Sunday, July 23, 2017

Battlefield 1 (PC) Single Player Review

The single player portion of Battlefield 1 consists of a collection of individual missions called War Stories, set in different parts of the world. War Stories are definitely better than Battlefield 3 and Battlefield 4 campaigns, though not as good as Bad Company 2 in my opinion. I obviously did not give the single player any consideration when buying Battlefield 1. I purchased it purely for the multiplayer. I would have preferred to pay for the multiplayer portion of the game and skip the single player entirely, but that is not possible. Hopefully Battlefield will go back to its roots of being a multiplayer only game, at some point.

That said, I wanted to see what DICE did this time around. Here are all the missions ranked in the order I enjoyed them.

1. Storm of Steel

Battlefield 1 starts strong. They did a great job with the setting, and even though it is highly linear, it plays out well, and I liked the concept behind it. I played this mission in surround (3 x 2560x1440), and it was quite an experience. Although this war story is fairly short, I enjoyed it the most.

I know this is an overused term in game marketing, but this mission is very cinematic, and I mean that as a complement. It is unfortunate that this is about as good as it gets for the rest of the game. Once the first mission is completed, rest of the war stories open up and they can be played in any order.

One thing to be mentioned here is how the game is not optimized for a surround setup. There are sections where the game does not recognize the additional monitors and only renders on the primary screen. This is disappointing because I wanted to play the entire game in surround mode.

2. Friends in High Places

This is the story about an American pilot who manages to sneak his way into the Royal Flying Corps. What starts as a basic training in dog fighting, turns into a full scale war on the western front. The visuals are excellent, and I enjoyed the flying mechanics. I never play as a pilot in multiplayer, but I enjoyed it in the single player. The production value is very high here, just like in the first mission.

In terms of story, everything becomes very absurd towards the end, and all suspension of disbelief is lost. However, the gameplay is entertaining. I highly recommend playing this missions without the HUD elements.

3. Nothing is Written

This mission is set in the middle east, and the later part of the mission takes place in Sinai Desert. It is one of my favorite maps in multiplayer, and after playing this war story, I wish DICE would release a night version of the map. It looks beautiful.

Gameplay was enjoyable because its varied, and there are some interesting weapons that can be picked up from weapon crates. My favorites were the tank hunter rifle and automatico. I thought it was rather funny that main character, Zara Ghufran, gets to run around the desert, mowing enemies down with a Lewis Gun.

4. Avanti Savoia

I have absolutely no idea if any of this is historically accurate, but this mission felt very out of place in a WW1 game. That said, Monte Grappa looks great, and the weather effects are very well done. Another mission that needs to be played without the HUD.

5. Through Mud and Blood

In this mission, you get to drive a British landship through the enemy lines in Germany. I felt that the initial part of the story was well done, but yet again, it devolves into an absurd scenario towards the end. This is a thoroughly run of the mill mission.

Through Mud and Blood. 

6. The Runner

My least favorite mission of the lot. There is nothing original about this particular mission. You run from checkpoint to checkpoint, killing waves of enemies, and predetermined events will trigger cutscenes and it’s very reminiscent of Call of Duty like mission design - I am not a fan of this at all. Thankfully, it is over very quickly.

The Runner

Overall, the single player had a lot of potential especially after the excellent start the game got, but it was not capitalized. They resorted to the same gameplay design choices that we saw in countless modern military shooters.

I am hoping that DICE will give up on single player and focus their efforts on the multiplayer, especially if they cannot do justice to it.

Verdict - If you are contemplating purchasing this game, do so for the multiplayer, not for the single player.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Far Cry 3 (PC) Review

Contrary to the popular opinion, I did not enjoy Far Cry 2. I didn’t particularly like the setting, and the gameplay padding in the form of respawning guard posts was very annoying. When Far Cry 3 was announced, I did not have high hopes for it. I thought it was going to be another generic open world shooter made for the consoles and I completely ignored it.

In the winter of 2014, Far Cry franchise pack went on sale on Steam, and I thought it might be worth buying it because Far Cry 3 and Blood Dragon were included. I paid $9.99 for it. I did not want to pay anywhere close to full price for these games because Far Cry 3 requires Uplay - even the version purchased on Steam.

No shooter is complete without the 1911

The story of Far Cry 3 centers around a group of tourists getting captured by pirates on a tropical island. The main character has to escape and defeat the pirates. There is a lot more to it than that, but that’s the gist of it.

The villain in the game received a lot of attention. I don’t get the hype for this character. I didn’t think it was badly written, quite the opposite, but it is by no means original. I still think Bioshock had the best villain in video games.

I enjoyed the gameplay in this game a lot more than Far Cry 2. Activating radio towers can be repetitive, it is not as bad as Far Cry 2 with respawning guard posts. In this game, whenever you capture an outpost, it gets taken over by the friendly forces, and it will turn into a safe zone, which can serve as a spawn point. This is way better than having to fight the same enemies repeatedly throughout the game.

Scenery in Far Cry 3

The shooting mechanics are well done, and there is quite bit of weapon variety, but not a whole lot of customization. As a Battlefield 4 player, I couldn’t help but notice how limited the customization was. That said, they got the core mechanics right, the weapons definitely handle very well.

It is possible to approach the outpost missions as you please, but the enemy AI has this supernatural ability to pinpoint your exact location within seconds. When one guard discovers your position, all the guards know where and what to look for. This can get annoying when using the stealth approach, but more often than not, I take a more direct approach, so it didn’t really matter to me. The few times that I tried, I found it to be less fun.

I do have to mention the UI and the constant hand holding throughout the game. I do not understand why single player games use 3D spotting. I can see this being useful to an extent in multiplayer games, but in my opinion, if at all this exists in single player games, there should be an option to turn it off. As it stands, every enemy can be “spotted”, which puts an overhead icon on the enemy, and this even includes the wildlife...bad game design.

Exploring the island is a lot of fun, from land vehicles to wing-suit, it’s got everything! This is the part I liked the most about the game. Exploring new areas, finding vantage points to take out enemies using a sniper rifle is very reminiscent of the first Far Cry game.

Trees on fire, like in Far Cry 2

Apart from the exploration, there is a lot crafting and leveling up mechanics in the game. I used them sparingly. The most important item to craft are the various syringes and backpacks. Syringe kits can be used for healing, and for other buffs such as the special vision which will allow you to scout the surroundings for wildlife etc.

I didn’t particularly care about the leveling up aspect of the game. This does not have a lot of impact on the gameplay, and I ignored it for the most part.

The story is not bad, but some of the missions can be a little annoying, especially when they devolve into QTEs.

All in all, I enjoyed the game, and I would recommend it.


+ Excellent visuals
+ Weapon variety
+ Strong gunplay
+ Large and entertaining map

- Quick time events
- Some missions can be repetitive

Verdict - Worth the price I paid for it.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Razer BalckWidow Chroma V2 Review

I wanted to take my mechanical keyboard to work (tired of membrane keyboards). I wanted to buy a new keyboard for my gaming machine and take the one I have to work. I always wanted a Razer keyboard, but I avoided them because they did not come with a wrist rest. It is very uncomfortable for me to type without it.

When the BlackWidow Chroma V2 was announced, I thought I can finally give Razer mechanical keyboards a try. All the reviews I read, said that the keyboard is fantastic, and the wrist rest is the best part.

So when it was time to purchase a keyboard, I had to decide between the K70 Rapidfire with Cherry MX Speed switches and BlackWidow Chroma V2. I went with the BlackWidow Chroma with Razer Yellow switches because they are supposed to be equivalent to Cherry MX Speed switches.

Razer BlackWidow Chroma V2 with Razer Yellow switches

The build quality is fantastic. It has the feel of a premium keyboard. The switches felt a lot like Cherry MX Red switches - I did not have a problem with this. I just wanted a linear and silent switch.

All that said, I found the keyboard to be unusable. The entire reason for buying a Razer keyboard was the premium wrist rest. Unfortunately for me, this wrist rest made the keyboard very difficult to use.

The wrist rest comes with padding, therefore it is about as high as the spacebar. This might seem like a minor detail, but this meant that my wrist is angled downwards when I am typing. It just doesn't feel right, and after a while, it started to hurt a little bit. In addition to this, the awkward posture meant that I was making a lot of typing mistakes.

The other minor complaint I had was with the LEDs; the entire numbers row is not fully illuminated. It only illuminates the numbers and not the symbols. I am not sure if this is intentional or if it is a defect. I do not see why they would choose not to fully illuminate the keycap...I would not have returned the keyboard because of this, but it is something to think about when deciding between the BlackWidow and the K70 Rapidfire, which does not have this problem.

I really loved the keyboard, but given that I spend a lot of time at the computer, I did not see any reason to spend this kind of money and still experience discomfort. So I returned it and purchased a K70 Rapidfire RGB instead.

The K70 does things right. Keys are better illuminated, the wrist rest is comfortable, and its cheaper.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Max Payne 3 (PC) Review

I was looking forward to a sequel to Max Payne 2 for many years. When Max Payne 3 was announced, I eagerly waited for the reviews. They confirmed what I had suspected, this game deviated quite a bit from the classic Max Payne games. This was disappointing for me, so I did not buy it at launch. I picked it up on a sale for $3.99.

I am glad I did not pay more because this game is a thoroughly disappointing experience for me. I will never replay it, and it was uninstalled the moment I finished the game.

Max Payne and Max Payne 2 were not just great games, but they were great PC games. They have all the features you would expect from a proper PC game - quick save, quick load, smooth controls, support for mods etc.

All of this is gone in Max Payne 3. Other than the visuals, everything took a step back from the previous games.

Graphics settings I used

The biggest complaint I have with the game is the gameplay, which has changed for the worse, in my opinion. It is heavily scripted. Every combat sequence is followed by a cut scene. It is not possible to enter and exit an area without a cinematic. It was interesting the first few times, but it gets old, very quickly. The game gives very little control to the player when it comes to exploring areas. Entering a room is now done in the form of an in-game cinematic.

Out of the 9 hours I spent playing the game on normal difficulty, I get the feeling that I was watching cut scenes for probably 50% of the time. This hurt the pacing of the game. It’s almost as if Rockstar wanted to make a movie, but were forced to add some gameplay to it.

The change of the setting did not work for me either. I prefer the snowy New England setting for Max Payne as opposed to the sunny, tropical Brazil. The comic book storytelling is replaced by blurry cinematics with a film grain filter. This does not feel like a Max Payne game, but more like a Kane Lynch game.

Favelas in Sao Paulo Brazil. Great graphics, but uncharacteristic setting, and linear gameplay hurt the game.

The smooth controls from the previous games are gone. They are replaced by relatively sluggish controls, which are very reminiscent of GTA 4, although not as bad. There is a cover mechanic, and every firefight devolves into a peaking from cover and taking pot shots at enemies. There is bullet time of course and it definitely works well, but even that is nothing original anymore. It has been done to death in video games since the first Max Payne.

The game is perfectly functional for me. I never had any technical issues. All my complaints with the game are gameplay related. There was some cool moments during the short campaign, but  overall it is a disappointment for me.

Verdict - Not Recommended.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Wolfenstein: The New Order (PC) Review

The last Wolfenstein game I played was the 2009’s Wolfenstein developed by Raven Software and published by Activision. It was a fairly underwhelming experience, and it did not do well commercially, which resulted in layoffs, and the rights to this franchise were sold to Bethesda Softworks.

Machine Games ended up working on the next game in the series, Wolfenstein: The New Order. I thought they did a better job than Raven Software, but Return to Castle Wolfenstein still remains my favorite game in the series.

This game begins three years after the events of the last game. Despite the destruction of Black Sun Portal in the last game, Nazis make a comeback and win the war against the Allies. Rest of the game takes place 14 years after the war, and Nazis have dominated the world or at least the western hemisphere from what I can tell. The situation is about as bad as you think it would be with Nazis at the helm. It is once again up to Blazkowicz and his friends to destroy the Nazis and free the world.

America surrenders!

The gameplay is linear but it is not like Call of Duty. There is some freedom in the way the player can approach a situation, but there is very little choice in story progression. This is not necessarily a bad thing, I do not expect Wolfenstein games to be open ended. I do expect them to be well optimized for the PC, and not resort to console gameplay mechanics.

The game is a PC port, and while it is not awful, it definitely suffers in some areas because of it. The visuals are not great in my opinion. I expected better graphics. They are not terrible, but looking back at the footage of Wolfenstein (2009), I felt this game does not look a whole lot better. Also, the framerate is locked at 60FPS. I’ve been told that this is a standard for idTech5 games. There are some mods that will unlock the framerate, but I read that physics are tied to the framerate (like most games designed for the console), and therefore unlocking the framerate could cause issues. I haven’t personally tested these mods.

Graphics settings

In addition to the 60FPS cap, there are unskippable intro logos, the silly warning about not turning off the machine when the game is saving progress (which is a staple of console ports), lack of quick save and quick load etc. They definitely did not go the extra mile for the PC.

Another very annoying omission is the ability to use Mouse 4 and Mouse 5 buttons. There is no way I could map any actions to these buttons in the game. I am so used to binding these buttons to certain weapons that I find myself using them during combat, and getting killed because nothing happens when I press them. Took a while for it to sink in.

On a positive note, I think they did a good job with the environments and level design. An insight is shown into how the citizens are controlled by the media. You hear certain conversations about how the government targets individuals who do not conform to what they consider to be “moral behavior”. That said, they really try to hammer home the idea that Nazis are racist. Sometimes, it is subtle and clever, and other times it's just lazy writing.

Aryan features! Haha!

More often than not, I do not care about parallels to current political events in video games, because game developers pushing their own point of view, however noble they consider it to be, is something I regard as propaganda in and of itself. Gaming for me is an escape, and while I can appreciate a slight nod to certain social issues, I do not care to be preached. For the most part, this game avoided that.

Moving on to weapons, I thought they did a pretty good job with it, but the system of weapons management was very poor. We now have a weapons wheel, which serves the purpose but the weapon variety is not great as the last game. I really enjoyed dual wielding weapons though. Pistols are weak, but the rifles and shotguns are strong and fun to use. There are some stealth sections thrown in here and there, to change the gameplay, and they are not too bad. The annoying thing about stealth sections is that the game decides to strip the player of all weapons at the start of the level. All the ammo acquired prior to the level is gone. I can understand if this happens once, but that is not the case.

The New Order is definitely worth playing for FPS fans, but I am not sure it's worth full price. I paid $6.59 and I think I got my money’s worth. If you can find it for that price, I recommend picking it up.

Verdict - Wait for sale

Wolfenstein (2009) PC Review

Return to Castle Wolfenstein was one of my all time favorite FPS games. When Wolfenstein was announced in 2005, I had very high hopes because it was being developed by Raven Software. I thought they did a great job with Quake 4, which I  recently played, so things were looking up.

Having played it, I am not sure I am happy with the final product.

The story involves, the Nazi occult division on their quest for world domination, two factions that are out to stop them, a medallion which grants the person holding it some supernatural powers, set in the city of Isenstadt, in Germany.

The game has an open world design of sorts, but it's not very well done. It’s not a persistent open world like we see in S.T.A.L.K.E.R, but rather like the one in Far Cry 2. Everything from enemies to fuel barrels will respawn up on re-entering an area. This makes gameplay tedious because often times it is required to pass through certain areas repeatedly, and each time you encounter the same enemies. Other than padding the gameplay time, this does nothing to make the game better. I found it very boring.

Veil powers which are granted by the medallion, are fun to use. They are very similar to the abilities of the nanosuit from Crysis. It is sometimes possible to completely dominate enemies in certain situations with use of veil powers along with the very powerful weapons acquired later in the game. Combat benefits from this. Unlike the nanosuit in Crysis, veil powers can upgraded, which is an interesting addition.

While there are a lot of positive aspects such as visuals and sound, the gameplay has taken a step back. Manual/quick save and load are gone, the game uses a checkpoint system instead. I do not see any reason why a game like this on the PC needs to use a checkpoint save system. This is one of those unfortunate side effects of maintaining parity between platforms.

The boss fights at the end are a prime example of how not to design a game, at least for the PC. Given that there is no save feature, and the player has to defeat each boss multiple times just adds to the frustration. There was no fun to be had here for me.

Wolfenstein (2009) is not a bad game by any means. I did not enjoy it as much as the previous game. I do not mind recommending this to those that enjoy FPS games if they can find it for around $5.

Verdict - Wait for sale