Review: Assassins Creed Brotherhood

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on March 24, 2011 by Baggie

Assassins Creed Brotherhood is the latest in the Assassins Creed series by Ubisoft. The series is based on free-roaming combat/stealth/movement gameplay, based off Desmond, a modern day Assassin, reliving genetic memories of his ancestors through a machine called an Animus.

The game starts back with Desmond, a modern day Assassin, on the run from a corporation lead by Templars that are trying to take over the world using supernatural artifacts. The Assassins are currently set on acquiring on of the said supernatural artifacts, which involve Desmond going back to the life of Ezio, the protagonist Assassins Creed 2 (AC2). This time you visit renaissance Rome, which has fallen into poverty and decay due to Templar rule. You set out to restore Rome and kill Cesare Borgia, the captain of the Vatican military forces, whom is intent on conquering all of Italy.

The real world gets a little more use than previous AC games, with more time spent doing stuff in outside the Animus, as well as the option to leave the Animus and talk to your fellow Assassins, as well as run around outside. It’s a nice feature, considering there’s so little real world in the previous games it makes the small bits of character development and interaction all the sweeter.

Unfortunately the story itself isn’t quite on par with it’s predecessor AC2. Cesare as the antagonist is an amazing idea, having someone who actually looks like he could prove a challenge is a nice change for the series, where half the bad guys are overweight and can’t defend themselves. Truth be told the only thing that was keeping them alive was plot armor, and the only difficulty in fighting them is they have an unreasonably large damage resistance.
But whilst the character is fairly interesting, the executing is disappointing. Just as the ball gets rolling in Rome he leaves the city, and only arrives back near the end of the game, and then appears very little before the end, so doesn’t get enough screentime to really flesh out his character, and ultimately the plot suffers a little for it.

The main missions follow the same formula as twice before in AC2. Befriend the thieves, courtesans and mercenaries. Then do missions for them. Then more story missions. Then end boss. It’s not a bad formula but it’s getting a little stale since we’ve done it twice before, the only difference is most of the missions are a part of the sandbox, not the storyline, so you can breeze right past them by accident and not really consider doing them. Which I did.

However, while it’s not the best, the story is still above average game writing, and is in no way a deal breaker. Especially when considering the upgrades to gameplay, which is much the same as AC2, with some noticeable improvements to, well, pretty much everything everything.

Combat has been altered to include chain kills, where you can instantly kill an enemy by attacking him as you’re performing a counter kill, and you can start a counter kill whilst you’re performing an action, meaning combat is now quicker and more fluid, as opposed to previous titles where combat was pretty much waiting for people to attack and then counter killing them. While this would normally mean combat is incredibly easy if it was used against enemies in AC2, Brotherhood has a higher concentration of enemies to dispatch and requires you to use different moves in order to defeat the different guard archetypes, which means it keeps the same challenge combat had in AC2. In addition to this the existing weapon system has been updated so that some of the ranged weapons, i.e. the hidden gun and throwing knives, are ‘attached’ to the primary and secondary weapons respectively, so in combat you can hold attack to use a quick ranged attack which is immensely helpful with the inclusion of more difficult enemies and a horse riding guards, and adds to the combat system so it flows even better. Also included is 2 new weapons, the crossbow and poison darts, which make stealth gameplay much much more practical, which was somewhat of a problem in the first two games. You can also now carry heavy weapons, if you purchase the appropriate equipment for carrying them. Oh, you can also throw heavy weapons. Into people. Very hard.

Movement on foot is the same, however horses have been improved dramatically, with the ability to ride horses around the city, jump off them onto poles, jump from horse to horse and assassinate someone, a whole bunch of horsing around really. It adds a lot and makes moving around Rome a lot easier, huge as it is.

After a while you can also train rebels to become Assassins which you can send on missions to gain them experience, or use them in combat during the game, it’s a cool little system, and definitely can help during a tough mission, but feels like it should have been expanded on more, maybe specifying Assassins to combat roles or something.

The missions themselves are sometimes extremely creative and intuitive, and other times “Go to x, perform standard action Y”. Something that helps is the 100% sync, a system that gives you optional rules for the mission, e.g. do not be detected, do not touch the ground, do mission in allotted time. It adds a bit of playability to the game, added with the ability to revisit different parts of the game at  will, but it’s sometimes more annoying that interesting.

The city of Rome is extremely impressive as cities in the franchise are, having interesting ruins to explore, amazing buildings to climb, and the standard amazing AC world system of civilians and soldiers mingling in an amazing display, complete with different amounts of poverty as you renovate the city. It’s also HUGE.  Huge enough horses are required. Maybe too huge, reminding me of the San Andreas problem of taking forever to get anywhere, but a fast travel system is included and usually easily accessed, as long as you remember to fix up the access points.

The multiplayer component of the game is a very interesting idea. When I heard of AC multiplayer, I assumed it would be terrible due to the out of place combat system. I did not assume they would remove combat entirely. I also did not assume the fun.
It’s a game based on many objectives, though the main experience is assassinating. You lock on, press attack, and it’s an instant kill. However you can stealth around, hide in crowds of look alikes, and outrun people to avoid getting killed, and use many different techniques to kill, getting more points for kills based off stealth rather than high profile moves. It works well, but it contains an unlockable weapons, items and perk system which is apparently mandatory for multiplayer games now, and the unlocks are so very unbalanced it makes my brain hurt. It’s very fun, but it’s often luck based and item based rather than skill based, and it’s pretty likely if not certain the multiplayer community will die fair quickly, but is a good experience nonetheless.

Something I’d like to come back to is the pacing of the game. Assassins Creed 2 has superb pacing. Hell, it might be the best paced game I’ve ever seen. It uses environments, combat skills, characters, money, movement abilities. Something new is regularly happening, whether it be Carnevale in Venice, finding new factions to ally with, or being trained in new combat styles, either something interesting is happening or you have a definite goal. And in addition to that new side missions would appear every so often giving you the option to play them if you wished some quick fun action of your choice, or you could leave them for later and do more story missions.
However in Brotherhood they’ve put more content into the open sandbox mode, letting the player theoretically choose their own pacing of whatever.
However there’s an issue. People suck at pacing.
They’ll often feel obliged to do one thing or the other, and if you don’t break it down into small chunks at semi-frequent intervals they’ll either do too much mindless fun and get bored or not enough and get bored.
And as a result of the moving of content, the story doesn’t have enough raw content, making it feel short, while more content is put into the sandbox, which feels rather inconsequential as a result. Still fun and creative missions, but if they aren’t supplemented with regular story/character/whatever development, they feel like they really don’t matter too much. I mean, of course they don’t matter, they’re side-quests, the idea is to make them feel like the matter.
Overall however, Brotherhood is a very fun game, includes many improvements to the AC formula, including an entertaining multiplayer. Definitely a worthwhile entry in the franchise.


An attempt to play the Crysis 2 demo

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on March 3, 2011 by Baggie

Seeing as I did one for the previous game, and hey, free demo, I figured why not, though to be honest I’m not expecting much. The info given to the public has lead me to believe a few things.

1) The graphics quality will be worse than the first one, which I might add was in 2007. Not because they ran out of juice or decided to take the art style in a different direction, but because their primary platform is the console. They’ve also decreased the field of view enough that the gun takes up about a quarter of the screen and increased the bloom enough to be detrimental to gameplay.

2) The multiplayer gameplay will play more or less like Call of Duty, with something weird done to the nanosuit modes. Might actually be an improvement to the multiplayer gameplay due to the first Crysis’s multiplayer functioning like a bad Battlefield clone but it does mean it’s not going to anything amazing and new.

3) Everyone can turn invisible and can kill enemies instantly from behind whilst melee. Whilst it remains to be seen if this is something that will screw up everything the very concept hurts me deep inside for some reason.

So how is the demo? Well honestly it’s not bad. But it’s nothing as special as the first Crysis was.

When I first started the game I saw the 3D moving menus, which was kind of cool. Then I spent a few minutes trying to get my gamespy account working. Annoying, but I’ve heard a lot of people have had much more trouble than I did, waiting hours for new accounts etc, but hey it’s a free new release, it’s to be expected.

So fine so far, I went to the graphics options to raise my resolution and graphics options considering I have a computer actually capable of running anything on high. Kind of an enthusiast if you will. I like things to look pretty, and Crysis set the bar extremely high in that respect.

So you can imagine my despair when I saw this.

Really?  4 options, not even an ability to customize texture quality or AA?
And the graphics options include “Gamer” “Advanced” “Hardcore”. What the hell do those even mean? Which one should I choose? You’ve assigned values to arbitrary terms without explaining what they are! This isn’t good design!

So after 30 seconds of trying to figure what I should set it to I searched around for a bit trying to find some more options, instead I found this.

So. Aim Assist in a PC multiplayer game which is automatically on. It’s like the menus alone are designed to make people who enjoy games on the platform not want to play. I can understand specifying your game for consoles because hey, that’s where most of the money is. But you can’t bring over the ENTIRE platform onto the PC, it can’t be done. The crosshair option kind of irks me too, it’s like they expect people to get annoyed with it or something.

Okay, turn auto-aim off because I’ve used a mouse before and don’t feel like cheating, leave the options menu before I find the audio is 16 bit mono or something, and went searching for a game. Servers are everywhere of course, it’s a free game right now, so I sorted by ping and chose one with an empty space.

Okay, loading now, not feeling too great about the experience so far. Oh, the header for the server has a .de domain name. Interesting. (On later investigation I found that many servers were labeled with 0 ping. Probably should watch that)
Oh well, this should make for a interesting test of the lag compensation in the game.

So I finally got in, and I was greeted with this:

Actually this isn’t too bad right? Except I’m coming from crysis 1 and warhead, which looked like

So basically they’ve basically given the game a different lighting engine, toned down the textures and turned the motion blur up to maximum. Also that picture is the most colourful place in the entire demo. Now it’s not a BAD looking game, but it’s the sequel to a game that was boasted the best graphics yet, so it’s a little disappointing. Also the blur is slightly overdone which can be quite distracting at times.

So now we get to the gameplay.

My gods the gameplay.

(You might notice a change in tone at this point)

After a slightly shaky start, the game became this amazingly fluid fps. I was climbing walls, throwing grenades, ambushing people and picking them off with ease and style. The lag of being on a german server was almost nonexistent. The gameplay annoyances like everyone being invisible at all times or tanking with armor and being completely impossible to kill just weren’t there. Everything was functional, everything performed as expected.

There’s only two gamemodes to start with, team deathmatch and king of the hill, though both well done and balanced for the two maps, skyline and pier, both of which accommodate any playstyle you can think of in the game, which is also encouraged by the custom class feature that gives you many interesting alternatives to the standard 4 base classes.
The weapons are surprisingly well balanced at this stage, with just 4 weapons. The Assault rifle is decent at any range, the shotgun is good at close range, the sniper rifle is good at long range and the machine gun is effective but rather difficult to use in most situations.

So I’m in a bit of a confused what to think of this game. It’s a shooter that’s unashamedly a Call of Duty clone. The weapon damage is similar, the playstyle is mostly the same, killcams are present, heck, it even has killstreaks COD4 players might find remarkably familiar.

Original idea, do not steal

It’s clearly a cash in for the console Modern Warfare crowd, quite boring graphically, and utterly generic in most places and yet for all the things I feel I should dislike about it, it undeniably delivers a good experience that has completely changed my stance on the entire game. Kind of reminds me of COD before they kept making the same game but kept putting more unbalanced weapons and random junk in it. It’s beauty is in it’s simplicity, but you can use it to do exceptionally complex things.

Now it should be noted that this was only a demo, and even the game boot screen warns “THIS IS NOT A REPRESENTATION OF THE FINAL PRODUCT” (Which I feel is rather counterproductive really, make a good demo and say “You get more of this if you buy the game”), so some of the annoyances present could get better or everything could get worse. Could be the game was full of bad players at this stage so I had a lot of fun. Could be they plan to dump a whole load of unfair weapons in the mix just for laughs.

So I guess I’m cautiously saying this could be something good, though I can’t help but feel doubt the final product may have some changes I don’t like. Only time will tell. If you’ve got the time and space for download just under 2 gig and a system that can run it this is definitely worth a look. I know I’ll be keeping an eye on the full game.

Review: New Vegas

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on November 15, 2010 by Baggie

Fallout New Vegas is the latest installment in the Fallout series, released in October 2010 made by Obsidian, a developer mostly composed of the people responsible for the creation of the original 2 fallout games.
You start off your adventure as a courier who has had the misfortune to be thrown into so unfortunate business which results in an immediate a bullet to the head. You survive long enough for a friendly robot who talks like a cowboy to dig you up take you to a doctor who patches you up and sends you on your way, either to seek revenge or just tool around in post apocalyptic Vegas, scavenging, pissing off locals, shooting baddies, whatever you like.

The game itself is rather similar to Fallout 3 as far as most elements go, with a few welcome additions inspired by fallout 3 mod and the addition of ‘hardcore mode’ which requires the player to eat/drink/sleep to stay alive. The Fallout games have always been based around RPG skill systems (levels, putting skill points into specific skills etc), combat and speech, and this game is pretty much identical to all previous Fallout games in regards to those mechanics, however the general feel of the diverse amount of characters, missions and locations is much more similar to what I’ve experienced in the original Fallout games; mostly serious but slightly surreal and when humour is involved it rarely flops.

The plot is largely linear as far as the main missions go, but there are many different factions to ally with and the side missions make the entire experience rather open, and gives a nice sense of freedom, which is nicely compounded by the main quest being rather more relaxed about your progression than Fallout 3 was. There is though a sort of linear path of progression when first traveling to New Vegas in the main quest, and is supported by the location of the quests, but the only thing stopping you from going directly to New Vegas from the starting point is the pointy beasts that will try to tear you to shreds, which is much more interesting than an invisible wall.

Unfortunately the locations in the wasteland is something that isn’t quite as interesting as it was in Fallout 3. Sure, there’s shiny New Vegas, with flashing lights and casinos and robot policemen, but everywhere else is kind of boring in comparison to the places Fallout 3 came up with, which had towns built around a crater of an undetonated live nuke, a settlement on a old aircraft carrier, trenches in front of congress, everything was interesting and different. New Vegas has more locations, but most aren’t really that interesting,  some military bases, some towns that are pretty much the same as the other towns. Not a deal breaker, but a little boring in comparison to what we’ve already seen.

Combat mechanics have been much improved from Fallout 3’s simplified shoot people, some people have different weapons or more health. Instead armor actually blocks damage from weapons that aren’t up to the task, guns can be modified to have better capabilities, enemies are more varied and appear at specific locations as opposed to the “Random creatures appear in the middle of nowhere” method that Fallout 3 used. However, improved from Fallout 3 doesn’t mean much, the controls, while decent at moving and picking up stuff tend to still be kind of difficult to use in combat situations, and you may lose a battle because you couldn’t aim your gun more than once. Kind of an issue, but can be looked over.

The only real major issue is with the stability and performance, which is an unfortunate side effect of using the gamebyro engine, and can often impact in the enjoyment of the game. Maybe it’ll just stop working, or maybe someone will spontaneously fall through the ground. Or the first dog you meet will have his eyes floating 10cms away from the left side of his head rotated 90 degrees like I did. The performance issues are rather constant as well, the game is frequently choppy without an apparent cause and might occasionally freeze up. Both these issues appear to be in relation to what hardware you have sometimes, so running a quick google search specific issue/components relation might be a great help.
Patches are coming out for the PC and maybe console versions, but funnily enough my copy only started to crash AFTER the first patch was applied, so it doesn’t seem to be much comfort.

Also worth a mention is the modding capability in the game. An editor to the entire game was available since release, and the game supports the mods notable well. The modding community from Fallout 3 has picked it up and have created some astounding mods that really add to the experience, as well as some fixes for specific performance issues.
Best place I’ve seen for mods is, so if you’re interested it’s well worth a look.

All in all, the game is pretty good if you like a healthy mix of exploration, scavenging, gambling and exploring a wasteland filled with bad guys, but it requires a fair bit of patience to play and isn’t really the game you should look for in regard to constant pulse pounding action.

Review of Dead Rising 2

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on October 9, 2010 by Baggie

Dead Rising 2 is the sequel to Capcom’s rather good zombie game Dead Rising, where you play as the reporter Frank West who is trying to figure out exactly is causing the outbreak. This time around you play as Chuck Greene, a former motor-cross champion who is thrown into his second zombie outbreak in a vegas-esqe city called Fortune City. You have a small adorable daughter who has been bitten in the past and has to be injected with a medicine called Zombrex to prevent her from turning into a walking dead, and also try to uncover why you’ve been framed for the outbreak.

To start with, Dead Rising 2 is pretty much more or less Dead Rising 1 with a few well placed tweaks, and that’s a sequel I can admire when the first game was fairly good, too many games try to change the games too much and end up with something that’s not as good. The core elements of tonnes of zombies and using hilarious and varied weaponry are still there, and some of the things that kind of sucked in the first game, like survivor AI, have been fixed.
The zombies, those ‘lovable violence without guilt’ flesh-bags are there, and are still as fun to destroy in exciting ways as ever, with so many possible items to use as weapons it’s quite staggering, and a new weapon combo system, where you can make powerful amazing weapons, though it misses a few basic obvious weapons that I though would definately have been in. (Like putting a car battery on a 2×4 would have made a tazer-pole. Seems obvious enough.)
However, it still has a few annoyances than have remained from the first game.

Dead Rising, as a series, has always had a large focus on screwing around in it’s games. As said, you can use almost anything you see as a weapon, from Pot Plants, bundles of CDs, firecrackers, lawnmowers, all fun to use, and there’s a huge amount you can do that’s not central to the plot, but will give you bonuses and are just generally interesting. I would gladly play a game that is essentially Dead Rising but without a central plot and time limits, because as the game is now it seems to not want you to actually have fun with it, but still includes thousands of screwing around opportunities for some reason. Especially with the addition of Co-op, I figured that 2 pals running around a zombie apocalypse fighting bad guys and laughing like hell would have been obvious.

The game is heavily based around time limits, which can be a bit intrusive when you want to concentrate on doing something fun. For example you might want to go outside and ride around on your newly acquired motor cycle for a while, try to get the “Kill 1000 zombies” achievement, have a fun time. Or maybe play some slot machines, break some ATMs, get enough money to buy the keys for that fancy car in the plaza. Except you can’t if you don’t want a timer bar keeping an innocent old lady alive to run out and get her eaten. It’s not really fair on the player, because the player wants to have fun, not be constrained by dead lines that make little to no sense. This was remedied a tad in Dead Rising 1, where it had an “Infinity mode” which involved you staying alive and killing zombies indefinitely, but it was taken out in this game in a way that screams at me “We’re going to use it for DLC”. Which does not fly well with me. Oh no.

The save system is the same, that is you go to a toilet and save your progress. While functional, it does tend to become annoying, especially when you forgot to save before the big boss fight and you lose half an hours progress. Still, there are more restrooms around the place than the first one so it’s a tad better.

The boss fights are the same standard of difficulty that they were in Dead Rising, which is mostly incredibly difficult. Which isn’t in itself a bad thing, but it forces players to use game limitations to kill them more often then not. Hell, one boss I was fighting got stuck in a wall and let me pummel him to death, and I was downright grateful to have been cut a break. Another one I defeated by taking 4 survivors with me, giving them all assault rifles and kept the boss busy while they did most of the work. Most others can be defeated by learning their moves and figuring out a routine to whittle away their health while avoiding attacks, which will utterly destroy you. It all feels kind of unsatisfying after a while, when routine and essentially cheating the game are the only way to win against these guys.

The this that really annoys me though, is that ultimately, it doesn’t matter apparently. The escort, psychopath fights, and all the timed missions are completely optional, and you can apparently not bother with them and still get the best ending. So… why exactly did you put  a flashing timer on my screen that makes it feel like the most important thing in the world Dead Rising? I mean I don’t mind, but you didn’t even give me a score at the end, you just threw a bunch of stats I already knew at me. And they’re clearly the best part of the game as well, so why did you make them worth so very little?

The game has co-op and multiplayer which are nice additions, but not really that amazing. The co-op essentially puts 2 players into a campaign instead of one, and it doesn’t let you interact with one another than much. I had a vision of one person with a shotgun, one person wheeling them around in a wheelchair, or even some co-op fighting moves. But nothing of the sort. Functional, but kind of dull.
Multiplayer, where 4 players play on the fictional game show “Terror is Reality” that centers around killing zombies in exciting ways, is kind of dull honestly. I mean there’s a few different mini-games, and they’re all functional, but they aren’t fun enough to really play the game for. Though you can export the money won to a save game, which is a nice addition.

All in all, it’s a very solid experience of zombie destroy fun, and definitely worth playing through, but it does have a few annoyances that can lessen the experience at times.

A diary of my attempt to play Crysis Wars

Posted in Random Rants with tags , , on January 1, 2010 by Baggie

Day 1:

Finding myself with a new Terabyte hard drive and nothing to put on it, I decided to go through my games and see if there was anything that might jump out at me. Low and behold, I saw Crysis Warhead, but what I was interested in was its multiplayer component, Crysis Wars.

Now the original Crysis’s multiplayer wasn’t exactly populated, possibly because of Crytek’s attitude of “throwing enough graphical requirements in the game most of the public can’t play it” was a bad business strategy. It wasn’t bad multiplayer though, and I could definitely see myself getting into it if there was people playing it.

So I figured what the hell, and installed it on my new drive, while it effectively stole my headphones for half an hour with what can only be described as “elevator music without anything but percussion”. Not a great start to want me to get into the game.

Then it wasted another couple of minutes with advertising and a rather boring intro movie, neither of which could I skip. Which yet again suggests that Crytek doesn’t have a department for making the player actually want to play the game. I mean the intro for left 4 dead 2 is awesome, and I sometimes watch it before I play the game, which it seems means they’ve done something really right, as opposed to a bad intro that you don’t want to watch but you have to anyway.

(You can skip these after the first time you play, I found later)

Finally got into the game, and unsurprisingly it asks me to download a patch. Not really suprising, good they keep everyone on the same version.

Buuuuttt… 500 meg is kind of asking a lot. I don’t really mind, but I have a sneaking suspicion that this download isn’t really efficient when I looked at the patch notes and they basically remade and included the Software Developer Kit in the patch. Logically, that could be one of those optional things.

So far, the entire game hasn’t really been enthralling. I realised I’ve not technically played any of it yet, but I at least expected something that told me, in no uncertain terms, that this game is awesome and you should feel privileged for being allowed to buy it. As it stands, this game feels like the development team gave up somewhere along the line.

After the patch downloaded I gave up for the night, and decided to head for bed, cause frankly it wasn’t looking too good.

Day 2:

Found some time to play some online today, and found there was one server on australia that was pretty much the only one that was ever populated. Normally it’d be pretty annoying in a game like Tf2, but the gameplay is pretty much the same experience in all maps.

The combat is largely capture point based, you can capture more spawns, vehicle bases of ground, air and water variety, power nodes, and a research base. Basically the main game an objective map where either one or both teams try to destroy the enemy’s base, mostly involving the alien weapons you can earn by filling your power bar with the power nodes around the map.

You gain weapons by a rewards system, where on spawn you can spend requisition points on a variety of guns, upgrades, and other toys. You get points by completing objectives, and you can increase the amount of points you get at spawn by gaining ranks, which only last for the map.

The rounds themselves take quite a while, with a lot of back and forthing with the capture points, and I was amazed at how deep the experience could be. It felt like a battlefield game where everyone was a superhuman. The gunplay is tight, and the sniping is incredibly satisfying.

Though I didn’t spend more than an hour on it, I already have a good couple of moments I really enjoyed, chiefly when I saw a guy speeding towards me with his jeep. I shot randomly with my sniper rifle, and accidently blew out his tire. He then spun out around me and regained control and drove away. So I shot the gas tank at the back of his car and he politely exploded in a big fiery ball. Not only did this make me laugh, but the guy then accused me of using hacks, which made me laugh even more.

Though he had a bit of a point, there seems to be a bit of hacking going on around the place. I’ve not seen anything concrete, but there are some pretty BS headshots happening and there was that guy who somehow played and survived by punching people in the face a bunch. Though I’ve learnt to give people the benefit of the doubt in these situations, I wouldn’t be surprised if I saw something really horrible later on.

Day 3:

Played a couple of rounds today, and didn’t enjoy it so much. Could have been the players that have been playing for far longer and kept dominating me, or it could have been the fact that the game has a nighttime mode on the server’s local time, so you can’t see much.

The rounds were pretty boring, ran around, captured stuff. I’m starting to think the weapon balance might be off, as I often noticed that people would often kill me while I was trying to snipe.  At first I thought it was because I was crap, however I found myself in a similar situation only I had the SCAR, and I killed the sniper pretty easily.

I’ve also noticed the mouse controls feel a bit off, though I’m not sure if it’s the mouse, the speed control being a slidebar, or because my frame rate is a bit shit. I don’t claim to have an awesome computer, it’s about midrange at this point, but I can run practically everything on high. I’m running this game on low, and I still get occasional problem for seemingly no reason at all.

I’m also a little annoyed they decided to make the bullets travel like actual bullets, as opposed to the standard instant bullet travel you normally see in most videogames. It makes sniping difficult, especially when everyone can automatically turn on “I’m so fast the air catches fire” mode at will.

I’m kind of annoyed, but I’m determined not to stop playing now, as I’ve not really fully grasped the game entirely. For example, I bought an aircraft today and because looking is also how you fly the thing, I got it stuck on a building about 30 seconds afterward.

Day 4:

Didn’t actually play any today, didn’t find the time. However, I did play Tf2 last night and I was quite shocked how much better the game seemed. Everything feels like it’s totally fair and everything is balanced on a pinhead, gameplay wise. If nothing else, at least this exploration will give me an appreciation of the really good things I play.

Day 8:

I think I fully understand why the game has such a small fanbase. At first I thought it might be due to the practically non-existant marketing going on, but now I can see something much bigger behind that. The weapon balance is definitely off, the game encourages play styles that makes people feel like crap, and other assorted small issues.

I’ve played for a bit over the last couple of days, though nothing really changed since the 3rd day, guns seeming unfair, vehicles driving like crap, spawn camping on practically every occasion.

Though strangely enough for all it’s badness, it can and will be fun on occasion. You can play incredibly strategically, and even get some crazy BS stuff happening on occasion.

Unfortunately though the time that I spend having fun vs the time I spend NOT having fun on that game isn’t  worth it for me anymore. I avoid playing it, and when I do I find myself getting spawn camped or sniped from across the map. Everything is fair game, but not everything is fun, unlike Team Fortress 2 or Left 4 Dead, which have fun leaking out the pores. Mainly I feel the developers either didn’t put enough effort in, or didn’t care enough to try to make is a really good game. Every turn I feel like the game is encouraging me not to play it.

I’m going to give up on Wars I think. There’s no point in playing something when there are better alternatives I’ve already purchased. I kind of find it sad because there’s a definite feeling that the premise could have been extremely fun if they just made everything a bit better. I guess it was a bit optimistic to expect a game to be fair when everyone can turn invisible.

Gaming as a Medium

Posted in Uncategorized on November 17, 2009 by Baggie

Mediums, such as music, are generally classified as what the medium usually consists of.
Rap music is about people living in American Ghettos, Musicals are about romantic or argumentative stuff, there’s a bunch of stereotypes that people use to classify (usually dismiss) mediums.

While often true, a medium, or rather the content within the medium, shouldn’t be classified based solely on what the majority does with it.
This is a big problem with Gaming as a medium, where the general knowledge of gaming by is either MMORPGs or twitch multiplayer games like Counter Strike and DOTA.

While these games have the majority of players, it’s important to distinguish the games themselves for what they are. While many people enjoy twitchy games and MMORPGs, they’re not going to really win any awards for giving a rewarding intense emotional experience (which also creates a sense of longing to have a social life). Sure, they’re fun, but so are generic action movies or comedy books.

Now, games as art is a shaky thing, people having massively different view of what art is, though I’m going to go for a definition of:

“Art is the process or product of deliberately arranging elements in a way that appeals to the senses or emotions.”
Courtousy of Wikipedia

And as fun as some games are, they can’t be said to appeal to senses or emotions other than the adrenal side of the brain.

Using Bioshock as an example, it had a lot to say about society, the hypothetical questions about ethic-less science, as well as making people think about the foundations and components of humanity, and sacrificing another for your own personal gain. Also it had flying steam punk robots.
Bioshock, to me, is the closest we’ve gotten to gaming being viewed art. Stirring discussion, questioning, and being aesthetically pleasing. However if people saw you playing Bioshock next to a person playing Unreal Tournament 3, there’s no difference whatsoever to the person watching.

So what’s the problem? Well gaming is generally inaccessible to people who don’t play games as a hobby.

Say an art critic asks you who authored this painting, you using only the painting as a reference, you’d have no idea. If I asked an everyday person who made this game engine and what type of game genre it is designed for, it’d be rather the same situation, but that’s only one layer of the whole concept of gaming. Next you have the mechanics of the game, and a malady of other things, all of which is the capacity of a small town.

But what’s worse is that you have to actually do serious training to pick up and play most games from the beginning. I played L4D with my dad once, and while he eventually got the hang of it, I don’t think he got the subtle undertones of society desperately trying to hang together and the reversal of the typical social order, when he spent most of the time struggling to aim at the zombies.

Games however, aren’t and never should be, based on the concept of art. Gaming is about the core of the game, moving, jumping, shooting etc, and while this is only the bread and butter it takes ages to do and if you screw it up boy are you boned. And not all games should be trying to make an enormous statement about the existence of souls or war, people primarily play games to unwind and not to have to think too much, to escape the constant barrage of questions and people known as life.

So the main concentration for a game to be considered art is not that the game is completely inaccessible for people who don’t want to think for a little while, it’s to make it subtle so the complex meanings behind things don’t have to be considered in order to have fun.

So while art in gaming is possible, It’s buried very deep art that takes a lot of time and even training to appreciate the subtleties while you’re trying to survive in a madness of shooting and possibly confusing control schemes. And it sure as hell isn’t going to be recognised by the mass public for a while.

(I don’t actually HATE MMORPGs, but I do NOT see why people play them for fun, they seem more like work to me)

Random Rants: Why I suddenly hate Infinity Wards.

Posted in Random Rants on November 9, 2009 by Baggie

Infinity wards is the game studio behind the horrendously good game Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.

Modern Warfare was a new step for the COD franchise, not being in the endless slug of WWII games. The resulting story was brilliant, engaging, and thought-provoking, as well as downright fun.
However, past the Single Player there was an incredibly deep multiplayer, based on team play with a leveling system that let you slowly improve over time. Personally it was the second best multiplayer I’ve ever seen.

Then there was Modern Warfare 2.
Now, same style of game, same studio. So what exactly is different?

Infinity Wards, in their infinite wisdom, decided to make the PC multiplayer without use of third-party dedicated servers.

For you guys not in the know, dedicated servers are the bread and butter of PC multiplayer. A server is a computer that’s designed to run programs and send data to multiple computers at the same time, which is why they’re sodding awesome.
They allow multiplayer to expand with modifications, custom maps, a bunch of other tweaks depending on the game. It also allows communities to form around servers, meaning you get to play with a group of people who are friendly and fun to play with. Of course there’s still nondescript servers around the place, which means you can have whatever play experience you want, the choices are infinite. There’s also the benefit of being able to quickly ban hackers, mute micspammers, all being controlled by the admin of the server.

Now, I don’t hate the 360, but I think the players are being screwed over by having to pay for an online service that in many ways is sub par. And one of the major problems is that they have a terrible online system, which at best has developer hosted servers, and at worst (And far more likely) one persons 360 acts as the server, and as a result they get a huge advantage.

The effect is that the PC experience, with all its customisation ability, is gone, and replaced by a boring vanilla controlled by the developers which, while mildly acceptable, isn’t going to make anyone happy, especially not the guys I go to a LAN with every month or so. Especially not when they make the player limit 9v9, which is completely stupid from a gameplay perspective, and probably brought on by the fact they’re going to have to front the bill for the servers themselves, and account for peer-to-peer hosting, which they could have avoided if I remember correctly. And the lack of dedicated admins mean that they’re going to have hackers, micspammers, and a bunch of exploiters.

The PC community has made it very clear they don’t want this to happen. There’s even been a petition with nearly 20,000 signatures.
So why, in all sanity, would you want to take a system as good for the player as the PC multiplayer, and turn it into  a console version of the multiplayer? It’s not fair for the people who were looking forward to an improved version of the multiplayer from COD4, and has logically no upsides to the playing experience.

The first Modern Warfare game was one of the most pirated I’ve seen. While you couldn’t go online, people used programs like Hamachi (making a virtual lan and bypassing online CD key checks) to bypass this, and as a result IW lost a lot of money. Unfortunately, there’s always going to be people who pirate games on the PC, and to think you can stop that is just stupid, best to put your best anti-piracy on the software and leave it, not to make the game not worth buying to stop the people not buying it.

So, in an effect to stop pirates, they’ve made the game effectively not worth pirating. Not to mention ignoring the 20,000+ people that would have bought the game if it wasn’t a pile of crap now.

For me, this game, and possibly all COD games to come, are not worth my time anymore. It’s a pity, but if they’ve made it clear that they so desperately don’t want me to buy their games, I won’t.

Maybe Bad Company 2 will be a little more welcoming.