Friday, 7 July 2017

PC Game Review: Call of Duty - Infinite Warfare

Reviewed by Alyxx

Year: 2016
System: PC
Developer: Infinity Ward
Publisher. Activision
Genre: First person shooter

When I initially heard about Infinite Warfare I wasn't all that hyped about it. It seemed marketed as a bit of a "back to the basics" kind of game, but of course once I heard about the story taking place in space, I was on board completely, being the sci-fi nut that I am. Of course, for the same reason I can't say I have any kind of hype for the next Call of Duty going back to WWII, but I'm glad on behalf of the people who wanted it. It's just not my cup of tea and I really hope the next Call of Duty will stay in the future as I love seeing what these games can offer in terms of futuristic content. So without further ado, let's take a look at the latest and hopefully not last sci-fi installment in the ever-running Call of Duty series!

The Campaign

The graphics and locations in Infinite Warfare fully take advantage of the setting and provide some truly spectacular and gorgeous setpieces.
Infinite Warfare's story campaign centers on a singular character this time. Nick Reyes (Brian Bloom), a soldier who is fighting for Earth in a battle for the resources of the solar system, where a group of Martian colonists who calls themselves the Settlement Defense Front (SDF) are waging war on Earth, lead by the charismatic Salen Kotch (played by Kit Harrington). You soon become captain of the warship "Retribution", and join a crew who set out to drive back the SDF forces.
Your crew consists of the "brobot" E3N (affectionally called Ethan, voiced by Jeffrey Nordling), easily one of the most memorable and likeable robot characters in recent history, Admiral Fredrick Raines (played by John Marshall Jones) who is a mentor to Nick, Lieutenant Lora Salter (played by Jamie Gray Hyder) who is Nick's wingman, Staff Sergeant Usef Omar (David Harewood), Corporal Sean Brooks (Jason Barry) and Private Todd Kashima (Eric Ladin) who all assist Nick in some of the missions. The other notable crewmembers are the Navigator Victor "Gator" Diallo (Omid Abtahi), Captain Maureen Ferran (played by Claudia Christian, famous from Babylon 5), and Chief Engineer Audrey "Mac" MaCallum (Claudia Black).

For the first time in the series, the missions are laid out in a more non-linear structure where you actually get to choose if you want to do a side mission or a story mission. Although the story missions technically are more linear, and the side missions offer no real reward beyond some loadout options, it still helps give you some choices on what kind of mission you wanna do next and feels a bit progressive for the series.

Space combat is a lot of fun in Infinite Warfare, feeling reminiscent of classics like Wing Commander and Descent.
Some of the missions require you to pilot a space fighter in a style similar to Descent and Wing Commander, usually with the goal of either taking you to an objective or taking out enemy fighters and cruisers. It helps break up the gameplay and fits well with the sci-fi theme of the game. The fighter kinda moves a bit unrealistic in the sense you have absolute control of where the spacecraft is facing at all times using your mouse, which kinda gives it that same feeling of 360 degrees control from Descent. It's definitely a lot of fun playing these segments and it really did remind me of oldschool space shooters like the aforementioned Descent and Wing Commander and even Star Fox.

Otherwise the missions follow the typical Call of Duty structure where you go into large setpieces, and overall the campaign definitely feels like it has a ton of production value behind it. The series has always been known for its cinematic flair and it's really strong in this game with a lot of cutscenes feeling like it could belong in a big budget movie, especially with the stellar voice acting from the aforementioned cast, especially Brian Bloom as the protagonist Nick Reyes does a great job, and Claudia Christian is stellar in her role, who almost feels like she's playing the same role she did on Babylon 5. The badguy who's played by Kit Harrington sadly doesn't get nearly as much buildup and screentime as I would've liked, and by the time you get to fight him it kinda feels a little anticlimatic.

I also didn't like how there was no co-op option in the single player campaign, especially when Black Ops 3 had it. I mean, that would've made the campaign a lot more interesting to me and I think more Call of Duty games should offer co-op campaigns.
That being said, overall the campaign is an absolute blast, if not feeling a little short and it gets a little intense on the millitary stuff. I would've preferred a bit more focus on characters and character buildup, similar to Ghosts' focus on building up the characters and their relationship with the badguy. Infinite Warfare feels a bit like a rethread of Modern Warfare's focus on the military operations over the characters and the badguys being pretty lacking in character. While the badguys in this game, even the lesser ones obviously have had a lot of backstory put into them and even are given their own portraits, I feel this is all a bit wasted since none of it really matters in the final product.

The Multiplayer

I'm not gonna lie, finding people to play with in Infinite Warfare can be a problem sometimes. And this sucks because it's not really a problem with the game itself and more with people just not playing it. I think it's a shame because once you do get into a match, it still feels like Call of Duty and it's as fun and fast as it's ever been. Similar to Black Ops 3 you're offered different specialists to play, although this time they're called "rigs" and are essentially robots you control. I'm a bit iffed you're not able to play as a female, although you can give your rig a female voice. To me it just feels a bit lazy to not offer gender options.
Anyway, each of the rigs have their own set of abilities, and you can even choose between multiple abilities now, giving each rig 3 offensive and 3 tactical abilities, which gives a lot of variety to the gameplay. The rigs are also each focused on different playstyles, offering everything from raw speed to accuracy and stealth, which makes it feel like there's no stronger or weaker rig, all of them simply offer different boons to different playstyles, which gives incentive to mix it up now and then if you wanna try a different playstyle.
The weapons are a bit lacking in akimbo options, sad to say, but not as bad as Black Ops 3 thankfully. There are also a lot more weapon varieties to pick from, similar to Advanced Warfare and Black Ops 3 you can purchase supply drops from the Quartermaster using either in-game points or real life currency. Whether you're a fan of these microtransactions or not doesn't really matter to me since you can easily get most good gear just by saving up points. The chance you'll find a weapon that suits your playstyle and preference is really high.

Making custom emblems was unavailable at first, but paid off as it has a lot more options this time.
The modes on offer are Team Deathmatch, Free-for-all, Domination, Frontline, Defender, Gun Game, Infected and Ground War, with hardcore modes of TDM, FFA and a mosh-pit of several modes being available. Sadly only TDM seems to really have any players, if at all.
In addition to multiplayer there is also a Zombies mode, which has a bit of a throwback retro feel to it, with each episode taking place in different decades, with episode 1 taking place in an 80's fun fair, complete with a load of awesome 80's music. The second episode takes place in the 90's in a rave, and the third takes place in the 70's. The zombies mode is pretty much the same as it's always been and doesn't really offer anything new. It's fun in bursts but since I've never been any huge fan of this mode I can't really recommend getting the game just for this. However if you really like the zombies mode from previous installments this likely won't disappoint.

Graphics and Sound

Hey, I can see my house from here!

Call of Duty IW is an absolutely gorgeous game. It also runs very smoothly on PC and feels a lot better optimized than earlier titles. Some of the textures look a bit blurry up close, even on high settings but overall I think this is one of the best looking games in the franchise. The designs are also really cool and I especially love the locations and setpiece designs. My jaw dropped a bit on the first few levels of the game and the game never ceases to lose its cool factor all the way to the end, constantly throwing really large and impressive visuals at you. It really does feel like a bit of a rollercoaster ride at times and you'll definitely get your money's worth in this regard.
Sound-wise the game also really shines. The weapon sounds are really satisfying and beefy overall the sound design is really polished and well done. The music is not really memorable sadly but the music selection in the zombies mode is awesome with a ton of badass 80's tracks, including Every Day Is Halloween by Ministry among others.

STORY: 7/10
Failed to engage me in some of the characters, and some uneven pacing made the story itself a bit mediocre, however the acting and variety in gameplay saved it for me.
Responsive for the most part although during some moments of the game it felt like the mouse sensitivity dropped for no reason, which was a bit annoying.
Absolutely gorgeous. My jaw dropped multiple times during this game. I love the different locations and space just looks enormous as it should! Facial animations are stunning and makes it feel more like watching a movie at times than playing a game.
SOUND: 8/10
Sound design is excellent and the voice acting is stellar. Sadly the music is not that memorable and mostly feels like background noise but the music selection in the Zombies mode is excellent.

Overall Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare doesn't deserve the hate it gets. It just happened to not be the game that the fans wanted, but personally I think it's still one of the better games in the franchise and like Ghosts I can't help but feel it's going to end up a bit underappreciated and underrated by the fans.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Top 10 Games of 2016

I feel I'm a bit late to the party but since I completely ditched doing a "best of 2015" list last year I feel I owe people a list of my favourite games from 2016. So... here we go!

Jaw-dropping vistas are still commonplace in Rise of the Tomb Raider...
2016 got off to a great start with this one, a highly anticipated game on my part as I've been a huge fan of the franchise ever since my childhood, practically growing up with Lara. While I still haven't finished it, all I can say is that so far it's been a pure joy to play, carrying over the gameplay style of the first game while still doing its own thing and having a story and atmosphere of its own. I also feel a ton of subtle hints to the classic games in here. My only complaint so far though is STILL NO DUAL WIELDING?! Stop teasing us, Square Enix and let Lara dual wield some pistols already!

Billy Idol with an explosion behind him. Yeah, kinda obvious why this game still appeals to me!
While it technically launched in 2015, I still played a fuckload of Fallout 4 in 2016 as a lot of new DLC still came out for it and the mod scene pretty much exploded around the game. Being addictive as fuck, with a ton of stuff to explore and a lot of stuff to do, it's still an amazing game to play and all I can say is that I'll likely keep playing it for the next few years...

Polygons so sharp they probably hurt.
Even if it's still in early access and beta, Dusk was an amazing game to play this year. It perfectly captures the look and gameplay of late 90's shooters such as Quake, Redneck Rampage, Half-Life and Blood. If you're at all a fan of those types of games, I highly recommend keeping an eye on this one!

I'm admittedly a huge Interceptor fan at this point, and while their games aren't as polished as I'd like sometimes, they still deliver fun games that pay homage to the old days while still feeling fresh. So I feel like giving them two spots on the list this year. Rad Rodgers was a kickstarter game that is made in the spirit of classic Apogee run'n'gun platformers, and it's actually really good with a lot of humor and bright colorful graphics. The animation is also really good and I really love the synthwave soundtrack. I'm probably gonna write a full review of the game later on so stay tuned! Can't wait to see more coming from the guys at Apogee!

While I did enjoy Overwatch this year I simply didn't get around to playing it much as I never bought it (I plan on maybe doing so later though). However, I did play a lot of Battleborn this year and in my opinion, it is the superior game in the FPS MOBA genre that seems to have taken off lately. Made by the team who brought us Borderlands, it offers a co-op campaign with pretty good writing in the same style as Borderlands and it honestly had me chuckling a lot and laughing out loud at certain things. I love the style of humor here and it feels very classic Gearbox. The versus mode is the only game mode I'm not a particular fan of, and my recommendation is to just play the game with a few friends.


Bombshell had been teased for a while by Interceptor. Starting out as a Duke Nukem action RPG, after losing the rights to the IP, Interceptor instead decided to do their own thing and make a new IP. Bombshell had been a concept character for Duke Nukem Forever, where she would pretty much act as a female sidekick that ended up on the scrapping floor. So it was decided that she would now get her own game. Bombshell is an isometric shooter and while it is marketed as an action RPG, the RPG part is kinda lackluster. But if you go into it expecting a solid overhead shooter, you can definitely get some fun out of it. While it had some lukewarm reviews on launch, the game has since been patched a lot and most of the issues have been fixed.

Space ace!
When I heard there was going to be a Call of Duty in space, I was kind of unsure what to feel, but after seeing the trailers I was sold on the concept. And boy, Infinite Warfare did deliver and not disappoint! I'm eventually going to write a whole review for the game so I won't say too much here except that the game is probably the best CoD campaign so far and the multiplayer is solid as fuck with great controls and some of my favourite guns so far.

Explosive orgasm...?
Flying Wild Hog did an amazing reboot of the Shadow Warrior franchise back in 2014 and it didn't take long for them to start working on a sequel. While I haven't completed it yet, Shadow Warrior 2 is an amazing game so far that carries over what made the first game great and pretty much improves on it. If you're not into the Serious Sam style of shooters, then this is probably not gonna be your cup of tea or win you over in any way, but if you liked the first Shadow Warrior, then this is a must-have. Helps that you can also play it co-op!

The future, now with anti-gravity refridgerators...
Ever since Deus Ex: Human Revolution, I had been eagerly awaiting a sequel. And while The Fall offered a temporary fix for my Deus Ex cravings, Mankind Divided eventually did deliver the full package. While the story feels cut a bit short, and the addition of microtransactions is a bit confusing and frustrating, there's no denying the game is solid as balls (of steel even) and I have no problem recommending this game. It offered pretty much everything I wanted out of a Deus Ex game and then some.

Giant pillars of light in the sky is usually a bad sign in a FPS...
There's just no other game that could be the game of the year for me. Pretty much taking Doom 3's "horror" approach and shoving it into the ditch and burying it with a dirty shovel, DOOM 2016 is just fucking DOOM. It brings back the badass protagonist with the double barrel shotgun, and strangely enough gives him more personality than most FPS protagonists these days without a single line of dialogue. DOOM, like Shadow Warrior 2, goes the Serious Sam route where you go from room to room, clearing out waves of enemies in a brilliant ballet of death, ripping and tearing enemies to shreds. I was a bit unsure about the game to begin with but after playing it, I was won over quickly. Add an amazingly cool industrial soundtrack and a self-aware tongue-in-cheek story that doesn't take itself too seriously, and you have easily my favourite game this year.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Top 10 FPS Games of the 90's

The 90's was pretty much the decade the FPS genre got its birth. With early titles such as Wolfenstein 3D and Doom paving the way for the future success of the genre, it didn't take long for the genre to take a major foothold in the industry. With a genre still so prevalent in the industry, let's take a look at some of my favorites from the decade.


While it may be the grand-daddy of all FPS's, Wolfenstein 3D sadly hasn't aged that well. With
confusing mazes and repetitive gameplay, it's a game that tends to get a bit stale after a while. It's still worth mentioning though as it helped popularize the genre and lead to future successes for id and at the time, it was one of the first smash indie hits on the PC, helped in large part by the free shareware episode that spread the game all over the world.

Quake is a bit of a mess. But it's a damn fun mess. It was one of the first FPS's that featured true 3D
environments and 3D models instead of sprites, giving it a unique look for the time. Helped by an extremely atmospheric soundtrack and sound effects by the legendary Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, intricate level design, and a multiplayer that is still active to this day, Quake quickly became a legend among gamers. Sadly, in my opinion, as good as Quake is, and being one of the most visceral FPS's ever made, it's also a bit tough to play for any lengths of time given the monotone graphics and somewhat repetitive gameplay. The technology behind the game might in many cases be more interesting than the game itself. It also feels like the Lovecraftian influence was criminally underused and the story never quite got wrapped up. Still worth playing though!

Released in 1998, Half-Life pretty much revolutionized the industry upon release. It was one of the first FPS's to tell a complete in-game story, but without ever taking the player out of the first person view or taking control from the player in any way, achieving this through heavily scripted scenes. It also brought in some survival horror elements, making ammo sparse in some places and intentionally making the player feel vulnerable. You'd have to play tactically and carefully in order to survive. The technology behind the game was also rather impressive. Using a heavily modified Quake engine, it supported skeletal animation and some very complex AI routines that helped give the enemies in the game a very eerily realistic feel to them. It also had no definitive level structure, taking you from area to area with a "loading" text on the screen, which helped the genre move away from the heavily level-based structure of the past. Half-Life still holds up rather well today, although some of the mechanics feel a bit antiquated, especially crouch-jumping.

7. SiN
SiN launched almost at the same time as Half-Life and thus quickly became overshadowed by the latter's enormous success. Undeservedly so as SiN did a ton of stuff that was rather innovative at the time. The outcome of the game relied on how well you completed mission objectives, as failing some of them or missing some things could affect what levels you got to play, where you'd start and so on. It also featured hackable computers, some of them featuring a fully featured DOS prompt to peruse. Mixed with some really cool weaponry, and a talking badass protagonist who obviously takes a few hints from Duke Nukem, SiN to me feels like one of the most typical 90's FPS's ever, in all the best ways. Sadly it's bogged down by some uneven difficulty spikes and some annoying vehicle sections with bad controls.

Easily one of my personal favourites from the 90's, Blood is one of the goriest games I've had the pleasure of playing and more than lives up to its name. It's pretty much a spoof game, though as where Duke Nukem spoofs action movies, and Shadow Warrior spoofs kung fu movies, Blood takes its inspiration from horror flicks. Almost all of the weapons are fun to use, and the protagonist, Caleb, has so much dry dark humor he's a delight to be listening to as you play through the game. Featuring some amazing level design and graphics for the time (helped by its use of voxels for some objects to give them a 3D look), it's a hell of a ride that's worth taking if you're into oldschool shooters.

Eradicator is one of those kind of overlooked gems from the 90's. Soaked in a really hardcore cyberpunk/biomechanical sci-fi atmosphere obviously influenced by H.R. Gieger, it's a pretty awesome FPS that has a ton of features that are kind of mindblowing for a 1996 game. Not only do you have 3 characters to play as, all properly voiced, you can remote control bombs, exploding RC cars, control things through terminals in the game, and it mixes a lot of cool oldschool shooter combat with some really challenging puzzles, often involving timing, forcing you to have pretty much the entire level memorized in some cases, which to me might be the only thing not making this game great. But I think it definitely deserves more attention.

When it comes to Star Wars games, some might argue the sequel, Jedi Knight, is the better game but to me, this is still one of the best Star Wars games and shooters of the 90's. What makes this game so awesome is that you're not playing a jedi (yet) and just a mercenary doing missions for the rebels. It even ties in with Episode IV, explaining that you retrieved the Death Star blueprints for the rebels (this was way before Rogue One, lol). It has a lot of amazing features for the time, including a flashlight, and some more objective-based gameplay than earlier shooters which were more about just getting keycards and getting to the end of the level. Sadly, there's no quicksave option which to me is the only thing not making it that fun to play. But it still is an amazing FPS and worth playing, especially if you're a Star Wars fan.

While some might argue this is cheating a bit, the game DID technically come out in 1999, keeping it firmly within the 90's. It's in my opinion one of the best multiplayer shooters of all time, with lots of awesome and memorable one-liners, unforgetable weapons and levels, and a mix of game modes that always keeps the game fresh. In my opinion, the game never gets old and it's always fun to play this. It has an awesome soundtrack as well, and for the time mindblowing graphics using the then somewhat new and noticable Unreal Engine that nowadays is used in pretty much everything.

Making a list of the best FPS shooters of the 90's without mentioning the big daddy of them all would be a criminal offense. So here it is. Mentioned. There's really not much to say that hasn't already been said about Doom. It set the standard, it popularized online deathmatches, it created insane controversy due to its satanic imagery, and is STILL played and enjoyed to this day. It is the rock star of gaming, showing its age but still kicking ass. But... as good as Doom is, it's not my absolute favourite... that would be...

Duke Nukem 3D did so much for the FPS genre it's insane. Where previously shooters had been based in fantasy or sci-fi levels with more abstract level designs, Duke 3D had levels that felt more set in the real world, helping grounding it in reality like few shooters before it. It was also the first FPS to feature a talking protagonist. And boy did he have much to say! Duke's personality still is entertaining to this day, being a total spoof of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Clint Eastwood, Bruce Campbell and pretty much every macho man you can imagine. He's also got an insane weaponry at his disposal, with an arsenal unlike any other. While you have all the default weapons you'd expect, it is stuff like the shrink ray, freezeray and not to mention, the almighty Devastator that still makes Duke Nukem 3D a unique experience. Hail to the king, baby!