Monday, March 17, 2014

Updates, Release Dates, and a date that will live in infamy... (Warframe, Watch_Dogs, inFamous 2nd Son)

Another busy two weeks in video-game world, some of which I already hinted at, and will now wrap up next to some not-so-new news:

Warframe on PS4 got an update. I mentioned that, somewhere. Now, with Warframe, Updates are always a bit of a celebration, since the already intolerable community, as behooves a game community, always wants everything, right now, and then a lot more of that. And Warframe has that little problem of its PC version getting more frequent updates, and those a lot sooner. Nobody cares why, but they bitch like there's no tomorrow.

Okay. Update 12. Updates on Warframe usually bring content. New Frames, new Weapons, new game modes, and maybe a new event. This one had it all, but that's not really the point. My point. You can read all about what it brought on the official release notes of the update here. The subtle changes are the stars here. And those stars are shiny. When Warframe debuted on the PS4, it was fun. Complicated, buggy and pretty weird, yes, but fun. It wasn't pretty, though.
Now, it is. Digital Extremes have added a lot of polish in this latest update, textures, effects, even new animations. Along with a revamped HUD (I still have to get used to), something akin a game manual that is actually in the game, hugely improved resource management and mod-"crafting" system, it's an overall improvement in User Convenience that is quite astonishing, really. And very welcome. Sure, there are still some frame-rate dips, but less so than you might expect with dialed up graphics. That did introduce an almost constant but mostly negligible screen tearing issue, though.

But even with those issues, it's a tremendous update to push Warframe out of its obvious Beta state on PS4 and into a game that could very well tide you over until Destiny arrives.

Look and See (but make sure to click the HD button on the bottom right):

Next up, Watch_Dogs. As in, yes, it's coming. There is a Date! Do you remember Watch_Dogs? That game where Smartphones take over the world? Well, Chicago, but still. A man and his Phone fighting injustice. With a lot of hacking, some guns, a baton, cars and streetlights. It was supposed to release even before the next-gen launch, but delayed, until some days ago, indefinitely. Now, the wait is... not over, exactly, but the end is in sight: May 27th 2014. In that respect, as a little reminder, here`s the recent story trailer to freshen up your Watch_Dogs frenzy:

Now, you noticed, didn't you? The graphics? Kinda... meh. And not really as "Wow" as last year`s E3 gameplay demos. As it happens, you're not the only one. The internet, especially neogaf, went completely bonkers - that`s a British medical term for shit-fuck-crazy, by the way. "Downgraded graphics" was the phrase of the day.

Maybe in response, maybe in expectation, there was a Live Stream Interview Q&A with the devs on Twitch two days later, on March 7th. Which, unsurprisingly, was instantly audio- and chat-hacked. The first 30 seconds of sound were looped, combined with the audio of a, presumably Canadian since French, Volkswagen commercial, and hundreds of "people" asked in the chat what Ubisoft's problems with Transvestite Girls is.

The chat-free and clean-audio version you can watch here in full (be warned, though, there's no gameplay beyond what can be seen in trailer above; but you will notice how they start over), but to sum it up, this is what happened during the delay (or not):
  • The graphics have not changed or suffered. The story trailer was simply to show the story, not the graphics. However that makes sense.
  • The systemic environment got an overhaul to really get working as flawless as possible. Watch_Dogs boasts a complete systemic environment, where everything you do effects the world around you, and those effects ripple through the complete game world.
  • Hacking on the move and targeting got an overhaul, to make it easier and more intuitive to interact with your environment even in high-pressure situations.
  • There was no additional content added during the delay - except maybe a few costumes and little animations. The main objective for Ubisoft Montreal was to make the experience they promised.

Some more interesting points:
  • The Multiplayer, where people can enter your game to hack-steal some data from you, is not about killing each other. It's about observation, hacking, hide-and-seek and escape.
  • You can play completely offline if the "I think someone's watching me" Multiplayer is too much for you.
  • The windy city has weather that people, objects and the player character will react to naturally and coherently.
  • That Canadian chief designer sure is a kidder.
  • You cannot make friends with crowd NPCs - or do some sexting (that`s hot-and-heavy texting, you know). You can use hacked personal info to distract enemies with inappropriate messages, though.
  • It will release on May 27th, for all major platforms. That's not the Wii-U.

And, lastly, with the impending release of the highly anticipated inFamous: Second Son, IGN had a 3 hour live-stream with gameplay from the game. And there's really no need for words with three hours of the game present. Well, okay.
The Dude runs weird. And the guy playing is not that good. But overall, it looks amazing. The in-game Seattle looks huge, and the claim is, as always in inFamous games, that everything you see you can reach, climb and jump down from.

But enough words, for now. Here's where the video does the talking (and the people talking on the video).

For all your PS4 or Xbox One needs, especially the European needs, head over to Amazon UK - best deals in Europe (mostly). For TV or Movie Streaming needs, as well. Yes, I do buy there myself. Exclusively. Unless I find a better deal, elsewhere...

Friday, March 14, 2014

Zombies... again? Yes, but Interactive!

Zombies! Yay!
As my last post hinted at, there's a new Zombie Game out for PS4: Dead Nation: Apocalypse Edition, a revamped version of the PS3 game from 2010, including that game's DLC. Which makes it the Apocalypse Edition. Obviously.

1942 - in 1985
Finnish Developer Housemarque might be best known among the PS4 crowd for PS4 Launch-Title Resogun, an apparently very addictive game I completely failed to understand. I played Resogun once, kept throwing the to-be-rescued humans to their death, and moved on to something else. Maybe it's because I am old enough to have actually played Space Invaders and 1942 at the Italian Arcades I spent most of my time in during our family holidays, but I don't see the novelty.
This was the beginning...

It's possible Resogun might grow on me, but it's just as possible I had already outgrown it.

Anyway, Dead Nation is a completely different animal - because: Zombies! God, I am tired of Zombies. I had had my fill shortly before all the hype began back in... 2002 or something. I will even come right out and say I don't like the Walking Dead TV series. Sure, when there's zombies it's fun, but all that soap-opera drama? No way, Jose!

Dead Nation, however is fun. It's one of those "isometric camera" games, which is not quite top-down, but more of an "elevated, yet slightly drunk, observer that occasionally hangs his head and nods off" camera. And while everything that happens on screen is a bit smallish, it looks and works quite well.
You move with one stick, you aim with the other. You shoot, throw grenades and flares and stuff, open boxes and trunks of cars for money to buy stuff - including that throwable stuff, but mostly weapons and upgrades. Oh, and you kill a lot of zombies. With guns, grenades, beating their brains in or using the environment. Shoot a car, it will explode. Shoot a car with a car alarm, and it will first attracts zombies, then explode. And since the main goal - besides killing zombies and surviving - is to get as many points as possible for life-changing bragging rights, you'll soon start to try and set-up combos, whether lining zombies up for a "charged, and thus capable of multiple head-shots" Rifle shot, or luring a pack of zombies into a car-alarm bomb. Of course, there's a risk to that, as every time you take damage, it will lower your Combo-Counter.

And so quickly do you have the recipe for an addictive experience. Add in Leaderboards, A Friend-Challenge Menu, Two-Player Online and Offline Co-Op, several game modes and difficulties, a good variety of weapons and armor pieces, sterling graphics and lots of zombie-killing-fun (that`s a lot off add-ins), and you already have an entertaining, albeit somewhat repetitive, way to kill some time, alone or with a buddy.

But, hark. There's more.
Watching other people play videogames has, apparently, become a legitimate pastime some time ago - when I wasn`t looking. And I don't mean joining a buddy on the couch to give completely obvious and excruciatingly annoying commentary to his gameplay, hoping against hope that you will annoy him enough to let you play. No, for the pathological online, there's whole gaming streaming services, like It's a novel concept for me, and I don't claim to understand - or see the appeal. But lots of people do. Enough for a gaming streaming service to exist, at least.
Streaming games is a concept that both next-gen consoles readily embraced. And the PS Companion App even updated to feature a browser for PS4 games being streamed right at any moment.

But Dead Nation: AE pushes that concept a bit further. If you stream your gameplay live on Twitch, playing the "Broadcast +" game mode, your viewers, via twitch chat, can actively alter your game. There are over 30 different "votable" effects on your gameplay, and viewers get a choice of two at a time, one positive, one negative.

Of course, with all the jerks you inevitably encounter on the world-wide-web, getting something positive is rather... rare, I would say. Then again, the viewers that voted for horrible things to happen to you will make a named appearance as a zombie in the game soon thereafter, and if there ever was a perfect opportunity for a flamethrower Zom-B-Q... Oh, didn't I mention that? Yes. There`s a flamethrower :)

Now, if all that still didn't get you hot and bothered, that's cool. But since it's free with PS+, and as PS4 owners pretty much all have PS+ to play online, well, what would be the harm in downloading and trying it? Look, I even made a video of the first mission, just for you:

For all your PS4 or Xbox One needs, especially the European needs, head over to Amazon UK - best deals in Europe (mostly). For TV or Movie Streaming needs, as well. Yes, I do buy there myself. Exclusively. Unless I find a better deal, elsewhere...

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Thievery, Zombies, and a shiny (but sinister) Future...

Where stuff happens!
It's been an interesting, and very enjoyable, two weeks on PS4. The long hoped-for Thief Remake made it's debut (on PC, PS4 and Xbox One), then F2P title Warframe drastically improved its look with new PS4 Update 12.0, and just a few days ago, addictive, top-down Zombie-Shoot-Fest Dead Nation: Apocalypse Edition made its way into everyone's PS Plus Instant Game Library - for free. Plus, other stuff.

And yes, the order of the Headline is intentionally chronologically incorrect - it's for dramatic purposes. And attention. Definitely attention. In fact, the whole headline is incorrect, as I will only be looking at Thief this time around.

So, let's start with Thief. Which, due to its extremely ambiguous title (Thief), was apparently expected to be an action title. At least, that's what it seems like, reading some of these reviews. "The combat is clunky, and facing more than one opponent becomes quite difficult," or some such could be read all over the net. And while this is, at least partly, quite accurate, there is a distinction between a Thief and an Assassin. Starting with the name. Obviously. One is supposed to be sneaky. The other, efficiently lethal, with "sneaky" being mostly optional.

And just to get it out of the way, yes, Thief looks and feels a lot like Dishonored. Prettier, and maybe a bit more shallow, but there are differences. Efficient Lethality being one of them.
The settings of Thief and Dishonored are quite similar: 18th Century Steam Punk World, a sinister Ruler, a plague in the streets, and a dark, brooding protagonist. In the case of Thief, that man is Garret, Master Thief with memory issues, inadvertently becoming the linchpin in an ever revolving, and very sinister, conspiracy. There's stealth and sneaking, ranged combat and Melees, story missions and side missions, and lots of places you never need to go to finish the game, but would be amiss to not visit at least once.

What's different is, Garret is not a killer. "Steel and Thieves don't mix well", he says. "Are you going to use those shadows?", he asks. Despite the misleading, action-heavy title (Thief), the game tries very early on to impart to you a certain attitude, which can be summed up by: "If you have to hit, hit quietly." Yes, that does sum it up, you nay-sayers. It's one of those "reading between the lines" things.
"If you have to" implies it's not strictly necessary, but an option. "Quietly" intimates that big and raucous bar-brawl melees might not be in your own best interest. Because you're a Thief. It's like a common theme throughout the game (that game being named Thief). And thieving is what it does best. No, not that kind. Fine, it might "borrow" from Dishonored, but Dishonored in turn "borrowed" a lot from the original Thief games, which makes it a bit confounding to ascertain exactly who the egg and who the chicken is, here.

The Stealth mechanics are solid, the movement fluid, the thievery often exhilarating. The enemy AI is mostly competent, but, sadly, still pretty confined in their ways. What combat there is, is a bit repetitive, but it works well enough for something that is clearly meant to be avoided.
 "Repetitive" is a thing with Thief, though, but in a slightly weird way. Weird, in that part of the things you do over and over again are great and a lot of fun, while it is the movement through the city from one objective to another, that can definitely become a bit tedious after the 10th time. And the fact, that apparently every small path between crates or something else you can squeeze through has one support beam you have to move out of the way by tapping a button, is quite annoying, at least to me.

And yet, that beam is preferable to the unfortunate prevalence of loading screens when moving between areas of the City. It's not as bad as Dishonored, but it's close. The loaded areas are bigger in Thief, and feel a lot more... well, alive, for the most part, but with this generation of consoles being the "next-generation" after all, it's not something you'd expect from a game of only 21 GB.

Especially looking at the not so much jaw-dropping visuals. Thief really shines when it's dark and gloomy (Ha!), with ominous and coherent lighting, but up close things get clunky. Then there's the lack of really interactive objects. While some bottles can be picked up, and some more glass wares destroyed by arrows (sadly, excluding windows of any kind), the majority are indestructible and/or immovable filler material.

Some things you think you should be able to climb you simply can't, and the wonderful rope arrow needs a very special kind of crossbeam to work.

And then there are the bugs. Nothing world changing or game-breaking (yet), but they are a bit annoying at times, mostly because they do rip you out of the immersion that is so essential to enjoying the game.

Thief is not the prettiest or the biggest or the most unrestricted "mini-sandbox" game, ever. But what it is, is a very immersive, and very gratifying, First-Person Stealth experience. It lives from exploration and experimentation, with an addictive sense of discovery - and the Thieving is simply exciting. Finding a hidden trigger in a bookshelf or behind the frame of a painting, in the few more seconds that the guards are distracted by the now dark and damp fireplace you just shot a water arrow into, is quite a blast, really.
Not to mention the superpowers. Yes, there are powers, like a sort of "Important-Stuff Vision", additional eyeball zoom, quicker lock-picking and slo-mo targeting, but I never played with any of that.

Which brings us, neatly, but by total accident, really, to the wonder of custom difficulty. There are a lot of options, from the above mentioned eschewing of your Focus-Powers to Alerts or Damage causing instant Game Over to no checkpoint saves to no aiming reticule to... oh, well, you get the point. If you want the challenge, try experimenting, but be warned: Those options can only be set and changed when starting a new game, and finding out after 15 hours that you cannot work without knowing where exactly your bow is aimed, is a bit of a drag.

The way I play it? Master Difficulty, No Focus Powers, Damage results in Game Over, Only Specialty Arrows. And, as a further tip for the immersively interested, I turned off the interaction prompts in the graphics menu. It makes looking for and finding hidden switches a lot more gratifying, if there's no huge "Over Here" button prompt once you get close to anything. Not using the Mini-Map (you can switch that on and off with a simple D-Pad Down press), is another thing to add to the feeling of genuine exploration. Just don't expect to find everything on every mission, though. Even feeling like you had a complete and proper look around will most likely net you only half the special collectibles hidden in safes and chests around the game world. But don't be disappointed - be encouraged to know, that there is still so much more to discover.

Discovery is the word, really. I'm about 30 hours into the game, and I have just about finished a bit
less than half the story missions. I did a lot of stealing and exploration though, about 10 small and three bigger side missions, and playing with my constraints, necessarily adds definitive (but forced) replay value - since I'm also going for a "no man or animal touched" and "no alarms or detections" playthrough. And once that is done, there's the Challenge mode (I never played), which will probably get some DLC maps, to chase high-scores by chain-stealing or finding hidden stuff, real quick like. As I said, 30 hours, about half the game. But then again, my first Dishonored playthrough took over 55 hours, so if that`s your kind of thing, you will know what I mean.

Dishonored was an amazing game. Thief is not quite up there when it comes to deep and varied gameplay, but is undoubtedly the superior stealth experience. The higher the challenge, and the smaller the help you accept from the game, the more wonderful the experience.

Don't expect a First Person Assassin's Creed. Don't expect Dishonored 2. Don't expect medieval Splinter Cell or Hitman: Absolution. Your job is to steal - and that's best kept in the shadows.

Know your role, and Thief won't pick your pocket. And while the console versions are not really a "steal", it's still well worth to rob your piggy-bank.

So, I was forcing it a bit, there. I got excited.

But, here's some gameplay, for those still interested:

And, as you can see: First, it's dark. Maybe too dark, and I don't know why, really. Second, turning off the Interaction Prompts and Loot Glint in the Options/Graphics menu turns "walking quickly around, looking for prompts" into "searching slowly and thoroughly for whatever you can find or interact with". It's a completely different experience, and, if I may say so, a better experience.

For all your PS4 or Xbox One needs, especially the European needs, head over to Amazon UK - best deals in Europe (mostly). For TV or Movie Streaming needs, as well. Yes, I do buy there myself. Exclusively. Unless I find a better deal, elsewhere...

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Operation Metro 2014 - A study in AWFUL...

Second Assault, the second DLC expansion and, previously, timed Xbox-One exclusive for Battlefield 4, has hit all Premium players' platforms on February 18th, and will be available for everyone else to buy on the... 4th of March (February is iffy when it comes to counting days). "Finally!" or "Sadly...", well, that depends on your personal preference. I know what mine is, though (and I will be dropping subtle hints from now on out).

Second Assault, or "Second Insult", as I like to think of it, is probably one of the "cheapest" map packs I can remember. Featuring four (allegedly) re-imagined "Fan-Favorite Maps" from the abysmal Battlefield 3, they're really not new at all. And there really is nothing much new about any of the maps. As such, DICE did not really have to put much work or effort into it, and they really didn't.

So, Firestorm 2014 has some more destruction - no, wait, "Levolution", they call that - to, mostly,  make fires.

So, Gulf of Oman, the remake of the remake originally from BF2, has a sandstorm to blind and annoy you.

So, Caspian Border has a tunnel, a wall, and the huge tower can be blown apart - and is hands down the best map of this debacle, not in the least because 64 players make it finally feel not completely deserted.

So the grass, once lit-up, burns away - in those two maps, where there is grass, anyway. Big deal.

But the one that undoubtedly stands out is "Operation Metro 2014".
Hailed and celebrated by Battlefield players all over the world as "the worst BF map, ever", and welcomed as "exciting, new and tactical" by the pre-pubescent "Call of Duty"-Crowd, the Original Operation Metro was bad. It was small, cramped, with no destructible environs, and so blithely linear, so painfully lacking in flanking routes, that it was nothing but a repetitive, one-way meat grinder. There just had to be something wrong with a map, if the Rush map was bigger than the Conquest Map. That was Battlefield 3. And it was horrible. But, to my profound shock, it's even worse in BF4.

Now, with BF4 and 64-player Conquest, everyone, including me, expected some big changes to the map, and the previews did look somewhat encouraging. You could see walls coming down, and the ceiling collapsing, and you thought "Oh my, I can't wait to see what else they changed, and use these new features to get outside the metro for some flank and maneuver warfare!" Because there just had to be a way now to flank into the back of an enemy entrenched in the center of the map around capture point B - like the outside area in the, comparatively amazingly open, BF4 map Operation Locker. For that matter, with 64 players, they would have to open up the whole map and add at least two additional capture points, not just the inside areas and that little square outside near the Russian Spawn. Right? Right?

Sadly, that was not the case. The Conquest map size, despite playing with almost three times as many people, is the exact same as before. The number of capture points? The same as before. The ways to maneuver behind an entrenched enemy? The same as before (meaning: none).
Yes, there have been a few "additions", although those quotation marks indicate, that "additions" is quite relative:
You can bring down a good number of ceilings throughout the level (once) to try and kill people beneath it. Of course, nothing stops the enemy from eliminating those dangers safely before you can even get there and try to use them to your advantage.
And there are two, presumably valid, new "flanking" routes, a very narrow hallway and some elevators, but all those really do is... well, nothing, except give you new places to run to to die.

As in BF3's Metro, the main objective is to "run-like-fuck to Capture Point B" and try to hold it. And since there are only three points and no way at all to get around Point B to the points on the other side, Point B wins the match. The problems with this are many and, to me at least, mysterious - as in "Why the Fuck were they allowed to be there?!"

And I do have Video Proof:

And now, that you have seen the problems, it's time to read about them:

Problem number 1: The Russians win. Why? It's pretty simple, really. The Russian team can reach point B quicker than the US team.

Problem 2: The Russians win. Why? Because not only can they reach B faster, but, to reach B from their side, the US team must fight up through five extremely narrow bottlenecks without any cover at all: two bands of narrow escalators, two very narrow elevators, one stairwell and that one new hallway. And despite this being a video-game, moving and fighting uphill is always harder than standing at the top of the hill and throwing down grenades.

Problem 3: The Russians win. Why? Because even if the US team should manage to get a foothold upstairs at the front of B, through the elevators or the first set of escalators, they are stuck, in a pretty small area, behind another set of choke points - completely vulnerable from at least two sides.

Problem 4: The Russians win. Why? Because grenades and bullets trump smoke and mirrors. With the choke points being so narrow and predictable (since severely limited), tossing some smoke to obscure your approach or a flashbang to stun entrenched enemies does not really help. 32 grenades do not care if they see you or not. Bullets from a Light Machine Gun pointed at a doorway, or down a hallway, do not care if you are obscured by smoke.

Problem 5: The Russians win. Why? While the same map in BF3 was horribly lame, at least it wasn't predetermined to be this one sided - for the simple reason that you only fought against 12 players. You could push through 12 players, even 12 decent players. In BF4, there's 32 enemy players doing nothing but throwing or shooting grenades downhill, or waiting for the elevators to open or someone to run around a corner up a one-man wide hallway, and start shooting fish in a barrel. Oh, sure, it might just be possible to push through with an organized team of 20, or even 10 people, but it's very, very easy for even for 32 monkeys to stand somewhere and throw grenades.

So, in the end, 9 times out of... well, 9, the Russians win. It's not a fight, it's a slaughter, with one side helplessly running up a hill of death.

Now, some might say it's easy to recapture a Russian-held Bravo with the US team:
"You just need to coordinate the team, get some smoke, some incendiary grenades, 10 of those MP-APS systems at the bottom of the stairs, a group of supports with the Airburst to keep the enemy in cover, then you feint to the right, throw some smoke, then all 32 people throw grenades up the stairs and rush the center, through smoke, with incendiaries securing the flank, and yes, the first few rows will get mowed down something fierce, but if everyone just pushes, it can be done!"

To which the Russian Team responds:
"You. Throw Granada. Down there. Then do again."

Whether or not it's even possible to get 32 video game players to do something together in a coordinated way, is another thing entirely. And I've heard of people using Skype to circumvent the (still embarrassing) 8 people party limit on PS4, and try to get whole teams together. But the fact that one team pretty much has to mount a complicated, coordinated attack, while all the other team has to do is spam grenades and shoot at huge targets piling out of very small doors, should speak for itself.

Operation Metro 2014 is an insult, and in its Conquest Large 64-Player iteration by far the worst multiplayer map ever conceived. And what's worse, people will still love it...

For all your PS4 or Xbox One needs, especially the European needs, head over to Amazon UK - best deals in Europe (mostly). For TV or Movie Streaming needs, as well. Yes, I do buy there myself. Exclusively. Unless I find a better deal, elsewhere...

Friday, February 7, 2014

the SH!T that HAPPENS (right about now...)

So, now that Warframe on PS4 is finally starting to make sense to me - and others, I might add - it only makes sense to leave the Frames alone for a while. And that has absolutely nothing to do with my monumental lack of coverage concerning the first ever PS4 Community Event, the Cicero Crisis. It was pretty fun, though. Sorry you missed it :)

Anyway, let's take a look around at other stuff happening in the world of gaming. Not all the stuff, but at least the stuff that caught my interest.

Where to start? The Battlefield. Battlefield 4 has had its share of issues - on all of the five platforms it has released on, a feat, that has sadly been buried under, might in fact be partly responsible for, said issues. As is a universal custom among the universally malcontent gaming customer, people have been clamoring for some "free stuff to compensate us for yadda, yadda, bla". Which, with EA as a publisher, was like asking the proverbial Wall to just go away where our head is going to go through. Then EA actually does give people stuff for free, and makes me look like an idiot.
Yes, I speaketh the truth:
BF4 Player Appreciation Month is in full effect, and giving you muchos freebies.
Every weekday, a log-in will net you a Bronze Battlepack, every Saturday and Sunday, there'll be a Silver Battlepack waiting for you. Those packs contain everything from XP Boosts to Cammo to Weapon Attachments, and are, as such, pretty nice. You could earn those simply by playing, but still. Nice, DICE.
More free access to equipment can be gotten by two upcoming Unlock Shortcuts, completely - and voluntarily - unlocking all grenades and handguns (of the main game, not the extensions). It's a shortcut, yes, but you don't have to, if your ego won't let you. It's mostly for newcomers and absentees, and I do welcome it.

Finally, a series of community events (everyone, do this so often in that time), will get everyone Golden Battlepacks, those with the rarest free stuff to be had. The first event, 10.000.000 Dog Tags in 6 days across all platforms, is running right now, so go ahead and stab someone.
They also promise more interaction between devs and the community, but I will believe that when... well, never. Gonna happen. Oh, you can also download BF4 Ringtones for your phone. And one has to wonder, which part of its customer base a "Mature" rated game wants to appreciate that way...
Anyway, it's not free Premium or something, but it's nice to be told you're appreciated. And apparently, what we get is the measure of appreciation we deserve. Or do we?

Moving on, February 25th/28th (US/EU respectively) marks the release of one of early next-gen's most anticipated titles: Thief. The "reboot" of one of gaming's most popular niche-game series was quite a long time coming, but it has recently "gone gold", so, for better or worse, it's almost upon us. Eidos Montreal, acclaimed creators of "Deus Ex - Human Revolution", recently showed off a new, six-minute "Thief 101" trailer - offering a quite compelling look into the world and the ways of the Master Thief.

Now, the younger crowd will undoubtedly have one question burning in their minds: Dishonored, much? It's a valid argument, as so many aspects of Thief seems to resemble Arkane Studio's epic journey of dishonor, dark magic and retribution. People familiar with the original Thief series probably said the exact same thing about Dishonored copying Thief, but to be brutally honest, Thief 2014 coming pretty close on the heels of Dishonored, makes the resemblance a lot more... promising.

Yes. I don't care if it's Dishonored 2.0. I loved the heck out of Dishonored, and from what I can tell, Thief looks very similar - but spectacularly, breathtakingly better from a graphics standpoint. On the other hand, Dishonored probably did have the advantage in cool abilities and nasty gadgets. Stopping time, then leaving a spring razor mine amidst a group of enemies, and vanish again never got old. Thief seems to try and be more grounded in "reality" - whatever that means in video games, anyway. There are the so-called Focus Abilities, but you will have the option (as you did in Dishonored) to forgo the use of most, if not all of them, completely. There is no denying, though, that it looks simply gorgeous, and if the game play can be held to the same high standards of its predecessors (literal and spiritual), Thief looks like pretty much everything fans of stealth-games were hoping for.

Finally, there will be a new Lord of the Rings Game. Yay. More Legos. Well, no, not really, this one looks like "Assassin's Creed - Batman in Mordor", or something to that effect. Actually, a former Ubisoft developer literally accused WB Games and Monolith Studio of copy-pasting code from Assassin's Creed 2 into their open-world adventure set behind the enemy lines in Mordor, right between the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. Middle Earth - Shadow of Mordor teases hope of a game truly deserving the LotR label, with an allegedly open world, various ways to deal with your missions, wraith-like superpowers and a procedural enemy development via the "Nemesis System".

And, yes, okay, we might see where that AC2 comparison came from. I mean, seriously, why would you have these ropes between houses? AC2 was a great game, but Shadow of Mordor already has it beat. Why? You can sneak. If there was one thing I absolutely hated in all Assassin's Creed games, it was the inability to sneak. And no, "Fast Walk" is NOT sneaking! Same goes for the legendary Batman: Arkham Franchise, whose quick combat and detective vision obviously had some impact on SoM's developers.
There are most definitely worse games to be "inspired" by, and let's be honest, when I wrote "Assassin's Creed - Batman in Mordor" who here did not have his heart skip a beat with excitement? The nemesis system, procedurally created enemies that change in every playthrough according to player choices, might the one piece of innovation, to set Shadow of Mordor apart from its spiritual ancestors. It is a very promising premise, but we will have to wait until the end of 2014 to see if the game will live up to it. For now, what seems to be known, is that enemies will indeed be different from game to game, but there is no information on how varied your choices to deal with them are, or if they are simply differently garbed place holders for the exact same missions, the only differences being cosmetic.
Further, it seems that Half-Ranger, Half-Wraith hybrid and hero Talion (oh, did I forget to mention that to the continuity and LotR Canon enthusiasts?), can instantly switch between his two existences, only use his bow in "Wraith Mode", can scale and jump and run like Altair and Ezio, can do stealth kills from both the back and the front and, sadly, seems to be employing Quick Time Events during boss fights.
Well, we can hope. I do. And if you want to learn more, feel free to join the SoM community.

For all your PS4 needs, especially the European needs, head over to Amazon UK - best deals in Europe (mostly). For TV or Movie Streaming needs, as well. Yes, I do buy there myself. Exclusively. Unless I find a better deal, elsewhere...

Monday, January 20, 2014

Warframe on PS4 - Once more into the (Orokin) Void...

Warframe, Warframe, Warframe, it's still all about Warframe (click the Links, for more Warframe). And it might be, until something better comes along, that does even less to explain itself to the people playing it...

If you're new to Warframe, I'd suggest starting with the links above - in order - or your in for major SPOILERS!! Also, you won't understand much of what I'm about to divulge.

The Void. The Final Frontier. These are the voyages of the Tenno, faceless (since helmet-wearing) Sci-Fi Ninjas, on a quest for even more loot. And special loot it is. Prime, even. No, seriously, outside of the Login-Lottery, the Void is the only place you can, if the random reward generators are equally willing, earn your Warframe Prime Gear - special, and mostly better versions of the weapons you love to kill with.

When logging in, and looking at the update screen, did you ever wonder where that damn newspaper/newsletter for the Prime Gear is? You know, "The Void Today"? I sure did.
So, I'm not that smart. I play video games all day, what do you expect?

The Void (and in my defense, that "Today" with that capital "T" is quite misleading) is a place outside of what we, the Tenno, consider our space. The Orokin, these mysterious beings of ancient mystery, made it - well, them, actually. They had a lot of spare time and Forma on their hands.
Orokin Towers are big and filled with treasure. And, as with all treasure, many have tried to win it, and it has destroyed them all. Corrupted them. So, don't feel bad about killing everything inside those towers. The enemies you encounter, from all three different ilks (Grinneer, Cropus and the Infested), are only puppets of the Orokin, and we all know what to do with puppets, right? No, not the anatomically correct life-sized ones, I paid good money for...


How do you get to the Void? You need a key (obviously). Keys to the Void can be gained, as pretty much everything, through the Login-Lottery; but mostly you'll earn them from Tier 3 rewards of Survival Missions. Survive the onslaught for long enough, and 2 out of 3 times, every 15 minutes will net you an Orokin Key. Keys have different Ranks (I-III equaling enemy levels of 10-20, 20-30 and 30-40, and, of course, better loot), and come in the well-known shades of different missions. There's Survival, there's Exterminate, there's Capture (how I hate those...), and all the others - just with a touch or Orokin.
The Keys you can find in your "Key Menu" (obviously). Interesting Fact, though, as opposed to the Clan Dojo Key, only the host needs an Orokin Key, and can invite up to three friends or somethings to join him: 4 people only need one Key. Even better, if you fail, disconnect or abort, the Key is not used up. As you can see, though, I don't have any friends, so I had to do this "Rank I Orokin Exterminate all by my lonesome. Hence, the length...

There's dangers in these Towers. All kinds. Corrupted, yes, but still enemies, no matter how nice they all play with each other. (Mind out of the gutter, people!) Corpus have Shields, Grinner have Armor, and the Infested burn-a-lot. So remember, when loading up for the Void, bring weapons to fight a versatile tide (bring killing stuff with at least Impact, Puncture and Slash Damage).

The enemies you can see are only part of the danger, though. Hidden pressure plates activate deadly traps, and while those spinning laser cubes might look like nothing at all, they burn you bad and quick, and you won't want to have to dodge one during a firefight. You might want to activate one, then shoot out the top to stop it from spinning and create a deadly barrier between you and your enemies, though. When those traps try to trap you is often quite predictably: Secret Treasure Room? Trap! There are a few strewn throughout the regular environment without obvious bait (including the freeze-you-into-slo-mo strips of decorative ice), but those are pretty rare.

And in that regard, at least, going solo is not a bad thing. You can take your time, especially in Exterminate Missions. Nobody runs away, so you don't have to run - period. Except for those huge empty rooms. And to cover. And... well, you know. And did you notice those pop-up covers in the environment? Very handy, those.

Void Missions not only give you rare materials like Gallium and Control Modules, Prime Gear Components or Blueprints, you might also find special mods - the Corrupted kind (obviously). In theory, Corrupted mods have two effects, just like Nightmare Mods, but only one of the Corrupted Effects is beneficial. You might get an increase in Power... uhm, Power, but get a reduction in Power Range, and so forth. Still, they do stack with similar mods to increase certain effects even more, so the trade-off might be worth it.
Sadly, as I now know, regular Orokin Missions (started by keys you get ready to use) do not get you Corrupted Mods. The Corrupted Mods are rewards for getting access to an Orokin Vault on an Orokin Derelict and extracting an Orokin Artifact. Which requires a special needs-to-be-crafted Key (for which you need all those Nav-Coordinates you find) to enter the Derelict, and another, even more special key to open the vault. Weird. But more on that, when I know more on that.

When you're done with the Void, you extract - and might get something special - most likely one Prime Gear Thingee. Sadly it seems, that to complete a Prime set, you have to do different missions (always playing Exterminate will likely net you more duplicates of the same Prime Thingee than a complementary part), and even different Mission (Key) Ranks to assemble something Prime.

And that's it. The Void (halfway) explained. Yearning to try? Warframe is free on PC and PS4. Well, it's Free-2-Play, so you can pay for instant access to better stuff.

For all your PS4 needs, especially the European needs, head over to Amazon UK - best deals in Europe (mostly). For TV or Movie Streaming needs, as well. Yes, I do buy there myself. Exclusively. Unless I find a better deal, elsewhere...

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Warframe - I'm Ninja (you can't see me, you can't hit me, I murder you)

... or, "The Bow, the Knives and the Sword"

Warframe, Warframe, it's all about Warframe (click the Links, for more Warframe). So, what? I do like it. It's fun, it's free, and it's a lot deeper and more versatile than you might think. Different weapons, different Frames, and different approaches, can turn Warframe into a totally different game.

Case in point (if that is the expression, which I am totally unsure of), Warframe has a Stealth System. Yes, you, Tenno Space Ninja, can actually be really, really sneaky. Be sneaky enough, and you can finish whole missions without setting off an alarm. Why would you want to? Well, if you, like me, enjoy a good sneak, stealth kills, sniping silently from the shadows, why would you not?

Warframe does throw you in at the deep end, and especially playing with randoms mostly lacks the necessary coordination to go about things sneakily - which invariable leads to running around really quick and competing for who can shoot more things dead. But once you get along with the game, Sneaky Gameplay - and Open Combat with Sneaky Gameplay Weapons - can be an amazingly gratifying change of pace.

You can go solo, at your own pace, you can explore, collect resources, and all that, level up the "slower" weapons, farm bosses - all the while trying to hide and only be seen, if ever, far too late. If you have buddies that are willing, you can have even more sneaky fun. And the game? Plays completely different. So if you ever feel like you're getting tired of the gung-ho, run and shoot Warframe, give the slower pace a chance.

The Stealth System is surprisingly robust. Note though, that stealth requires not being engaged by a mindless Infestation. Infestation does not work with stealth. At all. I think. Anyway, every Corpus or Grineer mission, every location you first infiltrate unseen. Some missions do require you to make yourself known, but the majority does not. You can decide when to reveal your presence, or to reveal it at all.

Unaltered Enemies will follow their regular patrol patterns, and not that attentively. Hiding, crouched, in a dark corner at a right angle to a patrolling enemy walking past will not get you caught. (Once you run headlong into patrolling enemies because you didn't check your corners, they will see you and shoot at you, however, as the video above shows quite impressively.)

Being crouched does make you harder to spot, but it is not a requirement for the one stealth aspect most that played the game, specifically those that chose Loki as the "Free Starter Frame", will be familiar with: The Melee Stealth-Kill. Sneak, Run even Slide up behind an unaware enemy, and you get a free shot. On anything that offers "shots". Robotic Walkers do not. Don't try. Any melee strike is silent, the stealth kills silent and deadly. But they do not guarantee a kill, unless you do enough damage. Not so important early on, but on higher levels it will be.

Another way to kill silently, and the way to go unless you really, really like endless "sneak behind the one lone guy" missions, are silent ranged weapons. There are several options, from the throw-able melee weapons Glaive and Kestrel, to the Ninja Secondaries Kunai and Hikou, to the Bows. There are mods that can basically put a silencer on many others, but I've never seen one, so I run with the Paris bow and the Kunai throwing knives, both with high Puncture Damage against the armored Grineer. Enemies will react to missed arrows, killed enemies within their sightline, and, well, you. So try to go for the last one in line if you can, then work your way forward. You know, that scene in movies, where the three-man enemy patrol gets slowly decimated, until the leader says something, waits for a reply, then turns to find out he's all alone? That's what you're going for.

Should you, like I do quite frequently, mess up and get into a firefight, all (stealth) is not lost. Things only get irreversibly hot, once an alarm has been sounded. Enemies will very often run towards the next control console instead of shooting at you to raise one, so if you manage to kill them all before the alarm goes off, you will still be undetected. Enemies in nearby rooms, near enough to have heard the gunfire, might come to investigate, or take cover and wait for things to happen, but, being sneaky, you can still go on sneakily. Once you get far enough away from the point of disturbance, enemies will be completely oblivious, and on goes the sneakyness.

Until you really mess up, get caught between rooms so both people in front and behind you are running towards alarms, and once the sirens wail, all out war happens. That's when you get things like lock-downs (which is not a bad thing in certain situations, since if you cannot get out, no new enemies can get in), too. Any kind of alarm goes off, and all enemies in the whole level will be alerted to your presence, location and general dislike of their endeavors. Alert enemies are aggressive, vigilant and generally almost superhuman in their knowledge of where you are - or will appear.

Now, if the alarms are blaring, stealth goes out the window. There's no point to it anymore. Oh, sure, you can still try and flank enemies, or get behind them, and Loki's Invisibility is still very handy, but at the very least melee stealth kills are off the table. You don't even get the prompt anymore. So don't crouch-walk around with the alarms on, all it will do is make you an easier target. Enemies will track you down, and attack relentlessly, so the gloves come off. Now, if you're thinking "never bringing a knife to a gun fight - or a bow, for that matter" - I say to you: Bad Ninja! Look at that Green Hooded Arrow guy.

Granted, the bow requires a bit of skill, skill that I do lack most of the time, but once you get used to the travel time, the slight arc of the arrow, the relatively long wait between "shoot, reload and charge", and haven't thrown your controller into the TV in frustration, the bow is very cool. The Kunai knives might be even cooler, especially in close quarters, although I'm even worse with them than with the bow. They fire and reload pretty fast, though, so I can deal. And, as opposed to the bow, you will rarely run out of secondary ammunition. The bow's arrows come from the Sniper Ammo pool, and those are the rarest ammo drops in the game. Thus, I run with the Arrow Ammo Mutation, converting every unused ammo of any other kind into at least one arrow.

You can't see me. I hit you.
In open combat, it's the bow for the distance, the throwing knives for close range, and the sword (swords/daggers/club/axe/axes/boomerang) when things get personal. Charge attacks, and of course the Loki-Invisibility melee attacks with the inherent critical multiplier, can make short work of most enemies, even with mid-level weapons. And while that might not be immediately apparent in the boss-fight in the vid above, that dude has an insanely quick shield recharge, and I had not really brought any Impact or Electrical Weapons, so I had to "chip away", as they say. I did get the finisher in with the bow, though. Of which I am moderately proud. And so are my parents. Yours will be, too. Trust me.

When Councillor Hek was done in, and the reinforcements laid to rest, violently, all that was left was escape. Just me. And my bow. Her name's Paris. And did I mention, she can shoot through several people in one go?

And those that might ask themselves, why did I have to write all that, and not include some witty commentary on the videos? I did. I really did.

I just didn't turn on the darn microphone...

For all your PS4 needs, especially the European needs, head over to Amazon UK - best deals in Europe (mostly). For TV or Movie Streaming needs, as well. Yes, I do buy there myself. Exclusively. Unless I find a better deal, elsewhere...