Jan 032012

I’ve  already established that 2011 had lots of great games, more so than any recent year.  But being a gamer, there’s always something to complain about, and there was enough this year to keep my bitter and jaded attitude alive and well.

I wasn’t planning to just rattle off names of games that came out this year that were just terrible; that’d take too long.  Instead I want to go through games that I had at least some sort of expectation for that just fell well short of those goals.

Early in the year the indie/downloadable game, Breach, hit Steam and XBLA during a lull of quality releases and promised to have a fully destructible environment unlike anything we’ve seen before.  Of course this fell flat and the result was a bland, low budget shooter with a scattering of destructible assets and bad shooting mechanics.  Luckily, the low cost of under $15 at launch made me forget the pain quickly enough.

Also in the first quarter Crysis 2 hit the streets.  With a new focus on multiplayer, which felt like a hybrid of CoD and BF, Cyrsis 2 had potential to make a lasting impact in the multiplayer shooter scene.  Needless to say, that never happened mainly because of two reasons.  First off, the PC version was severely crippled and was the poster child for “consolization.”  From the splash screen that said “Press Start to Begin” to the complete lack of video settings beyond changing the resolution, Crytek did a complete 180 from the original Crysis, which was PC only.  The second nail in the coffin on the multiplayer side was the lack of anti-cheat measures which meant that you were almost guaranteed to join a server and see at least one, if not more, aimbots in play.  Botting seemed so prevalent that cheaters made no attempts to hide it — Crysis 2’s CoD-style kill cam made it painfully obvious, as you watch your killer snap off 4 to 5 headshots in a row from across the map in a 3 second span.  Pile on the fact the single player was average at best and it’s hard not to be supremely disappointed with Crysis 2.

While Crysis 2 had its issues, a game that topped it in the disappointment category was Brink.  Touted as the next coming in multiplayer shooters (even by our own Suibhne) and the pedigree that comes with Wolf:ET developer Splash Damage, it was hard to not get excited about this one.  Except it didn’t even come close to meeting those expectations.  The shooting was bland, the gameplay wasn’t very focused and the difference in classes and sizes didn’t add anything interesting to the game play.  The game also suffered from technical issues out of the box which hindered uptake online and caused many never to come back.  Then they pulled some shenanigans with the DLC in that it was only free for the first two weeks before they started charging for it.  Brink was clearly a game that had much potential that was never fulfilled.

Sticking with the multiplayer shooter disappointment theme, Red Orchestra 2 came out this fall.  While I don’t have any specific knock against RO2 and Tripwire Interactive will always be a favorite of mine, RO2 didn’t do anything especially exceptional either.  During an off year, RO2 might have risen to the top, but instead it just got lost in the mix.  Launching with some performance and technical issues, the gameplay didn’t quite do it for me as the original RO mod had grabbed me some 7 years ago (wow!).  I’m willing to give RO2 another shot down the road, but worry that the player base may have been thinned too much by then.  I’ll chalk it up to bad timing.  Maybe with a bit more polish and an early 2012 release, RO2 may have done much better.

Rounding out my disappointments for 2011, I call out Assassin’s Creed Revelations.  I’m going to give Ass Creed Rev an “incomplete” for this year because I simply haven’t had time to invest in the game, but given its first couple of hours of gameplay and the overall reception of the game, AssRev doesn’t match the outstanding level of AssBro (Assassins Creed Brotherhood).  A very slow start, high expectations and a tough competition has put AssRev back on the shelf for me.  I’ll check it out again in 2012 and see if Revelations can redeem itself, but I worry that the Ass Creed saga is starting to suffer from too much repetition and player fatigue, something the CoD series is becoming synonymous with.

That pretty much wraps up my take on the 2011 gaming lineup.  2012 should be interesting with some marquee titles coming out like Bioshock Infinite, Mass Effect 3, Diablo 3 (maybe) and some other potential hits like the sequel no one wanted, Prey 2.

Happy New Year!

Aug 032011

The Brink DLC promised to us long ago that was originally supposed to arrive in June and be free forever, has finally been released.  The catch is, if you don’t download this DLC pack before August 17th, you’ll have to pay $10 for the content.  This may bring back some interest in a game that ran into some problems right out of the gate and then lost a large player base soon after.  One could argue that had this DLC hit sooner, it may have kept gamers interest longer, but now it may be a case of “too little too late” and with the free for a limited time shenanigans, I don’t see that helping matters.

Still, if you’ve invested in Brink and think you may want to play the game again at some point, stop and take a moment now and queue up your download for the content before it costs too much for you to even care about it.  Check out our original post on what the DLC includes here, then hit our Brink Wiki page for tweaks before taking on the obligatory Steam link here.  Console version owners, hit up your platform’s marketplace for the download.

May 312011

Coming sometime in June, Brink will be getting its first batch of DLC, which will be free on all platforms. The update, called “Agents of Change” will offer two new maps, new abilities, attachments and outfits. Also, online stat tracking is going online for the PS3 and 360, with the PC version “coming soon.”  Lastly, you’ll probably be happy to know that they are raising the level cap to 24.

Here are the details:

New Maps

  • Founders’ Tower – The revolution finally reaches the island’s iconic spire and takes the battle for the Ark to dizzying heights.
  • Labs – Venture into the depths of the Ark’s original research and development laboratories, a submerged high-tech facility so far untouched by the civil war.

New Player Abilities

  • UAV – This stealthy and lethal device allows Operatives to automatically mark nearby enemies on their radar. For more explosive fun, they can even take direct control of the UAV and detonate it near unsuspecting foes.
  • Napalm Grenade – Soldiers can use this new grenade to cover an area in a sea of deadly flames.
  • Pyro Mine – Engineers can plant these mines and leave enemies in the epicenter of a massive napalm explosion.
  • Field Regen Unit – Medics can deploy these units to increase the health regeneration of any nearby teammates.
  • Tactical Scanner – This universal ability allows players to reveal the active buffs of their opponents, allowing them to pick off enemies more strategically.

New Weapon Attachments

  • Bayonets – Gain the edge in melee combat and cause extra damage with these deadly blades.
  • Weapon Shields – Take cover from enemy fire and prevent headshot bonus damage behind riot-style shields.

New Character Outfits

  • The Sad Punk – Add a touch of Steampunk to your Resistance character.
  • The Limey – Bring order to the Ark with this outfit inspired by traditional European police.

More at the Bethesda Blog

 Posted by at 8:36 am  Tagged with:
May 242011

Last night Splash Damage posted a patch for the PC version which includes a fair number of bug fixes cleaning up many common issues with the game.  You can read the changelog here, although the three key ones that have plagued many users are:

  • Fixed sound dropping out when playing networked games
  • Improved graphical performance, especially when using Ambient Occlusion
  • Fixed memory leak/crash when alt-tabbed out

To extend the double meaning of this post title and to follow up my post last week, I can say that Brink does get better with time.  While I don’t think I ever found that “Eureka!” moment, after more time spent with the game and playing with friends, the game does start to click.  There is a bit of a learning curve to some of the game’s nuances, and unlocking abilities while leveling up your character improves the experience greatly.   Since the game does rely heavily on team play (arguably, even more so than say, BFBC2) online matches can vary wildly in quality depending on how adept your pub teammates are.  Brink does provide a nice change of pace from the latest round of cookie-cutter modern warfare shooters, and while it doesn’t get everything right, does a good enough job for those willing to stick around long enough to learn the ropes and find a groove.


May 202011

Brink has been out well over a week, and I’m still not sure what to make of it.  I’ve done some challenges, played a bit of the campaign modes and did some random online action and I’m still not sure how I feel about this game.  This is a bit strange for me.  Usually I have a fairly strong opinion of a game after several hours, but I’m having a hard time trying to figure out exactly what Brink is.

One thing I have learned is that you can essentially throw out all the single player and co-op stuff, if you want to call it that.  Bot matches in this game are completely unfulfilling, even after a recent patch that was said to “remove bot intelligence inhibitors.”  While the bots are aware of objectives, they seem to have zero concept in supporting those objectives — which, ya know, is kind of important in objective based games.  A strong argument could be made that the bots in UT2K4 are more intelligent than what we’re seeing in Brink 7 years later.

You’re probably yelling at the screen at this point, telling me that of course the bots are dumb, and the only way to play this game is with real people.  I’d easily agree with that.  My sticking point with the bots is that they seem to be such a large part of the game.  The game has essentially three modes: single player or “solo”, a co-op mode and internet “freeplay.”  Bots are prevalent in all three and required in two of them.  Join many freeplay servers that are less than full with real players, and it’s filled in with bots, which I wouldn’t have a problem with if they were just a bit less stupid.  One more reason why you can throw the co-op/private modes out: forget about trying to set up a peer-to-peer game with friends on the PC.  Obviously some people have gotten it to work, but suibhne and I wasted a good 20 minutes last night trying to get something other than a “server not responding” message before we gave up and played on a public server.

Now that I’ve gotten over my bot rage, the rest of the game seems ok, but for some reason it’s just not clicking with me yet.  I say “yet” because I keep feeling like I’m on the brink (sorry) of hitting that magical moment where it all comes together in perfect harmony for me.  All the multiplayer hallmarks are there; classes, character progression, unlockables galore and enough guns and weapons to keep it interesting.  However, I’d have to question some of the balance of the classes, since it feels like engineer and medic are really the only two classes that are worth playing regularly, unless a specific objective calls for something else.  The stunning amount of guns and attachments sounds great, but I find that without the help of the community, figuring out the strengths and weaknesses of some of these in game is virtually impossible.

On the positive side of things, I’ve grown to appreciate the parkour-style movement, and the way you can smoothly navigate some obstacles works surprisingly well.  I haven’t felt this nimble in a FPS multiplayer game since probably UT2k4. Graphically the game looks as good as any other current mp games and the game engine allows for ample tweaking which bucks the trend of locking everything down.  Check out our wiki page for some common tips.  Also the game has Splash Damage’s traditionally great long term support behind it, so Brink does have a lot going for it.

Brink really does have great potential that’s just beyond my grasp at this point.  The fact that it hasn’t “clicked” for me just yet but I want to keep trying it has to mean something, right?  It’s like a meal that’s been simmering on the stove all day that’s missing that one ingredient to bring it all together.  I’m hoping to find that spice soon with some more game play time.

May 122011

So hey, the game’s out.

Reviews since the Tuesday launch have been a mixed bag. Joystiq excoriated the game with a 2/5, while other outlets have gone up to 8/10 and 88/100. Ars Technica went so far as to explain why it won’t be reviewing the game until the messy launch is sorted out. What’s a gamer to do?

I’ve dropped an hour or two in the Challenge modes, solo. It took about that long to unlock everything available through the Challenges (which is mostly weapons and attachments; character skills are unlocked by leveling up), and many reviews have criticized the game for this ease of getting new stuff. (Just fyi, I narrowly avoided a “Master of Unlocking” reference there.) Reviews have also opined that you can reach the maximum level with your character in just a handful of additional hours.

On both of these counts, I think reviewers are spectacularly missing the point. Brink doesn’t try to offer a 75-level drip-feed of character progression, unlike the current vogue among the CoD-alikes (plus BC2) which dominate the shooter market. It wants you to unlock (almost) everything quickly, then just play the game. If anything, Brink fails by not clarifying its distinct approach in a crowded market.

Splash Damage spokespeople also encouraged people to get the wrong idea about the game when they talked about the “seamless” integration of the competitive multiplayer, cooperative multiplayer, and single-player modes. Just like TF2, this is a class-based, objective-based multiplayer game – full stop. If you’re looking for a single-player experience, move along. Nothing to see here.

Brink is hurt by an overall lack of polish, too, but you can get that story elsewhere. Some reviews might be missing the point of the game, for better or worse, but they’re accurately tallying many of its technical shortcomings. The good news is, Splash Damage has a consistent history of providing responsive, long-term support for its games and has already issued two quick patches for the PC version – within two days of the game’s North American release, and before it even unlocks in Europe.

I haven’t played the game online yet, and I’ll be out of town for the next few days. Funkmaster will also be installing Brink next week, so we’ll have more in-depth impressions later. At the moment, the most I can say is that the game might become something great – and if it fails, it’ll be an interesting failure. I can’t predict which of those paths it will take.

In the meantime, I’ve started a new wiki page for the game, covering some important details about configuring the PC version for the best Brink experience possible. Check it out.

May 062011

Direct2Drive has been very active on the deal scene lately, giving Steam plenty of competition.  Their weekend deal with promo code “sizzle” offers 25% upcoming high-profile games like Brink, The Witcher 2, Battlefield 3, Rage and more.  Check out the list here.  Not a bad time to pick up Brink, which releases next week.

Also, if you’ve been holding out on Dead Space 2 or Dead Space 1, for that matter — check out these good deals at the EA store.  Digital downloads of both copies for $24 and $12, respectively.   I played through Dead Space 2 at launch on the PS3, and found it more enjoyable than the first one, so I’d definitely recommend it at that price.