Review: Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon – Wildlands

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon® Wildlands - Open Beta_20170225214411I’d like to start off by pointing out how miraculous it is that since his death in 2013 former game designer and novelist Tom Clancy seems to be able to still put out a new game every year. I hope I’m that active when I pass away.

As close to Sarah Connor as the game would allow, which is actually pretty close.
As close to Sarah Connor as the game would allow, which is actually pretty close.

Right off the bat we need to make one thing clear about Ghost Recon: Wildlands, it’s pretty much The Division. At least it’s everything The Division should have been. It’s also a little GTA5 when you drive anything, and feel very Far Cry with the missions and factions, but we’ll get to that in good time.

The driving feels a lot like your in GTA, and the car physics are more cartoon and feel out of place in this game.
The driving feels a lot like your in GTA, and the car physics are more cartoon and feel out of place in this game.
This was moments before I fully flipped the vehicle, the NPC's popped out for a split second before the game noticed I had recovered, and then teleported everyone back inside. Also the vehicle took little to zero damage from this fall.
This was moments before I fully flipped the vehicle, the NPC’s popped out for a split second before the game noticed I had recovered, and then teleported everyone back inside. Also the vehicle took little to zero damage from this fall.

The character generator for the game is where you start off. It’s actually nicely dumbed down from other games Ubisoft has made recently, which is quite nice. I of course opted to make my character looks as much like Sarah Connor form Terminator 2 as possible. Looking at the options I was provided, it seems like this can only be what the developers had in mind, so I went with it. I did have the option of fancy backpacks, ghillie suits, and fancy pants, but I opted for simple all black. I was disappointed I couldn’t get the aviator glasses right away, which would have made my character look uncanny to her T2 counterpart. I think I did pretty good anyway.

The game looks and plays a lot like The Division
The game looks and plays a lot like The Division

The game engine itself looks very much like everything they rolled out for The Division, which is about 6 months old at the writing of this article. You’re in a third person viewpoint until you look down sights, and the world around looks fairly pretty. I have zero complaints about how this game looks, and surprisingly little about how it plays.

The Squad leveling menu. If you're playing solo this is a necessity, but I believe a waste of skill points if you'll be playing online with friends.
The Squad leveling menu. If you’re playing solo this is a necessity, but I believe a waste of skill points if you’ll be playing online with friends.

Moving your character is easy, targeting and aiming are the same. Which is actually a huge step up from the fumbling around in recent Ubisoft shooters. It feels somewhere between The Division and Tomb Raider, smack in between the both of those. Switching weapons is fast and easy, as is targeting enemy characters.

What I find unique in this game is the AI which follow you around and help you complete missions. They aren’t as stupid and dependent on you as previous Rainbow 6 games, they move semi fluidly with you, and if they don’t I found they just sort of appear where they need to be. It’s nice to have a mechanic in game that works as well as this does, because the game is really meant to be played online with friends or strangers. I’ve been prompted several times in games to join a “random” game or invite friends, but it’s nice to have the option to play solo.

Here's a sample of the game map, and you can see how similar it looks to previous Tom Clancy game, and even Far Cry in terms of how the missions are spread and their types.
Here’s a sample of the game map, and you can see how similar it looks to previous Tom Clancy game, and even Far Cry in terms of how the missions are spread and their types.
A first look at the factions you can align yourself with.
A first look at the factions you can align yourself with.

The gameplay on the other hand I cannot praise as much as the aesthetics and mechanics. It plays just like every other game of the genre, all of the missions kind of feel the same. There are multiple things to do at any time, multiple factions you can murder people to impress, and all kinds of small kill and fetch quests to gain XP for the inevitable character leveling. There’s just nothing that makes it stand out, it’s very formulaic, and for that it hits all the right notes, but had it hit some new ones it would be more worth the initial price tag.

Titanfall 2 Tech Test – Titan Fail

Titanfall 2 Tech Test_20160826170310

Over two weekends at the end of August Respawn Entertainment released a beta of sorts for their upcoming sequel to the Xbox exclusive Titafall. The Titanfall 2 beta, which Respawn called a “Tech Test” landed with mixed reviews from fans, we played it on the PS4 and here’s what we thought.

First of all trying to play this game multiplayer was more of a challenge than it should have been. Setting up a session with friends was quite annoying, and the selection of a network was also confusing and flawed. Once we got everyone into a team it seemed things were fine as long as the game didn’t crash (which it did), but the “Network” was a whole different story.

Too many voices, no chat monitoring, and no mute feature in sight.

Upon playing solo the following day, not having anyone in my private voice chat, all of the mics in the Network went live. Suddenly I was overwhelmed with teens and preteens the world over, cursing and racially slandering one another. Worse there was no easy way to mute this setting, and the chat carried over into the actual game with a match started. The solution seemed to be to create a private Network, just to get peace and quiet.

Like most online first person shooters these days the gameplay is much more than running and gunning. We’ll get to the Titans shortly, but for a minute lets talk about upgrades. As you progress through the game you level up your Titan, weapons and character.

Leveling up and earning currency in game.
Leveling up and earning currency in game.

As you progress in level you unlock add-ons for your Titan and weapons. You also earn in game currency to buy unlocks if you don’t want to play the game and unlock them over time. These upgrades are found on the main screen of the game under the “customize” options for your pilot, titan and armory respectively. Most of the upgrades seem pretty inconsequential to the gameplay. Fast aiming, fast reloading, extra ammo and a slightly better gun sight seem the standard fare for each weapon. The Titans have a unique modifier, but it’s nothing to write home about.

There are 5 available character classes to play currently. And those seems to have been tweaked by Respawn in weekend 2 of the tech test. You can also create a custom loadout of sorts, but it’s the same as modifying a normal class. Titanfall 2 Tech Test_20160827041223

The thing about the classes that is upsetting is there is only one class that can use the grapple hook, which was a huge feature shown in all the promo videos for Titanfall 2. Respawn’s fix for this in weekend 2 was to allow any class access to any of the weapons, which were previously class-fixed. But now that you can assign any weapon to any class, there is no purpose to any class at all. So the question is why not simple have the user create a character that can switch out his ability, appearance, and weapons? Keeping the illusion of fixed classes is silly at this point.

Titanfall 2 Tech Test_20160826180910

This game brags to be from the makers of the Call of Duty franchise, and it sure feels like it. In fact it feels a lot like it, to the point where I wondered if I should just go and play a finished CoD game instead of this. The run and gun is fine, but the gimmicks in the game need a lot of work. The wall running is sloppy. Often you get stuck on a surface, or run along the wall when you want to jump over it. The special class moves like the grapple have limited uses and timed regeneration, which becomes infuriating with the grapple. It seems it’s never there when you need it. And true of any CoD clone or the game itself, snipers are horribly over powered.

Titan is ready!
Titan is ready, and it’s about time!

What should make this game different than it’s competition are the Titans themselves. I mean the game is called Titanfall right? Only thr Titans themselves can take forever to become available in game. Their spawn timer is based on points earned through capture points and kills. However if you’re not getting kills, it takes a very long time for the Titan meter to fill. And when it does and you finally get into your Titan it feels like it’s made out of paper. For instance it can take you 5 minutes to get the thing, and then you can lose it in under 30 seconds if you’re facing an opponent who has any skill at all.

1 minute in, and there goes my Titan again.
1 minute in, and there goes my Titan again.

At first I thought it was because I was just really bad at this game, but as I got better I found that it’s not me, it’s just a horrible game mechanic. Calling the machine in paints a huge target on you, and it’s far too easy for an enemy pilot (not titan) to take you out almost as soon as you get in the giant beast. If there are two enemy pilots I wouldn’t even get into the thing. In fact, in most cases its better if you spawn the mech in the middle of the other team and just tell it to automate itself. Which works well, but then it’s no longer you in a mech, it’s just you spawning in a mobile turret. And you know that this is a known issue when one of the three game modes is pilots vs pilots, which doesn’t allow Titans at all. Because lets face it, the whole game in every mode is pretty much pilots vs pilots anyway.

Calling in my Titan right in the middle of the fight, then just letting it do its thing.
Calling in my Titan right in the middle of the fight, then just letting it do its thing.

I had high hopes for this franchise, but after playing this game for two weekends I think I’ve had my fill. Here’s to hoping that Respawn takes every bit of feedback the internet has given them and implements it into the final game. The developer blamed huge player fall off in Titanfall one on a lot of different things, but I would guess this new game doesn’t come close to the initial sales number of it’s predecessor. Titanfall 2 has the potential to be great, but it needs a lot of work before relase to make that happen. A story campaign alone will not save it. I fear instead we will all be waving goodbye to the franchise that could have been.

Goodbye...
Goodbye…

 

Resident Evil 7 Demo: PT and we love it!

 

Resident Evil 7 Teaser: Beginning Hour_20160617183652I have been a huge fan Capcom’s Resident Evil series from the very first game. I still remember when it came out when I was in high school, borrowing the game from my friend and not giving it back for months. The series has come a long way since defining the genre of survival horror games. Long gone are the days of fixed camera angles, and from what I understand even the zombies are gone from the series now… though they have been missing for some time if you think about it.

Resident Evil 7 Teaser: Beginning Hour_20160617184140

Much like the PT demo for the now defunct Konami game Silent Hills (Silent Hill 5) you find yourself in first person, in a creepy house, trying to both figure out who you are and why you’re there, all while trying to escape with your life. The gameplay and atmosphere seem very similar to PT, but they also hold true to what we’ve seen in Resident Evil 4, 5 and 6. Silent Hill and Resident Evil borrow from each other so much it’s really hard to say who did what first anyway. Though the atmosphere is similar to PT, it’s without the same level or terror and jump scares. You feel much safer playing this game alone in the dark.

The RE7 demo also has it’s own series of secrets, some still without answers. You can finish the demo fairly easily, but move too fast and you’ll miss things like the lock pick, the axe and the headphones. All but one of this games secrets seem to have been solved, but 24 hours after it’s release the one challenge that still has the internet on edge is the mannequin finger. To date no one seems to know what its purpose is, and it’s the only item without one in your inventory. Further there are rumours that Capcom themselves have said they it has a very specific purpose in the demo. Some theories say that the finger will be of use in the final game, but that seems unlikely as everything contained in the demo lives in a world outside of the final game, and none of it’s contents will exist beyond this demo. Much the same way PT was a stand-alone mini game.

Resident Evil 7 Teaser: Beginning Hour_20160617183835Resident Evil 7 Teaser: Beginning Hour_20160617184235The finger aside, the inventory system itself is another thing which makes use feel we are at home in an RE game. You can see the number of slots available and assign items to places on the D-Pad. It can be assumed that as the actual game progressed you will find a fanny pack of sorts to allow you to carry more items as has been the case in all the other RE games to date.

Resident Evil 7 Teaser: Beginning Hour_20160617184033

It’s a great demo, and if the final game is anything like it then it will be an awesome finished product. I can’t wait for this game to be released, and as a bonus it is also going to be one of the first titles on the PS VR. I can’t wait to have the craps scared out of me in virtual reality in Spring of 2017.

Josh... Josh! (like that one time in Blair Witch...).
Josh… Josh! (like that one time in Blair Witch…).

Doom Multiplayer Beta – First Impressions

Doom Multiplayer Beta

It’s Quake. It’s not Doom. Can we just get that out of the way? The story mode may be Doom, and the property may be Doom because they killed off Quake, but for all intents and purposes this beta is an updated Quake 3 Arena. I have also heard a lot of the Internet saying it plays very much like a Call of Duty clone, but I don’t agree with that. I guess that’s a sign of my age, and I’m not supposed to be able to put that together, but Quake is clearly what’s going on here.

Having said that, Quake 3 Arena was a great game, and this new Doom version of it too has that same feeling to it. So much so that it feels like I’m playing a game from a decade ago.

The beta itself has a couple of PvP game modes, which are essentially a team death match and capturing a point. There’s not much more to it, and there doesn’t need to be. This game type has always been about getting together with friends and blowing them up. It doesn’t need the same back-story of a Halo or Destiny.

DOOM Beta_20160415164221You also have some options to make your space marine your very own. You can change his outfit to a limited number of other generic space marine outfits. You can also customize your colour scheme, with the same generic colours as every other space marine. And if you want a very special and unique snowflake of a murdering space jockey you can add levels of grime and scratches to your totally not generic space monkey.

DOOM Beta_20160415164203The gun load outs are similar to the outfit choices. There’s the launcher (from Quake 3), the rifle and the shotgun that everyone will use because they are quick and deadly. And a few other fancy weapons like the lightning gun, which no one will use because it’s silly and you have to follow your opponent hitting them constantly with it to get a kill.

DOOM Beta_20160415164147Then there are the Hack Modules. These are items you win randomly at the end of a match. You can hold a certain number of them, and when you die you can activate them for a temporary advantage. So you could die and come back with bonus armor, or be able to see the person who killed you on the map and get revenge. Most of them are borderline useless because you’ll die before you get the benefit of using them, it’s the advice of this writer that you stick with the ones that get you more XP, because that will unlock things for you faster.

DOOM Beta_20160415164522

The game looks good. Not great, just good. It plays very fast, which is likely why they didn’t go for the mind blowing, server crashing graphics of other games in the same genre. It doesn’t look like a next gen game though, not even close considering it’s coming out 2 years into the reason of PS4 and Xbox One.

It plays a little sluggish as well. The turn speed – both vertical and horizontal – can be adjusted in the menu, but even so it never feels like your character is moving and turning at the pace you want. If you’re used to playing Halo or Destiny you’re going to feel a little slowed down for sure. There is a speed boost item you can find in the level, but maybe that should be replaced with a short term sprint that each character has natively.

DOOM Beta_20160415164714

The damage system also leaves a little to be desired. Your health starts at 100%, armor [without a modifier] starts at 0. Every weapon deals damage based on distance and impact. What I don’t understand is how I can stand next to someone and hit them point black with 4 rockets and they don’t die?! How is that a thing? And it’s always the case. There is also way too much health and armor everywhere, which re-spawns far too quickly. You may as well just hold the fire and move buttons down and not look at the screen, you’ll be just as effective as everyone else.

The Daemon Runes are the game changer, literally. If you get one, you change into a monster for a minute (or until you die). In the beta it’s the skeleton fellow from the poster of the game known as The Revenant. Every hit from him is a 1 hit kill, and he can fly. His health is also 300HP. Pretty much the team with him the most is going to win. And that has been the case every time I play, no matter if it’s a team death match or the capture point round. Maybe they will either nerf his power or increase the weapon damage, but something has to change before launch.

DOOM Beta_20160415165639

Having said all that, the game is still fun to play. The biggest issue I have with it is on day 2 of the open beta I’m struggling to find people playing the game. Last night at it’s midnight launch I could start a match almost instantly. Now I find myself waiting sometimes over 10 minutes for it to find the minimum player count to start the game. Not a good sign on only day two of the beta release.

For a free beta I say download it and play, but for an $80 game with some undefined season pass already available for purchase I think this game is a pass. I don’t think the novelty of the Doom franchise is enough to get anyone to buy this game, and that seems to be what Bethesda and ID are banking on.