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Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light

At the heart of it, Metro 2033 is about camaraderie. You're not a Ranger, but friends help out friends.

At the heart of it, Metro 2033 is about camaraderie. You’re not a Ranger, but friends help out friends.

I think I restarted the original Metro game probably five or six times. It wasn’t because I wasn’t very good at it, or that I didn’t enjoy it, but every time I’d get up to one part, but then I’d run out of filters and die in the harsh environment of the post-war Moscow. Or I’d come up against innumerable enemies, waste all my ammunition, and die. Or maybe I’d lose my way, frantically run around trying to find the next area to go to, run out of filters, and die unceremoniously in some dark corner, panting for breath as everything slowly faded to black.

I probably played through the first few chapters five, maybe six times, each time growing more and more frustrated with a game everyone was raving about, all because of its incredibly atmospheric gameplay and fantastic plot — an atmosphere and plot I was being denied time and time again, due to my own inability to survive on the irradiated surface.

It even got to the stage where I wanted to play through the game so badly, wanted to experience it for myself, that I looked up cheats for “infinite ammo”, or some kind of god-mode invincibility so I wouldn’t have to worry about using my hard-earned military-grade rounds buying filters for my mask whenever I got the chance. I’m usually against cheats, but in this case I was making an exception. I was desperate to play the game, but it seemed as if the game didn’t want to be played. At least, not by me.

So I played other games. Every time Metro 2033 came up in a Steam sale, I pushed away the guilt of never having played what was by all accounts a fantastic game, ashamed I couldn’t even beat it on the easiest difficulty. My pile of shame grew, but Metro 2033 sat squarely on the top of the pile.

It wasn’t until Metro: Last Light came out that I read a review of Last Light that said the first game was supposed to be played as a stealth shooter. Then it dawned on me almost as if I had just stepped out of the underground tunnels of the metro and into the harsh sunlight above ground: that was exactly what I had been doing wrong all along. Instead of sneaking around in the shadows, crouch-running through the tunnels, I had been going in all-guns blazing. Instead of conserving my ammo, I had been neglecting my knife when only one or two enemies were between me and my goal.

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Looking back at it now, I’m reasonably surprised I didn’t think of playing 2033 as a stealth game. I must have restarted the game some five or six times without changing my play style, each time expecting to Rambo through sections with wanton abandon and then dying out in the unforgiving tunnels and surface. But after learning about playing it as a stealth game, everything changed. Suddenly, I had more filters than I knew what to do with. My knife became my best friend for dealing with one or two bad guys, and ammo, while not exactly abundant, became plentiful enough.

The game changed.

Instead of a game where my every thought was on survival and finding enough filters, it became a game about exploration and discovery. Fear was replaced by a curiosity that could only be sated by exploring every nook and cranny for supplies, with little fear about how many filters I had or which direction I was going — although that could also be attributed to my compass, which always lead the way to the next objective, to the next rendezvous.

Sections that had seemed impassable before due to the numbers of enemies between myself and my object now seemed easier, somehow, either by use of stealth or a little ingenuity on my part. The game didn’t become any easier, necessarily, but the simple act of playing it differently meant that I could see and explore places I wouldn’t have had the chance to had I just sprinted through rooms filled with enemies.

I started to enjoy the game.

And what a game it was. The reviewers and critics were right: Metro 2033 was as deserving of every accolade it earned, and for good reason. As an introduction into the subterranean life of a post-nuclear-war Russia, it was unparalleled. As a look into the life of one individual’s journey through the dark tunnels of the Metro, the harsh wasteland of the surface, and deep behind enemy lines, it was an awe-inspiring experience.

Forging your own path was easier if you shot out all the lights first so that you could remain unseen, as indicated by your handy watch. Stealthily taking down enemies wherever possible meant you raised the least amount of suspicion, meaning a longer time undisturbed looking for ammo, military-grade rounds, or secret caches filled to the brim with ammo, filters, and military-grade rounds.

"Does this helmet kind of remind you the NCR Ranger Combat Armour from Fallout 3, or is it just me?"

“Does this helmet kind of remind you the NCR Ranger Combat Armour from Fallout 3, or is it just me?”

But as much as you thought you were the silent killer lurking in the shadows, you never felt overpowered compared to the enemies you encountered — human or otherwise. Part of the reason you had to sneak around in the first place is because you’d quickly run out of ammo if you had to engage the enemy, particularly during the section where you’re between two sets of enemies on either side, where you have to jump around and avoid being spotted. The only time you feel on top of things is when you’re journeying towards the D6 compound with your fellow Rangers — only because there’s safety in numbers, and even then, only when those numbers are comprised of the Ranger elite.

In terms of gameplay, Metro 2033 is a shining example of how to do stealth right. There’s parts where stealth benefits you greatly, combined with parts where you can’t stealth due to environmental conditions, and just have to run and gun. Your watch helps you immensely, and paying attention to it is usually the difference between a successful stealth attempt and tens of soldiers being alerted to your presence and opening fire.

The plot of Metro 2033 isn’t too bad either. You meet a couple people and do a few things along the way. You’re never completely alone except for a few short parts here and there, and you always have a clear sense of purpose, even when you’re given the freedom to roam around an underground establishment or and above-ground environment.

For the most part, other characters will be there to guide you through various sections. It’s a little hand-holdy at times, but means you’re never really thrown into a situation you can’t handle. I usually hate escort missions, but this isn’t like that at all — if anything, it’s more like a reverse escort mission where you’re the one being escorted through the bowels of post-nuclear-war Moscow, being taught survival tips and tricks along the way. If another character tells you to jump, you don’t even have to ask how high, because he’ll tell you.

The introduction at the start of the Metro 2033 is brilliantly executed — the whole “play through this first part, then flashback to the beginning of your journey, playing though until you come back to this section again” aspect is a plot device more frequently used in TV, but it still works here. It creates enough intrigue to get you hooked and just enough action to blow you away, at which point it dials it all back a few notches so you can start to ask questions and get truly into the plot and story that Metro 2033 presents during the course of gameplay.

Make no mistake: Metro 2033 is a great game.

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Mass Effect Weaponry

monkeydseehr: Weaponry - Mass Effect [◼] | hexington

monkeydseehr: Weaponry - Mass Effect [◼] | hexington

monkeydseehr: Weaponry - Mass Effect [◼] | hexington

via monkeydseehr: Weaponry – Mass Effect [◼] | hexington.

Top to bottom, left to right:

N7 Valkyrie — the two-round burst is more annoying than helpful, in my opinion

M-55 Argus — three round burst coupled with a relatively slow firing speed, avoid

M-37 Falcon — the only mini-grenade firing weapon worth using is the Striker Assault Rifle, this just seems like a worse weapon by comparison

Phaeston — a decent alternative to the Cerberus Harrier, if you haven’t unlocked that

N7 Valiant — the only thing that lets down this reasonably-fast-firing sniper rifle is its 3-round mag size

M-90 Indra — haven’t actually unlocked this weapon yet, although from memory it wasn’t too bad in single player

M-13 Raptor — a fast-firing sniper rifle that’s probably closer to an assault rifle, but I think I’ve only seen it used successfully in one game

Javelin — the small delay between pressing the mouse and the Javelin means you constantly have to follow your target with the mouse, which takes a bit of getting used to, otherwise, it’s actually the sniper rifle that does the most damage. The scope is a little unorthodox.

Scorpion — sticky grenades might seem like a good idea, but they rarely are. Doubly so if you can’t aim

Arc Pistol — one of my favourites, able to be either shot as-is or charged up and shot. I use it whenever I’m using a biotic character, although I know people that favour the Scorpion as a secondary for characters that don’t have to consider cooldowns

M-358 Talon — a pistol that fires like a shotgun? Since when did that seem like a good idea? I haven’t used this in combat though, so I can’t tell you how it fares in-game

A Short Guide On How To Not Suck At Gold/Platinum Difficulty in Mass Effect 3 Multiplayer

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I’m pretty sick of complete noobs trying to do Gold and Platinum difficulty in Mass Effect 3 Multiplayer and failing on early waves, so I thought I’d write a short guide on a few general tips and strategies. In no particular order…

  • Be at least level 18 for Gold, level 20 for Platinum. Anything else and you’re asking for a bad time. You might not think too much of those extra points, but those tier 6 evolutions of your powers can make all the difference in the world.

  • For crying out loud, take gear and equipment. At the very least, take gear — that’s the square in the bottom right corner of the equipment screen, for those who have never done so (also, shame on you). Gear isn’t a consumable, so it lasts for more than just one game.
    When you’re taking gear, take gear that will help out your character. If your character is a biotic/heavy pistol person, then take the Commando Package. If you’re a Krogan Warlord and like doing damage with melee and shotguns, take the Beserker Package. You’d think some of this stuff is common sense, but you’d be surprised…

  • Equipment is also a must. You can get by without it, but you can do some pretty cool things with ammo and weapon bonuses, such as Warp ammo for increased Biotic damage on targets, or setting up biotic/tech combos with Disruptor ammo and Tech Burst, or Warp Ammo and Warp. Again, take ammo and weapon bonuses that complement your character.
    The extra damage that some ammo bonuses applies helps out more than you’d think — 35% more damage is about twice as much damage as a maxed passive skill tree can afford you in terms of weapon damage, for example.

  • Don’t waste your Medkits in the heat of battle. Mash that spacebar until the little line is almost gone, then use the Medkit — and only if the situation calls for it. I wouldn’t use a Medkit on Wave 1-5, because if you’ve flatlined and no-one revives you on those earlier waves, chances are you won’t make it to the later waves anyway. Might as well save that Medkit for when you actually need it.
    Medkits are best used in a last-gasp, I’m-the-last-man-standing-and-it’s-the-last-enemy-on-wave-10 situtaions, where the difference between using a Medkit and not using the Medkit is winning the round, and not winning the round. If there’s no immediate danger around you, you might as well sit out that little countdown until your knight in shining armour comes to rescue you, or you bleed out.
    There’s no dishonour in bleeding out, either — if it’s a particularly early wave, you really have nothing to lose (unless you’re carrying the team, which is a different kettle of fish).

  • Similarly, use those Cobra Missiles properly. Look, I hate Phantoms as much as you do, and as tempting as it is to pull out your launcher and blast that Phantom back to the depths of hell from whence it came… don’t. But two Phantoms? Maybe. Three Phantoms or more, though, and you’ll have to get in line. Try not to waste those missiles on a single enemy of any kind — like Medkits, they’re best used in a oh-crap-everyone-is-down-right-next-to-me-and-there’s-two-Brutes-here-with-two-Banshees-on-the-way kind of a situation. In those kinds of cases, go nuts.
    Oh, and it’s generally a good idea to aim your missiles at the ground. Many a person has been mocked in-game because their woefully-aimed Missile missed the group of three Banshees and sailed clear off the map — get close, aim your Missile at the ground, and watch those suckers drop. The splash damage on the Missile is around 3-4m, and anything within a 2 meter radius is dead, so there’s no reason you shouldn’t be aiming at the ground — long range missile launchers? Generally a bad idea for the same reason that you might miss (unless you’re planning for the missile to hit a wall or something, but the invisible walls and whatnot might put a spanner in that particular plan).

That’s pretty much it. Your own gear/loadouts/characters will determine how effective these few tips are, but they should work for pretty much everyone. If you don’t have any Medkits or Missiles, then what I like to do with the Store is save up all my credits until I’m done playing for the night/day/whatever, then buy all the 99000 credit packs I want, leaving the last set of 99,000 credits for three Jumbo Equipment Packs, which replenishes my stores of Cobras/Medkits as well as ammo/weapon bonuses.

Mass Effect 3 Multiplayer: thoughts, strategies, and a guide or two

The N7 Shadow Infiltrator melee attack, with flame sword.

The N7 Shadow Infiltrator melee attack, with flame sword.

Continuing the trend of abandoned games I’m recently just getting back into (see: Battlefield 3, ARMA 2), I’ve been playing Mass Effect 3. I’m now all up to date with all the single player DLC; I’ve re-taken Omega with Aria T’Loak, I’ve investigated Leviathan, and I’ve had a ball in my swanky new apartment on the Citadel (and even invited a few friends over — if you’re a fan of the Mass Effect series and haven’t played through the Citadel DLC, you’re doing yourself a disservice).

But enough about singleplayer and its DLC temptresses. Let’s talk about multiplayer! On the face of it, ME3 multiplayer seems like the worst thing ever, or at least, not the most appealing. It’s four-player, peer-to-peer coop set in a variety of locations from the single player side missions, against a variety of the enemies. It follows a pretty simple formula: choose a location (there’s quite a few so I’ll link you to the appropriate Wikia page), choose an enemy (Geth, Cerberus, Collectors, Reapers), and choose a difficulty (in order of least to most difficult: Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum). From there, you form a four-man squad of varying races and classes, all of which have their own unique skill sets (even though their skills will be shared by other characters, no characters have the same set of skills), choose from a massive variety of weapons, and kit out your characters.

There’s actually quite a bit to it. There’s millions of possible equipment and weapon combinations alone, which makes for unique games. You can be playing with four of the same characters, but each of those characters could have different playstyles (and hence carry a different weapon loadout and consumables, etc). Plus, there’s a heap of stuff you can unlock. 62 weapons, each of which has 10 “levels”. 65 characters over 6 classes. I’m not even counting all the weapon mods, character appearance customisations, consumables, or gear. You can see my stats and what I’ve unlocked so far here.

I’ll get to talking strategy in a sec, but first, a few quick tips.

Narida’s Class Builder is an amazing ME3 multiplayer resource where you can choose how to spec your character. It lets you choose everything about your character, including what weapons, how much damage your character does, what different evolutions your powers can take on and how that affects your damage/other stats, and so on. It’s fantastic. When you’re speccing a new character, consult the class builder to get an idea of what powers do what, and how that affects your cooldowns, that sort of thing. The only place where it falls down is giving you a sense of how fast things happen in game: a five second cooldown might not sound like much, but it’s an eternity when you’re trying to reload your Widow sniper rifle and dodging that Geth Hunter that appeared out of nowhere. For everything else, Narida’s Class Builder is your ME3 multiplayer bible.

Now, a lot of the game resides in the characters, and the classes you play. A lot of it depends on your particular play-style — any decently skilled player will be able to pick up an entirely new (level 20) character and do well enough at the bronze and silver levels, but I find gold and platinum require a higher plane of thinking.

The Krogan Warlord. I named my Warlord Thor, for obvious reasons.

The Krogan Warlord. I named my Warlord Thor, for obvious reasons.

As an example, take this particular Krogan Warlord build. The Warlord is a good character for smashing trash mobs on silver and lower difficulties, but like pretty much all melee-based characters, you generally don’t do enough damage to make it worth your time getting close to bosses (Geth Primes, Cerberus Atlases, Collector Praetorians/Scions, Reaper Banshees/Brutes), which means on Gold and higher, you’re generally going to have a bad time if you run in and try and hammer everything. I remember the first time I played the Warlord. I built my Warlord similar to the build linked above, and, thinking I was some kind of god, charged in and attempted to break all the enemies into little pieces with my hammer. That worked pretty well, at least up until the boss characters — the banshees, brutes, scions, praetorians, and atlases — who proceeded to insta-kill me, every single time I got too close. It was during that game that I discovered that even Brutes have their own insta-kill animation. Up until then, I had no idea brutes could even insta-kill you. But now I know, and these days, I tend to keep my distance with my Warlord — at least until I know I can take a boss down with one hammer attack. And that’s really what ME3 multiplayer is all about, working with the skills you have in order to be an effective asset to the team. It’s about knowing your limits, and playing it smart.

One of the first things I do when I unlock a new character is to look up “builds”, which tell me where I should put points into powers. But builds are only half of the story, and they’re almost worthless without knowing the strategy for that build. So many builds don’t have a guide on how to play that particular character/build, so you have to experiment to see what works and what doesn’t — but then, what’s the point of a build in the first place? Isn’t the whole idea of a build where someone else has already done the experimentation for you, and can just tell you what to do to win? Another thing I found really annoying is how builds recommend specific weapons. What happens if you don’t have that weapon unlocked? For this reason, these guides will recommend what weapon I run with, then suggest alternatives if you don’t have it. Which is why I’m going to open my little strategy guides under the proviso that they work for my particular playstyle(s). I have a few different play-styles — some are easy, others require a little more work on your part.

These are less strategies, and more just me telling you what I’ve found to be effective with any given build. In no particular order…

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To the Sea: A Wasteland Story

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Okay kids, Wasteland story time.

It’s the end of a long night. Toj, Sub, and I have been shot at, shot others, killed, and been killed all around the map. We’ve held the bridge at Prig even with cars driving past it, sent the drivers of armoured Hummers and medical Vodniks to meet their maker with rockets, and scared anyone in the vicinity with shots from an M107.

Sub had called it a night already, and Toj and I both agree that this will be our last life. We spawn in Cherno, looking for a car to get back to Elektro: we know Prig has been hot all night (we’ve done a lot of killing around there ourselves and had a little bit of an adventure up on the east coast before spwaning in back in Cherno), but since it’s the last life of the night (and after we died to some total suspiscious stuff at Elektro) we decide to get up to some shenanigans.

Now, normally there’s over 700 vehicles in a server. Apparently, none of the ones in Cherno are working. We come across a bus that has a broken wheel, a ute that has a broken wheel, a jeep with a broken wheel, and a blue van with — you guessed it — another broken wheel. But right next to the van I find a green sedan that seems to be in working condition. The engine is still mysteriously running, leaving me to question the fate of whomever drove this little green sedan before me. The glass is a little banged up, but she drives. This other dude, Seeker, also gets in the car with me, and I head south towards the Cherno docks. There, Toj is manning a Hummer with a 50 cal; Seeker and I pick him up, and we drive towards Prig.

As we’re approaching Prig Seeker tells us to stop at the gunstore. As a new spawn he’s only got $100 on him, but that’s apparently enough for a basic M4 rifle and 2 magazines of ammo. Sam and I buy the same gear. We jump back in the green sedan and decide to do something, anything.

It was back at Cherno when we were driving to pick up Toj that I figured out a new, fun game: how long can you drive on the train tracks? Green civilian sedans don’t go very fast on anything but the highest quality bitumen, and railway tracks are about the same speed, terrain-wise, as the open grassland. Except I had figured out that you can drive at full speed (110km/h) when your wheels are on top of the railway tracks themselves — it’s nearly impossible to stay on top of the tracks for any period of time, but that just adds to the challenge.

So at this stage, we’re heading east from the gun store at Prig towards Cap Golova, east towards Cherno. I start to play the “how long can I stay on top of the train tracks for” game, when we spot it: a beautiful speedboat, complete with multiple seats and a mounted .50 cal on the front. In an instant, the plan is hatched: we tow the boat to the open sea using the green sedan, and cruise the open seas in our new found boat. It’s an excellent plan — what could possibly go wrong?

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Not Quite An ARMA 2 Mod: Wasteland

As a current member of the Blufor army, this soldier's face must remain hidden

As a current member of the Blufor army, this soldier’s face must remain hidden

I’ve been getting back into some DayZ recently, and while that’s been pretty great fun (although I haven’t played any of the latest patch), something new has captured my interest.

Wasteland. It’s not actually a mod of ARMA 2, but it kind of is: Wasteland is better described as a team-based set of custom missions in Chernarus. There are two teams: Blufor and Opfor, both opposing factions. In the middle are the Independents, for the lone-wolves, the ones that want to kill everyone without discriminating. There’s a few other bits to Wasteland, so I’ll try and explain them in a bit more detail.

Far and away, the biggest difference to DayZ players in Wasteland will be the zombies. Or rather, lack thereof: in Wasteland, there are no zombies. it’s just you, the opposing faction (if you’re on Opfor or Blufor) and the independents (commonly referred to as “indies”). Occasionally you’ll get objectives which have armed NPCs at them (who can and will shoot at you), but those aren’t super common.

You might think the lack of zombies is a little strange, but really, it’s not all that different to what you might have seen in DayZ. DayZ is a little flawed in that zombies only spawn around buildings and the like, which means you don’t see any zombies if you’re just running around in the woods. If it helps, you can think of Wasteland as the post-post-apocalypse: the zombies have all died out, and now it’s just you and other players fighting each other over dwindling resources.

Whilst it may be true that zombies do add an extra level to the tension when you’re engaged with another player, not having to worry about them when you’re tracking another player is good, too — any kind of movement you spot in a town is likely a player. No zombies also means you don’t have to deal with bandaging in the heat of battle and other nonsense. It’s kind of nice, actually.

Unlike DayZ, you don’t have you find your weapons in deer stands, abandoned firestations, or military barracks. Instead, you’ll find your weapons in crates that you find at objectives, or more commonly, inside pretty much every car. And what’s nice about these weapons is that they’re all high-end gear, stuff that isn’t included in DayZ; all the way from top-tier military weapons, Soviet-era weapons (AKs and variants), all the way down to the lowly Lee Enfield and the Makarov PM (easily the worst thing about playing Opfor — Blufor players spawn with the much harder-hitting M1911, and I believe Indies spawn with the G17).

The Mk17 Sniper is a piece of art, and while you don’t necessarily need a silenced weapon in Wasteland as there aren’t any zombies to give your location away to, suppressed weapons can still be useful for silently taking out other players without them getting an immediate fix on your location. Anything with an ACOG scope is great for short to mid-range engagements, too. There’s basically no restriction on the weapons you’ll find in Wasteland — you’ll find specific variants at weapons crates and inside cars (US Special weapons inside a US Special Weapons Crate, for example), but finding a gun in Wasteland usually isn’t an issue. Plus, heavy guns actually work: various shoulder-fired rockets (RPGs, SMAWs, Stingers, Javelins) are necessary for killing armoured targets such as SUVs and Hummers, and make very big bangs.

We made a nice bonfire out of our excess cars.

We made a nice bonfire out of our excess cars.

One of the other big change from DayZ is vehicles: cars are plentiful in Wasteland. There’s over 700 vehicles in Wasteland servers, which means transportation isn’t usually a problem. You can spawn in, jump in a car nearby, and drive away — all without having to repair it or fuel it. It’s a beautiful thing to not have to waste an hour scouring industrial spawns to find a bloody toolbox, let me tell you. Like the weapons, there’s every variety of vehicle in Wasteland: armoured SUVs with mounted miniguns, giant trucks with anti-air machine guns on the back, Humvees, Humvees with .50 cal machine guns, armoured Vodniks, jeeps, off-roads, ambulances, plus the usual assortment of push bikes, motorbikes, sedans, vans, hatchbacks, utes, and so on. There’s also Ospreys, Blackhawks, Little Birds, C130s, and Hueys, but they’re much rarer — only a few per server, plus whatever comes up in the objectives (more on this later). Oh, and did I mention the tanks? There’s tanks, too.

The greatly increased number of vehicles evens the playing field a little: it means the map is smaller, to be sure, but it also means everyone has reasonable access to fast transport to anywhere on the map. What’s more, you can even drive through towns without having to take detours due to debris on the road: evidently, someone was sick of random wrecks on the roads, so they went through and swept it all up, making the roads actually drivable.

It’s not unusual to come across a convoy of vehicles driving along the road in Wasteland. Get a few players, get a few cars, and there you go.

More after the HALO jump.

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

I am the Gun Master

Battlefield 3 Gun Master Knife Kill

When you playing Gun Master in Battlefield 3 and you use the knife, you’re doing it for an entirely selfless reason; to demote the other player. It’s the ultimate middle finger, a kind of “hey, I’m this much of a better player than you and don’t you forget it” move that means your level stays the same while the other person goes down a level.

For the uninitiated, Gun Master is a game mode in Battlefield 3 that’s like the “gun game” you might have played in Counter-Strike back in the day, also known as Arms Race in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Regardless of which game you’re playing, the premise behind Gun Master/Arms Race/Gun Game is the same: it’s a deathmatch-style game mode where you don’t buy guns, instead, there’s a specific order of guns that you need to progress through in order to win the game. You’re given the first gun in the list and need to get a certain number of kills with it in order to progress to the next gun in the list. The objective is simple: get the required number of kills with whatever weapon you currently have and keep doing so until you finish the list of guns — being the first to do so means you win the match.

Using the knife in any version of this weapon progression game mode is a risky manoeuvre, which might be why a knife kill is the last one on the list, the kill that ends the match. If you’re at the top of the ladder, on the last weapon, you have a knife, and that usually means you’re going to have a bad time. Everyone else has guns, and here you are, with a knife; getting kills is hard — difficult, even — but not impossible. But if you’re using guns, in the ranks,  you can still use the knife to get a kill. Again, it’s hard, but not altogether impossible.

Only there’s one major difference between Gun Game and the Arms Race/Gun Master versions of the game work with regards to the knife. In the older Gun Game version of the game, successfully using the knife to kill another player means you immediately level up, advancing to the next weapon in the list, and also demoting the other player to the previous weapon in the list. You’re effectively “stealing” a level from the other player in Gun Game. For this reason, the Gun Game knife kill is beneficial not only to yourself, but humiliating for the other player. Hate a weapon? Get a knife kill to advance to the next weapon. Don’t want to bother getting however-many-kills your current weapon requires to level up? Get a knife kill to immediately go to the next level. Just want to show someone who’s boss? Get a knife kill.

But in Battlefield’s Gun Master and in Counter-Strike’s Arms Race, the knife operates on a slightly different mechanic. If the Gun Game knife is a tool used for purely selfish reasons (to advance to the next level by stealing a level from another player), the Battlefield version is used for purely selfless reasons. Successfully killing another player in Gun Master or Arms Race doesn’t raise your own rank, nor does it add a kill for your current weapon. All you’re doing when you knife someone in Gun Master is sending them back a level, “demoting” them to the previous weapon in the list.

This opens up a whole set of tactical opportunities. Because you can see the ladder in Gun Master and see who’s in the lead, it means you can specifically target someone to knife. Maybe the leader is too far ahead of the pack, so if you knife him, the he’ll be taken down a notch. But doing so is usually at your own expense; you could knife every single player on the other team and you would still be on whatever weapon you started with. Which is why I’m saying using the knife in Gun Master and Arms Race is a purely selfless act, a kind of middle finger to whomever is unlucky enough to be on the wrong side of your ACB-90.

It’s for that reason that using the knife in Gun Master is more of a challenge than it is in Counter Strike. You’re not doing yourself any favours when you use it, so what’s the point? But used correctly, the knife can be a tool for showing off your own skills, humiliating the other player, and demoting them in the process.

Seems like a fair trade-off to me, which is probably why I find myself reaching for the knife button whenever I’m stalking another player.

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.

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