Above: 'He's behind you' (Well it is the Panto season)! Expect this a lot.
I had my first outing n the frenetic world of CoD:BOII last night. Actually I didn't want to jump into the online action so quickly - only having bought the game the night before - as I really wanted to get to grips with the contols via the single player game first. But to be honest, the single player game is a bit pants so I took the plunge.
Fully expecting to have my ass handed to me on a plate - being the noob of all noobs - I wasn't disappointed! There are already a host of high ranking, fully tooled up, 'leet players out there and they show no mercy.
Anyway, it's a fast and crazy as you might imagine when you are a beginner. As normal with new multiplayer FPSs everyone knows the maps but you and you stumble into one ambush after another. You are walking mincemeat, but surprisingly I actually managed to to shoot a couple of the enemy (OK, maybe probably more by luck than skill).
The upshot is this though, CoD is CoD - dress it up how you may - and in this case there is a futuristic feel to the weapons but underneath it's still the same run and gun action it always has been. Reactions have to be quick, especially if you are playing Team Deathmatch. If it ain't broke don't fix it could be the CoD moto!
But despite the no brainer qualities of the game I soon found that I had played three hours in the blink of an eye, with that continual 'just one more game, just ONE more game' obsessiveness which is the mark of a good multiplayer FPS. Sure the games are short, and in public servers there isn't much in the way of team tactics but I found that rather refreshing.
The graphics are good (though not great, but that might be my card), there was no lag and it all performed splendidly, unlike my recent experience with Planetside 2 which was torturous and ugly. Of special note were the excellently designed maps, which I felt were an improvement on my last CoD experience which was 'Modern Warefare'. There seemed to be less choke points and more means to flank the opposition, I especially liked the fact that there were more levels of play with either multiple floors or undulating ground with which you could add a more three dimensional means of attack.
One good thing was I never seemed to get spawn camped, the spawning rotation always seemed to keep a nice buffer between 'us' and 'them' and camping wasn't a huge issue either - what with the radar and drones making staying in one place for too long certain death.
The weapons are very nice and I actually decided to try something new and went ultra-lightweight (I usually like heavy assault) and loved my little MP-7 SMG. They upgrades, perks and accessories are very interesting and you can customize your class slots to the n'th degree.
Yes, I had a lot of fun - despite having a LOT of deaths...I kept going back for more.
One last thing - the battle recorder. This is amazing, you can record you battles very easily and build up your own little channel of movies. It's the easiest battle recorder system I've seen and it does tell you a lot about how you play (I found it amazing how little attention I was really paying as I saw enemy I never noticed while I was playing).
I need to sort out my controls next and learn some more about the streak perks and the futuristic accessories. But I'm sold...Well, at least until Battlefield 4 comes out!
Bottom line: It does what it says on the (ammo) tin!
Well, while I'm way behind the pack in issuing some sort of review of this game I have saved my thoughts until I completed my first run through of the game. This I did last night about midnight!
I will try and make this pithy, so the best way to run through this is by comparing it with the first game and discussing whether Gearbox/2K Games has improved on that, and whether they have addressed some of the minor niggles people had with the original.
Just Deserts (did you see what I did there?)
I suppose I should start with the complaint that there wasn't enough environmental variety in the first game. The reliance on desert wastelands in particular was a bit irksome to some. Well let me start off by saying - box ticked, you won't be constantly emptying sand out your boots no more!
BL2's Pandora is a lot more diverse, from snowy tundras to subterranean caverns and from high tech cities to - yes - the inevitable 'Mad Max' style desert bandit country, there is a welcome variety to the maps this time around.
But it's just not the variety, it's the sheer scale and depth of detail of the maps that's new as well. Some of the locations you visit are enormous and really do require a vehicle for you to get around (like The Highlands), while others have a huge amount on beautifully designed detail (Lynchwood springs to mind). The developers really have taken the issue to task and have done a very good job, the world of Pandora does feel far more fleshed out this time around.
Pimp your ride...Er, 2!
Another niggle from BL1 was the token inclusion of vehicles. Well, sadly I'm afraid this section of the game still hasn't reached it's full potential. You do get an extra vehicle and that truck ('Technical') does allow you to transport your full four-person co-op team around together, but there still isn't the sense of a proper vehicle combat system/game, and the trucks are really only glorified taxis.
This is a shame as some 'Mad Max' type missions where you experience real vehicle-on-vehicle combat would have been nice. And the introduction of flying bandits (Buzzards) does tend to make you feel like trucks are very old hat anyway.
One issue seems to have taken a turn for the worst in BL2 is the hardness of level bosses. Often I felt that some of the levels sub-bosses and minions were harder to defeat than some of the end of level adversaries. There just seems to be too many ways to 'cheat' - mainly by hiding behind things - your way to a victory (the 'Giant Skag' sequence was typical, where you have a massive boss with lots of health points - but you simply whittle away it's life from the safety behind an all too convenient elevator gate).
On the other hand the game has added some new rock-hard vanilla enemies - I found the new Threshers (sandworms) and the new Stalkers very worthy adversaries, particularly because they hunt in packs and have their own very special abilities. These creatures made the 'Wildlife Preservation' and 'Caustic Cavern' maps particularly challenging.
Bandits and robots were OK, but I especially liked the Goliaths and the Suicide Psychos! And the 'Tunnel Rats' were nasty little twats, once again because they tended to be a lot more mobile and pop up where you didn't expect them.
Storyline and re-play value
Unless you play the game single player the 'plot' can be one of those blink and you miss it sort of things. But this brings up a particularly interesting aspect related to the longevity of the game (value for money and the re-play factor).
I have read the usual moans that the game is 'too short', indeed my friends - mainly thanks to a LAN party weekend on the release of BL2 - whizzed through the main storyline amazingly fast. But to me this sort of sprint play isn't doing yourself any favours. For me, two of the important features of the Boarderlands franchise are the side missions and the exploration. If you do just work through the main story mode (as indicated in the mission briefings as the 'Story Mission') then you miss out on so much of what has been put into the game by the designers, and I am not surprised if you find the game a little short and unsatisfying.
It's very much a case of the hare and the tortoise - and more than once when I was discussing various side missions with my friends I found that they didn't have a clue what I was on about as they simply hadn't bothered with them as they considered them 'trivial'!
Admittedly some side missions can be little more than 'go here and fetch that' paper-chases, but there are some absolute gems in Borderlands 2 if you bother to look for them - the Clan War and Uncle Teddy side-missions in particular spring to mind (neither of which my friends had done despite finishing the main mission)!
To be honest there were also times I just drove to the very edges of the maps just to see what was there and found myself marvelling at the amazing world that the developers had created. Not to do this is completely missing the point - IMHO - of these sort of wilderness exploration games.
Above: Another lovely piece of Borderlands memorabilia - this BL2 view (near Firestone) is where you start out on your adventure at the beginning of Borderlands 1 (when you get off Marcus's bus). Hyperion may have added a few 'improvements' - but it still sends shivers of enjoyment down the back of any true Vault Hunter.
To me - and bearing in mind my previous remarks - Borderlands 2 is a very good game which becomes great when the player is willing to go out of their way (literally) and put in the extra work to fully explore the world they are given.
Bearing in mind, though, that the biggest thrill of this adventure is the co-op mode you may find yourself being dragged past a lot of the minor excursions on a lighting tour to the big pay-off at the end, you may well miss out on some of the finer detail that has been carefully crafted and inserted into the game. Please don't allow yourself to miss out - do the side-missions.
Undoubtedly Borderlands 2 is an instant classic and the majority of reviews done reflect this - but even so I maintain that it is even better than many of it's fans have said that it is.
Yes, there are a few niggles, mainly to do with the challenge of bosses and the meddling with the interface and the fact that - my biggest moan - that there aren't individualised missions based specifically on the character classes (which would make a second, third or forth play-through worth-while). And I think that the Bad Ass points system has been feebly incorporated as if it had been stronger it would have encouraged people to actually do some of the side missions.
Above: The final showdown. I played this out with two of my online buddies - BIG-Magnus and BIG-Paddy - and I think the final 'Big Boss' was an improvement on the comical alien big-boss of the first game. Despite the sense of achievement I felt at this moment, I felt a tinge of sadness that this first play-through was coming to an end.
But, Borderlands 2 is a fantastic adventure, I love the 'feel' of it and the humour. At a time when many big budget games are getting far too pompous and caught up in 'realism' for the sake of it Borderlands provides a very refreshing reminder why we like to play computer games - fun!
I look forward to Borderlands 3 - or even better, a Borderlands MMORPG - and think that this was £20 very well spent.
Well, I guess you could say I did it my way. But in any case it's mission accomplished. Today I finally grinded my way to the Soviet top tank - the Tier 10 IS-7 Heavy!
Defiantly not the prettiest tank in the game, but in a way typically Soviet in it's aesthetic. Fugly I think is the term! But this enormous pig gives me the tier 10 defensive armour to go with a good gun, and better speed than I had in my IS-4. But best of all it allows to to go up against other Tier 10 behemoths and survive - and as if to prove it, here's a shot from my first game in my new IS-7...
While I cannot take the credit for the kill on this e100, I did lay on some heavy damage and didn't run away (the usual tactic when up against the German giant)! Just after this I demolished a Ferdinand and took a few shots from another IS-7 before it despatched me.
Additionally, as if to emphasise that I am coming to the end of my World of Tanks career I completed my M46 Patton upgrading and now have a trio of my favourite American tanks in my garage - all prettied up with some desert camo...
I simply get so much fun our of these fine fellows that I actually ditched my beloved Soviet Mediums in preference to them. The Slugger and Easy 8 Sherman, although just Tier 6s, provide a lot of laughs and punch above their weight.
The M46 Patton is just lovely eye candy, but now I have the 105mm gun I can do some useful damage against even the Tier 10 tanks now.
This is sort of a very satisfying but rather sad moment. I have gotten to where I want to be and I can safely say that there isn't any tank in the game that I want now. I suppose I may just enjoy the next couple of weeks playing with my new tanks before I finally lay this game to rest.
Obviously, if they did release a British line of tanks I would be straight back in there - especially if they included the Sherman Firefly and Centurian.
I haven't been a great player and I have defiantly spent far too much cash on this 'free' game - but as I don't drink now it's not been an out of the way expense. Certainly I used to spend more on a night out with the lads in a week than this cost me in a month.
...Well, that's about it then. Thanks for the tanks!
As if it needed proving, I don't know everything about guns (even though I like to think of myself as a bit 'knowledgable')! Today I came across some info about the Russian AEK-971 which - I am now embarrassed to admit - I thought was one of those 'made-up' computer game weapons (similar to the AK107 in ArmA2).
When I first saw the AEK-971 in Bad Company 2 I did smirk, but now I'm laughing on the other side of my face. But even more surprising is that while everyone who plays Bad Company 2 raves about the AN-94 assault rifle I actually found that the AEK-971 was nicer to use (despite it being default infantry rifle).
The reason this is so surprising is that the AEK-971 and AN-94 were competitors in the Russian military trials to find a replacement for the current AK74 infantry rifle. But while the AN-94 eventually came out on top it wasn't universally adopted by the Russian army because of it's complexity - and ironically the Russians are now looking again at the AEK-971 which they now consider to be more accurate than the AN94!
Well, I'll go to the foot of our stairs!
It is with a much excitement tinged with a little sadness that I received my replacement Belkin n52 te game pad today. My old n52 (pictured above right) has been without doubt one of the best pieces of computer gaming kit that I have ever bought and I simply cannot game without one now.
However, time has taken it's toll and I wanted to replace my trusty n52 before the inevitable happened, so I bought the newest version - the n52 Tournament Edition - from Amazon.co.uk for £31. I think this is a terrific price for such an indespensible accessory, especially when you consider that the n52's nearest rival - the Logitech G13 Gameboard - is double the price.
My only initial misgivings are that the new n52te software does not seem to be able to import my old n52 game setups - so I have to start from scratch. But, mehhhh!
Couldn't resist the nostalgia of Ghost Recon Classic as STEAM is now selling this at rock bottom prices. You can now buy the whole original series - Ghost Recon, Desert Siege and Island Thunder - for just £9!
As much as I love Bad Company 2 or CoD: Black Ops and their fantastic graphical realism I do like a bit of retro gaming on occasion and like to go back to my battlefield FPS roots. Ghost Recon was the first tactical military shooter I played on my Apple Macintosh computer and it was also the first game that really introduced me to multipler gaming as our office had little lunchtime Ghost Recon tournaments!
One additional inducement is that there are huge amounts of free DLC for this game. For example, the accompanying screenshots show a mod called Udmurtia Spetsnaz, which gives you access to a host of Russian Spetsnaz uniforms and weapons (the map is, fittingly, Red Square).
However intense and realistic gaming experience modern games like BC2 of CoD:BO provide, sometimes it's just nice to kick back and enjoy the more sedate gaming of a time gone by! LOL
I was hoping for an early start and a full days gaming on the release of this hugely anticipated game add-on, but this thing 'Christma' and the associated shopping got in the way. Despite my late start I did manage to get some Bad Company 2 Vietnam play late night and made this short movie of my first attempt. There is a bit of action and a bit of scenery sightseeing and I didn't particularly distinguish myself, but it was absolutely amazing fun!
I was joined a bit later of by a couple of other members of the BIG team (who managed to slip their leashes and get away from the pre-Christmas preparations) and we were able to get a little squad based play under our belts.
The initial consensus about this new game (as this is what it feels like) is very positive indeed, in fact everyone agrees that it was very under priced and we all would have been happy to have paid the full cost of a normal game - it is that good. I was particularly surprised and a little aggrieved as I had recently forked out £40 for Call of Duty Black Ops and I have to say that BC2 Vietnam gives you a far superior gaming experience for just a quarter of the cost of that over-hyped piece of nonsense!
If I had any complaints about BC2 'Nam it is my usual nit-picking about authenticity of the choice of guns - though it is nowhere near as bad as the horrendous historical errors made in CoD: BO. Both my team mates and myself felt it would have been nicer to have a fixed set of faction weapons, so the VC ended up playing with Soviet weapons by default and the same for the American side. But that is a small niggle.
I could groan about the use of the Uzi and MAC 10 smgs instead of something a little more authentic - like a Madsen M50 or Swedish Carl Gustav M45 which were both widely used by US forces who needed a 9mm SMG - but that seemed a little churlish when, at the end of the day, the complete package was so well done.
The bottom line is that we all really enjoyed BC2 'Nam, it was a instant hit as far as we were concerned, the maps were beautiful, the weapons and character animations and graphics appeared to have been improved over the original BC2 ones and the game play - which had apparently been re-balanced to favour close-in fighting - was very exciting indeed.
There were some glitches regarding EA's game database - with some players finding their scores repeatedly reset to zero - but this seemed to be a case of first day jitters. Otherwise EA have, in my opinion, put the nail in the coffin of the terminally ill Call of Duty franchise.
After a particularly high scoring game of Bad Company 2 this morning - where I scored 98 kills on BiT's 1000 ticket server - I wondered to myself whether I could actually get a 100+ kills in a game?
Now I know there are some terribly 'leet' players out there who could probably get a century of kills in an ordinary ticket game of BC2, but I am certainly not 'leet'! So the extra long 1000 ticket game at least offered me a chance to to rack up the kills if I really pulled my finger out (before today my best score on a 1K BC2 server was 78 kills).
Well after a intense day I managed to finally do it and broke the 100 kill score line by one kill!
Server information: Best in Tactics 'High Score - 1000 TiX - Atakama Only - www.bestintactics.com
Here's the moment I got my hundredth kill in all it's glory - as you can see I got so flustered that it was going to be K100 - with just a few tickets left in the game - that I thumbled the whole thing and splattered a full mag at him before I finally got him! LOL
Postscript: One thing I forgot to mention - but is perhaps more obvious in the movie - is that I was in the tank when I spotted this guy. He was trying to lay mines on our tank so I jumped out and shot him!
Rather ironic as this is just teh sort of thing I like to do (blow up the tanks with mines).
This game has been bubbling under the radar for quite a while now, but it looks like it is starting to reach the pre-release marking stage. Homefront is Terminator re-imagined (no getting round it), but instead of hoards of Arnie T1s the North Koreans have taken over beloved America!
Now the first thing that struck me - in fact the first two things really - was the graphics, the quality isn't great even compared to Bad Company 2 but moreover it all reminds me of a game called Frontlines: Fuel of War. The whole style is a little more 'gamey' than the CoD/MoH 'semi-sim' model - and by gamey I do mean it is a little bit stinky!
Still, we all do like the idea of playing a resistance and this unpretentious out-and-out piece of gaming might be refreshing compared to the CoD/MoH incessant drive for 'realism'. I await some real gameplay footage and news of the multiplayer modes (all we know is that they will be 32 player).
With my Logitech G5 dead I have had to resort to my 'emergency spare' Razor Diamondback and it hasn't been a happy substitution. The Diamondback is a small mouse which has forced me to change my gaming stance to a 'calw' instead of my preferred 'paw' hand position (I have big hands and like to hold my had flat over a large mouse - hence 'paw'). While hand position is a personal preference I find the claw method gives me cramp in my hand after prolonged use.
My first preference for a new mouse was the rather sexy looking Saitek RAT 5. The key selling points of this mouse were it 4000 dpi resolution and its adjustable size (to suit differing hand sizes). While I didn't like the price tag of £56 I did like the idea that it might fit my large hands because of it's advanced ergonomics - well, until I actually saw it in PC World in Leeds that is...It's tiny!
It was while I was looking through the different gaming mice in PC World that I came across the old model (2007/8) Microsoft Sidewinder. At only £29 it is one of the cheaper 'gaming' mice available, and yet it comes with many of the knick-knacks and facilities you would normally associate with much more expensive mice.
Above: The older model Microsoft Sidewinder gaming mouse. This is available from Amazon.co.uk - though I did notice the price has now risen to £33 since I ordered mine. Actually if you dig about on Amazon you will still find the previous model of this version for just £23! Click on the above image to go to the Microsoft Sidewinder product page for more in-depth info.
With integrated weights bay - so you can adjust the weight of the mouse to get the right surface friction for you - and large Teflon type mice 'feet' this mouse has a better heft to it than lighter general PC mice. Add to this it's adjustable resolution (up to 2000 dpi) and its additional side mounted buttons and it makes a neat little package.
Actually, what swung it for me - over other gaming mice - was its generally larger physical size and its rather unusual vertically placed side buttons. Most gaming mice you come across have two thumb activated side buttons which are places in a horizontal arrangement. To me this is rather silly as humans do not have the ability to suddenly increase and decrease the length of their thumbs at will - meaning you have to slightly adjust the position of your hand on the mouse when using these side buttons.
The MS Sidewinder has vertically positioned side buttons, which means you slimply move your thumb up and down to activate them - far more natural in my opinion.
If I had any complaint about this mouse it would be the relatively low resolution - most new gaming mice are sporting 4000-5600dpi these days - and its horrendous ergonomics. Unlike many new mice this Sidewinder does not have a 'thumb wing' or recess to support the thumb during play.
However, I over-looked this emission because none of my old mice had this design feature either (so I wasn't missing anything) and neither have I had any resolution over 2000dpi before. In short, at just £29 the older version MS Sidewinder was just what I wanted. (There is a new range of Sidewinder mice with higher resolutions and funkier designs but these are all about the £40+ price mark.)
Finally, to accompany my new mouse I bought a new gaming mat too. I usually just play on a bare desktop surface but this does have its disadvantages. First of all my desktop does tent to get a but sticky due to drinks spillages and also its beech effect laminate does cause a little rumble when my muse moves over it (cause by the slight undulation in the surface causes by teh mock wood grain effect).
The new gaming mat is a Coolermaster CS-M 'Weapon of Choice' soft type mat. I know some players prefer medium-hard playing surfaces but I have had a hard mat in the past (a lovely Razor hard playing surface) but, again, didn't like the feeling of the mouse as it travelled over it....Yes, I am a bit of a game geek!
Above: The Coolermaster CS-M soft gaming mat. At 45.5 x 28.5cm in side it is a medium sized mat which is single sided with a rubberised bottom surface. Click on the image to go to the CS-M product page for additional info.
The new soft surface not only muffles any tactile friction during mouse movement by also has a little bit of give under the downward pressure of the weight of my hand on the mouse - which is rather comfortable. Also, the addition of a large black mouse mat to my desk surface is a visual reminder for me NOT to put my cup down in that area! (Reducing sticky desk syndrome!)
Finally, The Coolermaster CS-M comes with a nice sillouette of an AK-47 on it (hense 'Wepaon of Choice') and that can't be a bad thing can it?