Max Brooks

Max Brooks

My name's Max, I write about stuff. Sometimes I write about things. Don't expect anything I do to be timely or even relevant.

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  • Max Brooks
    Published 22 days ago
    Best Out of 10,000,000?

    Best Out of 10,000,000?

    10,000,000. Even the name is intimidating. I was never any good at maths in school, so I see the title and I'm immediately reading it as "ten-thousand-thousand" and feel like a fool. First released in January 2013, and has been sat in my Steam library until a few months ago. The aim of the game? To score 10,000,000 points in one run.
  • Max Brooks
    Published about a month ago
    Why You Should Give 'Halo: New Blood' a Shot

    Why You Should Give 'Halo: New Blood' a Shot

    I believe I mentioned in my first ever blog post on this site that I finished the original Halo trilogy in December last year. This also included the other Bungie Halo games; Halo: Reach and Halo 3: ODST. Without a doubt ODST was one of my favourite games, maybe my favourite Halo game full stop. Because of this (well because of my constant squealing about how I loved ODST's tone, music, aesthetic, plot and characters), a friend of mine decided to gift me Matt Forbeck's Halo novel New Blood for my birthday.
  • Max Brooks
    Published 4 months ago
    English History: As Told By 'Crusader Kings II'

    English History: As Told By 'Crusader Kings II'

    I had a roommate who loved Crusader Kings, Europa Universalis, and all the other Paradox Interactive strategy games in that vein. I once came back to our room to find him scratching his head, wondering how Korea had managed to expand an empire that ran through China, most of Russia, and down the middle of Africa in what could only be described as a "blue line of imperialism."Another friend of mine, another addict to Crusader Kings, and it's ilk, once regaled me of a story where he'd exploited a not-quite-glitch where he could send prostitutes into a castle under siege, only for this to backfire when it led to the eight-year old king dying of a heart attack (I've heard of "going out with a bang" but really?).There's loads of these stories if you look for them, fun bizarre stories of alternate histories, and what-ifs. I feel like one of the biggest appeals of Crusader Kings II is that you can accidentally create vibrant, thought-provoking, and sometimes downright hilarious stories on small or large scales. Even though I've never played them, I've always been excited to talk about the ridiculous alternate histories my friend's have concocted.(My favourite is the one where someone using several mods, got Cersei Lannister sacrificed to an Aztec Sun God).So naturally, A Fall Of Kings by Sarah Shannon instantly caught my attention. It's a story that follows an alternative history, and an alternative Norman invasion of England in 1066. Now, the problem that I hadn't foreseen was that I'm not the best when it comes to history...I'm aware that this essentially undermines my point, I know the broad strokes of the battle of Hastings, of the Saxons, and the Normans, and the years leading up to, and after it. But I'm not immediately aware of the ways Shannon has diverged from the 1066 of our reality. As a result I'm in an odd situation where I'm not able to comment on the unique selling point of the novella, but I have Wikipedia open, while I read this so that I can check up on characters and plots, and see what's changed, and what's stayed the same. As far as I can tell, the changes in history don't start until the midway point. So while the events depicted happened over 950 years ago, I'm reluctant to talk about them in too much detail, as they start to diverge from history around the battle of Stamford Bridge.Edgar Aethling, a real figure from English history, is about 15 at this point, but nonetheless ambitious and determined to become the king of England. Indeed he's tried before to become king, but found himself with little support, and his cousin Harold on the throne. There's a small problem in that we are told his actions, instead of being shown them; it seems very tactless for him to ask an ally of the king "What are your feelings of the king?" and yet he does just that. However as the book progresses we see that despite his youth and brashness he is exceptionally cunning and dangerous.Compare to the much more cautious Edwin, the Earl of Mercia, (again a real figure) he knows war, and unlike Edgar does not want to rush in to a fight with Hardrada's forces. Indeed, early on we see him losing his patience, as Edgar constantly suggests places to counterattack the Vikings moving up through Sheffield. Sadly however, he's forced to do just that, despite seeming to know that he will fail, and be defeated as they don't have enough men to mobilise against the invasion. Unfortunately for him, most of his allies tend to side with Edgar's decisions to engage and fight the enemy, rather than to hold back. Not out of their own desire for glory and heroism, rather out of recognition that their situation is rather dire, and they need to push back before it's too late, which provides a nice contrast to Edgar's personality; his brother Morcar, and aide Leofwin want to attack out of practicality, Edgar wants to be a hero. Even when Edwin makes risky choices on the field of battle, we see how he's measuring the risk against the success. Edwin is the closest thing to a protagonist in the book.The story switches points of view between several characters, Saxons, Normans, and Vikings among others. We see the Vikings through the eyes of Tostig Godwinson, brother of English king Harold, and who's basically mad with rage. Determined to control both England and Norway. His first chapter is refreshing, after seeing Edgar and Edwin talking calmly and nicely to each other, it's refreshing to see a ruthless invader, and his cackling henchman. He's wise enough to not lash out when it would lead to himself being hurt, but we always see that rage bubbling below the surface. Were Tostig and Copsig (his aide) like this in real life? I don't know, I'm not good at history, but I love how Shannon presents him in the novel. While he's a raging madman, you can see his motivations. It's saved from being too over the top when we hear characters talk about Harold's own temper and fury, as a comparison of the traits the two brothers share.Shannon doesn't shrink away from how young some of the characters are, we see teenagers and preteens forced into horrible situations, having to battle and fight. And while some (such as Edgar Aethling) revel in it, the reader is left disconcerted, and even confused at how much pressure these children are under, and the horrible situations they are forced into. Despite never meeting in person there seems to be a few shared "kindred spirits" moments between the sons of King Harold and William The Conqueror. Other child characters who are central to the action meet, and struggle to verbalise their thoughts and feelings, as well as realise they have very little power in the grand scheme of things, despite their ranks.Shannon has a talent for writing combat encounters well. Showing that no matter how short, battle in this time period is brutal and bloody. We don't see any "clean" cuts, but we do see lots of weapons getting stuck or inflicting nasty gashes and wounds on both sides. She also makes a good show of showing people's attitudes and fears of war and battle. There are those who want to fight and battle, and those more anxious about it. Those more reluctant to fight are also shown conflicted over their desire to stay alive, and their need to be seen as strong warriors.I'm not quite sure what genre A Fall Of Kings falls into. It's a historical fiction, obviously, and it's very character-driven. There are further elements of a war story, and even some from political thrillers at times. The story is the first in the "Champions Of Anglia" series, but it also seems to be the only book in the series as I can't really find any other mention of it, aside from referring to this book. A tad disappointing as the last chapter leaves me eager to find out what happens next in this altered timeline. That being said, even on it's own, the book holds up, it's an enjoyable read with lots of twists and turns that grab you, even if you're not completely in the know about history. And if we're honest, I learned a lot about Normans and Saxons from reading it (although I admit I had about sixty Wikipedia pages, and a book on medieval Europe that I borrowed off my fiance's father open in front of me while I did).
  • Max Brooks
    Published 5 months ago
    "It All Led in the Direction of 'Natural Selection'"

    "It All Led in the Direction of 'Natural Selection'"

    Natural Selection is the differentiation of individuals in a species, leading to those best suited to the environment being able to pass their genes on down the line. It is a key element of evolution, the feature that proves most adept at surviving in the biome is passed on to its children and so on and so forth.Natural Selection 2 is a video game. A bold decision to make the sequel a completely different medium in my opinion.The game's a combination of real-time strategy and first-person shooters. The big difference is that in RTS you have total control over every individual unit: every soldier, tank and building is yours to command. In Natural Selection 2 the combat units are under the control of individual players. As a result, whenever I was the commander I didn't get to do what I normally do in an RTS (build up a colossal army, point at the enemies base and say "kill"). This was actually pretty good, as it had me thinking on my feet. You're giving orders, placing buildings for your team to set up, occasionally dropping health and ammo for them.There's two factions, the Marines (TSF) are a ranged combat faction who have a small advantage in how quickly they can deploy and adapt to the enemy and the Aliens. (Khaara) are a melee focused team with an edge in stealth and maneuverability. A lot of work has been put in to making the two sides distinct and balanced, even their similarities are varied, (the Khaara must control a room by spreading spores all over it before they can build structures, the Marines need to just plug the power on, the Marines have flashlights, the Aliens have night-vision) or balanced (the Khaara can move through air vents and small gaps, but the Marines have access to teleportation). The biggest factional difference is how they vary their weapons and load-outs; resource gathering grants both commandeer their resources, but also give some of the points to individual players who can use them to tailor their weapons to the approach they want. For the humans you just go to an armory and buy the weapons you want: shotguns, grenade launchers, flamethrowers, a variety of grenades, and even some power armor at later levels. The aliens have to stop where they are and mutate into another form, they also get a little more flexibility with their upgrades, with each player picking up to three additional powers, ranging from invisibility, enhanced speed, even regenerating health.This is definitely the sort of game that you want to go into knowing the mechanics, luckily there's four tutorials teaching you the basics on being both commander and infantry for the Marines and for the Aliens. As well as one that goes more in-depth into two of the Alien sub-classes, the Lerk who excels in aerial attacks on ground units and the Fade who are a stealth based assassin. I say tutorial, its basically a survival/ horde mode with you playing as whichever of the creatures you've picked (at time of writing my high score is 15, as a Fade and three as a Lerk). While I would have preferred a more in-depth tutorial on how to make best use out of these two creatures, I did appreciate that there was a game mode where you could get the hang of them in the first place, as getting to grips with a class or character I'm unfamiliar with puts me off going out of my comfort zone in a lot of games.Another fun not-quite-tutorial mode is a gametype where you race Skulks (the starting Khaara lifeform). I found this a lot more fun, as it's giving you a few more tips, a little bit more encouragement and giving me a little more fun getting to grips with the controls, rather than frustratingly killing me over and over again, as marines attack me while I struggle to find out which button turns me invisible...
  • Max Brooks
    Published 5 months ago
    All I See Are Hexagons, All I Hear Are Chiptunes

    All I See Are Hexagons, All I Hear Are Chiptunes

    Oh God, this game is so hard.Part of me hates it.But I also can't stop playing it.I've made it my mission to play all the games that I've neglected over the years, and I knew that I owed Terry Cavanagh's Super Hexagon the courtesy of playing more than a few seconds at a friend's house. I figured that at least finishing the first level would do the game justice.I had no idea what I was in for.Super Hexagon, likeLittle Inferno, is a game from the first Humble Bundle I bought. This bundle also included Hotline Miami, a game I've wanted to play since I saw Michael Jones of Rooster Teeth make a RageQuit video about it. He also did one for Super Hexagon and honestly that should have prepared me for this.Super Hexagon, as I've said, is a game by Terry Cavanagh released for Windows in 2012. When I opened my browser to start writing I was unsure what genre to call it. I was ready to say "puzzle" until a quick browse down its Wikipedia page for the basics on its release and platform history mentioned it was a "Twitch" game: A game that tests your reaction speed.Now from playing this I've come to the realisation that my reaction speed is pretty great.My actual reactions, however, are garbage.The game has a deceptively simple concept. You are a triangle, dodge the walls coming towards you. Get hit by the wall and you have to start the level over. You get a new rank every ten seconds (line, triangle, square, and so on and so forth) and I assume every level lasts 60 seconds so that the final rank is "Hexagon." I say "assume" because I haven't gotten further than eighteen seconds in before I see a wall and instantly react by positioning myself straight in front of it.Like I said: I have good reaction times—my reactions themselves are bad.It's addictive, though.The music, provided by Northern Irish musician "Chipzel," is a perfect match for the hectic and intense gameplay. The outward simplicity of the game makes it easy to recognise where you went wrong ("I overshot there," "I didn't move enough there," "I should have moved left because there was more space," etc.) and helps you figure out what to do next time as best you can.Typically what happens for me is I'll play a few rounds and get a score of about six or seven seconds then one glorious run where I push past my high score by point-seven of a second and feel very happy. Until I slam myself straight into a wall. Then I'll mutter "dammit" under my breath, take a minute, and restart.It's frustrating, but seeing that I'm making progress, however minute, is a nice feeling, and as I mentioned none of my deaths or failures feel like they came out of nowhere. It's one of those games where you need to zone out for a second and just go with the flow. I've had times where I see something coming and immediately push the button towards it rather than away, and other times where I'll spam button commands when all I really need to do is just hold down one key as it's just a big spiral. I've caught myself giggling and saying "How did I do that!?" aloud as I get through some of the quicker and more intense segments.And remember all of this is in the first level.Super Hexagon is great. I am definitely a casual gamer and I'm not determined to get every achievement in the game. It's a challenge I don't think I'm up for. But it's definitely fun, engaging, and I'm not good at it, but I'm still determined to do that first level if nothing else. And who knows? Maybe if I can do level one I'll feel that I'm skilled enough to try the other difficulties, and I can start all the panic over again.As a last note, Super Hexagon is considered a "Full" version of a game Cavanagh whipped up for a 12 hour game jam. And I'd recommend giving Hexagon a go before you try Super Hexagon, just to see if it's your thing.---Super Hexagon is a game by Terry Cavanagh. It's available from superhexagon.com, or on Steam. It's also available on Android and iOS. Terry Cavanagh also has his own website.
  • Max Brooks
    Published 5 months ago
    "You Can Go as Far as You Like, but You Can Never Come Back"

    "You Can Go as Far as You Like, but You Can Never Come Back"

    The following article contains Spoilers for Little Inferno, and I mean BIG spoilers. I mean spoilers so spoileriffic that I actually feel like I misled people by saying there were major spoilers in my last article. Like, spoilers so big that when it happened I had to come back and write another article to rave about it!So if you've read my last article, then you'll know that I've been playing Little Inferno. If you've played the game, AND read that article, then you'll know that I was nowhere near the point where I could start talking about it in depth. I'd been happily burning all the possessions I ordered from magazines, throwing them in the furnace, watching the flames, getting letters from Sugar Plumps, all-in-all having a cheery time.Then Sugar Plumps' house burned down, and I got a little scared.But! I continue to persevere, burning more and more things to unlock more and more combos. Then when I've got all of them I get given instructions for another combo and when I try that ...(Here's where the spoilers come in and they're REAL spoilers this time.) You see it turns out you can burn your house down. And once you do then the game changes from a fun little puzzle about burning your things...