Explore
 Lists  Reviews  Images  Update feed
Categories
MoviesTV ShowsMusicBooksGamesDVDs/Blu-RayPeopleArt & DesignPlacesWeb TV & PodcastsToys & CollectiblesComic Book SeriesBeautyAnimals   View more categories »
Listal logo
All reviews - Games (111)

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl review

Posted : 4 years, 6 months ago on 16 April 2013 06:04 (A review of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl)

It's got some quirks, but S.T.A.L.K.E.R. delivers a dynamic and impressive first-person gameplay experience you won't soon forget.

The Good

Atmospheric, immersive, open-ended first-person survival gameplay
Amazing virtual world is like being at Chernobyl
Excellent blend of action, horror, and exploration.

The Bad

Bugs both minor and major, especially when it comes to Windows Vista
Story is a bit incoherent.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl has always been an overly ambitious game, which is probably why it has arrived several years later than originally expected. The game's goal is to create a virtual world with an ecology all its own and then place you in the middle of it. That's something that's rarely been attempted, particularly in a first-person game. However, to the credit of THQ and Ukrainian developer GSC Game World, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is an impressive accomplishment. This first-person survival game is at times amazing and engrossing and on par with such classics as Deus Ex and System Shock.

This is another first-person game that features a silent and mysterious protagonist, much like Half-Life's Gordon Freeman. You play as the Marked One, a heavily armed scavenger suffering from amnesia and stuck inside the exclusion zone surrounding the nuclear power plant at Chernobyl, Ukraine. Yes, the same nuclear plant that exploded in 1986 and, in S.T.A.L.K.E.R.'s fiction, again in 1989, creating a radioactive hotspot brimming with mutants, heavily armed rival factions, and all sorts of weird, paranormal activity. Your task: Figure out who you are and what's going on at the core of the zone.

At its heart, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is a first-person survival game that blends action with role-playing. This isn't a linear game, like Half-Life or Call of Duty, where you basically are restricted to a straight path and are taken for a tightly controlled and scripted ride. S.T.A.L.K.E.R.'s huge environments and open-ended gameplay make it more like a role-playing game, as you can go where you want and do what you want if you're willing to live with the consequences. However, you don't have to worry about traditional role-playing attributes such as strength or intelligence, or accumulating skills and abilities. Instead, all you have to worry about is your skill with a rifle and scavenging enough weapons, ammunition, and med kits from fallen enemies to keep going.

Slowly but steadily, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. introduces you to the bizarre world of the zone, a place where the fabric of reality is being ripped apart. Strange energy anomalies are everywhere, and wander into one at your own hazard. These anomalies produce rare and valuable artifacts that can be collected and traded, or even equipped, as they can confer special abilities. Perhaps the most useful ones enhance your endurance, letting you run for far longer than normal, which is a particularly valuable ability to have when traversing the huge area of the zone. And, of course, danger lurks everywhere in the form of enemies that are both human and not-quite human, as well as from animals.

To battle them, you'll have a large arsenal of weapons to eventually choose from, mainly in the form of assault rifles, shotguns, and pistols. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. features one of the best ballistics models ever seen in a game, and as a result, firefights feel authentic as you try and hit someone with what can be a wildly inaccurate rifle. The name of the game is using cover effectively and firing short, accurate bursts, particularly at the targets' heads. After a battle, you can loot the dead for weapons and ammunition, and one of the nice touches in the game is that you can't run around with an arsenal of 9 or 10 different weapons. Instead, the inventory system restricts what you can carry mainly by weight, and most weapons use a different type of ammo, which means that you've got to be judicious in selecting what you take with you. There's simply no way you can haul around three or four different weapons, their ammunition, and everything else that you need to survive in the zone. This includes health packs, bandages, radiation medication (vodka will also do in a pinch), and even food. You've got to eat regularly in S.T.A.L.K.E.R., and if you go too long without food, hunger warning signs appear.

The game's artificial intelligence is impressive, both in and out of combat. In combat, enemies are cunning when given enough room to move around. Human enemies hunt you intelligently, using cover and the terrain to their advantage. Meanwhile, creatures such as packs of mutant dogs behave like you'd expect wild animals to. They attack when they feel they have the advantage but flee if given a painful lesson. It's this kind of behavior that makes the zone feel alive, with these different factions and animals all trying to go about their daily tasks. The AI does take a hit when placed in tight interiors, though, as the lack of maneuvering options makes it turn a bit predictable, but you'll likely appreciate this fact early in the game, as hiding inside a building and picking off the grunts as they come through the doorway is the only way that you'll survive some of the early battles.

There are all sorts of human characters in the game, from lone stalkers out on their own to various factions that you can ally with or battle. Then there are the mutants, from the strange animals that inhabit the zone to the more deadly kind of mutated humanoid, such as the little guy who can mess with your mind to the creepy crawling dudes who lunge at you from out of nowhere. Toss in S.T.A.L.K.E.R.'s version of zombies and poltergeists, and you've got a more-than-interesting array of potential friends and foes. There are some large-scale battles that will find you fighting alongside teammates, and afterward you'll watch as AI friendlies saunter up to the wounded writhing on the ground, say something nasty in Russian or Ukrainian, and then shoot them in the head.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.'s main storyline will take maybe 10 hours to get through if you just pursue it, but there are also plenty of side quests that can consume hours, as well as sheer hours spent on exploration. The side quests are very optional, though, as they usually end with a cash reward, and cash is the one thing that you'll not face a shortage of. There's just nothing worth buying from the vendors in the zone that you already can't get for free with a little exploration.

Much of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.'s story is a bit hard to figure out, thanks to the fact that it's delivered mainly through short journal entries, cryptic cinematic cutscenes, and hard-to-understand Ukrainian and Russian accents. There are also multiple endings, with some that end in failure depending on the choices that you make in the game, so there's plenty of replayability here. However, the quest system itself is a bit broken, as some side quests can't be resolved or they reset after you've accomplished them. We also encountered issues while running the game under Windows Vista, from quick loads not working to the game becoming unstable and crashing. THQ and GSC Game World are working to deliver a patch for some of these issues, but it's a pity that the game shipped with them. Considering that S.T.A.L.K.E.R. was already years overdue, another month or two in testing seems rather paltry, especially to provide support for Windows Vista.

As innovative and revolutionary as S.T.A.L.K.E.R.'s single-player game is, its multiplayer component is surprisingly old fashioned and standard. Multiplayer features the traditional modes, such as deathmatch, team deathmatch, and artifact hunt (basically capture the flag), and the goal is to run around and get as many kills as possible. The action is fast, brutal, and short, and while the multiplayer features the same impressive ballistics modeling of the single-player game, it still feels way too easy to get picked off over and over again by a distant sniper. Multiplayer does have an economy of sorts, as you gain cash for your kills, which you can use when you respawn to purchase different weapons, ammunition, and equipment, but for the most part, there's nothing particularly new here.

Though already dated by a few years, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. still looks good, and its visuals are on par with Half-Life 2. What the game lacks in modern-day graphical pizzazz, it makes up for with intricate detail and immersive atmosphere. There's something to be said for the game's environments, which are infused with a ton of character and detail. It feels like the postapocalyptic landscape it's supposed to be. The countryside of the zone feels rugged and wild, with abandoned towns and compounds littering the landscape. Each locale has its own particular feel to it, so you never feel like the world was made with cookie-cutter building templates. The sense of exploration is marvelous, and it's the little details that make the difference. While you won't need a high-end system to play the game, the sheer size and scope of the world are such that it really helps the frame rate if you do.

The lighting and particle effects are particularly well done. For instance, battles can occur in raging storms, with flashes of lightning briefly illuminating the battlefield. The game's flashlight system also deserves a heaping of praise. The flashlight in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. cuts through the darkness with a realism that's beautiful to behold. It's your most important friend in the dark, but at the same time, it also betrays you, since enemies can see the light from your beam long before you can actually see them. And the flashlight doesn't suffer from the 30-second-battery-life contrivance found in most shooters. How refreshing.

The audio in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. also does an excellent job of immersing you in this world. When you're outside in the zone, the rustling of the wind in the grass, the cry of animals in the distance, and the ominous tick of your Geiger counter are ever present. When you're inside, there's nothing like the howl of a nearby mutant to raise your hackles. Weapon and mechanical sounds are also spot-on, and the crack of assault rifles in the distance lets you know that trouble's ahead. The voice acting is a bit hard to understand, but since the game is set in the Ukraine, that's to be expected. Even the game's broken English (both spoken and written) is a bit charming in this regard.

In spite of its small quirks and bugs, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is definitely a game that deserves to be played. For first-person shooter fans looking for the next big thing in the genre, it's difficult not to be impressed by the game's unique and evolving world. Meanwhile, fans of role-playing games will appreciate the open-ended nature of the gameplay and being able to explore different paths through the zone. This is a bleak game, but in a good way, as it captures its postapocalyptic setting perfectly. It's also an excellent combination of combat, horror, and exploration.


0 comments, Reply to this entry

Battlefield 3 review

Posted : 4 years, 6 months ago on 16 April 2013 06:00 (A review of Battlefield 3)

In the realm of online combat, Battlefield 3 provides thrills that few games can match.

The Good

Deep and varied multiplayer competition
Awesome array of vehicles
Many gorgeous environments
Rewards teamwork handsomely.

The Bad

Campaign is disappointing and dull
Only six cooperative missions
No way to practice jet flight outside of multiplayer.

When it comes to virtual battlefields, nobody does it quite like the Battlefield series. It has a long history of creating sprawling conflict zones where players have an exhilarating range of ways to make powerful contributions to the war effort. The competitive multiplayer mode in Battlefield 3 stays true to tradition, delivering an online combat experience that is amazingly addictive, immersive, and exciting, with refinements and new elements that make the familiar action feel fresh. Unfortunately, the stale single-player campaign fails to capitalize on the strengths of the series and feels like an off-brand imitation. The six cooperative missions fare better and offer a tougher challenge, but only the competitive multiplayer provides a compelling reason to buy Battlefield 3. With online battles this excellent, though, that reason is all you need.

There are many factors that combine to make these battlefields as good as they are, most of which will be familiar to series veterans. Nine great maps set the stage for up to 64 players to fight it out in a variety of urban, industrial, and military locations. These places all look beautiful, though the grassy hills and blue skies of the Caspian Border are naturally more appealing than the drab urban corridors of the Grand Bazaar. The maps vary widely in size and offer diverse environmental elements, including claustrophobic tunnels, coastal roads, desert plains, and a variety of multistory buildings. Many man-made structures can be damaged or destroyed by the explosive tools at your disposal, creating new infiltration routes or removing cover positions. The maps are designed to create opportunities for combat at all ranges, and the element of destruction lets you manipulate the environment to create even more.

Combat is not just about where you are, but also about how you get there, and the variety of vehicles is one of the things that makes Battlefield so uniquely engaging. Small maps might only have a Humvee or a light armored vehicle, while larger ones boast buggies, tanks, amphibious transports, helicopters, and jets. There are a few variations within each class of vehicle that make them better suited for troop transport, anti-infantry, antiair, or anti-vehicle combat, and learning how to get the most out of each one is a blast, even if you're sometimes the one getting blown up. Whether you're piloting, gunning, or just going along for the ride, vehicles offer a key tactical element that can change the tide of battle when used by a savvy squad. Using a vehicle well can earn you powerful upgrades and bonus weapons, but it can be tough to get the hang of the flight mechanics for helicopters and jets. It's a shame there's no way to practice flying them outside of active multiplayer matches (with one exception), though you can take comfort in knowing that you are at least entertaining your fellow players when your jet nose-dives into a mountain.

The maps and vehicles allow for a great degree of strategic freedom, but choosing your class and loadout is the first and most important decision you make before spawning into combat. Abilities and weapons have shuffled around a bit since Battlefield: Bad Company 2, so now the assault class slings health packs and totes defibrillators, while the support class carries light machine guns and ammunition boxes. Engineers still thrive on vehicle support/destruction, and recon delivers long-range death. New gadgets like robots that can arm charges (engineer) and mark targets (recon) give players more to look out for on the battlefield, and claymores and mortars (support) ensure that the engineer class isn't the only one packing an explosive punch. Unlockables include class-specific weapons and gadgets, gun-specific sights and attachments, and specializations that can make you tougher and deadlier. Focusing on one class to unlock higher level gear has its advantages, but so does spreading around your progress in an effort to be more adaptable to the ebb and flow of combat.

Regardless of what loadout you choose, there are a lot of ways to earn points for your actions. In addition to kills and kill assists, you can now earn points for suppressing enemies who are subsequently killed by your teammates. When a player is suppressed by enemy fire, they suffer from blurred vision and decreased accuracy. This disorienting tactic can help you mitigate the effectiveness of enemies who are peppering you from a prone position, which returns in Battlefield 3 after being left out of the Bad Company games. Battlefield 3 may be a successor in name to Battlefield 2, but in spirit, the competitive multiplayer is a refined version of that offered in Bad Company 2. Nevertheless, it will be immediately familiar to veteran players of either game, though fans of Bad Company 2 will encounter a few other small but notable differences. Buildings are not easily destroyed in Battlefield 3 and underslung grenade launchers are, as of now, far less prevalent. Furthermore, you can't just run up to someone and stab him in the face for an instant kill; you need to get in two swipes or sneak up from behind. Nor can you simply rely on explosives to destroy M-COM stations in Rush mode because arming and detonating the charge is now the only way to progress.

As with the previous Battlefield games, the focus is on teamwork. Diverse loadouts encourage you and your squad to make complementary choices, and point bonuses reward you for working together. Every vehicle is better with teammates in it, and even the simple act of spotting enemies is an effective way to contribute to your team's efforts. Teamwork is woven throughout the fabric of Battlefield 3's multiplayer action, and when your team is working well together, it's one of the most gratifying experiences you can have in a game.

Battlefield 3 also has six cooperative missions that require teamwork on a smaller scale. These stand-alone sorties have a narrative connection to the campaign, but they are tougher to complete than most campaign missions and you can unlock some nice weapons for use in the multiplayer. Setting up voice chat with your teammate is helpful here, especially in the stealthy sections, because the spotting mechanic doesn't sufficiently differentiate enemies at long distances. Your foes are fairly tough, even on normal difficulty, though some unexpected quick-time events can also catch you off guard. The most notable mission here puts you in the cockpit of a helicopter, which provides the only chance outside of multiplayer to practice your flying skills. Earning all of the weapon unlocks requires repeat playthroughs of these missions, so it's a shame there aren't more of them to keep you busy.

Finally, there's the campaign. Battlefield 3's single-player adventure tells a harrowing tale of a fictional modern conflict. It follows a familiar formula by delivering a short campaign with diverse combat scenarios and dramatic set pieces. The story is solid and has some good acting, but the "Now tell us about this mission" interrogation mechanic makes the structure feel stale (having made a notable appearance in last year's Call of Duty: Black Ops). The focus on realism makes the unrealistic elements like the heavy-handed linearity, quick-time events, and reckless foes even more noticeable, but most disappointing of all is the campaign's utter failure to capitalize on any of the series' strengths. The lively personality of the Bad Company games is nowhere to be found, nor is the operational freedom on which the series has thrived. When you climb into the cockpit of a fighter jet, you are merely the gunner in an on-rails sequence rather than the hotshot pilot. There are some gorgeous environments and a few exciting sequences, but these are outweighed by the overly familiar cityscapes and set pieces that were clearly inspired by other shooter campaigns from the past few years. This contributes to the pervasive sense that this campaign is not only outdated, but also outclassed.

Fortunately, Battlefield 3's competitive multiplayer is among the best in its class, providing immensely rich and immersive combat zones. These are complemented by the slick browser-based Battlelog, which serves as the hub from which you access each game mode. With EA's Origin software running unobtrusively in the background, Battlelog tracks your unlock progress, displays your stats, and enables you to join parties and launch games easily. Battlefield 3 may not offer much beyond the multiplayer, but there are so many ways to contribute and feel like a powerful soldier that after hours and hours of playing, all you'll want to do is play more.


0 comments, Reply to this entry

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 review

Posted : 4 years, 6 months ago on 16 April 2013 05:58 (A review of Battlefield: Bad Company 2)

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 boasts a fast-paced and thrilling campaign, as well as some of the most immersive and exciting multiplayer action around.

The Good

Destructibility is strategically powerful and immensely fun
Electrifying and addictive online multiplayer
Great campaign with witty characters
Beautiful, well-designed environments
Superb sound design.

The Bad

Occasional technical hiccups
Minor connectivity issues.

There is no shortage of online destinations for those who enjoy first-person gun-wielding combat, but no matter how many opportunities you get to shoot another player in the face, there is always room for one more. Especially when that one more is as exciting and intense as Battlefield: Bad Company 2. The online multiplayer in this modern military shooter is a standout, featuring huge maps, incredible destructibility, powerful vehicles, and excellent sound design. These elements combine to foster the sense that you are fighting on an actual battlefield, making many other online shooters seem more like combat arenas than believable war zones. Multiplayer battles are invigorating and addictive, but they aren't all that Bad Company 2 has to offer. The sizable campaign takes you to beautiful and exotic locations where you'll be sorely tempted to take a break from shooting bad guys and blowing things up to admire the scenery. Your hilarious and endearing squadmates are great companions, giving the campaign a rich sense of character not often found in the genre. The result is a very entertaining adventure that, coupled with the excellent multiplayer and top-notch technical presentation, makes Battlefield: Bad Company 2 something special in the world of shooters.

The beginning of Bad Company's second tour finds Sarge, Marlowe, Sweetwater, and Haggard stationed in a wintery valley, supposedly serving out Sarge's last tour of duty. Lofty mountains loom high against the bright blue sky as you sneak your way between snow-laden trees and out across a frozen river. As you infiltrate a small village, the snow muffles the sound of your footfalls, and when a firefight breaks out, your ears ring from the concussion of nearby explosives. One daring escape later, you're dropped into the Bolivian jungle, where mosquitoes whine in your ear as you walk in the dappled light of the jungle floor. Gunfire doesn't echo very far in the forest, but beneath the corrugated tin roof of a logging outpost, each bullet is a cacophony unto itself. This vivid, engaging world is a testament to Bad Company 2's remarkable technical presentation. The stunning landscapes are matched by the diverse, intriguing terrain in both rural and urban environments. The excellent sound design further enriches your sense of place, and each gunshot, footstep, and exclamation fuels your battlefield awareness and informs your tactical decisions. Though there are some blurry textures, occasional screen tearing, and awkward moments caused by the pervasive environmental destructibility, these are mere blemishes on the ambitious look and immersive sound of Bad Company 2.

Of course, just because the scenery is great doesn't stop you from wanting to blow it up. Trees, barricades, vehicles, buildings, and bridges all splinter and break apart when exposed to gunfire or explosives. Not only is it immensely fun to destroy things, but it's crucial to your survival and success. Say there's a sniper perched in a tower covering your approach. You can try to pick him off without exposing yourself, or you can bust out your underbarrel grenade launcher and blow the platform to smithereens. The explosion showers debris in a realistic and satisfying way, and the sniper is taken care of. Destruction is a double-edged sword, however, as you'll learn the first time that the window you are shooting out of explodes and becomes a gaping hole through which your enemies are more than happy to shoot you. Most buildings can be completely leveled this time around, provided you have enough firepower, though metal structures like shipping containers are nigh impervious. Occasionally the rampant destructibility will get a bit too ambitious, leaving objects stuck in strange positions. Yet the scale of destruction you can wreak is impressive, and the best part about it is how your destructive power becomes a seamless part of your battlefield strategy. It makes you feel powerful in a logical, invigorating way and makes Bad Company 2 unique among its peers.

Humor is another way that Bad Company 2 distinguishes itself. Your squadmates each have great personalities, and their banter is witty and entertaining. You may have to wait for a quiet moment to hear some of their best conversations, but it is well worth it. Haggard's love for the Dallas Cowboys and command of the Spanish language are two amusing subjects, while a conversation about respecting the dead adds enough emotional depth to elevate these characters above one-dimensional stereotypes. They are competent and helpful on the battlefield, and though the squad-based action seems a natural fit for cooperative play, you won't lament playing solo because the men of Bad Company are such delightful companions.

The campaign is a focused, largely linear adventure that takes you to a variety of gorgeous locations. The aforementioned arctic and jungle landscapes are standouts, but other places live up to the high standard. Driving a tank through a countryside in the full bloom of autumn provides eye candy and cannon fodder aplenty, while speeding around a dry seabed in an ATV brings strange sights, not to mention a particularly fierce firefight in the courtyard of an old fortress. You have to be sharp to defeat the smart, aggressive enemies who use destructibility to their advantage and avoid your line of fire. The action is challenging but not overly so, ensuring you have plenty of time to revel in the havoc you are causing. Despite one oddly forced situation, the campaign moves through exotic locales at a great clip, providing ample opportunity to flex your firearms and enjoy some intense vehicle sequences. This is a very entertaining, very exciting adventure.

But the most exciting thing Battlefield: Bad Company 2 has to offer is online multiplayer competition. Up to 32 players compete in squads in a few different match types. In Rush, the attacking team assaults an enemy position in an effort to destroy two targets of opportunity. If the attackers succeed, two more targets open up, as well as an entire new section of battlefield. These progressive contests are fierce and engaging, and each new area offers new challenges to which both teams must adapt. (There is also shorter, equally intense version of this mode called Squad Rush.) In Conquest, two teams strive to hold three control points while fending each other off. The natural ebb and flow of combat is unpredictable here, as points can be captured by a lone soldier or by a heavy armored assault. These battlefields are more fluid, and because the action doesn't move on like it does in Rush, they tend to be more thoroughly ravaged by destruction by the end of the match. The last mode, Squad Deathmatch, pits four squads of four against each other in a more traditional, yet still very fun competition. Jumping into a random game doesn't always work properly, and you won't always find a good match, or any match at all for that matter. Fortunately, you can easily call up a list of active servers and consistently hop into whatever game type you like. Each mode offers a different take on the core combat, providing a great variety of ways to do battle.

Bad Company 2's technical excellence is on full display here as well, and the spacious, well-designed maps make superb stages for combat. There are dense snowy forests, debris-laden deserts, coastal industrial complexes, swampy jungle villages, and riverside settlements that play host to the intense action. These maps are impressively varied, offering diverse terrain and more buildings than you would ever need to go in. Each weathers the destructive forces of battle differently each time, making the combat incredibly dynamic and demanding constant adaptability. These maps are excellent, as is the spot-on sound design, which is perhaps even more crucial in multiplayer than in the campaign. A distant crack indicates that an enemy sniper has a bead on you, footsteps inside a building can clue you in on where to aim your grenade, and friendly soldiers shout calls for ammunition or warnings that a building is about to collapse. In addition to the rich audio clues, you can use the unique spotting mechanic to increase your team's battlefield awareness. By getting an enemy in your sights and tapping a key, you put a temporary marker over his head that your whole team can see. It's a simple yet potent move that is immensely helpful to your team, and if it leads to his death, you'll get a nice little point bonus for your troubles.

Earning points enables you to unlock new weapons, gadgets, and attribute-boosting specializations. Some of these are class-specific, while others can be applied to any soldier and create some flexibility between classes. The four classes in Bad Company 2 fall into familiar archetypes: soldiers who wield assault rifles, grenade launchers, and ammo kits; engineers who stealthily kill enemies while sabotaging or repairing vehicles; medics who lay down machine-gun fire and revive downed allies; and snipers who sneak around making long-range kills and setting up close-range demolitions. You get points for killing enemies, supporting teammates, and earning medals for your battlefield prowess. Unlocking new gear not only makes you more powerful, but it gives you more ways to be effective in combat. Enemies won't expect the ghillie-suited sniper to be packing a shotgun, for example, and increasing the radius and healing speed of your health kits can extend your teammates' life spans significantly.

There are plenty of tactical decisions to be made beyond the loadout screen, including where you spawn, which buildings you destroy, and which vehicles you pilot. ATVs, gunboats, Humvees, tanks, and helicopters all spawn on the battlefield full of deadly potential. Exactly who dies depends on your driving skills and the enemy's demolition prowess, but there's no question that vehicles can change the flow of battle very quickly. A quick flanking run with a Jet Ski can catch the enemy off guard, while an unmanned UAV can end a helicopter's reign of terror before it has a chance to begin. With all the different classes, vehicles, and stationary weapons (like heavy machine guns and mounted rocket launchers) at play, there is a dazzling array of ways to wage war. These tools, coupled with the threat and promise of destructibility, make Bad Company 2's battlefields uniquely chaotic and electrifyingly fun. The action is top-notch in both campaign and multiplayer alike. Whether or not you're looking for a new shooter in your life, you owe it to yourself to play Battlefield: Bad Company 2.


0 comments, Reply to this entry

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 review

Posted : 4 years, 6 months ago on 16 April 2013 05:57 (A review of Battlefield: Bad Company 2)

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 boasts a fast-paced and thrilling campaign, as well as some of the most immersive and exciting multiplayer action ever seen on consoles.

The Good

Destructibility is strategically powerful and immensely fun
Electrifying and addictive online multiplayer
Great campaign with witty characters
Beautiful, well-designed environments
Superb sound design.

The Bad

Occasional technical hiccups.

There is no shortage of online destinations for those who enjoy first-person gun-wielding combat, but no matter how many opportunities you get to shoot another player in the face, there is always room for one more. Especially when that one more is as exciting and intense as Battlefield: Bad Company 2. The online multiplayer in this modern military shooter is a standout, featuring huge maps, incredible destructibility, powerful vehicles, and excellent sound design. These elements combine to foster the sense that you are fighting on an actual battlefield, making many other online shooters seem more like combat arenas than believable war zones. Multiplayer battles are invigorating and addictive, but they aren't all that Bad Company 2 has to offer. The sizable campaign takes you to beautiful and exotic locations where you'll be sorely tempted to take a break from shooting bad guys and blowing things up to admire the scenery. Fans of cooperative campaign play may miss the opportunity to play with a friend, but your hilarious and endearing squadmates more than make up for it, giving the campaign a rich sense of character not often found in the genre. The result is a very entertaining adventure that, coupled with the excellent multiplayer and top-notch technical presentation, makes Battlefield: Bad Company 2 something special in the world of shooters.

The beginning of Bad Company's second tour finds Sarge, Marlowe, Sweetwater, and Haggard stationed in a wintery valley, supposedly serving out Sarge's last tour of duty. Lofty mountains loom high against the bright blue sky as you sneak your way between snow-laden trees and out across a frozen river. As you infiltrate a small village, the snow muffles the sound of your footfalls, and when a firefight breaks out, your ears ring from the concussion of nearby explosives. One daring escape later, you're dropped into the Bolivian jungle, where mosquitoes whine in your ear as you walk in the dappled light of the jungle floor. Gunfire doesn't echo very far in the forest, but beneath the corrugated tin roof of a logging outpost, each bullet is a cacophony unto itself. This vivid, engaging world is a testament to Bad Company 2's remarkable technical presentation. The stunning landscapes are matched by the diverse, intriguing terrain in both rural and urban environments. The excellent sound design further enriches your sense of place, and each gunshot, footstep, and exclamation fuels your battlefield awareness and informs your tactical decisions. Though there are some blurry textures, occasional screen tearing, and awkward moments caused by the pervasive environmental destructibility, these are mere blemishes on the ambitious look and immersive sound of Bad Company 2.

Of course, just because the scenery is great doesn't stop you from wanting to blow it up. Trees, barricades, vehicles, buildings, and bridges all splinter and break apart when exposed to gunfire or explosives. Not only is it immensely fun to destroy things, but it's crucial to your survival and success. Say there's a sniper perched in a tower covering your approach. You can try to pick him off without exposing yourself, or you can bust out your underbarrel grenade launcher and blow the platform to smithereens. The explosion showers debris in a realistic and satisfying way, and the sniper is taken care of. Destruction is a double-edged sword, however, as you'll learn the first time that the window you are shooting out of explodes and becomes a gaping hole through which your enemies are more than happy to shoot you. Most buildings can be completely leveled this time around, provided you have enough firepower, though metal structures like shipping containers are nigh impervious. Occasionally the rampant destructibility will get a bit too ambitious, leaving objects stuck in strange positions. Yet the scale of destruction you can wreak is impressive, and the best part about it is how your destructive power becomes a seamless part of your battlefield strategy. It makes you feel powerful in a logical, invigorating way and makes Bad Company 2 unique among its peers.

Humor is another way that Bad Company 2 distinguishes itself. Your squadmates each have great personalities, and their banter is witty and entertaining. You may have to wait for a quiet moment to hear some of their best conversations, but it is well worth it. Haggard's love for the Dallas Cowboys and command of the Spanish language are two amusing subjects, while a conversation about respecting the dead adds enough emotional depth to elevate these characters above one-dimensional stereotypes. They are competent and helpful on the battlefield, and though you may occasionally wish you had a friend along for the ride, the men of Bad Company make great companions.

The campaign is a focused, largely linear adventure that takes you to a variety of gorgeous locations. The aforementioned arctic and jungle landscapes are standouts, but other places live up to the high standard. Driving a tank through a countryside in the full bloom of autumn provides eye candy and cannon fodder aplenty, while speeding around a dry seabed in an ATV brings strange sights, not to mention a particularly fierce firefight in the courtyard of an old fortress. You have to be sharp to defeat the smart, aggressive enemies who use destructibility to their advantage and avoid your line of fire. The action is challenging but not overly so, ensuring you have plenty of time to revel in the havoc you are causing. Despite one oddly forced situation, the campaign moves through exotic locales at a great clip, providing ample opportunity to flex your firearms and enjoy some intense vehicle sequences. This is a very entertaining, very exciting adventure.

But the most exciting thing Battlefield: Bad Company 2 has to offer is online multiplayer competition. Up to 24 players compete in squads in a few different match types. In Rush, the attacking team assaults an enemy position in an effort to destroy two targets of opportunity. If the attackers succeed, two more targets open up, as well as an entire new section of battlefield. These progressive contests are fierce and engaging, and each new area offers new challenges to which both teams must adapt. (There is also shorter, equally intense version of this mode called Squad Rush, reserved as a preorder bonus in North America for the first month of the game's release.) In Conquest, two teams strive to hold three control points while fending each other off. The natural ebb and flow of combat is unpredictable here, as points can be captured by a lone soldier or by a heavy armored assault. These battlefields are more fluid, and because the action doesn't move on like it does in Rush, they tend to be more thoroughly ravaged by destruction by the end of the match. The last mode, Squad Deathmatch, pits four squads of four against each other in a more traditional, yet still very fun competition. Each mode offers a different take on the core combat, providing a great variety of ways to do battle.

Bad Company 2's technical excellence is on full display here as well, and the spacious, well-designed maps make superb stages for combat. There are dense snowy forests, debris-laden deserts, coastal industrial complexes, swampy jungle villages, and riverside settlements that play host to the intense action. These maps are impressively varied, offering diverse terrain and more buildings than you would ever need to go in. Each weathers the destructive forces of battle differently each time, making the combat incredibly dynamic and demanding constant adaptability. These maps are excellent, as is the spot-on sound design, which is perhaps even more crucial in multiplayer than in the campaign. A distant crack indicates that an enemy sniper has a bead on you, footsteps inside a building can clue you in on where to aim your grenade, and friendly soldiers shout calls for ammunition or warnings that a building is about to collapse. In addition to the rich audio clues, you can use the unique spotting mechanic to increase your team's battlefield awareness. By getting an enemy in your sights and tapping a button, you put a temporary marker over his head that your whole team can see. It's a simple yet potent move that is immensely helpful to your team, and if it leads to his death, you'll get a nice little point bonus for your troubles.

Earning points enables you to unlock new weapons, gadgets, and attribute-boosting specializations. Some of these are class-specific, while others can be applied to any soldier and create some flexibility between classes. The four classes in Bad Company 2 fall into familiar archetypes: soldiers who wield assault rifles, grenade launchers, and ammo kits; engineers who stealthily kill enemies while sabotaging or repairing vehicles; medics who lay down machine-gun fire and revive downed allies; and snipers who sneak around making long-range kills and setting up close-range demolitions. You get points for killing enemies, supporting teammates, and earning medals for your battlefield prowess. Unlocking new gear not only makes you more powerful, but it gives you more ways to be effective in combat. Enemies won't expect the ghillie-suited sniper to be packing a shotgun, for example, and increasing the radius and healing speed of your health kits can extend your teammates' life spans significantly.

There are plenty of tactical decisions to be made beyond the loadout screen, including where you spawn, which buildings you destroy, and which vehicles you pilot. ATVs, gunboats, Humvees, tanks, and helicopters all spawn on the battlefield full of deadly potential. Exactly who dies depends on your driving skills and the enemy's demolition prowess, but there's no question that vehicles can change the flow of battle very quickly. A quick flanking run with a Jet Ski can catch the enemy off guard, while an unmanned UAV can end a helicopter's reign of terror before it has a chance to begin. With all the different classes, vehicles, and stationary weapons (like heavy machine guns and mounted rocket launchers) at play, there is a dazzling array of ways to wage war. These tools, coupled with the threat and promise of destructibility, make Bad Company 2's battlefields uniquely chaotic and electrifyingly fun. The action is top-notch in both campaign and multiplayer alike. Whether or not you're looking for a new shooter in your life, you owe it to yourself to play Battlefield: Bad Company 2.


0 comments, Reply to this entry

Battlefield 2142 review

Posted : 4 years, 6 months ago on 16 April 2013 05:55 (A review of Battlefield 2142)

Battlefield 2142's new Titan mode is an exciting addition to the Battlefield series, though for the most part 2142 offers up minor improvements over its predecessor.

The Good

The new Titan mode is a wild and intense departure from Battlefield's traditional conquest mode
a vast unlock system rewards long-term play, and your character becomes more powerful over time
the trademark Battlefield formula of infantry and vehicle combat remains strong, even as it's getting a bit too familiar
an interesting new setting for what's traditionally been a historically themed series.

The Bad

Only two new factions, and no more North Africans
the graphics engine is showing its age, and the load times remain as long as ever.

Baseball legend Yogi Berra once quipped that "the future ain't what it used to be," which seems appropriate when describing Battlefield 2142, the fourth PC game in the best-selling action franchise. This new game attempts to follow up last year's superb Battlefield 2--and that's both a blessing and a curse, as 2142 will invite inevitable comparisons to Battlefield 2, even while it's busy trying to break new ground. Nevertheless, while a lot of the changes seem minor, there is enough new content in here to merit your attention.

The plot of 2142 could best be described as Battlefield 2 meets The Day After Tomorrow, the 2004 movie where the world is suddenly encased in a present-day ice age. When billions of people are forced to flee the frigid Northern Hemisphere for the more hospitable Southern one, tensions escalate and shooting wars erupt for the last remaining bits of habitable land. In the game, this translates to the European Union battling the Russia-centered Pan Asian Coalition as they fight to flee Europe ahead of the ice and establish themselves in North Africa. The battlefields will shift from a wintry and war-torn European landscape to the arid sands of North Africa. This also means there are only two factions in the game, though why are the current inhabitants of North Africa sitting idly by while they're being invaded? In any event, these new factions are interesting, even if they are a bit hard to distinguish from one another. The soldiers of the future are clad in the same type of high-tech body armor, though the Russian armor is a bit blacker than the European version.

If you've played Battlefield 2, then you'll feel quickly at home in Battlefield 2142. The future is a very familiar place, because the designers didn't go too exotic with the weapons and vehicles. There are no laser or beam weapons here; instead, you'll get futuristic versions of today's weapons. There's an assault rifle, a sniper rifle, a missile launcher, and a light machine gun to equip the game's four classes. That's right: There are only four classes in the game, down from the seven seen in Battlefield 2, though these new classes are a lot more flexible and customizable. The price is that you're going to have to play 2142 a lot to access most of these customization options, as this system is designed to encourage long-term play.

The designers took the idea of weapon unlocks in Battlefield 2 and put it on steroids, so you can unlock up to 40 different weapons or pieces of equipment. Not only that, but each class has two different unlock tracks, which specialize in a different direction. For instance, the recon class can become a more powerful sniper or a more effective Special Forces operator, who can sneak around and blow up enemy ground stations, thus hampering the ability of the enemy commander to call in various forms of support. However, this also means that you might be in for some frustration in the beginning, as your character won't even have grenades until you unlock them, and you'll be at a disadvantage against those players who have access to the more powerful weapons and abilities. And while the promotions and unlocks come fairly quickly early on, the pace will slow down as each new unlock requires you to accumulate more and more points. So you'll need to play quite a bit to unlock a lot of what makes Battlefield 2142 so different from its predecessors. Or, you'll find yourself playing one class a lot more than the others, since that's where most of your early unlocks will go. This entire process is a bit confusing, as it's not enough to simply unlock new items, but then you must outfit your character when you join a battle for the first time.

Of course, Battlefield games aren't just about infantry combat, as the series' engaging mix of infantry and vehicle combat is what makes it so addictive. If you're a Battlefield veteran, you'll find that the vehicles of the future are a familiar lot, save for the cool mechlike walkers, which are essentially walking tanks. Still, you have slightly tricked-out versions of today's buggies, armored personnel carriers, and tanks. Again, there are some new features to make these vehicles feel a bit different. The buggies can kick in a short turbo boost to speed out of the danger zone, while the APCs can launch infantry into the sky on assault pods. The PAC tanks float thanks to hover technology, while the EU tanks rely on conventional treads. If used properly, these new vehicles can be devastating, though they can be countered if infantry teams work together. Of course, getting people to work together has always been a major issue in Battlefield, so we can probably expect the same endless debates about balancing as before. And the big question is the airpower, which was overly dominant in Battlefield 2. Our experience with 2142 is that these aircraft aren't as devastating as those in Battlefield 2, since they're slower and less capable, plus there are more ways to take them out. Then again, we'll probably be proven wrong once ace pilots emerge and figure out how to make these aircraft do stunts that even the designers didn't envision.

As you can probably tell by now, many of the gameplay concepts that were introduced in Battlefield 2 return in a slightly more evolved form. The squad nature of the gameplay is back, but now there are incentives in the form of "field upgrades" that reward players for squadding up and playing together. You get more points quicker if you follow orders, too. The commander role returns, and one player on each team can call in satellite scans and aerial drones to detect the enemy, as well as orbital strikes, which are a powerful form of artillery that take a long time to recharge. There's also an electromagnetic pulse strike that temporarily disables any vehicles in the blast radius, as well as scrambles the helmet-mounted displays of infantry. Still, there's a lot here that seems familiar, including the visuals, thanks to 2142 using a slightly enhanced version of the Battlefield 2 graphics engine. The engine is getting a bit dated at this point, and there's still no widescreen support, but the good news is that the system requirements haven't really changed, though the drawn-out load times of Battlefield 2 haven't been improved on, either.

Thankfully, 2142 has a cool new feature in Titan mode to accompany the traditional conquest mode. This is the first new mode introduced in Battlefield since the series' inception, and it's a great one. Conquest mode requires you to capture and hold various control points on the map while at the same time trying to whittle down your enemy's respawn ticket count. Titan mode gets rid of the ticket count and changes the control points to missile silos. The goal is now to destroy the other team's Titan, which is a floating aircraft carrier/battleship defended by a powerful energy shield. This can lead to lots of frenetic battles to control the various missile silos, as they periodically loft up a missile that can damage the energy shield. Once the shield is down, you have to assault the Titan, either by flying over on a transport or rocketing up in an assault pod. The battle inside a Titan can be intense, as defenders seek to hold off the invaders in narrow corridor battles where the bullets and grenades fly. If the invaders can gain access to the reactor room by blowing up the four security terminals, they can blow up the Titan.

Titan mode requires a bit more coordination than conquest mode, but the results can be wild once people figure it out. What's great about Titan mode is that there are plenty of ways to win. If one team manages to get ahead big, it's still possible for the other team to catch up so long as the defenders onboard the Titan can buy enough time for the rest of their teammates to capture the now relatively undefended silos and knock down the enemy Titan's shields. Then it's a race between offense and defense on two different Titans. The dynamic of the game also shifts, as the boarding action is infantry only, and this means that you have to get out of your vehicles and slug it out the old fashioned way. When you toss in all the cool new toys that you can unlock, such as active camouflage to make yourself semiinvisible, sentry droids that can help cover narrow corridors, and healing stations that can patch up an entire squad at the same time, the action can get really crazy.

The whole atmosphere is helped by the excellent quality of the sound production. First, there's the constant stream of chatter in the air, as teammates call out targets or issue orders. The EU forces speak with clipped English accents, while the PAC uses Russian. It'll take a while to recognize what the various Russian phrases mean, though some are instantly recognizable, such as "big robot" when referring to the walkers. The sound effects are also cool, as the weapons of the future sound distinct and unique, while also lethal. Then there's the bombastic and lumbering musical score that wouldn't seem out of place in a Michael Bay movie. Each level has its own rousing theme to get you psyched for the battle ahead.

And while the graphics engine hasn't really changed, that's not to say that this isn't a pretty game. Each battlefield has a unique feel to it, from the futuristic fortress that guards Gibraltar to the gutted remains of Berlin. You'll go from picturesque European towns and villages to being surrounded by sleek steel towers to the arid wastes of North Africa. There's plenty of scenery to soak in, but it's the attention to detail that's worth mentioning. The cool little grainy video feed you get when you're manning the gun on a transport or APC, the way your tech garbles when you're hit by an EMP pulse, or just the sensation of being surrounded by a raging battle on the ground and in the skies above you all greatly enhance the atmosphere.

On a peculiar note, even though the world is ending in 2142, it appears that advertising will still be around. Battlefield 2142 features in-game ads, though we didn't get to see them firsthand during our testing. Still, there is a printed disclaimer that comes with the game telling you that Battlefield 2142 will analyze certain "advertising data" on your machine to determine what ads to display to you. Ironically, EA says that if you don't want your data shared with its advertising partner then "do not install or play the software on any platform that is used to connect to the Internet." But that would pretty much defeat the purpose of playing Battlefield 2142, wouldn't it? Of course, you could always play single-player against the artificial intelligence, though the AI won't be mistaken for human opponents any time soon, and the single-player is still limited to 16-player maps. Still, this is an example of things to come, as we begin to see dynamic in-game ads appear in more and more games.

When you get down to it, Battlefield 2142 is a solid entry in the series, as it feels like a slightly more refined version of its popular predecessor. Aside from the new Titan mode, there's not a lot new here, though, so this doesn't feel anywhere quite like the leap that Battlefield 2 represented from its predecessors--it's more akin to what Battlefield: Vietnam was to Battlefield 1942. Still, if you're looking for more multiplayer mayhem, it's hard not to recommend Battlefield 2142.


0 comments, Reply to this entry

Battlefield: 1942 review

Posted : 4 years, 6 months ago on 16 April 2013 05:54 (A review of Battlefield: 1942)

This is a pick-up-and-play action extravaganza, a comic book version of WWII.

It started as a buzz and grew to a roar. When Digital Illusions' Battlefield 1942 was first announced, it looked pretty much like just another in a seemingly endless supply of World War II-based games. But thanks to leaked and official demos, Battlefield 1942 soon became one of the most highly anticipated games of the year. That's hardly surprising, given its ambitious design. Here's a game where dozens of players can fight online together on expansive World War II-inspired battlefields while controlling planes, tanks, and even aircraft carriers with ease. Other than some frustrating technical problems and bugs that should have been fixed before the game shipped, Battlefield 1942 is one of those games that actually lives up to most of the hype surrounding it.

Battlefield 1942 can be a lot of fun things to a lot of people, but first it's important to tell you what it's not: The game definitely isn't a realistic WWII combat simulator. This is a pick-up-and-play action extravaganza, a comic book version of WWII. The fact that any player can casually hop into a tank, drive around, hop out and pick off an enemy soldier with a sniper rifle, hop into a plane, parachute out, and then call in artillery fire (within the span of a few minutes) should tell you a lot about the game--and a lot about what makes it so much fun.

In Battlefield 1942, you can fight offline with decent but unspectacular computer-controlled bots. Online, you can play in four different game modes against up to 64 players at a time. Realistically, you'll usually find servers capable of handling only 32 players, at most. Even with that reduced number, and even if you have the game's first patch installed, have a cable Internet connection, and get a ping in the 50s or 60s, there's a good chance you'll experience some lag or choppiness. Trying to shoot bazookas at tanks, which will suddenly appear elsewhere because of lag, isn't exactly enjoyable.

But when you manage to make a good connection to a powerful server, Battlefield 1942 has lots to offer. For instance, the game's popular conquest mode, where each team tries to capture and hold various control points on the map, can be great fun. The control points are set at strategic locations, like ruined villages or outposts with bunkers or heavy machine-gun positions, making them a challenge to occupy.

Bodies will quickly start filling the fields and streets, which leads to one of Battlefield 1942's more interesting features. Each team is allotted a certain number of tickets at the beginning of the match. You can respawn within a few seconds of dying (the exact time varies) to reinforce your team, but for every death, your team loses tickets. When the enemy holds a certain number of control points at once, your team will also start losing tickets. When your team runs out of tickets, you lose the battle. This system is a welcome compromise between some of the other death-and-respawn systems found in other shooters. In Battlefield 1942, you don't have to sit out around and twiddle your thumbs when you're "dead," yet you're still usually penalized by a brief wait, and because of the ticket system, every death ultimately affects the outcome of the battle.

Every time you enter the battlefield, you get to pick your respawn location. At the minimum, you'll usually get a main base that always remains under your team's control, but you can also respawn at control points that currently belong to your team. Each time you respawn, you also get to choose from five character classes, each with a number of distinctive weapons and abilities. The scout gets a sniper rifle and can help direct long-range fire from the big guns with his binoculars. The assault class gets a powerful light machine gun or assault rifle. The antitank class gets a Panzerschreck or a bazooka. The medic wields a submachine gun and can heal himself and his comrades. The engineer can lay mines and explosives and repair vehicles and stationary weapons.

Overall, these classes complement each other well and provide just enough diversity without bogging you down with too many choices. And while the engineer and antitank classes sometimes tend to be unduly favored because of their relation to the vehicles, don't underestimate the power of a few good assault and medic troops working together, particularly in dense terrain where tanks are at a disadvantage.

But one thing you'll quickly notice is that Battlefield 1942's small arms seem pretty inaccurate, lag or not, which can be frustrating. The fact that some maps offer little cover other than some slight slopes can take even more of the fun out of fighting on foot. Overall, infantry combat in the game is rather weak compared to many online shooters. Hopefully a future patch will tweak the weapons to put more life into them.

As it stands, the real focus and the major appeal of Battlefield 1942 is its vehicles. The game puts a full 35 of them at your disposal, which respectively belong to each of the game's five nationalities (US, UK, Germany, Japan, and the Soviet Union). You'll get to control Tigers, Shermans, and T-34s; Stukas, Zeros, and Spitfires; aircraft carriers, destroyers, landing craft; and a lot more, though for some reason, the Japanese are largely outfitted with German vehicles, like the K├╝belwagen jeep, Sd Kfz 251/1 half-track, and Wespe self-propelled howitzer.

Nevertheless, Digital Illusions has done an excellent job of implementing vehicles into the game. Hopping into one and switching among its unoccupied positions is a breeze. The number of positions you can occupy in most vehicles is actually quite limited, and even if a vehicle offers multiple positions, usually just one player is needed to operate the core functions of the vehicle. This means you alone can drive a tank and fire its main gun and coaxial machine gun, even though the real-world equivalent of the tank might have been operated by a team of five men. That may sound unrealistic, or even silly, but anyone who's played last year's Tribes 2 and waited in vain to assemble a skilled tank or bomber crew before setting off knows how frustrating it can get when you're forced into total dependence on your teammates. And in Battlefield 1942, you won't always lose a whole vehicle full of teammates at once because of one unskilled driver or pilot.

Still, the limited seating can sometimes mean waiting around for a tank or plane to respawn so you can use it, and running on foot across the huge maps isn't exactly a fun alternative. Also, the secondary position found in many tanks isn't one you'll be standing in line for. Instead of letting you sit in the hull gunner/radio operator position where you'd be protected by armor and could still fire a machine gun, the secondary position puts you in the tank commander's cupola. You do get to use a mounted machine gun that can be fired in any direction, which is useful for covering the main gunner's blind spots. However, you can't button up the hatch, so you'll be a real bullet magnet, easily picked off by infantry.

One of the best aspects of the game's vehicles is that you work them with a set of largely universal controls. To operate a tank, just hop in and use essentially the same movement and firing keys you would as a foot soldier. This keeps the game accessible and keeps the emphasis on the action, not on trying to remember how to get your Panzer out of first gear. The only vehicles likely to give you trouble are the twitchy planes, which are rather hard to control smoothly with the keyboard and mouse.

Like the controls, the vehicle physics are simplified. They work well in practice, and the handling does vary noticeably from vehicle to vehicle. You can zip around in a jeep like you'd expect, while the formidable German Tiger tank handles like...a tank, with slow acceleration and turning. All that firepower rightly comes at a cost.

For that matter, the firepower is also simplified: Main guns on AFVs fire just one type of shell that combines the functions of both high-explosive and armor-piercing rounds. You'll find aiming to be a bit odd, too: For all the big guns, you get just a tiny crosshair instead of the more sophisticated reticles of the real tanks that helped gunners estimate lead and range. To hit distant targets, you'll have to rely on practice and feel to know how high to elevate the gun to get the right trajectory, though it doesn't take long to get the hang of it.

Whether battling on foot or flying a plane, you'll get to fight across 16 huge battlefields inspired by real ones, like Iwo Jima, Midway, El Alamein, Omaha Beach, Kursk, Stalingrad, and Berlin. Each map features its own unique tactical challenges, thanks to the terrain, base and control-point locations, vehicles allotted to each team, and positioning of stations where you can heal yourself or grab more ammo for small arms or vehicles. Battlefield 1942's maps are surprisingly varied. In fact, playing different maps can almost seem like you're playing different games.

It's easy to quibble about issues of balance on certain maps, but overall, the maps tend to be laid out well and are a joy to play, with impressive tactical diversity. You'll take part in ship-to-shore combat on the Pacific maps, with massive coastal batteries thundering while landing craft race to the beaches. You'll engage in tank duels in the wide-open sands of North Africa, with Tigers and Shermans trading shots at long range. You'll struggle for the bridges at Arnhem, while planes roar overhead and AA batteries furiously pump rounds high into the sky. In the ruins of Berlin and Stalingrad, you'll crawl through the rubble to get the perfect sniper shot or sneak up behind a T-34 tank and blow it to bits with a demo charge. Perhaps the only thing missing from these maps is some significant indoor combat. A massive factory complex in the heart of the Stalingrad map, for example, would have been an appropriate and welcome change from all the outdoor combat.

One of the drawbacks of Battlefield 1942, other than the somewhat unreliable network code and some extremely long load times on anything other than a fast computer, is that if you want to enjoy these battles, you'll need to find skilled, team-oriented players. The game's high accessibility actually works against it in that regard, since there are currently many players who just goof around and interfere with or outright kill their teammates. Real teamwork is a rare commodity on many servers at this early stage, though that will hopefully improve as people learn the maps and tactics, and the goof-offs get bored and move on to other games.

Ironically, even if you do have good teammates, you sometimes won't get to appreciate their good work since the maps are so big. You'll often have little clue what half your team is doing a mile away. The game doesn't as easily create the temporary bonds of comradeship that some online shooters do. Still, when you do get to work side by side with your buddies and pull off a particularly daring assault or valiant defense, you can get a real gaming high.

You should also get a real kick out of Battlefield 1942's visuals. It's true the maps and overall ambience tend to feel rather generic at times, and the game doesn't have the same sort of intense, highly detailed WWII atmosphere you find in Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, for example. Still, the first time you get a view of some of the maps, you'd be hard pressed not to be impressed. The Guadalcanal map alone, with its palm-lined, postcard-perfect beaches, offers more eye candy than some entire games do.

Along with the panoramic vistas, the game features convincing character animations and gorgeous-looking vehicles. Lots of colorful effects, like plumes of water spraying from the bows of speeding landing craft and vivid explosions replete with clattering debris, help add to the intensity of the combat. The developer, presumably in a successful attempt to secure a "T" rating from the ESRB, decided not to show any blood or body parts flying around.

Battlefield 1942's audio isn't up to the same standard as the visuals, but it's still pretty good--when it works properly. Sometimes sounds can drop out even when you have the latest drivers for your sound card installed. One second, your heavy machine gun will be roaring away as it sprays enemy troops with lead. The next second, it's like you're watching a silent movie. But when all is working properly, troops issue radio commands in their native languages (though the communication system itself is clunky), barbed wire rattles around if you're unlucky enough to get caught up in it, and turrets whir as they rotate. The rattling of machine-gun fire, the buzzing of planes overhead, and the thump of tank cannons all help immerse you in the combat.

Assuming Battlefield 1942's technical kinks get worked out, the game could easily take its rightful place among the very best online shooters. Currently, playing it can range from exceptionally fun to exceptionally frustrating. EA's release of a patch the very day the game hit store shelves emphasizes how Battlefield 1942 was rushed out too early, but it also bodes well for continued support. For now, as long as you can find skilled teammates and aren't getting pestered by the game's technical problems, Battlefield 1942 can be, quite appropriately, a real blast.


0 comments, Reply to this entry

Battlefield 3 review

Posted : 4 years, 6 months ago on 16 April 2013 05:51 (A review of Battlefield 3)

In the realm of online combat, Battlefield 3 provides thrills that few games can match.

The Good

Deep and varied multiplayer competition
Awesome array of vehicles
Many gorgeous environments
Rewards teamwork handsomely.

The Bad

Campaign is disappointing and dull
Only six cooperative missions
No way to practice jet flight outside of multiplayer.

When it comes to virtual battlefields, nobody does it quite like the Battlefield series. It has a long history of creating sprawling conflict zones where players have an exhilarating range of ways to make powerful contributions to the war effort. The competitive multiplayer mode in Battlefield 3 stays true to tradition, delivering an online combat experience that is amazingly addictive, immersive, and exciting, with refinements and new elements that make the familiar action feel fresh. Unfortunately, the stale single-player campaign fails to capitalize on the strengths of the series and feels like an off-brand imitation. The six cooperative missions fare better and offer a tougher challenge, but only the competitive multiplayer provides a compelling reason to buy Battlefield 3. With online battles this excellent, though, that reason is all you need.

There are many factors that combine to make these battlefields as good as they are, most of which will be familiar to series veterans. Nine great maps set the stage for up to 64 players to fight it out in a variety of urban, industrial, and military locations. These places all look beautiful, though the grassy hills and blue skies of the Caspian Border are naturally more appealing than the drab urban corridors of the Grand Bazaar. The maps vary widely in size and offer diverse environmental elements, including claustrophobic tunnels, coastal roads, desert plains, and a variety of multistory buildings. Many man-made structures can be damaged or destroyed by the explosive tools at your disposal, creating new infiltration routes or removing cover positions. The maps are designed to create opportunities for combat at all ranges, and the element of destruction lets you manipulate the environment to create even more.

Combat is not just about where you are, but also about how you get there, and the variety of vehicles is one of the things that makes Battlefield so uniquely engaging. Small maps might only have a Humvee or a light armored vehicle, while larger ones boast buggies, tanks, amphibious transports, helicopters, and jets. There are a few variations within each class of vehicle that make them better suited for troop transport, anti-infantry, antiair, or anti-vehicle combat, and learning how to get the most out of each one is a blast, even if you're sometimes the one getting blown up. Whether you're piloting, gunning, or just going along for the ride, vehicles offer a key tactical element that can change the tide of battle when used by a savvy squad. Using a vehicle well can earn you powerful upgrades and bonus weapons, but it can be tough to get the hang of the flight mechanics for helicopters and jets. It's a shame there's no way to practice flying them outside of active multiplayer matches (with one exception), though you can take comfort in knowing that you are at least entertaining your fellow players when your jet nose-dives into a mountain.

The maps and vehicles allow for a great degree of strategic freedom, but choosing your class and loadout is the first and most important decision you make before spawning into combat. Abilities and weapons have shuffled around a bit since Battlefield: Bad Company 2, so now the assault class slings health packs and totes defibrillators, while the support class carries light machine guns and ammunition boxes. Engineers still thrive on vehicle support/destruction, and recon delivers long-range death. New gadgets like robots that can arm charges (engineer) and mark targets (recon) give players more to look out for on the battlefield, and claymores and mortars (support) ensure that the engineer class isn't the only one packing an explosive punch. Unlockables include class-specific weapons and gadgets, gun-specific sights and attachments, and specializations that can make you tougher and deadlier. Focusing on one class to unlock higher level gear has its advantages, but so does spreading around your progress in an effort to be more adaptable to the ebb and flow of combat.

Regardless of what loadout you choose, there are a lot of ways to earn points for your actions. In addition to kills and kill assists, you can now earn points for suppressing enemies who are subsequently killed by your teammates. When a player is suppressed by enemy fire, they suffer from blurred vision and decreased accuracy. This disorienting tactic can help you mitigate the effectiveness of enemies who are peppering you from a prone position, which returns in Battlefield 3 after being left out of the Bad Company games. Battlefield 3 may be a successor in name to Battlefield 2, but in spirit, the competitive multiplayer is a refined version of that offered in Bad Company 2. Nevertheless, it will be immediately familiar to veteran players of either game, though fans of Bad Company 2 will encounter a few other small but notable differences. Buildings are not easily destroyed in Battlefield 3 and underslung grenade launchers are, as of now, far less prevalent. Furthermore, you can't just run up to someone and stab him in the face for an instant kill; you need to get in two swipes or sneak up from behind. Nor can you simply rely on explosives to destroy M-COM stations in Rush mode because arming and detonating the charge is now the only way to progress.

As with the previous Battlefield games, the focus is on teamwork. Diverse loadouts encourage you and your squad to make complementary choices, and point bonuses reward you for working together. Every vehicle is better with teammates in it, and even the simple act of spotting enemies is an effective way to contribute to your team's efforts. Teamwork is woven throughout the fabric of Battlefield 3's multiplayer action, and when your team is working well together, it's one of the most gratifying experiences you can have in a game.

Battlefield 3 also has six cooperative missions that require teamwork on a smaller scale. These stand-alone sorties have a narrative connection to the campaign, but they are tougher to complete than most campaign missions and you can unlock some nice weapons for use in the multiplayer. Setting up voice chat with your teammate is helpful here, especially in the stealthy sections, because the spotting mechanic doesn't sufficiently differentiate enemies at long distances. Your foes are fairly tough, even on normal difficulty, though some unexpected quick-time events can also catch you off guard. The most notable mission here puts you in the cockpit of a helicopter, which provides the only chance outside of multiplayer to practice your flying skills. Earning all of the weapon unlocks requires repeat playthroughs of these missions, so it's a shame there aren't more of them to keep you busy.

Finally, there's the campaign. Battlefield 3's single-player adventure tells a harrowing tale of a fictional modern conflict. It follows a familiar formula by delivering a short campaign with diverse combat scenarios and dramatic set pieces. The story is solid and has some good acting, but the "Now tell us about this mission" interrogation mechanic makes the structure feel stale (having made a notable appearance in last year's Call of Duty: Black Ops). The focus on realism makes the unrealistic elements like the heavy-handed linearity, quick-time events, and reckless foes even more noticeable, but most disappointing of all is the campaign's utter failure to capitalize on any of the series' strengths. The lively personality of the Bad Company games is nowhere to be found, nor is the operational freedom on which the series has thrived. When you climb into the cockpit of a fighter jet, you are merely the gunner in an on-rails sequence rather than the hotshot pilot. There are some gorgeous environments and a few exciting sequences, but these are outweighed by the overly familiar cityscapes and set pieces that were clearly inspired by other shooter campaigns from the past few years. This contributes to the pervasive sense that this campaign is not only outdated, but also outclassed.

Fortunately, Battlefield 3's competitive multiplayer is among the best in its class, providing immensely rich and immersive combat zones. These are complemented by the slick browser-based Battlelog, which serves as the hub from which you access each game mode. With EA's Origin software running unobtrusively in the background, Battlelog tracks your unlock progress, displays your stats, and enables you to join parties and launch games easily. Battlefield 3 may not offer much beyond the multiplayer, but there are so many ways to contribute and feel like a powerful soldier that after hours and hours of playing, all you'll want to do is play more.


0 comments, Reply to this entry

Medal of Honor review

Posted : 4 years, 6 months ago on 16 April 2013 05:22 (A review of Medal of Honor)

Medal of Honor offers a cohesive campaign and fierce multiplayer competition for those who don't mind a little bit of tarnish on their first-person shooters.

The Good

Well-paced campaign
Immersive dialogue
Taut multiplayer action.

The Bad

Heavy-handed campaign scripting
Enemy AI isn't terribly realistic
Some incongruous cutscenes
Steep multiplayer learning curve.


In the crowded first-person shooter market, it's important for a game to carve out a niche--do something better than or different from its competitors. Medal of Honor tries to do just that by representing a real conflict that is really happening in a real country between two real opposing forces. From the chatter among the soldiers and the authentic weapons to the environmental continuity, there are many elements that enliven the campaign with an invigorating sense of realism. Unfortunately, this energy is diminished somewhat by a bunch of video game-y elements, like invisible walls, invincible allies, and an incongruous icon that pops up whenever you get a headshot. The campaign finds a reasonable balance between realism and escapism, where it manages to provide a fairly engrossing experience despite its flaws. The online multiplayer offers many thrills of its own, and the adherence to realism makes for battlefields where the only thing between you and a swift death is your gun and your reflexes. Both the single-player and multiplayer components provide some robust entertainment, and though flaws and limitations keep it from being all it can be, Medal of Honor still distinguishes itself on the field of first-person battle.

The single-player campaign takes place in Afghanistan, where craggy peaks loom over dry, rocky terrain. You are part of an American military effort to find and eliminate Taliban forces, and the grounded-in-reality premise feels more immediate than those that feature fictional enemies. The nicely varied environments provide an attractive array of places to wage war, and even though the visuals suffer from some technical imperfections, the fact that the whole campaign takes place in one region of the world creates a good sense of cohesion. It's easy to keep track of who you are and where you fit into the offensive even though you play as multiple characters. While come cutscenes provide good dramatic set-up, the ham-fisted interactions that take place in the command outpost often feel cliche and cheap. It's probably for the best that Medal of Honor didn't take on a wider representation of the current conflict, focusing instead on the characters you meet in the field and their soldierly attitudes. The great battlefield chatter portrays intriguing facets of professionalism and camaraderie among the soldiers, setting an authentic tone that enhances the experience.

During the course of the campaign, you engage in heated firefights and quietly infiltrate enemy encampments, which are familiar actions that feel good thanks to solid controls. Playing as different soldiers provides markedly different combat experiences, and the game transitions between protagonists in logical ways. For example, after fighting your way through enemy artillery positions, you find yourself facing a frightening onslaught that threatens to overwhelm your squad. Your desperate stand ends in a dramatic rescue, and you then play as rescuers as they take on their next mission. On-foot missions are punctuated by exciting moments when you direct powerful air support, and an intense vehicle sequence gives way to a more methodical assault. Things proceed at a good pace, and it's invigorating to realize that all of the exciting action you are engaged in takes place within the bounds of a realistic military operation.

Despite the focus on realism, however, Medal of Honor tries to tightly control your experience throughout the campaign, and this leads to some unfortunate problems. Part of the campaign experience immerses you in the dialogue among your squadmates and up the command chain (some of which is thoughtfully spent ensuring that the individuals in your crosshairs are actually enemies). Much of this chatter is delivered on the run, but there are times when your progress is halted at a flimsy door or a short rocky ledge to let your squadmates talk. There are also a lot of invisible walls that prevent you from going off the beaten path. These two elements seem designed to keep you in line so you can experience the campaign the way it was meant to be experienced, but they can feel heavy handed and restrictive at times. Perhaps more egregious is the not-so-hot enemy AI. The Taliban soldiers can shoot and take cover reasonably well, but they often enter the battlefield or stick their heads out from behind cover in alarmingly predictable ways.

The campaign lasts about six hours, and on the normal difficulty level, it isn't particularly challenging. Ramping up the difficulty makes your foes appreciably harder to kill, and those who like to test their skills will likely enjoy Tier One mode. In this mode, you are timed as you play through individual campaign missions on the hardest difficulty. Performing headshots, melee kills, and kill streaks freezes the clock for varying lengths of time, shaving precious seconds off your completion time. If you manage to complete a level, you are ranked on an online leaderboard in a bunch of different categories, including fastest time, most headshots, and longest distance kill. The challenge of going slowly enough to survive but fast enough to register a strong time creates an exciting sense of tension, especially if you're competing against a friend or a rival.

Medal of Honor also caters to those who prefer more direct competition. The online competitive multiplayer supports up to 24-player matches and covers a range of familiar team-based modes, including deathmatch, sector control, objective raid, and the progressive combat mission. The maps are well designed but not terribly big, ensuring that the matches are almost always intense. You can play as the rifleman, special ops, or sniper, and each class has its own series of guns and gear for you to unlock as you rank up. Success in a match not only helps you rank up, but it can also earn you powerful offensive or defensive support actions, like mortar strikes, enhanced body armor, unmanned aerial vehicle surveillance, and radar jamming. All of your abilities and assets remain strictly within the realm of realism, meaning you will always hear the footsteps of an enemy running up behind you, and you can't revive your bullet-ridden teammates.

The multiplayer action is intense, thanks in part to the excellent sound design that not only makes the battlefield feel hectic, but also conveys valuable information about your surroundings. Getting caught out in the open is usually fatal, and one-on-one firefights are usually resolved within seconds. Quick reflexes and good battlefield awareness are key to your survival, and the single-player campaign does a poor job of preparing you for the speed and accuracy needed to survive in these harsh combat zones. The realistic focus means no concession is made to newcomers, and the learning curve is steep and filled with exclamations of frustration. Medal of Honor's multiplayer has already become a haven for the hardcore, demanding a level of precision that competitive players will either thrive upon or abandon to their twitchier opponents.

Though it may be tempting to look at its flaws and dismiss Medal of Honor as inferior to its competitors, there is a lot to enjoy here. The campaign has its shortcomings, but its unique sense of scope and well-orchestrated pacing make it an enjoyably cohesive adventure. Tier One mode offers an accessible yet formidable challenge, and the competitive multiplayer captures the brutal intensity of a battlefield where one errant move can result in your abrupt death. Medal of Honor doesn't set any new standards for the genre, but it delivers a lot of entertainment and excitement if you're looking to add a splash of realism to your first-person shooting.


0 comments, Reply to this entry

Medal of Honor: Airborne review

Posted : 4 years, 6 months ago on 16 April 2013 05:18 (A review of Medal of Honor: Airborne)

The single-player campaign doesn't get cooking until the last two levels, but those two levels combined with solid multiplayer make it worth enlisting in Airborne.

The Good

Lots of intense action
Strong online multiplayer
Levels aren't strictly linear.

The Bad

First half of game isn't very interesting
Weapons can be tough to aim thanks to recoil and poor hit detection
Lots of little flaws detract from the overall experience.


It seems you can't read a preview or review of a World War II-based FPS without hearing about how many games there are in the genre. With good reason, too--it's a crowded one. But just because there are a lot of them doesn't mean there can't be some good ones. Medal of Honor: Airborne is one such game. It starts off really slow, and the whole parachuting hook is little more than a gimmick; but later on the game realizes its potential and gets good.

There's not much of a story to Airborne. It's WWII; Nazis need killing and the world needs saving. You're in the Airborne division, so you'll be jumping out of planes and doing your part to swing the war in the Allies' favor. Before each mission you're given a brief rundown on what's going on and list of objectives to accomplish. Rather than spawning on the battlefield you'll arrive in style by parachuting out of a plane. As you fall to the ground you'll want to maneuver toward green smoke, which indicates a safe landing zone. In theory, parachuting into the level is supposed to open up a whole new style of play. You're free to land wherever you want, but invisible walls prevent you from getting too clever, and nine times out of 10, when you do land somewhere other than the safe zone you'll end up dead in a matter of seconds. There are some special landing zones to discover and sometimes these areas will provide you with an advantageous starting point, but because you find most of these locations when you're already on the ground, they're of little use.

Once on the ground you'll take on waves of Axis soldiers over the course of the game's six levels. Six levels might not sound like a lot, but each generally takes an hour or more to complete, so it'll probably take most people around eight hours to finish the game. Your objectives are shown on your radar and you're free to tackle them in whatever order you choose. Between choosing your starting location and being able to pick what to take on first it might sound like there's a lot of freedom here, but there's really not--you can't start from many different places, and you have to do the same tasks regardless of the order you start them. Mission objectives range from blowing up AA guns to clearing buildings of enemy soldiers, taking out tanks, and detonating lots of explosives. On their own these tasks aren't anything unique, but because the levels are so long and feature so many objectives you often feel as though you're performing monumental feats rather than routine tasks.

The first three levels aren't very interesting. They're fairly linear, take place in unexciting settings, and don't play to the game's strengths. Starting with the fourth level the game picks up since you're given more freedom as to how you want to tackle the levels. You might decide to climb towers to take out snipers (their position is given away by a reflection off their scope), clear the area of ground troops, and then make your way into a building, while a different player might head to the building first, clear the ground troups second, and hide from the snipers rather than kill them. The game's artificial intelligence isn't very good, but at least it's aggressive. You can pick off guys as they peek around corners, but they won't just take it lying down. They'll spray bullets in your direction without looking, and they're rather fond of blindly tossing grenades over their backs. If you get too close or they get some reinforcements, enemy soldiers will charge right at you and inflict serious damage until you can fend them off with your weak melee attacks.

The controls are pretty standard on both the PC and the 360. A sprint button comes in quite handy when trying to dash from one bit of cover to the next. Once you're behind that cover, the ability to lean and fire is extremely useful, as is the ability to raise your weapon and aim using its sights. As you progress through the game you'll be able to upgrade your weapons, earning bigger clips, faster reloads, and secondary firing abilities. You can carry two weapons at a time as well as a pistol, which isn't very powerful but has unlimited ammo. Grenades are often tough to come by, but ammunition is plentiful, as are health packs, which are scattered throughout the levels. It's a good thing, too, because once you start getting hit your health depletes in a hurry.

While most of Airborne is good, it does have its share of problems. Hit detection is terrible--it's not uncommon to hit someone with three or four shots before even one registers. Many of the automatic weapons have too much recoil, making them extremely difficult to aim--a problem not shared by the CPU, who is more than capable of hitting you from across the level regardless of the gun. Your fellow soldiers are sometimes quite useful, but other times they don't do anything at all--or worse, they stand right in front of you and block your shot. We also fell out of the level a few times, though this was usually when we parachuted someplace the game probably didn't want us to. When all of these problems come together the game can be extremely frustrating, as you're forced to try the same part of a level over and over again in an attempt to find the best way to circumvent the game's sometimes cheap tactics.

Unlike the last Medal of Honor, MOH: Airborne has a solid online component. Up to 12 people can hop online and play ranked and unranked matches on half a dozen maps and a few different game types. The action's always fast-paced and for us, at least, lag-free. Interestingly enough, multiplayer is the one area where choosing where you want to parachute into a level actually lives up to the hype. As you descend you can see both friends and foes and, if you're quick enough, can land in areas that are quite advantageous--like right behind that jerk camping on a rooftop with a sniper rifle.

Airborne isn't a great-looking game, but it does run well and the visuals don't hamper the experience. It looks best on the PC thanks to higher quality textures. Outside of a few nice-looking buildings most structures are simple, and look pretty much the same, not only to each other, but every other WWII game out there. There are only a few different types of soldiers and while they aren't very detailed, you can tell one type from the next easily. At least, you can if you're up close. It's tough to tell the good guys from the bad guys when you're far apart, and it's even harder to hit them thanks to a lack of transition animation, meaning they might instantly jump from one position to the next. Weapons look great, but explosions look embarrassingly last-gen. Not only do weapons look nice, but they sound great, too. The rest of the game sounds pretty good as well. You'll hear the familiar orchestral theme from previous MOH games, and there's lots of chatter from both Axis and Allied soldiers.

Medal of Honor: Airborne is a game that rewards those who are patient enough to stick with it. The first half of the game is dull and just rehashes the same sort of gameplay you've seen countless times before. But about halfway through, things pick up and gradually get better and better until the last two levels, which are quite intense and a lot of fun to play. The multiplayer isn't anything groundbreaking, but it's quite good and adds some value to an otherwise short game. If you're tired of the genre, Airborne won't do anything to change your mind, but if you're looking to fight for the Allied cause yet again, it's a worthy tour of duty.


0 comments, Reply to this entry

Medal of Honor: Allied Assault review

Posted : 4 years, 6 months ago on 16 April 2013 05:12 (A review of Medal of Honor: Allied Assault)

Very few games leave you breathless and gaping in wide-eyed wonder. EA's latest is one of them



Although the Second World War has long been a steady source of inspiration and imagination, the renaissance of WWII in the popular imagination is in full swing. Stephen Ambrose and Saving Private Ryan have done quite a bit to sustain the momentum generated by the fiftieth anniversary celebrations held during the last decade. The latest addition to the catalog is EA's Medal of Honor: Allied Assault. This is the first time that the franchise (created by Steven Spielberg's Dreamworks) has come to the PC and while it's about damn time, it's also well worth the wait.

Medal of Honor is like a really fantastic movie. The only other game I've ever played that has as strong a cinematic style as this one is Crimson Skies. The levels are very natural and convincing and the missions are well scripted and have a great sense of pace. And all the character of the game comes through without any real cutscenes. Apart from the mission briefings all the action and story takes place during play. It's too bad that this approach gives the end of the game an abrupt sort of ending but when people talk about good presentation, this is what they're talking about.

It's not apparent until you play through it a second time, but there's an awful lot of scripting that goes into this game. The same characters and situations that seemed so spontaneous the first time around suddenly begin to seem a little more predictable. The landing at Omaha Beach is a great example of this. As the individual soldiers run up the beach, they encounter the same situations and hit the same positions every time.

But even the first time you play through the game you'll probably notice a few instances of this. For one thing, your allies are subject to the stern dictates of a fate that you cannot change -- no matter how many times you load a game. Characters will die when their time comes and there's nothing you can do about it. This is particularly frustrating at the start of one of the earlier missions when one of your guys dies despite your every effort to save him. It seems cheap and arbitrary (not to mention frustrating after the eighth or ninth reload). Likewise, if a given character isn't fated to die you can watch him get shot up all day without falling.

But it's all still so compelling that you won't really mind the scripted bits. The campaign starts with the rescue of an OSS officer in 1942 and ends with the destruction of a...well, I won't spoil that, but let's just say that it ends three years later. Although you'll kill lots of soldiers from Algeria to Norway, this is incidental to the real objective of the game -- blowing up Nazi weapons -- from AA guns to submarines to whole manufacturing plants. Lots of little objectives must be met along the way.

The 20 levels which comprise the six missions are all rather large. A small compass helps point you to your next objective. (Like Ghost Recon it doesn't necessarily indicate whether or not the objective is above or below you.) The missions seem a bit episodic and unrelated but there's a strong sense of continuity and interest here. The objectives lead from one to another in a largely linear fashion (although there is some flexibility) and you'll usually always have a clear sense of how and why a mission progresses and develops as it does.

There are a few moments in this game that are likely to stick with me for a long time. Since everyone already knows about the landing at Omaha, I can go ahead and spoil that one. You begin in the Higgins boat on your way to the beach. An officer is giving out orders as shells impact the water around you. Once you reach the beach, the doors open and you rush out onto a vast beach covered with hedgehogs and other forms of Rommel's asparagus. You'll have to advance from cover to cover while watching your allies fall all around you. Avoid artillery strikes and machine gun fire all the way up to the shingle. And that's just the first few minutes of the level. The Omaha sequence is really one of the best things I've ever played but there are plenty of other awesome moments that I won't spoil here.

Some of the sequences are too difficult to be enjoyed. Quite a few require you to sally forth and get killed before you even figure out who's shooting you. There are quite a few areas of the game where a seemingly endless number of troops will come running at (usually behind) you. Sometimes this makes sense, sometimes it doesn't. It seems a bit cheap but it's meant to put pressure on you to move forward. In any case, it's kind of cool not to feel secure in an area you've already cleared.

As a special operative, you're supposed to be working alone on most of your missions. Ironically, the game is at its best when you're acting as part of a team. Having a few soldiers on your side boosts your enjoyment of the game immensely. Running through a town with a squad of riflemen around you is downright exhilarating. You really feel as if you're part of a team and, since you're sometimes subordinated to one of the friendly AI soldiers, you're told to carry out specific tasks. Nine times out of ten, it'll sound something like this: "Powell, you take point while we walk fifty yards behind you and listen for the bullets."

There are three bigger problems with the addition of extra troops on your side though. First off, they're typically given to you when you're likely to encounter lots of enemy resistance. Once you've got a dozen guys on the screen shooting at each other, the game starts to chug a bit. Second, you have no control over your units. They sometimes fail to get safely away from explosive charges that you yourself set off. Third, the inclusion of nearby soldiers who aren't shooting at you make the pre-scripted events much more noticeable.

Enemy AI is a little more flexible. Sadly the enemies are much too aware of their surroundings than they ought to be. They'll zero in and put three bullets in your head before you even see them. This is more of a problem in open areas with lots of cover but it's damned frustrating. The enemies are usually pretty good at not exposing themselves to unnecessary fire but since they have access to more stances than you, this seems kind of unfair. Enemies can go prone and fire around corners while only exposing their hands. You cannot. What's really cool is tossing a grenade into a room, hearing lots of German shouting and seeing the guys come running out the door. What's not cool is seeing your grenade thrown back in your face before it goes off.

Okay, maybe that's a little cool.

Weapon balance is first-rate. While games in this genre typically give you access to a wide variety of pistols, machine guns, crossbows and potato catapults, Medal of Honor makes do with a much smaller arsenal. But each is very well designed and well suited to a particular task. The few novelty weapons (the shotgun and bazooka) don't get as much attention as they probably should but the M1 Garand, sniper rifle and Thompson machine gun are reliable enough that you probably won't even consider other weapons.

A lot of people have complained that there's no blood in the game. I honestly don't think that brings the game down at all. You don't need Sam Peckinpah blood effects in order to create realism or intensity. A nice blood model can intensify those qualities but it's not the only thing that can contribute to believability or interest. The game does have some really impressive weapon effects -- the small puffs of dust when you hit a body or a wall, the splinters that fly off of doors, and the small grenade explosions are all first-rate and the absence of blood shouldn't put anyone off. In any case, the Teen-rating means you'll have more people to play against online.

Since the game still hasn't been released, we haven't been able to test out internet play. We have played plenty of LAN games though and, assuming that the performance doesn't deteriorate that much over the net, Medal of Honor could definitely give Wolfenstein a run for its money. Instead of selecting classes like in Wolfenstein, you'll select a weapon to carry. This sort of sets your role in the game but it doesn't seem to require the same level of cooperation found in Wolfenstein. We'll be covering the basics of multiplay in another IGNsider feature later this month once the servers have some more people on them.

In order to appreciate the full effects of the game, you need a really kick-ass system. Thankfully, an awesome configuration setup lets you tweak and tune the details to find the best mix of appearance and performance. I had only a few slow-downs playing it at home in 800x600 with medium details on a P500MHz with 512MB of RAM and a GeForce 2. On better systems you can expect much-improved graphics and operation.

Even on a medium level of detail, the game is remarkably beautiful. The faces and character models are incredibly lifelike and believable. Animation and expressions give you a real sense that the characters in the game are distinct individuals (even if it's hard to tell them apart while you're shooting them). The architecture is astounding and the cities are completely believable. Ground textures are probably the only real weakness in the game but even these are passable.

Tal pointed out to me one weekend that the barrels in the game have real volumes of liquid in them. As you shoot them, the liquid pours out. It pours out faster if you shoot more holes in the barrel. And the level of liquid is modeled as well so if you shoot the top of a barrel, the liquid will only run a short time; if you shoot the bottom, the liquid runs until it's all out. Searchlights have swarms of moths surrounding them. If you shoot a light out you are rewarded with a spray of sparks. It's these touches that make such a huge difference in drawing you into the game.

The sound shares this same level of detail. Weapon sounds are all supremely satisfying. (I love the ping sound the M1 Garand makes as it ejects a clip.) Explosions and engine noises will give your subwoofer a real workout while the scoring is suitably cinematic. The voice work in the game is quite good and, unlike Wolfenstein, all these Germans speak the right language.

Since I started working here, I've only gone back and replayed three shooters that I had already finished -- Half-Life, Soldier of Fortune and No One Lives Forever. But over the Christmas break I played through Medal of Honor quite a few times and it's likely that I'm going to play it a few more times before the year is out. You will too. While the game has some small (but galling) problems, the overall effect is profound. The only people who I won't recommend this game to are people who just hate action games and people who don't own computers. Otherwise, you should get it and cancel your plans for the next week or so. Unless your name is Dan Adams in which case, I fully expect you to be at work next week.

-- Steve Butts
The Verdict

Seeing as how I recently reviewed Return to Castle Wolfenstein, I was already pretty excited to get a crack at Medal of Honor. Then, while I was sequestered away at jury duty, the bastards I work with got the chance to go and play single player and a bunch of multiplayer down at EA. After peeing in their computers at work (and they thought their problems had something to do with a virus...) I whined and cried and then finally a long while later I got a chance to take the game into my own hands and love it a bit. After hearing the raving three (that being Steve, Ivan, and Tal), I was thinking the game must have been touched by God. And parts of it were. But most of it wasn't. Don't get me wrong, the game was awesome, I just wish that there had been more of the levels with the AI troops running with you and helping you out. It was just so amazing running up Omaha beach and tackling a destroyed city alongside some comrades in arms. Their orders and voices and even the expressions on their faces were amazing at times.

Unfortunately that damn AI with it's insane accuracy and all knowing eye made parts of the game almost un-fun. But after I had finished the game and lived through it, I was definitely very satisfied. It's a damn fun game and downright brilliant at certain points even if there were problems. Unfortunately I haven't had the chance to play multiplayer yet, but from everything I heard, it was just as good, if not better than RtCW. Definitely one to pick up for any action fan.


0 comments, Reply to this entry



Insert image

drop image here
(or click)
or enter URL:
 link image?  square?

Insert video

Format block