I Killed K5 – an Obituary

I did it. And now apparently I’m internet famous. What sort of interests me, aside of the fact that Rusty’s wife still tolerates the continued existence of Kuro5hin, is that the news handles internet pranks the way it should handle school shootings.

Of course, this is absolutely the wrong way to act.

In a school shooting, the shooter is just guaranteed his 10 minutes of fame. The media fawns over him, the guys face is all over the news, and everyone wants to know what would compel someone to do such a thing. In this prank, my name doesn’t come up once. Even more interesting, Rusty’s blog – kuro5hin.org – suspiciously doesn’t come up either. It’s no real surprise, google doesn’t index it anymore and it has a total readership of six. Sye has been pushing content to it via some sort of bizarre perl script, if he’s even a person. I think I doubled the readership alone posting a diary. I don’t really want the attention, I just want K5 to die. Oh and I enjoy a good prank, I really do.

Kuro5hin, for those not in the know, used to be glorious. A fork from slashdot back in the Web 1.0 days back when pictures of cats were expensive modem time, the text only essayist site provided not only interesting content but it was cheap. It filled a niche slashdot couldn’t, which was actual content on the site by people who knew what was actually happening. It was sort of a punk rock wikipedia if wikipedia were actually successful because it required peer review. Slashdot, reddit, twitter, and other small blurby social media sites were the future, but K5 was the here and now and it was great.

Rusty set the tone for the site fairly quickly, a site named Kuro5hin with a broken bridge was just flat out a bad meme. It would prove to be like finding out the guy who owned GrumpyCat was actually really grumpy in real life. A combination of lassie faire attitude towards moderation along with the general abuse of the userbase at the hands of the staff meant the best posters were quickly driven off, and as the trolls figured out they could set up fights between the staff and the well meaning users, it quickly frayed. This is really the same problems that the progeny of the site face – DailyKos has their “content” paid for and written by professional poltical hacks and digg accepts money for promotion. The former runs the code base (scoop) and the latter used the K5 look and feel up until recently. While these do actually spawn legitimate content, the reason why they work and K5 didn’t was because K5 never got the sponsorships enjoyed by slashdot, etc. In some ways it was a testament to integrity, and in the same way it was a harbinger of what was to come.

I submitted content and made friends, then I succumbed to the zeitgeist. Rusty, completely failing to secure any sort of nominal success in the media and walking off with $40k in donations from his own users, just stopped caring. The rest of the staff soon followed, and then the users, and then me. I became a troll. At one point I even offered to help Rusty, who had offered to make the last three users into admins. That never materialized and the shambling corpse continued on. It was actually sort of a pariah. Unlike Adequacy.org, it refused to die. At least Adequacy had the decency to clean up the worst of the off topic crap, set the database to read only and leave the lights on. K5 continues on as an insult to the content it hosted.

This blog post wouldn’t even be so rambling if I actually thought anyone knew was K5 was at this point. My facebook is filled with “lolwut?” messages. Social media is done, and now I blog.

When I bought a house, the remaining K5 Kamradery helpfully told facebook (and K5) I had died. It was actually fairly lulzy, and a plot point from the movie Hackers. Not one to pass up a hilarious opportunity, when Rusty proudly proclaimed he was turning off the internet and going to Mexico, I paid it forward.

I reported his facebook profile (log out if you’re from “the K5 crowd” and can’t see it – he keeps it public and your dupe account on facebook will work) as deceased with some random strangers obituary. As of right now, that obituary is the most popular link on google for “rusty foster obituary”. Poor guys family has no idea who he is. Facebook, employing people who live in third world shitholes, bought it. With no reply to the email they send, they did what any morally responsible social media company not stealing $40k would do – they turned off his account.

Rusty’s twitter predictably filled with butthurt, and I let it stew for a few days while I enjoyed confused family members, two people who were friendly enough with him to ask what happened, and the general confusion and bemusement. After a few days I decided to let him in on the prank and at least sent him a link to the obituary so he could get his facebook back. It still took facebook four days to actually sort it out. Four, lulzy days.

Rusty responded by editing my “I killed K5” post on Kuro5hin.org and killing the account, and AnilDash declined to run the story after I sent him a link to K5. The NBC community blogger was a bit of a surprise, but I like the tone of the story. For what it’s worth. All six users of K5 responded by goading Rusty, and he deleted just as many more commented, cutting the K5 user base fully in half (six users to three). Oh, and those vacation pictures of his trip to Mexico? Still public.

Update: Slashdot brings up the rear as usual.

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On Disc DLC is OK to Me

Gamers are getting their panties in a bunch because of on disc DLC.

One word: Modchip.

This nominally goes back to the “protected content only screws legit consumers” vibe that the PC market has had since forever. In a lot of ways, the vibe has been PC only. The most recent example is the Diablo 3 news. Quite simply put: you can’t play diablo 3 except online. It’s not like it authenticates and disconnects, it wants you to always play online 100% of the time. Cracks are already out there to “fix” the game, but of course they’re illegal. More on the point the people who want to stay legit get screwed. I can’t play the game in the 45 minutes I’m on the train. I can’t play the game at the office when I’m in weird hours. I can’t play the game at the local burger joint while my kids terrorise the playground.

How does this relate to DLC?

Well it’s sort of an interesting thing, capcom is re-evaluating the on-disc DLC policy. Why?

Is it because they want to pay microsoft $10k to get a download posted? No…

Is it because they’re pulling a DICE and putting out their patches in DLC to avoid certification? No…

It’s because they realized if the pirates have the DLC on the disk, they can play the content. Yup, you read that article right. A fighting game with the content (key) not even released yet saw people using the content on xbox live.

It has nothing to do with consumer outrage and everything to do with squeezing every last dollar out of your wallet.

UBISoft Blames Piracy for Not Releasing PC Games

UBISoft has a been the long time steward of the Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon franchises. Recently they announced no new PC games would be produced and generally blamed piracy. PC Gamers (all eight of them) are generally outraged. UBISoft claims the game wouldn’t be a profit center for them. Lets take a peek at what’s going on in the PC world versus the console world.

At the top of the list for why UBISoft’s excuse is bullshit – The entire success of the XBOX is that it runs Direct X. You write a game that uses pure Direct X calls, your game runs on both the PC and the XBOX with zero effort required on your part. That’s really the bottom line right there and the beginning and end of the argument. If you use Direct X, it works both places. There’s more effort required in doing the PS3 port than there is going from XBOX to PC. To Microsoft’s credit, they’ve done a really good job making this work on both sides of the fence. This means two things – UBISoft must really mean it about the piracy and any other arguments are largely accessory to this.

Part B is they’ve released free versions of the games on PC. Why? You’re going to get them for free anyway, according to UBISoft, because you’re all a bunch of pirates on the PC. Nevermind the vast majority of PC OSes are legal (in the US) or firmly in the gray market (corporate licenses). If we can draw a line from legal OSes to legal games and assume they’re roughly the same level of piracy (people who pirate the OS are likely to pirate the games) then roughly 20% of software is pirated.

What’s the argument against this? PC games have to be pirated individually, and I would venture close to 100% of pirated versions of PC apps contain malware, spyware, viruses and god knows what else. Furthermore unless the company is using bone-stock copy protection, someone has to put the effort into breaking the copy protection for that particular version of that particular application. New version comes out? They have to play cat and mouse again.

The XBOX situation is particularly interesting in this regard because for one, it’s easy and universal and only requires a BIOS flash. For two, since microsoft actively patrols it’s network, getting an XBOX online with a flashed drive results in both the XBOX and the user’s account being banned from XBOX live. The result is that to engage in piracy, an XBOX user only has to do one thing which works for all the games and for two, he or she can never play the game online. UBISoft’s games have only recently had any online content and in the case of Ghost Recons previous to their newest titles, online support has been limited to co-op missions and team deathmatch. It didn’t bring anything to the table that games like battlefield and modern warfare didn’t, and in modern warfare’s case it’s a better ghost recon than ghost recon for having the same play styles and even more modes. I just don’t see a future niche for UBISoft unless they start making games people want to play online.

Compare this to the wii, where games are easy to pirate and the online service has no protection at all, and the piracy argument rings pretty hollow. While I think they’re avoiding the PC market where piracy is easier than the XBOX market, I think they’re doing it more because they’re shooting even lower than the consoles. I personally think they’re looking to enter the android/apple space on the tablets. Not only does that dovetail nicely with the play-for-free space (Android being java makes ports easier, but not as easy as Direct X) but it means the advertising revenue can be generated across all sizes of PCs from commodity laptops on up and in the cellphone space. There probably will be a market for more serious titles on the XBOX/PS, but it looks to me like UBI is more interested in the play for free space and was just looking for some excuse to avoid the “gamer” PC game space.

Thank god they didn’t go subscription like World of Warcraft.

Game Reviews: Gears 3, Battlefield 3

Gears 3 is really easy – buy it used for the singleplayer story. If you liked the final patch on Gears 2, you’ll be right at home in Gears 3 since the gnasher (shotgun) is even stronger if that’s at all possible. The lancer chainsaw is nerfed. They honest to god brought nothing new to the table.

Battlefield 3 – This is a must buy if you like tactical shooters. The graphics are awesome. The movement through the environment is fluid and you rarely get hung up on the levels or on dynamic debris from blown out buildings. The guns are really nice.

Lets start with what everyone likes to discuss – the guns. The guns are enough to a player flashbacks. The irons are right on, the tritium sights (little white dots) are nice and the sights move correctly. The laser pointer suffers from not being a real laser projected from the gun, but it’s not jarring if you’re not looking for it. The holo sight moves proportionally to the front sight in real life, but again, it’s “close enough” where it just wanders a bit. The guns feel real – the recoil is projected back and up instead of just blossoming the sights – and the sound is awesome. I set it to wartapes with extra stereo and it’s like a theatre. The downsides: Some guns shoot Hollywood style beach ball flames out the front. The tac light is stupidly bright and needs to be toned down, you can be standing in broad daylight and still get flared.

Graphics – Fantastic. The biggest thing which makes this game shine is the field effects. The rolling clouds on the battlefield and the dirt on the windshield makes this an awesome experience. It’s really hard to put into text, but the grit-factor makes this game awesome. What will blow my mind is a map where there’s wind which blows smoke grenade clouds across the battlefield. If I see that I’m going to call this game perfect.

The vehicles: Oh god this is where it shines. The tanks feel appropriately chunky. I don’t understand the turbo-boost on tanks and similar vehicles but whatever. Click one of the control sticks to use it. The tanks will get over any terrain – slowly. Tanks now kill people appropriately violently, no more shooting the main cannon at infantry and doing pitifully low splash damage. The tank cannon can be loaded with a variety of shells and each vehicle gets three perk slots. The gunner is now more than a “bonus ticket” for when someone kills a tank, they have their own vehicle perks, loadout, etc specific to whatever weapon system they’re using. Case in point, the pilot of the jets gets rockets or a cannon, but the backseat gets the guided JDAM bombs, countermeasures and heat seeking missiles. It’s now critically important flyers have a second seat. Moving whatever you’re riding in now also affects reticle blossom for all guns on the platform, which is awesome. Note that any open seat on any vehicle is a spawn point, so attackers aren’t just limited to spawning at the carrier, they can spawn directly in vehicles. However, where this really sucks is on a public game where people spawn in and immediately bail out. Case in point last night we had a cobra pilot using it as a spawn taxi instead of shooting people. Points are shared among the crew and I believe increase in relation to how many people are in the vehicle. Party wagons (APCs) can rack up a lot of points really quickly. Base point values are doubled from previous games, but kill points with PDWs are halved.

Destruction 2.MILLION – This is awesome. I’m still finding crap to blow up. The way the first game worked was they had a series of premade buildings and after you knew where to blow them up you could simply drop them in three C4 or so. This new engine assigns a texture and destructibility to a surface, so a wall you might have assumed is sold is not. The downside is that some walls are a LOT more solid than others and require tanks to kill them to open up new routes. Brink players will be at home with this although the walls which are destructible aren’t highlighted.

The good, the bad, and now the ugly – Hit detection is crap. You used to be able to make murder holes in things and now a wall you can see through is actually not open. Generally this happens when you see rebar, the area under the rebar still counts as the wall. It’s really annoying and I suspect this will be used by snipers or vex them terribly. People still use vehicles as personal devices. The last game I played with a carrier in it (battlefield vietnam for wake island) had jetskis just for this purpose. I don’t think jetskis were really in vietnam, but it fixed the problem. The spawn system works to fix this. People dolphin dive pretty much whenever you shoot at them (jump to prone), they need to really fix this because while they don’t appear prone in mid-air like MW2, the hit detection seems to miss more often than not when they do this. Grenades (and explosives in general) behave really oddly where a grenade you think you’re far enough from will kill you, but sometimes a grenade right next to you won’t. It largely depends on if the grenade is above or below you, small variances in terrain seem to cause big variances in damage.

Online – EA servers are down constantly. This is how every battlefield game to ever come out has been. What’s really annoying is PC servers show up in the server browser but if EA central is down, you can’t join them. It’s not clear to me if you can join PC games or not, but it’s really annoying to see them in the browser and get the error “Could not contact EA online” when trying to play multi. I’m sure this will be fixed shortly.

Game Review: Brink

The quick and dirty review for the impatient – If you play bad company for the objectives, you will enjoy this game. If you play bad company to have cool vehicles and mostly play TDM, you won’t enjoy this game. It’s basically bad company sans vehicles where only the right class can capture the objective at any given time.

First, a story about amazon. I ordered this when it first came out when Amazon was doing double points trade ins. I sent in three games, one of which was previously purchased used. The used game was in good condition. Amazon said the disk was damaged in shipping, which was strange since I shipped it back in a box I got from amazon in the first place to ship me a game. I told their customer service if it’s damaged, I want it back so I can sell it on ebay. They declined, but they did credit me the game as though they spent it. (They eventually sent it back, so I used it as trade at EB Games). I ordered brink and not only did they not ship it in time to get it today, but they shipped me the wrong version. They sent the PS3 version, not the XBOX version. Something happened when they moved the release date up which made them lose the original order, so they just fulfilled it with the PS3 one.

When I asked them to return it, they said that I couldn’t get a refund, I had to accept delivery, relabel it, send it back, then I would be given a credit. I hung up on them. I called them back and got another rep, who I explained my kids ordered the game and it was an unauthorized purchase, and they were happy to give me a full refund. Alright! That’s sweet since walmart has it for $5 cheaper.

Now, the game has a points system for doing stupid crap like watching all the videos. I couldn’t care less. Thankfully they’re about as much as playing a match well so it doesn’t matter. Scoring isn’t an issue, if you like to shoot dudes play assault. If you like to heal the dudes shooting play medic. If you like to uparmor people and buff the guns, possibly placing turrets and generally being a real indirect pain in the ass, be an engineer. If you like to sneak around, be the spy.

Just a note on the medic, you can revive people who are DBNO similar to gears. It works really well since you toss them a syringe and they decide when to use it. The “medic problem” which bad company has where the medic gets you up at the worst time is gone.

And the spy, what does he do? When you’re doing an objective, you undisguise so what good is he? Everyone and everything he sees (friendly, opfor) is shown as an outline on your view. It’s really very useful, it’s like the UAV in bad company. It’s also hilarious to mele people and then dispatch them, but until you unlock the silencers you should avoid that.

Weapons attachments let you go nuts in the game, and there’s a guilty sense of dressup which works out really well. Unlocking a flash hider is sort of like the accessories in Army of Two but they actually do something. Silencers hide you from the map, grenade launchers ruin your day and taped mags are actually taped together. It lets you take a very nice looking gun and stick the worst looking crap on it. It’s very Army of Two without making you feel gay playing it.

Objectives work out well, I don’t have much to complain about except that three people working in a squad tend to dominate. Then again this is what Bad Company has happen also, the public players tend to play the game as team deathmatch while your buddies will actually do the objectives. There’s always one or two main objectives leading to the next mission. While not as broad as Left for Dead in how you get things done and the objective flow, the secondary objectives tend to really give your team an edge. Capturing a supply point moves your spawn or lets you refill ammo or change class. This works well until you realize you’re wasting mission time doing that. Also it’s a great way to get shot which is another thing I object to – if you’re trying to change class, you’re probably doing it for a reason. The fact that you can get grenade stuck while doing it is annoying. At least each starting depot has a set of turrets, but it’s a design annoyance that the first station doesn’t give you invincibility. You can change your class in the pregame menu, but not in a menu after the game starts.

Classes have style, there’s really no hiding in the game as there’s no real outdoor maps. Maps can be so dark it’s hard to get around. It’s OK to be wearing a giant british flag on your body with bracers made from tires and your face painted hunter safety orange – the game is so fast and close there’s no sniping or hiding. Sometimes this gets stupidly tight with accidentally running into the enemy spawn and immediately being sliced to ribbons. Otherwise the players and levels look unique and fresh.

Abilities – cool stuff here. Engineers buff guns, and eventually armor. Some abilities are class specific like that, others are simply neat tricks such as the ability to toss a grenade and lock onto it with the autoaim on the sights to detonate it in mid air. These are fairly high cost though and I haven’t dug into it too much.

Finally the downside – the game lags like it’s cool. I haven’t figured out how the game chooses host but I have a very nice router here and it’s usually not me. Other problems are the interface – you have to accept the invitation and then select “join on invitation” in the menu, it’s just awkward. And the worst – if you don’t install it to your hard drive, expect Left 4 Dead problems with load times and texture pop in. The manual doesn’t stay install it or else, but it helps. A lot. The last niggle is a balance concern – you get more points for shooting people than “moving the chains” on objectives. Case in point, me and a buddy were playing and we were both engineers. I cracked the safe and stole the intel almost single-handedly, but he got the best player award for having a huge kill count. Sometimes it just doesn’t seem like doing the objective is rewarding enough.

Verdict – Just like it says at the top. If you like games like Team Fortress or Bad Company or Left 4 Dead, this is a great game. If you’re more into deathmatch mayhem, this may not scratch the item. Personally for me, being a huge Rush player in Bad Company, this stuff is great.

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.

Game Review – Army of Two: 40th Day

I got this from Gamestop for $25.

Gamestop now has a new promo where if you get cold feet about a game within 7 days you can return it for a full refund. Suddenly I’m a lot more interested in those singleplayer titles I can breeze through or like Army of Two, it’s coop singleplayer. Return it for store credit and now for the price of Gamefly but without the monthly subscription, you too can rent games you don’t really care about!

That being said, if I had paid $60 for it new, I would have felt let down. $25 is pushing it, but it’s the right price given that Extraction Mode is included now.

The game is gross fun. You can be a sadistic jerk and it gives you weapons, or you can be a nice guy and… Oh there’s no incentive to be a nice guy. No seriously you get $30k cash for saving this kid and maybe one crate unlock but otherwise shooting everyone down gets you more guns and more money by far. Also sometimes the correct choice is still a messy choice. Saving the “trainer” guy in the first scene merely gets him killed anyway on a beach, and you lose $30k. Saving the kid later in the game gets you $30k, but he goes on to hate mercs and kill a bunch of people. If you let that kid live you also pass up on unlocking the most powerful sniper rifle in the game. You can play the game making the “nice” choice the entire time but it’s a lot harder since you’ll spend most of it starved for cash and ammo.

The bromance in the game isn’t as overt, but you can still express camaraderie and otherwise gay it up when you feel like it. Put in oftentimes weird camera angles and it’s not uncommon for Salem to look like he’s blowing Rios (air guitar). There’s apparently a points system here for expressing how awesome you are as buddies but otherwise it adds little to the game except for the downtimes between shooting. There’s also a paper-rock-scissors minigame which lets you win $100 from your buddies when you win. It’s fun to play during inappropriate cut scenes. Bored with that doctor reaming you out for warcrimes? Play some paper rock scissors for folding money! Bored with that guy talking about the majestic white tiger at the zoo you just had a firefight in? Hit camaraderie until Salem is blowing Rios over the video phone.

The aggro model works better in this game then it did in the previous game, but the AI doesn’t use it. More on the point when you’re customizing weapons, it’s not clear why the AI needs “money” at all. It would be nice if his money were given to you. Since you can get an achievement for making a “hate machine” (mine is a gold plated AK47 with a bayonet and an “enhancer” which is the opposite of a silencer) aggro plays a huge role just on accomplishments alone and it’s easy to rack up. With an AI which is ignorant of aggro, there’s no real reason to draw attention to yourself. I’ve never once seen the AI get killed. Also the game changes the AI’s attributes to cover up for occasionally shoddy AI work. In the hostage situations, the AI will always succeed in taking a hostage. The AI will always remain undetected. The AI will always pass a quickdraw. When you eat a rocket, the AI will simply take a knee for a second. And for parts where you split up suchas the first area with the fences or the area with the building cut in half, send the AI in on the hot side because the game won’t let the AI get cut down before accomplishing the “button push” sequence to let you regroup. (This may not be true on contractor difficulty but for the default difficulty, this is true – I’ve basically hidden behind the AI in the harder shootouts full well knowing he won’t go down).

The enemy AI is vastly improved over the first one. In the first one you couldn’t wound the AI. Now the AI has a DBNO status where wounding them (and leg shots will wound) cause them to go down and call to their buddies like you do. DBNO badguys can still hit you with the pistol, for the automatic pistol in the game this is particularly annoying. You can execute them, but there’s no option to force them to surrender. Grenades have a gears-of-war style arc preview which extends to the grenade launcher also. Bad guys will intelligently run from grenades or point their shields at them. Bad guys also try to fan out, which is also refreshing since the airport level of the first game was largely an excercise in reloading it until you ended up with a favorable spawn of bad guys and then hit the group with the RPG. This time around still suffers from a bit of luck, but it’s mostly lucky shots. More than a few times we’ve been hit by heavies and I’ll get lucky with a blindfire on a shotgun that saves us (or not).

Level design is worth a hat-tip here, it feels a lot like gears of war. GoW comparisons are inevitable in any game which also uses cover-and-concealment. Each level feels distinctive. Even in the hospital basement which could have looked like the skyscraper, it feels unique and you’re like “oh I’m in a different area”. The zoo feels like a zoo, each slum feels suitably slummy, the highrises feel like office spaces (although shot to pieces). More importantly each level clearly has an eye for “player space” where the players are likely to spend all their time, so these areas are highly polished. The hit model works well too – rebar sticking out of rubble will even block shots – and the game rarely suffers from rendering issues even with wide open spaces. Everything looks good. More importantly like GoW MP levels, everything flows nicely. There’s no one good spot to dig in, but it’s not like Modern Warfare where its absolute luck and each level is either “bowl” or “doughnut”.

The problem with multiplayer is twofold – strangers don’t wear headsets, which forces you to play in a game where people are required to communicate with people who don’t want to and it’s so late for this game that no-ones playing. Extraction might have been really cool with 12 players, but after checking the public servers for about an hour late my time, there were only three people playing on average. Multiplayer is a wash. It’s like Gears 2 now where the only people left are uberhardcore and they turned the bots up to 11. If you didn’t learn it before, you’re not going to learn it now. It’s actually still sort of fun since your buddies get a lot of cash for getting you up, but it’s not fun having to have someone babysit you because you’re not a headshot machine from playing the game since release. More on the point in straight up deathmatch, don’t even bother. There’s two kinds of players – headshot machines with the sniper rifles (unlike gears, the maps are big enough to make some decent use of the sniper rifles) and headshot machines with the shotguns. The maps are varied enough that you can get away with an assault rifle, but people who specialize in one of those two weapons classes will routinely score big.

Was it worth it? Probably not for $60, but at $25 and the ability to return it for a refund for 7 days, yeah. There’s enough content there to justify two sick days worth of time. For $60, I’d feel like it was short on content. There’s not enough going on with the assault rifles to make them distinctive, the same for the sniper rifles. Shotguns are interesting because they’re automatic or not, but basically there’s only four guns here. Levels are short and unfortunately divided up into bite sized chunks with “heavy troopers” in between. Once again the campaign just feels like training for multiplayer. The problem is, of course, that multiplayer is dead with a slew of new shooters out and it was never popular to begin with since the first Army of Two wasn’t really fun. So, for $25, it’s worth it to buy just for the experience, but trade it in quick.