Crysis 2 Multiplayer: Impressions

The Cryteam recently released a demo of Crysis 2‘s multiplayer, mostly for publicity’s sake. I don’t really blame them, I’ve heard next to nothing about the game since the announcement, but whatever. So, impressions.

Crysis‘ multiplayer (the first one, that is) featured mostly wide-open levels that required a vehicle to move around in well. They were frustratingly unbalanced, however, in the sense that every location turned into a grinder at the end of a long truck ride. Still, it had some good ideas and some truly enjoyable tanks.

You can definitely see the influence of the COD craze in the game when comparing it to the old one. The level that I played on was much more compact, it could have been in COD and no one would blink an eye. This isn’t a bad thing, mind you, its the grinder without all the driving; I’m simply saying that they’ve changed things quite a bit.

The powers have changed a lot as well, for better or worse. The COD-style customization system makes an appearance; unlockable classes allow you to pick your guns, grenades, and three types of perks based around the three modes.

While I can appreciate the gun upgrades, the first had them as well, the perks seem unnecessary. One of the great things about the original was that the suits were all the same, giving an even playing field. This added to the skill factor of the game; you couldn’t rely on a perk to do your job for you, it took some ingenuity with what powers you had to succeed.

Speaking of the suit modes, they’ve been changed a bit. Armor and cloak work as they used to, now bound to the RB and LB (Gods, I had to look at my controller, I was going to say R1 L1 still). Speed acts as the sprint function, and strength works by holding down the jump or melee attack button. All of these things draw from a common power source that regenerates fairly quickly when not in use.

However, I do have an issue with the latter powers. Okay, speed mode means sprinting, this makes sense. However, it would be nice if there was some way to control how much sprinting we can do. The original let you fly around on roller skates with speed mode on, although it did drain energy like no other. I kind of expected my speed mode to justify its energy-sap, minor as it is. More to the point, why can’t I run at all when I don’t have any suit energy left? There is a man inside that suit, I’m sure that he did some track-and-field to train for the position. There’s been many times when I’ve turned armor off and tried to sprint away only to crawl along like a kneecapped infant because I ran out of energy. Ducks in a gallery, anyone? It just seems weird.

As for the strength mode, the jumping works. I like that. I love the clambering movement as well, where you can automatically hoist yourself up on any ledge that you come in contact. It leads to some heart-stopping megajumps, leaping across a hole and grabbing the edge at the last minute. The triggers are reliable to a surprising degree, I’ve been in quite a few matches and parkoured my way across the rooftops without the game missing a single grab. A+, Cryteam.

However, the melee attack is… eh. I accept that the Xbox controller can’t handle the radial menu well, but holding down the melee button to do a mega-punch causes an agonizing moment of delay between wanting to hit and the game actually performing it. And, as we all know, moments can be deadly. Perhaps it’s there to curtail the reflexive death-punch of the original, but it’s still irritating, especially since it requires you to hold a bead on the enemy.

One of the strangest choices that the Cryteam made was with the killstreak rewards. Yes, the game even has killstreaks, and they’re the same ones that COD has.

It took me a while to figure out why I couldn’t activate the killstreak rewards, even with mad leet sufficient kills (still getting used to the controller… /sigh). I finally realized that you have to first kill the person, then physically walk over to his body and collect the dog tag that he drops. While this might not seem that strange, consider the implications. Snipers won’t get killstreaks because they can’t risk moving across the map to collect the tag. Knocking off one person a group then legging it won’t count towards the rewards because you can’t get to the body. The tag could drop somewhere really nasty too, like onto a tiny ledge or right in the middle of a killbox. And there’s always the baiting, since enemies can camp the body and wait for you to collect the tags.

This was probably put into place to prevent the constant stream of rewards that’s prevalent in the COD games, and I can appreciate that. Hell, I still call one of the games “Call of Duty: World at phweeeeeeeeBOOM”. I swear, I got shellshocked from playing that game, if only from the constant barrage of artillery fire.

However, if you’re going to make the rewards far more risky to obtain then you should make them much more powerful. Crysis 2… well, it doesn’t. I’m wasn’t kidding when I said that the rewards are the same as COD, it’s 30 second reveal at three, airstrike at five in the form of an orbital lazer (which has very little AOE damage), and a floating gunship at seven. They’re all the fun with five times the risk, but it doesn’t make you value them that much more. There’s a certain point when it’s just not worth it, and that point comes to pass often.
This is definitely not the kind of game where you expect to live for a long time. There’s just too many ways to die, especially with the various insta-kill methods, like the classic cloak-> shotgun in the back of the head. Or even better, take whatever time you need to draw a headshot, decloak, fire, and cloak again. Mobility and paranoid awareness are your only friends.
Overall, I’ve really enjoyed the game. It’s like COD with superpowers and parkour, which is grand and a half. The annoyances I’ve mentioned are nagging things that don’t really get in the way of the game. That comes from the fact that it has that idiotic system of hosting that has become so prevalent. You know, THAT one. The one that makes you migrate the host every match. Although the game doesn’t actually pause when it migrates, but what can you do?
Let’s see how it goes.

Review: Monday Night Combat

I’m almost ashamed to admit how I was informed and enticed into buying Monday Night Combat. You see, Valve said it was a good game, and that it was addicting. They also pointed out that, along with the discounted price, you would receive hats in both Team Fortress 2 and MNC. To say that the hats had nothing to do with my decision would be a blatant lie, finally proving that I am a whore for hats. Yes, yes, Alien Swarm, Poker Night at the Inventory, and now MNC all had me putting on my sluttiest dress and bending over a table for hats.

That’s not to say that the game isn’t as fun as Valve put it up to be, their habitual lying only focuses around release dates.

Let’s come back to the game. Monday Night Combat is a class-based shooter that plays out in a series of arenas, complete with commentator, fans, and advertisements. The objective of the main mode, Crossfire, (nobody plays Blitz) is to escort the bots that spawn at your end of the arena to other. The Moneyball is the destination for the robotic pain train, a ball filled with money (duh) that you must destroy to win the game. Both Moneyballs have a shield around them which can only be destroyed by bots; once it’s down the “Pros” can put some hurt on the exposed ball.

The classes are fairly simple, with an Assault, Sniper, Assassin, Tank (Pyro), Support (Engi/medic), and Shooter (Heavy) taking the field. They all have their own strengths and weaknesses, although the Tank and Shooter are pretty similar.

You can upgrade the skills by spending money, which is awarded by killing bots, players, turrets, shooting the mascot, shooting the Juice Bot (Fruit Fucker, for those who know him), and so on. You can also use said money to build more bots, turrets, buy Juice, and so on.

Well, I’m 325 words in and I haven’t started talking about my opinions, which we ALL know are the most important thing. You can find the rest out on a MNC wiki.

First of all, is it fun? Yeah, I would say so. It’s definitely an interesting game, one that pushes for both a macrogame with the stat-upgrading and turrets, and a micro with the individual firefights. I’ve heard it compared to LoL, and I can see the likeness somewhat. Let’s call the macro/micro a watered-down version of LoL, one that isn’t full of pompous dicks.

However, it’s a lot like TF2 in more ways than one. For example, communication is key for coordinating strategies. I’ve lost multiple matches because no one was given the job to set up turrets; the bots just kicked down the front door. However, I’ve been in many servers and they have one thing in common: silence. I kid you not, I’ve had one person say something without prompting in my entire career. Perhaps I’m on the wrong servers, maybe I need to be in groups, I don’t know. But it happens.

Secondly, the classes are… ehhh. The offensive classes are fairly much interchangeable, they all have guns that do what guns do best. You rarely get Snipers or Supports because they are fairly, well, boring; Sniper’s effectiveness is also cut down by the prevalence of glass walls and corners.

Assassin is the new Sniper, I’m afraid, in that everyone wants to play her. There’s no balancing factor, however, so it’s entirely possible to have a team full of Assassins. This is grand if the enemy is sitting behind a wall, but it’s no good for real offense.

How do you balance a team in TF2? Usually you start with five snipers or whatever and play for a few minutes. The group notices the error relatively soon and corrects it one way or another. Preferably involving a baseball bat.

This isn’t as feasible in MNC, however, since you have to sink a lot of money into most classes in order to make them effective. Assassin is especially guilty of this, practically requiring three fully-upgraded skills to work. This means that the players will buff up the class they started as, giving them more and more incentive to stay with said class until they can get enough money to make a new class. This impairs rapid class-switching, but it also hurts team balance. The only real way to balance is in the >30 seconds of class selection before the game starts proper.

Lastly, it’s not really “addicting” like TF2 or its peers are. I’ve never been an extremely competitive gamer, I like to win but I’m relatively laid back when it comes to losing. It doesn’t irritate me to be halfway up the scoreboard (although the bottom does bother), I consider it to be the price I pay for playing multiple games instead of practicing the one.

Perhaps this is the reason why I’m not very drawn into MNC. It’s definitely the kind of game that you play to win, which sounds redundant. After all, you play all games to win, but there’s usually more than that. It seems like winning is all there is in MNC; games like LoL and Starcraft are the same way.

Think of the best moments that you’ve had in multiplayer games. Perhaps it’s that guild run on the Lich King that you did in WoW; you didn’t beat the raid but you had a wonderful time. I bet that the best parts of your TF2 memories aren’t of winning, but single events like a mad spree of backstabs or a sniper accidentally headshotting a cloaked spy. It’s the moments that make the games, not the ending.

That’s what MNC really lacks: moments. The kills are joyless and interchangeable, and the in-game humor gets old fast.

This is running long, I’d better wrap it up. In all, this is a game for competitive gamers, one that’s let down by a few balance issues.

The Insomniac's Logic

I can get away with sleeping for eight hours, for I will wake well rested.
I can get away with sleeping for seven hours, for it is practically eight.
I can get away with sleeping for six hours, for I slept for nine over the weekend.
I can get away with sleeping for five hours, for I can nap later in the day.
I can get away with sleeping for four hours, for I can binge on sleep the next night.
I can get away with sleeping for three hours, for coffee can easily sustain me.
I can get away with sleeping for two hours, for enough coffee can keep me awake.
I can get away with sleeping for one hour, for enough coffee can keep me alive.
I can get away with working through the night, for sleep has now become trivial.

Well, I though that it was funny.


First of all, I know that I’m a terrible, horrible person for skipping Friday and posting this late on Monday Tuesday.

Second, I know that it gets lost in the jumble of my rebuilding of the site, so let me re-state that I’ll be using the “posts” (like this one, they show up in the feed) to link to a “page” that contains the piece itself. Convoluted, I know, but it’s for the best.

Now, let me present Motokool. Well, an Impressions piece about it.


Why Does Superman Have a Health Bar?

The concept of a “superhero MMO” has been tried before; games like Champions Online and City of Heroes/Villians pioneered that niche. I can’t account for the former, but I tried out the latter and found it rather lacking. DC Universe Online has quite a few points going for it, mostly in that the characters are based off of interesting and iconic comic book figures, not simply the whims of a random name generator. In all, I hope that it’s good, I’ll be interested to see how well it does.

That being said, I’d like to speak on the subject of superhero games. Not necessarily MMOs, any game out there.

The biggest problem with these kinds of games lies in the superheroes themselves. You see, superheroes are minor gods. There are exceptions, the most famous being Batman, but we’ll get back to him.

Let’s take Superman, the original caped crusader. I believe that I’ve figured out the true reason why Krypton “exploded”: the distribution of kryptonite to every man, woman, child, animal, and large plant on Earth caused the planet to dwindle down to nothing and ram into the sun. This was done, of course, to provide some way for Superman to lose his powers every issue. I swear, you’d think that they put it in the water.

But why would they do this? To create conflict, old chap. After all, the Man Of Steel has no true weaknesses outside of kryptonite, and how can you consider a villain a credible threat when Superman can literally do anything?

Of course, that’s assuming that the superhero has invincibility in his repertoire. What about the rest of them, the characters who can only run really fast, or turn into different kinds of animals?

How many times has a superhero been faced with a problem that cannot be overcome with his Standard Moves Set, only to figure out a new technique halfway though the fight? Maybe the telekinetic gets tired of throwing cars around and simply causes a clot in the enemy’s body, or she pulls a move out of nowhere, one that she was saving for whatever reason. Perhaps Beast Boy points out that he can shift into any animal, living or dead. Plastic Man could simply squeeze you to death, or shove himself down your throat. And while ripping an opponent’s heart out with your mind might not fly with the ESRB, you see what I’m saying. Almost any superpower can be used to do literally anything if it is used cleverly. Thus, the only limiting factor for these characters is not a weapon, but their own ingenuity.

Health bars: they rule our lives. So much of video games revolves around getting from point A to point B without losing all the red in that bar. But what does it mean? Well, it’s representative of how much damage you can take before calling it quits and dying/passing out/running away. Bear this in mind when I restate the question in the title: why does Superman have a health bar?

How do you kill Superman, or for that matter, any character with superhuman abilities? Superman can sleep in a hail of bullets, the Plastic Man can simply deflect the blows, Starfire can make a wall of death to protect herself. All of these characters are capable of shielding themselves from harm, which means that their physical well-being is not in danger. While I suppose the bar could represent their stamina or something along those lines, why don’t they simply flee after tiring, returning in five minutes to fight some more?

The entire idea of a superhero being vulnerable is what makes the premise of these games flawed.

Let’s come back to Batman. Yes, he has a super-suit that can defend him against almost anything. Aye, a single henchman with a rifle could shoot him in the mouth and end the whole series, but they never do. Indeed, he has a disturbing tendency to pull the perfect tool for any situation out of his Magical Hammerspace Belt without any prior knowledge of what he might face. However, he’s entirely human and that makes him a member in a very small, very special group.

One of the reasons why Arkham Asylum was so excellent lies in the fact that Batman could die. He couldn’t take more than a bullet to the skull, the pansy, and that made the action sections tense. Surviving these parts was based entirely around the skill of the player, not the superpowers of the character.

Which brings me to my final point in this extravaganza of rhetorical questions and confusing logic threads. The most successful superhero games are the ones that don’t feature superhumans at all. The only way that a superhuman can be killed, whether it’s an antagonist or protagonist, is by crippling them with artificial handicaps or their equivalent of Wonderflonium. A game must feature human characters with human weaknesses that can be exploited. Batman is fast, yes, but he’s only as fast as the person controlling him, which makes his games compelling.

In short, the character must be skill-based, not rooted in magical superpowers. Otherwise you’re cheating the player out of being a god for the sake of the game, which is unfair.

Do you know what bothered me the most about City Of Heroes? You could make a character that had guns as their one and only weapon. Yes, a person with a big rifle was considered to be on the same level as a person with pyrokinesis. Talk about handicapping! Apparently the ability to literally boil someone’s brains was exactly as effective as mundane bullets. Let’s see a comic book explain that away. Oh, does the pyrokinetic have “issues” that prevents him from using his powers in the most efficient way? How convenient.



Those of you who have read Concerned might be wondering why I’m writing a piece on a comic that was finished five years ago. The reason lies in the fact that I, a person that actively seeks out comics, haven’t read it until recently, and that probably indicates that many  people who don’t waste spend their lives searching for comics haven’t either. If that makes sense.

Note: Due to the nature of my new filing system, which rivals to lending a book to a friend by hand-copying your entire copy in terms of simplicity and usability, I will be posting the new reviews directly into the tabs and then linking to them in the feed. This is because the system is basically a series of pages that I copy-pasted from the original posts. However, a comment on a feed post will not show up on the page, and vice-versa. Thus, to keep it all as one piece, this unavoidable way

Alan Wake: A "Review"

Yes, I know that the game came out half a year ago, but I only recently had the chance to play it. Really, I just want to talk about it.

Let’s get the whole “game” thing out of the way; it’s a competent game with fairly solid controls. It does get let down a bit by being relatively easy, with a halfway competent player finishing most levels with the maximum number of flashbangs and flares. Also, the suspense tends to be killed somewhat by music stings and slow-motion camera angles giving away the enemies approaching, especially since the stings play when the baddies are far enough away to be killed effortlessly.

This is secondary to the real meat of the game, though. I am one of those pansies that actually likes a plot with his gunplay, and the world of Wake was fairly engaging.

Many of the great survival/psychological horror games have one thing in common: they all take place in an environment where the world itself seems to be out to ruin your day. Silent Hill 2 was famous for this, as well as the Condemned series, Amnesia: The Dark Descent, the famous Ravenholm chapter of Half-Life 2, and various books and movies of all kinds.

All of these examples have various ways of accomplishing this goal, but let’s focus on Wake’s method: darkness.

The fear of the dark, one of the primal fears that everyone has rooted in their subconscious, is a powerful thing in a horror setting. After all, darkness represents the unknown and can house any number of horrors. However, it’s more than simply a cloak for scary monsters to hide under, it can take on something of a physical form as well.

Light and darkness have always been opposites, this much is obvious. Consider how each of them plays a role in their respective time periods, i.e., day and night.

Day: Light, provided by the sun, fills everything that isn’t purposefully constructed to hide from it (sunshades, buildings with tinted windows, so on). Most people are active during the day as well, which means that every building is filled to the brim with fluorescent lights. The only place where you might find true darkness would be a windowless basement or the depths of a cave, and the former can be lit by simply opening a door. In short, light is in excess to the point where darkness must be purposefully constructed.

Night: However, the roles are reversed at night. Since the sun, and therefore the unlimited source of light, disappears, darkness reigns supreme. Darkness has a different dynamic than light, though, it acts as an encroaching force that must be driven back by a man-made light. Yes, the moon does prevent the world from sinking into pitch blackness, but anyone that has tented in the woods before can tell you that it doesn’t help that much.

Note that the light, your sanctuary from the dangerous darkness, is man-made; this means that it can be destroyed. Houselights are tied to powerlines and generators, both of which are located in, you guessed it, the dark. Generators are particularly vulnerable, as they require a constant fuel source. The same goes with flashlights (batteries), lanterns (batteries or a combustible fuel), and even torches, which can burn down or blow out.

This fact is important because it makes your light source, and therefore your assumed well-being, fragile. And even if it was unlimited, it only helps to a certain extent; they illuminate either a conical area brightly or a general area dimly. The effect is still the same, you have a single source of light barely keeping back the cancerous approach of darkness.

Of course, darkness is not intrinsically evil. After all, the absence of light is exactly that, nothing. However, our minds have a tendency to personify such things, giving them cruel intentions.

Why is darkness so powerful a force, then? It takes away the power from the character and forms them into nothing more than an insect trying pathetically to stave off its impending death. Think of H.P. Lovecraft’s stories, where the humans were faced with a power that was so immense when compared to their own. There’s plot strength in forces that are overpowered like that, where the creature would normally look at your tiny little flashlight and laugh. No, that wasn’t an euphemism.

The second aspect of the power is more cliche, but no less true. It’s fitting that Wake opens with one of Stephen King’s more memorable quotes, which essentially says the appearance of the monster in the story is always a let-down. It’s comparable to waking up in the night and hearing something banging around in your trash cans. It could be a raccoon, or it could be that serial killer that you’ve been hearing about on the news. Guess which one your mind will jump to first?

The darkness is a faceless entity, one that is never truly defined and therefore always scary. After all, you know that there is something out there, hiding behind the bushes, waiting for you to walk by…

Wake follows this idea to the letter in the implementation of the Taken. Oddly enough, some of the sections in the forest are the low point of the game, and not because of the gameplay. It’s because killing a group of Taken means that you’re safe for a while, as they rarely spawn rapidly. This is a tension-killer, of course, because the tension of the forests comes from the hiding of the enemies, not the fighting. Thus, the appearance of the monsters is a fairly big let-down.

There are parts of the game, through purposeful design or bugs, where you won’t get a sting until the group is almost on you (if at all). These are the pants-wetting moments, as the shadows of the bushes begin to look a lot like a man with a chainsaw after you’ve been running around in the dark for a while.

It’s the unknown, the anticipation, the fear that makes the game, well, scary. And that’s what gives the darkness power.

I’m rambling, so I’ll wrap it up. Let me say this: good horror doesn’t rely on the jump-out-and-scare-you kind of things. Real horror is the kind where the author could write the monster out of the story completely and it’d still be terrifying.

Oh, Alan Wake. Hmm. “Good game, let down by some poor choices in the mechanics. Decent story, would probably be better as a book”. Speaking of which, I hear that there actually is a book based off the game. So it’s a writer writing about a writer writing about a wabble dongking loosch. Still, might be decent…

Mr. Smiles

For today I am adding another entry to my Stories tab. Thus, it is my pleasure to present Mr. Smiles, a story that I hope is as depressing to read as it was to write.

Mr. Smiles

A forewarning: this bit was an experiment with compressing a broader scene into a relatively small word-count through drastic in media res, a practice with which I have a tumultuous relationship. As a result, I wouldn’t recommend thinking too hard about the logic of it, as quite a bit of material that I wanted to put in ended up on the editing room floor, as the saying goes.