Friday, September 30, 2016

Video Games Live Level 5 Review

Album cover for Video Games Live Level 5
Album cover for Video Games Live - Level 5

  • Reviewed by: Mark Goninon
  • Name: Video Games Live Level 5
  • Label: Mystical Stone Entertainment
  • Composer(s): Various (produced by Tommy Tallarico)
  • Number of Tracks: 12

So it seems like Tommy Tallarico has gone to Kickstarter a few times now to raise funds for Video Game Music (VGM) compilation albums he's been working on over the years. I decided to support one of his previous albums, "Video Games Live - Level 3" back in 2013 and reviewed the album the following year. Tallarico then went back to Kickstarter in 2014 and successfully raised $187,646 for his "Video Games Live - Level 4" album. I didn't jump on the bandwagon for that particular album because I felt there wasn't a very good selection of tracks on the album, save for Earthworm Jim. In fact, this is a problem I have with all the "Video Games Live" albums in that they tend to focus more on console titles with very little focus on PC or multiplatform titles (although maybe I'm a little biased, considering I'm almost exclusively a PC gamer).

So Tallarico went back to Kickstarter again this year to raise funds for another "Video Games Live" album, with the very creative title: "Video Games Live - Level 5". Again, Tallarico was successful in raising funds ($263,931 to be exact) and again I wasn't too impressed with the suggested track list, but since I'm a fan of Frank Klepacki's work I went "What the hell" and decided to back the project. Last month, the album was finally released and the final track list is below:

  1. World of Warcraft - "Malach, Angel Messenger" (feat. Malukah)
  2. Super Mario World
  3. Ico - "You Were There" (feat. Laura Intravia and Omar Najmi)
  4. Xenoblade - "Guar Plains"
  5. Command & Conquer - "Hell March"
  6. Metroid
  7. Grim Fandango
  8. Chrono Cross - "Radical Dreamers" (feat. Laura Intravia)
  9. Phoenix Wright
  10. Okami
  11. Top Gear
  12. The Legend of Zelda - "A Celtic Link"

So I went to Humble Bundle and downloaded the album (since this is the usual way Video Games Live distributes their album to Kickstarter backers) and downloaded the 12 320kbps MP3s that make up the album.

As you can tell by the track list, there's three tracks that are based off PC games which is actually not bad if I were to be completely honest (3/12 is 25% after all) but unfortunately there's only two games I can relate to on this list (since I played WoW for only 10 minutes and never again): Command & Conquer and Grim Fandango.

Every C&C fan knows that "Hell March" isn't actually from Command & Conquer but from Command & Conquer: Red Alert, an alternate history spin-off that turned out (IMHO) to be better than the original Command & Conquer series. "Hell March" is a rockin' track and is one of Frank Klepacki's most renowned works, even managing to feature in an episode of the BBC series Top Gear (somehow?)

So how is "Hell March" on Video Games Live Level 5? Um.... interesting I guess. It actually starts with the first part of "Hell March" from the first Red Alert and then finishes with "Hell March 2" from Red Alert 2. While you can't fault the guitar work on this track I feel like the track has a shaky start since it sounds more like a B-grade horror movie with the screeching violins - I mean I do realise what they're trying to do, the series definitely felt like a camp, B-grade, sci-fi film especially with Red Alert 2 and Red Alert 3, but it's kind of off-putting when used on "Hell March".

The other two tracks based on PC games are "World of Warcraft - Malach, Angel Messenger" and "Grim Fandango". The WoW track is competent enough but in the end sounds a lot like generic film music, although the vocals by Malukah are a nice touch (I do prefer her work on The Banner Saga though as well as her epic cover of Civilization IV's "Baba Yetu" with Peter Hollens). "Grim Fandango" is an instrumental medley of various themes found in the game and they obviously sound fantastic, but isn't that much different to the source material.

Don't get me wrong, the rest of the album is great, technically speaking - the orchestra and vocalists do a fantastic job and the tracks are of professional quality, but since I've never played any of the games that feature this music, I don't really feel an attachment to the tracks. However, there were a couple of exceptions where despite never having played the game, I gained a new founded appreciation for the music: "Top Gear" and "Phoenix Wright".

Okay, I'm kind of cheating with "Top Gear" since as you know, I reviewed the excellent Horizon Chase album by Barry Leitch not that long ago and so I have actually heard the "Top Gear" theme before, despite never playing the original SNES game. However, I've never heard such a beautiful rendition of the "Top Gear" theme until I listened to the Video Games Live version of it. It really works well with an orchestra. Also, despite never having played "Phoenix Wright" I felt the track was a good choice too as I can't help but bang my head and tap my feet to the music; it would work well as a theme song for a courtroom drama on TV.

Score – 6/10

It's the same story. "Video Games Live - Level 5", like previous "Video Games Live" albums, is technically good, but there's simply not enough tracks on this album that have really captivated me; even the tracks I was looking forward to such as "Hell March" and "Grim Fandango" turned out as merely "alright" versions of the originals. The stand out track on this album for me would be the orchestral version of "Top Gear" and hopefully Barry Leitch feels the same way. If you happen to like the soundtracks for most of the games on the track list however, then you might be able to appreciate this album more than I did.

If you're interested in purchasing the album, it's currently available for $15.00 USD from the Video Games Live official store.

[ Video Games Live - Store Page ]

Monday, September 26, 2016

Choicest VGM - VGM #249 - Detroit - Factory Screen

Screenshot of Detroit computer game Factory Screen

Soundtrack composed by: Christopher J. Denman and Jason P. Rinaldi

This track plays when you first enter the game proper: I call it by the very creative name of "Factory Screen" because it shows a... um... factory in the background. The screen also works as a redundant main menu to run your company since you're able to click on different buildings of your factory and access the various departments of your automobile company such as Marketing, R&D, Administration, etc. I say "redundant" because you can also access these departments through a menu bar at the bottom of the screen.

The music has this pompous, elitist feel to it; the kind that wealthy industrialists with top hats and monocles would listen to while savouring some fine Cuban cigars.

The music was recorded through DOSBOX and consequently this is DOSBOX's emulation of OPL3 I believe, the FM synthesis sound chip used in a lot of old Soundblaster cards.

[ VIDEO: Choicest VGM - VGM #249 - Detroit - Factory Screen ]

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Steam Games Sunday - 25 September 2016

Screenshot of computer game Her Story
Her Story debuts on the Steam Games Sunday list at #5
  1. War Thunder
  2. Everyday Genius: SquareLogic
  3. Rainbow Six Siege
  4. Company of Heroes 2
  5. Her Story
  6. Borderlands 2
  7. Call of Duty Black Ops
  8. NBA 2K16
  9. Audiosurf
  10. Home Sheep Home 2

For this week have two newcomers to the list: Her Story and Borderlands 2. Her Story happens to be a game I grabbed as part of a Humble Bundle and I can tell you now I'm not regretting it; it's an FMV murder mystery game that I've had a real blast at playing which is why it's on the list at #5, supplanting Picross Touch which is no longer played any more. Borderlands 2 is on the list at #6 thanks to a Choicest Games contributor revisiting this classic offering by Gearbox Software.

The top of the list looks the same as last week though, with War Thunder still at #1, Everyday Genius: SquareLogic at #2, Rainbow Six Siege at #3 and Company of Heroes 2 at #4. Call of Duty Black Ops also retains the same spot from last week at #7.

The basketball game NBA 2K16 which featured on the list in previous weeks but was noticeably absent last week, returns at the #8 spot. King's Quest which was at the #8 spot last week is now off the list (mainly because I can't bear to play Chapter 3 for a third time with my daughter! Chapter 4 is coming soon though...). Speaking of my daughter, she is the main reason the kid-friendly games Audiosurf and Home Sheep Home 2 wraps up our top 10 with the music surfing game Audiosurf at #9 and the "Shaun the Sheep" puzzle game Home Sheep Home 2 at #10.

Anyway stay tuned for next Sunday to see if this list changes :). Are you playing any of the games on this list? How are you finding them?

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Battlefield 1 Beta Impressions

Battlefield 1 Open Beta Loading Screen
The Harlem Hellfighters will apparently feature in Battlefield 1

Several days ago saw the end of the Battlefield 1 Beta but before it ended, I managed to get in a few rounds of Conquest and Rush on the one map they offered: Sinai Desert.

The last time I've played a Battlefield game was several months ago when I was still playing Battlefield 4. Since then, my FPS of choice has been Rainbow Six Siege which is quite a bit different in terms of pacing and strategy. So I haven't had the opportunity to play the two spin-off titles Battlefield Hardline or Star Wars: Battlefront in the meantime which means when I make comparisons, I'm going to be making comparisons with the main series.

So what has changed since Battlefield 4?


Elite classes
Now since the last Battlefield game I've played is Battlefield 4, I've never come across this concept of "elite classes" before. Apparently, it's a similar concept to Battlefront's Heroes and Villains or similar to the weapons you can pick up on the map in Battlefield 4 such as the railgun. In the beta there were three elite classes: the Sentry who is a guy with a large machine gun and platemail, the Tank Hunter who can deploy an anti-tank rifle, and the Flame Trooper who likes to dance to Disco Inferno.

Tickets system
The tickets system has now changed for Conquest (but IIRC, it hasn't for Rush). Basically, in previous iterations of Battlefield both teams would start with an equal number of tickets and by either capturing points or killing the enemy, you would cause the opposition to "bleed" tickets. The first team to have 0 tickets is the loser and the one still with tickets remaining, the winner. In BF1, both teams start with 0 tickets and then must be the first to reach a certain number of tickets. So instead of losing tickets you now have to gain tickets. Also, the gaining of tickets is only influenced by the capturing of objectives instead of kills.

The move has been controversial amongst veterans of the series but changing the game so that PTFO has a greater impact on winning or losing surely can't be a bad thing.

There aren't any engineers in the game anymore, but you do have the "driver" or "pilot" as a class now. Basically, when you spawn in a vehicle or plane you're assigned to the Driver/Pilot class. You only get a basic weapon (in the beta it was a Mauser C96) but as it was with the engineer class in BF4, you can repair vehicles - you can even do so from inside the vehicle, although any hits to the vehicle will result in the repairs being interrupted.

The Assault class is the new Anti-Tank/Close-quarters class as they're able to equip a Sub-Machine Gun and they also carry anti-tank grenades. Scouts are the snipers of Battlefield 1 but they also have the ability to use armour penetrating "K bullets" which does slight damage to vehicles.

Medics and Support are the only two classes that are pretty much the same as before.

Funny objective names
BF1 has decided to use the old Royal Navy military alphabet so you have points such as "Apples", "Butter", "Charlie", "Duff", "Edward" etc.

What I like:

Audio has always been one of the strengths of the Battlefield series and BF1 is no different. I especially enjoy the sound of the planes as they make strafing/bombing runs :).

Server Browser is back
For those that hate matchmaking, rejoice, since the game is going to have a server browser. For those that hated Battlelog, you get an added bonus because this server browser is an in-game one.

Medic requests
Downed players that need to be revived no longer show up on your HUD by default, unless the downed player actually wants to be revived. When you've been incapacitated by another player, you have the choice of not calling a medic and skipping back to the respawn screen, or requesting for a medic and hoping one can get to you on time. On the death screen you're actually able to tell if medics are a few metres away or not so you can gauge whether it's likely a medic will get to you in time or not. Neat!

Biplanes and triplanes!
Ahhhh those WWI aircraft. Propeller planes are back! Not only does this mean your mates can help you out by playing as gunners but due to their slow speed and vulnerability to small arms fire, planes aren't as powerful as they are in the modern era Battlefield games.

There are now horses you can ride on in Battlefield! When you ride them you can either fire a rifle or use a sword to slice and dice your enemies. They also can drop ammo and health kits. What I love best about them though are the commands you'll utter; you'll even warn the horse before you're about to jump over an obstacle! Now that's some attention to detail.

It remains to be seen if these things become OP though since there have been some videos surfacing of people just dominating with these things (although I tend to have a habit of either missing my targets altogether or being shot off as soon as I'm in range).

Bolt-action rifles!
While you're not going to escape Sub-Machine Guns and Machine Guns, two classes, the Medic and Scout, get a whole bunch of bolt-action rifles to choose from - and there's something just satisfying about playing a shooter in this era.

Screenshot of Sinai Desert gameplay in Battlefield 1 Open Beta
Welcome to sniper alley

Super vehicles
We didn't get a chance to test the zeppelin in the beta but there was an armoured train which is one of the super vehicles that can spawn on each Conquest map, apparently to help the losing team get back into the game. Unlike other games that tend to reward those dominating on a map with even more powerful abilities *cough* COD *cough* I think it's great that these super vehicles have been introduced as a gameplay mechanic as it means the winning team have to work extra hard for a victory.

Drivers can't be snipers
In fact, players who elect to play as drivers in this game are quite limited in what they can do. Sure, they usually get a metal behemoth of death and they're able to repair the vehicle from inside (provided they're not under enemy fire while doing so) but outside of the vehicle, they're usually only equipped with a Mauser C96 and not much else.

Orchestral score
For those sick of the wub-wub-wub, scratching and stuttering of the electronica that pervaded the soundtracks of Battlefield 3 and Battlefield 4, then you're in luck because Battlefield 1 returns to the roots of the franchise with an orchestral score. Not only that but, as usual, you'll be able to hear leitmotifs from the original Battlefield sprinkled subtly throughout.

Quite smooth
I had very little issues while playing the beta. I didn't really notice any rubber banding or graphical issues. Mind you, I had a better experience with the Battlefield 4 beta compared to the actual game for the first few months so the beta running well on my computer isn't really saying much.

Vehicles are on-demand
No longer do you wait at the spawn for vehicles to spawn. Now you pick a vehicle on-demand (provided there are any available at a particular spawn or objective) and you'll instantly spawn in one. This is great because no longer will you have players loitering around the spawn waiting for a plane only for me to take one and then hear them scream "THAT'S MYYYY PLANE COLONEL MUSTARD!!!!!" over the mic.

What I dislike:

Vehicles are on-demand
While I've already mentioned this is one of the better aspects of the game, it's also its Achilles heel. That's because when you wait to pick a vehicle, while you might not be waiting at the spawn, you're instead waiting in the spawn screen instead, when you could be out in the field doing something for your team. Also, when you pick a tank for example, you get to decide whether it's a light, medium or heavy tank. Medium and Heavy tanks allow multiple teammates to join you in the vehicle but if you pick a light tank, it only fits one player: you. Consequently, I can see a scenario where all tanks are light tanks which means you end up with hardly any transport vehicles for your team - which is not a good situation if you've got no objectives to spawn from.

Weapons don't seem faction based (yet?)
Not sure if that'll be the case once the game is released proper but just like Battlefield 4, the weapons don't seem to be faction-based; that means you're just as likely to see a British soldier using a Lee-Enfield as you are an Ottoman soldier. The vehicles seem to be the same for each side too, with the medium tank being British but the Heavy Tank being German.

Fantasy version of WWI
Some of the weapons in the game are experimental and some of the concepts (e.g. wearing platemail while wielding a machine gun). Also, if you're expecting to be fumbling around in the mud and gore of the trenches in Western Europe, which is how WWI is usually portrayed in media, Battlefield 1 doesn't seem to be that kind of game. Incidentally, if trench warfare is the kind of experience you're looking for, you should check out Verdun

Screenshot of Battlefield 1 Open Beta
And not a trench in sight

What remains to be seen:

Smaller size Rush
In the beta, you could only play with 24 players in Rush mode. It remains to be seen if this change is permanent and whether or not it's a good change - maybe Rush is better if you only have 24 players in it - at least for the maps they have in mind.

Ticket system
The new ticket system may reduce the effectiveness of medics and the support class. I mean, they'll always be useful in keeping a squad alive which is important for spawning purposes, but you'll no longer have that metagame where keeping your squadmates alive also means saving tickets. While this is a good thing in one way it also means that the game seems to encourage human wave tactics... which I guess is kind of historically accurate considering this is meant to be WWI right (i.e. masses of men charging over No Man's Land to secure a trench)?

Are tanks the new jets?
I've seen some complaints from players that tanks are overpowered at the moment. Usually the only way to get rid of them is a concerted effort by the team to spawn Assault soldiers up close and pummel them with anti-tank grenades - that or bring up some tanks of your own - which to me sounds like jets all over again; i.e. the only way to get rid of jets is to have your own jets taking them down since there's usually no better way to do it (i.e. AA are vulnerable to tanks and infantry don't have the fire rate or range on their own). I'm not sure if this is a good or bad thing but I guess we'll find out whether they nerf the tanks or not when the game is released next month.

Screenshot of Battlefield 1 Open Beta - playing in a heavy tank
Some have complained about tanks being overpowered. It remains to be seen if tanks turn out to be the new jets of BF1

Verdict - Promising

After playing Rainbow Six Siege for the past few months, returning to a Battlefield game made the whole experience seem very casual and non-consequential - as if what you did didn't really matter. So it took a few tries before I eventually warmed to Battlefield 1 and realised, it's always been like that but what really makes the game fun are the moments when you play with a competent squad and gradually turn the tide of battle through sheer determination and teamwork: that you can still experience in Battlefield 1 which means this game will still be worth a look when it's released next month.

Have any of you played the Battlefield 1 Beta? What did you think? Have you already pre-ordered the game or are you still skeptical?

Monday, September 19, 2016

Choicest VGM - VGM #248 - Detroit - The Anvil Chrous (Introduction)

Screenshot of the intro from computer game Detroit

Soundtrack composed by: Christopher J. Denman and Jason P. Rinaldi

This track is taken from the introduction sequence to the automobile industry simulation game, Detroit. Once again, Christopher J. Denman (along with the help of Jason P. Rinaldi) has borrowed a famous piece of classical music to use as an intro theme to a game. Previously, it was "Ride of the Valkyries" for the game Global Domination; this time it's Giuseppe Verdi's "Anvil Chorus" which seems appropriate for a game about manufacturing cars, don't ask me why :).

The intro sequence shows how the styling of cars have changed through the ages, starting out with something that looks like a Model-T Ford and ending with a "modern" (i.e. 1990s) sports car.

The music was recorded through DOSBOX and consequently this is DOSBOX's emulation of OPL3 I believe, the FM synthesis sound chip used in a lot of old Soundblaster cards.

[ VIDEO: Choicest VGM - VGM #248 - Detroit - The Anvil Chorus (Introduction) ]

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Steam Games Sunday - 18 September 2016

Screenshot of Uluru in the game Home Sheep Home 2
Home Sheep Home 2 takes the Shaun the Sheep around the world... even Uluru!

  1. War Thunder
  2. Everyday Genius: SquareLogic
  3. Rainbow Six Siege
  4. Company of Heroes 2
  5. Picross Touch
  6. 80 Days
  7. Call of Duty Black Ops
  8. King's Quest
  9. Marvel Heroes
  10. Home Sheep Home 2

For this week we see Home Sheep Home 2 just making it onto the list in the #10 spot. Home Sheep Home 2 is a puzzle game based on the popular children's show "Shaun the Sheep" and I've been playing it a bit more recently thanks to the request of a certain daughter. The other games on the list should be familiar to regular readers of the blog. Again we have War Thunder still in the top spot but what might be slightly surprising is that Rainbow Six Siege is no longer in the #2 spot; Everyday Genius SquareLogic has managed to supplant Rainbow Six Siege pushing Ubisoft's tactical shooter to the #3 spot. Picross Touch has also moved up from #5 to #4 meaning Company of Heroes now sits in the #5 spot. Regency Solitaire has disappeared off the list (mainly because the Choicest Games member who played the game has now finished it); in its place in the #6 spot is 80 Days which was previously in the #8 last week. Call of Duty Black Ops makes a return to the list at #7, King's Quest has gone up to #8 from the #9 spot and Marvel Heroes drops to 9th place from 7th place.

Anyway stay tuned for next Sunday to see if this list changes :). Are you playing any of the games on this list? How are you finding them?

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Rainbow Six Siege Patch 4.2 to be released today

Image of Rainbow Six Siege Mid Season Reinforcements
Twitch and Doc gets buffed, while Blackbeard and Valkyrie get nerfed

Ubisoft has revealed a whole bunch of changes coming to Rainbow Six Siege in the next patch (version 4.2) which will be released very soon: Tuesday 13th September to be precise. There are actually some quite dramatic ones here which I'll talk a bit more about after you check out the list.

Here's a summary of the changes:

  • Impact grenades for Defenders and claymores for Attackers added to game (what is this? BF4?)
  • Addition of two new attachments: Muzzle Brake and Heavy Barrel
  • Reduced the number of team kills before teamkiller is booted
  • Killing hostage counts as multiple team kills
  • Reduced number of team kills before being booted in early stage of game (Ubisoft noticed with their data that intentional team killing tended to happen at the beginning of a round)
  • Early team kills count will not reset between rounds
  • Will implement an anti-bullying system in the future

  • Buff: G36C now has even less recoil

  • Nerf: MK17 CQB Assault Rifle has more recoil with shield on
  • Nerf: Shield only has 150 HP instead of 800HP. But he now gets two of them and can alternate between them.

  • Buff: CARMS DMR does more damage.

  • Loses barbed wire and gains Impact Grenade

  • Loses nitro cell and gains Impact Grenade

  • Buff: P90 less recoil to counter nerf they implemented a while back
  • Buff: Can over-heal – can give temporary 40 HP health boost to himself or teammates up to 120 health

  • Buff: 9mm C1 SMG increase in damage

  • Buff: PKP Pecheneg does more damage

  • Loses breach charge and gains claymore

  • Buff: can deploy gadget faster

  • Buff: can deploy gadget faster

  • Buff: MP5K gets slight damage boost and slightly less recoil

  • Buff: P90 less recoil to counter nerf they implemented a while back
  • Loses barbed wire and gains Impact Grenade

  • Loses nitro cell and gains Impact Grenade

  • Loses stun grenade and gains claymore

  • Loses stun grenade and breaching charges and gains claymore and smoke grenades

  • Buff: 417 DMR has now less recoil and more damage
  • Loses stun grenade and gains claymore
  • Gets two shock drones (but no normal drones) and can use shock drone in preparation phase (!!!)
  • Shock drone is harder, better, faster, stronger (actually it’s faster, more silent, less conspicuous and has better dart range)

  • Nerf: 3 Black eye cameras instead of 4

Two operators from the GIGN appear to be the big winners in this update: Doc and Twitch. Doc is now able to boost the health of his teammates which means he can actually be useful in Multiplayer. The P90 (which I tend to use) also has less recoil now, to counter the effects of a previous nerf to the weapon. Twitch, however, is going to be a huge game-changer now. Not only does she get two shock drones (she no longer gets two normal drones), and not only are her shock drones, faster, silent, less conspicuous and with better dart range, but they can be used during the preparation phase. This means she has the potential to create complete havoc while the defending team are still trying to setup defences and it also becomes imperative to keep an eye out for drones since they're not just a simple nuisance now, but they can actually destroy all your gadgets (or worse, cause you to die an embarrassing death - if you can get shocked 10 times). Other operators that have had buffs to their weapons include Ash (the G36C), Buck (the CAMRS), Frost (9mm C1 SMG), Fuze (PKP Pecheneg), Mute (MP5K), Rook (P90) and Twitch (417 DMR).

The two biggest losers both happen to be from the Navy SEALs: Blackbeard and Valkyrie. Valkyrie receives a slight nerf in that she can only deploy three Black Eye cameras instead of four, however Blackbeard is the subject to some pretty serious nerfing; his rifle shield is no longer able to withstand 800HP of damage and can now only withstand 150HP. However, Blackbeard gets two rifle shields now as a bit of a compromise. Also his assault rifle has more recoil while using the shield.

In terms of the new gadgets, it remains to be seen whether they make the game even more chaotic than before or not. Impact grenades were given to defenders as a means of quickly destroying walls but they might also be a more effective way to take out shield operators since now you no longer need a two-step process to detonate explosives (like you did with the nitro cell). The claymores that the attackers get will also make it slightly more difficult for roamers as they have to be extra cautious about the attackers setting up traps now.

Overall, I think there are some good changes coming up in this patch - I especially like what they've done for Doc since he hardly gets used at all besides the occasional Terrorist Hunt match. Oh, also the stricter rules about teamkilling is welcome too, except with respect to the hostage, there may have been a couple of times where I accidentally killed him... so I guess I have to be extra careful from now on.

[ Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege: Mid Season Reinforcements ]

Monday, September 12, 2016

Choicest VGM - VGM #247 - Sid Meier's Colonization - Road to Boston

Original Soundtrack composed by: Jeffery L. Briggs, Ken Lagace and Roland J. Rizzo

Amiga Soundtrack by: Allister Brimble and Anthony Putson

For our final track to feature from Sid Meier's Colonization we have another "Independence" tune titled "Road to Boston". This, like many tracks on the Colonization soundtrack, is based off a real fife and drum theme also called "Road to Boston". It also happens to be the ceremonial march for Massachusetts since 1985.

EDIT (15/10/2016): A fellow YouTube user +Plastiware has alerted me to the fact that despite me originally advertising these tracks as the Amiga version of the soundtrack, it's probably not entirely accurate. I originally marked these as the Amiga version due to the source MP3s I used stating Allister Brimble and Anthony Putson as the composers, but when comparing these tracks to Amiga versions of the soundtrack on YouTube and then comparing it to a DOS CD version, it seems these are most likely from the DOS CD version. Apologies for the mistake.

[ VIDEO: Choicest VGM - VGM #247 - Sid Meier's Colonization - Road to Boston ]

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Steam Games Sunday - 11 September 2016

Screenshot of Company of Heroes 2
A Choicest Games contributor decides to revisit Company of Heroes 2 resulting in it taking the #5 slot this week

  1. War Thunder
  2. Rainbow Six Siege
  3. Everyday Genius: SquareLogic
  4. Picross Touch
  5. Company of Heroes 2
  6. Regency Solitaire
  7. Marvel Heroes
  8. 80 Days
  9. King's Quest
  10. 1849

The highlight for this week's Steam Games Sunday is not just one, but three games making their debuts to the list: Company of Heroes 2, 80 Days and King's Quest; Company of Heroes 2 takes Regency Solitaire's previous #5 position and pushes it down to #6, 80 Days pushes Squad out of its #8 position (and off the list entirely), while King's Quest has pushed 1849 down to the #10 slot. King's Quest (at least Chapter 3, as the rest of the game isn't finished yet), I've played before, but I've only replayed it recently thanks to my daughter taking an interest in this fairy tale adventure game. 80 Days on the other hand is a new game taken from my backlog and thankfully it's one that doesn't take too long to finish: as the name implies, it's a game based off the famous Jules Verne novel "Around the World in 80 Days" although it adds a Steampunk twist to it. I found it quite entertaining, so expect a review of it in the coming weeks. Company of Heroes 2 has shot up the list due to a Choicest Games contributor revisiting the game - a game I still haven't reviewed - but that's probably because I want to finish the single player campaign first.

In terms of the rest of the list, War Thunder, Rainbow Six Siege, Everyday Genius Squarelogic and Picross Touch remain in the #1, #2, #3 and #4 slots respectively. Civ V has dropped off the list with Regency Solitaire now residing in the #6 slot and Marvel Heroes remains in the #7 spot. Sniper Elite III which was previously in the #10 spot has been pushed off the list by 1849.

Anyway stay tuned for next Sunday to see if this list changes :). Are you playing any of the games on this list? How are you finding them?

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

GameMaker Studio Pro Humble Bundle now available for $15 USD

Screenshot of the game Cook, Serve, Delicious!
Cook, Serve, Delicious! is one of the games you can get in the Humble GameMaker Bundle.

YoYo Games has released a Humble Bundle with a ridiculous amount of value, especially if you want to get into indie games development. At the moment they’re offering $1,885 USD of software, source code and games for only $15 USD.

While I already own GameMaker Studio Pro on Steam I don’t own the export modules for HTML5, Android, iOS and Windows UWP which normally cost up to $300 USD each if purchased off Steam. Considering I can now get all of these for $15 USD is crazy. Not only that but you get a couple of neat games, especially Cook, Serve, Delicious. Also, if you don’t think GameMaker Studio is a capable tool, you might want to rethink that after playing games like Hotline Miami, Risk of Rain, Gunpoint and Spelunky - all critically acclaimed games using GameMaker Studio.

Just a note to the Steam fanbois though, this GameMaker Studio Pro and its modules can only be redeemed from the official GameMaker Studio website and consequently aren’t the Steam versions. So if you wanted to do what I did and add the modules to your Steam version of GameMaker Studio, I don’t think this is possible. But who cares! It’s $15 guuuuuuuys. Oh, most of the games themselves though, they’re redeemable on Steam.

Specifics about the bundle are below:

Pay what you want:
- GameMaker Studio Pro
- Uncanny Valley (game)
- Cook, Serve, Delicious! (game)
- INK (game)
- Extreme Burger Deluxe (source code)
- Freeway Mutant (source code)
- Shep Hard (game + source code)
- Angry Chicken: Egg Madness! (Android game + source code)

Pay more than the average:
- HTML5 Module
- Home (game)
- Solstice (game)
- Galactic Missile Defense (Android game + source code)
- Uncanny Valley (source code)
- INK (source code)
- 10 Second Ninja X GameMaker Edition (source ode)
- Cook, Serve, Delicious! (source code)

Pay $15 or more:
- Android Module
- iOS Module
- Windows UWP Module
- Flop Rocket (source code + UWP Package)
- Solstice (source code)
- Home (source code)

[ Humble Bundle - Humble GameMaker Bundle ]

Monday, September 5, 2016

Choicest VGM - VGM #246 - Sid Meier's Colonization - Washington's Artillery March

Original Soundtrack composed by: Jeffery L. Briggs, Ken Lagace and Roland J. Rizzo

Amiga Soundtrack by: Allister Brimble and Anthony Putson

We're almost coming to the end of our collection of music from Sid Meier's Colonization and for our penultimate track we have another "Independence Tune" called "Washington's Artillery March". Like many tracks that make up the Colonization soundtrack, this happens to be an actual piece of music played by ancient fife and drum corps.

EDIT (15/10/2016): A fellow YouTube user +Plastiware has alerted me to the fact that despite me originally advertising these tracks as the Amiga version of the soundtrack, it's probably not entirely accurate. I originally marked these as the Amiga version due to the source MP3s I used stating Allister Brimble and Anthony Putson as the composers, but when comparing these tracks to Amiga versions of the soundtrack on YouTube and then comparing it to a DOS CD version, it seems these are most likely from the DOS CD version. Apologies for the mistake.

[ VIDEO: Choicest VGM - VGM #246 - Sid Meier's Colonization - Washington's Artillery March ]

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Steam Games Sunday - 4th September 2016

Screenshot of puzzle game Picross Touch
Puzzle game Picross Touch debuts on Steam Games Sunday in 4th place this week

  1. War Thunder
  2. Rainbow Six Siege
  3. Everyday Genius: SquareLogic
  4. Picross Touch
  5. Regency Solitaire
  6. Sid Meier's Civilization V
  7. Marvel Heroes
  8. Squad
  9. 1849
  10. Sniper Elite III

The highlight for this week's Steam Games Sunday is Picross Touch making its debut to the list, and what a debut it is, at the #4 slot. If you're into playing a free Picross clone on PC, Steam has one at the moment (that's apparently quite addictive according to the stats available). I'm just surprised the name "Picross" isn't trademarked by Nintendo... Also, while Picross Touch had a huge debut to the list, Star Trek Online, the game that was previously in the #4 slot, had a huge drop, so huge that it's off the list entirely!

In terms of the rest of the list, War Thunder, Rainbow Six Siege and Everyday Genius Squarelogic remain in the #1, #2 and #3 slots respectively (although War Thunder is now well and truly ahead of the pack, thanks to the fact I've started playing it a bit more now). Regency Solitaire has pushed up the list from 10th place to 5th place, thanks to a Choicest Games contributor investing the time to finish the game. Civ V has moved up from 8th place to 6th place and Marvel Heroes has remained in 7th place. Squad has taken a bit of a drop from 6th place last week to 8th place this week and Sniper Elite III has taken a bit of a drop too from 5th place last week to 10th this week. A surprise return to the list is 1849 at 9th place; after noticing that I was on the home stretch, it gave me motivation to complete the game (expect a review in the foreseeable future).

Besides these games, I've been spending some time playing the Battlefield 1 Beta. But of course, since it's an Origin game, it's never going to make this list :).

Anyway stay tuned for next Sunday to see if this list changes :). Are you playing any of the games on this list? How are you finding them?

Friday, September 2, 2016

The Top 10 Operators in Rainbow Six Siege

Screenshot of Caveira, Tachanka and Valkyrie in Rainbow Six Siege
Just another day at the office

Ubisoft already provides people details about which operators are the most picked in Rainbow Six Siege but I've always found that there are a couple of problems with this metric: first, just because an operator is popular in terms of being picked, doesn't mean he or she is necessarily that effective in helping your team achieve victory. Also, publishing which operators are the most picked might in itself skew the results since people will then pick the most popular because everyone else is.

Finally, if you look at all the operators on the list they only show the non-DLC operators when in reality they're probably getting used just as much if not more than the vanilla operators (Maybe they need a Smooth Operator?).

Anyway, I've been playing Rainbow Six Siege for a decent amount of time now as well as Choicest Games contributors Lanna and Luke, so I thought, why not conduct a poll amongst ourselves to determine which operators we value the most? Which operators can your team not live without and which ones are really not that useful?

So how did we conduct this poll? Well I simply gave a list of all operators and got myself, Lanna and Luke to give a rating from 0-2 for each of the operators. 0 means the operator is either considered of minimal benefit to the team or the few times that the operator can be of benefit don't occur often enough. 1 means the operator is a competent operator or he/she is useful in some situations. 2 means the operator is a "must-have" for any team; they're either very powerful or they have an ability that's critical to a team's success.

So I tallied all the votes and of course it turns out there were several tied votes. I used my own discretion in determining the rank of operators whenever this occurred (so you can blame me if you don't like any of them, not Luke or Lanna :P). But before we get into the top 10, here are those that didn't quite make the list but were well regarded:

Rated as a competent operator and as an essential operator by Luke because of her ability to breach through breakable surfaces and not be affected by Mute's jammers.

Rated as a competent operator and as a very effective one by Lanna. Almost every game with Frost on the team will result in at least one operator having their leg trapped by a "welcome mat".

Rated as a competent operator and as a very powerful one by Lanna. Fuze is very effective at clearing rooms of enemies, just be careful not to set off cluster charges in the room with the hostage. Couple that with the fact he gets heavy armour and the ability to use a PKP Pecheneg, and you've got one tough operator able to inflict lots of damage.

Glaz is one of Lanna's favourite operators just because she loves to snipe. Her two votes meant he almost had a chance of making the top 10 but you really have to be a good marksman to make the most of him - either that or be at the right place at the right time.

It's also worth noting that Tachanka got 0 votes from everyone - but we still love him. ALL PRAISE LORD CHANKA! {-}7

Portrait of Buck - Rainbow Six Siege Operator

#10 - Buck

Buck was rated as a competent operator by all but is a particular favourite of Lanna's. His "Skeleton Key" is handy as a breaching tool at range (albeit a short range) and it's also handy as a short-range shotgun. The ability for him to switch quickly between short and long range makes him a versatile operator and his ability to bring along frag grenades makes him a jack-of-all-trades.

Portrait of Sledge - Rainbow Six Siege Operator

#9 - Sledge

Sledge happens to be the first operator I unlcocked and he's probably the simplest to understand (HAMMER SMASH!) but don't be deceived, just because his unique ability might seem "simple" it doesn't mean it's useless. Sledge is a particular favourite of Luke's because people don't often realise that not only can Sledge break through barricaded windows, doors and breakable walls, but he can make short work of Castle's bulletproof reinforcing too.
"Underrated operator. If the opposition brings Castle, this guy would be handy in a last minute rush to the objective." - Luke

Portrait of Castle - Rainbow Six Siege Operator

#8 - Castle

Castle is a favourite operator of mine who becomes especially useful at points with a limited number of breakable entrances. Not everyone carries breaching charges or has a means of breaching Castle's bulletproof reinforcing so if it comes down to it, you'll have to do things the old fashioned way of smashing the thing multiple times with your gun which is time intensive and risky. If the enemy team is starting to run out of time, it could mean the difference between victory and defeat. Castle's ability to win the game without the need for bloodshed means he's a good choice for those who want to PTFO.

Portrait of Thatcher - Rainbow Six Siege Operator

#7 - Thatcher

This is probably one of the more controversial choices amongst the judges because two of us thought of Thatcher as an essential teammate while the other thought he was of minimal use. While it's true that his special ability might seem rather benign (doesn't actually kill anyone) ridding the enemy team of gadgets unlocks lots of opportunities, like being able to throw grenades, or being able to set off an exothermic charge or clearing a room of cameras; he basically neutralises the unique abilities of many defenders.

"Paired with Thermite or Fuze, Thatcher is quite useful. He's basically the hard counter to Bandit, Mute and Jaeger" - Luke

Portrait of Blackbeard - Rainbow Six Siege Operator

#6 - Blackbeard

Blackbeard is the first of the operators on this list to recieve a total of 5 points from the judges meaning two have voted him as being an essential operator with another voting him as being competent. There's been many times that we've had to go toe-to-toe with Blackbeard and usually Blackbeard comes out on top. Thanks to his rifle shield he has extra survivability, especially if you can rappel upside down a window or go prone. He also gets a very powerful rifle in the Stoner SR-25 - in fact the only weapon that does more damage is Glaz's OTs-03 Dragunov SVU.

Portrait of Pulse - Rainbow Six Siege Operator

#5 - Pulse

You know how in most FPSs players tend to hate wallhackers and anyone doing so is considered a cheater? Well what happens when the game itself has an operator that is essentially a wallhacker? Introducing Pulse, the operator that everyone loves to hate. On his own, Pulse is a roamer to be reckoned with; if he's working with his team on voice comms though, the team is almost unstoppable. There's been a couple of times I've been on a team where Pulse acted as the eyes and ears for another teammate meaning he knew exactly when to fire a bullet and when.

Portrait of Valkyrie - Rainbow Six Siege Operator

#4 - Valkyrie

I believe Rainbow Six Siege is a game where intel rules supreme; the use of cameras and drones to locate the enemy is crucial to your team's success. So if you have an operator like Valkyrie who is able to plant more cameras which have an 180 degree viewing arc, I believe you're definitely onto a winner. She's also not a bad roamer too and Luke agrees:

"Extra intel is important. She doubles up as a roamer but with good intel." - Luke

Portrait of Thermite - Rainbow Six Siege Operator

#3 - Thermite

The top three operators were voted as essential by all three judges. It's probably no coincidence that all three judges have spent many hours playing these operators too. While each of these three operators are equally ranked as first, it came down to me to assign the third, second or first place. So in third place, I've given it to Thermite. Every defender gets the ability to reinforce breakable walls and Thermite is the only operator that can breach through them, meaning he can create new entryways for the attackers or line of sight for snipers to clear the room. If you don't bring Thermite in your team you've already limited the number of ways your team can breach through which translates into a lower likelihood of success. Just don't play Thermite like me though - I have a habit of dying even before I get close to the objective!

Portrait of Rook - Rainbow Six Siege Operator

#2 - Rook

Rook is probably the easiest operator to play for beginners since once you've dropped your armour pack, your job is pretty much done. Rook's armour plates gives a defensive bonus for the whole team and while it might be minimal, every bit of armour helps (and could mean the difference between life or death). He's also got some decent sub-machine guns with the MP5 and P90 along with the fact he wears heavy armour himself.

Portrait of Mute - Rainbow Six Siege Operator

#1 - Mute

For the numero uno operator, we have Mute - an operator that has been played quite considerably by myself, Luke and Lanna. While sometimes it's near impossible to prevent drones from finding the objective(s) (especially on bomb defusal maps) hiding the objectives can potentially buy your team some time (as well as give you some points). But wait, there's more! Mute can also jam electronic devices, such as exothermic charges or even Blitz's flash shield. This means if the enemy wants to ensure they have a chance of breaching reinforced walls, they'll need to bring someone like Thatcher along and doing so means they're one other potential operator down. Mute also gets a neat SMG in the MP5K as well as the ability to throw nitro cells (useful against shield operators).

"Forces the other team to consider bringing Thatcher or else risk not breaching through reinforcing." - Luke

So what do you think? Do you agree with our list? Let us know in the comments who you believe to be essential operators for the team and why.