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Monthly Archives: July 2012

Released: 28/05/2010
Developer: Obsidian
Publisher: Sega
Hours played: 4
Last played: 26/07/2012

I posted a review in progress of this game after two hours, now after four I think I’ve given up, at least for a long, long time. I reached one point where I was spotted by the same guy over and over again which led to a firefight which led to my death every time, and the checkpoint system that had, up to that point, been fine made me restart the level all over again. That would’ve been fine as it wasn’t too far in to the level, but every time I restarted I had to hack two computers, and the hacking part is the most frustrating thing I’ve ever played; it’s as if it’s trolling you because the mouse initially barely responds to your inputs, but then when you’ve lined up the codes and click mouse 1 to ‘hack’ it, the tiniest movement will send the code all over the place. It’s bizarre, it really is, and more to the point is absolutely sucks so after doing that about four times I said ‘fuck it, there’s better stuff to play’ and gave up.

Pretty much everything I said before still stands. I didn’t encounter any huge glitches in my second two hour stint, so that was ok, and I liked that after you leave the first area the game gives you a choice of where to head to next. The game never explained how to change the ammo type you have loaded, however, so even though I used my martial arts skill to knock most people out, I couldn’t work out how to load the pistol with tranquilisers so I could have a proper no-kill playthrough.

Also, the key assignments are bizarre, illogical, unintuitive and more or less the worst I’ve seen. You press ‘I’ to bring up your inventory, when you’re done with that you press ‘esc’ to step back one level to a menu that lets you choose your inventory, mission briefing and skills and such. Then if you press ‘esc’ to exit that menu, nothing happens… So what do you press? I mean logically, as a gamer, if escape doesn’t exit a menu, what do you try next? Maybe the key that brought the menu up in the first place? Nope, that doesn’t work. Err… Shit, what now? Press every key. Nothing happens. Has it crashed or something? No, it hasn’t; it turns out you have to press mouse 2 to resume the game. So that’s ‘I’ to bring up the inventory, ‘esc’ to close the inventory in favour of another menu that you didn’t ask for and then mouse 2 to close it and resume the game. Why? Dear god, who in the name of all that is holy came up with that?

Anyway, I think I’ll revisit it eventually but I’m done with it for now, it just didn’t grab me at all. I got it for less than £2 though so I can’t really complain.

TL, DR: Kind of fun but also pretty shoddy, there are definitely better games out there.

Just a quick post for now, I’ve spent two hours playing Alpha Protocol tonight and my impressions are… Mixed. I’d heard it had it’s share of bugs and glitches, but I didn’t find any at first. Some janky animations, weirdly huge crosshair (maybe it’s because my pistol skill isn’t high enough) which then develops it’s own crosshair if you aim at stuff for long enough, a bit like how the Xenomorphs in Aliens have a mouth inside a mouth, I suppose.

In my first mission after the tutorial, though, I got a pretty brief taste of what the game is apparently about. It’s kind of cool, really, a bit like Deus Ex: Human Revolution but also a lot like Mass Effect. The character I made pretty much was the Shepard I made in the first Mass Effect and as you level up your skills you unlock specific things for them, rather than just improve them generally as you do in, I don’t know, Deus Ex (the first one). For example, I levelled up my Stealth skill and gained the extremely useful ability to turn invisible (yeah, really) for a second if you’re about to be spotted at one level, and at the next level I gained a permanent version of something that was a one-use thing (with a cooldown) which I wish I could turn off now but never mind.

Balance seems like it could be a problem, mainly because the skill I just mentioned appears to show every enemy that’s near you in 3D. Think Battlefield 3-style spotting except it also shows which direction they’re facing, it’s on all the time and rather than being subtle little triangles, it’s needlessly over-designed large triangles. I’ll reconsider this when I come to write the review properly.

The hacking where you have to move lines of characters around is just horrible! Yeah, so bad I just used an exclamation mark in a review. You have two boxes with ‘passwords’ in them and then a huge grid of characters which are constantly changing underneath, except for the two passwords you have. You use WASD to move one password and the mouse to move the other, you line them up with the same password in the grid and then you press space or mouse 1 to confirm. WASD, fine, no problem. Mouse? Forget it, it’s just shit. It doesn’t respond when you move the mouse and then when it finally does respond and you get the password lined up, the slightest movement of the mouse will move the password to the wrong column, row or both, so if you move even slightly when clicking then you’ll probably set off an alarm. I’d like to find whoever came up with that idea and make them eat nails, and not the metal ones either because the other one would be so much worse. Urgh.

I also experienced quite a large glitch in the first mission which essentially went like this: Somehow glitched on top of a huge crate, checkpoint was awarded anyway, died, restarted at the checkpoint but it was somewhere I’d never been, went into a hangar whose interior hadn’t loaded (including the back doors), walked through where the back doors would’ve been, was clearly outside the map at this point, walked a bit further ‘for a laugh’, fell through the map. I managed to fix it, though, turns out using the crate glitch thing (which, by the way, I didn’t try to do, it just happened) to hop over the fence was a bad idea and I had to backtrack and open a door which triggered the loading of the hangar interior.

Anyway, I’m only two hours in and the game has barely gotten started.

Released:
Developer: Io Interactive
Publisher: Square Enix, Eidos Interactive
Hours played: “3”
Last played: 24/07/2012

I say I’ve played this for “3” hours because that’s what it says here, but I played it to death on the PS2. Apart from the controls and graphics (well, resolution) it’s the same game. Personally I wasn’t a huge fan of Blood Money and I’m still not, at least not compared to Hitman 2: Silent Assassin and the console-only Hitman: Contracts anyway, but as a standalone game it’s pretty special.

I don’t know exactly what it is, it just feels kind of almost cartoony to me, from the absolutely ludicrous upgraded Agency weapons to the scenarios in which you find yourself: A Mardi Gras parade where your targets are dressed as birds, a redneck wedding… I can’t remember the others that I haven’t gotten to yet (I’m up to the Mississippi steamer boat). I mean, ok, fine, a hitman does what he’s paid to do and they need to keep it interesting, but I prefer the authenticity of Hitman 2 myself. Don’t get me wrong, Blood Money is a great game and better than Hitman 2 in many ways, but the actual hits just aren’t as much fun to me and that’s kind of important; If I named my three favourite missions out of the Hitman games, all three would be in Hitman 2. One thing it has that Hitman 2 didn’t is slightly more forgiving AI; people no longer flip out and go crazy just because you were jogging a little when you first game around the corner or cause an alert and shoot you because you were supposed to be carrying groceries, so it’s more fun in that respect.

I won’t comment too much on the graphics because it’s an older game, but they hold up reasonably well and it’s still great to play, the music, again produced by Jesper Kyd, is excellent and the controls are, well, fine. I honestly couldn’t say which is better between a keyboard & mouse and a Playstation controller because on the one hand you have accuracy and speed with the mouse, but you have more precise movement in terms of speed with an analogue stick.

The physics are crazy though, sometimes you’ll shoot a guy and he’ll bounce off the floor up to six feet in the air and it doesn’t get much better when you’ve unlocked certain upgrades for your weapons which enable you to shoot a corpse from one end of the map to the other, should so you wish. There’s not much else in the way of glitches, and the game seems to run fine. Well, mine did after I ran Steam as an admin, not sure what that’s about but there are worse compatibility errors.

The best part about the game though, hands down, is the choice you have. You can kill everyone if you want, but you shouldn’t if you want the best scores, and if you want to do it silently you have several paths to do so. Do you try to be a low-key member of staff and have to change costume often, or do you knock out a guard and gain access to almost everywhere? Do you poison the target’s drink, rig a chandelier to fall on them, garotte them when nobody’s watching or just shoot them from a distance with a silenced sniper rifle? It’s up to you, and it’s great; it’s basically Deus Ex apart from the fact that you have to kill at least one person.

I think that’ll do.

TL, DR: It’s a great game. The missions aren’t as good as Hitman 2’s but the improvements in the core game possibly make it more fun and less frustrating.

Released: 02/08/2011
Developer: Playdead
Publisher: Playdead
Hours played: 3 (completed)
Last played: 24/07/2012

I think I played the first hour of LIMBO (or just Limbo, from now on) when it was first released, played it a little more months ago and I finished it not five minutes ago, no, it was six minutes ago. So, this is how I felt about it.

First of all, the art style is great. It’s all black, white and various shades of grey in-between. The design of the environment, characters and creatures is, well, it’s hard to tell but it seems to be leaking some sort of creepiness, presumably because you can’t really see what anything is but you know what it is. The first properly creepy ‘obstacle’ comes just after you’ve had enough time to get settled in to the atmosphere and was just perfectly timed.

The game itself is a fairly standard platformer strapped to the back of a bloody difficult puzzler like a Coyote to an ACME rocket (which is quite an apt analogy seeing as the platformer would be pretty weak on it’s own, and all). The game is entirely trial and error, error being punished with a swift and brutal death which can be a bit horrific at times considering you’ve assumed the role of a small boy, but it fits with the general atmosphere and I doubt anyone could mistake Limbo for a Super Mario Brothers-style child friendly sort of thing, so whatever really. There are checkpoints at pretty much every obstacle which is great, I feel like a lot of games make themselves artificially more difficult by making you play the same parts over and over, increasing the chance that you’ll die before the part you’re actually stuck on, and that’s bullshit and it sucks. Limbo, though, does away with that but it easier as a consequence because you can just keep spamming the difficult bit until you work it out. Thankfully the game doesn’t feature any seriously difficult timing puzzles, my timing sucks so that makes me happy.

There’s no plot, no explanation of why all the stuff that is clearly laid out to kill you is laid out to kill you, no dialogue, not really any music that I remember, either. The sound is good, creepy when it needs to be, isolatory at all other times. I used a 360 controller to, well, control it but I’m sure a keyboard works just as well; the 360 controller gives you analogue walk/run speeds though which can be useful. There’s no real replay value, however, apart from the Steam achievements there’s nothing to make you want to play through it again so 3 to 6 hours, assuming you can be bothered and want to find the hidden eggs and stuff, at full price is bloody steep. The game isn’t that good… Well worth a try at less than that, though.

Limbo is a well-made game, no question. There’s barely any settings to touch so you can just get on with playing it, and I’m sure some people would get a lot of enjoyment out of it, but I can’t help but feel it’s overpriced.

TL, DR: It’s a solid puzzle platformer worth picking up in a sale, but I’d very gently advise against it at full price. It kind of reminds me of Abe’s Oddysee, actually.

Released: 05/03/2010
Developer: DICE
Publisher: EA
Hours played: 64
Last played: 23/11/2011

You may have noticed that so far I’m posting reviews of games I’ve already played, and not particularly recently at that. I’ve not written like this before so I’m just trying to get a feel for it, when I’ve found my feet (oh, there they are) I’ll start getting in to entirely new games.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is pretty much to Battlefield what Lego Star Wars is to Star Wars. It’s the same game, but a little sillier, simpler and more friendly. This is because Bad Company was the name given to Battlefield games designed specifically for consoles, which meant two things: It had to appeal to casual gamers as much as hardcore ones and it had to downsize to fit the hardware.

The former is apparent in the persistent ranks and unlocks. Although Battlefield 2 was the first First Person Shooter to introduce unlockables, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare was the first game to really sell it to console gamers. As a result, Bad Company 2’s system seemed to be attempting to copy Modern Warfare (widely regarded as it’s closest competitor, for some reason; they’re completely different games), but it appeared to work for the most part. Ranks were obtained just by playing, unlocks were either class-specific or overall and then each weapon had a rank system of it’s own to show off how much each weapon is used. Pretty simple and ubiquitous by this point.

I only have two hours on Battlefield 2, so I can’t talk about how Bad Company 2 compares to it, but I will say it’s very different to Battlefield 3. The maps are designed so that in Conquest mode, all the flags are in a line, whereas in Battlefield 3 (and the Back to Karkand maps from Battlefield 2) they tend to be less linear. The result of this is Bad Company 2’s battles tended to have a defined yet dynamic front line and the game would play out a bit like an arm wrestle; weak teams would get penned in to their uncap (i.e. permanent base) and evenly balanced teams would be fighting in the middle of the map. Battlefield 3 plays out differently, the most successful tactic for most maps is to keep the middle point at all times and use it as a base to attack the two nearest points; if you keep all three of those points for most of the game it would be very difficult for the other team to win as they’d be continually losing lives.

It’s not necessary to comment on the shooting, the vehicles, physics, graphics and all that because it’s all pretty rock-solid stuff. The net code and hit detection can be a bit odd sometimes, with people simultaneously killing each other quite often and lag having the most annoying effect on your game, in that you can move quite far but if you’re lagging, you might find you unexpectedly backtrack several metres, into the line of fire, tanks or whatever else. Not much can be done about that, though, lag is lag.

The balance is probably the worst part of the game, new players starting out are just prey to those with Magnum Ammo (higher damage bullets), which makes the Body Armour (reduces damage taken) a requirement and therefore also makes Magnum Ammo a requirement again (so the damage reduction is nullified); it’s a vicious cycle of the most ridiculous kind because it would just be simpler to remove both perks so people can use other things, surely? Then you have the snipers, attack choppers and RPGs, none of which were particularly well-balanced.

Free map packs were great though, there’s no denying that, and the BFBC2: Vietnam DLC was of a very high standard, however I didn’t get the opportunity to play it much as I bought Bad Company 2 not long before Battlefield 3 was being hyped.

TL, DR: If you don’t have a Battlefield game yet and you’re not a hardcore gamer but you want something more than a simple arena shooter, you could do much worse than Bad Company 2. It goes for about £5 on Steam during most sales now.

Released: 03/05/2012
Developer: Rebellion
Publisher: Rebellion
Format played: PC
Hours played: 20
Last played: 05/06/2012

Sniper Elite V2 was kind of a surprise for me. I’d played the first game a little a while back, then when I saw a sequel was coming I thought it was going to be a modernised version of the original. I wasn’t entirely wrong, but I wasn’t entirely right either. SEV2 is, unfortunately, the latest in a long line of games that have been ‘dumbed down’ to appeal to the largest number of people possible. It does away with Sniper Elite’s variable movement speed, camo indicator and long-range shots, amongst many other things, in favour of a more close-range, run & gun type game, which is a somewhat bizarre choice for a game with such a title. To be fair, though, Sniper Elite was bloody difficult to play properly so you can see why they sought to turn it down a little.

Fortunately, they kept the bullet physics. You can choose the realism, too, you have no bullet drop like you might have in Call of Duty 10: Modern Warfare 19, bullet drop as you would find in Arma II and Battlefield, or, something I’ve not seen in any other game so far, bullet drop and wind affectivity. There’s probably a better word for that. This makes the sniping both fun and challenging, there’s nothing quite like getting truly ‘in the zone’ and landing shot after shot dead-on where you intended when you have to compensate for wind and gravity.

You already know, of course, about the X-ray kill cam and the incredibly thick AI which doesn’t really suit the game. My feelings on the X-ray camera is that it’s gruesome and sometimes I’d actually prefer to not see it, but it is actually quite a fascinating device for that very reason. It’s often said in the media and elsewhere that people are becoming desensitised to violence and all that and I used to agree, but SEV2 kind of makes up for the detachment that comes from shooting people who are essentially imaginary and trapped in a fake, 3D world which is presented to the player by a moving 2D image made of light by showing you exactly what’s going on when you shoot someone, and peoples’ varied reactions to it have been a really interesting thing to read on various forums and such.

The AI, on the other hand, is undeniably rubbish. In every film you see where there’s a sniper on the loose, people keep their heads down and try to get the sniper to expose themselves, right? So why, in a game all about sniping, do the AI just charge about like lunatics? What about tactics? Not once did I see an AI put their helmet on the end of their gun and pop it above the cover they’re behind to get me to reveal my position (there was a helmet on a rifle at one point but shooting it didn’t result in your swift death at the hands (bullets?) of a watchful counter-sniper) or anything like that. I’m sure they had smoke grenades in World War II. If I’m a specialised kind of soldier, why not design the AI so that it responds accordingly to the specific threat you pose? I was kind of hoping for some Enemy at the Gates type stuff but in reality it was just like any other shooter, except instead of me choosing to use the sniper rifle all the time, I was given the sniper rifle all the time.

However, the single worst thing about the game for me was the fact that the longest shot is about 400 metres, and even that requires setting up. Yes, that’s still quite far, but the original gave you the opportunity to hit targets up to a kilometer away. My record headshot in Battlefield 3 is in excess of 600 metres, and 600 metre kills in Arma II are pretty much commonplace as they’re pretty much the only way to kill stuff without being killed instantly in return, so it’s pretty annoying that a game whose entire premise is the art of sniping doesn’t even match it’s own predecessor nor it’s more general peers.

As it is, SEV2 would have been utterly unremarkable if it hadn’t been for the bullet physics and X-ray camera. The multiplayer mode was basically what I imagine any third person shooter being set to snipers only mode to be like and I was never able to play a co-op game but to be fair I only tried twice. The scoreboard encourages you to re-play the game to beat your score, which is great, but isn’t nearly enough to keep you actually playing the game. I finished the game in about ten hours, the other 20 was spent re-playing my favourite levels to try and complete them using made up rules; no scopes, perfect accuracy, headshots only, stealth, that sort of thing. That was great fun while it lasted, but I feel no need to return to it now.

TL, DR: Great bullet physics and the X-ray camera is definitely interesting, but the AI’s inappropriate response to your presence and the lack of properly long shots just don’t fit the sniper theme.

I was originally going to title this ‘my hardware’ but thought it was a little too risqué. Just in case anyone wants to know, which is unlikely, my PC is currently made of (yes, I’m a fan of lists):

  • Intel i5 2500K at 3.3GHz (i.e. stock)
  • Asus P8Z68-V Pro motherboard
  • 2x4GB G.Skill Ripjaws DDR3 1600MHz RAM
  • MSI GTX 680 Twin Frozr III/OC 2GB
  • Corsair 850W 80+ Pro Gold PSU
  • Asus Xonar DX sound card
  • Some sort of wi-fi card
  • Crucial M4 128GB SSD
  • Hitachi Deskstar 2TB HDD
  • Generic DVD-ROM drive
  • Fractal Design Define R3 Black case
  • Two Fractal Design 140mm fans, two Scythe Gentle Typhoon 140mm fans and one Yate Loon 180mm fan

That is all. It started off with a GTX 580 (MSI Twin Frozr II/OC) but then I discovered the GTX 680 consumed less power (and would therefore be cooler and quieter) and could run at least three displays at once, so I upgraded. I use it with three Samsung 226BW 22″ monitors at 1680×1050, for a total resolution of 5040×1050. I have all three mounted on a home-made sim racing rig (which also has a Logitech G27 bolted to it) which has since become my general computing seat. I also use an Apple wired full aluminium keyboard and a Logitech G500 mouse and I sometimes use a wired Xbox 360 controller for some games, but not often. So, really, that wasn’t all at all.

The total cost for the PC must be in the region of about £1,500 now, after I went over my original £1,000 budget I stopped counting. All I want to upgrade now is the CPU cooler (using the stock Intel one at the moment), ideally to a Corsair H80 so I can overclock to around 4.4GHz or so. Of course if my case officially supported it, I’d have the H100, but you can’t win them all.

That was the first and only deliberately techy post, I may mention hardware in other posts but I’ll try to avoid it as it’s irrelevant.

TL, DR: My PC plays games!