Monday, August 29, 2011

Frontlines: Fuel of War Review

Game:  Frontlines: Fuel of War
Year (s):  2008
Company:  dev.  Kaos Studios
            pub.  THQ
Engine:  Unreal Engine 3
Type:  First-Person Shooter
What I Paid:  maybe $5
Game Time:  7-8 hours, first time, default difficulty

Obligatory Trailer:


"America, fuck yeah!"  Set in the near future, Frontlines shows a world nearly out of oil.  The Western Coalition is at war with the Red Star Alliance over the last reserves in the middle east.  You are part of the Stray Dog squad. 

There are cutscenes before and after each mission which don't add much to the above.  It would have been better to just copy and paste clips from war movies.

Who is Kaos Studios?

Initially known as Trauma Studios, this team created a popular mod for Battlefield 1942, released in 2004.  After that they were bought by Digital Illusion CE (the developers of Battlefield 1942).  After working there briefly, Trauma Studios was shut down in 2005.

In 2006, the team, now under the name of Kaos Studios, was bought by THQ.  They developed two games: Frontlines and Homefront.  A few months after the release of Homefront, Kaos Studios was shut down.


Perhaps because they went from making a game mod to developing an entire game, the graphics aren't great.  The Unreal Engine 3 is definitely underutilized here. 


While playing this game, two small things kept making me think of Crysis.  Small buildings, like sheds, can be knocked down.  Second, half of the enemies are Asian.  There is no resemblance other than that.


Combat is easy.  If you get shot, find cover for a few seconds and you're good as new.  You can't save, but you have several lives ("redeployments") for each mission.  Enemy AI is pretty basic, and the only trouble you'll have is finding out where the damn snipers are in some of the later missions.

Weapons are pretty standard.  Crouching increases accuracy, a prone position increases it even more.  Nice idea.  Makes sense.

You have a squad that follows you around.  Unfortunately, they are just like the GI Joe cartoon.  They fire a lot of bullets and catch a lot of bullets, all without killing or dying.  For practical purposes,  your squad is animated scenery.

Vehicles, Drones, etc.

Vehicles are standard, except that nobody can figure out how to pilot the helicopter without crashing.  Drones are the most interesting thing this game has to offer.  Drones are remote controlled miniature vehicles.  Some of these are just mobile explosives.  Others are weaponized engines of miniature death.

Airstrikes are also occasionally available.  There are a few different kinds but they all do pretty much the same thing.

Final Thoughts

This game is easy.  "America, fuck yeah!"  These cutscenes are cheesy.  I should go play Crysis.
This game is fast paced, so it'll keep your attention.  Unfortunately, it's easy and incredibly short, so it won't keep your attention for long.  I wouldn't recommend this one, even if you get it for just a few bucks like I did.  There's just not enough content.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Soldier Deck

I have played this twice in two-player games.  Both times I had good opening hands and kicked ass.  After tomorrow I will know how it does in three-player free-for-all.  So far it seems pretty solid.

Three posts in one day for "the other blog."  Hm.

Soldier Deck
60 Card Format

4 Enlistment Officer
4 Ballyrush Banneret
4 Daru Warchief
4 Field Marshal
3 Veteran Armorer
4 Veteran Swordsmith
4 Soltari Champion
4 Elite Vanguard
3 Aven Cloudchaser

4 Adaptive Automaton
4 Pearl Medallion


16 Plains
2 Emeria, the Sky Ruin
2 Windbrisk Heights
1 Kjeldoran Outpost

New Vegas DLC

To preface, every DLC ups the level cap by five, and adds new perks to the core game.

Dead Money

Influenced by Dead Space, this is a survival horror variant, and enemies only die if dismembered.  As far as survival horror, they nailed it.  You take nothing with you to this area, so no ammo, armor, or your favorite weapons.  You're constantly low/out of ammo, health points, and items.  They also tried (inevitably failing) to make a creepy area.
This would have satisfied me.  I mean, not pissed me off as much as New Vegas.  But then they added a toxic cloud to areas, and decided that radios are proximity mines.  Yay! 
Fifth-ass (much less than half-ass) programming kept me from finishing this tedious, hard, pointless DLC.  Not that I should be surprised; alternate game-breaking glitches are also included. 

Honest Hearts

After Dead Money, Obsidian made another forgettable expansion.  A previous general of The Bad Guys is helping savages fight other savages.  This is less glitchy, but again, rather unsatisfying.  This DLC was better than the original game because they had those plants (used to make things with the Survival skill) all over the place.  It was cool to be able to really get some use out of the Survival skill.

Old World Blues

This was surprisingly awesome, and if it was a standalone game I'd tell you to play it right now.  We still have problems with the engine, but... I have no idea how this was made by the same development team.  Instead of a world of psychos and assholes, you're in a world of ridiculous, hilarious machines.  This is not only the best DLC, but far more fun than the core game itself.  Unlike the other DLCs, you get some useful perks and powerful weapons from playing.  So, there's a reason to play this one, AND it's a lot of fun.

Additionally, you'll get the best house in the game.  A house with a reloading bench, storage, a bed, and a workbench to start.  With upgrades, your home includes a free doctor, a store that can repair your gear, a garden area for every plant available, and multiple ways to convert things into other things (useful for making items).  Your house's appliances have personalities, further giving the game humor and character that was completely lacking before.  My only wish was that this DLC had as much to do (or more) than the rest of the game.  If you have New Vegas, get this one and forget the others.

Lonesome Road not out yet!  But when it comes out, if I play it, I'll edit this post.

Star Wars: Battlefront 2 Review

Game: Star Wars Battlefront 2
Year (s):  2005
Company:  dev.  Pandemic Studios
            pub.  LucasArts
Engine: Zero
Type:  Firts/Third Person Shooter
Game Time:  12 hours first time, default difficulty (single-player campaign)

Obligatory Trailer:

This post compares this game to the first Star Wars Battlefront (the post right before this one).  I recommend reading them both if you are unfamiliar with the games.


Unlike its predecessor, Battlefront 2 has a loose plot to tie the missions together: you are a clone trooper reminiscing over various battles throughout your career.  Some of these were taken from the movies, but many were not.  Thus, you are always on the side of the Republic/Empire, fighting robots; later, you're fighting rebels.  As a welcome departure to the first, every map in the campaign is an assault-style map, with progressive objectives to complete.  This was a welcome change to the same ol' same ol' of the first game.  A few maps return, but most are new.


Now you can play as Jedi (or Sith) in all game modes.  Jedi are powerful, so this feature has limits on how often (and for how long) you can spawn as a badass.

Space Battles

Also new are the ship-to-ship fights.  Engage in dogfights, blast strategic points on the enemy command ship(s), and if you want, board their command ship to wreck havoc.  I found the flying vehicles to be clumsy, and every space fight is about the same.  This addition, while good in concept, became somewhat tedious in execution. 

AI and Gameplay

In the campaign, bots *CAN NOT* complete objectives, so you're going to have to pull the team.  Instant Action, multiplayer, and Galactic Conquest (the Risk wannabe) all return, virtually the same as before.  Kill enemies, take command posts, and you win.  You'll be mowing down computer-controlled bots pretty easily, but even if you're amazing your team can still suck (my most frustrating loss occurred after I had acquired 103 kills). 

Maps are more balanced in this one, so you don't have to know the one trick that lets you have a fighting chance on particular maps.   

Weapon loadouts (except for the above-mentioned Jedi) are identical to the first.  Same classes, same weapons.  If there was anything new, I didn't notice.  Vehicles (except in space battles) have all been seen before.

Final Thoughts

The campaign mode is frustrating at times, so this franchise continues to be multiplayer-focused.  Having drastically better map balance and a few new things thrown in, Battlefront 2 is the better of the two for multiplayer.  Both support tons of bots.  Really, the games have more in common then apart, so if you like playing one you'll like playing the other.  For single-player gamers, neither is impressive.

There have been rumors about Star Wars Battlefront 3 since 2006.  These assert that Free Radical Design (now known as Crytek) worked on the game for two years before losing the rights.  Star Wars Battlefront: Elite Squadron was a 2009 spin-off released for the Nintendo DS and PSP.  Further rumors, art, and allegedly leaked footage of Battlefront 3 continue, but nobody has made a confirmation or announcement. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Star Wars: Battlefront Review

Game: Star Wars: Battlefront
Year (s):  2004
Company:  dev.  Pandemic Studios
            pub.  LucasArts
Engine: Zero
Type:  first/third person shooter
What I Paid:  $4 on eBay

Obligatory Video:

Plot and General Gameplay

Levels in this game take place on various battlefronts from the Star Wars universe.  Some are straight from the movies and feature video clip accompaniment.  The single-player campaign mode has no plot, and you aren't always on the same side from one battle to another.  For every game type you can choose your loadout on spawning (sniper, rocket-launcher guy, engineer, etc.).  At the beginning of each map, each side has a set number of spawns.  Wipe out the other side, take strategic command posts (spawn points) along the way, and you win.

Campaign Difficulty

Maps are not balanced.  Maps often have definite positioning and/or vehicle advantages given to one side.  Additionally, the campaign mode may start you off outnumbered.  Lastly, your bot helpers (but not the enemy bots) are incompetent.  I once led my team with seventy kills and two deaths, only to lose.  Enemy AI is such that you'll be mowing them down most of the time.  If you're playing the campaign you'll play many of the levels many frustrating times before winning.

Galactic Conquest

This is another single-player mode that is basically Risk.  You move, attack, and can use bonuses.  Instead of rolling dice, you attack planets with the usual take-command-posts-and-wipe-'em-out agenda.  I didn't feel this added much to the choice of Instant Action.


Some vehicles are quite powerful (particularly against infantry) but I largely found vehicles to be slow and clumsy.

Zero Engine

I have no complaints about the engine.  It only crashed on me once, and is visually at least as good as the Unreal Engine of the time.

Final Thoughts

I picked up Battlefront because it was cheap and I like Star Wars.  I got some enjoyment out of it, but I wouldn't recommend it just for the single player.  If you know someone that wants to do muliplayer, it could be a lot of fun though.  The game supports a crazy number (estimate: 50 total) of bots running around at a time.

Star Wars Battlefront 2 came out a year later with a couple new tricks thrown in.  There will be a review of that in a week at the latest.

Friday, August 5, 2011

E3 and QuakeCon 2011

E3 2011 and QuakeCon 2011 Highlights

E3 Announcement: BioShock Infinite 

That particular trailer is silly, but it references the original game, and shows some of the floating city of Columbia.

Developed by the same team as the original, BioShcok Infinte returns to steam punk with a 1930's city that floats on balloons, connected by a roller coaster style transit system.  Combat does take place on said transit.  Like previous games, there are plasmid powers in addition to standard weapons.

I'm excited about this game (even though the modified Unreal Engine 2.5 is dated) because of a particular announcement by the developers.  Paraphrased, they're not focused on a multilayer game format.  They'll include one if it's really good.  The fans of BioShock want to play by themselves.  My hat to you on that, 2K Games.  Relase date of 2012.

E3 Announcement: Prey 2

The trailer looks like a cut-scene, backed by a Johnny Cash rendition of Soundgarden's "Rusty Cage."  As far as plot, did you play Prey?  You know the plane that crashed?  You're a lawman from that plane, with amnesia, working as a bounty hunter on an alien planet.

This game will not feature gravity and/or portal puzzles, because, paraphrased, "Human
Head Studios already made that game."  Respect.  Due in March 2012.

Quakecon Announcement: RAGE

This is the new id Tech 5 graphics engine.  I think it's looks fucking awesome.  I'm excited abuot this game too (due out this fall).

As far as plot, do you remember the Near Earth Asteroid named Apophis?  It once had a small chance to destroy Earth, and later was refined to be a non-issue.  In RAGE, it hit.  Some survived in Arks.  Everyone else died, struggled to survive, or mutated in to something else.

This game looks amazing, they have voice talent including John Candy, and id Software has never let me down.  I want to marry this game.

Quakecon Announcement: Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Elder Scrolls IV wasn't great, but then Bethesda made Fallout 3.  Skyrim simplifies some things, adds perks, runs on the new Creation Engine (hopefully less buggy than Gamebryo), features more distinct environments/landscape, and has dragons.  Due date of 11-11-11.  I won't buy it then, but I'd certainly consider it when it goes down in price.

Other Games This Year

Crysis 2 is out, so is Alice: Madness Returns and FEAR 3.  As the first Alice was dated, and FEAR 3 has a different developer than other FEAR games, I'm only looking forward to Crysis 2 (no longer available on Steam; EA is trying their own download-distribution application).  Serious Sam 3 is due out "this summer," but with rather poor graphics I don't think the *likely* difficult/old-school gameplay will make a success. 

Valve Software made no announcements about a new Half-Life game this year.  The last instllament, Half Life 2: Episode 2, came out five years ago.  Valve has abandoned it's half-ass episodic release concept. 

But it's ok.  They continue their constant dicking around with Team Fortress 2 (endless dicking).  Portal 2 is only half-playable alone.  Further titles may not be solely playable alone.  FUCK YOU VALVE.  FUCK YOU IN THE NUTS WITH A PITCHFORK ON FIRE.

I waited for you, Valve.  For years.  You came back to me just to punch me in the face.

I will never buy another Valve Software title.

Nonetheless, it's an exciting time for fans of shooters.  We've got games out and games upcoming. 


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

New Vegas Review

Game: Fallout: New Vegas
Year (s):  2010
Company:  dev.  Obsidian Entertainment
            pub.  Bethesda Softworks
Engine: Gamebryo
Type:  RPG Shooter
What I Paid: about $20 (2 DLCs included)
Game Time:  40+ hours

Obligatory Video:


This review is intended for those who have played Fallout 3, as it is comparitive.  If you have not played Fallout 3, play that instead.  Otherwise, read on. 

Obsidian Entertainment

Black Isle developed Fallout and Fallout 2.  They were working on their own Fallout 3 (no relation to the 2008 title, but similarities to New Vegas) when Interplay closed down their division.  Some of the Black Isle people started Obsidian Entertainment, who developed New Vegas.  Others founded Troika Games, which went out of business (a few members of the Troika team then joined Obsidian).   I played Fallout 2 for maybe three hours, but a ton of the things from those three hours were referenced in New Vegas: the super mutant army, broc flowers, golden geckos, the town of Arroyo... it didn't mean much to me, but for people that grew up on the original games, these connections might be a lot of fun.


Personal:  Guy shoots you and leaves you for dead.  You don't know who he is, or why he shot you.

Environment :  Nearly ever faction in the game wants to eliminate the others to control Hoover Dam. 

The end.

Actually, there is a little more to it, but not much.  It's not an engaging plot, and I didn't give a damn about who won the dam in the end.  Most everyone was a jerk.  Most quests were, "go there, get this/kill that, come back." 

After completing the main quest-line (which ends the game unless you have a pre-battle save), a montage explains how your actions throughout the game affected allies, towns, and various factions.  A good effort, but most everyone pissed me off- so I didn't much care for what happened to them afterwards.


New Vegas replaced the karma system with a faction fame system.  You're not a blanket good or evil, you're liked or hated by varying factions to varying degrees, based on your actions.  Fame in groups often incurs infamy in other groups.

Furthermore, if you murder/steak from someone silently, in their sleep, with no one to witness, their entire faction will know, and react accordingly.  Instantly.

Exploring... and Deathclaws

Unlike Fallout 3, you can't explore the whole map at any level.  New Vegas added mountains to restrain you, and the occassional invisible wall.  Also, deathclaws are at specific areas, so you can't explore there.

Deathclaws are stupid in this game.  They attack in packs, and there are various kinds.  On level 25, with power armor, I got killed in 1-3 hits (after killing 0-1 deathclaws).  I had to resort to cheap tactics like firing at them from a spot they couldn't get to.  The other enemies were a piece of cake, so this unbalanced level of stupid hard was... stupid.

Voice Acting

This game didn't skimp on hiring known voices: Wayne Newton is a radio personality, and Worf the Klingon voices a super mutant.  That being said, most of the voice acting is flat, spoken by characters that have no character.

Gamebryo PLUS

New Vegas includes all of the hair-pulling glitchiness of Gamebryo you might be used to, with the ADDITION of half-ass programming!  Here's an example of one quest that was executed poorly.  I needed to get evidence from two safes, but my lockpicking was too low (note: no quests in Fallout 3 required a particular skill level to complete).  After a few level-ups, I got the evidence.  Then I had to turn it in- but to who?  No one ever told me, it wasn't in my notes, and there was no map marker to show the way.  I had to go online to find out what to do, for this and other quests.  Way to go, Obsidian!

Skills and Perks

There are fewer skill books, no bobbleheads, and no perks that increase skill(s).  You only get a perk every other level, and your perk choices are not as abundant or powerful.  One perk I can take makes me fire 20 percent faster, but 20 percent less accurate for all guns.  That's just great.

Big Guns, as a skill, was replaced by Survival (more HP from food/drinks).  The weapons themselves were split between guns and energy weapons.

New Mechanics

Obsidian added new mechanic that revolve around creating your own goods on different types of work stations.  Repair allows you to break down guns and bullets, and to fashion new bullets (turns out you can only make say, ten shotgun shells, by breaking down ten shotgun shells).  Survival allows you to make healing potions, poison, antivenom and other goodies from various plant and animal parts (the parts are too hard to gather for this to be of great use).  Medicine allows you to fashion your own chems (if you can find a chemistry set).  Lastly, science allows you to recycle spent energy ammunition and to convert one type of energy ammo to another.  Thus, a neat idea spread over several skills, one of which is useful. 

There are more weapon types than in Fallout 3, several of which have unique variants.  There are also weapon mods.  Mods can only be used on a specific weapon, and never on unique weapons.  Only a few weapons have mods, mods are few in number, and they're hard to find.  E3 2010 interviews made a big deal about how you could modify your weapons to do neat things, but this turned out to be a very small, very limited aspect of the game.  I went the whole game without mods, as there were none for my weapons of choice. 

Hardcore mode is an optional, turn-off-at-will setting.  From Wikipedia, "Gameplay difficulty is increased in several ways ... the healing of crippled limbs requires a "doctor's bag", a chem called hydra or a visit to a doctor; ammunition has weight; and the player character must eat, drink and sleep to avoid starvation, dehydration and exhaustion, respectively."  Hardcore mode: making a dull game dull AND hard!

Expansions / DLC

Three expansions are currently available.  Each raises the level cap by five levels. I have two DLCs; I haven't played them.

Final Thoughts

Fallout 3 was awesome.  This was pretty crappy.  If it's on sale this weekend at Quakecon for ten bucks, well, it's got a lot of content.  You know, if you need something to do but want to enjoy it very much.  I stopped playing this game halfway through to play other games, and only came back to it in order to write a review before Quakecon started. 

There is a legal scuffle between Interplay and Bethesda right now about Fallout multiplayer rights, but the next Fallout game (depending on who wins the suit) might be an MMORPG.