Christmas is a time for over-indulgence. Most of our workplaces have shut down for at least a few days, and we tend to see it as an opportunity to gorge on mince pies, chocolates and alcohol. This is something I've been trying to reduce recently. It occurred to me that there are several people who we exchange gifts with. However, many of these gifts essentially boil down to wine-swapping or biscuit swapping. The present Mrs. Stanley agreed, this was actually quite pointless, so we've negotiated with the relevant parties and all gone down to cards only. Ergo, we don't have thirteen boxes of biscuits we don't even like to get through! (I always managed to polish off the wine having said that...)
One area which I DO indulge in over Christmas is a time-honoured tradition, which the present Mrs. Stanley would prefer I abandoned. That tradition is gaming. Now I'm a busy man, I work full-time, write novels, contribute to DriveTribe, help the present Mrs. Stanley with her Masters, help with the housework and help to look after our two kids. These days there's rarely much time for gaming. That said I AM a veteran gamer. I've been gaming since 1982 over a plethora of consoles and devices. I'm currently mainly playing on Xbox One and have over 30,000 gamer points. On Xbox Live, I'm 'Smokemare'
These days I basically can't buy myself a game. I know I won't have time to play them, so I find it psychologically impossible to spend money on them. Therefore, I tend to ask my relatives who basically can't be bothered to waste time sitting down, racking their brains for present ideas - to get me one for Christmas. (The present Mrs. Stanley refuses to take part of course - on principle.)
This year I asked family members for 'Star Wars: Fallen Order' and 'Resident Evil 2 Remake'.
But hang on - you're a car person! Why not a driving game?!
Well, I do own driving games. I even shared some footage on here of my Forza Motorsport and Forza Horizon footage. What I tend to find with driving games though, is I don't finish them!
Why? Well, they're fun. They're sort of enjoyable to play. But in the same way as Bon Jovi are sort of enjoyable to listen to. Bon Jovi are the Korma of metal, but if I'm honest - if I order a curry I tend to go for a Jalfrezi or a Madras.
I was playing Resident Evil 2 Remake the other night when this occurred to me. Fallen Order is a great game, the combat is literally rock-hard. The parkour is easy, but when it comes to fighting the game is basically 'Dark Souls' with a lightsabre. It's got a great story though and it's fun. However, it ISN'T Resident Evil.
So what's so special about Resident Evil?
Forget Resident Evil. It was a Play Station 1 classic, but I only really remember it for horrible voice-acting, low-budget cut scenes and the most frustratingly slow load times between rooms I've ever witnessed in a game. Resident Evil 2 however was amazing. I played through the original version on the PS1 back in 1998 when I was essentially on the verge of dying of Chicken Pox. I was in bed for about two weeks, but during that time I played Resident Evil 2 to death. I A-ranked every mission and beat all the extras except the Tofu survivor.
I asked for Resident Evil 2 Remake out of nostalgia, but having played it - I realise it's so much more. They've retained the feel and tone of the original, but the acting, the 3D modelling and the texturing, the sound. Everything is turned up to defcon 5. If you play it, play at night, alone with your headphones on. Playing it feels like being immersed in a horror film. I loved Resident Evil 4, but that was a pure action game. Resident Evil 2 isn't about killing everything in sight, it's referred to as 'Survival Horror'. Your objective isn't to win, it's to survive. To anyone new to the genre this basically means there aren't enough bullets in the game to kill everything. Playing the game is all about carefully managing resources like health and bullets and generally avoiding combat except when it's necessary as you explore the abandoned Police Station. The zombies are realistic and genuinely gross. They don't follow the 'Night of the Living Dead' lore of a single shot to the head kills. You can empty entire magazines right into a zombie's head and they'll STILL come after you! You find yourself resorting to shooting their legs off at the knee to save bullets, forcing them to crawl after you - making them easier to avoid.
Once you're a little way into the game a new antagonist appears - the Tyrant. This is basically an indestructible super-zombie that can kill you in two hits. He's huge and he's relentless. He's nearly as fast as you, possibly even AS fast as you if you're badly injured and he follows you around and can sometimes appear from nowhere, trapping you in narrow corridors. As he gets closer a sinister repeating gong starts to play along with creepy music and increasingly rapid heart-beat sound effect. The sense of danger you experience when the Tyrant is bearing down on you and you have to navigate a corridor full of the walking dead is tangible.
I know this probably sounds horrific, it is! But it's also very intense. At that point when you spend five minutes, one bad button press away from death - you forget everything. All that crap at work that needs dealing with, that huge and annoying tax bill you have to pay, that pointless argument over nothing with the present Mrs. Stanley... All that is gone. It might as well not exist. It's true escapism. That's something I never get from playing Forza or Horizon.
So what's the solution?
I think we petrolhead gamers need a driving game that's also a 'Vindaloo game' something intense. Something which sets your heart racing and gets you holding your breath. I'm not entirely sure what this could be, but I think it could be done. I remember seeing an old film years ago as a kid. In it there was this guy driving his car across America and this rusty old, massive truck starts to terrorise him - trying to force him off the road. That could work or a post-apocalypse zombie survival thing where you have to drive through a zombie-filled open world salvaging parts to keep your car running and stealing petrol. There'd be all sorts of possibilities for upgrading and customising your vehicle. Would you go for a fast, manoeuvrable motorcycle which can weave through abandoned cars, but leaves you vulnerable to being pulled off by marauding zombies? Or a massive truck, armour-plated, with machine guns mounted on the bonnet, ready to smash your way to safety? It might be powerful, but you're going to need to stop to explore abandoned, zombie infested ruins to look for fuel more often.
I don't know exactly what the 'Vindaloo' game for people who like cars should be like. I just think there should be one.