Archive for the New, used, abused Category

New, Used, Abused: Batman-Arkham Asylum

Posted in New, used, abused with tags , , on November 1, 2009 by Baggie

Batman has been around forever now, firstly in his comic book form where he was frequented by blatant propoganda and “POW”, “SPLAT”, and various other onomatopoeia, to the current day, where he somehow starred in a couple of really good movies (Or the first anyway, second one was pretty much Heath Ledger).

Now, games that are based around recent movie franchises or based around the movies themselves are usually not that terrific. You get some absolute golden stuff like Butcher Bay or Spiderman 2, but mostly they just fail because they often try to coincide with the movie too much rather than actually developing good gameplay or a story that isn’t just the movie retold.

Arkham Asylum is defying the odds, in that it’s actually a good game. Not just a decent game, but a well thought out story with fun gameplay elements, all rather consistent with the typical image of Batman, sort of a cross between classic saturday morning batman, and new movie “I eat gravel instead of cereal” Batman.

The game starts off with Batman driving the Joker back to Arkham Asylum (Basically where the Batman villains get locked up before they break out again, usually more than once, which is pretty impressive because it’s a sodding island with one bridge). You have a slightly slow entrance that establishes several characters, as well as some important plot lines that become more important later.

The story is mainly driven by actions from the Joker, Harley Quinn, and company, but occasionally they try to throw you off the scent, where your detective vision mode comes in handy. Detective vision is technology that lets batman see various elements invisible to the naked eye, such as tobacco traces, fingerprints, and other things in order to track people to their hiding spots. It also lets you see enemies through walls, shows if they have a gun, and can tell you if they’re scared, calm, unconscious, dead. It’s practically a straight upgrade to human eyes, the only problem is that it kind of gets boring not being able to see the impressive environments around you.

The gameplay in Batman is very solid in both its main aspects of fighting and stealth. While it’s normally difficult to pull of a seemless transition between the two, somehow they pull it off rather well. This is aided by the various gadgets batman unlocks through the game, which increase mobility, combat efficiency, and some are just plain fun, like the proxy explosive gel you can put near bodies and will explode automatically when an enemy gets too close.

The hand to hand fighting is really exceptional. In my (slightly limited) experience of fighting games, most of the time you can basically keep attacking the enemies until they fall over. While this is fun for a little while, it does get boring quickly because all the fights in the game feel the same.
Batman shines because it’s always making you adapt how you fight with different enemies, different unlockable weapons and techniques, and has this flowing combat system, which means you get more experience from chain combos, which are pulled off by consistently being in combat with no more than 2 seconds between actions, avoiding all enemy attacks. It also pulls the difficulty curve up at a well crafted pace, meaning you never get too bored or hit a brick wall because you can’t seem to hurt the bastards.
As a personal testament to the quality of the hand to hand fighting, I spent a lot of time after the game was finished in Challenge mode, trying to get better scores on the fighting challenges because it’s just so much fun.

The stealth combat is less impressive, though still rather solid. You basically sneak around a large room with a bunch of enemies walking around with firearms, and have to take them all down, using the gargoyles on the ceiling as escape tools.
Where this shines is the environmental interaction you can pull off, e.g. you can blow up walls to knock out henchmen with the rubble, string them up on gargoyles, pull enemies over railings off ledges, all the while picking off enemies that are distracted by your Bat-toys you can unlock through the game.
The main problem is though the enemies aren’t particularly good at seeing you, even when you’re hanging directly over henchmen, directly breathing down their neck, they don’t seem to notice. It does make it easier, but there could be another way of making the stealth sections doable without the henchmen having a collective IQ of 4.

Because Batman is pretty consistent in his character it takes his enemies to really define him and the story, and Mark Hamill does a terrific Job of portraying the Joker as a Wacky, Insane Genius who is constantly in communication with the entire island, changing between playing with batman and playing with his own henchmen.
This results in some absolute golden lines, which are ever-changing throughout the game as you progress and his plans begin to take fruition. There’s some appearances from classic characters like Bane, Poision Ivy, Killer Croc, and some truly excellent sections as Batman is under the effect of Scarecrow’s fear gas. Every character is rich in detail and well voiced.

There’s also a metagame where batman has to find solutions to clues the Riddler has left around the island, taking pictures of the solution to get extra character info and maps for the Challenge mode. It also relates to a lot of characters that, while not having a pivotal role in the game, are still present in some way, such as the Frozen cell of Dr Freeze, or the Goggles of Catwoman, creating a feeling of an enormous universe you’re only scratching the surface in Arkham.

In short, Batman- Arkham Asylum is a terrific game, and can recommend it to practically anyone, as  I’m convinced that there’s probably no one in the world that doesn’t like Batman.

Note: I was intending to start putting pictures on my blog, but I don’t have any handy and uninstalled the game yesterday. Next time!


New, Used, Abused: Farcry 2

Posted in New, used, abused with tags , on August 11, 2009 by Baggie

Foreward: When I bought this game at the GAME store in Bathurst, they gave me a copy of the Fortune’s Pack DLC for free, which gave me new vehicles and weapons (as well as Multiplayer maps, but the multiplayer community is dead). Woo GAME! Buy your games from GAME! I just wish they had a better name.

Farcry 2 is a game by developers Ubisoft, in stark comparison to the general formula of sequels the game actually has nothing to do with Farcry, besides shooting people really.

You start off the game as 1 of 9 different playable characters, tasked by a US Government divison to kill a chap called ‘The Jackel”, who’s been supplying arms to both sides of the conflict (I chose Andre, he had the most similar hair and name to me, always a plus.) However within your first few seconds of precious cutscene you contract malaria somehow and passout. Then you awake to find the guy you were sent to kill NURSING you back to health, though he seems a little pissed that you’ve got orders to assassinate him. He however seems like a genuinely nice guy, you know, past the psycotic arms dealer thing. He then lets you live, telling you you’ll have to find something else to do with your time.

Genuinely, I felt I wanted to keep out of his hair. For a guy you’ve been sent to assassinate to mend you up from the brink of DEATH, it seemed like the least I could do. Unfortunately I was swept up in a cascade of storyline, and was rescued from death by one of the warring factions, the ULFF. At least I THINK it was the ULFF. It was pretty difficult to tell, both sides don’t have that much difference between them.After a couple of missions I was pretty much released into the open world, to enjoy the diverse forests, barren deserts, etc.

First thing that’s notable is the game is in first person the entire time. No 3rd person cutscenes, no vehicle-cam, just straight FPS. And it’s really immersive, especially with the fully visible character body, the expressive 1st person animations of your character, and the minimal HUD. It draws you in very skillfully, which makes it pretty decent to me already.

The first couple of missions were pretty standard, go to certain place, destroy certain object/person. It’s a tried and true method. But the first thing that struck me when I left the local mission-town, the outpost I’d wiped out a couple of minutes earlier had mysteriously repopulated.

First thought was that I felt the game had cheated me somehow. Though I slowly realised that in an actual war places of strategic importance generally don’t go left alone, especially since the opposite force had proceeded to drive away at breakneck speed after clearing the place out.

Made sense, so I figured I’d do my best to stay out of the people’s way. But that was easier said than done, most of the place is contained within heavy bushland, meaning that it was more or less unavoidable that I’d have to fight some people in my travels.

Now normally I don’t have a problem with fighting. Hell, it’s why I play games in the first place, but the idea of killing enemies when they’re going to be replaced in 5 minutes just feels so… pointless. I mean in most games you can clear out an area and bam, you’ve got a safe zone. You’ve made the world, particularly this 20×20 metre square, a better place. But here, you’ve got to slog your way through countless hordes of people, and while realistic, it just feels irritiating. Of course the other option would be to have the camps stay cleared, but frankly that’d lead to me clearing the world in a couple of hours and somehow there’s a war going on after all the troops have died.

I kept on with the missions, but they had a bad case of being very similar too. I mean the objectives were different and there was always a reason for them to be done, storyline wise, but they boiled down to killing the people in the area, pressing ‘e’ on or blowing up the object in question.

This game has a bad case of what is referred to as ‘combat fatigue’ (Coined by the nice chaps at Valve). It’s when the player has been fighting for far too long, and it begins to make them feel frustrated, of course how much too long is is different from person to person. Typically you can break this up by giving the player some constructive puzzles or something similar to release the tension, but this game can’t really pull that off, being a Sandbox game. They have a fun mechanic where you can hunt for dimonds hidden around the world, and the exploration, though annoyingly limited in some areas, is very fun, but there’s a big wall for me when it comes to driving.

Africa, being a very large place, will require you to do some driving if you want to get places. I mean you can walk, but it’s probably faster to drive. While the driving is alright in itself, it makes you wait a fair ammount of time until you can get to your desination, which kind of irks me. I mean I play games to unwind etc, not to practice a driving simulator.

The storyline, is truely intruiging. I crave more, which keeps me going through this game, which at times I feel like a bit of a slogfest. The Jackel is someone that, while seemingly evil, there’s more to his intentions than initially revealed, and I can’t help but think he might be onto something. The only problem is to get to these wonderful parts of story I must go through missions that become pretty much all the same and travel that feels like I’m doing the 2 hour drive from my Uni to home. And because I want more of the story, the more I try to rush through the missions and combat, which makes me more frustrated

All this frustration and hopelessness though makes me feel like it was at least partly intentional. Maybe they were trying to illustrate how pointless war is, or emulate the feelings of the character who’s seeking revenge on the person who robbed him of his career.Though this may be silly to assume, it could equally be they thought that players like constant combat.

The buddy system is quite good, you have NPCs scattered around the world, guys you didn’t pick as your character, and guys that’re just there to hang around you. How you find them can be pretty cool, I rescued some random chick that’s plane fell out of the SKY. They can rescue you when you die, a sort of backup system, but when they’re in the world with you there’s a chance that they could die.
First they’ll go down, and call for help. From there you can choose to heal them, leave them, or put them out of their misery.
Though sometimes it’s not enough. They’re not uberhumans (well maybe they are, but they have limits), they can die. I was raiding a treasure stash with my buddy Josip, and it ended up in a massacre. They died, and he was there, crying for help. I put in 3 syrettes into him, before he passed out and died. And I felt genuinely sympathetic to his demise, which is a landmark for me personally, it takes a lot of effort into making people feel for a charcter they know doesn’t exist.

Something random I’d like to mention are the fire physics in the game. They’re absolutely stunning. I’ve never seen fire that’s been programmed so well. You throw a molotov at a patch of grass, the grass will burn down. And any trees, people, wooden buildings etc that’s in it’s range. It’s really pretty and actually serves a tactical advantage as well, the AI coming to investigate and try to put it out.

This is a really good game, and there’s so much to like about it, but personally I find I can’t play for too long without getting so bored with the compulsory travel sections and the constant fighting. The environments are stunning, and everything fuctions really well, and the storyline is really intruiging, but it’s a bit of a slog to get to the good parts. Pick it up if you can stand constant fighting and are partial to a bit of high quality storyline.

New, Used, Abused: Prototype

Posted in New, used, abused on June 18, 2009 by Baggie

Right. 3/4 exams complete, will now attempt to write about something that MATTERS. Hopefully this all makes sense.

Prototype is a game I picked up last weekend. Developed by Radical Entertainment.

It’s a rather simplistic style of game, you’re presented with New York. You are a super-human tentacle monster thing. Due to the minimal plot that’s about all I can reveal without giving massive spoilers.
You have an impressive range of abilities, from incredible aerobatics to incredible feats of strength to the ability to disguise as anyone you’ve ‘consumed’. Think incredible hulk mixed with Hayabusa with a dash of TF2 Spy. And tentacles.

First off I’ll say it’s not a nice game. There an excessive amount of gore, and if you square the amount of gore the fear series had you might be coming close. You gain powers, evolution points (EP, cause XP wasn’t good enough), health and discuses by beating the SHIT out of people and then absorbing them into your tenticle mass. There’s zombie monsters that run around eating people, covered in blood. There’s enormous infections that’s consuming most of the city. There’s corrupt private military organisations.
And for some reason they made it all SERIOUS. Sometime a little more lighthearted would have been nicer, might have intruged the player a little more. All the gore and seriousness made me wonder if everyone in the company has the sense of humor of a wallnut.
I’m wondering if the entire non-seriousness of the game is actually a subtle design choice to appear ironic or something, it’s just confusing to me that they either stumbled upon a good game design entirely by accident or they decided to make fun of the serious game stereotype.

But there’s two sides of the coin. The game is incredibly fun. So much fun that when people play it a crowd forms around them and everyone there laughs maniacally. I saw one guy play for a good 30 minutes using the ‘Body Ride’ power where you jump at a person, grind them into the ground and slide on them for a good distance while it rains blood behind you. It’s so awful, yet somehow it’s just so hilarious.
Maybe we’re just desensitised to blood and gore, I’m not sure if a regular person would find it so funny. But bravo to them for designing for their audience anyway.

The gameplay itself is surprisingly well done as far as the player character systems go. You get EP by doing basically everything, can complete side missions for EP, rain military bases for EP and upgraded weapon abilities, all of which goes towards your character’s powers. You can transform your arms into a good half a dozen weapons, all pretty awesome, and can upgrade them with new abilities and other awesome add ons.

However they screw everything up in a main aspect. While technically the game allows you to choose your own playing style, this gets screwed up by an addition to the game a couple of missions into the storyline where they add machines that can detect you in a certain radius. They then proceed to put them in all vital locations, effectively killing the stealth aspect of the game. So you’re essentially forced to go all out assault. Fine.

THEN they add a pink cloud of death which consistently damages you while you’re in it, and put THAT in practically all storyline missions. Now you’re forced to do hit and run attacks. Then they make the missions much harder and harder until I’ve stopped playing the storyline because the more I progress the worse the game becomes. This is after the initial novelty of the game wears off as well.

On a more personal note I’ve got an issue with the game on my computer that should be noted. It’s running pretty well most of the time, but after particularly hard boss battles they insist on showing some in-game cutscenes. Fine, except the game decides to crash before I can save and then I’ve got to do the boss battles AGAIN. Which means I may be being a little harsh on the difficulty curve as I have to do the hardest missions twice.

I’m pretty intrigued by the moral-system in the game, or rather lack thereof. You can kill anyone you wish, pick up cars off the street and hurl them down the road. The game even encourages this to an extent by giving you targets you can consume for EP, adding to the web of intrigue.
Speaking of which it seems like an interesting plot-development idea, when you consume a target you get their memories. This means you can learn things about the plot, which sounds like something that’d appeal to me greatly.
If it worked. Which it doesn’t for me because they’re pre-rendered movies and the video pauses for minutes at a time so I just skip these. Don’t the developers test their game on anything but high powered machines? I mean my laptop is no slouch and it still fails at these videos.

Anyway, prototype is a fun game, however it could definitely have gone with a lighter tone and better storyline progression. But the gameplay is terrifically open-world. I spent about an hour running up skyscrapers and jumping off the top to see how big a crater I could make. I made a pile of cars and then blew them up. I stalked random civilians in the street, grabbed them, ran up a building and then proceeded to EAT them. So it’s really what you like in a game that determines whether you’ll like Prototype, but it’s certainly not perfect.

New, Used, Abused: Chronicles of Riddick – Assault on Dark Athena.

Posted in New, used, abused with tags on May 20, 2009 by Baggie

Bonus post! Just for you guys.

A bit back I looked back at Butcher Bay, and if you’ve not read the review I highly suggest you do.

Anyway, Dark Athena is the sequel to Butcher Bay.  Again made by Starbreeze, you follow a certain fellow as his ship he escaped from Butcher Bay in gets captured by a Merc ship, and has to fight his way out.

First off you start with a tutorial level. In Butcher Bay you learnt how to play by being put into a dream sequence, but half the beauty was that if you hadn’t seen Pitch Black you wouldn’t know that it wasn’t real. It was brilliant, and taught all the mechanics of the game rather well.
Dark Athena tries to do the same thing, but unfortunately it’s not quite so subtle.  Riddick wakes up on the beach. Then he goes into a tunnel. Then he talks to some chap. Then he climbs up a ladder. Fortunately it gets better with the fighting mechanics, but alienating the player from base one: Never a good idea. I was wondering what the hell had happened to Johns, my spaceship or any relevancy to butcher bay whatsoever.

There’s two specific schools of voice acting and dialogue quality in this game. Riddicks, and the good stuff.
Riddick in the first game was nice and straightforward when talking to other people. He sometimes narrated the story a bit because the entire thing was a flashback, and it was really nice. In this game however he tends to prattle on about nothing, saying stuff like ‘I’m hells messenger”. Lines that, in short, make him sound like an absolute tool.

Then of course, is every other voice actor in the game.
Believable voice acting is something that’s becoming more popular in games these days, however they took the concept one step further by adding terrific voice acting AND expressive body language. The result is… amazing. I mean I could actually read the characters a lot better and it enhanced the experience significantly. You could easily tell when characters were freaking out, when they were confused, and when they were just batshit crazy. I don’t think I’ve seen this level of character emotion in a MOVIE before, let alone a game.

The gameplay retains all the elements, stealth, gunplay and melee, but uses them in different quantities. You’ll be shooting a lot more in this one than Butcher Bay, and the Melee is well… a lot more difficult.
The focus is now blocking and waiting for them to attack, and trying to get a quick-time event where you click when the weapons flash. The only problem with this is that the flash is a tad too late, so often the gap between the flash and the time where you can click is INSANELY short, which means the entire melee combat feels a bit broken.

The shooting is practically no different, aim at head, they die. Shoot out light, darkness, sneak behind and pull out brain. Nuff’ said.
Well actually there’s an interesting mechanic where you can kill drones and use their bodies for a meat shield and the guns on their arm to have temporary firepower, which is very interesting and quite fun at points.

The main difference is with the amount of stealth you’ll be doing. In Butchers you sneaked around quite a bit and shanked guards in the dark, hiding their bodies so other guards wouldn’t notice. In this one you still get that but after one kill you’ll practically always be found out, and have to just shoot everyone.

The story of Dark Athena is quite decent, though there was 2 things I would have prefered to have happened (minor spoilers):

First I would have liked to be captured at some point. Half the fun of Butcher Bay was finding holes in the system and exploiting them to make your initial escape. This game you’re helping others to get out, meaning you already have the unfair advantage, actually having weapons and having free roam of the ship. I want to rise from repression dammit!

Secondly, I would have liked a better ending. You’ve just killed the end boss, and then the cutscene ends with you going up an elevator….
Then what? You’re still on a ship filled with mercinaries for godsake, I want to be able to escape! What about Johns? What happens to this little girl you’re now protecting and never shows up again? I just want some damned closure.

One complaint as well: There’s a guy built like a tank in the second level. You’re expected to fight him to get to the next area. When he hits you when you’re blocking, he does the same damage if someone else hit you weren’t blocking. When he hits you when you’re not blocking, it’s the same as if you’ve been hit by a club without blocking. I couldn’t defeat this guy fairly even when I turned it down to easy out of shear frustration. I resorted to getting onto some pipes he couldn’t walk onto and running in, hitting him, and running away. On. Easy. On hard this’d be perfectly fair. Without that pipe I may have given up on the game entirely. Bad design there guys. The other two fights where you’re taking someone on in a fist fight or knife fight, brilliant. This one, horrible.

As I’ve stated before, Butcher Bay is a campaign on this game as well, and while the old voice acting and animations are showing a little age, it’s still terrific. I even found out a couple of things I couldn’t figure out last time around, and it’s quite fun, but really nothing you’ve not seen before if you’ve played Butchers before.

Graphically it seems like it’s over reaching. I mean it looks terrific, but on my laptop that runs crysis on medium-high, I have to run it in a window because it has a terrible fullscreen framerate. I don’t see why people have this fascination of creating games that cannot be run by a lot of the current market, seems like a bad business stratergy to me.

Multiplayer is something I haven’t really looked into, mainly cause I’m not downloading a 100 meg patch for multiplayer that I’ve been told has virtually no players. It has some deathmatch modes and some CTF modes too, but the main one I’d like to play is ‘Pitch Black’, where one character plays as riddick in a dark maze, and everyone else plays as mercs. You kill Riddick, you play as him next round. It sounds like incredible fun if Riddick is given enough space to stealth, otherwise it’d just suck, as gamers are notoriously good at spotting people trying to stealth.

Anyway, Dark Athena was entertaining if a little annoying at times. I’d suggest it if you were in the mood to stealth, particularly if you’ve not played butcher’s bay before. It’s an incredibly immersive game and has some pretty visuals, as well as the best acting I’ve seen ANYWHERE.

New, Used, Abused: Need For Speed Undercover

Posted in New, used, abused with tags , , , on May 18, 2009 by Baggie

Latest in the Need for Speed series, undercover takes a different direction. a good direction, well..

When I heard about this game I was hopeful that it might be something that I’d enjoy. It’s been a while since racing games have been worthwhile playing, and I thought this might be fun.

First off, you’re thrown into this highspeed car chase with a billion cops following you, and you have to escape by outrunning them. Well shit, this might actually be good! The scene ends.

You’re rewarded with a cutscene, with a chick telling some balding 30 year old that he has to infiltrate a group of smugglers by street racing (see Fast and Furious). First initial though was “I don’t want to play as this guy! He’s old, boring, and kind of a dick!”. But I figured I could look past that seeing as he never gets out of the car. So whatever.

Then I’m thrown into a blank and dull city, which looks like they stole the maps from Burnout Paradise. Freeroaming is back much to my dislike, but it’s okay, because you can basically start races on every street, again something I saw in Paradise. What happened EA? This was a brand you actually created more or less, and you’ve stooped to ripping off other racing games.

To their credit the cars handle pretty well, but they’ve taken out all the interesting race types but in most wanted, so you’re stuck with ciruit, sprint, and this weird mode where you have to race past someone for x minutes or x meters. It’s honestly not that fun. Oh, and sometimes you need to get the police on you, but it takes forever and really if I wanted to run from police I’d play GTA.

The graphics are good of course, but so is everything these days and really has since ceased to matter. Gameplay is what people want, which is why they play games like Plants Vs Zombies, Killing Floor or even World of Goo. You’ve got to make your game interesting to play, or there’s no point playing and people will quit.

Which is actually precisely what I did. After about 2 hours I quit because I KNEW that the game would just be more and more of this mindless crap. The game ended up becoming this mindless run from street to street without knowing what the hell was going on. It felt like a dream, but a really annoying pointless one. I want my characters to have at least 2 Dimensions, not… well none to be honest. I want my gameplay to be fun,  not repeatitive and boring. I want to actually know what the hell’s going on.

This must be the shortest review I’ve made yet, but really there’s not much to say about this game. To my credit I’ve never quit a game before like ten hours before,  so that’ll give you an idea of how much this game seems like a waste of time to me.

So buy this game if you don’t mind racing in what feels like a repeatitive sludge that was stolen from other franchises. Personally I now know why it was selling for $20 now.

New, Used, Abused: Left 4 Dead

Posted in New, used, abused on March 30, 2009 by Baggie

Left 4 Dead is a cooperative fps by Valve, in which you and 3 others battle your way through hordes of infected people (zombies but fast) to reach a means to escape the apocolypse.

This game is unique in that it’s main focus is cooperative play. There’s a good serving of situations that you physically cannot get out of without a friend to give you a hand. While many games has coop modes, mostly these are just the singleplayer campaign with two people instead of one, not really interacting with each other in a purposeful way. The games that have player characters directly interacting with each other are the cream of the crop in regards to coop, and left 4 dead uses this to fullest potential.

The main characters, the survivors, are 4 very different people, each with a refined personality, backstory and a few odities.
There’s Francis, a disgruntled biker who hates quite a few things, as he is more than willing to tell you, Bill, a Vietnam vet who is oddly agile and responsive for someone his age, Zoey, a teenager traveling with 3 older men(she also likes horror movies but this is the more notable trait), and Louis, a black electronics manager who still hasn’t taken off his tie. I mean seriously.

These guys are hilarious, and have a tendency to yell new lines every now and then, interact with each other in convesations, and give a nice charming face to the future of humanity .(Francis’s, of course).

You travel through 4 different scenarios trying to escape the nightmare, shooting a large amount of zombies on the way and virtually DRINKING pain killers.

The infected (zombies) aren’t the dead, shambling “Braiiiins” kind, they’re humans driven to insanity by a mutated rabies virus, to which the survivors are immune for some reason. That’s about the beginning and the end of the plot you get in this game. Not that it’s a bad thing though, it suits quite well because I expect in a zombie appocolypse the empahise isn’t on the why, rather the shooting, dying etc.

The ‘common’ infected will run at you, climb fences, and do whatever it takes to beat the shit out of you. One isn’t a significant problem but it’s common to get them in groups of 30-50ish. They cause minimal damage, but they also cause you to slow down dramatically, causing big problems if your swarmed. They’ll go after you, they’re attracted by loud noises, such as car alarms, scissor lifts, and one memorable metal detector in an airport. There’s really no point in trying to kill ALL of them, you should just run and occasionally find a good spot to make a stand against a horde.

There are several ‘special’ infected, which have different abilities. They’re less common, but are far more dangerous.
The hunter is a hoodie that can jump off walls and up buildings, all for the purpose of landing on you. When he lands on you he starts ripping your chest apart, presumably looking for lungs or something, and renders you completely helpless until another survivor either shoots or melees him off. He can also pounce long distances to get additional damage to surviors, which is capped at 25.

The smoker is possibly a 20 pack a day man who has a long tounge, possibly made out of tumors, that can pull survivors long distances, pulling them up to you for some scratching or hanging them off a ledge. Again, you have to wait for a survivor to help you by shooting the smoker, meleeing you or shooting the tounge. He also explodes in a spectular poof of smoker which makes it hard for the survivors to see whilst inside it.

The boomer is rather discusting quite honestly. He attacks people by vomiting on them, which in turn summons common infected in swarms after the person who was boomered. They’re effectively blind, and pretty much helpless, needing the team to help you fend off the infected.

The tank (my favorite) is a muscle bound (like, 2.5 meters tall)chap who is rather more direct in attacking you. He simply runs and hits you, throwing you far away, possibly off any skyscrapers you happen to be on, dealing LARGE amounts of damage (by hitting you. Skyscrapers tend to be a 1 way street). However for the sassy tank you can also rip up chunks of concrete from the ground and throw it at the survivors. The best defence against tanks is fire, but most of the time he’ll be the most likely to take your victory.

The Witch is more of an environmental hazard than a zombie, she sits down and cries, and is avoidable usually. However if you disturb her (shooting, yelling, too close, looking at her in a funny way) she tends to get violent, instantly incappacitating the bastard who disturbed her, or simply killing them on the hardest difficulty. After that though she tends to run away and hide.

There’s a high concentration in staying together in this game, a person alone can get swarmed, pounced or smokered, and if you go off alone there’s a high chance you’ll be dead within 2 minutes. And don’t even think about taking on a tank one on one, you’ll get a good dosage of shear, unadulterated muscle. However staying together as a group dramatically increases your chances of survival, if you’re quick and smart.

Weapons are pretty basic in L4D. You get two tiers. Tier 1 weapons are a pump shotgun and uzi. Not particularly powerful but you can survive with them well enough. Tier 2 weapons are the auto-shotgun, M4 and a Hunting rifle, all of which contain a serious punch, downing infected in 1 well placed hit. Melee is also a large part of the game, you can hit hordes back, get special infected off survivors, and… actually just those two things, but those are two big things!

Oh, and you also get a pistol as a sidearm, and they can be dual wielded if you find another, but these aren’t really EVER used unless you’ve run out of ammo, they just aren’t powerful enough.

You can also carry 1 grenade, 1 healthpack, and 1 bottle of pills.

The grenade can be a molotov cocktail or a pipebomb. The molotov instantly kills common infected and causes problems for the boss infected. It can kill entire hoardes coming your way if placed smartly, act as a deterent for pursuing boss infected. It’s actually my favorite stratergy for taking down a tank, molotov then RUN until he dies, firing backwars whilst running.
Pipe bombs are for large groups of infected, nothing else. You throw one, it starts beeping, which attracts infected, often in large quantities, and after a while it explodes, often killing a good 50 or so infected. Useful to have as a backup plan, also looks downright COOL.

Healthpacks are just your standard first aid kit, even cushiony soft, which heals lost health by you banaging yourself up for a bit, also reseting the times you can be incapacitated. A quick explaination of the incapacitaion system, you can go down to zero health and you won’t die, you’ll just fall on the group, not able to get up without a team mate, and can only use pistols to defend yourself. You can do this twice and be revived with half health, but after this you come back with only 30 temporary health, and if you get to zero health you die for good. Until your team mates find you in a closet of course (yeah, don’t ask about that one).

Pain pills  give 50 temporary health, which is health that slowly decreases over time, and really is only good enough until you find a healthpack. Biggest advantage though is that it can be taken on the run, while healthpacks require a good 8 seconds of your time, which the tank in pursuit may not sympathise with.

There are two main modes, Coop and Verses. Coop is the standard campaign in which you try to get through the apocalypse itself, while verses is a rather more competitive mode where 2 teams of 4 take turns to play both survivors and the special infected. As you can imagine Coop mode has been pretty much abandoned because of the infinite fun of playing as wacky wacky zombies.

Playing verses is a lot more stratigic than Coop, because after you play surivor you get a score based on how much health you had, how many people survived, whether you had healthpacks or pills and what your average distance was. This results in survivors only healing when strictly nessisary, hording pills and healthpacks.

The infected though are sole concentrated on taking as much health off you as possible. You’re assigned to be either a boomer, a smoker or a hunter (usually a hunter), then you get to choose where to spawn via ‘ghost mode ™’ and then wreak havoc on the survivors. You can also get tank when one has spawned, which is the most fun you’ll have for a long time.
You’re also rewarded for using clever tactics in verses, such as smokering people into a car alarm which is triggered by touch. The combinations you can use the infected in are enourmous, such as having 2 hunters distract people while a boomer sneaks up from behind and have a smoker drag one away, smokering people into areas which can be used by hunters to get 25 damage pounces, the possibilites are endless!
It’s worth noting that the 2 teams doesn’t nessisarily break out of the coop gameplay, rather it feels like 2 coop teams are working side by side, each to their own goals.

The way zombies, item spawns and other things are decided is by a sophisticated piece of AI called the director.  It measures how well you are playing, how many zombies you’re fighting and how your stress level are (Last one is a bit difficult to believe really), and spawns zombies in appropriate amounts, even controlling the flow of special infected in campaign. This is a rather clever piece of technology, but since it’s been named as a human would be, and it’s directly responsible for fucking around with you, it’s developed a sort of hated-idol status amoungst players, them occasionally shaking their fists at the sky and yelling “WHY DAMN YOU? WHY!?!?!”.
Really though the game is fun even when you’re getting your arse handed to you. The flow of zombies and occasional unexpected hunter keeps you on your toes.
He also controls the zombies to make a experience that feels rather cinematic, such as creating lulls in the action to create tension, and high points to exhilerate you and make you fight for your life, rather similar to the stratergies employed by movie makers to capitate the audience.

This game has a system I like to call ‘functional music’, in that it tells you what mood the director is making, but more importantly it gives you advanced cues on dangers link hordes, witches ahead, and I’ve never had a situation where I’ve seen a tank without at least 5 seconds warning in ‘tank music’.

The only negative point I have to make about the game is the small amount of maps. There’s 4 campaigns, 2 of which can be played in verses mode, so you end up playing the same maps a LOT. While the zombies, items and such are changed up a bit every game you start to get bored of the architecture itself, the same hospital you’ve travelled through a good 50 times becoming a bit repetitive. While it’s a minor niggle it’d be nice for them to add more maps or give the community resources to make their own campaigns, which I hear they’re doing actually, but it would have been better to have this from the start.

Valve was very clever to make a exlusively coop game and such a brilliant one at that. The AI director ensures that the game is never the same twice, and the verses mode allows us to have the most enriching “not quite zombies” experience yet. Highly worth checking this one out.

New, Used, Abused: Warmonger

Posted in New, used, abused with tags , on March 24, 2009 by Baggie

Warmonger, developed by NetDevil, is a FPS game that takes new physics technology and uses it to the fullest potential.

It was comissioned by Nvidia to show off their new Physx technology, which allows physics processing to be used on Nvidia graphics cards, and released it for free. While physics runs fine on CPU to an extent, physics on a graphics card allows physics that can only be impoved upon by buying a physics card, something no one in my knowledge had done.

As a comparison between CPU and GPU(graphical processor unit):
CPU: Boxes can be moved around and thrown realistically.
CPU: Dead bodies fly around realistically.

GPU:Cloth moves in the wind and can be shot to make holes, seperatin the fabric in half if done right, or nearly cut in half and rips when the wind blows too hard.
GPU: Walls break apart realistically, chunks moving as they should.

While CPU physics is quite acceptable, GPU physics can add an extra layer of immersion and fun, even creating new gameplay elements.

Warmonger is a game that not only takes GPU physics but creates a decent game with new elements based on the physics technology. The game itself is rather simple to explain, there’s a Team Deathmatch mode, and a Capture Point mode. In Deathmatch you pick up weapons from weapon spawn points, in Capture Point you get them at spawn by choice. There’s a machine gun that can shoot grenades, a gattling laser that can deploy a shield,  a rocket launcher, though don’t expect to be able to defend yourself with this. You pick up ammo boxes to restore ammo. You also get a pistol and a ice axe as sidearms.

The machine gun is rather standard, has a 30 round clip, a scope, but the grenade launcher is the most interesting function. You can fire grenades that stick to whatever hit it and detonate after 3 seconds. You CAN stick them to enemies, but it’s far more useful application is shooting down walls. The way the game is designed the bits you can destroy are preset, but it’s done in an incredibly realistic way, and I’m yet to find a wall that I’d expect that could be destroyed that couldn’t. This can provide shortcuts, create escape routes, or suprise enemies, though you only get three grenades in your clip.

The Gattling Laser is more difficult to use. If fired in free-aim you get massive recoil, making it impossible to hit practically anyone, but right click deploys a shield that reduces recoil to a managable level and protects you from enemy fire from wherever you’re facing, though it CAN be destroyed.

The rocket launcher is a weird weapon, it’s got a large amount of damage, but only has a 1 rocket clip, and is slow to load, also vunerable, which makes it practically useless because anything you might need it for can be done by the Machine Gun.

The ability to break through walls allows you to be incredibly creative with how you approach combat. People in pursuit? Shoot the wooden plank you just crossed. Someone capturing a capture point? Come in from behind and destroy them. It’s incredibly fun and rewarding when you us alternative combat methods in battle and are paid off with sucess. Hell, I’ve even been in laughter when I was crossing a plank of wood, someone shot me and it, leaving me on 1hp, and dying from the drop, it’s something I’ve never seen before in gaming, closest thing is the Gear of War 2 destructable cover system which is the same technology but dumbed down and hardly used.

Another new combat mechanic is the material which is around the map. While at first it’s seen as asthetic it can really affect combat. There’s a curtain over the hallway you want to guard. You can shoot off the two corners it’s hanging by, which makes it fall to the ground (looking AWESOME), and voila, you can guard the hallway. There’s even a chokepoint in one of the outdoor maps which segments the two sides, which really affects combat. You can decide to shoot off the corners and suddenly the battle changes, because people can see each other and act accordingly. You can also leave it in tact and rush through it with 3 minigunners, destroying the opposition and gaining an upper hand, the curtain making for a good tactical retreat point.

This game also concentrates on asthetics. It looks brilliant, but UT3 engine, everything does. The main asthetic feature is the random bits in the world that can be shot off the walls, random pieces of cloth, one level (my favorite for this reason) is set in a subway with tiled walls, which all can be shot off, it makes for some AWESOME firefight, tiles going everywhere, dust billowing, really adds to the immersion.

The game, while looks great graphically, it is more demanding than Crysis and requires specific hardware, which is probably why the concept hasn’t been expanded on, because I don’t reckon major game companies want to alienate half their audiences, though EA make a good job of it sometimes.

Also apparently there’s a plot. Never occured to me once to look for one.

While I thought it’d have a rather large following the game flopped quite spectualarly, with the best ranked players having 300 kills. In comparison I probably have over 1,000,000 kills in Team Fortress 2, and I’m not the best player by far. It’s rather disapointing that the game died quite quickly, probably due to the lack of advertising of the game, though since they aren’t getting paid for it it makes sense. I heard from somewhere that they were going to release a new version comercially, but I’ve not heard of it since so I doubt that’ll happen anytime soon.

Next week, hopefully on time, I’ll be writing about… L4D. Why not.