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Maschinengewehr aus jeder galaxie, heilen wir allgemeine agonie (Insurgency, 2014)

I should stop writing about Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, I’ve said too much already. But thinking about it makes me a bit concerned about so called survival* games being developed these days. Not only Counter-Strike, in my experience, from 1.3 to Global Offensive, was never riddled with cheaters but, over time, good ideas about players/community management we’re directly melt into the game user interface. For instance, someday /votekick was modded: now it is a just click away. Since internet is no longer a thingy for a chosen few, these players/community managements features are a must have, there is no way around. I do not even understand how anyone could think ever releasing a multiplayer game without these. That should be part of the user interface design, not an crappy thing added extra two days before the final first release. It was already nice in Left 4 Dead, it’s great in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive so they can focus on other things (before changing anything to Aztec, I’d suggest heavy fixes on Lake: the ability to run like mad on the roof of the house just like if it was solid ground, without it even making specific noise, is already way too gamey for my taste; but the running, not swimming, around in the Lake is really nonsense).

But Counter-Strike will always be Counter-Strike, otherwise it’ll have to be renamed, since any substantial change would make too much fuss among pro players. So even though the game qualifies as a tactical realistic experience, there are cool realism items they’ll probably never implement. I doubt they’ll ever add iron sights for instance.

So no iron sight, no blurry target and iron sights clear either, as it should be when you are actually aiming with a weapon with iron sights, focusing on the said sights. In depth: I admit not easy to implement, obviously, while he can be aiming down the sight since a few seconds, the player still have to decide when he’s actually about to fire and want to only focus on the sight instead of the whole environment. But, in FPS where you can aim down the sights, there is often a key to slow breathing : maybe it could fill that purpose too in the case of iron sights. Or another fine way to implement it could be to assume that when you aim down the sight, it’s for immediate fire so it would by default focus on the sight and slow breathing; and the extra key usually for slow breathing would be a general release trigger, releasing the breath and focus with the sights still aimed.

This leads me to Insurgency. It uses Source engine, so even though it’s not the best on the market in regards of aesthetics these days, it’s stable and quite nice to see nonetheless, especially since you can actually put all the settings to high and  expect at least 50/60 frames per second. And votekick, mute morons, etc, are already implemented.

Insurgency ambiance is quite similar to COD 4 Modern Warfare, with fights taking places in Iraq/Somalia/etc. Insurgency gameplay is a bit similar to Counter-Strike, with objectives that invites to a tactical playing style.

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And Insurgency is new, they don’t have to deal with history, they can implement things like this blurry target/iron sights clear thingy. They already seems to focus on realism, with a minimalist interface (for instance, it tells you how many magazines you have left but it does not tell you how many times you fired with your current one however), they could continue on this path.

I was also thinking it could be interesting not to consider ammunitions as a whole and magazine size as a limit of ammunitions that can be fired without reload, as it is in every FPS, but, as it is in reality, magazines as real containers: you fire three ammunitions and load another magazine then you have in your backpack a magazine with 3 ammunitions left. Gameplay wise, when reloading, as it is in every game I’ve played so far, provides you each time the full maximum of ammunitions, you should almost always reload after a firefight, as soon as you are in cover. That’s easy to remember and to apply. But that notion is not realistic. No magazine is automatically fed to the maximum each time you put it in the pocket. Unloading magazines and refeeding them on the battlefield could be possible but that’s not a fast reload. I don’t know whether a realistic take on this would make the game funnier, but it would definitely makes it more immersive, and even help players to perfect strategies about magazines management (is it better to change regularly magazines to keep them to a similar level, but ending will all of them almost empty at some point? or is it better to always empty them one by one so you never end up in the situation where you cannot fire an almost full one, except when you are completely out? or is it better to change regularly but to keep one full at all time just in case?).

Anyway, the game is on sale these days, if you want a similar experience (realism, tactical modes) to Red Orchestra 2/Rising Storm, but in another ambiance, you should go for it. Erhebe du dich!

(* if you can respawn in a sleeping bag a few meters from where you died, if you can actually easily manage multiples death without substantive loss, then it’s more a farming game than a survival experience)

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It’s a long road up ahead of us, let’s forge on while we’re strong and leave our mark of honor once again (The Tudors, 2007-2010 ; Chivalry: Medieval Warfare, 2012 ; War of the Roses, 2012)

Seems to me that each few years after a great series was on TV, you almost always get video games that put you in the same ambiance. The Tudors was great: lot of violence and sex, stimulating enough, and depicting IMHO convincingly a the specific period of Henri VIII’s troubled reign. This short period is of obviously major importance in Europe, at the origin of anglicanism for fuck/god sake, and so was portrayed in many great books, most notably the well documented Christopher J. Sansom’s series of Matthew Shardlake crime novels -this guy makes good use of his PhD, read it! Same kind of moral issues you could also find in Jean Anouilh’s Becket ou l’honneur de Dieu, even though this one is about Henri II instead.

So it’s not a big surprise to get to Chivalry: Medieval Warfare. Maybe it’s unrelated. True, Henri VIII isn’t actually medieval but modern instead. However, available weapons and kind of fortress and town you’re visiting are very late medieval than anything else. And after all it started as a free as in beer mod to HL²/Source engine  (which I think I even tried years before that), even though now the game uses Unreal3 engine. As such, the game is quite acceptable eye-candy wise. Maps are okay, weapons are hard to master but interesting too. But then I gave a try to War of the Roses. The ambiance is quite the same, taking place in the XVth century. Its engine is a specific one and could probably be improved a lot, especially performance wise in general and bugfixing in specific (for instance, you frequently have the music stopping/stuttering when navigating in the menus: don’t tell me the same thread is handling the visual interface AND the music output. Who would do such crap in 2012?). But the gameplay is way more fun than Chivalry one. More big melee fighting, easier interface, more interaction with other players (you can bandage harmed friendlies, etc) and such interaction rewarded with a XP plus Money system. You can customize a lot your classes to fit your playing style. Pretty pretty good.

Peignecul classe

So far, the only issue I noticed in WotR is with the duel servers – usually on the map called tournament. You should avoid them. Most of the time, players won’t really duel but will claim too. You’ll just get kicked in the arse at the very moment you defeated regularly your opponent. And you may even find yourselves against XP/Money whores that will play together in the opposite team, getting on you when you’re down, the first one (from your team) reviving you, getting XP/Money for that, and the second one killing you the second your up, getting XP/Money for that too, endlessly until you quit. But it’s easy to avoid this: play conquest. That’s funnier in all regards. With swords drawn to defend stood these noblehearted men, faugh-an-ballagh clear the way me boys

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Don’t you know that love and understanding go together? (Dear Esther, 2012)

I dont care much for horror-based stuff: why would I punish myself by drawning deliberately into unpleasantness? Some psychological horror oriented games are interesting though. I enjoyed the slow-paced video game The Path during which you reenact the fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood. In The Path, you are not provided with a set of instructions. You just move the character you play with and see what could happen. And stuff happen. I won’t say more in order not to spoil anything but it worth a shot.

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The other day (steam summer sale guilty as charged!), I gave a try to Dear Esther; the 2012 version, not the original one. I’m not sure what to think about it. It is slow paced, sure. It extensively uses the Source engine, that is to say the rendering is quite nice. But as much as I was amazed in 2004 playing the Source version of Counter-Strike then Half-Life 2, I got used to. Recent games (L4D2, Portal 2, TF2, etc) still based on this almost a decade year old game engine cannot just focus on aesthetics, because even if this engine proved to be quite potent, many much more recent engines can do more in this regard.

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Is it a spoiler if I say that, in Dear Esther, you have absolutely nothing to do, just slowly travel on a map? I get the point of slowly walking: so you can enjoy the sight. It’s true it is well designed. It’s like going on a trek in the hills. Except that you are not moving your body at all, except you cannot breathe fresh air. And now I realize that this part of trekking is not so much secondary. Fast enough, I was a bit bored and missed the point of being able to move wherever I wanted to, because it made no difference. Trekking on Skyrim makes much more sense. I’ve read some reviews of the game saying it should have been made a movie instead of this kind of interactive truly non-interactive game. Sure. But I’m not sure I would have a enjoyed this movie too. I guess it’s just too slow paced for me.

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Maybe this review is harsh: this game was not supposed to be more than an experiment with the engine. I’m not saying the game is not worth the price I paid during steam sales, I’m not saying I had a bad time. The point is I like video game because I enjoy interactivity. So whenever you provide me with a game with almost no interactivity, I get bored über-fast. In the end, truly enjoying this game surely depends a lot on what you expect from a video game in general. Ask too much of one….

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Its not in your head, you’re a living dead (L4D & L4D2 & The Walking Dead, 2006-2012)

Zombies are hip. Don’t ask me why they are, or to prove it (hint: specific blatantly-off-topic game mods). Seems to me people talk about it everyday, or almost. I don’t know when the current trend started exactly. The Road? I Am Legend? I guess it is related to the fascination of post-apocalyptic world ; after all, eschatology is a major issue of most monotheims.

Anyway, before that, I had in mind that zombies was somehow result of witchcraft. But now, it looks like an experiment that went wrong, a biohazard that went wild.

It’s the case of the Infected in Left 4 Dead (2006) and Left 4 Dead 2 (2009):

It seems to be the case of the Walkers of The Walking Dead (2010):

The whole point of this article is, actually, just to highlight of many similarities (ambiance, characters, weaponry, etc) of these video games and this TV show. Because both are great. The video games use Source engine so the gameplay is alike Half-Life²/CS:S, which is very fine by me, and is very very well thought for cooperative multiplayer (teams of four, as humans or as infected). The TV series is quite captivating, even if characters are where we expect them to be. You should give a try to both.

I’m still wondering whether the video game inspired the TV show or the contrary, or if by any chance the video game was not itself inspired by the comics the TV show is based on. I plan to look into the comics ASAP.

Even funnier (yes, funny), it came to my attention that Telltale Games, publisher of the über-absurd (but a bit redundant maybe) point-n-click Sam & Max, plan to release a The Walking Dead game. Not a multiplayer game, not a game where you can go zombie, so it will not make much sense to compare its gameplay to L4D/L4D2, though. You wanna be undead so you can be hunted?

Warning: L4D/L4D2 is really meant to be played as a cooperative multiplayer game. It’s not worth it if you do not play it with friends along on voicechat. There is a reason why Steam proposes it as a pack for four players, it’s really about survival and you can’t really do it without real cooperation.