Murder, Death, Kill

There are many, many ways to kill someone in Skyrim; you can crush their skull with a war hammer, you can decapitate them with an axe, you can stab them in the back with a dagger, you can hit them in the head with an arrow from half a mile away, you can even slip poison into their pockets and watch them die slowly. Killing NPCs is trickier as you need to do it without being seen, but you can always sneak into their house at night and bludgeon them with a mace.

That said, the best method I’ve found so far? Wait until your target is in the middle of town and hit them with a Rage/Fury/Frenzy spell from somewhere out of sight; they go postal, start attacking people at random and the city guard charge in and put them down for you. They don’t even seem to care when you wander over, loot the corpse and then toss it over some railings into the water.

Why get your hands dirty when you can have someone else do it for you?

Modern Warfare 3 Confuses Me

I would like to preface this by saying that I haven’t played MW3, I probably won’t, but I have played Battlefield 3; take from that what you will.

I really don’t understand how Modern Warfare 3 is getting the review scores it’s getting; 4/5, 8/10, etc. Every review I’ve read, seen or heard has said pretty much the same thing, that the game is formulaic, only a small iterative improvement over the previous one, that it’s a lot more scripted than the previous one, that half of it is on-rails shooting, that the multiplayer is pretty much the same as the previous one – if not worse in some aspects due to design choices. On the upside, it’s a polished version of MW2 and it does resolve the story that has been built up through MW1 and 2.

So how does this equate to an excellent game? Because it’s sold more than 9 million copies? Because it’s a big AAA title? Because it’s part of a popular franchise? Surely none of these things should have any impact on the review score. It seems to be getting worse and worse over time; reviewers basically saying “This game is essentially the same as the last one and doesn’t really do anything new. 5 Stars!” or “Well the single player is shit but, you know, there’s multiplayer that’s really good. 5 Stars!”

For the record, I have nothing but bad things to say about the Battlefield 3 Single Player campaign because it’s a poor attempt to copy Modern Warfare and should never have been shoehorned in to the game. It would have been much better not to include a single player component at all. That said, people don’t buy Battlefield games expecting a solid single player game, they buy it for the multiplayer and I’m willing to cut it a little slack from that point of view but I still believe that it should negatively affect the review score because it’s a part of the game experience that is substandard.

I’ll admit that I don’t put much stock in review scores, because they’ve never seemed to me to be a particularly good metric with which to measure something as complex as most games, but if you’re going to have them then please try and make them consistent with the text of the review, otherwise you’re just making yourself look bad.

Freem!

Today marks the subscriber headstart for the new City of Heroes: Freedom, erm…thing. It’s both the launch of Issue 21 (the 21st free content update for the game) and the move to a Free-To-Pay/Freemium gameplay model. For all the details, check out the website here: http://www.cityofheroes.com/

In essence, they’re taking the same hybrid approach as a lot of Free-To-Play games and offering a Gold, Silver & Bronze level of access for Subscribers, “Paying” users and Freeloaders respectively, with the obvious goal being to tempt players to move up the tiers until they’re paying a monthly subscription.

Anyway, if you haven’t played City of Heroes before, or have but have drifted away from the game, then I highly recommend you take a look at Freedom when it goes live for everyone in a couple of weeks time.

Update: Freedom is now live, so go sign up for free here: http://bit.ly/nXEw6L

Dear Developers…

Dear Developers,

If you’re going to port your shiny new game to the PC it might be worth bearing in mind the following points:

  • Most PC gamers don’t have Xbox controllers, so it’s nice to make your game playable if they have to use a keyboard and mouse
  • On the subject of mice, they’re a bit more precise than Xbox controllers, so let me change my bloody sensitivity
  • Computers have been doing “HD” since about 1998, give me resolutions above 1080p
  • Computers have lots of buttons on their keyboards, please don’t make me use Space for every single sodding action
  • Performance. Computers can have it if you put some effort in. When I can’t run your game at 1280×1024 on average detail settings, you’ve done something very wrong.
  • Please let me save my game more often. I understand that you don’t want to remove the tension by going back to the days of 24/7 quicksaving, but when your badly ported game inevitably crashes, I’d rather not have to replay the last hour of the game just to get back to where I was (knowing there’s a fair chance it’ll just crash again at the same point).

I’m thinking in particular about Alpha Protocol at the moment, which despite its faults is a really fun game, but I’ve had to spend hours searching various forums & blogs and modifying .ini files just to make the mouse usable. Even after all that, the performance is still pretty shitty and most of the options in the game don’t actually do what they say they do – oh and if you somehow manage to force FSAA on, all your dialogue choices vanish so you can’t really play any more.

Yours.
Adam.

Beat Hazard

Beat Hazard is the latest in a growing line of games with dynamically generated content based on the player; in this case, the player’s music collection. To quote the marketing guff: “Experience your music collection like never before with this intense music driven arcade shooter. Each of your songs will have its own unique ebb and flow based on the music. Power up your spaceship and watch as the music boosts your firepower. Unleash hell on the enemy ships when you max out with weapon pickups!

Now, I own Audiosurf and while it’s not the kind of game to spend hours at a time with, it’s great fun in 20-30 minute chunks. With this in mind, I was hoping for a similar kind of experience with Beat Hazard but I was sadly disappointed… Continue reading Beat Hazard

Splinter Cell Conviction

Good story, good gameplay, good God it’s finished already.

Now, I haven’t played a Splinter Cell game since Pandora Tomorrow; Chaos Theory annoyed me with its overly Xboxy controls & interface and Double Agent didn’t get great reviews, but I really loved the first two so in spite of a lingering bad taste from past experiences and bearing in mind the obscene Ubisoft DRM, I decided to give Conviction a shot…
Continue reading Splinter Cell Conviction

On DRM And The Future of PC Games

Much has been made in the last couple of days of the fact that warez scene group Skidrow have “cracked” Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed 2, however, this isn’t really a crack of the DRM at all, it simply internalises the server emulation that non-scene groups had already put together so it’s not as much hassle to play.

That said, ultimately you can’t crack Ubisoft’s new DRM any more than you can “crack” World of Warcraft; they are serving parts of the game from their servers and unless you either obtain a copy of that data and emulate the server (which isn’t really a crack) you can’t get around it. It’s not as simple as just bypassing a CD check or setting a function to always return true, they’re actually shipping a partial game and as long as their customers will bear it (although given their awful server uptime they’re not helping themselves out) they’ll keep doing it and probably push it even further.

Once games move into the SAAS realm you can say goodbye to owning *any* part of a game you “buy” as all you’ll have is the MMO-esque client application and everything else will be delivered over the wire, doubtless with “Premium” subscriptions available if you want priority access to the game servers to minimize lag & waiting time before you can play.

I think we can all agree that this is a really bad place for PC games to be headed.

Just Cause 2 – Mini Review

Just Cause 2
A Quiet Day On Panau

You know a game is doing something right when it has you giggling with glee like a small child: The very first mission of Just Cause 2 sees you fleeing a horde of soldiers in Jeeps across a bridge while standing atop a speeding car. Now, you could just shoot at them, or you could use your New And Improved™ grappling hook to attach them to the bridge’s support struts, pinging them acrobatically over the edge and into the sea below.

The game is all about Chaos, specifically causing as much of it as you can in order to destabilise the government of Panau, a south pacific island cluster with an improbable number of airports and military installations. You achieve this largely by shooting at things, blowing things up, shooting at things to blow them up or crashing things into other things to blow them up. There are over 100 unique vehicles in the game and a decent number of different weapons to get you started and you can call on additional weapon & vehicle drops from the mysteriously well armed Sloth Demon at any time.

Players of the first Just Cause will be familiar with the grappling hook and parachute combo, which allow you to pull off the ludicrous stunts that make the game so enjoyable, and the sequel has made a number of improvements; firstly there’s the aforementioned double-grapple which allows you to tether any two objects to each other (man and car, man and gas canister, man and helicopter, man and other man, etc), then there’s the ability to use the grapple & parachute together as a form of (rather slow) transportation, latching onto nearby scenery to pull yourself along.

There is a main storyline to follow, but with only 7 missions from start to finish it’s not exactly an epic; that said, there are literally hundreds of side missions, races, collections, explorations and the like, not to mention the Steam Achievements and as with the first game, the fun really comes from the massive sandbox that you have to play with. Who needs a story when you can sneak into a military base, blow up a 100ft broadcast antenna with high explosives then, when a gunship turns up, attach your grapple to the underside, swing into the cockpit, knock out the pilot, fly halfway across the map and then bail out and start making parachuted strafing runs on an airfield with a pair of SMGs while the carcass of your now abandoned helicopter crashes into a bank of fuel tanks blowing the whole thing sky high? I’ve played over 24 hours so far and I’m only at 34% completion.

The only real complaint I have is that on the PC, lacking an analogue keyboard, vehicle control and precise movement can be a challenge especially at high speed and it does make it difficult to realise some of the awesome manoeuvres that you know you *should* be able to pull off with the equipment you have.

You can buy Just Cause 2: Limited Edition from Play.com for £24.99 and you should.