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Hammering it home

April 28, 2012 1 comment

I came across a great video showing the Portal 2 in-game level editor which is being released soon as part of the Perpetual Testing Initiative DLC. Whilst I was intending on embedding it in this post, it seems the video has been mysteriously pulled from YouTube. For now the following image will have to suffice – I’ll update this post when I find a working video link.

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Having seen a demonstration of what can be done, I’m extremely impressed by the clean interface that couples simple geometry manipulation with WYSIWYG design. In the past I have made levels using a number of tools including Deathmatch Maker, QuARK (for the original Quake) to the first version of Hammer for the original Half Life engine. But irrespective of the tool used the basic principles for map creation were the same, as was typically the (rather steep) learning curve. The beauty of this Test Chamber Editor is the player doesn’t have to understand the theory behind binary space partitioning nor worry about leaks or striking the right lighting balance. They simply choose from prefabs of the small number of elements that make up Portal test cambers and see where their imagination takes them. Without trying the editor myself I can’t say much more; but from the video, it looks like a lot of fun.

Oyster Cards Not Required

May 1, 2011 Leave a comment

I finally took the time to complete Metro 2033 (it was only sitting on my shelf for around a year..) and I loved every minute of it. A lot of new games feel quite similar these days but being produced by a Ukrainian developer has really imparted a unique feel to this title. The visuals are spectacular and the gameplay has some unique and interesting elements.

Despite the developer 4AGames having a bust up with the GSC chaps (the developer behind the STALKER series) over originality of technology and IP, Metro 2033 is a very different game from STALKER. Ok, sure it is set in a post-apocalyptic world irradiated by the folly of man, but therein the similarities stop. Metro is a linear and highly polished romp through the tunnels and factions of a destroyed Moscow with a psychological gameplay element thrown in. These give Metro an almost FEAR style angle and my main criticism is that these were not developed further.

That said, the game is a competent, challenging and engrossing eight to ten hour gas masked adventure through some truly memorable areas which I have no hesitation in highly recommending.

My thanks to Nick for the snappy title 😉

Categories: FPS, Gaming Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Farcry 2 post completion report

February 8, 2010 Leave a comment

So, as I wrote before, I have now finished Farcry 2 on my second attempt. The first time I picked up this game I got bored in about five hours, but to be honest, that was my fault. You see, I was expecting a standard Farcry 1-esque run of the mill fairly open world shooter with clear objectives and some HUD monkey telling me what to do and where to go. What I wasn’t expecting, was this:

Completely open space and complete freedom to explore the world. There is little or no hand holding from a very early stage in the game which both empowers (and certainly in my case) confuses in equal measure at the start. To players not used to going (or unwilling to go) out and have their own adventure, this game quickly can become boring. But those who do get frustrated and stop playing will miss an incredible, but slightly flawed, experience.

The world in Farcry 2 is large and breathtakingly stunning. Ubisoft have done a fantastic job of creating an engine that not only paints the harsh African landscape in its rightful splendor, but also requires no annoying and immersion sucking inter-area load pauses. In fact, this is so well done that it wasn’t until I had played for a few hours did I realise I hadn’t yet seen a load screen. The landscape is also ever-changing, with wild animals roaming, patrols roaring up roads between checkpoints and a beautiful day-night cycle. As such, they few areas of the world the player revisists repeatedly always look and feel different.

The environments range organically from wide open sun bleached deserts to dense thick jungle and vast open water areas. My only minor criticism is that, while the world feels huge, it is possible to drive from one side to the other in around twenty minutes. Despite this, the number of times I stopped simply to look around and take in the scenery really stunned me.

Although there are no RPG character creation elements to Farcry 2, it is such an open game that it allows the player to play in a wide variety of ways. For example, I started off as a bit of a rookie taking potshots with rusty, inadequate weapons. But as I started unlocking equipment, I learned the joy of picking off patrols from afar with my sniper rifle and closing in for the kill with an Uzi. Then there was the unmitigated joy of destroying arms convoys with IEDs and picking off survivors with my green dot scoped M4. I also went through a phase of only attacking at night, creeping upto guards armed only with my machete, possibly using an IED planted on a nearby arms crate as a diversion. Finally, I enjoyed using guided rockets and mortars to soften up enemy strongholds before assaulting with a light machine gun.

Although playing at night did encourage the use of stealth, I was disappointed that the night never seemed to be quite dark enough. It was no where near the ink black darkness of STALKER, a series that really sets the benchmark in this regard.

This is only the tip of the iceberg but one further element I do want to mention is the inclusion of buddies in the game. Buddies are NPCs who (depending on your history with them) will provide side missions that either help or extend main faction quests. But their main lure is as backups – if the player falls from enemy fire and a buddy is available, they can turn up and drag the player out of harms way allowing the wounded player to patch up and either go back for their vehicle and equipment or simply run to safety.

This really raises the bar for NPC characters as far as I am concerned, as does the fact that, occasionally they will genuinely need the help of the player to stay alive. I painstakingly kept each buddy alive throughout the game, although I was pleased and slightly irritated by them towards the end (although I don’t wish to spoil anything for those who have not played the game through yet.)

On the subject of the end of the game however, I felt that, overall the ending was rather poor. Actually there is more to it than that- the story and story telling aspects of this game were poorly presented and, frankly, uninteresting. The player is given one goal when they start Farcry 2 : “Kill the Jackal”. Apart from a few minor references and appearances by this character, he is (just) barely mentioned by the main characters during the story quests. None of the quests even seem to have anything to do with him. Most missions inevitably boiled down to the simple formula of ‘GOTO A, Do Buddy Side Quest, GOTO B, Kill X / Destroy Y’. While this echos what I said about the openness of the experience and gives the player a great deal of freedom to pursue their objectives in a number of different ways, it still gets rather lacklustre after a few times.

Unfortunately, there is no getting around it, the storyline is weak. The player rebounds from one faction to another doing quests which, whilst eventually upping the ante of the conflict, really don’t serve to engage the player in the world or develop the story. What is even more disappointing is that there is no option to pick a side in the conflict or remain neutral.

Frankly, if you are the type of player that just ignores side quests and just goes like a Bull in a China shop towards the main objective – don’t. At least not in this game, otherwise the whole experience will be over very quickly and the story will have been even less satisfying.

This was the first game that made me break my promise to myself of never buying anything laden with SecuROM. In my defense, I didn’t know at the time Farcry 2 came with such an annoying free extra as it is only stated in very small writing at the bottom of the back of the DVD case. That said, as of a recent patch activation and disc checking were removed although I will still have to remember to deactivate my machine when I come to uninstall it or reinstall Windows. As a result, I consider this point rather moot as it serves as an example of how, if a game has to use SecuROM, it can be done without inconveniencing the honest customer base. (Although I really am not a fan of DRM in any shape or form in my games.)

Overall the game is an amazing experience. The story, although poor, acts like a tour guide taking the player around all the noteworthy places in the world. Pyromaniacs will also have a field day as the game has some of the most pretty and satisfying explosions and fire effects of any game I have played before. The so described ‘realistic fire’ of the Dunia engine really is impressive and can be used to great tactical advantage. Sadly, it does feel as though Ubisoft created Farcry 2 as a tech demo to highlight the capabilities of their Dunia engine and simply slapped on a story afterwards rather than the other way around. That said, the beautifully modelled African wilderness resulting from this is so fun to play that I think I can just about forgive them.

All the screenshots I have taken whilst playing Farcry 2 can be found on my Xfire FC2 screenshots page. Although a word of warning – they are in chronological order with the newest (i.e. the end of the game) first so be wary for spoilers.

Categories: FPS, Gaming, News Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare 2 Full Trailer !

May 25, 2009 1 comment

The COD 4.2 full trailer has been released and boy does it look good! I can’t wait to get my hands on this (although the preorder price of £45 is crazy!!!), for now – let me direct you with all haste to the Infinity Ward COD 4 MW 2 webste

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26/05/09 Update: now hosted on youtube as well, so enjoy the embedded goodness 🙂

Another brief glimpse at COD4.2 : Modern Warfare 2

May 22, 2009 Leave a comment

Infinity Ward have released another awesome (but short) trailer giving us salivating fans a brief glimpse of their newest offering. Put mildly, it looks very impressive and I can’t wait to get my hands on the finished article. Lots of people complained that CoD4: Modern Warfare was too short and very scripted – I disagree.

Well that is to say that I actually do agree, but disagree that these points detracted from the game. It seems that most FPS games coming out at the moment are set in an ‘open world’ with ‘sandbox’ missions and ‘complete freedom’. Unfortunately, that does not immediately equal a recipe for success, ignoring for a moment that if everyone does the same thing things get boring, look at FarCry 2! There is a lot to be said for a well paced linear (yes I feel a bit dirty saying it) action game that tells a story well. COD4 does that and boy does it do it well. I actually liked the scripted enemy spawn mechanic because it prevented the player from lingering at a safe distance picking off enemies and forced them into the midst of the foray. This coupled with the open level designs the break neck gameplay mechanics and Veteran mode (oh yes baby :P) made me really enjoy COD4.

However I conceed the point about the length of the game – I completed it on Veteran in under 15 hours which is a bit too short really. This was more than made up for by the multiplayer (over 140 hours and counting) but sometimes it is nice to engage with a story. I don’t feel COD4 offered much in the way of single player replay factor.

Anyway, even if Infinity Ward kept the same graphics and same dynamics and just gave us another 15-20 hours of well thought out story driven gameplay I will be happy. Hopefully they will do much better than though… 🙂

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Take a look at the trailer, lets hope this is ingame or engine rendered at least. 😉 Not long to go now !!

Call of Duty 5: World at War

October 19, 2008 Leave a comment

I came across a cool trailer for the upcoming Call of Duty release scheduled to be unleashed in mid November. The video has certainly whet my appetite but I find myself a little cynical about this release. Given the resounding success of Call of Duty 4 (I can’t believe it has been out so long already) and my general apathy towards World War 2 shooters, bred by continual disappointments from previous releases, I feel like a kid who just unwrapped a game at Christmas from a distant relative and is on his way to his PC excited but quietly hoping it doesn’t suck. Given the (so far) direct correlation between odd and even numbered Call of Duty games being forgettable and awesome respectively, lets hope CoD:5 breaks this trend.

Even if it ends up ultimately disappointing, the trailer is awesome – I am an absolute sucker for cinematic games and trailers. 🙂

Of Hookers and Extortion!

May 11, 2008 1 comment

Whilst the title obviously suggests I am talking about Grand Theft Auto, it is not GTA:IV that I am playing at the moment. No, in-fact, I decided to pick up GTA: Vice City Stories for the PSP to give it another go. Prior to this, GTA: Liberty City Stories was the game I had put the most hours into on my PSP and I had thoroughly enjoyed the non-linear (or at least out-of-order mission style) game play and abundance of side quests that the GTA brand is famous for. When I first started playing GTA:VCS, I was underwhelmed. The starting location in the army barracks is not the best due to it being placed almost under the airport which confused the hell out of me when I first started to play. Compared to the well thought out streets of Liberty City, I felt lost and disorientated.

I am glad I picked this game back up last week, for I have just discovered the thrill of empire building! A feature completely missing from Liberty City Stories, you can take over ‘property’ either by buying or creative negotiating (read shooting and pillaging) and establish a variety of businesses in these newly obtained premises. These businesses contribute to your overall empire and pay you periodically giving you a nice cash income for the later stages of the game. But it doesn’t end there, to build up each business, you need to perform side quests which vary from playing cab driver to hookers (for prostitution rackets) to vicious vigilante attacks for protection rackets. That’s not all, there are a few which I have yet to unlock. Overall, if you have not played GTA:VCS on the PSP, I highly suggest you buy a copy (fairly cheap now) and try it out, don’t be fooled by the strange colours and 80s nostalgia theme, they grow on you very quickly! Although I have not yet played GTA:4 (and will hold off posting definitively about it until I do), from what I have been hearing from reliable sources, the story line is weaker than expected with access to other islands being granted too early and a lack of variety in side quests. Still, I highly recommend you try out both games and decide for yourself!

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