Tag Archives: Carnage
Of the great dream matchups in humankind’s evolutionary history, none is more pervasive than humans versus dinosaurs. Countless books, movies, video games, and more have broached this subject, but a definitive winner remains elusive. The latest in this ongoing academic effort is Primal Carnage, a team-based, competitive multiplayer game that hits on a fun design, but stumbles in execution. A lack of content and some technical issues leave this game feeling like a $ 15 beta rather than an official release.
Primal Carnage has only one game type: team deathmatch. One side plays as the humans, and the other controls the dinosaurs. The first team to shoot, bite, stomp, or grenade the other into submission wins. The two teams then switch sides, and it starts up again.
Each side is composed of five distinct classes. On the human side, every class comes equipped with a gun, as well as a secondary ability. At the most basic there’s the commando. He has a machine gun that shoots lots of bullets and doubles as a grenade launcher. Pretty simple. On the other end of the spectrum sits the trapper. He can disable dinosaurs with his slow-firing net gun and wields two pistols that can be fired (and reloaded) independently.
While the humans’ focus is ranged combat, the dinosaurs like showing off their fine dental work. Running and biting are key pillars of the dinosaur fighting style, but developer Lukewarm Media has injected distinction into each of these dinos as well. The Dilophosaurus’ attacks cause temporary blindness or poisoning, while the headstrong Carnotaurus can charge through and scatter groups of humans like bowling pins. Meanwhile, the Pteranodon circling overhead can mark enemies for all teammates to see.
Then there’s the Tyrannosaurus. Its specialty is swallowing people whole.
While shotguns and sharp claws are handy, the greatest weapon in Primal Carnage is teamwork. Generally speaking, the humans stick together and watch each other’s back as they migrate between health and ammo kits to resupply. Meanwhile, the dinosaurs patrol on the fringes, sending in the occasional Carnotaurus or T. rex to break up the pack and feast during the ensuing chaos.
Despite having wildly different play styles, the humans and dinosaurs are well balanced against one another. Each human class is designed to best a specific dinosaur, and vice versa. For example, commandos are great at laying down fire on a slow-moving T. rex, but have trouble tracking nimble raptors (who are easily netted by trappers). This subtly encourages a balance of classes during every match by further defining each character’s role. In turn, this balance creates more dynamic, and enjoyable, matches.
Isolation is a vulnerability for both man and beast. The maps are very large, and after respawning, your character is usually located on the outer rim, far away from his or her allies. The jog back can lead to some great Jurassic Park-esque hilarity, because every faint footstep or distant growl can lead to near-instant death. And when you see a bush rustle out of the corner of your vision, you know it can’t be anything good.
With 10 characters, five maps, and one game mode, Primal Carnage is short on content. The core game is a lot of fun, but it grows repetitive and is subject to the quality of competition found online. And since this game is online only, there are no offline training or single-player modes. Creating a private room to test-drive the characters isn’t even an option, since you cannot enable a password. To play, you must undergo a trial by fire with the rest of the game’s community.
Getting shot by other players is bad enough, but you can also get shot down by the game’s technical bugs. Oversized geometry and background elements flickering in and out of existence are some of the less-serious hiccups. At the time of this publication, the option for antialiasing has been removed because some players have reported that enabling it causes repeated game crashing. On a less serious note, sometimes after losing a match the game will display the victory logo. While inaccurate, this mismatched logo does help boost self-esteem.
Thankfully, the developers have been quick to release updates to correct these issues. But this less-than-stellar first impression may sour your interest interest in this prehistoric cage match. Primal Carnage has the markings of a great game, but is held back by a number of bugs and a shortage of content. For a game that celebrates the excitement of dinosaurs, hopefully it will not share their fate.
The first time you start a race in Gas Guzzlers, you’ll be in a crappy car, behind AI opponents in much better cars, and you’ll lose. Boy oh boy, will you lose. But it’s OK, because even when you lose, you still earn money to be able to slowly upgrade your car and take on the big boys, right? Wrong. You don’t earn a dime, except by picking up money bonuses scattered at points on the racetracks. But even if you do that, every single upgrade in the garage is locked to you, making it frustratingly difficult to make any progress through the game. You play the same race over, and over, and over–never finishing above fourth or fifth and never getting anywhere near being able to even move on to the next track in the campaign, much less a different game mode.
This is lousy design. Slow progression isn’t necessarily a bad thing, particular in a realistic racing simulation like Gran Turismo (though even that series allows you to earn money and buy new cars at the beginning). But for a game that bills itself as a fun, arcade-ish, combat racing title, it’s unacceptable. Unlocking the combat portion, which is billed in the title, is infuriatingly difficult. Gas Guzzlers’ problems are compounded by the lack of clear explanation as to what does what when you play. There’s a button, for example, to ignite your car’s turbo booster, but no explanation as to what charges the booster (turns out that crashing into things does it). You also have two weapons buttons, although it’s never made clear which weapons fire forward and which fire backward, or what the specific effect on the other cars is. Trial and error doesn’t help much, because AI opponents can recover almost instantaneously from land mine hits, explosions, and even head-on collisions. You, of course, don’t get any such molly coddling.
If you’d like to try to level the playing field a bit by going online, good luck to you. The few servers you’ll find are always empty or nearly so, and never have anyone in them who want to start a race. Other game modes, too, offer no respite, as they remain locked to you until you manage to struggle past a gauntlet of necessary unlocks. This unlocking process is grind-y and frustrating, and takes all the fun out of what’s otherwise a fairly good racing mechanic.
See, in spite of all its shortcomings, Gas Guzzlers’ races do a good job of balancing a semblance of realism with plenty of over-the-top drifting, spins, gunplay, and general insanity. Although the game doesn’t give you much help with anything like a rubberbanding mechanic (players falling behind the pack aren’t artificially sped up to stay competitive), you use an assortment of guns and missiles to temporarily knock out people ahead of you and gain ground. While these moments are rare and difficult to achieve, combat and other little things do spice up the gameplay.
That’s the real tragedy here: Gas Guzzlers has plenty of content and personality. It has tons of car customization options, weapon loadouts, and a decent number of vehicles and tracks. But like an acquaintance who suffers from terrible social anxiety, the game does everything in its power to keep you from getting to what’s underneath. When things are going right for you, Gas Guzzlers offers edge-of-your-seat excitement, because you don’t want to suffer the frustration of starting all over again. Getting knocked into a wall or getting hit by a weapon even once can be unrecoverable in a race, so you are always putting your best foot forward. And, once you’ve got them mapped right, controls are responsive, tracks feel realistic (you slide around a lot more in dirt than in asphalt, for example), and blowing stuff up is satisfying.
Still, some obvious features of an arcade racer game are clearly missing. Since the tracks are both short and linear, you’d think there’d be multiple pathways, shortcuts or secret areas, but you’d be wronger than ketchup on a hot dog. While Gas Guzzlers’ tracks do have some branches, taking them has little effect on your position in a race. Games like Split/Second and Need for Speed: Shift offer tracks that reward you for taking risks or using your imagination. No such luck here.
Indeed, taking turns properly, drifting around corners, or even ramming small obstacles like palmetto trees and barrels have little effect on your position in a race. The primary influencers appear to be luck (you have to hope that the leaders take each other out), and constantly keeping the accelerator depressed to maximum no matter what. This may prove more difficult than you think, however, because Gas Guzzlers has a habit of resetting your controls to the defaults despite your painstaking re-mapping of them. The game doesn’t recognize an Xbox 360 controller or a PlayStation 3 controller by default, even if you’ve got the proper drivers installed on your PC. This means you’ve got to map the controller buttons yourself, which leads to some jury rigging to get things working properly.
Gas Guzzlers does some things right, but the whole deal ends up feeling decidedly under par. Graphics are only fair, music is canned and looped, and the voice samples are poor. But beyond its mediocre production values is a wobbly foundation, and that’s ultimately Gas Guzzlers’ insurmountable flaw. The extreme difficulty in unlocking new content is a fatal failing, because it keeps the game frustrating and fails to reward players for hard work. That ain’t how the West was won, partner, no matter how much gas you might be able to drink.
In just three short outings, the Hector: Badge of Carnage series has established itself as a delightfully deranged and wickedly entertaining mature adventure game series. It didn’t have very far to climb, considering few other games in the genre are this bloated with seedy characters, crass commentary, stomach-turning sexual innuendo, and the full spectrum of vile bodily fluids. But the bold risks that developer Straandlooper has taken with this edgy trilogy make Badge of Carnage stand out as a memorable detective romp for those who enjoy a warped sense of humor and bizarre puzzles rooted in scatological weirdness. The series wraps up on a high note in Episode 3: Beyond Reasonable Doom with a string of odd surprises that tease you along to the satisfying conclusion.
Hector’s mini war on terrorism in the foul city of Clappers Wreake came to a head in the previous episode, leaving the gruff detective inspector and his dim-witted partner, Lambert, hoodwinked and captured by the person responsible for the deadly plot to rid the place of its general awfulness. Beyond Reasonable Doom gets rolling with the duo waking up strapped into a makeshift death trap that threatens to drown them in a deluge of human feces unless Hector runs endlessly on a treadmill. It’s a comical start to a zany episode filled with lots of new locations to poke around in. The last leg of the detective duo’s adventure sees them scouring the countryside and pushing through the eccentricities of one gnarly carnival in an effort to save the city’s citizens from being turned into raving “bastards” by a malevolent ringtone. Madcap shenanigans are par for the course in Badge of Carnage, and this final blast continues to deliver the same level of over-the-top ridiculousness and bawdy humor established early on in the series.
Like its predecessor, Beyond Reasonable Doom initially has you swapping control back and forth between Hector and Lambert to juggle items and work out solutions to the first stretch of bizarre puzzles. Their relationship is more directly collaborative than in the previous episode, providing fresh fuel for the game’s humor and brain benders to unfold as the two work side by side. Tag-teaming against an eager-to-brawl farmer for the right to reach into his cow’s backside to retrieve a key item is just a taste of the episode’s many creative-yet-disturbing puzzles. Donning a feces-smeared toilet seat, launching a giant pink vibrator into the heavens, and stealing a leprechaun’s “nut sack” are among the unsavory tasks this wild adventure holds. Despite being frequently gross, the multilayered puzzles are clever. They’re challenging in spots because of the often peculiar combination of tasks required to solve them, but most can be tackled with a little intuition. It’s great that the game includes a full walkthrough that can be accessed via smaller hints or full solutions, though you must bear the brunt of some humorous berating for using it.
Beyond Reasonable Doom’s locations are colorful and varied, though the scope of the scenery isn’t as broad as the previous episode’s terrain. Rather than hopping around different locations throughout the city, you follow a more linear track that’s driven by the plot, winding toward a conclusion. The latter portion of the adventure plays out in a large, freakish carnival consisting of many smaller scenes strung together. The myriad booths of oddball attractions are full of curiosities and puzzle elements to navigate, but it still feels like one massive location. This isn’t a big issue, since the episode stretches out the finale with some thoughtful twists that tie up loose ends and keep the fun rolling through to the credits. As expected, some familiar characters from past episodes make a return appearance alongside a slew of fresh faces. Hector maintains his gruff demeanor and wields an always-charming arsenal of snide quips, but his punchy personality is more endearing than it was in the beginning. He has grown into a somewhat likable fellow who’s a strong enough character to merit another go-around in the future.
Each installment in this gritty detective trilogy has a different feel to it, and the subtle shifts keep the adventure from stagnating. As far as unsavory settings go, Clappers Wreake has blossomed into a virulent cesspool that warrants further exploration, and the antics of its strange inhabitants prove that a deluge of comical foulness can be fun. Badge of Carnage’s gutter-oriented humor isn’t for everyone, and occasionally pushes the boundaries of taste, but the trilogy’s shocking and stomach-turning moments are backed up by some quality adventure gaming. Beyond Reasonable Doom is a fitting and funny end to a series that pushes all of your buttons. Whether that’s a good thing or not depends on your threshold for the asinine.
Even as games grow edgier with the times, most gamemakers seem to shy away from poking at certain boundaries of common decency. In crafting its crass new point-and-click adventure game trilogy, developer Straandlooper sheds caution as if it were a vile, fluid-stained trench coat and runs streaking across the line like a howling naked lunatic. The Hector: Badge of Carnage series debut, We Negotiate With Terrorists, set a memorably sleazy tone filled with comedic cartoonish debauchery and clever detective work. Episode 2, Senseless Acts of Justice, follows suit with another helping of the same unwholesome fun that is topped with gyrating nun strippers, exploding feces, and trucks adorned with massive hunks of dripping meat. It’s an acquired taste–but it’s one that delivers accessible and enjoyable gameplay, despite its often crude trappings.
Picking up right where the first episode’s cliffhanger left off, Senseless Acts of Justice sees the series’ pit-stained detective caught in the crosshairs of a psychotic cop-killing terrorist who’s hell bent on cleaning up Clappers Wreake’s cruddy city streets through force. After avoiding his own impending doom during the opening refresher tutorial, Hector is left with a couple of pieces of circumstantial evidence that offer clues to the terrorist’s true identity. The trek across the city’s repugnant terrain leads you through an all-new array of seedy locales, including a blood-spattered butchery, a nail salon that sells semiautomatic weapons, and an old church converted into a sex club. It’s great to see that only a few locations are recycled from the previous episode. Each scene oozes with creepy characters, and however unsettling and grimy they may be, these new sections of the cityscape pack a lot of artistic flair. Moving between locations is a lot easier this time around. The episode’s welcome new map system lets you bounce around from one area to the next without having to hoof it across three or four screens, which frees up time to poke around among the city’s gnarly underbelly.
Though the game doesn’t stray from the genre’s standard point-and-click formula, the puzzles are accessible and more intuitive than the average adventure game without being too easy. In terms of subject, they’re also on the weirder side of things–something anyone who dug Episode 1 will be well accustomed to by now. Blowing up a building using a feces-filled toilet, peddling human organs and bodily fluids to raise funds, and consuming vast quantities of vomit-inducing grade F meat are a few of the odd tasks you tackle. Puzzles span several different areas of the city, and individual tasks are part of a string of challenges that are connected to one of the three main clues you chase. It’s cool that each one feels like a different mini plot on its own.
There’s still a lot of the old “pick up object A, fiddle with it, combine it with something else, and use it on hot spot B,” but a few of the game’s more elaborate conundrums change up the pace. For example, the early stretch of the episode has you switching between Hector and his daft partner Lambert to approach a complex multitiered puzzle from two different angles. The game’s revamped hint system now revolves around a police HQ hub that lets you hit characters up for clues before resorting to a more robust means of assistance. There’s a full built-in walkthrough for those who need it, but it gives you numerous opportunities to figure out things on your own with a little help before revealing the complete solution to a puzzle. It’s a great solution to the age-old practice of hunting the Web for adventure-game walkthroughs. There’s enough help to get you through the sticky spots, but it doesn’t spoil the experience.
Hector is still very much the crude antihero, and his harsh but amusing personality plays well off the cast of strange characters you encounter. There’s no shortage of kooky weirdos to serve as fodder for his ridicule and amusement. Despite his incessant jibes and slanderous remarks, Hector’s a bit more likeable in Episode 2 now that there’s been enough time to get used to his abrasive mannerisms. The game’s plentiful British accents are thick, and if you’re not familiar with the lingo some of the jokes are hard to make sense of. But most of the time, the dialogue is funny, and a few of the comedic gags woven throughout the five-to-six-hour adventure are uproarious.
It’s disappointing to find that the story in Senseless Acts of Justice spins out to be a little too predictable. The lead-up to the cliffhanger ending lacks some of the punch found in the first episode, though the return visit to Clappers Wreake offers some excellent puzzles and character interactions that balance it all out. The episode flows much more smoothly, and updates to the map and hint systems make trekking across town a speedier process. Senseless Acts of Justice is also a longer jaunt with a broader selection of areas to explore. Underneath the thick coating of grime and blasphemy, there’s a lot of fun stuck in the nooks and crannies of this irreverent adventure game.
If you’re someone who complains about point-and-click adventures being slow, plodding ordeals filled with uninteresting puzzles and boring characters, you might have to rethink your argument after playing Telltale Games’ first foray into adult oriented adventure-gaming fare. The debut episode of Hector: Badge of Carnage–adorned with the snarky subtitle “We Negotiate With Terrorists”–is something else entirely. And whether or not you have the stomach for this demented detective tale depends on your threshold for often naughty and utterly warped humor. Fishing around inside a feces-ridden toilet with a used condom, parlaying favors from morbidly obese hookers, and peddling fake drugs to young rave partygoers are only a few of the many seedy tasks you must undertake in the name of justice. Gross situations and intermittent lewdness may be the norm, but it’s the creative puzzles and memorable characters that make this adventure worthwhile.
Clappers Wreake is a foul city filled with an abundance of corruption and depravity. It’s a great cartoonish setting for the game’s crass tale to unravel. The city is home to its fair share of lunatics, and the story heats up as one of the local crazies embarks on an ill-conceived crusade to clean up the town–taking hostages and sniping the heads off of a dozen or so police negotiators all the while. You play as a washed-up detective named Hector who has been summoned from the vile bowels of the decrepit police station in a last-ditch attempt to resolve the situation without having all of the hostages smoked in one fell swoop. Of course, you have to find your pants first. Giving into the terrorist’s demands for a cleaner city sends you on a three-fold mission to shut down the local porn shop, help a tourist trinket peddler in the junkie-filled park, and repair a dilapidated clock guarded by a shotgun-toting drunkard. A parade of shady characters await you in these colorful locales, and there’s a lot of weird stuff you have to wade through to complete each of these goals.
Quite a few of the puzzles are sprawled out across multiple locations. You often pick up strange items that don’t make any sense until you’ve spent a little more time poking around elsewhere in the city’s unsettling nooks and crannies. That’s not a bad thing because the game’s different areas are diverse enough to make the back-and-forth travel pleasurable. While you still wind up clicking on everything with the mouse, combining and using items on hot spots, and working through insane dialogue trees for much of the game, the puzzles themselves are anything but typical, which is a big part of what keeps things interesting. Grab a gooey handful of free lube from the sex shop? It’s useful somewhere. Find a blind hobo with some top-secret intel? However disgusting it may be, everyone has their price. And despite the edgy nature of the puzzles’ subject matter, it’s fun to think through the clever challenges you face. The difficulty curve is nicely balanced, and a multitiered help system offers partial or full solutions to various puzzles whenever you need it.
Even when you’re not chasing down the solution to one of the game’s freakish puzzles, clicking around the scenery to trigger Hector’s commentary yields plenty of surprising nuggets. More than a few choice moments will elicit bouts of laughter (and perhaps a groan or two). Hector’s gruff, sarcastic personality and less-than-charming inner dialogue also drive the story. He’s oddly likeable, despite being rather gross at moments. The voice work throughout the episode–delivered almost entirely in thick British accents, no less–is hilarious. All of the dialogue is well written, and it capitalizes on every opportunity to throw a jaw-dropping curve ball at you. If you haven’t guessed by now, this game is absolutely not for young folks or anyone easily offended. Racy comments abound, and some of the visual animations and settings push the envelope as well. That said, the hand-drawn cartoon art style’s charm softens the nastiness a bit, keeping the overall tone of the game from being too unpleasant. There are moments when you might feel dirty for playing, but the experience is still heavily rooted in the gameplay rather than on delivering shock value alone.
Underneath its risque presentation, Hector: Badge of Carnage is a smart and satisfying puzzle adventure that pushes boundaries just far enough to be captivating without going too far over the edge. It’s a clever, refreshing addition to the point-and-click genre. This first installment in a planned trilogy of episodes is a meaty helping that lasts about four or five solid hours of play time, assuming you don’t lean too heavily on the hint system. It stands on its own as a great game, though the suspenseful conclusion teases some wild surprises to come.