When PC gamers hear the phrase action RPG, one series immediately springs to mind: Diablo. The classic Blizzard titles re-energised the tired RPG market of the late nineties with their heavy combat focus and streamlined plot and character interaction. They also spawned dozens of similar games, from Greek fantasy Titan Quest, to tactical Dungeon Siege, to cheap and cheerful Torchlight. While these games kept the same core mechanics of click-heavy combat, randomised loot and specialised characters, Arrowhead Game Studios’ Magicka takes a much more creative approach, stripping out the RPG elements and adding some adventure.Continue reading
The first multiplayer game I really got into was an odd one – Microsoft’s MechWarrior series. If you haven’t played it, it’s basically a game in which you pilot a massive robotic walker, called a ‘mech, armed with a judicious amount of firepower. Unlike most FPS games of the time, there was a high level of customisability; given a maximum tonnage, you had to balance engine power, armour and weapons to make your perfect fighting machine. You could act as a sniper, taking down enemies from kilometers away with banks of missiles shot forty at a time, or get in close and rip your opponent’s legs off with a well aimed autocannon shot.Continue reading
Last week I reviewed Homefront’s singleplayer campaign, and this week it’s time for the other side of the coin: Homefront’s multiplayer.
You’d be excused for thinking Homefront’s multiplayer looks pretty much like that of any other current gen shooter: Thirty-two players on two teams, armed with the standard variety of modern-day firearms, vehicles and perks, let loose to fight over control points or just rack up the kills. Look a little closer though, and behind ingredients plucked from Call of Duty or Battlefield you’ll see some sweeter streaks that are all Homefront’s own.
Homefront’s opening cinematic outlines the game’s uncomfortably plausible premise: an opportunistic North Korea takes advantage of an America weakened by avian flu, skyrocketing oil prices and civil unrest to expand its holdings in Asia, then launches an attack on the American homeland itself. It’s a grim picture, ably penned by Apocalypse Now writer John Milius, and is well represented through the cleverly edited news footage that describes Korea’s expansion, attack, and later occupation of mainland America.
The game proper begins in occupied Montrose, Colorado with a Half Life style bus ride, where the horrors faced by the invaded become abundantly clear: those that can work are shipped to labour camps and those that resist are brutally terminated. The exposition is soon punctuated by a ham-handed rescue by the American resistance force, who want to use your skills as a pilot to help the beleaguered remnants of the US Army.
Dragon Age: Origins was a game I loved and spent many days playing through. The subtle nuances of combat, skills, talents and items hearkened back to the early days of computer role playing games, which themselves weren’t so different from the RPGs of the tabletop. Yet for all the weight of these RPG roots, Origins was of the new school of Bioware, following the traditions of the space-faring Mass Effect – streamlined combat, well voiced and believable characters, and a mature plot. Released after Mass Effect 2, Dragon Age 2 follows much the same trajectory, eschewing the heavier RPG elements to achieve a much more streamlined experience than the first game.Continue reading
Battlefield 2142 holds a special place in my heart because it’s the first shooter I was any good at. I’d been playing the Battlefield series since 1942, but I never had a fast enough (read: non-dialup) internet connection to support online play. In 1942 I used to play at infrequent LAN parties at the houses of my friends. It was amazingly good fun, full of wing riding and jeep ramming, but only happened for a few hours a year.
When Battlefield 2 was released, I saved up my money and eventually was able to purchase it. Even though most of my friends had upgraded to broadband internet around this time, I lived so far away from the nearest town that no broadband would reach me. I used to go over to my friend’s houses to play it, staying up long into the night because I knew that when I returned home I’d be back to playing the lifeless singleplayer. I really relished the time I spent with my friends playing Battlefield 2, but eventually it came to an end when I had to leave the U.S. for university in England.
It begins like many other games — the adversary appears, snatches your girl, and runs away laughing. You raise your fist to the sky, and vow to get her back. This time though, you’re not a sword-wielding hero or a manic plumber. You’re a small brown spaceship. Your girl is a pink spaceship. And the adversary is, of course, a giant floating eyeball spaceship. So begins Nimbus, a 2D puzzle-racing game from Swedish indie developers Noumenon available on Steam.
In the game, you have to fly your spaceship past spiky traps and solve physics-based puzzles to reach the end of the level as quickly as possible. While you’re free to take the level at your own pace, the faster you complete the stage, the higher you’ll be ranked on the game’s leaderboards so if you’re at all competitive you’re likely to take the course at breakneck speed. This requires quick reflexes and often quite a few retries, but the levels are well-balanced and checkpoints are frequent, so it tends to be an addictive rather than frustrating experience. The solid gameplay is well served by the cheerful graphics and fitting retro soundtrack, making Nimbus a fun game that’s hard to put down.Continue reading
Battlefield has never been praised for its singleplayer campaigns. In 1942, you could play a series of World War II battles in chronological order, but there were no characters and no plot, save the wee loading screen text. Battlefield 2 and 2142 didn’t even have a campaign, just a skirmish mode against dim-witted bots. Modern Combat, a mediocre port of Battlefield 2, had a singleplayer campaign, but it wasn’t worth the disc space it occupied. It looked like DICE, the master of multiplayer, couldn’t bring their strength to bear on the other side of the divide.
Luckily for us, DICE went back to the drawing board and produced Bad Company. With lessons learned from its previous failures and good ideas cribbed from other games in the genre, they crafted a fun story with believable characters that still felt like a Battlefield game, complete with massive landscapes and a large stable of vehicles. Now DICE are back and gunning for their biggest competitor, Infinity Ward and their genre-leading Call of Duty titles. They’ve promised an improved singleplayer experience that’s slightly darker in tone, but will that be enough to rival Modern Warfare 2?Continue reading
Snipers. We’ve all seen them. They spawn, climb onto a high perch, and start picking off enemies (or at least trying to). They die, they go right back up there. They get involved in low-stakes sniper duels. They occasionally score a lucky hit from miles back, and scream into the headset. They suck.
Recon is not necessarily about sniping. Not really. The clue’s in the name. Recon. Not sniper. Recon means spotting, it means movement, it means action, it means helping the team. More than any other class, Recon players are gamechangers, shifting the balance in their team’s favour with simple, sometimes explosive actions.Continue reading