Friday, September 30, 2011
After waiting for several hours to be able to connect to EA's servers, I had the opportunity to pick up the Battlefield 3 Beta and play late into the night with a group of my friends. All in all, I was rather impressed and found it to be one of the most entertaining and enjoyable multiplayer FPS experiences that I've had to date. For more information about the beta, check out the dedicated Battlefield 3 Beta page.
I've sorted my impressions into several categories below. I should note that my opinions are based on my experience on the Xbox 360 and from this year's earlier PC Alpha.
The Controls & Handling
Overall, Battlefield 3 handle like the perfect blend of Bad Company 2 and old school Battlefield 2. The controls feel much more responsive, while at the same time retaining some of the weight of the weapons from BF:BC2. The control layout is the same as Bad Company 2 and you have several options to switch to, including Alternate, Lefty, and Lefty Alternate. The new "hit the floor" feature is extremely fluid and intuitive, but it's also buggy at times and forces you to stand straight up after the drop is completed.
Operation Metro is a great map to do the beta on, as you have the full gambit of combat experiences all bundled in one. You start in an open battlefield where snipers, and long range combat is king. The second and third sequences take you into the metro where you can either fight close-quarters in the hallways, or exchange fire along the train line and main lobby. Finally, the fight spills into the streets where you can experience urban combat as you weave through buildings, duck through alleys, or snipe from an overlooking sidewalk. Based on my experience with this map, every kit has a place where it can thrive and be a fun and viable option.
The Weapons & Kits
Whereas carbines were the top dog of the Alpha, all of the weapons in the Beta are fairly well balanced, with assault rifles edging out a little ahead in my opinion. There are, however, significant differences between the two sides' loadouts. Overall, Russian weapons seem to pack a much harder punch than the US variants. However, US weapons also seem to be far more accurate.
Infantry is an all-round good class. Assault rifles are the bread and butter and have a little more oomph behind them. The M16A3 is very easy to use and has great sights, even without sight attachments. Meanwhile, the AK-74M is powerful but has very high recoil and difficult iron sights to balance it out. These are the only ones that I used, but I noticed that the M416 was very powerful. With a sight, foregrip, and silencer, most assault rifles are unstoppable once you get into the metro tunnels.Under-barrel grenades turned out to be a little hit-or-miss for me. If you want to be a good team mate, you can either drop medkits and revive allies, or you can ditch that function and equip an underbarrel grenade launcher... the choice is yours!
The Engineer kit is my favorite so far, as it is the most versatile for my play style.The Russian loadout's AKs74u is not very accurate at a range, but in tight spaces it is so powerful it practically spits fire! Put a grip on it, a sight and a laser and it is a force to be reckoned with. Meanwhile, the M4A1 is significantly more accurate at the expense of damage. It also has the added benefit of more user friendly sights. Rockets are disappointing, as they seem to do minimal damage and are very unpredictable to use on players. I've gotten two hit markers with rockets on enemy players, only to have them slink away unharmed.
The Recon kit is my second favorite, but also my highest ranked thus far. The Russian SVD and the US Mk.11 both start with an 8x scope and take about two body shots to drop an enemy. Also, you are now able to steady your shot by holding the left stick to hold your breath. I've noticed that the Mk.11 feels a lot more stable than the SVD and the scope sights are a bit more user-friendly. I have not used the bolt-action, second tier unlocks because I prefer to have the higher rate-of-fire on the close quarters of Operation Metro. You also get several toys that long-time Battlefield fans might enjoy.
Pistols are very viable weapons in the beta, taking anywhere from 4 to 6 shots to stop an opponent at close range. Additionally, shotguns are great weapons for their sheer stopping power and kill usually with one hit. However, they do not have much spread and require you to be accurate and close to the opposition.
Keep your eyes peeled for more updates on the Battlefield 3 Beta! I will update this post as I experience more of what it has to offer.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
In a recent Q&A interview with GameSpy, Infinity Ward PR rep Robert Bowling detailed some of the upcoming changes for Modern Warfare 3 on the PC.
When asked about potentially reintroducing custom mod support, Bowling responded, "It's something that we want to do." A popular feature of the original Modern Warfare, mod support was not included in Modern Warfare 2.
"It's something that I loved in Call of Duty 4, especially the total conversion mods that people did."
Despite his enthusiasm, Bowling made it clear that this is not a guarantee as, "it requires a lot of work on our end to create the tools [needed to make such mods]" and "it's work that doesn't get a huge priority." He explains that mod support is "one of those things that we can't start working on until the full game's finished...but it's something that we want to do."
Throughout the interview, several references were made to the most prominent COD4 PC mod, Star Wars: Galactic Warfare. The mod, which saw its finalized release in July after two years of development, reports that it has sported over 75,000 downloads and has seen more than 900,000 visitors to their YouTube channels to date.
While it remains to be seen if the PC version of Modern Warfare 3 will support fan-made mods, the Galactic Warfare community is apparently thriving still. I strongly recommend checking this out if you have a PC copy of COD4 - you might even run into Robert Bowling and make him your bantha!
Friday, September 23, 2011
Lonesome Road, the final story DLC for Fallout: New Vegas is out and, as a Fallout nerd, I am obligated to weigh in on it.
Lonesome Road brings the Courier face-to-face with the mysterious Ulysses, the original Courier 6 who rejected the job so that the player would carry the Platinum Chip and get shot in the head. Those who have been keeping up on the preceding DLCs know that Ulysses has been a central, yet unseen figure in all of New Vegas' DLC to date.
The adventure begins when Ulysses sends you a message that "invites" you to find him in the Divide, an area ravaged by storms and warfare. Along the way, you will encounter the residents of the Divide and uncover how you and the Divide share a shocking history. Ulysses will contact you frequently during your adventure and you will have an opportunity to match wits with him on subjects such as your history and your current faction affiliation. I'll stop there, as we might be risking spoilers if I share any more!
Lonesome Road features an extremely captivating story that answers so many of the questions that players have had since before Dead Money was even released. From Ulysses' back story to his master scheme, players get pulled into this epic tale that is a fulfilling end to the story line.
Moreover, the DLC features extensive level design. The Divide truly feels post apocalyptic as you weave your way through the broken roads, collapsed buildings, subterranean tunnels. On top of that, it is a much more dynamic experience than any of the previous DLCs as you never know what you will find lingering among the debris. New and old enemy types make an appearance in the Divide and they are more difficult than ever! There is a significant increase in scripted events, and each of them lends well to the atmosphere of the Divide and the dangerous reputation that it has. Expect surprises from enemies, traps and an abundance of nuclear detonations.
|The Riot Armor makes the NCR Rangers look like powder-puffs|
|You might get sick of looking for these|
Lonesome Road is also virtually devoid of side-quests, another staple of the Fallout experience. Instead, players can occupy themselves with finding Ulysses' audio recordings, detonating the stray warheads, ED-E upgrades, and finding RALPHIE posters. Aside from looking for the ED-E upgrades, none of this is particularly rewarding beyond farming achievements and trophies.
|Ulysses' "unused" face|
Overall Reaction: 7.5 out of 10
Lonesome Road is an exciting, engaging and fun way to end off Fallout: New Vegas. It features an exciting story, a vividly imagined atmosphere and several new toys for players to use. Nonetheless, it is not perfect and suffers from some design flaws, including a character design and heavily linear game play that offers little in the way of quality exploration that the Fallout series is so well regarded for.
|Ulysses waits for you in The Divide|
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
PS3 users have received yet another shock today, as Sony's PSN has been suffering major connectivity problems for most of the day. Sony US acknowledged the technical difficulties at around 9 a.m. PST this morning on Twitter, "We're aware that some of you are having issues trying to log into PSN. We're working to resolve the issue, and we'll update you here"
Sony EU has also reported similar problems and at 8.a.m. tweeted, "We're aware that PSN is currently unavailable and working with the technicians to find out when it will be restored. Apologies." Sony EU released an update that explained that while technicians were working on the problem, there were still no indications of when the PSN would be back online.
From technical catastrophe and hackers, the PlayStation Network can't seem to catch a break. The frequency of these mishaps almost makes this seem like one big joke.
Sony has yet to provide any official statements regarding the situation.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
A quick look at the Battlefield 3 website brings some new information that Battlefield fans have been eagerly awaiting since last year's Medal of Honor release - the beta is here...well, almost here.
The Battlefield 3 open beta will allow PC and console players to try out the rush game mode on the Operation Metro map from Thursday, September 29 to Monday, October 10. Even more good news for players who pre-ordered the game on Origin or purchased last year's lackluster Medal of Honor - they can access the beta starting September 27th.
Some gamers have expressed frustrations over the map selection, as many of the trailers have focused squarely on the Operation Metro map. Moreover, the exact same map and game mode was used during the PC alpha testing earlier this year.
I had the chance to play Battlefield 3 during the alpha and I, for one, am excited to get back into the fray - even if it is the same map! Operation Metro is a dynamic and exhilarating map that, in classic Battlefield style, caters to so many diverse styles of gameplay.
Below are some of my tactical recommendations based on my previous experience with each of the kits on this map:
- When outside, either hop into a vehicle or hug cover around the outside of the map to ambush enemy snipers
- When inside the metro, drop your medkit for your teammates near the major chokepoints - they will need it!
- When outside, stick to a vehicle and keep it functional - if you go on foot you will become quick sniper fodder.
- When inside, you are the class at the greatest advantage as carbines have a higher rate of fire and you have RPGs/AT4s to clear the choke points!
- When outside, follow a similar strategy as the Assault class
- When inside, find a good spot to go prone and cover the choke points
- When outside, pick off enemy snipers or engineers as they're repairing vehicles.
- When inside, look out for enemy snipers and the occasional enemy who runs around behind you.
The last-gen game that revolutionized the franchise is now available on Xbox Live and PSN for $19.99. Resident Evil 4 HD sports upgraded HD graphics and hordes of parasite infected Ganados to fight your way through as special agent Leon Kennedy. For those not already familiar with RE4, Leon (a classic RE character and survivor of the Raccoon City incident) is on a mission to rescue the president's daughter from a Spanish cult. Of course, things turn out to be a little more complicated than what Leon was briefed.
Also included with the HD re-release are two special game modes: Mercenaries and Separate Ways. The Mercenaries mode is a classic zombie killapolooza where you see how long you can survive endless droves of enemies. Meanwhile, Separate Ways allows you to experience the story from the perspective of Ada Wong, a sexy and deadly secret agent belonging to a mysterious organization rivaling the Umbrella corp. Both of these game modes must be unlocked and are not available from the get-go.
GamePro has already given the remake a 4 out of 5 star rating. Resident Evil 4, as the reviewer explains, was already a solid shooter that benefits from the remastered graphics. Moreover, the added content is also a plus. However, there are points where low-res graphics are very noticeable. In addition, the game's sound effects have not received the same tender-loving-care as the graphics and are of a last-gen quality.
Before you rush to buy it, its important to note that you are buying (or re-buying) a game that has been out for a while. If you've never played Resident Evil 4 (or are a true fan of the series) it is a great opportunity to experience a classic game with some upgrades. This is one of my all-time favorite survival-horror/shooter titles and I can still recall the chills that I got from this game. However, if you are looking for new content, this may be a pass as all the "added content" was already available on the PS2 port of the game.
Monday, September 19, 2011
Current Netflix subscribers have recently received a message from Reed Hastings (Co-Founder and CEO, Netflix) that begins with the somber words "I messed up. I owe you an explanation."
In the message, Hastings goes on to explain the rationale behind the now infamous Netflix price hike and drops yet another bomb on subscribers - "we will rename our DVD by mail service to 'Qwikster.'"
His message ends with a final statement, "Both the Qwikster and Netflix teams will work hard to regain your trust. We know it will not be overnight. Actions speak louder than words. But words help people to understand actions."
The Neflix giant was built on being the most convenient way to access movies and content - either by streaming or by delivery. By splitting into two services, with two separate accounts and two separate billing statements, that convenience has the potential to be compromised. As disgruntled user Jeremiah Cohick explains, "By separating and charging more for access, you're wildly less valuable to me [and] I'll likely cancel."
While this provokes some frustration from subscribers who use both streaming and delivery, Qwikster will receive additional value through a new "video games upgrade option, similar to our upgrade option for Blu-ray." This upgrade will allow for Wii, Xbox360 and PS3 games to be delivered in a similar fashion to the traditional disc service, a change that Qwikster's dedicated "DVD by mail" team will be able to facilitate, according to Hastings.
The video game rental upgrade seems like a good way to steal some business from game rental company GameFly, but it remains to be seen how Netflix will implement this service and how prices compare to GameFly's $15.95 per month for 1 game out at a time.
Friday, September 16, 2011
Valve, in an attempt to get more educators to use their games as a teaching tool, has made the PC version of original Portal game available for free until September 20th.
The promotion website claims that the series is a valuable asset for teaching children, saying, "Using interactive tools like the Portal series to draw them in makes physics, math, logic, spatial reasoning, probability, and problem-solving interesting, cool, and fun which gets us one step closer to our goal—engaged, thoughtful kids!"
This is not the first time that video games have been employed in an educational setting. The tradition goes back a long way, as I can recall playing the Logical Journey Of The Zoombinis in my third-grade computer classes. China has been using video games for several years to teach situational skills and citizenship. Last year, the White House announced an educational challenge that utilized video games.
Let's shift our focus back to Valve, as this is also an interesting marketing tactic. Traditionally, video games are a common business-to-consumer product. However, this us example of video games being marketed in a business-to-business market (Valve-to-Educators). One of oldest tenets of marketing is that a great way to encourage more consumption of your product is by finding new uses for it (for example, putting baking soda in your fridge to kill odors).
With clever applications being developed for traditional mouse-and-keyboard games, it makes me wonder what lies ahead - especially with the advent of motion gaming.
To anyone interested in taking advantage of the offer: http://www.learnwithportals.com/
As Sony tackles its security issues for the PSN, the company has implemented a new policy that will have players waive the right to collectively sue the company for any future security breaches. As most are aware, Sony has suffered several attacks on its PlayStation Network that have compromised the account information of over 100 million accounts. This news comes just over two weeks after Sony named Philip Reitinger to head up their online security. Reitinger formerly worked on cyber security and computer crimes at the Department of Homeland Security.
Their is an option for customers to opt out of the new policy, provided they send a letter to Sony's L.A. headquarters within the next 30 days. However, these customers will still have to agree to the policy before they are able to access their PSN account.
A visceral reaction may lead you to think that this is downright unfair to the gamers and maybe it is in some respects. It's not at all unreasonable that Sony's customers expect the company to be a reliable steward of their personal and billing information. However, as with all things online gaming, its a "use at your own risk" product. Just as online content for games is not rated by the ESRB, it's impossible to guarantee complete digital security. There is a need for caution when deciding what information you put out there.
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Time to start planning your classes, as Modern Warfare 3's perk list is floating around the Internet and looks like the developers have been trying to strike a balance between Call of Duty 4 and Modern Warfare 2.
Many sites feature lists similar to the one at MW3Elite.com and gamers everywhere are leaping for joy at the death of the Commando lunge and One Man Army tubing (personal opinion: gamers below age 12 will now actually have to learn to aim and shoot). This is good news to many, especially when combined with the news that the Tactical Nuke is not on the list of pointstreaks (the revamped killstreak system).
In other good news, COD4 perk Overkill is making a return in the latest installment and (if the reports are true) Overkill Pro seems to be a very useful by giving the secondary weapon two attachments. Also, Hardline is getting a face lift to counterbalance the frustrating effects of assists and "killstealers" by counting every two assists as one kill.
All in all, Modern Warfare 3 seems to be seeking out a more balanced approach to the perks system than its predecessor. Moreover, the absence of the Stopping Power perk makes it seem like developers are trying to facilitate a much more varied landscape for players as they enter the digital fray. There is still enough time for things to change between now and Modern Warfare 3's November 8th release date, though it seems equal parts improbable and impractical.
With Epic's Gear of War 3 coming out this upcoming Tuesday (9/20/11), the reviewers have started releasing their thoughts on the the final installment of the story arc. Below are just a few of the ratings released thus far.
Game Informer gave the game a 9.5 out of 10, calling the game a "blockbuster finale" that fans have been craving. In the review, they emphasized the high quality of the graphics and audio content of the game, as well as some handling improvements for the cover system. The reviewer asserts that, while the game does not do anything "radical" or new, it is still a top notch game that you'd expect from a large, talented development crew and "bottomless budget." The reviewer doesn't pay as much attention to the game's multiplayer, but emphasizes the wealth of options available including traditional online, co-op, Horde mode and Beast mode.
The Escapist gave Gears 3 a 4 out of 5 stars. The reviewer asserts that while the game is an "excellent third-person shooter" with an interesting story, it suffers from problems in character development. For example, he argues that Cole is the only character whose lines are not "interchangeable" with all the other soldiers. He also mockingly states that the game really only had "two moments of genuine human emotion." However, he also emphasizes the wealth of tactical gameplay that Gears 3 offers - both in its campaign as well as in its co-op and Horde/Beast modes.
Now Gamer gives Gears of War 3 a 9.6 out of10, calling it "simply the best Gears of War game in existence" and giving it their Violence, LOL and Multiplayer awards.The reviewer argues that the game has a "compelling story" full of deep motifs, but all those get pushed aside by "evisceration and a never-ending hail of hot lead." That certainly sounds like the Gears series to me! According to the reviewer, the game features a "vastly improved enemy AI" and several elements that make staying in one place an ineffective strategy. He also asserts that the game looks "bloody gorgeous" and has more "creative flair" than its predecessors - not to mention a frame rate that "never lets up." He also goes on to describe the how the Horde and Beast modes are addictive, but require intense amounts of teamwork - especially when you find yourself fighting the games protagonists in Beast mode. As for traditional multiplayer, the review praises the superb balance and the addition of the enemy-spotting system.
While each reviewer seems to emphasize a different part of the game, they seem to affirm that the game has in fact lived up to its hype. To say the least, it definitely appears the Epic's next epic installment has something to offer for all kinds of players.
With Gears of War 3, Battlefield 3, Modern Warfare 3, Skyrim, and many more big budget titles coming out, this holiday season definitely seems to be one of the most dynamic that the gaming industry has seen to date.
Following up on my last story, I just found an interesting article on the Game Informer website where Nintendo says that it has no interest in developing for SmartPhones and that there will be no further price cuts on the 3DS. Nintendo head honcho Satoru Iwata explained to Japanese newspaper Nikkei that the 3DS price cut was intended to be the "first and last," with improved sales in the 2011 holiday season.
While I applaud them for sticking to their guns, I hope they have some solid aces up their sleeves. With a currently weak software base for the 3DS and investors/gamers doubting their upcoming console endeavors, Nintendo needs to make a strong comeback to reclaim the share of the market that they've since lost to rival consoles, handhelds, and mobile phones. If this is all rooted in the company's reluctance to cater to a changing industry, it may send Nintendo down the same road as Sega.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
The trailer for Lonesome Road, the last story DLC for Fallout: New Vegas, has been released and it looks like the Courier has far more to contend with than any DLC to date.
The DLC will take the Courier to a mysterious area known as The Divide where he will finally get answers from the mysterious Ulysses, another courier who seems to have a bone to pick. Of course, the trip won't be easy and it seems that enemies might be the least of the Courier's worries along the way.
As a Fallout fanboy, I'm excited to see what this next DLC pack will have to offer - especially since it appears to be the most apocalyptic addition to New Vegas yet (in contrast to the Ocean's Eleven-SAW hybrid Dead Money or the comical Old World Blues).
Lonesome Road will be simultaneously released on Xbox 360, PS3, and PC on Tuesday, September 20. This news is a relief to Fallout fans, as it has already been delayed twice!
I pleasantly recall the glory of Nintendo in the 80's and 90's. Back then, the NES was epic. The big ole' brick GameBoy was sweet. When I got my hands on an N64 and played Mario 64, I about lost my mind. That was the first game I was ever a "completionist" for (in an era pre-Gamerscore, too!).
But, with the advent of the current superpowers Sony and Microsoft and the exploding popularity of mobile gaming, Nintendo seems to be on the downward slide. The Nintendo 3DS, practically a brand new piece of hardware, has already had a price slash from $249.99 to $169.99. While there were short-term gains from this, the platform hasn't performed very well. On top of this, there are major doubts about Nintendo's upcoming Wii U project, with the company's stocks sinking after the unveiling at this year's E3. This is hardly a good sign, as many are skeptical of the system and concerned about its "premium" price point.
Nintendo's performance brings to mind Sega's downfall in 2001 with a system under-performing, despite price cuts. Perhaps Nintendo should look at the history here and learn from its [former] competitor. While the platforms are not performing well, people love their games!
Imagine if Nintendo were to make a Super Mario Bros. for smartphones? What if you could play Zelda or Star Fox games on the Xbox or PS3? While the success of Nintendo's systems is sometimes questionable, their games are legendary and well known. Being a cross-platform developer would be extremely lucrative to the company, as it already has several series with well established recognition.
It remains to be seen if Nintendo can pull itself up from its current position. However, if it cannot, I sincerely hope that they are able to take a look at the past for a potential option for the future.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
With DICE's blockbuster title Battlefield_3 coming out this Fall, there has been a lot of buzz about civilian casualties - or, in this case, the lack thereof.
In an interview with Rock, Paper ,Shotgun, executive producer Patrick Bach explained that there will not be civilians to get caught in the crossfire.In the interview, Bach expressed his concern that gamers, when given the option to do "bad things," will frequently do them.
This is not a foreign idea. Games like Grand Theft Auto have built a gaming empire on this principle, allowing players to cheat, steal and murder their way to the top - and then rewarding them for it. You look at other games where the criminality is not as central, such as Bioware's Mass Effect series (a personal favorite of mine). Throughout the game you have opportunities to make either paragon (moral) or renegade (immoral) decisions. You don't have to be a renegade, but the results of the action are often far more entertaining than alternative. This can also be seen in various other sandbox games such as the Fallout and Fable series.
So, we like to do bad things (I'm sure there is a biblical message hidden somewhere in that). We enjoy it. It can be fun to be a little bit bad - maybe shoot that NPC who keeps wandering in front of you...
So why not do it in Battlefield 3? I'm sure that many of us remember in 2009 Call of Duty took the civilian casualty element to a new level with the airport "mission". To some degree, it seems like exploits like this have desensitized the gaming community. It's become the norm to include things like this for sheer "shock value." Many gamers now mock Bach's statements and some of them claim that the lack of eCivilian casualties detracts from the game's status as a war simulation.
However, despite many people's complaints against the studio's decision, Bach provides a very clear and profound statement: “I think games need to grow up a bit,” he felt, but was sure that “They will grow with gamers. There will always be games for children – I want games for grown-ups, games I can play. As long as I’m in the business I will make games that I want to play.”
I can respect that.
Don't like it?
Then don't buy his game.
While this type of attitude isn't always profitable, it is refreshing to see developers take pride in their work - especially in this current gaming landscape mired with cheap stunts and low-effort titles.