Wednesday, 16 May 2018

My Usual Spiel - Aragami: Back to the stealth

Release date: October 7, 2016
Genre: Action-Adventure, Stealth

Publisher: Lince Works, Merge games
Developer: Lince Works
Engine: Unity
Platforms: Windows, Linux, PS4, OSX
Modes: Single Player or Coop Campaign

I have fond memories of stealth games, or simply choosing the stealthy option in games such as Skyrim and Far Cry, I even refused to play the Witcher series simply because you couldn’t really stealth. Though the greatest of all stealth games in my view was Tenchu, playing Tenchu 2: Birth of the Stealth Assassins on the PS1 and Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven on the PS2, lately I have had the good fortune to be gifted an Xbox 360 from a  friend and now have the ability to play Tenchu Z though It’s not exactly of the quality of the previous games I’ve mentioned it’s at least something. 

It is I, the Aragami
But this was actually before I had the Ex-bax Tree-Sixty and was having a long drought of stealth games, I had tried to go back to Tenchu 2 using an emulator on my android tablet but it just didn’t really feel the same (does it ever?). So when I saw Aragami on Steam I was fairly interested. Why wouldn’t I? it had a Japanese theme, a cool looking ninja-like character and of course stealth and stealth kills, it was cel-shaded but looked absolutely amazing so there was nothing wrong with that. The setting for Aragami is in a sort of fantasy feudal japan with lots of mystical magic elements, it tells a somewhat cliched story that you, the Aragami, or ‘an’ Aragami I’m not sure, were summoned by an ‘astral projection’ of Yamiko, a girl whose ‘Nisshoku’ kingdom of shadow was defeated by the ‘Kaiho’ kingdom of the light and she is now held prisoner by the Kaiho and she has summoned you to take her revenge and rescue her, and I’ve only just realised now this was all done in one night.

Yamiko as she appears in one of the graphic novel cutscenes
Yamiko returns on occasion to give you advice and show you the way towards the main castle, you do actually converse with her sometimes which apart from overhearing the guards conversation is the only comic relief in the game. So anyway you have the setting, the story, the struggle between kingdoms, the bad guys, the damsel in distress and you, the unlikely hero etc, so now this is where it starts to differ from Tenchu and I’ll try to not compare them over the course of this review hah. 

Yamiko in the game world, she appears and dissapears at will, often just speaking in your head.
As the Aragami you are a being made of shadow and vengeful spirit, and thus your powers come from shadow and your weakness is light, you must always keep to the shadows. For reasons I’m not sure why your character can’t actually jump instead you use the right mouse button and click another patch of darkness to “Shadow Leap” through to it (similar to Dishonored), allowing you to silently move to ledges or through light sources to stay in the shadows. Of course to do this you need shadow power, shadow power is accrued (surprise, surprise) when you are in the shadows and it’s level is cleverly displayed on your cape, moving too close to light sources drains your shadow power but you can gain it back easily. Though I’ve had some scary moments where you can get caught out in the open when an enemy walking towards you and end up frenzily clicking around looking for a shadow to jump to, but this gets easier when you start to gain more ability such as the one where you can ‘summon’ a shadow in a particular area as an escape route.


I achieve the highest rank 'S' in the first level by complete stealth, this was the only level I was able to manage it XD
 
Moving near any light sources drain your shadow energy so it’s no wonder enemies walk around or near them to make it more difficult for you to get past, the ‘Kaiho’ soldiers have light embued weapons and if you do get spotted they can kill you with one hit, so usually when spotted I often just give up and start again from the quicksave if I can’t get away in time. There are only a few variations of enemies, there are the basic light-sword wielding enemies (who also have a medium range light-beam slash) and then there are the archers who aim beams of light as if they were snipers, shooting a ball of light in a location if they detect something. These balls of light act like mines and can kill you if you stray too close and be found more frequently in the later levels, blocking off paths and forcing you to shadow leap through them or take a different path. some enemies actually walk around with these ball of light surrounding them making them difficult to stealth kill.

Archers were particularly dangerous if not taken out first
An emphasis on stealth in this game is paramount primarily because you cannot even swing your weapon in normal combat as you are only seen using it in stealth kills or sometimes destroying glowing orbs that control force fields. Unlike the Tenchu games if you are spotted there is not staying to fight and finish them off unless you are quick with your abilities as you can be killed in seconds. There are only two “boss fights” in the game and neither of them have you engaging in full-on combat, it’s really down to stealth and using your powers. Speaking of which you use these powers for pretty much anything, you can’t jump, open doors, climb ledges or up ladders, you are relying on shadows for everything more complicated then walking and running which makes you feel a bit fragile, which you are I guess you’re just a damn shadow heh. Conveniently you start in a very dark graveyard, then as the game progress there becomes less and less shadows with you having to rely on your ‘shadow-creation’ ability to get places.
 
Ares like this required careful planning and tagging of enemies (if you had the ability) to see their movement around obstacles, especially if you were doing a complete stealth run without eliminating any enemies.

Your main arsenal are your abilities which include offensive, defensive and Aragami abilities. These available are gained by finding scrolls hidden throughout the levels, the more you find, the more abilities you can unlock so being the only the collectible in the game too they are fairly important. The Aragami abilities include very useful skills, such as hiding bodies, ability to cast shadows and allowing your Raven companion to keep track of enemies and even revealing the location of hidden scrolls. The defensive abilities include summoning decoys, invisibility and revealing enemies through walls. The offensive techniques include a lethal shadow dart, a blinding wave of shadows and an entertaining ‘mine’ type trap which pulls enemies into the void. These abilities can usually only be used twice before requiring a cooldown but can be accessed again by performing a “Shadow kill” which is sort of like an advanced stealth kill which takes about 1.5 seconds to activate and then unleashes shadow dragon head which swallows an enemy whole in spectacular fashion. As you can guess all these abilities work well when used wisely though I didn’t use many at all, only when I was in a tight spot, but only now watching a video of someone else using them I understand a bit more.

Here I try out a custom map and use a few shadow abilities, I also try out the map editor

I tried to play this one the usual way I play Tenchu, lots of stealth killing, minimal weapon/item use but I quickly found that it was actually more encouraged to go complete stealth though it was harder. There were a few bonuses including not dying and respawning, not alerting enemies and complete stealth and I’ve actually just learned now that you cannot obtain the highest “S” rank if you kill any enemies. I thought this was a bit annoying but it’s ok I guess as it’s much harder to stealth through the level avoiding the enemies instead of eliminating them as you go, I did still get a good score by defeating every enemy but I guess that’s still not the point. This is a good change as historically with the Tenchu series it didn’t seem to matter how many times you were spotted as long as you did enough stealth kills to bump your score up so you got Grand Master every time. 

Got spotted way too many times here.
Like Tenchu also I found myself getting too impatient and getting caught out leading to some bad scores, sometimes I tried to avoid but the amount of enemies in a level was quite large some places it seemed almost impossible to get past without getting rid of at least one enemy. As you progressed it got harder leading to more mistakes, you start of the first few level being very careful then after the 6th level you just want to get through it as your objectives don’t really change, each level involves getting from one place to another without being spotted or dying and involves stealthing or killing enemies and also clearing “force fields” that block your way by finding the orbs of light that generate them. There’s only 12 levels but it did get slightly repetitive.

Chapter VI: Mausoleum of the Fallen was a difficult one, it was like a huge museum filled with light and archers and guards everywhere and made movement difficult, ended up trying to kill everything and got a horrible score.
 Probably the best thing about the game is the graphics, the cel-shaded loveliness of this game is amazing, not to mention the beautifully drawn comic-style cutscenes. Unlike games which are trying to be photorealistic and end up overdoing it sometimes the visuals are sharp and just flows and I’m going to stop before I sound like an artistic wanker. There’s not exactly much colour in the visuals as the game takes place over one (very long) night but it’s anything but dark, the moon is always out and shining bright enough to cast moonshadows everywhere (which you need) and the enemies are champions of the light so there’s candles and lanterns and fires and glowing swords and bows and orbs all over the place all of which makes a very bright night, of course if it was an incredibly dark clouded-over night then the game would be too easy wouldn’t it? You progress though several different areas, including, graveyards, towns, forests, lakes, castles and temples and I noticed the colour hue of the visuals change, from blue in the graveyards to green in the forest for example. 

The game had this beautful haunting feel, this shot is mostly dark but I think it looks really good.
Though your character was well detailed the enemies I loved the effects of the shadow abilities and just the way you and your cape shimmers in the darkness and light and I could probably say this is my favourite cel-shaded game, though I haven’t played much apart from Katamari Forever which I didn’t really like with that sort of graphical style. As for the music and sound it’s fitting of the subject material, I was impressed with the way the voice acting was all in Japanese as this definitely wasn’t the case in Tenchu though having all Japanese voice acting did make the storyline sound a bit dull as everything had this sort of formal tone to it. There isn’t much music but when there is it’s appropriate, it’s more like ambient sounds then the occasional spasm of music, no that doesn’t sound right, tremor of music? Anyway it really did sound like a game set in Japan and the haunting sound effects and Japanese cultural themed soundtrack was great.

One of my favourite places to hide heh especially good for listening to enemies conversations, I was impressed that they did have Japanese voice actors.
Aragami also has a two-player co-op mode which is pretty cool as you don’t see it much anymore, though I’ve yet to try it, I’ve seen it in action in some videos and like the Sniper Elite games doing stealth co-op requires some practice, probably even more so as you’re relatively close to the enemy. There is also a fairly detailed level editor, which harks me back to the days of messing around with the Tenchu 2 level editor though I’m not sure if this one is more detailed but it certainly is polished with the items you set on the ground coming falling down and bouncing onto the ground with a satisfying ‘plunk’ I’ve played some (quite hard) user-created missions with it and yes I’m proud to say someone has attempted to remake one of the most famous Tenchu missions though not correctly as it’s rock hard, and then there are your usual experimental challenge levels where you have to get from one side to another alive. I didn’t spend too much time with the editor as I didn’t have any big plans for it though If I really wanted to I could re-create a Tenchu 3 mission though that would require a lot of screenshots which I can’t get on the PS3 and screenshotting a youtube video would just take too long and be too annoying.

Here I try out several fan-made levels and also make an experimental archer-infested custom map

Overall Aragami is one of those games that I almost love/hate to play similar to L. A. Noire, Katamari Forever and of course Tenchu. I wanted to do so well but ended up getting impatient and not doing well enough though this could be down to the fact that I wanted to play it just like I did Tenchu with my “weapons and abilities are for the weak” mindset where I try to stealth kill everything and everyone which of course always seems to end up with me being spotted multiple times. But this always comes down to how the game is scored which is different from the Tenchu games where as I’ve said before this one is focused on stealth as a necessity for survival rather than a way of making things easier for yourself. 

Well, I've really messed things up now.
When you were spotted in Tenchu you had more than enough health points, combat abilities and even armor in some cases to be a force to be reckoned with, especially Tenchu Z which has so many combat moves you can unlock though there’s only 2 boss fights in the entire game. Aragami Is a stealth game very much based in the mystical ancient world, you aren’t a Ninja in the traditional aspect, you’re a creature of shadow and all of this is fine, I’m just glad stealth games are still being made. And what's more I hear there's a prequel expansion in the works..

JD

8/10

Things I liked:

Genuine Stealth game

Excellent Cel-shaded visuals

Smooth Liquidy animation

Cool abilities

Things I didn’t like:

Very fragile protagonist

Lack of objective variety in levels

Too much reliance on shadow abilities


Aragami release trailer

Oh, I'm bein' followed by a moonshadow, leapin and hoppin' on a moonshadow…

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

My Usual Spiel: Battlefield 1, the Great War, the same Game as before

Well I'm back, first post of 2018! you thought I was gone, I thought I was gone too, especially with that last post but it looks like we're back on, and what a game to start with Battlefield 1! Can't quite believe I wrote over 4000 words, guess I had a lot to say. Anyway welcome to 2018 and hopefully a good year of blogging ahead.

Release date: October 21, 2016
Genre: First Person Shooter
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: DICE, Uprise, Criterion Games
Engine: Frostbite 3
Platforms: Windows, PS4,Xbox One
Modes: Single Player Campaign and up to 64 Player Multiplayer

I can still remember the hype when it was revealed that the new Battlefield (BF) game would not be set in a modern-day era. This announcement came after the release of Call of Duty Infinite Warfare and I’m sure you all know of the rivalry between BF and CoD or the fans rather and so while call of Duty rocketed into the future the Battlefield series was going back to the past, you could imagine the glee we all felt where we thought for a second we would actually be getting a HD remake of Battlefield 1942. But no, we weren’t going back to WW2, the series had already had a Vietnam based expansion too, it was revealed that the fifteenth installment to the Battlefield series would be loosely based on the events in World War 1 or based on World War 1 or a Battlefield game with a World War 1 skin I’m not sure which one is the best way to explain. 

Anyway the new game came out with a bang and quite an epic trailer at that. My housemate was very interested being a staunch fan of Battlefield 1942 and also its predecessor Codename Eagle which was arguably the first of all the Battlefield games and the only one previously set in time of the first world war but occurs in an alternate timeline. After seeing the trailer and some of the parodies that were made for it, he decided with the help of myself and a few others to create a parody trailer using Codename Eagle itself. I enjoyed the process and it worked out really well, we had a LAN party and everything and we got quite a few comments on the video too. We spent a lot of time playing the demo Sinai Desert map which was quite large and featured almost every form of vehicle and weapon (except sea) I did notice now and in the trailer that there was a large emphasis on vehicles which is unusual for World War 1 as it was mostly known as an infantry war as per games like Verdun, but then again this is Battlefield and it’s the vehicles that rule.


Sinai Desert as shown from above
In any case, there was a lot of hype leading up to the release of the game, there was so much shit talking about how Battlefield went into World War 1 while Call of Duty was going into space with its Infinite Warfare, I of course wasn’t really too fussed. After Battlefield 3 I didn’t care that much about what happened to the game as it was now all the same, I never bothered with the Police-themed Hardline as it was basically just the same thing reskinned, the same gameplay, the same graphics just little things changed similar to the new Star Wars Battlefront 1 & 2 it’s the same freakin game all over again and I was expecting Battlefield 1 to be exactly the same. And as you can probably guess I wasn’t wrong, you remember the total conversion mods for your favourite games? it’s the Battlefield WW1 Total conversion we have here.

Though maybe I’m being a little too harsh, the singleplayer was ok I guess, It was a more enjoyable then Battlefield 3 and 4  as it was composed of 5 (and a half)  ‘War stories’ instead of one storyline so there are mini campaigns which show different theatres of the war. Unfortunately the authenticity just wasn’t there, a lot of over-the-top action in unrealistic scenarios but there were good bits there too and it’s a Battlefield game after all.

There's even a sequence where you control a messenger pigeon
The first ‘War Story’ Storm of Steel is basically a prologue where you take control of different allied soldiers fighting the Germans in a trench wasteland. The second Through Mud and Blood was quite enjoyable as you take control of a Mark V Landship though most of the time you are jumping out for some stealthy kills and reconnaissance but the tank battles towards the end were good.

Detail is incredible in this one.
Friends In High Places was probably my favourite, you were a fighter plane pilot and were in the plane most of the time also finding your way through no-man’s land and even walking on a Zeppelin.


The pretty epic but entirely fictional "Fort et Fidele mission

Avanti Savoia! was a short story where you play as an Italian Shock Trooper who wears a suit of armor and carries a large machine gun. This one was probably the most ridiculous as it seemed like you were this invincible space marine from the Warhammer 40k series, literally you were walking along mowing down German Soldiers like a one-man army, I felt this was so far removed from a realistic WW1 perspective it was silly, why the suit of armor? I actually saw soldiers wearing metal armor and helmets in the game art and certain classes in the multiplayer modes wear it too. Though it’s strange I never really saw this in any WW1 photos or footage and most movies and shows in WW1 the soldiers do not wear any kind of metal armor, but then again this is Battlefield so mowing down enemies with an LMG (technically though the one he holds doesn’t seem that light) and suits of armor are consistent with the series I guess.

Almost steampunk-esque
The Runner was the Australian-Gallipoli based one which was ok, you played as an Australian message runner for the British at what was supposed to be Gallipoli and did a lot of running and gunning. Nothing Is Written was probably the best one, you were a female Beduin warrior fighting the Ottoman Empire with good old T. E. Lawrence himself, you did a lot of stealthing through the desert and around the camps and it was fairly open ended which was really good.

This mission was really good, you had to infiltrate three Ottoman camps in the desert and either eliminate the commander and steal the documents or both, it was very open ended unlike the usual linear-path gameplay from most other FPS story-modes.
So anyway on to the multiplayer, the new Battlefield Companion replaces Battlelog though this is inside the game itself so you no longer need to launch from a web browser and get those annoying update version errors and have to download the individual file just for the server list. And speaking of server lists after a lot of crying about how the new Star Wars Battlefront had no server browser Battlefield 1 thankfully has one though there’s enough people playing not to really matter to be honest. It’s only if you’re looking for a particular gameplay type like War Pigeons or the options of having rifle only deathmatch similar to Verdun which is regarded as the number one simulator in the trench warfare area though unfortunately these modes are not very popular with the average Battlefield player. This is one of the main problems with Battlefield nowadays, it’s a group  of players who want the same old thing and they got it.

The new-look main menu: beats the old battlog I gotta tell ya
As I mentioned I tried out the multiplayer demo on the Sinai Desert which was super awesome as it had everything in it, it was fun trying out the horses and flying the new planes and driving the new tanks. The kits ere relatively the same as usual, the Assault was the main anti-vehicle with Anti-tank Grenades, Mines, Dynamite and the AT Rocket Gun which was a lot of fun. The Medic has the usual kit, medic crate, rifle grenade, the new revive weapon is a syringe which is just as weird as the defibrillators. The Support now has some interesting toys available it has the usual Ammo Crate and Mortar but now has the Limpet Charge and Crossbow Launcher the latter of which can either shoot high explosive grenades designed to take out vehicles or Frag grenades designed to take down enemy soldiers. The Mortar used to be very very effective with the anti-infantry airburst rounds, so effective in fact that they nerfed it so now it is almost useless, even the HE mortar pales in comparison to the usefulness and mobility of the HE grenades and Rocket gun of the Assault class. But anyway I still like playing the class, I can still repair vehicles though now Tank Drivers and Pilots can repair their vehicles themselves without getting out which kinda sucks for the usefulness of Support but we’re still useful anyway.


The Giant's Shadow map was released some time after the main game, it featured a crashed airship as the centrepiece and heavy fog as you can see here. I play as Medic for this round.

And then there’s my guilty pleasure class, the Scout. I’ve found many ways to make this class useful. I’ve found many spots to set up camp and spot enemies with the Trench Periscope, this thing is basically the same as the tactical visor in battlefield 4, it auto-spots enemies in a cone in front of you and gives extra points if they are killed by your teammates. I’ve had many a round where I’ve found a nice spot set up a Sniper Decoy and camped, yes camped I spotted enemies and took pot shots at both infantry and vehicles thanks to the quite useful K Bullets, I also set up Tripwire Bombs so I was definitely helping my team to all those camping naysayers out there. It seems that hiding in a bush (or whatever) seems to be my preferred playstyle as it was way back in Vietcong, is currently in PUBG, and is while playing the Scout class in BF1.

Me using the scout trench periscope and sniper decoy
Among the new features there is a greater emphasis on melee combat with the new insta-kill bayonet charging which I keep forgetting to do and when I remember to do it I always just run in, not hit anyone and get shot. The melee combat does seem more refined with a chance for the victim to fight back rather than the attacker having the full advantage but to be honest it’s still just furiously clicking your melee button and hoping for the best. There is now more options then just knives yes there now spades, clubs, hatchets, pickaxes and weapons designed for the new mounted class such as the Cavalry Sword and the Elite classes such as the Raider Club.

Speaking of the Class system, it’s gotten a bit convoluted now so I’ll list them below:

Infantry classes

Infantry classes include Assault, Medic, Support and Scout, these are now similar to Battlefield 1942 but still only 4, the Engineer type weapons have been divided among the Assault and Support classes.

Vehicle classes

Vehicle classes include the Tanker, Pilot and Cavalry (if you can call a horse a vehicle I don’t know) are similar to the Pilot from Battlefield 4 as you didn’t spawn in the plain with a full kit, you just had your pistol and few other things. This is the same with the Tanker and the Pilot you have a different loadout with includes handguns and repair tools and other utilities. When I heard Cavalry was being introduced I wasn’t sure what to think and honestly I don’t use it much myself I prefer it in a Medieval setting such as Mount and Blade Warband though riding a horse with friends was fun none the less, the Cavalry also has its own kit which features a Cavalry Sword which is heaps of fun to use if you time it right. I had a few rounds where we all tried to get on horses and be mounted infantry like the Australians in the Battle of Beersheba.  

Elite Classes

Elite Classes replace the weapon pickups around the map in other games, they spawn randomly in specific areas on the map and can be picked up by any soldier who will then be transformed into that class until they die or the round finishes. The Elite classes include the Flame Trooper which is pretty self explanatory, the Sentry which is similar to the Avanti Savoia! War story where you are an armored MG wielder, the Tank Hunter which is armed with a heavy rifle that can disable vehicles, and the Trench Raider armed with melee weapons and grenades who was released with the Battlefield 1: They Shall Not Pass expansion.

There's a Flame Trooper in there somewhere
Now we come to the subject of vehicles, now as you know Battlefield is a game that is known for having vehicles but when I think of World War 1 I think of trenches and soldiers and artillery and horses and gas, I don’t really think about tanks, but there actually were tanks, and there were planes lots of planes and boats and motorcycles and a lot of things if you think about it. So BF1 still has lots of vehicles though they took a bit of getting used to going from the very Modern BF4, I’ll start with the light vehicles which included the scout cars, new armored cars and motocycles with sidecars. As with all light vehicles in Battlefield these are vulnerable to just about anything and should be used only for transport and skirmishes, that said I really enjoyed zooming around on the bike and the armored car was fun too. I never really thought about tanks much in WW1 but there are three in the game, there’s a light tank though when I have the ability to spawn a tank I usually go the Landship (from the ‘Through mud and blood’ war story) or the A7V which is like a moving fortress of a tank. This one was quite funny because in the war these things were very slow and impractical being only able to go 15kmh on roads and 5kmh over rough terrain though in the game the tank is quite fast and can scale steep hills easily if manoeuvred correctly which is ironic but I bet DICE had to make it that was so they would be at least of some use.

Driving the heavy tank, you can see my emblem on the side.
I have never been very good at planes but I had a lot of fun trying out the fighter planes and using the keyboard to manoeuvre and got a few kills in some rounds, I spent most of my time being a gunner for my friend Brok who really knows how to fly them. I suppose you may be wondering at this point how I went with repairing vehicles and for those of you who don’t know I quite like being the support class and doing this. One of my favourite things to do in Battlefield 4 was to sit in the lightly armed and armored transport chopper and repair it while someone else flew which really helped as those things were huge targets and usually didn’t last long. Well unfortunately in this game there is no way to repair a vehicle while inside it, when spawning a vehicle as a pilot you have the ability to self-repair on the fly when driving, the support class can repair with their hammer but have to get out of the vehicle so in the case of planes that’s obviously not an option, but it’s ok I have enough fun in vehicles anyway. I also like the way you can get different version of the vehicles for example you could get the flamethrower tank upgrade or the trench fighter specialization for the Fighter plane though you no sooner chose that then get attacked by a tank or another plane, you can’t win really. It’s sort of like trying to decide whether to equip a frag or HE grenade usually when you spawn you find you’ll need the opposite one.

I found the planes a lot easier to fly compared to the jets in BF4, probably because they weren't so freakin FAST
Replacing Battlefield 4’s Levolution events are Behemoths featuring the Airship, the Armored Train and the Dreadnought, these vehicles spawn later in the game on the losing teams side in order to try and even things up. I’ve had a go at all of these and they do make a bit of a difference but often don’t last long as they are a pretty huge target, the airship especially. There was one game where it spawned in and then the opposing team immediately started pelting it with 3 Anti-air emplacements and it didn’t even last 2 minutes, however being in them is fun while it lasts and they have some serious firepower though I think the best thing about them is just the spectacle of seeing this huge thing thunder into the map oh and the explosions are awesome too, I swear I took so many screenshots of exploding zeppelins.

Ooohh that's a good one
I spent most of my time playing the conquest mode with friends as that’s all that seems to be played these days but was intrigued by the new Operations mode similar to Evolution from Battlefield Vietnam. Operations take players across an entire front of the Great War in a sequence of connected rounds, with one team attempting to push the frontline forward by conquering ground while the other attempts to defend their position. The next map played depends on the outcome of the previous one, and the attacking and defending sides will switch accordingly. This was great fun when doing it as it is much more realistic and you have an intro and can see how the battle progresses. The only problem with this is that not many people play it, most of the time when we tried there was not enough people to start the operation. I also tried out War Pigeons which was pretty ridiculous  when you’re hastily writing a note then throwing a pigeon in the sky in a hail of gunfire with your allies madly running around trying to defend you but I guess that’s how it was.

The Operations selection main screen
One thing about this game I was impressed about was the graphics, it’s probably the only thing I really enjoy the Battlefield series for as it’s gotten kind of stagnate, I mean the Frostbite 3 engine looks great though I don’t know how much better we can get. In this game actually I though they looked a bit over-the-top and colourful, especially with the ‘Friends in High places’ campaign where there were explosions of sky and clouds and colour everywhere though I digress, Battlefield isn’t exactly known for being subtle, if it was a movie I suppose you could compare the war stories to a cross between a Baz Luhrman and Michael Bay film. That said, everything looked great, the amount of details was crazy as with most Battlefield games these days and now that I have a 27 inch 2k screen with Gsync its gonna be even better, in fact I don’t even think I’ve played it when my new screen yet. The multiplayer maps are nothing less of amazing with rolling hills of green grass or poppies, and hellish crater-pocked landscapes of mud and blood (like the first singleplayer campaign) Of the initial maps a few stood out including Empire's Edge and St. Quentin Scar both of which have beautiful countryside landscapes in Italy and France respectively. As before I loved the maps which had the full range of vehicles, I did get sick of maps that came up all the time including Ballroom Blitz and Argonne Forest which was the only infantry-only map though it still had the Armored Train as the behemoth.

Although I didn't like Argonne Forest, it still looked pretty good
Playing with friends is the same as usual though it’s slightly different again with the menu’s you can sort of add each other as a squad through Origin to make sure you’re all in the same squad when you go into the game, it took a bit of working out to get right, then choosing a server is something else again, from the main menu you can choose four options. The first Operations, which are new to the Battlefield series, these are a series’ of maps in the same theatre of war set out like a storyline with the attacking team pushing the frontline forward until they conquer the map while the defenders must reinforce and keep hold of it in a mode similar to Rush. This mode looked very exciting as it would seem practical to play a series of similar maps together while taking part in a grand storyline though sadly this mode just doesn’t get enough players, they all just seem to just go to the regular servers and play conquest like they always have.  There is still the others modes such as Rush itself, the entertaining War Pigeons and Team Deathmatch but these are played sparingly with most people going straight to the server browser and playing Conquest as before sadly. As I mentioned before I enjoyed going Medic, Scout and Support and shying away from the Assault class only because it’s the one that doesn’t interest me but then again it's the one with all the anti-vehicle ordinance this time around. I do miss being Support and hanging out of the chopper repairing it as this has now been replaced with the Pilot and Tanker classes being able to self-repair, so it’s basically same-old conquest mode and I’m again seeing myself playing around with the Scout and Support toys such as the K Bullets, Trench Periscope, Mortar and Crossbow Launcher.

With my Trusty Hammer I can repair anything
In regards to the expansions the only one I have been able to play extensively is They Shall Not Pass which introduces the French Army and arrived with new maps, new weapons, new vehicles and the Trench Raider Elite Class. Among the new vehicles was the ever-popular Saint-Chamond Tank and the new Char 2C Super Heavy tank which is classed as a behemoth and boy is it fun when you can actually get in it though I’ll admit not quite as fun as the Rattetank from the BF1942 Mod Forgotten Hope Secret Weapon, man that is something else. In the launch there were 4 news maps with the expansion though I was disappointed to find out that two of them were infantry only maps. Soissons with its sunstroked fields is a great map especially for planes and I’ve had plenty of aerial combat rounds there, Rupture is a bit more gritty but the red poppies are a nice touch. Verdun Heights is a rather large infantry-only map set in the artillery-blasted forest of Verdun and Fort De Vaux is basically just Operation Locker. This was annoying that when you just wanted to play the new French maps you had to contend with two infantry-only maps where there was only one out of the 10 that were on release for the main game.

Squad work on the new French Expansion Rupture map, I play as medic mostly.

Unfortunately I have not been playing the game much at all in the past months as this is due to the rise of the infamous Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds and my usual ‘squad’ of buddies are now firmly entrenched with this game with some being discouraged with BF1 and uninstalling it altogether including my friend who was once so happy for it, so any foray back into it would most probably just be on my own. Which is a shame because I did originally purchase a premium account which automatically game access to the rest of the expansions, In The Name Of The Tsar, Turning Tides and Apocalypse all of which are now released, so I will definitely be having another delve in to see these at least once. So on the whole Battlefield 1 is ok though it’s far from the Battlefield 1942 HD remake we’re all hoping for and sadly I think if it ever gets created it will just be same old thing as Battlefield has been since BF3 and won’t have the magic that made the original one so special.

JD

6/10

Things I liked:

Old-school feel of WW1 theme

Entertaining new vehicles and gadgets

Amazing graphics

Server browser included

Behemoths were fun and a good addition to the game


Things I didn’t like:

Same old Battlefield game with new skin

Not enough people playing new modes

Unrealistic take on WW1 especially in War stories

Support unable to repair vehicles while sitting in them.

Infantry-only maps should be abolished this Battlefield not COD


The original reveal trailer


My friend Brok's  Codename Eagle parody trailer

I miss helicopters because they haven’t been invented yet

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

The End?

Hi all,

In case you haven’t noticed there has been no new post for a while, this is because my work circumstances have changed recently and now I have much less free time for blog writing. I’m unsure at this point whether I will keep my blog going or not as when I do get spare time I much prefer to be playing games rather than writing about them which begs the question, do I keep going and update very sparingly and struggle to remember what a game was like? Or do I play something then write about it keeping my blog very up to date but not get time to play games much? or just shut down my blog entirely?

In any case it seems I will not be able to update as much as a did before, I will still be posting videos on my Youtube Channel and may update my blog randomly but I’ll have to have a think about what I will do with it in the future.

In the meantime I’m currently playing GTA Online so much GTA online, there’s a wealth of things to write about that I won’t even get started and that’s not even mentioning the Doomsday Heist, I’m going to need to do a ‘review’ of my April 2016 review as I have done so much more now, or dare I say another Post Type? I also still playing Player Unknown’s Battleground and we are inching ever closer to the game’s huuuuuge 1.0 Patch which contains many many things most notably the new desert map ‘Miramar’ and simply the ability to vault over things. And lastly I have been playing some DOTA 2 with a friend and as you can probably guess boy am I rusty, not that I was ever decent at it but man I’ve had some horror rounds, but anyway, all in good practice.

Oh and of course, thanks for reading over the years, I’m glad to have been able to continue doing this since 2011

JD

The gaming comes first, the writing second.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

The Past and Times of Yore - Doom 64: The horrifiying last chapter of the original Doom series

Release date: December 2, 1997
Genre: First-person shooter
Publisher: Midway Games
Developer: Midway Games
Engine: id Tech 1
Platforms: Nintendo 64
Modes: Single-player

Yes I know what you’re thinking, another Doom game review? I understand your concern as I have been playing a lot of Doom lately, the reason for this is that I have decided to play through all of the Doom Games first (Including Doom 3 before starting on the latest Doom (2016) though I have already tried out the multiplayer for that one.

Hell is glorious is it not?
I didn’t know there was a Doom 64 until recently, at first I thought it was just a port of Ultimate Doom or Doom 1 or 2 on their own. I gained a lot more interest in finding out that it was actually a new game created by Midway Games (who actually created some of the Mortal Kombat games on the SNES) with supervision from id Software, the game runs on a modified version of the Doom engine which brought a wealth of new features. These features included new sprites, textures, scrolling skies, limited room-over-room architecture, Scripted events, Tripwire booby traps, from poison darts to homing fireballs and more advanced atmospheric colored lighting and effects, such as parallaxing skies, fog, and lightning. The enemies received a makeover with most looking and acting different with rendered 3D modelling being used, most of the monsters from the previous games made a return with the exception of commandos, arch-viles, Spider MasterMind and revenants which were cut due to the limited storage capacity of Nintendo 64 cartridges.


The "Terror Core" level which is a good view into Doom 64

There were only two new monsters which were the Nightmare imp which was a faster version of the regular imp and was also translucent similar to the Spectre and the Mother Demon which is the mysterious final boss of the game meant to replace the Icon of Sin. All weapons from Doom II are present (albeit redrawn), along with a new demonic weapon made of demon bones known as the Unmaker  which according to the Doom Bible is  a “Demon-tech weapon that hurts pure demons a lot, demon-humans very little and tech demons some”. There is also sequences which dramatically transform areas, tripwire booby traps such as darts and homing fireball launchers, and enemies that appear out of thin air, man I seriously couldn’t work out where the projectiles were coming from when I first encountered them.

Nightmare Imps are damn fast
Doom 64 has a more horror-based atmosphere than the science fiction-oriented one seen in earlier games, including darker and more foreboding color schemes used to increase a sense of fear in the player. Indeed this version of Doom was much scarier than the previous games, the new soundtrack was darker and scarier and the satanic imagery was more extensively used. Traditionally the Doom series has started in technological areas such as space stations and planetary bases before going into Hell itself but this time everything seemed scarier, the music was a far cry to the dull midi-techno-boppey tunes of the first levels of Doom and Doom 2 and looking at those again they just look comical compared to the horror that is Doom 64.


I had a lot of fun with this level, there's a lot of noise and shooting going on but the echoing sounds effects and ghastly soundtrack are unbelievable. Also I think I missed the last enemy there but meh.

The story of Doom 64 is nothing new with the forces of Hell trying to invade Earth once again but this time you don’t fight on Earth just the old Deimos and Phobos bases and Hell itself but this times SPOILERS the ending text states that the Marine accepts his fate of eternal confrontation with demons and decides to close the gateway between Hell and our universe from inside, thereby staying in Hell forever to prevent any further invasions once and for all. Which actually created some speculation that the protagonist from the Doom 2016 reboot is the same marine as he is described in the game as an ancient/superhuman warrior that was either banished to hell or chose to stay there and was captured by Hell's forces and sealed in a tomb. There’s no evidence to support this but I like to think this was the case as it makes a lot of sense though Doom 3 will still be next in my list before I can finally play the latest one.

Time to fist some Demons
I must admit I did not play the game on the Nintendo 64 not having the cartridge myself.  I played on PC using the Doom64EX modification which allowed you to play Doom 64 on PC with newer control methods like mouse look, high resolutions and color depth using the original .ROM file. This is somewhat similar to the Skulltag Mod for the original Doom and the DarkXL mod for Star Wars Dark Forces. Though after playing through a few levels I actually found out that the infamous Sergeant Mark IV had created Brutal Doom 64 which had all the goodness from the original Brutal Doom mod and brought it into Doom 64. Changes included the usual overhauling the graphics also adding much more detailed gore effects of course and also new weapons were added including the assault rifle and grenade launcher.

Ah the trusty assault rifle, much better then that useless pistol.
One of the main changes was the addition of all of the content cut from the original game due to the Nintendo 64’s limited Cartridge space, this included the Revenant, Chaingunguy and Spider Mastermind enemies. There was also a new enemy called the Hellhound which is a sort of two-headed dog beast similar to Cerberus of Greek mythology though Cerberus had three heads, the Hellhound is quite fast and shoots fireballs so it’s a formidable foe. The levels have been revamped featuring new decorations, lightning system, fog, light shafts, etc, techbase levels were optimised to have better navigation, new ambient sounds, more security cameras to remove the need of "switch hunting", and having some parts of the levels remade to look like a more plausible place. The Hell levels were also upgraded with new ambient sounds, and more disturbing imagery. 

The Hellhound spewing fireballs from it's two maws
As before you can choose to play with the classic old school gameplay or the tactical gameplay that has an assault rifle and all the weapons deal more damage but need to be reloaded, the tactical gameplay mode also has a ‘fatigue’ number that limits your sprinting which is annoying but makes it a bit more realistic I guess. The chainsaw in Doom 64 is now twin bladed and for some reason in the Brutal Doom 64 it now has “ammo” which I guess is “fuel” or maybe replacement chains I don’t know, I really had no idea even when finishing the game how I picked up more ammo for it, but anyway I think it packed more power than the original chainsaw, it was also useful for the nightmare imps and spectres as they were so goddamn fast you just waited around a corner for them to get close then let er rip. 


I tear it up then get confused by switches in The Lair, one of the secret levels

And so I started the game again with much better visuals and gameplay, this time I don’t think I even bothered trying it without godmode on as it just takes ages and gets too hard. I made sure I checked out all of the secret levels and managed to both get to them and  do most of them without needing to use IDCLIP though the first secret level MAP29: Outpost Omega was kind of complicated the way it worked but I managed to get through them all and collected the Demon Keys which upgrade the Unmaker. This new weapon is also found in the secret levels and man after being ‘fully upgraded’ this thing does some damage, you can take down Hell knights and Cyberdemons with ease, best new weapon in the game.

The Unmaker, now that's what I call being "Unmade"
As I mentioned before compared with the other Doom games, Doom 64 is hella scary which is odd because the Nintendo 64 was regarded as a kids console. The level design, the sights, the sounds and especially the music is dark, foreboding and to be honest makes the game pretty depressing to play, there’s quite a lot of satanic imagery around as well as dead marine bodies though it’s not quite as horrific as the Hell on Earth Starter Pack it was still pretty bad. The Brutal mod for the Doom 64 version is bit more subdued as it does not include fatalities and executions, Sergeant Mark IV addressed this himself saying that unlike the original Brutal Doom, this version is focused on making it as much as disturbing, horror and survival-oriented possible with a much more serious tone, So there won't be such over-the-top stuff. This was good as Doom 64 works well as this kind of game compared to the basic violence of the original Doom and over-the-top gore of the Brutal Doom mod.

This was an area where I first experienced an environmental trap, the blocks in the sky periodically unleash homing fireballs at you, and I was so confused the first time, also wow look at those braziers.
There is a very small storyline to the game, from the very vague introduction in the manual you can glean that after the events of Doom II the old Phobos and Deimos bases have been sealed off due to apocalyptic levels of radiation though the UAC is still monitoring the stations from earth when the receive a very disturbing last message, apparently the hordes of Hell have been revived by the Mother Demon. Doom 64 has 32 maps in total as per usual for Megawad The start of the game is indeed in the planetary tech bases but that is only for the first 9 levels and the rest are set in Hell itself yet again. And Hell has never looked scarier especially with the better resolution, sharper textures and enhanced lighting effects plus a killer soundtrack what’s not to like?
Ahh good old Brutal Doom, this is on the lowest gore setting "realistic" by the way
I never though Doom 64 would be like this, as I said before I wasn’t aware there was a Doom game for the Nintendo 64 and when I found out about it I thought it would just be a port of the older games not this amazing scary great looking whole new thing. The level design isn’t too much of a deviation from the original games though some of the secret levels and ways of getting there were overly complicated, I was glad the was a Brutal version made for the game that included all of the cut content as playing Doom without monsters like the Spider Mastermind and the Revenant and I highly recommend you play it on PC with the mod. Doom 64 was Doom done right and I’m glad that I have finally experienced it, even if it’s wasn’t on the Nintendo 64 itself.

JD

Another secret level, MAP31: The Void, and it was indeed, a level with nothing underneath, and a confusing one at that.

Things I liked:

Great atmosphere, darker and scarier then the original

Good looking improved graphics including monster and weapon models

Includes new enemies

Things I didn’t like:

Finding Secret levels and the Demon keys inside them were often overly complicated.

Unless playing on PC with the Brutal Doom mod the game does not include several enemies due to N64 cartridge space limitations

The Brutal Doom 64 v1 Trailer

Hell hath never been this scary