Archive for EA

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.


Random Rants: Consistent save systems

Posted in Random Rants with tags , , , on May 28, 2009 by Baggie

Having nothing particular to do tonight, as TF2 has been royally screwed up for the moment, I decided I would have a go at Mass Effect.
I had a level 31 soldier that I’d already played through with once, had high everything, and was playing through on hardcore, the hardest difficulty level I could play. It’s incredibly fun, because it’s method for making the levels harder is not making the indiviual enemies more difficult, rather making a lot more of them. There’s something magical about clearing a room full of 50 geth armed to the teeth with 2 AI compainions.

I WAS thinking of talking about the harder diffulty settings in games, how sometimes they’re totally unfair and sometimes kick arse, as I would have suggested for Mass Effect.

Then I died.

Now normally this wouldn’t have been a problem. I die in games a bit, as everyone does, and could just load to a earlier save, right?

Unfortunately the last save was half an hour back.

Singleplayer games are something I can relax to, something I don’t have to beat other players and just have fun. Very rarely do I become frustrated at them or even decide not to play them anymore. This particular incident made me crush the V can I was holding and bite on my bottom lip. I had just done half an hour of what ammounted to zero and while yes, it was fun, it means that if I want to continue I’ll have to redo the same half hour again, which effectively becomes work.


So now I’m going to write about save systems, and what they should and shouldn’t be.

Save systems have been around forever. You have 2 different types of saves, Autosaves and User Saves.

Autosaves are when the computer makes a save for you at certain different points. They’re the most common method of saving in console games, I can’t recall a console game that has included usersaves into it’s gameplay the way PC games have.

User Saves are just that, the user decides to save. The most common for of this is the quicksave, which is usually activated by pressing F5 or F6. Some little white text fades in saying “…saved” or something similar. This is a nice addition of autosaves, it means the user has more control over when to save.

Now, as much as I like quicksaves, I and most PC gamers I know have the tendency to quicksave every minute or some, almost compulsively. It’s something that becomes annoying after a while, even if I’m the one doing it. So if I can I try to rely on the autosave system if it’s good.

A good autosave system is something that is really nice for a game, particularly if it has no quicksaves in it, but it means that I can just relax and not worry if I’ve saved recently whenever I die.

Now, I’ve been playing more multiplayer games recently, and obviously they have no quicksaves. So I go into Mass Effect, knowing it has an autosave system, and play happily for half an hour, not pressing the magical F5 key after combat. Normally the autosave system is pretty good in ME, so it didn’t immediately come to mind as quickly as it would have in say Fallout 3. So I played for said half hour, until I got swarmed by some fast moving oversized bug things. Then a thought came into my head, “Oh shit, I didn’t quicksave, did I get an autosave since I started?”

The problem with this situation is that Mass Effect often autosaves pretty regularly, starting out as an Xbox game. So why would it leave a gap of HALF AN HOUR? It seems like a horrible design choice, though the 360 version had plenty of those, the biggest being both squad mates being ordered as one entity, so one squad mate could be profficient at shotguns and one at sniper rifles, but you couldn’t say “You  shotgun, You sniper.”, you had to say “Both of you, shotgun.” which was rather thick.

But back on point, save systems shouldn’t punish the user because the design team decided not to put a save point between 3 dialogue sequences, 2 elevator rides, and a hard combat sequence (This does happen, took me a long time to get through it), or a autosave after the 10 minute driving sequence or the 15 minute combat sequence. They should save between sequences, or offer an alternative. Assasin’s creed had you come back alive pretty much wherever you died, which isn’t as stupid as you think, and Bioshock had the vita-chambers, though that kind of screwed up hard, because there was no penalty for dying, you just run back and mindlessly attack whatever you were attacking before.

Bad or inconsistent save systems can ruin games that are otherwise terrific. While this isn’t something I’d stop playing Mass Effect for, becuase I can just quicksave every now and then, it was enough of an annoyance to make me quit the game for tonight, and it could be another week before I do the stuff I just did again, if not more, but if I was playing on the 360 and this happened I’d CERTAINLY not play this again, it’s just not fair on the player. I did quit Prince of Persia: Warrior within because I had to spend 2 hours on an unituitive puzzle and a incredibly unfair combat then parkour sequence that often killed me, otherwise it was a terrific game, but I’m not going to play if I haven’t got much of a change of completing the game am I?

Then again maybe tonight’s incident was just god punishing me for not updating on time 😛

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.

Retrospect: Need for Speed Underground

Posted in Retrospect with tags , , , , on March 8, 2009 by Baggie

Today I’m writing about my favourite racing game, Need for Speed Underground.

Why is it my favourite game? It’s a complicated answer really.

NFSU was a relatively simple racing game by today’s standards, in where lies the appeal. You started as someone on the bottom of the underground street racing ladder, working your way up to the top. While it’s not the most complicated story in the world it is incredibly appropriate for a racing game, where you don’t want story, you want to gorram race. You get to race in Standard Laps, Sprint to the finish, drag races, drift courses where you had to get the most points, each type of race with several tracks suited for the race style.

There’s a couple of factors which make it an incredible game.

First factor, Dialogue
You got some random chick called Samantha at the start of the game, who occasionally helps you out or explains things, but mainly is in the background, doing her own thing, you only occasionally run into her.

This pleased me greatly, because the game gave you some measure of freedom, where other games have a tendency to hold your hand for the first hour or two and after that always keep an eye on you, this game basically lets you work it out for yourself.

To give an example of this you start the game with one of a number of stock cars that could barely pull the skin off a custard, then you get a short cinematic where Samantha gives you a short intro to how the racing ladder works. She finishes with:
“Got it? Good.”

It was an awesome idea to make the person who explains stuff to you not spending a second more than she needs to on you, while in other games the tutorial character tends to spend every waking moment on how to improve your interaction with the game, which kind of kills the immersion.

The dialogue in general follows the same rule; it’s quick, punchy and straight to the point. In a ten second cut scene I was told this guy ran a car modification shop, was over confident, and was a bit of a dick. Current gen games usually take ten seconds to do a camera pan from the characters shoes to their face. It’s a brilliant style of cinematic, for a racing game especially.

Second factor, interface
More specifically how it didn’t try to copy GTA and have you drive everywhere to do your next race or customise your car, which tends to turn an awesome racing game into something where you feel like an errand boy.

To get to a race, you access a race menu, pick a race, pick a difficulty, get a loading screen, and get to race. By comparison the following games in the NFS series, and practically all racing games, have gone open world, and your drive everywhere. To modify your car, you have to drive to a mod shop. To get to race, you have to drive to the start line, each action taking you 5 minutes to start what you really wanted to do.

Realistic? Yes. Fun? No.

This also meant that the game wasn’t restricted when it came to distributing Nitrous Oxide. While this seems like a finicky thing let me clarify; In NFSU you got a tank of NO2 when you started a race, how much you got depended on what level NO2 upgrade you had. This makes sense, doesn’t kill immersion. While in NFSU 2, whenever you earned style points (which I’ll explain later), your NO2 tank got a bit of a top up. While this was due to the needless open-world game style, it begs the question of how exactly the NO2 got into your tank, and that’s when immersion is taken out of the car and brutally beaten with a blunt object, cause it doesn’t make sense.

Third factor, Style Points.
You earned style points by drafting, drifting, taking shortcuts, hang time, narrowly missing traffic, and other misc actions. You got a modifier based on how stylish your car is, and you get new parts after a certain amount of style points. Earning style points actually added to the fun of playing the game. Even if you lost a race, you still earned enough style points to unlock level 2 tailpipes, better paint colours, etc. This always added a feeling of accomplishment, even if you lost a race.

Forth factor, Car customisation (You can tell I like a game when there’s a forth factor).
Customising your car in this game is incredibly deep, the number of different combinations of paints, vinyl, roof scoops, tail lights, spoilers, neon lights, is incredible. You’re constantly adding, changing, upgrading, and the best bit is that it’s incredibly fun. You get a better style points modifier on how stylish you make your car, and you’re constantly getting new parts to make it look better. It’s like a vicious cycle, but fun instead of destructive.
Customisation has since taken a hit in racing games, where again the open world design means that it takes forever to get to a mod shop and start the actual customisation. In addition the options and add-ons have been reduced, so it feels hardly worth making the car look better.

Fifth factor.
My mum plays it.
While this may not seem a big point, this is a game so well designed and user friendly that a person who hasn’t played video games since Doom 2 can play and fun with it.

It was a decent racing game when it came out, and a lot of things we took for granted in racing games became prevalent after the recent racing games which feel more like work than fun. For me it’ll be the pinnacle of racing games, when graphics started to become terrific, and before stupid design decisions were made.
I would gladly pay $200 for a remake with current gen graphics (minus brown filter), physics engine upgrades, and absolutely NOTHING else changed, because I feel it might very well be one of the best games ever created.

New, Used, Abused: Mass Effect

Posted in New, used, abused with tags , , , on March 3, 2009 by Baggie

Mass Effect, release by Bioware in 2007 for the 360, 2008 for the PC, is a third person RPG in a space age setting, which follows the adventures of Captain (Player Name Here) Shepard, a member of the human marine core, as (he/she) tries to stop an alien called Nihlus, whom rather oddly wants to destroy the entire human race.

The start of the game is relatively straight forward, you customise what Shepard looks like, gender, pre-service history (which manifests in different quests later in the game) and combat classes. There’s the standard soldier class, which can be proficient in all the weapons, a tech class which specialises on disabling weapons and shields, and a ‘biotic’/’force powers’ class. There’s 3 other classes that are mixes of the 3 classes, e.g. Biotics that can be proficient at the shotgun, techs that can use the sniper rifle, biotic/tech hybrid.

Biotics can use abilities such biotic push, biotic lift, and a number of other things that have been surgically grafted on from the Star Wars universe. Not to say it’s implemented badly, my first character was a biotic and it was incredibly fun and satisfying to use, feeling more natural than in the Star Wars games I’ve played, but it kind of irks me that they didn’t come up with an original concept.

One of the main focuses of this game is dialogue and the choices therein. There’s even 2 separate skills for ‘paragon’ and ‘renegade’ dialogue options. It’s the standard RPG character interaction dialogue tree, where the NPC talks for a while and you get a couple of replies, some that are unlocked by the respective dialogue skills.

Leveling up is pretty much standard, you get a fair amount of XP for killing enemies, depending on the enemies and your level, get a large amount for completing quests, you gain about 10 XP for just looking at stuff a lot of the time, and you get XP from dialogue choices sometimes as well. When you level up you get a bunch of skill points that you can put into specific skills, such as weapon proficiency, biotic/tech abilities, and other miscellaneous character improvements. You can also gain paragon or renegade points for dialogue choices and other actions, but these don’t really effect your character at all, going into a little bar on the character screen which is never used for anything. Kind of disappointing that NPCs didn’t know that I was a saviour or Lucifer incarnate when I talked to them really, giving the standard “I’ve heard a lot about you commander” response to my presence, and then refusing to comment about the entire colony of insane humans I killed/saved etc. This may seem finicky but with the depth of the dialogue system considered I sure it could have been done.

Anyway, once you’ve finished the first bit of the game you get a spaceship and can travel to any one of about 300 planets, though most of them you don’t get to play on and are just given a “resource found” message or a small text box which explains about the planet in question. This makes it an ENORMOUS game, with a lot to explore, but mostly these are just side quest opportunities, and kind of makes me wonder what justification I can give to my character, who swore to hunt down bad guy#1, that he/she’s off gallivanting around the universe, finding power modules and searching colonies of space monkeys (I wish I was kidding about that last bit). I’m not saying these bits aren’t fun, but some justification would be nice now and then.

Text is a BIG part of the game too. Practically everything you do is added to your encyclopedia.. thing, and it ends up with an insane amount of information, though reading it isn’t actually required. It’s all background information about the mass effect universe, species, technology, etc. A good idea in theory, but who in their right mind is going to actually read THAT MUCH background information?

This post is getting far too long, but there’s a good reason for that, it’s an ENORMOUS game. I haven’t even talked about the vehicle sections and the companions. It’s a decent enough game and certainly worth the price if you like RPGs or even if you like sci-fi and want to get into RPGs, but it can and will be irritating at times, like the 2 connected dialogue scenes, in between a long elevator ride, and then a hard fight that you may not win, returning you to 5 mins ago (oddly specific eh?).