Tag Archives: Beta

Where to Next for the Call of Duty Series. WWII and Beyond.

call_of_duty_ghosts

The official announcement of the next installment in the Call Of Duty series has just been announced confirming the setting to be in World War 2 bringing the first person shooter series back to its ‘boots on ground’ origins (Call of Duty 2 from 2005) but this time with Sledgehammer Games (MW3 and Advanced Warfare) taking the reins.

Taking the series back to its beginnings, according to Activision CEO Eric Hirshberg (in an interview with Polygon.com) was a plan that was put into motion three years ago and was not based off the less than positive player response to 2016’s ultra futuristic based Infinite Warfare, noting back in 2014 when the decision was made, the player passion for the historical war setting.

With the high praise for Modern Warfare remastered, which came as an add-on to the Infinite Warfare release, it really is no surprise that Activision have decided to go back to what CoD players loved most from the series but there is that lingering worry of bringing back a classic while keeping it fresh and modern so as not to bring about that ‘seen it, played it’ feel that is always lurking when playing Modern Warfare Remastered.

While the game (MW Remastered) itself is a stellar moment within the series, (and one I am enjoying playing at the moment over the Infinite Warfare release) the remastered release of the 2007 issue showcases just how dated the game is when compared to more modern releases.  Developed by Raven Software, the remastered issue offered nothing really new to the original release with updated graphics, rendering, sounds and animations.  The inclusion of semi-customizable multiplayer characters (including female skins) were a nice touch along with the ‘depot’ which allowed players to spend their game earned tokens on mystery cases filled with player skins, weapon skins and calling cards and emblems.

The question now begs, with WWII the official setting for the next Call of Duty outing, do Activison have plans to continue down the route we’ve traveled down once before?

The series has delved into WWII numerous times with 2003’s Call of Duty, 2005’s Call of Duty 2, 2006’s Call of Duty 3 and 2008’s Call of Duty: World at War.  2010’s Call of Duty: Black Ops took place in the Cold War and partially within the Vietnam War while all other outings have focused on fictional modern era and futuristic warfare.

One setting that the franchise has never delved into (and one I personally would like to see) is gangland/urban warfare.  While Call of Duty is military based, there’s nothing stating the series couldn’t delve into this area without compromising their tactical themed game-play.  The gangland-and-or-urban warfare theme has featured within games such as Grand Theft Auto and the Saints Row series, but is yet to be given the first person shooter treatment that games like Call of Duty offers.

SR
Saints Row feature Gangland Warfare, a theme yet to be seen within the CoD Series.

Details about the multiplayer within CoD WWII are still sparse to none but it has been revealed that a ‘social space’ called Headquarters will see players, much like that in Destiny, all converge to show off gear and interact with each other before heading off into a match with Sledgehammers Chief Development Officer Michael Condrey confirming to me that character customization AND playable female soldiers will both feature in this next game.

tweet

Call of Duty: World War II drops November 2nd with exclusive pre-order beta access for PS4 users (date to come).  Pre-orders now open either on line or in store with your local retailers.

Ghost Recon: Wildlands Beta Review

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon® Wildlands - Open Beta_20170225190413.jpg

Ghost Recon: Wildlands is currently live for a limited beta play-through before the full game goes live on March 7th and while the onset saw major server issues and lengthy maintenance delays, it seems, for most players, the beta is now in full swing.

Wildlands has you playing as a special forces soldier whose main aim is to wipe out a major Mexican drug cartel in no-too-distant-future Bolivia.  An open world game, Wildlands puts you at the drivers seat in a “choose your own adventure” kind of way as you decide how you and your team will go about taking out the cartel.

Before getting into any game play, your first task is to create your character.  As a lover of games that use this feature, the customization options gave me mixed feelings, offering a wide range of options on some items and no where near enough options on others.

As someone who – when given the chance to – plays as a female character, I do have to give props to Ubisoft for the range of female faces offered to choose from.  While none are worthy of being recruited as a Victoria’s Secret model, the number of “nice looking” faces outnumber the swamp donkey ones, though the option to choose race and skin color is locked to each of the eleven face styles.  There’s a small amount of face paints and scars to choose from and the tattoo’s add a gritty edge to your character.

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon® Wildlands - Open Beta_20170225184438.jpg

Outfits and accessories are fitting for the games genre with tank tops, Tee’s, shirts and similar items and most feature a wide selection of color and/or pattern changes to suit the look you’re going for.  Where Ubisoft dropped the ball in customization is hair options. While I haven’t checked out those open for male characters (who also have facial hair options), the females have seven options, all of which are sadly, very basic and very masculine.  From a stock standard bun to short cornrows to fully shaved to a tiny ponytail, all are rather disappointing and don’t seem to look that decent unless covered with a headset (see top image) or with a hat.  While i’m not asking for long Rapunzel hair, the argument of avoiding clipping with longer styles is moot considering the hair assortment (long and short) sported by the NPC’s running around town that certainly do not have clipping issues.

Wildlands game play feels very smooth and while the controls took some time to get used to, everything from shooting to running and climbing were seamless, however driving felt very different to what has been found in similar games.  While controlling your vehicle is pretty much standard, I found not only did it take quite a lot of damage to completely total your vehicle but also, whatever you’re driving has the ability to literally climb mountains.

As if unaffected by the rocky and bushy landscape, the car I had stolen and literally drove over a cliffs edge was able to easily climb right back up to where it had fallen from.  Handy if you loose control or need to make a quick shortcut to get across to the other side of the map, but the feel of this goes against what we know and what we’d expect.

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon® Wildlands - Open Beta_20170225191416.jpg

Even flying a helicopter – something I always try and avoid – was easy enough to control though trying to maintain a steady climb and decent push forward in a straight line felt fiddly and quite slow.

Environment interaction was more miss than hit.  As stated, the ability to drive up the side of a rocky mountain is odd and my helicopter wasn’t affected by the trees I steered it through.  The NPC’s wandering around manage to, for the most part, be quick enough to jump out of the way of my speeding and slightly out of control car but killing an NPC with a weapon can prove costly and have repercussions on a mission.

The missions open during the beta were pretty stock standard too but the ability to decide how you go about it was a nice addition.  While the main mission is always there, upon finding some intel at a rebel location, you can choose either scouting for more supplies, upgrades or another rebel base as you are never forced to play the main arc which sees a massive cartel flow chart showing how prominent gang members are connected and who must be killed to get information on the next target.

4 player co-op is also up and running for Wildlands and I had no issues jumping into a live game with three randoms but relinquishing control to someone else was frustrating especially when you find yourself a passenger in a vehicle being driven from one side of the map to the other for a quick shoot and run mission or when trying to make a stealthy entrance into an enemy camp only to have someone go running in guns blazing.

Thankfully, playing off-line, your AI controlled helpers are much more accommodating to your play style.

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon® Wildlands - Open Beta_20170225215347.jpg

For the most part, my time spent on the Ghost Recon: Wildlands beta was more positive than negative but only slightly.  The mission repetition can become mundane and to put it bluntly, was nothing really not seen before in games before (I am playing Metal Gear Solid V and the similarities are insane).  The open world environment is lush and vast and smooth game play will keep you going for a short while but with little to unlock or aim for (weapons and additions to your character), the steam behind Wildlands could run out quickly for players who have pretty much seen this all before.

Ghost Recon; Wildlands beta ends Monday Feb 27th will the full game launching Tuesday March 7th.

Hands On Look at Star Wars Battlefront: The Good and The Dark Side

STAR WARS™ Battlefront™ Beta_20151009200427
Just one of the many randomly generated characters in the STAR WARS™ Battlefront™ Beta

Star Wars fans unite as the playable beta for the soon-to-be-released Battlefront game is now open for play and it’s FREE for all PS4, Xbox1 and PC users!  While I may not be the biggest star wars fan, I am fond of the series and what it has to offer to both cinemas and gaming and by the looks of it, both are set to make a big impact on fans.

The free playable beta straight up offers three modes of play – a ‘survival’ mode on tatooine that can either be played solo or with a friend in co-op that has you as a rebel fighter going up against hoards of storm troopers, shock troopers and AT-TE’s.  There’s also two multiplayer modes open for play with ‘drop zone’ that is basically a zone wars game and the larger scale ‘walker assault’ which pits rebel soldiers against storm troopers, AT-AT’s, player controlled tie fighters, Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader.

Of the three game modes, it’s the ‘walker assault’ that’s the biggest draw card showcasing a ridiculously large free-roam map with a total of 40 players within a single game.  For the most part, I found myself splitting my time between the two multiplayer maps enjoying both game modes equally.

That said, the beta is not without it’s problems even though the game will appeal to both star wars fans and first person shooter fans.

THE GOOD

*The graphics are just insane.  Like crazy insane.  The snowy, rocky landscape featured in Hoth’s ‘walker attack’ is crisp and lush and textured while the reddish and brooding terrain on Sullust in ‘drop zone’ is equally stunning.  From steaming sinkholes to snow capped mountains, DICE have truly created a beautiful looking game.  Even when in a 20v20 game of Walker Attack, everything is incredibly detailed and sparse and visual.

*Game play is incredibly smooth.  All three game modes available, while mostly standardized within multiplayer games, feel new and fresh and make use of the entire map.  Weapons don’t feel over powered and the bonus cycler rifle is a personal favorite weapon.

*Servers ran well and so far have had no issue with getting kicked out of a game, lagging or even finding a game.  Even the ability to join friends in the same lobby was pretty pain free thanks to the size of the games.

*The multiplayer hub is a neat idea that allows users -while waiting for a game to start – to customize either their star card hands (more on that later) choose their weapons or customize their player without the worry of being ported into a starting game without saving any changes.  Once ready, you can then jump straight into the game and continue on the fight for good…or evil, though don’t linger for too long as there is a limit of being idle before being booted from the server.

*Customization, while not a feature in the beta, will be open upon the games full release and will include male and female characters.  Storm trooper customization will be limited (no pink and purple storm troopers in this game!) but there is an option to remove the helmet and customize your players head/face.  Rebel soldier customization will be more generous in what it has to offer.

*The game feels like it’s Star Wars.  And in general, that’s what fans want.  Battlefront doesn’t feel like a rip-off or even sub-par, it feels like what we’ve known and loved for all these years.

STAR WARS™ Battlefront™ Multiplayer lobby
STAR WARS™ Battlefront™ Multiplayer lobby

THE BAD

*The Star Cards your player holds ultimately decide what ‘accessories’ your player holds.  From thermal detonators to sniper rifles to jump packs, each one offers the ability to change up game play.  The downside is that at any given time, you can only hold two cards, though I’ve seen some players with three, and it feels limiting to what you can allow your character to start with.

*The blasters are a great addition to the game and the four available in the beta flow across both troopers and rebel soldiers – but, there are no options for add-ons.  No scopes, no grenades, no quick-cool-down feature.  I guess this would keep things pretty even between teams but once again, feels limiting to what one could do when the game starts.

*Walker Attack is a fantastic game mode – when you’re selected to play on the side of the empire.  The only major downside of this mode is that it’s so one sided with the rebels attempting to outrun the empire and their AT-AT’s and AT-ST’s to stop the assault with coordinated airstrikes via controlled satellites that of the 15 or so games I played, the rebels won just once.

For any damage to be done to the massive AT-AT’s, the rebels must control two uplink points at once to call in a friendly attack but when it’s rebels vs empire troopers and walker vehicles…it all becomes too difficult and one sided.

*Spawning, as per the norm, was a nightmare.  With such massive maps, getting killed only to respawn literally in the middle on nowhere kills the momentum, especially when you have to run to the opposite side of the map just to catch up with other players who found themselves in the same situation.  The flip side is finding the enemy spawning directly behind or even beside you in random sporadic moments of wtf?!.

For what’s on offer in the beta, Battlefront actually impressed me to a point where i’m actually excited to see the whole game once it’s released and finally make the decision to add it to my list of pre-orders.  For EA and DICE, I think they achieved what they set out to make – a game that feels true to the Star Wars status.

First Good and Bad Impressions of Treyarch’s Black Ops 3

Top-Scores-virtual-lobby-screen
Top scorers post game lobby is a nice new addition!

Yesterday, Treyarch’s Black Ops 3 beta access opened to PlayStation 4 users worldwide (with an access code) offering players the chance to get their teeth into the bare bones of the game before it releases in full in early November.  Upon first impressions, Black Ops 3 destroys the abomination that was Advanced Warfare and offers up a sturdy modern throwback to the ground based warfare we had come to love with the first person shooter series.

My first experience with this beta didn’t go off to a good start however with a corrupt install followed by an extra agonizing 7 hour wait for the 12gig file to download.  Thankfully, past that, my issues with the game were relatively minor (paintshop refused to work, matchmaking/server issues) compared to others who have been experiencing full crashes.

Outrider looks sensational in the game
Outrider looks sensational in the game

As of writing this, I’ve spent just shy of about 5 hours with the game (though currently there are server issues meaning I’m sitting in a lobby unable to play), the three available maps, a handful of the game modes and four of the specialists (the other four are unlockable in the beta).  Black Ops 3 honestly feels like a true Call of Duty game, one that has the right amount of modern elements without jumping into the ludicrous (AW anyone?) and exciting new features that makes this new COD game feel fresh.

So…the hits and misses so far:

Misses-

*THE TOKEN UNLOCK SYSTEM:  Treyarch have brought back their token unlock system and combine 10 which I personally have never been a fan of as trying to get a balance across a primary, a secondary, wildcards and perks with only 10 elements is proving to be tough.  Advanced Warfare’s level unlock and combine 13 system felt more comfortable and more achievable than waiting for tokens to build up before unlocking items, though I do like and remember enjoying the gun level up system which is also back.

*SPAWNING:  Bad spawning usually plagues the COD series early on in releases and BO3 is falling into the same trap with team spawn points reversing sides very very quickly throwing game play off somewhat.  Quite a few times I’ve found myself having to turn back because the enemy has quickly begun to spawn behind me.

*SPARROW:  Outrider’s ‘sparrow’ compound bow is a very sluggish weapon to use and as a fan of the crossbow from previous series, this compound bow – while powerful – becomes rather pointless when you factor in the slowness of use in fast game play modes.  Fingers crossed a crossbow is available in the full release.

*MELEE: What happened to Melee?!  I mean, it’s still there, but in a sort-of-drunken-punch kinda way that actually has little to no effect on the opponent.  Being able to be quick on the R3 button in that moment of surprise is a skill that requires many attempts to master and now, the little girl punch we have feels lost and is sorely missed.

*SPECIALIST PERSONALIZATION: I know it’s coming in the full game, but I did believe we were going to get a taste of specialist customization in the beta.  I’m being picky I know – I just HATE multiplayer games filled with clones of the same character!

Hits-

*THE CHAIN BASED MOVEMENT SYSTEM: How refreshing is this new movement system?!  The unlimited sprint mixed with a boost jump mixed with wall running mixed with a decent knee slide all whilst shooting and reloading is a great new element to the game.  While wall running took a few attempts to nail (it’s pretty easy once you get the hang of it)  it’s a very cool addition to the game play that feels quite effortless and allows for some rather sneaky movement to place you behind the enemy team.

*GAME PLAY: I will say, I originally felt the game to be heavy and slow, but after a few plays, I realized that I had become so used to Advanced Warfare’s flight system and that in fact, BO3 was how it used to be – a brutal ground based war that relies on a mix of precision and stealth rather than speed.

*THE CARNAGE: The damage caused by Outrider’s ‘sparrow’ bow is quite gory and graphic with body parts flying about the place and on more than a few occasions, my characters was left without any legs after getting to close to a cooked frag!

*POST-GAME LOBBY: I love the post-game lobby showcasing the matches three top scorers.  It really adds to player determination to do well and basically boast about how awesome they were in that match.  Once specialist personaliztion comes in to effect, this new feature will look even more better!

*THE MAPS: In the beta, there are four maps available, and to me, are in the medium sized range.  They’re not nuketown short and they’re not Stonehaven large but all four showcase the beautiful graphics and the possible game play involved, taking advantage of the new swimming and wall-running features.  Of the four previewed in beta mode, ‘Combine’ was my favorite as it offered a great balance for both snipers and ground runners.

*PAINTSHOP: A fun new element within the series that allows for deeper personalization – of your weapons.  I did have a quick play around with it, but when it comes to this type of stuff….i’m not that creative, but being able to blast around with a shotgun covered in pink flames does feel pretty cool!

*POWERFUL SILENCERS: I’m a runner/gunner player who mostly relies on catching the enemy team off guard and it’s proven difficult in past COD games with silences significantly reducing the damage effect of a weapon.  In BO3, I found the silencers to have much more effect and damage which makes the way I play that much more effective.

I do have a lot of love for the Call of Duty series and it’s refreshing to see Treyarch taking note of what we hated about AW and offering us a true call-back to the series so many of us love.  Black Ops 3 is THAT modern era ground based war that needed to happen to bring back the love to the series that forces players to use stealth and precision over speed and height.  This beta has me excited to experience the full release from zombies to campaign to multiplayer.

PS4 Beta experience ends August 23rd and starts up for XBox August 26th.

Black Ops 3 Character Customization is Starting to Look Very Cool.

Black Ops 3 Multiplayer
                                                      A new screenshot from Black Ops 3 Multiplayer

With less than 2 weeks to go until the Black Ops 3 beta opens for PS4 owners (who have pre ordered the game) more and more information is starting to come out regarding some of the inner workings of the game – more specifically (and what piques my interest) the customization within the game.

With the addition of basic player customization in COD: Ghosts through to the more expanded options in COD: Advanced Warfare, the ability to make your multiplayer character look and feel unique has added an extra layer to the already popular game and with BO3, Treyarch are taking the best of what’s already been offered and fine tuning it to produce a customization aspect that fits more visually with the game.

What would happen in a world without customization.
                                What would happen in a world without customization – a land of clones

From the onset, players will chose one specialist class – Nomad, who can re-spawn from his death spot, Prophet, who has a penchant for guns with electricity shocks, Outrider, who’s bow and explosive arrows offer quick, one-shot kills, Reaper, a robot with a mini gun arm, Seraph, a quick footed powerhouse with a killer handgun, Ruin, who comes with a brutal melee attack and Battery, a tough girl who likes to play with touch exploding frag grenades.  From there, players will have the option to customize their chosen specialist with a selection class locked items.

Taking away from COD:AW the load-outs, gloves, tops, boots, helmets, exos and all the separate customization options and in it’s place, a more appropriate set of customization’s that include head/helmets and full torsos (an exact list of all customization options are still yet to be revealed).  The reason for the bigger/bulkier/restricted change –

As someone who enjoyed the vast amount of options in AW, I can completely understand and support the reasoning behind the change when in reality, the only person really looking at my characters boots and gloves was probably me (though being able to properly check out each players decked out character in the gaming lobby was a cool touch) and during game play, those subtle items are virtually not visible to other players, though just how many options will be available (fingers crossed for more than 5 ugly head options for females that were offered in AW), an option to adjust item color (within reason) and the ability to obtain additional or rare gear (like AW’s exciting supply drops which Treyarch have confirmed are NOT part of Black Ops 3) have not been revealed.

Another change to the character customization is the female base figures.  Where Ghosts and AW finally allowed female soldiers into the game, they were created with the same bulky and muscular body shape as the males….

AW female soldier vs BO3 female soldier
AW female soldier vs BO3 female soldier

While Advanced Warfare toned down (somewhat) the bulkiness of the female form, it was still quite visible to see no real difference between a male character and female character with the exception of the head.  Treyarch have created a completely separate render, graphics and set of animations that, as Treyarch’s studio head Mark Lamia who spoke with playstationlifestyle states “It’s not just a female head on a male body. It’s like a different rig and a different set of animations that they did for the entire game”.  it’s a smart new feature that will allow a form of visual difference to the character and game play without forcing ultimate femininity into the game.

This new gender visual plus customization options also now spill into campaign mode with BO3 becoming the first ever Call of Duty game to offer the ability to not only play the solo story as either a male or female, but also play with various options to fit them out with a unique look – but users must note, PS3 and Xbox users will miss out on the campaign mode as Treyarch are ditching the mode for last gen consoles.

New female specialist available to play in multiplayer
New female specialist ‘Battery’ will be available to play in multiplayer

From COD producer James Blundell (who also spoke to playstationlifestyle) “You can be male, and you can be female. And by the way, that means you’ve got a full female track for the whole thing as well. So male track, female track. Customize that character, change the outfit, weapons, paint job- err, Paintshop, you know, all that good stuff. Equipment that your putting on there. That is all represented in those third-person cameras and you are the hero of that moment.” – this also includes all cut scenes too.

Read about BO3’s new Safehouse feature!

In the end, what we end up with, is the possibility to not only invest time into personalizing our multi-player character, but our campaign character too.  It’s a brand new feature that actually has me contemplating not jumping straight into multi-player for the first time ever and ignoring campaign more for 3 or so months.

Check out some brand new multi-player and campaign mode captures below!

Black Ops 3 five-day beta hits PS4 users August 19th to August 23rd, PC/Xbox from August 26th to August 30th.  Beta will provide access to 3 multiplayer maps, 7 game modes, 8 customizable specialists, weapon customization including paintshop,   weapons, perks, equipment and score-streaks can be unlocked (but won’t transfer to the full game) and for those wanting to know more can check out this drool-worthy 10 minute multi-player clip below!

UPDATE: Oct 2015 – Read more about what to expect for customization when BO3 drops in November!