Couple of zombie games I’ve been playing lately

Zombies! The living dead. We all get hungry sometimes, but zombies? They go the extra mile. You might’ve (in our privileged society) gone for like a while without eating lately, and maybe you wanted a snack or something, but these dudes are always up on that hunger creep, and they just do not let up for that tasty treat of the flesh of mortal man (or woman, or transgendered folk but I haven’t seen that explored in a zombie movie yet so maybe they’re off the hook) – and even death itself can not put down their insatiable craving for our brains.

With modern technology, the incessant desire to vicariously overcome our fear of homogeneity, mortality and futile incompetence in the face of an enormous, uncaring, seemingly unchangeable reality can be indulged in an ever-increasing spiral of books, tv shows, comics, movies and now videogames, and since I too desire to escape the sad reality that we must all one day die (and enjoy seeing the catharsis of characters dealing with the same struggles, plus see a monster getting its skull burned in by acid)  – I sometimes dip my toe into a little puddle of these murky, necrotic waters.

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One of the first videogames that I can remember ever fully dealing with zombies was the videogame Resident Evil (or Biohazard), which one of my friends used to have as a pirate copy for the PlayStation back when I was a kid. Because piracy was far less developed back then than it is now, the disc took about 20 minutes to fire up, all the while a strangely un-nerving eye staring out at the viewer, daring you to press start or X or whatever it was that you’d already pressed five minutes ago and were now hearing the machine desperately strain to read the disc. The game itself was more or less a continuation on the sieged-by-zombies theme of Night of the Living Dead, at the beginning, while also going into a sort of gothic haunted house, mysterious crazy things going on nightmare as the game continued, with enormous, bizarre, freakish monsters as the game strived to explain beyond all measure with insane genetic conspiracy the reason as to why there were some big, vicious dogs outside a house.

So, strictly speaking, Resident Evil has never really been a full-on, straightforward humans vs. zombies game, with the zombies almost a side product to the main story of this genetic conspiracy that has created them, indeed the fourth and fifth entries in the franchise focus more on the exploitation of a brutal parasite that allows for smarter, stronger pseudo-zombies (they’re kind of like a rage virus zombie but with mutating limbs and body parts).

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All this is ultimately to tell you that I love the newer Resident Evil games (although they can be pretty flawed with their attitudes to gender and, a -bit- weird with race) – Resident Evil 4 is essentially perfect as a videogame, Resident Evil 5 is fantastically committed to exploring its B-movie sci-fi roots, right down to its deliciously insane ending, and Resident Evil 6 is what I’m playing lately. Resident Evil 6 is a tremendously ambitious game, not only because its four complete campaigns all seek to tell roughly the same series of events through different gameplay-styles and different protagonists (each with their own proficiencies, like in a fighting game) – but for the amount of different stories that each campaign is able to wring from those events, and how they interlock and form a complete whole. Plus, giant monsters.

I’m mostly counting this as a zombie game because of the zombies that appear in Leon’s campaign, which is victim to a few major problems as it tries to force in a romance story that doesn’t really work at all, since Leon refuses to even passingly mention an important event with regards to that character that is discovered almost immediately prior to meeting her, and various other inconsistencies in the treatment of her are literally hand-waved in the ending as “huh, women, am I right?” — this is just an incredibly poor execution that could have been saved with a few small scenes or even a brief conversation, but is missing from the campaign seemingly only so that the mystery could be prolonged further, which ultimately denies the interactions of any emotional weight (a problem that occurs with another character in Leon’s campaign).

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Chris and Jake’s campaigns also deal to some degree with mysteries that are kept from the player, but they work much more effectively, perhaps because they are in fact legitimate mysteries to the characters, and not just arbitrarily withheld information. The monster designs are incredible, with some genuinely frightening and others wonderful homages to B-movie sensibilities, the gameplay is great and varied (especially Chris’ campaign) and the story unfurls very well, with lots to enjoy and an improved inventory system from RE5.

If you don’t like insane, nonsensical action movies with giant monsters and slightly hammy characters (strangely toned down a notch from Resident Evil 5 – CHRIIIIIIIIS!!!!) then you could easily give it a miss, but I think it really tries to do something different and the scale is amazing. I’m actually not done playing it all the way through yet so I’ll post more as I get through it (I’m currently working through smart-mouthed badass Jake’s campaign, although his cool is somewhat diminished by the amount of times he falls off things or dies when I’m playing as him).

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The other game I’ve been playing lately is Project Zomboid, by The Indie Stone, available on Desura for £4.99. It’s an isometric zombie survival game with no real plot as of yet (it’s still in alpha) – with the player taking on the role of a sole survivor struggling to find food, shelter and weapons to face the unending horde that threatens to overwhelm you at any time. It’s really impressive and there’s a ton of stuff to do, from finding a hammer, nails and plank to build barricades, a trowel, seeds and watering can to grow crops, or just a shotgun and a baseball bat to go zombie-hunting (with the shotgun obviously attracting way more zombies, but capable of bringing down lots at a time) it’s strangely rewarding to play, with each character you create being essentially lost forever when they die thanks to the game’s auto-saving, but it doesn’t quite feel frustrating as your death is almost always your own fault (usually in my case due to hubris in the face of taking on two zombies with an almost-broken golf club).

Before that I was re-playing through Telltale’s The Walking Dead but you already know how good that is (and now I’m re-reading the compendiums, but you already know how good they are). Bye!

More stuff

Okay, so, after that last post, some things have changed! First of all Misfits ended, I thought it was a pretty good season. At the moment my new TV show to watch is Utopia, which is also a Channel 4 production and also has the guy who plays Curtis on Misfits. It’s kind of about conspiracies and it’s shot really well, sometimes it can seem a little infantile in its exuberance but mostly it’s really strong and the score is incredible.

I also finished reading Angel: After the Fall -and- Spike: After the Fall, so now I can fully recommend both of those as being excellent, Spike: After the Fall in particular helped make things in Angel: AtF  make a lot more sense for the characters, so I’d probably say you should definitely pick them both up. I got Spike: AtF in hardcover and it’s nice and high quality, very pretty. I’m also 3/4 of the way through Buffy: Season 8 now with the release of the third Library Edition oversized hardcover! It’s definitely going on a huge scale which I love but still keeping an intimate feel between characters, basically it’s really great. Some of it felt a little weird but I’m looking forward to re-reading them all in sequence again when volume 4 comes out in April/May.

Oh, I bought the first Compendium for The Walking Dead comic and that is really great too, again as with Utopia sometimes it can feel a little infantile with how “extreme” it gets but generally it’s pretty good. You definitely get involved in the story and feel the light and darkness in Rick’s development as things continue. Looking forward to finding out more in the second Compendium once I get that (also, they’re like 1100 pages each! It is insane).

I’m currently trying to find more ways to collaborate in creating art so I’ve got a few projects going on that front. Alright, well, there we go internet, that’s all I’ve got for now.

Things That Are Both Recent & Decent

Oh, this also counts as an update! I finished reading Angel: After the Fall and Spike: After the Fall, and they are both pretty great. I can’t say I enjoyed them -as much- as I am enjoying the Buffy comics, but they were both solid self-contained stories and I really liked how they both turned out.

[PICK IT UP HERE]

Reading Spike: After the Fall second was probably a good idea even though it takes place first chronologically, because it spoils a few things for Angel: After the Fall, but it does make a few things that happen later in Angel: AtF make a little more sense for the characters and gives a few actions more thematic weight (in my opinion) so, definitely worth picking up both if you’re interested.

[PICK IT UP HERE]

Next, Adam Buxton is back on the radio but this time with Edith Bowman and the episodes are available on iTunes as a podcast (Adam and Edith) which is fantastic, definitely losing none of the charm of the Adam & Joe episodes but obviously it’s a different kind of magic.

[LISTEN TO IT HERE]

The Walking Dead videogame was brilliant too, I’m not sure how well it would hold up on multiple play-throughs as that might highlight how little individual choices matter to the way the storyline actually turns out (same deal with Heavy Rain), but as with Heavy Rain, I’d like to come back and play through it again in a few months after I’ve forgotten everything.

[PICK IT UP HERE]

Finally, this last season of Misfits started off a little shaky but now seems to be finding its feet and doing a pretty great job of reinvigorating the series with a new group of characters, which I think was a smart way to go, and they all seem pretty interesting. Mind you, I love weird superpowers so it’s always just a fun show for me to see what they do with them.

[WATCH IT HERE]

What is in the Angel: After the Fall Slipcase Edition?

I will tell you what is in the Angel: After the Fall Slipcase edition. Basically it is just the four trade paperbacks and a cool orange relatively hard slipcase with designs of the characters on it. I haven’t finished reading it yet, but basically just the first four trades (the series collectively named After The Fall) are canon in terms of fitting in with Buffy Season 8 and 9, after that there is the pretty much canon Spike: After the Fall (some stuff is referenced lightly in Angel: After the Fall, which is enough to make it canon for me, plus it’s based on discussion about what Spike was up to with Joss) and the official cannon Spike: The Complete Series.

After that you can pretty much just think of the other Angel comics as a continuation of the story in a direction that could be cool. I kinda really like the Buffy series though so I’m pretty much just sticking with what ties in with that for canon (plus it saves on book costs), but if you want to read more (potentially) kickass stories set in the same world, with that continuing story and characters, well, that’s kind of the spirit of what the whole Buffy/Angel comic series is about, so, knock yourself out. Oh wait I just realized this is the internet I have to come down on one side or the other on this: NEVER READ ANYTHING EXCEPT ISSUES ONE, FIVE, TEN, ELEVEN, EIGHTEEN, THIRTY ONE of ANGEL and then read SPIKE: AFTER THE FALL (but only the back half) then start at Willow Wonderland and work backwards in time, including rewinding vhs cassette tapes of Buffy and Angel episodes, this is now the only way I will allow you to enjoy the Buffyverse.

Podcast Review: The Lion in Tweed

synopsis:

The Lion in Tweed is a podcast featuring blues/country/folk music and storytelling featuring a well-groomed, well-spoken, well-educated American Lion.

review:

Artwork by Winston Rowntree of the webcomic Subnormality.

I started listening to The Lion in Tweed after hearing about it on the 47th episode of My Brother, My Brother and Me, entitled “Sleeve It”. It sounded like something that I would enjoy, the fictionalized life of a college professor of economics who plays folk music on the side (and is also a lion), and the musical element was something exciting.

Plus, anyone advertising on the Maximum Fun network has to be doing something right.

So, fairly soon after hearing about it, I downloaded the first episode and started listening to it later that night. Straight away, the blend of storytelling and music made sense to me. It wasn’t forced, the songs were real songs, not direct commentary on a situation or character, indeed there was very little in the way of situation or character, just a solitary figure performing music to what appeared to be a largely indifferent crowd of his peers.

But, through the music, through the vocalized thoughts of the character, through the situation itself, a very clear, very relatable figure emerged, standing in the face of the crowd, performing his story and hoping for a response.

It’s a very human moment, a fitting introduction that flutters between the world of the Lion and of his struggles, and the world of creator Andreas “duus” Pape, bringing the Lion and the music to life, to be performed and to hope for a response.

Following episodes generally continue this theme of the performance of songs (by the Lion) combined with the narrative (of the Lion’s life), though presented in different ways and to different degrees. An episode might, for example, tell the story of a journey through the city streets of San Francisco interspersed with musical refrains and Bill Cosby, or it might be as simple as the retelling and the performance of a gig.

The world created is one bound in bright streets and dark, dimly lit auditoriums, romanticized reality and of an almost noir-ish quality. People shuffle in and out, from shadows in the background to a momentary voice, a noticed characteristic or a fleeting shared experience, then return to the abyss.

This is definitely reflected in the music, generally the performance of the Lion alone, with a small tool-kit of acoustic instruments – a guitar, a harmonica. The music definitely has a timeless quality, with deep roots in American culture and traditional aesthetics.

Above: pre-Lion in Tweed performance of “Green Valleys of Tennessee” from the album “The Big Hit” by Andreas Duus Pape

The semi-autobiographical nature is strong, but there is enough fiction in the woodwork that the listener cannot truly call the world Earth, and you really get the feeling that each episode is a slice of a world beyond the corners of our own, of its own time and space.

In this, again, the dual nature of character and creator seems to come through, just as the Lion seems to be an expression of something within Andreas, the world itself seems to come wrenched from an idealized place, a pocket where things are always happening, art is frequently discussed, drama is always evident, and the music is always playing.

Adding to this, several episodes end with information about where ideas brought up in the podcast came from, or commentary on the inspirations and influences behind the episode, or the podcast in general, encapsulating and contextualizing the world as fiction but also bridging a definite link to reality within.

More recently, further characters have begun to be brought into the fold, with Mutton Red’s appearance in the fifth episode. It’s unclear how this shall progress or how a third-person limited perspective will affect the development of other characters in what is every inch the Lion’s story, but I hope it works out, because I have a lot of love for this podcast and I would very much like to see it continue.

Hopefully, you’ll like it too.

The Lion in Tweed is available here and on iTunes, and an interview with creator Andreas “duus” Pape will be available for download soon.

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