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Andy9Beans Blog

See you in the 'Zone?

The Killzone 3 open beta has been and gone and now I've got to wait a week for the full release. Oh well I've preordered the collectors edition so will be enjoying double XP and using all the weapons in the first 24 hours, which should get me back up to rank 14 (where I was in the beta) pretty quickly.

I thought it would be a good idea to put KZ2 back on and whizz through the storyline, since I neglected that for the multiplayer. Doing this has really illustrated to me how much work has gone into revamping the IP for the forthcoming 3rd release, I've now realised why I didn't play KZ2 for very long! This time I got half-way through the first mission before quitting out...

The single player in KZ2 was truly awful; there was obviously no proper testing as I found myself repeatedly "breaking" the flow of the game by doing things out of order. For example, 20 seconds after the intro cutscene ended I blew up the bridge by shooting the barrels with my M82 Assualt Rifle only to find the waypoint system then insisted I pick up the VC9 Rocket Launcher to do it, despite the target no longer being available. This then caused problems with the next beachhead as I jumped down a "point of no return" wall with the VC9 and my pistol only to find myself locked into a battle which required my M82. Restart from checkpoint? No, the checkpoint was after the wall... meaning I had to restart the game :(

The second thing which struck me was the lack of strafing. In other shooters my favourite CQC tactic is the "Wheel of Death", where you strafe diagonally one way and rotate your view in the opposite direction thus forming a wheel with your target at the centre, getting closer as you move around. However this doesn't work in KZ2, they seem to have prioritised the cardinal directions so it's almost impossible to strafe and diagonal strafing doesn't work at all. If fact unless you play FPS games like a learner driver (forward, stop, turn, stop, turn, stop, forward, stop, turn etc) you're left almost screaming by how clunky it is. This means that intuitive run-and-gun is impossible, meaning the only option is to use the cover system, which was the next thing which horrified me...

The cover system is a nifty idea for a FPS, especially one where player movement has been made deliberately slow and heavy (and "undeliberately" robotic). However this can only work if it has been implemented well, which it wasn't. In TPS like Uncharted and Gears of War the cover system allows the user to prepare their next move, shooting or moving, whilst taking a breather. However this isn't possible in KZ2, they give you a "glimpse over/around the cover" view where you can't be shot but then decided to cover the middle of this view with your upturned weapon. Therefore just to locate enemies you have to pop out of cover, meaning you get shot... if you stay in cover slightly longer you find all the enemies are gone and your AI comrades are half a map away!

Finally there's the control system. This is where a game can steal players away from the competition as providing an adequate amount of options means people don't have to completely relearn a new system. They tried to do this for KZ2 but forgot some crutial elements. There was no toggle settling for cover, meaning you had to hold L2 to stay safe but then switch to L1 to ADS (or "zoom" as they called it to make the concept easier for Halo players). So unless you were in cover very close to the enemy and could hip-fire you had to pop completely out and zoom in to get any accuracy. They also forgot to give enough adjustment for the stick sensitivity but used a really poor dampening system. This dampening was supposed to desensitise the stick initially to allow for fine aim adjustment but still enable quick turns, however I found it just meant your rotation was initially sluggish and then accelerated too fast so your sights flew past the target. Trying to adjust the stick sensitivity to compensate didn't work, one setting had you spinning like a top and the next one down felt like trying to swim through treacle. If you're going to introduce dampening then it eaither needs testing thoroughly or extra facility for players to adjust it themselves!

So I didn't "whizz" through the story mode as planned, I ended up quitting in disgust even earlier than the first time I tried. I was disappointed that I couldn't enjoy it and keep my "Killzone" head on whilst waiting for the 25th Febraury, but on the other hand I am so glad that both the KZ3 open beta and the recent single-player demo show how hard Guerilla have worked to overcome these issues.

So the final question is what do YOU think about KZ3? See you online next Friday? Don't worry, I won't kill you... much ;)

Do YOU like C.O.C.?

So Activision have decided to outline their plans for the COD franchise (click here for Gamespot news article). Despite denying any move towards pay-per-play, I can't help but think the 'innovation' they are talking about is just yet another way for Activision to squeeze yet more money out of this stale IP. Even if we forget about the possibility of being left in the cold by not subscribing, is there any point in going in the "online community" direction considering the COD's target audience?

Community (definition) A socially cohesive group of individuals who share common values and who work together to benefit the group as a whole.

I started playing COD games with Modern Warfare in 2007, and never have I found evidence of any form of community as defined above. Most players are too young or immature to understand differing points of view, they despise everyone they encounter for whatever reason springs to their undeveloped little minds. Simply preferring one weapon, attachment or perk over another seems ample justification to question a player's sexuality, sanity, political allegiance and their right play the game or even to exist! Sure, the "Juggernaut" perk in MW was tantamount to cheating and the "N00btube" was a little unbalanced in MW2, but does it really matter if someone wants to use a reflex sight instead of a red dot? There are small groups of players who support and enjoy playing together, usually because they know each other outside the lobby, but apart from this does Activision have any right to use the word "community" when describing COD players?

Unless I am playing with a friend I don't use in-game chat, I have nothing in common with most players except that I am playing the same game. I mute anyone in the lobby who is using a mic as I find their chatter to be either unitelligible due to poor signal/volume or annoying because they aren't even chatting, just playing tinny music or coughing/breathing/swallowing constantly. Even when I've been online with my mate CPTrandom1982, using VoIP, I still end up muting other players because they think my mic-use is an invitation to be abusive. Are these the actions of someone who feels part of a community? Hell no! My mate can sometimes get a bit drunk and vociferous, but he's always the first to say "good game" to the rest of the lobby whether we've won or not, not the sneering abuse which characterises most winning teams.

Another indicator for me that COD has no real community, just a collection of players, is that I finally found an FPS clan who view games the same as I do, "Mature and Dangerous". They don't preclude people for joining according to how they play the game, their only membership conditions are that you have to be mature (i.e. not childish) and be friendly to one another. No other clan I have found seem to hold these as their core values, instead they are all about scoring highly and beating others as comprehensively as possible and if you don't do this then you're out... and probably a **** as well!

I don't really see how developing "online community" functionality is really going to work in COD, in fact it is just going to give players even more chance and reason to be even more abusive and therefore only a matter of time before something happens which results in someone facing legal action for their abuse. People have been prosecuted for abuse and harrassment over the telephone, text messages and even Facebook, so what's to stop a COD online community being subject to the same conditions? If your answer is "because they're kids" then my response is that most of the Facebook and SMS abuse/bullying cases have been committed by schoolkids.

So that just leaves the question of whether Activision is moving towards the pay-per-play, MMORPG business model. The question is rhetorical for me, of course they are! They have witnessed the power of subscription of RPG's and Microsoft's Live service and have realised they can use the Playstation Plus "bonus content" model to move towards that. Initially there will be the "online community" functions which were touched upon by Treyarch's World At War statistics site, probably more facility to make aesthetic changes to your player model but eventually this content will include unlocking items for use in online matches which will give subscribers an advantage. This will lead to a very real "join or die" mentality and will mean you either pay Activision's price or end up being bested by everyone who has.

In my view Activision should seriously rethink this strategy. They need to stop 'innovating' ways to lever money out of their customers and start employing creative development houses to breathe life into the dying COD franchise, rather than using and then destroying them for wanting creative freedom as they did to Infinity Ward.

As a mature gamer (well age-wise anyway haha) and a PS3 owner I've had just about enough of Activision's business strategy. I for one will be voting with my wallet for more interesting IP's such as Killzone, Battlefield 3 and hopefully Respawn's fist shooter at the end of 2011. Unlike most COD fanboys I'm not impressed by Activisions's "C.O.C." ;)

The Killzone 3 beta has arrived!

Yup, last night I downloaded the new Killzone 3 multiplayer beta and I have to say it's cracking! It's still got the characteristic heaviness but they've upped the character speed a little since KZ2, which in my eyes makes it a real contender against other shooters. It still feels like a first-person version of Gears of War but the speed increase means you've got much more chance to get to cover before dying. The Helghast "Eyes" issue, where Helghast players had the disadvantage of having glowing "please snipe me here" eyes, has also been muted enough that I didn't feel it caused any imbalance. I spent the whole of last night as the Helghast and still got positive KD for most games.

It's still just as pretty with fantastic environmental effects and lighting, the weapons are really satisfying and pack the same "punch" as the COD games and the class system, although more predefined than COD games, is well balanced and doesn't allow for the generation of "super classes" such as MW2's Danger Close class and Black Ops' Ghost class. The turrets and droids add something different to the mix and are less omnipotent than COD killstreak rewards (which many feel ruined MW2).

To continue comparisons with other shooters, KZ3 shows what can be done with a large-world shooter when you don't have the limitations of the Xbox to contend with. It handles environments close to the size found in Bad Company 2 without having to turn down the graphics engine to minimum. DICE should note what they could potentially do with Battlefield 3 if they started concentrating on the power of the PS3 instead of the popularity of the Xbox and Microsoft's exclusivity bribes (Xbox fanboys, please ensure all comments start with "I don't know what I'm talking about, but...").

The melee kills are pretty amazing, here's one from GameTrailers.com to show you what I mean:

Stick 'em in!

Something in your eyes? They'll be my thumbs!

Even when it's you on the receiving end they're still satisfying (the camera zooms out to third person and gives you a perfect view of having your throat slit, or your neck broken, or being force-fed a knife... the list just goes on!).

There's only one map with the beta, which seems fairly restrictive but that's only for the Guerilla Warfare gametype, picking one of the mixed objective types allows for the other half of the map to be opened up. This missing half is a large, sloped snowfield surrounded by gantries perfect for sniping. As well as the rest of the maps which will come with the full release, the Retro map pack (containing KZ2 maps) is ready for release on PSN. Some preorder customers will receive a code to get the Retro pack for free, although in my opinion these KZ2 maps should have been made free to players with KZ2 savegames on their machine.

I'm definitely going to be getting the full game. I gave up on the grainy BFBC2 and it's clique of fanboys ages ago. Medal of Honour for all it's gameplay improvements was still flawed by the Frostbite engine and a feeling of disconnection from the action so that's been sitting on the shelf since last autumn. Black Ops is proving to be a bit of a "cut-down" version of MW2 (but what can you expect from Treyarch who've been riding on the back of the original Infinity Ward's work since Modern Warfare). So unless Homefront's new battle commander and battle points systems do the business or as rumoured Respawn release their COD-killer FPS this Christmas then Killzone 3 is going to be the best shooter of 2011!

Why buy a PSP2?

Well Sony's announced the PSP2 (or NGP, or whatever they fancy calling it) and everyone wants one, including myself. The current specs are a real eye-opener and have helped sort out some of the romours which have been making the rounds by confirming which of the existing PSP functionality is being continued. I was worried that the 3G addition would replace WiFi (sounds stupid now but who knows until they spell it out).

However, I'm wondering whether my enthusiasm is worth it. Yes, the NGP will be soooo much better than the 3DS; yes, the touch pad and touch screen are going to make things really interesting and yes, the full HD screen and "near PS3" processing power is going to be jaw-dropping. My only concern is whether I'm actually in the market for a handheld or not?

I loved the Gameboy until I got one and realised it was rubbish, I loved the PSP-2000 until I got one and realised I'd rather play on the PS3. No matter how powerful/versatile/amazing the PSP2 is/will be, I just don't think I need one! Add to that the fact that without the UMD most games are going to be download-only, and therefore will never drop in price as quickly or as far as pre-owned boxed games, am I really going to fork out £40+ for a game (after the precedent set by Nintendo for the 3DS games Sony would be silly to aim to price PSP2 games lower) which will essentially be an almost-as-good copy of something I've already bought for the PS3?

The answer is... probably not, but until it's released I'll kid myself into thinking I will ;)

It's been a while

Well it's been a couple of years but I've finally started paying attention to Gamespot again. Been playing COD, Batman and Assassins Creed since, platinum'ed inFamous and ACII andrealised that Prototype was actually crap (will update my score).

Cole the inFamous Dancer

Got inFamous yesterday, what an amazing game! Now I've just gotta make up for staying up 'til 3am playing the damn thing. The only thing I've noticed odd so far is that "Dance Mode" is not very interesting, just one little jig with no variety! When I buy an open-world electric-blasting superhero game I do expect the dancing to be a bit more interesting...

[video=JyQ0nzOo5bIJsj_c]

Easiest Gold Trophy Ever?

If Gamespot were to give a prize for this in 2009, it would have to be Noby Noby Boy, which I downloaded last Thursday (19Feb09). Amongst others it gives you a bronze trophy each for completing the tutorial and quitting the game, but the Gold can be gotten by clicking Triangle on the Manual Screen and then using L2 to eat the letters NOBY NOBY BOY in that order. Whoop whoop!

No Need for Realism

EA have announced they are continuing the Need for Speed Series despite their recent cull of projects... yay! EA are going to change the concept again... boo!

Gamespot News - EA readying Need for Speed threesome

So the result will be three different games, each exclusive to various different platforms... It just shows how too much money and not enough brains can ruin even the best concept. NFSU2 is actually still the best game out of the whole series, but EA feel this need to make it "more realistic", either by plaguing us with bloody police or limiting us to the track.

Who wants this realism? Anybody can attract police attention, most people could pay to put their Ford Crapee on a track... What we all want is to blast round the streets like loons in fantastic cars sprayed up like peacocks, not having to worry about cops or damage! If I wanted realism I'd go out and sit in a traffic jam.

Bring back NFSU2, hype up the car customisation (JPEG import of vinyl and decals?) and give us a big city to go online with (Undercover's map is wicked) job done. Where's my fee?

Lies, damn lies and statistics...

The NPD Group figures have jut been released... showing us absolutely nothing! There are currently over 400 comments against the thread, from owners of various consoles, claiming this shows the domination of Microsoft, Sony or Nintendo. I really wish these people would learn something about statistics... i.e. IT'S NOT REAL!!! You can't compare games exclusive to particular consoles as it's not statistically sound; organisations like the NPD Group are merely rumour-mongers who are making a profit and increasing their own profile by stirring up the confused ire of fan boys.

How can you compare LittleBigPlanet and Fable II? They were released at different points, using completely different marketing strategies and aimed at entirely different sections of the gamer market. Then add in the difference in the console capacity... Blueray means more storage and therefore more capacity for longer, prettier games. XBoxes are much easier to develop on and the lead times for DVD production means that games can be more responsive to changing market factors such as competition. Then add in the current economic downturn (triggered by the US finance sector where it's more important to use catchy names like Fanny Mae than to ensure mortgages are only given to those who can afford to pay them back [I'm British, so using the word "Fanny" makes US financiers seem even more "sub-prime" than their actions currently indicate]), every day people worry more and more about their future and therefore are less likely to pay out for games.

Gamespot, as a subsiduary of a media organisation, are duty-bound to make every story sensational and so don't give their members full possesion of the facts. They know it's all hype, yet they fuel the anger of uneducated teenagers by presenting speculation as fact and even go as far as being complicit in the scam. They say publicising a review on each console's version of a cross-platform game gives gamers a better insight into the slight differences between implementations, but in reality the main differences are due to the opinions of the individual reviewers of each version, the console it's played on and other uncontrollable factors such as whether they're feeling a bit gassy that day or the weather's a bit dull.

So really what I'm saying is: Don't waste your time making idle speculation and trying to draw conclusions from what profit-making organisations tout as fact. It's all business, the truth doesn't make any money and anybody who thinks they can believe what they're told are only showing to the rest of us how truly stupid they are.

PS. I'm a professional statistician... don't believe a word I say either...

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