Tagged: Steam

Alpha Prime: Plunging back to the world of eurojank.

As I’ve been writing about random games for years at this point, I’ve started to look back at the various cheapo bargain bin games I’ve written about. Most of them were made here in the United States and published by ValuSoft, the most infamous of bargain bin game publishers. Other times I’ve written about stuff a little lesser known, like City Interactive’s Enemy Front. But sometimes, despite owning many different bargain bin games over the years, there’s a few that made me wonder “Why the hell did I buy this?” Alpha Prime fits that bill perfectly.

A shame I have no idea who Ondrej Neff is. They should’ve done what they did with Metro 2033 and make a novelization of the game that’s somewhat difficult to read in English.

I honestly can’t remember why I bought Alpha Prime. Maybe it was $1 in a Steam sale. Maybe I saw someone show me a dumb video about it, and it looked so bad I couldn’t resist giving it a try. Regardless, I had the game in my backlog, and I felt like I needed something drastically different from BioShock 2, which I had just finished and written about recently.

Alpha Prime is made by Black Element, a development studio based in the Czech Republic. They were part of a collective called the Independent Developers Association (IDEA), founded by Bohemia Interactive. Suddenly it makes sense why the makers of ARMA and DayZ published this mid-2000s budget FPS. At least, according to the Steam store page.

Since I have a penchant for rough, janky games made in Europe, I decided to give this a try just out of morbid curiosity. Let’s just say the experience was rather… unpolished.

It looks like Arnold isn’t even interested in Livia’s advances. Wonder if that’s a side effect of the Hubbardium.

The plot goes like this: Arnold Weiss (or Arnie as some call him) is a former soldier who was stationed at Alpha Prime, an asteroid full of Hubbardium, a fictitious space rock that is said to give people special powers. After being egged on at a bar by an old fling named Livia, he goes back to Alpha Prime to help his buddy Warren, and stop his group from mining more Hubbardium. But then disaster strikes.

Those are words that *can* be used to make a sentence, but I can’t make heads or tails of it.

At least, I think that’s how the story goes. Naturally, since this was made by Czech people, English is not their first language. There is lots of stilted, awkward dialogue in this game, combined with a bunch of spelling and grammar mistakes that made it very hard to comprehend the game’s story, and I ended up ignoring it after a while.

Leaning? shooting behind cover? Yeah, this is definitely a 2000s era FPS.

Alpha Prime is a by-the-numbers FPS. Shoot dudes, try not to get shot too much, that sort of thing. The weapons are standard FPS fare for the time: pistol, shotgun, assault rifle, grenades, the works. There’s some interesting ideas, like the assault rifle being a mini gatling gun, but it acts no different than your standard FPS assault rifle.

These uses of the ReCon could’ve been useful, but most of the time it’s used to look into cameras, which isn’t really as useful.

The game does throw a couple interesting ideas, however. At one point you acquire a ReCon, a device that lets you hack into cameras and activate platforms and traps. It’s kinda neat in spots, but in most cases seeing into the next area won’t help you that much unless there’s a trap inside to make combat easier.

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Half-Life Before: A mod that should’ve gotten the red light.

I remember a couple years ago when Steam Greenlight was a thing. A way for more independent publishers and developers to get their games on Steam, Greenlight was a simple voting system where one’s game could be published under the system if it got enough support.

Unfortunately this lead to a lot of fairly questionable works hitting Greenlight. A fair share of games using stock assets from Unity, Unreal, and such. Others were people not understanding copyright law and posting stuff like World of Warcraft to Greenlight. One game was a fairly unremarkable team shooter that got re-posted to Greenlight several times after the creator had difficulty taking constructive criticism, even changing the name to “Tactical Anal Insertion” in a fit of rage.

On the bright side, games like Divekick, Broforce, and Undertale were some of the more standout choices that made it to Steam thanks to Greenlight. So it wasn’t all bad, even if there were people spending the $100 to release a proof-of-concept game that wasn’t even in a playable state.

Though, not everything was a game. Sometimes software made the Greenlight seal of approval. Even community mods like NeoTokyo made it into the mix, which was nice for people to get their project noticed. Though, much like a majority of Greenlight submissions, not all of them were winners, such as this one.

is it “artifact” or “artefact”? and what parallel world?

Half-Life: Before is a cheap free mod from developer Creashock Studios, a one-man studio who I hadn’t heard of until this game.

Now I’ve played a bevvy of Half-Life mods. Some of the best and most notable like They Hunger, Poke646, Azure Sheep and many others. Though for every good mod, there’s at least a dozen bad ones. Before falls into the latter category.

The thrilling introduction.

The story really doesn’t make a lot of sense: You play as Black Mesa scientist Andrew Winner as they’re teleported onto a cargo ship to… find something to go to Xen? The story isn’t that clear, and the brief amount of story given doesn’t explain much beyond what the Steam store page and the main menu gave me.

One option when you start is using this machine gun in this helicopter to take down the headcrab zombies. Or you could just take them down with your normal weapons.

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Shadowgrounds: A fun little action game.

If you’re like me, you probably have a massive backlog. I can’t blame you, Steam sales are the bane of our existences. This means you’ll sometimes buy games and wonder why you got them, like Chrome. I almost wrote something about that but I couldn’t stomach it after two levels.

ss (2016-05-23 at 09.21.06)

This is just a small excerpt of some of the games I’ve bought on countless Steam sales and never played or finished.

So let’s see what else I got. Alan Wake is too well-known, writing something about the six Star Wars games I own would be a bit too popular, I don’t think there’s anyone interested in me talking about the Wallace & Gromit Telltale series…

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A-ha, here we go. A game from a Finnish developer who’d later be known for the fun Trine series of games: Shadowgrounds.

This game holds a bit of a memory because of how Steam was ten years ago. See, Steam was a different beast back then. There wasn’t much outside support outside of a few indie games, like the wonderful Darwinia and the one-note, forgettable Rag Doll Kung Fu. Frozenbyte’s Shadowgrounds was one of those early adopters of Valve’s content delivery service, though this was during that period where games like these were still sold in physical boxes in stores. Though it would likely be shoved into the bottom of a GameStop bargain bin these days before being thrown out.

(Story spoilers within! If you wish to play it yourself spoiler-free, it’s on Steam for the low price of $6.99, or $12.99 for this and its sequel Shadowgrounds: Survivor!)

Set on the moon Ganymede, you play as engineer William Tyler, who’s sent out on a mission to repair some generators with some colleagues. Until stuff goes wrong. Armed with only a pistol, you fight loads of aliens as you solve the mystery and see what happens. Along the way you meet allies, and try to make sense of this mess.

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This a top-down shooter. It reminds me of Valve’s Alien Swarm, though European readers may liken this more to Team17’s Alien Breed series of games. You have a crosshair that aims in the general direction of enemy targets, and it plays fairly straightforward: Shoot the aliens before they attack you and kill you.

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Remembering Xfire: The program that was once better than Steam.

A few days ago I had found out a memory from my PC gaming past was going away. Xfire, a game chat client, was shutting down its client and account services. This news saddened me, as Xfire and me go way back.

Memories...

Memories…

To describe Xfire, it was part instant messenger, part server browser. It was a lighter, sleeker Gamespy Arcade, or for a more recent example, AMD’s Raptr client. While Steam has basically taken over that landscape, for a long time having a complimentary client like Xfire was sometimes mandatory, almost to a point where it was bundled with some games, even being used in console games like Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom, something that Sony Online Entertainment thought was fit for a press release.

Wasn't it fun to buy a game and find out that you couldn't play it? Such dark times...

Wasn’t it fun to buy a game and find out that you couldn’t play it? Such dark times…

For those who weren’t around in Steam’s early days, Steam was mostly garbage. Games didn’t run, you had to wait hours to install games (and there was no guarantee you’d get to play it right away!), and the most important feature, the Friends/Community, was perpetually broken and unusable. This is where Xfire excelled: It was a great chat client program to keep up with your gaming friends. Though it wasn’t just for Steam games, but other games where the server browser was cumbersome, like Soldier of Fortune II, or Battlefield 2, were also helpful for finding games back before peer-to-peer multiplayer was more common.

The Xfire website — which still exists, but only in a fragile shell nowadays — also had a fairly cool profile system setup. Here you could make friends, keep your favorite game servers for convenience, even take screenshots and video. All of these were considered pretty impressive for the mid-2000s, and paved the way for competitors to adapt that into their social features.

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Modern Warfare 3 PC is not very good.

I normally don’t do posts like these, but in this case, it needs to be said. If you’re an avid Steam follower, you may have noticed that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is having another free weekend on Steam, where the entire multiplayer component is free to play from now ’til Monday morning. I’m gonna make a public service announcement about this: DO NOT BUY CALL OF DUTY: MODERN WARFARE 3. At least, not on PC, anyhow. I don’t care if you play it through the free weekend, but do not add it to your Steam collection, your $30 is best spent elsewhere.

I should back up a bit. I’m not one of those pretentious jerkasses who bemoan that “Call of Duty is killing video gaming” while jerking off to the newest pixel art indie game that some person made in a week with the littlest of effort. (Okay, I’ll give an exception: McPixel looks pretty awesome.) In fact, until a few years ago, I was a Call of Duty nut. I owned practically every game in the series. I played the multiplayer a lot — perhaps not as much as the maximum level Prestige 10 level 70 players, but enough to have a blast playing it — and enjoyed the campaigns of each. Hell, I even made this dumb video when Modern Warfare 2 came out, which I sat in a mall GameStop after college classes to get:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8QW80hIZiA?rel=0&w=640&h=480]

Man, I was so excited for this back then.

But when I played Modern Warfare 2, I came to a realization. It wasn’t as great as Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was. Treyarch’s World at War was better. The story made no god damn sense. It was more on explosive set pieces. The multiplayer was not very well balanced and prone to bizarre bugs like the “Javelin glitch” — where you could prime a Semtex grenade, cancel it by switching to the javelin, and cause a massive explosion when you died — and even accidentally joining hacked lobbies of 16-player Rust where the only winning outcome was the game-winning Tactical Nuke. Coupled with the heavy balance issues, meant that Infinity Ward didn’t seem to care as much as they did. Then that thing happened in 2010 where about half the team left, and then it all makes sense. That was when I started losing interest in Call of Duty: I didn’t pick up Black Ops until earlier this year, and I still don’t own Modern Warfare 3. After replaying the multiplayer again — this is the third “free weekend” the game has had since launch — I realized why.

I loved Black Ops mechanics on how it handled multiplayer: You had to buy guns with in-game credits, which you’d get for completing objectives, contracts and generally during play. You could customize the ever-loving hell out of everything, from gun skins to your in-game emblem. You could dive to prone. It just feels better. Modern Warfare 3‘s answer to that? “Screw all that, let’s keep what was in Modern Warfare 2 except with MORE RIDICULOUSNESS AND EXPLOSIONS!” Terry Crews would be proud.

While there are a few new things, such as the small skirmish Face-Off mode and Kill Confirmed — grabbing tags off of dead players — it’s the same multiplayer stuff that’s been in past games. This time the maximum level goes from 70 in Modern Warfare 2 to 80, and now has a whopping 20 prestige levels! Wow! There’s new guns, new killstreaks, the whole nine yards. Just what you expect from a Call of Duty multiplayer experience. There’s a big problem, though: Much like Modern Warfare 2 had balance issues, MW3 has those same problems. Wanna kick ass and take names easily? Once you acquire the FMG9 machine pistol in multiplayer, equip it on a loadout. Level it up ’til you unlock the akimbo attachment. Combine it with Steady Aim and you have a bullet-spewing death machine. If you wanna slog further through the experience system, add an MP7 as your primary weapon to further annoy your enemies. Granted, they eventually balanced them… on the 360 and PS3. That’s right, Modern Warfare 3 never got those hotfixes on the PC, meaning these guns are still broken like they were at launch. Not surprising that I saw dozens of players use that.

It gets worse: It uses matchmaking instead of dedicated servers, uses host migration, has no mod or custom map support, and if you wanna play the goofy special modes like Gun Game, you need to go to an unranked server browser to play them, for no XP or rewards whatsoever. Coupled with the awful networking code — when I played this back, it gave my NAT level as “poor” when it’s usually excellent in every other game I’ve played that wasn’t a Call of Duty game — and the abundance of hackers with no way to report them, makes it feel like they phoned this port in.

Compare to the experience I briefly had playing Call of Duty: Black Ops on a different Steam free weekend: Server browser, dedicated servers, no host migration BS, a “report player” feature and all the customization features as its console brethren. Granted, the PC Black Ops felt chuggy compared to MW2/MW3, but my PC is old as dirt anyhow.

I can’t vouch if the console versions of Modern Warfare 3 are any better, but if it’s any indication, it’s probably the same stuff as it is here. In fact, it feels like Modern Warfare 2 with more stuff. It’s more than Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, it’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Plus! (Hooray for obscure game show references.)

Expect something less full of bile in the coming days.