Battlefield: Bad Company – Early Impressions

Well, I went ahead and pulled the trigger on trading in some old crap and picking up Battlefield: Bad Company.  After dumping about 3-4 hours into the single player (and a measly 20 minutes into the multiplayer) I have to say that I am really happy with my purchase.

The single player in the Battlefield series has never really had much purpose other than as a basic warmup for the multiplayer, but I’m happy to report that is not the case with BFBC. The single player story is certainly cliche ridden, from it’s stereotypical character archetypes (the dumb guy, the guy that just wants to go home, the smart guy, etc) and the story itself is basically ripped from the movie Three Kings, which if you haven’t seen it, is about a group of guys in the Iraq war who go off on their own to find some of Saddam’s gold.  It’s a really good movie, I highly recommend it if you haven’t seen it.

The small group of mercanaries going off looking for gold is the basic idea that was stolen, but it works well enough as a plot device.  The setting itself is kinda weird.   I don’t mean specific things like it being fields and rivers…  but the war itself,  as far as I can tell it’s never explained why it’s happening.  Oh, and the enemy is the russians.  Why?  Who knows.   But I guess it’s cool to fight russians again.

The squad you are in, the B-company, short for Bad Company (bet you didn’t see that coming!) is explained to be where the army sends guys that should probably be court marshaled but instead puts them into this squad and sends them basically on suicide missions.  All of the other characters tell you what they have done to get there, but you never seem to.  I guess it’s setup for you to roleplay your backstory?   Who knows.

So yeah, it seems like I am being pretty negative, but I wanted to get all of that stuff out of the way to explain that none of it really matters.   The story while goofy is actually fairly engaging, it has it’s hooks in me now about chasing this guy who has lots of gold.  I know I shouldn’t fall for it, but I have.   And the stereotypical characters are filled with banter, which usually makes you want to shove hot knives into your ears, but these guys are actually entertaining, and you may even chuckle.   The game overcomes it’s lack of creativity with creativity, if that makes any sense.

But the real star of the show is the gameplay (well, and the sound, but i’ll get to that).   Each new shooter that comes out needs a hook, or so it seems, while also aping off of recent games that had their own hook.  So the MP has a level up system similar to Rainbow 6 and COD4.  The single player has a bunch of collectible and unlockable guns (ala every shooter since 1995).  But the thing that BFBC adds is completely destructible environments.  And I can’t even begin to explain how fun they are and how it changes how you play the game.

Like, for instance, lets say you are entering a town and there is a dude in a window sniping down at you.  What’s a gold lovin’ soldier to do?  Well, you can get a riffle with a nice scope and take him out (like all other games) or you can sneak around and try to get in the building behind him and take him out (like all other games) or you can take your grenade launcher and demolish half the building, which if that doesn’t kill him, it will at least leave him with no cover.

At first as I strolled around I didn’t use this enough, probably because I’m just not used to the ability (there was a game back on the PS2 called Red Faction that did something similar, but that was a long while ago).  But after about two hours I was sitting there thinking “you know, this area coming up… it would be a lot easier to pick these guys off if there were no trees.”  So I started blowing those bitches up, and now the AI had lost all its cover, which made my mission object much, much more simple.   It’s the type of thing that may lose its appeal over time, but so far I am completely in love with it.   Blowing stuff up is fun.  Also, it should be noted that the sound in the game is pretty awesome.  Well, actually I’m torn on it.  The sound is very loud and jarring, which fits the feeling of being in a war (I would guess, I’m a pacifist treehuggger), but at the same time it sometimes just feels like they took a normal gun sound and added a shitton of reverb and echo to it.  But it does make for a more dynamic sounding game, so kudos for that.

The game does have its issues.  The AI seemingly can see through trees, foliage, smoke, etc… while you cannot.   There are countless times where I am getting shot and I have no freaking idea where it is coming from.   It can be frustrating, for sure, but the game is also very forgiving.  When you die you respawn back at the last checkpoint, but everything you killed (or blew up) is still dead (or blown up).  Also, you have this shot you can inject yourself with to regain your health.   This setup works well, but I can’t help but feel like it’s just a cheap way to deal with the AI having an unfair advantage.

Like I said earlier, I only got to play one match online, and it was great fun, for sure.  Snipers seem to be the flavor of the month, which is kinda annoying, but I do have a good time taking long, out of the line of fire paths and coming up behind them and shooting them in the ass.   Friends of mine are complaining that the party system isn’t working correctly and right now there is only one game mode… but those are both things EA has said they are working on (in fact they said another game mode will be made available for free “shortly after launch).

If you like shooters you really can’t go wrong with this one.  The graphics are great, the story while cliched and tired is still entertaining, and the multiplayer will of course have legs because it’s a Battlefield game.    Come discuss the game on the forums.

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Want vs Need

So I am in a conundrum right now as to how to spend my money, while at the same time, not wanting to spend my money at all.   I have 3 video game related issues that need taking care of.

1.  My Pentium 4 computer just doesn’t cut it anymore.  I would really, really, really like to upgrade this.  But that costs a fairly large amount of cash USA dollars.

2.  My PS3’s bluray/disc drive crapped the bed, and it’s not under warranty anymore.  Sony wants $150 to fix it.

3.  There are two games out right now that I want pretty badly, Battlefield: Bad Company and Grid.   I’ve never been a superfan of the battlefield games, but I have gotten pretty into a few of them and the demo for this one was pretty fun (which was surprising because I found the beta to be pretty lackluster… good job tightening it up, EA).  Grid also has an amazing demo, and I love arcade racers, or at least I used to.  I guess it’s been a while since I’ve gotten one.   But both games could potentially be tons of fun for me, or a waste of money.

So my problem is simple.   Right now I can afford to go to the store and buy Battlefield or Grid.  That could be made even easier if I trade in games that I’m not playing anymore.  But, even if I do trade in games, and only spend like $10 of my own money… that’s $10 not going towards a new computer or fixing my PS3.

I have Rock Band on the PS3 and that’s something my girlfriend and I have really enjoyed playing together, but other than that I don’t have any overwhelming need to have the system fixed right now (actually scratch that, we watch a decent number of blu rays also).   I seem to be primarily a PC gamer these days, between Age of Conan and World of Warcraft and Warcraft 3 and Team Fortress 2 and Call of Duty 4…  most of my gaming is done on my PC.   But to upgrade the PC it will take a long time of saving money, and not buying things like Battlefield or fixing my PS3.  Also, I will need to buy less snacks!  And I love snacks.    Difficult decisions are difficult.

Man, I just don’t know what to do!  I really want Battlefield: Bad Company.  But if I get it and don’t play it, I’ll be really pissed at myself.   I mean I’m knee deep in my Age of Conan addiction right now, so that tends to dominate my game playing time…  so will I even play it?  And AoC runs like complete ass on my computer so I would be so very, very happy to get a new computer to get it (and the rest of my games) to run much smoother.  But that’s so in the future!  I mean, I just got promoted and a raise at work, but I have other non-video game needs I need to take care of (like my muffler that mysteriously fell off).  And of course there is rent and bills and all of that.   But if I saved I could probably get a decent computer in a month or two.  But during that time I will have nothing on the xbox 360 to play and a broken PS3, and I’ll continue to run around in Age of Conan at 10-15 frames per second.  And that just isn’t cool!

Right now I am leaning towards trading in the 360 and ps3 games I don’t (or can’t) play and getting Battlefield, I mean I will do it for the good of the blog!  It would be nice to get a review, right?   So yeah, I’m totally gonna do that for *YOU*.   Then I’m gonna save for a PC.  No more console games!  NONE!   Grid can suck it!   Then, by late summer, I should have the PC and I’ll have the $150 to fix my ps3, which will be right in time for the big fall releases.   I think this is a sound plan.  Or me lying to myself.  Either/or.

Also, and completely off topic from this thread, I stumbled upon a lens for the seminal shooter Counter Strike: Source for the PC.  The lens is hysterical, and I feel bad saying this, but only because the lensmaster’s grasp on the English language is a comedy genre all its own.  Hell, it may even be on purpose.  But check it out and have a chuckle.

What is a cash strapped gamer to do?  Come tell me on the forums. Maybe even my girlfriend will make a post yelling at me to save my money.

The cost of freedom!

Over the past few weeks I have picked up two different games for one simple reason:  they were cheap.   The video game industry moves so fast and is so fickle that it’s pretty amazing how quickly the titles lose their value, or have their price dropped to reach a wider audience.  But, i’m not really gonna complain about it, because so many great games came out last fall and I didn’t get a chance to play them all, so I’m psyched to find them on the sunny side of $30.

First up was Bully: Scholarship Edition on the Xbox 360. Made by Rockstar games, it is definitely in the spirit of the GTA series with an open world but the setting is much more confined and exact.  The game takes place at a fictional private school in the New England area where your heartless parents sent you because you are a jerk.   Once you get there you realize everyone else are jerks on par with you, including the staff, and the whole point of the game seems to be about being the biggest jerk.

So far the game just isn’t moving me, I’m finding the gameplay to be shallow and pedantic.  Yes, shallow and pedantic.  Seriously though, from what I have seen so far it’s just a series of fetch quests, run here, do a thing, run back over here, do some other thing.   I think the biggest issue I have with the game is that I don’t like any of the characters.   In fact the main character is such a little shit that I kinda like letting him get beat up.

I have heard from multiple people that the game picks up once you get further into it, and I’m gonna try my damndest to get there.  But right now I am having a hard time forcing myself to play.  Without characters I give a damn about it makes the story a non factor, so the only thing left is the gameplay…  and games existing in an open world just aren’t enough to wow me anymore.  Yeah, it’s cool I can run all over the school grounds, but I wish I had a compelling reason to do so.   Basically, i’m glad i bought this game on the cheap.

On the flip side, however, I also picked up Mass Effect for the Xbox 360 this week, for a measly $20, which is highway robbery if you ask me.   I don’t even remember my reasoning for not getting it when it came out, being that I love most if not all Bioware games (probably had to do with my insane World of Warcraft addiction).  But when I saw it for $20 I just couldn’t pass it up.

I’m only about 3 hours in, and the game certainly isn’t perfect, but it is definitely far cooler than 90% of the other crap out there.   The basic story is several hundred years in the future us fledgling humans having dug up some alien technology on Mars are now out colonizing our section of the universe, while maintaining relationships with other aliens who have been doing the same for a much longer period of time.  Evidently these aliens speak english, so that helps with diplomacy.

You play the role of some sort of space marine (yeah, I’m sick of them too) who has been nominated to join some sort of alien council, you would be the first human ever to take the position, or something like that.  I don’t know, the plot is kinda convoluted, as most SCI-FI RPGs tend to be.  But, the game itself is pretty cool.   All of the character interactions and dialogue have branching paths which you decide what tone to take while talking, which supposedly has an effect on the game as a whole, but so far I’m not seeing it.   I played through the opening mission twice now, answering questions completely different each time, and nothing at all changed about the mission.  Maybe later in the game your decisions have more of an effect, but right now they seem to have purely role playing uses… so if you get into games where you get to pretend to be a jerk, or really nice, you’ll enjoy it.   If you are like me and just want to get to the action and skip this dialogue that doesn’t have any effect on what you are about to do… well, it’s kinda bothersome.   It’s a missed opportunity and something I thought was gonna be much cooler than it has been so far.

The gameplay itself is pretty stellar though.  The controls are tight, the weapons seem very similar but they feel and sound good… and the graphics are flat out gorgeous.  The story so far is OK, I can’t say it’s sunk its teeth into me, but I don’t hate it, which i guess is praise for a video game.   The game may be a step backwards from Knights of the old Republic on the Xbox (the last great Bioware game) but it’s still a pretty awesome game and for the $20-$30 range you really can’t afford to pass it up.

It also released this month on the PC, which I haven’t played, but supposedly is the superior version of it (especially if you have enough of a rig to push all the eye candy).

And speaking of free games, I ran accross this Squidoo lens last night that is an A to Z listing of all (well, probably *most*) freeware games out on the net. It’s a pretty extensive list, I plan on checking some of the stuff out.  I’m sure most of it is crap, but hey – it’s free.  And free is even better than not free.

Hop on the forums and discuss this post and other games you have found on the cheap HERE.

An update about updates / Official forums!

Hey folks, sorry for the thin content over the last week or so.  It’s been hectic for me in mostly good ways.   Most of it is mundane “oh man, I’ve been working so much overtime” but there is also some good news to share.

First and foremost, this blog now has forums.  Hooray forums.   Everyone likes to talk on forums while bored at work, right?  And hopefully this will be a good time waster as we discuss games we like and dislike, and all things blog related if you so desire.

But the purpose is larger than that.  I talked to Megan Casey, EIC over at Squidoo, and we have some big plans for this blog and we will need the forums to help bolster that.   Details are being worked out as of now, but Squidoo is ready to actually throw some money where their collective mouths are when it comes to you guys making lenses and stuff.   One such idea (and again, nothing is official yet) is me coming up with a contest like, say, “make a lens about your all time top 5 favorite games” and then I’ll judge the best one and Squidoo will supply prizes.  And they seem pretty serious, during our discussions I heard everything from “A game of their choice for whatever system” to “an ipod.”  Seriously.

So, obviously, this has big implications for the blog, and for you, the readers.  What we want to create with this blog (which has been happening a bit, but not to the level we want, yet) is a place where the video game lensmasters can come and meet and discuss ideas and we can have contests and I can blog about your lenses or I can blog about crap I like and randomly just find your lens (I seem to be pretty good at that).

I will have more blog posts coming this week. Possibly even tonight.  Definitely tomorrow.  And i’ll try to rattle off a bunch in a row so you guys don’t think I am dying.   Like I said before, I just worked like 19 days in a row, but I got a promotion (and a nice raise), so that’s cool… and my schedule is settling down again and I will regain my focus on this.  And I haven’t been sitting idly by either, I designed forums! Did I tell you about my forums?

So, yeah, go register at the forums and start chatting.   I personally expect it to start off slow, with everyone being pensive about being one of the first people to post.   But the forums are here to stay, and I’ll be there daily even if it’s talking to myself.  So go help me not do that.

The Sims 2 = Real Life?

So during a recent trip to a local Walmart I suggested to my lovely girlfriend that we pick up The Sims 2, because it was probably cheap, and she has been playing the Sims 1 which is just sad.  So I offer to split the cost, even though I know I’m barely gonna touch it, but I knew she would get a lot of enjoyment out of the game.   And she has, but it’s kinda scary.

Mort and Mort’s Better half, reasonable facsimiles, though in real life she has dreads but the game doesn’t have them.  RACISTS!

First off she made Sims that look like her and I, which is perfectly logical, I did the same in my 15 minutes with the game (though I dressed her up like a slut which didn’t win me many points IRL… but I thought it was funny).   So she spent hours designing this house, it was really fun to watch, actually.  She has a natural eye for decoration and house setups, as evidenced by our awesome apartment.  Watching her get to work with a larger palette than our real budgets allow was entertaining.

Look at the love… and the perfectly aligned decorum.

But then she started playing, and it started off well.  The Mort sim liked the Mort’s Girlfriend Sim so she was happy and I was happy and everything was great.   Things led up pretty well, she was trying to make us have a baby (which, funnily enough I am more open to in real life than she is), so I wasn’t even freaked out then.  But then it happened and my character in the game immediately became an alcoholic.   This, I thought was funny, but she started getting mad at me,  actual me, because of what I was doing in the game!

Pregnancy ahoy.  The world better hope this only happens in video games.

And it only got worse!  After my alcoholism during her pregnancy the baby was born, and she was in another room turning off a TV when it happened, and she was so disappointed when she came back in and found out she missed it.   But, almost immediately, I took an interest in the maid, one of my goals in the game was to become “best friends” with her.   This annoyed my girlfriend greatly, and made her give me snide comments.  Me, not the sim.

So then she starts making my Sim flirt with the maid, and when it happens she then gets really mad at the sim, and then me.  Because that’s me cheating, you see, not a fairly basic digital algorithm.   But she was the one making me flirt!  She hit the buttons!   And then the maid picked up the baby and she started calling her a home wrecker.   I was also getting some very evil glares.

The maid controversy seems to have passed though and in game things are going pretty well.  Our kid is a toddler now, and he shits a lot, and she usually makes me clean it up… but that’s cool, I like to help with the baby!  I’m not sure if the maid has been fired or what but I haven’t seen her around in a while.  I kinda miss her, it was my goal to be best friends with her!

I don’t need no stinkin’ maid!  I have naked bowling to do.  Why doesn’t she ever dress me?

Other things of note is that she had me drink espresso, and I don’t do caffeine, and evidently neither does my digital avatar… as I sat at the table shaking like a crackhead.  Which is exactly the same thing that happened the last time I had a Coke.   And more recently for some reason I was standing up in the bathtub and pretending to be a pirate, and any long time readers know I take the pirate side of the Pirate vs Ninja battles.

Even as I write this she is sitting next to me playing.  She just gave me a kiss and told me she loved me.  I must have done something good in the game!  Right now I am holding the baby as she reads a book.

I’m not sure if I am creeped out or infinitely intrigued, but the addition of The Sims 2 to our life is definitely profound.  And weird.  Very, very weird.   I’m not all that sure what’s happening in the game and what’s happening in real life.   But I’m pretty sure we don’t have a maid.

This is a photo of me in real life.

NCAA Football Demo out today for the ps3/360

Just a quick note to my football loving friends.  EA Sports has released the demo for NCAA 09 today for both the 360 and the PS3.   The NCAA series, in recent years, has been a much better game than Madden, so for hardcore sports video game fans today is a pretty exciting day.  Sign on and go download that sucker.   I’ll be back with impressions later tonight or tomorrow.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a single squidoo page about NCAA Football, which is a crime against humanity, so I suggest that someone go make one, stat!

There are a bunch of pages dedicated to Madden though, and the early word on Madden is that it is shaping up nicely and that they are actually listening to the community for once.  There has been an active poster over at Operation Sports that is part of the Madden team and he is taking feedback from the hardcore fans straight to the team.   I’d be lying if I didn’t say this has me pretty hyped for the game, but the reality is that Madden hasn’t been good in years.  Hopefully this year will be different.

I’m just happy to be talking about football again though, fall can’t come soon enough.

I am a perfect 10

As I was wandering around Squidoo tonight I ran into a really interesting HeyMonkeyBrain debate on the concept of games getting a perfectt 10/10 score.  I found it interesting because not too long ago I wrote my own review of Grand Theft Auto 4 wondering how much of the overrating of the game was hype or if it was even more sinister.

The debate talks specifically about MGS4 and GTA4. Both have been given perfect scores from Gamespot.com in the last few months.  Two perfect games?  Really?   I can’t even comment on MGS4 because my PS3 broke last week.  The drive just stopped responding and Sony wants to charge me $150 to fix it, which I just don’t have right now.  But still, I find it hard to believe that the game deserves a 10/10.  Video game journalism has become so sensationalistic that it’s impossible to take any of it seriously anymore.

So check out the debate and let those suckers know what you think.

Also, if you are a fan of browser based MMOs (like Runescape) I found a lens on one called Fallen Sword. It looks pretty neat, I may just have to try it out sometime.   But check out the lens, get a feel for it and then go play the game for free.  Hooray free.

And, if you are one of the hundreds of thousands that picked up NinJa Gaiden 2, check out this lens for those tough as nails levels and boss fights. It is a great resource for your Ninjaing needs.