Tag Archives: shooter

Battlefield Hardline Is A Nice Chance Of Pace

I have never enjoyed Battlefield as much as other shooters like Call of Duty or Halo. Whereas the action in those titles is near constant, Battlefield as a franchise to me features way too much down time running from point to point, only to be sniped by a sniper’s bullet from afar before I start my trek across the map all over again.

Why the heck did I sign up for the Battlefield: Hardline closed beta then, you ask? The game’s E3 showing impressed me, so when they announced a beta going live right that minute, I signed up, got in, and started playing this new take on classic cops and robbers.

Hardline is definitely still a Battlefield title. There are big teams sizes, vehicles galore, weapons, gadgets, and accessories to unlock, and large maps with destructible environments. Any player who played Battlefield 3 or 4 will instantly be at home here. The game map featured in the beta, High Tension, is set in the middle of a downtown city center, complete with skyscrapers, cranes, and overpasses. While the map is big, it isn’t near the size of many Battlefield maps, lending the game a generally quicker pace than some earlier titles.

Rather than the tanks and machines of war seen in Battlefield 4, Hardline features more civilian grade vehicles, though occasionally supped up to meet the needs of the would be bandits. Armored sedans and muscle cars can be used by the gangsters, while police have access to armored SWAT vans, squad cars, and helicopters.

What really sets Hardline apart from the rest of the Battlefield franchise are the two game modes featured in the beta, Heist and Blood Money. In Heist, robbers attempt to break into a vault and make out with the cash, with the police of course doing everything in their power to stop them. Blood Money puts a stash of cash in the center of the map and tasks each team with collecting as much as possible and bringing it back to their teams respective vaults. Classic Battlefield capture point wasn’t anywhere to be seen, but I would be surprised if it didn’t make it’s way into the final Hardline product.

Of the two modes, I found I preferred Blood Money, despite Heist being the game type that is clearly trying to be Hardline’s main attraction. The pace of Blood Money is frantic. You can be killed while carrying your wad of cash, allowing the enemy to pick up your hard earned money off your corpse. Your team’s vault can also be raided by the enemy if not defended diligently, requiring some members of your team to play defense while others make cash runs.

New equipable gadgets like the zipline and grappling hook shine in these modes. Because of the verticality of the maps, the grappling hook makes reaching sniping positions much easier, while the zipline is invaluable as a tool to quickly escape to your teams vault with a money stuffed dufflebag. Other gadgets like trip mines and the taser are fun additions as well, but the utility of the zipline and grappling hook work well with the fast paced nature of the game types.

Cops and robbers seems like a strange idea to fit into the Battlefield mold, and it is. If you actually think about it, why are the police causing billions of dollars in collateral damage by blowing up buildings, cars, and overpasses just to catch some thieves who are making away with a few million bucks? While the concept isn’t perfect, the game manages to breathe creative life into a franchise that has more or less been the same since Battlefield 1942. Will the full game be worth playing? Who knows, but after spending some time with the beta I can safely say this is the first time I’ve been interested in a Battlefield game since Battlefield 1943.

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My Favorite Shooter Isn’t What You Might Expect

I’ve played more shooters over the years than probably any other genre. I distinctly remember Medal of Honor being my first. I remember Halo enthralling me, Half-Life scaring me, and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare addicting me with its progression system. Along the way I’ve played just about every shooter in between.

None of the games listed above rank as my favorite shooter though. No, my favorite shooter is a game I’ve continued to come back to for more than five years, playing an hour here, an hour there. Every match is still just as fun as the first. It doesn’t have a progression system or perks. It doesn’t have crazy power-ups. It doesn’t have regenerative health. It’s simple, easy to understand, a throwback to a different time.

That game is Day of Defeat: Source. If you aren’t familiar with it I’m not terribly surprised. Day of Defeat is the red-headed step child of Valve shooters. It has never been as popular as Counter-Strike, no matter what version you are referring too. It hasn’t undergone a dramatic transformation like Team Fortress 2, which went free-to-play and added a huge number of new weapons and cosmetic items. It’s not the intense cooperative survival experience of the Left 4 Dead series. It’s not an immersive single-player experience like Half-Life.

Compared to all the titles listed above, Day of Defeat: Source is incredibly basic. It’s a simple class-based multiplayer shooter, where players play as either the Allies or Axis in the European theater of WWII. There is no deathmatch to be found. The entire game is essentially capture point, in most cases resulting in a never-ending tug-o-war between two teams. That’s all there is to it really.

Every so often when I’m looking at the hundred plus games in my Steam Library or the stack of Xbox 360 titles next to my desk, wanting to play something but not knowing what, I boot up Day of Defeat. I find one of my favorite maps (Avalanche, Argentan, or Donner). I pick random to be a good sport, even though I prefer the German weaponry to the arsenal of the Allies. I play for an hour or two, most of the time one match on one map the entire time. The two teams more often than not become quickly entrenched. One team will grab the capture point in the middle of the map and set up defensive machine guns, the other team will throw their bodies at it in an attempt to capture it. Sometimes they eventually will, and they will hold the middle for a span before the cycle repeats itself. Very rarely does anybody actually win or go on to capture the two points deep behind enemy lines. It’s quite an accomplishment when it does manage to happen.

Part of what I find appealing about Day of Defeat is the WWII theme. The second World War has always fascinated me, in part because of it’s simplicity. I know the reality is far different, but WWII always seems so cut and dry, so simple. Good guys versus bad guys who want to take over the world. America good, Nazis bad. The world isn’t really like that now. It probably wasn’t like that back in 1942 either, but that’s always what we’ve been taught in school and how it’s portrayed in the media, back then things weren’t so complicated, and now after wars like Vietnam and Iraq they are.

Day of Defeat is a lot like WWII actually. In a time where insane levels of customization and RPG like elements are becoming commonplace in shooters, Day of Defeat: Source is a rapidly aging relic, a throwback to the old days when things were more simple. You won’t find microtransactions here, like in Team Fortress. No weapon skins. No hats. No unlockables. Just shoot the enemy. Do your duty for your team.

Playing Day of Defeat: Source is sort of what I imagine the Norse afterlife of Valhalla being like. Log on. Fight. Die. Fight. Die. Log off. It’s a never ending war, where everybody regardless of team respects one another and collectively reminisces about past battles from the good ol’ days. It’s a small community of game veterans who, for whatever reason, log on every night to play a nine-year-old game most people have never even heard of. More often than not I play with a friend or two, and instead of focusing on reaching level 50 or getting that new skin for a virtual AK-47, we just talk about life instead. It’s nice.

What’s most surprising is that I’m not even particularly good at the game. I do decent enough, but I’ve never been great at PC shooters. I mostly just throw my body at the capture points, try to kill anybody who gets in my way, die, and then try again. My KD ratio is not even approaching positive. I don’t mind. I still have fun.

Team Fortress 2 is a completely different game from when it first released. Counter Strike has been reimagined with Global Offensive. Left 4 Dead has gotten a sequel to further expand upon it’s core idea, with a third game likely on the way. But in Valve’s pantheon of shooters, Day of Defeat stands alone and most likely always will. I will be surprised if the game ever receives a sequel or any kind of substantial update. It’s not the kind of shooter people care about anymore, and that’s okay. As long as the servers are still up and running, I will keep logging on long after Half-Life 3 and Halo 5 are released. Sometimes there is just something refreshing about simplicity, something refreshing about not having any bells and whistles. There isn’t an end goal of prestige mode or end game content to reach. It’s just a game, meant to be played, enjoyed, and then turned off. Sometimes that’s all I want.

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Colonial Marines Review: An Express Elevator to Hell (and not in a good way)

Video games have been borrowing from the Aliens franchise for a long time.  Halo’s space marines are almost carbon copies of the foul-mouthed, rough and ready colonial marines from the film franchise. It’s not hard to see where the space-horror franchise Dead Space drew its inspiration from, and even Samus Aran herself was inspired by the iconic female heroine of the Aliensfranchise, Ripley. It only seems fitting then that the granddaddy of them all to get its own big budget video game. Well, Aliens: Colonial Marines is finally here, and it’s about as fun as being raped by a facehugger.

On its surface, Colonial Marines sounds promising. Picking up were Aliens left off, the game follows a group of marines sent to investigate a distress signal left by movie characters Ripley and Corporal Hicks after the events of the film. The reality is a storyline of absolute zero consequence. On top of that, rather than adding to the mythology of the franchise,  it instead stomps all over the continuity of the films and doesn’t even bother to explain why.

Upon arriving in orbit over LV-426, the marines discover the U.S.S. Sulaco, the ship Ripley and Hicks flew away on at the end of Aliens and the same ship seen in an entirely different star system in Alien 3. But it’s back at the colony, for reasons never fully explained. What follows is barebones plot that only serves to let players follow in the footsteps of the Aliens film. The only problem here is that Hadley’s Hope, the main setting of the film and the primary location featured in the game, was blown sky high by a colossal nuclear explosion that could be seen from space at the end ofAlien just a few months ago. This is apparently no big deal for the writers of the game. Your marines, seemingly immune to massive levels of radiation, simply stroll on into Hadley’s Hope, finding it to look almost identical post-nuclear explosion as it did in the film.

This is all bad, but it gets worse. A reveal towards the end of the game completely eviscerates the continuity of the film series – a literal WTF moment so mind boggling that even the game’s main characters can’t comprehend it.  As the baffled marines ask how this shocking plot twist came to be, they are literally told “We don’t have time to explain that right now.” And the game doesn’t ever make time. The question goes unanswered, even after the credits roll. It’s a slap in the face to fans of the films, and makes me question whether or not the games writers ever even watched the movies to begin with.

I don’t understand it either, Bishop.

Now, this could forgiven (maybe) if Colonial Marines made up for its atrocious story through stunning visuals and intense gunplay. Sadly, this isn’t the case. The game, with the exception of one mildly interesting and suspenseful stealth sequence where you are stripped of your weapons, consists of running from point A to point B, blasting everything in sight. Occasionally players will participate in what I’m assuming are supposed to be epic and intense last stand scenarios reminiscent of the film. Instead, players are treated to boring segments that involve finding a safe corner and lying on the trigger until the game tells you to move on. The previously mentioned stealth segment and two terrible boss fights are the only attempts at diversifying the gameplay.

A big problem with the core gameplay is how devoid of intelligence the game’s enemies are. As viewers and fans of the movies know well, the Alien from which the franchise gets its name is the ultimate predator. They are incredibly stealthy, have the ability to climb on walls, are covered in razor sharp spines and claws, and have that nasty second mouth thing. The Aliens featured in the game must be another breed entirely, because, aside from occasionally leaping onto a wall, these monsters from outer space are about as dumb as they come. Their only tactic is to run straight at you and hope for the best.

Colonial Marines also suffers from an extreme lack of enemy diversity. You will fight hundreds, upon hundreds of the same brain dead xenomorphs. Only twice in the game will you encounter the terrifying and grotesque facehuggers. Only twice towards the end of the game will you fight a slightly different brain dead xenomorph. Sprinkle on top one segment featuring bizarre blind, exploding aliensand another handful of segments featuring equally brain dead human enemies in the form of Weyland-Yutani mercenaries, and you have every encounter in the game. The guns are even boring and uninteresting. I used the starting weapon, the pulse rifle, almost exclusively the whole game, finding the other weapons ineffective. Even the flamethrower, used to devastating effect at the end of Aliens, is underwhelming.

Fun fact, the game doesn’t actually look this good.

Once again, some of this could be forgiven if Gearbox delivered a dark, spooky and atmospheric setting to cover up the poor AI. Instead, we have what could easily be mistaken for an original Xbox game. Poor character animations, from the marines to the xenomorphs, take players out of the experience. Textures pop in and out almost constantly. The games lighting does little to elevate the games already dirt poor graphics. The result is an Aliens game that bears almost no resemblance to what makes the film franchise so enduring.

There is some fun to be had in the game’s co-op mode, if only because misery loves company. For fans of the film exploring familiar locations in Hadley’s Hope while discovering audio logs and the “legendary” weapons of the film’s fallen marines is fun fan service, but ultimately to call Colonial Marines a missed opportunity is an understatement. Gearbox has not only managed to contribute nothing to the Aliens franchise, but may have actually detracted from it through their sloppy and irresponsible use of the film’s continuity. Simply adapting the film would have been a better call. After the final cut scene rolled and the achievement “Game over, man!” appeared on my screen, I was relieved for all the wrong reasons. I wasn’t relieved because I had completed an eight hour long campaign of terror, suspense and blood pumping action, but because I could finally wipe the game from my memory and ignore its status as “official canon.” Game over, indeed.

NOTE: This review is based solely on the campaign and co-op experience played on the Xbox 360. I did not play multiplayer.

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