Sunday, July 23, 2017

Battlefield 1 (PC) Single Player Review

The single player portion of Battlefield 1 consists of a collection of individual missions called War Stories, set in different parts of the world. War Stories are definitely better than Battlefield 3 and Battlefield 4 campaigns, though not as good as Bad Company 2 in my opinion. I obviously did not give the single player any consideration when buying Battlefield 1. I purchased it purely for the multiplayer. I would have preferred to pay for the multiplayer portion of the game and skip the single player entirely, but that is not possible. Hopefully Battlefield will go back to its roots of being a multiplayer only game, at some point.

That said, I wanted to see what DICE did this time around. Here are all the missions ranked in the order I enjoyed them.

1. Storm of Steel

Battlefield 1 starts strong. They did a great job with the setting, and even though it is highly linear, it plays out well, and I liked the concept behind it. I played this mission in surround (3 x 2560x1440), and it was quite an experience. Although this war story is fairly short, I enjoyed it the most.

I know this is an overused term in game marketing, but this mission is very cinematic, and I mean that as a complement. It is unfortunate that this is about as good as it gets for the rest of the game. Once the first mission is completed, rest of the war stories open up and they can be played in any order.

One thing to be mentioned here is how the game is not optimized for a surround setup. There are sections where the game does not recognize the additional monitors and only renders on the primary screen. This is disappointing because I wanted to play the entire game in surround mode.



2. Friends in High Places

This is the story about an American pilot who manages to sneak his way into the Royal Flying Corps. What starts as a basic training in dog fighting, turns into a full scale war on the western front. The visuals are excellent, and I enjoyed the flying mechanics. I never play as a pilot in multiplayer, but I enjoyed it in the single player. The production value is very high here, just like in the first mission.

In terms of story, everything becomes very absurd towards the end, and all suspension of disbelief is lost. However, the gameplay is entertaining. I highly recommend playing this missions without the HUD elements.



3. Nothing is Written

This mission is set in the middle east, and the later part of the mission takes place in Sinai Desert. It is one of my favorite maps in multiplayer, and after playing this war story, I wish DICE would release a night version of the map. It looks beautiful.

Gameplay was enjoyable because its varied, and there are some interesting weapons that can be picked up from weapon crates. My favorites were the tank hunter rifle and automatico. I thought it was rather funny that main character, Zara Ghufran, gets to run around the desert, mowing enemies down with a Lewis Gun.



4. Avanti Savoia

I have absolutely no idea if any of this is historically accurate, but this mission felt very out of place in a WW1 game. That said, Monte Grappa looks great, and the weather effects are very well done. Another mission that needs to be played without the HUD.



5. Through Mud and Blood

In this mission, you get to drive a British landship through the enemy lines in Germany. I felt that the initial part of the story was well done, but yet again, it devolves into an absurd scenario towards the end. This is a thoroughly run of the mill mission.

Through Mud and Blood. 

6. The Runner

My least favorite mission of the lot. There is nothing original about this particular mission. You run from checkpoint to checkpoint, killing waves of enemies, and predetermined events will trigger cutscenes and it’s very reminiscent of Call of Duty like mission design - I am not a fan of this at all. Thankfully, it is over very quickly.

The Runner

Overall, the single player had a lot of potential especially after the excellent start the game got, but it was not capitalized. They resorted to the same gameplay design choices that we saw in countless modern military shooters.

I am hoping that DICE will give up on single player and focus their efforts on the multiplayer, especially if they cannot do justice to it.

Verdict - If you are contemplating purchasing this game, do so for the multiplayer, not for the single player.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Far Cry 3 (PC) Review

Contrary to the popular opinion, I did not enjoy Far Cry 2. I didn’t particularly like the setting, and the gameplay padding in the form of respawning guard posts was very annoying for me. When Far Cry 3 was announced, I did not have high hopes for it. I thought it was going to be another generic open world shooter made for the consoles and I completely ignored it.

In the winter of 2014, Far Cry franchise pack went on sale on Steam, and I thought it might be worth buying it because Far Cry 3 and Blood Dragon were included. I paid $9.99 for it. I did not want to pay anywhere close to full price for these games because Far Cry 3 requires Uplay - even the version purchased on Steam.

No shooter is complete without the 1911

The story of Far Cry 3 centers around a group of tourists getting captured by pirates on a tropical island. The main character has to escape and defeat the pirates. There is a lot more to it than that, but that’s the gist of it.

The villain in the game received a lot of attention. I don’t get the hype for this character. I didn’t think it was badly written, quite the opposite, but it is by no means original. I still think Bioshock had the best villain in video games.

I enjoyed the gameplay in this game a lot more than Far Cry 2. Activating radio towers can be repetitive, it is not as bad as Far Cry 2 with respawning guard posts. In this game, whenever you capture an outpost, it gets taken over by the friendly forces, and it will turn into a safe zone, which can serve as a spawn point. This is way better than having to fight the same enemies repeatedly throughout the game.

Scenery in Far Cry 3

The shooting mechanics are well done, and there is quite bit of weapon variety, but not a whole lot of customization. As a Battlefield 4 player, I couldn’t help but notice how limited the customization was. That said, they got the core mechanics right, the weapons definitely handle very well.

It is possible to approach the outpost missions as you please, but the enemy AI has this supernatural ability to pinpoint your exact location within seconds. When one guard discovers your position, all the guards know where and what to look for. This can get annoying when using the stealth approach, but more often than not, I take a more direct approach, so it didn’t really matter to me. The few times that I tried, I found it to be less fun.



I do have to mention the UI and the constant hand holding throughout the game. I do not understand why single player games use 3D spotting. I can see this being useful to an extent in multiplayer games, but in my opinion, if at all this exists in single player games, there should be an option to turn it off. As it stands, every enemy can be “spotted”, which puts an overhead icon on the enemy, and this even includes the wildlife...bad game design.

Exploring the island is a lot of fun, from land vehicles to wing-suit, it’s got everything! This is the part I liked the most about the game. Exploring new areas, finding vantage points to take out enemies using a sniper rifle is very reminiscent of the first Far Cry game.

Trees on fire, like in Far Cry 2

Apart from the exploration, there is a lot crafting and leveling up mechanics in the game. I used them sparingly. The most important item to craft are the various syringes and backpacks. Syringe kits can be used for healing, and for other buffs such as the special vision which will allow you to scout the surroundings for wildlife etc.

I didn’t particularly care about the leveling up aspect of the game. This does not have a lot of impact on the gameplay, and I ignored it for the most part.

The story is not bad, but some of the missions can be a little annoying, especially when they devolve into QTEs.

All in all, I enjoyed the game, and I would recommend it.

Verdict - Worth the price.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Razer BalckWidow Chroma V2 Review

I wanted to take my mechanical keyboard to work (tired of membrane keyboards). I wanted to buy a new keyboard for my gaming machine and take the one I have to work. I always wanted a Razer keyboard, but I avoided them because they did not come with a wrist rest. It is very uncomfortable for me to type without it.

When the BlackWidow Chroma V2 was announced, I thought I can finally give Razer mechanical keyboards a try. All the reviews I read, said that the keyboard is fantastic, and the wrist rest is the best part.

So when it was time to purchase a keyboard, I had to decide between the K70 Rapidfire with Cherry MX Speed switches and BlackWidow Chroma V2. I went with the BlackWidow Chroma with Razer Yellow switches because they are supposed to be equivalent to Cherry MX Speed switches.

Razer BlackWidow Chroma V2 with Razer Yellow switches

The build quality is fantastic. It has the feel of a premium keyboard. The switches felt a lot like Cherry MX Red switches - I did not have a problem with this. I just wanted a linear and silent switch.

All that said, I found the keyboard to be unusable. The entire reason for buying a Razer keyboard was the premium wrist rest. Unfortunately for me, this wrist rest made the keyboard very difficult to use.

The wrist rest comes with padding, therefore it is about as high as the spacebar. This might seem like a minor detail, but this meant that my wrist is angled downwards when I am typing. It just doesn't feel right, and after a while, it started to hurt a little bit. In addition to this, the awkward posture meant that I was making a lot of typing mistakes.

The other minor complaint I had was with the LEDs; the entire numbers row is not fully illuminated. It only illuminates the numbers and not the symbols. I am not sure if this is intentional or if it is a defect. I do not see why they would choose not to fully illuminate the keycap...I would not have returned the keyboard because of this, but it is something to think about when deciding between the BlackWidow and the K70 Rapidfire, which does not have this problem.

I really loved the keyboard, but given that I spend a lot of time at the computer, I did not see any reason to spend this kind of money and still experience discomfort. So I returned it and purchased a K70 Rapidfire RGB instead.

The K70 does things right. Keys are better illuminated, the wrist rest is comfortable, and its cheaper.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Max Payne 3 (PC) Review



I was looking forward to a sequel to Max Payne 2 for many years. When Max Payne 3 was announced, I eagerly waited for the reviews. They confirmed what I had suspected, this game deviated quite a bit from the classic Max Payne games. This was disappointing for me, so I did not buy it at launch. I picked it up on a sale for $3.99.

I am glad I did not pay more because this game is a thoroughly disappointing experience for me. I will never replay it, and it was uninstalled the moment I finished the game.

Max Payne and Max Payne 2 were not just great games, but they were great PC games. They have all the features you would expect from a proper PC game - quick save, quick load, smooth controls, support for mods etc.

All of this is gone in Max Payne 3. Other than the visuals, everything took a step back from the previous games.

Graphics settings I used

The biggest complaint I have with the game is the gameplay, which has changed for the worse, in my opinion. It is heavily scripted. Every combat sequence is followed by a cut scene. It is not possible to enter and exit an area without a cinematic. It was interesting the first few times, but it gets old, very quickly. The game gives very little control to the player when it comes to exploring areas. Entering a room is now done in the form of an in-game cinematic.

Out of the 9 hours I spent playing the game on normal difficulty, I get the feeling that I was watching cut scenes for probably 50% of the time. This hurt the pacing of the game. It’s almost as if Rockstar wanted to make a movie, but were forced to add some gameplay to it.

The change of the setting did not work for me either. I prefer the snowy New England setting for Max Payne as opposed to the sunny, tropical Brazil. The comic book storytelling is replaced by blurry cinematics with a film grain filter. This does not feel like a Max Payne game, but more like a Kane Lynch game.

Favelas in Sao Paulo Brazil. Great graphics, but uncharacteristic setting, and linear gameplay hurt the game.

The smooth controls from the previous games are gone. They are replaced by relatively sluggish controls, which are very reminiscent of GTA 4, although not as bad. There is a cover mechanic, and every firefight devolves into a peaking from cover and taking pot shots at enemies. There is bullet time of course and it definitely works well, but even that is nothing original anymore. It has been done to death in video games since the first Max Payne.



The game is perfectly functional for me. I never had any technical issues. All my complaints with the game are gameplay related. There was some cool moments during the short campaign, but  overall it is a disappointment for me.

Verdict - Not Recommended.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Wolfenstein: The New Order (PC) Review

The last Wolfenstein game I played was the 2009’s Wolfenstein developed by Raven Software and published by Activision. It was a fairly underwhelming experience, and it did not do well commercially, which resulted in layoffs, and the rights to this franchise were sold to Bethesda Softworks.

Machine Games ended up working on the next game in the series, Wolfenstein: The New Order. I thought they did a better job than Raven Software, but Return to Castle Wolfenstein still remains my favorite game in the series.

This game begins three years after the events of the last game. Despite the destruction of Black Sun Portal in the last game, Nazis make a comeback and win the war against the Allies. Rest of the game takes place 14 years after the war, and Nazis have dominated the world or at least the western hemisphere from what I can tell. The situation is about as bad as you think it would be with Nazis at the helm. It is once again up to Blazkowicz and his friends to destroy the Nazis and free the world.

America surrenders!

The gameplay is linear but it is not like Call of Duty. There is some freedom in the way the player can approach a situation, but there is very little choice in story progression. This is not necessarily a bad thing, I do not expect Wolfenstein games to be open ended. I do expect them to be well optimized for the PC, and not resort to console gameplay mechanics.

The game is a PC port, and while it is not awful, it definitely suffers in some areas because of it. The visuals are not great in my opinion. I expected better graphics. They are not terrible, but looking back at the footage of Wolfenstein (2009), I felt this game does not look a whole lot better. Also, the framerate is locked at 60FPS. I’ve been told that this is a standard for idTech5 games. There are some mods that will unlock the framerate, but I read that physics are tied to the framerate (like most games designed for the console), and therefore unlocking the framerate could cause issues. I haven’t personally tested these mods.

Graphics settings

In addition to the 60FPS cap, there are unskippable intro logos, the silly warning about not turning off the machine when the game is saving progress (which is a staple of console ports), lack of quick save and quick load etc. They definitely did not go the extra mile for the PC.

Another very annoying omission is the ability to use Mouse 4 and Mouse 5 buttons. There is no way I could map any actions to these buttons in the game. I am so used to binding these buttons to certain weapons that I find myself using them during combat, and getting killed because nothing happens when I press them. Took a while for it to sink in.

On a positive note, I think they did a good job with the environments and level design. An insight is shown into how the citizens are controlled by the media. You hear certain conversations about how the government targets individuals who do not conform to what they consider to be “moral behavior”. That said, they really try to hammer home the idea that Nazis are racist. Sometimes, it is subtle and clever, and other times it's just lazy writing.

Aryan features! Haha!

More often than not, I do not care about parallels to current political events in video games, because game developers pushing their own point of view, however noble they consider it to be, is something I regard as propaganda in and of itself. Gaming for me is an escape, and while I can appreciate a slight nod to certain social issues, I do not care to be preached. For the most part, this game avoided that.

Moving on to weapons, I thought they did a pretty good job with it, but the system of weapons management was very poor. We now have a weapons wheel, which serves the purpose but the weapon variety is not great as the last game. I really enjoyed dual wielding weapons though. Pistols are weak, but the rifles and shotguns are strong and fun to use. There are some stealth sections thrown in here and there, to change the gameplay, and they are not too bad. The annoying thing about stealth sections is that the game decides to strip the player of all weapons at the start of the level. All the ammo acquired prior to the level is gone. I can understand if this happens once, but that is not the case.



The New Order is definitely worth playing for FPS fans, but I am not sure it's worth full price. I paid $6.59 and I think I got my money’s worth. If you can find it for that price, I recommend picking it up.

Verdict - Wait for sale

Wolfenstein (2009) PC Review

Return to Castle Wolfenstein was one of my all time favorite FPS games. When Wolfenstein was announced in 2005, I had very high hopes because it was being developed by Raven Software. I thought they did a great job with Quake 4, which I  recently played, so things were looking up.

Having played it, I am not sure I am happy with the final product.

The story involves, the Nazi occult division on their quest for world domination, two factions that are out to stop them, a medallion which grants the person holding it some supernatural powers, set in the city of Isenstadt, in Germany.

The game has an open world design of sorts, but it's not very well done. It’s not a persistent open world like we see in S.T.A.L.K.E.R, but rather like the one in Far Cry 2. Everything from enemies to fuel barrels will respawn up on re-entering an area. This makes gameplay tedious because often times it is required to pass through certain areas repeatedly, and each time you encounter the same enemies. Other than padding the gameplay time, this does nothing to make the game better. I found it very boring.

Veil powers which are granted by the medallion, are fun to use. They are very similar to the abilities of the nanosuit from Crysis. It is sometimes possible to completely dominate enemies in certain situations with use of veil powers along with the very powerful weapons acquired later in the game. Combat benefits from this. Unlike the nanosuit in Crysis, veil powers can upgraded, which is an interesting addition.



While there are a lot of positive aspects such as visuals and sound, the gameplay has taken a step back. Manual/quick save and load are gone, the game uses a checkpoint system instead. I do not see any reason why a game like this on the PC needs to use a checkpoint save system. This is one of those unfortunate side effects of maintaining parity between platforms.

The boss fights at the end are a prime example of how not to design a game, at least for the PC. Given that there is no save feature, and the player has to defeat each boss multiple times just adds to the frustration. There was no fun to be had here for me.

Wolfenstein (2009) is not a bad game by any means. I did not enjoy it as much as the previous game. I do not mind recommending this to those that enjoy FPS games if they can find it for around $5.

Verdict - Wait for sale

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 an online FPS gamer.

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, and it is very frustrating, especially when using the Autoloading .35 because of its small magazine (5 rounds). 

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 preferred 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 considering 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 larger 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 - Don't bother

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 using Kailh Brown, Cherry Red, Blue, Speed, and Razer Green, I feel that the Speed switches are the most comfortable. Whether its 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 got the feeling that actuation force is also less for Speed switches, compared to the Red switches, but this is not the case. 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.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Back to Karkand in 2017

In 2013 I purchased GeForce GTX780, and Battlefield 3 was my main game at the time. I ran the game at ultra settings to see how it was going to handle it. I have never played games at such high settings before, so I was thrilled at this prospect.

I was using the Hannspree HZ281HPB monitor at the time with a resolution of 1920x1200. At ultra settings, the 780 managed to deliver around 45-60 FPS, which at the time was great. Below is a video I recorded in June 2013. 



Now, in 2017 after my most recent PC upgrade, I decided to revisit Battlefield 3 to see how it will perform on my new machine.

Here are the main components -

Intel Core i7-6700K
MSI Z170A GAMING
G.Skill Ripjaws 32GB (2 x 16GB) DDR4-2400 Memory
MSI GeForce GTX 1080 8GB GAMING X 8G Video Card
Asus ROG SWIFT PG278Q 27.0" 2560x1440 144Hz Monitor

Here is a link for the full specification - https://pcpartpicker.com/b/c97Pxr



Unsurprisingly, Battlefield 3 on ultra settings ran like a charm. The frame rate barely ever dipped before 100FPS at a resolution of 2560x1440. Combined with GSYNC, it was a great experience.

I intend to do the same kind of comparison with Battlefield 4.

Monday, January 2, 2017

2017 Backlog Gaming Challenge

In order to minimize the money I am going to spend on video games in 2017, I decided to make a list of games I want to finish before buying any new games, with the exception of Battlefield 1 Premium. I will buy the DLC pack for Battlefield 1 when the first DLC launches, and hopefully, I can find it a discounted price.

So here is a list of all the games, I want to finish before buying any new releases (Other than BF1 Premium) -


  1. Alan Wake
  2. Batman Arkham Origins
  3. Batman: Arkham Asylum GOTY Edition
  4. Batman: Arkham City GOTY
  5. Battlefield 1 SP
  6. BioShock Infinite
  7. Borderlands
  8. Borderlands 2
  9. Call of Juarez
  10. Call of Juarez Bound in Blood
  11. Call of Juarez Gunslinger
  12. Commandos Strike Force
  13. Crysis 3
  14. Dead Island
  15. Dear Esther
  16. Dishonored
  17. Dying Light
  18. Fallout: New Vegas
  19. Hard Reset
  20. Hitman: Blood Money
  21. Metro: Last Light
  22. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
  23. Painkiller Hell & Damnation
  24. Rainbow Six Vegas
  25. Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter
  26. Spec Ops: The Line
  27. The Witcher 2
  28. Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Blacklist
  29. Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory
  30. Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction
  31. Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Double Agent
  32. Tomb Raider 2013
  33. Trine 2
  34. Watch Dogs 2
  35. Wolfenstein: The New Order


I don't intend to finish them in any particular order. I will post about my progress through this list over the course of this year.