Titanfall Beta

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I have been playing the Titanfall “Beta” (demo) for a few hours now and I like what I see so far. The game has that fast and fluid pace that Call of Duty has, but the gameplay is a lot more dynamic. The maps have a great vertical element to them, and with the jets and wall running you have a lot of freedom to move around and get behind your enemies. It reminds me a bit of how Brink controlled, only better. The Titans are not the overpowered beasts that I was worried they might be, and are actually pretty fun to use. They Titans are fairly maneuverable, allowing you to be smart about when to engage enemies and when to fall back.

The only thing that I find sort of weird is all of the AI controlled enemies in the maps. The only thing I can think to compare them to are lane creeps in DOTA/LoL/HoN. They don’t pose any challenge at all, and seem to exist only to pass the time until people start calling in Titans. Killing them lowers the time until you can call in your Titan (or gives you points in Attrition mode), which seems like the only reason to even engage them. I feel the game would have been better served by allowing more people to play at once, then trying to fill out 6v6 games with these AI opponents.

I am also not a huge fan of the burn cards, which are single use card you can equip that give you various advantages until you die. Examples include infinite magnetic grenades or “Amped” weapons that do more damage. You unlock these by completing challenges and only “burn” them once you die. It adds a somewhat random element to the game and I honestly don’t see the advantage to these existing at all.

Still, initial impressions are good. Titanfall seems to be a pretty fun casual shooter with a reasonably high skill ceiling. It’s not something I would expect to see played competitively, but that’s totally fine. I will probably be picking the game up in March.

Enjoy these gameplay videos below of some of my first matches where I have no idea what I am doing:

Titanfall Beta Gameplay 1


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Planetside 2 Clips

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I have been recording some clips of Planetside 2 with Nvidia’s Shadow Play functionality. I might do a real montage at some point, but this is not it. A lot of these clips are too long for an actual montage. Still, there are some cool moments. Most of these clips are from the double XP weekend that just ended this past Monday.



Snowdrop Engine Video

The next-gen consoles might be out already, but real next-gen games have not released yet. One of the few games that looks to be pushing ahead into next-gen territory is The Division, and it is the Snowdrop engine that is going to take it there. The game and engine is being developed by Ubisoft Massive, which has a history of creating impressive engines for real time strategy games such as Ground Control II and World in Conflict.



Gaming in the Mid 90s

The mid 90s is when I really got into playing video games. It was a great time to get into it, with tons of games and a lot of different platforms. I found these scans of a 1996 Toys ‘R’ Us advertisement, and it brings back some pretty serious nostalgia. I don’t remember SNES and N64 games being that expensive, but then again I was not really the one buying them at the time. I really cannot wait until the Retron 5 comes out next month. I am going to break out some of my old games and play them again.

 

 Killzone Shadow Fall

Killzone Shadow Fall

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Killzone Shadow Fall, the latest in the long running Killzone series from Guerilla Games, is being promoted as the showcase game for the new Playstation 4. For the most part, the game does a good job of introducing the capabilities of Sony’s new console. It checks off all of the requisite boxes on the first person shooter checklist, but it never really manages to achieve anything great.

The story takes place many years after the previous three games, where after repelling a Helghast invasion of Vekta, the Vektans followed the Helgast to their home planet and basically ended up annihilating their planet. After a crazy drunken night of partying the Vektans, still absolutely wasted, decide to let the remaining Helgast come back to Vekta with them. The Helgast are given half the planet, allowed to militarize, and a giant wall is built between them. Or at least this is how I assume they came to that decision. That is the completely unbelievable setup to Shadow Fall: the Helgast are right on the other side of this wall and are plotting revenge.

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The story is told primarily through cutscenes that set up each mission and occasional radio messages sent to you during gameplay. There are also audio logs that you can find in the levels, but they tend to contain secondary information that is not very important. The audio logs play out of the new speaker on the Playstation controller. I found this to be rather obnoxious for a couple of reasons: the audio quality of this speaker is not great, you cannot adjust the volume of it from in-game, and it’s awkward to have audio come from my controller when I am using headphones for everything else.

The narrative tries to add some moral ambiguity over who the “bad” guys really are, but it is hard to care when none of the characters are particularly likeable and everyone is in a bad in a situation of their own making.

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The actual shooting mechanics feel tight and responsive, and there is a good selection of weapons to use with some of them offering secondary fire modes. The highlight of the gameplay is a little hovering drone you have called the OWL. You can send it out to attack enemies and provide covering fire, deploy a one way shield in front of you that allows you to shoot out of it, and EMP strike an area disorienting enemies and removing shields. It also has an ability to deploy a zip line allowing you to reach areas you otherwise would not be able to, but this sees limited use in mostly pre-determined areas. It can also heal you if you die, given that it’s not currently recharging and that you have medical supplies available. You have to swipe in various directions on the touch pad to change which mode the OWL is in. It is a bit inconvenient as you have to take a hand off of a thumbstick to do what basically amounts to a button press. Hopefully developers will come up for more creative uses for the touch pad later on.

Speaking of controls, the game only has two control layouts to pick from and both of them only swap what the triggers and shoulder buttons do. There is absolutely no way to change what the face buttons on the controller are assigned to. This seems sloppy, as it should be pretty trivial to allow remapping of buttons.

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It is a bit disappointing that you are required to hold on to your primary weapon at all times. Since you can only hold two weapons at a time, this really limits the number of loadout configurations you can have. Want to have a sniper rifle and a shotgun? Sorry, you have to hold on to that Assault rifle you started with that has no ammo left.

The enemy AI is not particularly smart. They will run around corners into your line of fire one after another, decide to climb ladders in the middle of a gunfight, and don’t really make much of an effort to flank you or seem to work together in any meaningful way. The game tries to make up for this by either sending large amounts of them at you at once, or giving them energy shields that turn them into bullet sponges. It can make for frantic fights at times, but for the most part they are not particularly interesting opponents. Repetition also becomes a problem later in the game, as there is just not a lot of variety to what you fight. They do add some robots in towards the later stages, but they are used sparingly and don’t really do enough to keep the combat feeling fresh.

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The game has a fairly limited cover system that allows you to crouch behind cover, but it feels really unfinished.  There is no button to go into cover, but if you crouch behind cover of the right height you will automatically peak over when you aim down the sights. It is often hard to tell if the cover you are hiding behind is actually tall enough, and when you aim down sights you get anchored to that cover preventing you from moving. The cover also only works vertically, so you cannot take cover around corners or at doorways.

What really kept me playing the game was the level design that included a number of cool setpiece moments. You are constantly on the move from one area to the next. Some of the more interesting highlights include a ship that is flying into the sun, where you can shoot out windows to burn enemies and melt parts of the ship, and a floating train yard where high speed trains are flying all around you as you jump from platform to platform.

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Killzone earns its highest marks in presentation. The graphics are undeniably better than last generation consoles, although anyone with a high end PC has been seeing graphics as good as this for a few years now. The biggest improvement is that is it actually rendering natively in 1080p at 60 frames per second. The game has a nice artistic style that unfortunately often goes overboard with the lens flare and reflective surfaces because apparently almost nothing on Vekta absorbs light. Texture quality and lighting is impressive, although the lighting is completely static. You cannot shoot out lights or otherwise effect the lighting in the environment. Characters are a bit mixed. In the pre-rendered cutscenes they look pretty great and are expressive. During actual gameplay they tend to look a bit stiff with faces that don’t move much and eyes that don’t blink. There also seems to be some issues with lip syncing at times as well. It is also worth noting that the graphics quality seems to have been turned down a bit for the multiplayer, perhaps to provide a more reliable framerate in the unpredictable online modes.

A lot of people are going to be picking up Killzone for the multiplayer, and I am happy to say that I can recommend it for that without any reservations. Pretty much everything you need for a good multiplayer experience is here: fast matchmaking, unlocks and customizable loadouts, solid map design, lots of game modes, and the ability to customize to your satisfaction. When you set up a lobby you can determine everything from which weapons and abilities are allowed to which game modes pop up. The highlight of multiplayer is the Warzone mode, which consists of a variety of different game types that change during the match. For example, a match might start out as team deathmatch, change to a capture and hold mode, before finally switching to a defend and destroy mode. The side that completed the most objectives by the end wins.

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Overall, Killzone Shadow Fall is a by the numbers first person shooter whose main draw is its graphics and multiplayer. The single player is a mostly repetitive and forgettable experience that only occasionally reaches greatness during certain setpiece scenes, while its multiplayer offers enough depth to keep people playing for a while. As a launch title it does a decent job at introducing us to the new capabilities of the Playstation 4 and is worth picking up. A year from now though, Killzone Shadow Fall probably won’t be worth your time.

 

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