Thursday, June 24, 2004

UT2004 Mod Roundup Part 2

I realized sometime over the last week that if I were to only write about one mod a week, I'd take forever to cover all the ones that have me interested. Of course, there was a fairly simple fix to this situation: Write about two a week. And in that spirit, I'm going to try to cover games that have at least a little something in common. This week's theme: Round based, tactical, squad oriented games.

Upon firing up Frag.Ops, one can't help but draw tiny mental comparisons to Counter Strike. For one thing, Counter Strike was a major player in the introduction of round-based multiplayer games to the general public. For another thing, you buy your equipment at the beginning of each round; much like CS. Then there's the realism factor. This isn't quite Instagib, but you're not going to take so many bullets that a human body would start to resemble strawberry jelly before you go down. There are no health packs, you actually have to remember to reload your weapon, and you can't jump fifteen feet down while putting only a minor dent in your health. Even if you're not a Counter Strike fan, you're going to want this mod for your copy of UT2004. Of course the UT2004 engine looks a lot better than the dated Half Life engine, but where Frag.Ops trumps CS is in the feel of the game. A lot of people complain about (or praise) Counter Strike feeling more like a sport than a shooter. I for one tend to agree with them. Frag.Ops certainly concentrates a lot more feeling like a shooter than fucking basketball or whatever.

Domain 2049 doesn't owe anything to Counter Strike. If anything, this mod feels like a souped up, more realistic version of UT2004's Assault gameplay mode. Where it kicks it up a notch is in the execution. In the standard Assault gameplay mode, one team is trying to achieve a series of objectives (opening certain doors, blowing certain things up) while the other team concentrates on keeping these objectives from being pulled off (make sure doors stay shut, certain things don't blow up...), at least entirely. Domain 2049 adds to the formula by often having both teams tasked with certain objectives while trying to keep the other team from achieving theirs. This can often get pretty hectic, and can possibly result in a thorough pants-shitting immediately after being shot. Of course, in Domain 2049 there are respawns, even if you do have to wait a couple of seconds beforehand.

The bots in both of these games are fairly intelligent, although in a Frag.Ops botmatch once you're out you can be pretty sure that your team will not win. Your once active bots now just sort of run back and forth, waiting to be shot, while the other team's bots do what they were doing all along. I guess that once the bots get used to some sort of direction, they can't think for themselves ever again. This is actually a small issue in both mods, you just don't notice it as much in Domain 2049 because of the respawns. When it comes down to which one is better, that's a toughie. I'm sure most people would tell you Frag.Ops (it is one of the more popular mods out there right now) is the better game, but my personal preference leans towards Domain 2049.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

UT2004 Mod Roundup, Part 1: Deathball

I'm sure that most everyone has heard of this mod by now; it's pretty popular, with good reason. Now, I'm not a big sports gamer, in fact I haven't played a sports game since Tecmo Super Bowl on the NES back in the day. So why, I ask myself, am I so into this sports game?

Well, I guess the fact that you can kill the guy with the ball helps. So does the first-person view. You know what the best part is though, at least in my opinion? You're just one guy on the team. You don't pass the ball and instantly find yourself controlling the character who received the pass. You don't plan out what exactly everyone is going to do beforehand, in fact, there's no planning at all. When playing a botmatch, the quality of the bots helps out a lot. Of course, there have been times when I've seen bots get sort of "stuck" trying to use a jump pad that only the other team can use, but that has really been the only bot-related issue that I've noticed at all.

So what is Deathball exactly? Well, it's sort of like a mix between American Football and what the rest of the world calls Football, but with more bloodspray. Don't get me wrong, this isn't a super violent game; you can win a game (at least a botmatch) with out ever having to think about killing the ball carrier. And for those of you who think you're just going to play it exactly like a first person shooter, I've got news: The only person you can ever take out is the person carrying the ball, and they do respawn, instantly. No fragfest here.

All in all, I don't really know what it is that keeps me playing Deathball, seeing as I'm not a fan of sport games at all. But, you know what? I am playing like hell, and I have no intention of stopping soon. The game is just that fun and, as long as you have a copy of UT2004, it's free.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

No, It's Not Sarcasm...

I just read on Slashdot that Valve Software has had some arrests pertaining to the stolen Half Life 2 source code fiasco. I'd like to take this opportunity to personally thank Valve for their valiant effort.

You know why? Because I'm sure that if they hadn't used all that time to fish around for the "perps", the events immediately following would have been horrendous: 1.) "P1r4at3s r00l S0ftw4r3z 1nc" releases "h@lf l1f3 2" which, of course, is downloaded by the millions, everyone believing that they are truly getting a free copy of Half Life 2, but in reality... 2.) Every single person with a copy of "h@lf l1f3 2" immediately becomes infected with an unremovable virus. 3.) Said virus begins the process of constantly monitoring every computer Valve has running, including the design document for 2014's Half Life 3. 4.) "P1r4at3s r00l S0ftw4r3z 1nc" waits 15 years and releases "H@lf l1fe E(3)", 5 years before Valve ships Half Life 3. 5.) Rinse and repeat.

Of course: the reason I buy computer games in the first place is that I know the source code is completely closed so people can't cheat. It's not like anyone ever cheats at a commercial videogame. With open source software(or stolen code) anybody can read the code, and you know what? They can use that knowledge to (Gasp!) cheat! No, no, no. I need Valve's ever mysterious Steam to protect me from mean people with too much computer knowledge who like to break the rules.

All sarcasm aside, I don't buy computer games for the fucking engine. I buy them because of the large teams of artists, the extensive testing, the voice acting, and the fucking polish. None of that has a single fucking thing to do with source code. By the way, even if "preventing cheating" by rewriting the code was the actual reason for pushing the release date back, that shit still doesn't take a year.

I never had any intentions of buying Half Life 2 anyway, but now thanks to the double-headed assfuck of death comprised of Steam and Valve's lawyers, I wouldn't buy it if there was a segment where you could run through Valve's offices, guns blazing.


You know, it's a funny thing: I can actually feel the emptiness in the spot where my soul used to reside. Well, I could feel it until the tendrils of the internet worked their way into this newly excavated cavity, finally linking up with the already-existent wire cluster where my brain used to be. When a machine goes down, I know it instantly. When a site gets Slashdotted, I can feel it's pain. I am the internet. At least, that's the sort of feelings you start to have shortly after moving from dialup to broadbrain... um, I mean broadband. Fuck, I should really find out where in my brain the backspace key is.

At first, there were problems: Basically, the modem supplied by my ISP was a dick. It tried to tell my router what to do and, let me tell you, my router hates being pushed around. The modem wouldn't relent, however, so a couple of quick calls to the ISP brought a new, nicer modem that didn't try to tell anybody what to do. The router was in a bad mood for a couple more hours, obviously the bad-boy modem had said something that hurt router very deeply. After a little while though, router and modem got along like the best of friends, and my computers even joined the party.

First off, I played a 50 person game of Call Of Duty without any lag at all. It was beautiful, I almost wept. In fact, I did, but not before playing quite a few games of Far Cry, whose multiplayer wonders I could not witness while stuck in the dialup world. I started, as I always do, with a simple deathmatch; eventually moving on to team-deathmatch. It was a blast, but not half as fun as the Assault gameplay mode. I must have played half a dozen Assault games before finally calling it a night, and every one was an absolutely awesome experience. There's a strange, surreal feeling I get playing single-player Far Cry that's almost like deja-vu. I didn't expect this feeling to carry over into the multiplayer aspect of the game, but it does, flawlessly; and that rules.

Just to see how fast I could do it, I also downloaded a couple of UT2004 mods(it was damn fast, by the way) that I'm going to write about over the next couple of weeks, so keep an eye out for that. Also, if anyone happens to see an ISP employee with my soul, grab that shit for me.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

If I Had A Robot That Big, I'd Never Leave The House

I signed up for that thing where Square-Enix will send you a demo disc of Front Mission 4 a month or two ago and, who knows, it could be on the way. What I do know is that I got impatient, so I picked up a recent issue of Official Playstation Magazine, demo disc featuring Front Mission 4 included.

Just when I was starting to think that Square might have started to go downhill with the addition of that "-Enix" to their name, this game came along and rocked the shit right out of my ass. What can I say? I love giant, badass, gun-toting robots and I love turn based combat even more. This game is firmly rooted in the older-school, grid-style strategic tradition; alongside your Final Fantasy Tactics and what-nots of the world. However, not everything is from the tried and true book of the old-school. Grid-based combat has probably never had quite as much snazz as is presented here, with the camera closing in on the wanzers(giant robots) right before the inevitable exchange of gunplay in a very cinematic fashion. The game's not out yet, and I haven't played any of the other games in the Front Mission series, but it seems like if the robots are customizable enough for my liking, this is a game I'm sure to pick up.

Also on the same demo disc was a game I've only started to hear about recently, Future Tactics: The Uprising. This is also a turn based affair, except instead of the chess-like placement of units on a grid this game gives you some pseudo-freedom-of-movement by allowing you to guide your selected character around, platformer style, until you find a spot suited to your liking. The same approach is used for aiming and, while it does throw a change-up into the pace of gameplay, it's also quite a pain in the ass to even see where an enemy unit is unless you've already spotted them out in the first-person view. It's got a cartoony atmosphere and some bad voice acting, which is not to say that Front Mission 4 doesn't. When it comes to goofy voice acting of the week award, it's a toss up between FM4's stereotypical Italian and FT: TU's stereotypical British accents. Future Tactics is out in stores, and although it hasn't got the greatest reviews, it seems to be a pretty enjoyable title that I may end up adding to my collection.

By the way, next week I'm finally going the way of the cow into the slaughterhouse(OK, I guess that's a bit dramatic) and signing my soul over to the broadband demons. While this means that I will spend my afterlife eating naught but burning hot coals and drinking naught but burning hot cola, it also means I get to play Far Cry online for the first time, and not have to deal with the horrible lag issues with Call Of Duty. Another nice side effect is that I'll be able to download new games and mods a whole lot faster, meaning more reading enjoyment for you: the reader.