Posts Tagged ‘FPS’

Developer: City Interactive

Publisher: City Interactive

Platforms: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3, PC

Price: £17.99 on Play.com

I have been waiting to pick up this title for a while now, excited about the prospect of a game devoted to sniping, something which is disappointingly underrepresented in gaming. Games like Modern Warfare (‘One Shot, One Kill’) and World at War (‘Vendetta’) have successfully demonstrated how heart-racingly exciting sniping can be, especially the latter. Finally, a game supposedly based on the long range shooting strategy. How could it go wrong? Find out below:

Sniper Ghost Warrior is perhaps best described as mediocre; enjoyable but certainly instantly forgettable.

The plot is practically non-existent, jetting you to location after location with little plot continuity or development. Narrative becomes a sacrificial lamb, rushed, unplanned instead promoting the games greatest (perhaps only) feature – the bullet time sniping accompanied by a vicious kill cam. Undoubtedly, this feature provides endless fun:


There is nothing quite as satisfying as popping an enemy in the head, rewarded with more that just some additional score points. A kill cam is the greatest reward a gamer could receive, providing them with a glorious view of their accurate, deadly shot.

Unfortunately, everything goes downhill from there. Sniping is heavily affected by an inventive realistic ballistics system. This ensures that environmental factors affect the trajectory of your bullet, exacerbated when you are standing instead of crouching or proning. It is refreshing that City Interactive have attempted to inject some gaming realism beyond the modern taste for photo realistic graphics. However, disappointingly this system is not without its flaws. On the default difficulty setting the user is provided with an additional red dot on the reticule which directly shows where the bullet will make contact. As a result, the environmental factors are entirely redundant. However, on higher difficulty settings the user is faced with the other extreme; wind conditions are so variable that perfect headshots are nigh on impossible. Moreover, undermining all of this is the bullet time feature which allows the user to slow time temporarily, also highlighting enemies in red, to provide an unmissable shot. I appreciate that the developers have tried to introduce something new, it’s just a shame that it is ill thought and riddled with flaws.

One of the most damaging things from my personal perspective is that there is little effective use of sniping within the game. When I heard that there was a game called ‘Sniper’ my mind automatically raced, thinking of all the potential sniping missions that I will be on; assassinating terrorist leaders, taking out the tyres of an escaping vehicle, destroying lights or alarm systems to provide stealth cover, eliminating enemy guards, the possibilities were endless. This game doesn’t scratch the surface though. I expected Silent Scope as an FPS and what I got was a bad COD rip off.

All together now: 'Boom, headshot!'

Importantly the game is subtitled ‘Ghost Warrior’. Clearly this phrase is completely apt for the traditional strategy of a sniper: covert, anonymous killing. You’ve seen Leon right? This sort of strategy is certainly present here, highlighted by the inclusion of a silenced pistol and throwing knife, but it is often ridiculously juxtaposed with perhaps the worst assault rifle physics that I have ever seen. There are certain sections which force the user to use an assault rifle instead of a sniper. These entirely ruin the fluidity of the game, making stealth impossible and completely undermining the whole premise of the title. It is another example of ill planned development. More damaging are the actual physics of the assault rifles which have the worst recoil I have ever seen in a game (that’s not to say that I have ever felt the recoil of a gun in real life). It’s like Michael J. Fox has suddenly entered the campaign.

The sniping element to the game is further weakened by severely limiting linearity, created by poor map design and plot progression. Sniper Ghost Warrior ensures that the player must follow a very strict path throughout. This is enforced by the use trigger points interspersed throughout each level which must be crossed in order to initiate the next map marker, and an almost Totalitarian reliance on invisible walls. The idea of sniping, of covertly locating the most advantageous sniping spots to obtain the perfect hit, would be much better suited to a sand box title. As it stands, Ghost Warrior completely restricts the user in their attempt to strategise, a hugely disappointing limitation when the landscapes are beautifully rendered, visually vast but with no substance.

Looks exciting right? Well sadly it's not.

Enemy AI is pretty dire in Sniper also. The biggest problem is that there is a shambolic level of inconsistency. At times enemy forces have a perpetual lock on to your position whilst at others you are able to selectively pick off a group of four or five without them batting an eyelid. It’s this inconsistency which makes the game infuriating, particularly when someone kills you with an assault rifle from a range that would require the player to use a sniper to accurately hit them.

I’ll end with a note about the 12 man online multiplayer. Essentially, it’s a bit, well, meh. It’s ok, nothing more, nothing less. It suffers from awful connection problems, worsened by the fact that it backs you out to the main lobby after every single match. There is quite a harsh learning curve when you first play, making it vital to learn the functionality of varying rifles and map designs. It does feel rewarding when you do this though. Unfortunately, the few maps become very repetitive, very quickly and inevitably have more campers than Glastonbury. The fatal flaw of Ghost Warrior’s online multiplayer is that it actually feels quite exciting, highlighting how lackluster the solo campaign is. Although the more exciting features of bullet time and kill cams have been removed from online play – a necessary manoeuvre – you are constantly prisoner to the feelings of both excitement and fear. Adrenaline pumps as you dash from spot to spot, manically scanning the landscape’s foliage in the hope of spotting opposing snipers, before they spot you. This unnerving excitement, experienced in WAW’s ‘Vendetta’ (above), is sadly missing in Ghost Warrior’s campaign. This, accompanied by a discouraging range of other problems renders it, at best, a mediocre FPS.

Sniper Ghost Warrior 2 is due for release on 16th March 2012. Am I excited? Errrrrrr…..

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A few weeks back I purchased the combined box set edition of Band of Brothers and The Pacific. This week I finally got round to rewatching the first series and I’m just as blown away now as when I first saw it!

I’ve played far too many war games in my time, especially FPSs, and I’ve noticed that generally two things seem to unite them. Firstly is the feeling of being superhuman, that somehow a few choice individuals manage to completely transform the outcome of war. Secondly, and perhaps more significantly, you are never made to feel any kind of compassion for anyone. Characters are always treated with such superficiality.

Playable protagonists are often made to be ‘everyman’ figures in the hope that the user will somehow assimilate some kind of connection to them, beyond the inevitable ‘I’m controlling you, looking from your visual perspective, so I must be feeling what you are! Look, I can’t see my own face, but there are my arms flailing whilst I melee or reload. Wow, if I look down I can see my shoes…’ Conversely though, in making the protagonists such blank canvases they simply serve to restrict any kind of connection to them. Inevitably, players cannot sufficiently become the in game character; each protagonist has their own name, social background and reason for having some involvement in the war ensuring that it is actually impossible to assimilate their position. Instead, if these individuals were characterised more successfully, with particular personality traits and moral reasoning, then perhaps gamers could actually find some level of connection to their own personality, thereby assuming a vicarious role in their quest.

Furthermore, supporting characters are also treated with the same superficiality. Generally they fit into four categories:

1. The stereotypical ‘Let’s fuck this shit up!’ bloke.

2. The timid, unassuming coward, who inevitably comes good.

3. The moustachioed leader.

4. The disillusioned, ‘Why are we fighting this stupid war blah blah blah’, protester.

Eugene searches for supplies amidst the snow of Bastogne.

Of course this is a somewhat crude list, but I defy you to find a character that doesn’t fit into one of these categories to some extent. Supporting characters are supplied with such miniscule character development that their fate becomes completely inconsequential. I’ve never cared if any of my comrades have died when gaming. Fuck it, I’d nade them myself if the game would let me continue afterwards.

That is why I adore Band of Brothers so much. Finally I have been made to care about the plight of these soldiers. Each individual has their own particular character traits which are sustained and developed as the series progresses, enhanced powerfully by the fact that they are based on real men. Each character demands a different response: Bill ‘Gonorrhea’ Guarnere is a boss (a baows); strong, loyal with a De Niro accent that warns you not to fuck with him. Although he did walk like John Wayne after his leg was wounded rescuing Joe Toye. You feel awful for Malarkey after the tragedy of Bastogne, but welcome his new found authority and confidence as a direct result of it. I genuinely felt contempt for Captain Sobel, and not just because he was played by greasy whiner David Schwimmer – although it could not have helped! “We salute the rank, not the man.” God that made me smile. There is genuine sorrow to be felt when the characters you have familiarised yourself with are wounded or die.

Isolated, alone.

From Currahee to Berchtesgarden, the whole series has kept me totally engrossed, but no part more than episode 6, ‘Bastogne’. The reason for this is its primary focus, not on the seemingly insurmountable plight of a struggling Easy Company trying to defend the line in the forests of Bastogne, but on the harrowing experiences of medics. Although you are very much made aware of the offensive endeavours of Easy, now in limited number with minimal ammunition, rations and no winter clothes, the key dramatic sequences all really relate to the toil of a medic, Eugene Roe. The reason this really struck a chord with me is that you rarely obtain this perspective. Typically medics are peripheral characters, despite how vital they are for a Company’s success. Never will you see them as a significant character in single player campaigns (it’s only in Battlefield’s multiplayer that they come into their own).

‘Bastogne’ was a fantastic insight into the moral dilemmas of a medic during war time. You observe the continual danger they are forced to put themselves in, alongside the damaging emotional impact of seeing so many soldiers wounded and dying at medical stations. Most significantly, you are exposed to their feelings of being subsidiary. I got the impression that Eugene feels less significant to the war effort than his comrades armed with rifles, regardless of the fact that often he is in a more volatile position than they are, dashing around, dodging mortar blasts to heal the wounded. Some of his looks, his empty stares reveal an inner turmoil suggestive of insecurity and worthlessness. These looks also clearly relate to his role as saviour; more than the directing officers and the offensive armed units, he becomes responsible for the lives around him. In the blink of an eye, his actions dictate whether an individual lives of dies. This feeling is horribly intense, made all the worse by the lack of medical supplies (for half the episode Eugene is desperately searching for a a pair of scissors – should have gone to Woolworths!) Furthermore, you are made explicitly aware of the loneliness that being a medic carries with it. Throughout the episode Eugene’s only significant relationship is with another medic. Beyond that he only really finds solace in a French nurse, Renee, with whom he clearly shares an emotional connection via their chosen professions. Both are isolated, lost in their own worlds, and seem to connect on an almost romantic level, purely because of the daily horrors they are subjected to.

Eugene finds solace in a French nurse.

Undoubtedly this episode had the greatest emotional impact on me, highlighting Eugene Roe as one of the most valuable members of Easy Company. Time to play BF3. Think I’ll choose a medic class at last…

I’ll leave you with a song:

“No one’s slick as Bastogne. No one’s quick as Bastogne. No one’s neck’s as incredibly thick as Bastogne’s.” Pretty sure that’s how it went right? Ok, I’ll leave with an actual tribute:

“Gory, gory, what a hell of a way to die,
Gory, gory, what a hell of a way to die,
Gory, gory, what a hell of a way to die,
He ain’t gonna jump no more!

The risers wrapped around his neck, connectors cracked his dome,
Suspension lines were tied in knots around his skinny bones;
The canopy became his shroud; he hurtled to the ground.
He ain’t gonna jump no more.

Gory, gory, what a hell of a way to die,
Gory, gory, what a hell of a way to die,
Gory, gory, what a hell of a way to die,
He ain’t gonna jump no more!”

He hit the ground, the sound was “Splat!”, his blood went spurting high,
His comrades then were heard to say: “A hell of a way to die!”
He lay there rolling round in the welter of his gore,
He ain’t gonna jump no more.

Gory, gory, what a hell of a way to die,
Gory, gory, what a hell of a way to die,
Gory, gory, what a hell of a way to die,
He ain’t gonna jump no more!”

Developer: Valve Corporation

Publiser: Valve Corporation

Platforms: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3, PC

Price: £39.99 (£36.99 on Gamestation)

(Please note that post this may be a little spoilerific, so if you haven’t played/finished Portal 2 yet then exit here)

A wise man once said ‘Perfection is hard to improve’. Never has this phrase been more accurate than when used to describe Valve’s ingenious FPS puzzler, Portal.

Originally bundled in with the Orange Box in 2007 as an additional side-project, Portal was a surprising hit. Capturing the hearts of Half-Life fans the world over with its quirky puzzles and dark, sarcastic charm the game has sold almost 4 million copies (excluding Steam sales) over the last four years.

Pour-tal. (I'm so sorry)

Unexpectedly, Portal rapidly began to receive acclaim, in many cases overshadowing Half Life 2 and Team Fortress 2, which were very much anticipated successes. Awards included the Game of the Year, Best Game Design  and the Innovation Award at the 2008 Games Developers Choice Awards, amongst many, many others.

Years later, we now found ourselves handling the sequel. But how does one replicate the success of a title that has become so critically-acclaimed, especially something praised for its originality and innovation? How do you transfer a fledgling side-game to a stand-alone hit? Well, ask Valve, because somehow they managed it.

To the game…

For fans of the original, expect plenty more of the same. Once again you take the role of mute protagonist Chell, awoken from stasis after the destruction of GLaDOS (Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System), the artificial intelligence computer system that you combat in the previous title. Chell’s stasis is disturbed by a small personality core called Wheatley, who attempts to guide her towards an escape pod as a means of rescue. In the process of doing so however, they accidentally awake the dormant GLaDOS, who, bitter and aggressive after her prior downfall, proceeds to rebuild the decaying Aperture Science labs in order to put Chell through another cycle of rigorous and dangerous tests.

Portals in action

The game physics remain generally unchanged in Portal 2. Testing your spatial awareness, the player must use ingenuity and experimentation to progress from chamber to chamber with their trusty Portal Gun. But there are also some interesting additions this time round. Instead of relying solely on the use of two portals, there are also Hard Light Bridges (long panels that can be used horizontally to bridge a gap or vertically as a resourceful shield), Tractor Beams and three types of gel: Repulsion (a blue gel that causes the user to bounce when they come into contact with it), Propulsion (an orangey-red gel that increases the speed of any user passing over it) and Conversion (a white gel allowing any surface to become portal-able when ‘caked’ in it – a little in joke there); the latter device is particularly game changing as it enables an endless amount of possibilities.

Bridge the gap!

These new additions are key to Portal 2. They ensure that the game is not a simple revamp of the original, adding new degrees of difficulty and variation. For veterans they establish dimensions unexplored previously, keeping it fresh and interesting. Importantly, Portal 2 has a really accessible learning curve. As with the first game, the first few test chambers function as an interactive tutorial, instructing the user on the basics of portal usage. Experienced players may find this a little tedious, but can run through them quickly enough that it should not become a problem. As the game progresses, portals must be used in more inventive ways, testing the creativity and logic of the player, with the new gameplay elements added continually for extra obstacles. In the later chambers, when Hardlight Bridges, Gels and Tractor Beams are combined, the game really comes into its own, setting impressive challenges.

The levels are well designed and really show off the sequels improved graphics. Between chambers, Chell is often treated to more detailed passageways, complete with growing foliage and transforming surfaces as GLaDOS attempts to rebuild a decaying facility. Escaping the somewhat sterile environments of the original, which were almost entirely centred around very small-scale and repetitive lab designs, the player also gets a glimpse into the vast scope of the Aperture Science building, with long distance shots that sometimes seem endless.

The bumbling Wheatley aka Stephen Merchant

Portal 2 definitely seems a bit gloomier, aided considerably by a beautiful ambient soundtrack. This goes hand-in-hand with perhaps the most impressive voice acting ever witnessed in a game. Ellen McLain (GLaDOS), J.K. Simmons (Cave Johnson) and a surprise appearance from Brit comedy writer Stephen Merchant (Wheatley) provide the perfect comedic delivery of a hilarious script that is notable for its wit and charm. GLaDOS appeals to the child in all of us, regularly spouting the equivalent of ‘Your mum’ jokes (“Oh good, you finished the test. Let’s see what the data says. Hmmm, it says you’re a terrible person. Weird, we weren’t even testing for that.”), with Merchant’s Bristolian accent lending itself particularly well to a clumsy, dim robot. And referring to audio, don’t forget the outro song… It’s sure to be another Valve classic.

Add to all this a newly developed multiplayer system and you have a winner! The campaign can be played co-operatively in both split screen and online modes. PS3 users can play over Steam using PSN, finally allowing console and PC gamers to cross formats (although currently, due to PSN’s outage, this won’t be possible for the near future), and will also receive a free promotional code for the PC or MAC version. Disappointingly, Xbox Live users can only play with other Xbox owners, but hey, at least it’s actually working! Impressively, the co-op mode is made up of all new test chambers, doubling the hours of play time. Co-op is much more than just a name in this title; it is completely vital. The multiplayer chambers cannot be completed alone, some requiring the use of all 4 portals at your disposal.

Best of auto-mate-ons

And it appears that Valve have thought of everything: For users playing online without a mic the developers have included various tools, such as a Ping Tool, a cursor used for highlighting a pa