Saturday, 23 August 2014

May the fall of titans begin!


Platform tested: Xbox One

I mostly played Call Of Duty Ghosts early this year for my multiplayer fix on the new consoles, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. After purchasing Titanfall recently though, I realize I should have gone with the latter earlier! It would seem daring to create a new online shooter franchise in today's crowded market, somehow though, Titanfall manages to do things differently enough and ends up being a refreshing title for the genre. 

Titanfall is a pure multiplayer game, it features no singleplayer part, it basically focuses on what is clearly played the most in competitive games like Call of Duty and Battlefield. The game has a great training mode to get you familiar with the new ideas that are in the game. It's a perfect way to ease you into the premises of Titanfall, to sum up; the game plays like a fast shooter like Call of Duty with smooth 60 frames per second gameplay. However the scale of the maps are larger than CoD, but smaller than lets say a typical Battlefield map. The player has increased mobility compared to typical shooters; you can double jump, rocket boost for further distance and even wall-run! The latter being a fantastic parkour-ish way of traversing the maps and encouraging players to lift their heads and use the height of buildings, rather than just fighting on the ground.

Kills will earn you time off your Titan build time. A titan is a huge mech, which gets air dropped into battle after a certain timer has counted down. Once your Titan is ready you can either make it follow you around (a little boring, but useful when you need to hack or take over an area on foot) or jump into it and battle other Titans! Using a Titan is really fun, blasting away at tiny soldiers below or fighting a huge battle against another Titan. The game really ramps up the action; with Titans, soldiers and explosions on screen. It's chaos at times, but a well controlled chaos, giving me vibes from the excellent Unreal Tournament games. Maybe it's just the sci-fi look that gives me UT vibes, but I think it's the well balanced movement and fast pace that relies on the player being good at shooting AND moving (campers will probably not like the game).

Titanfall has all the "standard" multiplayer modes, for example; team deathmatch (called attrition), hardpoint domination (each team tries to control three areas of the map) and capture the flag. It does however have a few new ones built with the Titans in mind; "last Titan standing" puts all the players in Titans from the get go and the aim is to wipe out the entire other team, losing a Titan earns you no new one so the more people that die in a match the smaller their team gets.

You can also play an online campaign mode in the game too. Which basically lets you play through a set of story based missions for each of the two factions in Titanfall. The twist to the campaign though; it's online matches! Meaning that the people on the opposite team are players at home just like you, equally wanting to win. I really liked this idea, it makes you feel the struggle of trying to get a gold on each campaign mission a true battle against other players, rather than scripted and pre-defined AI fights.

Talking of AI. I really dig the AI soldiers Titanfall puts into it's matches. Apart from the other real, online players, all called "pilots", there are lots of AI soldiers and small robots on each team. These are basically cannon fodder, but they give inexperienced players a chance to get some kills in. It kind of rewards players with less skill and fills up the maps with more people, even though they aren't real players. I also really like that each match continues after the match is won by one team; the losing team must get to an escape point and try to evacuate the map. Giving a great sense of rush towards the end to either wipe out the other team or try escaping desperately!

Are there issues? Gameplay wise not really, I found the game balanced and the unlock rewards satisfying. Graphically there are some vsync issues with the game and the lobby system is a little slow compared to the fast Call of Duty ones. While the visuals do their job nicely, the game is no real graphics pusher. It looks smooth and the maps have a modern and cool art style which I like. The visuals do their job, but could have probably need some more polish and detail to compete better with other recent games. It runs quite solidly at 60fps though, which is the most important for this type of multiplayer game.

So Titanfall is one of the most fresh and original shooters I've played for a long time, everything feels so smooth, streamlined and well considered for making a great online experience! For me it felt like a cross between Unreal Tournament and Call of Duty; great gameplay, exaggerated movement and encouraging players to improve not just their shooting skills but also their movement and path choices when traversing the maps. The game keeps pulling me back for more, and one round ends up as many each time. Recommended as a great alternative to all the modern warfare shooters that are online these days!



Thursday, 7 August 2014

Black flagged pirates in shady killing zones

Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag

Platform tested: PS4

I have to admit it; I gave up on Assassins Creed III. It just did not click with me. After playing through AC1 and 2, plus two full-scale side games of AC2, I was tired. Perhaps it was me being sick of the series or perhaps it just wasn't as good as I'd hoped for. That disappointing game aside though; ACIV: Black Flag manages to get me interested in the series once again, in a more light-hearted and fun way.

As always with AC games they take a part in history and play around it, allowing you to witness how it was to live and experience those times. AC4 does this too, but it takes a more light approach to basing itself on reality. It focuses on the Caribbean seas, during the early 18th century. You play an "up and coming" pirate, named Edward Kenway. Like the previous AC games, the game is about joining the Assassins Creed and taking down the Templars, while building up your own little empire. This time around though, the gameplay is divided into almost half and half of naval and land gameplay.

This variation in the main gameplay and focus on ships is what save AC4 from being just another game in the series; it makes the game more original and the sense of exploration far larger. The game has a huge map to explore, with both areas on land to complete missions, side missions, find hidden treasures and explore, as well as areas at sea to reach and ships to defeat.

The game depicts the whole pirate theme perfectly and has interesting storyline about various famous characters from the era. Just like the other AC games you get a sense of the larger picture in life and the struggle against the Templars the Assassins must endure. The whole timespan of the story is huge too, giving the player the sense of Edwards hard life as a pirate. However the game always seems to keep a more humorous tone than the previous games, which goes very well with the whole pirate theme.

There are issues keeping this game from being great though; once again the games controls are tricky. Edward is fine at walking, but once you hit the running button he tries to climb every wall, tree and rock he possibly can. It makes escaping and following enemies a real pain. Frustratingly I had to replay missions as I got stuck into things. The mechanics work a little better in town areas, but since this game is based a lot on more tropical areas the mechanics just show they don't work well in open jungles areas. The modern day storyline, as well as the endless ramblings about the Templars is quickly getting old too. It's like they are never getting anywhere with wrapping up the story after so many games.

I liked my AC4 playthrough, I really enjoyed going into naval warfare, capturing one ship after the other for my ever growing fleet, and upgrading Edwards ship the Jackdaw. The game looks clean and nice, but shows that it was built with the last generation consoles 360 and PS3 in mind, they add little other than a higher resolution and some extra graphical effects for the current gen PS4 version. I'm hoping the next game is built for the new consoles from the ground up and really tweaks the player controls.

Assassins Creed is back as usual, and in a fun and more humorous way captures the essences of pirates in the 18th century. It's a game that focuses on exploring islands and taking part in naval warfare; which sets it apart from the rest of the series in a good way! If you didn't enjoy AC3, or just like pirates in general, you really should take a look at Black Flag!



Killzone Shadow Fall

Platform tested: PS4

The Killzone series is for Sony, what the Halo series is for Microsoft; a popular sci-fi shooter series, that's as popular for it's story driven singleplayer as it is for the competitive multiplayer. Killzone, however, is the little brother when compared to sales and popularity, though it always tries hard with varied results. This latest instalment marks the beginning of the series on Sony's new platform, the PS4, and is not one of the great tries.

If you have had interest in the new consoles, this game is the one you will most likely have seen a lot of screenshots and videos from since it's reveal at E3 last year. Truly showcasing some of it's more open and graphically spectacular levels. Although it does deliver on a technical level that will leave most gamers very impressed and most likely will be a title to boast your new PS4 to your friends with, it falls short as a game experience as a whole.

The opening level is incredible, so are some of the few and more open levels later on too, but they simply give the impression that it's a launch game: The levels don't feel as a more open FPS game should, like say the first Far Cry. Shadow Fall is the same scale, but it never really feels that awesome to fight in the open areas. Enemies seem to randomly appear and the shooting mechanics feel to heavy and clunky for the freedom. A freedom that sometimes seems bigger than what it really is, revealing that it's far more restricted than one hoped for. As such the game results in being another corridor shooting game. Most of the time I spent traversing corridors from A to B. in warehouse like environments or high-tech labs.

A disappointing and cliché experience on powerful new hardware, then. Don't get my compltely wrong here though, it's not a bad game per se. You can find far worse game i genre, but I wish they'd tried a little harder when it comes at least getting the gameplay mechanics more smooth and making the game more free roaming.

The lacklustre story with with it's shallow characters just didn't engage me either. A shame, because the artstyle, lighting and overall design of the game actually has a lot of atmosphere. I found many segments of the game simply to be frustrating; far to many times I was simply told to wait and brace myself for hoards of enemies attacking us. I hated the drone element, as it was cumbersome to use and just felt like a stress element in hectic gunfights rather than being helpful. Don't get me wrong I like new ideas, but the drone just plain annoying.

Shadow Fall is a game to play purely for the graphics, and indeed it does deliver some beautiful scenery. It's a fairly short game though and towards the end I felt I'd played enough anyway. This game does nothing exciting and feels like a typical generic shooting game of newer times. Hopefully they will remedy this on the next release.