Archive for the Commentary Category

6 Reasons the Ghost Recon Breakpoint Beta was a Disappointment

Posted in Commentary, Played & Explained with tags , , , on September 13, 2019 by Rabidgames

If you’re like Rabidgames and you loved Ghost Recon Wildlands and you looked forward to finally jumping into the Beta of the successor Breakpoint, chances are the Beta leaves you numb and wondering what happened there.

1) There are no AI team mates – yet(?)

Running around with the AI, positioning them, lining up sync shots, laughing at them getting stuck – that was the bread and butter of Wildlands for yours truly. For some inexplicable idiotic reason, Ubisoft first decided there shouldn’t be AI team mates in Breakpoint, but then woke up and ensured us to add them … post-launch. But without them, the Breakpoint Beta is fucking boring. It feels like Just Cause on Valium or Metal Gear Solid without the iconic villains – just more of the same open world shooter experience. No AI, no buy.

2) Breakpoint will be always-online

For no fucking reason whatsoever. This isn’t The Division where everything was built from scratch around co-op in tight places (and even there always-online is a questionable choice). This is a very different game with a considerably bigger world and stealth. Imagine playing with some gung-ho shit brain who spoils your plan or wanders off to watch a fucking sunset at the other end of the map. The decision to make Breakpoint always-online seems like a rushed marketing decision, not like a gameplay idea.

3) The world feels shallow

Sure, we only see some regions in the beta but what we see reminds too much of Just Cause 3’s nothern region – mostly emptiness with some enemy structures. There are hardly any towns or villages, just ruins and outposts. A bit boring.

4) Movement feels incredibly clunky

What happened there? It feels like GTA IV all over again, where you had to anticipate movement. Imagine you have to stop 2 seconds so your character stops where you want them to stop. Of course, bikes and cars still handle weirdly in Breakpoint, too.

5) It’s a potential grind-mill money trap

Imagine taking the Division trinity core gameplay mechanics of levels, loot & missions and making you grind for shit in Breakpoint. It works in The Division, sure, but The Division has always been designed as a looter shooter RPG. Ghost Recon hasn’t. Those changes disrupt the core gameplay loop.

6) Level gating kills the sandbox experience

The beauty of Wildlands was that you could start the game, and after 30 minutes or so, you could just go anywhere on the map. Anywhere. Some missions were hard, yes. Some outposts were too hard, too, sure. But 99% of the map waited to be explored without any immortal beings shrugging off your bullets as if they were rain drops. Breakpoint might change that. Not only via the swarms attacking anything that wants to go somewhere “they” don’t want  you to go (that actually are a pretty cool element), but also by making sure your Lv.1 Nomad dies after a Lv.666 Shitdrone blows fart drops in your general direction.

Rabidgames shakes his weary head: Why, Ubisoft? You had a winning system. But then you threw it away. changing a sandbox into a grindbox sucks.

Now, that’s not to say it’s all bad. The camouflage and injury mechanics are pretty neat, being hunted by drones and Ghosts across the map can be fun, the story is grittier and less a shallow patriotic tale about the good US intervening in a bad foreign land, and exploring a live volcano in the full game sounds pretty promising. But there are too many buts in the game right now to recommend buying it. Shame.

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5 Reasons to Get an Xbox One (X) Now

Posted in Commentary, Gaming these days ... with tags , , , on July 2, 2019 by Rabidgames

We all know Microsoft royally fucked up the start of the Xbox One with their always-online bullshit, their Kinect idiocy and their general complacency of having overtaken Sony’s PS3 with the 360. So while the exclusives aren’t exactly shit, they still pale to the PS4 exclusives, that’s for sure, but there are now some reasons to get an Xbox One, or why not an X while you’re at it?

1. Backwards compatibility
Now, that’s a big thing if you own a massive 360 library. There are hundreds of games available there (and if you own around 50, you’ll spend some time there), and most of them look and play better than they did on the 360 (or the original Xbox). Obviously, all the Halo, Gears of War and Fable games are there, but you’ll also find gems such as Mercenaries, Knights of the Old Republic or BULLY(!!!) on there. Oh, and each and every DLC on your account will also be there, as will your save games from our 360 games if you upload them onto the cloud.

2. The X is the strongest console
Frankly, the PS4 is a bit old and frail now. The base model still runs the latest games, sure, but once you’ve accustomed to the much faster loading times as well as the better graphics and the smoother gameplay, it’s hard to return to the PS4. And if you compare the versions directly, you’ll notice massive differences at times, e.g. in newer games such as The Division 2 or Assassin’s Creed Origins, where especially the lighting alone makes a difference.

3. The One is quiet
Another problem with the PS4 is its insanely loud fan that can sound like a plane about to take off. The One on the other hand is very quiet even if running a brand-new AAA game with superb graphics and a million explosions on-screen.

4. Xbox One X Enhanced games get a nice boost
It doesn’t stop there; some games are “enhanced” for the X, which means even faster loading times, even smoother gameplay, and as a bonus, some games from the original Xbox now look amazing now, e.g. Knights of the Old Republic! The same goes for Red Dead Redemption, although weirdly enough, this game looks too clean now … And then you have a game like Just Cause 4, where the horrible motion blur, the massive pop-up issues and the weird screen tearing that are omnipresent on the PS4 are either minimised or simply not there.

5. Game Pass
Game Pass is generally seen as the Netflix of gaming, and it is pretty much that. It’ll take you years to play through all games on the list, that’s for sure. Game Pass Ultimate is also a reasonably priced option – especially with the £1 introductory offer you can combine with an active Gold subscription for up to 36 months – and having Game Pass access to future console “hits” such as Gears of War 5 (meh) or The Outer Worlds (fuck yeah!) without paying extra will hopefully make the program even better. It’s such a shame though some games will leave the system, so better play what you really want to play as quick as you can …

Bonus – You can have ALL Saints Row and Just Cause games on one console!
Sure, not everyone likes both series, but the One is the one chance to have ALL games on ONE console. Chances are you just end up playing Just Cause 2 and Saints Row 2 and 4, as they are simply the best of their respective franchises, but it’s still nice to have. Plus, the games run pretty well.

Disclaimer: Rabidgames did not get paid by Microsoft to promote the One X and Game Pass. Which in hindsight seems pretty damn stupid now.

Enjoy All the Extreme Violence of Mortal Kombat 11!

Posted in Commentary, News with tags , , , on April 24, 2019 by Rabidgames

We live in an age where everyone and their mother knows video games can be art, just like every other kind of entertainment. But sometimes it’s good to know there are still games out there that shamelessly glorify gratuitous violence. With gallons of blood and gore. Obviously, Mortal Kombat has always been on the forefront of glorifying violence for laughs.

But as graphics have evolved, the violence in Mortal Kombat games has, too. And Mortal Kombat 11 is a massive splatter fest of exploding limbs and gore, as this video of surgery and dismemberment proves.

Rabidgames grins: Ah, 30 minutes of mutilation and murder. Isn’t it great?

Anthem vs The Division 2: Open Beta Face-Off

Posted in Commentary, Gaming these days ..., Hands On with tags , , , , , on March 9, 2019 by Rabidgames

We don’t often see two massive, open-world(ish) titles pushing out open betas to try to convince people just before their respective launches in such a short time. While Anthem is more of a sci-fi game with futuristic tech and rather fantastic enemies, The Division 2 is a slightly futuristic-ish game with human enemies. And well, both are always-online loot shooters with a “games as a service system” so lets compare the shit out of them!

One thing – let’s not pretend an open beta is more than just a demo. If you really have to test your servers or your game that late in development, you’re fucked anyway.

It’s been a few days to let the open beta experience of The Division 2 sink in, so let’s get going now and see how both open betas fared!

Technical stuff

GRAPHICS: Anthem looked nice and impressive, whereas TD2 (let’s be lazy, shall we?) looked a step down from its predecessor. Both betas were plagued by pop-ups and other problems, but this point goes to Anthem because the world actually looks stunning at times.
Anthem-Division 1:0

SOUND: This is a tough one. Both games weren’t too convincing in the sound department, and both betas showed signs that there is still some work to do in both cases. However, TD2 had some serious issues with the weapon sounds. giving Anthem the edge here.
Anthem-Division 2:0

STABILITY: TD2 had issues in the closed beta, but so had Anthem. In Anthem’s open beta however, it was very common to either not be able to connect or to get thrown out of the game when connected, which happened on a very regular basis, making the game unplayable for tens of minutes at times. TD2 on the other hand, ran fine with very few connection issues and very few hiccups.
Anthem-Division 2:1

STARTING OUT: Anthem was cumbersome – Going from the hub veeeery slowly to the hangar area took a while, and going back to report and get the next objective was the same drag. Matchmaking was also rather weird and sometimes resulted with no results, wasting’everybody’s time. TD2 was more fluid from the get-go, and running inside hubs can help. Sadly, neither beta offered an easy drop in/drop out service, which seems odd in this day and age.
Anthem-Division 2:2

Beta Content

CUSTOMISATION: Both betas show not much in terms of character customisation. Anthem let us lightly customise the Javelin and our loadout, TD2 let us lightly customise our agent and the loadout, too. However, it felt easier to try out different builds in TD2 as you could do so on the spot instead of collecting orbs that were sent to the hub. All the cosmetic stuff you found to individualise your character was also more accessible than the convoluted way to change the colour of the Javelin (which also was lost when rebooting the Anthem beta the next time).
Anthem-Division 2:3

THE WORLD: We got to see most of the world of Anthem. It looked nice, yes, but also devoid of many landmarks or points of interest. You also had to actively look for activity beyond angering wildlife because it was pretty empty. TD2’s overgrown and green Washington DC was full of life, be it animals, friendly or hostile humans – there could be danger just around the corner all the time, so it’s easy to see who wins here.
Anthem-Division 2:4

WORLD BUILDING: The hub in Anthem felt static and sterile, filled with static NPCs, pointless dialogue choices and “not available in beta” signs instead of actual dialogues in most cases. Just like the rest of the world, it felt empty, even a bit trivial After you did missions, you came back and it was all the same. TD2 showed a world you rebuild and actively change. After all, you literally re-build the world in TD2.
Anthem-Division 2:5

MISSIONS: Anthem had some missions and one end-game mission. And free roam. TD2 had some main missions, lots of repeatable side missions, free roam was part of the world anyway, and also one end-game mission. While both are mostly go from A to B to kill C, Anthem was quite boring as it felt pretty generic, whereas TD2 offered more interesting levels that required some tactical planning. Being able to explore and discover seamlessly between missions and free roam is an easy win for TD2.
Anthem-Division 2:6

Gameplay

MOVEMENT: Obviously, flying around in a vertical world is cooler than walking and running around. You can fucking FLY!!!
Anthem-Division 3:6

SHOOTING: Technically, that’s a point for Destiny here. Shooting isn’t too great in either Anthem or TD2 compared to Destiny’s only strength. But between those two, TD2 actually had a more diverse cast of weapons at its disposal and shooting them felt slightly more “real” and satisfying.
Anthem-Division 3:7

ABILITIES: To be fair, Rabidgames has a weakness for the primer/detonator combat of Mass Effect that is also built into Anthem so that’s a strong point for the Bioware game. The abilities in TD2 felt a bit nerfed, making it harder to use them to our advantage. They’re not useless, but not as fun as the combos in Anthem.
Anthem-Division 4:7

GAMEPLAY VARIETY: Well, both are shooters. You aim, you shoot, boom, splash, splatter. But while enemies in Anthem are either weak or bullet sponges – and could be easily copied over from DestinyTD2 offer variety with its human and robot opponents. Firefights in Anthem’s open beta all played out the same in the categories grunts and bosses. You shoot until they fall, and sure, bosses eat 10,000 bullets for breakfast, resulting in extremely boring circle and shoot orgies while occasionally escaping super attacks. TD2’s fights were a bit harder – you needed to cover your flanks or you were wiped out. Also, a screen full of enemies, drones and remote-controlled bomb-cars in a narrow room was an intense feeling, and bosses there had visual armour you can shoot off to finish off the boss quicker.
Anthem-Division 4:8

THE LOOT: We got weapons and other goodies only after missions in Anthem, which didn’t felt satisfying. At all. And the selection was even less interesting than in Destiny! In TD2, you can play with new loot on the spot, which made playing around with builds and mods more fun. Of course, the endgames in both games will show how good loot really is, but for now, it seems you can do more with it in TD2 – from crafting weapons to donating it to friendly settlements, you shouldn’t sell all you have.
Anthem-Division 4:9

THE SYSTEMS: Now, this is a tough one judging from the beta. Both are RPGs that let you build, craft and customise the gear you like. Anthem pretty much has the mission -> rewards -> customisation loop, while TD2 has more – you upgrade your base and settlements, you open up checkpoints to control districts (where you then open up a door with loot). Plus, you get to see your changes in TD2’s world. In RPG terms, both are pretty light though – the dialogue choice in Anthem are a joke though, if you think who did it!
Anthem-Division 4:10

THE FINAL RESULT: Anthem 4, The Division 10

Rabidgames thinks: It is inexplicable why Bioware/EA chose an outdated version that was a technical nightmare to proudly show off Anthem. It also didn’t do much to tell anything worthwhile about what’s going on. The Division 2 however showed us how the game starts, what’s going on and how many of its systems work together. Substance over style sums it up nicely – Anthem had a nice world with cool flying, but that’s about it. The Division 2 offered lots of content to be experimented with.

It’s no surprise The Division 2 beats Anthem in the beta contest because of those factors, which shows EA either doesn’t get what a beta is these days or that Ubisoft is more confident enough to show us what they got up their sleeves. Or both.

That being said, expect Rabidgames to get Washington D.C. up and running in The Division 2 soon. Anthem must wait, also because the “final” game itself is far from final …

8 Reasons Why New Dawn Is Better Than Far Cry 5

Posted in Commentary, Hands On with tags , , , on March 4, 2019 by Rabidgames

You know, if it’s easy to see a game improving on its predecessor within just hours, it’s a good sign. And yes, Far Cry New Dawn might rather resemble an add-on than a stand-alone game, but it beats Far Cry 5 in many ways. Here are 8 reasons summed up quickly:

  1. No more abductions: Honestly, this bullshit was the biggest reason why Far Cry 5 sucked. The abductions were pointless, too often and how on earth the kidnappers could then, and only then, detect you everywhere on a map is beyond the laws of, well, everything. This shit is gone now. Thank fuck!
  2. More gameplay diversity: Far Cry 5 had quite some things to do, but it was mostly the same pace. New Dawn mixes this up quite a bit: Sure, there’s still stealth and shooting, but now there’s also racing to an extraction point when everyone is homing in on you at the end of the new Expeditions, and there are packages you need to race to to get some goodies.
  3. Crazier than ever: Yeah, Far Cry 5 had a bear and a cougar as guns for hire. Well, New Dawn has a boar and a sniper granny who’s “like a 1000 years old but can shoot a dick off a mosquito”. And all guns for hire now have more useful perks. Speaking of guns, guns are also crazier now. The ricocheting Saw Launcher clearly is a highlight!
  4. The landscape is more diverse: Sounds bizarre, but the downfall of civilisation has brought more greenery and colours to Hope County, and seeing the changes for yourself is a nice thing. And sad at times. And once more, Expeditions: They bring you to completely new areas.
  5. Exploration is spelt with a capital E: You can find lots of things in the world, and many loot is hidden behind an – often quite simplistic – puzzle. Some are a bit more elaborate and require some steps or just a bit of platforming though. One of the key innovations of New Dawn are the Expeditions; exploring gets you more loot, but you don’t want to alarm everyone before you grab the package you’re there for.
  6. The RPG elements add depth: Sure, there are just very light RPG elements, but they add some level of strategy to it – should you take out the one elite enemy first? How? You can use a perk for a Takedown. Or you level up your weapons. Should you even take him out? (Of course.) Sadly, once you’re in the late game, all of this doesn’t matter any more, but for a while, the danger posed by over-levelled human and especially animal enemies shrugging your bullets away before tearing you to pieces makes up for some entertainment new to Far Cry.
  7.  Crazy powers: Not to go to deep into spoiler territory, but at a certain point of New Dawn you’ll get new powers. It might not make much sense but who cares – all you need is a leap of faith! If you do crazy, you gotta do crazy right after all …
  8.  Proper end-game content: You can scrap and take over Outposts on the hardest setting as many times as you want. Same goes for Expeditions. As a reward, you can upgrade perks and guns virtually infinitely … If you’re the kind of guy who likes a challenge or wants to have a handgun that nukes everyone, New Dawn offers this kind of entertainment for you.

Rabidgames muses: Far Cry 5 went into a dark and twisted direction, which only partially worked. New Dawn chooses the Saints Row way out instead, and that makes for a better game.

Activision And Capitalism’s Ugly Face

Posted in Commentary, Gaming these days ..., News with tags , , , on February 15, 2019 by Rabidgames

You might have read that Activision Blizzard is firing people, right? You might have also read they’re firing people despite making hefty profits, in fact Activion’s boss talks about “record revenue” …

Here’s the thing – that shouldn’t surprise us. For years now, the gaming industry has been exactly that – an industry. Those who craft, develop and enjoy games still work there, but usually just as low-level employees. The ones ruling the shots are fucking assholes in suits who treat games like they’d treat cars, materials, or even worse than games, food or medicine: as means to generate shitloads of money so they and their fucking shareholders get richer and richer. At the same time, they don’t give a shit about the company, why would they, after all? After bleeding out one company, they can go bleeding the next one dry. The word enough simply does not exist in the capitalist dictionary.

This kind of shit is regarded as normal in our capitalist world; workers getting fed bread crumbs while parasitic shareholders and their managers in suits feast on golden cakes. And you know, the absurd thing is that those managers in suits primarily answer to those fucking shareholders. If 800 people get fired, lose their jobs, potentially their homes, they don’t give a fuck. But if one shareholder feels 5% profit isn’t enough for the platinum cake he wants to buy, the next “logical” thing will be firing 800 more workers.

This is the fucked up world we live in. If you want games made by gamers for gamers for enjoyment and for the game makers to make a living, indie games are your only choice. With every AAA game you buy, you make sure the artists, developers and other workers get fed, sure. But for each pound they might get, 2 pounds (probably more) go the fucking shareholders.

Rabidgames wonders: What to do? Well, we can buy less AAA games and more indie games. But would that really help? There’s talk about a gaming union in the UK, which would greatly help things, of course. But at the end of the day, it’s simple: Gaming is just as fucked as the rest of the world. It’s not different, it’s just another means for corporations to make money for themselves.

Mass Effect + Destiny + A Hot Mess – Bioware Writing = Anthem

Posted in Commentary, Gaming these days ..., Hands On with tags , , , , on February 3, 2019 by Rabidgames

First of all, Anthem is better than Rabidgames expected. The flying is pretty cool, and the good old Mass Effect primer/detonator combos are back. In its best moments, when there is some flow and your team works together well, it really feels like Mass Effect plus jetpack. And some guy split in three is interesting, well, unless you know Kingdom Hearts where one guy splits himself into 13.

Anyway, sometimes better than expected does not mean anywhere above the line of average. Anthem has some good sides, but the bad sides prevail. By a mile. Shooting bullet sponges has been bad since Destiny (and that was even worse in The Division, where seemingly human bosses survive 5 magazines of lead in their head), and Anthem is as just not food enough here. While you can mix and match flying/gliding and shooting after a bit of practice, it doesn’t make up for the shooting being two leagues below Destiny. You don’t have to like Destiny to admit that they absolutely nailed the shooting …

Furthermore, the gameplay loop is boring: Go there, shoot baddies, upload something, go somewhere else, rinse and repeat, oh look, a boss. Even if the shooting was top-notch (nope), and even if combos were as fluent and intuitive as in Mass Effect (again, nope), it would just be en par with Destiny … at most. But when you end up flying through a mostly empty world for 3 minutes, you get bored quicker than in other games where you walk for ten seconds between shoot-outs. Even worse, the cringe-worthy story told by NPCs that looked ancient 5 years ago … There is no excuse for something that bad from fucking Bioware! Dude gets artefact, smashes it, gets split into three, his worst and dumbest third escapes the city, you get him back, only for the game to freeze in the cutscene that explains it … well done, Bioware.

Speaking of freezing, lags, crashes, connection issues, frame-rate problems and the loss of sound – yes, Anthem has all of this and more. Guys, this is a demo, isn’t it? You want people to convince to buy the game. Instead, hardly anything works as intended. Even worse, Friday was kind of stable, Saturday was less, and hardly anything worked on Sunday. That’s quite poor.

Also, the story. Anthem is like Destiny there – some mysterious stranger, sorry, energy source that can somehow alter reality … Sure, we don’t need all the details now, but after Destiny, mysterious hints are suspicious of a shit show in the story department. Bad dialogues and boring mission design don’t help there either. Absolutely nothing of interest except the guy made threefold happens – so where’s the catch?

Given the utterly idiotic way PS4 gamers will be the last to see the game – and thereby maybe the luckier ones as they’ll know what they’re getting into – we might know soon if the final version of Anthem is indeed ready. But here’s the thing: if, and that’s a big IF, hell, a couple of big IFs, if the game fixes its technical issues, if the story develops into something decent and if Anthem ends up with good content, then it might be a game worth looking at. But the demo does not help – if you judge Anthem by it, it’s a broken mess that is nowhere near Destiny or Warframe.

Rabdigames shakes his weary head: A demo should make people buy the game. In this case, that won’t happen. An unfinished mess with barely any identity is not good enough even though the core gameplay looks somewhat promising. Any hope for Bioware is long gone anyway, but Anthem could be their swansong – after a long decline, it might be soon time EA takes Bioware out into the desert to an unmarked grave full of bodies. If the demo is a sign, Bioware better savours its sorry life as long as it lasts …