Monday, June 5, 2017

S.T.A.L.K.E.R Shadow of Chernobyl (PC) Review

S.T.A.L.K.E.R is one of those games that is hard to describe. I can't imagine a western game studio releasing a game like this. We have to rely on eastern European game developers for it. S.T.A.L.K.E.R is primarily a survival game with a lot of horror elements Some of the design decisions are very old school, and it is better off for it. This game is a PC exclusive, therefore it can take full advantage of all the benefits that come with the platform, the most important benefit being mod support.

The game was terrible at launch. Thankfully, I never bought it at release. I've read forum posts by people who played about 30% of the game and when the developers released a patch, it rendered the previous saves useless.

As time went on, developers fixed some of the issues, and mods took care of the rest. The Complete Mod is highly recommended. I did not install the mod at the time, I encountered quite a few AI related bugs, but nothing game breaking. I recommend updating to the latest patch, and then applying the Complete Mod.

If you are spoiled by games like Call of Duty with regenerating health, then S.T.A.L.K.E.R is going to be hard, even on normal difficulty. I remember struggling my way through the game at the start because I did not have good weapons. This part was the least fun for me. Once the good weapons were available the game is a lot more fun to play.

Regardless of the type of weapon, accuracy is highly rewarded. It is possible to take out an enemy with a single headshot using a pistol. This will not work on all enemy types, therefore identifying enemies is important when approaching an area.



The game world is massive, and there are a few sections that require loading which can be slow, but it is not very frequent. The underground levels are very well done with excellent lighting and sound. Unlike most horror games, the game does not rely on jump scares too much. Its primarily an open world survival game.

If I am not mistaken, day/night cycles were not a norm at this point. This is the first game I played which had a day/night cycle. More often than not, I would not venture out at night, and when I did, it's a very different experience.

The game is about 20 hours long. S.T.A.L.K.E.R kept me engaged throughout and for what it costs, it's incredible value as well. I purchased this as a part of THQ bundle back in 2009. I recommend buying this on GOG.com, when it goes on sale.

Verdict – Must play

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Batman Arkham Asylum (PC) Review

This is the first comic book based video game I played to completion. There are a lot of things to like about Arkham Asylum, but it has the usual console game design flaws.

The highlight of this game is the combat. It is a lot of fun when they let you have a free reign on how to approach enemies. There are often multiple ways of approaching an area. Stealth is almost always a viable option, and the game does a good job of giving player the tools needed to make different strategies possible. Chaining combos and using the batarangs to stun enemies is fantastic. I did not mind retrying certain sections a few times over to get the perfect result.

Gothic art inside the asylum

Visuals and audio are fantastic. The game is locked at 60FPS. I did not mind this. The graphics are excellent, and I loved the setting. The game is set in the asylum at night. The art stays true to the source with the gothic architecture and the nighttime setting.



Music and voice acting are also excellent. Joker is the highlight among all the characters. Batman as usual is very monotone, Joker being the exact opposite. Mark Hamill did a fantastic job as the voice of Joker. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Player movement is a common complaint with console ports. GTA 4 is an example of sluggish player movement. Not the case here. It’s smooth and responsive.

All the complaints I have with this game are the console design choices. Checkpoint saves only, with no save slots. The only option allows you to load the last checkpoint. Yet again, the PC version suffers due to console limitations. While this is not a major problem, it can be annoying during certain tedious sections, especially the longwinded boss fights.

Asylum courtyard

In certain sections, the camera perspective switches to either a fixed perspective or turns the game into a platformer. The scarecrow sections could have been so much better, but in the name of gameplay variety, they felt compelled to do this. I do not care for it at all. These are by far the most boring parts of the game. Thankfully, the game is not very difficult, except for the final boss fight, which is needlessly frustrating.

Another annoying issue is the unskippable intos whenever the game is launched. There is a manual fix for this. http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=186804991

There are far too many hints throughout the game, and the interface can be very cluttered because of this. It doesn't leave a lot to the player imagination. I looked through the game options to see if I could disable the hints, like I could in Bioshock and Deus Ex Human Revolution, but there is no such option.

Joker Asylum

The game employs this very unoriginal concept of magically locking doors to restrict movement, and they magically unlock after whatever predefined event is completed. A console classic, the low hanging fruit of game design. It was annoying when Wolfinstein (2009) did it, and its annoying now.

I paid $4.99 for this game, and I think its worth it. I would not recommend paying anything more than that. Also, I did not try for 100% completion. I do not have that kind of time in life. I have a lot of games to finish, so I stuck to the main quest. Steam tells me I played a total of 16 hours to beat the game.

In closing, it can be a lot of fun, but it suffers somewhat because the developers did not take full advantage of the PC platform.

Verdict - Wait for sale.

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Witcher (PC) Review

I am not sure how to review a game like this. I enjoyed it, but it has flaws. It reminds me a lot of STALKER in that way. Good story, and level design made me play this game to the end, but quite a few of mechanics are unpolished. I am hoping the sequels address these issues.

The highlights of this game are characters, environment, story and music. I thoroughly enjoyed the setting, and the music is perfect. It is a true classic in my opinion, right up there with Deus Ex and STALKER. I have not played any of the other games in the series yet, but this game has set an excellent platform for future games.

The world is fairly well built. The game involves you revisiting some locations, after they have transformed quite a bit, and I think the art team has done a great job showing this transformation. Vizima levels are fantastic, and the swamp and sewer areas are my least favorite.

Vizima on fire

The story is well told, and they do a good job of keeping the player invested. It was interesting to see how the choices I made are going to impact the the end game.

Controls takes some getting used to. This game is somewhat like Mass Effect; there is no jump, or crouch, and the movement is very stiff. I never felt I had full control over the character's actions. During combat this lack of control will result in some very cheap deaths, especially because Geralt puts his sword away at the beginning of most cutscenes before battle, and as soon as the cutscene is over, a number of enemies will jump at you, and the delay in drawing out the sword will drain some precious health. Who thought this was a good idea? They had to have done this intentionally. One wonders what their rationale was for such a silly mechanic.

Boss battles can be extremely annoying. Just about every boss battle follows the same formula. A cutscene, followed by some dialogue and then combat begins by trapping you in the area in some manner. This may not sound bad, but considering it is not possible to save the game  during combat, dying would mean having to go through the cutscene and dialogue each time. The lack of quick save and quick load only adds to the pain. This is bad game design in my opinion.

Propaganda

Health system is needlessly convoluted. As I understand it, health regenerates automatically at a very slow rate. Eating food should accelerate the rate of regeneration, but its hardly helpful in a combat situation. Geralt has to stop in his tracks and consume food, and this will most likely get you killed. Same goes for health potions. Why the character cannot be in motion while consuming food or potions, I do not know.

The dialogue and voice acting can range from excellent to goofy. Same character models are used all over the game, to the point where, you can have four NPC characters talking to each other that look identical.



Alchemy is another mechanic that was not fully fleshed out. It is possible to craft a lot of potions, but the ones I used most frequently are for regenerating health faster, and then a potion to reduce the toxicity caused by using these health potions. This never made any sense to me. Why would health potions have toxic properties? Either way, I felt like Alchemy was a wasted opportunity in terms of affecting gameplay. The fact that all potions increase toxicity, meant that I had no real to use them, unless absolutely necessary.

Day night cycle are done very well

I still maintain that this game, in-spite of its flaws, is a lot of fun and it is worth playing. I am contemplating installing Witcher 2 right now to pick up where I left off.

Verdict - Must play

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Mionix Castor Review

I am primarily an FPS gamer and my game of choice at the moment is Battlefield 1. I played RTS games in the past, but for the last 4 years or so, different iterations of Battlefield have kept me occupied. I do not play any MOBA games, so everything said here is from the perspective of someone who plays shooters, both online and offline. 

As for my mouse grip, I am fine with using a claw grip mouse for work, but for games, I absolutely need a palm grip mouse with easily accessible thumb buttons. Playing games with a mouse that does not offer this just does not feel right. In the past, I have briefly used Razer Lachesis, and Razer Imperator. The Lachesis was unusable for me, it was too flat for my liking. Imperator felt a lot better in comparison, but it was not as good as the DeathAdder. 

The DeathAdder I am using now was purchased on 10/24/2013 at Amazon for $52.99. It has served me well until now but it started to have an issue with the left click, where one click would register as two. In Battlefield 1, when I am using a semi auto rifle, this would translate into firing two shots in quick succession. This often led to missing my target, this is very frustrating especially when using the Autoloading .35 because of the small magazine. 

I reached out to Razer, and they told me the mouse had a two year warranty, therefore they couldn’t help me. I decided to buy another mouse. I watched a video by MarbleDuck, a Battlefield Youtuber who is also a member of Symthic, and in his video he mentioned that he chose the Mionix Castor because of its superior sensor. 

Mionix Castor
The hand side has a rubber grip, but the right hand side doesn't

I read reviews online, and while it was not strictly meant for palm grip users, I decided to give it a try consider how highly it was recommended. I purchased it on Amazon for $58.99 + taxes. Within the first 5 minutes of use in Battlefield 1, it became clear to me that I will not enjoy this mouse. The right hand side of the mouse does not have a rubber grip, the thumb buttons are not in an ideal location, and they are not flat in shape, therefore clicking them feels a lot different compared to DeathAdder. 

In my opinion, the Mionix Castor is not suited for someone with large hands  who favors a palm grip. 

I returned the mouse for a full refund and purchased the DeathAdder 2013 for $39.99. It looks like it doesn’t get any better than the DeathAdder for me. 

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).