Archive for August, 2016

F1 2016 or Poles, Crashes and Glory

Posted in Played & Explained with tags , , on August 23, 2016 by Rabidgames

Great games always use their engines as backdrops for the stories we can write. F1 2016 tells a lot of stories, and yes, even the first racing weekend of the season can include all the twists and turns Formula 1 has to offer. But let’s cover the basics first, let’s come back to that race later.

Remember F1 2015, the tech demo lacking content? While last year’s instalment felt like a crash just after the start, F1 2016 easily goes the full distance, although there are a few safety car sessions in there as well …

First of all, content-wise, there are no more previous season or classic modes any more, but F1 2016 comes with a massive career mode at its heart, making you really feel like a F1 driver – and you’re not just living the triumph and victories, the crashes and technical failures, you’re also having to work hard for it to make your success happen. Oh, and sometimes, spectacular, yet physically not absolutely correct crashes happen:

If you’re like Rabidgames and you pretty much suck at racing games, the game actually poses quite a challenge even on easy and with all driving assists activated – you really need to focus throughout the circuits, and in races, one tiny mistake can mean ruined tyres and being 10th instead of on the podium! F1 2016 is a game that asks you to study the tracks hard before you can reap the rewards.

While you can create your driver, the creation suite is a rather sad state affairs – maybe 12 face models with hardly anything to change, a few helmet designs, and that’s it … a bit sad for 2016. But hey, at least you can lead small countries such as Luxembourg or San Marino to their first ever Formula 1 victory! Afterwards, you can choose your team freely now in F1 2016 – but be careful, a top team Mercedes expects you to become world champion while Manor is happy with you grabbing perhaps a point or two …

But as soon as you created your driver and go through the first tutorials, the depth of F1 2016 shines through – while you can simply jump straight into your first free practice session to get to know the track, you can also play around with the settings to get to know which car settings suit your playstyle best. As a nice and well-integrated bonus, you can also earn points by fulfilling certain conditions throughout the weekend – from learning how to get your tyres working to outracing your dedicated rival, those points will help you developing your car throughout the season, so it is highly recommended to do so.

Back to the first race weekend of the season – after using the free practice sessions to get accustomed to the circuit and the gameplay of F1 2016, and after noticing the AI drivers have never heard about making way for faster cars the hard way, Rabidgames managed to qualify the Toro Rosso on the pole – which is quite easy with a somewhat decent lap on easy difficulty.Choosing 25% of the original distance, which equals 15 laps in Australia, felt long enough for the first race.

The formation lap went a bit wrong though after getting overtaken by a few cars that didn’t make way which is part of the regulations, yours truly failed at the start and ended up 4th … Only to get back to 1st within a few laps, unfortunately damaging the front wing so when boxing after lap 8, the front wing had to be changed which kicked Rabidgames’ Luxembourgian driver back to 7th. After a few overtakings and a few cars boxing though, it was back to first place.

But then came the rain. Visually beautifully looking rain, and rainy conditions is where F1 2016 looks stunning. Problem is, rain and old tyres aren’t exactly a fun combination, and while Ricciardo could be fought off after he made a mistake and left the track after a collision, Räikkönen felt comfortably fine with the rain. Fortunately, the rain became so hard that the box recommended putting on intermediates in the final lap, which was insane as Räikkönen didn’t pit so with both cars struggling, Rabidgames managed to somehow slide the car to the chequered flag, meaning a historical first race victory for Luxembourg!

Truth be told, doing all of that on easy and with most assists activated might diminish the feat, but for a racing noob, it still felt hard and challenging. F1 2016 asks quite a lot from inexperienced racers on easy difficulties, where mistakes are punished quickly. Yes, you can rewind to before the accident, but that’s really cheating now!

As you can see, lots of things can happen in F1 2016, and that was just one race! However, the A.I. is far from perfect and while you pretty push a car off the tracks, sometimes you get punished for leaving the track although lost time and positions … which seems odd.

Apart from the career mode, there’s a season mode with all current drivers (feeling kind of superfluous), a custom race/season mode, time trials which let you race against others players’ online times, and then F1 2016 also offers multiplayer (single races or an entire championship, that’s up to you) with up to 22 drivers. One weird thing is that A.I. cars become transparent during online races, which is a very weird design choice … But apart from this and some lag that can appear at times, it is actually lots of fun to just watch online races, too, as quite a few pan out like the one below:

So, who should play F1 2016? The obvious answer is Formula 1 fans, of course! What better way to start into a race weekend than power on your console and get to know the track yourself so you can laugh at drivers making mistakes later? Or maybe just spend a few races crashing into that one driver that always gets you mad?

Furthermore, the game should also be suited to racing pros who prefer Assetto Corsa, Forza or Gran Turismo, but then again, it’s hard to say how hardcore F1 2016 is when you’re not a big racing fan yourself, and it’s also difficult to judge the flaws of this game (A.I., punishment system, online lags) against the competition.

One thing is for sure though – for the best experience of F1 2016, a racing wheel is almost mandatory – while it is okay in the dry with new tyres, as soon as you have wet conditions and/or older tyres, the controller just feels inaccurate. Obviously, you should be a die-hard racer who keeps playing racing games for a long time …

Rabidgames admits: For amateur console racers, F1 2016 offers a lot, but it may offer a bit too much as well – if you don’t really know the tracks and just want to play the game in short bursts, you won’t go too far with the game. If you have patience and you’re willing to learn every nook and corner of the F1 business though, this game and the drama, the victories and the defeats of Formula 1 should be yours. And please, for the love of Ayrton Senna and the other greats, let’s have another team but Mercedes win races!

 

 

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Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness or What a Shame

Posted in Played & Explained with tags , , , , on August 22, 2016 by Rabidgames

Sometimes, games can feel like friends indeed. Some, you’ve known for decades, and some always stay close, some however, grow distant or disappear. And while Star Ocean: The Last Hope was the first sign that this friendship was changing, Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness emphasises that sometimes, friendships can be hanging by a thread.

First of all, Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness … wow, what a title, right? What poetry, how philosophical. Yet after finishing the game – wow, what a pompous, vain, almost flatulent title! It’s meaningless. Utterly devoid of meaning. Two words combined just because. True, some characters show more integrity than others, but faithlessness? If you look deep, you might find a hint of it somewhere, perhaps. But you could do so with each and every game. For instance, Trevor feels betrayed by Michael in GTA V, or just remember the end of Red Dead Redemption. See? But at the end of the day, it’s a meaningless title.

Sadly, the characters are entirely meaningless and forgettable, too. You have two guys with swords (this time, no teenagers at least), two girls with magic powers, one space dude with a cross-bow or a laser gun (yep, both, and no one seems to care) and a female martial artists fighter, and then, there’s a little girl hanging with you most of the time who is the key to the events of Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness. The problem – there is hardly any character development going on, and the bit that is happening is mostly happening in Private Actions, a series staple that has never felt that meaningless before: You have to circle the hubs to talk to your party members, and mostly, it’s small talk about trivial shit. Perhaps it’s an allegory on how small talk is a waste of time, but come on, it shouldn’t literally feel like you’re wasting your time in the game! Why do them, you ask? Well, after some random Private Actions, new roles can get unlocked. Hooray!

And then, the story of Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness is as hollow – there is exactly one nice twist that took Rabidgames by surprise around the middle of the game, but the rest of it is foreseeable, dull and often boring. It doesn’t help most of the cutscenes just is the characters talking in-game, with horrible lip-sync from the 90s and an adjustable camera that hardly captures any emotions or importance.

But hey, there are emotes you can unlock to comment on the things said. No one wanted it, and yet it’s there. 95% of all the cutscenes in Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness are just fluff and too long, and guess what – there is no fucking way to skip them! Honestly, this game expects you to play it several times in different difficulties, but with these shitty cutscenes that last way too long too often, no fucking way!

So, we have a meaningless title, hollow characters, dumbed-down non-skippable cutscenes and a flat story – and the world design is as bad! There are around 10 maps you constantly have to run through back and fort, forth and back and back and forth. The amount of backtracking in Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness is utterly ridiculous! The maps are okay though, enemy variety is alright (they change as the story progresses), but graphically, some environments clearly look last-gen. And the handful of hubs aka towns are tiny and lifeless as well. Furthermore, there’s a huge in-game glossary you can read … or you could if it was any useful. (Hint: Assassin’s Creed is the prime example how in-game info can be provided in a humorous way.)

So far so bad. Thankfully, fighting in Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness is fun. It’s more Till the End of Time than The Last Hope, but that’s fine. Having up to 7 characters on-screen can be a bit hectic when there’s explosions and flashes all over the screen, but it’s still fun, the kind of fun battle system Star Ocean is known for.

Plus, there is some depth to customising and upgrading your characters’ equipment, levelling up roles and finding out which work well together will keep you busy for hours, and as in every other Star Ocean title, crafting and synthesising are well worth experimenting and satisfying. The game gives you plenty of room to find out many things for yourself, which is a nice change.

The playtime is also alright, albeit a bit short if you’re used to the 100+ hours of the past just for the main story. For RabidgamesStar Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness the clock showed 45 hours when the final boss fell, and there still the obligatory and pretty tough post-game dungeons to explore.

It’s clear by now there are a shitloads of cons and only a few pros when it comes to Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness, but it’s still worth checking out if you have an itch for a JRPG; not for the story obviously, but for the gameplay, which keeps things interesting! But unless you’re big fan, don’t buy it for the full price, or you’ll be disappointed.

Rabidgames wonders: After completing the game, it just feels like this friend might get another chance – while times have changed and it falls flat in many regards, you can still see why you wanted to hang around with that friend in the first place. But after two disappointments, it’s now Last Chance Hotel for Star Ocean! Which is a sad thing to say if you once thought you’d love Star Ocean Till the End of Time …

 

No Man’s Sky or Infinite Worlds with Finite Wonders

Posted in Hands On with tags on August 12, 2016 by Rabidgames

After a long wait and much anticipation, the space faring survival exploration discovery crafting inventory management game No Man’s Sky has been released. Time to jump into a galaxy far, far away!

First of all, No Man’s Sky is fucking addictive! Imagine a line from A to B, which should take you 3 minutes. But in this game, it turns out to be 3 hours, on a focussed day! There’s much to be discovered, explored, catalogued and mined on the line, and oh so many glittering and twinkling things nearby, and also interesting silhouettes in the distance. But let’s face it, getting sidetracked is part of the fun in games like No Man’s Sky.

Second, the title is a lie! It’s all YOURS! It’s your universe to explore and play with. Barren and frozen moons, planets full of life with critters or weird dinosaurs wanting to have you as an exotic lunch, scorching deserts or radioactive swamps, there are tons of things you can find and name in your unique version of No Man’s Sky. True, while the number of planets is incredibly high, the forms of life start to look alike after the tenth planet so it remains to be seen if the game stays fresh after 50 planets – but then again, that’s what we’d expect from evolution, right?

Third, No Man’s Sky is perhaps the ultimate sandbox. You can follow the story or decide not to  to care about it, you can mine resources to get rich quickly or you can find alien artefacts to master the language of a mysterious race, you can try to get the biggest and baddest ship to rule the galaxy or you can spend hours to fully catalogue one planet. The choice is always yours. If for any reason however you need a dense story or structure in your games, No Man’s Sky might not be your cup of cosmic tea.

After perhaps 10 hours (or maybe 15), the centre of the galaxy is still far away, but it’s already clear No Man’s Sky has one enemy – time. Time flies by when you play the game, and it is time well spent on exotic planets. This game should be your game if you ever imagined how awesome it would be to fly to the stars, to discover planets and to just be an explorer in uncharted territories. And the fact that it’s all yours only makes the game even greater!

Rabidgames goes back to reaching for the stars. Over and out.