Review: Borderlands The Pre-Sequel

Borderlands is the brainchild of Gearbox Studios.  Presumably for this they were forced to team up with 2K Australia and allow them to make the game.  The end result was the first real Australian game…. and it might hurt the reputation of the entire country.

Australia has some pretty weird language laws in video games.  They enforce all of them in this game.  Don’t expect to be able to toggle a vulgarity filter, you just don’t get to hear it.

Borderlands Pre Sequel tells the story of the rise of Handsome Jack.  It takes place just after the events of Borderlands and several months before Borderlands 2.  In the game you see the development of Jack as a character, the development of his arms and the development of his tactics.  To people who have played Borderlands 2, a lot of what you are seeing will be very revealing and interesting.  To those who haven’t played Borderlands 2… they’re going to find a lot of these things really boring and drawn out.  Borderlands Pre Sequel has fallen into the trap where players almost have to have played other games in order to understand the significance of the language used.

You start off on board The Helios Station as either a Gunslinger, Fragtrap, an Enforcer, or a Shield Maiden.

Each class has their own strengths and weaknesses, although it can’t be helped that some are much more powerful than others.  Fragtrap is a support class and because of this is really hard for soloing things.  The shield maiden is a tank and can solo very easily but takes much longer due to limited damage.

The Enforcer and Gunslinger are nuts.  Each popping their special abilities have “easy” buttons that will make everything die quickly.

As you walk through the station with your either mostly useless character or insanely overpowered character you run into Jack who is being wrecked by Dahl Corporation soldiers.  You save him and in turn he evacuates you from the station.  There’s an agenda though, he needs you to be his hired gun and do what he asks and needs.

You’re introduced to a very large cast of characters.  But if you’re at all bigoted towards gays, stay away.  Whereas in Borderlands 2, Hammerlock being gay was rather subtle and not a big issue.  In this game gay people are everywhere and it’s very in your face.  One comment made was something along the lines of “she gives me a lady boner.”  The insulting part is where all the gay people in the game are rather bizarre whereas the straight people are not.  There’s even the possiblity that the boss RedBelly might in fact be a pedophile.

The game isn’t funny and goofy like the other games.  Instead it takes on a very dark tone.  When you beat the game you don’t feel good about it.  The whole process is to make you feel bad about what you are doing.

As well the game is devoid of heroes.  Everyone and everything on all sides seems to be just bad guys.

The game adds in a few things to the game.  A cool feature is the oxygenless atmosphere.  When you get a head shot on an enemy it pops an air bubble over their head and they will choke to death.

However on the other side of the oxygenless environment is the slow movement which just doesn’t fit with the series.  You can moon walk around but double jumping will leave you vulnerable to enemy fire.  Even the first boss of the game ends up being brutal.  The moment he targets you in the air, you’re pretty well dead.

Unfortunately the game is only 20 hours long.  Gear drops far more and grinding is far less.  Even the most hardcore player might be able to get 80 hours out of the game.  Once DLC gets involved and a Game of the Year Edition comes out it might be worth while.  But right now it’s a very weak sequel.

As per my other post regarding this game, if you do buy this game and ignore my warnings, be warned not to get the season pass.

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A Daft Review: Shootmania Storm

Every now and then a game comes out that is so awful and so terrible you are lost for words.

Shootmania debuted in June presented by ultra-popular Youtuber Toby Turner and a representative from Ubisoft.  It was presented as an eSport platform.

They presented an eSports viewer that seemingly does not exist.  Upon death you get this odd little view where it is centered on the map.  You never seem to be able to follow people’s first person cams and generally get awful vision.

So right off the bat the game fails on what it is sold for, eSports.

But there comes more problems with the design.

#1. Two Hit Kill

Being two hit killed means that you die very quickly.  Without it regenerating the goal of the game becomes killing as many people as possible as opposed to preventing death.

Without a way to regenerate health in any way it removes the strategic element to being a shooter and emphasizes too much just randomly firing each other.

#2. Bad Map Designs

In a game where you have only two hits you would expect to have some completely awesome escape routes available.  Instead most maps lack a lot of walls and allow for you to be flanked too easily.

In my gameplay experience tunnels represented a problematic scenario.  Basically upon entering a tunnel it meant you could be targeted from two sides through a narrow corridor in which it was very easy for you to get hit.

It’s not like pushing someone into a tunnel is even a strategic move since it just opens yourself up to getting killed or having your kill stolen by someone else.

There’s also all sorts of odd triggers.  One can launch you in the air so that it’s just a little off of getting to where you want to go without specifically timing a jump.

Another makes you move super fast in which it runs you into a narrow corridor… once again no real strategic advantage there.  Possible that you could use it for running away… but it just allows you to run away while running into someone else.

#3. Customization

A big sell on this game is that you can build maps and eventually if maps become popular enough they can become official maps.

But besides this it’s amazing how little development went into customization of load outs. After playing for four hours I was given a global ranking, but no access to different weapons… just the same stupid rail gun.  If I played the 3v1 mode I’d get a rocket launcher.

It seems weird that a modern shooter would launch without having more than one stupid weapon.  And I do mean stupid.  It feels like you are just shooting people with laser dodgeballs with how little they shoot.

There are no grenades or secondary weapons.

It might as well just be Portal with how little options you have with your weapon.  But truthfully even the Portal Gun allowed you to do more than this.

Overall I feel the game is priced appropriately because there really isn’t much to this game.  If the mega game producer Ubisoft wasn’t behind this it wouldn’t have any sales or any fans.  It’s a game no one asked for… and no one will be playing after a month.

Steam Sales Review #45: Nuclear Dawn

It’s the beginning of shooters month and it’s time to look into those games that I just have been ignoring over and over and over.

Here is a game that I purchased for $5 on Steam.  Upon buying it I was given a copy of the game to give a friend.  A week later I was given a second copy to play with a friend.  So basically after I bought this I got 3 copies for the price of one.  But I can only play one copy, so this review is looking at that base price of $5.

The Brief: Nuclear Dawn

The most successful development tool kit in the history of gaming is no doubt Valve’s Source Engine.  Using the Valve Source Engine people were able to modify Half Life 2’s game files to unlock brand new multiplayer and creative game modes that became increasingly popular.

One that wasn’t increasingly popular was Nuclear Dawn.  The game much like Team Fortress 2 was a team game with roles.  The game was set in a future world and developers were hard at work to try and push this one out.

The development cycle for Nuclear Dawn was terrible and it’s release date was much later than the wave of great Valve games.  Many felt it fit under the category of “vaporware.”  Vaporware is an accusation that there was no intent in releasing the product.  Basically a company releases claims to the media about what the game will do… and then they don’t work on the project.  This sort of cycle is actually illegal in the United States… but is rarely taken seriously.

When Nuclear Dawn was released it did alright, but not great.  Valve has really been pushing the purchase of this game due to it using the Source Engine… and much like most engine developers they get a cut from the profits.

The game was released in late 2011 and currently sells at $10 a pop.  Interestingly if you buy three copies for your friends you get one copy for free….

Synopsis

Upon loading up Nuclear Dawn and starting playing you will immediately think that it is just another simple shooter.

You would be wrong.

Nuclear Dawn is closer to a game like Planetside 2 than it is to a game like Call of Duty.

The game only has a multiplayer.  As I write this on March 2nd, 2013 there is an active community playing between 3-10pm PST on weekends and it’s relatively easy to find a game and jump in and play.  As far as I can see there are only a few active servers in the game.  This means you’re looking at about 100-200 people playing this game daily.

So with that in mind purchasing this game will get play value, at least for now.

Upon loading up the game you can just jump in by hitting the play button.

If you want to up the graphics quality and sound quality it’s all in the options…. just a little harder to find.  The game uses an older menu style that presumed people were bad with graphics settings.  However instead of having the standard “Low, Medium, High” graphics settings you just get an “Advanced Graphics Settings” button.  There are no quick settings.  You have to individually select all of the settings that are appropriate for you.

After getting beyond this stage of the game you can jump in and play.

There are basically two game modes that people will play.

The first is skirmishing.  This is basically the same as any old first person shooter.  You move around the map and you kill people until your team total is high enough.

The second mode is destroy the command bunker.  Both players get a command bunker and each team has to work together to destroy the enemy’s bunker.

This task sounds simple enough, but now would be a good time to talk about the various classes.

The game sports 4 basic classes.  The first is an assault all damage class, the second is a heavy guns class dealing with rockets and gattling guns, the third is a stealthy assassin class, and the fourth is a support class.

From here each class can specialize into a sub-class.  As an example an assault class might become a grenadier and sport explosive damage weapons or a shotgun for close range weapons.

Most importantly are your support classes which can build structures.  Structures include power plants to power these structures, ammo/health regen stations, turrets, and closer respawn points.  These become especially important far later as you will need every advantage moving forward.

The ammo/regen stations are made especially important by the fact that every class only gets 3 rounds of ammo.

At a macro level you must collect points around the map to gain resources to build structures.  So as a team you will move around and collect points to provide income for your support.

At an individual level there is a very basic leveling system that resets every match.  This is important for ending stalemate scenarios caused by turtling.  Each character after gaining so many kills, kill assists, captures, building damage, or building creation will gain experience that can be spent on health and damage upgrades.

At a different level there is an active leveling system in which your character can go from Level 1 to Level 100 and unlock new ammo types and “gizmos.”

Strengths

  • Streamlined Controls
  • Commander System
  • Class Balance

The game controls are so insanely similar to every other game that no one should ever have a problem jumping into it.  However if you don’t, on your first play of every single class they’ll introduce you to every single aspect of it as it comes up.

The game also features a “commander” for the field of battle.  This person is elected at the start of the match and will take control of your team and instruct everyone on how exactly they should be playing.  This makes learning tactics a far simpler than most shooter games.  If your commander sucks and you feel that you could do a better job you have an opportunity to create a Mutiny and depose him via a new vote.  People will of course look at your Level to decide.

All things being said the balance of classes in the game is great.  When jumping in you get this impression.  All of the classes have their niche and they all do it very well.  At first I thought the assault should clearly be the top of the leader board, but upon looking I saw a variation of who was on top.  The game doesn’t value kill totals like some other FPS games it values team work… and rewards that effectively.  10 points for a kill, 30 points for a capture.

Weaknesses

  • No Gun Customization
  • Really Long Games
  • Poor User Interface

For a game released a little over a year ago you would expect it to keep on par with the video game industry.  I’m not expecting a AAA game to be released by an indie developer, but something maybe.  Each class gets 3 gun setups to choose from.  You cannot customize these more than changing the ammo type.  This means you are stuck with the same prototype weapons forever.

Don’t play this game if you don’t have hours to sink into it.  A game can (and has) go as long as an hour to reach a conclusion.  Unlike in a lot of shooters in which if you’re losing people will just lose fast the game gives an incentive to turtle resisting so that if you are being overpowered you will do better for “surviving” over “thriving.”

My final complaint about this game rests in the very poor interface.  Everything is ungodly.  The map often illustrates multi-floored buildings and it becomes impossible to figure out where entrances and exits are.  Trying to mute a player through their VOIP system is insanely difficult and there’s not a really great space to indicate how much ammunition you have left.

Concluding Thoughts

Nuclear Dawn isn’t a great game.  It wouldn’t even pass as a good game.  It is a run of the mill shooter game that no one ought to buy.

It promises to merge strategy and shooter into a genre.  This is a promise it largely fails to provide.

Aliens: Colonial Marines

With over 10,000 contributions to the Steam community page you know this game is going to be either really good or really bad, so what is it?  Well… it’s really bad.

The Brief: Alien

Many people who saw the movie “Aliens” might not know they were watching a sequel.  Alien was the original movie and was considered to be the beginning and the end for the space horror genre.  After Alien was Aliens in which more lore and anatomy lessons remove the mystique the original movie had.

Most horror movies sort of become this.  When you look at Freddie, Jason, Chucky, Saw, and Michael you are looking at horrific villains who eventually become dramas and comedies.

So here’s the brief.  Alien tells the story of Ripley.  Ripley is a female construction worker who is sent off to a planet with a team of marines to mine.  After one of her co-workers is attacked by a being that attaches itself to the face, the crew goes into lockdown mode.

Bishop, an evil android warns them that removing the being might kill the host.  The alien deploys eggs inside the body of te host and transforms into a full fledged alien killing machine.  Ripley is successful in killing the alien and Bishop shows intentions that the Waylund Corporation wanted this alien.

I wonder what's behind Door #1
I wonder what’s behind Door #1

Ripley throws herself into cryo sleep and when she returns she is recruited immediately by Waylund Corporation to join a marine squad in wiping out the Alien threat.  It is also asked that she capture one if possible.  Bishop is now a good android and saves the day.  Ripley is forced to do battle with a alien queen.  She uses a construction loader to beat the alien queen.  Before launching off into a cryo chamber again the queen leaves an egg on the pod…. leading us to believe there will be an Aliens 3.

The third movie saw multiple re-writes, multiple directors, multiple producers, and multiple actors and casts.  The end result was the worst movie of the series.  The alien pod hatches and injects itself into a crew member, Ripley.  Bishop shows up claiming to not be an android and in fact developed the Bishop line of robots.  They tell Ripley they need the prototype in order to study it.  Of course it’s all an evil ruse.  Ripley throws herself off of an edge to a pile of molten lava, killing her and the being inside her.

Aliens 3 was so bad they created an unofficial remake of it called Alien Resurrection.  In Alien Resurrection a clone is made of Ripley because apparently she had some alien DNA in her before she died.  The end result is that she is born with an alien inside of her.  The aliens move to protect their young and attack the humans head on.  Ripley once again kills herself in order to kill the alien baby so that no one from the corporation can have it.  This movie is often excluded from the general lore of the Aliens world because of how awful it was.

An unofficial prequel was released in which it is explained that a supreme race of near extinct beings created the races of the universe.  However seeing their mistake they created a xeno race as a biological weapon to take them out.

In the other unofficial Alien vs Predator universe the aliens are a race the predators use as a sport.  However the aliens prove to be too much for the predator as he is forced to recruit help from the humans to stop this massive infestation.

Synopsis

The game single player and multiplayer has a leveling system that is connected.  In each you gain levels and will unlock new weapons and new weapon modifications.  There are about 12 modifications per weapon with four different categories.

So the single player campaign tells the story of a group of marines who come in post Aliens 3.  They are looking for survivors of an ambush and have no idea what is in store for them.  Little do they know the Waylund Corporation has sent their own elite forces in to destroy any evidence of wrong doing.  The colonial marines are now fighting a three front war against the Waylund Corporation and an unknown alien.

The Loader is mixed into the game for popular support.
The Loader is mixed into the game for popular support.

The game is split off into levels.  Each level represents a fairly narrow corridor in which there are small little doo dads and nicknacks to find if someone chooses to go off the beaten path for a second.  This evidently means everyone will go off of every single off beaten path  they can and utterly ruin the flow of the game.

You can also play co-op…. but I chose not to.

Each level can be replayed for a new high score.  The current high score system only seems to account for high scores among your friends.  Among my 9 friends who own this I have the high scores on every mission because I played the game through on hardest difficulty.

The hardest difficulty is not that hard.  Everything is near one-shottable.  The only thing that really seems to change is how fast your health will regenerate.  On the hardest difficulty it just does not seem to regenerate.  It doesn’t matter too much because in the event of your untimely death you will re-emerge at a checkpoint to start over again.

In terms of gameplay mechanics it is a shooter.  It’s hard to really change up the shooter dynamic.  To give it some flavour they added a motion detector that you can choose to check to try and spot Xenos and humans.  Your main weapon also has a secondary ability which can be shotgun, grenade launcher, or firebomb launcher.

Pistols are seemingly your being completely empty of ammo weapon.  They do little to no damage and are often only used when you get pinned by an alien to try and fend them off.

The multiplayer in the game is split off into four different categories.  Survival has you survive xeno attacks as long as you can.  Team deathmatch has xenos and marines killing each other for points.  Extermination has you capturing checkpoints endlessly.  And the other multiplayer gameplay mode called “Escape” I didn’t try.

Each team will get to play as xenos and human every single round.

The Xenos are a bit odd.  They can scale up and down pillars but seemingly are awkward to control going up ceilings and around corners.  It really takes the mood away when you find an unclimbable piece of terrain block you and an easy kill.

Strengths

  • Awesome Looking Xenos
  • Fun Multiplayer
  • No BS Gameplay Mechanics

The aliens in this game just look absolutely superb.  I don’t know if I can blame Gearbox or the Unreal Engine 3 for this fact.  When you look at an alien they look just like the mechanical automatons from the movie.

If it’s worth anything to anyone, the multiplayer in the game is actually fun.  It’s really addictive trying to flank humans as a xenos and then gunning down xenos as a human.  It’s a welcome change from the traditional shooter which ends up being who can wave around their submachine gun enough to get a random headshot.

Xenos have a special thermal sense in multiplayer
Xenos have a special thermal sense in multiplayer

My biggest gripe with shooters these days is how little they have evolved.  In the days of Quake and Doom you would just get behind cover yourself, like a grown up.  Most games took an approach where there was a cover button and you’d shoot from cover.  It started with third person shooters but then it seemingly creaped it’s way into first person shooters.  There’s none of that with Aliens: Colonial Marines.  It seemingly treats you like an adult and attempts to create a realistic battle field.

Weaknesses

  • Host Has Left
  • Sound Quality Bad
  • Bad AI
  • Bugs

I was playing my first game and we were winning.  Then suddenly a message popped up on the screen.  “The Host Has Left The Game.”  Really?  Since the host leaves the game we all have to stop playing?  It seems that the system was imported from Borderlands and simply does not fit.  I’ll never complain about CoD’s selecting a new host process ever again.  This is simply awful.  On top of that the host is randomly selected so it’s not like you can even know you are going to ruin people’s lives by leaving a game early.

The sound quality in the game is some of the worst I’ve experienced.  There is a mechanic in which when you are close to someone you can hear them and when they’re far away you hear them on the radio.  The voices seemingly just cut out all the time when over the radio.  It also doesn’t help having this low grade fuzz from time to time.

I killed all of these.. I swears it
I killed all of these.. I swears it

Speaking of sound quality.  Mic is default permanently on.  The end result is assholes will loop their speakers into their microphones and you get to hear that awesome fuzzy distorted background noise permanently.  It gets to be hard on the ears and will give you head aches.

Aside from the multiplayer concerns the single player doesn’t get much better.  The AI in the game is pretty terrible.  There’s just so many odd things.  As an example the enemies will only attack in a certain area.  So if you move past that area they’ll never attack you.  However if you and your AI ally pass that area you are forced to go back to that point in which all of them will swarm on you… but seemingly ignore your ally who isn’t giving you any help ever.  It’s just as bad with human opponents who seem to spawn with random weapon and armor choices.  You might be doing fine when suddenly a shotgun baring human will spawn in front of you and one shot you… thanks game!

As of February 17th, 2013 there is no multiplayer community.

The allies aren’t that great either.  Rarely do they ever kill anything and they seem to just run around in random locations as if someone forgot to program a default place for them to get cover.  It also doesn’t help when the aliens seemingly just dart at you and completely ignore the other four marines in their way.

The game is seemingly not polished.  Aliens can move through solid objects which provides an opportunity for being insta-gibbed.  As well in the loader battle it becomes really hard only because your opponent always walks through you… which just doesn’t work in a boxing match.  The whole game is loaded with funky odd bugs that makes you wonder whether or not they even played their own game.

Concluding Thoughts

Don’t get me wrong, there are worst games out there.  I always hate when people take a crappy indie casual game and declare it the game of the year… and then they take a game like this and give it a very low score.

The game is average.

Not fantastic.

Not bad.

It’s average.  The campaign is on average longer than most campaigns in first person shooters.  The multiplayer is average… in the sense that Call of Duty is an average shooter.

The crime of this game is that it isn’t better than Modern Warfare… it’s only equal to it.

For that reason I’ll never recommend this game to anyone.  It has too many bugs and the campaign will be a very infuriating experience.

Get Borderlands 2 instead.

Edit Log:
February 17th: Added new game insights a week after launch.  Added gameplay video.

The Free to Player #1: Team Fortress 2

Hello all and welcome this new year to a new section of my website, The Free to Player.

In this new series we have an admission, you can’t review a free to play game… not morally at least.

A decent quality review mainly talks about the quality of the game in comparison of the price tag.

For this reason often times inferior games get higher ratings.

A free to play game played as a free to play experience cannot be given a proper review in a short term.  It has to be played for a while.  So I figured I would start off with an older game that went free to play, Team Fortress 2.

Once a month I will have a different free to play game and I’ll look at it as a free experience.  It will not follow any proper format of any sorts and at the end of the day you’ll get a thumbs up or thumbs down to the game.

As some rules for myself said game must be played for 30 days straight.

It must be played for minimum 30 minutes a day.

There must be an earnest effort to play the game.

Finally I must make no effort to purchase anything, it is a totally free to play experience.

Orientation

Team Fortress 2 uses the very old very classic Team Fortress format that was setup by a mod developer with the idea that people would be connecting via dialup modems to various servers.

The free to play game brings a quick play mode in which you can search for the best possible games of various game types.  It also allows you to play some co-op against robot players

Upon entering a game you first have the option of watching a video explaining how the game works out.

On top of that after you die you can watch other players play and see how they play a particular class.  It can be helpful to see what load outs work well together and which ones do not.

Upon popping in you enter a lobby in which you can select one of the classes in the game.

You select a character and boom you’re right into the action.  Since all of the character’s are character archetypes their roles are easy to figure out.  On top of this all roles are split into Defensive, Offensive and Support.

The number of gameplay modes are numerous and can keep you interested.

The queue for joining servers and the amount of additional crap you’ll have to download is insane.  This is of course because most of the games are on privately based servers and make matchmaking a little bit of a nightmare.

Just starting up the game requires “Validation” very quickly after looting some items and even getting to a server is a 2 minute wait time.  Sometimes you get lucky and they’re playing standard maps.  Other times you’re playing something very custom that requires you to download a lot of MP3 sound effects.

The Profit Model

Discussing the profit model is important in realizing how the game has limitations.

Each character in the game is equipped with a few item’s slots including Hat, Primary Weapon, Secondary Weapon, Melee Weapon, and two additional non-combat item slots.

So when you go to the store you can buy packs that range from $20-$100.  You can buy item’s individually with item’s ranging from $5-30. Additionally you can go to the Steam Community Market and buy item’s from other players.  Using this method Valve takes a 15% cut from every purchase.

This also offers a method for you to make money and purchase items without spending money.  I earned a hat in game and sold it for $3.  I was able to use this money to purchase a really good weapon.

Hats are aesthetic only and oddly the most popular part of the game. This model works out well because it takes a long time to earn items.  I spent a four hour session and only earned three items.  A four hour day for me would give me about $200.

So for someone like me it actually makes a lot of sense to spend money here… of course I won’t because I’m cheap.

Speaking of cheap one of the most common things to gain are packages.  Packages can be unlocked using keys which you have to purchase from Steam.  This gambling method of earning money is one of the most common marketing tricks in the world.

By offering the best item’s randomly via opening these boxes it makes people feel like they have to spend money.  This doesn’t stop people from opening up 40 boxes at $2 a key (that’s $80).

Balance

A big sell for free to play games is whether or not the game is only balanced buy the size of your wallet.

Simply put, if you do not spend money are you at a serious disadvantage. We can think of a disadvantage in many ways but the only one we are really concerned with is potency… that is how much damage you deal.

In Team Fortress 2 the game is heavily imbalanced in terms of items…. but they’re not the ones in the shop.

The most potent weapons in the game are the ones that are picked up through playing.  The item’s in the shop are not the best and are merely starter weapons.  The hats are purely aesthetic.

The game’s balance problems come in that a person can randomly pick up a Katana Sword for a Demo and rock people with the Demo, whereas a person could spend endless hours and get useless junk.

It’s a severe weakness in the game which infuriated me until I got some top hat that I was able to sell for $3.

I think the biggest thing that will hold newer players back as far as balance goes is the fact that there are so many people who have played this game for so long and so well.

Customization

One of the things that is huge in Team Fortress 2 is customization of the class archetypes.

On top of the ability to swap out weapons to fit your play style there are hats. This is the part of the game that sort of bothers me… and well everyone.  Valve’s first attempt to transition into free to play was through the development of aesthetic hats that make you look like a tool.

It was this very odd way for people to show off their money and it’s left a foul taste to the point where everyone makes the obvious hat joke.

There is no individual progression and there is no RPG elements.  Because of this the play value of the game is insanely casual.  You might be able to play for 15-30 minutes at a time. The main problem is that because the customization options are a result of almost total randomness your incentive to continue playing can only be based around the gameplay and not some sort of hook.

Gameplay

As one of the founding members of the old modern first person shooter the controls for Team Fortress 2 are pretty simple.

There is also a high amount of variety in the weapons.  Some weapons will have a zoom in feature that will give you better aim, others do not. Some weapons have a secondary attack, others do not.

Melee weapons are all sort of a  goofie and unlike it’s sister Counter-Strike… melee hits are not one hits.  They are of course one-hits if you attack from behind… but that’s something else.

The main gameplay weaknesses come with The Engineer and the Medic who are not particularly exciting to play…. and no amount of customization will change this.

It’s because the job of your medic on the field will not change based on the gun, the core gameplay will always be running around and healing people.  On top of that it is not exactly something particularly hard to do, you literally hold your button on someone and when they are healed up you can “Uber Charge” them by continuing to just heal  them up.

The engineer has roughly the same problem.  It appears to me the engineer is the class for the person who doesn’t want to shoot themselves.  They run around the battlefield placing teleporters, turrets and health distribution.  Then they run around the map picking up packages of building supplies so they can upgrade all of this stuff.

Then people destroy them, rinse and repeat.

I also hate how the engineer will get so many kills by people literally running into their turret and getting one-hitted.

Unlike the medic the engineer can pull out a shotgun or pistol and do some damage, but obviously not as much as anyone else.

It’s a similar problem to what World of Warcraft originally had.  In the original WoW business model they had a bunch of support classes that really didn’t function all that well by themselves.  WoW fixed that by making every class awesome instead of having it be team oriented.

Yes the weakness of Team Fortress 2’s gameplay is that in the team element people are going to be forced to play roles they would otherwise not want to play. On the upside they are all interchangeable positions so you can pass the buck off to someone else.

Mann vs Machine

This is a new gameplay mode that Valve created for the game.  It is basically a team survival game.

The big change this creates is a co-op mode that does not involve killing people.

I found this new gameplay mode to be very boring and honestly, poorly implemented.  Basically the problem has to do with matchmaking.

Instead of having some sort of system to match people with people of similar skill you can choose to go from Beginner to Expert.  Of course if you actually want a game you will choose all games available.

The end result is you go to a game you cannot really beat with random people who just don’t get stuff.  Honestly in most of my matchups I just got people who were AFK and not contributing.

I was able to get to Round 3 on Expert and that was the end for me.

It felt like the game could use more balancing around making all of the classes useful.  Snipers, scouts, medics, and spies seemed to be relatively useless.  Worst yet everyone sort of just picked the same class.

Most people go to these just to farm the Mann Co Supply Crates which contain valuable hats and weaponry.  The fact that people can now sell items on the market has actually created a lot of AFKing in hopes of randomly getting item drops.

Overall this Mann vs Machine co-op is very poorly implemented and without friends… it’s just not worth doing.

Other Stuffs

Speaking of friends… there isn’t really much room to make friends and socialize in this game.  The only real communication you get is people trading weapons with each other… which of course is business and not friendship.

It’s more or less how the game is setup.  Beyond hitting T and talking there is really no place to talk to people.  There is no in-game messaging system that would allow you to talk to people outside of the game, without adding them to Steam.

Worst yet is the VOIP in the game.

The VOIP is really odd and out of place.  Sometimes you can hear what your opponents are saying and sneakily get to their target and kill them.  Other times it’s just some dude holding his talk key down as he listens to Toxic by Britney Spears.

It’s really quite random and out of place.

VOIP just calls for trolling and abuse.  Considering that Valve created an anti-abuse policy for DoTa 2 I don’t exactly understand why they would have it in this game still.

The game also has the Steam Workshop which will allow you to create statless items (for aesthetics) and maps.  I believe creation of hats is strictly forbidden.

Verdict

After playing the free to play version of Team Fortress 2 for a month I can say that this game does in fact get a THUMBS UP from me.

thumbsup

The format for earning rewards is not heavily hampered by balance issues like so many free to play games and this one is hot to serve.

Just don’t play the medic or engineer and you’ll enjoy the game.

Thanks for reading the first ever Free To Player review.  The game I’ll be playing for the next month will be Dragon Nest, an Action MMORPG from Nexon.  If anyone has suggestions for the game after that I’m always taking submissions.

Steam Sales Review #41: Red Faction

This game was made 12 years ago and as a rule I’m happy a game that was made over 10 years ago even works on today’s operating system.

There are a few rules when looking at a game that is this freaking old.

The Brief: Reviewing a Retro Game

There are a few rules when looking at a game that is over a decade old.  Any game over a decade old is often referred to as a “Retro Game.”

The first of these rules is that you are not allowed to criticize the graphical style of the game.

The reason why games are not made with this graphical style anymore is because better stuff is available.  We could believe if this game was made today it would be much better looking… which of course its many sequels were.

People who tell you that Goldeneye’s graphical style is dated are really missing the whole point.

Just because you're a civilian does not save you
Just because you’re a civilian does not save you

A second thing is we cannot fault the game for missing features that simply did not exist at the time.  However we are allowed to note that these features are not there but not use that against the overall scoring.

If we are going to criticize a lack of a feature a reader ought to demand a reference to a game earlier than this one that has it.  It has to be remembered that a game made in 2001 has to fit on an N64 Cartridge or a PS2 CD.

As a final rule game length cannot be a key factor in the purchase.  Pre-Half Life 2 all games were under an hour in length and games really never got a strong story basis until then.  Today we expect 20-30 hours per game.  Red Faction was 5 hours long and is fine for when it was released.

Synopsis

So given these retro rules established there is not too much to talk about the game.

This game pre-dates the world in which you could only carry two weapons… so yes you can carry all of them.

Each weapon has a secondary feature to it.  The sniper rifle is the only one that can be manual zoom aimed.  The pistol gets a silencer (even though there are no stealth mechanics), and most other weapons are choosing between single fire and rapid fire modes.

There are four types of weapons, melee weapons (including the flame thrower), short arms (including sniper rifle), heavy (including assault rifle), and explosive which includes C4 and rocket launcher.

Rocket launchers and C4 are very key in this game because Red Faction is the first game ever made to have destructible elements.   Not only could you break stuff but breaking stuff is often required to move forward in the game.

The secondary function of the sniper rifle is zooming
The secondary function of the sniper rifle is zooming

All of the good guys are dressed in red and if you save one they’ll join you as an ally and show you where to go.

The blue guys are bad guys and will shoot you on sight.

Each section of the level opens as you enter it.  The game would be considered to be non-linear for the time for the number of rooms and paths you can choose to complete the game.  There are many elements however that are non-linear.

There are no tips or map tips.  Everything has to be figured out on your own… and there’s a lot to figure out on your own.

There is an odd part of the game where a voice confirms your direction but does not lead you where to go.  So you have to keep guessing where you have to go until you get it.  This adds a little more play time for your first playthrough.

Strengths

  • No Hand Holding
  • Refreshing Guns

It’s actually refreshing to play a game that doesn’t hold your hand every step of the way.  This is a game that is designed for you to look around a room and try and figure out what you’re supposed to do.  For a lot of people this will be a weakness but to me the way it is designed is good.  The rooms are small and it’s about what paths you take in a small atmosphere.  If this was a world as big as Skyrim of course I’d hate it.

Saved red suited men become allies
Saved red suited men become allies

After about a decade of only being allowed to have two guns it is quite refreshing to get a full cache of weapons to choose for the appropriate situation.  The weapons are designed situationally and no there isn’t real gun balance there will be appropriate times for choosing a shotgun over an assault rifle.

Weaknesses

  • Non-Linear Elements
  • BROWN
  • Old Bugs

There are two features that just do not go well together.  The first of these is saving the game, the second is non-linear elements.

If you save at one point and you don’t have enough explosives you simply cannot continue.  This happened to me twice.  This means without knowing about the need for an explosive… you might use them all up and not have an opportunity to collect more.

I waited here for an hour hoping something would happen...
I waited here for an hour hoping something would happen…

The game unfortunately puts you into this awkward situation in which you’re completely stuck by shutting down previous open world elements of the game with fixed doors.

Did I mention this world is BROWN!?!?  I know that this game is undergroud but dear god is this game so very brown.  It might be a problem with the design choice but no there is nothing in this game but BROWN BROWN BROWN.  Even the underwater elements are pretty brown.

I should also note the game still has all of the old bugs the original game had… it just never got patched ever.  The most infamous of these bugs is when you Alt+Tab you cannot get back into the game without first closing off the game and restarting the game.  It sure as hell makes it hard to cheat and look up a gamefaq.

Concluding Thoughts

The problems with the game are not based on how old it is but some design choices.  It took me 10 hours to finish a 5 hour game simply because I kept getting stuck without explosives at points that required explosives but gave no access to it.

I’d probably never play it again and would not recommend it as a purchase.  Maybe if THQ breaks up Red Faction will be offered as a freeware license.

Climbing messes with your head sometimes
Climbing messes with your head sometimes

But in light of that it is important to note that Red Alert is a groundbreaking game.  It did give us destructible and manipulate objects long before the existence of Half Life 2.

Playing Red Faction is similar to playing Mario Brothers 2.  It isn’t going to be a very fun experience compared to modern games and you’d only play it for the nostalgia.

To close out this review I should mention that back in 2001 I downloaded a demo for Red Faction in which I got to play the very first zone of it.  After playing one zone of it I was unimpressed by the offerings of the game and decided not to purchase it.