Checkpoint: Vengeance Edition

Checkpoint: Vengeance Edition

posted in: Editorials & Features | 0

Good news! My new PC woes are behind me. The Corsair Vengeance LPX were installed and the PC booted without a fuss — I even activated XMP mode without issue. I finished installing drivers and updates but without a storage drive (my old Western Digital Black 1TB doesn’t fit the case), there’s not much I can do. I guess I could play StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm and the countless other titles in my Steam catalog

I’m also waiting for NVIDIA’s Pascal GPU to make its debut which will really open up the gaming possibilities.

Dailies. That’s not something I thought I would be partaking in but everyday my brother and I put in an hour or so to complete the daily missions in The Division. It’s really unfortunate that Ubisoft aren’t able to maintain The Division’s momentum. Now glitches, repetitive daily missions and inflated crafting requirements have blemished an otherwise strong start.

The Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst closed beta is happening right now. I played through the tutorial and while it wasn’t the consistent performer that I would like, I was impressed with the combat improvements and style. There’s an open world element which I have yet to try but I suspect I’ll be fine with it. I enjoyed the original Mirror’s Edge but I enjoyed it for its style and parkour, not because it was linear affair.

Checkpoint: Beta Weekend 2016 Edition

Checkpoint: Beta Weekend 2016 Edition

It’s a weekend of betas so I thought I would chime in with some impressions.

Street Fighter V

The last Street Fighter V beta featured more characters, stages and a menu that teased what’s to come. It also reminded me that Street Fighter V won’t have a story mode at launch and that it will likely be filled with cutscenes like these and in-engine shots like this. I prefer the latter for consistency’s sake. I’m not holding my breath for Mortal Kombat 9 calibre story but I am expecting some genuine effort beyond the arcade mode. I would really enjoy a Street Fighter Alpha 3 style RPG-lite system though.

The matchmaking was a lot better from a skill perspective; I wasn’t being hammered by skilled players. I wasn’t pleased with the time it took to find my next opponent though. I wouldn’t mind the wait if it ensured a quality match but being paired with someone with a spotty connection after a long wait wasn’t ideal. When it worked, it was very enjoyable. I already have it pre-ordered on disc but I am considering giving up the disc for a digital copy.

The Division

The beta of the weekend was The Division. Back in 2013, I was very skeptical on The Division and believed Destiny was the game for me. Unfortunately Destiny initial outing wasn’t my cup of tea. It was a bad loot game filled with tedious grind and repetition. I fear for the same thing for The Division but that fear also extended to Diablo III.

What makes The Division so appealing for me is the Dark Zone — the lawless areas of New York City — where players can venture out to fight higher level enemies for the promise of better loot. The risky part of this equation are the other players out there who can attack and steal what my bro and I collected. I had two notable experiences in the Dark Zone.

The Positive

My brother and I were pursuing this group of NPCs from one end of a street. We easily flanked them because they were facing the other way and after they were dispatched we discovered they were distracted by another three players. We encountered friendly individuals before but we’ve never encountered a group. We were sub-level 8 so I presumed everyone was friendlier but out of nowhere one of them fired some shots. I rolled back into cover and they did the same. We hunkered there ready to fight. We waited for a long nervous minute before one of them approached the middle and raised his hands and began walking towards us. A misunderstanding? A ploy? We eventually walked passed each other with fingers on the triggers ready to retaliate. As soon as they passed us, they ran off.

Once we filled out backpacks with contaminated Dark Zone loot, we had to move to one of the extraction points and fire a flare out for extraction. This was a beacon for other agents to join in on the extraction or a signal for other predatory agents to come in for easy kills. Watching the clock countdown was tense. We didn’t know if people were going to come and get us or what.

Moments like these were interesting. Can you trust other humans not kill you? The game temporarily flagged people who attacked other players as rogue agents. I accidentally hit another player outside of our group with crossfire and was flagged as rogue for about 10 seconds. I suspect killing someone would mean I was rogue for longer and be seen by all on the map as rogue.

The Negative

Flagging rogue agents in the Dark Zone is smart. In theory, it helps out smaller groups to avoid treachery or indicate to others that there are assholes to take out. Unfortunately there was a bug in the beta where rogue agents were invisible and I would only appear after they’ve killed you. It was like being attacked by ghosts.

It’s also highly recommended to venture out into the Dark Zone with other players. I’m reading too many stories of lone agents being gunned down by packs of rogue agents.

A Solid Foundation?

I like what I’ve seen of The Division thus far. It runs well and is surprisingly customizable for a console game. I can tweak a number of UI elements to my liking. On a technical perspective, I can even tweak graphical effects like how aggressive the anti-aliasing work (sharpening) and whether or not to enable chromatic aberration.

On the gameplay front, there were plenty of appearance and weapon modifications to personalize as well giving players plenty of options to express themselves.

What worries me the most about The Division are the enemy encounters. Damage sponges like those found in Destiny are tedious but mopping the floor with brain dead enemies is not fun either. Playing the “Hospital” mission on Hard and going up agains the higher level enemies in level 8 Dark Zone instances felt like that right mix. I don’t expect the final game to feature smarter enemies but I hope for a better mix. What makes Diablo III’s combat work is the juggling and management of different enemy types. I began to see glimmers of that on the hard difficulty but it’s too early to say.

Cautious Optimism Continues

The Division looks like it’s the next shooter RPG loot hybrid that could grip players all over the world. It may even sink its fangs into me like Diablo III U.E did. I’m still holding onto my pre-order for now but it’s not a firm decision. There’s a lot to like about the Division (I didn’t even mention how I love all the details) but there’s also a lot to dislike (too much running around). I’m unable to make a definitive judgement call on it yet but there is something about it that’s piqued my interest.

Call of Duty: Black Ops PS4 Multiplayer Beta Impressions

Call of Duty: Black Ops PS4 Multiplayer Beta Impressions

posted in: Game Previews | 0

This was originally posted in a Call of Duty: Black Ops III beta impressions thread on NeoGAF but I decided to massage it into a post here:

I came away from the Call of Duty: Black Ops III PlayStation 4 multiplayer beta feeling positive and optimistic. The most glaring issue was the networking and matchmaking performance. It would be a damn shame if both of those areas do not improve in the final release. Dedicated servers would be greatly appreciated.

I thought the PS4 beta felt great. I liked the size of the maps and the pace of the game. I enjoyed the mobility options in Advanced Warfare but I felt the games were too frenetic at times and the “time to kill” felt too low for a game that’s trying to promote mobility.

I felt BLOPS3 nailed the blend of TTK and mobility. It reminded me a lot of BLOPS2 with a touch of mobility options. There were numerous occasions where I saw an enemy late, they shot at me, and I was still able to get into cover and retaliate. I didn’t feel like that was the case with AW or in any COD title since BLOPS2. Guns still felt lethal when targets were within the gun’s optimal range but the bullet damage drop off seems to be more drastic outside that range which could explain how I’m surviving more firefights.

The idea behind the AW suit powers was sound but the implementation was flawed because I felt it wasn’t worth the sacrifice of an attachment or a perk. Giving everyone an added ability via the Specialist class without occupying a crucial class slot was the right choice. They served like mini-scorestreak rewards which had the potential to turn around a player’s performance in a round.

For the first time in a long time since I felt the SMG class was a viable option for me in certain maps. I can’t recall a game after COD4 where I actually made an SMG class and used it regularly. I also noticed that silenced weapons were no longer a prevailing option for people. In the last few games, I felt like I was a huge disadvantage if I wasn’t using a silencer.

As for deaths by scorestreaks? I felt it was manageable. The root of much of Call of Duty’s scorestreak related issues stemmed from the ease in which players can obtain the UAV. I was pleased to see that UAV spam was surprisingly low. Even then the high end scorestreaks weren’t wreaking a ridiculous amount of havoc in the games that I participated in.

I liked the fact that maps actually had character and wasn’t just a maze of corridors. It reminded of COD4 and BLOPS2 where maps and battles flowed through a few select distinct alleys.

I know it’s a beta but I hope the final release addresses the texture draw in issues; especially around shrubbery. Finally, it may be too late to address this but I wish it was easier distinguish friend or foe outside of the obvious name tag. Everyone appeared too similarly.

The multiplayer beta showed great promise but there’s still a great deal that’s a mystery to the player base. Will there be a deadly/cheap combination lurking somewhere that will ruin the game for everyone else? We shall see.

Checkpoint: Fighting Game Basics Edition

Checkpoint: Fighting Game Basics Edition

posted in: Editorials & Features | 0

I don’t know how to play fighting games. I’ve been playing fighting games since Street Fighter II Turbo on the Super Nintendo but I don’t know how to play fighting games. I know how perform special movies and some basic combos but I don’t know the tactical and strategic side of the game. I know of “footsies”, “pokes” and “zoning” but I don’t know how to use those ideas effectively with even the most basic characters like Ryu.

So with Street Fighter V, I decided to put in the effort to learn how to play fighting games. I started with a trio of videos featuring fighting game gurus Gootecks, Mike Ross and special guest WWE Superstar Xavier Woods:

These three videos are great for breaking down the fundamentals and how to apply basic fighting game techniques. It also shows a relatively new fighting game player (Xavier Woods) apply those lessons in live Street Fighter V beta matches and the gurus breaking down the matches.

Hungry for more information, I found Gootecks’ video on Ryu fundamentals which re-iterated much of what was taught in the Xavier Woods videos but it was still useful to hear him elaborate and repeat the basics. I highly recommend watching them.

The videos shows me how to practice and so I have been putting in the work in the Street Fighter V beta while waiting for matches to appear. I’m faring better but the inconsistent quality in connections and matchmaking makes it difficult to improve. In one match, I’m playing a “Grandmaster” ranked player and the next I’m playing a similarly ranked player with poor connectivity. It’s a beta after all.

Besides Street Fighter V, I’ve been playing Rocket League and chipping away at The Witcher 3. On the side, it’s been quite a bit of Hitman: Sniper and Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy: Curtain Call.

I’m surprised by Hitman: Sniper but I shouldn’t be. It’s by the fine folks at Square Enix Montreal who made the delightful Hitman GO. As soon as I’m done with Sniper, I’m going to pick up Lara Croft GO which I hear is equally fantastic.

 

 

 

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