Tagged: First-Person Shooter

Games I beat in 2018: Enemy Front.

Welcome to the first Secret Area post of 2019. Here’s something that was several months in the making. This was mostly due to procrastination. Naturally, I’m writing about a game I finished last year, two days short of a year after I had beaten it. And it’s a callback to a post I made last June. Let’s do this.

Last year, I had written a somewhat scathing review of the 2010 Medal of Honor reboot, which took the legacy of a long-standing WWII FPS franchise and basically ruined it by being a Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare copycat. You can check that post out here. At the end of that post, I had hinted towards a game that I had said was just as close to the original Medal of Honor games.

Okay, it’s a bit of a stretch, but it is a World War II FPS, and surprisingly a decent one at that.

Enemy Front was a shooter released in 2014 for various platforms, including PC. Released by CI Games, it was a fairly unknown budget shooter in an era where those kind of shooters were slowly disappearing due to the drought of retail games as well as the prevalence of Steam making it a newer (and cheaper!) haven for the cheap schlock of the past.

I had heard of it thanks to a certain YouTube personality. Ahoy – later a maker of wonderful flashy documentaries about Doom, Half-Life, the Amiga, and many others – had done a video chronicling the arsenal of Enemy Front. He had done similar videos before for Call of Duty and other franchises, and would later be revised to an all-purpose format with his Iconic Arms series of videos. I’m still waiting for the new season of Iconic Arms, just to see what games he uses as an example for the weapon he’s talking about.

Though, it wasn’t just a British YouTube personality talking about a budget polish-developed FPS’s weaponry that got me to snag Enemy Front. It was also dirt cheap on a Steam sale. All it takes is something to be under $5 and you’ve caught my interest almost immediately.

Broadcasting your war diaries doesn’t sound like a good idea to me.

Enough preamble. Let’s get to the meat and actually talk about Enemy Front proper. You play as American journalist Robert Hawkins as he reports the stories of a resistance front all around Europe. Later joining with resistance fighters, Hawkins must stop the Nazi menace in various locales around Europe, including during the Warsaw Uprising. A fair share of the game takes place around that Polish conflict. It’s fitting, considering developer/publisher CI Games is based in Warsaw, Poland.

Human shields are a good way to be threatening. Until they realize you just grabbed some expendable low-ranking goon.

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Games I beat in 2018: Medal of Honor (the 2010 reboot)

Hey folks. Sorry that my posting is still somewhat erratic at the moment. Things have been going on in my life, and for a good while I didn’t have anything interesting to write about. I’ve amassed so many junk items over the years that they’re all strewn about in my room, hoping one day they’ll be played and/or written about.

So instead of struggling to think about something, I’m gonna do some posts about some of the games I’ve beaten throughout 2018. Surprisingly it is a small list, as I had fallen into the trap of playing the same quick pick up and play games instead: Killing Floor 2, Payday 2, Asphalt 8: Airborne, and more recently, Quake Champions.

Despite having a massive backlog, I still did finish a few games throughout the year. This was originally gonna be a post with two reviews, but this particular review got so lengthy that I had to split it up.

So let’s talk about a failed reboot of an iconic franchise, shall we?

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Mr. DudeMcLargebeard getting ready to shoot the evil people.

(Warning: Spoilers for the story of Medal of Honor 2010 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 lie within.)

Back around 2014, I had written (but oddly didn’t publish) a thing about Medal of Honor: Airborne, which I had replayed because a friend was streaming the game. It’s one of his personal favorites, and while I liked some elements of it like being able to drop anywhere on the in-game map, or even the creative weapon upgrade system, it just felt like a tired shooter going through the motions, and was going beyond the more historical angle of Medal of Honor, even having Nazi super soldiers wielding MG42s like it was nothing.

At the end I had written something to the effect “It’s not as amazing as Frontline or Allied Assault, but it’s probably better than Medal of Honor: Warfighter.” At the time, I hadn’t played the most recent Medal of Honor games, and 2018 felt like the time to tackle Medal of Honor 2010 – as I’m gonna call it from here on in, to distinguish it from the 1999 original – and I felt disappointed all the way through.

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I finished this back in January, as the very first game I beat in 2018. This was not a good start.

Realizing World War II games were on their way out after a near ten-year period of them constantly coming out, EA was in a bind. Medal of Honor was considered this prestigious franchise, and they didn’t know where to take it. Their solution was to see what their competition already did three years prior and follow suit: Go modern, and see if it stuck.

The problem was that this came out right after the extremely successful Modern Warfare 2, and was out the same year as Call of Duty: Black Ops – probably in my top three favorite Call of Duty games for various reasons – so already EA was climbing a very, very steep hill. With Medal of Honor 2010, EA didn’t get to the top, but instead slipped and started rolling down the hill, giving themselves bruises and broken bones along the way.

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Budget Shooter Theater #4: Christopher Brookmyre’s Bedlam: The Game

The internet is a fascinating thing. Sometimes you find things because of the internet. In my case, I stumbled upon this game thanks to the internet.

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Christopher Brookmyre’s Bedlam: The Game is a game based on a novel by Christopher Brookmyre (natch), a noted British author, whom sadly I’m not aware of since I’m a “bloody yank.” (I live in the United States.) I was made aware of this game thanks to Achievement Hunter-turned-Twitch-streamer Ray, aka “BrownMan” on Twitch. He was doing a blind run of this on Xbox One, and it looked like a game I’d give a try just on the idea.

This is also the third (and so far, final) game I requested myself, just to build a queue of games to play for BST. Ultimate Doom needed no introduction, Turok was something I wanted to try to see if nostalgia held up. Bedlam, on the other hand was clearly the offshoot of wanting to play something fairly unknown as it were. It’s also the most recent game I’ve played so far, coming out in 2015. (The Turok remaster came out that year as well, but the original game came out twenty years prior so that doesn’t really count.)

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Ahh, the days when games looked sharper before ugly OpenGL texture filtering…

The story involves Heather Quinn, as she signs up for some new virtual reality machine to simulate video games. Little did she know, she was sucked into the world of video games instead. With the help of various people she meets in the game worlds, she must go through the worlds of various video games and find her way out.

When I started playing, I was thrusted into a game world not unlike Quake II. Though it goes by a generic name – Starfire – it clearly has the style and look of that mid-’90s era of PC gaming. This is what Bedlam does throughout. Through my travels as Quinn, I went through a WWII FPS world, a futuristic open arena like Halo or PlanetSide, a medieval area similar to games like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, even clones of Pac-Man and other old-school arcade games.

Yet, oddly, the game also name drops notable locations like Black Mesa (from Half-Life), and even mentions Call of Duty, despite all the games depicted in-game being fictional. Presumably it’s okay to reference them without having to pay legal fees; but this might all be referenced in the book the game’s based on, I haven’t read it to be sure.

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Wolfram: A Wolfenstein 3D remake that’s somehow not fun.

id software’s amazing run of first-person shooters in the ‘90s are in some of my top games of all time: Doom, Quake, even Quake III Arena was pretty good in spite of Unreal Tournament’s more fun, absurd nature. But one game I had a fondness for was Wolfenstein 3D.

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Wolfenstein is a fairly simplistic shooter by modern standards, but it started laying the groundwork for what made their games tick: Exploring areas, defeating enemies, and strafing around arenas like operatic ballet. What happens when you take most of that away and try to shoehorn in awkward mechanics that don’t fit? You get Wolfram.

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Already we’re off to a great start with this menu…

I have to give a shout out to the Video Game Music Preservation Foundation, which introduced me to this game. Being a fan of Wolfenstein and some of its other games, I had to see if this was the remake of Wolf3D that would be better than the original. The answer is no. Not by a long shot.

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Just like the 1992 original!

Wolfram recreates all of “Escape from Wolfenstein,” the shareware episode of Wolf3D. Levels are the same blocky shapes they were in ‘92, wall textures are a mix between remastered versions of the originals and ports presumably from other versions of Wolf3D, even the music is ripped straight from the original, but somehow sounds worse.

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Oh hey, colored lighting! This would’ve been cool in like, 1997.

So you’re probably thinking, “Hey, this sounds pretty cool! What’s your problem with it?” Well, let me explain.

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Wolfenstein 3D involves using the doors a lot to funnel enemies and dodge fire. Doors become your best friends here.

Wolfenstein 3D’s combat is fairly simple. Outside of some bosses, all the enemies are hitscan – once the enemy shows a certain frame of animation, the game determines if that was a hit or a miss, and if it hits, it calculates for how much damage you take – As you progress, you learn the better tactics of the game involves ducking inside rooms and strafing back and forth at an opened door to avoid getting hit as much. It’s fairly simple and arcade-like these days, but it worked well in the era when Wolf3D came out.

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Let’s go to the target range with NRA Gun Club!

 

1024px-National_Rifle_Association.svgAhh, the NRA. A wonderful organization based in the United States that helps gun manufacturers with guns and trying to advocate gun safety… while blaming things like Mortal Kombat and American Psycho (?!) for causing violent shootings instead of guns themselves. Color me surprised when I found out they made a video game. Well, rather, they gave endorsement for a video game.

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This is NRA Gun Club. A first-person shooter published by Crave (RIP) and developed by our good friends at Jarhead Games. I’ve covered Jarhead’s stuff in the past, with such thrilling hits as CTU Marine Sharpshooter. (I wrote about that before, check it out here.) As far as I know, this game would be their swan song, not living long enough to make it to the 360 generation. This would also be the sole game they made on the PlayStation 2, and it shows.

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After being introduced to the bland title screen, I am asked to make a profile name. Since this is based on the NRA, I’d thought it’d be nice to name my profile after Wayne LaPierre, the NRA president and mirror-universe-Stephen-King.

 

 

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Or at least his first name, this game has a six character name limit.

The only mode with any sort of progression is Certification Mode. Here, there are four courses, each one unlocked after completing the previous one, with certain requirements needed to pass. There’s Plinking, Bullseye, Trap/Skeet and “Practical Shooting.” I’ll get into each one the best that I can.

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The “Plinking” challenge involves rapid-fire scoring for points. It’s damn simple: Choose a weapon, shoot at targets, score points, repeat until time runs out. Most targets give 5 points, but some such as the cans give 10. Each of these are done in “Strings,” where the board is reset each time, and then the final score is averaged out of the best runs. If the average meets the minimum number, it’s considered a passing grade.

Once you qualify in each of the pistol, long-range rifle, and shotgun challenges, you do the “Multi” course which makes you go through all three. Qualify that and you’re certified in the Plinking challenge.

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Rage and the Art of Reloading.

Alright kids, time for me to get a bit “technical,” as it were. This is one of these posts where I’m gonna talk briefly about a game mechanic and how it actually benefits the player subtly. For those who came here for other stuff, come back in a few days.

One of the more entertaining parts of the whole game. A shame it's underutilized.

One of the more entertaining parts of the whole game. A shame it’s underutilized.

I recently beat id Software’s Rage, a solid first-person shooter/driving game hybrid. I was looking to play something after trying to beat Modern Combat 5, and this seemed like a prime candidate. Earlier in the year, I had ran through Doom 3 again, just to see if it was bad as I remembered it. It actually wasn’t awful, and is a pretty good game. Hasn’t aged gracefully in the graphics department, but what has?

Anyway, Rage has two mechanics that aren’t mentioned, but really help out the player. Most first-person shooters have it so when you reload, you can’t cancel out of the reload, leaving you vulnerable to attack. Secondly, the reload animation has to play out fully before you can fire again. Again, putting you at risk of taking damage, and in a fast-paced shooter, it can be frustrating to have to wait for your dude to slowly slap a magazine into their assault rifle and pull the charging handle before shooting again.

Rage doesn’t do either of these. If you start reloading mid-magazine and hold down the fire button, the reload is immediately canceled so you can expend the rest of the magazine. Secondly, if you’re reloading from an empty magazine, you can skip the rest of the reload and get back to shooting quickly. You can see this in the video I shot from one of the Sewer levels, and is more noticeable if you skip ahead to 1:53.

It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a huge help. Rage has you fighting between the quick and melee-heavy mutants, common grunts, and big boss monsters. The last thing you want is to have to watch a painstaking long reload sequence and die because of it.

Imagine having to wait for your dude to slap the magazine into his pseudo-AK while this monster blows you to bits. Hardly fun, right?

Imagine having to wait for your dude to slap the magazine into his pseudo-AK while this monster blows you to bits. Hardly fun, right?

Honestly, I think reload canceling and skipping long reloads need to start being a thing that’s not reserved as some kind of skill or perk. A lot of FPS games take a simple concept – reloading a firearm – and don’t do much with it. Outside of games like Receiver, which take the concept of firearms and expand on it, most games just take reloading for granted. Think of many other games that were released in the same year as Rage, such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Battlefield 3, Bulletstorm, and Homefront (ugh). None of these don’t give you this same advantage. At most, tweaking a reload involves an exploit such as a melee attack, and in most cases just restarts the reload sequence, taking you much longer to get back in the fight, leading to some frustrating deaths online and off.

Is Rage’s way of handling reloads unrealistic? Yeah. Is it some revelatory thing? Not really. But I think had id not done this, Rage would’ve been a more aggravating experience. Their last major game, Doom 3, had lengthy reload times, but that game has a slower pace to it. Imagine that slower reload on Rage, it would’ve been an absolute mess.

As for Rage itself, it’s worth playing. The wasteland concept is a bit played out – especially since this game came out two years after Borderlands was a hit – but the action and driving’s pretty good. Not only that, you get to take missions from John Goodman and Steve Motherfuckin’ Blum. Can’t get any better than that, can it?

Oh, and this guy, who's voiced by Paul Eiding. Better known as Colonel Campbell. I'll give someone credit for going for notable VOs as opposed to famous people all the time.

Oh, and this guy, who’s voiced by Paul Eiding. Better known as Colonel Campbell. I’ll give someone credit for going for notable VOs as opposed to just getting Hollywood actors for everything.

Diving into the Windows Marketplace with Modern Combat 5: Blackout.

For a while, I wasn’t going to upgrade to Windows 10. But then a friend convinced me of a few cool features, and I decided to finally take the plunge since it’s free as of this writing. Since my current PC was on Windows 7, I missed out on all the cool apps that came out during the Windows 8 era. After perusing the store, I found a few interesting games. Boy, I wasn’t expecting this…

It's time for STERN MILITARY SOLDIER POSE

It’s time for STERN MILITARY SOLDIER POSE

Modern Combat 5: Blackout is probably the most generic title for a game ever. This is the product of Gameloft, a French-based development studio known famously for their mobile phone and handheld games. Naturally, this is a “port” from iOS/Android devices, supporting cumbersome touch screen controls.

While I haven’t played the previous entries in the Modern Combat franchise, I am familiar with it. One of the games, Modern Combat: Domination, made it to consoles and I remember Giant Bomb covering it once. At the time, it looked like a mish-mash of Call of Duty 4 with a pinch of Counter-Strike‘s elements. By default, I go into any new game I play with mild skepticism and low expectations just so I don’t hype myself up for disappointment, so I wasn’t expecting much here.

This is a hell of a way to start a game...

This is a hell of a way to start a game…

You play as Phoenix, a mercenary for works for some corporation. With the help of a bald marine named Bull, you two storm through San Marco, escaping from evil terrorists, and eventually escaping a helicopter in a boat chase sequence. Pretty exciting for the beginning of a Call of Duty clone.

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Afterwards, Phoenix wakes up in Japan, taken over by raiders during some terrorist attack or something. I’ll admit, I barely remember the story of this game, and that’s coming from a guy who played through Battlefield 3 and 4, which had really unremarkable generic campaigns. But from what I gleaned from a wiki for the series, it’s basically double-crossing between various factions, and a surprise plot twist that the CEO of the Gilman corporation is also a mercenary soldier who caused the double-crossing. Hardly oscar-caliber story writing, but I got what I paid for. (Nothing.)

One of the many classes you can choose from. You get Recon to start, and the rest require you to either grind or pay up.

One of the many classes you can choose from. You get Recon to start, and the rest require you to either grind levels or pay up to unlock.

Modern Combat 5 has a leveling system, and unlockables. There’s a create-a-class option, weapons can be upgraded by using them in the game to unlock attachments and better weapons, and each class has special skills that are upgraded using SP. SP is gained between some missions, leveling up, and between events Gameloft put up. One thing I liked is how the rankings persist between both single player and multiplayer, which I wish more games did.

Multiplayer is typical military FPS in a post-Call of Duty 4 world: You have perks, you have a powerup you can use, there’s killstreaks like recon drones and EMP strikes, and you get XP for kills. There’s the common FPS gamemodes: Free-for-All, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, and an unusual TDM variant called VIP where the VIP is always visible on the minimap and killing them rewards more points than killing other players. Fun, but a VIP kill is 5 points and the scorelimit is 50, making the matches go by faster than expected.

Huh, I guess my dad was right about combat drones. Never thought they'd look like this, though...

Huh, I guess my dad was right about combat drones. Never thought they’d look like this, though…

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The Spear of Destiny Mission Packs: The Wolfenstein Time Forgot.

I have a certain fondness for Wolfenstein 3D. Back in the early 2000s when I was just a middling teenager, I was playing a bunch of cool level packs for Wolfenstein. Hell, the first online blog post I ever made was talking about an old Wolfenstein 3D mods website that I thought was cool. Yeah, it’s kinda plain compared to Doom and Quake, but damn it, I still had fun going through mazes killing things.

I’ve played practically every major Wolfenstein game barring the Muse Software prequels and the most recent The New Order. I was even a hardcore Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory player back in the day. But I didn’t know that there was a Wolfenstein game I missed…

They don't make game covers like these anymore...

They don’t make game covers like these anymore…

Mission Pack 2: Return to Danger and Mission Pack 3: Ultimate Challenge are unofficial third party expansions to Spear of Destiny, developed internally at FormGen and released in 1994. If you were craving more Wolfenstein and were ignoring Doom for some reason, this was one of the few ways to get more digital nazi killing. That, along the Wolfenstein map generator mentioned on the box, gave you seemingly endless opportunities to expand your Wolfenstein 3D experience.

Both episodes have similar stories: Hitler recovered the Spear from B.J. Blazkowicz, and it’s up to B.J. to fight Hitler’s Nazi regime and recover the Spear twice more before he brings hell demons to Earth. It’s corny stuff, but back in those days FPS games were never known for having great stories.

Well, I hope you like blue because there's a lot of it.

Well, I hope you like blue, because there’s a lot of it here.

So what’s different in these Mission Packs compared to vanilla Spear of Destiny? Surprisingly there are a bunch of changes in this game. New levels (natch), new sprites, new textures, even the enemies look and sound different. So already this is looking promising, right? Oh, if only.

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Duty Calls: A silly Call of Duty parody.

The year is 2011. We’re nearing the final stretch of a console generation. We’re seeing awesome games made by awesome people. Here I was, browsing on Twitter like I usually do, until someone I followed retweeted this gem by one Clifford Bleszinski on Twitter one day:

https://twitter.com/therealcliffyb/status/32843951094370304

Naturally, being the curious guy I am, I checked out the website and found out there was a free game. I download the 700MB installer, not knowing what to expect.

Making something sound so generic is quite impressive.

Making something sound so generic is quite impressive.

Duty Calls: The Calm Before the Storm is a parody game that makes fun of the long-standing Call of Duty franchise. This is very apparent by the logo that makes fun of the old Call of Duty logo, to even that important disclaimer that Activision had nothing to do with it. Because the last thing we need are lawsuits.

Parodying games in other games is a fickle thing. Sometimes you can be right on point and make it funny, otherwise you end up just making half-baked references like “That’s one Doomed Space Marine” from Duke Nukem 3D did. So let’s see how they did with this parody, shall we?

Must be very boring for the army today...

Must be very boring for the army today…

Our adventure begins with an introductory cutscene learning about some secret base, complete with a Call of Duty-style talking about how war has changed, and yet war never changes. Reminded me of that Wizard song from Idle Thumbs. After that, our intrepid shooterguy drops in with an M4 assault rifle and a secret base to find by some random commander dude. So let’s jump into the fray and fight the big bad.

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CTU Marine Sharpshooter: One Budget FPS, One Mediocre Game.

I’m convinced no one wants to be the sniper in a video game. Yeah, there’s parts of movies where being a sniper is cool, but most of it involves walking around and occasionally killing people at a distance with a bolt-action rifle. Unless it’s something like Call of Duty 4‘s “All Ghillied Up” mission, which is more of a stealth level than a sniping level.

Thus any game I’ve played where sniping is the focus, like Sniper Elite V2 or Sniper: Ghost Warrior, ends up being a fairly simple shooter with strangely elaborate sniping mechanics. I don’t know why people keep making games based on it, but then again they keep making sequels to the Sniper movies, so I guess there’s an audience for this stuff.

Today, we’re looking at another one of those sniping games, and this time, it’s a budget shooter…

If this doesn't look generic to you, I don't know what.

If this doesn’t look generic to you, I don’t know what.

CTU Marine Sharpshooter is a budget FPS where sniping is the base mechanic. Despite the name, you don’t play as Jack Bauer, but rather a generic soldier dropped into certain exotic locales and go pew pew at bad guys with sniper rifles.

The developer of this game was Jarhead Games, a master of making budget military FPSes, such as Navy SEALs: Weapons of Mass Destruction and Army Ranger: Mogadishu. The only other notable thing they made was NRA Gun Club, which is ironic considering the NRA was lambasting video games before. Guess they forgot about that one.I’ve played only one of Jarhead’s games before, and it wasn’t that interesting, so I don’t have high hopes for this one.

Man, what kind of gun skin is that, Spotterguy? Can I get that for CS:GO? :P

Man, what kind of gun skin is that? Can I get that for CS:GO? 😛

You play as some generic sniper and his spotter buddy, with an M4 assault rifle. They don’t give them names, so I’m gonna call them “John McSniperdude” and his partner “David Spotterguy.”

What a good starting level, a big load of nothing.

What a good starting level, a big load of nothing.

After a thrilling introduction where McSniperdude and Spotterguy arrive to Afghanistan by boat, the game begins. Sniping in this game is a bit strange: You use the mouse wheel to zoom in and out. It takes a little getting used to, especially since I’m used to many other games allowing you to scope in with the right mouse button. As you play, Spotterguy will tell you that there’s enemies in a certain direction, also highlighted on your radar above.

Each set of levels gives you a unique sniper rifle: The starting Afghanistan missions give you an M40A3 that requires to chamber a round in each time you reload. Later, you get a Barrett M82, a heavy anti-tank rifle that the player uses like it was an assault rifle. The final set of levels give you an “AW”, which I assume is meant to be the Arctic Warfare Magnum, which would’ve been more appropriate in the other levels.

Get used to this weapon. It'll be your best friend in many cases, more than your sniper rifle will be.

Get used to this weapon. It’ll be your best friend in many cases, more than your sniper rifle will be.

When not sniping, you have two other weapons: A useless knife, and your SOCOM-MK23 pistol with an optional silencer. The pistol is really only useful in close quarter areas, of which there are a few. I’d recommend telling your Spotter to fire at will so you don’t have to switch between weapons or no-scope enemies often. You’re given 4-6 health packs you can use (signified by the crosses on the HUD), but they only refill when you change locales, so if you used up all your medkits on the early levels, you won’t last long. Also, your spotter has infinite kits and can heal himself willy-nilly.

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