Tag Archives: game

What’s your DayZ flavour?

I’ve been getting back into DayZ after giving it a long break, and there’s now so many different “versions” of DayZ that it’s insane. They’re not all mods of a mod, mind you – most of the ones you can play easily are just the stock game on a different map. What follows is a quick run-down of the few I’ve tried, and the one that’s hooked me the most.

Bliss

I think the first DayZ mod of a mod we played was Bliss, a Chernarus-based map that’s like the original DayZ, except with a few additions. There’s more weapons of different varieties and more weapons altogether. There’s even additional buildings in various places, such as the additional hospital in Stary Sobor — meaning that you don’t have to go to the coast for medical supplies such as blood bags or epi pens. Playing on a Bliss server doesn’t require any additional files, and the Bliss server that we played on was pretty geared towards PvP — whether that was due to the plentiful high-powered weaponry or not is another question, though.

As far as mods go, Bliss isn’t bad. The additional weapons and buildings add an extra element to the game that stock-standard DayZ doesn’t provide.

Fallujah

Fallujah was actually the third DayZ map I’ve played, the second being Lingor and the first being Chernarus. I’m not sure what the main point of Fallujah actually was, but a few of us joined the server mostly to have fun with vehicles: the name of the server was something along the lines of “have fun with vehicles DayZ Fallujah”. You spawned in fully geared with an AS 50 and everything else you could want. Vehicles of every type littered the landscape: there were Chinooks, Ospreys, C130s, biplanes, Hueys, Black Hawks, and pretty much every vehicle in between. We didn’t really play this one for too long, but a few friends did practice their flying techniques. I, being the more experienced pilot, mostly just flew around and laughed at their antics.

From what I saw from the map whilst I was in the air, Fallujah was a much more urban environment. I wouldn’t really like to be engaged in gun-battles there.

DayZ+

DayZ+ was the first true DayZ alternative we played. It’s a true mod of a mod, requiring a different set of files than the normal DayZ. DayZ+ is pretty easy to describe: it’s the DayZ that’s geared towards PvE rather than pure PvP, because in DayZ+, zombies hurt; a few hits and you’re black and white, a few more and you can pretty much expect to be dead. It’s a harsh world, and in DayZ, you know exactly how harsh. Zombies will aggro from incredible ranges, king-hit you in one go so you’re unconscious on the ground, and will start feasting on you with no mercy. Zombies will glitch through walls. Zombies will teleport around (making headshots all but impossible). Those hours I spent in DayZ+ were perhaps the most challenging of all, because you really re-considered wether you actually needed to go into a town, or whether you just wanted to play it safe and play the virtual farming simulator (meat is one of the best sources of blood-restoration in DayZ, outside of blood bags which can only be found in hospitals).

DayZ+ had a few things that stock DayZ didn’t, namely construction. You could build things with basic gear in DayZ, allowing you to build fortifications away from the zombies (or away from other players). The weapons in DayZ+ were also balanced so that the one-hit, super-powerful sniper rifles such as the AS 50 and M107 were removed from the game, and so were little things such as the rangefinder. To compensate, they added a few new varieties of Russian weapons, such as the Sa-51 machine pistol and variants.

I wouldn’t want to play DayZ+ alone, all because it’s already hard enough when you’re in a group. It might have been easier alone because you only have to watch your own back, but then again, if you got into a stick situation, there were few ways out. Apart from dying, of course.

But that’s just what happens in DayZ.

Shenanigans and Tomfoolery in DayZ

A few cliff notes:

0:00: “I’m gonna hatchet his ass”
0:47: I cannot throw grenades
2:58: “Can I shoot the four to the front or no?” “Negative” *starts shooting immediately*
3:45: M107 vs AS50 noise comparison
5:07: what kind of a person lets off a DMR at the NW Airfield? Not that it really mattered anyway…
5:48: “You’re not dead, you’re not dead, you’re just unconscious”
7:21: “Glad I brought plenty of ammo”
9:28: “Damn boy that’s a lotta shooting”
9:34: “That was an M203! Oh, no, wait, it’s blowing up now.”
10:07: We try and flip an flipped ATV with the ute
12:20: “Just smash into it”
12:30: “It disappeared.”
13:20: Long-range sniping at the NW airfield
14:07: “The answer is always bandits.” (lulz in chat)
14:39: “I couldn’t even see it, there’s so much lag man”
15:09: “Well, I think we just got rid of this server’s airfield population”
16:34: “Now we’ve killed everyone at the airfield.”
16:52: M203 flare brightness testing
17:23: Low-FPS infinite zombie killing
18:00: “Hey, I didn’t use a Lee Enfield, that was somebody else”
19:23: Whose blood is that? I’m not bleeding…
20:16: Last-gasp abort attempt

Here and Now

There’s a perk in Fallout 3 and New Vegas called Here and Now. When taken, it immediately grants you another level, complete with all of the advantages that brings. There are plenty of other, equally-enticing perks to choose from, all with similarly beneficial advantages, so why choose Here and Now over any of those? We’ll get to this in a bit.

FalloutNV 2013-01-27 15-51-27-99

I wanted to write about a number of different things on my birthday today, seeing as last year’s post was so disappointing length-wise, but then I realised that as much as everything changes, it all just stays the same. As much as I want to about all the great things that happened last year, or some of the cooler moments, I’ve already done so. I’ve already posted about how I’m now a great photographer, and how I’ve played some of the best video games currently on offer. What else is there to write on here about?

Correction: what else is there to write about that won’t sound as depressing as it actually is?

By all accounts I should have finished my degree by now, but I’ve failed enough things to mean that this year will be my fifth year of a what is usually a three-year degree. We were talking about this in the car with a friend a few weeks after results came out, and he was like “that kinda sucks man, are you bummed about that?” My response was that I was pretty “meh” about the entire thing, because really, it’s not such a big deal, but yeah, it does kinda suck; therefore, meh seemed like an appropriate response. Not something to get too hung up on, but not something to be entirely ignored, either.

And that kind of describes my entire life, actually: all the bits that aren’t OMG amazing or FML depressing are just kinda, well, “meh”. Not overly exciting, but not exactly something I want to brag about, either.

But isn’t that the point? If I think about it, doesn’t life mean we take things as they come — the good, the bad, and the Things That Sit Squarely In The Middle? I mean, I’d be somewhat concerned if my life was all awesome, all the time. Concerned, or re-ordering my stock of valium, one of the two. In fact, I’d say having this good/bad/meh balance is as important as anything else in your life; too much of a good thing is a bad thing, as they say. And as much as we might want great things to happen to us all the time, bad stuff happens. All you can do is take it in your stride and learn from the experience.

It’s this learning from experience that I wanted to finish on today. Life throws a great many things at you, but as long as you come out the other side, you’ve come out on top. Because, if nothing else, you’ve learnt something along the way. Every time you die in DayZ, you learn to not do whatever you did to die. Every time you take a film photo, you learn to refine your composition technique. You learn to get in someone’s face. Every time you finish a Gun Master round in Battlefield 3, you learn to aim better with the guns you’re given. You learn how they work, how much recoil they have. You learn, for the hundredth time, that you hate the LSAT with the fire of a thousand suns.

Point is, you learn from these life experiences; good, bad, or completely mediocre.

Which brings us back to Here and Now. Because as nice as having all those experiences are, and as nice as doing all that learning is, wouldn’t it be easier if you could do all that learning without going through the experience in the first place? I mean, who really wants to know what having their heart broken feels like, or what losing a close friend or family member feels like? Wouldn’t you rather just know beforehand, instead of having to actually go through it and experience it for yourself? If you could just know what things feel like and what would happen if you did a particular thing, wouldn’t you? They say hindsight is 20-20, but wouldn’t it be great to have that kind of hindsight before stuff — good, bad, or otherwise — happens?

Hence the Here and Now perk in the Fallout series.

An additional experience level, complete with all the advantages that brings.

Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward

I’m not sure why they call Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward the “spiritual successor” to the original 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors game. The events of the previous game are spelled out for you during the course of Virtue’s Last Reward and referenced throughout the game, so we can just drop the whole “spiritual” thing and just call Virtue’s Last Reward the sequel to the original game — and it’s for this reason I highly, highly recommend playing though the original game for yourself before playing the sequel.

The first thing you have to know about Virtue’s Last Reward is that it’s the sequel to one of the best games I played this year, 999. This alone made it a must play for myself, seeing as I was this close to giving 999 the prestigious game of the year crown (stopped only by the fact it wasn’t released this year).

The second thing you have to know about Virtue’s Last Reward is that it is every bit as good as the original, which follows that if you enjoyed the original, then Virtue’s Last Reward will be right up your alley.

And that’s pretty much all you need to know about Virtue’s Last Reward; it’s a spiritual successor to one of the best games I’ve ever played, and it’s every bit as good as the original. Now, normally this is when I’d launch into my usual spiel of what the game is about, how you play the game, and just how damn good the game actually is (and why), and I’ll do that in just a second, but I also want to explore the characters themselves — there’s lots to say about each of the characters, and maybe it’ll mean a different review than you might normally read.

Virtue’s Last Reward is similar to the original 999. Very similar, in fact. They’re both story-driven games interspersed with puzzles/escape sequences, and they’re both better described as visual novels than typical games. They’re similar to The Walking Dead, in ways; there’s lots of dialogue, quite a number of cutscenes, and they’re both pretty light on actual gameplay.

But you shouldn’t shy away from either 999, Virtue’s Last Reward, or even The Walking Dead because of how story-driven they are. These three games are perhaps the most powerful games I’ve played, and all because of how damn good the stories they tell are — it’s like watching a movie, only because you have some part in how things play out, you feel all the more immersed. It’s an intense feeling you can’t get from reading a book, and it’s all the more real because you have some part in what happens.

There are quite a number of similarities between 999 and Virtue’s Last Reward. Both games prominently feature the number nine; nine main characters, a door with the number nine, and all with the number nine bearing a kind of symbolism that’s echoed throughout the game. Both games follow similar a gameplay style, too: novel sequences interspersed with escape sequences where you have to solve puzzles and find your way out of a room.

Like you did in 999, you’ll make choices in Virtue’s Last Reward that affect the story. In fact, Virtue’s Last Reward introduces a new gameplay mechanic that means there are even more possibilities than there were in 999. The introduction of the Ambidex Edition of the Nonary Game means you’ll be making more choices than ever before. There are stages of the game where you’ll choose to “ally” or “betray” your partner — without giving too much away, it’s this alliance or betrayal that determines how the game plays out.

It’s also this same alliance and betrayal game mechanic that also means that Virtue’s Last Reward is a slightly different game. 999 featured multiple endings, and Virtue’s Last Reward does as well: but in 999, the endings felt much more final. Besides the icons on the save screen, you weren’t really given any indication of how you were progressing towards the multiple endings, all to get to the one true ending. 999 made you play through the game in its entirety every time you wanted a different ending — I lost count of how many times I played through the first escape sequence, or how many times the characters were introduced to each other. Fast-forwarding dialogue was a welcome addition, but there was still a lot of extraneous gameplay.

Virtue’s Last Reward is different in that you’re given a “map” from the start that outlines all the possible paths the game can take. You have no idea how things will actually play out, but this map and your newfound ability to jump between different paths means you’ll spend a lot less time playing through parts of the game you’ve already played, as you can just jump straight to the point where you made a choice, make a different choice to the one you already made, and play a different path. It might sound confusing at first, but it makes perfect sense when you’re playing the game.

And that’s one of the best things about Virtue’s Last Reward: there’s a lot of complexity buried within the game itself, but it shouldn’t take you long to see through it all and see the truth. I know that might sound a little ho-hum, but it’s true: you might not realise what’s going on as you go about your business and solve puzzles, but it’s all there. All you have to do is play the game, and join the dots.

You haven’t finished this playthrough. There’s more after the jump.

Hitman: Absolution

47 pointing his silenced pistol at someone threateningly

Agent 47 can point a gun like the best of them.

Confession time, once again: I have spent precious little time in any of the Hitman titles. Before Absolution, my knowledge of the Hitman series was limited to something about a professional contract killer with a barcode on the back of his head that read 47, with various ways of eliminating targets via use of disguises, varied weaponry and accident kills.

Going into Hitman Absolution, I was excited to play the latest Hitman title. Maybe this would be the one that sucked me right into the Hitman universe, prompting me to go back and play some of the older games in the series, just to see where Hitman Absolution got its roots from.

And as I played through Absolution, it did give me that feeling that I needed to play the previous titles — but for all the wrong reasons. As it stands, I’m not entirely sure whether I liked Absolution or not. You can have fun, but it’s few and far between, and even then, you have to look pretty hard for it.

47 holding a silenced pistol in front of a woman in the shower

The story starts here.

Which is a great shame, as Absolution has a great start: as a player, you’re quickly caught up with what happened in the previous game(s), and learn that your former handler from the Agency has gone rogue and taken a valuable Agency asset with her. As an Agent, you’re tasked with eliminating your former handler and recovering the asset, which is what I assume to be pretty standard fare for Hitman games thus far. But things take a turn just when you’re pulling the trigger on your former handler: you begin to question why she went rogue in the first place. Quite convenient, really, and it’s all very cinematic, very tense, and plays out quite well. After hearing her side of the story, you decide to go rogue yourself — you acquire the asset, who turns out to be this (let’s face it, somewhat attractive) young girl, and go into hiding — from the Agency, who now have a serious problem on their hands.

What follows next, story-wise, is a competent, if slightly bland, story based on Agent 47 finding out why this agency asset is so valuable; you taking back the Agency asset from those that have taken her, and finally, you eliminating the main villians (and, of course, anyone else that gets in your way). If you follow along with the story the whole way though, you’ll realise that it’s a little shallow; the game revolves around this agency asset a little too much in my opinion, and doesn’t spend enough time exploring the Agency side of things, or any other side stories. And maybe that’s just my perspective, given Absolution is the first Hitman game I’ve played, but the fact that the story itself is a little ho-hum is okay, because I wasn’t really expecting anything spectacular from what was supposed to be a gameplay-focused game, a game that truly excelled in the gameplay.

Which is disappointing on so many levels, because Absolution falls flat on its face in the gameplay stakes.

Continue Reading →

Dishonored

I’m somewhat ashamed to admit I never played Thief. The first time I saw it being played was so long ago I can’t even remember the year, but it was a friend’s house, on his original-generation Xbox. I didn’t see a lot of gameplay, but what I did was enough to intrigue me.

Dishonored has been described as the spiritual successor to Thief, and it’s easy to see why: both are stealth based games, both revolve around assassinations of prominent characters, and both are set in some kind of steampunk-slash-industrialised England. Like I said — I’ve never played any of the Thief series myself, but Dishonored looked good enough that I decided to pick it up the other day.

And I’m glad I did, because Dishonored is my game of the year. More on this in a bit.

There’s a lot to like about Dishonored, wrong spelling of its title aside. You play the part of Corvo, a bodyguard of sorts who fails to protect his primary within the first few minutes of the prologue. What happens next is the story of how you escape from prison, meet up with some mysterious friends and benefactors, and begin exacting revenge upon those who wronged  you in the opening scene.

The story itself is all very cloak-and-dagger, and it plays out like any good conspiracy should: the bad guys all have ulterior motives, and you soon begin to start unravelling the real sequence of events that led up to your wrongful incarceration. There’s a bigger picture here, one that you might not fully understand unless you’re reading the myriad of letters and notes left carelessly on desks, or securely locked away in safes. The basic premise of the story is based around the tried-and-true concept of “someone did some wrong to me, now it’s my turn to find out what happened and/or slit the throat of everyone who was involved”, with perhaps a few non-optional side quests here and there. It’s all quite well done, to be honest.

But as good as the story aspect of Dishonored is, where it really shines is the gameplay. The combination of stealth and the option of non-leathal and lethal takedowns at all times gives you lots of choice — there’s always multiple ways to the objective to suit your gameplay style. Do you walk in the front door  with pistol in hand and sword in the other, ready to execute whomever you come across? Or do you use the side entry, tagging the guard with a sleeping dart before scaling the wall to get access to the roof, dropping onto a guard from the railing and taking him out like you’re Batman? There’s lots of choice in Dishonored, enough to suit whatever your playstyle might be.

The stealth aspect is particularly interesting. It’s been a while since I last played a good stealth game, and I think the last title that did this the whole “stealth combined with multiple access routes” was Deus Ex: Human Revolution. That game had similar choices when approaching objectives, meaning that you could either walk in and blow stuff up, or you could take the stealthy route, silently taking out guards and managing to do the most amount of damage without any alarms being rung. And say what you will about the Splinter Cell series turning to crap after whatever the last title was, but Splinter Cell Conviction was enjoyable because it employed stealth in a way that worked well: its excellent use of colour (or more specifically, the lack thereof) to tell you when you were hidden from enemies was a brilliant, brilliant move. Continue Reading →

999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors

How do you write a review of the best game you’ve ever played?

Excuse me, that was a little melodramatic — but how do you write a review of one of the best games you’ve ever played?

How do you even begin to describe the combination of an incredible storyline, fantastic pacing, and solid gameplay, all mixed into what is easily one of my favourite games of all time?

999 is one of those things I wish I could forget. Not because it’s bad, no, exactly the opposite: it’s so good that I want to be able to experience it all over again. I want to play it again, but it just won’t have the same impact as it did the first time around.

But where are my manners? I haven’t even told you about the game, and here I am, already singing its praises like it’s the best game I’ve ever played.

So we’ll start at the start.

999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors is a visual novel. It’s similar to games like Ghost Trick and more recently The Walking Dead in that the entire thing is completely story-driven. There’s parts where you actually play the game and make decisions that have some kind of impact on what happens, to be sure, but for the most part, you’re just along for the ride, wondering where it will take you.

999 doesn’t have any kind of spoken dialogue. It means the game comes of as rather text heavy, but that’s par for the course with these kinds of visual novels/interactive stories. The Walking Dead has endless cutscenes, and 999 has text. Lots and lots of text, seeing as that’s kind of the only way it can tell you what’s going on and how the story is progressing. It comes of as text-heavy at the best of times, but it works well — the text isn’t something that ever becomes overburdening at any point, is what I’m saying. The delivery of text is near-perfect, and you never feel like you’re being swamped with information.

When you’re not progressing the story through these semi-cutscenes (which can include the odd decision here or there), you’re playing the other part of the game. You see, gameplay in 999 can be broken into two parts: there’s the story-based cutscenes, if we can call them that, and then there’s the escape sequences. During these escape sequences you’re tasked with escaping from whatever room you’ve found yourself trapped in, and the sequences themselves play out a little like some kind of point-and-click adventure game. In most cases, you find objects, combine them with other objects, and then use them to escape the room — somehow. Sometimes your companions will give you hints on how to use the items you’ve collected, or hints on what you’re supposed to be doing to escape the room, but for the most part, you’re just left to explore rooms on your own.

Yes, you’re not the only one in this story. As the title might suggest, along for the ride are eight other individuals. There’s a few other characters that play minor roles, but for the most part, the eight characters and you are the only ones that really matter — when you meet the other characters for the first time, you’re not really sure who they are, what backgrounds they have, or why they’re with you. All you know is, something out of the ordinary is going on, and it’s up to you to find out what and why.

Actually, that’s not entirely true: the Nonary Game and associated rules are revealed pretty early into the piece by one of the so-called “bad guys”, and it soon becomes clear you’re just a pawn involved in some kind of game. A game where you have to find answers to questions such as: why were you chosen for the game? Why were the others chosen for the game? And perhaps the question with the most elusive answer of all: what is the purpose of the game?

The puzzles you’ll encounter as you play the game are fairly simplistic, for the most part. Usually you’ll be able to solve puzzles by combining objects, using objects with the environment and using some lateral thinking to work out how to escape out of the current room. No puzzle is impossible, although you might find yourself scratching your head on occasion when you just can’t figure out the answer. Random guessing will ocassionally reveal the answer, but some answers simply can’t be obtained by guessing every combination, and indeed, there are cases where doing so would take quite a lengthy time indeed.

Quite a few puzzles involve numbers and the concept of a “digital root”, as that’s one of the key concepts the Nonary Game is itself based around. The digital root is just the digits of any number added until only a single digit remains: for example, the digital root of 5, 7, and 3 would be: 5 + 7 + 3 = 15 = 1 + 5 = 6. Over the course of the game you’ll be using these digital roots to solve puzzles and progress though the Nonary Game; just try not to think about how the numbers do or don’t add up at any given time — there’s enough on your plate as it is without adding that kind of stress.

Solve the puzzles, make the right decisions, and maybe you’ll get to the end of the game.

But that’s just where it all begins.

Continue Reading →

Medal of Honor: Warfighter

Alternate title: all these o’s directly followed by r’s with no u in-between getting all up in my grill, yo

Hooah.

I ended up pre-ordering Medal of Honor: Warfighter after enjoying the previous game so much, and, as it so happened, ended up playing this year’s Medal of Honor title during this year’s Uni study period (the second one). Warfighter isn’t the first game in recent times that’s been almost universally panned (see also: Resident Evil 6), and at first, I couldn’t figure out why. I mean, Warfighter is as much a game as any of these other titles; it has a plot, which is played out via interactive gameplay and the occasional cut-scene. Isn’t that what a game is? And yet, Warfighter was receiving scores which suggested it was nothing more than exceptionally mediocre — nothing spectacular in terms of breakthrough gameplay, storyline or pacing, but just… average.

But… why?

Warfighter is the story of Preacher, a Tier One operator who’s been through hell and back. He’s been through the thick of it in the past, but in Warfighter, Preacher starts out as someone who’s just on the sidelines. You learn that Tom — Preacher — has taken a leave of absence from his usual duties in order to fix his marriage, and meanwhile, something big is happening elsewhere in the world. By playing over some of Preacher’s previous missions, you learn that some of these things might be connected. Then, suddenly, boom — a train blows up in Madrid, the very train and platform where you’re supposed to be meeting your wife and kid. You wake up in hospital, where your former CO tells you your wife and kid are safe, that they missed their train. But that’s not all: things are going down, and others you used to know are there trying to clean up the mess, find the culprits, and get to the source.

What follows is your story of how you’re assigned to an entirely new Task Force, Task Force Blackbird, in order to find out who the source of these attacks is. First you’re looking for P.E.T.N., the explosive compound that you encountered during your very first mission in Warfighter, then you’re looking for where it came from, tracing the source all back to a certain Sheik, and then even further still, to a mysterious Cleric.

Along the way, you’ll eliminate enemies from a helo in the sky, breach through numerous doors in a variety of different ways, participate in a co-ordinated sniper strike on targets in a hostage scenario, and, perhaps my favourite of all, drive like a madman through the streets of Dubai, either in pursuit of a target, or in an attempt to evade pursuing forces.

Don’t get me wrong, Warfighter is just about as linear as they come. You play through the missions in the order as dictated by the developers. There’s no decisions to be made here, only enemies begging for a bullet in their skull. At the heart of it, maybe that’s the issue here: Warfighter is a game with a single-player campaign that doesn’t let you make decisions, that doesn’t put you in control. You don’t get to decide whether people live or die, you don’t get to call the shots.

“If I die, give this to my wife. She’s already got everything else.”

But, I mean, isn’t that kind of the point? If you’re expecting to make decisions in a game that’s all about what the developers want to show you, aren’t you expecting too much? Single player campaigns in first person shooters are all about telling a story, and if you’re not coming along for the ride — beautiful scenery, on-rails shooting galleries, and all — then you’re playing the wrong game. Because if the developers of the game wanted you to make decisions, if they wanted  you to be in control, wouldn’t they have put those kinds of elements into the game to begin with?

Honestly, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen this kind of game. Warfighter features un-skippable cut-scenes, and you know what other game does? The Walking Dead. Like Warfighter, The Walking Dead features un-skippable cut-scenes, of which there are many. And even though The Walking Dead is perhaps a game where you’ll make some seriously hard decisions, it’s also a game that features the illusion of choice. But again, why is any of this surprising, when it should be the complete opposite? Games that tell narratives (however poor said narrative might be) via their single-player campaigns aren’t exactly new, just ask any of the Call of Duty series, the Battlefields, or the somewhat newcomers, the Medal of Honor games (2010 game onwards, that is).

If it’s different you want, then it’s different you’ll get: Spec Ops: The Line is another game that I’ve written about recently, and that shares a lot in common with Warfighter. Spec Ops and Warfighter are both games that, on the surface, look extremely similar. They both set the scene for war, explaining to those who haven’t been in the mix what war is like. They’re both games that feature linear gameplay, fighting enemy after enemy, corridor after corridor. But where Spec Ops takes things to their extreme by evolving the protagonists into something resembling nothing like themselves, Warfighter takes the well-worn path. Warfighter forces you to take the shot, Spec Ops laughs at you for not doing so. By comparison with Warfighter, it’s easy to see why Spec Ops has been so widely praised.

After my first play through of Warfighter, I wasn’t sure if I liked it as much as the previous game. I wasn’t even sure what the plot was even about, or why some of the cut-scenes weren’t rendered in the game engine, but rather, as some kind of quasi-movie scenes with actors that looked like characters out of a video game. But then, around halfway though my second play-through, I realised it was more than that, that the non-rendered cut-scenes served to separate the story from the gameplay. It was then it started to click: the story wasn’t all over the place any more and actually made sense, and I felt that I had a real sense of purpose during the game, that I was doing something that had a real impact on things.

I don’t necessarily agree that Warfighter deserves the scores that it gets, but I can see where the critics are coming from. Warfighter isn’t a mind-blowing game in any respect, but it does tell a story, and it does feature some nice — if extremely linear — gameplay. There are the odd enjoyable parts, such as the epic car chase scenes, but it does lack what I consider essential to any first-person shooter: a black-in, black-out sniper mission. Just thinking about that snow level (“Evasion”, if you’re playing Spec Ops) in the second Modern Warfare is enough to send me to my happy place.

Have you seen the movie Act of Valor? Warfighter is a lot like that. So like that, in fact, it’s almost as if Danger Close took Act of Valor and made a game out of it. Both Act of Valor and Warfighter had real-life SEALs onboard as consultants, and it shows — the game and movie are uncannily similar.

At the end of the day, if Warfighter set out to tell us about the heroes that go into battle against enemies, get shot at, beaten up, and then get back up and ask for more, than it succeeded. If Warfighter set out to tell us about the sacrifices these people make every day, then it succeeded in every possible way. It’s people like Preacher, Voodoo, Mother, and Rabbit that make gamers like us realise that all of what we’re seeing on screen is inescapably real for a select few.

And for that, I thank them.

Why Guild Wars 2 is perhaps the first MMORPG that agrees with me

Alternative title: a somewhat pensive review of Guild Wars 2 from the perspective of someone who has not completely immersed themselves into the stream of MMORPG culture, but has simply splashed around in the bathing pool, presented as a series of sections separated by descriptive titles

I’ve been playing Guild Wars 2 ever since Day Z kind of fell out of fashion, and I can honestly say it’s one of the best MMORPGs I’ve ever played. Mind you, that isn’t a huge list: I dabbled in WoW at one stage, got to level 60 within a respectable time frame, and I played the heck out of Star Wars: The Old Republic during its beta period. I enjoyed both of those games, to be sure, but there was always something that wasn’t quite right about each: WoW felt way too inundated with lore and background storylines, like it was some kind of Lord-of-the-Rings-style plot but for every single character. There were stories behind everything, but I just couldn’t care less about them. They were uninteresting, boring, whatever you want to call it.

The Old Republic was fine in that regard, as the Star Wars universe is a little more forgiving — there’s still a copious amount of backstory, but because it’s Star Wars, it’s forgiven, and at times, welcomed — people just can’t enough of those Jedi, I tell you. But the one thing that grated about The Old Republic was that it kind of felt tacky, like it was trying too hard to monetise something that should have come naturally. Suddenly  the Star Wars universe wasn’t just about the big bad Sith and killing Stormtroopers, it was also about repairing droids, repairing things that went wrong, negotiating between various underworld characters. It  felt like you were playing out the entire lives between what you see in the movies, which might have appealed to some, but felt overdone to others. Now that I think about it The Old Republic tried too hard in a lot of areas. That was probably the main reason why I didn’t bother renewing my subscription after the first month.

Guild Wars 2 is much, much different to the two aforementioned games. It’s still a fantasy RPG in that the environment isn’t, strictly-speaking, “real”, and at first I thought this would be a big downside — “ugh, not another fantasy RPG!” — but I now realise it wouldn’t have worked any other way.

I didn’t even think I would be buying it, at first. I’m not entirely sure what convinced me to, in the end, but I’m extremely glad I did, because Guild Wars 2 is a great game. Not so stooped in lore as to be overburdened, not trying too hard for the sake of a few pennies, but just right. The right mix of a compelling personal storyline, even if some of the initial choices were a little ridiculous (my biggest regret was not joining the circus? Really?), combined with good quest and event mechanics, and of course, the right amount of replayability. And perhaps one of the biggest pluses: no subscription fees.

It’s about exploration

One of my biggest features about Guild Wars 2 is the fact that it’s not all “go here, kill/collect/escort this person/thing, come back” — at least, it doesn’t have to be. There are quests like that, of course, but what’s really great is that once you’re in a new location, you can leave the questing until later and just explore. Guild Wars 2 has a big focus on exploration, and you can visit Vistas which count towards your overall region and map completion. Some of these Vistas are easy to get to, others require lots of jumping and falling, but all have a great view of some feature or structure in the game world.

And that’s not all — through trial and error, players have discovered jumping puzzles in almost every region. They’re not marked on your map, and the only real way people would have discovered them is via exploration. They’re fiendishly hard, and sometimes what you think is a jumping puzzle is actually just you jumping up and down mushrooms.

Like I said, Guild Wars 2 isn’t just a linear quest grind. It’s about exploration, and it’s a better game for it.

It’s about aesthetics

Guild Wars 2 is the same as other MMORPGs in that you’re always on the lookout for better-specced gear than the stuff you currently have, but different to other MMORPGs in that there’s an aesthetics element to it, as well. Sometimes you can’t bear to swap out your current Greatsword for one that has +999 Critical Hit Damage because it just looks crap on your character. I came across a dude that had fish heads for pistols one day, and that was awesome. Thankfully, if you do come across your next big Longbow that has vastly better stats but looks much worse than the Longbow you currently own, you can simply transmute (read: combine) the item so it’ll have the better stats of the Longbow you just found, but look just as awesome as the Longbow that you’ve been using.

Choosing armour is perhaps even more stressing for the player that cares about aesthetics, because even though there’s bonuses for having armour with the same rune/sigil/accessory, sometimes having the set doesn’t look as cool as these other great pants you crafted yourself. Or maybe you’re looking for a different outfit entirely — the best thing is you can preview how a certain piece of armour looks on your character before you spend the clams.

I mean, if you needed any more proof Guild Wars 2 is all about the aesthetics: there are random dye drops that let you change the colour of your armour, for crying out loud. People seem to gravitate towards black and white colours, but there’s plenty that can be done with an interesting colour palette. Changing the colour scheme could be all you need to give you character a new lease on life, aesthetics-wise.

It’s probably a little girly, but the aesthetics portion of Guild Wars 2 is fantastic. It probably makes up for not having as many character/face customisations as, say, the Mass Effect series.

You don’t have to play with others (but it’s a little better if you do)

Another thing I like about Guild Wars 2 is that you don’t have to play with friends — at least, not all the time. Because it’s all PvE, everyone in the region has common goals if you’re all doing quests or random events — if you’re doing a quest or an event, everyone gains with your participation, so it’s like everyone is always in a big group together, doing the same quests for the common good. I played solo all the way up to level 80 (the current level cap), and it wasn’t until I hit later stages of my personal story and later regions that I really found running around with someone else to be useful.

Speaking of which, your personal story is perhaps one of the only times (at least right from the outset) that you might want someone else along for the ride. You make all the decisions, of course, but sometimes it’s handy having someone else in your own personal story instances to help out with the combat, purely because the NPCs can be a little useless at times.

Just about the only time you’re forced to group with other players is when doing dungeons, and that’s to be expected.

Overall, Guild Wars 2 is pretty great. It’s the first MMORPG that I’ve really enjoyed, and for all the reasons above; exploration, aesthetics, and the not-pared down solo play. I’ve only scratched the surface of the game, becuase there’s so many aspects to it: there’s World vs World vs World, which is kinda puts different “worlds” against each other (think massive battlefields, contention for castles etc, but with everyone on your server playing for the same team), and then there’s also player-vs-player, which is kinda like WvWvW except on a smaller scale.

There’s dynamic events which everyone can do at any time, and oh — perhaps one of the best features of any MMORPG, ever — instanced loot, which means your loot is totally separate to others. No more “rolling” for the best loot when you kill a boss, bceause you everyone gets their own loot according to how much they participated in any given event (or their own standard quest rewards). It means you’re guaranteed an equal shot at that rare pirate coat you’ve been hanging out for as everyone else, all the way down to gather-able items in the game world (trees, ores, berries, and so on).

I get that MMORPGs aren’t for everyone. Doing quests and crafting can seem a little grind-y at the best of times (not to mention be a huge time suck), but while Guild Wars 2 shares many similarities to traditional MMORPGs, it’s different enough to separate it from the pack.

And that just makes it all the more enjoyable.