Sunday, July 24, 2011

Brink Review

Splash Damage have a track record of creating good games, one of their most critically acclaimed games is the Return to Castle Wolfenstein mod, Enemy Territory. When it was reported that they were making a new game that had similar elements except in a futuristic setting, that was reason enough to raise an eyebrow.

Advertising material also promised a very fluid, dynamic kind of FPS where you were able to slide around on the ground and perform parkour moves.

All of this sounded good which is why I got myself a copy of the game. However, was all they said in the advertisements hype or was is actually true?

Sound (3/5)
You've got your usual fare of sound effects from an FPS however whenever guns fire in the game they don't really sound meaty enough. Also there tends to be bugs with the sound cutting in and out while playing, especially in multiplayer games.

One nice touch is the ability to pick from a variety of voices for your character. This means that there is a bit of variety in the background noise of a battle while playing online.

Music (5/5)
I cannot fault the music in Brink. Both sides have their own theme which is based off an ostinato (hope I'm using the term correctly!) you will hear throughout the game. Even the buttons you get to pick while waiting for a medic to revive you, plays notes. The Resistance gets a dramatic orchestral piece with an erhu (which is appropriate considering the Resistance is led by a Chinese man named Brother Chen) while the theme for the Security Forces has a more electronic, cyberpunk feel to it.

Graphics (2/5)
The graphics aren't too bad, in a stylised way. You're not going to like the game if you're expecting realistic looking character models since they've got for the comic book approach of exaggerating body types and facial features. The cutscenes are actually pretty good too - it's unfortunate that there aren't more of them.

On the downside (a major downside) is that I get ridiculously bad framerate drops for what is quite an old engine (idtech4 is the same engine used for Doom 3, a 6+ year old game). The animation is also rather wooden which seems a bit out of place for a game with parkour elements.

Plot (4/5)
Brink is set in the near future where the effects of global warming have raised the sea levels causing widespread flooding to all of the Earth's cities. Before catastrophe had beset many of the world's nations however, a floating colony in the ocean known as the Ark was constructed to demonstrate how it was possible to develop a self-sustainable city with zero impact on the Earth's environment. Unfortunately, due to the flooding of many of the world's cities, the Ark received boatloads of immigrants who start to cause a strain on the Ark's resources and soon a divide exists between the recent arrivals, known as the "Guests" and the original inhabitants. The game starts when the Ark is on the brink (mind the pun) of civil war.

The game has a very strong plot and you get tidbits of the story from the awesome cinematics and audio logs that you unlock by playing the game. It's a real damn shame that they didn't expand on the plot as the little missions they have on offer for each side doesn't really do the well-researched background story justice. In fact if they made the game into a single-player FPS/RPG hybrid, it would've given other RPGs a run for their money. Alas, RPGs are obviously not Splash Damage's forte though, so it might be a bit too much to ask :).

Gameplay (3/5)
Brink is a multiplayer FPS at heart, although it is possible to play the missions in the game by yourself with bots. You can play for one of two sides, either the Resistance who want to get off the Ark, and the Security Forces who want to save it. There isn't actually much difference between each side besides your objectives in each mission and what clothes your character can wear.

Like Enemy Territory, each side gets objectives to complete to progress the mission along. Completing a primary objective changes the map and progresses the story for the mission along. You will then get new objectives to complete until the entire mission is complete. Objectives include blowing up obstacles, stealing data or defending critical personnel or robots. Completing these objectives will reward you with experience point (XP) which you can use to unlock new abilities for your character.

You are also able to play as four classes in Brink: Engineer, Assault, Medic and Operative. Engineers can build sentry guns, land mines and boost armour and weapons, Assault can provide ammo, throw Molotov Cocktails and destroy objectives, Medics can heal and revive other players and Operatives can disguise themselves as the enemy, hack into computers and spot landmines.

You also get to perform some pretty choice parkour moves while vaulting around the place, especially if you pick a light body type (they are more agile than the beefcakes) however the tactical benefits from doing so seem limited.

Now while you might say this sounds alright it is unfortunately, not very revolutionary, which is disappointing. You tend to expect high standards from a developer such as Splash Damage as these are the guys that set the bar with Enemy Territory. Brink however seems to be just a rehash of the formula, except with a sci-fi setting and some cutscenes. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (BF:BC2), for example, is already doing a lot of this already they two have four classes which are almost identical, except for the Operative. BF:BC2 already has cinematics for winners and losers of maps and they have game modes where if the attacker wins, a new map is played as the defender is pushed back (i.e. Rush gameplay mode). True there are some different and varied objectives for Brink but they're nothing more than escorting a flag carrier, defending a point or destroying an objective.

Replayability (2/5)
I'd normally award more in terms of replayability for a multiplayer-focused game like Brink, however the multiplayer component of the game hardly ever works like it's supposed to. The single player campaign is way too short having only about 6 missions for each side, so if multiplayer isn't working for you, you're going to have a very short experience. Yes there are a few Steam achievements to hunt down but that's about it.

Polish (1/5)
There aren't any showstopper bugs (with the exception of not being able to play multiplayer games at times) but there are many. Sometimes the text in the game becomes garbled meaning you're unable to read it.

Score - 7/10

An immersive story and atmosphere is let down by a poorly built game.

If you want to get the game, you can get it off Steam.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Where to buy Battlefield 3 and Mass Effect 3 in Australia

Now that EA have their own online store called Origin, it seems that they are no longer going to sell games off Steam (at least not their high-profile ones it seems). So the only options will be getting the game off Origin or getting retail. However, before checking out the prices, what is Origin about anyway?

According to the EA website, Origin is the new EA Store, but it's a bit more than that. While the EA Store was just like any other website, Origin requires you to download a client to run, just like Steam. This will be quite annoying for those of you who have started to purchase and run all their games exclusively from Steam.

The application also has features similar to Steam, like chatting and browsing the web while playing games. Also your EA Account IS your Origin account - so it'll be interesting to see how that works since thanks to EA, my EA Account details are a mess!

And I just tried logging in and it failed... awesome.

And trying a second time brings me to a second login screen where they say my password is invalid... awesome.

And attempting to e-mail a password has caused a server error... awesome.

And I finally got an e-mail to reset my password and it's logged me into another page that doesn't have all the so-called identities registered to my games or my previous orders... awesome.

You can see why I don't have much faith in EA in designing these systems...

Anyway, let us see how much everyone is charging for these two games shall we?

Battlefield 3 Limited Edition (incl. Back to Karkand Expansion, Physical Warfare Pack and a shotgun and beret for Battlefield Play4Free)
  • Origin = $80
  • EB = $88 (also get it in a steel case)
  • GAME = $78 (also get free paintball for 3 months and all GAME shipping is free in Australia)
  • JB = $110 (don't appear to get Physical Warfare pack but they do have the SPECACT Kit which gives you 8 different skins and you also get physical dog tags and a cap!)

To clarify, the Back to Karkand expansion includes 4 re-done BF2 maps, BF2 weapons and vehicles and unique achievements.

The Physical Warfare Pack includes the Type 88 LMG with bipod, Flechette ammo for the DAO-12, flash suppressor for the SKS Sniper rifle and day 1 access to the DAO-1 shotgun.

If you're wanting to go for the goodies or the SPECACT kit, I'd say go for JB Hi-fi's offer. The other offerings from Origin, EB and GAME however, are pretty similar, so the cheapest wins, and in that case it's GAME.

Mass Effect 3
  • Origin = $80
  • EB = $88
  • GAME = $90
  • JB = $85

If getting Mass Effect 3 without the bells and whistles, it would seem that Origin is actually the cheapest option. However, since there is only $10 difference between the most expensive option and cheapest one, any of these are really viable options (with JB being the cheapest retail option).

Mass Effect 3 N7 Digital Deluxe/Collector's Edition

The N7 editions include: artwork, artbook, comic, N7 in-game weapons, robotic dog companion, squadmate alternate outfits, N7 hoodie for Shepard, the soundtrack and forum badges.

  • Origin (Digital Deluxe) = $100
  • EB = $108 (Collector's Edition - same stuff but has a physical artbook and a fabric patch)
  • GAME = $110 (Collector's Edition - same stuff but has a physical artbook and a fabric patch)
  • JB = $110

Once again, Origin is the cheapest but it's not really that much cheaper. I'll probably get the Collector's Edition, being a fan of the game, and most likely a copy from EB.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Mosby's Confederacy Review

Ever since the awesome Sid Meier's Gettysburg!, I've had more than a fleeting interest in the American Civil War. Sadly, Civil War games that are accessible to those of us who aren't hex addicts are few and far between.

Then comes along Steam's Summer Sale (which is sadly now over) and Tilted Mill's Mosby's Confederacy was available for a couple of dollars! So I thought, why not? Surely it wouldn't be a waste of money?

Sound (2/5)
The sound effects are passable in this game but there aren't actually many of them besides some generic shot firing noises, grunts and groans when soldiers are wounded, and the sounds of horses trotting. Sometimes the sounds end up mashing up over each other which can lead to silence...

Music (3/5)
The game has a couple of tunes that are based off the era played during the title and map screen. No To Arms in Dixie to be heard though!

Graphics (2/5)
Yes, this game was made over two years ago back in 2008, but even then I was expecting more in terms of graphics. Animations are quite robotic, clipping is rampant and detail is low.

Plot (2/5)
The story is based on a real Confederate soldier known as John Singleton Mosby who was very successful in harassing Union troops during the Civil War. North Central Virginia, his area of operations, was known as Mosby's Confederacy, hence the name of the game. Besides the main character and some hero units sharing names with actual historical figures, and the towns being named after towns in Virginia, the game unfortunately doesn't expand on the rich background of Mosby's Confederacy.

Gameplay (1/5)
The game involves you performing missions against the Union with Mosby's Raiders. You control Mosby and are able to assemble a team for each mission from the surrounding towns. Each soldier you can gain in your squad has various attributes that determines how well he shoots, how sneaky he is, how likely he is to flee, etc. The soldiers can also gain experience which means their attributes will increase over time and they can also get perks too. Sounds a lot like a game of X-COM doesn't it? Well the mechanic is very similar and this is probably one of the better elements of the game.

There are various types of missions you can complete which give you different rewards. You can steal horses, steal munitions, capture officers, kill troops or finish one of the storyline missions. Besides gaining weapons to arm your army (munitions can be used to not only arm troops but improve their weapons) and horses to ride, you also gain Renown. Renown can be used to increase support in the towns which increases the radius for which they can conduct missions. It also allows you to train your soldiers making them more effective in combat. Still sounds pretty fun doesn't it?

Where the game falls down though is the fact it's incredibly buggy and the actual mission segments require hardly any strategy at all. Once I get to the second mission of a gaming session, I'm unable to mount my soldiers on horses; not only that but the loading screens tend to freeze (the only solution being to alt+tab out and back in to refresh it). In the game, the units tend to have pathing issues and when you try to use some strategy by specifying which weapons to use, sometimes the icons get stuck and your soldiers might end up charging to their doom when you actually want to pick the enemy off from a distance. Speaking of which, that seems to be the only strategy that actually works in this since I've found soldiers who are proficient at pistols is not much of a bonus since they have to get closer to use them, which means they become targeted by everyone, which means they die first. The same goes for charging in. You'll find it has little tactical benefit. So the game basically becomes, (1) select group, (2) trot around map, (3) use rifles to pick off any enemies you meet, (4) repeat until mission complete.

The only reason I even gave 1 point to gameplay is because (a) there aren't enough Civil War games around and (b) because of its passing resemblance to X-COM.

Replayability (1/5)
If the game actually worked it'd be more replayable. It does have Steam achievements so I did give it one point...

Polish (0/5)
The game has an interface looking like it belongs in the early 90s. The bugs and crashes-to-desktop annoyed me so much that I just couldn't bother trying to play the game anymore. It was that much of a chore.

Score - 4/10

At least I only wasted $2 on this during the Steam sale. That's about its only redeeming feature. Oh that and it's an American Civil War game based on the life of Mosby's Raiders.

If you want to get the game, you can get it for cheap off Steam.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

New PC

That's right folks, I've bought a new PC - my 9th gaming PC (although only the 3rd one I've actually bought myself).

Not really anything special but decided to post its specs so people know what gaming rig I am reviewing all the games on from now on.

- CPU: Intel Core i7 2600 LGA1155
- Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-P67A-UD3 B3 P67
- RAM: 2x2GB of DDR3
- Hard Disk: 1TB WD Caviar Black
- Video: XFX HD6850 1GB
- DVD Drive: LG GH22-NS50 22x SATA Black
- PSU: 650W Coolermaster eXtreme ATX
- Case: Coolermaster CM Storm Scout
- O/S: MS Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit OEM