Arena Battle VS Military Shooters

Next Gen has arrived and with it a world full of excited gamers looking for the next big thing in Multiplayer gaming. As to be expected in year one with any console generation we received the usual assortment of previous gen ports and of course the inevitable sequals across old and new generation hardware. This is all and fine but what that really means is that we get next to nothing in the way of fresh new ideas and envelope pushing game experiences. Developers tend to play it safe on launch.

Well that was last year and even though the annual Call of Duty was….meh , Battlefield 4 still blows the eyeballs from my sockets and hearing ” Stand by for Titanfall” never gets old; I am still waiting for that true Next Generation game experience.
The FPS category is off to the races with sequel mania running wild in all of the various Developer houses but there are a few that are taking some time to rethink the direction we have all been pushing them to the past 5-8 years. Thats right I said the direction WE have been pushing  them towards.

The shooter Genre has become populated with games that have large environments , hundreds of weapon  customization options, dozens of game unbalancing perks and streaks rewards that teeter on game breaking at times. Maps are large and expansive and at their worst cause players to get lost within minutes of running out of spawn. Forget trying to use map call outs these days and good luck developing a strategy around the insane amount of variables that are present in any given game.

There was a time when shooters where simple in concept but required more from the player aside from choosing what shade of  pink he/she wanted their preferred weapon to be covered in Call of Duty!
It was callled; The Arena Shooter.

So what exactly is an ” Arena Shooter” ?

The term refers to a type of shooter that was created in the early to mid nineties and was the standard for the genre leading up to the early 2000′s. Titles such as Quake, Unreal Tournament, Counter strike, Half Life,Goldeneye, Perfect Dark and Halo.

Arena games are defined by certain traits .

  • Small to mid sized maps with an emphasis on equality between the two teams.
  • Uniform weapon selection at Spawn ( Unique player unlocked weapons)
  • Balanced weapon selection
  • Emphasis on twitch reflexes and movement mastery ( Strafing, mid air shooting etc..)

Games like Call of Duty and Battlefield while delivering their own style and flavour have chosen to give gamers a smorgasbord of content that allows a vast amount of both customization and  progression. The gameplay is bolstered by this level of customization but at the cost of balancing. Some guns may start off on equal footing but in the hands of your opponent it may have received modifiers and upgrades that you don’t hence giving him a leg up when the two of you cross paths on the map.

Call of Duty has taken this to another level by not only allowing gun modification but layering on player perks and unique bonuses that your in game avatar can utilize to tip the scales your favor. Perks and bonuses that  your opponent may not possess.

Seriously????!!!

To put this in perspective lets look at a game like HALO. To be fair this franchise has evolved over the years and tested the waters as far as bringing in aspects of newer franchises but at its core it still remains a balanced and true ” Arena Shooter”.

Players do not have ” Perks” that can be unlocked through play and although ” Armor Abilities” are considered similar, the fact that they are not as plentiful and can be accessed equally by everyone in the game balances them out. Weapon procurement is also a finely tuned aspect of the game with all of  the potentially OP weapons spawning on the map in some shape or another for all players to have access to and your starting tools of destruction being the same regardless of your level of progression in the game. There is no weapon customization of any kind and the game is better for it.

Map layout is clean and tight with every hallway and open area given careful thought by the developers. The maps have been crafted with balance in mind as opposed top graphical flair and theme. Its almost as though the developers created a ” lego block version” of the map to ensure fair play and balance then wrapped a thematic skin over it to give it flavor. Each map plays like a true arena for your virtual selves to wage war like two teams hitting the Ice in a hockey game; albeit with Assault rifles instead of Hockey sticks.

Arena Map design at its finest
Arena gameplay also tends to skew more towards the methodical and premeditated  versus the crazy run and gun that you see with a lot of the new modern military shooters.  With this in mind Ubisoft is poised to bring Arena gameplay to the fore forefront of  modern military shooters with its upcoming release of Rainbow Six Siege.

Rainbow six has a long history in the competitive community and has garnered huge accolades for its tactical, tight and steep skill requirements to master. While that franchise fell from grace last gen with the Rainbow Six: Vegas instalments Ubisoft is looking to return to its roots with Siege.

Rainbow Six Sige is a tactical Military shooter that shares a lot in common with its Arena based brethren ;from what we have seen of the game so far). Map design that serves to affect gameplay and not just look good. Limited Respawns to ensure a slower more methodical pace and an emphasis on teamwork over run and gun gameplay. This could be the perfect amalgam of the Military Shooter and the classic Arena gameplay that started the FPS boom.

No matter what your tastes are this generation is sure to deliver something that you can enjoy and I for one am glad to see that some developers are taking a moment to pause amidst all the fanboy screams and craft some experiences that harken back to a time when multiplayer gaming required a certain amount of skill and not just a battle of ” Who has the bigger gun”.

Dwayne” EVO Knight” Morash

Oh HALO…how art thou?

I remember a time when you could not talk to anyone who owned an XBOX ( original) without the conversation steering towards HALO and how awesome that game was.

HALO was the first  FPS that actually made people stop and pay attention to these ugly boxes that us console players hooked up  to our TV’s and ushered in a new era for shooters on a console.

For many years HALO was the bar for any aspiring franchises when it came to FPS games and story as well as finely tuned multi player. Now we all know that newer games eventually come out and with a new generation of console ( XBOX360 , PS3) comes with it new contenders for the throne of FPS king.  As it sits now HALO is now a niche game that cultivates a loyal fan base but is not the mass market ” go to shooter’ as it once was. Sadly that title resides in the deep pockets of Activision and their Call of Duty Franchise while HALO struggles to prove itself like a contestant on Survivor.

And so is the story of HALO.

The real sadness of this however is that the once united legion of HALO fans themselves have turned against the franchise and have taken it upon themselves to judge the series and hand down heavy-handed criticism of the current state of the game.

HALO belongs to the fans now …and the fans don’t like the game!

sadly HALO REACH …..” A face only a mother could love”

Since its introduction back in 2001 , HALO has undergone many changes to its gameplay and formula as a whole.The game still carries with it all the core qualities that made it successful but the developers have always pushed it forward as far as presentation and story telling.

Multi player is the most controversial part of the package because not all the changes and tweaks to the formula have been received with open arms.

Perhaps the game that really put organized competitive gaming on the map ; HALO  was placed under a microscope . Players analyzed every aspect of what made the game tick right down to ” hit detection” ” respawn times” and ” shield regen”. If you played HALO competitively you had a stake in what changes got made to the game in every version.

All of these opinions reached a fever pitch with the release of HALO: REACH in 2010. This was the HALO game that took the franchise in a bold new direction. It was the first game in the series NOT to feature the franchises poster boy ” Master Chief” as the main character of the narrative and the changes to multi player where bold and refreshing…and ultimately killed the game.

REACH introduced elements that where popular in the current market of FPS. Persistent XP, unlockable skins and…Loadouts not to mention signifigant graphical upgrades over previous games.

The concept of a player being able to tweak his in-game load out to cater to his or her style of play was not in itself a new concept but other games had done it prior to HALO and while it served them well in their respective games it did not sit well with HALO fans who were used to an equal playing field on spawn and weapon procurement on the map was the status quo.

To be fair, REACH didn’t go to far into hat territory but ventured far enough to give players a taste of what those mechanics would feel like in the confines of a HALO game.
ARMOR  ABILITYS   where a way to customize your spartan in multi player. The concept was awesome. Each Spartan warrior had the ability to choose from a selection of abilities that bounded with them at the beginning of each match ( although you could tweak the settings to make them pick ups on map) and included some cool powers like a jet pack, a drop shield( invisible barrier that repels anything thrown at it) and the ability to sprint and turn invisible.

armor abilitys….not so much ?

Who would have thought that the HALO crowd would not like these additions. Not only that but the fact that HALO  REACH did away with some traditional weaponry ( the Battle Rifle) pushed fans away in droves.

Between weapon omissions and some dramatic tweaks to the multi player formula HALO has been abandoned even by its Hardcore fans.

HALO 1 and HALO 2 servers are no longer available to the XBOX community as Microsoft has pulled the plug on them.
This leaves the HALO fan base crammed into 2 potential titles to spend their days with and in light of the reaction to HALO REACH’s tweaks and changes most players are flooding back to HALO 3; which is widely viewed as the best game in the series ( HALO 2 is actually the most beloved but being unable to play online makes it obsolete)

There is light at the end of this tunnel and that comes in the form of the highly anticipated HALO4. There have been some details on HALO4 that have come to light and thus far it looks to be on a good track.

I recently sat in on a community broadcast of some of the communities most high-profile players and was shocked to hear them offering up criticism on a game that had yet to launch. Some of the issues they had with the yet to be released HALO 4 where that it will be using an armor ability system similar to HALO REACH. These prolific members of the community proceeded to rip HALO 4 apart piece by piece and showed no mercy when analyzing some of the rumored and confirmed changes that we’re coming down the pip.

Should HALO change at all if this is how we react !?

I myself am disgusted over the state of the community and how they are treating a once beloved franchise. They act as if they have been betrayed and even going so far as to announce their boycotting of the franchise unless it returns to its original roots.

HALO 4….” He’s Baaaaaack”

I think that all of these opinions have tarnished the appeal of the game but undeservedly.

Competitive play has also been effected by this. The powers that be who run the industries most popular competitive gaming business ( sorry guys it’s not EGU…yet) have even removed it from their summer line up and for the first time since the game arrived on their circuit no one will be playing HALO in a live event!

HALO truly has become the “Underdog”

With HALO 4 arriving in November we will all be able to see if it can return to form; not only from a gameplay and mechanics point of view but more importantly from the viewpoint of community and fan support.

Try as I might to avoid the cliché’ , it really does fit the situation and I myself await ” The Return of the King”

Dwayne” EVO Knight” Morash

Binary Domain Full written Review

Entertainment in this day and age comes with a certain amount of expectations from the consumer. Whether you are going to a  movie theatre or purchasing a DVD to watch at home we all expect to get a fair return on the price we pay for that entertainment. Of course as the prices of entertainment increases ( Have you gone to an IMAX 3-D movie lately?!?!?) so do those expectations and thus that brings us to the most heavily scrutinized for of media today. The Video Game.

Current store pricing on your average game is approx $59.99 and your average gamer may as well be a ” Video Game accountant”  because he/she is counting every penny when it comes to making sure his value is accounted for after purchasing it!
Binary Domain is one of those games that put all the marbles it could into one basket and the left over marbles got put into the same basket and rolled off the top; leaving us with….well a full basket of marbles! I am of course referring to the two aspects of the game ; Single player campaign and multi player versus ( there is a co-op mode but hardly worth mentioning since its nothing we havent seen before)

The ability to weave a finely written narrative into a Hi Tech shooter has only been accomplished by a few lucky franchises that I can think of. The HALO franchise stands as a shining example of this feat and few others have mastered the art ( Gears of War deserves a mention as well). Shooters by their very nature aren’t meant to deliver that type of experience but that doesn’t stop developers from pushing the limits and dosing the massive amounts of action and shooting with some emotional moments meant to draw us in further to world they have crafted.
My expectations going in to Binary Domain where minimal. I was fully expecting the short list of offenses ; Bad story, Bad voice acting, stereotypical characters, and predictable plot. To my surprise I only got one of those right and I’m not going to tell you which one it is so you’ll have to play it to find out which one.

The setting of the game is 20 years into the future and mankind is now co existing with robots that have taken up a multitude roles in our day-to-day routine. Imagine the movie ” I Robot” and you have a good starting point for the game.

The robot designs are very similar in fact and the world we live in has survived tragedy in the form of massive flooding and destruction of major cities. Mankind has rebuilt with the help of our robot “Brethren” and life moved on.Robots are a integral part of all life on Earth

You play the role of Dan Marshall; an Ex Military Bad Ass who has acquired the nickname ” The survivor” due to his ability ( or luck) to get out of some pretty nasty situations. His nickname is well deserved as you find out through the course of the game.

Dan and his partner ” Bo” are inserted into a Neo Tokyo setting on the hunt for a CEO of a Mega corporation who is suspected of violating the Geneva convention against creating Robots that look and act  like humans.These laws were put into place to ensure that technology did not out pace human evolution and it was agreed that as science evolved there needed to be some parameters governing it.

Dan Marshall the “Survivor”

Dan and his friend work for the IRTA ; a task force appointed to eliminate robot threats against the Geneva convention. The game begins with Dan and Bo meeting up with the rest of a UN appointed team and together you all form what is known as a ” Rust Crew”.

The ” Rust Crew”

The story in Binary Domain is dripping with all sorts of awesomeness! My temptation is to narrate the entire story in this review because it is in fact that good. It will have you shaking your head at the crazy action set pieces and even listening closely to cut scenes so you can hope to uncover some piece of info about whats coming next ( trust me, you don’t want to skip these cut scenes as they are filled with witty dialogue and very well done acting moments). This is one of the few games that you actually smile at some of the situations you end up in and some of the events that transpire. The developers have done an amazing  job in making you feel attached to Dan as an extension of you in the game and combined with the games mechanics; you too feel like a bad ass ” survivor”

There are plenty of twists and turns and I was on the edge of my seat right to the very end. The story never drags on too much and your ongoing journey from the lower levels of Tokyo’s post destruction state all the way to the upper shiny levels of the Corporations main offices gives you a sense of real progression. Your not re-treading the same old locations and even though you face endless swarms of robots ; there is enough variance in design and capabilities that you aren’t bored.
The  game also tackles some pretty heady material that will give you pause and think about. Racial analogies and questions about evolution and the future of our own society are all thrown on the table for us to experience through the eyes of our virtual character. This is Heavy stuff for a shooter!

Another cool feature that is built into the game is the voice recognition system. Forgoing the current trend to integrate Kinect voice commands into the game the developers chose simply to use existing technology and give us a system that allows us to issue pre scripted voice commands to our squad mates during combat. This is done by holding down LB ( on the 360 controller) and speaking any of the four commands available. This feature actually works well assuming you are in a quiet room and have a decent microphone in use. The fact remains thought that you are by yourself playing a single player game talking to your screen. No amount of polish can make someone not feel a tiny bit foolish and I caught myself looking over my shoulder several times. Good thing the game give you the ability to issue those commands via button press instead. Still it was cool to see them use technology in a manner that drew you into the game more than just clicking buttons.

From a technical point of view the game also shines. While it doesn’t have the graphic fidelity of Gears of War ( a game in the same vein as this game) it does not have poor graphics by any stretch of the matter. Being that your primary opponent in this game will be robots ( or scrap heads as everyone affectionately calls them) there is an amazing opportunity to showcase the level of detail the developers put into the shooting mechanics. Dan and company will cover slide, roll, and vault behind barricades and walls and other forms of cover all the while blasting away at robots.

The robots in question don’t simply scream and flop over like an alien menace in other games…no no; the robots will crumble and fall a part limb by limb as you target various parts of its body. Yes even the heads can be shot off separately without killing the robot and you can watch as its targeting system goes haywire and he proceeds to start shooting at everything around him including fellow robots!I even had a situation where I had destroyed the robot’s entire lower torso and it still didn’t die but rather proceeded to crawl after me just like something out of the movie Terminator. Very cool !

Character animations are top-notch both during cust-scenesand in-game. Of particular note I should mention that the facial details and expressions of the characters during the cut scenes are fabulous. A real sense of emotion has been conveyed through the character models and the way the camera is moved around the “scene” much like a hollywood movie.

Not just a pretty face…he can act as well!

If there is one area that this game overthrows any other game in the genre its this one. I felt drawn into the situations these characters where in almost as much as someone watching a movie would. The camera was constantly shifting throughout these scenes and at several points you actually are given the reigns to control Dan when it looked like it was simply a scripted event ( always pay attention as several times I was tasked with a QTE in the middle of a cut scene un expectantly )

To address the multi player component I have posted a separate  review that you can find by clicking here  as I felt it deserved its own review and not wanting to detract from the praise I was heaping on this game with the campaign review. As a quick summary I can tell you that the Multi player is fun albeit generic looking. Server stability as of this writing is in an awful state with lag issues wrecking Havoc and hit detection reduced to hoping you hit teleporting enemies. The biggest disappointment is that the games population is so miniscule that you can barely get into a match. There are no formal message boards on the games official site either so the community is unable to reach out to one another.

So after purchasing this title and completing the campaign I can safely say that I have gotten my moneys worth from this product. Multi player is simply icing on the cake at this point and wether the issues they are having ever get fixed ; in my books that’s okay. I hope that everyone takes a step back at looks at this product in the way I have.

I know that many of this generations gamers will look past the most fantastic elements of this game and focus on its faults ( ie.Multi player) but ironically this is the one shooter that I would recommend not worrying about the multi player component and simply immerse yourself in the world that is Binary Domain.

ED.Note: Make sure you sit in your seat past the ending credits to get an idea as to where the Developers are going with this new Franchise.

Technical Presentation

Audio: A pleasant mix of pop and electronica mixed with swelling orchestral music when the moment is right. The game has excellent ambient noises like footsteps and other effects and the splintering of robotic parts never gets old.

Video: While not the best looking game in the past year it has an anime feel without going to over the top. It boasts some of the best facial animations I have seen in a game in a long time and the ability to shred a robot of all its armor before finishing it off showcases its graphical punch.

Final Thoughts: Binary Domain is a great kick off to 2012 as far as shooters goes. All areas have impressed me and I almost want to dive in for a second play through. Very few games in this genre has made me say that and most single player campaigns in this genre are usually an obligation to get out-of-the-way before jumping online. In Binary’s case its the other way around and one of the best stories I have experienced in this genre.

Final Grade: 90%

 

Dwayne” EVO Knight” Morash

Review:Tritton Detonator Gaming Headset

Before I start this review I want to give you some background on myself as far as my audio experience goes. I started my professional career at an early age back in 1991 working at a local stereo shop. I then spent the next 9 years of my life selling stereos and Tv’s at a variety of different companies; increasing my knowledge base as I went. I was exposed to many different products and technology and even continued to follow the industry for several years afterwards. My ability to assess quality levels in audio and video product stays with me to this day.

Having said that I also am cursed with being a picky consumer when it comes to things like video displays and audio equipment and now extending into my purchase of gaming gear ; so when my trusty Turtle Beach X12′s malfunctioned on me I was forced to march into the local vendor of all things gaming and replace them.

Enter the Tritton Detonators.

I’ll start by sating that this headset is very sexy. The entire design is a smooth and clean design with a minimal but effective use of color. A matt black band is used to secure two Glossy finished ear cups. The interior fabric of the enclosures are ” Tritton Orange” and the exterior of the cups are embossed with the Tritton logo in silver. The entire package is very eye-catching. This headset is also officially endorsed by Microsoft themselves even to the point of them slapping an official branding label on the box and engraving it into the Tritton’s headband for all to see . While doing nothing for the quality of the headset overall , knowing that MS approves it gives you a little feeling of comfort that you havent wasted your hard-earned dollar on a second-rate product.

Setting up the Tritton Detonator’s are a snap as well and if your like me you wont even look at the manual ( who in the heck reads a book on how to plug-in a set of headphones!?!??!). After diving in and selecting the appropriate cables to use I had them installed and ready to use.
They come with a few two different ways to install depending on your configuration of TV/Monitor and audio system. The standard way of hooking them up is to plug the two audio cables directly into the back of your television set’s audio outputs ( the red and white plugs on the back of your TV).

included cables cover all the bases for installation

Depending on your configuration you may need the included adaptor that allows you to plug the Tritton’s into your Xbox directly for sound. This is especially welcome if like me you use HDMI out of your XBOX into a display that does not have the aforementioned audio outputs. In my case I use a HD monitor with only a 3.5mm audio output so the included adaptor was a welcome addition.Brownie points for Tritton!
The connection cable itself is 14 feet long so no one should have any problem hooking them up regardless of your distance from your equipment.

Next was the comfort test. The biggest concern I had was the change in cup fabric from the Turtle beach series. I had grown used to the cloth mesh used in most of the newer designs from Turtle Beach and was curious to see how my ears would react to the vinyl material Tritton used for the Detonators.

As it turns out the material serves to keep your ears enclosed which enables the 50mm drivers inside the cup to deliver crisp clean bass frequencies; something that the X12′s struggled with. It also creates a barrier for outside noises when you are gaming ( both good and bad if you have people trying to talk to you while  you are in the middle of a game)
The headset was comfortable over the course of a 2 hour gaming session and became transparent as they thundered away on my head.

Now  here comes the real reason you are reading this review. How do these babies sound? I did not tread lightly here I can tell you that. I will say this…You will not be disappointed in any way!
The Detonators produce a clear sound through all frequency ranges all the way from the thunderous booms of an A-1 Abrams tank pounding shells into your cover in Battlefield 3 right up to the all to familiar sounds of transforming robots and whirring servo parts in Transformers: War for Cybertron; these babies handle it all!

At the core of this technology are some very well designed speakers that are capable of handling anything a game throws at it. I was very pleased with the fact that I didn’t need to fiddle with a bass adjuster to have a tuned sound quality. The Trittons settings have been internally tested and fine tuned to a happy level. High volume levels result in an overwhelming experience without cracking under pressure and giving off minor speaker clipping that other low-level models are prone to do ( I do not recommend listening to games at maximum volume for long periods as it will probably result in brain damage )

Voice quality is solid and no one in my party complained that they couldn’t hear me or that my voice wasnt coming through in a crisp manner. Rather than a standard permanently attached mic boom the Trittons have a detachable boom that allows for better placement and less distraction in front of your face.

I did have to take some time fine tuning the chat volume in comparison to the game volume because at times the in-game effects and soundtrack overpowered my team mates talking . With a little experimenting you will find the sweet spot and this no longer becomes a problem. Just remember that the sound quality on these headsets are very robust and the game effect will come alive so well that your friends bickering will take a back seat to it.

The coolest feature of the Detonators is that it is equipped with a ” control dongle” that allows for some minor customization of your experience. This dongle has buttons for ” Audio Mute” , ” Chat Mute” and ” Selectable Voice Monitoring”
I found the ” complete audio mute”  button came in handy when you needed to quickly turn the volume down of off because someone was trying to talk to you out of game rather than fumbling with your wires trying to turn one of 2 sliders down to acceptable levels.Likewise handy is the “Chat Mute” button.

Of particular note is the ” SVM” button. This is something that I thought was genius! Essentially it allows you to hear your own voice with a touch of a button so that you can monitor how loud you are speaking once the bullets and sound effects start flying inside your head. This saves you some embarrassment from onlookers while your screaming your head off because you can’t tell how loud your voice is. The fact that this is accomplished through an on device button is outstanding. The turtle beach headsets tackle this issue by using a fabric that allows the wearer to hear outside the enclosure but this design also compromises the headsets ability to deliver a solid bass frequency( hence the inclusion of a Bass Boost slider on the X12′s).

The Tritton Detonator headset retails for $89.99 at most retailers and while not delivering the EPIC level of sound that a $200 gaming headset pumps out it is far from an entry-level product . In a world where opinions of gaming gear reigns supreme you are bound to get some naysayers out there all of which are telling you to endorse their chosen headset because “it’s the best” ; stand firm in your choice and know that you will not go wrong with the Tritton Detonators strapped to your head.

Dwayne “EVO Knight” Morash

 

Before you could run you had to walk

Even as I sit here and type I am trying to remember playing a game FPS game that didn’t have the ability to ” Sprint”. To take a step back for all of you new generation of FPS gamers out there you should be made aware that the ability to run or sprint in a FPS game wasnt always a standard feature.

Most of the games that we are now playing sequels of started out their series simply trudging a,long at whatever movement speed the developers deemed satisfactory for the pacing of the game. Multi player also was dialed into a set speed and love it or hate it , that is what defined the games overall feel once the bullets started flying.

Halo, Rainbow Six , Call of Duty, and Battlefield now all have a “sprint” function that lets the player have a quick burst of speed  to engage his opponents or to get behind cover but the bigger question is why this feature was added to the games later iterations.

Pacing: probably the most important reason the feature was added in all of the above examples. This however covers a broad sub category of reasons but as an overall definition, I think pacing explains it best. By implementing a feature that enables you to move quicker the developers could then dial-up the intensity of the combat around you. With the ability to run you could then face  opponents who could move quicker and chase you more vigorously. Everything became faster and more intense and you didn’t have an excuse about trying to survive it…because you could run.

Gamers have no attention spans: Dialing up the pacing of a game would allow for individuals who thrived on intensity and constant stimulation to get from point A to point B quicker and therefore less downtime when they weren’t shooting guns. It allowed the player to control the pacing of the action rather than having to move at a pre determined rate set out by the developers.

Seriously! That’s all playable geography and ain’t no way I’m walking to Objective < C >!!

Many game developers realized this and worked at ways to give players constant stimulation while playing there games. Ever wonder why shooter games fail to more substantial stories other than ” go to point A and shoot everyone then go to point B”. This is of course a general rule and there are examples of wonderful stories in the archives of FPS games.I have since seen many gamers pick up a new game and as soon as they have player control ie after a cut scene , immediately start jamming on buttons asking which one the “run” button is. Really?!

Realism: Of course there is the fact that we can all run in real life so why not give our virtual warriors the same option. This was a no brainer but still took a long time to become a reality in games.

” Run and Gun” : self-explanatory…

New multiplayer games are now forced to conform to this standard at the risk of alienating potential players; but is this feature required in order to have a satisfying experience in the FPS genre.

Look to games like Counterstrike: Global Offensive as an example of a development team who refuse to budge on design elements that they used almost 10 years ago. Counterstrike: GO will be launching this year and it will be entering a pool of shooter sharks so to speak.

There isnt a “Sprint” function in Counterstrike:Global Offensive but you do run faster with a knife in your hand…FPS Doug would be proud!

It will now have to compete against games like Battlefield 3, Call of Duty and Medal of Honor not to mention HALO 4! One would think that any studio making a FPS game would at least hit the status quo mark on the short list of standard features but rest assured; Counterstrike :GO will not have a “sprint” feature.

Halo is another example of a game that blatantly emulated features from a successful competing title ( Reach was Halo’s version of Modern Warfare ) and was almost shunned because of it. Classic HALO multiplayer did not have the ability to sprint or run and Reaches changes were met with mixed feelings. It wasnt a requirement for the type of competitive multi player that HALO delivered. To that point MLG now uses a ” No sprint” variant in there competitive events.

Rainbow six Vegas 2 is a game that also implemented a sprint function into its game after the debut title chose not to have that feature. This was also met with hesitation from die-hard fans and while in the end the community accepted the changes the primary concern was that it would remove the tactical pacing from the game and give it a more ” run and gun” feel .

Running is quite the feat for a guy wearing a 1000 lb suit of battle armor.

My opinion is that the game needs to come first and while every developer will always try to mold their game to anticipated consumers desires and wants, they could drive themselves crazy trying to appease everyone. In the case of Counterstrike they have a rabid fan base who is watching there every move and any deviation from what is ‘ acceptable” in their minds will cause them to boycott the product. It’s a slippery slope and I certainly don’t envy them.

So the next time you fire up your favourite FPS and buckle down for a session of intense shooting and …running; maybe give some thought to how the game would feel without the ability to lace up those running shoes.

 

Dwayne “EVO Knight” Morash

 

 

To HUD or…To MUCH HUD

There has been a secret debate raging in the world of competitive multi player gaming for quite some time. One that doesn’t get talked about to often until a game comes along that takes a design choice that goes to far and forces this age-old argument to the surface of message boards around the world once again. I am talking about that feature that all of us take for granted but none of us could live without. I’m talking about….your HUD.

For those of you who have no clue what a HUD is; It is your ” Heads Up Display” or in other words the screen you look into the virtual world through that gives you all of your icons and your beloved mini map.

Poor Tony has information overload

Whether you are playing a single player game or competing in a tournament you rely on your HUD to display important information about the game your playing. Heck even Mario Bros has a HUD ! You can see how many lives you have and also how much time you have to complete the level and that is important information  to you the player, ergo HUD.

In more recent games especially in the shooting genre the HUD has taken on a much more important role of delivering strategic information in the form of maps, enemy positions on the map, weapons loadouts, ammunition reserves and all manner of tid bits that the game deems important to your survival or ability to experience the game in a digestible manner.

Bullets…check….Map…check….health bar…check…objectives..check….check…check…

Consider how complex a normal game is in today’s market and translate that into the amount of buttons and button combos and you’ll see why the HUD is such an important aspect of the games you play.

The argument comes in the question of how much is too much in regards to a visual HUD on your game screen?

Players all have their opinions on what information needs to be displayed on your screen at any one time but the balance that needs t o be had is between information and over crowding of the real estate you have to see the action in the game.

The short list of important information that your HUD should contain is usually ; Mini Map, Ammo Counter, Team Mate locations ( name over head) , objective way points and Health/ability meters.
Now we all know that there are plenty more items that can be displayed on a HUD  but how much is to much.

Game developers have been coming  up with creative ways to deliver us information through a HUD without cluttering the screen and thereby pulling us out of the immersion of being in the shoes of a virtual character. Gears of war for example uses a system of ” fading HUD” wherein the elements fade from view when not engaged ie. Your ammo counter and selected weapon indicator completely disappear from the screen when you are not using it in combat.Gears of War also does not use any map elements in its gameplay ie. Mini maps or team-mate icons instead using a genius idea called a ” tac com” where you hold RB to pull up crucial squad location info.

No Map, No team mates names floating above their heads…just a man and his gun…and an ammo counter

The result is a game that has 100% of its screen real estate devoted to character models and environments making the players feel more immersed in the world they are playing in.

Perhaps the most incredibly creative way to display a HUD is in the game Dead Space. This si a single player survival Horror game that is very similar  to Resident Evil…but in space. The genius idea of how to display a HUD still makes me smile to this day. The games protagonist employs a modular weapon in the game that can be upgraded as you play but more importantly it is also a tool on accessing the various games menus and options, including your start menu with all the game configs and saves etc. Your health meter is displayed via a glowing column running down the spine of your space suit. Everything this game does is all about making you feel like your watching a movie rather than playing game and the fact that you are actually controlling it makes it so much cooler. Dead Space is the pinnacle of HUD design in a game.

Floating holographic menus FTW

On the opposite spectrum is the game Ghost Recon Future Soldier and even its earlier incarnation Advanced Warfighter. The games barrage the senses of a player with all manner of tactical information ranging from objectives to enemy positions and everything in between. The newest entry in the series ; Future soldier endeavors to alleviate that onslaught by integrating all of those elements into a system called ” augmented reality”. This is a technique that places all this crucial information into the game world itself.

seriously!?!?

For an example your ammo counter now hovers over top of your gun like a holographic display and mission waypoints are now ” written” in the sky or ‘ projected” into walls as though by a movie theatre projector. Map waypoints are illustrated by placing a faint glowing ” breadcrumb” trail along the ground in front of you . This is a growing trend we will see more of as developers get more creative in delivering us all of the information that helps us play the game better.

Then there is the question of immersion. The ability to feel like you are inside the helmet of your genetically engineered super soldier. The feeling of awesomeness when you start a match in a multi player game and see your rifle being held in the hands of your virtual avatar.

First person games are built around the concept of making you feel like you are in fact the hero yourself. Your eyes are looking out through the eyes of the character you embody and the gun you see in those hands is in fact your. Taken to an extreme level the developers want you to feel connected to the character and by not showing you his/her face and gives us that portal into his shoes ( note: If you want to see if a developer has taken the effort to create a believable experience the next time you play a FPS look at your feet and see if they are rendered)

One game in particular has done an exceptional job of portraying this in the FPS genre  is HALO
The first thing that happens on spawn and subsequent re spawns in any HALO game is the powering up of your HUD.

Halo 4 will apparently make you feel like your inside the cockpit of a fighter jet…AKA Master Chief

a brief second of gameplay  where your screen flickers and a trademark sound of your personal shields powering up is all it takes to make you feel like YOU are the person in that armor . Minor graphical elements also solidify that feeling by having faint holographic trimming around the perimeter of the screen. These are things like your shield strength and visor  details ala Iron Man’s armor. Metroid of Nintendo fame also does this exceptionally well all be it not a multi player centric game.

And so the debate rages on and really for most of us its barely an issue  but for the game developers it’s an ongoing struggle to put us in the shoes of a virtual warrior but at the same time ensure we can understand the complexity of controls and options they have programmed into the game.

Dwayne” EVO Knight” Morash

 

 

“The Killer Instinct” and Interview with Eugene “Kpb” Lugo

 

Pro had the chance to interview Eugene” Kpb” Lugo on his recent win of the PRO 2014 Killer Instinct” UGR Tournament” and his experience with Fighting games and just how long he has been playing them. Enjoy!

PRO Gaming:Congratulations on winning our 2014 Killer Instinct Tournament Eugene. On behalf on PRO and UGR I want to say thank you for taking the time to chat with us and give us some insight into the world of competitive Fighting games.How  long have you been playing Killer Instinct either in this iteration or past versions?

Eugene: I’ve been a long term fan playing the game since the original on the SNES home console. I was pretty young when getting the game but was attracted to it because it came as a black cartridge with a soundtrack. The music definitely makes the game, lol. I played Killer Instinct Gold when it was in the arcades and always stuck with my main character, Fulgore. I recently brought an Xbox One specifically to compete in this game. Safe to say I love the series

PRO Gaming:Compared to other fighting games on the market how do you feel that Killer Instinct stands up with its game play and graphics?

Eugene:I think the game is a great fit along side other fighters that are out right now. Casually it’s easy to pick up and play. The basic mechanics of the game are easy to get use to within the first few minutes of playing and the game just looks amazing. On the technical side of the game I believe it has it’s elements of Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. Overall it’s good for anyone to pick up and play.

PRO Gaming: At what point did you decide to start playing games competitively versus just on a casual basis with friends.

Eugene: I started playing competitively back in the tail end of 2009. That’s when Street Fighter was the dominant fighting game out (Mortal Kombat and Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 released in 2011). I use to be a big time “Online Warrior” and decided to take my skills further. I started by going to local tournaments and slowly found my way to attending Majors. It wasn’t an easy start but getting out there is the only way to get battle hardened.

PRO Gaming: The competitive E sport “ Fighting game” community is a very Clicky crowd. Have you had any challenges in becoming a part of that community and if so how have you adjusted to it in your dealings?

Eugene:The Fighting Game Community (FGC) is very intimidating at first. There’s groups withing groups of people. Looking at it from the outside can be very scary. First starting out I didn’t know many people besides my friends that started with me. I knew a lot of people by face from watching streams but that was about it. As time went on and competitions became more frequent for me that’s when I started to become comfortable with the people I consistently saw. Everyone in the FGC is very welcoming, shockingly enough all you have to do is say hi. I’m proud to say that within the FGC I represent a group called Kick-Punch-Block (KPB). I joined up with them in late 2012 and they’re like my extended family.  Little groups like these make being a part of the FGC worth wild.

PRO Gaming: With this event in particular I know that your level of competition was varied. You displayed some very good sportsmanship that is not very common in competitive gaming these days. Do you find that your experiences with tournament play have been rewarding and positive overall?

Eugene: You always have to look at tournaments as a learning experience. I’ve played against many great players in the past (Justin Wong, Chris G, Yipes, Sanford Kelly) and it’s always been a lesson more than a match. My reward is knowing that with every tournament I go to I grow as a player. Placing high at tournaments gets me recognition by other players and I can help set an example for others.

PRO Gaming: Can you tell us what about Killer Instinct resonates with players currently and also what do you think about the design choice of Double Helix to go with a FREE TO PLAY model for its game.

Eugene:There’s a lot of HYPE when playing this game. Combo breakers and Ultras along side the original voice actor for these actions make the game very nostalgic for some of us. Double Helix hit the nail on the head when introducing the FREE TO PLAY aspect of the game. Letting the casual player tryout a different character monthly gives a person something new to look forward to as time goes on.

PRO Gaming: Can you give us a quick run-down of some of the other competitive events and tournaments you have participated in?

Eugene:Mostly all East Coast Majors… East Coast Throwdown 2-5, NEC 13 and 14, Summerjam 7, Apex 2012 and 2014, Defend The North. I’ve also attended Next Level a lot for their Battle Circuit series and various other locals in New York. My Group Host Casuals every Friday as well in Westchester, New York.

PRO Gaming:Who is your favorite Killer Instinct character at this moment and are there any characters you are waiting for?

Eugene: Man I guess my favorite would have to be Sabrewulf. He’s gotten me twice to top 4 at the last 2 tournaments I’ve been to. As soon as Fulgore gets released I will make the switch to him. There’s no way I would let my main character from the previous versions slip right by me, lol

PRO Gaming:Thanks Eugene, once again I want to say thank you for taking the time to answer our questions  as well as being an ambassador for this game. We hope that we see you at future events we host and keep kicking ass out there!

Eugene:Thanks again for having me guys and I look forward to participating in future events!

Dwayne “ EVO Knight” Morash

 

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