Archive for the ‘Gaming’ Category

My biggest gripe about the Forza games…

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

I know that DLC’s are the big thing now, and a big money-maker post release for just about every game developer.  That being said, while Forza 4 and Forza Horizon are both fantastic games, the real world cost of adding additional cars via DLC is absurd.  Here I am thinking I got a great deal, $40 per game, and then as I’m choosing a new car I see certain vehicles tagged with “DLC” which can be purchased for anywhere from $2 or more.  They don’t even have a DLC package where you can just buy all of them at once, even the so called “Season Pass” is limited in what it can provide… to this I say, wtf?

The entire purpose of games these days should be to keep the players playing them.  Forcing us to commit even more real world dollars into a title just for the privilege of driving a twin turbo AMC Gremlin is ridiculous.  I’m all for dropping a few dollars for a steaming pile of pungent new content, but all of this piecemeal BS is infuriating…  Wow, great, the game has hundreds of cars… of which maybe 10% I have any real interest in driving.  I’d like to run a few races in a Dodge Omni GLH for instance, but I can’t unless I drop real money to do so.  That’s a load of crap.

I supported the developer by purchasing the game, I further support them by continuing to play it. There’s got to be a business model out there that can get me the content I want for FREE and still make money for the developers.  Years ago they started doing really obvious product placement via billboards and whatnot – some folks complained, personally I think it made the experience more real.  Maybe they could make the DLC cars available via in-game points.  Instead, I need to spend more real money.  BULL$#@!.

Already bored with Defiance… here’s how to get me un-bored.

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

A bit of background here – I must have played World of Warcraft for a good 3+ years before I finally hung up my gear and decided to venture out into the daylight again.  I’m sure that if I was so inclined, I could install it, load up my old character, and pick up where I left off without a hitch.  I’d probably even get sucked right back into the addiction.

There’s problem #1 with Defiance.  It’s not addicting.  There’s really nothing to make me want to log in and play, as at its core it is a very basic shooter in the post-apocalyptic style of the Fallout or Borderlands series but without any of the real meat that can get me to reinstall any Fallout or Borderlands title and play it through to the end again.  I’ve compiled a short list of what I think can and should be done to improve Defiance for me.

1. Upgrades, upgrades, upgrades!  In WOW, Fallout or Borderlands, half the fun of playing is upgrading your weapons and armor every 5 minutes.  Sure, it might sound frustrating – but not nearly as frustrating as completing a handful of missions in Defiance only to collect a bunch of crap that’s no better than what I have been using for the past 300 levels.  Sure, there’s the mod system which allows the player to customize the weapons on hand when there are available slots for upgrade – but even then, the mods are rarely earth shattering.  Woohoo, new scope, .10% increase in accuracy.  There’s no armor in defiance, you can customize your look but beyond that all you have are a fairly limited selection of shields that vary in capacity, recharge rate, recharge delay, etc…  Want to customize your look?  Break out the greenbacks.

2. Skill tree?  Who needs a skill tree?  Sure, reaching higher EGO levels allow you to unlock various perks but they only take effect if you equip the perk.  Better yet, you can only equip a limited number of perks.  What a load of crap.  Sure, it puts a higher emphasis on making the most of your loadouts, but who wants to back out to a menu and swap loadouts in the middle of a firefight?

3. Speaking of loadouts – get rid of them.  The menu system in the game is at best cumbersome, at worst completely daft.  Sure, I bet a bunch of development meetings were held but from the way it works I’d guess the leaning tower of hot pockets got more attention.  You’re locked in to using two weapons  in any loadout.  In any game of this nature, I like to have a good shotgun, a machine gun, and a sniper rifle on hand at the same time which allows me to quickly adapt to any situation.  There’s no quick adapting in this game.  You go in with the wrong loadout, or the right loadout and run out of ammo, forget about it.  If you’re lucky you can find a semi-safe place to hide and swap loadouts, but in the mean time you’re still getting hammered from all sides.  How about 3-4 weapons on hand – no need to swap loadouts and you can keep firing instead of hoping a PDA can protect you from a bullet.

4. Loot.  Maybe I’ve been spoiled by other post-apocolyptic shooters, but one of the things that encourages anyone to explore these unique and highly detailed open worlds is scavenging.  You don’t scavenge in defiance.  You kill, get stuff, and if you’re really lucky through some miracle get a weapon that’s worth using.  The numerous ammo crates scattered across the landscape are nice, but why bother checking out a random site if all I’m gonna get are the same plug and play NPC’s with the same crap drops?  Woah, 10 scrip.  Woah, a white weapon.  Big deal.  Give a player more reasons to explore beyond the ridiculously repetitive side missions.

5. Vehicles.  The vehicles in this game are a nice touch, but regardless of how they look, they’re all crap.  How about the ability to modify them?  Rims? Armor? Paint?  Mounted weapons?  Sure its fun to drive in to a crowd of baddies and try to take a few out before jumping out and hoping that you’ve got the right loadout to keep you from getting fragged 2 seconds later… but how about a fender mounted weapon to have some more fun thinning the herd?  Why can’t we sell them?  Now that I’ve got my orange Challenger, whats the point of having a half dozen quads in my inventory?  Let me sell the things.

6. Vendors.  Woohoo, I’ve got 20k script on hand and no place to spend it because all of the vendors sell crap.  Sure, there are the faction vendors I can access by completing races or completing other competitive tasks – but even then – crap.

7. Lockboxes are a joke as well.  The whole lockbox thing is that if you have enough resources or buy enough bits with real money – you can access the lockbox and get some random weapons, shields, etc…  Thing is, these lockboxes all issue crap.  You’re lucky if you get a purple, best you’ll get it blue.  I’ve heard rumors that you might even see a top-tier orange but as an experiment one night I dropped $20 on bits and bought several tier 4 lockboxes.  That entitled me to several random pieces of crap.

Now I’m sure that there are folks who absolutely love this game, and at the start, I was one of them.  Every time I login though, I spend less time in game before I logout and play something else that cost me less and provides more satisfaction and replay value.  The show the game is based on is actually pretty good IMHO but not enough to keep me playing.  I’m glad that they aren’t charging to play the game beyond the initial purchase price because unless some significant changes are made there’s no way in hell this game becomes another virtual ghost-town in the shadow of numerous other titles that aren’t even MMO but are easily worth the price of admission several times over.

Taking a brave leap back into MMO hell… and loving it.

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

I’ve never been big on “fantasy” type games, nor have I ever really cared for online/multiplayer games – I prefer to be a lone gunman than have to deal with other players who for the most part are unrepentant twats yet to have their first real sexual experience that doesn’t involve a family member.  That being said, the fact I devoted nearly 3 years of my life and killed at least 1 relationship playing World of Warcraft was a shock to say the least.

In the time I devoted to WOW, I saw many other attempts to oust the 6 million lb elephant in the room fail…  Nothing could pull me away quicker than the simple realization that I was devoting many hours a day grinding to earn enough money so I could buy some new weapon, some new armor, etc… so I could grind killing bigger and badder things to repeat the process.

Now that SyFy (I still hate that name, it’s SciFi damnit) has taken the wraps off of Defiance – which from what I can tell is an entirely new take on a game based on a show – or a show based on a game (which is it???) I’ve been gloriously sucked back in to the MMO world.  FINALLY an open world MMO that isn’t confined to the world of elves, trolls, magic, etc…  I’ve got guns!  They make things die!  I even get a quad (or mount for those of you already initiated to MMO hell) to tool around on without having to grind for hours on end.

Defiance is a futuristic science fiction open world MMO (with no monthly fees, even) that places you on a changed Earth years after several alien races popped by for cocktails only to overstay their welcome, terraform the landscape, and generally mess our shit up.  There are two “friendly” races to pick from with several sub-classes to choose from as far as the type of character you’ll be developing.

The graphics are top notch PC quality (I still consider the PC as the standard for graphics, not a console), controls are very well done, and overall the gameplay is smooth and refined.  There is no real learning curve to the game, both MMO virgins and veterans who have played pretty much any open world shooter can hit the ground running.  If I could break out the broad brush of generalization – Defiance is a mix of Fallout, Borderlands, and (simply for the framework) World of Warcraft.

All of the standard weapon flavors are there, pistols, SMG, LMG, Assault Rifles, Shotguns, Rocket/Grenade launchers… and once the proper “EGO” level is achieved, you can modify them to your hearts content.  Other more sci-fi options are available such as the BMG which can either drain bad guys of life or restore life to allies.  If I had a single complaint about the weaponry so far it would be that you can only actively use 2 weapons at any given time.

My general preference for most any game is a solid sniper rifle for ranged attack and a good SMG for close range assault.   I’ve never been big on shotguns in any game going as far back as Doom, but they’re just about a necessity in Defiance.  Thankfully even the low-end shotguns offer massive damage with a decent rate of fire and magazine size.  This is where my complaint really comes into play though.  I think that to do the best job at killing I should be able to swap between a long/medium/short range weapon on the fly…  Instead I need to take a guess as to what would be the best loadout for a given situation and keep my fingers crossed that I got it right.

If I discover too late that I’m better off with a shotgun, or I’ve burned through all of my ammunition, I need to jump to my inventory menu – double-click the weapon I want to use, select the weapon it will be replacing, and then dive back into the fray.  Defiance being an MMO though, the action doesn’t stop while I dig into my collection for the best weapon of pixelated destruction… 99% of the time I’m getting attacked and unless I get my timing just right I’ll hop out of the menu just in time to find myself on my ass in need of being revived.  I’ve read something about being able to set up alternate loadouts in the game that can allow me to swap weapons faster but its still not ideal.  This is something the dev’s should seriously address because IMHO – if I’m not killing or exploring, I’m not playing, and their goal should be to keep the action at the forefront instead of forcing players into the menu screens during an attack.

One of the most frustrating aspects of any MMO is that the open world maps are generally MASSIVE, and even while sprinting it can take forever to get where you need to go.  Defiance handles this brilliantly, as once you finish the “tutorial” missions, you get a simple quad with a boost function which vastly improves the task of traveling across the map.  Other perks?  GPS.  Set a waypoint on the map, and you’ll get a route on your minimap of how to get where you’re going.  Lastly, any area you visit that has a ‘fast travel’ allows you to get back to that area simply by double-clicking the fast-travel icon on the map.  Much of my travelling that wasn’t mission based so far has been getting to areas that have the fast-travel so that I don’t have to waste extra time later on getting around.  Now going by the cut-scenes and what I’ve actually seen in game, it looks like Dodge has thrown some money at the game as some of the quads  have a “Dodge” emblem and oh yeah – there are Mad-Max style Challengers roaming around as well.  I haven’t found the vendor which offers those yet, but it’s pretty cool to see some post-apocalyptic rides tooling around that are actually recognizable.  Personally, I’d prefer a RAM or even a Durango, but hey that’s just me.

There are a few different types of currency in the game, each allowing you to modify various aspects of your experience.  IAP’s are also enabled, so far the IAP “bits” I think they’re called allow you to get lock-boxes (grab bag of random weapons, etc…) inventory size increases, outfits, vehicles, etc…  I dropped $5 on some bits but haven’t used them just yet as I’ve been able to get what I need as the game plays out.

I  mentioned earlier that if you get killed, you have 3 options – one (which can only be used every once and a while) is to self-revive, another is to re-spawn at a nearby spawn point, and of course at any time you can be revived by another player.  Something I’m not sure exists yet (but should if it does not) are med packs.  A lot of times I’m just moments away from killing that last bad guy only to get dropped.  If I could click a button and use a medpack – that’d be sweet.

Another unavoidable weakness of Defiance (which holds true for every MMO I have ever played) is the grind.  Sure, there are races, rampages (kill as many bad guys in a specific time limit), and other ways to get XP, loot, and currency – but in the end there are a ton of “Go here, kill bad guys, get the item” missions.  Thankfully, picking off enemies with a rifle is more fun than killing 1000 boars to obtain the sword of infinite truth, plus you always have the option to run the bastards over.

The last feature I’m going to mention here that I like are your “EGO” abilities.  I forgot what EGO translates to, but essentially it’s a computer in your head that gives you powers.  My choice was the cloak which allows me to sneak up, Predator style, escape an attack with  my life by cloaking while out of sight, and generally wreak invisible havoc.  Other choices are overcharge (ramp up your weapon damage), blur (run really fast), and decoy (total recall style).  I’ll probably create some other characters to try those out, but as your character develops you’re able to increase your skill tree along side your increasing EGO level and unless I’m mistaken it looks like you can actually branch out into other powers… Not sure yet.

Overall, I’m loving the game.  It’s a fresh take on the MMO style, the fact it’s tied to a SciFi series (even horrible shows can go 10 seasons there) is a perk.  The show is pretty good as well, and provides a lot of the back story that is lacking beyond hints and whatnot during gameplay.  $59.95 will get you a standard copy while a whopping $100 gets you the ‘deluxe’ edition.  I have a feeling I’ll be upgrading to that version eventually as if history has proven anything… me + MMO = time sink of epic proportion 🙂

Delving into the 2nd dimension of sandbox gameplay…

Monday, April 1st, 2013

For years now I’ve had a healthy addiction to Minecraft, even going as far as developing my own mods for the game.  Still, night after night, collecting resources, building, fighting, etc… in the nearly infinite sandbox world eventually grew repetitive and tiresome.  That put me on the search for something new to whet my sandbox style appetites, and with that in mind I’m hoping to build a fairly complete list of what I’ve played so far as well as a brief review of what I think is worth playing.

Terraria: terraria2As of last week, my primary addiction was Terraria.  I picked it up for my PC via Steam for $2.50.  It has all of the boxes checked as far as feeding my addition… mining, crafting, fighting, etc… The worlds range from small to massive with a massive inventory of items to create and quite possibly the best lighting I’ve ever seen in a sandbox style game.  One of the best aspects of this game are the number of bosses and enemies, and that defeating bosses such as the ominous sounding “Wall of Flesh” will reshape your entire world and provide a whole new set of challenges to face.

Junk Jack:

junkjack

This game is in the same vein as Terraria, but only available on iOS for $2.99 I believe.  It has some IAP options, but nothing necessary to actually play and enjoy the game.  It also provides large open worlds with copious amounts of crafting and exploration options.  Enemies are fairly diverse and provide even more resources for crafting.  The worlds aren’t as large as what you’d find on Terraria, but there are many different biomes available which always keep things interesting.

Blockheads:

blockheads

My first experience with 2D sandbox games, also only available on iOS, it follows a traditional ‘pay to play’ model.  Crafting options are much more limited than either Terraria or Junk Jack and my biggest gripe with the game is the general requirement of IAP (In App Purchases) in order to progress through the game and accomplish anything before the next generation iPad arrives.  The graphics are done very well and I also enjoy the ability to queue several actions, but there aren’t any threats in the game besides the environment (ie, gravity and lava if you go deep enough).  It has potential, but this one is strictly about mining, crafting, and if you want to do anything really cool – paying.

Deepworld:

deepworld-embed-02

This was a game that sucked me in quick, sucked some cash out of my pocket (the basic worlds are free, but if you want premium access as well as better tools and resources, be prepared to perform some IAP’s).  Constructed in a “steampunk” open world, there are a handful of enemies and while it offers a fairly large amount of resources to craft with – what you can craft in the end is also pretty limited.  Every world starts out polluted, and in order to purify it and create life the player must defeat dungeons teaming with insanely overpowered boss characters.  Most worlds are generally harvested by their player base and stripped clean with very little consideration for actually purifying the worlds.  I dropped $10 on my own private world to collect resources from, as well as another $30 in IAP points to upgrade my available tools.  It’s not something I do on a regular basis (I blame the tax refund).  It’s fairly fun to play and offers PVP, but overall needs a lot more content.

Epic Inventor:

epic-inventor4

I’ve only played about an hour into this game so far.  The control and crafting setup is pretty cumbersome.  You start out with an open world and a robot sidekick that can both defend you as well as provide some advanced transportation options.  Resources are gathered by holding down a keyboard key and the duration of collecting the resource is determined by the level of the tool you use.  Graphics are much simpler than Terraria, and so far I do not see any real options as far as being able to “dig” your own world.  The biggest problem that I had was the crafting interface as there are MANY crafting options and even with the ability to filter down a specific type of item to craft, you’re limited by a single line side-scrolling selection of what to craft.  I need to spend some more time in game to see if it’s worth even a temporary addiction, but so far it hasn’t really hooked me.

Clonk:

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Honestly I logged in to this game for about 5 minutes then logged right back out.  I’m going to give it another shot but the graphics were seemed dated and I didn’t quite grasp the controls right away.  There are both free and paid versions of the game.

That’s pretty much my top list as far as your “traditional” 2D sandbox style games that I’ve played through so far.  Up next? 2d drilling and resource collection titles. 🙂

Far Cry 3

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

I’ve played the Far Cry games ever since it’s very attentive AI enemies would locate and kick my ass for making the mistake of shuffling through the not-high-enough high grass.  Since then, it’s blossomed into a full on sandbox style FPS with Far Cry 2.  Now FC2 was OK, although I still have yet to beat the game because it simply got too repetitive for my tastes (the curse of any big sandbox title is the tendency to fill the empty spaces with repetitive grinding that makes the game redundant and boring).  Still,  after seeing some of the previews for the 3rd in the series I decided to give the game a try.

I’ve put in about 10 hours so far, and from my POV the game’s biggest weakness is that it was published/developed by Ubisoft.  Nothing like trying to play your new game and getting the pimp hand because yet again their back-end DRM infrastructure has broken.  I’m sure that might dissuade a handful of software pirates but like gun control and Obamacare – it just ends up hurting the folks it was intended to “help.”

FC3, like many other shooters released over the past few years has decided to incorporate many RPG style features such as leveling, skill trees, crafting, and looting.  When a friend asked me to describe the game in a few words, I replied “It’s Skyrim with machine guns.”  Of course, I got bored with Skyrim after committing a paycheck worth of time to the game because it became too redundant and boring.  I’m not quite there with FC3 yet.

You start the game on a tropical paradise overrun by pirates.  You and your friends were there on vacation, and ended up being captured then held for ransom by the pirates.  With the help of your older brother who’s a soldier on leave, you escape and the game begins.  Immediately you’re approached by the indigenous people who have been struggling to overcome the pirates and regain control of their homeland.  Your skills expand through the addition of a “tatau” which is a tattoo on your arm that illustrates your choices on the skill tree and identifies you to everyone as a warrior for the islanders.

It’s not hard to start making money, collecting weapons, crafting syringes from plants (health, other boosts) and other accessories with the skins of various animals roaming the massive landscape.  Want to carry more weapons?  Kill some animals and craft a larger holster.  More ammo?  More health? Better armor?  That’s right.  You start with the ability to carry 1 gun and a pathetic amount of ammunition and health syringes.  While stealth is key to many of the games missions and other tasks – it isn’t necessary.  At least it isn’t so necessary that it is annoying and distracts from gameplay (ie Deus Ex, Splinter Cell, Dishonored, etc…)  They make stealth fun.  Sure, you can just run into a stronghold shooting, but you can also do it from a distance with one of my 2 favorite weapons – a silenced sniper rifle or the recurve bow.  Accomplish the task without being detected, and you get various bonuses like the ability to carry even MORE ammunition…. YEAH!

I’m not bored with it yet – even though it took me 2 nights of play to return to Minecraft for a break from the action… It’s still worth the price of admission.

Most Wanted? Most overstated.

Sunday, November 25th, 2012
Finally got my hands on Need For Speed – Most Wanted (the new one) – They decided to take an open-world route with the game ala Burnout Paradise (same developer, Criterion) – graphics and physics are great for an arcade racer but the complete lack of structure beyond the racing makes the game a royal pain in the ass. It’s like driving with cheat codes… Every car in the game is accessible from the start, you just need to locate them. To upgrade each car, you need to complete a handful of races in order to make them competitive enough to defeat the ‘most wanted’ car at each level with your goal being to achieve ‘most wanted’ status. I put about 7 hours in to the game before I called it quits. I’m all for open world sandbox titles but for those of us who desire some level of structure to our games, it provides endless possibilities, infinite results, and absolute tedium. What a pain in the ass.

There are few things in life which are certain…

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

One of them you can count on though, is that a Call of Duty title will be… AWESOME.

I decided to cave on the evening of November 12th, and make an attempt to find something that could break my Minecraft habit (note: I still play it when I need a break from CoD).  The past handful of games I’ve invested in, besides Minecraft, have been stinkers.  Skyrim, Sleeping Dogs, Dishonored, all big titles with huge fan bases that managed to lose my interest within a few hours, if not days of game play.  Most times I purchase games, I wait for a sale and then buy a title at a heavy discount.  Investing several hours of hard earned pay is a risk.  I’m paying a premium in the hopes that I get gameplay which encourages me to see it through until the end.  I don’t even care if I’ve spent countless hours playing a game only to move on… My rule of thumb for a good game is that from the moment I install it, I can’t stop playing until I’ve completed it.

Call of Duty – Black Ops 2 had me from the first gunshot.  Above the cut scenes, plot, graphics, professional voice overs, the game play had me sold.  The entire plot revolves around a new terrorist, 25 years in the future who has plans on (what else) getting the remaining superpowers to kill each other off so he can walk in and take control.  Not a new idea, but who cares?  The story takes you forward and backward in time, as you fight through key events in the timeline that lead to the rise of the terrorist and his eventual grand assault.

Weapon selection varies depending on the time period.  I’m having more fun with the future weapons which include sights which pick up the heat signature of an enemy and make it easier to target them…  One of my favorite aspects of a CoD title is that depending on the weapon and the wall – if an enemy is taking cover, you get to shoot them THROUGH THE WALL.  It never gets old.  Another perk which has made a return is the ability to change the fire mode of a weapon.  I don’t like wasting ammunition, I don’t like running and gunning, I like to put the bullets where they need to go as efficiently as possible.  Earn the add-on through game-play, and you can modify compatible weapons with any number of features including select fire.

I’ve seen a few glitches so far, the occasional AI character who just sits idly by as you approach with a mandate to take their life… A mission where you operate a drone aircraft which fails for no apparent reason, then returns you to the fray with an inability to fire that leaves you stuck on the map, and fairly vague controls of a mainframe computer where you need to hold down a specific key on the keyboard while swiping your mouse.  Nothing major, nothing that can’t be overcome with a Google search or a quick save/quit/reload, but annoying nonetheless.

The game is scripted, at times you are limited in your movements and actions, but overall the developers have successfully hidden most of the script.  You have to get to the destination, and while you are able to leave the mission area which results in a reset – overall you can choose your own path to get there.  I’ve also found many places where the game is utterly chaotic, like the missions where you assist the Mujaheddin in pushing back a Soviet assault.  You get a horse, a gun, a stinger, and a huge freaking map to lay waste to.

One last complaint about an otherwise stellar title is the inclusion of strategic/squad combat missions.  When I first saw this, and went through the tutorial I quietly cursed under my breath…  I don’t like squad combat games.  I want a mission, a target, and a gun…  The squad combat involves several objects that must be protected with a handful of soldiers and equipment in a geographically diverse map.  At any point you can zoom out to a tactical view, select a unit, and reposition them as needed.  You can also take manual control of any individual unit and join the fight.  Since its not my bag, I just moved everyone to the central location, let the enemy destroy everything else, and held out until the time ran out.  I found it all rather clumsy – but again, it’s not my bag.  I was also very satisfied when I discovered that the squad assault missions are optional.

Once I finish running through the game this time, I think I’ll even venture online for some multiplayer just to mix things up a bit, but I can honestly say that they’ve done it again, and what you get for the $59.99 sticker price (please don’t take this as a suggestion that they should charge more) is MORE than what you pay for.  It’s a blood and guts tactical shooter that has yet again set the bar…. until Modern Warfare 5 comes out. 🙂

Medal of Honor – Warfighter

Monday, October 29th, 2012

When it comes to gaming, there are a few genres I swear by, and a few that I wouldn’t touch if you paid me to.  Medal of Honor – Warfighter manages to touch a bit of them all without actually doing anything as of yet that makes me feel it was worth the effort required to install it on my PC.

The Medal of Honor series has been around for years, providing your typical war-based FPS experience.  Recently, like its main competition Call of Duty, they’ve branched out of World War II and into modern battles.  Their previous title of this series reboot – Medal of Honor – received many complaints which IMHO didn’t make any difference to me because the game was fun.  The biggest complaint was that the game was on rails.  Basically, the game had a script and you were tied to it.  Just about every FPS out there has a script to move the game along (not the plot, not the dialogue, but a sequence of events and a route through the map that brings you from a start point, through a battle, to the end of the mission), but the best ones enforce this script without you realizing it.

I didn’t mind the script in MoH, it was there, but it helped move things along.  The script in Warfighter is so set in stone you’d think the developer slowly walked down from the top of mount Sinai with grand stone tablets in hand.  This script gets in your way, incessantly.  There’s no chance to deviate, or room to explore alternate tactics.  While you have the ability to walk, run, crouch, jump or crawl – depending on the script, regardless of what you see your squad mates doing, you will only do what the script wants you to do.  Run to catch up with your squadmates?  No, not until you clear the area that you just saw them run through.  Want to knife that bad guy from behind?  Not if the game tells you to shoot him.  Want to shoot him?  Not if the game tells you to knife him.

Probably my biggest complaint about the first MoH was that your squad has an amazing ability to jump into your line of fire, while you’re firing, and then bitch at you for it.  The same thing happens in Warfighter, although so far it hasn’t gotten to the point where I’m mocking the AI for doing more to protect my targets than take the bastards out.

Another bit of ridiculousness involves the lack of balance when it comes to providing a ‘gritty, based on real events’ experience, but setting up situations where you’d likely get shot through the door.  Most games like this, when you breach a room you either kick it open and toss a flashbang, or blow the door open – afterwards you get some bullet-time where you can take advantage of the surprise and pick off a handful of unsuspecting bad guys.  In Warfighter, when you need to breach, a menu pops up and lets you select the method… kick, axe, crowbar, shotgun, etc…  If you kick, a good kick opens the door. Any of the other methods appear to involve smashing the doorknob 2 or more times until it falls out and THEN you kick the door.  Something tells me that if you’ve got a room full of armed gunmen, and they start to hear the doorknob getting smashed by a crowbar, they’re going to begin shooting before the door is even opened.

They follow this up with a sniper mission where you actually have to factor in the glide-path of the bullet to eliminate several RPG toting enemies about 175 to 200 meters away.  It’s a nice feature unless you are the type who prefers zooming in and picking them off.  It’s something they actually do fairly well, but with so much of the game being ‘point, click, dead’ it didn’t really fit.  They even give you a spotter who doesn’t do anything beyond letting your know there are ‘bad guys over there.’

Vehicle chases aren’t anything new in the genre, snowmobiles, quads, Warfighter ups the anti by having you chase quite possibly the best handling Land Rover ever manufactured.  It’s a tall SUV, you’re in a small sedan, yet it cuts through traffic with the greatest of ease as your ride constantly slams into everything like you’re driving on butter.

The graphics are spectacular, and the CG in the cutscenes are equally impressive.  My now 3 year old Intel i7 gaming laptop handles it well even with many of the settings maxed out.  Eye candy abounds… yet I really can’t find myself all that impressed by the game.  On one hand it tries to be Modern Warfare, on another it tries to be Arma 2.  A game I love, and a game I hate.  I can’t stand squad based shooters, nor do I enjoy all out warfare simulators like Arma 2, in the process of trying to incorporate aspects from both – MoH leaves me wondering what the point is.

You get spectacular environments, but you can’t veer off the scripted path – if you manage to, you fail.  You get a decent array of weaponry, but reloads take FOREVER, as does switching to melee halfway through a reload to eliminate one of the random AI enemies that magically appears right in front of you.  Weapon accuracy is also dictated by the script.  Sniper rifles require that you factor in the effects of distance on the shot you take, while sniping from a scoped M4 is generally dead on balls accurate…until you try to shoot someone when the game wants you to call in an airstrike.  I had the target dialed in, but watched as the bullets veered off in random directions every time I fired.  I managed to land a shot close enough that the AI was able to get a bead on me with non-scoped AK47’s and kill me with minimal effort.

The game is OK, but doesn’t warrant the price, and IMHO they didn’t learn much from the last MoH game, making it worse.

Borderlands 2 – How a sequel is made.

Monday, September 24th, 2012

Managed to get my greedy little hands on  Borderlands 2 last week, and I’ve spent hours playing it since.  I’m always weary when it comes to a video game sequel and try my best to not base my opinion on the original game…  While comparisons are both necessary and unavoidable, generally I’ve found that any time I look at a sequel while factoring in the experience of the original, I wind up disappointed.

For starters, my gaming rig is a 2 year old ASUS G51-J Gaming Laptop, Intel i7 CPU, Nvidia 360GTS, 4GB ram, etc…  Two years ago it could handle anything thrown at it, even today it can hold its own on most games, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that with all of the graphics settings just about maxed B2 ran like buttah.  That’s a good thing, since the graphics – while still cell shaded – appear to have been updated quite a bit, with more open expanses that are an absolute treat and which can also be completely explored (until you find that random area that looks explorable, but results in your immediate death).  One catch to the large open map setup they’ve expanded upon is that if you don’t have a vehicle – it can get tedious running around, and other times you may find yourself completely lost trying to pin down the route to a way point.  Other sandbox titles incorporate a more intelligent waypoint system, or a form of GPS navigation to help you get from A to B – B2 gives you a map and a white diamond to get to… the diamond only entering your field of view when you’re within eyeshot of the destination.

One thing I liked about B1 was the RPG styling as far as developing skills and abilities as you play, this carries over to B2 with the added perk of various challenges and achievements which allow you to boost your characters abilities above and beyond what you get from your weapon and mod selection, and skill tree setup.

From the get go, you’re given some decent hardware but it’s only a matter of time before you start discovering even better weapons and find yourself spending a pretty significant amount of time deciding whether you want to swap your weapons or sell them.  The selection of guns in the game is beyond belief, while you’re still locked in to basic categories (pistol, smg, assault, sniper, shotgun, grenade, and rocket) – there are varying levels of buffs and environment effects offered across the spectrum of weapons.  I generally try to carry at least one of each environmental style at all times as your awesome sniper rifle that does fire damage may be completely useless on some enemies, which is where an electrical, explosive, or corrosive weapon may make short work of the target.

A good rule of thumb I use as far as selecting weapons (mind you, I am not and have never been a fan of the shotgun in any FPS) is the price.  Generally if the resale price is higher than what you’re using, it’s a better gun.  This may not always work, but overall I’ve had the best luck with upgrades when I’ve swapped for a similar weapon with a significantly higher resale cost.  The opposite is true for me when it comes to grenades.  Early on I got a mod that turned my grenade into an instantly exploding MIRV that fired off 9 additional grenades when the first blew up.  That generally made short work of enemies both big and small and allowed a larger margin of error for my aim as normally when I toss a grenade, I’m going for the general direction of the bad guys and not so concerned with pinpoint accuracy.

Vehicles are still very useful, both for traversing massive expanses in a short time as well as for clearing out a lot of bad guys before risking your precious shielding and health.  Something new I noticed is that simply slamming into an enemy isn’t enough to take them out, which was the case with B1… Some smaller enemies may die instantly but most either take damage and keep coming, or lay alive but disabled and waiting for you to finish the job by hand.  I’ve seen some flying vehicles as well, but I’m not sure whether or not I’ll have access in the single player campaign yet.

As far as characters, you’ve got a few varieties to try out, the Gunzerker (can dual-wield anything), Siren (phase shift bad guys out of the fight), Assassin (be sneaky, stab people, snipe people), or my personal favorite – the Commando (deploy-able turret).  I’ve seen some folks complain that the turret has lost its shielding, in my experience I use the turret as a tank.  If I’ve got a lot of enemies to deal with, I’ll toss the turret towards them, then pick them off with grenades or a sniper rifle as they focus their attention on the turret.

Something I’ve noticed about the NPC enemies though – they seem inconsistently oblivious.  In some areas, they’ll spot me a mile away and start opening fire, but in most you could be a few feet away and they won’t start pouring bullets on you until you’ve begun your assault.  They also seem to ‘forget’ that you’re there if you are out of sight for a certain amount of time.  Many times I’ve been sneaking through an area and have one literally walk right past me without acting.  Other times, they’ll duck away for cover and despite not actually hitting me, keep firing away and shouting taunts.

The characters in game are fantastic – while I’m not exactly looking for character development, the ones involved with pushing the story along or providing side missions are more than filler – they provide some valid insight on the mission and the voice acting is the best I’ve experienced in an FPS for some time.  The various taunts and ‘death cries’ from enemy NPC’s are equally entertaining and while some can be overlooked I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of hearing that baby voiced ‘psycho’ cry out after I’ve dispatched it from Pandora.

The good thing is that if you want to just play the story, you can.  If you want to bang out side missions to build up your stats, you can do that as well.  Exploration is encouraged, and while some missions may be marked ‘trivial’ as you level increases, the ability to unlock new weapons, skins, and other aspects of the game through the many side missions is a treat.  Most enemies you meet will be scaled appropriately for your character, but some side missions that require re-visiting an area you’ve already cleared early on can be a practice in tedium and a waste of ammunition.  Sure, its always fun to drop a target with a well timed headshot – but without the challenge it can start to feel like you’ve got God Mode enabled and you’re still expending ammunition that may be needed further down the quest chain.

Money buys guns, Eridium (an element that became available after the vault from B1 was uncorked) allows you to increase the amount of ammunition and other items you can carry at any point.  Since my favorite weapons are assault and sniper rifles, they were the first to get these upgrades, and an early backpack upgrade will allow you to collect more loot which can be cached in for ammo, weapons, shields, etc…  Something that doesn’t appear to be available in this game are health packs.  B1 would allow you to purchase instant health buffs, but also health packs you could carry with you – B2 doesn’t sell any sort of health pack that can be carried.  Once you get your rhythm down and find a set of weapons to your liking, the money will start to pile up – mainly because the upgrades you’ll find are better than what you can buy – so overall its used to buy more ammunition.

Overall – I love the game, its a fantastic product and I can tell that there was a lot of time, effort, and love put into it by the developers.  I can’t comment on the co-op or multi-player because I generally don’t play multi-player and if I was to do co-op, it would be on a console… but I  hear that both are done very well.  Is it worth the price of admission?  Absolutely.  Considering the string of games I’ve dropped $50-$60 over the past couple of months and have gotten bored with (Skyrim, Sleeping Dogs, etc…) a gem like this which successfully puts a dent in my Minecraft habit really stands out.

Flatout 3 STINKS

Saturday, January 28th, 2012

Arcade racing titles are few and far between these days.  The days of the old Need For Speed Hot Pursuit 2 and Carmageddon have long since past.  A ray of sunshine existed for some time with the Flatout series.  In addition to your standard arcade formula was a fun mode that involved catapulting your driver out of the car into various targets.  The pinnacle of the Flatout series was Ultimate Carnage.  Great arcade style racing, smooth progression, hours upon hours of vehicular carnage and fun.  When I saw Flatout 3 on Steam, I bought it without question… whoops.

 

Where UC had a logical tree-style progression through the race and carnage modes, 3 gives you a ridiculous selection of half assed modes.  The entire game feels like a B side.  Plenty of detailed tracks, plenty of cars, but no balance whatsoever.  Every race is a practice in sheer frustration.  Vehicles either have control or speed, the AI is absurdly aggressive, some of the tracks are insanely huge, and just about every car you can get does a few percentage of damage to the AI cars while you’ll self destruct after tapping the smallest obstacle.

In short, the game feels rushed, sloppy, and incomplete… not even close to the $30 sticker price that makes me wish Steam had a return policy.  If you enjoy a good arcade racer, pick up Flatout Ultimate Carnage, and spare yourself the steaming pungent load of shit that is Flatout 3.