2000 (Not that I had a computer that could run it back then) but now it'll probably sit around until a day I've got nothing else to play.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Phantasy Star 2

The beginning

I've never owned a Sega Genesis. Probably because I could count on one hand the numbers of games available for it that I actually wanted to play.

One of those was Phantasy Star 2. I've always been a big RPG fan and seeing a few articles about it in the video game magazines I read, I thought it looked bloody cool. Alas, there was still no way I was getting a Genesis just for one game.

Fast forward to today. With the miracle of modern technology like virtual consoles, I've had the chance to go travel back in time and play some of the vintage console games I couldn't play when they were around the first time.

So my inaugural caffeine-fueled review, I'll go over my first impressions of Phantasy Star 2.

The game opens in a futuristic world where all is supposedly well thanks to a system called Mother Brain regulating agriculture and whatnot (though, I seen enough sci-fi movies to have a pretty good idea as to where the plot is going to go...)

Anyway, you control some sort of government agent who gets assigned to investigate biohazards (violent creatures who've been terrorizing everyone) by retrieving a data recorder from a lab.

Sounds easy enough. As you're about to leave your roommate of sorts Nei stops you and insists on tagging along. She's half human and half-biohazard. (someone had sex with a biohazard?!?)

In the town you start off in, you've got the usual amenities - hospital for healing, weapon shop, armor shop and item shop. In the case of the item shop, I actually had to load up an FAQ because none of the items had names that indicate what they do. I mean, what the hell is Monomate? At least give me an item description!

Also located in town are teleport stations for going to towns you've already visited, a clone lab to bring back dead companions (run by some really creepy looking dude) and a building for saving your game.

So, after stocking up on supplies, I'm off to find this lab. You have to travel the usual old-school RPG overworld where of course, you get into random battles. Just as well, since I'm controlling weak characters and need to build up experience.

I soon find out heading to the lab won't be so easy. Some guy is blocking a tunnel I need to get through and is robbing and killing people, great. So I head off in the opposite direction to find a town that's been destroyed by people known as scoundrels. Apparently this is where the jerk from the tunnel is from and he's turned to a life of crime to pay the ransom the scoundrels have on his daughter. So, in order to get through the tunnel, I'll have to go rescue the daughter from the scoundrels. Yay for RPGs and their unrelated, but requires, quests.

Now, so far I haven't had an issue with the game...until I enter the scoundrel's hideout and I'm confronted with quite possibly the worst dungeon design I've EVER encountered!

Worst dungeon design EVER!

First off, it's a bloody MAZE! Normally mazes are only mildly irritating, but add in the random encounter system where every step I take, some algorithm in the game is calculating whether or not a bunch of monsters are coming to rape me, it's infuriating to hit a dead end.

But it gets worse, oh, it gets worse. The maze actually spans several FLOORS! I pretty much needed to have a walkthrough and a map open on my computer to get through. The directions consist of things like: Go north from the entrance then follow the wall east until you hit a dead end and go north again. Go up to the second floor. Go south until you hit a barrier, then west and then north once you find a wall until you find a chute back down to the first floor.

That's right! I have to go up to the second floor, to find a way back down to a difference area of the first floor so I can take a another chute back to the second floor, finally get to the third floor only to have to look for a chute back down to yet ANOTHER area of the second get the idea.

Anyway, after finally getting to the top, there's no big boss dude to fight. Instead a note that essentially says, "Sorry, the princess is in another castle."

So it's off to go find some tower, where I hope the dungeon design has gotten better....

No, NO IT HASN'T! In fact, it's WORSE! I did get to the top floor on my own, spotted the girl I'm there to save but can't get to her. At least I know her general location, so I know where to look for a chute on the floor below her....this would be logical. However, I can't FIND a chute one the floor below that'll take me to her general area. So I break down and look at a map again...only to find the area I need to get to is about as far away from the girl as as the Maritime provinces are to Zanzibar!


Okay, I have played significantly longer than I think I'm supposed to for this kind of review and I have to say, I'm disappointed. Not only have I had to suffer two infuriating dungeons, there hasn't even been an ounce of plot development. I thought this was supposed to be the strong point for RPGs, after all, it's definitely not the combat.


So, will I keep playing? has to get better than this. But if these stupid dungeon mazes continue, this one may end up with several other games I've abandoned over the years just because they were too frustrating.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


Alright, welcome to Coffee and Video Games where I hope to provide video game reviews (of games old and new) played and written over morning coffee.

Yes, it's heavily inspired by Kyle Orland's Games For Lunch (if not blatantly ripped-off) but hey, I'm going to be doing my gaming in the morning!

Stay tuned...