Battlefield Bad Company 2: VIETNAM

I have a lot of mixed feelings about this add on. For one, it’s a lot of fun. It also brings back the fast rush gameplay since C4 (TNT) now does the old level of damage. On the other hand I spent a countless amount of hours playing the original vietnam, and it is not the original game. Hastings and the remake of Wake Island (the C shaped island with the carrier deployment) in the original are the two iconic Vietnam maps which got the most rotation. Both of these are conspicuously missing, minus the fact that Hastings will come out when they have 69 million player supporting actions (revives, etc). Or basically the end of January.

The good stuff is that the maps make decent use of the battlefield engine (frostbite). There’s a metric ton of trees and grasses and the battlefield engine does that particularly well. There’s PT boats and a variety of paths for good players to use to get between objectives. The problem is that the maps tend to feel cinematic rather than strategic. The other problem is that they all blend together. I played it for about three hours last night (counting the bottlecaps) and I can’t tell you which map is which. There’s nothing particularly distinctive about them except that one has a napalm strike and one has a temple. The temple could have been a cool urban-ish combat feature, but it’s not. The napalm strike turns into sniper wars since you walk out and go oh that’s COOL right before you realize there’s only one tunnel in and out and that’s the first thing that gets filled with flamethrowers and shotguns. Basically that’s the end of that map. Maybe the other team plays it badly or maybe your snipers are good enough to keep their heads down but if you make it through the tunnels you end up at the objectives and met with more flamethrowers and shotguns. I hate to say it but the maps, while they look cool, just aren’t as well built as the other maps for this game. Even the ones which they shoehorned into the other mode and then patched to move the MCOMs (white pass) are better built than the vietnam one. And what’s conspicuously missing is Heavy Metal, which would have been an awesome vietnam map but is an utter failure in the bad company 2 vanilla format. Finally, urban combat? Completely missing.

The classes have good balance. The engineer feels grossly underpowered. I barely silver starred the engineers machine gun. The RPG just doesn’t do enough damage. The medic does well, there’s no real gripes. The sniper takes quite awhile to get used to, the bullet drop isn’t there. The mortar strike is wonky. The anti-tank mines seem to do less damage, which is also a bad thing because it makes the engineer entirely unremarkable. You absolutely must have an assaulter follow you around since you’ll be running out of mines and RPGs. Even the extra explosives perk only gives you one extra, instead of doubling it. Finally the worst of the worst is that marking bad guys, even bad guys which should be terribly obvious (helos, tanks), only sticks around for 30 seconds or so.

Vehicles – vehicles are cool. The jeep is just about uncontrollable and slow which sucks because it makes it more of a target than a tactical helper. The jeep is useless. The tank is actually decent, it takes a good beating due to the engineer being useless. Tanks really get killed by TNT, otherwise things just marginally hurt it. The mortar strike, which used to be a super mortar strike with the explosives perk, only really hurts a tank about 10% to 20% of it’s health. The helo is a death machine. It’s fast and maneuverable and the guns on the side do stupid amounts of damage. On the other hand all the weapons hurt it, so on a half competent team even the engineer can kill it with small arms. Mostly though it seems like the bullet penetration is set to max because it’s not uncommon to shoot both gunners out of the helo. The PT boat people are bitching is too strong, it’s not. The trick is to shoot the driver and gunners with precision fire. The PT boat itself offers them no cover whatsoever, so a thumper or an RPG aimed at the crew will often clear the decks in one hit. People shooting at the boat itself are the people bitching it’s too strong. In fact one of my games had two PT boats consistently wrecking us, the solution was to shoot the driver so it was still enough I could make use of cover to shoot the gunners. (The other team went entirely sniper after that).

The really bad stuff I’ve saved for last and it really comes down to the flamethrower. It’s so powerful everyone is using it but the range is so short it’s reasonably balanced. If you’re using explosives perk as an assault, you can usually grenade them out of cover. On the other hand the flamethrower itself seems glitchy. People standing in water take fire damage for as long as you’re shooting them, but they go out immediately. People in the presence of a med pack don’t seem to catch on fire (or even take damage sometimes). There’s nothing to distinguish between friendly and enemy flame streams. You don’t hurt yourself with the flamethrower even firing it at your feet. The flame spread is cool, but as an assaulter I usually just toss down ammo, hold down arm and spin wildly shooting flames to put up a wall of death around me. It doesn’t set off C4, mines or TNT. It doesn’t blow down buildings. It takes awhile to clear brush with it. It’s not obvious if it gets buffed by explosives or magnum ammo. Finally the worst part is that you have to hit “reload” to transfer “ammo” from your “pouch” to your weapon. It’s just weird. If you let the game reload for you, the flamethrower sputters. It’s just buggy. The worst is the fact that it won’t burn down a building. Toss a grenade in the huts and it’ll blow the hut down. Hit it with a flamethrower and nothing happens (but weirdly enough the people inside get hurt even though the animation doesn’t show fire inside). I have a feeling they won’t fix it though.

Is it worth it? Yes. It’s fun. It brings back quick rush mode. The maps are neat despite their flaws and the flamethrower is hilarious. It would have been nice to see better maps and the vietnam weapons available in standard battlefield 2, but there’s enough there to justify the cost. What it really needs is tighter integration where multiplayer could be “battlefield 2”, “vietnam” or “both” just like rush or conquest can be sorted, or not. But these are things which can be patched, and I think the price was fair considering the amount of other freebies we got from DICE.

XBOX 360 – Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising Review

HALF out of FIVE stars. Where 5 is good and 1 is “managed to get all the textures right”.

Actually this game would deserve a 2.5 star rating except that the developers have conducted themselves in a completely reprehesible way.

What we were promised: Accurate damage models, simulations of vehicles, simulations of weapons, killer AI and realistic warfare.

What we got: A steaming turd. To aggrevate things, developers wanted to charge for the patch.

The game works well enough as a game until you get good at it and can start pushing it’s boundaries. By that I mean you get good enough at maneuvering that you’re not in fear of doing the wrong thing while orders are coming in over the radio, which often tell you to do something completely different. Case in point, there’s a mission which asks you to storm a beach. Mid storming, you’re told to sweep up the side and eliminate anti-tank teams.

Now this would be all fine and dandy, but one of the games problems is missing sound queues. There’s times where, unless you have captioning turned on, you don’t get the audio for the radio calls and you wouldn’t know you were being given instructions. To add insult to injury, if you storm the antitank crew (or the mortar crew later in the mission) because you discover them before you’re supposed to, the AI isn’t initalized and the opfor will blindly stand around until you kill them all. Kill them you will, they won’t even react when you’re knifing the guy next to them. To really make this aggrevating, the game also scripts Things That Kill You. Getting into a vehicle on a map where there’s an enemy chopper results in instant death – even if you already shot down the chopper.

This really comes to a head later when, during the night raid mission, you’re told you must not be discovered and hold out until the marines execute their distraction. Given the amount of freedom you have in maneuvering and the fact if you go low and slow like you do in Ghost Recon you can avoid discovery indefinitely, I waited a half hour for the marines to distract. Only later did I manage to sneak down to the base and found out the walls of all the buildings were simply props – the player was never intended to enter the base and the walls of the builds would let you (and bullets) pass straight through. Sloppy coding, and more on the point I had to go online and pirate the strategy guide to find out you’re supposed to be discovered. Were I playing it on the hardest difficulty which only shows you your final waypoint, I could have easilly infiltrated the base without being discovered and really been bewildered. As it stood on normal difficulty, one of the waypoints did take you through an enemy bunker which I had opted to simply skirt.

The manual is crap. There’s not a whole lot to say about it except it has a picture of the controller in vehicle context, infantry context, and airborn context in three languages. It doesn’t tell you anything about the weapons. I’m a gun nut and I hadn’t even heard of most of the weapons since you’re playing as SAS or another foreign military for some of the missions. Pirate the game guide since it’s clear they intended you would buy the guide and read that in leiu of the manual. That being said, the vehicle controls are for naught. Unless you’re on a paved road, vehicles which should reasonably be able to drive off road (tanks) get stuck on rocks, bushes, low walls, stumps and other crap. Hitting someone with a car at 60mph is an excersize in hit detection – sometimes you kill them and sometimes they pass clean through. It’s not uncommon to have jeeps, APCs, hummers and similar with their noses pointed at the sky over a rock.

I haven’t said a whole lot about the pros, and frankly I’m hard pressed to come up with any. Sniping works realistically, and all weapons have bullet drop. The zeros aren’t published but I’m thinking they used 100 yards since shooting MPBR causes hits too low. Guns jam realistically, if you’re reloading when you’re laying down or have dirt being kicked up – it’ll jam. The AI does a decent job of keeping itself alive even if it doesn’t always follow your orders. And, it’s awe inspiring to call down artillery strikes on towns. The problem with all this is multiplayer. With only 8 players maximum in an area 230sqkm, they opted to chop the theater of operation down. This is OK, but it’s still too large. What it turns into is “Who can get to the chopper” (and use missiles unopposed since the AA vechicle gets stuck on everything) or “who is a sniper”. One of the outstanding bugs is that the cover draw distance is calculated from you. Zoom in on a player on a hill opposite you and he might see himself in a bush, but there’s no bush drawn making for an easy shot. It’s even easier with guided missiles from the aircraft since they have no cover and you don’t have to aim.

Then there’s also the incredibly frustrating problem that using the medic kit causes the medic to get stuck or fall through the map. There’s several places where this happens when you spawn, but it’s really frustrating when you’re the medic and performing your job causes you to die. Enough said.

So when’s the patch come out? Well, the game only ships with three maps for deathmatch, and the only game modes are single deathmatch (each player gets a squad) and single DM (8 players individually). These numbers are both abysmally small. You can get unlock codes for four more maps, brining the total up to 7. Unlike Gears or Ghost Recon where game modes make up for lack of maps, there’s only two, essencially identical game modes. Code Masters opted to release a network patch so you don’t get dropped from games all the time (sometimes that costs you all your points and achievements), but they said the rest of the fixes would come out with the mappack.

You have to pay money for the mappack, thus you have to pay money for the patch.

I don’t really know what codemasters was thinking – anyone who buys the game used won’t get the maps, and there’s plenty of people who are going to be buying this turd used. Maybe they get a kickback from gamestop. I’m trading it in while I can still get $25 for it and buying Modern Warfare 2. Maybe when Battlefield Bad Company 2 comes out (what is with these terrible titles?) we’ll have a half decent total war game.

Review of Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising

I traded in Fallout 3 and Burnout: Paradise (the weakest of the series) for Dragon Rising. Fallout was fun but I got about halfway through, got stuck, wandered way off the trail and it got sort of boring after awhile. The constant scrabble for ammo and need to repair guns and such just didn’t interest me. Or, to put it mildly, I spent too much time trying to live and too little time enjoying the landscape. Maybe it was the open-ended plot or the fact that I grew up exposed to 1950s “rocket boy” literature (grandpa loved the stuff) but the game didn’t really click for me.

On the other hand, I also grew up hunting and shooting and I’ve never seen that in a game. Cabelas has their releases, but weirdly enough Dragon Rising has more in common with a hunting game at first glance than it does with other “outdoor engagement simulators”. There’s plants, you can hide in plants, you can hide among weeds, bushes will slow down bullets and deflect them. Weapons jam. There’s wonderful little folds in the terrain you can hide in, and there’s plenty of hiking. Without a truck, get used to humping that pack. Oh, and there’s an actual ballistics model.

The graphics are good. It’s not the best looking game I’ve ever seen but the graphics don’t suck. I have the XBOX version. I also have a standard definition TV. If you don’t have high def, expect to squint to read the text. There were a few times I was trying to plant explosives and accidentally pulled out the wrong item. While it’s hilarious to realize you just threw a grenade at your feet, it also blows you up. This is a personal pet peeve of mine since game like Gears of War have extra large subtitles for nonhighdef sets, but in this game you absolutely MUST hear the audio and recognize stuff on shape because you’ve got no hope of reading it otherwise. Speaking of hard-to-read, the manual is useless. It gives you the most general overview of the controls, but really they saved the manual for the guide. If you’re out in the dark about it, download the guide from your favorite torrent site. Frankly I’m not going to pay for the guide because I don’t want to encourage companies to start selling their manuals seperately from the game.

Now, that being said, the entire game takes place on this huge island. The intro sucks so I’ll just sum it up here – Oil is discovered on a japanese territory. Russian and China invade. Russia allies with the US. (lol wut?) You’re fighting “chinese commandos”. You’re a marine or something. Russian troops are nowhere to be found. The game has a campaign and six noncampaign maps. If you’ve played Ghost Recon and wished it had tanks this game is for you. If you played any of the Battlefield games and liked them but wished they were more real, this game is also good. If you played Call of Duty and think you really should carry 1000 rounds and 10 grenades, please don’t buy this.

Like I said, the manual is worthless. Just leave it open to the “controls” page and start playing. There’s no tutorials but the first mission has the chinese as deaf, blind and dumb so you have until the third mission (“united we stand”) to get used to the game. The third mission turns into a slugfest about halfway through. That being said the game does a good job of immersing you in it and I think once I get better at it I’ll enjoy playing the campaign again with more tactical options. Knowing the controls will help but like the real army, you don’t need to know much more than which button is the trigger in the middle of the firefight. The game does a decent job of sheparding you to the next objective. That being said, a good portion of the game is maneuvering. Don’t just walk flag to flag, try to get into the folds of the earth and next to walls and whatnot. This is what infantry tactics are about, and you’re expected to do it in real time, which is part of the fun.

The AI is decent. There’s a few places the scripted events in the campaign break it badly. In the third mission there’s a fireteam on the hill sighting in a mortar and you’re tasked with killing them. If you run in before you’re prompted to attack the troops are there but the AI isn’t commanding them and you can eliminate them before the AI tells them to start shooting. In multiplayer (essentially terrorist hunt on co-op), the AI will deploy from vehicles, but I haven’t seen any AI use armor or aircraft. The AI is brutally good at flanking, I was hiding behind a pile of rocks and throwing grenades at this one opfor. He ran away from the grenades, into a house, and smoked me through a window. Moments like that make it obvious a well planned attack is much better than having 10 (or two) grenades.

Finally the realism is there. There’s underbrush to hide in, your guy is smart enough to stick his head over walls when you’re aiming, and bullets have ballistics. If you’re reloading while dirt is getting kicked up your gun jams (this is hilarious the first time it happens). The underbrush is a good addition since it adds to the “crease of the earth” you need for cover or concealment. It works incredibly well. The bullet ballistics work semi well, it’s on par with vehicles (which get stuck all the time and end up at weird angles). The guns are all sighted in a 100 yard and you have to hold over from there. While 50 cal fans are going to call foul (as they should), it’s a lot better than other games where you point and shoot. It’s actually fun to kentucky windage the guns. While it’s a simplified model, any game with bullet drop on every weapon deserves a hat tip.

All in all, it’s lovable despite it’s flaws and I would suggest buying it.

Politics From the Bayside and Whale Wars

I really like the band RISE AGAINST. However, I hate their support of PETA, and since they’ve enjoined their music, and their profits to PETA, I’m glad I have the ability to not pay for their music via the magic of the internet while still enjoying it.

PROTIP to punk bands out there – also METALLICA – don’t make political statements and then cry foul when people download your music instead of supporting your politics with your money. LOL, CAPITOLISMS!

Speaking of PETA, I at least respect the guy on WHALE WARS. First time he runs across a Russian whaling ship though, expect him to catch an RPG with his face. The fact that he only attacks the Japanese speaks volumes. The worst part about it is he’s taking food off the Japs plates. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sympathetic to responsible management of wildlife, but they fail it quite badly. It’s not like you go to Black Market McDonalds over in Japland and buy a whale burger. This is a land where fishing is like farming to Americans, and the Sea Sheppards really are taking food off the plates of the Japanese.

Now, I do believe they have a point where they accuse the Japanese of writing “RESEARCH” on the side of their boats instead of WHALING. However, I take this as the Japanese meme of avoiding confrontation. On that note, the captain getting shot isn’t nearly as likely as one of their “stink grenades” going off and tagging him. The fact that he’s like “OH MAH BADGE SAVED ME” just lends credence to the idea.

Furthermore the show isn’t forthright with what munitions the Steve Irwin has on board. The crew has tried to create RPGs on their own (photo gallery of expended munitions) and failed. Which is more likely: The Japanese, who are forbidden from owning firearms, shot the captain and somehow missed, or the crew of the Steve Irwin, which is a revolving door of idiots, screwed up an improvised rocket?

More on the point – which is an inappropriate show of force? The Japanese use a “sound gun” against the Steve Irwin (also embarrassing Engrish) or the Steve Irwin uses rockets and hazardous material (acid) against the Japs?

So the next bit to consider is why doesn’t the program show the whales being processed? Why doesn’t it show the rockets? The program wants to perpetuate this myth that somehow “stink bombs” are going to foul up Japanese whaling. (I would speculate if this worked, there would be footage of the Japs dumping the fouled whale meat into the sea). However, you never see the rockets, nor do you ever see whales being processed. Why? Because whales are processed below deck. While it might be unpleasant to work on a whale that stinks, any episode of Dirty Jobs is going to convince you that all dead animals stink, and there’s not much more to be done about it. Since the skin of a whale is pressure cooked to get the oil out, it’s probably thoroughly washed in seawater. A stink bomb might slow them down, but it doesn’t really hurt the Japanese. Hence the rockets.

If you wanted to make the environmental protection argument, ask the crew of the Steve Irwin why they blew the engines (and all the fuel, and all the oil and killed a sailor) into the ocean back in 1997 when they attacked the Nisshin Maru.

This is why no-one takes PETA seriously

Dogs need your voice right away. Please take a few moments now to send a message directly to the NFL. Michael Vick is going to be released from prison any minute, and in light of recently released government evidence that he enjoyed putting his own family “pet dogs” into the ring with fighting pit bulls, PETA is urging the NFL to make Vick take a test for anti-social personality disorder (ASPD), or psychopathy. Vick seems to fit the profile for ASPD, which includes lying, manipulating others, enjoying others’ suffering, and being aggressive and charming. If Vick has ASPD, the NFL needs to know. That’s because people who have ASPD cannot be truly remorseful and are likely to repeat the anti-social behavior that pleases them. If he isn’t a psychopath, that’s fair enough, but if he is, he shouldn’t ever be presented to children as a hero. He needs to take the test!

Please help us keep the pressure on by sending an automated letter to the NFL today asking it to require that Vick pass a brain scan for ASPD and the accompanying psychological evaluation before the NFL even considers the possibility of allowing Vick back into the league, where he will be in a position to influence many fans, including countless children. Your letter will be sent directly to the NFL, letting it know that we will not rest until appropriate action has been taken. It is reasonable to try to figure out if Vick can be reformed or not.

Please cross-post this e-mail and forward it to others who might be interested in speaking out against dogfighting. Visit PETA.org for more information about dogfighting and to learn about ways that you can make a difference.

Thank you for your continued support and for all that you do for animals!

Sincerely,

Heather Whidden, Activist Liaison
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
HeatherW@peta.org

I unlinked everything but the e-mail address to prevent them getting too many hits. I’m not advertising for them. Now, in regards to “get them tested for ASPD”, frankly guys, you’re talking about someone who already offers themselves up for participation in bloodsport. It really shouldn’t shock you that someone who is comfortable with some level of physical violence (hitting) such as a boxer or football backer feels that some level of violence is sporting and appropriate. More on the point, people who enjoy watching these kinds of things (football fans) probably are comfortable with it also.

Incidentally you can use their “Talk to the NFL” form with your own message. Using PETAs own avenue of attack, I removed the body of their mail and added my own message.

Dear Roger Godell

I subscribe to the PETA newsletter because I hate everything they do and stand for. Personally, I love football, hunting, and man-stuff. It turns me on to be able to talk to the people PETA seeks to slander mercilessly through their own website.

Football is supposed to be violent and competitive. I see nothing wrong with Vick’s behavior as nature is violent and competitive itself. Life feeds on life and it’s been that way for the last million years and I enjoy that fact every time I eat a steak.

Don’t listen to these homos and continue keeping football raw and real. Buy Vick a big bloody steak for me next time you see him and tell PETA to shove it. What would football be without violence? A bunch of men hugging each other.