Monday, March 13, 2017

Contract J.A.C.K (PC) Review

From the developers that gave us the excellent No One Lives Forever and No One Lives Forever 2, comes the most mediocre shooter ever - Contract J.A.C.K. I cannot understand the reason behind this game's existence. The humor, fun gameplay are all gone, and we are left with a very monotonous shooter.

The biggest problem with Contract J.A.C.K is how repetitive it is. It is nowhere near as entertaining as the NOLF games, even though Contract J.A.C.K tries everything the previous games did, including the fantastic outer space mission from NOLF 2 - almost as if going through a checklist, and yet it doesn't work here.

The gameplay consists of mowing down endless droves of enemies thanks to the enemy respawn mechanic. There is no stealth, no strategy, just mindless shooting. This is fun initially, but I got tired very quickly.



Its not often that I play a game and I don't recollect anything about the story. All I know is that the main character is a gun for hire, who gets hired by the same agency Cate Archer worked for, and goes all over the world in search of something or someone. The levels are set in different locations across Europe and outer space. However, all this variety has done little to make the game fun to play. It doesn't help at all that the AI is very dim witted. Just about every enemy reacts the same way, and when you have tons and tons of enemies all acting the same way, it quickly becomes boring.

At least its technically solid. I have not experienced any issues when running the game on Windows 7. The visuals are alight, but the gameplay is the real let down. I played this game for the nostalgic value, because I am a fan of the NOLF series.

It is hard for me to recommend this game except to fans of the NOLF series, who might to give it a shot just for the sake of nostalgia.

+ Somewhat retains the atmosphere of NOLF games

- Repetitive gameplay
- Lame story
- Absolutely no replay value
- Terrible AI

Verdict - Unless you are a really hardcore NOLF fan, don't bother with this one.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Amiens Full Round - Battlefield 1 (PC)

This is footage of a full round of Amiens. It was played on 12/31/2016. We absolutely dominated the enemy team in the heavy tank. Amiens is an excellent map, and it is very rare to have an one sided round, but in this case, the enemy team just couldn't capture enough points to put up a fight.

I went 29-0, where I spent most of the round in the heavy tank. Towards the end of the round, the tank got destroyed, but I survived, and picked up the flame trooper kit. I went to do some damage with this kit, and I got killed just as the round ended (17:25). 

The game is played on my Skylake machine with I7 6700K and MSI GeForce GTX1080. 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Corsair K70 RAPIDFIRE Cherry MX Speed - The Best Mechanical Keyboard

I purchased the Corsair K70 Rapidfire with Cherry MX Speed switches on Amazon for $99.99. Considering that a budget membrane keyboard can be had for around $15, these keyboards are for enthusiasts.

That said, just like I prefer a 144Hz monitor to a 60Hz monitor, I prefer a mechanical keyboard over a membrane keyboard. I have used quite a few mechanical keyboards over the last few years, and I think the search for the perfect keyboard for me, ends with the K70 with Cherry MX Speed switches.

Everything comes down to preference, and I prefer a keyboard with a wrist rest, standard keyboard layout with a numpad (I work from home often, so I need it), USB pass through, and backlit with what I like to call warm colors (red/orange or yellow).As for switches, after using different switch types, I realized I prefer linear switches.

This keyboard has all the above mentioned features. In the package, they included a keycap remover, some custom textured key caps for FPS and MOBA games. I installed the WASD keycaps, and I really like how they feel.



Now for the switches themselves. After having used Kailh Brown, Cherry Red, Blue, Speed, and Razer Green, I feel that the Speed switches are the most comfortable. Typing or gaming, these feel just right. After long hours of work or a gaming session, I never have the finger fatigue I felt when using any other keyboard. In this regard, the Blue switches were the worst for me.

I prefer these over the Cherry MX Red. Going back to my K70 with Red switches, I can immediately feel the difference in actuation point. I only have to lightly tap the keys for them to actuate on the Cherry MX Speed keyboard.

I could swear that the actuation force is also less for Speed switches compared to the Red switches, but turns out that's not true. They both require a 45g actuation force.

I think I got my money’s worth. This particular line of keyboards are targeted for gamers, but I will definitely recommend this for non gamers as well. If you prefer smooth, linear switches, then the Speed switches are definitely worth trying. For those of who have used membrane keyboards, the price of mechanical keyboards might seem absurdly high, but I recommend trying a few to see if they are to your liking. From a comfort standpoint, the Speed switches definitely surpass the best of the membrane keyboards (from my experience).

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Windows 7 Virtual Machine Freezing with VMware Player 12

I run a Windows 7 VM on a Windows 10 Host OS. I've been having issues with the VM freezing intermittently. The host OS does not have any issues. I have to shut down the VM through VMware controls, and restart it.

VMware Player Version

I looked at the VMware log to find this error -

2017-02-13T20:24:26.983-06:00| vmx| I125: GuestMsg: Channel 2, Cannot unpost because the previous post is already completed
2017-02-13T20:24:26.983-06:00| vmx| I125: GuestRpc: Reinitializing Channel 0(toolbox-dnd)
2017-02-13T20:24:26.983-06:00| vmx| I125: GuestMsg: Channel 0, Cannot unpost because the previous post is already completed
2017-02-13T20:24:30.429-06:00| vmx| I125: E1000: E1000 rx ring full, drain packets.
2017-02-13T20:24:36.432-06:00| vmx| I125: E1000: E1000 rx ring full, drain packets.
2017-02-13T20:24:42.735-06:00| vmx| I125: E1000: E1000 rx ring full, drain packets.
2017-02-13T20:24:48.710-06:00| vmx| I125: E1000: E1000 rx ring full, drain packets.
2017-02-13T20:25:00.711-06:00| vmx| I125: E1000: E1000 rx ring full, drain packets.
2017-02-13T20:25:14.736-06:00| vmx| I125: E1000: E1000 rx ring full, drain packets.
2017-02-13T20:25:30.789-06:00| vmx| I125: E1000: E1000 rx ring full, drain packets.
2017-02-13T20:25:48.203-06:00| vmx| I125: E1000: E1000 rx ring full, drain packets.
2017-02-13T20:25:51.683-06:00| vmx| I125: GuestRpcSendTimedOut: message to toolbox-dnd timed out.

I wasn't sure if this was strictly related at first, but I noticed this error was in the log every time the VM froze. I did some research online, and there was a post on the VMware forums (don't have the link at the moment), where someone suggested changing the send and receive buffers.

In device manager in the Windows VM, I accessed the properties for the network card. I changed the Transmit and Receive from 256 to 512. I did this a week ago, and so far, I have not had any issues.


Receive and Transmit Buffers

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Witcher 2 (PC) Review

I played the GOG version. I would recommend this over the Steam version because it has no DRM. I purchased it for $5.99. I think it is well worth the price.

The Witcher 2 has done a lot of things better than the original. It is an overall polished game. This also meant that it is much more mainstream, and some elements are made with the consoles in mind.

Combat received a much needed overhaul. It is more free flowing, and it an overall better experience. It has some quirks, such as the target locking system, which can be unwieldy at times, especially when multiple enemies attack in a very narrow corridor. Combat styles are gone, and there is much reliance on dodging and using signs. I enjoyed this system a lot more compared to the first game.



Story picks up where the first game left off. It has a lot of very interesting side quests, and the main quest sets itself up for the next game. I am looking forward to playing The Witcher 3.

I imported a save from the first game. I am not quite sure how this has changed the game compared to starting without importing a save file. I took a backup of the savegames, so if Witcher 3 allows me to import them, I intend to do so.

Beautiful underground pool

The choices in the game have a much larger impact than in the previous game. I discovered that depending on some key decisions made in the first act, the second act will branch into different story lines and then both converge for the 3rd act. This offers a lot of replay value.

Visuals got a huge upgrade compared to the first game. I installed the Better Texture Environment Mod. The game looks fantastic on my GeForce 1080 on Windows 10. I played it at 2560x1440 on ultra settings with Uber Sampling disabled, and it rarely ever dropped below 100FPS. Enabling Uber Sampling would drop the FPS to around 50. I did not see any improvement with it enabled.

Game settings panel

The game is fairly stable on Windows 10. It did crash to the desktop a few times, but other than these one off crashes, I did not experience any stability issues.

For all the freedom the game offers, the boss battles are terrible. There is no room for improvisation here. This is by far the worst thing about the game for me.

Mountain village

Skills is another aspect that could have been a lot better. I went through the entire game without allocating a single point to alchemy. There was no reason to use it. Just make sure you upgrade Quen, and upgrade your swordsmanship, and you are good to go.

There were only a few instances where I found potions to be useful. Certain sections of the game require you to drink a potion, but otherwise, Cat was the only potion I found useful.

Cat potion

The inventory system is a mess. It is very poorly designed. The developers announced at the time that they were targeting consoles as the primary platform. The inventory system in the first game was far superior compared to this.

All in all, it is a fantastic game. I thoroughly recommend it.


Friday, February 10, 2017

Dear Esther (PC) Review

Walking simulators have received a lot of attention in the gaming media lately. Having never played one, I wanted to try Dear Esther.

The game is built on the Source engine. The story begins on an uninhabited island, and the narrator recounts events from the past, as you slowly walk through the levels. If you have played the game, and didn't fully grasp all the details of the story, I recommend reading the story analysis done by Pop Matters, which can be found here - http://www.popmatters.com/post/164085-/

It takes about an hour to finish the game. Its an enjoyable one hour for sure. There are four levels in the game, each level will take about 15 minutes or so to complete, and they are all beautiful, with the Underground levels being the highlight. They put the Source engine to good use.

The gameplay is very simplistic. The player slowly walks (can't change the walking speed) through the levels with narration in the background. The game has absolutely no interactivity.

The main menu does not show any load or save options. There is a quick save and quick load option using hot keys, but you wouldn't know this unless you were looking for it in the key bindings. The interface is very minimal - this is a good thing for the game. I am glad they gave this option because I revisited the under ground level (the best level in the game), I wouldn't have bothered to do so without the quick save.

Dear Esther is significant in terms of giving birth to the genre. Without it, there may not be an Abzu and Firewatch. I still can't recommend paying $9.99 for this game. I got it as a part of a Humble India Bundle 8. I paid $1 for four games, and I think I got my money's worth. I would be disappointed if I spent the full asking price given that there is absolutely no replay value.

Screenshots









Underground Level Video Preview


Sunday, January 22, 2017

One Point Victory - Battlefield 4 Diary

On February 9, 2014, I had this urge to play as a sniper with a suppressed SV-98. I have gotten a lot better playing as a sniper over the course of Battlefield 4 and Battlefield 1, but at the time, I was pretty terrible.

I ended the round at 24-12, which is fantastic all things considered.

However, that was not the highlight for this round. We were behind on the scoreboard for the most part, but as the round progressed, we closed the gap. By the time I was down, the score was at 11-32.

What unfolded next is one of the best rounds of Battlefield I ever played.