Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Admiring landscapes and driving in hastag clubs


Platform tested: PlayStation 4

I realised it was about time to purchase Driveclub. The racing game that Sony planned on giving away on PS4's launch, but delays and a broken release earned the game a bad reputation. A game based around online play and constant updates from other players on their records, ghost times etc. that simply did not work properly at launch. The reviews however seemed to focus more on the actual game though, and it received a lot of average reviews. Fans that stuck with the game from the initial problems seemed to bless a weather update that apparently fixed everything. Does adding weather and fixing bugs to an average game enough though? I caved in recently and finally bought the game.

Driveclub's install is a strange one, I went for the digital version on the PlayStation store, the actual game is about 3GB, then it adds a patch on about 7,5GB, bringing the total to a 10,5GB. Fine by me. However after starting the game and winning about five races I am abruptly halted in my progress; the rest of the game is downloading. What the hell?! So the game actually needs to download lots of tracks and cars after it's launched, and the downloads don't appear on the actual PS4 menus. So I simply had to leave the game on through a night to get all the files downloaded. It gives me flashbacks to the downright insane and obnoxious patching that Gran Turismo 5 was. Thankfully the next day, the game was finished and ready to play.

Putting the strange install aside, how is the actual racing? The game clearly lies in the semi-realism category. Somewhat like a Project Gotham Racing, Forza Horizon, GRID or a less arcade type Need For Speed game, though PGR and Forza Horizon are game series that leaves a much more solid impression of quality than Driveclub. At times I find driving the road races in Driveclub to be very satisfying, however it's rather simple AI ruins the experience and dampens my enthusiasm. Consistently it drives at alarmingly high speeds, with no regard to braking safely into corners. I really dislike it when I have to sacrifice driving with some sense behind wheel to driving damn right reckless to have any change of keeping up. The races on more traditional racing tracks feel really bad because of this, winning them feels like a hit and miss on how completely insane you dare to drive at high speeds.

It just feels like a downer when I have to take corners at almost full speed, simply not to be passed by half of the AI cars because I gently braked a little. It feels even more of a disappointment when Driveclub actually controls precisely when slowing down and taking a turn in a safer manner than what the AI wants me to. I found the lack of a difficulty setting in the main tour mode lacking as such, it would have helped with the problem for my instance. The main tour of the game gives you at least a variety of types of races, from cups, single races, time trails and even drifting events. The latter felt a bit iffy with the games physics, but they help the variation of the game. The your mode could easily have been beefed up with something more than a check box grid, and I dislike that progress is based on how many stars I earn in each race.

Driveclub looks amazing, there's no doubt about it. There's something it really does well with the large scenery it depicts alongside the tracks. It gives a sense of large scale and changes the clouds, day cycle, weather and lighting around this. Speeding down huge valleys looks incredible and very real at times. The close up detail is a little less attractive, varying a bit in quality in my opinion, but then again there isn't really need for it in a racing game. Driveclub likes to build it's tracks around the way it depicts it's large scale tracks, and as such the graphics really look great for what it's trying to accomplish. The added weather update needs mentioning too, I have never seen so well implemented rain or snow effects in a racing game before. The way the water gets thrown around on the windscreen and pushed away by the windscreen wipers, and the shiny cover it gives to the tarmac is just breathtaking!

If comparisons to it's release rival Forza Horizon 2 is to be made; FH2 looks shaper and less blurry, somehow more smooth (even through both games are 30 fps) and looks more vibrant in it's colours. Driveclub on the other hand comes across as more real to the eyes when speeding down a part of the road that lets you see for miles, when you are less concentrated on the smaller details. Both games take benefit for what they want to accomplish with their respective and impressive graphical engines. I do feel that FH2 is a more impressive graphical package, especially considering it is a free-roaming game and indeed has all the rain, day and night cycles Driveclub has. As for the actual game I really feel that FH2 just has a far better game structure and general racing variation. Driveclub's tour grid looks like a fairly lacklustre effort in comparison to FH2's festival touring and large number of events based on a much broader spectre of racing cars and types.

So should you be buying Driveclub? If you own a PS4 and like racing games, well it's a nobrainer: buy it. I get that it may sound like I'm quite disappointed here, and it's mainly the AI ruining the show and to a degree the rather unimaginative main mode, but it's not like it's a bad game. It's just that it could have been a so much better experience with a longer development time. If the game structure and aggressive AI doesn't bother you I would recommend buying the game together with a season pass. There's a ton of extra content and great value for money to be found in the vast amount of DLC it unlocks.

If you are still on the fence about buying a PlayStation 4 or a Xbox One for racing games however; well then I would by far recommend the Xbox One. As a semi-realism racer Forza Horizon 2 is a much better package and on Xbox One you even have Forza Motorsport 5 to play around with as well on the console AND the forthcoming Forza Motorsport 6 later this year, and that's not even counting the multiplatform racers like Project CARS! Your racing cravings will be fed well this year if you choose the Xbox One in other words. Don't get me wrong, Driveclub is a good racing game, but it doesn't warrant a console purchase alone, and as the way it stands now for racing fans; PS4 just isn't the best choice.



+ Plus points

  • Amazing scale, lighting and weather effects.
  • Driving feels responsive and satisfying.
  • Long and varied tracks.

- Minus points

  • Way too aggressive AI, that rewards reckless driving.
  • Long and strange install for the total content.
  • Thin career mode, based on single races in a grid.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Advanced Kevin Spaceyfare

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

Platform tested: PlayStation 4

I'd forgive you if you have lost track of which Call of Duty was the last in the series. So a deep breath then for the mainline Call of Duty series;

Call of Duty (World War 2 setting, a strong alternative and competitor to the Medal of Honour series),
Call of Duty 2 (WW2 again, famous for it's debut on Xbox 360),
Call of Duty 3 (WW2 once again, you bored yet?!),
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (starts the huge trend of modern war setting, multiplayer levelling for shooters),
Call of Duty: World at War (WW2 is back...zzz...AGAIN! Violent, gritty and kind of great),
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (modern warfare is not forgotten! Multiplayer goes bananas, and spoils the formula from CoD4 for me),
Call of Duty: Black Ops (cold war, Viet-fucking 'Nam and a tiny bit of WW2! Incredible mutiplayer, rectifying all the problems with MW2),
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (modern war'ing is back for some more! You basicially destroy all of Europe in this one),
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 (cold war 80's and futuristic war setting!),
Call of Duty: Ghosts (current gen d├ębut and sort of modern war setting in the ever-so-slight-future) and now, BAM(!):
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (futuristic setting again, because flying cars are cool).

Out of breath? You should be. This is the first game in the long shooter series that's made by Activison's Sledgehammer games. It has a future setting. It has mechssuits. It has guns you have never heard of. Technology you have never seen. And Kevin Spacey. Kevin fucking Spacey.

You may be thinking: the guy writing this clearly doesn't like this game. Well, you'd be right before I played it, and you'd be wrong after I finally did! You see, I actually liked the previous game, CoD Ghosts. I liked the setting, the graphical upgrade on my new PS4 and I felt it was fairly varied. I just didn't get the hate. Sure it did nothing new, but I felt that way about all the CoD games since Black Ops 1 mixed it up a little! So when Advanced Warfare emerged I was struck with awe when everybody started praising it. The same people that hated Ghosts. I just didn't understand why, for me it was just the another CoD game. Luckily when I dig into AW, it actually renews itself enough to feel fresh. Fairly fresh that is.

AW feels more current gen than before, the graphics have had a big bump, especially when it comes to character faces, details in the environments and lighting. All while retaining the famous smooth 60fps. AW dares to go an extra few yards by slightly opening up the levels too, though it still feels familiarly like a corridor shooter. It really is a game that could have dared to put a few free roaming levels into the mix, but hey, it's a small step in the right direction.

The game is about a huge company industrializing war and giving the player a second chance after being wounded in a war against North Korea in the opening level. What you get from the company, Atlas, run by Kevin Spacey (who looks just like the real actor, but slightly faring into uncanny valley) is a mechsuit. This suit lets you have abilities that go far beyond human nature. You can slow everything down in typical Matrix fashion, jump from huge heights, lift incredibly heavy things, climb metal surface etc. The game even gives you points to upgrade the suit after each mission, based on kills, headshots, grenade kills and intel items you have found. It's nice to see these new ideas and I always enjoy being able to upgrade my character.

I would have maybe enjoyed the game even more if it actually let me choose the types of mechsuits I wanted for each mission and thus letting me find a route trough a map that suited this particular suits fighting style. But I guess we'll have to wait before they make such drastic changes to the formula and it then needs to be more open it's level design. Luckily though, each mission varies a lot in both visual environments as well as tasks you must perform. I would have personally enjoyed a few mission playing all on my own without the far too chatty soldiers fighting by my side, but the mission variety is, as usual in a CoD game, very good.

I've also played the multiplayer to a smal degree, though no extensive testing at all. I would say it's definitely one of the more difficult CoD games to compete with online. Well trained players and CoD veterans take benefit of the mechsuits and keep jumping around and attacking you from every possible location. Beginners to genre or series may want to try another game before this one, as it' easier to play without the danger of enemies jumping in from anywhere above and benefiting from the more "super natural" powers this game gives the players.

With such a huge list of games released in the series, it's getting more and more difficult to recommend one Call of Duty game over the other. It definitely is a game to buy for this generation and not the downgraded last-gen one, I've hear they're downgraded quite aggressively. So for current gen owners it's probably the best CoD for either your PS4 or Xbox One. If you want a cheaper alternative, and more "down to earth" setting. Then last years CoD Ghosts still is good game to play in my humble opinion.

All in all AW, and similar to the rest of the CoD series, is a safe bet for a fun playthrough in singleplayer with precise and fast controls and gameplay that has withstood the test of time. There's also a ton of hours to be spent in multiplayer if that's your thing. It's a safe buy, that perhaps feels a little too familiar for each year passing.



+ Plus points

  • Offers, somewhat, new ideas for the franchise.
  • Graphically built for the new generation, looks sharp.
  • Sound seems is more detailed and beefed up.

- Minus points

  • Still rather restricted A to B corridor type levels.
  • Very scripted.
  • Mech suits are mandatory chosen for you.