Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Warframe - More info, more gameplay

So, as you know, I have been looking into Warframe, lately, and the more I play, the more I enjoy it.

And yet, the more I play, the more I learn, the more I want to share.

As I previously stated, Loki is not my first choice for a starter frame, nor is it my opinion that it's necessarily a bad frame. It's actually quite good, especially when playing with a diverse team, and, once you progress farther into the game Loki can become quite essential - or at least very helpful. Thus it was assured to me by the Warframe Community, and their arguments do have merit.

As you've previously seen some Gameplay with Loki, and since I actually did want to try another frame, I bought a bit of platinum, and got me a Volt. Now, Volt, is a different animal. Volt is offensive and not in the least bit stealthy like Loki. And at least during the first 20 missions, he is quite deadly.

This is some gameplay from an Alert Mission, which is a special randomly occurring event mission, only available for a short time (mostly for 30 or 45 minutes):

WARFRAME PS4 - Alert Mission Mobile Defense

Now, as you can see, Volt can keep his own in this fight, featuring good crowd control and decent defensive abilities. And it is and plays completely different to Loki. Volt is slower, and has no deception or stealth abilities at all. But it is quite fun to play, as you can probably understand. Granted, Volt is especially effective against the synthetic and shielded Corpus enemies, but there's also a Mag Frame in there, that does quite well, too.

Which is something that makes Warframe pretty attractive. Every Frame is almost a completely new game. Mag and Excalibur are two of the more offensive and more immediately gratifying choices for starters, but they are also much easier to come by through the game than Loki. So, ultimately, your choice of initial frame greatly depends on whether or not you plan to spend any money on Warframe. As a US PS-Plus member, you actually get more options, since US PS-Plus nets you a Starter Package with some Mods, an XP and Credit Bonus for three days, 50.000 in game credits (enough to buy two decent weapons, like the Braton AR) and, most importantly, 100 Platinum - enough to buy a second Warframe (either Loki, Excalibur or Volt are available for 75 Plat).

Another thing to think about, is the number of equipment slots you have available. When you start, it's only two Warframe slots and 8 weapon slots. And slots you can only get through Platinum. But there are two ways: Either buy slots separately through your Arsenal-Inventory screen, or buy a weapon or Warframe with Platinum.
Because if you buy with Platinum, you not only get the instant access, but it also comes with a Slot for it, and the weapon or Warframe is "supercharged". Meaning that you have twice the Mod energy available than usual. Mods can only be equipped if you have enough energy, and you get energy by leveling up your weapon or frame. With a "Supercharge" through the Orokin Power Source included in every Platinum purchase (it's already installed, too), you get double the Mod Energy for your level: so a level 10 Frame gets 20 instead of just 10 Mod Energy.
Yes, all of the frames and weapons (even the slightly different Prime Frames and Prime Weapons, although that will require some work) can be gotten through playing the game, and no matter which region you are, you will get some Free Platinum to buy slots, but comparing what you get for the Platinum Purchase (not to mention the free game you get to play), investing a bit might actually be worth it.

Finally, here's some more gameplay, this one sadly with a few bugs showing up, something you will still encounter every once in a while. It's the full first Boss Mission, in a four-man-team, me playing with Volt, so... SPOILER ALERT.

WARFRAME PS4 - Captain Vor Assassination

NEW Videos:

Now we take a look at a little bit of Defense, a Horde-Style, "Survive the Waves and Protect the Thing!" Mission Type.

WARFRAME PS4 - Defense vs. Grineer

Here's some Mobile Defense Gameplay against "The Infested", monster from the deep, spacey beyond... (or maybe they're Mutants. They could be mutants...)

WARFRAME PS4 -Mobile Defense vs. Infested

Finally, some more Mobile Defense against the humanoid Grineer, two parts, one whole Mission, lots of hectic crazy:

WARFRAME PS4 - Mobile Defense Special Alert Mission vs. Grinner

There might be more to come...

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, December 25, 2013

Warframe - A Christmas Present...

It's Christmas! So, merry, merry, and all that.

Seriously, though. Merry Christmas to all that celebrate, and Happy Holidays to all, like me, that simply enjoy a few free days. I'm trying to be nice here, don't spoil it...

Anyway, since it's Christmas, I thought I'd bring you a little present. Thus, let me introduce you to...


Fine, okay, I didn't make it. But it's free, so it counts as a present. Because I said so.

Warframe is a Free-to-Play, Sci-Fi Co-Op Heavy 3rd-Person Shooter, and it's available on PS4 to EVERYONE. Yes, no PS-Plus needed. Interested? You should be. Read on and watch the vids to get set with all of the info you need to start out. Because, while Warframe is quite a good game, it sadly does almost nothing to explain how things work. I will try to change that, but, as I've been told, I am not always right. I'm sure that violates a law of nature somewhere, but it is the truth. There's also still stuff I don't know or haven`t seen yet, but since this article is mainly to provide people with a place to put their feet and not be swept away, it should suffice. If you want, head over to the Warframe Wiki, but be warned, the Wiki is mostly for the PC version, which is usually a bit ahead of the PS4 when it comes to fixes, events, balancing and stats. Finally, this is my personal impression and my personal opinion. Nothing more. Maybe, arguably, significantly less, but it is what it is.

What's it about?
I'm not quite sure. You play as a Tenno, which I guess means "Space Ninja" in a language yet to be made. Your goal is to fight back against Evil. Space Evil. Ninja-Style. It all happens in our familiar solar system, but presumably far, far into the future. You shoot and kill baddies. What more do you need to know? Also, there's an in-game codex with lots of answers, if you really want to know...
The Tenno-You wears a Warframe, an exoskeleton. It looks pretty sleek. It also has powers.

There are many different Warframes with many different abilities (four to each) available, but you only get one of three for free. You can choose which at the end of the tutorial mission, so choose wisely. Actually, choose either Excalibur or Mag. Probably Mag. Loki might sound cool, but where almost every other Warframe has a devastating Area of Effect Attack, killing lots of enemies, Loki's "Ultimate" makes all the guns in his vicinity jam. Yeah.
Don't get me wrong. As I have been told by more experienced members of the Warframe Community, Loki is amazing, especially when complementing a steady crew, and even more so in the later, harder missions, but I did choose him, and I mostly felt like that guy that always comes late to the party. So, I'd advise you to choose either Mag - because it is the most expensive to buy if you don't choose it for free - or Excalibur, which is apparently the hardest of the three to get through the game without paying. Of course, all of this becomes moot, if you don't mind spending a few bucks, and in that regard, Loki, Excalibur and Volt are the three cheapest to get.
The Three Choices - well, actually, Volt has been Replaced by Mag, so...

How does it play?
Well. It's a 3rd-Person Shooter. It comes with a primary weapon (mostly a Rifle), a secondary weapon (mostly a pistol) and a melee weapon (you start with a sword). You can aim-down-the-sights, you can jump, dodge, crouch, sprint, slide, grab ledges, wall run and do some nice combo moves. You can use your Warframe powers.
Every Planet of the System has missions, and missions range from Killing all Enemies in a certain level, to assassinating a Boss.
It's best to be played with up to three friends, since the missions, even early on, can get pretty hard. If you want to see some Solo Gameplay, scroll down to the last three videos for a taste of gameplay with horrible commentary. By me.

What's the Premium/Paying Aspect?
It`s not that bad, actually. You can buy Platinum with real money, and use that Platinum to buy new weapons, Warframes, a Robo-Buddy called a Sentinel, new Skins and Resources. You can speed up the building time for stuff that you will eventually build with resources. You can do a lot. And I won't lie to you, it's not cheap. Then again, there are people that threw hundreds of dollars into that Simpsons Build-a-City F2P mobile game, so the audience is there I guess. When you start you get a small amount of Platinum for free (more if you're a US PS+ member), but, sadly, not enough to really buy something good. It's a free taste, and it's useful especially early on for some small stuff, like weapon slots.
BUT, you can get pretty much all of the stuff you can buy by simply playing the game. It will take a while, though. To build stuff, you need blueprints and resources and credits. All of those can be earned and bought without ever spending a dime. But it will take some time to get them. Well, quite a lot of time. Yes, it's a grind, quite literally, but if you have a few friends to play with, it's a FUN-grind. No, I'm serious. This is not a pay-to-win game, but the incentives to buy with Platinum (a free equipment slot and a supercharge to your purchase) are there - and for such a fun game, the devs do deserve something, right?

How do you get to kill stuff?
Anxious, are we? Alright. First, you download Warframe, then go through the update process. As with many F2P games, content is constantly added, so there are mandatory updates.
Then you play the tutorial, choose your Warframe (don't choose Loki unless you're planning on running with a crew, did your Warframe research far beyond what this article provides, plan on playing Warframe for quite some time and really like being stealthy with a rather steeper and less immediately rewarding learning curve), and then you can go on missions. There's only one mission on one Planet available at the start, so once you enter the Main Menu and select "Play", you choose Mercury, Mission 1 and you can start.

There are a few things to be looked at before, though:

First, default setup is to automatically look online for people to play with. You can change that in the lobby by pressing "Triangle" and selecting options from open matchmaking to playing solo. Enemy Strength scales with player numbers, so if you have friends to play with, set your Online Connectability to Private or Invite Only. Having buddies is not only good for fun, buddies can also revive you if you die. If there`s people with you, once your health reaches zero, you bleed out. During bleed-out, your buddies can revive you, while you can still use your pistol to keep the baddies of their backs.
If they don't make it, well, you can revive yourself. You get 4 free revives a day, reset at 0:00 GMT, but if you run out, you can spend a small amount of Platinum to recharge. Since you have a bit of free Platinum already, it's not that big of a deal at first. But it's good to know, especially since if you die and forfeit the mission, you ONLY get experience. Resources, Weapon and Warframe Mods, anything else you picked up will be gone.

Second, there are a few options you might want to look at: Specifically the control options, for inverted y-axis for camera movement (if you're so inclined), and something very, very useful for pulling off advanced wall-running maneuvers. The Video later on will show this more clearly, but in short, if you like to be able to aim while wall running, you need to set "Hold Jump/X to wall run" to OFF.
One more option of interest is the Maximum Ping for open matchmaking. We all hate laggers, and setting this option to a lower value than the default 300ms will alleviate that somewhat. But it will also limit your matchmaking pool, so be aware.
And lastly, the way to activate your powers: either via the touchpad - which requires a certain dexterity if you want to keep moving and aiming while swiping in a direction; or via the D-Pad and then activate it with L1. Both have disadvantages, but you'll have to try them for a bit to really see what they are. Okay, fine, the touchpad can sometimes choose the wrong power to go off, and it's kinda hard to swipe with your index fingers, while the D-Pad and L1 option makes it really hard to slide and adjust your aim. But that's just me.

What now?

Now that you've been through a mission or two, it's time to look a bit more closely at what this game and its features have to offer. But don't worry, enough with the reading, here come my personal intro videos, with horrible commentary. By Me.

First off, is a look into the menus, the Arsenal where you choose your loadouts and the markets:


Second, here's a look at the Play Screen, the Mission Selection, Mission Types and the different Resources of different Planets:

WARFRAME - MORE THINGS TO KNOW - Missions and Resources

Finally, here's a how-to on doing some of the more Advanced Moves in Warframe. This is especially useful, since the game does nothing to explain all those. This is also where the option change concerning wall-running comes into play.


A few Tips:

Of course, this is not all, and there's still so much I don't know about. Like Clan stuff, the Clan Dojo (where you can apparently spar against other clan members, and even do some research for new weapons). Or the freshly introduced Conclave system, allowing you to fight 1v1 or 2v2 PVP. Mod Fusion and Mod Transmutation. Maximization, special builds for special missions. And more.
Still, I know more than SOMEone, so let me leave you with a few tips:

If you like Warframe, log in every single day. EVERY single day, even if all you do is log-in. Why? Because every day you log in, you enter the log-in-lottery. And the more consecutive days you log in, the better the prices get. I once got a Weapon Blueprint for logging in the fourth consecutive day. It's free stuff for a log in. Just do it.

Buy the Blueprints for Team Heal and Team Ammo, and if you can, build a few and carry them around with you on missions. You equip stuff like that in your Arsenal/Gear by selecting an empty slot and choosing the item you want. You use it by holding "down" on the D-Pad, selecting it with the Right Stick and pressing X.

Buy a Codex Scanner from the Market/Gear and scan enemies for some free XP and info on their abilities, resistances, and possible drops, to be perused in the Codex. You need to equip the scanner in the Arsenal, then use it as you use all gear, and scan enemies during missions (for all the info you need to scan the same enemy type multiple times). When used, the scanner is held instead of a weapon, so you aim with L2 and scan with R2 - but you also need to press "Triangle" to change back to a weapon that can actually shoot. The Scanner not only scans, but it also shows you un-scanned enemies and un-scanned storage containers through walls!

Don't play a Rescue Mission Solo unless it's really far below your current level, or you really, really know what you're doing. Also, don't try a Capture Mission Solo with a slow Warframe. Just trust me on this.

Invest some Money in Platinum. Support the people who made this. I'm not talking about hundreds of dollars, but you get a great game to play with friends. And it's Christmas. Let's show some love.

WARFRAME GAMEPLAY - with horrible commentary. By Me.

This is a three-parter of me playing a Solo Capture Mission. It should give you an idea of what to expect. Of course, this is just me playing an early mission Solo. Things get exponentially crazier the more you progress and the more people are involved.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Enjoy! And for more info and more gameplay of Warframe, visit: Warframe - More info, more Gameplay - Yeah. Subtle, I know.

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, December 9, 2013

Tom Clancy's "The Division" shows off Snowdrop Engine

It's been a while since E3, yet most gamers will still remember their first, and unanimously amazing, impression of Ubisoft Massive's Tom Clancy's The Division. Set in a not so distant future, this 3rd-Person Urban Warfare Online RPG invites you to explore a desolate New York City, ravaged by a deadly virus. And from what we've seen so far, it does look amazing.

If you haven't had a chance to see the official game-play reveal from E3, or just want to see it again and start pining for its release in "late 2014", here it is:

The game-play looked great, the second-screen application revolutionary, the graphics stunning - and yet, it was the closing of a car door - at 3:35 min - that was heard around the world. It showed an attention to detail as real as any game I ever hoped to play.

And most if not all of that, is possible through the newly developed, "tru-next-gen" Snowdrop Engine. Yesterday, Ubisoft and Massive Entertainment showcased the beautiful Snowdrop Engine and its applications in this video featurette:

It still looks amazing. Lighting, Particle Effects, Dynamic Textures, detailed environmental reactions to, well, bullets, this is what most of us expected from the next-gen. And hopefully, it will only get better from here on out.

Personally, I am very, very excited for The Division, maybe even more than for Bungie's Destiny.

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...

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Call of the Battlefield... 4 - with Gameplay Vids

Battlefield - especially Battlefield 3 and Battlefield 4 - has become such a huge event-franchise, that some people - me included - have had a hard time lately remembering why we left Call of Duty in the first place. There's no denying that back in the days of Bad Company and Bad Company 2, Battlefield was a completely different animal.

From the charismatic and enjoyable single-player campaign (where Bad Company 1's many open sandbox levels clearly outshone BC2's more linear approach), to the almost legendary multiplayer maps (where it was the BC2 maps that undoubtedly had found the perfect balance between open, vehicle-dominated spaces, and tight, sub-urban infantry warfare). To this day, the amount of environmental destructibility in BC2 multiplayer, and all the different tactical approaches it offered, has never been matched. Oh, and did I mention that new maps came for free back then?

Thinking back to those days, it does seem weird, how Battlefield 3 could have turned out so horrible. As a good friend of mine once said, "It plays like CoD, but it looks like Shit!" Maps like Seine Crossing, Operation Metro or Grand Bazaar seemed taken straight out of Modern Warfare 3 - albeit with a less intricate map design and hugely inferior graphics. Battlefield Premium introduced a "Pay-for-Maps" approach - that I detest, but understand - and the beginnings of a class-divide between regular and premium players through early map access and exclusive servers . Funny thing in BF3, the much-maligned "Close Quarters"-Expansion was almost enough to balance the scales, as most BF veterans were scratching their heads as to why exactly they paid, in advance, for something nobody wanted: the most blithe and obvious attempt to lure Call of Duty Players onto another Battlefield.

Now, BF4 is here, and I'm afraid it's once more a lot more like BF3 than Bad Company 2. There are a few great, open maps, with destructible environments reminiscent of Arica Harbor, or Heavy Metal, but there`s also... well, it's called "Operation Locker", but it's really "Operation Metro" in some kind of high-up in the mountains detention facility. And playing it with 64 people on Conquest Large is just a sad, sad, joke. And the real "Operation Metro" will actually make an appearance as part of the (timed Xbox One Exclusive) Expansion "Second Assault", a map pack consisting of BF3 remakes, along with "Gulf of Oman", "Operation Firestorm" and "Caspian Border". Apparently, those were all "fan favorites" - but there is hope that the new "Levolution" and increased destructibility might bring some fresh air into those subway tunnels, but looking at the almost non-existent environmental destruction of "Operation Locker", hopes are not that high.

Why would DICE include these maps? Well, on one hand, of course, it's about preserving the player base from BF3, many of which hailed from Call of Duty and do expect tight-spaced, twitch-based infantry game-play. Then there's always the attempt to convert even more of the CoD crowd with small, simple, linear maps. Personally, I think their strategy is even bigger than that, as the only way to NOT have to suffer through the occasional CoD-like maps is to rent your own server and choose your own maps, as the official servers all have the same playlists. Basically, they make you hate something so much that you'll pay extra to get around it. It works, too. After only two matches on Operation Locker I was willing to pay anything (reasonable) to never have to play it again.

Sadly, those are not the only problems, as the game's launch has been plagued by an almost ridiculous amount of bugs, from constant crashes to one bullet doing twice the damage. And launching a game on five different platforms is only a partial excuse. At least DICE has now halted development on all their other titles and BF4 expansions until the bugs are gone. Which might take a while.

Still, it has its moments, and on the good maps, when it works it's fun. As such, I have included here some game play taken via the PS4's share function. The Clips don't look as good as the real thing - and I don't play as well as I'd like to - but it's a lot better than BF3. So don't judge. But you may laugh...

Also, I will keep adding more gameplay vids here, so visit back to laugh some more!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Long Road to... my Next Generation Console

The Road so Far:
Sammy, we need a new console.

"Carry on my Wayward Son! There'll be peace when you are done."
"You know: Wasting time, playing games: the family business!"
And so on and so forth...

I came a long way. From my Coleco Vision and Zaxxxon 3D, to an NES, a Gameboy, a Playstation, a PS2, PSP up to the Xbox 360 - with a few bouts of PC gaming in between, it's been a long road to this next generation of consoles for our hero (that's me).

And it ended, for now, not as I expected on the Xbox One, but on the Playstation 4. Yes. After almost 7 years of Xbox 360, I made the jump. My reasons are many and mysterious, and yet, I actually was set on the Xbox One until about four days before the release date. I had both pre-ordered since they were available, so I did have the choice, but damn me, if that choice wasn't hard.

For a long, long time, long before the Xbox One and PS4 reveals, Xbox was my first choice, simply out of convenience. I've been there, done that, know my way around, and have found lots of friends. Some of those I actually like.

On the other hand, I've had my problems with Xbox and Xbox Live, most specifically because of their many regional restrictions. As a humble, and thoroughly annoyed citizen of the Kingdom of Censorship (that's Germany), not only do games often get, you guessed it, censored (or not released at all), but more horrible is without a doubt, that a lot of games (Digital Game on Demand Downloads and Disc Versions) and DLCs, are NOT in English.

Seriously, you'd think in this age of the global village, the dominant gaming language (outside of Asian RPGs) would be a mandatory feature. Germany doesn't think so. Companies like Bethesda and Square Enix are infamous for only featuring German, French and maybe Spanish on German retailer sold discs. When it comes to digital downloads of games or DLC on Xbox Live, those same companies, in collusion with Microsoft, very often restrict users of German Xbox Live accounts to German versions said content. Famous examples of great games totally ruined by Bad German Dubbing: Halo 3/ODST/Reach/4, Crysis 2, The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion and Skyrim, Dishonored, Tomb Raider (Reboot), Sleeping Dogs, Fable 3, and the list goes on.

Why is that horrible? Well, if you've ever heard the abysmal German voice "acting", or had to suffer through "translations" that didn't even make sense, whether content-wise or grammatically, you'd know.
Crysis 2: While the left is perfectly fine, the right is a word-by-word translation of "Most Lethal" that does NOT make any sense in German.
So, while the English versions of games can often boast famous actors performing scripts by experienced writers, the Germans have to make do with third string voice "actors" going off translations that make Google Translate look like... well, the Translator. It's why I constantly have to import my games from the UK - which means I mostly get them after the weekend on which it was supposed to be released.

But I digress. As I said, I was set on the next-gen Xbox, right until that big reveal to introduce the Multi-Media Device called Xbox One. It wasn`t just a video game console, it was supposed to be the "One Box to Rule them All" in your living room. TV, Skype, Internet... And I couldn't care less. I don't watch much TV, and if I watch movies, the English original has become mandatory, something German TV doesn't do. And I already have my PC hooked up to my living room TV. I wanted to play games. But, as good old (and since encouraged to leave) Xbox CEO Don Mattrick said back then, E3 will be where the games are at, and there would be amazing games, in full HD, as behooves a next-gen console.

Truth be told, I hadn't even bothered with the PS4 reveal, so set was I on Xbox, and so disappointed was I, when the hoped-for good news at E3 went sour:
Xbox One games cannot be sold used, discs are basically installation vectors, and yet, the games will still be much more expensive than equivalent PC games via services like Steam or Origin, after which that policy of "Usage Licenses for Games" was obviously designed.
Xbox One needs to be connected to the internet once every 24 hours so validate these licenses, and if you cannot do that, it turns into a very nice bookend.

"By the balls, they have us!"
Kinect 2.0 is mandatory and required to even use the console - if it breaks or you unplug that
"High-Tech Surveillance Equipment" (as German politicians have named it), there`s that bookend again.
Giving a game to friend... I don't even want to think about that.

It was as if Xbox One had thought about all the things that'd piss me, personally, off, and then made those things their policy. Sony only needed to show up, then. And show up they did. Who does not fondly remember the "Instructional Videos" Sony did on giving a PS4 game to a friend?
Sony's PS4 came with a lot of power - for gaming, and not much else.
And in the following months, I became a strong PS4 supporter.

The "Xbox One-80 Day" did change that a bit. No more licenses, no more internet checks, used games work like always, and while Kinect was still in the box, you didn`t need it to operate the X1. Don Mattrick left Xbox,  shortly thereafter, and it has been hinted that he was encouraged to do so.
And then there was "The Power of the Cloud", but I admit I was always more intrigued by Microsoft's promise of Dedicated Servers for every single MP game through that cloud. I have seen many a great game die because of bad online connections and lag - Crysis 2, Crysis 3, Ghost Recon Future Soldier and, lately, Splinter Cell: Blacklist come to mind - so the availability of those 300.000 Azure servers being used to get rid of transatlantic lobbies with Australians, Americans and Europeans and a Brazlian with a dial-up connection as the host was very intriguing.

And, looking at the game presentations from E3, especially Titanfall and Ryse, the 10% processing power that the X1 always keeps away from games for their Multi-Media Features, did not seem to matter much. Both games were shown in full 1080p and 60FPs, and they did look beautiful.

When I then heard about the pseudo-dedicated servers Killzone Shadowfall would get (namely none - the game logic will still be host/client Peer-2-Peer, just like pretty much all current-gen games do it already), and that despite Sony's promise of all First-Party titles getting Dedicated Servers, I slowly began drifting again.
I like killing people. Online. In games. And there`s nothing more frustrating, than seeing bad connections or shoddy netcoding not live up to any game's promise of allowing you to do that killing.

So, I thought, the games look great, and they'll all have dedicated servers, even the small niche games that I seem to find so appealing, and I already have an Xbox Live account paid up until next year, do I really want to make that jump into the unknown?
I've heard a few scary stories about the Playstation Network, and Sony's apparent lack of concern when it comes to keeping it functioning. Xbox Live has been very dependable for quite a long time, and they surely have the experience when it comes to providing good online features, while the PSN, especially as a now paid-for subscription, seems to be still in its baby shoes.
Should I go with what I know, and know that it will (mostly) work, or go with what I tend to think of as the better console and the better approach to gaming in general? No matter how tempting an offer of unlimited dedicated servers might be, I still had a bad taste in my mouth from what Xbox had tried to force on gamers, their approach to Indie-Developers and their lack of focus on games. Actually, their 180 turnaround left me respecting them even less. If they really believed that their vision was the future, they should've stuck to their guns and ride out the storm... or something.

Once more, I was undecided, and the more I thought about it, the more I had to admit, that I don't know much at all about the PSN. I had heard that there's no regional IP filtering, that all games and DLC are region free, and making an account that was not afflicted by Germany isn't a big problem, but that was the PS3. There was no telling if that would still apply to the PS4. And I am notoriously lazy. The thought of having to get familiar with all the intricacies of a new platform, a new service were daunting. More and more I was swinging back to the Xbox One, and the bigger price tag, useless features and the Spy-Toy be damned.

And it stayed that way, until Resolution Gate arrived. Only a few weeks before the launch, some very worrisome news broke about the Xbox One: most launch games would not run in 1080p. Or at 60FPS. Some will even run in only 720p at 30 frames per second. Assassin`s Creed 4? 720p at 30FPS. COD Ghosts? 720p at 60FPS. Ryse? 900p at 30FPS. Battlefield 4? 720p at 60FPS. Only Forza 5 would run in 1080p and 60FPS, but as a racing game, the computational demands to the hardware are a lot lower than shooters, for example. It was not at all what next-gen gamers were expecting, especially since Sony had no issues confirming that all of those games (not the Xbox exclusive Ryse, of course) except BF4 would run in 1080p. It also stood in stark contrast to the full HD E3 presentations. Which then, of course, were called into question, and, as it turned out, rightfully so. Apparently, most if not all of those presentations had not been running on Xbox One Software Developer Kits - but on High-End Windows 7 PCs.

The reason for this discrepancy is the apparently quite complicated structure of the Xbox One, most likely the memory configuration, that for now has developers a bit stumped when it comes to optimization. While most developers talked about how easy and straightforward it was to design and program for the PS4, more and more were now saying that it was quite the opposite wit the Xbox One. And again it seems like Sony and Microsoft have switched places with this next-gen, as the PS3 had very similar issues with its complicated structure, especially when it comes to cross-platform games.

On the other hand, maybe those things were to be expected for a console still in its infancy. Developers soon learned to use the PS3 pretty well, after all, and rumors had it, that the Xbox SDKs were pretty late in getting to the developers - about six months later than Sony's did. Launch games might not be up to snuff, but surely the second wave would bring us full HD gaming as expected.

Yet, when Infinity Ward Executive Producer Mark Rubin was asked about why "Call of Duty Ghosts" did not run in 1080p on Xbox One, and talked a bit about the complications developers are facing with the unfamiliar and convoluted console architecture, he inadvertently mentioned that other developers have made a similar decision: Lower the Graphics and Keep the High Frame Rate. He even mentioned that Xbox One exclusive and, arguably, the winner of E3, Titanfall, is set to be released in 720p as well. And Titanfall is not due to be release until Spring 2014, a definitive second wave release, by which time late SDKs won't count as an excuse anymore. And a little more research found me an article, that eagerly expected Bungie game Destiny shows significantly less graphical quality in its Alpha Version on Xbox One than PS4.

Best. Game. Ever.
Shadows loomed over my gaming future, and for a few days I thought about just forgetting about the next generation, get a PS3 and play all those exclusives I missed out on. God of War, Uncharted, inFamous - not to mention the HD Remake of my personal "Best Game Ever", Shadow of the Colossus. Since it was clear by now, that neither console would feature backwards compatibility, that option became increasingly attractive. But damn it, I wanted that next gen to start right now. I didn't want to be left out, and I had already looked too much into the next-gen games to let go of it, now.

And now, PS4 looked pretty sexy again. Still, the promise of dedicated servers held sway. But... Well. But. What about that promise? Was it still valid? It wasn't like MS had never before pulled back on promises. So I went ahead and did some research, and... it wasn't good. From "Dedicated Servers for every single game" it went to "Free Dedicated Servers are available for every developer who chooses to use them" to "Easily affordable Dedicated Servers" - although that last might not be accurate anymore. And then a good friend working in the business told me, that not every developer will even make use of those "free" dedicated servers - and that he fully expects that most next-gen games on all platforms will get dedicated servers anyway, once the next-gen comes fully into its stride.

More and more confusion. And no more guaranteed dedicated servers for Xbox One. And the big upcoming games I'm most looking forward to might not even be affected. Destiny will have a combination of dedicated servers and Peer-2-Peer on both platforms. The Division will have dedicated servers on every platform. Thief won't need dedicated servers for what I fully expect to be a single player-focused game. What was left was to look at the Exclusives, and truth be told, none of the Xbox exclusives made me want to stick with what I now conceived to be the weaker gaming console.
I don't like racing games in general, and naming a revolutionary online component "Drivatar" actually made me hate Forza 5 for no reason.
Dead Rising 3 might look like fun, but apparently it's mostly fun if you don't play the story.
Ryse is forever locked in my head as a failed Quick-Time-Event, and Crytek have long lost my appreciation as a studio.
Finally, Titanfall. It did look pretty crazy in the presentations. But the finished game apparently won`t even look as good, and with an online-only title, what happens if you don't like the online game play? No matter how great it might look, these are the people that committed Modern Warfare 2, including Marathon-Lightweight-Commando. And I'm not one for the COD-twitch play style - I'm old, and lonely. I don't need 10year-olds to go crazy on me with their dreadfully good reflexes.

So, the Xbox exclusives wouldn't win me over, what about the PS4?
Killzone Shadowfall does look nice, and I loved the old Killzone games on PS2. I had also heard great things about the KZ Multiplayer - and yet, the reviews were not really great.
The Order 1886 had werewolves. I don't know if that's a good thing.
inFamous: Second Son looks nice, but as I never played an inFamous game, looks can be deceiving.
And apart from those, there are a few Indie Titles, but that seems to be it. No matter what you want to say about the Xbox One, they do have the more interesting exclusives.

The inability to decide was pretty painful at the time, and the Xbox One release date was coming very, very close, now. So I finally succumbed to taking an in-depth look at the Playstation Network - and Playstation Plus, the paid subscription. I still had an old PSN ID, registered in the UK from back in my PlayStation Portable days, and it seemed to be still active, so at least my usual Gamer Handle would be there for me - and, hopefully, my language concerns wouldn't be an issue. Until I found out, that for paying for stuff, you need a credit card, debit card, or PayPal account registered in your account's country. Thankfully, you can load your PSN wallet with pre-paid cards, get subscriptions through the same kind of vouchers, and both are easy to buy online from wherever you are. It might not be as convenient as entering your credit card info once and never be bothered again, but it was something I had lived with on Xbox Live for a long time, and, as such, definitely doable.
More interesting, though, was PS Plus, now a necessity for playing online multiplayer on PS4. You get discounts, sure. But you also get your Instant Game Collection, which means access to a selection of free games as long as you remain a Plus member, with new games permanently added each month, and different additional games offered for download for a certain time. And not just 5 year old games nobody wanted to buy, or little Indie Titles nobody wanted, period. It leaves the still relatively fresh "Games with Gold" initiative from rival Microsoft pretty far behind - even more so, since the PS Plus Instant Game Collection will include PS4 titles, while "Games with Gold" is not planned to extend from Xbox 360 to Xbox One. Additionally, if the master account on a PS4 has PS Plus, all other accounts get the same benefits, including use of the Instant Game Collection and Online Multiplayer. It's something Xbox One does as well, though, but again, they have no free games.

By then, I was pretty sure that I didn't really want the Xbox One, anymore, so I cancelled my pre-order three days before release. It was harder than you might think, and I instantly regretted it. I regretted it even more when I had to watch all of my Xbox Live buddies upgrade on launch day and play their Xbox One and rave about it. But I had decided, and I wanted to be steadfast in my decision. No Xbox One for me. But did I want a PS4? Did I really? My Xbox still had a few good games to happen to it, Dark Souls 2 first and foremost, and the PS3 has some great games I never played for a lot less money. I could get a PS3, PS Plus, and be busy for months if not years with all the free games and exclusive franchises.

In the end, I wanted my next generation now. And I don't regret it. Of course, the beginning was tumultuous, as PSN broke down on the European Launch, and for a few hard hours I wished I had not bought a 400€ bookend. The next day got even worse, when I thought that PSN had swallowed about 40€ of vouchers. But they sorted it out, and one day after launch, at least my experience was fully satisfactory. And I already have two free games for PS Plus.
Not everything is perfect, though. My old Xbox 360 Surround Sound Gaming Headset is not really working with the controller, so I have to use the horrible PS4 ear-bud and mic that came in the box beneath my headset's ear cups to chat and hear chat. The DS4 is a great controller, but after being used to the Xbox 360 controller for so long, I still need to retrain my brain and my hands.

But I am happy. I feel like I made the right decision. I wanted a gaming console, and that`s what the PS4 is. It's fast, the games look great, and - initial problems aside - the PSN seems to work fine. I even managed to share a video online, and it was almost ridiculously easy. Granted, the PS4 shares videos on facebook and not youtube, but since google wants youtube to be the new facebook, I guess it's fair enough.

So, if you're still unsure about what system you might get, maybe this will be helpful to you. If you already have your next-gen system, feel free to laugh at my odyssey. Whatever your decision, I really hope you like it.

Whether it's PS4 or Xbox One, there's really no "right" or "wrong" here - only "right or wrong for you".

Monday, September 16, 2013

Splinter Cell - FanFiction: The Day they took Sam's Voice away...

About Three Months before the Blacklist began...

He was supposed to be out. After what happened in Washington, he had more than earned an out. He was supposed to be gone, retired, away. He was supposed to be with his daughter.Washington, the attack, Grim's team of "Replacement Sams", he was supposed to be done with it. But "it" wasn't done with him, it seemed.

And so here he was, hanging from a pipe in a shadowy corner near the ceiling of a formerly abandoned warehouse, and his left leg just started to cramp up on him. Crap. He really was getting too old for this shit.

It had been one these terrible coincidences usually reserved for video game tie-in novels. An overheard conversation, some suspicious behavior, and suddenly all of Sam's instincts had screamed for him to do something - and so he did. A part of him had been glad to know he hadn't lost his edge. That same part was cowering in shame ever since he had realized that his suspected terrorist plot was nothing more than a small local drug-lab. And although he would never admit it, he was eternally grateful to Grim for not mentioning it, or bailing out on the "mission".

He had contacted Grim - albeit with some reservations - shortly after spotting the "Cell". Their behavior had indicated that something was about to happen, and Sam had forced himself to swallow his pride, and called the woman who had been his friend and handler, who had probably more than once saved his life on a mission with crucial Intel. The last time they saw each other she had shot him. (Granted, she'd had good reasons. And a few days before he had slapped her around a bit, but she had asked for that. Literally.) Still, now he didn't know what she was to him.

Grim, on the other hand, was as professional as always, and more than willing to use Sam once more if it helped prevent a terrorist attack.
"Sam, is there a problem?" she'd said when she picked up. She hadn't even asked who it was.
Hey Grim. Nice to hear your voice, too. How have you been? Faked someone's daughter's death, lately? But who was he kidding. He wouldn't say that. She knew what it would take for him to call her, and time might be of the essence.
"Hey Grim. Nice to hear your voice, too. How have you been? Faked someone's daughter's death, lately?" he said. Well, what do you know? Old dog, new tricks.
"Sam. Is there a problem?" Grim's voice was almost as cold as before, albeit with a hint of annoyance. Sam took a completely childish amount of satisfaction from that.
After he had filled her in, she said: "I can have a Satellite with IR on your location in 30 minutes, a SWAT Team in 35, but from what you have told me, I recommend you go in now."
"I'm not armed." Sam said.
"You have your left arm, and your right arm. I believe you are "armed" enough."
"Thanks for the vote of confidence."
Silence. Then:
"I will stay with you on comms and provide Intel support."

And so she had, trying to get a make on Sam's terrorists, then, when Sam had tracked them to their hideout, providing him with a blue-print layout of the warehouse on his phone and several different paths of entry (a fire escape, a drainage pipe, a window, and he was in). All the while she had been her usual, professional self, even when "terrorism" was revealed to be "small-time meth-cooking" (she did cancel the Infra-Red satellite request, however). It had been Kobin who first named her to Sam as the "Ice Queen", and it might have been one of the most astute things that despicable little creep had ever said.

Thinking of the man who had bragged about killing Sam's daughter, even if just for show, made Sam want to hurt things. "People-Things". And almost as if on cue, one of the drug dealers, a kid no older than 25, a baby, really (my God, had he grown old) went into the corner to take a leak.  Sam's corner. The guy was going to regret that.

"Baby" was dressed in baggy pants, a hoodie, and the obligatory "gangsta"-accessory of a shiny, new Glock in his waistband. What had initially confused Sam into thinking "terrorists" was that Baby, as well as his three Compadres ("Uno", "Dos" and "Tres", each right now "cooking" at one of the three stations in the center of the room with those ridiculous gas-masks on), had a decidedly Middle-Eastern look about them. From the way they talked, though - "Bitch"-this, "Fuck"-that, and all - they were at least second or third generation Americans. As if further support of that theory had been necessary, Baby steadfastly refused to stop texting on his Smart-Phone while "doing his business" one-handed.

Ignoring the cramp in his leg, Sam carefully reversed his position on the pipe - head down, now, with his back to the pipe - then slowly inched towards his unsuspecting prey. It put tremendous pressure on his legs and thighs, but it left his arms free, so he ignored the discomfort. He was going to be sore in any way. He also was definitely out of shape, and that fact irked him to no end.
Closer and closer he got, the shadows masking his dark form from a few casual glances, until Baby happened to look straight up - and straight at him. Sam let go with his legs, sliding down fast the final two yards, then clamped down hard, stopping with Baby`s head within easy reach. A hard punch behind Baby's right ear, and the drug dealer's legs gave out. Releasing and then pushing off with his own legs, Sam somersaulted silently to the ground, managing to catch both Baby and his cellphone before either could crash to the floor and give away his presence. Baby opened his eyes, stunned, but still conscious. Tough little bastard. Sam hit him again, ending consciousness and breaking Baby's nose in the process. He deserved it. Sam had gotten pee on his boots.
For a few seconds he waited, tense, ready to spring into action, Baby's Glock now in his hands. They might be kids, but they had guns, and if they left him no other option he would put them out. But nothing happened. His little takedown drew no reaction. He had to smile. He still had it.

Suddenly, there was something happening, a commotion near the cooking stations, where Uno, Dos and Tres had been busy making new product in the wide-open center of the warehouse. A few frantic shouts, then even more frantic footsteps. Had Sam been detected after all? But no, the steps were running away from him, towards the main entrance, and no sooner had he thought that, than he heard the doors banging open.
"Sam, what's going on?" There was an edge of concern in Grim's voice now. Who knew she cared?
"Something spooked them," Sam growled, speaking for the first time since he had entered the place. "Three of them are running, I-"
Then he spotted it: a broken flask, an overturned Bunsen-burner, bubbling chemicals - and running, panicking Meth-Cookers. He turned, grabbed Baby's limp body and made for the nearest window.
"It's going to bl-"
Some immeasurable force hit him from behind, lifted him up off his feet. The world, or maybe a window, burst into a million pieces. Someone was pouring fire down his throat and his lungs.
Then there was darkness.

There were voices down in that darkness. Faces. The Dead. Men he'd killed, and others whose deaths he couldn't prevent. Doug Shetland, a man who used to be his friend, whom Sam had shot on a rooftop long ago. John Hodge, Killed In Action at Sam's side. Lambert... Lambert, the one who hurt and had hurt him the most. Sarah. Grim. People he didn't know.

Stop. No. Sarah wasn't dead. Nor Grim. What was this? Light. People. People talking.
He tried to focus.
Grim talking. A male voice, a strange voice, answering.

"... was some scarring to... Well, you'll see. We did what we could."
More light, darkness fading. Words he understood, but their meaning didn't register.
"Scarring? What kind of scarring?" Grim's voice again, real concern there. Concern about what?
Then the words did register. Concern about him. And Sam clawed at the darkness, willing his eyes to open, fearing what he might see.
"He's waking up. He's waking up."
It was Grim, her face close to his. Her skin so soft, her hair shiny red silk, and her, so cold, so pretty, a diamond in ice.  Okay. That was not right. He had to stop that crap, right now. He blinked, hard, took a ragged breath. It hurt, and he welcomed the pain, the focus it brought. They must have pumped him full of drugs and pain-killers. He had to watch his mouth.
"Sam? Sam!" Grim was talking to him again, her lips moving, those lips, and Goddammit! he had to focus! He fixed his eyes on her. He tried to nod. It didn't work.
"You`re in a hospital. The Meth-Lab exploded. Do you remember?"
 A flash of light, flying through the air, hitting something hard, flames. He wasn't sure he remembered, wasn't sure he wanted to, but his body sure as hell did.
"You dragged out that kid and you've been caught in the blast. You've been in and out of it for a few days now, but the doctor says you'll be fine." More concern, now, in her voice, on her face, and it was contagious.
"But... the, the... Okay, just... the Doctor's going to remove the bandages from your face, now. Okay?"
Sam tried the nod again, and this time he actually managed to move his head. It hurt, but it helped wake him up, feeling returning to his limbs. An explosion. He'd been caught in an explosion. Hesitantly, he started moving fingers, toes, arms and legs, indescribably relieved to feel everything there and responding.
A new face stepped into view, a man in a lab coat, spectacles, a bow tie.
"Please, do not move now." the Doctor said.
Slowly, carefully, as if at any moment he expected to find pieces of flesh falling off, the Doctor peeled off the bandages. Sam's eyes were fixed on Grim the whole time. Her face would tell him how bad it was. There was hope. Then concern. Then something he never hoped to see in her face, to see in any woman's face: barely concealed horror.
Sam tried to talk, take the initiative, anything to stop feeling this helpless, but his throat felt like it had been strewn with rusty, old razor-blades. The doctor reached out and gave him a small plastic beaker of water, the kind old people use. Sam could barely hold it with both hands. But the cool liquid felt like rain on desert sand, and for a second there, he was in bliss.
Then Grim started talking, calm, composed Grim, talking to him soothingly. He had never been more scared in his life.
"Sam, I- I`m sorry, it's... " She sighed, struggling with or for the words. "I won't lie to you, Sam. It's- it's bad. Your face, it's... it's just like before."
And then she smirked. Grim. A crack in the ice. And Sam decided right then that he might actually grow to like her again. He didn't relish that he had to get blown up for it to happen, but "every silver lining", and so on.
Another snicker, this one louder and less cordial, drew Sam's attention. The man, the kid, stood in a corner, casually leaning against the wall, but his attitude pretty much owned the whole damn hospital. Black, military bearing, late 20s, early 30s, fit. The way he carried himself tried to scream "lethality", but Sam could take him, he knew that. And as soon as he remembered how to move his legs, he would go over there and wipe that smile off his face. Any time, now. Oh, who was he kidding?
Sam grunted wryly, fighting hard not to laugh himself - he knew well that laughing always hurt. He tried talking again, and although still rough, he managed to bring out a few words.
"Yeah, yeah, make fun of the injured-"
Then he stopped. Something was wrong. Very, very wrong. Grim was staring at him. She had heard it, too.
"What the hell is wrong with my voice?!" His voice. Was this his voice?
Grim's concern suddenly seemed very real.
"What the hell is wrong with his voice?! Doc?"
Sam's eyes fixed on the Doctor, as the man took a tentative step forward, cleared his throat, suddenly somewhat nervous. Sam's eyes will do that.
"Well, both the ventricular and aryepiglottic folds were-" he started.
Grim's face showed slight annoyance at the Doctor's use of medical jargon, but she remained quiet. Sam on the other hand, turned one rough word into a threat.
The Doctor sighed heavily. "You... practically inhaled burning liquid. Which, as most doctors will tell you, is `bad´". He did those air-quotes with his hands when he said "Bad". Sam hated people who did the air-quotes.
"Doc." A death-threat, now. Violent and slow.
Fidgeting, the Doctor started talking, trying to sound indignant, but with more than just a little bit of "apologetic" and "please don't kill me" in his voice. "You burnt your vocal chords. As I said, there was some scarring. We had to... improvise. "
Improvise. "You changed my voice?!" Of course they had, he could hear it well enough.
"We... saved your voice."
Sam felt like hurting things, again.
"You changed my voice." Not a question, now.
"We did what we-"
"You 'Michael Long'-ed my voice!" Sam growled, the anger immediately silencing the blabbering doctor. The anger felt familiar, and now Sam was most definitely awake.
"What with the who, now?" It was the black kid, still trying - and failing - to sound cool and aloof.
Before Sam could vent a bit of his anger at the kid, the Doctor once more tried to defend something he should by any right be proud of having achieved in the first place. "We-"
But Grim laid a hand on his arm, silencing him just as effectively, but a lot more gently, than Sam had. Then she looked at Sam, and he saw something else in her face he didn't like: compassion.
"Sam," she said. "It's... it's not that bad." And yet her voice made it sound pretty damn bad, indeed. "We... we can get used to it... " A pause. Then, quieter, "Eventually..."
"You 'Michael Long'-ed my voice..." that strange voice said again, and it took him a moment to realize it was his voice, his voice like a stranger in his head.
"Who's 'Michael Long'?", the black kid asked. My God, how young was he? Who was he to even be in here?
"Oh, you know." said the voice that might be Sam. "Michael Long, Michael Knight, The Foundation for-" The look that kid gave him then, between confused and amused, fired Sam's anger up again. "Goddammit. Hasselhoff!"
The black kid turned to the Doctor, speaking quietly, but intentionally loud enough for Sam to hear.
"Doc, did he get hit on the head really hard?"
"Oh, shut up." Sam tried to growl, but his voice didn't seem to work that way anymore. It sounded really... young. "And stop making me feel old."
"I don't see how I can..." That grin again. Oh, how Sam wanted to wipe it off the kid's face with something heavy. "I mean, that actually is one of those rare things that are literally biologically impossible."
The fact the kid was even here, meant he was in Grim's confidence. He was important enough to be here. And Sam figured he owed Grim both for the extraction and the medical care. She`d probably even foot the bill.  He considered being grateful and diplomatic for almost a full second. For Sam, that was a very long time.
"Listen up, kiddo-", he said, and the way he said that last word immediately made the little guy square up and bristle. Sam smiled.
Then the Doctor stepped in, and Sam had to respect the man's courage to put himself between two so obviously dangerous men. Or maybe he was just stupid. With smart people, that's hard to tell, sometimes.
"Alright." the Doctor said, regaining a little authority. "The patient needs rest."
Sam didn't think so. "The patient needs a blunt object to teach today's youth an object lesson in respect." he growled, and was inwardly glad that despite the higher pitch, it sounded menacing enough. He hoped.
The Kid of course, didn't back down, either. "Who are you again?" he asked, taunting Sam. "Your face is familiar, but the voice is all wrong..."
"That's enough, both of you!" And there she was again, the Ice Queen, asserting her authority. "Sam, you do need rest. Briggs? You will shut up. Doc?" she said, turning to the Doctor. "Take good care of him." Sam had a few choice words on his lips about who'd need taking care, but bit them back when she added: "He's still needed." Yes, he might really start to like her again.
She squeezed Sam's hand, with a smile, then she and the Kid - Briggs, his name was Briggs, Sam had to remember that. Grim and Briggs left, and then the Doctor began talking about treatment options and rehab, but Sam wasn't listening. He suddenly felt very tired.

He was getting old. He knew it would happen, had thought he would welcome it happening. He thought he had wanted to be out, but if he was honest with himself, retirement was driving him crazy. There was nothing in the world like being out there on the razor's edge between life and death. And if there`s one thing he had learned on that latest "mission", it was that he missed the weight of his tri-focals on his head. The real ones. Not that Sonar-Thing.
But was he still sharp enough? It wasn't like he had just put up a stellar performance. After all, here he was, an old man in a hospital bed. Or was he? He wasn't that old. Harrison Ford had made that horrible Indiana Jones 4 (that scene with the fridge really didn't make any sense), and he was what, then? 66? And let's not forget Sean Connery ("My right thumb. Left one's much too powerful for you." Classic.)
Maybe he could shape up again. Maybe hit up Victor for a job. Maybe do some consulting. Maybe...

This short story is fan-fiction. It was written for fun and enjoyment, and, as such, is not exactly part of the official "Canon". To find out what happens next, go play Splinter Cell: Blacklist.

All Characters and Trademarks are owned by their respective owners.

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... 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Splinter Cell: Blacklist - Spies vs. Mercs - Well-Intentioned Advice

Splinter Cell Blacklist PvP

Thanks for help and pointers in this go to oO_ShadowFox_Oo (especially for his invaluable work figuring out the melee-system), IcemanGBR, Decimationist, Johnmon604, Soldiersback and more on the official Ubisoft Blacklist Forums - where I am already immortal as P4NCH0theD0G.

Special Thanks for the use of their videos and the screenshots go to AoR-Raven and his buddies at Red Cell Gaming (Red Cell's Youtube Channel, check it out...)

God, I'm probably really the wrong person to give advice, but... anyway. I like to read myself... uhm, write. I guess.


So, before we go to the actual game, let's check on something else: Your connection and the possibility of lag. As a Peer-2-Peer game (one player acts like a server to host the match, the other players are his clients), lag is sadly often inevitable, especially if you find yourself in a lobby with people from another continent.

Let's take a look at your situation:

 How long will it take to come back?
First off, where exactly are you located?
If it's Australia or something, there's not much you can do about the lag, except maybe sacrifice a virginal Drop Bear, and hope to play matches only with your countrymen.

Second, is your Connection good?
Are you using the same connection as others, like a shared home-network? If so, do others use a lot of bandwidth while you are playing? Especially uploading anything can severely restrict your internet speed.

Third, is your NAT open?
You can test this by testing your connection on PS3 or Xbox 360 from the System/Network tab on the dashboard. If it says there might be a problem (moderate NAT Type 2), google to find out how to open your NAT (PS3 / Xbox 360). An open NAT will not solve all your problems, but it may very well improve your connectivity.

All of that done, then okay. It's just that some the problems people encounter seem like a bit of lag to me, and there are some things you can do to minimize it.

Be Open to New Relationships

If you are open to other people joining you in your party, change your Party Privacy to Open, so players from matches you are in can just join you or you can join them. You do that in your Multiplayer SvM lobby before you start searching for a match.
If you find some random you had a good match with, that will allow you to easily team up.
Trust me, it helps.

General - Preparation

The Six P`s: Proper Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance.

Learn the maps. 

It's crazy how much you can miss because there is a timer running down and objectives to do and people to kill. Go into a private match with a buddy and just run around, get to know some hiding places etc.

It helps to know which routes to avoid or ambush.

But do not, not ever, go and try Spawn Killing/Trapping people. Even if it's done to you, be better than that.

 Use your Mic. 
And don't be afraid to just start talking. A lot of people are shy, but even if they don't respond, they can hear you if you call out enemies. And if all else fails, just try to stick with your teammates. It's always good to have backup.

Find a buddy to play with. 
There's this thread on the Ubi-forums to post your tag or look for others' : http://forums.ubi.com/showthread.php...co-op-SvM-with!
Having even one person you can coordinate with is of immense help.

Don't play TDM.
Seriously, though, the objectives force people into action, away from hiding points and into the fray. Team Deathmatch, especially with all-spy teams, often end in nothing but looking at people through walls and waiting until someone moves.
Then again, what do I know?

Game Modes:

Spies vs. Mercs Classic / Hardcore 2v2:
  • 2v2, Spies versus Mercs (Hardcore has a "level 20" minimum requirement)
  • Two 10-min rounds, one round played on each side
  • Unlimited Lives 
  • Respawn Timer: 20 seconds
  • Pre-set classes
  • Spies have no lethal long-range weapons and only Night-Vision Goggles, but a stun crossbow and several gadgets
  • Mercs have Guns with flashlights, frags, gas grenades, mines and an ammo-pack.

Three consoles are located on the map. Spies need to hack them (one at a time) and upload the data, then the Hacker needs to remain in the designated area and alive until the upload is complete - then you move on to the next.
Mercs need to stop them, stop the hack on the consoles by killing the hacker or forcing him out of the zone.
 If the Hacker gets killed, the hack can be continued by hacking the same console again within 15 seconds.

Hacking all three consoles ends the round. If the team that plays as spies the second time gets more consoles than the other team in the first round, the match ends immediately as soon as the "winning hack" is finished.
If a hack is in progress, round time is extended until the hack has finished or failed.
In a tie-breaker, the progress bars of unfinished uploads decide, unless both teams get all three consoles - I think that would end in a draw, but I've never seen that, so I don't know.

Things to know:
Stick together, communicate and think. Don't throw away your life.
Flashlights give Mercs away when used, but Spies are pretty fragile when caught out in the open.
Night-Vision will let you see in the dark, but not through walls.

Spies vs. Mercs Blacklist:
  • 4v4, customization, suit powers, spies have guns, too. Read on for more info on loadouts, etc.
  • Two 10-min rounds, one round played on each side
  • Unlimited Lives
  • Respawn Timer: 20 seconds

The objectives and conditions are the same as in Classic, but the customization, the "Suit Powers" and the bigger teams, make this mode something else, entirely.

Additional Info:
Dead Mercs look at cameras placed throughout the level while waiting for a respawn; Cameras can be cycled through (and deactivated temporarily by the Spies).
Dead spies look at teammates, but can control the camera.

Things to know:
Stick together, but not too close to both get killed by one burst/mine/remote camera.
Communicate, help each other out, and compliment your team-members' playstyle and equipment.

Capture the Intel
  • 4v4, Spies vs. Mercs, customization, suit powers, lethal spies. Read on for more info on loadouts etc.
  • Two 8-min rounds, one round played on each side.
  • Unlimited Lives 
  • Respawn Timer: 20 seconds

Spies need to defend a piece of Intel set at a specific location.
Mercs need to capture the Intel and bring it to an Extraction Point.
If the Intel-Carrier is killed, Spies must "reset" (interact) with the intel to get it back to the original location.
Mercs can pick up the Intel on the ground and continue for the Extraction Point.
Mercs carrying the Intel cannot sprint, but can fire weapons, activate suit powers and place gadgets.

A round ends after 5 captured Intels. The Match ends if the second-round Merc team captures more Intel than the first team did in the first round - or if time runs out.
As long as a Merc is carrying the Intel, round time will be extended until the Intel is extracted or the Intel-Carrier is killed.
Ties result in a Draw.

Things to know:
Spies need to pick their places and their fights, try to defend the Intel from being captured, and quickly readjust when the Intel is on the move.
Mercs should stick together, cover each other and check their corners and their backs.
It's never a bad idea - for both teams - to think about a designated extraction route with booby traps.

Uplink Control:
Hacking... Hacking...
  • 3v3, mixed teams (Spies and Mercs can be on one team), customization, suit powers, lethal spies. Read on bla, bla, bla.
  • One 10-min round
  • Unlimited Lives
  • Respawn Timer: 15 seconds

Five Uplink-Terminals are located around the level. One will be hackable at a time.
Hack the designated Terminal and keep the enemy from stopping your hack and hacking it themselves.
Once hacked, the Terminal will stay active until one side uploads 100%.
Hacks can be disrupted by hacking the console again.

Things to know:
Mixed teams means you can and should mix teams with Mercs and Spies. Spies can call out enemies and ambush Mercs, but Mercs at long range (mostly) trump Spies.
Work together, communicate.

Never played it, and never want to, so I will guess.
  • 4v4, mixed teams (Spies and Mercs can be on one team) customization, suit powers, lethal spies.
  • One 10-min round
  • Unlimited Lives
  • Respawn Timer: 10 seconds

Kill the enemy team. Often.

Things to know:
Mixed teams means you can and should mix teams with Mercs and Spies. Spies can call out enemies and ambush Mercs, but Mercs at long range mostly trump spies. Work together, communicate.
I would expect a lot of times everybody runs for certain "defensible positions" and the waits.
Also, I heard that everybody tends to play Spy and people just sit around looking through walls at each other.

The Spy:

Know your Abilities and your Gadgets and your Gear. What things show what, do what, have what effect, counter what and so on.

Mercs are far from helpless when it comes to intel gathering, spotting or countering you, so be aware.

The Goggles:

Thermal Goggles show you enemy heat signatures through walls at short range in real-time.
Useful in Close Quarters, but completely blind at long range.

EMF Goggles show you electrical systems (including those of enemies) at medium range in real-time.
Useful for spotting mines and enemies from farther off, but enemies can be obscured by other electrical stuff.

Sonar Goggles show you enemy locations periodically at long range through Sonar Pulse Location.
Great to spot enemies from far-off, but only in pulses. And see-through walls can make navigation difficult.

Suit Powers:

Suit Powers - well, I call them that, but they're actually technically advanced systems built into the Torso-Armor of Spies and Mercs alike - can be triggered at any time, but need to recharge for a while before a second use.

The Intel Suit lets you tag enemies for a limited time - tagged enemies can be seen through walls from long range.

 The Overcharge Suit destroys or disrupts enemy electrical systems in the immediate area.

The Digital Ghillie Suit lets you activate optical camouflage for a short time, turning you almost invisible.

Things to know:

Don't over-rely on your goggles. Sure it's cool to see through walls, but not if you step into a mine or accidentally drop down an opening between a few Mercs. And you never know where the shadows are.

All fall down...
Height is your friend. There`s really no counter for getting Death-From-Aboved while walking
through a doorway, unless the Merc gets lucky enough with his bullets (and lag) to kill the spy in-flight. You still have to put yourself in a place where it works and you can't be easily seen by someone approaching, though.
Height is a general advantage for spies, since it's something Mercs cannot quickly overcome.

Man Overboard!

Railings are your friend. If a Merc comes too close to one your hanging from, there's nothing he can do.But again, you still have to put yourself in a place where it works and you can't be easily seen by someone approaching, though.

Don't over-rely on Cloak. Not only because it's not really as great as you might think against someone who knows what he's doing (and Mercs using RFD or ATS... or the Motion Sensor), but also because everybody uses it - variety is often a key ingredient of success.

Be a Teamplayer if no one else is. Unless you are hellbent on getting kills (or TDM), you could just be a recon-guy with the Intel Suit and Sonar Goggles to tag and then call out enemies (by which I mean, you use your Goggles to locate Mercs from afar, use your headset to tell your teammates about them, and once they get close enough, you tag them with your Intel Suit - and then keep calling out enemy positions), or Play Interference/Clear Objectives with Overcharge and Trophy Systems.

Overcharge can use the enemy's mines and drones against them. Overcharge forces mines and drones to explode with all the power they usually explode with (while EMP grenades just shut them down). As such, Overcharging a mine next to a Merc can very well result in a Mine-Kill - for you.

Choose your role - offense, defense, hacker etc. In Blacklist or Classic, if you're not hacking, try to cover the hacker or an entrance. The Mercs have only so many ways to enter a certain area.

Be where they don't expect you to be. Mercs become careful close to an objective, but often run past doorways and under DFA-ledges when running towards a newly hacked console. Some people hate the "circle-around-the-back guys", but you're supposed to be a sneaky bastard, so there.

Stay away from corners that allow Mercs to circle around them. Usually doesn't end well.

A Trophy? On Xbox?
If Drones annoy you, put down a Trophy System. It kills grenades and drones and can completely frustrate Mercs. But be careful where you place it though - not too close to yourself. A Merc with RFD can see your Toys (he can also see you if you're using your goggles or suit power, but there's a gear item, the Infiltration Helmet, to counter that).

The Sticky Cam can be a great offensive weapon - some use it like a grenade, throw, enter, press "detonate", all in one second. Or you can place it over a doorway, or on a wall, and detonate when someone comes close. Just don't expect one to lie on the ground in full light and stay there undetected. Also, don't forget the slight delay it has before detonation.

Spy-Dude on the right couldn't wait...
Don't go for the first enemy, go for the last-in-line. It's often better to wait a bit before going in for the
kill, see if someone else will come around, than to try and kill one Merc to get shot by his buddy. Not always, but often.

Keep your ears open. Mines are Death, but they make a very distinctive beeping sound. You can shoot mines with your guns (Boom!), deactivate them with your stun-crossbow or an EMP grenade (Bzzt!)- or, as mentioned before, take them out explosively with the Overcharge Suit.

Don't over-rely only on your melee.
Hanging... Tough!
You have guns that can be pretty deadly at close range on an unaware target, or even at long range with an upgraded pistol. The key-word here is "UNAWARE". Don't try to win shooting matches against Mercs, unless you have good cover and a quick exit nearby.
Some fun can be had with a silenced pistol taking long-range potshots from a shadowed cover: great distraction.

It's a bit tricky, but if you catch a Merc that is cooking a grenade in his hands with a Stun-Crossbow-Bolt, he will Martyr himself - unintentionally.

If you have to attack full frontal melee, try to weave left and right, or slide just past the Merc then press Melee. Or try to run past up to a ledge and press Melee for a DFA.

Disable Cameras in SvM Blacklist. Every Console Area has at least one camera dead Mercs see while dead. Why let them?

Tips from "Da Pros"

 oO_ShadowFox_Oo View Post

  • Double tap the equipment button to quickly "Batman" a grenade at your feet, rather than throw it.
  • You need to learn how to play spies a particular way in this game. It's about movement, but knowing when to stay absolutely stationary at the same time. I find one of the most effective tactics is to try and move into areas that mercs have just checked.
  • If a merc clears an area, try and maneuver yourself into a position where you can slip into that area after they have moved off. If they have already mentally "cleared" it, it will now be the last place they'll look.
  • I am nearly constantly moving as hacking spy, trying to keep as much distance between me and the merc as possible.
  • Hiding in spots can be an effective tactic, but it can also be a death sentence, because the best hiding spots are often "boxed in" - so once you're spotted, that's it - you're done!
soldiersback View Post

  • You have to play decoy and defend the hacker IN THE HACKING ZONE
  • There's ALWAYS a mine at the terminal you are going to hack
  • You are supposed to STAY HIDDEN when you are the hacker


I will list two of mine, and accompany those with three different ones from Red Cell Screenshots.

  • Intel Suit, Sonar Goggles, Infiltration Helmet
  • Spider Gloves, Gadget Pants/ID Blocker Pants, Speed-Boots
  • Trophy System and/or Sticky Camera

Role: Intel/Support
  • You basically sit in a Vent or a deep shadow near (but not too near) your objective, somewhere safe and hopefully outside Merc Disruptor Suit Range, call out enemies with your Goggles, while marking them when you can, and only really engage when you see a chance, not go actively on the hunt.
  • The gloves let you navigate ledges much faster to get out of harm's way.
  • You place a Sticky Cam to control an entrance, a few Trophy Systems to counter drones, and are mostly just a team player.
  • The Infiltration Helmet protects you from being seen when using your goggles, the optional ID blocker pants stop reticules from turning red (nice for shadows).

  • Digital Ghillie Suit , Thermal Goggles, Infiltration Helmet
  • Armor Gloves, ID Blocker Pants, Sneak-Boots 
  • Trophy System / EMP Grenades

Role: Offensive
  • Thermal allows you to see through walls at short range, but you can still see the walls, so you know when there's one between you and the prey.
  • The Infiltration Helmet protects you from RFD showing you're using your goggles. But don't over-rely on your cloak.
  • The Sound Reduction of the "Sneak Boots" can make a sprinting at a target from behind less obvious (and might also partly counter the Mercs' ATS (Audio-Tracking) Vision Mode, but that is still unconfirmed)
  • The EMP grenades can stun a Merc and take out mines and drones without danger to yourself for quick attacks or escapes. The Trophy System on the other hand, can secure a perimeter from grenades and drones, which can be useful should you find yourself to be the hacker.
That said, keep an eye out for mines, then go and kill people. Stay away from long, straight sight lines, use the fact that you can see through walls, then ambush people and vanish.

Here are the videos from Red Cell to go with the screenshots and show a few different ideas:

And Part 2:

The Merc:

How to Counter the Spy's Frontal Melee.
Read this and understand it, find a friend to test it, have some fun. Thanks go to oO_ShadowFox_Oo  and his buddies for testing this, and, again, Red Cell for the Video.

It's all about timing, momentum and direction. The Spy will win from the back or the side, but if you have one running at you head-on, don't engage with your weapon (unless it's a Shotgun). Instead, move to meet him and hit melee.  You can give yourself an even better chance of winning the "Joust" by sprinting or using Adrenaline (and then sprinting).
Look, there's something in the barrel...
It takes a while to get the timing done (and no, lag is not your friend), and if you do anything else (reloading, placing a gadget, firing your weapon), your chances of winning decrease considerably.
There also seems to be a small window of opportunity to actively counter a spy's Melee attack by pressing "Melee" just after the spy triggered his - the animation will show you take his knife and stab him.
Also note, that you have to actually aim at the spy when you trigger your melee-attack - specifically, you will not hit a crouching spy if your reticule is above his head.
If you can, get a friend into a private match and beat each others' brains out. It's good practice, and can be a great release of accumulated grief.

Something that might help with that (especially aiming the Melee), is changing your Merc Control Scheme to "Shooter", which will move the melee-button from a face-button to the aim-stick-button, enabling you to sprint, aim and kick-butt without taking your fingers of the sticks.
Switching the Merc Controls to "Shooter" takes some getting used to, though, especially, if you keep the Spy the regular way (as I do).

Another benefit of the Shooter Controls is that you won't find yourself "clench-reloading" - I have yet to get a "Clench-Melee" by accidentally pressing too hard on the stick while aiming.

And for show-and-tell, another video from Red Cell:

Again, know your stuff. Same as the spies. There's a lot of Rock-Paper-Scissors involved, here, Counters to this, Prepare for that...

The Merc Vision Modes:

"Merc-Goggles" are always on, and give you three different options to help detect Spies.

ATS will notify you of loud sounds at long range by painting the location on the HUD (Triangle with Distance Indicator), and the direction of
other sounds (like footsteps) at short range by a small amplitude indicator on the curved bar at the bottom of your HUD, and that for all 360° around you. It's the only Goggle-Mode that notices things behind you (which the amplitude will show as negative, i.e. beneath the curved bar).

Motion Tracker pulse-detects quick motion in a certain angle in front of you. Crouching movement and movement on ledges is not detected, but the Headgear Detection Enhancer increases the pulse frequency.
And yes, it is quite reminiscent of Alien II.

RFD detects enemy electrical systems, like Trophy Systems or Sticky Cameras at short to medium range (and even through walls), as well as the use of Spy-Goggles or Suit Powers - unless the Spy wears the Infiltration Helmet. It's the only Goggle-Mode able to visually detect stationary cloaked Spies (unless they do wear that helmet).

Suit Powers:

An Injection to turn the World brighter for a while
The Adrenaline Suit lets you inject yourself with Adrenaline. The temporary boost results in more damage output, higher movement speed, brighter surroundings and a slightly increased Field of View.
It also increases recuperation from damage and stuns. It's the only equipment to successfully counter the Spy's Stun-Crossbow.

So, it's kinda hard to show that in a picture...
The Disruptor Suit, once triggered, will take out any electrical system in its effective range,
including Goggles, Suit-Powers and Spy Equipment like Cameras or Trophy Systems.

Bird of BOOM!

The Drone Suit enables you to deploy a remote controlled drone that can spot Spies and be remotely detonated for a kill.
The Drone has a limited battery life once launched.

Things to know:

Better late, than never
Mines are your friends. Use them in high-traffic areas, under vents with the green chem-lights, around consoles in SvM, to secure your back in Extraction, to secure your back, period. To make sure a spy over a doorway will pay for a DFA (stay just inside to plant the mine facing outward).
If you enter a hacked console's area, it's never a bad call to place a mine at your back.
Be careful not to stay around your own mines, though. A Spy's Overcharge Suit will make them explode and kill you just as dead.

The Ammo Box is your friend - and that of your team. It might get nerfed, but it offers someone with two gadgets a lot of gadgets to play around with.

RFD is awesome vs. Cloakers without the Infiltration Helmet. If someone comes up behind you, it's mostly game over - even with ATS - the noise/movement locator. Turning around takes too long to avoid death. But if you're looking in their direction and they think they can hide behind a corner in cloak, you actually see them through walls at short distances. They think they're invisible, but have a big HUD-Marker on their heads.
The Headgear "Detection Enhancer" helps with that.

Fire in the Corner-Office
Stay away from railings and from under ledges if you can help it. Those are easy kills for spies, and there's nothing you can do about it once it happens. Check them from a distance (railings), slowly inch forward looking up (doorways/ledges) or just go around.

Instead of running into a room or around a corner to clear it, why not flush any enemies out with a
gas or frag grenade? 

Circle corners to get the drop on lurking spies.

Aim and Shoot at range, hip-fire is for CQC emergencies.

Stay mobile - the longer you stand in one spot, the easier to come around behind or above you.

Watch your corners. Don't look in the same direction as your Merc-Buddies. Watch the corner they are not watching.

Secure your back. Spies love to circle around and get you from behind while you are trying to get to the hacker or a console. Some mines at your back can at least dissuade them or slow them down.

An Intel Device combined with RFD gives you a good chance to detect every Spy in your vicinity, no matter their equipment.


Again, I will talk about mine, and show Red Cell Screens for more.

The Suits:

When it comes to the Suits, well, personally I always play with a pretty dark TV setup, and I refuse to stoop as low as some and cheat with the Brightness.
So I like Adrenaline. Not only does it increase your Field of View, it also makes things pretty damn bright (compared to my darkness). It also allows you to counter a Stun-Bolt, increases your speed to the point where Spies are slower, increases your damage output and helps with the counter melee striking. I like to combine it with RFD and an Intel Device, or ATS and the Flash Protection.

The Disruptor Suit is very good as support or just to piss off Spies. It will make for some nice moments when catching a cloaked dude in mid-sneak, and the fact that it counters all gadgets, suit-powers and goggles can make life for spies quite hard - and, for example, stop Trophy Systems from destroying your Drones and Grenades. I use it with the Motion Tracker and Detection Enhancer Headgear, or ATS.

The Drone... I don't like it. It's easily countered or shot down, leaves you open to attack, and... well,
it's tempting to use it to frustrate the other team, hunt hackers, spawn-trap and so on. But if you are good enough and actually like to support your team and just spot people (Cloakers with the Infiltration Helmet can still be spotted by Drones and Intel Devices) and not fly up to the first guy you see and detonate, you'll be very useful. Use it with RFD, and bring an Intel Device and some mines to secure your "body" - or rather the approach to your body, otherwise Overcharge might make you your own mine's victim.


SvM Blacklist and Extraction:

  • Mines and Ammo Box (unless you want to be a Drone Intel guy, then you take Mines and the Intel Device, for when your drone is down)
  • A fully upgraded AR (range, damage) or a Semi-Auto Shotgun for CQC (I don't use shotguns, but have seen some very impressive work with them), a fully pimped pistol
  • The Gadget pants, the boots that let you move faster while aiming or sprint faster
  • RFD or Motion Tracker for me, but I am starting to like the ATS. It's a bit different and needs getting used to, but it does tell you if someone is close pretty effectively.

TDM/Uplink Control:

  • Mines or Frags with the Ammo Box - Frags are probably better offensively. Everything else pretty much the same, except for maybe armored boots instead of the sharpshooter boots. 
  • TDM and Uplink Control have lots of Flashbang users or heavily Armored Mercs, so more Armor or Flash-Protection is a good thing.

Here's what Red Cell think about that:

And Part 2:

And a Special about ATS and the Disruptor Suit:

As you can see from the Red Cell Vid and Screenshots, my Merc choices are very different - but very similar amongst themselves.
I mostly take a role to support the team, which usually means:

Assault with Adrenaline/-ATS/Mines/Ammo
Disruptor with Disruptor/MotionTracker -ATS/Mines/Ammo

(Sorry, I know it's a bit cheap with the Mines and ammo, but hell, they beep so damn loud, glow with red lights and are easily destroyed. Spies are not supposed to sprint around all the time where Mercs can put mines, but as long as they do, there will be mines.)

By now, you should hopefully have a better understanding of what you can do, what will be done to you, and... uhm, what you can do about it. Yeah.

Now, stop reading and PLAY!
NO! STOP! Keep reading! Here comes the:

Third Party Section:

featuring a few very useful tips by the Iceman, and several Red Cell Videos

IcemanGBR View Post
1. Stick Together

-The main point that really can be a difference between winning easily or losing badly, I find, is to stick with your teammates; for both teams. If a Spy is hacking, don't expect them to get the whole hack done on their own. Most of the time, they will need help to get it done. If a couple of other Spies are just focusing on kills or their K/D ratio, your team will most likely lose; especially if the Mercs stick together.

-Similarly, the Mercs must stick together as well. Going to a hacked terminal one at a time is just going to get you killed if there's a couple of Spies in the area. The more a team sticks together, the more likely it is your team will win and everyone will get decent stats.

2. Communicate

-When attacking terminals as a Spy, tell your teammate what you're doing. If you're hacking, make sure your teammates know to back you up. Nothing more frustrating than getting no help from teammates.

-When defending terminals as a Merc, make sure to tell your teammates about any movement you see/detect and how many Spies are in the area. If you think all the Spies are in the area, then there's no point in all your teammates sticking at their stations.

3. Be patient, even if you know where the opposition is

- As a Spy, when 2 Mercs are patrolling together, don't rush in if you know you can't take them both. Your teammates need you alive.

- As a Merc, if you know where the enemy is, make sure they don't escape. Often, this is to bide your time and get a teammate to cover one side of a ledge while you go the other side. There's been countless time where I've spotted a Spy/hacking Spy trying to do a ledge kill; I tell my teammate while I go downstairs and to the other side of the wall to kill them. By the time I've gone, my teammate can't help himself and goes close to a ledge for a kill. The Spy kills my teammate and is free to roam around upstairs.


Thanks to everyone for the help, but mostly thanks to ME for putting all those letters between the pictures. Because if you squint at it just right, it will turn into a 3D image of Sam Fisher's Ops-Suit in EXTREME Close-Up! With the Balaclava!

 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...