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Crysis 2 (Xbox 360) or the sempiternal inconvenience of host-based console F.P.S.

Crysis 2 multiplayer is lots of fun. Really. I like the armor/cloak gimmicks, I like the weapons, I like the game modes, I like the graphics, I like the maps.

What I don’t like is that Crytek must surely think console players, as opposed to PC gamers, are dumbasses. There is no other way to explain the fact that they dare to claim that they achieved a hi-tech, top-notch FPS when they don’t have dedicated servers.

I have lag most of the time and obviously there is a clear advantage for the host (if you press START and there is just one person with a connection of 4 green bars, that’s him). I even got the host once, which is totally ridiculous because I have a crap 2mbps ADSL connection.

Dear Crytek, DICE & Guerilla pwn you in the console territory. Ask your boss, EA, for dedicated servers next time…

Dear Crysis 2 console player, if you can’t stand to play with lag, there is just one way out: switch to a FPS with dedicated servers.

Dedicated servers means that there is no lag, or if there is a little bit all the players lag the same – there is no advantage for the host.

For a host-based title, the game picks up the player with the best connection and makes him/her act as the server. All the other players connect to him. He has a clear advantage because for example he can see other players before they see him.

If the host quits, then the game must migrate to another host. This procedure is known as host migration and it doesn’t work all the time. Actually it works half of the time at best.

All host-based games do not have the same network code. The C.O.D. games are notorious for having worst netcode than the HALO games or -more recently- CRYSIS 2.

The worst of them all was COD 4: Infinity Ward was supposed to get host migration to work which has never happened. Each time the host was getting pissed off because he was getting pwned (=that’s called “ragequitting”) or because his mom/wife was calling him, the game ended abruptly and the rest of the players were losing the kills they had make and their score. At least in Crysis 2, I observed that you don’t lose the count of kills you made if the match ends following a failed host migration…

For your convenience, you can find below a non-exclusive list with the host-based and server-based console FPS games.

Please do not hesitate to share with us your experience with console multiplayer F.P.S. games.

HOST-BASED CONSOLE F.P.S. GAMES

  • CALL OF DUTY series
  • HALO series
  • CRYSIS 2
  • GEARS OF WAR 1+2
  • RAINBOW SIX: VEGAS 2

CONSOLE F.P.S. GAMES WITH DEDICATED SERVERS

  • BATTLEFIELD: BAD COMPANY 1+2
  • KILLZONE 2+3
  • M.A.G.
  • HOMEFRONT
  • MEDAL OF HONOR
  • GEARS OF WAR 3 (supposedly – to be confirmed)
  • RESISTANCE 1+2

HOMEFRONT is an ugly motherfucker (single-player X360 review )

HOMEFRONT, being developped by KAOS, a team comprising ex-Battlefield 1942 modders Team Trauma, is the game that a lot of Battlefield: Bad Company 2 fans have been waiting in order to fill the gap until Battlefield 3.

Back in 2008, Frontlines: Fuel Of War their debut game, obtained some pretty decent feedback and was a perfectly enjoyable game both in single-player and multiplayer.

Watching the pre-release HF videos, we sort of had high expectactions about the game. I have played the full single-player campaign and booted shortly the offline multiplayer (System Link) on Xbox 360.

  • GRAPHICS

What stroke me first of all were the ugly graphics.  They look past-gen and are a big disappointment after recent console blockbusters like Halo:Reach and Killzone 3.  Shit, they even look uglier than COD4’s! They are lifeless and pale. It’s hard to believe that major publishers dare to release console games so ugly and visually unpolished like MEDAL OF HONOR or HF. I started the multiplayer component in system link, and the graphics are at the same disappointing levels. I am just wondering: haven’t these guys took a look at what is being released these days? Just from the demo Crysis 2 looks gorgeous on consoles!

If you took a look at the official screenshots and thought they were looking great, well it’s not what you’ll get on a Xbox 360 (or a PS3 for that matter). Obviously they come from the PC version

  • SCENARIO/SETTING

The scenario is half-decent, eventhough completely unrealistic (Korea invading the US in case you didn’t know it), but the campaign is flawed with bad scripting. The NPC’s will often repeat the same sentence over and over again pissing you off. They will also give dumb instructions in a loop like “grab those frags”, while the frags are in the next room which is full of enemies. They will also take ridiculous poses, like waiting with the face up against the wall (complete with the gun immersed inside the wall).

Not only  scenario-wise but in general, the game tries very  hard to mimick the Modern Warfare series. This is often pathetic and reduces any sort of impact that the setting might have had.

The whole America invasion type of thing has already been done in a unrealistic but blockbuster way in Modern Warfare 2 and it was very cool. HF’s battles in suburbia feel weak and unconvincing compared to MW2 level “Wolverines!” or “Exodus”.

There’s a few half-memorable moments and  some others where the characters reflect about the meaning of violence, which is something that I appreciate.

  • WEAPONS

Weaponry is almost identical to MW2. You get the M4, ACR, M16 (single shot), TDI Vector, SCAR, etc. But there’s less weapons in total than in the COD/MW/BF series. Shooting has a lot of recoil, which I think is a welcomed change. It makes you aim carefully and practically disables spray-and-pray gameplay.

  • LEVELS/GAMEFLOW

Unlike Frontlines which presented an open gameplay where you chose your path in order to accomplish the objectives, like in BFBC1+2, HF has a strict scripted approache like the COD games. KAOS in general fails to built suspense and tension like the COD games.

  • GIMMICKS

The story happens in the near future, ie. 2 or 3 decades from now. The weaponry being the same, there’s a few elements that help diffrentiate HF from modern shooters and hopefully render the experience more interesting. There’s the Goliath, an armed drone vehicle with a heavy MG and rockets. It has an artificial intelligence, runs around shooting at enemies and you just mark the targets for the rockets. Honnestly it’s nothing special – in the gadget genre we’ve seen better. The Koreans have also sentry drones/towers which block your path. In order to take them down you have to flank them by avoiding taking too much damage, then throw a grenade at their rear where their fuel tank (BTW we never see them move around, so what’s the point of a fuel tank?).

  • CONCLUSION

You don’t have to be Albert Einstein to understand that a 2011 military F.P.S. with worst graphics than 2007’s Call Of Duty 4 goes nowhere. At best it will make a decent weekend rental. What is really sad is that HOMEFRONT gives a worst impression than previous KAOS game Frontlines: Fuel Of War…

Life after BFBC2 aka a recap about present and future FPS

I haven’t played much to BFBC2 lately, that’s why I haven’t posted much. I have been a little bored of corpse, but it’s mainly because I had to take of other things and have seriously reduced  gaming.

+++ I still maintain that late Vietnam is an amusing expansion for a short while, but boring and less meaty in the long term.

+++ Map Pack#7 is possibly the best map pack released so far. All the maps are great and Oasis a personal favorite of mine. Thumbs up!

Life after BFBC2, huh?

+++ HALO: REACH. Well, I have never been initiated to Halo multiplayer and I gave it a try. It’s a great game really, but not my style – I’m more of a military FPS fan. Eventhough it is host-based, its netcode is far more solid and robust than COD’s – which is a joke.

+++ MEDAL OF HONOR was good, amusing and had dedicated servers for the console versions. But overall it failed to fill the gap between COD and BFBC2: it wasn’t fast/arcade enough for the COD crowd and it wasn’t deep enough for us BFBC2 players. It also didn’t have enough guns, and its realistic/modern setting proved boring in the long term. Plus the gamewas ridden with bugs (especially concerning spawnkilling) that haven’t been adressed fast enough.

++++Call Of Duty: Black Ops has been fun for a few weeks, but as far as console FPS go, having enyoyed the benefits of dedicated servers it’s impossible to go back to host-based games. having said that, COD:BO is the best COD since COD4.

What comes next?

+++ CRYSIS 2. My only desktop is a vintage Pentium II PC from 1998. I have never played Crysis for more than a few minutes, and I have been one of those console gamers who have been waited for a port.  Here we go now… I have played the open beta on Xbox 360 for many hours. The game is cool. It has top-notch graphics and interesting gameplay. I’d say it’s somewhere between Halo and COD. The invisibility cloaks, shields and holograms are fun gimmicks to play with. But for a game that pretends to be hi-tech and on the edge of the current generation, it is unacceptable that it doesn’t have dedicated servers. No serious man should buy a game which pauses your multiplayer match in order to migrate the session because some fucking kid (or fat adult for that matter) ragequit. FUCK YOU!

+++ KILLZONE 3. I liked Killzone 2, I played it for quite a bit. Recently I even bought the map packs – too bad almost nobody is  playing them. The game has been strongly  influenced by the Battlefield series. It is part of what I would call the N.W.O.S.F. (New Wave Of Swedish FPS) – any heavy metal fans reading? 🙂 I just downloaded the beta today and gave it a try. The game seems ultracool, but to be honnest I haven’t seen any major differences from the previous one. I like the fact that it’s possible to swap R1/R2 and L1/L2 because I am using the XCM cross battle adapter: the Dualshock is simply not for FPS, and I use my Xbox 360 controller instead on the PS3, which is perfect for that with its real triggers and everything. Version 1 of the adapter, which I have, doesn’t give the possibility to configure the triggers, and for games like KZ2 you’re forced to shoot with the bumpers instead of the triggers.  So yeah, I will buy and play KZ3. Great graphics, deep gameplay, more varied settings and locales than KZ2 (the snowy “Frozen Dam” map of the beta resembles to KZ2 maps though) AND DEDICATED SERVERS!

+++ HOMEFRONT. Made by a team of notorious ex-Battlefield modders (the same people who made the cool Frontlines: Fuel Of War), this one will be a winner and will take for sure a part of the BFBC2 crowd. From the videos it looks great. Reportedly it’s easier to pilot a heli than it is in BFBC2, and this certainly sounds good to me! Drones seem cool tool. The weapons appear very MW-ish, so the transition from the COD/MW will be possibly smoother to some. Can’t wait…

+++ BATTLEFIELD 3. One of my friends on XBL, who has a PC gaming background, always tells me how BFBC1+2 are shallow compared to Battlefield 2. He is also telling me that is impossible to reproduce the authentic Battlefield experience to console. According to his comments, DICE have quite a challenge in front of them. Being an avid BFBC2 player, I am certainly ready for an even more strategic and deep experience. We’ll see what the Frostbite 2 engine will be up to! For the moment there’s not an videos or information disclosure whatsoever, DICE just declared that it wants it to be the biggest BF ever. Which is normal I guess. At the end of the dat, there has been a good thing with buying M.O.H.: it will give me access to the BF3 beta…

It’s not sure yet that DICE will be developing MEDAL HONOR 2…

Eurogamer had a little chat with DICE’s Patrick Liu:

DICE is in the envious position of being able to pick and choose which game it creates next alongside Battlefield 3

MEDAL OF HONOR MULTIPLAYER REVIEW (XBOX 360)

I anticipated MEDAL OF HONOR because DICE was assigned the mission of crafting the multiplayer component and I love those guys. I mean BATTLEFIELD: BAD COMPANY 2 is an awesome game and certanily the most solid, polished and exciting multi-platform F.P.S. as of now. With MIRROR’S EDGE they have proved they can innovate and that they have lots of imagination and fine aesthetics.

That’s why I’d wish they would mind their own projects, aka the Battlefield series (or MIRROR’S EDGE 2 – why not?), and stay out of this mess.

The overall impression I have of MEDAL OF HONOR’s multiplayer component is that it’s not a game on its own, but rather a Modern Warfare mod for Battlefield: Bad Company 2.

Technically it is surprising that it is unpolished, especially after the outcry with which were received the console beta releases – that we have tested (one, two). The game is buggy, for example:

  • there is a wallhack sort of bug which sometimes lets you see the enemy silhouettes through surfaces and obstacles,
  • what’s more aggravated is the reload button bug: in the Xbox 360 version that I am testing, reload often does not work forcing you to shoot the remaining bullets in order to do it! There is no excuse for such a such a glitch when you have paid your hard earned cash, and it certainly makes me rip-off’ed. Oh and before you think that it might my controller’s fault, I tried several, thank you.

It’s not that the game is not good, because it is. It’s just that it feels like it’s been rushed, that there is a lack of identity and depth.

  • M.O.H. has some cool objective oriented modes and deathmatch, with its mobile spawn points, is very cool, better that Modern Warfare’s equivalent campfest.
  • Sniping is a lot of fun and there are no killcams. Yet, because the maps are not so big, it’s not very irritating.
  • There is a steady flow of achievements as you start playing, which is good because it keeps you motivated while you’re still learning the game, even if suffering heavy casualties.
  • Graphics are good thanks to Frostbite. – that’s an even bigger disgrace for the pathetic single player campaign. There’s some very cool meteorological and speciall effects, when a mortar strike hits near you for example.

Yet, there’s not enough weapons, nor maps, that can get you hooked up for very long. I’ve played COD4 for 2 years without getting bored (I would certainly wish more than one map packs, for sure), I’m playing BFBC2 for 8 months now without getting bored, there is no way M.O.H. can keep you excited for so long.

M.O.H. is better that Modern Warfare 2 in a few points, for example

  • both the console and the PC versions have servers and do not work with host. Having been so much frustrated with COD’s host system (and host migration that works only half of the time), I can definitely say it makes A HUGE DIFFERENCE!
  • overall the game is well balanced. There are no ridiculous guns like the Rangers or Model 1887, no Akimbo, no tactical knife, no heartbeat sensors, not even claymores.
  • the weapons level up per class. For example, you unlock the red dot sights for all the weapons of the Spec Ops class.
  • there’s no prone, and that is an imporant counter-camper measure.

Yet, M.O.H. is not as meaty as the C.O.D. or Battlefield games. And while talking about the BF games, something that I find quite outrageous is that there is not a BFBC2 controller layout option! I hate having to remember the controls when I switch games, and a big part of the M.O.H. audience is the BFBC2 crowd, so what the fuck! What is even more strange is that there are different controller layouts between the single player and the multiplayer components!

All in all, I think that M.O.H.’s average quality can be explained by the hypothesis that the primary corporate objective fixed by E.A., was not to produce a CODKILLER, because it would take a lot more efforts, resources and design innovation in order to so (single player and multiplayer alike), but rather to try to divert some part of the C.O.D. audience, possibly preparing the ground for the debut title by ex-Infinity Ward overlords, Respawn Entertainment.

MEDAL OF HONOR CAMPAIGN REVIEW (XBOX 360) – part#2

Having spent approximately 2.000 hours playing the onling multiplayer, single player, split-screen and co-op modes of the latest three Call Of Duty games (COD4, COD:WaW, MW2) as well as Battlefield: Bad Company 2, I am what you can call a military F.P.S. enthusiast. When a good new game comes out, I generally start by the single player campaign and won’t play anything else until I’ve finished it. I cannot yet comprehend how Danger Close fucked MEDAL OF HONOR’s single player so bad, that it failed to excite me even the slightest.

  • Closing part#1 of this review, I was hoping to get more excited by my second single-player session. There was little chance to achieve that starting with a generic, dull sequence where you must mark down enemy vehicles for aerial support. The overall view of the village is UGLY, the explosions are UGLY, and how much excited can you be by a years old mechanic?
  • Then there was this  ATV sequence. Driving vehicles is messy and certainly not precise. Comparing this vehicle session with Modern Warfare 2’s,  BFBC2’s or whatever Halo’s is a disgrace. Why put them in the game then? Because they had to, I guess. Kids want to do a little driving now and then, don’t they?
  • When the gameplay moved mountain-side, graphics got a little better but they’re still very average. Reading the single player previews and having been carried away by Uncharted 2, I expected some stunning vistas. Not really.
  • Something that I haven’t mentionned before is that I played in Hard difficulty mode, yet there was not any real challenge. Medal Of Honor is very easy.

Failing to find anything interesting, continuing playing even for the achievements, was getting masochistic, so I stopped. Medal Of Honor’s single player campaign is pathetic trying to imitate Call Of Duty and being technically unpolished. I am astonished with how a major games publisher can neglect so much Q.A. There is no excuse that all those scripting issues and other bugs that whoever is able to isolate in a couple of hours, have not been corrected during a development cycle of nearly two years…

MEDAL OF HONOR CAMPAIGN REVIEW (XBOX 360) – part#1

Eventhough I am primarily an online gamer, I am always on the lookout for a powerful single player experience. It has a lot to do with the fact that I got back into gaming when my close friend Kostas, after pouring me a glass of Metaxa the afternoon after his civil marriage, handed me over a Dualshock and invited me to play BLACK on his PS2. I got instantly hooked, a couple of weeks later I was buying a second hand xbox1, and the rest is history.

I believe that a game with a good multiplayer component must be able to hook you up with its campaign. That’s what happened to me with BATTLEFIELD: BAD COMPANY 2. From the first minutes of single player action I knew that I would LOVE its multiplayer, and I quit overnight Modern Warfare 2! And let’s not talk about CALL OF DUTY4, whose single player made me wanna go online and buy an Xbox live subscription…

Not having received yet the M.O.H. copy  I preordered from play.com, I couldn’t wait and started the campaign with a copy rented from a video club. Below are my first impressions from the first couple of hours.

  • The graphics are average. They are certainly worst than those of MW2, Killzone 2, BFBC2, and after the technical prowess of recent console blockbusters Uncharted 2 & Halo Reach they are even more disappointing… Please notice that I’m talking Xbox 360 here, huh.
  • The animation is average too. It simply isn’t realistic and well polished.
  • The controls feel awkward. The first hands-on experience with the game controls is certainly not sweet.
  • The action is not intense and overall the gameplay is not exciting. It feels a lot like a Call Of Duty clone, which struggles hard to match the original but fails.
  • The scenario doesn’t help the action. I really had a good feeling about the Afghanistan setting. I have seen many documentaries about the current conflict, including the excellent “Ross Kemp In Afghanistan” series, and from the videos and pre-release information, I had the impression that the campaign would be killer. At least for the first couple of hours it’s not. The story is mediocre and lacks the momentum of the latest three Call Of Duty games or the fun of Battlefield: Bad Company 1+2.
  • The levels are -guess what?- average. It’s way too linear, there’s almost no room for some exploration like in the other military FPS’ I mentionned until now. There’s plenty of invisible walls and a few bugs in the scripting. I shutted down my Xbox 360 after I reached an objective,  a gate, which would not open eventhough there were not any more enemies to kill in that area. Next to that area, behind a fence, endless allies and Talibans respawned, shooting each other standing (not even going prone), dead bodies disappearing pronto.

I will continue one of these days and really hope that the rest of the campaign is not as bad as its beginning…