Archive for March, 2013

Call of Duty: Black Ops 2

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 14, 2013 by caseystorton

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-Allow me to make it clear that I only bought this game because Steam had a “free weekend” for the multiplayer a while back. I decided that it wouldn’t be a total waste to just go ahead and buy the game, and $40 wasn’t that much, especially for a Call of Duty game on Steam.

-Black Ops 2 consists of 3 separate parts, and even allows you to install them separately, which is good for people needing to save hard-drive space. You get singleplayer, multiplayer, and zombies. Given the major differences in gameplay between the three modes, I’ll cover them independent of each-other.

Single Player

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-The story is largely a far-off sequel to Black Ops 1, skipping from the late 60s to the year 2025, with a few flashback missions taking place in the 80s and 90s. The story involves David Mason, the son of Alex Mason from the first game, going after some asshat named Raul Menendez who somehow gained an international following via the internet. The story is pretty silly, with tons of overdone betrayals and set-ups for you to ever honestly think that something will go right, which leads to a very cynical and detached way of playing the game. It was this very cynicism that actually sort-of hurt me in terms of timing my reviews. I posted a first-impressions of The Witcher 2 a couple of days ago because the story in Black Ops 2 was so dumb that I literally had no idea how much longer I had to play, when in reality I was only about 2 missions away from finishing the game. Also the ending is an abrupt cop-out that clearly sets up a Black Ops 3.

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-As far as gameplay goes, it’s standard Call of Duty fair, with a couple of changes both for better and worse. The better involves the interesting near-future technology, which manages to hit the magic sci-fi sweet spot of appearing possible while still being cool, with advancements such as localized radar and night-vision for your guns, EMP grenades, miniature remote-controlled plane things guns, and a few interesting new weapons to keep things from getting too dull. The thing is, I swear they made the series’ customary health system even worse. You appear to die much earlier than in previous games, as it looks like the blood effects on the screen are much more understated than they have been in previous games. I would say I liked the old way better, but I actually prefer it like this, if only to draw more attention that games like this are in desperate need of a NORMAL FUCKING HEALTH BAR.

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-I’ve been playing a bit of Serious Sam 3 lately, and I cannot tell you how incredibly wonderful it feels to simply glace at a corner of the screen and immediately know exactly how much health I have left by way of a straight-forward number, not an ugly, jarring blood effect that impairs my vision and leaves me guessing how much more I can take before I die. I’d give a score now, but considering that you still have to pay for the game as a whole, I’ll be scoring it as such.

Multiplayer

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-Multiplayer is a bit different from previous entries in the series, but anyone familiar with how it has worked in the past will most certainly see the similarities to earlier games. There’s the standard Primary Weapon, Secondary Weapon, Lethal Grenade, Tactical Grenade, first, second, and third Perk options, but they’ve added in a new weight system, where each item added to your created load-out is worth one point, and you can only have ten points of stuff on you at any given time. That said, there’s a considerable amount of freedom in how you can make room for extra gear. For example, if you want to add on a “Wildcard” that allows you to carry two lethal grenades, but don’t have the spot for the second grenade, you can get rid of one of your perks, or even one of your guns to make room for it. While not exactly practical, it is entirely possible to fill up all ten spaces and not carry a single gun. You could just run around with your knife, which while it seems a bit weird at first, the fact that the game allows for this level of freedom is a welcome change from the tighter restrictions of the Modern Warfare series.

-My favorite thing about Black Ops 1’s multiplayer was the new COD points system, which allowed you access to almost everything from the beginning provided you had the points for it, with only guns left for you to unlock through progression. This allowed people more creative freedom with weapon attachments and perks, and improved customization options in ways not previously seen in a Call of Duty game. Black Ops 2 does away with the COD points system, although on reflection, I think this was a very conscious decision. You see, with futuristic weapons come futuristic weapon attachments, and allowing everyone access to these attachments out of the gate could have provided problems. The one that really comes to mind is the Millimeter Scanner, a sort-of gun-mounted radar sight that allows you to see enemies through walls. Imagine a game of Team Deathmatch where every single player had a Millimeter Scanner on their gun. You’d just get a bunch of people hiding around corners, afraid to come out because they know someone can see where they are. While it is a bit annoying to have to unlock attachments again, this was only done in the name of balance, so I’ll let it slide.

-Modes are relatively standard, although if you play on the PC version like me, good luck finding a game anywhere other than Team Deathmatch and Team Objective. The maps are largely based on areas from the campaign, which is either lazy programming or the developers wanting to allow players to fight in familiar areas. Since I’m pretty much done with multiplayer discussion, I’ll go ahead and talk about the controls. First Persons Shooters generally play better with a mouse and keyboard than they do with a console controller, but it’s abundantly clear that Black Ops 2 was very much so designed to be played on a console controller, as a lot of the actions that are easily pulled of with a controller take a bit more effort with the keyboard. This awkward porting combined with me being too lazy to figure out where I wanted my mouse sensitivity to be led me to eventually give up and just play the game with an Xbox 360 controller. I’d go back and forth on numerous occasions, and every time I would note that I performed distinctly better with the controller. I don’t know if this is due to my own personal familiarity with the controller or if the PC controls are just that bad, but I didn’t experience annoyance on this level with Rage, Skyrim, Fallout 3, Left 4 Dead 2, or Saints Row the Third.

Zombies

-As silly as it is that this mode has persisted as long as it has, I’ll admit that Zombies is a pretty good time. It’s clearly meant to be played with friends, as it’s very easy for zombies to sneak up on you, but it is perfectly functional as a single player experience. Basically, you fight through increasingly difficult waves of zombies, barricading them out whenever possible and spending points earned by killing them on buying guns, perks, and opening up more of the map. It’s kinda fun for a bit, but there’s not all that much to it. Granted, it’s just another part of the game, and it isn’t supported nearly as much as competitive multiplayer, so I see no issue with it inherently.

Conclusion

-Black Ops 2 is the best Call of Duty since Modern Warfare 2… which is to say that it’s not too bad, and it passes the time. The laughable story appears to finally be demonstrating a bit of self-awareness, and the multiplayer is moving in an interesting direction. Not bad, but there’s no need to run out and buy it. 69/100

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FIRST IMPRESSIONS: The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 12, 2013 by caseystorton

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-I’m starting to get just a little bit embarrassed by how long it normally takes me to put out a game review. The thing is, I usually just play whatever game I feel like playing that day, whether or not it’s something I’ve reviewed already or something that I should probably get to at some point depends largely on the day. That said, I’ve currently got several games in progress (this, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, Serious Sam 3: BFE, The Walking Dead, F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin), and thought I’d devote some time to a “First Impressions” of the one that I knew would take me the longest to finish.

-The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings centers around Geralt of Rivia, a “Witcher” who is assigned to protect the king is Temeria from harm during a battle with some rebels. After a battle the king gets offed by a professional assassin and Geralt is blamed for it, forcing him to go on the run and pursue the king’s real murderer. It seems like a pretty standard plot, but I can already tell that there’s a lot more to this story than there initially appeared to be, with plenty of side characters and plot diversions to keep the pace going.

Image-Probably my favorite thing about the first few hours that I’ve played is the combat. I’ve heard some people complain about the difficulty, but really, it’s not a hard game. I’d heard some people mention the controls, so I went through the tutorial once with the mouse-and-keyboard and once again using an Xbox 360 controller, and while the keyboard setup doesn’t exactly have any major issues, I’m thankful that the game was designed with a controller in mind. Really though, the combat isn’t hard if you know what you’re doing. You can sort-of get away with simply charging into battle slamming the light attack button like a moron on Easy difficulty, but Normal difficulty requires at least a little bit of discipline to play. You need to effectively pick your targets, know when to block, dodge, counter, throw bombs, cast magic, enhance your sword, or drink potions in order to survive a fight. On the topic of potions, you can only drink potions before battle, which isn’t really an issue, as at least so far, combat happens in continuous bursts, and the first fight is never the hardest, giving you plenty of time to stop and drink a potion before heading to the next battle. The only real problem I have is with the targeting system, which doesn’t always work quite as well as I want it to, but a quick dodge or parry is usually enough to get me out of any bad situation the targeting got me into.

Image-I can already tell that the branching dialogue options will lead me through a long, well written, and very worthwhile story just by the huge variance each option has from the others. The dialogue isn’t really something that can be adequately explained, as it largely revolves around what you as a player want to do and who you want Geralt to work with. Major side-note, if you don’t have a relatively high-level gaming PC, just go ahead and buy the Xbox 360 version instead, because this is a very demanding game. For my more tech-savvy readers, I’m running it on an MSI gaming laptop with an i7 2.3 GHz processor, 8 gigabytes of RAM, and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 660M with 2 gigabytes of DDR5 video memory. This is what my current settings are, and keep in mind I tweak a couple settings every time I boot up the game, and I experienced some minor drops in frame rate during the cut-scenes last time I played:

Image-It takes a LOT to run this game, so don’t think that just because the game is nearly two years old that it won’t take a powerful machine to run it on full settings.

-So far, I’m really enjoying The Witcher 2. The combat is fun, the story shows lots of promise, and the lack of hand-holding is incredibly refreshing for a modern RPG. Sure, the inventory screen is a bit weird, and the visuals may put a strain on your rig, but I’ll go ahead and give it an early recommendation. Also, there’s lots of sex in it.

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Mafia 2

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 10, 2013 by caseystorton

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-Kind-of a random game for us today, Mafia 2 came out in 2010, and it seemed that the most common response was something to the effect of “wait, I think I remember Mafia 1.” Well, a strange series of exchanges got me this game as a gift on Steam, and I only just recently decided to play it all the way through.

-You take control of Vito Scarletta, an Italian immigrant who grew up in the Italian ghetto of Empire City in the 30s and 40s. He got himself arrested in the early 40s and drafted into WWII for the invasion of Sicily. We get to see a bit of a mission that serves as a tutorial for moving, shooting, taking cover, and selecting weapons.

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-Anyway, you get shot, and get some time to go back home. Your old friend Joe gets you discharged and working for one of the local crime bosses. It’s a basic Mafia story from here on out, with plenty of contract killing, stealing ration stamps, fancy suits, old cars, and period weapons to go along with it. It’s nothing special, but it does the job, and it stays relatively interesting throughout.

Image-As far as gameplay goes, at first, Mafia 2 looks like a GTA style sandbox crime game, where you are free to drive around the city, steal cars, shoot guns, bang hookers, and occasionally do missions if you should see fit to do so. However, the open city map is a bit of a tease, as you are always locked into a linear mission structure with no option to stop or branch out. At first it’s okay, but as you go on, having to drive across the city every time you need to complete another mission gets incredibly tedious, especially with my handicap of driving with the keyboard, all while having to make sure to not exceed the speed limit or run into anything for fear of starting a police chase or costing myself money in repairing my car.

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-As far as the PC port goes, the game offers plenty of graphics customization options, but considering how the game looks, it’s a lot more demanding that it needs to be, especially considering what turning on some weird physics option does to my frame rate. The controls work well enough, and of course all of the keys can be rebound as you see fit.

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-Mafia 2 is a decent game. The driving between missions gets pretty annoying, and the story does a fair bit of jumping around, but the dialogue is pretty good, and the shooting mechanics all work fairly well. If you can get it for cheap, it’s a good little time-waster. 76/100

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