Archive for May, 2016

Homefront: The Revolution or A Broken American Dream

Posted in Hands On with tags , on May 29, 2016 by Rabidgames

First of all, kudos to Eurogamer’s Homefront: The Revolution review subtitle “It’s always gunny in Philadelphia”. The perfect headline … although Paddy’s Pub hasn’t been found yet in this war-torn version of Philadelphia, which sounds like a strange omission.

So, Homefront 2 – well, it’s not the offical title per se, but whatever, so yes, the story is flatter than then Netherlands and the setpieces are just there – then again, after being spoilt by Uncharted 4, hardly any setpiece might be enjoyable. You have an invasion, the good American lads fight back the alien invaders, standard stuff. Here, the “Norks” (check what norks means in Australian English to have a laugh) are pretty much like portrayed like the nazis – mass-murdering, camp-building villains hidden behind full-face helmets so you actually never see their face. The heroes however, they’re all assholes, too – psychopaths, hypocrites, college bros, stereotypes.

Half in the story … fuck, there is hardly any story, so the trailers just set up expectations until you realise a 3 minute trailer has more story than the entire game! And then, the black and white portrayal worked perfectly fine in the last Wolfenstein, but sadly, The Revolution fails to either attach you to the heroes or to exaggerate the villains, and there is hardly any humour as well. There are some pretty violent scenes and atrocities to be discovered, but since you hardly build a connection to anything or anyone it’s just like “meh, let me keep playing”.

Enough philosophy … your question probably is rather how bad Homefront: The Revolution actually is, right? Technically, it is shit-awful! Framerate crashes, a 5 to 10 second freeze during each and every auto-save (at times you get shot during saves so the game seems to be only freezing for you), falling through the floor of the world (and failing missions that way), incorrect hitboxes not recognising headshots, side-missions not registering you doing stuff you’re told to do, and good luck trying to win the lottery of getting hold of an edge after jumping (and during the campaign, you have to jump and grab edges a few times). And that’s just the campaign of Homefront 2 – the co-op multiplayer is utterly broken (crashes, freezes, connection failures, lags, name it)!

Technical failures aside, the gameplay is quite repetitive, and the missions are more of the same; take out this, take over that, defend this, find out that expected plot twist. Taking over territory feels a bit like the Far Cry games; if you liked that aspect there, you’ll like it here as well – it varies between taking them over by force, by side missions and by a bit of platforming. But juggling between yellow and red zones can keep you entertained for quite a while. The red zones in Homefront: The Revolution are all about open warfare and regular fire fights in ruins, and you can get hunted down by massive enemy zeppelins. You can traverse these areas quicker with a motorbike, which must also be used to find ways to take over a few Strikepoints (just a fancy word for different kinds of outposts). These zones play like most shooters, and here you can also recruit up to 4 AI comrades for bigger firefights.

The yellow zones in Homefront 2 are more interesting – at first: You get spotted instantly (even if you turn your back to enemy soldiers, they can identify your ass it seems) and need to run for cover then because you can hardly fight off the hordes of Norks hunting you down. By taking over territory (same as in red zones), assassinating or blowing up targets (pretty damn cool) or helping civilians (rather boring) you start conquering the hearts of the population until they start an uprising – from that point, the enemies magically disappear from most areas. Narrative dissonances aside, by that point the yellow zones are boring, so there’s only fun to be had there for a limited time which is a shame because playing cat and mouse with the Norks, frantically trying to find a hiding space and then striking again is very fun.

The shooting in Homefront: The Revolution is wonky and feels very unpolished, even when compared to Uncharted 4. And yet, there is the underlying feeling that the game has some good potential, raising the question if there is still a place in today’s gaming universe for games such as Mercenaries, The Saboteur or Dead Island, just to name a few not quite AAA productions which still brought hours upon hours of fun after fighting through questionable technical issues and unusual or unintuitive gameplay decisions. In the past, we could have fun with these games

But what about Homefront 2? Well, 40 quid seems expensive for not finished game, so unless you’re a fan of guerilla warfare, better wait until the bugs are fixed. Once they are fixed, you get an almost AAA game … but released between Uncharted 4 and Overwatch, and thanks to the justified bad press because of the unfinished state of the game, well, not many people will buy the game now, that’s for sure. But if you’re a fan of open-worldish shooters, or if you like guerilla tactics, you should have Homefront on your watch list for gaming droughts. Yes, modifying your weapon on the spot can make for interesting choices in tight situations, the hit and run guerilla warfare can be fun – and let’s face it, any game where you can drive a RC car full of explosives can’t be that bad!

Rabidgames sighs: There’s a wrong time and a wrong place for games at times, and Homefront 2 was released at the wrong time in two regards: First, it’s not finished, that’s clear. Second, such a game cannot expect to beat any big guns, and that timing was awful. But at least the place is right – Philadelphia might not be that sunny here, but the ingredients are there. And when/if the time comes for the game to run fine, it might well deserve another chance. For the time being though, the sad truth is Homefron: The Revolution simply isn’t up to today’s standards, which means this revolution failed in its cradle. 

 

Uncharted 4 or A Confession from a Convert

Posted in Gaming these days ..., Hands On with tags , , , on May 21, 2016 by Rabidgames

So, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is supposed to be the highlight and the swansong of the Uncharted saga. But how does it fare from the point of view of someone like Rabidgames, who hasn’t exactly been a fan of Naughty Dog in the past?

For starters, Rabidgames only finished Uncharted 2 and stopped a playthrough of Uncharted 3 due to acute boredom. After all, both games are linear corridors for sightseeing tours and repetitive as hell, mostly thanks to the obvious climbing and shoot-out sections and the tedious waves of enemies in shoot-outs. Furthermore, both the climbing nor shooting mechanics were clearly below the best in the respective genres, and the Uncharted trilogy barely asked for thinking (a few puzzles aside) or more than just basic gameplay demands. Plus, the story in Uncharted 2 turned absolute bonkers at the final boss and the banter between the protagonists was shallow and wannabe cool in most moments. In a nutshell, Uncharted used to be popcorn action – shallow but easy going fun.

Now, The Last of Us … we have a more difficult case here. While the story is better presented, the dialogues are way better and you quickly get invested in the story and the dark world, the gameplay is – again – repetitive, which hurts even more in a stealth game. Also, the fact the AI partners are not spotted by the fungal zombies pretty much ruined the immersion. Still, The Last of Us is a more ambitious game with deeper characterisation and more demanding gameplay, but Rabidgames can only play it in small doses.

So, what about Uncharted 4 then? Did Naughty Dog manage to combine the deeper characterisation and more mature atmosphere of The Last of Us with the well known Uncharted properties? Yes. And they improved Uncharted 4 in pretty much every aspect.

Let’s have a look at the story elements – Nate has settled with Elena and he’s given up on the Indiana life until his long-lost brother shows up to recruit Nate on another treasure hunt for – let’s say personal reasons. All of the above is experienced in the first couple of hours of Uncharted 4, and it makes you more attached to the characters than the previous 3 games in their entirety. The dynamic between the brothers, the dialogues, the backstory, the subtext, it’s all more mature now.

Technically, Uncharted 4 is also a true masterpiece. No issues so far, simply stunning visuals and a great sound, the tighter shooting mechanics and even the integration of driving Jeeps and boats all work without a hitch.

And in terms of gameplay, Uncharted 4 offers pretty much everything you could ask for. From improved climbing (including a grapple rope) to better shooting and a functioning stealth approach, from diving underwater calmly to a hectic Jeep chase through a city, from cinematic linear levels to wide open environments to explore, there is lots of diversity in Uncharted 4. Sure, the gameplay and the handful of puzzles are still not too demanding, but offering different routes in many levels and the refined elements taken the best of the two big Naughty Dog games manage to turn Uncharted 4 into a gamers’ delight.

And most importantly, the balance between frantiv shoot-outs, climbing on mostly ancient and sometimes crumbly buildings and some downtime leisurely driving around a boat or swimming underwater in peace is set up amazingly. Apart from GTA V, which also managed to create diverse gameplay moments along its story, no game can compete with Uncharted 4 in this regard.

At the end of the day and probably the series, Naughty Dog has managed to create and deliver one of the rare games where visuals, story and gameplay are combined close to perfection. Uncharted 4 is one of those rare games that are must-plays for every gamer.

Rabidgames acknowledges greatness: For the first time, Indiana Jones would take his head off to an Uncharted game. The more serious tone, the improved mechanics and the outstanding balance of Uncharted 4 could easily be condensed into what would be a great movie with awesome vistas and an engaging story. Congratulations, Naughty Dog, you managed to convert an unbeliever!

 

Shots fired: Battlefield 1, Call of Duty 0

Posted in Gaming these days ..., News with tags , , , , on May 8, 2016 by Rabidgames

Yes, it’s Activision vs EA, which means it’s better to go for the devil AND the deep blue sea before choosing one of them, but credit where credit is due – EA’s new Battlefield trailer won the internet, and the timing was impeccable!

So in case you’ve been hiding under a rock this week, here’s the new Call of Duty trailer to the upcoming futuristic Infinite Warfare (how original, right? Imagine the meeting where they came up with that name):

Now, why exactly there are only 230.000 likes but 750.000 dislikes, probably only the CODrones know. After all, Infinite Warfare seems to have proper space battles! Then again, the fans were crying for something not futuristic, because you have Titanfall, Battlefront (well, it might not be our future but who cares), Battleborn, Overwatch, the last couple of COD games, etc. set in the future. Too many futuristic shooting people in the face it seems. So the internet wasn’t happy about the new Call of Duty, let’s put it that way.

Ironically, the new Battlefield comes along now, and instead of following the trend to go back to the future, Dice goes back to the past, and to a fresh scenario even – World War 1, hence the game is named Battlefield 1. Well, that doesn’t really make sense as that war was neither the first war ever nor is this the first Battlefield game, but let’s not split hairs here.

Anyway, this trailer has a whopping 670.000 likes and mere 13.000 dislikes. How comes?

 

Well, Battlefield 1 looks cool, but so does the Infinite Warfare trailer, let’s be honest. Yes, riding horses, more focus on melee and flying iconic biplanes sounds and looks pretty damn cool, admittedly. And yes, World War 1 is a setting that hasn’t been done to death.

Most of it is because of that timing – both games have been in development for years, and the reveals have probably been planned months in advance, too … but that fucking timing, man! Just when gamers yell “stop the futuristic Call of Duty train”, Battlefield 1 invites you into the past.

But let’s face it – while this is some awesome free publicity for EA, both games will sell massively as always. Nothing will change. Both games will focus on the multiplayer, flying biplanes will probably not feel authentic, neither will the space battles, and the campaigns will be 5 hours short. EA isn’t the good guy now, and Activision are … well, neither. Fans arguing which milking machine is better feels like Chelsea and Manchester City fans arguing why their club is better, while the rest of the world knows they’re the villains anyway.

Rabidgames wonders: Well, actually both games look interesting, and yet, both games will have castrated campaigns because everyone is in those series for the multiplayer, so it’s just a tacked-on excuse to sell annual games in a new setting for the full price. Shame for the potential though.

 

 

 

Should we visit Dead Island again?

Posted in News with tags , on May 7, 2016 by Rabidgames

Remember Dead Island? That visceral zombie smashing, slashing and crunching? That weird contrast of a sunny holiday beach full of rotting zombies coming after you until the sands are filled with blood? Well, if you do, rejoice, because you can replay Dead Island and the successor Dead Island Riptide again soon – improved and with quite a few shiny bonuses and refinements!

Even if you have played it before, this impressive list of changes should make the Dead Island Definitive Collection a must-have (straight from a press release in case you wonder):

Higher Quality Textures
Game textures have been redone in a higher resolution and the level of quality has been improved across the board.

Photorealistic new lighting system
The lighting system in the game has been vastly improved, providing a much more realistic look to the beautiful sunny tropical setting.

Physically based shading
The introduction of new physically based shading techniques means a higher quality look to the game models and objects as they react in a more realistic way to various lighting conditions

Image quality enhancements via anti-aliasing
The addition of more sophisticated anti-aliasing means that console players can now experience Dead Island without unsightly “jaggies“ – delivering a much cleaner look throughout.

Improved-quality game models and geometry assets
All major geometry assets (for example: NPCs and character models) highlight a marked quality increase.

HBAO and motion blur effects
The introduction of Horizon-based Ambient Occlusion  adds an extra layer of depth and realism to the world
Through a better implementation of object shadows, while the all-new motion blur effects will provide a much more cinematic feel to the game experience.

Updated game UI
Providing a more consistent look between both Dead Island and Dead Island Riptide. Increase to equal quality level for seamless game experience.

The Current-gen Console Experience
The Dead Island Definitive Collection will also of course take advantage of the latest console features such as Online 4 Player Co-op, PS Vita Remote-Play (PS4), Share-Play (PS4), streaming and recording.

Power Fists Power-up
And last but not least, The fan favourite unofficial PC mod will also now be added to both products. Punch your way through the mayhem with craziest power-up ever!

But it doesn’t stop there! Obviously, all DLC packs are included, and then, there’s also a new game – Dead Island Retro Revenge, a pixelated sidescroller, if that’s to your liking.

Rabidgames grinds the axe: Ah, to return to Banoi to mutilate zombies again … Let’s be honest here, no other game could manage to capture the visceral enjoyment of slicing and shmashing zombies into pieces like Dead Island! Chances are the games are now also technically en par with the competition, because if we’re honest, the bugs, glitches and other issues could mar the experience quite a bit. But since Techland has been changing quite a few things to make the game come back alive on the next gen consoles, booking another adventure trip to the undead paradise is on the menu.

Is Homefront: The Revolution the new Freedom Fighters?

Posted in Gaming these days ..., News with tags , , on May 4, 2016 by Rabidgames

Now, the first Homefront will probably always be remembered as a disappointment – the Call of Duty style linear levels, 5-hours campaign and the similarity to most genre colleagues made sure of that.

But Homefront: The Revolution could be another story – we are promised a big open world in occupied (and probably not too sunny) Philadelphia, guerilla tactics, recruiting allies along the road, developing weapons from dire makeshift starts, and even changing the world to a fairer place – sounds a bit different from the first Homefront, eh?

There have also been quite a few videos released to show the back story of Homefront: The Revolution. The one below sums up the story pretty well:

Now, hold on a minute – organising resistance against an overwhelming enemy? The US occupied by the enemy? Guerilla warfare? Sounds a bit like Freedom Fighters, doesn’t it? Well, substitute Koreans by Russians and New York by Philadelphia, and you got it! In case you have no clue what Rabidgames is talking about, have a look at Freedom Fighters here:

Clumsy controls and dated PS2 graphics aside, Freedom Fighters is pretty much an underrated gem. Controlling up to 12 rebels while taking back New York, choosing where to attack first – would you rather blow up a bridge to stop reinforcements coming in or destroy heliports to block air support? Now that was fun (and apart from the first Kane & Lynch, no other game copied that kind of arcade strategy gameplay unfortunately).

Sadly, Homefront: The Revolution most likely won’t have that strategic feature, but the premise of hopefully able to choose where to strike next and being part of a motley crew of resistance fighters sounds promising indeed. Couple that with the different zones in Homefront: The Revolution – from wartorn ruins to a green zone with all amenities of modern life – and the game turn out to be a mix of sabotaging and infiltrating enemy territory, hopefully with the option to choose how to take out a target (brute force, stealth or traps), it could well end up being the missing link between Freedom Fighters and The Saboteur (yet another underrated game).

Rabidgames waits impatiently: Fighting at the new Homefront might well be a surprise hit, but then again, we’re still waiting to see how everything turns out. It might be better to not get up our hopes too high, any yet, there’s lots of potential for guerilla warfare on the streets of Philadelphia. Fingers crossed!