Saturday, April 25, 2020

RIP Hector Garrido

I had heard the name Hector Garrido but I didn't know much about him other than his work. He was an Argentinian artist who immigrated to the U.S. and began working professionally in the 1950s. While he did a lot of book covers for the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew novels among others and plates for the Bradford Exchange he will be forever immortalised as one of the people who brought G.I.Joe: A Real American Hero to life by creating the artwork that accompanied each action figure.

Because Palitoy, owners of the distribution licence for G.I.Joe toys under the Action Force name had a marketing design team bereft of any talent whatsoever, it would not be until they ceded market control to Hasbro before we began to see the proper artwork (and Larry Hama's filecards) printed on Action Force in the EU.

In many cases the artwork was a key factor in deciding which character to buy next. This may often have been the incorrect decision because Garrido's artwork could sometimes illustrate a toy in a much better light than what was rendered in plastic. But the images nonetheless are just as clear in my mind now over 30 years later as when I was playing with them.

Garrido retired some 20 years ago and it was announced yesterday that he passed away on Sunday last at 92. Rest in peace Mr. Garrido, and thank you.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Replay Review: Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy Remastered [2015]

Note: The original game was either Indigo Prophecy (U.S.) or Fahrenheit (other territories) and released in 2005 by Quantic Dream. In 2015 Aspyr released an uncensored Remaster with UHD resolution support and HD textures. The latter version is reviewed here.

Despite Quantic Dream being a french production house I played this when it was released originally in 2005. I found it a very unique experience; interesting premise, quick-time-event (QTE) gameplay and had the production quality of a movie with it's camera views and angles, high quality voice acting and Hollywood class score delivered by Angelo Twin Peaks Badalamenti. While I thought the story was interesting, I'll admit a lot of the gameplay wasn't great. Still I thoroughly enjoyed it, and both the game as a whole as well as creator David Cage were nominated for Whopper Awards that year.

I had been looking forward to playing Fahrenheit again with this "remaster" after picking it up on sale and got that chance recently and took it to mark the game's 15th anniversary this year. Sadly this took a bit of determination to get working; The game won't launch as normal, it will sit there with a blank screen after the logo. To get around this you have to either ALT+TAB to the separate error console and 'IGNORE' the call stack error messages or press Return during the blank screen period which 'hopefully' launches the game. When first launching you choose your language - In my case English. When you get around the first issue, the game launches in french. You have to google translate the screens to create a profile to verify what it is you're doing which is fairly obvious, but still... The game will likely crash when you create a profile, so restart, select the selected profile and continue. You finally change the language to English in the in-game menu but it doesn't save this setting in the main menu - it will however save language in your game so say "Oui" to "Lodez Voux" or whatever the fuck you figure out the french is - I mean seriously!? Of all the fucking languages this could have been defaulted to!!!!

That launching bullshit pales in comparison to a corrupted save error. If your save is corrupted you  have to start again from scratch. The error translated message was "Loading failed! The backup you are trying to load is Corrupted" which I presume is a mistranslation of "Your savefile is corrupted." Thankfully this only happened once after less than 90 minutes, but if it had happened again I'd have given up. Steam discussions reveal the hoops one has to go through to get everything working, it's a bit more than one would expect for something released just 5 years ago, it would be more acceptable if you were trying to get the original DVD version running on a modern system. Aspyr were glad to listen and engage people who suffered from the errors, but seemed to be satisfied that people were able to workaround the launching problems and simply apologised to anyone who got a corrupted save as opposed to implementing a fix. No patch of any kind was ever issued. Certainly no goodwill earned by Aspyr either.

Anyway, EVENTUALLY it's working, it defaults to 4K and the graphics settings are as good as I can expect due to the age of the game regardless of the retexturing. Model polygon counts are unchanged. I couldn't change the settings other than volume of characters, SFX or music, language or difficulty level. Anything else resulted in a crash. I played on easy mode as my ol' reflexes and co-ordination are not what they were in my 20's and I was able to play away without any additional issues. 

You mainly play as one of three different characters at different points throughout the game. You are Lucas who finds himself being possessed and committing a gruesome murder in a New York diner restroom. You also play Carla and Tyler, the two detectives who are hot on Lucas' trail. This puts you in the unique position of investigating the murder you've 'done'. You elaborately hide clues only to 'find' them when playing as the cops! Later the game devolves from a gripping noir-ish serial-killer manhunt into esoteric concepts like the occult, ancient prophecies, saving a orphaned girl who is the only hope of saving the planet from the next ice-age, you know, regular stuff. So it sort of falls off the rails, but despite it's shortcomings it still engages.

At time of release, Quantic Dream had achieved success with developing The Nomad Soul for PC and Dreamcast published by Eidos and by all accounts they upped their game to create Fahrenheit for PC, PS2 and Xbox, published by Atari. Interviews with creator David Cage revealed he was influenced by the TV series 24 which often used multiple views of the same scene in order to see all the action. While the work of David Lynch as well as the movies Fight Club and Angel Heart had a major influence on the story. The impact of The Matrix on the fight choreography design is evident to anyone who has played.

Fahrenheit is still the thoroughly engaging game it was. It is very atmospheric, the music and score have a lot to do with setting the mood. The graphical enhancements and presentation in 4K are quite acceptable considering the game's age. You don't really have to shoot anything apart from one mini-game target-practice sequence, and it's not a point-and-click adventure. It's probably unlike most things you've ever played especially if you've never played the QTE-fest Shenmue. My favourite aspect though is how much like a movie it's presented, only here you get some control over the direction.

Quantic Dream have since achieved success with Heavy Rain, Beyond Two Souls and Detroit: Become Human and while originally developed exclusively for the Playstation 3/4, I'm looking forward to them being released on Steam later this year. 


There are three significant issues which can't be ignored. 1. The launching issues reveal that this remaster remains unpatched - so either Aspyr are unwilling or unable to fix the issues. 2. The QTE gameplay, I can understand why some people may find it frustrating, there are sequences you may have to try several times (the eagle-eyed military base guards got me) to get right. And 3. The story starts out fantastic and engaging, but descends into utter madness. That's why I can only recommend this when it's on sale for less than €2 which happens fairly frequently. 

Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy Remastered is available from Steam for €8.99 [DO NOT PAY THIS!] Humble Bundle €8.99, Fanatical for €8.99 [€1.79 at time of writing] or Green Man Gaming €8.99 [but just 59c at time of writing]. 
Alternatively, the original 2005 version (non-remastered) is available from GOG for €5.39

Monday, April 06, 2020

Covid-19 Emergency Instruction - Quick Cut T-shirt Mask


The US Marine Corps Combat Service Support Schools have issued this instruction showing a no-sew skivvy shirt facemask. It may also be useful for civilians to use on your own shirts if necessary at this time.

Remain at home.

Major General "Whopper" Creedon, April 6th 2020