War Inc. Battlezone thoughts

Okay, my real motivation for downloading this game was that I had read on the War Z forums that developers suggested that if you wanted to get a feel for the control scheme and engine of their upcoming zombie MMO, it would be worth a try to play War Inc. Battlezone. I admit that it might be more of a marketing ploy for the developer to push their already launched product, but the game is F2P so what did I have to lose? WIB was launched in Beta some time last year, but I hadn't really heard much about it until digging up info on The War Z. I did a little reading about WIB first to see what other reviewers had to say, and the consensus is that most people think that it is an average FPS/TPS when compared to other F2P games out right now.

The menu system is a little bit overwhelming at first because everything is locked until you play a few rounds to increase your rank. There are four classes available to choose from which essentially follow the now standard assault, medic, recon, engineer model. Each has its perks, but the assault class is most likely where most players will begin since the assault perks offer the most balance in terms of weapon power, range, and player speed. Each class has the ability to equip 3 weapons. For example, the assault starts with a standard AR, shotgun, and pistol as well as slots for hand grenades or tactical grenades.

The biggest issue with the customization menu is that a majority of the weapons are only available in your permanent inventory if you purchase game cash which in turn requires real cash. The result is that you unlock weapons and items as you level up, but you can only use them for a pre-specified trial period unless you purchase them with a credit card. There are also items that can be collected on the battlefield during matches in the form of unlockable trunks, but guess what? Those cost real money to unlock too. This was perhaps the biggest bait and switch of the entire game seeing as how the tutorials promise that virtual cash earned in game can be used to purchase most items. The reality is that the micro transactions mostly dominate the availability of WIB's weaponry and accessories.

In terms of game play, WIB plays like most ADS first person shooters, and killing other players feels somewhat satisfying. Since I haven't gotten a hang of keyboard and mouse controls yet, I was pretty happy with my 6/2 K/D after several rounds. There are multiple game types including conquest ala Battlefield, and Team Deathmatch. There is also a sabotage mode which is clearly borrowed from the Modern Warfare games, but it's well done enough to be passable. The real key to this game, however is teaming up with your squad mates, otherwise rounds will often be punishing and uneventful. Playing to objectives earns far more in game cash and XP than kills, so team play is encouraged.

Overall, I'm somewhat torn about this game. I know that it is F2P, but after playing a few rounds of Team Fortress 2 or Tribes, WIB lacks some of the polish that other free games have managed to accomplish through continued developer support. I also feel somewhat torn about how well this effort represents the level of technical polish that we can expect from The War Z since they share the same engine and controls. My hope is that The War Z will be a much more satisfying product since I will be looking for something to tide me over until the standalone DayZ game is finished or at least in Beta. With that said, War Inc. is a nice diversion, but it ultimately fails to capture the same level of playability that other F2P offerings do. Anybody else playing this game?


Too Intimidated by PC Multiplayer

So I built a gaming PC not too long ago, and have been downloading games like crazy from Steam. In the past two weeks, I have downloaded Tribes: Ascend, Team Fortress 2, and a couple other FPS games, but for some reason I have been too intimidated to play anything with multiplayer since downloading them. It's most likely because I have a lack of confidence in my skill to use the keyboard and mouse to much effect in a FPS context, and I'm fully aware that if I don't actually play using this control scheme I won't get any better at using it. Still, I freeze up every time my pointer hovers over the "play" button on my Steam library list.

The general answer here should be, "man up, dude. You can't get better if you don't play", but I don't know why I have this irrational fear of failing hard on these games. I've always been a console player, and the analog sticks have been my home for years. From what I have experienced so far, I really like the accuracy and control that the mouse and keyboard give me, but it's just such an adjustment. I will most likely get over my hangups soon, but for now I'm still staring dumbly at these games, and waiting for the proper push to get it over with. Oh well.

I would like to play with some of my friends, but they all seem to be too caught up playing LOL or DayZ (which I love, but don't like running around solo since my friends all seem to play at 1 AM) and it doesn't feel the same playing alone. At least on Xbox, I have enough skill to enjoy a few random games without feeling too incompetent. Anyway, that's just my insecurity talking. I'll get over it eventually.


Next Gen Console Expectations

After recently being introduced to the world of Steam, and PC gaming I find it difficult to get very excited about the next generation of video game consoles. That's not to say that I don't still enjoy playing console games, and I doubt that my steam library will ever grow to rival my current collection of console games. However, the popular consensus from most of the people that I have heard from on these forums or those of my friends who have been die hard console fans is that next generation consoles have some pretty big shoes to fill to justify all of the mysterious buzz that we have been hearing surrounding the next Microsoft and Sony console releases.

So what would it take to convince gamers that consoles are truly growing up, and that they can continue to persuade us to fork over out hard earned cash on what will most likely turn out to be another $300 to $400 gaming system? The following is a list that I have compiled of what it would take to persuade me that the next generation is worth prying myself away from PC gaming long enough to shell out a few clams. Keep in mind that these is my wish list, and that it may not reflect any speculation about the components or capabilities of the consoles still in development. This list is in no order of particular importance.

  • Simultaneous digital release of new games along with retail releases: I understand that we are a long way off from having digital only copies of media, and I don't necessarily want that to happen any time in the near future. Still, I want the choice to be able to download a copy of my anticipated releases if I so choose rather than having to wait for a preordered copy, or without having to stand in line for a midnight sale. On several occasions, I have been disappointed by the fact that I preordered a game, and the disc was flawed (i.e. the famous Best Buy non-working disc copy of Halo 3) or scratched and I was forced to wait for more copies of my purchase to arrive since they sold out at the store and I was unable to exchange immediately. Furthermore, what is the deal with download speeds on the PSN? Why does it take me less than 2 hours to download a 4GB game, but 1.5 hours to download a 50MB game patch or update? Sony definitely needs to fix this with their next system, or I'm afraid I'm out of the market on that one.
  • Give me the option to purchase a console with an SDD instead of an HDD: Hell, this could be a peripheral upgrade that is released along side the console and not necessarily the option that comes with it for all I care. If you want to see a huge reduction in loading time for games you install to your gaming system, try using a solid state drive instead of a standard hard disk drive, and you will be amazed. Not only does it reduce load times, but it also means that there are fewer moving parts on your system that can wear out or get damaged if the console should fall off of an entertainment stand. I know that SDD tech is still fairly expensive at the moment, but give consumers the option of upgrading and the things are bound to sell.
  • Support larger lobby sizes for multiplayer games: I'm sure someone explained why consoles don't do this already to me at some point, but I still don't get it. Games like Battlefield 3 feel downright empty with lobby sizes limited to 24 players, and there are plenty of other PC titles out there that thrive on the fact that they have huge, chaotic player counts on their servers at all times. I don't have much hope for this one, but if Battlefield 4 is on the horizon, I really hope it is slated as a next gen release or that they have found a way to run 64 player servers. A boy can dream...
  • Forget about this all in one media system mentality: This is perhaps the biggest stretch of all, but I really miss the days of the original Xbox360 blades that were free of advertisements and annoying user un-friendly icons and navigation controls. It's true that I like the fact that I can play my Netflix streaming movies on my PS3 and Xbox360, but it's secondary when it comes to playing games. It's just....a perk, not something that I want to have shoved down my throat every time I boot my console. It's one of the many reasons that I love the fact that the Playstation crossbar has basically stayed the same for the past 7 years. I know where everything is, and I don't have to adjust my routine just to accommodate the way that some nebulous development company says I should interact with my console.
  • Do away with virtual currency systems: This one is a biggie for me. I have struggled for years to understand Microsofts "dollars to points" purchasing system, and I just don't want to deal with it anymore. I don't want to spend my time calculating how much a 500 MP package costs so that I can purchase some downloadable content package. On top of that, I hate seeing that I have 300 MP left over in my wallet balance when I know full well that there is nothing worth purchasing aside from some ridiculous avatar outfit that I'm not going to purchase. I could add more points to purchase something else, but there is always some strange balance that I can't get rid of for the life of me. I just want to purchase content for dollars, and nothing else. No tokens, no points, just good old fashioned, digital dollars.

Now I could have spent all of this time ranting about the fact that I want better graphics or MMO support, and I do. However, I know that consoles will never be able to stay current with their hardware if they expect to turn a profit. Instead, I would settle for a happy middle ground where developers can push the boundaries of their creativity and consumers can say that they see the value in purchasing a system that they may be stuck with for another 5+ years. At any rate, what would you say we can realistically expect from the next generation of consoles? Only time will tell.


Finally Building a Gaming PC

You can hardly imagine how excited I am to finally be saying this, but I am finally taking the plunge and shelling out the cash to build my first gaming PC. I've always been a console gamer, and the prospect of playing games on the PC has always been intimidating. Off hand, the only games I have played to any extent on PC have been DOOM 1 & 2, The Sims 2, and The Sims 3. The funny thing is that I'm not sure why I didn't make this move sooner. When I stop to think about how much money I have spent on consoles during this current generation, it makes me just a little bit queasy. I am currently the owner of 3 Xbox 360s (one is RRD), a Playstation 3, and a Wii, all of which probably cost around $1500 at least which would have been more than enough to build a capable gaming rig.

So what changed my mind? To put it simply, I fear that the next generation of consoles will bring more of the same limitations to my gaming experience that the current gen suffers from. For example, when I bought Battlefield 3, I thought it would the the it game for me. I thought I would play it for years as I had played Bad Company 2, sinking hundreds of hours into the multiplayer arenas and having a blast the whole time while doing so. Alas, this has not been the case. Console versions of BF3 were so limited by consoles in terms of player count, the lack of DICE run servers, and so on that the experience is a shadow of what it was when the game originally dropped. Reading about the crazy 64 player match-ups that PC owners are enjoying doesn't help matters much either.

With these things in mind, I had to stop and think about what I actually want out of my gaming experience. To be perfectly honest, I hadn't found the multiplayer arena all that appealing until I started playing FPS games on current gen consoles. I had played online occasionally, or organized LAN parties with friends before that, but I hadn't really ventured out on my own into the multiplayer world until I started playing COD and Battlefield on the 360 a few years ago. Since then, I find that I divide my time equally between single player and multiplayer games, but something has always been lacking in those experiences. What was lacking was depth, and to a certain extent, commitment.

When I started reading about ArmA 2 and the DayZ mod just over a month ago, I was immediately hooked on the concept that this game presents. The idea that a game with such depth and attention to detail could exist was baffling to me. I had been completely ignorant to the fact that something as elaborate as the Arm2 military simulator even existed until recently, and it was exactly what I have been looking for. Don't get me wrong, I knew about MMOs and MMORPGs, but the questing and leveling aspects never really appealed to me. Instead, I wanted the freedom to explore and play a game on my own terms, and that's something that I haven't found on any console game.

I'm not putting consoles down by any means, but the limitations that Sony and Microsoft have placed on their online experiences will be a huge obstacle in coming generations. Hopefully my PC experience will be more fulfilling. At any rate, here are the components that I am looking to build with below. I'm going with AMD components to reduce cost, and I am mostly going on the recommendations that I found on a website for building a capable gaming rig. If anyone has any suggestions, or if you foresee any issues with components I have chosen, please let me know. I would like to keep my budget under $700 if possible, and this list definitely does that.

  • HDD: Western Digital WD5000AAKX Caviar Blue Hard Drive - 500GB, 3.5", SATA 6Gbps, 7200RPM, 16MB
  • Power Supply: Corsair CMPSU-650TXV2 Enthusiast Series TX650 V2 Power Supply - 650 Watts, ATX, 140mm Fan, 80 Plus Bronze, SLI Ready, Active PFC
  • RAM: Patriot G2 Series PGD38G1600ELK Division 2 Edition Desktop Memory Kit - 8GB (2 x 4GB) PC3-12800, DDR3 1600MHz, 9-9-9-24 CAS Latency, XMP Ready
  • Case: Apex Vortex3620 Gaming Mid-Tower Case - 10x Drive Bays, USB, eSATA
  • Optical Drive: LG GH24NS90B Internal 24X DVD Writer - SATA, M-Disc Compatible, Windows 7 Compatible, OEM, Black
  • GPU: MSI R7770-2PMD1GD5/OC Radeon HD 7770 Video Card - 1024MB, GDDR5, PCI-Express 3.0 (x16), 1x DVI, 2x Mini DisplayPort, 1x HDMI, DirectX 11, Dual-Slot, CrossFireX Ready, Eyefinity, Overclocked
  • Processor: AMD FD4100WMGUSBX FX-4100 Processor - Quad Core, 8MB L3 Cache, 2MB L2 Cache, 3.60GHz (3.80GHz Max Turbo), Socket AM3+, 95W, Fan, Unlocked, Retail
  • Motherboard: ASUS M5A97 AMD 9 Series AM3+ Motherboard - ATX, Socket AM3+, AMD 970 Chipset, 2133MHz DDR3 (O.C.), SATA 6.0 Gb/s, 8-CH Audio, Gigabit LAN, SuperSpeed USB 3.0, CrossFireX Ready

Like I said, this is a budget build list, and I don't want to go over $700, but if there are parts that won't work or some that could take a little bump that won't push me over, I would appreciate any feedback.


Battlefield 3: Deathmatch Tips

360 box art (cropped)

Hardcore fans of the Battlefield franchise react to the deathmatch multiplayer modes available in Battlefield 3 in a variety of different ways. Conquest purists immediately write death match off as being a mode developed specifically to placate Call of Duty fans with gameplay that features higher kill counts and less objective based strategy. Others regard it with some neutrality and deem other game types like BF3's rush mode as a death match variant with objective based qualities. However, with a game that is as hardwired for team mechanics as BF3, deathmatch can be as tactically rewarding as some of the more popular game types. Its true that either team or squad deathmatch rounds can feel cheap or unforgiving, but the following is a list of tips for being a better deathmatch squad.

1. Coordinate your perks: Once you have leveled up enough to start unlocking squad perks or specialized attributes, make sure that you are coordinating with other members of your squad regarding what attributes will be equipped throughout the round. With a full squad of four players, it should be fairly easy to make sure that each member has 4 active attributes that other squads may not possess. One team mate could equip squad suppression for the team, and your entire squad would have the ability to lay down covering fire to disorient your enemies on the field. A team supported by the squad explosives perk will be able to better destroy enemy cover and rack up collateral kills if enemies bunch together. Find the magical combination of squad attributes that best suits your play style, and have your team equip perks that will gain you the upper hand on the battlefield.

2. Fill out your squad roles: This rule applies to every game mode without question, yet you will still find entire squads who play as the same class type on every map. Squads like these are easy prey for any truly coordinated squad. Make sure that each member of your squad has some proficiency with a class that compliments your own. If you play as a recon sniper, have a support class guy with you who can lay down suppressing fire and resupply your ammunition. If you like to run and gun as support, make sure that one of your squad mates is an assault class medic who can revive you or throw out health packs when your HP gets low.

You may not need one of every class type on the field at once, but it is important to adjust your tactics as the round plays out. If enemies appear to be bunching up behind walls, spawn an engineer to take that cover out. If another squad is hanging back as snipers, suppress those fools with support gunners then counter snipe or use mortar fire. Just make sure your entire squad is on the same page at all times. One person on the team should have the situational awareness to coach your team to victory.

Deadly in the right hands.

3. Grab the light armor quickly, but use it wisely: Simply hoarding the LAV in death match games is not enough to guarantee victory, and you will most likely end up as a pile of burning rubble if you don't know how to effectively utilize this vehicle. Don't drive the LAV through the center of the war zone if things become heated. This, more often than not, will lead to instant death for you or any passengers you have aboard, and it will rack up instant multi-kill points for the other guys. Instead, use the LAV to take out cover positions around the perimeter of the map's "hot zone" while at least two of your squad mates make use of the distraction you create to sweep through standing structures looking for stragglers.

Spawn points are randomized and can lead to unfair deaths, so an armored rolling spawn point can be vital to the survival of an effective squad. Also, make sure that at least one passenger is an engineer who can buff out the artillery dents from time to time if things get dire. Retreat whenever necessary, but first and foremost, defend your team mates and they will return the favor. Also, if the tank is about to blow up, make sure EVERYONE knows it before you abandon ship. Collateral kills can quickly tip the scales against your squad.

4. Spread out, but stay together: Squads may only have four members, but squad death match is unique in that you can communicate with your ENTIRE team at any given time. If you need to flank an enemy position, send two of your mates around the enemy position while you lay down cover fire. An entire squad rushing across an enemy emplacement makes for easy targets. In squad death match, the only friendlies are those on your squad. Use the chaos of the three other squads fighting each other to your advantage and wipe out the stragglers.

Some situations will call for a show of brute force with all four of your squad members coordinating on one point. Other times it will be more effective to split into two "kill teams" to roam around the map more effectively. Don't spread the squad too far across the map so you can still call out targets for the other half of your squad. If two of your squad mates can hold down a fixed position in a centralized area, send the other two off to flank enemies trying to root them out. Thinning out your group can be a double edge sword in some cases, but effectively gauging the flow of battle across the map will provide the cues needed to make the right decisions.

Use rockets......lots of rockets.

5. Losing the LAV doesn't mean the round is lost: Even if a rival squad claims the LAV early in the round, it doesn't mean that the match is lost. Count on the fact that the LAV will be just as preoccupied with other squads on the map as they are with you. Also, don't forget to use the chaos the enemy LAV creates on the battlefield to your advantage. In squad death match, the LAV is bound to send other rival squads scurrying from cover to cover as it roams around the map. This is a great opportunity to stand your ground and pick off targets as they are flushed out of their hiding spots.

Always remember that death match is about getting the most kills. If the other squads are preoccupied with trying to take out the LAV, they aren't thinking about you and your squad sneaking up behind them to stick a knife in their wind pipes. Another thing that most people don't realize is that even though AT mines may be visible on the map after the patch, they can still serve as barricades for roaming LAVs. Throw a few mines on the ground in an LAV's path, and they will have to stop to take them out, or they will have to go around them. This leaves them impeded enough to send a couple of engineers, or C4 toting support commandos after them. Use every tool at your disposal at all times.

7. Silence is golden: Every fan of BF3 has his or her own taste in weaponry, and every weapon handles a little differently. However, the fact remains that every weapon will reveal your location on the mini map if fired without a suppressor. The red triangle that pops up doesn't last as long as the ones that pop up when you are spotted by enemies, but they appear nontheless. If you aren't fond of using suppressors, be sure to use trigger discipline and be aware of any nearby access routes leading to your position. The best tactic here is to take down your target(s) and fall back to an area where it is difficult for enemies to sneak up on you.

Weapons with a high rate of fire negate the damage reducing qualities of suppressors to a certain degree, but you will still need to compensate for the high volume of amuntion needed to keep your kill count running between deaths. Equip the extra ammo perk or keep an ammo carrying support person nearby at all times. Also, assault rifles and light machine guns will take almost twice as many rounds to down a target at mid to long range with the suppressor equipped, so firing in short bursts is recommended.

Carbines and personal defense weapons (PDWs) are devastating at close range whether suppressed or not and they make excellent close quarters alternates to shotguns which cannot be suppressed in BF3. The lesson here is to either shoot and move, or shoot a lot with a suppressor. Find balance with one or the other, and enemies will crumble before you.

8: Play through to the end: All too often, players quit out of matches when the tide changes against their favor. There have been many instances when I thought my squad was down and out in a match and we ended up going on a run that brought us back into the lead. Some times it just takes some mid round adjustments to turn things around. Try switching classes, or adopt a more conservative play style if aggression is raising your death toll. Alternate weapon attachments and switch from CQC to ranged engagements to avoid becoming fodder for a dominant squad's blood lust. Just don't quit, otherwise you will never learn anything from your mistakes.

9: Play with people you know: This is another tip that applys to any BF3 game mode, but having people you know on your squad is always important. Play with people that you know are capable and that will support you on the battlefield. If you play with someone who knows your play style, he or she will be less likely to step on your toes in the heat of battle. Conversely, they may be more inclined to tell you that you're being a dumbass if you mess up, but always take this with a grain of salt. Coordinate play times with people you know, and you will have a better idea of what to expect when the bullets start to fly. As we all know, if you can't predict what your team mates are going to do then you won't have any control of the matches outcome before the round even begins.

See you on the battlefield!

10: Have fun: This one might seem like a little bit of a cop out, but it is all too often that I drop into a random game where one of my squad mates is raging over the mic about how bad everyone else on the team is playing. At the end of the day, Battlefield is a game, and games are meant to be fun. Help players who have limited experience with BF3's somewhat complicated game mechanics, and they will grow into a more proficient player with time. Furthermore, keep excessive team trash talk to a minimum. Obviously, nobody on the team is intentionally trying to lose. They may be trying to explore different weapon variations, or they may be new to the game in general. In short, if you aren't trying to offer solutions, you are the problem.

Most of the aforementioned advice may seem like common sense to some players, but common sense is essential for success in Battlefield games. No matter what game mode may be your favorite, each type offers something different for different players. If conquest or rush become stale, don't be too quick to dismiss death match as a viable alternative. See you on the battlefield!


Assassin's Creed: Revelations Review

Assassin's Creed 2.3?

I have tried to write this review several times over, and each and every time something has not felt right about it. I came to realize that I was trying to hold Assassin's Creed: Revelations up to the light in a way that would allow me to analyze the title as a stand alone effort, and this proved an impossible feat. There is absolutely no way that I can objectively review this game without looking at the series as a whole. The fact is that Ubisoft has dedicated itself to producing and releasing the Assassin's Creed games as an annual event, and the series is suffering for it. The original AC game was an experimental foray into the world of sandbox action/platforming and puzzle solving , and AC2 polished and reinvented the series so that it was less repetitive and tedious than its predecessor. Then, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood came along and brought a new level of polish and replay value to the series that made up for the fact that it was basically an expansion to AC2 with relatively identical mechanics and a few innovative game play features.

The trouble with ACR is that feels anti-climactic in many ways in comparison with the innovations that made the previous games feel special. ACR borrows many elements from its forbears and makes its own changes to established mechanics, but the new additions seem contradictory to the vision that the series has been following up to this point. For instance, ACR brings back the assassin towers/territories sequences from Brotherhood that challenged players to liberate sections of the city from Templar rule before they were safe for exploration or economic development. ACR's spin on this system allows the rival army to contest your hold on established territories if the assassin's notoriety level gets too high. As if this weren't enough, returning to the assassin's den to reclaim the territory triggers a tower defense mini-game that has players spending morale points to fortify your ranks as waves of enemies attack.

Don't jump! Its just tower defense! Jeesh...some people just can't take the pressure.

Don't get me wrong, I like tower defense strategy games as much as anybody, but the inclusion of an almost RPG like mini-game in the middle of a dynamic sandbox game takes away a lot of the freedom that the rest of the game promotes. To top it all off, if the tower defense segment is failed, the territory can be reclaimed simply by killing the enemy captain and lighting the territory beacon. Hence, the aforementioned mini-game (which is skip-proof) is rendered completely unnecessary. The process isn't game breaking, and I only bothered to initiate the mini-game a handful of times, but it feels like a departure from the series staple free flowing combat system.

There are a number of things that ACR does well, and after playing through the story mode it still feels like a well balanced Assassin's Creed game. Nonetheless, Revelations doesn't really rock my world the way that AC2 or Brotherhood did. Navigation controls and combat mechanics received some tweaks that help to smooth out game play a bit, but overall there is little to no innovation in this game that sets it apart from the others in a positive way. In many ways, it feels like successful elements of the previous two titles have been incorporated but reigned back to a level that dilutes their appeal. The tomb challenges are present once more, but the challenge level has been scaled back somewhat in favor of a more cinematic feel in some instances. ACR definitely has more of a scripted feel than its predecessors, and freedom of choice has been toned down in favor of a more director driven vision of how sequences can be played out.

Assassin's Creed: Revelations is not a bad game, but it does a poor job of setting up future additions to the series in regard to single player mechanics. The franchise is still relevant and has the potential to offer a great deal in the way of innovation, but the last few installments have stretched the formula a bit thin. Perhaps now that the focus has moved away from its focus on Ezio's back story, the story can move into a more modern setting. It would be interesting to see a world where the Templars have forced the assassins into hiding and stealth techniques play a more important role. Desmond's story may hold more importance in coming games, but will most likely serve as a backdrop for a different assassin's introduction. With that said, Assassin's Creed seems to have hit a wall of sorts for now, but perhaps that can be chalked up to the fact that Ezio's story is played out. The franchise still has plenty of potential, and it would be a shame to see it reduced to something of a conforming nature.