Archive | June 2014

Battlefield Hardline beta (PC): after action report.

Right where does one begin with this: first one has to note that this is a first impressions of a beta for a game that has not released yet so any sort of speculation should be taken with a grain of salt. Second the game is not even out yet, and if you are already set on buying it, then all the power to you – for everyone else read on.

battlefield-hardline-3

Battlefield Hardline takes a new approach to the franchise in that it leaves behind the gritty modern military environment for a more familiar setting: downtown LA to be exact, and instead of US soldiers and Russian/Chinese soldiers, you have police – or Law Enforcement as they are calling them – and criminals. Gameplay-wise the beta featured two modes: blood money and heist. Bloody money functions almost in the same manner as conquest in Battlefield 3 whereby you simply capture key points on the map in order to score points and to make your enemy bleed tickets – ‘money’ as they are calling it now.

 

The second game mode is heist: exactly as it sounds, in heist the criminals attempt to steal money and run towards key points on the map that act as way points to mark progress while the law enforcement attempt to stop them by shooting them to death – not much “policing” going on here eh (humor intended)? Now after going through roughly two plus hours of game play I filed my feedback report to Dice and Visceral Games with recommendations for improvement to the overall experience. Firstly it was suggested that the game be given more non-lethal take downs to add to the whole police atmosphere: something that would make the gameplay unique and separating it from the modern military setting. Presently as it stands the game has two “armies” battle each other in the streets of downtown LA: the police and the criminals both using helicopters with miniguns, and RPGs instead of – say – grenade launchers with optional grenade accessories, and IEDs which are most commonly found with high end criminal organizations. Though one can argue that the RPGs were stolen or shipped in via arms dealers for the criminals, the police must have that law enforcement feel and as such should be given alternative equipment to deal with enemy vehicles. One can think of deployable spike strips on top of the grenade launcher option.

 

Second more police-like game modes were recommended, modes that played similar to heist in that the police and criminals each have different objectives rather than the usual capture-the-flag scenarios. One such recommendation was the use of a prison break scenario where the criminals get their hands on both improvised weapons, and the local prison armoury for conventional weapons like SMGs, pistols and so on. The law enforcement would be going in equipped with riot suppression gear and conventional weapons – their goal would be to force the criminals back into a “Cell” circle, while the criminals attempt to escape. That game mode can also include the classic Battlefield destruction mechanics by introducing explosives to destroy walls within the prison to create new doorways for the police and/or criminals to exit and enter through – after all what is Battlefield without a little plaster dust and C4?

 

Finally it was recommended that the players on PC version be given the option to turn off things like shadows, and to lower the amount of particles and the particle effect level overall in order to run the game smoothly on lower-end machines. Presently the beta runs like a fat kid with steel-plate armour attached to his legs, torso and arms in that it plays, just sometimes in a very slow manner. Anyone looking to use a twitch-shooter play style may be disappointed to say the least. Hopefully this will be fixed before the final release as the developers still have until autumn to correct these minor issues.

 

Despite the negative comments about how the game is uninspired I have to admit I am slowly warming up to the idea of law enforcement versus criminals. The sound of the police siren is quite addictive, and the combat mechanics is the usual battlefield format: fluid and fun. Though the final product has not been released yet – and as such I am not keen on buying it right away – there is hope for this title. Time to wait and see if this hope has been misplaced, or that there was some merit towards making such a decision. Battlefield Hardline folks; thank you all for reading, and I will see you next time.

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Humble Weekly Bundle: Strategy.

Hello folks;

 

Well the Steam sales is still underway along with GoG.com’s summer sale, and yet I managed to run into something – shall we say – ‘fresh.’ Currently on the humble bundle website is their weekly humble sale featuring seven strategy titles with some additional titles available after a minimum payment has been made or higher – depending on your interests.

 

Now this may come late but the humble bundle goes on for another day or so before it ends, and afterwards only the God-Emperor knows what else will be sold on that website. Regardless the titles available (all seven) are: Sang-Froid: Tales of Werewolves, Stronhgold Crusader HD, Cubetractor, Unity of Command: Stalingrad campaign, Eador: Masters of the Broken World, Space Hulk, and Ironclad Tactics. Now with the exception of Space Hulk, all the games sold in the bundle come with both steam versions and DRM-free versions (to my knowledge at least). This is an excellent deal as you get seven games for basically nine dollars USD and up – not something you see outside of franchise bundles on Steam.

 

Now so far I have not gotten a chance to play through these titles, but rest assured that I will be taking a look into these games and plan on digging deeper into the titles to formulate my impressions and recommendations. Good lord the of games list grows ever larger: Sins of a Solar Empire Rebellion, Anno 2070, L.A. Noire, and I still have not even finished the piece on Battlefield 3 that was promised a while back. Lately my work has been focused on some other projects of mine, as well as playing through the Battlefield Hardline beta. Now there will be a piece on the Hardline beta just as soon as I make sure there is no limitations on what I can say on that topic so stay tuned.

 

The link to the humble bundle will be posted at the end of this piece so worry not readers you will get them games! Anyways folks this concludes the Humble Weekly Bundle update: thanks for reading and I will see you next time.

 

Humble Bundle:

https://www.humblebundle.com/weekly

Steam Summer sale and GoG.com’s summer DRM-free sale.

Hello folks;

 

Happening right now is the Steam summer sale which goes from the 19th of June to the 30th of June – though technically it goes until the 29th of June as the 30th of June is when everything ends and no rollovers will occur. Feel free to check out the front page each day for daily deals, flash sales, and community picks.

no steam no

Also happening at the same time is GoG.com’s DRM-free summer sale featuring classic games, indie games, and other favourites that the gaming community has enjoyed in years past and continue to enjoy to this day. Keep in mind that both Steam and GoG are PC-only distribution sites so apologies to the console-based readers, you will have to check with your system of choice for updates on their archives. Whatever the case GoG offers older games like the first Splinter Cell game, alongside indie titles like Strike Suit Zero (which I will be doing a piece on in the coming months), and they also have a partnership with the makers of the Witcher series – CD Projekt RED.

 

Now the cool thing with GoG is that when you buy the game, not only can you re-download it as many times as you need to, but unlike Steam you do not need to log into a client in order to play the game. All of their titles listed for sale are DRM-free which also extends to the Witcher series. Personally I find that if a game is old, chances are the deal on GoG will be better; unless of course it is cheaper on Steam. Feel free to check out both sites as both offer excellent deals for gamers to choose from. Keep in mind that with GoG it is unknown at the time of writing when their summer sale will end so keep tabs on that. How it works over at their site is each day they will list two bundles for sale as their daily deals with an ever-changing list of games slowly rising up to the top of the page underneath the daily deal. These timed exclusives will eventually go back to full price after an hour or two, so be sure to check GoG.com often for updates and to see if your favourite game is on sale.

 

Alright folks my hands will be busy now that there is a growing list of titles to dig through: oh boy this blog might get neglected for yet another chunk of time as I sit clicking away at various delicious targets, ordering units around, and shooting typical enemy AI in the face (humor intended). Whatever the case folks I will leave links to Steam’s web page, GoG.com, and Totalbiscuit’s channel where he covers Steam’s daily deals on a regular basis. Thanks for reading folks and I will see you next time.

 
Totalbiscuit, The Cynical Brit.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCy1Ms_5qBTawC-k7PVjHXKQ

 

GoG.com

http://www.gog.com/

 

Steam

http://store.steampowered.com/

Microsoft’s E3 Press Conference after action report (late).

Hello folks;

 

Apologies for the delay on Microsoft’s E3 press conference after action report: so Microsoft this time around went straight towards their core gaming audience and did nothing but games announcements with no mention of the Kinect motion sensor, or any television-related items during their press conference. Indeed one has to assume that they realized their attempt to grab the market share for casual entertainment was not earning them as much as their core gaming audience, and that as a console they should shift their focus back to the gaming community and seek to please their major demographic.

Microsoft E3 press conference 2014

The conference itself was shorter than Sony’s conference in regards to time spent. Microsoft went about announcing things like Forza Motorsport 5, Halo: Master Chief collection, a new Fable game, and so on. Indeed a good portion of their games were not specifically console exclusives (titles such as Witcher 3, Tom Clancy’s The Division, and so on ) but their line up of exclusives was quite strong to say the least. Taking note from both Sony and Microsoft it appears that the two companies are attempting to make their systems more accessible to indie developers so that they can brag about how many “awesome exclusives” they have on their respective systems. Most of the footage available at the Microsoft conference was in the form of trailers rather than gameplay footage and that was a bit of a disappointment. Honestly it would have been nice to see some gameplay footage rather than some overly exaggerated footage with extra graphical details to wow the audience, but E3 is a marketing conference so this is to be expected.

 

Overall Microsoft did not hand Sony a complete and total victory this year: their return to core gamers marks perhaps a shift in tactics in their marketing department, and their drive to challenge Sony and recover some of their lost audience from last year’s E3 where they announced what was virtually a “prison-console:” very pretty and colourful, but as restrictive as a North Korean tour of Pyongyang. Could Microsoft take back some lost ground in the coming months and into next year? Possibly, but with Sony offering things like drop-in co-op for those who may not own a copy of a game (ie: Fary Cry 4), and indie titles lined up to be exclusives for the Playstation platform like No Man’s Sky, Microsoft needs to think of new and innovative ways for players to connect in a non-restrictive manner lest they lose out to Sony and be left to compete with Nintendo for a niche community rather than a large audience base.

Sony’s Press Conference after action report. E3 2014.

Hello folks;

 

Sony’s press conference was jam-packed with plenty of game content – mostly trailers – and some cool and interesting programs of which are already in existence. Starting things off is the Playstation Now service: according to the speaker on the stage the program will allow players to play Playstation games with just a Dualshock controller and a Sony TV – specifically a Sony TV and no other brand name. One has to assume that this program is a cloud-based service, therefore they are able to offer this sort of service without the use of a Playstation console. Next we have the feature in Far Cry 4 on PS4 where players can play with their friends who do not own a copy of the game through the invite system.

 

Now this opens the doors to hundred of opportunities but one has to wonder is Sony attempting to capitalize on their network and use it as sort of the console version of Steam whereby a lot of information related to their games is stored on a cloud and where players will have to log in and keep connected in order to enjoy the services offered? Regardless however this is a very interesting prospect as they move forward into the future and start to make Playstation more unique and easier to access for people on lower budgets. After all a TV and a controller is not hard to get, and being able to enjoy Playstation titles through a cloud service is even better for those wishing to save that four-hundred dollars for something else.

 

Moving along the Sony press conference featured a lot of exclusive titles which may or may not be exclusive forever. See the thing is Sony packed a ton of console exclusives, but also a lot of indie developers into the show, showcasing games like Abzu which is a game from the makers of Journey – done in the same style but with a different environment. Perhaps Abzu will remain a PS4 exclusive, but then the other titles on the system; it seems Sony is attempting to out-pace Microsoft and their Xbox One by playing a numbers game. Further connectivity vita a streaming service, and more content such as free television shows and dramas for Playstation Plus subscribers makes Playstation fairly attractive over its competitors.

 

Now of course most of the trailers involved were just pre-rendered cutscenes, but there was a bit of gameplay from the Far Cry 4 display. Now how much of it was “gameplay” and not pre-rendered gameplay is anyone’s guess. The trailer depicted a lot of climbing, fitting as it takes place in a mountainous region; seems the grappling hook will be a popular toy for players, and co-op was another key feature they hammered on about – hence the announcement of being able to invite friends to a game session even though they do not own a copy of Far Cry 4.

 

Whether or not the large list of titles that the company featured at E3 this year will be any good is left to time to decide. However for now it seems Sony did an excellent job with their E3 press conference and they did indeed present – what appeared to be – more exclusives than the Microsoft press conference (yes I did watch the pre-recorded Microsoft conference, I will speak on this later). Sony came out strong this year, so hats off to them for that. Anyways folks that concludes the Sony press conference after action report: thanks for reading and I will see you next time.

Ubisoft Press Conference after action report. E3 2014.

Alright so after watching the E3 Ubisoft press conference I was left with a rather mixed feeling. When it came to trailers they delivered without question; however when it comes to gameplay it is another story. Now the main games they touched on during the conference was (in no particular order) Tom Clancy’s The Division, Assassin’s Creed Unity, Shape up, Valiant Hearts, The Crew, Rainbow Six Siege, and Far Cry 4. Starting things off let us talk about The Division: again no gameplay whatsoever. People understand that Ubisoft wants to keep this a secret until they touch the demo booth but they could have at least shown some gameplay rather than just another trailer with the typical emotional music and voice acting for kicks. What people would have loved to see was how the game mechanics would function, and how the developers went about implementing things like urban combat and so on. Though this is E3 so it is expected that the trailer is about all you will get until sites like IGN talk to the developers later on in the week. Moving along we have Assassin’s Creed Unity which takes place during the French Revolution. Now from what I could tell and from what was said by the developers the game will focus on Paris during the revolution, and as usual you are hunting Templars.

 

This will sound cynical so if you are a complete die hard fan of the Assassin’s Creed series you might want to skip this paragraph and move onto the next one. The game featured the usual stab the bad guy, branching stories, and gunpowder. Now I like the new setting, it looks interesting. Yet Ubisoft did come out publicly and state that they are releasing Assassin’s Creed games annually because people buy them, and they love to buy them. Not surprising that the formula will therefore become dull and repetitive as time went on – much like the Call of Duty series and so forth. What was shown was probably not reflective of the final product, but in an age here the word “beta” means nothing, it is hard to have hope that this game will be any different: at least AC: Black Flag featured age of sail warfare which helped to break up the endless grind of assassinating Templars and searching for hidden items for achievement points.

 

Alright well I find fitness games a complete waste of money in that if people really wanted to get fit, they would spend some time at the gym. Three to four times a week, about thirty or so minutes of intense physical activity per day for three to four days is not hard to do – I do so regularly and have done so for six years now. The fact of the matter remains: people who do not want to exercise, will not exercise. This trend of fitness games is getting a bit ridiculous, but Ubisoft needs to make money and some people just like to dance around in their living room so there you go. Waste of money, you would be better off going to the gym/fitness center or doing sports but it is entirely up to you what you want to do with yourself.

 

Valiant Hearts has been on the public’s radar for quite some time. Having an artistic take on the First World War not only helps keep the memory of that conflict alive for other generations to learn about, but it also presents a rather dark and less glamorous bit of history in a rather “fun” way to say the least. Though this game will be available on the 15th of June this year according to Steam, Ubisoft still had to advertise for it. One has to assume that they are nervous as to whether or not they can sell the title and not see this new IP fall flat on its face.

 

Now driving games are not my cup of tea, but The Crew looks promising in that they claim to feature the entirety of the United States of America in their title. Players can supposedly drive from one end of the country to another. Looks promising and if the reviews turn up some good news, maybe I will give it a try some day. Now before I move on I will say though that I will be skipping Far Cry 4. The reason for this is they only showed a cutscene from the beginning of the game, and with no actual gameplay. Until we see some gameplay, there is nothing more to say in regards to this title: looks promising, let us hope it does not fall into a hole.

 

Alright the big reveal for a new Rainbow Six game. Titled Rainbow Six Siege, the game takes place in a modern setting and follows a SWAT team as they go about rescuing hostages and doing all sorts of specialized duties that units like SWAT teams are trained to do. Right from the beginning the game play footage looked pre-rendered, and while this is probably the case the spokesperson on stage seemed want to steer away from that fact and direct people’s attention towards the game and how “amazing” it looked. Yes I am aware it is a press conference and it is in the company’s best interest to play up the hype in order to sell as many pre-orders as they can, but the game just looks ‘wrong.’ Maybe I am finding correlation where it does not exist, but the end result – hopefully – will be a decent product. The game seems to take a few inspirational bits from CS:GO in that you are rescuing hostages, just with the whole “I can see my hands rescuing the hostage and not just hitting ‘E’ and hearing: “Okay let’s go,” sort of response noise you get in a game like CS.

 

Overall the press conference was exactly that: a press conference. Plenty of showcasing, lots of trailers, and the constant need to remind people that these games are “next gen,” and that they can run at 1080p and 60 FPS. One thing is clear however, these consoles are already out-performed by top end PCs on the market right now, so it will be hard for them to catch up considering that console technology scales every five or so years. Now will these companies finally let players lower graphics settings in order to achieve 60 FPS, or will they force the games back down to 30 in order to maintain that spit-polish shine that they love to hammer on about? Questions to be answered.

 

Right well that concludes the thoughts on the Ubisoft Press Conference. Excuse me readers I must now turn my attention to Sony’s conference and see what they plan to bring to the table at this E3. Now for those of you wondering if I will touch on the Microsoft press conference the answer is not at the moment. Earlier this morning the conference took place, and sadly I had other more urgent matters to attend to and missed the conference. Could I re-watch the conference and give some thoughts? Maybe; there is always that possibility. However for now do not hold your breath; just let me finish with the Sony press conference and we will see how things are going. Anyways folks thanks for reading, and I will see you next time.

Thoughts on “The Watchers on the Wall.”

Hello folks;

 

While waiting for the Ubisoft press conference to start I thought I might take some time to talk a bit about last night’s Game of Thrones episode which took place mostly on the Wall. Starting things off it was sad to see the six-man squad fall in battle holding the inner gate. One has to know however that giants are not conscripts or peasant levies, and that their might is not the same as human beings. Being much larger in size and so on it was reasonable to assume that the squad down in the inner gate area would have to use numbers as their advantage, though it was nice to see Grenn rally his comrades as the giant charged the inner gate. Grenn indeed was the embodiment of what a man of the Night’s Watch ought to be – shame the same cannot be said for the former commander of the King’s Landing city guard Janos Slynt. Turns out his time as a commander was rather useless would you not agree?

 

The battle for Castle Black was well done. Whoever directed the scenes did an excellent job in portraying the brutality of medieval warfare and the utter hatred one side has for the other. Indeed Sun Tzu’s philosophy comes into play here in that the Night’s Watch have been placed on death ground, and thus they were to fight without fear of pain or death for it was in their best interest to fight lest they wind up as food for one of those Wildlings who practiced cannibalism – death of course being the main focus for why these men fought without fear or hesitation. Now it is understood that the fight was already predetermined through the books, but it was still nice to see some of Sun Tzu’s teachings come out in the battle; though it may just be myself who notices these bits, and that the directors and writers never considered this while following the book’s main plot.

 

The show did an excellent job in showing how even a character like Samwell could evolve and not remain static. This is important for a story arc as while it was entertaining to see Samwell the coward go about his business, having him develop courage to fight – even for a short bit – brings forth a sense of progress: that the wall is doing its job of turning thieves, rapists, beggers, deserters, and so on into men of the Night’s Watch – not that Samwell was any of those, but you understand where this is going. Though it was a shame to see Pyp die in battle as he along with Grenn added flavour to the environment- both characters were with Jon from the beginning, and it would have been nice to see Grenn and Pyp help Jon cement his position as a leading figure within the Night’s Watch. Watching Pyp die in Samwell’s arms shows that even the least likely person to develop courage can be the most trusted comrade of which in your final moments they will be able to comfort you until you pass into the Emperor’s hands.

 

However watching Jon mourn the loss of Ygritte was sort of strange to say the least. The little boy Olly must have wondered: “why is he crying over a Wildling? Especially the Wildling who killed my parents?” Indeed Olly must have been frightened during the battle; he looked no more than ten years of age. That said however Olly quickly turned into a soldier which was exactly what needed to happen as he effectively saved Jon’s life with that shot.

 

The final scene where Jon went beyond the wall to hunt down Mance was indeed a nice conclusion to the battle. They way the camera showed the remains of the five Watchmen and Grenn was indeed a strong scene in that they held the line though at the cost to their lives – showing a great deal of dedication in the face of imminent death. When the gate opened to reveal the north and as Jon stepped through with the screen fading to white, that right there was a powerful moment. Serving on the wall is a thankless task, and Jon Snow is becoming the Night’s Watchmen that is needed now more than ever. Civil war raging in the south, and Wildlings and White Walkers roaming in from the north, the Night’s Watch will be stretched to the point there they face complete obliteration: let us hope the story arc roughly follows the books for the final episode. Right now the main thing the brothers on the wall need – out of all the things they require to function – is additional manpower. Numbers alone – “alone” – confer no advantage, but that does not mean that numbers does not play a key role in battle.

Now if you will all excuse me I will return to waiting for the Ubisoft press conference from E3 2014: thus far the previous press conferences and released material is not all to enticing for someone who is heavily invested into PC gaming. That said E3 is E3, and so this is to be expected. Have a good one folks, and I will catch you next time.