Saturday, May 17, 2008

Advent Rising (2005)

I picked up this ($6) along with HL2 Orange Box that I got on sale from gogamer. While I could easily feel Advent Rising's console roots I still had fun with it for most of the game. Its basically a sci-fi 3rd person jump/run/gun game. I did enjoy that there were multiple alien races, both good and bad, with traitors in between.

For what I played there was lots of different areas. From the human space station, to a brown planet, to running through a city as it falls apart and then to alien space stations and other planets. Besides on foot, it had some speed buggy action that was OK. Not great but not bad as it was mainly used to run down the enemy and jump a few gullies (if you failed there was a nearby checkpoint to respawn at). The gun and jedi-like powers were fun (I had too much fun blasting them off ledges or through glass tunnels to their doom! mwahhhaaaahhhaaaa!!)

One thing to watch though was if you hit a savepoint (where you would start at game restart) or a respawn (where you would start at respawn during the same game). During the same game progress wasn't hard as respawns were close, but respawn areas (checkpoints) did not equal savepoints (where the game starts on reload) so sometimes you had to replay some sections if you were starting the game the next day vs reloading during same play session.

I made it to the end of Chapter 6 but couldn't get to the Epilogue even with cheats. I was unable to defeat the giant monkey thing that reminds me of the scene in 'Return of the Jedi' with the Rancor. While the monkey could not beat me (godmode!) I was unable to beat him. I could not 'focus' on the rock to throw it back on him more than 1 lucky time. It really seemed like an odd boss fight too as the big monkey isn't anywhere in the game up until that point (A previous bounty hunter boss at least made sense). I had fun up until then, though I did start resorting to cheats during boss fights (I hate boss difficulty jumps). I got my $6 from this game, but I'm glad I didn't pay full price. I guess I could youtube or fully read the walkthroughs to see how it ends.

Glad I tried it, but I just don't have the will to finish it. After a few reloads I'd switch to God mode for most boss levels. But the monkey boss required a special kill (lift and drop the rock he is about to throw) which I only did once after running around forever. Its giving me to many Donkey Kong 1 flashbacks for me to continue (the rock looks just like one of DK's barrels to me....the trauma!).

So I can no longer continue to try and finish this game, which is sad considering God mode normally allows this, but even with that I still couldn't defeat the monkey. Maybe its a message...That we are still monkeys and unable to move past that stage of evolution. We are not as evolved as we thought we were. Of course thats stupid..but I think I'll go have another banana and toss some barrels around.

But then, they took everything about me and put it into a computer where they created this model of my mind. Yes! Using that model they managed to generate every thought I could possibly have in the next, say, 10 years. Which they then filtered through a probability matrix of some kind to - to determine everything I was gonna do in that period. So you see, they knew I was gonna lead the Army of the Twelve Monkeys into the pages of history before it ever even occurred to me...

Friday, May 09, 2008

Quake 4 (2005)

Picked this one up for cheap when I nabbed Prey. For the most part it was a good game with a nice continuation from Quake 2 and a lot more colorful. Q4, Riddick and Prey all have a similar look to me and while I had fun with all of them I think I enjoyed Riddick more. Q4 also reminded me of Aliens in regards to the hallways and mercs you fight alongside.

The best change in Q4 from Q2 and the other games was having good squad AI in most levels. It added nicely to the atmosphere to have other mercs running with you. Both friendly and enemy AI used their surroundings well and would duck and then popup/out to shoot before taking cover again. The game really needed a lean key though.

Decent mix of indoor and outdoor combat. Most of the indoor was infantry though the enemy base. Lots of dark corridors to navigate while eliminating the enemy. While some outdoors was infantry a lot was in vehicles. To me, these sections were the worst part of the game. Getting in a mech one would think it could take some punishment, but then some super enemy launching tons of missiles would appear. Then I'd die while struggling to take out the missiles and still take out the enemy launching them. I much prefered being on foot as while it was sometimes difficult it normally didn't drastically jump from easy to hard like the vehicle sections did. It was also easier as infantry to use your surroundings for cover than in a vehicle out in the open.

At first the mouse control felt sluggish even with sensitivity all the way up, but I got used to it. In a way it made it feel like you had enertia in moving instead of super quick spinning reflexes like many games have. Though of course, the vehicles acted very sluggish, more so than as infantry. Think at the 1/2 way part I started feeling burnt out on it but trudged on a bit and it repicked the pace and interest. Think it was all the tunnel sections where you'd switch from infantry to vehicle and then rinse/repeat with another tunnel and switch again. The game was a decent length without these sections so guess they just liked trying to change up the combat, but again I didn't enjoy the vehicles so I just wanted these sections over.

Still not sure why all these aliens want to harvest people. Its got to be easier to acquire material from lower gravity wells than earthlike planets. They sure like cyborging us into their ships too. Though Q4 wasn't quite as organically weird as Prey.

I didn't try out any mods and probably won't for this game but there are bound to be a lot based on previous ID games moddability.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Portal (2007)

I played HL2 many moons ago, but never got around to getting EP1 & 2 and Portal. From what I've heard they are all relatively short so I couldn't justify the $50 Orange Box and buying them seperately cost even more (I don't care for MP much anymore so Team Fortress did not fit into the buy equation). Ran across a Gogamer 48HR special and got the Orange for $30 which is a good price since its $10 per game.

Portal took about 3.5hrs and I got stuck twice. Both were because it took me a while to get the timing right. Once I knew what to do but couldn't do it, another time I hadn't quite thought of the right thing though I was on the right track. It was a good game but I don't think it was GOTY as many said. I did like the focus on puzzle aspects instead of normal combat situations in FPS.

While I understand the levels are set up a certain way to teach you what to do next, the change in mission length seemed to jump drastically. The earlier missions were super short then at about 15 or so got a lot longer all of a sudden. The last mission was super long and the best part of the game. Up until then I thought it was decent but didn't get all the crazy reaction of how great it was from other players. While that last level pushed it up to a good game it didn't make it GOTY (I think STALKER holds that place but I dig post-apoc). If there had been more after that then maybe GOTY, but I guess thats what Portal 2 will be for.

I did like the atmosphere of game. The labs seemed nice and sterile. Then you slowly see some back office areas which are a little more cluttered. Squeezing out of the lab you get to see the dingy behind all the nice shine. I will say I wasn't expecting the ending (Had luckily stayed away from spoilers so had no context when reading the games quotes "The cake is a lie!"). I also enjoyed the tester's voice and the little speaches she gave.

Since it was short I do plan on replaying with the developer commentary, something I never do. I am also going to try out the advanced maps that came with the game. Now I just need to play EP1/2 but think I might replay HL1 and 2 first once I clear out some other games.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Armed Assault (2007)

I've slowly been playing the ArmA campaign since the game was released. I got into OFP late (2006 for $2) so was looking forward to an updated game from BIS. While its release was buggy and had performance issues, patches have improved the game a lot as well as more mods have now been released and matured. I finished up the campaign using beta 1.12 and for the most part enjoyed it even if it fell short of eclipsing OFP.

I agree with others that ArmA is more like OFP 1.5: a graphic overhaul, some tweaks and the main change - Join In Progress MP games. I never played MP OFP since it took to much time to set in a lobby waiting for players and I don't feel like scheduling a time to play it. I've only played a bit of ArmA MP, mostly co-op and while I enjoyed it, MP is just no longer my thing. The campaign is weaker than OFPs but I still enjoyed playing it. I liked how there were side missions one could choose to do that supposedly affect the main mission (Not sure of how much the win/loss of these missions affects the main one though).

I liked the beginning and last half of the campaign but there were many missions early on that were too unrealistic (Single man/Rambo VS the whole enemy army). I'm not sure if the patches updated these aspects of the mission but I did notice AI improvements (Behavior, Targeting, Pathfinding, etc.) and fewer bugs as I played some more with each patch. The main mission bugs I dealt with were missions not ending after the objectives were or appeared to be completed so I just used the 'endmission' cheat to see my mission results and go on to the next one.

The game is still clunky like OFP but they are both still one of my favorites. I do like the double tap controls (Hold key down to lean and release to stand or double tap same key to hold lean and retap to stand, so your fingers can go back to other keys while still leaning, etc.) While Ghost Recon (1 not GRAW) and Raven Shield comes close to it and are better for CQB, OFP/ArmA win out for the scale of maps, battles and editor/modding. Its easy to pick the island map one wants to use and then drop infantry, tanks, jeeps, choppers or jets and have a small or big battles. If one wants one can learn scripting or use some of the helpful mods (DAC, Real Time Editor, Scripted Objective System and Kronzky's Urban Patrol Script) to make even more complicated missions. Or just download the user made ones if you don't want to make them yourself.

Here are some of the mods I've been using:

Guide to realism mods - Best guide to what mods to use I've come across. I used a mixture of the following mods during my campaign playthrough based on its suggestions: PROPER mods; 6th Sense mods; True Mods; & Fixed Range Nightvision. I still need to try out some of the others.

I used the in game difficulty and had my Friendly AI at .75 and Enemy AI at .40, which sets skill and precision to the same number. One can also edit the user file to have different skill and precision settings:

I've also started messing with parts of the SLX Mod in the editor. So far the pbos I've messed with were FindCover, Gl3 (AI improvements), Wounds, NoTalk and Clouds. Other good mods from what I read are XAM and ECS.

I've been thinking about making some Mad Max/Fallout/Wasterland inspired missions using these Resistance and New Order units.

Some single missions to try: Evolution & Quarantine & Dynamic War. Lots of others out there as well as co-op missions to play even alone with bots.

Some campaigns to try: The Recluse, Gloria, The Cause, Fedain & PMC First Fight. A quick search of the main forums for campaign under user missions shows more have been released since I last looked around. Still have to try these out before looking up new ones though.

While I've grown to like ArmA more than OFP (I still play both though), I'm not sure of its general lifespan. ArmA and OFP still both have active modding communities but with ArmA2 I'm not sure if people will stay with ArmA or just have ArmA2 and OFP groups. Probably depends on ArmA2's campaign, how quick its modding tools are released (ArmA was slow) and PC requirements.