The good, the bad and the very ugly games

By Aidan Finn, Staff Writer

It’s an ugly time in the semester. The adrenaline and frenzy of new friends and RSO groups has passed, the week long “break” is wrought with anxiety for the coming two weeks of exam crunch, then it’s either a sigh of relief or greater sigh of defeat once those scores come back. 

Alas, as we all freeze to death trying to memorize half a semester of vocab words and formulas, there is no better place to suffer than your local library. While misery can find company in your search for  quiet spaces and tables not littered with the entire insides of a single student’s backpack, you can also explore the various materials you can rent- including video games.

I’ve utilized the student libraries for gaming rentals, more specifically retro titles (given a significant portion of titles on offer at the main stacks predate the Obama administration) that are much cheaper to rent and binge rather than collect from stores. Well, cheaper in an immediate sense, not thinking about tuition and all.

All of these games are available to rent from the main library (as well as the various resident hall mini libraries) and all of these games are ugly. They are pretty bad as well, but also very good in some departments. 

Above all, they were very memorable experiences I wouldn’t have played if they didn’t come from the the University of Illinois main library. 

“Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days”

The Kane and Lynch games are pretty infamous in the gaming review scene, with the origin of various high profile journalists and a whole news site coming from this series inadvertently. 

The sequel, which remains the only game preserved through Xbox’s backwards compatibility program, follows two middle-aged hit men on a mission in China to undergo a business deal, but they inadvertently kill the daughter of a mob boss and find themselves on a violent quest to escape Shanghai alive. 

Ugly would be the defining term of this game in truly disgusting aesthetics of grungy urban decay, with morally bankrupt protagonists constantly swearing and blowing heads off anyone they run into. The game opts for a 2000s shaky-cam direction with gore being censored and the camera being blinded with lens flares during gunfire. 

If you want a B-movie Die Hard clone that you can beat in an afternoon, this seems to be the only game up your alley. 

“Hitman: Absolution”

The precursor to the excellent 2016 reboot of the franchise, “Absolution” is a weird middle ground between a 2010 “Gears of War” knock off and a low budget “Splinter Cell.” Ugly is the name of the game, as all the characters are grotesque, with a weird grunge aesthetic that contradicts the slick, stylish visuals of the prior Hitman titles. 

The plot, like the art direction, deviates from the norm of  Agent 47 by having a linear story of 47 trying to protect a little girl who has been genetically engineered to be a superweapon. Trying for a plot in a game series iconic for it’s gameplay  is a mistake learned from “Doom 3,” and this fared no better with it unfolding in a predictable bore. 

Still, the creative violence of “Hitman” is here with unique means of eliminating targets and getting past obstacles still present, and shooting does feel more responsive and viable than the reboot- given it’s near mandatory in certain sections. Fun can still be had with this one, and it is backwards compatible as well. 

“Silent Hill: Downpour”

The most interesting of the collection and likely the rarest of the PS3 games available outside of the physical Yakuza titles: “Silent Hill: Downpour.”

“Silent Hill: Downpour” is the final American Silent Hill game released as it killed the franchise for years until a remake of “Silent Hill 2” was announced this year. It’s a 2012 survival horror game that came out when the whole genre was going through a very ugly phase, with games like “Dead Space 3” and “Resident Evil 6” shoving as much action into their “horror” games as possible, all failing and nearly killing their series with it. 

Downpour is no exception, with it having much more combat then traditional Silent Hill games, but it does provide a memorable experience as it attempts to realize the iconic world of Silent Hill in a way that doesn’t head down.

The game is open world with side quests littering the town and monsters casually roaming in the fog, the atmosphere being really tight for such a dated-looking game. The PS3 version suffered from frame rate issues, and it’s lighting can go from stellar to garbage depending on the wear the camera is positioned. The game is in third person, a big step but also loses the unique perspective the fixed camera angle that survival horror gaming grew from. 

The plot tries to have depth akin to the prior games and succeeds in retaining an interesting story line of a convict being thrust into the nightmare town, having to confront his guilt — albeit does end up being a plot that falls apart after thinking about it for a few minutes. Why doesn’t he leave the town? Nothing is stopping him from running away. 

Either way, it remains a must play for series fans who have been starving for decades as well as gaming enthusiasts looking to explore franchise killing entries. 

 

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