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' :!
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...

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Things I do...

... to tell a story.
(follow us on Twitter @Lunartik and @EberhornFlorian)

Well, they're not as bad as you might think. But still: Product Endorsement? Who would've thought...

Slick Flick
So, there's this app for the I-Thingees called Slick Flick. You can do stories with it. My username on Slick Flick is @Eberhorn - or maybe it's without the "@", I'm not sure how that works. If you have one of those I-Thingees go get the free app, and like my stories, already. They`re totally likeable.

Me, I don't really have an I-Thingee, so it took my across-the-hall neighbor, the wonderfully twisted Lunartik Creator Matt Jones, to tell me about it.

Matt Jones
Actually, what he said was something like:
"You smell like a poor person. Take a look at this, maybe you'll get me rich... I mean, uhm, get you rich. Yes. That's what I meant." Yeah, he's a peach.

About the Lunartiks:

They're little aliens from another dimension, that live in Tea-Cups, which they use like portals to travel through time and space.

Matt's an "artist". Go figure.

Anyway, Slick Flick is a... story-boarding app. You take pictures and make stories. Slick Flick gives you several "Themes" to work with, then you can add characters, and objects and captions from those themes to your pictures or chosen backgrounds. A few of the themes are done by a similar number of Vinyl Toy artists, one of which is Matt Jones with his Lunartiks (in case you were wondering where that was going). Also, case in point, The Slick Flick Lunartik Theme is the very first time that Lunartik Legs were shown. Yes. It's true!

So, basically, Matt asked me to do stories with his Lunartik-Theme, in exchange for which he will lend me his I-Pod, a tiny little thing I use for nothing else but to do these stories in the first place. It seemed like a good deal at the time. I don't know why.

On to the important part: 

The Stories. They've already gotten their very own blog, too, @:
Tales of the Lunartiks

There are six different "series", and, for your convenience, I've listed and linked them all here:

1. Mr. T's Wonderful World of Tea
It's Mr. T telling you all about "Tea". Every single "-Tea" he can find. In the Dictionary.

2. Lunar Shorts
Short funny stories from the Lunar-Verse. That's like the Uni-verse, but different.

3. Travellers Between Worlds
Once in every Lunartik's life they embark on an epic journey into other dimensions. Stuff happens. And there's usually some screaming involved...
(Featuring additional artwork by Cavey, MakieLab, Usagi, Wippo and Slick Flick)

4. A little love...
Lunartik goes romantic. No, seriously.

5. Other stuff... and stuff
Stories from the Slick Flick Crypt...

and the, obviously limited, but very special

6. Lunar Christmas Countdown 2013
Counting Down, one day and one Cartoon at a time...

If you like Matt's work, why not join his Lunartik in a Cup of Tea - Fan Club on Facebook.

But honestly, my stories are much more important than his stuff... ;)

Friday, September 6, 2013

Things to do in Denver when you broke your hand...

... because you raged at Battlefield and beat on your controller, and now you can`t play games, so you need other stuff to do. Seriously, that crap happens to people.

So, yeah, this is another one of those posts where I will present you "books." Granted, they're mostly pretty cool books, but they all do require a certain amount of reading.

Don't be scared, now. It'll only hurt for a few hours... at first. Also, if "books" are too old-school, go and get them on your Kindle or Smartphone or Tablet. Yes. Books can be hip. Totally.

Alright, here we go:

The "Sandman-Slim" Series by Richard Kadrey

Richard Kadrey apparently wrote other stuff, too, but I don't know it. He also has his own Action Figure - make of that one what you will. The titular Hero of this series, Sandman Slim, is pretty much what you'd get if Harry Dresden was an outright lovable bastard. And Kadrey has had him take on Heaven, Hell, Zombies and everything in between that Los Angeles has to offer - and lots and lots of clothes - in by now 5 novels and a short-story (or maybe that'`s a "novella", who the hell knows?)

Eleven Years ago, James Stark, a fledgeling Magician (real, capital-M Magic, not that Party-for-Kids crap) is dragged into hell - still alive. It wasn't fun-times. Now, the girl he left behind in the world was murdered, and Stark has cut his way out of hell, hell-bent (Ha!) on continuing to cut his way through the people responsible for both the murder, and his eleven-year stint down-under.

That`s how the first book in the series, "Sandman Slim", starts. By the end of the first book, Stark has managed to kill some people, bitch-slap an angel, burn a pack of Neo-Nazi Skinheads and save the world. He also now lives with a severed talking head that walks around on a magical skateboard with legs. And things only get more fun from there.

Kadrey's writing is harsh, crude fun. It's smart, and (mostly) even makes an unexpected amount of sense. The "Sandman Slim" Universe is beautifully conceived, and continues to surprise with just how wonderfully, darkly funny it can be. Granted, the novels might seem a bit on the short side, but in those pages Shit Happens. Never a dull minute in super-natural LA.

"The Ocean at the End of the Lane" by Neil Gaiman

If you don't know Neil Gaiman... well, then you don't know him. There's nothing bad about that, and you should not be mocked because of it. But know now, that Gaiman is Magic. Those that haven't read his books (like American Gods, Anansi Boys, Good Omens or Coraline) or his comics (DC Vertigo`s "Sandman" Series), might actually have seen his work without knowing: "Stardust", starring Charlie Cox, Sienna Miller, Claire Danes and Robert DeNiro, a simply magical (and totally dude-can-watch-this-and-brag-about-it) romantic comedy. And it does a pretty good job of capturing Gaiman's unrivaled imagination, as well as the humor and wit of Gaiman's novel. The book is better, though.

His new book, "The Ocean at the End of the Lane", is somewhere between "Stand by Me" and "The Chronicles of Narnia". If the first one means nothing to you, despite a young "Ensign Wesley Crusher", a still alive River Phoenix, Corey Feldman ('nuff said), and a fat and ugly kid called Jerry O'Connell, you might be too young to fully appreciate the magic of this particular book. It's not your fault, and it might not particularly hamper your enjoyment of a fantastic read. And yet, for "The Ocean at the End of Lane" to do its magic, your childhood should be gone long enough to give you a chance to miss it - even if you only admit that to yourself.

Because that is what "The Ocean at the End of the Lane" is: a bit of childhood - terrifying, tantalizing, woeful, wondrous childhood...

When a death in the family drags our narrator back to his childhood town, a seemingly random turn in the road takes him down memory lane - literally. And what he remembers is a tale that couldn't have been - and yet it was. A tale of a man that killed himself in his father's car, and awoke an evil out of this world. A tale of a girl, her mother and her grandmother, that might have been his only friends, and were so much more. A tale of magic and dreams and fear and hurt and sacrifice. And about an Ocean that fit into a pond...

This is not a fairy-tale for children. It`s a tale of children and fairies and monsters for those of us that still remember how it was when all of it could have been real. And yes, fine, this one actually is quite short. But it won't feel that way.

Now, go buy these books. They're more than worth it. And who knows, maybe it'll help you pick up girls, or something. Show your sensitive side, and all that...