Review: “Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa” By Cradle Of Filth (Album)

Note: I prepare these articles quite far in advance. So, this title illustration was made before I reviewed Judas Priest’s latest album about a month and a half ago.

Well, I thought that I’d take a look at a heavy metal album that I’d meant to get over seven years ago but only finally got round to buying a while before I wrote this review. I am, of course talking about “Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa” by Cradle Of Filth.

This album by the venerable heavy metal/ symphonic black metal/ gothic metal band was originally released in late 2010. I actually remember this quite well since the band took the unusual step of giving out free MP3 copies of the song “Lilith Immaculate” on their website at the time.

This track really bowled me over, although I couldn’t afford to get the full album at the time. I then pretty much forgot about the album (apart from checking out another couple of songs on Youtube) until I noticed that it had come down in price and was able to snap up a second-hand copy on Amazon for about three quid.

One of the first things that I will say about this album is that it is very much it’s own distinctive thing. It mostly eschews the grandiose fire and brimstone drama of 2008’s “Godspeed On The Devil’s Thunder“, but it is also a far cry from the decadent De Sade-ian opulence of 2012’s “The Manticore And Other Horrors“. This album is a lot “colder”, more melodic and more gothic. And, it is probably one of the best Cradle albums that I’ve heard. Seriously, it’s almost up there with classic albums like “Cruelty And The Beast” and “Nymphetamine”.

“Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa” is a concept album about the mythological character Lilith. However, it also focuses on a tragic character called Victoria Varco, a 14th century noblewoman who bears an illegitimate child and suffers unspeakable cruelties at the hands of the church because of this. This eventually leads to her having visions of Lilith (and possibly being possessed by Lilith’s spirit), before being brutally murdered by the church’s torturers.

She is then exhumed by her grief-stricken lover, Isaac, in a scene vaguely reminiscent of Heathcliff and Cathy from Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights“. The later parts of the album focus both on Lilith herself and on Isaac’s memories of meeting her through Victoria.

The final song ends with a mildly Lovecraftian flutter, with Isaac saying: “…These words I speak are gates to hell“, evoking the ‘last words’ narrative device used in many of H.P. Lovecraft‘s short stories. In addition to this, it is also a repetition of an early verse from the first song on the album. This gives the album an intriguingly circular storyline, which also hints strongly at a Lovecraft-style unreliable narrator.

And, yes, this album actually has a continuous story. However, this actually harms the album’s lyrics very slightly. Whilst I’ve written before about how Cradle Of Filth songs are basically old-school poetry in disguise, the lyrics in “Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa” often read more like a historical ballad of some kind.

Whilst the lyrics still contain a fair number of poetic flourishes (eg: “By flights of morbid fancy/ Psychomancy, rites of ancient wrong”), the focus on storytelling means that the lyrics are often a little bit more “functional” and can occasionally lack some of the dark eloquence of Cradle’s other albums.

But, enough literary criticism. What about how this album actually sounds?

Well, for the most part, it sounds like Cradle Of Filth. However, unlike some of their albums, this one has quite a few melodic elements, such as a vaguely harpsichord-like segment at the beginning of the first song in addition to other creepily gothic string and keyboard segments throughout the album. These go really well with the more intense guitar segments, which often sound more like a “heavier” version of traditional heavy metal. Personally, I really love all of these melodic elements, but more “traditionalist” fans of the band might not like them.

Likewise, despite the occasional well-placed death growl from Dani Filth, his fast-paced and guttural singing in this album is considerably more understandable than in some previous albums. As much as I love Dani’s older vocal style, his more modern style certainly has merit too.

Plus, like in many of Cradle’s albums, Dani’s harsh vocals are counterpointed by more elegant female vocals. In “Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa”, these are provided by Lucy Atkins (and Dora Kemp).

Like with some of Sarah Jezebel Deva’s vocal segments in “Cruelty And The Beast”, Atkins speaks rather than sings. This lends the character of Lilith a stern, cold gravitas that goes really well with Dani’s more emotional vocals.

The best songs on the album are probably “The Persecution Song”, “Deceiving Eyes”, “Lilith Immaculate”, “Forgive Me Father (I Have Sinned)” and “Beyond Eleventh Hour”.

“The Persecution Song” begins with a beautifully haunting instrumental segment, which manages to be both creepily cold and reminiscent of the warm lushness of Cradle’s “Nymphetamine” album. Dani’s vocals near the beginning of the song are noticeably slower too, which helps to add to the oppressively gothic atmosphere.

Musically, the song is dark, intense and overwhelmingly powerful. Vocally, Dani alternates between several singing styles (eg: slower singing, emotional growling, ominous whispering etc..) which helps to add to the surprising array of musical variety within this song. Seriously, it is one of the most atmospheric songs on the album.

“Deceiving Eyes” has some really intriguing hints of both thrash metal and traditional heavy metal. Although it is mostly just a fairly solid Cradle Of Filth song, these extra musical elements really help to turn it into something a bit more distinctive.

“Lilith Immaculate” is a fast, powerful, opulent and intense song. The opening instrumental is vaguely reminiscent of something from “Godspeed On The Devil’s Thunder”, but, as soon as Dani begins howling, you’ll remember that this is a very different album. This song is something of a duet between Dani Filth and Lucy Atkins, and it is brilliant! It is filled with dramatic descriptions and powerful emotion. If it wasn’t for the fact that this song tells a later part of the album’s story, it would have been a perfect opening song.

“Forgive Me Father (I Have Sinned)” is a slightly lighter, faster and more “goth”-like song. The opening segments of it are something of a palate cleanser from the heavier and more intense songs earlier in the album. Likewise, the guitars sound a little bit less distorted here, which lends the song a very distinctive sound. Like with “Lilith Immaculate”, it is also something of a duet between Dani Filth and Lucy Atkins – which is always cool to hear.

“Beyond Eleventh Hour” is the stunningly opulent ending to the album. It begins in a creepily understated way, with quiet keyboard music and some poetic vocals from Atkins. But, it quickly builds to a spectacularly dramatic climax soon after Atkins intones the words “…and hell will come with him”.

The lyrics in this intense and dramatic song also contain a few gloriously obscene “classic Cradle Of Filth”-style flourishes too. This song is Cradle at their most eloquent, poetic, debauched, blasphemous best! At one point, there’s even some vaguely horror movie-style cackling in the background too 🙂

All in all, “Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa” is one of Cradle Of Filth’s best albums. It’s a cold, heavily atmospheric, furiously intense and creepily gothic album. Yes, it isn’t quite their best album in purely lyrical terms but – musically – it is absolutely stunning. Like with all great metal bands, this album manages to be both the kind of unique thing that only one band could make whilst also being noticeably different from both previous and subsequent albums.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get at least four and a half.

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Review: “Temple Of The Lizard Men IV” (WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ “GZDoom”)

Well, it’s time for this month’s “Doom II” WAD review and I’ve got a real treat for you! Today, I will be reviewing the fourth instalment in Alando1’s excellent “Temple Of The Lizard Men” series (you can check out my review of the third one here).

Surprisingly, this is a modern “Doom II” WAD [technically a “.pk3” file] that will (mostly) run on older computers 🙂 As such, I was able to use a slightly older version of the “GZDoom” source port to play it (rather than the “ZDoom” source port I usually use these days). However, “Temple Of The Lizard Men IV” requires GZDoom. So, make sure you use this source port! Still, kudos to Alando1 for making a modern WAD that actually runs on older computers 🙂

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Temple Of The Lizard Men IV”:

Seriously, even the intro movie is absolutely epic!

“Temple Of The Lizard Men IV” is a set of 36 new levels for “Doom II”/”Final Doom” that were released in 2017. However, you will only actually play about 20 of these levels during a playthrough of the game, since this WAD uses a rather interesting branching path system where some levels have multiple exits. What this means is that the levels you play will actually be different depending on how you complete previous levels.

In addition to this branching path system, “Temple Of The Lizard Men IV” also includes new music, textures, monsters, weapons, items, skyboxes, voice-acting etc… And, in keeping with tradition, it also includes multiple playable characters too. Interestingly, there are actually a couple of new characters here too.

Ok, I played as Beka again, but there are a couple of new characters too. Interestingly, each character now also has stats too.

The story to the game is fairly similar to previous “Lizard Men” WADs. Basically, you play as an Interpol agent who has to investigate reports of mysterious attacks on researchers, soldiers etc.. by lizard creatures in an Aztec/Mayan temple in South America.

Personally, I absolutely love WADs that include Aztec/Mayan-style locations (like the amazingly brilliant “Ancient Aliens” and one part of “Skulldash), so it’s always cool to see this 🙂

However, this game is a lot less story-based than the previous instalment in the series (and it contains fewer horror elements too). Yes, you’ll occasionally find PDAs that give you some story text, you get to rescue some civilians at one point and there will be short text screens between some levels. But, I got the sense that I was playing a set of cool levels rather than experiencing a story.

So, it’s a lot more like a “normal” Doom II WAD in this regard, with the emphasis being more on the gameplay than the story. Which isn’t a bad thing 🙂

…unless you happen to be a reptile, that is.

In terms of visual design, this WAD is absolutely stunning! The WAD makes full use of GZDoom’s additional lighting effects to create some wonderfully atmospheric locations. Not only that, the many new textures on display here really help to make the locations look like ancient temples, evil underworlds etc… Seriously, this WAD looks really, really cool:

Yay! Awesome lighting 🙂

And there are more traditional gothic/ medieval locations as well as the cool Aztec/Mayan-style ones 🙂

And just look at the textures here too 🙂

Plus, like in the previous “Lizard Men” WAD, you actually get a torch too! This seems like a trivial thing, but it’s one of the best ways to stop “atmospherically gloomy” locations from becoming “frustratingly dark” locations. However, unless you look through the “controls” menu, you might not realise that you have it.

In terms of the level design, it’s really good. There’s a good mixture between fast-paced levels, arena-like areas and quite a few “traditional” style levels that require exploration. Although there’s the obligatory sewer level and an underwater level, one cool thing is that a couple of the levels include a slight hat tip to the original “Doom” games too:

For example, this area is a bit like the beginning of E1M3 (?) in “Ultimate Doom”

In terms of the actual gameplay, “Temple Of The Lizard Men IV” is 1990s-style FPS gaming at it’s finest. There’s challenging combat and non-linear levels aplenty here! However, the style of the gameplay is much more in keeping with classic 1990s FPS games like “Blood“, “Heretic” and “Doom II” than it is with the previous instalment of the “Lizard Men” series.

In other words, there’s much less of an emphasis on nerve-wrackingly intense claustrophobic combat and more emphasis on ordinary “Doom II”-style combat (with the occasional boss battle and “Serious Sam“-style monster filled area keep things interesting).

Such as this epic battle beside a pyramid.

This combat is kept enjoyably challenging through the careful placement of ammunition (the game doesn’t starve you of ammo, but it doesn’t give you too much either) and through variations in the quantity, placement and strength of the monsters you fight.

Interestingly, this WAD also includes an episodic structure (with an episode selection screen similar to those in “Ultimate Doom” and “Duke Nukem 3D”). However, if you start from the first episode, then the game will just play through subsequent episodes seamlessly, with no loss of weapons or items at the beginning of each episode. This is the best of both worlds 🙂

However, unlike classic 1990s FPS games, the puzzle-solving elements of this WAD have been scaled back a bit. Yes, you still have to find keys and switches. But I only encountered two relatively easy puzzles – a simple combination puzzle and a path-based puzzle (with a map/solution nearby).

Still, as long as you have a pen and paper handy, this path-based puzzle isn’t too difficult. Especially since the game literally gives you the solution 🙂

Yes, you might get stuck occasionally (eg: there was one level where it took me a while to find an underwater corridor I needed to explore to find a key). But, for the most part, the game flows really well – with the emphasis being firmly on exploration and action.

In terms of the new weapons, they all look and sound suitably powerful. Not only is the basic knife a genuinely useful weapon, but you can also find upgrades for some of the weapons too (eg: accuracy and reload speed upgrades for one of the shotguns, a laser sight for the assault rifle, an upgrade for the rocket launcher etc..).

The laser sight doesn’t seem to do that much, given that the game already includes a crosshair.

The game also includes a slight mixture of “realistic” weapons and magic-based weapons too, which help to keep things interesting. Plus, although some of the weapon sprites are borrowed from other games, the weapons still “work” in a unique way.

However, many of the weapons require to you manually reload them by pressing the right mouse button. Whilst manual reloading systems might add “authenticity” to modern militaristic FPS games, they have no place in old school-style games where the emphasis is on fast-paced combat. This is why the original “Doom” doesn’t include much in the way of reloading mechanics. Having to reload might be “realistic”, but it gets in the way of the action slightly.

Ok, double-barelled shotguns are the ONE exception to this rule. But, apart from this, reloading animations have no place in classic-style FPS games!

The array of new monsters on offer here is really cool too. Yes, I’ve seen pretty much all of them in other “Doom II” WADs and/or old FPS games before, but they really help to add some variety to the gameplay. The game also includes several bosses too, although some of these are just variations on the same minotaur monster from “Heretic”.

Interestingly though, the final boss battle is the easiest one in the game. Probably because he isn’t a giant minotaur.

However, if you’re using an older computer, then one of the new monsters will quite literally crash your game!

In the “Bowels Of The Shadow World” level, you will encounter nude demons who shoot flames at you (and, yes, this WAD contains nudity – albeit less than in the previous instalment). If you’re using an older PC, your game will probably start slowing down as soon as the first few flame effects appear, before unceremoniously crashing to the desktop a few seconds later. In fact, the only way I was able to finish this level was by using the “freeze” cheat in the GZ Doom console. Still, these game-crashing monsters only seem to appear in one level.

In terms of the music, voice-acting and sound design, “Temple Of The Lizard Men IV” is outstanding! Not only is the music that plays when you start the game absolutely overwhelmingly epic, but the game also occasionally includes things like heavy metal music, more ambient music and even a gothic rock song (with lyrics). Plus, although there is much less voice-acting than there was in the previous WAD in the series, the voice actor for Beka sounds a lot better than she did in “Temple Of The Lizard Men III”. Plus, one of the level bosses actually gives you a short ominous-sounding speech when you first encounter him too!

Not only does this level LOOK really metal, but the background music is heavy metal and the boss even gives a really badass speech near the beginning of the level!

The sound design is also absolutely stunning too, with the monsters sounding suitably menacing and the weapons sounding suitably loud.

In addition to this, there are some cool background effects in some levels, such as the occasional screeching of an eagle during the earlier levels of the game. However, some of the low-level lizard monsters still use a sound effect from one of the more powerful monsters from “Shadow Warrior” – which can be confusing since this monster (with a different sound effect) is also included in the game too!

All in all, this instalment in the “Temple Of The Lizard Men” series is brilliantly fun. Although it moves away from the claustrophobic intensity, disturbing horror and more focused storytelling of the third instalment in this series slightly, it’s an incredibly fun set of levels. The branching path system gives it some replay value, the level design is really good, the locations look really cool, the music is epic and the combat is enjoyable. If you miss the days when FPS games were FPS games, then this WAD is well worth checking out.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get at least four and a half.

Review: “SiN: Wages Of Sin” (Expansion Pack For “SiN”)

As regular readers of this site know, I reviewed a very nostalgic cyberpunk-influenced FPS game from the late 1990s called “SiN” recently. And, because I bought a direct download of the “SiN Gold” collection (when it was on special offer on GOG last summer), it also came with an expansion pack from 1999 called “Wages Of Sin” too.

If you’re too young to remember expansion packs, they’re kind of like modern “DLC” but larger and more impressive. Often, they would be anything from one to two thirds the length of a full game (but, there are exceptions) and they would originally be sold as boxed CDs. So, yes, “Wages Of Sin” is pretty much almost a full-length game (with 15-20 levels or so). In fact, I’d even go so far to call it a sequel to the original game.

Still, you might possibly need a copy of the original “SiN” to play “Wages Of Sin” (although the in-game menu gives you the option to play the original game) but if you get the “SiN Gold” collection on GOG, then this is included anyway.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Wages Of Sin”:

Taking place a while after the events of the original game, John Blade is still hunting for Elexis. However, he has other things on his mind.

And not just dramatic car chases!

There have been reports of strange creatures killing people on a construction site, not to mention that it seems like the local Mafia boss – Manero – seems to be up to something too…..

One of the very first things that I will say about “Wages Of Sin” is that it is way better than the original game in so many ways! The difficulty curve is fairer, the combat is more enjoyable, there’s a greater degree of visual variety between levels, there’s even more humour, there’s better level design, there’s a much greater variety of enemy types and it’s just, well, cooler.

Even some of the loading screens look more badass too!

You also get some cool night vision goggles in one level too!

To give you an example, the first level or two of the expansion are genuinely creepy horror-themed levels that take mostly place in gloomy, claustrophobic subterranean tunnels (but, unlike the gloomy areas in the original game, you actually have a torch this time!).

Seriously, this one little change improves the game so much! No more stumbling around aimlessly in the dark! Plus, although the torch has a limited battery, it’s so large that you’re unlikely to run out.

Not only are there monsters that are reminiscent of the “Licker” monsters from Resident Evil 2 but, when you shoot some of the bloated “zombie” enemies that you encounter, a mutant spider crab creature will sometimes burst out of their chests in a very “Alien“-like fashion. Seriously, this expansion starts out really well. These early levels even reminded me a little bit of “Doom 3” in some parts.

And “Resident Evil 2” too 🙂

And those are just the first few levels- there’s also an art gallery, a laboratory, a nightclub, an opulent casino, a swanky penthouse, a shipping terminal that is split into three segments etc…

Seriously, the variety of locations here is so much better than in the original “SiN”. Yes, I’d have liked to have seen more neon-filled cyberpunk locations, but the focus on more opulent locations helps to give the expansion a slightly “Duke Nukem“-style atmosphere too.

Always bet on Duk… I mean, Blade.

Unfortunately, this cool-looking nightclub really doesn’t appear for anywhere near as long as it should!

Amusingly, there’s actually a silly cutscene if you jump out of any of the windows in this room.

There’s even possibly a slight nod to the “Blood” games here too, with a level where Blade witnesses an ominous robed man giving a dramatic speech to a horde of mutants. The level that precedes this cutscene is fairly short, slightly repetitive (since you sort of revisit an earlier area) and kind of random – but it features some astonishgly epic music that reminded me a little bit of the original “Blood“.

He doesn’t appear anywhere else in the game and seems to be part of the set up for a sequel that never really came to fruition, but this part of the game is still really cool 🙂

Plus, true to the original game (and 90s FPS games in general), there’s a good dose of humour here too.

Not only does Blade get a few new lines of dialogue when he defeats his adversaries (eg: “Barney Miller is back!”, “Cleanin’ up the gene pool” etc..), but the hilariously sarcastic radio conversations between Blade and his assistant JC also return in abundance too 🙂 One stand out comedic part of the game is probably the art gallery level, where Blade and/or JC will make comments when you stand near many of the paintings:

And I’m guessing that this is probably a cameo from the developers. JC seems to think that they’re rock musicians though.

Not only that, the levels also seem to be far more well-designed too, with most of them being non-linear enough to require exploration but linear enough to prevent you from getting lost or stuck too often. Yes, I got stuck once or twice – but it didn’t happen nearly as often as it did in the original game, not to mention that it wasn’t that hard to work out what to do (which is just as well, given the near-total lack of walkthroughs for the expansion on the internet at the time of writing).

Likewise, the enemy placement in “Wages Of Sin” is much fairer than in the original game. Yes, there are a couple of “trial and error” segments but this expansion avoids many of the cheap tricks used in the original game (eg: placing snipers behind the beginning of a level etc…) and the combat just feels fairer. Yes, it’s still thrillingly challenging – but it rarely becomes frustrating. Likewise, the couple of levels that could be *ugh* stealth levels actually make the stealth parts totally optional too 🙂

For example, if you get spotted by a camera in this level, Blade will just shout some (bleeped) dialogue and you’ll have to fight a few more henchmen, but you DON’T automatically fail the level.

The combat in this game is also improved by the fact that “Wages Of Sin” is a bit more generous with both health and ammo placement too, which also helps the game to feel a little fairer (without reducing the challenge too much either).

Not only that, the larger variety of enemies (various mutants, Mafia members and a few enemies from the original game) helps to add some much-needed variety to the combat.

Yes, THESE guys return – but there are only a few of them and plenty of other types of mutants, robots and henchmen too.

However, there is one “cheap” new enemy here – in the later parts of the expansion, you’ll encounter tiny flying robot drones. They blend into the shadows slightly and have a powerful laser attack (which you only have about a second to dodge at most). Given that your health will probably be below fifty for large parts of the game, trying to shoot small, rapidly-moving flying robots whilst also dodging their powerful attacks can be frustrating to say the least.

And, if they’re difficult to see in this screenshot, then imagine what it’s like in game!

The boss battles in “Wages Of Sin” also follow a much better difficulty curve than in the original “SiN” too. In the first one, you have a large monster and a medium-large arena. In the second one, you have to fight two waves of large monsters in a medium-sized arena.

Although I don’t know whether this really counts as a “boss battle” or not. Still, given that you don’t encounter these monsters anywhere else in the game, I’d say that it does.

The final boss battle, against Manero, is the most challenging boss battle in the game – as it should be. Not only do you have to shoot down his helicopter, you also have to fight him when he’s wearing a “photonic shield”, when he is using a cloaking device and when he isn’t.

And yes, the “Photonic Shield” just happens to make him look like the T2 from the second “Terminator” film…

Still, even this fiendishly difficult boss battle is beatable if you use the right strategy (hide under the platform at the beginning of the level, crouch and shoot at his helicopter with rockets. Once he’s left the helicopter, jump off the platform when he gets near you, wait for him to jump off, then run up the ramp and wait for him to run up the ramp – whilst he’s doing this, shoot at him. Rinse and repeat.)

This strategy even works when he’s using the cloaking device. Although JC annoyingly tells you to use the night-vision goggles you found earlier in the game – however, I didn’t have them during this level!

“Wages Of Sin” also introduces a few new weapons too, some of which are useful.

The stand-out weapons are probably the dual pistols and a plasma crossbow that can be used to either one-shot enemies or as a device for laying timed plasma mines (eg: the crossbow bolts explode after a couple of seconds if they get stuck in the floor or a wall).

There’s also a mediocre flamethrower, a recharging concussion gun, a nuclear rocket launcher (which you get to use three times and that’s it!) and a remote control that fires a burst of about five small missiles. These weapons are cool, but you probably won’t be using them that often. Still, it’s good to see an array of creative new weapons on offer.

Not only does this weapon look cool, but you also get a decent amount of ammo for it too. However, it’s lack of accuracy and the fact that the rocket launcher is a better long-range weapon mean you probably won’t use it that often.

All in all, compared to the original “SiN”, “Wages Of Sin” is a major improvement – it’s fairer, more spectacular and just generally more fun. On it’s own merits, it’s a reasonably solid late 1990s FPS game that takes heavy influence from mid-1990s FPS games (like “Duke Nukem 3D” etc..) in terms of humour, location design etc…

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get at least four.

Review: “SiN” (Retro Computer Game)

Like with “Blood II: The Chosen” and “Shogo: Mobile Armor Division“, “SiN” is one of those games that I first discovered on a magazine demo disc when I was a lot younger – but only got round to actually getting the full version nearly two decades later. If I remember rightly, I thought that the demo was kind of cool, but didn’t really get into it that much. Then again, I was playing it on a Pentium 166 computer, so it was probably a bit slow…

Still, when I noticed that the “SiN Gold” collection (which also contains the expansion “Wages Of Sin” that I’ll review in early April) was on special offer on GOG last summer, I just had to get the full version of this half-remembered game. Although the extras for the GOG version of this game aren’t spectacular, the manual is definitely worth reading just for the hilariously immature 1990s style humour. Yes, even the manual contains comedy!

Plus, although I rarely directly recommend one game site over another, the version of this game that is available on GOG is closer to the original game than the version available on Steam. This is because the Steam version apparently contains some censorship (eg: the removal of suggestive content, marijuana references and/or pop culture references from some of the game’s textures), whereas the GOG version seems to be the original uncensored version.

Anyway, this review has been nearly two decades in the making. So, without any further ado, let’s take a look at “SiN”:

“SiN” is a first-person shooter game from 1998 by Ritual Entertainment, which uses a modified version of the “Quake II” engine. Set in a dystopian cyberpunk future, you play as John Blade – an elite member of a private security organisation called HardCorps (pronounced “Hardcore”, because it’s from the 1990s).

Being from 1998, Blade only looks THIS realistic during the game’s few pre-rendered cutscenes though!

After a report of a robbery at the local bank, Blade goes to investigate – with a sarcastic ex-computer hacker called JC providing remote support for him. Of course, what begins as a routine “shoot the bad guys” mission quickly turns into something much larger and much more menacing…..

One of the first things I will say about this game is that it contains some of the best and some of the worst elements of 1990s FPS gaming. It is a game that you will hate to love, or love to hate or both.

For everything it gets right, it also gets something wrong. For every moment of gameplay that is brilliantly fun, there will be another one that will frustrate the hell out of you. Let’s just say that I’m glad I got another two decades of FPS gaming experience before playing the full version of this game!

Seriously, don’t let the easy on-rails turret segment at the beginning of the first level fool you, this is a challenging game!

Yes, this isn’t an easy modern FPS game! Even on “standard” difficulty, this game is hard. HardCorps, even! Sometimes, this challenging difficulty is achieved in enjoyable and fair ways (which fans of other challenging old FPS games like “Final Doom”, “Blood”, “Duke 3D” etc.. will love). When it is at it’s best, the combat in this game is thrillingly challenging, and well within the traditions of 1990s FPS gaming.

Yay! Late 1990s FPS gaming 🙂 Seriously, there will be very few combat-based screenshots in this review because the game’s combat requires your full attention and reflexes!

Plus, this game contains a proper saving system – with none of that annoying modern “checkpoint saving” rubbish either! So, remember to save regularly! Seriously, save your game once every minute at least! I’m not joking here…

Seriously, you’ll be seeing this death animation (and hearing the accompanying voice-over from JC) a LOT! So, save often!

But, for all of the “good” difficulty, a fair amount of the game’s difficulty is also achieved in all sorts of cheap, borderline unfair and/or annoying ways.

This can include things like placing long-distance snipers directly behind the beginning of a level (and it’ll take you several deaths before you work out where they’re shooting from), sending infinitely respawning waves of henchmen at you during one level, extremely gloomy areas with few to no light sources, a *ugh* stealth level, a (thankfully optional) vehicle segment, occasionally stingy ammo/health/weapon distribution etc…

Yes, a stealth level! One of those boring, frustrating, slow-paced levels that has no place within a thrilling FPS game!

The game’s difficulty curve is also a little bit uneven too – with earlier boss battles being considerably more difficult than the final boss battle at the end of the game, to give one example. Likewise, some of the game’s more difficult levels occur earlier or during the middle of the game, rather than consistently towards the end.

So, yes, you will need the kind of perseverance and determination that can only be gained by playing other fiendishly difficult retro FPS games and/or modern fan-made levels for “Doom II” in order to complete this game. And, yes, it can be completed! Just don’t expect to do it in a single weekend though!

Like a lot of old FPS games, “SiN” is a full-length game! It’s up to you whether you consider this to be either “good value for money” or “Oh my god! This game is so long! I’ll never finish it!“, but it contains something like 20-30 challenging levels – with some larger levels being split into two halves.

However, the quality of the level design is extremely variable. For every great, interesting-looking, thrillingly fun and/or inventively non-linear level – there’s also a level that you will probably get completely and utterly stuck on.

Often, you’ll be able to work out what to do after you’ve spent 10-80 minutes wandering around in circles. But, occasionally, you’ll find yourself so stuck that you’ll actually have to look online for a walkthrough – only to find that the solution is seemingly “obvious”, but implemented in a way that doesn’t make it obvious to the player.

For example, all you need to do to lower this lift is to press a little button. Yes, that tiny little thing shrouded in shadows that is really, really easy to miss if you don’t know to look for it! *shakes fist angrily*

I almost had to check a walkthrough for this bit. Fortunately, I eventually happened to look upwards and notice a crane on top of a tall building nearby that I was supposed to shoot.

Still, that said, some areas of this game look really cool. Yes, there are a lot of generic-looking levels, but this game can get really creative sometimes – including locations such as an oilrig, a vaguely “Goldeneye”-style jungle segment, a surprisingly good underwater segment, futuristic areas with cool lighting, a creepy mansion etc..

Seriously, more of the game should look like this!

Finally! An underwater level that I DON’T hate!

The weapon and enemy designs in this game are acceptable, but not quite as creative as many FPS games from the mid-late 1990s. Although the later levels give you some slightly more interesting weapons and include a greater variety of enemies to fight, many of the early levels mostly involve just fighting almost identical henchmen (who are very vaguely similar to the Strogg from “Quake II” but with different graphics) with the standard pistol, shotgun and assault rifle. *yawn*

Still, there is a certain element of skill to the combat, since this game allows for headshots (which you’re going to have to use regularly, since the henchmen are bullet sponges otherwise). Likewise, in the earlier parts the game, enemies will occasionally shoot your weapon out of your hands.

However, you have to manually pick up any ammo etc.. that enemies drop by pressing the “use” button. Yes, you’ll get used to doing this after a while, but it can be confusing at first.

Even so, the later parts of the game are certainly better, and the monsters on offer include robot spiders, robotic zombies (the Strogg again?), large muscular mutants and even a monster who reminded me a bit of the Bandersnatch mutants from an early 2000s Playstation 2 game called “Resident Evil: Code Veronica X“:

Yay! Survival horror 🙂

“SiN” also comes from an age where FPS games weren’t dreary, “realistic”, ultra-serious things. In other words, this game actually contains some creativity and humour! Whether it’s the numerous sarcastic conversations that Blade and JC have over their radio or lots of silly background details, this game doesn’t take itself ultra-seriously.

For example, the bad guys in the first level quite literally kiss their asses goodbye when they die.

Yes, this humour might not be to everyone’s taste, but it really helps to add some light-hearted fun to the game, not to mention that it also keeps the player’s spirits up during some of the more frustrating and/or annoying parts of the game. For example, whenever Blade kills one of the monsters, robots, mutants or identical henchmen you’ll face throughout the game, he’ll sometimes say a vaguely “badass” line such as “Ha! Schooled ya!” etc… Seriously, this is wonderfully 90s 🙂

However, I should probably also point out that this game is a bit “politically incorrect” by modern standards. I have mixed views about this.

On the one hand, the game’s immature humour can still be absolutely hilarious at times. However, some other parts of the game do seem a little uncomfortable by modern standards – such as the game’s “men vs women” theme (eg: Elexis’ speeches, Blade’s frequent use of the word “bitch” etc..). So, yes, this game can be somewhat eyebrow-raising when played these days.

In terms of music, this game is reasonably good. Although some of the music is kind of forgettable, some of the music – especially in the later levels – is fairly good, and it really helps to add some atmosphere to the game. Seriously, I’m kind of annoyed that GOG didn’t get the rights to include a MP3 copy of the soundtrack for this game as a bonus (like they’ve done with some other games).

The voice-acting in this game is absolutely brilliant too. Whether it’s Blade’s gloriously cheesy “tought grizzled action hero” dialogue, or JC’s constant sarcasm over the radio or Elexis’ melodramatic “sophisticated villain” dialogue, the voice acting is wonderfully fun 🙂

All in all, this is both a great and a terrible game. If you’re looking for 1990s nostalgia, you’ll find it in abundance here. But, don’t even think about playing this game unless you’ve had a couple of decades’ worth of FPS gaming experience! This is a game that demands perseverance, and which will barely play fair with you sometimes. Likewise, the level design is of varying quality too. Still, it’s imaginative and silly and creative and… well… FPS games don’t really do this kind of thing any more.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get a three.

Extra Review: Rage Of Light – Complete Digital Discography (Music)

Although I first discovered a couple of music videos by trance metal/ melodic death metal band Rage Of Light on Youtube a month or two ago (and bought a couple of their songs at the time), I recently ended up finding a video that included clips from several of their older songs from 2016.

And, after noticing that a MP3 copy of their current digital discography (containing an EP and three singles) cost a little over six quid on Bandcamp (the listed price is six Euros, but it was more like £6.20-30 when UK VAT was automatically applied), I decided to splash out on it. Hence this review.

So, let’s take a look at Rage Of Light’s current digital discography:

This is what the band’s digital discography currently contains at the time of writing.

Let’s start with the digital singles. “I Can, I Will” is one of the first songs by this band that I heard and it is probably their strongest song. It is a brilliantly intense mixture between melodic synth-pop/ symphonic metal- style vocals and growled death metal vocals.

All of this is backed up by a complex, resplendent mixture of crunchier guitars and electronic trance music that reminded me a little bit of a much heavier and more intense version of the background music from an old computer game 🙂 It is a fast, complex, cathartic and catchy song.

The next digital single, “Mechanicals”, is a song that I was indifferent to at first, but it grew on me after listening to it a couple of times.

This is a sci-fi themed song about some kind of robot attack on a space station. It starts with an echoey distress signal, before some ominous clanking and tapping sounds play over piano music. Then, an electric guitar cuts in and there are a few ominously slow/quieter vocals. Then there’s a shout and the death metal-style guitars kick in.

Like with many of the band’s songs, this one contains a good contrast between melodic and more intense music. Personally, I vastly prefer the melodic segments of this song – with the chorus vocals (“Here come the mechanicals…”) and guitars just sounding a little bit too much like generic shouty/intense metal. But, the rest of the song has a really cool symphonic metal/ power metal kind of sound to it that is really awesome. At 7:18 minutes long, it is also the band’s longest song too.

Also, a couple of the quiet electronic background sounds are vaguely reminiscient of Iron Maiden’s “The Final Frontier” and some of Perturbator’s music 🙂

The final digital single, a cover of Amon Amarth’s “Twilight Of The Thunder God”, is pretty interesting. It starts with a wonderfully gothic piano solo, before the guitars kick in and lead singer Melissa Bonny lets out a suitably intense and prolonged death metal growl.

As a whole, this cover version is a little bit more “electronic” and “gothic” than Amon Amarth’s original version of the song. The growled vocals have a suitably hoarse sound to them and – for the most part, the electronic and guitar music roils menacingly in the background – with a few sudden moments of intense guitar and/or synthesiser music. It’s a pretty cool cover that is both reminiscent of the original song, whilst also being it’s own thing at the same time.

The band’s 2016 EP “Chasing A Reflection” starts out with a song called “Beautiful Slave” that initially sounds a lot like a vaguely Xandria-style symphonic metal song, before the trance music really kicks in. All of this melody is later contrasted with a few brilliantly intense growled death metal segments. There are also a few classic heavy metal-style guitar flourishes too 🙂

This song is one of the more melodic Rage Of Light songs and, after “I Can, I Will”, it is probably one of my favourite songs by the band. It is a wonderfully brilliant mixture between melody, intensity, metal and electronica 🙂

“Deception” starts out with a jauntily gothic piano instrumental, paired with some dramatic drums and, later, some menacingly understated gothic synth music. The intense electronic background music that plays during many parts of this song is pretty cool too. Like with the other songs, there’s a contrast between growls and melody, intensity and quietness. However, the lyrics to this song seem a little bit random. Even so, it’s still a reasonably cool song.

“Lollipop (Candyman)” is comedy metal at it’s best 🙂 If you have childhood memories of the 1990s, you’ll probably remember an annoyingly catchy pop band called Aqua. Well, this song is a trance metal-style cover of one of their songs, and it is hilarious. Plus, due to the fact that it is heavy metal music, the song’s catchiness actually works in it’s favour too 🙂

“Sick” is a more intense, growly kind of song. The trance elements fade into the background slightly and there is more emphasis on the heavy, crunchy guitars. The melodic vocal segments in this song are also more like traditional symphonic metal than synth-pop too. This is one of those songs where, although it didn’t really impress me when I first saw the music video for it, it has grown on me a bit after listening to the MP3 a couple of times.

The final song on the EP, “Requiem” starts out in a slower and more melodic way, before becoming more intense. This song contains a lot more electronic elements than many of the other songs and is probably the most “trance music”-like song in their current discography. It also includes a couple of vaguely dubstep-like electronic segments too. Of course, it also contains death metal and symphonic metal elements too. The more intensive mixture of styles is a little bit puzzling at first, but it works reasonably well.

All in all, this discography is pretty cool. Although only a few songs really grabbed my attention at first (eg: “I Can, I Will”, “Lollipop” and “Beautiful Slave”), the rest of the collection has grown on me after listening to it a couple of times.

If you like intense metal that isn’t afraid to be melodic and creative too, then you’ll like this. Somehow, the mixture of trance music and metal works surprisingly well and this is a modern band that is probably worth taking a look at.

If I had to give the discography a rating out of five, it would get a four.

Mini Review: “Hanging Gardens” [WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ “GZDoom”]

Well, although I’ve got a couple of retro and/or indie games that I plan to review at some point, I was also worried that there might not be a “Doom II”/”Final Doom” WAD review this month.

But, not wanting to play yet another “vanilla” WAD from the 1990s (sorry about all of those recently, many interesting new WADs these days seem to have higher system requirements than they probably should), I decided to search for WADs/TCs from 2011. These would be modern enough to be interesting, but old enough to be guaranteed to work on my classic mid-2000s computer.

After a while, I ended up finding a rather interesting-looking WAD called “Hanging Gardens” by none other than Skillsaw. If you’ve never heard of him before, I have two words for you – “Ancient Aliens” (seriously, play it!). Another WAD by Skillsaw that is also well worth checking out is a somewhat shorter one called “Lunatic” (or possibly one called “Valiant).

Unusually, I ended up returning to the GZDoom source port [version 1.8.10.0 ] whilst playing this WAD, since it apparently only works with GZDoom. Plus, despite the text file’s warning that the WAD is fairly system-intensive, it played fairly smoothly on my vintage mid-2000s computer [1.8 ghz single core, 2gb RAM and GeForce 6100], with the game only crashing once due to an error of some kind.

So, let’s take a look at “Hanging Gardens”:

“Hanging Gardens” is a single-level WAD from 2011 that includes new textures, effects, music and monsters. From what I’ve read, this level was originally going to be part of a larger project (that was abandoned for some reason). This is a shame because this level, short as it is, looks really really cool – even if it is missing Skillsaw’s usual sci-fi flourishes:

If anything, this level probably takes more inspiration from the classic “Serious Sam” games. But, wow, it looks really cool 🙂

The level is, as the title suggests, set within a large Ancient Babylon/Ancient Egypt-style outdoor area that is filled with a reasonably large quantity of monsters.

In keeping with the “Serious Sam” influence, one of the two new monsters that can be found here is a Doom-style version of the infamous ‘Beheaded Bomber’ monsters from the first two “Serious Sam” games (who also turn up in Skillsaw’s “Valiant” WAD). As you would expect, these monsters scream loudly and run towards you, before exploding as soon as they hit you.

And, yes, they even have the familiar “Aaaarrrghhh!” sound effect 🙂

The other new monsters are these two level bosses who, if you have the BFG, aren’t as tough as they perhaps should be.

Plus, in true Skillsaw fashion, the level also takes a rather traditionalist attitude towards the controls. What this means is that both crouching and jumping are disabled by default. Still, given that the emphasis of the level is on running, exploring and fighting, this doesn’t really get in the way of the gameplay.

Another interesting change is that the level features new gore effects. Whilst these don’t reach the excesses of “Brutal Doom“, they result in an oddly satisfying explosion of red, green or blue blood (depending on the monster) whenever you shoot at one of the monsters.

Yes! THIS is how to do “gruesome” Doom properly! These new blood effects make the gameplay a bit more visceral, without veering into the cruel sadism of mods like “Brutal Doom”.

But, despite Skillsaw’s reputation for challenging “slaughtermap”-style levels and the fact that he’s taken influence from the game that spawned this sub-genre of “Doom II” levels, this level is surprisingly… easy (relatively speaking, of course).

Yes, there’s a fairly large number of monsters (including an arch-vile or two) and the level is a lot of fun – but the vast outdoor areas and the generous quantity of health items means that dodging, fighting and surviving is a bit easier than you might expect if you’re an experienced “Doom II” player.

Literally, all you have to do is to keep running and dodging. There’s lots of room and a surprising number of megaspheres/ soulspheres. Still, it’s probably a good level for people who are new to this sub-genre of “Doom II” levels.

In fact, the most difficult part of the entire level is getting the red key. Surprisingly, despite going round in circles for at least ten minutes looking for a switch or an accessible ledge, I couldn’t find any way to get to it. And, reluctantly, I eventually resorted to briefly using the “no clipping” cheat.

I’m still not sure how you’re supposed to get up there legitimately. The only ledge overlooking this platform is blocked by several tree sprites.

In terms of the music, it’s a fairly cool piece of 1980s-style synth music. Still, it’s a little bit quiet and understated (to the point that I barely noticed it most of the time when I was playing). Although it’s still cool, I think that more of an Ancient Egypt-style piece of background music would have been a better fit with this level.

All in all, this is a reasonably good – albeit flawed – level. Yes, it looks really cool and there’s some interesting new stuff too, but the difficulty is a little on the easy side (relatively speaking) and I’m still not sure how you’re supposed to get the red key legitimately. Still, it’s certainly an enjoyable way to spend 45-60 minutes, not to mention that it’s always cool to see another Skillsaw level too.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would maybe just about possibly get a four.

Review: “Hotline Miami [Original Version]” (Computer Game)

Well, it’s been a while since I last played a game that was made this decade. Still, during a sale on GOG last summer, I happened to spot a rather interesting-looking indie game called “Hotline Miami” which seemed like it might actually run on my classic mid-2000s computer.

During the sale on GOG, the DRM-free direct download of this game I bought was reduced to £1.19. Although, at the time of writing, the full price for it is £7.79 on GOG and £6.99 on Steam (albeit with Steam’s DRM). In terms of length, I’d say that this game took me about 7-10 hours (over about two days) to complete. Still, if you aren’t used to “challenging” old school-style games, then it might take you longer.

Surprisingly, the GOG version doesn’t come with that much in the way of extras. However, if you have VLC media player (or anything that will play “.ogg” audio files), then the game’s soundtrack can be listened to if you’re willing to go poking around in the game’s directory.

Likewise, if you’ve got an older machine, the GOG version of this game comes in two versions. There’s the default “GL Version” of the game and another version called the “original version” that can be found in the game’s directory. The “original version” was the only version that would actually run on my vintage computer, albeit with over a minute of loading time before the program began. Still, once it loaded, it ran fairly smoothly.

I should also warn you that this review will contain some (unrealistic) GRUESOME IMAGES. I’ll try to keep them to a minimum but, since this is a commercial game, I feel an obligation to show you at least a small part of what to expect if you buy it.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Hotline Miami”:

“Hotline Miami” is a surreal retro-style action/ dark comedy/ horror/ combat-based puzzle game from 2012, which is set in Florida during the late 1980s. For the bulk of the game’s 20 chapters, you play as a man called Jacket who gets mysterious answering machine messages that tell him to visit various buildings around the city.

Oooh, a message!

Whenever he arrives, the buildings are almost inevitably filled with heavily-armed members of the Russian Mafia. Instead of running away like a sensible person, Jacket merely puts on a mask and decides to kill all of the gangsters instead. At best, he’s some kind of creepy brainwashed vigilante and, at worst, he’s a serial killer of some kind. Seriously, you’ll have to come to your own conclusions about this.

And, yes, his grip on reality isn’t entirely solid either…

One of the first things that I will say about this game is that it looks like it was designed under the influence of some fairly serious mind-altering substances. Still, everything from the hilariously bizarre dialogue to the glowing psychedelic backgrounds really help to give the game a sense of personality. Likewise, the surreal humour of the game is also welcome comic relief from the more disturbing and/or ultra-violent elements of the game.

And, make no mistake, this is a violent game! Although it isn’t the most violent game I’ve ever played, it is probably somewhere between Zombie Shooter and Brutal Doom in terms of sheer brutality.

Although the gory violence in this game is somewhat cartoonish, it sometimes has a rather sadistic edge to it that will make your character seem little better than the gangsters he is fighting. Likewise, after completing each level, you have to walk back through the entire level and gaze with disgust upon the grisly bloodbath that your character has created.

This element of the game is probably designed to undermine the sense of victory that a player is usually expected to feel after each level. And, yes, the levels will often be CONSIDERABLY more grisly than the example in this screenshot!

The game’s story is kept intriguingly mysterious, with plenty of gaps for you to fill with your own imagination. Some story elements are barely explained and some are left deliberately unexplained. Likewise, between levels, your character will do mundane things like getting a pizza or renting a video, which contrasts heavily with the grisly events of the rest of the game. However, these scenes can get a little repetitive though.

Still, the game is set somewhere where you can still get movies on VHS! Awesome 🙂

As for the gameplay, the game contains a surprisingly innovative combat system. Yes, innovation. In a modern game. The main twist in this game is that, despite the cartoonish graphics, the combat system is surprisingly “realistic”. What this mostly means is that you have exactly the same amount of health points as each of your adversaries do.

In other words, if you get shot once or struck with a heavy object, you’re done for! So, instead of mindlessly shooting your way through waves of adversaries, you actually have to think and play strategically. You have to figure out the “rules” that the game’s AI follows, you have to know when to retreat and when to fight, you have to memorise enemy locations, you have to choose and use any available weapons carefully and, most importantly, you have to attack the gangsters before they attack you.

And, yes, there’s even a “combo” system too. You can unlock extra stuff at the end of each level if you get a high score. And, best of all, NO micro-transactions 🙂 If you want cool stuff, you actually have to win it yourself!

It’s kind of like how the most thrilling parts of old early-mid 1990s FPS games are the parts where you’ve only got one health point left and you have to figure out how to get past a horde of monsters. This game is basically that, for almost the entire game 🙂 In other words, although this game is filled with ultra-violent combat, it’s actually more of a puzzle game than an action game.

For example, you have to work out how to fight these six guards (and an adorable guard dog), with only one “health point” left.

This is helped by the fact that, like in 1990s FPS games, the iteration time is incredibly quick. Once you die (and this will happen a lot!) you just tap “R” and you’ll instantly re-start that segment of the level. Although this sounds repetitive, it allows you to quickly learn each level and to form new plans and strategies. Plus, to keep things interesting, the weapons and enemy behaviour are randomised slightly between restarts.

In keeping with the theme of your character being pretty much the same as the gangsters he fights, you can only carry one weapon at a time. However, since most adversaries drop weapons, this usually means that you’ll not only be switching between weapons fairly quickly but that you’ll also have to make strategic decisions about which one of the nearby weapons you want to use.

Likewise, you can also do a few extra things like throwing empty weapons at enemies and performing brutal “execution” moves on unconscious foes (albeit with the risk that another enemy might spot you doing this).

Aside from the top-down perspective, the only real concession in favour of the player is that – before each mission – you are given a choice of animal masks to wear. These masks are unlocked throughout the game and each one will give you some kind of special ability (eg: fast movement, silent weapons etc…). This element of the game can really come in handy, not to mention that it really adds to the surreal atmosphere of the game too:

Needless to say, all of the masks have silly names too.

In addition to the “everyday life” segments I mentioned earlier in this review, the standard combat gameplay is also broken up by several puzzle-based boss fights that will often require you to discover and use one particular strategy. But, if you played a lot of games from the 1990s, then you’re probably more than familiar with this type of boss battle.

The only other major gameplay variation is the fact that one level is an *ugh* stealth-based level. This level involves sneaking around a hospital, whilst trying to stay out of sight from the doctors and policemen who wander the halls. In addition to this, you’ll also get random headaches (that mean you can’t move or hide for a few seconds) if you walk too quickly or too far. Seriously, I absolutely loathe and despise this type of slow, dull, nerve-wracking gameplay and, if it wasn’t for walkthroughs on Youtube, I’d have probably stopped playing there and then!

Yes, 19 of the game’s 20 levels are awesome. THIS is the one that ISN’T!

In terms of level design, this game is surprisingly good. Many levels are split into 2-4 segments and each one of these is like a small combat-based puzzle.

The segments are often long enough to be challenging, but short enough that having to restart them numerous times won’t feel like too much of a chore. The level design is occasionally mixed up with the addition of new elements, such as windows that can be fired through or – at one point – a booby trapped door.

And the scene where you figure out how to deal with it is truly epic!

Likewise, there’s a point where you think that you’ve finished the game, only to be presented with another 3-4 levels featuring a different character. These levels include a few gameplay tweaks (such as only allowing you to use one specific weapon) but their appearance after a credits sequence can sometimes make it feel like the game has outstayed it’s welcome a little.

In terms of the art design, this game is outstanding! Seriously, I cannot praise it highly enough. The game uses a very distinctive art style that has been heavily influenced by the 1980s (and possibly various hallucinogens too). In contrast to the dull and gritty settings of many modern games, everywhere here is bright and vivid – and the game uses a more limited colour palette to beautiful effect in so many ways.

Seriously, it looks gloriously ’80s in the best possible way 🙂

The game’s music is also outstandingly brilliant too! Whether it’s the frantic new retro wave synth music from Perturbator or the eerily distorted 1960s hippie music that plays in the main character’s apartment, the music is an absolutely perfect fit with the themes and visual style of the game. One of my favourite background tracks has to be one that has obviously taken heavy influence from the end titles music from “Blade Runner”.

All in all, although “Hotline Miami” isn’t a perfect game, it’s still astonishingly fun and brilliantly unique. In addition to frantic, strategic combat-based gameplay, it also includes lots of interesting art and hilariously bizarre humour. It’s a modern retro game in all of the right ways. Yes, the game’s surreal nature and ultra-violent content might not be for everyone. But, if you aren’t easily shocked and you love things like old FPS games, Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, the 1980s etc.. then you’ll be right at home here.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get at least a four.