Archive for April, 2012

Fallout 3

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 28, 2012 by caseystorton

-A couple years ago when I first bought this game, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was getting myself into. At the time, I’d never really played much in the way of RPGs, and outside of Mass Effect 2 and Bioshock, I hadn’t yet experienced a game where I had very much control over what the story was doing at any given moment.

-We start with a really awesome cinematic that shows what has happened to society since the nuclear holocaust 200 years ago. In preparation for this, many humans have sealed themselves away in underground vaults in an attempt to wait out the crisis. The game begins in your Vault, Vault 101.  Have you ever played a game where it feels like you start off in the middle of the story? Well, that most certainly isn’t the case with Fallout 3, at least not at first. The game literally begins with a blurry, first-person cinematic of you being born. From here you get to select your name, gender, and future appearance. Also your father is voiced by Liam Neeson. That’s awesome. You are then brought through the highlights of your childhood, including selecting some basic skills as a one-year-old, receiving you Pip-boy 3000 at your tenth birthday, which I’ll expand on later, taking a test, or not, to see what skills would best suit your play-style at age 16, and daringly escaping the Vault in pursuit of your father at age 19. The whole opening sequence is the best example of immersion that I’ve seen in a game to date, even if the immersion takes a bit of a hit when a window pops up as you’re exiting the Vault asking you if you want to change anything you did while you were in the vault. From here, you walk out into the Capital Wasteland in the area that once upon a time was called Washington D.C.

-From here, you have very little in the way of restrictions, from the get-go, there’s nothing stopping you from just walking in any direction until you find the edge of the map, which I can’t recall ever seeing in any direction. Yes, the world is quite massive, but not overwhelmingly so. There’s plenty to find out in the wasteland, with a number of characters, locations, and enemies to find, with just enough walking in-between to allow you to take in the peaceful atmosphere outside of combat. And if you find yourself getting tired of simply walking quietly across the barren landscape, you can always turn on your radio. Your Pip-boy has a built-in radio that can usually pick up one of two channels. One is Enclave radio, some bullshit station where the “president” tries to talk everyone into following what he says, and Galaxy News Radio, a station with a badass DJ who calls himself “Three Dog” who reports on the news of the wasteland, a lot of which is about stuff that you have done, and plays classic music from the 40s and 50s, which fits that atmosphere very well, with just enough songs to have some variety while still allowing you to get excited every time your favorite comes on.

-On to the gameplay, the non-combat areas offer plenty of opportunities for you to find side-quests, followers, and extra items and weapons to help you on your journey. Also, if you want to turn them into combat zones, just attack someone, and entire towns will come after you, which is always good for a laugh. Just be sure to save before you do something you’ll regret. Everything you do, accessing game stats, reading your notes, tracking quests, managing items, switching weapons, ect. is done with the use of your Pip-boy. The interface has some rough edges, but the ability to hot-key weapons and items helps alleviate some of the annoyances.

-The combat itself is pretty fun, with several different kinds of weapons that allow you to tackle an encounter however you choose. There are many different types of guns, including pistols, shotguns, hunting rifles, assault rifles, and several different kinds of launchers, as well as a variety of melee weapons and even a couple of glove-type weapons that are more effective based on what level you have your unarmed skill at. Basically, trying to shoot freely isn’t too easy, as enemies move around a lot and your tiny cross hair makes it difficult to land shots. This is where VATS comes in. VATS is a system that uses your action points to select which part on an enemy’s body you want to attack, with a displayed percentage of what possibility there is of you landing a hit, and watching in slow motion as your character then takes action. It works well, and helps keep the combat from getting too frustrating.

-There’s also a nice little progression system that has you training skills with experience points you get when you level up as opposed to the Elder Scrolls system of skills leveling up as you use them. Say what you will about your problems with this system, but at least you can’t exploit it like the laughably unbalanced, hilariously boostable skills in Skyrim. The way it works, just about anything you do, killing an enemy, picking a lock, hacking a computer completing a quest, or persuading a character gets you EXP. Eventually you gain enough EXP to level up. From here you have a set number of points to assign in any area of your choosing, including Small Guns, Melee, Unarmed, Lockpicking, Speech, Sneak, ect. The effects on combat skills are minimal, but many doors and computer terminal cannot be opened unless the respective lockpicking or science skill is high enough.

-Overall, Fallout 3 is a great game. It has some issues with interface annoyances, somewhat meaningless progression in the combat skills, and occasionally formulaic combat, but there’s still a great world here to explore, with plenty to see, do, discover, and enjoy. 8.5/10

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Call of Duty: my experience

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 21, 2012 by caseystorton

-Over the past few years, I have played my fair share of the Call of Duty franchise. Back in 2006 I played a demo for Call of Duty 2 at Walmart, followed a year later by a demo for Call of Duty 3. I didn’t get an Xbox 360 until summer of 2008, and even then I wasn’t a hugely serious gamer. The first game in the franchise that I bought was Modern Warfare 2. After a while I got World at War off of a friend for about $10. A few months later Black Ops came out, so I bought it. That went on for a while before I borrowed Call of Duty 4 from the same friend I mentioned earlier. I enjoyed my experiences at the time, and I feel a retrospective is in order. I’ll be reviewing these four games in order of release, not in the order that I experienced them, which means that some of my opinions may differ a bit from yours. But hey, where would the internet be if everyone had the same opinion?

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

-I won’t really go over the story, as it’s pretty much just a plausible modern combat scenario and I don’t really remember the details. Anyway, the perspective shifts a lot between the Americans and the British as they try to stop some rather evil dudes named Al Asad and Zachiev (not even going to look up how to spell either of those). Anyway, the gameplay is based heavily around quickly finding targets and killing them before they kill you with an emphasis on cover and the need to be covering every angle at all times. There’s also the fact that the enemies are stupidly good at throwing grenades. You die far more often from grenades than you do from guns, that’s for certain. It’s not particularly realistic or fair, but it keeps you moving and alert, which is alright in the grand scheme of things. Weapons are nice and feel distinct enough from each-other that you won’t get tired of shooting the same assault rifle again and again, and enemies use enough different kinds of guns with enough different attachments to give you options when choosing the best gun for the job. The missions have a nice variety to them, with enough vehicle levels, stealth missions, demolition jobs and straight-up gunfights to keep any one mission type from repeating itself too much.

-There’s also the scene with the nuke. There’s one part where you’re trying to stop a nuke from going off and you fail. You never expect a story like this to end that way, but it does, and the nuke goes off. This is followed by a very memorable scene in which your player-character survives a helicopter crash and crawls around for the last few miserable seconds of his life before painfully dying of radiation poisoning. It’s very well directed and makes you genuinely feel for this character.

-Enough of that though, let’s talk about the multiplayer. The fact that I played this after the three that followed it did not at all impact my ability to enjoy the multiplayer. Sure, sniping is a bit easier than it should be, sure Juggernaut is overpowered, but the rest of it is pretty well balanced, with unlocks doing a very good job of making the player feel like they’re progressing without becoming inaccessible to new players. The maps are mostly redesigned from areas in the campaign, but there’s enough of them that you won’t find yourself getting too tired of any one of them in particular.

-Overall, I really like Call of Duty 4. It’s a well made game with a few rough edges that are pretty easy to overlook for most. Did it deserve its massive sales? No. Is it still worth playing. Yes. 8.5/10

Call of Duty: World at War

-After the smashing success that was Call of Duty 4, developer Treyarch decided that they wanted a piece of the action. Of course, most of the fans really didn’t enjoy this one nearly as much, primarily due to Treyarch’s controversial decision to go back to World War II. This severely limits the scope of what the game can hope to do. For example, weapons technology has seen a lot of progress since 1945, and as such weapons tend to feel dated and arbitrarily similar compared to CoD 4’s varied and powerful arsenal. Also, infrared scopes, sentry turrets, ect. hadn’t yet been invented, so there was much less potential for equipment and customization. On that note, we didn’t have silencers back then, making stealth missions almost completely unfeasible. Still, the missions are competently structured and decently varied, shifting back and forth between a squad of American soldiers fighting in the Pacific Theater and a squad of Soviet soldiers fighting the Nazis in Europe. Also, the vehicle missions suck. There are two of them. One is an on-rails bit as the Americans in a plane that has you shooting down Japanese Zeroes, and the other is a driving level in the Soviet campaign featuring a tank. The on-rails bit is really annoying, as enemies are simply too small and too fast to get many hits in before they fly off-screen. I  decided to go for the achievement for shooting down 50 of them. I got about 23 in one round, so I never tried again. The tank level is slow, boring, and goes on way too long as you have to keep wheeling around the huge map looking for that one squad of Nazis that you haven’t either blown the fuck up or lit the fuck on fire before you’re allowed to continue.

-Another problem I have it the AI. Your teammates do nothing but shoot around the enemies never scoring a shot and jump in front of you blocking your aim. The enemy AI is also pretty bad, with many enemies being totally oblivious to your standing right next to them. There are some melee enemies in the American missions called Bonzai. They jump out of the ground and charge you with bayonets. While that might sound intimidating, it’s all too easy to just side-step them and stab them with your own knife, which is pretty hilarious.

-That said, the gameplay is still rather fun and engaging as enemies make up in numbers what they lack in intelligence. Side-note, I mentioned this in my Rage review, but the higher difficulties don’t make the enemies smarter or even that much harder to kill. They just give you barely any health and make them throw a whole lot more grenades. Not cool.

-Next we have the multiplayer. It’s really just the same shit you played in CoD 4 but with WWII weapons. As I mentioned earlier, the time period very much limits the possibilities for customization and equipment. The maps are once again designed around the campaign, but there are much less of them, so repetition sets in pretty quick. This time around, progression is not well balanced at all. Once you unlock the MP40, you’d better use it, because everyone else does.

-I think Treyarch realized these limitations and forced themselves to add something. So they added zombies. I never bought any of the map packs, but the default zombies map was pretty fun, and it allowed for a nice break from the stone-cold seriousness of the campaign.

-On reflection, World at War really isn’t a good game. It’s still kinda fun to play, but it’s really a whole greater than the sum of its parts. With all of these problems, I’m surprised I still had any fun with it. 5/10

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

-This being the first Call of Duty I ever purchased, I had high hopes that it could endear me to this ever so popular franchise. The plot basically continues on from the first game, with a new antagonist by the name of Makarov, which is incidentally a kind of pistol. He wants America and Russia to go to war because… I don’t remember and I doubt I ever knew in the first place. Anyhow, the gameplay is pretty similar to MW1 with a few new weapons and attachments to play with, but the gameplay has stayed pretty intact. There is one neat little addition that I don’t remember seeing in MW1, machine pistols. They add a nice new layer to close quarters combat, with the ability to switch to them quickly when your primary weapon is empty while still staying pretty powerful in terms of cutting down enemies with no problem.

-I’m sure you’ve all played MW2, and you all want to know 1 thing. How do I feel about No Russian? Just in case you’ve been living under a rock somewhere on Mars, you know that I’m referring to the “controversial mission” that has you as an undercover CIA agent going with Makarov  and a bunch of his buddies and gunning down a bunch of Russian civilians in an airport. It was obviously meant to get a reaction out of me, but it didn’t. Seriously, like this is the first time I’ve ever murdered a defenseless person in a video game. I’ve done it plenty of other times, and at least when I threw a bunch of people at a helicopter to make it fall down and explode on more people in Prototype the game wasn’t trying to keep me from enjoying myself. Yes, you heard that right, I enjoyed No Russian. It just might be the most fun mission in the game. Shooting a bunch of pixels that represent bullets at a bunch of other pixels that represent unarmed civilians has this very therapeutic effect to it in a punch-the-wall sort of way minus the property damage and possibly injured hand.

-Now we move on to multiplayer. MW2 added some neat things to the multiplayer. There are now several new perks, guns, attachments, kill-streaks, and the newly implemented death-streaks for when things really aren’t going your way. True, it is more unbalanced than CoD 4, but it’s more than worth the trade off with the added customization.

-Overall, Modern Warfare 2 is better than the first one. Yeah, I said it. True, CoD 4 set the stage, but MW2 put on one hell of a show. 9/10

Call of Duty: Black Ops

-Black Ops was basically Treyarch’s attempt at apologizing for World at War. I bought it hoping it would be great, but ended up with mixed feelings. The story is  a weird, complex, and pointless set of conspiracy theories, government cover-ups, and bio-weapons that ends up really not being worth it. There’s still an attempt at variety, with a bit where you don a Biohazard suit and venture into a cloud of the bio-weapon “Nova 6” which I later discovered was named after a gas station in Modern Warfare 2. There’s also a chase scene on a motorcycle, an on-rails section in a combat boat, and a part that lets you fly an airship. While that all sounds cool, the part in the suit is incredibly frustrating as every shot you take translates to a crack in your face shield with what it essentially a non-regenerating health meter. Also the motorcycle chase is a direct pull from the snowmobile chase in MW2. Variety is still attempted, but not quite as much. There are some laughable attempts at stealth sections, but really, it’s much quicker and easier to go loud and shoot the shit out of everything in front of you.

-On to the multiplayer. Since the campaign obviously wasn’t much of a focus, more emphasis was put on the multiplayer, with the game even having an option to bypass the title screen and skip straight to the multiplayer menu. Progression has now changed. Instead of having to complete challenges to unlock new perks and attachments, you now earn what are called CoD points which can be used to buy any perk, attachment, piece of emblem art, or type of gun camo/face paint. Guns are still unlocked via leveling, and unlocking the upgraded “pro” perks now requires three challenges instead of one. It obviously aims to be much more balanced than MW2, but this comes at the expense of the fun. The best way I explain it to friends goes like this: MW2 multiplayer is about trying to decide which one of all the awesome weapons you have is going to be the one you use to kill people with. Black Ops, conversely is about trying to figure out how exactly they expect you to kill people with all of these shitty weapons they give you. The maps are again based on the campaign, although there are some that aren’t which provides a nice refreshing sense of discovery as you experience an area for the first time. Also, since my brother liked this game so much, I ended up owning all of the map packs which were mostly pretty cool. Mostly.

-Lastly, we have zombies. The default maps are really cool, one taking place in a theater with the characters from World at War zombies, and one taking place in the Pentagon with John F. Kennedy,  Fidel Castro, Robert McNamara, and Richard Nixon. The setup is the same as before, increasingly powerful waves of zombies break in through boarded up entrances and you use the points you get for killing them to buy guns and open more rooms. This time though, the game has added the objective of turning on a generator which opens more doors and allows you to purchase traps and upgrades. One upgrade gives you a better version of one of your guns, one gives you more melee damage, one makes you shoot faster, one makes you reload faster, and one gives you more health. It’s a great amount of fun to be had with friends, especially later on when there are tons of zombies everywhere and you’re running around desperately backpedaling from the massive hoard. There were also plenty of DLC maps with more complex objectives that I never bothered with. There was also the Rezerection pack which included all the WaW DLC maps plus a new one, but I’ve already reviewed that.

-On the whole, Black Ops is at least better than World at War, but it still isn’t that good. 6.5/10

-Overall, Call of Duty seems to be at its best when Infinity Ward makes it. I haven’t played Modern Warfare 3, and I’m not going to, mostly because even fans openly admit that they hardly changed anything fom MW2. Overall series rating: 7/10

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