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.