Tag: video games

Cats In Games: The Magnificent Jaguars Of ‘Shadow of the Tomb Raider’

Lara Croft has come a long way since the days when she was the polygonal, hyper-sexualized protagonist of the early Tomb Raider games.

Thanks to a reboot the new Lara is a smart, adventurous and brave young woman voiced and motion-capped by the talented Camilla Luddington, and she’s never felt more real. In Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Lara ventures to the Peruvian jungle to chase down Mayan artifacts, and among the many obstacles in her way are jaguars.

Gorgeous, magnificent, regal jaguars who seemingly manifest out of the mist and blend back into the green inferno at will.

Here’s our new Lara, now starring in her third game:

The new Lara Croft
The new Lara Croft is a fearless adventurer and archaeological expert who travels the world unearthing clues to humanity’s past.

Like previous games, her adventures revolve around archaeological digs, ancient tombs and uncovering the history of humanity one find at a time. What would a Tomb Raider adventure be without a bit of danger?

Lara Croft
Lara crosses an underground chasm in search of a Mayan relic.

After an opening sequence, Lara and her friend Jonah head deep into the Peruvian jungle. This being Tomb Raider, they can’t land like normal people — a powerful storm sweeps in, sending their plane crashing into uncharted territory.

Lara finds herself alone, lost in the jungle without her gear. The sounds of the jungle reach a fever peach, with birds fleeing branches and monkeys howling, heralding the arrival of the apex predator of the Americas: Panthera onca, the jaguar, a name that translates to “He who kills with one bound.”

Jaguar of the Tomb Raider
“Hey there, could you tell me how to get to Lima?”

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Okay, stay calm! Remember your training! You’re face to face with an apex predator with the strongest bite force of any animal, but you can do this!

Besides, it can’t get any worse at this point.

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Can it?

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Oh shit. Even the monkeys are like “Dayum! Grab the popcorn!”

Don’t panic! Maybe these jaguars are just saying hello!

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Or maybe not.

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What’s worth noting is that these are not cut scenes — what you see here are screenshots within the game engine. For people who aren’t familiar with video games, that means you’re looking at the game itself. This is what the gameplay looks like.

We have come a long, long way from this, haven’t we?

Old Tomb Raider
The low-texture, low-polygon world of the original Tomb Raider games.

It’s a difference allowed by several generations’ worth of improved computer hardware and software, resulting in billions of additional polygons, millions of additional colors, improved lighting, physics, art assets, high definition textures, motion capture technology and all the little things that fuel progress from a world made from flat, blurry environments and cartoonish characters to a hyper-realistic, almost photo-quality world which makes incredible immersion possible.

Most of our readers may not be gamers, but for those who are, I’ll avoid spoilers here even though Shadow of the Tomb Raider was a 2018 release.

Suffice to say jaguars play a prominent role in the game and serve as the Big Bads, the game’s ultimate threat made even more terrifying by the knowledge that they can appear at any time and ambush our hero before she’s even aware of their presence.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider does a fantastic job of immersion, making all of the dangers of the jungle feel real through meticulously crafted visuals and sound, and a compelling story. And like everything else in life, it’s better with cats!

This Presidential Pet Stuff Just Gets Weirder And Weirder

Did you know there’s a Presidential Pet Museum? Or that protesters in India burned effigies of George W. Bush because they felt naming his cat India was “an insult” to their country?

Or that one Republican congressman was so incensed by Socks, the Clintons’ cat, that he wrote a letter demanding an accounting for how much taxpayer money was spent on postage to write back to Socks’ fans?

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Catmander in Chief. I’ll see myself out now…

I did a little delving into the world of presidential pets after writing about president-elect Joe Biden’s plans to bring a cat to the White House along with his two dogs.

And man, it’s a weird world. To start with, the Presidential Pet Museum’s Andrew Hager told the New York Times he thinks Biden’s choice is subtly political.

“Maybe this is symbolic of Biden’s oft-repeated desire to unify the country,” he said. “I know that that’s kind of trite, but I’m very curious to see how this goes.”

That didn’t work out so well for Bill Clinton, whose cat Socks famously feuded with Buddy, the awesomely-named Labrador who was the Clinton family’s second pet.

“You know, I did better with the Arabs, the Palestinians and the Israelis than I’ve done with Socks and Buddy,” Clinton lamented during the final days of his presidency in 2001, just before his successor, George W. Bush, was about to take office.

Socks remains popular to this day, with a dedicated group of “Socks enthusiasts” who not only love the former White House cat, they raised more than $33,000 to finish and release a cancelled Super Nintendo game called Socks The Cat Rocks The Hill.

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Yeah, Socks had his own game. It was apparently anticipated enough to lead to early reviews and previews in magazines at the time, and featured Socks repeatedly saving the world from nuclear apocalypse at the hands of — and I’m not joking here — “Arab terrorist felines,” bulldogs in Army helmets, and Ross Perot.

According to a preview in 1993’s Playthings magazine:

“In his video game debut, entitled ‘Socks Rocks the House,’ he will venture from the basement of the White House to the Oval Office to create havoc with the President’s allergies. Along the way, while the cat’s at play, Socks must push Millie the dog out the front door as well as avoid Arab terrorist felines.”

There’s a joke in there somewhere, but I value my life so I’ll restrain myself. In any case, the game was finally released in 2018, a quarter century after it was supposed to land on store shelves.

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As the president’s pet, Socks became the most famous feline on the planet.

India, the Bush family’s cat, was often overshadowed by the dogs. While First Lady Laura Bush was often photographed holding India, the president himself was frequently seen walking his pups on the White House grounds.

In July of 2004, a crowd in Kerala, India, gathered and condemned Bush for his choice of name for the cat, a wire service report noted at the time:

Members of the citizens group Prathikarana Vedi assembled before the Kerala assembly saying that Bush calling his cat India was an insult to the country.

“This is a disgrace to our great country and this has come from none other than US President George W. Bush,” said M.A. Latheef, president of the group. “He should make amends.”

It turns out India wasn’t named after the country: Bush’s daughter, Barbara, named the American shorthair after Ruben “El Indio” Sierra, a rightfielder who spent his early career with Bush’s Texas Rangers.

 

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India, former presidential cat. (Wikimedia Commons.)

 

Screenshot_2020-11-29 Tyger [i e Tiger], White House cat
In this photo from the 1920s, US Navy Officer Benjamin Fink holds Tiger, President Calvin Coolidge’s cat. Tiger often rode around on the president’s shoulders in the White House. (Library of Congress)

Perhaps the greatest cat-lover among presidents was Abraham Lincoln, who once vented that one of his cats, Dixie, “is smarter than my whole cabinet! And furthermore, she doesn’t talk back!”

Lincoln “doted on his cats,” and to the horror and amusement of guests at a formal White House dinner the president fed Tabby, his other cat, from the table. When his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, expressed her embarrassment, the president shrugged it off.

“If the gold fork was good enough for [former President James] Buchanan,” Lincoln quipped, “I think it is good enough for Tabby.”

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Lincoln with Tabby.

Lincoln was known for doing his thinking with a cat in his lap, sitting silent while petting Tabby or Dixie and drifting into deep thought. U.S. Navy Admiral David Dixon Porter later wrote of watching Lincoln caring for a trio of stray kittens, which the president later left in the care of US military officers, along with specific orders to treat them well and make sure they were well-fed.

“It well illustrated the kindness of the man’s disposition,” Porter wrote, “and showed the childlike simplicity which was mingled with the grandeur of his nature.”

 

You Can Brings Cats Raiding With You In Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla

For anyone unfamiliar with Assassin’s Creed, it’s a series of games that imagine eras of history as digital theme parks filled with grand adventures, with the player as the hero in the middle of it all.

In Origins you’re an Egyptian warrior marauding through a landscape of pyramids, sphinxes, temples, crocodiles and lions. In Odyssey you’re a Spartan-born mercenary sailing the Aegean with Herodotus by your side and Aspasia as one of your BFFs.

These aren’t recreations of the ancient world so much as they’re simulacra of what people living in the 21st century think ancient Egypt and Greece looked, sounded and felt like.

The latest installment, due to arrive in December, is Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, which leans heavily on History Channel’s Vikings and Netflix’s The Last Kingdom for its visual style. The game covers the same territory as those shows as well, taking place during the Viking era when invaders from Norway, Denmark and Sweden relentlessly pillaged the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England.

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The male version of Evior, the player character.

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The female version of main character Evior.

The vikings were low-tech raiders — they didn’t have a real writing system, they left no enduring mark on architecture, their smithing techniques were inferior and their technological contributions to humanity were limited to shipbuilding and seafaring.

They raided the Anglo-Saxons, in short, because they wanted to loot shiny shit. Gold and silver chalices, precious gems, crucifixes, woodwork, iron weapons, anything of value worth hauling back to Scandinavia.

In Valhalla, players will assemble their own raiding parties, and apparently they can take cats. The video below shows the player character recruiting a “raider cat” for his longboat. There’s a short sidequest involved. From there, the cat accompanies the player and his vikings across the sea. Like a typical feline, the game’s cat likes to sleep and is usually found curled up in the front of the longboat, but don’t expect kitty to help out when the fighting starts:

“Stray” Lets Gamers Play As A Cat In Hong Kong

After 2015’s Shelter 2 — in which gamers take on the role of a female Lynx protecting her cubs in the wild — proved there’s a real audience for games from a cat’s perspective, there have been a few feline-centric games coming down the development pipeline.

None of them, however, look as unique and fascinating as Stray, a newly-unveiled title in which players take the role of a cat surviving in a post-human future Hong Kong.

The game’s trailer is spectacular, following an orange tabby cat navigating a neon-lit urban landscape populated only by machines. Details about the narrative haven’t been revealed and it’s not clear what happened to humanity in the game’s universe, but cats are alive and well in Stray, and it looks like they’ve manipulated robots into serving them the same way they had humans wrapped around their little paws.

“I will throw my money at anything that lets me play as a cat,” one Youtube user posted.

“There’d better be a meow button,” another wrote.

Although it’s early yet and we haven’t seen gameplay videos, the cat depicted in the trailer is exceptionally well-modeled and rendered by game artists who clearly love the little furballs. The feline’s gait, movements and vocalizations are spot-on.

Stray will be a PS4/5 exclusive at launch (boo!) but will also have a PC release, presumably at least a few months later. We’ll be watching eagerly for more news about this interesting and unique game, which is slated for a 2021 release.

Stray (game)
The feline player character seen in the trailer sports a backpack which could serve as a player inventory or hide gadgets. We always knew cats were smarter than they let on.

Shelter 2
A mother lynx and her cubs in Shelter 2, which employs heavily stylized visuals to represent animals and their environment.

Peace Island
Peace Island is another game currently in development that will allow players to control cats, who are the protagonists of the game.

 

Buddy’s Mailbag: You Sexy Beast You

Dear Buddy,

My, you’re a handsome one. And single, too. Why don’t you and I get together?

– Cali the Calico


Dear Cali,

Thanks! Get together to do what, exactly?

– Buddy


Dear Buddy,

No need to be so coy, we’re both adults. To make more kitties, of course!

– Cali


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Dear Cali,

I’m confused. Big Buddy says the Kitty Stork delivers the kittens. Won’t the stork be mad that we’re taking his job?

Buddy


Dear Buddy,

Oh you little joker! Now seriously, I’m in heat so where will we meet?

Cali


Cali,

The heat wave is really bad! You should drink lots of water and make sure you get enough protein.

– Buddy


Buddy,

Okay, do you seriously not understand how kittens are made? Didn’t anyone ever have ‘the talk’ with you about the birds and the bees?

Cali


Cali,

Now you’re confusing me. I know about the stork. No one ever said bees were involved. I don’t like bees.

Buddy


Jerk Face,

Wow, what a man-child! I’ll bet you play video games too with your precious “Big Buddy.” Losers!

– Cali


Cali,

We love playing video games! But we win more than we lose! If you wanted to come over to play video games, why didn’t you just say so?

Hello?

Hello?!

Cali??

Was it something I said?

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