Replay: Max Payne

The Game

Max Payne is a third person shooter developed by Remedy Entertainment. The game revolves around the titular character, a police detective whose life is turned upside down after the murder of his wife and infant child by some junkies who are under the influence of the designer drug ‘Valkyr’. Three years later he’s deep undercover, working for the DEA until one fateful night, he finds himself framed for the murder of a fellow agent. On the run and with nothing left to lose, Max blazes his way through the criminal underworld whilst unearthing the truth behind his family’s murder.

What I think has really helped this game stand the test of time is the game’s story. The game takes place during a freezing night in New York City, which is the perfect setting for the Noir-style story telling. It does get a bit cheesy at times, but the story is still engaging. Most of the plot is portrayed in graphic novel style cutscenes which are effective and stylish.

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Max himself is an enjoyable character, even if he often looks like he’s constipated. That being said a lot of the supporting cast isn’t expanded on much. I feel this works for the most part but it would’ve been nice to get bit more of a background on some of the antagonists.

Visually the game might look a bit ‘weird’ by today’s standards, but for the time it’s pretty impressive. The environments, although dark and drab, are fitting for the setting. The animation is very good, with enemies and Max clutching wounds and changing faces when severely injured.

Weaponry-wise the arsenal is effective and enjoyable to use. Every weapon serves a purpose and is effective in certain situations. For example, the pump action shotgun is better in a sustained fight compared to the double barrel sawed off, but the sawed-off allows the player to get two shots off whilst shoot dodging due to its rate of fire. Learning how and when to use weapons is critical for success.

Although not the first shooter to introduce slow motion (Requiem: Avenging Angel to my knowledge has that honor), Max Payne was the game to popularize it. Using Bullet Time and Shoot Dodging (where you dodge through the air in slow motion) is the key to success. During slow motion the player can aim as fast as they can in real time, allowing them to rapidly engage targets. Bullets in this game are physically rendered, rather than hitscan. What this means is that it’s possible to dodge projectiles and avoid taking damage, so long you are Shoot Dodging or are in Bullet Time. My only complaint is that at times the camera angle can be awkward when Shoot Dodging against walls, but this is a rare occurrence.

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And trust me, shoot dodging never gets old

You’ll certainly need this leg up during fights, as this is a very hard game. Max doesn’t have a lot of health, and even enemies wielding weaker weapons can quickly kill you if you’re not fast and accurate. Enemies aren’t exactly smart but due to clever placement can often outmaneuver you if you’re not careful. With all that said it rarely unfair and even the areas I would call unfair are only slightly so.

So Should You Play It?

I’d highly recommend the entire Max Payne series if you haven’t played the series before. Some people might find them difficult to begin with, especially if they’re use to easier shooters of the modern day, but if you ask me challenge is a good thing.

If you don’t own the respective console (PlayStation 2 or X-Box for Max Payne 1 and 2, PlayStation 3 or X-Box 360 for 3) the games are fairly easy to get running on modern PCs. You will have to install some fan-made patches for the first two games to get them running and maybe run them in a compatibility mode (I’ve found running both games in Windows 98/ME to be effective). I only ran into one bug in each game, and only one required me to restart the game.

Legacy

Max Payne spawned two sequels, Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne and Max Payne 3. The second game is mostly the same, although it adds new weapons and bullet time has been changed so the player moves and fires in real time rather than in slow motion, and can now perform this silly ‘spin-reload’ trick that instantly reloads weapons. That combined with some story elements and the over the top physics (which admittedly are impressive for the time) gives the game bit of a cartoony feel. That said it’s still a fine game and like the previous game has great gunplay and a fantastic story.

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Just don’t ask me how this is supposed to reload your weapon faster.

The third however made some pretty extreme changes, having been developed roughly nine years later than it’s prequel by a different dev team: Rockstar Studios. This one’s pretty divisive among fans as it makes plenty of changes, including the addition of a cover system, a three weapon limit and a much different setting of Sao Paulo, Brazil. In my opinion, I think the changes aren’t too drastic and the core gameplay still remains similar enough to the previous titles, especially considering the time between the previous installment.

That said Max Payne 3 does have its issues. The biggest one would be the lengthy load times, concealed with cutscenes. A lot of the side characters are also really unlikable and obnoxious. Despite that, Max Payne 3 has a lot going for it, including its smooth gunplay, impressive animation, and Max’s dialog.

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Seriously, Max is the king of cynical one-liners

Max Payne also got it’s own movie, directed by the same guy who directed A Good Day to Die Hard. As I somewhat value my time I have decided to spare myself from watching it.

Slow motion would also be a core mechanic of the F.E.A.R. series, a horror based first person shooter. It also certainly has a movie like flair to it, combing American Sci-Fi with Japanese Horror and Hong Kong action. If you like the Max Payne series you’ll most likely enjoy F.E.A.R.

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There’s also plenty of the red stuff if you’re into that.

Finally, there’s the game Stranglehold. Most interestingly this game is intended as a sequel to the movie Hard Boiled, which is not only one of the big inspirations behind the Max Payne games but is even directly referenced in the game, as are it’s director John Woo and lead actor Chow Yun-Fat. Stranglehold has a more arcade feel to it, but is a solid, if somewhat short experience. Of course, it’s also funny to watch influences go full circle.

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There’s also one level where you have to defend a jazz band from attack, which is pretty cool.

Lessons For Modern Games

I find a lot of modern shooters focus on overwhelming the player with hordes of dumb enemies. Don’t get me wrong the enemies in Max Payne aren’t exactly smart, but they are smartly placed throughout the level. This forces the player to be careful and to listen out for audio cues such as grenades landing.

Another problem I have with shooters, especially military shooters such as Call of Duty and Battlefield, seem to think they need to have five assault rifles that all basically play the same, rather than weapons that have a purpose. Max Payne‘s arsenal might not be massive, but all the weapons serve some sort of purpose and are effective in the right situations.

Finally, creative presentation will overcome limited graphics. Max Payne’s fantastic graphic novel cutscenes, engaging story and trippy dream sequences are going to withstand the test of time. A creative story and art style counts for more than a game that only has visually impressive graphics.

 

 

 

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Doorkickers – The Top Down Tactics Masterpiece

Kit Up

Released in 2014 by Killhouse Games, Doorkickers is a seemingly simple game. The objective is to lead a SWAT team through various missions, giving them checkpoints as they move through an area. With those checkpoints you can decide where they move, where they aim and if they need to deploy stun grenades or other gadgets. You can either attempt to plan out an entire mission or have some level of improvisation. With the ability to pause in real time and plan your next move, it’s easy to control the action if something you didn’t account for catches you off guard.

There are five classes available to select for your operators. Pointmen are the fastest, but only wield a pistol. Assaulters are great all rounders who can take a submachine gun or assault rifle. Breachers provide the fastest way through a door with their shotguns which are also devastating at close range. Stealth have silenced weapons that can be useful for gaining the element of surprise. Finally Shield operatives carry a shield that can stop incoming rounds and provide cover for other officers, at the cost of movement speed and accuracy. Each class is useful in certain situations and no one class can do everything.

On top of the classes, there are dozens of weapons, armour and gadgets for each class. As the developers have been adding in many weapons since the initial release, there’s plenty of equipment at your disposal.

Unfortunately you do have to spend a lot of time unlocking this gear. To begin with you only start with the Pointman with only one body armour and one sidearm. For every mission you complete you gain 1-3 stars which are used to unlock equipment. Considering some weapons can cost up to 40 stars there’s a lot of grinding to do. I’ve found the best way to get stars is to complete the campaigns, as you get double the amount once you complete one. You also have to level up to unlock the other classes. Initially this does limit your options, but at the same time helps keep the game streamlined whilst you learn it.

The big problem with the unlocking system is the balance. Some weapons are extremely effective and aren’t nessecarily scaled to cost. The P90 submachine gun for the assaulter is a good example of this, as it only costs 15 stars yet is an absolute beast in close quarters and highly effective against armour. Many weapons that cost twice as much struggle to keep up with it. Additionally many weapons fulfill the same purpose and just come across as unneeded.

On top of this you also have to worry about leveling up. Completing missions grants experience for both your squad and individual troopers. Leveling up the squad allows you to unlock new classes and doctrine in the skill tree. These doctrine can be absolutely critical and include abilities such as Hold Fire for Stealth troopers or the Mozambique Drill that makes pistols practically instantly lethal at short range. Individual troopers can improve their ability to shoot at close, at distance and their speed with using equipment. I’ve honestly never noticed the difference between troopers no matter their skill levels. That being said, if they die during the campaign they will be replaced with another trooper who will start at the lowest level.

I really wish that the leveling wasn’t part of the game. I just think it adds an element the game doesn’t end. That being said, it probably takes five to six hours at most to fully level up so it’s not a deal breaker.

On the Streets

As mentioned above, how you complete a missions is up to you. You can plan every move or improvise the entire thing. On top of that you can chose to be stealthy, or use sound to lure enemies into kill zones.

To begin with, missions only require you to kill all enemies on the map. Soon enough hostages are introduced. Later missions involve preventing executions, defusing bombs, escorting VIPs, arresting certain targets or collecting evidence before it’s destroyed.

Visually the game is simplistic, but effective. This might not be as artistic as Bastion or Pyre, but everything is functional and clear, plus the menu art is fantastic. It’s easy to understand what is going on both visually and audibly. Environments are also effective in portraying their locations and audio is atmospheric.

The only minor complaints I’d have visually is that there is no variety among the hostages, which would have been nice and that sometimes flashbangs will hit corners even when the line indicated they wouldn’t. As for audio, I wish there was more variety in the voice acting of the troopers. There is only one voice for them, and that means that the few female troopers have male voices. Neither are a big deal but they would’ve been nice to have.

Like many puzzle games the game starts off easy enough, but as things go on missions start getting more complicated, with larger maps, timed objectives, multiple storey buildings and more suspects that are better equipped. Figuring out what to do will most likely come down to trial and error, so expect to be repeating levels over and over, especially if you want high scores.

The only levels I dislike are some that are found in certain campaigns where once the mission start your officers are thrown into a gunfight instantly. This is frustrating as injuries carry over for one mission and taking injured officers into a mission makes them more likely to die. This is even more problematic when playing Iron Man mode where you cannot restart levels.

Additional Reinforcements

If you get bored with the campaigns and single missions, you also have the random mission generator, which will give you a random mission to do in either one of the levels from the single missions, or a completely random killhouse. It’s not the most balanced mode, but it’s a fun addition. There’s also a level editor where you can make your own missions. It’s a fairly easy to use tool if you’re willing to put in the time.

The game also has it’s fair share of mods. These include adding even more weapons, levels and even some total conversions. It’s pretty cool to see a fairly active modding scene on a small indie title.

Debriefing

Overall Doorkickers is a very solid first outing from Killhouse Games. I’ve been following this game since it’s late alpha state and it’s only gotten better. With a sequel and a spin off in the works, there’s certainly gonna be plenty of door kicking in the future.

 

 

Shadowrun: Dragonfall – Indie Cyberpunk Goodness

Dear Reader,

My history with the Shadowrun franchise began with the 2007 first person shooter which has little to do with the actual Shadowrun universe. Still, 13-ish year old me loved the idea of sci-fi meets magic.

Originally released as DLC for the game Shadowrun Returns, the so called director’s cut of Dragonfall was released by Harebrained Schemes as a standalone game in 2014. This review will be covering this director’s cut. A lot of what I say in this review could also apply for both the previous game Shadowrun Returns and it’s sequel Shadowrun: Hong Kong. I also have little concern how this game’s rules line up with the original table top game as I have not played said table top game.

It’s All About the Atmosphere

Dragonfall takes place in Berlin in a future where magic has returned to the world. You play as a Shadowrunner (mercenary) who joins a team headed by Monika. During your first mission things goes sideways, Monika ends up dead and your team is forced to deal with a conspiracy involving an event that happened years ago known as the Dragonfall.

I find the best element of Dragonfall is the worldbuilding. The game allows you to build just about any character you want, picking from five races and multiple skill trees. Wanna be a ten foot troll cyborg who wields assault rifles and a katana for close quarters? What about a hotshot Dwarf drone rigger? Or maybe you want to sling spells as an Elf? The only thing you have to remember is that this is a game that focuses on specialists, so trying to create a jack of all trades will end in tears. The only real problem I’d say is that once you make your character you’re stuck with it. This means you won’t really be able to experiment with what play style you like unless you start over again.

On top of your character, you also have your team of colorful Shadowrunners. There’s Dietrich, the middle-aged punk rocker turned shaman, Eiger, the former special forces soldier who has series trust issues when it comes to the player and Glory, the withdrawn, stoic combat medic sporting old cybernetic body parts. There’s also the potential to recruit Blitz, a cocky decker (hacker). Blitz is the only character I don’t find particularly interesting. He feels like more of an afterthought added so the player had a decker always available. That being said Dietrich, Eiger and Glory are all very compelling characters.

There are also many characters you encounter during the game. Even the various merchants and side characters are interesting with their own backgrounds, fleshed out personalities and conflicts. Everything is brought to life via the vivid descriptions given. Writer Andrew McIntosh deserves serious props as his writing easily propels this game into being something special. There is a lot of reading to do in this game, but it’s all for the best.

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The music is appropriate, but at the same time isn’t exactly amazing. I don’t feel you’d lose much listening to your own choice of music rather than that in game. Combat sound effects also lack a sense of impact, and everything useful is communicated via text anyway.

Visually this game is a mixed bag. Sure the backgrounds, and character portraits look beautiful, but unfortunately some of the worst character models have been jammed on top of said backgrounds. To be fair there are a lot of various assets for different armours, weapons, drones, computer decks etc, but the models just look so jarring compared to the rest of the visuals.

But Then There’s the Combat…

I’d best describe this game as Mass Effect meets X-COM. There’s a focus on building and socializing with your team as you work towards an objective. Gameplay wise this plays very much like the X-COM reboot, with turned based combat.

There is a ton of combat in this game, and unfortunately it has issues. First of all I’m not a big fan of the turn based system. Like X-COM you have 2 (later 3) Action Points. You can move a certain distance (say a max of 10 tiles) for 1 Point. If you want to move 11, you have to use 2. This might not seem like a big deal, but I find the problems start to arrive when you’re trying use melee builds. A character can move and attack, but you can’t chose the exact path that character moves. This can leave characters outside of cover, which is still in the 1 AP movement range, making them vulnerable. I prefer the system seen in Jagged Alliance 2 or Silent Storm, where the player has a lot of AP, where step takes a certain amount of AP.

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The blue path would cost the same AP movement wise, but would put my character in cover from the other two enemies on the right.

I’d also say the cover system is a bit basic. Characters can get behind objects of varying strength to protect from incoming attacks. To counter this, you can either use melee or throwing weapons to weed enemies out of cover, or attempt to flank enemies. Being on a target’s flank increases hit and critical chances massively. Sometimes I find the logic of this system rather inconsistent.  There are plenty of times where I think my character should have an easy line of sight that’d allow for a clear shot.

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Yes apparently the mercenary (left of the red line) right in the open there is ‘in cover’ from my sniper (right of the red line)…

Another problem I have is how hit chance is calculated. As the game goes on, enemies seem to be able to avoid a lot of damage, even at very close range. This increases when the player sets the difficulty to higher levels. On the highest difficulty I had a shotgun specialist point blank, flanking an enemy and somehow they only had about a 60% chance to hit. I’d recommend the player sticks to Normal/Hard to avoid being put at the mercy of the random number generator

To be fair, the hit chance does probably compensate for the weak AI. With the said flanking mechanic, the AI seems to get stuck on trying to flank the player, rather than their own safety. This at times leaves them in the open, allowing the player to cut them down.

Finally although the game in it’s current state is practically bug free, I’ve still encountered a gamebreaking bug when decking. At random the game has locked my ability to perform a move or end the turn whilst decking. Granted this has only happened twice, both during separate playthroughs but I feel it’s worth mentioning.

With all that said, the combat isn’t too difficult, and I’m a sucker for turned based games like this. Building up a team and using their abilities to turn the tables on a superior number of enemies is always a lot of fun and considering the variety of builds the player can go for, every play through ends up being different combat wise.

Play Your Way

The missions themselves are also quite engaging. Again the writing team deserves a lot of praise here for the effort they’ve put into it all. Not every mission the player participates is necessarily morally acceptable. How you execute a mission is also up to you and your team. Having a Decker on hand can be handy to hack computers, having a strong character can allow for you to break down walls or move heavy objects, and a charismatic main character can talk their way out of many situations.

A single play through would take about 20 hours. Considering the multiple options you have with building your character and paths that are available during missions plus multiple endings, there’s a lot of replay value when it comes to Dragonfall. Considering the low price of $15 US it’s certainly good value for money.

Conclusion

Dragonfall leads the player through an engaging world where characters and choices matter. The writing and world building is about as good as it gets. The combat might be a bit basic compared to other turned based games, but otherwise, this is a very strong outing. I’d highly recommend Shadowrun: Dragonfall, and also Shadowrun Returns and Shadowrun: Hong Kong.

Regards

Your Writer

 

Pyre – An Ambitious Mess

Dear Reader,

Pyre is an RPG sports game developed and published by Supergiant Games. In the game you play as The Reader, who assists a team called The Nightwings with conducting Rites, which lead to their liberation from the Downside, a purgatory of sorts.

Visual and audio wise, Supergiant games have outdone themselves with this one, which isn’t something I thought I’d say. This might just be the best art design I’ve ever seen in a game. The music, whilst not being my thing was also very well done and fitting.

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Seriously this game looks amazing.

It’s just a shame about the gameplay.

During the Rites, you pick a team of three characters. Each character has different abilities, movement speeds etc. The objective is to get the orb (ball) into the other team’s pyre (goal). Each pyre has 100 health, and once that health reaches zero that respective team loses. Each character also has an aura which if an enemy comes into contact with, they will be removed from the field for a certain amount of time.

My biggest issue I found was balancing difficulty. At first I found the Normal difficulty to be too easy, but then when I went to the Hard difficulty the game got too hard. I then decided to switch back to normal, where I won my first game without ever having my pyre touched by the orb. On top of this the player can activate Titan Stars (much like Bastion’s temple) which honestly just complicated things as some teams are harder to play against than others. Towards the halfway point I just gave up on trying to balance the game for myself.

There can also be a lot to content with at times. Switching to the right character under pressure can be awkward as you have to aim yourself at the character you want to play as. Different characters also have different abilities. For example, Ti’zo the Imp has this ability where he can sacrifice himself to create a large blast, where as most other characters cast a beam of sorts that you aim at enemies. Early on, under pressure I found myself getting confused when I had to rapidly switch characters to defend my pyre. It doesn’t help you can’t stop the casting of these abilities once you start. Combing all this with the fact the AI doesn’t really have these issues with thought process means things can happen very fast before you can know what’s going on.

Another issue is this game starts to feel very repetitive. Although it’s Supergiant’s longest game, you spend that time either playing against the same teams over and over again or constantly reading long strings of dialog. On top of that, you pretty much visit every location in the game very early on. This removes a sense of discovery which honestly was one of the best aspects of this game.

Finally, there is a lot of reading and downtime between rites. Don’t get me wrong I don’t mind world building but at times this could be really tiring. If I’m being honest I think this game might have been better without the rites, and had just been a straight visual novel about leading a group of exiles through some sort of purgatory.

As for the story itself, it’s okay. The world building was interesting, but most of the characters are fairly basic. To be fair they are not only very creatively designed, but likeable. I also appreciated that there is reason to have some sympathy towards some of the teams you play against.

The main plot really ends up feeling like a Hunger Games type deal where the poor must rise up against the elite. On top of that you don’t get a real sense of the effect you have on the Commonwealth during the game. Unlike both Bastion and Transistor I just found myself feeling disconnected with what was going on.

Overall I feel Pyre is an ambitious game, it just falls short of being great. I’ll be fair I don’t think this is a bad game, it’s visually amazing and on that merit alone is worth seeking out. It’s just a shame the gameplay lets it down.

Regards

Your Writer

SWAT 4: Elite Force V 5.3 Mod – A Worthy Addition to A Great Game

Dear Reader,

SWAT 4 is one of my all time favorite games. I know every map off by heart, and my own certain way of doing things. I know the quirks the AI has and how I should approach just about every situation. Generally, unless I get complacent, I tend to find the game easy.

The Elite Force modification adds new weapons and equipment, whilst changing some core mechanics and AI. Although only one map has been added, some changes have made old missions much more dynamic.

How equipment is managed has changed a lot. Now the player has to worry about weight and bulk. Carrying heavy armor, an M4A1 carbine with ten magazines and a grenade launcher with 25 tear gas grenades will slow you down to a crawl. If I’m being honest, this isn’t too big of a deal. Taking heavy protection is a no-brainer, as it allows you to survive more damage, and there’s rarely a need to rush. I’d also argue 3-4 magazines for most primary weapons is going to be more than enough for just about any mission in the game, as most enemies don’t need to be turned into Swiss cheese before dying.

There are some new weapons that have been added. None of the weapons really change the game that much, but there are some nice additions such as the high capacity P226, or the five shot ARWEN grenade launcher. All the weapons have much better models than the vanilla game, and I hope those in the base game are replaced with similar, high quality skins.

Some old weapons have also been modified, most gaining additional fire modes. There’s also new ammunition, including jacketed soft point, armour piercing and numerous buckshot loads for shotguns. On top of this, some less lethal tools, such as the TASER can cause certain people to become incapacitated due to their drug use or old age, so the player has to take more care with what less lethal tools they bring.

Finally in single player you must worry about wearing gas masks to prevent tear gas taking an effect on your team. The disadvantage of this is losing head protection and poorer vision due to the gas mask. As tear gas is the most effective grenade in vanilla SWAT 4, this is a good addition.

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No one cared who we were until we put on the masks.

When starting a new campaign, the player can now play through both SWAT 4 and it’s expansion The Stetchkov Syndicate without having to close one down to play the other. The player can also chose to play a perma-death campaign where if they die, they must start again which adds tons of tension to every choice made. You can also turn on perma-death for your team members, but I’d recommend against this as if they die early in the campaign, you will be left short handed in later missions.

Gameplay wise, the player is now forced to report every suspect that is downed, less they want to suffer a score penalty. This can be frustrating as in the heat of the moment, you can miss reporting a suspect. The player must also report civilians who were injured before the mission began to prevent them from bleeding out, forcing the player to act fast.

AI suspects now seem to have improved hearing. This gives merit to silenced weapons, whilst also forcing the player to be aware of their flanks. Failing to have officers cover various doors can quickly lead to the player’s team being ambushed. Sometimes this can also lead to suspects killing hostages before you even know they are threatening one, leading to a failed mission.

Another problem with the AI is when threats do arise, every AI member of your team will focus on the threat. Although the officers acted in a similar way in the base game, in that you didn’t have to worry so much about being flanked. The one fix I’d want is that the order ‘Cover’ (ordering officers to watch a specific area) was unbreakable unless an officer was directly engaged.

Officers also seem to be a bit clumsier when it comes to room clearing. Occasionally they’ll get stuck on each other before entering a room. I also find the theatrics they put on when they are engaged to be a bit over the top, and sometimes not all that helpful. Rather than just engage a threat, officers will now attempt to seek cover, which is not always practical. I’ve even had moments when an officer moved into my line of sight and I accidentally shot them. Finally, officers can miss a lot when trying to deploy a taser which can be both frustrating and hilarious.

That being said, officers are much better when engaging at point blank. Sometimes in the base game they’d just freeze up, causing you to potentially lose two or three officers at once. In Elite Force, officers are now able to engage at bad breath distances, and have a fighting chance. With that mentioned, I’d recommend you equip officers with weapons that have burst fire modes, as officers will either fire single or bursts, never on full auto.

Another change made is that now snipers must also fire within the same rules of engagement the player has. In vanilla SWAT 4, the player could take control of snipers in many levels and kill any suspect without consequence. This feature did allow you to take out a few suspects with the only penalty being that you lose the chance to arrest every suspect. Although this change limits the use of snipers, they are still useful for scouting rooms, and can shoot the weapons out of a suspect’s hand.

Some missions have had small changes, including booby traps that can either set off an alarm or explosives. I wish these traps were more common, as they only appear in 4 of the 21 missions in the game. I also dislike how that setting off traps induces a score penalty, as I feel the punishment for setting off a trap should be a consequence of what the trap does.

One mission that’s been changed that I dislike is the Funtime Amusements Arcade. In the base game, the player had to prevent suspects from dumping drugs in the toilets. This has been removed from the Elite Force mod. It’s a shame as I felt that having to prevent the loss of evidence added an extra consideration on top of taking out the bad guys. There’s also two levels which have drug evidence the player has to collect which to me feels unnecessary as the evidence isn’t being actively destroyed.

Other gameplay improvements include being notified when you complete objectives and are issued penalties for shooting too early. These are both welcomed additions, although the former can remove tension if you’ve dealt with all suspects (granted it also allows you to finish up a mission quicker, and in the base game you could always check objectives via the pause menu).

Elite Force is still under development, with Version 6 in beta testing right now. As a SWAT 4 veteran I’d say that Elite Force builds upon what is already a great game. If you own SWAT 4 already you owe it to yourself to check it out.

http://www.moddb.com/mods/swat-elite-force

Regards

Your Writer

 

Steamy Games on Steam (And Other Concerns with Quality Control)

Dear Reader,

With the release of House Party onto Steam this week, Steam hosts it’s first game purely based on sex with interactive sex scenes. Sure The Witcher series has plenty of sex, but at the same time the game was more focused on monster slaying and the such. There’s also those anime visual novel things which tend to have +18 Patches, but those patches aren’t installed through Steam.

House Party on the other hand has only one objective, to get laid. Yes I have played free Alpha/Beta versions of the game before. If I’m being honest, I don’t think it’s anything special. The writing is really uninteresting and I’d say at best it’s the bare minimum one could consider a game. That being said it is still in early access and things could improve.

I will concede there is some content that may be considered offensive in House Party. For example the player to pull out their penis and masturbate, before ejaculating. It is possible for a player to ejaculate onto one of the characters in the game. To be fair characters do respond negatively to this harassment but I feel it’s worth noting that not all of the content in House Party is consensual. That being said this game is intended for those over the age of 18, who understand that behavior like that is inappropriate.

Sex in gaming itself is not new, starting with Softporn Adventure in 1981. In recent years crowd funding sites and the ease of access to game making tools such as RPG Maker and the Unity engine have allowed many indie developers to make pretty much any game they desire.

The question raised is that is it okay for Steam to sell what are basically porn games? In my opinion yes. I’ve always seen Steam as a market place where one can sell whatever goods they want, from Triple A productions to the latest crappy early access survival game that will never go anywhere.

To me the burden of responsibility to make a good purchase is on the consumer. If you can access Steam’s store, you can most likely look up reviews on Google and Youtube. A consumer who refuses to do any research into what they’re purchasing is basically guaranteeing that they’ll be screwed over.

One might be concerned with underage people seeing inappropriate images of some of these sex games. The store page for House Party features no offensive material, only the tags and reviews hint at the game’s true nature. On top of that, parents themselves should have responsibility over what content kids consume on the internet.

Finally, Steam hosts media with plenty of violence and other adult themes. I don’t really feel sex should be off the list. I mean what’s worse, a game where you try to have sex or a game where you kill millions of people from Badguyistan?

Overall I honestly don’t think House Party’s release will be that big of a deal. There are much easier ways to access explicit material on the internet. The game itself has much staying power unless significant improvements are made. Steam should be allowed to sell whatever is seen fit, it is up to the consumer to do their research.

Regards

Your Writer

It’s a Shooter, Not A Role Playing Game

Dear Reader,

There’s a modern trend in first person shooters that I frankly cannot stand. It involves the idea that I must grind experience points to level up my character. Two of the four shooters I’ve reviewed on this blog feature such systems, even though in one of them you play as a team leader of an elite commando unit that’s implied to have been in the military for at least 15 years.

I’m over it. I’m sick of it. Back in the day when you died in a first person shooter it was your fault. You fucked up. You used the wrong gun or you didn’t dodge attacks or you ran out of ammo.

Now the focus is on skill trees and leveling up. Spend an hour doing a certain action and now your character is better. To me this is filler content. Ever since games like Skyrim and Fallout 3 have become popular, people seem to rate a game on how long it takes to play through rather than what that content actually is.

Farcry 3 is a great example of what I’m talking about when it comes to filler content. In the game you start with the ability to only equip one weapon. To equip more you must hunt various enemies. You also have to do this to hold more ammo, grenades, molotov cocktails and even money. It made some sense for the protagonist to need to learn and improve himself, but it always feels you have to do spend a good chunk of the game focusing on just farming and leveling up rather than enjoying the game.

Focused content is better than just pure content for the sake of content. Shooters such as F.E.A.R., Spec Ops: The Line and Max Payne might only be eight or so hours long, but every level feels like it’s been crafted. The story moments are engaging and the character’s progression feels natural.

RPG elements can work if it has a purpose. I feel this year’s Prey is a good example of this. The character you play as is a scientist and uses NeuroMods to improve there own abilities. The difference for me is the progression feels natural. There is no need to farm enemies or jobs over and over again to progress through the game itself. Yes exploration is encourage and advantageous, but not to a degree where you’re spending hours to level up.

In short:

fuck this shit.png

Regards

Your Writer